“Wine is a dance partner that knows its moves but needs a partner that is also equally versed and willing to dance the same dance. You can’t have a wine that dances a waltz with food dancing the rumba,” says Chef Christo. And he should know – Chef Christo has catered some of New York’s most glamorous events, wowing everyone with his creative, artistic food presentations. So if he says a food is dancing a rumba, you probably want to find a wine that can shimmy to the beat of conga drums … and you’ll get an incredible pairing like this one.
Drawing on creative imagery when describing food and wine is what Chef Christo does on an ongoing basis, and it’s really no surprise when you learn about his artistic background. Before becoming a chef, he worked for more than a decade as a fashion stylist for major magazines. “I picked out clothes and created unusual accessories to go with them,” says Christo. “I made funky head wraps from paper, I tied ties in unique ways – that kind of thing. I’d take all that and put it into my presentations.” These days, he pours that artistic ingenuity into his cooking where he feels that the presentation is just as important as the taste. “I use a color a wheel to help me pick the seasonal ingredients for my recipes. I try not to have too similar colors on a plate. Layers of colors are okay, but I prefer contrasting colors. So, for example, if I choose corn as an ingredient, I would put it with purple potatoes. I go about my cooking the art school way.”
He is always trying out unique combinations but the experiments starts first in his brain, not in the kitchen. “If I experiment when I’m cooking and it doesn’t work out, then I’ve wasted food. So instead, I put together unique food combinations in my mind. As I shop for the ingredients I visualize the final product. I start to see how it will look as I shop. Then I go to the kitchen and try it on the plate a couple of times to make sure it all works.”
Christo’s CHOCOLATE CHERRY VELVET ANTLER STEAK is a great example of this meal-making mental imagery. “I took one taste of the Zinfadel and absolutely knew that I had to make a chocolate-cherry sauce to pair with it. Then I wanted a nice rich meat to go with the sauce, and I thought of venison. Just be sure to get a mild cut of venison – you don’t want anything too strong.”
You’ll love how Chef Christo dresses up venison with caramelized red onion, blue berries and orange zest. It’s finished with a bittersweet chocolate compound butter, and served with carrot puree, julienned zucchini and fried yucca.
Chef’s wine recommendation: Middle Ridge 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel
“A little splash of the wine you are drinking can’t hurt the sauce you are making,” says Chef Christo, executive chef for New York’s Showstoppers Catering. We agree…after all, it’s pretty common practice at Middle Ridge headquarters to add a little "sauce” to whatever is brewing on the kitchen stove. If it’s midnight, you just might find Winemaker Chris cooking up some wine-glazed chicken as one of his infamous midnight snacks – and he often uses whatever open wine is in hand.
When it comes to cooking for his glamorous clientele, Chef Christo takes this approach a step further. He only cooks with the wine that he’s serving later with that particular meal. “Otherwise, it introduces too many different tastes. And if they picked that wine for their dinner, then I know they like it. So why use anything else?”
And how does Chef Christo select the perfect wine to pair with his gourmet recipes? He actually figures out what food to serve after his client has picked the wine. “The food can be adapted to the wine – the wine can’t be adapted to the food. When I’m putting together a pairing, I taste the wine first and whatever little nuances or even bold flavors come out at me, then I start to think about balanced contrasts and accent points to bring out the flavor even more. So, if I taste oak and apple in a wine that a client likes – then I can pick food that goes with that wine. If a client does the opposite and tells me, ‘I want your Moroccan Grilled Salmon; find us wine to go with that,’ it’s a lot more difficult because wine preferences are so subjective. “
When Winemaker Chris sent over his bottled cocktail The Mule for Christo to try, the chef’s creative mind started working right away on the perfect recipe to go with it. After sipping on it a while, he came up with delicious ORANGE SUPREME CHICKEN which is easy to cook for a family dinner, yet it’s dressed up just in case company stops by. “This dish pairs beautifully with The Mule since it plays off nicely with the thyme orange glaze and the soft unctuousness of the roast chicken. The spicy bite of the arugula complements The Mule’s subtle carbonation.”
Chef’s wine recommendation: Cocktails Sur Lie, The Mule
Home Tour: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Wine Tasting: 1:00 - 4:00pm
Idyllwild Area Historical Society
Middle Ridge Winery
The mountain lifestyle … Curious to see what it's all about? Then you won't want to miss the 14th Annual Idyllwild Home Tour where you will have access to five private homes that will be open to the public for the first time. The homes vary in age, style and setting – from quaint old cabins to modern, dramatic architecture.
And when you’re ready for a break from your self-guided tour, stop by the Historical Society Museum and relax with a Middle Ridge wine tasting. The annual home tour is the Historical Society's major fundraiser, and this year Middle Ridge will be joining the fundraising festivities with wine tastings at the Museum from 1:00-4:00pm. You can also purchase a bottle to take home at a special 10% discount when you show your Home Tour book.
10:00am-4:00pm, $20 per person
(wine tasting not included)
Tickets can be purchased on the day of the event at the booth in the center of town next to the Idyllwild Inn (54300 Village Center Road) or at the Idyllwild Area Historical Society (54470 N. Circle Drive). Presale tickets are also available at the Historical Society Museum and by mail. For more information, call Carolyn (951-317-4613) or Charlotte (951-201-1400).
Middle Ridge Wine Tasting
1:00-4:00pm, $15 per person
Complimentary for Middle Ridge Wine Club Members (up to 2 people)
SPECIAL NOTE for wine club members: Your fall wine club package will be available for pickup at the event.
EVENT LOCATION - WINE TASTING
Idyllwild Area Historical Society
54470 N. Circle Drive
Idyllwild, CA 92549
“The red wine/ white wine dilemma is easily solved; drink what makes you happy. Sure a bold red can hold up to your medium rare steak but a crispy Pinot Grigio is equally as satisfying and it might bring out flavors you missed,” says Chef Christo Gonazales, a New York City-based executive chef who definitely knows what he’s talking about.
You can catch Chef Christo as a Char-Broil All Star making appearances on the Weather Channel. You can also find him catering some of New York’s swankiest events and elite private parties, wowing everyone with his colorful, mouth watering presentations. Lately, you might also spot Chef Christo sipping Middle Ridge wine and working with Winemaker Chris to create some delicious food and wine pairings -- with amazing results.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Chef ever since I was a little boy.”
Christo remembers fondly how he used to race home from school because he had just fifteen minutes to catch Julia Childs on television. “I tried to learn as much as I could – I wanted to try do everything I saw Julia do,” said Christo. “Since I lived in rural New Mexico I could easily catch fish and cook them. Then I started changing and adapting Julia’s recipes and cook food the way I wanted to.”
Life has a funny way of working though, and Christo didn’t become a professional chef right away. Instead he worked for more than a decade as a fashion stylist for major magazines and then moved on to other non-food related jobs. But he kept cooking as hobby while his desire to cook professionally simmered in the background. “I was a single dad, and I’d take my son to the playground and I’d bring my soup for us to eat. Other parents there started tasting my soups and liked them. So I turned it into actual business. I would do home deliveries and bring people a week’s worth of good, homemade gourmet soup.” One of his happy customers told him about a catering company looking for a chef. One job lead to another, and now he’s Executive Chef at Showstoppers Catering. He continually blows everyone away with his amazingly artistic food presentations.
One presentation that we’re very pleased with is his recipe for NEW YORK CHOP & SLAW.
This recipe features grilled pork chops with garlic and parsley mashed potatoes, parsnip and red pepper puree, grilled zucchini, and cabbage slaw made with a green apple, carrot, and red radish.
Chef’s wine recommendation: 2013 Pinot Grigio
“The coleslaw I created for this dish was absolutely inspired by the Pinot Grigio. I love the wine’s crisp, refined taste, and I knew that the fresh slaw would complement it nicely.”
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