Holiday gatherings this year are going to be a little different especially depending on where you live. We’re in San Francisco, and since March 2020 we’ve been sheltering in place. With a vaccine for COVID-19 still under development, we’ll be celebrating Chanukah with just our immediate family. And we’ll be enjoying a mouthwatering brisket that’s perfectly sized for our family of 3.
There are tons of recipes for entertaining hordes on the Internet. Few explain how one might make a brisket for themselves and their partner. This recipe is for an intimate Chanukah dinner—a couple, two roommates, a parent and a teen, a parent and two littles.
This recipe is the result of years of research, experimentation, and troubleshooting. So, rather than simply modifying another recipe - a hit or miss proposition at best - give this stress-free recipe a try.
Four Tips for a Mouthwatering Brisket
I’ve found there are four things that increase your odds of serving a mouthwatering meal your family will reminisce fondly about for years to come...and none of them involve browning your brisket before tossing it into the slow cooker. Browning your brisket won’t save your meal if you make one of the following rookie errors:
1. Don’t even proceed with this recipe if your well-meaning butcher trims the fat off your brisket. (It won’t work so don’t even try it; make a lovey beef stew instead.
2. If you can’t find brisket, don’t blindly toss a different cut of meat into your slow cooker. Brisket is the toughest of cuts, so the length of time in the slow cooker is too long for other more expensive cuts like Prime Rib.
3. Cooking on HIGH for half the time will not save you from poor time management skills or lack of planning. Wake up early if you want to eat it the same day you make it; start it the night before to rest when you rise and finish in the oven later; or just make it the day before, let it rest overnight, and finish in the morning.
4. Make sure you have the same size brisket as the recipe. Your liquid-to-meat ratio as well as cooking time won’t be the same if you’re using more or less than 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of beef brisket. Also, you need one cut that’s 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds. If your portion is less than a pound, chop up and make beef stew.
And now...the recipe!
The Ultimate Brisket
This slow cooker recipe doesn’t require you to use your oven or stovetop. You’ll chop your vegetables and toss them, the brisket, and sauces into your slow cooker and basically forget it for a few hours.
Note: Because you’ll flip the brisket halfway through the cooking process, this isn’t a good recipe to start before you go to bed. If you’re planning on eating Chanukah dinner earlier in the day, you can leave it to cook overnight, just flip the brisket in the morning and cook on slow for an additional hour.
Before you start assembling ingredients, we need to chat about cooking with wine. To save money you may be tempted to select a bottle of “cooking wine” from your grocery aisle. Don’t do that. My cousin, a chef, chastised me for doing this years ago. “If you wouldn’t drink a wine, you shouldn’t cook with it.”
Now, this doesn’t mean if you’re serving an expensive bottle that you need to use it for cooking. He recommends choosing the same varietal of wine or in a pinch same color. We enjoyed our brisket with 2016 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Leaky Lake Vineyard ($98) and added Merlot to our brisket in the slow cooker.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
3 yellow gold potatoes, quartered
A bunch of baby carrots, cut in thirds
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pound beef brisket, flat cut
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon soy or tamari sauce
1 1/2 cups beef or mushroom broth
1/2 cup Merlot, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon (if you don’t have wine, substitute with broth)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow or red onion, sliced in half moons
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
Instructions (cooking time: 8-9 hours)
Red wine lovers will rejoice when you bring out this brisket. Because of the subtle flavors in this dish, you can easily serve it with Pinot Noir, a well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon, or even a Merlot.
Which of the three reds you pair your Chanukah brisket with will come down to personal tastes (and your side dishes). For me, mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy screams Pinot Noir. My husband is partial to Cabernets with beef, so I swapped the mashed potatoes with latkes and delicata squash. We chose the 2016 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Leaky Lake Vineyard over the 2018 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County to avoid having tannins overwhelm the apple sauce and squash. Don’t fret: the 2018 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County had its moment in the spotlight when we served our Vegetarian Harvest meal (coming to the blog soon).
Eden Hensley Silverstein is a third-generation Californian, who has been feeding her family, friends, and soon-to-be friends around her kitchen table since she was in third grade. Along with her husband, 8.5 year old daughter, and Maine Coon/Ragamuffin rescue cat, she makes 849 sq ft a welcoming home in The Mission. They share recipes and misadventures on The Road to the Good Life.
The Holidays are right around the corner! If you're like us, you love this time of year, but it always manages to sneak up on you somehow. That's why we've prepared a wide selection of gifts to make Holiday shopping for the wine lovers on your list quick and convenient.
Choose from our Caspar Estate olive oil and honey box, our Cultivar Wine two-packs, our elegant Caspar Estate Cabernet gifts or even Gift Certificates to Cultivar San Francisco. There's something for everyone!
We've matched up our best-selling wines into two-bottle sets to pair with the tastes of your favorite wine lovers. The Cultivar Wine Sampler features our 2019 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc with our 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, providing a sample of Napa's wide-ranging style and terroir. The Pinot Pair, which will delight any lover of Pinot Noir, includes our 2018 Sonoma Coast and 2018 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noirs. And if your list includes someone who truly appreciates fine Napa Valley Cabernet, we offer Napa Valley's Finest, a collection of our limited edition 2016 Leaky Lake Cabernet Sauvignon alongside our acclaimed 2018 St. Helena Cabernet. Each two-pack is delivered in our beautiful Cultivar Gift Box.
Need gifts for teachers, co-workers or the other essential people in your life? Caspar Estate Honey or Caspar Estate Olive Oil is perfect for everyone. We feature sets with wine and without wine. Another great idea is to purchase a case of honey jars so that you always have a simple elegant gift ready to hand out.
Here's a great idea for our local San Francisco friends with teenage kids (or nieces & nephews): give them a Gift Certificate to Cultivar SF, our restaurant in the Marina District. Let them go with a friend and have the grilled cheese and tomato soup or the sliders and fries. You'll be supporting local businesses, too!
Our Caspar Estate Wine Collection is sure to impress clients, employees and the loved ones on your list who enjoy the finest that Napa Valley has to offer. This year, we've done something very special: we've opened up our Caspar cellar for a limited time to the public. This season only, you don't have to be a Club Member to give and enjoy our highly-acclaimed Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Planning a special Holiday meal? Why not make it fun by featuring a large format bottle. We have a wide selection of vintages and varietals, from Magnums of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc to Methuselahs of 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet - that's half a case of wine in one bottle. Now that's the way to make an impression!
We are a small company and we are thrilled when we see the orders come in. On any given day Deborah, Dianne, Richard, or Jody might be in the warehouse packing up your gifts. So please let us know if we can help you with all of your shopping or gift giving. We can ship to multiple locations simultaneously and work within your budget. Drop us an email and let us know how we can help. We make Holiday shopping fun and easy. We can help you stay organized with our Shopping List - Download it here.
Growing up we would celebrate holidays at our grandparents house in the Napa Valley with all of our cousins.
We would help our grandparents with all sorts of projects; starting with watering the garden. There was a very specific method we were taught and all these years later, I have heard my mother and my uncles explaining it to my son and his cousins the exact same way. It always makes me smile.
For Mother's Day we would make a point to stop at a special little place in North Beach to bring Vee the ravioli and cannelloni she loved. Once at our house we would help Vee in the garden, clipping fresh herbs, then we'd follow her to the kitchen, she would let us make the vinaigrette and toss the salad. Even though we would try to wait on her; she still would not sit down for long, even on Mother's Day. Father's Day was similar except that our grandfather, Caspar, "Pops" to us would wear a "King For A Day" button. At lunch he would do fun and quick magic tricks for us or tell us stories of growing up!
In honor of them we bring you some ideas for celebrating and gifts!
Have a fun and relaxing Mother's Day at Cultivar San Francisco. Mom will sip on her favorite wine while the children order off the kids menu. We serve lunch and sharable plates starting at 12 noon. All Moms joining us for lunch or dinner will receive a gift of Tuscan Olive Oil. Cultivar Wine Club members can make reservations.
Need a gift for your Mother? You will be her favorite when you give her a bottle of Cultivar wine or choose from our wine wall of champagnes and wines to go.
Also ever popular Caspar Estate Olive Oil & Honey Gift Box or the Caspar Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Olive Oil & Honey Gift Box, or a case of our newly released 2017 Cultivar Rosé!
Or an online Gift Certificate from Cultivar and let her choose what she would like! Gift Certificate can be used toward wine purchases on line or at Cultivar San Francisco, an intimate restaurant & wine bar spotlighting locally-sourced seasonal cuisine that pairs perfectly with our hand-selected wine list inspiried by the bounty of Napa Valley. Celebrate Mother's Day or Father's Day together and eat lunch or dinner at Cultivar SF or book a tasting experience and sip through our Cultivar Appellation wines and learn about the regions of the Napa Valley.
Father's Day ideas...a year subscription to our Cultivar Wine Club or a mixed case of wine or a Caspar Estate Cabernet Franc Honey & Olive Oil Gift Box.
Or make a statement with a large format bottle, like this 2012 Howell Mountain.
Making your life simple! Our team is ready to help you with your Spring and Summer gifting needs from Mother's Day to Father's Day to the hostess gifts you want to have ready to go!
Happy Mother's Day and Father's Day from our family to you!
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and you’re being barraged with reminders. Reminders to buy jewelry. Get flowers. Pair chocolate with wine.
Before you rush out and grab your favorite bottle of Cultivar and box of local artisan chocolates or truffles, stop. Not all chocolate and wine is a match made in heaven. (If you’re unsure, finish your wine before sampling your chocolate.)
Between the wine and the chocolate you are looking for a balance of sweetness, fruit, and acidity. To help you achieve this balance, there are a couple of general guidelines to keep in mind.
Truly successful matches go beyond these guidelines.
What are the exact characteristics of a successful match? It depends; it’s a matter of personal taste. Some feel chocolate never pairs with wine. I believe it’s not that straightforward, and matches can only be found through experimentation. When pairing wine with chocolates, I look first to the aromas I’m inhaling when I first raise my glass. Then I think about the nuanced flavors I’m tasting.
Interested in learning more about the art of chocolate and wine pairing? Check out the three-part series on The Nibble: Part 1 – Introduction; Part II – Pairing Chart; and Hosting a Chocolate Tasting Party.
If you want a memorable bite, try one or all of these three pairings.
Rose is the perfect Spring wine. For Valentine’s Day, our 2014 Cultivar Napa Valley Rose is a great way to start your evening, light and crisp with just the right balance of tart cranberry and hint of strawberry.
Why this pairing works: The interplay between cranberry and strawberry notes is why our 2014 Cultivar Napa Valley Rose pairs with a Peanut Butter and Strawberry chocolate. The fresh strawberry jam in the chocolate brings the strawberry notes of the wine to center stage while the creamy peanut butter softens the sweetness of the milk chocolate with its saltiness for a soft finish.
Our 2013 Cultivar Napa Valley Rose (currently only available in keg), on the other hand, which is sweeter than our 2014 vintage, paired with a Candy Cane chocolate. This unusual pairing worked because organic candy canes were crushed into Strauss cream, organic butter, and white chocolate. The peppermint accented the strawberry notes while the cream coated the mouth and balanced the wine’s crisp finish.
A wine for scotch drinkers is how our 2013 Cultivar Oak Knoll District Chardonnay has been described. This characteristic is why when chilled you can enjoy with an Old Fashioned Chocolate which is a combination of single barrel bourbon, Fee Brothers bitters, a twist of orange all blended into Solstice Madagascar chocolate.
Why this pairing works: Our 2013 Cultivar Oak Knoll District Chardonnay, fermented in neutral oak barrels, delivers fruit on the nose and hints of baking spices that finishes with caramel and brown butter. These apple, pear, and melon notes in the wine balance the bitters and hint of orange in the chocolate for a richer experience. Where alone the wine has a delicate finish, the single barrel bourbon in the chocolate intensifies the wine’s caramel finish and adds a touch of oakiness.
At first glance, our last pairing looks as if the caramel might be sweeter than the wine. It’s not. Passion fruit is a tad bit sweet and yet also slightly sour. It is this contradiction that makes this match complementing the structure of our 2011 Cultivar Leaky Lake Cabernet Sauvignon.
Why this pairing works: On your inhale, nutmeg and cinnamon tantalize with a hint of mocha and cedar. These aromas scream for caramel and passion fruit. The Passion Fruit caramel combines these flavors into a creamy decadent bite that’s slightly bittersweet. Because the chocolate isn’t overly sweet and the flavors are those present in the 2011 Cultivar Leaky Lake Cabernet Sauvignon you have a match made in heaven.
Which ever way you enjoy your chocolate and your wine--together or separately, have fun this Valentine’s! Jot down notes about what you like as well as what you dislike. Then, the next time you’re standing in front of a chocolate counter pick up a few more to try.
Want to be daring while reducing the likelihood of a mismatch? Check out The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. Simply find the wine you’re trying to match, for example Cabernet Sauvignon, and see what fruit flavors or dessert ingredients work with it, for example strawberries. (If there’s no fruit or dessert ingredient such as butter or cream, start with one of the aromas or one of the flavors on your palette that you experience with the wine.) Then look up strawberries (or the other fruit).
What chocolates do you enjoy with your Cultivar Wine?
Hosting a holiday gathering at your place? Be sure you have enough wine for your guests. Unsure how much wine you need for an event? Don't worry!
When planning all you need to know is how you plan on serving your wine, how many guests will be drinking, and how long your guests will be there. Think about:
How long will your guests be over? Assume each guest drinks about two glasses of wine every two hours.
How many guests will be drinking? Each standard 750-ml wine bottle is roughly four servings of wine (assuming a six ounce pour). A magnum bottle (1.5 liters) has eight to twelve glasses of wine (assuming four to six ounce pours).
For a twelve-person dinner for Thanksgiving, with guests arriving around 5pm and dinner at 6pm, assuming all guests are over 21 and will be enjoying wine, plan on consuming six bottles. Over the course of five hours, twelve guests will drink two glasses of wine very two hours, a total of 30 glasses or eight bottles.
Are you pairing wines with individual courses? If you’re pairing wines with individual courses, you’ll need more bottles to ensure that everyone gets enough. The exact number of bottles you need depends on whether guests are drinking full glasses (four to six ounces) or tasting pours (two ounces).
If you’re serving tasting pours at your twelve-person dinner, you’ll want two bottles of each wine for every course you’re serving. To ensure you don’t run out wine over the course of five hours at a three-course meal, plan on eight bottles of wine. For full glasses, you’ll want three bottles of each wine for every course you’re serving; in this example eleven bottles of wine.
When planning your Christmas and New Year’s celebrations keep these dates in mind to ensure your wine cellar is well stocked:
Remember that when you order 12 or more bottles of Cultivar Wine you receive a 15% discount, so for your twelve person dinner, why not make it a case?
This year has flown by! We’re excited that harvest is over, and we're looking forward to gathering with our family and friends to give thanks.
As you get ready to join your family and friends around the table, we wanted to share some of our favorite red wine pairings for smoked turkey. (Come back next Wednesday for tips on how much wine to have on hand!)
2012 Cultivar Oak Knoll District Cabernet Franc, with its sweet black cherry, plum, and blueberries with hints of vanilla and Asian spices, will leave your guests talking when you serve it up with either a curried pumpkin or sweet potato soup as your first course.
Or be a little daring and pair it with dessert. May we recommend a pecan pie or a rich pumpkin pie?
2012 Cultivar Oak Knoll District Cabernet Franc: Case $530 / $500 Wine Club
2011 Cultivar Phoenix Ranch Syrah, with its blueberry, black currant, and plum fruit, offers the perfect counterpoint to a smoked jalapeño turkey.
We especially love it with mushroom and sausage stuffing.
2011 Cultivar Phoenix Ranch Syrah: Case $571 / $537 Wine Club
2012 Cultivar Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, with its ripe black currant, plum, and dark cherry with a hint of vanilla, violets, and warm spices, softens the tartness in some cranberry sauces.
Tired of canned cranberry sauce? Try your hand at a Cabernet-cranberry sauce with figs. Your guests will thank you.
2012 Cultivar Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Case $286 / $269 Wine Club