12.27.2012

Zuppa Pasta e Fagioli

There are some exclusive wineries in Napa, most of them you have probably never heard of. I grew up there and they remained unknown to me until I began delving deeper in the industry. There are some, however, that are known for their exclusivity. Tastings only in conjunction with their dry two hour facility tour. Let's talk about Robert Mondavi's collaborative vineyard with the Baron Rothchild. The timeless white structure surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns surfaces almost dead center of the valley floor. There the Opus One staff curate one impeccable blend per year. For $50 you can tour the winery and taste the cuvee released that year. You are escorted through white halls and watch through glass as winemakers drop this years harvest, drop by drop, into beakers and swirl. You'll lock eyes with one of them and think they look more like molecular biologists searching for the cure to some terrible tropical disease instead of the right percentage of syrah in a $200 bottle of Napa Valley's finest. 

"Excuse me miss, don't sit in those chairs, they were salvaged from Marie Antoinette's 8th salon and are priceless."

Hmmm...

My Dad came to visit and of course wanted to visit Opus One, it is zee best. I booked us on a tour one summer afternoon with a small group of aficionados; but my Dad was distracted; couldn't focus, I could see his eyes bouncing back and forth between the trees as we stood on a bridge between the winery and the tasting room. I could tell he wanted to say to the guide -- Look lady I don't care how many leaves allow the perfect amount of sunlight to reach the grapes and how many hours it takes to place them just so...  But instead he politely and ever so sweetly (in French non the less), as only my dad can do, barraged her with a series of questions:

Your olives need to be picked right away, look how big they are, and so dark, they are like plums! Excuse me, but are they real? what do you do with them? So many of them have already fallen to the ground, you can't let them go to waste! Let me call my brothers, we will take care of them for you right away. Don't worry. 

She blushed a little and explained to us that they make bottles of olive oil from the olives and the staff gets a bottle every year at Christmas. A few months later a slender emerald hued bottle showed up in my hands, with specific instructions to be delivered to my Dad. I can see him now, telling this story, munching pistachios while a little dusty bottle, Opus One Olive Oil 2009 Vintage, sits on display behind him.   

Zuppa Pasta e Fagioli
makes 6 servings 

Ingredients
1 TB Olive Oil
1 TB Butter
4 Slices of Bacon, Diced
1/2 Cup of Sage Ground Sausage
2 Chilies, Diced
1 Cup Red Onion, Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Diced
2 Cups Red Beans 
1.5 Quarts Chicken Stock
1 Cup Macaroni
1 TB Fresh Rosemary, Chopped
1 TB Fresh Thyme, Chopped
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Toppings 
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Diced Red Onion
Parsley, Chopped

Instructions
Melt the butter into the olive oil in a large pot over medium/high heat. Sautee the onions and garlic, once the onions are translucent and starting to caramelize add the bacon, sausage and chilies. Cook until the sausage is cooked halfway through and then deglaze the pot with a little stock, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. Add the beans and herbs, then cover with stock, leave to simmer for about 30 minutes or until the beans are tender. Remove one cup of the soup and blend until smooth and then return to the pot. You can also use an immersion blender here to break down some of the beans, making the stock creamy. Fish out the Bay Leaves. Add the pasta and allow to cook for 12 more minutes. Season to taste. 

Dish into bowls, top with Parmesan, parsley and diced red onion. Serve to someone you love with fresh bread, hot sauce and a glass of super exclusive Napa Valley Cuvee. 

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