First – friends who own La Galerie Restaurant recently hosted food and cuisine visionary Claus Meyer‘s flying visit from New York to Blaye, Bordeaux – which lasted less than 18 hours total. The buffet dinner was spectacular.


This visit is significant, because if this renowned food personality/philanthropist responsible for co-founding the 4 time recipient of the best restaurant in the world (Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark) embarks on a restaurant, it could become a worldwide focal point for innovation, quality, and respect for using local ingredients. Rather than inspect Paris or the city of Bordeaux, Claus has eyes on our little city (population about 3,000) of Blaye (pronounced ‘bl-YE’). Why? Perhaps because business partners suggested the benefits of this location, perhaps because his epiphany regarding food occurred decades ago in the nearby French city of Agen, perhaps because – like his restaurants in Denmark and Bolivia – the venue is not mainstream. Perhaps all these reasons contribute.

During a 6 am drive to the airport I managed to ask questions (included in my latest piece for Forbes). The man is straightforward, funny and energetic.

Second – Someone sent me a piece from The New York Post about how the need to impose order on stressful situation is why some military veterans are attracted to becoming wine sommeliers.

Third – a group of us co-own an exclusive 1 hectare (2.5 acre) vineyard near Blaye – previously owned by movie comedian Gerard Depardieu, and later by renowned artist Thierry Bisch. The red wine (Etalon Rouge; note this website is outdated) is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and the white is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.


Harvest is coming soon. If anyone is interested in bottles of 2015 (a stellar vintage), please let me know as my storage space is running out (shipping to the U.S. is for a minimum of 6 bottles).

Fourth – below is another recipe from the forthcoming book The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion. It is a recipe for Zambela dough from Maria Galassi’s winery in the Emiglia Romagna part of Italy. This general purpose dough can be creatively used for all sorts of desserts. I recently made half-moon shapes stuffed with chocolate chips, pine nuts, raisins and powdered hazelnuts. Thumbs up.


Zambèla Dough

From Maria Galassi, Owner of Galassi Maria Winery, Paderno di Cesena, Emilia-Romagna Region, Italy


Preparation Time and Quantity –

15 minutes to prepare dough, 20 minutes to knead, 30 to 60 minutes to form pastries, 15 minutes to cook. Serves 10 people.


Ingredients and Amounts

Flour – 5 cups (500 grams)

Sugar – 1½ cups (300 grams)

Zested peel of 1 lemon

Baking powder – 1 teaspoon (5 grams)

Brown sugar – as needed

Eggs – 3

Butter – 7 ounces (200 grams)

Lard (or shortening) – 1 tablespoon (14 grams)


Preparation –

  1. Pre-heat oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).


Recipe –

  1. Put all ingredients in large bowl, then mix together. Start with dry powders and lemon zest, then add others.
  2. Now knead this dough until it is consistent and homogeneous—about 20 minutes.
  3. Regardless what you make below, the baking time is about 15 minutes, or 25 to 30 minutes for larger items.


Maria wrote –

“Now it’s up to you – with this dough you can put no restraint on your imagination! This is what I do – I prepare a double dose of the dough and prepare three or four things.

You can:

  • Prepare classic oven cooking by rolling out the dough until getting a thin pastry, cutting in any shape you like, and covering with sprinkles.
  • Make circles, fill them with jam, and fold them into half-moon shapes.
  • Add other ingredients, such as chocolate drops, raisins, chopped hazelnuts, pine nuts – then cut into any shape you want. My advice – raisins and pine nuts or chocolate and hazelnuts. Really excellent!
  • Roll out the dough, spread it with jam or cocoa paste or almond paste, then roll it into the shape of a strudel.
  • Add some cocoa powder – 1 tablespoon (50 grams) –and some milk to half the dough, and making huge cookies.
  • Using two pieces of dough (one with cocoa powder, one without) you can superimpose two rectangles of rolled out pastry, roll this into the shape of a cylinder, cut it into slices and get a ‘girella’ (Swiss roll).
  • Shape it into a ‘ciambellone’ or ‘zambèla (similar to a chiffon cake), and cover the surface with brown sugar.


Tom’s Comments –

These are delicious, both the crust and insides.

It’s not often you have the pleasure of being told to put all ingredients in a bowl and mix together, but that is how easy the preparation is. Start mixing with a wooden spoon, then use your hands. Instead of a rolling pin I used a wine bottle (a trick learned decades ago as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa). Because there are no moving parts, this provides greater control.

To make half-moons, first make circles about 5 inches (12½ centimeters) in diameter. Fold each circle of pastry over, and crimp the touching edges at one end and continue crimping forward along the semi-circle until the pastry is shaped first like a funnel, then like a half-moon. Before closing it, you ‘stuff’ additional fillings inside to make the pastries full and generous.





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