It is not uncommon for busy young families to constantly be in multi-task mode. Alan and Mariela Viader are no exception. Everyday is a full one at their home in Yountville with a constant flurry of activities dished out on their abundant daily platters. Between winemaking, catering gourmet meals at the Viader Vineyards and Winery and the hustle and bustle of family life, they still make it a priority to create balance. With two very active young sons and 6-month old daughter, their plates are extraordinarily full. So it’s important to carve out time to do what they love: cherishing precious family moments and entertaining at home. Those moments come through a shared passion for creating deliciously memorable menus paired with sip-worthy wines.
On a typical Friday night you will usually find Alan in the backyard firing up his custom designed traditional Argentine brick barbecue, the “Asador”. He has been fascinated with BBQ’s since growing up and eating Argentinian Asados (the national dish consisting mainly of barbecued meats). It was his grandfather that first taught him how to best cook meat and why it was essential to start with the best wood to obtain the right heat. Alan shared, “Growing up in Napa has helped me slowly perfect the art of cooking with fire, “Alan shared. Each fire is a new experience and with each BBQ I feel like I am starting with a fresh blank canvas.”
Alan’s custom BBQ may be based on the traditional Asador but with a twist. Traditional BBQ’s are built like a huge fireplace with a movable grill on the inside. He designed his grill based on the traditional concept, keeping the flexibility and function of regulating the heat but without building a huge fireplace. A large metal tub keeps the heat down low and concentrated to help with cooking over coals. He explained that his Asador is much easier to use and clean than a traditional one, and does not take as long to warm up.
While Alan is outside firing up the grill creating golden rich embers with oak staves from old wine barrels for the evenings fare, you will find Mariela cheerfully creating “wow-worthy” creations in their recently remodeled spacious gourmet kitchen. It is always a team effort at the Viader hacienda. With both having Latin American roots, Alan from Argentina and Mariela from Guatemala, their collaborative cuisine presents an international infusion of distinctive flavors. Their boys Johnnie and Matthew love to chime in on the preparation of the family meal. Alan and Mariela like to keep it super simple, easy, tasty and fun.
You will often see the boys on top of the large wood center island helping mix-up hunger-smashing delights, which would satisfy any growing young boy’s palate. Adorable little Lizzie also likes to be a part of the action, often at Mariela’s hip as she chops and prepares ingredients for the evening’s feast while sipping a lovely vintage. Homemade pizza is a staple with the Viader clan so with Alan’s toss of the dough into the air, the boys love to follow suit as they take their own small pieces of dough and whirl them towards the ceiling. A favorite activity is decorating the laid out pizza rounds with yummy toppings and then anxiously awaiting to eat them as they arrive hot from the oven.
Back at the grill, Alan is diligently attending to short ribs prepared over the low heat of the Asador. Short ribs, one of his favorites, is all about the quality of the meat, using premium grass fed beef. As for spices, he keeps it simple: good course kosher salt used liberally and lets the flavor of the hardwood coals smoke the meat. He says if you get the meat just right the fat melts and caramelizes making the meat even more tender and full of rich flavors. Alan’s favorite cookbook and his inspiration for BBQ techniques come from, “Seven Fires: Grilling the
Argentine Way” by Francis Mallman and Peter Kaminsky.
In choosing the wines to pair with the Asado ribs he wanted a hearty red that did not overpower the ribs’ savory and impressive flavors. The fat in the ribs makes them rich, perfect to pair with the Viader “Black Label”, a blend of Cabernet and Syrah. He also poured the Estate Viader Blend with the Asados because of its rich red fruit and earthy, leather and herbal spice flavors. “It is smooth enough that it doesn’t overpower the meat and is elegant enough to allow for more than one glass.” Alan feels that wine needs to respect the food, be complementary to the meal as well as the occasion, and it should not steal the show. As Director of Operations at Viader, Alan oversees production from start to finish and has clearly inherited his mother’s passion for winemaking and expressing the terroir. (www.viader.com)
Mariela has always had a flare for cooking inspired by her grandmother’s restaurant in Guatemala and grew up where at family time dinner everyone loved to cook. She loves to cook with seasonal ingredients, simple and flavorful. “Just follow your instincts, big tastes comes natural,” she says. Upon arriving in the US, she was professionally trained at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland and then followed her dream of being a chef, working under the tutelage of notable Napa Valley chefs Richard Reddington and Hiro Sone. Since marrying Alan in 2006 she has been a private chef and Director of the Culinary Program at Viader. She also markets her own gourmet dark chocolate Bark No. 72. (www.bark72.com) NVL
1 Regular fresh pizza dough (store bought, such as Whole Foods, Sunshine Foods, Trader Joe’s)
8oz shredded cheese (such as Trader Joe’s quattro Fromagio a four cheese blend of mozzarella, Asiago, provolone and Monterey Jack. Great flavors and very kid-friendly.)
2 Tbs of tomato sauce
Selection of meats and greens such as spinach or arugula
Place a pizza stone into the cold oven. If no pizza stone, prep and then bake pizza on the back of a baking sheet.
Heat oven to 450F. 500F will give you crispier dough.
Keep pizza dough in fridge until ready to use and oven is hot. Cover your hands in flour so it does not stick. Roll pizza into a tight ball. Then slowly pressing it flat leaving the outer ½” edge alone for the crust to rise. Press it evenly to remove all the little air bubbles inside the dough. Stretch into a circle slowly making sure it’s not too thin. Sprinkle and spread a thin layer of flour or semolina flour on a flat wooden pizza peel (or equivalent). Place dough on pizza peel or back of a baking sheet. Spread a few tablespoons of tomato sauce with the back of a spoon. Add a layer of your favorite meats. Our kids also like vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, arugula. I tend to add a sprinkle of salt if I do add greens. Sprinkle a nice layer of cheese over the top evenly. Don’t mound the cheese in the center of the pizza and make sure none falls over the ½” edge of the pizza crust. Sprinkle entire pizza with a little dry oregano and grated Parmesan cheese to finish. Place on the pizza stone in the oven.
Turn pizza and pop any bubbles in the crust after 2 min. continue to turn the pizza to cook evenly every few minutes. Pizza should be done in 8-10 minutes.
1 red bell pepper
1 medium tomato
1 head garlic
1/3-1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 375F. Cut the end of the garlic head and drizzle about 1/2 tsp. of olive oil and wrap the garlic head in foil. Roast until soft – about 30 minutes. You want to be able to squeeze the garlic cloves from the head like paste. Cut the tomato in half. Place in a small sheet pan and drizzle with a little olive oil and salt. I like to put the wrapped garlic and tomato in the same pan and roast together.
You want to see the tomato start loosing some of its juice and caramelizing a little. Also about 30min.
Meanwhile if you have a gas stove top, roast the bell pepper on the open flame until skin is nice and black on all sides. If not, broil the bell pepper in the oven, rubbing a little oil over it. Keeping a close eye on it and turning it so it roasts on all sides. You can do this before you roast the tomato and garlic.
Quickly transfer the roasted pepper (nice and black skin) to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let sit until cool to handle. When cool you can peel skin of the pepper. Cut in half and remove the seeds.
Toast skinned hazelnuts in a small oven proof pan in a single layer for approx.. 10 to 15 minutes. This can be done ahead of time. In a food processor, or blender. Pulse the toasted hazelnut until coarsely ground, add the bell pepper, tomato and squeeze all the roasted garlic cloves and pulse adding olive oil very slowly to reach a thick sauce consistency, about 1/2 cup. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and more oil if its still too thin for you.
Place in a serving bowl.
Roasted Cauliflower and Asparagus
2 heads of cauliflower cut in 1”florets.
1 bunch asparagus cut in 1” pieces. Discard bottom white ends of the stalks
Zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 400 F. Place the cauliflower florets and asparagus in a pan large enough to hold them in one layer; you might have to use two.
Drizzle olive oil enough to coat them all and season with salt and pepper.
Roast until nice and caramelized, about 1hr depending in your oven.
When done add the lemon zest and toss and test for final seasoning. Arrange on a platter and place the Romesco sauce on the side. This would be a nice healthy appetizer as well as a side dish.
Asado Beef Short Ribs
Start your fire with hardwood (oak, apple, etc.) at least an hour before you plan to start cooking. Grab a glass of wine. You want to make sure you have plenty of good coals so make it big. You won’t cook over open flame but over the indirect heat and smoke from the bed of coals. Keeping a small fire off to the side will ensure sufficient supply of fresh coals while you’re cooking.
Ask your butcher “long” style for beef ribs. Every butcher gets the long ribs and cuts them down to make “short” ribs. Get at least 6-8” ribs. Make sure the ribs are not cleaned of fats, as the fat will melt and give you more flavor. Bring meat to room temperature.
When you are ready to cook them generously salt the ribs on all sides. You will need at least a 1-2 tsp. of salt per rib.
Make sure your fire is at medium-high heat. Tto check, hold your hand over the grill and count how many seconds until you need to take your hand away. A 4-5 second heat is just about right. Place the ribs bone-side down and evenly spaced so air can circulate around each rib. Keep the bone-side down the entire time. Cook for about an hour. DO NOT flip the ribs. The meat will start to peel back from the ribs. Ribs are ready when you see blood rising to the top. Turn the ribs over finally, bone-side up for a quick 2-3 minute sear of the top side and remove from heat. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. For a fun presentation serve with the bone. Or cut meat off from the bone, slice and serve. Finish the meat with coarse grey salt. Enjoy with a good glass of red wine.
One large rib can feed 2-3 adults.
Berries and Honey
1 pint each of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries
Local wild honey
Gently mix your clean berries in a bowl. Arrange a few spoonfuls of berries in each plate, top with a tablespoon of crème frâiche and drizzle with honey.
A very simple, nutritious and kid-friendly dessert, and kids can help assemble it!