Earlier this summer, we had the absolute pleasure of heading back to Napa and Sonoma to check in with everything new and notable happening as the area emerge from one of the toughest seasons ever encountered. An historic fire season followed by Covid-19 restrictions hit all of California hard, but especially wine country.
We’re happy to report that, while the land is still showing signs of healing, Napa and Sonoma were as beautiful an experience as ever — some winery’s tastings even better than before with their new outdoor seating!
At the top of our wine country to-do list, was a stay at the brand new Montage Healdsburg, the buzziest new resort in the area and a total stunner from what we could tell online.
In person, the property did not disappoint. The hillside bungalows are everything you’re hoping to experience on a trip to Northern California and eating a farm-to-table dinner al fresco under olive trees filled with twinkling lights at Hazel Hill was everything our post-2020 aspirations were made of.
Chef Jason Pringle is the Chef de Cuisine of Hazel Hill and the star of the latest installment of our In the Kitchen series. We talk to so many foodies and cookbook authors, but it’s chefs like Jason that dish out the best kitchen tips of them all.
Enjoy the inspiring, applicable insights from Chef Pringle below, then peruse the rest of our series with fascinating world-class chefs like Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Rene Redzepi of Noma, plus the bread gods at Tartine and the chef behind goop’s new delivery-only cafe.
In the Kitchen with Chef Jason Pringle of Hazel Hill
The view from Hazel Hill at Montage Healdsburg
Currently: Chef de Cuisine of Hazel Hill
In my kitchen you’ll find plenty of… Preserves, pickles and fermented vegetables, which I actually pickle myself.
Recipe staples always on hand… A variety of peppers from around the world. My favorite is Sarawak black pepper.
Ingredient that makes everything taste better… Salt.
Best food memory… I’m at a chateau in France and it’s after a few days of travel. I remember simply walking into their kitchen to find the owners grilling a duck over grapevines. Its taste was nothing short of exquisite, but the sheer simplicity of how they prepared it was amazing to me.
Essential Cookbooks… 4 Season at Table No 5 (Le Meurice in Paris) by Yannick Alleno and Kazuko Masui. This cookbook changed by entire philosophy and made me appreciate being in fine dining. I have the French edition, however, it has been translated to English.
Chef Jason Pringle
Food philosophy in one sentence…Simply highlight the bounty of the seasons.
Fave ingredient lately… I’m really into Japanese curry powder. It’s a little sweeter and milder than madras curry powder.
Midnight snack perfection… Chips and salsa.
Food you love to eat with zero prep/additions… Fruit; stone fruit and berries are amazing right now.
Most impressive dish: Believe it or not, I’m still searching…
Healthiest habit in the kitchen… Always have tons of fruits and vegetables on hand. I have three kids ages four (4) years old, two (2) years old and six (6) months old and we try to keep their diet healthy and give them lots of fruit and veggies. (Even I am currently eating like a toddler!)
Fave condiment: Mustard.
Best bargain tip… Buy ‘off-cuts’ of meat. Instead of the usual fillet or ribeye, try skirt or flat iron steak. They are a more economical option and often have more flavor than their more expensive counterparts.
Fave veggie + what you make with it… Celtuce (also called stem lettuce or celery lettuce) from the farmers market. It’s really versatile and can be grilled, braised or even enjoyed raw. It’s kind of a cross between romaine and celery in its flavor, with the romaine side giving it an almond-nuttiness.
Must have munchies: Cheese and crackers – we are in wine country after all.
Craziest thing I buy at the market: Silkie chickens – it is the only breed of chicken to have this crazy furry appearance.
Fave splurge: Wagyu and A5 Japanese Wagyu Kobe Beef. Mushrooms can also be a more realistic splurge.
Idea of an ideal dinner setting… Anywhere with my entire family.
For last-minute entertaining… I grab a bottle of rose and cheese and call it a day.
Signature cocktail… A Manhattan …or after an exceptionally long day, anything cold, really.
Simple go-to recipe… Sorghum Salad. This is nice to make ahead of time. You can substitute any grain or a protein can be added to make it a more substantial meal.
Sorghum Salad with Hazelnuts + Mushrooms
Sorghum (Cooked) 2 C
Grapes ¼ C
Mushrooms a la grecque ¼ C (below)
Fines Herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, chervil) 2 tsp
Toasted Hazelnuts 1 ½ tbsp
Arugula 1 C
Red Mustard Frill ½ C
Apple Cider Vinaigrette ¼ C (below)
Mushrooms a la Grecque
Mushrooms (crimini, chanterelles, or trumpet royals work very well) 1 LB
Vegetable stock 4 C
White wine 1 ½ C
Apple cider Vinegar ½ C
Black pepper 1 tsp
Coriander ½ tsp
Bay leaves 1
Thyme ¼ Bunch
Tomato paste 2 tbsp
Onions 1/2ed and charred well 1/2ea
Toast spices and put into a sachet with herbs and onions.
Combine all ingredients except mushrooms and bring to a simmer.
Add mushrooms and cool.
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Shallot, brunoise 2 tbsp (julienne, turn a quarter turn and dice)
Apple cider vinegar ¼ C
Honey 1 tbsp
Lemon juice 2 tbsp
Salt ¼ tsp
Dijon 2 tsp
Cracked black pepper ¼ tsp
EVOO ½ C
Macerate the shallots in the vinegar, lemon juice and salt (5 minutes)
Add the Dijon and coarsely cracked black pepper
Whisk in EVOO, leaving the dressing broken