down home: downtown

One's a little country, one's a little big city.


I’ve read a lot of cookbooks in my life. Some are indispensible reference works, some are entirely dispensable regifts, and some are just plain fun and inspirational. Down home: downtown, which compares the recipes of two of wine country's best Chefs, is one of those cookbooks that you actually want to read.

Published by Rodney Strong Vineyards, down home:downtown represents the essence of wine country cooking. Wine friendly dishes that draw on the bounty of local farms in all their seasonal glory. Each chef has carefully crafted a set of recipes based on the same basket of main ingredients. It’s Iron Chef on paper, and a blast to read. It would make a great gift for your favorite foodie/wine geek.

The recipes are clear, easy to follow, and precise, though these are restaurant recipes so some involve quite a few steps.  I love the way the dishes are presented, and the photos, of the dishes, the respective restaurants, and the Sonoma countryside are gorgeous.  I had to pop a bottle of Rodney Strong’s 2006 Knotty Vines Zinfandel to enjoy while reading down home: downtown, and just happened upon a wonderful foil to this fine wine.

What to expect: Zinfandel

Zinfandel is considered America's own great indigenous grape, even though its origins lie on the Adriatic coast. Planted throughout California and the Pacific Northwest, Zinfandel is at its best in warm regions with cooler temperatures during harvest. The wines can range from off-dry Rosés (aka White Zinfandel) and light bistro styled wines, to big, rich powerful wines - and even luscious dessert wines. The flavors range from plummy to raspberry, although deep blackberry fruit and brambly spice tones are most common.

Two great recipes. Which one is right for you?

Apple Wood Smoked Pork Chops with Fresh Applesauce
Jeff Mall, the down home half of this duo of Chefs, hangs his hat at Healdsburg’s Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar.  His version of Pork Chops and applesauce exudes classic country cooking style

Pork Chops with Fennel-Apple Salad and Potato Pancakes
Josh Silver’s Syrah bistro, located right off the plaza in downtown Santa Rosa, bring an international flair to his dish, pairing the pork with fennel, crisp potato pancakes, and a sophisticated Aioli.

Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar (Jeff Mall)

344 Center St.
Healdsburg, CA 9544

Apple Wood–Smoked Pork Chops with Fresh Applesauce,

Braised Rainbow Chard, and Corn Bread Stuffing

follow this link for a printable pdf file of this recipe

For the pork chops: In a large bowl, combine the beer, salt, sugar, molasses, Sriracha hot sauce, garlic, peppercorns, and thyme. Add the water and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add the pork chops, cover, and refrigerate for 12 hours.

For the applesauce: In a large, heavy skillet, melt the sugar over medium-high heat, shaking the pan frequently, until it just begins to turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apples, lime juice, and salt. (The caramel will clump, but will melt as the applesauce cooks; add a little water to melt it if necessary.) Cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat as needed to prevent scorching, until the apples are soft and caramelized a light brown color, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon. Set aside.

For the corn bread stuffing: Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning, until well browned on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onion, celery, and green pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent and soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the parsley, sage, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Put the corn bread in a large, shallow 8-cup baking dish and pour the onion mixture over the corn bread. Stir gently to coat and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and bake until browned, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and keep warm.

While the stuffing is baking, prepare a charcoal grill for indirect-heat cooking, mounding the hot coals on one side of the grill. Remove the pork from the brine (discard the brine) and pat dry. Soak the apple wood chips in warm water for 10 minutes; drain. Sprinkle the apple wood chips over the coals and place the pork chops on the indirect-heat area of the grill (not over the coals). Cover the grill and smoke the pork chops for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and open the vents to increase the heat; if needed, add a few more coals. Move the pork chops to the direct-heat area of the grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side for medium. Transfer to a plate and tent with aluminum foil; let rest for 5 minutes.

For the rainbow chard: Coarsely chop the chard leaves. In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Working in batches, add the chard and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and chicken broth, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

To serve, reheat the applesauce over low heat. Spoon a mound of corn bread stuffing into the center of each of 4 dinner plates. Top each with one-fourth of the chard. Lean a pork chop against each mound and add a spoonful of applesauce. Makes 4 main-course servings

Syrah Bistro (Josh Silvers)

205 Fifth St.
Santa Rosa CA

Pork Chops with Fennel-Apple Salad and Potato Pancakes

follow this link for a printable pdf file of this recipe

For the pork chops: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, salt, vinegar, sugar, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from the heat, and let cool completely. Pour over the pork chops in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours.

Meanwhile, for the fennel-apple salad: Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, cut the apple and fennel into paper thin slices. Put the slices in a bowl, cover with ice water, and soak for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, sugar, lemon zest, and olive oil together. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the fennel and apple well and toss with the vinaigrette.

For the aioli: On a cutting board, mince the garlic with the salt and mash with the flat edge of the knife until it forms a paste. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard together. Whisk in the garlic paste. Combine the oils in a measuring cup and, whisking constantly, add them to the yolk mixture a few drops at a time until the mixture is emulsified and all the oil is incorporated. (If the mixture separates, stop adding the oil and continue whisking until mixture comes together, then resume adding oil.) Whisk in the fennel pollen and season with salt and pepper. If the aioli is too thick, whisk in 1 or 2 drops of water. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the potato pancakes: Using the large holes on a box grater, shred the potato and onion into a bowl of hot water. Drain, cover with more hot water, and drain again. Cover with cold water, rinse, then drain very well. Spread the shreds on a clean kitchen towel, roll it up, and wring to squeeze out as much water as you can. Empty the shreds into a bowl and add the egg, flour, salt, and pepper; stir to combine thoroughly. Gently shape the mixture into 4 equal cakes.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1⁄2 inch oil over high heat to 375°F (a shred of potato will sizzle and brown almost instantly), and add the potato pancakes. Flatten each gently with a metal spatula and fry until golden brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over and cook until golden brown on second side and tender throughout, 3 to 4 minutes more.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. Drain the pork chops and pat dry. Grill for 6 or 7 minutes on each side for medium. Place a potato pancake on each of 4 dinner plates and top each with a pork chop. Add a spoonful of aioli and the fennel-apple salad. Garnish with fennel fronds if desired and serve. Makes 4 main-course servings

down home:downtown makes a great gift and can be ordered directly from each restaurant. Support these two fine chefs by making a reservation at either Zin Restaurant or Syrah Bistro during your next trip to wine country. If you can't make it to Sonoma, bring their cooking home. Purchase a copy of down home:downtown and share the bounty of Sonoma with friends and family alike.

Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar      Syrah Bistro

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: LindySez
    293881 1

    I love both these Chefs cooking styles. Can't wait to get the book,


    Nov 06, 2009 at 11:59 AM

  • This looks awesome! On my wishlist for Christmas.

    Nov 06, 2009 at 2:17 PM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    I've tried some of their dishes and leafed through the book - it's beautifully photographed and has great recipes.

    Nov 06, 2009 at 5:20 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,000

    Haven't seen the book but like these recipes. Very much like how I cook at home (with a big legup from my grandmother in my formative years). Though of course I won't be using some of the ingredients like fennel pollen ;-).

    Anyway, delicious-looking, well-presented, wine friendly recipes. Good choice, Greg! I can even think of a few Sonoma pinot noirs I'd like to match to them...

    Nov 07, 2009 at 3:19 AM

  • Thanks for the recipes. I'll be pairing one of the pork dishes with a Bogle old vine zin from 2006 this weekend.

    Nov 07, 2009 at 11:18 AM

  • Snooth User: mainjean
    Founding Member
    27794 6

    I love cookbooks, so this one might have to be one that gets a spot on my shelf and a chance to be tried in my kitchen. Love food and wine - what could be better in life?

    Nov 07, 2009 at 2:50 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    It's a wonderful book. What could be better? Having someone cook from it for you!

    Nov 09, 2009 at 8:43 PM

  • Snooth User: poolside1
    297664 14

    Looking forward to checking out the cookbooks!

    Nov 11, 2009 at 1:17 AM

  • Snooth User: pfortier2
    108163 8

    That looks amazing.

    Nov 12, 2009 at 2:42 PM

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