Food, recipe

Garlic and Pancetta Pasta

Recently I went to the Virginia Wine Expo and while slightly tipsy I bought an I See Spain grater bowl. It is an absolute dream and I made this pasta to showcase it’s greatness!


Those raised ridges on the bottom are very sharp and actually grate garlic and other roots, hard cheese and chocolate in seconds. With this dish I used garlic. Add in a little olive oil to the bottom of your dish to help with grating.


The two cloves only took me a few minutes. In fact the pancetta that I had in the pan had barely started cooking before I was done. Which brings me to the pancetta step. You want this to cook up nice and crispy so do it at a low heat stirring frequently so that nothing burns.


Cook your pasta in boiling water while the pancetta is cooking. The pasta I used called for boiling for about 5-7 minutes but because I was going to finish it off in the pan I only boiled it for about four minutes. And then added it when the pancetta looked like this.


Next I added in the pasta and some diced cherry tomatoes.


And some parmesan cheese. Because cheese is life.


A healthy splash of your pasta water deglazes the pan and finishes cooking this pasta.


Once the excess moisture as cooked off transfer it into the grater bowl and stir around so that the garlic and oil coats everything.


I also sprinkled in some fresh chopped basil  for color and flavor.

Ingredients (feeds 4)

  1. 1 package of pancetta
  2. 2-3 cloves of garlic
  3. Olive oil
  4. 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  5. 2 cups uncooked pasta
  6. 5-6 chopped basil leaves


  1. Grate garlic and add to olive oil at bottom of serving bowl. Or use an I See Spain grater bowl if you have one.
  2. Boil pasta per the directions on the packet. Shave of 2-3 minutes so that you can finish cooking it your pancetta.
  3. Add pancetta to a warm pan and cook on low heat until crispy and cooked through.
  4. Add your pasta into the pancetta pan.
  5. Toss in cherry tomatoes and parmesan.
  6. Use about a half cup of the pasta water to deglaze and finish cooking your pasta
  7. Transfer into serving and bowl and toss well to coat with garlic and olive oil.
  8. Sprinkle on some chopped basil.

Girls’ Night Guacamole

I like my guacamole like I like my men, bright green and thick. So basically what I’m telling you is I have a weird thing for Shrek and I’m about to divulge my not so secret guacamole recipe. I was recently in California and the opportunity to use the freshest avocados I have ever seen to make this guac. It was something that had to be recorded for posterity because you don’t get avocados this fresh in Virginia. Especially not in March. Also, of note, it is currently snowing in Virginia. It wasn’t snowing when I was in California yesterday.


The thing that really blew me away was how easily the pit came out. No need to thwack the knife into the pit to pull it out risking serious hand injury. My friend, Claire, who is going into hand surgery has a minor heart attack every time she sees me make guacamole. This time she did not have to worry as they practically fell out. Your avocado skins can be saved to use as tiny serving dishes later on. But usually I can’t even get it transferred into a serving bowl before people are scooping it out. Now most of you probably know the rudiments of guac crafting so I’m just going to share some helpful pointers. First and foremost, microwave your limes! What? That’s crazy! Nope, it’s actually a really good habit to get into with any citrus fruit if you want to get the max juice out of it.



Okay, I’m all better now. But, honestly this is a hack worth remembering. A warm citrus fruit will release a significantly greater amount of juice. Depending on how cold, ripe and big your lime is the perfect length of time can vary. I usually start with 15 seconds and go up in increments of ten. I know it’s ready when it feels a world softer and is just hot enough that it’s a little uncomfortable to hold in a closed fist. This is good because the next step is to roll that lime around in between your palms pressing gently, this releases the juices even further. For a larger fruit, like grapefruit, it might be easier to roll it between your palm and the counter. Once your cut it in half squeeze like your life depends on it! And don’t forget to use your pulp. I cut it off and scrape it into whatever I am making


My other little hack is in regards to your garlic. We didn’t have a handy piece of Tupperware to shake the cloves in to help us peel them but this stuff was pretty fresh and peeled easily. Have I mentioned that California produce is insanely fresh? I just want you all to know that I keep a large of jar minced garlic in my fridge and a backup one in my pantry so I will not judge if you decide to go that route. But every now and then I think their are times when fresh garlic is worth the hassle. And girls’ night guac is one of those times! So once you have your peeled garlic it’s time to get to dicing. I find it easier to squash all my cloves with the flat side of my knife blade and then sprinkle the cloves with a little salt before doing a quick rough chop. The salt helps bruise the garlic and seasons it all at the same time. I wanted ya’ll to see how to the hold blade for the rough chop so I asked Hand Surgeon, turned Hand Model, Claire to demonstrate.


Once you have your avocados, onions, garlic, salt and lime all sorted in a bowl it’s time to customize. Some would argue that garlic and onions should be part of customization. But guacamole without garlic and onions is like wine without grapes. It just makes no sense. And I feel almost as strongly about coriander and tomatoes but there are people who I know and cook for that do not eat tomatoes and coriander. It’s shocking, I know, but there you have it. So at this point you have the option to add in jalapeños, coriander, tomatoes, cumin, bell peppers. I personally don’t like bell peppers but the rest all goes in. I’m also not a huge fan of that raw onion taste to I tend to use milder onions like shallots or scallions instead of the red onions that you will often catch me cooking with. As far as your jalapeños go the finer your chop them the less likely that someone is going to get a great big piece in their mouth and be on fire for the rest of the night. If you want to avoid getting the capsaicin juice all over your hands and then in your eyes when your friends are so sweet that they make you weep tears of joy (I’m speaking from experience) you can avoid hand chopping by just blitzing them in a blender or food processor. I really wish I had done that because my eyes and face burned for the better part of the night.


Funny story, I ended up mixing this up in a cooking pot because it was the only receptacle large enough and while I had every intention of plating it into something pretty and getting a picture of my bright green guac surrounded by a plethora of blue and yellow corn tortilla chips my girlfriends devoured it before I got a chance. Truthfully the began devouring before I even had it completely spiced. All under the guise of “taste testing,” I’m sure. So I will leave you with this picture of a heaping bowl of diced avocados instead.


Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6-8 (based on the number of avocados you use, for the seven of us I used six largish avocados)

Ingredients: These ingredients are directly proportional to the amount of avocados you use and my particular taste. Feel free to adjust for your palette and the number of people you are serving. 

  1. 6 largish avocados
  2. 1-2 fresh limes
  3. 1-2 jalapeños
  4. 6-8 cloves of garlic
  5. 8 -10 scallion heads thin chopped
  6. Handful of coriander rough chopped (including finer chopped stems)
  7. 1 medium tomato
  8. 1 Tbsp salt
  9. 1 Tbsp cumin
  10. 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  11. 8 -10 scallion heads thin chopped


  1. Dice your avocados. Cut in half, remove pit while avoiding slicing your hand open, use a dull blade to section your avocado cross and length wise, scoop into very large bowl with a spoon.
  2. Cut and juice lime as above.
  3. Peel and dice garlic as above.
  4. Fine chop or blend an jalapeño, more or less depending on your taste.
  5. Chop your onion, I used the scallion whites and saved the greens for another dish. But you can use whatever you prefer.
  6. Rough chop the coriander leaves and finely chop the stems before adding to the bowl.
  7. Finely chop your tomato and scrape the juices and seeds into your mixing bowl.
  8. Add in your dry spices, I use a little extra garlic powder to give the guac a more uniform garlicky flavor. Add your salt in small amounts and mix well before trying. It’s very easy to go overboard but an under salted guac is too sad to fathom.
  9. Mix, mix, mix until you have the consistency that you want.

Virginia Wine Expo 2018

The Virginia Wine Expo is a bit of a tradition for me and mine. I’ve been for the last five years running, pretty much since I moved to Virginia. Lloyd has been with me since we were first started dating and this is the second year his Mother and Sister have joined us.


This year, though, was slightly different since the venue has changed. We had the distinct pleasure of being hosted by Richmond’s historic Main Street Station. If you ever driven up I-95 you have probably seen the distinct clock tower facade. Recently they have built a glass sided platform that really gives the station something special and was an excellent place to showcase Virginia wine.


We walked in and were greeted by Poseidon and the ubiquitous Virginia LOVE sculpture. Because Virginia is for lovers and the God of the sea.

Reidel glasses greeted us once we cleared the ticket check and the ID verification. I have quite the collection of Virginia Wine Expo glasses after years of attending this event. In fact, the quality if the glasses have made me a die hard Reidel fan.

One of the best things about the Virginia Wine Expo is their yearly showcasing of both a domestic and international wine region. This year we sampled Oregon wine as well as Australian/New Zealand Wines. The delightful Oregon Pinot Noirs and the crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs really made my visit this year. I visited the Willamette Valley a few years ago with some family and friends. I will have to write about that trip but allow me to wax poetic about Oregon wine for a few lines.


On my trip to Oregon we visited Adelsheim, Brooks and Erath. We visited a number of other wineries as well but Brooks and Erath continue to be some of my favorite that I have ever been to. One other winery, Big Table Farm, which is not show cased here was the standout of that trip though. I feel like I should soon write a blog about that trip to the Willamette Valley. In the meantime, a brief word on the Australian and New Zealand wines.

New Zealand is known for their crisp, citrusy wine. And these didn’t disappoint. I love the clean grapefruit finish you often get with a really quality Sauvignon blanc. The Drylands and Three Brooms were especially refreshing. Which brings me to the many. many Virginia Wines we drank.

I have been to a number of these wineries in person and they all do a very good job of showing off the best Virginia has to offer. However, they aren’t some of the more prominent Virginia wineries. These would require much more in depth blogging and I will try to do them justice in subsequent entries. There were a couple of non wine vendors worth mentioning. The I See Spain grater bowls and plates were a huge hit.


Lloyd decided to eat a couple of cloves of whole garlic which made for a malodorous few tastings following our visit to this booth. The very neat thing about these bowls and plates is that the bottom is textured so that you can grate cheese, chocolate, garlic, ginger and other foods. I have to admit that I bought a set and am looking forward to using them and blogging about them! Another new addition to the wine expo was a surprising number of distilleries the attended. While I normally love Whiskey I didn’t want to ruin my chances of a hangover free Monday so I only visited one such booth.


The whisky here was quite tasty and surprisingly smooth. I look forward to making a trip up there soon and promise to write about it when I do. All in all the 2018 Virginia Wine Expo was a definite success. It’s also nice to be enough of a grown up to know that I won’t be hungover tomorrow morning!