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Luke Morganstern, executive chef at Orfila Vineyards Tasting Room and Kitchen in Oceanside, has launched a fall menu, featuring a roasted butternut squash soup with smoked pepitas and crème fraîche. Photo via Facebook/Orfila Vineyards Tasting Room & Kitchen
Luke Morganstern, executive chef at Orfila Vineyards Tasting Room and Kitchen in Oceanside, has launched a fall menu, featuring a roasted butternut squash soup with smoked pepitas and crème fraîche. Photo via Facebook/Orfila Vineyards Tasting Room & Kitchen
Columns Food & Wine Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Orfila Winery, Crosby Baker offer superb autumn delights

Leaves changing colors, pumpkins and squashes, along with the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and roasted root vegetables always remind me that fall is upon us.

Senior Editor Frank and I welcomed the season by getting reacquainted with Orfila Winery, one of North County and San Diego’s premier wineries.

At its Oceanside location, Executive Chef Luke Morganstern previewed his fall menu with the help of Dave Robinson, tasting room manager, and Katharine Briggs, assistant manager at Orfila.

Morganstern infused fall flavors into a five-course wine dinner. Each course will be on his new fall menu and was a creative flavor explosion featuring fall ingredients and spices paired with an Orfila wine!

Dinner commenced with pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter and pecorino cheese paired alongside 2020 Estate Lotus. “The Lotus” is a Rhone white blend of Viognier and equal parts of Marsanne and Roussanne with a bright stone fruit palate.

(Pictured from left to right) Dave Robinson, tasting room manager, Luke Morganstern, executive chef, and Katharine Briggs, assistant manager, all from Orfila Vineyards Tasting Room and Kitchen in Oceanside. Photo by Rico Cassoni
(Pictured from left to right) Dave Robinson, tasting room manager, Luke Morganstern, executive chef, and Katharine Briggs, assistant manager, all from Orfila Vineyards Tasting Room and Kitchen in Oceanside. Photo by Rico Cassoni

The second course was a roasted butternut squash soup blended with pumpkin, nutmeg and brown sugar garnished with smoked pepitas and a dollop of crème frâiche.

The 2019 Ambassador’s Chardonnay from Arroyo Grande Valley had elegance and minerality that drew out these fall flavors with poached pear, baking spices, and citrus blossom perfume and custard with apple butter flavors.

Before the main entrée, guests enjoyed carrot-ginger cake appetizers with Greek yogurt and cilantro complemented by the 2018 Pinot Noir with fruit from Oregon.

The pinot’s cherry, raspberry, and cranberry on the nose and palate reminded me of Thanksgiving. Together these both cleansed the palate for the most tender, fork-split, red wine short rib entrée one can imagine. The entrée included roasted Harissa carrots and red potatoes that were crispy outside and fluffy inside.  Throughout the course, my brain was in overdrive trying to decipher the unique spice combination.

“I used Chinese five spice, cinnamon, apple pie and pumpkin spice, sage, and rosemary,” Morganstern told me.

When I inquired how he creates these unexpected spice combinations, he offered this unexpected response: “…It just comes to me as I focus on other things, like working on social media.”

The boldness of the “Ambassador’s Estate” (2018) syrah from San Pasqual Valley with leather, red plum and boysenberry and smooth tannins paired well with the rib entrée.

Dinner concluded with spiced apple cake garnished with pumpkin spice whipped cream and candied walnuts. The semi-sweet 2018 Gewürtztraminer Suss sourced from Monterey with good acidity balanced out the spice cake. Great job Luke, Dave and Katharine!

During dinner, Mangio and I met Orfila’s Cellar Master Christian Ecker who invited us to their Escondido production facility to meet new winemaker Andrew Wisniewski.

We look forward to meeting with Wisniewski who hails from Oregon to learn about his creative ways to make wines especially with Rhone and Italian varietals. More details at orfila.com.

— Story by Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni

Holiday Treats by The Crosby Baker

I love that the holidays bring together family and friends to enjoy special wine, food, and desserts.   Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Kary Favish, owner of The Crosby Baker, at a wine dinner. Favish creates made-to-order desserts in North County San Diego using only the finest ingredients. Anyone who knows me knows that I love desserts and appreciate high-quality baked goods.

After showing me some pictures that were so decadent I could almost taste them, Favish invited
me to a formal tasting at her beautiful home on a cozy evening.

Kary Favish, owner of The Crosby Baker,  offers a no-crust  Basque Burnt Cheesecake with a light and creamy texture. Courtesy photo
Kary Favish, owner of The Crosby Baker, offers a no-crust Basque Burnt Cheesecake with a light and creamy texture. Courtesy photo

The tasting started with vibrant platters of biscotti and macarons each boasting 6 different flavors. Some biscotti were traditionally crunchy and some were delightfully soft on the inside with a crunchy exterior. The macarons were colorful and flavorful with some festive holiday favorites such as pumpkin, peppermint bark, and cranberry orange.

Next, she served a crustless Basque Burnt cheesecake. As a cheesecake connoisseur, I believe that Favish has redefined what cheesecake can be. With its light and creamy texture complemented by a black cherry glaze, this was easily the best cheesecake I have ever had.

“My menu is filled with a variety of simple yet delectable homemade bakery items prepared on request, Favish said during the tasting. “I am always in a creative mood, so you will have something new to choose from that is made with love with every purchase.”

Those looking to save time during the holiday frenzy, who are not confident with baking, or want to elevate their dessert course to the gourmet level call on The Crosby Baker.

To ensure that she creates client favorites per their distinct style and flavor, Favish requests that customers provide a 72-hour notice. Full details at thecrosbybaker.com.

— Story by Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni.

Wine Bytes

— Award-winning and local winemaker Keith Rolle, owner of Gianni Buonomo Vintners in San Diego’s Ocean Beach, has always been a lover of orchestras and opera. Rolle has created one barrel of a very special field blend called “OB Blend” and committed 1/2 of the barrel to The Right Note fundraiser.  The event is from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16, at The Thursday Club benefitting Point Loma High School and Correia Middle School. Tickets are $100 for wine, small bites, live student music, and a bottle of OB Blend (limited to 100 people) or $50 without the bottle of OB Blend. Purchase tix for this great fundraiser at bit.ly/3BUqfhp.

— Vittorio’s Family Style Trattoria in Carmel Valley invites Castoro Cellars Winery to its monthly wine dinner, Thurs. Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. Four courses and dessert are on the menu. The cost is $75. + tip. Call for reservations at 858-538-5884.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at [email protected]

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