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The Wine Sense Diet

by Annette Shafer (Lifeline Press)

The Wine Sense Diet



If Annette Shafer were just the wife of a Napa Valley, California, vintner, we might have reservations about her promotion of a wine-focused diet. But she's also a 13-time marathon runner and a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America who is dean of the Robert Mondavi University (for wine studies). She has traveled the world noting the beneficial aspects of wine on cultural diets.

Perhaps nowhere has she seen the benefits more close up than by surveying her neighbors in California's lush wine country. That's why she's peppered the healthiest recipes of wine estate families throughout her color photo–filled tome.

Before she sets the table, though, Shafer writes about both the wine-health connection (the growing medical literature on how a few glasses of wine a day may help prevent heart attacks, regulate weight, stop signs of aging, improve physical performance, combat depression and reduce the risk of cancer) and the Napa Valley lifestyle (a joie de vivre in which those glasses of wine fit right in.)

After reading Shafer's glowing assessments such as this one, you'll probably want to join the fun: "You won't find a fad diet book on the shelf of any bookstore [in the Napa Valley]," she writes. "Or, if by chance you do, it's not a local best-seller. Town residents practically bathe in olive oil, and are always looking forward with great anticipation to their next loaf of warm, brick-oven-baked crusty walnut bread or a wedge of aged Asiago cheese. Sharing a meal and a bottle of wine with friends and family is a favorite pastime.

"A special warmth and glorious energy emanates from the people here—a love of life, a joie de vivre, abounds. A walk through the vineyards at sunset, a game of bocce with friends, a bike ride in the hills, or a jog through town—these are all welcomed events and a part of everyday life here. And the people are healthy. Really healthy. The curious thing is that rather than thinking about how to cut calories, they are almost always talking about their next meal—even sometimes discussing dinner at lunch."

Before Shafer gets you talking about your next meal by presenting the gems that keeps her neighbors chatting, she talks about all the areas in which wine has been shown to have beneficial results (you can add possible protection against Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and even the common cold to the previously mentioned list.)

Besides going over the studies that help prove those things, Shafer uses the information to make some helpful overall analytical points, such as: "Dr. R. Curtis Ellison, a physician at Boston University's School of Medicine, has found that amid all the studies detailing wine's healthy qualities, there is a message that has been overshadowed: It is the pattern of how wine is consumed that makes a difference in its benefit to overall health. Drinking a moderate amount of wine, with meals on a daily basis, gives wine its most significant contribution."

As she indicated, you won't find much calorie-counting going on with the dishes from her neighbors that are meant to accompany that alcohol (for which lots of wine-pairing and other wine tips are given). But you will find an abundance of fresh ingredients prepared in the Mediterranean style (long known for its health-protective qualities) which has become a hallmark of California wine country cuisine. This includes dishes like grilled flatbread and caesar salad sandwiches, which—following the strategy of saturating the diet with olive oil—includes both a flavorful, olive oil-based Caesar dressing in the filling and an olive oil-based pesto sauce of pine nuts, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic and basil leaves.

Or how about honey-roasted pork marinated in dry white wine? Or spicy chicken with preserved lemons (a Moroccan touch)? Or butterflied leg of lamb with black olive tapenade?

The joie de vivre Shafer writes about is more than evident in the recipes. Everything is given that extra "oomph" to make it special rather than mundane. You won't find plain salads, for instance, but instead roast beet and spinach salad with candied pecans and goat cheese; or sea scallops with a warm salad of sweet corn, roasted peppers and shiitakes with chive oil or baby greens with blue cheese-pecan dressing.

Desserts get the same treatment, including an intriguing olive oil cake with strawberries of which Shafer writes, "One may not associate olive oil with dessert, but this cake is sweet, scrumptious and healthy for you. The olive oil gives the cake a moist texture and fruity taste." And, of course, to add to the joie de vivre, the luscious cake is served with strawberries tossed in dessert wine. To add to our own joie de vivre, why don't we have dessert first...?

Olive Oil Cake with Strawberries
Roast Beet and Spinach Salad with Candied Pecans and Goat Cheese

Previously featured:

Old-Time Brand-Name Desserts: Recipes, Illustrations, and Advice from the Recipe Pamphlets of America's Most Trusted Food Makers

Pot Pies: Comfort Food Under Cover

The Big Book of Casseroles: 250 Recipes for Serious Comfort Food

Tracy Porter's Inspired Gatherings

The El Paso Chile Company Rum & Tiki Cookbook

The Mediterranean Herb Cookbook

Anne Willan: From My Château Kitchen

Plenty: A Collection of Sarah McLachlan's Favourite Recipes

Simple French Desserts

American Home Cooking: Over 300 Recipes Celebrating Our Rich Tradition of Home Cooking

Stacks: The Art of Vertical Food

Asian Wraps: Deliciously Easy Hand Held Bundles to Stuff, Wrap & Relish

Great Kitchens: At Home With America's Top Chefs

Essentials of Cooking

City Tavern Cookbook: 200 Years of Classic Recipes From America's First Gourmet Restaurant

The Cake Mix Doctor

(Updated: 01/23/08 SB)
Cookbook Book Reviews Recipes Gayot

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