A Dinner Under The Stars at Larner Vineyards with Reality Star Chef Vanessa Craig

Are you a Food Network Junkie? If so, you probably saw the new culinary competition All-Star Academy in which ten home cooks across the country were paired with Food Network famous chefs. If not, here’s a quick update. After eight episodes, it came down to two finalists and Santa Barbara local Vanessa Craig was one of them. Paired with Chef Michael Symon, she was energetic, spunky and lots of fun to watch. Sadly she didn’t win the final prize but 2nd place isn’t shabby!

After the national exposure and now that the show is over, Vanessa is back home in Santa Barbara. Her passion is to share her love for food and her love of Santa Barbara and is now a private chef and caterer with her newly launched business Vanessa Loves Food.

Vanessa Craig in the kitchen

In perfect timing with her return to Santa Barbara, Larner Winery hosted their very first estate wine dinner and featured Vanessa Craig. I was one of the lucky ones, along with a group of 20 others, that was invited to dine under the stars at the Tuscan-inspired Larner home. As we sat outside, under the stars at a long table filled with great company, amazing wines and delicious food, it felt like we had been transported to Italy.

Larner Estate

The evening started with tray-passed hors d’oeuvres. Santa Barbara ceviche, made with freshly caught Santa Barbara grouper paired beautifully with the fresh and bright 2014 Malvasia Bianca. The marinated strawberry & goat cheese crostini, a balance of sweet and creamy, were in perfect harmony with the 2014 Rosé made with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

Santa Barbara Ceviche 2014 Rose and 2014 Malvasia BiancaMarinated Strawberry and Goat Cheese Crostini

As the sun started to set, we moved to the long table and were seated for dinner. As each course came out, both Michael and Vanessa would stand up and present the dish and wine pairing.

Dinner Under The Stars Vanessa Craig and Michael Larner

The first course was a Sweet Corn Fritter with Spice-Rubbed Chicken. A light dish, it was perfectly paired with the bright, floral and acidic Larner 2013 Viognier.

Sweet Corn Fritter with Spiced Rubbed Chicken

Second course was a Black Pepper Beef Stew with Morel Mushrooms and Celeriac Puree. Full of flavor, but not rich, the stew was paired with the fruity Larner 2010 Elemental, a GSM (Granach, Syrah, Mouvedre) blend.
Black Pepper Beef Stew with Morel Mushrooms and Celeriac Puree
2010 Syrah and 2010 Elemental GSM Blend
Third course was Veal Tenderloin with Figs and Grapes, what Celebrity Guest Judge Robert Irvine called “the perfect dish.” The meat was tender and the sweet elements of the grapes and figs were a nice marriage with the rich and spicy 2010 Larner Syrah.
Veal Tenderloin with Figs and Grapes
To finish off the meal, we enjoyed Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Tipsy Apricot Compote. To top the desert off perfectly, Larner shared the first vintage of his vin santo style wine, the 2014 Solamer. The Malvasia Bianca grapes were set in the sun to dry, resulting in a wine with honey notes and bright acidity.
Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Tipsy Apricot Compote
2014 Solarner
Vanessa’s use of fresh, local ingredients shined and her passion came through in every dish. She is a bright young star and it was a privilege to have dinner under the stars with her food and Larner wines.
In order to capture the memories of the dinner, I continued my tradition of having both Vanessa and Michael sign my menu. Another wonderful meal is added to the collection.
Signed Menu
Thank you Michael and Vanessa!
Vanessa Craig and Michael Larner