Longtime NCIS: Los Angeles star and host of Pacific Palisades' most epic backyard pizza parties Chris O’Donnell can now add a new gig to his résumé: restaurateur. Inspired to share the joy of pizza with likeminded fans, O'Donnell is opening neo-Neapolitan spot Pizzana on April 21 in Los Angeles’ Brentwood neighborhood. Other partners with a slice of the Pizzana pie include the actor's wife, Caroline; Sprinkles confectionery cofounders/cupcake ATM masterminds Candace and Charles Nelson; and pizzaiolo to the stars Daniele Uditi.
As O’Donnell recently explained to Unfiltered in an email, it all started seven years ago when he and Caroline installed a pizza oven in their backyard. “We had no idea what we were doing,” he admitted. So the couple called up Uditi, then a private chef in L.A. “Daniele started coming almost every other Sunday to make pizza for us,” O’Donnell said. “All of our friends fell in love with him and his pizza. Charles and Candace were two of those friends, and the idea of doing a restaurant with Daniele was born.”
O’Donnell’s favorites off the menu include Uditi’s new Pignatiello pie, which is topped with "Neapolitan Sunday gravy" (short ribs braised for 12 hours in San Marzano tomatoes), mozzarella, Parmesan cream and basil, and the Messicana—chorizo, cilantro-lime sauce, pickled chile, jalapeño and queso fresco. Amanda Crawford, former lead wine specialist for Christie’s New York, oversees the wine list of favorites from Italy and California. O’Donnell told Unfiltered his personal pairing picks for pizza are the Bruno Verdi Pinot Grigio 2014 and the Villa Sant’Anna Rosso di Montepulciano 2013—“or a nice cold beer. A Peroni usually does the trick.”
Red and white may be the most popular colors in the wine world, but many in wine and food are thinking green—especially with Earth Day coming up this Saturday. Want to toast a healthy planet while drinking and dining well? Here's our rundown of events and initiatives for sipping and snacking in support of the environment.
California Gets Down to Earth
In California wine country, green go-getters dedicate not one, but 30 days to Mother Earth during Down to Earth Month, now in its sixth iteration. According to Nancy Light, vice president of communications for Wine Institute, which organizes the festivities, Down to Earth Month is meant to raise awareness for the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance's Sustainable Winegrowing Program. This year, the alliance has extra reason to celebrate: Starting with the 2017 vintage, wineries that meet its sustainability standards will be able to boast a "Certified Sustainable" logo on their bottle labels. If you're in the state and looking to eco-party, here are a few choice events that benefit green causes:
• Presented by the Environmental Education Coalition of Napa County (EECNC), Earth Day Napa will have educational exhibits, food, entertainment, kid-friendly activities and, of course, wine (provided by Napa Valley Vintners) at the city of Napa's Oxbow Commons on April 22. Proceeds will benefit two of EECNC’s environment-focused initiatives, the Field Trip Bus Grant Program and the Darcy Aston Scholarship.
• If you can snag a spot, celebrate Earth Day with your furry friend at Saracina Vineyards in Hopland, Mendocino. Attendees and their dogs can take a 4-mile hike on the property, concluding with a picnic lunch paired with Saracina wines (for humans). A portion of the proceeds from wine sales will benefit Orphan Dog, a Northern California dog rescue organization.
• On April 23, Sonoma's Iron Horse Vineyards will host the Celebrate Earth Day food and wine festival, at, appropriately, its Green Valley winery. There will be pours from Hartford Family, Dutton-Goldfield, Freeman and other area wineries. California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross is set to deliver a talk on the future of food, and among the delectables is San Francisco chef Traci Des Jardins' all-plant "Impossible Burger." Net proceeds from the event will benefit Sustainable Conservation, an environmental non-profit.
The full list of Down to Earth Month events is available on Wine Institute's website.
Turning Wine into Trees
True to its name, Trinity Oaks speaks for the trees. The Napa winery kicked off its One Bottle One Tree program—working with non-profit Trees for the Future to plant a tree for every bottle of wine sold—in July 2008. Now, Trinity Oaks is celebrating its 17 millionth tree planted, just in time for Earth Day 2017.
Following suit, Kenwood Vineyards has partnered with the National Forest Foundation to launch its own tree-planting effort, running March 1 to April 30. For every bottle of Kenwood Vineyards wine sold at one of 444 participating restaurants or online through the winery's website, a tree will be planted in a national forest. Kenwood's goal is to plant 50,000 trees; by the end of March, the winery had already notched 27,159 saplings.
Crunching Crickets in Canada
The basic rules for pairing are red wines with meat, white wines with fish, and earth-friendly wines with … bugs? Ontario's Entomo Farms, the largest cricket farm in North America, has launched Jump Into Spring, a campaign that puts crickets on the menu at some 50 restaurants across the province during Earth Week (April 17-22). Diners can find innovative insect bites like barbecue cricket poutine, cricket cake donuts and even a margarita garnished with three whole roasted chili-lime crickets.
What's all the buzz about? As it happens, eating crickets and other insects for protein is great for the environment. Insects emit less greenhouse gases than most livestock, and require less water, feed and land—12 times less feed than cattle for an equivalent amount of protein. If you're still not convinced to hop on the bug bandwagon, consider the pitch from Stacie Goldin, community manager of Entomo Farms. "Our crickets are free range. And I know that sounds crazy," Goldin told Unfiltered. "Our crickets eat when they want, drink when they want. And they just walk around—hop around—happily." According to Goldin, whole roasted crickets taste like sunflower seeds, plus, crickets are good for you, with high levels of protein, B12, calcium and many other nutrients. "It's funny watching the expressions on peoples' faces change from a look of apprehension and fear [to] when they put it in their mouth and crunch it up—there's this look of utter delight," Goldin said.
On Saturday, April 29, New York will welcome back the annual somm-star-studded charity auction Wine on Wheels. Now in its sixth year, the auction has raised close to $750,000 since its inception for Wheeling Forward, a charitable organization benefiting the city's disabled community. The auction host and charity cofounder Yannick Benjamin, who became paralyzed following a car accident in 2003, is head sommelier at the University Club in Manhattan; Unfiltered readers may recognize him from his star turn in the 2015 show Uncorked.
At the Wine on Wheels Grand Tasting & Silent Auction, attendees will be able to sample over 300 wines from 30 regions poured by more than 75 somms from many of New York's most celebrated wine spots, including Michaël Engelmann of the Modern, Jordan Salcito of Momofuku, Aldo Sohm of Le Bernardin, Justin Timsit of Gramercy Tavern and Michel Couvreux of Per Se. “The enthusiasm and generosity of the wine community coming together for one cause ... is so humbling and gratifying,” Benjamin told Unfiltered in an email. “Each and every person that participates has direct personal connection to Wheeling Forward, and it is very clear that they want to make NYC the greatest place for people with disabilities to live in.” Tickets can be purchased at www.wineonwheels.org.
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