Just about everyone agrees that food and wine are meant to go together. But what about relationships comprised of a chef and a sommelier?
Thanks to reality TV shows, everyone can see the passion and energy that’s packed into restaurant kitchens. But beyond the heat of the moment, can true romance bloom (and last) amid the frenzy of a commercial kitchen?
These three couples have made it work—to some extent. Now they’re sharing how they survive in the heat of the kitchen, plus three delectable pairings for couples to enjoy at home.
Gina and Scott Gottlich
The Second Floor Bistro & Bar, Dallas
The first bottle of wine they shared together was Billecart-Salmon’s Brut Rosé Champagne. Their first date was a Valentine’s Day dinner at Scott’s Seafood (now known as Scott’s -Restaurant & Bar) in Costa Mesa, California.
Who can say that Gina and Scott Gottlich aren’t romantic?
They met at the now-shuttered Aubergine restaurant in Newport Beach. “Scott was working back-of-the-house in the restaurant, I was front-of-the-house,” says Gina. “The restaurant was such a romantic place, anyway.”
That romance 10 years ago has led to a top-rated restaurant in Dallas. Gina, 35, and Scott, 37, opened The Second Floor Bistro & Bar in 2008.
Do they disagree about their work? “All the time,” says Gina.
“But,” adds Scott, “It helps that we are married. It makes communication so much easier.”
With two boys, ages 6 and 3, and three dogs, life is hectic in the Gottlich household.
“We opened Bijoux 10 days before the birth of our first son,” says Gina. “We’re lucky. We have family in Dallas, and we make a team effort.”
They always have one family day a week, when, after the boys’ sports, they grill, especially in the summer.
“And,” says Gina, “We have a Trader Joe’s nearby when we can’t face the kitchen.”
Long Island Duck Breast with Couscous and Kriek Gastrique
Recipe courtesy Scott and Gina Gottlich, owners of The Second Floor Bistro & Bar, Dallas
1 cup sugar
1 cup kriek lambic (Belgian-style cherry beer)
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar cup demi-glace cup sour cherries
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more to taste
4 cups cooked couscous cup roasted mushrooms (sliced or small whole) cup pulled duck confit (homemade or purchased)
4 duck breasts
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 sprigs thyme
Pepper, to taste
Preheat an oven to 350˚F.
Place the sugar in a stainless-steel pot and barely cover with water. Heat the mixture, and when it reaches the soft-ball stage (235˚F–240˚F), add the beer and vinegar to form a gastrique, and stir with a wooden spoon. When the mixture begins to coat the back of the spoon, pour it into a container. Freeze any leftover gastrique in an ice cube tray for use within six months.
Prepare a cherry purée by mixing together the demi-glace and the cherries in a small pot. Warm the mixture, season to taste with salt and whisk in the 1 tablespoon of butter.
In a large bowl, mix together the couscous, mushrooms and duck confit, and set aside.
In an oven-safe pan set over medium-high heat, place the duck breasts skin side down in the pan to render the fat, until the skin is golden brown, approximately 8 minutes. Baste the breasts with the rendered fat, turn them over and roast in the preheated oven until the breasts are medium-rare, approximately 12 minutes, or 10 minutes per inch of the meat’s thickness.
While the duck is cooking, reheat the couscous mixture, adding the garlic, shallot, thyme, salt and pepper. Finish with a pat of butter.
To serve, cut the duck breasts into -inch-thick slices. Divide the cherry purée evenly among four plates. Place the couscous mixture and sliced duck on the plate. Dot each duck slice with the kriek gastrique. Serves 4.
Beer Pairing: “To me, food-and-wine pairings are emotional, just as cooking has emotion,” says Gina Gottlich, “The Chapeau Kriek from Belgium’s Brouwerij de Troch is a no-brainer for me with the duck. Scott uses a little of it to make the accompanying gastrique, and what better pairing than something that was used in the dish? The fresh, sour cherry beer really marries with the rich, gamy flavor of the duck.”
Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg
Franny’s and Bklyn Larder, Brooklyn
“We met in the [now-closed] Savoy restaurant in the East Village [of Manhattan],” says Francine Stephens. Andrew Feinberg, 38, was a chef. Stephens, 41, was a bartender.
“Andrew cooked me a beautiful autumnal stew with kabocha squash, chickpeas and kale,” Francine says. “I think it must have been love at first sight, because we were married two months later.”
That first meal was in 2000. In 2004, they opened Franny’s.
“We knew from the get-go that if I was going to marry a chef, we would need to open a restaurant together, if we were to see each other at all,” Francine says.
Franny’s is Italian (although neither of them is), says Andrew, because “I love the way the Italians cook and put flavors together.”
To go with the food, Francine focuses on an Italian-only wine list with many rarities. They’ve also opened an Italian deli, Bklyn Larder.
They have two kids, Prue, 6, and Marco, 5, so they eat at home as much as possible.
“Andrew cooks a proper meal, and we also use our dinner as a way of planning new recipes,” says Francine.
So where will they be on Valentine’s Day?
“At home, with some good food and a great bottle of Italian wine,” Francine says.
Franny’s Spaghetti with Artichokes, Garlic and Chilies
Recipe adapted from Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian by Melissa Clark, Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens (Artisan, 2013)
8 small or 4 large fresh artichokes, trimmed and outer leaves removed cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 4 teaspoons, divided
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 teaspoons kosher salt teaspoon red chili flakes (preferably Sicilian)
1 pound dry spaghetti cup fresh parsley, chopped
8 teaspoons finely grated
4 teaspoons unsalted butter teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
4 teaspoons finely grated pecorino Romano
Halve the artichokes lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the choke. Cut the artichokes lengthwise into -inch-thick slices.
In a very large skillet over medium-high heat, warm cup of olive oil. Add the artichokes, garlic and salt. Cook until the artichokes are browned and slightly soft, and the garlic is fragrant and golden around the edges, about 6–7 minutes.
Add the chili flakes and cook for an additional minute.
Add cup of water (enough to not quite cover the contents) and simmer until the artichokes are very soft, about 2 minutes. There should still be some liquid remaining in the pan. Remove the skillet from the heat.
In a large pot of well-salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to package instructions until 2 minutes shy of being al dente. Drain the spaghetti, reserving some of the spaghetti water.
Toss the spaghetti into the skillet with the artichokes, along with the parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter and pepper. Cook until the pasta is just al dente, approximately 1–2 minutes, adding a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water if the sauce seems dry.
To serve, divide the pasta among four serving plates or bowls. Finish each with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of pecorino Romano. Serves 4.
Wine Pairing: “There are very few wines that work well with artichokes,” says Francine Stephens. “An orange wine that also has bright acidity, however, works just beautifully. Radikon’s 2005 Oslavje from Friuli-Venezia Giulia is among my favorites. Serve it at red wine temperature, not refrigerator cold.”
Paola Embry and Christopher Gross
Christopher’s and Crush, Phoenix
It was a glass of Chardonnay that brought Paola Embry and Christopher Gross together.
“Christopher already had his restaurant,” says Paola, 44. “One day, I sat at his bar and ordered a glass of Chardonnay. He recommended Leeuwin Estate from Western Australia. We got chatting, and then I started -persuading my girlfriends we had to come to the restaurant every night for a drink.”
They have two side-by-side eateries, Christopher’s, which is the restaurant, and Crush, a lounge. Christopher, 54, is the chef. Paola, now a trained sommelier, is in charge of the wine programs.
They work together on wine pairing, “and I like recommending unusual pairings,” Paola says. “I’m even thinking of starting a new section in the list which I’ll call Branching Out.”
Off-duty pairing is more of a challenge, though.
“I like Mexican food—the spicier the better,” says Christopher. “Years ago, I had a dish full of crushed pepper, and I ate it with a Bordeaux. Not a great pairing moment.”
Christopher and Paola were married for 10 years, and she became part of the restaurant and wine adventure. Today, the adventure continues, but not the marriage.
“We trust each other and complement each other,” Christopher says. “She’s great on management.”
Says Paola, “Now we work better than ever together.”
Truffle-Infused Prime Sirloin with Fareki, Shallot Confit and Red Wine Sauce
Recipe courtesy Christopher Gross, chef/owner of Christopher’s, Phoenix
Start your preparation a day in advance by lightly cold-smoking the steaks and marinating them in truffle oil.
4 beef sirloin steaks, about
4 ounces each
2–3 tablespoons truffle oil
2 cups fareki
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons garlic, peeled and minced cup peeled and finely minced shallots, divided
3 cups chicken stock, warmed, plus more if needed
Salt and pepper, to taste
5 tablespoons chives, freshly chopped, divided
2 or more tablespoons unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh thyme
4 grinds black pepper
4 cups red wine, such as Merlot, divided
3 cups veal (or chicken) stock, warmed
Cold smoke the steaks. Place wood chips in a wok fitted with a steam rack. Place the wok on the stove over medium heat. When the chips are smoking, remove from the heat. Place the beef on the rack and cover for a few minutes.
Marinate the sirloin steaks in 2–3 tablespoons of truffle oil for at least a day in advance.
Clean the fareki using a large sieve set over a bowl of cold water. Swish the grains around and drain well.
Set a heavy-bottomed 8-inch pan, about 2 inches deep, over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, stir in the fareki, and sauté for several minutes until the grains are well heated or toasted, but not burned.
Stir in the garlic, 5 tablespoons of shallots and warm chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer and cover the pot. Cook for 35–45 minutes, adding a little more stock if the fareki seems too dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in 3 tablespoons of chives and additional butter if desired before serving.
Meanwhile, slowly sauté 1⁄3 cup of the shallots in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until tender and translucent, about 6–8 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and set the shallot confit aside. Reheat just before serving, and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of chives.
Preheat an oven to 375˚F.
In a skillet, brown the steaks on all sides in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Remove the meat to a roasting pan. Carefully skim the fat from the skillet, leaving any meat juices to make the red wine sauce.
Set the meat-browning skillet over medium heat, and add the unsalted butter and the remaining 3 tablespoons of chopped shallots. Stir for several minutes to soften, but do not brown.
Add the thyme, pepper and 3 cups of red wine to the skillet. Reduce the liquid by half and add 3 cups of veal stock. Boil slowly until the red wine sauce is reduced to cup.
Place the roasting pan with the browned sirloin in the middle level of the preheated oven, and roast to rare or medium rare (when inserted into the thickest part of the meat, an instant-read meat thermometer should register 120˚F–130˚F), approximately 6 minutes. When done, remove the meat to a cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes.
Deglaze the roasting pan by pouring in the remaining red wine and scraping up any roasting juices. Boil rapidly, and add this pan juice to the prepared red wine sauce.
Divide the shallot confit and fareki evenly among 4 plates. Cut each steak into thin slices and arrange on the plate, ringing the meat with the red wine sauce. Garnish the meat with the remaining shallots. Serves 4.
Wine Pairing: “The major match point is the fat and protein content of the dish,” says Paola Embry. “The unctuous taste of the prime sirloin softens the youthful tannins of a big red wine, like Andrew Will’s 2007 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard from Washington’s Red Mountain. Fat begs to be cut by young tannins, and you end up with the sweet flavors of the beef picking up the wine’s bold luscious fruit.”
Becky Selengut and April Pogue
Cornucopia, Seattle; Wild Ginger, Bellevue, Washington
“Mornings are our time together,” says Becky Selengut, talking of the routine she and her wife, April Pogue, share.
“In the evenings, we hardly ever eat together,” Becky says. “People always assume we drink fine wine and have gourmet meals all the time. But if we’re really hungry when we get home, we’ll have some popcorn and a glass of whatever bad wine happens to be in the fridge.”
They met six years ago, waiting for a drink at a bar.
“It didn’t seem like a love match at first, but then we realized we both worked in the hospitality industry, and we both had strong opinions about that,” Becky says.
“And we just moved on from there,” says April.
The two have partly separate working lives. April, a sommelier, is wine director at Wild Ginger restaurant in Bellevue, a Seattle suburb dominated by Microsoft.
“The restaurant is fusion, and we have an incredible collection of Rieslings,” says April.
Becky, a chef, left The Herbfarm restaurant in Woodinville, Washington, to cook for private clients, serve as an adjunct professor for the culinary/nutrition department at Bastyr University in Kenmore, and create Cornucopia, her private chef and culinary education company.
The couple uses their food-and-wine skills together in their cookbooks—the latest is Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast (Sasquatch Books, 2011).
“We respect each other’s abilities,” April says.
“We only have conflict if we forget that,” adds Becky.
Bay-Scented Pear Tart Tatin
Recipe courtesy Becky Selengut, founder of Cornucopia, Seattle
½ cup sugar
Seeds of 5 cardamom pods
6 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves (Turkish bay or Laurus nobilis)
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour, plus more to roll out dough
1 stick unsalted butter, diced into ½ -inch pieces, plus 4 tablespoons
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger
3–4 tablespoons ice water, as needed
3 Bartlett pears (or any other slightly firm pears), cut lengthwise into quarters, seeds removed
Preheat a convection oven to 425˚F (475˚F for a conventional oven).
Blend the sugar, cardamom seeds and bay leaves together in a spice grinder until the mixture forms a fine powder. Be sure to use Turkish bay or Laurus nobilis, not California bay, which can have an astringent quality.
Put the flour, diced stick of butter, salt and crystallized ginger into a food processor. Pulse about 30 times, until the butter forms small pieces the size of small peas or large grains of rice. Transfer the contents to a mixing bowl.
Add 3 tablespoons of ice water to the bowl and, using one hand with fingers in a claw shape, mix the dough. Check to see if the dough is ready by squeezing it in both hands: If it holds together, it’s ready. If it’s completely dry and does not hold together, add a tiny bit more water.
Turn the contents out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Pull up the sides of the plastic wrap, using it to help form the dough into a disc. Chill in a refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
Roll out the dough to ¼-inch thickness using flour, as needed, to keep the dough from sticking. Fold the dough in quarters, wrap it in plastic and chill until you are ready to place it on top of the pears.
Grease the sides of a 10-inch cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet with some of the remaining 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, then melt the rest of the butter in the skillet.
Add the bay leaf-cardamom-sugar mixture, and mix well with the melted butter. Place the pears in the skillet in a concentric circle (you may not need all of them). Pack them into the skillet as tight as they will go, and don’t move them. Cook over medium-high heat for 8–10 minutes until the butter-sugar mixture caramelizes.
Place the pastry dough over the pears and tuck the dough in the inside walls of the skillet, using a spoon to lift the pears and tuck the dough under. This will help the dough grab the fruit as it cooks, keeping the tart compact. Cut a few ventilating slits in the top, and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
Remove the tart from the oven and place a flat serving platter over the skillet. Immediately invert the skillet onto the platter and, after a few minutes, slowly remove the skillet. Serve the tart on its own or with vanilla or cardamom ice cream. Serves 4–8.
Wine Pairing: “Dr. Loosen’s 2009 Erdener Trepchen Riesling Auslese from the Mosel in Germany has killer acidity, which plays well with the sweet spice of the wine. Its sweetness balances out the dessert’s richness,” says April Pogue. “For a Pacific Northwest touch, Gorman Winery’s 2009 Cry Baby Chenin Blanc from the Columbia Valley, while still acidic, shares the richness and pear notes, and it finishes with exotic spices, echoing the bay and cardamom.