Sample This.

I love samples. I love little samples of makeup and spices and the little snacks to sample at farmers’ markets, Whole Foods and especially Bristol Farms. Their samples are the fanciest. Although I used to like to get perfume samples, I don’t any more. After many years I have my perfume, and I am comfortable and secure with my choice. But I do really love the little sample-size perfume bottles. They are just so dear. Same goes for samples of shampoo, conditioner and all sorts of fun beauty products. 

Here in LA we even get little samples of rocks dropped off by our doors. Well, at least I do. Two little rocks in a plastic bag with an advertisement for the rock company that wants to get hired to do the driveway or something. Even those samples intrigue me.

Samples seem precious – like Boo Radley’s gifts he leaves in the tree for Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. She covets them and keeps them in a small trunk in her room: chewing gum, two pennies, and a ball of twine, soap carvings to resemble Scout and her brother, Jem, and a pocket watch that doesn't work. Precious treasures.

You know how much I love hip hop (well, mostly old to middle school hip hop)… It’s made up of samples!

And who doesn't like a sample sale?

I get extra excited when I get fun food samples in the mail (or any package in the mail – even if I order it from Amazon and ‘send’ it to myself). It happens every so often when one is a food blogger, I suppose, that one gets these food samples. Last week I got a whole box of salami from Columbus Salame.  A whole box of salami I tell you!

What to do, what to do.

And then Fred appeared with one of his bright ideas. Mussels.

The first meal Fred ever made for me was on our fourth date. I was exhausted from doing a Dinner at Eight the night before and so Fred offered to cook for me.  He made mussels with cider and bacon and Cacio e Pepe. Not together. Mussels first, then pasta. I had never been to his apartment, and when I arrived I saw he had put a little two-person bistro table in the middle of his living room, all set, with taper candles. It was so cute I wanted to pull my hair out. I think he was a little nervous to cook for me. But I tell you what - everything was delicious and perfect. And listen, Cacio e Pepe is one of my absolute favorite dishes. I’ve tried to make it. I did a terrible job. Fred’s was perfect. And so were those mussels. And so was that little table with the taper candles and everything else about that evening.

For this version of his mussels, Fred had the idea to use the Chorizo Casero, from Columbus' box of salame samples, in lieu of bacon, in an otherwise classic interpretation of mussels and white wine. And we also added some Tuscan kale from my garden. It was delicious and colorful and the chorizo really was the perfect touch. 

Speaking of samples and Fred and dates and food and fun - tomorrow is my birthday and Fred is taking me to Los Olivos. And you know what we're going to do while we're there? Sample wines! A great one to pair with this dish is actually from Los Olivos and one I plan to sample tomorrow; Brander Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley (2011).

Mussels with Chorizo & Kale

2 pounds mussels
8 ounces chorizo cubed
1 medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup Tuscan kale, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauté the chorizo and onion in olive oil for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

Add the garlic, and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant.

Add the mussels and toss quickly to coat.

Add the wine.

Cover and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, or until the mussels begin to open.

Discard any mussels that do not open.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels and sausages to a warm large serving bowl.

Add kale to pot.

Cover to keep warm.

Boil the kale and juices remaining in the pan for 1 minute.

Whisk in the butter.

Pour the sauce over the mussels, sprinkle with the parsley, salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately with crusty rustic bread.

One year ago: Yerp: Part 3
Three years ago: The Hall at Palihouse


  1. Looks amazing... and that is why I need to grow some kale!

  2. mmm love mussels but for some reason have this weird fear of making them at home so have never cooked them before. weird i know. but yum! and i hope you enjoyed your wine-ful bday :)