The cheeserati tell us to never wrap the pricey artisan Kentucky Rose or Humboldt Fog we've just bought in plastic wrap. But what's a cheese lover to do when the wedges come home in that plastic?

The first time I tasted South African chenin blancs I was unimpressed. "A spotty lot," my tasting notes from 1994 called them.

Dear SOS: Any chance of getting the recipe for crab cakes from the Red Fish Grill in New Orleans? They were by far the best ever!

SIMMER THIS SHOT & A BEER

If you want to understand what makes Washington state's wines so delicious - and sometimes so unique - all you need to do is just look at the place.

Zucchini is one of summer's star veggies and a culinary workhorse of the kitchen. You can shred it for breads, muffins or pan-fried zucchini cakes. It can be sliced for gratins, casseroles and pasta dishes. You can thinly slice zucchini and use it raw in place of traditional pasta noodles and top it with a tomato sauce.

Olive tapenade, an earthy, salty paste of olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and other flavorings, is easy to find jarred in specialty shops. But when you whip up a batch yourself at home, the flavors pop in a surprising way that makes you never want to buy it in a jar again.

Lucille Bishop Smith was a chef, educator, entrepreneur and food corporation president who has been called the first African-American businesswoman in Texas. She is credited with inventing the first commercially marketed hot roll mix and establishing one of the nation's first college-level commercial foods and technology departments.

If your zucchini has turned zealous in the garden, here's a wonderfully different way to use the bounty: A zucchini flatbread that surprised me with how easy it was to make.

PEANUTS AND WHAT?

It sounds weird, but the prospect of spending a week sailing on the vast expanse of Lake Superior is when I most channel my inner New Yorker.

It's no wonder Michael Chiarello's flirtatious Coqueta has been such a hit on San Francisco's waterfront. Tapas, gintonics and glorious water views are a potent recipe for happiness. It's also one to inspire a Spanish-style summer fete of your own.

Alice McKeehan of Elkhart, Ind., wanted help locating a recipe for making a Twinkie cake. Her friend who used to make it has died, and McKeehan cannot find her copy of the recipe. All she can really remember is that it was an easy, no-bake cake that had Hostess' Twinkies as the base layer.

Gardening is slow going. Drop a seed; harvest a carrot. In between there's watering, weeding, waiting. No chase scene, no explosion, no big reveal.

The day before we were to leave for a long weekend at the beach, my neighbor Larry came bearing a gift: 5 pounds of crabapples picked from another neighbor's tree.

The sun is blazing. The sweat is dripping. The air feels as if it is sticking to your skin.

The cheeserati tell us to never wrap the pricey artisan Kentucky Rose or Humboldt Fog we've just bought in plastic wrap. But what's a cheese lover to do when the wedges come home in that plastic?

This old vine field blend from Enkidu's owner and winemaker Phillip Staehle is 60 percent zinfandel, 24 percent carignane and 8 percent each alicante bouschet and petite sirah, a proportion that reflects the way vines were planted in the three vineyards that go into this appealing, rustic blend. One of them, Bedrock Vineyard, clocks in at 125 years old.

It's amazing how much sugar we eat, even while we think that we are not. Many prepared foods contain sweeteners (look for ingredients ending in "-ose") and contemporary cooking is replete with sweetness (tropical fruit salsas; balsamic reductions; meats stewed with dried fruits). Sweetness in food requires the same level of sweetness in wine. That's always made sense with desserts - for instance, pairing an apple tart with a medium-sweet muscat - but it also holds for any course of a meal. This soup, because of its cream, will be doubly well served by bubbles in a non-dry wine.

When you work at the White House, you leave your politics at the front door.

This is a quick lamb kabob with linguine in a mint pesto. The meal is made even quicker using prepared pesto sauce mixed with chopped fresh mint.

What makes summer fun - the picnics, the cookouts, the family reunions, the road trips, the beach vacations - often involves traveling with food.

It's peak mango season in South Florida, so when I got my first batch from a friend's yard, I went searching for something new to try.

If you're a wine fan and a party animal, you probably stayed up until 12:01 a.m. last Nov. 21 and drove to your favorite wine shop to buy a bottle of the 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau on its official release date.

When you taste Italian wines by themselves, away from food, you may be disappointed. If any theme is shared by such a diverse group of grapes and regions, it is leanness or austerity of style, like a beam of flavor focused, in this case, by acidity. Italian wines can be hard to handle alone. But an Italian doesn't make any wine without thinking of where it will sit at table; it's just not done. That's why the wines turn out the way that they do. They taste best when, as in this dish, they're there to pair with salt, fat and acidity themselves.

Of all the foods we grill on perfect summer days, vegetables rank among the most exciting. Perhaps it's because the grill so thoroughly transforms everything from bland eggplant to plain-old potatoes and squash into new, richly flavored, smoky treats. Suddenly, they morph from boring must-eat sides to interesting creations.

The first wave of commercial veggie burgers had issues.

Dear SOS: I had the best muffin I've ever had in my life at Sweet Butter in Sherman Oaks. It was a coffee doughnut muffin. I thought I had had good muffins before, but this was like the best cappuccino in town in light, fluffy muffin form. I went back recently thinking I would send some to my son in college. The lady behind the counter said they rotate their muffins and they have a lot of muffin recipes. Since I can never be sure I will be there at the same time as these muffins, I'd love the recipe.

Ballet runs as regimented as army and kitchen. The three share a hierarchy (steep), a language (French) and a core value (discipline). The conscript battles his way to general, the dishwasher hustles his way to chef. So, too, the bumblebee in pink slippers stares at the soloist. She yearns for the spotlight.

There's nothing like a Chablis. In this northern reach of Burgundy, Chardonnay takes on an entirely different character. A good example, such as this premier cru "Forets" from Domaine Louis Michel, is characteristically lean and chiseled yet has a breathtaking complexity. And always, underneath everything, is a strong minerality. Notes of honey and lemon lead in the 2012, but there's so much that happens from one sip to the next. That's what makes Chablis so fascinating.

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