Exec chef dishes on Northern California’s top-ranked Carpe Vino

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You know it’s the ultimate farm-to-fork dining when the chef brings his own fresh produce from home.

That’s what executive chef Eric Alexander of Auburn’s Carpe Vino often does on his way to work, plucking some fennel or grabbing an armful of mandarins from the five-acre Four Tines Farm in Placer County he owns with his wife, Courtney McDonald, who does double duty managing the farm and working as Carpe Vino’s pastry chef.

And thanks to this focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients and local sourcing — not to mention Alexander’s culinary flair, melding French techniques with modern styles and global flavors — Carpe Vino was ranked among OpenTable’s Top 100 U.S. restaurants four years in a row.

The Auburn hot spot, housed in a historic mid-19th-century building, first opened in the early 2000s as a wine bar specializing in small-production California vineyards. In 2006, the owners brought Alexander and McDonald on board, quickly elevating Carpe to four-star status with all kinds of delicious fare. Try a starter of heirloom tomato fattoush with sunflower tahini ($13) or an entrée of tea-brined pork chop with charred plum and bacon ($32). Alexander loves to play with flavors, but not to be trendy. He wants folks to know what they’re eating and know where it came from. And chances are, it came from home.

Naturally, we had questions — and Alexander was happy to dish.

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Q: What’s your culinary background?

A: I wouldn’t really say I grew up in a foodie home. I grew up in upstate New York and my family had pretty simple tastes. But then I started working in restaurants in high school and went to Michigan State to major in the hospitality business, but I decided I just wanted to cook, cook, cook. So I enrolled at the CIA, the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York. That’s where I met Courtney.

Q: How did you end up in Auburn?

A: Courtney was born and raised in Auburn. When we came here after working at some restaurants on the East Coast, I just fell in love with this area. We were originally patrons of the (Carpe Vino) wine shop, where we befriended the owners. We just started talking about food and wine

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle

      

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