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Katie Christ: The Italian Job, Cookbook Styling and Food Acrobatics

As the second part of our series of guest food bloggers, 7x7 welcomes food stylist Katie Christ. Katie worked as Culinary Producer for the first season of Top Chef and in 2008, she won the first ever Food Network Challenge for food stylists. Tune in to get a taste of Katie's inspirations as she eats and drinks her way through our fair city.

This past week, I started working on what will likely be the cookbook on Southern Italian food. It’s been a rockin’ week. I love working on cookbooks: I get to meet passionate authors, learn a ton and am given creative license in a way other gigs don’t always allow. As for this particular book, what’s not to love about collaborating with an uber-talented photographer, an Italian grandmother who’s taught me how to make pasta with a knitting needle and an all-around amazing and lovely author Rosetta Costantino who makes sure we all sample her mouth-watering creations in ample portions (my scale says, 'ouch!'). And now for some more Italian: Buon appetito a tutti!

Bottega
Before diving into the book project, I jump-started my Italian mode with a trip up to Bottega in Yountville. (I’ve worked with Michael Chiarello from time to time over the past few years—mostly pulling all-nighters—but that’s another story!) In addition to the outstanding pasta dishes (all of ‘em, swear), I fell hard for the shaved brussels sprout salad with sieved egg, marcona almonds and citrus vinaigrette. And for dessert, the riso tart with a huckleberry compote and citrus marscapone, alone, could get me in the car for a return trip!

NapaStyle
Michael Chiarello loves salt. One might even say he’s a little ... mmm ... obsessed. Since his NapaStyle store is right across from Bottega, I popped in and met an alluring display of, yup, salts—right as you walk in. Truth be told, I have my own passion for salt and have been known to go to great lengths bringing it back from just about every country I’ve traveled to the past several years. Not that this stops me from adding to my already extensive collection! Remember, I’m shallow--and seemingly equally vulnerable to enticing displays as I am to knockout packaging. 6525 Washington St, Yountville, 707- 945-1229.

Piccino
Craving pizza and a fresh, crisp salad on Sunday afternoon, I headed over to Dogpatch to the diminutive and always homey Piccino. I’m not someone who normally orders anchovies on a pizza (or on anything, frankly) but my curiosity was piqued by the flavor combo of the pizza bianca: roasted cauliflower, meyer lemon and anchovies. It sounded delish and most definitely was! The crisp salad that followed had a welcome splash of spring color from one of my favorite underground veggies, the watermelon radish.

Corso
A friend told me about the panzotti at Corso Trattoria in Berkeley. It’s a a big butternut squash, ricotta, walnut and sage ravioli topped with brown butter and baked in the oven to a carmelized and crispy goodness. Sadly, I learned after arriving at Corso, that this seasonal dish had been retired two days prior. I was mightily disappointed, but in forging ahead through the menu discovered a dreamy, melt-in-your-mouth pollo alla sostanza. How can you not fall for a plump, juicy, well-seasoned piece of chicken, pan seared in Plugra butter and served in its own little pan?! Well, okay, I guess if you don’t eat meat ...