Andrea Immer Presents: Pinot. Pasta & Puccini Entertaining Made Simple

(CD Rom)
BMG Music 2003
Reviewed by Catherine Cope Cavalier for Good Cooking, Spring/Summer 2004

The proposition seemed a little strange - use a CD to plan and throw a dinner party, but Andrea Immer was a familiar wine expert and television personality, so we decided that Pinot, Pasta & Puccini was worth a try.

The CD loaded automatically on my aging Mac while playing "O Mio Babbino Caro". Already, the perennial problem of what to serve at a dinner party was solved; Immer proposed a menu including bruschetta, fettuccine with prosciutto, wild mushrooms and sage, granita and biscotti. It all sounded appetizing and relatively inexpensive to boot - we were off to a promising start.

The Main Menu has six options buttons, ranging from video clips on choosing the right wine glasses to static menu and recipe pages. Each video segment is just two minutes long and features Ms. Immer, exactly as she is pictured on the CD cover - seated alone at a table in front of a plain white backdrop. The video clips are light on content, offering little more than what is printed in the liner notes. The most useful information comes, fittingly, in the discussion of the various types of Pinot wines. One good tip that Immer shares is that by filling a glass "to the widest part of the bowl" it will be a perfect six ounce serving of wine. The list of wine pairings for the menu is comprehensive and offers easy-to-find wines in both "steal" and "splurge" price ranges.

After taking time to explore all of the options, it becomes clear that this CD lacks more than it offers the prospective host or hostess. There are many missed opportunities for use of the medium including shopping and prep lists, demonstration videos, or even photos of the finished dishes. Though it is possible to print recipes out individually, selecting the Print All button elicited twelve pages, which would be a bit awkward to work from in either the market, the wine shop or the kitchen. The final option called "Links" connects the reader to some relatively shameless plugs for Andrea Immer, The Fine Living Network and other wine related products, while offering no additional substantive information.

The recipes themselves are not very thorough. In the video clip called "Your Menu", Immer suggests using fruit in season for the granita, but the printed recipe calls for canned fruit. While testing out the Bean and Black Olive Bruschetta with Rosemary we encountered the comical problem of beans rolling all over the living room as we tried to eat them. The fettuccine entree was flavorful, but required a fair amount of attention just before serving and made a lot of dishes. The option to cook the fettuccine ahead and rewarm it in boiling water offered no real time savings. The pasta sauce is finished by the addition of 1 cup of pasta cooking water, making the dish watery - less water or perhaps cream could have been used for better results.

Using the CD is very similar to the experience of watching a cooking show on television and printing the companion recipes from the Internet, the key difference being that the array of online recipes are practically limitless and free. One would have to own a library of these CDs to equal one good webpage or cookbook. In an age when an entire encyclopedia can fit on a CD, It'seems silly to invest $13.90 for one limited menu.

The flaws in this CD do seem to fall more to its designers, than to Immer herself. She comes across as natural and charismatic, but she certainly isn't given much interesting material to work with. While merely navigating the disk, the musical selections became grating and my enthusiasm to host a party began to fizzle. In the end, It'seemed best not to subject friends to an evening of Pinot, Pasta & Puccini - maybe just the Pinot.

Andrea Immer is a knowledgeable wine expert known for making people comfortable with wine. She started her wine career as a wine steward, then as restaurant consultant, a TV commentator, a magazine writer, a lecturer and now book author.
Chardonnay, Shellfish and Schubert is a second CD that the author has produced.