Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Pre Dinner Post


I'll be posting about my fall-Halloween themed meal that I'll be cooking up tonight shortly, but in the meantime, here are two awesome food sites that have some great posts today.
P.S. you might have to cut and paste because I'm still a somewhat inept linking blogger)

The Cupcake Bakeshop:
She held a competition for cupcakes and people submitted things as super-duper as "Arroz con Leche Cupcakes" to "Pumpkin Chili Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Pumpkin Brittle." Wow. See the results and recipes here: (

David Lebovitz: A former Chez Panisse pastry chef living in France talks about Halloween in Paris.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A little Diversion

I'm been trying very hard to be disciplined with my posts, doing such things as slapping myself across my knuckles with a ruler when it has been more than a week since I've written, or scripting "I will be timely with my writing" on the chalkboard I've installed in our living room to get the point across. but since I know that I won't have time to give a normal post because we're moving from one apartment to another this week, I'm leaving the following for you for wine entertainment. Now you don't have to turn on the TV tonight!
At the wine shop/bar where I work, we write descriptions for our wines. We've got some awesome ones, I work with some fantastic writers, and our owners are cool people who let us engage our humor and imaginative skills when describing the wines. I've included some of the favorites that I've written below (favorites in that I loooovvveee the wines and/or the descriptions make me laugh). At the end of the descriptions there are wine pairing suggestions, so I am not really leaving you, my dear readers.
I hope you like them.

2004 Baumard Clos du Papillon, Savienneres, Loire Valley, France - Honeyed, floral, and demure one second, flirtatious, steely and acidity-driven the next, the Papillon's as respected for its grace and consistent quality as it is for its shape shifting. This is the best vintage I've tried in the last couple years. The flavors are brighter, the botrytis is more sophisticated, and the butterfly on the label is bigger. Although this bottle promises to show well for the next five or ten years, if you happen to get thirsty one night, this would be lovely sipped while eating an aged goat cheese or a savory coconut milk dish.

2006 Broadley Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon – Convinced that there was a region outside of California where dirt was cheap and Pinot Noir would thrive, the Broadley family left Berkeley in 1980 for Oregon, land of wild fungus and rain. It is their first vineyard that supplies the Pinot (whose fruit has gained terrific depth with age) for this bottle. The lush flavors of cherry, pomegranate, and wild strawberries show alongside Asian spices and orange zest. Go Oregon-style…decant and enjoy with wild mushrooms and mesquite-grilled salmon for dinner.

2003 Ramey Red Blend, Diamond Mountain, Napa, CA
My name is Gordan Gecko, and this is my wine. I don’t need for you to like it, and I don’t need for you to like me. I probably won’t like you. But, if you were to ask for my advice as to what wine to serve when taking over a bank (say in the Southern Hemisphere), and if there was something in it for me, I’d probably tell you to bring this wine to seal the deal. It’s cedary, cassis soaked cheery money notes speak for themself- screams, classy classy, money, old-money. You don’t even need to know what you’re doing. This wine does it for you, like a rich daddy.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Breakfast Wines: Because it's Before Noon Somewhere

I adore that people constantly come in the shop and ask for wine pairing advice. Every day, there will be at least one customer who asks us to pair wine with a dish that I've never even thought about serving with wine, and it couldn't thrill me more.
Then there are the seasonal or frequent requests. During BBQ season, people ask us what to serve with grilled chicken, corn on the cob, or hot dogs. Around Thanksgiving, people wonder what to drink with turkey and sweet potatoes. An every-season, common request is "what wine do I drink with goat cheese," or, "what is a good salmon wine?"
Recently, I've been noticing that one wine pairing request has been solicited from me the most.
That request is, "what should I drink with my eggs in the morning?"
I understand, my dear wine drinkers. One can only drink coffee for so long before it seems dull. Overbearing. Heavy. I'm surprised that you lasted this long.
To this question I answer: sparkling wine. I prefer Champagne myself, which is only made in the Champagne region of France, from Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes. I happily sip Prosecco or Cava will dinner or lunch, but breakfast seems to call for something a bit more spectacular. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day that sets the tone for the following hours, it makes sense to go big. Go French. Go elite.
One of my favorite egg breakfasts, pictured above, is an egg sandwich that my husband makes. His father makes it for him when we visit, and if we have a son, he will probably make it for his loved ones too. Champagne is the perfect match for this sandwich. Rather than overwhelming the lush filling like coffee could do, the bubbles cut some of the fat from the oozing cheese and buttery bread and highlight the overall breakfast egg experience. It's fabulous, and I bet that any egg dish, omlette, quiche, or frittata that you serve will be made more spectacular too, by Champagne, at breakfast time.
Case in point: Here is a picture of my cousin making a breakfast speech while drinking Champagne. She can't help but smile.

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Aged Brunello di Montalcino Post 2: Party Wine

An adaption of an article I wrote for my wine bar/shop's newsletter posting, and a continuation of Aged Brunello di Montalcino Post 1, this post is all about food and aged Brunellos. Most wines simmer down as they grow older, taking the time to teach those around them lessons of elegance and grace. Brunellos are different, they don't flaunt thier refinement. They know that they are one of the most dignified wines around, and don't feel the need to tell anyone else. If you have to ask...., they whisper amongst themselves. What aged Brunellos really like to do is to party. With food.

With last month’s Supper Club still fresh in my mind (see my experiments in earlier postings), I’m hesitant to recommend anything other than roasted pork loin, creamy polenta and wild mushrooms with an aged Sangiovese. And nothing else. My gastronomic nostalgia aside, there exist a multitude of wine pairing possibilities for a Brunello, a special clone of Sangiovese.

Sangioveses are excellent food wines. In honor of the wine’s culinary flexibility, you and I are going to throw a four-course dinner party in reverence of the Sangiovese gods. I’ll give you advice about what to cook, and we’ll hold it at your house (because the clean-up is so much easier).

The first course will be an ode to Tuscany. Zuppa di Pane is a traditional Tuscan soup that can be created with a sliced loaf of leftover rustic bread, four or five caramelized onions, and chicken or beef stock (when in dire need, grab a can of unsalted broth). When cooking zuppa di pane, you can go for two different consistencies. One option is to layer the ingredients in a casserole dish and add the liquid to cover and cook in a stove until bubbling. The other route is heat up all ingredients in a pot, then blend until almost smooth in a blender.

Next, we’ll serve room temperature (previously) roasted vegetables with a simple olive oil, thyme and garlic marinade. Throw in an heirloom tomato or two to test the Sangiovese’s reputation of faring well with acid. It can handle it. The manner in which it pairs with the silky vegetables (whose flavors will pop at room temp) will certainly impress our guests.

Now you’ve seen how the Sangiovese pairs magically with a rustic soup, and a light vegetable course, now try it with meat. The dish doesn’t need to be all meat, but that certainly would be lovely too. A thick, one-inch rib eye, cooked Florentine style, grilled with salt and pepper, maybe some rosemary and garlic, would be quite sexy. When my husband and I visited my cousin's house, they poured an awesome Brunello with the steak featured to the left.

It was the thickest steak I've ever seen and it was.... awesome. And huge. If you're not the steak type (sigh), the roasted pork loin featured in an earlier post, or nearly any sultry braised meat shank dish would also be awesome with an aged Brunello. I’d suggest staying away from chicken unless it is in a heavy, coq-au-vin-type dish. Not to be elitist, but the Brunello’s cocoa, berry, rich fig, and licorice nose might be over the lighter poultry’s head.

Finally, I’d finish your dinner party with cheese. A nice Pecorino Toscano, a firmer cheese with a heavier salt content and nutty flavor, set atop a bed of arugula tossed with olive oil would gild the savory courses quite nicely. Certainly there will be dessert, but as proper Sangioveses weren’t brought up with a sweet tooth, I’d suggest switching from the Brunello to a vin santo like Il Ponte California Vin Santo to finish the dinner party. Now we sit back and let the Sangiovese gods enjoy their bounty! Enjoy!

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