Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wine Paired Dinner

When restaurant employees get a day off, and actually get to socialize, eat, and of course drink outside of work, we tend to go over the top on food and wine. Tonight’s meal definitely fits the profile of a gluttonous indulgence.
This Monday night meal has been in the works for some time. There was a significant amount of anticipation for the meal; which can almost always lead to disappointment. However, tonight all expectations were completely exceeded; everyone really immersed their passion of food into their dishes.
There are many various ways on how to host a food and wine coursed meal. This is how we devised ours: every couple cooked two courses (3 couples = 6 Courses) and we all chipped in on the wines, and I selected them based on what was being cooked. I think it work out really well. I am not going to break down the recipes for every course this week, but I will do a blog on each course and the wine/winemaker for the next 6 weeks. The wines were all absolutely stunning, well almost all. The last wine of the night, had an odd, overwhelmingly smoky taste, I had tasted the 2009 vintage and it was outstanding, so I am not sure if it was just a bad bottle, or our tastebuds were overloaded by this time in the evening.
I also have to appologize to Erin, not my wife Erin, but I definitely had had enough wine by the end of the evening I forgot to take a photo of the delicous desserts.
Breakdown on Wine Menu

Amuse – Bluepoint Oysters with Mignonette Sauce
Wine - Montsarra Cava Brut, Spain, NV

First Course – Cucumber Blueberry Feta Salad with a Pomegranite Dressing
Second Course – Pancetta Wrapped Scallops with Herbed Vinagrette

Wine – Lagler Gruner Veltliner, Austria, 2010

Third Course – Smoked Chicken Thighs with Chipotle Peach Barbecue Sauce and a Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

Wine – Agricola Punica Burrua, Sardinia, 2009

Fourth Course – Red Wine Braised Shortribs with Yukon Gold whipped Potatoes

Wine – Shafer One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, Napa California

Cheese Course – Hulmbodt Fog Macaron Almonds and Dried Cherries

Wine – Eric Texier St Julian St Alban Cotes Du Rhone, 2009, France

Dessert Course – Espresso Mouse and Lemon Curd Basil Trifle
Wine – Black Kite Kites Rest Pinot Noir, 2008 Anderson Valley, California

Monday, September 12, 2011

2009 Domaine les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone Cuvee les Trois Soeurs

2009 Domaine les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone Cuvee les Trois Soeurs
65% grenache – 15% syrah – 20% carignan

France has benefited from some near perfect grape growing weather this past decade and the 2009 Rhones are of no exemption, an excellent growing season that we can all benefit from.
The easiest year I've ever seen," said Éric Texier, a small Beaujolais-based négociant who produces both Southern and Northern Rhône wines. "You could harvest early with bright acidities and very good phenolic ripeness, or harvest late and get huge concentration, alcohol levels and dark as hell wines."
When searching for value wines paired with surprisingly impressive flavors I am constantly drawn to wines from the Rhone Valley. The amount of quality wine that one finds can be overwhelming. The 2009 Domaine Les Grands Bois CDR Trois Soers is definently one of these wines that over-perform for its price point. Domaine les Grands Bois has deep roots in the Rhone Valley; it has been a family operated grower since 1929, and had its first estate bottling in 1997. They make a number of different wines; including Les Trois Soeurs from 60+ year old vines.

The flavors that initially come through are: dark fig and plum paired with some serious toasty notes. It has some beautiful aromas of crushed black berry and spice. The herbaceous and earth rounds out the finish with just a touch of anise. Well textured tannins and some good acidity, all of these attributes really make it an excellent wine to be paired with a number of different foods. Including: Lamb, Veal, Mushrooms, and game.
Fall is that time of the year when we all start craving comfort foods and one of my all-time favorite comfort foods is risotto. It is a generally easy dish to make, as long as you can pay attention to the pot.
8oz Crimini Mushrooms
8oz Shiitake Mushrooms
½ Spanish Onion
1 ½ C of Arborio Rice
1 C Parmesan Cheese
4-6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1qt of mushroom stock (can be bought)

Begin by cooking the mushrooms in a mixture of butter and oil on medium heat, season well with salt and pepper, do not overcrowd the pan, cook them in three to four batches. Place them aside. Mince the onion and add some more oil and add to the pan. Cook until the onion has just begun to caramelize. Deglaze the pan with the stock and empty the pan into another pot and keep hot.
Add some more oil to the pan and add the Rice, cook for 1 min in the oil and ladle in 1 cup of Stock. Continue to add the stock 1 cup at a time until the rice is al dente. Remove from the heat and add the reserved cooked mushrooms, the parmesan salt and pepper to taste, and finish with some butter. The rice should be fluid, if needed add additional stock.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2009 Evening Land Pinot Noir – Blue Label and Pork Tenderloin

One of my favorite; and rapidly increasing in popularity wine regions at the moment is the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The Pinot Noirs coming out of Oregon are some of the best I have ever tasted; tend to be more Burgundian in style, while retaining some of the new world nuances; while being a more balanced and elegant wine.
For tonight’s selection is the 2009 Evening Land Pinot Noir Blue Label. Evening Land has very strong ties with burgundy, and that influence is expressed in the wine. Not only do they make wines in Burgundy; but they also utilize a consultant from the famed wine maker Dominique Lafon, a forerunner of modern Burgundian viticulturists. Mark Tarlov, the proprietor, began his career in the movie industry; however he has always had a passion for food and wine. While visiting burgundy he enticed Lafon in supporting in production. It is now sourced exclusively from Seven Springs Vineyard. Their wines tend to be very food friendly; and some of their wines are made for some specifically to pair with food for some of the best chefs and restaurants in the US; The Modern, Bouchon, Craft, and Gotham.
This is a truly delicious wine, it has the ability to be easily paired with food, but is also very enjoyable on its own; and to be able to find such a quality made Pinot Noir at this price point is extremely rare. Josh Reynolds of Stephen Tanzar awarded the wine 90 points stating: “Ruby-red. Lively, complex aromas of raspberry, cherry, black tea and cola. Suave and silky, with good intensity and depth to its pure red fruit and spice flavors. Shows power without any undue weight and an attractive sappy quality. Finishes with silky, fine-grained tannins. It is quite refined for the price and drinks very well now.”

I am going to pair the wine with Pork Tenderloin. A very versatile meat choice and it works really wonderfully with the Pinot. I begin by trimming the silver skin on the butt end of the tenderloin; try not to trim too much, leave as much fat as possible, it will melt while cooking. I cut the tenderloin in half so I can control the cooking temperature; the thinner end cooks much quicker and can dry out. Coat the tenderloin with olive oil and fresh thyme, season with salt and pepper. Place the larger portion in a pre-heated skillet (cast iron preferably) sear on all sides then follow the same with the smaller portion; throw in 2-3 whole garlic cloves (peal on but smashed) and a tablespoon of butter; allow to brown and baste the tenderloin; place in a preheated oven at 425 for about 8 minutes to finish. Remove from the pan and allow the meat to rest on cutting board. For the sauce: return the pan to the stove and add some white wine to the pan to deglaze, make sure to scrape all the brown bits into the sauce. Reduce down until all alcohol has been removed, remove from heat and stir in 1-2 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter. Sauce the plate, slice the pork, place on top of the sauce, pour yourself a glass of Pinot, and enjoy!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

2009 Domaine des Terres Dorées Beaujolais L’Ancen Vielles Vignes

Terres Dorees Beaujolais L'Ancien Vieilles Vignes 2009

Wines from Beaujolais, where the Gamay Noir grape varietal is grown, are some of the finest and most underappreciated quality wines on the market today. One of my favorites is the 2009 Domaine des Terres Dorées. The owner and wine maker is Jean-Paul Brun and he has worked hard to make his wines some of the best in the region. The domain is situated in the south of Beaujolais, in the village of Charnay-en-Beaujolais. He practices 100% organic farming, and uses only native yeasts in the fermentation process. The wine is sourced from some of the oldest vines on the lot, where there are fewer grapes per vine, resulting in a more concentrated and robust flavor. 2009 was an outstanding vintage for Beaujolais; David Schildknecht of the Wine Advocate awarded the wine 90 points, and coming in at 16.99 per bottle; it is an outstanding value for a win of this quality. It is deep red in color, contains refined soft tannins, a beautiful bouquet of bright red fruit, and spice. It is truly delicious. You can pick it up online or in the store; City Wine Merchant

I have been asked to keep this blog going, so I appologize if you get repetition from this blog and my store blog.

Beaujolais is one of the more versatile and forgiving wines to accompany with food, and I recommend exploring different pairings with a variety of foods. It is an interchangeable selection with many traditionally white wine pairings, but it can hold its own with richer and heavier foods.

It was a perfect selection to complement tonight’s dual meal, surf and turf; that is Prime dry aged NY strip steak with a spice rubbed grilled sea scallop. The richness of the beef was cut with the soft tannins and the spice, and the fruit forwardness of the wine softened the spice rub on the scallop.

With a Prime Dry Aged Strip steak I don’t like to fuss much with it, I want the rich flavor of the quality beef to shine through and not covered up by herbs or spices, coat with extra virgin olive oil, fleur de sel (French grey sea salt), and coarse fresh cracked pepper, and grill to one’s liking.

For the scallops, I also coat with extra virgin olive oil and a spice blend (recipe below) or there are some quality pre-made rubs from Penzys. Make sure the grill is hot and well-oiled before placing the scallops atop. They only take about 3-4 minutes per side.

Scallop Spice Rub:

1 tbsp. Hungarian Paprika
1 tsp. Onion Powder
1 tsp. Cumin powder
½ tsp. Cayenne powder
½ tsp. Garlic powder
½ tsp. Fennel Seed
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2009 JJ Vincent Bourgogne Blanc with Littleneck Clams

I apologize for the short hiatus. My second son, Maddox, was born 2 weeks ago, and I started a second job at City Wine Merchant. So I have been quite busy, but I am ready to get back to Monday Nights!!

A hot summer day, steamed littleneck clams and cold bottle of white wine is a recipe for a perfect dinner. For tonight’s meal I have selected the 2009 JJ Vincent Bourgogne Blanc. This Bourgogne blanc is 100% Chardonnay, it has a fresh ripe nose, and lemony citrus notes, while some oak, it is well structured and delicious. Extremely great value and quality in this price level. 14.99 and can be found on

Steamed Littleneck Clams

50 Littleneck clams
3 minced shallots
2 lb.’s Garlicky sausage (Italian sausage or chorizo could substitute)
1 Cup Dry white wine
2 tsp. Saffron
3 Diced Tomatoes
Chopped chives to garnish (optional)
Baguette grilled with olive oil and salt and pepper

This is a quick simple dish, and the stove doesn’t have to be on too long in the hot weather. Start by searing the sausage whole in olive oil, remove from pan and cut on the bias and reserve. Add the minced shallots, diced tomatoes, white wine, saffron and sliced sausage to the pan, allow the alcohol to cook off then add the clams. Cover with a lid until the clams have opened. Pour into a large bowl garnish with the chives, and serve with the grilled bread for dipping in the broth.

Monday, June 20, 2011

2006 Ruffino Modus

When deciding what to pair with tonight’s meal, I knew I had to go somewhere Italian. Personally, I have had a mix bag with Italian wines. For me, I haven’t had great success until I get in to the higher price point levels, which doesn’t’ bode well for Monday night everyday drinking.

For tonight I picked up a 2006 Ruffino Modus, which is a Tuscan blend consisting of 50% Sangiovese 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. I have had this wine in the past, while a different vintage, I remember enjoying it. I know I have paid $25 dollars for this bottle previously, but tonight it was on sale for $15, good deal.
I decided to decant the bottle for about 2 hours before drinking. The aromas from the wine were fantastic, dark crushed berries, a little anise, and cedar wood, with a little earthiness funk coming through at the end. I was excited by the bouquet coming from the glass, but was quickly disappointed in the taste. The flavors fell a little flat, an initial lovely taste of berries and anise, but really nothing across the mid palate, and little to no finish. An acceptable wine to eat with, but if it was at $25 dollars, a definite pass, there are better bottles out there at that price point, but at $15, give it a try to see what you think . Who knows, we all taste things differently.
Summary: Score 84

Tonight’s meal I made a braised beef ragout with San Marzano tomatoes and rigatoni pasta accompanied by a mixed local green salad.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

2008 Juan Gil Monastrell - Jumilla, Spain

Tonight, I am going to review a wine that I have gone back to over and over again for the last few months. I really love Spanish wine, I have had more luck with good bottles of wine from Spain than anywhere else. This example of what Spain can with its varietals seem to rarely disappoint. Tonight’s selection is: a 2008 Juan Gil, it is 100% Monastrell from Jumilla Spain.

This is a lush, rich, beautiful example of what Monastrell (known in France as Mourvedre) can be. First impressions, it opens up with beautiful aromas of crushed blackberries and cassis. The weight is medium to full bodied and a beautiful inky color, the flavors continue to be consistent of the aroma of dark fruit finishing with some nice spice notes, and long lingering flavors of berries and firm tannins. It is a great wine and a great value at 15 dollars, a definite buy. Rating: 92

For dinner tonight I prepared a boneless butterflied leg of lamb. I encrusted the lamb with rosemary and thyme from my garden. I served it with wilted baby spinach with shallots and butter. I got home late from book club tonight, so I am only cooking for myself, I don't think Lamb would be Erin's first choice for dinner, but I think Hayden would have liked it. I am thinking of including a recipe tab for the future, I have to figure out how I want it laid out, let me know if its something anyone would be interested in.