Wednesday, April 15, 2015

California Sauvignon Blanc Tasting and Food Pairing - Part 1


If you want to Eat, Drink and be Merry, take the time to enjoy both your food and wine by consciously tasting your food and wine.  First, selectively shop and prepare a meal you like.  Second, consider a wine that will enhance or maybe simply just bring you the greatest pleasure with your food.  Food and wine pairings can make an ordinary meal extraordinary and memorable.  The bonus - you learn more about the wines you like!
I have long been a fan of Sauvignon Blanc.  My introduction to Sauvignon Blanc was when I worked at Clos du Bois Winery.  Back then Clos du Bois produced a Graves style Sauvignon Blanc blended with Semillon and stainless steel fermented.  When I was a stay at home mom, the budget ruled and Sauvignon Blanc was affordable and I usually picked up Geyser Peak, I liked the grassy herbaceous style.  Now years later, I am still enjoying my fair share of Sauvignon Blanc.   I know why after reading "What to Drink with What you Eat" by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page,  Sauvignon Blanc complements the foods I like to eat.  Vegetables from the farmers market, fish, chicken ~ Mediterranean, Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisines.
The world of Sauvignon Blanc has grown since I had my first glass.  Some of the top Sauvignon Blanc growing regions are the Loire Valley in France, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume,  Marlborough in New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and of course, California.  Like all wine, the end product is influenced and determined by terroir (soil & environment), climate, wine making, vintage, vineyard practices....and the list goes on.  
So I know I like Sauvignon Blanc, but with so many good choices and top growing regions, I want to hone in on what style and regions I actually like, paired with the foods I like to eat.  In other words, side by side tastings of top Sauvignon Blanc growing regions.  
Part one:  California Sauvignon Blanc with a simple Greek Style Herb Chicken Salad (fresh greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, feta cheese and a vinegar olive oil vinaigrette.  Herb chicken is from the previous post and homemade Naan bread.

To keep track of how I rate the wines I'll use "What to Drink with What you Eat" five point scale ( +2 to -2, best to worst)

Part 1 - California Sauvignon Blanc

1.  2013 Frog's Leap
12.4% alcohol
100% Sauvignon Blanc
100% Rutherford
100% Stainless-Steel fermented and aged

My Tasting Notes:  Beautiful grassy nose, nice acidity and crispness.  Notes of citrus and herbs.

With a Greek Style Herb Chicken Salad:  Crispness was mellowed, the fennel from the chicken came alive, nice balance and depth of overall flavor.  Both the food and wine enhanced. 
Rating: +2

2.  2013 Geyser Peak
13% alcohol
97% Sauvignon Blanc 3% Viognier
Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Solano and Clarksburg Counties
100% Stainless-Steel fermented

My Tasting Notes:  Citrus nose, lighter, nice acidity with hints of lime and grapefruit.  Finishes soft but flat.

With a Greek Style Herb Chicken Salad:  Good but neutral neither wine nor food enhanced.
Rating: 0
*Just for fun also tried with Tzatziki it was a match that greatly enhance both the wine & food.  The wine came alive with more crispness and acidity and the garlic in the Tzatziki was nicely highlighted.

3.  2013 Duckhorn
13.5% alcohol
84% Sauvignon Blanc 16% Semillon
Napa Valley
Barrel fermented in new oak, 5 months on the Sur-lies

My Tasting Notes:  Grassy Mineral nose, crisp with a melon richness.  More complex and longer flavor finish.

With a Greek Style Herb Chicken Salad:  More layers of flavor came through especially in the wine.  Good but not a wow food pairing. 
Rating:  +1

In conclusion, the more you taste, the more you learn, the better you get.  
3 Tasting Steps from "What to Drink with What you Eat" - Look - Smell - Taste.

Remember - everyone's palate is different, you are not wrong if you taste something different from someone else.  It is helpful to know grape varietal characteristics and regional styles.

Highly recommended reading - "What to Drink with What you Eat" by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
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Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Simple Roasted Chicken


Simplicity, we strive for it, and what is simpler than a humbly roasted chicken.  A well roasted chicken is an art worth mastering.  This winter I have roasted a chicken weekly after finding the perfect simple recipe from "Buvette" by Jody Williams.  Every chicken I have roasted is so delicious, I have repeated making roasted chicken week after week.  The chicken is the constant, but what I pair with it varies with my visits to the farmers market.  Then there are the leftovers which also vary depending on my cravings, Mexican tacos, French crepes or lately, LOTS of soup (winter you can go NOW).
Today the menu is Super Simple  Roasted Chicken, Cheese Souffle and a Seasonal Winter Citrus Salad.  Tomorrow "Clean Slate" inspired Chicken, Kale and Sweet Potato soup.  (I transformed my roasted chicken carcass into my soup broth.)

Recipe
Super Simple Roasted Chicken
adapted from "Buvette" by Jody Williams

Ingredients
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon kosher coarse salt
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 3-4 lb chicken ( Bell & Evans Organic Air Chilled Chicken is my choice)
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Procedure
1.  Preheat the oven to 425 F
2.  In a mortar and pestle grind together the fennel seed, salt and Herbes de Provence.
3. In heavy roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken, place the chicken in the pan and drizzle lightly with the olive oil.
4.  Season the chicken all over with the fennel mixture.
5.  Roast the chicken in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  (Thigh temperature should  measure 165 F when done.)   Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Recipe can be doubled for extra leftovers!

My Seasonal Winter Citrus Salad inspired from The Cooks Atelier (see below)


My favorite cookbooks NOW
"Buvette" ~ Jody Williams
Turning the pages of this cookbook immediately brings a smile to my face, a sense of calmness and comfort.  It is an old world feel with simple real food.  Not only do I want to visit the restaurant in New York City or Paris for the food, but also the atmosphere.  Check out the website (www.buvette.com) and you too will understand what I mean, buy the cookbook now to taste the amazing food, every recipe I've tried has delighted me and my family!

"Clean Slate" ~ Editors of Martha Stewart
The start of every new year re energizes my focus to eat healthy and more mindfully.  Since the first of the year I've been cooking my way through "Clean Slate" and feeling healthier and longing for the next satisfying recipe.  Another full proof cookbook by the Martha Stewart team.

Two blogs I stumbled across this week The Cooks Atelier (www.thecooksatelier.com) and Well Plated by Erin (www.wellplated.com).  The Cooks Atelier got me dreaming of what I want "my world" to look like and and Well Plated by Erin hit a nostalgic button for my home state of Wisconsin and got me thinking of supper clubs and Brandy Old Fashioned. (Yes, I did make an Old Fashioned that night!) Pin It

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Valentine's Day Cocktail



Sometimes I feel like I am ahead of the trend curve and then there are other times when I am running to catch up.  A trend with staying power that is worth chasing down is the craft cocktail movement.  Being a wine lover, I was slow to join.
It all started last year when I was celebrating my daughter's graduation.  We were out to eat at a favorite restaurant Bistro VG in Roswell, GA.  The cocktail menu and wine list were presented and I was set to order a glass of wine when my sister suggested I try this Champagne cocktail with St. Germain (an elderflower liqueur).  As they say, the rest is history.  I am now a St. Germain fan and I joined the craft cocktail movement. When dining out now, I  actually look at the cocktail menu with great delight and anticipation and order a cocktail and then a glass of wine with my dinner. Having a cocktail is my new ritual.  The "new" craft cocktail movement is about creative and fresh ingredients, it's fun, exciting, and tasty!
On a recent vacation to Hawaii it was my personal mission to try a new cocktail each day.  So  as we watched the sunset after enjoying a beautiful day, we treated ourselves to a Hawaiian craft cocktail.  If you are planning a trip to Hawaii anytime soon,  don't miss stopping in for a cocktail at the Monkey Pod in Kapolei or just check out their cocktail menu on line at www.monkeypodkitchen.com for some inspiring cocktails.
Hawaiian Sunset Ritual
To get a little more back ground on the craft cocktail revolution, check out the documentary "Hey Bartender" on Netflix.
While I am no mixologist, I do plan on spending this Valentine's Day at home for dinner and thought I would create a craft cocktail for this special occasion  My ingredient list includes:   Sparkling Wine, St. Germain and fresh juice from some seasonal blood oranges.  Every cocktail needs a name so since it is for Valentine's Day I thought I would name it Cupid's Kiss (LOL). Cheers and Happy Valentine's Day.

Recipe
Cupid's Kiss

Ingredients
1 part St. Germain
1 part freshly squeezed blood orange juice
Sparkling Wine
Mint leaves and raspberries

Procedure
1.  Using a jigger, measure the St. Germain and blood orange juice.  (I used the larger end and did one part each of St. Germain and blood orange juice.)  Pour the St. Germain and blood orange juice into a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake!
2. Strain off the ice and divide the mixture into a Champagne glass and top off with sparkling wine. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and a raspberry. Pin It

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Essentials from Trader Joes

1.  Organic Cranberries from WISCONSIN - Cranberry Sauce recipe posted November 2014
 
2.  Cornbread Mix - Herbed Corn Bread Stuffing recipe posted November 2010
 
3.  Chesnuts - for the Herbed Corn Bread Stuffing
 
4.  Brussels Sprouts Stalk -  Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Smoked Applewood Bacon recipe posted November 2009
 
5.  Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon - for Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Smoked Applewood Bacon
 
6.  Cinnamon Sticks - for Cranberry Sauce
 
7.  Organic Canned Pumpkin - for Pumpkin Pie
 
8.  Turkey Gravy - for my guests, I do not like gravy so I don't make it (they don't have to know).
 
9.  Wild Hot Smoked Sockeye Salmon - for an appetizer
 
10.  Le Rustique Camembert, Basque Cheese, and Unexpected Cheddar - just a few favorite cheeses
 
11.  100% Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil - my favorite all purpose, got to have it in the house olive oil!
 
12.  2012 Caymus Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon - because Thanksgiving is a celebration.
 
Happy Thanksgiving!  

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cranberry Sauce

Most families have a set traditional Thanksgiving menu.  Everyone has their favorite dishes that are a must beyond the turkey, but turkey can get complicated too - brined, kosher, smoked, fried or roasted!  I believe adding or changing some of the side dishes keeps the Thanksgiving menu interesting and for a foodie, lots more fun.  And then, there is the cranberry sauce.  I have struggled with finding the "perfect" cranberry sauce, not too sweet and no nuts (suggests my husband).  It seems every Thanksgiving I have changed my cranberry sauce just a little and then of course, I forget how exactly I made it the Thanksgiving before and if it was a success.  This year I started testing cranberry sauce recipes early, as soon as the fresh cranberries appeared on the market.  A cranberry sauce from Thanksgivings past made with port was my starting point, I do remember that.  I also remember adding orange juice or orange rind in the past and receiving family member's approval.  Citrus is a nice refreshing touch with the bird. Experimenting and tweaking spices with wine pairings in mind and I have created my 2014 Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce.  It may change next year, but I will know where to find it - ALWAYS RAVENOUS!
Just an added note ~ since I've made a few cranberry sauce batches, if you are lucky enough to have leftover cranberry sauce, a spoonful mixed into your Greek yogurt in the morning is a nice way to start your day....a few nuts for some is a nice addition too.

Recipe
Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients
1 cup Ruby Port
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup tangerine juice
12 oz. fresh cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
2 star of anise

Procedure
1.  In a medium saucepan combine all the ingredients except the cranberries.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for 4 minutes. 
2.  Add the cranberries and bring mixture to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Cool and then refrigerate. Pin It

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Roasted Stuffed Squash

(from left front, Kabocha, Delicata, Golden Nugget, Butternut and Acorn) 
 
The variety of autumn squash available seems to have exploded.  Whether I am at the farmers market, grocery store or Trader Joes the number of different squash has caught my attention.  I started buying (collecting) different squash not really sure how I would prepare them.  In recent years, Butternut squash had become a favorite, cubed and oven roasted or taken a step further and pureed into a soup.  But my current squash collection had expanded beyond Butternut squash to Kabocha, Delicata, Golden Nugget and Acorn.  I really wanted to buy more, I was intrigued with the different shapes and colors and curious how they may vary in taste.  But some self control took charge and the realization it was early in the squash season.
Oven roasting has always been a favorite, it brings out the sweetness and concentrates the flavors. I was also thinking about Thanksgiving...maybe my squash would be a new side dish or a vegetarian alternative.  I decided to roast and stuff my squash.  The stuffing options were limitless.  I searched my pantry and refrigerator and decide on (found) the following;  sprouted rice trio of brown, red and wild rice, leeks, garlic, pecans, parsley and chicken. (This variation would not be vegetarian since I had some left over chicken.)  For additional flavor I added salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, zhoug (a Middle Eastern condiment/spice blend of coriander leaves, parsley, chili, garlic, cardamom, and cloves.)  I felt like the stuffed squash were a warm up for preparing my Thanksgiving cornbread stuffing, it occurred to me that my cornbread stuffing could also be used to stuff the squash (take note for vegetarian Thanksgiving guests).
 
 
Recipe
Roasted Stuffed Squash
adapted from the kitchn.com
 
Ingredients
3 squash, I used Golden Nugget, Delicata and Acorn
1-1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1-1/2 cups leeks, halved and thinly sliced
3 cups cooked rice, I used TruRoots Sprouted Rice Trio of brown, red and wild rice
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Zhoug
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 cup Fontina, shredded
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, extra virgin olive
 
Procedure
1.  Preheat the oven to 375 F
2.  Cut the squash in half from stem to root end.  Scoop out the seeds.  Place squash halves in a baking dish cut side down.  Fill the baking dish with hot water to fill the pan by 1/4 inch.  Cover with foil.
3.  Roast the squash for 30-50 minutes.  The roasting times will vary depending on the size and type  of the squash.  Remove the squash halves as they become tender when poked with a knife tip.
4.  While the squash is roasting, in a large bowl combine the stuffing ingredients (all remaining ingredients except the cheese and olive oil) and mix thoroughly.  Adjust seasoning to your taste.
5.  When all the squash is tender turn them cut side up in the baking dish.  Brush the inside of the squash with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Fill the squash halves with the stuffing mixture and top with the cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and stuffing is warm.   
 
Half a squash serves one person. 
 

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Upside Down Apple Cake


For some reason, I recall past memories more readily when there is food involved.  Take for example, apples.  I started thinking about my memories of apple picking.  The first memory that came back was Ellijay in northern Georgia at R and A Orchard with my family.  I remembered the apples hanging plentifully on the trees looking like a still life waiting to be painted.  We had a great time, and picked more than our fair share of apples.  (I blogged about it back in October 2009).  Then I remembered apple picking in southern California in the mountains of Julian.  Julian is known for their apple pies, so delicious they inspired me to pick and bake my own back then.  Gosh, I miss those apple pies and the apple aroma of that apple mountain town!  Still letting my mind wander, the fall hikes in the countryside of Germany were recalled and picking apples along the path.  The apple trees would be so heavy with apples, sticks were placed to support branches.  Often ladders were left leaning on the trees waiting for the harvest to resume.  The taste of those countryside apples still lingers in my mind, they were crisp and sweet and so appreciated on some of those way too long hikes.  And then I remembered what I think was my first apple picking.  I was in high school and as part of the tennis team, we would run across town to the practice tennis courts. The neighboring property to the courts was lined with apple trees ~ some even had branches that hung over the fence, to our delight!  Now those apples were crisp and TART, but we didn't care we greedily picked and ate.
This fall, I have purchased apples from my local farmers market.  The apples come from Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge and almost every week there is a new variety to sample.  Check out their website www.mercier-orchards.com.  They have a comprehensive list of the apples they grow and an informative description of those apples.
Apples bring back nostalgic memories of autumn, not only picking, but also baking.  Pies, crisps, cakes and strudels, I've eaten them all.  This year, I made an Upside Down Apple Cake, it was pure heaven and another food memory to recall for the future.  The Upside Down Apple Cake is the perfect excuse to take a break, enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake while watching the leaves fall.  Maybe even a new addition to your Thanksgiving desserts.


Recipe
Upside Down Apple Cake
adapted from Food and Wine magazine, Joanne Chang

Ingredients
1 cup maple syrup
3 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
optional for serving; creme fraiche, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Procedure
1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter and flour a 10 inch round cake pan.
2.  In a medium saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until maple syrup is reduced to 3/4 cup.
3.  Pour the reduced maple syrup into the cake pan and covering the bottom completely with the maple syrup.  Arrange the apple slices on top of the maple syrup in a concentric circle, overlapping the slices. Repeat with an inner circle.  Fill the pan completely with apple slices.
4.  In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.
5.  In a bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  In 3 alternating batches, beat the dry ingredients followed by the wet ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture.
6.  Pour the batter over the apple slices and smooth evenly.  Bake for 90 minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool the cake on a rack for 45 minutes.
7.  Run a knife around the cake and invert it on to a serving plate.  Serve with creme fraiche, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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