Archive for June 2011

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Venta Morales 2007   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday I will write-up a wine that I feel delivers good value for drinking in the middle of the week.  Aside from quality, my only other criteria is price.  To start, less than $15, but ideally less than $10, for a 750 ml bottle. 

I will also add any recipes that I paired with the wine.  I hope to leave you with a recipe that you can use to match up with a wine of your choice if you can’t locate the one I recommend.

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s about all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.  

"Excuse me, do you know the way back to the Alhambra Hotel?"

Venta Morales 2007 ($8).  From La Mancha, Spain, a 100% tempranillo.  A savory note on the nose which carried over to the palate where is mutated into ripe black plum flavors, finishing with initially drying tannins that softened as the wine opened up.   Having said that, the wine lacked any real complexity and it was not the most balanced wine I have ever had.  Still, in this price range, that’s OK, though better values abound.  Rated *1/2

Tonight got me to thinking about Spain again.   I was last there at the end of October, 1985.  My new bride and I were in Granada on our honeymoon.  Following a tip from the Let’s Go Spain guidebook, we ended up in this little outdoor cafe in the hills that rise above the Alhambra.  To get there, we took a 10 minute cab ride.  My spanish is decent enough that we were able to order a pitcher of beer and a fish dish.  While waiting for the food to arrive, we were admiring the view of what appeared to be a castle on top of a nearby escarpment which was bathed in the light of a full moon.  We could have been in Romania.  The fish arrived– in a basket and deep-fried.  Not exactly what I thought we were going to get.  But too hungry to complain and too “not from there” to send it back.  We dug into the basket.  Best part was the little baby eels that had been turned into deep-fried “rings” by stuffing the tails into their mouths.  These were truly delicious and the meat was delicate and sweet.  Not the kind of thing I would make at home, but a great culinary memory.  After the meal, close to midnight, we decided to return to the hotel.  Of course, there wasn’t a cab in sight.  Thus, we decided to– correction– we had no choice but to walk back.  Anyway, we had bellies filled with beer and fried fish and the glow of the full moon to help light our way.  Making our way down from that little neighborhood, through the ancient, secluded and deserted maze of streets, we began to wonder if we would make it back.  All we knew was that we had to travel downhill to get back to the hotel.  Being young, stupid and clueless, we also had no map.  As we were passing one of the many narrow side streets we crossed paths with this dude dressed in classic Bela Lugosi style peering at us from one of the dark narrow side streets.  I don’t want to say he scared us, but he definitely startled us.  El Español Dracula fixed his freakishly bulbous eyes on us as we passed.  he did not utter a single word.  There was no one else on that side street with him which made the situation all the more weird and uncomfortable.  Just after that moment, I realized that it was Halloween and that the next day would be All Saints Day–  not a big deal here in the U.S. but a more significant holiday in Christian Spain.  So I thought to myself, “This dude could be trouble.”  Or maybe this was the Spanish version of “Trick or Treat” and this was part of his Halloween pranksterism.  Or maybe, just maybe, he was the real deal who had descended from that castle on the tor.  We didn’t linger over these philosophical-cultural questions.  And I sure didn’t want to have a cameo appearance in the horror film running inside his head.  Let’s just say that our pace quickened and we kept looking behind us as we beat it back to the hotel. 

What does this story have to do with this Wednesday’s meal?  Probably nothing and perhaps everything.  Here is a riff on paella.  Only no rice this time.   The Bulgur Wheat Pilaf is an easy and quick thing to make once the Bulgur has been softened in boiled water.  And because of its nutty and more bland character, I find that it makes a perfect counterpoint to the Chicken Braised in a Bewitching Saffron Infused Broth.     

 

Pollo Azafran Brujo with Bulgur Wheat Pilaf

 
 Ingredients:

For the Chicken

  • 2 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 5-6 Chicken Drumsticks
  • 4 Chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 1 Quart Chicken Stock
  • 1 small 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 White Onion diced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper diced

For the Bulgur Wheat

  • 2 cups Whole Grain Bulgur Wheat
  • 6 Cups Boiling Water
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 medium red onion diced
  • 1 cup of frozen petite peas
  • 3 Tbsp. Peanut Oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

Directions:

  1. Start to prepare the Bulgur Wheat Pilaf by pouring boiling water over the Bulgur Wheat in a heat proof bowl.  Set aside to let Bulgur Wheat absorb the liquid and soften.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper
  3. Heat up a pan and add EVOO.  Brown the chicken in small batches so as not to crowd the pan with too much of the chicken at one time.
  4. While the chicken is browning, place the chicken stock in a pan with the saffron and bring to a boil.  Add the tomato sauce. and turn down heat to a simmer.
  5. Once all the chicken is browned, remove to a platter and add the diced pepper and onion and cook till onion is softened.
  6. Return the chicken to the pan, add the simmering stock to cover the chicken and bring the mixture to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 45 minutes or until chicken easily pulls off the bone.  Turn off heat and set aside covered.
  8. Drain the Bulgur Wheat in a colander or strainer
  9. In a clean pan, saute the garlic in the Peanut Oil until aromatic, but not but burned/browned.
  10. Add the Red Onion and Petite Peas and saute over medium heat until the onion is softened.
  11. Add the Drained Bulgur Wheat and the Unsalted Butter and fold the ingredients together
  12. Plate the Bulgur Wheat Pilaf and serve chicken over top.  Make sure to spoon the saffron broth over both.

Serves 4

But just like Bela Lugosi in Return of the Vampire, this meal also has a second act.  If you end up with more of the broth than you need, like I did, you can bring it to a boil on the stove top one night and toss in some seasoned uncooked prawns for about 3 minutes and serve with some warm garlic bread that can be used to soak up the broth.  This will definitely be a better sequel than Return of the Vampire!

Sybarite Sauvage ©

 
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Posted June 30, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Friday Night is Paso Night!   Leave a comment

A "Classic" Dish Form the 70s? TF&C: Nasty back then in an "I'm too poor to buy real groceries" kind of way. Still Nasty Today!

At my house, we grill the pizzas and put whatever toppings happen to be in the fridge. 

First off, let me say that we cheat on the dough.  Who has time to make dough?  OK, maybe you do if you have enough time to read this stupid blog, but I’m too busy writing the dumb blog to make my own.   

There is something about the communal aspect of pizza that I love.  It is a dish that is meant to be shared.  Food of love and friendship.  That about sums up Friday evening for me, Ms. R and two great friends, B the Elder and his bubbly, lovely spouse T.

I am passionate about homemade pizza– it’s the improvisational jazz instrument of the kitchen.  All right, perhaps that’s a little too freakin’ artsy— even for my fancy ass.  Point is, you make of it what you will.  Whatever tastes good to you, go for it. 

Speaking of which, years ago, my college room-mate, BJ, “invented” Boiled Tuna Fish and Corn au Cannery (all right, that last flourish was mine).  Nasty you say?  Perhaps.  I don’t doubt he would have put it on a pizza had he thought to do that.  Years later I experienced the magic of corn and crab at a downtown NYC eatery– different, yes, but not so far removed from BTF&C.  The highlight of the dinner that evening for everyone, except Ms. R, was a creamy corn bisque served in a tall straight shot glass with a tiny (the size of a fingernail) deep-fried baby crab perched on the rim as if climbing in for a swim in the velvet liquid.  We dubbed it the “Fear Factor” dish.  Deep fried crunchy crab with a chowder chaser.  Ms. R crapped out on us having none of that nasty little crab on the rim– couldn’t do it, no way, unh-unh, no-how, “Hell to the NO!”  So when it comes to food are there any combinations that are too nasty?  Yep– even today, I won’t look at BTF&C.  But what about on pizza?  Anybody out there brave enough? Nobody on Friday night. 

I never really start out with a specific recipe of toppings in mind.  Usually, I grab whatever is in the fridge and just toss it on in crazy combinations.  Here, in no particular order, is what we used last Friday:

  • Sliced Red Onion
  • Diced Yellow Bell Pepper
  • Pesto
  • Sun-dried Tomato Ribbons
  • Domestic Prosciutto
  • Dried Salami thinly sliced
  • Sliced Campari Tomatoes
  • EVOO
  • Steamed Asparagus
  • White Truffle Oil
  • Mozzarella Grated
  • Goat Cheese Crumbled
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Julienne of Roasted Red Peppers
  • Kalamata Olives chopped
  • Crushed Red Pepper flakes
  • Pea Shoots (tossed on after the pizza is cooked)
  • Truffle salt (whoa!–a specialty item Ms. R found for me in San Francisco)

The randomness of the order is intentional as it is my habit to top the pizza with whatever strikes my fancy at the moment. 

There were four of us and 3 lbs. of pizza dough.  This is disgusting, but we just kept making pizzas all night till the dough was gone.  And there were NO LEFTOVERS.  Just as well we loaded up on the carbs as there were three bottles of wine that needed drinking and again— NO LEFTOVERS (heh-heh!). 

As for the making of the pizza, we stretched out the dough put it on a floured pizza peel and after dressing with ingredients onto a grill turned to a low temperature so as not to burn the crust while cooking the ingredients on top.  About 5-7 minutes per pizza.  The Key: shut the top of the grill for four minutes before peeking at the pizza and try not to walk away from that grill!

Bottles Popped? Primarily from Paso Robles.  

Lone Madrone Barfendel 2007.  Ah, the unfortunately moniker– Barfendel– from Lone Madrone.  A blend of Zinfandel (58%), Petit Syrah (24%) and Barbera (18%).  I loved this wine when I first tasted it last December, I don’t love it any less now.  It had focused, sharply defined berry flavors, soft yet balanced acidity, an elegant nose and more.  With a name like that, it had better be good and it is.  Rated ***

Adelaida Syrah 2003.  I didn’t really think we could top the Barfendel.  I would be– wrong.  Sweet and savory.  Hints of wood and earth.  And with 8 years of age, perfectly tamed tannins.  Rated ***1/2

Yes, we decanted both.  These wines are part of the reason that Paso is showing the world that they have arrived.  Years ago, I was a big fan of the wines of J. Lohr in the eastern part of Paso.  These two wines come from the Western and Southwestern parts of Paso where the nights tend to be cooler.  The best are bold, but they also have finesse.  And this needs to be said, these wines are distinctive from those you find in Napa & Sonoma– not better, just different. 

Note: I know that I have previously rated the Barfendel as ***1/2.  And yet, here I am with a *** rating.  This is more a reflection of the fact that the Adelaida Syrah showed just a little bit better– but the Adelaida Syrah is also twice as old as the Lone Madrone Barfendel and a completely different varietal.  So a comparison is not truly fair.  But stuff just happens, if you know what I mean.  If you get to Paso, don’t miss either of these two producers.   Also, the tasting room staff at both of these places were courteous, helpful and knowledgeable.  Need I say more?

Both of these are damn good PIZZA WINES.  I mean this in the best possible way.

Speaking of pizza… BJ, may have been onto something…

Daaaaaamn! This actually looks good!

Posted June 28, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Santa Ema Reserve Chardonnay 2008   3 comments

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday I will write-up a wine that I feel delivers good value for drinking in the middle of the week.  Aside from quality, my only other criteria is price.  To start, less than $15, but ideally less than $10, for a 750 ml bottle. 

I will also add any recipes that I paired with the wine.  I hope to leave you with a recipe that you can use to match up with a wine of your choice if you can’t locate the one I recommend.

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s about all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.  

Santa Ema Reserve Chardonnay 2008 ($7).  With a $7 price tag, the expectations for this week’s wine are not particularly high.  On the other hand, this Chardonnay comes from Santa Ema which is a reliable Chilean producer of some very nice reds including well-regarded reserve Merlot and reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  I have had both of these reds and am a fan so naturally, I had to try the Chard.  When it comes to Chardonnay, I am not partial to the fat, buttery style of many a New World Chardonnay.  Rather, I prefer a leaner style that isn’t too acidic.  But I do want a little roundness on the palate.   So how does this chardonnay stack up? 

This is not a complex Chard.  Rather, it’s like a beach in a bottle, offering up aromas of pina collada with a waft of sunblock (in a good way) floating through the air.  On the palate, the texture was more viscous than expected.  Juicy papaya strutted with banana and some toasty oak which is polished off  with a soupςon of green olive and soft acidity on the finish.  Can you smell the ocean?  I can.  Next time I go to the playa, this one is coming with me.  Rated ** 

Cuisine du Wednesday?  Given the stress I had with the paella last week, this week called for a lighter more relaxed touch.  Ergo the return to a white wine.  And a return to a favorite fish– salmon.  Yes, I have the beach on my mind.  Perhaps because Ms. R is there right now and I am here, slaving over a chilled Chardonnay and…

I love the fattiness of salmon.  This one was wrapped in foil and roasted/steamed in a hot oven.  It’s a technique that we used recently with sole (see the May 20, 2011 post).  But let’s up the ante by adding two other of my favorite ingredients– turkey bacon and asparagus.  Turkey bacon may not be considered to be a gourmet ingredient.  However, I often find it preferable to regular bacon because of its crunchier texture when properly cooked.  The key to making it is to add a little canola oil to the pan which gives the turkey bacon, a very lean ingredient, a needed boost of fat and helps to prevent it from scorching.  The salmon can be plated on a bed of rice, bulgur wheat or simply over greens dressed with a light citrus dressing– it all depends on how heavy a meal you would like.

The dish is a study in contrasts and balance: I love maple syrup with bacon.  Voila– Sweet Salmon vs. Salty Turkey.  I am enamored by texture in my food: Soft Rice vs. Crispy Bacon.  Then there is the savory nuttiness of the asparagus as counterpoint to the Blank Slate of Simple White rice.  Happy does not begin to describe how this makes me feel.  

 

Oven-Baked  Maple Salmon with Asparagus & Toasted Turkey Bacon “Linguine”

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Wild-Caught Salmon seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1/8 Cup EVOO
  • 1/8 Cup Maple Syrup
  • Two Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme
  • 8 strips of turkey bacon cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1 Tbsp. Canola Oil
  • 10 thin Asparagus Spears (if this is not available the thicker ones may be used, but be peeled to remove the fibrous outer skin
  • 1 Tbsp. EVOO to saute the Asparagus
  • 1/4 Tsp. Black sesame seeds
  • Thyme Sprig for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Combine the Melted Butter, EVOO, Maple Syrup and Thyme in a bowl and brush onto the Salmon
  3. Wrap the salmon in aluminum foil, leaving enough room for the salmon to “breathe”, but ensuring tha no steam will escape
  4. Place on a cooking sheet in the oven for 35 minutes
  5. While the Salmon is cooking, heat up a pan and add the Canola Oil
  6. Cook the Turkey Bacon strips in the pan being careful not to scorch but making sure that the Turkey Bacon is crisped up  and set aside
  7. While the Turkey Bacon is cooking, steam the Asparagus to make it tender, but ensure that it turns a bright green color and then plunge in an ice bath to stop the cooking
  8. Remove the Salmon from the oven and set aside– do not pierce the foil since we want the salmon to stay warm while the dishes are
  9. Add 1 Tbsp. EVOO to the same pan that the Turkey Bacon was cooked in and saute the Asparagus until it begins to carmelize
  10. Remove Asparagus and pat dry with paper towels
  11. Toss the Asparagus with the  Turkey Bacon strips and plate
  12. Pierce the foil making sure not to burn yourself with the escaping steam and plate the salmon over a bed of your favorite grains or greens (such as a red leaf lettuce). 
  13. Make sure to spoon some of the maple-butter-olive oil sauce over the salmon and sprinkle with Black Sesame Seeds
  14. Garnish with Thyme Sprig

Serves 2

Sybarite Sauvage ©

Posted June 21, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Bodegas Y Viñedos Del Jalon Claraval Seleccion Especial 2006   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday I will write-up a wine that I feel delivers good value for drinking in the middle of the week.  Aside from quality, my only other criteria is price.  To start, less than $15, but ideally less than $10, for a 750 ml bottle. 

I will also add any recipes that I paired with the wine.  I hope that I will be successful with all of my pairings, but there are never guarantees and I will report on my duds as well.  My ultimate goal for each of these dinners is to end up with the same self-satisfied jaunty grin that my little friend to the left has.  I also hope to leave you with a recipe that you can use to match up with a wine of your choice if you can’t locate the one I recommend.

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s about all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank.  And of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

Bodegas Y Viñedos Del Jalon Claraval Seleccion Especial 2006 ($10):  Yeah, the name is a mouthful.  But, daaaamn, the wine is too.  Hailing from a wine region worth watching– Calatayud– this wine is made by blending Garnacha (50%), Tempranillo (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), Syrah (10%).  The bush-vine Garnacha is an average 60 years old, planted on mountainside vineyards of slate and quartzite.  The wine seems initially shy: even decanted, the wine did not start to reveal itself until after the first hour.  Then it released cedar and sweet spice notes and it started to sing.  On the palate, again initially tight, but patience was rewarded and the hidden red and black fruits revealed themselves a little bit at a time.  Truthfully, it was difficult to stop drinking this wine.  So I didn’t.  Bad Sybarite, bad, bad Sybarite!  Rated **1/2 

Regarding Calatayud– Located in the province of Zaragoza in the Ebro River Valley, in the Northeastern quadrant of Spain, Calatayud is overshadowed by some its more famous neighbors including Rioja.  The vineyards are situated on either side of the Jalon a tributary of the the Ebro River.   However, the limestone rich soil of Calatayud is one reason to pay attention to wines coming from this region.  Another reason?  The native varietal known as Garnacha (but perhaps better known as Grenache).  About 2/3 of the total production in Calatayud is of this varietal which is used as a blending grape to provide some oomph to wines.  According to Espavino, the 2003, 2004 and 2005 vintages are considered Very Good, while the 2006 vintage that spawned the very nice Claraval was considered merely Good.  

Cuisine du jour: I must really be looking for trouble trying to make paella in the middle of the week.  Perhaps a lot of trouble given that the last time I tried to make paella (about two years ago) it was a memorable disaster.  The flavors were spot on, but the rice was woefully undercooked. 

The difficulty stems from the fact that I was using the wrong equipment:  Paella is traditionally cooked in a “paellera” – a round flat pan with two handles.  In my prior attempt, I did not use a paellera which owing to its shape (wide and shallow) allows the rice to cook horizontally rather than the more vertical method used to cook rice in a sauce pan or a rice cooker that has higher sides.  The other element of this is that paella is cooked from beginning to end completely uncovered– again, in stark contrast to the vertical method.  This sounded like a good excuse to go out and buy a paellera.  I procured a carbon steel 15-inch  model for about $24 at the local gourmet store.  I’m sure I could have gotten it for a bit less if I had ordered it on-line.  But no time for that.  (FYI, they had two other versions of the paellera, one in copper for $350 and a second enamelled version for about $150!  No need.) 

We invited two of our closest friends over for what I hoped would be a feast. 

In light of my prior paella experience, I spent much time worrying whether I used too much liquid, not enough, too much rice, not enough rice, etc.  So I fiddled with proportions a bit.  But you should not do that.  The key is 3 times as much liquid as rice.  This was not a difficult dish to make– and while my results were good, to be truthful, it will be a while before I master it.  But my guests did not complain– there were hardly any leftovers!

Wednesday Night Paella

A 15 inch paella pan will make enough paella for 5-6 people.

Ingredients

  • 7 & 1/2 cups of chicken stock (water may be substituted)– hell, round-up to 8 cups3 tbsps. EVOO
  • 5 chicken drumsticks with bone and skin removed and cut into coarse pieces
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs also cut into coarse pieces
  • 1 large white onion medium diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper medium diced
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 2  Tbsps. sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp saffron (expensive, yes, but essential)
  • 2  & 1/2 cups of long grained rice
  1. Heat up chicken stock till almost to boiling point.
  2. Meanwhile, heat empty paella pan until hot
  3. Add EVOO and when heated, add chicken pieces, season with kosher salt and brown over high heat
  4. Once the meat is browned, push to sides of the pan and add onions, bell pepper, tomatoes and saffron in the center of the pan and cook until onion os softened
  5. Add hot chicken stock (or water), stir and bring to a boil
  6. Check for seasoning and add salt if necessary
  7. Add the rice in a pattern that creates a cross (or for the more secular of us, an “X”) in the pan.  This is important as it will help in the dispersion of the rice throughout the entire paella
  8. Stir the rice in being careful not to stir too vigorously as the liquid can easily pour over the shallow sides of the pan
  9. Cook over high heat (can be done on the grill or stove top over a gas flame)
  10. Periodically reposition  the pan over the flame to ensure that all the rice get exposure to direct heat
  11. Once the liquid had been absorbed, remove the pan from the heat source and loosely cover the paella with a piece of newspaper for about 5-10 minutes which allows the rice at the top of the paella to absorb any residual moisture that would otherwise evaporate

 Serves 5-6

Alternatives additions– this dish would not suffer from the addition of any of the following: minced garlic, petite peas, chorizo, etc. 

Sybarite Sauvage ©

Posted June 16, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Wine Snob 101: Ten Wine Terms That May Get You a Beat-Down   Leave a comment

So you wanna impress that young lady on your first match.com date by showing off your knowledge of fermented grape juice? 

Seriously?  OK, got it.  Like the guys from Corporate Headquarters always say: “I’m here to help.”  Translation: I’ll give you the 4-1-1 but after that you’re on your own, dude.   

Let’s start with how we talk about wine.  It’s all about the adjectives.  Personally, I have no problem with describing flavors in wines using terms like vanilla, blueberries, blackberries, chocolate, citrus, cherries as well as other commonly understood aromas like earth, cedar and barnyard.  I just wish some reviewers didn’t use terms that border on the metaphysical, incomprehensible or ridiculous.

Everyone’s taste buds are unique and aroma and taste preferences are driven by personal experience, cultural factors (how else to explain creamed herring, fried pickles and gefilte fish?), physiology (women have more sensitive palates than men– yeah, I read that somewhere), etc.  So if you decide to use any of the following terms, don’t blame me if you don’t get that good night kiss at the end of your internet date.  And definitely, don’t call if some guy at the bar, named Rocco, decides to use your head as a footstool.

Black Jelly.  Yeah, somebody actually used this one.  A Wine Enthusiast Review of Château La Conseillante Pomerol 2006: “A wonderfully firm wine, which balances extraction with pure sweet fruit. It moves comfortably within its tannic structure, the ripe Merlot allowed plenty of play to show off its black jelly and plum flavors.” 

Would it hurt you to say licorice (if that’s what this means)?  Perhaps it would hurt, but not as much as those hand cuffs, I’ll bet.  And just try to say “black jelly” in public without getting beat up.  I dare you.

Hedonistic.  I still can’t completely wrap my mind around what Robert Parker means when he describes a wine as “hedonistic” or “pure hedonism”.  A hedonist is a person that holds that pleasure is the greatest good.  So a hedonistic wine is a pleasurable wine?  That is pretty meaningless– I find many wines to be pleasurable.  But it seems to me that when RP uses the term, he has something more specific in mind.  It seems to me that he means a big wine, with higher concentration, higher alcohol, etc.  Though I enjoy these, they do not bring me the greatest pleasure. 

Pencil Shavings.  You can smell them.  But you better not be tasting them. 

“Yeah, I get pencil shavings” 

Ticonderoga No. 2.

Saddle Leather.  Smell saddle leather?  Taste saddle leather?  The last time I was in a saddle, I had no desire to take a sniff of the thing.  And I’m not about to start.

I’m having a pretty nasty City Slickers moment here.   You know what I’m taking about.

That just sucks all of the joy out of drinking those classic Spanish Gran Reservas. 

Silky.  Silky is what good pinot noir feels like in the mouth– think Victoria’s Secret, Hermes neckwear, most anything from Domaine Serene.  Think of wines that dance across the tongue with light footsteps leaving luscious flavors in their wake. 

Silky has character.  Silky seduces.  Silky might get you into the End Zone.

Silky keeps you coming back for more.  Just..um… lose the riding crop, OK?

Smooth.  Or more accurately, “smoooooth”.  And when you say this, make sure to half-shut your eyes almost like you’re having a religious vision or are being possessed or something.  I hear people use this term and the first thing I think of is cheap California Merlot.  But these are the same people who won’t “drink any f*****g merlot”.   

What does smooth do?  It brushes the lint from your shoulder and keeps you wrinkle-free.  To me, it sounds like another way of saying “boring”.  The one advantage that you have with this adjective is that if you do decide to use it in public, you will likely get a bunch of folks around you nodding in agreement.

Seductive.  Another example: “Antinori’s 2007 Tignanello is wonderfully ripe and seductive in its dark cherries, flowers, spices, tobacco, sage, cedar, mint and minerals.” 

Sorry, dude, people are seductive.  Dark cherries, by themselves, not so much.  Dark cherries in Ms. R’s hands, different story.  Cherries in Ms. R’s hands after drinking a bottle of Antinori’s 2007 Tignanello?  Unforgettably Seductive.  I think I hear some Funky Music– do you Roger that, White Boy?

Tar. I always thought that tar (in combination with a good measure of feathers) was only good for expressing displeasure with one’s elected representatives and other undesirables. 

Apparently not.  While I don’t mind a certain earthiness in some of the wines I drink, I don’t immediately think of tar as being a component of the aroma/flavor profile of any wine.

Spice Box.   What kind of spices do you really mean?  

Indian?  French?  Chinese?

Perhaps some English Spices?  Those are my favorites.

Enough said.

Transcendent.  “Quaffable, but uh… far from transcendent.”  Miles wasn’t happy enough to screw up Merlot.  Now our wines have to be “transcendent”.  To transcend is to surpass others of the same kind.  Put another way: “This is the best damn wine I have ever had.”

The Best?  At least until the next transcendent wine’s cork is popped.  But until then, you’ll have to settle for

Posted June 10, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Wine Etiquette

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Aia Vecchia Lagone 2007   3 comments

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday I will write-up a wine that I feel delivers good value for drinking in the middle of the week.  Aside from quality, my only other criteria is price.  To start, less than $15, but ideally less than $10, for a 750 ml bottle. 

I will also add any recipes that I paired with the wine.  I hope that I will be successful with all of my pairings, but there are never guarantees and I will report on my duds as well.  My ultimate goal for each of these dinners is to end up with the same self-satisfied jaunty grin that my little friend to the left has.  I also hope to leave you with a recipe that you can use to match up with a wine of your choice if you can’t locate the one I recommend.

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s about all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank.  And of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

Aia Vecchia Lagone 2007 ($14): This Tuscan blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is a “go-to” wine for me when I’m looking for something that I know will be Italian food friendly.  Got some prosciutto-pasta-tomato-sauce-parmesan-pancetta-risotto-thing going on?  This is your vino.  Did someone say pizza?  Yeah that too.  My purist Italian friends (that’s you marclifestyle) might scoff at all these French varietals in an Italian wine.  But that scoffing would be undeserved.  And you may scoff when we consider that at $14, this is at the upper end of the price that guarantees me no guilt.  But it’s my party, so deal.  OK, so what’s in the bottle?  Medium to full-bodied, with a nose of underbrush, herbs and florals leading to a palate of black plums and finishing with soft tannins.  Ms. R and I were sad to see the bottom of the decanter.  Rated **1/2

And what did we eat with this?  Did someone say red wine with fish?  “You Betcha!”  We’re talking Smoked Trout Orecchiette.  Seriously, it was a very decent match.  The Lagone cut through the salty, oily fish.  Now sometimes red wine brings out an unpleasant fishiness in seafood.  Not this time– the sweetness of the peas and onion balance the salty-smokey trout.  The red wine sings in concert with this dish.  Trust us on this one. 

Smoked Trout Orecchiette

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. of Orecchiette (ear shaped pasta)
  • 1/3 cup of EVOO
  • 2 garlic medium-sized cloves very thinly sliced
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 1/2 cup of frozen petite peas
  • 2 tbsps of nonpareille capers
  • 1/2 lb. of smoked trout cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup if chopped fresh parsley
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  1. Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add enough 1/4 cup of salt so that water is salty to the taste
  2. Boil orecchiette in salted water until cooked al dente
  3. While pasta is cooking, warm up EVOO in a large pan and add garlic and saute over medium heat for 30 seconds until oil become fragrant (do not burn the garlic)
  4. Add white onion, petite peas, capers and smoked trout.  Cook until onions are soft– about 3-5 minutes
  5. Stir in chopped parsley and add additional EVOO if needed
  6. Stir in lemon juice.  At this time taste the sauce to make sure that it is salted to taste.  The smoked fish is salty and so additional salt may not be needed.
  7. Once pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta
  8. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and add the pasta cooking liquid to the pan if needed.  Stir the pasta in the sauce until coated.  If the pan is too dry add small amounts of the pasta liquid to ensure that the orecchiette has a sauce
  9. Plate and sprinkle with Parmesano Reggiano

Serves 4

Sybarite Sauvage ©

Posted June 9, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Crosby California Merlot 2009   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday I will write-up a wine that I feel delivers good value for drinking in the middle of the week.  Aside from quality, my only other criteria is price.  To start, less than $15, but ideally less than $10, for a 750 ml bottle. 

I will also add any recipes that I paired with the wine.  I hope that I will be successful with all of my pairings, but there are never guarantees and I will report on my duds as well.  My ultimate goal for each of these dinners is to end up with the same self-satisfied jaunty grin that my little friend to the left has.  I also hope to leave you with a recipe that you can use to match up with a wine of your choice if you can’t locate the one I recommend.

A few days ago, I identified the Crosby California Merlot 2009 which I picked up for about $9 as a good candidate for this week’s No-Guilt segment.  While at the market last night it started to come together.  I grabbed a duck breast, two poblano chiles and a Vidalia onion (these are in season now, but a white onion would do nicely at other times of the year).   Some corn tortillas and the vision was nearly complete: tender breast of duck slow cooked in a braise, pulled apart just before serving and piled on corn tortillas, drizzled with a reduction of the braising liquid (stock and wine?). 

That was last night and what Ms. R and I ended up with today was a little different.  Forget the braise– we grilled instead.  I also wanted some sweetness and heat in this dish and I didn’t have a clue how that was going to happen until inspiration struck: yes! a blackberry-ancho chile sauce, which was inspired by a prior tasting of this wine, would definitely do the trick.  It brought a little heat to the dish which did not interfere with the wine at all. 

And while most health conscious folks would remove the skin after cooking, I chose not to do that to create more flavor and texture.  And, hey this is why I go to the gym every day! 

Grilled Duck Breast with Blackberry-Ancho Chile Sauce ©

Ingredients

  • 1 Magret Duck Breast (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 Garlic cloves minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 large Vidalia onion cut through the root and sliced cross-wise
  • 4 poblano chiles
  • 1 to 2 tbsps. EVOO

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp. EVOO
  • 2 dried ancho chiles (re-hydrated with boiling water, seeded and de-stemmed– reserve 1/4 cup of the water)
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 cup sliced Vidalia onion
  • 1  1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons seedless blackberry jam
  • salt & pepper

To Prepare the Sauce:

  1. To a hot sauce pan add 1 tbsp of EVOO and saute the onion, garlic and rehydrated ancho chiles until the onion is soft but not carmelized. 
  2. Add 1/4 cup of pepper water, balsamic vinegar and the blackberry jam to the sauce pan.  Bring to a boil to make sure the jam melts.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Carefully (so as not to burn yourself) pour contents of the sauce pan in a blender, place cover on blender and blend on high to liquefy the ingredients.
  5. Strain the content of the blender and discard the solids– the resulting sauce should have the texture of a heavy cream.
  6. If the sauce is too thin, return it to the stove an reduce over a low flame until the desired consistency is achieved.

To Prepare the Duck:

  1. Place the duck breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound until the breast has an even thickness.  
  2. Score the skin side of the duck breast cutting the skin, but not the underlying meat, creating a diamond pattern on the skin
  3. Season both sides of the breast with salt & pepper, rub with the 2 cloves of minced garlic and set aside
  4. Roast the fresh poblano chiles over an open flame or under a broiler till the skins turn black.  Set aside to cool and then rinse under cool water to remove blackened skin. Slice open, remove seeds and cut into long thin strips.
  5. Toss the chiles with the slices onion and set aside.
  6. Grill the duck in a hot grill set to medium high.  Start skin side down for 4 minutes.  Flip and cook the other side for 5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140° for medium-rare and both sides have been seared.  Remove from the grill and set aside to rest.  (Hint: keep a water bottle handy to deal with flare ups)
  7. While the duck is resting, add 1 tbsp. of EVOO to a pan and saute the Vidalia onions and Poblano chiles (a wok is ideal for this).  Season to taste with salt & pepper while it is cooking.
  8. Warm up some flour tortillas on the grill
  9. Optional step– remove the skin.
  10. Thinly slice the duck and serve alongside the onion-chile saute, blackberry-ancho sauce and tortillas (either corn or flour)
  11. Each tortilla can be assembled with a slice of duck or two, the onion-chile saute and a slight drizzle of the blackberry-ancho sauce

© Sybarite Sauvage

Crosby California Merlot 2009 ($9):  On the nose this hinted at garden herbs.  For the money, this simple little wine shows some blackberry flavors in a velvet wrapper that echoed some of the flavors in the sauce that accompanied the duck breast tacos.  Not complex, not richly textured, and not an  ounce of guilt!  But a joy to drink. Rated **

One more thing:  once dinner was done, the bottle was empty as were the plates!  Oh yeah, I am definitely feeling jaunty! 

Posted June 1, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday