Archive for August 2011

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Rubrato Aglianico Feudi di San Gregorio 2007   2 comments

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday (though it could be Tuesday or Thursday) 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.  

Just before Labor Day and getting to the end of summer.  I want grilled meat.  I want a red wine with balls.   But I don’t want to blow out my bank account today.  And I don’t have to.

Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato Aglianico Irpinia, Campania, Italy labelRubrato Aglianico Feudi di San Gregorio 2007 ($9).  Right out of the gate the nose brings to mind candied cherries.  Ripe, yet restrained, fruit finishing with an herbal edge alternating with references to mint/lavender/eucalyptus.  Solid acidity and firm but yielding tannins leaving an almost tingling sensation on the tongue.  An aftertaste on the finish that evokes chocolate essence combined with soil.  This is a fine effort at this price point that would not be hurt by 2-3 more years in the bottle.  A great food wine that begs for a manly piece of meat.   As it opened up and extended itself, it just started to become more and more magical.  Am I really writing about a $9 bottle?  Rated ** 1/2 
 

The Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni gave this 87 points in August of 2009 complaining that “some of the Aglianico character is overpowered by the oak treatment”.  Interesting comment– I did not see this on the first two tastings, though it was a bit more prevalent on the third tasting.  So perhaps bottle variation is playing a role here.  Still, I don’t think that this is a fatal flaw.  In fact, it added a nuance to the wine that I found pleasing.  Nicely balanced and food friendly.  Find this and at this price and you should stock up.  Maybe all it needed was another year in the bottle.  Eventually, others will catch on and you don’t want to be caught short.  In fact, I flirted with a *** rating for this wine.  But it did not have the nose, complexity or finish to support that rating.  But a terrific value at this price point.

Initially, I was thinking beef with this.  But if ever a wine was made to accompany the classic grilled pork chop, this was it.  I have made this dish for company just because it is so damned simple I can prepare it in my sleep.  It always gets a the “can I have the recipe” imprimatur.  My daughter made a beautiful red bell pepper stuffed with quinoa, apples, garlic, parsley and mint which accompanied the chops.  Absolutely magical combination:  That dish is bound to make it into the pantheon of Sybarite Sauvage recipes.  Thanks much, my little Sybarite-in-training!

Grilled Puerto Rican Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 4 large center cut bone-in pork chops (about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt)– yeah, you read that right, not fresh garlic— don’t think, just do.
  • kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill on high setting
  2. Season the chops with a generous amount of salt especially around the bone
  3. Grind black pepper to taste
  4. Sprinkle with garlic powder and dried thyme.
  5. Place chops on grill and cook 5 minutes per side (7 minutes if chops are thicker).  You can use a meat thermometer to ensure proper level of doneness.
  6. Remove from flame and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Serves 4

© Sybarite Sauvage

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Posted August 31, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Water and Wine– The Underwater Sparkler: Bisson “Abissi”   12 comments

Goodnight, Irene

As the Tempest, Irene, rages outdoors, lashing us with wind and water, I sit here clearing the fog in my head with a hot teapot of English B this Sunday morning, hoping that my electricity and therefore my internet access will not abate.  It also brings to mind the relationship between water and wine. 

From the events described by St. John at the Wedding at Canaan, to the actual mixing at table of wine and water as Thomas Jefferson seems to have done with what he described as vin ordinaire (say it ain’t so, T-Jef!), to the bigger no-no of putting ice cubes in wine, I didn’t think there was much more to say about this subject. 

Till this hit my radar– forget about putting water in wine, how about putting wine in (salt) water.  This is exactly what Piero Lugano, a wine merchant and producer, in Chiavari, Italy (in northwestern Italy near Genova), has done.  Having no room to bottle ferment his sparkling wines somehow received permission from Italian bureaucrats to store them under water off the coast– a modern day miracle if you ask me.  According to a New York Times report, the gentle currents in these waters actually keep the lees moving continuously through the wine and results is a beautiful spumante, by the looks of it on the videos.  Apparently the water temperature is also perfect for this task.  And when the wines emerge from the sea, the bottles, not surprisingly, are covered with sea creatures:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZIopxqznXU

The Bisson “Abissi” 2009 vintage was pulled from the depths in July and hopefully might be available in the US sometime this fall.  Maybe this is just a gimmick to sell wine, but count me in. 

Though their saber cut technique leaves a lot to be desired, if you want to see how Italian Fancy Boys enjoy their Abissi check out this short clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyNEvQ6ZO0c

 The original NYT article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/dining/underwater-sparkling-wine.html?_r=1&sq=abissi&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=print

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

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Laetitia Chardonnay   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday (though it could be Tuesday or Thursday) 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.  

Another No-Guilt Wednesday and still more of Ms. R’s relatives and a friend to feed.  Dinner parties can take place in the middle of the week– though usually at some cost.  In this case, my daily workout at the gym.  But it was worth it.  Tonight we ate cuisine tonight for which I owe a debt of gratitude to my foodie pen-pal, Melissa Clark.   I refer you to her adaptation of Sake Steamed Chicken which was published in the New York Times on March 4, 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/dining/09appe.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=sake%20steam%20clark&st=cse

Don’t hesitate– you should make this.  If you want to see more about what she is about, check out the link to her blog on the left side of this page. 

Picture, if you will, the image of elderly Puerto Rican relatives, sitting down to this Asian dish.  At first they were a bit suspicious.  Steaming is not a favored Puerto Rican cooking technique.  Frying, boiling, roasting, grilling– OK.  Add to that the fact that I used a bamboo steamer to make this dish and they were completely befuddled.  A recipe for lots of leftovers?  Perhaps.  Ms. R took one look at the chicken and assumed that being as pallid as it was, it had to be undercooked.  She would be so very wrong.  And what leftovers we had were taken home for tomorrow’s lunch by Ms. R’s relations.  Now that is what I call a ringing endorsement.

The only variations that I made from Melissa’s recipe is that I used cut up chicken prices instead of cooking the whole bird and I used a little more mirin and ginger as well as fresh orange juice and grated orange rind in my dipping sauce, but that’s just the way I like it.  Results?  This was melt-in-your-mouth good– the sauce that accompanies the chicken providing just the right amount of pop to have everyone digging into the serving platter for seconds and thirds.  I served this with a steamed acorn squash and sushi rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds.  Honestly, I can’t wait to make this again.  And because it was steamed, the fact that I missed a workout tonight is of little consequence. 

Laetitia Estate Chardonnay 2009Laetitia Arroyo Grande Valley Estate Chardonnay 2009  ($15).   Initially, this screamed out NEW WORLD to me.  On the nose, soft and oaky, almost popcorn-buttery in style.  A mélange of tropical fruits dominated by mango and papaya and a barely perceptible hint of allspice on the almost viscous finish.  And it does have just enough acidity to keep it interesting.  If you like this style, you will enjoy this wine.  Although it is more attractive than the Santa Ema Chardonnay I have rate previously, it gets the same rating.  Rated **

 

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Posted August 24, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Ali vs. Frazier: Syrahs Savory & Sweet   Leave a comment

 

Some days you simply need to blow off a little steam.  Today was one of those days.  I awoke early this morning with a headache and a dread for a task I had to deal with first thing.  By the time I got to work, I was spent. 

What to do on an otherwise magical day with ethereal blue skies with patches of O’Keeffean clouds?  Simple: I am blessed with two buddies that love wine and hijinks almost as much as I do.   We decided to take an extra long lunch to have a meal with a special Syrah that we jointly acquired some months ago.  Of course, one bottle could not do on such a beautiful day and before we knew it– oops!– a second one had been opened.

The meal itself, served al fresco on my deck, was a simple fare from a local Italian restaurant– pizza, penne ala vodka, garlic knots– yes, we had the starches covered– but there was even a touch of salad.  We spent a couple of agreeable hours in each others’ company laughing at ourselves, discussing religion, life and work.  And of course, there was some eating and drinking to accompany the repartee.  

These two wines brought to mind the great battles between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.  The latter, a little slower but with frightening power and coming at you from the moment the first round bell sounds.  The former, with speed, agility and enough power to make you think twice before getting too close.  Not that this ever stopped Joe Frazier.

Long Shadows 'Sequel' Syrah 2005

Sequel Cellars Syrah 2005.  From Washington state, this wine is 96% Syrah and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 16 months in mostly French oak and had 14.7% alcohol.   Almost black, this wine was– I was expecting to be blown away by an overly extracted wine.  Blown away, yes, but by its finesse as well as its power.  This Old World style wine was initially a little tight, but 10 minutes in the decanter changed that.  It alternated amongst scents and flavors of tea, herbs, dark fruit including blackberry and black cherry, underbrush, bacon and vanilla.  As it opened up, it reminded me of velvet robe sliding off a bare shoulder and onto the floor– all in slow motion– revealing unspoiled flesh… and perhaps a tramp stamp.  It finished with an enveloping sensuality balanced by soft tannins and acidity.  If it had a fault, and here I am being very picky, it is that I wished the finish were just a tad longer.   But this is a minor quibble.  Rated *** 1/2 

 

Adelaida Glenrose Vineyard Reserve Syrah 2007.  From Paso Robles, CA, this one had simply gorgeous ripe fruit.  Right out of the bottle, this wine whispered, “Drink me, I’m here just for you.”  Yes, I really want to believe that.  I’m here for you too.  Although sweeter than the Sequel, this wine had a enough acidity and tannin to balance the dark fruit core.  However, at 15.5% it lacked the finesse that I would have liked.  Yes, it carries a big punch, but without the agility and complexity of the Sequel.  Still, I’m here for you.  Although my buddies both preferred this to the Sequel, all I could see was poor Joe Frazier losing another one.  That sort of disagreement is part of the beauty of drinking good wine with great friends.  Great friends or no, this isn’t a democracy around here and so, I get to issue the final rating.  Rated ***

Posted August 23, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2007   1 comment

 
Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2007Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2007 ($11).  This is one of those bottles that convince us that you don’t need to part with a galleon (or even a BMW) filled with coin of the realm to get a truly interesting and tasty treat.  It was tasted over two nights and the second night even better.  Initially, on the nose I was surprised by a scent of nutmeg-like aromas intermingled aromas of wine aging room (oak barrels mixed with spilt wine).  Finishing with medium tannin and soft acidity, the stuffing in between was a pleasing combination of black plum and cherry baked in a more savory than sweet wrapper.  The producer’s website offers that the Cannonau is oak aged for two years in large Slavonian casks with several additional months in the bottle.  This is the first wine that I have had from Sardinia and it has a strong sense of place.  If you find this try it for the distinctiveness it offers.  A very food-friendly wine.  Rated ** 1/2
 
What is Cannonau?  As I sipped at this, I was thrown by the bouquet.  Is this the first time I have tasted Cannonau?  Better known in Spain, the land of its origin, as Garnacha and in France as Grenache, I think I may have come across it on one or two (hundred) other occasions.  But never like this and this is one of those surprises that just keeps the intrigue alive for me as a wine drinker.   
 
And speaking of food, the first night we had this, it was paired with a pasta served with a tomato based meat/mushroom sauce.  It was serviceable.  But that was just like the soprano clearing her throat before the big aria.  On the second night the sweetheart of a wine soared with a grilled tilapia in a white wine-butter-caper sauce.  I can’t explain the chemistry of why this would work better with a white fish than a pasta dish, or why I would even try this with grilled fish.  All I know is that sometimes you take a chance on something and the result you get is greater of than the mere sum of the parts.

 
The island of Sardinia (a part of Italy) is located off the western coast of Italy.  Sella & Mosca’s I Piani estate in Sardinia constitutes one of the largest contiguous vineyards in Italy and is situated in the northwest corner of Sardinia, just inland from the historic port of Alghero.  
 
 File:Sardinia in Italy.svgFile:Sardegna.svg
 
 
 

Posted August 19, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Schiavenza Dolcetto d’Alba 2009   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday (though it could be Tuesday or Thursday) 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.  

Some nights you just feel like having comfort food.  Last night, it just had to be spaghetti and meatballs (beef/veal/turkey).  Ms. R came over with two elderly relatives who had just arrived par avion from La Isla Encantada, Puerto Rico.  The last time they came to visit a couple of years ago, I also served them pasta.  Oops!  They must think this is all I ever make!  Well, it was still good. 

Schiavenza Dolcetto d'Alba 2009Schiavenza Dolcetto d’Alba 2009 ($15).  This is my first wine from this producer.  Full of dark fruit, this felt more new world in style.  Which is not a bad thing but for the fact that wines seeking out this “international” style tend to lose their connection to the place of origin.  I think this has happened here.  Certainly, it did not lack structure– with medium tannins and acidity.  But for my own personal taste the biggest flaw with this wine was the fact that it seemed a bit over-extracted.  Kind of what happens when you leave a tea bag in hot water for too long.  Still, would I drink this again– the answer is yes– as it did complement the cuisine.  Would I prefer a different Dolcetto made in the more traditional style?  Oh yeah.  Rated **

  

Posted August 18, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Pan-Seared Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon with Seasonal Vegetable Stir-Fry   Leave a comment

The wild-caught Sockeye Salmon looks very good in the markets at this time.  Last night I prepared it as a late al fresco supper for ourselves.  The preparation is relatively simple: seasoned with salt and pepper and pan-seared over high heat in a touch of peanut oil.  Once seared I poured a simple teriyaki sauce over the salmon and cooked it a while longer till the sauce glazed the salmon.  I served the salmon over a bed of sautéed vegetables found in my refrigerator: haricot vert and thinly sliced fennel and green onion. 

By the time dinner made it outside, Ms. R had lit up the deck with all manner of tealights and candelabra.  We sat there to the envy of the neighborhood.  Explain to me why I should ever go out to eat again.  It gets harder and harder to justify.

The fennel worked in counterpoint to the salmon in a very complementary manner.

Kokomo Peter’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008.  What else could we drink with this salmon dish?  Translucent red juice with gorgeous red fruits– raspberry, cranberry and a little something more.  Acidity to offset the sweetness of the teriyaki glaze on the sockeye.  All of it wrapping my tongue in a silky red robe.  Joy in a bottle.  Rated ***

Pan-Seared Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

For the Teriyaki Glaze:

  • 1 tsp. peanut oil
  • 1 garlic clove minced and mashed with the side of a knife into a paste
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup Ponzu (citrus flavored soy sauce)
  • 1/8 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Mirin (sweetened sake)
  • 2 tbsps. honey

For the Salmon:

  • 1 lb. of fresh sockeye salmon cut into 1/2 lb. pieces
  • 2 tsps. of peanut oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. In a saucepan, heat up 1 tsp. of peanut oil and saute the garlic and ginger without out burning
  2. Add the Ponzu, Rice Vinegar and Mirin and bring to a boil– reduce heat to a low simmer.  Add Honey and stir to dissolve.
  3. Taste and adjust the sweetness/acidity to your liking by adding more of one of the 4 ingredients in step 2
  4. Reduce the sauce by about one-quarter
  5. While the sauce is reducing, saute the salmon skin side up in the remaining 2 tsps. of peanut oil.  After the salmon has browned (about 3-5 minutes), turn it over carefully with a spatula so as not to break it apart.  Cook for another 3 minutes.
  6. Turn down the heat to low and pour the hot teriyaki sauce over the salmon shaking the frying pan to prevent the sauce from burning which it will do if you’re not careful.  At this point, you want the sauce to turn into a glaze so do not turn you back on the stove as you will go from glaze to burned dinner in an instant.
  7. After the sauce reduces further into a glaze, plate the salmon over the vegetables

Serves 2.

© Sybarite Sauvage

Sautéed Fennel, Green Onion and Haricot Vert

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps. of peanut oil
  • 2 cups haricot vert (French green beans) 
  • 1 fennel bulb thinly sliced
  • 4 green onions (scallions) thinly sliced diagonally

Steps:

  1. Heat up the oil in a hot wok
  2. Add Fennel and Green Onion and stir fry for one minute
  3. Add the haricot vert and season with salt and pepper
  4. Continue stir frying until done
  5. Remove to serving platter/dinner plates

Serves 2.

© Sybarite Sauvage

Posted August 13, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love