Archive for January 2012

Petit Bordeaux– Old & New   Leave a comment

Danger... Danger!

Last night, more proof that the best bar in town is right here at home.  We had a couple of friends over for an impromptu degustation session.  The comestibles included a braised rump roast with one of our new favorite seasonings, star anise, a gratin of potato and Portobello mushrooms and a macaronade made with comte, jarlsburg and the braising liquid from the beef. 

On tap, three bordeaux–

Chateau Haut-Beausejour (Futures Pre-sale) 2010Château Haut-Beauséjour Saint-Estephe 2009.  In 1992, Jean-Claude Rouzaud, oenologist and president of Champagne Louis Roederer, acquired and combined two Cru Bourgeois vineyards in the heart of the Medoc’s prestigious Saint-Estèphe appellation: Chateau Picard and Château Beauséjour. Together, these properties make up what is now called “Château Haut-Beauséjour.”  Yes, this is a bit young but what a nice wine to start off our evening.  Dried fruit followed by chocolate on the finish.  This will get better with time.  Rated ***

 

Château Lanessan (2001)Chateau Lanessan Haut Medoc 2001— The Lanessan vineyard has belonged to a succession of eight generations of the Bouteiller family since the 18th century. A young woman, Paz Espejo, took over the management of Château Lanessan from Hubert Bouteiller in August 2009.  This change is a result of the Bouteiller family’s stated ambition to inject new life into this fine property.  But this is a wine made before the shake up.  Just beginning to show its age with the beginnings of a tinge of garnet on the edge.  Still delicious with an undeniable intensity.  Undeniably fragrant French bouquet.  Sweet spices measured up well to the our dinner.  Rated ***

Now this is one of those evenings where we should have stopped after the Lanessan.  But Ms. R looked over at me and gave the ole “Ahem— I can see the bottom of me glass!’ look.  You know I can’t say no to her.  Bring on the Beaulieu… “Danger, Will Robinson!”  Yeah, we are on a space ship gone completely out of control.

 

Chateau Beaulieu Comtes De TastesBeaulieu Comtes de Tastes 2002— The estate is owned by Guillaume de Tastes.  It comprises 25 acres of vineyards in the Entre-de-Mer which is the large region between the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers. The terroir is a combination of limestone and clay with south-facing sloping exposure.  60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc.   Earthy, savory and lovely fruit.  Rated **1/2

Dick Tufeld and his more famous alter ego

And speaking of Will Robinson, the voice of Robot in TV’s ‘Lost in Space,’  Dick Tufeld, passed away at the age of 85 last Sunday.  RIP.

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Posted January 29, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Château Clément Saint Jean Medoc 2009   1 comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Here is this week’s $15 or less offering. 

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s 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. 

In excellent vintages, the smaller producers give us good value.  Such is the case with today’s offering.  Although from the much heralded 2009 vintage, this will not blow you away.  And that is perhaps its greatest virtue.  I admit, that this one did not sell me– at first.  Shy to start, but perhaps this was just a bit of coyness; then something happened… I was hooked.  This is a food wine through and through.  I nibbled on some charcuterie while I sipped this.  Tonight is a Good Night.

As will.i.am says:

T to the A, to the S T Y – girl, you’re tasty. T to the A, to the S T Y – girl, you’re tasty…
D to the E, to the L I C I O U S, to the D, to the, E to the, L I C I O U S

Château Clément Saint Jean Medoc 2009Château Clément Saint Jean Medoc 2009 ($15) 13.5%.   Tasted twice, I was prepared to rate this at **.  Very tight on the entry.  But as it opened up and let me in, my excitement grew.  Aromas of cinnamon and cassis began to emerge along with redolent hints of fertile earth.  The red and dark fruit began to gyrate.  And the finish, with a dark chocolate component, seemed to linger just a but longer.  Not a fruit bomb, this is an old school approach.  A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, that casts its spell before you can spell Delicious.  With chewy tannins, this is t-t-t-t-tasty.  I might be a little bit generous here, but… it’s better than **1/2 and in the final analysis, this stuff is Fergalicious.  Rated ***
 
So you’re making a Chateaubriand to go with this?  Here’s little haricot vert dish to take along on the ride.  This is not fancy gourmet cuisine.  And you could season this with other herbs.  Perhaps some hot cherry peppers. 
 
This is simple.  The best foods usually are. 
 

Haricot Vert Stir Fry

 
Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsps. Peanut Oil
  • 1/2 lb. Haricot Vert (frozen or fresh)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried Thyme
  • Fresh cracked pepper and Sea Salt to taste
Approach:
  1. Heat up a wok and add peanut oil until just before it starts to smoke
  2. Add garlic and quickly stir fry for 30 seconds or less– do not burn the garlic
  3. Quickly add the Haricot Vert and the Thyme.  Cook over high heat.
  4. While season with salt and pepper
  5. Serve immediately
© Sybarite Sauvage 

Posted January 25, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Cellar Can Blau Montsant 2009   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Here is this week’s $15 or less offering. 

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s 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. 

When I was a young Sybarite, many years ago, Mama (pronounced ma-MA, with the accent on the second syllable), would on occasion prepare chuletas guisadas con tostones (pronounced CHOO-le-taas   GEE-sa-das cone TOS-toe-nes)– braised pork chops with twice fried green plantains.  The combination is magical as the sauce that the chops are braised in complements the starchy crunchiness of the plantains.  The secret to the sauce is sofrito.  French food has its triumvirate of carrots, onions and celery.  Chinese food has its troika of soy sauce, garlic and ginger.   Puerto Rican cookery relies on a substance named Sofrito– a combination of cilantro/culantro, garlic, onion and ajis dulce. 

I know that I can never replicate the flavors of Mama’s kitchen and I don’t ever want to.  Sometimes when I visit her, she makes this dish for me.  They are as good as they were all those years ago.   I still light up when chuletas y tostones arrive at our table. 

So there I was minding my own business at the supermarket mulling over some pork chops when some awesome looking lamb shoulder chops jumped out at me.  Dare I break with convention?  Oh yeah– just don’t tell Mama.

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Tostones

 Ingredients

  • 4 Lamb Shoulder Chops with bone in
  • 3 tbsps EVOO
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • salt & pepper

For the Sofrito

  • 10 leaves of Culantro (one bunch of cilantro can be substituted) washed and dried
  • The cloves of a Head of Garlic, peeled
  • 1 medium onion coarsely chopped
  • 12 ajis dulce (available in spanish groceries) split and cleaned of membranes and seeds.  Note, green bell pepper can be substituted, but it is not as rich or aromatic as ajis dulces.

For the Tostones

  • 3 green (unripened) plantains peeled and cut into 1 inch thick rounds and put to soak in a bowl of salted water
  • 2 Cups of Canola Oil
  • Preferred equipment for frying is a Wok

Directions:

Prepare the Sofrito:

  1. In a food processor,  combine the Culantro, Garlic, Onion and Ajis Dulce and process until finely chopped and combined.  Note this will yield more than you need , but the excess can be set aside and frozen.

Prepare the Chops:

  1. Season the chops with salt and pepper
  2. Heat up a frying pan large enough to comfortably hold the chops without crowding the pan. 
  3. Add EVOO to the pan and when hot (but not smoking) sear the chops over high heat to create a nice brown crust.  About 2 minutes per side.  Remove the chops and set aside. 
  4. In the same hot pan, add 2-3 tbsps of  Sofrito 3 tbsps and tomato sauce, stir and cook for 1 minute over medium heat
  5. Return the seared Lamb Chops to the pan with the Red Bell Pepper strips and add enough water to cover the Chops and Bell Pepper.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 20-25 minutes until meat is tender.

Prepare the Tostones: 

  1. While the meat is cooking, remove the sliced plantains from the salted water and pat dry.
  2. Heat up the canola oil in a wok (or frying pan) and fry the plantains in batches.  They should just start to turn color but should NOT be cooked all the way through.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
  3. Take each plantain, place it on a cutting board and flatten it with a spatula or a the bottom of a heavy plate.  Each piece should be about 1/8 of an inch thick or up to 1/4 inch thick.  I prefer the crunchier thinner ones.
  4. Refry each of the tostones in batches until fully cooked through being careful not to burn them.  Remove from oil and drain.  Season with salt while still draining.
  5. Serve with the Lamb Chops.

Serves 4

Addition variations

  • Go classic and make this with bone in pork chops
  • If you do not fear garlic, sprinkle a little garlic powder over the chops along with the salt. 

Sybarite Sauvage ©

 

Trippin' on Acid?  Bon Voyage!
 
 
Cellar Can Blau Montsant 2009
Cellar Can Blau Montsant ($12) 2009.  I am a fan of the 2007 vintage of this wine.  But this is simply not as aromatic as the 2007 with its earthy nose rife with some woodsy almost truffle-like characteristics and black plum.  2009 is out of character with that earlier vintage: red raspberry and cranberry fruit is tart, dominated by the acidity that hits your palate at the first instant.  This is one hell of an Acid Trip.  And I was disappointed.  I put a cork in it and went to bed.  But as it sat overnight, and I went off to work and on my return home the next evening, the magic of time in an open bottle opened this baby right up.  The acid was still there, but something else started to kick up its heels.  Something herbal.  Something a little more alluring.  Something delicious.  Something forest like mixed with eucalyptus.  So if you’re not the patient type, like me, decant– please decant this.  But have it with food and you will definitely be Tripping pleasantly.  Rated **1/2
 
 
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Posted January 18, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Mano-a-Mano: The Archies Edition   Leave a comment

Betty or Veronica.  You Must Choose One.  So different.  So beautiful.  They are from the same neighborhood.  They go to the same school.  They hang out with Archie, Reggie and Jughead.  Seriously, Jughead?  What kind of name is that?  Back to the girls– you must choose one.  Perhaps…

In this Edition of Mano-a-Mano we look at two distinct wines from virtually the same place– Dry Creek Valley.  DCV is known for Zinfandel.  But there are also Pinot practitioners there.   We have reviewed wines from today’s two producers in the past– Kokomo Winery and Gustafson Family Winery. 

Located in a big barn like warehouse on the Eastern side of the valley, Kokomo produces some sick juice, including Pinot Noir from a variety of clones.  This is a young winery with some good vintages under its belt and more to come.  In the early years (back in 2006), winemaker & proprietor, Erik Miller and assistant winemaker, Josh Bartels, two young dudes from Indiana, traded in the Heartland for some West Coast action.   I first met Erik on a trip through the area with my father in 2008.  From the get-go, Erik’s infectious enthusiasm captured my attention.  Then there were his wines.  Of their place and with a charisma all their own.  Erik kept himself busy developing relationships with local growers and was able to select specific sections of vineyards for his earlier harvests before the remainder of the plot was sold off to larger producers.  This resulted in wines that were nicely concentrated and balanced by tannin and a skillful use of acid.  The time spent in the vineyard pays off.  One of Erik’s growers, and now partner, is Randy Peters.  The Pinot coming out of these Peters’ vineyards just keeps getting better and better. 

On the western side of the valley, actually just outside the valley , but still within the DCV appellation, and overlooking Lake Sonoma, you will find Gustafson.   The property was first spotted by owner Dan Gustafson in 2002, and further expanded to 247 acres with the purchase of an adjacent property in 2006.  Vineyard plantings are now complete at 20 acres; the balance of the land will remain as an ecological preserve which smacks of an organic approach that can only benefit the wine.  The original property, an old sheep ranch, at an elevation of 1800 feet above sea level, has rich, red volcanic soil reputed for producing superb wine grapes.  Especially the reds.  One taste of their Syrah based rose last year sold me immediately.  It is hands down the best rose I have had from DCV.  And at $16, delivered amazing value.  Another young winemaker, Gustafson’s Emmett Reed, is bringing his own brand of winemaking alchemy creating wines of distinction.

Kokomo Pinot Noir Peter’s Vineyard Gopher Hill 2009.  Think elegant evening gown, a little bit of that Funky Music, playing in the background.  Red fruit and acidity for structure.  Erik Miller is proud of not being a one trick pony in his winemaking– not getting complacent chasing after Parker Points.  But are we are seeing development of a house style here?  Lip smacking deliciousness left me looking for more.  Rated ***

Gustafson Dry Creek Mountain Vineyard Estate Zinfandel 2007.  This blew out some notes of black licorice and earth.  Dark fruit– not your typical Zin.  Despite this, the wine is not over-extracted.  It had a richness that simply lingered on the palate.  A great finish.  Rated ***1/2

Must you choose one?  If you’re a Sybarite you can have them both.  If you’re Archie, you may be able to have them both!  Then again, hell hath no fury…

Posted January 12, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Mano-a-Mano

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2010   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Here is this week’s $15 or less offering. 

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s 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.  

 

 

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2010
Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2010 ($10).  I’m not a gimmicky wine-label kind of guy.  But after this wine, I may have to reconsider.  The faint aroma of lychee filled my glass.  Or is that the label speaking to me?  Perhaps.  But with a little bit of ripe apple-like roundness on the mid-palate balanced by soft star-fruit like acidity and a minerally edge on the finish, this is an easy wine to like.  A great party wine that folks will remember for the label and for what’s behind the label.  Yeah, it kicked my glass!  Rated **1/2
 
A while back I found myself at the local farmer’s market and saw this cool looking veg.  I thought it might be some kind of radish.  So I purchased some untasted to try out at home.  So they are yellow beets.  What do I do with a yellow beet?  In truth, I have not yet tried this salad with the Kung Fu Girl– but I think they will be very happy with each other once they meet.  
 

Yellow Beet and Green Apple Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 Yellow Beets (peeled and cut into thin sticks– think potato sticks)
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple (cored, peeled and cut into thin sticks)
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. of Pomegranate seeds
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 Tbsps. Honey
  • 2 Tbsps of White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 4 Tbsps. EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp of chopped parsley

Steps:

  1. Toss the Apple and Beets with the lime juice to prevent discoloration
  2. In a bowl whisk together the honey and Balsamic vinegar.  Add a pinch of salt and a few grindings of black pepper.
  3. Slowly whisk in the EVOO, until an emulsion forms. 
  4. Toss the dressing with the beet/apple sticks pomegranate seeds and parsley
  5. Serve immediately

© Sybarite Sauvage

Posted January 11, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

New Year’s Day– What Wine for the Apocalypse?   Leave a comment

There are 356 days in 2012 until December 21st, the Winter Solstice, the end of the Mayan calendar.  There are bound to be dire predictions this year about the end of the earth.  Which brings to mind Harold Camping’s apocalyptic predictions of the Rapture first on May 21, 2011 and then on October 21st.  It’s too easy to make fun of knuckleheads like this because they have mastered the art of Unwitting-Self-Parody.  And if I am wrong, then very few of you reading this will be in a position to tell me so. 
 
ap harold camping cc1 111011 wblog Harold Camping: Doomsday Prophet Wrong Again

The Face of the Apocalypse: Christian radio host Harold Camping on May 22, 2011.

And were the world to end tomorrow, what would we choose to drink (assuming we could plan ahead)?  It would have to be something traditional and something modern.  And it would have to be shared with my loved ones.  Which brings me to a recap of the First Day of the Year.

Every New Year’s Day for the past 10 years, Ms. R and I have had a brunch at the house.  Previously known as the “Hair of the Dog” Brunch we have recently decided to rename this event the “What Happened Last Night” Party.  No matter the title, it is an informal get together of our closest friends with a lot of food, usually a regional culinary theme, and of course some libations to liberate us of any remaining inhibitions that may have been leftover from the previous evening’s countdown to insanity.  This year we went with a Spanish theme with a some new recipes from a terrific new cookbook: FOOD OF SPAIN by Claudia Roden.  Simple to prepare, yet glorious food.  Easily worth the $40 retail price.  Get it. 

Yes, we served a great Sangria (on the rocks) and some sparkling wines (merely chilled on ice), but once the party got in full swing, there were a couple of wines that I pulled from the cellar to accompany me and some especially helpful guests while putting the finishing touches on some dishes in the kitchen:

Chateau Puy Arnaud Maureze, Cotes de Castillon 2005.   100% Merlot goodness from Bordeaux.  Old world restraint coupled with good fruit from an excellent vintage.  Aromas of herbs and dark fruit and a long finish.  What came between the aromas and the finish was even better.  Rated *** 1/2

Vina Mayor Secreto Ribera del Duero Reserva 2003.  100% tempranillo.  In stark contrast to the Puy Arnaud, this is a big wine done in a new world style full of lashings of dried fruit coupled with oak and moderate tannins and a lasting finish.  Aged 18 months in 225L French oak barrels and aging in bottle for 18 months minimum.  Rated ***

 Now we are planning on having another “What Happened Last Night” brunch on January 1, 2013.  But that may be looking too far ahead.  Depending on your point of view on the Rapture-Apocalypse-Deluge-Whatever, we have Some or All of 2012 to get through.  We have new vintages of our favorties coming down the pike.  And we have the allure of new wine and food discoveries to be made.  

And what about New Year’s Resolutions?  A Sybarite doesn’t need any stinking resolutions. 

Let me explain.  The arrival of the New Year is a bit like turning the page to the next chapter in life.  Rarely is a chapter completed on the first page.  There are Revelations about Self that will define me this year and may result in changes that I will incorporate into my Life.  I just don’t need to do that at a moment defined by the arrival of a New Year.  Lasting change is gradual.  It has to be evolutionary.  And the arbitrary arrival of the New Year, in and of itself, does not suffice as an impetus for lasting change.  Abrupt change of habits just don’t work for most people, including myself.  Just take a tour through your local gym for the next month.  Then see how many of those folks are still at it on March 1st.  However, you can expect this gym rat to be there after all the New Year Neophytes have gone back to their cushy Lazy Boys, soft drinks and corn chips! 

Posted January 6, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Santa Ema Merlot 2008   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Here is this week’s $15 or less offering. 

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s 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.  

This week we head back to South America.  Santa Ema seems to deliver good everyday value.  Previously we reviewed the Santa Ema Chardonnay.  https://sybaritesauvage.com/2011/06/21/no-guilt-wednesday-wine-santa-ema-reserve-chardonnay-2008/

 

Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2008Santa Ema Merlot 2008 ($9).  A touch of toasty oak and earth on the nose serves as the calling card for this new world merlot.  Yet, it’s not all about fruit.  We get black olive, vanilla notes, acidity provides structure.  Did someone say rack of lamb?  Maybe I’m just hearing voices… Rated **1/2

Posted January 4, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday