Archive for the ‘No-Guilt Wednesday’ Category

NGW: Sfida 2010   4 comments

Piano strains of As Time Goes By were meshing with the clattering of silver against fine bone china and the droning hum of masticating guests conversing over their hotel scrambled eggs and bangers.

Week Two finds me at the luxurious Peninsula Hotel in Manila.  There always seems to be some live music playing in the lobby.   Bangkok and Manila are quite warm these days, both being at nearly identical latitudes.  And having worn out some shoe leather walking around these cities, I am happy to come back to the “palace” to put my feet up before I head out for some more fun. 

Afternoon tea when I am on the road is one of those little luxuries that keep me sane.  Ms. R tells me am spoiled, but I don’t really see it that way.  When I am home, I treat myself to these luxuries.  I just have other people doing the legwork for me when I travel.  But it can never take the place of what I get when I am home. 

That will come later– for now I’m journeying down this gilded Rabbit Hole:

The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: `No room! No room!’ they cried out when they saw Alice coming. `There’s PLENTYof room!’ said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.

`Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

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Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. `I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.

`There isn’t any,’ said the March Hare.

`Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it,’ said Alice angrily.

`It wasn’t very civil of you to sit down without being invited,’ said the March Hare.

`I didn’t know it was YOUR table,’ said Alice; `it’s laid for a great many more than three.’

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One of my wine sellers was pretty high on today’s wine suggesting that it had high QPR.  So I took a bottle home to try.  I am glad I purchased only one.  I have nothing against Puglia.  In fact, I have had more than a few wines from there that I quite enjoyed.  The best of them offset the typically ripe fruit with enough acidity to continue to make for interesting drinking through the last drop of the bot.  Unfortunately, this southern Italian wine does not quite measure up.  I usually try to recommend wines that you should try.  Today, I give you one that you may want to try– to avoid.  And certainly at the price I paid for it. 

A word on retailers– many of them will give you the best price they can for any given wine, but some of them will try to build in an extra buck or four into the price of their bottles.  Do your homework.  With the internet, there is no excuse.  The retailer that I refer to above, I always check on because I know that many of their wines can be had for less elsewhere.  And because of this, they lose part of my business because checking up on them is exhausting.  To quote Alice, “It’s not very civil of you to offer it” at this price unless it really does have high QPR. Seems to me that the only ratio that this retailer was truly interested in was his own gross margin ratio.

Sfida Rosso Puglia 2010 ($14).  A blend of Primitivo (genetically similar to Zinfandel) and Negroamaro.  Overly ripe fruit which made it seem out of balance.  Not my favorite style.  At this price-point look elsewhere.  But if you like this style, it can be had from other retailers for less than $10– but tread slowly.  Rated *1/2

The little guy, at the top of the page, doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Here is this week’s $15 or less offering. 

No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) 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.

Posted May 2, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

NGW: Chateau Savariaud Bordeaux Supérieur 2009   7 comments

I dislike bullies.  It seems my dad likes them less than I do.

When I was younger he told the story of a bully he had to deal with in his days in the army while serving in Korea.  At 5 foot 6 inches and 140 lbs., tanned from the Puerto Rican sun and with a Spanish accent, he must have stood out as an easy mark to his rather tall, husky, fair-haired Irish-American nemesis.  The repeated indignities served up by this fair-skinned lad included the usual stupid guy stuff– tripping, practical jokes, etc.  This got my dad to his tipping point.  Having reached his limit, and in order to confront this idiot, he had to stand on a foot locker just to be able to get eyeball-to-eyeball with him. 

Before I go on, let me say that my dad, despite his love of boxing and the episode I am about to share, is not a violent guy.  He NEVER administered corporal punishment to me.  Not once.  I find that odd.  Especially, given the era in which I was born.  But in our house, discipline was left completely in my mom’s hands.  And she, born into a family of farmers, thought nothing of making us dance to the crack of a leather belt.  While she never hit me in the face (she always emphasised that point), on the few occasions that she did strike, she almost always managed to leave me with welts on my legs– even as I tried to lift both legs up in the air at the same time to avoid the blows destined for my calves and thighs!  “No, Mami!  No!”  Those were the days… I love that woman, and seeing how frail she is today, makes me long for a time when she was strong enough to make me dance.  Not that I want to dance again– the memories are enough.  And it seems, the leather belt was preferred by other families as well.  Ms. R tells me that in her house, her dad’s belt even had a name– Catalina.  “Catalina is gonna make you dance,” he would say.  These days, Catalina would get you a quick call to the Social Services department with charges of child abuse.  Back then, it was just good parenting.  I’m not so sure we weren’t better off back then.

But back to the David & Goliath moment: Things did not look so good for my dad.  If you were the sort to make wagers, the smart money was on O’What’s-His-Name.  I’m not sure of the dialogue exchanged between these two antagonists, though I can imagine that the Irish lad must have been thinking what a good time he was about to have cracking my old man’s noggin open like a walnut.  So my dad did the only thing he could do– he struck first– breaking the poor bastard’s nose.  What no one knew was that he had put his metal cigarette lighter in the palm of his right hand giving that first punch a little extra “Was-that-a-lead-pipe-he-just-hit-me-with?” oomph.  With nose bloodied and tumbling to the floor like a giant sequoia, the Celt looked up to see Dad (filled with rage and frustration) pouncing on him like a rabid dog.  He gave this poor fellow a few more pops till he was pulled off by some spectators.  Unsurprisingly, this fellow never messed with him again.  Grudging respect they call it.

But assault of a fellow soldier is a crime– even in the military– and subject to court-martial.  A few days later, my dad was summoned into his commanding officer’s office to explain his actions.  My dad is a big fan of General MacArthur’s– and modeled his military bearing after that gentleman.  As he tells it, he went to his CO’s office in full dress uniform– an interesting tactic– but one that sent a clear message:  That he was a soldier first and understood the gravity of the situation.  He entered the office, gave his crispest salute and stood erect, statuesque, granite-like at attention.  Dad knows how to make an impression.  After inquiring into what happened, the CO offered Dad the choice of court-martial (with potential jail time and dishonorable discharge) or just a quick 2-step straight to dishonorable discharge.  Dad opted for court-martial under military law.  Being dismissed from the meeting, he gave his CO another starched salute, turned heel and marched perfectly out of the office.  That was the last that Dad ever heard of the matter from his superiors.  I think the CO, considering the two participants and other factors, probably took a boys-will-be-boys approach and was perhaps also hoping that this was the last he would hear about this matter.  

Like I said, my dad is not a violent guy.  And like the most interesting man in the world– “He’s a lover, not fighter.  But he’s also a fighter, so don’t get any ideas.”

And, like my dad, today’s wine may look like a lightweight, but don’t let the looks fool you. 

Chateau Savariaud Bordeaux Supérieur 2009Chateau Savariaud Bordeaux Supérieur 2009 ($12).  59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec.  So light-colored that I did not expect much in terms of the concentration of this wine.  At first, this had a touch of braised fennel on the nose; then a woodsy character emerged with hints of barnyard as it opened.  Whilst there was a fairly comprehensive restraint in the fruit, what emerged reminded me of black plum flesh mixed with almost bitter chocolate.  Finishing with grippy tannins and a medium length stoney quality.  I might have liked this even better had it shown just a tad more concentration and just slightly more ripe fruit.  Rated **

My boy in the photo at the top of this page doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank ($15 or less), eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

Posted April 24, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

NGW: Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2009   2 comments

In life, we rarely get second chances. 

Unless your name is Chris Brown.  Hearing about his apparent reunion with Rihanna recently, I was a little taken aback. 

I mean, as talented as you are, and that talent is in my opinion, undeniable, there are just some things you don’t do to any woman, let alone the woman you “love”, Dude.  

Now I’m not gonna show you pictures of Rihanna with a busted face.  You can look those up yourself.  Girl, what were you thinking?!  Rhetorical question.

And despite the steamy sensuality of their current collaborative hit, Birthday Cake, these two just don’t give me that Happily Ever After good time feeling.  It’s a bit like watching an impending train wreck.   Your know it won’t end well, but you can’t avert your eyes, can you?  

They say you’re a new man, CB.  Like I said, we don’t get many second chances in life.  When you get one, you hold it as you might a precious crystal.  It’s that fragile.  So, Man Up!

Any-whoo… on that uplifting note, and in a bit of a non sequitur, here is today’s NGW from California’s Alexander Valley. 

Nestled between Dry Creek Valley and Knights Valley, Alexander Valley produces some interesting wines that are worth exploring from well-known producers such as Jordan, Francis Ford Coppola and Clos du Bois and some perhaps less well-known but worth exploring, such as Seghesio and the eponymous Alexander Valley Vineyards:

Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2009Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($15).   I was prepared to like this from the get go.  And on first tasting, I liked it.  But then, borrowing an ironic line from Chris Brown’s break-up song, Deuces, “Like Tina did to Ike in the back of the limo, it finally hit me.”  Black cherries on the nose carry to the palate and mix with herbs.  But the fruit seems a little underdeveloped.  With soft tannins and a short finish, the flavor seems to fall off a cliff.  Rated **

My boy in the photo at the top of this page doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank ($15 or less), eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

Posted April 17, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

NGW: Il Feuduccio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Feuduccio 2006   Leave a comment

Just because mornings are amongst my favorite time of day, does not mean that I don’t love the nights as well.  While the mornings are made for strong tea, solitude and introspection, the nights are made for good wine, consumed with good food and followed by some good old-fashioned tittering in the dark.   

Being the kind of person who craves balance if not moderation, this makes sense to me.  The morning routine–  and the unfurling of the mind– begins shortly after I wake.  After a quick stroll with Jake, the wonder-dog, we head home and there share breakfast together.  He has his doggie comestibles and I have a couple of robust cups of Punjana Irish Breakfast with whatever else captures my fancy.  Sometimes cereal, or buttered rye toast or, maybe just a glass of strawberry kefir.  The house is usually breathtakingly and comfortingly quiet.  Since the day is a blank slate, this is my most productive time to write.  It is the time when I read a bit as well. 

Unlike some folks, I can’t really read in bed at night.  Usually, I’m too tired during the week  and too, umm, “delicious” on the weekends to read so late.  And there are so many things to do when you are in a delicious state of mind–

Need ideas?  Well, take for example, Englishman Henry Purcell, one of the most renowned composers of his time, who wrote a few overtly suggestive tavern songs, including this uncensored little 17th century ditty that aptly illustrates how un-innocent those times were: 

Sir Walter enjoying his damsel one night,

He tickled and pleased her to so great a height,

That she could not contain, t’wards the end of the matter,

But in rapture cried out: “Oh sweet Sir Walter!”

The Montepulciano grape has become so associated with Abruzzo that it would be difficult imagining these wines being produced anywhere else.  It is one of the most exported wines in Italy.  But in my mind, so many of these wines are over-ripe and a tad too rustic– and as a result they feel a little bawdy to me.  But there is a time and a place for everything. 

And in keeping an open mind, today’s NGW may turn me around on my way of thinking.  Many a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is intended to be drunk young.  Not so with today’s choice.  This is from the 2006 vintage.  Price-wise. this wine is right at the cut line for NGW.  A release price of $29 per bottle and an average price on the internet, of $22 per bottle– though you should not pay that much for this.  Still, at $15, this needs to be considered and having said that, happily consumed.    

Il Feuduccio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Feuduccio 2006 ($15) .   There are some woodsy characteristics that emerge on my sniffer.  What is that?  Cigar box?  Wet ash?  A medium bodied, fruity red with ripe raspberry, low tannins and medium acidity.  This does not have the usual rusticity that I associate with Montepulciano wines.  Although from the 2006 vintage, the wine maintains its freshness so much so, that I thought it was younger than it was.  This is a fantastic pasta wine and at $15, this is a compelling buy.  Rated **1/2 

Eat this with a Spaghetti Puttanesca.  Put on some Henry Purcell tavern songs (click on the red links) and sing along: 

A health, a health to the nut-brown lass with hazel eyes

She that has good eyes has also good thighs

Let it pass, let it pass!

The little guy in the photo at the top of this page doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank ($15 or less), eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

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

NGW: Blanc de Barat Bordeaux Blanc 2011   Leave a comment

I have my demons, don’t you? 

Hieronymous Bosch had them.  Henry Miller too.  Maybe that’s why their work continues to resonate with me.

I discovered both of these dudes many years ago when I came across Henry Miller’s autobiographical “Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch”. 

Miller Time: “Now, where is that girl with the two cherries?”

Just the title alone was enough of a draw for me.  Don’t ask why, perhaps, it just sounded so incongruous.  Perhaps it was because at the time I had no idea that a place called Big Sur even existed.  Maybe it was unfamiliarity with Hieronymous Bosch.  And perhaps it was just the way it sounded as I spoke it out loud. 

“What have you been reading lately?”  

“A cartoon fantasy, Scoobie and Shaggy Do Vegas…”

“What?”

“Would you believe, Big Sur and…?”

“Huh?”

Now if you know some of Miller’s more notorious work and you have been reading this blog, you will understand my attraction.  But there is more to Miller.  He is poetic, prophetic, honest, though capable of fibbing, he is misunderstood–sometimes by me.  But it is clear that he had extreme clarity in his view of the line between right and wrong even if he sometimes blurred, crossed or moved that line in his personal life.  And there was his colorful lifestyle– wives and lovers, including the erotic poet, Anais Nin, a collection of friends and people who were drawn to him– interesting, tortured, bizarre, dull people.   

Hieronymous Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights

And then we have Bosch.  A man who could be credited with the creation of information overload.  But it is not imagery for imagery’s sake.  There are all of these seemingly insignificant details that are pregnant with meaning.  He seemed to be very aware of the imperfections of human morality, frailty, ecstasy and agony.  Was Bosch a man who was haunted by his demons in his everyday existence?  A picture, in Bosch’s case, is truly worth at least a 1,000 words. 

Whatever the motivation or inspiration, he let it all flow from his paint brushes.  Miller’s writing is a bit like that as well– reading his books is a bit like being a being a river rock as he rushes over you with a torrential flow of words that erode and polish your surface at the same time.

One of Bosch’s more famous works, a moralistic triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, depicts the fall from grace, the post-Eden world cast as orgy and the retribution exacted from the human race for those sins.  The fact that he devotes the largest part of the triptych to the party tells me that understood human weakness on personal terms.  How else to explain what appears to be two people getting it on inside a giant mussel shell and elsewhere in this painting.  Plato’s Retreat, that notorious 1970’s New York City sex club, had nothing on the stuff going on in Bosch’s head! 

Yet, despite their lascivious natures, his characters have hollowed out eyes and a bored detachment that is not particularly inviting.  It seems that some of his characters themselves are voyeurs looking out at us.  I suppose we can be both spectators of the freak show and perhaps we are the freak show as well. 

Where am I going with this?  To be able to channel some of the creativity that these two guys had, booze HAD to be involved.  Miller was a drinker.  While at Sig Sur, he certainly drank some very good California wines, and being a writer, he was piss-poor most of the time.  So the wines usually came courtesy of his generous friends.  And there were those years in Paris.  And Bosch must have had his share of mind-twisting elixirs, as well.  In Bosch’s case, it was probably good Belgian beer or perhaps some very young wine like today’s 2011 vintage offering.

Here’s where we pull it all together, kids.  First, a word about the 2011 vintage: Bosch’s message still rings true today.  Pundits and critics alike are strongly suggesting that 2011 Bordeaux wine prices will need to drop significantly from the levels for 2009 and 2010 vintages to reflect the relative drop in quality as compared to 2009 and 2010.   Greed is the demon that is gorging itself at the banquet fueled by these two stellar vintages– how else, can you explain U.S. $1,000++ prices for single bottles from top château?  Some would argue, there is a comeuppance on the horizon when the prices for the 2011 wines are set.  The most avaricious of these producers should face consequences akin to those depicted in the third panel of the triptych.  Facing an abundance of good wine from 2009-10, they may have to price their wines below prices for the decent 2008 vintage.  It’s a nice theory, and it would be great to see, but I don’t really believe that they will reduce prices by the 40-50% that some are calling for.    

Now, onto today’s NGW Wine.   A young wine, from a small producer in what is considered a lesser vintage, does not have to be bad wine.  From the 2011 vintage, this white Bordeaux is an absolute steal at the price I paid– yes, it is the first 2011 we are reviewing.  I thought that this was particularly good when I tasted it and brought some home from a wine tasting a couple of weeks ago.  This is a crowd pleaser of a wine– and at $7 even my financial advisor would be pleased.  

Blanc de Barat Bordeaux Blanc 2011 ($7).  It reminds me of spring rain.  Mostly Sauvignon Blanc with a little semillon thrown in, this is a light, refreshing and flavorful vino.  Guava like sweetness finishing with a well rounded acidity from the citrus flavors which are polished with a touch of lushness and well harnessed if understated minerality.  It has a softness that makes it truly appealing.  Rated **1/2 

While you could have this on its own, it is so much better with food.  Put some shrimp, I mean prawns, on the barbie and start your dinner off on the right foot.  Today’s recommended dish was truly inspired by the Blanc de Barat.  But it takes it name from one of our featured artists.

 

Grilled Hieronymous Orange Marinated Prawns

 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. of deveined and shelled prawns (leave tails on)
  • 1 tsp. of grated Orange Rind
  • 1 tsp. grated Lime Rind
  • Juice of 1 Valencia Orange
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 2 tbsp. Rice Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Peanut Oil
  • 4 Garlic cloves crushed and mashed into a paste with 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
Method
  1. Whisk together all ingredients and taste the marinade.  Adjust to your taste.
  2. Pour over prawns and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour– every 15 minutes or so turn the prawns over to make sure the marinade seeps into all the crevices
  3. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking
  4. Preheat grill to highest setting. 
  5. Immediately before cooking oil the grill
  6. Cook for no more than 1-2 two minutes per side.  Do not overcook– nobody like rubbery prawns.  If you are not sure how long it will take, do a test run with 1 or two of the little bastards.

Suggested variations: Add a little soy sauce to the marinade.  And how about a little crushed red pepper for touch of lively spice!

Works great as an appetizer for a party or as a main course over a citrusy salad or even an aromatic jasmine rice.

 © Sybarite Sauvage

The Garden of Earthly Delights detail by Hieronymus Bosch

Dirty Birds

If you want to learn more about Bosch, here is a link to a great little review of this painting by a fellow blogger, Taylor Alexandra.

 My boy in the photo at the top of this page doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank ($15 or less), eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.
 
THE END.
 
 
 
 

Posted April 3, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

NGW: Charles Smith Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2009   Leave a comment

Washington State has been coming on for some years now.  The Columbia Valley especially.  Today’s wine grabbed our attention with a high rating to price ratio from one of the wine mags of record.  You know the one… 

As for wine ratings, and especially the 100 point scale goes, I have to admit that I struggle with it because it does not reflect the way that most people drink wine.  First, let’s face it, most people will not drop the serious coin that’s often needed to get one of those 93+ point wines.  So, for them, the 100 point scale is truly meaningless.  Second, most of the time, you know in the first few sips whether you like something or not.  My dad has the simplest approach when it comes to wine– (a) Don’t Like It, (b) Like It and (c) Like It a Lot.  The rest of the process is really just a refinement and confirmation of those first impressions.  

Another thing that I do not like about the 100 point scale, and indeed my own 4 star system is the fact that it places wines from across all regions on equal footing.  The presumption being that you could readily exchange one for another at any point in tme.  What wines I drink at any point in time are a function of my mood, food, and ‘hood– how I feel, what I’m eating and where I am.  And with the star system, there is more flexibility to accommodate mood, food & ‘hood.  That’s one reason I try to include some information about speciifc subregions and varietals.   

Charles Smith Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($14).  Disarmingly Dark in a back alley kind of style, I half-expected to be mugged by this wine.  A whiff of cocoa and herbs and the scent of freshly fallen leaves in late October.  As expected, the fruit is dark and brooding.  Ripe black plum and a touch of spice.  And while this has the structure, with a touch of grippiness from the tannins, it just seems a bit too heavy and extracted.  I noticed that one reviewer rated this at 91 points.  So, who is checking the checkers?  Me, that’s who.  While a good wine, I think that rating is overly generous.  As you know we shun the 100 point scale around here in favor of a more flexible standard that does not have the veneer of arithmetic certitude. Your palate is not mine and vice versa.  So who will check me?  YOU will.  Tastes twice.  Rated **

Washington State Wine Map

And what can you pair with something like this?  I’m thinking of this a great pizza wine.  But you had better put some serious meat and garlic on that pizza.  I’m thinking about a pizza that requires you to wear your Big Boy pants– sausage, meatball, garlic, pepperoni.  The same sartorial advice applies to you ladies out there.

I can’t speak for the this green-shirted little guy, but my boy in the photo at the top of this page doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank ($15 or less), eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

Posted March 27, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

NGW: Château Clément Saint Jean Medoc 2009 Revisited   5 comments

I was not terrified– but I should have been.  I am not dead– but I so easily could have been. 

I was fifteen years old and riding in the back seat of my dad’s 1974 Pontiac Grand Prix after returning from a family vacation to Acapulco.  As we neared our destination, in Killeen, Texas, the car, painted a creamy almost yellow color was, in an instant, surrounded by an armada of dark sedans.  Angry Texas men emerged from these vehicles, drew weapons, shouted for us to get out of our car.   This was not the way we had planned to end our evening…

It was the Summer of 1975– the year my family almost died.  If you have never had an arsenal of loaded guns pointed at you by an army of jittery Lone Star State police officers, this may seem like an improbable tale.  Somehow, we managed, to avoid becoming roadkill on that Texas night.   

In a case of mistaken identity, our car, the aforementioned 1974 Pontiac Grand Prix, was taken for another car (same make, model and color, apparently) carrying felons that had been robbing God-fearing Texas-folk at shotgun-point earlier that evening.  It did not help matters that my dad brought back a souvenir Mexican sombrero that we just happened to put on the shelf behind the back seats so that it, and nothing else, was all that was visible by anyone following our car.  Yeah, from the outside, we even looked like Bandidos.  But really fancy red-velvet-sombrero-wearing-mariachi-bandidos— ay-yaay-yaay!

 

There we were, completely surrounded– my dad and my cousin’s husband, who were in the front seat, got out.  The latter was immediately set upon, bent over the hood of the car and treated to the local ritual salutation known as “Texas Frisk’em” —  just like in the movies.  My dad, despite orders to raise his hands, just kept asking in a spanish accent, “What did we do wrong?”  The barrels of a thousand pistols, though, seemed to be speaking a different yet completely understandable language.  Hands up might have been a better choice.  

I got out of the car next.  As a 135 pound 15-year-old kid, I do not believe that I cut a particularly threatening figure.  But with my mass of curly hair, I was probably not clean-cut enough to completely pass muster in this Texas town.  I recall as I got out of the car that there was one gun in particular that seemed to be pointed right at me– its aperture taking the measure of me.  If you asked me to describe the man behind the gun, I could not do it.  All I saw was a gun pointed in my direction.  And when I think back on that night, that is the first image I see.

Next, my cousin, a lovely, though pudgy girl emerged from the vehicle.  I vaguely remember telling my mother and sister to get out of the car.  As mom stepped out, shoes in hand, with my 11-year-old sister in tow, the officers had an OSM (“Oh S**t!” Moment), now realizing they had almost taken out a family of innocents visiting from New Jersey. 

“Holster up, boys.  There’ll be no killin’ tonight”– we survived a near Texas mass-a-cree.

Do I hate Texas?  Hell no.  Why?  Well, aside from the fact that we were permitted to live, this was also the Summer of my first real kiss courtesy of  the red-headed Texas lass that one of my other cousins fixed me up with.  Turns out her specialty was the flip side of the Texas constabulary welcome we had received just a few days earlier– she was the first to introduce me to the infinite pleasures of the French Kiss in the back seat of my cuz’s family car.  Who knew they parlayed the Fraan-say in Texas?  How could I possibly be anti-Texas after that?   

Château Clément Saint Jean Medoc 2009

What, you may ask, do these recollections have to do with wine or food?  Wait for it, cuz here it comes…  In what is definitely a bit of a stretch, tonight’s wine, a little red-headed French number reminds me of that girl.  Don’t ask how this happened– it just did.  And when it does, you go with it.

Château Clément Saint Jean Medoc 2009 ($14).  Concentrated, as befits a very good vintage, but not over-extracted this nice little wine is another Cru Bourgeois from the 2009 vintage,  with sweet spice and a tinge of earth and gravel on the nose.  It’s filled out with stoney red fruit, red cherry lip gloss and cedar notes.  Tame and well structured tannins leave me licking my glass.  Where did she go?  What was her name?  Rated **1/2

I have reviewed this wine before, giving it what at the time I thought was an admittedly generous *** rating.   Is a little bottle variation at play here?  Perhaps.  Could it be  palate variation?  Maybe.  Most likely, it was just my state of mind then and now.  But this is consistent enough that I would still not turn up my nose to it at any time and you shouldn’t either.  That’s part of the magic of drinking wine– how you feel about it depends on what’s going on between the ears as much as what’s going on in your mouth in the moment.  I’m not making apologies for the earlier review.  But that was then and this is now.  In any event, this is worthy of further consideration (e.g. drinking, slurping, lapping and licking). 

As befits this post, and in honor of the fact that we did not become Texas Toast on that Summer night in 1975, predictably, I give you a recipe for Texas Toast– OK, it’s just really good garlic bread.  As Cookie says in the movie, City Slickers:

You ain’t gonna get any nouveau, amandine, thin crust, bottled water, sautéed city food.  Food’s brown, hot, and plenty of it.

Texas Toast

Serves:
12 to 15 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 cloves garlic, pureed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 loaves good white bread, cut into 1-inch thick slices

Directions

Mix together the butter and garlic in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Brush both sides of the bread with the butter and place on the grill. Grill the bread for 1 to 2 minutes per side until lightly golden brown.

Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay and the Food Network

While I don’t hate Texas, I have a respectful, and quite rational, fear of the place.  I have been back since then– almost getting into a road-rage-paint-swapping-fist- fight in Houston once (I was a passenger that time as well).  So when visiting the Lone Star State, here are a few simple survival rules to consider: 

  1. Like they say, “Don’t mess with Texas.” 
  2. But if Texas wants to mess with, pray that she will be gentle.
  3. If instructed, at gunpoint, to put your hands up– do so.
  4. Always, “Remember the Alamo!”
  5. Drive yourself, but take it slowly over some of those dangerous curves, regardless of the form they may take.  Giddy-up!

The little guy in the photo at the top of this page doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank ($15 or less), eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

Posted March 20, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

NGW: Trimbach Riesling 2008   5 comments

One of the things that I have promised myself is to be more open to Alsatian and German wines this year.  I’m not a resolution making kind of guy, but if I were, this is a resolution that I could live with. 

We enjoyed this with a grilled swordfish dish from fellow blogger, Razel Rull-Navarro of Food Safari (http://rgrull.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/grilled-swordfish-steaks-with-baked-chantenay-carrots/)

Do yourself a favor and make the swordfish.  Also make the carrots that she recommends with it.  I tossed and roasted the carrots with some fingerling potatoes and served it all on a luxurious bed of Stir-Fried Bok Choy.  Anyway, check out Razel’s blog.  Simple, delicious cuisine.  You go, Girl! 

As always– get the freshest fish possible.  This is not the place to skimp.  On my first pass though the Supermercado, I spotted some, but it looked like it might be a little too dry.  I asked if it was fresh.  Of course came back the answer– came in this morning!  Great, I thought and then asked her if I could smell the sucker.  I know this sounds obnoxious, but the fish counter server may lie to me, but my nose does not.  If it smells like fish, walk away.  I passed the swordfish back to her and strolled away.  To quote a Malaysian friend of mine, “In God We Trust, In Man We Check.”

Still, I was having a swordfish craving and off to the pricey fish monger I went.  For $20 a pound, I had secured the evening’s main course.  It smelled of the ocean and I watched as they cut a beautiful 2 pound steak for me.  Not cheap– but well worth it.  It’s a good thing I saved some money on the wine.

Riesling TrimbachTrimbach Riesling 2008 ($12).  Today’s wine from Alsace, will not be to everyone’s liking.  In fact, I was not so sure its style was to my liking– at least initially.  And yet, it grew on me with each passing sip.  Bone dry.  As it warmed, it softened and as a  food wine, with acidity aplenty, it played well against the grilled swordfish that found its way onto my dinner plate.  It also sang a beautiful duet on another night with some grilled salmon.  I just kept going back to the bottle for more sips.  Rated **1/2

 

 

Stir-Fried Bok Choy

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Bok Choy wash and cut into coarse pieces
  • 2 Tbsps. Peanut Oil

For Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsps. Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Nam Pla (Fish Sauce)
  • 2 Tbsps. Mirin (sweetened sake)
  • 2 Tbsps Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp. Garlic Chili Paste

Procedure

  1. Combine all sauce ingredients in a non-reactive bowl (glass or ceramic is preferable).  Taste for flavor and adjust seasonings to your personal liking.
  2. Heat up a wok and add peanut oil and just as it starts to smoke, add Bok Choy and stir fry for 3 to 5 minutes 
  3. Add enough of the sauce to flavor the cooked Bok Choy being careful not to drown it. 
  4. Cook off some of the liquid and taste Bok Choy for flavor. 
  5. Plate and serve with the Food Safari Swordfish

© Sybarite Sauvage

The little guy in the photo at the top of this page doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank ($15 or less), eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

Posted March 13, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

NGW: Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2008   Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, I heard from an old friend that I see about 3 or 4 times a year.  When Ms. R and I get together with him and his wife, there is usually too much wine.  Usually it’s him and me doing most of the damage.  Of course, at the beginning of the evening, there is no such thing as “too much”.  At the end of the evening, there is no such thing– even as we commit acts outside of the established limits of stupidity.  One more bottle?  SURE!  During our last drinkathon, we popped open a bottle of this week’s NGW wine.  He paid over $20 for this– at least that’s what he said, though when I quizzed him about that he said all that he remembered from that night was that he went to bed and awoke in a Spitzerian state of inebriation wearing only his socks the following morning. (For the benefit of our non-New York readers– Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York State, apparently did not remove his socks during his liaisons with prostitutes). 

$20+ is a fair price for this wine.  Guess what I think about it at $15?  Sometimes, you just have to shop around for the good stuff.  And, for the record, I’m not thinking about a Spitzerian shopping spree.  Eliot, Eliot, Eliot– you’re no Berlusconi. It’s uncanny, but once caught with their hands in the cookie jar (“She said her name was Cookie”), it looks like both of these politicos went to the same source for contrition coaching.  How else to explain that funny expression, almost like a cat that is trying to keep down that bird it just swallowed. 

Burlusconi and Ruby

Spitzer and Spouse

But we have gone far afield from this NGW post.  Fun though that detour may have been, we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.  And with Silvio Burlusconi as our inspiration, we turn to an Italian wine, a classic Italian pasta and if you execute these first two properly a private little Bunga-Bunga party.

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2008 ($15).  A blend of Corvina and Rondinella with some Sangiovese thrown in for good measure.  A whiff of cherry pie.  Is that a touch of plum, too?  Nah, that’s just the little voice in my head, or is that an imaginary friend?  Savory red fruit notes mixed with sumptuous ripe blackberry.  Supple tannins and just enough acidity to say this is just a beautifully balanced wine.  Is that my imaginary friend speaking again?  Perhaps.  Here’s what I say– find this and you will not be disappointed.  I’m not imagining that.  Rated **1/2

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe.  Today, we get back to that.  This is a traditional Roman dish that could only have been born in a place like Rome.  Imagine Marco Polo returning from the Orient with this strange new spice, pepper.  Imagine a local chef getting his hands on this new stuff and combining it with the traditional ingredients found in Rome– Pecorino, butter, and spaghetti.  Imagine we call this Cacio e Pepe (literally Cheese and Pepper).  I’m making this history up as I go along, but it’s plausible, no?

Plausible?  Perhaps, but actually, no.  Marco Polo was born in the 13th Century whereas it seems pepper has been around Rome since at least as early as 40 B.C.  Around 77 C.E. Pliny the Elder (I have always wanted to quote him) complained: 

It is quite surprising that the use of pepper has come so much into fashion, seeing that in other substances which we use, it is sometimes their sweetness, and sometimes their appearance that has attracted our notice; whereas, pepper has nothing in it that can plead as a recommendation to either fruit or berry, its only desirable quality being a certain pungency; and yet it is for this that we import it all the way from India! Who was the first to make trial of it as an article of food? and who, I wonder, was the man that was not content to prepare himself by hunger only for the satisfying of a greedy appetite?  Both pepper and ginger grow wild in their respective countries, and yet here we buy them by weight—just as if they were so much gold or silver.[The Natural History, 12:14]

No Cacio e Pepe for Pliny!

Romans have been eating this stuff since forever and there are probably hundreds or thousands of variations of this dish.  But I enjoyed it so well, I couldn’t resist posting it up here.  The ingredients are the definition of simplicity and elegance.  Oh yeah, one more thing, skip the bread and butter unless you’re wanting to have people stare at your arse for all the wrong reasons.  

Cacio e Pepe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of coarsely grated Parmesano Reggiano (for the Parmesan bowls)
  • 16 oz. spaghetti (Fresh pasta is better.  Dried will, however do just fine.)
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 1 tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino

Preparation

Ahead of time: Prepare the Parmesan Bowls.  Place 1/3 cup of grated Parmesano to a hot nonstick pan and cook till it bubbles.  Remove from heat and when cool enough to handle peel from the nonstick pan and drape over the outside of a bowl used as a mold to create a an edible parmesan bowl.  This can also be done ahead of time.  Makes 6 bowls.

  1. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil.  Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until firm but not quite al dente. Drain, reserving 2-3 cups pasta cooking water.
  2. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute. 
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. 
  4. Reduce heat to low and add Pecorino Romano and pasta, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted.
  5. Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.
  6. Transfer pasta to Parmesano bowls, sprinkle with some more Pecorino and serve.

Serves 4-6

© Sybarite Sauvage

Unlike the other two guys pictured on this page, the little guy in the photo at the top of this page doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank ($15 or less), eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

Posted March 6, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

NGW: Alvarez de Toledo Godello Bierzo 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 (NGW) 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. 

2008 Corazón Gewürztraminer 750mlThis is a neat little wine that goes down with tapas as well as Chinese food.  Several nights ago, we had a lovely white produced by Kathy Corison and marketed as Corazón Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer.   That was a lovely $30 bottle of wine.  But I would happily put today’s choice up against that.

We had this wine at a dinner hosted by some Spanish friends and in addition to have a grand time of it, also had two noteworthy, value driven, Spanish reds from Priorato.  Check them out.

Alvarez de Toledo Godello Bierzo 2010 ($8).  This is a category killer.  The category?  Inexpensive white wine.  Inexpensive, but not cheap.  Extreme drinkability in every glass.  Soft apple fruit on the nose.  Surprising viscosity in the mouth. A slight mineral edge as well.   Gentle acidity caresses the fruit, balancing the total package.  I was greatly impressed by this on first tasting and a little less on the second.  Overall, though, at this price, it’s almost impossible to touch this quality– I guaranty that we have all paid more for (and gotten less than) what you will find in this bottle.   Rated **1/2

Posted March 1, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday