Category Archives: Food Pairings/Recipes

Looking for your Long Lost “Beau”

Beaujolais Nouveau 2013We all want to be the discoverer; the one in the know. There’s always that one person who knows about something really cool before everyone else. Jerks. But that jerk could be you!! Beaujolais is making a comeback, but it’s still in its beginning stages of come-back-ness. This means you could still possibly be the first to bring this wine to a party and be the discoverer!

Interestingly enough, I am seeing a couple shifts in red wine taste at the moment. You do still have the wine snobs, they are set in their ways. Just smile, nod and back away slowly. This shift however, is happening and it’s moving towards old world grapes. There has been a shift in red wines to spicy and/or fruity. A few years ago it was Malbec. Everyone and their mother wanted Malbec. Now, believe it or not, tastes are moving to sweeter reds (more fruit forward). I’ve gotten the question pretty often over the last year or so, “Do you know of any sweeter reds?” I do and Beaujolais Nouveau is one of them (Disclaimer: this mightn’t be you at all, don’t freak out). Let’s learn a little bit about Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau; what they are, where do they come from and why this time of year is important for Beaujolais Nouveau.

Beaujolais
The Beaujolais wine region is located north of Lyon, France. The wine is traditionally made from the Gamay grape. Beaujolais Wine Region MapBeaujolais is characteristically lower in tannin, higher in acidity and therefore light bodied. This comes almost directly from the Gamay grape having a thin skin (Skin being the place where many wines receive their tannin or dryness). Beaujolais was extremely popular in the 19th century and from this popularity Beaujolais Nouveau was created.

Beaujolais Nouveau
The Beaujolais Nouveau craze really began in the 1980s, where lighter, fruitier wines were preferred over heavy reds for easy drinking. Georges Duboeuf, a lucrative marketer caught on to these high sales and tried to capitalize Beaujolais Nouveau’s success. This craze didn’t last too long and soon Beaujolais and its sister wine Beaujolais Nouveau fell off the map.

Duboeuf wasn’t finished with Beaujolais Nouveau and continued on to create “Beaujolais Nouveau Day,” the third Thursday in November (that was last week!!). It has become the most popular early release wine day, where the wine is fermented only a few weeks before going on sale. Didn’t get your Beaujolais Nouveau last week? You’re still in luck! You can still find bottles of this slightly sweet, very fruity, highly acidic red delight.

Hey, you can’t say you don’t like it until you’ve tried it. Now you know the story and can tell everyone why you’re bringing Beaujolais Nouveau to the party. Now, how do those commercials go? Oh yea! Discover Beaujolais.

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Possibly Better than Julia Child’s

IMG_1951 But then again, I wouldn’t know. I just know it was really great food with some really great people. Sunday night my father attempted (and succeeded at) Julia Child’s recipe on Coq au Vin. We didn’t have an old rooster as some of the old French recipes might call for, but it was still on point. I was a little late for dinner because of work, but don’t you know I made up for it by bringing the wine!

“Les Dames de Huguettes” Bourgogne – 2009 (Hautes Cotes de Nuits) Domaine Mongeard – Mugneret

This wine gets a little bit of shtick online, but I thought it was really nice. Red Burgundys Les Dame de Huguettesare really great and I certainly don’t drink them enough. Well, they are usually Pinot Noir, so I drink plenty of those, but not many from France. They are seen as too light, not having enough fruit, not having enough tannin or not having enough structure in general. Sometimes, if it quacks like a duck…. They aren’t trying to be anything else. I take Burgundys for what they are – elegant. I got this one at the Wine Merchant in Cary.

With this one in particular, the nose smelled like a dark red, full of dark fruits. There was no astringent smell at all, only freshness. The color was amazingly bright ruby red and on the palate bright fruit of cherry to match its color. The wine was soft, but with the exact flavor that I wanted with the meal (My dad had already told me he would be using an Oregon Pinot Noir in the Coq au vin). I knew I needed something to match. Though they are completely different styles of Pinot Noir, it worked because the sauce was light enough to hang on with the French Burgundy. The smells and tastes lingered together and didn’t overpower one another.

The Coq au vin came out beautifully, even though it had to be reheated! The chicken was tender, the onions Coq au Vinwere cooked perfectly and the mushrooms full of richness. And the sauce! Light carmel colored liquid gold – I love that the sauce wasn’t too rich or too overbearing like gravy can sometimes be. It dripped with lusciousness without causing that over-full feeling and soaked the rice under the chicken nicely. Add bread and butter and I couldn’t help but to eat as slowly as possible to savour every bite. It’s fun how some of these French recipes become an accomplishment, you have to try them out!

It’s at these times that we feel like we can really go travel anywhere. Sure, we weren’t in France, but we were acting French. French peasant food with array of fresh breads, cheese and salads, beautiful red Burgundy and a table of friends. At once, we are transported to a new culture and loving every minute of it.

A bien tôt! Salut!

Hautes Cotes de Nuits

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Frei Brothers and Lionel Vatinet

Hors d'OeuvresTuesday night last week, my dad and I went to La Farm Bakery for the new book promotion and signing for Lionel Vatinet, the master baker at La Farm in Cary. Lionel (Lee-uhn-nell) is a fabulous baker and now has given us all his secrets from the bakery and restaurant! On Friday, I had a housewarming party that I wanted to attend with hors d’oeuvres and chose a recipe from Lionel’s new book, “A Passion for Bread.” I found the perfect treat, the Asparagus Tartin. From all the hustle and bustle of the weekend, I decided not to do a Sunday night dinner, but will reflect on the process and taste of this tartin and the wine I had at the party.

The asparagus tartin started with asiago – parmesan bread; with giant chunks of parmesan sticking in and through the bread I knew it was a good start. The bread was then to be spread with softened, sautéed shallots full of garlicky-oniony flavour. (Those are scientific descriptions by the way!) Atop the shallots, torn fresh mozzarella was laid with dollops of olive tapenade bursting with saltiness to help boost the mozzarella. Then the recipe called for two small stalks of blanched asparagus bound to the tartin with wonderful 15 month aged Comté cheese (a French version of Swiss Gruyere, hard by light and nutty). These ingredients were broiled until the cheese was bubbling and the bread was crispy on the edges. BUT WAIT… we were not done… oh no. On top of this I was to add dollops of goat cheese, torn prosciutto, a quartered marinated artichoke, a roasted tomato and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Ok now I’m done. It was a work of art and really. dang. good.

I brought a bottle of Prosecco with me as I could think of nothing else to accompany all of the flavours and ingredients as well. Though I never got to taste my creation with the Prosecco, I knew it would have been fabulous. Instead, I was served Frei Brothers Zinfandel 2010; not a bad substitute I must admit. I’d only ever had the Chardonnay and knew Frei Brothers made reputable wine. The Zinfandel was just as lovely with deep notes of dark fruited jam and spice. The tannin dried the mouth just enough and all the food around was a nice escape. This wine is a great fall/winter wine; it’s warm and inviting and loved by many preferences of red drinkers. In short, great for a party.

So even though there was no Sunday night dinner, I know I enjoyed making something new. I hope you’ll find yourself diving into a new recipe too. Just to try it! Why not… you never know what kind of magic you’ll make.

Bring on the holidays!

(Clicking on the underlined link leads to the website and more information)

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Five Blocks, Pinot Noir – Lúmos

Lumos Wine Well, here we are Wednesday and hadn’t made the Sunday meal post yet. Ah sure, it seems easy to write a blog continuously, but sometimes life really gets in the way. These long days are making my brain shut down and all I think about are these Sunday dinners. They have begun to bring together our family, our love of wine/food and of course centering our thoughts. What do you think about when you’re cooking or baking? Everything else going on in your life? Not me, I think about the recipe, what ingredient comes next, how will it look when it comes out. Then it’s done and nothing has really turned out the way you wanted it to, but the Taste! The taste makes it all worth it.

This Sunday’s menu: Stuffed portobello mushrooms with roasted brussels sprouts and lemon bars
Paired with: Five Blocks, a Pinot Noir from Oregon from a Winery called Lúmos 2011

As I’ve previously touched on, nothing went the way I wanted it to. I baked the mushroom caps first and they shrunk to Portobello Mushroomswhat looked like little tiny stones on parchment paper. When I turned them over they were as flat as pancakes… how does one stuff a pancake?? Instead, I used them like a mushroom tostada piling my mixture of cannelini beans, wilted kale, herbs and prosciutto on the cap; topped then with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and baked until crispy. (Notice the un-stuffed-ness of the mushroom??)

The brussels sprouts were roasted in olive oil and balsamic glaze until done, easy. It was my dad’s birthday on Monday so I wanted to make his favourite dessert, but I was trying to keep it a secret. This was extremely hard to do as everyone was in the kitchen and they were all secretly wondering why I was making a shortbread crust and had 5 lemons? In the end, everything was delicious. It really had great flavour and the lemon bars came out of the oven right on time.

Pinot NoirFor this meal I chose a Pinot Noir from Oregon. 1. Mushrooms pair very nicely with Pinot Noir because of their earthiness and because the mushroom can stand up to a red wine. 2. Oregon is known for the earthiest of Pinot Noir. This time I went to Sip… a wine store in Cary to pick out my wine. I had my dad come with me to choose which one he wanted. The store had about 200 bottles of wine in it, there were about 4 from Oregon and 2 that were Pinot Noir; it took my dad about 30 minutes to choose. Typical eh?

The Five Blocks was aged in French Oak for 15 months. It was said to be more earthy than the other one in the store.  It had dark fruit flavours and lovely spice. I didn’t pick much up on the earthy side when I first tasted it. To me it was much more bright than I expected. The tannin was medium and smoothed by the overall meal. The wine paired nicely with the portobello mushroom, not so much with the lemon bar 🙂

I guess all that really matters in the end is the effort we put into something to make someone else happy. The more we do for someone else, the more we find we want to do. Sitting at the table with our food and wine, room dimly lit by candles and filled with conversation and laughter. Who could pass that up?

Lemon Bars I couldn’t.

Happy Birthday dad.

Salut!

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Tradition Domaine Riesling – Mittnacht-Klack

Mittnacht-Klack Sunday Night’s Diner: Seared Pork Chops topped with Homemade Applesauce and Roasted Potatoes

I started on a health kick when I returned from my last trip. While I was away I ate however I wanted; chips, ham, beef, bread from Ireland, fried cheese, kabobs and pastries from Turkey and giant pretzels from Germany. Sure, it was delicious, but I really needed to back off, especially because we have all of those things in America and worse – they aren’t as good so you feel like you need twice as much!

Well here I am off white breads and fries and I’m really feeling the pain. On Thursday I had made some homemade applesauce. There is hardly any added sugar in it, but it just smells and tastes sweet. I took a bunch of sliced apples, skin on and boiled them down with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. This got me thinking of pork chops. I just love the flavours of apple and pork together. Pork chops and apple is such a fall meal too; it’s warm and hearty and decadent. My idea for the potatoes spawned from my NEED for fries, but I couldn’t have them! So I chopped an onion and potatoes and threw them in a casserole dish and baked the crap out of them. I added some cheesy pull apart bread for those that could have it because I thought cheddar and apples – who can go wrong with that.

I chose a dry Alsacian … Alsation – well it was from Alsace – Riesling, from Raleigh Wine Shop. I thought a Riesling from this area would work the best because I didn’t want sweet, but I love the taste of Riesling with white meats and light tasting foods (potatoes, apples). There was barely any smell to it, but the taste was excellent. Medium-bodied for a Riesling, enough weight in the mouth and the citrus worked nicely with the meal. As my family tasted it, we agreed that the meal was making the wine taste better. The flavour of the pork and spiced apples help create the roundness of the wine – to complete it.

For those who think all whites are bad and also that they should be left to summer, I must implore you to change your Riesling Winemind. German whites aren’t harvested in the summer, they are barely grown in any heat at all – it’s cold up North. Although this is a French wine, it takes on the nature of it’s German neighbor – it is great with fall foods, it’s dry and light. It doesn’t even need to be chilled all that much, in fact ours was probably around 40° F. I fear any colder and we might have lost valuable taste. Anyways, that’s just my spiel, wines should get equal tasting!

On the back of the wine, there is a nice little anecdote. It only makes me want to visit the lands between France and Germany more where Alsace resides. It’s an area that has been fought over many times and has resulted in becoming a wonderful mix of cultures. I hope to one day visit and walk from one country to the other, I hear it’s beautiful.

Salut my friends.

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Truant Zinfandel – Four Vines

ZinfandelThere nothing quite like Sunday night dinners with the family and the few here in North Carolina is really only half of mine. For the next few weeks I’m going to plan, buy, create and blog about a dish and wine pairing randomly chosen. (Well, not too random, I’ll choose the varietal) I’m going to pick a dish and the varietal I believe to pair nicely with the food, then go and choose a wine from one of our fabulous North Carolina owned and operated wine stores.

Trying new wines is one of the ways we learn more about wine. There is something to be said for finding our favourites and always buying those, but new wines are being made everyday! Our flavour profiles change as well. One day you may not like beets and the next you find you love them. Beets have an earthy flavour, which could in turn change your love of earthy tasting wines. It happens!

I’ll be doing these Sunday night dinners until Thanksgiving. Hopefully you’ll learn something new, either about wine, about food or about yourself. Let’s get started.

Dad and Bro’s 3 Meat Chili – paired with “Truant” Zinfandel – Four Vines, California 2010

I never really liked chili until I had my father/brother’s recipe. It’s got ground beef, chunks of sirloin steak and italian sausage. It might even have chorizo, who really knows… It also has strange ingredients like chocolate and espresso powder, but there is just something about it that makes it the epitome of comfort food. With a little cheddar cheese and cornbread or like last night we had blue corn chips; it just screams home.

I knew that the chili was going to be made so after work I ran over to Great Grapes in Cary. I had forgotten they were have a huge sale and wine tasting, but managed to slip in and out pretty easily. It really is Great! now that they have more room with that newly built other side. I walked in and found the Zinfandel section, I knew I needed fruit forward, depth of flavour and a medium amount of tannin. (Fruit because of the chocolate and the spiciness. Depth of flavour to mingle with the chili’s depth and tannin to melt with all the meat.)  I chose two different kinds, Truant and another from the same area, California – chili is such an American food and California has the best zins. I asked Lisa, a lovely woman I’ve spoken with before about wine, which she thought would better handle spice and stand up to the intense flavours in the chili – Truant.

Truant is very new the Four Vines, formerly without a name, now fits nicely in their line. On the bottle they describe Zinfandel“Truant” as a student who intentionally steps away from compulsory schooling without authorized leave or explanation. As Four Vines describes it on their website, “someone who slips away from the confines of everyday routine.” Four Vines is a cool winery because they use grapes from all over and don’t simply pick from one appellation*. In this case Four Vines uses grapes from all over California to make Truant, it also blends other grapes with the main grape, “zinfandel.” Truant is 77% Zinfandel, 13% Syrah, 5% Petite Sirah, 3% Barbera and 2% Sangiovese.

Tasting notes from the website are dead on, “On the nose there are dark berry notes and spicy notes from oak aging. The wine drinks of juicy blackberry, ripe plums and a touch of blueberry. Generous in fruit flavors, plenty of structure and a velvety finish.” I loved that this wine wasn’t too spicy because it didn’t try to overpower the chili. It also cooled the palate and increased the underlying hints of cumin, sausage and sweetness of the tomatoes. I thought this was a good wine and good varietal for chili because they worked so well together!

If you’re going to be serving chili as we move into these Winter months, choose a wine to complement the chili’s good aspects – whether that be intense spice, intense flavour, lots of earthy beans or more beef. Whatever you’re chili is like, it’s hard to lose with a nice Californian Zinfandel.

*Also from the website if you were curious as to where in California the grapes were grown. “Grapes from vineyards in Paso Robles, Mendocino County, Cucamonga Valley, Lodi, Amador County and Russian River Valley go into Truant. Our Old Vine vineyard sources typically range from 30 to 100 years in age.”

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Wine Tasting Tweetup

Say that three times fast! Well, it’s almost been a week and I’ve finally collated all the information that Simon Tyrrell provided. I’ll leave out a lot of the bits about what the vineyards look like so that you can view them for yourselves!

I suppose I should start from the beginning. At the end of July a good friend of mine, @nmcgivney gave me the idea of doing a tweetup including wine. A tweetup is when twitter users get together to socialise and chat. Seems ironic, but honestly it’s great to actually meet the people you’re exchanging tweets with! Either way, I contacted Emma Tyrrell from @the_WineStore (specialising in Rhone Valley wines)  to see if she would be interested in hosting such an evening. In just a few weeks with the help of @ElyWineBars and @IBrosnan (Ian Brosnan is the Wine manager at Ely) we were upon a very special evening. This was the first evening of its kind and I think we were all kind of wondering what was going to happen!

The deal: Wine tasting with 5 wines and a few bits of bread. A wonderfully in-depth talk from Emma’s other half, Simon and a main course with 2 glasses of wine for just 30 euro.

The wine:
Ventoux ‘Persia 2010, Domain de Fondreche
A wine from the Southern Rhone region, vines in limestone and clay, this wine had medium body and was medium-high in alcohol. Flavours from this wine were honey, stone and salty. The wine smelled as it tasted and though salty seems like a strange smell, it did come through on the palate. Only 10% Viognier, the wine was crisp and delicious.

Viognier de Rosine 2010, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Domaine M. et S. Ogier d’Ampuis
Viognier is one of my favourite varieties of wine. It always has so much to offer and is loved by so many. This winery begun in the West Rhone region. Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes means ‘Country Wine from the Rhone Hills.’ The wine has low acidity and medium body with flavours of apricot and fruit. Interestingly enough the wine-makers keep 1/3 of the wine in a tank and 2/3 in barrels. When brought back together, the wine’s characteristics shine through.   We were also able to try the 2007 vintage as well and found it to be too oxidized, lighter and the alcohol stuck out a little too much. White wine doesn’t age too well and we found that was the case here.

Syrah ‘L’Ame Soeur’ 2007, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Domaine M. et S. Ogier d’Ampuis
‘L’Ame Soeur’ or ‘Kindred Spirit’ was probably my favorite. Aged 18 months, this wine from the Southwest side strictly slate and rock, was almost like a Cabernet Franc. The tastes on the palate were black pepper and black currant. There was smoke and less fruit on the nose. The skin of the grape holds the tannin and here the skins were macerated more to release more tannin. This Syrah was so drinkable I wish I had it all to myself!

Chateauneuf du Pape 2008, Clos des Papes
We all recognise this name, but do we all know the background? Simon told us that when the French pope came to be, he decided he wanted to move the Vatican to a new site in France. Now Chateauneuf is the 3rd largest produced wine in France, but you should really know the producer or you could end up with a bad wine. Chateauneuf uses 13 varietals of which 5 are white. Not all varietals need to be used in making of the wine, but there does have to be a minimum amount of Grenache used.  This wine had lower tannin, lower acidity and was higher in alcohol. The nose smelled of bright fruit and Indian spice (that came from Simon and he hit that smell right on the nose.. ba da chi!) The palate was raisin, dark fruit, black cherry and plum and incidentally enough… Indian spice. Aged in oak casks for 18-24 months, the wine was very nice and round. These wines can be expensive so know what you buying!

Wine with dinner:
Vacqueyras ‘Un Sang Blanc’ 2006, Domaine le Sang des Cailloux
Flavours: Peach, vanilla and honey. The wine was light and refreshing and went very well with my main course of chicken thigh with potatoes and green beans in a creamy olive sauce. Lots of flavour and acidity from the wine went together nicely.

Crozes-Hermitage ‘Equisse’ 2010, Domaine des Hauts Chassis
Flavours: Dark fruit, vanilla, pepper, soil, smoke. The wine was bright and full of dark fruit with low acidity and low alcohol. Very easy to drink 🙂

Too give you an idea of the locations…
South in Green from what we tasted: Vacqueyras, Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Ventoux
North in orange/red: Crozes-Hermitage, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes

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