I’m not an “in”experienced Sherry drinker… I just haven’t experienced Sherry for all it has to offer… until recently.
I did know that “true” Sherry is always from Jerez, in Southwest Spain… but who knew that a nice light fino or briny Manzanilla could easily take the place of that Muscadet I had on reserve to go with my oysters on a half shell? Or that a nutty Amontillado or for that matter, an often more scarce Palo Cortado, could pair just as well as an off-dry Vouvray with my chicken Biryani!?
Recently, Manish and I participated in a Sherry and cheese pairing class at Murray’s Cheese Shop and literally opened our eyes to the world of Sherry! Kerin Auth was the moderator extraordinaire as she knows everything there is to know about Jerez! Her exclusively Spanish wine shop, Tinto Fino, has the best inventory of Sherry available on the east coast!
My favorite from the tasting was the Valdespino Contrabandista Amontillado – Mostly palomino fino with a touch of pedro jiminez grapes… chalky soils… average aging is ten years… nutty, toffee-sweet tones with great acidity! (Available at Tinto Fino)
And here is one that both Manish and I are loving right now… The La Bota de Palo Cortado #34 – Palo Cortado is a style of Sherry that offers the best of “both worlds…” the elegance of amontillado with the power and structure of the oloroso! Rare and delicious!
We at 56 just started carrying some noteworthy Sherry (La Bota 34 being one of them) and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time that the trend will catch on. So, although I may be 2 and a half months late to participate in Sherry Week (NYC hosted many events at the end of October honoring Sherry at each and every one,) please join me in MY Sherry Revolution. Not trying to be political or controversial – just trying to open people’s eyes and palates to Sherry as an alternative to your every day wine pairing… Try it, you’ll thank me 🙂
I lied. I promised to be more diligent about updating my blog and posting several times a month. And I didn’t adhere to that promise.
For the 3 followers that I may still have, I apologize. But I do have some very noteworthy experiences to document… So here is a very quick recap of some of my favorites from the months of May through December…
We traveled quite a bit in these few months – local family getaways and overseasadventures! Some of my favorite shots…
We ate a lot too! Visited the likes of Il Buco in NYC, Ryland Inn in Whitehouse, NJ, Claire’s in Hardwick, VT, A Toute Huerre in Cranford, NJ, and La Vara in Brooklyn… Here are a few photos that made the cut – most of these are taken in Spain…
Can’t forget about all of the wonderful libations and pairings… everything from hand crafted Gin from a Beekeeper I now call a friend, to some fabulously oxidative styles of vino that I have grown to love… Here are some favorites!
“Each year on this day, I think about my world and how you make it a better place for me. I then resolve that I can’t love you more than I already do… And the following year I realize I am wrong. Thank you for your support and your love and being part of something to always look forward to. Happy sweet sixteen and here’s to many many more!”
To celebrate 16 years of marriage, Manish and I spent the night in a gorgeous B&B in Princeton, and had dinner at our favorite… elements. We participated in a special dinner as guests of Chefs Scott Anderson, Mike Ryan, and their team at elements with guest chefs Curtis Duffy, Alex Talbot, and John and Karen Shields. The textures, colors, and remarkable flavors of the meal were unmatched by any other we’ve experienced. The wine pairings by Justin Kuruvilla, wine director and sommelier were divine. Here is the recap of our incredibly memorable meal…
You don’t need to justify an occasion to serve these “fancy shmancy” little puffed delights! This is one of my favorite “no nonsense make ahead” recipes that I go to any time I need a fun starter course for a meal. I usually plate the souffle aside a light salad – My favorite being a mache or mixed green salad with blood oranges (when in season.) I make a vinaigrette out of the fresh orange juice. The citrus pairs nicely with the tang and creaminess of the goat cheese, and I always make sure to have a Sancerre or other Loire Sauvignon Blanc on hand to pour alongside. Enjoy!
Goat Cheese Souffles – makes 10 individual souffles
7 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 thyme sprigs
3 1/2 tablespoons flour
8 oz goat cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
7 egg whites (best if kept at room temperature for a bit – they will whip up much quicker this way)
you will also need: 10 ramekins (3/4 cup capacity)
Use 3 1/2 tablespoons of butter to coat 10 ramekins. Combine the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture and dust each ramekin, shaking out the excess. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring the milk and thyme sprigs to a low simmer in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Once simmering, take off heat, and let thyme infuse into the milk for 5 minutes. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, and whisk until combined. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the thyme infused milk (not the sprigs – discard those) slowly in a steady stream, and whisk constantly. Slightly increase the heat. Whisk the mixture and bring to a simmer, about 5 minutes. Mixture should be thickening up. Add 4 ounces goat cheese and take off the heat. Whisk mixture until melted and smooth. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Gradually add the egg yolks, whisking until combined. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Beat egg whites in a large bowl until stiff (not dry.) I mix in about 1/3 of the whites into the warm souffle base about now. Then I fold in the rest of the whites and the remaining goat cheese. Divide the “batter” into each prepped ramekin, and place it in a large metal baking pan with 2 inch sides. I use my turkey roasting pan for this. Pour just enough hot water into the pan (being careful not to pour any water on top of the souffles!) to come up about 1/2 way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve immediately (in the ramekins all puffed and gorgeous) or do what I do when I entertain… I un-mold each souffle and place in a buttered glass baking dish. I keep these refrigerated until I am ready to serve. I then reheat them at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. They puff back up slightly and are just as delicious!
As Thanksgiving is quickly approaching this month, I reflect on some of the people in my life that I am truly thankful for. I am lucky. There are a lot of people in my life that inspire, encourage, and support me to be myself and follow my passion. These individuals are the reason that I have the confidence and perseverance to tackle some of the most challenging situations.
Last week, I was surprised by some of my favorite people at 55 Main in Flemington, NJ. A bunch of family and friends decided to put together a little evening in my honor – to congratulate me on my certification. Surprised, honored, flattered, touched… I can’t even find the words to express how I felt when I walked through the restaurant and saw those familiar faces clapping and “woot wooting” for me.
The menu was thoughtful, and the wine pairings made the execution even more spot on. Joe helped some of the crowd with some wine pairings (Thx JB) … so here was the menu/pairings!
Sashimi of American Red Snapper with warm sesame oil/ wakame cucumber salad/ ponzu aioli
Paired with 2008 Domaine Pinson Freres Chablis Les Clos and Parigot Rose Brut
Lobster Pot Pie with puff pastry, shellfish cream, autumn vegetables, yukon gold potatoes
Paired with 2009 Domaine Thibert Pouilly Fuisse in Magnum
Crisp Falafel Fritter with hummus, cucumber mint salsa, pita, greens
Paired with Kim Crawford SB and a lovely Greek white wine that I can’t remember the name of – forgive or please fill in the blank!
Pan Roasted Duck breast with sliced foie gras, sweet potato hash, and dried fig demi-glace
2006 Argyle Pinot Noir
Filet Mignon au Poivre with mushroom peppercorn pan sauce and glazed carrots
1999 Mas Estela Vinya Selva de mar Emporda
Pumpkin Spice Cake with apple fritter, caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream
What a fabulous evening…. Thank you (in no particular order) Shef, Umang, Jigna, Piyush, Sejal, Rick, Priti, Chirag, Meera, Karteek!!!! LOVE!
Manish treated me to the BEST birthday dinner that I have experienced in my 39 years. He didn’t need to ask where I wanted to go, he just made the reservations and made it happen on a quiet, Sunday evening. We brought our bottle of 1997 Salon blanc de blancs to elements in Princeton, and relied on Justin for the rest of our pairings. It felt like Chef Mike and his team catered the meal to please us specifically, as all of the ingredients that they used in the evening’s chef’s tasting were among our favorites.
I started off with a drink called the “Hot Mama” and Manish enjoyed his Maple Loch. The hot mama was one of Mattias’ concoctions that he created for Mother’s Day. He took fresh ripe strawberries when they were in season, and put them through a steam evaporator, extracting as much flavor as he could. He took this “strawberry consomme” and reserved it to use throughout the summer. He added the juice of thai chili, some sugar, some rum, some simple syrup and some lime juice to the strawberry essence and then topped it off with a little sparkling wine. Delicious. Can you imagine if this much work went into my cocktail, what dinner was going to be like!? (Photos below can be clicked on to see larger images. They are condensed in this post for spacial reasons.)
Our amuses included a melon soup with fried jalapeno; a tuna tartare with cucumber and shiso, and a fabulous caesar salad custard that was brought out to us in a hollowed out egg shell. The custard was on the bottom of the shell (we had to scoop it out) and an incredibly aromatic and flavorful herb (salad) broth was delicately poured on top.
The composed salad showcased heirloom tomatoes, scallops, mangalitsa pork, and assorted melons and was accompanied by a basil vinaigrette, olive oil powder, and elderflower. So refreshing and balanced.
The next three courses highlighted products of the sea, always a showstopper here at elements… Kindai tuna with shaved radishes, green tomato puree, locally foraged mushrooms, turmeric cake, and honey. Exotic and rich flavors blended to perfection. Swordfish was accompanied by a carrot puree, a pistachio puree, some spelt, and roasted bell peppers. A pan seared sea bass was bathed in a coconut curry with boudin blanc puree and apples – divine!! We were offered a “snack” of a japanese omelet with slightly seared tuna on top. The omelet was more of a thin crepe style and rolled up… very cool!
The next three courses were the the heartier focus of the evening. The foie gras course was presented to us with pieces of brined foie, seared foie, foie sponge cake, black olive powder, and shiso. What an incredible marriage of flavors – I never thought brine and foie would work so well together! Next was a perfectly cooked portion of mangalitsa pork, shiso, and charred bell peppers. Our last savory course was the wagyu shabu shabu with locally foraged mushrooms. Delicious – sort of an individual “hot pot” cook your own meat sort of thing. We also were served a “snack” during these savory offerings. A small piece of cod with sauteed local mushrooms and creme fraiche.
The sweet endings to the meal were a tasting menu all on its own! First we were presented with a palate cleanser style course… Wild plum soup, chili sorbet, melons, and cream. The seasonal produce at its height of freshness was shining through – absolutely stunning.
Next was the epoisse custard with sweet onion and nectarine ice cream. Justin had just paired this with Dogfish Head Punkin Ale a few days earlier for a beer dinner. The flavors were divine and the perfect blend of savory and sweet. If I were to choose a favorite dessert, this would be it!
However, the most attractive plate on the menu was this next one… Chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate shell, vanilla ice cream, berry sorbet, and a heartfelt message.
Thank you, Manish… and thanks to elements for a most memorable birthday meal.
I don’t know if it was the fresh picked jersey tomatoes, the incredibly aromatic home-grown herbs, or the cook’s loyalty to the recipe that made this meal a bit more multi-dimensional than usual…. but this was the best “Kheema” I’ve had in a long time, and the perfect pairing to go alongside. Kheema is something that my kids call “Indian Sloppy Joes” or “Indian style Chili.” It’s usually some sort of finely chopped or ground meat cooked with a bunch of aromatic spices and vegetables, served usually with naan. I had to blog about my meal, because last week, Manish made the most INCREDIBLE Kheema I’ve ever tasted.
Yes, that’s right… I said Manish. He actually taught me how to cook years ago, but claims that he “forgot” ever since I’ve honed my skills. Well, he was the one that was cooking this time. And, instead of what I call the “Indian mom technique” of estimating the ingredients and never jotting them down so as to remember how to make it the exact same way over and over again (the way my moms cook and the way that I often cook,) he followed a recipe to the TEE. The resulting dish had depth, such flavor, and such vibrancy. I can credit the seasonal produce to a certain degree, but let’s face it… Manish deserves a lot of the credit! His finesse and loyalty to adhere to the recipe was much appreciated 🙂 My lesson learned: some things are better left un-touched (ie don’t mess with a good recipe!) Here it is!
Kheema Matar (Chopped Meat and Peas) from the late Ismail Merchant’s Passionate Meals
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
1 1/2 lbs meat (I have used ground chicken or ground turkey OR I have chopped the meat very fine – you can alternatively use beef or lamb but the cooking times will increase slightly so as to cook the meat through thoroughly)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup green peas (preferably fresh but if frozen, thawed)
handful of fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Heat the oil in a saute’ pan and cook the onion until golden brown. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, salt, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods. Cook all the spices with the onions for about 5 minutes over a low flame. Add the meat, stirring occasionally until it starts to brown. Add the yogurt and cook for another 10 minutes. Now add the tomatoes and peas. Cover the saute’ pan and simmer for another 7-15 minutes. That is a large span, but the lower end is for chicken, higher end for lamb/beef. Serve garnished with coriander and with naan.
I had the 2010 Les Grands Caves Saint Roch Vouvray with this meal. Such a perfect pairing! Vibrant stone fruits and amazing minerality keep this wine perfectly balanced. A touch of ripeness paired perfectly with the heat of the Kheema. As you may have noticed, I am a self proclaimed Chenin Blanc fanatic…. so this is a keeper for me – and such a steal at $16.50 a bottle when it’s available at 56 Degree Wine!
It’s July. It’s hot. There’s nothing I enjoy more this time of year than entertaining on our deck (or being a guest at an outdoor soiree,) sipping something clean and crisp, and grilling (and eating) some sort of funky creation that was inspired by a local and fresh ingredient.
This month’s perfect pairing was inspired by our latest food battle. I found myself re-creating this particular dish a few times after the cook off. I have tried several different wines with this, so I will list all three as “perfect pairings.” None of them are pink nor are they crisp…. but they are juicy and perfect with the dish. Enjoy!
Grilled Flatbreads with Raspberry Guajillo Sauce, Smoked Duck, and Ricotta Salata
For the Sauce
2 cups boiling water
3 oz dried guajillo chilies – stemmed and seeded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups fresh raspberries
3 Naan flatbreads (click here for recipe or you can purchase ready made)
1 smoked duck breast, sliced (click here for recipe or you can purchase ready made at gourmet specialty stores or D’Artagnan)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
3 to 4 oz shaved ricotta salata
For the sauce: Place dried chilies in boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes, until chilies are softened. Reserving the soaking water, remove the softened chilies and place them in a blender with the garlic, and blend with a few tablespoons of the soaking water so as to form a paste. Place two teaspoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan, and bring to a medium high heat. Add the chili paste, and saute until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the raspberries and stir to combine. Add all of the soaking liquid and bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture on low for about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the berry sauce mixture to a blender, and blend until combined. Strain the mixture into a clean saucepan, pressing on and then discarding the solids. Simmer the mixture until slightly thickened, and is just about 1 cup. Season with salt and set aside.
Prep your grill to moderately high heat (charcoal or gas.) Brush your Naans with olive oil, and then top with about 1/4 cup of sauce on each bread. Top with the thin slices of smoked duck breast, then the thinly sliced onion, then the cilantro leaves, and then the shavings of ricotta salata. Grill until the cheese is slightly browned, and the flatbreads are completely heated through, about 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve, passing more of the sauce if desired.
The three wines that I have tried with this and in my opinion, were very successful due to the consistent berry theme throughout are:
2006 Coume del mas Coullieure Schiste – Berries, smoke, and undertones of spice and leather make this wine a perfect match to the flatbread
2009 Domaine Georges Vernay Cotes du Rhone Sainte Agathe – Again, the smoke and the berries played the main role of this pairing, with some lovey black pepper at the end
NV Domaine Parigot Bourgogne Mousseaux Rouge Brut – A sparkling but structured Pinot Noir that can stand up to all sorts of game and many meats
I am often asked “so what’s your favorite wine?” Or if I’m at the shop “show me your favorite bottle.” I have many favorite bottles, and I find it challenging to pick just one. My response is always the same. “Well, it depends on the time of year and what I’m eating.”
Here, I share some of my favorite “pairings” that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing recently. (Feel free to click on the food photos for larger images. I reduced the sizes in all cases just to fit well in this post)
Herb Roasted Pheasant with NV Domaine Parigot Bourgogne Mousseaux Rouge Brut
I was lucky enough to acquire a couple of wild pheasants for this meal. This sparkling wine has rich and juicy fruit, a dry finish, and enough structure to hold up to the game. I was told by my colleague to “let it go still” but the wine is too delicious to hold untouched in my glass…. Oh well.
Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallop, Lemon Oil, and Caviar with 2008 Dmne Gilbert Picq et Ses Fils Chablis Dessus La Carriere
Cauliflower is something that confused me when it came to pairings. Instead of focusing on the base, I focused my attention to all of the additions to the soup for my pairing. The fruit from this vineyard site result in a wine that has gorgeous minerality to it but also possesses some riper qualities making the mouthfeel a tad richer than you would expect out of a Chablis. The acidity of the lemon and the brininess of the caviar paired perfectly with the mineral and racy tones of the wine; while the richness of the seared scallop complimented the fruit and weight of it. It was truly an ideal pairing!
Caramelized Onion and Duck Confit Flatbread with 2009 Domaine Georges Vernay Cotes du Rhone Sainte Agathe
I wasn’t sure about this pairing. And even after loving the two together, I’m still unsure as to WHY it worked so well. But it did. The flatbread was topped with caramelized onion, duck confit, fresh herbs, and fontina and asiago cheeses. The wine is so unique being a red varietal from the Condrieu region. It is a really elegant Syrah with its almost floral aromatics but still possesses the dark fruit and the smoky and peppery tones that you may be expecting. All of the flavors married well, making me one happy gal.
Shahjahani Biryani with 2009 Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett
We order the Shahjahani Biryani from Neelam (Berkeley Heights) regularly. SO regularly that the folks at the restaurant now “know” us and try to throw in some other things when we order just to show us that they DO know how to cook other types of Indian food. 🙂 The 09 Donnhoff Oberhauser Kabinett is the perfect pairing. Showing fabulous acidity, the wine stays fresh but still contains enough RS to provide some relief from the heat of the spices of the dish.
Seared Hake “almost” with 1985 Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux
We went to elements recently (I know, so unlike us to dine there) and they served us this lovely dish. Seared Hake with an almond puree, olive oil powder, and if I remember correctly, some sort of either acacia, quince, or tropical fruit accompaniment. I forgot to take notes, so can’t be certain of that final ingredient. What I am certain of though is that the 85 Clos du Bourg would have been the perfect wine to drink with this dish. It’s as though Chef Scott Anderson created the dish for the wine. Tones of marzipan, and acacia round out the weight but the finish still showcases lovely acidity. Somewhat off-dry in style, this wine would have been perfect with the Hake…. had it not been corked. 🙁 The dish was fabulous – so complex, and the flavors melded so well. Subtle flavors of almond matched the beautiful taste and texture of the fish. And the brightness to the dish was brought out with that honey or fruit component. (This will bother me for days now!) The olive oil powder was a really neat touch too. Despite the fact that I never actually tasted the two together, I still had to publish it here because I thought the pairing was so spot on.