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“Crushing” on a different hue of wine…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10th, 2018 by nita – Be the first to comment

There’s something about ROSE’ season that puts a little bounce to my step and a slight sparkle in my eye. Maybe it’s the warm weather, the sunny skies, and the al fresco meals…. Whatever the reason, Rose’ makes me happy.

Every year as the winter months come to an end, we get the calls from distributors giving us the lists of the upcoming rose wines in their portfolios. And the launch is usually anywhere from end of March to early May. Some of the featured pinks last merely months due to low supply, while others will grace our racks until the new year.

I’m not one to say goodbye to the pink nectar once the Fall hits. No, I actually drink Rose’ all year round. I am a firm believer that rose (from a solid producer) is meant to pair well with foods (and moments!) in any season. After all, this is the juice of RED grapes with limited skin contact… You know the sayings – “yes way rose’,” “rose everyday,” “drink pink…” The list is endless.

Late this past Spring, I experienced a surprising “whoa!” moment with a wine that has a slightly different hue. It isn’t white… it isn’t red…. it isn’t pink. It’s ORANGE. Yes, you read that correctly – this copper-hued gem possesses all the qualities of a mineral driven and vibrant white, but with more texture and structure, making it a serious wine with flair! Instead of using red grapes with limited skin contact, this wine is made from a tradition white grape varietal. While versatile for all seasons, the hue screams “FALL” and it’s the perfect pour for a crisp autumn evening.

Di Lenardo Venezia Giulia Pinot Grigio Ramato Gossip 2017 - Massimo Di Lenardo is extremely well respected in Friuli and produces benchmark wines at an affordable price. Since 1987, Massimo has made wines exclusively from his own hand harvested vineyards. The Pinot Grigio grape is naturally a “grey colored” berry, and Massimo wanted to showcase the diversity of it by making different styles of the wine. The “GOSSIP” Pinot Grigio exhibits a light copper color with bright clarity due to the 18 hours of skin maceration.  Light wild berries, dried rose petal, and marzipan contribute to a beautiful balance of robust fruit and crisp acidity on the palate. The next time you reach out to grab that bottle of pink or white, adjust your focus on this beautiful bottle of orange wine.

Charmed by Chenin…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10th, 2018 by nita – Be the first to comment

An impromptu trip to the farmers market a few weeks ago resulted in a vibrant, fresh, and delightful dinner with the family. We wanted to compliment a trip to the fishmonger with appropriate, seasonal sides. Everything screamed summer – from a gem lettuce salad with shaved radishes in a grainy mustard vinaigrette kissed with honey… to charred corn with aged feta, green onions, and chili… to tarragon dressed lobster salad in brioche buns! We ate well, but the one dish that “wowed the crowd” was the Corn dish.

I had an unoaked Chardonnay to pair with the meal, as I felt that the lobster rolls were begging for some yummy White Burgundy… But I also decided to open up one of my favorite Chenins from the Loire Valley. The mineral and citrus tones of the wine made for the “Pairing Hero” of the night!

Here’s the recipe, followed by the description of the wine that we had:

Charred Corn Salad with Green Onions, Chilies, and Aged Feta
Serves 8-10 as a side dish
Ingredients
8 ears of fresh white, yellow, or mixed corn
6 scallions, finely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 large (or 2 medium) jalapenos or serranos, seeded and minced
Small bunch cilantro, chopped (leaving bottom stems for another use)
8 oz (or more to taste) of barrel aged feta packed in water, drained (you can use Cotija cheese instead if you cannot find the barrel aged feta)
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional)
Aleppo Pepper (optional)
Kosher Salt

Remove the outer dried husks of the corn (not husking entirely – just the outer dry part) and cut the silk that is hanging off the top of each cob. Grill the corn in their husks on a prepared grill until they are charred in spots and cooked through. Let cool slightly.

While the corn is being grilled, start to prep the remaining ingredients if not already done and combine the scallions, garlic, chilies, and cilantro into a large serving bowl. When the corn has cooled slightly, take the husks off (as well as any corn silk that may have stuck onto the cobs) and cut the kernels off into a bowl (you can cut the corn directly into the bowl with the other ingredients to save cleaning an extra bowl. The corn will still be slightly warm.)

Mix the corn salad so that all of the ingredients are well combined. Now crumble the cheese and fold in gently. Add the mayo and Aleppo pepper if using (I find that the mayo gives it a slight richness and the Aleppo gives it a vibrant fruity heat without being too spicy.) Taste and add salt if needed.

The corn dish as well as the lobster rolls paired brilliantly with one of my favorite Chenin Blancs from the Saumur region in the Loire Valley. The sweetness of the corn brought out the slight acacia in the otherwise bone-dry wine…

Chateau de Breze Saumur Blanc Clos de Midi 2017 – The historic “hill of Breze” is where Chateau de Breze is located. It is the tuffeau limestone rock that makes up the soil in this region that gives the wines their unique balance between tension and generosity. 100% Chenin Blanc, this wine bears the freshness of a young Sancerre, but the unmistakable charm of Saumur Blanc. Beautiful and discrete tones of honey, dried apricot, lemon, and herbs… Dry and lovely, this is made for food…

Triple Melon Popsicles

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16th, 2016 by nita – Be the first to comment

The perfect summer time treat! Watermelon and lime; Cantaloupe and orange; and Honeydew and Mint – make for a refreshing snack! Kayla and I made these with our Zoku but alternate instructions are below…

Ingredients
1.5 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cups chopped mint
1 cup watermelon (1/2 inch cubes)
2 teaspoons lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup cantaloupe (1/2 inch cubes)
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 cup honeydew melon (1/2 inch cubes)

Make Simple Syrup

Combine sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a simmer until all of the sugar is dissolved. Set aside a third of the syrup and add mint leaves. Cool both batches of syrup to a room temperature (you may refrigerate as well. Strain the mint syrup before using.)

Make the Fruit Mixtures
Place watermelon in blender with lime zest, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of regular simple syrup. Blend until completely pureed/liquefied. Set aside.
Place cantaloupe in blender with orange zest, orange juice, and 2 tablespoons simple syrup. Blend until completely pureed/liquefied. Set aside.
Place honeydew in blender with 2 tablespoons mint syrup (strained.) Blend until completely pureed/liquefied. Set aside.

Assemble Pops in Zoku
Take your zoku base out of the freezer (it should be prepped for use. This recipe makes at least 6 popsicles.) Place the zoku sticks into each pop mold. You may need to re-mix the fruit mixtures at this point. Pour in watermelon mixture to approximately 1/3 of the way up. Let freeze in zoku base(s) for 7 minutes (you don’t need to put it back into the freezer yet.) Now pour the cantaloupe mixture in to about 2/3 of the way up and freeze for another 5 minutes (still ok to leave outside of freezer.) Last, pour the honeydew mixture to the top mark of the popsicle molds. Place in freezer and let freeze for about 5-10 minutes. Now you may remove the pops using your zoku popsicle extracter.

Assemble pops without a zoku
Use 6-8 paper dixie cups. Pour watermelon mixture evenly about 1/3 of the way up. Freeze for 40 minutes. Now pour the cantaloupe mixture to about 2/3 of the way up. Freeze for 20 minutes. Take the cups out of the freezer and place popsicle sticks through the middle of each cup. If the cantaloupe mixture is still loose, freeze for another 5 minutes. Now you can pour the honeydew mixture on top. Freeze for another hour or so. Cut away the cup from the popsicle and enjoy!

Let me know if you have questions!

Yummy Places – NYC edition

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2nd, 2014 by nita – Be the first to comment

So, I recently posted about some of my favorite NJ eating destinations. As most of my family and friends know, if given a choice, I will always opt to make the trip into Manhattan or Brooklyn for a nice meal. I’ve just always felt that the city had more to offer in every aspect – variety, quality, value, excitement… You get the point! Instead of listing my recommendations, I will list some of my favorite places in NYC and the dish(es) that lure(s) me back there, or that had me speechless. An asterisk next to any of the restaurants indicates that I found their wine list to be pretty interesting as well.

*Aldea – fun night out with east coast and west coast pals
Arroz de Pato (Rice, sofrito, duck confit, duck breast)

*A Voce – a “misunderstood” reservation at eleven madison re routed us here for a fabulous evening with our favorite Austin peeps
Octopus Carpaccio

Beauty & Essex – impromptu evening with the BIL and SIL; good for vegetarians
Chili Salted Shisito Peppers

*Boqueria – lots of fun tapas nights with friends
1. boquerones
2. paella

Brooklyn Fare – fun work outing… Too many dishes to choose from!
1. warm beet soup with hudson valley yogurt whip
2. Kumomoto oyster with grapefruit, creme fraiche, oyster juice gelee
3. seared scallop with squash puree, pork belly, pea shoots, black trumpet mushroom, and white truffle foam

Co. – Many family early dinners with BIL, SIL, kids, and nephews; good for vegetarians
1. Any vegetarian seasonal pie
2. meatballs

*Cookshop – a great Friday night with awesome friends
deviled eggs

*Corkbuzz -many fun nights with family and good friends;
1. beet chips with tzatziki
2. beef tartare
3. to die for crispy fingerling potatoes

Dovetail - a great bday celebration for SIL; great for vegetarians
Black garlic and Cauliflower base with grilled lamb

*Eleven Madison Park – our Austin friends whisked us away for a night of indulgence! loved the entire menu; vegetarian tasting menu avail
1. carrot tartare
2. sturgeon with sabayon and everything bagel crumble
3. roasted duck with huckleberries

Estela – snacks with friends and the hubby
salted cod and potato croquettes

*Hearth -anniversaries, birthdays, brunches, our GO TO spot!
1. gnocchi!
2. braised rabbit
3. spatchcock chicken
4. meatballs
5. everything!

Hundred Acres -brunches with the gang and intimate dinners with fam; good for vegetarians
ricotta fritters for brunch

*Il Buco – 40th bday dinner with great friends; good for vegetarians
1. kale salad
2. every pasta on their menu

Il Buco Alimentari – holiday dinner with the gang
cacio e pepe

*Lafayette – outside snacks and brunches with amazing ladies
1. Salad Nicoise
2. Roasted Beet Salad

La Vara – holiday dinner with the gang
1. huevos de cordoniz
2. albondigas

Little Prince – birthday dinner with hubby
ratatouille

Mehtaphor – fun nights out with girlfriends; good for vegetarians
Veg Street burger with Indian frites

*Momofuku Ssam Bar – lots of eating with friends that love to eat
1. Bo Ssam
2. Oysters
3. Pork Buns

Monument Lane – intimate lunch with SIL
sandwiches are yum

*Narcissa – fun evenings out with friends
carrot fries

*Nomad – dinner with BIL and SIL – great cocktails too!
1. buttered radishes
2. roast chicken with truffles

Perla – fun night out with the gang
beef cheek agnolotti

*Rouge et Blanc – date night with hubby and dinner with the gang
house made thick noodles

*Semilla – dinner with BIL and SIL; great for vegetarians
1. arancini with burdock
2. celery root papparadelle
3. shaved sunchokes

The Eddy – anniversary dinner with hubby
1. ricotta dumplings
2. bacon tater tots

The Little Owl – lunch with maya
meatball sliders

Toloache – lots of fun dinners with friends and fam; good for vegetarians
1. queso with huitlacoche
2. variety of ceviche

*Txikito – late night silliness
1. pipperak (blistered peppers)
2. krokettas

Uncle Boons – dinner with great friends
1. crab fried rice
2. “son in law” eggs

Yummy Places – Jersey edition

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27th, 2014 by nita – Be the first to comment

I’m asked at least half a dozen times a week about where I would recommend a friend or family member to go for a nice dinner in the local surrounding areas. I usually spend about an hour researching places and studying menus; creating lists of eateries that I know would be appropriate for said friend/family member. Well, now hopefully I can just refer them to this post, and we’ll all be more efficient. Because I’ve listed many places where our experience dates back to almost 5 years ago, I will not go into great detail about every establishment. Instead, where necessary, I’ll drop a few tidbits of info on why I love the joint. The “Veg friendly” note has been added next to the eateries that I believe went above and beyond and created fun, seasonal, and unique meatless options for more than one course (ie not just a crunchy salad or pasta.)

Ariane Kitchen & Bar, Verona, NJ
chef was on Top chef and is extremely talented; I know them from old space (Culinariane); hearty meat dishes and scallop dishes were always great

Arturo’s, Maplewood, NJ - Veg friendly
incredibly seasonal and fresh; menu changes weekly; BYO; known for their gourmet pizzas and garden fresh salads; amazing crust!

A Toute Heure, Cranford, NJ – Veg friendly
farm to table; source as much as they can locally; BYO; hearty rustic vibe; French inspired; Apple cake during holidays is off the charts

Elements, Princeton, NJ – Veg friendly but ask
5 Star dining in NJ; Chefs Anderson Ryan are rock stars; unique, innovative, seasonal, fresh, delicious. they push the boundaries; LOVE everything!

Fascino, Montclair, NJ – Veg friendly
excellent pasta; fun tasting menu; BYO

Jockey Hollow Kitchen and Bar, Morristown, NJ
excellent wine list that offers pours by the taste, glass, and bottle; fun vibe; seasonal and fresh food locally sourced (Oyster Room and Dining Room)

Mistral, Princeton, NJ – Veg friendly
little sister of elements; all small plates; great for sharing; again very unique and seasonal, flavorful combinations; BYO; menu always changing

Ninety Acres, Peapack, NJ – Veg friendly but ask
gorgeous restored carriage house on natirar estate; seasonal farm to table; great wine list

100 Steps, Cranford, NJ – Veg friendly
sister restaurant of A Toute Heure; focuses on raw bar items; small plates; BYO; delicious menu constantly changing

Pairings, Cranford, NJ
beautiful setting in downtown cranford; BYO; great food and great ambience

Pluckemin Inn, Bedminster, NJ
beautiful space; contemporary upscale American cuisine with a twist; excellent wine list

Restaurant Blu, Montclair, NJ
BYO; innovative menu with lots of small plates; great for sharing; unique flavors

Sette Cucina, Bernardsville, NJ
excellent Italian fare; homemade pasta; BYO

Shumi, Somerville, NJ
the freshest sushi you will ever taste in NJ, maybe anywhere! tell server your budget and that you rely on the chef’s choices – they will hook you up!

Thirty Acres, Jersey City, NJ
very thoughtful and seasonal menu; very artistic plating; shared plates; used to be BYO – but I think things have changed and they now have a liquor license, and are a tasting menu only establishment. i will definitely check them out again soon

Rose’ in September

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10th, 2014 by nita – Be the first to comment

I’m crazy about the wine I’m about to tell you about. I’ve been drinking it all summer long, but it wasn’t until the temperatures dropped slightly and I could feel that crispness in the air that I could really appreciate all this little gem has to offer. The producer (Maxime Magnon) labels this wine as a rose’. If I were to taste this blindly, I probably would not assume rose’; in fact, I don’t think that I would be able to figure out the grape varietals or origin at all, as it is a unique style of wine from the region of Corbieres. But I do love this wine.

Maxime Magnon Corbieres Rose “Metisse” is a blend of cinsault, grenache noir, carignan, and grenache blanc. Like many of the vintners in the Corbieres region, Maxime approaches viticulture and vinification of his wines with the utmost respect for nature and the soil. He is a naturalist at heart, certified organic with biodynamic practices in his vineyard management. His vineyard land is comprised of mostly limestone and schist, making the terrain a very difficult one to farm. The yielding fruit has such complexity, because of the characteristics of the ground. All of his wines are aged in neutral barrels and they all, especially the rose’, are meant to have immediate approachability.

I love the bright cherry notes that I get on this wine; not as reminiscent of a rose’ as much as it is a light pinot noir. On the nose, I get berries, red cherry fruit, and some herbaceousness that I can’t exactly put my finger on. On the palate, I get a bowl of berries with some leafy tones. Definitely drier and higher acid than your typical fresh rose from Provence. I love the complexity, and the diversity of the wine. It will pair with everything from simple salads to light game.

This is the perfect sipper for the beginning of the Fall season… Still warm enough out to enjoy a rose’, but one with a little more structure and complexity will match the chill in the air as we approach the cooler months. I love pairing this with grilled salmon brushed with a little berry-chili glaze. There’s not a lot of heat, but the flavor of the chilies and berries together have great balance especially with the salmon.

Grilled Salmon with Guajillo Berry Glaze
Serves 4

3 oz dried guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded
2 cups boiling water
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups fresh berries (raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries work best)
2 tablespoons sugar
salt, to taste
4 (6 oz) salmon fillets (with skin)
oil, for brushing grill grates and fish
salt and pepper to taste

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 berries and stir to combine. Add all of the soaking liquid and sugar 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 divide the sauce equally into two bowls.

For the fish: Preheat your grill to high and lightly oil the grate. Pat the salmon dry, brush with oil, and then brush the flesh side of the four fillets with the sauce from one of the bowls that you’ve set aside. You should use the entire 1/2 cup. Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the grill and lower the heat to medium. Flip after 4 minutes, and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes (7-8 minutes total.)

Serve the salmon with extra sauce, if desired.

Battle Cacao – coming soon!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 11th, 2010 by nita – Be the first to comment

The most intense cook-off yet! Battle Cacao. More to come as soon as I tweak some of the photos!

I was “Serenaded” Twice in one Week!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17th, 2009 by nita – Be the first to comment

Silly title for a post, I know. But it’s true!

I attended a fabulous vocal performance a few Thursdays ago where my ridiculously talented friend, Sadia, “serenaded” us with her diva-esque voice. The first time I heard her sing was at an intimate gathering, where there was no need for microphones/etc. The acoustics in the room were enough. And her voice – tremendous. It’s amazing how such a strong and powerful tone can come out of a wee little thing…. but then again, the best things come in small packages… right? Ok, I’m full of corny remarks today… lol. To my delight, she serenaded birthday boy Joe with the song that I first heard her sing at the intimate gathering that I speak of above… “An older man is like an elegant wine.” Manish and I were honored and thrilled to be part of the lucky crowd there that evening. We are a couple of her biggest fans! :)

The very next evening, I was treated to dinner at “Serenade” in Chatham. See… now you get it! My incredibly generous and dear friend, Roshni, was the genius behind this surprise. What a delicious evening we enjoyed!

We started off with hibiscus martinis, and were told to eat the flower after we finished the libation. I don’t know why we didn’t think twice, but we did what we were told… and it was delicious! I started off with seared scallops with lobster and pea shoots and had the 2003 Michel Colin-Deleger “En Remilly” Chassagne Montrachet to go along with it. The scallops were divine, and the wine paired so well. Roshni had the Tuna Tartare and had the 2008 Barmes Buecher Riesling Tradition to pair. Her dish was equally as tasty, and the wine paired very nicely. For my main course, I opted for a more traidtional Filet with creamy potatoes and wilted spinach. That paired tremendously with the 2005 Chateau Bellevue Fronsac. Roshni had the rack of lamb for dinner and a the lovely 2004 “Les Artèmes” Domaine de la Citadelle. Of course, we HAD to get dessert – and two at that! We enjoyed an incredible chocolate tart with a delicate, crispy crust, as well as an apple cobbler with caramel ice cream. Divine. Thank you again, Rosh, from the bottom of my heart!

Needless to say, I felt pretty lucky to be SERENADED twice in one week… thanks, ladies – for the great memories!