Wine

Made with LOVE

Posted in Dinners, Family, Food, Pairings, Recipes, Wine on February 15th, 2016 by nita – Be the first to comment

“Cooking is LOVE made visible…” – Anonymous

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.” – Robert Mondavi

I grew up with the understanding that food tastes better when made with love. When I was sick in bed and my taste buds were shot, my mother’s homemade soup would always make me feel better. And it was always delicious. When my daughters cook my breakfast on Mother’s day, I find myself going for seconds… sometimes thirds. Again, delicious. And of course, when my husband offers to make dinner for me on those infrequent but extremely well thought out occasions, I find myself savoring every bite as though it would be my last.

Love is one of those invisible ingredients that is necessary to every dish you create. After all, a recipe on paper (or online!) has no SOUL… It is the cook’s responsibility to bring soul to the recipe!

Inspired by LOVE and all things red, pink, and festive, we created a memorable dinner menu paired with some fabulous wines this year for Valentine’s Day. Our dear friends joined us as we paraded through courses of decadence. Here’s what we noshed and sipped on!

Charlot Tanneux Champagne Brut Cuvee Micheline 2008 – Suggested by colleagues and clients alike, I decided to bring home a bottle of this beauty for our special evening. This is a super sultry bottle of bubbles. Kudos to winemaker Vincent Charlot who clearly knows that the foundation of a stunning champagne is first and foremost, is to be a stunning WINE. This bubbly is rich, with a confusing but delicious combination of crisp and cooked apples, white fruits, flowery aromatics, and a seductive sweetness that is perfectly balanced. The perfect start to the evening!

Beet Tartare with Chevre and Maple Chili Pecans paired with A. Mandria Patrimonio Rose 2014 – We topped a composed salad of arugula, beets dressed in balsamic, and chevre  with maple-chili glazed pecans. This dish begged for a rose to be paired with it, and I couldn’t imagine a better one than this Corsican gem. Rose petals, strawberries, and citrus on the nose… Melon and stone fruits on the palate. It was a perfect match! Click here for the Beet Tartare recipe…

Egg Yolk Ravioli with Sage and Pancetta paired with Domaine Thibert Pouilly Vinzelles Les Longeayes 2012 and Domaine Bzikot Bourgogne Blanc 2013 – Velvet. That’s the word that came to mind when I tasted the perfectly runny yolk that oozed out of our ricotta and egg filled homemade raviolis into a sauce of butter, stock, sage, and pancetta. This called for a wine with some acid to pair with it. Some of my favorite producers of white Burgundy came to mind… I actually appreciated both wines with the ravioli. The Vinzelles was a better match on paper due to the richness of the wine and the buttery-”velvety” style of the sauce but the acidity of the Bzikot really cut through the decadence of the sauce and made for a perfect match. Thanks to our dinner companions for bringing the Bzikot wine – it was so nice to taste 2 very different style of white Burg with this dish! Click here for the Egg Yolk Ravioli recipe…

Braised Short Ribs with Swiss Chard and Potatoes paired with Chateau Rayas Ch du Fonsalette 2000 and Rovellotti Ghemme Chioso dei Pomi 2008 – OMG. Loved this short rib preparation. After it braised, it finished off in a 400 degree oven to almost “crisp up.” So the meat had a bite to it on the outside and was super tender once we cut into it. The velvety sauce along with the swiss chard were a great foundation for some complex and structured wines. We had two fabulous bottles. We decanted the Ghemme for almost 2 hours, and it evolved into a smooth and elegant pairing with luscious dark berry tones, aromatic violets, and structure that softened into great complexity. SO ethereal. Such a great pairing. However, I think I practically went into a trance when I took a sip of the Rayas. This 2000 vintage of juice from the Fonsalette property is labeled as Cotes du Rhone – but make no mistake… it IS a VERY serious wine! A lovely Rhone blend of red varietals, the wine is creamy and textured, game-y with lots of garrigue, some herbal tones and even a little bit of licorice. In my opinion, this wine was perfect with the short ribs and accompaniments. Click here for the short rib recipe!

Simply stated, the inspiration for the meal came form love, exuded love, and was served to those I love. Made with Love <3

Bo Ssam and Boxler

Posted in Dinners, Food, Pairings, Recipes, Wine on April 21st, 2014 by nita – Be the first to comment

Bo Ssam at Momofuku Ssam Bar

Pork Belly Buns at Momofuku Ssam Bar

It’s been almost two years since the first time I took part in the ethereal “Bo Ssam” experience. I was lucky enough to be invited to a table at Momofuku Ssam Bar one May evening, being told nothing else but “We are doing Bo Ssam.” I did my research, and learned that Bo Ssam is in fact an EXPERIENCE, not only a dinner. We started with some amazing appetizers, the pork belly buns being amongst the  most memorable. Oysters were brought out to the table,  in addition to plates of butter lettuce leaves, kimchi, a few different sauces, lots of white rice, and of course – the perfectly caramelized, falling off the bone, mouthwatering roasted pork shoulder. And tongs. We made little lettuce wraps, rice bowls, you name it. We ate for what should have been hours, but felt like minutes. David Chang is an absolute genius – he somehow elevates pulled pork to a whole new level!

One of our dining companions brought this to dinner - WOW.

We enjoyed every aspect of the dinner that evening, including some of the amazing wines that we paired with the meal… Magnum of Chartogne Taillet Champagne, Magnum of 2006 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling (Wow!),  2006 Jasmin Cote Rotie, and the showstopping 1976 Cune Imperial Gran Reserva.

Homemade Roasted Pork Shoulder with Caramel Crust for Bo Ssam

Homemade Ramen with eggplant chili mazeman and pork belly

Well, that dinner set the stage for several future experiments in my own kitchen. While extremely time consuming, (warning – do not attempt to make these recipes on a weeknight unless you have the day off!) the results are well worth the effort. I’ve used the meat from the bo ssam for the filling in the pork buns, but nothing is more decadent and satisfying as the pork belly. David Chang’s Bo Ssam recipe is almost fool proof – roasting the bone in pork shoulder low and slow for several hours and then encasing the super tender meat with a crunchy caramel-ly brown sugar crust at the end. These flavors even inspired me to make several attempts at homemade ramen. I’ve experimented with a few recipes, but really appreciated the depth of flavors of the one that I post below.

The richness of these dishes call for something that screams acidity and offers some reprieve to the heat that the accompaniments like the kimchi and sauces bring to the table. I found the wines from Albert Boxler to be ideal for these pairings. Everything from the Sylvaner to the Pinot Blanc… the Riesling to the Grand Cru cuvee have paired sublimely with the recipes below! Forget “Pigs and Pinot”… it’s time for Bo Ssam and Boxler!

David Chang’s Bo Ssam Recipe – I followed it to a tee. Give yourself a day to make this and enjoy leftovers for a week!

Momofuku’s Pork Belly Buns Recipe – I have also used leftover pork shoulder from my Bo Ssam to fill leftover buns – really great alternative but the pork belly is super decadent!

Ramen with Pork and Chili Eggplant Mazeman – I don’t agree with the amount of oil used in this. It’s already so rich with the pork belly and I actually only used a third of the amount of oil in each step that calls for it – My first attempt was tasty but very oily. I thought cutting back the oil made a huge difference.

Exotic Comforts ~ Sweet Pairings

Posted in Dinners, Family, Food, Pairings, Recipes, Wine on October 27th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

This is one of my favorite “special occasion” recipes that reminds me of the flavors that I grew up with. I used to take for granted the exotic aromas, colors, and tastes of the foods from my childhood, from my parents’ birth country. But now I embrace them and search for the perfect pairings that will only enhance these fabulous flavors!

My mother taught me at a young age that every aspect of Indian cooking has a practical “reason” or benefit. For example, Turmeric is used in almost all Indian recipes, and has an extensive medicinal repertoire! Everything from its antioxidant qualities to its anti-inflammatory uses, has awarded this amazing spice its invaluable reputation. Additionally, the use of ginger in almost all of my childhood meals was used to aid in curing sore throats, colds, and even used in preventative measures. Roasted Fennel seeds are a common “after dinner treat” that aid in digestion. While many of these ingredients add flavor and depth, Indian food is also known for its heat – both warm and spicy!

Riesling is known to be an optimal pairing for spicy foods. I find that the acidity in the 2012 Donnhoff Estate Riesling offers a perfect balance to the wine, and the sweetness of it pairs perfectly with this dish. Enjoy!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Serves 4 dinner portions

For the marinade:
1 cup whole milk yogurt
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons ground turmeric *
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon garam masala *
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (make small slits in pieces of chicken before marinating)

* Can be found at specialty markets and grocery stores, or at Specialty Asian/Indian grocers – or try Kalustyans

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
¼ cup blanched whole almonds
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons fresh chopped serrano chili or 1 teaspoon ground cayenne **
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 28 oz can Jersey Fresh pureed tomatoes OR 2 to 3 (14 to 15 oz) cans whole tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
Pinch of sugar
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

** This dish is moderately spicy. The heat level can be adjusted by adding more or less chili or cayenne according to your preference.

Marinate the chicken: Combine the first 8 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add chicken and combine well. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, grill the chicken (wiping off any excess marinade) on a hot grill or grill pan, or you can broil it – for ten to twelve minutes, or until charred in certain areas. CHICKEN WILL NOT BE COOKED THROUGH AT THIS POINT. Remove from grill/ grill pan/ oven and cut into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a small pan. Add blanched almonds and sauté at moderate heat until slightly browned stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Let the almonds cool completely, and then pulse them in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large enameled cast iron casserole (I used my Le Crueset.) Saute the onions, garlic, and ginger over moderate heat, about 8 minutes. Add the next 5 ingredients and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes (if not using Jersey Fresh, add only one and a half cans of the reserved juices,) sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and simmer for about 20 minutes, on medium low, stirring occasionally. Sauce should be slightly thickened at this point.

Add the cream and the almonds, stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the chicken, simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cilantro leaves at this point if you wish, take off the heat, and serve with basmati rice and/or warm naan.

Epitomizing Comfort Food

Posted in Dinners, Family, Food, Pairings, Recipes, Wine on February 7th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

Feeling incredibly lucky to be the recipient of any foodie’s dream gift, Thomas Keller’s French Laundry/Ad Hoc cookbook set (Thx RAP!), I decided to follow master Keller’s instructions for a comfort classic… Chicken Pot Pie. This is the epitome of comfort food for Manish. No matter how strict he is on his carb or dairy intake for the week, he always makes room for a good pot pie.

This recipe is super easy and delicious! It takes time though – and a little bit of patience. So give yourself a few hours, follow his instructions, and get ready for a real treat! I personally didn’t veer from the recipe at all – but next time I wouldn’t mind adding some peas, maybe a smidge of garlic, and just a tad more cayenne to the bechamel. The crust is to die for!

Thomas Keller’s Chicken Pot Pie, AdHoc Cookbook

Pie Crust:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks of butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
About 5 tablespoons of ice water

Preparation:
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Then add the butter and toss to coat with flour. With your hands or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour, tossing and incorporating any pieces of butter that have settled at the bottom of the bowl, until the butter pieces are no larger than a pea. Drizzle 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of ice water over the top and, using a fork, mix the dough until it holds together when pinched: add the remaining tablespoon of water if the dough is very dry. Knead the dough until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated. (I used all 5 tablespoons)

Divide the dough in half, with one piece slightly larger than the other (the larger crust will be the bottom piece). Shape each half in a 1 inch thick disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for atleast one hour, or up to a day. (if the dough does not rest, it will shrink as it bakes.)

If the dough is too hard to roll, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes or pound it a few times with a rolling pin. Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of the large disk with flour and roll it out to a 13 to 14 inch round about 1/8 inch thick: roll outward from the center, rotating the dough frequently and adding a little flour to the work surfaceor dough as needed to prevent sticking. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a 9 to 10 inch pie plate, gently easing the dough into the corners and up the sides.

Roll out the second piece of dough in the same manner, to a 12 inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate both doughs for 15 minutes.

Makes one 9 to 10 inch double crust pie.

Chicken Pie Filling:
1 cup of 1/2-inch pieces red-skinned potatoes
1 1/4 cups of 1/2-inch pieces carrots (cut on the diagonal)
12 white pearl onions
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
24 black peppercorns
1 1/4 cups of 1/2-inch pieces of celery (cut on the diagonal)
2 cups of shredded cooked chicken

Bechamel Sauce:
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
3 cups of whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Pinch of cayenne

1 egg, beaten

Preparation:
Roll out the dough, place one piece in a 9 or 10 inch pie plate and the second on a baking sheet, and refrigerate.

Put the potatoes, carrots, and onions in separate small saucepans with water to cover and add 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig, and 8 peppercorns to each pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the vegetables, discard the bay, thyme, and peppercorns, and spread on a baking sheet. Cut the onions in half.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Blanch the celery until just crisp-tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Drain, transfer to the ice bath, and chill just until cold. Drain and add to the baking sheet with the other vegetables.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust the heat as needed so that the mixture does not brown. Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the bechamel at a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 30 to 40 minutes; move the whisk over the bottom and into the corners of the pan to be sure the bechamel doesn’t burn.

Position the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Strain the bechamel through a fine-mesh conical strainer into a spouted measuring cup. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and cayenne.

Remove both doughs from the refrigerator.

Scatter the vegetables and chicken into the pie shell. Pour the bechamel over them. At this point, if the top crust is too hard to shape, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Moisten the rim of pie shell with some of the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away the excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top crust with the egg. Cut a small vent in the center of the dough with a small cutter or the tip of a paring knife to allow steam to escape.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the crust is a rich golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If necessary, move the pie to the center rack during the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the pot pie into 6 wedges and serve warm.

I didn’t have any California Chardonnay on hand to pair with this (surprise surprise) but wanted something with a level of richness, but of course good balance, that would go well. I chose the 2011 Edi Keber Collio Bianco. A blend of Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, the wine is fermented and aged in cement vats which results in great weight, fruit, and balance while still retaining a load of minerality. Love it!

The sloppy photo above is just proving how impatient we all were to eat this last night after following meticulous instructions, and waiting! But it WAS worth the wait… So go ahead and run to the grocery store now – it’ll be the perfect meal to make when you are snowed in this weekend! :)

A journey from Burgundy to Vouvray

Posted in Pairings, Wine on January 19th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

First, I need to be clear that this is not an actual blog post about a trip that I took from Burgundy to Vouvray… nor is it exclusively about Burgundy and Vouvray. I wanted to write about a style of white wine that I’ve become very fond of and the “journey” that has led me to my discoveries…

My love of racy, mineral, and high acid wines has traveled many paths in these past few years. Once a young woman who never swayed from ordering “house whites,” I’ve read, tasted, and experienced my way through numerous regions of the world that offer many interesting and complex white “gems.” Being introduced to the wines on the Kimmeridgian trail marked the beginning of my journey, and seven years later, I can say that my travels are far from complete. French, Italian, Spanish, and some intriguing varietals from California and Oregon have all made their presence at my dinner table.

I am often asked the infamous question “Show me your favorite wine,” or “What’s the best wine in the shop?” These are LOADED questions, as one can imagine… My favorite wine in the shop really depends on the time of year, what I am eating, the people I’m with, and ultimately… my mood. If asked this question 6 years ago, I would have probably shown you the latest, most exciting white Burgundy that we brought into the shop. But today, the wines that excite me need to tell a story, they need to have an underlying complexity that makes me experience something different with every sip. White Burgundy definitely fits the bill, but the list goes on…

How about a dry Riesling from Alsace, Austria, or Germany? Here, yellow and green fruit is flanked by bright floral notes and stony minerality. Sancerre or a value driven Sauvignon Blanc from the Touraine are loaded with citrus, slate, and stones. Albarino from the Rias Baixas region in Northwestern Spain boasts stone fruits and tons of acidity. Pigato from the coastal Liguria region in Italy possesses great fruit but some briny characteristics as does the wine from Muscadet  in the Loire (100% Melon du Borgogne) very clean, crisp, dry, and a perfect match for oysters! Or how about the “Nita wine” that we are now sold out of at the shop – the Cour-Cheverny from the Loire? A style that tastes like a blend of two of my favorite grapes – chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc… but it’s made entirely of the romorantin grape.

Then we get into defying all norm as we try the wines from Teutonic Wine Company from Oregon – mostly German and Alsatian-style varietals, residual sugar intact, but not at all noticeable due to the high acidity. These are geeky wines and oh so incredibly delicious!

But I find myself going back to a varietal that is so often under-rated and neglected… Chenin Blanc. I have tasted Chenins from not only the Loire, but from Tasmania, from California, from South Africa, and in sparkling form… and they have proven to be extremely versatile wines. However, the chenins that I have swooned over hail from the Loire…

Savennieres is known as the “dry” appellation of Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley, located within the Anjou district. Sandstone and schist make up the soil type of this region; and while the wines tend to have extreme concentration to them, they are extremely high in acid. The cooler climate draws out the ripening process and thus results in a nervy and grippy wine. A few years in the bottle usually mellows the wine and allows the flavors to shine. One of my favorites is Domaine Aux Moines Savennieres – Roche Aux Moines 1992. Honey, citrus, toasted hazelnuts, and loads of acidity. Very cool wine. The 2004 is less oxidative but still holds onto its acidity and great fruit!

This is where the wine is made

Acidity seems to be an ongoing theme with Chenin Blanc. The little Les Grandes Caves St Roch Vouvray is delicious, and one of my favorite house whites. It pairs with everything from sushi to Indian food… oysters to sesame chicken! Read here for my previous post on this wine.

And then there is the region that I hold a little closer to my heart. Not only do the wines drink fabulously when they are young, bright, and fresh… but they age to an elegant and rich style – all the while retaining the utmost acidity. Off dry, dry, and sweet styles – there is a place at my dinner table for every one! Vouvray is an appellation located in the Touraine district in the Loire Valley. Domaine Huet is the producer that I’ll focus on, as the wines are absolutely superb and of the highest quality. Orange zest, fennel, and slate all come to mind when drinking Huet’s wines. But the vineyards all differ slightly with their soil characteristics… My favorites are the fresh and clean Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Demi Sec 2010 and the honeyed and gorgeous Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut LieuMollieux 1er Trie 1993.

The following has been taken from this site from RareWineCo:

The Wines: At their discretion, the estate produces Sec, Demi-Sec, Moelleux, or Moelleux 1ère Trie (“first selection”) from any of the three principal vineyards. A superb sparkling Pétillant is also made, drawing grapes from all three vineyards, as well as from other small parcels on the estate.

Le Haut-Lieu—The original Huët vineyard is nearly 9 hA. It has the richest soils of the domaine’s three crus—a deep limestone-clay—and the wines are generally the estate’s most approachable. In some vintages, small quantities from nearby estate parcels may be added to Le Haut-Lieu.

Le Mont—For many insiders, the argument over Vouvray’s greatest vineyard comes down to two sites: Le Mont and Clos du Bourg. Undisputably a grand cru vineyard, Le Mont enjoys a choice site on the Première Côte. With less clay and more stone than Le Haut-Lieu, Le Mont yields young wines of intense minerality. With age, the wines develop great length and finesse.

Le Clos du Bourg—Gaston Huët believed this to be the greatest of all Vouvray vineyards. With the Première Côte’s shallowest, stoniest soils, its wines often synthesize Le Mont’s intense minerality with Le Haut-Lieu’s generous texture.

So while I have a place at my dinner table for so many mineral laiden well balanced whites, I find myself going back to Vouvray time and time again. Diversely food friendly and delicious!

Balance

Posted in Family, Food, Recipes, Wine on January 5th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

Balance is the key to successful execution in food, wine, and even life in general.

I remember as a kid, my father used to say to me “Nita, too much of anything is never good.” So the little smart a$$ that I was, I would find examples that I thought would stump him… “Oh yeah, well how about too much fruit or too many vegetables!?” He would then go on to explain the effects of fiber and lack of on the digestive system… and I was pretty much done trying to stump him.

The next “balance” themed life lesson that I took from my father was when we had our first child. He told me that while life will change now, we shouldn’t revolve everything around the baby – instead, submerge the baby in our revolving worlds. Although the scale teetered quite a bit at times, we did manage to find a balance, and appreciate the advice to this day.

Now onto food and wine… Your palate senses 5 different flavor elements… salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (my upbringing will remind me that “spicy” should be the 6th element but that’s something I don’t need to argue right now.) While all do not need to be present in a dish or a wine, a balance of two or more of these flavors is necessary to counteract an excess of any one particular element. In wine, acidity is key. Some of the best Riesling producers are the ones that are dedicated to making high acid wines – never cloying, always fresh. Without the acidity, we would feel like we are just drinking syrup.

I have a recipe that exemplefies the importance of balance. It’s really more of a condiment recipe – you can use it on everything from combining it in salads, topping your blanched vegetables with, a sprinkle over a grilled fish, or hearty pieces of meat. It’s a gremolata recipe – and it possesses qualities of sweet, sour, bitter, umami, salt, and even spice… Sprinkle it over the next dish that you think needs a lesson in balance!

“Kicked up” Gremolata

1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
zest of 1 large navel orange
zest of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
salt (see notes)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Do not add salt until you are ready to sprinkle the gremolata on your dish. You can store this gremolata in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days – but not with salt. So set some aside if you want leftovers! I use this to top everything from salads, vegetables, fish, eggs, and meat. Sprinkled over braised lamb shanks is divine!!

Makes about 1/2 cup

My Sherry Revolution

Posted in Pairings, Wine on January 3rd, 2013 by nita – 2 Comments

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!?

Sherry Tasting at Murray's Cheese - Kerin's a great teacher!

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!

Amazing Sherry - nutty, oxidative, all the while possessing fresh citrus qualities too... Fabulous!

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 :)

Goodbye 2012… A May-December Recap

Posted in Dinners, Food, Wine on December 31st, 2012 by nita – Be the first to comment

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…

Watching the Sunset from our backyard in Greensboro, Vermont

Being part of a close friend's very special WHITE party in Michigan

Hiking in the Poconos with family

A gorgeous view in Getarria, Spain - at Bodega Ameztoi overlooking Bodega Txomin Extaniz

A unique shot of "Maman" at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain

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…

Nantucket Bay Scallops with Sunchokes three ways and a green coconut sauce at Ryland Inn

Mixed Heirloom Beet Salad with Goat cheese and Chocolate at Ryland Inn

A "risotto" style dish where you start with this structured rice encased in a dried tomato strip, with a poached egg (yolk taken out and pumpkin puree magically took its place) all mixed together... YUM! At Al Fuego Negro in San Sebastian, Spain

Very fresh fish in Getarria - this is Anglar fish at Asador Astillero, Getarria, Spain

A very surprisingly refreshing "pre dessert" - avocado mousse, coconut ice cream, and liquid nitrogen frozen grapefruit "kernels" at Nerua at Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain

Sometimes simple is the most extravagant thing on the plate... This was dessert at the Guggenheim - a chocolate slab (notice the granule of grey salt on the corners :)

Foie at Al Fuego - it was as delicious as it is beautiful

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!

Amazing Sherry - nutty, oxidative, all the while possessing fresh citrus qualities too... Fabulous!

Lopez de Heredia's whites - when tasted blind, it's been said that most people think they are drinking red...

Todd Hardie of Caledonia Spirits is the creator of these fabulous spirits – all made from or with his raw honey! -Caledonia Spirits, Hardwick, VT

1989 Vina Rionda - Oddero Barolo - Consumed at my birthday celebration at Il Buco thanks to JB!

We were one of the lucky people to be at dinner with friends of friends that brought this! Absolutely divine. We tasted much newer vintages in Spain.

One of my favorite additions to our Italian wall at the shop - The Ruche is full of geranium leaves on the nose, and spiced red fruit on the palate. I love it!

Sherry Tasting at Murray's Cheese - Kerin's a great teacher!

Lopez's reds

Happy 16th Anniversary!

Posted in Dinners, Family, Food, Pairings, Wine on May 26th, 2012 by nita – Be the first to comment

“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…

Guest Chef Dinner at elements with Alex Talbot, John & Karen Shields, Curtis Duffy

Pansy custard, egg, yogurt with crispy crouton by team elements

Back Cove Oyster new spruce, spinach, an infusion of seaweeds, radish milk by chef John Shields

Cold broth of english pea recado negro, creamy ginger, compressed pineapple, black mint by chef Curtis Duffy

After the "coconut shell" was cracked open... Amazing.

Dried beets and sour strawberries concord grape kombucha, walnut, yogurt by chefs Alex Talbot & Aki Kamozawa

Chilled scallops toasted goats milk pudding, hibiscus tea, licorice flavored herbs by chef Curtis Duffy

"Tongue-katsu Oscar" soft shell crab, asparagus gribiche, almand by chefs Alex Talbot & Aki Kamozawa

100 day dry aged Wagyu dehydrated shrimp, shiitake mushroom, cured, elderflower 1 of 2 by team Elements

100 day dry aged Wagyu dehydrated shrimp, shiitake mushroom, cured, elderflower 2 of 2 by team elements

Alpine strawberry cashew, thai chili, tarragon, hyssop by team elements

Dried carrot sweet woodruff, white chocolate yogurt, tonka bean, muscavado sugar spread by chef Karen Shields

Final desert by team elements

Txikifest 2012

Posted in Family, Food, Wine on May 7th, 2012 by nita – Be the first to comment

one of the first producers of txacoli that i tried back in 2007

an experienced txacoli pourer

Txacolina… or Txacoli… Incredibly refreshing, light, mineral, and slightly effervescent. The perfect warm weather wine. The Basque region’s reason for celebration.

The first time that I ever tried Txacoli (pronounced Chock-o-lee,) one of our suppliers at the shop had brought in a bottle for us to sample. “Hondurrabi Zuri and Hondurrabi Beltza,” was the response from our rep when asked what the grape varietal was of this unique wine with the silly name. Made of indigenous varietals found almost exclusively in the Basque region, Txacoli is a dry wine with high acid and low alcohol. The slight spritz of this libation is volumized by the elevated pouring technique performed by bartenders and servers that are familiar with this practice. Normally served in tumblers, Txacoli is fabulous as an apertif or served aside tapas, cheeses, meats, and fresh seafood.

spiced prawns with taro root

tarragon deviled egg with deep fried hama hama oyster

buckets of txacoli!

Txacoli was going to be front and center at “Txikifest 2012.” Txikifest is the annual NYC festival (2012 marked its 2nd year) that celebrates the newest vintage of Txacoli and is hosted by the fabulous tapas restaurant in Chelsea, Txikito. Many new releases of Txacoli were presented along side some of the most delicious bites from eateries all around Manhattan (and some even a bit farther away.) The festival took place in the back alley of Txikito and welcomed over 200 guests.  JB gave us the initial heads up on this May 6th event and we decided to attend with some fam and friends. We sampled so many different producers of Txacoli and paired them with the perfect Basque-inspired bites. The proper way to pour Txacoli is  to start a foot or so above so that the wine aerates by the time it hits the tumbler. It helps to use the little plastic pourers that aid in the aerating as well. It’s quite fun to watch.

Our etched souveneir glasses

We bought some raffle tickets (all proceeds from Txikifest went to Department of Neonatology at NYU Langone Medical Center) and came home winners! I won a lovely basket of cheeses, meats, vinegars, olive oils, chocolate, and wine. One would think after a day so beautiful, wine so refreshing, food so delicious, and gift (raffle) so generous, that the day was complete. Of course there was more!

The winners! Congrats P&J!!!!

The last few numbers were being called on the final raffle draw of the day – the trip for two to Spain! Up to the seventh digit, my ticket was a match… but then the last two numbers were called out… close but no cigar. The winner was my brother in law, Piyush! But it wasn’t until he came back to the “screaming crowd” with an envelope in his hand that he realized he had won THE TRIP! Several celebratory toasts and interviews later, we were all pouring txacoli like “experts” (some better than others) and decided to call it a day.

And yes, if all goes well, we will be joining the winners to Bilbao later this year.

SALUD!