I have very fond memories of Maya’s past birthdays. As most moms, I take pride in all of her achievements and am so in awe of the beautiful young lady she has become. So why is it that I can’t help but carry tissues around with me for the past few weeks – in anticipation for this very day to come. Her fourteenth birthday. (Sniff sniff… tear tear)
Maya, sweetheart, this is for you. I am not the author, but I might as well be, because this poem verbalizes everything that I feel inside. I love you so much. You are my best friend. And I am so lucky that you have matured into a daughter who sometimes has a better head on her shoulders than I do! (I said SOMETIMES!)
THOUGH YOU ARE GROWN, by Cynthia Sieving
I remember years ago, you were so little then,
Sometimes I can’t help but wish, that you were small again.
I’ve cried when you’ve faced heartaches, and saw that as you grew,
Nothing broke your Spirit, instead it strengthened you.
I’m filled with mixed emotions, as I hold back all the tears,
And with much pride remember, back so many years.
When I first held you in my arms, if only I’d have known,
The years would feel like moments, after you had grown.
You aren’t a child,though in my eyes, I guess you’ll always be,
that baby girl who changed my life, and means the world to me.
Happy 14th Birthday my darling. I am always here for you. You are my perfect little gift that I will be forever soooooo thankful for.
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!
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!
If I have fresh ricotta in the house, this recipe is a must. Eggs, lemons, and flour are all staple ingredients – so the fresh ricotta is key. I’ve tried many recipes for lemon ricotta pancakes, but I go back to the one published in the September, 1991 issue of Gourmet each time. Light, fluffy, slightly sweet and fresh! There is something about the texture that I enjoy about this recipe. It was originally printed with an accoutrement of sauteed apples, but I just have mine with a light drizzle of pure Vermont maple syrup…
I instagramed this photo yesterday and received numerous messages for the recipe, so here it is!
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (as published in Gourmet Magazine, Sep, 1991)
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups fresh ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all purpose flour
melted butter for the griddle
pure maple syrup
Place an oven proof baking sheet in a warm oven (no warmer than 200 degrees F.) In a bowl, whisk together the yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest. Add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until just combined. Set aside. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Whisk about 1/4 of the whites into the ricotta mixture, and then fold the rest of it in gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over medium heat and wait until hot enough for drops of water to scatter over surface. Brush griddle with melted butter, drop 1/4 cups-ful of batter on griddle and cook 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer the pancakes to the baking sheet in warm oven and continue with the rest of the batter, brushing melted butter as needed. Serve pancakes with maple syrup (and dust with powdered sugar if you want!) Makes about twelve 3-4 inch pancakes.
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!!
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…
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.
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.
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 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.
I’m back! Well, back to blogging that is. I’ve had a few very hectic months. What with the crazy storm in October, our trip to India in December and January, and basically just catching up since then.
I’ve taken some time to get things back in shape around the house, and all the while, have enjoyed some moments… Take a look!
India – one of my favorite photos from India. We visited both sides of our family which was amazing! We were also fortunate enough to travel through Rajasthan. While in Rajasthan, we rode camels in the desert and Manish was able to get this great shot at sunset.
At 56 – Joe finally agreed to bring one of my favorite, unique wines into the shop! The 2009 Francois Cazin Cour Cheverny. This deliciously crisp and lively white hails from the eastern part of the Loire Valley. Made entirely of the Romorantin grape varietal, white fruits and minerals take center stage while a little bit of salinity and stone fruit round out the finish. Gorgeous wine for sipping or enjoying with a variety of food for this time of year!
At home – We celebrated moments with family…
Travel – We traveled (with the girls) to our old stomping grounds of San Francisco! Caught up with old friends, visited old teachers, and saw our old apartment(s!) All the while making new memories soaking in the gorgeous scenery, enjoying dinner with new friends, and forging business relationships that will hopefully be blog-worthy in the near future! More on that later!
At work – We said farewell and good luck to a good friend and colleague. Thank goodness we will still be seeing you – but we’ll miss you at 56!
I grew up enjoying the sweet, rich dairy concoctions from India that my mother would make for celebratory occasions. Often making her own version of ricotta, she would always allow me to “sample” the still very hot batter for her famous Indian sweet… “Burfi.” I leave the burfi-making to my mother, but one of my favorite tried and true dessert recipes of all time is for ricotta cheesecake. Perhaps dating back to the pleasure I felt as a child while eating my mother’s creations, ricotta cheesecake takes me to a very happy place 🙂
I’m sure if I had an Italian grandmother, I would have a treasured family recipe to pass down to my children… But instead, I have a recipe that I have tweaked through the years, and one that I may say I am quite proud of. But something about this dessert just wasn’t screaming “pass me down to your children because this defines who you are as a mother, wife, and cook!” So, I Nita-fied it. Enjoy!
Ricotta Cheesecake with Chai Spices
2 lb whole milk ricotta (fresh if possible)
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ginger powder
3 tablespoons unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
1 lb cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons masala blend for chai (see my previous post)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of salt free matzo meal (if you can’t find matzo meal, process matzo crackers into fine crumbs)
Drain ricotta in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch springform pan with 2 ½ inch sides with butter. Combine the 2 teaspoons sugar, cinnamon, ginger powder, and breadcrumbs together in a bowl, and sprinkle inside the pan. Coat all sides and bottom of pan, tapping out excess.
Transfer the ricotta to a food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down sides when necessary. Add cream cheese and puree until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree, scraping down the sides when necessary, until very smooth. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and just set, about an hour and 15 minutes.
Let the cake cool on a rack (it will deflate slightly.) Then refrigerate uncovered for an hour. Cover the cake and refrigerate overnight. To serve, remove the cake from the refrigerator about ½ hour before serving. Remove the pan sides and dust with powdered sugar. Cut in slices and serve with chilled whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.