Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wines for Talking Turkey

Amazingly enough it's already that time of the year again to start planning your Thanksgiving meal.
Turkey? Check!
Sides? Check!
Desserts? Check!
Now...for the wines? This can be one of the hardest parts of planning your Thanksgiving, especially if you're trying to please everyone! Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are often the most traditional options, however I've compiled a top ten list of a few other varietals that would shine with your meal as well (in no particular order):

1. Champagne/Sparkling Wine, especially a Blanc de Blanc: which means white of white and is 100% Chardonnay..and who doesn't like bubbly??
2. Viognier: with it's beautifully floral notes it will highlight that in your food and if you have any dishes with truffles in it...pure magic!
3. Riesling: Apples and pears, and a touch sweet with refreshing acidity..try one from Washington!
4. Muller Thurgau: currently Germany's most planted grape, a cross between a Riesling and a Sylvaner, slightly tropical on the nose, hint of sweet, great with sweet potatoes
5. Gewurztraminer: with a somewhat spicy palate this white will stand up to the turkey and gravy, would also work with your pumpkin pie
6. Rose: they always seem to do well in a crowd, try a dry one, think a Rose of Pinot Noir or Grenache
7. Grenache: Slightly candied on the nose, often elegant like a Pinot Noir...try a California Central Coast single varietal or even a Chateauneuf du Pape
8. Pinot Meunier: the third, somewhat un-celebrated grape varietal often in Champagne sings with cranberry dishes, rarely seen on it's own however, Domaine Chandon makes a delicious one (check out my early post all about this varietal)
9. Zinfandel: what many consider the quintessential California grape, for Thanksgiving I would go with a lighter, fruitier version
10.Syrah: with it's meaty and peppery notes will play well with the stuffing and especially your darker Turkey pieces

Other wines to think about for dessert? Also try a Moscato D'Asti or Tokjai Aszu with your pumpkin pie and other seasonal treats!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Blantyre Lunch, A Trip Back To The Gilded Age

Having grown up in the Berkshires in Massachusetts one can not help but acquire an appreciation for all the natural beauty and history it beholds. Blanytre is one of the gems that has always intrigued me and I was fortunate enough to have lunch there with my husband and take a peek at their fantastic wine cellar recently.

We had barely approached the steps and the door was already graciously opened for us and we were gloriously greeted. We were shown around the Main House and then invited to tour their Wine Spectator Grand Award Winning Wine Cellar containing over 26,000 bottles after lunch!

I had already had a peek of their wine "bible" a day before so I knew I wanted to try a glass of
2007 Domaine Tempier, Rosé, Bandol. I adore Rosé and had heard so much about Domaine Tempier I was brimming with anticipation. It was just as beautiful as I had hoped; berries, peach, spice and a hint of fig! It was indeed my lucky day as their soup of the day was a velvety Butternut Squash which paired beautifully with the Rosé.

For my main course I ordered a glass of the
2006 DuMol, Viognier, Lia
,Russian River Valley (floral, peach with a touch of butter) which also was delicious with their special of the day; Cod Placed on a Bed of Roasted Red Pepper Ratatouille and Braised Endive.

Conrad ordered a glass of
2003 Ramey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jericho Canyon
Napa Valley
(creme de casis, spice, oak, dark chocolate) which sung with their Grilled New York Sirloin Steak with Petite Ceasar Salad, French Fries (which were amazing and seemed never-ending!!) and herb butter.

At the end of our meal we were too full for dessert...well almost...not too full for a half bottle of 2007 Saracco, Moscato D'Asti, Castiglione Tinella, Piedmont
I love ending a meal with Moscato D'Asti because they are slightly sparkling, low alcohol content and just so vibrant, bursting with honeysuckle and peaches. The little town of Castiglione Tinella in Piedmont is somewhat off the beaten path but said to have some of the most profound Moscato.

At the conclusion of our decadent meal we ventured down to the cellar which is owner Ann Fitzpatrick Brown's pride and joy, cared for by Wine Director Christelle Cotar and Sommelier Luc Chavalier. There are deep verticals including 22 vintages of Chateau Lafite Rothschild dating back to 1945, 14 vintages of Ridge Monte Bello, 15 vintages of Sassicaia and 15 vintages of Penfolds Grange to name just a few of the treasures this cellar beholds.

If you ever find yourself in the Berkshires and love all that is extravagant and elegant from the Gilded Age, Blantyre is a place you must visit. As well as serving lunch their dinner is been said to be quite an experience as well as staying on property
Check out all their accolades on their site:

Monday, August 31, 2009

The world according to Julia....

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients"
-Julia Child

After having watched Julie & Julia now for the second time I felt compelled to blog about the film, Julia and her recipes...all of which I adore!

Before my first viewing of the movie I found myself wondering; how would they weave Julia and Julie's stories together? How would Meryl perform as Julia? Would the film capture Julia's spirit? How would the food look?

My answers? The movie parallels the lives of these two leading ladies and their quest for happiness which leads them to the same, wonderfully!

And Meryl?? As an actress myself I've grown up admiring her and once again she has absolutely blown me away with her performance. Although she has Julia's voice down what always impresses me the most are the little things...the sly glance, the sigh, or funny little gestures. Indeed Julia is alive in this film and captures her spirit!

Now...the food...warning!!! Do not, I repeat, do not go to this movie without immediate dinner plans afterward! Scene after scene is filled with heavenly dishes...chocolate mousse pie, butter, bruschetta, butter, duck, and did I mention...butter!? Not to mention you will be terribly parched from all the wine and martinis in every other scene! One of the main dishes the film focuses on is Julia's Boef Bourguignon. My humble suggestion is to plan a night of Julia...make the Boef the day before (it's always better after a day!) and plan to eat immediately, and with a glass of Burgundy after the film as I did. This is proof that simple, fresh ingredients can themselves make a masterpiece! I have yet to get the cookbook, shamefully. However, I did find the recipes from her book on her publisher's website:

(Be sure to follow the recipe for the mushrooms and onions as well!)

And in tribute to Julia...enjoy the film and "Bon Appetit!"

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pontificating Pinots...

One of the things I love the most about working at the WineSellar & Brasserie is meeting other people just as passionate as me about wine; and discovering, enjoying and discussing the wines.

Case in point, recently I was fortunate enough to try two Pinot Noirs back to back, both from very small production wineries when a great customer, Steve Schoenfeld, was generous enough to share!

Kosta Browne began as a dream for Dan Kosta and Micheal Browne in the summer of 1997 as they worked at a restaurant in Santa Rosa, CA. They began saving their tip money and there their journey began. Today they produce small production single vineyard wines from two appelations; Russian River and Sonoma Coast.

2007 Kosta Browne, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
On the nose: raspberries, smoke and evolved to beach and sand
On the palate: ollalieberries, raspberry and baking spices

WesMar Winery is a very small production winery run by Denise Mary Selyem and her husband Kirk Wesley Hubbard. Denise's name sounds familiar? Her Dad is Ed Selyem of Williams & Selyem Winery. Denise and Kirk worked at Williams & Selyem Winery in the late 90's and in 2000 left to start WesMar.

2006 WesMar, Pinot Noir, Salzgerber Vineyard, Russian River
On the nose: cherries, chocolate, anise, wet forest floor
On the palate:
black cherries, plums, pear and even a kiss of orange

Monday, July 6, 2009

I scream, you scream...we all scream for aebleskivers!

Aebleskivers? Yes aebleskivers!

I first discovered these delicious morsels on a trip to Solvang, California a few years ago. Solvang is the Danish Capital of America and just so cute and charming! Many places in town serve them but my favorite is the Solvang Restaurant, which was featured in the movie "Sideways". You can order them in the restaurant and they also have a to go window outside where you can grab and go!

I'm sure at this point many of you reading this blog have questions like...but what are they? Where did they come from?

According to lore when the Vikings were roaming up and down the coasts of Europe and the waters of the Atlantic, one band of these Vikings had been particularly hard hit in battle, so, when they got back on their ship with their horn helmets and shields all dented and banged up, they decided to have one of their favorite dishes to help them regain their strength, pancakes!! Years and years ago they did not have s frying pans, so, they greased their shields and poured the pancake batter on them over the fire and aebleskivers were born!

Now you must be wondering...but what do they taste like?? They are a tasty breakfast confection, like a pancake ball often served with raspberry or lingonberry jam and powdered sugar. I love them because they also have a spicy taste to them of cardamon and mace. Besides for breakfast I think these would be fun to serve for a tea party or even a savory version could be made by adding herbs and cheese to the batter. The pan itself can be purchased in Solvang (where I grabbed mine) or Williams-Sonoma sells them also. My favorite batter mix is from the Solvang Restaurant but other recipes are on the web. The closest I've been to matching the Solvang recipe is below:


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • A pinch of ground cardamom
  • 1/4 mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • About 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine


1. In a bowl, mix flour with sugar, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. In a small bowl, beat egg to blend with milk and 2 tablespoons butter. Add liquids to dry ingredients and stir until evenly moistened. Let mix sit for ten minutes

2. Place an aebleskiver pan over medium-low heat. When pan is hot enough to make a drop of water dance, brush pancake cups lightly with melted butter and fill each to slightly below the rim with batter.

3. In about 1 1/2 minutes, thin crusts will form on bottoms of balls (centers will still be wet); pierce the crust with a bamboo skewer and gently pull shell to rotate the pancake ball until about half the cooked portion is above the cup rim and uncooked batter flows down into cup. Cook until crust on bottom of ball is again firm enough to pierce, about another minute, then rotate ball with skewer until the ridge formed as the pancake first cooked is on top. Cook, turning occasionally with skewer, until balls are evenly browned and no longer moist in the center, another 10 to 12 minutes. Check by piercing center of last pancake ball added to pan with skewer--it should come out clean--or by breaking the ball open slightly; if balls start to get too brown, turn heat to low until they are cooked in the center. Lift cooked balls from pan and serve hot and with raspberry or lingonberry jam and powdered sugar.

Also check out the Solvang Restaurant's site and be sure to visit them if you find yourself in Solvang!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Goode Sauvignon Blanc

Following up my Summer Sippers post I thought I'd add another to the list! Murphy-Goode Winery is based out of Sonoma and I just had a chance to try their 2008 "The Fume" Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is great on it's own, as I had it, but would be extremely food friendly too.

On the nose I got quite a bit of citrus and pineapple. On the palate there is more of the tropical fruits, and even a hint of apricot for me. Although it was mostly fermented in stainless steel there is a roundness from a touch of oak barrels used too. Try this wine with seafood. Oysters would be delicous and forget the lemons...just leisurely sip this in between each one for that hit of acidty and enjoy!

For more about their wines and to vote for me for "A Really Goode Job":

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Top Ten Summer Sippers

So Summer is upon us...the weather is getting warmer and nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than a deliciously chilled glass of wine!
In honor of summer I have compiled my top ten Summer Sippers!

In general this summer, try something new! Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs are great for hot weather but for great value try a Torrontes from Argentina, or a Verdejo from Spain!. Viogniers are great too, they usually have a gorgeous floral, honeysuckle nose and apricot on the tongue!

Try one or all of them and have a great summer!
(wines are not listed in a particular order)

1. 2007 Etude Pinot Gris Carneros, CA ($20)
2. 2007 Slight of Hand, The Magician,
Gwurtztraminer Walla, Walla, Washington ($15-20)
3. 2008 Swanson Salon Syrah Rosato Oakville, CA
4. 2007 E. Guigal, Cotes Du Rhone Blanc Rhone,
France ($12.99)
5. 2007 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc
Russian River Valley, CA ($30)
6. 2007 Don Rodolfo Torrontes
Cafayate Valley, Argentina ($10.99)
7. 2007 Telmo Rodriguez Basa Rueda, Spain ($15)
8. 2008 Miner Viognier Simpson Vineyard, CA ($15-20)
9. 2007 Hopler Gruner Veltliner Burgenland, Austria ($15)
10. NV Donna Clara Fiori Di Prosecco Valdobbiadene, Italy ($15-20)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Tradition is meaningless without great quality..."

....Francois Billecart

Recently I was fortunate enough to enjoy a glass of Billecart-Salmon's 1998 Nicholas Francois Billecart Brut. This beautiful champagne, also appreciated by Robert Parker, was rated a 94 and is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. Although there is a higher percentage of Pinot Noir I took notice more of the fruit expressed by the Chardonnay. The nose was of chalky minerality, a touch of white flowers and crisp green apple. On the palate there is green apple but also a subtle nuttiness and absolutely elegant. In general, 1998 vintages from Champagne are said to be brilliant and this one does not disappoint!

Billecart-Salmon is based out of Mareuil-sur-Ay, Champagne and they are known for their timeless style and elegance. They were founded in 1818 from the marriage of Nicholas Francois Billecart to Elizabeth Salmon. It is one of the few Houses to still be family owned . The estate also takes their consistancy very seriously and one of the ways they ensure this is by blending the wines in steel tanks. From there they are placed in small burgandy casks and aged deep in their chalk caves dating from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Treat yourself to a beautiful piece of tradition and quality!

Food Pairing: Although gorgeous on it's own this would be perfect with a citrus roasted chicken.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eating in Regal Style at The Orangery, Kensington Palace in London

When one visits London The Orangery at Kensington Palace is a must! Upon entering The Orangery one can't help but gasp at it's beauty! This brick building was built in 1704 by Queen Anne for entertaining in the summer and sheltering fruit trees in the winter. Because it was once used essentially as a greenhouse it is all white, stunning floor to ceiling windows, lush Baroque style, and countless Corinthian columns.

Everything I had was delicious and so perfectly proper from the cucumber cream cheese and chive tea sandwiches, poached salmon and dill tea sandwiches, fruit scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam and my favorite...the Orangery Cake! The cake was a decadent (no diets allowed whist at The Orangery!) orange pound cake with rich orange butter cream frosting. I have done my best to replicate the recipe, try it for a festively spring tea party!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup low fat sour cream, at room temperature

1 tsp orange zest
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 1/2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Serves 8 to 10.
Preheat an oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a round cake pan and dust with flour.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until blended. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and orange and lemon zest on medium to medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until just blended. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and stir until both are just incorporated. Stir in the sour cream, then sprinkle with the remaining flour mixture and stir until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap gently on the counter to even out and settle the ingredients. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 70 minutes, or longer if using a metal pan. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and lift off the pan. Place the cake on one of its sides and continue cooling. Once cooled cut the cake in half, frost the middle, place the top on the cake, frost entirely (it may take two crumb layer and then a final of frosting)

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, the 4 1/2 Tbs. orange juice, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. You want the texture to be creamy but still hold its peaks

Wine Pairing:
Although I had a cup of tea that afternoon this cake would be a perfect pairing with a flute of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Amaranth, A fantastic Farmer's Market Find!

One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to head to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market. The Market is open every Sunday from 9am-2pm. Whenever I go I am sure to pick up all the usual produce one might get from the grocery store but much fresher and for much less! I also love the Farmer's Market for finding unusual fruits and vegetables that a store might not carry. This past weekend I found quite a treat! What I found was a beautiful bunch of Purple Amaranth.

Amaranth has approximately 60 different species with colors ranging from purple to red to gold! Although some may mistaken it for a weed, to others it is invalueable for it's use as a leaf vegetable, and even used ornamentally. It's flavor is very close to a spinich. The uses are many depending on the culture; in India it is added into preparation for certain dals, in China they use it in stir fry, in Vietnam and in the Caribbean it is used to make soup and in Greece it is boiled, served with olive oil, lemon and as a side to fried fish. These are all delicious ideas but I decided to make it a pesto! Check out my recipe below and serve this simple but beautiful (look at the color it turns your pasta!) dish as a change from your usual green basil pesto!

1 bunch of purple amaranth
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup basil infused or regular extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 pieces turkey bacon chopped
2 cups ziti/pasta with ribs to catch the sauce
salt and pepper to taste


Remove all the amaranth leaves from their stems and blanch your leaves for only about 30-40 seconds in boiling water and have a ice bath ready to drop the leaves into. This process of blanching and shocking the amaranth will help lock in it's beautiful color, and it turns the water bright purple! Save some of that water (a tsp or 2) for adding to the pesto. Be sure to squeeze as much water out of the amaranth as you can (like with spinich!) and add it to a food processor with your parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, cumin, garlic clove and pulse for about 20 seconds, now continue processing while adding in the olive oil. If it still seems too solid now is the time to add the extra blanching water. Meanwhile boil the pasta and set aside and in a fairly large sautee pan on medium heat cook up your bacon pieces. Once the bacon has cooked, remove it from the pan for a minute and put in the pasta and pesto and toss lightly letting some of the bacon drippings flavor the pasta, add in the bacon again and grated parmesan. Add salt (remember bacon will add salt too!) and pepper to your liking and enjoy!

Wine pairing suggestion: Try a French Burgandy ! I liked 2007 Domaine Marius Delarche, Pernand-Vergelesses, Old Vine Reserve. The slight smoke and spice will be a great pairing with the bacon and cumin in the dish!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Irish Girl and her Whiskey

What kind of Irish girl would I be if I didn't post about my favorite whiskey, Jameson!? I was at the Distillery recently in Dublin and while taking the tour I was introduced to quite a few new Jameson Whiskey Cocktails. My favorites were the Jameson & Cranberry Juice and Jameson & Ginger. Not a beer drinker? Try one of these cocktails on St. Patrick's Day!

Jameson & Cranberry Juice
1 part Jameson Whiskey
2 parts Cranberry Juice
Serve on the rocks with a slice of lime

Jameson & Ginger
1 part Jameson Whiskey
2 parts Ginger ale/ Ginger Beer
Serve on the rocks with a slice of lemon


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Guinness Cocktails

The time for celebrating with Guinness is almost upon us...St.Patrick's Day! Now this year why not mix it up and try some Guinness cocktails! While I was recently in Dublin at the Shelbourne Hotel I tried a tasty little libation called a Black Velvet; Guinness and Champagne (shown in picture). I love Guinness because of it's roasted coffee and cocoa flavors and by adding the Champagne it tastes like a sparkling coffee..perfect!

Black Velvet:
I start with a Champagne glass
Fill it halfway with Guinness
Top with Champagne

One other great Guinness cocktail I love is called a Black Fog; Guinness and Chambord. It tastes like a chocolate raspberry truffle.
Black Fog:
1 pint of Guinness
1 shot of Chambord Liquor
Pour the Chambord into the Guinness and enjoy!

Whether you like these ideas or stick to the traditional tried and true, be sure to enjoy a pint of Guinness on St.Patrick's Day! Slainte!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Review: Artisan in Paso Robles

For my husband Conrad's birthday this year we decided Paso Robles would be the place to celebrate. They have GREAT wines and are not quite as commercial or well known as other wine countries...yet.

When I was looking for places for dinner one restaurant kept appearing as a "must do" so I made a reservation (highly suggested) to Artisan and it was just that. According to the definition, an artisan imparts unique and individual qualities to artisanal products. That is the beauty of Artisan, every part of our dinner was made with quality products that were given just a unique twist and were executed flawlessly!

I chose their Monday Night Supper, they offer a three course meal for $34 and you have the option to add paired wines of the featured winery with it for an additional $15. I, of course opted.

My First Course was quite a lot;
Baby butter brioche with goat butter and mini quiche
Piccolo Fritto (italian for little fried one) rock shrimp, scallops, calamari, fennel, sage, and baby escarole
Wine Pairing:
Tablas Creek, Vermentino 2006
I could have just been happy with this course alone! The tang in the goat butter with the soft brioche, then the crunch and sweetness of the scallops all complimented by the lovely citrus in the Vermantino

Second Course
Roast organic chicken, lemon, rosemary, shallot jus
Bacon braised brussel sprouts, brown butter, thyme, field spinich
Pan fried crushed potatoes
Winter mushroom gratin, local sheeps milk cheese
Wine Pairing: Tablas Creek Counoise 06
Chicken is one of the simplest things to cook, but can be the most satisfying when done properly and this was....the seasoning and the meat just fell apart, I usually don't like mushrooms (except for truffles!) yet, I would eat the gratin anyday! Counoise is a new varietal to me but I really liked it, it's slight fruitiness was very enjoyable with this course.

Third Course:
Windrose Farm apple desserts, peanut butter cookie, vanilla bean sherbet
Wine Pairing: Tablas Creek, Grenache Blanc, Viognier,Roussane, Marsanne
"Vin de Paille 2006
Of course how can one go wrong with dessert including baked apples!? I am more a fruit dessert girl than chocolate so I loved this whole course. The Vin de Paille's caramel and honey flavors were spot on with dessert!

As one may assume, I can not speak highly enough about this restaurant! The atmosphere is elegant but not stuffy. The staff were extremly attentive and even wished Conrad a Happy Birthday as we were leaving. Any night would be great to come here for dinner but the value and quality you get for the Monday Night Supper is above and beyond...I'm off to dream of my next someday meal here....

Friday, January 9, 2009

"Yellow bag pasta" the best there is... my opinion, and that of many of my friends! When my husband and I first went to Italy to visit his Dad I was introduced to Martelli's heavenly pastas. What is so special about them you may ask...the only thing I can say is that this pasta is "meaty" (although not literally of course!) Maybe a better word would be "hearty"? This pasta really holds any sauce tossed with it. The Martelli family (only the family works in the factory!) sells their pasta out of a town named Lari right near Pisa and they only offer four types; Spaghetti , Spaghettini, Penne and Maccheroni di Toscan. Their intense process for making their pasta allows for it to be very porous and absorbs sauce extremely well.

The only thing is their pasta is very hard to find here in the US! I have yet to find it here in San Diego. The only place I have found it is at an amazing gourmet food and wine store in Great Barrington in MA called Lock-Stock and Barrel. May I only suggest if you ever do come across a yellow bag of this it! For more information on Martelli's pastas check out their website:

I have included the recipe I have come up with that is close to the way I first had the spaghetti in Italy.

1 bag of Martelli spaghetti(or another brand if you can't find Martelli)
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small can/freshly diced tomatoes
1 small diced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp capers (drained)
3 or 4 leaves fresh basil hand torn
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan over medium (to low) heat add oil and saute diced onion until translucent (about 5 minutes depending on your stove), add garlic and saute for only about 30 seconds to a minute (it can burn quickly!). Now add the diced tomatoes and capers and simmer for about ten minutes. Once the spaghetti is cooked al dente pour it in with the sauce and cook for a minute or two. Toss in the fresh basil,
parmigiano reggiano and salt and pepper to taste. (Remember parmigiano is salty so keep that in mind when adding more seasoning!)

Enjoy this simple and elegant dish with a glass of one of my favorites:
Swanson Sangiovese

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Passionate for Paella!

There is something to be said about the power of suggestion. The force was strong last night indeed! I was watching "Spain...On The Road Again" on PBS, a food and travel show with Claudia Bassols, Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, and Gwyneth Paltrow. In the series the four travel all around Spain sampling the best wines and foods the country has to offer. In last night's episode Mario and Gwyneth traveled to Valencia to experience their infamous paella. They had it cooked for them on an outdoor grill over wood from orange trees. As Mario and Gwyneth articulated on the smoky flavor, texture of the dish and how delicious the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan (the best part!) were my mouth was watering and I knew I had to make it for dinner tonight! Enjoy my version of paella!

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb large shrimp (cleaned and deveined)
2 hot turkey sausages removed from their casings
1 yellow onion finely chopped
4-5 chopped garlic cloves
1 jar of diced or whole pimentos (dice them if they come whole)
1/2 cup chopped fresh grape tomatoes
1 tsp smoked paprika (add more if you want more smoky flavor)
1 tsp saffron
1 tsp salt
1 cup homemade lobster stock (or store bought fish stock)
1/2-1 cup chicken stock
2 cups rice (white, or I used basmati)

Shrimp marinade:
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Add all the shrimp marinade ingredients together and let shrimp sit in it while you prepare the other ingredients (about ten minutes)
Put 2 tbsp oil in large pan/paella pan over medium high heat. Add marinated shrimp once pan is heated, cook shrimp 2-3 minutes per side, remove from pan and set aside for later. Add diced onion and cook for about 5 minutes, add garlic and turkey sausage and brown sausage. Next add tomatoes and pimentos for about 3 minutes. Add salt, saffron, smoked paprika and cook for another 5 minutes. Next add the lobster/fish stock, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, add the rice and stir well to distibute it all evenly. Cook without stirring for 10 minutes. Reintroduce shrimp to the paella, stirring in, add more salt if so needed and more smoked paprika if you desire if you so desire (to replicate the outdoor grilled flavor) Add 1/2- 1 cup chicken stock now depending on how dry the paella is. Now cook again without stirring for 10-15 minutes more or until all the liquid is almost completely absorbed and you hear the pan make a crackling noise (it's a good thing!) Remove from heat and let it rest before serving.
Tip: When serving give everyone a few bits of the bottom of the pan goodness!

Wine Pairing Suggestion:
2003 Rincon del Baron Double Blanc
A Mexican wine that my friend Robin Mackenzie gave me, it's crisp with a hint of sweetness that was perfect with the heat from the paella spices

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pinot Meunier, The Unsung Hero in Champagne

Pinot Meunier, a mutation of Pinot Noir, is to many an unknown grape varietal. However, for Champagne making it is almost essential. I say almost because as a general rule the grapes used in making Champagne are the white Chardonnay grape and the dark red Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are known as noble varieties and are often more emphasized than the Pinot Meunier in Champagne making. In Champagne Pinot Meunier contributes a certain body and richness, yet until recently many makers denied any of it in their blends. Some say it is because of it's lack of aging potential and others say it lacks the elegance of the other two grapes. Interestingly enough though it is the most widely planted grape in the esteemed Champagne region at 35-40%. Pinot Meunier grows better in the cold Northern climate of Champagne than Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

You will rarely see Pinot Meunier as a single varietal still red wine. I was fortunate however to discover Domaine Chandon (known for their sparkling wine) produces one. It has become one of my favorite wines. I like it because of it's smooth sophistication, flavors of cherries and rhubarb. My most recent food pairing with Pinot Meunier was with my Slow Cooker Maple PumpkinTurkey (see last post for recipe). It would also pair well with duck or pork.

I really do believe that this grape is misunderstood and hope it gets the respect it deserves some day.

Slow Cooker Maple Pumpkin Turkey Breast

For Christmas Eve this year I wanted to do something special for dinner, but being that it was only Conrad and I it did not make sense to make an entire turkey. I wanted something fairly simple. I decided to get a turkey breast and try it in our slow cooker (crock pot). This freed up the oven so I could also be working on desserts and food for Christmas Day! Next decision was how would I season it? I decided on using one of my favorite flavors...pumpkin! It came out delicious and so juicy! The flavors were pleasantly complex with the onions, salt and pepper reining in the sweetness of the pumpkin and maple. Another great variation for fall would be to use apple butter instead of pumpkin and throw in some granny smith apples cut up and tossed with the sweet potatoes!

Slow Cooker Maple Pumpkin Turkey Breast:
1.75-2lb boneless turkey breast
1 sweet onion sliced
1/4 cup pure real maple syrup
1/4 cup pumpkin butter
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
2 sweet potatoes peeled and chopped into chunks
4-5 Fresh sage leaves

Take sliced onions and sweet potato chunks and toss them together in the slow cooker. In a bowl mix the maple syrup, pumpkin butter, cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp white pepper. Put the turkey breast on top of the sweet potatoes and onions. Pour the sauce all over the turkey. With your hands take some of the sauce and work it under the skin of your turkey as well as the fresh sage leaves (see sage in the turkey slices in picture!) Cover the slow cooker and set it for 4 hours on high. Over the course of the turkey's cooking time be sure to baste 3 or four times..mostly towards the end, over both the turkey and the sweet potatoes. Your bird will be done when it's internal temperature reads 165. Remove everything from the slow cooker onto a platter and cover to rest for 10-15 minutes, and then enjoy!

For the wine pairing I would suggest
Domaine Chandon's Pinot Menuier
(check my next post for more on this grape varietal, essential for most Champagne making)