Friday, September 26, 2014

2013 Valley Vineyards, The Royal Chenin Blanc

I've been drinking a lot of Chenin Blanc recently, mostly Vouvray from the Loire region of France. So when I saw The Royal at Total Wine, I was curious to see what South African Chenin Blanc (also called Steen in South Africa) tasted like.

For less than $10, I've got to say I was extremely happy with the purchase. The wine was easy drinking, apple and passion fruit on the nose with a hint of minerality. The wine was clean with high acidity and good balance even if it was very simple. This is an excellent example of what to drink on a hot summer day when you want refreshment instead of complexity.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Caprice Cocktail

I was so excited when I heard about this cocktail. I've been playing with Bénédictine recently, mostly tinkering with the proportions of the Vieux Carré, and the idea of combining this spicy and sweet liqueur with clean and aromatic gin, made me giddy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Skillet Potato Gratin

Meat and potatoes. Sometimes it's the simple things in life that offer the most pleasure. I've spent countless hours perfecting dishes, experimenting with recipes, playing with flavors, but you know what? Sometimes, when I've got all day to make dinner, my husband says, "Lamb tagine sounds nice, but can't you just make steak and potatoes tonight?"

So I sigh, shrug my shoulders, pull out the manliest steak I can find, and make this skillet potato gratin to serve alongside.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vieux Carré Cocktail

Now that the weather is starting to change, days are getting shorter, nights are getting cooler, and I'm craving heavier drinks. Give me a stormy night, and I want to curl up on my couch, binge watch some tv, and have a bottle of red wine, or a good strong cocktail to nurse.

Enter the Vieux Carré. Named for the French Quarter in New Orleans (Vieux Carré means "old square" in French) this potent drink uses rye whisky, sweet vermouth, cognac and Bénédictine to create a spicy, warm cocktail that is somehow comforting when the weather is nasty or you feel particularly gloomy.

If you are unfamiliar with Bénédictine, it is a sweet medicinal liqueur invented, like Chartreuse, by monks. Unlike Chartreuse, which comes in two versions, green and yellow and has a more herbal/vegetal quality (think anise, mint, etc) Bénédictine is amber in color with a sweeter flavor that is spicier, think vanilla, nutmeg, coriander and cardamom. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2011 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Pinot Noir is one of those grapes that can be expressed so many different ways in wine. From silky and light, to complex and rich, it not only expresses where it is grown, its terroir, but also the choices and preferences of the winemaker.

Its blessing can also be its curse. Thin skinned, temperamental, and prone to disease, Pinot Noir that is not handled well either in the vineyard, or by the winemaker, can turn very bad indeed. It is not a particularly easy grape to grow, and good bottles of wine from Pinot Noir are not easy to make.

Enter tonight's Peay Sonoma Coast 2011. This bottle shows exactly the care that I'm talking about. Tart cherry in the nose with complexity showing through a touch of bramble and black tea. It took a bit of time to open, (I'd definitely decant in the future) but was well balanced and silky. This is quality wine made by a caring winemaker with restraint and finesse. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for another bottle, I'm not sure it is yet at its peak. In another year or two, it might be even better.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Parker House Rolls

Who doesn't love bread? From baguettes to croissants, I haven't met a carb-loaded baked good that I don't like. But when you make dinner rolls that are rich, soft, buttery, eggy, and barely sweet Parker House Rolls,  people will more than love them. They will crave them, and find you (as the maker of such delectable bites of carb comfort) more attractive, more intelligent, and more lovable, than you could ever imagine.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

momofuku noodle bar

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, my favorite ramen in New York City is at Ippudo. But after my fantastic meal at momofuku ssäm bar, I knew I wanted to give momofuku noodle bar a chance to redeem itself.

Friday, September 05, 2014

2010 Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve

There are lots of bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends coming out of Napa Valley priced in the $30-$40 range. Many are, in my humble opinion, overpriced and banking on the fame of Napa as a wine region.

Not so with the Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve. This blend (72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 3% each Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) was simply a luscious drink. The nose held rich, ripe black fruits, including blackberries, plums and sweet black currants. This opened up to vanilla, oak, herbs, and subtle spice. Medium-bodied, the tannin was there for structure, but overall, the wine was silky and elegant, with complexity enough to drink on its own or pair with food. This is new world winemaking at its best. Concentrated fruit, yet complexity and subtlety with structure and balance.  I enjoyed it over two nights. I was extremely pleased with the bottle and not at all disappointed by the quality for the price. When I'm craving Napa Cabernet, I know what I'll be turning to.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

2010 Domaine Tempier Bandol

In Provence, France, the Peyraud Family is producing some really stunning wines. Founded in 1834, Domaine Tempier uses organic farming, hand harvesting, and family tradition to create a Mourvedre blend that is an iconic expression of the Bandol appellation.

When I first opened the bottle, it seemed tight and closed so I pulled out my decanter and gave the wine some time to open up. In just 15 minutes, the transformation began and continued through the night as I enjoyed the wine.

Blackberry and plums were the first fruits I picked up in the nose. Hints of cranberry were present as well, but this is definitely not fruit driven wine. Dried herbs, earth, dust were ample on the nose, with spice and white pepper coming through. There was solid tannin, well integrated and the wine  had more acidity and minerality coming through than I originally expected. It was a real beauty to drink, very masterful in subtlety and complexity, a real sign of quality and care in winemaking. I enjoyed every last sip and can't wait to drink again.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Yardbird: Southern Table and Bar

The Yardbird in Miami has been on my list of places to try since it opened in 2012. From the James Beard nominations to the write-ups in food magazines, everything was telling me that this was a restaurant I must try. So when I did a mini-vacation in Miami this summer, I knew I had to go.