Monday, February 16, 2015

Bits 'O Brickle Cookies

I wish I could claim this recipe was mine. To be honest, I'm not even particularly fond of these cookies, but they are my husband's absolute favorite. So when he asks really nicely, or it's his birthday, or I just want to do something nice for him, this is what I bake. Technically, Hershey's calls them Brickle Drop Cookies, and even publishes the recipe on the back of the Heath Bits 'O Brickle bag, but my hubby asks for Bits 'O Brickle, so that's what we call them at our house.

2009 Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos

I'm an impatient gal. I try not to be, but sometimes, I just can't help myself.

I bought the 2009 bottle of Domaine Laroche Chablis last year, thinking I'd hold onto it for a few years, since Grand Cru Chablis can definitely take some age.

But I saw it in my cellar and could wait no longer. My impatience won out and I had to have it.

I am a devoted Chablis drinker. And while I can't say that I love every bottle I open, it is definitely a style that I know and love.

100% Chardonnay, this bottle contains grapes from the prestigious Les Clos vineyard. Aged on the lees in just 25% new French oak, there was a delicious combination of bright fruit, lively acidity, yet a richness in body and texture that sets it apart and elevates it. White flowers and wet stone on the nose with apple/pear, white peach and a touch of lemon coming through. I enjoyed every sip, and when the bottle was done, I lamented the fact that I had only purchased one.

I'll never know if it would've gotten better had I given it more time. Maybe I should have waited until 2019. Maybe then it would have transformed into something even greater. Somehow, I don't care.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bucatini with Almond Jalapeño Pesto

Bucatini with Almond Jalapeño Pesto Recipe

I first fell in love with Almond Jalapeño pesto in January of 2013. I had just returned home from visiting friends in Philadelphia and we had a wonderful dinner at Amis. They served it with bucatini and it seemed exotic, wholly unexpected, and to die for.  I loved it so much I immediately tried to recreate it when I came home. But where to start? I googled online for recipes but found nothing that inspired me. So imagine my surprise when I looked through my Babbo cookbook, and there in front of me was a recipe for Jalapeño pesto. Good old Mario Batali. His recipe used 6 jalapeños, 1/4 cup of blanched almonds, 1/2 diced onion and 1/4 cup of olive oil, pulsed and pureed in a food processor. It was good, but not exactly what I was looking for. I knew I'd have to play with the recipe to make it closer to what I had loved at Amis.

Perfect Pimm's Punch

One of the best parts of living in Florida is the ability to enjoy refreshing tall drinks all year long. So not surprisingly, I first encountered the classic summer drink, the Pimm's Cup, last winter. At its simplest, a Pimm's Cup is Pimm's No. 1 mixed with soda (lemon-lime, ginger-ale, whatever you fancy) and garnished with fruit to make a delightful cocktail that is still the traditional drink of Wimbledon.

For my taste, I want a little more kick and a little more complexity. So I make this Pimm's Punch instead. It gets rid of the soda and uses homemade lemon-limeade along with fresh squeezed orange juice, Pimm's No. 1 and additional gin.

I like to make this punch in batches, but I'll give you the proportions for one drink so you can make as much as you'd like.

First, to make the lemon-limeade you need to juice an equal amount of lemons and limes. Add 1 tsp of sugar and 1 oz of water for every ounce of fresh juice. Once the sugar is dissolved, you are ready to assemble you cocktail.

  • 2 oz Pimm's No. 1
  • 2 oz Gin
  • 3 oz homemade lemon-limeade
  • 2 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
Combine the ingredients and pour over a glass of ice. Garnish with fresh fruit. My favorites are orange slices and fresh cherries. Enjoy! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fundamentals: Puff Pastry

How to make puff pastry at home
Why do tv chefs tell you to purchase puff pastry? Now, I'm not saying that store-bought puff pastry is bad, quite the opposite, but I've heard Ina Garten, Alton Brown, and countless other food celebrities wax on that it isn't worth your time, it's a painstaking process, it's highly complicated. When in reality, I've found puff pastry to be quite simple. It takes time, yes, but that's it. The process itself is similar to making croissants  although the lack of the yeast in the dough actually makes for a much simpler process. Just keep it cold and take your time.

Crazy for Chianti

When I began this whirligig obsession with wine a few years back, I snubbed Chianti. Much like the folks who snubbed Merlot after seeing Sideways, this wasn't based on knowledge or experience drinking it, just my perception of which wines were "fancy" or important. I had this image in my head of mass produced, characterless, flavorless wine. I thought of dusty, straw-covered bottles sitting as standard decoration at countless Italian restaurants and avoided Chianti.

How wrong I was.

I not only misjudged a lot of great wine out of ignorance, I deprived myself the pleasure of drinking it. Today, I always have a couple of bottles of Chianti on hand at the house. Like many Italian wines, it's perfect food wine, yet there are several age-worthy serious drinking examples available at pretty much any wine shop.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca

In 1998, when Babbo opened, I was not yet a foodie. Yes I liked eating, but my college years were spent in school dining centers or slurping down instant ramen in my dorm room. I knew almost nothing about cooking or baking, I hadn't heard of Mario Batali, so of course, Babbo didn't even register on my radar.

By 2000, I was working my first "real job" and my love affair with the culinary arts began. Food Network was a brand new channel to me and I became obsessed with the then new, now classic, show Molto Mario. Mario Batali was whipping up these amazing looking dishes with an ease that completely intimidated me and I was hooked. I found out about Babbo which was taking New York City by storm at the time, and I was dying to go.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2009 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera

I've got friends who are Amarone addicts and for a long time, I didn't see what all the fuss was about.

Amarone comes from the Valpolicella district in Northeastern Italy's Veneto region, made from a blend of grapes (primarily Corvina) that have been dried. The grapes are picked in bunches and kept in drying rooms (with warm temps and low humidity) to "raisinate" for weeks to months. Traditionally, wines were dried on straw mats. This super-concentrates the sugars and flavors of the grapes, yielding big red wines with high alcohol and intense flavor.

When I first tried Amarone, I'll admit that I didn't exactly splurge for the good stuff. There is a lot of hot, bitter, cheap Amarone out in the world, but the good stuff is just lovely.

Masi Winery is one of Amarone's premier producers and their wine does not disappoint. It is amazingly both powerful and restrained. Black and red fruits are ample, including plums and cherries, and somehow the nose and taste is both dried and raisiny, yet fresh. Medium tannins and bright acidity give the wine great structure. I probably drank it too early, this wine easily will only get better with more bottle time, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Definitely sweetness in the nose along with herbs and sweet pipe tobacco. Really well integrated, especially for being 15% alcohol, with a nice long finish. Just delicious and I'll be definitely drinking again.

Almond Tuiles - Elegant Holiday Cookies

To be perfectly honest, I don't bake cookies very often. Yes, I am obsessed with French macarons,  but in general when I'm baking I'm much more interested in experimenting with fancy pastries than drop cookies. It's not that I don't like cookies. From oatmeal or chocolate chip to homemade oreos, I honestly can't think of a cookie that I don't like, but with just two of us in the house, I never know what to do with dozens of cookies. Tuiles, on the other hand, I can devour by the dozens.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Comparative Tasting 2012 Chateau Bonnet Beaujolais, Saint-Amour and Moulin-A-Vent

I love side-by-side tasting. Nothing makes similarities and differences more apparent than by tasting wines together.

I'm a big fan of Beaujolais, especially during the holiday season. People rave about the ease of pairing Pinot Noir to lots of different foods, but Gamay is even easier. Low in tannin, happy with fruit, Beaujolais is easy drinking, easy pairing, and if you get one of the 10 established Crus (villages) you can get complexity and quite a tasty wine for a really good value.

Both of these bottles of Beaujolais fit that bill. I drank them over two days to see how they compared to each other and how well they held up. Day one there was tasty fruit, raspberry, strawberry jam, they both drank like simple Pinot Noir. Either bottle would be a welcome addition to a holiday table, and both have the characteristic tutti-fruity quality that is to be expected in Beaujolais. But side-by-side, there were definite differences that I'm certain I would not have picked up on had I tried these one at a time.

They both had similar, if not identical tasting notes, yet side-by-side, I definitely preferred the Moulin-A-Vent. It had just a bit more weight and complexity than the Saint-Amour. Either would pair beautifully with turkey and gravy, yet they both had enough substance to hold up to an herby pork roast, not to mention an assortment of holiday sides. These are pop and pour bottles, neither was as good the second night. Perfect for a Christmas party, they are easy drinking enough to please non-wine drinkers, and interesting enough to serve people with more discerning palates.