Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wines for New Year’s

By Liza B. Zimmerman

I can drink bubbles all year long. They are great on their own and pair beautifully with almost anything but steak, although a little tartare would go well with some sparkling roses. You don’t really need a reason to drink bubbles, but New Year’s celebrations do certainly provide a good excuse.

One of my favorites is Billecart-Salmon rose; it is a stunningly lush and elegant wine. Another, more affordable, choice is the Canard-Duchene NV Brut Rose with its lovely cherry notes. Dry Lambruscos are also so delicious and pair wonderfully with all kinds of sausages and sliced meats that you might like to snack on before a meal. Cantina di Sorbara "Nicchia" is a lovely choice and being low in alcohol, at eight percent, it is a great way to start off an evening.

Going White for the Holidays
This winter has been unseasonably warm in New York so I have been drinking a lot of white wine. Those from cool climates, such as Riesling, remind me of places with snow. Cave Spring Estate Riesling is a gorgeous example of what can be made in Canada, in the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario. This stunner has just a hint of residual sugar and great mineral notes.

Gavi, with its steely elegance, from Piedmont has long been a favorite wine for me. The Broglia "il Doge" reminds me of cozy dinners of rich agnolotti, a local stuffed pasta, on my visits to the regions. The Loire Valley’s classic Pouilly Fumes and sea-salty Muscadets are also perfect for this season. Any of these lovely whites would be great with both hard and soft and stinky cheeses to open or conclude a meal.

Hearty Reds
A big Spanish or French Grenache blend is great for the holidays. These blends rich and intense and tend to open up in beautiful layers. Alvaro Palacio’s big, tannic and iconic “Les Terraces” from Priorat will take on the biggest cuts of meat and make your Cabernet Sauvignon-loving friends fall in love with Spain.

Some of my other favorite wines, with a hint of Grenache, are the unendingly rich gems from the Rhone Valley. Kermit Lynch’s Cotes du Rhone is an affordable treat with a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mouvedre. Yann Chave’s Crozes-Hermitage is even more complex and is 100 percent Syrah. These wines can stand up to the richest stew, think oxtail or beef bourguignon. Or they would be great with a rich pork shank or any meaty cut of beef.

To end an evening there’s nothing better than a rowdy and spice-filled Nebbiolo. I would take Barbaresco any day for its rougher edges over Barolo. A little Dolcetto, the daily wine of the Piedmontese, always hits the spot as well. Whatever you choose the most important part is to in enjoy in good company. Happy New Year!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wines for Holiday Meals

By Liza B. Zimmerman

My family and I have never been big fans of turkey. We have always gone for the lamb, a nice steak or a pork roast. So here’s a primer on what to serve with all of these potential holiday dishes. Regardless of what you serve as the main course, a bottle of bubbly is undoubtedly the best way to kick off a meal. A little Prosecco or Duval-Leroy Champagne could never hurt.

My mother always makes gravlax for the holidays to start the meal and the oiliness of the fish makes it a hard-pair-item. Light reds such as a Chinon or a—somewhat--low-alcohol Pinot Noir such as Lioco Hirsch from the Sonoma Coast can sidle up to the smokiness of the salmon.

Get the Lamb On
A rack of lamb looks as gorgeous as it tastes. The gamey flavor of the meat naturally pairs with a somewhat feral: read “stinky wine.” Rhones are my favorites with lamb. Perhaps a Crozes-Hermitage such as Yann Chave. Another earthy choice would be the reds of Piedmont. From Barbera to Barbaresco and those lovely ever-day-drinking Dolcettos. The sweet red fruits in many of these wines would also pair well with duck, with a hint of stewed fruits: think some dried apricots or prunes.

Other wild game, such as venison, would also be great with the some of the funkier-smelling wines of the world, such as the Bodegas Renacer “Punto Final,” Malbec.

Work the Crock Pot
The 1950s invention has become one of my favorite toys. I used it to stew oxtail and stuff cuts of beef. The sauce on the dish is the essential pairing component. With a tomato-based one you might want a simple Sangiovese, from tomato-rich countries (primarily Italy, with a splash of California and Argentina thrown in there). Bonarda might not be bad either.

If you put anchovies in your stew, as the Italians love to do, you might want to go with a slightly more tannic wine such as a Primitivo from Puglia or even an Amarone. A somewhat corpulent Sonoma coast Pinot Noir or Syrah might also work: trust me.

Roast a Steak or Go Classic
A beautifully rare steak with a hint of pan-sizzle crunch on the outside deserves a big wine. Soft tannins are going to be key so an aged Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or a softer Sonoma Valley one might work. Red Douro blends are among my favorites as well: there is so much subtle structure in the blend of grapes. The Doural Red is a lovely wine and a bargain pairing.

If you are going to envelop it with butter you may even want a richer wine, such as Bordeaux blend (leaning to the Left-Bank more tannic and Cabernet Sauvignon-based style).

If you still want to make that turkey or another bird you could mix up the pairings. A mineral-focused white, such as Vermentino or some of the white Rhones, can step up to a fatty bird. Another, even less-orthodox idea might be an esoteric grape such as Kerner from Alto Adige in Northeastern Italy.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Jaan Paan Liqueur: Drink Jaan. Love Life.

By Catherine L Luke

There is a word in the Hindi language that means life and love.  It is a term of endearment- a unisex expression of warmth and good feelings.  The word is jaan.  A tangible equivalent of jaan’s warmth and friendship is paan.  Paan is derived from the betel leaf, plucked from vines in South and Southeast Asia.  Combined with various spices such as cardamom, anise, clove, coconut, and candied rose petals, it is a very popular type of snack that is meant to be chewed; think of it as an ancient form of chewing gum.  Herbal and peppery, it offers a great spectrum of flavor.  Paan has been enjoyed in South and Southeast Asia for over 4,000 years.  In many cultures, offering paan is symbolic of love, respect, and friendship.

A completely unique product that embodies these sentiments has entered the spirits scene: Jaan Paan Liqueur.  Merging the ancient and traditional flavors of the East with more modern, upfront flavors of the West such as maple, vanilla, cardamom, and citrus, Jaan Paan Liqueur offers something for everyone. 

Toronto-based Raj Djanhal is the creator of Jaan Paan Liqueur.  A Project Management Consultant with a passion for being original and creative, Dhanjal had long been drawn to culinary ingenuity in cooking, fermenting, distilling, and mixology. 

The inspiration for Jaan Paan was born from a paan liqueur that was on the market several years ago.  It was a roughly executed product that didn’t have staying power in the international market as its flavors were too harsh.  That liqueur is no longer available, but it served as a muse.

Djanhal began to create his own paan liqueur at home.  It worked wonderfully, but was a kitchen recipe tested only on family and friends.  Seeing the overwhelming praise from this original test market, Dhanjal took things to the next level by working with a local food technology company to develop a scalable commercial product.  His product found success, delightfully delivering the experience of paan in a versatile style.  Djanhal says that when you add Jaan Paan to cocktails and food, you are adding life to the flavors and revitalizing them to create a whole new experience.  Relatable yet exotic, the mystique is in the explosion of flavors in your mouth.

The process of what we find in the bottle was several years in the making, including much R&D, market research, and focus group studies.  Though, Djanhal points out that considering the historical roots of the core ingredient, you could say it was 4,000 years in the making.  Jaan Paan has not only been very well received in the Canadian market, but has been widely sought and lovingly shipped to international admirers.

Since its launch, Jaan Paan Liqueur has also received numerous accolades from mixologists, celebrity chefs, and industry aficionados.  It has won top awards in spirit competitions around the world.  In addition, Jaan recently launched two new products: Jaan Ginger Liqueur and Jaan Spiced Vodka.  More exciting products are in the works for 2016.

As of very recently, and just in time to gift to loved ones, we are lucky enough to have Jaan Paan Liqueur readily available in the States.

Visit www.DrinkJaan.com for more product information and recipes.

Drink Jaan, Love Life!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Catherine lives in Brooklyn, and has worked in the wine industry in Napa Valley and NYC. She is certified by the WSET, as well as the school of "wine in real life".  Understanding the patchwork of little-known Italian regional wines, dishes, and customs excites her most of all. She (sometimes) muses on her blog GrapesofCath.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bright Whites for Dark Weather

By Liza B. Zimmerman

In the darker, and colder, months of the year there is often nothing as palate-cleansing as a clean and simple white wine. They are delicious whether you are warming your hands by a fireplace or an old radiator in New York City.

Bubbles—across the varietal spectrum—are among the most celebratory choices and super-crisp, high-acidity whites from places such as Northern Italy and Central France aren’t far behind. Intense, citric-driven Spanish whites are also divine with so many foods and those sweet wines are a great way to top-off an evening.

I will never say no to a touch of Billecart-Salmon Champagne at any time of the year. However a good Cava or Prosecco is also just delicious. All these wines can be delightful on their own and great with nuts, cheese Middle Eastern spreads. For fun try a Turkish or Lebanese wine: such at Chateau Musar with the spices in these foods. The bubbles in a heartier Lambrusco are also fantastic, but may be better welcomed after a meal or with a bird cooked in a sweet, fruit-based sauce (like a duck made with apricots or a guinea hen sautéed in a sweet mustard sauce!).

Steely, Bright Whites and Iberian Stunners
I adore the intense flavors of Italian whites particularly from the Northeast corner of Italy: Friuli and the Alto-Adige. Kerner is one my favorite grapes, albeit a fairly esoteric one. The Kofererhof Alto Adige Valle Isarco Kerner is a great example. These wines can take on cream-based soups and rich starting dishes.

Loire Valley whites are also a refreshing way to open an evening, or a meal. Muscadets are among the most affordable, and highly mineral, but sometimes not as crisp and linear as other more-noted Loire wines, such as Pouilly Fume.

Austrian Gruner Veltliners have their racy acidy. I am also a fan of some of the mineral whites of the Campanian Coast of Italy: such as Falanghina and Greco di Tufo. Oregon’s austere Pinot Gris have more in common with their Alsacan counterparts than domestic wines. Many Chilean Sauvignon Blancs and some of those from South Africa are also forces with which to be reckoned.

Albariños and Verdejos from Spain and the new world can be stunning. Wines from Gallica, in the north of Spain, hard on the coast, have an incredible minerality. Do Zoe Rias Baixas is a great and affordable example. I would serve these wines with zesty salads—even with vinegar—and even ceviche. It’s an acid-on-acid match off that should work. Wines like these are even refreshing matches with hard cheeses to wrap up your meal. Many reds actually fight with some of cheeses’ elemental flavors because of their tannin structure.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Turkey Thighs with Madeira and pearl onions.

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer


Turkey Day, better known as Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching and with it, just another heavy dinner- to be slept off over the weekend.  I have a suggestion on how to bring your guests to the table and make sure that they talk about how delicious their dinner was- without the somnambulism. 

The Founding Fathers were quite fond of turkey.  It almost became the national bird, before the eagle took its place.  But with that said, we give thanks at this time of year and celebrate our appreciation for history with a turkey dinner.  There are many schools of thought as to what goes with turkey.  I’m sometimes interested in Riesling, other times Gruner Veltliner.  And still other times, I find myself interested in a juicy, fruit forward Syrah.

But this year is going to be different. I did some research into the history of this most American of our holidays and found that of all the spirits that were enjoyed at Thanksgiving, only Madeira has been forgotten by history. 

It’s just amazing to me how well Madeira goes with turkey.  It’s really the perfect balance and combination of flavors.  From savory nutmeats to toasty, charred oak, pencil lead, blue fruits and sweet caramel popcorn.  Sure it’s produced from grapes and yes it is fortified and aged in the blazing sun, then taken for sea voyages in the crashing waves, lashed to the decks, splashed with salt spray and blistering heat for months on end…

That is what makes Madeira so sensual.  It’s not easy to make, but oh so luscious to drink.   And with turkey? Well Madeira is the perfect match for turkey dinners of all sorts.

My turkey dinner features an under 20-dollar bottle of Madeira that you can cook with AND drink at the same time.  Broadbent Rainwater Medium Dry Madeira NV is my choice to bring history to life. 

The Food Timeline, which is my go-to for all things history and food discusses Madeira as the most “Expensive and popular wine” during the 18th Century.  It’s evaporated from our scope because it is not an easy drinker… It takes great fortitude to enjoy Madeira because it is dry and sweet, at the same time.  Fortified with Brandy, Madeira is also potent.  Just a few glasses with a meal can hasten both digestion (from the herbs and the fermented grapes) and intoxication from the Brandy element, bringing forth sleep. 

Madeira as fine as the Broadbent, available at DrinkupNY is easy to enjoy, because you didn’t overpay for the pleasure of history in your glass.  Or in this case, with your turkey dinner!

Turkey Thighs with Madeira and pearl onions.
Ingredients and practice…
Pre-heat oven to 450

5 or 6 pounds of turkey thighs that you’ve soaked in buttermilk for two days, changing the buttermilk each day. (essential) then discard buttermilk down the drain and dry the thighs as best as possible
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4-5 Bay Leaf 
2 lbs. Pearl Onions (peeled and soaked in acidulated water) (1 cap of vinegar to 1 gallon of water.. let soak for a few hours then dry…
2-3 whole bulbs garlic, 1 end sliced off, paper on…
½ bottle Rainwater Madeira
½ cup Balsamic Vinegar

Practice…
To a large Dutch Oven (Le Creuset comes to mind) add ½ cup unsalted butter
Add the Turkey Thighs
Add the Pearl Onions
Add the Garlic
Add the Salt and Pepper
Add the Bay Leaf
Add the Rainwater Madeira

Place in your preheated oven, uncovered for ½ hour at the very minimum…
Drop the temperature down to 300, cover and roast for 4-5 hours or until the turkey falls apart easily with a fork.

Add the Balsamic to the pot during the last two hours of cooking… 

Serve with small glasses of the Madeira and sip gently to a Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog The Cocktail Whisperer and the author of nearly half a dozen books, including Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktail and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails- his most recent book.

He's also written about cocktails for Saveur and Whole Foods/Dark Rye, Total Food Service, Eater, Serious Eats, Foodista, Distiller and Beverage Media among other outlets.  He’s taught the fine art of social media and food writing at the New School in New York and at the Institute for Culinary Education. Warren has also taught at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine.

Bobrow was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and was the only American food journalist asked to participate in Fête de la Gastronomie, a nationwide celebration of French cuisine in Burgundy.
Photo Credit: WishFulChef

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pairing Wine with Steak

By Liza B. Zimmerman

I have long though that simple pairings such as red with red meat and white with chicken and fish have fallen short. It is so much more insightful to talk about the method in which meat is prepared, what spices are added and what type of sauce it is made to pair with.

Steak has long been a meat-eater’s wonderland with dozens of cuts, great marbling and many suburb ways to grill, roast and sauté it. On a recent visit to one of the finest steak temples in New York, Del Frisco’s, I had a chance to connect with a very ambitious young sommelier who shares my interest in creating pairings for how the meat is cooked.

A Sommelier’s Perspective
“Different Steaks pair well with different wines depending on the fat content or ‘marbling’ of the steak. A leaner steak, like a Filet Mignon, pair best with medium-bodied wines: Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Tempranillo and blends. Well-marbled steaks, like a Ribeye, pair best with full-bodied reds: such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec and blends,” says Jessica Norris, wine director at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House New York.

Texture plays a key role in these pairings, as much or more than it might with fish, chicken of vegetables. Matching a steak, for Norris, is about my guests flavor profile. “The ‘wonder-pairings,’ come when the guest's preferred flavor profile is combined into a perfect match of texture, both of wine (tannins/alcohol) and texture of the steak (lean vs. marbled).”

Cabernet Sauvignons, particularly with accessible tannins are ideal go-to wines. Some of my favorite come  from a trio of great regions such as Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast; Walla Walla in Eastern Washington; and Chile way south of the border. Three superb wines, two of them that cost less then $25, include the Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles; the Marques di Casa Concha from Maipo; and the slightly more expensive L’Ecole No. 41 from Walla Walla.

Leaner cuts for Certo can melt in your mouth so a “more elegant wine with a delicate or smooth finish pairs extremely well.” With a touch of marbling she suggests a more full-bodied red.

Ideal and Easy-to-Pair Wines
Red wine with soft tannins that are accessible even when young will go with almost any steak. Certo includes, “Medium-bodied reds like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône, Rioja, Merlot, Zinfandel, New World Blends, California Pinot Noir and Spanish Grenache,” among her favorites.

The South and Southwest of France are fantastic pairings for steaks. Cahors and Madirans reign supreme with all types of fatty meats: as their robust structure, intense fruits and subtle tannins make a beef-fueled pairing melt in your mouth. Georges Vigoroux’s "Gouleyant" Cahors is a great example that won’t break the budget.

Southern, and Northern, Rhone Valley wines are also divine with steak. Two great choices are Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage and Domaine Raspail-Ay Gigondas. Both are hearty, expressive and time-proven appellations. If you want to head south to Italy Barbarescos—such as Produttori del Barbaresco---Nebbiolos and tightly wound Sangioveses from Tuscany would also fit the bill.
       
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: Napa Valley Vintners

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Exploring Baijiu: A Look at China’s top white distillate and how to enjoy it on the U.S. Market

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Vodka has long been the top white sprit stateside as its neutral and easily mixes with all kinds of ingredients. Chinese spirits producers are hoping to change the game by introducing American consumers to this white spirit, which is often incorrectly called rice wine. It is actually generally made from sorghum and can also be produced from barley, millet and wheat.

In China, some producers—and visitors—admit, that consumption has been focused on quantity over quality. This spirit was reportedly the lifeblood that kept the Red Army ticking and huge sums, which some have compared to defense spending, have been invested in its purchase and consumption.

The introduction of high-end bottlings to the American market is move that Chinese distillers hope will help Chinese consumption patterns evolve as well. Inexpensive bottles have long been available in Chinatown, but now luxury offerings such as Kweichow Moutai Baijiu, which normally sells for almost $160 for a 375-ml. bottle, are more readily available.

Baijiu’s history is believed to date back to the era BC and was officially documented in the Song Dynasty which dates to 960 AD. It’s classified by aromas that can vary from “sauce” to “strong.”

Tasting and Experimenting
On first taste Baijiu is strong, intense and can intensely heat up your mouth from an alcohol-by-volume content that often tops 50 percent. Some Baijius are blended with spirits of different age statements. Many have floral and fruit aromas that have to be carefully detected on the nose to avoid the heat from the high proof.

When Orson Salicetti opened the Baijiu bar Lumos on Houston Street, in downtown New York, he had to do a lot of research. He was experienced in putting new spins on single-spirit focused bars—having worked at New York’s Apotheke  in Chinatown—but had to do extra research to introduce the American drinker to Baijiu. That included making his own milks and creating some esoteric Baijiu infusions.

“Baijiu has a rich aroma for a clear spirits… and it’s full of flavor, great for infusions and cocktails.” He enjoys, and serves it, both neat and infusions and cocktails. He adds that, “because of  the heightened percentage of alcohol, Baijiu is great for infusions with dry fruits like dates, apricot, and figs. I like to mix Baijiu with fresh fruit juices with texture like pears, honeydew and pineapples.”

Trying it in different types of glasses both neat and on the rocks, will help a novice drinker become familiar with its different flavor profiles. Introducing an ice cube or two, or a touch of water will also help the spirit to evolve in the glass, even though most Chinese consumer it at room temperature. Since many Baijius’ have a salty flavor to them, they also complement saline and spicy snacks.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wines for All Hallows’ Eve

By Liza B. Zimmerman

While the kids are out trick or treating let us enjoy some delicious wines at home. Since the season is cool in most of the country it is an ideal time for hearty reds, and maybe a splash of Champagne or a great dessert wine.

Zinfandels often have the deep, dark color of what masquerades as blood and the intensity to pair with big fall foods. Lodi and Amador County producer some of the best of them in California, with a great fruit and spice profile and ribbons of acidity. Sobon Estate Fiddletown has long been one of my favorites for how well balanced and food friendly it is.

Other Reds to Warm Up a Cold Night
There’s nothing like the zest and elegance of red Bordeaux-inspired blend. We have them in Sonoma, Napa, and there are making them as far afield as South Africa and Chile. Many countries are adding a little bit of their own home-grown style to the wines, such as with the addition of Pinotage—not always my favorite—or Carménère down in Chile.

Vina Chocalan Gran Reserva is great example of what cool-climate Chilean terroir can do. Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons "Classique" 2011 is a beautiful blend of the two most classic Bordeaux red varieties—Merlot and Cabernet—with a French touch out of South Africa. It also has a small amount of Pinotage that blends in with the stronger varietals.

Ridge in California does a totally inventive take on blends: although it has everything but the traditional Bordeaux grapes in it.

Earthy Red to Sip by a Fire
Whether you have a fireplace or not you can carve a pumpkin and toast your hands beside it. October is the time of the year is the time of year when earthy-smelling wines warm the bones and pair beautifully with big steaks.

Côtes du Rhônes or Châteauneuf-du-Pape will all stand up the occansion. One of my favorite, most consistent appellations is Gigondas and the Domaine Raspail-Ay, made mostly from Grenache is a great example. Madiran and Cahors are also great picks, best served with a rich dish like roast duck.

Going Classic
Let the kids can eat M&Ms and peanut butter cups, we can enjoy our adult candy: a great vintage Port or Sauternes. Inniskillin’s Riesling Icewine is also another favorite of mine. You could pour it over ice cream if you really wanted to indulge but it is lovely on its own.

Sparkling Shiraz or Lambrusco—I always love Lini—is a splendid way to finish an evening with something sweet and sparkling. A lovely glass of Champagne—I could never had enough Gosset—is another great way to wrap up any holiday.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Roasted Flounder with Riesling

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer


With the change of seasons, I’ve started to pay closer attention to the varietals of wine that I’m choosing.  As the weather cools down, my thirst changes along with my palate.  The flavors that I desire smack of wet stones, brine, smoke and char- just like foods that my stomach grumbles for.

Last night I was fortunate to find some really gorgeous flounder filets from Metropolitan Seafood out here in New Jersey.  If you’ve never tried flounder, skip your flavorless filets of red snapper and scoop up this very delightful fish.  Similar in color to the ubiquitous red snapper, flounder glistens in the light and offers a very shellfish taste.  Just the thing for Riesling. 

I tried to pare back my dish to make absolutely sure that the flavors of the flounder were not overpowered by any one ingredient.  The aromatics of the fish were quite simply of the ocean.  A drop of olive oil from Marseilles, brine, citrus, tomato, and rosemary- that was what I attempted to exemplify.  Nothing more.  This is a perfect dish that calls out for a hint of sweetness, a dryness that comes with salt water, sea smoke and the crispness of stainless steel.

Riesling sings to me in the fall because well made Riesling is a thing of fleeting beauty in the time between warmth and cold.  Those days where the air is thick, then refreshing- all in one sip. 

Bonny Doon makes such a Riesling.  It speaks of the time where warmth balances the brisk and where recipes that hold simplicity as their merit bring amusement to the room.  Your sips don’t shout synchronicity they suggest relaxation and comfort.  Bonny Doon Vineyard "The Heart Has Its" Rieslings is a play on words for the intellectual.  Aromatics and flavors of white flowers, toasted nuts, stone fruit and stainless steel evolve into a discussion on Proust or Kant or even Chekov.  Bonny Doon wines are erudite and bold but one thing they are not, is the same old thing.  I’m pretty sure that if you believe in flying saucers, you’ll find Bonny Doon wines most beguiling and authentic.

Just like I found the “The Heart Has It’s” goes with my perfectly delicious filet of flounder.  The fish brought out the sweetness in the Queen of Grapes (Riesling) and that sweetness evaporated into crisp acidity, foiled by the rosemary and the citrus from the lemon.  There is a touch of creamy avocado, interspersed with the tomato along with a touch of shallot that is just sublime.

The notes of tomato and the salinity of the flounder brought out deeper notes of brioche toasts smeared with stone fruit jam and caramelized fall nuts. 

It’s easy to enjoy lightly chilled Riesling made as well as this one with other savory foods like Brook Trout Almandine or my favorite, Green Thai Curry.  You can make this curry with duck and I’ll be most pleased because green curry and duck are a match made in heaven for Riesling. 

It’s lip smacking goodness!

Flounder and Tomato with Avocado, Rosemary and Lemon 

Ingredients:
2- ½ pound filets of flounder- bones and cleaned well, wrap in paper towel and keep cool
½ lemon, sliced into very thin slices- paper thin- use a sharp knife
2 cherry tomatoes- sliced thinly
1 teaspoon olive oil- I used one from the South of France
Slices of very ripe avocado
Very thin slices of shallot
Sea Salt
Freshly Cracked Pepper
Rosemary

Preparation:
Heat a toaster oven- or regular oven to 375 degrees
Grease a piece of foil or stoneware with olive oil
Place the flounder on the cooking surface
Salt and pepper the fish
Arrange the tomato, lemon and avocado on the surface of the fish, with the shallot
Crush some rosemary over the tomato, shallot and avocado with the lemon slices
Roast for 5 minutes, turn off the oven and let sit in the oven for 5 minutes

Plate and serve with couscous or brown rice

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog The Cocktail Whisperer and the author of nearly half a dozen books, including Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktail and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails- his most recent book.

He's also written about cocktails for Saveur and Whole Foods/Dark Rye, Total Food Service, Eater, Serious Eats, Foodista, Distiller and Beverage Media among other outlets.  He’s taught the fine art of social media and food writing at the New School in New York and at the Institute for Culinary Education. Warren has also taught at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine.

Bobrow was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and was the only American food journalist asked to participate in Fête de la Gastronomie, a nationwide celebration of French cuisine in Burgundy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pairing Wine with Football Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Just became it’s game season doesn’t mean you need to drink beer. There are many great wine pairings that will work with those wings, cheese-filled pizza and that dips. I once hosted a Super Bowl party in New York that was totally high-end, South African wine themed and everyone still talks about it to this day.

First you have to decide how big the gathering will be and what foods will be featured. If you live near a great wings place in San Francisco, as I do, that might just do enough with some whole-grain chips and guacamole. Here are some basic guidelines on a variety of good pairings.

Grill that Meat
If you have an outside grill, or even a baby George Foreman grill, bring on that meat. You can easily buy pre-marinated cuts at Trader Joe’s but it is more fun to mix it up yourself. Layer in a handful of fresh and dry herbs, rub that meat with salt and pepper and maybe add some mustard or Middle Eastern spice like Sumac.

What you pair with meat will depend not only on the type but also how you cook it. Charred beef goes well with big tannic wines, such as Zinfandel—Sobon Estate from Amador is a great choice—Petite Sirah such as Bogle and of course Cabernet Sauvignon. High-alcohol wines with softer tannins such as Tres Palacios "Family Vintage" Merlot from Chile will also work well.

If you go with pork, depending on how you cook it a slightly sweet, high-acid white might do the trick. If it’s a simple preparation like Choucroute Garnie—a mix of sausages and sauerkraut—go for an Alsace, or Alsace-inspired Riesling or Pinot Blanc. If you are adding a tomato-based sauce, bring out a soft and simple red such as a Beaujolais Nouveau or simple Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley.

Spicing up Those Wings and Dip
Tangy marinade needs a little bit of a kick from acidity, if they are hot-pepper driven maybe an off-dry white. Once you add a touch of tomato and garlic a peppery Merlot perhaps from Chile or a blend like Rupert & Rothschild’s Classique, which is also a great value, will do the trick.

If you really want to enjoy that blue cheese dip that often comes with the wings, you should do so with a somewhat austere white. Reds are very hard to pair with cheese. Believe or so that dip might like work with some Rhone varietals, from France, or sourced domestically such as Tertulia Cellars “Redd Brand” Syrah from Walla Walla.

Middle Eastern, chick pea- and eggplant-based, spreads are a bit more generous in their pairing affinities. It always fun to try something from their relative motherland, such as a beautiful wine from Lebanon, such as Musar’s “Jeune Rouge,” if not something Southern French and gracious such  Domaine Lalande "Les Haut de Lalande" Pays de la Cite de Carcasson will pair nicely.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Global Pairing Pinot Noir with Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman

This delicate and hard-to-produce wine has long brought out the best in a wide variety of dishes. Burgundian classics are now so different from California standards and Oregon’s evolving Pinot revolution that it is worth a closer look as to how and why some of these wines work so well with food.

The way a dish is prepared, and the ingredients it is paired with, are also essential to sorting out the Pinot Noir picture. Andrea Fulton, the sommelier at the Dayton-Oregon based Joel Palmer restaurant, says that Oregon Pinot Noirs just love mushrooms. I would wager than any forest-influenced, slightly funky wines might.

Her additional list of what food ingredients make Oregon Pinot shine include umami flavors (such as truffles, wild mushrooms, mustards, peppercorns, coriander, and horseradish; scented green herbs (rosemary, thyme, tarragon, oregano, summer and winter savory, chervil, mints and basils); and aromatic sweet spices (clove, cinnamon, mace, allspice and nutmeg). A to Z makes some great, and very affordable Pinot Noirs, that would pair well with many of these ingredients.

California Pinots and Beyond
Some of these Pinot Noirs, particularly the style many producers have adapted on the California Coast, can be bigger, more elegant and plush. Roar makes a handful of Pinots that are great examples, with an alcohol level pushing 15 percent that should be paired with big, grilled meats: maybe a steak or a leg of lamb. You could also do slow-cooked oxtail in the crockpot with this one. Heron is another nice choice with lower alcohol and an easy-food pairing profile: perhaps grilled pork or a stuffed Italian pasta would work well with this.

The Chileans and Argentines are also turning out Pinot Noirs with some success. Some of those, such as   Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir, planted by the iconic Chilean winemaking family Concha y Toro, is grown close to the cooling climate of the Pacific Ocean. This is lighter style of the grape that might work with grilled chicken or a red sauce.

Old World Insights
Burgundy has long been the iconic homeland of the grape, but unfortunately many of the wines are becoming more expensive and less available. Harsh winter weather keeps yields down and prices up. Some producers are still making lovely and affordable wines, including Domaine Michel Juillot. The fruit-structure on many of these wines can be a bit delicate, so perhaps pairing it with a creamy pistachio-studded pate before or after dinner would be divine.

The Southern French, particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon, are turning out some stunning varitally labeled wines. They run more to the rowdy Syrah- and Cabernet Sauvignon-inspired, but the Pinot Noirs can be impressive as well, such as the C’est La Vie Vin de Pays Pinot Noir, which is blended with Syrah. The luscious light the vines get in the Southern part of France can help them stand up to simple, heartier dishes such as duck or a roasted guinea hen. You can also bring out a little hard cheese as an appetizer with them before you dig into your dinner.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A conversation with Steve McCarthy, Founder and Master Distiller of Clear Creek Distilleries

By Antonia Fattizzi, Founder/President, Cork and Tin

Founded in 1985 by Steve McCarthy, Clear Creek Distilleries has become a leader of European distillation techniques in Portland, Oregon. Showcasing the best of “pure fruit spirits from the Pacific Northwest” such as eau de vies, grappas, liqueurs and whiskeys, Clear Creek Distilleries celebrates its 30th anniversary this month. 

Apple and pear orchards have been in the McCarthy family since 1910. While the family temporarily lost the orchards during the Great Depression, McCarthy’s father bought them back as soon as he was financially able to do so and by the 1970s the land had been reconsolidated with McCarthy’s uncle running the business. At this time, the junior McCarthy (Steve) owned a hunting accessories company leading him to Europe on business. There, he saw how pears—nearly identical to McCarthy orchard pears—were used to produce eau de vie.

Within a few years he became more involved in his family’s orchard business, helping out when the market for Bartlett pears collapsed. The family watched on as their neighbors cut down three-generation old orchard pear trees full of fruit.  Soon, South American produce had taken over and, if the family wanted to remain in business, it was clear that Clear Creek Distilleries would need to intelligently market their products.  At the time, no Pacific Northwest distillery made eau de vie, and McCarthy saw an opportunity to create a line using his family’s fresh fruit and drawing on the techniques he’d learned while in Europe.

In 1984, he purchased his first still from Germany. It arrived in ruins, but he didn’t let this rocky start derail him. He simply order another still a year later, learning how to use it from the one man in Northern California making an eau de vie. To house the still, he bought a building in NW Portland, obtained the proper permits and began distilling in early summer 1985.  Following his teacher’s instructions to the letter, he was heartened when the first cut was “decent.” Within a year he was on the road to developing techniques that would allow him to produce pear brandy and other products.

Goals and Keys to Success
Once in business, McCarthy lined out some important goals for both himself and his distillery:

•    Make great eau de vie, even better than French products.
•    Produce enough of it. In order to do this, one must be wary of issues that creep into the production line.
•    Figure out a way to distribute the products.
•    Develop a model for small, family-owned distilleries, which was new territory for the Portland area 30 years ago.
•    Become profitable.

From the outset, McCarthy found himself building both a brand and an entirely new spirits category. He didn’t know enough about the spirits industry in the U.S. to understand that the chances of succeeding were low and that realizing his goals would require long days at the distillery and weeks on the road. He then made it a point to be deeply involved in the production process, and even after the first 15 years in business, he can do every job imaginable inside of the distillery. While the sales trips were grueling, he was energized by the challenge of educating trade and consumers alike on the eau de vie category, and soon grew to be known for the care he took in his products.

McCarthy quickly found his niche in high-end restaurants, particularly with French sommeliers who understood eau de vie and saw similarities between his distillery and the ones they knew from Europe. (The fact that McCarthy can speak French didn’t hurt). In one instance, when a presentation to Le Bernardin ran too long, McCarthy missed his flight home to Oregon. He continued on with the presentation and the sommelier was so impressed by the Clear Creek line that he brought all of the chefs out from the kitchen to taste it. Experiences like this showed him that when influential members of the restaurant community supported his distillery, success could follow.

Another key to success involved winning over his distributors—a lesson he learned from his days marketing and selling hunting gear. Distribution was instrumental to building the company, and Clear Creek Distilleries has been distributed by the same company (Frederick Wildman & Sons) from the very beginning.  McCarthy credits them for helping Clear Creek Distilleries partner with committed retailers and restaurateurs willing to sell a high-end product in every major city in America.

But above all, McCarthy has had years of experience working in his family’s orchards and he knows good fruit. He unabashedly informed his customers that his blue plum brandy was the best he ever made, though he’ll be the first to admit that he’s not sure just what made it so much better than everything else. Jeanine Racht, Clear Creek Distillery’s National Sales Director, says that McCarthy possesses the “mindset of a winemaker” and that he was brave, even fearless, in his approach to distillation.  Essentially making up the rules as he went along, McCarthy had no other area distillers to look to – the nearest distillery was located in the Bay Area of California. Yet, he knew his target market and built upon it accordingly.

Whiskey: “The Darndest Accidental Product”
On vacation in Western Ireland 20 years ago, McCarthy found himself in a cabin that held an extensive scotch bar. Stuck inside due to nonstop rain, he made his way through all of the single malts and fell in love with Isla style, naming Lagavulin 16 as his favorite. On the spot, he decided to make a peated single malt, but it took a longer time to source ingredients than he anticipated. From the outset, McCarthy had to cobble the pieces of this project together. He bought peat-malted barley in Scotland because nobody close to his distillery would sell to him, found a local person to make a whiskey wash of unfinished beer and fermented barley, and bought his barrels from a nearby barrelmaker.  Now, the whiskey is distilled once in Clear Creek’s own eau de vie stills and then aged in Oregon Oak. Winemakers have a difficult time utilizing Oregon oak due to its strong influence on their wine, but it works well for whiskey.

Demand exploded around 2000 when Jim Murray, author of The Whiskey Bible, dropped by the distillery on a lark, giving Clear Creek Distilleries Whiskey his top rating in the world for a small distillery whiskey. McCarthy described it as “all hell breaking loose.” And even though demand exceeded their supply, they didn’t get greedy with prices. While the distillery attempts to produce a bit more whiskey each year, peak times at both the brewery and distillery make this difficult. Therefore, each bottling equates to just under 600 cases.

Leaving a Legacy
For over three decades, McCarthy’s tenacity and commitment to excellence has inspired his employees. He retired last year and when asked which lessons he hopes he’s instilled in his employees, quality control was at the top of that list. “My team has to be complete maniacs from the time the fruit is harvested until it comes out of the barrel,” he said. To him, there are many examples of successful companies that get sloppy with their production methods, and while Clear Creek Distilleries is successful in its own right, he’s careful not to fall prey to others’ mistakes. He feels that the way an employer treats their people says a great deal about the type of environment they wish to have at their company.  With that approach, rarely has he had an employee not work out in his organization.

When it comes to his customers, he wants to people to know his story: He made everything from scratch, he believes in products, not brands, and he doesn’t cut corners. Racht adds to this by pointing out that European distillers are brilliant in terms of controlling rotten fruit and fermenting it; Clear Creek Distilleries sees itself as a reflection of that community. With this approach, they support local agriculture by completing the cycle of farm-to-bottle.  That’s sustainable distillation at its very best.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Since 2003, Antonia Fattizzi has managed, marketed and sold boutique wines and spirits in the US market. Her passion for artisinal products propelled her to found Cork and Tin, which serves as a voice and a strategic partner for small and emerging brands.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pairing Indian Street Food with Wine

By Liza B. Zimmerman


It’s challenging enough to pair regular Indian food, with its intense spice range, with wine. So imagine trying to balance a tender lamb samosa or a yogurt-overloaded sev puri in one hand and a glass in the other. So we are lucky that stateside we have some restaurants that are bringing all these street cart flavors served tableside, where you can enjoy a glass of wine with them.

Vik’s Chaat in Berkeley is a legend and serves some of the best Indian street food in town. The restaurant’s owner Amod Chopra, says that “The literal meaning of Chaat is to ‘relish,’ ” and adds that given that the flavors excite your senses “isn’t that what food and wine pairing is all about?”

He says that there are more than 20 distinct Chaat dishes, “and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Each region within India has their own interpretation, using local ingredients and catering to local palate preferences.” For instance the big, crunchy pancakes called Dosa are Southern Indian and beef samosas would only be served in non-vegetarian parts of the country. 

Key Pairings
The flavors in Chaat combine tangy-salty spices, sour-sweet yogurt and tamarind sauce, and herbs, according to Amod. So the challenge of finding a wine to suit these small, flavor-loaded bites is somewhat akin to pairing wine with regular Indian food. However wine choices with Chaat probably need to be even more flexible given the number of flavors you might experience in one meal.

Many Chaat dishes such as batata vada, or potato fritters, are fried, and have fresh garlic, ginger and coriander. They “tend to pair well with crisp and herbaceous white wines rather than riper, barrel-fermented ones or reds,” says Amod.

Sauvignon Blanc is a clean, fresh style such Loire Valley—such as La Foret des Dames Sancerre or Chilean versions are always great calls with spicy food. This grape may well be the most flexible of all varietals in stepping up to chili-inflected food with a range of spices.

The presence of dense and creamy yogurt in many Indian dishes begs for a wine with fresh acidity. Chenin Blanc, such as California’s Ken Forrester or Sula’s Indian-produced Chenin, and Riesling are both good pairings. In the fact that established Indian wine producer Sula produces these two as well as Sauvignon Blanc also is starting a new tradition of “what grows together goes together,” in India as well.

Beautifully made, off-dry Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, Germany and Ontario, such as Cave Spring would work well as they have loads of fruit and good acidity. Amod says that these types of wines can work seamlessly despite the fact that many, “Chaat dishes are very diverse and may use a yogurt that has been sweetened which can be tricky when pairing with wine.”

Slightly off-dry Rose would be a good choice as well, such as Vega Sindoa from Navarra. Amod notes that, “When you have a hot/spicy dish you need to go in for a wine, usually white, with a certain amount of residual sugar. The sweetness in the wine tones down the heat and soothes the palate, leaving room for the fruit to express itself. The big thing to avoid with spicy food is tannin and oak.”

This means that only the lightest bodied reds might work with the Indian spice palate. Perhaps a light Pinot Noir, or another Cabernet Franc-driven wine, such as Domaine des Forges “Les 3C” Anjou Villages Rouge from the Loire. You definitely want to stay away from earthy and tannic reds such as Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cod and Domaine Chauveau "La Charmette" Pouilly Fume

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer


I was recently up in Maine where the icy fog that blows in from across the bay seem to make everything from the ocean taste better.  There is a certain minerality in the seafood that mimics the salt-laden air that blows in from the ocean.  Sometimes this salty breeze gets up inside your nose, other times it sticks upon your tongue making everything that you eat and drink even more flavor driven.  When I’m up in Maine, all I want to do is eat items that seem to be coated in salt spray.  From the succulent lambs that graze upon grasses soaked in sea foam to fish, so glisteningly fresh that each bite yields textures unknown to those people who eat their fish frozen and microwaved into submission. 

When I’m eating fresh fish like Maine Cod, I want something that will stand up to this richly textured sea dweller.  I need to cook Maine Cod with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and sweet bell peppers.  Saffron is a requirement as are the essential seasoning that include French herbs such as rosemary, thyme, savory and tarragon.  I always use a bit too much black pepper and those who know me- appreciate that I don’t skimp on salt.  I’ve always believed that salt adds depth to cooking, especially when I’m trying to recreate dishes away from the ocean!

Pouilly Fume is my late summer choice for wine.  Cod, of course is a more assertive fish in the flavor department and Pouilly Fume has mineral and salt notes.  Each sip of a good Pouilly Fume like this one at DrinkupNY, lead to whiffs of sea-smoke and freshly cut French herbs. Coming into view are more compact aromatics of wet oyster shells. They grab me by the hand and lead me into Jersey tomato salads strewn with spicy red onion slices and slick vinaigrettes brimming with shallots and freshly crushed black pepper.  It’s no wonder that Pouilly Fume tastes so good with seafood, the Sauvignon Blanc grape is just perfect with shimmering fresh fish. 

Pouilly Fume shouts the ocean to me.  Is it any surprise that I would be attracted to this wine for any other reason?  I doubt it.   There is something compact about drinking the Domaine Chauveau.  This wine is just so pleasurable, either as an aperitif, or in this case a plate of cod and tomato… That’s really what this dish is.  It’s a simple dish, meant for the last weeks of hot weather when relaxation is the first name on your bucket list for the summer.  It can be served cool as well as hot, simply strewn with freshly snipped French herbs or presented in a bowl, redolent with both saffron and long cooked garlic. 

What is essential is the correct wine and the Domaine Chauveau “La Charmette” is the correct wine.  You should save all your nickels and definitely buy a bottle the next time you have cod…  Of course if it’s Maine Cod, then you should get that bottle right now at DrinkupNY!

Maine Cod-Moroccan/French Style- The Hot version

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh Maine Cod, deboned and rubbed with Kosher Salt and freshly cracked pepper
4 pounds Jersey Tomatoes (or farm tomatoes) cooked way down into jam (sprinkled with a bit of  Demerara Sugar for sweetness)- at least two hours at 350
1-2 pinches Saffron
½ cup Green Olives- pitted
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, small dice
1 red onion, small dice
1 whole bulb of garlic, cooked slowly in olive oil (in the oven) until almost melted, then cooled
1 cup fish fumet (stock)
¼ cup assorted French herbs- your choice
Chopped Shallots
Virgin Olive oil
French Butter
Steamed boiling potatoes (cooled and brunoised)

Preparation:
Heat a sauté pan until quite hot
Take off the heat for a moment, add the shallot and the caramelized garlic with a splash of olive oil and the butter
Let the shallot caramelize a bit and remove from the pan with the garlic and the oil/butter mixture which may have turned a bit brown-this is ok… Keep warm

Wipe out pan, add a veneer of olive oil and sauté the Cod until crispy on one side, flip over, add the tomatoes and the onions
Cover with the shallot/butter/garlic mixture along with the reduced tomato jam olives, the onions and the peppers, along with the cup of fish fumet, add Saffron at this point
Place in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until sizzling hot
Let rest for 5 minutes before serving
Scatter French herbs over the top along with the brunoise of potato just after plating. 
Adjust seasoning and serve

You can trickle a bit of the Pouilly Fume over the top just before serving, or add a bit to the fish fumet while cooking in the oven.  It’s really up to you.

Serve this same dish cold with fresh garlic mayonnaise! 

Late Summer Means Cod, Tomato Jam, Green Olives, Peppers, Onions, Shallot, Garlic and Saffron washed down with Pouilly Fume!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog The Cocktail Whisperer and the author of nearly half a dozen books, including Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktail and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails- his most recent book.

He's also written about cocktails for Saveur and Whole Foods/Dark Rye, Total Food Service, Eater, Serious Eats, Foodista, Distiller and Beverage Media among other outlets.  He’s taught the fine art of social media and food writing at the New School in New York and at the Institute for Culinary Education. Warren has also taught at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine.

Bobrow was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and was the only American food journalist asked to participate in Fête de la Gastronomie, a nationwide celebration of French cuisine in Burgundy.
Photo Credit: JamesAndEverett

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pairing Wine with Cajun Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Visitors to New Orleans often fall in love with the local Sazeracs and love to walk the streets with Tiki drinks in hand. The truth is Cajun food is pretty challenging to pair with wine.

“The profile of Cajun food ranges from salty, fatty, spicy too very sweet when it comes to some of our desserts and pastries,” says chef Nathan Richard of the restaurant Kingfish. Those are all challenging flavors that can overwhelm many wonderful wines.

“Generally, I like to pair a Champagne (prosecco or cava goes well too) with a heavy chicken sausage gumbo because it pairs well with the salt and fat,” adds the chef. Champagnes—such as Gosset or the Italian sparkler Paolo Palumbo Lettere—a blend from Southern Italy—would all be great choices.

What to Do with Spice
Cajun food can have consistent notes of spice that can pair well with off-dry wines. “Something on the spicier side, like [the pork sausage] Boudain, would go well with a Riesling that has moderate alcohol [level],” chef notes. Cool-climate Riesling such as Covey Run from Washington State or Cave Spring Estate in Ontario are lively and refreshing.

Higher alcohol levels won’t complement the flavors of Cajun food. It is that, “crisp, acidic qualities that helps cleanse the palate and make you want another bite,” concludes Richard. 

The salty, savory flavors of cured meats present another challenge. And New Orleans is under the spell of charcuterie as much as the rest of us. “Charcuterie is so varied in flavor and texture; salty, sweet, gamey, mild, silky, dry, fatty, chunky, chewy, melty. Lambrusco works for me on this,” says chef. The bubbles will cut through the salt and cleanse your palate. Lini is a great example of this Central Italian wine.

Richard also likes the zesty acidity in Albariño. The Spanish make the classic examples of this wine, such as Do Zoe Rias Baixas from Northern Spain. Some domestic regions in California and the Pacific Northwest are making good examples.

Bigger plates of meat also figure in Cajun cooking, especially wild game. “A big Red Burgundy can stand up to the meat but for milder rabbit, quail, and even liver an Orgeon Pinot Noir would pair nicely.” While I might go with a Pinot Noir like Oregon’s affordable A to Z Wineworks, I also might pair something bigger and earthier such as a French Syrah. A Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas always works well with slightly gamey meat.

“Brandy and other fortified wines are a favorite with Cajun desserts because we love our sweets,” says chef and legendary destinations such as Café du Monde for beignets testify to that. A touch of Mission Hill Ice Wine works with almost any kind of custard- or fruit-based dessert and is often just a treat on its own.

“Cajun food is simple and made for people to come together,” he says. The best way to help consumers pair this cuisine with wine is by helping them “understand flavor profiles and textures but to learn the history of the food and the people, connect it to the beverage and make it an experience.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: Food Network

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pairing Thai Food and Wine

By Liza B. Zimmerman


The multiple layers of spice, and intensity, in Thai food can make you want to reach for a cool beer, but the right wine might be a better choice. The beer might give you an illusion of coolness but won't really slake you thirst, whereas the bright acidity and a touch of residual sugar in a white wine will do just the trick.

I just got back from a few weeks in Thailand, and the food in the North of the country is particularly delicious and full of simultaneous flavor bursts of sugar, vineyard, spice and fish sauce. While the wine selection isn't abundant there, they are some good choices. Chilean Sauvignon Blancs, are thankfully are in abundance. For Winfried Hancke, group director of operations and food and beverage  at the Bangkok-based Centara Resorts, which runs hotels and restaurants all over the country, Sauvignon Blanc would be his top pick with Thai cuisine.

Great picks should include the fresh and crisp Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc from California and the Errazuriz or Lapostolle Sauvignons from Chile. A touch of white Bordeaux with Sauvignon base softened by Semillon would also work well.

The Sweet Side
Since Thai food can not only be spicy but sweet as well, as many Thais add extra sugar to their soup at the table, an off-dry wine is often a perfect match. "Beverages which have sweetness go well as the food itself contain sugar," notes Hancke, in a nod to the canisters of sugar on the table in almost any Thai restaurant. "The spiciness of the food is best cut by sweetness," he concludes. 

Off-dry Riesling with its balanced acid and ribbons of sugar is always a classic match for all types of chili-laced foods (feel free to try it with Chinese and Mexican as well). New York State and Canada are making some superb versions such as Cave Spring Estate from Ontario and Dr. Konstantin Franck's Salmon Run from the Finger Lakes.

Sparkling wine can cut through the grease with some of the fried street food the Thais love so much, whether it is squid on a stick or a butter-rich, roti bread packed with spicy chicken or eggs.

Red wines are going to be much harder to pair with these dishes as their tannins tend to flight with the spice and the sweetness of the dishes. If you really want some of the flavors of a red I would go with a rosé: some of my favorites are from Spain's Navarra and France's Bordeaux. I much prefer their strong flavors and intense colors over the pale versions coming out of Southern France. South Africa is also making some great roses such as Mulderbosch's rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thailand does produce some of own wine in the Hau Hin Valley, where the grapes are amazingly harvested by elephants, but it is pretty rare to find anything from the Monsoon Valley label in this country.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: Centara Resorts

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Seared Pork and Vinho Verde

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer


This time of year and the high heat and humidity is seemingly challenging to wine drinkers.  I recommend getting into a place of high heat like Portugal. The wines that I just go crazy over Vinho Verde wines. 

These refreshing quaffs are just the thing for the steamy, dog days of August.  Low in alcohol and high in quality, food friendly wines like Vinho Verde should fill your refrigerator. 

I’m going crazy over one such brand, Vera Vinho Verde 2012 (Vinho Verde, Portugal)

For $ 11.99 at DrinkupNY, you can drink like a local.  Comprised of 60% Arinto, 30% Azal and 10% Loureiro, Vinho Verde is jam packed full of lemon, lime and grapefruit zests.  There is an underlying backbone of crushed wet stones along with droplets of salinity in each slightly fizzy, yet lip-smacking and thirst quenching sip.

But why just sip a wine as delicious as this one?  I recommend pouring as many glasses as you are able down your gullet!

It’s got very little alcohol, thus the Vera is the perfect beach wine- as long as you keep it very, very chilled down- as is the way in Portugal.

A few days ago I chanced upon the opportunity to eat dinner at a lovely Portuguese seafood restaurant in Newark, NJ named Seabra's Marisqueira.  Located in the Ironbound section, “bound” by the rail yards that used to define this part of formerly industrialized Newark, this area is now Brazilian, Portuguese, Spanish and just about every country from Central and South America represented here.  Seabra’s specializes in absolutely pristine, fresh from the Hunt’s Point market seafood, simply prepared with love.  From the moment that you walk through the broad, glass fronted door, you find yourself transported to another country.  In this case it is the Algarve in Portugal.  Even the soda water is from Portugal!  You can imagine that with the hot weather I would want to drown myself in Caperhinia’s like so many do in the Summer, but I had other thoughts.  The wine known as Vinho Verde is displayed in buckets of ice and water all through the restaurant.  The reason why it is in symmetry with all the pristine fish is because this wine just screams seafood. 

I cannot imagine drinking anything else when the temperature goes above 90 degrees!

So what do you eat with Vinho Verde?  That depends on how hungry you are.  In my case I know that Seabra’s is particularly talented at making my favorite dish, Pork and Clams.  Savory, long cooked- pork butt, with hot chilies, pickled cauliflower, onions, potatoes, carrots and clams, steamed in the pork-laden broth.  It is a dish that says hot weather- I’m hungry- feed me now…  You grab handfuls of the good Portuguese bread- doughy, covered in flour with a good stiff crust and dip it into the broth- redolent of salt spray and root vegetables- the ocean showing through along with the unmistakable flavor of the porcine treat.  Dark meat defines this dish and if you don’t have an appetite for a big meal, you should still order it and take home the leftovers for another meal- or two!
And the Vinho Verde?  After a few thirst quenching glasses, I though I should share this recipe with you. 

Ingredients
For the Marinade:
2 pounds pork butt, cut into smallish cubes 2x2
3 heads garlic, unpeeled just cut off the tops
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Vinho Verde
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (strained)
1/2 cup good Spanish olive oil
1 tablespoon hot (spicy) paprika
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaf

For the Pork:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons bacon fat
3 cups chopped onions and shallots
4 tablespoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade is essential)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup Piri Piri
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups tomato concasse (peeled, seeded, and chopped)
5 pounds clams, well scrubbed and purged overnight with cornmeal
4 tablespoons Italian Parsley Leaf, well washed

Directions
Place the pork butt into a large re-sealable plastic food storage bag. In a blender, combine the garlic, salt, white wine, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, paprika, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. Blend until smooth and pour over the pork. Seal the plastic bag and set in a casserole dish and place in the refrigerator over night.

Set a large braising pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and bacon fat to the pan. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and drain, reserving the marinade. Sear the pork pieces in the hot fat in batches, until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn to the other side and sear for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside on a platter while you finish searing the remainder of the pork.

Once all the pork is seared and has been removed from the pan, add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, Piri Piri, salt and reserved marinade to the pan and stir to combine. Continue to stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Return the pork to the pan and when the liquid returns to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the tomatoes and clams to the pan, stir to combine and cover. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the clams open, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the temperature to low, and sprinkle with the parsley. Discard any clams that do not open, and serve the dish with freshly made potato “chips”… thick slices of boiling potatoes that are pre-cooked, cooled and fried in olive oil and salt until crispy.

Piri Piri:
1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed
4 cayenne chili peppers, stemmed, ribs and seeds removed, and rough chopped (or substitute other hot red peppers)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice strained
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and peppers to the pan. Sauté, stirring often, until the edges of the garlic start to turn brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the lemon juice to the pan, and remove from the heat.

Place the contents of the saute pan in a blender and add the salt. Puree the peppers and garlic in the blender until mostly smooth. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil through the feed tube of the lid of the blender. Let cool before using, and store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Yield: 3/4 cup

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog The Cocktail Whisperer and the author of nearly half a dozen books, including Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktail and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails- his most recent book.

He's also written about cocktails for Saveur and Whole Foods/Dark Rye, Total Food Service, Eater, Serious Eats, Foodista, Distiller and Beverage Media among other outlets.  He’s taught the fine art of social media and food writing at the New School in New York and at the Institute for Culinary Education. Warren has also taught at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine.

Bobrow was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and was the only American food journalist asked to participate in Fête de la Gastronomie, a nationwide celebration of French cuisine in Burgundy. 
Photo Credit: PatioDaddioBBQ

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pairing Sake with Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Japanese sake has long been a hard-to-understand beverage. It comes in various flavors and styles and is sometimes sparkling, unfiltered and even shows up in unpasteurized versions which are often called Nama--which means raw or fresh--sake. Its alcohol by volume content generally runs lightly more than a full-bodied wine, at 15 to 16 percent abv (or slightly higher). It has the maderized flavor of Sherry but is fermented from rice. The best ones are show better when served cold and its  flavor profiles run from light and fragrant to deep and full-flavored spirits that can even stand up well to fried foods and meat.

The Flavor Lexicon
I had the pleasure of eating at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo on my first trip to Japan. Sake and its sibling cuisine is incredibly complex and layered. It often has most in common, for me, with the structure and balance of Italian food at its best, as there's always a place and time for each dish and drink and never the twain shall meat. Try asking for sushi and shabu shabu at the same restaurant and you see the kind the kind of look you get. Sake, according to Atsushi Sato the sake sommelier at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, also has a natural flow during a meal. He says that a meal ideally should progress from a delicate Daiginjo sake with salads to a fresh-flavored Ginjyo with chicken or grilled fish. The last steps would be a rich, acid-driven Jyunmai with fried or grilled food, followed by an aged Koshu sake with lamb, cheese or after a meal. SakeOne's "Momokawa Diamond," Gunmai Ginjo from Oregon is one I have enjoyed with a range of foods. It's slightly off-dry flavor and mineral notes make it incredibly flexible in terms of food pairings.

Tips for Pairing
Sato says that one of the biggest challenges in pairing sake with food is that it's not a very self-assertive beverage. That can also be a benefit as its flavors, and lack of tannins, are unlikely to dominate a dish that isn't driven by animal fat or cream. He adds that sake's fermented, what we might perceive as "maderized nature," makes it also pair well with a wide range of cheese. You don't see the usual cheese cart at too many Japanese restaurants but we do love a healthy serving of it here and sake may well be a less-tannic pairing than red wine with these after-dinner treats.

That same deliciously oxidized flavor profile makes a good sake a delightful aperitif as well. You could even put it on the rocks or with a twist of orange (don't tell Sato San!). I won't do that with the best of them, but there's always room to experiment.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.