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 

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

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 FĂȘte 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.