Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Aromatic Bitters Chicken

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Summertime and the living is easy should be the metaphor for dining al fresco.  And summertime dining doesn’t have to be drudgery.  What it should be is casual and carefree.

The foods that you choose to grill and the drinks you choose to imbibe should all resonate with each other.  That’s why I like to pair cocktails with foods that include one or more of the same ingredients.   And summer is the best time to mix it up for your guests and stimulate their appetites at the same time.

Chicken is an inexpensive way to show your guests that your fancy culinary degree actually tastes good!  Most people try to hard in their summertime menus and lose track of how delicious simple foods like chicken can be in the right hands. 

You should know that the secret ingredient for the chicken and this cocktail is no other than Aromatic Bitters.  The very style of bitters that was originally invented to stave off the horrible tropical disease called dysentery is the exact ingredient that is essential in my chicken dish.  Another essential ingredient is ginger syrup.  In this case the ginger syrup is from Pickett’s in Brooklyn, NY.  I used the Hot n’ Spicy Jamaican style ginger beer syrup.  There is a less spicy version for the fearful, but really, have no fear- use the hot n’ spicy because it really rocks the boat.  You will also use a portion of the ginger beer syrup along with the Angostura Bitters in the chicken- but I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit. 

The genesis of Bitters and Ginger Syrup Chicken – along with the companion cocktail goes back to my early twenties.  I spent some time down in the British Virgin Islands on my family yacht.  She was a magnificent vessel, completely hand built for my mom and step-dad.  Weighing in at 65 tons, she more than made a statement in heavy winds and pounding waves.  Sometimes these heavy winds brought seasickness, you would know if you’ve ever been out at sea, a mere speck of life in an otherwise forlorn place.  For that pleasure there was always ginger simple syrup on board.  My stepdad knew that this was the miracle cure for the kind of seasickness that included the good, the bad and the very awful…  He knew from being an old salt that ginger (and Aromatic Bitters) healed just about everything known to his crew, including seasickness.  It mostly healed hangovers- but once the rum started flowing (at 7 in the morning, another lousy day in paradise) it didn’t stop until late at night.  Hence, there was the need for powerful restoratives/purgatives. 

Sailing is hard work and when it is your watch, there really is no excuse- like “I’m not feeling well, or I’m not hungry…”

Hopefully by enjoying these recipes they will stimulate your thirst along with your hunger!

Aromatic Bitters Chicken
(adapted from my third book, Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails.  Released: May, 2015.) 

1 chicken 3-4 pounds in weight cut into eighths
½ cup Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
¼ cup Pickett’s Hot n’ Spicy Ginger Syrup
Salt and Pepper to taste – although you won’t need much- the bitters have it all!

In a non-reactive bowl, place the chicken inside
Cover with Aromatic Bitters and the Pickett’s Syrup
Toss well
Cover and Refrigerate Overnight

Grill over charcoal off the stern of your Little Harbor Yacht- or in cast iron (in the oven at 400 degrees to start and reduce to 270 after ½ hour
Cook until juices run clear when pricked
Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes in a just warm oven before serving
Also makes an incredible chicken salad sandwich on Brioche with mayo and Dijon…

2 oz. Barrell Whiskey –you’ve got to find this stuff- amazing!!!  (Barrel Strength, 122.5 Proof)
1 oz. Pickett’s Ginger Beer  (Hot n’ Spicy is preferred)
6 oz. Seltzer Water (I used Saratoga)
Ice Spear
Bitter Truth Orange Bitters

To a tall glass, add a spear of ice and then add the Barrell Whiskey
Add the Pickett’s Ginger Beer Syrup
Add the Seltzer Water- and stir
Dot with the Bitter Truth Bitters

Fresh and refreshing, this drink has it all over you in a hurry. 
Garnish with a chunk of fresh lime pinched over the top of the glass! ! !

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, May 20, 2015

What to Pair with Great Vietnamese Takeout

By Liza B. Zimmerman


There are so many amazing Vietnamese restaurants in this country and so few of them offer great wine lists. That is all the more reason to BYOB, when you can, or order in at home to pair the food with a fantastic bottle of your choice.

The subtle, herb-driven flavors of this cuisine call out for wines with bright acidity and a touch of residual sugar. Big, oaky reds with tannins can make a lot of the dishes taste dull and matelatic: a flavor profile you definitely want to avoid.

Pairings from the Source
My adopted town of San Francisco is home to a high-end Vietnamese restaurant called the Slanted Door. They not only have amazing Bay views but also feature a fantastic wine list that works beautifully with some of the soft, and sweet, flavors in this classic cuisine.

Wine director, Chaylee Priete, who also oversees a handful of other restaurants within chef Phan's group, says that it is, "easy to overpower Vietnamese food with the wrong wine. It has to be something that cleans the palate, therefore wines with acid. It has to be something that counterbalances the heat." Residual sugar for her is the key, and I agree, also staying away from tannic wines is essential.

Cool-climate, well-balanced wines such as Grǖner Veltiner from Austria and some of the medium-dry white wines from German would be ideal. You could slip in a handful of fairly dry Rieslings from Alsace and some  off-dry Gewǖrztraminers as well. The important rule is to keep the pairing high in acidity and low on tannins (which is easy with many of these clean, refreshing picks).

Other Ideas
Bubbles go brilliantly with almost everything, including Vietnamese food. Go with Champagne if you are on a big budget or classic California or regional French sparklers if you are not. Many of the rosé Champagnes will be a bit sweeter: hence they could stand up to sweeter marinades on meat and Vietnamese Clay Pot dishes which are generally made with carmel.

Simple cremants from many regions of France will be fantastic with these flavors. There are also great domestic alternatives such as Gruet from New Mexico and Tk from California

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 & Wine

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pairing Spanish Wine and Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Spain has long produced a sea of food-friendly whites and reds. However they have sometimes languished in wine-pairing small plates and "Tapas Ghetto." The country is lucky that its food has long surpassed its regional barriers and morphed into an international love of bite-sized snacks, but that culinary movement hasn't always helped Spanish wines.

It is a shame because so many Spain's wines pair with lots of delicious dishes. Sarah Knoefler, the beverage director general manager of Gitane, a Mediterranean restaurant that is part of the Café Claude and Gaspare Group in San Francisco, had a few suggestions.

Sharing Insight
While Gitane's wine list is not solely Spanish, nor are its culinary inspirations, although they are primarily assertive and savory in a Southern-Mediterranean way. To work with her Spanish wine selections, which features a wide range of Spanish wines with a focus on cool-climate whites, Knoefler suggests, keeping "it simple and focusing on one flavor element. Bold spicy flavors will hold up with many of the wines. Think about sense of place also, seafood will pair with a crisp refreshing white wine."

Spanish wines are a great entry point to Old World wines, she adds. "They have the balance of ripe fruit with underlying earth and structure. This structure of acidity or tannins balances out the wine and keeps it fresh on the palate. Because of the fruit, these wines are approachable to your typical New World-style wine drinker."

Cool Whites for Seafood and Reds for Meat
Spain has long been justifiably famous for its beautifully balanced white wines. For Knoefler, seafood always reminds her of Albariño because the northern region of Galicia is on the coast. "The wines have a briny element that goes well with anything from the ocean." The Do Zoe Rias Baixas is a great example.

"My two favorite regions of Spain [for whites] are Rueda and Galicia. Both of these regions have wines that are balanced with fruit and acidity which makes them easy to enjoy," she says. "Rueda is the home of Verdejo which is made in a variety of styles with or without oak. They are very versatile with apple, pear and tropical fruit flavors with a vibrant acidity to match."

When transitioning into heartier fare, Paella--the traditional Spanish rice dish--can be paired with "a light red wine like Mencia or any of the great Spanish rosés that are out there." She adds that the deeper color of these Spanish roses allow them to stand up to more spice. "Grilled meats also work well with Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero which has a bit more dark fruits and smoke then Rioja."

Galicia's reds showcase, "the meaty spicy Mencia grape with is almost like a cross of Pinot Noir and Syrah. This wine also has dusty tannins and good acidity to match many different foods."

Since the price point of Spanish wines is still very good, a huge selection of quality choices can be had for under $15 and sometimes even under $10 a bottle, so Knoefler suggests trying a few different styles and just having fun. Mix and match to see what you like best at home. Ask questions and let the staff know what you like in wine. They can help you find a new varietal or style of wine that you would like based on your own comfort zone."


Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza 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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wines for Cinco de Mayo

By Liza B. Zimmerman


If you don't want to get your Tequila on for next week's holiday, I have some alternative wine solutions to help you celebrate. Many of them even go well with Mexican foods and flavors if you want to partake of the cuisine without cocktails.

The jalapenos in Mexican food and cheese-laden and rice-filled dishes call for wines with bright acidity and a touch of residual sugar. Some of the fresh, California-produced wines like Joel Gott will do the trick. Also Sauvignon Blancs from South Africa, where wine production is getting better and better, are fantastic values and food wines. France's Loire Valley makes some beautiful ones, as does Chile.

Sparkling wines, particularly anything from the dynamic Gruet family in New Mexico would also pair splendidly with Mexican flavors. Proseccos and Cavas are solid choices as well.

Celebrate Tequila in Spirit
Many of the best Tequilas have a maderized flavor, similar to Sherry, which gives beverages a rich and somewhat oxidized flavor. So why not start with Sherry, the Queen of maderized wines, is great as an appertif and works well with nutty flavors such as pistaccio-flecked salads. It is also great in cocktails.

Other notably oxidized wines generally include the Rhône whites such as Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier. Their style is similar when they are produced in Washington and parts of California as well. Many producers in Washington, primarily in the Eastern part of the state, as well as Paso Robles in Central California, are doing a spectacular job with these wines.

Getting in a Latin Mood
If you can't be in Mexico but long for that relaxing Latin vibe take a little South American vacation in a bottle. Argentina and Chile are both producing some amazing, and completely different, wines. Chile, for me, is all about elegance and balance in both its single varietals and blends.

Moderating breezes from the Ocean and mountain ranges that protect and insulate vineyards support producers' goals of producing fruit-forward and food-friendly wines. Cousino-Macul is not only a great winery, but also has a great homebase that can be visited pretty close to downtown Santiago.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza 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.