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.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Roasted Pork and Nebbiolo!

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

G.D. Vajra "Albe" Barolo 2009 (Piedmont, Italy) is a remarkably delicious wine that is calling your name.  Not that I drink Barolo every night, far from- but for a special occasion, or if you are in the income bracket that makes a $ 35 dollar bottle of wine an everyday bottle- then this one is truly gorgeous. 

The Nebbiolo grape is a fickle beast.  It grows better as the soil becomes more rock-like and harsh.  Altitude is what Nebbiolo craves, steep slopes, fiercely pruned back and never, ever any irrigation.  This Nebbiolo aside from being hauntingly memorable, is a blend of grapes from each of Vajra’s vineyards.  The careful blending reveals the Terroir (or taste of the place) that is unique to this varietal. 

Nebbiolo is soft in the mouth with notes of citrus peel, crushed stones, trodden herbs, red fruits, a hint of liquorice and copious handfuls of rose petals perfume the palate.  This is wine for intellectuals as it forces you to drink carefully and boldly.  It’s not candy wine, nor is it too restrained- there is a happy medium at work in each sip.  You are forced by the very nature of the place to smile when you drink it.  This is happy wine indeed rolling in at about 14.5% alcohol, so make sure the food that you eat is robust and plentiful!

I love this wine for many reasons.  The first and foremost is the way it goes with food like wild boar, slow cooked with tomato, broth, sweet carrots, shallot and whole garlic cloves.  You need to cook a dish like this all day, preferably in an oven that goes low and slow for hours and hours without complaining.  In the villages of Italy, dinners were put into the oven the night prior in a local bakery.  As the ovens cooled overnight, the chemical reaction of slow heat to fatty, tough meat became magical.  When a cup or so of the Nebbiolo was introduced to carrots, celery, onion, shallot, rosemary and garlic with some bone broth and freshly ground salt/pepper- well, let’s just say it’s magical!

You should always cook with the wine you are drinking, lest the flavors be out of balance and I NEVER advocate cooking with wine that has gone sour- or turned, otherwise the dish will be ruined by the bad wine.  Think!  Bad wine in, bad sauce out.  Don’t do it!  I’ll come find you and it won’t be pretty…  Ok, so I won’t find you- but really, there is no such thing as cooking with sour wine- it’s just not done!

My pork dish for cooking all day is the normally tough cut from the Butt.  This is not the rear end, but the shoulder of the porcine delight.  This cut needs low and slow braising and patience to reveal itself.  I took a 5-pound pork butt into this recipe- I’d start with one that size for two people and go up from there- with certainly enough in leftovers!

Ingredients Nutrition
Servings – depends on how hungry you and your friend is…

1: (5 lb.) pork shoulder butt, roast
•    10 whole garlic cloves with one end cut off, but unpeeled
•    ½ cup Heinz Ketchup or 1 #10 can of crushed tomatoes
•    ¾ cup Demerara sugar or Moscovado sugar for a deeper flavor
•    1 teaspoon sea salt
•    1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
•    1 cup G.D. Vajra "Albe" Barolo 2009 (Piedmont, Italy)
Directions
1.    Make small slits all over the roast then insert a whole garlic clove into each slit
2.    Place the roast in a cast iron pan with a lid, Le Creuset works…
3.    Sprinkle the roast on all sides with the Heinz Ketchup
4.    Let sit at room temperature (lightly covered with foil) for at least 2 hours.
5.    After 1-1/2 hours spoon any Heinz Ketchup (if any) back on the roast that has accumulated on the bottom of the casserole.  Add the wine at this time…
6.    Using hands press raw sugar well into the meat on all sides making certain that the sugar sticks to the meat.
7.    Cover tightly.
8.    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.
9.    Place the roast in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 200 degrees F.
10.  Roast for at least 5 hours or until the meat is just falling apart (cooking time will vary depending on the size of the roast).
11.    Stir the salt and black pepper into the juice (do not omit the salt.  This is essential!).
12.    Let rest for at least a ½ hour before slicing
13.    Slice meat as desired.

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, July 8, 2015

Pairing Wine with Seafood

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Summer is here and if you live anywhere near the Coast you will be digging into some freshly caught seafood. Nothing tastes as good as lobster right out of the water in Maine, fresh oysters that smell like the sea or a big bowl of steamed clams drenched in butter.

With seafood I am all about what grows together going together. I don' think that I have ever had a finer pairing than the heaps of oysters pulled out of the Bay of Arcachon, a sleepy little fishing village just outside of Bordeaux, with the local white wines. You could taste the same salinity in the White Bordeaux that was in the oysters.

Keeping it Coastal
Almost any wine made in the vicinity of sea, bay or ocean breezes is going to pair well with seafood. Muscadet from the Loire Valley is divine with most sea creatures as you can smell and feel the salt of the sea when you sip it. Almost all of the Loire Valley whites--from Sancerre to Pouilly-Fumé--are great choices.

The costal areas of Spain and Portugal offer some spectacular wines that cry out for a big platter of simply grilled or steamed seafood. The far north of Portugal produces wines from native grapes such as Trajadura and Loureiro and the region's soft and fruity Vinho Verdes are as good on the palate as they are on the wallet.

Their are few things that pair better with simple seafood than a great Albariño: especially from Rias Biaxas in Northern Spain. A handful of California producers have also been making some solid interpretations of this wine from regions from Santa Ynez to the Russian River.

Classics and Wild Cards
A beautifully balanced, but not too yeasty, Champagne is always a match made in heaven with oysters and lobster. Fairly dry domestic versions from California and New Mexico--particularly Gruet--will also do the trick. Spanish Cavas, and Italian Proseccos as well as Franciacorta, would also be good picks.

Unless the seafood is prepared in some kind of red sauce you are going to have a hard time finding a red wine that won't taste tinny and metallic with much of it. The use of tomatoes or anchovies will form a flavor bridge that can create synergies between some Southern Italian-style preparations of dishes of shrimp and other seafood, or Portuguese stews. Again low tannin and low-alcohol wines would be best with these dishes.

Many of the reds from Puglia, particularly those made from local grape such as Primitivo, can have modest alcohol levels of close to 13 percent. Despite its hot climate, Sicily also excels in making some seafood-friendly reds from cool climate areas and grapes such as Nerello Mascalese and Frappato. Spanish indigenous varitals such as D. Ventura's "Vina Do Burato" Rib

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: NFI

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wines for the 4th of July

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Great wines to enjoy, hopefully on a blanket in the park in the sun, for this country's anniversary should have fizz, spice and substance. My family used to have a lobster salad-based picnic in Central Park near where I grew up on the Upper West Side and everyone brought something to eat and drink.

There were bubbles, big muscular reds and unusual Croatian wines that had been sitting in people's basements for way too long. However we always had fun with the pairings: joked about them and always voted on what worked best with that super mayonnaise-infused lobster salad.

Start Fresh and Clean
Fizzy and acidic whites are great to start a meal. It might also be reverent to drink a few domestic sparklers here. Some beautiful ones are coming out of Washington State, some of which are off-dry crowd-pleasers. They are also supremely affordable.

California is also producing some lovely sparkling wine, both from smaller producers, as well as the siblings of Champagne houses. Spanish Cavas and Italian proseccos are also great on their own and even fun with a slash of tonic water or Martini Bianco.

Crisp white from everywhere from the Central Coast of California to the Northern parts of Spain are also likely to work well with salads, hard cheeses and olives with which you might start off a meal. Sauvignon Blanc is always a great bet as are many of the Iberian varietals--hello Verdelho--that are being grown with lots of success in places as diverse as Lodi and tk.

White Rhône varitals are also refreshing, although generally richer in style and taste profile. Regions such as Paso Robles on the Central Coast of California and producers in mid and Eastern Washington are also producing some great wines from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier such as the Magnificent Wine Company's House Wine which is primarily Chardonnay with a touch of white Rhône grapes.

Go Spicy
Not everyone wants the lobster salad so bring on the BBQ, or get take from your neighborhood Korean! Rich, charred meat flavors call for sustainable reds with lots of tannins and intense fruit and sometimes earthy notes. Rhone reds can be among the most animal-flavored--yes I do meant hat in a good way--of the bunch. They those tar and mineral, umami notes that can stand up to beautifully cooked meat even with a somewhat spicy marinade.

For simple preparations of meat, maybe just a strip stake made on the grill, a fruit-juicy California Cabernet Sauvignon might do the trick. Or a lower alcohol Zinfandel, once they get over 14.5+ percent of alcohol they may seem too candied to work with food.

Syrah from Walla Walla can also take on those great meal flavors, as can peppery and spicy Spanish blends based on Grenache. Argentine Malbecs are also classics, but generally for steaks with a lot of smoky charr on them and a simple marinade.

With pork loin or ribs, you could you go lighter and fruitier, maybe even uncorking a little sparkling Lambrusco from Italy or stepping back into a sustainable white from Northeastern Italy or the Rhone.

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.