Thursday, February 22, 2007

South American Tasting

More wine tastings. I'm not terribly familar with South American wines -- sticking mostly to California, France, and the occasional Italian. We tried a few from Montes Alpha of Chile which has been highly rated and I've tried here and there. Concha y Toro and Kaiken were also sampled. The whites seemed to outshine the reds.

Concha y Toro Sauvignon Blanc
Rich with flavors of pineapple, grapefruit, and vanilla, this one was a cheap $8 and oh, so lovely.

Catena Chardonnay
Not like any other Chardonnay I've tried. This one reminded us most of the oaky flavor of scotch -- rich and smooth.

Montes Alpha Chardonnay
I found this one to be the least exciting of the whites. It had an undesirable sourness on the finish and was pretty ordinary compared to the previous two. Wine Spectator rated it with 90 points, but what do I know?

Concha y Toro Carmenere
This grape varietal used to be grown in Bordeaux but now mostly in Chile. It is dark and rich with a nice spiciness. For a red, I found it to be rather buttery.

Kaiken Cabernet
The Kaiken wines are from Argentina. This one was full of cassis and licorice flavor. Wine Enthusiast gave it 90 points, I wasn't terribly impressed. Again, what do I know?

Kaiken Malbec
I had never tried this grape other than in countless blends. At first the intense flavors of blackberry really hits you then I couldn't take it anymore. It would probably be best with food.

Montes Alpha Syrah
This one is described as tasting of tobacco and leather. This may explain why I thought it smelled of cat pee and Philip thought it smelled of those Jelly Belly buttered popcorn jellybeans.

Montes Alpha Cabernet
We have tried this one before simply because Wine Spectator gave it 90 points. I'm beginning to realize that I normally prefer the wines that aren't rated and am unimpressed with the highly rated ones. I'll never be a wine snob at this rate. ha! Anyway. The better of the reds, this one focused on the fruit. Full bodied.

Another Alexander Valley tasting for next week...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Jamie Oliver is not only adorable, but his cookbooks are really great too. This pasta dish is wonderful on so many levels.

Rigatoni with Eggplant, Sweet Tomatoes, and Mozzarella
adapted from Jamie Oliver

1/2 lb Rigatoni (get the kind with a textured surface so the sauce actually sticks, this is good advice for all dried pasta)
1/2 an eggplant
1 can of diced tomatoes (roasted are best)
1 onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic chopped
4-5 oz soft mozzarella
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar (I think this is the secret ingredient)
dash of red pepper flake (or a finely chopped chili)
handful of torn basil
Add some mushrooms too if you'd like

Cube the eggplant and toss it in a big pan with lots of olive oil. You want the oil to coat the eggplant all over. Cook that for about 10 minutes until the eggplant softens up then add the garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Boil the water for the rigatoni while things are incorporating in the pan. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flake, and a fair amount of salt and pepper. You want to cook it on low/medium heat for about 10 minutes more so everything gets all soft and delicious. Once the rigatoni is done and drained, drizzle it with olive oil in the pot you cooked it in. You want to coat it all over so the sauce clings to the pasta. Toss it all together and tear the mozzarella and basil into the pan and stir it up and watch all the cheese melt into a gooey mess. Have some Parmesan table side to finish it off and a hunk of crusty bread would be nice too.

Friday, February 16, 2007

This week's wine

We had some really tremendous wine this past week. I thought I'd share.

Mark West Pinot Noir
This bottle is a whopping $9 bucks. For a Pinot!? It is really lovely, lots of focus on the fruit and very smooth on the tongue. If you're looking for a velvety Pinot, this isn't it. For the price it is truly excellent.

Schloss Vollrads Kabinett Rheingau Riesling 2005
If it were possible, albeit reasonable to juice an enormous amount of star fruit, this is what you would get. I served this sweet Riesling with a tasty roast chicken. It is really phenomenal and has this awesome glass cork. I found it thick like a Gerwurtztraminer or even an Eiswine with a slight acidity.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Secret to a Perfect Roast Chicken

I've been completely enamored with my roasting pan since I got it for Christmas. One of the easiest dinners to throw on the table when I'm running short on time is a roast chicken. After many successful roasts, I think I've picked up several tips and tricks that make me salivate at the thought.

I normally get a 4 pound chicken and cook it for about 1.25-1.5 hours at 400. I tend to not use a timer but instead rely on my nose and peak to see when the skin crisps up and the legs will pull off easily. This is what I do:

1 Wash it off well and clean out the cavity
2 Pat it dry all over (this helps the skin crisp up)
3 Rub (massage even) kosher salt and coarse ground pepper all over the skin
4 Drizzle olive oil all over and massage that in as well
5 If you want potatoes too, parboil them with a lemon. When you take the lemon out, stab it a few times and shove it in the chicken cavity (Jamie Oliver suggests this and I really love how it smells)
6 Take some fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme are a must) stuff those in the cavity or you can also cut little slits in the skin and shove the herbs up underneath
7 I use a rack in the roasting pan but you could just sit the chicken on top of a mound of potatoes, onions, carrots and get the same effect with the juices all over the place
8 Take a whole head of garlic and put that in the pan too with the tops chopped off. This will soften up nicely as the chicken roasts. When the chicken is done rub those mushy cloves all over the skin to make things sweet and delicious.
9 The time and temperature I use cooks it perfectly juicy without having the breast dry out. I would imagine it depends on your oven. So if you find that the breast is drying out you can lay slices of bacon over the breast or even just some tin foil to keep it from drying out.

Any other tricks?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I'm too full to blog. Since Valentine's Day fell on a weekday, I just decided it would be best to stay in and cook something nice. Maybe we'll hit up Spanish River Grill on the weekend or this new sushi place but it is wise to stay in all week this week seeing as it is Race Week (egads!).

I recently got this cookbook as a gift from Philip. I hadn't really looked through it until tonight when I was at a loss as to what to have for dinner. I'm not quite sure how 'seductive' the recipes. Do tortilla chips spell romance to you? I think he only paid 3 bucks for it so I guess I can't complain. I didn't really follow any recipes in the silly book but I came up with some ideas at least. The book really isn't all that bad, but lacks pictures which I think is the most important part of any cookbook.

So I decided on something light for dinner since I made creme brulée for dessert. I managed to find some fresh salmon fillets which I baked and drizzled with a red wine raspberry jam reduction. The sauce didn't thicken up at all and the flavors needed some doctoring but it was a nice complement to the salmon in small amounts. In addition, I chopped some romaine and added this wonderfully ripe mango tossed in a honey vinaigrette. Roasted asparagus with Parmesan and fine lemon zest finished it off. Now I'm digesting and sipping this pleasant Mumm champagne deciding whether or not to stuff down dessert. I'm a big fan of Alton Brown's creme brulée recipe. He uses vanilla sugar instead of regular and the consistency is totally on the mark. I've made it half a dozen times now and I don't think there is a need to try another recipe.

In other news, Tony Bourdain is my new friend on myspace?!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Come quickly, I am drinking stars

In lieu of Valentine's Day, The Wine Warehouse put on a champagne tasting this week to celebrate. We tried 8 really nice champagnes from various regions so maybe I should say we tasted many 'champagnes' since not all of them were from the Champagne region. Whatever.

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir
This one was made from pinot noir in Sonoma. Wine spectator gave it a 87. The bubbles pretty much explode on the tongue then melt into a nice creamy texture. For $13, this was the best value of the evening.

Roederer Estate California
This was a blend of 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir. I found it too dry and flat -- pretty boring.

Mumm Carte Classique
This is an extra dry champagne with a slight sweetness and a nice mineral tinge.

Perrier Jouet Brut
I found this one to be fluffy on the tongue. There was some citrus and mineral but something said cheese to me on the finish. I liked it but not enough to pay $30.

Pol Roger
Supposedly Winston Churchill drank a bottle of this stuff a day. Supposedly. This was one of my favorites just because it was so well balanced -- simple, clean, and crisp.

Veuve Clicquot Pardsardin Brut
Everyone has seen this bottle at some time or another. I had never tasted it until this week and it really leaves something to be desired. To me it tasted like Pierre mineral water with a hint of citrus fruit.

This is an old, old champagne. It has been made since 1584 and has continued to make this champagne in the traditional manner. I liked the weight of this one and how it coats the tongue nicely. Wine spectator gave it 90 points.

Jame Bond drinks this. Does that mean it tastes like a martini? I didn't think so. This was the most yeasty of all that we tasted. I loved the body and the yeasty, bread flavor. Too bad it is $35.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Tony Bourdain 1, Food Network 0

Go over and check out the latest guest entry by Tony Bourdain on Michael Ruhlman's blog. It is hilarious. Tony gives his take on the current state of the Food Network.

Monday, February 5, 2007

A Shameful Recipe

I'll be honest. I'm embarrassed to even post this recipe. Despite this chicken being really tasty, the recipe needs some modification. Surely there can be better ingredients. In fact, this reminds me entirely too much of a Sandra Lee recipe. The horror!

Cranberry Chicken (my mother's recipe adapted from my Uncle's wife's recipe...did you get all that?)
1 lb chicken thighs
6 oz dried cranberries
1 onion chopped
a knob of butter
1/3 C brown sugar
2/3 C ketchup
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 tblsp white vinegar

So salt and pepper the thighs and drizzle some olive oil and bake them at 400 for a bit. On the stovetop cook the onion in the butter (I added some garlic too) until translucent. Then throw in the brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, vinegar (I used white wine instead of regular white) and stir it all around until it is incorporated. I like to pulse the cranberries in the food processor and then throw those in. When all of that mess comes together, open the oven up and pour it over the chicken and mix it around and bake until the chicken is browned and cooked through.

So I'm thinking maybe some tomato paste instead of ketchup and maybe, just maybe some Dijon instead of yellow but I think that might change the whole flavor and add a strange zing (I have a mustard phobia). Cutting back on the brown sugar would be good too because it is a little bit too sweet. The cranberry sauce isn't too saucy so maybe some chicken broth would help things if you thicken it up to a good consistency. I don't know. Suggestions? It tastes really good but is almost shameful to eat because of the ingredients. Is that snobby of me? ha!