Gloria Ferrer ‘ Blanc de Noir’ NV

I can’t remember when I started drinking Gloria Ferrer. Gloria Ferrer was one of the first domestic sparkling wines that my friends in the industry took seriously. It was delicious and affordable and so it ended up at a lot of our parties and celebrations. Gloria became so ubiquitous that we ended up on a first name basis. Gloria was our de facto bubbly and our lives were made better because of it.

Gloria Ferrer was founded in 1982 by the Ferrer family as their primary venture into California winemaking. Owners of Freixenet, one of the big Cava producers in Spain, the family’s lifelong dream was of producing wine in the United States. The winery was named after José Ferrer’s wife, Gloria. The couple continue to run the winery together to this day.

Gloria Ferrer’s wine making mission is: To capture the full expression of the distinctive Carneros terroir in wines made to pair perfectly with food.

Gloria Ferrer ‘Blanc De Noirs’ NV is just about a perfect food wine as you can Gloria Ferrer ‘ Blanc de Noir’ NVfind. This is delicious and elegant sparkling wine made from Carneros Pinot Noir. Its sweet, sunny fruit and gentle precision feels properly Californian. The texture is soft and polished, lasting on a clean chamomile scent that will keep you coming back for more. “Vibrantly floral strawberry and gingerbread aromas pair with crisp red apple and spice flavors that bounce along the finish.” 90 pts Wine Spectator

Which brings me to food. This wine is delicate enough for lighter fare but has the ability to pair with Steak (Surf and Turf anyone?) The richness of the Pinot Noir makes it perfect for richer seafood dishes. Crab Ravioli, Coquilles St Jacques, Seafood Fettucine.

A lovely and elegant dish that will liven up any dinner party is Crab Bisque. It is relatively easy to make and can stretch one crab a long way. You can find Dungeness Crab from around $9.99 a pound for 1 to 2 pound crab. Paired with a Sparkling Blanc de Noir you have a perfect night.

Gloria Ferrer ‘ Blanc de Noir’ NV

Dungeness Crab Bisque

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large crab cooked and meat removed, shells roughly chopped

*** Mire Poix

2 onion, finely chopped

2 small carrot, finely chopped

2celery stalk, finely chopped

1 medium fennel bulb, chopped

4 cups water

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup dry white wine

¼ cup medium-grain rice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

¼ cup Pernod

Pinch of saffron threads

1 cup heavy cream

water, as needed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chives

 

  1. In a large sauce pan combine half of the mire poix and crab shells add bay leaf and garlic. Cover with water (4 cups). Simmer for 20 minutes, strain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, fennel and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes until soft
  3. Add the stock, wine, rice, tomato paste, Pernod and saffron. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the rice and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Puree the mixture in a blender until very smooth. Add cream. Thin with water if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Strain through sieve into a clean sauce pan.
  5. Return to heat and bring to a simmer.
  6. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cooked crab and chives

Serves 8.

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Grilled Sausage Pizza

Pizza is my favorite food. Maybe it’s because I am a baker at heart, but I love Pizza. I am not a Pizza snob, I have a very ecumenical approach to flatbread; I love traditional Naples style, Chicago, thin crust, thick crust, bring it on.

A couple of grilled pizza‘s, a big green salad, an antipasti plate and a couple of bottles of a lighter bodied red and you have yourself a party. There are number of great bottles out that are perfect for company and affordable enough for a party! Mason’s Red by Casey Coble is a perfect example.

ROBERT RAMSAY MASON’S RED 2015 $14.99 

Grilled Sausage Pizza Mason’s Red was created as a “food friendly” wine with generous acidity to complement all foods-except maybe breakfast cereal.  Enjoy Mason’s any night, whether you’re eating a fresh harvest from the farmers’ market, oven-fired pizza, or creamy sauces that demand a wine with a structure that cuts through with a pleasurable balance.  Mason’s is a Cinsault-based blend that changes every year-picking up the flavors and the personality of the winemaker, Casey Cobble

Hightower Murray Cuvee 2014 $14.99 

Grilled Sausage PizzaHightower’s entry red is a one of Washington State’s best red wine values! Layered and complex, with ripe blueberry and cassis flavors and hints of tobacco, Bing cherry and black currants. Murray a big genial Pup that loved parties!

If you have company pull out some nice stuff like a Bottle of Baer Star from Woodinville. Baer winery is a family run winery in Woodinville that has been making waves for number of years. The Baer Ursa has an almost cult like following, and since receiving 95 points and claiming the #6 spot on the Wine Spectator’s TOP 100, the Ursa has been getting harder and harder to get your hands on. The Baer Star is affectionately called the “Baby-Ursa’ around the shop, this new single vineyard blend from Baer is another Merlot driven blend and just plain delicious.

Grilled Pizza with Sausage Grilled Sausage Pizza

Dough:
1 Cup Water
2 Tbl Olive Oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp salt
2 Cup (11oz) OO flour, plus more for work surface
Cornmeal for peal

Topping:
1 14 oz Can Crushed tomatoes
1 Tbl Olive Oil
1 each Garlic clove, Minced or Pressed
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp Oregano

8 oz Sausage
4 oz Mozzarella, low moisture
4 oz Fontina
Red Pepper Julienne, for Garnish
Fresh Sage leaves, for garnish

Dough
1. In large mixing bowl combine water, sugar and yeast. Let bloom.
2. Add remaining ingredients and combine with hand. Let rest 30 min.
3. Punch down dough and need for a few minutes. Lest retard in refrigerator for 20 – 30 minutes.
4. Pull out and divide into two dough balls
5. Roll out dough into 12” circles.
Sauce
6. In bowl combine Tomato, garlic, olive oil and seasoning
Prepare Charcoal fire or preheat Gas grill (medium Heat)
7. Lightly spread pizza peel with cornmeal and place one dough on peel
8. Slide dough off onto grill and grill 1 – 2 minutes
9. Remove from grill and invert onto peel
10. Spread precooked dough with Sauce and top with cheese and fresh sausage
11. Slide back onto grill and close cover and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes
12. Remove from grill and garnish with fresh sage and red pepper julienne

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Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors

 

Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, made with duck confit, sausage and beans. Served with good crusty bread and a good bottle of hearty wine Cassoulet is just about the finest warden against the cold dark night.

There are as many versions of Cassoulet as there are French grandmothers and Chefs. Some include Lamb, pork shoulder or even partridge. Below I give you a basic version that comes very close to traditional.

Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors
Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet
4 ounces bacon, diced
1 cups chopped onion (3/4 lb))
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrot, peeled diced
1 lb Sausage links, cooked and sliced
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp thyme
1each bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (14-oz) can stewed tomatoes, chopped with juice
2 each confit duck legs*
1 14 ounce can white beans
2 cups beef broth
1 Tbl tomato paste
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

In a large pot render diced bacon
2. Add carrots, onion and celery cook until translucent
3. Add sliced sausage
4. Add herbs and season
5. Add tomatoes, beef broth and tomato paste
6. Add duck confit legs
7. Drain and rinse beans and add to pot
8. Cover and simmer for 1 hour9.
Remove bones from cassoulet adjust seasoning if necessary. In a pan heat olive oil and toast bread crumbs. To serve portion out cassoulet and top with bread crumbs and chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread and a hearty red wine.

Cassoulet calls out for a hearty wine, say Cotes du Rhone, Madiran or Cahors. Malbec has been made famous in Argentina where it produces lovely fruit forward reds, in Cahors where the grape is called Cot the wines are a little more rustic. Cahors is a small AOC wine region located in southwest France (the land of Cassoulet). The AOC is only for red wines, which must be made from a minimum of 70% Malbec and up to 30% Merlot or Tannat. Cahors Malbec tend to be deeper in color, more structured and fuller bodied than their Argentine counterparts.

Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and CahorsChâteau Eugénie has been in the hands of the same family of winegrowers for generations. Their great great grandmother gave her name to the property.

Chateau Eugenie Cahors Tradition ’13 (France) $9.99 btl / save $4
Like most Tradition wines in Cahors, this fruity and perfumed wine has been aged in stainless steel to keep the fruitiness. Blackberry flavors are cut with acidity and a tight tannic character. Drinking beautifully right now!

With the weather the way it is I suggest putting on a pot, open a nice bottle of Cahors and don’t forget the bread.

Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors

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Lenny’s Weekend Wine Pairing: Chicken Afritada and Petalos Mencia

The cuisine of the Philippines’ represents some of the most delicious and fascinating food around. The style of cooking has evolved over the centuries from the Austronesian roots to a mélange of Chinese, Spanish, Indian and more recently American influences. Local ingredients mixed with diverse cooking techniques have created a cuisine that is once familiar and distinctive.
The Chinese brought Soy sauce, fish sauce, techniques like stir frying and noodle making. Trade opened up even more ingredients and techniques from close neighbors like Mallacca and Java to as far away as India and Arabia that all made their mark on cuisine. Spanish colonizers brought with them the produce of their empire, the Americas. Chile Peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes along with techniques like cooking with garlic and onions. Spanish and Mexican dishes both make their way into the cuisine.
There are many classic dishes: from Lumpia to Adobo. A particular favorite is Afritada. This is a dish that applies Spanish technique, American ingredients and touch Asian influence and Filipino flair.


There are many ways to pair a dish like this. It’s not too spicy and just a little sweet and savory. You are going to want a wine that is has some intensity, good acidity and little fruit. For white, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is an almost ideal match. For red a Spanish Garnacha or Tempranillo would work nicely but a Mencia from Bierzo is just about perfect.

Lenny’s Weekend Wine Pairing: Chicken Afritada and Petalos MenciaCROWDED HOUSE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 $11.99 btl / save $4
This wine blew our socks off! A quintessentially Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with bright aromas of guava, citrus fruits, and sweet crushed herbs. The palate is elegantly proportioned with lovely soft acid carrying the fruit flavors to a long, pure finish. This wine keeps you coming back for more; and at price you can afford to.

Lenny’s Weekend Wine Pairing: Chicken Afritada and Petalos MenciaVINA HERMINIA CRIANZA 2013 $11.99 btl / save $4
“Talk about a stunning value!” – Arnie Milan. “An elegant and intense nose comprising black fruit, blackberry and herbs, with a real medicinal edge is followed deliciously by a well-structured palate of licorice, plums, tobacco and black fruit notes, which also has round meaty tannins, a lovely texture and a beautiful long finish.” 95 points Decanter

Or if you want something really cool try a Mencia from Bierzo.

Lenny’s Weekend Wine Pairing: Chicken Afritada and Petalos MenciaJOSE PALACIOS ‘PETALOS’ BIERZO 2015 $19.99 btl / save $5
A fine representation of what is possible in both the Bierzo region as well as with the grape Mencia. Delicious tart red strawberry, Bing cherries, anise and impressive earthy aromas. Crisp red fruit on the palate, savory, smooth and caressing without sacrificing structure. All from vines ranging between 40 and 90 years of age on slopes (half of the grapes around the village of Corullón and the remainder in the rest of Bierzo). It’s a showy, approachable, aromatic and open version of Pétalos. 92 pts Wine Advocate

This Pineapple Chicken Afritada features chicken and tons of vegetables simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce. Vibrant, colorful, super delicious!

INGREDIENTS
2soy bean oil tablespoon
2 lbs chicken thighs, deboned and cut in serving pieces
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pound Linguiça or Longganisa sliced
4 cloves garlic coarsely
1 small onion, julienne
1 red pepper Julienne
1 yellow pepper Julienne
3 bay leaves
1 can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz can Pineapple chunks
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 potato, peeled quartered
1 carrot cut into chunks
1/4 cup green peas
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoon Fish sauce

1. Trim chicken thighs of any excess fat and season with salt, pepper and paprika
2. In a large skillet heat oil and brown chicken pieces on each side move to platter.
3. Add Linguiça onions and peppers stir to soften. Add garlic and bay leaves.
4. Add tomatoes, pineapple, stock and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer add potatoes, carrots and peas.
5. Return chicken to pot, cover and simmer 15 minutes.
6. Add cider vinegar, sugar and fish sauce
7. If the sauce is to thin remove chicken and simmer to reduce.
8. Serve with rice.

Cheers!

@Chef_Lenny

 

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Truffle Mushroom Risotto and Sangiovese

I love this time of year. Although the changing of the seasons can seem a little schizophrenic. 80 degrees one day; raining and overcast the next. But this is harvest time, the final bounty of summer. True, it can be hard to plan for dinner just because of the bounty. Here is a dish that is ideal for the cooling weather.

Truffle Mushroom Risotto. Made with sautéed mushrooms and spiked with truffle and porcini this is a rich creamy side dish or Primo for an elegant dinner. I always make a little extra so I can have it for lunch the next day.

One of things I really like about this dish is that it pairs well with an array of wines. It plays well with nice Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay when served as a starter but also holds its own alongside fuller bodied reds. The earthiness of the mushrooms and the added umami of the Grana Padano make for a perfect match to a rustic styled Sangiovese.

I am a big fan of Sangiovese and I think that Chianti doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Sangiovese and Chianti in particular, is a food loving wine. Italians drink wine with food and make wine to go with food; every meal; every day. So there is a lot of really great Italian wine that you can afford to drink every day. You can get yourself a great Chianti for not a lot of money. Take for example the Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico 2013, a wine that Antonio Galloni called, “… a jewel of a wine from the Frescobaldi family.”  The Frescobaldi are a prominent Florentine noble family that have been involved in the political, sociological, and economic history of Tuscany since the Middle Ages.

Truffle Mushroom Risotto and SangioveseCollazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico 2013 $14.99 

“The 2013 Chianti Classico I Bastioni is terrific. Bright red berry, rose petal, mint and anise are some of the signatures in a refined Chianti Classico that exemplifies the style of wine that is typical of the northern reaches of the appellation. The 2012 also shows the potential at Collazzi, which appears to be considerable. Merlot and Malvasia Nera round out the blend.” 92 points Antonio Galloni, Vinous

If you are planning on serving this dish with something more robust like Brasato or Bistecca Fiorentina you could step up to a “Super Tuscan”. These are wines made with international varietals like Cabernet. These wines make for a great conciliation between old world and new. If you are entertaining people who are familiar with Napa than Siena, this makes for great compromise.

I have favorite go to “Super” – Montepeloso A Quo. This wine is a balance of Cabernet, Montepulciano and Sangiovese with a little Alicante Bouschet from one of Tuscany’s most exciting winemakers.

Truffle Mushroom Risotto and Sangiovese

Quietly over the past decade, Montepeloso’s Fabio Chiarelotto has emerged as one of the towering winemakers of the Tuscan coast. His windy site sits above the famed Tua Rita estate in Suvereto, producing red wines that are among the region’s most refined. When he purchased Montepeloso in 1998, it was already well on its way to international stardom. Chiarelotto could have rested on that reputation, but he felt that as the vines and been planted and trained, the site would never reach its full potential. And so he spent years reshaping the vineyards.

For eight long years, Chiarelotto painstakingly reshaped the estate’s vineyards. With each vintage, he experimented with blends and techniques that would harness the latent power provided by the terroir, but temper it so that the terroir could fully express itself.

Looking back, he made the right decision, as today Montepeloso has few rivals on the Tuscan coast for producing wines of riveting complexity and great elegance. Proprietor Fabio Chiarelotto succeeded in capturing the best elements of these sites while also shaping his wines with a level of finesse that is remarkable.

Montepeloso A Quo Rosso 2013 $16.99 Truffle Mushroom Risotto and Sangiovese

“The 2013 A Quo is a robust red blend based primarily on Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. The quality of the primary fruit is succulent, plump and rich. So are the background aromas of cinnamon, vanilla bean and toasted almond. This was a good vintage across Tuscany. The finish is exceedingly rich and supple with firmly yielding tannins.” 92 Pts Wine Advocate

 

So no matter if you how you serve this Truffle Mushroom Risotto there is a wine out there for your mood, company or menu.

 

Truffled Mushroom Risotto
________________________________________
Ingredients:

2 cups Water, or more if needed
1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small Onion, Diced
2 cups Arborio Rice
2 cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
1 Dried Whole Bay Leaf
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 sprig Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
Ground White Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 truffle finely grated
4 ounces Crimini mushrooms, or combination of seasonal mushrooms
2 tablespoons Butter
2 ounces Marsala
2 scallions sliced
Grada Padano Cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
1⁄2 cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped fine

 

  1. Combine 2 cups water and dried porcini mushroom in a small sauce pan and simmer to reconstitute.
  2. In a large pan sweat onions in olive oil add Arborio stir to coat with olive oil
  3. In small batches add chicken stock adding just enough to cover the rice.
  4. Add garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt and white pepper
  5. Using a microplane finely grate truffle into rice.
  6. Strain porcini and reserve the liquid. Finely dice the porcini and add to risotto.
  7. Slowly cook risotto over medium heat adding stock and reserved porcini water. Cook until rice is al dente, cooked to be firm to the bite. Add more water if necessary.
  8. Add cream and continue to stir remove from heat add about 1 cup of Grana Padano and chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning if needed.
  9. Garniture: sauté fresh mushrooms in butter until brown and soft, deglaze with Marsala and add fresh scallions set aside.
  10. To serve garnish with mushrooms and serve with extra Grana Padano

lenny@esquin.com

@Chef_Lenny

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Corn Chowder with Dungeness Crab and California Chardonnay

It is Corn Season and around town in farmers markets and produce stands you see bushels of fresh corn. Summer is full of iconic produce – watermelon, cherries, blueberries. Fresh grilled corn on the cob is about as summer as you can get. If you haven’t tried Mexican Style Grilled Corn, Elote, you should. I have a friend who always requests it when we BBQ. There a million recipes and ways to use corn – Corn Chowder, Corn Salad with grilled peppers and Cilantro Vinaigrette, Grilled Chicken with Corn Salsa, a Seafood Boil with Corn and Potatoes .

Corn Chowder with Dungeness Crab and California Chardonnay

When it comes to pairing there are many choices, but one always comes first to my mind and that is Chardonnay. Here is a little secret, one of the descriptors for Chardonnay is sweet corn, but it isn’t one your likely to see on a shelf taker or descriptor. But that sweet corn taste is echoed in many chardonnay. Add a little smoke from a grill and it plays well with a little oak, a little butter on the corn? You get the idea.

A truly classic pairing is Blanc de Blanc Champagne and Pop Corn, add a little truffle salt and you have highfalutin/ low brow combo that practically everyone loves.

Chardonnay can go from light, mineral and crisp to full bodied, buttery and oaky. This gives you a range of wines to choose from for pairing. A crisp Chablis will class up your Low Country Seafood Boil with a rich creamy corn chowder a more traditional California Chardonnay is the bomb.

Full disclosure, I am California kid and a soft spot for well-made, well-balanced California Chardonnay. Today I would like to present one of my new favorites.

Corn Chowder with Dungeness Crab and California ChardonnayGrayson Cellars Chardonnay ’16 (CA) $9.99 btl / save$3

If you like chardonnay you will fall head over heals in love with Grayson. 100% Chardonnay and shows loads of tropical fruit, especially mango, pineapple and tangerine, crisp acidity, and an elegant, mid-weight central casting California Chardonnay. “Best Buy!” 11 years in row from Wine Advocate.

Mike O’Connell, owner of Grayson Cellars, believes in using their Napa Valley location and combined winemaking skills to create some of the highest quality wines available at the by-the-glass price point. O’Connell has degrees in Business and Industrial engineering and these skills come in handy when you want to make a lot of really good wine inexpensively. But his real skill is in managing people and hiring the right people. In this case it is Larry Levin.

“Larry Levin, who is among the most experienced winemakers in the Napa Valley. After completing his Enology degree at UC Davis, Larry spent seventeen years at Dry Creek Vineyard. Larry then spent nine years as head of winemaking at Icon Estates, where he oversaw wineries such as Franciscan, Mt. Veeder, Estancia, Ravenswood, Quintessa and Ruffino (making 100 point wines!)” Larry knows good wine. We don’t usually get these kind of winemaking skills at this price point.

“A frequent entry into these best buy pages, winemaker Larry Levin knows how to fashion flavorful, authentic tasting whites and reds at bargain-basement prices.” -Robert Parker (Nov. 2014)

If you are looking for good Chard for next weekend BBQ, fish Boil or Sunday supper look no further.

This wines pairs beautifully with my corn chowder, if you want to fancy it up for company add some fresh cracked crab or avocado or both to the top! Then some fresh crusty bread and good bottle of Chardonnay and call it a day!

Lenny@esquin.com

Corn Chowder with Dungeness Crab and California Chardonnay

Corn Chowder with Dungeness Crab

Ingredients

 

1 medium yellow or white onion

1 stalk celery

1 tablespoon butter

4 ounce bacon

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups chicken broth or clam juice

2 cups water

2 red or Yukon gold potatoes

1 clove garlic, chopped fine

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

4 ears fresh sweet corn or 4 cups frozen corn (fresh is better)

½ cup Cream

Salt to taste

Parsley to garnish

16 oz Dungeness crab meat



Method

 

  1. Peel corn and using a sharp knife cut kernels off cobs.
  2. Finely dice onion and celery.  Peel and thinly slice then dice the potato and set aside. Dice bacon.
  3. Heat a heavy stock pot and add the butter. Add the bacon and sweat add the onion and celery, stirring often until onions and celery softens.
  4.  Add flour and cook until a roux forms.
  5. Add chicken broth and water, stir until velvety and thickened.  Add diced potatoes. Add white pepper, thyme and bay leaf.
  6. Simmer gently for twenty minutes
  7. Add corn and cook for 5 minutes
  8. Remove from heat partly puree with emersion blender.
  9. Return to heat, add cream and slowly heat.
  10. Salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Simmer till soup thickens. Pour in bowl, add crab meat (2 tablespoons per bowl) and garnish with Parsley.

 

Serve with a gerat Chardonnay.

Yield 6 – 8  servings

 

 

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Asparagus Tamales and Ross Andrew Celilo Pinot Gris

“Last chance on local Asparagus” the sign and the fruit stand read. so just grabbed a bunch, I can always use a bunch of asparagus – as a side, in a salad, as an appetizer with coddled eggs and prosciutto. It’s asparagus. But just having returned from Yakima I decided to try my hand at a local favorite – Asparagus Tamales.


Asparagus tamales have been made famous by Los Hernandez tamale shop in Union Gap, Yakima County. Owner Felipe Hernandez has become a local legend and international celebrity for his family’s tamales. He has been running the modest little shop for over 25 years and started making the Asparagus Tamales on a whim one night with some leftover masa. The secret ingredient he says is Pepper jack cheese. So below I have my own take on asparagus Tamales. I add some fresh chile verde to give it a little kick.

Asparagus Tamales and Ross Andrew Celilo Pinot Gris
Any wine professional will tell you that pairing to a asparagus is tricky, but the secret is to have a wine with enough acidity to handle the chemical mercaptan that give asparagus it’s unique flavor (and experience). Then there is the chile verde you have be wary of even a little spice so a little hint of sweetness is a great help. Pinot Gris to the rescue!

2016 Ross Andrew Celilo Vineyard Pinot Gris $15.99
Asparagus Tamales and Ross Andrew Celilo Pinot GrisMade from a Pinot Gris block planted in 1975 in Celilo Vineyard, a prized high-elevation site in Columbia Gorge near the town of Underwood, WA. It is arguably one of the greatest white grape sites in Washington with its cool climate, wonderfully mineral rich soil and high winds that move the 50″ of annual rainfall off the canopy.

The aromatics and palate of this wine really showcase what vine age can do to a wine. Asian pear, white flowers and nectarine. The palate is vibrant and crisp with a touch of minerals on the finish. A perfect food wine. especially tricky foods.

Ross got his start as a Sommelier at Canlis under MS Rob Bigelow and learned winemaking at the right hand of the Master, of Wine Bob Betz. Ross’s style is reminiscent of Betz, being both polished and complex. He went on to make the highest scoring Cabernet ever from Wine Spectator. Saturday August 12 we will be tasting his latest releases including his Celilo Pinot Gris, Boushey Syrah and his award winning Red Mountain Cabernet.

Cheers!
Lenny

Asparagus Tamales and Ross Andrew Celilo Pinot Gris

Asparagus Tamales
________________________________________
18-ounce package dried corn husks

1 1/2 cups lard (or vegetable shortening), slightly softened
1 ½ Teaspoons Salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon chile powder
3 1/2 cups dried masa harina
2 1/4 cups hot water
1 to 1 1/2cups chicken broth

1 bunch Asparagus, blanched
8 ounces pepper jack cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken stock or water
3 each poblano Chile peppers, seeded and chopped
1 each jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 pound Tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Asparagus Tamales and Ross Andrew Celilo Pinot Gris

1. Separate husks and submerge in hot water place a plate on top to keep submerged. Bring to simmer and let stand for at least an hour.
2. Grill or roast peppers and tomatillos until blistered and a little charred. Place into plastic bag and let cool. In a large sauté pan heat olive oil and Sauté onions and garlic until soft add salt and cumin. Add chicken stock and reduce to simmer, set aside. Peel cooled peppers and tomatillos and place in bowl of food processor or blender. Add cooled onion mixture and cilantro then puree until well combined.
3. For Masa: In a large bowl combine salt, baking powder, chile powder, Harina flour and hot water. Adding chicken stock a little a time work dough until light and fluffy. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Cover and let rest.
4. Set up steamer: in a large stock pot place a collapsible steamer basket, add an inch or so of water.
5. To make tamales: separate out the largest and most pliable husks, at least 6 inches across on the wider end and 6 inches long. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of masa onto a husk, spread with a spatula out to the edges of each side save for the narrow top. Spoon a teaspoon of verde sauce onto center of masa add a couple of blanched asparagus, top with pepper jack cheese. Roll up the tamale and fold the bottom up. Place in steamer folded side down. Layer the finished tamales in the same fashion open end up. Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away and, to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the pot when more is necessary. Tamales are done when the husk peels away from the masa easily. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up.

 

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Weekend Wine Pairing – Churrasco Style Pork Ribs and Prazo de Roriz

The story of wine in Portugal is at its heart a paradox: home to some of the world’s oldest greatest and best known wines, yet years of poor political leadership and oceans of plonk wine have all but destroyed the once great reputation. Portugal has a history of winemaking that goes back thousands of years. Long before the Romans and Moors came through the native people of the southwestern Iberian Peninsula were making wine with indigenous grapes. During the Age of Discovery Portugal became a major world power, with Prince Henry the Navigator, sending his armada around the globe.

Most famous for Porto, the fortified wine of the Douro, Portugal has some of the oldest recognized wines in the world. The wines of Portugal were famous throughout the world, Madeira was favorite of the young American colonies, and was even used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

With the decline of colonial power the wine industry in Portugal fell on hard times. During the 20th century the wine industry was hit with the double blow of fascist dictatorship and cheap jug wine (Mateus and Lancers). In 1974, “The Carnation Revolution” put an end to 5 decades of dictatorship and in 1986 Portugal entered the European Union. With membership came foreign investment and complete overhaul of the wine industry.

Today, Portugal represents one of the Best Value wine producing regions in the world. The combination of ancient wine growing traditions and modern technology means that you can buy a wine with outstanding pedigree made from ancient vines for a relative bargain. The Prazo de Roriz is a great example of what I am talking about. Crafted by Prats & Symington family, Port producers since 1882, and Bruno Prats, former owner of the famed Chateau Cos d’Estournel. The wine demonstrates the incredible potential of combining winemaking expertise from the Douro Valley and Bordeaux, two of the world’s best wine regions.

QUINTA DE RORIZ “PRAZO DE RORIZ” DOURO 2015 $14.99 

The 2015 Prazo de Roriz is a roughly equal blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barroca, with small bits of Tinta Roriz and Tinta Amarela, aged for six months in used French oak. This is typically a good value. This might be my favorite in some time. There isn’t a lot of concentration in the mid palate and it isn’t the type of wine you want to age for 20 years. It’s not $50, either. It’s a very nice bargain with many virtues. The fruit here is just gorgeous, vivid, pure and clean. The structure lifts it and delivers it beautifully to the palate. The texture is silky and the finish is just a bit tight. Overall, it is hard to lean up more on this since it doesn’t have a lot of upside potential, but if you drink it over the next few years, you might like it even better than the score would suggest.

It’s summer so I am grilling everything. A wine like the Prazo beckons for grilled meat. The traditional dish of Costelas Vinho d’alhos, roasted spare ribs, transfers well to the American barbecue grill.

Weekend Wine Pairing – Churrasco Style Pork Ribs and Prazo de Roriz

Churrasco Style Pork Ribs (Costelas Vinho d’alhos)
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4 – 6 pounds meaty pork spare ribs

Marinade:
3 Tablespoons piri-piri sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Soy
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup orange Juice and zest
¼ cup lime juiced
¼ lemon juiced
1 cup onion, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
½ cup Red wine
1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper
More oil for grill

1. Prep the ribs by removing any meat or fat that dangles from the bone side. Also trim any tough sinew (silver skin) on the meaty side. Remove the membrane on the bone side of the ribs. Cut into 3 bone segments.
2. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in the bowl of a blender and puree until well combined. Reserve a cup for basting.
3. Place prepared ribs in large container or Ziploc bag and cover with marinade. Marinate for 2 hours.
4. Prepare charcoal for grill and move coals to one side, you can put an aluminum pan on one side to catch drippings.
5. When grill is 250 degrees place ribs opposite side of the coals for indirect heat. Cook turning every 30 minutes for 3 hours. Brushing with marinade occasionally. If necessary add a few more coals to the fire.
6. Wrap ribs in foil and Cook for 1 or more hours until ribs pull away from meat.
7. For Oven: reheat the oven to 350 or 325 degrees F. according to the method of cooking.
8. To roast, reserve the marinade and place the pork in a roasting pan and cook at 350 degrees F. for about two hours, not more. Baste periodically with the marinade.
9. Serve with Potatoes, a big salad and a nice big red.

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Grilled T- Bone with Lemon and Parsley and Barbera D’asti

During the summer months I cook almost every meal outside. When I have time I Barbecue but many nights it is easy to fire up the grill for dinner. Salmon, Chicken, pork all work well, and there is something spectacular about grilled vegetables. Asparagus is so simple and quick I grill them up almost every chance I get. And then there is steak.

Around the globe, for as long as we have been around we have cooked over an open fire. If there is one thing quintessential dish that seems the grill was invented for is steak. There are many variations of the dish as there are languages on the planet. In Italy it is customary to serve a grilled steak simply with just salt and pepper and maybe a squeeze of lemon, alla Fiorentina. The simplicity of the dish is characteristically Italian so use the best ingredients for the greatest results

Here is my simple version that cooks quickly and makes quite an impression.

Grilled T-Bone with Lemon and Parsley
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 ea 1 lb (1 ½” – 2” thick) T-Bone
¼ Cup Olive Oil, plus more for serving
Sea Salt
Black Pepper, freshly ground
Rosemary sprigs

*** For Serving

Lemon wedges
2 Cups Arugula
Roasted Potatoes
2 lb Asparagus

1. In a bowl large enough for steak place rosemary and steak and drizzle with olive oil. Let the steak rest outside the refrigerator for at least an hour before cooking.
2. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over high heat (450 -500).
3. Using tongs, lay steak over the hottest part of the fire, cook 2 – 5- 7 minutes. Turn the steak and sprinkle with salt. Cook on the second side until browned, 2 – 3 minutes more.
4. Remove the steaks to a carving board and let rest for at least 5 minutes before carving.
5. Cut the steaks away from the bone and carve into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the meat on warmed plates season with salt and pepper.
6. Garnish with lemon wedges and arugula
7. Have more sea salt and pepper available at the table
8. Serve with Roasted Potatoes and grilled asparagus

Now in Florence they would have drink a nice Chianti or Brunello. But I like go even lighter in the summer, and a perfect summer red is Barbera. Barbera has ancient origins, the first documented mention of the grape is in 1798, in a letter by Count Giuseppe Nuvolone-Pergamo of Scandaluzzo, deputy director of the Società Agraria di Torino (Agrarian Society of Turin). Barbera-based wines were well regarded even then, for their rustic yet generous character.

Grilled T- Bone with Lemon and Parsley and Barbera D’asti

Barbera wines are esteemed for their deep color, low tannins and high levels of acidity. When young they offer fresh flavors of cherries, blueberries and raspberries. Relatively rich, bold and flavorful, the most powerful examples might just be compared to Barolo or Barbaresco. Barbera is a great summertime wine. Serve it slightly chilled and it makes a great afternoon supper wine, especially on a hot day.

One of our favorite producers is Renatto Ratti. Founded in 1965 about Renato himself and now his nephew Massimo runs the operation. The original winery was built in an old abbey located halfway up the hill in the valley of Barolo. Here buttressed by steep slopes lined by orderly vineyards, lies a precious jewel from the 15th century: the Abbey of Annunziata. From the 100 acres of vineyards, the Renato Ratti winery produces Barolo, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba.

Grilled T- Bone with Lemon and Parsley and Barbera D’asti

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Gin & Tonic paired with Gin cured Gravlax and fixings

For many people Summer is all about Rosé . I like many of friends drink Rose all year round. There are many drinks that conjure images of sunshine and sunny days – Margaritas, Sangria, Mojitos. But, there is one drink that I really only drink in the summer – Gin and Tonic. A tumbler with a splash of gin, a good quality tonic and wedge of lime, at the end of work day sitting on my deck, my feet up and good book- now that’s what I call relaxation.

G & T is happy hour. It is also a simple and almost perfect aperitif. For cocktail party or as a warm up act to a nice dinner, G & T’s lend themselves to many traditional appetizers – Pâté Campagna, smoked salmon, Crab Cakes, Cucumber Sandwiches, Blini & Caviar. But a perfect pairing Salmon Gravlax.

Gravlax is one of the first dishes I learned how to make in professional career. I only takes a couple days, a good quality (fresh) salmon some salt and sugar. Juniper is a traditional spice used in making Gravlax, but since I rarely have juniper berries lying around, even in my kitchen, I have turned to using a splash of ubiquitous Gin.

For a pre-funk to night out or dinner party I would serve right off the cutting board a side of gravlax accompanied by Cornichon, capers, diced red onion, fresh mascarpone or crème Fraiche, mustard sauce and pumpernickel rye bread.

As for The Gin? There are many good quality Gins to choose from – Martin Millers is the benchmark as far as I am concerned. Bombay Sapphire is a good default. Locally we have great gin producers: Big Gin, Batch 206, Sun Liquor Gun Club, Voyager, Halcyon. But, I do a favorite Local and That is BelleWood Gin.

What makes BelleWood good is that it has a refreshing light clean base of apple derived spirit. At BelleWood they use a traditional blend of seven botanicals that are vapor infused into their Gin. What makes it unique is that this is one of the few Farm to Table Gins, I have ever heard of. BelleWood is an Apple Farm just north of Bellingham. They grow the Apples, press into cider, ferment and distill right on the property. You can’t really get much more local than that.

Gin and Tonic

Ice
1 part Gin
2 -3 Parts Tonic
Squeeze of lime
Lime wedge for garnish

Gin Cured Wild Salmon GravlaxGin & Tonic paired with Gin cured Gravlax and fixings
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1 2 to 3 pound, wild Coho Salmon, deboned, skin removed
6 ounces kosher salt
4 ounces brown sugar
2 tablespoons Coarse ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 Tablespoon Fresh Dill (1 teaspoon Dried)
2 ounces (BelleWood) Gin
13 x 9 baking dish
1. Remove any pin bones from salmon side
2. Combine kosher salt and sugar in bowl. Place half of this mixture in bottom of Baking dish
3. Lightly toast fennel and caraway seeds in dry pan until aromatic cool and coarsely grind with mortar pestle. Combine with black pepper and dill.
4. Drizzle Salmon with gin pour any remaining gin into baking dish.
5. Season both sides of Salmon liberally with spice mix and place in baking dish cover with remaining sugar salt mixture
6. Wrap with plastic wrap and cure overnight in refrigerator. The next day turn over salmon, wrap and return to refrigerator
7. Day 3 remove salmon from marinade and rinse gently. The salmon should feel firm to touch. Wrap in plastic and return to refrigerator if not using immediately.
8. Using a sharp nice slice the Gravlax as thinly as you can.
9.
Serve with Cornichon, capers, diced red onion, fresh mascarpone, mustard sauce and pumpernickel rye bread

Mustard Sauce:
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Honey
1 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or Tarragon

Combine the mustard, honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped herbs

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