I have to admit – I’m very impartial to the beets salad. Not any beets salad, but Roasted Beets salad. I can’t tell you why. May be it has something to do with the name – “roasted”… “beets”… “salad”. May be my body simply lacking the nutrients which can be found in the roasted beets, and sends the subliminal message”you want this…”. Don’t know. But every time I see a roasted beets salad on the menu in a restaurant, there is a very good chance I will order it.
Interestingly enough, while at home we make many dishes out of beets (beets is one of the staples of the Russian cuisine I’m accustomed to), recipes for those dishes call for beets to be boiled. At the same time, I believe roasting of the beets keeps flavor and sweetness locked in and concentrates it, where in case of boiling it gets all diluted. Roasting also preserves the color – just look at the picture if you want proof.
So for the first time ever, I decided to make a roasted beets salad with goat cheese, grapefruit, baby arugula and pistachio nuts. Before I get to the details, I would like to mention the source of my inspiration for this dish – it was appetizer called “Study of Beets” which I had at the Pinot Café in Los Angeles – you can the story here. That “study of beets” gave me an idea for combination of the ingredients.
Talking about ingredients, for this salad you would need: 4 large beets, 1 large grapefruit, 3 ounces (or less) of goat cheese, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, pinch of sea salt, half a cup of pistachio nuts and about half a cup of baby arugula or any similar greens. Note that baby arugula here is not the main ingredient, it works almost like a spice with its mild bitterness, and you can even skip it if you want.
Start from roasting beets at 400F for about an hour or until tender. When roasting the beets, you can play with flavor. I put beets in foil with addition of liquid smoke (don’t wrap it tight, or they will boil) – as a result, beets had nice hint of smokiness. Once ready, let beets to cool off, then peel and slice – size of slices is entirely up to you.
Put sliced beets in the bowl, sprinkle (very sparingly!) with sea salt (I recommend sea salt as it also adds textural sensation) and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add goat cheese (break it up in little pieces by hand). Add completely peeled grapefruit, also broken in pieces, and then baby arugula. Reserve few pistachios, crumble the rest and add it to the salad. Mix everything gently together, put in the bowl and garnish with reserved pistachios. Serve and enjoy!
What about the wine, you’re asking? Of course there should be wine. I didn’t have a chance to test the exact combination, nevertheless I would suggest that good Sauvignon Blanc would work well here. Lets narrow down that “good Sauvignon Blanc” – I would actually suggest 2009 Hyde Vineyards Selene Sauvignon Blanc from Carneros to pair with this dish.
To tell you the truth, I love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre (classic Sauvignon Blanc wine from France) and Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. However, 9 times out of 10 I would avoid California Sauvignon Blanc – lots of them are high-alcohol soulless concoctions. Now, this Selene Sauvignon Blanc – WOW! Probably the best California Sauvignon Blanc and one of the best I ever had from any region.
Grassiness, acidity, fruit – all comes together in a very balanced package with nice finish. Beautiful wine (Drinkability: 8+). I have no doubts this wine would work very well with the beets salad, and I will prove it to myself next time – or wait for you to tell me.
Here is an answer to the “what is it” question from the last post (and congratulations to Marc):
Pretty, isn’t it? And here is the whole “still life” – right before it was sliced and transformed into a beautiful sausages and peppers medley:
Sometimes, you take a picture, just because you have a gut feeling “it is interesting”. Of course things look differently on the small camera screen and big computer screen – and when you see the picture in the full size, you understand what was “interesting”… and sometimes you just sigh. But then it is the matter of prospective…
I played this once before in this blog, and I want to try this again. Same as before, I still don’t have the prize – except that I will tell you what is actually shown on that picture. Here we go:
So, what is this?
I had being contemplating this post for a while, and [finally] here it is. I’m not getting the wines for free, and they are not growing in my backyard. Same as most everybody else, I’m buying my wines. So what’s a big deal about it? Why does buying the wine worth a blog post?
Buying wine is somewhat of an art. Huh=, you say, what kind of nonsense is that? But the challenge is that on one side, there is an oversupply of wine, so trick is to find place with the right service and right prices (!). At the same time, there are way too many wines which are often referred to as “cult”, which are literally impossible to find – and may be information in this blog post might be able to help you.
As you know by now, I’m obsessed with wine – and it translates into finding good wines at good prices (this is often referred to as QPR – Quality Price Ratio). Here are the ways I found so far to satisfy that QPR requirement.
Wine Searcher – When I’m looking for specific wine ( or any type of alcohol for that matter), I always start from Wine -searcher. I always get full information on the price range and availability of options to acquire that specific wine.
Cost Less Wines and Liquors – local store in Stamford, CT. In the interest of full disclosure, store owner, Zak, is my friend. But this is not the reason for me to mention the store. There is an amazing wine selection in the store (I would think that in terms of using the space, this is the best store I even saw in ability to utilize every square inch of the store space. There is great representation of all wine making regions, and his selection of Kosher wines and Champagnes is literally best in Stamford. Plus, Zak has a talent to find the close-outs and makes very quick decisions when he can seize a good value. Also, if you are looking for a specific wine, Zak will get it for you (as long as it is available in Connecticut). All in all, this store is my primary wine shopping destination.
Bottle King – chain of the wine stores in New Jersey. Each store might have slightly different inventory, so I can’t speak for all of them. I’m personally using the one in Glen Rock, NJ. Overall, wine prices are very good. This store has excellent selection of Portuguese wines (great QPR!), plus good selection of French, Italian and Californian wines. Australia, Chile and Argentina have limited representation. Bottle King has loyalty card, which gives discount on many wines, plus periodically they run very good special sales – Red Tag Sale is in effect now (until April 4th, 2011), and some of the values are simply incredible. Need an example? 2000 Vintage Port for $27.70? Wow! Bottle King also have a division which sells wine online, called The Wine Buyer @Bottle King – I get their newsletter, however, never ordered anything.
PJ Wine – excellent store in New York. If you are looking for a Spanish wine – this is the right store. Probably the best selection of current and old releases of Rioja and Ribera Del Duero in the tri-state area. Also very good selection of rare and hard to find European wines from France, Italy and Austria. Very good service. Full store inventory is available online. Plus, there are excellent [free] educational seminars in the store ( hard to get in as seating is limited).
WTSO.com (Wine Till Sold Out) – great place to look for the bargains. I already wrote about WTSO in one of the previous posts. It works in a very simple way. You get on the mailing list. Then you get e-mail once the new wine is available for sale, at an incredible price – often, not always, of course. You can always check if offer makes sense by going to the Wine-Searcher and then also consulting Wine Spectator or another ratings database. Please be aware of the fact that while you are trying to figure out if particular offer makes sense, the wine might be gone by the time you reach the conclusion. Definitely great place to buy wines at a great price. Just sign up for the mailing list and see for yourself.
Benchmark Wine Company – to give you a short description – amazing. Outstanding customer service (really – try it). Wine selection? Incredible. Yes, this is not for everyday shopping, but if you look for a particular wine, especially from the older vintages – this is the place. Give it a try and you will not regret.
Wades Wines - might be one of the best secrets in the wine shopping. US regions have great representation, with lots of cult wines being available (at least on the list – but sold out in reality). I have to admit that I hadn’t bought anything yet from this company, but all the e-mails look very tempting.
D&M – another incredible store. Specialty? Scotch, cognac, champagne. The store is located in San Francisco, and it is literally hole in the wall. But once you look around in the store to see the selections surrounding you on all four walls, you get absolutely amazed. Incredible selection of scotch and cognac. Plus, there is a number of clubs offered, and actually these clubs make sense (compare to most of the wine clubs, which don’t worth a penny). If you are in San Francisco, and you like scotch or cognac, definitely find time to visit the store.
Of course there are many other places to buy wine – I had great experience with Yankee Spirits store in Sturbridge, MA, Beltramo’s in Menlo Park, California (outstanding service), K&L Wines (good selection, service – so so) in multiple locations in California. I had an interesting experience with Drink the grapes (online only).
This post happened to be much longer than I thought it should be. Nevertheless, I did my best to share the ways I go around to find the wine I want. If you got your favorite store or a web site to buy the wine – let me know, as I will be glad to learn about it. And until the next time – happy shopping!
Yes, I have to honestly admit that I enjoyed that Treble journey. I happened to discover real gems along the way, such as Nielucciu, Grolleau, Grignolino, Pigato, Pugnitello, Romorantin and many others. What now?
As it often happens with me, I decided not to decide. I don’t want to set my mind on the “quattro journey”, as level of obsession will go again ( as it was with Treble) really high. At the same time, the need to look for “what is actually inside of that bottle, may be it is a new grape?” became really ingrained into the DNA, and nothing I can do about it.
The decision is to take it as it goes. I’m not going to spend hours on internet, looking for the grapes I need to try to advance to the next level. At the same time, I’m going to keep paying attention to “what’s inside”, and continue counting the new grapes. To reflect that, “Treble count” on the front page is now “Grape Count”, and it will keep ticking.
And to make an early advance, I was quite lucky (thanks to my friend Zak) to attend a big wine tasting event (one of the posts in the near future will be raving about amazing wines we tried), so the grape counter is advancing by 8 – here is the list:
Gamay Saint Romaine: 2010 Domaine Robert Serol Cote Roannaise Rose “Cabochard”
Tressalier: 2009 Domaine Nebout SAt. Pourcain Blanc Tressalier des Graviers
Mondeuse: 2008 Roger Labbe Mondeuse
Colorino (Tintoretto): 2010 Terenzuola Rosato “Merla Rosa”
Albana: 2009 Fattoria Zerbina Albana di Romagna Secco “AS”
Vespolina, Uva Rara: 2004 Vallana Boca
Prugnolo Gentile: 2006 La Spinetta Il Gentile di Casanova
I’m looking forward continuing this journey - and of course, I will report along the way on all discoveries. Let’s go…
Nope. It is not what you think. I’m not going to talk about hangovers. I’m not going to talk about alcoholism, not going to talk about fights and any kind of other stupid things you can do when “under influence”. Wine for me associated with life and experiences in that life, and that what I want to talk about.
To be even more precise, consider this post to be simply of a venting nature, as I had my expectations broken. Friday night we had a small get together, and so for that occasion I had a pleasure of thinking about bottle of wine which I want to open. How about Bordeaux? No, I don’t have anything which is the right age. Barolo or Brunello? We are getting together after work, not enough time for the those to breathe. Hmmm, how about California Cabernet? Sounds good, ok. And…yes, I know, 2003 Neyers Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – perfect! That wine it is outstanding, and I’m very happy with my decision. Mind you, the decision process takes place the day before. So the expectations are building. There is anticipation of opening of the special bottle, and it is a happy thought.
And then the special moment comes. The bottle is open. Those of you who already know what I’m going to say, raise your hand. It is corked. It is kind of corked on the mild side, if this makes sense, and you can drink it, but it doesn’t taste right at all. The pleasure is gone. Expectations not fulfilled, and while you are sipping the wine you keep looking for the right taste, hoping your taste buds deceived you on the first sip. This is not the post asking to stop using real corks and switch to screwtops – I’m not convinced that screwtops are right for wine, as they interfere with normal process of aging wine in the bottle. I’m simply talking about experiences and expectations, and how quickly your expectations can fall apart – and instead of elevating the mood, can put you down.
Anyway, this is my rant for today. I still have more of the Neyers bottles left, so I hope the next one will taste as expected – but this time I will be looking for a good surprise, rather than fulfilling the expectations. I’m sure you got the story of your own – and will be glad if you can share it.
This coming Thursday, March 17th is St. Pastrick’s Day, which is probably the main celebration of Irish heritage. Leaving aside Leprechauns and cabbage, let’s talk about traditional Irish drinks.
I think Guinness is far more traditional Irish drink than anything else, but this is just an opinion ( note: I have no relationship to Irish heritage whatsoever, so may be I don’t know what I’m talking about). And the next thing which comes to mind – no, not wine – Irish Whiskey.
When it comes to Irish whiskey, there are few of the mainstream brands, Jameson and Bushmills being most well known. Few days ago I happened to come across an Irish Whiskey tasting at Cost Less Wines and Liquors, where full line-up of Jameson was represented (almost full – basic Jameson was not there), so I had an opportunity to try all of them. To tell you the truth, I didn’t care for Jameson 12 and Jameson Gold – both were not very impressive. Jameson Vintage felt over-engineered, with mostly oily flavors on the palate, and none of the fruit or acidity or any other components being noticeable. Jameson 18 had an elegance of a mature whiskey (have to stop myself all the time from calling it Scotch), good balance and good flavor profile. In any case, it was an interesting experience and I’m grateful for it.
And then there was Connemara, a single malt peated Irish Whiskey, which completely stood out. Very nice balance, may be a touch more sweetness than I would care for – but it doesn’t get very noticeable. What was working well is a very nice smokiness – for the Scotch drinkers out there, I will put it between Highland Park (which has a hint of smokiness), and Lagavulin, which is a hallmark of peated Scotch. All in all, very round and balanced, and easy to drink.If you get a chance, find a bottle and enjoy (in case you need a reference, I found mine at Super Wine Warehouse in New Jersey).
So, what will be in your glass this St. Patrick’s Day? It really doesn’t have to be green – but it’s better be enjoyable…
It is Portugal and Italy again (you can see previous post here), and Portugal again scored (don’t forget – this is value wines category with bottle price limit of $11.99).
From Portugal, I had 2008 Montaria Vinho Regional Alentejano ($6.98). This wine is a blend of three local grapes – Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Aragonez. The wine was very aromatic, soft and open from the get go. Medium body, easy to drink. Complements food very well – I had it with fried liver and it was delicious. However, another interesting food pairing observation – doesn’t work with chocolate at all. This wine is to drink now – it didn’t improve on the next day. I would put Drinkability at 7+.
Italy was represented by 2007 La Badiola Acquagiusta Rosso ($11.99). I think I got this bottle mostly for the label (looks cool). One interesting note – I used Google to translate the name on the label ( my Italian is a bit rusty), and it was translated as “Right Water”. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Merlot (35%) and Syrah (30%).
The wine comes from the right place – Maremma Toscana, home of Super-Tuscans, and has seemingly right blend of grapes – but it doesn’t work, it didn’t happened to live up to “right water” name. From the beginning and on the second day, the wine was all over the place, almost like all those individually good grapes didn’t want to play together… This is unfortunate, but I guess finding value in that price category is not easy (don’t worry, I’m not giving up, there are few more Italian wines to try). I will put Drinkability at 7-.
So the quest for the best value wines continues, and updates will follow – unless, of course, you will tell me otherwise…