What starts with prologue, should end with epilogue, right? What was supposed to be may be one or two posts, became a whole series. In case you missed any of the posts, here is a full list for the study of Port series:
What else can I tell you? We had a great week in Portugal. Very short conclusion can be “great people, great food, great wines, great scenery, great time”.
All people we came across were very nice and helpful. Language barrier was never an issue (I also have to mention that a lot of people speak very good English) – one way or the other we were always able to understand each other. Hotel, restaurants, port houses, stores, our numerous walking tours will only stay in memory with great people encounters.
The food? Very good quality, very reasonably priced. Memorable moments? Bacalhau, Francesinha, lots of fresh fish and shellfish of all kinds. Tuna fish spread is served in almost all restaurants with the bread (you need to ask for butter). Port is available at the buffet breakfast in the hotel, next to the orange juice. Below is the best representation for you (sorry if I make you hungry):
But probably the most important part about the food in Portugal is the fact that Portugal practically doesn’t import any agricultural products – everything is either produced, caught or raised locally, and you can taste it.
When it comes to wines, the story becomes interesting. First, there are about 80 grape varieties growing in Portugal, most of them are indigenous grapes. Here is a glimpse for you, as captured in the picture below:
By the way, these unique grapes are a great find for all aspiring Wine Centurions – I personally added 5 new grapes to my list – here they are:
Codega do Larinho – 2011 Castello D’Alba from Douro
Rabigato – 2011 Castello D’Alba from Douro
Moscatel Galego Branco – 2012 Portal Colheita Branco Douro DOC
Antão Vaz – 2010 Herdade Dos Grous Branco Vinho Regional Alentejano
Donzelinho – 2011 Niepoort Tiara Douro Branco
Outside of Port, very few of the Portuguese wines make it to US, and out of those few, there is even lesser number of wines of notice. Meanwhile, if you will make it to Portugal, you will be literally astonished by the availability of very inexpensive and absolutely delicious wines, both in the stores and in the restaurants. I already gave you my account of great wine encounters in the previous posts (Quinta do Cardo, Niepoort Tiara, Quevedo Vintage Port), but I actually saved the best for last – 2009 Casa Burmester Reserva Douro DOC (blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinto Roriz) was an absolute highlight of the red wines I tasted during the Porto trip.
I don’t want to even describe this wine in terms of berries, chocolate, coffee, spices – it had everything, but the major thing about this wine was an absolute balance of fruit, structure, power, acidity, tannins – all the elements which make you go “wow” after the first sip where perfectly there. I can’t give you one to one analogy for the way this wine tasted, but to give you an idea of how impressed I was, I would safely put it in one line with 2000 Chateau Margaux, Vega Sicilia Unico and Vintage Krug Champagne. In case you are curious about my rating, this wine gets Drinkability: 9.
I believe I sufficiently inundated you with the pictures of the beautiful scenery, but let me still add a few more:
Time to finally conclude the series. I don’t know what you think, but I really enjoyed writing all these posts. I also saw a lot of happy comments, including those where people said that they will definitely go and visit Portugal (which will be very smart, if you ask me). If you will actually travel to Porto, I hope you will find some useful information here. And in any case, thanks for reading and cheers!
Here I’m, continuing to report on my food and wine adventures in Portugal (here are the first and second posts from the series). Well, I guess “adventures” is really too much of a word for simply excellent food and wine experiences, but “adventures” put the things in the right prospective, isn’t it? Never mind, let’s just talk about food and wine.
On the first night we ended up at the small place called Restaurante Nova Europa. The place looked very authentic in the sense that they had a hard time to find an English menu, and our server spoke practically no English - that didn’t prevent us from having a very good dinner. Most of the people at the table ordered some version of the local fish called Bacalhau, which is a cod. It was offered in different variations – mine had a lot of potatoes:
And as I often ignore food and wine pairing rules, the wine was red:
As most of the wines from Douro, this 2010 Evel Tinto Douro, this wine is made from the “classic set” of Portuguese grapes – Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz a Tinta Barroca. The same grapes are also used as a foundation for most of the Port wines, which are made in exact same Douro region. Good body, good depth, not necessarily spectacular but easy to drink and pleasant.
Now I would like to mention two of the very local products. First one is beer. I’m not sure how many different beers are produced in Portugal (I’m positive though that US microbrewery revolution didn’t take any roots in Portugal so far). The beer is called Super Bock, it comes in lager, stout and few other versions, and it is produced in the area just outside of Porto – according to Wikipedia. I only tried the stout, which was dark, rich, smooth and creamy. I have to mention though that it is somewhat dangerous to rely on my opinion about beer – for the most of the time I prefer dark beer and on contrary to many of my friends, I don’t find Guinness bitter. And here is the picture for you – the picture was taken by my friend Kfir, not by me – but he was using my camera, so I guess I have some rights to it…
Next item to bring to your attention is a local sandwich (supposedly it is Porto’s specialty) called Francesinha. This sandwich is made out of two slices of crust-less bread with various meats (or even veggies) in between – we saw it on the menu in most of the restaurants in Porto, and it can come with steak, white meat, various ham cuts and so on. The sandwich is completely covered by melted cheese (top and all sides), and it is served with the secret sauce which is supposed to be some combination of tomato sauce and beer. I had a steak version and it was very tasty. Believe it or not, but I’m not always carrying my camera to the restaurant, so Francesinha is probably the only dish I regret not taking my picture of – but someone thankfully did on Wikipedia, so below is the picture for you, courtesy of Wikipedia:
And then there was Cufra. Pardon my little drama here, and let me explain. We saw the restaurant while walking by, checked it out on the web, and it looked appealing enough. Service staff spoke not too much of English, but the menu was possible to understand, so we all ended up with decent food – but the wine was more memorable. For the white we had 2011 Castello D’Alba from Douro, a blend of Codega do Larinho, Rabigato and Viosinho – very typical blend for Douro white wine, all indigenous grapes (Wine Centurions, take note!). The wine was very nice, with good acidity and somewhat similar to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, only with less of grapefruit.
Then we had a bootle of 2009 Quinta do Cardo Selecção do Enólogo Beiras DOC, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca, produced by Quinta do Cardo. The wine was nothing short of being spectacular – with the exception of vintage port, during the whole week I only had one other red wine which was on the same level or may be even a touch higher – but I will talk about it in another post. Dense and concentrated, with dark fruit, plums and blueberries on the palate, all very round with the hint of smokiness. The wine was so good for the money (€14, in a restaurant!) that I even got two bottles right in the restaurant to take them back home.
When we went to the same restaurant second time, about a week later, the menu was quite different, and the wine were too. But – one of the reasons for the second visit was the desire to try the crab dish we saw someone ordering during the first time. Considering that Porto is located right on the cross of ocean and the Douro river, it is rather expected that fish and seafood should be very good – and this dish didn’t disappoint (hope you will find the below picture being enough of the proof):
I can’t say the same about wines – there was different 2009 Quinta do Cardo wine on the list (about €4 cheaper), and while it was not bad, it was not anywhere as good as the first one. All in all, if you are in Porto and if you will be in the area, Cufra is well worth visiting.
Last place I want to mention (but not least by all means) is a restaurant called Rabelos. Just to give you some prospective, Rabelos are actually flat bottom boats which were used to transport barrels of Port from the wineries to the Port house cellars for aging. Nowadays the wine is transported by the tanker trucks, and Rabelos are only used to move tourists around.
Anyway, the restaurant is actually located in Vila Nova de Gaia, a town which houses all the port cellars across the river from Porto. It is located very close to the bridge which connects Porto and Gaia, right along the boardwalk in a place which in general should be considered a tourist trap. But it was no tourist trap at all. The service was outstanding, and we got great recommendations and had great experience overall.
One of the starters was local feta cheese, dusted with Parmesan and slightly roasted with olive oil (take a note – I think it should be as easy to make it at home as it is delicious, and as a very least I’m going to try it…).
Then we had beef carpaccio and shrimp salad – the pictures don’t do justice to those dishes, but both were delicious
Next we had two dishes made from Bacalhau in different styles – one was baked with cheese sauce and one was grilled – both were outstanding:
Again ignoring the pairing rules, we went with the red wine called 2010 Borges Quinta da Soalheira Douro Red, a blend of classic Douro red grapes, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Tinto Cão, made by Vinhos Borges. The wine had medium body, good acidity, nice red fruit on the palate, well balanced – perfect for every day drinking, considering you can find it.
For the desert, we had lemon cake (paired with white Port) and chocolate cake paired with simple tawny. Below are a few pictures – the first one is taken by me ( boring, sigh), and then two others taken by Kfir – I will need to learn how to really use my own camera…
And of course nobody can leave the restaurant without coffee, right?
That’s all, we are done for today folks. Sorry for all the pictures, hope you found them at least moderately entertaining. Until the next time – cheers!
Puzzled by the title? Don’t be. This is simply the post about our last Valentine’s Day experience – yes, somewhat belated, but still worth sharing.
Let’s start with the picture. No pink hearts here, only roses, but take a look – what is that lurking in the fuzzy background?
Yep, a Champagne glass, the Tulip! Before we get to the bread and Amarone, let’s talk about
Champagne Sparkling wine. By the way, this political correctness is very tiring. Champagne is much faster to say and to write, but no-ooo, Champagne only comes from Champagne, and everything else should be called a Sparkling Wine. It is two words versus one, and takes twice as much time to say and read! And the worst part is that the Sparkling wine in very many cases tastes much better than Champagne, and don’t even get me going on the pricing… Okay, sorry, unintentional rant, let’s cut it out and go back to what I actually wanted to talk about.
My definite preference is to start a holiday, especially the one like Valentine’s Day, with the glass of
Cham, errr, Sparkling Wine. It creates mood. It says (loudly) “Celebrate!”. Lightness and effervesce of the bubbles simply picks you up. So this past Valentine’s day our choice of bubbly (yes, jargon – but – it is one word! and it means any sparkling wine, Champagne or not) was 2003 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut Anderson Valley California. Perfectly structured, perfectly balanced, with full harmony both on the nose and the palate. Fresh bread, yeast, toasted apple, perfect acidity, long-living bubbles – all in all, one of the best sparkling wines I ever tasted. Drinkability: 8+
Now, to the bread! Let me not be original – I’m simple going to repeat the note (a huge Thank You, rather) of appreciation which is being expressed all over the blogosphere – the useful content, the advice, information, ideas which are shared by the bloggers are simply staggering. About a month ago I read the blog post by one of the fellow bloggers, Kim from She Wines Sometimes (if you are not following her blog – fix this mistake right now). The post was talking about making the bread! At home! In a simple way!
I have to admit – I love bread. When in France, I can survive on just baguette alone (okay, throw in a little cheese, will you?). But baking the bread at home was not anything I would fathom in my wildest dreams. Until I read Kim’s blog post. It sounded so easy – I had no choice, but to say – this is it, I’m making the bread!
When it comes to baking, I dread the precision of the recipes. I consider myself to be an okay cook – I can substitute ingredients, I can come up with my own recipes, where I can measure all the ingredients with very precise “I think this is enough” accuracy. It doesn’t work like that in baking. Replace baking powder with baking soda and you might end up with a complete flap instead of a good tasting product – and the same goes for many other ingredients. This is why I usually think about baking as something better left to the professionals – but then again, all the professionals start somewhere, don’t they?
I’m not going to repeat the recipe here – here is the link to the original. Of course I ended up making some mistakes. The recipe calls specifically for King Arthur bread flour. I didn’t print the recipe before going to the store, and of course I ended up with the regular King Arthur flour. At first I even forgot to buy the yeast – and the second trip to the store was in order. But, you know what? All this doesn’t matter. Because the bread tasted AMAZING!
And the smell of the freshly baked bread when you just walk into the house – it is simply something heavenly (and pretty much priceless). The only thing I need to add here – Thank You Kim!
And now, to the wine. Not just any wine – Amarone! If you followed this blog for some duration of time, you know that I’m always on the lookout for the perfect Amarone, trying to replicate my moment of bliss smelling succulent raisins and tasting perfectly dry and powerful wine (here you can find a collection of my Amarone posts ). That “perfect wine” was 1997 Le Ragose Amarone, which I tasted in 2004, so the wine was 7 years old. And now it was Le Ragose Amarone again.
Looking at the cork, can you try to guess how the wine was? Did you write down your answer? Okay, good.
We opened the bottle of 1990 Le Ragose Amarone Della Valpolicella (so, did you guess correctly?). I have some experience opening old wines, and when you open a bottle of wine which is 23 years old, you expect trouble. I had my double-prong bottle opener ready, but when I removed the foil and looked at the cork, it appeared to be as fresh as it would be on the new bottle. And it actually was – the standard waiter corkscrew worked just fine!
And the wine was outstanding. No, it didn’t replicate my experience with 1997 – this was a lot more mature wine. But it had a perfect nose of dried fruit – not only raisins, but probably some dried cherries, fig, prunes. The palate showed mature beauty, with the fruit which is tamed, but still has perfect acidity to make it all work together – there was more dried fruit on the palate, more cherries, more prunes, leather and earthiness. Definitely was a great wine, and as an added bonus – it was only 14% ABV! All the modern Amarone are trying to exceed 16% by now, and one of the geniuses of the winemaking recently even told me that you need high alcohol to preserve the wine… ok, stop. Sorry. One rant per post. This one will have to wait for another time. All in all this 1990 Le Ragose was a great experience, so let’s live it at that. Drinkability: 9-.
That’s all I have for you for today folks. It is too late to ask about your Valentine’s day experiences by now, but did you drink any amazing wines lately? Or made bread : ) ? Cheers!
We had a pretty relaxing weekend, which is not very usual around here – either we are going somewhere, or someone is visiting, or we just have to drive the kids around – thus relaxing family weekends are very precious. It also means a family dinner. Coming right after the New Year’s celebration, with all the food extravaganza, it was not easy to come up with the exciting idea. But – when I said “how about meatballs”, that was received as a home run, therefore, the “Italian night in” was decided upon.
“Italian night” requires Italian wine, right? I don’t have a huge selection of Italian wines in my cellar, besides, I just have an idea of what I have, but I don’t keep any records, so finding the right bottle is always an adventure (which also makes it a fun exercise). One of the first bottles I pulled out happened to be a 2003 Barbaresco – and it looked like it would fit the bill perfectly. So the red will go with the meal, but I also need some wine to drink while cooking (cooking without wine is not fun, right?). My selection of Italian whites is almost non-existent, and a few bottles of Jermann I still want to keep, so I had to chose something else – as the result, I went for California wine – but made out of Italian grape.
I brought the 2010 Mount Palomar Castelletto Cortese Temecula Valley last year from one of my trips to California, when I visited Mount Palomar winery in Temecula Valley (Mount Palomar is definitely one of my favorite wineries in Temecula). This wine is made out of the grape called Cortese, which is growing in Italy in Piedmont, in the area called Gavi. The wine worked quite well as my cooking companion, showing ripe white fruit, apples and peaches, with a touch of perfume and hint of sweetness. Actually if you would compare this wine with any of the actual Italian wines from Gavi, you would find its sweetness a lot more pronounced (Gavi wines have a lot more acidity), but this is one of the attributes of the warmer climate wines, from the area such as Temecula. Also interesting was the fact that while the wine was cold, it had a bitter undertone, making it not so pleasant to drink, which went away as the wine warmed up. Overall, this was a decent wine. Drinkability: 7
And now, to the food. I made meatballs for the first time about 3 years ago, after extensively searching the internet for the right recipe. The meatballs came out very good – but I made a mistake of not saving the recipe I found. Any subsequent search attempts didn’t lead me to that one recipe, so I just had to come up with my own, just remembering bits and pieces. Considering my family’s unanimous and very enthusiastic approval (side note – I’m my own harshest critic – and this was tasty), I want to share the recipe with you, just in case you want to visit Italy for one night and save on the ticket cost.
Before I will give you a list of ingredients, couple of notes. First, I usually measure everything very approximately, so you will have to make adjustments for your taste and preferences. Second – yes, you can make substitutes, I’m just trying to give you a general idea.
Here is the ingredients list – the amounts are as I used them, you can scale up or down.
- Ground beef, 20% fat – 3.5 lb ( you can add or substitute with ground lamb)
- Ground pork – 1 lb (you can add or substitute with ground veal)
- 1 cup of bread crumbs – I use plain, but you can definitely used the flavored ones (you can also use old bread too, just soak it in milk or water before hand)
- 1 cup of grated Pecorino cheese (substitute with any other Italian hard aged cheese)
- 2 eggs
- fresh parsley (add or substitute with any other herbs – basil, oregano, etc.), well chopped
- 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large shallot (you can use more), minced
- salt, pepper
- olive oil
First step is to lightly sauté the shallot for about 2 minutes in the olive oil, using medium heat, then add garlic and keep sauteing for another 2 minutes – you just want to make the mix fragrant but not really fried.
In the large bowl, combine ground meat, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix it all well (I use hands for that). Now, roll the meatballs. I like mine large – just to give you an example, I made 14 meatballs out of 4.5 lb of meat, which means that each meatball is approximately 0.3+ lb.
As the result, you will end up with something like this:
Take large cast iron vessel, put a splash of olive oil and heat it up to the working temperature. You will need to adjust the amount of oil based on the fat content of your ground meat – as you can see, I had quite a bit of fat content, so I needed to use very little olive oil – if you will use leaner types of meat, you might want to increase the amount of olive oil you will put in. Once the cast iron is hot enough, put meatballs in:
After another 4-5 minutes, I added two jars of marinara sauce, covered, reduced heat and let it simmer for another 30 minutes. Then – done! Just put it on top of spaghetti (which you cooked while meatballs were simmering), serve and enjoy!
So the only thing left for me to tell you is about the wine. Actually, outside of the fact that this is Barbaresco wine, as the label says, I can’t tell you much about the pedigree of this bottle as my google search yielded no result, or at least no result that I can understand (some of my readers know way more about Italian wines than I do, so may be someone will be able to tell me the story behind this wine, that would be great) – and I don’t even remember where I got this bottle from.
No matter. I decanted this 2003 La Pieve Barbaresco for about 2.5 hours before dinner. For the Nebbiolo wine (Barbaresco, same as Barolo, is made out of Nebbiolo grapes), this 10 years old wine had very dark garnet color (brownish color is usually a characteristic of even young Nebbiolo wines). Beautiful nose of violet, cherries and leather. On the palate – powerful, earthy, with more leather and dry cherries, good acidity, noticeable tannins, long finish – unmistakably Italian, perfectly fitting our Italian night theme and complementing the food. This was a very good wine, which I would gladly drink again (except that this was my only bottle). Drinkability: 8+
This is all I have for you for today, folks. Try the recipe and let me know if you will like it. Cheers!
What, you said, what Thanksgiving? We are counting days before Santa will get down the chimney, and this guy is talking about Thanksgiving? Well, yes, life gets in the way, and we have to simply deal with it – while we celebrated Thanksgiving about 10 days ago, I had no chance to write this post. As this blog also has a function of my personal journal, a life’s scrap book, if you will, I want to keep this little page in it, so here we go.
We have a long standing tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving with very close friends, pretty much a family, who live in Boston. We also share a passion for cooking, so our Thanksgiving dinners never become a routine – every time we need to come up with something else in terms of both main dish and sides. We’ve been through quite a few things in terms of Thanksgiving dinner – regular turkey, Turducken, smoked turkey – probably the only one we didn’t do yet is deep-fried turkey – we were advised against it as a project, as it involves some work which is actually better be left for professionals.
This year’s ideas was a stuffed turkey of sort, but most likely this is not what you think. The idea was to debone the turkey, leaving only legs and wings. Cut up most of the meat, leaving a layer of about half an inch with the skin. Removed meat then is ground and made into a stuffing with addition of spices, sauteed wild mushrooms with onions, matzo meal and previously fried bacon (large chunks). Then it is all stuffed back into the bird, which is been sewn and then roasted. Here are some of the pictures to illustrate what was happening (pictures are courtesy of my daughter).
Here is turkey ready to be stuffed ( we marinated it for about two hours prior):
The same with the addition of stuffing:
Finishing up the sewing:
Done! Better than new:
In the bag and in the roasting pot:
Now it is actually ready to eat:
In case you are curious, this is how it looked inside:
We had a few sides – sorry about the pictures, but we were actually ready to eat, so my jumping up and down with the camera in search of composition and the lighting were not welcomed – not for a little bit.
First, buckwheat with pine nuts, wild mushrooms and onions ( the same as went inside the turkey) and spicy Andalusian turkey sausage:
Roasted cauliflower with rosemary and pine nuts, covered with buttered Panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese (this is pretty much the whole recipe). The picture doesn’t do the justice to this dish, but it was tasty:
And then hazelnut-sage butter (stick of butter, cup of chopped hazelnuts and about a cup of whole sage leaves):
On top of roasted acorn squash ( again, this is practically the whole recipe):
Food was great, let’s talk about the wines. Been the wine guy as I am, I never try to exact the wine and food pairing for Thanksgiving – too many competing flavors, really hard to nail it. The best thing to do in my opinion is to chose middle of the road wines - nothing with super expressive taste, no fruit bombs, more of supple and round wines.
For the whites, in addition to Riesling which is not shown here, we had this two chardonnays:
I like Cono Sur wines – they deliver great QPR, and generally are pleasant. This 2011 Cono Sur Chardonnay Chile had a hint of vanilla on the nose, good white fruit on the palate with some hint of butter, good acidity, but overall may be a touch too sweet to my taste (still unquestionably quaffable). The 2010 Banknote Counterfeit Chardonnay Sonoma County was lighter than I expected – some distant hint of toasted oak and butter, but overall light wine, not very expressive. I wanted to check if this wine was unoaked, but the winemaker’s web site doesn’t even list this wine there. Clearly a counterfeit…
And here are the reds, at least some of them:
I previously talked about Beaujolais Nouveau, and I also shared my impressions of Tieare Imperiale CdP. 2011 Hahn Vineyards GSM Central Coast is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. The wine showed a lot of plush fruit, very round and slick, but somehow it lacked the character for me – it was over-engineered, if such terminology can be used to describe the wine. But then I have to tell you – 2010 if you see kay Lazio IGT, the wine with the controversial label, was perfect. This wine, produced by Jayson Woodbridge, the winemaker behind very successful super-rich Hundred Acre Cabernet from California (plus many other successful wine projects), had perfect balance of all components – dark fruit, just the right amount of it, round supple tannins, touch of spices, coffee, and dark chocolate, refreshing acidity and lingering finish. This is definitely the wine to enjoy (in other words – get your bottle).
Before we are done here, I have to tell you about one more wine-related experience – visiting the wine store, to be precise. I found out by way of The Wellesley Wine Press, a blog I’m following, about quite unique wine store in the Boston area, called Bin Ends. As you can imagine from the name, many of the wines in the store come from the actual “bin ends”, last bottles of wines not sold in some other places. As my friends live in a very close proximity to this wine store, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit it – I spent about an hour there, just walking around and browsing somewhat small, but very interesting inventory. I picked up some of the interesting wines and looking forward to tasting them at some point:
By the way, very unusual for me – all the wines above are white.
There you have it, folks - the Thanksgiving experience. Have a great week and cheers!
Dinner outside is one of the little pleasures of suburban life, when you can get to enjoy the food twice. Not that cooking the food on the stove is not enjoyable – but somehow, doing it outside on the open fire creates the whole separate feeling. And then the whole process of having food outdoors also brings different level of pleasure – I don’t know about you, but whenever possible, in a restaurant I ask for the table outside, to be able to enjoy both food and the weather, and here I don’t even need to ask anyone to get the table outside!
Yes, I will get to the Waterstone cab in a second (after all, that should be the subject of the post, right?) – but let me talk about the food for a moment. Our local Fairway had jumbo shrimp and fillet Mignon on sale, so the menu was a no-brainer. Of course you have to have something green on the grill, so I think asparagus is one of the best greens you can grill:
I have a feeling that the recipes’ page is coming up in this blog – little by little, I learned to make a few dishes consistently well, so I think sharing the recipes makes sense (but let me sleep on it). One important thing about my recipes – more often than not, I don’t use the exact measure. I can’t tell you to use a quarter of teaspoon of salt, a half of it or the whole one – I just rely on a “gut feeling” for “enough or not”. For the asparagus, I use a dash of salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, olive oil and a splash of balsamic – mix it all together and let it “marinate” for 30 minutes or so. And then of course the key part is not to overcook the asparagus, so it will retain the crunch. I typically have a grill at 400°F and put the asparagus down for 1 minute, turn around, and keep it for another minute – and it is done.
I made shrimp on a skewer. You need to clean the shrimp, and marinate it for 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge (don’t marinate for too long, or it will become a mush). For the marinade ( considering I had 1 pound of shrimp) I used about 1/4 of a cup of olive oil, 4 -5 minced garlic cloves, juice of one lemon ( you can add wine vinegar also, if you want) and a couple of Penzey spices – I used Cajun and Lemon Pepper. About 2 minutes on each side at the same 400°F grill, and … voila:
And the steak – everybody can make steak on the grill, so there is not much to talk about – here is the picture for you:
Quite honestly, I should’ve used more salt – but this you probably can’t tell it from the picture. I rehabilitated myself the next day by generously using Montreal seasoning mix, but I don’t this is important in the context of this blog.
And then, of course, there was wine. First I read about Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon in the e-mail from the Benchmark Wine Company, where it was listed as one of the “stuff favorites”. Further checking on internet seemed to be hinting at connection between Harlan Estate, producer of one of the absolute top (“cult” is the word) California wines and Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon – the rumor which Jancis Robinson unequivocally dismisses.
Whether the rumor is true or not is not that essential – Benchmark’s recommendation along with unpretentious label was enough to build my expectations (okay, I’m lying about the rumor – of course I want this wine to be made out of Harlan’s juice, at about 1/30 of a price of the bottle of Harlan Estate). Interestingly enough, if you will read about the Waterstone Winery, which was established in 2000, it doesn’t own any vineyards, which means that grapes should be sourced from the other vineyards, so the whole idea of wine being made out of Harlan juice, entirely or at least partially, is not that impossible. Anyway, with all those expectations, I was still taking my time, until Zak (owner of Cost Less Wines) told be that he only has about 10 bottles left, so … (he took a pause after “so”) I realized that the time has come.
As you can see from the picture below, I approached entire matter of experiencing the Waterstone very seriously, using my “special occasions only” Cabernet set from Reidel (we have enough glasses for the regular use, and those Reidel glasses don’t last long):
Every time I use these special Reidel glasses, the first smell sensation I get is the one of a wet dog – I guess I don’t know how to use them properly… That smell has nothing to do with the wine, and it disappears after a few sips, but it sure gets in the way of your first impression. Well, let’s talk about the wine. This 2007 Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.5% ABV, $27.99) has 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 3% Cabernet France and 1% Petite Verdot, and it was aged in french oak barrels for 22 months. The wine had a perfect nose of blueberries. Not blueberry pie or blueberry jam, but a clean, perfect, balanced nose of fresh berries. This was followed by nice dark fruit on the palate, luscious and round, with some eucalyptus and touch of licorice, excellent balance of tannins, acidity and fruit. Drinkability: 9-. It is interesting to note that the wine was a bit all over the place on the second day, and I had nothing for the third day ( while I expect that it probably would taste better). Here is an artistic rendering of the event by my daughter:
There you have it, folks. I think this is the wine to buy by the case, if you can find it, of course. If you tasted this wine, I will be glad to compare notes. If you didn’t taste it yet, try to find it – and then I will be glad to compare notes. Cheers!
P.S. you can also consider this post as an early contribution for #CabernetDay which is coming up on Thursday, August 30th.
The day started with the cards from the kids – this is always a great beginning. Then the weather gradually changed from overcast to a beautiful clear sunny day with just the right temperature (don’t know what is your idea of a great summer temperature, but for me 75F and a light breeze is almost ideal). From there on, there was great food, great wine and … some interesting new experiences.
Here are few pictures to give you an idea about cooking (well, yes, not so much cooking, mostly grilling).
Grilled chicken tights:
Kebab, on the grill:
And the same kebab, off the grill:
I don’t know why, but potatoes fry the best on the side burner of the grill (we have electric stove in the kitchen):
And then mushrooms… I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to eat mushrooms any time and any day:
Enough about the food. Let’s talk about the drinks now.
First, we had some [very lazy] cocktails. Just take it out from the freezer, squish in the glass and voila! 8 different flavors are available in the store – and Mango Daiquiri was the best out of the four we tried:
Then we switched to Champagne – errr, Sparkling wine. We had Marques de Gelida Cava Brut Reserva, which is Rose (Pinot Noir based) – very nice, round, medium bodied and refreshing (Drinkability: 7+) :
The best part about this sparkling wine was… opening of the bottle. Despite the fact that I told you not to saber a bottle of Champagne at home, I decided to ignore my own recommendation and try to saber the bottle (you should know that deep inside I’m a 10-years old, masquerading as an adult). Sabering was an absolute success, as I managed to do it from the first attempt. I have even a short video of that process, but it will require time to process, so for now, I can only show you some pictures which will illustrate what happened. Here is the top of the bottle:
And here is the very top of the neck – the glass top was completely separated during the opening, cork and glass together:
The only problem is – Sabering was so much fun, now I want to do it again!
Then we had a very nice red – 2009 Cave de Tain l’Hermitage Crozes-Hermitage Les Hauts de Fief (13% ABV, $17.99)- earthy nose with some roasted notes, same on the palate – deep concentrated ( but not jammy) fruit, great acidity, touch of spices, round tannins, very balanced (Drinkability: 8).
Then we had scotch – 41 years old Lonach Glendarroch (from Highlands, distilled in 1967) – absolutely amazing. I can’t even try to describe complexity of that scotch here – it will take a few tasting sessions to figure that out (my wife said that it was by far her favorite scotch ever):
Now last, but not least – my Father’s day present – 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve, Langhe, Italy:
In case you are wondering what’s so special about this wine: it is made out of 152 grape varieties (you can read more here), so it will mean a serious progress of my grape count.
That’s all folks. I’m very happy with my Father’s day. How was yours? Cheers!
I love tasting food. Tasting menus, wine tasting flights, tasting events are definitely my favorite way to experience food and wine. When I’m in the restaurant which offers tasting menu, when affordable, I would always go for one.
Last year in Miami we went to the Sra. Martinez restaurant, we took the tasting menu, and it was a great experience – I wrote a blog post about it, which was titled “Fiesta Gastronomique“. The tasting menu which we took had about 10 different dishes, all brought to the table one by one, by the different people, given all the explanations about the food, in a perfectly orchestrated performance – hence the “Fiesta” in the title.
This year we went to another restaurant of the same chef, Michelle Bernstein (she owns Sra. Martinez), called Michy’s (we even saw chef for a few minutes talking to the customers). Same as last time, we decided to go for the tasting menu. There were two tasting options available – one with addition of the cold appetizers and one without. When we asked for advice as to which one would be recommended, our waiter told us that unless we are very hungry, he suggests taking the shorter menu – boy, were we happy with his recommendation as dinner progressed.
I assume by now you wondering why the post’s title leaves only Gastronimique and removes Fiesta from this experience? We had an amazing food – but it was presented in a different style. We still had all the explanations, yes, but the food was arriving all together in the family style setting – first three appetizers, then three entrees and then two desserts – all exquisite, great tasting food – but Fiesta was not there – it was rather quiet and relaxing gourmet dinner. Don’t get me wrong – I highly recommend Michy’s and would gladly come back, and in case you are in Miami – don’t miss it, I’m just doing my best to convey the experience we had.
Anyway, let me entice you with some pictures and some additional notes. First, let’s start with wine. The wine list looks very good, with lots of different selections (it has more of a world-wide flare, where wine list at Sra. Martinez had decidedly bigger selection of Spanish wines). We ended up drinking 2009 Sicoris Costers del Segre DO, which is a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah. The wine have good fruit, medium to full body, a little sharpness on the edges but with good overall balance of fruit, tannins and acidity (Drinkability: 7+).
Our first appetizer course consisted of three different dishes. The first one, called Squash Blossoms with creamy polenta, was the best, simply incredible in the balance of taste and texture:
Foie Gras with Stuffed Pancake was also very good:
And then Beets Salad (how did they know I’m a sucker for a beets salad?):
Next three entrees showed up. First, Homemade Fettuccine with Carbonara Sauce – delicious:
Next, Slow Cooked Short Ribs – out of this world! These short ribs were cooked for 6 to 8 hours, and it was showing. Also, they perfectly paired with Sicoris wine, which was an added bonus:
Last, but not the least entree was Snapper in Malaysian Sauce – tasty dish, and very large in size, so once again we were very happy with the fact that we took shorter version of the tasting menu:
Now, the dessert course included two dishes. First one was Brioche Bread Pudding – it was good, but not my favorite:
And the last dessert, Baked Apple Pie, was another “to die for” experience – probably the best Apple Pie I ever had:
All in all, it was a great experience – great food, great wine, outstanding service (impeccable is the right word). Thank you for the wonderful meal, Chef Michelle Bernstein! [Ahh, watching too much Iron Chef...] Cheers!