Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene Wine Tasting Aftermath; A Night of Welcome Surprises

Wine Lineup

My last post, Hurricane Irene Wine Pairing, I wrote about our intention to stare down Hurricane Irene and press on with our wine tasting and hors d’oeuvre pairing.  Our face off paid handsome dividends.  Hurricane Irene did not live up to the forecasts, at least in Washington DC, and we had an enjoyable evening.  Of course, some people in DC did not fare as well as we did – you can see some evidence of this if you visit my photography blog documenting the ill fate of a number of cars in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of DC; “Hurricane Irene Crushed Cars in Washington DC.”

While we had several cancellations in our party (and those who did not come will be appropriately ridiculed for their lack of fortitude), six hearty souls made the pilgrimage, and we were all treated to great wine and memorable pairings.

As a refresher, here were the guidelines for the pairing;

  1. Each couple brought a bottle of Pinot Noir and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
  2. Each couple paired one of their wines with an hors d’oeuvre.
  3. As we progressed through the wines, each hors d’oeuvre was presented by its creator along with the thought process for the pairing.

Prosecco Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir

We started with a Lilliana Conegliano Valdobbiadene Proseco and moved on to the Sauvignon Blancs:

  • 2010 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2010 Starborough Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2010 Mirassou California Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2010 Dog Point Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

And here is the list of list of Pinot Noirs:

  • 2008 Benziger Family Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
  • 2009 Clark &Telephone Vineyard Belle Glos Santa Maria Valley Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Cavit Collection Provincia di Pavia Pinot Noir

The pairings included

  • Mirasou Sauvignon Blanc paired with cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon prepared and paired by Formerly Dawn of Austin and Golf Buddy Steve.
  • 2010 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blancpaired with mini crabcakes, curry sauce and tomato red pepper tartar sauce by Super Realtor Kelvin.
  • Benziger Pinot Noir paired with pan seared New York Strip steak sliders on fresh baked brioche with caramelized onions and horseradish sauce by Chef Sue.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers

The bacon wrapped stuffed peppers are one of Dawn’s specialties and fortunately, she made a healthy portion.  I say fortunately because there were enough for us to try with each of the Sauvignon Blancs.  The lively acidity and citrus fruit flavors of each Sauvignon Blanc was a perfect pairing to balance the heat and bacon fat goodness of the stuffed peppers.

2010 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc

The 2010 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc selected by Super Realtor Kelvin was a flavorful surprise that perfectly matched the wonders of crab cake (with a dollop of curry sauce).  The wine was a surprise because it was my first experience with a buttery Sauvignon Blanc.  The characteristic acidity and citrus flavors with notes of peach and melon were present, but the buttery component was a “wow” type experience that demanded the attention of all tasters as they realized this wasn’t your average Sauvignon Blanc.  The butter flavors were a perfect match for the delicate warm flavors of the crab cake while the acidity and fruit played exceptionally well with the curry sauce.  The 2010 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc will be making my list of favorite wines.

Mini Crab Cakes

The final pairing, prepared by Chef Sue, was another pleasant surprise.  I have to admit that I had reservations with Chef Sue’s choice of pairing after announcing the 2008 Benziger Family Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  This Pinot Noir is medium bodied with very pleasant and well balanced flavors of cherry and raspberry.  My fear was that the wine would not stand up to the steak which would normally demand a more full bodied and bold wine.  I was wrong and the pairing worked splendidly.  My theory is that the horseradish sauce brightened the slider which made all the difference in making the pairing work.

NY Strip Steak Slider with Caramelized Onions and Horseradish Sauce

A couple of notes are in order with the other wines we tasted that were not paired.  First, the 2010 Dog Point Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was a real treat with rock solid refreshing acidity and big fruit forward flavors that make this a beautiful pairing wine.  This is the second Sauvignon Blanc that will be making my favorite wines list.

Always full of wine surprises, Kelvin’s choice of the 2009 Clark &Telephone Vineyard Belle Glos Santa Maria Valley Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir caught the group off guard – in a pleasant way.  This Pinot Noir is not your run of the mill Pinot.  It was full bodied with deep rich flavors of currant, plum, and dark cherry that you would normally expect from a Cabernet Sauvignon.  The deep ruby color also belied the label of a Pinot Noir.  At first taste, everyone had a “hmmmm” moment as we expected Pinot Noir, but tasted something closer to a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Once we overcame the surprise, the conclusion was clearly one of admiration for a spectacular wine.

Starborough Sauvignon Blanc and Belle Glos Pinot Noir

As a final note, one of the pleasing revelations over the course of the evening, was Kelvin’s new found interest in Sauvignon Blancs.  Kelvin is a connoisseur of bold Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays.  After this evening, he has a new found appreciation and interest in refreshing Sauvignon Blancs.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene Wine Pairing

The first bands of rain are just now reaching the Washington DC area.  With blatant disregard for the looming threat, our little wine group plans on continuing with our August event this evening.  If you still have time to gather some friends together to welcome Irene to the East Coast, here is the format for our event you might consider as a model.

  1. We try to limit the crowd to no more than 12 people – more than that and it becomes challenging to really enjoy the wine – and it makes it difficult to golf the following morning.
  2. Each couple will be bringing a bottle of Pinot Noir and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
  3. Each couple will pair one of their wines with an hors d’oeuvre.
  4. As we progress through the wines, each hors d’oeuvre will be presented by its creator along with the thought process for the pairing.

We are usually treated to some very creative dishes and pairings.  I will be sure to post an update, assuming we still have power when Irene heads north to torment my daughter in NY.

Be safe, and make the best of the storm.  If you are not in the Path of Miss Irene, go ahead with a wine pairing, tune in to the weather news, pretend you are here, and enjoy some time with good friends.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder With Chianti Reduction over Pan Fried Polenta Paired with 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder with Polenta Paired with 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico-2

When was the last time you used Chianti three times in the same sentence?  Just repeat the title of this blog, and you are admitted into the club.  Now you should click your heals together and repeat “I love braised meat” three times.  By now you are in the frame of mind that brought me to this wine pairing.  I love the fall-off-the-bone tender and rich flavors of braised meat.  Just point your mouse to the handy search bar at the upper left of this page and type in braised and you will find the evidence.  I also love cooking with Chianti with it’s rich layered flavors coming from the blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Malvasia Bianca grapes.  However, my experience with drinking Chianti is not quite so admirable.  I believe that the most readily available Chiantis in the U.S. are not the best representation of the breed.  Fortunately, the 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico broke the mold in my string of poor selection.

2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico-1

Sticking to the mantra that you should not cook with anything you are unwilling to drink, this meal was prepared with the 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico and then paired with the same wine.  The beauty of this approach is reflecting the flavors imparted to the meat with the wine pairing.  Pretty simple formula right?  No need to answer – trust me, it works extremely well!

Similar to the idea of using the same cooking wine as the pairing wine, the braising method of cooking allows all the flavors of the dish to meld into something extremely cohesive.  In other words, the slow cooking method of braising results in not only ridiculously tender meat, but but flavors that have combined and transformed into something completely new, cohesive, and subtly layered.  To top it off, this is all extremely easy.  I make this last comment for the benefit of the nice people that work with my daughter – City Girl Dana who is now working as locations coordinator on the move “Gods Behaving Badly.”  Dana tells me that everyone in her office reads this blog and have commented that “your dad is a “fancy” cook.”  Trust me when I tell you that this wine pairing is the Italian version of Midwest meat and potatoes.  Can you be more simple than searing a big hunk of meat, throwing it in a pot with a bottle of wine and some vegetables, and letting it sit in the oven for a few hours?  This is easy stuff that I could teach my boil-things-to-death mother to prepare in minutes (plus a few hours in the oven).

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder-2

So now we have established the cooking with Chianti, pairing with Chianti rationale along with the “this is sooooo easy” parts.  Lets talk about the wine.  Chianti Classico wines tend to be medium-bodied with firm tannins and medium-high to high acidity. Floral, cherry and light nutty notes are characteristic aromas with the wines expressing more notes on the mid-palate and finish than at the front of the mouth.  The 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico is true to this tradition as a medium bodied wine with a nice balance between black cherry fruits and oak layered with a bit of complexity and hints of chocolate and toasted nuts.  The tannins were not hidden and contributed to the nice body of the wine and a full, silky mouth feel.  At $14 per bottle, this is a great value.

2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico

The pairing was an exceptional with all the flavors forming a solid compliment.  The real beauty of the pairing was the harmonious melding of the Chianti reduction and the 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico.  It was such pleasure to have the flavors of the reduction and the wine running in an endless loop of echoes.

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder with Polenta Paired with 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico




  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 oz. finely grated parmesan cheese


  1. Bring milk to a simmer, stir constantly while gradually adding cornmeal. When all the cornmeal is incorporated and swimming happily it will being to thicken.
  2. As it thickens, add 1 oz of finely grated parmesan cheese.
  3. Remove from heat and scoop onto a sheet pan covered with parchment. Like Norwegians running from the sauna to the snow, place in the fridge to harden for about 1/2 hour (or you can wait until tomorrow). Once hardened, cut into your favorite shape.  I recommend staying away from your child’s playdough cutters unless they have been thoroughly ridden of child grime.
  4. Pan fry polenta in butter over medium heat until one side is browned - about 5 min. Flip and repeat until bottom is crispy.

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder-3


  • 1 Pork shoulder (usually 6 to 8 pounds) - no worries, leftovers are great, and with a little home made barbeque sauce, this makes awesome pulled pork sandwiches especially if the pork lingers with the Chianti reduction overnight in the fridge!  I am speaking from experience.
  • 1 bottle of Chianti (I used 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico)
  • Chicken stock; amount will vary based on the size of your roasting pan
  • Water to supplement the chicken stock and Chianti only if necessary.
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 pound finely diced pancetta, or bacon if you are on a budget
  • 2 diced onions
  • 5 stalks diced celery
  • 3 peeled and diced carrots
  • 3 ripe tomatoes diced (conserve and use the juice)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Dice vegetables.
  3. Trim the pork of any silver skin, but leave the fat.
  4. Season all sides of the pork shoulder with salt and pepper.
  5. Select a roasting pan or pot just a bit larger than the pork shoulder and heat 1/4 cup of olive oil on medium high heat.
  6. Sear the pork shoulder on all sides.
  7. While searing the pork shoulders add a couple ounces of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium flame.
  8. Add pancetta (or bacon) and render until the pancetta just begins to crisp.
  9. Remove the pancetta and set aside while keeping the rendered goodness in the skillet. Add onions, cloves, a generous pinch of salt, celery and carrots and sauté over medium-low heat until onions are translucent.
  10. Add one bottle of Chianti to the pork shoulder gradually over a couple of minutes and bring to a boil. Keep at a boil for two minutes (mas o menos).
  11. Add the vegetable sauté to the pork shoulder along with the diced tomatoes.  Oh, and don’t forget to add the pancetta or bacon – what could go wrong?
  12. Add chicken stock and water to bring liquid up to about 1 inch below the top of the pork shoulder. This is why the size of the pan is important - too large, and you will have a diluted watery mess. Too small and you may be challenged for space. If you are pot challenged, go with a larger pan and add three cups of chicken stock and no more than an additional cup of water – we just want everyone swimming in the same pool.
  13. Bring to a boil then cover and place in your nicely preheated oven for two hours.
  14. At the two hour mark, slide the lid to the side by an inch or so and continue to cook for another hour.
  15. When the braise is done (3 hours total), remove from the oven then remove the pork shoulder and cover in foil.
  16. Strain the braising liquid into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil and reduce for one hour.  the final reduction should be about 1/2 to one third the volume. Have a glass of wine.  I recommend the 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico; you have one hour to contemplate the wonderful flavors.
  17. Slice the pork shoulder, serve over pan seared polenta, and drizzle with the Chianti reduction.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Craig’s Simple Retort–Cod, Shrimp, and Bay Scallops in a Garlic Butter Sauce Over Linguini Paired with 2006 Naked Mountain Barrel Fermented Virginia Chardonnay

Cod Shrimp Bay Scallps in a Butter Garlic Sauce over Linguini-1

In my last post “Fresh Seafood Medley of Cod Fillet, Shrimp, And Bay Scallops in a Turmeric Basil Marinade with Mushroom Risotto and Garlic Sautéed Brussels Sprouts Paired with 2009 Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Coast Wente Clone Chardonnay” I featured a creation by Chef Sue inspired by the idea of simply prepared seafood designed to let the beautiful flavors of the seafood shine.  For the full back-story, I encourage you to check out the last post.  In short, this pairing is my interpretation of the same idea.  Chef Sue and I took dramatically different approaches.  In my opinion (the only one that counts because I am doing the writing) my interpretation was closer to the original inspiration.  However, the consensus opinion was that both interpretations were exceedingly pleasurable – it was a gastronomic draw.  Although we are very competitive (in a friendly way), a draw is good, both from the food enjoyment perspective and that of maintaining a healthy marriage.

Shrimp and Scallop Sautee

Based on the inspiration for this pairing, I limited the recipe to just a few simple ingredients.  The stars of the performance were the cod, shrimp, and bay scallops.  Each were prepared with just a few ingredients; olive oil, butter, garlic, fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt, and pepper over a small bed of linguini.  The result was the spectacular flavor of fresh seafood with simple support from the other ingredients.  In addition to the warm, sweet, fresh, and buttery flavors of the seafood, the other ingredients served to only support while not overpowering the brine and sea scents extracted through the cooking process.  This dish is rich and indulgent – the type that makes your eyes roll back in your head from the simple extravagance of well prepared food porn.

Shrimp and Scallop Sautee-1

Now on to the wine.  I am a big supporter of supporting locally grown and produced everything.  It just makes sense.  Stuff that is produced locally is much less energy intensive (transportation) and we all want our local folks, who are working hard, to succeed.  However, when it comes to wine, the mid-Atlantic region has not yet hit it’s stride.  I want to enjoy locally produced wine, but so far I have not been impressed.  For the Virginia and Maryland area this is likely a matter of maturity and technical winemaking execution.  I also believe it is a matter of this region searching for an identity and style much like Napa Valley in the 1970s.

2006 Naked Mountain Barrel Fermented Virginia Chardonnay

The 2006 Naked Mountain Barrel Fermented Virginia Chardonnay gives me hope.  While this wine will not strike fear into the increasingly restrained (thank you!) California Chardonnay producers, this was an enjoyable Chardonnay that I will buy again.  The winemaker does not provide tasting notes for this vintage on their website, but here is my assessment; aromas are dominated by toasted oak, vanilla, pineapple and nutmeg while the palette produces strong citrus, apple, pear, caramel, vanilla and finishes with grapefruit, butter, and a healthy portion of oak.  If you like big, full bodied, fruity, well structured Chardonnays with plenty of oak, you will like this wine.  While I enjoyed it, I personally prefer a more restrained expression of Chardonnay.  There is nothing restrained about this wine.  If the flavor profile I described fits your likes, this wine is a good value at $15.

2006 Naked Mountain Barrel Fermented Virginia Chardonnay-2

When I purchased this wine, I was drawn to the tasting notes that could not say enough about the butter flavors.  Exactly what I was looking for in the pairing – a buttery Chardonnay to complement the sweet buttery flavors featured in the seafood and sauce.  While the tasting did not reveal as strong a butter profile as promised, the butter flavor was present and complimented the dish nicely.  The fruitiness and well balanced acidity worked exceptionally well with the sweet components of the dish.  The strong oak was the only discord in this otherwise harmonious melody.  The oak lingered too long and began to detract from the principal flavors.  When I prepare this again, I will look for a similarly buttery and fruity Chardonnay with less emphasis on the oak.

Cod Shrimp Bay Scallps in a Butter Garlic Sauce over Linguini


Baked Cod


  • 1 pound cod fillet
  • 1/2 pound linguini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Boil water and cook linguini while preparing the rest of the recipe.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  3. Cut fillet into two serving sized pieces
  4. Season both sides of the fillet with salt and pepper
  5. Place fillet on aluminum foil large enough to seal in a "tent"
  6. Distribute garlic over length of fillet
  7. Drizzle olive oil evenly over fillet then add the lemon juice.
  8. Fold aluminum foil into an enclosed tent, place on a sheet pan and place in oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until fish just begins to flake when prodded with a fork.

Pan Sautéed Shrimp and Bay Scallops


  • 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • 1/2 pound shrimp with heads on - cleaned
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 small lemon freshly squeezed
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat butter and olive oil and garlic in heavy skillet over medium heat.
  2. Once butter is melted, add scallops and lemon juice.
  3. After five minutes, add shrimp and season to taste.
  4. Continue to sauté for five minutes turning the scallops and shrimp after 2 1/2 minutes.

To serve over pasta with a garlic butter sauce:


  • Remaining butter/oil/juice from the scallop and shrimp sauté
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Add butter to remaining sauté sauce.
  2. Add all ingredients and melt butter over low heat.
  3. Stir well and drizzle over pasta and seafood.

In vino vertias, buen provecho.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Fresh Seafood Medley of Cod Fillet, Shrimp, And Bay Scallops in a Turmeric Basil Marinade with Mushroom Risotto and Garlic Sautéed Brussels Sprouts Paired with 2009 Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Coast Wente Clone Chardonnay

Cod Shrimp and Scallops-1

Chef Sue and I were recently inspired by Anthony Bourdain (“No Reservations” on the Travel Channel) and Luke’s Lobster (see my recent post “Maine Lobster Roll from Luke’s Lobster Paired with 2008 Ledson Sonoma Coast Tres Frais Chardonnay”).  Let’s start with the Luke’s Lobster part of the inspiration.  In my post featuring a pairing of a Taste of Maine from Luke’s Lobster, I completely gushed about the simple elegance of the lobster roll, shrimp roll, and crab roll.  The application of condiments and flavors supporting the seafood was light handed and clearly designed to let the star of the show stand in the spotlight.  It was simple, and it was spectacular.

Cod Shrimp and Scallops

Now for the Anthony Bourdain part of the inspiration.  Chef Bourdain produced a series of episodes focusing on the history and future of El Bulli in Costa Brava Spain led by the incredible Chef Ferran Adria.  Chef Adria and his phenomenal work at the culinary Mecca of El Bulli are known for a lot of things – simplicity is not one of them.  With 50 course meals served in “The Best Restaurant in the World” at a meticulous pace and deft sequencing using Chef Adria’s research into molecular gastronomy, El Bulli is anything but simple.

In one of the episodes, Bourdain accompanies Chef Adria to his favorite coastal restaurant that features only seafood served fresh within hours of being caught.  This fresh flavors are further focused by simplicity in preparation with only minimal ingredients – olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon, and garlic.

The combined inspiration of Luke’s Lobster and Anthony Bourdain is clear; prepare seafood simply, with minimal ingredients, and let the flavor of the seafood shine.  The pairing featured in this post is Chef Sue’s interpretation of this challenge to present seafood in all it’s rich simplicity.  I have to admit that I planned to take a more literal translation of the Anthony Bourdain experience and limit myself to the seafood, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon, and garlic.  Alas, it was the weekend, and it was Chef Sue’s cooking therapy time.  Check back soon to see my interpretation as our friendly kitchen competition rages on.

Shrimp and Bay Scallop Marinade-2

Although Chef Sue took a bit bolder approach than I had conceived, I am oh so happy she did.  This was a wonderfully balanced dish with layer upon layer of complimentary and contrasting flavors.  The umami filled mushroom risotto is the foundation layer.  Add to that the pleasant bitter flavors of the garlic sautéed Brussels sprouts, and finally the pinnacle of this pyramid; sweet shrimp and scallops marinated in olive oil, garlic, fresh squeezed lemon, ground turmeric, diced tomato, and finely chopped basil – surrounding a beautiful cod fillet broiled under a generous coating of the marinade.  In other words, we have a solid umami foundation, very mild bitterness from the Brussels sprouts and garlic to contrast with the delicate sweetness of the seafood, all balanced with the acid from lemon juice and tomatoes.  Simply brilliant.  As a side note, Chef Sue applied a deft hand with the addition of the turmeric to the marinade.  This addition was intended to add color rather than flavor.  She accomplished this with alacrity – great color, and only the slightest hint of added flavor.

2009 Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Coast Wente Clone Chardonnay-2

For the pairing, I selected a 2009 Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Coast Wente Clone Chardonnay from the dangerously low selection of white wines in the Corl wine vault (I will work on remedying this soon – subtle hint to the wine makers – send me something, I will work with it!).  Here are the tasting notes from Benziger:

“The southern end of Sonoma produces wines with crisp acidity and fresh citrus flavors. On the palate, the wine is supple and long, with a touch of oak and butterscotch cookie in the finish. Enjoy with fried calamari, scallops in a light curry sauce, crab cakes, filet of sole with almonds, or turkey Panini.”

2009 Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Coast Wente Clone Chardonnay

Our experience with the wine confirmed the bright citrus and crisp acidity which formed a perfect balance with the seafood.  Both Chef Sue and I translated the “butterscotch cookie” as more of a buttery flavor (probably a subtle distinction) which gave the sensation of pouring a perfect portion of clarified butter over the seafood – a natural combination.  The oak was subtle, pleasant, and did not detract from the wonderful layers of flavor mutually enhanced by the food and the wine.  In summary, the Benziger Chardonnay was a perfectly balanced compliment in all respects and achieved the “better than the sum of the parts” result we relentlessly pursue.  At $29, the 2009 Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Coast Wente Clone Chardonnay is a good value and can be ordered online at

Cod Shrimp and Scallops-2

Remember to check back soon to see my interpretation of simplicity applied to a seafood medley of cod fillet, shrimp, and bay scallops.  I’m pretty sure this will be another Chardonnay pairing with a focus on buttery flavors.  If you have a wine you would like to suggest for this pairing, let me know.


Garlic Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

Garlic Sauteed Brussel Sprouts

You don’t need me to tell you how to do this.  Clean some garden fresh Brussels sprouts, halve them, and sauté with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto


  • 1 lb assorted fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 ounce fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 ounce fresh grated Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Sautee mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil and butter for two to three minutes.
  2. Add rice. Stir until center of rice looks like a pearl - translucent white
  3. Add chicken stock 1/4 cup at a time. Continue to add as the liquid evaporates
  4. Continue adding stock and stirring until rice is tender - you may not use all of the chicken stock.
  5. When rice is tender, stir in grated cheese.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Garnish with chives.

Marinated Broiled Cod Fillet, Shrimp and Bay Scallops

Shrimp and Bay Scallop Marinade-1


  • One pound (mas o menos) cod filet
  • 1/2 pound fresh shrimp with heads on - cleaned
  • 1/2 pound fresh bay scallops
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Juice from 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon for marinade and other half for cod fillet.
  • 1 large tomato diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine olive oil, basil, turmeric, and diced tomato in a bowl for marinating the shrimp and scallops
  2. Add shrimp and scallops to the marinade and toss to coat well
  3. Cover your broiling pan with tin foil with a few holes poked in it
  4. Broil cod and scallops first - 2 inches from broiler, covered with marinade and lemon juice
  5. After five minutes, add the shrimp and broil for another four minutes.

In vino veritas, buen provecho


Friday, August 12, 2011

Maine Lobster Roll from Luke’s Lobster Paired with 2008 Ledson Sonoma Coast Tres Frais Chardonnay

Lobster Roll Shrimp Roll Crab Roll

For the last few month’s, my wine pairing work list (my favorite work list) has included pairing a lobster roll from one of the Washington DC food trucks.  However, I recently learned of Luke’s Lobster (624 E Street NW) that opened in May 2011.  So rather than have a lunchtime lobster roll from a food truck and glass of wine (still a good idea), Chef Sue and I decided to give Luke’s Lobster a chance at satisfying our lobster dependency.

We were not disappointed.  On the contrary, we were delighted well beyond our expectations.  We decided to treat ourselves at Luke’s Lobster and order “Noah’s Ark” billed as a taste of Maine for two which included two half lobster, crab and shrimp rolls, two pairs of Empress crab claws, chips, and Maine sodas.  Luke’s Lobster claims the rolls are made Maine style with the seafood served chilled on a buttered and toasted New England-style split-top bun with a light touch of mayo, a sprinkle of lemon butter, and a dash of “secret” spices.  If you are not craving a lobster roll at this very moment, you are either not a fan of crustaceans, or may be from an alien race inhabiting the meat bag you call a body.

These seafood rolls were spectacular.  Everything that surrounded the seafood was applied with a very light touch leaving the wonderfully prepared seafood to speak for itself.  The seafood is the star of the show, and Luke’s Lobster does a brilliant job of ensuring the other components of the sandwich do not detract from the beautiful tenderness of the seafood.

Having only lived in New England for a few years, I cannot claim to be a lobster roll aficionado.  However, Chef Sue is an authentic New Englander so I had to ask; “how does this lobster roll rate on authenticity?”  The moans of approval and a thumbs up from the hand not occupied with the lobster roll told me that Luke’s Lobster had satisfied the discriminating palate of a New England native.

2008 Ledson Sonoma Coast Tres Frais Chardonnay

With these straight forward, delicate and fresh flavors, pairing with this meal was easy stuff.  I chose the 2008 Ledson Sonoma coast Tres Frais Chardonnay.  Here are the tasting notes from Ledson Winery and Vineyards:

“A blend of our Stainless Steel Chardonnays, this Sonoma Coast Chardonnay delights with lemon, apple, lychee fruit and pineapple flavors that swirl with aromas of butterscotch and notes of vanilla on your palate. Smooth and crisp, this Chardonnay follows with a clean finish perfect with dishes like lobster, mashed potatoes, garlic linguini, or grilled scallops in lemon-butter sauce.”

2008 Ledson Sonoma Coast Tres Frais Chardonnay-1

According to the fine folks at Ledson, this wine was made for lobster.  I completely agree.  The fresh fruit and vanilla notes were a perfect complement to the seafood.  The body of this Chardonnay matched perfectly, and the smoothness combined with the crisp finish allowed the flavors to blend nicely leaving the wine and seafood flavors to linger equally after each bite.  The 2008 Ledson Sonoma coast Tres Frais Chardonnay is normally $28, a good value, but is now specially priced at $17 on the Ledson website.  At $17, this is an exceptional value that I highly recommend for your next lobster indulgence.  Better yet, order a bottle (or maybe a case), head over to Luke’s Lobster, and enjoy a beautiful bi-coastal marriage of flavor – a spectacular indulgence worth every penny.

Lobster Roll Shrimp Roll Crab Roll-2

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Turkey Scrapple With Garlic Aioli Paired with 2010 Cristobal 1492 Mendoza Verdelho

Turkey Scrapple-1

Since beginning my adventures in the kitchen and the wine rack, one of my occasional pleasures is recreating a fond food memory from my childhood.  Growing up in the Midwest U.S., fine dining was not part of our vocabulary.  Quite honestly, dining was more homespun; hamburger helper, canned cream of mushroom soup combined with everything, and the occasional exotic La Choy Chow Mein that came in two cans.  Although I was not raised in the midst of a grand culinary tradition, there were some gems (and the ever present pies and cakes).

One of my fond gastronomic memories was oatmeal scrapple.  For the the uninitiated, oatmeal scrapple is a combination of oatmeal and pork parts that don’t make it into sausage.  In other words, it is made from all the stuff that can’t be made into anything else – the last bits and pieces that have not yet found a more productive use.  While growing up in Michigan, oatmeal scrapple was a common breakfast food prepared by pan frying the scrapple in butter, placing the scrapple on a slice of toasted white bread, and topping with bread and butter pickles.

Turkey Scrapple-2

Oatmeal scrapple came rushing back to my consciousness recently when Formerly of Austin Dawn gave me a jar of bread and butter pickles she made fresh from her garden.  With this memory cue, my thoughts quickly shifted to exploring how I might update this childhood favorite.  My adult version started with cutting a loaf of French bread on the diagonal and toasting under the broiler with a pad of butter.  To this I added a slice of turkey scrapple prepared in the traditional method – sautéed in butter.  I then added thinly sliced red onion, garlic aioli, and bread and butter pickles.

Turkey Scrapple

When sautéed, the scrapple becomes a warm, rich, soft pâté and a wonderful textural contrast to the toasted French bread and onions.  Bread an butter pickles are not terribly firm, and add another layer textural pleasure.  I was happy to find the reincarnation well balanced and a well constructed update to my childhood memory.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Just ask Golf Buddy Steve – a fellow Midwesterner – who made several trips to the plate in an attempt to satisfy his own childhood fondness for these memorable flavors.

2010 Cristobal 1492 Mendoza Verdelho

Paired with this healthy alternative to pork belly, I went to the opposing hemisphere and selected a 2010 Cristobal 1492 Mendoza Verdelho.  I selected this wine because I had recently sampled it, enjoyed the fruit features, and it was fresh in my memory.  The 2010 Cristobal 1492 Mendoza Verdelho is light straw yellow in color with greenish hues. It is a well balanced crisp and dry wine showing an intense fruity and floral bouquet with aromas of tropical fruits and peach. The refreshing palate exudes flavors of pear, tropical fruits as well as guava, peach and spice.  The refreshing fruit flavors were a delightful contrast to the deeper darker umami flavors of the turkey scrapple and complimented the sweetness of the bread and butter pickles quite nicely.  At $10, this wine is a great value and would pair well with a broad range of fish and chicken dishes.

If you ever find yourself in the mood to take a trip down memory lane, and that lane has scrapple in it, this is a fun and thoroughly enjoyable trip to take.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Trinidad Doubles, Cucumber Chutney, Trinidad Pepper Sauce Paired with 2010 Cupcake Vineyards Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Trinidad Doubles-1

At the time of this post, the most viewed pairing/recipe to date is “Curried Chicken and Potato Roti Paired with Chenin Blanc.”  The Roti post is so popular that it triples the next most popular post “Shrimp and Grits Paired with 2009 Cuvaison Chardonnay.”  The clear message is that there are a boatload of Trini food lovers out there.  With this in mind, I decided to press on with my next favorite Trini culinary delight – doubles.


For the uninitiated, doubles are a favorite street food among Trinidadians as well as the many visitors to Trinidad.  Next to roti, doubles are a bucket list worthy experience for anyone visiting Trinidad.  In my opinion, your gastronomic adventure in Trinidad must also include “shark and bake,” coconut water fresh from one of the Savannah vendors, corn soup, and cow heel soup.  Back to the double – doubles consist of two rounds of fried dough served with channa (curry spiced chick peas) and traditionally topped with cucumber chutney and the ever present Trinidad pepper sauce.  If you are visiting Trinidad and have not experienced the wonders of Trinidad pepper sauce, I recommend caution.  Doubles vendors will offer a slight, medium, or spicy option for your double.  I suggest starting with the “slight,” and work your way up the heat chain.  While on the subject of pepper sauce, it is interesting to note that Trinidad pepper sauce is a matter of national pride and every family has their favorite secret recipe for “the best” pepper sauce.  Sampling these highly guarded recipes is a sensational experience – in the truest sense of the word.


Like roti, doubles vendors pepper (pepper, get it?) the Trinidad landscape.  Although doubles are a relatively simple dish with little variation in the ingredients and preparation, ask any Trini and you will promptly be directed to their favorite vendor.  The origin and history of doubles are clouded in myth.  The apparent best accounts track doubles to the valleys of the Ganges in Northern India where many Trindadians can trace their roots.  Over the years, and as these East Indian laborers were released from indenture, small shops and stalls were established by entrepreneurs and the evolution of the double became a Trinidad staple.

Trinidad Pepper Sauce

Doubles are constructed by by placing two of the fried dough rounds (barra) on a piece of thin waxed paper, adding a serving of channa and topping with cucumber chutney and pepper sauce.  The waxed paper is then folded up at the corners bringing the double into somewhat of a taco type configuration, then expertly spun by the corners to hold everything together.  I have witnessed two primary methods for eating a double.  The first method involves carefully opening the waxed paper, using the waxed paper as a way to hold things together and eating the double in taco fashion.  The second method involves fully opening the waxed paper, removing the bottom barra and using it to scoop or pinch the channa while leaving the second barra to act as a kind of plate supported by the waxed paper.  When you are done with the bottom/scoop barra, enough of the channa sauce will remain to accompany the remaining barra.  Clear as a rainbow leading to a pot of gold, right?

Trinidad Doubles

As you might expect, the flavors in a double are dominated by the curry, tumeric and piquance of the pepper sauce.  These are supported by the deep buttery flavors of the chick peas and barra and a nice cool freshness of the cucumber chutney.  For such wonderfully simple food, this combination of flavors results in a wonderful layering for which each component can be readily discerned – as long as you use the pepper sauce in moderation.  Heavy use of the pepper sauce tends to overwhelm the other flavors and tips the balance in favor of the piquance.  This is not a bad thing – it just depends on whether you are in the mood for some serious heat, or desire a more balanced flavor profile.

2010 Cupcake Vineyards Marlborough Sauvignong Blanc

Like many of the spicy foods I have written about and paired, doubles require attention to overall balance in acidity, sweetness, body, and alcohol content.  In choosing the wine, I not only wanted to account for these characteristics, but also pay homage to the casual, street food heritage of the double.  In other words, I needed to find a wine with the right profile and keep it casual rather than something more pricey, complex, or extravagant.  For these reasons, I chose the 2010 Cupcake Vineyards Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – a staple for many of my friends who look for an inexpensive wine they can enjoy regularly in the summer heat of Washington DC.  Here are the tasting notes from the winemaker:

“It’s the long cool season that allows the grapes to mature slowly, giving them levels of complexity and a vibrant zing, reminiscent of a lemon chiffon cupcake. It’s made up of integrated flavors of Meyer lemons, Key limes and a finish that awakens the appetite.”

2010 Cupcake Vineyards Marlborough Sauvignong Blanc-1

This wine features bright citrus flavors with lemon taking the lead role.  The citrus flavors are supported by healthy acidity which in combination makes this wine both very refreshing and a piece of cake for wine pairing.  It is not as sweet as many Sauvignon Blancs.  While not critical, a touch more sweetness would have helped balance the piquance of the Trinidad Pepper Sauce and the cucumber chutney.  Overall, the pairing was a rousing success.  Doubles remind me of standing in the streets of Port of Spain Trinidad – in temperatures not unlike our DC summers – and enjoying some doubles at one of the many stands.  The crisp freshness of the 2010 Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon brought a cool invigoration to the memory of Trinidad, and the heat of the doubles. 


Trinidad Pepper Sauce

The following recipe for Trinidad Pepper Sauce is very similar to others you will find around the web.  The big difference with my interpretation is using a variety of peppers.  I did this with the intent of adding some depth of flavor to the intense heat.  I think I succeeded, but I won’t really know until my tongue grows back.  Unless you are Trini through and through, this recipe makes enough Trinidad Pepper Sauce to last several years, if not a lifetime.


  • 5 Scotch Bonnet peppers
  • 5 Serrano peppers
  • 5 habanero peppers
  • 5 Jalapeno peppers
  • 5 Hot cherry peppers
  • 3 heads of garlic
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 2 bundles fresh cilantro


  1. Separate and clean garlic.
  2. Wash and coarsely chop cilantro, removing large stem pieces.
  3. Add garlic, cilantro, and 1 cup of vinegar to a blender. Blend until nearly smooth. Pour into bowl and set aside.
  4. Remove stems from peppers and add to blender with one cup of vinegar. Blend until nearly smooth.
  5. Add pureed peppers to garlic and cilantro mixture. Add salt and mustard; stir until thoroughly combined.
  6. Pour into a clean bottle or jar, cap, and store in a cool place or the fridge. Don’t forget to label with "XXX," skull and crossed bones, or a toxic warning sticker. This stuff if potent and could do untold damage in the wrong hands.

Cucumber Chutney


  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon Trinidad Pepper Sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic finely diced
  • Juice from 1/2 of a freshly squeezed lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon - brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Julienne cucumber. If it is a long cucumber, cut to lengths of about two to three inches. Do not discard the center section with the seeds - julienne this as well - it will add moisture to the chutney.
  2. Place cucumber in a bowl and add garlic, cilantro, Trinidad pepper sauce, and chives.
  3. Adjust flavor with salt, pepper, brown sugar, and additional Trinidad pepper sauce. I would recommend using a light hand with the pepper sauce - you can always add more later.



  • 4 cups - all purpose flour
  • Dash of saffron powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric root powder
  • 3 teaspoons - yeast
  • 1 teaspoon - brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon - salt
  • Canola oil for frying


  1. Put 1 cup of lukewarm water in a small bowl, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast over water and let sit until the yeas has activated and formed a thin cohesive mound over the surface of the water.
  2. Combine flour, salt, saffron, 1 cup of water, cumin and yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of your Kitchen Aid.
  3. Mix into a slightly firm dough - it will be plenty sticky. Adjust with water or flour to arrive at a consistency a bit less firm than peanut butter. Cover and let rise to double original volume.
  4. Form dough into balls just a bit larger than golf balls. Coating your hands with oil will ease the process.
  5. While assembling your golf balls, put a pot of oil (just an inch or so deep with oil) on to heat.
  6. After you have assembled your golf balls, pat and roll the balls into thin circles roughly four inches in diameter. The thinner, the better.
  7. Fry in hot oil, turning once. The dough turns a nice golden brown quickly, so pay attention.
  8. Drain on plate with paper towels and cover to keep in the moisture. Stacking as you produce the barra is acceptable, and even encouraged.
  9. Allow to cool to room temperature.



  • 1 (16oz) can of chick peas or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric root powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium sliced onion
  • 4 cloves finely diced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon Trinidad pepper sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Sautee onions in the vegetable oil over medium high heat until translucent.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add all remaining ingredients. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add water to cover the chick peas by about one inch, then raise the heat and boil chick peas until soft.
  4. Remove about 1/4 of the chick peas and crush with a potato masher. Recombine and stir to incorporate. This should leave you with mostly intact chick peas, with the small part that was mashed becoming a thick sauce.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Malbec Braised Short Ribs and Pureed Vegetables, Garlic Mashed Potatoes Pearl Mozzrella and Grape Tomatoes with Basil Dressing Paired with 2006 Benziger Family Winery North Coast Syrah

Brazed Short Ribs with Tomato Mozzarella Pesto Salad Truffle Mashed Potatoes-1

I want to make braised short ribs.  Once again I have been foiled by Chef Sue.  I am working on a Chianti braised short rib recipe and am about to give it a ride.  Just as I am about to fire up the range, Chef Sue announced her plan for braised short ribs with red wine and pureed vegetables.  Fortunately, I am a serious fan of braised short ribs, and just because we will have them again next week will not hurt my feelings.

My feelings for braised short ribs run deep.  Because they are cooked at a low temperature (225 degrees F) for a long time, the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, the sauce reduces nicely, and the meat has plenty of time to take on the flavors in the braising liquid.  Honestly, it is difficult to do something wrong and even the most timid of budding chefs can prepare this with ease.  Add to this my mid-western heritage and the combination of garlic potatoes and garden fresh tomatoes with a basil dressing means I’m back to my meat and potato roots – but oh so much better than my childhood memories.

I should mention that this meal was in honor of our good friend gun-slinger Teji who left the next day for her assignment as the Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Prague.  It was a real pleasure for all of us to send Teji off in good form – and provide good reason for her to come back.

2006 Benziger Family Winery North Coast Syrah

I will be honest with you and tell you that the wine selection for this pairing was not only an attempt to choose the right wine, but with the crowd joining us for dinner I needed two bottles.  I descended the elevator to the Cavernous Corl Wine Vault to find a selection for which I had at least two bottles.  I had several choices and settled on the 2006 Benziger Family Winery North Coast Syrah.  Here are the tasting notes from the wine maker:

“Our 2006 North Coast Syrah boasts earthy aromas of tobacco and herbs. In the mouth, dark fruit flavors of ripe plum and black raspberry linger on the palate. A long finish leads way to hints of pepper and spice.”

I am completely onboard with the earthy aromas, but I sensed earth and mushrooms, not so much the tobacco.  Being a cigar smoker, you would think I could detect the aromas of tobacco…but I did not.  We definitely agreed on the plum, but we also picked up the hint of dark ripe cherries.  I agree with the notes on the finish – long with subtle notes of pepper and spice.  This wine is smooth with mild tannins and is a beautifully balanced fruit bomb.  At $11 per bottle it is an EXCEPTIONAL value and will make my list of favorite wines for exceptional flavor, a wonderful wine for pairing with food, and remarkable value.  This wine is only available from the winery.  You can order it at

Brazed Short Ribs with Tomato Mozzarella Pesto Salad Truffle Mashed Potatoes-2

The body of the braised short ribs and the Syrah were perfectly matched.  The acidity of the Syrah is moderate and fortunately the braised short ribs did not demand high acidity.  The plum and dark cherry flavors were a perfect compliment to the deep rich flavors in the meat and vegetable puree, and the complexity of the flavors in the food were equally matched by the layers of flavors on the menu.  This is a very nice pairing I highly endorse.

Brazed Short Ribs with Tomato Mozzarella Pesto Salad Truffle Mashed Potatoes


Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine and Pureed Vegetables

The recipe for the braised short ribs came from  Here is the link:  Of course, in the Corl kitchen, no recipe goes without some mucking about.  Here are a couple minor modifications made by Chef Sue:

  • The sage was replaced by the frawns of two fennel bulbs.
  • The chicken broth was replaced with equal parts wine and water – can’t go wrong with more wine!
  • Chef Sue substituted a Malbec for the recommended wine.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes


  • 10 potatoes
  • 10 cloves roasted garlic
  • ½ stick butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Really?  You can make mashed potatoes!  Boil the potatoes, mash, and combine the rest of the ingredients.  Enjoy the goodness of garlic!

Pearl Mozzarella and Grape Tomatoes with Basil Dressing


  • Equal amounts of grape tomatoes and pearl mozzarella sufficient to feed your crowd
  • 1 ½ cups basil leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • An imprecise amount of olive oil


  1. Combine the basil leaves and salt in a small food processor.
  2. Process the basil leaves on pulse while drizzling in olive oil.
  3. Continue to add olive oil until it is a bit “looser” than pesto.
  4. Poor dressing over tomatoes and mozzarella and toss to cover evenly.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.