Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Curry Seared Chicken with a Curry Ginger Orange Reduction Paired with 2010 Fox Run Vineyard Finger Lakes Riesling

Curry Seared Chicken with a Curry Ginger Orange Reduction-2

I wandered to the kitchen and found a bag of oranges leftover from our Thanksgiving feast and wondered what should I do with all those oranges.  Chef Sue regularly makes a concoction of juice including any number of green things and fruit resulting in an evil brew with the flavor of alfalfa and a hint of fruit.  I knew a bag of oranges far outstretched her juicing needs, so I began to think of what productive use I could find for them.

It took only minutes to decide on a curry ginger orange reduction to drizzle over something – but what?  The second inspiration came from a recent preparation of chicken breasts created by Chef Sue.  She took a couple of chicken breasts, coated them in a mixture of cayenne, paprika, chili powder, and whatever else was within reach.  She then seared them in a heavy skillet to seal the juices and encrust the seasoning.  The uncovered skillet then went into a preheated 350 degree F oven until the internal temp of the breasts reached 125 degrees.  The skillet was then removed from the oven and the breasts allowed to rest (in the skillet) for 20 to 30 minutes.  The retained heat from the skillet and the chicken continued to heat and cook the center while resting (it must be a heavy skillet). The result is the most tender and juiciest breast you will ever taste.

Curry Seared Chicken with a Curry Ginger Orange Reduction

It is important to note the chicken will not achieve the USDA recommended temperature of 165 degrees.  If you choose to use this approach, do it knowing that you are not complying with the USDA recommendations.  I am personally ok with this, but it is your decision to follow my example.

Back to our story – I used Chef Sue’s preparation but changed the seasoning to include curry powder, coriander, cumin, ground ginger and salt.  With this substitution, the seasoning for the chicken mimicked the seasoning in the orange reduction that included fresh squeezed orange juice, orange zest, minced garlic, fresh ginger, curry powder, and chili powder.

2010 Fox Run Vineyards Finger Lakes Riesling

Knowing this would be a curried flavor bomb, I decided on a 2010 Fox Run Vineyard Finger Lakes Riesling.  I knew I would need the sweetness of a Riesling to balance the strong curry component.  A semi-dry wine with tropical fruit aromas and flavors of peach, citrus, and honey, the 2010 Fox Run Vineyard Finger Lakes Riesling was a perfect choice.

2010 Fox Run Vineyards Finger Lakes Riesling-1

I was drawn to this Riesling not only for the characteristics I was looking for, but also because it comes from the Finger Lakes region of New York.  I had not yet tried a wine from this region and was anxious to give it a try.  I was not disappointed.  At $12, this wine is a crowd pleaser and an exceptional value.  I am looking forward to sampling more wines from Fox Run Vineyards and the Finger Lake region.


Curry Seared Chicken


  • Chicken breasts
  • Curry Powder
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Ground ginger
  • Salt


  1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper
  2. Coat chicken with a mixture of the spices and salt.
  3. Sear chicken breasts on high heat.
  4. Remove from heat and add six orange slices per chicken breast
  5. Place chicken in preheated oven at 350 degrees until internal temp reaches 125.
  6. Remove chicken from oven and let rest for 30 minutes uncovered. Leaving it uncovered is important. If you leave it covered, the steam will tighten the grain and the breast will be less tender.

Curry Ginger Orange Sauce


  • 2 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Zest 1/2 orange
  • Slices from one orange (cut the rind down to the meat, then slice out the orange segments leaving the membranes on the carcass)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 ounces fresh grated ginger root
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat small sauce pan to Medium-High
  2. Add minced garlic to sauce pan and toast until just turning brown
  3. Add ginger to pan for about one minute.
  4. When ginger is starting to look toasty, add orange juice to pan along with salt, curry, and chili powder.
  5. At just under a boil, reduce by 1/2 or until you achieve a consistency you like being careful not to burn the sauce.
  6. When you achieve the desired consistency, add the butter, stir until melted, taste and adjust with salt. If you taste the sauce prior to adding the butter, you may be surprised by the orange zest and strength of the spice flavors. The butter will sweeten the sauce and even out the rough edges.


Place chicken over a bed of basmati rice and drizzle with sauce.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Recommendations

If you are planning a traditional Thanksgiving feast, wine pairing can be a daunting challenge.  Why such a daunting task?  Simple – Thanksgiving meals are typically overflowing with a tremendous variety of flavors including sweet, savory, buttery, acidity, a variety of vegetables, turkey, and ham – all complicated by varying preparations.

So where to start?  You could focus your pairing on the meat, the sauces, or the sides.  This remains challenging with the variety of flavors on the table.  One approach to Thanksgiving wine pairing is the tried and true traditional pairings.  These consist of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wines.

Any of these traditional thanksgiving wines will provide solid results.  But what if you want to be more adventuresome?  Another fun approach would be to have multiple wines.  Yeah!  More wine!  Using this method, you might consider a variety of wines to pair with different parts of the meal.

Here are a few recommendations to consider for the traditional trio and the less trodden path:

  • Although you may not be a fan of oaky Chardonnay, the buttery components of the meal form a nice balance with a nicely oaked Chardonnay.  Look for one with healthy acidity.
  • Think Riesling to complement the sweet components of the meal.
  • If you decide on the tried and true Pinot Noir, focus on fruity bottle with some spice.
  • Syrah – the spiciness, acidity, and fruit will work with most of the meal with the exception of the sweet dishes.
  • Pinot Gris offers nice acidity to balance the richness of many dishes.  The pronounced fruit and heftier body distinguish it from Pinot Grigio.  Stay away from the Pinot Grigio – it will not stand up the most of the meal.  The same is true of most Sauvignon Blancs – they will fall flat with their relatively light body.
  • If you decide to go with Champagne or sparkling wine – don’t go cheap – you need a wine with some healthy yeast, body, and nutty flavors to complement the turkey and the vegetables.
  • The highly versatile Viognier is a great choice to pair with a variety of vegetables.
  • If you have a heavy fried component such as a fried turkey – avoid the reds.  The combination could feel like a lead balloon.
  • If you smoke your turkey or ham, an oaky Chardonnay is a good complementary choice, but a smoky red with a medium body such as a Merlot, Grenache, Syrah or Shiraz (nice fruit contrast) would complement the smoked meat while offering a pleasant fruit contrast.
  • If your menu includes a spicy glazed ham, match it with a moderate alcohol Zinfandel.  The normal high alcohol levels of Zins can not only lead to more expressive family conversation, but can intensify the spice in an undesirable way.  A Rioja, Tempranillo, heavier bodied Pinot Noir or a Syrah would also be a good choice.
  • Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie – try a Muscat, lightly effervescent Moscato , White Port, or Tawny Port.
  • For a chocolate based dessert, a Ruby Port or a Late Bottled Vintage Port will make you smile.

Live on the edge.  Go with the non-traditional approach, and pair your feast with several wines.  Experiment a little and let your holiday guests enjoy a diversion from the traditional one wine fits all formula.  Always remember balance is the key – we don’t want the wine to upstage the feast, nor do we want it to be a footnote.

At the request of my children, we will be drawing outside the lines for Thanksgiving. Our meal will be no less diverse, but will be entirely drawn from the rich culinary tradition of Italy.  Be sure I will share all the fun details.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Swing Oiler Port and Cigar Night

Port and Cigars

I belong to a group of golfers affectionately known as the Swing Oilers.  On roughly a semi-annual basis we get together to enjoy a night of Port and cigars.  Last week was the latest incarnation of our event.  Our evening together featured a flight of three vintage ports, and one Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port.

I always try to make our Port and cigar night interesting and informative.  My tactic for this event was to do a blind tasting – a test to see how well we would fare at distinguishing a couple of older vintages from a younger vintage and an LBV.  The bottles ranged in price from roughly $40 for the LBV to $80 for the 1985 vintages.

Here are the crowd sourced comments from our 7 tasters:

Bottle A:  1997 Smith Woodhouse

Viscous, deep ruby color, sweet, prunes, very smooth, bold flavor, sweet by comparison to the flight

Bottle B:  1985 Porto Kopke

Light color, mature with a bit of pleasant must, bold flavor, smoky and similar to a Tawny, not as smooth as A, strong tawny nose, bright fruit flavor

Bottle C:  2005 Ramos Pinto LBV

Nice ruby color, enjoyable dry finish, rich and full bodied, smooth and subtle flavors, nice finish, subdued nose, super smooth, dark subdued fruit flavors

Bottle D:  1985 Ferreira

Rich and best body, light but intense flavor, fruity, smooth, medium dark color, intense brandy nose, layered fruit flavors

In addition to the comments, each taster was asked to judge whether the port was one of two “elder” ports, a younger vintage, or an LBV.  Here the number of correct guesses for each of the bottles:

  • Bottle A: 1997 Smith Woodhouse - 2
  • Bottle B: 1985 Porto Kopke - 2
  • Bottle C: 2005 Ramos Pinto LBV - 2
  • Bottle D: 1985 Ferreira – 5

It looks like we will need to practice our skills of correctly identifying Port.  Additional practice is clearly in order.  I doubt I will hear any dissenting voices.  The evening was a great success, and all the Ports were quite enjoyable.  The Saint Louis Rey Series G was also a big hit.

I will be back with more food pairing soon.

in vino veritas, buen provecho.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

New All-Clad Pots and Pans – I am Speechless

All-Clad Stainles Steel Pots and Pans-3Thanks in part to your generous donations for Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew, I was able to purchase a new set of All-Clad pots and pans.  I guess it makes sense to reinvest in the kitchen and wine rack (I need to invest in some new lighting too…keep donating).  I bought them on sale – 20% off an already discounted price, and am now left speechless as I admire these stainless steel beauties.  Is there something wrong with me? 

All-Clad Stainles Steel Pots and Pans

No cooking, no wine (until later), no recipes.  Just photos of my new best friends.  Enjoy the photography.

All-Clad Stainles Steel Pots and Pans-4

All-Clad Stainles Steel Pots and Pans-1

All-Clad Stainles Steel Pots and Pans-5

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Steak Tartare and Bacons Sauteed Brussels Sprouts Paired with two Pinot Noirs and a Tempranillo

Steak Tartare-3

Since releasing my eBook - Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew - I took a small break from posting new pairings.  However, I was still cooking, pairing, enjoying, and have a number of great recipes and wines lined up in the on-deck circle.  The pace of life (meaning work) is picking up dramatically, but I hope to get back on schedule.

Steak tartare, tuna tartare, salmon tartare, and all the rest of the brothers, sisters, and cousins in the extended tartare family are among my favorites.  I love the basic and distinct flavors these dishes highlight.  Last year when I was working in Israel and Jordan, I went on somewhat of a steak tartare binge.  We would routinely hold “business meetings” at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.  I did not expect to find steak tartare on the menu, but sure enough, it was there - and it was spectacular.  I never got around to sampling the rest of the menu.

Another wonderful experience with steak tartare came from my visits to Ethiopic – an Ethiopian restaurant on H Street NE in Washington DC.  It is prepared with traditional Ethiopian spices and is worlds away (well at least a continent and a big ocean) from my experience in Jerusalem.  If you happen to be in Washington DC, or Jerusalem, I recommend you give these folks a try for a memorable serving of steak tartare.

Brussels Sprouts

The trips to the American Colony hotel and Ethiopic inspired me to try my hand at steak tartare.  The result was terrific and I’m glad I did.

Pairing wine with steak tartare presents a broad range of possibilities.  In the raw, steak has a much brighter flavor than when cooked.  Add to this the spicy components and capers - the range of wines can vary from medium bodied and fruity to bold, full bodied, and spicy.  We decided to try the medium bodied end of the spectrum with the intent of matching the body and flavor intensity in complement rather than the contrast of a spicy Shiraz or Zinfandel.  Mission accomplished.

Xwinery Cloudline Trader Joe's-1

We started with the 2008 Cloudline Oregon Pinot Noir.  We found the tasting notes from the winemaker consistent with our experience.

“On the nose, there is an immediate burst of bright, fresh red fruits, including strawberry and raspberry, followed by an earthy quality. On the palate, the wine has fine texture, soft tannins, good acidity and a strong core of fruit. It is a wine that offers immediate pleasure, on its own, or better yet, in the company of a delicious meal.”

2008 Cloudline Oregon Pinot Noir

The acidity and distinctive fruit flavors were key in our judgment of success for the pairing.  The body, intensity of flavors and acidity not only make this a great paring with steak tartare, but a great pairing wine in general with a noteworthy range of possibilities.  At $18, it is an excellent value.

We next moved on to the 2008 Xwinery Carneros Napa Valley Truchard Vineyard Pinot Noir.  Tasting notes from the winemaker:

“Bursting with raspberry and red cherry aromas, this austere 2008 Pinot Noir from Truchard Vineyards in Los Carneros is both clean and elegant. This wine offers bright fruit flavors of strawberry, red cherry, and raspberry as well as notes of cola and prune. It finishes with nutty, oaky flavors and offers minerality native to the Los Carneros region.”

2008 Xwinery Carneros Napa Valley Truchard Vineyard Pinot Noir

We found the the 2008 Xwinery Carneros Napa Valley Truchard Vineyard Pinot Noir to be comparable to the Cloudline, yet a bit more intense, complex, and featuring slightly darker fruit flavors.  The acidity and body were well matched to the tartare and we gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up.  At $25, it is yet another good value and a versatile pairing wine.

Finally, the 2009 Trader Joe's California Petit Reserve Tempranillo.  The 2009 Trader Joe's Tempranillo Petit Reserve is a wine purchased in Virginia, made from a Spanish grape grown in California and sold by a Germany company.  The wine industry is really stretching its geographic legs these days.  Here are the tasting notes from the bottle:

“Our rendition of this native Spanish grape displays distinctive, focused aromas of blackberry and dried currant with a hint of smoke on the finish.”

2009 Trader Joe's California Petit Reserve Tempranillo

We found it to be fruity and smooth with a bit of tartness in the finish.  It was not as complex as the Pinot Noirs, and the tartness was not ideal for the pairing.  I would not recommend this wine for your pairing with steak tartare.  On the other hand, at $6 this is an economical daily drinker.

Sweedish Meatballs

As a final note, we added bacon sautéed brussels sprouts, egg noodles and Swedish meatballs to the menu for a certain someone in the crowd who is not pleased with the idea of raw anything. 
While on the subject of raw, prepare this dish at your own risk.  Regardless of what I say about raw food, seared food, medium rare steaks and anything short of cooking the hell out of something, follow the USDA guidelines for safely cooking meat. Your choice, like mine, to live on the edge with less than fully cooked meats is exactly that – your decision.


Steak Tartare


For 2 servings

  • Assorted fresh greens (optional)
  • 12 ounces beef tenderloin or sirloin
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Trinidad pepper sauce (or your favorite pepper sauce)
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup minced red onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Toast points drizzled with olive oil (optional)
  • Extra virgin olive oil


  1. Finely chop the beef with a very sharp knife - a dull knife is frustrating and results in something more akin to ground beef.
  2. Season to taste with Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, Dijon mustard, salt and black pepper. I used Trinidad Pepper Sauce.
  3. Gently fold in the onions, capers and parsley
  4. Shape the meat into 2 patties and form a small bowl in the center to place the egg yolk.
  5. Center each on a plate - putting on a bed of fresh greens is a nice optional touch.
  6. Carefully break the 2 eggs, and gently place only the yolk in the "bowl you formed in the patty.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with additional pepper sauce, Worcestershire and olive oil on the side. Optionally, include toast points.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Craig's Grape Adventure - Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew – Official Release of the eBook

You can now have Craig’s Grape Adventure with you all the time!  Craig's Grape Adventure - Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew is now available in eBook form.

Before I get into all the promotional goo – all the great reasons you should have a copy of this book – I will start with the details of how to get your copy.  Easy stuff.

1.       Click on the “Donate” button up to the right – throw me a bone – or a bunch of bones.  There is no set price for this book.  You name the price.



2.       Send me an e-mail at to let me know you have donated and would like your copy.

3.       I will send you a link to download the file.

4.       Follow the instructions below for putting the book on your iPhone, iPad, or Kindle.

5.       Read, cook, have a glass of wine, and enjoy.


When I ask Chef Sue out for an evening that includes a movie, it is always a love story.  Transformers, Cowboys vs. Aliens, Abduction, Contagion, Drive, Killer Elite, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 300, Green Lantern, Gladiator, Batman, all romances.  Like these movies, this book is a love story.  It is also filled with perilous tales from the kill zone we know as the kitchen, psychological thriller elements, and an ample serving of explosions and expensive special effects.  I promise.

But wait, there is more.  I would not call this a cookbook, but yes, there are recipes.  Lots of recipes – nearly 100 tantalizing creations to fit any mood and any palate accompanied with nearly 50 wine pairings.  But if you want to call it a cookbook, have at it.  One of my objectives is breaking the cookbook mold.  First, as a photographer, I hope you find plenty of pleasing photography designed to bring the food to life.

Layered over the beautiful photography and recipes are stories about the food.  Not history, or the origins of food, but real stories you can relate to.  Along with the wine pairings and stories you will read about why a particular wine was selected, and why it worked or did not.

This book also breaks the traditional “cookbook” mold by virtue of its electronic format.  You will find this a convenient advantage as you prop your laptop, iPad, iPhone, or Kindle on the counter and prepare your next great meal.

With links to all the recipes finding the next recipe is just a touch or click away.

The eBook format works well because the book will always be with you, and finding the recipe is as easy as pointing to the pairing you wish to create.  And of course, the book is filled with great photography for those of you who sadly prefer to look at great food rather than eat it.  Any way you look at it, it will be a fun read.

And here is the best part – the price.  You get to name your price.  I have yet to be disappointed.  I have sold prints, shot family portraits, shot events, and made personal and professional portraits based on this model and have been more or less fairly compensated in every instance.  Those who could not afford what might be considered “market rates” were balanced by those who were grateful enough to be generous.  I find that people want to be treated fairly and generally feel the same obligation to treat others fairly.  So until I am consistently and dreadfully proven otherwise, I plan on sticking to the “pay what you can” philosophy.

Meredith noted that most books on Amazon sell in the $10 range.  Cookbooks even more with many in the mid $20s.  She prefers that I set a price.  So here it is: One Million Dollars (with pinky in place and the voice of Dr. Evil).  Sorry Meredith.  I’m sticking with my belief that people want to be treated fairly and will do so in return.  The price remains the same – anything you want.

After you download, you can read it on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or Kindle (and maybe other devices – I have not tested others so cannot be sure).

To move files to and from Kindle:

  1. Connect your Kindle to your computer. Your Kindle should appear on your computer in the same location you would normally find an external USB drive.
  2. Use your computer's file browser to drag and drop or copy and paste the file to the “documents” folder on the Kindle.
  3. When finished, use your computer's undock, eject, or unmount feature to remove your Kindle.

To Open in iBooks

  1. Either download the file directly to your device, or download to your computer and e-mail it to yourself and open the e-mail attachment on your device.

In the upper right corner of the screen, touch the envelope with an arrow and select “open in iBooks.”

I want you to love this book, and I want you to donate according to your judgment of the value.  To help with your decision, you can download a free sample chapter.  Just follow this link.

Here are some screen shots of the table of contents.







Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Free Sample Chapter from Craig’s Grape Adventure–Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew


As promised, Wednesday 9 November is the official release date for Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew.  In the mean time, you are welcome to download a free chapter from the book using this link:  Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew.

After you download, you can read it on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or Kindle (and maybe other devices – I have not tested others so cannot be sure).

To move files to and from Kindle:

  1. Connect your Kindle to your computer. Your Kindle should appear on your computer in the same location you would normally find an external USB drive.
  2. Use your computer's file browser to drag and drop or copy and paste the file to the “documents” folder on the Kindle.
  3. When finished, use your computer's undock, eject, or unmount feature to remove your Kindle.

To Open in iBooks

  1. Either download the file directly to your device, or download to your computer and e-mail it to yourself and open the e-mail attachment on your device.
  2. In the upper right corner of the screen, touch the envelope with an arrow and select “open in iBooks.”

Enjoy the free sample chapter, and be sure to come back tomorrow to get your copy of the full book.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew; the eBook is Done! (well, almost)

Chef Craig

Done!  Done!  Done!  I am very happy to report I have finished editing Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew!  I am now enjoying a glass of wine to celebrate the occasion. 

I have just one task to complete.  This evening I am preparing Butter Poached Divers Scallops, Flounder Fillet over Pesto Fettuccini to finish the last of the photography.  Earlier today I made the self portrait you see above for the all important “About the Author” page where I get to tell you how wonderful I am.  No worries, I kept it brief.

Check back tomorrow and get your free copy of a sample chapter from the book.  Two days until the official release!



Friday, November 4, 2011

Smörgåsbord Food Photography - Deconstructed Crab Cake Sandwich, Truffle Macaroni and Cheese, Baked Crab, Open Faced Steak Sandwich

Deconstructed Maryland Crabcake Sandwich

I am hustling to meet my self-imposed publication deadline of 9 November for Craig’s Gape Adventure – Loving life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew.  I am on schedule and am confident I will make the date.  Just 5 days to go!

Deconstructed Maryland Crabcake Sandwich-1

In addition to the editing chores, I prepared a number of recipes that either were not photographed on the first go around, were not paired with a wine (wine pairing for each recipe will be included in the book) or the photographs were not up to my standards.  Today I am sharing several of these photographs.  The first two photographs show my Deconstructed Crab Cake Sandwich.

Enjoy the photography, and check back this weekend for a pre-publication free chapter from Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew.

Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

Truffle Macaroni and Cheese-3

Baked Crab

Baked Crab-4

Baked Crab-1

Open Faced Steak Sandwich

Open Faced Steak Sandwich-2

Open Faced Steak Sandwich

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

eBook Count Down to Release–Craig’s Grape Adventure Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew


My generous crew of volunteer editors have completed their work.  Thanks Steve and John!  The release of Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew is mere days away.  Between now and the end of the weekend, I will make the final edits and will release the book next week.  What the heck, let’s pick a date:  Wednesday, 9 November.

There you have it…I have set the gauntlet and I must therefore produce by next Wednesday.  I will announce the release next Wednesday, you can make your donation via the donation button at the top of the blog page, send me an e-mail at, and I will send you a link to download the book and add it to your favorite book reader (that accepts PDF such as a Kindle, iPad, or iPhone) or computer.

If you want to be the first in line and care to preorder, just send me an e-mail, and I will send you the link as soon as the book is ready to go (which may be before Wednesday!)

In vino veritas, buen provecho.