Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crawfish and Artichoke Heart Ravioli with Wild Mushroom Sauce Paired with 2009 Delaplane Cellars Williams Gap Virginia Red Wine

Seafood equals white wine right?  I don’t think so.  It depends.  Throughout my first career as a Coast Guard officer, I had the pleasure of experiencing several careers within a career.  In other words, although I was a Coast Guard officer, I moved through several professions within the Coast Guard.  At least one of these included training that featured a large poster on the wall that said “it depends.”  The message behind this poster was that there is not a “school book” answer that works in all situations.

This pairing fits squarely in the category of “it depends.”  Successful wine pairing relies primarily on the principal flavors in the dish.  Carrying this a bit further, the principal ingredient, may not be the prominent flavor of the meal.  In the case of this pairing, the dish incorporated two principal flavors - that of the crawfish and artichoke ravioli stuffing and that of the mushroom sauce.

As I selected the wine for the meal, I was betting on the mushroom sauce providing the dominant flavors.  Deep, rich, earthy mushroom sauce layered with the fish velouté.  I guessed correctly and chose a full bodied red to complement the sauce.

Before you rush into this recipe, I need to tell you it is a bit of a challenge.  The challenge does not come so much from technique, but unless you have a container of fish stock lying around and are adept at making fresh pasta, it takes some effort...but well worth it.  The layers of flavor, and ooooh mommy goodness are a great reward for your effort. 

Back to the wine.  I chose a 2009 Delaplane Cellars Williams Gap Virginia Red Wine.  It is a full bodied Bordeaux style blend with 40% Cab Franc, 27% Merlot, 22%, Cabernet Sauvignon, and 11% Petit Verdot.  And guess what, although this is a great wine, I have tasted the 2010 vintage and it gets even better!  The 2009 vintage features deep, rich and velvety flavors of dark cherry and plum along with a welcoming earthiness and a lengthy, satisfying finish.  Exactly what I was looking for to echo the earthy flavors of the mushroom sauce.

I placed my bet on Williams Gap pairing with the mushroom sauce and was rewarded with a spectacular payoff.  I highly recommend the 2009 Delaplane Cellars Williams Gap Virginia Red Wine and this recipe.  You will not be disappointed.  And if you cannot drop in to your local grocery and find crawfish, substitute shrimp.  I’m sure you will have an equally pleasing experience.


Ravioli Dough 

  • ½ pound Bread flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 chopped Jalapeño pepper
  • 1 teaspoon green pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste

Crawfish-Artichoke Filling

  • 1 pound crawfish tail meat
  • 1 can artichoke hearts finely chopped
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • ½ medium red bell pepper finely chopped
  • 1 chopped jalapeño pepper
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • Juice from two lemons
  • 3 teaspoons pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Gumbo file
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 4 finely chopped scallions

Mushroom Sauce

  • 1 pound wild mushroom medley (your choice, but I would recommend shiitake, morel, and porcini)
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 cup Fish velouté (see recipe at end)
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 ounces butter
  • Salt to taste

  1. To make Ravioli Dough, put the flour in a mound on work surface. Make a well in center and add remaining ingredients. Working from the center out, gradually mix to make a dough. Knead well for 15 minutes and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 1 hour.
  2. To make Crawfish-Artichoke Filling, coarsely chop crawfish. Mix with remaining ingredients, cover and chill for one hour.
  3. Roll out the pasta into two thin sheets of equal size. Make small mounds of the crawfish fillings, arranging them in a checkerboard pattern about 1-1/2" to 2" apart. Lay the remaining pasta over the top and press down to seal. Avoid trapping large air bubbles inside. Cut the ravioli with a pastry wheel. Cook in salted boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. 
  4. To make the Wild Mushroom Sauce, cook mushrooms with wine and base for 5 minutes. Add cilantro, Pepper Sauce and velouté and reduce for 1 minute. Add cream, butter, salt and pepper. Remove from heat. 

Fish Velouté

  • 6 cups fish stock
  • 2 Tbsp clarified butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

  1. Heat the fish stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot.
  2. Meanwhile, in a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the clarified butter over a medium heat until it becomes frothy. Don't let it turn brown.
  3. With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the melted butter a little bit at a time, until it is fully incorporated into the butter, giving you a pale-yellow-colored paste (roux). Heat the roux for another minute or so to cook off the taste of raw flour.
  4. Using a wire whisk, slowly add the hot fish stock to the roux, whisking vigorously to make sure it is free of lumps.
  5. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the total volume has reduced by about one-third, stirring frequently to make sure the sauce doesn't scorch at the bottom of the pan. Use a ladle to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface.
  6. The resulting sauce should be smooth and velvety. If it's too thick, whisk in a bit more hot stock until it's just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  7. Remove the sauce from the heat. For an extra smooth consistency, carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth.
  8. Keep the velouté covered until you're ready to use it.
Makes about 1 quart of fish velouté sauce.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Clams Casino and Salmon Tartare Paired With 2010 Swedenburg Estate Vineyard Chantilly Virginia Table Wine

If Chef Sue were marooned on a desert island she would survive just fine.  On second thought, she would need a fishing pole, a nearby shipwreck with an unlimited supply of good wine, a wifi connection, an iPad, an eight burner range, All-Clad pots and pans, nice stemware, a well stocked spice rack and a comfortable lounge chair.  Maybe a Caribbean resort would be a better idea.  However, if she happened to find herself on this well appointed island recently vacated by Gilligan and crew, she would be happy to have a diet defined by the fish swimming by and waving with their dorsal fins.

With this in mind, I prepared clams casino and salmon tartare for Chef Sue.  Having both on the plate was a wonderful study in contrast.  In addition to the contrast in temperature (cold tartare - warm clams casino), the dishes offer contrast in texture, and flavor.  The crispy broiled bacon set the clams apart from the tartare, and the rich buttery and briny flavors of the clams casino stand in relief to the tart coolness of the salmon tartare.

With these opposing flavor profiles, the wine selection for this meal presented a dilemma.  Should I pair with the buttery-bacony-briny flavors of the clams, or the tart acidity of the salmon?  For the clams, the first thing that comes to mind is a soft buttery Chardonnay.  The salmon tartare tends to demand healthy acidity and citrus flavors.

Our fortunes were aligned - I had the perfect compromise on hand - a 2010 Swedenburg Estate  Vineyard Chantilly Virginia Table Wine.  Made from 100% Seyval, this wine is light bodied with aromas of lemon zest and grapefruit and flavors that echo the aromas.  A further level of depth comes from a minor undertone of butter and caramel that at times leaves you with the impression common to a Chardonnay.

While tasting this wine with our meal, I came away with the thought that this wine is a chameleon.  When paired with the clams casino, the wine nicely echoed the rich buttery flavors.  When paired with the salmon tartare, the citrus and acidity came to the forefront leaving the impression of drinking something much closer to a Sauvignon Blanc than the thoughts of a Chardonnay brought on my the clams.

Overall, we were quite pleased with the seafood and this wonderfully versatile wine.


Clams Casino

  • 4 strips of bacon finely diced
  • ½ onion minced
  • ½ green pepper minced
  • ½ red pepper minced
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 stick (8 ounces) melted butter
  • 24 littleneck or cherrystone clams
  • 6 bacon strips, julienned
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a sauté pan, render the diced bacon over medium heat until you have a nice layer of bacon fat for sautéing the vegetables. 
  2. Add the onions and peppers and sauté until tender. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Add butter, Worcestershire sauce and mix well
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  5. Scrub the clams and discard any that are open. 
  6. Shuck the clams and loosen the meat from the shells. 
  7. Top each clam with dollop of the mixture and a couple strips of julienned bacon.
  8. Broil until bacon is crisp.  Serve immediately. 

Salmon Tartare

  • 1 pound fresh salmon fillet
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers (alternatively use finely diced cornichons)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

  1. Cut the fresh salmon in  a 1/4-inch dice. 
  2. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well
  3. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before serving.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mole Marinated Flank Steak with White Wine Cilantro Sauce Over Celery Root Hash Paired with 2009 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Reserve Cabernet Franc

Mole Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with Celery Root Hash and White Wine Cilantro Sauce-2

Are you a seasonal wine drinker?  I don’t mean seasonal in the sense that there is a season for drinking wine, but rather a season for drinking different types of wine?  I am a seasonal wine drinker.  Over time, I have found my tastes shifting with the seasons.  For example, summer is often filled with Sauvignon Blanc, dry Rieslings, and other light, acidic and refreshing wines.  Spring and fall tend toward medium bodied Chardonnays, red blends, and Pinot Noir.  During winter, I find myself drinking full bodied reds; Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, and hefty blends.

Although this winter was, and remains ridiculously mild (highs in the low 80s over the last couple of days), I remain in winter drinking wine mode.  On top of that, I still have a long line of “winter” wines reserved for wine pairings.  I have a lot of work ahead of me before winter is officially ended.  With this in mind, I donned my creative culinary tocque and was inspired to create a mole marinated flank steak with white wine cliantro sauce over celery root hash paired with a 2009 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Reserve Cabernet Franc.

Mole Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with Celery Root Hash and White Wine Cilantro Sauce-3

At first blush, this appears to be an odd construction, but let me explain my thought process.  As you would guess, the flank steak with a mole marinade features deep rich flavors along with the contrast of strong piquance.  For additional balance, I decided to introduce some acid and brighter flavors.  A white wine sauce came to mind first, then I added the cilantro to further brighten the flavors while remaining consistent with the Mexican theme.  Finally, I completed the dish with a celery root hash.  I originally conceived this as celery root pancakes, but in the end went with a “looser” hash approach that worked nicely from a texture perspective.

Admittedly, these flavor combinations are difficult to get your head around.  Logically, it kinda-sorta-maybe-works, but up until plating time, I was haunted by fear that I was creating a colossal failure.  My fears were little more than creative insecurity.  The meal was fantastic, and the combination of contrasting flavors and balance worked better than I could have imagined.  Sigh of relief!

White Wine Cilantro Sauce-1

From the start, this recipe was conceived with the 2009 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Reserve Cabernet Franc in mind.  Here are some notes from the winemaker:

“This vineyard’s renown for Cabernet Franc rests on the most consistent critical acclaim for any varietal red wine produced in the Eastern United States, but to be fair, this distinction comes from the ground. We grow the most diversified array of Cabernet Franc clones in the region - 4 from Bordeaux, 1 from the Loire - offering a wine-making palette of matchless permutation and subtlety. At the same time, the vineyard has so well established our Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, that the Cabernet Franc Reserve is never less than the most elegant exemplar of the varietal in any vintage. The House red wine at The Inn at Little Washington, it responds to a knowing demand for a characterful, intriguing, and refreshingly well-bred wine for dining, and indeed for conversation with friends who delight in fine wine for its own sake.”

2009 Barboursville Virginia Reserve Cabernet Franc-1

Tasting notes from the winemaker:

“Dark garnet core, brilliant clarity in the glass. Intense, effusively luscious flavors of ripe red berries with caramelised notes of fig, cherry, and plum, elegantly woven together in barrel. Long-finishing and tannically vivid, yet with a remarkably soft palate.”

I would be challenged to improve on these tasting notes.  I would only add that “tannically vivid” should be interpreted as you might expect - this wine is not a wilting flower.  And as the winemaker states, this wine is very drinkable now, will likely peak in 2013, and will sustain for another three to six years.  The boldness of this wine was perfect for the pairing.  A lesser wine would not have stood up to the piquance of the mole, and yet play a welcome complementary role to the brighter flavors of the white wine cilantro sauce.

I remain very impressed with each and every bottle I open from Barboursville Vineyards.  Their wines are available at their online store, and I encourage you to visit.


Mole Sauce


  • 4 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 ½ tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate, chopped or shaved if you have a few extra minutes
  • Sugar to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic, oregano, cumin and cinnamon - sauté until onion is almost tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix in chili powder and flour, stir for 3 minutes.
    Gradually whisk in chicken broth.
  4. Boil until reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low.
  5. Whisk in chocolate; season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  6. Whisk in sugar as desired to reach a balance with the heat of the chili powder. This is a matter of taste. I used three tablespoons.
  7. When cooled, the sauce will thicken.
  8. Season a 2 pound flank steak with salt and pepper, then generously coat with the mole.
  9. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour. The longer the better. If you have a vacuum sealer, this is the best approach (and the one I use for nearly all marinades).
  10. Preheat your broiler for a few minutes, place your flank steak on a broiler pan, and sear both sides (3 to 4 minutes).
  11. Slice into 1/4 inch strips across the grain.
  12. Serve over celery root hash and top with white wine cilantro sauce.

White Wine Cilantro Sauce


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine (a wine with strong acidity like a Sauvignon Blanc is the best choice)
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro (stems removed and finely chopped, leaves coarsely chopped)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add onion to preheated olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Sauté until onions are tender.
  2. Stir in garlic, wine, and cilantro stems, and continue for another 2 minutes over medium high heat.
  3. Season to taste, add cilantro leaves and keep on heat for another minute.
  4. Remove from heat and serve over flank steak.

Celery Root Hash


  • 3 peeled celery roots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil.


  1. Grate celery root and onion by hand or the grating blade of your food processor.
  2. Place grated celery root and onion in a strainer to drain excess liquid.
  3. Once drained, gently press out more of the liquid, add to a bowl with 4 beaten eggs, matzo meal, salt and pepper.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a coating of vegetable oil.
  5. Spoon the mixture into skillet and turn occasionally to achieve a general browning.
  6. To use all the mixture, you will likely cook several batches. You will need to add oil on occasion.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Barrel Tasting at Delaplane Cellars

On Saturday, 10 March, I had the pleasure of being invited to Delaplane Cellars for a barrel tasting.  The event was hosted by owner and winemaker Jim Dolphin.  The guests included a group of local wine bloggers...great idea, invite some wine writers, introduce new wines, and let us run off to say nice things.  This idea matched perfectly with my cardboard sign I use while working the intersections in DC -  “Will work for food...with a nice wine pairing...a Bordeaux blend is preferred.”  Jim came through with a grand slam on the Bordeaux blend - so I am working.

This was my first opportunity to sample wine in a barrel tasting format.  Quite honestly, I did not know what to expect.  Would the tasting foretell of wonderful things to come (but not quite ready)? How would the wine taste in comparison to bottled wine?  Along with answering these questions, I learned a great deal at this event.  My number one takeaway was that Delaplane Cellars will soon be bottling wines that not only live up to the wonderful wines that have preceded them, but are pressing forward with releases that exceed past performance.

Here are the wines we tasted:

  • 2010 Delaplane (Merlot 50%, Cabernet Sauvignon 33 13%, Cabernet Franc 16 ⅔%)
  • 2010 Williams Gap (Cabernet Sauvignon 31%, Merlot 30%, Cabernet Franc 27%, Petit Verdot 12%)
  • 2010 Springlot (Cabernet Sauvignon 29%, Cabernet Franc 40%, Merlot 17%, Petit Verdot 14%)
  • 2010 Syrah
  • 2010 Tannat (with a special appearance by the 2009 Tannat for comparison)
  • 2011 Petit Manseng Late Harvest

Each of the Bordeaux blends (first three) were exceptional.  However, both Chef Sue and I were in unqualified agreement that the 2010 Williams Gap was the star of the show.  If Jim had offered to accept my grossly overburdened credit card, I would have pre-ordered a case on the spot.  When Delaplane Cellars releases this wine, I encourage you to race to the winery and make your purchase.  Once the word gets out, this wine will sell quickly.

I have a couple of bottles of the 2009 Williams Gap in my cellar and am quite pleased with it.  However, the resemblance between the 2009 and 2010 Williams Gap ends at the name.  In my opinion, the 2010 is a far superior wine and a real pleasure to drink.  As I was enjoying it, my mind was already wandering to food pairing.  This wine is exceptionally food friendly with deep, silky rich flavors and well balanced acidity...a food pairing dream.

Another standout of the tasting, and quite possibly an equal to the Williams Gap (althought completely different flavor profile), was the 2010 Tannat.  I recently tasted the Delaplane Cellars 2009 Tannat and found it to be a wonderful wine.  However, with tannins still running a bit strong, I decided to let it cellar for a couple years with the promise of something spectacular.  The 2010 Tannat features more restrained tannins and is drinking well now.  Like its older brother, the 2010 will likely mature nicely over the next few years - if you can resist the temptation of a wine that is drinkable today.

In addition to tasting and learning about the upcoming wines from Delaplane Cellars, I learned a good deal from my fellow wine writers.  As we were chit-chatting and getting to know each other (and our slices of the wine pie) I found that I was in good company, but held a slightly different view of wine.  Most of the attending wine writers were honest-to-god oenophiles. Their depth and breadth of knowledge regarding Virginia wines, vintages, challenges, specific vineyards, aspect, alliances, grudges, politics, climate, etc., far exceeded my own and was quite impressive.  

In complement to their devotion, understanding, and reporting on the details of the Virginia wine industry, I focus on pairing.  While I certainly enjoy and appreciate this depth of understanding, my focus is that of finding great wines to pair with great food.  Don’t get me wrong, I love wine for its solitary beauty, but my holy grail is discovering the perfect match that sums to a combination greater than its parts.  Gratefully, my fellow writers appreciated my approach to wine as much as I appreciated their impressive knowledge.  They were each exceedingly pleasant and offered to assist in my search for the best of Virginia wines.  Stand by, I will be introducing my new friends in future posts.

Toward the end of the evening, I had the pleasure of spending a few moments talking with Betsy, Jim’s partner in crime and self proclaimed kitchen honcho (she used another term, but I have enjoyed some of her work, and will not let her get away with such self-deprication).  During our brief conversation, I mentioned to Betsy my appreciation of the seriousness they apply to their wine making - one aspect of which is reflected in an elegant and understated label.  Little did I know, but this minor compliment sparked a lengthy discussion of the difficulties associated with labeling.  I will avoid all the bloody details, but I learned a great deal of the difficulty in producing a wine label that adheres to the standards of integrity at Delaplane.

In short, all of Delaplane Cellar’s wines are named and labeled with the vineyard that produced the fruit.  This stands in stark contrast to wineries that do not make clear the source, or possibly even import fruit or juice from around the country or the world while not informing the consumer.  Delaplane cellars also labels with the percentage of each varietal used in their blends...not a common feature (particularly for those who have something to hide).  I came away with a new appreciation for the difficulty (mostly regulatory) in producing a wine label with the standard of integrity at Delaplane Cellars.  I appreciate the cost and effort, and hope the regulators will mature into a reasoned approach that allows Virginia wineries to be forthright with consumers while not imposing undue burden.

Finally, I would like to thank Jim and Betsy Dolphin (and of course Jacqui!) for a wonderful evening.  It was educational, fun, and most of all, very tasty.  Thank you.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lobster Ravioli with Truffle Mushroom Cream Sauce Paired with 2009 Piedmont Vineyards Special Reserve Virginia Chardonnay

Lobster Ravioli with Truffle Mushroom Cream Sauce-2

I recently spent the better part of a week in Boston.  Although I was there for business, I was eating my way through Beantown at every opportunity.  I was particularly fortunate to be staying at the Mariner’s Inn in the North End - an Italian neighborhood with dozens of wonderful Italian restaurants.  While walking down Hanover Street grazing through menu after menu of mouth watering delights, I felt I was in Italy – there were equal amounts Italian and English conversations as I strolled along.

Here are just a few of my indulgences while in Boston:

  • Wellfleet Oysters at Union Oyster House
  • New England clam chowder from Boston Chowda
  • More Wellfleet Oysters at The Met Back Bay
  • Osso bucco at Mama Marias
  • Seafood fra diavolo at Strega
  • Veal Marsala at Artu Rosticceria &Trattoria
  • Lobster ravioli in a white wine truffle cream sauce at Florentine Café
  • Oh, and a couple of cigars at Stanza Dei Sigari

My last meal in Boston was the lobster ravioli from the Florentine Café.  Soon after the meal, I was on the phone with Chef Sue to tell her I just had the best lobster ravioli of my life.  I mentioned that I was inspired and planned to attempt a recreation of the dish.  While my intentions were good and pure, I was stopped short by Chef Sue when she said “I will handle this.”  Chef sue is working hard these days – meaning she needed a day of therapy cooking.  I did not put up a fight.

Lobster Ravioli with Truffle Mushroom Cream Sauce

With only a couple days separation from my wonderful experience at Florentine Café, the memory of flavors still lingered closely.  I tasted Chef Sue’s version and was amazed at how close she matched it – without the benefit of sampling the meal I had enjoyed just three days earlier!  Maybe we can credit my precise and detailed description…or maybe we can just call Chef Sue a kitchen magician.  The only difference I could detect was the slight acidity and fruit added by the wine used in the Florentine Café version.  Chef Sue decided to forego the wine component.

The principle flavors of this dish come from the sweet lobster, and creamy, earthy truffle components of the sauce.  Within the dish, the flavors are very well balanced, allowing each component to bask in the limelight without competing for attention.  Beautiful.

2009 Piedmont Vineyards Special Reserve Virginia Chardonnay-2

My pairing choice was the 2009 Piedmont Vineyards Special Reserve Virginia Chardonnay.  This wine is a full bodied Chardonnay featuring pronounced butter and healthy oak flavors with a lengthy, and satisfying finish.  This is not a shy wine – it grabs your attention and demands you take another sip to ensure there are no misunderstandings.  For some foods, this wine may not be the best choice given the prominent role of the French Oak.  However, it worked splendidly with the truffle, cream, and sweet lobster flavors of our dish.  The moderate acidity and full body formed a nice balance with our meal.  As we finished, both Chef Sue and I commented that this wine would be spectacular with smoked chicken or smoked fish.

2009 Piedmont Vineyards Special Reserve Virginia Chardonnay-1


Pasta Dough


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Add flower to the bowl of your electric mixer (with dough hook)
  2. Start the mixer to medium speed and add eggs one at a time.
  3. Add olive oil and salt.
  4. Let the mixer do it's thing until the dough is smooth, firm and dry. You can adjust the texture with water or the addition of flour.
  5. Remove the dough from the mixer, wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let sit for an hour.

Lobster Ravioli with Truffle Mushroom Cream Sauce-1

Lobster Ravioli


  • 1 lobster (2 to 3 pounds)
  • 1 pint half and half
  • 1 pound sliced baby portabella mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons white truffle oil
  • 1 pound pasta dough
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  1. Steam lobster. To steam live lobster, pour about two inches of water in a large pot, add 1 tablespoon of salt for each quart of water (sea salt is best). If you have a steaming rack, use it. Bring the water to a rolling boil and add lobster - head first. Cover and return to a boil as quickly as possible and start counting the time. Here are recommended cooking times:
    • 1-1/4 lbs. 7-8 minutes
    • 1-1/2 lb. 8-10 minutes
    • 2 lbs. 11-12 minutes
    • 2-1/2-3 lb. 12-14 minutes
    • 5 lb. 20-22 minutes

Lobsters are done when the outer shell is bright red and when the meat is white, not opaque. DO NOT overcook your lobsters. Your lobsters will continue to cook a little after you take them out of the pot. To stop the cooking process, place your steamed lobsters in a bowl of ice before cracking. 

  1. Reserve one cup of the steaming liquid for use in the sauce.
  2. Remove claw and tail meat and cut to bite size pieces. Reserve half of the meat and set aside.  Dice the remaining half, mix with ricotta cheese, and season to taste.
  3. Roll out pasta dough and make ravioli from tablespoon of lobster mixture. Cook ravioli for two minutes just before serving.
  4. Sauce. Add 1 cup liquid reserved from steaming the lobster to a sauce pan with 1/2 of the sliced mushrooms to the pan. Cook over medium heat for about ten minutes.
  5. Add mushrooms and liquid to a blender with 1/2 of the half and half. Blend until smooth. Return to the sauce pan and add remaining half and half, and mushrooms. Simmer, reducing by 1/3.
  6. Add truffle oil and reserved lobster meat. Season to taste, and simmer until lobster is warmed through.
  7. While simmering sauce, boil ravioli for two minutes, drain and pour sauce mixture over the ravioli when serving.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Wine Snob; Insecurity, Jealousy, or Just Ignorance?

To the die hard NASCAR watching light beer drinkers, anyone who drinks wine is a wine snob.  To the over oaked Chardonnay swilling soccer mom, anyone who drinks red wine is a wine snob.  To the wine drinker that simply enjoys a narrow selection of wines and knows what they like, someone who can distinguish between wines or elaborate on the aromas and flavors represented in a glass of wine is a wine snob.  To the wine enthusiast with experience in a broad range of wines, someone who has a well stocked wine cellar and would never consider drinking a wine from upstate New York is a wine snob.  And on, and on to the exalted wine critics who tell us what to drink.

The term “wine snob” is an epithet thrown about casually as an intended insult to a range of people who simply drink wine on one end of the spectrum to those who are experts in the field at the other extreme.  With such a broad range of people fitting this intellectually bankrupt description, I find the term as useful as playground name calling.  What do you think about that fatty, skinny, shorty, blondy, lanky, pokey, dummy, bugger eater, block head, dork, poo breath, fart master, dip stick, geek, dumb jock, egg head?

I was motivated to write about this after listening to a podcast that insinuated a pseudo-scientific debunking of the “wine snob” crowd.  The hosts talked about experiments with blind tastings that revealed cheap wine dominance over expensive competitors, price bias supported by research suggesting people had a more favorable impression of wines doing greater damage to your credit card, and incomprehensible wine descriptions offered by the wine elite.  My normal experience with enjoying a lengthy list of podcasts was disrupted…my blood pressure was rising.

Following this experience, I went to the search tab and prowled the far end of the internet to see what was being said about wine snobs.  Here are a few quotes:

“Wine snob. Isn’t that a redundancy, like saying wet rain or nuisance telemarketer?”

“When wine drinkers tell me they taste notes of cherries, tobacco and rose petals, usually all I can detect is a whole lot of jackass.”

“Thick legs, full body, good structure. Sounds to me like a bad description. But no, it’s a cabernet sauvignon. Huh?”

“Most people in the wine business are douche bags.”

“How do you appreciate wine without turning up your polo collar and becoming someone worthy of a slap in the face?”

With this small sampling of hate, I reflected on my own perception of a wine snob.  After healthy consideration, I concluded my conception of the true wine snob sticks closer to the textbook definition of a “snob.”  Here are a few definitions:

  • A person who imitates, cultivates, or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.
  • A person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field: a musical snob.
  • One who tends to patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors and imitate, admire, or seek association with people regarded as social superiors.
  • One who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect.

If you fit into one of these definitions, shame on you.  I suggest it is time for recalibration and a pair of lead boots to bring your feet back to ground.  And by the way, I don’t care to enjoy a glass of wine with you.  If you enjoy wine, and are able to avoid this pretentious self aggrandizement, you are welcome in my home.

So here is the bottom line.  Would you stop eating one of your favorite foods because someone else disliked it? Of course not. Wine is no different. Ultimately, the question is whether you like it or not. The arbiters of taste at Wine Spectator might think their palettes refined and worship-worthy, but it’s as ridiculous as a writer at the Washington Post insisting that you stop eating Five Guys burgers because they give it 74 of 100 points. One of my “daily drinking” red wines costs less than $6 per bottle, and there is no shame in it. Drink what you like and enjoy it unapologetically. It’s the epicurean pleasure, not the price, that makes wine worthy of finding a home in your glass.

Not withstanding the mass-produced-light-beer-guzzling-NASCAR-watching-rednecks, if you have made the mistake of caring about what you drink, and treating it as if were something interesting and more special than a can of grape soda, you will not be able to escape the mantle of wine snob.  Embrace it.  Don’t fight it.  If you read this entire article, chances are you are a wine snob.  Somebody pour me another glass!

In vino veritas, buen provecho.