Monday, May 21, 2012

Grilled New York Strip Steak Garlic Foam and Garlic Sauteed Beets Paired with 2008 RdV Vineyards Virginia Rendezvous

This pairing is a celebration of grilling season.  Well, to be quite honest, I tend to grill all year long, but at the moment, we are quickly approaching Memorial Day in the U.S. which marks the unofficial beginning of summer and a traditional grilling weekend.  I tend to side with the Aussies, who I have learned through some good Aussie friends, take their grilling very seriously.  It is not just a cliche.  As the stories have unfolded over a couple of drinks milling about the grill, Aussies approach grilling with the same dedication as rugby - it is a full contact sport.

One evening in Abu Dhabi, I was at the home of my good Aussie friend Steve as he was preparing kangaroo loin on the grill.  Don’t ask how he was able to get kangaroo in the U.A.E., that is another story.  As Steve was carefully grilling the kangaroo, I asked about the barbecue culture in Australia and heard the stories that support the commonly held belief that Aussies love to barbecue.  One story that supported the “full contact” version of Aussie grilling is the favored pass time of standing around the hosts grill and critiquing his work.  It sounded much like the trash talking that commonly occurs on playing field.

As you honor our U.S. grilling tradition this weekend, here is a tasty, garlicky approach to making your steak something special.  I would only add that maybe some potato salad would be a nice addition.
First we will start with the steak and my full proof method for perfectly medium rare steak with nice surface texture.  Start with a trip to a good butcher and have your steaks cut between 1 and 1/2 inches thick.  Avoid freezing - fresh is always more flavorful.

Before grilling, leave the steaks at room temperature for one hour.  If you are using a gas grill, bring it up to full temperature.  High heat is important to getting a good seer.  Set your timer for two minutes and put the steaks on the grill.  If you are using charcoal, place the steaks just off center of the heat.  When the timer chimes, take a sip of wine, and make your way back to the grill...don’t be in a rush.  Rotate the meat 90 degrees, take another sip of wine and start the timer.  Repeat the process flipping the meat on the next turn, and a final 90 rotation to get the hallmark grill lines.  In total, the grill time should be about 10 minutes.  To test for medium rare, pinch your thumb and forefinger together and feel the pad on your palm just below the thumb, this is what a medium rare steak should feel like.

This pairing featured the much anticipated RdV Vineyards 2008 Virginia Rendezvous.  I had not previously tasted the Rendezvous, but it came highly recommended not only from friends, but from neighboring wineries.  We were not disappointed.  The wine is exceptionally well balanced - a complete wine with a strong French influence.  Rendezvous is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.  The nose is slightly soft but foretells the wonderful subtlety of the wine.  With a firm foundation of earthy flavors and well rounded tannins, the wine presents pleasing flavors of dark berries, black cherries, coffee and a hint of leather.  A further hint of oak brought this wine back to its roots as a fine Bordeaux style blend.  This full rich wine was begging for a bite of the steak.

The pairing was heavenly.  With perfectly matched body, the flavors of the wine were free to play joyfully with the perfectly grilled steak and mild garlic presented in the garlic foam and garlic sautéed beets.  Other reviews of this wine have noted the strength of the tannins.  When paired with the rich steak, this was not a problem for our dinner party as the tannins brought a healthy structure that worked well in combination.  However, if you plan to simply sip and enjoy this wonderful wine, I would recommend decanting for an hour or so to let it open up.  For our purposes, we decanted, but only for about 30 minutes - more than sufficient for our meal.


Garlic Foam

  • 5 cloves roasted garlic halved
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  1. Simmer in sauce pan for 15 minutes.
  2. Strain, allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Pour into ISI foamer and discharge. If you don’t have a culinary foamer, add a tablespoon of Lecithin to the simmer and when cooled, create the foam with an immersion blender.
The beats were prepared in sauté pan with garlic and butter.  Peel and slice the beats, heat the butter and minced garlic, and sauté until tender.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Goan Fish Curry Paired with 2009 Delaplane Cellars LoCo Virginia Viognier and 2010 Swedenburg Estate Vineyard Virginia Riesling.

I have a long love affair with Indian food.  The amazing aromas, complex flavors, enticing textures, and beautiful colors make me all tingly inside - not unlike my first kiss with Joyce Klunder just 39 years ago.  And even better, Indian food is not difficult to prepare – except for the breads.

To date, I have conquered dhal pouri (see Curried Chicken and Potato Roti Paired with Chenin Blanc) and barra (see Trinidad Doubles, Cucumber Chutney, Trinidad Pepper Sauce Paired with 2010 Cupcake Vineyards Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc) but have not yet perfected naan.  My attempt at naan for this pairing was an admirable effort, but I am not yet satisfied.  I am fairly confident in the recipe, but have not perfected the baking part.

When I posted to Facebook about my pending attempt at this meal, good friend John Downey, mentioned that his lovely wife Ji had nailed the preparation by grilling the naan.  Once I get the grilling instructions from Ji, I will have a great excuse to prepare another Indian feast, and report back with my results. 

My next attempt at naan may be another shot at Goan fish curry.  Although our meal was excellent, and our dinner party was all smiles, the dish did not quite meet the memory of my favored experience of this dish.  A couple years back, I spent about a period working as a consultant in Abu Dhabi.  During my time there, we frequented a restaurant that in my opinion prepared the best Goan Curry…period.  Now, I am chasing.

In comparison, the recipe you will find here featured more spice and less sweetness than my memory of the wonderful Abu Dhabi Goan fish curry.  My next attempt will back off just slightly on the heat and substitute coconut milk for the water in the gravy.

As for the wine pairing, I decided to experiment with two distinct approaches to balancing the moderate heat of the curry.  I chose a Virginia Riesling intending to balance the piquance with sweetness, and a Virginia Viognier as a fruit forward approach to provide balance.  We were rewarded with two excellent pairings, but the dinner crowd nodded in agreement that the Riesling made the better pairing.

Our first wine was a 2009 Delaplane Cellars LoCo Virginia Viognier featuring aromas and flavors of apricot, peach and honeysuckle with a full rich mouth feel one would expect from a full bodied Chardonnay.  My pairing instincts were good – the fruit of the Viognier did a splendid job of balancing the heat of the curry.  The full body also did a fine job of standing up to the richness of the dish.  The only downfall of this pairing was the attenuation of the fruit flavors which faded quickly when faced with the boldness of the curry.  I would guess this wine will do much better with respect to allowing the fruit flavors to linger with the recipe modifications I mentioned earlier.

The second wine on our pairing list was the 2010 Swedenburg Estate Vineyard Virginia Riesling.  The principal characteristics of this wine that made for a successful pairing include prominent green apple flavors accompanied by a pleasant floral aroma, mild sweetness and well balanced acidity.  Unlike the Viognier, the sweetness and strong acidity led to a longer finish that lingered through each bite of the curry.  Without the sudden vanishing of flavor, we reached our unanimous agreement that the Riesling was the preferred pairing.

As a side note, in absence of the pairing, I preferred the Viognier.  The 2009 Delaplane Cellars LoCo Virginia Viognier is a wonderfully complex and rich wine featuring beautiful fruit flavors and well balanced acidity.  For my drier taste preference, the 2010 Swedenburg Estate Vineyard Virginia Riesling is too sweet – but exactly the reason it worked so well with the Goan fish curry.


Goan Fish Curry


  • 2 pounds fish cleaned and cut into 1 inch cubes.  Any firm white fish or tuna will work well.  I used Basa – an inexpensive Asian catfish.
  • Pulp from two tamarind pods
  • 2 medium onions diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes diced
  • 8 dried red chilies with stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh finely grated ginger
  • 1 ½ cups grated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red chili powder
  • 2 jalapeno peppers diced
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt to taste


  1. Put the onion, tomato, coconut, ginger, garlic, jalapenos, dry red chillies, all the spices, tamarind pulp, and water into your food blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Heat a large skillet on a medium heat, add ghee.
  3. Add the blended mixture and heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Adjust seasoning (salt), reduce heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Add the fish and continue to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  6. Serve over basmati rice.



  • 1 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons ghee
  • 3 tablespoons yoghurt


  1. Add the dry yeast and sugar to the warm water and stir till the yeast is dissolved. Set aside until the mixture begins to froth.
  2. Add flour, salt, yeast mixture, 3 tablespoons of ghee and all the yogurt to a mixing bowl and knead with a dough hook (or you can do it manually).
  3. Cover and allow to rest for about 90 minutes or until the dough doubles in volume.
  4. Punch the dough down and knead again for 10 minutes.
  5. Equally divide the dough and form 8 round balls.
  6. Lightly flour a rolling surface  and roll out to 7 inch circles.
  7. Preheat your oven 400 F.
  8. Grease a sheet pan with the remaining ghee and cook the naan (three at a time) until the Naan begins to puff out and get lightly brown. Flip the Naan and repeat.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Slow Smoked Pork Shoulder with a Barbecue Rag Sauce

Hello friends.  Today we are going a little off script.  No photos, no wine pairing (although I will offer some suggestions).  Yesterday, Chef Sue smoked a pork shoulder basted with a barbecue rag sauce that was absolutely heavenly.  Although we did not intend this as one of our normal wine pairings (and therefore no photos and no wine pairing assessment), the smoked pork shoulder was just too good to keep to myself.

If you decide to try this preparation, there are a number of wines that I would recommend.  Here is my list of potentially good choices:
  • Pinot Noir
  • A red Bordeaux or a Bordeaux style blend
  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc

  • 1 bone-in Pork shoulder
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper for rag sauce
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning the pork shoulder

  1. Preheat smoker to 200-225 degrees
  2. Generously season pork shoulder with salt and pepper and place in smoker.
  3. Combine all non-pork ingredients to make a basting sauce also known as a rag sauce (the masters of BBQ often apply their basting sauce with a new clean rag mop or kitchen rag – hence a rag sauce).
  4. Every half hour, brush basting sauce over the pork shoulder with a basting brush or your choice of clean rag.
  5. Continue cooking in smoker until you reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees.  Plan on approximately one hour per pound.
  6. Allow pork shoulder to rest, covered with a towel, for ½ hour.
  7. Serve with any leftover rag sauce on the side.
In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Virginia Wine Blogs

Now that I am in the midst of my second food and wine pairing book - devoted exclusively to Virginia Wines - I am doing my level best to drink (lots) and get smart about Virginia wines.  As part of my research, I put together a list of all the blogs devoted to Virginia wines.

While not all of the blogs address Virginia wines exclusively, they all feature Virginia wines prominently.  As I visited each of the blogs I found a wide diversity in focus, but nearly all are well written and informative.  The list includes blogs that look at Virginia wine casually, reviews of visits to Virginia wineries and vineyards, behind the scenes looks at the wine industry, and in depth wine analysis.  In summary, this list includes something for just about everyone.

For the bloggers out there, if I have missed your contribution, I apologize.  Send me a note or a comment, and I will be happy to include you as well.  What did I miss?  As a point of commentary, the length and breadth of this list speaks directly to the bourgeoning success of Virginia wine.  Look back in time just 5 years, and this list would be much shorter.

There are a number of other informative resources devoted to Virginia wine.  I will post a (hopefully) comprehensive list of these as well.  If you have a recommendation for the list of Virginia wine resources, please let me know.

Chalottesville UnCorked:
Dave McIntyre’s Wine Vine:
Love VA Wine:
Notaviva Vineyards Blog:
Richard Leahy’s Wine Report:
Sébastien Marquet:
Swirl, Sip, Snark:
The Burg Chronicles:
The Other 46:
Virginia Pour House:
Virginia Wine Dogs:
Virginia Wine Events:
Virginia Wine Guide Online:
Virginia Wine In My Pocket:
Virginia Wine Lover E-Newsletter:
Virginia Wine Notebook:
Virginia Wine Pointer:
Virginia Wine Time:
Virginia Wine TV:
Wannabe Wino Wine Blog:

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chicago Recap

As I mentioned in my last post, Chef Sue and I went to Chicago this past weekend to attend the wedding of good friends Nora and Michael.  Before I get into the culinary adventure, a few words about the wedding.  I can't tell you how impressed I was with the simple elegance of this wedding.  Although you may want to discount my bias imparted by being part of the celebration for our friends, I will honestly tell you this was a beautiful event.  The wedding bypassed some of the grand flourishes of limos, huge flowers, dresses worn once, and the like found at many of these ceremonies.  I found the simple focused approach refreshing and elegant.  Nora was stunning, and Michael could not have looked happier.  Nicely done Nora and Michael!  Best wishes for a long and loving life together.

Now on to the food.  With only two days, our culinary excursion was clearly limited, but we did our best. I'm quite sure I regained 5 of the 10 pounds I recently lost.  Our first stop was the Billy Goat Tavern.  Fitst, I will tell you that a visit to the Billy Goat Tavern is not about the food.  A stop at the Billy Goat Tavern is more about history, tradition, and curiosity.  The Lincoln Tavern was purchased in 1934 by Greek immigrant William "Billy Goat" Sianis and eventually renamed to the Billy Goat Tavern after Sianis adopted a goat which fell off a passing truck and grew a goatee resulting in the nickname Billy Goat.

Sianis and his pet goat Murphy hold a special place in Cubs baseball history.  According to the Billy Goat Tavern website:

"October 6th, a sad day in Cubs history. The Cubs entered game four of the World Series leading the Detroit Tigers 2 games to 1, and needing to win only two of the next four games played at Wrigley Field. A local Greek, William "Billy Goat" Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern and a Cubs fan, bought two tickets to Game four. Hoping to bring his team good luck he took his pet goat, Murphy, with him to the game. At the entrance to the park, the Andy Fran ushers stopped Billy Goat from entering saying that no animals are allowed in the park. Billy Goat, frustrated, appealed to the owner of the Cubs, P.K. Wrigley. Wrigley replied, "Let Billy in, but not the goat." Billy Goat asked, "Why not the goat?" Wrigley answered, "Because the goat stinks." According to legend, the goat and Billy were upset, so then Billy threw up his arms and exclaimed, "The Cubs ain't gonna win no more. The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not allowed in Wrigley Field." The Cubs were officially cursed. Subsequently, the Cubs lost game four, and the remaining series getting swept at home and from the World Series. Billy Goat promptly sent a telegram to P.K. Wrigley, stating, "Who stinks now?"

The Billy Goat Tavern also gained fame in 1978 in the SNL skit featuring John Belushi, Dan Ayroyd, Bill Burray and Loraine Newman.  Anyone watching SNL in the era is sure to remember the line "cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger, no pepsi...coke.  Of course, we both had a cheezborger, chips and a coke - no pepsi.

After the Billy Goat, we set out to find a Chicago hot dog.  With plenty of advice including impromptu street interrogation, we ended up at Portillos where Chef Sue had a traditional Chicago hot dog, and I had a char-grilled Maxwell Street style Polish.  Chef Sue's dog was good, but she did not find it memorable.  On the other hand, my Maxwell Street style Polish was an event in a bun.  Simple and delicious, it features a grilled Polish sausage with mustard and heaped with grilled onions.  On it's own, this is worth a trip to Chicago.

Our next stop was breakfast on Sunday morning.  This stop at Eggsperience was more a matter of hunger than a unique experience.  The notable part of this breakfast was the HUGE midwest portions.  It is common for Sue to eat most of her meal, and I do the cleanup.  In this case, neither of us could finish.  It was solid home cooking, but twice the volume necessary.

Our final stop came as we were walking through Oak Park and appreciating the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Just as we were finishing our walk, hunger pangs growing, we came to a corner and were overwhelmed by the wonderful aromas of Indian food.  We stood on the corner using our noses to guide us to the source.  A puzzled resident walked by with a quizzical look on her face as our noses worked like divining rods.  She asked if we needed help, and we asked where we might find the source of the wonderful fragrance.  She pointed us to a small restaurant around the corner.  Bingo!

We decided to continue to the last stop on our walking tour - the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Unity Temple.  We returned to the Indian restaurant after touring the temple to great disappointment - it was closed.  In the end, this turned out to be good fortune.  We looked across the street and found a Greek restaurant named Papaspiros.  We were very pleased with the find - we had Greek food on our list for things to do in Chicago - and we were not disappointed.  As we entered Papaspiros, we found lines of tables drawn together to accommodate the large groups.  We felt as though we were intruding on a large Greek family dinner.  Everyone was Greek - the clientele, the staff, the cooks - all Greek.  We were in the right place.

I quickly targeted the braised lamb while Chef Sue decided on the Greek combination plate.  I then set my sights on the wine list - all Greek wines.  As I was considering the wines, the waiter stopped by and said "what do you want, red, white, dry, off-dry?"  I replied I was looking for a dry red.  He said "stop reading, I will bring you wine."  I decided to play along and let destiny run its course.  We were rewarded with a brilliant Greek Nemeo.  I was not familiar with this grape, but was gushing with pleasure after the first sip.  Sometimes it is good to simply take advantage of chance and coincidence.  The restaurant was entertaining, the food spectacular, and the wine a beautiful surprise.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.