New Cookbook from “Once Upon a Chef”

Available through Chronicle Books, $29.95

Online chef sensation, Jennifer Segal, has developed a considerable following for her home-tested recipes. Today she introduced the release of her first cook book – Once Upon a Chef, 100 Tested, Perfected, and Family-Approved Recipes.  I’ve subscribed to Jennifer’s email feed for years now, and though they include more desserts than I can feature with wine pairings, her savory dishes all replicate quite well in our home.

Because Jennifer also happens to be a talented photographer, she normally shoots her own food shots, and they are clear, simple and well-shot.  So I was surprised to see that her cookbook photos were shot by Alexandra Gablewski.  I can only presume Jennifer hired her for this project because Alexandra is even better than Jennifer, which only builds the anticipation for the release of this book, now avaialable for pre-order. And at just under $30, add this book to your short list of gifts for friends and family.

And, as always, let me know if you need help pairing wines with any of Jennifer’s recipes!

Cheers!

“Man that toast was too short!” (Said nobody, ever)

Want to show some appreciation for friends and family at upcoming Holiday events?  Read my ten tips for Toasting Success and you’ll be remembered as a pro.

  1. It’s not as hard as it seems.  Although public speaking is intimidating for many – telling someone “Thank You” in public is what most of us have been trained to do since we were three!  And a toast is just a formalized extension of that – just stand, clink your glass for silence, and say some sort of extended version of a simple Thank-You… “I think we all owe our hosts a big thank you for such a wonderful time, such great food, and for having the wisdom to invite such an interesting group of friends tonight!
  2. Know Your Audience.  You’re unlikely to give the same toast at a gathering of old school pals as you would at a work event, right? To avoid falling flat, or saying something inappropriate, remember those you’re inviting to raise their glass will be unlikely to do so unless your words are pleasing to their ear.
  3. Toast, Don’t Roast.  I once listened to a Best Man describe how he and the groom once stole a refrigerator from a neighboring apartment. It was the most inappropriate toast I’ve ever heard at a wedding, and was not appreciated by anybody, leaving many of the celebrants in a state of shocked protest when invited to raise their glass. This is not the time for the risky or risqué!
  4. 60 Seconds, Tops. One reason people can feel nervous before giving a toast is the false belief that every toast needs to be a speech. Quite the opposite – as long as your toast conveys your heart-felt gratitude, it’s a success. Your best bet is to shoot for 30-60 seconds, from the first word to the invitation “… so please join me in raising your glass to…
  5. Follow This Proven Outline. Having listened to and studied with some of the world’s truly great public speakers, I don’t think you’ll ever be disappointed when following their outline for a good toast:
    1. Thank the host and/or acknowledge the guest of honor
    2. (Totally optional, but recommended) Describe a shared experience from the past – light, and either humorous and/or touching.
    3. Invite all to join you in raising their glass to the honoree(s).
  6. Do It Early. Those who hate speaking in public find it preferable to procrastinate. But a toast is best when it sets the tone for an event early on – after everyone has been seated at the table and the first wine has been poured, for example.  Just before dessert is also a great time, but comes with the downside of, well, see below…
  7. Don’t Drink Too Much First!  For obvious reasons.  We are never as glib as we think we are after that second or third glass of wine!
  8. Eyeball-to-Eyeball.  Look each other in the eyes as you raise your glass. I learned this important lesson from an Italian winemaker who was aghast at my very American tendency to look at my glass as we clinked, instead of looking at the man who had just honored me with his toast. A toast is a sharing of our humanity, a celebration of it, and as we raise our glasses around the table, it will mean much more if each participant recognizes the others by looking them in the eye as they clink glasses. (This is easier when in a small gathering, of course)
  9. Standing Is Best. Standing at the dinner table as you propose your toast makes it easier to get started, as heads will turn to see what is happening. Clink a water glass (no, not the crystal one!) to gain attention, and dive in, or simply announce “I propose a toast!”.  If standing is not possible for any reason, simply raising your glass can be effective, though it does not convey the same gravity – which is often preferred for casual situations anyway!
  10. Sources of Inspiration. There is no substitute for speaking from the heart. But there is also a long history of wit and wisdom that may lend a humorous launch pad for your own creativity. I’ve collected some of my favorites over the years, and you are welcome to view them here

Recipe – Caldesi’s Six Elements for A Perfect Salad

I spend a fair amount of time in the air these days.  On one of my recent sojourns, the in-flight magazine featured an article on Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi, who run the eponymous restaurant/cooking school/cookery shop – London’s “Caffe Caldesi” (118 Marlybone Lane, W1U 2QF) and La Cucina Caldesi (4 Cross Keys Close, W1U 2DG) and the “Caldesi in Campagna” at Bray, Berkshire.

They’re also the authors of the cook book you see here – Around the World in 120 Salads.  While researching the book, Vietnamese chefs told the Caldesis that the world’s best salads sahre six key elements.  The result is a set of guidelines you’ll find useful for the rest of your salad-eating days (note, a single ingredient often checks off more than one of the six boxes):

  1. Dry – Salt, pepper, dried spices or herbs add a bit of kick
  2. Wet – Fresh citrus slices or other sources of juiciness
  3. Sweet – Often it’s a pinch of sugar, a drop of maple syrup or honey, or fructose from ripe fruits of choice
  4. Sour – Providing a counter-point to the Sweet element, citrus juice, vinager or other sources of tartness
  5. Soft – Examples include avocado, cooked beans, dried dates or edible flowers…
  6. Crunchy – carrots, sliced scallions, toasted nuts, fried onions or other toothsome textural ingredients

Wine Pairing Advice – It’s difficult to pair wines with a salad course until the details of the salad are known.  Here, the basics of food-and-wine pairing (match body weight, and be sure the acidity or sweetness of the wine exceeds that of the dish) don’t help much, as salads often feature sweet and acidic elements in the same dish. This makes your pairing task truly perplexing, as acidic wines rarely work well with sweet elements, and vice versa.

As a general rule, I opt for a wine on the acidic side but that also offers some richness of fruit – a very dry rosé, an Alsatian white, unoaked chardonnay, etc.  In general, the salad course is the domaine of white wine – in fact, I can’t think of a red that would pair well with salad, though as soon as I say that, someone will write in with a notable exception – please do so!

Cheers!

Dave The Wine Merchant

BOOK REVIEW: Pinot, Pasta and Parties. Dee Dee & Paul Sorvino

Book Review: Pinot, Pasta & Parties. Dee Dee & Paul Sorvino

Renaissance man Paul Sorvino has many talents.  He’s a musician, an opera singer, a sculptor, and a great cook.  But he’s best known as an actor – of his 200+ roles on stage, film and TV, it was his roles in Goodfellas and Law & Order that raised his level of familiarity above the casual “man that actor looks familiar… what’s his name and where have we see him before?

As one would expect of a modern renaissance man, the woman he chose for his life partner is also a force of nature.  His partner in life as well as in this cook book project is Dee Dee Sorvinao – a tall woman with a cherubic face and an electric personality, she makes a living as a political advisor and spokesperson.  They met a few short years ago on the studio of Fox News, went out to drinks afterwards, and were married within the year.  As Paul and Dee Dee contributed to this book it became as much an ode to each other as to the recipes and lifestyle it promotes.

And you’ll get hungry as you read it.  The recipes, and the Sorvino’s commentary that accompanies each one, celebrate Italy’s love of fresh ingredients, simple procedures and meals shared with friends and family around a table full of conversation and devoid of electronic devices!

The book features over 80 recipes, most of which are accompanied by beautiful color photos.  I prefer a cookbook with photos that provide a clear vision of what the completed process looks and also allow me to recipe shop without reading.  Food photographer Vincent Remini did a commendable job here.

The recipes are organized into chapters featuring meals inspired by the Sorvino’s life and loves.  Each chapter opens with a story from the Sorvino’s lives along with a related, thematic menu that flows (roughly) in the Italian tradition, from aperitivo (small bites during cocktail hour), to antipasto (appetizer), to primi (pasta), to secondi (main), to contorni (sides), to insalata and ending with dolce (dessert). I get the impression the Sorvino’s home is where everyone wants to be, come dinner time – not just for the good food, but to celebrate life on a daily basis.  You’re sure to find quite a number of fun dinner parties between the covers of Pinot, Pasta & Parties.

One of Dee Dee’s cocktail recipes opens each chapter, and though they all look delicious (and yes, I’ve already tested some!), the title of the book seems to have been chosen more for the alliteration than the practice – I could find nary a reference to pinot.  In fact, the whole subject of wine, so essential to the Italian table, is primarily relegated to the two-page reference guide to Italian grape varietals – a handy primer indeed, but I was hoping wine would be given a stronger supporting role since it’s mentioned in the title.

One thing I found rather curious is that most chapters are accompanied by the Sorvino’s take on politics and patriotism, which I found an odd thing to include in a book on Italian cooking.  Stating one’s views in today’s divisive, bifurcated political environment seems to be a no-win proposition as it immediately alienates half the population.  But as I said earlier, this book is as much a paean to each other as it is to the Sorvino’s love of the Italian approach to food, friends and family.

At the time of this review (April 9th, 2017), you could buy the hard-cover book on Amazon for a list price of $30.  Planned release date is April 18, 2017.

Photo - Dave the Wine MerchantCheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

The Booty Call – A Very Short Screenplay

 

Opening: Night scene – Camera pans a woman’s upscale bedroom. The bedroom is neat and well decorated.  Woman is in bed, alone, and fast asleep. She may be sleeping in the nude, we can’t really tell.  Alarm clock on the night stand reads 1:15.  There is no sound, and then her cellphone rings.
 
(Groggily) Hello?
 
Hi.  It’s me, what’re you doing?
 
(not happy) I was sleeping.  (Testily) What do you want.
 
Nothing, I was just lying here, thinking how much I miss you, wanting to hear your voice.
 
Yeah, I miss you too, but we’ve been through all this… I thought we agreed not to call each other.
 
Are you alone?
 
(Sigh) Why are you calling?  Have you been drinking?
 
Yeah, I was out with the crew from work.  It’s what made me think of you, there were so many cute couples.
 
(Silence, then…) Remember, it was you who decided we should see other people.
 
Are you?  Seeing other people?
 
I don’t want to talk about it.
 
You want to come over and just cuddle?
 
THAT is definitely not a good idea. (A loud pop is heard over her phone, then a fizz)  What was that?
 
I just opened a perfectly chilled bottle of Billecart Salmon Brut Rose.  Am I drinking by myself?
 
I’ll be right over.
 
Billecart Salmon Brut Rose - Booty call!

Pre-Arrival Offer – Cult Wine from OR

Antica Terra Logo

In case you’re a few issues behind in your wine periodicals, let me remind you that ‘Antica Terra’ is the Oregon winery co-founded by Maggie Harrison, who tutored under Manfred Krankl down at Sine Qua Non.  Her wines are beautifully crafted, and for a short time are available on pre-release.  Prices go up after the order deadline! 


Order now – my deadline is Wednesday, 9-7-2016

PHONE ORDERS ONLY #866-746-7293

Arrival expected by October 1, 2016


Maggie feels her 2014 Antica Terra wines are among the finest she’s ever made.  And that’s saying something, given that her wines routinely  enjoy scores in the rarified air that exists well north of ‘90 points’.     

 The Producer

Maggie Harrison“Maggie Harrison, who learned the winemaking ropes under the tutelage of Manfred Krankl at Sine Qua Non, has emerged as one of the country’s most talented young winemakers. That’s the case at Antica Terra (including Chardonnay and a remarkable pink wine) as well as with her bottlings based on Rhône varieties from California’s Central Coast that are produced under her Lillian label.” Josh Raynolds – Vinous

The Vintage

“2014 Another Vintage of a Lifetime? I had the chance to taste a number of barrel samples from 2014, as well as a few bottled wines back at home in recent weeks. As improbable as it may sound, 2014 is shaping up as a vintage that’s at least the equal of 2012. The growing season remained almost two weeks ahead of schedule all year thanks to an early flowering and to consistently warm, dry weather—and warm nights—through the spring and summer.” Josh Raynolds – Vinous

 

____2014 Chardonay “Aurata” $480, 6/750ml ORANTCHA14Antica Terra - Arrata

“In sourcing chardonnay, we looked to the Shea Vineyard because it is one of the places that we find real depth and intensity in our red wines. The Shea vineyard has shown the ability to hold onto acid and deliver a deeply expressive wine with astonishing persistence, and that’s exactly what we were looking for in this age-worthy Chardonnay.”  155 cases produced.

 

Antica Terra - Angellical____2014 Rose Pinot Noir Angelicall $550 6/750ml ORANTROS14

In this conventional sense, ours is not rosé; but neither is it red or white. The liquid is macerated on the skins for a little over a week. Somewhere between the 6th and 8th day, the aromatics of the fermentation reach a peak of expression and fill the room with astonishing perfume. At this point, just before it becomes red wine, we siphon the juice from the fermenters and fill the barrels, where the juice finishes its fermentation and ages on the lees for a year before bottling. 210 cases produced

 Antica Terra - Botanica

____2014 Pinot Noir “Botanica” $540 6/750ml ORANTPNB14 Botanica Pinot Noir

Botanica is always sappy and sanguine with a taste of wild rose, sour cherries, and blood orange. It is tempting to define it solely by its compelling texture and lush personality but there is a structural element that is equally striking. This balance between extraordinarily concentrated fruit and intense levels of extract is the essence of this wine. 600 cases

 

Antica Terra - Ceras____2014 Pinot Noir “Ceras” $540 6/750ml ORANTPNC14 Ceras Pinot Noir

Ceras is Botanica’s counterpoint. Its color is more purple than red. It is more about minerals and herbs than fruit and flowers. It is a focused and elegant distillation of rock rather than an opulent cascade of fruit. It is an expression of the geology that lays beneath our land, the tart blue fruits of the coast range and the tender herbs that one finds amongst the trees and mushrooms of the Northwest forest. 320 cases produced.


Order now – my deadline is Wednesday, 9-7-2016

PHONE ORDERS ONLY #866-746-7293

Arrival expected by October 1, 2016


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 20140604_192823Cheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

866-746-7293

Featured Wine – Barrel 27, 2012 “Head Honcho” Syrah, Paso Robles ($29.99)

The Region
Paso wine mapPaso Robles, I feel safe in saying, is the envy of many of California’s wine regions (click map at right to see larger image on Wine Folly).  With a relatively unified group of owners (admittedly, winery owners tend to be only slightly more in synch than a litter of kittens) supporting some impressive marketing efforts on behalf of the region, the area has built upon the Sideways phenomenon of a decade ago and enjoyed annual growth in tourism, grape production, and quality (and prices!) ever since.  If you haven’t already seen their tongue-in-cheek online ads, you really should take a peek at this video introduction to the region’s best-known varieties (just one of many – search Youtube for Paso Wine Man to see them all).

 
The Producer
MacMcPrice Myers (Mac) is a big man with a big reputation. Mac fell in love with wine during his early twenties while working at Trader Joe’s. He began sampling their wines and soon developed a taste for more upscale wines during frequent tasting trips in the Central Coast. He soon became a volunteer cellar rat during harvest at a number of notable wineries. He learned more and more with each passing vintage, and in 2002 he produced his very own wine for the first time.  
 
Here’s the thing – my (now defunct) wine bar opened in 2006, and in those four short years Myers solidified his reputation as a producer of thrilling wines of great value.  He came out of the gate to great acclaim, and the shine on his reputation has yet to tarnish!
 
The Wine
Head Honcho labelThe grapes spent their first 3-5 days after picking in a cold soak, a technique that helps preserve the higher-toned aromatics you’ll find here.  A third of the grapes were fermented as whole clusters, adding some character from the ripe seeds and stems.  After fermentation, the wine spent 22 months in barrel, half of which were new.
 
The finished wine is true to its old form – a wine showing deep dark notes of black berries, ground black pepper, olive, and smoky plum topped by higher-toned notes of cassis, violet, lavender candy and a lifted finish full of sweet and exotic spices.  Back at my wine bar, Head Honcho was a best seller, month after month.  Go get a couple of glasses and a corkscrew – you’re about to find out why.
 
Pair with big, full-flavored foods, osso-buco or other braised meats, winter stews, and smoked gouda, grilled meats, or on its own, now through 2019.

Head Honcho newBUYERS TAKE NOTE: 
This is the last vintage of Head Honcho under the Barrel 27 lable.  Beginning with the 2013 vintage, HH moves to the McPrice Myers label, under what he calls the “Blue Collar Series” (Right), where it enjoys a price tag some 5 bucks higher than this vintage.  
 

“Drinking Alcohol Causes Cancer!” (Whoops. Not!)

Alcohol cancerThis week, two UK publications used attention-grabbing headlines like the one seen at left.  They quoted a ‘study’ published in the journal “Addiction”.

They had but one problem.  There was no study.  Only the wishful musings of a neo-prohibitionist writing in the publication’s “For Debate” section. You may have seen the headlines making news – such is the nature of our state of journalism today – and I’m posting this to argue that moderate drinking is still more likely to lengthen one’s lifespan than to shorten it.  

Of course, being employed in the wine industry, that’s what you’d expect me to say, right? So I will leave you with a link to this more reasoned consideration of the debate.

Happy Sipping!Just Dave

Dave “The Wine Merchant” Chambers

 

Recipe – Grilled Bacon Kebabs

Grilled Bacon Kebabs imageFunny, this – “Living high on the hog” used to mean one could afford the prime cuts of meat farthest away from the pig’s belly – the luxurious loin.  But today you can’t walk down a block at lunchtime without running into an urban hipster biting into some form of pork belly.  Eating low on the hog is decidedly trendy.  

This recipe feeds that craze, featuring bacon in a rather unusual but delicious preparation – skewered and grilled. The recipe originated with Chris Morocco  over at Bon Appetit (photo by Ted Cavanaugh), but I’ve simplified it a bit so more people can prepare it using ingredients already in their pantry – unless the back corner of your condiment shelf is hiding a jar of the spicy Asian concoction known as sambal oelek, in which case add a couple TBSPs of it to the relish, by all means. 

When planning your meal you may find it easiest to purchase the bacon by the number of slices you’d like to serve each guest instead of by weight. If this is your main protein, you’ll want a good five or six slices per person.  If serving as an appetizer or side dish, perhaps just two or three.  I prepared this recipe with a thick-cut pepper bacon and can’t imagine how it would work with anything thinner.  

There are three sections to the recipe – the glaze, the relish and the meat.

The Glaze – used during the last two minutes of cooking. Can be prepared in advance and refrigerated. This recipe is sufficient for 8 slices of bacon.  Increase the recipe accordingly as your party gets larger.  And when you’re serving these, it’s bound to do so.

  • 2 Tbsp honey or agave
  • 2 Tbsp sambal oelek or Sriracha
  • 1-2 Tbsp unseasoned Rice Vinegar

Combine all ingredients and set aside.  Told you this was easy.

The Relish – liberally disperse over the dish immediately after removing from the grill.  Let sit at room temperature while preparing the grill so the flavors infuse.

  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced (just up to the green part)
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and diced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1+ tsp ginger, peeled and grated, to taste (substitute powdered ginger, if you must)
  • 1/2 tsp light brown sugar or squeeze of honey or agave syrup

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

The Meat

Indirect bbq heatAt this point, prepare your grill – you want a medium fire on just one side of the grill – you’ll need to use indirect heat to prevent charring.  Using metal (preferably) skewers, weave them through the meat (not the fat) every few inches, then stretch the bacon out flat, as shown in the photo above.  

Place the skewers over the indirect heat side of the grill and turn every minute or so for about 8 minutes.  Don’t leave the grill, these do require a bit of constant attention.  You don’t want the bacon to burn, but it should sizzle as it renders its fat and crisps up.  While still slightly limp but almost ready, brush the bacon with the glaze and turn every 30 seconds for another 2-3 minutes or until you can’t wait to bite into one.  The glaze burns easily, so don’t leave the grill, put your wine glass down, and focus.

Wine Pairing

The heat in this dish can prove tricky for most wines, and it is really best with a low-alcohol, off-dry white (think Riesling) or Rose. However, the “Red Only” crowd prefers to pair hot dishes with fruity, high-alcohol wines such as a CA Zinfandel.  To each his/her own, but if I were forced down the red-only lane I’d opt for a Russian River Pinot. Shop for wines here.

Enjoy!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Does Your Wine Cause Cancer?

During the course of my many solar orbits, I’ve observed broadcast news shift from dry, informative information to content that offers entertainment that shifts between feel-good stories embedded between warnings of the falling sky.  Such is the destiny of today’s deregulated marketplace.

So I wasn’t too worried when I read the headline “Weed Killer Could Be Lurking In Some CA Wines”.  But if one follows the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” it does seem as if Monsanto’s ‘RoundUp’ is too ubiquitous to NOT become a factor in the health of some portion of the population. 

The news on wine containing traces of this popular weed killer is just the latest bit of inflammatory news.  Clearly, our entire food supply is at risk, as are our watersheds.  I tend to adopt a rational approach to such things, and intend to keep looking at the research beyond what our current broadcast news environment allows.  

I’ll keep an eye on this to see if wineries diminish their use of RoundUp, or if organically raised grapes still have traces of the carcinogenic chemical, and see if there is scientific consensus (outside of studies sponsored by Monsanto) that indicates glyphosate is encroaching into our food and water supply at a level worthy of concern. Stay tuned.

See the original broadcast here:

 (or copy/paste this link)

http://abc7news.com/health/i-team-weed-killer-could-be-lurking-in-some-ca-wines/1314832/



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