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

Pumping Iron – Why Fish & Red Wine don't mix.

05-29 Mercado (20) In this week’s edition of the ScienceNow Daily News, (full story, here) it was reported that Japanese researchers have discovered why fish and red wine so often clash.  Turns out there are minute traces of iron in some red wines, particularly those grown in soils high in certain minerals, and that these trace elements can leave you with a very unpleasant “fishy” aftertaste.  And I don’t mean the clean fish smell of the ocean, but more like the day-after fish smell of the trash bin.

The research also seems to answer why some red wines can actually compliment seafood and fish, while others make you run for the motion sickness bag.  The researchers identified an “iron threshold” of 2 miligrams per liter.  Any red wine containing more than this amount spoils the seafood pairing.

Scallops, perhaps the most notorious offender when it comes to foul red wine pairings, were used to test this theory further.  When dried scallops were soaked in wine whose iron content was below the threshold smelled fine, but those soaked in wine with iron above the critical 2 mg/L, smelled horrible.  Note, I’ve observed the same phenomenon when fresh scallops are rinsed using iron-rich water.  Now I know why!

Red Wine With FishBut I agree with Gordon Burns, the enologist who argued that the more compelling reason to avoid red wine with fish is that most red wines are big-bodied wines that over-power the lighter, delicate flavors of most seafood.  And that violates one of my key guidelines for food and wine pairing:

  1. Match high acidity in the food with high-acid wines
  2. Match sweet foods with equal or higher sweetness in the wine
  3. Pair light dishes with lighter wines, heavier dishes with heavier wines
  4. If the wine is high in fruit and alcohol, leave it on the cocktail bar when you go to the dinner table!

Others, such as Tim Hanni, M.W., suggest that simply adding a pinch of salt and a squeeze of citrus to your fish dish will make it surprisingly compatible with your red wine.  And still others, such as David Rosengarten, in his famous book (right) simply focuses on finding lighter red wines that can compliment fish and seafood prepared with red wine-friendly recipes.  Of course, his book was written in 1989, when it was easier to FIND a lighter red wine, i.e., lower in alcohol (average then was just 12.5%) and body.

By contrast, today’s contemporary styles for wine often dictate alcohol levels in excess of 14.5% along with “gobs and gobs of ripe fruit”.  If red wine with fish is your culinary preference, I’d seek the lighter reds of Burgundy, Beaujolais, Northern Italy, the Loire and other cool-weather growing areas.

Seek out such wine, and I think you’ll be finding Nemo never tasted so good.

DSCN0419Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com

Quote of the Day
Fish, to taste good, fish must swim three times.  First in water, then in butter, and then in wine!”  ~Old Proverb

Food & Wine Trendspotting: Gourmet-Level Home Entertainment

 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Those adhering to a stricter budget in these thrifty times are trimming dining out expenses through gourmet-class home entertainment.  This is good for business if you sell a product that enhances this in-home experience.  Such as our premium wine portfolio, perhaps.

Or gourmet desserts.  Like the frozen liquor-infused desserts from Sheri Tate.

I first met Sheri Tate at a neighbor’s 50th birthday party, where she was serving her liquor ice creams and sorbets from large tubs.  It was a rare treat and a memorable night.  I recall commiserating over the enthusiasm-destroying bureaucratic hurdles she had to jump over in launching her product.  So today’s press release about her newly re-branded “Silver Moon” product (left) made me smile.  Glad to see you still out there, Sheri!

I called her to congratulate her on the new brand, and asked why such a pricey product (~$9 for a pint) was doing so well in this economy.  She shared this wise insight “…People giving up expensive Saturday dinners at upscale restaurants are looking for a quality experience in the home, and our pints feed four for dessert.”  And it’s true, while I’ve always laughed at the words “Serves Four” on a (single serving!) pint of Ben & Jerry’s, Silver Moon’s frozen desserts have alcohol in them and are so rich with flavor that a pint really does serve four.

Seeking an in-home gourmet experience is the reason people are still buying premium wines to – what else turns a simple pot roast into a treat?  Same thing with a gourmet dessert.  (Click here to see where you can buy Silver Moon– Not in the Bay Area?  E-commerce available next quarter)

Speaking of frozen desserts, I must include another favorite.  When it comes to alcohol-free frozen dessert products, Bi-Rite Creamery is hard to beat.  Their frozen dessert products are sensational (I’m partial to the Salted Caramel ice cream).  Not recommended for those on a diet but, at $8 a pint or $15 a quart, the price serves as a natural governor on quantity.

Dtwm_color_web_optimizedCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com 

 Quote of the Day:
Ice cream is exquisite.  What a pity it isn’t illegal”     Voltaire, 1694 – 1778


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