I know we are headlong into the rich, ripe, full bodied red wine season BUT I am sipping on a simply delightful white wine right now. Cousino Macul Sauvignon Gris 2008 Chile. Hopefully I'll be able to get this in the store soon. If so, it will be around $14. The sauvignon gris grape is similar to sauvignon blanc in its expression. It has a grassy, mineral-driven, citrus peel aroma with a mouthwatering & crisp acidity & citrus laden palate. The wine is dry but has a luscious fruit flavor that is lovely on its own but would be lovely if paired with steamed clams, fresh oysters or a red snapper torta.
My parents don't look old. Not by a long shot! My folks came down to Memphis this past weekend to celebrate Dad's 60th birthday. It is hard to believe he's 60, referencing my previous statement. They are both very full of life & energy & have been & always will be the best parents in the history of the universe. Anyway, they got in Saturday early evening so we popped open a bottle of white wine (Lackner Tinnacher Gelber Muskateller 2003 Austria still some left at Joe's but not much) & caught up. The wine was crisp & bright & very fresh tasting given its 5 years of age. After that was through we headed up to Restaurant Iris for a couple cocktails & their fantastic Boudin. We capped the night off with a couple burgers & appetizers at Cafe 1912. Best burger in town by far. Juicy meat, Maytag blue, bacon & garlic aioli. Kelly had goat cheese ravioli & a Lyonnaise Salad with no bacon because he is avoiding meat. Going vegetarian isn't much a of a stretch for him given that he's not much of a meat eater to begin with. Dad & I capped the night off with a couple scotches (Balvenie Doublewood 12 yr old, oh so good) & some political discussion. On Sunday I had already planned out what I was going to cook for dinner & had it ready in the fridge. Rack of lamb, risotto, haricot verts & chocolate pots de creme. For Kelly a Naked Chicken soy chicken cutlet. I started by marinating the lamb & fake chicken with basil puree, garlic, wine, salt pepper & a dash of red wine vinegar & let that sit for about 2 hours. My sous chefs (Mom & Dad) diced the shallot & garlic for the risotto, which I sauteed in olive oil. I had Dad stir the arborio rice & slowly ladle in the warm stock until it became creamy & the rice had released its starch. Me being the "alpha cook" that I am I kept stepping in to stir or add stock. Dad kept saying to me "don't screw up my rice!" all while sipping from his wine. That wine was a Soter Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006 North Valley, Oregon. At first it seemed a little light & shut down. But after a bit of time it developed & fleshed out. It became rich, round, supple with dark cherry, a hint of tea & clove & just a bit of lavender. Lovely. Absolutely lovely. Even my Dad remarked on how delicious it was & he doesn't like pinot noir. He is more into big, bold, rich red wines. So of COURSE I had to open something like that. For wine, I thought the lamb needed something with earthiness, acidity & dark red fruit. I pulled out my last bottle of Neitea 1998 Tuscany, Italy, a blend of sangiovese & cabernet sauvignon. This dark Tuscan beauty is just now ready to drink, I can't imagine what this was like upon release. It was just perfect for the lamb with the perfect amount of tannin, dark fruit & acid to cut through the gaminess of the meat. But we weren't done yet. Its not a birthday without some dessert, right?? With the aide of my trusty, sous chefs I prepared a dark chocolate pots de creme. First, scaled some half & half & milk with a little organic sugar. In a heatproof bowl I whisked together 5 egg yolks & tempered them with the hot liquid. Then I added all that back to the sauce pan & stirred it on low heat until it became a custard. I poured that custard over chopped dark chocolate, let it sit for 2 minutes then whisked it together until fully melted. The trick to its smooth texture is to blend it. I used a stick blender or wand, but you could use a traditional blender. What better way to end a meal than chocolate? I think Dad liked it because his ramekin was empty before any of ours. I forgot to take a pic until AFTER I took the first bite, oops.
I must apologize. In my hastiness to post about Sunday's amazingly delicious team effort dinner, I stated that it was the first gourmet experience of 2009. That wasn't true. Hop on over to The Chubby Vegetarian to read about our incredible dinner last Saturday.
Last week Richie & I were discussing getting together to drink some good wines. We came up with the idea of meeting at the market with our wines & letting our selections dictate what we cooked. Yesterday we met at Whole Foods at 5 p.m. Kelly couldn't make it because he had to work on his lesson plan for his first day back, booooo.
I brought a Cayuse Syrah 2001 Cailloux Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley. My wine inspired me to prepare a blueberry & spice glazed grass fed NY strip with tomato & bacon risotto & haricots verts with parmiggiano & truffle oil. Richie & Meagan's wines were Delille Cellars Chaleur Estate 1998 Columbia Valley, WA & Andrea Oberto Barolo 1991 Piedmont. Yes, I have to admit, this was one HELL of a lineup! Their wines inspired them to prepare a Moussaka. Plus they felt that this particular dish would also pair with the steak.
Upon return to their beautiful kitchen, we began to cook. With Richie & I acting as her sous chefs, Meagan began by preparing the Bechamel sauce, boiling the sliced potatoes & frying the eggplant. Next she browned the ground lamb & onions. Meanwhile I mixed together blueberry preserves, pepper, salt, garlic, white wine, smoked paprika & cumin for my steak's glaze. I slathered all that goodness all over the grass fed beauties & let it all soak in. Next I turned my attention towards the risotto. I browned some diced bacon & set that aside. I added olive oil & some bacon fat to a pan & sauteed shallots, garlic & arborio rice. Then I added chopped tomatoes, some tomato juice & a ladle of warm chicken stock. I stirred until all the stock was incorporated & repeated until the rice was soft & creamy. We through the steaks on the grill & seared them medium rare.
About 30 minutes before plating we opened the Oberto Barolo to check it's progress. The Nebbiolo grape is notoriously hard edged & rough in its youth. But with age....Oh it just becomes something so elegant, beautiful & sensual. Winos talk about Burgundy being the ultimate sensual red. For me its an aged Barolo (or Brunello, love that!). This baby didn't disappoint. The aroma was all dried leaves on an Autumn forest floor, hints of truffle & mushroom, dried rose & violet. One sip just rippled through my body as if silk covered hands gave me a quick rub down. This was something special. So elegant, sensually caressing my palate & leaving a lasting finish on the back of the palate.
We decanted both the Cayuse & the Delille due to our speculation that both would be big & rich. We weren't disappointed. The Cayuse was laden with smoky notes of espresso bean, cocoa, blueberry & jerky/smoked meat note. The palate was rich & round but not heavy or too over the top, balanced in everyway. The flavor profile played off the glazed steak & risotto very well. The cocoa notes paired with the Moussaka quite nicely. The Delille was a bit more refined in its expression. An 11 year old Washington Bordeaux blend, who knew??? It had dark notes of minerals, dark currant, a hint of flowers. On the palate was a full body, nicely integrated tannins & an underlying dark texture that kept evolving in the glass. This wine paired perfectly with the Moussaka & even played off the gaminess of the grass fed beef well.
All in all, a perfect food & wine event. I can't wait to see what 2009 has in store!