Monday, August 30, 2010

Like Eating A Cloud

Last night we had dinner with some dear friends that we don't see often enough. Becca & Lee had us over to their super cute home for a lovely summer dinner of mushroom goat cheese souffles with tomato & local green salad. It is so important to slow down & catch up with friends so that we don't go to long without seeing each other. Otherwise, before we know it too much time has passed.

Becca was a little nervous because it had been quite sometime since she has made souffle. I just said "I know it will be delicious so don't worry."

Lee poured us a glass of Fournier Sauvignon 2008 Vin de Pays which is just about one of the most deliciously bright & crisp white wines that I've had all summer. It matched perfectly with the tart & earthy Moroccan style vinaigrette that Becca dressed the salad with. Notes of cumin, coriander & lemon zest played off the minerality of the salad.

When they souffles came to the table I remarked at how beautiful they were, so puffed & golden. Eating them (I say them because I ended up devouring three!) was like feasting on a cloud. They were so light, airy & elegant with beautiful earthy mushroom notes. With these gorgeous elegant clouds we poured Archery Summit Pinot Noir 2007 Premier Cuvee. The luscious texture, bracing acidity, bright cherry & elegant truffle like flavors paired astoundingly well with the souffles. Delicious.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You’ve all been very patient with us as we’ve dealt with restrictions to our big tastings.

Finally we have found a fitting location that has the proper licensing & space enough to hold our tastings.

Join Joe's Wines & Liquors Thursday September 9th from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Playhouse on the Square for a “World Tour of Wine”. Each tasting station will be themed to a different country or region with a total of 35-40 wines represented. A selection of light appetizers will be served so that you can snack & sip at the same time. This is the long awaited return of our seasonal tastings!

Tickets are $35 per person. As a special bonus you can apply your ticket price to a case purchase OR take 20% off whichever works in your favor. This discount applies only to orders of 12 or more bottles & only on orders placed that evening.

Stop by Joe's, 1681 Poplar or call 901.725.4252 to buy your tickets!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Merlove at the Memphis Brooks Museum

The last film in the Memphis Brooks Museum's By the Glass Film Series is tomorrow evening August 26th beginning at 6:30 p.m. Yours truly will be pouring a selection of awesome wines from 4 different regions preceding the screening of the film Merlove. This movie is fun, whimsical & a blast to watch.

The tasting begins at 6:30 p.m. & the film begins at 7:30.

Admission is $12 for Brooks Members, $15 for Non-Members.

For more information or to purchase tickets call 901.544.6208

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Return to Le Pigeon

Last July I had a spent an extra day in Portland (PDX) after my incredible trip to Pinot Camp. After such a grueling 3 days drinking wine, sitting in on seminars on soil & viticulture, eating incredible food & meeting cool people...ok it wasn't grueling it was immense fun...I needed a relaxing evening in the city. I'd heard about Le Pigeon because I make it my business to be aware of all the delicious food being produced all over. Gabriel Rucker is one of the most talented chefs out there & his food is absolutely delicious. Not only that but he seems very humble, down to earth & just cool. So naturally I wanted to take Kelly to eat there when we were in PDX a few weeks ago. Before we headed to dinner Kelly & I detoured to the Gilt Club for a cocktail. This place is known for cocktails using house infusions & fresh ingredients. Trust me, they are serious about drinks.

What we have above was a serrano & tangerine infused vodka muddled with dill, lemon & lime topped with soda. It was super spicy at first but mellowed out to a nice heat. I'm all about savory cocktails so this was a welcome treat.

After polishing off that spicy little number we walked down to Burnside & hopped on a bus to head to the east side. It was obviously a good sign that our bus stop was literally 20 yards from the front door of Le Pigeon. We strolled in & were immediately seated at the open kitchen bar stools.

We decided to go for half bottles so I snatched up this little beauty.

It was gorgeously earthy, sensually textured & brimming with electric acidity. Perfect with my venison heart dish.

Yes that's right I said venison heart. It was tender, only slightly gamy & so delicious served with fried broccoli, capers, onions & a creamy green goddess like sauce. Amaaaaazing.

After we finished the Patty Green half bottle we ordered a half bottle of Alain Graillot 2007 Crozes Hermitage. This bad boy was meaty, earthy, smoky, barnyardy & super chewy. Perfect alongside my double thick pork chop with local haricots verts, hazelnuts, dried chilis & bacon.

This gorgeous piece of pork was sous vide, then grilled then roasted in the oven which gave it such an incredibly sensual & luscious texture. The chilis gave a nice heat which contrasted the sweetness of the haricots verts. Absolutely wonderful.

But wait...there's more. I did not want dessert because I was so jam packed full. However, while I was at the bathroom Kelly ordered me Honey Bacon Apricot Cornbread with maple ice cream & a prosciutto "magic shell". I have no words for how delicious it was. Truly. No words.

Dear Gabe Rucker-you & your staff are amazing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sweet, Fuzzy & Juicy

I was almost going to come up with some cutesy peach reference for this post but instead opted for a double entendre.

One of the best parts of summer is biting into a fresh, local peach & feeling the juice run down my chin. However, with such an abundance of peaches its also very cool to see what chefs end up doing with them.

This Saturday August 21st the Inn at Hunt Phelan is hosting "Peach Jubilee". Chef Kjeld Petersen will be using the freshest most delicious peaches from Jones Orchard to craft some delectable dishes.

Appetizers & wines from Cornerstone Cellars will be served out on the lush patio (& it should be cool enough to enjoy) at 6:30 p.m. & a family style dinner will be served under the trees at 7 p.m. From the sound of it this will be a meal that no one should miss.

Excellent food using local ingredients crafted by a talented chef & it benefits the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market! Cost to attend is $60 plus tax & tip. Reservations are strongly recommended as this will more than likely sell out. Call the Inn at Hunt Phelan 901.525.8225.

Seriously. Call now.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pinot Up in the Mountains part 2

After a long, leisurely (except for Kelly) few hours at Elk Cove we jumped in the car & sped off towards Beaverton to visit with Barbara Gross at Cooper Mountain Vineyards. Anyone who has read this blog in the past year knows how passionately in love I am with their wines. Across the board they produce wine that is expressive, elegant, balancing ripe fruit with beautiful acidity & with wonderful textures. These components make them some of the most food friendly wines I've tasted. They also truly over deliver for what retail price point they are at.

As we pulled up to the winery I couldn't help but notice that it was unlike most of the other places we had been to in Willamette Valley. This was no "chateau" style operation. It was family style all the way & I instantly appreciated that. What that says to me is that they are 100% focused on the health of the vines & the quality of the wine. In the center of the small gravel parking lot they have a flow form fountain for mixing all their biodynamic teas & sprays & such. Barbara poured us some of the deliciously zippy '09 tocai friulano (I'm so excited that we will have this in the store soon!) as we walked through some of the estate vineyards. The sun was definitely beating down on us but not nearly as much as how bad it was back home in Memphis. We looked at some pinot gris & pinot noir vines that were just so beautiful & calming. There was an energy to these vines that was obvious, it radiated.

Barbara took us into a small warehouse area that housed the balsamic vinegar they produce. The air was thick with a pungent sour-sweetness that was unlike any other aroma. Rows & rows of tiny barrels housing some very delicious vinegar. I wish I would have photographed the aging room but I was just too excited by it all to remember to take pictures. Cooper Mountain is a unique place with wonderful people who make absolutely delicious wine. Seek their bottles out!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pinot Up in the Mountains

Day 3...

We awoke a little groggily after perhaps one too many sips of wine the night before. I luckily didn't have to shield my eyes from the glaring sun because the morning fog was doing that for me. Gazing out over the Willamette Valley I was already getting nostalgic for it. I knew I'd miss it regardless of how much Kelly didn't really care for it. This place just felt like home to me. We said goodbye to our Renegade Ridge Vineyard home & hopped in the rented Nissan to get some strong coffee & get a jump on the day. I wanted to try to get by Carlton Winemaker's Studio before our appointment at Elk Cove Vineyards. We drove into McMinnville for coffee then headed towards Gaston. the drive was idyllic. Quaint country roads, green rolling hills, blue skies. Wow. Who couldn't love this?? We pulled into Carlton & discovered a cute little town with a traditional main street that was quiet given the early morning hour. After meandering around the street & stopping for more coffee we were on our way to the Studio. Unfortunately they weren't going to open until just before we were supposed to be at Elk Cove. Boo. Oh well, there is always next time. So we headed back out & made our way towards Elk Cove on a series of two lane gravel roads that were a bit dicey for awhile but we made it out the other side to this:

Karen Sanderson poured us some refreshingly delicious rose of pinot noir to quench our thirst after the rough drive.

We tasted through a series of wines with Karen. 2008 Pinot gris & pinot blanc as well as 2007 pinot noir. One of the key qualities to Elk Cove's wines are their acidity level. It keeps them bright & fresh & helps the flavors linger on my palate while making me want to go back to the glass. Each wine was as good if not better than the last & was a perfect example of why they have garnered such respect & admiration from wine lovers all over the world. After the tasting run through we sat back & enjoyed a little lunch out on the deck & just unclenched.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Monday, August 09, 2010

Cocktails in the Bluff City

The Cocktail Culture movement has not passed over Memphis. In fact, we have a wealth of choices at our fingertips.

The best French 75 in town is at Restaurant Iris. It's a perfect summertime,well actually anytime, libation.

Majestic Grille has a very cool martini, the Strawberry-Basil. It's sweet & spicy in an herbaceous way.

Thomas, at Bari Ristorante e Enoteca, has a list of drinks in his repertoire & he crafts each one expertly.

Last night I had one of the most unexpected cocktail experiences in Memphis. I met my good friends Johanna & Alison up at Sweetgrass for a drink after I led a tasting at the Brooks Museum. We grabbed a few stools at the small bar & chatted with the bartender. I asked if he had a cocktail list & he said "no...not yet anyway." I was curious because that obviously meant that one would be coming soon. Due to my indecisiveness I asked him if he could just make me something with gin. He proceeded to whip up a cocktail that was absolutely delicious. "It's called the significant other", he said. Whatever it was tasted superb & perfectly balanced. After finishing that cocktail I asked him if he could make me something else, anything he wished. The second cocktail was just as good as the first & completely different. This guy wasn't a bartender, he was a mixologist. I'll be back, hopefully there will be a barstool available.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Dinner at Thistle

During Cochon on Tour's stop in PDX there was a bit of.....a scuffle. Now I know that there were allegedly certain "party favors" involved above & beyond just booze. Allegedly. C'mon! It's a big group of chefs at a strip club for crying out loud! What do you expect to happen?? Regardless, I was intrigued by chef Eric Bechard's "hyper-local" sensibility.

Any chef who is that passionate about the provenance of pork, well I just gotta check 'em out. Since we were staying nearby I told Kelly "we absolutely have to eat at Eric Bechard's restaurant!" We walked around the quaint & cute McMinnvile town center. Kelly grabbed some coffee, shopped for books & I just marveled at how adorable the main street was. I want to live there! I walked by Thistle & decided to take a peek. It was around 4 o'clock so I knew they would just be in the middle of prep. Walking in the door I was immediately greeted by a beautiful blonde woman with super cool glasses. I asked if reservations were recommended & she said "yes, we are pretty small as you can see so if you want a table a reservation is highly recommended." Gazing around the space showcased a clean, minimal restaurant that was in fact quite tiny. I glanced on the chalkboard menu but quickly looked away since I didn't want to ruin the dining experience later.

When Kelly & I returned for dinner I was practically drunk on the savory aromas emitting from the tiny open kitchen. I'd heard that Eric sources everything from only a 100 mile radius. With this in mind I was ready for a "local" fresh experience. We were instructed by our server to make our choices from the blackboard on the wall opposite the front door. It was the only menu in the house since the chef changes it daily. Very cool idea since it frees him up to make changes on a daily basis & instead of being chained to printed menus. The wine list was very very extensive & super exciting but one thing struck me. Now, I love love love French wine but I was in a restaurant that beat the local drum so I would have I EXPECTED that every single wine would be sourced from nearby vineyards. We are in the Willamette Valley for god sake! The holy grail of pinot noir, exciting riesling, gruner, pinot gris etc! Regardless, I brushed it aside & readied myself for what I was hoping would be an awesome meal. We ordered a bottle of Arterberry Maresh Pinot Noir 2007 Dundee Hills. It was so sensual, earthy, musky & grabbed me by the heart. I was falling in love with a bottle of wine.

My first course arrived & a smile rippled across my face.

Rabbit rillettes sealed with duck fat served alongside crusty house made bread, pickled onions & two housemade mustards. Oh damn. It was superbly rich & freaking delicious in every way. I think I might have stuck my tongue down in the jar & licked up the last few smears of fat laden rabbit. Mmmmm.

My main was a local hangar steak with purple potato, baby carrots & bone marrow butter. Yes, that's right...bone..marrow..butter. I'm not a filet guy at all. Beef tenderloin to me is so boring & almost mushy in texture with practically no flavor. I want to taste beef so that's why I always go for a more flavorful cut like hangar. It was cooked perfectly & the bone marrow butter was so rich & unctuous. At one point I had to slow myself down because I was gorging on this insanely delicious plate.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Tasting Through The Valley

Waking up to a vineyard just makes me speechless...yeah right. Coffee on the deck overlooking the vines in the pic above is something I'll remember forever. However, as much as I could have lounged on the deck I wanted to get out & taste the Valley. We arrived late to our appt to Archery Summit Vineyards which is completely embarrassing. Chris, our host, gave us some decent ribbing about our lateness but lightened up after a bit & we had a good time. The Vireton rosé had a bright, blushing tone with nice fruit, good texture & a tingling acidity. It was an eye opening experience to see a behind the scenes tour of AS. Having spent a bit of time there for a seminar during last year's Pinot Camp It was nice to have a little one on one time. The winery was quiet given the time of year, almost hushed. One of the coolest things we saw the whole trip was AS' concrete egg that they use to ferment the minuscule amount of pinot gris they produce....seriously, tiny tiny production. Winemaker Anna Matzinger's attention to detail & passion is so evident in each sip of her pinot noir. Whether the Premier Cuvee or, my personal favorite, Renegade Ridge Vineyard what I taste is balance & beauty. Leaving Archery I felt like I had a better understanding of a winery that has always been on my radar. I wish I could get some more of that Vireton rosé here in Memphis. It's peaking over 100 degrees & I need some good pink wine to quench my thirst!