Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bubbles from the Great Lake State

I have been reading and hearing a lot lately about Michigan sparkling wines. I am always willing to try wines from different regions of the world, but I was even more curious because I'm a Midwesterner and I love Sufjan Stevens' album "Greetings from Michigan". My best friends Sarah and Jon also just moved to Michigan. This past Sunday Richie and Megan brought over a bottle of L. Mawby Talisman sparkling wine. It had an interesting bottle label, not garish but not too simple. We decided to start off the meal with it, I loooove starting off with bubbles! Upon first sniff I was shocked to detect aromas that I would normally pick up in top quality Champagne. The nose was giving off biscuit, orange peel, pie crust and lemon curd, along with wet stone and chalk. The palate was full of creamy texture and balanced acidity. The lemon curd had carried through along with the orange peel and a hint of spice. To me, it's absolutely thrilling to see that there are passionate winemakers crafting beautiful juice all over this country. Seek them out!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lyrical Cuisine

There is not many things more satisfying than putting on a great CD (or hooking up the Ipod to the stereo) and conjuring up a great meal. Music can set the town for that meal, guiding the flavor intensity and choice of herbs or spices. A great song and intoxicating aromas can draw people to the kitchen. Many will offer assistance if the right combination of scents, wine and lyrical inspiration occur. I put on different music for different meals.

For all purpose culinary music I enjoy:

Ibrahim Ferrer "Buenos Hermanos"
PJ Harvey "Stories from the City, Stories from The Sea"
Rufus Wainwright "Poses" and "Want 1"
Imperial Teen "On"
Miles Davis "Kind of Blue"
Radiohead "The Bends"

This is a small list in a sea of music that I love to play when preparing dinner. The music makes everything flow so beautifully. It puts me in a glowing mood. The produce looks fresher, the fish looks just killed, the meat looks more glorious. A perfect combination of all these components can make for an ethereal experience. A great bottle of red wine, such as Peregrine 2001 Central Otago Pinot Noir, always helps too.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Parental Units

The Ps came to visit this weekend and, like always, it was fueled by great food and wine. On Sunday I prepared a steamer pot of clams and red snapper.

I first diced and sauteed half a large onion and five garlic cloves in olive oil in my sturdy dutch oven (thanks, mom!) After they were nicely colored I tossed in 30 rinsed and cleaned littleneck clams and put the lid on to allow them to steam. Once the clams were slightly open I added about 3/4 a bottle of Vega Sindoa Viura/Chardonnay from Spain, gave them a good stir and popped the lid back on. Once the wine had reduced a bit and the clams were half open I added the snapper filets, some sea salt and about 10 grinds of fresh pepper and popped the lid back on. After one side of the snapper had turned a bit white I flipped the filets over and added about a tablespoon and a half of butter, and returned the lid. 5 minutes later I added a small amount of fresh chopped tarragon and fresh red bell pepper (from Bluebird farmstand at the Farmer's Market) everything was done and ready to eat. On the side we had some nice grilled bread (from Simone the doughgirl at the Farmer's Market) for sopping up the buttery, garlicky, olive oilly, winey broth. Yuuuummmm.

We served 2 bottles with this steamer pot. The first was Epiphany Cellars 2005 Grenache Rose from Santa Barbara (only one case came into Memphis so don't even bother looking for it), and the second was Vina Rey 2003 Tempranillo Crianza. The rose exhibited deep red berry fruit, a nice hit of tannin and lovely complex spice character. The Vina Rey was lush and dark with earthy notes, silky texture, spicy flavors and a lovely finish. Seek it out now!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Gravitational Pull of Spain

To ease the pain of my yearning for Spain, I wallowed in a delicious dinner of Spanish cuisine.

First, I prepared a lovely salad of spicy arugula (from the Memphis Farmer's Market, wow), young manchego cheese, shallot, Las Brisas Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil, heirloom tomato, sherry vinegar and Maldon Sea Salt. The best sea salt EVER!!!

We paired the salad with Ventana Riesling from Arroyo Seco Monterey. The bright acidity and off-dry nature was a perfect counterbalance with the sweet acid in the Sherry vinegar. The Riesling also cut through the richness of the cheese and stood up to the spice in the arugula.

The star dish of the night was my grandmother's recipe (Thank you Ta!) Paella. I tweaked it a bit because I can't just leave well enough alone. The Paella was filled with brown arborio rice, fresh clams, spanish chorizo, fresh shrimp, saffron, red pepper, garlic, tomato, onion, wine and edamame (sorry ta, I didn't know I had sweet peas in the freezer).

The paella was perfect with a 2003 Bacio Divino Pazzo (thanks Richie and Megan!), a blend of Sangiovese, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It's rich earthiness and bright fruit flowed perfectly into the heady earthiness of the saffron. It was a bit much for the clams but I still had a bit of the Riesling left to drink with that. The chorizo's spicy garlicy deliciousness made the fruit in the wine explode! Incredible.

This meal was a nice salve for my open wounds. A good meal can always make me feel better, and transport back to where I want to be.