Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More Wineries for Passport to Oregon

Every day I preach the virtues of Oregon. Now it's time for Memphis to experience it themselves. Joe's Wines Passport to Oregon will be the best wine tasting event to hit the city. Guaranteed. I've fallen in love with the wines of Oregon because of their heart, soul, passion, uniqueness, sensuality & overall deliciousness.
I just found out that both Cornerstone Cellars (pouring their Willamette Valley pinot noir of course) & Domaine Drouhin Oregon have signed on to participate! Domaine Drouhin!
You can purchase your tickets at
Joe's Wines & Liquors
1681 Poplar
Memphis, TN 38104

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Joe's Wines' Passport to Oregon

Oregon is one of my favorite wine regions....if not my very favorite. I'm so elated to be a part of this event. Joe’s Wines & Liquors is bringing Oregon wine country to Memphis on Thursday February 23rd. “Joe’s Passport To Oregon” wine tasting will showcase the best wineries in the hallowed Willamette Valley wine growing region. Owners & winemakers from Bethel Heights, Adelsheim, Elk Cove, Argyle, King Estate, A to Z, Anne Amie, Torii Mor, Domaine Serene, Rex Hill, Cliff Creek, Benton Lane, Le Cadeau, Lachini, Carlton Cellars just to name a few. Before it’s all said & done we expect nearly 20 wineries to be in attendance. Collectively, these wineries produce some of the most highly sought after wines in America. We present to you a rare opportunity to not only taste some of each winery’s best but interact with someone directly from that winery. In addition to wines from nearly 20 different Oregon producers we will serve “Pacific Northwest” style appetizers to pair alongside. On top of the selections being offered for tasting each winery will also have a special “rare” wine for purchase. Some are bringing large formats, library wines, small production or “winery only” selections. We will be offering special discounts on purchases made that day. Purchase your tickets at Joe’s Wines & Liquors, 1681 Poplar for $40/person. “Joe’s Passport To Oregon” will be held at the University Club on Thursday February 23rd.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2 Pinots. One Vineyard.

I absolutely adore Oregon wines & there is one vineyard in particular that always sings to me: Ana Vineyard. Kelly & I had our friends Tiffany & Mark & Elizabeth & Steve over for dinner the other night. Since it's the end of the year I thought the theme should be celebratory decadence. It all began with lobster. I kept thinking about these crustaceans. Then I thought risotto. Lobster risotto. This could be really delicious. I got my beautiful live lobsters from Viet Hoa. I texted my friend Chef Kelly & he told me to kill the lobsters first then prepare them. That was the first time I had to do that but it really wasn't that difficult. The difficult part is getting the meat out of the shells. I stripped all the meat out & reserved the shells which I sauteed with garlic, onions, celery thyme & parsley. After I got a bit of color on the shells I added a bottle of chardonnay & half a bottle of pinot grigio & about 2 cups of chicken stock. I let that cook down for quite sometime to concentrate the liquid into a nice rich stock. Meanwhile, I got the risotto going so it could cook slowly & the rice could release its creamy starch.
When our lovely guests arrived we popped open a bottle of J Lasalle Brut Preference Non Vintage. This gorgeous Champagne is 60% pinot meunier which immediately excited me. It's toasty, yeasty, with orange marmalade notes, brioche & it was so sensually textured.
Once we sat down I started everyone off with scallops that I seared off & served with a meyer lemon basil white wine butter sauce. It paired perfectly with Robert Sinskey Abraxas.
Next up was my lovely risotto. I folded in butter poached lobster meat, topped it with claw meat & drizzled a lobster-saffron sauce over it that I made with the reduced lobster stock. So rich, so briny, so delicious. Tiffany & Mark brought a Lachini Family Winery Ana Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006. When I saw that I freaked out. To drink side by side with that I popped open a Patricia Green Cellars 2006 Ana Vineyard Pinot Noir. The Lachini was masculine while the Patricia Green started off a bit more feminine. However, as the bottle opened up the Patty Green become more earthy & hauntingly sensual. Both wines were so beautiful & expressive. Yet again it showcased how much I love this vineyard.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Birthday Pig-stravaganza

I know it's been quite some time since my birthday back in September but forgive because time has gotten away from me. For my birthday dinner my wonderful husband got with one of the best chefs in the biz, Kelly English, & devised a plan for a dinner that would elate a porkaholic such as me. Chef English apparently wanted to go whole hog & present a suckling pig. However, my Kelly put the brakes on that one & said he "didn't want to stare at a pig face all night." No matter, this dinner was truly exceptional. Course #1 Pig Ear Carbonara Rich truffled pig ear "noodles". So creamy with a beautiful crunch to the cartilage but tenderness to the remainder of the ear. Course # 2 Rare Pig Heart with Cumin Spiced Eggplant Rare grilled pig heart that was so toothsome & earthy. There is something about heart that provides such a unique wine pairing. There is literally no flavor combo like the iron-copper rich flavor in heart paired up with gorgeously earthy red wine.
Course #3 Tongue in Cheek Succulent braised pig tongue over housemade noodles & tender pieces of pork cheek. So savory, tender & brought me back to childhood. My family used to cook tongue when I was a kid & I used to hoover it up.
Course #4 Pork Belly There is little that needs to be said about a perfectly cooked piece of pork belly. Sinking my teeth into the sweet meat & creamy fat is total bliss. Anyone that has been to Restaurant Iris knows that Kelly English knows how to work a piece of pig. However, this entire experience was something entirely more than I've ever had before. Of course the food was spectacular but the fact that my husband set this up for me for my birthday dinner really made it truly special. Thank you to both Kelly's for the best most porktastic birthday ever!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cocktails for the Tsunami Artist Market

My friend Colleen asked me to craft some interesting cocktails for the Tsunami Artist Market that she hosted today. I of course said yes because I love helping out friends & I love playing with spirits. My first thought was "what am I going to do?" Then my mind went wild & in all kinds of directions from savory to sweet & in between. Here is what I crafted for the Artist Market: Negroni Bianco -Gin -Blanc Vermouth -Cocchi Americano Garnished with a flamed lemon peel Xmas in Manhattan -Maker's Mark Bourbon -Martini & Rossi Rouge Vermouth -St Elizabeth's Allspice Dram -Homemade Benton Bacon bitters -Regan's Orange bitters garnished with a clove studded orange peel The Naughty List -Persimmons cooked with vanilla vodka & vanilla sugar -Spiced Rum -Homemade ginger bitters -Homemade ginger simple syrup -fresh ginger -chili flakes -lemon juice I think the Naughty List won...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Actually no, that's not a Manhattan

Me: "Is there anything else you need help with?" Guy: "Oh, shoot I forgot vermouth." Me: "Follow me it's right over here." Guy: "Cool, I need some for Manhattans." Me: "Ok great, I love Manhattans. We have a few sweet vermouths to choose from." Guy: "No I want some dry vermouth not red." Me: "Well that's not a Manhattan." Guy: "Yeah it is I just use dry vermouth & no bitters." Me: "Uhh a Manhattan needs bitters. Don't let anyone tell you differently." Guy: "Well I like my Manhattans with dry vermouth." Me: "Then call it something else because it's not a Manhattan. Manhattans use red sweet vermouth. Call it a Brooklyn or a Staten Island or something."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Inspired by Tequila

Behold! What you have above is my latest concoction. Silver Tequila Cocchi Americano Saffron Tincture Fresh squeezed persimmon from my friend's yard Garnished with a flamed meyer lemon peel & a skewer of rum-meyer lemon zest cured blueberries. Spicy, herbaceous, bitter, hints of sweetness. Absolutely delicious.

New On The Scene

The opening of Alchemy has caused a lot of buzz around Memphis. I got to see the space before it opened & it truly was stunning. I was shocked by how much space there was! When Au Fond & Grace were in that space it was so cramped. Seeing this space made it even more evident of how poorly that space had been used. But I digress. I was incredibly excited about Alchemy for a number of different reasons but specifically because of the cocktail program. I mean "cocktails" are in the name on the awning so they are going to be serious right? I also heard that they had hired a "mixologist" from New York so it was obvious they were going the extra mile & the cocktail program was going to be serious. Or so I thought. Kelly & I went with some friends this past Monday on one of the first nights they were open. The restaurant has a distinctive lounge vibe that was very alive & filled with people. Its always exciting to see a restaurant full on a Monday. That energetic, electric vibe ended when I took a look at the drinks list. I was very disappointed to see only 4 cocktails. Just 4?? Where was the focus on specialty "New York" style unique drinks. I was told that they hadn't nailed down that part of the program & they weren't comfortable putting out a full list yet. I sampled 2 of them that friends had ordered. They seemed a bit simple & didn't have anything hand crafted or house made in them. For $11 I was expecting quite a bit more. I understand there are always kinks to be worked out when a restaurant is opened so perhaps that is something that will get worked out as well. Hopefully. One thing that I couldn't get passed was the service. From beginning to end it seemed harried, disjointed & just plain clueless. After waiting for quite sometime at the bar I finally was asked if I needed help. Well sort of:
Bartender: Have you been helped?
Me: No.
Bartender: So do you need help?
Me: Yes!
Me: I was wondering if you could make me a Negroni.
Bartender: I don't know what that is
Nearby Bartender: I don't know what's in that
They both walked away.
Seriously. Just walked away without getting me another drink or asking me if they could get me anything at all.
That is not an opening kink that is a service issue. Service issues, if not nipped in the bud, will fester & grow & will cause serious problems. They could easily cause diners to never return. We were seated in a booth in the back & after another seriously long wait we finally got a server, got a bottle of wine & settled in. The food was another story. Aside from the very long ticket times that caused us to wait for a very long time for our was delicious. The food was very good, except for the fish tacos which were too heavy with mayonnaise & fairly bland. The food really saved the day. I tasted the camembert fritters, beef, & lamb ribs. All were absolutely wonderful. Especially the lamb ribs. Lamb ribs, yep I said lamb ribs. My friend Jaime said they were like the best part of a gyro. That outside crusty part of the gyro that is filled with spice is what every bite of that rib tasted like. I want this place to succeed not only for the good of Cooper-Young but for the good of the Memphis food scene in general. But the service has to improve in a serious way. I can't wait to go back & see an extensive, unique & handcrafted cocktail list & significantly elevated, knowledgeable & friendly service. I hope.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Milbrandt Vineyards Tasting

This Thursday from 5 - 7 pm join me at Joe's Wines & Liquors for a tasting of wines from Milbrandt Vineyards. Buck Milbrandt will be on hand to discuss their unique vineyard sites. The Milbrandt family owns some of the most sought after sites in all of Washington & source to some of the top producers such as Charles Smith, K, Bunnell & Efeste. Come taste some of the best Washington has to offer. The tasting is free & we will be offering special discounts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cocktails in The Round

This Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Majestic Grille come sample some innovative drinks at "Cocktails In The Round". This "Chopped-Top Chef" style cocktail competition will feature a specific liquor along with secret ingredients that will be revealed to the competitors on Saturday. This unique competition will showcase local cocktail innovators at their best. Cost to attend is $15. This admission fee gets the attendees a sample of each competitors drink & the chance to vote on the winner. The event will begin with a demonstration of their modern twist on the art of the shot by Deni Reilly (owner, Majestic Grille) & Mark Cumberland (bartender, Majestic Grille). This will be an ongoing series of cocktail competition events held throughout Memphis. Yours truly will be showing my shaker skills & hopefully taking another win home after "Iron Shaker". Come join me for a fun, exciting & tasty event!

Monday, November 07, 2011

My Latest Cocktail Creations

Last night I did a test run on a really cool cocktail idea that I've been kicking around lately: a Negroni. I know I know, a Negroni is so well known & it's not that unique or a cool idea even anymore. But I've been dreaming about a white Negroni, or as I named it: Negroni Bianco. For my Negroni Bianco I used 1.5 oz Corsair Gin, 1 oz Cocchi Americano & 1 oz Dolin Vermouth Blanc. I stirred it about 40 times so as not to bruise it too much, poured it over a large cube which wouldn't dilute it quickly. I then peeled a lemon with a vegetable peeler took a 1.5 inch long strip of lemon peel & flamed it over the cocktail. It was bittersweet, pungent but mellow & absolutely delicious. Sorry, no pic. My other cocktail idea that has been haunting me is a spiced Manhattan which I think is very holiday-esque. So, here we go. Pour into a shaker 2 oz Bourbon (either Eagle Rare, Bulleit or Buffalo Trace) with 1 oz Punt e Mes or Dolin Rouge vermouth & 1 oz St Elizabeth's Allspice Dram. I then added 2 dashes of my homemade Allen Benton Bacon Bitter's & one dash of Angostura Bitter's. Shake or stir to chill & pour into a cocktail glass. You can either serve it up or, as I did here, over a large ice cube. I also skewered some of my homemade bourbon & cherry liqueur poached cherries. I give you the the Spiced Manhattan. Delicious.

David O'Reilly & Sweetgrass

Back in September Joe's Wines & Liquors hosted a wine dinner at Sweetgrass with David O'Reilly of Owen Roe Winery. The menu, as always, was paired perfectly with David's distinctive, expressive & bold wines. We began the evening with a trio of oysters paired with O'Reilly's Pinot Gris 2009 Columbia Valley. Each oyster preparation brought out a different flavor & texture in the wine. My favorite was definitely the raw oyster with mignonette. I guess I'm just a traditionalist that way. Next up was a Delta Sol Farms "Chile Relleno" stuffed with housemade chorizo, queso fresco & served over fennel cream with sriracha.
This unique spin on classic Mexican was paired with Corvidae Wine Co "The Keeper" Cabernet Franc 2009 Columbia Valley. The fennel cream amplified the fennel aroma & flavor in the wine while the spice played off the pepper & dried spice notes. Then we moved on to Confit Duck leg with squash & goat cheese flan with plum glaze paired with two special wines. Both Owen Roe Abbot's Table & Owen Roe Ex Umbris were a lovely match for the earthy duck & tangy goat's cheese. The Abbot's is a unique bottle comprised of zinfandel, sangiovese, blaufrankish, malbec, syrah, merlot. Quite interesting no? Initially I think some people might think it's just the leftovers. In fact O'Reilly & his team are meticulous in their blending of this. It's as if they are using the pantry & all the contents of the spice rack to create a perfect dish. The Ex Umbris is a syrah that initially was a result of a wildfire. The smoky style of this bold red is an ode to the that first "roasted-smoked" vintage. We ended on a superb note. Chef Ryan Trimm & his talented team paired up a Hangar Steak au Poivre with truffled pomme frites, fresh pea shoots, 63° Donnell Farms Egg & Honey Thyme Reduction with Owen Roe Yakima Valley Red Blend.
This gripping, earthy, sensual, heart grabbing red blend acted as a knife through the gorgeously toothsome hangar steak which is my favorite cut of beef. Everything came together beautifully. Chef Trimm's dishes are always delicious but the way in which they were paired was superb. David O'Reilly's wines were absolutely stupendous & just as cool as he is.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I'm fluctuating back & forth between still buzzing after the wedding & honeymoon--& the harsh reality of being back to work. Well, at least I like my job so there is that. Kelly & I had an unbelievable weekend with family, friends, food & wine. Our wedding day was gorgeous & it was as if the weather was just for us. The reception was filled with friends, loved ones...more food & fantastic wine & a kick ass DJ (thanks Taylor!) We had a little bit of recovery time before jetting off to New York for a honeymoon in Manhattan where we stuffed ourselves silly & walked all over lower Manhattan. We also went to the city clerk's office & made it all legal. Thank you New York for helping continue our civil rights movement.

Kelly & I promised each other that we won't go a year without returning to New York. I can't wait to return.

We went to Wine Spectator's New York Wine Experience & it was absolutely overwhelming. A wine lover like me was in heaven. I think my head exploded a couple of times actually. I got to see lots of my wine heroes & sample their delicious offerings. One of the highlights was seeing Rollin Soles of Argyle & being able to tell him that Kelly & I just drank his Brut Rose 2008 on our wedding day. He seemed so appreciative & very flattered.

The Experience got me thinking about our events here in Memphis. Comparatively, the Brooks Museum's Memphis Wine & Food Series is a absolutely incredible event & definitely more interactive & personal. Not to mention more affordable...comparatively. Also, there are a bevy of events to choose from in the Series each one unique & very personal.

If you are a Memphis wine lover I highly recommend you attend one or all of these events. You will thank me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Piggy Ears

I love pork. Sometimes I think I have a unhealthy relationship with pork. Not even kidding. One of my favorite parts of the pig is the ear. One of my favorite preparations I've ever had of said ear is at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. Recently (well not almost two months ago but hey I've been busy with wedding stuff!) my husband Kelly & I ate at AMIK with our very good friend Allison. I ordered the pig ear salad & they sent out this:

What we have here is pig ear & Benton bacon hash topped with a runny fried egg. It was perfection. Crispy, yet creamy gelatinous ears with smoky bacon & a luscious egg.

But wait! There's more! The guys also sent us out this:

Pig ears with fig agrodolce. Sweet, sour, slightly spicy. Absolutely wonderful. If I can tempt just one person to steer away from the pedestrian cuts of pork & explore the others then I have done my job.


I apologize to all 3 of you who read this blog for my absence. I haven't given up just yet I've just been very very distracted. I got married!!! Therefore, the time I would normally have to sit down & write was taken up by planning & such. Plus the copious amounts of celebrating & what not. I promise to get back on this blog & post some really cool (at least I think they are cool) stuff as soon as I decompress from my honeymoon & second marriage in New York City. I'll explain, Kelly & I had a ceremony with family & close friends then a bad ass reception. However, since we live in Tennessee it's not as if its legal in anyway. Which isn't necessary to us seeing that we have been together for 10 years. We decided to take our honeymoon in NYC because we can eat & drink wonderful things but also because we can get married legally. Not as if it's going to change our status here in TN but it's political, no?

I'll be back soon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Project Green Fork's Loving Local Celebration

I love Project Green Fork & if you love food & eating out then you should too. Their Loving Local celebration will be super fun so go here & buy tickets now! They sold out last year so get on it!!

Good food
Local Beer
Organic Wine
Auction items

What more could you ask for?

This Sunday October 2nd go support an incredibly important organization!

Click here for tickets

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Argentina Wine Dinner At Napa Cafe

If you are a fan of Argentina's wines then you owe it yourself to book a seat for Napa Cafe's wine dinner this Thursday. Napa's food is outstanding & they always put on incredible dinners. Their special guest will be Martin Lazorenco, Export Director for Michel Torino wines. He oversees all aspects of the export business for Michel Torino and personally handles the USA,Uk, Ireland, and the Netherlands.

Michel Torino Wines are located in the Cafayate region of northwest Argentina. Their 1500 acres are located in a rugged high desert region at 5500-6500 feet.

Grilled provoleta, chimichurri, honey, sprouts, preserved lemon
DON DAVID Reserve, Torrontes, Cafayate Valley, 2008

"Tuna salad sandwich", Ahi tuna, Gravenstein apples, grapes, Delta pecans, toasted brioche
DON DAVID Reserve, Chardonnay, Cafayate Valley, 2009

Slow cooked lamb shoulder, spiced pumpkin puree,wilted spinach, hazelnuts
DON DAVID Reserve, Tannat, Cafayate Valley, 2007

Grilled beef tenderloin, crispy potatoes, roasted baby onions, red wine reduction
ALTIMUS, Malbec-Cabernet-Bonarda-Tannat, Cafayate Valley, 2007

Pistachio cake, homemade strawberry ice cream, Torrontes sabayon

Call now for a seat!

Napa Cafe
5101 Sanderlin Ave.
Thursday September 8, 2011
Reservations 901-683-0441
$65.00 per person

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Wave

I've been experimenting with cocktails again & here is a delicious wine I created. It's a play off the classic Negroni which employs gin, Campari & sweet vermouth. One of my favorite spirits to play with lately is Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur. It's bright fresh & somehow more exotic than most other orange liqueurs. Yes it is sweet but it's balanced by the blood orange's hint of bitterness & it can easily be a component in many drinks.


2 oz gin (preferably 209 or Corsair Artisan)

1 oz Solerno

1.5 oz Sweet Vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica or Dolin Rouge)

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

4 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters

It is refreshing, crisp, bright & has a back note of bitterness that is absolutely delicious.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dinner with David O'Reilly of Owen Roe

I am extremely proud to announce Joe's Wine's & Liquors next wine dinner. On Sunday September 11th our special guest will be David O'Reilly owner/winemaker of the highly sought after & critically acclaimed Owen Roe Winery. David & his team craft some of the most hauntingly sensual Oregon wines & gripping earthy, bold Washington wines. We will host David at a wine dinner at Sweetgrass on Sunday September 11th at 6:00 pm. Cost to attend is $65/person inclusive. Seating is limited so please contact Joe's as soon as possible to secure your seat. Please call the store at 901.725.4252 or stop by to reserve & pay for your reservations. Due to the limited amount of seating we are unable to "hold" seats for you. Payment must be made prior to the dinner. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the store by phone or by email

Friday, August 19, 2011

Drinks Trend

It would seem that trends can be interesting or irritating...sometimes all at once. What is the shelf life of a trend? Can a trend solidify something's place in history or is it merely passing fancy?

Case in point; the Pisco Sour.

It's difficult for me to call this a trend because I remember my grandmother making them & I know for a fact that they have been around for a long time before that even. However, the cocktail culture that is exploding across the nation seems to have dubbed this the next "it" drink.

I for one am pleased by this because one of the ingredients that really is the key to this drink is egg white. Anytime I can use something not typically associated with the bar in a drink then I'm happy. What the egg white does is emulsify the cocktail & give it a creamy mouth feel. No it doesn't taste like an egg so don't worry.

Here is my take on it. I like to tweak so feel free to take liberties.

Pisco Sour

3 oz Peruvian Pisco
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz thyme-lavender infused honey syrup
teaspoon orange blossom water or rosewater
Fee Brothers lemon bitters
Fee Brothers aromatic bitters
1/2 egg white

Combine pisco, lemon juice, syrup, water, egg white & 1 dash lemon bitters in a cocktail shaker WITH NO ICE. Shake vigorously to emulsify the egg white. Add ice, shake to chill & pour into a coupe glass. Dot the foam on top with 3 dashes of Fee Bros aromatic bitters.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Questions

On a regular basis I get asked

"How did you learn so much about wine?"

"When did you get into wine?"

"How do you stay in such good shape when you drink so much & eat so much good food"
Seriously I have been asked this question often enough. My answer is that I swim laps & lift weights on a regular basis.

The other questions aren't answered so quickly or easily. I was raised in a multi cultural household where chicken-n-dumplins, spaghetti & fried chicken lived alongside lengua (beef tongue) & saltenas (empanada style stuffed pastries). My mother & grandmother cooked Latin American & Spanish dishes for us, my grandmother spoke Spanish to us as much as she could. Along with the more exotic family food there was always wine. My parents drank wine & my grandmother would bring wine from South America & Spain whenever she would go visit family. Keep in mind this was in the late 70's & into the 80's when wines from those areas were not readily available much less even heard of. Every once & awhile my sister & I would be given watered down wine to drink alongside the family's full strength glasses. At the time, of course, I thought nothing of it. It was just the way I was raised so I didn't think it was different. Only after I started going to friend's houses did I see that in fact yes I was raised differently. Throughout college I started exploring wine somewhat at the local Southern Illinois wineries. Yes there are wineries in So. Ill. After college I felt like I was drifting. Took an internship & then position at a publishing company in San Francisco. Left SF & moved to Memphis. Worked in restaurants for years & then took a job at a non-profit. Left the non-profit & took a job with Coletta & Company (now Smart City Consulting). It was here where I had a huge realization--I was simply working--. I didn't give a damn about what I was doing. There was no passion & there never was throughout any of those previous jobs. I had no idea what the hell I was doing nor why I was doing it. I was in awe of my boss, Carol Coletta. She was this force of nature that seemed to subsist on biscuits with a little lemon curd & her workload. She was easily one of the most intelligent people I'd ever met. What really amazed me was her passion & dedication for every project that she touched.

I wanted that. I wanted to feel so strongly & passionately about what I did that it was simply second nature. I wanted to work hard yet not realize how hard I was working because I loved what I was doing. Most of all I wanted to believe in what I was doing as if I was meant to do it.

As scary as it was to do I mustered up the courage & quit my job. I was completely freaked out but I knew in my heart that it was exactly what I was supposed to do. While I was working at Coletta & Company I took a part time job at Great Wines & Spirits out in East Memphis. Dipping my toe in the water just made me want more. I studied my ass off & took the Introductory Sommelier Course offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Much to my surprise I scored the highest in my entire class! Achieving this really propelled me to take on the Certified Sommelier Exam so soon after the Intro. The Certified exam was the most difficult test I had ever taken, or at least it felt that way. After the three part exam we were released for a break before the results were announced. I remember calling Kelly & telling him "I'm sure I failed. There is no way I passed. I completely screwed that up." He talked me off the ledge & I returned to the hear the results. I passed! Oddly enough my criticism was flipped. What I felt I did well on was actually what I did poorly on & vice versa. It was an interesting moment to say the least.

Soon after that a friend of mine asked me to help out with a wine tasting that her employer was putting on. I said yes & I guess I really impressed them because the store owner, Brad Larson, offered me a job soon thereafter. Working at Joe's Wines & Liquors has been an incredible experience. I've grown so much, learned so much & experienced a great deal.

I'm living proof that you should be doing what you love. I can't imagine doing anything else.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why We Choose What We Choose

The point of a wine club & beer club is to showcase new, unique, interesting top quality products that any given member might not select for themselves. The point is not to shovel out the same boring bullshit that you can get just about anywhere. Yes, not everyone in said club is going to like every selection. That's not what we are trying to accomplish. We are trying to expand the palates & minds of those members. Recently, some of the beers that we put in the club at Joe's Wines & Liquors caused some very strong reactions. Some people absolutely HATED the Belgian Geuze Lambics (sour style, spontaneous fermented beers). One member actually poured them down the drain. Another member called me up at the store just to tell me that he was going to quit the club until he tried them. He enjoyed them so much that he decided to stay in the club.

These strong reactions happen often enough but they don't ever cause me to lose track of the focus of each club. I will continue to put wines in their hands that cause reactions. Kelly will continue to put beers in their hands that cause reactions. Yes I select wines because I think the majority of the membership will enjoy & appreciate it. But I don't really give a damn if some of them hate that bottle. What really makes me happy is when a wine makes them think. Of course, when one of my club members comes in & waxes poetic about how much they loved a particular bottle....yeah that feels good too.

Monday, August 08, 2011

5 Boring Guys

When 5 Guys Burgers came to Memphis you would have thought it was the second coming. I just didn't get all the hype over a chain when there were very good burgers in town made by talented chefs in locally owned restaurants (i.e. City East Grille, Majestic Grille, Cafe 1912, Three Angels, need I continue?). Since it was so far out east, & far removed from Midtown where I live & work, I quickly forgot about it. This past Sunday we found ourselves out east doing some shopping & what not. I was famished so we went by 5 Guys. We ordered & waited & waited & waited & waited. The space looks like a down market Steak & Shake with no table service that utilizes the dining room for storage. The burger was decent size but misleading. It's a double patty but basically the same amount of burger you'd get at the previously mentioned restaurants. It was fine but not close to those other places. The fries were extremely plentiful but greasy & flavorless.

This experience was an unfortunate lesson. It seems like most people in Memphis are so used to mediocre chain food that they actually get excited about it. Sad. Really sad considering that we have a wealth of LOCALLY OWNED restaurants that offer better quality at great value.

Break the Chain! Eat Local! It tastes better.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

THE Rose of the Summer

It's no secret I love Oregon. However, my bias towards this incredible wine growing state doesn't affect my ability to judge quality. If its good its good. With that being said I have fallen head over heels in love with a wine. It's my rose of the summer but I know I'll be drinking this way into December. Not only is it refreshing for the summer heat but it also could pair up with many fall dishes too. Especially the holiday spread at Thanksgiving. I present to you Lachini Rose of Pinot Noir 2010 Willamette Valley $20.99. It's refreshing, brimming with bright fruit & mouthwatering acidity with a lingering spice note & gorgeous texture on the finish. Buy it now (only available at Joe's Wines & Liquors). Drink it all summer (which in Memphis lasts until almost October) & drink it way into the fall. Thank me later.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dinner at Acre

Arguably the most anticipated restaurant opening of 2011 was Acre. Chef Wally Joe has a passionate following in Memphis as well as national recognition. Andrew Adams (who juggles chef duty at both Acre & the Brushmark at Brooks Museum) is incredibly talented as well. This culminates at Acre in plates of food that are beautiful without being precious. The space is jaw dropping. The design is elevated rusticity with an incredible attention to detail. It's truly a beautiful restaurant that was very well planned & well thought out. The wine list is a tight collection of lovely bottles, by the glass & (my favorite) by the quartino. There are few selections on this list that I wasn't pleased to see. It has quickly rocketed to the top of one of my most favorite lists in town. Why? Well first & foremost it's unique & not just a collection of ubiquitous labels. Second, it appeals to the wine obsessed as well as the casual drinker; meaning it's approachable & not scary yet still interesting. Most of all, when we ordered a bottle of Bergstrom Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 Willamette Valley it came out at the proper temperature; not "room temperature". I cannot tell you how many times I've had to bite off a small chunk of ice from my water glass & drop it in my red wine to cool it down. Newsflash--room temperature in the south in the summer hovers around 80 degrees. This does not make the red wine tasty.
Service is comfortable & attentive without being fussy or too silent.

The menu is outstanding. It's a compact collection of delicious plates of food that have been so obviously loved over. But still not even an ounce of pretension whatsoever. It's very very good food using top quality ingredients that are prepared with expert technique so of course there is no need for pretension. I appreciate that quite a bit because it kept me in a constant state of giddy anticipation for the next plate.

First round:

Tomato Tartar with chickpea panise & goat cheese.
Tiny Octopus salad with paprika cashews & avocado
Duck Pastrami with cherry mustard & pickled cippolinis


Halibut with favas, squash & a Lobster sancocho
Sea Scallops with artichokes, fennel, capers, roasted garlic potato puree & buerre rouge

Every bite of food was delicious, absolutely delicious.

We followed that collection up with an artisan cheese course with tasty little accompaniments; a unique twist on Tres Leches & a Chocolate & Peanut Cremieux that was luxurious & unctuous.

I will return soon & when I do I think I might dive into the suckling pig dinner with a group of 10. FYI- you have to order it a week in advance.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I'm still reeling from my June trip to Oregon. I promise to have more posts up about it very soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Project Green Fork Turns 3!

One of the most unique (& necessary) organizations is turning 3 years old & the party is not to be missed. Project Green Fork (founded here in the creative & delicious city of Memphis) works with restaurants to help them become less wasteful & less burdensome to the environment, among many other things. Details for the birthday celebration are below. Come sip some delicious cocktails & wish PGF a happy birthday!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Really, I'm not kidding

"I'm allergic to sulfur".

Really? Really? You have to be frigging kidding me. I've heard this garbage over & over again & it is exhausting to listen to.

"What organic wines do you have? I know they don't have sulfur in them because they're organic."


"I don't want anything imported," after she asked for an Alsatian wine of course "Everything imported has tons of sulfur in it because it has to be preserved."

Jesus lady who fed you this horseshit?

"Well maam we do have quite a few organic & biodynamic wines but their farming practices doesn't necessarily have anything to do with their ahem sulfur content. Also, imported wines (such as the Alsatian you just asked for) don't necessarily have more ahem sulfur content than domestic wines."

"Well, I'm allergic to sulfur so I have to be careful."


"Let me ask you this; how is your reaction?"

"I get sick to my stomach & I get a headache."

"Thats interesting because the 1% of the population who is actually allergic to sulfites has difficulty breathing when they ingest sulfites. Not headaches. Not nausea."

"When you wind up in a coma because of sulfites you tend to be more careful."

You have to be shitting me. Is this woman for real?

Whoever perpetuated the falsehood that getting a minor headache or a bit of hot flashes equals a sulfite allergy should be drawn & quartered. This weekend preferably.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Few Oregon Pics

My friend Darlene & the tasting lineup at Erath Vineyards.

Dinner time at the Stoller House.

I love wearing a jacket in June


About to get some delicious Argyle bubbly

Damn I want that bottle of Brut Rose

Rollin Soles' mustache is way cooler than yours

Come On

I really don't like it when a sales rep tries to sell me a wine by telling me "so & so store is flying through this. They bought, like, 6 or 7 cases of it." Come. On. Really? Are we that store? No. So don't compare us.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lachini, finally

I have been a huge fan of Lachini Vineyards ever since my good friend Elizabeth brought them into the Memphis market about 4 years ago. Ron Lachini's wines are elegant yet display such power & grace. I finally got my chance to visit this outstanding vineyard site on my Oregon excursion a few weeks ago. The day couldn't have been more perfect. The sun was shining, spotty clouds were keeping it from being too bright & the vines & Valley were splayed out before us. John Peacock greeted us with snacks & open bottles. Since it was our fourth stop of the day the group was a little restless but we soon were laughing, sipping wine & snacking on sushi. First up was the rose of pinot noir. Such a gorgeous faintly blushing hue but with a deep aroma of fruit, spice & minerals. The texture was lush but very thirst-quenching. It was easy to tell that this bottle would be a perfect foil for a rustic grilled meal. It's also La Tache clone which almost made my head explode when I found that out! Wow.

John poured us some Estate Pinot Noir as we wandered out into the vineyard & relaxed on the stone patio. Nearby is where the new tasting room will be built. That is without a doubt going to be a welcome addition to a neighborhood that also includes Bergstrom & Adelsheim. The pinots are hauntingly good with finishes that won't let up. Delicious. Ron Lachini himself led us through the estate vineyard to discuss farming practices & the trials & tribulations of growing pinot noir.

Lachini not only produces exceptional pinot noir from Oregon but he also crafts gripping reds from Washington State as well. Bold cab & cab blends that can age for 10 years or more. These wines would put any California Bordeaux style blend to shame. But who's comparing?

Thank you Ron & thank you John for an experience the group will never forget!

Now I'm thirsty for some pinot....

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Oregon- Day 2 Pt 2

From Owen Roe we headed over to Dundee to one of my absolute favorite producers; Argyle. This winery makes exceptional pinot noir, chardonnay & riesling. But what makes me really swoon is their sparkling wine. It's just....well....just....words don't really describe how much I love their bubbly. The Brut is yeasty, lush yet crisp, & palate caressing. The (I couldn't find current notes) is absolutely haunting. So elegant yet with an underlying, subtle power & grace. It's a bubbly that I want to save for special occasions yet its a wine that I want to drink every weekend. Now how to balance that....

That was a very big tank that wasn't full at the time but I would have loved to have swam around in it if it was filled with some Extended Tirage 2001

Speaking of which...

Argyle was an incredible stop & they really showed the group absolutely everything. From production to aging to dosage to tirage. We tasted old vintages of chardonnay, every bubbly (except my favorite the Rose) they make & even had a delicious lunch in their private room. Rollin Soles (founder & winemaker) came out & spoke with us about Memphis BBQ & really had a great time interacting with the group. I'll never stop drinking their wines.

Onward to Torii Mor where we had a 3:00 pm appointment with Todd Stewart, National Sales Manager.

Todd was a fellow Southerner & just moved from North Carolina to take the job with Torii Mor. His passion for the wines was blatantly obvious & infectious. It's hard not to be passionate about wines as good as that & located in such a gorgeous setting. Their pinot gris was austere, elegant & loaded with mouthwatering acidity with hints of floral notes & nuttiness. The pinots are elegant, gripping, earthy & obviously can be long-lived. We used the black label Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for wine club in June at Joe's. It was a magical experience for a few to taste one of their wine club wines at the very site it was made.

Now on to Lachini Vineyards

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 2 - Oregon

Sorry for the lapse in posts but the rest of our trip was jam packed & didn't allow me a moments rest to blog. So here we go...

Waking up to this wasn't half bad at all especially considering it's 100 billion degrees back home in Memphis.

Our house was located right outside the estate vineyards of Stoller. This picturesque setting is also the source for some world class wines from not only Stoller but also Chehalem & Argyle to name a few.

First stop: Owen Roe

Owen Roe Winery is well known for their bold, dark, & gripping wines sourced from premier vineyards in Washington State. Their winery is located in St Paul, Oregon in the eastern part of the Willamette Valley. Since they are not open to the public this was a rare treat for the Joe's Winos Club.

We were there just as their were bottling the new vintage of Ravenna Riesling in a mobile bottling line.

While most people might find something like this boring everyone on the trip was fascinated by it. Each person was inquisitive & curious about the necessary process to bring wine to market. Since OR uses mobile bottling it showcases how small they really are.

Now to the fun part...

Starting with a delicious pinot gris was a perfect mouth-watering beginning to the day. Fresh, clean, bright, & zippy yet with an undertone of rich pear & hazelnut.

Next it was on to one of my favorite things: barrel sampling. Samples were pulled of two different clones of pinot noir grown side by side in the same vineyard. The group got to experience first hand how unique each clone can be even when grown adjacent to each other. Its one thing to attempt to explain this to someone but its something else entirely to experience. I could see eyes lighting up with the "ok I get it!" face.

After tasting through a few more samples I asked if a barrel sample of the 2008 Red Willow Vineyard Chapel Block Syrah could be pulled. He said yes & ran off for a pitcher. Red Willow is such a desolate & starkly beautiful vineyard producing ruggedly delicious grapes.

We continued on through some other Washington wines of theres such as Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc which was deep, dark, haunting, gripping, lush & super aromatic. The Yakima Valley Red was plush, with subtle yet bold tannins (I know, seems like an oxymoron) & dark spice & fruit notes.

Next up, Argyle........

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 1-Oregon

I got a bit worried when we were in MSP on our layover. Flight delays make me nervous. However, this one was quick & painless & we were on our way to PDX. I never cease to be in awe of the rugged beauty of the scenery when flying into PDX.

As soon as we grabbed our bags & got the vans we were off for Willamette Valley.

First Stop: Erath Winery

Located in the much coveted Dundee Hills AVA this venerable winery has been a touchstone for Oregon wines.

Erath gave us a warm welcome & poured some absolutely stunning pinots for us. There is good reason why they have been around so long.

After Erath we headed to our three vineyard houses on the Stoller Vineyards property. Brad, Brandon & I got to work preparing a very PacNW spread of grilled salmon that I rubbed with dill, mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, s&p.

Bring on Day 2

Monday, June 06, 2011

Film & Music

Now I know this isn't food or wine related but this sounds like one of the most unique events. Everyone who can should go check this out.

Monday, May 30, 2011

AMIK & Cooper Mountain

Simplicity, creativity, modernity & tradition are how I would describe Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. While modernity & tradition may not seem to easily live side by side these chefs make it seem effortless. However, thats not to say that a lot of work goes into that beautiful plate set in front of me.

We started this most recent meal off with a glass of Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris 2008 Reserve Willamette Valley $16.99. This is a perfect example of what pinot gris can achieve in Oregon. Aromas of almond, pear, fruit blossom & minerals lead to medium bodied yet crisp refreshing palate.

Our first course was a bowl of spaghetti carbonara with fried sweetbreads. This warm hug of a dish was elevated with unctuous sweetbreads. The round texture yet bright nature of the Cooper Mountain Chardonnay 2009 Reserve Willamette Valley $18.99 matched up so delicously. This style of chardonnay is very old world with an emphasis on expressing location rather than oak or malo.

Second course was seared halibut with roasted pistachio puree & spring vegetables paired with Cooper Hill Pinot Noir 2009 Willamette Valley $18.99. The halibut was seared crisp but super tender & moist in the center. The pistachio puree brought out an earthiness in the pinot & they both just sang together in a delightfully savory way. The wines acidity cut through the richness of the puree & a supple fish.

Course three was Donnell Farms Hangar Steak over mustard green shoots paired with Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir Mountain Terroir 2008 Willamette Valley $35.99. I love love love hangar steak because of it's toothsomeness. It takes talent to coax this cut of meat into a tender beauty & A&M know how to do it. Pairing it with a spicy/bitter green shoot was a stroke of genius. The supple, luscious, earthy, elegant & sensual pinot noir was absolutely delightful. What Cooper Mountain is able to do with pinot noir is nothing short of beauty. When you match hauntingly sensual wine with exquisitely prepared food it's easy to have a lovely evening.

Friday, May 13, 2011

French Style California Wine with a French Style Memphis Menu

As I said in the previous post, I don't really drink much California wine anymore. Not because of poor quality at all but just because my passion lies elsewhere. However, Zaca Mesa is one of the few that get me going. It's so blatantly obvious that ZM looks to France for both inspiration & style. Their wines are beautifully balanced. Chef Ben at Napa Cafe looked to France as well when planning the menu to pair alongside the ZM wines.

The seared walu on the first course was perfectly prepared, super moist & worked so well with the rose & the melon. The sweetness of the melon & the tender fish brought out the fruit & texture of this super yummy pink wine.

Course two was a lovely surprise. I rarely eat chicken because of the multitude of poor preparations & because it seems so boring most times. This was not the case with this chicken. The skin was super crispy, like chicken "bacon", the meat was moist & very flavorful. The sauteed greens were earthy & had a sweet-savory element that was lovely. The viognier just sung alongside this dish. It had great weight but wasn't overly heavy, nice creamy texture but a bright acidity as well.

Two of my favorite things in the world are braised meat & bacon. Put them together & get the idea. Braised shortribs with bacon aioli?? Seriously? I want more of this right now, it was rich & succulent & a great partner with the Z Cuvee. The savory -salty-creamy-sweetness of the aioli & the rich meat brought out the texture & spice in the wine. Awesome.

The finale had the other two of my favorite things: syrah & lamb. Now Wellington doesn't necessarily evoke thoughts of France but the technique & presentation did. The meaty-earthiness of the syrah mirrored the earthy flavors & textures of the lamb & the mushroom & the fennel. Absolutely knockout.

I'm constantly surprised by Napa Cafe's food. It's definitely one of the top tables in town.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Zaca Mesa Dinner at Napa Cafe

There are still seats left for the awesome dinner this Wednesday night (May 11) at Napa Cafe. For the full menu please click here.

It's no secret that I rarely speak about California wines. My passion just lies elsewhere. But make no mistake, when they are good they are really good. Zaca Mesa is an example of a winery that puts a lot of attention on balance. These are gorgeous wines that showcase sustainably farmed vineyards. Rhone style wines that are simply delicious. When matched with the exquisite cuisine of Napa Cafe its sure to be a night to remember. Only $55/person gets a stunningly delicious menu & beautiful wine pairings. Call now for reservations 901.683.0441. Seriously! Call now!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Alise Merritt with Zaca Mesa Winery

I had the pleasure of recently interviewing Alise Merritt with Zaca Mesa Winery. She will be the guest of Napa Cafe at their wine dinner with Zaca Mesa on Wednesday May 11. For more information about this outstanding opportunity to taste some wonderful wines alongside expertly prepared food click here.

When people ask you "What's a roussanne or viognier?" how do you respond to them?

"I generally say they are an “alternative white” and do my best to pour a splash in a glass for them to taste! Viognier is becoming more widely known. Roussanne is a beautiful wine that so many of us in the trade enjoy sharing this jewel with our friends and favorite wine customers – which usually have not ever heard of Roussanne. I’ll test the waters to see how much interest is shown and allow that to dictate how detailed I get in my explanation. Some just want to taste and enjoy while others may want to know where the name Roussanne originated. Which, btw, when the Roussanne grapes ripen they turn to a russet color (reddish brown) and “roux” is French for russet!"

Syrah, unfortunately, seems to be one of those grape varieties that ebbs & flows with trends. Zaca Mesa thankfully seems to ignore what trends say & just continues producing beautiful syrah. What do you see out in the market in response to your syrahs?

"It’s no surprise that when I meet with someone within the trade that loves Syrah and is enthusiastic, they are able share their passion and create a huge following. On the other hand, if I meet with someone that says they love Syrah but are unable to move it (restaurant, retail shop, wine club, etc.) or they might say their particular market “isn’t a Syrah market,” they are usually right. Regretfully Syrah may be the last one invited to the party but is often times the belle of the ball!"

Rhone & Rhone style wines are some of my favorite. Have you seen the thirst for these types of wine increase, remain steady or decrease over the course of your time with Zaca Mesa?

"People within our profession (Restaurant Owner, Sommelier, Retail Consultant, Food and Beverage professional, etc.) love Rhone style wines and in particular Syrah. We are quite passionate and are always trying to convert and enlighten those that will listen and take the time to taste these beautiful wines! Since blends have been one of the popular trends, I’ve seen an openness, willingness and thirst for our wines."

Zaca Mesa has been blessed with some very good critical acclaim & scores. Is that a double edged sword?

"Scores, accolades and acclaim are a great deal like life and we roll with it. We’ve discovered that in general Wine Spectator leans toward our Syrah, Wine Enthusiast our Whites and Robert Parker (no surprise) our blends and it shows in the scores. So there’s usually some kind of solid acclaim out there for our wine. We hope that people will use these as a guideline and allow their taste buds to be the judge as to whether or not they enjoy our wine!"

What's your latest favorite pairing with which Zaca Mesa wines?

"Wasabi covered almonds and our Viognier!"

Join Alise Merritt of Zaca Mesa Winery at Napa Cafe on Wednesday May 11 at 6:30 p.m. for a fun night of great wine & delicious food. Cost to attend is $55 per person plus tax & gratuity. For reservations please call 901.683.0441.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Memphis Wine & Food Series

For more information please click here

Cocktail Time

The warm weather is upon us & what better way to toast to it then with some hand-crafted cocktails! Here are a few recipes that we've been enjoying lately. All liquors are in stock now.

Spring Green

1 oz Thatcher’s Cucumber Organic Artisan Liqueur ($19.99)

3 oz Corsair Artisan Gin ($28.99)

½ oz lime juice

2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters ($7.29)

Pour in an iced filled shaker, stir until chilled then pour into an iced highball glass, garnish with cucumber or lime peel or both

Red Agave

1 oz Thatcher’s Blood Orange Organic Artisan Liqueur ($19.99)

3 oz Milagro Reposado Tequila ($30.99)

1/2 oz of lemon juice

1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters ($7.99)

Pour in an iced filled shaker, shake until chilled, then pour into a chilled martini glass. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Euro Blanc

1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino ($28.99)

2 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth ($12.99)

1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

squeeze of lemon

Dry Sparkling Wine (Segura Viudas Brut $9.99 or Zardetto Private Cuvee Brut $15.99 or Montaudon Brut Champagne $35.99)

Add first four ingredients to ice filled shaker, shake until chilled, pour into champagne flute or wine glass, top with sparkling wine or champagne. Garnish with lemon twist.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wine Racists

I have wonderful customers, especially the wine club members. These people have no resistance to "going there" with me. Cotes du Rhone blanc? Sure! Washington State lemberger? Bring it! Corvina? Yes please!

I love that. Its what keeps me working so hard, helps fuel my passion, & quite frankly just thrills me.

But there is one thing that makes me cringe, makes me angry, & sends shockwaves of irritation throughout my body: Wine Racism

Wine Racism manifests itself in a few ways.

"I don't drink white wine. I only drink red."

"Uggh, I HATE riesling"

"Rose? eww isn't that, like, white zin or something?"

"I only drink white because all the sulfites in red wine give me a headache"

Look, first & foremost I truly believe you should drink what you like but don't use that as an excuse to not explore other wines.

Open your minds a little & if you trust your retailer then listen to them. Ask questions, be inquisitive, take a chance.

But for the love of god DON'T BE A WINE RACIST!!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Overheard At Easter Brunch

"good afternoon ma'am. Do you have a reservation?"

"No! But we are first on the wait list!"

"well ok ma'am. But do you have a reservation?"

"No! I said we are first on the WAITLIST!"

"well ok. I'll go get the hostess."

What in the hell is wrong with people? I truly believe that people should have to take a class on how to behave at a restaurant.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Andrew Will Winery Dinner at Napa Cafe

I wish Napa Cafe was closer to where I live because I would walk there on a weekly basis.

Chef Ben rocked out an absolutely delicious meal for a dinner with Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Winery. Chef is creative & engaged I definitely get the impression that he is always open & wanting to learn & experiment. Chris' wines are some of the most bold yet expressive & lingering wines I've ever tasted. Together the food & the wine sang a beautiful chorus. I had the pleasure of sitting with Chris & Robin Pollard, Executive Director of the Washington Wine Commission. We talked about everything from David Ramey to UC-Davis & Tuscan wine law. Those of you who missed it better start paying close attention to the events coming up in the next few months!

Course 1:Duo of Kumamoto Oysters. Honeysuckle & Mango, Coconut & Lime
paired with Cuvee Lucia Semillon Last In Line Vineyard 2009
Cuvee Lucia Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon Velvet Canyon 2009

These oysters were perfectly dressed with bright accompaniments. What the chef topped each one with was a playful take on mignonette. The oysters were never overshadowed, just enhanced. Both wines were brightly acidic with citrus notes, and an especially lanolin like quality in the blend. Absolutely one of the best starts to a meal I've ever had.

Course 2: Handmade Potato Gnocchi with a Tomato Portugaise Sauce
paired with Cuvee Lucia Sangiovese Ciel du Cheval Vineyard 2008.

The gnocchi were crisp on the outside & pillowy-creamy on the inside. The sauce played off the acidity & herbaceous qualities of the sangiovese quite nicely. I'm always shocked by how traditional Italian varietals come across from Washington. They shine with beauty.

Course 3: Duck Confit, Delta Grind Polenta, Wild Game Sauce
paired with Champoux Vineyard 2006

I love love love duck. Absolutely adore it. This confit was rich & unctuous which led into the rich, creamy polenta & the earthy suace. It was a little salty but not too overpowering. The red blend from Champoux Vineyard was a lesson in balance. Fruit was there, weight & texture were there, tannins were present & everything was tied together by the acidity.

Course 4: Tea rubbed Lamb Loin, Sunburst Squash, Candy Stripe Beets, Natural Jus
paired with Annie Camarda, May's Discovery Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Wow, this pairing was out of control. The tea & earthiness really matched up well with the grip & tannin of the cab. The acidity cut through the lamb so perfectly. A new flavor was created in my mouth. Excellent.

Course 5: Harris Ranch Beef Tenderloin, Wild Mushrooms, Red Wine Sauce
paired with Ciel du Cheval Vineyard 2005 & 2006

I don't like tenderloin. It's too soft, no texture, almost flaccid. However, this came out with some nice toothsomeness to it. It was cooked to a perfect medium & was livened up with the earthy mushrooms & bold red wine sauce. The wines were.....perfection. I can't really describe them because I "felt" them more than "tasted" them. They were the kind of wines that made me close my eyes & lose grip on my surroundings for just a moment.

Napa Cafe knows how to do it. Their food is delicious, their wine list is super cool & unique & the service is comfortable yet professional. If you haven't been in awhile you need to go back immediately. If you've never been....well what the hell is wrong with you??!

One last thing. Even though the event was great I was disappointed in the attendance. The smaller crowd made it intimate which is always nice but I wish more people would have gotten on board with this. We as a city need to support our independent restaurants because they are the ones doing the unique events such as this. They are the ones taking risks & keeping true to their passion. They are the ones hosting world class wine makers from around the country & around the world. Yet for some odd reason, they don't get the press. There was a very short & completely bland one or two sentences in the newspaper about the dinner. Nothing talking about how Chris Camarda makes less than 5000 cases a year & produces some of the most sought after wines in the market. Nothing about how down to earth, driven & intelligent he is. Certainly nothing about how Napa Cafe was pulling out all the stops for this event. Yes they used twitter, facebook & email. But if we are truly going to elevate our city to the world culinary stage we as a food loving community need to stop talking about chain restaurants & how expensive a bag of chips are & start talking about what our very own food & wine loving independent restaurants are doing.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Winery

I had the pleasure of doing a little email interview with Chris Camarda, the brilliant winemaker/owner of Andrew Will Winery. Join us at Napa Cafe on Monday April 11 for a wine dinner with Chris & his amazing wines. More information here.

What is it like being thought of as one of the best wineries in America? What drawbacks are there if any?

"Notoriety is good for sales especially when you are from Washington. I would prefer that people are talking about Washington and not me. No drawbacks"

What is one of the most recent food pairings you had with one of your wines that just blew your mind?

"At my home we had 2007 sorella with a prime rib purchased form Bryan Flannery."

In Memphis we industry professionals don't seem to get as much as hesitation from consumers regarding Washington wines as we did even 5 years ago. Are you seeing that industry wide in other markets as well?

"The place. Washington State.We are starting to get into people’s minds. They are starting to realize that we can produce very fine and even great wines. The challenge is to create a psychology that competes with Bordeaux’s. We already know that we are over all a superior place to grow fruit. Getting others to even contemplate the possibility is a great hurdle. Of the 2500 to 3000 Chateau in Bordeaux only a few hundred are producing wines worth looking for. In Washington we thousands and thousands of acres that can produce wines which can compete with the 250 top Bordeaux ch if the winemakers are up to it."

Monday, April 04, 2011

palaTABLE 4.3.11

Can you still call something underground if it is mentioned in print? No matter how we refer to this supper club-underground restaurant-chef showcase it continues to increase in quality, uniqueness, nerve, creativity & attitude. Joe Morris who is kitchen workhorse at Tsunami & lords over the bar on Sundays at Cafe 1912 was the chef for what he dubbed last night "palaTABLE". I saw a menu in progress but that by no means prepared me for what I was to experience. This man took me on a culinary journey the likes of which I will remember for a very long time.

1: pea, lavender

What a way to start! Beautiful but most importantly-delicious. So creative yet not overpowered with manipulation.

2: spinach, black tea, olive oil, milk

The spinach was meaty & creamy with a bright freshness.

Course 1&2 were paired with Ken Forrester "Petit" Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa

4: beet, young garlic, arugula

I love beets, I love beets, I love beets. As far as garlic is concerned, the younger the better!

5: mushroom, milk, soil

I want a tall glass of this every afternoon as a pick-me-up. It was invigorating & so purely tasted of mushroom.

Course 4&5 were paired with Siduri Pinot Noir 2009

6: duck eggs, mustard green, smoke, whey

This was like duck egg creme brulee or egg re-imagined as it's own custard.

7: cheese, honey, pecan, apple

The cheese with the apple & the pecan butter "powder". Seriously? My my my. So rich & delicious & showcased Joe's talent at molecular gastronomy. He did it right in that he employed techniques but didn't allow the dinner to become ABOUT the techniques. The way in which he presented everything was to amplify the freshness of what he had available to him locally.

Course 6&7 were paired with Alto Almonzora "Este" 2008

Course 8 was rosewater with blueberry & white pepper paired with my cocktail of Creme de Violette, Eva's Limoncello, & Segura Viudas Brut Reserva. Gorgeous.

What a stupendous meal. I want to eat Joe's food on a regular basis.