Food+Wine Archives

Posted 6/8/2012
BBQ Chicken & Wine

roastchicken

It’s finally June! That long awaited month that finally signals the start of summer, warmer weather, sun drenched days, and outdoor parties. Possibly poolside if you happen to be so lucky. Food wise, this means one thing: Barbeque. I’m not going to get into the barbeque competitions that seem to be so frequent in the more southern states, but instead focus on one of the most prevalent fowl on a menu in American: chicken. There really is nothing more delicious than a heaping plate of charcoaled bird after a long day in the sun. Thankfully, I’ve come up with a few options for pairing wines depending on what marinade or sauce you end up leaning towards. And for you vegetarians out there just use the marinades for mushrooms, haloumi cheese, or tofu. Cheers!

Huli Huli Chicken
My father spent quite a few years living in Honolulu, and ended up leaving the islands with a deep nostalgic connection to this recipe. So naturally, this is done at my house every summer. The recipe for the correct Huli Huli sauce is dangerously disputed, but if you ask a true Hawaiian something like this might be the ending recipe ingredients (I’ll leave it up to your own discernment as to how much of each is added): soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, pineapple juice, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, Worstershire sauce, hot sauce. Marinate for an hour or more, then grill and serve. Now, what to pair this delightful dish with… In order to compliment the sweet, spicy flavors of the chicken, try a Gruener Veltliner. These wines have lots of complex spices & peppery notes that are perfect with sweet/savory sauces (like Huli Huli). Try: Glatzer 2010 Gruener Veltliner from Austria; a perfect example of this kind of wine. ($16.99).

Basic Barbequed Chicken
Now on to the classic: basic barbequed chicken. As with Huli Huli, everyone has their own secret recipe for perfect grilled chicken. I think the best recipes include saltiness, some sweetness, garlic, and fresh herbs. This is of course not including the barbeque sauce (I’ll get to that momentarily). With this kind of chicken, a lighter, smoky flavored red wine such as a Zinfandel is absolute perfection. Try: Klinker Brick Winery 2009 Zinfandel ($21.99 at Portalis)

Traditional Barbeque Sauce
Finally we move on to grilled chicken with barbecue sauce: a favorite American dish, bursting with all sorts of flavors, and given multiple recipe variations. Of course, there is no ‘correct’ barbeque sauce for chicken. But we can help you pair any delectable finger-lickin’ sauce with the right wine. Since this dish is such a classic, an Old-World classic Southern Rhône blend of Grenache & Syrah would be the perfect pairing. Look for wines with intense notes of blackberry and other jammy fruit flavors. One great option we sell here at Portalis is: Le Gravillas 2009 Plan De Dieu ($17.99 or $16.99 for Insiders).

Cheers & happy grilling!

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Posted 5/7/2012
Asparagus

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Asparagus is a wonderful vegetable that is prolific throughout the Pacific Northwest region. This means that for us lucky eaters, we can munch our way through tons and tons of the slender green stalks until mid-summer. However, it is quite a difficult vegetable to pair with wine. There is no “go to” asparagus friendly blend roaming the vineyards waiting to be poured next to a plate of this freshly picked verdure. There are solutions to this problem however, and they can be found throughout the world.

Firstly, asparagus is such a delicately flavored crop that it needs to have complementary flavors in the wine paired with it. Something too fruity or too oaky would quickly overpower it. A very dry, crisp, mineral-y white is a perfect accompaniment, especially if the wine has a lot of acidic grapefruit and/or grassy flavors going on. This means looking to the old world for whites.

First off- Entre-Deux-Mers; one of the regions just slightly outside of Bordeaux and literally ‘between-two-seas’ (the Dordogne and Garonne rivers to be more precise…). The grapes that are generally planted here are Sauvignon, Sémillon, and the more difficultly cultivated Muscadelle. Expect to get a refreshing & dry white with a blend from this area. Perfect for asparagus spears.

Next up: Sancerre. Produced using Sauvignon Blanc grapes, this AOC region in the Loire Valley of France is known for its delicate, aromatic, dry whites. Sitting opposite another well-known wine region (Pouilly-Fumé) these delicious wines have been known for being food-friendly since the early 1970s. Un-oaked whites are perfect for asparagus as they don’t bring added heavier flavors to the lightness of the vegetable.

Another option would be to pair asparagus with Pouilly-Loché, from the Burgundy region of France. Known for producing elegant and dry whites, Chardonnay grapes are the only allowable varietal in this region. Wines from this region are described using such words as ‘gingerbread’ ‘grapefruit’ and ‘roasted hazelnuts’, much richer in flavor than other asparagus paring choices, but still light enough not to overpower the flavors. This particular wine would be best paired with asparagus in a hollandaise or cream sauce. A richer dish, but one that still preserves the flavors of those earthy green spears!

Cheers!
Kyle

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Posted 4/13/2012
Bacon and Tempranillo

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I hold a very special place in my heart for cured meats. In particular, porcine cured meats. I mean, who honestly doesn’t like bacon? I’ve heard vegetarians say that the hardest part of giving up meat is that wonderful crispy, fatty, meaty, salty combination that only bacon is capable of creating on your palate. Now, the question is: what wine to pair with this culinary delight? Bacon doesn’t necessarily emit the air of refined taste, yet everyone enjoys it. There must be some common denominator beverage that eliminates boundaries of epicurean snobbery and brings experimental foodies together with the most basic 5-minute rice chefs. The answer lies in Spain.

It wasn’t until I began researching this article that it suddenly became maddeningly clear: bacon is just like Parma ham. Well to those who are die-hard Americana bacon patriots, no it is not the same. But if you compare the aging, the animal it comes from, and the final result: very respectable comparison. Spain even went the extra mile and created a chain ‘Museo del Jamon’ or “Museum of Ham” to better promote their well-loved pork product. They love their ham as much as we love our bacon.

And what grape do the Spaniards absolutely love? Tempranillo. Not only does it pair well with Parma ham, it also goes well with just about anything. Personally, it is one of my go to wines when I can’t think of anything to pair with my dinner because the flavors mesh well with day-to-day meals.

So here are my top suggestions for wine pairings with bacon (Note: probably not the best weekday breakfast idea…)

Bodegas Casto Pequeno 2006 Cotoval

Celler De Capcanes 2008 Mas Donis Montsant

Bodegas Ontanon 2008 Rioja Crianza

Lan Rioja 2003 Rioja Gran Reserva

Bodegas Rauda 2010 Ribera del Duero Tinto Joven

Cheers!
Kyle

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Posted 3/19/2012
Bistecca Fiorentina

Ever since I was a little girl, my favorite food has been steak. Rare steak. I hate to ostracize all you vegetarian blog readers out there, but a beautifully seared steak brings tears of joy to my eyes. This also makes me consider myself as a kind of steak connoisseur. Which is why I have decided to post about one of my most memorable steak meals: BISTECCA FIORENTINA.

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Bistecca Fiorentina is a giant cut of wonderful Tuscan beef. My introduction to this magnificent meal was outside of Tuscany, in Viareggio. A giant platter was brought to the table, weighing in at about five pounds. At first, I was appalled that cheese had been added atop my steak without my permission (I am a steak purist you see). However, not one to give up steak, I dug in. The bistecca was sprinkled with delicious Tuscan olive oil, on a bed of spicy Arugula, topped with generous chunks of parmigiano reggiano cheese. The intermingling tastes of all these traditional Tuscan ingredients were overwhelming. Each complemented each other, the sweet olive oil with the salty cheese, and the nutty/spicy leaves accentuated the fatty tender beef.

The only accompaniment necessary to complete this meal was of course, Chianti. Any wine made from Sangiovese would of course been acceptable since that grape produces superb wines that pair wonderfully with beef (ex. Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Super Tuscans…) Not only does Tuscany specialize in this variety of grape, but Sangiovese tends to be slightly salty & brightly acidic. This complements the rich, fatty, buttery meat of beefsteak.

Although there are probably no Tuscan cows roaming the Pacific Northwest region, there are still plenty of amazing cuts of meat available here at home. PLUS, we here at Portalis have an amazing array of Tuscan wines for you to take home and try yourself. Here are a few we carry:

Nottola 2009 Tre Pezzi

Fattoria di Felsina 2007 Chianti Classico

Nottola 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Tenuta Vitanza 2006 Brunello di Montalcino

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Posted 3/5/2012
Celebrating Razor Clams

It’s March! And that means the opening of Razor Clam season here in Washington State. A meaty, sweet, buttery crustacean this wonderful native of our area is very versatile in cooking. It can be prepared a variety of different ways, and because of this can also be paired with many different types of wines!

I am most familiar with being served this delightful sea creature lightly pan-fried. It’s a wonderful classic way to show off the flavors of this shellfish. For this particular preparation, I would drink a nice dry white wine to cut through the grease of the dish. A Sancerre would be a perfect accompaniment (try Roche de Lune 2009 Sancerre).

Another way to prepare razor clams is with a basic tomato, white wine, & garlic sauce, served with pasta and topped with shavings of Parmesan cheese. Basic, delicious, and brings a hint of Italian home cooking to a traditional Northwest delicacy. Try using a drier white wine in this recipe (or use this to pair with the dish after cooking) like Saviah 2010 Star Meadows Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc blend.

Now a recipe for razor clams on the lighter side: grilled razor clams with citrus vinaigrette. Lemon & garlic especially compliment the flavor of razor clams.  Try this dish paired alongside a Spanish white like the Bodegas Casto Pequeno 2010 Chamelin Rueda.

One last way to cook razor clams is to try preparing a dish using asian-cuisine inspired ingredients. One complimentary flavor is Thai chilies and coconut milk. Try making a kind of stir-fry using these ingredients and a bit of Thai basil or lemongrass. Try pairing this with something like a von Hoevel 2007 Oberemmeler Huette Riesling Spaetlese.

Cheers!
Kyle

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Posted 2/10/2012

Sticky Toffee Pudding is Back!


It’s not often that Chef Tracey gives her recipes away, but this one appeared in our Holiday Book of Recipes in 2010 and so I didn’t think I’d be giving away the farm if I posted it one more time:

CHEF TRACEY’S STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING
Pudding: 2 cups diced dates, 2¼ cups water, 1½ tsp baking soda, 2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp salt, 6 Tbs unsalted butter (softened), 1 cup granulated sugar, 3 large eggs
Sauce:  ¾ cup plus 2 Tbs unsalted butter, 1½ cups dark brown sugar, 1 cup heavy cream, ½ tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour an 8 inch square baking pan (2 inches deep), knocking out excess flour. In a 2 quart saucepan, simmer dates in water (uncovered) for 5 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and stir in baking soda. (Mixture will foam.) Let mixture stand at room temp for 20 minutes. In a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, ginger & salt. In a stand mixer beat together butter & sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, beating after each addition until just combined. Add date mixture with a spatula and stir batter until combined. Pour batter into baking pan. Set pan into a larger baking pan and add enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the smaller pan. (This water bath insulates the cake so that it doesn’t heat up too quickly, causing the center to rise & crack.) Bake in middle of the oven until tester comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove pan from water bath & set on a rack to cool. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a 2 quart saucepan over moderate heat. Add the brown sugar and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream & vanilla. Simmer sauce until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.  Then serve warm pudding with warm sauce over it. I like to garnish with brandy whipped cream or the ice cream of your choice.

If you decide that’s just too darn much work, head on in to Portalis, warm up, & enjoy the Sticky Toffe Pudding paired with Smith Woodhouse 1994 Colheita Tawny Port.

Cheers!
Julie

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Posted January 9, 2012

Chef Tracey is a Celebrated Chef!

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Celebrated Chefs is an exclusive cookbook and dining program that unites the area’s best restaurants in support of non-profit organizations. The cookbook features our Chef Tracy Stoner Crannell with her very own Quail with Sweet Potato Bacon Hash & Shaved Brussels Sprouts recipe (pictures above as well as in the Celebrated Chefs cookbook).

Celebrated Chefs is an exciting program designed to raise money for non-profit organizations all year long. Through this innovative program you can lend valuable support to important causes by dining at participating restaurants. HOW IT WORKS: Once enrolled, Celebrated Chefs restaurants donate 5% of your dining bill to your designated cause. No special cards or identification is required. You simply pay your bill with the AMEX, VISA or MasterCard you enroll as part of your membership and the 5% donation from the restaurant is automatic! There is no cost to participate.

Chef Tracey is in very good company. Check out the other local chefs who have been honored by this organization as well as the details on how to participate and donate money to your favorite cause while dining out!

Cheers!
Julie

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Posted October 16, 2011
The Magic of Chorizo

chorizo

I am a huge fan of chorizo, using it regularly in my cooking.  There are 2 kinds of chorizo: Spanish chorizo which is an air-cured pork sausage similar to salami. Spanish chorizo always has elements of paprika making it either sweet or spicy.  The other type of chorizo is Mexican chorizo which tends to be much spicier/hotter and it’s a raw pork sausage with the consistency of ground beef that must be cooked prior to eating.  I love using Mexican chorizo at home when I’m making homemade tamales and corn empanadas.  At the wine bar, though, I use Spanish chorizo exclusively and usually sweet as opposed to piquant.  It’s flavorful and adds a nice richness, especially to foods that can be one-dimentional with wine (such as seafood), transforming them into more complex, multi-dimensional dishes where different types of wine can be appropriate and equally delightful.  The process I use when adding chorizo to a dish is to render out the fat from the sausage by cooking it on low heat in a sauté pan with olive oil or butter, which creates a nice, flavorful, pretty orange-red sauce, which I then add to potatoes, eggs, white beans, mussels, shrimp, clams, white fish and as a topping on tarts.

Currently I am serving TROUT with chorizo potato hash.  We have this paired with the Château Barbanau 2010 Côtes du Provence Rosé, but it would be equally lovely with the Zuaso Gaston 2008 Rioja Crianza or the Pelassa 2009 Langhe Nebbiolo, both mediuem-bodied Old World reds.  Trout is normally a white wine fish; thus, the chorizo opens it up to rosé and red … but if you’re in the mood for white, by all means!  White would be delicious, too.  Try: Cave des Grands Cru Blancs 2009 Pouilly-Loché, a white Burgundy that is a classic food wine.

Happy cooking!
Chef Tracey
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Posted September 18, 2011
Wine Pairings for Scallops

scallop

This scallop preparation was actually inspired by the seasonality of the fava beans and Chef Tracey’s idea that fava bean purée would look so pretty, green & delicious topped with sweet, rich, scallops.  To that combination, she added microgreens (a peppery, bitter edge) and preserved lemon vinaigrette which is a nice tart accent to the richness of the scallops.

We have this dish paired with the Cave des Grands Cru Blancs 2009 Pouilly-Loché, a beautiful, soft, Burgundian Chardonnay which beautifully handles the varied elements of the dish. Pan-seared scallops are easy and delicious to make at home, but I’m guessing it will be a simpler preparation that what Chef Tracey has on offer her, maybe just the scallops with a nice side salad or on a bed of rice or pasta with a little butter, garlic, wine wine & parsley.  Here are several delicious pairing suggestions for this type of evening fare:

Try Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley: Château du Hallay 2009 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine or Chateau de Bigotière 2009 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine are both excellent for scallops, oysters and light fish.  Another delicious option is Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley.  It traditionally has nice fruit, balanced by a characteristic minerality.  Try: Domaine de La Croix Bouquie 2009 Touraine or take it up a notch and try: Roche de Lune 2009 Sancerre.  Another delicious option, especially if your preparation is in any way spicy, would be Riesling.  Try: Domaine Moltès 2009 Riesling Réserve from Alsace or Moenchhof 2007 Uerziger Wuerzgarten Riesling Kabinett from Germany.

This dish has about 1 more week on the menu, so don’t miss it!

Cheers,
Julie

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Posted September 4, 2011
Duck & Faugères

duck

Last year around this time Chef Tracey put duck on the menu for the very same reason as this year:  the cherries.  The sweet, richness of the fruit
with its little tart edge balances the richness of the game.  This year she chose to add arugula into the duck/cherry mix as the bitter of
the arugula, the sweet of cherry, the tart of the pickled onion and the crunch of the cornbread crouton provide enhancing flavors and textures to the duck.  Every component of the salad has an important role in balancing the dish. Chef Tracey is beaming about this dish and we’re beaming about the wine pairing.  Domaine Les Fusionels 2008 Faugères is a J. Strecker direct import and it’s perfect for this dish.  Faugères is an AOC in Languedoc-Roussillon on the southwestern side of the French Mediterranean.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache & 40% Syrah, with a nose of cherries & strawberries followed by aromas of coffee, cocoa & a violet floral note.  The wine has beautiful body and length and pairs perfectly with this cherry duck preparation.  Hope you can stop by and partake …it’s delicious!

Cheers,
Julie

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Posted August 10, 2011
Pairings for the Great Northwest Delicacy

salmon

Salmon from this part of the world is one of our great local treats, and as you know, the different preparations greatly change the flavors, texture and overall experience of eating salmon.  With that change, goes a change in wine as well:

Grilled salmon is probably the classic home preparation, as you can experience the rich, oily, fishy flavor with a nice crunchy crust.  The classic pairing for grilled salmon is Pinot Noir, a lighter red with fewer tannins which doesn’t overpower the fish and its cherry, earthy flavors pair beautifully.  New World Pinot Noir with its fuller flavors of baked cherry pie and campfire smoke are especially nice.  Try: Siltstone 2007 Pinot Noir Guadalupe Vineyard (OR) $30.99 | INSIDER $28.99 or Jules Taylor 2009 Pinot Noir (NZ) $22.99.

Poached salmon is less common, but it shouldn’t be.  It’s easy and the result is a tender, milder, refreshing dish requiring a white wine pairing.  We recommend French Chardonnay for this as it’s a rounder wine, intended for food pairing, but it’s crisp and refreshing, not at all heavily oaked.  Try: Domaine Laroche 2007 Chablis $25.99 | INSIDER $23.99.

Smoked salmon is another common way to enjoy salmon.  For ease, many people purchase the salmon smoked but there’s not reason you couldn’t make it at home.  Smoked salmon is the richest, oiliest preparation of all.  It’s usually served in small quantities on appetizers or as a little treat. Pair with sparkling wine as the acidity cuts the fat and balances the palette.  If you are celebration, try: Aubry NV Champagne Premier Cru $45.99, or take a down a notch and go with a Cremant from Burgundy: Cave de Bissy NV Cremant de Bourgogne $21.99 | INSIDER $19.99. Or you can go the
opposite direction and pair with a buttery Chardonnay, in this case pairing like flavors.  Try: Frank Family Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay $35.99 or Shannon Ridge 2009 Chardonnay $25.99 | INSIDER $15.99.

Sashimi! There aren’t that many parts of the world where you could go to the market and get yourself sushi-grade salmon for dinner at home.  It’s easy, it’s light, and it’s a great summer preparation.  Pairing is a little tricky because of the soy & wasabi. Bubbly is probably the best pairing, try: Casteller NV Cava $13.99.  You can also do with a Riesling Kabinett (not too dry) or a Gruenerveltliner (light and dry, but not too dry).  Try: Moenchhof 2007 Uerziger Wuerzgarten Riesling Kabinett $27.99 | INSIDER $22.99 or Forstreiter 2009 Gruener Veltliner Kremser Kogl $15.99.

Here’s to the good life in the Northwest!

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Posted June 17, 2011
Delicious Desserts!

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When I was a little girl one of my favorite things in the summer time was to walk up to the local Rexall where they made fountain drinks to order with the coca-cola & vanilla or cherry syrup along with the best vanilla malts ever.  Can you tell what my favorite was??  Last year I did a homemade ice cream sandwich, and I had that in the back of my mind when I spotted the beautiful strawberries in the market and before long I had my inspiration.  Strawberries and malted vanilla ice cream – a match made in heaven. And I like chocolate with my strawberries, thus the chocolate cookie. This dessert is equally as delicious as the Peach Upside-Down Cake, but it’s not as flexible with the wine pairings.  For this one, you need to go with the Two Hands 2009 Brilliant Disguise Moscato  ~ $8.50. It’s light & fruity and goes beautifully with our little Americana dessert.

Already developing a following (one regular came in for it 3 times this last week!) we don’t have much to say our Peach Upside-Down Cake with homemade Amaretto Ice Cream except YUM! There’s a fleck of cardamom in the cake that winks at the amaretto in the ice cream and then the ooey-gooey cake.  Really, it’s delicious.  Perfect dish for an array of dessert wines, too.  For something a little lighter, try: Domaine des Bernardins 2009 Muscat de Baumes de Venise / Southern Rhône, France ~ $9 or the Two Hands 2009 Brilliant Disguise Moscato / Barossa Valley, Australia ~ $8.50.  Go exploring with a glass of the Badia di Morrona 2005 Vin Santo / Tuscany, Italy ~ $10.  Several liquors would go beautifully as well, try: Leriche Armagnac / Lannepax, France ~ $7 or the Boulard Grand Solage / Calvados, France ~ $8.

I decided to put a lemon tart on the menu when meyer lemons hit the scene a month or so ago. I love meyer lemons because they are a little bit sweeter than regular lemons (almost to the point of being a little tangerine-y) and they are much juicier than regular lemons, producing almost twice as much juice. When I saw them in the store, it dawned on me that I had never made a classic lemon tart at Portalis and so there it was … my next dessert: Meyer Lemon Tart with Moscato.  For this tart I chose to use a shortbread crust as opposed to a pie dough crust because I wanted to offset the nice creamy texture of the lemon curd, and shortbread is much crunchier than pie crust.  I chose to top it with whip cream (instead of meringue) as a personal preference because I love the richness of the cream with the tartness of the lemon curd and then the crunch off the cookie gives you multiple layers of textures and flavors that balance beautifully!  For the wine?  Jens wasn’t too happy with me on this one as the acid in lemons makes wine pairing tricky, but the answer is Moscato.  Try it with the Il Conte D’Alba NV Moscato D’Asti (Piedmont) ~ $8 or the Two Hands Moscato (Barossa Valley).

Cheers,
Tracey

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Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011
Halibut Cheeks, a delicacy

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I made the decision to put halibut cheeks on the menu as halibut is in season and this little delicacy is such a sweet & tender treat that I couldn’t pass it up. Halibut cheeks are more expensive than our normal entrée, but it’s worth the splurge.  Halibut cheeks literally are the cheeks of the fish, so the quantity is limited and that’s why they are a premium.  But they are such a delight – more like scallops in texture and flavor than halibut filet. The sweetness of the cheek goes really well with the sweetness of the sweet pea (which is also in season).  The dish is topped with meyer lemon vinaigrette, which balances the dish, giving it a tangy, citrus note.

Wine pairing?  We have it paired with the Cave des Grand Cru Blanc, our new direct import from Burgundy.  It’s a beautiful, round food wine (100% Chardonnay) with notes of pineapple, apricot & spice.  Delicious!

Cheers!
Chef Tracey

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Posted May 22, 2011
Pairings for our House Pâté

pate

What makes Chef Tracey’s pâté so delicious?!  Without giving her culinary technique away, there are three elements which make this pâté addictive: black truffle paste, marsala wine, and – yes – butter, adding earthy, sweet & rich components respectively.  Food pairings for this pâté range from Tracey’s homemade cherry mostarda (a candied fruit concoction but with a tart edge from the vinegar & mustard seed) which is a classic Italian accompaniment to cheese, but works well with the pâté as the sweet & tart components of the mostarda pair well with the earthiness of the truffle in the pâté.  Cornichons or other pickled vegetables also pair well as the acid in the vinegar cuts the richness of the pâté.  Wine pairings can also be as varied.  Smoother medium-bodied wines such as the blends from Southern Rhône are classic pairings as the red fruits and earthiness of the wines marry well with the pâté (try: Domaine Brusset 2009 Les Boudalles Côtes du Ventoux).  For something a little more juxtaposed, try an off dry white (such as: Schoenheitz 2007 Pinot Blanc Val St. Gregoire) or even a dessert wine (such as: Domaine Des Bernardins 2009 Muscat De Beaumes De Venise), the classic salty/sweet combo that American (and this case Europeans!) love.  As well, you could pair a nice, dry Cabernet Sauvignon as the tannins in the Cab cut through the fat in the pâté (try: Owen Roe 2008 Sharecropper’s Cabernet Sauvignon).

You can enjoy our house pâté each week during Happy Hour (and Thursday all night) as a regular item on our $5 menu.  As well, it is a standard component on the charcuterie plate which is always available on the bar menu.

Enjoy & cheers!
Julie

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Posted April 25, 2011
An early sign of spring: Fava Beans

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Spring has been late coming this year, so I’ve been walking through the market looking for ANY sign of spring produce-wise, and today I finally saw something that gave me hope: fave beans and couldn’t resists the purchase in anticipation of spring.  Fava beans are a little bit of work because you have to pull them out of the pod, then blanche and peel them – a 3-step process – but well worth it because of their buttery texture offset by a slight bitterness and a lovely, nutty finish.  Fava beans are originally from North Africa, but you find them in across Mediterranean cuisines.  There are many preparations: a very simple salad of fava beans with lemon, olive oil & pecorino cheese. They can also be cooked and pureed into a nice creamy texture which is a great accompaniment to fish.  They can also be added to risotto to accompany meats such as lamb.  I am going to serve them with fregola (Sardinian pasta rolled into little balls) instead of risotto with an onion soubise as a side dish to lamb rib chops topped with a lemon mint gremolata, again a Mediterranean flair.  This makes a nice introduction to an early spring menu.  Try this paired with:  Château La Mascaronne 2004 Côtes De Provence ~$8 per glass.

Cheers!
Chef Tracey

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Posted April 5, 2011
What’s different about Roman Gnocchi?

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You could be a pretty well-traveled, sophisticated foodie and still be surprised when your Roman gnocchi showed up at the table and was not reminiscent of a potato dumpling, so here’s  little refresher on gnocchi.  The most common gnocchi is made from mashed potatoes, egg yolk, flour & salt, and is rolled out & cut into bite-sized pieces, boiled and served with melted butter & parmesan. (You know that one.)  But my trusty Menu Mystique (Krohn, 1983) also tells me that gnocchi can also be made from semolina or from white cornmeal. Clearly Chef Tracey knew that, as she is dishing up Gnocchi alla Romana which is “said to originate in Rome. The gnocchi are made from coarsely ground durum wheat, which the Italians call semolina.  White cornmeal or farina can be substituted. To prepare the gnocchi, milk is brought to the boil and, after adding a dollop of butter and a pinch of salt, the semolina is slowly poured into the milk, which is stirred constantly until all has been absorbed. The batter is poured out onto a flat baking sheet, left to cool, and then cut into small rounds and placed in a buttered ovenproof dish. Then, covered with melted butter and grated Parmesan cheese, the rounds are baked until crisp and brown.”  And then, in Chef Tracey’s case, they are topped with a delicious veal ragu and paired with Marchesi Mazzei 2007 Badiola Toscana Rosso.  It’s rustic, fulfilling, delicious!  Stop by and try it out!

Cheers,
Julie

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Posted March 20, 2011
A World of Desserts 

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When you make something as yummy as last year’s Sticky Toffee Pudding, the pressure’s on to come up with another dish that can stand up in people’s memory to this dessert that they came in (over & over) especially for.  When I asked Tracey how she came up with the idea of a Tres Leches Cake, she said she had been thinking for a month or so about what she could serve that would be warm & ooey, gooey, yummy like the Sticky Toffee Pudding when the idea of the Tres Leches Cake came to her.  The goat’s milk caramel is not traditionally served with this cake, but it is a standard in Mexican markets for sweet tamales and other Mexican dishes.  The Tuaca whip cream is a wink at the brandied whip cream that Chef Tracey served on the Sticky Toffee Pudding, but more importantly the alcohol in the cream balances the sweetness of the dessert and cuts the richness a bit as well.  It’s a masterpiece!  Try it with the Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximénez & a cup of coffee. 

In Chef Tracey’s former life, she ran huge hotel kitchens.  With huge hotel kitchens come pastry chefs and subsequently, she never had a lot of experience making desserts.  At first she was a little shy about this and didn’t stick her head out much, but over the last (almost) three years, she’s gotten over that.  This time it’s Baklava with pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts & citrus honey. Today we think of this dessert as a Middle Eastern specialty (and it is… I can remember when Jens and I were in Syria in 1997 they had bakery after bakery with nothing but beautiful pyramids of baklava) but with its nutty sweetness, it pairs perfectly with the flavors of Pedro Ximénez, the sherry grape from southern Spain.  Try it with Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximénez.  Delicious!

There’s really not much to say about the Mango Ginger Upside-Down Cake with Homemade Coconut Ice Cream except maybe to have an esoteric argument about which one is better … the cake or the ice cream.  The cake is ooey-gooey, fruity with that little sting of candied ginger.  The ice cream is made from fresh coconut that Chef Tracey seeped for several days to get the flavor. And then there’s the wine pairing.  For heaven’s sake, don’t forget the wine!  The Two Hands 2009 Brilliant Disguise Moscato (Barossa Valley) is for me the hands-down favorite.  Light effervescence with mild flavors of apricot, pear & pineapple.  Really, it’s enough to make you moan (which I did, audibly, and then I ordered it for some long-time customers seated down the bar, so that they, too, could moan, which they did, audibly).  You also wouldn’t go wrong pairing it with the Domaine des Bernardins 2007 Muscat de Baumes de Venise, a lovely little aperitif or dessert wine from France’s Southern Rhône Valley.  It’s not at light as the moscato, but the apple/pear flavors would be delicious with the dessert.  And, I’m sure Gina (who’s Gina?) would give a nice argument for the Villa Artimino 2005 Vin Santo Di Carmignano.  She would tell you (and happily show you) that in Tuscany, Vin Santo is served as a digestif after espresso, but its nutty, caramel flavors would be a perfect match with the cake as well.

Cheers!
Julie

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Posted February 27, 2007
A Magical Wine Pairing

rav

Chef Tracey has an amazing way with food.  Working out of her dollhouse kitchen she creates extraordinary dishes that are elegant & seemingly simple yet complex.  Tastes role across your tongue hitting different parts of your palette; flavors and textures come together in the finish to create one whole and incredible bite.  And Chef Tracey is never afraid to experiment.  All of which is exemplified in her latest dish: Ravioli homemade with duck, currents, pine nuts & vanilla-infused sweet potato sauce.  First you taste the homemade pasta which wraps the rich duck confit meat.  The richness of the duck is broken and enhanced with pops of sweet dried current and dense earthy pine nuts.  As you enjoy the savory duck the sweetness of the sweet potato sauce starts to come through and finishes with warm vanilla notes.  It is a unique and superb dish.  But what to wine to pair with it?

Deciding on wine pairings is always a fun part of tasting one of Chef Tracey’s new menu items.  Sometimes finding the right wine for the dish is a snap: classic flavors call for a traditional wine pairing.  And sometimes it can prove to be a bit of a fun challenge.  Flavors in the dish can make the wine taste more acidic or alcoholic or dry; unbalanced.  On the flip, the wine can make the dish lose all its taste, completely washing out its entire flavor.  But when you hit the right combination, food and wine can come together seamlessly each contributing their own flavor profiles & enhancing each other so you don’t know where one ends & the next begins and it is all greatness on your tongue.  This is exactly what happened with the duck ravioli.  The layers of flavor in this dish made finding a wine that complimented all of them, a challenge.

First we thought pinot bianco; our glass pour, Cantina Terlan 2009 Pinot Bianco, was given a try, but the rich meaty flavors along with the sweetness and the vanilla brought out never before seen dirty earthiness in the pinot bianco.  Along with a biting finish of acidity.  It’s a great, light, slightly sweet Italian white, but with the ravioli it was a no go.

So then, what about a red?  A barbera?  Northern Italian barbera have lively acidy, bright red fruits and a medium body.  They are great to drink alone or with food however the barbera and the ravioli did nothing to help each other.  The sweet potato puree brought out the acidity of the wine and over-powered the fruit notes causing the wine to lose all its ripe juicy flavor and deliciousness.

Next a kabinett reisling was suggested, the sweetness of the kabinett would hold up to the sweetness of the sweet potato and vanilla.  This suggestion was taken to the next level with a suggestion of kabinett gewürztraminer.  BINGO.  A match made in heaven!  There is nothing more to say than the round texture, the sweetness, the light hint of acidity of the wine perfectly harmonized with the richness and sweetness of the duck ravioli.  Both flavor profiles coming together, enhancing each other where you didn’t know where you food ended and your drink began.  It’s truly magical to try the duck ravioli with sweet potato sauce and vanilla with the Anselmann 2008 Gewürztraminer Kabinett.

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Posted Sunday, January 16, 2011
Mushroom Season & Homemade Pasta Zen

fett

The Northwest features a nice lineup of native mushrooms in the fall & right now they look beautiful!  Morels – the most sought after & the most expensive (as they are extremely weather sensitive & can therefore be scarce) – are available both spring & fall and are rich, meaty, earthy in flavor. Chanterelles are lighter yellow in color & look like little golden chalices. They are more delicate in flavor with a light fruity fragrance. Pompom mushrooms, a native of Canada, are white, fluffy & spongy and look just like little pompoms.  When cooked, the flavors are reminiscent of sautéed veal.  Cultivated mushrooms (such as Crimini & Bunashimeji) are also available, are usually more reasonably priced & can add nice flavors & textures to your dish.

Chef Tracey had made homemade pasta at other restaurants, but never at Portalis until last fall when she put her homemade fettuccine & seasonal mushrooms on the menu. She had been talking about putting pasta on the menu for some time, dreamily talking about how there’s something about the softness of the dough and the kneading & handling of the dough that is very relaxing and takes her to a sort of pasta zen-land.  She said that when you’re rolling pasta, the rest of the world just goes away and you just work on getting the dough to be the exact texture you want it to be.  When I asked her about the pasta per se, she said that her dough is egg yolk rich (imagine that) with a little semolina to add texture to the dough. She smiled when she told me that the richness of the egg yolk in her dough balances beautifully with the earthiness of the mushrooms, making for a luscious combination.  [Note: This dish was in such demand that we moved it to HOUSE FAVORITES thru Nov/Dec and it will be back, so keep your eye out.]

In the new year, Tracey has moved on to her next homemade pasta: Linguini, which she is serving with Manila clams & a white wine, herb, butter sauce.  This is different than most clams over linguini as it’s a brothy dish as opposed to the cream-based dish you usually see. Not surprisingly, it’s delicious!  We’ll just have to see if it gets such a following that it becomes a house favorite, too.

Stay tuned …Chef Tracey is already working on her ravioli!

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Posted Thursday, January 06, 2011
SEASONAL FOOD NOTE: Lower the Cut Round 2

The holidays are busy for us and so we always wait until January to celebrate with the Portalis team and it is subsequently also when I take on my biggest cooking challenge of the year … making dinner for 20+ people, all of whom are into food & wine (yikes!).  I hold it dear to my heart that I’m a good hobby cook.  I love cooking & can whip up a mean multi-course dinner for 4.  But 20+ is a whole different ball game & I’ve had a couple of downright mediocre results through the years.  In 2009 & 2010 I took a break from cooking and made easy-way-out-but-fun meals (such as fondue), but this year I’m going to cook again and I’m determined to wow them.

As I was thinking about what I could cook that would be yummy but doable, I remembered a recipe from the very first Food+Wine post (titled Seasonal Food Note: Lower the Cut) made in early January 2009.  It was a recipe for Pork Stew with Hazelnuts.  It’s affordable, it’s uncomplicated and there are no last minute flourishes required to pull off a delicious, fulfilling, wine friendly meal.  So here goes.  Party is next Monday.  I’ll let you know how I do.

In the meantime, if you decide to try this meal at home (which I highly recommend; I’ve made it several times at home), here’s the recipe as well as some wine pairing suggestions:  Pork Stew with Hazelnuts ~ Sautee chopped leek (or onion), carrot, celery.  Put aside.  Brown a pork shoulder roast (approx. 2 lbs) in olive oil.  Add 2 cups stock and 1 cup red wine, such as an inexpensive blend from Spain or southern France.  Lower the heat and simmer for approx. 3 hours or until the meat is nearly tender.  Add back in sautéed vegetables and a cup a freshly shelled, slightly broken up hazelnuts and cook another 20-30 minutes.  Serve as is, over mashed potatoes or over a cooked grain such as quinoa.

What to pair? The beautiful thing about slow cooked meats is that they are satisfying & pair beautifully with a range of well-priced wines.  The key: don’t overpower the food, so go with more medium-bodied wines such as:
Siegrist 2007 Dornfelder (Pfalz, Germany)
Reg $19.99 | INSIDER $17.99 | Mixed Case $14.39
Lan 2005 Rioja Reserva (Rioja, Spain)
$19.99 | Mixed Case $15.99
Evening Land 2009 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, OR)
29.99 | Mixed Case $23.9

Happy New Year to everyone.  May 2011 hold good things for you including lots of good food & delicious wine!

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Posted November 08, 2010
Thanksgiving Soup

sooop

Every year I make a pumpkin soup.  Two years ago it was a traditional pumpkin soup with cream & nutmeg.  Last year I did a Thai curry pumpkin soup with a lime crème fraîche & cilantro.  Being that I like bold flavors & with the cooler weather setting in, I started thinking about one of my personal favorite soul foods – mole.  I find the spicy, sweet richness of the sauce soothing & I started thinking that the layers of flavor in pumpkin soup (sweet, spicy & salty) would work beautifully with the base flavors of mole (gaillo peppers, honey, cinnamon, clove, chocolate & peanuts).  Once I had the soup/mole, I thought a spicy homemade marshmallow would be a nice twist on the sweet element traditionally enjoyed at Thanksgiving, such as candied sweet potatoes. For the salty crunch of the garnish, I topped the dish with roasted, salted pumpkin seeds.  I am super happy with this dish!  It’s fun, it’s delicious, and yes, it is soothing!

The only trick is that it’s not the easiest dish I’ve ever given Jens to find a pairing for, but as usual, he came thru.  Try it with Helfrich 2005 Gewurztraminer Steinklotz Grand Cru ~ $9 (with spicy flavors of lychee, rose petal & apricot yet still dry) or go with a sweeter beer: Regenboog ‘t Smisje Dubbel ~ $4 (brewed with honey & dates)

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Posted Tuesday, September 07, 2010
The Magic Behind Steak & Cab

steak

Why does a T-bone or a big, marbled, grilled to perfection rib eye go so well with Cab?  Well, it’s not Cab per se, it’s the fact that the tannins – that mouth-pulling, slightly bitter, dryness in the finish of the wine – cut through the fat in the meat, creating balance on the palate.  As it happens, Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape with a lot of tannins.  In case you’re a little vague when people use the word tannins (which in the wine world is interchangeable with the term dry), tannins are a naturally occurring chemical compound found in certain plants and are easily detectible in foods such as tea, grape seeds & grape skins, walnuts, etc & are a natural preservative, allowing wine to age without going bad. That’s why Cab is a wine (for example from Bordeaux & California) that often has a drink date many years out.  But does it have to be Cab to be the perfect match for steak?  Nope.  Other tannic wines work beautifully to offset the fattiness of the beef as well, for example Argentine Malbec with its leathery, tarry, smoky flavors tends to have a nice tannic finish as does the smoky, bacony flavors of Pinotage (South Africa) and a great number of Spanish wines, such as Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero.

Chef Tracey has a nice pepper steak on the menu right now (pictured above), so come try it out with any of the following more tannic glass pours available in the wine bar:
Owen Roe 2008 Sharecropper’s Cabernet Sauvignon (WA) $8
Sangre De Los Andes 2008 Malbec (AR)  $8
Neil Ellis 2008 Pinotage (SA) $9.50

Or better yet, open a bottle of any of the following on Wednesday (all night) or Sunday (6-8pm with dinner) & get the bottle at the retail price (no $15 dollar corkage):
Luigi Bosca 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva (AR) $22.99 (~$4.80/glass)
Beckmen Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (CA) $26.99 (~$5.60/glass)
or be a rebel and try the Wine Spectator 95 pointer:
Neyers 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (CA) $56.99 (~$11.99/glass)

Cheers!
Julie

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Posted Sunday,  August 22, 2010
A Little Lesson about Alaskan Black Cod

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Alaskan Black Cod is, funnily enough, not in the cod family.  In the Pacific Northwest it is generally just called Black Cod. In other parts of the US it’s known as Sablefish.  To make things even more confusing, in other parts of the country there’s a fish called Black Cod which is a member of the cod family, fished from the sub-Antarctic Seas. This fish is still fatty as it comes from cold waters, but it has not the quality nor the richness of our local Alaskan Black Cod.

Alaskan Black Cod is my favorite Pacific Northwest fish because of its beautiful, buttery, rich texture (I do like my butter!) and I chose to do this fish with Chinese long beans with a honey soy glaze.  We had been serving the beans on the Thursday’s $5 menu to rave reviews and I thought they would be the perfect accompaniment to the rich yet mild flavors of the fish.  The fish itself is a very flexible fish to pair with wine; it would even pair well with a classic, buttery California Chardonnay, a wine not easy to pair with food.  However, the Asian flair of the sweet/salty beans requires a wine with a little off-dry quality to it.  On the menu, we’ve paired this wine with the Weingut Hiedler 2008 Loess Grüner Veltliner.  If you’d like a bottle, go for the P. Ginglinger 2009 Pinot Gris (Alsace) or a German Riesling, try Karthaeuserhof 2007 Eitelsbacher Karthaeuserhofberg Kabinett on sale for $38 from $57. (Shop price: Reg $41.99 | Sale $22.99 | Case $18.39)

Cheers!
Tracey

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Posted Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Delicious Summer Fare: Duck with Raspberries

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I was looking through The Art of French Cooking and thinking about how raspberry duck is a French classic that Julia Child brought into the American household with the printing of her now famous cookbook.  As I was reading, it occurred to me that local Washington raspberries are in peak season & look beautiful right now and I was immediately inspired to bring back the dish, but with a new twist.  We’re serving duck breast with raspberry sauce, farro, mushroom, pistachio & wilted arugula. The light fluffy grain & the earthiness of the mushrooms offset the richness of the duck and the tartness of the raspberries. It’s delicious!

Of course It’s even better with the right wine.  We’ve paired it with Apolloni Vineyards 2007 Laurine Pinot Noir (OR), but it would also be great with the Qupé 2007 Syrah (CA).  A classic Rhône pairing would be wonderful, too. Try a nice table wine such as Ogier 2005 Côtes du Rhône Caves Des Papes or for a richer, more complex wine, try the Chateau De Saint Cosme 2007 Gigondas.  (Bar specials on Wednesday & Sunday include no corkage options!)  Hope you can stop by and try this seasonal dish.  I’m very happy with it!

Cheers,
Chef Tracey

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Posted Thursday July 8, 2010
PORTALIS STAFF SUMMER BEER PICKS

Finally summer is here and in the warm summer evenings wine is great but beer is better!  I went around and asked our staff their favorite beer or beer style they like to drink in the heat of the season and here’s what I found…

Gina: Unibroue La fin du Monde
“A great balanced beer; creamy, citrus & not too fruity. plus its 9% alcohol…get your beer on!”

Karli: Stone Pale Ale
“One of my favorite styles is Pale Ale, its smooth, not too bitter, but still has enough of a bite to refresh you.”

Tracey: Regenboog Vuuve Whitbier
“A rich beer with great spice – ginger & citrus”

Sky: Radeberger Pilsner
“Light, crisp and refreshing. Nothing better on a hot day served ice cold.”

Jens: Ayinger Jahrhundert
“Refreshing and light Bavarian summer lager.”

Ross: Delirium Tremems
“Belgium gold ale, rich with a subtle spice and sweetness.  Great beer for summer, on its own or with food.”

Beer pairs great with most items on the menu and in particular we suggest:
BBQ BEEF BRISKET with jicama coleslaw & a cheddar chive biscuit, or our
SALT ROASTED SHRIMP with rice, corn, scallion, crema, cotija cheese & avocado lime sauce
MANILA CLAMS with chorizo, sherry & butter
And always, of course, our CHARCUTERIE PLATE featuring our house pâté.

Cheers!
Gina

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Posted Friday, June 18
Wines for July 4th Celebrations!

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Our dear Chef Tracey is marrying her Sammy (former Chef at Quinn’s, current chef at Oddfellows Café) on this coming Fourth of July and we’ll be whooping it up with them at Sam’s parents’ farm outside of Bellingham, celebrating the occasion with traditional grilled Fourth of July fare, lots of beer, lots of wine (vino verde, rosé & the C.G. Di Arie Zin, if you must know), fireworks and then much to our daughters’ delight, everyone will camp out at the farm so that celebrating can continue – safely – late into the night and with much gusto as we wish Tracey and her Sam all the best in their (official) life together.

If you are also planning on a festive Fourth of July celebration and you need delicious yet affordable wines to go with your summer fare, here are Jens Top 10 BBQ Wines, all on sale thru Sunday, June 27:

Zin is the perfect red wine choice to balance the spicy sweetness of BBQ sauce:
C.G Di Arie 2007 Zinfandel (CA)
Reg $15.99 | Sale $13.99 | Case $11.19
Ridge 2008 Three Valley Zinfandel (CA)
Reg $26.99 | Sale $23.99 | Case $19.19

This is the quintessential food wine.  It goes great with everything!  Try it:
Celler Tomas Cusine 2006 Vilosell (SP)
Reg $18.99 | Sale $16.99 | Case $13.59

Rosé is refreshing and it’s a cooler when eating spicy foods.  Goes great!
Triennes 2009 Rosé Provence (FR)
Reg $17.99 | Sale $15.99 | Case $12.79
Domaine Saint Roch Les Vignes 2009 Rosé (FR)
Reg $14.99 | Sale $12.99 | Case $10.39

Here are some fuller-bodied whites that will be able to handle the richness of grilled meats:
William Church 2009 Viognier (WA)
Reg $22.99 | Sale $19.99 | Case $15.99
Mulderbosch 2009 Chenin Blanc (SA)
Reg $15.99 | Sale $13.99 | Case $11.19
Shannon Ridge 2007 Chardonnay (CA)
Reg $25.99 | Sale $15.99 | Case $12.79

Here are some local reds that are big & fruity, but not tannic; therefore, they won’t increase the heat:
Owen Roe 2008 Abbot’s Table Wine (WA/OR)
Reg $23.99 | Sale $21.99 | Case $17.59
Syncline 2008 Subduction Red (WA)
Reg $19.99 | Sale $17.99 | Case $14.39

Happy Fourth of July!  Have a fun & safe one!
Julie & Jens

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Posted Sunday, May 23
LAMB & FATTOUSH TO CELEBRATE SPRING!

lamb

With warm weather here (at least some of the time), I thought fattoush would be a lovely way to celebrate spring! Fattoush is a traditional Lebanese salad consisting of fried or toasted pita bread, generally mixed with seasonal vegetables (usually tomato, cucumber, onion & mint), which is then tossed with a vinaigrette made of lemon, olive oil and sumac (a Middle Eastern spice which gives the salad its sour taste; sumac can generally be found in Indian or Middle Eastern markets.)  Traditionally, this salad is a way to used up day-old or stale pita bread which soaks up the vinaigrette and makes a very nice, refreshing salad … delicious on its own or with grilled meats.  I chose to serve it with a yogurt marinated lamb kabob and Jens paired the dish with the Pencarrow 2008 Pinot Noir from New Zealand.  Sounds like an usual combination, but the cherry fruit flavors and campfire smokiness pair beautifully with the meat and don’t overwhelm the salad.

Lamb loin chops have always been my favorite lamb dish because every time we went to my grandmother’s (just north of Baltimore) she would serve lamb chops.  Her art was to cut off the fat and then pan fry the chops in their own rendered fat, the rendering of which would make the whole house smell sweet & floral. Nostalgia aside, I like this cut because it’s less gamey than the leg or the shank. And this is a quick preparation as the meat is tender.

Lamb shank is less expensive and requires long, slow cooking with acids (such as wine) to help break down the meat and make it fork tender.  I like braised lamb osso bucco (a classic Italian dish which is red wine braised shank served with a saffron risotto) better than veal because of the richness of the meat and the flavor that the meat imparts into the stock.

Leg of lamb (which is a traditional Easter dish in my home) is the gamiest cut of lamb and my favorite way of preparing it is whole grain mustard, white wine and rosemary marinade (marinate overnight) and then oven-roasted the next day (approx 3 hours on 350 degrees), served with roasted potatoes & asparagus and covered with the pan juices.

Enjoy & cheers!
Chef Tracey

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Chocolate & Wine Pairings

If you missed my Chocolate & Wine Pairings class where we used the beautiful masterpieces from Cadeaux Chocolates‘ (pictured left) chocolatier, Janet Shimada, here’s a quick overview …

As with food, when pairing wines with chocolate, match lighter-flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines, and more “intense” flavored chocolates with more full-bodied wines. When pairing wine with chocolate, you can look for wines with have the same flavor profile as the chocolate (nutty, cherry, other fruit, mint, etc.), or look for contrasts. Most experts would recommend “sticking” with fortified wines (ports), because the sweetness of the wines match well with chocolates. But there is more behind it. Let’s take a journey beyond fortified wines.

Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of sugar, and a smaller percentage of chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate). In addition with its higher milk content, milk chocolate is a milder, sweeter product with fewer aromas and flavors.  Wine pairing suggestions: a Tawny Port (try: Quinta De La Rosa 10y Tawny Port) is the ultimate match. Its nutty, caramel flavors highlight the milk chocolates’ own flavors and intensify the overall chocolate flavors.

Semisweet Chocolate
Dark chocolate with 50% to 69% cacao has strong, complex flavors, with notes that are nutty, spicy, floral, earthy, fruity, and/or caramel. The aftertaste is balanced, not too sweet. Wine pairing suggestions: fortified fruity wines like Banyuls and Ruby Ports (try: Niepoort NV Ruby, Quinta De La Rosa Finest Reserve) have cacoa and chocolate aromas and flavors as well as cherry, raspberry or other berry fruit, and are classic companions with chocolate. Vintage Ports should be matched with caution: The high sugar and alcohol content can overwhelm the chocolate. Banyuls and nonvintage Ports have softer, rounder tannins than vintage Ports and pair better with chocolate.  Another classic choice is Cabernet Sauvignon (try: Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon or Sparkman Kingpin Cabernet Sauvignon) or Bordeaux (try: Château Pibran Pauillac or Château Pichecan Margaux). It brings out the fruity-peppery-grapey notes in the chocolate. Zinfandel brings out chocolate’s spicy notes. Tawny Ports, which have nutty, tobacco and leather notes, also make good pairings.

Bittersweet Chocolate
The most intense, richly-flavored dark chocolate is 70% to 100% cacao. Bittersweet chocolate can have bitter, roasted, fruity, earthy, woodsy, ashy and/or nutty notes. The same wines will match bittersweet and semisweet chocolate.

Chocolates with Caramel or Toffee
Wine pairing suggestions:  Hungarian Tokaji, with notes of apricots, butter and caramel, pairs well with buttery salt caramels. Young Madeira (try: Broadbent Madeira 5y old) has classic caramel and toffee flavors and good acidity to pair with that kind of chocolate. Buttery caramels and toffees pair well with buttery wines. Mersault from a ripe year, with rich, lush fruit and low acid or a rich buttery Chardonnay from California (try: Shannon Ridge Chardonnay) complements the brown sugar and caramel flavors as well as the cocoa flavors of the chocolate. The nutty bouquet of a dry Oloroso Sherry complements the nuts in toffee. It’s also great with salt caramels. Sauternes, a rich sweet dessert wine from Bordeaux, has honey, apricot and peach notes, also pairs well with caramel and toffee chocolates. The chewiness of the candy stands up to the viscosity of the wine. Tawny Port enhances the nutty notes of toffee, and to a lesser extent, caramel.

Chocolates with Cinnamon and Ginger
A spicy, dry Zinfandel (try: Four Vines Maverick Old Vines Zinfandel) or a sweet Late Harvest Zinfandel (they can almost be port-like) are good options to complement the spicy notes of chocolates with cinnamon and ginger.

Chocolates with Coconut
Brachetto D’Aqui (try: Giacomo Bologna), a light sparkling dessert wine from Piedmont, with typical aromas and flavors of strawberries and roses, is a great match with nuts and coconut. Sauternes or a Late Harvest Semillon or Moscato from Australia (try: Two Hands) are other options.

Chocolates with Coffee Flavors
Chocolates with espresso, mocha, coffee bean and other coffee flavors. Oloroso sherry or cream sherry (coffee, nutty flavors) or Australian Shiraz (try: Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz), with dark fruit, mocha, coffee, espresso flavors.

And last … Chocolates with Nuts
Including hazelnuts, almonds, and other nuts and pralines. Wine pairing suggestions: nutty Tawny Ports are the perfect match for chocolates with nuts. Sherry that is not too sweet is a good companion to almond-based chocolates, ideally a Pedro Ximinez with its almond aromas and flavors, or a well-rounded Fino. Cream Sherries match well with hazelnuts. Lighter nuts like pistachio can be served with Sauternes. Other options would be Brachetto D’Aqui and Cabernet Sauvignons.

Cheers & Happy Valentine’s Day!
Jens

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