Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sherry Anyone!

Shortly after leaving college a new night spot opened up on Calhoun Street. It was a subdued little place that was opened by a couple of doctoral candidates. The wine bar was their thesis..It didn’t last long, but while it was there, it was wonderful.

It served expresso and coffees and wines with desserts, cheeses and nuts. It was a place for conversation and just lingering over a snack, after dinner and theater.

My favorite was Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry, walnuts, raisins and french brie, served at room temperature, of course.

Thinking about this place reminded me of how much I like sherry, but have somehow in the passing years, allowed to slip away from me, during my adventures in discovering the other wines of the world.

Sherry is very food friendly. In my humble opinion, the Spanish make the best sherries. They range from the sweet to the very dry. If sweet is your bag...then try Pedro Ximenez. If you want it a little less sweet then try an amontillado...I like Sandman amontillado. A good dry sherry would be a montilla.

All of these wines work well with food....ham, cheeses, salted nuts, and olives, bread...think tapas.

For those of you who don’t know, tapas are small plates of food...meats, fish, cheeses, nuts, olives..appetizers...several of them served for grazing while talking...

The word tapas refers to the bread which was actually used in olden times to keep the insects off the glasses of sherry between sips. The natives rested the bread on the rim of the glass like a cover...



Thursday, January 8, 2009

12 Reasons to Drink Wine in 2009

I don’t ever need a reason to try wine. Sitting and watching television, reading a book, chatting on the phone, while I’m surfing the net, eating, cooking, baking are all good reasons, if you need one, to pop the cork and pour yourself a glass of wine.

But what if you’re not the adventurous type and need to plan your wine drinking. Well, how about making a sort of calendar, with a date and a wine to try?  You can make up your own, or feel free to steal my ideas.

January.....Big, big month....I’m having a big, big wine in honor of Barack Obama’s swearing in as the 44th President of the United States. I’m having a 1955 Chateau La Fleur Pomerol Bordeaux. It’s the oldest one that I own...I was saving it for my 60th birthday, but Obama’s election is one of those freeze frame moments that you simply have to celebrate.. Okay, you don’t have a wine like that...

Why not some a Roederer Estate....It’s about 29-bucks a bottle, and is a very good wine. It’s made by the folks who make Chrystal. In fact, the only difference besides price, between the two, is name...they taste the same...

February.....I plan to find a new California Cabernet Sauvignon that I’ve never had before. My default position is Kendall Jackson or Mondavi.  For white wines, maybe a sparkling white in celebration of Black History Month.

March....This is the month that I’m going to begin drinking my way through Ohio. For those of you who may not know, the vines that grow California grapes, came from Ohio, because Ohio used to be the American capitol of wine making. It’s still damn good, too.  You might check out the website,  

I particularly like the wines of Woodstone Creek and Valley Vineyards. Firelands and Meiers are pretty good, too. 

April...Choose Australian wines....good bang for the buck...Black Opal, Jacob Creek, Alice White, Yellow name a few brands.

May....Spring and summer, I go light on everything, food and wine, so I will probably start mainly with white wines. My favorites are German kabinetts and spatleses.  Very light, go almost anything kind of wines. I would also begin to mix in white zinfandels, too.

June....Try some California riesling, or pinot grigio, or chardonnay or Cava for celebration of LGBT Pride month..I will be drinking merlot, or pinot noir, as well.

July....Something light...with grilled foods...anything on the grill and a chilled chenin blanc or white burgundy.....summer evenings, I like scarlett o’haras...but that is good Kentucky bourbon...

August.....My birth anything goes. I usually treat myself to something expensive and white, like a mersault...which is white burgundy...I’m not really a champagne drinker, so I don’t need it to celebrate. Any excuse will do, especially in my birth month..

September...I plan to get acquainted with Chilean wines. The few that I’ve had, have been pretty good. I plan to explore more and to develop my tastes.

October.....I have reserved for South African wines. I have a friend there who tells me I am deprived because I have never tasted the wines of his country. I will rectify asap. It will be my coming out, since this is the month of Coming Out day for LGBT people...Another reason to celebrate.

November....Red Zinfandel substitutes....White Zin my other choice

December....All of the above....Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Monday, December 29, 2008

A Hearty Zin, Some Jerked Goat and Spiked Carrot Juice

I got one of those dinner invitations the other day, that start me salivating like Pavlov’s dogs, as soon as I hear my friend’s voice on the phone. My girlfriend (friend, not lover) has Jamaican roots. Her voice still carries the island lilt, even though she’s lived in America for many years. She speaks and it reminds me of days spent in the sun, watching the ocean gently lick the white sandy shores of her home. She invited me over for dinner, as payment for sprucing up her resume. She said she’d cook whatever I wanted already knowing what I was going to say before I said it. We had a good laugh about her clairvoyance. We ended with her reminding me as always, to choose the wine, and to surprise her.

I knew I was going to be treated to some jerk goat and rice with a Guiness beer mixed into fresh carrot juice on the side. My favorite of favorite Jamaican food. I had to add a good merlot because it was her favorite and we would drink that while she finished preparation and served. All I had to do was sit, drink, listen and eat. She talks enough for both us.

The surprise that she asked for, would be a hearty California Red Zinfandel, a perfect complement to the sorta spicy meat on the table.

I would go so far as to say that red zin is the California signature wine. However, the grapes are not native to the state. Zinfandel grapes originally came from Italy. The same grapes are used to make both the red and white zinfandel varieties. While white zinfandel is actually pink, the red is almost black in color. It has a spicy taste, kind of peppery and fruity at the same time. It’s a wine that really goes well with burgers and pizza. The price range is big, from pretty cheap to way too expensive. Since it’s red, I guess most people drink it at room temperature. However, my wine mentor, the man who taught me about wines and in fact owned a vineyard in Spain, told me that Zin should be consumed at 65-degrees. That’s warmer than chilled, but cooler than room temp, usually. My old friend kept his wine refrig in the living room within easy reach.

Jerk Goat is an easy prep, but it does take awhile. Sometimes you have to tenderize the meat for a day before cooking. My friend’s recipe follows below for those feeling adventurous. It really is wonderful. She serves the meat with white rice, but you health conscious folks can substitute brown, it’s okay.

The Guiness and carrot juice...well make sure the carrot is freshly juiced. This drink absolutely does not work with canned carrot juice or carrot juice that is more than a half hour past juicing. In Jamaica, it is even sweetened with brown sugar or honey. I like the brown sugar version, but its really not necessary if the carrot juice is fresh. Add a sprig of mint for a kick, if you will.

Jerk Goat Preparation
1 ½ cup onion, finely chopped
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 2tablespoons dried leaves)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground pimiento (allspice)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 very hot pepper, chopped,
or teaspoon hot pepper oil
1 leg of goat with bone in

Mix or puree together the onions, garlic, soy sauce, and spices to form a paste. Pierce the leg of goat all over and rub the paste all over the meat. Any unused paste (also known as "jerk rub" can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a month for later use). Cover or wrap in foil and refrigerate overnight to allow spices to penetrate meat.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Sear the meat loosely covered with foil in a roasting pan at 400 F for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 F. Roast meat for another hour or two depending on weight until the internal temperature reaches 150 to 160 F. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking
If you use a tougher cut such as a neck roast for cooking, plan on a longer cooking time and on marinating the meat in a mixture of beer and lemon juice overnight. Put the jerk rub on it in the morning and then cook in the afternoon. Enjoy!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Por two gee say Love

Is the title to one of my favorite Tina Marie songs from back in the day, when La Dona was a fixture at the top of the music charts. She loves all things Portugese and so do I when it comes to wine.

While still in school, I tasted the wines from the Douro region of Portugal. The vineyards there, produce very dry, full bodied, but gentle reds with little oak and not much tannin. Recently, I got in the mood for eggplant, something I don’t eat often, but love it when I do, and that brings me back to why I was thinking of all things Portugese.

Eggplant, which is basically a middle eastern food, goes wonderfully well with the wines of Portugal. At the time, I was in the mood for baba ghanoush, maybe some falafel, and simmered grape leaves, with a little feta cheese and a nice wine.

Now in my college days I would have settled for Mateus or Lancer’s....both pretty good and more importantly, cheap. I was on a student’s budget back then. But now, I would drop maybe $ 25-30.00 and buy a reserve Quinta de Roriz or possibly a Vinho Alvarinho if I wanted white, and I usually do. So I would probably buy both. Vinho Alvarinho should be chilled. It is soft blended grape wine that tastes like nuts and fruit. Kind of sweet, but not too sweet. The Quinta can be served at room temperature. There are less costly wines from this country. You just need to scout them out at your local wine store. I mention these two, because I like them.

My baba ghanoush, I would make from scratch or If I’m feeling lazy or rushed, then I bop out to my local grocery, to the appetizer bar where you can find, feta, or baba, or tabbouleh or hummus, and buy by the ounce. But it’s cheaper to buy the eggplant and make it yourself, trust me. Pick up some pita bread, too. You need it for scooping up the baba ghanoush.

First thing, pop the cork on your wine of choice, so you can sip while cooking. Turn on the oven to about 350-degrees. In Europe, eggplant is called aubergine, by the way. Put the aubergine in a greased shallow pan or baking dish and roast until it is soft, probably about 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven. Put it in a bowl of cold water, then peel off the skin. Add the spices at this point. I usually use garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and tahini, if I happen to have it on hand. If I happen to be cooking for others, then I add finely diced onion and tomato. Blend it well in a blender. I used to use a fork because I couldn’t afford expensive mixing utensils. I was also taught to cook by my grandparents and they didn’t the expensive tools either. I still do things the hard way, but make it easy on yourself, if you have a blender or food processor, use it.

Now it’s best to refrigerate the mixture for a couple of hours before you eat. When you do serve, put the baba ghanoush on a plate, drizzle olive oil all over. Put the pita slices on the side. If you need meat, broil a chicken breast and serve alongside. Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Barefoot Wine, Football and Turkey Sandwiches

Okay, so I'm in Kroger looking for a cheap bottle of wine to go with my after thanksgiving turkey sandwich, and I stumbled across a display offering Barefoot wines for 5.99 a bottle. The display offered a cabernet, a merlot, a chardonay, and a riesling. I like clean looking, creative labels and I'd seen Barefoot wine before. It's always priced right (cheap). But I've always placed it in my "adult kool aide" category. The bottle, while nice to look at, reminds me of Boones Farm Apple wine, that 2. 50 per bottle wine that comes in many colors and flavors and goes down like soda pop.

The difference being that Barefoot is not carbonated like Boones Farm. And don't knock Boones Farm, it got me through college. I was good for days on a slice of Poppa Dino's pepperoni pizza and Boones Farm Strawberry wine. Way back then, BFW cost 1.99 per bottle.

I purchased the riesling, took it home to chill. White wines are best when cold. I'm sure you've heard that reds are best at room temperature. Well, back in the old country, room temperature was probably right around 54-degrees, pretty chilly for what we consider room temp. So if you're feeling adventurous, chill your red one time and see if you like it...

But back to leftovers and Barefoot.

I've changed my next day turkey sandwich. It used to be miracle whip on white bread with white turkey, cut diagonally.

Now that I'm a grown up, it's miracle whip on dark german rye bread with dark turkey meat. I cut across or diagonally, doesn't matter. When I was a kid, I thought the diagonal cut meant you were a grown up.

I guess I should put some lettuce or veggies on it, but then that would be breaking tradition. You can add whatever you like to the basic turkey sandwich.

Now for the drink...just as I suspected....soda with no carbonation. The taste was clean, nothing complex...hints of fruit....sweet...okay for a day after thanksgiving afternoon of watching football.

I'm going to go back and try the reds, the price is more than right, and I'm always adventurous.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I'm sticking with two wines for this holiday, Pinot Noir as my red and German Spatlese as my white. Mom's cooking the main meal, so it will be the traditional turkey, honey baked ham, candied sweet potatoes, greens, green beans, baked beans, dressing and corn bread.

We'll probably have some apple pie, and or sweet potato pie courtesy of our next door neighbor. The wines won't be served at dinner because my parents don't drink wine. That's why I'm being selfish with my choices. I'm saving the wines for later in the evening for when I visit my cousin.

My cousin's table will also be traditional, but the libation, well the libation is more varied, from wines to scotch or bourbon, with maybe some vodka cran thrown into the mix. The second meal is also a pot luck so, my chosen wines have to be versatile, since I do plan to share.

I talked about pinot noir in my last post, so I will just name a couple of good ones that I've had recently....Try the 2007 Fess Parker, of Santa Clara or the 2006 Mia's Playground from the Russian River Valley. Both of these wines come in right around 20-bucks a bottle. I originally chose these wines because of their names. Fess Parker is an actor who used to play Davey Crockett on television and I just like the sound of Mia's Playground..

The German spatlese is a bit pricey, but a very good complement to roast turkey...I like the mosel-saar-ruwer, Germany area for this type of wine. Germans color code their wines in either brown or green glassed bottles. I prefer the brown bottle wines. Expect to plunk down 30-40 bucks per bottle. If you like, go for the kabinett which is also made from riesling grapes and costs about 20-bucks a bottle or less.

If you need a turkey recipe check out my earlier posts. There is a really nice grilled bird that you might want to try.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.