I got to rise very early this past Sunday morning and trundle over to the studios at Rockefeller Center to do a TODAY show spot on wines to go with classic holiday meals, with the always engaging Lester Holt. It was sort of a slow-starting morning, thanks a very unscientific tasting of multiple Champagnes the previous night, but after a large infusion of coffee my brain started zipping along in a relatively lively way. The result—you can watch it on this clip—was great fun.
Last year about this time, I took it upon myself to search out some lovely wine bags for gifting during the holiday season
. I confess, despite the cute bags, it might have been overkill. So this year, I've decided to bring you wine-related gifts that go beyond wine bags-with some wine bags sprinkled in. After all, the holiday wine-giving season is upon us and it's no good to just hand over naked bottles.
And so, on this first day of wine gifts, I present to you this ultra-chic black wine bag from Reisenthel
that will look just as good with your sparkly holiday dresses and bowties as it will with your woolen mittens. Tie it up with a humongous bow and any party host will be delighted.
Wines $20 to $40
Despite the fact that Thanksgiving is a mere six days away—and the fact that I’m a wine writer—it only crossed my mind yesterday that I needed to pick out some wines for Thanksgiving. My boyfriend, Michael, and I are hosting this year, and it’s just a small group—his parents, my parents and my sister. Seems easy enough to choose a wine, right? Well, once I started to think about it, not really.
See, Michael’s dad really only drinks caffeine-free diet Coke, and his mom can’t have wine. White wine gives my sister headaches; my dad’s palate tends toward Merlot and Malbec; and my mom prefers off-dry Rieslings and Gewürztraminers and (bizarrely enough) Lambrusco (she thinks she doesn’t like red wine, but we can trick her sometimes). So essentially, we’re all going in a different wine direction here.
But then there’s Michael. Michael is a cru Beaujolais fanatic, and this fanaticism will effectively solve the problem at hand (aside from, ahem, the caffeine-free diet Coke)—plus, 2009 was a knockout vintage for the region. There are ten crus or villages in Beaujolais: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié and Saint Amour. All have different flavors, aromas and balance, but each will go quite nicely with the Thanksgiving menu thanks to deep, bright fruit and terrific acidity. My sister can drink it, my dad will get the concentration that he enjoys and my mom will get the fruit-forwardness that she likes in off-dry wines (this is how we trick her into liking reds.) And Michael will be beyond happy.
I’m heading to the wine shop with hopes of finding 2009s from Marcel Lapierre, Chateau Thivin and Christophe Pacalet. Oh, and a bottle of savory Donati Lambrusco to start things off.
What’s your problem-solving wine for Thanksgiving?
Wines Under $20
Had a great time on Today yesterday with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, talking about spooky beers and wines for Halloween parties. The clip is here if you're interested, but I also thought it would be worthwhile to run through the wines in Tasting Room, and add a few extra for fun. Halloween's still a few days away, so there's time left to shop.
2008 Spellbound Chardonnay ($16) Rob Mondavi, Jr. (of those Mondavis) makes this juicy, eminently drinkable Chardonnay with fruit primarily from the Lodi region. (find this wine)
2007 Bogle Phantom ($20) This is a juicy, dark-fruited blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre. Plus, it's got an eerie label that looks like a haunted forest at night, though I suspect it's actually gnarled old Zin vines. (find this wine)
2006 Flora Springs Ghost Winery Cabernet Franc ($40) Flora Springs will be doing a "ghost winery" release every year on Halloween (or just before, so it can be shipped in time to arrive for Halloween). This year's is an appealingly aromatic Cab Franc with good tannic bones. So to speak. (find this wine)
2008 Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly ($18) Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, vinified by the talented winemaker Steve Edmunds: it's a great combination, resulting in a wine that is much more full of life (and lively red fruit) than the skeletons on the label might suggest. (find this wine)
2009 Owen Roe Sinister Hand ($24) Why not pour a wine on Halloween whose label happens to have a blood-dripping severed hand on it? Especially why not, when the wine is a peppery, berry-bright, Washington State Grenache blend like this one. (find this wine)
© Alessandra Bulow
From left: Rory Tischler, Jon (Smooth) Varriano & Seton Rossini man the bar at The Old F&W Art Saloon
Halloween is two days away but the art department staff of Food & Wine
’s marketing team is kicking off the festivities today by transforming their office space into The Old F&W
Art Saloon. In addition to dressing up in awesome 19th-century Western costumes, they’re serving beef chili with beans
, buttery corn bread
and fantastic homemade black pepper beef jerky
(Last year they dressed as the Simmons Family including Top Chef judge and F&W’s own Gail Simmons, Gene Simmons and Richard Simmons—no relation.)
Scrounging for a last-minute Halloween costume or party idea? Get inspiration from F&W's Dress Like a Chef and Halloween Party slideshows.
Since it's Passover, I'm eating (and eating and eating) matzo, the flour-and-water cracker. Here's how:
Matzo balls My favorite way. This is a rosemary-accented version (pictured).
Matzo Brei Since this is fried (that's what brei means), it 's a very close second to matzo balls. I like it as a sweet, once-a-year treat.
Matzo meal It makes for a spectacularly crunchy coating, like on this matzo meal–crusted trout.
Matzo with lox and cream cheese Old habits die hard.
Matzo, butter and jam Don’t overthink it.
Matzo with chopped liver A legend in the field. Just swap out the crostini for matzo in this recipe.
Matzo pizza Add sauce and cheese, and broil.
Matzo flatbreads Extraordinarily simple. Here's how to make them.
Matzo (broken) lasagna Using this recipe, replace the lasagna noodles with pieces of matzo that have been lightly soaked in warm water until just pliable.
Chocolate-covered matzo Obviously.
I've always viewed Passover desserts as a bit like magic tricks, since no flour or leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda are allowed. But there are still plenty of fantastic desserts, from chocolate cakes to macaroons (one of the secrets to amazing unleavened desserts is in the wrist action involved in making snowy whipped egg whites). Here, five desserts
for the five nights of Passover still left, like strawberry-red-wine sorbet with crushed meringue
, flourless chocolate almond cakes
and Mexican chocolate pots de crème
While gefilte fish has no symbolic reason for being invited to the Passover table, one cannot underestimate the power of nostalgia. And that’s gefilte fish’s main virtue. (The dish was originally prized for its economy: It stretched a bit of boneless white fish with fillers such as matzo meal, carrots and sweetened fish stock that turned to jelly.) I’ve concluded that the best way to get people to love gefilte fish is not to serve it at all. For the six remaining nights of Passover, here are six delicious alternatives
: herb-broiled fish with lemon aioli
(pictured), grilled halibut with tomato butter
, and tilapia with tomato and artichoke sauce
"There's no injunction in the Talmud that says kosher wine has to be sweet," explains Toronto wine writer Tony Aspler. For the seven remaining nights of Passover, wine writer Natalie Maclean recommends these dry kosher-for-Passover alternatives: 2007 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Cabernet Franc ($13)
A rich, full-bodied wine from Israel with aromas of dark red berries, plums and smoke. Pair it with roasted eggplant, like this tangy eggplant caponata
2004 Yarden Pinot Noir Golan Heights Winery ($27) This full-bodied Israeli wine has ripe, almost jammy, cherry and raspberry flavor. It's a great match for roasted and braised lamb, as well as grilled salmon, like this salmon dish topped with cilantro-pecan pesto.
2007 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) A lovely, supple Israeli wine with notes of dark raspberries and black plums. It would go well with skillet-roasted lamb loins with herbs.
Although I’m a hard-core fan and consumer of bacon the rest of the year, during the eight days of Passover I keep kosher. After two nights of amazing 10-course meals at my mother’s home for the seders, I’ll be cooking some lighter recipes for the remaining days of Passover. Here are a few kosher for Passover recipes I’m planning to try: