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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Recipes

Excellent Valentine's Day Cocktail

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Bartender extraordinaire, friend to F&W, and general all-around good fellow Jim Meehan of NYC's PDT came up with this cocktail a few months back for a wine-vs-cocktails smackdown held at NYC's Nios Restaurant. I attended the event, drank the drink, and at the time thought to myself, well, that's about the best Valentine's Day cocktail I've ever run into. It's gorgeous to look at, tastes terrific, and also packs a reasonable punch. (Note: It might not be the thing to stir up for a crowd of longshoremen; it's a very pretty drink.)

Raspberries Reaching
recipe courtesy of Jim Meehan

1.5 ounces Clear Creek Framboise (or other Framboise—the eau de vie, not the Belgian beer)
1 ounce Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos Red Label (or other 5 Puttonyos Tokaji)
1/2 ounce Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
3 drops Rose Flower Water

Stir ingredients in a cocktail shaker and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a rose petal, particularly a peach-colored one if you can find it...

Baking

Whoopies for Valentine’s Day

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Mail-order whoopie pies for Valentine's Day

© Magenta Livengood
Whoopie pies from B. Hall Baker

For anyone looking for a sweet worth mail-ordering for Valentine’s Day, or any day, B.Hall Baker’s new mini whoopie pies are now available online. Washington, DC-based Beryl Hall, a former Hill staffer, keeps the calories low by keeping the pies small (she bakes them in madeleine molds). She gives her red velvet pies a rich tang (and a vibrant red color) with raspberry juice, raspberry extract and powdered raspberries from France. “Whoopie pies are a Yankee thing, but I’m trying to make them Southern,” the San Antonio native says, so this spring she’ll release coconut-cake and bananas Foster versions.

Entertaining

A Little Caviar Splurge

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Kaviari "Kristal"

© Kaviari
Kaviari "Kristal"

A few months ago, wine editor Ray Isle and I enjoyed some amazing caviar at Atelier Robuchon, made all the more intriguing because Joël Robuchon called it his official caviar and said it came from China. We were hoping someday we'd be able to buy tins of it to serve at parties, and now we've just about gotten our wish. Epicure Pantry, supplier to many of New York's finest chefs, just released a version called Kaviari "Kristal," made from the eggs of Schrencki sturgeon farmed in China, and selected and packaged by the Paris-based Kaviari company. Kaviari is guarded about its sources, but assures that these are among the best fish farms in the world. What we do know: The eggs are plump, briny and buttery, with a lovely pop and a clean finish. They'd be great on their own or on a blini; to offset the splurge-level cost ($138 for 50 g/1.75 oz), pair them with a terrific value Champagne.




Wines Under $20

10 Great Wine (& Spirit) Gift Ideas

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I was thinking through what I'd tasted, and read, and heard about, and so on through the course of 2009, and it seemed like a good idea to recap a few highlights as possible gift ideas. After all, there's still time left—and even if the holiday season passes, why not give a few more gifts to people? The wine business—in fact, the entire U.S. economy—will thank you!

10. Evan Williams Three-Ounce Flask ($13.50) Long flight? The cagey folks at Evan Williams are there to keep you from having to drink rotgut from a cart; this stainless steel flask holds only three ounces, which makes it OK for airport security. You could fill it with, just on a whim, the latest release of Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon ($26), the lightly spicy, supple 2000 vintage. As usual, it's a great deal in a single-barrel Bourbon. 

9. Wine from Italy's Lazio region  I had the interesting pleasure of running a tasting recently of wines from Lazio, the region that surrounds Rome and is bordered by Umbria and Tuscany to the north. Lazio tends to get overlooked, because the vast majority of the wine it produces is utterly forgettable white Frascati that flows in a vast river into the glasses of Rome's countless trattorias. But there's a hidden realm of ambitious small producers in the region, making some fantastic wine. I'm particularly fond of the in-your-face fragrant 2008 Cantina Sant'Andrea Oppidum ($24, try contacting the importer), a dry Muscat that smells like a fistful of flowers and tastes of citrus fruit with a nut-skin edge, as well as the dark cherry-and-silk 2005 Damiano Ciolli Cirsium ($40, ditto), made from the local Cesanese grape variety. Cool wines. Unfortunately, both a bit hard to find.

8. Easier to find: The 2007 Twenty Bench Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($19, find this wine). This is a stupidly good deal in Napa Cab, so much so that when I used it in a blind tasting on the CBS Early Show the other morning, it bested a 2006 Bordeaux from a second-growth property (admittedly a bit unfair, as '06 Bordeaux aren't exactly user-friendly at the moment). 

7. Even easier to find: The 2008 Foxglove Chardonnay ($16, find this wine) I don't know what sort of deal Jim & Bob Varner cut with the infernal forces to be able to keep producing such a good Chardonnay for such a modest price, but whatever it was, wine drinkers owe them some thanks. 

6. The One wine glasses ($50 for four)  Andrea Immer, Master Sommelier & general wine-authority-about-town, designed these glasses with the specific thought in mind that (a) you would only need one red and one white glass, and (b) you could dishwash the darn things without breaking them. I've tested them out; they work. Nice glassware is a good thing. Alternatively, you could buy someone the Riedel stems that I've always used as my go-to all-purpose glasses, the Riedel Vinum Chianti/Zinfandel glass (model 6416/15, about $40 for two). I know, doing this defeats the whole point of Riedel glasses, but hey, I'm a journalist, not a millionaire.

5. For Pinot Noir fanatics, winemaker Ross Cobb is making some of the best Sonoma Coast Pinot I came across all year. I didn't get a chance to write about them in the magazine, because they're small production and fairly expensive, but they're truly impressive wines. My favorite was his 2007 Cobb Coastlands Vineyard ($68), which had lovely floral and balsam aromas, gorgeous wild berry fruit with a hint of white pepper, an orange peel note to the acidity, and a taut, streamlined structure. Just terrific stuff. You have to sign up on the website to receive an allocation, but from what I can tell it's not sold out yet.

4.The Food & Wine Wine Guide 2010. Great stocking stuffer. Almost as good as a subscription to Food & Wine.

3. What the heck. While I'm at it, why not give someone a gift from the Food & Wine Wine Club.

2. The Macallan 57 Year Old ($15,000) OK, it's a little pricey. But I did get a chance to taste this stuff, and, whether it's worth fifteen grand or not, I can definitely say that it's truly gorgeous whisky. It isn't remotely dried out (a common problem with extremely old whiskies), gives off whiffs of caramel, sweet spice, tobacco and peat, and tastes of orange rind, spice drop, rancio, and dried fruits; it's tremendously complex and also lovely, with a rich viscosity. Plus, it's bottled in a fancy-pants Lalique decanter, of which there are exactly 400 total for the world. But, if you don't feel like trading your child's college fund for a bottle of hooch, you could instead pick up the nifty new half-bottle size Macallan 18 ($80), which is exactly the same Macallan 18 as in the traditional 750ml bottle (extremely good, in other words) but smaller. Really great stocking stuffer.

1. Champagne  The Champenoise are having a tough time this season, people are holding onto their shekels & not shelling out for the pricey tête-de-cuvées they once did, but hey—as far as I know, no one is ever unhappy to be given Champagne. Why would they be? It's festive, it tastes great, it's fun, and even if you're one of the weird anti-fizz minority and don't like the stuff, it's eminently regiftable. There's plenty of good Champagne out there, but I'm particularly partial at the moment to the chalky, aromatic NV Henriot Blanc Souverain (about $50, find this wine), a graceful—and findable—blanc de blancs bottling not to be confused with the similarly named (and also quite good) Henriot Brut Souverain.

Cookbooks

Great Food-Book Gifts

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Our gift guide this year is organized around six of our favorite cookbooks of 2009, from Ad Hoc at Home to Down Home with the Neelys. Here are four more standouts for your holiday-shopping consideration.

1) A Boy After the Sea
To benefit a charity named for his son, Vancouver chef Kevin Snook has assembled mind-blowing seafood recipes from everyone from Alice Waters to Ann-Sophie Pic, all of them beautifully photographed, in the name of an extraordinary cause.
Great for: Aspiring chefs, seafood lovers, fathers and sons.

2) The Craft of Baking
Karen DeMasco has a magic touch with sugar, butter and flour, and now so can you.
Great for: Beginner bakers, advanced bakers, anyone likely to bake you something in the next year.  

3) Growing Good Things To Eat in Texas
No recipes, just sweet, homespun profiles of Lone Star farmers by Pamela Walker (family to F&W's Ray Isle).
Great for: Farm lovers, CSA subscribers, Texans, Texan wannabes.

4) Appetite City
A sharp, funny and illustrated history of New York dining by William Grimes, former dining critic of the New York Times.
Great for: Big Apple lovers, history buffs, aspiring writers.

Holidays

12 Days of Wine Bags, Day 12!

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© North Wood Blanket Co.

On the 12th Day of Wine Bags my true love gave to me, a tote made from an old sleeve.

Hooray! We've made it the twelfth and final bag in this holiday wine carrier spectacular! I've had a fun time tracking these things down, and it's been exciting to see the endless design possibilities for carrying a bottle of wine.

Which brings me to today's wine-bottle gift-bag: Ontario designer Lori Norwood of North Wood Blanket Co. repurposes the sleeves of old sweaters, turning them into vibrant, cozy, little wool bags that will hug your wine just like a sleeping bag.

Now, what to go in these bags? This time of year I gravitate toward Loire Valley Cabernet Franc for the herbal qualities it takes on—when it's good—and for the brambly berry notes it almost always has. Lately, I've been particularly into the rosemary-scented 2007 Charles Joguet Cuvée Terroir Chinon ($18, find this wine), perfect for holiday roasts and sipping by the fire.

Holidays

12 Days of Wine Bags, Day 11

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© Container Store

Last Friday, I finally made it to the bar at the new Breslin at NYC's Ace Hotel (you know, the newest place from the Spotted Pig cohorts Ken Friedman and F&W Best New Chef 2007 April Bloomfield) I was really lucky to get there on the early side because by 6 p.m., the place was packed with fashionable folk clamoring for Pimms Collinses and scrumpets and expertly fried, thrice-cooked chips. The pubby feel of the Breslin practically demands that you have a beer, so I chose a cask pour of the Breslin's very own Aberdeen Scotch ale, made exclusively for the restaurant by Brooklyn's superstar brewery Sixpoint Craft Ales. Cask-conditioned ales are served a little warmer than the average draft pour and have nice soft bubbles so that you're able to fully take in all of the flavors and aromas of the beer. The Aberdeen is incredibly round with some caramel notes and perfectly balanced malts and hops.

What does this have to do with 12 Days of Wine Bags, you ask? Well, while sitting in the Breslin waiting for my friend, I was able to really investigate all of the little details of the place—including the excellent little red tartan plaid lampshades, which reminded me of these terrific plaid wine totes from the Container Store. Plaid seems to be a pretty big fashion fad these days, and these let you take your wine in style, too. I'm mostly opposed to paper and plastic bags but these are sturdy enough to be gifted and regifted over and over again. And for a mere $4 a pop, you can outfit all of your colleagues in the office with them.

Holidays

12 Days of Wine Bags, Day 10

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Today's wine bag (10 of 12) is the Rolls Royce of the whole bunch. It's luxurious, classic, well-fashioned, a little boxy and incredibly pricey. Did I mention that it comes with a wool picnic blanket? Certainly not for the novice wine-lover, this tote is designed with the ultimate connoisseur in mind. Handmade by designer Tyler Mckenzie at Teal and Gold Workshop (through a process that takes 20-some hours to complete) these Bent Walnut Picnic Wine Totes are made to order. Odds are if you order one today, it won't make it for the December 25th deadline that so many are operating under these days. But I say, wrap up an equally exquisite bottle of wine—like the rich, driven 2006 Numanthia from Spain's Toro region ($57, find this wine)—and print out a photo of the walnut wine tote goodness that's to come. The person you bestow with this one-of-a-kind gift will be delighted and will have a nice surprise some time in January. 

Holidays

12 Days of Wine Bags, Day 9

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© reisenthel

Okay, today's wine bag might be a little over the top, but while some people simply bring a bottle of wine to a party, this bag makes it so that you can bring the party to the party. Holding a whopping nine bottles (how appropriate for my 9th installment of the 12 Days of Wine Bags), reisenthel's Bottlebag is a pretty, eco-friendly way to load up on wine, seltzer and mixers for your next dinner party without having to deal with a bunch of lame, wimpy plastic sacks.

Holidays

12 Days of Wine Bags, Day 8

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This super-hip tote from Hero Bags, one of my favorite finds of the year, has a home in our December issue's gift guide. Nevertheless, I'm excited to present it to you again (just in case you missed it the first time around) as the 8th bag in my string of 12 Days of Wine Bags. Hero Bags, started by San Francisco designer Susanne Maddux, prides itself on being an all-American company, making its products by hand in California with sustainable, organic cotton grown in the States. Hero also makes a bunch of other cool totes and lunch bags, as well as a single-bottle wine carrier.

Combine this bag with a bottle of crisp, peachy 2008 Kung Fu Girl Riesling ($12, find this wine) from American Wine Awards-winner Charles Smith and you have a slam dunk gift for under $30.

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Run with chefs and wine experts in the Celebrity Chef 5K and dance all night at Gail Simmons’ Last Bite Dessert Party during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.