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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Pairings

Don't Jerky Me Around!

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Well, that headline doesn't actually mean much, but it was hard to resist. The point is, I've discovered my new favorite wine snack: the beef jerky that chef John Schenk (F&W Best New Chef '95) has added to the bar menu at the Strip House steakhouses in Houston and New York—and will in theory soon be adding to all the other Strip Houses around the country.

Strip House Beef Jerky

This tiny photo doesn't quite do it justice. What Schenk does is take prime strip loin, cut it into strips, pound it lightly till it's thin, then marinate it in minced garlic, ground coriander, curry powder, dark brown sugar, black pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, thyme, chopped cilantro, lime juice, and red wine vinegar—whew—for at least 24 hours. He pulls it out of the marinade, dries it in a 200 degree oven for somewhere up to 40 minutes or so, cools it, refrigerates it, then fries it to order in goose fat. (Because, you know, why the heck not fry it in goose fat?) And it's served with fried onions. It's slightly sweet, tender and chewy at once, excellently beefy, much more reminiscent of Hong Kong-style beef jerky than of the leathery, black, mesquite-smoked stuff I remember from being a kid in Texas. And I can tell you, it goes fantastically well with a big red wine.

If it sounds intriguing, you have two options: go to Strip House and order it, or, if you just have a general hankering for jerky, wait till our June issue when we're running a whole jerky article. Your call.

Pairings

Great Kosher for Passover Wines

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"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:

© Tina Rupp

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 (pictured).

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.

 

Wines Under $20

Today Show: Wines for Takeout Food

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Had a fun time today, as usual, on the Today Show with Kathie Lee & Hoda. This time around the subject was wines to pair with takeout food, part of my secret plan (actually not so secret, given I'm blogging about it) to convince the world that wine (a) doesn't have to be fancy/elegant/effete and (b) that it goes with almost everything. You can see the segment here, but to give a quick rundown:

1) Unoaked Chardonnay with Sushi: 2008 Spring Seed Wine Co. Chardonnay ($15 or so, find this wine). My experience is that oaky whites don't do well at all with raw fish (or with shellfish, for that matter) but unoaked ones do. I could have used a Sauvignon Blanc, but from experience I know that Kathie Lee is not a fan—to say the least—of Sauvignon Blanc, so I opted for this tasty Australian Chardonnay. 

2) Gewurztraminer with Kung Pao Chicken: 2007 Hugel & Fils Gewurztraminer ($22 or so, find this wine). The oil and heat of some Chinese dishes can make them tough to pair; I find that Alsace Gewurz's substantial body and spicebox character works pretty well, especially drier versions like Hugel's. For even hotter dishes I'd turn up the sweetness on the wine, maybe to something in a Zind-Humbrecht style.

3) Champagne with French Fries: NV Henriot Blanc Souverain ($42 or so, find this wine). Basically, if it's salty and fried, Champagne is a good bet. And what's more fun that eating French fries and drinking Champagne? Only eating French fries and drinking Champagne while lounging in a bed in a stupidly expensive hotel room with a fantastic view of Paris.

4) Chianti with Pizza: 2007 Antinori Pèppoli ($22 or so, find this wine). Well, Chianti and pizza, right? But there's legitimacy to this beyond the sort of no-brainer cultural connection, which is that with something cheesy and oily (yep) like pizza really needs a red with firm tannins and a nice cut of acidity—which Chianti supplies quite well.

5) Pinot Noir with Tacos: 2008 La Crema Monterey ($19 or so, find this wine). I owe my sommelier pal William Sherer for this one. The reason it works so well is that Pinot's bright fruit can hold up to all-over-the-place flavors in something like a taco; but also, when you've got hot peppers/jalapeños/hot sauce, what you don't want is a particularly tannic red—tannins tend to amplify heat, rather than subdue it. Though, if you're one of those lunatics who likes chewing up scotch bonnets for fun, hey, pour a Barolo with your Mad Dog 357-smothered wings and go to town. 

Pairings

Red Wine & Fish, or Why I Love Science!

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So it seems that researchers in Japan have determined the cause of that horrible metallic super-fishy taste that occurs when some red wines are paired with fish. It's iron. Specifically, the amount of ferrous ion present in the wine. You can read all about this discovery here in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Admittedly, you'll have to be willing to plow through sentences like "Metal ions were analyzed by a postcolumn reaction with 4-(2-pyridylazo)resorcinol reagent combined with spectrophotometric detection," and "Total phenolics of wines were estimated according to the Folin-Ciocalteu method expressed as gallic acid equivalents," but what the heck, it's Wednesday afternoon and you're probably bored at work anyway, right?

If you do manage to wade through the article, you'll hit the payoff which is that tannins—long the scapegoat of bad fish-and-red-wine pairings—are entirely innocent. Yes, tannins are the Dreyfus in this whole fishy affair; blame not the tannins, friends. Instead, stick the onus on iron. Of course, there is one small hitch. As Mssrs. Tamura, Taniguchi, Suzuki, Okubo, Takata and Konno put it with appealing delicacy, "In daily life, it is difficult to predict the iron content in a bottled wine without opening it."

And, one might add, without subjecting it to a postcolumn reaction combined with spectrophotometric detection—but then, who doesn't do that sort of thing, these days?

Pairings

Balvenie’s New Limited-Edition Whiskey

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When a friend invited me to a five-course, whiskey-paired dinner at Eleven Madison Park last Wednesday, I hesitated before accepting. I’ve been to plenty of wine- and beer-paired dinners, but sipping whiskey through a meal sounded a little intense. If anyone could pull it off, though, it would certainly be genius chef Daniel Humm. And the whiskeys around which he created the menu weren’t just any whiskeys. We were being treated to six limited-edition Balvenie 17-year-old single-malt scotch whiskeys, including the 2001 Balvenie Islay Cask and the super-rare 2006 Balvenie New Wood. The pairing of the night: The 2007 Balvenie Sherry Cask matched with Humm’s black angus tenderloin with roasted summer beans. Most of these scotches are nearly impossible to find, but the newest limited-edition release, the Balvenie Madeira Cask, will be in stores in early October. This extraordinarily rich scotch, matured in oak and finished in casks that were used to make fortified Madeira, was the nightcap to our feast, with sweet vanilla-oak notes that gave way to spices and dried fruit and a seemingly never-ending finish.   

whiskey

© William Grant & Sons
The Balvenie Madeira Cask 17-Year-Old

 

Pairings

Ommegang's Brew News

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Last night, supertalented chef Bobby Hellen of NYC's Resto teamed up with Phil Leinhart, the brewmaster at Cooperstown, New York’s Ommegang brewery, for a gluttonous, nose-to-tail feast. It was the first of a series of Zagat-sponsored, craft-beer dinners taking place throughout the city this week as part of the second annual New York Craft Beer Week.

Chef Hellen broke down an entire pig and a lamb from Violet Hill Farm and turned them into delicious dishes like crispy pig’s-ear popcorn, porchetta and lamb-topped tomato salad with lamb-heart vinaigrette; to match these dishes, Leinhart poured some never-before-served brews, including a test batch of Adoration, Ommegang’s first-ever winter holiday ale. The dark, Belgian-style brew is made with five spices: coriander, sweet orange peel, grains of paradise, cardamom and mace. I was expecting bold, in-your-face spiciness, but the finish is much more subtle, and despite 10-percent alcohol levels, there was very little alcohol burn—a deceptively potent brew. The beer should be available mid-October.

To go with a plate of excellent house-made charcuterie, Leinhart poured the Ommegang Rouge, a Flemish sour-red ale he made in partnership with Belgium's Brouwerij Bockor brewery. This supertart brew, oak-aged for 18 months at Bockor’s brewery, is one of my favorites. Leinhart broke the news that it’s no longer being produced (Brouwerij Bockor no longer wants to share its yeasts strains). But Ommegang plans to replace it with a brown Flemish-style beer they’re working on with Liefmans brewery in Oudenaarde, Belgium. Leinhart hinted we can also expect many more seasonal beers from Ommegang next year.

resto

© Evan Miller
Ommegang's best and newest brews on tap at Resto.

 

Pairings

Cocktail vs. Wine Pairing Smackdown!

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Because I'd been away for a while, spending a placid few days kayaking on the waters of Maine's Somes Sound, it seemed to me (for some lunatic reason) like the proper way to effect a New York re-entry would be by attending a cocktail vs. wine pairing smackdown at Nios, a new midtown wine bar. This is a regular event there, in which home-team sommelier Emily Wines takes on challengers in a battle of who-pairs-best, using chef Patricia Williams's tasty food.

Her opponent this time was bartender extraordinaire Jim Meehan, the man behind the drinks at New York's excellent PDT (and also the co-editor of Food & Wine Cocktails 2009, our pretty dern nifty cocktail book).

First up, to go with Williams's risotto of corn with chanterelles, confit pigeon and castelmagno cheese, Meehan poured his "Imperial Silver Corn Fizz." Brave is the fellow who'll make a stiff drink using corn water, I say (Meehan enlisted chef/pal Wylie Dufresne for corn-water-making advice). But, surprisingly, this concoction of Bourbon, corn water, honey syrup, egg white and Champagne worked incredibly well with the risotto. Wines fought back with a somewhat over-oaky 2007 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Chardonnay, to no avail. Meehan, wearing a sparkly purple luchador mask with a kind of small-savage-animal pelt attached to the top, took the round.

Next course was a beautifully cooked rack of American lamb with grilled figs and fingerling potatoes wrapped in jamón serrano. (I've decided, based on this dish, that I'm just going to wrap everything I eat in jamón serrano from now on. There's just no reason not to.) This time Wines came out strong, pouring a smoky, plummy 2006 Gai'a Estates Agiorgitiko from Greece. It was a terrific match for the lamb, and Meehan's "Señor Smackdown"—blanco tequila with lime juice, Dry Sack sherry, Benedictine and a bar spoon of fig jam—took it on the chin. The drink was scrappy, but tequila and lamb are just a rough combo. Could be Meehan was affected by the heat under that vinyl mask.

Finally, dessert: rose petal panna cotta with pomegranate foam. Wines appeared holding glasses holding a splash of rosewater and some floating pomegranate seeds, then topped them with light, berry-sweet NV Patrick Bottex Cerdon de Bugey "La Cuille," an off-dry sparkling wine from France's Savoie region. Meehan countered with his "Raspberries Reaching:" an ounce and a half of Trimbach Framboise eau-de-vie, an ounce of 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú, and a half-ounce of Pama pomegranate liqueur, plus three drops of rose flower water, stirred and strained into a chilled coupe, and garnished with a peach-colored rose petal. This drink blew me away, and I thought the title was destined for Meehan. But I was in the minority; when the votes were counted, Wines was the champion of the evening.

Nios will be holding these smackdowns once a month for the rest of the year, so check it out. Viva la lucha de vino! 

 

Wines Under $20

Dungeness’s Perfect Match

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There’s a reason I only visit Seattle in August—Dungeness crab season. (OK, sunny days don’t hurt, either.) My family sets its traps with crab catnip (a.k.a., turkey legs) and is usually rewarded with enough large males to boil up a feast. The crab was especially rich and sweet this year, thanks in part to its pairing with a local wine made with organically grown grapes from Lopez Island Vineyards and blended specifically to accompany Dungeness. Only 100 cases of Salish Sea White ($16, find this wine) were made, and a portion of the price goes to The SeaDoc Society, which studies the inland waters of the Pacific Northwest. The wine, composed of the obscure grapes Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe, reminded me of an off-dry Riesling due to its grapefruit and floral notes and nice acidity. Nothing fancy, but perfect to go with a simple meal of fresh crab dipped in melted butter. If you can't get Salish Sea, the 2008 Long Shadows Poet's Leap Riesling is also a good bet. ($20, find this wine)

Pairings

Spinach Pie & Sparkling Rosé

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I am a spinach-pie fanatic. Doesn't matter if it's the Greek phyllo variety or the folded-dough Middle Eastern sort; there is no food more perfect in my mind. And just recently, I had a spinach-pie-and-wine pairing epiphany that makes the ultimate even better.

My neighborhood Middle Eastern place, Zaytoons, is BYOB and happily just down the road the from another local fave, Smith & Vine, my go-to wine shop for stuff from excellent small producers world-over. Last week, over the aforementioned spinach pie, my boyfriend Michael surprised me with a bottle of fizzy rosé called Moussamoussettes from one of my favorite Loire producers, Agnès et René Mosse. I'd never seen this wine before, probably because they don't make much of it and it's nearly impossible to find, but it was incredible, with juicy strawberry flavor and an intriguing fennel note. Sparkling wines tend to go really well with salty foods, and this was excellent with the feta-filled spinach pie; the fruitiness was great with the spices, like za'atar, as well.  

I sadly won't be able to get my hands on a bottle of Moussamoussettes every time I eat spinach pie, but there are plenty of other sparkling rosés that will go equally as well. Here are a few to try:

2006 Llopart Rosé Cava (about $17, find this wine) This rather rich cava from Spain is excellent year after year. This vintage has a pretty floral aroma and an unmistakable burst of cherry fruit.

NV Riondo Raboso Pink Prosecco (about $10, find this wine) Pale pink with some herbal notes, this delicately frizzante prosecco from Italy's Veneto region is a steal.

NV Domaine Chandon Rosé ($22, find this wine) This juicy rosé from one of California's top sparkling wine producers is loaded with ripe red-berry fruit.

Pairings

Fonda del Sol: Smart Pairings, Terrific Food

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I've been to Fonda del Sol a few times now—it's just down the street from our office, conveniently—and it seems to be on an ever-inclining curve towards extreme tastiness. That's not a surprise to me. When I first met the restaurant's chef, Josh DeChellis, at the culinary festival Madrid Fusión a few years back, he was wandering around gnawing on a black truffle the way one might an apple (the thing was about the size of an apple, too). To my mind, any chef who eats truffles as if they were apples is a man after my own heart. At FdS, DeChellis is channeling his inner Spaniard, perhaps aided by the fact that he was born in Colombia, with impressive success.

The other night I particularly liked a silky scallop tiradito—disks of sweet scallop with shards of hot chilies, dabs of briny sea urchin, and grace notes of cilantro—which wine director Nicholas Nahigian paired with a sympathetically citrus-minerally 2007 Do Ferreiro Albariño (one of the better Albariños around, in fact). Later on, I also enjoyed an incredibly tender Colorado lamb chop aromatized (as it were) over toasted hay and served with tangy sheep's milk yogurt and a lovage puree. In an earlier incarnation of this dish, the lamb was cooked in an earthenware vessel over the hay, the vessel sealed with a bread crust—in that case, the hay, lamb and yogurt were all from the same farm. With the newer version, a 2004 Fratelli Revello Vigna Conca Barolo, surprisingly generous given its intense concentration, and somehow elegant despite that, tasted great.

The pairing that may have worked the best, though, and that was certainly the most surprising, came when Nahigian brought out glasses of Victory Brewing Company's Prima Pils (which, oddly enough, I just used for my 4th of July segment on summer beers for the Early Show) to pair with DeChellis's Alaskan rock fish a la plancha with salsa moluscada de verano, a Catalan (I think) sauce involving surf clams, mussel jus, squid, octopus, tomato water, clam jus, basil and cherry tomatoes (whew). The fish was expertly cooked, the sauce something between a light seafood stew, a sauce, and a sublime essence of ocean, and the crisp, gently bitter Pilsner was perfect with it—and also extremely refreshing, sandwiched as it was, course-wise, between a fairly substantial white Rioja—a 2003 Marqués de Murrieta Capellania—and the even more substantial Revello Barolo.

And there was dessert. But by then, do you really expect I was taking notes?  

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

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.