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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Wines Under $20

Weekend Today: Wines for Grilling

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It's grilling season, and consequently I'll be appearing on Weekend Today tomorrow morning—Saturday—in the eight o'clock hour with some affordable wine recommendations for everything grilled. Malbec with burgers, albariño with grilled fish, zin with ribs, and one of my favorite dry rosés that I've tried recently—the 2009 Mulderbosch Rosé ($11), from South Africa—with grilled chicken breasts. If I don't run out of time (always a risk, since three and a half minutes goes fast), I'll wrap it up with a tangerine-and-peachy, lightly sparkling, lightly sweet 2008 Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti ($14) to serve with grilled peaches. Should be fun, so tune in.

Pairings

Tasty (Mis)Adventures in Vegetarian Red Wine Pairings

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Our May story on Bonny Doon and the brilliant chef behind their new Tasting Room, Charlie Parker, inspired me to try pairing vegetarian dishes with big red wines at home. If only I had the professional finesse of Bonny Doon. Earlier this week Ray Isle gave me half a case of big reds from the F&W tasting room for the experiment, which I was about to take on the subway when it started to pour. Since I had to hold an umbrella with one hand, I could only grab two of the six bottles with the other: a 2007 Praxis Lagrein and a 2006 Masi Campofiorin. Then, once I was at home I discovered the Campofiorin was corked.

I made my stuffed red bell peppers anyway, filling them with cooked red quinoa and feta cheese, and simmering them in a tomato sauce spiked with a pinch of chile flakes. Finally I tried them with the Lagrein. They tasted just how you'd imagine stuffed bell peppers would, if they'd been garnished with blueberry jam. I had much better luck with the 2009 Hofer Grüner Veltliner in my refrigerator: the faint floral notes married well with the juicy bell peppers, while the white pepper and zippy acidity lightened the rich stuffing. But there is nothing big nor is there anything red about Grüner-Veltliner, though it may be one of the most vegetable-friendly white wines out there. So I'm going to take a page out of Randall Grahm's book and try again.

Meanwhile, enjoy these brilliant vegetarian pairings from Charlie Parker:

Savoy Cabbage and Sunchoke Pizzas with a Dolcetto

Smoky Ribollita with a Sangiovese

Roasted Turnips and their Greens, with a Syrah

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?

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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.

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