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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Here is the skinny on what we ate and drank. Please leave comments in terms of food and wine. My take on the whole event was a little skewed since I was knee deep in cheese and tomatoes for most of it. Comments on the wine would be much appreciated! Thanks to everyone who came. I hope you enjoyed it.

Our Menu

Nosh

Bruschettas

ricotta with sundried tomatoes

roasted garlic, basil, fresh tomatoes

roasted red pepper spread

Main

Assortment of Pizzas and Sausage

fresh mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, ricotta, roasted garlic, basil

sausage, yellow and red peppers, feta cheese

mozzarella, feta cheese, ricotta, parmesan

sausage, sundried tomatoes, basil, fresh mozarella, roasted garlic

(one other combo I forgot…I made these up as I went)

Dessert

Pound cake two ways

with nutella and roasted bananas

with marsala wine soaked cherries and lemon curd

THE WINES!

Whites:
Abbazia di Novacella Kerner 2006 $24
- Damn Good
This Kerner is made in the northernmost part of Italy where the Italians speak mainly Austrian and the scenery is more reminiscent of Heidi than Under the Tuscan Sun. Light floral with a touch of minerality and a killer nose, this was definitely a good start to the evening for me.

De Falco Fiano di Avellino 2005- $22
- Pretty Good

This bottle had more minerality and was less fruity than the previous. Having a little bit of savoriness to it with citrus, it definitely paired well with the pizza. Light and refreshing I wouldn’t be opposed to cracking open another bottle for some seafood or sushi.

Santi Amarone dello Valpolicella 2003- $38
Damn Good
Mmmmmm….I liked this one. More old world in style, Amarone has a rich raisinyness (definitely not a word) and a velvety texture. The grapes are dried in the sun to intensify flavors in the processing. There were hints of spice and boldness to it that would please both old world and new world parties. (ie both peishan (new world) and I (old world) enjoyed it) I would love to eat this with lamb, or anything else meaty/gamey.

Prunotto Barbaresco 2004- $37 Not Bad
This Barbaresco did not wow me, but was good. It was the prototypical barbaresco with good fruit and depth, but for the price tag I feel I could get more bang for my buck elsewhere. Perhaps we opened it too early as it is just getting into its prime according the THE internet.

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2005- $18
Pretty god

Light and fruity, this chianti actually started us off with reds. It had a delicate sweetness and was not too tanniny. With hints of berries, savory notes, this went well with the pizza. It definitely seemed to be one of the most versatile at pleasing people’s palates, but did not wow anyone.

Forteto della Luja Moscato d’ Asti 2007- $20 Orgasmic
Holy crap the nose was AWESOME on this one, like whiffing a bottle of sweet honeyed perfume. The taste was there to match. Good thing I bought two bottles of this which went as fast as lightening. I caught some peach flavors, apple, and a lot of floral. So very drinkable, bubbly, and sweet. I wish I had gotten more.

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DGS went wild last night, with a tasting of wines from all over the world, in what we’d dubbed Dead Grapes Society Adventurous Wines. We had ~25 people and 16 bottles of wines (some doubled up).

1. Taberno Brut Champagne Style Charmat Method (Peru) $10

We kicked the tasting off with two bottles of Taberno, a Peruvian sparkling. It was a hit, everyone expressed surprise at how well done it was, nice and dry on the palate, with tight concentrated bubbles.

2. Lambrusco Cantine Ceci La Luna 2006 (Italy) $14

Most people haven’t had Lambrusco before, but since Wendy discovered the wine (Lambrusco Reggiano, slightly different from the one we had last night, this being a sweeter version) at Trader Joe’s a few years ago, this has been my favorite pairing with spicy food, especially curry. With a sandalwood perfume and big cherries mouthfeel, there was just the slightest fizz at the finish, as if the wine didn’t want to go without a fight. Really fun and delicious wine.

3. Chateau Bela Riesling Sturovo Region, Muzca 2003 (Slovakia) $14

This was a dry riesling from Slovakia, which doesn’t really produce much wine, especially not since it split from the Czech Rebpulic in the early 1990s. To be honest, I don’t remember much of this wine, except for the fact that it was drinkable, though not memorable. We started to play some wine trivia at this point. Did you know, for instance, that Prohibition lasted from 1920 through 1933? And that it only ended because of the Great Depression? The government, after thirteen long years, finally realized that the mobs were getting out of control running the speakeasies and smuggling operations, and that the population condoned the mobs because they needed their drink. Of course, they might have chosen to stubbornly – and pig-headedly – stick their stand if not for the fact that they were losing millions and millions of dollars from alcohol tax. Anyway.

4. Dragon’s Hallow Unoaked Chardonnay 2005 (China) $10

Did you know that China has actually the world’s fifth largest vineyard area and is the seventh largest wine producer??? Even so, I think the Chinese should stick to making rice wine. The chardonnay we had could be likened to a thick-headed fellow, stout and completely insipid and stupid. I gulped it straight down; some others (notably the Chinese people in the room) tossed it out. However, some people professed to liking the unoaked style, so perhaps there’s hope for the Chinese wine makers after all. Oh, in case you were wondering, Jesuit missionaries are believed to have been the first to encourage the planting of vines in China in the mid 19th century.

5. Kerner Slifskeleni Neustift Abbazia di Novacella 2006 (Italy) $17

This was one of the favorites of the night. Sihao said it had all the characteristics of a Gewurztraminer, and I have to agree – a little spicy, with strong notes of lychee and roses. Interestingly, the two bottles I picked up were from Italy (at the enthusiastic recommendation of the Sam’s wine expert), although this is a grape most commonly found in Germany. It’s a cross breed from a red grape Trollinger and Riesling. Speaking of cross breeds, another trivia question: what is Cabernet Sauvignon crossed from? Answer: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

6. Tinta da Anfora Vinho Regional Alentejano 2005 (Portugal) $12

Mm, quite a few people said they really liked this wine, which was quite tannic, but otherwise full bodied with lots of fruit and spices. It’s a blend of Portuguese grapes, including Trincadeira, Aragonez, and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh, and did you know that Portugal is the largest producer of corks in the world?

7. Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato 2006 (Italy) $16

Another favorite of the night – those Italian wines really are something! Given the huge popularity of the wines Barolo, Barbera, and Moscato in Piedmont, it’s little wonder that Ruche does not get in the spotlight too much. I really enjoyed this smooth, and light-bodied wine.

8. Bull’s Blood Egi Bikarer 2003 (Hungary) $8

There’s a story behind the label, “Bull’s Blood” (don’t you love stories??). Anyway, as the story goes, in 1552, when the Eger fortress was under attack and looked to be giving way, the defenders, in a last desperate bid, downed copious amounts of red wine for liquid courage. Their hands must have been shaking from terror, for they spilled the red wine all over their chests. When the attackers saw these men running towards them with red chests, they thought the defenders had been drinking bull’s blood, and their courage faltered and they fled. And so the Eger fortress stood for another day. I think I’d have to bring this bottle to parties – it makes for a great conversation opener (I think anyway), and is really fun to drink.

Wine Spectator writes:

“Bull’s Blood must be made from at least three approved red varieties. Most producers use a fair amount of Kékfrankos, because its sturdy character and acidity provide backbone. Also used are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

The wine’s hallmark, though, is the indigenous, spicy Kadarka grape. During the Communist era, Kadarka nearly disappeared from Hungary because its sensitivity to rot and its tendency to grow close to the ground made it very labor-intensive.

But today, Kadarka — which can produce balanced tannins and complex flavors, such as black pepper, cherry jam and cloves — is viewed as essential for a quality Bikavér, and producers are scrambling to return Kadarka to the vineyards.”

9. Skouras Red Saint George 2004 (Greece) $7

I’ve had this light bodied wine on a few occasions already, and really enjoyed it – it is a great pairing with meatballs and pasta, and I might even stock up on more as my house wine. After all, at $7, it’s really a bargain, especially when you consider that Yellow Tail costs the same amount.

10. Garnacha Marco Real Navarra 2005 (Spain) $10

I think our palates were tiring by this point for I still have half a bottle of this sitting at my desk right this moment. Anyway, Garnacha is the Spanish name for the grape Grenache. Flavors of dark berries, it is juicy and great to drink on its own and with food.

11. Chateau Henye Tokaji Dry 2006 (Hungary) $13

I first came across Tokay in Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, and had been lusting after it. Tokay is normally a dessert wine, but this version we got was off dry, and so wasn’t cloyingly sweet.

12. Four Seasons Collection, Muscat Red Dessert Wine, Dionysos Mereni (Moldova) $6

I had to look Moldova up on the internet to see where it was… – somewhere in Eastern Europe. According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, “Moldova may be one of the geographically smallest states of the former Soviet Union but it has more vineyard, 108,000 ha/267,000 acres in 2002 according to the OIV, than any other apart from Ukraine and the table grape producer Uzbekistan. It has the greatest potential for wine quality and range, thanks to its extnesive vineywards, temperate continental climeate, and gently undulating landscape sandwiched between eastern Romania and Ukraine.” We rounded off the evening with a bottle of Muscat, which was surprisingly palatable. Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.

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With all the tasty delights in Chicago and high end gastronomic paradises popping up left and right, sometimes its nice to indulge in hearty pub fare. So for this week we decided to wander on over to Andersonville for the classic Belgian combo of beer, mussels, and fries. The Hopleaf has decidedly one of the largest beer menus in the city, and probably the most extensive Belgium beer menu outside of Belgium itself. With rare brews on tap, this place is always hopping and has extensive wait times, luckily bar seating with a full menu is available with a little patience. Using our heightened senses secondary to hunger and cat-like reflexes, we pounced on the first available seating at the bar within minutes and bellied up to what was on tap. I ordered Dupont Biere de Miel. Sweet and refreshing, this went perfect with my salty steamed mussels.

Brasserie Dupont Biere de Miele (Belgium)- ( 750ML $8.99/btl ) Damn Good ;)

This is a Saison style (farmhouse style) Belgium ale that has a golden haziness and sweet finish with warm honey notes. This ale is definitely on the sweeter end of the spectrum of ales with some floral notes and fruitiness to it. The finish was very sweet and had a little bit of cherry, honey aspects to it. It went well with the saltiness of the mussels and fries. This beer conjures up images of a drunken pooh bear gorging on honey.

Sniff- honey, floral, yeast

Sip- sweet, complex, light, cherry, honey

Eat- salty bar food, seafood

 

 

 

 

Mussels In Belgian Beer

From the Hopleaf, “borrowed” from WTTW

Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 6 Minutes
Yield: 4 Servings

This recipe is adapted from Michael Roper, owner of Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville. Serve these mussels with plenty of good bread for sopping up the cooking juices and wash them down with a cold, Belgian wheat ale, such as Witterkerke (which you can also use for cooking the mussels).

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1 small rib celery, thinly sliced
2 pounds mussels, cleaned, debearded
1 bottle (12 ounces) Belgian wheat ale
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/8 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

Directions:
1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet; add shallots and celery. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Add mussels; add beer, thyme, bay leaf, butter, salt and pepper to taste. Cover. Cook until mussels are open, about 4-6 minutes, keeping pan moving frequently. Discard mussels that do not open. Serve in shallow bowls.

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Ever since I bought a pasta maker as an impulse buy it has gathered its fair share of dust like most impulse buys do. But this summer, I dusted that puppy off and made, count ‘em, not one but TWO batches of fresh pasta. To go with my lovely fresh strands, I make somewhat of a formulaic hodge podge sauce. I do more or less the same thing every time, but each time I make this dish it comes out different. This time I used a cheap Spanish red I bought from Trader Joe’s and the results were lip smacking. We even lamented not having any bread to sop up the residual sauce from the plate. Here’s the recipe. As you read it will become very obvious why it turns out different every time, but I’ve used this a lot and it never comes out bad. Ahhh the simplicity of Italian food. :) Cheers!

Whatever You Got Pasta Sauce
Ground beef or pork or any old beef/pork based sausage cut up (half a pound, a pound, whatever you got, combine if you don’t have enough of one)
2 medium or 1 large onion chopped ( can be yellow, red, white, green…you get the idea)3 tomatoes chopped
1 jar of any pasta sauce (I go with what is on sale or just combine the opened jars I have in the fridge)
Sliced Mushrooms (optional- whatever floats your boat!)
Lots of minced garlic
Fresh chopped Basil or Pesto (I keep frozen pesto in the freezer. If you aren’t a food nerd like me, don’t sweat it if you don’t have it.)
1 cup of red wine
a dash of cumin (enhances the flavor of the meat)
a dash of cinnamon (Cinnamon adds a unique sweetness, if you find all the tomato and wine is making the sauce tart and acidic, this will mellow it out. So add more or less as you need)
salt to taste (Or if you have any on hand you can add salt by using beef bullion cubes or any salty clear soup..onion, beef, chicken, vegetable)

1. Over medium heat saute garlic in some olive oil or any fat (butter, oil, bacon grease, lard… I could go on, but I won’t because its getting old) until mildly translucent
2. Add onions and mushrooms. Add a generous pinch of salt to get the veggies to sweat and release their juices. Saute until mushrooms are floppy and onions are mildly translucent
3. Add meat. Cook till lightly brown.
4. Add tomatoes. Cook until a little squishy
5. Add jar of pasta sauce. Let everything simmer until it thickens a bit.
6. Add wine, a cup or more to taste
7. Add basil or pesto
8. add salt to taste
9. Add cinnamon and cumin to taste (lick the spoon, add some spice, lick the spoon, add some spice….I like the lick the spoon part of cooking)

Abrazo Del Toro Tempranillo (Spain, $5/bottle)- Not Bad :)

Hot Damn! Trader Joe’s has done it again and introduced me to another good cheapo wine. At $5 a bottle, Abrazo del Toro Tempranillo may be a damn good, but I refuse to be swayed by my thriftiness. It’s got a fruity, bold berry nose with a taste to match. There is a good amount of complexity, with a lingering subtle spiciness to it. There is a little bit of dryness as well. Like any easy comfort food, this bottle is good, cheap, and accessible. ;)
Sniff- fruit, berries, spice, mineral
Sip-fruit, cherries, spicy, mildly dry
Eat- red pasta dishes, anything with red meat, bbq, steak, roasts, dark chocolate

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As the other Asian who did not venture on the Memorial Day Michigan wine trip, I felt obligated to go on my own outing and explore the wine region closest to the Windy City, the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. The trip was a great break from the city. We managed to fit in all the wineries. So there is A LOT to review, hence the “Part I.”

We stayed at Benton Harbor (features much cheaper lodgings) and drove the 5 minutes into St. Joseph’s and toured the local wineries. We used the handy dandy wine trail map provided by the wineries

wine_trail_map.pdf
There was a lot to do and see, especially since this was a first visit for all of us. So I want to keep this short and informational. We went to almost all of the wineries in the region, and almost all of the tourist attractions in there area. First the WINE…Some general comments:

  1. Stick to the whites, the reds fall a little flat and can be a little too tannin. Rieslings abound, many of them are styled more in the California or French style, meaning less fruity, more mineral
  2. Do leave room to try the fruit wines and dessert wines if you have a sweet tooth
  3. ALL of the tastings were FREE

THE WINERIES IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE

Best: Round Barn, Domaine Berrien, Tabor Hill

Eh, So-So: Karma Vista, Lemon Creek, Warner

Pass: St. Julian, Contessa, Free Run, Hickory Creek

Round Barn Winery

By far the best experience we had. The winery is nestled in a scenic spot. The tastings are generous and we felt it a rare treat to find a place that makes wine, beer, and vodka.

Tasting: $8= 5 wines, 1 dessert, 1 vodka, 3 beers + Free Glass + Free Tastings at Free Run Cellars

ORGASMIC :o : DiVine Vodka ($34.99)- A unique grape vodka, this stuff is smooth, so very smooth, makes-babies-bottoms seem-like-sandpaper smooth
DAMN GOODS ;) : Gerwurstraminer ($15.99)-floral, honey, spice, complex
NOT BADS :) : Artesia Spumante ($14.99)- fruity, refreshing, sparkling…you could get worse with the price, but you could get better
Golden Ale-
refreshing light, hoppy
GHETTO HOOCH :( : Pale Ale, Amber Ale, most of the dry reds

Domaine Berrien Cellars

Although this has less of the fun and flair of vineyards like Round Barn, St. Julian, or Warner, the wines here are surprisingly good and very drinkable. There is a nice outdoor deck where you can enjoy your wine and they will fix you a nice picnic basket of local treats from their fridge case so you can have a little snack. Try the local buffalo and venison sausage. Laid back and unassuming, the standout thing about this place is its wine.
ORGASMIC :o : Cabernet Franc Ice Wine ($50.00)- A cool half a benji this ice wine is unique and flavorful. If you like madeira and sherry, you might find yourself forking over the cash for this tasty liquid. With hints of toasted almonds, walnut, caramel, and raisins, its a complex rich drink. I did not regret giving up my 5 bucks for a taste, but unfortunately felt that I could get a better madiera like experience with a true $50 madiera. Still it is neat to see such a rare type of ice wine.
DAMN GOODS ;) : Vignoles 2006 ($10.50)- A nice summer white, it has hints of pineapple, apple, and citrus. Its a great clean and fruity pour and well worth the price tag.
Marsanne 2006 ($14.50)- I preferred the Vignoles, but this is less sweet and has a lot of great complexity. Hints of spice and honey, this has good body and is very light and drinkable.
NOT BADS :) : Crown of Cabernet 2004($23)- has good body, fruit, hint of oak. Not sure if its worth the $ Viognier 2006 ($18.50)- viogniers are so great in general, complex, flowery, fruity, this one is okay, but again you can get better for the money
GHETTO HOOCH :( : Grandma’s Red

Tabor Hill

Probably one of the most successful wineries on the trail, Tabor Hill is definitely has the feel of a larger more professional winery. The restaurant features fine American dining. There are several tasting rooms in the area so where ever you go it is worth a stop to sample. 8 Free Tastings offered.

DAMN GOODS ;) : Angelo Spinazze’s Spumante ($13.45)- Good complexity, sweet, bubbly, fruity, and floral. Worth the price, especially if you are a fan of sweeter spumante or asti
Classic Demi-Sec ($8.45)- One of their most populat with good reason. A very good basic fruity wine, refreshing and crisp.

NOT BADS :) : Blanc de Blanc ($13.45)- Not as sweet or complex as the Spumante, but definitely in the same vein of style. It is more of a mellow, fruity sparkling white. Some may prefer it over the Spumante if they lean more towards salt than sweet.

TO BE CONTINUED!!!

 

 

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Ethiopian food can be a challenge to eat as a newbie. You eat only with your hands using torn pieces of injera, a spongy sourdough pancake like bread, to scoop pieces of saucy goodness into your mouth. Usually the food comes on one giant piece of flat bread with all your chosen entrees on top in sections. Needless to say, if you are at all a germaphobe this is not the thing for you and you should only eat with people you trust who will wash their hands and will not bogart your food. My trusted companions and I went to Addis Abeba. I was particularly excited because I wanted to try their tej. Tej is an Ethiopian honey wine, more like a mead, that is supposed to go beautifully with the spicy flavorful food. The waitress was great and allowed me to have a free taste before committing to buying more. It was extremely flavorful and had the rich aroma of honey. The taste was similar to mead, but lacked the yeastiness. So its flavors were very pure-honeyed and similar to ice wine. We decided to order a carafe to go with the meal, a very tasty decision. The food was great. We each got something different, chefs special, fish-meat combo, and veg-meat combo. The combos seemed the way to go if you want a good variety of flavors. One of my favorites was the yesiga wot (spicy beef stew) and yemiser wot (red lentels in a spicy red wot or sauce) With bread in hand we scooped ourselves to gustatory bliss. The soaked bread that had served as a plate combined with the last tidbits of every dish was a very tasty end to the meal. My only complaint was that the tej got a little sickeningly sweet as it lost its chill. All in all, Ethiopians know how to eat.

ethiopian.jpg

Addis Abeba Tej- 1/2 Carafe 16.50- Damn good ;)

With a strong scent of honey, this honey wine is true to its name. Flowery and flavorful, it has a sweet richness to it that goes well with the more spiced food of Ethiopia. I would have also loved to have this with Indian food. It taste is very similar to mead in that there is a honeyed flavor to this, but does not have the heavy yeastiness of a traditional mead. Sweet enough to act as a stand alone dessert wine, but not too cloying to go with food. This wine is outstanding chilled, but can get too sweet when left at room temperature for too long. It is definitely not for those who are not a fan of sweet.

Sniff- honey, flowery, fruity

Sip- rich, sweet, honey, fruity

Eat- Ethiopian, Indian, spicy rich foods

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Nestled in the middle of no where fast, Three Floyds Brewery is a greasy beer saturated gem in the flatlands of Indiana. With a hopping brew pub attached, the brewery doubles as a great destination for a night of laid back drinking. The specialty brews are worth the visit. We tried all but two of the selections on the menu. The food was gut bustingly tasty. We started with the garbage fries which were smothered with a number of fixin’s featuring chili and cheese. The fry cone seemed to be popular. Its exactly what it sounds like a huge cone filled with fresh cut homemade fries. For more sophisticated tastes the menu includes more elaborate entrees and appetizers, including beer-steemed mussels. Since this is roughly a 45 minute drive from Chicago and there is quite a number of beers to try a designated driver is advised, and those not into brew pubs and beer most definitely would not find the trek worth it.

Rabbid Rabbit- Not Bad-Damn Good

dsprabbidrabbit.jpg

True to its name, this rich complex beer had the undertones of a delicious carrot cake. It had the spice, the richness, and fullness. Although this combination may sound unpalatable, believe me its fantastic. I bought two bottles at the brewery and was tempted to by more. If you like spice to your beer this is for you, with hints of cinnamon, allspice, sweet malt, and caramel this is a beer that can definitely satisfy a sweet tooth.

Sniff- citrus, cinnamon, spice

Sip- carrot cake, cinnamon, allspice, caramel, malt

Eat- Good as a stand alone, or could balance out salty pub fair, but it is rich so some might prefer lighter food. Could also go well with dessert, something with a nice creamy texture like ice cream and apple pie

The Deuce-Not Bad-Damn Good

AKA The Chocolate Banana, does in fact taste like a chocolate banana. Its a rich creamy beer with an uncanny hint of banana that seems to work wonderfully with the yeasty chocolaty beer. Another beer reminiscent of a dessert. Heavy and thick with a fruitiness that adds lightness to it. Very complex and inviting, I would say this is another beer for those with a sweet tooth. It would be sensational with chocolate.

Sniff- chocolate, banana, sweet

Sip- bittersweet chocolate, banana, fruit, yeast, rich

Eat- Chocolate somethings or nothing at all

Gumballhead- Not Bad

gh.gif

A light wheat beer, it is the classic summer drink. It is very hoppy (aka got a little bitterness to it) and drinkable, but did not stand out in my mind. It has a mild sweetness with some hints of citrus. I think its a pretty universally appealing beer, but no wows of where did that flavor come from. Could be a Damn Good for those who love hoppy light summer beers.

Sniff- Citrus, sweet

Sip- citrus, hoppy, sweet

Eat- anything under the sun, literally

MORE TO COME

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