Archive for the ‘Italian’ 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



ricotta with sundried tomatoes

roasted garlic, basil, fresh tomatoes

roasted red pepper spread


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)


Pound cake two ways

with nutella and roasted bananas

with marsala wine soaked cherries and lemon curd


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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Last night, DGS veered away from our usual format of a long tasting at someone’s place in favor of a short and semi-formal tasting at WineStyles, a new wine store in the neighborhood. It was a delightful and stress-free night, since the folks at WineStyles were in charge of selecting the wines and the hosting, research and clean up – all we had to do was to choose a theme and show up to drink. For the night, we decided on Italian wines:

1. Sergio Spumante – This prosecco was a great hit with everyone present. Nice tight bubbles with a bit of a sweet fizz, but not overwhelmingly so. The finish was just a little tart, leaving one wanting more – a lot more.


2. Rocca Pinot Grigio – others liked the crisp and refreshingly light palate, but I like my wines with more oomph. I likened the Pinot Grigio to drinking Bud Light/Tiger Beer instead of Wee Heavy. Nonetheless, it’s a delightfully simple and light wine to knock back, especially on a hot summer’s day.


3. Castello delle Regine, Bianco (literally, Castle of the Queen) – Now, this blend (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc)from Umbria was quite a bit more interesting, with quite a bit more weight. Evidently, this is a really young winery (first vintage in 2000).


4. Carpineto Dogajolo – This “Super Tuscan” had a strong, pleasant smell of wood, and little wonder because it has been aged in small wooden casks. Made of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvingnon, the wine is bottled between the last week of March and the first week of April of the year following harvest. Should be a wine that would age well, with its strong tannins.


5. Il Cuore, Barbera 2005 – Literally translates into “The Heart” in Italian, I found the Barbera fascinating, not least because one doesn’t usually find the grape outside of Piedmont. According to the folks at WineStyles though, they are also going to bring in a Barbera from Argentina, which I’m really keen to try, just to see the different styles. The Il Cuore is made from grapes grown in Mendocino County, California, and is only the winery’s third release. It’s a blend of 89% Barbera with 11% Old Vine Zinfandel for the plum and spice notes.


6. Catello delle Regine, Rosso – Some blackberry notes, a little bit of chocolate, and quite tannic on the mouth.

Here’s some information on the wine from Wine Legacy:

A young winery to watch. In 1994, Paolo Nodari, a lawyer from Milan, decided to purchase Castello delle Regine, a historical piece of property nestled between the towns of Narni and Amelia in the hilly region of Umbria.

Castello delle Regine covers around 1000 acres, located midway between Rome and Orvieto. It has a long (and often disputed history) as part of a fiefdom that has been held by various aristocratic families over the centuries.

Paolo’s dream was to restore and modernize the estate without compromising its charm, rich heritage, and respect for the surrounding natural environment.

Today, the estate includes a wild game preserve, and a breeding facility for rare Chianina cattle. Under the direction of Livia Colantonio, the ancient farmhouse was carefully restored and a restaurant and guesthouses were developed to welcome visitors.

With the help of Fabio Busetti and after years of careful study, 150 acres of vineyards were planted on the best south-facing hillsides where the sandy clay soil is ideal for Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. These vineyards complement the plots of old vines that have been growing on the estate for generations.

Consulting oenologist Franco Bernabei was brought in to direct the transformation of the barrel aging cellar and the construction of a state-of-the-art vinification cellar. The estate produces highly acclaimed wines, olive oil, and beef.

Rosso delle Regine is the newest addition to the Castello delle Regine line. This blend of equal parts of Sangiovese and Merlot are fermented in stainless steel and aged for six months in French Allier barriques.

This wine is enjoyable to drink now, and can be aged for another few years. Serve with Osso Bucco and grilled, marinated, olive oil drizzled vegetables.


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Every Friday, I look forward to reading the WSJ with much anticipation, waiting to see what Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher have to recommend in their latest wine article.

As usual, I wasn’t disappointed. This Friday’s article presents invaluable suggestions on everyday wines to drink – and to store in your wine fridge. Invaluable because as I’ve been cooking and consequently digging into my wine fridge for that pairing, I’ve finished most of my cheaper bottles and am now left with the dearer ones that I can’t really justify drinking alone on a weekday night.

With each new case, we’d be more and more adventurous. Our most important advice is to try new things and trust your own taste. Stock types of wine that you like, but force yourself to get out of your comfort zone. You’ll find many delicious surprises, wines that will be new friends to greet you at home, wines that make you smile. Here is a case of wines that would make us smile, that we know would pair with anything we might cook for dinner tonight. They are listed from white to red.

• Muscadet from France. It’s the classic wine to have with fish — fun, easy to drink and inexpensive.

• Riesling Kabinett from Germany. This is a must-have with pork and veal, but also lovely to drink on its own.

• Alsatian white from France, probably Pinot Blanc or Gewürztraminer. If we’re calling in spicy Asian food, this would stand up to it. And it’s great with pork roast with herbs or pork with simmering apples, prunes and raisins.

• Inexpensive Chardonnay from the U.S. Most inexpensive Chardonnay these days is sweet, heavy and unpleasant, but there’s a reason Chardonnay is still America’s favorite wine. When it’s good, there are few wines as enjoyable and casual. When we were young, our house Chardonnay was Estancia. We bought it by the case and always had a bottle in the refrigerator when we had informal, happy food like quiche. Over the years, we’ve liked Beringer, Bogle, Cambria, Gallo of Sonoma, Hahn, R.H. Phillips and others as our house Chardonnay, but this is one you really need to decide for yourself. This can pair with anything from fried chicken to seafood dishes. If we saw a lower-priced Grüner Veltliner from Austria or Torrontés from Argentina, we might substitute one of those because they’re more delightful than Chardonnay to sip on their own, before dinner, but those are harder to find than Chardonnay.

• Better Chardonnay from the U.S. or, if there were a reliable one, a white Burgundy from France. Sometimes we make a special meal that needs a white of some stature, and this would fit the bill. We’d probably look for a Montagny, Rully or Saint-Véran from Burgundy, since we’ve had good luck with those. The American Chardonnay would probably be anything we hadn’t tried before because there’s always a new one out there and it’s fun to experiment. By having it in our drink-now cooler, we’d open it instead of waiting for a special occasion.

• Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Chile or South Africa, depending on how much we wanted to spend. Sauvignon Blanc is mouth-watering and hunger-inducing and there are so many good ones today from so many places. These pair with a variety of foods, including salads, hearty grilled vegetable dishes and seafood.

• Beaujolais from France. Inexpensive, good both chilled or warmer, perfect with just about any food from salmon to hamburgers — how could we not have a bottle around? We might simply have a Beaujolais-Villages, but we’d probably have a bottle from one of the villages (See related column).

• A red Rhône from France or a Portuguese red. We often eat comfort food, like meat loaf or macaroni and cheese, and comfort food requires comfort wine. We’d get a Portuguese red if we could find one — we love their earthiness and their low prices — but, if we couldn’t, we’d probably go with one of the lesser-known (and therefore lower-priced) Rhône wines, like Vacqueyras.

• Mid-range Bordeaux from France. If we were having steak or short ribs, we’d have to open a good Bordeaux. We might actually go to the bigger cellar for this and break out something with age, but if not, we’d want to have a bottle of Châteaux Gloria, Phélan-Ségur, Beychevelle, Gruaud-Larose or Pontet-Canet. There’s nothing magical about those five names except they’re wines we’ve enjoyed for decades, so they give us a smile.

• Pinot Noir from the U.S. We’d probably spend about $20 or so on a California or Oregon Pinot Noir to include in the cooler because, these days, there are few wines as reliably food-friendly and delicious. We also find that Pinot is especially fun to linger over, so we’d open it when we got home and sip it through dinner. Good ones always seem like several bottles as they change through the night, and they’re great with a wide variety of dishes from salmon to roast chicken to lamb.

• An informal red from Italy. We imagine many people, like us, eat lasagna, pizza and other casual Italian dishes pretty often, so we’d want to have a wine to pair with those. We might just go with Antinori’s delightful, inexpensive Santa Cristina, but perhaps we’d have a bottle of Barbera d’Alba or Dolcetto instead.

• Malbec from Argentina or Carmenère from Chile. We don’t often have game, but if we had anything that reminded us of game — a rich stew, or an herbed roast — these would be perfect. Malbec is far more widely available, but Carmenère is the kind of fun, different, often-inexpensive wine that reminds us that there are always new tastes out there to be discovered.

Remember: If you buy wine by the mixed case, you will usually get 10% to 20% off. And wines always taste better with a discount.

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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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