Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy Blindtober!

It’s been a while since I’ve been blogging but never fear, I’ve been drinking wine…lots of wine!! I’ll catch you up on some great wine experiences at a later post, for now, I welcome you back to Blindtober. As you might recall, every October I taste wines blind – as in, I don’t know what I’m drinking and I guess what it is. Typically I just guess the varietal, but sometimes I get ballsy and go for region. Well, I’ve been doing this for a few years and you know what? I still kinda suck at it. :) But I keep doing it because how am I ever going to be good? Plus it’s a fun game to play for a month. (although here’s a secret…by the end of the month I’m tired of it - and just wanna drink to drink with no guessing!!)
This year, like last, I’m gonna tweet about my blind tasting experiences with #blindtober. Join me if you’re up to it!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dry aged strips...cooked with love

I hope all you lushes (and non-lushes!) had a fabulous Valentine’s Day! I’ll get to what we had in a minute, but first let’s go on a trip down memory lane. In 2005 or 2006 Mr. Lush purchased a bottle of 2003 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon and we’ve been holding on to it since then. In October of 2011 we met Chuck Wagner (owner of Caymus) at a pairing dinner. We talked about the 2003 and how long we should hold it, (he said drink soon - the special selection is the one meant for 10+ yr aging) and how we were going to be in Napa for a wedding in January. He suggested we stop in for a private tasting; and we did. During that tasting Mr. Wagner surprised us with opening a 2003 – the same year we had been holding onto. It was fantastic and to his surprise, he thought it could another year or two. As you might have guessed, we not drink it when we got home and instead lovingly looked at it and promised we’d be together in one to two years. ;) We really lucked out, getting to taste it without having to open our own.

Here's us with Chuck, his daughter, and the wedding couple....by the way, if you should make it to Napa, I highly recommend a stop by Caymus, they make a lot more than the stuff that gets distributed outside Cali. (Zinfandel, bubbly, etc)

Ok, so on to our Valentine’s Day dinner – which we usually eat in vs doing the “cattle call going out to dinner” thing. In VDays past we’ve picked either elaborate recipes or simply more expensive items than we’d normally eat. This year we picked the latter.

We started the evening off with some gorgonzola stuffed bacon wrapped dates (I didn’t take a picture of that; my apologies!) with the 2009 Domaine Carneros (the California sparkling house by Tattinger) Brut Rose. (to which I also recommend stopping by - beatiful scenery and although expensive, an informative tour and tasting) It was a decent pairing; the wine was dry and cut through the bacon, a little bit fruity and tart so it went well with the date and gorgonzola- however not a slam dunk pairing, both were good and I do love some pink bubbly!!! (note, the bottle is empty in this pic...)

On to the main course… Dry aged strip steak, grilled fingerling potatoes and grilled broccoli. Referencing the trip down memory lane above; we tasted the dry aged rib eye at that Caymus pairing dinner and really loved it and since have tasted the strip steak and loved that as well. Here it is in it’s raw form – look at that gorgeous marbling….

We only seasoned with some fresh ground pepper; we didn’t want it to overpower the wine. Wait! The wine! How could I forget! ;) I’m sure by now you’ve guessed what the wine was….yes, the 2003 Caymus. We hemmed and hawed; drink now or wait? Drink Now or Wait? Oh the drama of a couple of lushes!! :) It was so good last year, but we’ve also had a few instances where we’ve held onto wine too long lately. (oh, so so sad to taste a wine too late!) So we opened it; it probably could’ve gone another year honestly, but we thought it was better than last year and was certainly in it’s prime drinking window. Mr. Lush knocked it out of the park with the strips; they were cooked perfectly and went amazingly with the wine!

Dessert…was less elaborate. Grilled peaches (with brown sugar) with cinnamon swirl pound cake, topped with a single serving (hence the odd shape) of Edy’s Slow Churned Caramel Delight ice cream. The wine…was considerably less impressive than the first two; a Hogue Reisling.  Medium sweet, hints of peaches with a bit of minerality. However, it went really well with the dessert and I’d recommend it as a cheaper pairing; a sauternes would probably pair better, but for the price ($8) it’s hard to beat.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wine Enthusiast Valentines Day Deal

Hello wine lovers! Use the coupon code love50 for a $50 coupon with a $50 purchase on WE today!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Faves from wine clubs past....

I ran across some notes of past wine clubs and thought I’d jot down some of our favorites. (they are not in any order, just the ones that scored the highest of the night and that we'd consider buying again)
Sometime I’ll probably find the scores for other ones, but for now here’s what I have readily available…

From Red Blends:
  • 2006 Edward Sellers Le Theif
  • 2009 L Preston
  • 2008 Ferrer Bobel Priorat 
From Poor Man’s night:
  • 2011 Field Stone Petite Sirah Rose
  • 2010 J Opi Malbec
  • 2009 Fieldstone Corvino Red Table Wine 
From Zinful Desserts: 
  • 2008 Kenwood Reserve Zin 
  • 2008 Martinelli Vigneto di Evo Zin 
  • 2005 Peterson Winery Muscat Blanc
And I even found one from summer last year...
From Hot Weather Wines: 
  • 2011 Domaine Lafond Tavel
  • 2011 Chateau De Manissey Tavel
  • nv Mumm Brut Rose
  • 2007 Autry Cellars Petite Sirah (to go with BBQ fare)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Siduri Winemaker Dinner

A week or so ago, Mr. Lush and I (along with Ms. G) went to a Siduri winemaker pairing dinner at a local wineshop/restaurant. I’ll have to say that the winemaker, Adam Lee, is pretty darn funny, a smidge on the raunchy side in fact. While I don’t mind the raunchy sense of humor, and in fact love it, out of respect for his privacy I most certainly won’t post the jokes/comments! Just know, if you get a chance to meet him - go!
Here’s the menu:

My favorite wine was a tie- the Santa Rita and the Sebastiano (also from Santa Rita). My favorite pairing was the duck with the Santa Rita; (below) the veal was a bit too fatty and the pinot wasn’t big enough to cut through it, at least not in my opinion.

It was an interesting dinner to try pinots by the same winemaker. Unfortunately for my visual friends, all the Siduri Pinots look nearly identical.

And of course, whenever we meet a winemaker, Mr. Lush and I pose with them – here’s us with the funny Adam Lee. (The picture is a bit hazy-I think the person who took it was under a light so it flooded it out – boo!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Everything's better with bacon mac-n-cheese

Several months ago, I attended a “Everything’s Better With Bacon” cooking class at Schnucks (a local grocery store); it included a bacon bloody mary, warm spinach salad with bacon, pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon with Dijon mustard cream sauce, bacon boursin mac-n-cheese and bacon chocolate ice cream. Yes, it was a glorious bacon-licious day! Well, I needed to share the recipe for the bacon mac-n-cheese with someone and I thought well, I might as well share it with everyone, since it really is the best mac-and-cheese.

Bacon Boursin Mac-n-Cheese 
  • 1lb macaroni
  • 1 qt milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 8 oz Gruyere, grated or shredded
  • 4 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated or shredded
  • 4 oz Bousin cheese (I use garlic herb)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ lb bacon, crispy crumbled
  • ¾ lb freshly sliced tomatoes (or diced)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Boil and drain macaroni
  • Heat (but don’t boil) milk in small saucepan. Melt 6 TBS butter in large pot and stir in flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with whisk. Add hot milk slowly, stirring with whisk and cook for 3-5 more minutes until thickened and smooth.
  • Take off heat and add Gruyere, cheddar, Boursin, 1 tbs salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in bacon and macaroni and pour into baking dish.
  • Slice tomatoes and arrange on top of macaroni. Melt remaining 2 TBS butter, combine with fresh bread crumbs and sprinkle on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and lightly browned on top.
As far as wine pairing, I don't really a perfect pairing for you. If I recall I had an unoaked Chardonnay and it was ok. We're going to have it again this weekend so I'll update if we taste anything fantastic with it!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lush Pastitsio

In yesterday’s post, I talked about the wine part of the Terlato vertical pairing dinner and promised the recipe, so here it is. Now, it was my first time making Pastitsio and I looked at several recipes, but based mine mostly on this one. Some commented that I was very brave making a dish I’d never made for 14 people,and they are right - I was more than a bit nervous. However, I frequently make red sauce and lasagna and I knew lamb would go well with the Syrah, so I took a chance and am happy to say it turned out well!

Note: this is a bit of a labor/time intensive dish. Including grating the cheese (I was surprised that it took a really really long time to grate the cheese!) and simmering time, it was about 2 hours prepping this, not counting the baking time. I made it in the morning and let it sit in the fridge before transporting it to dinner and baking there.

Lush Pastitsio
  • 2 quarts 2% milk
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 tablespoons cup olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • 1 ¼ cup dry red wine
  • Two 16 oz cans petite diced tomatoes
  • One 16 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano (or 1/2 cup fresh chopped oregano, which is what I used)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 ½ pounds penne
  • 1 ¾ cups freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 large egg yolks
1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk until bubbles appear around the edge. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour to the butter and whisk over moderately high heat until light golden, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thick, about 8 minutes. Season with 2 teaspoons of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, ½ teaspoon of nutmeg and ½ tsp ground oregano. Press plastic wrap directly on the sauce and let cool.

2. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and brown it in a large pan with 2 tbs olive oil. Transfer the lamb to a platter. (note, the lamb I had was 80/20 so I drained about half the fat once it was browned – the oil in the sauce will soak into the dried pasta and bump up the flavor)
3. Add the shallot to the pan and cook over moderate heat until it is softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, allspice and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, then the tomato paste. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is nearly evaporated. Add the lamb along with the tomatoes and their liquid, the tomato sauce, oregano and sugar. Season the lamb mixture with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat, about ½ hour.

4. Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until barely al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain well, blot dry with paper towels and let cool.
5. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray or butter a large baking dish (I used an aluminum roasting pan for 25 lbs and used Pam). Line the bottom with one half of the penne. Spread half of the white sauce on top, then cover with the lamb sauce and sprinkle with 1/2 of the cheese. Top with the remaining penne. Stir the egg yolks into the remaining white sauce and spread it over the penne. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 40 minutes, or until the edges of the pan are golden and the sauce is bubbling. Let the Pastitsio stand for 20 minutes before cutting.

Here’s the before and after:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Terlato Pairing Dinner

Last weekend my wine club had a vertical pairing dinner party with 2004-2007 Terlato Family Vineyards Syrah. For the entree, we made a modified version of this Pastitsio (Greek lasagna) found on Food and Wine.  (my recipe will be posted tomorrow) Several side dishes, including Greek peppers, were served. (hopefully those who made it will reply with their recipes as well!)

Let’s talk about the wine for now. We got a winewoot deal on the 2004, 2006 & 2007 and bought the 2005 directly from the winery. The 2007 was the Block 9, but the rest were the estate vineyars. Mr. Lush and I agreed that the favorite wine by itself was the 2005, but it wasn’t our favorite with the Pastitsio- it actually paired better with the peppers. Our favorite(s) with the lamb were the 2004 and 2006 and the rest of the wine club agreed with the pairing. (I will note that I think the 2004 was at or just past it’s prime, so if I were to purchase any again, I’d focus on 2005 and younger.) The 2007 was my least favorite; it opened up a little bit by the end of the night, but if I had a bottle, I think I’d hold onto it for another year or two.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

WE's 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations 2013

Like I needed to add another place to my bucket list... *Sigh*

  • Rioja, Spain 
  • Danube, Austria
  • North & South Forks of Long Island, New York
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Monterey County, California
  • Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil
  • Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia
  • Douro Valley, Portugal
  • Puglia, Italy