A Few Hints on the Day Before Thanksgiving:

The Red Wines for tomorrow are Gamay and Pinot Noir, maybe a lighter Grenache.  Don’t annoy someone with god damn Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile which makes EVERYONE’S mouth taste like they just ate a tea bag. Go soft.  Gentle.  Gentler.  Beaujolais Village Cru.  2011 Morgon.  2009 Moulin-a-Vent.  Maybe a Grenache from north of Barcelona.  Yes.  That’s the spot.

The White Wines are Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris (avoid Grigio if you can), Gewurztraminer, perhaps. Honestly most white go, since a lotta guys will be drinking beers and the women will start drinking the wine the minute they start to ignore their kids, so whatever really, right ladies?  A nice blend, like Connundrum always works.

We got delivery tonight. Bobbo is baking pies and making some appetizers for tomorrow. He does a great raspberry baked brie and a crab dip.  Then again, doesn’t everyone.

The Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2012 is fantastic for under $10 a bottle. We have been getting it for between $9 and $10 and have been having a bottle or 2 every night. It is the time to indulge and it is a great year! Remember, this wine can ONLY be drank between Nov. 16th and Jan. 1st. The brave drink it to Jan. 15th. I am a brave man! Santé! A wonderful holiday to you, even if you don’t celebrate it.  In much of Aerica, It has turned into a time to celebrate friends and family, no matter how much you hate it!

Recipe for Committing a Mortal Sin #2 – Bobbo’s Greek Lamb Ragú

Bobbo’s Peloponnesian (that’s Greek!) Lamb Ragú

A recipe very close to my big fat Polish heart (Lamb!) — similar to a Bolognese sauce, but inspired by the international spirit of Newport, RI (greek, irish, italian, portuguese).  The recipe is an original:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cup chopped Vidalia onion
1 ½ cup chopped carrots
1 ½ cups chopped celery, including leafy green celery tops
5-10 cloves garlic (to your liking), minced
½ teaspoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons zahtar (if unavailable add dried thyme, basil and savory equaling 2 tablespoons)
2 lbs. ground lamb (if you can’t find ground lamb, use turkey or veal rather than beef and increase spices and wine by 10%)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ cups dry red wine
1 or 2 28oz cans whole peeled Italian San Marzano tomatoes
Leaves from 6 ounces Greek oregano, chopped
Leaves from 6 ounces mint, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 lb. Rigatoni or other short pasta
2 tablespoons butter

Chop onions, carrots and celery into medium dice —about ¼ inch pieces—and keep separate.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to Dutch oven and heat over medium high heat.  Add chopped onions to pot: add salt and pepper, stir and reduce heat to medium. Sauté onions about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add chopped carrots to cooking onions and stir. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Continue to sauté another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add chopped celery and continue sautéing another 5-10 minutes until the mixture is cooked but still firm. Add more olive oil and/or salt and pepper along the way, if needed (Note: I like to add a small amount of salt and pepper at each stage of the cooking process to bring out and layer flavors).  Push cooked vegetables to sides of pot, making a space in center of pan. Add remaining olive oil to center of pot, and add garlic. Sauté garlic for 2-3 minutes until aroma is released, then stir together with other vegetables in pot.

Add lamb to vegetable mixture. Mix well, breaking apart lamb to brown. Add zahtar and rosemary to mixture. Continue to cook over medium heat until lamb is thoroughly browned and liquids have evaporated. If too much grease, drain some off, but do make the mixture dry. Continue stirring another few minutes until you smell spice flavors being released. Stir in tomato paste. Raise heat to medium-high stirring occasionally and the mixture starts to caramelize on the bottom. Add red wine to mixture; stir and cook-off wine for 2-3 minutes. Mixture should be dense but not dry at this point.

Chop whole can of San Marzano tomatoes and add to ragu along with the juices from chopped tomatoes. (Note: I just squeeze and break apart the tomatoes in the pan using my hands to give it a more rustic look.) If mixture is too dry, add juice left over from tomato can. Add another can of tomatoes and juices if still too dry.

Continue cooking about 40-60 minutes until the tomatoes begin to breakdown and the color approaches a rich brick red.

While sauce is cooking, bring water to boil for pasta. Salt water. Add pasta about 20 minutes before sauce is ready.  At the same time (about 20 minutes before serving) add fresh chopped oregano and mint to sauce. Keep sauce on low heat until pasta is ready.

Cook pasta until desired tenderness. Drain pasta and mix with butter and 2 cups of sauce. Keep warm.  Serve buttered and sauced pasta in a warm bowl. Top with additional sauce and serve.

A spring mix salad with black olive tapenade dressing and garlic bread make a nice addition.

We usually have the Viu Manent Cabernet Sauvignon with it.  I am sure you will hear about that shortly.

Light candles. Enjoy!


Committing Venial Sins and Confession to a Pork Belly

One thing that I find the most frustrating – I drink more wine than I write about. Way more wine than I have a chance to commit them to typographic memory. What can make that worse is, sometimes, when I go back to have a wine a second time, the situation of the taste… bar v. restaurant … meal v. drink … you get the picture, changes something about the wine.  I don’t want to be one of those people running around talking into their phone to record things, but it may be not too far down the pipeline. 

Same thing with food.  October 9th was a big milestone for me on my new journey back into the world of wine, what with almost 30 years of dancing around wines, grapes, vineyards, all sorts of places or things associated with the vine. I started teaching about wine again.  I did beer classes in 2010 and taught wine from 2005 through 2009  I did so many seminars in the late 90s and early 00s in California.  I still remember when I sold about 18 cases of almost “gone” Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (gone meaning it had only a year or so left in its life) with nothing but my mouth and a tub of shucked oysters and some lemons.  I have forgotten the exact things I spoke about Tuesday in class (although I started following the syllabus I developed in the beginning of the class, I’m sure). Those that know me say I go off on tangents.  I’m sure we will be on one by the end of this post. We may be already.  Who knows?  I want to memorialize my meal after the class. The Chef at One Bellevue invited Bobbo and I (or is it me?) to sit down and enjoy a 4 course meal on him.  A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Crispy Pork Belly, pickled red cabbage, golden raisins, cider gastrique

Both of us began with Crispy Pork Belly, a perfect combination of skin, fat and meat drizzled with the most divine (too gay? ok, exquisite then…) cider gastrique with a perfect amount of acid to cut through the thickness of the dish and a nice big glass of the unctuous and dark Belle Glos Meiomi 2011 Pinot Noir. I continued on with Chef Thiele’s Grand Chowder, which is a kind of medium consistency clam chowder base, then nicely supplanted with scallops, shrimp, & lobster.  It has a rich, refined consistency and is spiced properly so it doesn’t fall flat on you from the richness of the cream.  It paired perfectly with the suggested Ferrari Carano 2010 Chardonnay which has a nice backbone of acidity but the proper buttery, creamy base and late summer stone fruit upnotes. This was followed by the sushi-grade rare Ahi tuna steak with blackberry reduction.  It was red meat from the ocean, a rancher’s dream. I had my Mr. Miyagi moment when I was about to order a light Chard when the server recommended something different based upon the exercises and lecture from the class earlier.  Instead, I had the smooth, light, balanced and extremely aromatic 2009 Erath Pinot Noir. Fit the dish to perfection.  The quality of the tuna and the blackberry glaze made it a hearty and sweet dish while the bed of lentils it laid on gave it a salty and earthy quality.  We shared an Artisinal Cheese & Fruit plate while a mysterious bottle of Renwood 2004 Amador Zinfandel Ice Wine appeared before us.  The whole meal was capped off by shots of Redbreast 12-year Irish Whiskey, a smooth easy-drinking whiskey from County Cork, last years Irish whiskey of the year.