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Gloria Ferrer ‘ Blanc de Noir’ NV

I can’t remember when I started drinking Gloria Ferrer. Gloria Ferrer was one of the first domestic sparkling wines that my friends in the industry took seriously. It was delicious and affordable and so it ended up at a lot of our parties and celebrations. Gloria became so ubiquitous that we ended up on a first name basis. Gloria was our de facto bubbly and our lives were made better because of it.

Gloria Ferrer was founded in 1982 by the Ferrer family as their primary venture into California winemaking. Owners of Freixenet, one of the big Cava producers in Spain, the family’s lifelong dream was of producing wine in the United States. The winery was named after José Ferrer’s wife, Gloria. The couple continue to run the winery together to this day.

Gloria Ferrer’s wine making mission is: To capture the full expression of the distinctive Carneros terroir in wines made to pair perfectly with food.

Gloria Ferrer ‘Blanc De Noirs’ NV is just about a perfect food wine as you can find. This is delicious and elegant sparkling wine made from Carneros Pinot Noir. Its sweet, sunny fruit and gentle precision feels properly Californian. The texture is soft and polished, lasting on a clean chamomile scent that will keep you coming back for more. “Vibrantly floral strawberry and gingerbread aromas pair with crisp red apple and spice flavors that bounce along the finish.” 90 pts Wine Spectator

Which brings me to food. This wine is delicate enough for lighter fare but has the ability to pair with Steak (Surf and Turf anyone?) The richness of the Pinot Noir makes it perfect for richer seafood dishes. Crab Ravioli, Coquilles St Jacques, Seafood Fettucine.

A lovely and elegant dish that will liven up any dinner party is Crab Bisque. It is relatively easy to make and can stretch one crab a long way. You can find Dungeness Crab from around $9.99 a pound for 1 to 2 pound crab. Paired with a Sparkling Blanc de Noir you have a perfect night.

Dungeness Crab Bisque

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large crab cooked and meat removed, shells roughly chopped

*** Mire Poix

2 onion, finely chopped

2 small carrot, finely chopped

2celery stalk, finely chopped

1 medium fennel bulb, chopped

4 cups water

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup dry white wine

¼ cup medium-grain rice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

¼ cup Pernod

Pinch of saffron threads

1 cup heavy cream

water, as needed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chives

 

  1. In a large sauce pan combine half of the mire poix and crab shells add bay leaf and garlic. Cover with water (4 cups). Simmer for 20 minutes, strain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, fennel and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes until soft
  3. Add the stock, wine, rice, tomato paste, Pernod and saffron. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the rice and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Puree the mixture in a blender until very smooth. Add cream. Thin with water if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Strain through sieve into a clean sauce pan.
  5. Return to heat and bring to a simmer.
  6. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cooked crab and chives

Serves 8.

Grilled Sausage Pizza

Pizza is my favorite food. Maybe it’s because I am a baker at heart, but I love Pizza. I am not a Pizza snob, I have a very ecumenical approach to flatbread; I love traditional Naples style, Chicago, thin crust, thick crust, bring it on.

A couple of grilled pizza‘s, a big green salad, an antipasti plate and a couple of bottles of a lighter bodied red and you have yourself a party. There are number of great bottles out that are perfect for company and affordable enough for a party! Mason’s Red by Casey Coble is a perfect example.

ROBERT RAMSAY MASON’S RED 2015 $14.99 

 Mason’s Red was created as a “food friendly” wine with generous acidity to complement all foods-except maybe breakfast cereal.  Enjoy Mason’s any night, whether you’re eating a fresh harvest from the farmers’ market, oven-fired pizza, or creamy sauces that demand a wine with a structure that cuts through with a pleasurable balance.  Mason’s is a Cinsault-based blend that changes every year-picking up the flavors and the personality of the winemaker, Casey Cobble

Hightower Murray Cuvee 2014 $14.99 

Hightower’s entry red is a one of Washington State’s best red wine values! Layered and complex, with ripe blueberry and cassis flavors and hints of tobacco, Bing cherry and black currants. Murray a big genial Pup that loved parties!

If you have company pull out some nice stuff like a Bottle of Baer Star from Woodinville. Baer winery is a family run winery in Woodinville that has been making waves for number of years. The Baer Ursa has an almost cult like following, and since receiving 95 points and claiming the #6 spot on the Wine Spectator’s TOP 100, the Ursa has been getting harder and harder to get your hands on. The Baer Star is affectionately called the “Baby-Ursa’ around the shop, this new single vineyard blend from Baer is another Merlot driven blend and just plain delicious.

Grilled Pizza with Sausage 

Dough:
1 Cup Water
2 Tbl Olive Oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp salt
2 Cup (11oz) OO flour, plus more for work surface
Cornmeal for peal

Topping:
1 14 oz Can Crushed tomatoes
1 Tbl Olive Oil
1 each Garlic clove, Minced or Pressed
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp Oregano

8 oz Sausage
4 oz Mozzarella, low moisture
4 oz Fontina
Red Pepper Julienne, for Garnish
Fresh Sage leaves, for garnish

Dough
1. In large mixing bowl combine water, sugar and yeast. Let bloom.
2. Add remaining ingredients and combine with hand. Let rest 30 min.
3. Punch down dough and need for a few minutes. Lest retard in refrigerator for 20 – 30 minutes.
4. Pull out and divide into two dough balls
5. Roll out dough into 12” circles.
Sauce
6. In bowl combine Tomato, garlic, olive oil and seasoning
Prepare Charcoal fire or preheat Gas grill (medium Heat)
7. Lightly spread pizza peel with cornmeal and place one dough on peel
8. Slide dough off onto grill and grill 1 – 2 minutes
9. Remove from grill and invert onto peel
10. Spread precooked dough with Sauce and top with cheese and fresh sausage
11. Slide back onto grill and close cover and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes
12. Remove from grill and garnish with fresh sage and red pepper julienne

Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors

 

Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, made with duck confit, sausage and beans. Served with good crusty bread and a good bottle of hearty wine Cassoulet is just about the finest warden against the cold dark night.

There are as many versions of Cassoulet as there are French grandmothers and Chefs. Some include Lamb, pork shoulder or even partridge. Below I give you a basic version that comes very close to traditional.


Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet
4 ounces bacon, diced
1 cups chopped onion (3/4 lb))
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrot, peeled diced
1 lb Sausage links, cooked and sliced
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp thyme
1each bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (14-oz) can stewed tomatoes, chopped with juice
2 each confit duck legs*
1 14 ounce can white beans
2 cups beef broth
1 Tbl tomato paste
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

In a large pot render diced bacon
2. Add carrots, onion and celery cook until translucent
3. Add sliced sausage
4. Add herbs and season
5. Add tomatoes, beef broth and tomato paste
6. Add duck confit legs
7. Drain and rinse beans and add to pot
8. Cover and simmer for 1 hour9.
Remove bones from cassoulet adjust seasoning if necessary. In a pan heat olive oil and toast bread crumbs. To serve portion out cassoulet and top with bread crumbs and chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread and a hearty red wine.

Cassoulet calls out for a hearty wine, say Cotes du Rhone, Madiran or Cahors. Malbec has been made famous in Argentina where it produces lovely fruit forward reds, in Cahors where the grape is called Cot the wines are a little more rustic. Cahors is a small AOC wine region located in southwest France (the land of Cassoulet). The AOC is only for red wines, which must be made from a minimum of 70% Malbec and up to 30% Merlot or Tannat. Cahors Malbec tend to be deeper in color, more structured and fuller bodied than their Argentine counterparts.

Château Eugénie has been in the hands of the same family of winegrowers for generations. Their great great grandmother gave her name to the property.

Chateau Eugenie Cahors Tradition ’13 (France) $9.99 btl / save $4
Like most Tradition wines in Cahors, this fruity and perfumed wine has been aged in stainless steel to keep the fruitiness. Blackberry flavors are cut with acidity and a tight tannic character. Drinking beautifully right now!

With the weather the way it is I suggest putting on a pot, open a nice bottle of Cahors and don’t forget the bread.

Lenny’s Weekend Wine Pairing: Chicken Afritada and Petalos Mencia

The cuisine of the Philippines’ represents some of the most delicious and fascinating food around. The style of cooking has evolved over the centuries from the Austronesian roots to a mélange of Chinese, Spanish, Indian and more recently American influences. Local ingredients mixed with diverse cooking techniques have created a cuisine that is once familiar and distinctive.
The Chinese brought Soy sauce, fish sauce, techniques like stir frying and noodle making. Trade opened up even more ingredients and techniques from close neighbors like Mallacca and Java to as far away as India and Arabia that all made their mark on cuisine. Spanish colonizers brought with them the produce of their empire, the Americas. Chile Peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes along with techniques like cooking with garlic and onions. Spanish and Mexican dishes both make their way into the cuisine.
There are many classic dishes: from Lumpia to Adobo. A particular favorite is Afritada. This is a dish that applies Spanish technique, American ingredients and touch Asian influence and Filipino flair.


There are many ways to pair a dish like this. It’s not too spicy and just a little sweet and savory. You are going to want a wine that is has some intensity, good acidity and little fruit. For white, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is an almost ideal match. For red a Spanish Garnacha or Tempranillo would work nicely but a Mencia from Bierzo is just about perfect.

CROWDED HOUSE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 $11.99 btl / save $4
This wine blew our socks off! A quintessentially Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with bright aromas of guava, citrus fruits, and sweet crushed herbs. The palate is elegantly proportioned with lovely soft acid carrying the fruit flavors to a long, pure finish. This wine keeps you coming back for more; and at price you can afford to.

VINA HERMINIA CRIANZA 2013 $11.99 btl / save $4
“Talk about a stunning value!” – Arnie Milan. “An elegant and intense nose comprising black fruit, blackberry and herbs, with a real medicinal edge is followed deliciously by a well-structured palate of licorice, plums, tobacco and black fruit notes, which also has round meaty tannins, a lovely texture and a beautiful long finish.” 95 points Decanter

Or if you want something really cool try a Mencia from Bierzo.

JOSE PALACIOS ‘PETALOS’ BIERZO 2015 $19.99 btl / save $5
A fine representation of what is possible in both the Bierzo region as well as with the grape Mencia. Delicious tart red strawberry, Bing cherries, anise and impressive earthy aromas. Crisp red fruit on the palate, savory, smooth and caressing without sacrificing structure. All from vines ranging between 40 and 90 years of age on slopes (half of the grapes around the village of Corullón and the remainder in the rest of Bierzo). It’s a showy, approachable, aromatic and open version of Pétalos. 92 pts Wine Advocate

This Pineapple Chicken Afritada features chicken and tons of vegetables simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce. Vibrant, colorful, super delicious!

INGREDIENTS
2soy bean oil tablespoon
2 lbs chicken thighs, deboned and cut in serving pieces
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pound Linguiça or Longganisa sliced
4 cloves garlic coarsely
1 small onion, julienne
1 red pepper Julienne
1 yellow pepper Julienne
3 bay leaves
1 can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz can Pineapple chunks
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 potato, peeled quartered
1 carrot cut into chunks
1/4 cup green peas
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoon Fish sauce

1. Trim chicken thighs of any excess fat and season with salt, pepper and paprika
2. In a large skillet heat oil and brown chicken pieces on each side move to platter.
3. Add Linguiça onions and peppers stir to soften. Add garlic and bay leaves.
4. Add tomatoes, pineapple, stock and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer add potatoes, carrots and peas.
5. Return chicken to pot, cover and simmer 15 minutes.
6. Add cider vinegar, sugar and fish sauce
7. If the sauce is to thin remove chicken and simmer to reduce.
8. Serve with rice.

Cheers!

@Chef_Lenny

 

Truffle Mushroom Risotto and Sangiovese

I love this time of year. Although the changing of the seasons can seem a little schizophrenic. 80 degrees one day; raining and overcast the next. But this is harvest time, the final bounty of summer. True, it can be hard to plan for dinner just because of the bounty. Here is a dish that is ideal for the cooling weather.

Truffle Mushroom Risotto. Made with sautéed mushrooms and spiked with truffle and porcini this is a rich creamy side dish or Primo for an elegant dinner. I always make a little extra so I can have it for lunch the next day.

One of things I really like about this dish is that it pairs well with an array of wines. It plays well with nice Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay when served as a starter but also holds its own alongside fuller bodied reds. The earthiness of the mushrooms and the added umami of the Grana Padano make for a perfect match to a rustic styled Sangiovese.

I am a big fan of Sangiovese and I think that Chianti doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Sangiovese and Chianti in particular, is a food loving wine. Italians drink wine with food and make wine to go with food; every meal; every day. So there is a lot of really great Italian wine that you can afford to drink every day. You can get yourself a great Chianti for not a lot of money. Take for example the Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico 2013, a wine that Antonio Galloni called, “… a jewel of a wine from the Frescobaldi family.”  The Frescobaldi are a prominent Florentine noble family that have been involved in the political, sociological, and economic history of Tuscany since the Middle Ages.

Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico 2013 $14.99 

“The 2013 Chianti Classico I Bastioni is terrific. Bright red berry, rose petal, mint and anise are some of the signatures in a refined Chianti Classico that exemplifies the style of wine that is typical of the northern reaches of the appellation. The 2012 also shows the potential at Collazzi, which appears to be considerable. Merlot and Malvasia Nera round out the blend.” 92 points Antonio Galloni, Vinous

If you are planning on serving this dish with something more robust like Brasato or Bistecca Fiorentina you could step up to a “Super Tuscan”. These are wines made with international varietals like Cabernet. These wines make for a great conciliation between old world and new. If you are entertaining people who are familiar with Napa than Siena, this makes for great compromise.

I have favorite go to “Super” – Montepeloso A Quo. This wine is a balance of Cabernet, Montepulciano and Sangiovese with a little Alicante Bouschet from one of Tuscany’s most exciting winemakers.

Quietly over the past decade, Montepeloso’s Fabio Chiarelotto has emerged as one of the towering winemakers of the Tuscan coast. His windy site sits above the famed Tua Rita estate in Suvereto, producing red wines that are among the region’s most refined. When he purchased Montepeloso in 1998, it was already well on its way to international stardom. Chiarelotto could have rested on that reputation, but he felt that as the vines and been planted and trained, the site would never reach its full potential. And so he spent years reshaping the vineyards.

For eight long years, Chiarelotto painstakingly reshaped the estate’s vineyards. With each vintage, he experimented with blends and techniques that would harness the latent power provided by the terroir, but temper it so that the terroir could fully express itself.

Looking back, he made the right decision, as today Montepeloso has few rivals on the Tuscan coast for producing wines of riveting complexity and great elegance. Proprietor Fabio Chiarelotto succeeded in capturing the best elements of these sites while also shaping his wines with a level of finesse that is remarkable.

Montepeloso A Quo Rosso 2013 $16.99 

“The 2013 A Quo is a robust red blend based primarily on Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. The quality of the primary fruit is succulent, plump and rich. So are the background aromas of cinnamon, vanilla bean and toasted almond. This was a good vintage across Tuscany. The finish is exceedingly rich and supple with firmly yielding tannins.” 92 Pts Wine Advocate

 

So no matter if you how you serve this Truffle Mushroom Risotto there is a wine out there for your mood, company or menu.

 

Truffled Mushroom Risotto
________________________________________
Ingredients:

2 cups Water, or more if needed
1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small Onion, Diced
2 cups Arborio Rice
2 cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
1 Dried Whole Bay Leaf
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 sprig Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
Ground White Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 truffle finely grated
4 ounces Crimini mushrooms, or combination of seasonal mushrooms
2 tablespoons Butter
2 ounces Marsala
2 scallions sliced
Grada Padano Cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
1⁄2 cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped fine

 

  1. Combine 2 cups water and dried porcini mushroom in a small sauce pan and simmer to reconstitute.
  2. In a large pan sweat onions in olive oil add Arborio stir to coat with olive oil
  3. In small batches add chicken stock adding just enough to cover the rice.
  4. Add garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt and white pepper
  5. Using a microplane finely grate truffle into rice.
  6. Strain porcini and reserve the liquid. Finely dice the porcini and add to risotto.
  7. Slowly cook risotto over medium heat adding stock and reserved porcini water. Cook until rice is al dente, cooked to be firm to the bite. Add more water if necessary.
  8. Add cream and continue to stir remove from heat add about 1 cup of Grana Padano and chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning if needed.
  9. Garniture: sauté fresh mushrooms in butter until brown and soft, deglaze with Marsala and add fresh scallions set aside.
  10. To serve garnish with mushrooms and serve with extra Grana Padano

lenny@esquin.com

@Chef_Lenny

Corn Chowder with Dungeness Crab and California Chardonnay

It is Corn Season and around town in farmers markets and produce stands you see bushels of fresh corn. Summer is full of iconic produce – watermelon, cherries, blueberries. Fresh grilled corn on the cob is about as summer as you can get. If you haven’t tried Mexican Style Grilled Corn, Elote, you should. I have a friend who always requests it when we BBQ. There a million recipes and ways to use corn – Corn Chowder, Corn Salad with grilled peppers and Cilantro Vinaigrette, Grilled Chicken with Corn Salsa, a Seafood Boil with Corn and Potatoes .

When it comes to pairing there are many choices, but one always comes first to my mind and that is Chardonnay. Here is a little secret, one of the descriptors for Chardonnay is sweet corn, but it isn’t one your likely to see on a shelf taker or descriptor. But that sweet corn taste is echoed in many chardonnay. Add a little smoke from a grill and it plays well with a little oak, a little butter on the corn? You get the idea.

A truly classic pairing is Blanc de Blanc Champagne and Pop Corn, add a little truffle salt and you have highfalutin/ low brow combo that practically everyone loves.

Chardonnay can go from light, mineral and crisp to full bodied, buttery and oaky. This gives you a range of wines to choose from for pairing. A crisp Chablis will class up your Low Country Seafood Boil with a rich creamy corn chowder a more traditional California Chardonnay is the bomb.

Full disclosure, I am California kid and a soft spot for well-made, well-balanced California Chardonnay. Today I would like to present one of my new favorites.

Grayson Cellars Chardonnay ’16 (CA) $9.99 btl / save$3

If you like chardonnay you will fall head over heals in love with Grayson. 100% Chardonnay and shows loads of tropical fruit, especially mango, pineapple and tangerine, crisp acidity, and an elegant, mid-weight central casting California Chardonnay. “Best Buy!” 11 years in row from Wine Advocate.

Mike O’Connell, owner of Grayson Cellars, believes in using their Napa Valley location and combined winemaking skills to create some of the highest quality wines available at the by-the-glass price point. O’Connell has degrees in Business and Industrial engineering and these skills come in handy when you want to make a lot of really good wine inexpensively. But his real skill is in managing people and hiring the right people. In this case it is Larry Levin.

“Larry Levin, who is among the most experienced winemakers in the Napa Valley. After completing his Enology degree at UC Davis, Larry spent seventeen years at Dry Creek Vineyard. Larry then spent nine years as head of winemaking at Icon Estates, where he oversaw wineries such as Franciscan, Mt. Veeder, Estancia, Ravenswood, Quintessa and Ruffino (making 100 point wines!)” Larry knows good wine. We don’t usually get these kind of winemaking skills at this price point.

“A frequent entry into these best buy pages, winemaker Larry Levin knows how to fashion flavorful, authentic tasting whites and reds at bargain-basement prices.” -Robert Parker (Nov. 2014)

If you are looking for good Chard for next weekend BBQ, fish Boil or Sunday supper look no further.

This wines pairs beautifully with my corn chowder, if you want to fancy it up for company add some fresh cracked crab or avocado or both to the top! Then some fresh crusty bread and good bottle of Chardonnay and call it a day!

Lenny@esquin.com

Corn Chowder with Dungeness Crab

Ingredients

 

1 medium yellow or white onion

1 stalk celery

1 tablespoon butter

4 ounce bacon

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups chicken broth or clam juice

2 cups water

2 red or Yukon gold potatoes

1 clove garlic, chopped fine

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

4 ears fresh sweet corn or 4 cups frozen corn (fresh is better)

½ cup Cream

Salt to taste

Parsley to garnish

16 oz Dungeness crab meat



Method

 

  1. Peel corn and using a sharp knife cut kernels off cobs.
  2. Finely dice onion and celery.  Peel and thinly slice then dice the potato and set aside. Dice bacon.
  3. Heat a heavy stock pot and add the butter. Add the bacon and sweat add the onion and celery, stirring often until onions and celery softens.
  4.  Add flour and cook until a roux forms.
  5. Add chicken broth and water, stir until velvety and thickened.  Add diced potatoes. Add white pepper, thyme and bay leaf.
  6. Simmer gently for twenty minutes
  7. Add corn and cook for 5 minutes
  8. Remove from heat partly puree with emersion blender.
  9. Return to heat, add cream and slowly heat.
  10. Salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Simmer till soup thickens. Pour in bowl, add crab meat (2 tablespoons per bowl) and garnish with Parsley.

 

Serve with a gerat Chardonnay.

Yield 6 – 8  servings

 

 

Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches and Balsamic

It’s time to grab that few weeks of summer. This time of year I am grilling almost every night! There are lots of ways to grill that are quick, easy and delicious.

Perfect dish for a casual dinner on a warm summer night. Pork chops love the sweet and tangy of the Peaches and Balsamic and the touch basil adds just a bit of herbal freshness. Paired with a chilled bottle of Chardonnay or Rose and you have a quick yet elegant dish for a Tuesday night for two or for company on the weekend. I love this with a full bodied Rose like Seth’s Upside Down Nebbiolo Rosé -whole cluster pressed and aged on the lees for 3 months. Picked at 22 brix, this wine is beautifully distinct with bright fruit and a subtle minerality.

“The one thing we might love more than a chilled glass of rose on a hot summer day, would be rescue animals! If you follow us on Instagram then you know we love our rescue pup Turk. The only thing that makes rosé taste better, is knowing you’re helping save animals while drinking it! ” #AdoptDontShop

20% of the proceeds go to support various rescue organizations. #RESCUErosé

 

Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches and Balsamic Vinegar
________________________________________
For the pork chops:
2 (1-inch-thick) bone-in pork rib chops
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

For the Peaches
2 peaches, sliced in half
1 tablespoon Olive oil
2 teaspoons Honey
Salt and pepper

Fresh basil
2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Season pork chops and let come to room temperature while grill heats up to medium high.
2. In a bowl, combine the peaches, honey and olive oil. Season with pepper and toss to coat evenly.
3. Place chops on the hottest part of grill for 2 – 3 minutes until you have a nice scoring. Turn and move to a cooler part of grill cook for another 3 – 4 minutes depending on thickness of chop, until cooked through but not dry.
4. Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill, or preheat a cast-iron grill pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.
5. Place the peaches over direct heat and sear, until you have a nice color. Chop the peaches into smaller pieces.
6. Transfer the chops to a platter and top with peaches and basil drizzle with balsamic and serve.

 

Asparagus Tamales and Ross Andrew Celilo Pinot Gris

“Last chance on local Asparagus” the sign and the fruit stand read. so just grabbed a bunch, I can always use a bunch of asparagus – as a side, in a salad, as an appetizer with coddled eggs and prosciutto. It’s asparagus. But just having returned from Yakima I decided to try my hand at a local favorite – Asparagus Tamales.


Asparagus tamales have been made famous by Los Hernandez tamale shop in Union Gap, Yakima County. Owner Felipe Hernandez has become a local legend and international celebrity for his family’s tamales. He has been running the modest little shop for over 25 years and started making the Asparagus Tamales on a whim one night with some leftover masa. The secret ingredient he says is Pepper jack cheese. So below I have my own take on asparagus Tamales. I add some fresh chile verde to give it a little kick.


Any wine professional will tell you that pairing to a asparagus is tricky, but the secret is to have a wine with enough acidity to handle the chemical mercaptan that give asparagus it’s unique flavor (and experience). Then there is the chile verde you have be wary of even a little spice so a little hint of sweetness is a great help. Pinot Gris to the rescue!

2016 Ross Andrew Celilo Vineyard Pinot Gris $15.99
Made from a Pinot Gris block planted in 1975 in Celilo Vineyard, a prized high-elevation site in Columbia Gorge near the town of Underwood, WA. It is arguably one of the greatest white grape sites in Washington with its cool climate, wonderfully mineral rich soil and high winds that move the 50″ of annual rainfall off the canopy.

The aromatics and palate of this wine really showcase what vine age can do to a wine. Asian pear, white flowers and nectarine. The palate is vibrant and crisp with a touch of minerals on the finish. A perfect food wine. especially tricky foods.

Ross got his start as a Sommelier at Canlis under MS Rob Bigelow and learned winemaking at the right hand of the Master, of Wine Bob Betz. Ross’s style is reminiscent of Betz, being both polished and complex. He went on to make the highest scoring Cabernet ever from Wine Spectator. Saturday August 12 we will be tasting his latest releases including his Celilo Pinot Gris, Boushey Syrah and his award winning Red Mountain Cabernet.

Cheers!
Lenny

Asparagus Tamales
________________________________________
18-ounce package dried corn husks

1 1/2 cups lard (or vegetable shortening), slightly softened
1 ½ Teaspoons Salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon chile powder
3 1/2 cups dried masa harina
2 1/4 cups hot water
1 to 1 1/2cups chicken broth

1 bunch Asparagus, blanched
8 ounces pepper jack cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken stock or water
3 each poblano Chile peppers, seeded and chopped
1 each jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 pound Tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1. Separate husks and submerge in hot water place a plate on top to keep submerged. Bring to simmer and let stand for at least an hour.
2. Grill or roast peppers and tomatillos until blistered and a little charred. Place into plastic bag and let cool. In a large sauté pan heat olive oil and Sauté onions and garlic until soft add salt and cumin. Add chicken stock and reduce to simmer, set aside. Peel cooled peppers and tomatillos and place in bowl of food processor or blender. Add cooled onion mixture and cilantro then puree until well combined.
3. For Masa: In a large bowl combine salt, baking powder, chile powder, Harina flour and hot water. Adding chicken stock a little a time work dough until light and fluffy. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Cover and let rest.
4. Set up steamer: in a large stock pot place a collapsible steamer basket, add an inch or so of water.
5. To make tamales: separate out the largest and most pliable husks, at least 6 inches across on the wider end and 6 inches long. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of masa onto a husk, spread with a spatula out to the edges of each side save for the narrow top. Spoon a teaspoon of verde sauce onto center of masa add a couple of blanched asparagus, top with pepper jack cheese. Roll up the tamale and fold the bottom up. Place in steamer folded side down. Layer the finished tamales in the same fashion open end up. Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away and, to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the pot when more is necessary. Tamales are done when the husk peels away from the masa easily. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up.

 

Tacos al Pastor and Fidelitas Malbec

I recently ventured up to Red Mountain to taste some wines, walk some vineyards and see old friends. There are few places in Washington that produce better wine, some say, some of the best in the world. But, for me it’s the people. The Williams’ family, the Holmes’, the Hedges’, the Hightower’s, the Frichette’s, the Pearson’s – Red Mountain is the smallest AVA in the state and it feels more like a neighborhood than an appellation.

If Red Mountain had football team Charlie Hoppes would be the head coach. He is the sergeant at arms, the baby whisperer, Charlie Hoppes is the Wine Boss.

Charlie Hoppes is one of the most respected winemakers in Washington State. A Yakima Valley native with a degree from UC Davis he got his start in 1988 working with Mike Januik at Snoqualmie Winery and followed him to Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1990 becoming the head red wine maker until 1999. After stints at Waterbrook in Walla Walla and Three Rivers he started his own winery Fidelitas. In 2007 he purchased his first 3 acres on Red Mountain and built a tasting room.

Did I mention that he has a degree in economics? Instead of taking up prime vineyard land on Red Mt he has a 30,000 sq ft production facility in nearby Richland – “Wine Boss”. There he produces his wines plus makes wine for a half dozen clients. The tasting room on Red Mountain has a beautiful panoramic view of the valley.


I first visited Charlie and the tasting room shortly after it was built. Tasting the wines with the “Wine Boss” himself and eating some of the best tacos I have ever had is one of my fondest memories. Charlie is one of the most generous, easy going and intelligent people working in the Washington wine industry. 2017 marks his 30th vintage, and in that time he has made quite a name for himself including being named Seattle Magazines Winemaker of the Year in 2013. His wine continue to garner high ratings from press – his 2012 Ciel du Cheval Cab rated 94 from Parker and the 2013 Quintessence was ranked #4 in Seattle Metropolitan Magazine Top 100. Recently 6 of his 2014 releases received 93 -95 pt scores from the Wine Advocate!

Did I mention every time I go to Red Mountain I end of having tacos? Just thinking about Red Mountain makes me crave Tacos.

So today I give you my  simplified recipe for Tacos Al pastor. Paired with some of Charlie Red Mountain Malbec and you have winner!

FIDELITAS MALBEC RED MOUNTAIN 2014 

Tacos al Pastor
________________________________________

*****Marinade
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dried ground cumin seed
3 chipotle peppers, packed in adobo sauce, plus 2 tablespoon adobo sauce
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon Paprika
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
3 whole cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup pineapple juice from canned pineapple
½ cup water

3 pounds boneless Pork Shoulder

To Finish and Serve:
1 14 ounce canned pineapple diced
20 small flour or Corn tortillas, heated and kept warm
1 medium red onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 ounce Cotijo cheese
1 cup Pico de Gallo, salsa
3 to 4 limes, cut into 8 wedges each for serving

1. In bowl of blender combine the ingredients for the marinade. Puree until smooth about 3 minutes.
2. Cut Pork roast into 4 or 5 large pieces toss with marinade. Place into large roasting pan or Rondeau and cover.
3. Place into 275 degrees oven and roast for 4 hours.
4. Remove and let cool. When cool use two forks to pull pork apart. Stir to combine.
5. Serve meat and garnishes immediately with warmed tortillas, pineapple, onions, cilantro, salsa, cotijo, and lime wedges. Meat will be very moist and should be packed into double-stacked tortillas for serving

 

Weekend Wine Pairing – Churrasco Style Pork Ribs and Prazo de Roriz

The story of wine in Portugal is at its heart a paradox: home to some of the world’s oldest greatest and best known wines, yet years of poor political leadership and oceans of plonk wine have all but destroyed the once great reputation. Portugal has a history of winemaking that goes back thousands of years. Long before the Romans and Moors came through the native people of the southwestern Iberian Peninsula were making wine with indigenous grapes. During the Age of Discovery Portugal became a major world power, with Prince Henry the Navigator, sending his armada around the globe.

Most famous for Porto, the fortified wine of the Douro, Portugal has some of the oldest recognized wines in the world. The wines of Portugal were famous throughout the world, Madeira was favorite of the young American colonies, and was even used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

With the decline of colonial power the wine industry in Portugal fell on hard times. During the 20th century the wine industry was hit with the double blow of fascist dictatorship and cheap jug wine (Mateus and Lancers). In 1974, “The Carnation Revolution” put an end to 5 decades of dictatorship and in 1986 Portugal entered the European Union. With membership came foreign investment and complete overhaul of the wine industry.

Today, Portugal represents one of the Best Value wine producing regions in the world. The combination of ancient wine growing traditions and modern technology means that you can buy a wine with outstanding pedigree made from ancient vines for a relative bargain. The Prazo de Roriz is a great example of what I am talking about. Crafted by Prats & Symington family, Port producers since 1882, and Bruno Prats, former owner of the famed Chateau Cos d’Estournel. The wine demonstrates the incredible potential of combining winemaking expertise from the Douro Valley and Bordeaux, two of the world’s best wine regions.

QUINTA DE RORIZ “PRAZO DE RORIZ” DOURO 2015 $14.99 

The 2015 Prazo de Roriz is a roughly equal blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barroca, with small bits of Tinta Roriz and Tinta Amarela, aged for six months in used French oak. This is typically a good value. This might be my favorite in some time. There isn’t a lot of concentration in the mid palate and it isn’t the type of wine you want to age for 20 years. It’s not $50, either. It’s a very nice bargain with many virtues. The fruit here is just gorgeous, vivid, pure and clean. The structure lifts it and delivers it beautifully to the palate. The texture is silky and the finish is just a bit tight. Overall, it is hard to lean up more on this since it doesn’t have a lot of upside potential, but if you drink it over the next few years, you might like it even better than the score would suggest.

It’s summer so I am grilling everything. A wine like the Prazo beckons for grilled meat. The traditional dish of Costelas Vinho d’alhos, roasted spare ribs, transfers well to the American barbecue grill.

Churrasco Style Pork Ribs (Costelas Vinho d’alhos)
________________________________________
4 – 6 pounds meaty pork spare ribs

Marinade:
3 Tablespoons piri-piri sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Soy
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup orange Juice and zest
¼ cup lime juiced
¼ lemon juiced
1 cup onion, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
½ cup Red wine
1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper
More oil for grill

1. Prep the ribs by removing any meat or fat that dangles from the bone side. Also trim any tough sinew (silver skin) on the meaty side. Remove the membrane on the bone side of the ribs. Cut into 3 bone segments.
2. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in the bowl of a blender and puree until well combined. Reserve a cup for basting.
3. Place prepared ribs in large container or Ziploc bag and cover with marinade. Marinate for 2 hours.
4. Prepare charcoal for grill and move coals to one side, you can put an aluminum pan on one side to catch drippings.
5. When grill is 250 degrees place ribs opposite side of the coals for indirect heat. Cook turning every 30 minutes for 3 hours. Brushing with marinade occasionally. If necessary add a few more coals to the fire.
6. Wrap ribs in foil and Cook for 1 or more hours until ribs pull away from meat.
7. For Oven: reheat the oven to 350 or 325 degrees F. according to the method of cooking.
8. To roast, reserve the marinade and place the pork in a roasting pan and cook at 350 degrees F. for about two hours, not more. Baste periodically with the marinade.
9. Serve with Potatoes, a big salad and a nice big red.

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