Thursday, January 22, 2009

Some moderately priced easy drinkers, with a little Spanish thrown in for good measure

Enjoyed two wines this week that were very well priced and great value.

The first was Montevina Barbera. An amador county barbera, you ask? Well yes. Actually the second barbera from California that I've tried. Renwood being the other. Both were/are exceptional representations on this varietal typically found in Italy.

The Montevina had a lot going on for a $10 bottle of wine. Black cherry aromas lead to chocolate, some tobacco-vanillan, full berry fruit on the palate. light citrus zest bookmarks both the opening and closing of this wine... very light. Great quaffing wine, could easily recommend for a bottle to share between you and your loved ones, sitting in front of a crackling fire.

The second bottle is in-hand as I write this review. From Sardon Del Duero in Northern Spain, came this lovely bottle of Rivola. Light on the tongue, splash of crisp raspberries and strawberrys on the fore palate. The Spanish earthiness is there, and the sun-ripened fruit gives a tease of heavy extracted berry flavor, but it never follows through (I mean that in the best possible way) and it leaves you with a refreshing, drinking red. A very well-rounded, well constructed bottle.

Rivola should come in around $15, but there are plenty of deals online, to be found.

Speaking of Spanish wine, I should mention my fastest growing favorite region for wine making; Priorat.

I'm loving Priorat wines, and nobody else seems to be hip to them yet. Which for you means that your store may carry a great selection that has been passed over by other wine shoppers. Prices may have gone down? Or, as in PA, you might find the state putting a few on display with it's "Chairman Select" program. 

Priorat blends are standout, in that they combine two of the greatest wine regions with masterful blending. Typically a Priorat wine will be a combination of French and Rhone varietal: cab, merlot, malbec, petite verdot, cab franc & syrah, grenache, mourvedre, carignan (in Spain: carinena) . Look for Vall Llach. I have a bottle of both their Embruix & Idus storing in my cellar. They are just great to open now, but my intuition tells me, a few years in the cellar will mellow out the tannins a little, and deliver a robust powerhouse wine. Both are $35 and up, but I've bought mine, both, at under $20 on the aforementioned "Chairman's Select". Happy hunting!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The bastardization of fine cuisines

Well, I have accomplished the unaccomplishable... (?)

Okay, maybe not completely true statement there. But I'm very excited for my newest culinary bastardization of two of my favorite new cooking techniques (?)... Asian cuisine + Buffalo Chicken wings. (somewhere - probably in DC - Don Bistarkey is groaning in dismay)


Last night saw the culmination of a dream. A dream that came to me about two weeks ago when the wife and I made our first egg rolls. Sausage and coleslaw egg rolls. They were so delicious, and so easy to make, that it got me thinking. Why not Buffalo chicken egg rolls?

After contemplating for a week or so, I came up with a preliminary recipe to test it out. Buffalo wings have always been a specialty of mine... Buffalo wings, burgers and chili are three items I have raised to haute cuisine level after years of repetitive experimentation. But Buffalo wings are the kings of my repertoire.

I have a very simple way of preparing Buffalo wings, and I have never tasted a better wing in my life. It all started almost 20 years ago in college, at one of our first house parties (the SEWER house for those in-the-know) when I decided to add a little ranch dressing into the sauce to cool it down slightly. Over the years the recipe has evolved to include a little soy, sriracha hot pepper sauce, twice baking the wings instead of deep frying, and blue cheese dressing has replaced the ranch (although my wife still prefers ranch, so I always make a separate batch for her).

Anyhow, this prep was a little different, and still in the experimental stages (so I certainly would accept any recommendations or pointers from some of my more accomplished chef friends).  

Basically, stage one was baking the wings. mixed the wings, some cayenne powder, sea salt, garlic powder, veg oil and pepper in a big bowl and placed on a baking sheet. Baked at 350 for about an hour and a half. cut some celery into thin slices, to give the texture of water chestnuts, and julienned some carrots. once the wings were done baking, I took out of oven and let sit for 1/2 hour to cool off, covered with some aluminum foil. In a pan I sauteed the carrots and celery with a little butter. I then took the chicken meat, with some skin, off the wing bones, added to the sauteing carrots and celery, added my hot sauce mixture (Frank's Red Hot, Soy, Blue Cheese dressing, splash Sriracha hot pepper sauce) and cooked down slightly until the sauce was absorbed by the chicken and veggies. The trick is not to use too much sauce, didn't want the egg rolls to be overtaken by the heat. Once heated through, I used a soup spoon and stuffed one egg roll at a time while I waited for my oil to heat up. Into the oil and all done in about three minutes.

They were delicious, with a little ranch for dipping. I was very happy with the end result. More experimentation to come, and again, would appreciate any instruction to help me perfect this dish.

Oh, and since this is a drinking man's blog... what goes great with egg rolls? Foster's beer, of course. When funds are tight and there is some beer drinking at home to be done, I'm either picking up a case of Sam Adams (again, Don groans), Heineken, or Fosters. 

The Fosters tasted just right for this Pan-Amerasian dish.