Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wine Wednesdays - 2016 Chateau De Breze Clos du Midi Saumur Blanc

The Chateau De Breze lies just outside the town of Saumur and holds quite the historical significance.  Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the wines were also so highly regarded in the 15th century that royals exchanged them annually with the Sauternes of the famed Chateau d'Yquem.  In 2009 they had a resurgence once again, when organic farming practices were restored to the vineyards and hand-harvesting and quality vinification practices were brought back to the wines.  

This Saumur Blanc is 100% Chenin Blanc coming from vineyards at a slightly higher elevation and cooler climate of the Breze hill.  The wine is fermented in 50% stainless steel, and 50% in neutral oak, preserving that fresh acidity while rounding out the finish.  The nose and palate have both a floral and fruity note; honey, dried fruit, and Meyer lemon.  The finish was dry and crisp with a mouthwatering acidity.  

I can't say it was a perfect or even planned pairing but I had to share the strawberry and rhubarb crostata that I made for dessert (I subbed strawberries for raspberries) as we drank this wine.  That Ina....she sure knows her way around a dessert!  

Paired with some of my favorite ice creams!
Purchased:  Verve Wine
Price:  $19

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wine Wednesdays - A Taste of Portugal with Quinta das Carvalhas

When our friends posed the challenge of coming up with a Portuguese inspired menu to accompany a few bottles of wine procured from a recent trip to the Douro Valley, we (Jared) rose to the occasion with a multi-course feast!  

They visited Quinta das Carvalhas back in May and brought back a bottle of their Branco white blend and their Tinta Francisca red.  The winery is located on the left bank of the Douro river and is the oldest Quinta in the Real Companhia Velha portfolio.  The Carvalhas brand was launched in 2012 to showcase the best of the best of the 100+ year old vineyards.  

The Branco is a blend of Viosinho and Gouveio grapes grown in the higher altitudes of the property, allowing for a great level of acidity and ripeness, aging in oak balances out the blend with a round finish.  It was a really balanced wine, and reminded me of some of my favorite characteristics of Chardonnay with similar notes on the nose; the palate was bright, crisp, acidic but with a nice round finish.

The Tinta Francisca is a native grape widely found in the Douro Valley and is often used in Port production.  The wine was medium bodied and somewhat resembled a Pinot Noir in flavor profile and structure but more black fruit driven.  It was extremely well balanced with a fresh, fruity edge.  

Now for the food!  Jared cooked up a literal feast and really stuck to the theme!  We had an appetizer of bacalao while enjoying the white wine then moved on to a saltcod/potato dish alongside clams with linguica!  For dessert, home made pasteis de nata which were devoured so quickly that I forgot to snap a pic!

Portugal is quickly moving to the top of the must-travel list!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Restaurant Round Up - September Eats

In an effort to detox, save $$ and "lay low" this month after an indulgent summer, I don't have much to report on the dining out front!  Highlights below include some of the best recipes I tested at home!

As a last hurrah before my month of "less" I attended the BA Hot 10 event which was so much fun.  The top 10 restaurants of the year were all there doling out samples of deliciousness along with wines from A to Z Wineworks.  I was a really bad blogger and was having so much fun I didn't take a single photo!  The best bites of the night for me were a spicy corn salad with shrimp from Giant and a riff on a Chicago style hot dog from 2013 winner Fat Rice.

Image via BA
This recipe for chicken legs with sweet tomatoes and basil was a home run and a quick and easy Sunday night dinner with leftovers for Monday lunch, win win!

Image via Food52
These harissa portobello mushroom tacos were a great "meatless Monday" option!

Image via Healthy Nibbles
These spinach and artichoke meatballs and cauliflower tabbouleh made the perfect base for a mezze spread (enhanced with Dizengoff hummus and homemade tzatziki!)

We spent last Saturday hiking upstate and stopped for lunch at Hudson Hil's in Cold Spring, NY.  A perfect little day trip and they serve breakfast all day!  I was too hungry to snap a pic unfortunately.

An oldie but goodie, brunch at Jeffrey's Grocery is as good as it ever was!  The Bloody Caesar is non-negotiable and I enjoyed something new on the menu, the chickpea crepe with soft scrambled eggs.

And lastly, dinner at the James Beard House with guest chef Jared Sippel from NYC restaurant Italienne.  Dinner and company were fun, but not the best meal I've enjoyed at the Beard House.  The best bite was dessert, a delicious concord grape sorbet with a salt and black pepper brioche and crumbled pistachios!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wine Wednesdays - 2015 Royal Tokaji Wine Company "The Oddity" Furmint + Dinner at Olmsted

There's a reason Olmsted was named best restaurant of 2017.  I certainly enjoyed one of my favorite meals of the year there last month.  From start to finish, the service, wine, food, and scene stole a little piece of my heart, I already can't wait to go back!

We went a little wild on our wine pick but it was the perfect choice!  It was my first experience with Hungarian wine, made from 100% Furmint grapes (certainly not a varietal we're used to seeing in Napa!) coming from the Tokaji region (more famous for sweet wines).  While the varietal may have sounded exotic, the flavors hit closer to home; a perfect blend of crisp, acidic, floral and mineral.  Stone fruit, melon and a slightly nutty/spicy finish (due to aging in Hungarian oak) on the palate made it a great companion to the food.

As for the food...........

We started with watermelon "sushi" and the salmon tartare, the peach chutney on the tartare was an especially good compliment to the peach notes in the wine!

Followed by the infamous carrot crepe (truth be told, my least favorite dish of the night)

For our next course, we had the falafel and dry rubbed scallops with grilled corn and blueberries.

To finish things off, we moved out to the back garden for dessert.  When we couldn't decide between the frozen yogurt and the chocolate mousse our server brought us both!

I already can't wait to go back!

Wine:  2015 Royal Tokaji Wine Company "The Oddity" Furmint
Purchased:  Olmsted Brooklyn, NY
Price:  $18 retail

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lake Como Cooking Class at Ristorante Il Caminetto

One of the highlights of our time in Varenna was a cooking class with Moreno at Ristorante Il Caminetto.  At 10AM a van arrived at our hotel to whisk us up the hill to the restaurant.  We were greeted by Moreno and took in the most amazing view of the lake before stepping into the charming restaurant.  Moreno and his wife Rossella bought the restaurant from his grandparents who ran a tavern in the same location since the 1930's!

After a quick espresso we got right to cooking!  Well, more like Moreno got right to cooking, we really just observed.  

First up, pork loin wrapped in rosemary and lardo and risotto with saffron "Moreno style".  

As a intermezzo to "wet our whistle" we snacked on meat and cheese and local white wine.  

Our crew got a little rowdy so we had to step outside ;-)

Back inside, our lunch was waiting!

For our second course, we made fresh tortelloni with ricotta and herbs in a cherry tomato sauce, YUM!  This is where we really got involved rolling and pinching the tortelloni, I'm an expert!


Our maestro of a truly epic meal, it was such a fun day cooking Italian classics.  I can't wait to try these recipes at home!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Travelogue - The Best of Lombardy: Milan, Bergamo, Lake Como, Lake Maggiore

After discovering my love for all things France the past few years, it was nice to return to my "roots" with a trip to Italy (I studied abroad in Florence and it was my first time to Europe so Italy will always hold a special place in my heart).  My mom and I headed to Milan, Bergamo, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore for a perfect week of eating, drinking, swimming, boating and living "la dolce vita".  

We arrived in Milan where we spent 2 nights in a perfectly located Airbnb.  Two nights is plenty of time to explore Milan, we hit the ground running with a wine and food walking tour of the canal district our first night.  We spent our one full day walking the entire city, visiting The Last Supper, the Duomo and of course, shopping!  We had a great aperitivo at the Bulgari Hotel before dinner at Giacomo (the salt baked branzino is a must.)

Sunset walking tour at the Canal - a trendy neighborhood full of bars and restaurants

Classic risotto Milanese

I remember this being one the of coolest experiences during my time abroad and it didn't disappoint the second time!

After 2 nights in Milan, we took the train an hour north to the charming medieval town of Bergamo.  The funicular takes you from the newer lower town to the upper town.  We found great shopping in the lower town and stayed at a charming B&B in the old town.  For aperitivo we took the funicular to the top of the old town for an amazing view.  

Next, we were off to Lake Como.  Another quick and easy train ride to Varenna where we spent 2 nights at Hotel Olivedo.  I can recall my first real food memory (before we photographed every dish at every meal) my girlfriends and I took a day trip to Lake Como from Milan, I remember arriving and having the most perfect lunch in Varenna overlooking the water where the boats departed for Bellagio but never knew the name of the restaurant.  Pumpkin sage gnocci with brown butter was forever cemented in my mind and my go to answer when asked for best meal of your life, low and behold it was the restaurant in the Hotel Olivedo!  It was just as good as I remembered and the setting even more beautiful.    

While in Varenna we spent our days visiting Bellagio, taking a cooking class (post to come!), exploring the lake with a sunset cruise (we didn't make it as far down as George Clooney's house), morning hikes to the ruins at the top of the hill and aperitivo on the lake.  We had great meals at Restaurant La Vista (be sure to request a table outside) and Il Cavatappi.    

After 2 nights we crossed the lake to Tremezzo where we splurged for 2 nights at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, certainly the most fabulous hotel I've ever stayed at.  We toured the Villa Carlotta which is literally next door then had lunch at Cantina Follie in town.  Word of warning, there's really no reason to stay in Tremezzo if you aren't staying at the Grand Hotel, a visit to the Villa Carlotta is worth a half day trip trip from wherever you are staying on the lake.    

We spent the next two days truly relaxing.  With 2 pools to choose from and pristine grounds with gorgeous views from every angle, we didn't want to leave!

We did venture out for dinner at Al Veluu which was worth leaving the grounds for.  The food was delicious and we had the most amazing view.

Breakfast every morning was a real treat.

We ventured out our second afternoon to Menaggio via the little tourist train.  We did a quick loop of the town, had a delicious pizza lunch, grabbed a gelato and hightailed it back to the pool.  Word of warning, almost every shop closes for siesta between 12-2 so plan accordingly.  We had the intention of picking up picnic supplies for a poolside dinner and we were lucky to make it to the grocery store for cheese before they closed.  

We enjoyed a perfect picnic dinner in our robes.  It stayed light until almost 10pm! 

Our last stop was Lake Maggiore.  We hired a taxi to drive us to Stressa on Lake Maggiore. we found it was cheaper and easier to use trains and taxis vs. renting a car.  While anything would feel like a downgrade after Tremezzo, we had a particularly bad experience with our chosen hotel (website is incredibly misleading) so we cut our losses and we're able to get a room at the Hotel Regina Palace

 In hindsight, Lake Maggiore felt a bit like a poor-man's Lake Como and was a bit disappointing overall, but we made the best of it.  Visiting the islands and touring the beautiful palace and gardens on Isola Madre followed by lunch at Verbano on Isola Pescatori were well worth our time in the area.  If I could do it again, I would stay at Verbano and skip Stressa.  Lunch under the wisteria looking over the lake was pure bliss, and the food was amazing too.  They offer taxi boat services for dinner as well if you book in advance.

We had dinners at La Botte (great and inexpensive) and Il Clandestino (good but stuffy), takeout pizza from Taverna Pappagallo and rooftop drinks at the Hotel La Palma.  And lots of gelato in between.  

While it should have been easy to take a bus directly to Milan airport, I didn't realize you had to book in advance of the weekend as they are not open Saturdays so we ended up taking a private car back.  It was still a quick and easy journey.    

Take me back!!

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