Let’s face it—we all want wine that tastes great and doesn’t break the bank. I don’t care if you work at UBS or UPS, everyone wants more wine for their dollar.
Good news: In this economic downturn that has spread throughout the world the wine drinker wins…imagine that. There has never been a better time than right now to experience wine under $15. I can never write enough columns about all of the value wine that is out there in the marketplace. The only thing that you need is an adventurous spirit and a wine store that is constantly tasting and sifting through the mediocrity to find the coolest, tastiest wines under $15.
The table is set for some great wine. I’ve done my homework so feel free to look over my shoulder and cheat off my test. Of course all of these wines will go superbly with this week’s recipe which is my very own creation. I love Riesling because it is so versatile and fits so well with so many different food flavors. The high acidity cleanses the palate of spice and gets you ready for another bite.
Pacific Rim Riesling $14.99 from Columbia Valley Washington is made in the off-dry style from organically grown grapes which means that it has some light sweetness which I think shows this varietal off best. Don’t let a little sweetness scare you away, this wine is very refreshing especially on a hot day, make sure you open the bottle as to assure you get the biggest pour, because it will be empty within minutes.
For the next wine I would suggest the Culley Pinot Noir from Marlborough New Zealand, and at $13.99 it actually tastes like a Pinot Noir with notes of raspberry along with good acid. It isn’t some slopped together Pinot Noir imposter that you usually find at this price point. Ok class, keep your heads up and pay attention the recipe is just around the corner.
One more wine that is under $15 by just one penny but worth every one of them is red Zinfandel from the Peachy Canyon Winery in Paso Robles. This wine is so food friendly with medium acid and bright fruit with a touch of spice that it should always be present at the barbecue, unless you want to greedily horde it in the house so you can sneak inside to fill up your glass while your friends drink Yellowtail. That’s ok too. There are too many great value wines to talk about in this column so feel free to stop by my store and take a look around and talk to me about them. I’m constantly bringing new under $15 wines in every week.
Now my friends you shall be rewarded for your patience with this weeks rockin’ recipe that was created in the space between my ears over many years. Although I have to give credit to my long-time friend Rob Ardigo for sharing his secret on how to cook a crispy-skinned baked potato. Thanks bro.
Thai Peanut Teriyaki Marinade Flank Steak with Baked Potato
- 1.5lb-2lb Flank Steak
- 4 Idaho Potatoes
- 12 Tbl–Soy Sauce
- 1 ½ Tsp–Thai Fish Sauce
- 3Tbl–Teriyaki Sauce
- 2 ½ Tsp–Red Curry Paste
- 2Tbl–Chili Paste
- 3Tsp–Fresh Grated Ginger
- 3Tbl–Thai Fruit/Vegetable Concentrate
- 2 ¼ Tsp–Crushed Chopped Garlic
- 2 ½ –Lime’s Juiced
- 4 Tbl–Peanut Butter (Chunky)
Put ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. All the ingredients can be bought at the any Asian market.
Place flank steak and marinade in a ziplock bag and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Pre heat oven to 500 degrees
Poke holes in the potatoes unless you want an explosion in the oven. The potatoes should cook for 1 hour 10 minutes. If it stays in a few minutes longer it’s no big deal.
Now this is important part for getting and maintaining maximum crispiness. Take the potatoes out right before you are ready to sit down and eat. Cut them in half immediately this will assure a crispy potato. When the potato sits uncut out of the oven it steams itself soft. Hopefully that makes sense.
While the flank steak is cooking pour the marinade into a pot and reduce by ¼ over medium high heat and reserve for the table. This tastes great over the potato.
When slicing the flank steak remember to slice across the grain of the meat and on a slight angle. Don’t slice thick pieces.
The high-Irish Holiday, as I like to call St Patrick’s Day, is almost upon us. It’s a special time where drinking in the morning is perfectly acceptable and sitting in a bar for 12 hours is not frowned upon (even in the middle of the week!)
However, St. Patrick’s Day for me conjures up memories of making Irish Soda Bread with my Nana and helping my mother make corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes. Real comfort food made simply with the best, freshest ingredients. As the years passed by, St. Patrick’s Day became more about a guilt-free excuse to drink as much as possible from the moment I awoke from bed to the moment I passed out, than cooking for friends and family. I find myself returning to the comfort food of this Irish holiday. As I own a wine store I would be remiss if I didn’t pair a wine with this most glorious meal.
My great grandmother Anna Dalton, who emigrated from Dungarvan, County Waterford at the turn of the 20th century must be spinning in her grave at the notion that her great grandson will not be drinking beer and downing shots of Irish whiskey on this holiday. Alas she can rest soundly in knowing that the Irish whiskey bottle will be sitting on the dinner table, and not that stuff made by the Protestants either! The only difference will be wine with dinner instead of beer.
Now I know that when the topic of Irish cooking is broached there will invariably be snickers and clichéd jokes that have been handed down from generation to generation like “when in doubt boil it,” or “what is an Irish seven course meal? A bag of potatoes and a six pack of beer.” That thinking couldn’t be further from the truth these days with Irish fine cuisine exploding in the mother country. Alas, this meal is old school and we will be boiling potatoes and yes, we will be boiling a big hunk of beef for many hours until it is fork tender. No laughing in the back of the class. After a long day of drinking, you want to cook a meal that is pretty much fool-proof, and that my friends are why we boil. You will receive no recipe for corned beef because the directions are on the packaging and it is impossible to screw them up. I will however tell you to go see my good friend and local butcher Bob at Atlantic Meat Market 110 Wall Street in Norwalk CT., he’ll take good care to make sure your corned beef boils perfectly.
Alright, we need bottles of wine for this dinner and lots of them. A good bottle of Irish whiskey for the table will also be needed. As far as wine goes, I tend to lean toward a California Chardonnay for this meal. You can go the route of a Pinot Noir which is completely acceptable but the buttery-toastiness of a chardonnay will work more in unison with the easy flavor profiles of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. I would not go with high-acid varietals like Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc because the acid will get in the way of the soft flavors of the food and overpower the palate. Riesling with its petrol like flavors and minerality and Sauvignon Blanc with its notes of grapefruit and citrus will provide too much contrast to the food. Two chardonnays that I would recommend for this meal are Robin K from Napa Valley for $16.99 and Double T from Napa Valley for $17.99. robin K has a bit more buttery-toastiness and has a more weight in the mouth than does the Double T, which show’s more balance and restraint with the butterry/toasty flavors, opting more for a Crème Brule taste mixed with some lime-oil and oak. Both are winners.
Now on to the Irish whiskey, a real favorite of mine is Feckin, $19.99 which we will be tasting at the store on St. Patrick’s Day. For a single malt Irish whiskey you can’t go wrong with Michael Collins Single Malt $35.99, a nice strong peaty whiskey that will keep you warm on a cold winter’s night, also great for teething babies. Look how well adjusted I turned out!
We have wine, we have whiskey…ah yes we need a recipe. I have two closely guarded recipes that have been perfected by three generations of Irish women in my family. It took a great deal of convincing to get my mother to give permission to disseminate this recipe to the general public. Enjoy, and don’t skimp on the ingredients.
Corned Beef hint:
Don’t forget to skim off the fat that floats to the top of the pot while the corned beef is cooking, use a spoon. Also make sure to cut one inch slices into the meat on the fatty side and stuff with slivers of garlic. Add as little or as much as you like.
Believe it or not the most important part of the corned beef meal is cooking the cabbage, almost everyone over-cooks the cabbage, there is no excuse for this and I am providing my Nana’s tried and true cabbage recipe as interpreted and perfected by me own sweet Irish mum. I’m not a cabbage lover and I love this recipe. The secret as with many recipes is that wondrous flavor enhancer bacon fat, do not skimp on it for fear of heart failure. This recipe and this holiday are not for the faint of heart. Using soy bacon fat or tofu bacon just ain’t gonna cut it.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and then turn down to Medium High
Cut and core one head of cabbage and soak in cold water
Place cabbage and 3 slices of thick bacon into the pot of water and cook until tender crisp. (That’s what my mom said, she does it by feel) just keep an eye on it. I imagine around 5 minutes.
Drain cabbage and return to the pot with bacon and chop the cabbage and bacon with a wooden spoon.
Add 1Tblsp of BACON FAT and sauté over medium high heat until everything is incorporated and smells great. 2-4 minutes
Add some fresh pepper and serve.
Irish Soda Bread:
3 ½ Cups of flour
1/3 Cup of sugar
1 ½ tsp of salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tblsp caraway seeds
1 Cup raisins
3 Tbsp Butter or Shortening
2 Cups Buttermilk
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
Sift all dry ingredients together. Rub in butter until like cornmeal. Add raisins and caraway seeds. Gradually add buttermilk and eggs which have been beaten together. The dough should be fairly moist. Turn out on floured board and knead 1 minute. Sprinkle flour in an ungreased 8 inch cast iron frying pan and place dough in pan. Dip knife in flour and make the sign of the cross in the dough (optional). Sprinkle a little bit of flour all over bread.
Bake in 425 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.
There are very few occasions in life that can’t be improved with a nice glass of wine. However, there is one such occasion where sipping a glass of wine, and mind you that this is strictly from a male prospective doesn’t work, and that is during the Super Bowl. For some reason it just doesn’t fit in with the manliness of the day. I know that when I take a break from shoving nachos and Buffalo wings in my mouth I’m reaching for one thing and one thing only, beer…and it better be a watered down cheap macro-produced one that was just pulled from an ice bath. Now I know this might sound shocking to everyone who reads my “Wine” column to read me being so frank about my beer consumption, maybe it’s reckless and irresponsible as a Sommelier and columnist to go from Bordeaux to Budweiser. I think it is a natural progression as a football loving man, and I make no apologies.
I love beer! Good beer, great beer, cheap beer and of course free beer. That magical combination of barley, hops and water has been celebrated for many centuries. It has and remains a staple accompaniment to any sporting event…even Greenwich Polo, nothing like stomping the divots with a cold one in your hand. As Chef Repp of Splash Restaurant in Westport can attest to, beer has been present through the good and bad times and it never judges.
So this Sunday it’s very important to remember that beer should be present at any party that is attended, and if you’re by yourself you should definitely have plenty of ice-cold beer on hand. Also if you notice that the beers are disappearing with no backups in sight on Sunday I recommend the emergency measure of hiding beer be used. The beer or “prize” as I like to call it should be placed in the far reaches of the fridge where know one will ever look, like the veggie bin. Or you can stash the beer in the snow outside. The most crucial thing to remember is that the beer stay hidden from friends and family and it remains ice-cold.
I hope I have been able to impart some information and wisdom that I have gathered throughout my past Super Bowl experiences that will enhance yours.
This week’s recipe from Chef Repp can and should be enjoyed with your favorite beer.
The Bridgeport Cheese steak
I have never been to Philadelphia so I have no idea what a real Philly cheese steak tastes like. This sandwich is quick to make and is pretty damn good.
1 Portuguese hoagie roll split ¾ of the way down
½ lb shaved rib eye meat
½ yellow onion julienned
3 pieces white American cheese
1Tbls of each. Kosher salt, ground pepper, garlic powder mixed together
In a medium sauté pan, on medium heat, season and brown the onions.
Add the meat, season again and sauté the rib eye until almost cooked through
Shape the rib eye meat into a line place the cheese at an angle and cover with the bun
Lower the heat and cover the pan to steam the bread.
When the bread is soft and hot use a spatula to loosen the sandwich, and then flip the pan over on to a cutting board so the sandwich falls out. Cut it in half and eat while it’s still hot
Oh boy, here we go again with New Year’s. Just when you thought you could cover your windows with tin foil and start living in sweat pant with elastic waist-bands and let your liver detox until St. Patrick’s Day you find out that you have to go to one more party and be social one more time and make small talk for one more evening. The biggest party of them all or as many call it, “Amateur Night”. Definitely not a time for driving, I would suggest taxis; too many unknown variables out there with drunk drivers and police road blocks. If you must party there are two absolutes when talking about New Year’s, one is that yes, you will have a headache in the morning and two, you will toast the new year with Champagne/Sparkling Wine. Time to suck in the gut, shine those shoes and get your party on!
Champagne (and I’m not talking about Miller High Life, the Champagne of beers) with its searing acidity and yeasty goodness is the only beverage that unequivocally announces to the world in no uncertain terms that, “YES I am celebrating”. From weddings to new jobs and of course New Year’s Eve, the clinking of fine crystal has come to signify the best in life.
The three main grapes used are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Champagne/Sparkling Wine also has designations from dry to sweet. Brut Natural is the driest, while Extra brut has a touch of residual sugar (sweetness) there are more levels but for now Brut Natural and Extra Brut will suffice. As with all wine there are varying levels of quality from the Champagne region of France to the Anderson Valley in California. If the sparkling wine you are drinking on New Year’s is not from the Champagne Region than it is just sparkling wine. I know that sounds snobby but that’s what the French demanded and so it is protected by the Treaty of Madrid which was signed in 1891. Champagne/Sparkling wine is made throughout the world with great success. Of course the Champagne region of France would be for naught if it were not for the Romans who first planted vines there. But that’s a whole column on its own.
Methode-Champenoise is one of the most popular ways to produce Champagne. Whether it is Cava from Spain, Spumante from Italy, Sekt from Germany or just Sparkling wine from America it all can be brilliant and shine on its own without the Champagne designation. What the hell is Methode-Champenoise? Quite simply in a nutshell it is when the wine maker creates a second fermentation in the bottle by adding a couple of grams of yeast and sugar into the bottle, this is what creates the sparkle and super-pressure. The bottles are then either by hand or machine rotated remuage or “Riddling” so that the dead yeast cells (lees) come to rest in the shoulder of the wine bottle so they can be forced out later in the corking process. Enough details just drink it for crying out loud!
So don’t forget the Champagne/Sparkling Wine for New Year’s celebration this year, and please remember to be safe so you can join me for wine tastings at my store and enjoy Chef Repp of Splash Restaurant in Westport exquisite recipes in the new year!
Champagne/Sparkling Wine Recommendations: Duval-Leroy Champagne, France…….$32.99, Gloria Ferrer Sparkling wine, Sonoma California…..$19.99, Vega Barcelona, Cava, Spain….$15.99, Willm Sparkling wine Alsace, France…..$10.99. These are all Brut Champagne/Sparkling Wines.
Balsamic Beef Tenderloin Crostini with Garlic Mayonnaise. Serves 4 to 8 people
8 to 16 oz beef tenderloin
2 cups balsamic vinegar
1 cup red wine
1 Tbls chopped garlic
½ cup chopped shallots or onion
1 sprig rosemary
1 Italian/French baguette (the thin one)
1 cup kosher salt
Thinly shaved Reggiano Parmesan
For the crostini
Slice the bread into thin pieces place on a sheet pan and brush both sides with olive oil, salt, and pepper
Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and crisp
Now, rub the beef tenderloin thoroughly with the kosher salt and let sit for a half hour
The meat should be completely coated. Remember you are basically brining the meat. Extracting water and creating a porous surface that will take in the marinade while seasoning it perfectly.
In a bowl mix the red wine, balsamic vinegar, garlic, shallots, and rosemary
Rinse the tenderloin with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel and marinate in the balsamic mixture for 45 minutes turning every so often if necessary.
Remove the tenderloin and pat dry again with a towel and lightly coat with olive oil and cracked black pepper.
Once again this week we will be talking about another big-boy red that stands up best to…you got it, steak and other dishes containing red meat in all of its forms. Vegetarians take cover, but don’t despair. We will have recipes and wine pairings for you too in the future.
First things first, Syrah is Shiraz. It’s the same grape with two names and several different flavor profiles. It can be grown in warm climates like Australia and the Northern Rhone as well as cooler ones like Washington State. Whatever name you choose, Syrah/Shiraz is the most popular warm climate grape in the world. With Australia leading the charge, which is really no surprise considering it was one of the original varietals brought to Australia in the 19th century. Syrah/Shiraz really took off in the 1990’s after mediocre Bordeaux vintages with exuberant prices left people scratching their heads searching for value and taste from France, enter the Northern Rhone where Syrah/Shiraz is king, whether blended or on its own. People from all over the world seemed to embrace warm climate varietals over cold climate ones. Australia quickly took the lead when this realization of the grape took hold since they had the most Syrah/Shiraz planted in the world. Writing about this varietal could fill a book; I’ll do my best to condense it into a single column.
The different taste profiles come from Terroir (sun, soil, slope of the land) and different production techniques for making the wine. Syrah/Shiraz from the Northern Rhone tends to produce big bold wines with smoky, peppery spice and firm tannins which in part it takes on from small oak barrels that are used by many producers, perfect for steak and meat dishes. Australian Syrah/Shiraz on the other hand tends to have a sweeter, fruitier style with hints of chocolate. The best winein my opinion is coming from The Barossa and McLaren Valleys where oak or steel are used to age the wine. Washington State, along with California, create some great Syrah/Shiraz. California being the first to plant the varietal in the 1970’s, these rogues were called “The Rhone Rangers.” California Syrah/Shiraz was less tannic than the superstar Cabernet Sauvignon and was more food friendly. I need to wrap this up; I’m getting hungry for Chef Dave Repp’s recipe. Hang with me a bit longer. Washington State, which is obviously cooler than California, produces more plummy, black cherry wines with a hint of smoky bacon and spice. I personally love Syrah/Shiraz from this state.
Now I know that this column seems like a lot to digest and I know that your eyes have wondered across the page and over to the recipe. That’s ok I’m not offended, it’s a great recipe. Just remember this about Syrah/Shiraz; it’s a full bodied monster of a red that can take on many different flavors and aromas depending on how and where it was grown. Try this varietal from all of the regions that I have talked about and decide for yourself what style you prefer, because as we all know, it’s all about what you like regardless of price or perception. Embrace your taste!
Here are some of my favorite Syrah/Shiraz wines that you can find at my store. Yalumba, Barossa Valley Australia, 2004: $15.99. Matchbook, California, 2005: $14.99. Westerly Vineyards, 2004, California, 92 points Wine Spectator: $17.99. Barnard & Griffin, Washington State, 2004: $15.99. Water Brook, Washington State, 91 points Wine Spectator: $21.99. La Rollande, Crozes-Hermitage, 2005: $23.99. All of which would be the perfect compliment to Chef Repp’s recipe.
David Repp is Executive Chef at Splash Restaurant in Westport, Connecticut.
CIDER BRAISED SHORT RIBS
¼ CUP KOSHER SALT
6 BEEF SHORT RIBS ABOUT 3 LBS
½ CUP RED WINE
2 CUPS APPLE CIDER
¼ CUP CIDER VINEGAR
½ TBLS BROWN SUGAR
2 TBLS SOY SAUCE
1 CLOVE GARLIC CRUSHED
2 CUPS CHICKEN STOCK
1 BAY LEAF
1 TBLS CORN STARCH MIXED WITH ½ TBLS WATER
COMPLETELY COAT THE SHORT RIBS IN THE KOSHER SALT AND LET SIT FOR 30 MINUTES TO BRINE
RINSE OFF THE SALT AND PAT THE RIBS DRY
HEAT A MEDIUM BRAISING PAN TO SMOKING HOT AND ADD A LITTLE CANOLA OIL, BROWN THE RIBS ON ALL SIDES, REMOVE TO A PLATE
ADD THE CELERY, ONION, AND CARROTS, SAUTE TO CARAMELIZE AND REMOVE TO A PLATE
POUR OUT THE OIL, ADD THE RED WINE AND APPLE CIDER AND REDUCE BY 3/4
ADD THE CHICKEN STOCK, BAY LEAF SOY SAUCE, GARLIC, CIDER VINEGAR, BROWN SUGAR, AND BRING TO A QUICK BOIL.
ADD THE SHORT RIBS COVER AND SIMMER FOR 2 HOURS AT 225 DEGREES
AFTER 1 ½ HOURS ADD THE VEGETABLES AND THE CORN STARCH MIXTURE
AN HOUR LATER CHECK THE RIBS FOR DONENESS (THE RIBS SHOULD BE VERY TENDER ,IF NOT COOK FOR ANOTHER ½ HOUR)
REMOVE THE RIBS AND VEGETABLES AND REDUCE THE SAUCE UNTIL SLIGHTLY THICK. TASTE THE SAUCE. NOW IS THE TIME TO ADD SALT OR MORE BROWN SUGAR TO YOUR TASTE
RETURN THE RIBS AND VEGETABLES TO THE POT TO COAT WITH THE SAUCE AND SERVE
ORZO MAC &CHEESE
1 LBS ORZO (SMALL OVAL SHAPED PASTA THAT LOOKS SIMILAR TO RISSOTTO RICE)
1/2 SMALL ONION DICED
1 TBLS GARLIC MINCED
1/3 LBS UNSALTED BUTTER
2 CUPS WHITE WINE
5 CUPS LOW SODIUM OR HOME MADE CHICKEN STOCK
3 OZ CHEDDAR CHEESE OR GURYERE
¼ CUP GRATED PARMESAN CHEESE
½ CUP HEAVY CREAM
SWEAT THE ONOINS AND GARLIC IN THE BUTTER UNTIL TRANSLUCENT
USING A WOODEN SPOON STIR IN THE ORZO AND COAT IN THE BUTTER
ADD THE WHITE WINE, 2tsp KOSHER SALT, STIR AND COOK ON MEDIUM HEAT
ADD 2 CUPS OF CHICKEN STOCK ANOTHER 2 tsp KOSHER SALT AND STIR UNTIL THE STOCK IS REDUCED BY 3/4
SLOWLY STIR IN THE OTHER 3 CUPS OF CHICKEN BROTH AND STIR CONSTANTLY UNTIL THE ORZO HAS THE CONSISTANCY OF RISSOTTO
THE ORZO SHOULD BE COOKED TO A SOFT TEXTURE IF IT IS NOT STIR IN SMALL AMOUNTS OF CHICKEN STOCK UNTIL SOFT
SLOWLY STIR IN THE PARMESAN, CHEDDAR, AND CREAM
SEASON TO TASTE WITH SALT AND PEPPER AND SERVE OR SPREAD ON SHEET PAN TO COOL
USE GURYERE CHEESE INSTEAD OF CHEDDAR FOR THAT RESTAURANT TASTE
TO REHEAT ADD A LITTLE CHICKEN STOCK AND STIR ON LOW HEAT