Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Patience rewarded: 2006 Westrey Pinot Noir "Willamette Valley"

Tonight was exhibit "A" of why I have this little room in my basement filled with way too much wine. And when I say "way too much" I mean "just enough". Nothings better than going downstairs and having choices, especially when very few of them are the wrong one!

The 2006 Oregon vintage was dry and off-the charts hot which led to an early harvest of grapes bursting with sugars but sometimes lacking in overall maturity. This in turn leads to wines with high alcohol and out of balance ripeness. A few winemakers solved this problem by turning on the water hose into the fermenters to try and bring down the alcohols and level out the sugars. Before you act all shocked this is a tried and true method used by generations of winemakers. Not that I condone this kind of manipulation, but it is what it is. I have no idea what happened at Westrey in 2006, but whatever happened was all to the good, because tonight's wine was a killer.

Speaking of tried and true, nothing is a better match than local wild caught salmon off the grill and Oregon pinot noir. The oils & fat of the salmon play so well with the bright acids and high toned fruit inherent in pinot noir. Burgundian pinot is too high toned and subtle, Cali pinot is just too damn ripe. Oregon pinot is simply spot on. So it is with this '06 Westrey Wine Co. "Willamette Valley" bottling which is in the zone as far as drinkability. A bit tight and closed on the nose initially, it soon opened up with beautiful strawberry and spice filled fruit. Richly textured from the heat of '06, but still smelling, tasting, and feeling incredibly delicious. Layered and full on the palate, yet retaining the velvety elegance that makes pinot so sensually pleasing. I'm an hour and a half into the bottle, sadly nearing the end, and it is better than ever. Plums, cumin, earth, raspberry. So good. If you have 2006 pinots from reputable producers, and David Autrey and Amy Wesselman of Westrey are most assuredly of that ilk, pop those corks because the time is now!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Keep your health shit tight, people!

 This food shit is getting fucking serious. Fuck that chocolate that those Hershey bitches keep trying to stuff in your grills. This advice from the ultra funny Thug Kitchen is where it's at, motherfuckers!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Steve McQueen, for real! And other ideas....

Besides seeing a shirtless Steve McQueen, who was anything but a poseur (dude was real!), going all bad ass on a Husqvarna motorcycle in an early '70s Sports Illustrated cover, there's tons of time to waste on a cool blog site I ran across called The Selvedge Yard, whose author has "a passion for people, places, things & ideas of enduring heritage, quality, authenticity & character." Quite a noble cause, n'est pas? Have fun!

Don't Get Complacent: Ca Ri Ga revisited

One of my favorite things about cooking is finding new, better ways to do things. Whether it's technique or improvements to a favorite recipe, the discovery part is always fun. Case in point is the classic Vietnamese curry dish Ca Ri Ga. I've had a version locked and loaded in my repertoire for a few years now (see original post here). It was always delicious, had been made many times before for friends to much praise, and seemed perfect. The lesson here is one should never get complacent, because when I was in a curry-ish mood with a bit of starch craving on the side yesterday morning I entered three words into the awesome epicurious recipe search app: "sweet potato curry". Up popped this recipe, and a few hours later the results appeared as pictured.

This was almost a whole new curry from my previous ca ri ga. Slightly more pungently flavored and definitely brothier. In fact it was the broth that made the whole dish better. Equal parts chicken stock and coconut milk, it had a silky texture yet was not too thick and not too liquidy. Just right. In her notes below recipe author Mai Pham suggests having it with a baguette which I will definitely do next time (although our rice side was excellent). It could also be made vegetarian style by leaving out the chicken, maybe throw in some cauliflower and broccoli or whatever plant based needs you have. The prep was straightforward and simple, and the dish comes together ridiculously easy (both of which always score huge in my book and make this a perfect after work dinner). My mind was opened to a new possibility, my palate was extremely happy, and as much as I loved my old ca ri ga, I have just found a new, better way to edible satisfaction!
*    *    *    *    *    *   
Ca ri ga

from epicurious: The recipe and introductory text below are excerpted from "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" by Mai Pham and are part of our story on Lunar New Year.

"True to the Vietnamese style of curry-making, this recipe is milder and lighter than Indian or Thai curries. You can make this with chicken stock, but the coconut milk adds body and enhances the overall flavor. Depending on my mood and the time of year, I sometimes serve this with a warmed baguette (a French influence) instead of steamed rice. Other times, I just make the curry with more broth and serve it with rice noodles. Like other curries, it's delicious the next day."

yield: Makes 4 Servings

ingredients:
3 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground chili
paste or dried chili flakes, or to taste
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 lemongrass stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled, cut into 3 slices and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 1/2 cups fresh chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal into 2/3-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Garnish (feel free to use any/all):
1/2 cup Asian basil leaves, cut in half
8 sprigs cilantro, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped

method:
1. Combine 2 tablespoons of the curry powder and the salt in a bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat the meat evenly. Set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a medium pot over moderate heat. Add the shallot, garlic, chili paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon curry powder, and stir until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the chicken and cook until the edges of the pieces are golden, 3 to 4
minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, ginger and chicken stock. Bring
to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the carrots and cook for 10 minutes. Add
the coconut milk, onion and sweet potato and cook until the vegetables are
tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with Asian basil,
cilantro and scallions, and serve.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cocktail Roulette: my kind of game!

A quite useful piece in the NYT recently for those searching for easy, and inebriating, inspiration. Like playing cocktail version of Russian roulette, only without all those fatal outcomes. Just pick your poison and let the drink selector  name your next drink. How fun is this? I could spend several intoxicating hours playing this game!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

First Bite PDX: The Woodsman Tavern

If that ineffable thing called "feel" is any indication, then the new Woodsman Tavern on SE 46th and Division is in for a good ride. I went with my friend DOR last night, and immediately on walking in got hit with plenty of good vibe. Dark wood paneling, exposed brick walls, white painted wood ceiling, lumberjack themed art on the walls (and flannel on the waiters!), and lights dimmed to a burnished glow all lend a cozy feel. You walk in with the bar stretching out right in front of you, dining areas to the left and right, and even with a full house and people waiting it wasn't too loud. After a quick hello to a few people I knew who were already dining, I gratefully wrapped my lips around a perfect rye Manhattan made by bartender Evan Zimmerman, who was a good get for Woodsman owner/Stumptown Coffee magnate Duane Sorenson.

Smart restaurants, when telling prospective diners there's going to be a wait, always overestimate the time. First it saves grief all around if the wait actually is that long, and if you seat someone sooner than they expect you're halfway to a happy customer before they've had a bite. In our case the estimated 45 wait was actually a much appreciated 30 minutes. We were seated at one of two taller two tops along the wall facing the bar. Not optimal seats, especially if you're someone above 6', as the shelf that juts out from the wall is uncomfortably close, not to mention plants hanging down in front of my face. A little manual adjust solved the foliage problem, but the shelf needs some more thought. We started with the much talked about Domestic Ham Plate ($18). It usually features three different artisan hams from around the U.S., but that night they were out of the Benton's ham. The prosciutto-like La Quercia from Norwalk, Iowa and the milder and saltier Johnston County ham from Smithfield, N.C. were both exceptional. We also had a plate of the Grilled Cauliflower ($9) sitting on a cauliflower purée and topped with thin sliced ham and a squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of pistachios. This really worked, the smoky tender cauliflower with the salty sweet ham a perfect pairing. We were washing down these first few bites with a bottle of the 2008 Palacio Bierzo "Petalos" which I was happy to see on their very reasonably priced wine list. There are a slew of great bottles to be had here for under-$40 on the Woodsman list.

After that promising start we ventured to the main events, in my case a beautifully tender and fatty Pork Loin with shell bean ragout and chili sauce ($26). Perfectly cooked, almost fork tender, dripping juice, and seasoned just right this was one of the best pork loin entrées I've had in a long, long time. DOR had the Skirt Steak with french fries and béarnaise butter ($21), the Woodsman version of the bistro classic steak frites. The steak itself was a bright red medium rare, but really could have used a blast of heat to crust the outside of the meat. It came off kind of limp and underwhelming. The fries suffered the same fate, being unexceptional, almost soggy and lacking texture inside and out. This was only opening day +2 for Woodsman, and with the rest of dinner going so well, I can only assume this is a kitchen finding its feet. We also ordered a bottle of Burle Gigondas, a personal favorite of both of ours, which I think is a steal on their list for $36 a pop. The best of the south of France, big and gutsy and versatile enough to work with almost anything (also if you're inclined check out this French video of winemaking at Burle. I have no idea what they're saying, but having been there and met Damien it's pretty cool to watch). Along with the main plates we ordered two sides, one a relatively uninspired dish of stewed green beans ($4), the other an absurdly delicious savory bread pudding ($6) that was studded with mushrooms and seemingly soaked in butter. Mushrooms, butter, and bread...a very dangerous combination when it's this good, because it is absolutely crave worthy.

We finished with a ginger cake which was fine. It may have been very good, actually, but after the indulgence we had prior it was probably an unneeded overkill. All in all I will definitely look forward to a return visit as there's a much more temptation to explore on the talented chef Jason Barwikowski's menu. Jason's kitchen, for being so new and getting hammered this night, kept up the pace and all of our food came out in a timely manner, which speaks very well of him and his crew and bodes well for future visits. The service was equally up to the task, and it was nice to see Duane watching over it all from the corner. He's a great guy, and if you get a chance to talk with him you'll get a warm welcome. The place was buzzing the whole time we were there, and it seems Duane is getting much love from the food community as Ben Dyer of Laurelhurst Market, David Anderson from Genoa, and Barista coffee owner Billy Wilson were among the throngs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fresh Corn & Pancetta Risotto: 'tis the season!

There's a time and a place for everything, and the time has never been better for this incredibly satisfying risotto. You may have noticed a few ears of corn being offered for sale out right about now? If you haven't then you obviously have been a shut in for the last three weeks. Like fresh tomatoes warm off the vine, corn is never better than you'll get it in late summer/early fall. I picked up three ears at our local market for about a buck. If there's a more satisfying way to spend a dollar I haven't heard of it! I knew immediately what I was going to do with them. Risotto is the perfect thing for me to be making at home right now since we're still in "moving phase", getting into our new house and getting the old one ready for listing. Simple is definitely the mantra right now, and nothing could be simpler or tastier than this dish. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes to prep, maybe 25 to cook, and then you can take all the time in the world to linger over the incredibly delicious results!
*** *** *** *** ***
Fresh Corn & Pancetta Risotto
an E.D.T original

ingredients:
3 ears fresh corn on the cob
4 oz. pancetta, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1-1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
5 cups chicken broth/stock (approx.)
1/2 stick butter (optional but a really good idea)
grated parmagiano-reggiano

method:
1- Shuck the ears of corn, removing as much of the silk as you can. Take your chefs knife and cutting as closely to the base of the kernels as possible, slice them top to bottom into a bowl. It's super easy, but if you haven't done it before click here for a great tutorial. You should end up with about two cups of kernels. Set aside.

2- Heat medium sized skillet over med-high heat, add pancetta and cook until semi-crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain off all but about two tablespoons of fat and set skillet aside.

3- Put chicken broth in a 3 quart saucepan and heat to a simmer. In a medium saucepan add olive oil and butter and heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Add onion and saute until it is softened, about 6 or 7 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat for about 1 minute. Add white wine and stir until almost all of the wine is absorbed. Then start adding broth about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring all the while, until the rice is just al dente (or whatever texture you prefer). Reheat pancetta and add it (along with its delicious pork fat!) and the corn to the pan and stir to combine. Add butter and stir until melted, then ladle risotto into bowls/plates. Top with grated parmagiano and serve.

wine pairing note: I was most fortunate to have a random bottle of 2001 Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru white burgundy rolling about the cellar. It was chardonnay at its most sublime! Assuming not everyone has such liquid wonder available, I would still highly recommend you find a more reasonably priced white burgundy (or other not overly-oaked chardonnay), maybe a 2007 or 2009 Viré-Clessé or good Macon from those same vintages. Both '07 and '09 were warm years, and the rich fruit, with still young acids, would be great with the richness and vibrancy of the corn.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hail to The Chief: El Presidente cocktail

If you thought booze was any less susceptible faddism than any other thing in your life, think again. Case in point is the current affaire d'amour many bartenders are having with rum. Long forgotten and now popping up everywhere, not just on bar menus but on the front of the bar's themselves (here in PDX we have bartender extraordinaire Kevin Ludwig's new and very cool booze boite Rum Club), Rum is having its 15 minutes. Long ignored is the fact that rum has a long and storied history as a main ingredient in many a pre-prohibition cocktail.

For those who have forgotten their drink history, may I suggest you immediately run out and buy a copy of the Washington Post drinks columnist ("Drinks columnist"...I should sue my college academic adviser for negligence. I don't seem to remember "drinks columnist" ever being mentioned as a career option) Jason Wilson's excellent and inspiring booze bible appropriately titled "Boozehound". I've referenced Wilson and his intoxicating skill set many times on this blog (just search his name in the search box upper left) and almost without fail he's steered me right. His book should have a prominent seat at the bar of all drinks aficionados. At the end of his chapter "Of Politics and Rum" he offers the following recipe for the "El Presidente". He writes that it was "Popular in Havana during the 1920 and 1930s and was reportedly offered to President Calvin Coolidge by then Cuban president Gerardo Machado. Coolidge, mindful of Prohibition back home, declined the drink." I highly encourage you to find out what Coolidge was missing out on, because this is a deeply refreshing drink with a rich, fruity complexity. Wilson recommends using an aged rum in this drink, which I heartily endorse. I used Flor de Caña 7 year old off my home bar. It was perfecto!
*** *** *** *** ***
El Presidente
from Jason Wilson's "Boozehound"
ingredients:
1-1/2 ounces aged rum
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 teaspoon grenadine (I found the excellent REAL grenadine made by Sonoma Syrups at New Seasons here in PDX. It's worth searching out!)
Orange peel twist for garnish

method:
Fill a mixing glass two-thirds full with ice. Add the rum, vermouth, Cointreau, and grenadine. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.