Posts Tagged ‘wine’

10th December
written by Arthur

This morning, in an unusual pre-dawn move, I flicked on the television. I found myself watching the ceremonies and speeches commemorating Nelson Mandela. The memorial reminded me of an unusual connection I have to the great revolutionary and political leader.

In the summer of 2001, I found myself outside of Washington, DC working in concession stands of Wolf Trap National Park. The park boasts a large open air stage and hosts regular nightly concerts. I severed-up snacks, beer, and wine to the fine concert goers. In my first week, I struggled to open a bottle of red wine–only the fourth or fifth bottle I had ever tried to open–and succeed in breaking the cork and polluting the wine. I didn’t know what I was doing. The patron was patient. He told me not to worry. That he’d buy the bottle I’d corked and to bring two more bottles. As he used one of the bottles to show me how to open wine, he told me how he learned to open bottle of wine. My customer had just started working in room service in a fine hotel in South Africa and was called up to a room to deliver and open a $600 bottle of wine. Entering the hotel room he finds Nelson Mandela on the day of his release from prison. In front of Mandela and his guests my instructor breaks the cork of the bottle as he attempted to open it. Mandela calmly told the man not worry, that he’d buy the corked bottle, to bring two more bottles, and proceed to show the server how to open a bottle of wine. After showing me how to open a bottle of wine, my customer talked me through opening the second bottle.

If the story was a lie it was a well told and oddly placed one. I believe it was true. I believe in the image of the great man who changed the course of nations moving through the world with a individual grace and kindness that boarders mythological. I remember that Nelson Mandela embodies both fiery revolutionary and wise statesman.

26th February
written by Loren


This was the first time I ever tried to make risotto, probably because I have always heard that it was a pain to constantly have to stir it for a ~30 minute cook time. That level of attention is usually not conducive to making other courses to go along with dinner. Silly me, I should have known that America’s Test Kitchen would have figured out a more user friendly version of the recipe. To make this gooey, cheesy, white winey goodness, you will need:

  • 3.5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, minced

    I used this Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for the white wine. It was about $8 for the bottle.

  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, trimmed & cut into small wedges
  • 1/3 oz of dried porcini mushrooms (optional)

Bring the broth and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and keep warm on the lowest possible stove setting.  Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until lightly browned, about 9 minutes. The original recipe also calls for you to stir in 1/3 oz of dried porcini mushrooms, “thoroughly rinsed and minced”, to the onion mixture in this step. I forgot this step, despite scouring the grocery store for dried porcini mushrooms that day, and really didn’t think the recipe was lacking in any way. I would try the dried mushrooms if you want, but don’t stress yourself out looking for this ingredient. I kind of like the way it turned out where the mushroom flavor was in the mushrooms themselves and sort of contrasted with the brothy-wine flavor in the rice.

At roughly the same time that you start cooking the onion, melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until the mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and about 1/2 teaspoon of minced fresh thyme. The garlic and herbs really only need to cook until they are fragrant, about 15 seconds or so. Finally, transfer the mushrooms to an oven safe container, cover them, and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until the risotto is basically done. One final note about the mushroom cookery: you want these to brown, not steam. If too much liquid comes out of the mushrooms while cooking, enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan, drain that off into the broth/water mixture you have going on the stove. It will add some good mushroom flavor to the final product.

Stir the rice into the onions and cook until the edges of the grains turn translucent which takes about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is completely absorbed. Then add 3 cups of the warm broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed. It will be very helpful for this recipe to have a ladle on hand so you don’t have to pour hot liquid from the pot into a measuring cup and then from the measuring cup into the rice. Continue to cook the rice, stirring in 1/2 cup of the broth every few minutes, allowing each addition of broth to be absorbed completely before adding more. Continue this process until the rice is cooked through but still somewhat firm in the center, about 11 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and the parmesan, season with salt and pepper to taste. As always, buy real parmesan wedges and grate it yourself for the best result. Luckily, my brother Danny gave me a two pound wedge of parmesan for Christmas, so this recipe was a perfect way to use part of it.Serve the risotto next to a beautiful peice of grilled meat, and garnish with some parmesan shavings and maybe some minced flat leaf parsley or chives.

The final dish was everything I hoped it would be. The rice was soft but firm, the broth and wine combined to make some great layers of flavor, and the parmesan made everything that much more creamy and salty. By adding half of the liquid immediately and allowing it to cook down for a while, you really cut down on the amount of time during which you have to devote lots of effort and attention to the risotto to keep it from burning. What I really love about this recipe is that it’s fairly easy to keep all the ingredients in your head, and the steps are not exact science. Once you have added and reduced the 3 cups of water/broth, you pretty much just keeping adding liquid and stirring and reducing and adding liquid and stirring until the risotto tastes and feels just right in your mouth. After making this recipe just one time, I’m pretty confident I could recreate the final product without having the recipe around to follow.

Next one of my friends to get married is getting a 20lb wheel of parm! Gift registry be damned!

24th August
written by Arthur

Saveé Sea - Pinot Noir 2009

Yesterday, Nick texted me to let me know that he was planning on  cooking a great dinner (pork chops with a peach salsa, mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob).  I had one job, grab a bottle of wine.

I went to the store fully intending to ask someone for help.  (Wine pairing is not my strong suit.)  But some where on the way I got fixated on the idea of a pinot noir.  And while in the store this particular wine called out to me.  Maybe it was the palm tree on the bottle, creating images of a Hawaiian lohou, making think it could go well with pork and peach.  Or maybe it was that this boozy grape juice hails from New Zealand and I don’t think that I’ve had a pinot from New Zealand before.

So how was the wine?

I really liked it.  The color was a rusty red.  It had a very fruit forward nose (in other words it smelled like fruit).  I think that Nick’s girlfriend, Becca, perfectly summed up the flavor: fruit basket.  I got some plum and pineapple.  But it wasn’t overly sweet–the essence of fruit with out all the sweetness.  The fruit flavors faded a lot after a few bites of buttery corn and mashed potatoes but the wine remained very enjoyable.  All-in-all: it was good with dinner and it would be nice to have a glass on it’s own.

Price: $15.99 at Slope Cellars (a bit more than I usually spend, but I’ve been really good and brought my lunch this week and made my own coffee in the mornings).