Archive | January, 2014

Sister Cities Wine and Spirit Series at the Coral Gables Museum

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What a beautiful venue… On Wednesday, January 22, 2014 the Coral Gables Museum in Miami, Fl. was the gracious host of another one of it’s Sister Cities Wine and Spirit Series. This time around, the series was about the history, culture and the wines of Quebec, Canada. The event was put together by Caroline Parker the museum curator and the Canadian Consulate.

The Speakers were Patrick Alexander of Gables Wine and Francois Pouillot owner of the winery La Face Cachee de la Pomme in Quebec. Patrick spoke about the culture and history of Quebec AKA New France. I did not know that Quebec, Canada is a sister city of Miami and that the word Canada is Iriquois for village. It seems that the first French colonizers to New Canada were there for the fur trade. Peculiar enough, Quebec is at the same latitude as Paris, France. Today, many top chefs have migrated to Quebec and now the Quebecois have started to appreciate wine much more.

Next up, was Francois of La Face Cachee de la Pomme with his surprisingly amazing wines. First off, we started with his Neige Bubble which is a lovely sparkling apple wine of 7.5% alcohol. Next, event attendees were treated to a tasting of Francois’ 2012 Neige Premier Apple Ice Wine with 13% alcohol. Lastly from La Face Cachee, a tasting of their 2012 Neige Winter Harvest Ice Cider with 12.5 % alcohol. No leather, smoky, oaked, berry notes of course. Just apples…

La Face Cachee is located in Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada. At age 21, Francois was a film producer. Realizing this is not what he wanted to do forever, Francois got hold of some land, an apple orchard to be exact. His intentions were to clear the land and start planting wine vineyards. Francois quickly realized that because of the brutal, harsh winters in Canada, this was not going to be too feasible, so the orchards stayed put. The concept of Neige wines was born in the year 1994. Starting this project as a hobby, Francois began commercializing his wines soon after in 1998. Apple wines were a novelty at the time and Francois was a true innovator. His partner is Stephanie Beaudoin and they divide roles at La Face Cachee.

These Ice wines are so amazing that they have now received 101 awards, 55 of them being gold. His wines have also been featured at the famous El Bulli and have won the prestige of the Spanish Fundacion de la Cidra in 2007 ( an official recognition by Spain’s Minister of Agriculture). Wow, what accolades for something that started as a simple hobby. Pretty amazing I would say. All of these Apple ice wines are composed of 80% Spartan Apples and 20% Macintosh Apples.

Making apple Ice wine is an intense labor of love. These groves need extensive irrigation because unlike Vitis Vinifera, apple tree roots don’t go very deep into the sub soil to look for water. It actually takes 12 pounds of frozen apples to make only 1 liter of apple Ice wine. Like in Champagne, Francois also uses a disgorgement method where he freezes the pressed solids and only uses the free run juice.

The apple juice freezes outside in huge plastic containers for 2-3 weeks. In this extreme cold, water freezes and sugar does not. The sugar falls and the ice remains on top (kind of like a slush puppy). Francois only uses this pressed apple-sugar liquid. After tons of trial and error, he realized that plastic containers actually allow for expansion with no risk of overflow and loss of product in cold temps… Then the Apple liquid is fermented in stainless vats for 6-8 months. This fermentation process is so slow because the sugars are very rich. Temps have to be at 14 degrees Celcius (57 degrees fahrenheit) while fermenting. Francois has an annual production of 350 thousand bottles for the non sparkling and 100 thousand for the Neige Bubble.

All in all these are world class ice wines that pair excellently with apple tarts and sharp cheese platters for dessert. A true small, intimate event that was a real learning experience. Thank you to the museum, Patrick, Francois and Stephanie…

Stracotto di Manzo (Italian Pot Roast)

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The Polar Vortex has hit us again! It’s the dead of winter, and even in Miami, people are desperately trying to keep warm. Could it be a sign of the times or is this a natural occurrence? Anyways, in trying to stay warm, I have decided to share an amazingly scrumptuous meal that I have been making every winter. Stracotto di Manzo AKA Italian Pot Roast… I love Italian food. Maybe because it is so simple, rustic, delicious and straight forward. In making this recipe, I find that first of all, one has to reserve a good amount of your day to be at home in the kitchen. Second of all, it is best to use a Dutch oven. Many companies make these such as Le Creuset, Lodge, etc… Dutch ovens give off a better flavor and distribute heat more evenly. For a side dish, and to soak up the very tasty wine gravy, I like to make a side of Polenta with balsamic, oven roasted wild mushroom mix.

So here is the recipe courtesy of Chef Sarah Moulton and the Food Network:

Total Time: 4 hr 15 min
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 3 hr 45 min
Yield: 8 servings
Level: Easy

Ingredients
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups beef stock
Salt and pepper
1 (4-pound) beef eye of round
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pancetta, chopped
1 finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped carrot
1 finely chopped celery stalk
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup tightly packed parsley leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups red wine
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed

Directions:

Soak the porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of hot stock until softened, about 30 minutes. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter or a sieve lined with a double layer of cheesecloth. Trim any hard bits from the mushrooms. Set aside the mushrooms and liquid separately.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Brown the beef on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer the beef to a plate. Pour off browning fat. Add pancetta, onions, carrots, and celery, stirring, until they are golden. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir in bay leaves, rosemary, parsley, and tomato paste. Add the wine and simmer until it is reduced by half, about 20 minutes.

Add the beef, tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, mushroom liquid, and enough beef stock to come 2/3 up the side of the beef. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook at a gentle simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the meat is tender. It may take about half an hour longer so don’t be scared. The meat will only be more tender. Turn the roast every 30 minutes or so.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Skim off any fat from the surface of the liquid. Strain the liquid, pressing on the solids with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids and return the strained sauce to the pot. Bring to a boil and let cook uncovered for a few minutes to further reduce and thicken the liquid. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Slice the roast and serve with the sauce and soft polenta. Here’s a small tip. At home, I have an immersion hand-held blender so I don’t actually discard the solids in the gravy. I remove the meat, blend the solids and add the blended gravy to the meat. Even better, make the day before and eat the next day. All the flavors will get happier! My wine pairing suggestion is the Cannonau di Sardegna from Sella e Mosca or the Rubrato Aglianico dei Feudi di San Gregorio 2006. This was a very good year. Enjoy, stay warm and as always… Cin Cin!

Poseidon Greek Restaurant and outdoor lounge Miami

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Three years ago, I had the immense pleasure of navigating the Greek isles and getting to know this extremely friendly, vibrant culture with all of its beautiful islands glistening in the Aegean Sea like gems that they are. The food is amazing, the wines are unique and I fell in love.

Upon returning to Miami from my Greek odyssey, I have been on a quest to find a Greek restaurant which portrays all of the friendliness and bounty that Greece has to offer. Last night I was meandering South Beach. Washington Avenue to be exact and was thinking that the beach really lacks a Greek/Mediterranean restaurant. I am not a big Yelp fan since it can sometimes be very biased. I go more on my first foodie instinct… Just before me, I saw a blue sign with a big Poseidon fork as a logo (hence the name), and I decided to give it a try.

On arrival, I felt the warm friendly vibes I had experienced in Greece as my server sat me at my table. First, I ordered a glass of the Maschofilero wine from one of Greece’s biggest volume producing wineries, Boutari. There is something about this fresh wine from the high altitude Pelopponese Mountains with lovely acidic, floral citrus notes that just brings me back to the Aegean Islands. Next, I decided to order the Greek national cheese (Feta). This was like no other Feta I have ever tried. Drizzled with very dark green, Greek olive oil and sprinkled with fresh thyme and oregano leaves this was the softest, freshest most velvety Feta ever (the server told me it was imported). Next, I ordered the Moussaka which is one of my all-time favorite Greek dishes. It was delectable and the ingredients tasted so fresh.

The vision for Poseidon was born in 2009, when brothers Vasilios and Demetrios Pyliotis noticed the lack of Greek restaurants on South Beach. Vasilios is a Graduate of Florida International University with a degree in Nutrition. While looking for a spot for a restaurant, they stumbled upon a place which would house their dream. This is when Poseidon came to Life. The brothers use all natural ingredients, which include seafood and meats from their native country and it shows in the quality. “we want to make Poseidon a destination, a window to Greece” says Vasilios.

All in all, this is a restaurant that I highly recommend due to its friendly family atmosphere, fresh food and great service. I was even given a glass of ouzo, a wonderful Greek digestive after dinner drink (so nice of them!) and had a lovely chat with Vasilios himself. Located at 1131 Washington avenue Miami, Fl., Poseidon is a place I will definitely be returning to…