Archive | February, 2014

A Day of Love… Food and Wine.

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It is almost Valentines Day and love is everywhere. Who likes to go out on a dinner date? Are restaurants trying too hard to lure customers in on this big night? Well, in my opinion, Valentines Day has always been a chance to stay home with my wife and really go all out on my food and wine pairings. This year does not look dissappointing at all. I have crafted a wonderful evening of sensual food and wine which will leave your loved ones feeling extra loved. Forget the restaurant and make your home a very special place on this special day!

To start the night off right, I have created an amuse bouche of Phyllo dough cups stuffed with crab and goat cheese. An amuse bouche is France’s answer to Spain’s tapas. A small bite to get you hungrier! So here it is in sequential order of service…

You will need Phyllo dough cups. I find them in the frozen pastry aisle in my local market and have seen them in many states. The brand I like is called Athens. Next you will need French Goat Cheese (not crumbled) and Lump crab meat. Sizes for these are standard and you will have left over crab and goat cheese. In a small mixing bowl combine enough crab and goat cheese for 4 phyllo cups. Add some freshly chopped dillweed, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste and combine everything into a paste consistency. Fill phyllo cups with crab and goat cheese filling and place into frozen phyllo cups. Preheat oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit and bake for 3-5 minutes…

My wine pairing suggestion for this amuse bouche is the 2012 Nobilo Sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, NZ. Sauv blancs are made to drink young and are not age-worthy. The Nobilo is crisp, fresh and acidic with notes of green bell pepper, grassy herbal notes and tropical fruit. A lovely, light, easy drinking wine that stands up perfectly to the creamy and herbal notes in the Phyllo cups.

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Next up is the Codfish crudo with an olive oil green apple puree. Crudo is Italy’s take on Japanese Sashimi and like in Spanish translates to “raw”. For this recipe, you will need .54 lbs fresh cod or similar white fish such as snapper. Mint leaves and olive oil, one green apple and two small baby radishes. Parsley and 1 large juicy lime. I chose to pair the crudo with the Nobilo Sauv. Blanc as well…

You need to core the green apple and throw it into your blender with 1 1/2 sprigs mint leaves. Slowly add 2, 1/4 cups unfiltered olive oil. Puree is done. Cut 6 or 8 pieces of the fish sashimi style about half of an inch thick. In a small mixing or pinch bowl whisk together olive oil and juice of the lime and add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

For the garnish, julienne 2 baby radishes skin on. Add a small sprig of chopped parsley and 6 mint leaves also chopped. Next add in a teaspoon or 2 of olive oil… Plate with puree as a bed. Arrange the fish pieces neatly on top of apple puree. Drizzle with lime juice and top with garnish.

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For the main dish, I made a risotto recipe I mastered at La Confiture in Caracas, Venezuela while working as Sous-Chef. It is a creamy sundried tomato red wine risotto.

Ingredients are as follows:
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups Italian red wine (bolla is ok for cooking)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
2 2/3 cup arborio rice

– Bring the stock and wine to a boil in a pan, then reduce the heat and leave over low heat.
– Heat the oil with 2 tbsp of the butter in a deep pot over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and stir frequently for 5 min.
– Add the rice and stir into the butter and oil to coat. Cook stirring constantly for 2-3 min. Add the sundried tomatoes and the hot stock gradually, a ladlefull at a time, stirring constantly. Cook for 20 min., or until all the stock has been absorbed. Add chopped thyme and parsley 5 min. before the end of cooking time as well as salt and pepper.
– Remove the risotto from the heat and add the remaining butter and the parmesan and fold to incorporate.

My pairing suggestion is the 2008 Rubrato Aglianico Dei Feudi Di San Gregorio. This is a volcanic Vesuvius wine from Campania in southern Italy. This wine has salty, smokey, notes with dark berries. A perfect wine to compliment this robust rustic dish.

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To finish off the evening with a bang, I crafted my own homemade chocolate dipped steawberries. For this you will need a 1 lb. box of strawberries, 1 1/2 bars of Godiva 70% dark chocolate, a bag of Dove white milk chocolate and parchment paper. Place the dark chocolate in a small pinch or mixing bowl. Boil some water in a medium pot and add the bowl with the chocolate into the water (Bain Marie). This way you won’t get burnt chocolate. Wash and dry the strawberries and dip into dark melted chocolate. Place dipped strawberries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place into fridge. Meanwhile in the same pot with boiling water, add a bowl with 8 squares dove white chocolate and melt. Next take the strawberries out of the fridge and dip a teaspoon into the white chocolate and drizzle chocolate over the strawberries. Re-insert strawberries into the fridge until ready to eat.

My pairing suggestion is the Rosa Regale from the famous Banfi Winery of Montalcino. This is a light, sensual and velvety sparkling red with notes of strawberries and roses. Great for dessert.

What a beautiful night and what special moments with your loved one in the comfort of your home. A true five star Michelin experience… Happy Saint Valentines day and Cin Cin from Cantinetta Vintners. May love, great wine and delicious food accompany you on this journey of life, always!

90+ Cellars Boston, Mass.

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90+ Cellars was created by Kevin Mehra because of the fact that he likes drinking great wine. Kevin wanted an everyday drinking wine that tasted like one that wine drinkers usually reserve for special occasions, a delicious wine that could be uncorked any night of the week or whenever friends arrived at his home. Unfortunately, that wine didn’t exist. Either they were extremely expensive or just took way too much time to locate.

In the spring of 2009, Kevin had a copy of the latest Wine Spectator Magazine. He took the time to call and email wineries with a trend of high ratings and asked if they had extra wine for sale. Some wineries told Kevin to get lost and others simply did not give him the time of day. In the end, and after countless tiring hours, he found a handful of willing wineries. The plan was very straight forward… They agreed to put the 90+ Cellars label on their wine, and Kevin would sell it at a fraction of the original price.

You may remember that in 2009, the world economy was in dire straits. Wines priced more than $20 a bottle took a hard hit, and inventory levels at wineries were piling up. Rather than discount their wines and destroy their brand, wineries were willing to part with it for less. Kevin expeditiously paid them and promised complete anonymity on his part.

It was in the summer of 2009 that 90+ Cellars was born in Boston Massachusetts. Since then, it’s been their priority to procure, bottle and deliver fine wine that costs the consumer much less. The world-wide wine market has since changed, but 90+’s mission has not. Kevin and his team partner with highly respected wineries around the globe to provide you with wine that will keep more money in your wallet and really impress your friends. Truly a win-win situation I would say.

On the tasting table today is the 90+ Big Red Blend from Santa Barbara County California. This wine is a true example of how a great quality wine can cost much less… On first appearance, this red blend has a beautiful dark purple color with ruby rim and long, slender legs showing signs of a higher degree of alcohol. Notes in the 90+ Big Red Blend are of ripe berries, black currants and blackberries. For the earthy components this wine has lovely aromas of sweet tobacco, dry dark soil and some vanilla bean baking spice. There is a lingering subtle “burn” as the wine passes the back palate and the finish is long and luscious. I am usually skeptical about a blend with too many varietals in the wine because many are so off balance. With 55% Merlot, 27% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cab. Franc, 2% Petite Syrah, 1% Petite Verdot and 1% Malbec, this red blend is anything but off balance. Alcohol level is of a 14.5%. This is another true example of how the guys of 90+ Cellars procure great wine selections… For only $13.99 this Big Red Blend is a true winner! Give it a try… Ninety Plusninety plus

Wine Flaws and How to Avoid a Bad Wine

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Many times words get thrown around in the wine world. It should not be this way, but I find that the average wine drinker feels a bit embarrassed to ask “what does that mean”. I guess it feels safer to just nod and say ok… This is a habit that should be broken because by no means should the wine world be intimidating. Wine should be a wonderful voyage of constant enjoyment and learning. Afterall, wine is poetry in a bottle. Here at Cantinetta Vintners our purpose is to give people the tools to feel more confident in and around a wine public. So today, I will describe a few of those words or terms that get thrown around a lot. And come on, I’m sure you’ve all heard of them in some instance. One does not have to be a truffle hunting dog from Piedmont with an extremely acute sense of smell to tell that there’s something wrong or flawed with a wine. If at a restaurant, a wine that you ordered is in any way flawed, you have a right to refuse it. So don’t be shy…

Corked – A natural substance called TCA or in scientific words Trichloroanisole. The good news is that TCA does not pose a health risk to consumers. Wineries in most wine-producing countries, along with the cork industry, continue their research efforts to minimize the presence of TCA in wine. Simply, when a wine is considered to be corked, it smells like a wet, moldy basement, wet dog or a wet rag that is getting moldy. This is a very complicated subject that deals with a lot of chemistry, so I won’t go into detail. All you need to know is that if a wine smells like any of the above, send it back or dump it out. Hopefully, it was not a Chateaux Petrus!

Oxidized – A wine is considered to be oxidized when faulty corks let too much oxygen into a bottle. Wine and too much oxygen while in storage is a really terrible thing. Ever wonder why top restaurants and wine shops store their wines lying down? Cork tends to dry out and contract if too dry. This makes for a very inefficient seal. So a way to avoid this is to store your bottles flat to let corks humidify with wine contact. Sometimes, you have no control over what happened at the winery or during shipping. So if a wine in your collection is oxidized, don’t beat yourself up over it! Maybe it was not even your fault… A way to spot an oxidized wine is in the mouth. Take a sip… Red wines will taste flat or flavorless (no oak, berries etc…), and whites will taste like apple cider or sherry.

Cooked – No, this does not mean that Chef Bobby Flay slaved away in his Kitchen all night cooking wines. A term known as bottle shock is when wines were either stored or transported at extreme temps. Red wines should be kept if possible at 56-65 degrees fahrenheit. If this temp. fluctuates too much over these set temperatures a wine most likely will get cooked. That is why refrigerated shipping containers exist. In old European construction, stone and brick homes seem to keep wines at a temp between 56-65 degrees even in Summer. Here’s a small tip when running a lot of errands in a hot place, buy your wines on your last stop on the way home…

So, in conclusion, bad wine can often be traced to bad storage practices or a tainted cork. Try your best to do your part. This will make for an excellent wine experience… Enjoy!