Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pretty in Pink: Secco's first-ever Rosé crawl

I believe it was Secco Wine Bar's Master of Ceremonies, Matt Brehony, who said it best, "Rosé is not 'grandma wine,' nor is it sickly sweet, nor will it cause a man to menstruate", so put aside any memories of that jug 'o wine swill your aunt used to drink. The rosé I'm talking about can be delicate and light with just a hint of sweetness, darker and bolder with more of a deep pink hue, effervescent and dry or anywhere in between. This is the wine that will cool you to the core on a hot day while elegantly elevating a simple bowl of vegetable soup or a piece of crostini topped with a dollop of tart 'n soft goat cheese, or as witnessed by last night's festivities, get the summer party started come hell or high water (literally).
Oh, it rained, and rained and rained. View from Secco
As an honest-to-goodness rosé junkie, I was all over the idea of a point to point Richmond wine crawl from the get-go. First off, I love how Julia Battaglini et. al. are thinking out of the box when it comes to events like these, and judging from the crowds at each our stops, I figure the popularity of future wine crawls will only increase. Even better, concentrating an entire evening on a single wine is a great way for folks like myself to really delve into one specific style of wine making. Who knew that rosés are made by leaving the grape skins intact for just a few days versus the usual two weeks or that, while France is still the leading producer of rosé (think Loire Valley, Languedoc or Bergerac regions), Spain, Italy and the U.S. are making some pretty darned good juice?

Our first stop was Amici Ristorante where generous glasses of a lovely Mottura Negroamaro Salento from the Puglia region of Italy were poured to get the evening started. Slightly dry with hints of fruit (cherry and strawberries?) it was an excellent aperitif.
Line 'em up. The gang at Amici
Next stop was Amour Wine Bistro where a handful of rosés were offered up with a few snack options for purchase. There, we opted for the Atmosphere Vin de Pays du Var (Provence) which was a super light, refreshing, crisp and fruity.
My husband, Tim, definitely enjoyed it
Next up was to be a stop at Can Can to sample a 2010 Domaine de Mirail, Cote de Gascone, but we unfortunately couldn't get in the door because it was so packed, so off to Secco we went and not a moment too soon since this happened....
Then, this happened...
Power is out at Secco, but the party is just getting started
We literally arrived at Secco a hair's breadth ahead of one heck of a thunderstorm complete with cloud to ground lightening and flooding in Carytown, but never fear, there was plenty of wine to be had by candlelight. We started with a glass of Cote de Provence Manon which was super light and lovely with just a hint of peachiness followed by a glass of Il Baladin, a Italian beer from the Piemonte region of Italy (on tap).

Tim and photographer extraordinaire Steven Salpukas w/ glasses in hand
The scene at Secco was raucous and lively, clearly demonstrating that any lack of air conditioning, snacks or even a shortage of wine glasses would not dampen this evening. It was a fantastic time, and a terrific way to support Richmond's local restaurants while getting a serious wine primer firsthand. Keep an eye out for the next one. Pin It Now!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Evening at Lemaire with John Mariani

Chefs Bundy, Schroeder, Ayyash with John Mariani and my table mate who wasn't too fond of being the center of attention but was a great sport
About a month ago, one of my husband's buddies tipped us off to an upcoming wine dinner at one of Richmond's award-winning restaurants Lemaire at The Jefferson Hotel featuring an evening of classic Italian cooking (as well as Lemaire's signature seasonally-inspired cuisine) hosted by Esquire magazine's food, wine and travel expert, John Mariani, who was also there to promote his latest book, "How Italian Food Conquered the World".

It took us all of about 8 seconds to buy our tickets.

Last night, as the wine flowed (served up as a crisp San Pietro Pinot Grigio and a 2008 Seghesio Dolcetto D'Alba Chiesa), guests were treated to a menu described as a "synergy of three driving forces" involving the infiltration of Italian ingredients and culinary methods in America along with Virginia's own meats and produce, all of which that was to blend seamlessly with the season.

In addition to culling from Jefferson's own urban garden, Bundy Farms, welcome appearances came from OLLI Salumeria (in the form of a pungent and simply outstanding pancetta nestled into a big pile of ricotta gnocchi topped with Dave and Dee's grated eggs) as well as a local rabbit pate (served atop a classic bruschetta) that hailed from Jamerson Farms. A very seasonal Chesapeake Bay soft-shell crab was dusted in cornmeal (a welcome change from simply flouring) and a fall-off-the-bone tender braised pork cheek rested atop Charleston Gold Rice from Anson Mills. However, I have to say, the star of the show was Pastry Chef Sara Ayyash's beautifully executed Semifreddo al 'Torrone accented with salted caramel, which arrived just as it should, half-frozen and just a little melty around the edges.

Here's a brief pictorial with a few delectable highlights. Apologies in advance for the lack of lighting, but setting off a flash during date night is a faux pax I just don't do.
Trio of Bruschetta with Jamerson Farms rabbit, puree of favas and Hanover tomato caponata
Chesapeake Bay soft shell crab w/ three bean salad & pickled okra
Ricotta gnocchi w/ OLLI pancetta, grated farm eggs and Parmesan
Chef James Schroeder's Emilia-Romagna inspired fall-apart braised pork cheek w/ gold rice and cabbage
Pastry Chef Sarah Ayyash's rendition of a semifreddo made with Torrone and salted caramel.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just a Couple of Guys Making Great Booze

I'm really excited to share a link to my very first post for Chef Marcus Samuelsson's, "the site for men who want to eat and drink well, and to live smart" a.k.a. Food Republic.  I've always been a huge fan of Food Republic, and to be included in the company of many of their regular contributors is...well...a honor indeed.

Even better, I get show some love to both my home state of West Virginia as well as some super-cool guys in nearby Maxwelton, WV (Smooth Ambler Spirits) who I think are making some pretty awesome potables, and as you'll see from the article, it's pure grain-to-glass, get-your-hands-dirty, sustainable stuff.

Check it all out here and please add a comment or two and/or share away.  Note: this is the first of a three-part series I will be doing for Food Republic in the next week.  Next up, an exploration of Smooth Ambler's white whiskey complete with recipes and video.
Tim and I flanking the Smooth Ambler family just before the gambling commenced at The Greenbrier
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Scrambled Eggs with Smoked BC Wild Salmon and Caviar

Rocky Mountaineer's GoldLeaf breakfast of eggs, smoked salmon, caviar & creme fraiche
I just got back from an incredible trip aboard the Rocky Mountaineer on a food and wine laden culinary rail tour of the Canadian Rockies beginning in Vancouver and ending in Banff.  It was a two day tour with an overnight stopover in the quaint village of Kamloops, and in between there was much deliciousness to be had (see above for photo and below for the recipe for this drool worthy breakfast dish).
Rocky Mountaineer offers 45 unique rail tours throughout British Columbia and Alberta. Without a doubt it's a luxury experience, especially their GoldLeaf service where our group wined and dined inside a glass-dome coach while winding leisurely through stunning mountain scenery. Service is simply impeccable aboard Rocky Mountaineer, with exceptional breakfasts and lunches paired with local wines served in the train's dining car.  
Chef Frederic Couton oversees Rocky Mountaineer's menu which boasts an array of local delicacies including Steelhead Salmon in Mustard Cream over Red Potato Hash (above), Alberta beef short ribs and pork loin, British Columbian mushrooms as well as locally made ice creams and British Columbian wines, including a particularly decent Sumac Ridge White Meritage. Along the way, we saw plenty of wildlife including marmots, bighorn sheep and elk. Oftentimes, guests aboard the train spot black bears and grizzly bears, but unfortunately we didn't see any on this trip, but no worries. As the wines flowed and the views commenced, we forgot all about those bears.
View from the train coming into Banff National Park
So, back to the food. The desserts aboard the train were simply to die for. Overwhelmingly decadent in the best sense, I derailed (pun intended) from my diet during our first meal. As you can see, these sugary treats were impossible to resist.
If you can't climb aboard the Rocky Mountaineer anytime soon, at least you can try your hand at one of their signature recipes The GoldLeaf Breakfast of Scrambled Eggs with Smoked British Columbia Wild Salmon, Caviar and Dilled Creme Fraiche.  Trust me, it's not a hard to make as it sounds and it's totally worth the extra effort. Goes perfectly with a chilled mimosa.  Photo note: This recipe called for molding the salmon and eggs. However, as you'll note, the photos I took show it served with salmon placed on top. Either way, it's lovely.

Scrambled Eggs and Smoked BC Wild Salmon
Recipe courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer
Serves 6

1 pound smoked wild salmon, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
12 eggs
1 cup dill creme fraiche (see recipe below)
1 ounce caviar
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped plus four springs for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter


Rub the inside of six small bowls or medium ramekins lightly with vegetable oil. Line each bowl evenly with smoked salmon, covering all areas but being careful not to layer too thick. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (Note: This can be done in advance and refrigerates overnight. If so, allow 10 minutes out of the fridge before adding cooked eggs.)

Crack eggs into a large bowl and whisk. Scramble lightly over medium heat in a saute pan with butter, salt and pepper until eggs are medium firm. Fill salmon-lined bowls immediately with eggs, pressing into a firm mold. Turn bowl over and lightly remove mold, serving flat side down. Drizzle with 1/4 cup dill creme fraiche per plate and spoon caviar on top. Garnish each with a dill sprig.

For the Dill Creme Fraiche: Mix one cup whipping cream with two tablespoons buttermilk. Pour into a glass jar and cover. Let stand at room temperature for 8-24 hours or until thickened. Stir well and refrigerate (up to 10 days). Remove from fridge 10 minutes before serving and stir in fresh, chopped dill.

All photos and text ©2011 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission Pin It Now!
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