Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Tzatziki (pronounced: dza-DZEE-kee) is a traditional Greek dip that is made up of yogurt, cucumber and garlic. This dip is fantastic on artisan bread or as a condiment for a Gyro sandwich.
Technically, this is not a Monkey, it is actually a Chimpanzee
When I see the spelling for Tzatziki it always looks like a typo or a word generated by the use of the "Infinite Monkey Theorem".
Anyway, this is a great way to add something a little exotic to a party and it could not be easier to make. If you love garlic, this is the dip for you.

2 cups of thick Greek yogurt
4 to 10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup of diced or grated cucumber
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tsp. of fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. dill (fresh or dried)

Use Greek yogurt or you can use plain yogurt and strain out the whey with a yogurt strainer (yes, there is such a thing).Grate the cucumber and place it in a strainer for 2 hours to remove some moisture. At the end of 2 hours pick up the shredded mass with your hands and squeeze as much moisture out of it as you can.
Toss the yogurt and the cucumber with the other ingredients together and give a stir.
This dip is better if you can let the flavors meld for an hour or so in the refrigerator.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sunday Dinner

Porchetta Romana, Fresh Summer Salad & Roasted New Red Potatoes w/ Garlic-Lemon Aioli & Parsley
I was having company over for dinner and I wanted something fresh, seasonal and sexy. I have been playing with salads all Spring and Summer. I think this last weekend I had a "simple" salad that ended up with at least 10 ingredients. With all the produce available right now I seem to eyes bigger than my stomach and I hate seeing anything go to waste. The cool thing with these salads is you can get creative with using raw, grilled or even blanched veggies (like green beans or asparagus).
The other thing I like about these salads is it doesn't take a recipe.
The Entree for dinner ended up being an Italian Pork Roast.
Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder w/Garlic, Fennel and Rosemary
This pork shoulder roast has been stuffed with garlic slivers then coated with olive oil, fresh rosemary and a liberal dose of fennel seeds. Anyone who needs a little more detail can see my detailed recipe of "Porchetta Romana". I have really developed a fondness for this slow cooked roast. The lean meat is well marbled with pork fat and this roast literally self bastes as it cooks. This roast is so fabulous that the only pork product that could top it would be a Heather Arndt Anderson's whole pig roast (hey, when are you doing that again?).

With a great roast and a fresh salad all I needed were some carbs to balance the plate. Since I had the grill already fired up for some of the salad ingredients I decided to grill some new red potatoes and then toss with a lemon aioli.

Grilled New Red Potatoes w/ Lemon-Garlic Aioli & Parsley
Recipe is courtesy of my alter-ego Bobby Flay
3 pounds small new potatoes
1 1/2 cups best-quality mayonnaise. For the record, I can, and have made aioli before-this is just quicker (Heather, don't roll your eyes at me...)
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Place the potatoes in a stockpot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, season the water with salt, and cook until almost tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, and when cool enough to handle, cut each potato in half.
Preheat the grill to medium. Add the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, and zest to a blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Brush the potatoes with oil on all sides and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill, cut side down, until golden brown and just cooked through. Remove the potatoes to a platter. Drizzle the aioli over the potatoes and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Patricia Green 2005-Ribbon Ridge-Bonshaw Vineyard
Since I was having company I thought I could pull out a nice bottle of Pinot Noir. Patricia Green is one of my favorite Oregon producers and I have been buying her wine for the past 5-6 years. Patricia is one of the second wave of wine pioneers in the Willamette Valley and she is a self taught winemaker. Pinot Noir is very expressive as to where it is grown, but I firmly believe that the personality of the winemaker shows.
To me these wines are much like Patricia (Patty), approachable, enjoyable, with levels of complexity and sophistication that start to show over time.

Patricia Green 2005-Ribbon Ridge-Bonshaw Vineyard
Dark purple color (heck, it is still a baby!), some earthiness, a bit of spice, mushroom/forest floor, concentrated cherry and raspberry fruit on the nose and palate. Tart cherry shows in the mid-palate (which makes this a fantastic food wine). Some good silky tannins on the back palate and a long finish. To me the fascinating thing about Pinot Noir is their ability to change in the glass. This wine showed a new scent every time I lifted my nose to the glass. Later in the evening this wine had a much more floral nose. This will be a great bottle to try again in 3-4 years.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm not a breast man....... (really)

I am guessing that her favorite piece of the chicken is the breast.
When it comes to chicken almost everyone know exactly what piece is their favorite. Some people like breasts, other prefer the legs. Personally I love the thigh. The meat of the chicken thigh is darker, fatter and when cooked properly it is by far the most succulent part of the bird.
The other night I wanted to grill, but I didn't want the full production of cooking a whole bird so I pulled out my favorite dry rub mix and dusted half a dozen chicken thighs and in less than 30 minutes dinner was served.
Spice rubbed Chicken Thighs w/ Green Bean, Radish & Red Onion Salad
This time of year the produce is fantastic and I have been playing with grilled and chopped salads all Spring and Summer. Tonight I did a quick fresh salad of green beans, radishes and some red onion. A quick vinaigrette and Summer is served!

Spice Rub
1 Tbsp Coriander
1 Tbsp Yellow Mustard Seed
2 tsp Fennel Seeds
3 tsp Spanish Paprika
2 tsp Black Pepper
2 tsp Kosher Salt
(grind the seeds and add to remaining ingredients).

Green Bean, Radish, Red Onion Salad
1 lb Green beans
1 bunch Radishes
1/2 Red Onion

2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Olive Oil

Trim and blanch the green beans in boiling water for 3 minutes. Shock the bean in ice water after they are done cooking. Thinly slice the radishes and red onion and then You are good to go-
Green Bean, Radish & Red Onion Salad

Monday, July 21, 2008

German Reisling (I am not talking about Blue Nun)

In the wine world there are numerous examples of stellar wines and wine regions being ripped off by less scrupulous producers to make a buck.
Does anyone think that Gallo "Hearty Burgundy" contains any French Pinot Noir juice?
Chablis is a spectacular white wine region in Burgundy that gets little street cred with the general public, mainly because of the ocean of crappy California plonk that gets boxed and sent out to BFE for consumption. I am sure someone is picking up a 5 Litre box and thinking "Gee, this has a French name, it must be good".
Have you seen the Inglenook wines in the grocery store? Does anyone know that the original Inglenook was one of the first top quality California Cabernet Sauvignon wines? Today the entire Inglenook estate has been purchased and brought back to its former glory by Francis Ford Coppala. Today the property is called Rubicon Estate Winery and they don't make any wine that goes into a box (they do make a sparkling wine that goes in a can though...oh, well).
I can think of numerous examples, but I think you get my drift. This weekend my wine group did a German Riesling tasting. These wines are absolutely singular in their ability to express where they come from. Living in the Willamette Valley I have heard winemakers, grape growers, and merchants all proclaim how Pinot Noir is terroir driven. Well, as expressive as Pinot Noir is to where it is grown, Riesling takes the concept of terroir to a whole new level.
Being in my 40's (late) I can remember the Blue Nun craze that started in the 50's and continued into the 80's.
When it was created, the label was designed as a consumer-friendly alternative to the innumerable German wine labels with Gothic script and long, complicated names. Blue Nun was advertised as a wine that could be drunk throughout an entire meal, thereby eliminating the often intimidating problem of wine and food pairing (Who wants to actually have to serve wine that might taste good with your food?).
Anyway, I digress, the line-up for this tasting, along with my tasting notes is as follows:

1985 Christoffel-Prum Auslese Wehlener: Creamy nose, good acid balance with a touch of Caramel on the finish. This wine had no discoloration at all and was remarkable fresh for being 23 years old.

1994 Christoffel-Prum Auslese Urziger: Petrol/kerosene on the nose (classic) and palate. Nice acid balance. This wine too had no visible discoloration or apparent oxidation.

2005 Heyman-Lowenstein Laubach Erste Lage: Petrol nose, funky mid-palate, very thin, watery and a short finish. This wine started off poorly and got worse.

2006 Ackerman Spatlese Zeltinger: Lemony citrus nose, great acidity, a crisp minerality, a full bodied viscous texture. This was my favorite wine of the night.

2006 Kees-Kieran Riesling: Peach on the nose, a hint of effervesence on the palate, tart acidity and a good finish.

2006 Gunderloch Spatlese Nackenheimer: Soft Peach/apricot on the nose, tart acidity and good fruit with a long finish.

I found the follow information (in italics) on a site called Walter's Web If you really want to exercise the wine geek in you check it out.

Leave it to the Germans to devise a wine labelling system that includes all the information that there is to know, and none of it useful. The top tier German wines are labelled Qualitatswein mit Pradikat, abbreviated QmP. These wines have attained the specified ripeness level (pradikat), come from the named location, are made in the traditional styles, and passes chemical analysis and taste tests (yes, the Germans chemically analyze their wine and look for things like Ph and residual sugar parts per million) The second tier is labelled Qualitatswein bestimmter Angaugebeite, often written simply as Qualitatswein, and abbreviated as QbA. These wines come from the specified location and are made in the traditional styles, but typically do not achieve the ripeness levels required for pradikat designation. The bottom tier consists of things labeled Deutscher Tafelwein or Deutscher Landwein, and rarely escape the country. A German wine label includes the following things: Winemaker, the people who made the wine, such as Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt. You will often see the word "Weingut"; this means winemaker and indicates that the wine was grown, made, and bottled on the premises (in the manner of a French chateau). There are other designations for cooperatives and merchant resellers. Varietal, the type of grape. Most top German wine is Riesling, but one occasionally runs into other varieties like Gewurztraminer or Silvaner. Muller-Thurgau is one of the most widely grown varieties, but nobody advertises this fact because it's a fast-ripening grape designed to be grown in bulk. A named varietal guarantees a minimum of 85% content. Vintage, the year the grapes were harvested. All grapes must come from the named year. Geographic Origin, the region the grapes came from, such as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. All grapes come from the specified region. A pradikat designation for QmP wines. A vineyard may also be named, such as Piesporter Goldtropfchen, although this is usually done only for the better pradikat wines. Some of the low-end QbA wine omits the varietal and uses a traditional name instead, like Blue Nun or Schwarze Katz. There are rules covering these names as well and are specific to the traditional name. The pradikat designation on the wine indicates the level of ripeness that the grapes have attained. They are, in order of increasing ripeness: Kabinett These grapes are considered ripe. They make the lightest wines of the pradikat-designated wines. Spatlese These grapes are considered late harvest; they have been left on the vine much longer and are more intensely flavored. Auslese These grapes are very late harvest hand-selected grapes, and are extremely ripe. Beerenauslese These grapes are over-ripe and are showing signs of botrytis fungus infection (which is a good thing). The grapes are extremely concentrated and intense, and is usually made as dessert wine. Eiswein These are Beerenauslese grapes that have been deliberately allowed to freeze on the vine. The grapes are pressed while still frozen. The ice locks up most of the water, leaving a more concentrated, sweeter juice. Since the frozen grapes must be hand selected and processed immediately in the middle of the night while they are still frozen, production is very limited and expensive. Trockenbeerenauslese These are Beerenauselse that have been left on the vine so long that they have shriveled due to botrytis. This produces fine dessert wine. Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese is extremely rare and expensive. Sweetness usually goes up as you move up the pradikat scale, although this is not required. The designation only refers to the sugar levels at harvest time, not in the final product. However, in most cases, a higher pradikat wine will taste sweeter and more concentrated than a lower wine at the same alcohol level, since the higher wine has much more residual sugar. Beerenauslese and higher wines have sufficient residual sugar to taste sweet even at 14% alcohol. Wines are reasonably priced through Auslese. Beyond that, prices increace very rapidly. In the case of Riesling, the growing season is often not long enough to produce significant quantities of Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese, and this extreme scarcity leads to high prices. Eiswein of any sort tends to be very expensive as well. For Beerenauslese and higher, the wines are frequently sold in half-size (375ml) bottles, to be more affordable and more accessible (it is difficult for two to finish a full bottle of very intense dessert wine in one sitting). In addition to the pradikat designation, the modifiers trocken and halbtrocken may be added. Trocken means dry; halbtrocken means off-dry. Most Riesling is made with higher residual sugar (hence the common 8.5% alcohol); the trocken and halbtrocken wines are made drier and thus reach more typical alcohol levels of 11.5-12%. Putting all this together: consider this label, courtesy Fitz-Ritter. The pertinent information is that it is a Fitz-Ritter Ungsteiner Herrenberg Riesling Spatlese 1996, Qualitatswein mit Pradikat Pfalz. This means that the wine was made and bottled by Fitz-Ritter (as the "weingut" indication tells us), that it comes from the Herrenberg vineyard near Ungstein, that Riesling grapes were used, that these grapes attained Spatlese level ripeness, tha the harvest year was 1996, and that the region is Pfalz. There, that wasn't so hard, was it?
What did I learn from this tasting?
I learned that I much prefer the younger wines. The fruit on the nose and crisp acidity in their youth is more enjoyable than the muted fruit and the petroleum scents that these wines pick up when they are aged (sure, call me unsophisticated).
Since this is a social group that I taste with we usually all bring a bottle to share after the event.

This wine is fun AND kicks Ass!
I had grabbed a bottle of Kung Fu Girl Reisling from Washington State. This is bottled under Charles Smith's (of K-Vintner fame) Magnificent Wine Company label. He has done a terrific job with putting some great juice in the bottle for around $10/bottle. This is a bottle that would more than hold its own against German wines twice its price...plus you get to drink American. Think of it as doing your part to prop up the U.S. economy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Schweinebraten-Just say YES!
As I have written before, I do lament not having an ethnic grandmother (or grandfather) who both shared the language of my ancestors as well as the cooking from the old world. Actually I got gypped on both counts, my grandparents didn't speak German and I don't recall any ethnic German food growing up.
Since I have pretty much a clean slate as far as an ethnic past, I would, if pressed probably choose to be of Italian or French heritage.
Yes the Germans are precise, analytical and hard working, but lets face it, the food is better in France and Italy and Latin based languages can make even "merde" sound polite.
This weekend I attended a German Riesling wine event and the group wanted authentic German dishes to eat with the wines. Knowing how the Germans have an affinity for pork I did a bit of research and determined that my beloved Italian Porchetta Romana was a very close cousin (maybe even more like a step-brother....same Mom, diffent Dad kinda thing) to the Schwienebraten I decide to make. Before you get all up in arms about "my" version of this dish please note that I did some research and there was a WIDE variety of "authentic" recipes. The only ingredients that seemed common to all were the Caraway Seeds, Onions and Carrots. If you don't approve of my version.......make your own.

5-7 lbs pork shoulder or pork butt
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons crushed black pepper
1 head of garlic
1 cup german beer-(Spaten Oktoberfest would be a good choice)
2 large onions, chopped
1 lb. carrots, chopped
Start 24 hours ahead of cooking and sliver the garlic and with the tip of a paring knife insert the slivers into the pork. Rub the Pork Shoulder with olive oil and dust with salt, pepper and caraway seeds. Do this to both sides and go ahead and chop one of the onions and seat the pork shoulder roast on the sliced onion and let sit for 24 hours.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees (6 hours before dinner) add the roast along with the beer, chopped carrots and onion to the cooking pan. Cook the roast fat side (covered) for 1 hour. At the end of the hour flip the roast and score the fat in a decorative pattern (like the face of Jesus, or if you are less artistic like me you can just score in a criss-cross pattern). Turn the heat down to 250 degrees and cook until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. At that point bump up the temperature to 400 degrees and cook until you reach 160 degrees. At that point go ahead and pull the roast, place on a platter and cover with foil.
There seems to be several school of thought in regard to the pan gravy. One school has your simmer the juices to thicken, while the other has you add a roux to thicken.
I have chosen to puree the onions and carrots with the pan juices and then strain. I added a small amount of brown roux (google this if you don't know what it is) and then cooked to the consistency I desired....not too thick, not too thin.
The roast was absolutely unctuous! Moist, tender with great marbling and the kind of flavor that can only come from cooking a big piece of meat for 4-5 hours. This was lip-smackingly good enough to make anyone wish they had a German Grandmother to cook for them. From what I can tell from the research I made is that the gravy made from the pan drippings and carrot/onion bed in the cooking pan is what makes this dish. Personally, I dunno, this roast is pretty spectacular by itself. My vote would be to serve up a big hunk of this roast and be judicious with the gravy (you can always go back for more).

This dish turned out well and while "Schweinbraten" doesn't exactly roll off of your tongue like say, Porchetta Romana.......... I will say that Schweinebraten ist sehr gut!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This Wine Is Better Than Sex (Okay, not really)

Harlan Estates/Bond-Pluribus
Most of you food bloggers have footnoted categories for your posts. Basically a way of indexing pieces you write about. This blog really started out to be more about wine and somehow the food posts took over.
I have several categories relating to wine. I have a category called: Really Good Wine. I also have one called: This Wine Is Better Than Sex. I am thinking about changing that last category to: "This wine costs more than your car payment".
Since 1999 I have been spending an inordinate amount of time studying, reading about, researching, tasting and buying fine wine
. What I love about wine (besides the alcohol) is that in a bottle you can learn about history, geography, politics, agriculture, vinticulture, oenology, botany, forestry and a whole host of interesting and esoteric facts before you even open up the bottle. This is a hobby that has almost consumed me at times.
While some people may collect wine as an investment my small cellar (50 cases) was all purchased with the intent to consume what I had bought.
What I think is special about seeing ones palate develop is that I believe you go back to the "Old School" wines as your palate gets more sophisticated. I liken this to learning to cook and I would venture to say that the majority of the cooking school in the United States are teaching "Old School" French cooking techniques. There is a reason that classic literature remains relevant in the modern age. Do people realize that Picasso was a classically trained painter and had a very strong base in realism before he began to experiment with cubist and modernist painting? The French have been making wine (and cooking ) for centuries. They have learned what works and what doesn't work through years of trial and error and they have passed that knowledge down to their children to pass to their children and so on.
While the "New World" wines have come on strong, I do believe that given time, the old world wines will prevail.
The other night I had an "Old School" Italian dinner at Cafe Mingo in Portland. There were six of us at dinner that night and we started with a simple Italian Rose wine. We then opened a 1993 Leoville Las Cases (slightly off vintage old school 2nd Growth Bordeaux). We also had a 1980 Leoville Las Cases that was starting to slowly fade (like a pretty girl who is now on the back side of 50-no longer a bombshell, but she still gets everyone's attention when she walks into the room). My buddies sister, Kerrie, brought a Harlan Estates -Bond- Pluribus (thanks Kerrie!). This wine was a gift to her and at $250/bottle (if you can get on the mailing list) the chance to taste this wine made the entire night a special event. Wines of this pedigree are meant to be shared with people that know what they are. They are great and while I am not going to tell anyone that this was a religious experience, this is about as close as wine gets to being a sexual experience (more like looking at a masterpiece painting versus actually being the artist of the painting).

1980 Leoville Las Cases-The wine was showing some brickish color and had a nose that me and my friends refer to as a "Bordeaux Stink". While brett is considered to be a flaw, I like the barnyard/leather component this wine showed. Not much fruit left and a short finish.

1993 Leoville Las Cases- Good garnet color with no sign of aging. Strong earthy, barnyard and leather nose. Good cassis fruit with balanced acidity and a long smooth tannin finish. This wine was great as a cocktail and it was better with food.
A great example of what a top notch Bordeaux Cabernet based wine can be. This was my last of three bottles that I had purchased and I am glad I was able to share it with some friends who could appreciate it.

2005 Bond Pluribus- Dark purple color, almost opaque. Big ripe fruit on the nose with a hint of vanilla and blueberry. Full-bodied, rich and thick, this was almost like a wine concentrate but with good balance between fruit, acid and tannin. This wine opens up and shows some roasted coffee and chocolate on the back palate. The finish is very long and polished.

The Bond Pluribus was/is an outstanding wine. Is it worth $250/bottle? Personally, these wines are more than a little north of my income bracket, but in the right setting these wines can be a show stopper and provide the entertainment for the night as well.

I will just say if your friends bring a bottle of this wine to dinner to share, I would advise you to not be shy about elbowing your other dinner companions out of the way so you can get a taste.-Cheers

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bringing The Thunder

Gary Vaynerchuk- Photo by: Jonathan Saunders for Time
Once in a while I have a Homer Simpson "D'oh!" moment. A few weeks ago my 10 year old Imac finally bit the dust. I upgraded to a new Mac and I have to say that this was like upgrading from a 12" Black and White television with rabbit ear antennas and 3 channel reception to a 42" HDTV Flat Screen with 300+ channels (including The Food Network).
I had come across Wine Library with Gary Vaynerchuk some time ago and to be honest the video quality of my old computer made this almost painful to watch. Well, suprising what a serious hardware upgrade will do to your viewing habits.
Today I watched Gary and his guest Jim Cramer (Yes, the Mad Money Jim Cramer) discuss fine wine and investment strategies around wine.
Click on Gary's latest video and you are in for a crazy, irreverent, educational AND wine filled show.
I have seen the future of wine in America and his name is not Robert Parker, his name is Gary Vaynerchuk (Vay-ner-chuk!) This guy is doing more to take the snob out of wine than anyone I have ever seen. He has a terrific palate and his "wine vocabulary" makes thinking about and tasting wine what it should be (FUN!!!).
Joel Stein of Time magazine wrote this about Gary-"Vaynerchuk has mastered all the Food Network tricks. He curls his palms to describe the "oak monster" he finds in so many barrel-aged American Chardonnays. He uses catchphrases like"sniffy-sniff", "pop, pop, pop" to describe the buttery-popcorn taste of some wines; overly sweet Shirazes are "RWC" (red-wine cocktails). He makes a rumbling sound effect when wines "bring the thunder." But some stunts are uniquely his own. He throws corks at the camera, spills wine as he shoves the glass at the camera to show the color and yells at "lurkers" who don't post comments on his site. He aggressively plays to the CKC (college-kid crew). In one episode, to teach viewers to train their palate, he took off his sweaty sock and sucked on it to demonstrate what he means by earthy Old World--red notes. Only on the Web could Vaynerchuk review wine, not just because he describes one as the "kind of bottle you want to take on your date and hope she consumes the entire thing, and then it gets interesting" but also because he's trying to sell wine on the very same website where he's rating it--which, despite his deep knowledge and spot-on nose, reduces his trustworthiness. But, Vaynerchuk says, what people seek from him isn't individual reviews but lessons in how to enjoy wine. "There's always a wine bully. The one person who did read the Wine Spectator, who tells you what to drink and why the '97 is better than the '98. I want to punch the wine bully in the face," he says. "I want to make sure this generation of wine drinkers isn't élitist and snotty. I want it to be about family and bringing people together."
So, instead of me taking up precious time and space, do yourself a favor and click on the Wine Library link. It really is for your own good (if you like wine and food).
Also, remember, and I am paraphrasing Gary's statement that wine is meant to be shared with friends. Expand your palate (learn how to taste wine in episode #42) and drink wine from all over the planet.
You will be glad you did.