Sweet wines are everywhere. Previously eschewed for fear of being snubbed by snobs, wineries now proudly tout their full-frontal sugar on their labels. Consumers who love dessert for their appetizer should be in high heaven. Leading the pack is Moscato, whose popularity has shot up like blood sugar after a glass of it. But, sadly, most Moscatos lack balance. When I first started drinking wine in Europe, Swiss-grown Muscat (as it is called in French) tantalized my palate with sweetness and acidity. I reveled in its dry finish after my tongue feasted on a fruit salad of apricots, peaches and juicy, red apple.
I had not experienced this same sensation in a wine until recently in Franciscan’s 2012 Equilibrium from Napa.
An obvious competitor to Caymus’s Conundrum – whose sweetness levels have slowly inched up to meet demand – Equilibrium serves up the acidity and interesting fruit by the bowlful. This brand new wine sports 11% Muscat, so it deftly delivers a flowery fragrance that preps your palate for something different than Chardonnay. Which is 17% of the blend, with the remaining 72% from Sauvignon Blanc. Medium-bodied, Equilibrium offers up a rich helping of honeysuckle, apricots, ripe pear and then finishes with a steely swath of citrus. The sweetness is most definitely evident, but like a German Riesling, it is mellowed by the expertly applied, tart acidity. Read more »
For the past five years, I’ve been on a crusade. Not of a violent nature but one a little more serene – incorporating a wider variety of vegetables onto my daily plate. I say crusade since, at the beginning, it was a forceful act. Like many Americans, eating vegetables didn’t always come naturally to me. My parents were (and continue to be) explorers of new food, so when I was kid we grew tomatoes, made yogurt and sprouted mung beans at our house. It wasn’t always pretty – think scrambled eggs with bean sprouts which remain truly disgusting to me – but they instilled a hunger for novel fare. When I became a chef, that exploration continued but I confess my personal veggie repertoire remained fairly limited. It wasn’t until I had to change my diet to fit into my clothes that I truly started traveling the greener side of the protein. And so it began. The bi-weekly co-op veggie box nudged me to beets, bok choy, Swiss chard and the humble cauliflower. I loathed this white wonder every time Mom dropped it in front of me. I stayed for an hour at the table, pushing it around in the hopes that I might appear as if I’d snacked on tidbits. In rare instances I had but Mom usually caved when I whined enough. I was a pain in the ass. If I could take it back…
Read more: Vegetable Recipe: Curry scented roasted cauliflower
As the mercury falls, the days get shorter. And we could all use a tasty cocktail to warm our toes and lift our spirits. For the seasonal transition, I chose to update two classic cocktails (in dire need of makeovers) which best deliver optimal autumn satisfaction: The Stinger and The Sidecar. Both of these refurbed cocktails are simple to produce in your home or pro bar.
Read more: Classic fall cocktail recipes with a twist: Brandy Stinger and Turkey in a SideCar
When fall weather hits, there’s nothing more satisfying than a warm bowl of hearty soup. This corn chowder recipe, in addition to banishing the chill, offers a sliver of summer any time of the year. No frill ingredients like corn, shrimp and bacon come together in 30 minutes or less. This is an easy, go-to, weeknight recipe.
Read more: Quick bacon corn chowder with shrimp recipe: Summer flavor any time of the year
Fond of ale, his favorite was an 8.6 % Imperial Stout that tasted of scorched caramel followed by charred malt. Sweet throughout, this full-bodied brew finished with substantial notes of nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. They called this Master of the Underworld the Warlock.”
Read more: Bewitching brews: Spooky craft beer Halloween tales
As a general rule, wines embellished with a celebrity name aren’t particularly well made. Relying on their fame to sell the wine, they siphon schlock into a bottle and call it a profitable day. (Read my blast of this trend from a few years ago.) But I have admit that the pop group Train at least tried to make a decent Pinot Noir. Jimmy Stafford, the quiet lead guitarist for Train, is a huge wine fan and teamed up with California winemaker, James Foster, to make their line of Save Me San Francisco wines last year. James is Senior Winemaker at The Wine Group, the same company that introduced generic Flip Flop Wines, Franzia and Big House to the wine drinking public. Not a huge endorsement for making great juice, so I didn’t have major expectations when I popped the (fake) cork on this bottle of 2011 Soul Sister Pinot Noir.
Read more: Celebrity wine review: Train’s 2011 Soul Sister Pinot Noir
I’m a quinoa lover. Although I love my animal protein, this savory, high protein grain is a savior to many vegetarians. Quinoa originated in the Andes mountains and is super versatile, has a uniquely nutty flavor and substitutes for practically any nutritionally neutral grain (think white rice or pasta). I featured a mushroom and quinoa risotto on my site late last year, but this recipe — recently enjoyed at a wine luncheon — sadly puts it to shame in the flavor department. The host chef, Ruth Van Warebeek, works for Concha y Toro in Chile and she paired this delectable recipe with a 2011 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere (CAR min YARE), a grape originally from France now happily residing in Chile’s welcoming climes and soils. Marques de Casa Concha created a soft, silky yet robust Carmenere that cozies up to food in a friendly way.
Read more: The beauty of wine and food pairings: Carmenere meets quinoa mushroom risotto
The other day, I met someone who doesn’t like green beans. Once I picked my jaw off the ground — generally, this vegetable is beloved by most Americans — I asked her why she thought this was so. Turns out, her mom force fed her canned green beans as a child and she hasn’t recovered from the taste trauma. Such a shame since fresh green beans are simply magical and so versatile… roasted with a bit of olive oil and garlic salt or in a quasi salad like this recipe tossed with tomato garlic vinaigrette. Perhaps it could change her mind?
Read more: Healthy veggie recipe: Green beans with tomato garlic vinaigrette
Some interesting facts about wine and beer consumption across the planet, which beers and wines sell the most, and who is drinking what. Geek out with these facts and figures.
Read more: Infographic: Beer versus wine surprising facts on how much we drink of both
Many people bemoan the cost of drinking juice hailing from the great granddaddy of wine regions, France. Yes, Bordeaux and Burgundy reign as the pièce de résistance of vin from this country but when you pull your almost empty wallet out of these collectors’ areas many bargains can be grabbed. Take the Touraine region, for instance. Nestled in the Loire Valley, southeast of Paris, the Touraine sub-region is better known for its Chenin Blanc (Vouvray). But while Vouvray certainly satisfies part of the French white craving, I’ve recently turned my sights on the region’s other, crisper white varietal: Sauvignon Blanc.
Read more: Wine review: Merieau Les Hexagonales 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine (France)