Tag Archives: food and wine pairings

Alinea Experience Chicago

There is a fascinating documentary on Netflix “Chef’s Table” highlighting the life and career of Grant Achatz (Chef’s Table, Season 2, Episode 1). The show features Chef Grant Achatz and his restaurant Alinea. Chef Achatz battled tongue cancer which caused him to loose his sense of taste for a period of time. I was hesitant to watch the show at first, thinking it would be a sad story, but it turned out to be an amazing saga with a happy ending.  The culinary masterpieces he serves in his restaurant defy the imagination and showcases the talent of the creative chefs at this restaurant. Since opening the restaurant in 2005, Chef Achatz has become well-known for his deconstructions of classic flavors, meaning that what you think you are eating may not be at all what you are actually eating. This show enticed us to hop on a plane to Chicago to dine at Alinea, a three star Michelin-starred venue, rated number 34 on the top 50 restaurants in the world list.  The restaurant takes its name from the symbol alinea (prominent in the restaurant’s logo). You may remember it as the “new Paragraph symbol” used in manuscripts. Image result for alinea symbol

Chef Achatz also wrote a book about his fascinating life and career: Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat.  Grant Achatz(Author), and business partner Nick Kokonas(Author)

Our Chicago experience began with a leisurely brunch  at our hotel…

Alinea bloody maryalinea brunchalinea salad brunch

Boody Mary brunch at Michael Mina’s Margeaux Brasserie … Croque Madame, Butter Lettuce Salad with laclare farms chèvre, shaved radish, crème fraîche dressing.

Then off to a Chicago River boat architectural tour. I loved how the large buildings reflected in the glass on the skyscrapers that lined the river.

Alinea buildings

alinea montgomery ward

One of our favorite parts of the tour was the history of the Montgomery Ward Mail Order House.  The warehouse was as long as 2 1/2 football fields and at one time had its own post office branch. Due to the expansive length of the building the employees wore roller skates to pick merchandise off the shelves in the warehouse to fill catalog orders. When the warehouse closed they found dozens of pairs of roller skates stashed away in the building. The skates quickly sold on e-bay.

Spoiler Alert!  Alinea is all about illusion. If  you do not want to know the secrets that are served at this fabulous restaurant please do not read any further.

The centerpiece of our dining table was a silver bowl full of Kieffer limes.

After a few courses had been served by our fabulous waiters and sommelier  (pictured below), hot liquid was poured over the centerpiece to create a misty “dry ice” effect that floated over our table. Dreamy and so romantic!

The Alinea menu in the form of a word-search puzzle was posted on our table. Later that evening a complete menu with wine pairings was given to us to take home.

First Course – Smoke: Osetra, Sunflower, Onion, Lemon and Terrarium: Iceberg, Avocado, Herbs

Wine Pairing First Course:  Château La Nerthe “Clos de Beauvenir” Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhône Valley, France, 2010

We found the premium wine flight that we chose to accompany our dinner to be extraordinary.

Second Course: Glow: Lemongrass and Kaeng: Scallop, Mustard, Chili

The lemongrass “test tube” was a palate cleanser. They glow in the dark! You put the red end to your mouth and suck it down just like a jello shooter.  It has a citrus taste, very refreshing.

The dish that was served with the Lemongrass Glow was Scallop fried ramen on scallop pasta – shaved scallop that resembled pasta that was hidden underneath the fried ramen. So your eyes were telling you that you were eating pasta but your tongue was telling you that you were eating scallops. In my opinion the “simple presentation” of the scallop pasta was one of the most memorable.

Wine Pairing Second Course:  Domaine Marcel Deiss “Altenberg de Bergheim” Grand Cru, Alsace, France 2010.

After the first course we were whisked away to the kitchen where one of the chefs prepared a cocktail in a   hand-cranked, cast-iron contraption flown in from Amsterdam. This “cocktail machine” shakes four shakers at a time. Chef Achatz  looked for the shaker for three years before he acquired this one. There are only 30 of them in the world.

We were seated on the second level of the restaurant so we walked through the first floor dining room to get to the kitchen.

When we returned to our table from the kitchen, the Kieffer lime centerpiece had been replaced with a bowl of fire.

Photo of me and my husband at our “table on fire”.

Third Course: Ink: Octopus, Scallion, Black Lime

Ordinarily octopus would not have been my favorite bite, but the preparation of this octopus made it taste like a tender Japanese inspired steak, yum!

Third Course Wine Pairing: Turley “Dragon” Zinfandel, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California 2016

Imagine our surprise when the fire in the middle of the table was extinguished and out comes a potato. The potato had been baking in the heat of the fire as we enjoyed other courses.

There were many more surprises to come  – it was an 11 course dinner.  will feature them in my next blog post…until then…bon santé!

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Happy 8th Birthday Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar, Roanoke, Virginia

On Saturday, September 8, 2018, Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar in Roanoke, Virginia, celebrated the cellars 8th birthday. Pictured above: Mr. Bill and Rebecca at Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar.

I always enjoy the signs that greet guests outside their front door.

We celebrated with a tasting of Francois Montand Brut Blanc de  Blancs. ($15 range) In the 1940’s Francois Montand moved from his beloved Champagne to the Jura, some of the oldest vineyards in France. He continued to use his expertise in champagne to make bright flavorful sparkling wines made according to the traditional bottle double fermentation method.

Consistent bubbles dancing in the flute with bright notes of golden delicious apples and Meyer lemons. Makes a delightful aperitif. Delicious pairing with Ceviche.   

It’s almost Cider Season so I picked up a bottle of Domaine du Verger Rosé Cidre Bouche. This wonderful French cider is made with red fleshed apples which gives the cider a pink hue. ($12 range) Notes of red apple and just a touch of cinnamon with just the right amount of effervescence.

clear glass mason bottles with apple juice

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Thinking of cider, some dear friends gave us some of their homemade hard apple cider when we visited their farm earlier this year.  It’s made with Granny Smith, Yellow Delicious and Stayman apples.

close up photography of wine glasses

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

Weingut Schwarzböck Gruner Veltliner ($17 range) was one of our favorites that we tasted that day. This Australian wine is crisp and refreshing with plenty of lively acidity. Notes of lemon and lime and a touch of white pepper. Perfect pairing with spicy Asian food. 

glasses of rose wine

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Bernard Magrez Bleu de Mer  Rosé 2017 is one of our “house Rosés”…we keep a bottle in the refrigerator to serve to last minute guests. $12 range. This French rosé is bright with strawberry and cherry flavors.

Yves Guégniard Domaine de la Bergerie Sous La Tonnelle. $16 range.  ‘Sous la Tonnelle’ means ‘Below the Rainbow’. Blended 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Chardonnay. This French white wine is deliciously crisp with notes of white peach, apricot, pears and mango.

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for Behind the Scenes posts including recipes and wine tasting notes from the Roanoker Magazine

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On my Instagram tonight ~ Perfect rainy Monday night dinner ~ recipe for slow cooker Mississippi Pot Roast!

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Fire And Ice Kentucky Lemonade ~ Celebrate Derby Day!

What’s shaken’ at the River and Rail Restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia?!

Find out and enjoy some of Shane Lumpp’s fabulous cocktail recipes 

on the Roanoker Magazine’s Blog:  

 

https://theroanoker.com/blogs/behind/cocktails-with-shane/

 

This year the Kentucky Derby is on May 5, the same day as Cinco de Mayo.  So let’s make “Cinco de Mayo Kentucky Lemonade”!  with Kentucky bourbon of course!

Fire and Ice Kentucky Lemonade 

Makes 8 cups

  • cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice (from approximately 6 lemons ~ don’t worry about the seeds, they will be strained out later)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves + a few mint sprigs for garnish
  • 2/3 cup Bourbon
  • cups ginger ale
  • large ice cubes
  • 12 slices fresh Mandarin oranges, cut slices in half
  • Maker’s Mark Bourbon Cherries for garnish
  • 8 very thin slices (adjust the number of slices to taste ~  these are hot, so be careful!) Serrano peppers, seeds and membrane removed
  • Fine sugar for cocktail glass rim (fine sugar is available at Fresh Market)
  1. In a small saucepan, combine granulated sugar and water and heat over medium heat.  Heat until sugar dissolves into water and mixture is clear.  Simmer 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.

  2. Add lemon juice, mint leaves, Serrano pepper slices and Bourbon, then let mixture cool.

  3. Pour mixture through a fine strainer into a pitcher to remove solid particles and mint leaves.  Rim cocktail glasses with fine sugar.  To rim glasses place fine sugar on a small plate.  Rub the edge of each cocktail glass with a lemon wedge.  Roll the edge of the glass in the fine sugar.  For each lemonade cocktail mix 1/2 cup lemonade mixture to 1/2 cup ginger ale and stir to combine.  Add 2 or more large ice cubes and 2 mandarin orange slices.  Garnish with Maker’s Mark Bourbon Cherries and a sprig of mint.

    April was a happy month of celebrations for our family.  We enjoyed a special food and wine pairing dinner at River and Rail Restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia.  My bubbly sister-in-law Kelly is pictured above with a jeroboam of Billecart-Salmon “Brut Réserve” Champagne. (Jeroboam = 4 standard bottles of champagne).  We enjoyed pairing this champagne with a spectacular seafood display…Lobster, American Sturgeon Caviar service, oysters, shrimp, smoked trout rillette. 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Helpful Hints For Pairing Wine and Food

“Have you thrown up your hands in despair and confusion with too many choices? In that case, just remember one word: champagne.  It’s refreshing, relatively low in alcohol and sufficiently neutral to go with a myriad of foods.One minor tweak might be to have  a more full-bodied vintage champagne with red meats and non-vintage champagne with everything else.  That’s a lot easier to remember than what wine goes with yak.” ~ Sam Gugino, contributing editor to Wine Spectator and author of Cooking to Beat the Clock.

Be adventurous and have fun with wine/champagne and food pairings using these helpful hints:

1.Purchase the book “WHAT to DRINK with WHAT you EAT”, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. 

This easy to use reference book is our “Pairing Bible”. Our local wine shop keeps a copy so that we can refer to it when deciding which wine and food to purchase at their shop. Just look up the wine you want to pair and the book will tell you the foods to serve with that wine (includes other libations as well such as liquor and beer)  or look up the food you want to serve and it will suggest the wine/libation to serve. This book makes a thoughtful gift for your wine loving friends too.

pumpkin-pie-with-whipped-cream-on-top

2. Surprise your taste buds and experiment with the unexpected.  One of the best food and libation pairings I’ve tasted was single malt scotch and pumpkin pie.  If you are in the mood to splurge pair  Macallan 18 Year – Single Malt Scotch Whiskey with pumpkin pie. Otherwise Macallan 12 year old is a very nice pairing.    Notes of spice, dried apricots  and wood smoke enhance the autumn spice flavors in the pie.

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3.  Don’t force it.  If you truly do not like a food or wine ~  pairing it will not necessarily make it better.  I recently read in Milk Street Magazine that licorice and champagne make a delicious pairing.  Problem in that I can’t stand licorice. It might just be an old wives tale but I’ve heard that if you are born with a certain gene then you like licorice, if you don’t have that gene then you don’t like licorice. I definitely don’t have that gene.  But, I am a good sport so I tried this pairing a few weeks ago. My mouth is still puckering whenever I think about it…ick!

3. Start a conversation with someone you respect in the wine world.

One of my favorite wine blogs is Talkavino.com.  Anatoli is the author of this blog that chronicles his explorations in wine, food and life.  I recently asked Anatoli about his approach to wine and food pairing, especially champagne:

Overall, I find Champagne to be one of the most versatile pairing wines available, as there are plenty of different Champagne types which will support any kind of dinner. My typical approach to pairing is – let me know what the menu is, and I will come up with the pairing. If the occasion even a little bit formal, I always like to open with sparkling wine – it sets the mood. I find that Rosé sparklers perfectly compliment most of the appetizers and salad courses – the Rosé is typically playful enough with just a touch of a fruit to complement the widest array of flavors, and the acidity helps to cut through a variety of textures, from oysters to mushroom beignets to foie gras.

The vintage Champagne would typically work very well with the variety of entrée – I can perfectly see steak and vintage Champagne as a combination, as the mature flavors of Champagne would meld very well with the steak. I’m sure that there is a Champagne for every type of food you want to serve, and the inherent acidity, which is in Champagne’s DNA, makes it ultimately food friendly.

My only challenge would be with the dessert, as I’m not familiar with sweet Champagnes, so to be entirely honest, my typical choice for a dessert sparkler is Moscato d’Asti or Brachetto  d’Acqui, depending on the food. But – if my main course Champagne was Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill or Piper-Heidsieck Rare, you can keep the dessert, I will stay with Champagne.”

thewineraconteur.wordpress.com writes engaging and entertaining stories about wine.  One of my favorites posts about wine pairing is on his blog:  https://thewineraconteur.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/mwwc-21-pairing/

Here’s the wineaconteur’s thoughts on champagne and food pairing:

I usually like my bubbles at the beginning of the meal, and it doesn’t always have to be Champagne. Sparkling wines from Alsace, the Loire, California and even Michigan all work for me, it is more the moment, as I tend to shoot from the hip and not much of a control freak. I am honored that you asked my opinion. I find that Champagne makes any meal more festive and if I could have a steady diet of any one Champagne, I guess it would be Dom, as it seems to be the one that I have had the most, and the one I write about the most often.

Tonya, author of the blog Fourth Generation Farm Girl loves bubbly as much as I do…she is currently pursuing the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust based in London) with her husband Scot, affectionately known on her blog as “Farmguy”.  She has lovely memories about champagne and food pairing:

fourthgenerationfarmgirl.com

As far as pairing food and Champagne goes, in my opinion, Champagne is incredibly versatile with food—that’s why I love it.  So, when in doubt, drink bubbly!  Ideally, the best pairings happen when the Champagne is chosen first, then paired with food.  This is because a recipe can be altered to perfectly match the characteristics of a wine. However, unless you’re a chef, that’s not always realistic. The wonderful thing about Champagne is it goes well with so many foods.  It’s excellent with Asian food, braised foods, eggs and egg dishes, all kinds of seafood (e.g. lobster, monkfish, salmon, oysters, shrimp, turbot, cod) chicken, turkey, quail, rabbit, pork, vegetarian dishes, truffles, cheeses, especially ones that are creamy and salty, pizza, French fries, popcorn, gingerbread, and the list goes on and on.  Basically, if your food has butter, cream, or salt in it or is fried, then Champagne is the answer. Think:  fried chicken, buttery popcorn, or triple cream brie cheese. My personal favorite Champagne pairing is with truffle popcorn.  I first had it while dining at The Inn at Little Washington.   Farmguy and I were celebrating an anniversary, and our amuse- bouche was truffle popcorn paired with Ruinart Blanc de Blancs.  It was heavenly! 🙂

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4. Do  not limit yourself to pairing only wine and champagne with food.  Include beer and hard cider on your menu.

per se

Meeting Thomas Keller and touring the Per Se kitchen was one of the highlights of our trip to New York City.

A favorite pairing at Per Se ~ Thomas Keller’s restaurant in New York City is: Olive oil ice cream with chocolate and sea salt; and Thyme ice cream with drizzle of warm extra virgin olive oil topped with a chocolate wafer disc.

Paired with Ale: La Choulette Blonde (a beautiful surprise — this traditional French ale is toasty, nutty, and creamy — yum)

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5. Get to know your local wine merchant and ask their opinion on wine and food pairings.  One of my favorite local wine shops in Roanoke, Virginia is Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar, owner Bill Phillips. We recently had a conversation about pairing and he recommends choosing the wine first.  “The chefs I’ve worked with always suggest identifying the wines first and then choosing foods to go with the wines.  You can always tweak the food selections but once you’ve chosen the wines you’ve made an investment and you won’t necessarily want to change them.”

6. Keep it simple.

prosecco and nuts pairing

Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Cava pairs perfectly with simple roasted lightly salted almonds and walnuts.

EF Brie Cheese with bread

A triple creme cheese with a crusty baguette is always a good pairing with many sparkling wines and champagne. Quick and easy to serve last minute guests.

7. Find on-line resources you trust and read about pairings. Here’s a good one from Epicurious:

https://www.epicurious.com/archive/drinking/wine/champagne-sparkling-wine-food-pairings

And I always enjoy reading the advice of Ray Isle, Food and Wine Magazine’s Wine Editor:

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/an-experts-pairing-advice

8. Practice makes perfect pairings.  You may find that some pairings do not work well for you and that’s OK.  Just keep pairing and keeping notes and soon you will have a wine and food pairing repertoire to share with family and friends.

champagne-veuve-rich

9.  Look to the experts:

“The Scent of Champagne,” by champagne expert Richard Juhlin is one of my favorite books. It addresses the thorny issue of pairing champagne with food. He explains what pairs well with champagne and what foods to avoid serving with champagne. He’s done all the “heavy lifting” for us in search of the perfect champagne and food pairings.

I encourage you to learn  more about champagne pairings and Juhlin’s fascinating background:
10.  Brown bag it.  A fun way to taste wine and champagne is to serve it in a brown bag without anyone knowing what’s in the bottle.  Your taste buds will begin to recognize flavors such as the citrus in champagne that is primarily chardonnay grapes, the peppery notes in Shiraz, grapefruit flavor in Pinot Grigio.  Using this method it is a good idea, at least at first, to taste wines/champagnes that have only one predominant grape so not to confuse your taste buds.
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Readers, what is your favorite wine/champagne food pairing? I would love to hear from you!

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In The Southern Tradition ~ Country Ham Pretzel Rolls

My “go to” for holiday hors d’oeuvres? Country Ham Biscuits of course!  Did you know that the perfect size for a country ham biscuit is the circumference of the top of a champagne flute? (1 3/4 inches round).  Coincidence, I think not.  Salty country ham and a chardonnay predominant champagne make a perfect pairing!

I am always looking for creative ways to change up my traditional hors d’oeuvre menu. When I saw these yummy pretzel rolls I immediately thought filling them with country ham.

To make these yummy Country Ham Pretzel Rolls, I preheated my oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I split the pretzel rolls in half lengthwise and spread on side with Duke’s mayonnaise and the other side with Pommery whole grain mustard.  Then I topped the mustard side with shaved Smithfield (country) ham and slices of swiss cheese, placing the mayonnaise side on top of the cheese.  Then I brushed the rolls with melted butter and sprinkled the tops with black sesame seeds (optional). Bake the rolls for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.  Remove from oven, cool slightly and cut into 4 slices horizontally. Serve warm.

Jeeper champagne

As soon as we devoured the pretzel rolls we sat back and enjoyed a tasting of Jeeper Champagne.  60% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir, and 15% Pinot Meunier handpicked grapes. $60 range.

The story of this champagne begins in 1949.  It was then that Armand Goutorbe, son of Victor Goutorbe, on his return from the Second World War, decided to produce and sell his Champagne.

Armand Goutorbe christened his brand Champagne JEEPER, with an eye to making himself stand out from the many wine growers of the region also named Goutorbe and in reference to the Jeep bestowed upon him (he returned from the war to his native Champagne disabled)  by the local authorities to help him ascend the vineyard slopes with ease.

You can see why this champagne appealed to me, knowing that I love Jeeps. My own Jeep Overland is named “Dolly D”, for Dolly Dawn who was known as the “Champagne of Big Band Singers”!

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/dolly-dawn-mn0000172847/biography

Jeeper Champagne has a light golden color with tiny bubbles dancing around the flute.  Elegant with glazed apple notes.  This champagne lends itself to pairing with food and we found a fabulous pairing…

crisps with package

crisps

Adams Reserve New York Extra Sharp Cheddar (made in upstate New York) paired with Virginia Gold Orchard Asian Pear Marmalade. The marmalade was a special gift from my bubbly friend Cindy.  Their Asian Pears are homegrown & handpicked in Rockbridge County, Virginia and they are delicious! I put a smear of the marmalade on top of the cheddar cheese on a Apricot and Ginger Raincoast Crisp Cracker. Oh la la…it was a “pearfect” pairing with the Jeeper champagne.

apples

http://www.virginiagoldorchard.com

mug with ginger beermug

Roundng out the weekend…these crisp Fall days are perfect for a chilled Moscow Mule made with BundAberg Spiced Ginger Beer.

Here’s a link to BundAberg Brews Cocktail Recipes:

https://www.bundaberg.com/en-us/mixology-2/?mixer=ginger-beer&alcohol=

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