Tag Archives: food and wine

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.

Please visit:  https://theroanoker.com/blogging

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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Happy Orange Blossom Day!

“A man who was fond of wine was offered some grapes at dessert after dinner. ‘Much obliged’, said he, pushing the plate aside, ‘I am not accustomed to take my wine in pills.’ “

                                                                                                                                                                         ~ Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 is National Orange Blossom Day!

The orange blossom  is Florida’s state flower.  National Orange Blossom Day celebrates the flower which is used in culinary dishes, desserts, teas and honey worldwide.  They add a slight citrus flavor to any dish. This special day also celebrates the Orange Blossom Cocktail.

Here’s a fabulous Orange Blossom Cocktail recipe from Foodviva.com:

Makes one cocktail.

Ingredients:

1 ounce London Dry Gin (vodka is also delicious in this cocktail)

1/3 ounce Grand Marnier or Cointreau

1 ounce fresh orange juice (I used blood orange juice)

1/3 ounce fresh lime juice (optional)

1 dash grenadine syrup (optional)

orange wedge

crushed ice

Directions:

  1. Frost the glass rim and put it in freezer to chill.
  2. Fill cocktail shaker 2/3 full of ice.  Add first 5 ingredients to the shaker and shake well.
  3. Strain and pour chilled mixed drink into chilled cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with orange wedge and serve

I’ve always loved the way shadows play with wine glasses on a table.

My bubbly friend Cindy and I recently enjoyed a special event at Rockfish Restaurant in the Grandin Village, Roanoke, Virginia.  Every third Thursday of the month they offer a flight of tapas paired with a wine flight. https://www.rockfishfood.com/

The first tapa we enjoyed was a goat cheese and cherry tart…puff pastry round topped with creamy mild goat cheese and fresh cherry compote.  We savored every morsel, absolutely delicious paired with Miquel Pons Cava Brut NV.

The second tapa of the evening was a scallop ceviche…refreshing and delicious! Paired with:

  

Viña Cartín Albariño Rías Baixas 2017.

One of my favorite Albariño wines is Lagar de Cervera. Please visit the Roanoker Magazine:  https://theroanoker.com/blogs/behind/what-to-sip-this-summer-spanish-wine/       to find tasting notes and other fun facts about Spanish wines to enjoy sipping this summer.

Cherry Glazed Pork Belly

paired with Genio Español Monastrell Rosado

and for dessert…

Dark Chocolate Creamux with Szechuan Peppercorn Streusel paired with La Greña Rioja

We finished the evening by sharing a couple of appetizers…my favorite…Fried Green Tomatoes wrapped in Pimento Grit Cake with Comeback Sauce and Spicy Greens. Comeback Sauce is a spicy remoulade sauce ~ a Southern favorite!

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Happy Orange Blossom Day!

Carrabba’s Sausage And Lentil Soup Recipe For Father’s Day

Potatoes Picante, Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Peaches, Charred Corn Burrata Salad…find fabulous tapas recipes on the Roanoker Magazine blog. Here’s the link:

https://theroanoker.com/blogs/behind/it%E2%80%99s-time-for-tapas/

Did someone say SOUP?!

Here’s the most delicious soup you can serve Dad on his special day.  Tastes like a yummy chili with the spicy addition of Italian sausage.  Our bubbly friends Judy and Bill served this to us for an Italian themed dinner and I loved it so much I made it for dinner the very next evening!  Bill found the recipe on Copykat.com:

Carrabba’s Sausage and Lentil Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 48 ounce package low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (I used Cavender’s Greek Seasoning)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup brown lentils (I used red lentils)

Directions

In a large pot add onions, carrots, garlic, and celery and either butter or vegetable oil. Saute until the onions are transparent. Add sausage, and cook until browned. If the sausage is fairly lean drain the excess oil.

Add chicken broth, Italian seasoning, diced tomatoes and brown lentils. Cover with lid. And simmer for about 1 hour. You may want to add some additional water if too much water cooks out during the cooking process.

We found this 2016 Izadi Blanco Rioja to be an excellent pairing with the sausage and lentil soup. A blend of 80% Viura and 20% Malvasía grapes. Creamy texture with a fruit-driven freshness that balances well with the spicy flavors in the soup. Available on-line or locally at Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar.

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Spring Fun With Champagne And Chocolate Lace Cookies!

It’s Spring…time to get out of the house and have some FUN!

Oatmeal Lace Cookies are THE BEST COOKIES!  Perfect for a Spring picnic.  The recipe is compliments of Gloria Smiley, Food Stylist Extraordinaire.  She served them for lunch when we visited her in Atlanta, Georgia and I didn’t want to look like a piglet, but I just could not stop eating them. They are so GOOD!  Thank you Gloria for sharing your recipe! 

OATMEAL LACE COOKIES

        These cookies are adapted from Nick Malgieri’s Lace Cookies.  There are many variations and substitutions, such as ground nuts instead of oatmeal; maple sugar instead of regular sugar, and sandwiched with bittersweet chocolate, yum.

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup rolled oats, finely chopped – pulse in a food processor

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon orange juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, stir together melted butter, oatmeal, maple sugar, salt, egg, vanilla extract and orange juice.  Stir until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  1. Using a½ teaspoon measure, drop the batter onto sheet pans either lined with Silpat or buttered foil.  The cookies will spread, so leave at least 2 inches between each cookie.
  1. Bake the cookies for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are brown around the edges.  Remove from oven and slide the Silpat or foil onto a cooling rack.
  1. When the cookies are cool, lift them off the Silpat or foil and store in between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a container with a tight fitting lid.
  1. To make sandwiches, melt 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and spread on the bottom side of half the cookies; then cover with another cookie, top side up.  Store in the same manner as above.

Chambong!

$35 on-line or locally at Wine Gourmet in Roanoke, Virginia.  What is it?!  The Chambong is used for the rapid and enhanced
experience of sparkling wine / champagne consumption.  http://www.chambong.co/about/

Here’s their story from their website…they say it’s magical!

The origins of the first Chambong came about in early 2014, during a moment preempting the Super Bowl. We had an epiphany the week prior of the big event to create a “Super…Bowl.” The resulting device of our imagination harnessed an ability to hold an extraordinary amount of cannabis, however was sadly non-functional as a smoking apparatus. Fortune would prevail several evening later, while onlookers examining the piece remarked at how it looked like a fantastic wine “shooter”.  They promptly filled it with Champagne and experienced the resulting magic…And thus was born the glory that is — The Chambong.

Pop A Ball!

https://popaball.co.uk/

These fun little balls are made in the UK. I found the peach and strawberry flavors to be delightful. I enjoyed watching the balls dance around in my glass, but the set only came with one straw which would be awkward if serving more than one flute at a time. Fun for a one time party trick if you want to spend around $15 for a pack of two. I purchased them on eBay since Popaball in the UK does not ship to the United States.

MIMI ROSÉ SPARKLING WINE 

Grenache varietal. Notes of white flowers, fleshy white fruits, and citrus too. Serve as an aperitif or with dessert.  Perfect for porch sippin’ on a warm sunny day. Available on-line and locally at Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar in Roanoke, Virginia.

River and Rail Restaurant

Cure For Sorrow Cocktail

Coconut Infused Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Bonal QuinQuina, House Tepache, Banana-Cream Syrup, Lime, Tiki Bitters. Pineapple, Coconut, and hints of spice. Shaken and served over a large ice cube. Grated cinnamon and pineapple wedge garnish. YUM!

Pop over to the Roanoker Magazine blog to enjoy my Beets, Bacon and Blue Salad (blue cheese and blueberries) recipe. Here’s the link:

https://theroanoker.com/blogs/behind/beets-bacon-and-blue-salad-with-ingredients-from-grandin-vil/

Happy Spring!

 

 

A Toast To Italian Wine ~ Molto Bene! ~ A Favorite Mamma Leone Recipe

Our recent Italian wine experience with the Angelini family at the Shenandoah Club in Roanoke, Virginia brought back many “bei ricordi d’Italia” (fond memories of Italy).

I love Italian cooking so naturally one of my favorite cookbooks is  Leone’s Italian Cookbook.  The author Gene Leone dedicated his cookbook“to the memory of my beloved mother”.  He was the owner operator of Mamma Leone’s restaurant, which was founded by his mother in New York City’s theater district.  I love the simplicity of the recipes in this book ~ fresh ingredients of the best quality tossed together resulting in amazing flavors. Here’s one of my favorite Mamma Leone recipes…

Mother Leone’s Green-Bean Salad

from Leone’s Italian Cookbook printed in 1967…

1 medium size baking potato

1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans

1/4 cup olive oil

6 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 large garlic clove, mashed

2 whole green scallions, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

8 fresh parsley sprigs, leaves only, chopped

6 thin slices of prosciutto, diced

Boil the potatoes in its jacket. When cool enough to handle, peel and dice, but keep warm.  Trim beans and cook in boiling salted water for about 20 minutes.  Test to avoid overcooking.  Drain well. Place warm beans in a salad bowl and add potato over top.

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, scallions, salt and pepper. Mix well.  Discard bits of garlic.  Pour dressing over warm  beans and potatoes.  Add chopped parsley and diced prosciutto and toss at the table. Serves 6 to 8.

“Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully.”  ~ Graham Greene

An evening with the Angelini family at the Shenandoah Club in Roanoke, Virginia. Roberto Angelini is the patriarch of the Angelini family and the founder of Enoteca Properzio, a family-owned exporter of fine food and wines located at the base of Monte Subasio in the heart of Central Italy.

At the event we were greeted with a bubbly aperitif.  Cantina Novelli Blanc de Blanc NV.  Crisp with notes of apple and citrus peel.  A classic Italian sparkler made with 100% Trebbiano Spoletino grapes.

“What I like to drink most is wine that belongs to others.” ~ Diogenes

Our Italian Dinner Adventure begins…

Poderi Morini ‘Nadel’ Ravenna Rosso IGT, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Longanesi and Centesimino grapes.  Blackberry, cherry and currant flavors later emerge along with elegant spice notes. This lovely red wine was paired with lovely Charcuterie…prosciutto in the shape of roses, miniature ripe cantaloupe balls drizzled with olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper.

Sassicaia Bolgheri 2014

Sassicaia Bolgheri 2014

Sassicaia means “the place of many stones,” and refers to the region’s gravel soil.  This Super Tuscan is so successful it was granted its own appellation, Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC, as of 1994.

Cabernet Sauvignon 85%, Cabernet Franc 15%, aged for 24 months in French barrels before bottling.  Paired with a rich lentil vegetable soup. 

Tili 1997 Assisi Rosso

Only 1000 bottles of Tili Assisi Rosso were produced in 1997.    Red Cherry fruit with some notes of vanilla. Medium bodied with a smooth finish. Blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Merlot grapes.

Paired with a creamy Pasta Carbonara with bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese…

Montefalco Sagrantino 2012 Arnaldo-Caprai

100% Sagrantino grapes.  Complex flavors with hints of blackberry jam nutmeg, pepper, pine resin to mint and cocoa.

Paired with the main course…sliced filet mignon served with oven roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted pepper strips.

Pre-dessert…Strawberry Balsamic with Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese.  Paired with…

Kurni 2015 Red Wine

Complex and full-bodied, with notes of candied black fruits, vanilla and blackcurrant.  100% Montepulciano grapes.

And the Fioritura Finale…paired with…

Per la salute!

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Champagne And Beef Tenderloin…Yes Please!

Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by someone I do not know…

                                                                                                                                                                 ~ John Keats

I love champagne and I love beef tenderloin, but up until now I did not pair the two.  Recently I was happy to find that Philippe Fourrier Rosé pairs extraordinarily well with beef tenderloin. Since it is made of 90 percent pinot noir grapes (and 10 percent chardonnay grapes), with notes of red cherry and juicy raspberry,  it can stand up to the bold flavors of the beef.

Champagne Moussé Fils 

Blanc De Noirs Noire Reserve

This lovely champagne is primarily made from Pinot Meunier grapes.  80% pinot meunier, 16% pinot noir and 4% chardonnay.  With notes of black currant, brioche and lemon curd and a long sustained finish, this champagne is a wonderful compliment to beef tenderloin.

Thinking about delightful pairings…my bubbly friend Mary Ellen gave me some festive shot glasses.  I filled them with a lobster salad served with a chilled cocktail fork so that guests could get every last piece of yummy lobster out of the glass.  Frozen lobster meat (for us locals it is available at Tanglewood Kroger) is perfect for this salad recipe. Chop the lobster meat and mix with a little sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Old Bay Seasoning and chopped fresh dill. Don’t add too much of any of the creamy ingredients ~ remember you can always add more but you can’t take any out once it’s mixed in.  Chill and serve icy cold.  (Put shot glasses and cocktail forks in the freezer to chill before service.)

We paired the lobster salad appetizer with Laurent Perrier Rosé.  The mid-March snow on my flowering quince tree made the perfect perch for our rosé champagne bottle. 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes.  Notes of strawberry, hazelnut and brioche. We call this champagne “Easter Wine” because a bubbly friend of ours told us that her mother always wanted a “pink wine” to match her dining room drapes for Easter dinner.  $76 range.

My bubbly sister-in-law Gwen sent me this…“My doctor told me that because of my age I should install a bar in my shower…done!”

 I recently found some Roka Cheese Crispies at a local store ~ some of my favorite “Cheesie Poofs” as I call them. I bought 40 boxes!

On Sunday, this little critter, Ziggy, somehow got out of our front door (he is an indoor cat) and was out “catting around the neighborhood” all day. We looked everywhere and said lots of prayers, especially with a snowstorm on it’s way and finally around 5 o’clock that evening he came walking up on our back deck. We were so happy to see him!  He ate a big dinner and fell asleep in front of the fire.

 

Ziggy’s brother Artie Shaw was so happy to see him!

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