Grape Expectations: Metaphors and Correlations

It’s 81°f (27.22°c) in South Florida. With heat on the rise, my palate is definitely springing forward – grilling and chilling with a glass of rosé in my hand and swapping out carbs for arugula (my favorite leafy green), avocado and roasted or sautéed vegetables.

However, today it’s Sunday and after two consecutive, long runs, I’m ready to fall in the pot. It’s hot out though and having the oven on for three or four hours will kill the a/c bill. TG for YouTube that gives me a quick lesson on how to braise on a grill. My Weber has good temperature control and cast iron pot is the perfect size.

I’m now ankle deep into the CSW textbook (chapter 6 to be exact), testing myself each day using Quizlet lessons and flashcards and feeling a little more confident about the content. It’s not easy though and although I read and write every day for work, self-study at this level has been a struggle.

The Dish: Braised Beef Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta

Pappardelle is a word nerd/foodie plaything. Derived from the Tuscan dialect word ‘pappare’ which means to gobble up food, it’s like Italian onomatopoeia.  Just slurp up those tasty, wide egg noodles straight from the pot, p,p,p, pappare! Read more here.

There are many recipes for beef ragu to be found and most are similar. I chose this one. There’s something very relaxing about a slow cooked, Sunday meal.  During the week, the long prep time alone is unmanageable. However, I love taking the time to wash and chop knowing that the holy trinity of cooking, (also called mirepoix in French and soffritto in Italian) onions, carrots and celery 2:1:1, is the foundation of all things yummy. The greatest thing is that once everything is in the pot, you have at least three hours to read a book, watch a movie or take a nap!

The Wine: Gaja Sito Moresco Rosso Langhe 2014

Nebbiolo of Barbaresco — Creative Commons

Google Gaja (the family and winery name) and you’ll quickly find out that the wine I chose is on the cheaper side of the Gaja skew. And, if you’re a wine collecting aficionado, you may be turning your fine-tuned nose up at my choice. However, wine newbie me says this wine is great value wow! It’s a blend as opposed to a varietal (single named grape variety) and composed of Nebbiolo (the prized grape of the region, Piemonte), Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other years or vintages when referring to wine, seem to have a small percentage of one of the region’s other indigenous grapes, Barbera.

So, let’s discuss what’s up with the Nebbiolo fascination and what goes into the name?

There’s a plethora of information about the Nebbiolo grape and the most sought after wines of the Piemonte (aka Piedmont: the region), Barolo (an appellation) aka the king of wines and Barbaresco (another appellation). There’s scholarly articles, heated debates and even a movie: Barolo Boys.

Langhe

In my pursuit of wine knowledge, here’s what I found most interesting about this thin-skinned grape. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon (red) or Chardonnay (white) that can be planted almost anywhere in the world and acquire new characteristics depending on where it has been planted, the Nebbiolo grape does best in not just its country of origin, but its specific area which is Northwest Italy. This gem loves its own soil and doesn’t develop anywhere near to as good, elsewhere.

I could go on and on, but it’s best that I leave Nebbiolo history and the wine facts to the experts. An enjoyable start can be seen in this video. Dig deeper and you’ll be amused by all of the old school and new school banter.

Creative Commons

As for the name, I’m learning that the winery is much more than a brand. Gaja has a long history and world-renowned reputation. Angelo Gaja was a bold, risk taker who broke away from the old traditions and tried seemingly blasphemous new approaches to winemaking. Angelo along with his wife and grown children manage everything together. I enjoyed reading this Wine Spectator article where he and his daughter Gaia discuss climate change and its impact on wine production.

I’m more of a #YOLO, drink-now and budget conscious wine newbie. However, if you have the means and patience to wait, certainly start your collection with one of their wines. Read more about the Sito Moresco here.

The Metaphor

Oh Canada!

My parents were immigrants. My mother at eighteen was ready to jump solo on a ship from England to Canada as part of a migration incentive program. Her Mom wasn’t so anxious and followed her, dragging two unwilling siblings on the long, Atlantic crossing. Mom never looked back. My Dad on the other hand, left his birthplace to find work opportunities in Canada. He spent his whole life wanting to return. On one of his annual visits back to his country, he died suddenly. Doing what he loved most, gardening, I have to believe that he passed happily.

I like many of you are transplants. We get cut from the vine of our birthplace and are grafted somewhere else. We thrive and survive as a different version of ourselves. Whereas we think we might not belong anywhere else, it is almost always possible.

The trilogy of grapes or vegetables in today’s dish demonstrates the beauty of blends. Each component brings color and character to the medley. We, like those components, do not lose our distinct flavor, but contribute to something richer.

Photo Credit

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ― Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

Until next time, swirl and breathe deeply into your glass. As the aroma rises, think fondly about the dirt to which the grape came from and where it will go.

#MyArtEscape @AllegoryPR

NOTE: This Blog post was inspired by Chapters 3 and 4 of the Certified Specialist of Wine Guide. Both wines mentioned are from the Langhe wine region in Piemonte. The wine I cooked the beef with was (Dolcetto) Domenico Clerico Langhe Dolcetto Visadi 2013. A very reasonable price for a good wine that I will definitely drink rather than cook with next time!

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Lavender, Leather and Lactic Acid

It’s been awhile since I blogged or spent time in my kitchen, apart from preparing something quick for the sake of sustenance and getting me through one work day and into the next.

I’ve missed cooking slow, reading for pleasure and writing without a deadline looming overhead.

Serrano Market at Yellow Green Farmers Market (Hollywood, FL)

Time for a brief, mental getaway where I’ll pack the car with a cooler, head over to Yellow Green Farmers Market early and then drive over to Hollywood North Beach for a run. In 45 minutes, I’m able to run a little over four miles, north to the Dania Beach pier and back down to the Hollywood Broadwalk. (Go ahead and call me slow poke, but I’m not running for time, and have found a great way to beat the deadline stress plus maintain the same dress size despite my “calories don’t matter” cooking adventures!)

Pierre et Vacances located in Cannes La Bocca. The apartment is small, but the view is big!

This weekend, my palate travels to Provence. Probably one of my most memorable holidays was spending two weeks in the French Riviera. Set southwest of Nice, Pierre et Vacances is a chain of short term rental apartments in Europe. In Cannes La Bocca, you can book a fair size apartment with a small kitchen and a large balcony that overlooks both the resort pool and crystal blue Mediterranean! Considering how close it is to fancy Cannes, it’s not that expensive. Check it out here. It’s also steps from the market where you can pick up a baguette, fresh vegetables, cheese and a rotisserie chicken.

There’s so much more to Provence than the Mediterranean and should I return, I’ll hop on a train and head northwest. There you’ll find me prancing through fields of lavender and sipping on Châteauneuf-du-Pape!

However, in the meantime I’ve found a way to bring a little Provence into my kitchen. – be forewarned that roast chicken will never be the same after you try this recipe.

Lavender from Herban Tapestry located at Yellow Green Farmers Market

A Little History of Lavender

It was impossible to find fresh lavender, but Herban Tapestry (located in Yellow Green Farmers Market) offered three options. The aroma of the less expensive one didn’t seem significant enough to add to the dish and the most expensive one seemed better for a soak in the tub. So, I chose the mid-priced offering which smelled fragrant enough to blend nicely with thyme and rosemary.

Creative Commons

The best time to find lavender in full bloom in Provence is early to mid-July, although travel forums recommend that you check closer to your trip since the season lasts only a few weeks. Jean Giono wrote: “Lavender is the soul of Provence.” It was the Romans, however, that were the first to discover how to extract the oil. Did you know that lavender derives from Latin lavare meaning to ‘wash?’

The Pairing Wine: 2015 Clos Saint Michel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Reservée

As you know, I am a wine newbie, so if you’re a wine expert and stumbled upon this blog post, pardon my simplicity. Clos Saint Michel is the name of the winery; Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the region (and translates to the Pope’s New Castle); and the term cuvée reserve refers to a higher quality wine and in this case, from vines more than fifty years old. This wine is made up of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 30% Mourvedre. The winery is situated upon the former bed of the Rhône Valley, thus the terroir (or land) is pebbly and rocky.

DYK that 95% of all wines in the Rhône come from the Southern Rhône? More than 380 million bottles per year! If you care to learn more, click here.

Aroma and Flavor Notes: I’m still grappling with tasting notes and I know that’s because of my newbi~ness. Hopefully, it all will dissipate in a year when I’m self-predicted to be at the end of the CSW textbook. When reading about this wine, I noticed the word “leather” mentioned a couple of times. Now I didn’t smell or taste leather, nor do I know if I could, as I sit comfortably on my leather sofa staring at the back like a child tempted to lick a metal pole in winter (that’s a Canadianism, I know.)

So according to Vinfolio.com, “when a critic tastes leather in a wine, he is almost always talking about the tannins. This makes sense, since the same tannins in wine are also used to tan leather. In reality, leather smells like bold red wine, not the other way around.”

Lactic Acid

Speaking of the CSW, I’m through the second round of reading chapters 1 and 2 with twenty-one more to go!  Whereas I thought from the start that I’d be diving into regions, grapes and history, I’m here stuck in acids and compounds, flashcards and brain strain.

A punny thing is that until last week, lactic acid meant to me that annoying buildup in the legs that you roll out after a run. However, in wine:

Lactic Acid is one of six different acids found in wine and created by the winemaking process. A chemical compound usually found in dairy products, this mild acid is created when a wine undergoes Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) – the process that converts Malic Acid into Lactic Acid….Lactic Acid also appears naturally in grapes during the fermentation process when the yeast converts sugar to alcohol…

Have I lost you? Well, you’ve reached the end and thanks for supporting my acidic banter. The good news is that my Provençal roast chicken is done and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape uncorked for the hour that it took me to write this post.

Follow the recipe carefully and don’t forget to add salt & pepper to the cavity of the chicken and stuff it with lemon chunks and whole cloves of garlic.
Brush olive oil onto both sides of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I’ll finish by saying that the marinade and a cavity filled with lemon chunks and whole garlic cloves produced a succulent and aromatic roast chicken. It is served with a side of roast vegetables.

Until next time, let scent transport you to another place and melt away your stress, and may indulgence be the reward for a routine of moderation.

#MyArtEscape @AllegoryPR

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Cook Slow & Un-Wined

My life as PR and Marketer is one never-ending deadline. I can’t go 12 hours without checking emails unless I want to spend a whole day responding to a pile of unanswered requests. I use Hootsuite to keep up with clients’ social media accounts and stalk for Instagram followers all day long. I plow through headlines and the latest issues of luxury magazines with the morning espresso and track the Miami events scene, plus national and international news at night.

Comfort in Food

When I’ve had enough, I turn to food.

I’m in love with cooking slow. Not the electric pot you throw everything into and leave it for 8 hours. I mean researching the dish and its origin, going to the market to buy the best quality and if possible locally-sourced ingredients, washing, chopping, searing, reducing, simmering, stirring and waiting.

Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood, Florida

I’m Not Original

I recently found out that there’s an international movement called Slow Food that originated in Italy. The organization’s predecessor Agricola formed in 1986 to protest the opening of a McDonalds in front of the Spanish Steps. (Funny, because two years ago, while I sat on the Spanish Steps I thought: behind me is so much history and in front of me is an American mall. Such a shame.)

Slow Food is so much more than my cooking fantasy, it’s a way of life. Check it out  here.

Wine Friday

I’m obsessed with food and wine pairings. While only at the infancy of wine knowledge, I count on #TheWineTherapist  for advice. Stefano doesn’t spare a lecture if I get the pairing wrong, but if you tell him your recipe ahead of time, the right wine will be at your door in no time. Tonight’s selection: Marcel Servin – Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2014.

Continue reading “Cook Slow & Un-Wined”

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If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in Sicily: Tasca Conti d’Almerita Lunch

“First you must like the wine. Then, look at the back and then look forward,” says Corrado Maurigi, Brand Manager for Tenuta Regaleali, with whom I had the great fortune of sharing a wine tasting lunch.

Whether on my personal journey to discover art or now wine, Corrado’s statement embodies how I feel about learning. Our first response must be visceral. Forget about the market or what the critics say. Do you like it, hate it or love it? Then, investigate.

Corrado’s presentation was a journey to Sicily. As we tasted and learned some facts and history about each wine, preconceived (American) stereotypes of this region marred by The Godfather and bad wine samples offered at the supermarket, melted away. Stories about the land, people and culture tickled our cerebrum and palate.

Continue reading “If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in Sicily: Tasca Conti d’Almerita Lunch”

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