The Cookie Has Crumbled: Chocolate Chip Cookies and History

Feeding Five Under 25 $

It’s now Week 3 of the South Florida shelter in place order and I’m craving bad carbs, saturated fats, salt and sugar.

I’m crumbling and probably you are too. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a hurricane that will blow into the Atlantic in a few days. This is our modern day Hiroshima — a silent and invisible cloud looming over the entire earth. We can’t just change the channel and tune it out because it’s someone else’s war. It’s a world war and we’re in it together.

That being said, I think we deserve some chocolate. If you’re home schooling the kids, the smell of yumminess baking and the reward of cookies after lunch will most certainly get them through the morning classes with ease and give you some well-deserved comfort.

I did not adapt this recipe and it’s the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe found on New York Times Cooking. Although there’s nothing original about a Chocolate Chip Cookie, with this recipe you are biting into some history (pass that DYK on to the kids!)

The History Lesson

In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, ran the Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant in eastern Massachusetts, with her husband. Using an ice pick, Wakefield broke a semisweet chocolate bar into little bits, mixed them into brown-sugar dough, and the chocolate chip cookie was born. In 1939, she sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages (reportedly for only $1) and was hired to write recipes for the company, which supposedly supplied her with free chocolate for life. This recipe is very close to Mrs. Wakefield’s original (hers called for a teaspoon of hot water and ½-teaspoon-sized cookies), and the one you’ll still find on the back of every yellow bag of Nestlé chocolate chips.

The Recipe

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 2 large eggs

2 cups/12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I’m not sure who came up with the saying, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles” or “C’est la vie.” Whoever did though, probably didn’t live through a pandemic.

It’s impossible to shrug this off and small doses of comfort food or comforting are needed each day. Rather than mask your feelings, I suggest that you confront them. Here’s an article titled, “Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus” that has helped me put this into perspective and if you really need help, reach out to a friend or for professional help, but just remember…

“Chocolate is cheaper than therapy and you don’t need an appointment.” ― Catherine Aitken

If you need professional help, here are some resources:

Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $: Easy and Vegan-Friendly, Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

It’s a sunny and warm day in South Florida and the streets are empty. I ran 4.11 miles and I saw about six people and a few cars. (Please cars, watch out for pedestrians and runners – red light still means stop.)

Beaches are closed in South Florida.

Many people are struggling to live with the new norm, “working from home.” Plus, homeschooling the kids too?

Although I’ve worked remotely for years, it’s still strange to think that I won’t be driving south to Miami for meetings any time soon. I’m starting to regret all of the times that I complained about traffic.  Seriously, who misses traffic? I do.

Work Day Breakfast: One or two oatmeal bars, fresh fruit and a homemade Tumeric Shot.

Everyone needs a fast breakfast even when working from home, because no one wants to start the day with a full inbox and a sink full of dirty dishes. Because we’re experiencing a shortage of certain food items, I’ve created a Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $ blog series designed to give ideas on how to make food on a budget and with what is (hopefully) available in both your pantry and the grocery store.

Today’s recipe is Oatmeal Breakfast Bars. One bar along with fresh fruit and yogurt make a complete and nutritious breakfast. It’s also vegan-friendly. I adapted a chocolate oatmeal cookie recipe as follows:

Use an egg substitute and gluten-free flour if desired.

Preheat oven to 350°

  • 1 c Crisco
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • ½ c cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp of egg substitute dissolved in 3 tbsp of water
  • 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ c all-purpose flour; ¼ c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 c of old fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ c of Chia seeds
  • 1 ¼ cup of raisins or dried fruit or combo (I used just raisins the first time and then raisins and chopped dates the second time. Craisins would be good too.)
You can mix this by hand if you don’t have an electric mixer.
  • With a mixer, combine the Crisco and sugars.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Combine the oats and Chia seeds.
  • Dissolve the egg substitute in the water and whisk until smooth.
  • Combine the sugar/Crisco mix with the egg mix and Vanilla.
  • Once combined, slowly add the dry ingredients into the Crisco/sugar/egg/vanilla mix.
  • Stop the mixer and stir in the oats and dried fruit until combined.
  • Lightly grease a 9×13 non-stick pan or line a pan with parchment paper.
  • Press the mix into the pan so even on all sides.
  • Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until golden.

Notes:

Someone asked me on Twitter if this recipe is gluten free. Since flour is used more like a binder, I think any gluten free flour would do. I’ll give it a try sometime.

Oatmeal breakfast bar(s) with fresh fruit and a tumeric shot mixed with seltzer.

If your bars crumble, save the crumbs to add to yogurt as a topping or eat them on the spot!

From someone who works from home, I know that finding free time is just as hard as when you work from an office. I put in more hours per day than I should and take the laptop from room to room thinking that I’ll just use it to read or watch videos at night. However, I end up answering emails. If you’re like me, try to leave the laptop “at the office” and spend time reading an actual book, rather than the tablet.

Find time for this recipe knowing that you’ll have a quick and nutritious breakfast for at least the next few days. Good luck and stay strong!

“Hope makes a good breakfast. Eat plenty of it.” ~ Ian Fleming

Food and Wine

Whether it’s what I call my “Kitchen Lab” experiments or opportunities to attend wine tastings and seminars, or travel adventures, here are some highlights.

Follow the details on my Instagram stories @AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape.

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Margaux paired with a long "To Do List." #MyArtEscape 📝 I'm just loving this wine: Baron de Brane Margaux 2015 @chateau_branecantenac from @winebythebay . 👉🏻Keep reading… • 🔻 Sometimes I try too hard. I plan out my meals like I plan out life. It’s just a bit too rigid. Two weekend meals came and went and neither one worked with this wine. So, I gave up. 🤷🏻‍♀️ After working 5 hours on Sunday without a break, I decided to go back to this wine and enjoy it by itself. 🍷 • 🔻 A glass of wine and some wine reading became the perfect pairing. The need to shorten the never ending "To Do List" dissipated. • 🔻 I delved into the Château Brane-Cantenac website, first testing my long lost French and then switching to English. • 🔻 Henri Lurton is the composer of what he describes, “Une vraie valse de fruits rouges, arrivés à parfaites maturité. La robe est grenat, intense et profonde.” — A waltz of red fruits at perfect maturity. A garnet dress, intense and profound. • 🔻 Ah those words…they’re the swirl of a dance in 3/4 time! 🍷 🔻 “Since 1992, Henri Lurton has continued the journey that his father and ancestors began. Although a proponent of innovation and new technology, Henri is careful never to lose sight of the traditional values that remain an inherent part of Brane’s identity. Above all, he is proud of the unique terroir, and recognises the need to treat the soil, vines and grapes with immense respect as he carefully steers Brane’s future course.” • 🔻 🍇Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc • 🔻 ❓DYK: In 2015 Henri Lurton started Bodegas Lurton @henrilurton in Ensenada, Mexico? I'm curious. 🤔 • 🔻 #winewednesday #IFWTWA @ifwtwa1

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Lunch with Chiara Soldati, owner of La Scolca winery in Piemonte, Italy.

2011 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino (Umbria, Italy)

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A wine not for the “faint of heart.” #MyArtEscape 🍷❤️ Keep reading…👇🏻 • 🔻 I’m a red wine girl and love a wine that I can sink my teeth into. The Montefalco Sagrantino 2011 by @antonellisanmarco is just that and rates high on my #Yummy list. I paired it with Braised Beef Ragu (👉🏻swipe), but to me, it screams for Standing Rib Roast and Parmesan Rosemary Potatoes. It’s definitely a big or holiday dinner wine and I’ll just have to get me another bottle (ahem @winebythebay) & get back into my Kitchen Lab.• 🔻 🍇100% Sagrantino: Considered as Italy’s most tannic grape. AKA Sagrantino di Montefalco before 2009, is a style of Italian wine made in and around the commune of Montefalco in the Province of Perugia, Umbria. • 🔻 ⛪️ Fun Fact: it’s believed that the origin of the word “Sagrantino” is “sagrestia” or “sacristy” in English. Yes, they might have been serving up Montefalco Sagrantino at Mass and with that 14.5% ABV…happy parishioner! • 🔻 📝Notes: Intense ruby red in colour. To the nose rich and powerful, ethereal and very complex. Typically characterised by notes of fruit and aromatic herbs, featuring citrus, cherry, wild berry, mint and oregano. On the palate this wine is very structured, with firm and integrated tannins. A wine that is best expressed with a long bottle ageing. [ ✏️by Antonelli San Marco 📷by Me]

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The Accidental Wine Tasting: Donde Sánchez Cosas Ricas

It’s #FoodieFriday and what better way to recover from the post-vacay blues than to indulge in a tasty flashback?

I intentionally planned a late morning arrival time in Madrid, so I could throw in a load of laundry and go out for lunch aka tapas/early happy hour. “Que viva España!” — after spending five days in Madrid, I have concluded that it may be “five o’clock somewhere,” but in Madrid it’s five o’clock, 24 hours a day! (No joke. Go experience it for yourself.)

Like many of you, a lot of planning goes into a vacation. Some people fill each minute with an itinerary so hectic that by the time the vacation is over they’re exhausted. Me? I have a few criteria: (1) try to stay somewhere where I can experience life as a local; (2) there has to be art nearby; (3) I’m near a local and authentic food market; (4) it’s totally possible to walk to just about anywhere I’d like to be; and (5) there’s a window or terrace with a view if I want to read or must do some work.

I may talk about the Airbnb apartment in Barrio de las Letras some other time, but if you need a great place and can afford a little more than what people expect to pay for a vacation home through this popular site, visit this link.  Shout-out to Teresa who had made my first Airbnb experience a perfect one.

Mercado Antón Martín

While travel sites and YouTube place much more emphasis on the popular Mercado San Miguel (I may write about it later,) Mercado Antón Martín is a great place to experience day-to-day life in the center of Madrid. Support local and avoid the convenience and grocery stores.

Note: There’s another market called Mercado de San Antón in the Chueca neighborhood. I popped in quickly, so I can’t give any first-hand information. It seems more chic and gourmet than Mercado Antón Martín, but not as Instagram moment-touristy as Mercado San Miguel.

At Mercado Antón Martín, you’ll find a traditional market and the early morning rush of Señoras planning that evening’s meal and grocery shopping European style that is – no Costco versions of stocking up here. And then when the butcher and seafood stalls are being washed up before closing, the market transforms into a lunchtime eatery and as the afternoon progresses, you guessed it…Happy Hour!

While circling around figuring out where to stop, one unassuming stall stood out to me as looking authentically Spanish, Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica. Owner Paz Sánchez is unpretentious and very passionate about wine and food. She prefers to say,“cosas ricas” rather than gourmet, just adding to the homey atmosphere. Quality though is not compromised and she did not hesitate to open a bottle, just so I could try something on my “regions to discover” note saved on my phone.

Tip: Enjoy the social scene and be like a local who doesn’t care for a seat or table. Stand and get comfortable with elbow room only.

Then she quickly pours the wine with a little introduction, darts off to attend another customer and then disappears (if it’s even possible to disappear in a small space) to her prep counter and returns with a plate of something yummy (cosas ricas.) “Try this,” she says in Spanish. “I just made it today” and she sets down a generous serving of bacalao (salt cod) pate. Paz is so cheerful and warm that you feel like you’re sitting in her kitchen at home. She explains that she used to have a career which had her traveling a lot, but wine is her passion and she is much happier with this business. In between glasses of wine and anecdotes, she disappears again and comes back with Escabeche of Iberia Secreto. When I saw Iberia Secreto on a menu in Granada, I just presumed it was just a cute name. However, Paz explained that Secreto is a special cut of pork. Read more here.

I asked her what dish would best be paired with the Mencia and she laughed teasingly as if to say, you can’t handle bold Spanish wine like a Spaniard? However, after a pause to think, she disappears again and comes out and says, “try this” while setting down a small plate and then introduces me to aged chorizo and cheese from the same area of Northwestern Spain. To me, the partnership made perfect sense and I was anxious to wash the bites down with the wine and ask for a refill.

Note: When I return to Spain, it will be to Galicia.

Here’s what I tasted:

2015 Ignacio Marin Elements Tierra Earth

  • Grapes: Garnacha and Carinena
  • Region: Carinena
  • @bodegasignaciomarin

2015 Vina Costeira Mencia

  • Grape: Mencia
  • Region: Valdeorras
  • @costeira.es

2018 Honoro Vera

  • Grape: Monastrell
  • Region: Jumilla
  • #bodegasjuangil

Four glasses of wine later and stomach full, I felt like a true Madrileña! When I left Paz said, “Come back when I’m less busy and I’ll sit down and teach you a lot more.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t return until the day before I had to leave and that day Donde Sánchez was packed. I waved, but I don’t think she saw me because she was too busy pouring wine with a smile and preparing  “muchas cosas ricas.”

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ~ Julia Child

Until next time, let accidents happen and lick your plate clean.

@AllegoryPR #MyArt Escape

Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica is a retail store and bar specializing in wines, craft beers, sparkling wines, vermouth, cold meats, cheeses, pate, preserves, chocolates, jams.

  • Find it on the lower floor of Market Antón Martín
  • Santa Isabel, 5 28012 Madrid
  • Tue – Fri 12:00 – 9:00 p.m.
  • Sat 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Postscript: It doesn’t cost to drink or eat well in Spain. Paz’ store is not only a great experience, but great value. She’ll introduce you to wines that don’t break the bank, but are unique and from all areas of Spain. Her homemade tapas are delicious. Eat there and/or takeaway. Check her schedule for special guests and entertainment.

On the Route of Sultans and Saffron: Lunch, Cava and Culture with a View

I’m back from Spain and what better way to celebrate Wine Wednesday than with an authentic Spanish food and wine pairing?

Unlike Madrid, it was a challenge to find a good selection of wine by the glass in Granada. Possibly, it’s a cost consideration or because many restaurants cater to tourists who even without knowing Spanish, were able to say, “Tinto, Ribera or Rioja.” (Note that Ribera del Duero is a mouthful, so saying Ribera is good enough.) While a glass is a bargain at about 3.50 Eu, you can get a glass of Granada wine for 2.50. Even the cheapest wine is good wine, but expect only simple and pleasant juice.

Luckily, if you want a better choice, buying a bottle of wine is very affordable and if you want good food, it’s best to stray from the tourist path. In the case of Granada, that means wandering the hilly streets, turning sharp corners and getting lost. I found the best way to find a good restaurant was not to look at the menu, but see which ones were inhabited by locals.

The lower end of El Albaicín (Albayzin in Arabic) is filled with tea houses and Moroccan restaurants. While I’m sure many are great, the streets are crowded with tourists and peddlers. Head up to Paseo de los Tristes where the street opens up to a stunning view of the Alhambra. On Saturday, there is an artisan market and whether you are sipping on Cava like me or just soaking in the views, you’ll enjoy being serenaded by gypsy musicians or even more so, gentle breezes that flow between the River Darro and Alhambra set high above on one side and the hills of El Albaicín on the other. This district is worthy of its own blog post, but if you need to know more, here’s a good start. One very important thing not mentioned in this article is that in 1994, El Albaicín was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Culinary Journey: Restaurante Ruta del Azafrán

Typically, I find the dish to match the wine, but since I’m not the one cooking, the star of this post is the food. I am reluctant to say fusion because today, that seems to denote trendy experiments. Perhaps, the synonym “blending” would be more accurate. Southern Spanish/Mediterranean cuisine with international flare, while uniquely paying homage to Azafrán/Saffron – the world’s most prized and expensive spice. DYK that saffron was once used as currency? Read more here.

In a recent interview with Ruta del Azafran’s Head Chef, Antonio Martínez, he says: “The gastronomic panorama of Granada is difficult, but full of possibilities.” Martínez elaborates that gastrotourism is minimal in Granada and the majority of tourists are seeking Tapas and drinks. Read the full interview here.

Here’s what I ate for lunch on two separate occasions. (If my stomach and time allowed, I would have tried the whole menu!)

  • Milhojas de manzana y queso de cabra con reducción de Pedro Ximénez
  • Crema del verduras
  • Cous-cous de pollo
  • Tataki de atún con pickles de piña
  • Salmón a la plancha con salsa de azafrán

The Wine: Dominio de la Vega, Idilicum Cava Brut NV

On this trip and in pursuit of wine education, I was determined to discover wine beyond Tempranillo and regions other than Rioja and Ribera del Duero, as well as focus on modern Spanish winemaking. As mentioned above, I was disappointed not to find much selection in Granada, but fortunately as time went on, variety found me and most times by accident.

While you may not pair sparkling wine with steak, it’s a suitable pairing for starters, seafood and lighter dishes and of course, enjoyed just by itself. Dominio de la Vega, Idilicum Cava Brut is made from 100% Macabeo (an indigenous Spanish grape called Viura in Rioja.) Dominio de la Vega is a family winery located in the Valencian region of Utiel-Requena, within the Denomination of Origin of the same name.

Background Info on the Winery: “A high plateau of destitute clay and limestone soil, with an altitude that varies from 600 to 900 meters. The climate is continental with a great Mediterranean influence: very cold winters and very dry and hot summers with scarce rainfall. The altitude and the sea’s influence give our cava and wine their features, like their freshness and great maturity.” Read more about the harvest here.

As you may know Cava is made in the traditional method just like Champagne (le méthode champenoise.) If not, it would be labeled as sparkling wine. If you are unfamiliar with this process, a Cava specific introduction can be found here. As noted in this article, the main types of grapes used in the production of Cava are the Macabeo, the Parellada and the Xarel·lo – all of which bring their own unique characteristics to the sparkling wine.

If you are more familiar with wine, you may find this article written by Jancis Robinson quite interesting: Macabeo/Viura – the Cinderella grape? After reading it, I realized how fortunate I was to drink a wine made from 100% Macabeo and hope that in order to inspire the demand for it, you try Idilicum too.

El poema, la canción, la imagen, son solo agua extraída del pozo de la gente, y se les debe devolver en una copa de belleza para que puedan beber, y comprendan ellos mismos. ~ Federico García Lorca

The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink – and in drinking understand themselves.

Federico García Lorca was born in Granada. His works were banned during Franco’s dictatorship and he was executed by the Nationalists during the Civil War. While visiting Cuevas del Sacromonte, I was fortunate to hear an actress from Extremadura recite one of his poems .

Granada is magical. Google Maps won’t take you where you should be. The magic begins once you resign to getting lost.

Until next time, keep your glass empty and let it be filled with spontaneity. Pair it with a dish of curiosity and may it lead you to deeper understanding of both yourself and the world.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

If You’re Looking for Me, You Can Find Me In Andalucia. Olé!

If you’ve read my last post, you’ll know that I’m still working on Chapter 11, Spain.

Studying has been quite the “journey.” Yes, I can read, but am I reading with understanding and more importantly, mastering the content? Almost every night after a long of day work, I find myself reading and then re-reading, taking notes, using the flashcard and testing applications on Quizlet, watching video tutorials and completing the workbook. It’s not easy and it has been a journey.

Studying wine also means tasting and that’s where the romantic journey begins! My finger traces over wine region maps, stopping at the places where I have yet to taste their wines. I begin by searching for indigenous grapes and try to find a single varietal and then a blend to taste and compare. I imagine what the soil feels like and the various climate conditions. It’s limitless and I’ve only just scratched the surface.

I have to admit that once I reached the Sherry section of Chapter 11, I closed the book and said to myself: let’s skip that part and just learn the facts enough to pass the test. Why? Because images of my mother and her British family popped into mind. Sherry was sipped after a Sunday dinner with family or poured into Trifle. I despised both. The drink smelled jammy and a sherry and custard soaked dessert was far from appealing!

As I tried to move on to Chapter 12, guilt set in. Why study enough to get by? This journey was to improve my knowledge and therefore I shouldn’t be taking a short cut. So I backtracked, beginning with this video which changed my outlook and commanded me to keep learning.

There’s more to Jerez (Sherry) than your grandmother’s (or in my case mother’s) drink. I’ve had a taste and now I’m on a plane looking for the perfect pairing. I’ll start with Manzanilla and Fino and move on to Oloroso, sticking to young and dry selections.

The Wine: Manzanilla (Chamomile) La Gitana – Bodegas La Gitana

Sherry (the English name for Jerez) is a fortified wine. I need to learn more before I even attempt to start writing about the aging process. However, if you’re curious I suggest you start here to learn about Fino Sherry and for more general information, here. You’ll be fascinated by Solera, Criadera and Flor.

Manzanilla La Gitana is made from Palomino Fino grapes. It has 15% alcohol and can be paired with seafood and tapas.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana was founded in 1792.  They offer a variety of tours where you can taste five wines directly from the barrels! Find more information here.

Cada paso que damos en la tierra nos lleva a un mundo nuevo. (Every step we take on earth brings us to a new world.) ~ Federico Garcia Lorca

Until next time, go for a long walk with a glass of Sherry in hand and let it lead you to some place new.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Special thanks to @WinebytheBay for the wine and education. You can purchase Manzanilla La Gitana at this link.

Memories, Movies and La Meseta

If you’ve been following my Blog or are connected with me on social (@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape,) you’ll know that I’m slowly making my way through the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) Certified Specialist of Wine Guide. I’m on Chapter 11. Don’t ask me when I’ll be done, because I don’t know. I spend my whole professional life a slave to deadlines so, I’m in no hurry and enjoy getting lost in the process.

It’s been a long time since I’ve applied myself to studying and I’m not sure even when in University, if I ever studied correctly. However, at this stage of life it just doesn’t seem good enough to memorize facts and strategize on how to pass a test.  I want to really learn wine, so going beyond the textbook is a satisfying journey. There’s so much out there: YouTube, podcasts, the internet at large, and of course, “applied” studies – Cheers!

Photo | Creative Commons

I’m fascinated by soil and climate conditions and, in the case of Spain, time spent studying Spanish film and art has become so much more meaningful. For example, in the films of Carlos Saura or Victor Erice, the use of metaphor was a means to project ideas about life under the Franco dictatorship without being censored. A desolate landscape (La Meseta,) the countryside and the forest, are symbols of Spain’s isolation from the rest of the world and a sociological emotional state. Now, there’s really no connection to Spanish wine here, but to me every time I read about a region, a scene from a movie pops into my head!

2017 Bodega Javier Sanz Verdejo
Photo Credit | Author

The Wine: 2017 Bodega Javier Sanz Verdejo

This delicious white wine is made from 100% Verdejo grapes from the Rueda DO ( Denominación de Origen.) Rueda was formed on a former riverbed of El Ebro river. As part of Castille y Léon encompasses the northern part of La Meseta Central. Whereas, Ribera del Duero is known to produce some of the best Tempranillo wines in the country, Rueda produces the region’s best white wines. Many of the Javier Sanz’s vines are 40 years old.

The Rueda region is characterized by extreme weather conditions — hot in the day and cold at night. The vines grow like bushes, close to the ground allowing the grapes to ripen at night in soil that has retained heat, but are protected by extreme heat during the day.

Isn’t nature grand?

Tasting Notes: Javier Sanz Verdejo is the best expression of Rueda and its terroir: Youthful and bright, with light shades of green. In the nose, its shows fresh and lively varietal notes of sweet grapefruit and pineapple, combined with anise and fennel as well as floral aromas. Bone-dry in the palate, its medium body is coupled with a crisp, refreshing acidity that make it perfect to drink at all times. Read more here.

The Javier Sanz Viticultor “philosophy is based on the conservation of pre-phylloxera vineyards, local grape varieties, and the recovery of varieties that have almost become extinct.”

Baked Red Snapper with tomatoes, olives, pine nuts, red pepper, asparagus and potatoes.
Photo | Author

The Dish: Baked Red Snapper

I paired the Verdejo with baked Red Snapper with pine nuts, garlic, slices of fresh tomatoes, lime zest and olive oil. On the side were roast baby potatoes and sautéed asparagus. A little bit of research, spontaneity and cooking instincts was my recipe. Oh yummy!

Some Thoughts on Modern Spanish Winemaking

In Spain, modern winemaking is focusing more on its origins such as cultivating indigenous grapes, revitalizing varieties beyond Tempranillo and showcasing regions other than Jerez and Rioja. There is a growing confidence among winemakers to produce wines that have a unique Spanish character, but moving away from traditions of being fermented for long periods in oak. Balance, freshness and quality…read more here.

During my stay in Spain, I hope to discover more modern wines and taste some that are made specifically by indigenous Spanish grapes whether that be a varietal or blend.

Just as it is important to preserve culture and traditions, I think these new ideas of creating a truly Spanish wine characteristic is exciting!

The Metaphor

It is common knowledge that grapes do well in the poorest soil conditions where they have worked hard to find water and nutrients. The growers cultivate the plants, making sure that the right type of pruning and vine training systems correspond to the climate and conditions.

Some of the most outstanding people have come from dire conditions. If things come too easy, we can take life’s opportunities for granted. It’s cliché I know, but we should give it some deeper thought every now and then.

Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it.

― John Burroughs

Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and glass full of wine. There’s a tradition to keep and a life lesson to be told.

#MyArtEscape @AllegoryPR

Garnacha and Another Quixotic Wine Pairing Adventure

Once again, I’m taking #MyArtEscape overseas! What better way to prepare for a trip to Spain than to dive into the pot and uncork some knowledge? Ole!

I’m not sure which came first: the dish or the wine idea, but I was determined to find a wine made up of 100% Garnacha (known as Grenache in France and Cannonau in Sardinia.) As you know, I love rosé and Grenache is used in many of these wines from Southern France. It is usually blended with other grapes such as Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah. Now, Grenache is a red grape and I’ve explained how pink juice comes about in a previous blog (or you can Google it to learn more too.) This grape is also used for Châteauneuf-du-Pape and I’ve talked about it before as well.

Some grapes like the Nebbiolo, for example, haven’t found much success outside of their indigenous territory. However, Garnacha has easily adapted in other parts of the world with great success and after Tempranillo, it is the second most planted red grape variety in Spain. Do a little research and you’ll see that it has survived disease and drought, making resilience a large part of its popularity.

The Wine: Alto Moncayo 2016

I know very little about Spanish wine and wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.  Today’s choice far exceeded my expectations!

Founded in 2002, Bodegas Alto Moncayo is a winery located in the Campo de Borja D.O (short for denominación de origen, a classification system used primarily for Spanish wines) located northwest of the province of Zaragoza. Check out this video produced by Bodegas Alto Moncayo that will put the location into perspective. The vineyard is 500 metres above sea level in the highest part of the town of Borja and to the south its namesake El Moncayo, which is the highest point in the Iberian Mountain Range. You can find out more about this area here.

DYK that after Switzerland, Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe and after Italy and France, produces the largest amount of wine? The three countries together produce almost half of the wine made in the world!

Alto Moncayo is the winery’s flagship and it has received lots of acclamation. Although the winery itself is very young, the vines are between 40 and 70 years old and the wine is aged in new barrels for 20 months. As described on their website: “It has a remarkable complex nose, with balsamic aromas, redolent of black fruit, roasted notes and a very good structure in the mouth” and you can read more here.  I’m getting a little better at aroma and flavor profiles, so I would add that dark cherries, chocolate and tobacco were also present, but remember a lot of this is subjective so I don’t want to impose on your own interpretations.

Wine snobbery aside, I can conclude that it’s just yummy and I’ll be dreaming about it for days!

Photo Credit: Author

The Dish: Spanish Rice, Chicken and Chorizo

Living in South Florida means that there are many versions of Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken), but today I wanted something typically Spanish. I think what sets this dish apart from others are the dry rub mix and fresh ingredients. Don’t compromise and use prepackaged seasonings or tomatoes from a can or jar, ugh.

Here’s another secret: rinse the short or medium grained rice (in this case 1.5 cups) and then soak it in a bowl filled with cool water for about 20 minutes and then drain and rinse again.

  • Rub the dry spice mix on four chicken legs each cut to separate the thigh from the drumstick. Be sure to get the spice under the skin too.
  • Chop one large tomato, a medium sized red onion, 4 garlic cloves and a green pepper.
  • Warm a Dutch oven and coat it with about a tablespoon of olive oil and brown the chicken legs until slightly crispy; remove from pan.
  • Add the equivalent of two large chorizo sausages removed from their casing, and brown the sausage.
  • Add the onion and green pepper and sauté with a pinch of salt followed by the tomatoes, tomato paste and garlic. Add 3 cups of (low or no salt) chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken and bring the liquid back up to a boil before stirring in the (drained) rice. Gently place the chicken back into the pot, cover and reduce the temperature to low to allow enough time for the rice to cook through – about 20 minutes. Remove the Dutch oven from the stove and let the Arroz con Pollo stand covered for at least another 10 minutes. ** This last step is key to get that soft, but not mushy texture.
  • Finish the dish with a squeeze of lime and fresh, chopped cilantro. I found the recipe here.

Note: The Alto Moncayo is a bold wine and may not have been the perfect match for this dish. I’m now thinking that a Garnacha blend may have been more suitable. While I wouldn’t pair it with a steak or a tomato based beef stew, I think roast pork with seasoned, roast potatoes may be a better fit. (I have an amazing recipe for bacon wrapped pork tenderloin that I think would be perfect.)

Buen Viaje!

If you’re anything like me, a lot of planning goes into every vacation. I’m not just talking about booking a plane ticket and hotel. When I go somewhere, I go deep into research. I’ll be visiting one of the places on my “Bucket List,” the Alhambra in Granada and I’ve already booked an apartment in Madrid in Barrio de las Letras near The Art Triangle. The first being the place where Cervantes lived when in Madrid and the second, home to La Reina Sofia, the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. There’s a farmer’s market nearby and, since Spain holds the record of the most bars per inhabitant, I’ll be drinking vino and Cava for days!

It’s so me, I know: #MyArtEscape.

Adios!

If anyone out there in Google land is reading my blog (okay I know some of you are because I read Google Analytics), you’ll know that I end each post with a quote. Although, I have not read Don Quixote, (but may try to read at least Spark Notes before going to Spain) I have no idea in what context this quote is placed. We could read it literally and say that if you’re hungry anything tastes good, which sounds like something my British mother would have said when putting a plate of liver and boiled potatoes in front of me. No lie and probably there was some boiled carrots too. Triple ugh!

Or, knowing that Don Quixote was a dreamer, we could see life as a Quixotic journey and the experiences and knowledge we acquire along the way, are the best seasoning in the dish. Who knows?

La mejor salsa del mundo es el hambre, y como ésta no falta a los pobres, siempre comen con gusto. (The best sauce in the world is hunger and since it doesn’t leave out the poor, they always eat with pleasure.) ~ Miguel de Cervantes

Until next time, inhale curiosity, swirl spontaneity and taste the joy of travel whether that be through a book, a painting, a trip or a glass of wine. Salud!

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Miami Wine Expert Receives Prestigious Vinitaly International Academy, Pin and Certification.

Stefano Campanini is one of twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past Sunday.

Miami, FL…July 2, 2019…On Sunday, June 30th, Miami-based wine educator and Wine by the Bay owner, Stefano Campanini received the prestigious, Italian Wine Ambassador pin and certification, at the New York City presentation of the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) Ambassador Course.

With the support of the ICE – Italian Trade Agency, VIA staged the Italian Wine Ambassador course at the 3 West Club from June 26th to 30th, concluding with a four-part vigorous examination: multiple choice test; a video presentation describing an assigned native grape’s history and territory; a blind tasting; and a two essay, written portion. Students are encouraged to prepare for the course with text book and tasting studies, at least two months ahead of the actual course and during the course receive theory classes, as well as taste approximately 250 wines.

“It’s an honor to be among 200 people from all over the world sharing the mission to instill passion and education to new and seasoned wine lovers,” says Campanini.

Campanini is one of twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past Sunday. Not including the most recent recipients, VIA has trained 204 Wine Ambassadors from 33 countries, making Campanini one of only three educators to have received this prestigious title in South Florida.

A native of Parma, Italy, Campanini began his career in the United States as an art dealer in New York. Foreseeing the demand for collectible, contemporary and Latin American art in South Florida with the emergence of Art Basel (Miami), he would become one of the first gallerists to open a space in the Miami Design District in 2004, followed by two moves: Wynwood and now in its current location, Little Haiti.

In 2011, he decided to merge his passion for wine, food and art by opening a boutique, retail wine store in Downtown Miami. He envisioned an intimate space where both wine enthusiasts and experts could meet socially while exploring both the lesser known and most commonly known wine regions of the world, plus learn food and wine pairings and tips on cellar management. Today, he continues classes and services from his gallery, Etra Fine Art and at other locations offering both private and public events.

With his most recent title (he also holds the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, WSET Level 2), Campanini hopes to be South Florida’s first voice in Italian wine knowledge.

“Many people don’t know that there are 590 indigenous Italian grape varieties! I strive to represent wines that are lesser known, but much higher in quality than what most people get to experience based on the limited selection available in big-box stores,” concludes Campanini. “With each bottle that you open, there’s a story to be told. I’d like to introduce people to this narrative and help them learn more about the territory, history, cultivation and culture that adds to the uniqueness of Italian wines.”

About Wine by the Bay

Established in 2011, Wine by the Bay is an award-winning wine retail store specializing in rare and collectible wines and Champagne. Named Best Wine Store in New Times (2015); One of the Five Best New Wine Stores in the Nation by Details Magazine (2012) and most recently recipient of the Wine-Searcher Gold Awards for best European, French and Overall Lists in Miami (2018.) Wine by the Bay prides itself on presenting educational events for both the wine connoisseur and neophyte. Other services offered are: staff training or strategic wine list design for restaurants; cellar curatorship and management; private cellar selection purchasing; private and corporate events.

  • Wine by the Bay
  • 6942 NE 4th Avenue
  • Miami, FL 33138
  • www.winebtb.com
  • (305) 455-9791
  • info@winebtb.com
  • @WinebytheBay #WinebytheBay

About Vinitaly

The grand Vinitaly 2019 was held from April 7th to the 10th. Every year, Vinitaly counts more than 4,000 exhibitors on a 100,000+ square meter area and 130,000 visitors from over 140 different countries with more than 30,000 top international buyers. The premier event to Vinitaly, OperaWine “Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers,” which will be held on the 6th of April, one day prior to Vinitaly will unite international wine professionals in the heart of Verona, offering them the unique opportunity to discover and taste the wines of the 100 Best Italian Producers, as selected by Wine Spectator. Since 1998 Vinitaly International travels to several countries such as Russia, China, USA and Hong Kong thanks to its strategic arm abroad, Vinitaly International. In February 2014, Vinitaly International launched an educational project, the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) with the aim of divulging and broadcasting the excellence and diversity of Italian wine around the globe. VIA this year launched the fourteenth edition of its Certification Course and today counts 204 Italian Wine Ambassadors and 14 Italian Wine Experts. For more information, visit www.vinitalyinternational.com.

It’s All Greek to Me: Greco, Genetics, Gratitude

Just when I thought I knew something about grapes, I realized that I was wrong. I’ll be forever a wine newbie, but I’m happy about that. Today, I’ll tell you why.

I’m now working on Chapter 4 of the SWE textbook, I’ve begun reading another textbook that focuses on Italian grapes, plus any other wine literature that captures my attention.  I’ve discovered that the root (pardon the pun) of my growing interest in wine is vested in viticulture (or wine growing.) However, the more I read, the more I’m stumped. Pardon the second pun.

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

G is for…

Grapes: Did you ever wonder why wine comes from grapes and not apples or cherries? For one reason, no other fruit has so many varieties that are grown commercially. And, within the varieties, grapes develop different characteristics based on factors such as soil, climate and the way they are cultivated and harvested aka “viticulture.” Then, you have to examine all of the factors involved with fermentation, aging etc. There are so many variables in the evolution of that little bundle of juice!

Image by Marissa Todd from Pixabay

Gargantuan: In Italy, there are 590 indigenous grapes for wine and more than one million vineyards. Yes, just in Italy. You can get the global picture here. It’s gargantuan.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Genetics: As you dive into the sea of wine knowledge, you may find yourself like me drowning in terminology: clone, hybrid, grafting, mutation, cross, etc. Now, the wine scholars may not appreciate my oversimplification of wine, but when it comes to genetics, I’ve broken it down to three major branches of understanding:

(a) Science: If a wine grower wants to attempt to keep producing a successful wine-making grape, reproduction can’t be left to the “birds and the bees.” Among other factors, he/she may rely on cloning or what I like to think of as the single parent, vine child. Read more about clones here.

(b) History: I’ll get more into today’s wine shortly, but genetic studies of grape varieties have disrupted some popular assumptions. For example, Italian grapes thought to have originated in Greece may in fact, not have. It could have been a marketing tactic during a time when Greek wine was thought of as superior to Roman wine. I’m not making this up. Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s most respected wine critics and journalists has presented this DNA focused argument found here.

(3) Research: Climate change and an ongoing need to manage diseases with the least amount of chemicals possible, depends upon grape genetics research while avoiding GMOs. In March, Wine Spectator wrote that the federal government is allocating 68.9 million to build a grape-genetics research lab.

Photo Credit: Author

The Wine: Fonzone, Greco di Tufo 2017

Now here’s when things get really interesting (or confusing.) Greco is a grape variety or type and Greco di Tufo is the name of the denomination in Campania. There’s a bunch of other grapes (not another pun?) that sound like Greco, but are not related, genetically speaking. Straying from the letter ‘g,’ Malavia di Lipari is apparently the exact same as Greco Bianco that’s not related to the Greco. Greco Bianco is a grape.  Greco di Bianco a denomination. And neither has anything to do with today’s wine. Got it?

The Greco grape of Greco di Tufo, is the oldest grape variety of the province of Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. If you ignore the Jancis Robinson article referenced above, Google’s highest ranking articles say that it was imported from the Greek region of Thessaly by the Pelasgian peoples.

FACT: Foreigner didn’t sing it first! A fresco at Pompeii that traces back to the 1st century B.C. has an inscription that says: “You are truly cold, Bytis, made of ice, if last night not even Greco wine could warm you up.”

When learning about a new wine, here’s the part I love the most: how the technical data paints a sensorial picture.

The Fonzone Greco di Tufo is made of 100% Greco from Santa Paolina and harvested in early October. SOIL: sandy clay with veins sulphurous underlying; ALTITUDE: 500 m above sea level; EXPOSURE: south-west; YEAR OF PLANTATION: 1994; PLANTING DENSITY: 2600 stumps per hectare; VINE TRAINING SYSTEM: espalier; PRUNING: Guyot

A brief understanding connects your glass to its territory. Do some more research and you’ll find out how all of these conditions affect the final product.

Image by Janos Perian from Pixabay

Since we’re playing with the letter ‘g,’ I’ll go briefly into the term “Guyot.” Vines as you know when left to their own devices will run amuck. High quality grape production is the direct result of proper pruning. Guyot also called cane pruning, is named after Dr Jules Guyot, a 19th century French scientist. Simply put, all old growth is cut back to leave either one cane (single Guyot) or two (double Guyot.) Canes are shoots that have reached about one year. This process is labor intensive and can only been done by hand. This technique is used by some of the world’s most prestigious wine growing regions. Read more about pruning techniques here.

I really liked the Fonzone, Greco di Tufo. To me, it was like biting into a luscious piece of pineapple, although the wine is not sweet. Its golden hue is like a perfect summer day.

Photo Credit: Author

The Dish: Scallops in a White Wine Sauce

I wanted to make steamed clams in wine, but couldn’t find fresh clams. I felt the recipe needed to be as simple as possible:

Photo Credit: Author

Sear the scallops in olive oil and then add ½ cup of wine (I used the Greco di Tufo);

Photo Credit: Author

Remove the scallops and make the sauce from 1 ½ cups of wine, 1 tbsp of lemon juice and minced garlic; reduce the liquid by half and them add 1 tbsp of butter and chopped parsley.

Image by annca from Pixabay

G is for Gratitude

When it comes to wine, there’s an infinite amount of information out there shared through wine critics, journalists, scientists and the ever so popular, Instagram influencer. While I respect all of these positions (except maybe the latter), my study goal is not to become one of them.

I’m not interested in ratings or tasting notes other than guides to help me associate and classify my knowledge. Take some time to read an argument on this point written by my wine hero, Eric Asimov.

I am grateful for the ability to learn and totally comfortable in my place as student rather than expert. I can make mistakes and that’s okay, rely on just good judgment or instincts and process facts, but not be absorbed by them. Or, I can say that wine is yummy and leave it there.

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. ~ Pablo Picasso

Until next time, swirl your glass with gratitude. A story from the earth will rise to your nose. It’s there to discover: forever a wine newbie.

NOTE: If you can’t make it to Calabria, you can find the Fonzone Greco di Tufo at Wine by the Bay.