Eating for the Gram at Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

It’s Foodie Friday and unlike last week, I’ve eased back into routine ready to tackle deadlines and a long ‘To Do’ list. Although the memory is far from my taste buds, through the joy of social media I can savor and share with you another yummy experience.

Speaking of social media, I have a love/hate relationship with it. While for years I’ve valued its marketing potential, affordability and used it long before many others did (and nah nah to all of those people who thought I had nothing else to do with my time), I feel it imposes on private me.

Our decision making in so many ways, is formed by social media, whether you’re a: ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ user like me who likes, comments, follows and unfollows every day: or those silent stalkers (what I like to call them), who claim they don’t have time or like social media, but have an active account and silently watch what everyone is doing all of the time. Which one are you?

While preparing for the trip to Spain, I turned to YouTube rather than reading travel blogs because after spending a whole day reading and writing, it was nice to just let pictures and sound fill me with information. Plus, how great is it to know that there’s so much more to watch about travel than Rick Steve’s Europe? A lot of my travel decisions were influenced by Devour Tours co-founder James Blick and wife Yoly. The two of them are so cute, so if you are not familiar with their YouTube channel, Spain Revealed, check them out!

Because of all the hype, I was debating whether or not to visit tourist infiltrated, Mercado de San Miguel. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I greatly enjoyed visiting the humble, Mercado Anton Martin. However, since I planned to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid and Plaza Mayor anyway, I figured that a good lunch stop would be nearby, Mercado de San Miguel.

Note: For me, Google Maps did not work in Madrid. Whether, it was tech ignorant me or because everything in Madrid is an abundance of circles (or maybe squares,) using my phone for directions seemed to get me where I needed to be, four times longer than it should have. After two days of trying, I just parked the phone and relied on remembering landmarks and talking to people. Besides, the old fashioned way is so much nicer. Get your face away from the phone and enjoy getting a little lost because asking for help in Madrid, seems to always turn into a nice, five minute conversation.

Like I said in my last blog post, it’s good to enjoy getting comfortable with standing room only and that’s all you’ll get when you visit Mercado de San Miguel. However, that is a large part of the experience. Food and social gatherings are synonymous in Madrid. And while millions of us share our food experiences on social media to connect with others, here is the ultimate, in person, communal opportunity. The energy is impressive and contagious. Although they must answer the same questions every few minutes, the vendors treat each customer courteously and share their joy of food with speed and efficiency.

And when eating in Madrid, as the travel experts also claim, you can find great quality food and better prices elsewhere. Unless it’s something you really can’t do without, I suggest you avoid those 15 Euro tapas. However, to not go would be a shame.  Plus, here’s a place where it’s totally okay to pull out your camera and capture every moment — just be courteous of others who want to get up to the counter just as much as you because they’re hungry. Things move very quickly and I greatly enjoyed this rhythm and pace. Don’t miss it!

Amaiketako

Tip: You can buy a glass of wine (or another libation) and walk around with it to as many stops as you like. Just don’t linger and eat at a stand where you didn’t buy any food. The outer perimeter of the market is lined with a glass counter with enough space for your small plate and glass. Again, elbow room only makes for a great social experience and ‘yum’ is the international language!

Here’s some of the highlights:

La Hora del Vermut

La Hora del Vermút: If you know me, you know that I don’t really drink. Ha, you may exclaim after checking out my Instagram. Me and alcohol don’t really get a long, so I limit even the amount of wine I drink and it’s consumed almost always with a meal.

I must thank James Blick for having me try something new. Spanish Vermouth is a must-try when in Spain and I had a dry option with some delectable olive tapas at La Hora del Vermut. Make it your first stop.

Read more about Spanish Vermouth here.

La Casa del Bacalao

La Casa del Bacalao: Unless you hate fish, you must visit La Casa del Bacalao. Aesthetically pleasing and flavorful, try a variety and you’ll be satisfied with a nice selection of tapas for about 10 euros total.

Morris

Mariscos Morris: I know the next time that I return to Spain, I’ll be visiting Galicia. If for some reason, you can’t make it there either at least you can get a little taste of what can be expected of Green Spain’s culinary landscape at Mariscos Morris. The plates shown above (which are more like a meal portion, rather than a tapa) are 12-15 Euros each.

El 19 de San Miguel

El 19 de San Miguel: Speaking about Galicia, my glass of Vermut is long gone and it’s time for wine! Less than elbow room only, it amazed me how the nice folks at El 19 de San Miguel were able to still keep a lively conversation going on, while serving up glasses of wine and Cava. I loved the Albariño from Rias Baixas (Galicia.) It was a bit more than the other whites at 4.50 Euro, but worth the extra (and wine is still much cheaper by the glass than it is in the US.)

Tip: Buy a bottle for no more than 40 Euro (and most offered are much less) and split it with your friends or make new ones! Remember that you can carry the bottle and your glass around with you.

Amaiketako

Amaiketako: Yes, there is much more at Mercado de San Miguel than seafood, but that day I was indulging my pescatarian doppelgänger. Amaiketako began three years ago as an online store specializing in artisanal products from the Basque country. Try the Gazpacho with Ahi Tuna bits and garnished with watercress. I’ve forgotten the prices of each tapa, but I’d say about $3.50 average.

Horno de San Onofre

Horno de San Onofre: For just 2.50 Euro you can end (or begin) your San Miguel experience with a rich and creamy meringue. You’ll never go back to those crunchy and messy blobs of egg whites again. Or for 1 Euro more, find happiness on a plate with one of their Milhojas.

Café Negro: Your last stop should be a coffee to get you through the next part of your uphill and downhill day in Madrid. You’ll enjoy and value the choices at Café Negro because it’s no secret: it’s hard to find a good cup of coffee in Spain.

Tip: Save one of your receipts to get you into the restroom, otherwise you’ll have to pay.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles

Until next time, know that it’s okay to eat ‘for the gram’ because you’re part of a worldwide community united in one of life’s greatest past times. However, find balance and opt more to enjoy the day’s unrecorded and flavorful moments with friends, family or even strangers – standing room only.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

About Mercado de San Miguel: More than 100 years have gone by since the Mercado de San Miguel opened its doors as a wholesale food market. Today, this historical building stands out as one of the world’s main gastronomic markets. It allows visitors to experience the essence and most significant flavors of every corner of Spain.

  • Monday – Thursday and Sunday
  • 10:00 am – Midnight
  • Plaza de San Miguel, Madrid 28005
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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

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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.

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500 Days of Rosé (by the Bay)

There’s no connection really between the rom-com and wine. Just word nerd, wine newbie (hopeless romantic) me playing. I suppose we could make up some far-fetched, metaphorical association like, look beyond the superficial…but still, there’s no connection.

Just when I thought I knew something about rosé, I realized I wasn’t even close after attending Winebow’s #RosebytheBay held at Smith & Wollensky, South Pointe Park. Members of the wine trade were invited to discover over 100 rosé wines from Europe, South America, North America, Australia and South Africa.

Credit: Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

How does a wine newbie like me choose what to taste with over 100, various shades of pink? With such sleek branding, it’s very tempting to be drawn to beautiful labels and bottle design. However, that’s like choosing a car for its color. So, I tried to select between old world and new world; a region or grape variety that I may have read about, but had not tried; and what was easiest to reach because at times, there wasn’t much elbow room. In fact, I totally missed seeing the wines from Australia and South Africa.

Some Wine Highlights

The fun part was that evening when I took a chance to learn more about what I drank and search for a good story. (If only I had each wine in front of me while reading and taking notes!)

France

As I had mentioned before, Côtes de Provence is France’s oldest wine region and rosé, although different from what we know it as today, was the first type of wine produced there by Greeks who had brought the vines to the area. At the Winebow event, there were rosé wines from at least eight other regions of France.

2017 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières Gris de Gris: I chose this wine because I was attracted to its golden color and knew nothing about “Gris de Gris.” Corbières is an important appellation of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. It is made up of five grape varieties: 50% Grenache Gris; 40% Grenache Noir and Carignan; 10% Cinsault and Mourvèdre. Yves Laboucarié established Fontsainte in its current incarnation in 1971 and is one among the first to use “carbonic maceration” which simply put, is when whole grapes are gently placed in an enclosed fermentation vessel and blanketed with carbon dioxide (Ch 5 of the CSW.)  If you’re curious about Grenache Gris or Noir, see this article. Read more about Domaine de Fontsainte here.

2017 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé Jeunes Vigne: While still only ankle deep into the CSW textbook, I’ve learned that Sancerre is not a grape (and I can now avoid a future soirée faux pas), but an appellation (see the link above) located in the Loire Valley. The grape BTW is Pinot Noir — indigenous to France, but grown elsewhere too. You can read all about the wine at this link.

2018 Raffault Chinon Rosé: When the Wine Therapist (see note at the end) tells you, “drink this one,” you do. Chinon like Sancerre is an appellation and Domaine Olga Raffault is stated as being, “one of the long-time reference points for top-quality, traditional Chinon wines.” Left widowed when her children were very young, Olga would operate the wine estate with a German WWII prisoner who would eventually become the winemaker. If you enjoy a good story like me, click here. 100% Cabernet Franc. If you’re new to wine like me, you may also wish to review, Saignée (“bled”) rosé and the two other methods: maceration and blending.

Spain

2018 Viña Real Rosado: I am not very familiar with Spanish wines, so I chose to try one from Rioja and another from Ribera del Duero. The Viña Real is made from Viura: 75%, Tempranillo: 15%, and 10% Garnacha (Grenache in French.) Viura is the most important grape from Rioja. In Catalonia it is called Macabeo and in Southern France, Macabeu. Read more about this grape here and the winery here.

2018 Cepa 21 Hito Rosado: Made from 100% Tempranillo, Cepa 21 (Ribera del Duero) aims to get the most out of the grape’s characteristics and of the unique environment where they are created. They use traditional methods, but customize them to modern trends. You can find out more about this young winery led by brothers José and Javier Moro at this link.

(Side Note: Future Spanish Wine and Blog posts to come, as I’ve just booked myself a trip to Spain!)

USA

2018 Wölffer Estate Rosé: Long Island (Sagaponack) is the appellation and it is made up of: 52% Merlot, 20% Chardonnay, 13% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Sauvignon Blanc, 1% Riesling and 1% Pinot Noir. Read more about the estate here. This was the first time I’ve tried a wine from New York and I really liked it!

Italy

2018 Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato: Founded in 1938 by Antonio Argiolas, Argiolas is the foremost wine estate on the island of Sardinia producing archetypal wines from native varietals. Serra Lori is a dry rosato blended from Cannonau, Monica, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo. Read more here.

2019 Pico Maccario Rosé Lavignone Rosato Piemonte: The rose (flower) on the bottle symbolizes the estate where there are 4,500 rosebushes all from the same clone and there’s one planted at the end of each vine row. Read the full story and details about this 100% Barbera wine here.

2011 Contratto For England Brut Rosé: Who can resist pink bubbles and surely, this wine must have been one of the best ones there! I think this says it all: old vine, 100% Pinot Noir, Metodo Classico aka Traditional Method, Méthode Champenoise, etc. Read more here. Someone spoil me: I’ll take ten!

2018 GD Vajra Rosabella: “Tasting the wine is like seeing a star. If you only see a star, you’ve lost the beauty of the universe,” says Aldo Vaira who made his first vintage when only 19 years old. From there, I encourage you to explore the rest. Here is the video and website at this link. Nebbiolo 85%, Barbera 5%, Dolcetto 10%

Winebow had someone making cocktails too, showcasing some of their liqueurs and spirits. Delicious!

On that delightful note, it’s best to wine-down this post.

Now two months into the CSW textbook, I’m finding that learning about wine gives me the same sensation as understanding a work of art. It begins with a visceral response, but then the true beauty reveals itself when an investigation begins. The pursuit of knowledge is infinite, or in the great words of Albert Einstein:

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.

Until next time, raise your glass and listen to what it tells you and know that at least when it comes to rosé, Summer is with you for as long as you want! (Oops, strike out paragraph 1!!)

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

My wine journey would never have begun or continue without The Wine Therapist’s (aka Stefano at Wine by the Bay) guidance. No wine passes from his hand to mine (or any of his loyal clients and friends) without an anecdote and a smile. Follow him at @WinebytheBay

Rosé from Argentina

Postscript: There’s no such thing as Rosé Season apart from marketing! Grapes (like any other fruit or vegetable) follow a growth and harvest season as it relates to its region’s climate timeline. What differentiates wines are all of the other winemaking variables like fermentation. As you can see by the release years, most probably spent more time getting from their place of origin to your table, than in a bottle!  What makes Summer a Rosé season is comparable to why you’d choose an iced latté over a hot one. It’s poolside chill that pairs well with typical summer weather dishes.

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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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Giddy in Pink: Provence & Primavera

Hashtag ‘Rosé All Day’ #RoseAllDay! Yes, I’m one of those gals who can’t wait to see the shelves stocked up with slim, frosty bottles with triangular punts (that’s the technical name for the pushed up center of the bottle’s base.) There’s some serious glam marketing going into the production of this hot seller (pardon the pun) and its sexy, bottle design.

Mockingbird in my backyard calling for a mate.

This easy to drink, chilled glass of pink also means Spring is in the air. Birds and bees do it, but did you know that vines do it too? Grapes are hermaphrodites, meaning they contain both male and female organs and can self-fertilize. However, dust in the wind, there was some serious vine fornication taking place long before it became the fermented juice in your glass. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon (indigenous to Bordeaux) is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. ‘Cross’ is the offspring of sexual reproduction between different subspecies within the same species. Give that some thought the next time you witness or suffer from pollen blowing around.

Wikipedia Commons

If you wish to read a more scientific and serious explanation of the anatomy of the grapevine, click here.

The Wine: Chateau Maupague, Sainte-Victoire Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016

I’m “delayed” in the South of France (darn), but I’ve left the lavender fields and Châteauneuf-du-Pape behind for Côtes de Provence and more specifically Sainte Victoire, a favorite landscape of Cezanne and Picasso. The area is more sheltered from the Mistral winds than other wine producing areas of Provence and high limestone soil makes for fewer yields but high quality fruit. 80% of Sainte Victoire wine is rosé.

For wine newbies like me, you may wish to know that rosé is pink because the skins of the red grapes touch the wine for a few hours whereas in making red wine, the skins are left as part of the fermentation process for a few weeks. There are three primary methods of making rosé wine: Maceration, Saignée and Blending. Read more here.

Côtes de Provence is home to France’s oldest vineyards and oldest wine producing region. When the Greeks arrived in what is now called Marseille, they planted the first vines and the wine at that time, was a rosé. Not the pale and delicate wine that we are familiar with today, but more rustic, says Annabelle Sumeire of Famille Sumeire | Vignerons en Provence in this video. Annabelle Sumeire’s family own Chateau Maupague and other vineyards in Provence.

Wine Facts: Chateau Maupague, Sainte-Victoire Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016

  • Grenache 80%, Cinsault 10% Syrah 10%
  • Silver medal at the Concours Bettane et Desseauve Prix Plaisir 2017
  • 88 at the Wine Enthusiast 2017
  • Gold medal – 89 Gilbert et Gaillard 2017
  • Bronze medal at the IWSC 2017

Learn more about the different grapes at this link. You can find some Provence tour information here and learn more about the vineyard here.

The Pairing

Bonci, Rome

On a trip to Rome, I was introduced to a variety of pizza toppings (check out Bonci pizza if you do go to Rome – future #TBT blog post in the queue.) I know we’re now exposed to higher quality pizza rather than the soggy versions that arrive in a box, but American pizza doesn’t compare to the quality in Italy.

If you’ve been following my Blog, you know that I try to stick as close as possible to the origins of a particular dish. I did make the traditional prosciutto and arugula version and you can find a recipe here. However, today’s pizza is a fusion of French and Italian ingredients. I did not follow this exact recipe, but used the key ingredients that I thought would pair well with the wine: crab, artichokes, goat cheese and basil.

“Breads of La Brea Bakery” by Nancy Silverton

My fascination for dough and bread making was inspired by Nancy Silverton and I’ve been gradually reading her book, “Breads from the La Brea Bakery.” Since I’m not yet ready to make homemade yeast like Nancy does, my favorite thin crust pizza dough recipe is this one. Before adding the toppings I brushed the dough lightly with olive oil and crushed tomatoes infused with a garlic clove. I prefer to use a gas grill and pizza stone rather than my oven. With a 500 degree, consistent heat, you almost achieve the wood fired pizza taste.

An Artichoke Anecdote

Appropriately for Spring, I’ll end today’s post with a carnal spin on a vegetable story:

The wife of King Henry II of France, Catherine de Medici introduced a wide variety of Italian foods to French cooking including ice cream, sweetbreads, truffles, artichokes, broccoli, and spinach. Catherine, who was known throughout France as La Florentine loved spinach so much that any French dish which incorporated spinach was called ‘a la Florentine.’                     

“Education of Cupid” by Antonio da Correggio from Catherine de Medici’s Room
Château de Chenonceau, Catherine de’ Medici’s room | Wikipedia Commons

Catherine scandalized French society with her addiction to artichokes which had the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. She also encouraged her entourage to eat artichokes, particularly the L’ escadron volant (the flying squadron), a bevy of beautiful girls who were coached as “spies of the couch,” bedding down with the influential nobles. The L’escadron volant traveled everywhere with Catherine, a sort of whorehouse on wheels. By the end Catherine’s reign, artichokes had become one of the most popular French vegetable.

 [Source: Medadvocates]

So today, let’s raise a glass to Catherine! If it wasn’t for her, we’d still be in Victorian era fashion, boiling green beans!

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

Until next time, throw caution to the wind and embrace your cravings!

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Note: Today’s Blog post was inspired by Chapter 3, “Grape Varieties” of the Certified Specialist of Wine Guide.

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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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