Spring is here and we have much to celebrate! There’s the gift of anticipation and we will now push forward and work harder than ever. For over one year people, far and wide, have been imprisoned both physically and emotionally. It is now time to repair both body and mind. Like always, I turn to nature: the garden and vineyard show signs of new growth. To celebrate, here is a simple wine and food pairing idea: Recipe homage to the Rite of Spring. Like Stravinsky’s seminal work, let’s celebrate dissonance rather than comfort in harmonious familiarity. We must embrace a new modernism.
While you prepare this Fennel Salad with Apple and sip on Blazic 2018 Ribolla Gialla, listen to Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Let’s test the limits of what our new lease on life gives us.
Fennel and Apple Salad
Based on recipe from the NY Times Cooking App.) I substituted slivered almonds for walnuts and a Macintosh apple for Granny Smith.
3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced on a mandoline slicer
2 Granny Smith apples, halved and cored, thinly sliced on a mandoline
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a mandoline
⅓ cup fennel fronds or roughly chopped parsley leaves
½ cup toasted walnuts
2 ½ ounces Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 2/3 cup)
Add the salt and pepper to the lemon juice and then add the olive oil slowly while whisking to emulsify the dressing. Combine all ingredients and top with Parmesan when serving.
2018 Blazic Ribolla Gialla Collio
Blazic Wine Estate is a family run winery nestled in the heart of the hills of Cormòns, in Zegla located in Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region. They have been making wine since 1923. Read more about this unique territory and magnificent wines here.
Note: I also grilled pork and made gnocchi in a sage sauce.
Here we go! Week 7 of the stay-at-home order and I’m thinking about death. How can we not think about it when we read the numbers each day in the news? Keeping the statistics in mind, there’s a high probability that someone close to us may die of COVID-19 related complications. We dart through grocery stores like the living dead, avoid eye contact, and grunt through masks only when we must speak.
I have thought about leaving the ones I love behind and spending my last moments alone. I worry for elderly family members and the people I don’t know personally, but put their lives at risk each day—grocery store workers, healthcare professionals, bus drivers, etc.
I had a high school English teacher who loved New Orleans and jazz. He once told us that if there was a nuclear war, he’d accept his doom provided that he had a steak dinner, a glass of red wine and Louis Armstrong playing.
His philosophy stuck with me and I’ve decided that if I must face my fate, my last meal will include a steak and a glass of wine, but also some form of Death by Chocolate. You’ll find a recipe for this chocolatey namesake below, but first a little…
Death by Chocolate History
The first death by chocolate took place in Mexico in the 1600’s when some rich parishioners couldn’t stop eating chocolate during Mass. This prompted a ban by the Bishop who then met his fate after drinking a poisonous chocolate concoction. Read the full story here.
Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, then add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in 1 cup semisweet chips and dark chocolate chips.
Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out dough onto prepared baking sheet. Bake until centers are set, about 12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then place on cooling rack to cool completely.
Make ganache: Place remaining 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a bowl. In small saucepan, heat heavy cream over low and bring to a gentle boil. Pour cream over chocolate chips and let sit 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.
Dip cookies halfway into ganache and sprinkle dipped side with flaky salt. Let harden before serving.
Notes: I used milk and white chocolate because that was what was available at the grocery store. However, next time I’ll look for better quality chocolate and use semi sweet and dark as called for in the original recipe.
The light sprinkle of sea salt is key! I waited until the ganache set a bit before adding it so that it could not only be sensed (you really don’t taste salt—it accentuates the flavors,) but also be seen.
The Wine: 2015 Oremus Mandolás – Tempos Vega Sicilia (100% Furmint, Hungary)
This dry Tokaji immediately triggered a memory of a late night snack at Bar Casa Julio located next to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. I ate fried calamari and drank fino sherry. Now, it would be totally incorrect of Wine Newbie me to say that Oremus Mandolás is like fino sherry. It has a dry sherry feel and I can imagine having it with lightly salted, fried seafood.
Before I return to the earth (6 feet under that is,) you’ll find me sipping this dry Tokaji while soaking up the sun. Read more here. (BTW I enjoyed Oremus Mandolás on its own and would not recommend having it with either steak or Death by Chocolate cookies.)
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.
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
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.
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.
ManzanillaLa 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.
Special thanks to @WinebytheBay for the wine and education. You can purchase Manzanilla La Gitana at this link.
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!
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!
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
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.”
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!
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.