Where’s the Beef? It’s Time to Make Choices.

Two Favorite Beef Dish Recipes, Syrah Wine Pairing and a Rant About Choices

It’s now Week 1 of the, “we don’t have to stay-at-home anymore” order and my Week 11 at home. If it wasn’t for continuous rainy days, I think there’d be a lot more people outside enjoying all that South Florida has to offer. Before I get to the homemade hamburger buns and Béarnaise Sauce recipes, plus the Northern Rhône Syrah wine pairing, I thought I’d talk about making choices that we can or will make during the COVID_19 pandemic.

Where’s the Beef?

DYK the history of this slogan? It was part of a 1984 advertising campaign for Wendy’s. Ironically, this fast food chain recently announced that it was short of or had run out of beef at some of its restaurants. If you’re a marketing geek like me, you’ll find this story interesting and see how this catchy campaign set Wendy’s apart from its competitors.

Seems like everyone has something to say lately and our voices are amplified through social media because the reality is, no one can really hear you through a mask and we can’t get together like we used to. People reluctant to head to the beach or restaurants are called cowards (or much worse) by some, and the ones out frolicking around like immortals are named pillars of mass death by others. Yes, that is the extreme POV, but I’m not making it up – just check out the conversations on Facebook.

Filet Mignon with Roast Potatoes and Spring Mix with Pecans, Camembert Cheese & Apricots. © Author

Beef Choices

True to my Canadian nature, I’m more on the reserved side: quietly working and entertaining myself at home thinking that my stay-at-home actions are for the greater good. My biggest indulgences these days are a good meal and bottle of wine.

I love filet mignon, but at $13-$20 per pound, it’s a splurge meal. Rather than thinking that the cost of eating a prime cut is at least double the expense of at least one family meal, I put that rationale aside. I’m lucky to have this liberty, but If you prefer to stick to ‘Feeding Five Under 25 $,’ choose recipe one because there’s nothing better than a juicy hamburger to satisfy our craving for beef.

If you’re not interested in the recipes, be sure to scroll down and read about the ‘Que Syrah Syrah’ wine pairing and my conclusion about making choices.


Fast and Easy Hamburger Buns. © Author

Homemade Hamburger Buns (Original recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.)

The recipe as stated worked best for sliders. If you want full size hamburger buns, double up the ingredients. Either make your own hamburger patties or buy prepared ones. I served the hamburgers with homemade guacamole and potato chips that I sliced whole potatoes with a mandolin.

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Do not let rise. Divide into 12 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 3 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Preheat oven to 425°.

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake until golden brown, 8-12 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Filet Mignon with a Béarnaise Sauce and Smashed Potatoes (Both Recipes found on Food Wishes.)

Notes: While hamburgers don’t take long, both the Smash Potatoes and Béarnaise Sauce take quite a bit of time, so make this on a day with lots of free time. It’s a great opportunity to listen to a podcast since you shouldn’t take your eyes off of the Bernaise Sauce!


Béarnaise Sauce means lots of butter! © Author

Béarnaise Sauce

Compound Butter

  • 1/4 cup chopped tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter

Use a mortar and pestle to combine the ingredients. Wrap the compound butter in plastic wrap and refrigeration while you make the Tarragon Reduction.

Tarragon Reduction

  • 1 cup fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 rounded teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup water

Simmer the tarragon leaves and peppercorns (or ground pepper) in the liquids until you have about 3 tablespoons of reserved liquid. Gently squeeze all of the liquid through a strainer so you have a clear broth.

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar reduction
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon caper tarragon compound butter
  • salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, optional

Add 2 egg yolks and tarragon reduction to a stainless steel bowl or pot and whisk until combined. Add all of the cold butter cubes and whisk together on medium heat. Keep whisking until the color lightens and it thickens.  Add the compound butter cut into cubes and keep whisking until combined. Remove from heat and add salt if desired.

Note: I seared the filet mignon (coated lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper) with a tbsp of butter and one of olive oil and then finished the meat in the oven set to 425 ° until medium. You can grill them too.

You can watch Chef John’s video for help.  I made the Compound Butter before the Tarragon Reduction. I suggest using room temperature eggs.


Smash Potatoes can be made ahead. © Author

Smashed Potatoes (All Recipes)

  • 3 ½ pounds medium yellow potatoes, washed
  • ⅓ cup kosher salt
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the Infused Butter
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, thickly sliced
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, or to taste
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or to taste

Place potatoes into a 5-quart stockpot and cover with 3 quarts of cold water. Add kosher salt and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until potatoes are just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. Let potatoes cool just until they’re safe to handle.

Transfer potatoes onto a sheet pan and continue cooling to room temperature. Make 4 or 5 shallow cuts down the sides of each potato, about every inch or so, to ensure the skin splits evenly when smashed. Refrigerate until completely chilled and ready to smash; 8 hours to overnight is best.

Combine butter, sliced garlic, rosemary, and thyme in a small pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts and begins to bubble, and garlic softens and starts to turn translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (232 degrees C). Line 2 metal baking sheets with silicone baking mats (such as Silpat®) and generously brush on some of the infused melted butter.

Remove potatoes from the fridge and gently smash each between two pieces of plastic using a flat, heavy object until 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides, being careful not to break potatoes up into small pieces. Transfer onto a sheet pan, being careful not to overlap potatoes. Very generously drizzle and brush most of the melted butter on top.

Bake potatoes in the preheated oven until well browned and crunchy around the edges, 35 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the pan with the remaining garlic and herb butter back over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic starts to turn a very light golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Carefully transfer potatoes onto a serving platter and scatter over the golden brown slices of garlic. Crumble the toasted herbs on top if desired. Serve immediately.


Que Syrah Syrah: Crozes-Hermitage Selection Silène 2017, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave | 100% Syrah

Every day I learn something new about wine. However, each day I also realize that I still know very little. If you’re a wine newbie like me,  I think that one of the first things you question is the high cost of certain wines and how to justify the expense. It’s a safe assumption that if you have an opportunity to pay more for a wine made by a top producer, you should. However, if you can’t, I am learning (thanks to Wine by the Bay) that some winemakers offer affordable choices that allow you to experience for example, a winemaker’s expression of a vineyard or grape variety; or a winemaking style. These offerings also don’t compromise quality for the sake of affordability.

You could say that today’s wine is like the hamburger substitute for filet mignon – multiplied exponentially! Domaine Jean-Louis Chave wines fetch anywhere from $20.00 to more than $8,000.00 per bottle! Needing to taste a Crozes-Hermitage for the WSET 2 class, I luckily found myself at the lower end of the price spectrum. However, this wine is fantastic and since I’m nowhere near being one who can judge, I suggest you rely on these recommendations by two reputable wine critics: Erik Asimov and Josh Raynolds.

Crozes-Hermitage Selection Silène 2017, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave | 100% Syrah © Author

Bright violet. Mineral-accented cherry, boysenberry and smoky bacon aromas are complicated by suggestions of olive and candied flowers. Energetic and focused for the vintage, offering concentrated bitter cherry, cassis and violet pastille flavors braced by a spine of juicy acidity. Closes sappy, smooth and quite long, with sneaky tannins and a lingering suggestion of juicy black and blue fruits. Drink date: 2022-2030. Score – 92. ~ Josh Raynolds


The Whatever Will Be, Will Be Philosophy Isn’t That Comforting

Freedom of choice, too many choices, making choices, and no choice. It’s just too easy and I think irresponsible to say, “Que Sera, Sera?” Whatever choice you make today may greatly affect what happens tomorrow.

Freedom of choice is also freedom to decide when you do not want to choose. ~ Simona Botti.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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Wine by Numbers: My Take on Tasting Notes

When it comes to what’s in your glass — that sumptuous work of art, do you resign to the visceral or let a wine rating or tasting note dictate your opinion?

Tasting Notes

While I understand that tasting notes are needed in the industry as a means to sort, order, classify and make a wine brand marketable, should the rest of us be controlled by this numbered rating? Must we fill our thoughts with aromas of wildflowers or forest floor before we even take a sniff or sip?

Wine Newbie Me, is not trying to diminish in any way the credibility of the world’s wine experts and big names such as Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, or James Suckling, just to name a few. In fact, I learn a lot from them and love to read their reviews and articles, especially Jancis Robinson.

Or, if you explore (hashtag) #wine and try to keep up with the ever-growing Instagram and Twitter world of sommeliers and wine lovers, you can become easily swayed by the next up-and-coming wine critic’s notes because he/she has over 30.5K followers. That’s fine I guess, but before I get called self-righteous, I do have a point…

The Mom Factor

Would you tell a mother that you know more about her child than she does? You better not — that is if you value your life! I imagine a winemaker might not be so quick to react as strongly as your mother. However, he or she is the creator of the wine: from the soil tilled, to the excitement of bud break, to the blisters on the hands. He/she loses sleep over that unexpected wind, rain or cold spell, or even Corona Virus!

The winemaker is ever present. He/she celebrates the joyful moments and courageously plows through the suffering (pardon the pun.)

He/she too can express in words the wine better than anyone else.

With that being said, I found this little poetry in motion.

Baron de Brane Margaux 2015: Château Brane-Cantenac

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.

Bottles from the world’s greatest wine producers have a story to tell and when you go beyond the tasting notes and pairing recommendations, you’ll find both the history and the story. By story, I mean what is present and what the possibilities can be.

Learn more about Château Brane-Cantenac at this link.

I found the the Baron de Brane Margaux at Wine by the Bay in Miami.

“The truly free man is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse.” ― Jules Renard

Until next time… When it comes to what’s in your glass (or life for that matter,) be truly okay with “You Say Tomato and I say Toe-mah-toe” – just know what you love and love what you know.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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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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