The New Neighbors Next Door

Mike & I witnessed the “ever-compelling” process of auctioning off the Ivy Market property that encircles Wine Gourmet.  Here is the video from this morning.

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Published in: on June 30, 2010 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Winner, winner Pomegranate wine dinner!

This Tuesday (June 15) Wine Gourmet is very pleased to team for its second (in, hopefully, a long series) of wine dinners, with the delightful Pomegranate in Troutville.
“Troutville!”, you say, “Sure, Pomegranate’s a wonderful place but golly, I don’t want to consume a bunch of wine and then have to drive right away – that’s not safe!”

Point well taken.
That is why we have made arrangements to hire a luxury motor coach for the occasion that will convey you gracefully to and from Pomegranate at (drum roll please) . . .  no additional charge!
That’s right Bunky, freeZippo de bucko.   – It will cost you not a sausage.

Our coach awaiteth

Dinner is from 6-9pm with a social half-hour starting at 5:30. Our coach will leave from the parking lot situated directly in front of the empty husk of Ukrops at 5pm and will return us, full of belly and pleasant of demeanor at 9:30.  If you prefer to make your own way to and from Pomegranate, no worries, we’re just as delighted to have you.
The price is a mere $75. person (+ tax and gratuity) and reservations can be made by calling Pomegranate directly at 540.966.6052.  Before you reach for the phone, however, read on about our hosts and the menu for the evening.
You may want to have a towel handy to discreetly dab at your watering mouth.

Chef Bradley Harris, the designer of our feast

Originally from Phoenix AZ, Chef Bradley Harris attended the fabled CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Hyde Park, NY.  In completion of his studies at the CIA, he worked for Clipper Cruise Lines where he had the opportunity to travel significantly in the Far East and in Eastern Russia. There he was exposed to disparate foods and flavors and he immersed himself in these exotic ingredients in order to bring them to his cruise passengers.

He continued to work for Clipper after his graduation and traveled throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa and South America.  As a natural consequence of his extensive travels, he became culinarily inspired. Brad says, “The more I traveled, the more I began to appreciate foreign cuisines, everything from a simple plate of rice and beans to a pristine fish.”

Chef Harris became an habitue of local markets wherever his ship was docked.  He bought many local ingredients and used them in his ever changing weekly menus. In two years and with two different companies he amassed a list of forty-two countries visited.  After that, Brad hung up his deck shoes and headed back to Arizona where he became Executive Sous Chef of the Hilton Tucson East and assisted with the design and launch of their new menu.

Chef Harris came to the Roanoke Valley a year ago to work for Local Roots Cafe as Sous Chef. Now Pomegranate is privileged to have Brad gracing its kitchen. He embraces the Pomegranate themes and concepts, adding his own creative flair and personality.  The result is a solid and harmonious addition to Pomegranate’s reputation for fresh, innovative cuisine.

Our evening's wine magician, Alejandro Rivera

Arizona was also the starting point for Alejandro Rivera’s culinary career. He did a four year apprenticeship at a restaurant there, moving through all the kitchen’s stations and giving himself a solid grounding in food preparation and presentation.  Alejandro moved then to California and worked with the Roy’s restaurant chain whose dishes are in the Hawaiin Fusion style. Alejandro says that they ran a very tightly disciplined organization and he picked up many food and management ideas from his time with them.

Alejandro next went to New Mexico and cast his lot with the folks who had founded the superb Coyote Cafe, often cited as the birthplace of Modern Southwestern Cuisine. They were on to a new endeavor rehabbing a landmark restaurant of Santa Fe, The Compound.  The Compound went on to receive accolades from such corners as Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and even the New York Times. Alejandro did some cooking at The Compound but also acted as the Wine Captain and Sommelier two days a week. When his time with Santa Fe was done, Alejandro said “hasta luego!” to saguaro and adobe and came to Roanoke.  Here he was in charge of the wine program at Frankie Rowlands, doing the full range of wine duties from buying to overseeing storage and inventory, to training staff and consulting with the kitchen on pairing, to being the face of wine for all their customers.  Frankie’s loss was Pomegranate’s gain as Alejandro has brought his considerable knowledge of grape and food to the pride of Troutville.

Together Brad and Alejandro are offering us an exquisite dining experience not easily found in the Valley. The menu for our dinner offers an exciting range of flavors and textures and promises to be as much of delight to behold as it will be to consume.  Just take a look at the menu:

course one
Zucchini blossoms stuffed with paneer, garam marsala salt, fried kale, kale pesto and apple butter.
–  paired with:  Pindal Verdejo and Villa Sophie Lenz Sparkling Riesling

course two
Day boat scallops, mango puree, roasted cauliflower & cucumber salad, country ham, brown butter, and banyuls vinaigrette
–  paired with:  St. Andre Rose and C. Donatello Chardonnay

course three
Chinese tea egg, diakon kim chi, pickled scallions, sweet chili yolk
–  paired with:  Sake and Ginger-infused martini shooter

course four
Beef tartar, caramelized Vidalia onion, shiitakes, warm egg mousse, compressed avocado, brioche
–  paired with:  Chateau Boutillon Bordeaux (2003!) and Baqueano Cabernet / Malbec blend

course five
Corn farce stuffed ravioli, Surry VA bacon, peas, heirloom tomatoes, cotija cheese, baby swiss chard, white wine and sea salt
–  paired with:  Frederic Reverdy Cotes du Rhone Blanc and Domaine Violon Cotes du Rhone Rouge

course six
“Cadbury Cream Egg” – bitter chocolate, saboyon, candied leeks, chocolate soil
or
“Smores” – chocolate mousse, vanilla meringue, graham, cocoa nibs, marshmallow
–  paired with:  Chateau du Vieux Moulin Loupiac and Quinta de Monte Redondo Tawny Port

This will be a sublime dinner.  Six jaw dropping courses, each paired with two delicious adult beverages.

(cue the violins)  In the future, as you reveal to people that you were there, when that incredible meal was served, gourmands, world travelers, and even heads of state will hold their own life experience cheap in comparison.
(cymbal crash.  fade to black)

Call now.  Operators are standing by.

Published in: on June 11, 2010 at 10:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

One Foodie Couple’s Journey Through Spain – Part II

Adam Z. Markham

In our last chapter we discussed conspicuous consumption and the eating of “all-things-pig”.  Well, why change when you’re on a roll?

After leaving the Mercado de San Miguel, we set out searching for what is literally the single oldest restaurant on planet Earth (at least according to the Guinness Book of World Records).  Casa Botin opened in 1725 and has been operated continuously since.  Think about that.  The place is 51 years older than the United States.

Casa Botin

Casa Botin

Our motivations were pure and well-founded, as Casa Botin´s specialty is suckling pig roasted whole in a wood-fired oven.  As luck would have it we were only about a block from the place.  When we arrived it appeared they were closed for the afternoon but two young guys coming out told me they still had some reservations left… for 11:30pm!  When we went in, the guy in front of me apparently got the very last reservation of the evening.  I begged the man at the desk.  I begged some more.  He absolutely and adamantly refused to give us a coveted slot.  I am not ashamed to admit that when we left the building I wept a little.

My adoring wife, sensing my pain, tried to go back in but they had locked the door.  She then found the door to the kitchen and barged in but was summarily dismissed by the head chef and manager… the nerve!  She then came back out and knocked on the front door until the Maitre De came and unlocked it again.  As he let her inside I stayed put and, honestly, I prayed in Spanish.  She emerged with a smile on her face and fists clenched over her head.  At this juncture I feel the need to point out the following:  it is a sign of true love when your wife literally gets down on her knees and begs, BEGS a man for a dinner reservation all so she and her husband can eat a baby pig.  We had dinner reservations for 11:50pm… WHOO-HOO!

Reservation secured, we headed back to our hotel, the Petit Palace Puerta del Sol to sleep off our experiences at the Mercado and to gird our loins for that which lay ahead.

Roast Suckling Pig!

That evening we arrived at Casa Botin early (at about 11:40 pm, mind you) in eager anticipation of our meal.  Let me tell you unequivocally people, it did not disappoint.  Our new little porcine friend arrived on our plates in steaming, succulent glory.  The meat was pale, juicy, mouth-wateringly tender and shockingly flavorful.  The skin… THE SKIN!  The skin was the color of honey and was perfectly crunchy.  It was divine.  Accompanied by nothing more than simply roasted baby potatoes and a bottle of 2005 Acon Crianza that was 100% Tempranillo, this was absolutely the dinner of a lifetime.

On our way home we made two pit stops.  First, we stopped into a bar for a nightcap.  The only reason I bring up this particular place is because of a rather unusual wall-hanging.  They had the mounted, coal-black, mummified head of an enormous boar behind the bar wearing a giant pair of sunglasses that concealed its eye sockets.  The eyes themselves had evidently been replaced by glowing light bulbs.  This is a country that spends a potentially inordinate amount of time contemplating pig.  These people are alright by me.

Our second stop was for churros and chocolate.  Churros are a sort of extruded doughnut batter that when deep-fried comes our looking like a five-inch long noodle about the diameter of your thumb.  It is served with hot chocolate.  Every single late night reveler in Madrid apparently ends the evening with a stop off for this treat.  Kendall and I had heard about it, but frankly we had a bit of trouble understanding the fervor for a simple cup of hot chocolate with a doughnut.  Make no bones about it, one of my favorite things on earth is chocolate but come on, how good could it really be?

Churros & Chocolate!

We doubt no more.  When you walk in there are no choices.  The only options are “uno, dos, tres”, etcetera.  What was it like?  Forget I ever used the words “hot chocolate”.  This stuff came out in a steaming mug and you could practically stand a spoon up in it.  It was thick, dark brown and viscous and was freakishly delicious.  The churros had a perfect crunch and tooth on the outside and were soft and pillowy on the inside.  Dipped into the chocolate, they were the stuff of legend.

It was then off to bed for yet another round of digestion.

In our next installment intrepid reader, we awake in preparation for our 200 mile drive north through Bilbao (complete with a visit to the Spanish Guggenheim!) on our way to the coastal town of Deba.

…Adam

Back from Bermuda!- Wines and Good Times

We have returned. 

All hail Wine on the Rail!

Wine Gourmet’s inaugural wine excursion carried us from Roanoke to New York to Bermuda and back.  I, Beth (the best-girlfriend ever, BGFE), our esteemed Melinda and her husband Allen escorted 17 Wine Gourmet customers on a tropical (or semi-tropical at least) get-a-away. We hauled along with us just over a hundred bottles of wine and the ship also provided a bottle for each cruiser. By the numbers it was 21 cruisers, six and a half days and 126 bottles to consume.  We faced our consumption responsibility undaunted and drank with conviction but, in the end, gave away our last six or eight bottles as we had to face the fact that we had more wine than we could finish in our remaining time without their being medical issues.
C’est la vie vin.
We began our odyssey with a morning in New York City.  Sunday dawned unseasonably chilly and BGFE, who’d neglected to pack a jacket or sweater requested a stop to shop.  Navigating the NYC streets turned into a challenge as Oprah was in town (having just finished a week at Radio City Music Hall) and was clogging the streets with folks running to cure something or other.  Loads of participants in matching t-shirts streamed past police barricades on their way to a finish in Times Square. Numerous times we would approach a barrier only to be waved away and directed ever further from our intended destination.  As we were ahead of our schedule, we were not terribly concerned and felt we could wait out the commotion arranged by her nibs.
But back to the jacket quest.  We saw a likely shop with a small space in front and I executed a feat of parallel parking that left my fellow passengers slack-jawed with amazement.  Trailing clouds of glory, my fellow passengers and I entered the store.  Beth grabbed a “New York” sweatshirt and a jaunty hat of orange plaid.  Beth paid her tab and dressed immediately.
Feeling a bit peckish, we sought a suggestion for breakfast from the shop clerk and he pointed to the Carnegie Deli across the street.  Somehow, in the dazzle of my parking, we’d failed to notice a New York landmark within yards of the car. We hauled over, heaved in and had a breakfast that couldn’t be beat.  BGFE was especially charmed to find herself dining across from a signed photo of Andy Garcia. This is a person whom I pray she’ll never meet. ‘Cause, if she did, it’d surely be a case of “See you later suckers!” and Beth would be off, leaving me only a final view of the soles of her feet as she tears off down the sidewalk toward her one true love.
Exit BGFE, Enter WGFE,   . . . alright maybe 2nd or 3rd WGFE – even with that exit, she would have some serious competition.

Pastrami and Eggs - The Breakfast of Champions

 

Anyway, now sated and the streets relatively clear, we headed off toward the ship. From the car I phoned the person whom I’d been instructed to contact in order to arrange the off-loading of the wine.  The contact told me that he didn’t know who I was or what I was talking about.
So I explained.
He then re-explained that he didn’t know who I was or what I was talking about.  – With this a hot, panicky bile began to rise in my throat.
Fortunately, before I choked, we arrived at our passenger drop-off point and the passenger drop-off attendants took the nine cases of wine in stride and ushered us to a spot where we received direct attention from the folks of Holland America. We got on – and so did the wine. 

Once aboard, Beth and I abandoned our wine related duties and set out to explore the ship.  We kept stumbling across fellow Roanokers along for the wine trip and were relieved to note that their faces showed more pleasure than disappointment.
Still moored to the pier, we began to feel uneasy as several hours passed with no luggage or wine appearing in our stateroom.  Finally, the luggage showed up but without the wine. I phoned my second contact, the ship’s Beverage Manager – a man with the unlikely moniker of Simon Jam.
Simon had a voice that was thick and slow and precise, like a butler who barely tolerates the antics of his employer. Simon oozed that he had my wine in his office and asked if I could come up to meet him there.  I felt a bit like it was the Principal requesting my presence and I began to examine my conscience for things I might have done, however inadvertent, that might have caused offense.
“Sure.” I said. “I can come right now.”
There was a sigh on the other end of the line.
“Why don’t you wait until 4 o’clock?” he responded distractedly.  He was obviously a man who didn’t care to suffer trifles.  “I have some questions to ask you.”
I half expected him to caution me to not leave town.

I collected my wine co-guide Melinda and we showed up at Simon’s office promptly at four. We were waved in as he looked up from behind his desk.  He was slight, tightly groomed and thin lipped.  He wore an officer’s uniform and, as I approached, he smiled weakly and offered his hand. I could tell that neither gesture came naturally to him. “Mr. Jam?” I said, trying to show him respect and pronouncing the name as my English interpretation would indicate.
“It’s ‘YAH-MM.’ he said, correcting my pronunciation with obvious pain. “I’m Dutch. Please call me Simon.”
This was not starting well. I introduced Melinda.
“I believe that this is yours.” said Simon, gesturing vaguely at the cases of our wine that were stacked in his office.
“Yes, they are.” I said.
“You are having a luncheon tomorrow? Yes?”
“Yes, we are.” I answered.
“Do you have a menu?” Simon asked. “Neither the chef nor I have seen a menu.”
“Yes, we do.” I told him, more than a little disconcerted as the menu had been e-mailed to me from Holland America via the travel agent.
“I have a copy in my stateroom.” Melinda offered.  “I can go down and get it.”
“Perhaps you’d better.” said Simon, humorlessly.
Melinda disappeared in search of the menu.
I waited quietly while Simon returned his attention to the pressing matters of his position.  The phone on his desk rang and Simon snapped up the receiver. He unenthusiastically thanked the party for returning his call and then began to berate them for not mentioning a wine tasting function (unrelated to ours) in the intercom announcements that had run a few moments before. He was incredulous that his wine tasting, which was among the most important events aboard, had completely missed mention. The call was brief and terse.  When he hung the phone up, he looked at me.
“That was the ship’s Program Director,” he said chafing at the stunning incompetence of it all, “and because she doesn’t mention the wine tasting only 70 of the 120 people who signed up will actually show up.”
“Oh.” I said thoughtfully, studying the tops of my shoes.
Suddenly and without warning, his face unclouded and he teetered on congenial.
“Maybe she’ll make another announcement.” he said without conviction. “Anyway.  You can leave your wine here and get it whenever it’s necessary.  The door is always unlocked.”
Melinda returned and handed him a copy of the menu we’d been e-mailed. He scanned it and shrugged. “OK” he said. “Are you happy with the scheduled time of your events?”
“Well,” I answered, “we had to cancel one event because the time was bad.  Can we reschedule that?
“Of course.” he said. “When would be convenient?”
– and so it went. I don’t know why Simon was, at first, so cool and taciturn but, in the end, he was gracious and helpful and we had our wine cared for and our event re-scheduled.

A good time being had by all.

Our events went swimmingly, if you’ll excuse a semi-nautical term.  We poured twelve different wines, most provided by one of our benefactors, Roanoke Valley Wine Company and the rest provided by Wine Gourmet.  The biggest hits? I think, by people’s reactions, the rich and powerful St. Innocent Momtazi Pinot Noir and the graceful and peppery Stadt Krems Gruner Veltliner.
We made our way to paradise, swam in impossibly clear water and chased tropical fish. We ate wonderfully and the consensus seemed to be that the Bermuda Fish Chowder alone was worth the trip. (I found a recipe which seems to accurately represent the dish we had.  It follows below.) Personally I suffered a hangover, sun-burned feet (one tasting was conducted with me in bare feet) and the loss, to the wind, of my favorite ball cap.  Like Luca Brazzi, my hat sleeps with the fishes.
I can safely say that, for many of us, the return home was a matter of reluctance.
Stay tuned for an announcement of Wine Gourmet’s next foray.
You’re all invited.   Honest.

Bermuda Fish Chowder

Be sure to serve this chowder with bread, otherwise your guests will be licking their bowls. Unseemly that.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 leek (white and pale green parts only), chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups fish stock or bottled clam juice
5 cups water
2 1/4 lb mixed white fish fillets such as cod, grouper, tilefish, and snapper, skin and bones removed
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole allspice, tied in a cheesecloth bag
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
3 tablespoons cornstarch stirred together with 3 tablespoons water
12 small hard-shell clams such as littlenecks, scrubbed
1 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 to 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup (or to taste) dark rum, such as Bermuda’s own Gosling’s Black Seal
2 tablespoons Sherry pepper sauce (This may be hard to find as it is a Bermudian condiment.)
Cook onion, bell pepper, leek, carrots, celery, chopped tomato, and garlic in butter in a 6-quart wide heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in stock and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer briskly, uncovered, 20 minutes.
Stir in fish, tomato paste, bay leaf, cheesecloth bag of allspice, thyme, hot pepper sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 20 minutes (fish will break up), then re-stir the cornstarch mixture and stir into chowder. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
Stir in clams, shrimp, Worcestershire sauce, and rum and gently simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let chowder stand, covered, 1 hour.
Gently return to a simmer and stir in Sherry pepper sauce.

One Foodie Couple’s Journey Through Spain – Part I

Adam Z. Markham

I recently read an opinion by the editor of Bon Appetit magazine that one of the primary reasons people travel is for food.  I know in our case it is.  When my wife, Kendall and I decided to honeymoon in Spain, food was definitely one of our motivating factors.

Ah, Spain.   A better decision we could not have made.  If you have not personally travelled to Spain, I cannot begin to encourage you strongly enough, especially if you are a foodie.  Over the next month or so I will publish several installments detailing some of the more spectacular aspects of our journey.  What better place to begin than in our first stop, Madrid, with an homage to my well-known predilection for all-things-pig!

Museo del Jamon!

Museo del Jamon!

The pork, MY GOD, the pork in Spain!  Most of the Spanish must eat pork three meals a day.  The sheer quality and quantity of pork product the two of us ate in the first 36 hours alone is unimaginable to mere mortals.  Suffice it to say, we went to the ¨Museo del Jamon¨.  Yes, you read that right folks… the Museum of Ham.  The Museo del Jamon is actually less a museum and more a food store/restaurant.  Kendall and I made a conscious decision to make it our first official meal in Spain.  We simply ordered up a sampler platter of Iberico hams and sausage products along with a bowl of olives, some beautiful Manchego cheese and a loaf of nice, crusty bread.  Perfect in its simplicity and accompanied by dos grande cervezas, this was, I swear, one of the greatest meals of our lives!

That first evening we went out for tapas.  A simple salad made of canned tuna and tomatoes was a delight (Spanish canned seafood products bear no resemblance to their American equivalents and are, in fact, often even better than fresh).  Our second course was a glazed pork chop accompanied by French Fries.

"The Best Pork Chop EVER"

The description may not sound so exciting but the dish itself led Kendall to exclaim “this may be the best pork I have ever put in my mouth!”  We had a pitcher of fantastic sangria with our meal.  Sangria in Spain seems to be a much simpler affair than it does in the States and makes me want to rethink my recipe no matter how good it might be.

Caviar & Vodka!

Our second day on the ground we went to Mercado de San Miguel, one of the largest and most notable food markets in Espana.  We stayed for over three hours and enjoyed exquisite Spanish sturgeon caviar (we had a small sample of the relatively inexpensive $70 per ounce kind since the Russian Beluga ranged up to $4,000 per pound!) with the finest, smoothest Russian vodka I have ever tasted.  We also sampled grilled octopus and potato skewers and then olives stuffed with pickled sardines and roasted red peppers.  We drank a Taittinger Rose Champagne with strawberries (yes, a French Champagne in Spain – fear not, we had plenty of Cava as well) followed up by fois gras topped with a Valencian orange marmalade.

Sea Urchin, Ostra Gigante and Cerveza

We are adventurous eaters in general and had decided to push ourselves to the limit so we then went to the fishmonger and ordered up fresh, raw sea urchin and ¨gigantic oysters¨ on the half-shell.  Sea urchin.  What can I say?  Honestly, it tasted exactly like the ocean smells (on a good day) and was indeed a bit challenging.  I am not entirely sure we are dying to repeat the experience but I would not trade it for anything.  The oysters, on the other hand, were not in the least bit challenging and were washed down with Spanish Estrella Damm cerveza.

We then moved on to the butcher counter and had a (GET THIS!) $50.00 per pound beef that had the texture of fine silk and was cured in a style similar to Spain´s famous hams.  It was an absolutely sublime experience that you would have to try to believe.  Think chipped beef if chipped beef was one if the greatest red meat products you have ever put in your mouth.  We then proceeded to the queso counter and had a “Minitorta de Oveja”, one of the best, creamiest, funkiest cheeses I have eaten in my life.

Minitorta de Oveja

After an experience like this, what to have for dessert?  How about  ENORMOUS prawns?  I’m talking bigger-than-hot-dog prawns.  The problem was we then realized that we would have to buy about a dozen of the things and honestly didn’t feel up to it after such a bout of conspicuous consumption.  I asked a very nice bartender I had met earlier if a smaller quantity was available.  When the fishmonger turned his head for a moment she surreptitiously grabbed a couple and shoved them at me.  Kendall and I snuck off into a corner to gulp them down but before we could the bartender came running back over with a couple of lemon slices for the squeezing.  Good shrimp.  I’m talking good shrimp.  Our new friend sat watching us happily as we consumed our illicit goodies.  When we were done we literally sucked the fat out of their heads for good measure!  What I would give to have such an experience available to us here in the Roanoke Valley. 

Surreptitious Shrimp

Next Chapter:  Suckling pig at the oldest restaurant on earth!

…Adam

We Drank a Raspberry Beret

Adam Z. Markham

…but decidedly NOT the kind found in a second-hand store.

My wife and I recently had my sister April and brother-in-law Sean to dinner.  The dinner part was easy:  planked Moroccan spice-rubbed salmon (see photo of delighted cook as exhibit #1…) served with wild rice and garlic-sauteed greens.  Dinner always seems to be the easy part.  The difficult part for me seems to be dessert.

Exhibit #1

Planked Salmon!

We tossed around several ideas.  Homemade sorbet?  No, it was not seasonally appropriate. Chocolate mousse? Too much labor. Fruit and cheese platter? It seems sort of underwhelming after such an assertive dinner. Well, how about we just go buy some sort of dessert at Fresh Market? No, it kinda feels like a copout.

“WAITAMINUTEI’VEGOTIT… WINE!”

Villa Appalaccia

Wine.  What more could you ask for in a dessert? We tossed around the idea of port or possibly a sherry but it just didn’t feel unique enough for the occasion.  What we finally decided on was Raspberry Beret from Villa Appalaccia.  If you have never tried this delightful offering from one of Virginia’s premier wineries you are truly missing out. And, if you are convinced that sweet wines or non-grape based offerings are only for unsophisticated plebians then you are denying yourself a truly sublime experience.

Raspberry Beret is obviously a raspberry based wine. With 5% residual sugar it is definitely sweet but it has plenty of fruit and more importantly acidity to create a perfectly balanced dessert wine. With 12% ABV (alcohol by volume) it is also no slouch in the complexity department.

Raspberry Beret

Lest it be wrongly assumed that we had skimped on the dessert portion of the menu we decided to buy a single beautiful bar of dark chocolate – something with a cocoa content of around 75-80% should do nicely, thank you very much. We just broke the chocolate bar open at the table and passed it around like a cheap jug-o-hooch at a fraternity party.  Let me tell you, Raspberry Beret is dark chocolate’s best friend.

You can usually find Raspberry Beret at Wine Gourmet along with lots of other dessert wine offerings.  It sells for $19.99 for a half bottle (375ml) and is guaranteed to provide plenty of wow factor at your next dinner gathering!

…Adam

 

Clubbing It

Adam Z. Markham

Are you a wine “newby” seeking out ways to learn a bit more about wine and its many nuances?  Or perhaps you are an experienced wine connoisseur who is simply looking for some new and interesting varietals to add to your repertoire?  Or maybe you are a die-hard “hop-head” with a love for discovering new and exciting beers?  You, my friend, need to check out the Wine/Beer of the Month Clubs at Wine Gourmet!

Wine of the Month Club

The Wine of the Month Club at Wine Gourmet is an absolutely fantastic way to get your feet wet in the big wide world of wine.  It is also a great way for those more experienced in the ways of the grape to learn a few new tricks.  Here’s how it works.

Every month our experienced staff works with our distributor network to pick out a delightful pair of wines specially for you, one white and one red.  The combined cost of the two bottles will not exceed $30.00.  That price, incidentally, includes a discount of $2.00 of per bottle which you will continue to receive on any future purchases you may make [this discount is above and beyond the case (10%) and half-case (5%) discounts you normally receive at Wine Gourmet].  You also receive detailed tasting notes on both wines and an invitation to our annual Wine of the Month party (complete with nifty gift)!  You also will be comfortable with the knowledge that you are getting the opportunity to experience a couple of fantastic wines that have been hand selected for your enjoyment.

This month our Wine of the Month selections were voted “Best of Tasting” at our Wine of the Month party by the Wine of the Month members themselves.  The featured white is the Latitud 34 Torrontes from Bodegas Carelli.  A wonderful Argentine, it has a stunning bouquet and carries plenty of tangerine and peach on the palate.  My wife and I tried a bottle last week and now have several residing in our wine fridge!  Our red offering this month is Domaine Puig-Parahy from the Cotes du Roussillon region of France.  A cuvee of 33% Carignan, 33% Old-Vine Grenache and 33% Syrah, this wine is full of flavors of blackberry and stonefruit while having an underlying quality of herbaceousness.

Connoisseurs Club

Our Connoisseurs Club takes thing to the next level.  The fundamentals are the same but this club specializes in highly allocated, hard-to-find wines that you will find an absolute delight no matter what your level of wine knowledge and sophistication.  With the Connoisseurs Club the ceiling on cost is moved up to $60.00 for both bottles.  The discount per bottle is raised to $5.00, which again is good in perpetuity.

Our CC selections this month are a matching pair from Longboard Winery in Sonoma County.  Produced in very limited quantities, this is a truly phenomenal pair of wines.  The Longboard Chardonnay 2008 is fermented in 90% stainless and only 10% oak which results in a much better balanced wine than many of the Chardonnays coming out of California in recent history.  It is rich with citrus on the palate and only the slightest hint of oak.  Its counterpart is the Longboard Point Break Red Blend.  A blend of 58% Syrah, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec and a smattering of Carignan and Zinfandel, this wine is sure to please!  It is full of red fruit and cherry and has intense raspberry flavors.  With well-balanced tannins, this wine would be delicious match for Cuban-style beef or spiced-up hamburgers.

Beer of the Month Club

Beer lovers rejoice!  Our beer buyer and in-house guru on all-things-beer, Aaron Layman is definitely the man to befriend if you love beer.  Every month Aaron selects 2 stupendous 6-packs for your enjoyment.  The total cost each month will not exceed $25.00 and that includes a $1.00 per 6-pack discount on your selections.  And, like WOM and CC, your discount is also good on any future purchases of these beers and is above and beyond our regular case discount (10%).  We also throw an annual party for our Beer of the Month members!

In summary, no matter what your flight or fancy, Wine Gourmet has a club for you.  Please give us a call or come visit the store to sign up for one (or more) of our clubs.  With great discounts, well thought-out choices and our knowledgable staff by your side you can’t go wrong!

…Adam

Williamsburg Mini-Vacation

Adam Z. Markham

When my wife and I met (and things started progressing nicely) she made it clear to me that one of her absolute priorities in life was vacationing.  Since I feel exactly the same way, I not only didn’t see this as an obstacle to the progression of our relationship, I saw it as a bonus!

Fast-forward to real life.  My wife and I are extremely busy people.  Between my job at Wine Gourmet, my musical engagements, teaching banjo and guitar lessons, Kendall’s job in the Advance Auto corporate office and “home-keeping” duties, both inside and out, it seems we rarely have a stretch of days off at the same time.

A year or so ago we came up with a concept that helps to tide us over between our “real” vacations.  Once a quarter we make sure there is absolutely nothing on our calendars.  Sometimes we use this time to plant our hindquarters resolutely on the sofa and do nothing.  Sometimes, however, we choose to get away for a few days.  This past weekend was just such a time.

Castillo De Fuendejalon

Castillo De Fuendejalon

We left Thursday night for Richmond, where we spent the night with our friend Tracy.  She prepared for us a wonderful meal of spinach lasagna and we opened up a bottle of 2006 Castillo De Fuendejalon, a very nice Spanish wine that is 75% old-vine Grenache and 25% old-vine Tempranillo (and the $10.99 price tag you’ll find on it at Wine Gourmet makes it a bargain as well!).  After dinner, to celebrate Tracy’s new job the three of us shared a bottle of Bitch Bubbly (no, I don’t make these things up…): a fun, slightly sweet rose’ sparkler .

Bitch Bubbly

Bitch Bubbly

First thing Friday morning we joined my daughter Haley, who is a student a VCU, for breakfast at 821 Cafe on Cary Street.  WOW!  We had an amazing experience.  I had a breakfast burrito (which are so often bland, squishy, insipid affairs that appear on menus with far too-great a frequency these days) that was absolutely delightful!  It was stuffed with ham, rosemary potatoes, cheddar and perfectly done black beans.  Kendall had a smoked salmon platter that was astounding.  The salmon was like butta’, I tell you!  Haley (a vegetarian) had a breakfast platter with veggie sausage that actually looked, smelled and (by all reports) tasted like the real thing.

One of the things that impressed me most about 821, however, was the beer selection.  A sign on the fridge intended for employees read “shift drinks – draft or mimosas only – no bottles or cans”.  If one was an employee at 821 this would hardly be an impediment.  The draft selection is fantastic and includes Olde Richmond #4 Brown Ale and Legend Gold Ale (both of which, incidentally, are available at Wine Gourmet).  The draft beers at 821 are $4.00 each and during happy hour are only $3.00.  The best part?  On Thursdays happy hour lasts all day long!

After breakfast Kendall and I drove to Williamsburg where we checked into the Historic Powhatan Resort, a fantastic place that is a steal.  The condo we rented had a full kitchen, master suite with king-sized bed, a second suite with a queen and a pull out sofa in the living room.  I looked on their site and found a room like I described above for $79 per night (although we booked ours through Hotwire and got it even cheaper)!

Christiana Campbell's Tavern

Christiana Campbell's Tavern

That night we dined at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg.  We had a remarkable dinner.  Even though the wine list was not-half-bad we chose to start out with a house drink, the Vodka Kir.  A blend of vodka and Creme De Cassis topped with a splash of lemonade and a couple of blueberries, while not a traditional colonial beverage, it was great.  Our appetizer was the Fried Oyster Salad.  It consisted of huge, perfectly fried oysters nestled in a bed of simply dressed greens accompanied by semi-crispy ham lardons, a spicy “gunpowder” remoulade and a corn relish similar in preparation to chow-chow (northern folks commence to scratch their heads in curiosity…).  It was beautifully executed and the combination of flavors was exquisite.

We followed that up with the Fricassy of Shrimp, Scallops and Lobster.  The seafood was remarkably fresh and was simmered in a light sherry-butter sauce with peas, tomatoes and leeks and served around a mound of brown rice. It was absolutely heaven on a plate! Finally we enjoyed the Grilled Tenderloin of Beef and Salmon.  The salmon was topped by an almond aioli that was delicate and delicious.

As an after dinner drink I ordered the Rummer.  Supposedly one of the most authentic drinks on the menu it was a VERY strong but tasty combination of dark rum, apricot and peach brandies with a fresh lime.

For dessert we had what was honestly one of the best things this confirmed chocolate lover has ever eaten.  A chocolate pie crust was filled with layer of what was essentially a pure chocolate ganache followed by a layer of chocolate mousse and topped with a layer of what must have been a white chocolate mousse.  This dessert was so astounding we walked a couple of miles the next day to have another as our lunch only to discover Ms. Campbell’s establishment is only open for dinner!

The entire experience, while certainly not inexpensive was well worth it.  The dimly lit room was a wonderfully authentic setting and periodic visits by reenactors (including a visit by Ms. Campbell herself) was the icing on the cake.

Saturday morning we slept late and decided to go straight for lunch.  We went to the Cheese Shop located in the Merchant’s Square area of Colonial Williamsburg.  Not only is the food emporium at the Cheese Shop a foodie’s dream, the sandwich counter in the rear was recently listed third on a list of msn.com’s “15 Essential Sandwiches” in America, and it completely lived up to the hype!  In my mind a perfectly composed sandwich is as good as anything you can possibly put in your mouth and these were no exception. They were amazingly well-composed of artisanal ingredients and delicious in their simplicity.

Cheese Shop

Cheese Shop

Downstairs is a fantastic wine cellar that has a cool semi-industrial vibe.  It reminded me a bit of Wine Gourmet in the sense that their goals are “high quality, intriguing uniqueness, and great value”.  Also, their staff was knowledgeable and professional while not being even vaguely pretentious.  All of these are traits we pride ourselves on at Wine Gourmet and it is always a treat to find another store that shares similar values.  Kendall and I decided on a bottle of late-harvest Zinfandel to save for a special occasion.

Afterward we went to the Smithfield Ham Store to satisfy my well-known desire for all-things-pig.  We were fortunate enough to not only sample products of the porcine variety but to also participate in a tasting of Virginia Wines.

Before heading home on Sunday we visited the exhibits at Jamestown Settlement.  Neither Kendall nor I have been there since childhood but we were very impressed.  The experience was thoroughly enjoyable and highly educational… if are in the neighborhood it is a must-see.

If you find yourself in need of a little “vacating” of your own you would be hard pressed to have a more relaxing and spirit-renewing mini-vacation than a trip to Richmond, Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown.  Only three-and-a-half hours or so from Roanoke, it was an easy drive, and it proved to be a quite economical trip as well!

…Adam

The Ultimate Paella!

Adam Z. Markham

In preparation for an upcoming trip to Spain my wife and I had two friends to dinner… Barb and Dave have traveled Spain extensively and we wanted to pick their brains. Deciding to cook paella, I proceeded to look in my cookbook collection for the best version I could find… evidently things were not going to be that simple. I found great and dramatic variation between the recipes.

I then checked out the web. Big mistake. The recipes I found there were even more disparate in opinion! Some folks were purists, insisting on the inclusion of rabbit and the exclusion of seafood. Some cooked on the stove top while others espoused an oven-based method. Some added saffron while others insisted its inclusion was akin to culinary heresy.

What started out as a simple search for a decent recipe ended up (much to the chagrin of my adorable wife) turning into a day-long quest for the perfect paella recipe.

Researching the history of the dish, I discovered it was originally cooked over an open flame often made from grapevines. Grapevines being hard to come by in the wilds of Bedford County, I decided to utilize my trusty Weber gas grill, “Old Smokey”!  Being an enormous fan of all things porcine I decided that the addition of chorizo was not even up for debate… pig simply makes life a better place. Seafood seemed an obvious choice, as did chicken, so I settled on mussels, shrimp and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The most traditional rice for paella seemed to be Bomba, but due to difficulty in sourcing it (as well as a bout of periodically-occurring procrastination) I decided to use Arborio instead.

The end result was shockingly tasty and was proclaimed by our guests to be the “Ultimate Paella” (insert mental image of host grinning like an idiot)!

I strongly recommend sourcing and buying a paellera (the traditional cooking vessel). They are usually sold based on the number of servings they will produce. This recipe was developed using a 6 serving paellera approximately 16″ in diameter that I purchased from Provisions Gourmet in Roanoke. If you don’t happen to have a paellera – and are determined not to own one – you could substitute an oven-safe skillet of similar diameter although I don’t recommend it (hey, I said it was the ultimate paella, I never said anything about easy or quick).

Suggested Wine Pairings: If you are in the mood for white, a nice Albarino such as Salvenal Cosecha 2008 (only $14.99 at Wine Gourmet) would work nicely. For a red wine, try a Spanish Garnacha such as Atteca Old Vines 2008 (an absolute bargain at $17.99!).

Mmmmm..... paella!

Grilled Mixed Paella
Serves 6  VERY hungry people

½ cup good dry white wine – preferably Spanish
1 tsp. saffron threads, crushed
1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, peeled, cut into 1 in. dice – skin reserved
5 large cloves garlic, peeled, minced – skin reserved
½ cup packed fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves, lightly chopped – stems reserved and chopped
1 ½ lb. shrimp – peeled and deveined, lightly sprinkled with sea salt – shells reserved
7 cups good quality low-sodium chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 tbsp. olive oil (preferably Spanish)
8 oz. Spanish chorizo cut into ½ in. chunks
6 boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1 red bell pepper cut into 1 in. dice
1 green bell pepper cut into 1 in. dice
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
½ tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. sweet paprika
2 ¼ cups unwashed Arborio rice
2 to 3 tbsp. demi-glace, depending on strength
10 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
¾ cup fresh peas (frozen is acceptable)
½ cup pitted olives [preferably Spanish (such as Manzanilla) stuffed with anchovies – trust me!]
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
½ lb. mussels – cleaned and debearded
3 large lemons

Preheat grill over medium high heat and cover. Ideally the grill should hover around 350˚.

Prepare all ingredients (mise-en-place) beforehand. Put thyme, sage, and both the sweet and the smoked paprikas into a mortar and pestle and grind until well combined.

Put saffron into white wine to soak.

In a medium saucepan add reserved shrimp shells, onion and garlic skins and parsley stems to chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes. Strain. Keep broth hot but not boiling.

On grill, add olive oil to a paellera (paella pan) for six and heat until shimmering. Add chorizo (do not be tempted to use Mexican chorizo because it is too greasy) and brown all over. Remove. Salt chicken, add to pan and sauté until nicely-browned. Remove. Add onion, peppers and fennel. Lightly salt and sauté 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the herb/paprika mixture to the pan, along with garlic, and continue to stir for another minute.

Add rice to pan and stir until grains are evenly coated with oil and beginning to become translucent. Add the demi-glace, half of the parsley, tomatoes, peas and olives. Stir until demi-glace has melted. Return the chorizo and chicken to the pan.

Stir in the wine/saffron mixture and 4-4 ½ cups of the stock (there should be enough to cover the rice by ½ inch or so). Cook with grill lid open, occasionally stirring gently, until dish is no longer soupy but still contains plenty of liquid, 5-10 minutes. Level out the top of the paella, place rosemary sprig on top and close grill lid. Cook without stirring for 10 minutes at 350˚, checking occasionally to ensure the rice is not burning. More stock may be added as necessary (see note below).

Open grill lid and nestle shrimp into the paella. Insert mussels hinge-side down and close grill lid. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any unopened mussels.

Remove from heat. Scatter remaining parsley and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top and cover with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes. Serve in the paellera at the table with additional cut lemon wedges as garnish.

PLEASE NOTE: Paella is ALL about the rice. The additional ingredients are subject to change and should be considered secondary to the perfect rice. When properly executed, the rice texture should be somewhere between the fluffiness of a pilaf and the creaminess of a risotto, with nice little “crunchy bits” around the bottom and sides of the pan. Remember: the rice will continue to cook as it rests, so to compensate, it should actually be a bit TOO al-dente at the end of cooking phase. If the rice appears to be absorbing all the stock but is not yet sufficiently cooked add a bit more stock. If it appears to be getting done but the rice is still a bit too soupy, open the lid to the grill and turn it up (being careful not to let the paella burn on the bottom).

…Adam

St Pat’s Celebration Fri 3/12 5-8 pm

Get That Leprechaun!

What’s better than a leprechaun running through Roanoke with a pot o’ gold? Check out our new video to see.

Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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