Sunday, September 25, 2011

First Fall Meal

In honor of the first day of autumn I made baked acorn squash stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, cannellini beans, tomatoes, and turkey sausage, followed of course by a homemade salted caramel apple crisp. Happy Fall!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fireside Chats

Fireplace restaurant in Washington Square hosts "Fireside Chats" tastings twice monthly, in which diners taste samples of local wines, micro-brewed beers, spirits, and seasonal fare. Each chat is themed, with a chat dedicated to chardonnays, a day for pinot noirs, one for red wine blends, to single malt Scotch and cognac; one chat is called "Glorious New England Cheese Paired With Great American Wine." The emphasis is on celebrating domestic products and especially local vineyards and brewers, and educating the diners as they taste the selection: vintners, aficionados and master brewers take diners through the menu with amusing anecdotes and interesting insights - in my experience, our vintner was friendly and the atmosphere relaxed and jovial, thus allowing us to learn about wine in a remarkably unpretentious way.

September's Fireside Chat was "Riesling, Gewürtztraminer, and Viogner", featuring a selection of domestic wines from local vineyards and the west coast, from California, Oregon and Washington State. Having had mostly German Rieslings up to this point, I was really impressed by the quality of these American wines, and really enjoyed the tasting experience. I learned that the Massachusetts climate is in fact hospitable to producing decent Riesling - 2009 Westport Rivers is fruity and almost buttery, it's so good.

Wines came paired with courses in a light fall tasting menu that accentuated the wines' attributes. We began with lighter varieties accompanied by an arugula salad with Asian pear, gorgonzola, and dried plum; the spicy arugula was a nice contrast to the wines' sweetness while the pear picked up on the fruity notes and brought out their flavor. Next we had grilled chicken over sauteed spinach topped with a citrus salsa; again the tart pineapple and mellow papaya of the salsa played off the wine undernotes, while cutting through the dry Riesling Trefethen from Napa (which seemed a desert in your mouth after the "Naked" Gewürtztraminer.) One could argue that the salsa was almost "too wet" over the moist chicken with the fruity wines, but who would say that ...? For our dessert course we had a warm peach crumble paired of course with dessert wine-like varieties, sampling a Truchard with floral notes reminiscent of rose - each course was really well matched and helped us to appreciate the wines that much more.

Of course after all my new oenology in the end I realized that I still prefer the sweeter Rieslings (I could break from this female preferance stereotype but they're just so delicious ... I'm not ashamed) and am reassured that our "house wine" Riesling Kungfu Girl from Washington State is a nice choice.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Quick Fix Tips

Here are some great "quick fixes" I've picked up in the kitchen:
  • For pasta leftovers: when pasta's been sitting in the fridge for a few days getting that dry, old pasta consistency, reheat in a pot with a splash of milk, simmer on low, and within ten minutes you have homemade mac 'n cheese. (Note: this works for plain pasta or that was dressed with cheese and oil/butter - if the pasta had tomato sauce then add a splash of water or the liquid from drained diced tomatoes, and simmer.)
  • For mushrooms as an entree: to give mushrooms a "meaty" consistency, saute large slices with oil and garlic and earthy thyme or sage, and finish with a splash of Worcestershire sauce and even A1 steak sauce, and drizzle with balsamic.
  • For grilled fish: drizzle maple syrup or agave and sear on high heat, and you'll get a delicious caramelized crust. Sprinkle with hot pepper and you'll get a punch of spicy and sweet flavor!