Monday, April 30, 2007

cooking with the aussie

So, Ben says, "let's cook a feed." And the next thing I know, we're off to Whole Foods.

Fuckin' Parpadelle
0.75 Sweet Walla-Walla Onions, chopped
1.0 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
0.5 Shallots, finely chopped
2.0 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1.0 Habenaro, finely chopped
1.0 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2.0 Cans of Tomato Sauce
0.5 Cups of Chicken Stock
1.5 Packages of Fresh Parpadelle Noodles
4.0 Ounces of Sliced Mushrooms, finely chopped
0.25 Pounds of Ground Beef
0.25 Pounds of Ground Lamb
0.25 Pounds of Ground Mild Italian Sausage
0.25 Pounds of Ground Ostrich
3 Tablespoons of Marscapone
0.33 Cups of Parmesan, grated
1.0 Package fresh Mozzarella
1 Cup of Good Red Wine
Generous amounts of Oregano, Salt, Pepper, Dried Red Pepper Flakes and Cayenne Pepper

1. Cook Onion, Green Pepper, Garlic, Shallots and Habenaro on medium-high heat until onions are translucent and everything is generally squishy. Stir occasionally, do not let anything burn.

2. Add half of the chicken stock, the mushrooms, all the spices, and all the various ground meats. Cook on medium-high heat until meat is browned, stirring often. Add chicken stock as needed to prevent burning.

3. Add tomato sauce, red wine, marscapone and mozzarella. Stir. Continue cooking on low heat for 10 minutes or so, until everything gels and a good consistancy has been achieved.

4. While that cooks, boil the Parpadelle noodles for a few minutes. They're fresh (you did get fresh ones, didn't you?) so they'll cook quickly.

5. Strain noodles, combine with meat sauce, eat with bread and good red wine.

We drank the 2004 Fox Creek Shiraz and the 2004 Sablet. They were good.

And if you're wondering what to do with the Mozzarella, you forget to put it in and just throw it in the fridge when you are done eating. This is a vital step.

Friday, April 27, 2007

2004 Wilson Gunn Shiraz

After we sucked every drop of the Ridge Essence from the bottle, we repaired to the wine room to select another. After much debate (and much eyeing of Raph's wine that he still has not managed to get shipped to Chicago) we emerged with the 2004 Wilson Gunn Shiraz, direct to me from McLaren Vale via Garagiste. It cost $17. Tanzer said it had aroma's of fruit, rhubarb and mineral with a "suave floral topnote." I say it smelled like a farm in the fall. That's probably not right either, but it was very distinctive. The taste was less distinctive, but very good. It was smooth, slightly fruity and thick. The wine was very dark, like most Austalians of this variatel. It was a pleasure to drink and hard to beat at that price. I think it even beats Penfold's Bin 128.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

2003 Ridge Zinfandel Essence

I picked up a half bottle of the 2003 Ridge Zinfandel Essence at Whole Foods for $30. It caught my eye as I was wasting time at the deli counter waiting for the man to slice my corned beef. (They have awesome corned beef.) It interested me because it was 100% Zinfandel. All their other zins are mostly zin, with small percentages of other varietals thrown in. So I figured this must be their best grapes.

What I did not realize until later was that it was also very sweet. A late harvest zin. Basically a dessert wine. It wasn't like Port, but it was definitely headed in that direction. So I had it with a piece of cake that Sara had made earlier in the day.

The wine was awesome. It is good that it comes in half bottles, because of the sweetness. We set out to drink, not to have an after-dinner dessert sip.

The wine itself, beyond the sugary goodness, was incredibly new world and full of fruit. That's about it. Ben liked it, and he usually doesn't go in for California wines.

Monday, April 23, 2007

2003 Rubicon Cask Cabernet

Using only fruit grown on their Rutherford estate, the Neibaum-Coppola folks have thrown together a great wine. Quite tannic at first, but once open it mellowed nicely without a long decanting period. The wine was New World but classy. No ridiculous amount of fruit. It is aged in American oak, but the oak in the wine is not overdone--indeed it was hardly noticeable.

((I feel a digression coming on, so new paragraph.)

Personally I love oaky wines. I like it when you can really taste it. I like American oak over French oak. I like Missouri oak the best. I understand this is a controversial view point. Some people think wine should taste like grapes and not furniture. Others point out over-oaking is a signal that something else is wrong and oak is being used to cover it up. I am okay with that... I like what I like.)

The point is, this wine isn't over-oaked. It was a bit ashy, and had just a hint of vanilla. Just a tiny little hidden drop. You can taste it if you work hard enough. And that was my real problem with this wine. It just wasn't enough going on. Smooth, easy drinking wines can be had for much less than the $62 this bottle cost. I was promised this wine would blow everyone away, but for the price I'd rather be drinking the PlumpJack merlot.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

how to study wine

According to the New York Times if you want to learn about wine the best way to do it is to do it at home. There suggestions are quite useful:
  • Find a good wine shop and a salesman you trust.
  • Find another wine shop.
  • Buy a mixed case from both.
  • Drink it with food.
  • Take notes. Like, start a wine blog, perhaps? :)
  • Buy more of what you like.

Seems pretty good to me. I think I'll be taking a class though.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

2004 Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel

What can I say? When it rains it pours. I just can't get enough of Ridge. Our Morton's expedition offered another chance to get some Ridge Zin. They Geyserville was like (Lytton Springs)++. It was richer and had a tiny hint of vanilla in the finish (at least when paired with the steak). Retail on this wine should be less than $35. It's opulent.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Last night was guys night out at Morton's in Seattle. I had never been to Morton's but I had always heard good things. Five out of seven of us ordered the Chicago-style bone-in ribeye, which was excellent. It wasn't the best steak I've ever had. It was flavorful and cooked exactly as I ordered it, but I don't think I would get it again. Next time I'll probably go for the fillet. I think I still like Daniel's Broiler better for steaks (there was contention about this topic among the seven). But one cannot consider just the food when evaluating a restaurant.

What made the night great was the service. Our waitress was outstanding. She knew the wine list back and forward. At Morton's they bring the meat cart with your options before you order. She brought out the meat cart with a live lobster and told us all about it and how it would be cooked. Then she let me take a close up look and handle it. She didn't even bother telling us about the seafood options--she knew that wasn't what we came for. The whole time she was taking care of us she joked with us and took part in our conversation. The other members of the staff were equally attentive, keeping drinks filled and the table clean. At one point someone dropped a fork and the chef sent a member of the kitchen staff running to replace it (but Kevin was too fast for him and grabbed a replacement off a nearby table).

Other food: the pre-dinner bread is awesome, the lobster bisque is okay (great lobster, okay bisque), the chocolate souffle is incredible.

After desert a man appeared with a tray of glasses and bottles. He informed us the waitress had so much fun with us she was buying us all an after-dinner drink. We had our choice of Bailey's, Port, Cognac or Sambuca. And they did not skimp on the pours at all.

I'm glad I went. I was a bit jealous of Ben's experience at Tosoni's, and I think this makes up for it. I'll post about the wines we had in separate posts.

Friday, April 6, 2007

2005 Portteus Zin (redux)

A few months ago I blogged about the Portteus Zin. That post was in April but I actually drank it months before that (yes; I was padding out the blog a bit). Well, yesterday I brought a bottle of the same in to work to share with my coworkers. The wine has really settled down after sitting in the bottle for a year. The mineral taste and pepper was still there, but much more mellow. The wine was still very smooth with no hints of alcohol burn. I think I'll make a habit of letting it sit much longer before opening it. Ahh... the rewards of patience.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

2005 Le Quatre Filles Cote du Rhone Villages Rochegude

Another Garagiste acquisition. This wine cost $12. I bought three or four based solely on the description which I will quote here: "This is a gritty, tannic, deep and true old-style Rhone wine with an unprecedented balance and charm from the 2005 vintage." How could you pass on that?

We uncorked the wine and let it warm up to room temperature. Once it had been unleashed it was like a bad house guest. It was like someone had kicked dirt in my face. It is dark and earthy. It was a great wine, and one I would go back for even if the price doubled. But this is no casual drinker. This is the sort of wine you need to drink with food. Or a wine you need to drink after drinking some other bottle of wine. Maybe it will settle down with age--it should age well for a while given its current feistiness.

I love it when French wines come through.

Monday, April 2, 2007

2004 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel

Sara and I went to Restaurant Zoe for dinner on Saturday. Their food is some of the best I've had in the Seattle area, and I highly recommend it. The seared crispy skin chicken breast was the moistest chicken I've ever tasted; the wild boar bolognese is just awesome for being both a fairly exotic (by American standards) meat and really tasty in with the fresh arugula-based noodles. Their risotto is no slouch either.

They also have a great wine list.

Their list contains many of my favorite wineries (I first tasted Dellile here). However, neither of us felt like drinking an entire bottle of wine (or paying for it) so we ordered a half bottle of the 2004 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel. I had just been discussing Ridge with a coworker on Friday, so it had been rattling around in the back of my head. My former roommate had a membership to Ridge's wine club and I was always excited when that box arrived.

Ridge does Zin. They PWN California Zin. Ridge is the Gold Standard by which I am compelled to measure American Zinfandels. The Lytton Springs Zin is one of their cheaper wines, typically selling in the $20 range (or $42 for a half-bottle at a fancy-schmancy downtown restaurant). The wine is a deep, dark purple (almost black in the mood lighting). It's got a great loamy-earthy taste and full of blackberries and other dark fruit. You can drink it with pizza (which a quick web search confirms many people seem to be doing) or you can drink it with wild boar and chicken. Or you can just drink it. Upon the first taste, Sara was exclaimed something--and I forget the exact wording--but it was basically excitement about all the things going on with this wine.

But some. Let it sit for a few years. Then drink it. I know after this little reminder, I'll be stocking up on some of their wines.