Monthly Archives: August 2009

This tops the worm

Midway through our trip, we rolled through a town called Puigcerdà (pooh-chair-DAH) in the Pyrenees in northern Spain.  For dinner, we tried Restaurante Asiàtico – yup, Chinese food.  Why?  2 reasons – it’s fun to see how the cuisine compares in different countries and we needed a brief respite from tapas.  Fear not – the menu still had items with fun titles like “crispy noodles with three deliciousness”, but the real kicker came at the end of the meal.

The server brought 2 bottles of booze and 4 shot glasses to our table.  I didn’t see this happening at the other tables, so I thought she may have been trying to make up for the fact that right when we sat down she dropped the encyclopedic menu on my water glass, scattering shards of glass everywhere.  Thinking back on it now, however, it seems she may have been having a chuckle at the expense of some turisticos, because while one bottle was plum wine, the other was this:

Not one dead lizard, but two

Not one dead lizard, but two

These lizards were wide-eyed, scaly and decomposed, but for the sake of this blog, I forced myself to take a sip.  It could have been the power of suggestion, but it tasted faintly of how formaldehyde smells.  The worst part was that it didn’t taste nearly strong enough.  I was expecting a full-on throat-burner, but no such luck.  It should also be noted that the 2 shot glasses she gave to the ladies at the table had pictures of men at the bottom and when full of liquid, these men became naked.

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Chat with Savory Cities

Given the publishing date of this interview, I´m a little behind, but I think you´ll enjoy it.  Click here to read a conversation with Dave Arnold, Laren Spirer and me about cocktails, red hot pokers and more.

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Thirsty got hitched

Really,we eloped to Aruba last summer , but this past weekend we threw a party for our friends and family with our good buddies at Finger Lakes Distilling.  Just for fun (and as a surprise for everyone), we had FLD’s master distiller get ordained on the internet and we did a three-minute ceremony during the party. 

Thomas hammed it up for us – he donned his overalls, a plaid shirt and a straw hat and took the stage with his southern Alabama drawl .  He even offered to get out his shotgun, but I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. 

We had cups customized for the event that said “Alexis and Noah got married and all I got was this lousy cup” and we served a lavender basil lemonade (enhanced by the spirits of FLD), Gruet, Domaine Houchart Blanc and Rosé, Gilles Ferran Côtes du Rhône and kegs of Michelob Light. 

We’re off to Spain for two weeks with some friends for our “honeymoon”, so I’ll post when I can.  I hope you’ll keep tuning in and I’ll fill you in on all the Cava and vino!

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About.com came to class

Alison Wellner attended last month’s Wine Uncorked class and wrote a review for About.com: Culinary Travel.  Here’s my favorite part of her description, “This is a great class for people who pretend that they know more about wine than they actually do, and are able to get away with it.” 

Tsk, tsk if this describes you.  We have more classes starting in September and October if you’d like to back up your swagger with some facts.

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Pucker up!

Limoncello

sure beats a lousy t-shirt

My niece traveled around Europe this summer and all I got was…a thoughtful gift of limoncello. 

Most of this Italian lemon liqueur is produced in Southern Italy, but my gift was produced at the Cavalin Distillery, in the heart of the Veneto region.  The Sorrento lemon is often used, but the varieties vary by region. 

The ingredients are pretty simple – lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar.  It tends to be bright yellow, bordering on fluorescent.  No lemon juice is used, so it’s fairly sweet.  I came across a recipe to make it at home from Giada De Laurentiis, but the process she recommends won’t extract a lot of flavor from the rinds.  Most vodkas on the market are around 80 proof and you really need to start with alcohol in the 90s to extract all the oils.   Yes, I realize vodka is easier to come by than moonshine, but your choice of base alcohol will impact the final flavor of your product. 

I recently met Lisa Averbuch, founder of Loft Organic Liqueurs.  She liked limoncello so much, she started a whole line of liqueurs made in the same way.  She produces fun flavors like Spicy Ginger Cello, Lavender Cello and Lemongrass Cello.  She purchases her alcohol at a very high proof and through the addition of various flavoring ingredients, gets all of her liqueurs down to 25% abv. 

Her products, just like limoncello, can be used as an aperitif, as a digestive or as a fun mixer in cocktails.

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Wines of Summer, Part II

Last time we focused on wines that started with the letter V.  This time, we’ll explore a few summer-sipping gems from Spain.

Instead of reaching for the old stand-by Sauvignon Blanc, try an Albariño (ahl-bah-REEN-yoh).  This varietal predominately hails from Rías Baixas (Ree-as buy-shus), Galician for low estuaries or low inlets (though you can find some grown in California, Oregon and Australia).  The region’s proximity to the Atlantic yields a cool, rainy and windy climate. 

See Rías Baixas in the upper left corner?
See Rías Baixas in the upper left corner?

The vines of Albariño are trained high off the ground to ensure enough wind passes through to prevent rot or mildew or other fungal diseases from developing.  Thirsty yet? 

Luckily, the thick skins of the grapes also help protect them from all this as well as contribute to the alcohol, acidity and flavor in the resulting wine. 

These grapes tend to produce highly aromatic wine – look for almonds, apples, peaches, citrus, flowers and grass.  

The razor sharp acidity of Albariño makes it refreshing in the heat of the summer as well as a natural partner to seafood (don’t forget its coastal home!).   
 
I like the 2007 by Pedralonga (Rías Baixas) – it’s full-bodied with lots of grapefruit, honeysuckle and minerality.  This winery has been practicing biodynamic farming practices since 1991 and attritubes their tasty wine to the quality of their soil.
Next up is Godello (go-day-oh), which can be found in Valdeorras, just east of Rías Baixas.  Also planted in Portugal (called Gouveio there), this varietal is a food-friendly alternative to Chardonnay. 

It’s fuller-bodied than Albariño and often has a touch of oak or some aging over the lees (dead yeast cells), which can also contribute to a creamy mouthfeel. Look for apples, peaches, some tropical fruits and with some bottle aging, anise notes. 

I like the 2006 Bodega Ladera Sagrada, Castelo do Papa (Valdeorras)- herbal and expressive, this wine’s also a bargain – most stores carry it for around $12.  Another to try is the 2006 Rafael Palacios, As Sortes (Valdeorras) – more expensive, but more Burgundian in style. 

Last but not least is a varietal called Hondarribi Zuri, which accounts for 85% of the production of Txakoli (Chacolí in Castilian).  We’ve now moved to Basque country and this wine shares some similarities with Portugal’s Vinho Verde – it’s usually sold young, it often has a touch of frizzante and it tends to be low in alcohol. 

Look for freshness, citrus and minerality.  Here are two producers to try – Txomin Etxaniz from the Getariako region of Txakoli and Itsas Mendi from the Bizkaiko appellation. 

They tend to be pricier than Vinho Verde – usually in the $20 range – but worth the few extra bucks to get you out of your wine-drinking rut.

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Get spritzed, take two

A few months back I shared my love of Aperol.  I have an update on my Spritz cocktail.  Just when I thought the drink couldn’t get any tastier, I subbed San Pellegrino’s Aranciata (are-un-CHOT-uh) for regular old orange juice.

P1000638

My tasty Italian trio

The proportions remain the same – 2 oz. Aperol, 2 oz. Moscato d’Asti, 1 oz. Aranciata – and so does the process – mix all ingredients together, shake with ice, strain and serve over ice in a rocks glass.  The original calls to be topped with club soda, but I hated to dilute this drink.  I tried a few itierations (in the name of blogging) and preferred either no topping off or a small bit of Aranciata on top.  I attempted an orange wheel garnish but my orange was too big and it looked ridiculous.

P1000641It tastes like a creamsicle!  In addition to being very refreshing, it’s great for a hot afternoon because it’s low in alcohol – Aperol is 11% abv and the Moscato d’Asti I used clocks in at 5.5% abv.

The additional carbonation from the Aranciata also helps to make this drink light on its feet.  Drinks with bubbles are usually more fun.

Aranciata only contains 18% orange juice, so this version is a bit less sweet, too. 

Salute!

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