Sprawl contributes to obesity

It's kind of a no-brainer:

U.S. children who live in expansive suburbs may start to pay for it with expansive waistlines, new research suggests.

Using data from a national health survey, researchers found that teenagers living in sprawling suburbs were more than twice as likely to be overweight as teens in more compact urban areas.

The findings echo those of a 2003 study by the same researchers that focused on U.S. adults. The researchers believe the same factors may be driving the link between suburban living and teenagers' weight -- the major one being reliance on cars. more...

In urban or truly rural areas, exercise often is part of people's everyday lives. They exercise walking to the store, up and down stairs, or, in the case of rural residents, down to the back 40 to check on the cows. Next time you're heading out, think about whether or not you can walk or take a bike. If you do, you might work off enough to have an extra serving of fried Coke.


Lazy Sunday

One of the best-kept secrets among cooks is that there is no such thing as a bad cut of meat. The French, especially, have a long tradition of taking the cheap, the cast-off, what others believed was inedible or beneath them, and creating magnificent, succulent dishes that many now consider delicacies. The secret is time.

Take a cheap, tough piece of meat, cook it long enough, and you'll end up with tender, delicious food that will have you returning for seconds, if not thirds. And there's no better time to go low and slow than Sunday afternoon.

Beer Braised Ribs

The dry:

  • Begin with about three pounds of Chuck flanken style ribs (whether or not that's a real cut of meat is up for debate; I'm just quoting the package), well seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Three to five cloves of garlic, crushed and peeled
  • About four thin slices of fresh ginger--1/8th an inch by about 3/4 of an inch

The wet:

  • Three tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Three tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 12 oz brown ale (I used a large, single-serving pint of Newcastle Brown Ale for my recipe, which worked out great because I was able to drink the remainder)
  • 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce (not too sweet!)

What you do:

  1. Place the oil in a heavy stew pot and heat to medium-high
  2. Brown the beef in the bottom of the pot, between 1 - 2 minutes per side
    • DON'T overload the bottom of the pot. Work in batches; It will prevent the heat from dropping too drastically.
      As the meat is browned, move it off to a bowl on the side.
  3. Toss in the garlic and ginger and give it a vigorous stir
  4. Add several splashes of the ale to de-glaze the pot's bottom
  5. Return the meat to the pot and pour in enough of the ale to just cover the beef
  6. Add the rice wine vinegar (for brightness), give everything a good stir and lower the heat to a simmer.
  7. Cover and let stand for approximately 1 hour--you don't have to stir, touch, mess with, enhance, or any way do anything with the meat except enjoy the aroma as it fills your house and watch the game on television.
  8. After an hour, begin preheating your oven to 350 degrees
  9. After another 30 minutes, remove the pot from the stovetop, stir in the barbecue sauce and place the pot into the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes

Serve with mashed or roasted potatoes and a good, bright tasting vegetable, like peas or green beans. Makes two heaping servings with enough left over for a couple delicious midnight snacks.

Depending on the amount of barbecue flavor you end up with, you might want to pair the dish with a good hoppy Ale. However, if you go the wine route, any well-structured wine with fine tannins will be able to take the succulent gelatin that coats the ribs when they're served.

For this dish, I went with a 2004, Nine Stones Barossa Shiraz. This luscious, smoky wine has aromas of candied fruit and chocolate with berry overtones that hinted to the black. The wine exhibits definite fruit across the palate, but has tannins and body enough so as not be overwhelming. The finish is long and delicate, leaving traces of mocha and berry. Definitely delicious and a wine that might just be worth cellaring.


French wine too complicated?

The French seem to think so:

Forget about things improving with age. Some officials here are saying French wine needs to be made more appealing to their not-so-vintage countrymen.

Lawmakers said Wednesday that young people in France need better education on the tradition of wine-drinking, according to a report aimed at getting the country's storied but struggling wine industry back on track. more...


James Kim found deceased

I remember watching James' segments on TechTV years ago. I remember his camera reviews often featured pictures of himself with his children. He seemed like a kind and good person, and he clearly loved his family deeply. This is very sad news, but I hope his family and friends can take comfort in his courage and the good memories of James they must have. My thoughts are with them.


Quick tasting notes

The holidays are upon us, and I'll write up some afterthoughts on Thanksgiving wine pairings soon (as an aside, you can't go wrong with a solid Gewürztraminer or, even better, the Beaujolais Nouveaux that supposedly brings good luck for the coming year. It's fruity, light and pairs excellently with the traditional Thanksgiving spread).

To hold you over, I've got some quick tasting notes on a ridiculously inexpensive pinot I picked up at the local wine merchant.

Baron Philippe de Rothschild Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays D'oc, 2005

This wine boasts a lustrous, luminescent ruby color that fades to bright pink at the edges. The color is lively and inviting. The nose is heavy with fruit--cherry, raspberry and a hint of strawberry--and teases with slight savory aromas of sage and other herbs. The wine offers balanced acidity with a supple mouth feel, but blasts the palate with fairly heavy tannins. It could do with a little mellowing in that arena. The finish seemed short as the strong tannins swept clean most lingering flavors.


Food's evolution

KFC describes their new KFC Famous Bowls as "layers of your favorite flavors." In the Potato Bowl, they

"...start with a generous serving of our creamy mashed potatoes, layered with sweet corn and loaded with bite-sized pieces of crispy chicken. Then we drizzle it all with our signature home-style gravy and top it off with a shredded three-cheese blend. It's all your favorite flavors coming together.

Essentially, they've taken a bucket and dropped in mashed potatoes, corn, chicken pieces and cheese scraps and covered it all in gravy. Not long ago, things like this were referred to as table scraps, and we fed them to hogs.

Happy eating!

An autumn pair

A few weeks ago I posted about a wonderful find, the Domaine La Garrigue 2004 Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine, which quickly sold out at my local wine merchant. Its absence had me considering another French wine, the 2004 Cuvee Reservee Vin de Pays Des Coteaux de Bessillies from Domaine Saint Martin de la Garrigue. This garnet red provided a subtle combination of strawberry and plum aromas coupled with a hint of earthiness. The palate was fairly balanced, with good structure and moderate tannins and acidity. The fruit was less noticeable at first, though the wine did open up and could probably do with decanting. The overall mouth feel was lithe and delicate.

I initially paired the wine with a hearty, delicious beef stew my wife had made in small celebration of fall's arrival in Florida:

  • Approx. 2 lbs cubed beef for stew
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 carrots, chunked
  • 1 lb potatoes, cubed
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped* 2 to 3 pounds cubed beef
  • 1 carton low-sodium beef stock
  • Water as needed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Take the ingredients (minus the flour) and place them in a crock pot set for medium-low. Add beef stock, and add water until the ingredients are nearly covered. Let the ingredients cook over medium-low heat for approximately 6 hours. When the cooking time is done, remove the solid ingredients from the stew and slowly stir in the flour to thicken. When the liquid reaches your desired thickness, replace the beef and vegetables and serve with thick-crusted peasant bread.

The wine was a near-perfect pairing, its lithe tannins and subtle acidity providing a nice counter-balance to the stew's hearty flavors. Each bit enabled the wine's flavor to shine, and each sip prepared the palate to fully enjoy the stew's subtle, rich flavors.


Fried coke

Leave it to the fair folks: fried cola. It sounds like Abel Gonzales, the fellow who invented this new treat, used Coca-Cola in his concoction, but I'm sure Pepsi or maybe even RC (Royal Crown) would do. Beyond that, the cook would be getting into value colas, and they never taste quite like they should.

Also, it's not quite as inventive as it first sounds. He didn't fry cola in its liquid form, which is something Ferran Adria just might be working on. No, this denizen of the midway instead fried up solidified Coke syrup mixed with strawberries. I've no doubt it tastes delicious. Pretty much anything covered in cinnamon sugar and whipped cream is going to taste good. The question is, do we need another fried food? Do we need one more sugary snack dumped into 16-ounce Solo cups and served to a population already struggling with weight? I wonder, should you find the fried coke stand, if you can oder one, served atop a thin glaze of chocolate sauce, sprinkled with mint and topped with a dot of whipped cream, all on a pristine white plate? My guess is you'll have three choices: large, jumbo, and 'kill you dead.'


WineSpectator.com is offering complete access to their site for the month of October. You have to give them an email address, but they're not obnoxious with their newslettering.


Jindalee wines: bargains from Australia

Australia is rapidly becoming a go-to source for enjoyable wines at reasonable prices. The flagship, Yellow Tail, has quickly established something of a supermarket empire in the states and is introducing new varietals at a very brisk pace. Simple and straightforward, Yellow Tail's not going to be winning any Paris tastings any time soon, but they do offer drinkable wines at very reasonable prices.

But enough about Yellow Tail.

This weekend marked the introduction of Jindalee wines to my local supermarket, and the winery is obviously pressing hard for market share, offering up a two-bottle special: $9.99

I picked up a chardonnay and a merlot, both 2003.

The Chardonnay is quaffable (quaffable!); I paired it with a slightly sweet mix of scallops and petite peas over a fluffy, three-egg French omelet. The food pairing was perfectly serviceable, but I would have preferred a wine with a bit more acidity and flavor that offered more pop.

The Jinadlee merlot is fruit-forward with aromas of plum and cherry. Deep red in color, the wine brings with it intense flavors of red fruits, including raspberry. There is also an alluring spiciness to the wine and a wonderfully balanced acidity, which made it a wonderful complement to marinated flat-iron steak grilled medium rare and served up with baked potatoes and all the fixin's.

Best-Ever Steak Marinade (from Global Gourmet):

  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients and place in heavy-duty zip-top bag or plastic container with tight fitting lid. Add the steaks and seal the container. Place in the refrigerator and marinate overnight. (If using a plastic bag, turn it often to evenly distribute the marinade.)

While I wouldn't leave the house with the express purpose of picking up Jindalee (and wouldn't buy the Chardonnay again) the merlot exactly filled my expectations. It proved itself a solid, value-priced wine that is easy drinking, approachable and paired well with food.

No complement

I have no idea what to do with these:


Where recipes come from

It's odd, where recipes come from. Imagine the first desperate soul who decided to dunk a lobster into boiling water--at one point the spiny things were plentiful as cockroaches and only eaten by poor fishermen who were busy fishing more profitable catch, like cod or crabs. Imagine, too, the inquisitive soul who decided the coffee bean worked best roasted, then ground, then used to filter hot water, the resulting brew much more palatable than the remaining grounds. And imagine having to eat it all. Many classic recipes (French) come from peasants forced to find ways to stretch their food as far they could. Sweetmeats, brains, livers and hearts--all of them consumed because the people had no other choice, made delicious because even the lowliest among us can be assured a certain dignity provided by delicious food and good company.

Many of us don't have to deal with that anymore. Most of us can pick from a wide variety of ingredients on a daily basis, and our menus don't even hinge on the seasons. For better or worse. Still, sometimes we stumble into a recipe by luck or chance.

Bobby Flay has a show. He has a couple, but the one I stumbled on is "Throwdown," mentioned in the New Yorker article, and a show that totally failed to grab my attention. Still, winter's coming (such that it is in Florida), and the show's subject, chowder, would be a solid shield against the season's coming cold. To make things even better, the challenger served up a chowder made with Bahamian monkfish, perfect since the Bahamas are, like, right there. Practically just up the road. Of course, hearing 'Bahamian monk fish' and obtaining Bahamian monkfish are two entirely different matters--add that to a long, random list of supporting ingredients rattled off at New York speed, and you've got a recipe for a different recipe.

I was able to remember Bahamian monk fish, bell pepper, coconut milk and curry. The curry I had in my fridge. The rest I had to grab from the local supermarket:


  • 1 can coconut milk (13.5 fl oz.)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp. prepared Thai red curry paste
  • 2 big pinches of kosher salt
  • 1/2 medium shallot, diced fine
  • 1/2 large green pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/2 large red pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • @ 1 lb. red snapper fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
  1. Begin by sweating the peppers and shallot in a large, heavy sauce pan.
  2. Add a couple pinches of salt.
  3. Once the shallots have gone a bit translucent, up the heat and add the fish.
  4. Keep the ingredients moving in the bottom of the pan until the fish goes opaque on all sides.
  5. Dump in the coconut milk.
  6. Add the curry paste and stir to combine.
  7. Add the chicken stock and use the remaining salt to season to taste.
  8. Lower the heat and let things come together for about 30 - 40 minutes.
  9. Serve over rice.

The resulting Asian-inspired dish is a delicate combination of spicy and sweet, the snapper and bell pepper providing a perfect counterbalance to whatever heat comes from the curry. For the real monkfish chowder, you've got to throw in monk fish, plantains and potatoes and one very fresh eel.

What to pair it with?
Certainly not a white shiraz. If white zin is your thing (and assuming you're in America, it probably is) then maybe a white shiraz is right up your alley. And if you enjoy sweet, cloying wine with a hobo-pleasing alcohol burn, then the Little Penguin's white shiraz could be just your thing. At $6.99 a bottle, you'll have enough cash left over to spring for the bus ticket so you won't even have to ride the rails. However, if you care a whit about wine and aren't settling next to Guesstimate Jones for a freight ride to Yuma, then maybe you'll want to pair this dish with a crispy, fruity pinot grigio. My favorite happens to come out of Italian winery Ca’ Montini and is wonderfully bright with enough acid to cut through the fish's sweetness and enough fruit to enhance the sauce's peppers and curry spices.



O' vile temptress; O' ruby-colored siren of the vine, how your delectable, succulent promise does call to me from the gla--GAH! What is that smell? This is the scene that played out in my kitchen the other day, and while I tried my best to ignore it, I knew that my Rex Goliath Pinot Noir had fallen prey to 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, the dreaded cork taint.

If you've never encountered it, consider yourself lucky. A corked wine has a musty, woody smell that I liken most to dry-rot on a log. I've read descriptions ranging from wet cardboard to damp basement, but those all fall short. To anyone who has tromped through Florida woods and happened upon a felled log slowly crumbling to wood dust, you know the smell. Organic, musty, and slightly acrid, it completely destroys the wine's natural aromas and eliminates fruit from the palate. Even a slight taint can be disastrous, as this was. The wine was undrinkable.

Corked wine has decreased tremendously over the years; according to industry sources the number of corked bottles is down from one in 12 to as little as one to two percent. From personal experience, I would say that's fairly accurate as this was only the second bottle I've had that could be said to have been tainted. The other was a bottle Spanish wine that had a particularly dry cork that crumbled when I pulled it from the bottle--a huge disappointment.

So what to do? I once heard that tainted wine can sometimes be resurrected if given enough time to breathe. Whoever told me that is a damn dirty liar. Left alone in the glass, the wine didn't change; it didn't mellow or bloom. It remained a musty, dank mockery of my planned Saturday evening. Undaunted, I reached for a new bottle, a Domaine La Garrigue 2004 Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine.

O, temptress. O succulent, ruby-colored siren... Well, you get the picture. Simply put, this wine is brilliant.

The Domaine La Garrigue 2004 Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine, a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% syrah, is deep, dark-ruby in color with hints of purple lightening slightly towards the edges. It had a powerful nose, blending dark fruits such as black plum and a hint of blueberry with licorice and spice. The palate was fruit-forward with hints of cranberry in the tannins and a medium-bodied and supple mouth feel. The finish was fine, long and clean.

This wine would pair marvelously with a number of dishes, being supple enough for seared salmon, yet sturdy enough to stand up to hard cheeses or beef. I paired it with an altered pasta puttanesca (sans anchovies) and it did marvelously, enhancing the flavors and coupling well with the salty, savory dish. An absolutely stunning value, I recommend this wine without hesitation.


A problem with wine

Despite its recent surge in popularity, wine remains out of reach for many people. As much as experts have tried to get wine out there, to make it available, many people still think wine is a subject that requires specialized knowledge and a big fat wallet. And popular wine culture carries much of the blame.

The other day I caught an episode of "Pairings with Andrea." For the uninitiated, "Pairings" is a cooking show in which Andrea Robinson, née Immer, cooks up recipes that pair well with the day's wine selection. And she gushes about her husband. On the episode "First Date," she paired two Pinot Noirs (one old-world, one decidedly new) with recipes she and her husband cooked on their (surprise!) first date:

  • Green Beans with Shallots and Thyme
  • John’s First Date Salmon
  • John’s Mashed Potatoes

All fine and good until the neophyte oenophile happens to catch the French Red Burgundy Chambolle Musigny Amoureuses label in Wine Spectator's Collectibles section--$125 for a wine Robinson is pairing and tasting as casually as someone else might a glass of sparkling mineral water. The Belle Glos Pinot Noir is no slouch, either, at $40 a bottle, but that's at least in the realm of possibility for most of my friends. And $125 for first-date wine? That makes you beholden to something. Not necessarily spend-the-night beholden, but still. And what about the reciprocal? What if you shell out $125 and the object of your intent turns into a raving lunatic? Doesn't bathe? Won't come out of the crawl space? Way too risky. The wine Robinson used is an anniversary wine at best. Maybe a honeymoon wine, if you're both into that sort of thing.

Yes, the Chambolle Musigny Amoureuses stole (then) Immer's heart. Yes, it's probably a fantastic wine. But should we live under the assumption that wine must be expensive to be enjoyed? Must we live in a constant state of Oeno-envy?

Simply put, no.

Just as you don't have to spend $10,000 on some magnetic, skip-proof turntable to enjoy music, you don't have to spend a great deal of money to enjoy good wines. And to prove it, here's a couple wines I stumbled upon this weekend, and the deal of all deals that put them into my hands:

Enter the Albertson's liquor annex, placed next to each Albertson's grocery store, and ever a den of iniquity if there was one. However, they often have a surprising selection of wine, and it's one of the only places in town where I'm assured one of my favorite values, the HRM Rex Goliath Pinot Noir, non-vintage.

The non-vintage means they can assure consistent quality across all batches. Granted, those snooty enough to adhere to the subtleties of vintage an specific appellation will miss those finer points, but at around $11 a bottle, this juicy, silky pinot noir could stand in for bottles twice its price.

So, armed with one bottle I headed for the store's imports section in search of Four Emus.

In the back of the same issue of Wine Spectator that made me realize Fine Living's Pairings might be playing out of my league, I'd spotted a review of Four Emus' Cabernet/Merlot mix. I wasn't lucky enough to find the same varietal, but I did pick up the Four Emus 2004 Shiraz. I had bought it once for a wine-fan friend as part of a continuing campaign of "$10 wines with interesting labels." He enjoyed it then, and he's blessed with a much more sophisticated palate than I, so I figured it was a safe bet.

Armed with two bottles, it was time to leave. At the cash register, the $1.50 off necker was a nice surprise, but when the guy behind the counter asked if I had an Albertson's Preferred Customer Card, I thought my savings were ended.


He swung his bar-code reader like some kind of ray gun, the tiny machine bleeping and blooping as it scanned bar codes printed and pasted across the counter in front of him. "Now you do!" he said, and he handed me several bar-coded tchothkes.

My purchase price plummeted to $14.

Both wines are excellent values, retail, and with the help of--I'll call him Niles--Niles, I was able to pick up two fine wines for the price of one. Plus, I got to meet Bruce: The leader of the gang. Deranged and thoughtful (for the 2 seconds any Emu can hold onto one thought). Bruce is the kind of Emu you would hang out with...if you were an Emu.

Tell you what. Not being an Emu, I still enjoyed hanging out with Bruce, and his slightly spicy, wonderfully balanced shiraz did a fine job enlivening spaghetti drenched with hearty, home-made tomato sauce and served with warm, crunchy garlic bread. And at $7, he was a cheap date, too.


Original "Zin" (or any other lame play on the word)

I love Zinfandel. I love its taste, mouth feel and finish. I love its fruit-forward character, and I love the complex mélange of aromas that spring forth from a freshly poured glass. But more than that, I love that Zinfandel is our grape. For better or worse, it's the grape America has produced, and the bellwether vines are found in California. And next to Pinot Noir, Zinfandel is probably one of the most versatile varietals when it comes to pairing wine with food.

I know, I know. Many people would argue that Zinfandel is too fruity--too big to be paired with foods, that the high alcohol content of the reds makes for difficult consumption while the white zinfandel is...well, it's white zinfandel (though rumor has it white zinfandel is the most popular wine in America).

Alexander Winery's 2004 Temptation Zin is not white Zinfandel. In fact, this bold fruit-bomb is anything but. Still, the wine has enough complexity and enough balance that it should satisfy the more discerning palate.

Color: Deep garnet
Nose: Strawberry, floral aromas of rose petal and just a touch of white chocolate make this an alluring wine.
Taste: Across the palate this wine delivers a slight smokiness coupled with red stone and pit fruits such as plumb and cherry. The mouth feel is silky and belies a surprising complexity.
Finish: The wine's finish is deceptive as I wasn't expecting such a balanced acidity. Not much in the finish by way of lingering flavors, but it definitely leaves a person hankerin' for another sip--or even a second a glass.

Pairing: Michael Chiarello of Easy Entertaining maintains that Zinfandel is the "golden retriever" of wine--it plays well with anything. He might have a point. This zinfandel paired well with home-made fajitas, but also was superb with lemon-infused hummus on toasted pita with capers. It has the fruit necessary to pair with sweeter dishes and the acidity to stand up to all but the heaviest of grilled meat.


Pairing Wine and Music

Alan Baker, the Cellar Rat, has a good post (and podcast) about Uncorked & Unplugged, a wine & music pairing event currently on tour
I’m a music geek, always looking for new music, and I still spend way too much money on CDs. And I totally think that the passion for good wine and the passion for music comes from a similar place inside us. And both can cause you to jabber on for hours with others who may have the same reaction, or as often is the case, those who want to debate the merit of your opinion. *** I have to say that this event got me thinking more about how these two worlds can more easily integrate. Will rock clubs start to build decent wine lists? Can they possible cater to a picky wine crowd that knows at what temperature a wine should be served? Can they keep their help, and maybe more importantly, bands, from walking off with cases of wine? I think as fine wine works it’s way into the margins of our society we’ll see more events like this, and interesting new venues for enjoying wine. I’m all for it, and encourage you to check out these types of events, to see if we can help drive this forward so we have more opportunities to enjoy decent wine in interesting new venues.
If some of the local hipster hangouts are any indication about proper serving temperature, I'll hazard a guess the wine won't be properly chilled. "Room temperature" means something very different behind the bar in your local hangout than it does in a French wine cellar. However, I'm glad to see the two worlds beginning to mesh. It will remove some of wine's mystique, but will provide all of us with more and better information about good wines, good values, and (hopefully) good music.


What's in a Gewurz

In our first post, I suggested pairing a Gewürztraminer with pan-seared pork chops, and this week I went ahead and did just that. Except I used thick-cut pork tenderloin and a Dijon béchamel with an accompanying vegetable soup. Delicious? Yes. A good pair with Gewürztraminer? It was ok.

Gewürztraminer is known for its somewhat spicy flavor, which makes it a perfect pairing with many Asian and Indian foods. It is thought to have been first cultivated in the Tramin region of Northern Italy, but the world's most noted Gewurz now come from Alsace. This isn't to say that other locations can't do the grape justice--bottles I've had from Washington State and Oregon have been wonderful, but it does thrive in cooler climates.

For this pairing I went with a 2005 Fetzer Gewürztraminer from Mendocino County, California.

Color: Deep golden straw
Nose: Apricot, slight melon, a touch of honey and florals
Taste: Very rich on the palate--round honey and apricot flavors with a hint of peach and a touch of spice
Finish: Excellent. A rich mouth feel with a finishing crispness that belies the wine's initial sweetness.

The wine paired admirably with the pork. Its fine acidity left my palate clean and ready for the next bite or sip while the wine's spiciness coupled very well with the spice of the Dijon béchamel.

Against the vegetable soup, however, the wine just crumbled. I don't know if it was the hearty stock or the shaved asiago cheese I had picked as an accompaniment, but the wine's delicacy was completely overshadowed. Were I to make this pairing in the future, I would definitely stick with the pork, but would have gone with a different, simpler side, such as fingerling potatoes browned in a skillet with oil, salt and pepper or a fall salad of mixed, dried fruits and nuts.

Pan seared pork with Dijon béchamel

  • Cut pork tenderloin into thick, 1.5 inches pieces
  • Over medium heat, cook for four minutes on a side. Raise the temperature to medium high, and sear an additional two minutes on each side. (the double cooking will give you a good sear and also keep the meat succulent and juicy)


  • In a medium sauce pan, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
  • Combine with .5 tablespoons all-purpose flour -- don't just dump the flour in. Add it in very small increments, whisking the whole time.
  • Stir the butter and flour together until the flour is gone
  • Heat 1 cup milk to room temperature -- I used the microwave
  • Slowly whisk the milk into the butter mixture
  • When it's combined, add 1.5 teaspoons of Dijon mustard (or to taste) And shredded Swiss cheese (to taste and consistency)
  • Pour over the tenderloin and top with chopped green onions



Beware the impluse buy

I'm a demographic. That demographic can best be described as People who were lead into wine in no small part because of the movie Sideways. I'm sure the wine industry appreciates it and anything that lead me to wine should be lauded (depending on who you ask), but it's a little humbling and almost shameful.

I suspect there are a lot of us, though. Enough of us, anyway, to make the name marketable and justify the release of a Sideways-branded Pinot Noir. And I'm enough of an impulse shopper to have placed the bottle in my shopping basket.

Industry leaders say modern winemaking advances means there's no bad wine. I've yet to taste a bad bottle of wine, true, but I would argue that bad is a relative term, and when stacked against other Pinot Noirs of similar price, the Sideways falls flat.

Tasting Notes
Name: Sideways Pinot Noir, 2003
Color: A flat ruby color in the center glass that faded to under-ripe cranberry at the edge.
Nose: Definite fruit aromas, including cherry and blackberry; I also detected a hint of vanilla, a dash of allspice and a slight earthiness.
Taste: Not surprisingly, this Pinot bottled in France was definitely old-world in style--but poorly executed. Nearly green cherry flavor was further undone by an imbalanced minerality and astringent quality. The wine tasted unfinished and under-ripe overall.
Finish: Nothing complex. The wine's acidity scoured my palate and left little flavor behind--probably because the wine came with little flavor to begin with.

So what to pair with this disappointment? Since I'd started barbequing ribs at one in the afternoon, it would have to be ribs.

(I went with a combination approach to the ribs:

  • Take 1 slab of pork ribs
  • Coat liberally with oil, salt and pepper
  • Place in glass casserole and add water until the ribs are just covered
  • Put the ribs in a 210-degree oven for at least an hour. 1.5 would be best
  • Fire up the grill
  • Once the coals are ready, place hardwood chips in aluminum foil, wrap up, and poke holes in the aluminum foil--this will provide the smoke
  • Shove the coals over to one side of the grill, and place the ribs on the other side--we're going for smoking here, not direct cooking.
  • Let the ribs go at least an hour, slathering them with sauce every 20 minutes

Somewhat surprisingly, the Sideways Pinot Noir did well with the ribs, mostly because it's acidity was able to strip away the fat and sauce and left my mouth ready for the next delicious bite. Also, the wine's slight tartness provided a nice contrast to the sweet undercurrents of the sauce.

Stacked against the side dishes, however, the wine was disappointing. Neither beans, nor coleslaw nor garlic bread were uplifted by the wine's taste or mouth feel.

Overall, the Sideways Pinot Noir was a disappointment. Not a bad wine, per se, but not the best, either. And certainly not my first choice at its pricepoint. For raw value in the Pinot Noir world, I'd recommend going with the Rex Goliath Pinot Noir (non-vintage). It's got excellent fruit flavors, a wonderful mouth feel, and couples well with all kinds of food.


About this blog

First posts are always the toughest. Do we jump right in with a legitimate entry? Do we make promises about the blog that may or may not come to fruition? Do we make light and include a picture of perfectly grilled steak coupled with a hearty Cab Sauv? I've decided on none of the above.

About me I'm not a chef, gourmand, foodie, or etc. So you might be asking, "Why should I listen to you?" Well, I'm a guy who enjoys wine, likes to cook, and does a pretty good job pairing one with the other. I tend to stray from recipes and instead use a fundamental understanding of the way food behaves and the way it interacts. I believe that simple, fresh ingredients prepared with minimal fuss will always produce great results.

Any advice to impart right away? Don't be afraid. So many people get so hung up on recipes and following guidelines to the letter that they can't have fun with their food. Don't worry about. If you overcook the chicken or the vegetables end up mushy, there's a pizza place at your fingertips, and if you're willing to go pick it up, they can have it ready in about 15 minutes. And what's wrong with pizza once or twice a week?

Is that it? I suppose I shouldn't leave you with nothing, so how about this: What's a roux and what can it do for me? You make a roux by heating and mixing equal parts butter and flour. I usually go with a 2*2 tablespoon mix. Melt the butter over medium heat. Once it's melted, begin whisking in the flour a couple pinches at a time. Eventually, the mix will reduce a little and brown. That's it. You can use it to thicken cream sauces, tomato sauces, gumbos and more. I like to slowly whisk it into a couple cups of milk and a small handful of shredded Gruyere and a couple dollops of Dijon mustard over medium-low heat for an outstanding sauce that's a perfect topper to pan-seared pork chops. A solid Washington-state Gewurztraminer--like that bottled by Columbia Winery-- makes a fine accompaniment.