Wine X Magazine Online Edition
Life in Manhattan ain’t cheap. Those of you who live there, man, I don’t know how you do it. I’m not sure what’s worse: the prices or the fact there are so many delicious and interesting things to spend your money on. Walk down just about any street and you’ll find storefront after storefront that beckons your senses.
It has been told to me more than once that it takes two or three visits to NYC to get your bearings. Think: Sensory overload meets expansiveness – in a way that no travel pub can possibly prepare you for. My first visit was about survival, Naked & Afraid style. It was on my follow up visits that simple strolls in one direction or another revealed one familiar piece of pop culture after another. A little more confidence allowed me to take more in. When you do that, what you’ll see that the modern American narrative was written with Manhattan as its backdrop.
If you dig going old school, let me tell you about date night, OG style.
What is “touristy date night” in Manhattan? Come on, let’s all say this together. 1…2….3: Dinner & the Theater. Duh. You don’t even have to like the live arts to enjoy Broadway. No matter the year, there are always a series of shows that appeal to EVERYONE. I’m Serious…… Not sure where to start? Just go watch Phantom or Chicago. You won’t be disappointed. And of course, plan a bite before.
Yeah, that second part isn’t super hard, but a little advance planning helps. Most shows on and off-Broadway start 8p sharp with no late entry. It’s also worth noting that life smiles on those that dine within walking distance because traffic slows to a near crawl as showtime starts. While there are a number of famous restaurants that cater to theaters goers, a reservation really helps. REALLY helps. Just for giggles, go to Open Table now and search for reso’s at Carmine’s tonight. You’ll see stuff before 5p and after 7p….. But the magical 6p-6:30p window that will get you to your seats in time is POOF. Do not… I repeat, DO NOT test the gods of time by sitting down at 7p or after…. Unless you’re doing pizza by the slice, and even then, that might be standing up….or outside on the sidewalk.
Life rewards the flexible and so its not out of the question that you can go prospect for an open table. Be willing to walk past a lot of booked places though. It’s all good though.
So speaking of OpenTable, I patted myself on the back for three straight days after scoring seats at one of Manhattan’s most famous restaurants: 21 Club. The OG-yist of the OG. More about 21 in a moment. But first: Did you know that there is a 21 in England? Newcastle-on-Tyne, England to be specific. Go search OpenTable for 21 & Manhattan and you’ll find it. It comes up first. Thanks, OpenTable…yeah, you guessed it, my precious reso’s were NOT around the corner at my bucket list restaurant but instead exactly 3.329 miles away,
I know machine learning and robots are going to rule the world one day, but it ain’t happening yet. Know what I mean?
Sooooo 5:45 in Time Square, 8p Jersey Boys tickets in my hands, and now checking out the street vendor hot dogs as my dinner fall back. We walked a block or two just to see if there was anything that looked both good and open. Notsomuch……but sometimes you get lucky….I did the wholly un-male thing…..I called 21… And after apologizing upfront for the stupid question, I was A-MAZE-ED to find out they could get us in….. I’m not normally this lucky, not sure what to say other than….ILL TAKE IT!
21 Club has been a Manhattan mainstay for nearly 90 years. First as a speakeasy, and then later as a restaurant and legit bar. Over the years, the restaurant has become the favorite haunt of U.S. Presidents, CEO’s, movie stars, and sports celebs. When you go, ask your host whose table you’re at. Our table was jointly owned” by John McEnroe and an airline CEO. Often, above each table are toys once owned by a VIP, but today hovering over a favored table as if it is animistically marking space.
21 plays its theater role marvelously, offering a well time-managed experience and dinner option that include a prix fixe menu that is guaranteed to get you fed, smiling, and out-the-door on time. Paired with a well-curated by-the-glass wine list and a larger marvelous roster of bottles. We got in & out in under $200 including gratuity. That’s not cheap, but it’s surprising reasonable for the experience.
As an aside, Jersey Boys, it strikes me, is like the story of Bon Jovi but set some thirty years earlier. I can see it now, “Livin on a Prayer” opening gon Broadway in 2032. J/K. I had not previously seen the Jersey Boys movie or the traveling production and so it was all new to me. Loved it. Go. Do not delay!
OG Broadway night out gets a XXX rating. No doubt. Add it to your bucket list, thank us later.
Lesson learned – Don’t be bashful. Make the call. Sometimes you strike gold.
America’s Sunday Binge Drinking Mess Evolves
By The Wine Bae
I’m told that brunch and beautiful people have always been a thing in Manhattan. I had a chance to add my signature to the infamous history of the Ladies Who Brunch a few years ago when living in New York City. Sunday brunch was always a thing, and always accompanied by large sunglasses and multiple beverages. Usually in this order: a coffee, a blood mary, a mimosa, then more mimosa(s), and then finally the biggest glass of water possible.
I remember these brunches being long waits at cozy cafes, or bustling brasseries. The Gen X crowd that joined us often spoke of a different scene, and talked with covered mouths and whispered voices about “The Unlimiteds.” These were THOSE places that had this wild thing called “unlimited mimosa brunch” and walking past those infamous locales required dodging no-shame, blacked out early twenty-somethings, sprawled out on the sidewalk waiting for a cab at 1pm. Imagine this scene set to the soundtrack of loud club music thumping from behind a blackout curtain door. No one ever admitted to actually going to those brunches, although all who listened did so with some skepticism. It sounded it like being at the bar after the lights came on at 4am, not a cute scene. Audrey Hepburn would scowl disapprovingly.
Ok, none of the Millennials at the table ever had the heart to say that the unlimited mimosa lunch is still alive and kicking. Sure, it has moved well down the exclusivity scale, mostly reserved for new or struggling cafes, but the #winedrunk crowd can sniff them out like bloodhounds. Some things have changed though. Insta and tagging has uped the ante quite a bit and I’d submit that today’s brunchers are better off for it.
When our X’ers were unlimiting, restauranteurs were just looking for volume. You know… butts in seats. There was no incentive to appeal to a sense of foodie goodness. Just serve the cheapest sparkling schwag mixed with colorful sugary fruit juice, on demand like a broken fire hydrant. The goal was to savor some Italian bubbly while providing a bit of hair of the dog. Or maybe it was to get completely smashed as fast a possible while simultaneously harassing a server to “keep em’ coming” until they pass out in the bathroom. Who cares, no one is looking.
Today, with millions of foodie influencers roaming the dining rooms and patios tables of restaurants everywhere, everything has to be picture perfect. Plastic flutes and trash-can-punch-with-bubbles has been replaced with a decent cava served in style. #SundayFunday anyone? I’m not complaining. Snap. Flash. Hash.
Wine X Staff
This past week, the 2019 class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was inducted. It’s a pretty eclectic group. I have one of each one of the songs on my iTunes list – not sure what that says about me.
When the founders of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame decided to situate the museum in Cleveland, the only people that weren’t surprised were Northern Ohioans. Memphis, Chicago, Detroit, and many other cities claim a piece of Rock’s birth but Cleveland has a unique story to tell with its role in the mainstream acceptance of Rock. Betcha didn’t know that?
OK, let’s be honest, the popular opinion on the Hall’s location is less about history and more about “CLEVELAND?????” I mean, NYC didn’t have crap to do with the Space Shuttle but there’s a reason why the Space Shuttle is on display there and not Houston, home to Mission Control.
Here’s the rub though. Cleveland Rocks. Seriously. It’s cool as shit. The food is amazing & unique to the area’s heritage, the bar scene and nightlife are vibrant, and when the weather is good there are way more than a week’s worth of cool places to explore.
Cleveland is a city of neighborhoods, as is typical with pre-1900 urban development. And what that means is that you get a different vibe in each of about a dozen boroughs (except Parma…. which has no vibe 😉 Lakewood is, well, like bohemia preppy. Liberally clean and cleanly liberal if you know what I mean. Cleveland Heights to Shaker Heights is old school middle class meets old school big money, with rolling green spaces and cool walkable locally-owned shopping. A little further south are places like Chagrin Falls and Hudson. If reincarnation is real, I want to come back to life as a Hudson-area golden retriever. Chill life among the BMW’s, the sidewalk cafes, boutiques and parks.
The Cleveland food scene has been underrated for years, but Iron Chef Michael Symon has done much to bring a lot more notoriety to the area. The ethnic blend of basically all of Europe, African-American & now Eastern cultures makes for an amazing mosaic. What you can’t deny though is that the magnitude of Eastern European influence here is rarely seen in any other part of the US. Even though the Polish, Hungarian, and other middle European neighborhoods are mostly gone, the influence on the cuisine is everywhere. Fried cabbage and dumplings is a foodgasm dish to all bacon lovers, yet nearly wholly undiscovered by most Americans. You can find it often on Cleveland menus.
Want to cook at home? Even if you don’t, any serious foodie needs a stroll through the famous West Side Market. The baked goods, sausages, fresh butter, artisanal bacon…my god….. it’s delicious just to look at. The building itself is beautiful. Imagine an upscale food market in Grand Central Station. That’s the vibe of West Side.
And steps away from the West Side market is one of my favorite places in the city and the very first microbrewery I ever visited. Great Lakes Brewing Co is no more than a hundred steps away from the front door of the West Side market and has been making legendary regional brews since the ’90s. Their Dortmunder, the beer that made them famous, is too delicious. It’s a must try. So is their food. Try the patio on a nice day.
So here’s what I want to leave you with in Part Uno of our Clevland Discourse…….. Not everyone wants to go do what everyone else goes and does. Know what I mean? No knock on Vegas or LA, but at least some of us think the travelers’ road less traveled has some merit. If you did a Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V on all that is Cleveland… you’d have something like an Austin or a Denver…… cool as shit and an awesome place to explore.
……and we haven’t even touched on the R&RHOF yet.
More to come………
In the meantime….. I know you want to try the Cabbage & Dumpings dish I mentioned earlier. So in an act of goodwill, I’ll give you my version. It’s outrageous!!!!!
Hungarian Cabbage & Dumplings (Haluski)
First the dumplings.
In no other dish that I can think of is it more imperative that you make homemade dumplings. It’s easy though. Beat two eggs until fully blended. Add one cup milk and stir until you have a nice yellow mixture. Add flour until you have a nice solid dough ball. Start with a cup of flour but don’t be surprised if you need more.
Bring to a boil a pasta pot, at least half filled with water, and liberally salted. I like to use a teaspoon to cut & drop into the boiling water dumplings that are at least the size of a quarter. Big is just fine
Next the cabbage.
Using your largest possible frying pan, heat one heaping tbs of butter along with your ten strips of bacon until the bacon is fully cooked. Set the bacon aside, and when it cools you should break it into smaller bite-sized pieces. Next, add your sausage, cut into perhaps 1/8″ segments, to the remaining liquid in the pan and just the warm the sausage. Set aside. Finally, add the chopped green cabbage to the frying pan, adding the remaining butter and cook down until soft.
The final step to Foodgasm:
When the cabbage becomes very soft and mostly translucent, and the pan on low-medium heat, add back into the pan the bacon and the sausage. Then add the drained dumplings and stir to coat them with the juicy goodness.
Serve soon and warm! Salt liberally.
by Rosina Tinari Wilson
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 3.5
Ever notice there are just too darn few summer holidays? Fourth of July. Over with. Labor Day. Not even party material. So unless you celebrated the summer solstice, Bastille Day, or maybe an obscure festival from some remote corner of the planet, the official-excuse-for-a-bash scene has been truly bleak.
So why not invent your own excuse (holiday)? Your dog’s birthday (so apt for the “dog days” of summer). The anniversary of your first speeding ticket (or the first time you talked the cop out of one). The annual “Bad Karaoke Festival.” Whatever. Just make it something you can turn into a tradition. And whatever it is, why not mark the occasion by pouring some bubbly.
Doesn’t matter if it’s true Champagne, a mid-priced California sparkler, some inexpensive-but-delicious Spanish cava or Italian spumante — the stuff’s a sure-fire party starter. And even though people think “expensive” when they hear corks popping, it’s no stretch to say that you can get better quality in a bottle of bubbles than in a typical chard or cab of the same price.
A few years ago, the folks at UC Davis, along with those from Domaine Chandon, put together a “Sparkling Wine Aroma Wheel” to describe the huge range of possibilities in a flute of bubbly. Depending on the type of grapes used, the production method, the amount of time on the yeast, the sugar level of the “dosage,” and the winemaker’s skill and style, a sparkling wine can taste like anything from lemons and apples to raspberries and cherries to pastry dough and toast to butter and nuts to… You get the point.
What sparkling wines all have in common, in general, is good, crisp acidity (which goes well with both rich, fatty foods and tangy ingredients such as citrus) and a bit of sugar (which works well with sweet, tart, salty and spicy flavors). This opens up lots of options for edibles that’ll do your bubbly justice. And if you can pick up on any of the flavors in the wine by matching them in the food, so much the better.
Nothing has to be complicated. You can get your gig off to a flying start with salted nuts, or sesame or poppy seed crackers with assorted mellow cheeses (try creamy Brie, a nut-studded Cheddar spread, a light blue such as Cambozola, and a plain Monterey Jack). Or serve up some skinny breadsticks wrapped with thinly sliced ham or salami. Even corn chips with not-too-hot guacamole will do nicely.
Since the summer harvest is in high gear, make a simple bruschetta by chopping and mixing together fresh tomatoes (several colors if possible), basil, green onions and a touch of raw garlic, then adding a little olive oil and salt. Spoon the mix onto slices of fresh or toasted baguette or just arrange the tomatoes (whole, quartered or sliced, depending on size) on a platter with a few basil sprigs, and sprinkle the olive oil and salt on top.
Spanish cava, a methode champenoise blend of native varietals (which now can also include some chardonnay and pinot noir), works great with the apps. It’s generally dry but fruity, easy-drinking and a steal at under $10 a bottle.
Once everyone is settled in, bring out the main event — a super-easy do-ahead version of the classic Salade Nicoise, of French Riviera bistro fame. Anyone who can boil water can put it together. Pop open some California blanc de noir or good-quality rose. You’ll find some real gems in the $12 to $18 range. They’re rich enough to stand up to the salad’s punchy flavors, the salty ingredients will bring on the bubbles, and the salmon-pink color is gorgeous.
No need to fuss with dessert. Ol’ Mom Nature has flooded the market with yummy, dripping-with-juice peaches, nectarines, apricots and berries for you to gorge on. Pick up some nice butter cookies (the ones with candied ginger added are especially tasty with the fruit) and some just-sweet-enough muscat-based Italian bubbly. (Look for “Asti Spumante” or some version of “moscato” on the label.) Then just bask in the compliments and start figuring out what you’ll do next year!
R E C I P E
E-Z Spaghettini Nicoise
(serves at least 12)
This dead-easy version of the classic French Salade Nicoise is adapted from my book, Seafood, Pasta & Noodles — The New Classics (Ten Speed Press).*
1 lb. spaghettini (skinny spaghetti), cooked al dente
1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
1/2 t salt, or to taste
3/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 t dry mustard
1/2 cup finely minced red onion
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic (or more), finely minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 bag washed raw spinach (throw out any yellow or brown leaves)
3 6-oz cans oil-packed tuna, flaked with a fork
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into 6 wedges each
1 lb. fresh or frozen string beans, cooked crisp-tender
1 cup roasted red bell pepper (from a jar), cut into strips
1 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup Nicoise olives, halved and pitted, or plain canned pitted black olive halves or rings
2 2-oz cans anchovy fillets
1/4 cup capers
The night before the bash, or early in the day, toss cooked spaghettini with olive oil and salt; refrigerate. An hour or two before party time, whisk together all ingredients for the dressing. Toss the pasta with about three-quarters of the dressing, and spread out on a serving platter. Arrange the spinach leaves around the outside, then arrange the toppings on the pasta. Just before serving, top with remaining dressing. Serve chilled.
By Lora White
Wine X Vol 2.5
we’ve got a lot of post-nuclear-family angst brewing in our generation, and we’re working it out on our dinner plates
Yankee pot roast. Mashed potatoes. Macaroni and cheese. No matter how grown up and fin de siécle cutting edge we’ve become, we all cherish an American Mom Dish that takes us back to the good old days; some casserole or party mix whose effect on our psyches is as soothing as footie pjs and Saturday morning cartoons. Most of us gave up (or at least denied) the satisfaction we received from such declasse´ classics when nouvelle and ethnic cuisines started cooking in the mid-eighties. The world was changing at breakneck speed, and the foods of our youth didn’t fit on the plates of the technological lives we found ourselves growing into. As college-educated, forward-thinking, 21st-century wunderkinder, we couldn’t be caught dead indulging in PB Fluff sandwiches or carrot-and-raisin salad; we forsook the foods that gave us warm fuzzies in favor of anything that was lightly grilled or presented on a bed of organic baby greens.Hold the aioli. Just when it seemed that nineties cuisine had pushed American classics so far onto the back burner that they’d fallen off the stove, the old standbys are making a comeback. Restaurants everywhere, from diners to supper clubs to three- and four-star hot spots, are bringing Mom Dishes back to menus, and diners are rediscovering the recipes of their youth. Grab a slice of white bread and get ready for gastric reminiscence. Whether it’s Salisbury steak at an uptown restaurant or glazed ham on the patio at a swanky wine-country bistro, comfort food is back to do Betty Crocker proud. This time around, it smells like it’s here to stay.
What’s cooking up this hankering for comfort food? It’s no secret that eating is our most common way to satisfy emotional yearnings. While some foods (most notably turkey) contain high levels of the nutrient l-tryptophan, which induces a drowsy state of well-being, most of the peace and satiety we get from certain edibles has more to do with the positive associations they inspire rather than their specific nutrient content. If our favorite babysitter fed us sloppy joes, chances are we’ll get a serious craving for messy ground beef on a bun after a rough day or while stuck in nightmare traffic.
Not surprisingly, comfort foods are finding the greatest popularity with diners in their twenties and thirties, who, having finally accepted that the American dream ditched us somewhere between Reaganomics and the O.J. trial, wonder if our only hope isn’t for a sense of comfort and security suspended in Aunt Alice’s Jell-O salad. We may have lost our faith in relationships and job stability and even a decent housing market, but we can always count on mashed potatoes to make everything right (at least temporarily) with the world.
Most devotees of comfort cuisine are quick to recognize the connection between their love for the old favorites and the often unsettling complications of being a young adult in today’s world. Let’s face it: we’ve got a lot of post-nuclear-family angst brewing in our generation, and we’re working it out on our dinner plates.
The yearning for the simpler times of days past is also reflected in the recent trend toward retro nightlife for the post-college set. No longer naive or bored enough to embrace gleefully every new sound, style and cuisine, many of us are grooving on social scenes that hearken back to the easy and familiar sophistication of past eras. Most major metropolitan areas host a number of night and supper clubs that offer live bands and swing dancing complemented by classic culinary delights. These joints are perfect for a night of cocktails, comfort foods, dancing and conversation and offer a relaxing, yesteryear experience for the mind and tummy.
If you can’t find a local restaurant that’s traded in mesquite chicken for liver and onions, or if you don’t have the gumption to hit the city hot spots, try sating those down-home cravings at neighborhood diners, long-time havens for secret comfort-food seekers. Blue plate specials still exist out there, and there’s nothing like a late-night snack of chicken-fried steak with potatoes and two sides of veggies to transport you back to the delights of mom’s kitchen.
If you really want to plumb your Brady Bunch roots and start the comfort food tradition from your own stove, there are several recent cookbooks that can teach you the basics on classic and revamped American favorites. Check out All-American Comfort Food: Recipes for the Great-Tasting Food Everyone Loves, by Emily Anderson (Cumberland House, 1997); American Favorites: Streamlined and Updated, by Betty Rosbottom (Chapters Publishing Ltd., 1996); and Blue Plate Special: American Diner Cookbook, by Elizabeth McKeon and Linda Everett (Cumberland House 1996). If you can’t make a recipe work, just give Mom a call.
Wherever your tastebuds take you in the search for comfort food, be forewarned: as you rediscover the satisfaction of classic dishes, you’re likely to feel a little embarrassment at indulging wholeheartedly in what was so recently considered the most banal of cuisines. Don’t let it get to you. In retro-crazed 1998, what’s old is new, what’s familiar is fresh and what’s square is hipper than hip. If your spoon is in the tapioca pudding, you’re dipping right into cutting-edge culture.
Eat hearty, be contented and please pass the gravy.
Quick. What’s sweet, pink and simple as candy? Think ZIP! Or dry, purple-red, packed with rich flavor and ageworthy? Think ZING! Or inky, dense and as berry-jammy sweet as port? Think ZAP! And so varied and versatile you can pour a glass with just about everything? Think ZEST- FOR- LIFE- IN- A- WINEGLASS!!!
You guessed it. Zinfandel! No contest. California’s heritage wine puts its so-called “noble” French-pedigreed cousins to shame when it comes to flavor, food-friendliness and pure drink-it-down fun. So what if we can’t pin down its European origins? Who cares? Zin tastes great. And whether you’re splashing soda into tall ice glasses of blush-pink white zin for a laid-back, fried-chicken-by-the-pool party; uncorking some mainstream claret-style bottles for a rainy day chili bash; or doling out weensy portions of your most precious late-harvest version for a ’round-the-campfire S’more-a-thon, zin, and zin alone, can do it all.
Matching food with zin is as easy as it gets. Practically anything goes. Pizza, pasta, ribs, Cajun-style blackened steaks, spice-rubbed chops, fast-food bacon cheeseburgers, ham and cheese sandwiches, gooey chocolate indulgences, popcorn, picnic fare, even such ethnic esoterica as pork tamales, tea-smoked duck, chicken teriyaki and peanut-sauced beef satay.
Sic those flavor bombs on a $50 cabernet or the latest megatrendy, oh-so-elegant merlot and you’d be wasting your big bucks on a no-win outcome. As it happens, we at Wine X — seasoned professionals that we are — have already done this grueling research for you. And trust us, the pricy demigods-in-a-bottle just didn’t stand a chance.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with cab or merlot. Quite the contrary, in fact. By themselves they’re generally ranked among the very top wines anywhere. But at the table they take a royal pummeling alongside sweet, salty and spicy foods. With these macho perps-on-a-plate to deal with, you need something much gutsier in the glass. Something like zinfandel.
Why does zin work so well? Well for several reasons. First, it comes in so many styles that you’re just about guaranteed of getting a good match. Even white zin, on which many — perhaps even most — wine writers refuse to waste ink, has its place. Second, zin’s typical flavor profile suits tough-to-pair flavors well. Even a bone-dry standard-issue (red) zin can have so much fruitiness going on that it can make you think it’s a bit sweet. This helps zin match up nicely with food that’s also slightly sweet. What’s more, zin can also do an “opposites attract” number with both salty flavors and low-to-moderate doses of spice. Third, zinfandel’s image and typical low-to-medium price go better with robust, hearty foods than those of cab or merlot ever could. Whereas zin wouldn’t normally be your best bet with classic French preparations of, say, lamb, duck or venison (here’s where the upscale Bordeaux reds shine), heap on the hollandaise, trot out the hottest Chateau du jour or its American equivalent and make sure your credit card is nowhere near maxed out), zin is right at home with mid-priced casual fare. Zinfandel, in all its incarnations, works like a charm with easy going “peasant food” that’s so readily served up — free of wine snobbery fanfare — at bistros, trattorias and other bastions of rustic dining. Things like lamb shanks. Veal osso buco. Oxtail soup with toasted cheese bread. And as a very welcome bonus, the bill won’t send you to the loan sharks.
If it goes with beer, it probably goes with zin, too.
Here’s a radical notion. Check out all the zin-friendly foods I’ve mentioned so far. If wine didn’t exist, and you had only one choice, what would you drink with them? Beer, that’s what. Talk about varied and versatile. And, just as you’d do with wine, you’d match the body of the brew to the body of the dish so that neither would take the upper hand.
But we’re talking about zin here. So let’s start with foods that we’d typically enjoy with beer, work a little simple kitchen alchemy on them, Wine X style, and pull some corks on a wine that’s as easy to like as your favorite, fresh-from-the-keg brewski. And to prove that pairing zin with fun food is as easy as 1-2-3, let’s divide our zins and our eats into three simple categories. Here goes.
1. White Zin with Light Snax
There. I’ve said it. White zin. Though the “serious” wine world might turn its collective nose up at this stuff, America loves it. And what’s not to like about it. If all you’re after is an alternative to soda, Sangria or light (even “lite”) beer for lunch in a T-shirt, apps on the deck or a picnic at the beach, it’s perfect. If you need to rationalize it, think of it as berry Kool-Aid with a gentle kick. Then quit thinking about. Just enjoy it, and try all three of these easy finger foods with an iced-down glass or two.
Wrap strips of good deli ham, or the spiral-sliced kind, around chunks of canned pineapple, and spear with toothpicks. Put on a baking sheet, top with a couple of baby marshmallows and some shredded coconut, and heat under a broiler or in a hot oven ’til warmed through and a bit toasted.
Smear slices of pastrami with whole-grain or brown mustard. Lay on sliced Swiss cheese and some drained sauerkraut, roll up and cut into bite-sized pieces. Stab with toothpicks. Serve as is or heat in oven or nukebox to melt cheese.
Salsa Shrimp Crisps
Spread cream cheese on tortilla chips. Spoon on some salsa, and top with some cooked baby shrimp. Make plenty. They disappear fast!
2. “Claret” Zin with the Main Event
White zin may come and white zin may go, but the real thing — mainstream claret-style zin — endures. (And it keeps getting better and better, too.) Made with as much care and attention to quality as the finest cabernets, but with all the spice and juicy, ripe berry fruit that zinfandel can muster, this could easily be a desert island wine, just as long as the desert island has fennel sausage and calzone with garlic and prosciutto and meatball lasagna and…
Get a good baguette or two, or one nice crusty deli roll per person. Slice in half. Heap with rare roast beef and salami, and top with roasted red peppers, your favorite smoked cheese (go for Gouda if you can find it), sliced tomato and Dijon mustard or horseradish.
BBQ Pork & Beans
Pick up a slab of pre-cooked, vacuum-packed baby back ribs. Slice the ribs between the bones and save all the sauce. Spoon out a few cans of baked beans into an overproof baking dish. Stir in some chopped red and green onions, some shredded cheddar and some zin — if you can spare half a cup. Top with the ribs and sauce. Cover and bake until bubbly hot.
Spicy Chicken Penne
Stir chunks of leftover cooked chicken (your own or from a deli) into some homemade or store-bought spaghetti sauce. Add black pepper, basil and oregano, or cinnamon, cumin and cayenne, to taste. Heat and serve over cooked penne pasta. Better yet, use ridged penne rigate.
3. Late Harvest Zin for Afterwards
When left on the vine past normal harvest time to ripen further, zinfandel grapes can build up outrageous amounts of sugar. The winemaker can turn these grapes into three different types of wine: dry, with stratospheric (up to 18 percent!) alcohol levels; semi-sweet to sweet (usually 13 to 15 percent alcohol and 5 to 12 percent residual sugar); and fortified with brandy (or neutral grape spirits) to produce a port-style wine with both high alcohol and sugar content. Blockbusters all, they make a great nightcap, especially with one of the following after-dinner nibbles.
Spoon bits of blue cheese (don’t skimp — get the good stuff) into split dried figs and dates. Top with toasted nuts (preferably hazelnuts and/or pecans). This is the best choice for the dry late-harvest zin, though it’s just dandy with all three.
Scoop some coffee ice cream (even better if it has chocolate chips, cookie bits or other chunky stuff in it) into individual bowls. Top with warmed chocolate syrup and some freeze-dried coffee crystals, and pour the sweet late-harvest or port zin.
Spread storebought or homemade chocolate brownies with boysenberry or blackberry jam. Put a big bowl of chocolate pudding (from scratch, from a mix or readymade — warm it if you like) in the center of the table and let everyone dip. Again, bring on one of the two sweet zins — and don’t even think about using the good tablecloth!
See you next time. Go zin!
Santa Barbara Pinot Wine X Staff Wine X Online Edition Pinot rocks on turkey day so it seems like a good time to talk about the grape of champions. Champions as in, “can be expensive but worth it.” But seriously, its not like any of us are gonna roll up to Mom’s place […]
DUTCH Simmons Wine X Online Edition The last time I saw Jamey Whetstone, he tried to kill me. It may or may not have been intentional, but it began innocently enough. He texted me at 8am, to see if I wanted to join him at the winery to do some barrel tasting. Because in […]
Sawn Farrell Wine X Online Edition. Well, we are surviving, so far. COVID, fires… Can 2020 just end puhleeeeez? As we go into the Fall, some states are starting to ease restrictions on businesses, others, notsomuch. As wine drinkers, most of us are social animals. We like to share. Wine, info, pics, bad […]
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