Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vineyards of Swan Creek AVA in Yadkin Valley

Chatham Hill Wine Club Winery Tours

What a great time we had spending the day making new friends and touring some great wineries.  It was awesome to have a hired driver and a  bus so we all got to stay together and could share and drink to our hearts content. Thanks to Megan and Marek for setting this up.

Our first stop was at Laurel Gray Winery.  Benny and Kim were the best host and hostess showing us what true southern hospitality is all about. I highly recommend all their wines but their Chardonnay is exceptional.  This place is a must for anyone's NC wine tour.

Raffaldini was also on the tour. You will not believe this place exists in the hills of North Carolina.  What a gorgeous Tuscan-style Villa tasting room and their wines will not let you down.

Another great winery we visited was Buck Shoals Winery.  This is such a quaint place with some awesome wines.  I was very impressed with the brandies they are playing with. 

Finally but not last or the least we had a very delicious lunch and wine tasting at Shadow Springs Vineyard. What a beautiful tasting room and the lunch from Boxcar Grill was a nice break. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nine Day Sweet Pickles w/Garlic

It has been said that you can find anything on the web and while I have found several versions of this family age old pickle recipe, I have yet to find this one.  This is my first year making these.  Up till now I have also helped myself to my parents cellar for such treats. I will let you know how they turn out. 

 9-Day Pickles

  • Day 1
    • 2 gal cucumbers
    • 1pint of salt per gal of water (2gal should be enough)
    • Bring water and salt to a rolling boil
    • Place cucumbers in a container that will hold the heat of the boiling water and allow for the cucumbers to be covered with about 2 to 3 inches of the solution. You want the cucumbers to be suspended in the solution between the plate and the bottom of the container.
      • A 3gal or 5gal stone jar works great and is traditional.   A 5gal plastic food grade pail will also work.
    • Cover the cucumbers with a plate that just fits the inside of the container and weight it down with a water filled jar that can be sealed with a lid. Could also use a food grade plastic bag filled with water
    • Cover the container with a lid or cloth.
    • Let stand 7 days removing anything that might form on the surface. Check daily
  • Day 7
    • Rinse off the cucumbers and the container thoroughly with water.
    • Add cucumbers back to the container and cover with plain boiling water, cover and let stand for 24 hours
  • Day 8, 
    • Prepare an Alum solution of 1gal water and 2tbs of Alum powder. Bring to a boil
    • Remove and drain cucumbers 
    • Cut to size, either in circle slices or long slices 
    • Add back to container and cover with Alum solution and let stand for another 24 hours
  • Day 9
    • Rinse thoroughly with cold water
    • Pack in sterile jars (follow standard hot water batch directions for canning)
    • Add sliced garlic to the jars as you add the sliced cumcumbers
    • Drain any excess water from the jars before filling with the vinegar solution
    • Mix a vinegar solution with 
      • 2cups of vinegar
      • 1cup water
      • 2 1/2 lbs sugar (~5 1/2 cups)
      • 2tbs pickling spice
      • Bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved
    • Cover cucumbers in the jars with the sugar/vinegar solution
    • Top with sterile lids and rings
    • Submerge in a hot water bath for 10mins
  • After jars are cooled the pickles will be at their peek of flavor after 6 weeks.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wine Pairing

If you are like me you really only know about a few of your favorite wines that you typically drink but would like to know more.  I find articles like the one below from Laurie Forster thewinecoach. to be very helpful  The full article can be found here
  • The Contrasting method uses diverse flavors to play off each other, e.g., when pairing a dry red wine with a New York strip steak, the steaks juiciness and the wines dryness counteract each other. The Complementary method matches flavors to enhance them, e.g., rich foods with rich wines or powerful foods with powerful wines.  For instance, try pairing a seafood dish in a creamy sauce with a rich, buttery Chardonnay.  The richness of the wine will add to that of the dish giving real ”power” to the pairing.
  • By weight: Light fare with lighter bodied, more delicate wines, and fuller bodied, more intense wines with bigger foods.  This is actually one of the food and wine concepts that is most intuitive.  Most of us wouldn’t think to order a light, fruity Pinot Grigio with a New York Strip steak, or conversely, a glass of hearty Cabernet Sauvignon with a cold seafood salad. 
  • Other cool facts:
    • Salt lowers the perceived acid in wine. Acid in wine is that tangy or sour sensation you get on your tongue. Imagine biting a lemon that’s acid. Salty foods will need higher acid wines.  Try tasting a pinch of salt with both a crisp, high acid Sauvignon Blanc and a mellow, lower acid Chardonnay.  Notice how each change in the presence of the salt.  The acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc will soften but the Chardonnay will most likely end up losing most, if not all of its flavor.
    • Tannins in red wines are softened by animal fats in things like meat, cheese, and butter. Tannins, a naturally astringent substances found in grape skins, are also found in some foods like walnuts.  Tannins are perceived in our mouths as a sense of dryness. Highly tannic wines can make you feel like you have instant cottonmouth. Try eating a bunch of walnuts or red grapes…you’ll end up getting the same sensation.  Wines with firmer tannins are a natural pairing with fattier dishes likes red meats, cheeses or stews.  Try a Cabernet Sauvignon that has firm tannins with a bite of steak and notice how it softens.
    • Sweet wines tone down spicy foods whereas high alcohol dry wines will intensify the heat of spices. Try hot sauce with Moscato d’Asti (a sweet sparkler from Italy) or a slightly sweet Vouvray (a Chenin Blanc from France).  Then try the same sauce with an oaky Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon.  The first two wine will tone down the heat whereas the last two will make the food taste even spicier.
    • High acid wines with high acid foods will create a neutralizing effect rather than intensifying the sourness. Try a Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese separately each is quite acidic, but as a couple they are fabulous!
  • Go to wines: There are two grapes that are considered to be “universal” (meaning they can stand up to most food choices). These are dry Riesling and Pinot Noir.  They both have the right combination of fruit and acid to complement a wide variety of cuisine.
The best advice I have is to taste, taste, taste and taste some more.  The more different verities you taste the better your palate will evolve.  I have a real hard time keeping all the different varietals in my head so I focus more on if it is red or white, the grape and the region and while I am tasting I try to imagine what food might go with this wine.

The bottom line is to drink what you like but be willing to venture out of your comfort zone and you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Spicy Mango Pork

One of my favorite places to shop in the Raleigh area is Savory Spice Shop.  I recently tried one of their sauces, Spicy Mango in a marinade for some boneless pork chops.

Marinade: - 4tbls Spicy Mango Sauce, 2tbs Chipotle Powder, 2tbls Honey, 1tbs EVOO.

 Grill off on low heat, throw on some fresh yellow squash:

Add to that some stone ground Grits and you get a great meal:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trying new Foods

These past few weeks have been all about fresh vegetables and the local farmer's markets. From local eggs to fresh strawberries to the first crops of vegetables I love this time of year.

Two weeks ago, we were home visiting my parents and were able to pick about 4 gallons of strawberries and somehow managed to talk them out of a dozen eggs.  They just started raising layers this year.

This past weekend we found some amazing jams and home made raviolis from the local downtown Wake Forest farmer's market.  I picked up a jalapeno/garlic jam that I used to create the best white pizza we have ever had.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Braised Beef Short Ribs w/Chatham Hill Cab

In keeping with cooking from local food supplies, tonight I am braising some beef short ribs from Walters in Meban, NC in the best local Raleigh wine from Chatham Hill Winery. I used their 08' Cabernet Sauvignon.  I seared off the meat, added some root vegetables, de-glazed with the wine, add enough chicken stock but don't completely cover the meat.  Simmer or bake at 250 for about 3 or 4 hours depending on the size of the ribs.

I am looking forward to trying more of Walters grass feed beef.  Their prices are very reasonable and you can't beat the quality. 
The trick for these is after you braise them for about 4 hours, remove the meat.  If you have the time, stain the liquid from the braise and reduce by half for a fantastic gravy.  The less you keep the quicker it reduces down. A cup or less is a good amount to start with.  You can always thicken with starch.
While the gravy is reducing, clean the meat from the bone and remove any extra fat.  In a non stick saute pan add 3tbls butter, 2tbls honey, 1tbls of you favorite BBQ sauce and heat to a simmer.  Add the meat and cover with the sticky goodness and finish off in a 400 deg oven for about 10 minutes.  OMG.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Taste of the Beach - NC Outer Banks

This past march the wife and I and her brother spent a long weekend in the outer banks during their food and drink festival called Taste of the Beach.  We had a great time visiting and eating at some great restaurants.  I highly recommend to anyone who is remotely foodie like attend this event.  If nothing else you should make it to the finale where most of the food and drink establishments are represented.  We were exposed to some tremendous food some of which was presented by chefs for the first time.

Event photo gallery:

My own photos:

My best time was the 3 hours we spent at Sanctuary Vineyards with owner John Wright and the time he spent with us on the tour and the blending and tasting from the barrel(s).  We had a great time and for the record Stephen, April's brother, won the blending contest. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wine Aeration

This is a great article about how aerators work. I have three types from the very basic decanter to the more modern and real time models.

Check out this wineries' selections:

Here are three types that I use at home.   I like my Vinturi the best in that it has a screen filter but I use my Soriee the most for it's convenience of use.