Monday, November 22, 2010

Serve Slightly Chilled

Most of us missed the worldwide celebration last week honoring annual arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau! Every year on the third week of November a number of French wineries, mainly Georges Duboeuf and Maison Joseph Drohin release this very short-lived vintage, straight from the 2010 harvest and bottled a mere six to eight weeks prior.

Why such a young red wine? The Beaujolais Nouveau is intended for immediate consumption! It should remain in its best form through the holidays but most begin to decline in quality after this brief window. Expect a very light red with very little tannin and fruity flavors such as banana, pear, and fig. Traditionally you should be able to enjoy this with your heavy holiday fare of turkey, ham, and all of the fixin's that come with them!

Serve this wine on the cool side- they recommend a temperature of about 55-56 degrees Fahrenheit which is what your wine fridge (if you have one) may be set at already!

This year's colorful Duboeuf Label Art

Ten Fun Facts about Beaujolais Nouveau!

1. Beaujolais [BOE-zjoh-lay] Nouveau is always released the third Thursday of November, regardless of the start of the harvest.

2. The region of Beaujolais is 34 miles long from north to south and 7 to 9 miles wide. There are nearly 4,000 grape growers who make their living in this picturesque region just north of France's third largest city, Lyon.

3. All the grapes in the Beaujolais region must be picked by hand. These are the only vineyards, along with Champagne, where hand harvesting is mandatory.

4. Gamay (Gamay noir à Jus Blanc) is the only grape permitted for Beaujolais. While certain California wineries may label their wine "Gamay Beaujolais" this is not the same grape variety as what is grown in France, and is quite different in taste and growing habits.

5. Beaujolais Nouveau cannot be made from grapes grown in the 10 crus (great growths) of Beaujolais-only from grapes coming from the appellations of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages.

6. Beaujolais Nouveau owes its easy drinkability to a winemaking process called carbonic maceration—also called whole berry fermentation. This technique preserves the fresh, fruity quality of the wine, without extracting bitter tannins from the grape skins.

7. Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drunk young-in average vintages it should be consumed by the following May after its release. However, in excellent vintages (such as 2000) the wine can live much longer and can be enjoyed until the next harvest rolls around.

8. Serve Beaujolais Nouveau slightly cool, at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit-the wine is more refreshing and its forward fruit more apparent than if you serve it at room temperature.

9. Approximately 1/3 of the entire crop of the Beaujolais region is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.

10. The region of Beaujolais is known for its fabulous food. The famed Paul Bocuse Restaurant is just minutes from the heart of Beaujolais, as is Georges Blanc's eponymous culinary temple. These great restaurants have plenty of Beaujolais on their wine lists. This quintessential food wine goes well with either haute cuisine or Tuesday night's meat loaf.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday, Bloody Monday

Ahh, the Bloody Mary! The favorite drink of the "morning after" and the airport bar! It may solely exist as one of two (along with the mimosa) excuses to drink before noon!Your "basic" Bloody Mary is a spicy concoction of tomato juice, salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce, and of course, vodka. Throw in a stalk of celery and there you are!

The history of the Bloody Mary sounds like a game of Clue! Was it invented by Fernand Petiot in Paris in the 1920's? Was it George Jessel in New York in 1939? Was in Professor Plum in the Library with a pipe? I am leaning towards Petiot. He did make his way to bartending at New York's St. Regis in 1934 and one social columnist did refer to his cocktail, then called a "Red Snapper," as a mixture of "half vodka, half tomato juice."

The origin of the Bloody Mary name is subject to dispute as well.Legends, none fully substantiated as far as I can research, attribute the name to such historic and legenday figures as Queen Mary I of England, Hollywood's Mary Pickford, or even the the frightening namesake of the children's dare where they say her name in the mirror.

Of course anything as simple as this can be expanded upon. Over the years countless variations have appeared. A few of note include the Bloody Margaret made with Gin, Bloody Maria with Tequila, and a Bloody Molly with Irish Whiskey. The Bloody Bull sees the addition of Beef Bouillon and a Bloody LeRoy even replaces the tomato juice with BBQ sauce.

My favorite variation on this classic is the Surf and Turf Bloody Mary. I have always loved a great shrimp garnish in mine and I was looking for a way to make it even more of a meal. With proper planning you can cut out that brunch all together! Here is my recipe:

2 oz Vodka
4 oz Bloody Mary Mix (see below)
Rim Old Bay Seasoning (or other crab boil) & Black Pepper
1 each Celery Stalk
1 long piece Beef Jerky
1 each Jumbo Shrimp Cooked
1 each Green Olive, stuffed with Bleu Cheese and Bacon
1 each Green Olive, stuffed with Cream Cheese and Caviar

Rim a pint glass with crab boil and black pepper mixture. Fill another pint glass with ice, add vodka and bloody mary mixture. Shake to chill and crack ice. Transfer to “seasoned” pint glass. Garnish with a long celery stalk, beef jerky, and a skewer of stuffed olives and shrimp.

32 oz Good Quality Tomato Juice
¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons Tabasco Sauce
1 tablespoon Red Pepper Flake
1 tablespoon Course Ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning (or Celery Salt)
¼ cup Prepared Horseradish

In a blender combine all ingredients and blend for one minute. Keep covered and refrigerated up to 5 days.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Ultimate Gin and Tonic

Gin is back in a big way. The well-known brands are seeing huge increases and, in states where laws allow micro-distilleries, boutique brands are making an impact as well.

We are going to see this juniper elixir and plenty of cocktails this year, but first let's go back to basics and make the best damn G&T we can! Even better,let's go crazy make this perennial cocktail three ways. For each of these choose your favorite premium gin. I like Hendrick's and Boodle's!

1 Part Gin
3 Parts Q Tonic
Ice Cubes

What's so special about this recipe? It's the tonic itself! Forget Schwepps, toss the Canada Dry, and store-brand? DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Splurge and get Q Tonic.Q is made with hand picked quinine from the Peruvian Andes, it's sweetened with organic agave (and naturally has 60% fewer calories than regular tonic), and the flavor is crisp with a well rounded sweetness. They also say that a natural tonic such as this improves circulation and accelerates digestion while improving your health!

1 1/2 Parts Gin
1 Part St-Germain
3 Parts Q Tonic

Made from fresh elderflower hand picked in the Alps, St-Germain makes everything taste better. For that reason I have heard more than one professional bartender call it "bar ketchup." It has a delightfully floral sweetness that makes this Gin and Tonic complete. Suggest this to that nay-sayer who says they don't like gin!

1 Part Blueberry Infused Gin (see recipe below)
3 Parts Q Tonic

Well this one takes some planning ahead... at least two weeks to be exact!

Place 1 cup fresh blueberries in a large glass jar, add 1/3 cup sugar and a 750ml bottle of your favorite gin. Shake and set in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks, and up to two months. Shake the jar every now and then while this infusion becomes deliciously blue! Strain well and transfer into a decorative bottle or jar for presentation!

This is pretty darn good with fresh cranberries as well!