Follow by Email

Friday, March 27, 2020

Spring Food & Wine Pairings


Spring has sprung and I’m not about to let Corona Virus dampen my spirits!  I’ve been out of the country six weeks and am so looking forward to spring’s bounty.   As the season’s foods have changed, so should our wine choices.  Heavier bodied wines (like Zinfandel and Cabernet) can now be replaced with lighter tannin and less alcoholic reds (such as Pinot Noir, Grenache, or even Sicily’s Frapatto, a fruity red wine brimming with another Spring flavor---strawberries).   Winter’s full-on oaky Chardonnays can now begin their transition to more gentle oak influences, or even  unoaked mineral-forward versions.  Spring whites also scream citrusy Austrian Gruner Veltliner or Italian Vermentino.

Here’s my shopping list, menu, and wine pairings:

Fresh peas: to be made into a risotto and served with a Pinot Noir.

Baby artichokes:  grilled, topped with a mélange of fresh spring herbs and garlic, served with grilled lamb chops and a Grenache from the Rhone Valley.

Fava beans:  these labors of love will be turned into a simple sauté using wonderful dill and mint, and served roasted salmon along with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

New potatoes:  far less starchy than other potatoes, these yummy spring-time morsels will be featured in a salad mixed with tender green beans, spring radishes, just-sprouting parsley, and dressed with olive oil.  They’ll accompany a roast chicken, and be served with a Sicilian Frappato.

Morel mushrooms:  these scrumptious splurges will be showcased in a simple pasta dish (garlic, shallots and olive oil), and will be accompanied by a real-deal Rosé Champagne to celebrate the arrival of Spring.

Happy Spring!  Stay Healthy!

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Best of the Best

                                     New Zealand is so much more than Sauv Blanc

WineKnows' trip to New Zealand just ended.  We visited the country's four major wine regions (Hawkes Bay, Martinborough, Marlborough, and Central Otago).  Nearly 150 wines made from more than a dozen varieties were tasted.  Pinot Noir (PN) and Sauvignon Blanc (SB) led the pack in terms of the most tasted wines.

40% of the wines in my Top Ten are PN, but that's not surprising as New Zealand is rapidly evolving into one of the Pinot capitals of the world.  I'm not a fan of the classic Kiwi style of grassy SB, so it's no wonder that only one SB made it to my list (this one was made from warmer climate grapes and had the tropical profile I prefer).  The surprise was the Chardonnay which made a strong impression garnering two of the top ten spots.  Two aromatics also made my list:  Viognier and Pinot Gris.

TOP 10 (listed alphabetically)

  • Ata Rangi PN (2017):  from the estate's prime vineyards, this one is complex layers of spice, earth & fruit.
  • Decibel Viognier (2018):  intoxicating melange of luscious florals & citrus, it's one of the few bottles I brought home.  If you can find it, buy it (or save it for me to buy).
  • Dry River Chardonnay (2014):  stunning rendition of tropical fruit & citrus.  
  • Elephant Hill Salome Chardonnay (2017):  burnt pineapple mixed with limey mineral nuances.
  • Greywacke SB (2019):  luscious nectarine + lemon/lime + good finish.
  • Mt Difficulty Hanock Farm Single Vineyard PN (2016):  ethereal mix of raspberry, violet, spice & earth, all with a gorgeous finish.
  • Palliser Estate PN (2018):  elegant mix of savory & fruit with a winning finish.
  • Te Awanga Wild Ferment Pinot Gris (2018):  white & yellow peach mixed with grapefruit.  Lingering finish.
  • Te Whare Ra Single Vineyard PN (2015):  voluptuous mix of cherry, chocolate & spice with a fab finish.
  • Valli Bendigo PN (2018):  Grown in Otago's warmest region, this one is full bodied & screams black cherry & spice.  Silky tannins & an elegant finish.

Note that all the above wines should be available in the US.

A big "cheerio" for the Kiwis!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Rent Julia Child’s Villa in France

                          A "Week in Provence with Julia" is the the culinary memory of a lifetime

I have long been a fan of Julia’s.  Fortunately, I’ve had the great pleasure to meet this illustrious woman on three occasions.  The first mesmerizing time was at a cooking class in the early 1980’s.  The second was an event hosted by Robert Mondavi to launch the opening of Copia in Napa Valley (Center for Wine, Food and the Arts).  The final time was a Black Tie dinner to celebrate Julia’s 90th birthday, a fund-raiser for the American Institute of Wine and Food.  When the opportunity arose to actually rent the villa where Julia, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle wrote their hallmark cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I jumped higher than one of Julia's voluminous souffles at the chance to do so.

        The estate has been completely modernized but Julia is still present around every corner

If you’re a Julia devotee, renting this villa is the equivalent of going to Mecca.  This is where it all began.  Although the villa has been transformed by one of France's great interior designers since Julia was there, its walls still echo Julia.  Even the antique La Cornue stove screams coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon.  I’ve rented this hallowed residence now on four separate occasions.  Each time Julia's magigue has been palpable.  If you haven't joined these special one weeks programs, do note that I have reserved the property for two additional future weeks.

 A well-outfitted kitchen offers 2 huge frigs & a La Cornue stove, along with beautiful dishes & linens

The villa is located in the South of France’s stunning Provence.  In the foothills above the Riviera, this large stone country home now boasts a swimming pool and outdoor kitchen with panoramic views.  It's available for a week’s rental.  With five ensuite bedrooms, a dreamy kitchen, and two separate sitting rooms, the large property is perfect for ten foodies. The four different groups I’ve taken for “A Week in Provence with Julia,” have all found the experience a lifetime memory.

         Grougeres & strawberry coulis aperitifs began this homage to Julia dinner in Provence 

A fifth Julia week (2023) is already sold out.  The original group of ten women from "Julia's Week in Provence" are going to return and have booked the villa.  But, an another week in September 2023 has been added.  This 2023 week is available to individuals, or another option is a private group of foodie friends.  

The butcher shop where Julia bought her meat is still open.  One of Julia’s favorite restaurants is thriving nearby and they even remember "the tall American."  Then, there’s the olive mill in the next village where she purchased her oil---it's still producing ethereal extra virgin.   This all can be yours.  Come and walk in Julia’s footsteps.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Bones in Wine?

                                Bone dry means there is a miniscule amount of sugar in the wine

Most everyone has probably heard the expression bone dry in reference to wine.  There are no bones in wine, right?    That would be wrong:  China has a wine called “Tiger Wine,” which actually is made with real tiger bones.  OK, now back to bone dry.   This descriptor, along with dry, and off-dry are all three terms used to identify the amount of sugar in a wine.  

So how does sugar get into wine?  Let’s start at the beginning.  In alcoholic fermentation yeasts eat the naturally occurring sugar in grapes and through a process of chemical reactions this sugar is converted to alcohol.  Therefore, the amount of residual sugar (RS) in wine depends upon when the fermentation is stopped. 

In dessert wines (aka sweet wines) fermentation is artificially stopped before all of the yeasts can turn the sugar into alcohol.  This means that these wines have higher sugar levels and lower alcohol.  Conversely, in bone dry wines all of the sugar has been eaten by the yeasts, which in turn means that the wine has a higher alcohol level than dessert wine.   Bone dry means there is very little, if any, remaining sugar. 

Below shows the amounts of RS in the different categories of wines:

                     Bone dry:  0.5% or less RS
                     Dry:  1% RS
                     Off-dry:  2-3% RS
                     Sweet:  3.5-12% RS
                     Dessert:  12-22% RS

An experienced wine drinker can often taste the nuances in a wine’s sugar level, but there are factors that prevent even experts from recognizing the differences between bone dry, dry, and off-dry.   Both tannin and a wine’s acid levels can distort one’s ability to discern RS.   For the novice, even a wine’s ripe fruit aromas or sweet florals can also trick one into thinking the wine has some sugar.

In closing, any grape varietal can be made into a wine that is bone-dry or a dessert wine.  So, how does one know if a wine is bone dry or if there is RS?   Since wineries are not required to put this on the label, most do not.  A good wine store will know.  Many of the better wineries also have “Technical Sheets” available online in which RS amounts are stated.

Friday, February 28, 2020

New Zealand Beyond Sauv Blanc

NZ's top level Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Bordeaux blends are world-class

Sauvignon Blanc (SB) is the flagship varietal of New Zealand.  Both SB and New Zealand catapulted to fame, hand in hand, in the 1990’s.  There is something inherently and unmistakably likable about this SB.  The varietal’s citrus and tropical notes, mixed with zesty aromas and tastes of freshly mowed grass, make it a compelling wine for easy summertime drinking.  SB’s bracing acidity also make it a perfect food-friendly wine.   Although many wine geeks cut their teeth on this well-priced New Zealand SB, it should be noted that the country is no longer a one-trick-pony.  It is now producing several world-class wines.

While SB today accounts for nearly 75% of New Zealand’s vineyard plantings, the remaining 25% has seen a significant change since the millennium.  Pinot Noir is the new darling child of New Zealand.  The second most widely planted grape, Pinot Noir, has skyrocketed to fame in just the last ten years.  Top bottles of Kiwi Pinot can be magnificent gems.  With red Burgundies now commanding astronomic prices, many are turning to New Zealand’s well-crafted wines for a Pinot fix.

Chardonnay, the most planted wine grape prior to the SB explosion, is now the third most planted grape in New Zealand.   Like Pinot Noir, the country’s top examples of Chardonnay are also superlative, and considerably easier on the wallet than a white Burgundy, or for that matter a top Chardonnay from Napa.

Bordeaux-style blends are also ratcheting up the New Zealand ante for outstanding wines that can compete on the world stage.  Unique terroirs such as the Gimlett Gravel soils of Hawke’s Bay are giving these Cabernet-Merlot based wines some important bragging rights. 

The harvest in New Zealand is now underway.  How about hosting a southern hemisphere harvest party as a way of warming up cold February?   Refer to my blog of January 24 for first-class wines from the North Island.  For the South Island, consider these stunning wines which are all imported into the US:
  • Fromm Clayvin Chardonnay ($50)
  • Fromm Pinot Noir ($40)
  • Greywacke SB Wild Ferment ($30)
  • Valli Bannockburn Pinot ($45)

Friday, February 21, 2020

Crash Course on Australian Wines

I’ve just arrived in Sydney for some days of R&R between WineKnows’ tours to Vietnam and New Zealand.  Although I’ve been to Australia three times, it’s been a while so I developed a wine "cheat-sheet."  Included is an update on the country’s current wine scene, as well as a cursory review of its major wine regions.

First, however, a couple of points.  While Australia spent a bazillion bucks developing their wine brand “Shiraz” (their word for Syrah), the country has so much more to offer other than Shiraz.   Additionally, some of the best-selling Australian wines have caused a negative perception of Australia.  Yellow Tail and Little Penguin, two of the largest selling wines that are mass produced for novices, have turned off the serious wine buying American public.  A decade ago Australian wine sales in the US hit $1 billion.  Now they’ve fallen to $420 million.

Current Wine Scene

The style of Australian wines is undergoing change.  In the 1990’s and early 2000’s they were influenced by Robert Parker’s fruit-bomb, opulent, high alcohol wines in new oak (Australia’s Grange is one of the few wines in the world to have scored a perfect 100 Parker points).  But the tide is shifting.  In the last decade Australians are rediscovering what wines really work best with their climate, terroir, culture and lifestyle.  Wines that pair best with fish and seafood, as well as the popular Asian and Mediterranean cuisines, and those that can be enjoyed in the country’s popular food-on-the-barbie outdoor lifestyle are now in.  This leaves many high alcohol reds out.

Shiraz, however, remains the most planted wine grape and is equivalent to the combined total of all four of these popular grapes:  Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.  Cabernet Sauvignon follows Shiraz in number of vines which means Australia currently is big red wine country.   Factor in global warming which creates higher alcohol wines.  But, tastes are changing toward lighter style reds with less alcohol.  Pinot Noirs are often winning best in show beating out Shiraz and Cabernet.  Furthermore, Rosé sales are up.

Wine Regions
Australia is vast with huge differences in climate, geography and terroir.  It’s roughly the size of the US so consider the immense variations between grapes grown in Washington state and Texas, or the difference between Napa and upstate New York.   Below are some of the major wine districts.

Barossa Valley: 
Located in the country’s mid-south near Adelaide (think New Orleans in the US), the Barossa is associated with Shiraz, however, today there is also a fair share of white such as Chardonnay and Semillon.

Hunter Valley: 
Near Sydney (think Atlanta in the US), Semillon is widely considered the region’s iconic wine.  BTW:  Semillon is a white Bordeaux varietal with an unctuous texture.

Margaret River:  
On Australia’s west coast near Perth (think Napa in the US), this is Cabernet country.

An island off Australia’s southern coast, Tasmania is all about cool weather grapes such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc and Reisling

Yarra Valley:
Located near Melbourne (think the gulf side of Florida in the US), this southeast area is known for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines.

On this visit I plan to focus on the Hunter Valley and Tasmania.   As the Hunter is within shooting distance of Sydney there ought to be good availability of wines from this district in Sydney.  Moreover, I don’t know Hunter wines very well, and I’m a big lover of Semillon.   Also, I have not visited Tasmania but that’s not the only reason that it’s on my radar screen.  Tasmania is leading the country’s movement toward lighter reds such as Pinot Noir.   

Australia's fires have been horrific.  Why not show some down under support by buying some of their well-priced wines?

Friday, February 14, 2020

Falling in Love with Curry

                                           Red prawn curry had me at "hello"

Curry has cast a spell on me.  Even the word curry gives me goosebumps and makes my heart skip a beat.  Regardless of if it’s Malaysian, Thai, or Indian, curry has me head over heels.   A few years ago I even flew to Malaysia just to take a curry cooking class from one of the country’s most famous cooking teachers.   I am currently in Vietnam where some type of curry is on every menu.  I'm almost giddy. 

While I’ve  always known that curry was a blend of seductive spices and herbs, I didn’t know until my class in Malaysia that an authentic curry is made lovingly from all fresh ingredients (no powders of any kind).   Prior to the class the teacher took us to the local market where we procured a bounty of all the ingredients for several different types of curry.  The smells alone of the raw ingredients were intoxicating.

                                Green veggie curry made the strings of my heart sing

Some of the components I knew (such as fresh ginger, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chiles, tamarind, palm sugar, shrimp paste, cilantro, fish sauce, cinnamon bark, whole nutmeg, and fresh bay leaves).  Others I had heard of but never used (fresh kaffir lime leaves, fresh turmeric and its leaves, coriander root, fresh fenugreek, as well as fresh coconut milk).  Then, there were components I had never seen or heard of such as aromatic galangal (a member of the ginger family).    

We made many different types of curry from the above ingredients.  One was Panang curry (named after the city in which the cooking class was taught, this is a red curry similar to a red Thai curry).  Another was a milder green curry (flavored with lots of cumin and turmeric, with additions of cinnamon and nutmeg).   Meat was used in a few, poultry in another, and vegetables in yet another.   All were labor intensive labors-of-love…all were cooked on outside stoves in 90+ degrees with 90+ humidity.  In spite of the difficult conditions, I haven't been able to stop thinking of the seductive flavors of these curries.

My love for curry is unconditional and eternal.   Happy Valentine’s Day!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Vietnam's Irresistible Coffee

          Vietnamese coffee emperor, Trung Nguyen, has amassed a fortune >$250 Million USD 
On my inaugural trip to Vietnam, nearly a decade ago, one of my first memories was the country’s marvelous coffee.  After a long international flight and an iffy night’s sleep in Hanoi, I remember heading down to the hotel’s breakfast room where I found my three girlfriends guzzling pots of this coffee…and all raving about how good it was.  I’m very picky about my coffee so I proceeded with some trepidation.  I was hooked at the first sip---there was something really compelling about Vietnam's coffee.

When breakfast was over I asked the server what brand it was and where I could buy it.   Seems the coffee Gods were looking down on me as the hotel staff agreed to actually sell me a bag.  The only issue was that it only came in large commercial packaging.  No problem.  I bought the equivalent of ten pounds and carried the beans throughout Vietnam, then on to Australia, and then finally back to the US.  I never regretted lugging a single coffee bean.  This stuff was the bomb!

Coffee was brought to Vietnam in the 1800’s by the French who colonized it until the 1950’s.  Today, Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee on the planet, surpassed only by Brazil.   Walk around downtown Saigon and you’ll notice immediately that coffee is big business:  modern coffee houses abound and are loaded with upmarket crowds, and retail shops selling everything from clothing to electronics even have large displays of packaged coffee for sale.

               Coffee is such a ritual in Vietnam that it has its own special miniature brewing pot 

There is something very different about Vietnamese coffee.  When I first tasted it I remember being surprised by nuances of chocolate and even some nuttiness.  (BTW:  I’m not one for any type of flavored coffee.)   I’ve since learned that there is a miniscule amount of chocolate added (0.1%) but the real difference is that Vietnam grows an entirely different bean and processes in a different manner.

Most American coffee uses the Arabica bean, Brazil’s Holy Grail.  Vietnam, however, uses the more earthy flavored Robusta bean.  (Italian espresso often contains Robusta in the mixture of beans to provide a full-bodied drink.)   Like espresso, Vietnamese coffee contains a lot of caffeine…more than that made from the Arabica bean.  But, it’s not only the bean that makes the difference.  Vietnam roasts its beans at very low temperatures over a long period of time, allowing them to develop complex flavors.

Yesterday I arrived back in my beloved Vietnam.  This trip there will be no need to purchase a suitcase full of coffee as it’s thankfully now available in the US compliments of Trung Nguyen, Vietnam's international coffee mogul.  Seems I’m not the only one who is hooked on this enticing beverage.  Trung Nguyen, a multi-millionaire, now exports it to over 30 countries.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Parlez Vous Pinot?

Pinot Noir, named for its pinecone shape, is the ancestor of all Pinot varietals

Chances are even the most novice of wine drinkers have heard of either Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio.  However, it's possible that even a few veterans may not know about Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, or Pinot Gris...or if there is a connection among any of these grape varieties.

Indeed, all of the above Pinot grapes are related.  Their common name is a French word meaning "pinecone," which comes from the shape of their bunches of grapes (small berries tightly clustered together in the form of a petite pinecone).  Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Grigio (aka Pinot Gris) are not only related but DNA shows that all three of these grapes are identical, except for a tiny mutation that changed their skin color.  Pinot Noir's skin is black and so named after the French word black, noir.  Pinot Gris/Grigio has a greyish colored skin thus the names which means "grey" in French and Italian, respectively.   Pinot Blanc gets its name from its whitish skin (white in French is blanc).   

Pinot Noir is the founding member of this ancient noble French family of grapes.  One thousand years older than the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, Pinot Noir is not only one of the oldest wine grapes, but is the primary ancestor for many of today's wine grapes.  Pinot Noir has a high propensity to mutate.  It has birthed over 150 different varietals.

Pinot Blanc is just one of the many grapes that have descended from Pinot Noir.  Sometime centuries ago a vine of black Pinot accidentally mutated and produced a shoot of only white skinned grapes.  This single white cane was probably grafted to create a vine that produced only blanc grapes.  Voila.  Pinot Blanc.

Pinot Meunier is also a descendant of the original granddaddy grape, Pinot Noir.  One of the three grapes allowed by law in Champagne, Pinot Meunier is dark skinned and contributes aromatics to the Champagne blend.  Both Pinots Gris and Grigio (the same grape but called different names in different parts of the world) are morphed offspring of Pinot Noir.  

A toast to mutation and le santé in 2020!

Friday, January 24, 2020

New Zealand Wines You Gotta Try in 2020

                            Hawke's Bay Gimlett Gravels are from milleniums-old rivers

Looking for interesting new wines for 2020?   I'm on my way shortly to New Zealand and I’ve got ten don’t miss wines from the country's North Island---all of which are imported into the USA.  These carefully chosen “gotta trys” come from two different wine regions. 

The first district, Hawke's Bay, is one of the country’s warmest grape growing areas.  Hawke's temperatures make it a popular spot to grow red varieties, although a good amount of Chardonnay is also produced here.  The wine area is composed of sub-regions, the most famous of which is the Gimlett Gravels.  These deep, free-draining gravels have only a thin layer of topsoil over them.  Most of the Hawke's Bay red wines listed below are from this special terroir.

The other quality wine district on New Zealand’s North Island is Martinborough. This area is a much smaller and cooler, and the focus here is Pinot Noir.  In fact, New Zealand has long been known for its signature varietal, Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot, however, has now gained a huge momentum and is rivaling Sauv Blanc.  The country’s best Pinot is from Martinborough.

Below's your list for 2020, listed alphabetically by producer.

Ata Rangi (Martinborough)
  • Pinot Noir:  scored consistently high by international critics, this is one of the best examples of the magic of New Zealand Pinot.  $55

Elephant Hill   (Hawke's Bay)
  • Airavata Syrah:  Airavata is the powerful God of Elephants in Hindu.  This wine is a powerhouse with a long, silky finish.  K&L in San Francisco has it for $50.
  • Hieronymus:  A blend of Merlot and Malbec with a small amount of Cab Sauv mixed in.   Only made in exceptional years, this one is a near-perfect wine.  $50
Palliser (Martinborough)
  • Sauv Blanc:  along with the cooler variety Pinot Noir, this winery also produces a terrific white that is a great price for $20 bucks a bottle.

Sacred Hill (Hawke’s Bay)
  • Helsman:  A huge wine made from a blend of Cab Sauv and Merlot with a little Cab Franc sprinkled in.  $42
  • Deerstalker’s Syrah:  Knock-out aromas & a great finish.  $42

Te Mata Estate (Hawke’s Bay)
  • Sauv Blanc Cape Crest:  This elegant barrel fermented wine has a little Pinot Gris & Semillon included.  $25
  • Elston Char:  an opulent example of what this varietal can do.  $35
  • Coleraine:   one of the area’s highest Parker scoring wines, it's a medium bodied wine with silky tannins.  60% Cab Sauv,28% Merlot & 12% Cab Franc.  $77

Trinity Hill (Hawke’s Bay)
  • Homage Syrah:  one of the iconic red wines of the Gimlett Gravels.  $75

Coming with us to New Zealand in February 2020?   Wine-Knows will be visiting all ten of these producers and you can taste the best of the best in person!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Where’s the Beef? Wagyu & Kobe

                                            American Wagyu must be at least 50% Wagyu

I was a guest at a recent holiday dinner party.   In addition to being an extraordinary decorator, the home’s owner is an accomplished cook and a lover of wine.   As I was bringing the wine for the main course, I inquired about the menu:  my friend was splurging on a prime rib of Wagyu beef, so we dug out two bottles of 1995 Lynch Bages for the table of six.  Everyone present was quite knowledgeable about wine (all had even visited Lynch Bages in Bordeaux!).  But, no one knew many details about Wagyu, or for that matter, how it differed from Kobe.

Both Wagyu and Kobe are native to Japan.  Let’s start with Wagyu.  Interestingly, Wagyu literally translates to Japanese beef (“wa” meaning Japanese, “gyu” meaning cow).   Originally used in agriculture, these cows over centuries went through a selection process where the cows with more physical endurance were selected and bred.   Seems these stronger cows had more intra-muscular fat cells (aka marbling) which provided a readily available source of energy.   There is some evidence that this separation into the Wagyu genetic strain occurred as much as 35,000 years ago.

Modern Wagyu beef in Japan, however, has been cross-bred with European breeds since the 1800’s.  Wagyu first came to the USA in 1975 when someone in Texas imported a few for breeding.   Much of the meat produced was sent to Japan, but in 2003 Japan prohibited importation.   It didn’t take long for America’s chefs and gourmet cooks to discover Wagyu’s unique taste and tenderness because of its highly marbled meat.

                                        All Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe

So, how does Wagyu differ from Kobe beef?  As Wagyu means Japanese beef, all Kobe beef is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe.  Let me explain.  Kobe is like an appellation such as  Champagne, or Prosciutto di Parma where only sparkling wine from France’s Champagne district can be called Champagne, and only Prosciutto from pigs raised in a demarcated area in Parma, Italy that have been raised according to strict laws can be called this highly protected name.  Similarly, Kobe beef must come from a certain breed of cattle that have been born, raised, and slaughtered in a certain province of Japan.  Furthermore, Kobe is subject to rigorous Japanese grading that includes fat marbling and overall quality. 

Currently there are approximately only 3,400 cows in the Kobe area of Japan, so how is it possible for Kobe beef to appear on so many American menus?  It’s not.   At best, these are American Wagyu cows.  At worst, they are beef from who knows where.  Currently, there are few laws about what can be called what.  There is also misleading nomenclature such as “Kobe-styled” beef.  Moreover, even if it is real Wagyu beef from the USA, the US Department of Agriculture only requires that the cow be at least 50% Wagyu.

Instead of saying “Where’s the beef,” we should be saying “What’s the beef?”  and “from where is the beef?”

Friday, January 10, 2020

A Cocktail to Warm Up Cold January

Pears are a wonderful winter fruit.  One of my favorite salads at this time of year is made with pears, roasted nuts and Stilton cheese.  But, pears can also be an absolute stunner in an aperitif.  This recipe, made with pear vodka, is sure to warm up anyone on a chilly winter's evening.

Another ingredient in this luscious pre-dinner drink is an elderflower liqueur by the name of St Germain.  If you don't own a bottle buy one as the flavor is truly delightful (and the Art Deco-inspired bottle alone is worth the price).  Elderflowers are very tiny fragrant flowers, and their essence has long been popular in European baked goods.  While I have loved the elderflower floral profile for some time, it recently skyrocketed to fame when Megan Markle chose it as the flavor for her wedding cake.

The recipe below can be tweaked to fit your preference for flavors (e.g. you may want to increase the St Germain and decrease the vodka).  Also, the amount has been designed for a Champagne flute or a martini glass...both hold the same amount (which is less than a wine glass).

Pear Elderflower Aperitif (per glass)
  • 1/2 jigger pear vodka
  • 2 teaspoons St Germain
  • 1/3 cup good quality sparkling wine
  • Thinly slice ripe pear
Serve with a slice of front of a roaring fireplace.

Happy 2020!