Monday, July 25, 2016

Show-Stopping Vino for Summer

                         A glass of Vermentino in Sardenia with local pecorino & prosciutto

Robert Parker may have his point system, but the authoritative source on Italian wine uses “glasses” (as in wine glasses) to designate its top wines.  Gambero Rosso, a rather famous Italian journal that rates the hedonistic pleasures of food and wine, offers a one glass, two glass, or three glass award every year to the country’s top wines.    Below are the Gambero Rosso’s awards for Vermentino, one of my favorite varietals from Italy for summer-time drinking on any continent.

Before I unveil the 2016 super-star Vermentinos, just a little background on how the wines are selected.   A star-studded panel of 60 wine-expert judges review annually >25,000 wines from about 2,400 wineries across Italy’s 21 wine regions.  All wines are blind tasted.  The very best of the best are given the three glass award.  The three glass award is a very big deal for a winery as it singles out the wine as one of the very best in Italy.  Not surprisingly, some of these wines can be quite expensive.  Vermentino, however, is not.  Most of these luscious white are around $20.

Many of the 3 glass Vermentino come from the island of Sardenia where this varietal reaches its pinnacle in granite-based soils.  These are worth seeking-out:

  • Vermentino di Gallura Canayli (2014) by Cantina Gallura
  • Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Maia (2014) by Siddura
  • Vermentiono di Gallura Superiore Monteoro (2014) by Tenute Sella & Mosca
  • Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala (2014) by Vigne Surrau
  • Vermentino di Sardegna Stellato (2014) by Pala

The hills of the Italian mainland facing Sardenia (not far from jet-setting village of Portofino) also produces killer Vermentino.  Here are the three glass winners from this area:
  • Colli di Luni Vermentino 2011, Costa Marina, by Lambruschi
  • Colli di Luni Vermentino 2011, Etichetta Nera, by Lunae Bosoni

Don't miss Vermentino this summer!

Friday, July 15, 2016

A 3 Star Michelin Cocktail

                                                  One of the very special ingredients

Years ago I dined at Pic, a three star Michelin restaurant in France’s Rhone Valley. (BTW:  the restaurant is still here and has kept its three stars, >30 years later).  I was dining alone…. but trying not to act lonely.  When I was asked if I would like an aperitif of the house, I inquired what it was.  “Il est notre cocktail de Champagne, Madame.”   How could I possibly go wrong with Champagne?  “Certainment! ” I replied.   

With great fanfare this stunning glass of bubbly was brought to my table as if I were their most cherished customer.   It was amour at first sip.  In those days not even three star Michelin staff spoke English, let alone at a restaurant that was in a non-tourist area.   Much of the next few hours at the restaurant was spent trying to understand exactly what was in this absolutely exquisite masterpiece of a drink.   I had such a wonderful time that I completely forgot that I was dining alone.

Prior to leaving, the recipe was finally written down for me and I’ve never forgotten it.  The recipe is translated below, and for years it was the aperitif of my own maison when visitors came for dinner.

                       Add to a glass of Champagne:

                              ~ 1 Tablespoon of Mandarin Napoleon 
                              ~ 1 teaspoon of Orgeat

For those of you who don’t know Mandarin liquor, you should.  This is a Cognac made with the essence of mandarin oranges.  While it’s expensive, you need very little.  Moreover, Mandarin can be used in so many other ways---to flavor a dessert, or straight up after dinner.  Orgeat is a syrup made from almonds and rosewater.  It, too, can be used in various ways in the culinary world.  (I often use it to flavor rice puddings.)  It is inexpensive and will keep forever.

If you want to impress someone this summer, look no further.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Perfect Light Summer Dessert

Chocked full of flavor....and not calories
We have a bumper crop of Meyer lemons this year.  When life gives you lemons, make this outrageously delicious play on a cold lemon soufleé!  Not at all complicated, this delightful warm weather dessert is packed full of complex flavors…and yet has very few calories, and takes <30 minutes of prep work.  I first had it years ago at a dear friend’s home (thank you, Sheri) and it was love at first bite.  Trust me, you’ll receive rave reviews for this Meyer Lemon Pudding Soufleé.


  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (either low fat or regular)
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Berries (optional)
  • Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish. Blend buttermilk, 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, flour, butter, and salt in blender until smooth. Transfer buttermilk mixture to medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Gently fold buttermilk mixture into whites in 3 additions (batter will be runny).   Stir in lemon zest.

Pour batter into your buttered dish. Place dish in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of dish. Bake until entire top is evenly browned and soufleé moves very slightly in center but feels slightly springy to touch, about 45 minutes. Remove dish gently from roasting pan.

Cool completely in baking dish on rack. Refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 6 hours. Spoon pudding soufleé into shallow bowls.  Top with mixed berries and/or whipped cream.

Bon appetite!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tickled Pink Summer Rosés

It’s that time of the year to stock your cellars with plenty of bottles for the summertime crowds.  Rosé is always at the top of our list…perfect for drinking around the pool, and great aperitifs for outside summer dinners.  Here are my suggestion for this year’s best Rosés (in alpha order):

La Crema
This one is perpetually on my summer's list. Made from Pinot Noir, this Russian River Rosé is made in small quantities so buy several when you find it.  $20

Produced by Domaine Sainte Lucie in Provence, this one is a block-buster winner.  Very well crafted and great value.  $16-18

Mirabeau PURE
Mirabeau makes several Rosés, but the Pure rendition is the best of all.  Made in a lovely Provence village, this one is readily available at places at BevMo.  $16-18

Whispering Angel

I had my first taste of this wine just a few weeks ago.  My husband drove 50 miles to pick up a case after reading about it winning awards from those in  some wine rag.  From Provence, it’s a great choice.  $18-20