Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Tantalizing Turmeric

                                               Turmeric is the root of a flowering plant

Google turmeric and you’ll be presented with 62 million articles in a nano second.   Turmeric has recently been widely touted as a food supplement for its supposed anti-inflammatory properties.   This article, however, looks at turmeric solely from a culinary standpoint.

                                                   Ginger & turmeric are cousins 

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family.  It’s easy to see the familial resemblance between these two as fresh turmeric root looks similar to ginger root.  However, once peeled, the interior of these two is quite different in that turmeric is bright orange.   Most likely native to India, turmeric is what gives curry its vibrant yellow-orange color.

Turmeric is actually the quasi root of a flowering perennial plant.  It requires warm temperatures and lots of water.  The hot and humid weather of India and South Asia offer perfect conditions and turmeric grows wild in their forests.   It’s no wonder that the cuisines of both India and the countries of southern Asia are replete with recipes that utilize turmeric.   However, turmeric is also widely used in Middle Eastern cooking and North African recipes.


                             Many different turmerics are available in this Istanbul market 

Most turmeric is used in the form of a dried, ground powder to impart an intense color.  It is the principal ingredient in curry powders.  Turmeric gives not only color but provides a pungent earthy, mustard-like flavor.   Although used mostly in savory dishes, it is also used in sweet dishes such as ice-cream and baked products like cakes.  Similar to its cousin ginger, turmeric can also be used fresh in items such as Asian pickles.

                         This crowd pleaser, Chicken tikka masala, is the turmeric bomb*

My favorite use of turmeric is in one of my most beloved recipes, chicken tikka masala:


*compliments of TripAdvisor 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Best Buys on Expensive Wine Lists

          This Michelin 2 star restaurant in Sicily provided an unforgettable evening for Wine-Knows

The best value on a pricey wine list is always a wine you bring from home (we’ve paid as much as $75 for corkage, but it’s been worth it to us to enjoy a bottle of an older red that has been decanted for a couple of hours.)   However, that isn’t what this article is about.   Instead, the article addresses those times when bringing a bottle to a fine dining experience isn’t feasible (e.g. European restaurants don’t allow).  How does one quickly peruse a 50 plus page wine list to find the reasonable hidden gems?  I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to help.


First, however, if you’re looking for a varietal such as Cabernet Sauvignon, you can stop reading this article now.   Cabernet is one of the most expensive items on a wine list regardless of its country of origin.   The same goes for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Instead of varietal, change your vision to style of wine.  If you want a big bold red, then my method can help you.   If you want a complex white, my experience can also assist you to find the perfect alternative white, often for considerably less.

3 Michelin star George Blanc's list in the 1980's had 10 pages of Burgundian reds

I can help you find both well-crafted white and red wines, but you have to know where and how to look.   All upmarket wine lists are laid out differently.   In Europe the format is more homogenous.  Typically, for example, a European Michelin star sommelier has his/her wine listed by geographical area (e.g. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Tuscany, Rioja).    In New World fine dining, the wine list can in the same regional order used in Europe, or wines can be listed by varietal.  This means that red Bordeaux appears together with Cab from California and with the Super Tuscans from Italy.    Or that white Burgundies & California Chars are all listed under Chardonnay.

     A Wine-Knows client poses with the sommelier in a Michelin star restaurant near Bordeaux

So, the first thing you must do is to quickly peruse the sizeable wine list to ascertain how it is laid out:  wine region or grape?   This should only take a minute or two.  Once you understand the format, you’re ready to get down to business.

Below are often times the two best white values on a Michelin-star level wine list:

Alsace’s Whites:

First, be aware that this eastern area of northern France produces both dry and sweet wines.  Make sure you confirm with the sommelier which one is which.

Alsace makes several whites.  I suggest you tell the sommelier what you’re ordering for dinner and ask for his/her help in selecting which varietal will pair best with your meal.  If the wine list is formatted by grape, check out Pinot Gris (or if you’re ordering a spicy dish, try Gewurztraminer or Riesling).

  Pinot Gris or Gruner would have paired beautifully with this Michelin star seafood appetizer in Spain

Austria’s Gruner Veltliner:

The star of Austria’s show is the Gruner Veltliner grape.  Don’t worry about pronouncing it, just enjoy it.  Gruner Veltliner (often referred to as simply “Gruner”) is the darling of many sommeliers because of its food-friendliness and its significant quality/price.   This dry wine might become one of your new value faves.

       Michelin star dining will be featured on Wine-Knows' Christmas market tour December 6-16

For the two best red values on a Michelin-star level wine list consider these:

Bierzo, Spain’s Mencia:

Bierzo is a small wine region in northern Spain near the Portuguese border.  Mencia is its super-star red grape.  This is a powerhouse red is chocked full of flavor and structure.  If you’re looking for a complex medium body red, look no further.  You’ll be stunned at the favorable price.

                 Wine-Knows enjoy a pre dinner aperitif at 3 star Auberge de Ill in France

Argentina’s Malbec:

Malbec is one of the five grapes allowed by law in the blend of Bordeaux’s red wines.   In Argentina, however, Malbec is often made as its own varietal---although it can also be blended.   Regardless if it’s blended or not, Argentina’s Malbec deserves your attention.  Some of the more expensive ones are aged in oak and can offer an alternative to a pricey Bordeaux for meat lovers.

Remember to think out of the box.  Regardless of the number of pages, every wine list has gems to be snagged....you just need to find them.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Germany’s Wine Renaissance

                         Germany is now the world's 3rd largest producer of Pinot Noir

The last few decades German wines have changed dramatically.  In the mid 1980’s  I attended an intensive one week course at the illustrious German Wine Academy on the Rhine River in Geiseheim.   During that course I was exposed to some of the best wines made in Germany.   Most of the wines were sweet whites.  There were a few dry whites, and reds were an after-thought.   Not true today in the least.

                     This well regarded 17th century winery is now focusing on dry whites

Significant changes in German wines have shifted the industry on its axis.  First,  the most striking change has been from sweet to dry wines.   German wines today are more in line with the modern day trend of dry, food-friendly wines.  Second has been a switch to higher quality.  Many German wines produced in the last quarter of the 20th century were insipid, overly processed and overly sweet.   Riesling, one of the world’s greatest varietals, got a very bad name from poorly produced German wine.  The new high quality German wines have no relationship to the past.

             Germany's modern more healthy cuisine pairs with both dry white & red wine

There are many reasons contributing to Germany’s new wine approach.  A warming climate has allowed Germany to make fuller-bodied, more complex wines.   Next, the newer generations of winemakers who are well aware of the global trend for dry wine,  are equally quality focused.  Lower quality varietals like white Muller-Thurgau are being replaced with the Mercedes of red grapes, Pinot Noir.   This Pinot may the country's sleeping giant as the varietal, known locally as Spatburgunder, is garnering international recognition.

                         Pinot Noir was brought to Germany from nearby Burgundy, France

Germany is on the move and is increasingly becoming a player on the world-wide market of quality dry wines, both white and red.  Last year, for example, Germany changed its wine laws and introduces a hierarchy for dry wines that closely parallel the EU system that is based on terroir.  

            Many modern day yuletide traditions such as the Xmas tree come from Germany

Wine-Knows will be conducting its first trip to Germany for the country’s world famous Christmas Markets December 6-16.  We’ll be visiting several German wineries to learn about their new trend for producing high quality dry wines.   Come learn with other Wine-Knows about these new wines that are winning world-wide awards.