Category Archives: wine

On the receiving end

Happiest of holidays to you! While you can never go wrong with booze (a common gift given and received), Ms. S&C was on the receiving end of a few other shoes and cocktails inspired gifts this year. All courtesy of Mother S&C!

To tell the truth, Ms. S&C doesn’t know a whole lot about wine. She gets her regions confused, her grapes confused, then there’s the Old World vs. New World, wine etiquette, and the science and artistry of wine-making. She wants to know more about these things, so bring on the Wine Wars Trivia Game!


Living in a small house, with tiny closets, and the inherited trait of never wanting to throw anything out (a trait of Mother S&C mind you), additional shoe racks are a welcome gift (and necessity, as clearly one wasn’t enough!).


And lastly, here’s a sassy little stocking stuffer that’s already made its way to the office. While Ms. S&C can agree (somewhat) on the message, she likes to emphasize quality over quantity :)


Any other fun shoes and cocktails inspired holiday gifts out there? Any self-gifts? Please share!

Powering Through

I have to say, this season of Top Chef isn’t packing the punch I hoped it would. It could be that, in its seventh season, Top Chef is starting to lose the novelty factor.

One new feature that I am enjoying about this season is the Washington Post’s fun coverage. Most weeks, they host a live Web chat with the week’s loser, plus a video chat with Food section writers and editors to break down the episode’s challenges. Check it out!

With Top Chef on location in DC, naturally, our own Washington Post gives it ample coverage with live Web chats and video chats.

This week’s Quickfire Challenge was basically a new spin on the amuse bouche challenge: create a delectable bite that can fit on a toothpick. The inspiration here is that, apparently, the only food that lobbyists can serve to members of congress must fit on a toothpick. Is that news to anyone else?

The Elimination Challenge wasn’t anything special – create a power lunch dish using “big” proteins provided by and served at The Palm – but the luncheon guests were an eclectic bunch. Sen. Mark Warner, Luke Russert, Savannah Guthrie and Art Smith (of Art and Soul) were just a few of the big names in the crowd.

The good news is that the high points in the meal were pretty high, resulting in some new chefs entering the winner’s circle. While Andrea’s vanilla-infused swordfish got her booted off, Tiffany, Alex and Ed received props for their creative and tasty power lunch dishes. Ed wins thanks to a superior applewood-smoked salmon with pea puree – but it’s not a win without controversy. Accusations quickly fly that Alex’s puree – perhaps the element that put him in first place – was stolen from Stephen’s cooler! Could it be?? A little thievery in the competition would certainly make for a more scintillating season.

Miss Mojito must admit that the Top Chef Drink Pairing for the salmon dish is a bit tricky, given that I don’t particularly have a predilection for its taste. Salmon seems to break the white wine/fish pairing tradition thanks to its bold flavor, so I’ll suggest a summery pinot noir rose: a full-bodied glass from the California Toad Hollow Vineyards might be just the ticket.

Posted by Miss Mojito.

Top Chef DC: farm-to-table

Last week’s Top Chef episode featured local ingredients: Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and food from a local Virginia farm.

The Quickfire Challenge had the chefs cooking our popular local treasure: blue crabs. Ed won the challenge with his dish of jumbo lump crab, thai basil, mango and cucumber. Considering I’ve picked crabs for the past *three* weekends straight, I tend to agree with local boy Tim’s philosophy: you don’t need to add a lot of flavors to blue crabs — the crab can shine on its own. But, I also don’t think anyone was planning to throw a half dozen crabs, covered in Old Bay, in front of Padma with a beer, a mallet, and some hushpuppies (I’d be in heaven).

The Elimination Challenge took the chef’s to Virginia’s first totally certified farm,  Ayrshire Farm, — a farm of locally produced, humanely raised meats and organic produce — to prepare elegant rustic farm dishes. I love elegant, rustic farm dishes. I love eating outdoors. I love eating outdoors wearing a scarf. And, I would love eating outdoors, wearing a scarf, with Eric Ripert. A few other comments about the episode:

  • Speaking of elegant, rustic food, Patrick O’Connell, owner of The Inn at Little Washington, was guest judge (how about that plaid blazer, and his very interesting deliberate manner of speaking?)
  • Angelo is kinda grossing me out with his oversexualization of food. The whole “I made love to that duck” bit made me gag.
  • Remind me never to serve salad in a bowl, since it can be referred to as “a concrete truck pouring on silk.”
  • Hooray Kenny! His dish of curried eggplant won. (Tim was sent home, btw.)

The Top Chef challenge was family style fare, but turn your focus to Kenny’s Hot and Sour Curried Eggplant with Peppers & Carrot Tops

For the Top Chef Drink Pairing: Virginia is for Viognier, not lovers. In a Washington Post article last year, Dave McIntyre reported that Viognier is very popular among Virginia vintners because the grapes are suited to this climate, and can remain balanced because it tolerates the heat and humidity (apparently the thick skin and growing in loose clusters makes it resistant to rot in the humid climate).

The wine is described as nuanced: lush and opulent with exuberant fruit, but also “austere and subtle in the classic fashion of the wines of Condrieu, Viognier’s homeland in France’s Rhone Valley.”  The only Virginia Viognier I can recall buying was a bottle from the Tarara Winery in Loudoun County, Va. I think the richness and slight sweetness of the Viognier would be a good match for the spicy curry in Kenny’s eggplant dish.

posted by Ms. S&C

Hail to the Chef

Hooray for three reasons! (1) New season of Top Chef. (2) It takes place in DC! (3) Eric dreamboat Ripert is a regular guest judge — that means we get to see him every week on the “Culinary Supreme Court,” as Padma Laskshmi referred to judges’ table. Padma also said Washington, DC, is a city full of “idealists, visionaries and ruthless powerseekers.” What do you all make of that description?

Top Chef returns for a seventh season and they are on location
in Washington, DC!

The first episode started off on the roof of the Newseum and showcased great views of our fine city. Filmed during the Cherry Blossom Festival, the episode finished off at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium with a reception for young, successful Washingtonians. (Um, Ms. S&C assumes her invitation was lost in the mail?)

In case you’re in need of a recap, here are a few highlights from the first episode:

  • The Quickfire Challenge was a mise en place relay. The cheftestants had to peel potatoes, brunoise onions (my new culinary term for the day), break-down chickens, and then — for those that made it that far — cook a dish with said ingredients. Kenny showed off his mad knife skills, but it was arrogant Angelo who came away with the win.
  • For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs created a dish that reflected where they are from: dishes included everything from Chesapeake rockfish to Pennsylvania lamb to deconstructed borscht.
  • Angelo came away with another win with his arctic char and bacon froth. Hippie John was sent home for his store-bought puff pastry and his maple-focused dessert that lacked actual maple flavor.

Angelo’s winning dish: Arctic Char with Pickled Shallots,
Chillied Tapioca & Smoked Bacon Froth

For the Top Chef Drink Pairing: I’m going with this Pacific Rim Dry Riesling. This is actually the first Riesling I’ve ever tried (over 10 years ago mind you). And I remember it because it used to be part of the Bonny Doon Vineyard (that funky, eclectic winery out in California, with cool, artsy labels), which I like quite a lot, mostly because of their funky, eclectic way. The Pacific Rim Dry Riesling is crisp, dry and mineraly, and has flavors of citrus. A very versatile wine, it complements both seafood and smokey bacon flavors nicely. And you can usually find it for less than $10 bucks.

The Top Chef Drink Pairing is a reccurring feature on the S&C blog where we recap each episode and pair the winning dish with a cocktail, or other suitable beverage.

posted by Ms. S&C

Glassware Options

This fun article on glassware over at made me take a closer look at my own drinking vessel options. Here are a few of my personal faves.

For everyday wine drinking, I’m a huge fan of dishwasher-safe wine glasses. Mine came from West Elm.

When I want wine-sipping to be more festive, I rely on these three tumblers, all of which were gifted! From left to right, there’s a clear glass tumbler from Barcelona; a hand-blown orange tumbler from Staunton; and a tinted-blue tumbler from Mexico!

My bar cart is home to some adorable vintage picks. On the top rack is a set of pea green glasses and shot glasses with a Greek-themed etching in a fab gold holder. The rack below holds some chunky emerald goblets. (The cowboy box is home to my cocktail napkins!)

That’s just a quick look at where drinks get poured in the Mojito Household. Necessary additions (pending cabinet and storage availability) include some high-end champagne flutes and some nice highballs.

Miss Mojito wants to know: What are your favorite glassware staples? What’s on your glassware wish list?

Posted by Miss Mojito.

T’is the season–for clementines

Ms. S&C thinks there’s a lot to love about clementines. Those perfectly small, round citrus, with a deep orange color, pack a lot of flavor. (Not to mention they are so easy to peel and seedless.) And, how irresistible are those boxes at the grocery store this time of the year? But, when you’re a family of two, how do you make use of them all? Ms. S&C is here with a few cocktail suggestions so those beauties don’t go to waste. Think of today as a two-for-one special!

That delicious box of clementines can be used for a number
of delicious cocktails

Cocktail Number One: Ms. S&C came across an inviting recipe for an Old Fashioned over at Metrocurean. She tested a few batches, made a few minor modifications, and couldn’t have been happier with the end result. The infused simple syrup is pretty fantastic, and all the flavors mesh perfectly with bourbon. To conclude, this is an awesome cocktail.

Clementina Old Fashioned
adapted from Jaleo, makes 1 drink

For cinnamon apricot syrup:
(make one day in advance, preferably)

  • dried apricots (approx. 6)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • Peel from one clementine
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water

Combine sugar and water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon sticks, apricots (1 apricot for each drink you plan to make) and clementine peel. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Let cool and stand for several hours, or overnight (recommended). Use any leftover syrup to sweeten tea, or for other cocktails.

For the cocktail:

  • 1 clementine, segmented
  • 1 1/2 ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon of apricot cinnamon simple syrup
  • zest of 1 clementine
  • A few dashes orange bitters

In a cocktail shaker, muddle apricot (from syrup) and clementine. Add bourbon, cinnamon apricot syrup, orange bitters and enough ice to fill a rocks glass. Shake well. Pour into a rocks glass and finish with a generous amount of clementine zest.


Cocktail Number Two: Naturally, Ms. S&C has offered to make punch for New Year’s Eve festivities. Last year she whipped up a sparkling cherry sensation that was quite good. This year she plans to adapt a citrusy champagne punch from Epicurious. And, for Ms. S&C’s party purposes, this recipe will likely be tripled.

Sparkling Citrus Punch
makes eight servings


  • 1 cup white grape juice
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh grapefruit juice (preferably pink or ruby red)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup Cointreau, triple sec, or other orange-flavored liqueur
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or other brandy
  • 1/2 cup packed mint leaves
  • 2 clementines, segmented
  • 1 lime, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lemon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 bottle Champagne or other sparkling white wine, chilled

Stir together juices, wine, triple sec, Cognac, mint, fruit, and cooled syrup in a large pitcher. Chill, covered, until cold, about 1 hour. Stir in Champagne. Garnish with clementine, lime and lemon pieces.

Happy New Year from S&C!

posted by Ms. S&C

Culinary Olympics

We’re down to four chefs! Kevin, Jennifer, and the Voltaggio brothers — these chefs have been the strongest contenders from the beginning (and maybe in the history of Top Chef) , so no big surprise really. But over here at S&C, we often like it when things work out like they’re supposed to.

Later today, we’ll be *live blogging* part one of the finale. But first, let’s quickly recap the last episode where the chefs where challenged to create a Bocuse d’Or dish. A few comments:

  • I was so happy to hear Padma say, “Welcome back,” to Jennifer after tasting her seafood turducken-esque Quickfire dish of Calamari Steak, Scallops, Salmon, Shiitake, Shiso with Rice Noodle Salad.
  • What the hell is Michael Voltaggio’s problem? His arrogance is out of control. His comment, “The food Kevin cooks is what I cook on my day off.” What? He sous vides lamb on his day off? Really? What a jerk.
  • Who gets the gold medal this round? It was sweet justice that Kevin won the challenge with his simply-prepared-but perfectly-cooked lamb.

Kevin’s Confit of Lamb Saddle with Baked Asparagus
and Sherry-Glazed Beets

For the drink pairing — I’ll admit, I’m not getting too creative on this one. But I’m not sure anyone would drink anything other than red wine with lamb. Jordan MacKay, over at, even says so. Check out his article, “Lamb and Red Wine: They’re perfect together.” His recommendation — Rhône reds (particularly Syrah) often have an earthiness that compliments lamb’s meaty flavor. Yet, Pinot Noir offers a fruity contrast that may be more interesting.

posted by Ms. S&C

Vegging out

Last week’s Top Chef episode was all about vegging out, in one way or another.

For the Quickfire Challenge, the cheftestants created a TV dinner, inspired by an iconic television show. Kevin won the challenge with his Soprano’s meatballs with polenta.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs created vegetarian dishes for guest judge Natalie Portman. Kevin, Michael Voltaggio and Eli were the faves. (Mike Isabella was not.) Kevin won again. And, Micheal Voltaggio came off looking like an ungracious jerk. Even Tom Colicchio thought so. Read his blog for great behind-the-scenes insights.

kevin_vegKevin’s Vegetarian Dish: Duo of Mushrooms, Smoked Kale,
Candied Garlic and Turnip Purée

Kevin’s vegetarian dish reminded me a lot of Moosewood Cookbook‘s Warm Salad, which I make at least once or twice every winter — and, I drinkfairhillsred red wine with it every time. True, I drink red wine with most dinners, but I particularly love it with hearty kale and mushrooms. Since eco-friendly Natalie Portman was guest judge for this episode, and since October was Fair Trade Month, I’m going with the Fairhills Bus Stop Red for the drink pairing. I picked up a bottle at Whole Foods for less than $10. It was also highlighted on the Whole Foods blog, telling us that the wine is a product of one of the world’s largest Fair Trade projects, a joint venture between exporter, Origin Wine, Mendoza Vineyards in Argentina and Du Toitskloof Winery in South Africa.

The Fairhills Bus Stop Red is a dryish, medium bodied wine, with aromas of berry fruit and chocolate and hints of plum. Meatballs or kale, it should go great with either of Kevin’s dishes.

And, what makes the wine taste even better? Proceeds are dedicated to purchasing a school bus for the children of the over 800 farm employees and communities of San Martin, Lavalle and Medrano in Mendoza, Argentina.

posted by Ms. S&C

Pigging out

The Pigs & Pinot episode of Top Chef made things easy for Ms. S&C’s recap and drink pairing. During this show, the cheftestants drew knives to select a part of a pig to use for a dish, then paired it with a pinot noir — all for a Charlie Palmer (who also was guest judge) and Food & Wine charity event.pigI was pleased as punch that my favorite four chefs created the four best dishes. You know who they are by now: Jennifer, Bryan Voltaggio, Michael Voltaggio and Kevin. If these are not the last four chefs standing when this season comes to an end, then there’s something wrong in the world. (Ash was the chef sent home, but how cat-food-pork-rillette Laurine survived, I don’t know.)

Kevin, (who loves pork so much that he has a pig tattoo), won the challenge with his pork leg pate. The wine he chose to pair with the dish was the 2006 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, from the Willamette Valley, in Oregon.

TC_porkpateKevin Gillespie’s Pork Leg Pate with Mushroom Salad
and Pickled Cherries

I’ve personally always loved pinot noir (even before watching the movie Sideways). It is often my go-to red wine, mostly because I think you can abandon the age-old tradition of pairing red wine with red meat, and drink it with fish and poultry dishes. When researching the Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, I was happy to discover that the wine was $36.99. While that is still quite a bit more than I typically pay for a bottle that I’m drinking at home (usually I go for something in the $12, or less, range),  it is an acceptable price point for a special  occasion dinner at home. highlights the wine’s black cherry, raspberry, truffles and cola/mocha components. Considering Kevin’s pork dish includes cherries and mushrooms, it appears he made a smart and tasty decision. But, that’s the kind-of chef he is.

posted by Ms. S&C

Déjà vu

After watching le épisode quatre of Top Chef, it appears this recap will be a lot like the others — Jennifer still kicks ass, the Voltaggio brothers are still on fire, and Kevin Gillespie is pretty awesome too. Not sure any of the other contestants are even in the same league as these chefs.

Last week’s show highlighted le cuisine français. The Quickfire featured escargot, the guest judge was French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, and the Elimination Challenge involved classic French sauces and proteins. There were a few twists and turns — the Quickfire was “high-stakes,” which meant the loser (Jessie) was sent home, and the winner (Kevin G.) received immunity and a coveted dinner invitation with the best French chefs in the world, including Joel Robuchon.

b-volt-dishBryan Voltaggio’s Warm Cured Trout with Deconstructed Bearnaise

Michael V. worked with Jennifer to create the second best dish of Rabbit Chasseur with Mustard Noodle and Shiso. Bryan V. worked with Mike Isabella (who is totally riding the coattails of the Voltaggio brthers) on the winning dish of Warmed Cured Trout with Deconstructed Bearnaise. The photo of the dish doesn’t do the trout justice. In Tom Colicchio’s blog, he described the far more complex preparation of the dish, where Bryan took the two top fillets of trout, placed a thin layer of prosciutto between them, “glued” them together, and sous-vide them. And since Isabella admitted to never having made bearnaise before this challenge, Bryan V. clearly deserved his second win. The loser was Hector. chateaudesancerreAs with episode three, I’m not sure Hector was entirely responsible for the failure of his and Ash’s dish of Chateaubriand and Sauce a Poive. But the competition is tough this season.

What to drink with la truite avec bearnaise? Perhaps something from the Loire Valley. The Sancerre is beloved in France. Made of 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, this wine is delicate, semi-dry, crisp and refreshing. And, with aromas of grapefruit and white flowers, it is an ultimate summer wine and a good pairing for the winning dish. Want a recommendation? Try the Château de Sancerre.

posted by Ms. S&C