Category Archives: wine

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

S&C alerts–brought to you from Oprah

A good friend of Ms. S&C’s, and one who is likely in the running for Oprah’s-biggest-fan-ever, recently passed on these S&C-related finds from the August 2009 issue of O magazine.  Ms. S&C thought she’d share, as she does love Oprah’s recommendations, for just about about everything. (In case you missed it, see the post on her “favorite things.”)


Shoe-related newsSoleMates — No more heels sinking into the grass or falling into sidewalk cracks. These discreet, little plastic things attach to most heels, to give stability on grass and to keep you from destroying your heels on sidewalk cracks. They come in clear and black, and seem worth it for $10.00. I usually recommend wedges for grassy events, but I definitely need another solution for walking on brick sidewalks in this city. Read more in the O magazine feature.

Cocktail-related news: BYO Boxed Wine — Check out a new website where you can locate restos that allow you to bring your own wine (just enter your zip code). You’ll be surprised at the number of DC-area places. Only 10 regions are covered so far, but it was  highlighted in O, and that means you can expect that number to go up drastically.

And while you are at it, bringing your own wine and all, consider boxed wine as an option. Yes, I said it. Boxed wine. In higher demand because of its eco-friendly packaging and long shelf life, there’s a new wave of premium quality boxed wine available. For a weeknight supper, O magazine suggests the Black Box Sauvignon Blanc. Ms. S&C has tried the Black Box brand (Shiraz is good too), and highly recommends it. Trust me, this won’t be the last you’ve heard of boxed wine over here. Read more in the O magazine feature.

posted by Ms. S&C

Beach Twists

A Wednesday-through-Sunday beach vacation with friends from high school and college was the perfect chance to put a multitude of cocktails to the test. It was a relaxing, laid-back affair, so exotic experimentation was not at the forefront of Miss Mojito’s train of thought. Rather, this was an opportunity to mix good ingredients in new and interesting ways with refreshing results.

DRINK: Frozen Margarita blended-margarita
TWIST: Grapefruit Juice
1 cup of tequila, ½ cup lime juice, 1/3 cup Triple Sec and a pitcher full of ice make up a standard batch of frozen margaritas. A ½ cup of pink grapefruit juice adds a splash of color and a touch of tang to this beachy concoction.

DRINK: Salty Dog
TWIST: Lime Juice
2 ounces of gin, a large splash of grapefruit and a salted rim go into a traditional serving of the Salty Dog. We found a ½ ounce or so of fresh lime juice to be a nice addition.

DRINK: Sangria
TWIST: A frozen version
A good friend shared her recipe for a frozen sangria that was the perfect easy beach drink – it was fun, fruity and light enough for some daytime-appropriate imbibing. The night before, mix a bottle of fruity white (we used a pinot grigio), a can of frozen lemonade concentrate and OJ in a bowl. Freeze overnight, then mix and serve the next morning. Repeat as needed to prevent beach-related dehydration throughout the course of your vacation.

Posted by Miss Mojito.

Cake and punch

The fun thing about going to a one year old’s birthday party is the party turns out to be one that’s really more for adults. Ms. S&C recently had the pleasure honor of fixing a punch for an adorable lad’s first birthday party. Said adorable lad also happens to be Miss Mojito’s nephew! While the pomegranate champagne punch was a crowd pleaser, the real hit of the party was this incredible rainbow-colored cake baked by the lad’s superstar mom, LC. LC tells me the rainbow cake was inspired by a number of blogs and recipe sites (Google rainbow cake and you’ll get oodles of results). But her cake and icing recipe came from Restaurant Eve’s Birthday Cake. Clever mom that she is, LC implemented the rainbow layering and colored coconut for the topping, rather than using plain old sprinkles.

bday-cakeSpectacular rainbow colored birthday cake

For the punch: when asked to help make a cocktail for the party, I wanted something equally colorful and festive. Since we were serving a large crowd of 20-30 people, I knew that punch was the only practical option. I found a pomegranate rum punch recipe from Bon Appetit on Epicurious. I’ve always been a fan of pomegranate juice – the color and tartness make it a perfect mixer for cocktails. Not to mention all the health benefits. But, I’m not so much a fan of rum (which could be good in a fall/winter version), so I subbed champagne and white wine, and made a few other tweaks. The result was a bright, cheerful, and sparkling beverage that parents, and friends and family of parents, can enjoy.

pom-champagne-punchPomegranate champagne punch with lime and mint

Pomegranate Champagne Punch


  • Simple syrup
  • 5 bottles chilled brut Champagne
  • 2 bottles chilled white wine (Ms. S&C uses sauvignon blanc)
  • 1 cup triple sec
  • 3 cups pomegranate juice,  (Ms. S&C prefers POM Wonderful)
  • 4 limes, thinly sliced
  • Simple syrup, to taste
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • Fresh mint for garnish (optional)
  • 1 ice block


For the simple syrup: bring 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar to boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Cool syrup completely. Note: adding lime slices is always an option to infuse the syrup.

Combine Champagne, white wine, triple sec and pomegranate juice in punch bowl. Add syrup to sweeten to taste. Mix in lime slices, and pomegranate seeds. Add ice block to bowl. Garnish with mint.

posted by Ms. S&C

The winning cheftestant

I think I can speak for many of us when I say that last week’s Top Chef finale was a big disappointment. Carla practically self-destructed; Stefan’s food was described as soul-less; and that left Hosea winning season five.

The final challenge was, as Tom Colicchio phrased it, “cook us the best three-course meal of your life.” The surprise twist, because each episode needs at least one or two surprise twists, was allowing each cheftestant to choose a contestant from a previous season as their sous chef. Carla partnered with Casey, my favorite from season three. Stefan selected Marcel, who apparently has a lot of personality (read: a jerk), but I didn’t watch that season so I can’t really say. Hosea picked (picture me swooning) Richard Blais, the runner-up from last season, to assist him. I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting Richard, albeit briefly, when I was in Atlanta last spring and I heart him. Heart him. Heart him.

The cheftestants served their three-course meals to a mixed bunch of musicians, restaurateurs and chefs at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Carla, poor Carla. Not sure how she was steered so wrong. She cooked her beef using a technique she’s never used, sous vide, and then forgot to lower the temperature of her soufflés. Stefan had a solid evening, cooking the best dish of the night — Pan Seared Squab, Braised Cabbage, Schupfnudeln, Foie Gras and Grape Jus. I guess he got some foie gras from Hosea after all. Stefan’s mistake was going the traditional route and cooking a three course meal that ended with a very average dessert, unfortunately.

In Hosea’s defense, his food overall looked like it was better and was thoughtfully prepared. He was probably Top Chef of the night, just not of the season. His Blackened Red Fish on Corn Cake with Creole Roumelade looked great. And, the Seared Scallop with Foie Gras on Pain Perou, Apple Preserves and Foie Gras Foam appeared delicious.


Hosea’s Seared Scallop with Foie Gras on Pain Perou,
Apple Preserves and Foie Gras Foam

For the drink pairing: The classic accompaniment for foie gras is a Sauterne, a full-bodied, sweet white wine from Bordeaux that has a high acidity and therefore a good accompaniment for rich foods. It is also good for dessert or as an apertif. A Twitter friend recommended this one from Barton & Guestier. Described as supple and suave, with nice freshness on the palate and intense mouth flavors. Hootie-hoo!