Monday, October 27, 2008

Winter Sky

Yesterday was sunny and the temperature was in the mid 60 degree range, and today the high temperature was 42. No question the season has changed. There are possible snow flurries tonight so the rosemary plants, the parsley and the oregano that are growing in pots will come inside.

Tonight was fagotini di pollo and leftover polenta rounds. The fagotini is chicken thighs boned and stuffed with garlic, herbs and chicken forcemeat. A sage leaf is laid on top and the entire package is wrapped in a slice of bacon. The local market prepares them several time a week and I purchased two for this evening. They were roasted at 400 degrees until the chicken skin was golden and the bacon was brown and crisp. The polenta rounds were dipped in flour, egg and panko crumbs and quickly sauteed until the polenta was soft and creamy in the center and the pank crumbs were warm and crisp. We added a small salad and the remainder of the Perrin Vinsobres "Les Cornuds" from a couple of days ago.

The wine lost its harsh edges, mellowed and was a nice foil for the pungent chicken.

It's dark outside, the dishes are done and it's time for a Lagavulin Distillers edition Scottish whisky.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

October Surprise

In popular usage the term "October Surprise" denotes a major event that effects an election in either a positive or negative way depending on one's particular view point. There is no way this blog will deal with politics as the U. S. election has been enough to drive me away from radio and television due to the overwhelming volume of nasty ads for both national and local candidates and causes. Thank heaven it will end soon!

October Surprise for our purpose here simply means it was a fantastic day weather-wise for late October in Ohio. There were no clouds in the sky, the temperatures were in the mid 60 degree range and there was a light breeze. It was just ideal and weather that I would love to see day after day.

That made it a major food day as well, and the grill was busy.

The first thing on the grill was some fresh beets. They were wrapped in foil and holes were punched in the foil before they were placed on indirect heat on the grill. Oak chips soaked in water were tossed on the charcoal and the lid was securely in pace on the grill for over an hour. The beets roasted and absorbed a small amount of the smoke. They were cooled, peeled and sliced and allowed to rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Finally they were dressed with some balsamic vinegar, a touch of Bolivian rose salt and some fresh goat cheese. They were earthy and sweet and just subtly smoky. It was a perfect salad for a wonderful day.

While the beets were chilling they were replaced on the grill by a flat chicken. This was a free range bird with all but the leg and wing tip bones removed. It was marinated in sparkling wine, basil, shallots, tomatoes, salt and pepper and then grilled for an hour over indirect heat. I fixed some polenta loaded with fresh thyme and sage, herb butter, red pepper flakes and several varieties of grated cheeses. It was soft, creamy, fragrant, mildly spicy and just a delightful dish. The chicken was was slightly smoky, tart and delicious.

The wine was a pleasant surprise. I am not a general fan of California Merlot, but the 2004 Villa Toscano Sierra Foothills Merlot was a refreshing change of pace. There were some blackberries and some dark plums, soft tannins, decent acidity and a subtle balance to the wine. It wouldn't stand up to a strong, hearty meal, but it did pair well with the chicken and polenta. There was very little residual sweetness, which is my major complaint about California Merlots. It was a very good wine for this particular meal.

I have no idea on the price because the bottle was a gift from a non-wine drinking friend who was in the area of the winery on business last year. He visited the winery on a break from work and brought the bottle back with him.

The dogs got their weekend walks in early this morning and they spent the afternoon helping to cook and chewing on rawhide bones. They were more than willing to munch on some of the chicken skin and pieces of polenta once it cooled.

There is chicken left and the remaining polenta was poured onto a board, allowed to cool completely and cut into rounds. The leftovers will make a wonderful weeknight dinner this coming week.

October, because of days like this, remains my favorite month in this area. It is doubtful that we will have another day like this until next October as the forecast is for deteriorating conditions and November like weather. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about Ohio wine when it was a premier product in the mid 1800's and in it he described November as "dark and drear." At least I have today to carry me through until good weather arrives again in the spring.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Full Throttle

The knee is definitely not full throttle, but the computer is. After three weeks of running slow and having way too many problems the machine is again purring like a kitten with a full belly of warm milk courtesy of mom. After several wrong and expensive diagnoses the problem was solved for a paltry $13 by replacing a defective memory chip on the main board.

Since the problem was so minor we took some of the money and splurged on a porterhouse steak for dinner. The weather is cool but sunny, so the steak and the grilled bread were done outside. Only the salad and the rosemary potatoes required anything inside.

The wine was delicious. It was a 2005 Perrin & Fils Vinsobres Les Cornuds Cote du Rhone Village. The wine is 65% Syrah and 35% Grenache. Earthy and peppery with medium body and great acidity the wine tasted of bright plums and strawberries. It was a great pairing with the steak and potatoes. By itself it seemed a little austere, but paired with the food and little breathing time it just bloomed. The acid was tamed and the tannins softened and that made for a very enjoyable bottle of wine.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


We have a work around on the computer problems since the replacement part is on back order for a couple of weeks. Things look a little less "intense" on my screen but other than that things should work fine.

A month or so ago the New York Times did a tasting of a large group of wines based on the Aglianico grape from southern Italy.

They seemed reasonably priced and sounded good so the search was on locally for a bottle. Pictured here is the result of the search, a 2003 Alcione Aglianico Puglia. While the Times recommended wines mostly from Campania and Basilicata, all the local market had was wines from Puglia, an area just north of those the Times tasted.

I opened it last week and it was dark and full of blackberries and very dark cherries on the nose. There was nothing subtle about the wine, and since it comes from a hot weather area it's obviously made from fully ripe grapes. There were some nice tannins and decent acid in the wine, but the fruit was foremost. The wine reminded me of a properly made zinfandel - one with some restraint to it. It checked in at 14% alcohol but tasted like it had less. For $15 it's a good wines.

The first half of the bottle paired with a small strip steak and that was a great match. The second half paired even better with some pasta with a fresh tomato and shallot sauce. Two good meals and the wine.

I made a quick call to the local Italian wine guru (and importer) and he said there weren't many in the market, but he had a few from Campania in his portfolio. He decided to drop a few off at the local store for sampling and sample them one night this coming week. Invitation accepted.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Off Line

Sadly, the computer is experiencing some problems so it will be up to a week before we're back to any schedule. Repair parts are on the way.

That said, there will be some good wines and good food while the computer is down so there will be much to talk about when things are repaired.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This and That

I've reached the point with the knee recovery that a glass of wine or Scottish whisky is much better for pain management than a pill.

The weather here in Ohio seems to be like the summer without end as unusually warm conditions continue. The humidity was back for the last several days so the air conditioning was still running. Usually by this time of the year the nights are cool enough to open windows, but not this year. It is not yet "big red wine" season, but there are a few candidates for 'first' when the weather cools down.

Of course this does extend the outdoor grilling season, even though I have been known to knock snow off the grill in order to have a good steak in the winter.

Last night was a couple of medium thick pork chops. The local market carries only Du Breton natural pork from Quebec and it is delicious. We basted them while cooking in a mixture of veggie oil, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, pepper flakes, salt and water. Add a small salad and a little rice and a glass of Domaine du Cara Moulin a Vent 2006 and it made for a nice evening.

Rain is coming in today and the nights are supposed to begin cooling again.

...and the photo above is ripening Chardonnay grapes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

So Close...

...and yet so far.

The doves are coming in to eat in the mornings and Scott doesn't think they belong on his sidewalk.

Interesting week. Took a trip to Cincinnati to Findlay Market, and old public market north of the downtown area. I hobbled through several of the buildings and looked at about a dozen butchers and fish mongers before coming home with some large prawns, some chicken, three varieties of sausages and three different kinds of salt. The salt was most interesting. We picked up some red Hawaiian salt, rose Bolivian salt and some peach colored flake salt from the Murray River in Australia. The Murray River is more of a finishing salt while the other two were coarse salt that I put in salt grinders.

We did do a meal around things that we bought that day. We did chicken breasts on a bed of braised leeks and shallots, lots of veggies, some bread and a nice wine to go with it. The wine? A 2005 Domaine Chantemerle premier cru Chablis, Fourchaume. Exquisite. All chardonnnay should taste that good.

The rest of the week I've been trying the salts. The Bolivian was very tasty on eggs while the Murray River was super on a grilled veal chop. Last night the red Hawaiian was interesting on a piece of halibut.

The most unusual part of the Cincinnati trip was waiting while Barack Obama's motorcade passed by us on the way to a rally in a Cincinnati park near the market. That certainly answered our question about why there were so many police on the road south to the market. They were everywhere to the point it looked like a convention.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Last Rose' of Summer

Yesterday was a good day.

The minor surgery went well and the physical therapy began, and while painful it wasn't as bad as I expected. Friends offered dinner so we planned a menu and they picked up some items at the market and did everything here.

The weather was summer like with sunny skies and temperatures in the lower 80 degree range, but the forecast was for a big change (and it is raining hard as this is typed). Having no restrictions on diet or alcohol I decided to open one of the two Louis Casters a Damry rose' champagnes.

It was a beautiful pale copper in color and tasted of strawberries and fresh biscuits. It was a wonderful way to start an evening. Wonderful bubbles and medium body with good acidity only made the wine better.

For the menu we decided on a two pound porterhouse steak, a fennel and apple a slaw with juniper berries and lemon and a curried couscous with almonds and currants.

I pulled out a 1995 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva.

It was still dark in color and smelled of fully ripe strawberries and cherries with hints of flowers and some earthiness. The tannins and acids were fully integrated into this wine and it was in total balance. It was as good as a fully mature Chianti gets. It was full bodied and fruity with only enough bite to refresh the mouth. It was a perfect example of how wines improve in the bottle and why I like the taste of a mature wine. It was not old in any sense, but it was mature and at its peak.

The steak was grilled, then carved off the bone and lightly sprinkled with lemon juice and olive oil. The wine was remarkable with the steak and the currants in the couscous. There were no problems with the slaw either as the fennel and apple seemed to go with this wine as well. It was a wonderful meal.

There is one more bottle in the cellar and it is on the "drink soon" list as I can't see it improving.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Week Without Wine

...and the week was not entirely by choice.

First, the second half of the Langhe Nebbiolo described below was a tremendous wine. The harsh tannins were gone on the third day and the fruit and bouquet were outstanding.

There was entirely too much time spent at work as recovery from Hurricane Ike was finally completed. In the process I managed to be on a ladder which partially collapsed and suffered a mild, but painful, tear of an ACL in the left knee. That will be corrected tomorrow (Monday). Tonight will be a good wine and a good meal.

With luck the last of the year's hot air balloons have passed overhead. If so, both dogs will be happy.