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Archive for the ‘Out Tasting’ Category

October is a tricky month in Bordeaux. It can maintain the warmth of summer, while entertaining cool evenings, or be dead cold.  Each of these brings opportunities to the wine makers.  Slightly overcast days are not unusual.

It was just such an overcast, slightly cool day last October when we pulled into the gravelly drive of Chateau Lascombes.  It was my second visit to the chateau and my first opportunity to spend the night in one of the beautifully appointed guest rooms. 

The team was in the final stages of harvest and the grape leaves were turning their fall reds and yellows.  We walked through the vineyards and vat room and the smell of freshly pressed grape juice permeated the air, the air itself intoxicating.  We tasted some of the grapes from that had been destined to become Lascombes, robbing ourselves of the wine to come.

Situated in Bordeaux’s storied Margaux appellation and owned by Colony Capital since 2001, Chateau Lascombes is named for Chevalier de Lascombes, its first owner who was born in 1625.  The existing chateau was built in 1867, turreted and the brick now ivy-covered. It is very easy to imagine hoop-skirted, corseted women in vibrant silks strolling the grounds with waist-coated men who carring ornate walking sticks.  Today, it is more likely that you will see comfortably worn jeans with corduroy and cashmere, although silk scarves are always in vogue.

Despite the hours demanded by the harvest, which is done by hand, Chateau Lascombes’ General Manager Dominique Befve, regaled the group with stories of the chateau, the challenges of harvests, and of course, the wines, over a delicious dinner hosted in the dining room of Chateau Lascombes. 

 

After starting with foie gras, the main course was scallops served in a leek sauce, followed by a selection of cheeses which included comte, brie, and blue, and finally a chocolate lava cake and coffee.  The wines accompanying the meal were a 2008 Chevalier de Lascombes, the second label of Chateau Lascombes, and a 2006 Chateau Lascombes Grand Cru Classe – Margaux (50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot).  Those adhering to the “white wine with fish” rule would be surprised at how magically the Margaux reds suited the scallops and their rich, creamy sauce.  As delicious as the powerfully tannic ’06 Lascombes was after only 4 years of aging, I can only imagine what it will taste like after 10 or 15 years.  The ’08 Chevalier held its own, and will stand up to aging 7 years or so.

Thanks  for letting me share this evening at Lascombes with you.  I would love to hear about your experiences at chateaux and wineries.

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Chateau Lascombes 2008

Chateau Lascombes was one of my favorite stops of our 2008 trip to Bordeaux.  It was a rainy day at the Margaux Grand Cru Classe and we were met by General Manager Dominique Befve, former technical director at Lafite Rothchild, who has served as “the boss” at Chateau Lascombes since 2001.

After touring the vineyards, vats, amazingly lighted cellars, and chateau at Lascombes we enjoyed a wonderful meal with Dominique.  The wine, of course, was excellent.

Enjoy the pictures!

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Chateau Brown 2008

In a few weeks I will be returning to my favorite part of France – Bordeaux.  This will be my third visit to this exquisite wine-producing region.  In preparation I have been gleaning through photographs that I took in 2008 and I thought I would share them with you. 

This first group is from Chateau Brown.  The red wine of Chateau Brown is rich and luscious – a complex blend of the Bordeaux varietals that you savor slowly and enjoy with a nice piece of beef or pork.  The white is a crisp sauvignon blanc that is wonderful with scallops and shrimp. 

We were there during the harvest of the grapes – that is one of the most exciting times to visit a wine producer.  The care that is taken with the grapes – handpicking, sorting, and so on – goes a long way to explain the cost of some wines.

I hope you enjoy the pictures!  I’ll be posting more soon.

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When planning a few days at the beach, I of course, first thought about the food.  Fried Calabash-style shrimp, roasted oysters, steamed crabs, broiled flounder, and fruity boat drinks.  What I didn’t think about was the hushpuppies – those delicious balls of fried corn batter and onions.

Growing up in a small South Carolina town, the local chapter of the Lions Club (the International Lions Club is the world’s largest service organization), would hold fish fry fund raisers at the Community Hut.  Everyone in town attended and it was a wonderful social event.  The men in the community caught and cooked the fish outside on large burners, and the ladies made coleslaw kept the ice tea flowing.  Our neighbor, Mr. Gary, made and cooked the hushpuppies, and they were the best – golden light, fluffy, and oniony on the inside, and crunchy brown on the outside.  I liked them as much or more than the fish!

So when we sat down to eat supper at the legendary Sea Captain’s House at Myrtle Beach and our waiter brought a plate of crispy hushpuppies it was almost a surprise.  They were delicious and we enjoyed them both before our main course arrived and along with our flounder and shrimp, and they inevitably invoked memories and conversation of those Lions Club Fish Fries and Mr. Gary’s Hushpuppies.

And, those boat drinks weren’t bad either.

Hushpuppies are easy to make.  I like to add rosemary to mine. 

Ingredients

  • 61/2 cups peanut oil (if you’ve been frying fish you can use that oil as well)
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions

Using a deep pot, preheat oil for frying to 350 degrees F.

Stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, and salt in a deep mixing bowl. Stir in the onion and rosemary. Stir together the buttermilk and egg in a separate bowl. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Drop the batter, about 1 teaspoon at a time, into the oil. Fry until golden brown, turning the hushpuppies during the cooking process. (Tip: Dipping the spoon in a glass of water after each hushpuppy is dropped in the oil will make the dough easier to manage).

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Soft-shell Crab from Momo's Bistro, Columbia, SC

We’ve just turned the corner – and it was a hard right.  We moved from a mild, rainy spring to a triple digit summer without so much as blinking an eye.  South Carolina is like that – when summer comes it means business.   The arrival of summer brought an abrupt halt to the crunchy soft-shell crabs that have been showing up on menus throughout our coastal state for the last couple of months. 

Every restaurant in Columbia that could get their hands on these naked crustaceans has served their special recipe.  It’s typically the Blue Crab that has outgrown and molted its shell that we enjoy here in South Carolina and this year I’ve had the opportunity to have Soft-shell Crab Tacos, Soft-shell Crab Salad, Soft-shell Crab Sandwiches, and Soft-shell Crab with a Caper Sauce.  All I can say it that they have all been delicious.  Emails, Twitter, and Facebook updates from local restaurants have headlined with “We have soft-shelled crabs but don’t know how long they will last!” 

I grew up in the Low Country of South Carolina and I can remember eating crab boiled with Old Bay Seafood Seasoning, but we never ate soft-shelled crab.  I didn’t learn about that seasonal delicacy until I was an adult.  I can say with complete certainty that when I was a child crabbing with chicken neck bait in the South Carolina marsh in an old john boat it never would have crossed my mind that there was a point in time when we could eat the entire crab!  But, as they say, you live, you learn; and I’ve learned to love the crunchy deliciousness of the soft-shell crab and those few weeks each year when we can get them.  A crisp Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite match for this dish.  Hope you enjoy!

 
Sauteed Soft-shell Crabs with Capers

(serves 6 appetizers or 3 main courses)

Ingredients

  • 6 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and patted dry
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • Few chive blades, chopped
  • Paprika, Garlic Salt, Thyme, and Pepper mixed together

Directions

Season crabs with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil and saute the crabs until soft, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the crabs and set aside. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Then add the capers and white wine. Cook until wine has reduced to about 1/2. Swirl in the butter and the chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer crabs to a plate, spoon caper sauce over the crabs and garnish with paprika, garlic salt, thyme and pepper mixture.

Soft-shell Crab at Fleur De Lys Home Culinary Institute

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Crawfish Boils at Rosewood Crawfish Festival - May 1, 2010

Some events are just flat out cool – even when it’s burning up hot!  The Rosewood Crawfish Festival is one of those events.  This year on the first of May, folks gathered in the Rosewood neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina to celebrate that Louisiana delicacy crawfish.

There was food – crawfish gumbo, crawfish e’touffe’e, and of course steamed crawfish – and we tried it all.  There’s camaraderie among people sitting at communal tables popping the heads off crawfish and sucking down the delicious meat from the tail.  It’s a decent amount of work for a little bit of meat, but it’s totally worth it – there’s a whole sub-culture of cool that goes with it.  The group sitting next to us were college students eating their first crawfish – and they were very proud of themselves when they finished their plate of crawfish.   As for me, after the first ten or so crawfish, my mouth started to numb, so at least the heat of the crawfish didn’t bother me – heck, by the time we finished the plate, I wasn’t sure if I had lips or not.

Crawfish working the crowd at the Rosewood Crawfish Festival - May 1, 2010

Great local bands, lawn chairs, children running around, some poor sole walking around in a crawfish costume, and pole vaulting are signatures of this event.  I’m not sure how I’ve lived my life and never seen pole vaulting before.  We stood there watching absolutely beautiful athletes from local high schools and the University of South Carolina gracefully running and lifting themselves high above us earth-bound humans in the ninety degree weather.  Though, I have to admit to a catty comment about the unseemly lack of cellulite displayed by the women vaulters.  I’d be more than happy to share some of mine. 

I have occasionally cooked crawfish at home, simply boiling the crawfish in water seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning.  Delicious, but not nearly as much heat as those at the festival.

 Thanks to the Rosewood Merchants Association for one cool (and hot!) afternoon.  We’re ready for next year!

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The Cupping Room Sandwich
The Cupping Room Sandwich

We had been to The Cupping Room Café once before – for breakfast.   And while we had very simple fare on that visit (bagels, muffins, and a honey bun the size of the moon), it was good, the service efficient and pleasant, and the atmosphere exceptional.  So this year we decided to give The Cupping Room a try at lunch.

A minute on the atmosphere of The Cupping Room – it’s like you want your living room to be.  Warm and cozy yellow walls, beautiful flowers, and unique art, warm wooden tables, and a friendly staff that brings you what you ask for.  The weather was horrendous – pouring rain.  You know that feeling – finding a haven in a storm.  And on top of that – a haven with really good food.

When possible I try to order signature dishes at restaurants, then taste other items on the menu.  So I had to try The Cupping Room Sandwich – grilled carrots (carrots on a sandwich? – a first for me!), grilled plum tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and grilled smoked ham on an onion roll spread with a grainy mustard.   Of, course a side order of fries was required.   I love grilled vegetables and they were delicious paired with the smokiness of the ham.  The fries were thin, crispy, hot and yummy with the perfect amount of salt on them.  Some restaurants tend to over-salt French fries.  These were perfect.  A crisp sauvignon blanc was just the right accompaniment.

There’s nothing particularly complicated about this sandwich.  Any of us could make it at home – the key is quality ingredients.   We’ve already decided that next year we’re heading to The Cupping Room for dinner – it will be our first dining hat-trick (to borrow my soccer-playing nephew’s lingo).  I’ll keep you posted.

359 W. Broadway
New York, NY, 10013

Tel: (212) 925-2898
Fax: (212) 966-5617

Email: info@cuppingroomcafe.com

Web site: http://www.cuppingroomcafe.com/zgrid/proc/site/sitep.jsp

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