Monday, November 17, 2008

There's Something About a Wine Cellar

It started when I was young. My grandfather would take me down to his wine cellar and let me explore. I loved the musty smell, the dust-covered bottles and how happy he always was in his cellar. I was fascinated by the big bottles; he had a 5-liter of something that was as tall as I was! His cellar mostly contained French wines, as was probably the case for most collectors of his day. Burgundy was his favorite. I can't tell you specifically what was in his cellar, but we wine geeks of today would definitely drool. I've often said that I probably drank some of the most amazing wines of my life before I turned 18!
Today, I have a much smaller cellar, but I love being in it all the same. It takes some effort to get there; two people have to lift the floor boards in my office to gain access. That makes it all the more special. Last week, we went down to pull up some wines for the holiday season. I sat on the dirt floor and many people will we have for Thanksgiving? Christmas? What am I thinking about serving? Will we do any other entertaining during the holiday season? How many parties will we be invited to? Having answers to none of these questions, I began grabbing. A double magnum of Raymond Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997; it was highly rated on release. A 2004 Pax Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah, Mendocino County, made whan Pax was still the winemaker. A 2003 Imagery Sunny Slope Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley. A 1994 & 1995 vertical of Grgich Hills Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (pre-colored labels!) I'm looking forward to trying these cellar gems and sharing my impressions with you. Now, about the menu.....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Election Night Dinner

I received an e-mail on Nov. 3, from my Dad. He had copied my sister as well. "What are you making for dinner tomorrow night?" he asked. You see, I couldn't help being a foodie; it's in my genes.
It may seem oddly complex for a night that one wants to be glued to the TV, but we made Peking Duck. In honor of election night, we re-named it, "Bush's Lame Duck." In reality, it is not a very difficult meal to make. The Chinese pancakes are probably the hardest part. But, it is time consuming and you have to plan ahead and start it the night before. I think that what stops most people from trying is that most recipes tell you that you have to hang the duck overnight in a cold place. You can get the exact same effect from putting it on a rack in the fridge. Recipes abound on the internet. The Food Network, , has five. The basic procedure is: pour boiling water over the duck twice, then hang or chill overnight, uncovered. The next day, baste with a soy/honey/sesame oil mix and roast in the oven. Seriously, it's that easy. You do have to make the Chinese pancakes though. Please, please, please do not use flour tortillas. The pancakes aren't that hard, and significant others and children can help. They are worth it.
What to drink? I like beer. A lager or pilsner. For authenticity, have Tsing Tao. But Pilsner Urquell, Stella Artois or your favorite would do just fine.


In our home, the holiday season starts on October 28, my husband's birthday. We always make a fabulous meal, and drink fabulous wine. This year was no exception. We had horseradish and dijon mustard encrusted filet mignons with potato gratin with bacon, leek and gruyere. Our wine was Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon, Helena Montana Vineyard, Knights Valley, 2003. Sometimes, a meal just turns out perfect. This was one of those times.
One of the key components of the meal is fresh horseradish. If you can get beyond the phallic nature of the root, it is worth trying. When grated, the flavor is more intense, yet less bitter than the bottled kind. It is also not as gloppy, so mixed with the dijon mustard, it adhered perfectly to the steaks. If you are going to make this dish, sear the steaks first, let them cool, then put on the horseradish/mustard mix and finish in the oven to your desired temperature.
I got the gratin recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine, Oct./Nov. 2008 issue. Let me make a plug for this glossy. There are a zillion cooking magazines out there; I read a lot of them. Many are good. Many are women's magazines in disguise; many are travel magazines in disguise; some are self-improvements magazines in disguise. Some even have political agendas. If you want a magazine that is all about great recipes and cooking techniques - period - then Fine Cooking is the choice for you. It is my absolute favorite cooking magazine. Check it out at
We were thrilled with our wine pairing. Anakota produces two wines, both Cabernet Sauvignons. They are both produced from high-altitude, single vineyards on Mount Saint Helena in Knights Valley. The Helena Dakota vineyard is at an elevation of 750 feet, and the Helena Montana (which we had), is at 950 feet. This wine was concentrated and full of dark berries - blackberries and black currents. It was incredibly smooth; the tannins so well integrated, that I give it "Drink Now" status.
Sometimes the wine and food just melt in your mouth....