Gloria Ferrer bubbles and a place card with my name on it...not a bad way to start an evening...
and when that first sip is followed by poached shrimp atop goat cheese grits...you know you're in for a real treat.
I recently enjoyed a preview of the New Year's Eve Celebration planned for December 28-31 at Fleming's Steakhouse, and indulged in the restaurant's brand new release, a 2009 Cab called Forty-Six Diamonds.
The wine is a collaboration between Fleming's Director of Wine, Maeve Pesquera, the talented folks at Hall Wines, and renowned artist and wine enthusiast Thomas Arvid.
This big, smoky, cherry-fragranced red naturally cries out for food, and paired with a mouth-watering filet topped with lobster-brioche bread pudding (I'm allergic to lobster, so I enjoyed some succulent crab legs dipped in butter), I had one of those 'last meals' sort of moments.
When you pit Old World against New World in terms of vino, you create a battle of very different styles and tastes.
For instance, I did enjoy the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs at Flemings recent 'Bottle Wars' event in Rancho Mirage, but preferred a yummy French Brut Champagne from Nicolas Feuillatte. Yet in my very next sip, New World was king with a creamy Napa Chard from Merryvale, over the forgettably flabby Tuscan II Borro.
In this battle of the palate, guests voted for their preferences in two additional categories: Merlot and Cab-Merlot blend.
For me and my wine-loving friend Cheri, the next one was a close call...a tobaccoey, tannic offering from St. Emilion (our overall fav) won out over the blueberry-filled Burgess Merlot.
Same for our final pick, the woodsy Chateau de Parenchere, enjoyed for its subtle fruit rather than the spicy Australian blend from Greg Norman.
Second week of September...100+ degrees...foul, stomach-clenching stink of rotten eggs in the air...thanks a bunch, Salton Sea...how to cope? With cleansingly delicious lemons, wine, and crab...
I wanted to whip something up that would pair well with the yummy Australian white blend (at $9.99, a screamin' deal) I'd grabbed at World Market...so I threw some crab claw meat in a pan and sauteed it with lemon zest, garlic, butter, truffle oil, crushed red pepper, black truffle salt, and cracked black pepper...oh and a few drops of the delightful vino, of course...
Pillar Box White is a Sauv Blanc/Verdelho/Chardonnay blend that despite the whole 'cat pea' effect on the nose, is actually a soft, smooth, mellow, and citrusy little number...an awesome match when you grind the lemon rind.
So good riddance, rotton eggs...now if those bigmouthed cicadas would just shut up for five minutes...
Sometimes the nicest treats are the most understated. Like the rich, raisiny, Amarone I found myself sipping on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Deep red in color with an aroma of warm buttered raisin bread, this fruit-filled Italian gem was perfectly paired with Trader Joe's flavorful and surprisingly light beef bolognese ravioli.
Filled with a tantalizing blend of mirepoix, tomato paste, veal, ricotta, garlic, and spices...I drizzled these tasty pasta pockets with truffle oil and topped them with shaved black truffle cheese...can't Monday stay away just another day?
Steak and sangria.
Sort of like Sinatra and the standards, and with just as much flavor. I enjoyed
a combination of the former at Fleming's recently, which had me humming a few
soulful bars myself.
My friend Dee and I
started with an island-inspired South Seas Sangria, made with Viñedos
Terranoble Sauvignon Blanc, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, and Peach Schnapps with
fresh peaches, honeydew melon, oranges, and lemons.
A refreshing, light
summer salad of butter lettuce and pear was tossed with with goat cheese,
candied walnuts, crispy onions, and a lemon vinaigrette.
Then came the moment we
had been waiting for...the most tender Prime New York Strip, courtesy of Chef Dave, arrived at the
table with a sweet and spicy rub, topped with a savory tomato and roasted red
pepper butter with chopped marcona almonds, and served with a side of summer
zucchini slaw. Our inner cavewomen were delighted.
sommelier Greg suggested a wine to enjoy with our steaks, and we weren't
disappointed. As an avowed lover of French Rhone reds, I was like a kid in a
candy store when a bottle of 2005 Summerland Trio arrived at the table. This
Santa Barbara County combo of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre was smooth and
smoky, with dark cherry and a little mocha tease on the finish.
We almost didn't have room
for a most decadent peach cobbler, topped with a brown sugar oat streusel and
vanilla ice cream...but our tummies somehow accomodated this sweet end to a
most perfect evening... For a complete schedule of Fleming's Summer Lovin’ Steak &
Sangria prix fixe dinners, visit: www.flemingssteakhouse.com
On a gorgeously idyllic spring Sunday on Lake Casitas in Ojai...
Amidst flavorful craft beers...
dozens of California wines to be sampled...
and even wine yokes for sale...
I discovered my new favorite, life-changing, brain chemistry-altering, palate pleasing vino.
Winemaker Nick Elliott's skillfull touch is the driving force behind Nicora’s small-lot, Rhone-style wines out of Paso Robles. Just 100 cases a year...and then its gone...Mark my words...this guy's gonna win some awards... www.nicorawine.com
I asked him about Buxom, a Grenache-based wine with a touch of Syrah, and my favorite of his creations...Euphoric.
What do Bad Company and good wine have in common? The answer is Paul Cullen.
The talented classical guitarist and former bass player for this beloved classic rock band also has his own wine label, aptly titled Unplugged and Uncorked.
When Paul visited the desert recently, I had the pleasure of tasting several of Paul's wines, and his thirst-quenching, tropical, 'I wanna be on a beach right now' Sonata Bianco comes to mind on this hot holiday weekend.
Refreshing on its own, this Sierra Foothills blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay is redolent with pear and honey, and was also terrific when paired with my homemade spicy shrimp and grits. This hefty white was well matched with the intense, earthy flavors of poblano peppers and garlic, and expertly tamed the heat from Sriracha chili sauce and cayenne.
For more about Paul Cullen and Unplugged and Uncorked, visit: