Sunday, February 26, 2012

Small Plate Supper Satisfaction

Iron Chef Jose Garces' modern approach to traditional pintxos (Peen-chos), or Basque tapas is the latest hot spot to arrive in Palm Springs, and its evening offerings don't disappoint. 
From handcrafted cocktails to figs wrapped in Serrano ham, Tinto provides an eclectic blend of food and drink.
One of my favorite new duos is a refreshing glass of lemony Albarino paired with Pulpo, a Spanish octopus with spicy tomato and smoked green olive aioli. The acid in this wine from the Rias Baixas region is pure heaven paired with the briny seafood...sandy beach not included. My dining partner and I agreed we will return for this dish again and again.
Then I met the lamb brochetas. This unusual and magnificent dish consists of skewered lamb loin, eggplant, bacon, and sherry jus, served in neat little shot glasses. As I enjoyed it with a glass of chocolatey Garnacha, all I needed was a club to bang on the table to complete the meat-eating cavewoman picture.
Follow me on Twitter:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Small Plates, Grande Flavors Abound at Tinto

I've enjoyed many terrific meals and fabulous wine during my seven years in the desert, but find myself often yearning for homecooking (especially Mom's meatballs) and a taste of my South Jersey/Philly roots.
Well, the next best thing to it has arrived in the form of Tinto (red wine in Spanish), which offers a modern approach to traditional pintxos (Peen-chos), or Basque tapas at The Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs.
The original Tinto is located in the City of Brotherly Love, where Iron Chef and James Beard Award-winner Jose Garces has created a restaurant empire of sorts with his modern take on traditional cuisines, prepared in refined, yet casual seettings.
At his latest outpost, there is an impressive selection of notable Basque wines and yummy native cocktails made with the freshest ingredients.
My first visit was a brunch for the ages. We started with a glass of Gurru Txaga, an incredible Rose from the Txakoli region.
On the nose, it had almost a fig and prune essence which made its stony minerality and cream sherry finish a nice surprise.
Gastronomic highlights included Pork Belly Montadito, a beautifully tender slice of Bershire pork belly lacquered in honey with shaved apples and paired with a chocolate and tobacco-inflected Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero. This wine had nice tannins which tamed the pork fat.
We also dined on the Tinto Skillet, a signature Garces dish of short ribs, caramelized onion, bacon, and potato. Also paired with the Tempranillo, it was divinity in food form.
The Grilled Chicken Bocadillo (sandwich), was adorned with bacon, a tomato-based Basquaise sauce, and shaved Idiazabal, a sheep's cheese.
As a dessert, my dining partner Rene and I literally wolfed down the Torrijas, a citrus-vanilla French toast with fresh berries and whipped cream.
I had the pleasure of meeting Garces just after the opening of this Palm Springs outpost. He is impressed with the sophistication of Palm Springs, and optimistic about his latest venture.
Next up, I'll tell you about my memorable first dinner at Tinto, which involved some octopus, lamb, and a wine that was so tasty it made me wanna slap someone.
Follow me on Twitter:!/VinoChick75

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crabby Thursday

Okay, so I wasn't in the greatest of midweek moods. It happens. But sometimes, even the crabbiest of moods can inspire equally crabby creations.
Take my crab and clam sautee, for instance. Briny, fruit of the sea simmered in olive oil, butter, garlic, shallots, and white wine, dusted with traces of cayenne pepper, cracked peppercorn, and a touch of artisan vanilla salt.
You know what? Seafood pasta, especially with crab, is superb with a crisp, clean Viognier. Well, I just so happened to stumble upon an excellent Australian version named...of all things...The Hermit Crab!!! If this wasn't culinary kismet at work, folks...I just don't know what is.

This wine has a citrusy and acidic flair to it, perfect with the lemon zest that topped my corn pasta (gluten free for those of you who choose an alternative to traditional pasta) creation, which I finished off with shredded, aromatic fresh mint and a dab of truffle oil.
 Follow me on Twitter:!/VinoChick75

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beefing Up

I have an unabashed love for burgers, which I enjoy pairing with yummy reds from time to time. On a recent weekday evening, I ordered takeout and enjoyed a juicy patty with cheese and grilled onions (fries dipped in white truffle oil at home) from a popular local New York-style deli here in the desert.
In between bites of yummy beef, I sipped on a glass of Reserve de L'Aube, a hefty and smoky French Syrah-Merlot blend. The wine was young, but had enough earth funk to cut through the iron-rich beef.
For a sweet treat to complete this carniverous feast, I nibbled on a piece of Wild Ophelia brand Beef Jerky milk chocolate bar. The hint of campfire in the cocoa was just enough to bring out a bit of the wine's dark fruit and tobacco...a perfect ending to a decadent dining experience.
Follow me on Twitter:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day Sexy Sangria for Two

I recently had the pleasure of appearing on Valley Views, a show that spotlights local events, celebrity interviews, and the desert lifestyle. Valley Views is hosted by the ever gracious Pattie Daly Caruso, a popular TV personality here in the Coachella Valley.
Pattie asked that I prepare a special Valentine's Day punch for the show, and wanting to surprise her, I opted for sangria instead.
I made two sangrias for this occasion, a red and a white version (recipes below), and paired each of them with dark and white chocolate, respectively.
Valentine's Day Sexy Red Sangria for Two

1 bottle of dry red wine (I prefer a Spanish red like a Rioja)

2 oz brandy

2 oranges, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 lime, sliced

1 apple, sliced

1/4 cup simple syrup

1/2 cup orange juice

dash of Angostura bitters

Mix all the ingredients together and squeeze the citrus wedges into the wine. Allow to sit in fridge at least six hours, preferably overnight. Serve your sangria over ice.
Valentine's Day Sexy White Sangria for Two

1 Bottle of dry white wine (I prefer a Portuguese Vinho Verde or Spanish Albarino)

2/3 cup simple syrup

2 oranges, sliced or may substitute 1 cup of orange juice

1 lemon, sliced

1 lime, sliced

handful of fresh strawberries, sliced

handful of fresh pineapple chunks

2 oz brandy

dash of Angostura bitters

Mix all ingredients together and squeeze the citrus wedges into the wine. Toss in the strawberry and pineapple wedges (leaving out seeds if possible). Allow to sit in fridge at least six hours, preferably overnight. Serve your sangria over ice.
Watch the full video of my appearance (Valley Views - 2012-005. Segment starts at 13:07):
Follow me on Twitter:!/VinoChick75