Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking for some lighter ideas? Try this Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

Are you feeling hungry but don't want a huge meal? Maybe you're having a weekend lunch with a friend and want to impress them with something beautiful yet simplistic. A simple avocado and grapefruit salad is an excellent choice, especially in winter when grapefruits are abundant in the absence of many local vegetables. This recipe is also perfect when prepared as an appetizer course for a wine dinner. I chose to pair it with a bright and crisp Sauvignon Blanc (Clifford Bay 2012) which echoed the citrus flavors in the salad. It takes a little prep to make the salad but you can do it all ahead of time for easy assembly when you're ready to eat. This recipe comes from Emeril Lagasse but I changed a couple things to make it more my own. I hope you enjoy.

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad


3 pink grapefruits
1 package of mixed greens or arugula
2 avocados (make sure they are ripe)


2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced shallots
1/4 cup sunflower oil or other mild salad oil

For the vinaigrette:  Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and whisk well. Add a pinch of salt if desired. Set aside. Wash the greens and set aside. Peel the grapefruits using a sharp knife. Cut between the white pith to remove the segments of fruit. Remove any seeds from the segments and set the segments aside in a bowl. Meanwhile, cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Cut the halves into wedges and remove the skin. Set the wedges aside.

To assemble the salad place a handful of greens on a salad plate. Decorate the greens with avocado slices and grapefruit segments. Dress lightly with the vinaigrette and some fresh cracked pepper if desired. Serve with a glass of wine.

Wine suggestion: Clifford Bay 2012 Sauvignon Blanc 
from Marlborough, New Zealand

Reason for this wine:  The wine is fruit forward and aromatic much like the salad itself. The flavor of the wine is ripe with citrus fruit, kiwi, lime zest and a grassy peppery finish. It is a bright and refreshing wine to complement a bright and refreshing salad.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Turning Japanese

I apologize for the long break, I've just returned from a two month stint in Japan heading up an office re-opening for my company.  I know Dave isn't as fun to read as I am so I can imagine our 5 faithful readers have been missing me tremendously.  I'm home for the next couple of weeks before I'm back on a plane headed once again to Tokyo for another couple of months.  I needed to catch up on some western foods and blogging!

I'm full on Cheddar Ale soup and Guinness chicken wings (see our previous post) that Dave was kind enough to make for me on this St. Patrick's Day.  We're listening to some Celtic music and drinking a Cab/Shiraz blend from Australia (eh, Ireland's not exactly known for their contributions to the world of wine).

So, Japan.  You're probably just dying to know what I ate and drank.  Sake is what comes to everyone's mind when talking about Japan and drinking and rightfully so, it is indeed everywhere in Japan.  What WAS surprising, however, was the many different types.  I had no idea!  This was all good stuff for me as my wine studies will eventually incorporate a section on sake, so although I'm not at home to take my course I figure it's just as good I attend the school of life as a means to learn it.

The food in Japan was surprising as well.  Not that it wasn't good, Japan and specifically Tokyo are known for their culinary offerings.  It was surprising the different types of Japanese cuisine that there is.  I was thinking of the basics when I first arrived there...sushi, rice and noodles (not the Ramen I had in college but the good stuff).  But au contraire mon frere!  (I don't know how to say that in Japanese).  There was yakitori and shabu shabu and okonomiyaki and oh my!

Fish and vegetables are prominent in Japanese cuisine.  Every week, six days a week there is a fish market with an auction that all restaurant chefs, sushi chefs, etc. attend in order to stock up for the day.  It starts at 5 a.m. and you can sample the raw fish right there.  Needless the say the fish is fresh and plentiful anywhere you go in Japan.  I'm a big fan of sashimi so this was one of my favorite things about being there.  Sometimes it's a little different or unexpected (check out the little guy in my miso soup in one of the pics below) but I'm okay with that.  As a matter of fact most of the Japanese restaurants didn't have an English version in house so I often just let the chef know to make up whatever he thought I should try.  I had grilled fish (usually white), Japanese beef steak, pickled vegetables (pickles and fermented vegetables in general are big there), cabbage salad and kimchi, gobo (root vegetable that they slice and fry like french fries) and also some parts of a pig or cow that you don't see every day in America.  There's a lot of different styles of eating too, and I loved the Japanese or Korean BBQ where you were brought out the raw meats and cooked them yourself on a grill at your table.

I could write a book on the cuisine...and in the event not everyone has the means to get themselves there I've included below a little link that will help you seek out any type of Japanese food you want to learn more about.


Onto the sake!  I had had some tasting experience with sake prior to arriving in Tokyo but obviously being there and tasting what's made in the town you're in or not far from is a bit of a game changer.  As I mentioned, there are several different types and like wine governance in any other country what is what in the world of sake is heavily regulated by the Japanese government.  All sake is made from white rice and the differences in types are much like differences in wine...the fermentation process, how long or how it's aged and even whether or not it's been pasteurized.  Often times it's served in a tall shot glass that's placed inside of a small wooden box, so the overflow from the glass is your second serving that you pour out of the corner.  

My personal favorites were Junmaishu because it's both smooth and mellow.  I liked this hot and cold. Genshu is a type of sake that's higher in alcohol content because it's not diluted with added water, so hold onto your shorts for that one.  The good news there? Most sakes lack the addition of sulfites, and hence the hangover the next day.  Now, that's not to say the next sushi restaurant you walk into you should order a bottle and cry "banzai" while downing it (which would be appropriate as it's a Japanese war cry).  But it was nice to have some sake with dinner and not wake up with that cloudy head feeling you get from other libations.

I've refrained from adding every picture I have in here and tried to keep it food specific.  If you have the chance to go, do it, it's a beautiful city with a ton to do and see.  I'll be back there for Japan's infamous cherry blossom season so I'm looking forward to doing and seeing more.

Sayonara for now,


Saint Patrick's day is here, and so is Tricia!

Hey everybody! (Dave here). First things first, let's give a shout out to Tricia, who has graced us (albeit briefly) with her presence. She has been living in Japan for quite some time and it's great to have her back. I haven't seen her in a while and today is the first time in months. Today is also Saint Patrick's day. Tricia and I both felt we should show our respect to Ireland (on what is the most low key Saint Patrick's day ever........thankfully) by cooking with Guinness.

Lately I have been eating toast and eggs, but Tricia has been chowing down on bizarre bento boxes, sashimi and sake. I wanted something warming as it is still cold here in Rhode Island. Also, Tricia hasn't seen an oven in a while because in Tokyo they aren't as common. I thought roasted chicken wings were just the American treat she needed, but being Saint Patrick's day we had to feature something Irish.

We decided to keep things simple, some crusty bread, cheddar and beer soup with bacon on top (I got lazy and bought that at Whole Foods) and some delicious homemade Guinness chicken wings. I'm not quite sure how Irish any of these foods are and in fact, they probably aren't. But when you don't really know Irish food very well, I say, just pour in some Guinness!

These wings are a great appetizer at any party, not just Saint Patrick's day. The beer gives the wings a deep warming flavor and the added carrots and parsnips add an earthy sweetness. We recommend having these along side other nibbles like an Irish cheese plate (or informally with store bought soup) when entertaining. Here's what I came up with:

 Guinness Braised and Roasted Chicken Wings

2 lbs chicken wings
1 small onion chopped fine
1 scallion sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
1or 2 carrots
1 parsnip
1 can (15 oz.) Guinness
2 tblsp butter
salt and pepper
thyme (1 sprig fresh or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp sugar
scallion for garnish or fresh parsley

Salt and pepper the chicken wings and brown them in a large pot with the butter. Remove and set aside. Add the parsnip and carrot (cut into a few chunks) into the pot. Add the onion, scallion and garlic, stirring until fragrant. Add the chicken wings back to the pot and add 3/4 of the can of Guinness. Drink the rest for good luck. Add the thyme and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.  Remove the chicken wings to a baking sheet. Add the sugar to the sauce and cook uncovered on high heat for a few minutes or until thick. Remove the vegetables and thyme sprig if using fresh. Pour over the chicken wings and toss to coat. Broil the wings in the oven for a few minutes on each side until crispy. Garnish with parsely or green onions. Enjoy with Irish whiskey or a big pint of you guessed it, Guinness.

So my friends, I wish you all a fantastical day of eating and drinking. As we exit winter and enter spring, be prepared for many more magical feasts!

"St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time, a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic."
Adrienne Cook

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Its Cold Out! Warm up with a Spicy Sweet Potato and Poblano Stew

I was trying to create a recipe that would be hearty, healthy and warm on a cold night. I had a lot of vegetables in the fridge so I decided to conceptualize a vegetarian stew that packed a bit of heat with some sweetness. I wanted bold flavors that warmed the soul but left the diner without wanting of meat or dairy. I thought about flavor combinations. Spicy poblanos, sweet potatoes and earthy undertones of cilantro all backed with a hearty dose of chickpeas. It was an experiment that actually worked. Here's what I did:


2 poblano peppers
1 small bunch cilantro chopped.
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch scallions
1 can whole plum tomatoes (get the best quality you can find)
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup red wine
Brown rice to serve with the dish
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rub the whole poblanos with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place the poblanos in the oven for about 20 minutes or until soft and tender. They will color a bit which is fine.

While the peppers cool a bit, drizzle some olive oil into a dutch oven and sautee the scallions and garlic over medium heat.

After a couple of minutes pour in the wine. It will be very bubbly and steamy.

Cook and stir for about a minute, then add the can of plum tomatoes with all the juice. Use kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes into large chunks.

At this point the poblanos will be cool enough to handle. Cut the tops off and slice them down the middle. Remove the seeds and chop the poblanos into large chunks. Add the poblanos, sweet potatoes, cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. Remember, less salt is best to begin with. You can add more later, but you can't take it out. You can adjust the cilantro if you wish. It is a strong flavor that I love, but you can add less if you find it too strong.

Allow this concoction to stew on medium low heat until the sweet potatoes are tender and delicious. Season with more salt if needed at this time. Add the chickpeas last and warm through. Serve over brown rice and what you get should look exactly like the dish on the top of this page. This is both a healthy and hearty meal that will certainly warm you up.

Now of course, as you all know, we need something to drink with this meal.  I tried a few things and found that you need a bold wine that holds up well to acidic, sweet, spicy food. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes, the spiciness of the peppers and the acidity of the tomatoes, in a strange way, echoed the flavor combinations of barbeque. Knowing that barbeque and red Zinfandel go well together, I decided to give it a shot, and it worked out nicely. Here are some great Zinfandels to try with this meal:

 St. Francis "Old Vines" Zinfandel Sonoma 2008 ($17)  Flavors of chocolate and cherry with smoky undertones make this a great full bodied choice to try with this stew

2005 Kenwood Sonoma County Zinfandel ($14)  This is a great Zinfandel blended with a small amount of Barbera which gives it an added kick.

2010 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel:  90 points Wine Spectator
 This concentrated red is loaded with base notes of dark fruit, offering aromas of boysenberry, roasted anise and dense blackberry, with mocha, espresso and sage flavors that are wrapped in firm tannins. Drink now through 2017.  (4/ 2012)

This may be one of the best Zinfandels I have ever had (albeit expensive). This is a special occasion wine but well worth the splurge if you can find it. It usually ranges between 40 and 60 dollars a bottle.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas

I live just a couple of hours from where I grew up, but going home for the holidays always seems like such an event to me. I don't get home as often as I should, and because it's Christmas and my brother comes home from Arizona I get especially excited to do it every year.

There's a few things that are representative of being home for me, the constants that I count on every year. On my drive through town I will inevitably see someone I went to high school with hanging off the outside deck at the Whip City Brew, one of the local "establishments". My mother will automatically take whatever laundry I walked in with and throw it immediately into the washing machine. Don't get me wrong, it's great to still have Mom do your laundry but sometimes there's things that need to be separated or washed on a certain cycle but nope, Mom will throw it all in together before I've even taken my shoes off in the house.

And then there's Cavit Pinot Grigio, the big bottle. You all know it, you've all seen it. It's the epitome of jug juice in my opinion and despite countless attempts on my part to educate my dear family on the less expensive Pinots out there that do not taste like they were made in a bathtub, the Cavit bottle is ever present in my house at Christmas.

While it may be too late to save my own mother, I can at least attempt an effort to save our 5 faithful readers. Being that Pinot Grigio is such a popular white wine order, check out the below for an upgrade in quality without much of an upgrade in price.

2011 Fontana Candida Pinot Grigio $12

From Northeast Italy, this variety has fruity flowery notes and is a crisp delicate wine. This is the perfect wine to serve at the beginning of Christmas dinner or any festive occasion. Great with appetizers, shrimp, crostinis or whatever festive treats you have. This fine example is sure to please the pinot loving crowd.

2010 Puiatti Zuccole Pinot Grigio, Italy, $13

Read more here:

This Pinot Grigio from the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy is a unique full bodied Pinot Grigio that Tricia and I used to serve all the time at Bacaro. I've had customers tell me "I don't like Pinot Grigio but I like this". That's probably because it has a bit more body to it and can stand up to a heavier meal. While the first wine mentioned is a fabulous starter wine, I would say this one would be perfect with the main course as well. Remember with wine, there are suggestions but no rules......just fun.


2010 Montinore Estate Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon $12

You may or may not know that Pinot Gris is the same grape as Pinot Grigio, just with a different pronunciation. This Pinot Gris is fruity with tropical notes and flavors of melon, apple, and lime zest. It has a fruity yet crisp finish, displaying characteristics atypical to the usual Pinot Grigio. This wine is one of my favorites and it goes well with just about everything. I love it with prosciutto and melon or cheese with spicy mango chutney. Try it with all your Christmas appetizer delights. Goes very well with seafood also.

From Dave and Tricia, have a very happy Holiday season. Cheers!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Merry Christmas Cocktail

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I absolutely love Christmas and everything that comes with it, I always have. I have the best memories of my childhood and Christmas was always special in my house. I'm very blessed to have the parents that I do and the means they worked so hard to provide us with when I was growing up (I know, I's a little sentimental but I can't help myself).

One of my favorite decorations that was always present in our house was the yule log that my father made with his own hands. Every year when we put it out we would light the candles and become entranced with the dancing light. This year Dad made me my very own yule log and I had it proudly displayed when I had a couple of friends over for dinner the other night.

I came up with a simple and delicious cocktail (cucumber vodka and soda water with a dash of simple syrup and St. Germaine) that I was serving on the rocks for when they arrived and thought it would be fun to decorate the drink in the colors of the season. I "juiced" some pieces of cucumber in empty ice cube trays and added a cranberry before topping with water (see picture). That way you had a little red and green to toast with and it added a nice pop of color to the otherwise clear cocktail.

You could also skewer different fruits, vegetables or herbs onto cocktail swords if you wanted a festive presentation.

Sorry to my Jewish friends, I'll work on a silver and blue cocktail creation for next year!



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Still Struggling with leftover turkey? Not anymore!

Thanksgiving is over, but if you made a turkey this year, chances are its still in your fridge. If the idea of another turkey sandwich is painful to you but you don't want to throw the turkey away, I've got some good ideas. The first thing you should do is take all the meat off the bone and slice it into bite size pieces that can be made into anything. Turkey salad and soup are good options. To make the soup, just put what's left of your turkey in a big pot with carrots, onions, celery and any herbs you might have on hand. Let this cook on low low heat for several hours or overnight and then strain the liquid in the morning. If you chill it in the fridge with a piece of cheesecloth submerged just under the surface of the liquid, then the fat will rise and bind with the cheesecloth. Just simply remove it and you have grease free turkey broth! It helps to use clothespins to hold the cheesecloth in place.  From here, you can add whatever you want to the broth to make a soup. Soups freeze well and will make an excellent quick meal on a night when you don't feel like cooking.

Another idea is turkey salad. Instead of the usual mayonaise and celery concoction we are all used to, jazz it up a little. I like to mix in red and green peppers or scallions, pesto and fresh herbs. Honey mustard with red grapes and almonds is also really good. Try mixing curry powder and mango chutney into the turkey salad for a spicy sweet rendition. Keeping it interesting will make you feel like it is a brand new meal and not leftovers.

The ideas mentioned above will work just fine, but I played around with something new this year. I decided to make a pasta out of the left over turkey, gravy and vegetables in the fridge. It was quick, easy and everyone at the table liked it. Its the type of recipe you can really make your own. I used the veggies I had in the house but certainly you could substitute whatever you like. Heres what I did:

Turkey and Vegetables with Egg noodles and Brandy Sauce

1 lb egg noodles
2 cups turkey meat, cubed (or however much you have on hand)
2 cups chopped cooked carrots(pieces of squash, mushrooms, or sweet potato would be great also)
1/2 a small onion chopped
11/2 cups leftover peas or frozen thawed peas
2 cups leftover gravy (see note)
1/2 cup brandy (if you don't have brandy or cognac, white wine will work. It will taste different, but still good).
11/2 cups chicken or turkey broth
parmesan cheese to taste
fresh parsley or any herb you have lying around.

 Have a pot of boiling water ready for your pasta. Pour a bit of olive or vegetable oil in a sautee pan
and add the onion. Cook on medium heat for two minutes and then add the carrots. Add the brandy off the heat and then cook for another two minutes. Add the chicken broth and then the leftover gravy. Bring to a simmer and stir to mix well. Meanwhile, add your egg noodles and cook according to the directions on the bag. Usually its about seven minutes. Add the turkey pieces and the peas and warm through in the sauce. If the sauce seems to thick, just add more broth. You can make it as thick as you want by adding more gravy. Don't add salt until you've tasted the sauce, then season as you like. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to your sauce. Top with parmesan cheese and parsley.

note:  This recipe works best with homemade gravy. If you have store bought gravy, you can give it more flavor by simmering onions, herbs, carrots and celery in it for a few minutes. Thyme and rosemary are good herbs to choose. Sage and parsley work well also.

What to drink:

In the spirit of reusing whatever you have on hand, I would say, drink this with whatever's in the fridge. But if you want something new for the occassion I would suggest pinot noir as it pairs beautifully with turkey. Here are some suggestions for less than 25 dollars.

King Estate Pinot Noir from Oregon: Berries and subtle spices make their mark on this delicious example from Central Oregon.

 Frédéric Magnien Bourgogne Pinot Noir:  A great affordable burgundy pinot noir with floral aromas and flavors of earthy spice and red berry fruits.  

Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir: This pinot noir from California highlights the flavors of tart cherry, blackberry with a slight herbal/spicy quality. It is a wonderful bargain wine and pairs beautifully with many different foods.