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#Food and #wine pairings for International #TempranilloDay ¡Salud!

10 Nov

Chicas y chicos, today is International Tempranillo Day, and we’re gonna hop into the Vino Time Machine for this “Mucho Gusto” post from a couple years ago that will give you everything you need to know about Tempranillo. ¡Salud!

My favorite wine anecdote is one I could share during one of those silly business “icebreakers” where you have to tell a group of complete strangers your most embarrassing moment. I was talking vino at a party with some people I’d just met and I mentioned a Tempranillo I had tried at a new tapas bar that had opened nearby. Being a Latina, I pronounced the word “tapas” with a native Spanish accent.

I started getting uncomfortable looks from the others, and finally one of them cleared his throat and said, “Um, you go to topless bars?”

For the record, I do not, but if you ever find yourself at a Spanish-themed topless bar–or at a restaurant with an eclectic wine list–here’s all you need to know about Tempranillo.

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Image courtesy of Rioja Wine.

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Tempranillo, a red wine, gets its name from the Spanish word temprano, which means early (the grape ripens early). Depending on where you are, Tempranillo goes by a host of aliases: Cencibel, Ull de Lliebre, Tinto del País or Tinto del Toro in other regions of Spain; Tinta Roriz or Tinta Aragones in Portugal; and Tempranilla in Argentina.

MY ROOTS: Tempranillo’s birthplace is the Rioja region of Spain, but some folks think that it was brought there by French monks who were making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Tempranillo is the core grape of red Rioja wines, where it’s often blended with Garnacha. It’s also one of the main red grapes in Ribera del Duero, where it’s been used for more than 100 years at the prestigious Vega Sicilia winery. Today, Tempranillo is grown in Mexico, California, Italy, Argentina, Australia and South Africa.

ALL ABOUT ME: If you like cherry and plum on the palate, you’ll enjoy Tempranillo. Grapes that were grown in iron-rich soil may show some iron-mineral notes. When it’s aged, Tempranillo displays beautiful caramel, tobacco and tea leaf aromas. This is a dry wine with medium tannins, medium alcohol and medium to high acidity.

FOODS I LOVE: Break out the jamón serrano and the chorizo. Tempranillo is dreamy with a charcuterie plate, and if you happen to be at a tapas bar, it’s a great match for croquetas (ham croquettes), meatballs in tomato sauce and pinches (lamb or pork kabobs). Tempranillo is also tasty with roasted lamb and Indian food.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: A bottle of Tempranillo can cost anywhere from $10 to $300. Some budget-friendly wines worth trying include: Luis Alegre Koden 2011, Sancho Barón 2009, Lar de Sotomayor Vendimia Seleccoinada 2010, and from Mexico, Alximia Alma 2012.

Something to ponder as you sip your next glass of Tempranillo: You can enjoy Tempranillo and still keep your top on, while getting your tapas on.

A little #wine for #NationalTacoDay

4 Oct

It’s not every day I sit around praying for the Taco Muse to visit me as I contemplate what to write about for National Taco Day. But like something straight outta Homer’s Odyssey, a taco recipe landed in my inbox from…wait for it…a Greek food company.

And I know I’ll catch el infierno from my Mexican friends, but I’m gonna pair it with–get ready–Chilean wine. Hey, what’s not to love about a little peace, love and global cuisine in Today’s Crazy World? Besides, I’ve been feeling all ornery-like since the candidates’ debate, so this is me stirring the palate pot.

Further down you’ll find the recipe for Grilled Chile-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa (say that 10 times fast), courtesy of the muy Greek Gaea. But in the meantime, here’s my pairing suggestion.

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A bee-yoo-tee-ful glass of 2013 Montes Twins Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon blend is going to send your Taco Tuesday into maximum overdrive. Big, bold blackberries, a trace of red roses and sweet spices will play nicely with the seasonings in the taco recipe. And the saucy tannins are going to grip that flank steak like they mean it. [El Full Disclosure: I received this bottle of wine as a sample from a public relations company, but my opinions are my own. As always. Why can’t the FCC just be happy with me writing about stuff I like? But that’s a whole other story. El Heavy Sigh.]

Oh, and don’t wait until your tacos are ready. Heck, crack open the bottle while you’re cooking. Last but not least, this recipe’s a little on the long side (and no, that’s not me looking a gift Taco Muse in the mouth, but just sayin’), so I’ll sign off for now. ¡Salud!, my darlings, and wish me well on my International Entrepreneurship midterm tomorrow.

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Grilled Chile-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of Gaea’s Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Charred Pineapple Salsa

1 small pineapple, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
1 small red onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of Gaea’s Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ fresh jalapeño or serrano pepper, scraped of seeds and minced
16 6-inch corn tortillas

For the Steak Marinade:

In a small bowl, mix all spices, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and blend well to make a paste. Place the meat in a shallow dish and rub the paste evenly over both sides. Cover the steak and let it marinate for 1 to 4 hours.

For the Charred Pineapple Salsa:

When the steak is done marinating, preheat the grill; you’ll cut and grill the pineapple first and then put the steaks on the grill when the salsa is ready.

To cut the pineapple, slice off the leafy top and just enough of the bottom of the fruit so it rests flat on a cutting board. Slice off all the skin with a sharp knife, cutting from top to bottom and taking off as little of the flesh as possible, rotating the pineapple as you go. Discard the skin. Cut out any “eyes” with a paring knife and discard. Slice the fruit away from the core in four or five grill-friendly slabs.

When the grill is hot, place the pineapple slabs on the hot grill and grill quickly until the fruit just begins to show some browning, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. (If you want one side to be truly charred or blackened, let it go for 4 to 5 minutes on one side only.)

Take the fruit off the grill when it’s as browned as you like. Set it aside to cool for a few minutes and then dice the pineapple for the salsa. In a medium bowl, mix the diced charred pineapple, red onion, cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, vinegar, remaining olive oil, salt, and minced hot pepper and blend well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To cook the steak:

Place the steak on the grill and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side or slightly longer if you like it more well done. Remove the steak from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. While the grill is hot, place the tortillas on the grill and grill for 10 seconds on each side then wrap in a linen napkin for serving.

Slice the steak into 1/2-inch slices, place on a platter, and spoon over the charred pineapple salsa. Place the tortillas on the table and serve family style.

Meet the wine lover: Chef Ricardo Zarate

12 Mar

Darlings, it’s been a mad March, and I’m not even a basketball fan. Señorita Vino is swamped in projects this week, so here’s a re-blog of an interview from last year with Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate, the force behind two of LA’s most hip and happening Peruvian restaurants. ¡Buen provecho! (That’s Spanish for bon apétit!)

It’s not every day that a fellow peruano gets voted “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine magazine. Lucky Angelenos are reminded how Lima-born Ricardo Zarate earned his 2011 title each time they dine at his two L.A. Peruvian restos, Picca and Mo-Chica. Chef Zarate chatted with Señorita Vino about his passion for vino and why every day is the perfect day for a special-occasion wine.

Photo courtesy of Picca.
Photo courtesy of Picca.

SENORITA VINO: What’s your favorite wine?

RICARDO ZARATE: I like ceviche, and Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best wines for this dish. I love Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It’s so aromatic. If I want something fancy, I’ll pick a Sancerre.

SV: Besides Malbec and Torrontés, which wines would you pair with the most popular Peruvian dishes?

RZ: In the U.S., Malbec and Torrontes are two of the most available South American wines. I like Argentine wines because they get good mileage when paired with Peruvian cuisine. Malbec is light-bodied and not too rich. South American cuisine is rich in flavor, so you don’t want a wine that’s too rich.  I would add New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and Chilean whites are good with Peruvian food.

SV: Will we ever see the day when Peruvian wines compete on the global stage?

RZ: Peru makes some great wines, but because they’re small-vineyard wines, you rarely–if ever–see them outside Peru.  The majority of grapes grown in Peru are used in making Pisco. I think at one point wine will become bigger because Peruvian cuisine is moving toward fine dining, and fine dining needs a fine drink like wine. It may be 10 years before we see more quality wines coming out of Peru.

SV: What advice would you give someone who is not well-versed in wine and may feel intimidated by it?

RZ: I used to go to restaurants and I’d see a French wine and get instantly intimidated. I’d think, “My God, I  don’t know what I’m doing!” When you order wine in a restaurant, you have the option to taste it first. The more you taste, the more you learn what grapes you like. California is a fantastic place to live. Go wine tasting in Napa Valley with your boyfriend or girlfriend, and make it a hobby or something you do just for fun.

SV: Do you have a favorite memory associated with wine?

RZ: When I was 20 I received a really expensive bottle of wine as a gift. All I can recall is that it was worth a couple thousand dollars. I decided to save it for a special occasion.

Soon after, I moved to London for work. One night I went out drinking with a good friend, and he overdid it and asked to stay on my couch. My wine collection was out in the living room where he [would be sleeping]. My friend wanted to keep drinking, so I told him he could open any bottle except for that one, and then I said goodnight.

The next morning, I saw that he had opened the expensive bottle. I was furious! I figured it was ruined since it had been left open overnight. So I sat him down and said, “We’re going to finish this bottle.” The wine was perfect, and my anger disappeared.

A few years after I left London, I learned that my friend had died in an accident. The night we drank the wine was the last time I saw him, so it was all meant to happen. The special occasion ended up being the night I drank a great wine with a good friend.

Happy #NewYear! How to open a #Champagne bottle

30 Dec

Happy New Year, darlings! Ring in 2014 by showing that Champagne bottle who’s boss. By popular demand, here’s a post on how to uncork a sparkling wine bottle in five easy steps without losing an eye, your dignity, or a close amigo. Cheers and may your glass be always full in the New Year!

Step 1: Remove the foil.

Some sparkling wine bottles will have a small tab, much like a bottle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar, that makes it easier to remove the foil.

Step 2: Remove the cage.

Six twists is all it takes.

That wire you see at the top of the bottle  is called the cage. Find the little piece of metal that looks like a twisted loop, pull it straight and untwist it six times so that the cage opens. Fun fact: Every twisty loop on every bottle of bubbly in the world takes six to six-and-a-half turns to come loose.

Step 2a: Wipe the bottle dry with a dish cloth.

Condensation may cause the bottle to be slippery. You don’t want that. Take a dish cloth or towel and wipe off some of the moisture so that you can get a good grip.

Step 3: Hold the bottle at an angle and cover the cork firmly with one hand.

Take note: cover the cork, don’t pull on it.  You’re preventing the cork from going flying by placing your hand on top of the bottle and pressing down firmly, or, as my mother would say, sin asco.

Step 4: Turn the bottle gently while keeping a firm grasp on the cork.

Twist the bottle, not the cork., you heard right. You’re not pulling on the cork. Trust me – it has all the motivation it needs to dislodge. Instead, you’re rotating the bottle itself while firmly grasping the cork until you feel pressure escape from the bottle. Make sure the bottle is not pointing at anyone, yourself included! It’s important not to panic here, chicas y chicos. Ideally, you should hear a fiesta-inducing pop, not a heart-attack-inducing BANG.

Step 5: Keep the bottle tilted unless you’ve  just won the Monaco Grand Prix.

What happens when you hold a just-opened bottle of sparkling wine upright? Two words: Champagne volcano. So resist the urge to turn the bottle upright once the cork comes off. Unless of course you’re christening a new cruise ship, winning the World Cup, or channeling F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Wasn’t that easy? Before your New Year’s bash, you may want to practice uncorking the bubbly a few times, or with close friends who’ll still speak to you if you inadvertently shower them with a mini-Old Faithful.

¡Feliz año nuevo!

A disclaimer:

I took artistic liberty in using the word ‘Champagne’ in this post. The only sparkling wines that can be called Champagne are those that are made in the Champagne region of France. Generally speaking, all others can be considered ‘sparkling wine.’

Señorita Vino’s holiday #wine-pairing cheat sheet

24 Dec

Felices fiestas, darlings! The winter holidays are my favorite time of year. The food, the familia, the gift exchanges, the vino. As I write this, I’m making like a wine-totin’ reindeer and dashing out to the family homestead to celebrate Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve Night.

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But before I rush out the door, I’ve received some pairing questions from readers as they prepare for their holiday feasts. In response, I’m sharing this link to an article I wrote last year for Latina Magazine’s TheLatinKitchen.com on the topic of – you got it – how to pair wine with traditional Latin American holiday food.

Whichever way you choose to celebrate, may it be happy and in good health.

Until next week, ¡Salud y felíz Navidad!

#Halloween #Wines – Boo!

30 Oct

Scared silly about what vino to bring to your Día de Los Muertos or Halloween fiesta? Fear not, chicas y chicos. Señorita Vino has cleared the cobwebs and summoned the black cats to unearth some frighteningly tasty wines for your freaky festivities. Ready for some thrills, chills and–we hope–no spills? (Cue bloodcurdling scream).

If you’re a naughty little diablo, this 2010 Velvet Devil Merlot from Washington’s Columbia Valley should represent you well at your boo-riffic bash. Black cherry, dark chocolate and black pepper aromas will pair well with beastly beef sliders and super-scary spaghetti in blood-red tomato sauce.

Spread the Merlot amor at your Día de los Muertos party with some ruby-red fruta. The 2010 Día de los Merlot from the Temecula Valley displays ripe plums and red cherries thanks to a warmer growing climate, making this a festive ofrenda for a vino-loving loved one’s memorial altar.

Speaking of Día de los Muertos, have I got a pair of sweet wines to go with your sugar skulls! Vino de los Muertos Rojo Dulce is a red blend. Its companion, Blanco Dulce, is a blend of white grapes. Both taste sweet and pair beautifully with pan de muertos, the traditional sugar-sprinkled bread loaves sold in Latin American bakeries all over the U.S. this time of year.

Avast ye wanna-be pirates! Leave the Made-in-China Jolly Roger flag at home and seize this wicked bottle of 2010 Poizin Zinfandel instead. Direct from Sonoma County’s Armida Winery, this jammy, spicy red has hints of vanilla and milk chocolate. It’s frighteningly good with grilled meats and barbecued ribs.

Twisted, gnarled vines. A bleak expanse of parched land blasted by a furnace-like sun. ¡Ay, qué miedo! This, chicas y chicos, is not the set of Hostel Part 31, but Aragón, Spain, home to some of the finest Garnacha vineyards. Add some hot thrills to your Halloween party with Garnacha’s famously fiery high alcohol content (this one clocks in at 14.5 percent!) and abundant fruit. Blackberries, black currant and lovely lavender and leather notes make this a good match for rich duck in a cranberry or cherry sauce, spooky sausage, or a hearty fall stew.

This next bottle scared the hell out of me. No joke – I’ll probably have nightmares over this one, good Catholic girl that I am. I mean, look at it! What the hell is that? Someone call an exorcist! I’m almost afraid to type the name, but here goes: Hex vom Dasenstein.

Okay, phew. I’m still here. This 2010 Pinot Noir from Germany displays strawberry and raspberry aromas with a zingy acidity. Pair this Pinot (or Spätburgunder, as Pinot Noir is called in Germany) with bacon-wrapped salmon or pork loin with spooky mashed potatoes.

P.S. Forgive me, darlings, for judging a wine by its label. Through the magic of a Google search, I discovered the real story behind Hex vom Dasenstein. It’s my Halloween treat to you:

Once upon a time in 14th century Germany, a sexy young fraulein whose nobleman father  was an obnoxious control freak made the mistake of falling for a hot, strapping young commoner. When her father discovered that his daughter and the young peasant had hooked up, he threw her out of the castle, leaving her with nowhere to go but a pile of rocks known as Dasenstein [it seems Studly Peasant Man was only after her Deutschmarks, since nowhere in the story does he welcome her into his humble shack once Pops gives her the boot]. These being the pre-Botox days, over time the lovely young fraulein grew into a wrinkly hag. But a nice hag. Dasenstein was surrounded by vineyards, and the vines began to thrive under the watchful eye of the now haggard little lady. And because no good deed goes unpunished, the townspeople thanked her by giving her the title, Hex vom Dasenstein, or the Witch of Dasenstein.

I dedicate this post to the memory of my great uncle Victor, whose humor, wit and intelligence continue to inspire me. Tío, te extrañamos y siempre pensamos en ti. Qe en paz descances.

East LA Meets Napa. ¡Vámonos!

3 Aug

Uh, yeah. About that final installment in the Canada wine series…

Well,  this cheap-o file cabinet in my office is self-destructing:

file2

And I can’t open the drawer with my passport in it.  Seriously. Which is a major problema, because without a passport, I can’t travel. I mean, it’s not like you need a passport to go to Napa  if you’re already a U.S. citizen, but still. It’s the principle (muchas gracias, Big-Office-Supply-Company-That-Sells-Cheap-Crap-Whose-Name-I-Won’t-Mention-Here).

So while I spend the rest of my Saturday afternoon emptying the file cabinet and sorting through old paperwork to extricate my passport, you can take a journey that doesn’t require you to leave the comfort of your sofa.

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Learn about vinos fabulosos, made by Mexican-American winemakers.  Score a recipe for the most beautiful tortillas you’ve ever seen, courtesy of uber-famoso chef John Rivera.  And find out how sipping wine and noshing on Latin American food can help people in the Los Angeles area gain access to much-needed healthcare.

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It all came together at this year’s East LA Meets Napa, one of my favorite wine tasting events in the vino universe. Read about it in this article I wrote for Latina magazine’s mouthwatering food and wine website, TheLatinKitchen.com. No passport required.

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