Tag Archives: Latin American culture

This #vino’s for you

26 Sep

Darlings, Señorita Vino is feeling muy sentimental today, and I wanted to take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt gracias to all of you for your support, comments and enthusiasm for this blog over the past two years.

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Slowly but surely, Señorita Vino is growing (the blog, not–ahem–my person), and so is the focus on Latinos in the U.S.,  thanks to our culture, buying power, and damn fine taste in food and música.

As the first and only Latina to blog exclusively about wine, I like to keep my wineglass on the pulse of wine industry trends and marketing efforts to reach us as current and potential wine drinkers. ¿Porqué? Because I value your trust in me and I vow to respect that trust by ensuring that the path along your wine discovery journey is paved with unbiased, snob-free information, and the occasional gratuitous Diego Forlán image:

Don't say I never give you eye candy. Credit: Fotitos21.

Don’t say I never give you eye candy. Credit: Fotitos21.

My goal is to continue sharing useful (but not crazy-technical) wine tips and tidbits, wine discoveries, and stories about Latinas and Latinos who are making strides in the vino universe.  But this is a two-way calle, and I want to know what you’d love to see more or less of in Señorita Vino.

Yesterday,  Señorita Vino was featured on NBC Latino’s “Food Blogs We Love”.  This couldn’t have happened without your readership and support. Let me know what you think of the article, and if you like what you see, please do Señorita Vino a huge favor: “Like” the story and share it across your social networks.

Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, how much–or how little–you know about wine, and how you spend your hard-earned dólares, the kingdom of vino is yours to explore. It’s an honor to hold the gate open for you. Until next week, ¡Salud!

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Put a Little Passion in Your Pisco

12 Apr

I’m baaaaaaaack! From vacation, that is.

Two weeks in Perú have left me jonesin’ for the latest spin on the Andean nation’s  cocktail of choice, the Pisco Sour. This popular new version features an intoxicating splash of passionfruit for an exotically fruity twist and can be found in trendy restaurants or bars from Lima to Cuzco and points beyond.

Passionfruit Pisco Sours, as enjoyed at Ache restaurant in Lima's Miraflores neighborhood.

Passionfruit Pisco Sours, as enjoyed at Ache restaurant in Lima’s Miraflores neighborhood.

Here’s Señorita Vino’s own take on a drink that will leave you longing for Llama Land. This cocktail is the perfect aperitif, or you can do what I’m doing and use it to cure a case of post-vacation blues.

Señorita Vino’s Passionfruit Pisco Sour

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups pisco

1 cup sugar

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, no seeds or pulp

1 cup passionfruit juice (you should be able to find this in an ethnic grocery store)

Angostura bitters (just a few drops’ll do ya!)

12 ice cubes, crushed

2 egg whites

METHOD:

Pour pisco, sugar, lime juice, passionfruit juice and a couple of drops of Angostura bitters into a blender and blend on medium speed until thoroughly mixed (two to five minutes). Next, add the crushed ice and the egg whites and blend again for about three minutes. Pour the mixture into small shot glasses and top with a drop of Angostura bitters.

¡Salud!

Serves about 8 (or four if no one has to drive!)

A taste of Buenos Aires in Los Angeles

7 Mar

Señorita Vino left her heart in Buenos Aires three years ago. To be precise, she left her entire person at Ezeiza International Airport after missing a connecting flight to Lima en route to Los Angeles. Her excuse: Perfume shopping in the duty-free section. Lame, I know. Or as my Buenos Aires cousins might have said after I boarded a rescheduled flight the next day, “¡Qué boluda!”

Argentina didn’t cry for me, but I certainly cried after realizing I couldn’t bring home any of the beautiful bottles of Malbec I bought in a hip little airport bodega, all because my bags had the good sense to make the flight and were, at that moment, Lima-bound without me. I’m sure by now my Argentine cousins have put those bottles to good use, their prize for rescuing me from the prospect of spending the night on the floor of International Terminal A.

Imagine my nostalgia-ridden joy when I stumbled across a gem of an Argentinian eatery in Los Angeles. Carlitos Gardel Restaurant sits on a nondescript stretch of the tourist mecca that is Melrose Avenue, about halfway between the stuck-in-the-the-80s boutiques and the posh Beverly Hills end. For those of you who may not be familiar with Carlos Gardel, you’ll certainly know who he is about five minutes after stepping into the restaurant’s retro-elegant interior. Framed reprints of newspaper clippings and old photographs line the walls, telling the story of one of Argentina’s most beloved musical figures, known to some as the godfather of tango music.

Tango Bar: An image of Carlos Gardel taken in a Buenos Aires milonga, or neighborhood tango hall.

Sultry tango rhythms drifting in from the audio system serve as a fitting soundtrack for a menu of traditional Argentinian dishes: Empanadas, melted provolone and steak classics including milanesa, entraña a la parilla and churrasco. Signature Italian influenced-plates feature gnocchi, ravioli and seafood pasta.

The wine list is curated by the restaurant’s Buenos Aires-born sommelier, who is at the ready with helpful advice and pairing suggestions. I decided to take a break from Malbec and try what in my opinion is Argentina’s true wine star, Bonarda. This is a red grape with a wonderfully fruity character and a smooth feel on the palate. I chose a 2007 Lamadrid Reserva Bonarda. Gorgeous violet aromas, a hint of chocolate and lots of ripe red fruit. In a word, ¡Fantástico!

Next time you're in the mood for Argentine wines, give Bonarda a try.

Bonarda was the perfect match for my Italian-influenced appetizer of burrata and prosciutto. The wine’s flavor and structure also complemented the main course, entraña (grilled skirt steak) served with pumpkin-infused mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Mamma mia! An influx of Italian immigrants to Argentina starting in the mid-1800s gives the nation's cuisine a decidedly Italian flair.

During my first trip to Buenos Aires, my cousins took me to a tango dinner theater where I proceeded to consume a juicy steak about the size of a coffee table. This, of course, while watching lithe dancers flit about the stage in spangled, form-fitting dresses. It’s a good thing my gym doesn’t have a branch in Buenos Aires, because I probably would have spent the next 24 hours on the treadmill. The portions at Carlitos Gardel are more than generous, much like every restaurant I tried in Argentina. This time, I showed some restraint and had enough leftovers for two more meals.

Dessert at Carlitos Gardel is the best incentive not to go loca on your main course. The peach layer cake with dulce de leche and whipped frosting is like nothing I had in Buenos Aires. The great thing about that is knowing I can enjoy it without having to board a plane  – and risk missing another connection.

Carlitos Gardel Restaurant. 7963 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046. 323.655.0891 Dinner M-Sat, 6 – 11 p.m.; Sun, 5 – 10 p.m.  Lunch M-F, 11:30 – 2:30.

Torrontes and Peruvian Comfort Food

30 Sep

Whoa – storm clouds are gathering outside my window, thunder is pealing, and I feel cheated out of Southern California’s version of an Indian Summer. This calls for comfort food.

In case you missed my Hispanic Heritage Month guest post, here’s the full article and the recipe for Peruvian seco de pollo. Pair this with an Argentinean Torrontes and add a little Southern Hemisphere warmth to a blustery fall day. ¡Provecho!

Seco de Pollo – Peruvian comfort food

Picture Los Angeles, circa 1970. A pale blue ‘64 Chevy Impala is cruising north on L.A.’s I-5 freeway. In the front seat, a striking couple from Perú argues in Spanish about whose family has produced the best cooks. In back, a little girl in a fuzzy white alpaca sweater gazes out the passenger side window. The destination: One of a handful of Peruvian restaurants in Southern California.

That little girl is me, and the lively pair in the front seat are my parents.  Once or twice a month, we’d leave the Orange County suburbs and make the hour-long trip north to Los Angeles in search of anticuchos, picarones, papa a la huancaina and a frosty bottle of Inka Cola. Long-gone hole-in-the-wall restaurants with stately names like El Tumi and Inca Palace were the only places my homesick parents could enjoy Peruvian delicacies featuring ingredients not readily available at the neighborhood chain grocery store.

There was one dish, however, that my father could make at home which didn’t involve an elaborate ingredient scavenger hunt: Seco de pollo, a Peruvian stew with chicken, potatoes and cilantro.

Heavy on the garlic and onions, laden with succulent chicken, and emerald-green from the cilantro, my father’s seco was the menu item of choice when relatives flew in from Lima, or for boyfriends having dinner at our home for the first time. But seco was not just for special occasions.

Weeknights, the herby-garlicky aroma of a hearty seco would waft from the kitchen into my bedroom, signaling a much-needed homework break. During a soggy El Niño year, my high school suspended classes one afternoon because of the deluge. I came home to steamy kitchen windows and a massive, chipped casserole of seco bubbling away on the stove.  Later that evening, perched on our lemon-yellow plastic dinette chairs, my family warmed up with heavenly-hot helpings of seco de pollo while the rain relentlessly pounded the house.

With apologies to my father, once I left home I adapted his seco recipe to accommodate my own style of healthy cooking. The flavor is still authentic, and thanks to globalization and big-box stores, I can use Peruvian beer in the preparation.

Peruvian cuisine is today’s culinary media darling, and the recent surge in trendy Peruvian restaurants has made the family car trip in search of comida peruana a distant memory. Still, nothing beats a homemade seco, chipped casserole and all.

Papi’s Seco de Pollo (Peruvian chicken stew)

Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS:

3 lbs. boned and skinned chicken breast

Marinade

5 large garlic cloves

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground black pepper

½ cup red wine or apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Stew

3 ½ tbsp olive oil

1 seeded and minced jalapeño pepper (if you like it spicy, make it 2 jalapeños)

6 small yellow onions, chopped

1 tbsp salt

8 oz. of Cuzqueña beer (or any pale lager if you can’t find Peruvian beer)

2 cups of chicken broth

1 cup of the juice left over after browning chicken

6 small red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped and tightly packed

½ bag frozen green peas, thawed

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cut the chicken breast to about 2-inch cubes and set aside in a glass bowl.
  2. Peel and crush the garlic with a garlic press. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the garlic, cumin, black pepper and salt to a paste. Mix in the vinegar, then add the olive oil and stir vigorously.
  3. Pour the mixture over the chicken, stirring to make sure each piece is evenly coated. Tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap and marinate for three hours.
  4. In a large casserole, heat the olive oil at high heat, then add the chicken and brown it on all sides (10 – 15 minutes). Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Reserve residual juice in a measuring cup or bowl.
  5. Using the same casserole, stir in the onions, salt and jalapeño peppers and sauté until the onions are golden (about 15 minutes). Pour in the beer, reduce the heat and cook until the beer has completely evaporated.
  6. Add the browned chicken, the reserved juice and the chicken broth. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook for about 30 minutes.
  7. Add the potatoes, cover and cook for another 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and the potatoes are cooked.
  8. Check occasionally and stir. Add more stock if needed.
  9. Add the peas and cilantro. Stir thoroughly and cover and cook for about six minutes.

10. Serve hot with steamed white rice. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro, if desired.

Señorita Vino guest blogs on Flanboyant Eats

7 Sep

Chicas y Chicos!

It’s time to get your Hispanic Heritage Month on. Señorita Vino is a guest blogger on the fabulous  Flanboyant Eats blog today as part of the culinary “All Around Latin America Tour.” Here’s an appetizer:

Seco de Pollo – Peruvian comfort food

Picture Los Angeles, circa 1970. A pale blue ‘64 Chevy Impala is cruising north on L.A.’s I-5 freeway. In the front seat, a striking couple from Perú argues in Spanish about whose family has produced the best cooks. In back, a little girl in a fuzzy white alpaca sweater gazes out the passenger side window. The destination: One of a handful of Peruvian restaurants in Southern California.

(See 9/30/11 post for update)

Food and Vino – A Family Affair

19 Jun

Causa, a Peruvian appetizer made of molded potatoes topped with seafood or chicken salad.

Yep, I’m a Daddy’s Girl. And on this Father’s Day, it’s fitting that I pay tribute to the man who cultivated my lifelong passion for breaking bread with family, friends and new acquaintances, and who loves his Valpolicella despite what any wine snob thinks.

I was introduced to wine at an early age thanks to my father’s Italian roots, although I didn’t fully begin appreciating it until college. Now, before you go getting all Child Protective Services on me, let me be clear that my early indoctrination into the world of wine was much like it is in some Mediterranean and Latin American households – a small splash served with a multi-course, midday meal that usually went until 5 or later. A pour that was seldom finished by any of the kids because we had far more important things on our minds, like dessert.

But back to my father. He is in his element in the kitchen, where he’ll pull marathon stints constructing masterpieces from El recetario nicolini, Peru’s own version of “The Joy of Cooking.” Over time, my father’s culinary talents have created a small legion of Peruvian food aficionados among my circle of friends. As for my own Peruvian cooking repertoire, let’s just say I’ve mastered one dish, which leaves me with about 999 to learn.

Yes, mis amigos, the diversity of Peruvian cuisine is 1,000 dishes strong, according to one Peruvian restauranteur. If I were to attempt the Peruvian version of Julie y Julia, I’d be at it for about three years.

Arroz con mariscos, a Peruvian seafood and rice stir-fry influenced by Perú's Asian immigrant population.

My father is no-nonsense when it comes to wine. In other words, whatever is on the counter or in the fridge is what you’ll get with your meal. For those of you who are not quite as free-wheeling, wine pairing with Peruvian food is not as esoteric as it may seem. I recently enjoyed a five-course Peruvian meal with three Argentine wines that blended beautifully with the diversity of the food. A Torrontés paired seamlessly with the seafood dishes, a Malbec complemented a lamb and cilantro stew, and a dry Argentine Sauvignon Blanc with heady white floral notes capped off a dessert of kiwicha (or amaranth) pudding with mazamorra morada, a popular Peruvian treat made from purple corn.

So here’s to my papi. A Father’s Day toast to you and the thousands of hours logged in the kitchen for love of familia, food, and life. ¡Salud! 

Pescado chorrillano, sea bass in an ají amarillo (yellow chili) wine sauce with onions and tomatoes. ¡Delicioso!


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