Tag Archives: Malbec

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.

montes-twins

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.

Taco recipe.jpg

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.

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #Malbec on #MalbecWorldDay

17 Apr

Darlings, I miss you!

Señorita Vino has been hitting the books, burning the midnight oil, and every other academic cliche you can think of to make it through her MBA program. But even as I drown in a sea of standard deviations, you, my lovely readers, are never far from my heart. Final exams are on the horizon, but I had to take some time to wish you all a happy #MalbecWorldDay. Here’s a re-blog of a “Mucho Gusto” featuring…you guessed it–Malbec. 

There’s nothing Señorita Vino loves more than a fiesta, and today happens to be a big fiesta in the Wonderful World of Wine. Happy Malbec World Day, chicos y chicas! It’s possible that Malbec is the first Latin American wine you tasted, or at least the one that’s easiest to find this side of the Rio Grande.

In honor of this auspicious day, here’s the scoop on Argentina’s most popular wine.

DSC_0738
HOLA, ME LLAMO: Malbec is a red wine that has become Argentina’s signature vino.

MY ROOTS: Depending on which wine reference book you’re reading, Malbec is believed to have originated in France’s Bordeaux region or in Auxerrois in northern Burgundy. It’s known as Cot in most of France and today makes up at least 70 percent of the blend in the Cahors AC. Malbec was first brought to Argentina in the early 1850s from Chile.

ALL ABOUT ME: A dry red wine with bold, fruity aromas, Malbec has gorgeous purple hues and lush, velvety tannins. Besides ripe black fruit, Argentinean Malbecs may give you a whiff of violets and sweet spice. You may even get hints of coffee. A Malbec from Cahors will present more raisiny flavors, as well as tobacco and coffee notes. Malbec from high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo province displays a crisp acidity. At such a high altitude, the grapes ripen more slowly and can stay on the vine longer, which means you’ll get more concentrated, balanced flavors.

FOODS I LOVE: There’s no better wine for grilled meat and barbecue than Malbec, which is only fitting given Argentina’s reputation for quality beef and (vegetarians, cover your eyes) rockin’ parrilladas. If you’re not a meat-eater, you can still enjoy Malbec with tagliatelle in a mushroom ragout sauce, or with a veggie empanada.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: You can get a decent Malbec for $14-$20. Higher-end labels will cost a bit more. If you’re going all out with a fine cut of meat, it may be worth the splurge. Wines with “Salta” or “Luján de Cuyo” on the label come from vineyards at the highest altitudes. Recommended labels include Norton, Bodegas Poesía “Clos des Andes,” Catena, Luigi Bosca and Crios de Susana Balbo.

So round up your besties, grab some steak and your favorite bottle of Malbec and celebrate Malbec World Day con pasión, che! Tango music optional. ¡Salud!

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #Malbec on #MalbecWorldDay

17 Apr

There’s nothing Señorita Vino loves more than a fiesta, and today happens to be a big fiesta in the Wonderful World of Wine. Happy Malbec World Day, chicos y chicas! It’s possible that Malbec is the first Latin American wine you tasted, or at least the one that’s easiest to find this side of the Rio Grande.

In honor of this auspicious day, here’s the scoop on Argentina’s most popular wine.

DSC_0738
HOLA, ME LLAMO: Malbec is a red wine that has become Argentina’s signature vino.

MY ROOTS: Depending on which wine reference book you’re reading, Malbec is believed to have originated in France’s Bordeaux region or in Auxerrois in northern Burgundy. It’s known as Cot in most of France and today makes up at least 70 percent of the blend in the Cahors AC.  Malbec was first brought to Argentina in the early 1850s from Chile.

ALL ABOUT ME: A dry red wine with bold, fruity aromas, Malbec has gorgeous purple hues and lush, velvety tannins. Besides ripe black fruit, Argentinean Malbecs may give you a whiff of violets and sweet spice. You may even get hints of coffee. A Malbec from Cahors will present more raisiny flavors, as well as tobacco and coffee notes. Malbec from high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo province displays a crisp acidity. At such a high altitude, the grapes ripen more slowly and can stay on the vine longer, which means you’ll get more concentrated, balanced flavors.

FOODS I LOVE: There’s no better wine for grilled meat and barbecue than Malbec, which is only fitting given Argentina’s reputation for quality beef and (vegetarians, cover your eyes) rockin’ parrilladas. If you’re not a meat-eater, you can still enjoy Malbec with tagliatelle in a mushroom ragout sauce, or with a veggie empanada.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: You can get a decent Malbec for $14-$20. Higher-end labels will cost a bit more. If you’re going all out with a fine cut of meat, it may be worth the splurge. Wines with “Salta” or “Luján de Cuyo” on the label come from vineyards at the highest altitudes. Recommended labels include Norton, Bodegas Poesía “Clos des Andes,” Catena, Luigi Bosca and Crios de Susana Balbo.

So round up your besties, grab some steak and your favorite bottle of Malbec and celebrate Malbec World Day in style. ¡Salud!

 

 

Popes and Bonarda: Argentina’s newest exports

14 Mar

I almost fell off the pew at the news that our new pope was from Argentina, home of tango, soccer stars and Evita. Of course my thoughts turned to wine, and whether Torrontés and Malbec would see a surge in sales thanks to Pope Francis I’s new stint at the Vatican.

Scenes from a Cathedral: The main cathedral in Buenos Aires, former home of Pope Francis I.

Scenes from a Cathedral: The main cathedral in Buenos Aires, former home of Pope Francis I.

One Argentine grape I’d love to see more of at my friendly neighborhood wine shop is Bonarda. Depending on who you talk to, this luscious red grape originated in France or Italy, and it’s fast becoming a rising star in the Argentine vino world (look out, Malbec!).

Earth First is an organic Bonarda produced in Argentina and available in the U.S.

Earth First is an organic Bonarda produced in Argentina and available in the U.S.

Bonarda is slowly making its way into the U.S. market, where I predict it will gain a following thanks to its exotic, spicy profile and food-friendly pairings. Want to know more about Bonarda? Read my article, published yesterday by TheLatinKitchen.com, Latina magazine’s fab foodie website.

Oh, and say a prayer that one of Pope Francis’s first reforms is to serve late-harvest Torrontés at Communion.

Amen y ¡salud!

Peruvian restaurants expand their wine lists

11 Jan

Pan pipe music, tarnished brass tumis and fuzzy little llama dolls are standard fare at Peruvian restaurants in the U.S., but donde está el wine list?

Look! A tarnished tumi! (No restaurants were dissed in the making of this photo. This guy happens to hang in  Casa de Señorita Vino)

Look! A tarnished tumi! (No restaurants were dissed in the captioning of this photo. This tumi lives in Casa de Señorita Vino)

Here’s a summary of my wine experience at Peruvian restaurants over the past couple of decades:

SERVER: Can I get you anything to drink?

ME: Do you have a wine list?

SERVER: There’s red and white.

ME: Yes, the Peruvian flag is elegant in its simplicity. And I ADORE that little vicuña on the crest!

SERVER: Mujer, you could use a pisco sour.

ME: Actually, I’d like a glass of wine. Do you have any Sauvignon Blanc?

SERVER: No. There’s just red or white.

ME:  About that pisco sour…

So now you know why I’m blogging and not writing for Letterman. The good news is that this scary scenario is starting to fade. More and more Southern California Peruvian restaurants are adding wine lists, and it’s not just the fancy novo-andino joints with the minimalist decor, hipster bar scene and ear-splitting decibel level.

The wine list at Casa Inka in Fountain Valley, Calif. features Malbecs and New Zealand Pinot Noirs, among other choices.

The wine list at Casa Inka features Malbecs and New Zealand Pinot Noirs, among other choices.

Case in point: Last night I met up with the familia at Casa Inka in Fountain Valley, Calif. (and no, this is not a sponsored post. Casa Inka, if you’re reading this, de nada. Maybe we could get a papa rellena on the house next time we’re there?). We were seeing my brother off before he headed back east after coming home for the holidays.

Located in a nondescript Orange County strip mall, Casa Inka stands out for its Jimmy-Buffet-esque facade: A glass-enclosed bamboo loft housing a couple of stuffed parrots and faux jungle flora. Inside, the decor is a blend of Peruvian kitsch–grinning llamas, serranita dolls, and a looming, oversized photo of Machu Picchu)–sprinkled with some artistic photos of Lima’s trendier neighborhoods and the city of Cusco.

Casa Inka's facade stands out in an otherwise ordinary strip mall.

Casa Inka’s facade stands out in an otherwise ordinary strip mall.

On the menu are popular dishes you’d see at most Peruvian eateries, and–holy cau-cau!–a new wine list!

Here’s a sampling of what we ordered and the wines we paired them with:

APPETIZERS

Anticuchos are skewered, marinated chunks of beef heart. Yummy!

Anticuchos are served with a side of chimichurri sauce. Yummy!

Authentic anticuchos are skewered morsels of marinated beef heart. I paired these with the Ampakama Malbec 2009. The wine’s bold fruit contrasted nicely with the saltiness of the marinade.

Yuca a la huancaína:

Yuca a la huancaína: Fried cassava in a spicy cheese sauce

Yuca, or cassava, is popular throughout Latin America. At Casa Inka, it’s prepared in the huancaína style, smothered in a rich sauce of fresh cheese and ají amarillo, served with slices of hard-boiled egg and black olives. The zingy acidity of the Rata Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from New Zealand was a perfect match for this creamy dish.

MAIN COURSE

Arroz con pollo is ideal for cilantro lovers.

Arroz con pollo, a cilantro lover’s dream.

Señor Jim ordered his standby dish, arroz con pollo, with his standby wine, Sauvignon Blanc. The New Zealand Rata’s grassy notes complement the cilantro in this traditional chicken dish. The wine list features the Rata Pinot Noir 2008, which also works.

Lomo saltado appears on just about every Peruvian restaurant menu.

Lomo saltado appears on every Peruvian restaurant menu in the galaxy.

Ask my brother how he judges the quality of a Peruvian restaurant, and he’ll answer in two words: Lomo saltado. The  classic Peruvian stir-fry pairs beautifully with Chile’s Torreón de Paredes Carmenere 2009, a red wine with elegant tannins [NOTE: The wine list spells the name as “Torreón Parpois,” but since I actually  fact-check my material, I found it as Torreón de Paredes, so that’s what I’m sticking with].

Tacu-tacu, a dish that's not commonly found on the menu in U.S. Peruvian eateries.

Tacu-tacu, a dish you won’t see on too many U.S. Peruvian menus.

This, my friends, is what you want to eat before you set out to hike the Inca Trail. Otherwise, you’ll gain about 10 pounds approximately 30 minutes after you scrape the last remnants from your plate. Tacu-tacu consists of stir-fried beans and rice topped with a steak and an egg over-easy, with a little bit of fried plantain for the heft–I mean heck of it. One of the classic pairing rules is to match the weight of your meal with the weight of your wine. A robust Zin, California’s Dancing Bull Zinfandel 2009, is the ideal choice.

DESSERT

The Machu Picchu of alfajores towers...

The Machu Picchu of alfajores towers.

A South American version of a dessert from Moorish Spain, the alfajor is a shortbread and dulce de leche sandwich sprinkled with powdered sugar. Damn, I think my thighs just grew an inch after writing that. Here’s where I channel my inner Señor Jim and pair this with an espresso. Oh, and I cannot tell a lie, so  I confess I don’t remember whether there were dessert wines on the wine list. It’s probably because I was too busy chismeando with my dad (NOTE TO NON-SPANISH-SPEAKING READERS: “Chismear” is to gossip).

My brother models a mini-alfajor.

My brother offers up a mini-alfajor.

Wait–I’m not finished! I’m pushing 900 words here, but no one ever said Peruvians were succinct. I dedicate this post to my super-fantástico brother, whose visits to California are always much too short. Nino darling, may the road be paved with lomo saltado, and be wary of strangers bearing cans of peanut brittle. Besos, P.

Casa Inka, 8610 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley, CA. (714) 847-7555. Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.

Love story–wines and foods of Latin America

16 Feb

 “Where love is concerned, too much is not even enough.”

–  Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799)

In my world, too much Valentine’s Day is not enough. Maybe I’m a sucker for love, or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to eat chocolate all day long. Regardless, I thought I’d spread the amor by sharing my experience providing wine pairings for a pre-Valentine’s fiesta this past Sunday.  The passionate affair between Latin American foods and the wines that adore them is like a sweeping romantic drama I never get sick of watching. So dim the lights, grab a box of bonbons, and find out what happens when a spicy dish meets a suave Latin American.

The Prologue

It all started with those randy Spanish conquistadores, who had the insight to bring the grapevine to the Americas. The Spaniards had a winemaking tradition dating back to the Roman Empire, circa 210 B.C. Fast forward to modern times, circa four days ago. A macho Spanish Rioja falls in lust with a picante Latin version of an American classic: beef sliders with potatoes in a creamy jalapeño cilantro sauce. The result is nothing short of explosive.

 A splash of 2009 Aspaldi Rioja Cosecha with jalapeño beef sliders. ¡Caliente!

Scene 1: Peru and Uruguay – a mouthwatering match

So this saucy Peruvian dish walks into a bar and collides with a crisp Uruguayan. Her name: Tallarín Verde. Chicas y chicos, this is the stuff telenovelas are made of. In case you’re wondering, the Uruguayan is none other than a 2010 Pisano Torrontes Rio de los Pájaros from Progreso, Uruguay. The reason these two are such a good match: The crisp acidity of the wine harmonizes with the rich, cheesy sauce of tallarín verde, or ‘green spaghetti.’ This classic Peruvian pasta dish features a creamy basil sauce that’s heavy on the garlic and cheese. Two words: Qué sexy.

Scene 2: It takes two to tango

The plot thickens: Red wine and chocolate become Latin lovers in the form of chicken mole tacos and an Argentine Malbec. Call them Latin America’s sweethearts. The reason they work well is that the spice of the mole sauce matches the spicy notes in the Malbec. Tango Trivia Time: The smoldering dance was born in the poorer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Fittingly, you don’t have to marry a millionaire to be able to afford this 2008 Flichman Malbec Tupungato, a steal at $15.99.

If this tall, dark and handsome Malbec asks you to tango, say ¡Sí!

Scene 3: Chile verde and Chilean Chardonnay meet cute

Chile verde. Wine from Chile. Irresistible, especially when you add a sweet cream corn sauce. The smooth, buttery flavor of the 2010 Chateau Los Boldos Cuvée Tradition Chardonnay complements the creaminess of the sauce. ¡Qué romántico!

Happy Ending: Red Velvet Cake falls for an Italian 

How could anyone not fall in love with Brachetto, a salmon-pink, sweet Italian sparkling wine? Rumor has it that this was the beverage of choice among Italian high school students back in the 80s, which makes my own youthful dalliances with strawberry daiquiris sound muy cheesy by comparison. Brachetto is a hit at all the pairings Señorita Vino has recently created, so hurry on over to your local wine shop for a bottle of Sant Orsola Brachetto d’Acqui. That’s amore!

Stay for the Credits:

All of the wines featured in this post were purchased by Señorita Vino at Total Wine and Spirits in Redondo Beach, Calif. Total Wine is a national retailer with an extensive selection of wines from all over the world. Look them up online to find the nearest location.

The delectable dishes mentioned were the creative genius of Art Rodriguez, who with his partner Stephen Chavez are co-founders of LatinoFoodie.com. They graciously invited Señorita Vino to select wines for the food tasting menu at their first-ever My Foodie Valentine party. ¡Besos, muchachos!

Carmageddon Wine List – Wines Named after Highways

14 Jul

Route 246 in the Santa Ynez Valley

Carmageddon is one day away. Do you know where your GPS system is? Those of you living outside the Los Angeles area may not know that our fabled 405 freeway will close between the 10 and 101 freeways for three days starting tomorrow, an event which has caused weeping and gnashing of teeth-against-steering-wheels for the past two months.

Having spent 20-plus years on the highways and byways of this glorious metropolis, I’ve experienced my share of personal Carmageddons. Conclusion: Weekend freeway closures are for wimps. Try driving from Westwood to the South Bay on a weekday, during afternoon rush hour, in the rain, and then tell me about Carmageddon.

To my fellow Angelenas who are thinking the world will end because they’ll have to skip their nail appointment in Studio City, I have five words: Have a Glass of Wine. In fact, have a glass of wine named after a highway. That’s right chicas. Here for your sipping pleasure are five wines named after roads and highways in South America, California and Europe. The antidote to impending doom and gridlock.

1. Camino del Inca 2009 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

A wine after my own Peruvian-American corazón. The Camino del Inca, as you Spanish-speakers will know, refers to the Inca Road. Once the highway that connected the Inca empire, which spanned as far south as Argentina, Camino del Inca is the name of a vineyard in Salta, Argentina, whose estate vines grow on land that once formed part of the mighty kingdom.  A glass of Malbec is the perfect accompaniment to a car-free weekend.

2. D2 2008 Columbia Valley, Washington

Although this wine hails from Washington’s renowned Columbia Valley, it takes its name from the famous D2 highway in Bordeaux, France, which I fondly refer to as Appellation Highway, as it winds through world-renowned appellations such as Médoc and Saint Julien, among others. Sigh…the mere name takes me back to France, circa 2006, when crammed into a tiny Peugeot with my husband, we castle-hopped with a few stops at small tasting rooms in 500 year-old cellars. Oui, le D2. A highway I’d volunteer to be Carmegeddoned on any day.

3. Ruta 22 Reserve 2009 Malbec, Patagonia, Argentina

The Ruta 22 is the highway that runs east-west across Argentina about halfway between the Mendoza region and the town of Bariloche. Survive Carmageddon by throwing a gaucho-themed parrillada. A juicy, grilled steak will pair wonderfully with the firm tannins in this wine. Not a meat-eater? Pour yourself a glass and enjoy it with a cheese plate and olives. Ponchos optional!

4. Highway 12 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County

If you’d planned ahead, you could have spent Carmageddon on California State Route 12, the highway that travels east-west through Sonoma County.  Highway 12 is dotted with world-class wineries and surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in Northern California. Notice how I’ve selected wines that go swimmingly with casual, summer foods. Hey, if you’re not going to be stuck in traffic, you might as well get outside and actually use your backyard or rooftop deck.

5. Ramal Road  2007 Pinot Noir Carneros, Sonoma County

Smack dab in the heart of Sonoma, Ramal Road is home to some world-class wineries and exactly 398 miles north of Carmageddon ground zero. My reason for choosing this wine, besides the fact that it’s named after a road? It’s a five-minute drive on surface streets to a wine retailer that sells it. 405? We don’t need no stinkin’ 405!

El disclaimer: Señorita Vino does not  – repeat – does not, advocate drinking alcohol and driving on highways or any other surface, closed or not. The goal here is to enjoy a full weekend of not having to get in your car but instead chill at home with your hombre and amigas.

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