Tag Archives: Peruvian Food

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.

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A #Pisco Cocktail for Peruvian Independence Day

27 Jul

Break out the lomo saltado and the bottles of pisco, chicos y chicas: Tomorrow is 28 de julio, or Perú’s Independence Day ! I know I promised you part 3 in the Canadian wine series, but guess who’s up to her eyebrows in deadlines? So in lieu of the final installment in the Canadian wine series, I present you with a re-blog of a post that was a hit about this time last year: Señorita Vino’s very own “Caipirinka” recipe: A Peruvian twist on a Brazilian classic, with pisco (of course!) as the main ingredient. So shout it with me one more time: ¡Que viva el Perú, carajo! 

Variety, chicas y chicos, is the spice of life, so to add a little sabor to your weekend, it is my supreme pleasure to introduce my latest invention…the Caipirinka. It’s a refreshingly  exotic blend of mangoes, lime and pisco.

Yep, it’s like the Brazilian Caipirinha but with a two-fold Peruvian twist: 1). Pisco is the national drink of Perú*, and 2). Mangos grow happily in Perú. And of course, there’s 2a: Señorita Vino’s parents hail from the land of the Incas.

If you’re not familiar with pisco, it’s a clear alcoholic spirit made from grapes. Some say it’s comparable to Italy’s grappa and Greece’s ouzo. And  like grappa and ouzo, pisco can knock you flat on your asti spumante, so be forewarned: un poquito goes a long way.

Adding to the Caipirinka’s uniquely Peruvian flair is the mango. Perú is one of six countries that exports mangos to the U.S.  The mangos I used to make the Caipirinka were generously provided by the Mango Board, which probably had no idea I’d use them to make an alcoholic beverage.
In case anyone’s keeping track, this is arguably the world’s most nutrient-rich cocktail. Mangos contain more than 20 different types of nutrients and vitamins, and just one cup of mangos is 100 calories and provides 100% of your recommended vitamin C allowance. See? Señorita Vino cares muchísimo about the health (and girlish figures) of her readers.

I used fresh, pureed ataulfo mangos, the oblong, bright yellow fruit in the photo above. ¿Porqué ataulfo? Because this variety has no fibers and is as smooth as butter, making it a great option to blend in cocktails or fruit smoothies. Not only that, but the flesh is gloriously golden, calling to mind the gold treasure of the Inca empire. Now there’s a culture that literally worshipped its bling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So without further ado, here’s how you can add a little Inca gold to your Peruvian Independence Day celebration. Because we all have different palates (See “Vino 101”), you may want to adjust the amount of sugar, lime or pisco. If you do up the pisco content, Señorita Vino takes no responsabilidad if you wake up in an exotic land, covered in gold sequins and tropical bird feathers. ¡Salud!

*There is some debate between Perú and Chile as to which country ‘invented’ pisco. It was Perú, of course (see 2a above).

Señorita Vino’s Caipirinka 

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 cup of ripe Ataulfo mangos (about 2), cubed

6 tablespoons of  sugar syrup (make ahead: Dissolve 8 tablespoons of baker’s sugar into 8 tablespoons of water in a pan over low heat. Bring to a boil, then boil for 1-2 minutes. Refrigerate. Keeps for about 2 weeks in the fridge).

8 ice cubes, cracked

4 key limes (or 2 regular limes), cut into small wedges. Save a few slices as a garnish, if desired.

4 teaspoons raw cane sugar, divided

4 ounces of pisco

3 additional ice cubes, cracked

In a blender, place the 8 cracked ice cubes, the mango and the sugar syrup. Blend until the mango is completely liquefied. Set aside. Place an equal amount of lime wedges into four small glasses. Add a teaspoon of raw cane sugar to each glass. With a muddler (see photo) or wooden spoon, crush the lime and sugar until it forms a paste.

Place the remaining three cracked cubes in a cocktail shaker. Add 2/3 cup of the mango puree and the pisco and shake until condensation forms on the shaker.

Shake it, chica!

Pour immediately into the cocktail glasses. Garnish with lime wedge if desired.

Which wines go with Peruvian food?

25 Mar

Chicas y Chicos,

Señorita  Vino is traveling to the mother country this week (that would be Peru). In the spirit of the journey, here’s a re-post of a piece on which wines to pair with Peruvian food. 

Happy eating and I’ll be back soon!

If Peruvian cuisine were a movie star, she’d be stalked by paparazzi, grace the covers of fashion magazines, and receive an audience with the Pope. Ah, but  if  wine were her consort, what lucky devil would have the privilege of escorting her on the red carpet?

Ever the match-maker, Señorita Vino recently had the privilege of selecting wines to go with various Peruvian-style dishes prepared by Peruvian chef Renzo Pinillos Luck. Here, for your pairing pleasure, is what we created:

1. Aperitif – Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Reserve. Alsace, France

Think of this sparkling wine as a palate cleanser. The elegant little bubbles in this fruity, dry wine from France’s Alsace region set the stage for a rich and varied menu.

2. Butifarra (Peruvian Chicken Breast Sandwich) and 2010 Phebus Torrontes. Salta, Argentina.

Butifarras are usually served with pork, but this genteel take on a street food classic went beautifully with with the citrusy Torrontes from one of Argentina’s famed wine growing regions. The crisp, stainless-steel fermented dry white complemented the creaminess of the chicken salad filling. ¡Delicioso!

3. Triple White Bread Sandwich with Avocado, Egg, and Tomato and 2009 Harbor Front Chardonnay. Monterey, Calif.

Tropical fruit aromas such as pineapple, with a splash of orange, brought the tanginess of the tomato and the butter of the avocado to life on this Latin-American twist on the club sandwich.

4. Cheese and Fruit Platter with Papa a la Huancaina and 2009 Bougrier ‘V’ Vouvray. Loire Valley, France.

A modern take on the Peruvian staple, papa a la huancaína.

A creamy white wine with a hint of sweetness, this Loire Valley classic displays some minerality, which is characteristic of the soil from this world-renowned grape growing region. The slight residual sugar in the wine balances the salty cheeses, and at the same time it complements the fruit. The Vouvray’s creamy flavor helps tame the slight kick of the ají amarillo in the huancaína sauce, which is poured over boiled potatoes.  

5. Pionono with Dulce de Leche, Strawberries, Almonds and Chocolate and Rivata Brachetto Piemonte. Piedmont, Italy.

Sí, chicas – they make piononos in various Latin American countries, but the Peruvian version features dulce de leche and good-for-you treats such as fresh strawberries and almonds, which are packed with ‘good’ fats. It’s a guilt-free dessert. Kind of. Because of the pionono’s high sugar content, I paired it with a sweet sparkling wine from Italia. Just enough sweetness to complement the dessert without making you feel like you’ve devoured the sugar bowl. And the bubbles help cleanse the richness of the dessert, leaving you with a fresh palate.

Ready for his close-up: Chef Renzo, a man outstanding in his Peruvian cocina.

Meet the Wine Lover: Chef Ricardo Zarate

31 Jan

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 stepped away from his busy kitchen to chat 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. Don’t ask me the name; all I know 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]. I had about 30 bottles, and I separated the expensive one from the others. 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 was enjoying a great wine with a good friend.

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.

Which wines go with Peruvian food?

23 Aug

Señorita Vino is taking a much-needed vacation this week, so for your pairing pleasure, here’s a past post on two of my favorite subjects, wine and Peruvian food. There’s a new bonus pairing not featured in the first version, so read on!

If Peruvian cuisine were a movie star, she’d be stalked by paparazzi, grace the covers of fashion magazines, and receive an audience with the Pope. Ah, but  if  wine were her consort, what lucky devil would have the privilege of escorting her on the red carpet?

Ever the match-maker, Señorita Vino proudly presents some wine selections to go with popular Peruvian lunch dishes and street food. Stay tuned for a future post on what to pair with more elaborate Peruvian fare:

1. Aperitif – Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Reserve. Alsace, France

Think of this sparkling wine as a palate cleanser. The elegant little bubbles in this fruity, dry wine from France’s Alsace region set the stage for a rich and varied menu.

2. Butifarra (Peruvian Chicken Breast Sandwich) and 2010 Phebus Torrontes. Salta, Argentina.

Butifarras are usually served with pork, but this genteel take on a street food classic went beautifully with with the citrusy Torrontes from one of Argentina’s famed wine growing regions. The crisp, stainless-steel fermented dry white complemented the creaminess of the chicken salad filling. ¡Delicioso!

3. Triple White Bread Sandwich with Avocado, Egg, and Tomato and 2009 Harbor Front Chardonnay. Monterey, Calif.

Tropical fruit aromas such as pineapple, with a splash of orange, brought the tanginess of the tomato and the butter of the avocado to life on this Latin-American twist on the club sandwich.

4. Cheese and Fruit Platter with Papa a la Huancaina and 2009 Bougrier ‘V’ Vouvray. Loire Valley, France.

A modern take on the Peruvian staple, papa a la huancaína.

A creamy white wine with a hint of sweetness, this Loire Valley classic displays some minerality, which is characteristic of the soil from this world-renowned grape growing region. The slight residual sugar in the wine balances the salty cheeses, and at the same time it complements the fruit. The Vouvray’s creamy flavor helps tame the slight kick of the ají amarillo in the huancaína sauce, which is poured over boiled potatoes.  

5. Pionono with Dulce de Leche, Strawberries, Almonds and Chocolate and Rivata Brachetto Piemonte. Piedmont, Italy.

Sí, chicas y chicos – they make piononos in various Latin American countries, but the Peruvian version features dulce de leche and good-for-you treats such as fresh strawberries and almonds, which are packed with ‘good’ fats. It’s a guilt-free dessert. Kind of. Because of the pionono’s high sugar content, I paired it with a sweet sparkling wine from Italia. Just enough sweetness to complement the dessert without making you feel like you’ve devoured the sugar bowl. And the bubbles help cleanse the richness of the dessert, leaving you with a fresh palate.

*SPECIAL BONUS PAIRING not featured in my previous post! (EL FULL DISCLOSURE: This next Peruvian specialty is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve got a soft spot for cute, fuzzy little critters, Señorita Vino advises that you look away. Now.) Cuy chactado (guinea pig) with 2010 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough, New Zealand.

Cuy, or guinea pig, is a Peruvian dish that could trigger nightmares for small children (and some adults).

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, gente. This, my friends, is a guinea pig who sacrificed his life so that I could have lunch while traveling in Arequipa, Perú three years ago. If you can get past the ick factor, guinea pig meat is lean and is said to be nutrient-rich. And–spoiler alert–it tastes like chicken. Colonel Sanders has nothing on the line cooks in the roadside restaurant where I sampled my first (and admittedly last) deep-fried little lab buddy. Why Sauvignon Blanc? The acidity in the wine ‘cuts’ the grease from the deep-fried batter. If you have the stomach for it, it’s a winning, albeit macabre, combo. ¡Salud, y que viva el Perú!

Viognier: A wine that loves ethnic cuisine

1 Jun

So this Peruvian chica orders an Indian curry dish with a bottle of French wine.

It could happen. And if you live in Casa de Señorita Vino, it happened Wednesday night. Only I didn’t order the dish; I  had to cook it myself. And the dish was made with quinoa, that Peruvian super-grain. I added some stir-fried wild Argentinean red shrimp et voila, global cuisine in the comfort of my own cocina.

Lemon curry quinoa with Argentinean red shrimp. And it only took 15 minutes to prepare, thankyouverymuch!

But now comes the million-peso question: Which wine goes with this multi-ethnic mash-up? Before I answer, and at the risk of offending a few wine snobs (although they wouldn’t be reading this blog anyway), it’s all about you, chicas y chicos, and what titillates your tiny tastebuds. There are no concrete laws when it comes to wine and food pairings, only suggestions.

So here’s what I had with my Wednesday evening global fusion dish: Viognier. This is a refreshing white wine made from the Viognier grape, which originates in….France! However, I had a California Viognier, which took nothing away from my at-home International Dining Extravaganza.

Cambria Wines’ Viognier is made from grapes grown in the Santa Maria Valley. And no, it’s not your eyes, it’s the photo. Sorry kids, Señorita Vino was in a hurry when she snapped these.

The beauty of Viognier is its versatility. Here’s a simple explanation of why Viognier is a good match for this dish:

1. Viognier has a smooth texture (it’s not high in acidity) with ripe fruit aromas. It’s the fruitiness of the wine that makes the subtle sweetness of the shrimp (or any shellfish) stand out.

2. The wine is full-bodied, meaning it has a high alcohol content. So a strong spice like curry won’t overpower the wine. In other words, there’s a balance. El Cautionary Suggestion: Because the wine is high in alcohol, you may not want to pair it with a pepper-hot curry or any dish that is spicy-hot, unless you like your dinner with a five-alarm-fire chaser.

3. Remember that wine ‘tasting’ is more about wine ‘smelling.’ We don’t really ‘taste’ the spicy, fruity or floral notes in a wine. It’s our olfactory system (la nariz!)that picks them up. Having said that, a food spice can make the spicy notes in a wine stand out. Curry’s natural aromas enhance the hints of spice in Viognier.

Late-harvest Viognier is sweet. Viognier is not.

You may not find Viognier at your neighborhood grocery store, so look for it at a wine shop. There’s a big difference between Viognier and late-harvest Viognier. Viognier is a dry wine, meaning it does not taste sweet. Late-harvest Viognier is considered a dessert wine and is honey-sweet. How to tell the difference when you’re buying wine? The late-harvest Viognier (and most dessert wines) will be in a smaller, skinny bottle, while the Viognier will be in a standard 750 ml wine bottle. Stay tuned for a future post on dessert wines.

In the meantime, careful readers may have noticed that it took me only 15 minutes to prepare my multicultural din-din. How is this possible, you ask? Easy. I cheated. Your reward for reading this far is the key to my weeknight culinary prowess: Just-add-water meals.

In this case, I used Roland Lemon Curry Quinoa (El Full Disclosure: Roland provided a free sample. Muchas gracias, Roland!).

Argentinean red shrimp not-on-the-barbie.

While the quinoa was cooking, I tossed some Argentinean red shrimp in a pan for a couple of minutes and added them to the finished product.

Here’s where I get to offer you yet another bit of cautionary advice. Argentinean red shrimp look pink when they’re raw, which means you need to cook them. Señor Jim, if you’ve read this far, your reward is that neither of us died when I served them raw in the spaghetti last week. Sorry about that.

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