Toast to spring with “The Ring,” a bubbly with a love story

A bubbly with a love story......

A bubbly with a love story……

At a recent bridal event I was asked to find a South African bubbly to start the party. This bubbly called “The Ring” was a huge hit. Tasty, under $25 and a bubbly with a love story behind it makes it the perfect wine to serve at any bridal event, proposal or as a wedding toast! The first vintage was also the first wine made by vintner Philip Jonker, who fell in love as it aged for three years. It was first served at his wedding and christened “The Ring” to celebrate his marriage.

South African sparkling wines made in this traditional bottled fermented method are labelled as Method Cap Classique to comply with European Union regulations protecting the term “Champagne.” This 100% Chardonnay does not disappoint and at this price can be served to brighten any day! Its flavors of golden apple, a tinge of honey and melon make it the perfect wine to toast to warm sunny days ahead. Serve with creamy, bloomy rind cheeses for the perfect pairing.

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Teeling Irish Whiskey and County Cork artisanal cheese; A perfect pairing to enjoy year round

Celtic Whiskey on the Green, Dublin

Celtic Whiskey on the Green, Dublin

A few months ago I made a pilgrimage to Dublin to discover my Irish roots, and taste the famous whiskeys and cheese I’ve read so much about. As I soaked in the wave of luscious liquid made by Irish craft distillers, I nibbled on cheeses transformed from the milk of herds grazing on lush green pastures. Instantly I knew I’d be longing for these gems at home…..

At one time Dublin was home to over thirty-seven distilleries with many in the Liberties area of the city also known as the ‘Golden Triangle’, due to the vast amount of delicious elixir produced in a one mile radius. But, Irish whiskey fell on hard times and the last still ran dry in 1976. That is until Teeling decided to fire up 3 copper pot stills and revive the traditional style of Dublin distillation. Teeling’s facility is located a stones throw from its original Dublin location in the market square known as Newmarket. I had the pleasure of sampling Teeling’s vast range of Irish whiskey at The Celtic Whiskey Shop on the Green (a mecca of Irish whiskey) and wished I could cram more than a few bottles in my suitcase.

As luck would have it Teeling’s has recently launched in NY! I couldn’t wait to enjoy it with another rarity, Irish farmstead cheese. While Kerry Gold may be in almost every supermarket in America artisanal cheese from the Emerald Isle is only available at specialty cheesemongers. Like Irish whiskey Irish cheeses are also going through a long-awaited revival with many farms just starting up production in the last 20 years and many are not exported due to such small amounts being produced.

A tasty array of Irish cheese made from rich cow's milk

A tasty array of Irish cheese made from rich cow’s milk

Whiskey and cheese can be a magical experience but even better when you can taste the passion of a product crafted at small family run farm or distillery! Try the suggested pairings below and you’ll be in Emerald Isle heaven!

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Irish whiskey and cheese, a match made in Emerald Isle heaven!

Teeling Single Grain- 

The fruity notes in this beautiful whiskey melded well with the washed rinds of both Gubbeen and Durrus. Try it with any of your favorite stinky smear rind cheeses and candied pecans for a perfect cheese course.

Recently Awarded World’s Best Grain at the World Whiskies Awards, 2014. This award-winning addition is one of only a handful of Single Grain Bottlings in the world.

It is fully matured in Californian red wine barrels resulting in an intensely fruity and beautifully amber liquid, with lush berry notes.

Teeling Small Batch-

This flagship whiskey paired well with all of the selected cheeses! Also try with your favorite cheddar and a drizzle of honey. My new favorite sipping whiskey!

This small batch bottling consists of hand selected casks which are given further maturation in ex-rum barrels imparting extra character and smooth flavour unique to Irish whiskey. By bottling at 46% with no chill filtration completes an Irish whiskey of true character.

Gubbeen-

Made with pasteurized cow’s milk by Tom and Giana Ferguson in County Cork and distributed by Neal’s Yard Dairy. This soft, washed rind has a pliable texture and a pinkish-orange rind. Full-bodied, earthy, nutty, mushroomy…

Durrus-

This semi-soft, washed rind cheese produced in Jeffa Gill’s dairy is very famous in West Cork as one of the finest artisanal farmhouse cheeses. Made with raw, unpasteurized milk, Durrus has aromas of hay and wet soil and tastes buttery, mild and slightly acidic. Only milk from Friesian herds of two local farmers is used to prepare this Irish delicacy.

Coolea-

This raw milk, Dutch Gouda-style cheese is simply amazing. It has all the nutty, butterscotch-y qualities of Gouda, but made with the rich and floral milk that Ireland is famous for.

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Hanky Panky with a Certain Mr.

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The original Hanky Panky was created by the legendary Ada “aka Coley” Coleman while head bartender at the Savoy Hotel’s American Bar in the early 1900s. It’s  pretty amazing to think that a woman held sway over such a fine establishment at a time that only men ruled the roost behind the stick. But rule Coley did, serving drinks to the likes of Mark Twain, the Prince of Wales and Edwardian actor Charles Hawtrey, who inspired the Hanky Panky.

I changed things up a bit by using Mr. Katz Rock & Rye instead of Gin and adding a bit more Fernet Branca then what was called for in the original. The smooth, slightly sweet rye plays well with the vermouth and the herbal notes in the Fernet Branca. A squeeze of orange adds a bit of acidity to lift and brighten.

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In honor of Valentine’s Day (and Ada),  I’m calling this sweet and spicy tipple Hanky Panky, but, with a certain Mr., Katz that is!

Hanky Panky with a Certain Mr.

2 oz. Mr. KATZ rock and rye
2 oz. Cocchi Vermouth
2 bar spoons Fernet Branca
1 squeeze fresh orange wedge
Build over ice in shaker, stir well with spoon and strain into chilled glass. Garnish with orange peel.

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Emidio Pepe Pecorino, Colli Aprutini IGT, 2010; An amazing find in the world of wine!

A delicious grape and a cheese, Pecorino!

A delicious grape and a cheese, Pecorino!

Last weeks predicted Snow-pocalypse had many rushing out to stock up on wines to weather the storm. Frankly Wines in Tribeca was bustling with activity before mass transit shut down for who knew how long! The next day brought about relief and a snow day for many NYers overjoyed that they wouldn’t spend the next few days stuck at home. In celebration this special bottle was opened to sample with customers at Frankly, and I was lucky enough to be there!

I know many associate Pecorino with the world of cheese, but this wine made from the grape of the same name is one of the finest white wines to pass my lips in quite some time! It’s lush, silky texture and concentrated flavors and aromas of apricot marmalade, toasted almond and a touch of sweet spice had me dreaming of sun-kissed vineyards and a walk in the Italian countryside! Pure heaven in a bottle, and a perfect pairing with cheeses of the same name drizzled with orange blossom honey!

Produced in the region of Abruzzo by Emidio Pepe and family the grapes are grown organically on two hectares and crushed delicately by foot  in wooden tubs in order to avoid the contact between the iron presses and the acids of the fruit. The juice then goes into glass-lined cement vats for fermentation, then, after a few months it is transferred to bottle. It ages in the cellar in the bottle for 2-3 years and is carefully hand decanted before release. The 2010 vintage is the first release of this fancy pants wine and hopefully not the last.

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Mac and Cheese: A comforting, soul satisfying cheese and wine pairing

mac and cheese recipe

Creamy, dreamy, gooey goodness. The best mac and cheese recipe ever!

There are a millions ways to make mac and cheese, but for me there is nothing as tasty as my version made with an easy béchamel sauce, layered with a blend of cheeses and baked with a crispy parmesan/cracker topping. Based on an old family recipe this is no designer noodles tossed in lumpy cheese sauce or hipster variation studded with peas, bacon or kale chips. It’s the real deal, hearty Southern style with loads of divine shredded cheese oozing into every crevice of the elbow macaroni (the only pasta that should be used to make this) and baked till the top is crunchy and browned.

It’s a favorite dish I remember from childhood, a big food hug that makes me smile as I savor each fork-full  filled with down home goodness. No bells, whistles or fancy trappings, yet one of the most soul satisfying meals that makes an appearance again and again on my table. Also, it’s the dish I’m asked to bring to every family gathering or potluck.

For pairing try a lightly oaked Chardonnay with just a touch of spice and apple flavor, my favorites hail from the Burgundy region of France. The best ones have just enough acid to cut through the decadent richness of the dish while their rounded fruit flavors complement the notes in the cheeses. Think of apple pie and cheddar cheese, one of the best food pairings ever created!

My picks!

Maison B. Perraud Saint-Veran 2012, (Burgundy, France)

This is a Chardonnay for people who don’t like Chardonnay. It’s rich and round, but, without the excess vanilla and spice sometimes found in new world Chardonnay. Made from 50 year old vines grown in clay soil it has a medium body with just a touch of nutty flavors and baked apple notes.

Maison Champy Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012, (Burgundy, France)

Slightly creamy and buttery without over doing it. Food friendly, afforadle and incredibly delicious!

Best Mac and Cheese recipe –

Bake till browned and bubbly for best mac and cheese ever!

 

Serves 6 as main dish

6 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 pint light cream

3 pints whole milk

10 oz. extra sharp white Cheddar shredded, if you want to use an artisan cheese try an English cloth bound cheddar

5 oz. Gruyère shredded

5 oz. aged Gouda shredded, Old Amsterdam or Beemster are best

1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan Reggiano

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 cup crushed butter crackers, ritz or your favorite

1 teaspoon white pepper

salt to taste

2 teaspoons Coleman mustard

1 box elbow macaroni, cooked al dente

Cook elbow macaroni al dente, rinse in cold water, drain and set aside. In medium sauce pan melt 4 tablespoons of butter on low flame, add flour and stir till smooth. Slowly add milk and cream whisking to prevent lumps. Add white pepper, salt to taste and mustard to sauce and cook on low flame till thickened, whisking to keep lumps from forming so sauce is smooth. If sauce is to thick add a little additional milk. Set sauce aside, preheat oven to 375 and prepare for assembly.

Toss cheddar, Gruyère and gouda in large bowl. Ladel enough sauce into 9 by 13 inch pan to cover bottom well. Add a thin layer of macaroni, shredded cheese and repeat till you have a bit of room on top. Melt remaining 2 tablespoon of butter and add to breadcrumbs, crushed crackers and parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Spread breadcrumb mixture on top evenly and loosely tent pan with foil. Bake for 40 minutes in preheated oven, remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes or till browned and bubbly. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

 

 

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