Tag Archives: food and wine pairing

Tunworth, a guilty English pleasure

It’s a good idea to cheat on your regular cheesemonger from time to time. Some cheeses are imported in very small quantities and may just be available at one or two small specialty shops, or not in your usual haunt. This is how I discovered one of my new favorite cheeses, Tunworth, an English guilty pleasure! Available at Brooklyn Larder in Park Slope (a dangerous place for any gourmet), Tunworth’s bloomy rind encases a delicious runny paste with a mushroomy savory note. Similar to Camembert it has a slightly sweet finish and nutty undertones.


Tunworth is made by Hampshire Cheeses, founded in 2005 and owned by Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce.

Stacey, originally from Sydney Australia, had worked in a cheese shop long before she and  her English husband settled with their three young children in rural Hampshire. She found herself thinking fondly of her cheese shop days, missing the inspiration that the little store gave her, before long Stacy began making her own cheese at home.

It soon became clear that she would need a purpose-built creamery to fulfil her dream. With encouragement from the owner of Neil’s Yard Dairy she was soon making this cheese from pasteurized cow’s milk dream that has won a world cheese award and  in 2006 was voted Britain’s Supreme Champion Cheese at the British Cheese Awards beating more than 800 other cheeses. No small accomplishment for sure!


I’d suggest pairing with one of England’s best fizzy wines, Ridgeview Estate Cavendish, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A sparkling wine from England, you ask? Partly an effect of global warming and the chalky terroir of Southeast England, this stellar bubbly shines next to others outside of Champagne. The vineyards are located in the South Downs of Sussex, part of a region that shares the same limestone ridge with Champagne.





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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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When it comes to food, is your wine destined to be a loner or a socialite?

Roast Chicken with a savory, silky sauce...

Roast Chicken with a savory, silky sauce..

Often when I write about a particular wine and include a pairing recipe the responses are varied. Some are seeking out info on where to purchase the exact wine mentioned, others are just interested in trying a new wine from a grape or region they haven’t explored before with a dish to complement it. Regardless, based on search terms used to direct readers to my little corner of the blogosphere it seems that interest in exploring new flavors and food and wine culture is growing.

A recent post by wine writer Robert Joseph got me thinking about how the general population perceives food and wine matching in relation to wine sales. Pictures depicting wine and food together are rare in print ads, wine guides and shelf talkers. More often than not instead of conjuring up images of enjoying wine with a splendid meal and friends the visuals include steel tanks, sexy babes or lush, green, rolling vineyards. Considering that wine is still served with both lunch and dinner in many cultures I find this puzzling. Do vintners and their marketing teams think the image of food will compete with product branding or confuse the consumer? With many people still intimidated by merely selecting a wine wouldn’t the helpful suggestion on what to serve it with be a better choice than half naked women?

It can be hard to nudge someone out of a wine rut, fear has kept many drinkers more comfortable to just purchase that old stand by. Why not take a leap and help them out with a more user friendly approach?  It doesn’t have to be a suggestion that requires an arsinal of exotic spices, a sous chef or fine china. Traditional or regional pairing suggestions/recipes have been around for centuries, many feature basic techniques that could lead to creative culinary exploration! A little guidance never hurt anyone.

Vintage Peche Advertisement

Vintage Peche Advertisement

In many cultures, not so long ago, even children would be served a small taste of a regional wine with dinner. When I was training as a chef two of my mentors were old school Europeans, one from Northern Italy the other a Frenchman who included as much wine into his recipes as he drank daily. Routinely they argued over what wine to serve with each dish but one belief they both shared was that wine was in fact as much a part of the meal as the meal itself. They even went so far as to suggest that wine was food, thinking of it like a finishing sauce that tied together the delicious flavors and aromas of each meal they prepared. For me a major part of wine enjoyment is inexplicably tied to food, sure I enjoy certain wines on their own but the sage advise of these two culinary curmudgeons, reluctant to show a women  around the kitchen will always stay with me.

So, I ask you? Does the average home cook seek guidance on recreating food and wine matchings for their daily meal or is it something reserved for special evenings? When shopping in your local wine store are you more likely to try a new wine if photos of pairing suggestions or recipes to pair with a fairly easy meal were provided? Are there any factors in relation to food that would sway your decision when making a wine selection or do you just wing it?

Below are some vintage ads I found in my culinary collection. It seems wines featuring food suggestions are most often illustrations.



California Wine Commission

California Wine Commission


Bolla wine and food 1970's

Bolla wine and food 1970’s



2013/02/12 · 2:35 am

Hudson Flower, A cheese raised by a super nanny…

Hudson Flower, A specialty cheese aged in Murray's cellars

Hudson Flower, A specialty cheese aged in Murray’s cellars

On New Years Eve I had the pleasure of hosting a sparkling wine and cheese pairing including some of my favorite pairings and a few special treats to jazz up this last class of the season held aboard the vintage motor yacht Manhattan. Participants went crazy over a unique sheep cheese created for the holiday season by the affinuers at Murray’s, Hudson Flower.

So just what is an affinuer? Affinage is a French word that comes from the French verb Affiner that comes from the Latin “ad finis”, meaning “towards the limit”. An Affineur is a bit like a nanny, carefully nurturing and caring for the precious offspring of the cheesemaker till it reaches maturity. There are common practices carried out for most cheese types including temperature and humidity control, appropriate aging time, mold strains used, rack or shelving used and packaging chosen for sale upon completion. Sometimes washing or coating the rinds are practiced to create a unique flavor or add a different spin on a traditional cheese. Hudson flower, created in the cellars of Murray’s cheese, is a delicious example of the difference that a creative affinuer can impart on the flavor of a carefully ripened cheese.

Hudson Flower starts out as a young sheep cheese hailing from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in Chatham, NY. The rinds are coated in a secret blend of rosemary, lemon thyme, marjoram, elderberries and hop flowers. This comforting blanket of herbs imparts floral and fresh citrus notes to the creamy smooth paste of this fascinating, delicious cheese. Clearly a winner in the art of cheese ripening techniques! I hope to see it offered not just for the holiday season but year round.

Pairing suggestions-
Cremant de Bourgogne, Jura Chardonnay, Saison Ale, lighter floral reds or for breakfast with a cup of Chamomile tea!

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Put a Little Sparkle in Your Holiday! Top Value Sparkling Wine Picks Paired With Lobster Stuffed Gougeres

franciacorta at berlucchiMany people think of sparkling wines as pricey, luxury wines reserved for special occasions. According to a study done by the Wine Institute  of California sparkling wine only accounted for 4.6% of total wine consumption in the USA in 2010, most of which was drank between November and New Years Eve. I find this horrible news!  For me sparkling wines make a wonderful start to any evening. Their bubbles lift my spirits at the end of a long day. They pair with many foods. Their lively effervescence cleanses the palate between bites of rich dishes or salty snacks. They dress up that take out carton of Thai food or sushi. Hell, I’ve even found them to be the perfect pairing with potato chips!

Although I love French Vintage Champagne I often turn to other wines that are a bit more pocket friendly. In todays wine market there are more than a few  interesting alternatives made in the same method as traditional Champagne, with second fermentation taking place in bottle. Consider cremant, the bubbly made outside the region of Champagne. It’s French. It’s bubbly. It’s composed of high-quality handpicked grapes. It’s vinified in the same painstaking traditional way that Champagne is. And it’s delicious!

In the South of France, Languedoc-Roussillon is home to yet another French sparkling wine, Blanquette De Limoux. A heady, rich structured wine with an interesting story.  Local wine historians believe that the world’s first sparkling wine was produced in this region in 1531 by the monks at the abbey in Saint-Hillaire, way before Champagne. Thomas Jefferson a connoisseur of French wine was known to have more than a few bottles of this value sparkling in his cellar.

From other regions of the world, Spain’s sparkler Cava is wonderfully earthy and unique. Sekt, the sparkling wine of Germany and Austria is often racy and elegant while Italy’s Franciacorta is fashionably taut and well balanced. The USA is also producing some tasty examples in the East, West and a few spots in between.

Cellars in Franciacorte

Below are just a few of my best picks priced from $15 – $40, vinified in the same method as traditional Champagne and great finds. I’ve also shared one of my favorite recipes for pairing with many sparkling wines, gougeres with lobster salad. Enjoy!

Gruet Brut NV, New Mexico, USA– Brilliant with ultra fine bubbles. A wonderful fine bouquet dominated by green apple and grapefruit flavors. A true classic! Once a sommeliers secret this sparkling made by a French wine family in the USA is a great value.

Blanquette De Limoux Brut, Esprit du Sud, NV, Languedoc, France– Racy, marked by its terroir in a typical taste of herbs and botanicals, in its maturity it expresses notes of honey from acacia trees. Well structured in the mouth but staying unctuous. The finish is fresh and elegant.

Raventos Brut Cava L’Hereu, 08, Spain– A very mineral driven, clearly delineated, chiseled sparkling wine that is truly first rate.  When you taste this wine, you will see why some of Spain’s best michelin three stars such as El Bulli and Arzak continue to feature this terrific cava.

Bellavista Franciacorte Special Cuvee DOCG, Italy– Simply beautiful. White peaches, jasmine, minerals, ash and grapefruit are some of the aromas and flavors that come together in this sharp, focused Franciacorta. This is a superb example of Italy’s best reasonably priced methode Champenoise wine.

Roederer L’Ermitage, California, USA– Like baked apples in a buttery crust with a dusting of fresh vanilla bean, yummy. What more can I say? It’s great!

Clotilde Davenne Crémant de Bourgogne, NV, Silver Label, Burgundy, France– Tons of wet stone and mineral with a crisp lingering finish. This wine is completely dry with no sugar added to dosage. So good with shellfish, either raw or steamed served with butter.


Gougeres Recipe

warm, crispy gougeres

Makes about thirty bite-sized puffs

Two things to keep in mind when making these. One is that you should have all the ingredients ready to go before you start. Don’t let the water and butter boil away while you grate the cheese. Otherwise you’ll lose too much of the water. Second is to let the batter cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs so you don’t ‘cook’ them. Make sure when you stir in the eggs that you do it vigorously, and without stopping. I’m not a fan of extra clean up, but the intrepid can put the dough in a food processor or use an electric mixer to add and mix the eggs in quickly.

If you don’t have a pastry bag with a plain tip, you can put the dough into a freezer bag, snip off a corner, and use that. Or simply use two spoons to portion and drop the dough onto the baking sheet. This recipe can easily be doubled.

1/2 cup water

3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted, cut into cubes

1/4 teaspoon salt

big pinch of white pepper

1/2 cup flour

2 large eggs

3/4 cup grated cheese, Gruyère or Comte

1. Preheat the oven to 425F , Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

2. Heat the water, butter, salt, and pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted.

3. Dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly to make sure the eggs don’t ‘cook.’ The batter will first appear lumpy, but after a minute or so, it will smooth out. (You can transfer the mixture to a bowl before adding to eggs to cool the dough, or do this step in a food processor or electric mixer, if you wish.)

5. Add about 3/4s of the grated cheese and the chives, and stir until well-mixed.

6. Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain tip and pipe the dough into mounds, evenly spaced apart, making each about the size of a small cherry tomato.

7. Top each puff with a bit of the remaining cheese, then pop the baking sheet in the oven.

8. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375F and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re completely golden brown.

For extra-crispy puffs, five minutes before they’re done, poke the side of each puff with a sharp knife to release the steam, and return to the oven to finish baking.

Serving: The puffs are best served warm, and if making them in advance, you can simply pipe the gougères on baking sheets and cook right before your guests arrive, or reheat the baked cheese puffs in a low oven for 5-10 minutes before serving. Some folks like to fill them, or split them and sandwich a slice of dry-aged ham in there, I love them with lobster salad w/ tarragon! See below for recipe,it  can also be served on mini toasted roll for a lobster slider.

A bit of troubleshooting: The most common problem folks have with pâte à choux, or cream puff dough, is deflated puffs. The usual causes are too much liquid (eggs), or under baking. Make sure to use large eggs, not extra-large or jumbo, and use a dry, aged cheese, if possible. Also bake the puffs until they’re completely browned up the sides so they don’t sink when cooling. If yours do deflate, that’s fine. I actually think the funky-looking ones have a lot of charm and are fine for stuffing if you are a perfectionist!


Lobster Salad for Sliders

Luscious Lobster Slider with melted butter sauce


2- 1 & 1/4 lb cooked lobsters

1 dozen crusty mini rolls or 2 dozen gougeres

1 stick celery (finely  diced

) 1/2 cup mayonnaise, you may add more if you like a moister salad (I make my own, but PLEASE use Helmann’s if not making it.)

¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon (You could also use dill.)

2 twists black pepper, 2 pinch salt

1 pinch cayenne pepper

Lemon wedges for  serving


1. Place the lobster in  boiling, salted water until  the shells turn from grey to pink, which indicates they are cooked. This usually  takes around 10 minutes.

2. Remove the meat from the shells by cracking the  shells lengthwise with a pair of sharp kitchen scissors or a seafood cracker. The shell should then  peel easily from the lobster meat.

3. Cut the meat into ¼ inch chunks and  allow to cool. 4. While the lobster is cooling, split the rolls and  spread thinly with butter inside and out.

5. Heat a large  frying pan and toast the buttered buns on each side.

6. Mix the mayonnaise  with the tarragon.

7. In a large bowl, combine the lobster meat, the herb mayonnaise and the celery.

8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

9.  Assemble on bread or puffs and serve with lemon wedges.

As an  alternative to mayonnaise and celery, you can simply toss the lobster meat,  while still warm, in melted butter, season  with salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon, old bay seasoning to taste and then serve in the toasted buns.

Have a wonderful time with your friends and family in the next few weeks!



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