Oh, hey. It’s so cold again and the wind literally knocked enough leaves off the trees to bury our stairs out of our house by about a foot. You know what that means? I want to eat soup, that’s what.
As a food and wine enthusiast, I live a pretty charmed life: I worked in an environment where both food and wine were celebrated and encouraged as part of my daily lifestyle and were presented at fractions of their normal cost, was surrounded by people who shared my particular shade of geek, married the best guy who happened to also have a deep cellar and be a stellar cook. I can’t ask for more and often find on any average weeknight wine in my glass that I would have previously hemmed and hawed over purchasing (let alone opening) for weeks. But often, all I want is a glass of something just good, tasty and not expensive or pretentious, something I used to love and am always happy to see.
Viña Alberdi Rioja 2005
I spotted a bottle of this in our sink (aside: we have an old tub sink in the basement of our house that serves as the catch-all for great wine for every day drinking, not expensive and not for aging necessarily) a few weeks ago and last night, after a day of the baby refusing to nap, refusing to be left alone, refusing to be held, and flexing her new screaming muscles, I decided it was a good night for a not fussy wine and not fussy food. Husband whisked in with to-go boxes and what may be the last bottle of the Alberdi appeared. Read More →
Right now my daughter is grasping at everything just above her head, her tiny fingers gripping ledges and seat cushions as she weighs their accessibility against the ever-evolving strength of her legs. It is an evolution, too—she’s becoming another thing all together, once just a coil of new arms and belly and toes and head and now unfurling in this glorious, cacophonous tiny beast. She’s leaning into her first everything. She wants to taste the world, and it’s summer, so the world is waiting to be tasted. Read More →
The first page of the menu is riddled with truffles. It isn’t the season anymore—black truffles make their elaborate entrance in the winter in the Rhone Valley—but Chef stores them, finds ways to preserve them, holds onto the fresh ones for as long as possible and paints his simple regional dishes with the earthy, musky, unctuous richness of the elusive mushrooms. The seasonal vegetables are sautéed with a kiss of butter and tossed with truffles. The scallops are pierced and topped with truffles. The frisée salad is blanketed in shaved truffles. The chicken is stuffed with truffles. Even toast is stacked high with fat slices of truffles. We’ve caught the end of his supply, he tells us in the kitchen. He holds up a jar, maybe a gallon in capacity, filled with knobby black clusters ranging in size from a lime to my fist. Read More →
Katie Callahan is a wine educator and former manager of Bin 201 Wine Sellers in Annapolis.
Oh man. It’s here. It’s finally here. The Pinks are coming. I will make no mystery of my affection for pink wine and will openly shoot disdainful and exasperated eyes at you if you tell me you feel otherwise. Yes everybody is entitled to their opinion, but come ON. There’s more or less one season that a half-full bottle of rose wine is acceptable on your counter/in your fridge/in a glass or sippy cup at any time of day, those colors of pale dogwood flower pink to deep fuchsia, that bright, bracing acid, those minerals…sigh. Read More →
As a new mom, I am without a regular nine-to-five job or school to keep me on track. I rely heavily on my surroundings to keep me up on the systematic parts of life. The mood of my child tells me time of day. Phone calls keep me on top of what day of the week it is, and the weather is my seasonal gauge. My seasons thus far in 2014 have been Winter, Narnia, Always Winter Never Christmas, Wet, Cold-and-Wet, Mid-May, Almost Spring, and Wet Again. I talk a lot about the weather. It determines my clothing choice, my activities, often my mood, and my beverage choice. Read More →
On a Monday night, the baby is dozing in her swing and we are cooking dinner together after what hopefully is the last snow of the year. We are very, very hopeful. Chicken, preserved plum sauce, endive and beet salad, and couscous with walnuts, the kitchen is thick with salt and spice and heat.
“What would you like to drink?” my husband asks. He always asks me. I always answer the same. Read More →
We interrupt your six more weeks of winter to bring you three glorious days that remind you spring may be on the way, even though one was riddled with thunderstorms and the other unceremoniously brought to a close by more snow. I swear I forget every February that this is what winter means, that by the best part of winter, which is obviously Christmas, you’ve only barely crested the Solstice and the most brutal brunt of it is still to come. Here in Maryland that means, apparently, soggy cold days, foggy cold days, two feet of snow, sub-freezing temperatures, freak 50-degree days sprinkled in there, and the worst parking situation for anybody who lives in the city. My sister sent me a picture of herself on the beach in Miami where she goes to school with the caption, “Never too early for mimosas by the sea.” I almost wept.
So what are we to do when the winter drags on, threatening yet another month of puffy coats, sleet, and a disgruntled public? When the world turns to whiskey to quell its chilly insides, will we embrace the season or wishfully long for warmer times? To be honest, I like to go to Miami. So obviously, option B: long for warmer times.
But let’s face it: Miami isn’t always an option unless you’re my sisters. So how do you bring the tropics home when it’s 28 degrees and snowing again and you forgot to put the windshield wipers up on our car and your shoes aren’t waterproof? Two approaches: Love It or Leave It.
When it gets cold out, my initial reaction is to pull out every sweater I own and bake a lot of pumpkin things, and my wine preference quickly swings from white or light reds to rich, snuggly, stick-to-your ribs kind of wine. In dealing with winter dregs (that is, January, February, and March), if I had my druthers, I would drink Washington State Merlot constantly. The good ones are robust and pure, like a really good blackberry or blueberry preserve, with cool, sleek minerality that may remind you of a wet river stone. They’re a little more generous than their grandparents from the Right Bank of Bordeaux, to speak generally, which means a lot of the time you don’t need to be snacking in order to quell tannins or acid. They’ll both be there, for sure, but are often more willing to play second fiddle to the fruit. Read More →
When I moved from my house to my husband’s place, I brought with me not only a Granny Smith-colored Kitchen Aid mixer and a cat, but also three or four cases of wine I’d stashed away periodically over my brief tenure in the wine shop. They were usually single bottles of things I liked at a given moment and would save up to purchase periodically, so the cases are pretty full of strange things. I’ve picked off a few of them here and there, but haven’t looked in them in quite a while. So this week, I went snooping and came across a few odd balls and old friends and decided to re-taste them, a pure study in curiosity.
Wine #1: Orin Swift Cellars “Mannequin” White, California
I can’t remember why I have this wine. Therefore, I open it now.
Mannequin is made by Orin Swift, a producer that’s not quite cult status but certainly has some loyal followers and are known for limited release wine with intriguing names and genius labels. Their design is typically sleek and evocative, some with brooding photos, others with eerie drawings, Mercury Head actually has a Mercury head dime in the glass. The bottles are skull crackers, really hefty, and the wines vary from Bordeaux grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Rhone varieties like Syrah and Grenache, some Zinfandel, and this weird, weird white wine, Mannequin. It’s a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Semillon, Muscat, and Marsanne, aged in a combination of new oak, neutral oak, and stainless steel and the label is a long line of creepily arranged and deteriorating department store mannequins.
First, let me admit that I enter this tasting with a bias against many California white blends like this, usually find them too massive and lacking in any kind of grace or subtlety. So again, I don’t exactly remember why I have this wine to begin with. But I’m interested to see what it’s all about. Read More →
The first sounds in the middle of the night are grunts, husky guttural warthog noises that impossibly float out of that precious newborn mouth. Eyes open and looking into the darkness that gradates from dark to darker and darker as the seconds pass, waiting for further evidence that she is in fact awake and not just dreaming. If she wakes, then I awake, arrange my pillows, and pick her up. There is plenty of time to think in the middle of the night, plenty to fret about, plenty to blow out of proportion with drowsy panic (a specialty of mine). My time in those dark and darker hours is far better spent absentmindedly collecting ideas for the looming holiday, a little online research I hope will filter its way into my subconscious so I’ll perhaps remember it in the morning. Cookies? Decorations? Food? Wine? Yes.
My goals this year are simpler than the last few, as my Bundle of Joy will most likely keep me from walks outside in the cold, late and leisurely dinner parties, and extensive baking adventures. But we will still have our tree trimming party, I think. That was the highlight of the season and offered the best excuse to participate in all of my favorite holiday things: good people, good food, good wine.
Last year, the tree trimming party was a handful of friends and many treats. A platter of fresh oysters hoisted from the Bay that morning found their way to our table, a delicacy I’d never participated in previously and were pretty remarkable. Briny, salty, minerally, and paired with a sharp citrus and shallot vinaigrette, they begged for a glass of something with equal precision and intensity, and there is nothing better for an oyster than a glass of Champagne.
If you’ve never had a glass of true Champagne, that is, the world famous sparkling wine from the northernmost growing region in France of the same name, you are cheating yourself. To think that you can substitute any sparkling wine in place of a glass of Champagne is simply untrue, not because I’m a snob, but because the terroir (read: soil, climate, human input) of Champagne is entirely unique and unmatched in the world. The primary mineral content in the region’s soil is chalk and is translated into the fruit as a clean, laser-like minerality that echoes that of oyster shells or other shellfish. The production method is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and ancient. Only three grapes are invited to the party: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. It’s beautiful. Some are perfect. And the best ones can be opposite delicate and ethereal or earthy and powerful and both are equally amazing.
Granted, I’d never make a mimosa or bellini out of true Champagne (travesty!) and there are so many amazing Cavas from Spain, Proseccos from Italy, and Champagne-style sparklers from the US and other places, but in the words of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby. Read More →
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