Sunday, September 18, 2005

Did I ever get the name of that New York State wine wrong--it's Bobsled Red, produced by Glenora Wine Cellars in Dundee, New York, on Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region. Ken and I sampled it last night: It's definitely a semi-sweet, bursting with blackberry or black raspberry overtones. The Glenora website does not identify the grapes they blend to make Bobsled Red, but I am curious, so I'll have to e-mail. What's the mystery? Are they afraid some other winery is going to produce it? Nashoba Winery in Massachusetts bares all, but then again, they don't have any real regional competition. The Finger Lakes region is loaded with vineyards, so perhaps that's the issue. Bobsled Red is not available in the Boston area, so I think we may bring home a couple of bottles for winter use.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

For Ken's birthday, we drove to Indian Lake, New York, to have dinner at Chili Nights, supposedly the best Mexican restaurant in the Adirondacks. I'm sure it's called the best because it's the only one. I have never been impressed with the food there, but Ken loves the shrimp fajitas, and that's where we go on September 16th every year. I had beef fajitas, and was not happy with the overly salty, overcooked, not fresh, sizzling platter they presented me with. But I said nothing, because on one's birthday, one should not hear complaints from one's spouse about one's favorite Adirondack restaurant. It's not cheap either, which makes me mad, in a way, because they don't use the choicest ingredients, not by any means. So there's my review.

I should try making fajitas at home. For that I'd need to buy skirt steak. That's what fajitas are supposed to be made of, but many restaurants use cheaper cuts of meat, I've noticed.

On the wine front, we opened a bottle of Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa (2004) during the past week and it was so fruity and smooth. Near perfect. I recently bought a bottle of a New York red wine called Bobcat. I'm sorry to say I'm making this post from Cafe Sarah in North Creek and don't have access to the label or I'd be able to give more information. But this I know, it's not sold in any wine store I've been to in the Boston area.

If you are ever in the tiny farming hamlet of Wadhams, New York, in the Lake Champlain Valley of the Adirondacks, don't miss Merrick's Bread and Coffee, a bakery and cafe. The coffee is terrific, the tea amazing (and I am a lover of fine teas--they may be the only people in the U.S. who know how to brew tea), the scones delicious. We also bought a loaf of olive bread which was chewy and good.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bon Appetit from North Creek!

The week after Labor Day found me immersed in preparations for our trip to Minerva, New York, in the Central Adirondacks. We arrived Saturday, and today was the first time I was able to pry myself away from the lake and make the 9-mile trek to North Creek where I'm writing this in the public library. Weather has been just too good. Every morning we're out paddling and walking, and in the afternoons we're relaxing on our deck overlooking the lake, books in hand. That said, not much has been going on in the culinary department since we've arrived, though I wish I could find some blueberries somewhere, frozen or not, so that I could put blueberry muffins on the table.
Pumpkin Muffin Challenge--Round #3

I've finally perfected the pumpkin muffin recipe. Go to the archives to find the post for August 21, and make one change to the Pumpkin Muffin recipe #2. Use 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar instead of the brown sugar. I also recommend Libby canned pumpkin, which has more moisture and is a smoother consistency than the One-Pie brand. In any case, these muffins are exactly what I've been looking for. Only problem is they're so much better than the Whole Foods Market pumpkin muffins that I've got to keep a close eye on my intake. Yum.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Coming Up: Celebrity Italian Cookbook

I haven't been cooking much this week. I had a blast visiting my cousin in Connecticut early this week and since then I've been busy catching up with life and early preparations for our annual trek to the Adirondacks.
Instead of blogging about kitchen adventures, then, I'll mention that I'm waiting for Shut Up and Eat!: Mangia with Recipes and Stories from Your Favorite Italian-American Stars (Berkley; Oct., $24.95) by Tony Lip and Steve Prigge, which will feature family recipes from James Gandolfini, Chazz Palminteri, Lorraine Bracco and others. Right now, there's not even enough information available for me to provide a link, but I'm eager to borrow this one from the library.

The cookbook I most want to purchase these days is Cover and Bake: Casseroles, Pot Roasts, Skillet Dinners and Slow-Cooker Favorites by the editors of Cook's Illustrated. I've had it out from the library several days now, and I so appreciate the detailed discussion about the preparation and cooking of each dish. It's about 327 pages--filled with advice. I flipped when I went to Amazon and saw that Cover and Bake is part of their semi-annual sale and is 60% off. For $11.98 you get the book and a free copy of Cook's Illustrated. Terrific deal and one I couldn't resist.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Wine Jukebox--Wine Gallery Part II

The most intriguing (and fun) attraction at Wine Gallery in Brookline is the Music Jukebox, where one can sample up to twelve wines at one time with just the push of a finger. And, best of all, it costs nothing. (To participate, one must obtain a key card from the staff. They request that jukebox users temporarily deposit their driver's license or credit card while they are sampling wines. Wine Gallery staff just want to get the key cards back.) Then one grabs a wine glass and begins selecting wines to sample. The wine bottles and their labels are all visible. Place the key card in the jukebox and push the button for each wine one wants to taste.

Ken and I found it an entertaining and informative way to buy wines we know we'll enjoy. I'm very reluctant to purchase a wine I know nothing about. A salesperson's opinion is nowhere near as helpful as actually sniffing and savoring the product.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Wine Gallery

Last evening Ken and I had a marvelous experience at the Wine Gallery on Route 9 in Brookline. This summer we've visited a number of metro Boston wine and liquor stores that have excellent wine departments at discounted prices: Kappy's in Somerville, Martignetti's in Brighton, Marty's Fine Wines in Newton, and several others too unnoteworthy to mention. I must say I had the most fun and the most pleasant experience at the Wine Gallery. And the wines--I must've tasted at least twelve. But let me tell you:

It all started yesterday morning with a phone call to the store (on the corner of Route 9 and Cypress, near Brookline High School) to ask about parking and to get information about several wines. I spoke with the store manager, Wes Narron, who answered all my questions thoroughly and in an unrushed, kindly manner. I started to look forward to the wine tasting, an event the Wine Gallery holds every Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. (Beer tastings on Thursday evenings.)

When we arrived, we headed straight for the tasting area, near the back of the store. I liked the spaciousness of the bar area; so many stores crowd their tastings. The wines were all pinots: a Pinot Gris from Alsace was my favorite

The first of four wines for the tasting was a Pinot Grigio from the far northern reaches of Italy, in the foothills of the Alps. St. Michael Eppan 2004. Robert Parker in the Wine Spectator commented, "A serious white, with floral, apple and mineral aromas and flavors. Full-bodied, with layers of fruit and a long finish. Lots going on. Delicious..." He rated the 2003 a 90. I couldn't find a rating for the 2004. I'd agree with Parker's assessment, particulaly the mineral notes. Ken strongly disliked this characteristic, but I found it bracing and quite pleasing. I can't remember its price, but it was the least expensive of the four. Alsace Willm was next--I found it refreshing, still with mineral properties, but with a delicate sweetness and a complex rendering on the palate. Lots to contemplate while on the tongue. (This was our fave.) Alsace Zellenberg, a Pinot Blanc, 2001, was our next sipping. I loved this as much as Willm, but it was a bit more expensive, but not by a lot. Last was Elk Cove Vineyards' Pinot Gris 2004. This wine was the most expensive of the four, and I liked it the least. It stung my tongue after the smoothness of the previous three, to begin with. And, although it had the superficial qualities of the other pinot gris and grigio, I found the elements combined in a discordant medley that was jarring, to say the least.

How could I have saved the best for last? Now I don't have time to blog about Wine Gallery's Wine Jukebox. Up to 12 tastings any time you visit the store! I will describe in my next post.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pan-Fried Trout

For months and months, I've wanted to experiment with the pan frying of thin fish fillets. Yesterday while on a humungus food gathering trip, I bought some fresh trout fillets at Whole Foods near Newton Highlands. I studied The All New Joy of Cooking and the 1974 Joy of Cooking, and both books made it seem so complicated: the soaking in milk or egg, the dredging of the fillets in flour, the frying in butter and oil with all the warnings about smoke coming from the frying butter! In despair, I even turned to my old Betty Crocker Cookbook that's so basic. After reading it, I threw my hands up and was ready to turn on the broiler and forget the whole thing, when it dawned on me to phone Joan, my neighbor, whose husband goes fishing every weekend. If anyone around here knows how to fry fish, I figured it had to be Joan.

Sure enough, even though she was off to Staples for some back to school shopping, Joan was more than willing to stop long enough to instruct me. She made pan frying sound so easy, and she had lots of tips. (I must add that cooking is Joan's premiere hobby.)

I soaked the trout in milk for 5 minutes, I dredged it in the flour, salt, and pepper, I fried it in 2 T. olive oil (with garlic added at the end of frying) and 2 T. butter. And I served it with lime juice. I devoured it and kept raving like a maniac about how good it was. "Doesn't this taste great?" I kept saying. Ken probably wanted to shoot me after I'd exclaimed over it for the fourth time. The fact is, I couldn't believe that the process (soaking raw fish in milk? ugh) could yield something so yummy.

Next time: Try 2 T. oil and 1 T. butter--that will be enough. I had more fat than I needed, I think, for the amount of fish I had (3/4 lb.).

A new Eggplant Parmigiana recipe--from America's Test Kitchen for tonight's meal.