Celebrations: Being Together with Good Wine

The last time I was together with both of my parents was in February, so I was excited that we were all able to be down at the beach for a few days. My little brother Scott was too busy turning 21 to join us, and what did he miss?

 Dad in a kayak.

Aside from sea and marsh kayaking, fly-fishing on a motor boat that took us out to Cumberland Island, sea turtles, dolphins, and “The American,” he missed the opportunity to drink a wine as old as his big sister. And not just any 24-year-old wine. He missed a Latour.

Yes, that is a Premier Grand Cru Classé from 1986.

Most likely, Scott does not realize what a momentous occasion this was, at least for me. This wine, along with a few others, had been sitting at my grandmother’s beach house for who knows how long, cooking in the south Georgia sun when no one was on the premises to turn on the air-conditioning. So opening the bottle was as much of a gamble as anything. There were, however, a few factors in our favor: the ullage was high (the level of wine was above the neck) and the bottle itself seemed to be in pretty good condition. And I’d texted Stevie to know if the ’86 was drinking. Her one-word response? “Drink.”

Sniffing and tasting the newly decanted wine.

Boy were we well-rewarded. The liquid inside the bottle, a tawny color, neither smelt nor tasted of vinegar. Instead, it possessed the effect of tart, underripe blackberries — tight as the wine was first exposed to air in the decanter and in my glass — as well as notes of walnut dust, leather, and raisins. And it was immediately balanced, surprisingly so, as I’d read that many Bordeaux of that year were highly tannic. Then, the magic that I love about wine began to show itself. As we prepared dinner and let the wine breathe, it was suddenly rejuvenated: full of bright, ripe berry notes, and so incredibly smooth on the palette. No element of this wine overpowered another. I was utterly happy.

Taste-testing corn-fed beef (below) and grass-fed (above),
seasoned with smoky salt from Washington State.

The Latour proved an excellent complement for my first taste of my aunt Emily’s grass-finished beef. Life is really good sometimes.

A Lovely Day, A Lovely Meal: The Cloisters, Lamb Chops, and Panzanella

On Thursday afternoon, I got the best piece of news – I had a summer Friday the next day! One week in and already a day off! I decided I didn’t want to waste a gift of a day, so I took myself out to the Cloisters, a museum of medieval architectural remnants and treasures that actually integrates the elements into its structure. (I can hardly fathom the effort and thought that went into its making!)

 An image of one of the four cloister areas that was reconstructed once rescued from its original location.

Having rented the audio guide, I learned that the site—in Fort Tryon Park in Northern Manhattan—was chosen because of its isolation, so that it could reflect the actual setting of a Benedictine monastery, slightly removed from society. John D. Rockefeller, who acquired the Cloisters and the Park and gave them to the Met and the city of New York respectively, even bought the strip of land in New Jersey across the Hudson to prevent development and preserve the serenity of the location.

That’s called having a lot of money.
And doing good with it.

So, after having enjoyed such a perfect day, I decided I wanted to make the perfect meal. I had finished this month’s SAVEUR on the subway, and two recipes had struck me – lemon-thyme lamb chops and panzanella, or bread salad. The recipes were both rich with fresh and easy-to-find ingredients, many of which I already had around the house. (Most importantly, it would use up the half of a baguette I had left from dinner the night before). I made a slight tweak to the panzanella, using balsamic as I’d finished off the red wine vinegar. Eh voila! As beautiful, fresh, and simple as the way I’d spent my day.

My pretty spread, with a glass of Bordeaux to accompany.

Celebrations: Chicken Tagine and Birthdays!

Even before I left for South Africa, my friends Stevie, Alexxa, and I had been trying to get together for a dinner to celebrate our birthdays, which all fell within weeks of one another. This past Thursday, we were finally able to make it happen. We gathered at my house to cook and drink wine. Not a bad way to celebrate for three food-lovers.

 The lovely ladies
We’d decided to make an impromptu chicken tagine – Alexxa found an easy-to-execute recipe that used a lot of the ingredients that we already had lying around in our kitchens. She went to pick up three thighs at the Meat Hook, as well as some ginger and onion. Chez moi, we browned the chicken in my clay pot (thanks to my brother’s lovely Christmas present, I knew that clay was necessary for emparting a few key characteristics to the slow-cooked flavor of the dish), then removed the meat from the heat. We then threw in some white onion and garlic and let them simmer until soft. Then we added the spices – cumin, curry, coriander, cinnamon and shredded garlic – letting them coat the vegetables. In went chopped pineapple, which I had lying around the house. Next, San Marzano tomatoes and chick peas went into the pot, along with some homemade chicken stock. Finally, we added the chicken back to the dish and some farro and let everything meld together over medium heat for about a half hour.
Stevie and I had each paired a wine with the meal. She had brought a 2008 Kabinett riesling from Schloss Lieser, inspired by Eric Asimov’s recent article on the vintage.

Schloss Lieser, available at Crush Wine & Spirits :)

I served up a Glen Carlou 2006 Grand Classique, a Bordeaux blend from South Africa, gifted to me upon my visit to the winery last week!

 At Glen Carlou
 The 2006 Grand Classique, the winery’s flagship wine, 
a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cab Franc.

The riesling was a lovely wine leading up to the meal – easy drinking, light, a bit of acidity, and the aromas of the wine blended nicely with those coming from the pot on the stove. However, with the tagine, which we served with preserved lemon and parsley, the Carlou won hands down. The meat-y quality of the wine, which opened up into a smooth, almost chocolate-y dish of itself, was the perfect complement to the protein-and-fruit-heavy tagine.

The final dish

Happy birthday ladies!