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15 June 2011

Wino Wednesday Part V.

Welcome friends to Wino Wednesdays; a place where the tasty and the tipsy meet!  Every Wednesday (so long as I am sober enough) I will review the previous week's noteworthy alcohol consumptions-namely: wines, beers, and cocktails that stood out (for better or worse) and deserve some literary attention.  I will include, whenever possible, photos and/or videos of relevant "nectars of the gods," and sincerely hope that you may find yourself enjoyably lightheaded and dizzy after this segment.  So kick back, crack open, pour, sip, shoot, or chug, but always do so responsibly!

Saturday June 11:
 If there is one thing I enjoy more than anything else (aside from playing soccer), it is hosting dinners.  Dinner parties with close friends, I have come to realize, are more fun for me now than large, rowdy, and impersonal house parties.  You drink some wine, get slightly buzzed, eat delicious homemade food, and have nice conversation with an intimate group.  Who wouldn't enjoy that?  In addition, not only is cooking one of my greatest passions, but to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for food preparation with others fulfills me in ways that few other activities can.  Cooking is my art form; my way of expressing creativity and ingenuity.  While I often base my creations on recipes, I typically add my own flair and methods to each dish.  This past weekend I really added a much so that I almost burned down our apartment...

Just like last week, 90 minutes on the pitch was sufficient motivation in preparing a filling and nutritious post-game dinner.  Unlike last week, however, I decided to include two friends in my gustatory delights, and my soccer team romped to a 5-0 victory so I was in much better spirits.  It was an unseasonably cold, rainy, and gray June day, so I decided that I should purchase a red wine to go with some warm red meat and salad dinner.  Before heading to the Wine and Cheese Cask for vino, I stopped at the Union Square Farmer's Market, which, due to the weather, was not quite as festive as the week before.  Luckily June 10th was the statewide "Strawberry Festival," the official kickoff of strawberry season in Massachusetts.  Browsing through the wide variety of produce, I centered on an interesting looking leafy green that I had never had or even heard of before called Tat Soi, otherwise known as Rosette Bok Choy.  Similar in both appearance and taste to the famous Chinese Cabbage or Bok Choy, I decided to purchase a bunch for later usage at $2, and a bunch of red leaf lettuce for the evening's salad at $2.  I couldn't resist the delicious mini-heirloom tomatoes that I had bought last week, so I loaded up with another pint.  

From the produce stand, I made my way over to a meat and dairy setup.  After a quick freshness consultation with the vendor, I decided to buy four medium-sized spring lamb chops to broil.  At $15.99/lb this meat did not come cheap, but it did come from a sustainably-raised, free-range, grass-fed animal, so I felt good about buying it and knew it would be delicious.  I made a final stop for the tantalizing and fragrant strawberries at another farmer's stand.  

*In a recent conversation about generically modified foods with my manager at work, I was told, to my horror that all excessively plump and blindingly red supermarket strawberries are genetically modified.  They may contain important nutrients and antioxidants, but I am unwilling to sacrifice my commitment to taste and naturally cultivated food, and so only buy in-season strawberries, which are much smaller and more fragrant than their mutant cousins.

Leaving the Market with bags full of delicious sustenance, I headed down Washington street to the Wine and Cheese Cask (W+CC) for a full-bodied red.  Their selection is so vast, that I typically spend more time browsing after selecting a bottle, than I do in my quest for the evening's beverage.  Not feeling like settling for a typical Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, or Zinfandel, I happened upon a particular bottle that had intrigued me for several weeks.  In my frequenting of the Argentine wine section, I noticed a single varietal that I had never heard of before-one from Uruguay of all places.  Having originated in France, like many other grapes, Tannat is now considered Uruguay's national grape, and a worthy competitor to neighboring Argentina's famous Malbec.  

Part of the fun in drinking wine, as I always say, is discovering new varietals, blends, and regions.  The 2009 "Pueblo del Sol" (People of the Sun) Tannat from the Juanico Region of Uruguay accurately fit the bill.  At $8.99 it seemed suspiciously cheap, so I asked the store consultant if he had tried it and how it was, to which he responded that it was a full bodied red of good value.  I bought the Tannat, a pint of Maine Beer Company-"Peeper Ale," (description later), some Salumi Calabrese, and some Sicilian olives to serve as an appetizer for my guests.  

Not having a grill is becoming a real nuisance.  While oven broiling may be effective and yield great results, it is more cumbersome and unpleasant, especially in the summertime.  Nevertheless, I decided to broil the lamb chops after consulting a recipe online for eight minutes or so on each side.  Despite having meat as the main course, I have become a firm believer in plant-based diets.  Many studies have recently shown that plant based diets decrease the risk of cancer and generally are much healthier.  I'm also a sucker for the "superfood labels" given to many fruits and vegetables mostly as a marketing ploy.  

While I prepped the finishing sauce for the lamb chops and assembled the enormous salad, which would be the bulk of our meal, I turned the oven to broil.  While it heated, I assembled an enormous salad of: red leaf lettuce, red onion, mini heirloom tomatoes, farro (an ancient grain from Roman times that is packed with protein and fiber and has a pleasant nutty taste reminiscent of quinoa), avocado, golden raisins, and capers.  I used the same ingenious sesame tahini-rice vinegar dressing that I mentioned a few posts ago and the results were astounding.  While my first guest arrived, I wrapped one of the oven pans in aluminum foil and placed on it the lamb chops seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, which had sat at room temperature for several hours.

While non-nonchalantly prating with my guest and waiting for the second to arrive, I opened the inferno to turn the lamb chops over.  When I did, hot oil spilled over the side of the bent pan onto the bottom of the oven, which inevitably created a stifling haze of smoke, setting off the fire alarms all over the building (my neighbors officially hate me because this is the second time I've set off the fire alarm by cooking meat).  I proceeded to open windows, turned on fans, and sprayed febreeze in an attempt to cover up the embarrassing burning smell.  This succeeded in temporarily quieting the smoke alarms, until I noticed a FIRE IN MY OVEN.  'OH shit! OH shit!' I thought completely flustered and afraid not just for the poor little lamb chops, but for my life.  Fortunately I remembered to NEVER throw water on a grease fire and managed to extinguish it by simply opening my oven and blowing furiously on the flame.  Even more fortunate for me, the lamb did not burn, but I was somewhat embarrassed by the burning smell and hazy smoke that clung to the ceiling of my apartment for nearly an hour.  In the end, though, this...
...was worth it for....
These Beauties!

   The food ended up being phenomenal (if I do say so myself).  The lamb was tender, juicy, deep, and well complimented by a finishing sauce, or "Chimichurri," a concoction of: extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh parsley, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, black pepper, salt, and a dash of lemon juice.  The wine was also excellent.  Its rich, soft, and luscious texture effortlessly washed the lamb down.  I expected a Malbec-like wine, but the Tannat was deeper and more complex than the Malbecs that I have had recently.  To me it possessed a verdant nose with hints of blackberry, leather, and clove.  At 12.5 percent alcohol, it was not quite as strong as many of the reds that I've been consuming of late, but I very much enjoyed the 2009 Pueblo del Sol Tannat (From Uruguay!).  I would rate this particular bottle an 85/100, and highly recommend it for those of you looking for an inexpensive full bodied alternative to a malbec or cabernet sauvignon.  It would go seamlessly with any red sauce pasta dish, red meat, sharper hard cheeses, and moldy, stinky softer ones.  I am definitely trying this one again!

Saturday June 11 (Before Preparing the Meal):
Now I'll keep this short because of the lengthy anecdote above.  While passing by work en route to the W+CC, I ran into a co-worker of mine who I chatted with about my evening's culinary plans.  As a beer enthusiast and Vermonter, I asked him whether he could recommend a good local beer that he had tried recently.  Without telling him what styles I liked, he enthusiastically recommended a beer from Maine called "Peeper Ale," and reasoned that raw days such as the one we were enduring called for such a beer.   I asked one of the beer managers at the W+CC whether they had said Peeper Ale, to which he grinned and promptly handed me a chilled bottle, explaining that it was something of a current staff favorite.  The bottle, a pint, highly priced at $5.25, was rather plain looking next to all of the flashy abbey ales and Trappist beers in the beer section, but sometimes the less flashy, the better, so I went with it. 

Right as I got home and emptied by goody bag, I cracked the Peeper Ale as an aperitif while I prepped the evening's fare.  From the click of the bottle cap emerged an incredibly hoppy and springy scent.  I must admit that though I do not like IPA's and cringingly bitter beers, I very much enjoyed the Peeper, an American ale with a pleasant malt body and a pungent hoppiness that yelled rainy springtime.  It smoothed out the saltiness of the olives and also calmed the spicyness of the salumi.  While I probably would not buy the Peeper again, mostly because I do not like gray, drizzle, and depressing weather, it did its job.  I would give it a 7/10. 

  Now that I haven't burned down my kitchen, I'm eager for some new tasty adventures!  This concludes the fifth part of Wino Wednesdays.  Tune in next week for another installment, and while you wait, I'll pour my next one to you.  Kippis!  Salud!  Cheers!  Salut!

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