Category Archives: Wines

THE WEDNESDAY WINE OF THE WEEK W(R)ECOMENDATION

I did not cook last night. I had Buffalo Wild Wings. It was OK. It was ready late…I guess they were busy and I guess they FORGOT to put the onion rings in the bag along with the knives and forks I asked for but no matter. Even though this is not a review of Buffalo Wild Wings, the wings on bones were soggy…eww. When the chicken skin is like rubber, I say yuck. The boneless wings were just okay. There were also French fries and Mozzarella sticks that lacked taste. Then, there was something called cheese curds that my friends and Jennifer seemed to enjoy. I just didn’t have enough room for all this food, but that’s not what I’ve come here today to talk about today. I came to discuss the wine of the week.

The “Wine of the Week” is a new feature I am testing out for The Perfect Pairing Magazine. I will be attempting to write an article about one of my favorite wines and what it pairs with it well. Let’s see how it goes.

My first selection of course should be the wine we had last night. You say: “BUT you had Buffalo Wings last night. Please. Chef. Tell me you had beer with those!” Then I reply “Sorry. No. Although, a nice cold frosty beer would have complimented those wings nicely. Instead, Scott chose a sparkling wine to pair with the wings. “Sparkling wine” is Champagne but since the wine did not come from Champagne, France, the wine industry will not call it “Champagne”. So, Sparkling wine it is, or was.

One of my favorite sparkling wines is the one below from Sparkling Point Winery here on Long Island, New York. Now, although it says that it is a brute to me, it does not taste very dry. It went very well with my mild style buffalo wings made of rubber on the outside. I needed SOMETHING to wash those puppies down, and this fit the bill perfectly last night.

A Local Long Island Sparkling

I have also had this wine for BREAKFAST too, well BRUNCH (brunch link here and there) BRUNCH II. Yes, as Mimosas and Bellini’s (add drink links). This wine and the one below pair nicely with appetizers too, such as: Shrimp Cocktail, Grilled Sausage, Deviled Eggs, Oysters or Clams on the half shell, and of course, Caviar daaaarlinggg. Caviar, when it’s served as an appetizer with all the trimmings is amazing, especially if you like that it takes you an hour to eat nothingness fun stuff. I like it, but have only had once at a restaurant on the north fork of Long Island and then of course once at Scott and Ally’s house for her birthday.

This is a great Sparkling with just the slightest hint of a pink blush

Thanks to Sparkling’s wonderful properties of going so well at breakfast and with appetizers or spicy foods like wings, I would start with a sparkling wine at your next dinner party. I do hope to have dinner party’s again myself soon! Until next time, be well, be happy and enjoy life!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

The Lobster Boil

It’s an early Monday morning on Long Island and the coffee is perking on my stove. I did not sleep well last night. I overate and over drank on Sunday at our good friend Scott and Ally’s house. It was however, well worth it. We were celebrating our wedding anniversary at their house on Sunday, and Scott, always the gracious host, offered to do a lobster boil for us.

            This was going to be the second lobster boil we have been to at Scott’s house in as many years. Therefore, I knew I was in for a treat. I still have pictures of the last lobster boil and it was quite memorable!

            We were greeted immediately at the door with a glass of wine and were led outside to the cooking area. The first glass of wine was Gabriella Pinot Grigio delle Venezie from Italy, and one of my favorite bottles of wine. This was perfect to watch as Scott began to cook up a storm.

            Scott had purchased a new pot and burner that fit onto a twenty-pound liquid propane cylinder, so the cooking was going to be done OUTSIDE. This was no ordinary size pot either. I stepped outside and I was drawn to this thing like a moth to a flame with a glass of wine in my hand. The pot was an industrial size one along with the burner that fit under it. The pot could hold enough food to feed an entire platoon of hungry Marines. Whenever I cooked way too much, my mother always asked me “are you cooking for an army?” Clearly, Scott thought we would arrive hungry and I was hungry now for sure!

            By the time we had arrived at Scott’s house, he had the water at a rolling boil on his porch in his backyard. He had even added various amounts seasoning to the water. The first was some old bay seasoning. Old Bay Seasoning was originally created in Baltimore, MD by a man named Gustav Brum, and then sold to McCormick & Company in 1990 after Brum passed away in 1985. It contains seasonings such as celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, paprika, cardamom, etc. Old Bay is a standard ingredient here in the North East for seafood (said as if I am from the state of Maine). Next, he added a sliced lemon, whole garlic cloves, a bay leaf or two, and he might have even put in an onion. When I opened the lid, it smelt heavenly. Yet, it only gets better. Potatoes and cheddar Bratwurst were next! The bratwurst TOTALLY added a lovely flavor to every cooked in the pot with them!

            The small new potatoes and brats simmered for only a few minutes and he started putting the live lobsters in. By the looks of them, they were about 2 to 2½ pounds each. The shellfish included two dozen little neck clams. These are small and tender clams perfect for a fast cooked meal. He also had a bag of mussels that were cleaned and de-bearded by the local fish market. I do like mussels. However, we soon discovered not all the mussels were alive; about half of them were open. If a mussel is not closed up tight before you cook it, then it should be thrown away since it might be bad and could make you sick. We all cried a little for those mussels, but there were plenty left and more food to go into the pot. The last bit of seafood was the extra large shrimp. It was already peeled and deveined, so there was not any work involved in eating them after they were cooked. Last but not least, was six ears of corn that were shucked and cut in half.

            The whole thing boiled for only a few minutes. It was probably less than five minutes later when Scott said it was already done. I was in disbelief that the corn did not need a few minutes more, but I was soon proven wrong. I helped lift out the HUGE strainer basket that was inside the industrial cast aluminum pot. Along with it came the perfectly cooked seafood as it emerged and the hot water drained back into the pot. Scott began by separating out the lobsters first into a bowl, and then even dividing up the rest of the seafood into three more bowls. On the table were empty bowls for the shells and a freshly opened bottle of wine. Scott paired this delightful seafood meal with a St. Francis Chardonnay from Sonoma County. Have I mentioned how much I love these St. Francis wines? If not, I am saying now that I do love them. The wine went perfectly with all the drawn butter and hot seafood.

            I myself started with the clams, mussels, and shrimp. Then, I moved on to tackling the lobster. I began by helping Jennifer with hers and giving her the claw meat once I had extracted it using a nutcracker. We both wound up splitting one of the huge beasties between the two of us. Then, did I mention the king crab legs? NO! I forgot as they went into the pot FIRST with the potatoes. They were frozen, so Scott wanted to start with them in the water first and made sure it all came back up to a rolling boil before adding the lobster. OMG, they were so good. I like them even better than the LOBSTER!

            We all ate and drank and then ate more until there was only one lonely lobster left, a few small pieces of king crab leg, a few mussels, and a few clams. We all helped clean up. I worked on the lobster and king crab legs, putting the meat in a Ziplock bag for a cold crab meat/lobster salad they could enjoy the next day.

            Once dinner was all cleaned up, I sat down and enjoyed one more glass of chardonnay before Alison announced it was time for desert. They had picked up my favorite cakes for desert as it was Jennifer and I’s wedding anniversary. Twenty something years we were celebrating. That’s about how long I have been writing down recipes in a word document that you will all be reading over the next year. The cake was delicious and I was stuffed beyond belief. We retired to the couch and I enjoyed their company while their fun and energetic German Shepard puppies kept us entertained. I love those dogges (as Jennifer calls them)!

            Thank you guys for such a wonderful and fun filled anniversary celebration!!

            The Drunken Chef (Russ)  

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing,2021

French Friday

As I sit at my kitchen table on a early Saturday morning, (my basement office is still unfinished) and write this article, I am still surrounded by just over two dozen empty and partially filled wine glasses. My dining room looks as if Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart did one of their TV shows here about Julia Child’s cooking and left me the mess to clean up! I even did a weak impression of Julia last night just as the wine was opened. *In a Julia Child voice* “And finally, the drinking can begin. Bon Appetit!” At lease the coffee is done and sitting next to me as well as TWO loads if dishes and there is still more to go. If all the prep work involved in French cooking does not scare you away, all the damn dishes should! Thank god for my Whirlpool Dishwasher!

 I will stick with American cooking for a while after this. Maybe, even recipes without cream and butter. Well, maybe just a bit of butter… Let me state also that today’s Sunday posting has none of the recipes from either of my two books. Nope, not one, but it was a marvelous evening of food, friends and wine that enhanced it all.

Sam and I worked on the menu. It was mostly Sam’s suggestions that went into the final menu. I only really wanted to make one dish for last night and that was Beef Wellington. I found out far too late that Beef Wellington is English and decidedly not French. Who knew?! I will return to that issue later.

Our friends showed up right on time, as we were just finishing any last minute prep work. Scott brought with him all the wine for a long evening of drunken debauchery. He was carrying what looked like a very large brown leather suitcase that one would bring to an airport for a long trip.

I said, “Quick, honey, turn off all the lights and be quiet it looks like they are moving in.” I thought I was being funny but no one laughed.

The suitcase, which Scott was carrying, contained serval bottles of wine. Holy cow that was a lot of wine! It was like watching Marry Poppins with her carpetbag as he pulled bottles out of his suitcase and placed it on my counter.

There were five white wines, two reds and one desert wine. That was more wine then there were courses we prepared to serve.

The first course was Julia’s a Fromage e Atelier Fondue that Sam made using a Pinot Grigio by Clos du Bios. Scott paired it with an Italian white wine, Gabriella Pinot Grigio, and a French Pinot Grit. It was the first time using Sam’s new Fondue pot. I set up the pot, grated the cheese, and Sam put it all together. The recipes he “adopted” form Julia’s book. He just left out the seafood, otherwise he kept the cheese, spices and wine consistent. Next was a canapés that Sam’s very talented classically trained French chef cousin, Josie, designed. Who, by the way, should come visit us! She tends to cook Fusion dishes and they are delicious! The canapés were incredible. Scott paired these with a Viognier from Rhone and the Crozes-Hermitage. We now had four half glasses or wine in front of us.

Following the canapés, we had Cornish hens that again came from Julia’s cookbook. The hens were stuffed with a plethora herbs. As they cooked we began basting them with heavy cream. To serve, they were cut in half and Sam coated them with an herb cream sauce that included a bit of lemon juice. They were spectacular (I had never had cornish hens before), especially when paired with one more white wine. Next, was a salad and not just any old salad but some kind of French greens concoction that had eschellets (marinated shallots) on top and it was scrumptious. The salad consisted of mustard greens, romaine lettuce, flat leaf parsley, tarragon, and chives. We even tried one of the red wines with it all while going BACK to the white wines and trying them too. So overall we had six glasses of wine now in front of us. No time to rest on our Loral’s. My beef course was next the beef wellington and peeled asparagus with hollandaise sauce.

I had never made beef wellington and Sam had never made any of the previous dishes. I made two big mistakes: The first was with the dough I purchased at my very local the grocery store. It was phyllo dough and that was a mistake. I should have known better too having worked with it before. As soon as I opened it and saw what it was I said oh $#@&! It was supposed to be a puff pastry. That’s more like a pie crust then phyllo dough. The phyllo dough was too flaky.  The second I didn’t think this dish went at all with the other previous dishes but everyone ate it all saying it was delicious. I was disappointed in myself for not realizing that beef wellington was an English dish. It just did not go with the meal I thought. Another course meant another French red wine. The wine that Scott picked out for the beef dish was perfect of course. Truth be told, after eating the beef I could have used more of the asparagus as it was extraordinary with the wine or perhaps my body is just craving more vegetables!

We did rest on the couch for a bit after the beef but not very long. We all needed to digest and make room for desert. We sat, we talked and we sipped one of our favorite wines from the eight now on the table as we waited for Alysa to return from buying Girl Scout cookies from someone.

 Crème Brule was for the first dessert. This is where Sam’s got to use the brand new kitchen torch we got him for Christmas. Additionally he prepared a Chocolate mousse he just whipped up and the last minutes out of the rest of the heavy cream and some semisweet chocolate morsels. Two deserts… I looked around to make sure I was not on some kind of cruise ship. I usually never eat dessert much less have two in front of me. I came to the realization that I was still in my own dinning room and there would be no waiter or staff either to take care of the dishes. Of course, Scoot had brought a desert wine to go with it! I think it this was my favorite wine of the night. I’m not sure if it was because it was the last wine or just because it was just so damn good. The history lesson on the wine from Scott was pretty cool too. The desert wine was a Clos du Bois, Sonoma Reserve, Knights Valley, FLEUR. It was a late harvest Semillion. Apparently, Semillion wines date back to the time when Napoleon ruled France and he classified the original four vineyards as “First Growth” wines.

After diner, it was late, and time for our friends to return home with a small amount of the leftover beef for their wonderful and huge German shepherds. Jennifer and I both love how good and playful they both are with us whenever we are there.

In the end I think even Snoop Dogg and Martha would have loved it. It was certainly well worth all the dirty dishes I had to run through the dishwasher then put away. At least until next time, in some not too distant future, when we will use them all again for another fabulous meal with friends!

Well that is all I have to say this for week. See you again next week and until then. Stay healthy, be happy and eat well.

The Drunken Chef