Archive | January 2015

Dining and wining highlights from Washington, DC

I had quite a few excellent meals while I was in Washington, DC. The food scene in DC has come a long way in recent years.

Béarnaise

We started off the weekend with a nice brunch at Béarnaise Restaurant, near Eastern Market. I ordered one of my French café favorites – croque madame.

croque madame

Eggs are notoriously hard to pair with wines but one of the best contenders is champagne. The unctuous texture of the eggs (as well as the richness from the creamy béchamel sauce) have a tendency to persist in the palate and can easily become overwhelming. The bubbles and the high acidity in the champagne are perfect to cleanse the palate in between bites and lightening up the meal. If I’m at brunch, I always love a glass of champagne!

My champagne was served in a coupe.

champagne

While a coupe is fine for sweeter champagnes, when you’re drinking a brut, a taller glass is better. You don’t necessary need a flute, a white wine glass does the job. Because the coupe has a very large rim, it exposes more of the champagne to air, allowing it to lose its carbonation. Alternatively, tall glasses have smaller rims so they keep the champagne fresh and effervescent. Flat brut champagne is definitely no bueno. Yet, you still want wideness at the bottom of the bowl. This design gives the wine space to enhance its flavors while the small rim keeps the champagne bubbly, giving you the perfect sip! This particular coupe is still tapered at the top so it wasn’t too bad. But in my opinion, the best way to use coupes these days is for serving cocktails. Next time I’m in Paris, I will definitely invest in some vintage coupes and start making some cocktails.

Blue Jacket Brewery

Next stop was Blue Jacket Brewery near the Navy Yard, which brews variety of beers. You can order regular glasses/pints or tasters. I ordered 5 tasters: Bama Breeze, Sling Shot, Lux, 52 Pickup, James E. Bourbon Barrel-Aged High Society. Plus I tasted my friend’s Mexican Radio (on the far right).

beers

We also ordered a few dishes to share: fried chickpeas, local oysters served with apples, and the cheese platter served with a variety of mustards.

cheese

oysters

I ordered the oysters because I just wanted to eat some, not because I thought anything about doing a pairing. But I gotta say that the oysters were a really good match with the Bama Breeze – a light and fruity beer brewed with pineapple, coconut, and brett.

Oyster-beer

Ripple

We had a very nice dinner at Ripple, which features local, sustainable, and organic ingredients – my kind of restaurant!

I started the meal with burrata served with acorn squash, cranberry and ginger.

burrata

Next up was the stuffed bone marrow served with bacon chimichurri, and apple butter. I absolutely love bone marrow! It is so flavorful and it just melts in your mouth. I really need to learn to make this at home.

marrow

I had a sparkling wine from the Loire valley to go with the bone marrow: François Chidaine brut that is made with the chenin blanc grape. A sparkling wine is a great pairing to balance and lighten up the rich, buttery flavors of bone marrow.

sparkling

This wine also paired really nicely with the burrata dish.

For the main course, I had the roasted Amish chicken, served with sunchoke à la greque, spinach, and winter radish.

chicken

I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I’m in the US. So I chose and American wine to go with this dish. I opted for a pinot noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon: a 2013 Grochau Commuter Cuvée. This pinot was light and refined enough to match the flavors of the chicken. It was a great pairing!

Homemade Highlight

We also cooked dinner at home one night. My friends opened up a 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley for the occasion. It was made by Rutherford Grove Winery.

bottle

label

As with any aged wine, the color is on the rusty orange side.

glass

Very few wines can age for decades without beginning to decline and eventually die. At 16 years old, this Cabernet was a bit past its prime but still good. A quick and dirty test to gauge the aging potential of a wine is to sip it and see how long the finish is. The longer the finish, the longer the aging potential will be.

Once you’ve decided to age a wine, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Keep the bottle in a cool place (13°C/55°F is ideal).
  2. Keep it sideways so the cork doesn’t dry out.
  3. Keep the wine away from sources of vibrations (such as the subway).
  4. Keep it away from the sun.

Aged reds go superbly with hearty meals like stews and braised meats. In older wines, the tannins become dry, which are best quenched with rich sauces. Younger wines are characterized by fresh tannins, which call for grilled meats (preferably rare) to tame them.

Even though a Cabernet is a robust wine, its time in the bottle toned it down quite a bit. It was much lighter and smoother than a young Cabernet. For that reason, I wanted to choose a meat that is tender yet not too strong in taste. Beef short ribs! The short ribs braised to the point of falling off the bone will go perfectly with the aged Cabernet. So we cooked and we cooked. It took hours! After all of this, when the food was ready, I was a bit too tipsy to take a decent picture (we passed the time by having quite a few pre-dinner drinks). But take my word that it was beautiful and delicious 😉 And it went perfectly with the wine.

Home-cooked highlight from New York: White truffles

When I was in New York, I bought a fresh white truffle. This is indeed a rare treasure for me! White truffles are amazingly aromatic and flavorsome (much more than black truffles). The best come from the Piedmont region of Italy. It is best to serve these truffles raw and shave them over food.

truffle

You can shave truffles on a variety of foods, such as eggs, pasta (especially taglierini or tajarin), risotto, etc. I decided to make a mushroom risotto to feature the truffle. To echo the earthiness of the truffle, I put portabella, crimini, and porcini mushrooms in the risotto. Once the risotto was plated, I grated the truffle directly on top.

risotto

With the risotto, I served wild scallops seared in olive oil and butter.

dish

Needless to say, this was an amazing dish to savor! There are a variety of wines that you can serve truffles. They are particularly great with Italian reds from the same region – in particular Barolo, Nebbiolo or Barbaresco. If I had served the risotto on its own or with some red meat, I would have chosen one of these wines. However, truffles are flexible and you can also serve a white wine, such as a buttery and rich Chardonnay or an off-dry Riesling – especially if serving them with scallops, like I’m doing here (scallops would go great with both wines just on their own). My friend chose a very nice bottle of Riesling from Colombia Valley in Washington to drink with dinner. The sweetness of the Riesling gives the wine richness, which worked wonderfully to match rich texture of the scallops as well as the creamy and buttery risotto. The wine also nicely echoed the delicate sweet flavor of the scallops. It was a delicious meal paired with a perfect wine!

Dining and wining highlights from New York

I’m spending some time in the US this January (mainly New York and DC) and I’ve had opportunities to eat at some really amazing restaurants and drink some wonderful wine. Here are some of the highlights from New York (DC highlights to come):

Batard

This restaurant opened up in recent months in Tribeca. It is mostly a European inspired menu. For my appetizer, I had the octopus pastrami served with braised ham hock, pommery mustard and new potatoes. This dish is not only delicious but also beautiful! It almost looks like a piece of art. I didn’t take a picture of it but my friend had the braised artichokes served barley, poached hen’s egg, and eiswein sabayon.

octopus 1

For the main course, we both had the Wiener schnitzel. This is actually a secret dish that is always available but is never listed in the menu (paying homage to the chef’s country of origin – Austria).

schnitzel

With both our appetizers and the schnitzels, we had a bottle of Saint-Aubin: 2013 La Pucelle made by Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey.

st aubin

I think this bottle worked very well with all of our dishes. It was really great with the chicken schnitzel; it also worked with the octopus, especially since it was prepared with pork; and it also was a fantastic wine to drink with my friend’s dish (neither eggs nor artichoke are foods that pair easily with wine but braising the artichoke made it really soft and buttery and that combined with creaminess of the egg and sabayon created a dish that matched the wine surprisingly well!).

Bare Burger

I really wish Abu Dhabi had a Bare Burger! I really love the burgers here. They have such interesting ones as bison, elk, and ostrich. And they will cook them to the temperature you like – I love my burgers cooked medium-rare. I ordered a bison burger with sharp cheddar, lettuce, pickle, and tomato on a brioche bun. I also ordered a side of onion rings.

burger

I think Zinfandel and burgers are a match made in heaven! I ordered a glass of Predator Old Vine Zinfandel, which is in the Lodi appellation in the Califonia’s Central Valley. It was such a wonderful pairing!

Cherche Midi

This French bistro opened recently in Nolita. The décor is very nice and they have an open kitchen – I always love peeking into the kitchen to see the how the food is prepared. The highlight of the meal was the dry-aged prime rib. In the picture the steak looks on the red side because I prefer my steak cooked rare to blue. The steak is served with cider braised onions and pommes soufflés.

steak 1

We had an excellent bottle of Côte-Rôtie from the Rhone region with our steak. It is the Petite Feuille by Clusel Roch from 2011. It was a fantastic pairing with the steak!

cote rotie

Momofuku Ssam Bar

This is one of my favorite places to eat in New York! Momofuku Ssam is famous for its steamed pork buns. While I also love the cheaper street versions, the steamed buns here are just out of this world!

pork buns 1

Of course, what better wine to serve with these pork buns than a Beaujolais made with the pork-loving gamay grape! I had a glass of Morgon – the most robust of the Beaujolais crus. This 2013 Morgon is made by Jean Paul Thevenet. It worked fabulously with the pork buns!

Even though the pork buns were the main reason for my trip to Momofuku Ssam, I couldn’t resist trying their oysters. As an appetizer, we shared a dozen oysters from Washburn Island in Massachusetts.

oysters

And I paired that with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from California: 2013 Lieu Dit from Santa Ynez Valley. They did not serve any lemons with the oysters but the citrus aromas in the wine complemented the oysters really well.