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Food pairings with l’Original by Domaine Brégeon

Most people think that Muscadet is a simple and fresh wine that is a cheap and oyster friendly. However, these wines can vary drastically in their style, complexity, and consequently in the foods that they can be paired with. Some Muscadet can even be as complex and rich as a Meursault (yet cost less than half as much)!

Over the course of the next few months, I will be featuring various wines from the Muscadet region with a focus on the different foods that pair well with them. The first wine is by Domaine Brégeon. Michel Brégeon is known for making super complex wines by keeping the wines sur lie for years (some as long as seven years!). Everything in this winery is hand harvested and fermented with natural yeasts. Sur lie simply refers to fermenting the wine with the yeasts and bottling it without fining, which adds more depth and complexity to the wine.

We have a few bottles from Domaine Brégeon with varying levels of complexity but the first one that I will feature is the l’Original Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur lie. Fred Lailler took over in 2011 and l’Original is one of his wines. I’m drinking a bottle from 2014. This is a crisp and refreshing wine with lots of citrus aromas.

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Since this is a wine high in acidity, I will actually pair this wine with two seafood dishes that are served with lemon juice. The sourness from the lemon in these dishes will actually work to balance the acidity in the wine. The end result: a softer, rounder wine. The first dish is baby shrimp. I love these tiny little critters and you can prepare them yourself from scratch or buy them from the seafood market already cooked. Because you eat these little critters with the shell, they tend to have a stronger (and more delicious) flavor than the larger ones.

Add a squirt of lemon and they’re ready to be enjoyed with Muscadet!

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The next dish is everyone’s favorite appetizer: calamari rings. I marinated the calamari in some lemon juice and chopped fennel seeds for about an hour before deep frying. A squirt of lemon goes a long way to add freshness to fried foods and it’s this bit of lemon that makes the calamari a perfect match to the l’Original. Calamari is so easy to make and this dish came out so perfect. I will definitely be making this again and again.

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It’s so interesting how lemon interacts with wine! It can make or break a pairing and in this case, it definitely takes the pairing to the next level of deliciousness. Next time try an acidic wine with lemon and you’ll be surprised how well it works!

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Bacon, Cheese, and Côte Rôtie.

Lately, I have been obsessed with shrimp and grits! I’ve been experimenting with a lot of recipes as well as trying different wine pairings. While the shrimp in this dish may make you reach for a bottle of white wine, other ingredients actually call for a red. For instance, the smoky bacon in the shrimp and the hard cheeses in the grits are ideal food matches for a syrah. Rhône valley is the land of syrah in France and one of the most elegant wines from there is Côte Rôtie. Côte Rôtie is a mix of fruity (red and black berries) and smoky aromas like bacon. It is typically blended with a touch of viognier, which adds an exotic kick.

Côte Rôtie can get quite pricey but at 40 , Cuvée du Plessy by Domaine Gilles Barge is a bargain! This is such a lovely wine with the characteristic the meaty and smoky aromas juxtaposed with dark fruits. It is quite smooth in the mouth. I really like this wine and will go back and get a few more to add to my collection.

Cuvee du Plessy

Cuvee du Plessy

Now for the shrimp and grits… Abu Dhabi has some amazing seafood, including these jumbo wild shrimp. I always buy it in the shell and do the cleaning myself because I like to save the shells for shrimp stock.

Jumbo shrimp

Jumbo shrimp

The shrimp and grits recipe that I’m using not only has bits of bacon but also sautées everything in bacon fat – perfect with the Côte Rotie. In the grits, I used three types of cheese. Cheddar, which is classic in Southern grits; gruyère, which is a fantastic pairing with Côte Rôtie, and smoked halloumi; my Middle Eastern twist, which adds another layer of smokiness to this dish.

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My goodness… What a lovely pairing with Côte Rôtie! The bacon and cheese really make the wine shine.

After the success of shrimp and grits, I started thinking about how well mac & cheese would work with Côte Rôtie. So the next day, I tried the Cuvée du Plessy with Ina Garten’s grown up mac & cheese recipe (my favorite!), which calls for gruyère and bacon.

bacon mac and cheese

bacon mac and cheese

This was another killer pairing with Cuvée du Plessy! I highly recommend it!

An Update on Madiran

This is my third blog post on Madiran. For a wine that is so hefty in tannins, this is quite a versatile wine when it comes to food pairings. Madiran is one of my favorites. It is rustic and has so much character.

In my first madiran post, I matched it with seared foie gras – this has got to be my favorite food and wine pairing ever. Check out the post here: Madiran wine and fresh foie gras? Move over Sauternes!

Then I did an post that paired this wine to a multiple course dinner – even dessert! Check out: A wine to go with every course of dinner: Madiran. There, I mainly featured the appetizers and the dessert but only briefly talked about main course: duck. I thought it was about time that I give the main course some proper attention.

This past summer my friend Kelly brought me a bottle of 2011 Chateau d’Aydie by Famille Laplace. This is a lovely wine: bold with tannins and lots of black fruits.

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chateau aydie

Because Madiran has lots of tannins, the first thing that pops into my mind is rich and fatty foods. Fat does a great job smoothing out tannins. One of the richest dishes I can think of is cassoulet – a rustic casserole from the southwest of France that contains meat (pork sausage and duck confit – the protein in the meat is also very effective in mellowing out tannins), white beans, and lots of fat (the New York Times recipe calls for a quart of duck fat!). Even though cassoulet is so rich, there is enough acidity in the wine to lighten things up. Finally, the rustic flavors of duck and pork not only mirror the rustic qualities of the wine but they also contrast very nicely with its fruity elements. Duck in particular naturally goes so well with Madiran.

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Making cassoulet is a labor of love and it takes a long time to gather all of the ingredients and prepare it! If you’re not in the mood for cassoulet, then just go with duck confit. It provides all the elements of the cassoulet to pair well with Madiran: it’s rich (it’s cooked in its own fat, after all), it’s protein, it has rustic and earthy flavors, and it’s delicious! I actually love my duck confit on the crispy side so I always put it under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the skin.

duck confit

You could add a splash of reduced balsamic vinegar to the dish and that would also be delicious.

duck confit

If duck isn’t your thing, I could also think of a rich boar stew as a great pairing with Madiran – such a versatile wine! If you haven’t already had Madiran, try it today. You won’t regret it 🙂

An update on falanghina

One of my first blog posts was about falanghina (see: Falanghina and three dishes). It is perhaps the most popular post to date with my readers. I’ve been drinking falanghina a lot lately and been working with different food pairings and I decided it was high time to post an update.

This time, I have a 2015 I Cacciagalli Aorivola. I Cacciagalli is a new winery that grows its grapes using biodynamic farming. Once the grapes have been hand picked, the approach to winemaking is also quite natural – using wild yeasts, keeping the wine unfiltered and unclarified.

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This wine is divine! It’s crisp and mouth-watering, yet quite smooth. It is a citrussy wine, which makes it a perfect match for seafood. Citrus and seafood go so well together but I find that squeezing lemon directly on the food ends up overpowering and masking its delicate flavors. So whenever I can, I try to pair seafood with citrussy wines and skip the lemon juice all together. I do, however, like adding lemon zest to seafood, which adds depth to a dish without drowning out the rest of the flavors.

I got two dishes lined up for the Aorivola. First is a classic Breton style fish soup. I absolutely love this soup and can eat it everyday. It has a mix of seafood, tomatoes, and lots of herbs.

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I served the soup with some crostini that I topped with crème fraiche. The soup already has herbs in it but I also added some fresh herbs, which I find always works well with falanghina.

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Now for the second dish. Shellfish overall goes really well with falanghina. In my original post, I found that out of the three dishes, the clams, packed with a variety of herbs, were the best pairing. I’ve since discovered that shrimp is especially delicious with falanghina. And you can go ahead and add garlic to make it a scampi because falanghina can really handle garlicky flavors (it can be tricky to pair wine with garlicky foods – look for wines high in acidity and avoid oaky ones).

Scampi is so easy to make. Just throw together some garlic, chili, parsley, lemon zest (which not only adds depth but also complements the citrus flavors in the wine) and call it a day.

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The scampi was a fantastic match to the falanghina and worked really well with the dish’s garlicky, herby flavors. The lemon zest was a great touch and really complemented with wine well. If you don’t have falanghina, savignon blanc or another aromatic and crisp wine would also be a great match with the scampi.

Cream and simple flavors make Meursault shine

Lately, I’ve been really into creating multiple-course meals around a single bottle of wine. While for larger dinner parties I may feature a different bottle with each course, I find that if it’s just two for dinner, working with a single wine is practical because I don’t want to open multiple bottles that we will not be able to finish before the oxygen starts spoiling the wine. But it’s also much more interesting to have just one bottle to work with, as it allows you to explore how different flavors in each course work with the same wine.

Today, it’s all about food pairings with Meursault: 2012 Les Charmes Premier Cru by Antoine Jobard. A fruity and mineral driven wine that is not as big and less oaky than the typical Meursault – which is why I love this wine! Its flavors are refined and complex (it spends time in the barrel and sur lie). It has freshness due to its youth yet with a texture that’s still rich, making it the perfect match to heavier dishes, especially cream based.

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I’m starting the meal with a creamy pumpkin soup. I prepared the soup with coconut milk and just hints of turmeric, paprika, and cumin. I minimized the spices in this soup because I wanted to avoid strongly flavored foods so as to not overpower the wine.  I will be keeping to the simple-flavor approach for the entire meal. With Meursault (and other chardonnays) I find that what works best is foods characterized by mild flavors, which allow the flavors of the wine to shine.

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The soup course was followed by endives au gratin, which is one of my favorite dishes ever. Belgian endives wrapped in ham, covered in a creamy mornay sauce, and topped with shredded cheese.

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I loved how well this dish worked with the Meursault!

Now time for the main course: scallops. I’ve tried so many wines with scallops – without much success. Each one either made the wine taste worse or made the scallops taste slightly bitter. But I’ve finally found the perfect match with this Meursault! Given that this wine loves creamy foods, I added a watercress cream sauce to the dish.

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Again, the simplicity of the scallop’s flavors allowed the Meursault to shine. The richness in both the texture of the scallops and the cream sauce worked perfectly with the wine. From now on, this will be my go-to wine when I cook scallops.

A fantastic pairing with the Meursault is actually the coral of the scallop. I absolutely love the coral and it’s such a shame that it’s so hard to find scallops with the coral still attached.

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I didn’t serve these at dinner but rather ate them as a snack while I was making dinner. You can simply sear them in a pan (but be careful – they can pop when they cook!)  or if the scallop is fresh enough, you can just eat them raw. The corals are richer and creamier in texture than the muscle (the scallop) and milder in flavor. It paired so wonderfully with the Meursault on its own, without the watercress sauce.

This meal was fantastic and I’m glad I got a couple extra bottles of this Meursault so I can make this again 🙂

Apéro hour with fino sherry

I love Rue de Seine in the 6e arrondissement of Paris. It is a lively street with lots of shops and restaurants. One of my favorite spots on that street is Bellota-Bellota, where they sell a variety of gourmet products, ranging from caviar, to smoked salmon, to foie gras. But the specialty is jamón ibérico, the finest of which is the bellota variety. Bellota hams are made from free-range pigs that eat acorns found in the oak forests in the border areas between Portugal and Spain (bellota actually means acorn in Spanish). They have a few types of bellota ham that you can choose from:

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And you can either eat it there (they have a nice outdoor seating area) or take it to go. I got the Jabugo and the Guijeilo to take home with me for apéro (short for apéritif) hour.

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These hams are absolutely delicious and worth the hefty price tag. They’re naturally sweet, nutty, rich and they just melt in your mouth. Just add some roasted almonds to highlight the nuttiness of the ham and you’re all set.

As with other types of charcuterie, you can pair this with a crisp white wine, a sparkling wine, or a light and fruity red. The acidity in the wines will work wonders with the ham’s saltiness as well as to cut down on the fattiness. While these wines will work, the best pairing for jamón ibérico is fino sherry.

Fino sherry is a fortified wine made from the palomino grape in the Jerez region of Spain and is characteristically bone dry. One of the biggest names in fino Sherry (and also easiest to find) is Tio Pepe and this is what I’m opening up to go with the ham.

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It is high in alcohol (15%) compared to regular wine but is actually on the lower end of the scale when it comes to sherry. It is very crisp and refreshing – perfect with the ham! The sherry is also nutty in aroma, which highlights the nuttiness of the ham. The nuttiness of the fino sherry also works perfectly with the almonds.

Fino sherry also goes well with a wide variety of seafood and for my next dish, I decided combine both charcuterie and seafood: mussels cooked in tomato sauce and topped with crispy pan-fried chorizo and fresh thyme. The tomato sauce also has some of the sherry in it.

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There is a lovely combination of flavors in this dish and it’s a great match to the fino sherry.

If pairing seafood with the fino sherry, it need not be prepared in a Mediterranean style. Fino sherry actually pairs exceptionally well with Japanese food – not only sushi and sashimi but also tempura. When I was at the farmer’s market, I came across some fior di zucca – or zucchini blossoms, which inspired my next dish: tempura.

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I stuffed the blossoms with a goat cheese, crème fraiche, and herb mixture, dipped them in the tempura batter and deep-fried them.

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It was my first time making tempura and it was so much easier than I thought. I loved how it turned out and I loved how it paired with the fino sherry. Crisp wines always work great with fried foods.

If like me, you’re not a big fan of sake, next time you’re out for Japanese food, try a glass of fino sherry.

A meal to go with a bottle of Bouches-du-Rhône

I am back in Paris and I’m loving all of the amazing food and wine that I can find here! Just going to the grocery store or the farmer’s market is an amazing experience – I can find so many products that are not available (or cost an arm and a leg) in Abu Dhabi.

When I was going through the aisles of La Grande Épicerie, I came across some bottarga (or poutargue as it’s known in French). I’ve never actually tasted this before but I’ve been seeing this all over Instagram lately, especially grated over pasta. So I decided to try it. Bottarga is salted grey mullet roe that is preserved in wax.

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It can be served by simply slicing it. Just add a squeeze of lemon and it’s perfection, especially for apéritif hour. Bottarga is salty but not overwhelmingly so – a crisp white wine high in acidity will work wonderfully here.

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A variety of crisp whites will pair well with bottarga but since I’m in France, I’m gonna go with a French wine. I could’ve chosen a Côtes du Provence, a Cassis, a sparkling wine from Alsace or Saumur, or even Champagne. You want a wine that’s high in acidity to work with the saltiness of the bottarga but you want to opt for light flavors so as to not overwhelm bottarga’s delicate flavor. I actually fell in love with a white from the Bouche-du-Rhône region of France (you can currently find it at la Dernière Goutte and Juveniles in Paris). Even though it has the word “Rhône” in the appellation, this is a wine from Provence. It specially comes from a department in Provence where Marseille is the capital. The name Bouche-du-Rhône simply translates to the mouth of the Rhône river, which is by the Mediterrenean Sea.

The wine is produced by Château de Roquefort and the wine is called Petit Salé, made mostly from the clairette grape (with a bit of vermentino). The taste is light and crisp. It’s mineral and floral on the nose with some citrus. Just lovely! And it paired beautifully with the bottarga. I always love pairing wines with citrus aromas with seafood.

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The next day, I wanted to finish the bottle while trying some different food pairings. After a bit of experimenting, I found that cockles and white asparagus are fantastic with this wine.

For the appetizer, I peeled and steamed some white asparagus and served with with some crème fraiche and fresh thyme (and thyme is a flavor that’s predominant in Provence, mirroring the provenance of the wine). Super simple appetizer!

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I love that the bunch of thyme that I find in Paris (which I get from the organic farmer’s market in Bd Raspail) has flowers, which not only add beauty to a dish but are also delicious!

It was surprising how well the asparagus worked with the wine (normally, asparagus is one of those foods that are considered to be wine’s natural enemy). So I decided to also add it to my main course: cockles or coques as they’re called in France. I cooked the cockles just like I would cook clams for a spaghetti alla vongole dish – just add garlic, lemon, parsley as well as bit of Le Petit Sale to the pan before throwing in the cockles and finish it off with some butter. Instead of the typical pasta however, I served the cockles on a bed of steamed white asparagus ribbons as well as the tips.

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This dish was just outstanding with Petit Salé! I will definitely be making it again and I already saved a few bottles of this wine to take back to Abu Dhabi with me 🙂

For lots more pictures of food and wine, check out my Instagram account:@thatperfectbottle

One of my favorite wines: Morgon

It’s truly a shame that commercially produced Beaujolais Nouveau (which generally emphasizes quantity over quality) has given all Beaujolais wines a bad rap. In reality, when you go beyond Nouveau and explore the Villages and the Cru appellation, you get some truly lovely wines, all made from the Gamay grape (which incidentally is pork’s best friend when it comes to food pairing). The thin skin of the Gamay grape creates wines that are lighter bodied and easier to drink, which makes these wines super versatile.

The Villages appellation is produced across 38 villages and these wines are more concentrated and fuller bodied than the simple Beaujolais appellation. Check out my earlier blog post on the Beaujolais Villages that I tasted at Septime Restaurant in Paris.

At the top end of Beaujolais are the crus. There are 10 (corresponding to the 10 top villages in the region): Chénas, Moulin-à-vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly, Juliénas, Saint-Amour, and my ultimate favorite Morgon. These wines are typically even more complex than the Villages. They express their terroir and they can be quite diverse and can range from the light and delicate Fleurie to the rich and tannic Moulin-à-Vent.

My favorite of the crus is Morgon, which typically has lovely red fruit aromas (especially cherry and pomegranate), silky smooth tannins as well as some earthiness. The crème de la crème of Morgons comes from the Côte du Py plot. My favorite producer of Côte du Py is Jean Foillard. I’m opening a bottle of 2012.

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This wine smells divine: lots of red berries but there is also a certain earthiness as well as some herb aromas. And the color is such a vibrant crimson.

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Now for the food… As I mentioned above Gamay pairs beautifully with pork. Other foods that bring out the best in Morgon are game meats, especially fowl. The subtle gamey flavors of pork and the game fowl generally work superbly with fruity elements, whether it is a fruit-based sauce in the dish or fruity aromas in the wine.  At the same time, both of these meats are light still enough in flavor to not overpower the flavors of the wine. Similarly because of Morgon’s fruity characteristics, I also love adding contrasting smokey elements to the food. Accordingly, I prepared two dishes to pair with the Morgon.

First, I made some pork belly. I seasoned and roasted the pork in the oven. Once it cooled down, I cut it into pieces and pan seared them. I placed the pork belly on top of a smokey roasted eggplant purée. To add just a hint of sweetness and another earthy element, I sprinkled some beetroot cubes on top of the pork and garnished with some beetroot sprouts.

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The pork worked nicely with the Morgon but it was the smoked eggplant that really made this pairing shine!

Second, I made a Persian dish: Guinea fowl fesenjan. Fesenjan can be made with a variety of meats and the sauce typically features walnuts and pomegranate molasses. This is not part of the traditional recipe but I also put some smoked sweet paprika to the sauce to add smokiness.

I cut a whole guinea fowl into 8 pieces and braised them in the sauce until tender. Fesenjan is typically served with pomegranate seeds as well a variety of herbs, both of which mirror the aromas of the wine. For the herbs, anything goes and I had zaatar, parsley, and mint at home.

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I served both the drumsticks:

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And the breast, which I put on top of a bed of couscous:

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Again, even though the sauce is quite rich (which is balanced by the acidity in the wine) the flavors of this dish are more subtle. It is this subtlety of flavors, which made the pairing work well without having the flavors of the food overpower those of the wine. As in the pork belly dish, I loved the smokiness here from the paprika with this wine. The pomegranate and herb garnishes were also a great complement to the aromas in the wine.

An important note however is that pomegranate molasses can range from tangy to sweet. And if it’s on the sweeter side, that can make the whole dish taste sweet, which may not work well with the Morgon (sweet foods always make dry wines taste sour). The molasses I used is somewhere in the middle: fruity, a bit tart, and just a hint of sweetness. That together with the richness from the walnuts was a great balance of flavors and worked really well with the Morgon. Depending on which type molasses you might find, you can always adjust the flavors by adding sugar if it’s too tart or a little acid if it’s too sweet.

The flavors of Greece

On my last trip to Greece, I brought back a bottle of Xinomavro: 2010 Alpha Reserve Vieille Vignes (old vines). This is a delicious wine with fruity aromas – dark fruits and cherries – with a bit of spice. It has a lovely texture with a good amount of soft tannins as well as some acidity.

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I have written another blog entry on xinomavro (check out Albion Restaurant: Xinomavro with Squid, feta, and Kalamata) and there I discovered that I really love pairing kalamata olives with this wine.

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Salty food and acidic wines pair wonderfully (think champagne and potato chips)! Salt really works well to balance out the acidity in a wine. With the kalamata olives, the xinomavro becomes so much smoother and richer. And the fruitiness of the wine offers a nice contrast to the briny flavors of the olives. Fantastic!

Another food that works well with xinomavro is beets. The acidity in the wine balances the sweetness and the richness of the beets. And the earthiness of the beets is the perfect contrast to the fruitiness of the wine. Of course, I had to add some kalamata olives to my beet dish. So I decided to make a baby beetroot salad served on wilted beetroot greens and topped with kalamata olives and feta.

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I really loved using baby beets because not only is the texture more tender but also the flavor tends to be sweeter. But they are also just gorgeous – I truly believe that we eat mostly with our eyes and I always try to make my food as beautiful as I can.

baby beetroot salad

Now for the main course. To me, lamb is one of the most quintessential Greek dishes and I couldn’t think of a better meat dish to serve with this wine than lamb chops. I kept the fat on the chops for more flavor. This makes the dish richer too but the acidity in the xinomavro is perfect to cut through any heaviness you might get from the fat. I bought some grass-fed, free-range lamb. I marinated it for a few hours in some Cretan olive oil (that I also brought back from my trip to Greece), thyme still on the branch (that I brought back from Turkey), and crushed rose garlic (that I brought back from Paris).

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I cooked the lamb chops for a few minutes on each side in an iron cast skillet on the stove. This dish is so easy to make but it’s oh so delicious!

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The earthiness of the lamb and its mild gamey flavor (while I do enjoy gamey flavors in general, I tend to opt for mildness with lamb) both work really well with the fruitiness of the wine. And as predicted, the acidity in the wine cuts right through the fat.

Finally as a side dish, I served some roasted baby potatoes with rosemary (to add earthiness).

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Throughout this meal, the theme was juxtaposing earthy flavors in the food with fruity elements in the wine. Worked perfectly!

Burger night!

One of my favorite foods is a big and juicy burger cooked to medium rare. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest things to find in Abu Dhabi restaurants. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of places here where I can get my burger fix, from Shake Shack to the five star venues that serve Wagyu burgers and everything in between. However, they are often overpriced and overcooked (why is it so hard to get a medium rare burger around here?).

After a number disappointments, I finally gave up on eating burgers at restaurants in Abu Dhabi and started to make my own. Since I like my burger patties without any spices or binders or extra flavorings, the choice of meat is very important. I want the meat to shine on its own. So I splurged on the cut and went with an Angus rib-eye. To make a good burger, you need quite a bit of fat. Rib-eye is already quite fatty but I supplemented the fat content with some short rib (30% of the meat mixture). I got the butcher to freshly grind the meat for me. When I got home I formed the patties, making sure to put a dimple in the center so the patties don’t puff up when you cook them:

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Now for the wine. I can’t think of a better wine to match with a burger than a zinfandel! Zinfandel is a robust red wine from California. A lot of people tend to confuse this with blush zinfandel, which tends to be undrinkably awful. In contrast, red zinfandel is a much more complex wine with intense flavors. I have  a 2012 Turley Fredericks from Sonoma Valley. This is a beautiful wine with ripe dark fruit, spice, and a slight hint of sweetness – this is not a sweet wine by any means but zinfandels characteristically have a hint of sweetness that comes from the grapes. There are also some really nice and velvety tannins. This is such a lovely wine!

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My friends who joined me for dinner brought over delicious homemade buns for the burgers (baked by @uneebgram).

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And I made some homemade mayonnaise, which is exponentially more delicious than the store-bought kind.

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I wanted to try various flavors with the wine so I decided to opt for smaller, slider sized burgers, each with a different topping.

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From the right, the first one has feta and beetroot juice infused caramelized red onions:

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The second is topped with Wensleydale cheese from North Yorkshire, which is a blue cheese made from cow’s milk:

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And finally the third has cheddar, sauteed mushrooms, and fried quail’s egg:

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All three sliders were paired fabulously the zinfandel! The burger patty is perfectly rich and fatty: just what you need to pair with a tannic wine. The pairing simultaneously enhances both the food and the wine. First, the tannins in the wine work to cut through the fat in the food; and second, the proteins in the beef are just what you need to soften the tannins (though the Fredericks is already so smooth and velvety that there isn’t much softening that needs to be done).

The toppings allows each slider to work with the wine in a slightly different way. In the first slider, the sweetness of the beetroot infused caramelized red onions mirrors the ripe fruit aromas of the wine as well as complementing the ever slight hint of sweetness in the wine.

In the second slider, the blue cheese adds more robustness to the flavors of the burger and marries well with the sweet elements in the wine (Sweet + blue cheese = heaven). Blue cheese pairs wonderfully with sweet wines and I would not pair it on its own with a dry and tannic red wine (even though I talk about sweet tones in the zinfandel, this is still very much a dry wine). However, I use the blue cheese as a flavor enhancer in the burger. And as an element that adds more power to the dish, it enhances the pairing as zinfandel is quite a robust wine – you should always opt for an equality of intensity between the wine and the food –  without the saltiness of the blue cheese turning the tannins bitter (Salt + tannins = no bueno). And as it turns out, the fruitiness of the zinfandel actually works well to contrast and balance the pungent flavors of the blue cheese.

Finally, the sharp cheddar in the third slider also adds intensity to the flavors and mushrooms are always great for soaking up the tannins in wine and their earthiness always brings out the fruitiness in a wine (you could pair earthy mushrooms with earthy wines too. But pairing them with fruity wines creates a nice interplay of flavors).

As a side dish with burgers, you have to have french fries. I prepared some homemade fries made with sage and thyme. Even though I baked these in the oven, they came out so delicious and crispy that it was hard to tell they were not deep fried. You wouldn’t normally think of adding sage when making french fries but it worked superbly!

sage french fries

It was a lovely dinner that we ended on a sweet note with a delicious homemade dessert that my friends brought (baked by @jessicaelsbethe). Coconut and lime cheesecake with a ginger crust!

coconut lime cheesecake

Delicious food, fantastic wine, and even better company!

Even Mr. Cuteness wanted to get in on the burger action.

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