Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Is there any better way to celebrate the New Year than with a cheerful sparkling wine?!? - Spanish and Italian bubbly rocks too! - My Easy Going Picks!

Is there any better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve than with cheerful sparkling wine?!? Certainly Not! Bring on the Bubbly!
Since we’re talking of sparkling wines, champagne is of course the king of bubbles and apart from recognized and celebrated maisons, such as Krug, Bollinger and Ruinart…

In fact the New York Daily News was so kind to publish the top 10 champagne brands for 2013 by volume sales:

1. Moet & Chandon

2. Veuve Clicquot

3. Nicolas Feuillatte

4. G.H. Mumm

5. Laurent-Perrier

6. Taittinger

7. Piper-Heidsieck

8. Pommery

9. Lanson

10. Canard-Duchene

All just awesome! But there’s more to this story…

So… in no special order because I really enjoy all of these…here is my selection of easy going sparkling wines of the New Year … actually for any time… a perfect match for every mood and pocketbook. Enjoy, and not all are Champagne of course… Spanish and Italian bubbly rocks too! Stock this stuff up; so you always a have some sparklers that are good.

Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry - $10 – The crowd pleasing Cava in the black bottle; it's earthy and fruity and not really dry…It’s flavorful and is nice and smooth.

Depreville Extra Dry, France - $10 -  a light off-dry bubbly with nice fruit white peaches, lemons, pears, cream… well-dressed with tropical notes

Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut Prestige, Napa - $20 – Simply the best complex sparkler for the price…Crisp flavors! Fresh apple, ginger spice and smoke with notes of raspberry; Layered…

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Cava - $10 - creamy bead supporting red apple and pastry cream with lemon notes

Barefoot Bubbly Pinot Grigio Champagne, California – $10 - Yes this one… the ‘Pinot Grigio’; Aromas and flavors of Key lime pie and medium dry

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto D’Acqui DOCG, Itlay - $20 - Perfumed with a hint of rose petals, raspberries, strawberry shortcake, like punch in color. Effervescence is softer…Truly remarkable stuff.

Marques de Monistrol Brut Cava – $10 - A good straight forward Cava; with apple and stone-fruit fragrances. A nice easy finish too  

Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico NV, Valdobbiadene – $15 - A bad boy Prosecco! White peaches, flowers, wet stones, smoldering tinges

La Marca Prosecco di Conegliano, Valdobbiadene –  $13 – This Prosecco with a heady bouquet of ripe lemons and flowers on the tongue it’s ultra-juicy; vanilla cream on both nose and palate

Domaine Chandon Brut Classic, California –  $15 - Nuts and stoned fruits. Peaches with creamy vanilla flavors; with a hint of raspberry. Delicious! There’s a slight sweetness peeking through…

I hope this list inspires you to pick some of these up and ...Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Restaurant Review - Ulele - 1810 N Highland Ave Tampa, FL 33602

Ulele - 1810 N Highland Ave Tampa, FL 33602

From the owner of the famed Columbia Restaurant… The service was really very good. But the wait was tremendously long although there were plenty of spaces open. A little stressful.

The concept of Brewery (good beer!) and Restaurant is fantastic and the Porterhouse steak was delicious. Big Steaks! It is something original.

The best part for me is the American wine list that is well thought out and priced properly. A good selection of Pinot Noir too. You can return to mix and match wines with your meals; which is the key to a good restaurant. Go check it out.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Story of BBQ is Competitive and Brings a lot of Fun and Bragging Rights!

The Story of BBQ is debated but a lot of fun!

Spanish immigration to Cuba began in 1492, when Christopher Columbus first landed on the island, and continues to the present day. The first sighting of a Spanish boat approaching the island was on 27 or 28 October 1492, Bariay; probably the landfall place of Columbus in Cuba, on the eastern point of the island.

Columbus, on his first voyage to the Americas, sailed south from what is now the Bahamas to explore the northeast coast of Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola (Haiti, Dominican Republic) and Puerto Rico. Which is arguably where Barbeque originates and thus brought to North Florida by the Spaniards a little later.

Barbeque meat can come from a grill, oven, a crock pot, but is normally thought of as resulting from a smoker, pit, or open fire, where charcoal and wood are the primary fuels in BBQ ; At home and in competitions, meats usually used are Pork Ribs, Boston Butt, Beef Brisket and Chicken and there are all kinds of techniques.

The Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) is a standard of BBQ in the U.S. and it certifies BBQ Judges (CBJ); it which carries a lot of information with it

By the way, did you know that today the French are coming the U.S. to learn about approving cuts of meat and Japan is working on the language barriers to generate their own BBQ programs as well…These are Interesting times

Here are some of the basic information and storytelling...

BBQ is about the meat not the garnishes or the sauce. It’s about the appearance, taste and texture of the meat. Meat is pork, beef and brisket and chicken (in most states, some think Chicken is the North’s doing… having pulled chicken at cookouts not for ‘real’ BBQ). Some get testy with Texas. Don’t mess with Texas!

A key difference to know is that is BBQ is low and slow and grilling is quick and hot.   

…the process where fats and tough connective tissues in a meat are gradually broken down during the long, slow cooking is called “rendering” and is a key component in BBQ.                                                                                

The joke is that Yankees up North feel that BBQ means a cookout and a day out to cook or they think BBQ is the actual grill or that BBQ is an action (verb).

Another joke is…Is Florida really a BBQ southern state? But the there is some serious Irony there…(Irony is the Spanish are thought to come to Florida with the BBQ technology, go figure)

…So essentially, BBQ is a meat prepared in a very special way.

Oh! … one more thing that’s probably the single most important part of cooking good BBQ meat and if you are dead-on… you are on your way to barbecuing magnificence! It’s control the temperature; so start looking for those gauges and thermometers!

Here are some quick BBQ ‘Tidbits’ on States:

Texas – Home of the Longhorn Steer, Smoking their Brisket (slab of beef) the coating is called bark

Tennessee – Loves their smoky sauce; serves a sweet tomato sauce flavored with pepper and molasses

Memphis – Is all about their dry rub; also "pulled" rather than chopped. Pulled pork is slow-cooked, shredded by hand; alongside coleslaw, cornbread, and sometimes French fries; ribs are either basted with sauce or rubbed with a mixture of tangy spices before pit cooking

Georgia – is caught between sweet or spicy

South Carolina – BBQ is a yellow sauce and it’s because it is a mustard sauce; the pig is still chopped or sliced; they also like Hash which is made of stewed organ meats and skin of the pig is often removed and fried separately

Mississippi – the BBQ is totally vinegary and Pork shoulder is cut of choice

North Carolina –also a peppery vinegar base BBQ; the meat is chopped or sliced pig; side dishes include coleslaw and hush puppies

Louisiana – Home of the Cajuns they like their BBQ spicy and very spicy

Kentucky likes mutton which is sheep. Most of the state enjoys sliced pork butt

Arkansas is similar to Georgia. It is a melting pot of BBQ and sometimes they can make it very spicy; side dishes can include baked beans, coleslaw, and potato chips

Alabama is different in that they use white BBQ sauce that uses mayo; but most sauces are also red, but a bit spicier than those served in Tennessee

***Here are a few of the KCBS rules to go by:

At sanctioned KCBS BBQ competitions; if two pieces are stuck together you are disqualified, sauce on the side also disqualified, electronic appliances (Microwave) disqualified too. If bone is hot it is a sign of microwave. Look for toothpicks and foil to disqualify; removing membrane is a choice. But not necessary. Sculpting the meat is not acceptable. Hollywood cut is acceptable though (all meat to one side of bone); six (minimum) pieces per tray, six judges and six tables. 180 is the perfect score. There is a table captain that presents the meat for Blind Judging for Appearance, Taste and Tenderness and there are officials that oversee this process.

One thing I say...is bring on the wine...but that's not part of the judging...yet!  :-)





Thursday, December 4, 2014

Special Report by Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent -This Year’s Lucky Seven Wines are definitely to seek out! Outstanding! 2014 Toppermost!

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

It's year end again. Can you believe it ?!?

I make the effort to bring up some memorable wines for the year; which are some of the overall best; standouts! In the past the list was a little more comprehensive. Last year I started a 'Lucky Seven' list. This year we are a concise again nd it's a great seven wines. So let's get on with 2014's top wines.

2012 Fess Parker Santa Rita Hills Ashley’s Chardonnay
A standout wine that’s full of life and minerality!  Apples, Pears and Limes; streaks of chalk. This full bodied wine has a nice balance to it which makes a nice complement to probably all seafood you can think of; poultry or pasta dishes with lighter sauces, and makes and first-rate pairing with mushrooms. It is an graceful, elegant and complex wine that has this fresh feel too that cannot be ignored.

2009 Clos Figueras Font de la Figuera - Priorat Spain
With a direct July ruby color; stone scented with a sexy floral nose. Firm blackberries with pencil lead break through, black currant, cherry and licorice; It’s a schist soil wine with a clean feel and this deep dark cherry and crème de cassis in the mid palate…plenty of flavors abound.

2011 Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County Old Vine
Just so much going on. This is what it’s all about. Deep black ripe cherries nose, fruits and herbs, jam and good acidity with concentrated layers at the center of this classic zin . Hints of cinnamon spice and toasted oak; full bodied tannins. It screams for stews, pizza, a big thick grilled steak with blue cheese or just bring out the cuisine!

2011 Chateau Lilian Ladouys St, Estephe Bordeaux, France
The last few vintages of this wine have been spot on and this one is topper most. Rich in licorice blackberry and has these tangy citrus that hints flow through this rounded feel that's truly earthy and stony. It’s a plush and long Bordeaux that’s located very near Petrus. So there is great acidity and structure here, to go along with it’s plushiness.

2012 Tikal Jubilo Mendoza Argentina
The heart of dark chocolate prevails on this lush supple integrated cherry pit and blackberry steeped wine that’s a focused effort with a glimpse of coffee notes  and Asian spices. Think Duck and Lamb with fruit sauces or really strong cheeses and mushrooms. Wow!

2013 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling Columbia Valley
Crisp and racy with the mouth-watering acidity which is that you would expect from  flavorful Washington Riesling fruit. I beg to differ that only Alsace has similar terroir to do Riesling like this. But Hey!  The core with hints of honey and minty lime combined with its layered citrus, peach and apricot stone fruits come across with a vibrant appeal…It goes the distance.

2013 Amavi Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Washington State
This is a blend of 3 Amavi vineyards... just about. There are actually six estate vineyards as I understand it! Not only do they make an outstanding  Syrah; This Cabernet is the kind that you pair with a pan fried pork belly, grilled steak, earthy mushrooms; risotto… you get the picture. The aromas of sweet oak, blueberry cobbler and french style lavender seasonings. It is inviting yet challenging to the spirit with supple flavors of black plums which texturize the tannins to support the taste and the long finish.