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RECIPE: A Simple Salmon Dinner & The History Of Oven Cooking

Salmon With Herb Butter

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Poached Salmon

[1] Spoon the herb butter sauce over the fillet. [2] Plated with a butter lettuce salad (recipes below). [3] With kale and baby potatoes (all photos courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco).

 

Last night we had guests over for a simple salmon dinner. It was an impromptu event: Our fishmonger had a sale on wild-caught salmon and we decided it would be a “salmon weekend.”

We adore complicated recipes in the right hands. When we dine out, it is usually to have food from gifted chefs whose technique to make it surpasses anything we could hope to achieve.

But at home, we tend to keep things simple. The best ingredients, simply prepared to show them off, create the best meals.

While many people say they can’t cook fish well, baking it is pretty fool-proof (as it is tossing a marinated fish on the grill, if you have one).

This easy recipe from Good Eggs, bakes the salmon in a slow oven (see the chart below), to “gently coax out the salmon’s delicate flavor.”

Add a simple green salad and a steamed fresh vegetable and you’ve got a delicious dinner. Everything will be ready in 35 minutes.
 
WINE PAIRINGS FOR BAKED OR POACHED SALMON

The best wine pairings are chosen by preparation, not by ingredient. A classic wine pairing for salmon baked in butter sauce is Chardonnay/White Burgundy. You can also serve rosé or a sparkling wine.

We served a luscious Pinot Gris* from our favorite Alsatian producer, Zindt-Humbrecht, and a Grüner Veltliner (a superb Austrian white) from Pichler. Sauvignon Blanc is another favorite.

Red wine is typically paired with a meatier preparation, such as grilled or blackened salmon. But if you only drink red, a light Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy, Gamay/Beaujolais, or Valpolicello Classico will work.

 
RECIPE: BAKED SALMON IN HERB BUTTER

Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 1 pound fresh salmon
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 handful† basil leaves, roughly chopped, plus more for the salad
  • 2-3 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Butter Lettuce, leaves washed and trimmed (or lettuce of choice)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Additional salad ingredients as desired
  •  
    ________________
    *Pinot Gris is a white wine grape now planted around the world, but originally known by the wines from Alsace, France. Pinot Grigio is Italian for the same grape. Pinot Blanc is very similar: Both grapes (Pinot Gris/Grigio and Pinot Blanc) are mutations of Pinot Noir. Alsatian Pinot Gris tends to be a more finely crafted wine. While there are fine Pinot Grigios, much of what is sold in the U.S. is a lighter, mass-market wine.

    †A handful is one of those imprecise measures that says: Use how much you want. More or less of the ingredient is not critical to the recipe’s outcome.

     

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F. While it heats, make a simple herb butter by combining the basil leaves with the butter. If you have other herbs in the kitchen—parsley, tarragon, etc.— feel free to add them also.

    2. PLACE the salmon fillet(s) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Season it lightly with salt and pepper, and scoop a few dollops of herb butter over it. Then bake it for about 30 minutes, until it is just barely firm to the touch. While fish bakes…

    3. MAKE the salad dressing. Place the onion in a bowl, cover it with the vinegar and let sit for about 15 minutes. Then whisk in the olive oil with, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. When fish is done…

    4. REMOVE the fish from oven and let it rest for a minute as you make the salad. Toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette, sliced avocado and a few torn basil leaves; serve with a big piece of salmon and a glass of nicely chilled wine.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF OVENS

    When early man mastered the creation of fire, food was cooked in pits dug into the ground, over flame-heated stones, and then—with the invention of cooking vessels—suspended over fires. Cooking was at best imprecise, but so was all of life back then.

    When nomadic man settled into agricultural communities, an outdoor or indoor fireplace could be constructed; an indoor fireplace also provided heat in colder climates. All cooking was still approximate in terms of how large a fire was needed, and how long to cook the food. In those days, food was sustenance rather than cuisine. Fire was used to make tough foods more chewable.

    In earlier times before ovens had sophisticated temperature controls, it was a challenge for cooks to make temperature-sensitive recipes. Even in recipes from the early 20th century, you’ll find directions like “cook in a slow oven for 2 hours or until meat is tender.”

    Today, ovens have precise temperature controls and those general times have been converted to degrees. For example, a “moderate oven” is 350°F to 375°F.

    This history of ovens is adapted from an article in Smithsonian Magazine by Lisa Bramen.

    Before ovens, there was cooking over an outdoor fire (think campfire) or an indoor fireplace and chimney with pots suspended over a wood fire.

  • Ancient Ovens: Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Jews and other peoples baked their bread in a wood-fired stone or brick oven—the same general format used for today’s wood-fired pizza ovens.
  • Cast Iron Stoves With Ovens: Over the centuries, brick ovens were refined to contain a door—the only way to regulate heat. Wood-fired cast iron stoves appeared in the mid-1700s, but still there were no gauges. To bake a cake or other heat-sensitive recipe, ovens were “regulated” by burning the right amount of wood to ash. Bakers stuck their hands inside the oven to feel the temperature, adding more wood for heat or opening the door to let the oven cool to what seemed like the right temperature.
  • Gas Ovens: The first recorded use of gas for cooking was by a Moravian named Zacchaeus Andreas Winzler, a German-born inventor living in Moravia (now the Czech Republic) in 1802. It took another three decades for the first commercially produced gas stove, designed by Englishman James Sharp nine 1834. The stoves became popular by the end of the 19th century. They were easier to regulate and required less upkeep than wood or coal stoves, the ashes of which had to be swept out often—a dirty job.
  • Electric Stoves/Ovens: Home electricity came into use at the end of the 19th century. In 1892, an early electric stove and oven was manufactured by Thomas Ahearn, a Canadian electric company owner.
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    Oven Temperature Chart

    Pot Over Campfire

    Ancient Pompei Oven

    Iron Stove

    [1] Slow oven? Fast oven? Here’s what it means (chart courtesy Wikipedia). [2] After fire was invented, man could have a campfire with a simple spit to hold the food, until flameproof cooking vessels (clay pots) were invented. The oldest pot found is from China and dates to 20,000 B.C.E., at the height of the Ice Age, long before the beginnings of agriculture (photo with a contemporary pot courtesy Tips-For-Camping.com). [3] An oven in Pompei (photo courtesy TrueBrickOvens.Blogspot.com). [4] A Victorian cast-iron oven: still wood-fueled, no temperature dials (photo courtesy Telegraph.co.uk).

  • The Microwave: In 1946, Percy LeBaron Spencer, an engineer for the Raytheon Corporation, was doing research on microwave-producing magnetrons when he discovered that the chocolate bar in his shirt pocket had melted. He experimented further and found that microwave radiation could cook food more quickly than gas and electricity. Raytheon’s Amana division released the first consumer microwave oven in 1967. The high price and [unfounded] fears about radiation took another decade for adventuresome consumers to adopt.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Wine With Food (Non-Traditional Matches)

    Today’s tip is to step outside your comfort zone and try different wines than the standards you serve with particular foods.

    If you drink wine often, you no doubt have a favorite to drink with your favorite foods, from snacks to mains to desserts.

    What happens if you step out of your comfort zone? You may discover grape varietals you haven’t had before, and pairings that you like even better.

    While it’s common wisdom that the wines of a particular region pair best with the foods of that region, don’t let that impede your decisions. The most important pairing is with the food and its preparation (light or heavy, herbal or spicy, etc.).

    Entire books have been written on the topic, but here’s a brief overview from DiscoverCaliforniaWines.com. You can search online for recommendations, or ask your wine store clerk: an invaluable source of information and recommendations.

    If you’re not familiar with the grape varietal, look it up. Wines in France, Italy and elsewhere are often named for their region of production, not for the varietal labeling of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the U.S.

  • In France, you’ll find bottles of Red Burgundy and Sauternes—the regions rather than the grapes Pinot Noir and Semillon.
  • In Italy, you’ll find a mixed system: Brunello di Montalcino instead of Sangiovese (which is also the main grape in Chianti), Barolo and Barbaresco instead of Nebbiolo; but with Pinot Grigio, it’s the name of the grape.
  •  
    It gets much more complicated than this, involving history, law and other factors. But let’s get on to the wines.
     
    WINE & FOOD PAIRINGS FROM A TO Z

    Some are red wines (R), some are white wines (W), and some are both (R&W).

  • Albariño (W): Pair with light summer foods or foods that want fresh acidity because they’re fatty/oily, mildly spicy, rich or salty; plus tart recipes with capers, tomatoes and vinaigrettes.
  • Barbera (R): Pair with smoked salmon, grilled mozzarella and prosciutto, and flatbread with fresh tomato, basil and roasted garlic.
  • Cabernet Franc (R): Pair with a classic beef stew, aged Gouda, and rosemary-rubbed pork tenderloin.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (R): Pair with grass-fed beef, whether grilled, roasted, braised or stir-fried.
  • Chardonnay (W): Pair with white fish, shellfish and free-range chicken – especially with creamy, buttery sauces.
  • Chenin Blanc (W): Pair with seared scallops, chicken in coconut curry, or sliced ripe pears with fresh or slightly aged sheep’s milk cheeses.
  • Dessert Wines (R & W): Pair with nuts—almonds and hazelnuts—as well as chocolate tortes, vanilla custard, peach cobbler and ricotta cheesecake. In general, aim to pair sweet dessert wines with sweet desserts, and light dessert wines with light desserts. foie gras, lobster, and seafood in a butter or white cream sauce.
  • Gewürztraminer (W): Pair with smoked white fish, spicy stir-fried dishes, or slightly sweet desserts. See our full article on pairing desserts with wine.
  • Grenache (R): Pair with any grilled shellfish as well as salami, sliced ham and other charcuterie.
  • Grenache Blanc (W): Pair with crab, squid, or clams with garlic butter as well as grilled snapper with lemon zest.
  • Malbec (R): Pair with classic rack of lamb, beef fajitas, and roasted root vegetables.
  •    

    Wine, Salami, Olives

    Wine & Sushi

    Wine & Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    [1] An Italian red is a traditional pairing with salami, olives and other nibbles. But why not try a Cabernet Franc, Malbec or Zinfandel (photo courtesy Rebelle | NYC)? [2] Don’t want beer or saké with your sushi? Try a light white wine, such as Albariño or Chenin Blanc. Our personal favorites are Gewürtztraminer and Riesling—more assertive, because we just can’t get enough of them (photo by Lognetic | Dreamtime). [3] With a well-seasoned grilled cheese sandwich, try a medium-bodied red: Barbera, Malbec, Merlot, Rhone blend, Sangiovese, or the lesser-known Montepulciano.

     

    Spaghetti & Red Wine

    Red Wine & Chocolate

    [4] For pasta, match the wine to the sauce. With a meat sauce or meatballs, Sangiovese, Rosso di Montalcino and Barberas are popular in Italy. But a good old American Zinfandel is also a popular match. [5] Wine with chocolate? Absolutely: We have an entire article on pairing wine and chocolate, as well as pairing wines and desserts (photo courtesy Taza Chocolate).

     
  • Marsanne (W): Pair with creamy potato-leek soup or roasted butternut squash with cinnamon butter.
  • Merlot (R): Pair with sautéed duck breasts or roasted pork tenderloin.
  • Mourvèdre (R): Pair with roast duck or squab, seared New York Strip steak with cracked black pepper, or a tangy blue cheese.
  • Muscat/Moscato (W): Pair sparkling and late-harvest Muscat with fruit tarts, vanilla custard, dark chocolate torte, or rich cheesecake.
  • Petite Sirah (R): Pair with sweet barbequed chicken, a cold roast beef sandwich with mustard, or mild blue cheeses.
  • Pinot Blanc (W): Pair with pan-fried fresh trout, seared tuna, or smoked salmon.
  • Pinot Gris (W): Pair with pasta with a light tomato-based sauce or spicy noodles with shrimp.
  • Pinot Noir (R): Pair with wood-smoked bacon, roast leg of veal or grilled wild salmon. It’s our favorite with rare lamb.
  • Red Blends (R): Pair with pulled pork tacos, barbecued chicken wings, or slow-cooked short ribs.
  • Riesling (W): Pair with Thai spring rolls, spicy stir-fried chicken or a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich on rustic country bread.
  • Rosé(R & W): Pair with everything from spicy sauces to crisp, light salads.
  • Roussanne (W): Pair with honey-glazed ham or butternut squash ravioli.
  • Sangiovese (R): Pair with sausage and caramelized onions, or pork chops with plum conserve.
  • Sauvignon Blanc (W): Pair with wild mushroom soup, grilled red snapper, or asparagus – especially sautéed in garlic.
  • Semillon (W): Pair dry Semillon with fresh halibut or mushroom couscous. Pair sweet Semillon with peach cobbler or pears sautéed in butter.
  • Sparkling (R & W): Pair with everything from Szechuan stir fry to triple crème cheeses.
  • Syrah (R): Pair with robust, hearty foods—from black bean chili with pork, to buffalo sliders or rich beef stews.
  • Tempranillo (R): Pair with dill-poached salmon, pork tenderloin with cilantro pesto, or steamed mussels.
  • Viognier (W): Pair with smoked oysters or mussels, or herb-roasted free-range chicken, goose or duck.
  • White Blends (W): Pair with fresh seafood, cold roast chicken, creamy polenta, or a range of cheeses—from ricotta to triple crème, from goat cheese to dry Jack.
  • Zinfandel (R): Pair with barbecued free-range beef, lamb, pork, chicken or spicy sausage.
  •  
    PAIRINGS FOR FAVORITE FOODS

  • Pairing Cheese With Wine & Beer
  • Pairing Wine & Chocolate
  • Pairing Wine & Desserts
  • Pairing Wine & Ice Cream
  • Pairing Wine & Sorbet For Cocktails
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Rosé Sangria (Think Pink!)

    rose-sangria-lamarina-230L

    Shades Of Rose Wine

    [1] Rosé sangria, an adieu to the formal summer season (photo courtesy La Marina restaurant | NYC). [2] The many shades of rosé depend upon the grape varietal and the length of skin contact (photo courtesy Jot Dot).

     

    We started the summer season with a rose tasting party, and we’re ending it more quietly, with pitchers of rose sangria. Easy to make, easy to drink, we have a pitcher in the fridge all weekend.

    RECIPE: ROSÉ SANGRIA

    Ingredients For 12 Cups

  • 2 bottles* rosé wine
  • 1 quart or liter* bottle club soda, seltzer or sparkling mineral water, chilled
  • 1/2 cup agave†, honey, superfine sugar or simple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup sliced nectarines or peaches
  • 1 cup melon, sliced
  • 2 blood oranges, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
  •  
    Optional Alcohol

  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur (types of orange liqueur) – or –
  • 1/4 cup blackberry, blackcurrant or raspberry liqueur (crème de mûre, crème de cassis, Chambord)
  •  
    ________________
    *1 quart is 32 ounces, 1 liter is 33.8 ounces, 1 standard wine bottle (750 ml) is 25.4 ounces.

    †Use equal amounts of agave or honey, but half as much agave as sugar. Agave is twice as sweet. Always add a portion, taste, and continue to add until the desired sweeteness is reached.

     
    Preparation

    Use a 1-gallon pitcher (128 ounces) or other vessel to blend. You’ll be making 84 ounces of sangria (more if you add brandy and liqueur), and also need room for the fruit. We like this oblong gallon pitcher because it fits more easily in the fridge.

    1. COMBINE the wine, brandy and liqueur and half of the sweetener in the pitcher. Blend well and taste; add more sweetener as desired. We prefer less added sugar to better enjoy the alcohol and the fruit.

    2. ADD the fruit and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day in advance. When ready to serve…

    3. Add the club soda, stir gently and serve.
     
    THE HISTORY OF SANGRIA

    Sangria appeared in Spain around 200 B.C.E., when the conquering Romans arrived and planted red grape vineyards. While the majority of the wine was shipped to Rome, the locals used some to make fruit punch, called sangria after the blood-red color.

    Here’s the scoop.

     

    WHAT IS ROSÉ WINE?

    Unlike Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other grape varietals, there is no rosé grape. Any red wine grape can make rosé.

    The term rosé refers to the pink color that is the result of allowing the pressed grape juice limited contact with red grape skins during vinification, a process known as maceration.

    Once it achieves the desired rosiness, the skin contact ends. Extended skin contact products red wine. The juice pressed from red wine grapes is the same color as the juice from white wine grapes: clear.

    A rosé wine can be actually be made by blending red and white wine together; however this is not a common process. Most rosés are dry wines made from red wine grapes. Some are sweeter, such as White Zinfandel; but this is an American taste for blush wine rather than a European tradition.

  • Pink wine, a term that encompasses rosé, blush, and anything else with a pink hue, can be any shade from pale pink to deep rose. It depends on the grape used and the length of skin contact (from one to three days).
  • Blush wine is an American term that refers specifically to pink wines made from red wine grapes, with only enough skin contact to produce a “blush” of red color.
  • The term first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1980s, as a marketing device to sell pink wines.
  • At the time, Americans were not buying rosé wines, while White Zinfandel, a sweet rosé wine, was flying off the shelves (at one point it was the largest-selling wine in America).
  • There weren’t enough Zinfandel grapes to meet demand, so winemakers had to use other red grape varietals. Pink wines made from other grapes could not legally be called “White Zinfandel,” so a new category name—blush—was created.
  • American pink wines, whether from Zinfandel or another grape, are typically sweeter and paler than French-style rosés. The term “blush” began to refer to not just to pink wines, but to those that were made on the slightly sweet side, like White Zinfandel.
  • These days, all three terms are used more or less interchangeably by people outside the wine-producing industry.
  •  
     
    NATIONAL SANGRIA DAY IS DECEMBER 20TH.

     

    Summer Rose Sangria Recipe

    Mixed Berries

    [1] While luscious summer fruits are still in the market, use them in your sangria. You can get apples and oranges any old time (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco). [2] Don’t forget the berries (photo courtesy Giant Fresh).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Remove Food Stains On Teeth, Hands & Fabric

    If you’ve ever drunk more than a few glasses of red wine; eaten lots of beets, berries or carrot purée; you know that food can stain teeth, as well as the hands used to prepare it and the clothes worn to make or eat it.

    Even white wine can stain: It has both acid and some tannins that make teeth susceptible to pigments in other foods.

    According to Web MD, tooth stains are caused by:

  • Acids, which make tooth enamel softer and rougher, so it’s easier for stains to set in.
  • Chromogens, compounds with strong pigments that cling to tooth enamel.
  • Tannins, plant-based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to teeth.
  •  
    Red wine is a triple threat, with all three.

    Tea stains teeth more than coffee: In addition to the acid they both share, tea also contains tannins.

    Fortunately, there are remedies.
     
    TO REMOVE FOOD STAINS ON TEETH

  • Brush right away; use a paste with a bit of whitening agent. Keep a toothbrush at work.
  • Swish water around in your mouth if you can’t brush. It’s not as effective as brushing, but better than nothing.
  • Use a straw. The liquids are sucked to the roof of your mouth, so bypass your front teeth.
  • Get your teeth cleaned professionally. A professional cleaning and polishing helps to smooth the fine cracks in tooth enamel where color gets trapped. Regular polishing also helps to reduce the amount of staining.
  •  

    Baby Beets

    Orange Beets

    Except for the uncommon white beets, beets stain (photo #1 courtesy Burpee, photo #2 courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON HANDS

  • Use a salt or sugar scrub. Some people buy them for skin exfoliation, but you can sprinkle coarse salt or sugar on wet hands and rub to exfoliate. You can also use olive oil instead of water. After rubbing, rinse off the scrub off and wash your hands with liquid dish soap. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
  • Clean fingernails with baking soda. Make a rub by adding some lemon juice to the baking soda. Scrub with a nail brush.
  • Prevent them in the first place. Get a box of plastic food-prep gloves for a song: 500 gloves for $9.
  •  
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON FABRIC

  • Immediately blot, not rub, with a paper towel. Then use a laundry pre-stain stick or liquid detergent. Wash ASAP in cold water (the sink is fine).
  • Soak in cold water with chlorine or oxygen bleach if the stain persists.
  • Launder in cold water if needed.
  • Use a fabric-appropriate bleach: Chlorine bleach is preferable if it is safe for the fabric.

  • Get an adult bib from Dress Tiez. We have two and love them: They’re waterproof and easy to clean.
  •  
    MORE HELP

  • For red wine and other stains, we’ve had great success with Wine Away spray. It aso removes coffee, blood, ink, fruit punch, sauces, red medicine stains, even pet stains. Try it on anything.
  • There’s also a pocket size for dining out.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mix Up Some Coolers

    Blackberry Cooler

    Peach Wine Cooler

    Watermelon Cooler Recipe

    Bottled Wine Coolers

    [1] Blackberry cooler (photo courtesy FreidaFroo.Wordpress.com). [2] A peach wine cooler (here’s the recipe from TasteOfHome.com). [3] Watermelon cooler with green tea and white wine (photo courtesy Serendipitea.com). [4] Commercial wine coolers: the lowest common denominator (photo courtesy Majestic Brands).

     

    WHAT’S A COOLER?

    Short for wine cooler, a cooler is a tall drink typically made with wine, fruit juice and soda water (you can use any glasses you have).

    It’s a less complex relative of sangria. Don’t like wine? Try the latest cooler incarnation, the beer cooler.

    Modern coolers are refreshing summer drinks that trace their ancestry to hot-weather countries in ancient times.
     
    HISTORY OF THE WINE COOLER

    Wine-based drinks have long existed in the Mediterranean, the birthplace of wine. The earliest archaeological evidence of wine production found to date has been in Georgia (c. 6000 B.C.E.), Iran (c. 5000 B.C.E.), Greece (c. 4500 B.C.E.), and Armenia (c. 4100 B.C.E.).

    The wine could be drunk straight or mixed with honey, spices or other ingredients, especially by the kitchen staff of rich households and at public drinking houses for the hoi polloi. It was a less sophisticated product than today’s wine, with no sophisticated fermentation or aging techniques. Thousands of years before stoppered glass bottles were invented, wine was stored in clay jars.

    Flash forward to the present: Wine coolers have been sold commercially since the early 1980s [Source]. Bartles & Jaymes, a brand of E & J Gallo Winery.

    The latter makes flavors dozens of flavors, including Strawberry Daiquiri, Fuzzy Navel, Margarita and Piña Colada.

    However delicious these may sound, they were formerly made with wine that Wikipedia calls “the cheapest available grade,” since most of the wine flavor in obscured by the sugar and the fruit juice. According to Lucas J. Meeker of Meeker Vineyard in Sonoma County, domestic wine coolers were largely made from a base of apple wine.

    Today, many bottled wine coolers have no wine. Because of a quadrupled excise tax levied on wine beginning in 1991, most brands replaced wine with cheaper malt. Bartles & Jaymes calls their revised product line a “flavored malt cooler.”

    The malt, according to Meeker, renders the result more like beer but still largely the same: “a largely flavorless base beverage is combined with flavor and color additions, then carbonated and bottled.”
     
    WINE COOLER RECIPE TEMPLATE

    Blend your own recipe to find create your signature wine cooler. To develop your recipe, use a shot glass to combine 1/3 each of wine, juice and sparkling water.

    Choose one from each group:

  • Wine: red, rose, white
  • Fruit juice: cherry, cranberry, grapefruit, pineapple, etc.
  • Fizzy water: club soda, mineral water, seltzer, flavored seltzer (alternatively, Ginger Ale, 7-Up, Sprite)
  • Optional sweetener: agave, honey, simple syrup, superfine sugar
  • Optional: splash of fruit liqueur (adding spirits turns the drink from cooler to cocktail)
  • Optional garnish: berries or other fresh fruit, mint or basil leaves (tip: you can use frozen fruit, which will help keep the drink cold)
  •  
    Here’s a recipe for a green tea cooler from fine tea purveyor Serendipitea:

     
    RECIPE: GREEN TEA WATERMELON COOLER

    Ingredients For 4 Tall Drinks

  • Seedless watermelon or 1.5 cups watermelon juice
  • 1.5 cups dry-yet-fruity white wine*
  • 1 cup Dragon’s Well China Green Tea (or substitute), brewed and chilled
  • Optional garnish
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE the watermelon and run it through a fine mesh sieve (yield about 1.5 cups juice).

    2. WARM a teapot with a little hot water, discard, place the tea leaves in the pot, allowing heat of the pot to release the bouquet of the tea leaves.

    3. HEAT water to below boiling (approximately 180°F). Steep 1 teaspoon (2.5 g/8 oz. cup) up to 3 minutes & refresh cup as desired. Vary the time according to taste with this caveat: steeping tea leaves beyond 3 minutes does not give you more flavor, only bitterness.
     
    __________________
    *Try Albariño, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat, Pinot Gris/PinotGrigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

      

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    PRODUCTS: For Summer Sipping

    Over the last few weeks, we’ve been sipping some new water and wine products, with happy results.
     
    LILA WINES: QUALITY IN CANS

    We haven’t had much success with canned wines. They’re too sugary-sweet, more like soft drinks.

    But Latitude Beverage Company has introduced what they say is the first-ever premium wine collection in pull-top cans (top photo). Selecting good wines from wine regions that are well-known for the varietals, we can finally respond, “Bring on the cans!”

    The three varietals are just right for lighter summer fare: with a sandwich, some cheese, a pasta salad. Lila suggests these pairings:

  • Pinot Grigio, made with grapes from Delle Venezie IGT—the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northwest Italy. Enjoy it with corn on the cob, crab cakes with lemon aïoli, olives and other “cocktail nibbles.”
  • Rosé, made with grapes from Provence, in the south of France. Pair it with shellfish, sandwiches with summer tomatoes, Caprese salad, pasta salad.
  • Sauvignon Blanc made with grapes from Marlborough, New Zealand. Pair it with oysters, avocado salad, grilled chicken, grilled fish with cilantro and lime, grilled vegetables, seafood salad sandwiches or turkey.
  •  
    So grab a can and head for the backyard, pool or the great outdoors. Attractively “dressed” in colorful graphics, these wines are ready to join the party.

    The 8.4-ounce cans come in four-packs with an MSRP of $12.99 (more at e-tailers). The four cans combined contain 33% more wine than the standard 750ml wine bottle.

    We stuck them in the freezer to partially freeze. They kept cold for quite a while outside in the heat; and since each can holds two servings, when it was time for the second, the wine was nicely chilled.
     
    ZERO WATER: HOME & PORTABLE WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM

    Zero Water* turns your tap water into purified water—more pure, the company says, than the leading brand (Brita).

    Even if your municipality could clean your tap water to remove almost all the total dissolved solids (TDS), the water can pick up chemicals on its way from the treatment plant to your faucet.

    Zero Water’s unique filter removes 99.63% of all TDS. The filtered water tastes crisp and refreshing. Pitchers are available in 6, 8, 10 and 12 cup sizes; in a 23-cup countertop model; and in a 26-ounce travel tumblers. The 10-cup model shown in the photo is $32.99.

    You can see the entire line at ZeroWater.com.

       

    Lila Wine Cans

    ZeroWater Pitcher

    Zero Water

    [1] Lila premium wines in 8.4-ounce cans (photo courtesy Latitude Beverage Company). [2] [3] Zero Water, with a patented filter that removes virtually all dissolved solids from your tap water, is available in home units and portable tumblers (photos courtesy Zero Water).

     
    Bonus: You can use Zero Water in your iron and other devices instead of purchasing bulky gallons of distilled water. The only difference between distilled and purified water is the process: distillation versus other purification processes such as reverse osmosis, ion exchange and Ozonation, among others.
     
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    *We used a Zero Water system we received from the manufacturer, and did not test it against other systems. There are numerous online articles that compare the major brands.

     

    Define Fruit Infusing Water Bottle

    This model of Define water bottles is ideal for infusing fresh fruit (photo courtesy Define Bottle).

     

    DEFINE WATER BOTTLE: BEST FOR FRUIT INFUSION

    We love “spa water”: plain water infused with fresh fruit. We’ve tried half a dozen water bottles with fruit-infusing options, and the Define Bottle Sport Flip Top is our favorite.

    The superior freezing mechanism, the detachable lower canister, gives you options:

  • Basic: add fruit to the bottom cylinder and add cold water to the entire unit.
  • Colder: Freeze the fruit, then add to the unit with cold water. As the fruit defrosts, it will keep the water colder.
  • Coldest: Freeze the fruit and water in the base cylinder.
  • Fruit-Free: Don’t feel like fruit? Use both cylinders for water. Even better, you can freeze water in the bottom cylinder and enjoy ice-cold water for 4-6 hours.
  •  
    Remember that water expands when frozen, so leave a half inch of space at the top.

     
    We drink the water quickly, but if you freeze the bottom part, you can keep adding new water and it will chill down.

    The bottle is made from Tritan, the standard in quality plastic food and beverage containers. The total capacity is 16 ounces. The bottle disassembles for easy† cleaning and the cylinders are dishwasher safe.

    There are other bottle designs and colors. See them all at DefineBottle.com. You can purchase this bottle on Amazon.
     
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    †We noted some complaints online about the difficulty of cleaning the strainer and gaskets. We keep a toothbrush with a rubber tip along with the scrub brushes at our kitchen sink. It, along with our faucet sprayer, did the trick.

      

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    RECIPE: Red, White & Blue Sangria

    July 4th Sangria Recipe

    Yankee Doodle Brandy: Combine white wine and Grand Marnier orange brandy for July 4th (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs).

     

    This fun and arty sangria recipe is from caterer Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs (www.elegantaffairscaterers.com):

    RECIPE: JULY 4TH SANGRIA

    Ingredients For 1 Large Pitcher

  • 2 bottles dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 cup triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • 1/2 cup berry-flavored vodka (cherry, raspberry, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Optional: ice cubes
  •  
    The Fresh Fruit

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1-1/2 cups hulled and sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1-1/2 cups pineapple stars (use a star shaped cookie cutter to cut stars from slices of fresh pineapple) or starfruit slices
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the simple syrup: Boil 1/2 cup water, then add 1/2 cup granulated white sugar. Turn the heat to simmer and stir until dissolved. Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool.

    2.COMBINE all ingredients except the fresh fruit (but including the simple syrup) in a large punch bowl or pitcher. Stir well and add the fruit. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

    3. SERVE well-chilled with a good scoop of fruit floating in each drink. If you plan to serve over ice, consider making star-shaped ice cubes.
     
    FOR A MOCKTAIL

    Here’s a mocktail option for kids and adults who don’t drink:

  • Substitute a 64-ounce bottle of Sprite/7-UP or Diet Sprite/Diet 7-UP for the wine.
  • Replace the triple sec with 1 cup white cranberry juice.
  • Option: Use 1/2 cup orange juice instead of the lemon or lime juice
  • Eliminate the simple syrup.
  • Optional: Add blue food color to make blue star ice cubes.
  • Use the same fresh fruit as for the sangria recipe.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Rosé Wine Tasting

    Sancerre Rose Wine

    Rose Wine For Summer

    Top: Rosé is a style of wine, not a particular grape varietal or wine region. This photo shows a Sancerre, a wine made in the eastern Loire Valley of France in the area around Sancerre, an ancient hilltop town. While white Sancerre is made from the [white] Sauvignon Blanc grape, red Sancerre and rosé Sancerre are both made from the [red] pinot noir grape (photo Thor | Wikimedia). Bottom: Some of the different hues of rosé wines (photo JoTot.com).

     

    In France, more rosé wine is sold than white wine [source]. Rosé is also a popular warm-weather wine, and a great pairing with grilled foods and picnic foods.

    So with Memorial Day at hand, how about a rosé tasting party? There are as many different styles of rosé wines as with other varietals. A tasting is an opportunity to get to know the different producers and identify some favorites.

    Here’s how to have a wine tasting party, although you can simply set out the bottles and let people do their own thing.
     
    WHAT IS ROSÉ WINE?

    Unlike Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other grape varietals, there is no “rosé grape.” Rather, a rosé wine can be made from any red wine grape*. White Zinfandel, for example, is a sweet rosé wine, also called a blush wine. Most rosé wines, however, are dry wines. First:
     
    ROSÉ WINE TERMS

  • The term rosé does not refer to the type of grape or the vinification process, but to the pink color. A rosé wine can be actually be made by blending red and white wine together; however this is not a common process.
  • Most rosés are dry wines made from red wine grapes. The pink color comes from limited skin contact with the red grape skins during vinification. Rosé’s color is actually a hue of what would become red wine with longer skin contact.
  • The juice pressed from red wine grapes is the same color as the juice from white wine grapes: clear. Red wine color comes from extended skin contact during the early stages of winemaking, a process known as maceration†.
  • Pink wines, a term that encompasses rosé, blush, and anything else with a pink hue, can be any shade from pale pink to deep rose. It depends on the grape used and the length of skin contact (from one to three days).
  • Blush wine is an American term that refers specifically to pink wines made from red wine grapes, with only enough skin contact to produce a “blush” of red color. The term first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1980s, as a marketing device to sell pink wines. At the time, Americans were not buying rosé wines, while White Zinfandel, with its pink hue, was flying off the shelves (at one point it was the largest-selling wine in America). There weren’t enough Zinfandel grapes to meet demand, so winemakers had to use other red grape varietals.
  • Pink wines made from other grapes could not legally be called “White Zinfandel,” so a new category name—blush—was created.
  • American pink wines, whether from Zinfandel or another grape, are typically sweeter and paler than French-style rosés. The term “blush” began to refer to not just to pink wines, but to those that were made on the slightly sweet side, like White Zinfandel. These days, all three terms are used more or less interchangeably by people outside the wine-producing industry.
  •  
    ALSO TRY SOME…

  • Rosé Sangria
  • Rosé Champagne & OtherSparkling Rosés
  •  
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    *“Red grape” skins can be black, purple or red, depending on the varietal. A rosé can also be made by blending red and white wines, although this is less common.

    †The skin contact phase of winemaking is known as maceration. In this phase, the phenolic materials of the grape—tannins, coloring agents (anthocyanins) and flavor compounds—leach into the must (the newly-pressed juice) from the grape skins, seeds and stems. Maceration is a food and wine term that means to soften by soaking. Here’a more about maceration.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Malbec

    Glass Of Malbec In Riedel Malbec Glass

    A glass of Malbec in the specially designed Riedel Malbec glass. Photo courtesy Riedel.

     

    Celebrated on April 17th, World Malbec Day is the perfect opportunity to open up a bottle of the wine that is Argentina’s claim to varietal fame.

    Malbec is a black grape that produces red wine—a deep purple-red in color and nearly opaque, similar to Syrah and Mourvedre.

    The original Malbec rootstock came from France, where it was widely planted in the Cahors region in the Midi-Pyrénées region of south-central France, with some in the Loire Valley of central France. Argentina now has 75% of the world’s Malbec acreage.

    Argentine Malbec is very different from its French parent. As is true among all wine grapes (and some other crops), planting the same vines in different terroirs* yield different results.

  • Argentine Malbec is fruit forward, with notes of black cherry, black plum and currant. They have lower acidity, more tannins, and fuller body than French Malbec.
  • French Malbec has moderate tannin, higher acidity and flavor notes of black pepper and spice. Because of their moderate tannin and acidity with lower alcohol, French Malbec wines tend to age longer.
  •  
    World Malbec Day commemorates April 17, 1853, when President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento of Argentina launched a mission to transform Argentina’s wine industry. To start that endeavor, a French soil expert bought grape varietals from France, one of which was Malbec. During the experiment period, which planted different wines in different terroirs, Malbec proved to be a star. It flourished in the Mendoza region of Argentina, in the northwest part of the country at the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
     
    Malbec Is A Very Well-Priced Red

    As a result of the volume produced and the economics of wine production in Argentina, Malbec also proved to be a bargain. It’s a well-priced alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon. You can find many good Malbecs for $10 a bottle or less.

    You can also find bottles at twice that price, and even pricier—for example, $95 for a bottle of Cheval des Andes, a joint venture between Bordeaux’s great Chateau Cheval Blanc and Argentina’s Terrazas de los Andes.

  • Some Argentine Malbecs, like the latter, are blended with some Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/or Petit Verdot—classic grapes of Bordeaux, to give some Bordeaux style to the wines.
  • But there’s a fifth Bordeaux grape: Malbec is also grown there as a blending grape. Because the varietal has poor resistance bad weather and pests, it never became a top French varietal like Merlot and Caber.
  • Some vintners blend in a bit of Petit Syrah instead. Petit Syrah, now grown largely in Australia and California, is a cross that originated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France.
  •  
    Three Favorite Malbecs From Argentina

    Our wine editor, Kris Prasad, has a fondness for Altos Las Hormigas and Alamos (one of the wines with Syrah, depending on the vintage). Both can be found for $10 or less, although special bottling (e.g., certain vineyards) cost more.

    He also likes Tinto Negro “Limestock Block,” pricier at around $15. He calls it an “interesting wine”; it is two-thirds Malbec. We haven’t had it, but we do love the label, with part of the name spelled backwards (see the photo of the label above).

     

    PAIRING MALBEC WITH FOOD

    Steak—of which Argentina has a bounty—is a classic pairing (give us a T-bone, please!). But Malbec is much more flexible than a pairing with beef. Try it with:

  • Any grilled red meat or pork (serve with some Argentine chimichurri sauce).
  • Duck and other dark-meat poultry like game birds.
  • Full-flavored fish such as salmon and tuna.
  • Braised short ribs.
  • Burgers and barbecue.
  • Pasta and pizza.
  • Blue cheese, washed rind and other strong cheeses.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Dishes with earthy or smoky flavors.
  • Dishes spiced with clove, cumin, garlic, juniper berry, smoked paprika or sumac.
  •  
    Serve it instead of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Syrah and other full-bodied reds.

    For an even bigger celebration, put on some tango music—which developed in Argentina—and dance!
     
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    *ABOUT TERROIR: The same rootstock that is grown in different locations produces different flavors; for example, depending on where it is grown, Sauvignon Blanc can have grass or grapefruit notes—or neither. Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH, is a French agricultural term referring to the unique set of environmental factors in a specific habitat that affect a crop’s qualities. It includes climate, elevation, proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of sun. These environmental characteristics gives the wine its character. Terroir is the basis of the French A.O.C. (appellation d’origine contrôlée) system.

     

    Los Altos Malbecs

    Malbec Label

    Top: Look for Los Altos Las Hormigas Malbecs, a favorite of our wine editor. Photo courtesy Los Altos. Bottom: The quirky label of another favorite Malbec, Tinto Negro.

     

      

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    TIP: Wine For A Wedding Shower

    Tissot Trousseau Amphore

    Le Cigare Volant Label

    Goat-Roti Wine

    Marilyn Merlot

    Top: A bottle of Trousseau wine from Stephane-Tissot.com, rated 91 by Robert Parker. Second: The seminal fanciful label from Bonnie Doon Vineyards. Follow the red line to the flying cigar. Third: Goat-Roti, punning on the Rhone wine Côte-Roti and the classic Rhone label style. Photo courtesy FancyCellar.com. Bottom: Need you ask? It’s Marilyn Merlot from Marilyn Wines. Different vintages have different photos of Marilyn.

     

    We received a news release right after Valentine’s Day, for a red wine called Trousseau from the Jura region in eastern France. The grape variety itself is called Trousseau or Trousseau Noir, an old variety. It is grown in small amounts in Europe, with the the largest vineyards found in Portugal (it is one of the grapes blended into Port). It is now being grown in California.

    Although the timing was coincidental, we thought: Valentine’s Day…wedding proposals…wine to serve at showers or weddings. Let’s suggest wines with fanciful names.

    First, a bit on Trousseau:

    We have no idea how the grape was named Trousseau. The original meaning of the French word means “a little bundle,” and refers to the clothes, linens and other items collected by a single woman in anticipation of marriage.

    A girl and her mother would start gathering items for the daughter’s trousseau years before the anticipated event—years before she might be of the age to be courted!

    In the days when most people had little extra to spare, the mother might tuck away items when she could: a set of extra bed sheets, blankets, dishes, and other items.

    As disposable income grew, the wares could contain bridal items, jewelry, fine linens, china, silverware, clothing and lingerie and much more.

    So: Did some vintner, centuries ago, put aside wines for his daughter? Did that wine become known as Trousseau? The record is mute—at least so far as we could research it in English.
     
    HOW WINES AR NAMED

    For most of their history, wines were named after the region or grape varietal: Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy or Pinot Noir, for example. The bottle labels followed a classic design. The name (title), contents and bottle shape were/are usually regulated by law.

    Some 40 years ago, some modern vintners began using fanciful names and contemporary label designs as a marketing tool. The innovator was Randall Grahm of Bonnie Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, California.

    Graham, a maker of quality wines, became the talk of the wine world in 1984 with the release of “Le Cigare Volant” (the flying cigar), a red Southern Rhone blend. The label spoofed a classic Rhone label of a vineyard, but look closely: a large cigar (think blimp) flies over the vineyard. The brand continued with other fanciful names, including our favorite, “Thanks, Semillon.”

    You may have encountered some of Grahm’s legacy: Bored Doe, Goats Do Roam and Goat-Roti from Fairview Winery in South Africa and Marilyn Merlot from Marilyn Wines in Napa Valley, and others. California’s Topolos Winery was acquired by Russian River Vineyards, which [sadly?] discontinued its popular Stu Pedasso Zinfandel. Here are more wines with names of questionable dignity.

    And here’s a sampling of other whimsy: fancifully-named wines that won’t offend Grandma.

    Anyone with a special event on the horizon can design their own wine label. Just do an online search, and you’ll come across them.
     
    ABOUT TROUSSEAU WINE

    Trousseau, which is planted in Europe, California, even Australia, is called “paradoxical”: light-bodied and pale red, but with intense aromas and a firm tannic grip. You may come across producers from the Jura in your wine store (Jacques Puffeney, Jean-François Ganevat, Michel Gahier, and André et Mireille Tissot as well as from Californi (Arnot-Roberts and Copain).

    We proffer our own suggestions for wedding wine: Cloud 9 Cabernet, Just Married Merlot and Wedded Bliss Sauvignon Blanc.

    Feel free to contribute your own.

     

      

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