Sunday, November 21, 2010

Best Thanksgiving Wine, pronounced #$@%#$@%

Charming the ladies...

Hit the weekly wine-tasting last Saturday at Calvert-Woodley (DC) to help plan my Thanksgiving wine-buying, and, luckily, Steve Rowland from Pasternack Wine Imports was in charge. He was working hard, in fact, to explain Gewürztraminer to a group of bewildered punters, who had wandered in for a free sniff. He had gotten everyone going with a sparkling Rosé-a fizzy and ripe strawberry-tasting treat from Alsace, France winery Lucien Albrecht. The winery, established in 1425, makes this crémant (French non-champagne sparkling wine) from Pinot Noir grapes. (They also have a blanc be blancs made from 100% Pinot Blanc). This bottle, at around $17, is a great celebration wine, and a real value, especially when compared to Champagne. Albrecht pioneered the special designation for crémant wines, which are made using the exact same methods as Champagne (méthode champenoise).

This was followed by the Gewürztraminer Réserve, which has a spicy, smoky, and slightly off-dry, easy-going taste, making it perfect for a long holiday meal with many different (and usually rich) dishes. I would glady start the evening (or afternoon), with the sparkler, and head into the meal with the Gewürz (pronounced Guh-VIRTZ). At about $16 a bottle (both wines are currently on sale at CW in DC, and may be available at your local wine stores), this is a nice mid-level entry for a special holiday meal. And the sparkler is even good enough for New Year's, when people tend to overspend on wine that, in the end, doesn't seem so special for the price.

But back to Thanksgiving. I'm really excited to cook the two different kinds of blood pudding I am making for the family (more on that another time), and can't wait to open that first bottle of sparkling Rosé at about, oh, 11AM. Thanksgiving, remember, is a long day, especially for the cooks, so drink early, drink often. And don't forget to take a nap before the Jets game at 8:20-I would recommend a long snooze during the Dallas game-you don't want to peak too soon. Have a great holiday, turkeys.

Get 'em drinking with both hands...

Closing the sale...

Calvert Woodley
4339 Connecticut Avenue Northwest
Washington D.C., DC 20008
(202) 966-4400

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Color Purple

Mazamorra morada-purple corn and fruit, and
Arroz con Leche-rice pudding

Giant niblets...

More tripe?

Si, more tripe por favor

'Caballo Viejo'



Black sausage, chicharrones, a side of spaghetti...

....and a little more tripe

The Peruvian festival that winds through DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood every year is a reminder of the diversity that makes this community so endearing; and a personal reminder to me that my Spanish really needs work. There is a parade up Columbia Road, with the men carrying the enormous altar, the elegiac lament of a 15-piece band, and rows of robed women swinging heavily smoking thuribles, bringing an ethereal air to this gray stretch of low-rises and neighborhood mom-and-pops. This goes on for hours, as the parade stops every block or two for everyone to catch their breath, and for the occasional performance of cowboy on horseback dancing with girl who is not on horseback (you have to see it). During a lull, I dropped into the park to sample some of the food-there were over fifty vendors, almost all selling homemade Peruvian dishes-my favorites are the freshly fried donuts called picarones, and the rice pudding (arroz con leche) served with the purple corn pudding called mazamorra morada. Also tried the leche asada (baked flan), bread pudding (budin), another kind of flan, and a new favorite, keke de coco. I just love the name.

As one can see, I'm big on desserts these days, although of course there was plenty of tripe, beef heart, giant corn, potato dishes, and ceviches, that together make Peruvian cuisine one of the most multifaceted and underrated ethnic foods in this hemisphere. So I raise my flan to Hermandad del Señor De Los Milagros, and to the purple corn and potatoes of Peru.

Inhaling grill smoke, and the proper way to top picarones

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash

Met up with the some of the more interesting personalities working the NYC craft cocktail scene last week at a sponsored rum tasting at the new Lani Kai, which reworks the old Tailor space. Lots more light, and also a lighthearted take on Tiki rather than chef Sam Mason's more serious grub. No solid cocktails, either, sadly, although former barman Eben Freeman, who tried to make them work, with differing degrees of success, was present and creating his 'Five Spice Daiquiri'. All the drinks were made with 'Banks 5 Island Rum', which has a certain distinctiveness to it, a funky character. It mixed very well in the daiquiri, as well as in Jim Meehan's 'Chairman's Refresher'. Meehan, from well-respected PDT, is a brand rep for Banks, and this cocktail, which combines rum, coconut water, Frangelico, and cucumber, was refreshing, yes, and also very potent. There was also 'The Last Luau Swizzle (rum, house-made falernum,cinnamon syrup, lime, and ginger beer; garnished with grilled pineapple) and a Jersey Punch#2 (rum, Laird's apple brandy, EO lime cordial, and bitters) from bartenders Joseph Swifka and Dushan Zaric, respectively. I wasn't able to try any food, but then I was heading to Otto afterward for some pizza and pasta to soak up the booze. Expectations for Lani Kai? Expect to get very, very, drunk.
(Pictured above, from left to right, blogger weinoo, bartender Prini, Don Lee (PDT/David Chang/something of his own opening soon!), and Eben Freeman-formerly of Tailor, now the beverage director for Chef Michael White's Altamarea Group)

Lani Kai
525 Broome St, btw Thompson and Sullivan

BELOW...Eben Freeman gives it the 'hard shake'-WARNING-VERY LOUD!