Wednesday, March 31, 2010
It's been a while and I know there are millions that are wondering what I have been eating lately. We had a wine dinner at Ursula's Wine Bar & Cafe in beautiful downtown White Bear Lake (I own it you know) on March 16. Nick Nicholas from Anam Cara Cellars in the Chehalem Mountains in Oregon spent a delightful evening of food and wine pairings talking about his wine. We started the evening with his riesling and marinated scallops over frisee with blood orange and citrus vin. Chef Dennis Lewis, doing his first wine dinner by the way, hit this one out of the park, everything blended wonderfully. Course 2 was pork belly with sweet potato puree and chipoltle mole sauce served with 2007 pinot noir. My favorite dish of the evening. All the components sang in harmony and the wine added to the fun. Dennis then prepared basil crusted halibut over tomato soup with 2006 pinot noir. First thought would be halibut and pinot, no way, but with the tomato soup it was tremendous. We then had the reserve pinot noir with marinated elk strip loin with shitake marsala sauce and roasted celery root puree. Four for four, the wines were outstanding but sharing equal footing with the entries. We finished the evening with an almond pear crisp with homemade lavender ice cream and gewurztraminer. The lavender ice cream was crazy good and the gewurz was stunning, not too sweet but sweet enough. The dinner was a delight and hats off to Dennis for a job well done.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
We met with our dining club a couple of Sundays ago. It's always fun hanging out with the gang. The fun started with hats (don't ask), bubbles and snacks. I brought a 1.5L of Mionetto Sergio Prosecco. It was a real crowd pleaser, we enjoyed it with fruit, veggies, a great dip someone picked up at Kowalski's Grocery Store and a corn and bacon empanada that was hand crafted by yours truly. The empanada was ok but it was dry and needed something like salsa or sour cream. Next time. Main course was a pepper crusted pork chop served with duchess potatoes, maple glazed carrots and brussels sprouts. The chop was a little too pepper crusted for my Scandinavian palate. I was sweating like mad until I scraped the pepper off. It was very good, I just can't take the heat. We enjoyed the pork with Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel. The pairing was superb. For dessert we had a strawberry chocolate torte with and Aussie sticky. Another nice pairing. Here's to good friends.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I spent the day cooking and then is 8 minutes it was gone. The feeding frenzy was relentless. I did my first turkey ever. I did it in a cooking bag with rosemary, parsley and sage. The parsley and sage is still growing outside the back door of Ursula's Wine Bar & Cafe. The bag was pretty cool, we got gallons of gravy. Besides the turkey we had mashed potatoes and yams. The yams were cubed and baked with brown sugar and butter, I love yams. The stuffing this year was cornbread stuffing, cornbread was substituted for bread and met with lukewarm reviews, I loved it but my opinion was not in the majority. We had traditional green bean casserole, meatballs, lime jello and a mixed green salad with candied walnuts, apple, blue cheese and a maple vinaigrette. We finished with pumpkin and pecan pie. To tie it all together we had Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel. It had marvelous brambly fruit and nice pepper on the finish. Skol.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
To celebrate my birthday I threw myself a dinner party (actually it was the luck of scheduling and nothing more). October 7, which was my 45th birthday again, Ursula's hosted a wine dinner featuring the wines of Ladera Vineyards. Dan Stotesbery, Ladera's national sales manager, was on hand to share his insight into both the wines and winery. The dinner guests were greeted with sauvignon blanc and appetizers. The sauv blanc was beautiful, it was built for a summer day with hints of tropical fruit, lime and melon, but was not too light for the cooler autumn weather. It paired very well with Chef Andrew Whalen's hummus. The first course was squid ink pasta with squash and brown butter paired with Pillow Rd. Pinot Noir. The pairing was fabulous, the Pillow Rd may have been my favorite wine of the night, it was like velvet, the flavors were rich, round, hints of cherry and raspberry. The pasta was very good as well, the squash we have been getting lately has been superb. The Napa Valley cab was poured next, it is the only blend in Ladera's lineup, there is some malbec and petit verdot in the mix. It was served with a rack of lamb and bacon and feta couscous stuffed tomato. The Napa cab is always stellar and a great value for Napa fruit, which showed dark plum and brambleberry fruit flavors. The lamb rack married wonderfully with the flavors playing off of each other. Duck breast with apple bacon chutney and the Howell Mountain cab was next. The Howell Mountain cab is refined, stately and well structured, the folks at Ladera refer to it as the gentleman. It complemented the duck very well with dark cherry and blackberry flavors. The Lone Canyon Cab is referred to as the cowboy, wild and rough with some complex tannins. The Lone Canyon shows flavors of dark cherry and licorice. It's a great cab and paired well with pork tenderloin and sweet potato gnocchi. One point of interest in the menu is that all the courses had bacon and a touch of orange in them. Everything is better with bacon and the orange just reiterated the fact autumn was here in a subliminal, foreshadowing sort of way. Enough Bergman visual simile and on to dessert. Sweet potato ice cream in a chocolate cup with bacon and butterscotch served with syrah. The ice cream was awesome and the bacon was a very nice touch. We chose syrah for dessert because Ladera only makes 6 wines and we had to get the syrah in there somewhere. It is outstanding, very smooth, rich, meaty and a lush texture. Dan did a great job explaining everything and all the courses were excellent. A great dinner, happy birthday to me.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I got tickets for the Twins last game in the Metrodome (or so I thought). Instead of doing lunch downtown amid the madness and mayhem (I should point out the Twin Cities Marathon was going on that morning) we had brunch at our friends, Tom and Janelle, home. We had been to the Twins very first game in the dome with Tom and Janelle so it was fitting to see them out together. Brunch was great. We had a cheesy potato dish, the requisite egg dish, killer caramel rolls and fruit. Mamosas made with Mionetto Prosecco also graced the table. The food was great. On a Sunday morning caramel rolls always rule and these did. The egg dish and potatoes were fabulous. Everyone had seconds. We got downtown, parked and had a nice walk to the stadium. The game was great, the Twins won and tied Detroit for first place. The food was ball park food. I never touch the cotton candy, it looks way too scary. We munched on peanuts and sunflower seeds through most of the game. A ball game is not complete without a hot dog. The dome dogs are ok. Maybe I'm getting snobby in my old age but they did not elicit yummy noises. I'll take an Ambassador hot dog from my grocer any day. I washed it down with a Miller Light, sorry I'm not a big fan of 3.2 beer, but you take what you can get and the wine at the dome is painful. See ya dome and I can't wait to watch baseball outside next summer.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
On Labor Day weekend we were fortunate enough to spend a couple of days with our friends Mike and Brenda at their cabin near Danbury, WI. More friends, Bob and Lynnette also came along for the ride. After puttering around most of the day in the pontoon boat we got down to the serious business of food and wine. Bob and Lynnette made dinner and paired it with one of my favorite summer wines, the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier. The wine is crisp and clean with hints of citrus. It stays fresh on the palette and drinks easy. It was paired with a balsamic and rosemary marinated grilled chicken breast served with brown rice, asparagus and a dinner roll. It was delicious, the dinner was balanced, the flavors were superb and everyone was satisfied. The next day after puttering around in the pontoon boat (do we see a pattern here) we started the cocktail hour at around 5 with a Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle Brut Champagne, a cream cheese/chipoltle sauce appetizer garnished with fresh picked blackberries (Mike picked them minutes before serving) and a chicken and cheese crostini that Brenda whipped together using leftovers. The snacking was great and the champagne was divine. It was clean with a slight hint of lemon, I was sad I only had one bottle. Dinner was a grilled pork tenderloin with a pineapple, chile and lime glaze served with quinoa, brown rice and pineapple. It was paired with Bella Lily Hill Zinfandel. Everything Bella makes is marvelous. It had perfect weight, enough fruit and tannins to linger on the tongue for moments drifting into minutes. The pork was a smash as was the pairing. Dessert was a cabernet ice, this is an old family favorite which is essentially a cabernet sorbet, simple yet delicious. We capped the night off with a glass of Choco Vine which is a red wine mixed with Dutch milk chocolate. It tastes a lot like Baillys. It's very good but I'm sure if one drank too much they would pass on M&Ms for a few weeks. Moderation is the key. Good food, good wine and good friends, do they have that recipe in Betty Crocker?
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Anniversaries happen, I enjoy them. If you spend enough time with a person you kind of get used to them and even start to like them. I pretty much like my wife, she has a million great attributes, one of them being she is great to go out to dinner with. Our anniversary is in early September. The day was gorgeous, the sun was out , there was a pleasant breeze and it wasn't sweltering. We started the evening at Acqua, a new restaurant in White Bear Lake. We had a bruschetta and a small pizza with a glass of Burgans Albarino. I have been loving the albarinos this summer. We sat out on the deck and talked and sipped. A great way to spend an evening. We moved the party to Ursula's for a treat on the deck. We had crab stuffed mushroom caps and an heirloom tomato salad. The tomatoes we have been getting this summer are fabulous. We complemented the food with a bottle of 2002 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet. Nothing but the best. It was beautiful, it didn't take too long to open up and our mouths were treated to rich black cherry and cassis flavors with a hint of smokiness. A perfect wine for a perfect day.