Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wine of the Moment, 2007 Foradori Granato

If obscure Italian grape varieties, produced organically by a superstar female winemaker, that combine elegance, finesse, power and purity, sound interesting to you, then I've got the perfect bottle.  The grape is Teroldego (ter-ROHL-dego) and the winemaker is Elizabetta Foradori. 

Located in the Dolomite mountains of Trentino, Foradori is single-handedly credited with restoring one of Italy's ancient treasures to its former glory, even surpassing it.  Through tireless dedication, skillful cultivation and back-breaking hard work she has brought Teroldego from obscurity to the lips of Sommeliers and wine-store owners across the globe.

 The grape is only grown in Trentino, and the best appellation is Campo Rotaliano, were Foradori's vineyards are located.  Genetically linked to Syrah and Lagrein, Teroldego can be easily overcropped to produce bright, fresh, balanced, fruity wines to be drunk young. But its personality is transformed if yield is restricted, when it offers lush, concentrated dark stone fruit and black cherry flavors and aromas offset by smoke, herb and bitter almond notes. It is marked by a particularly fine acidic balance and complexity, and restrained oak contact rounds out its structure.

I am so excited to not only have this wine in the shop, but to have it available in half bottles at the bar or to take home!  Come check it out as well as other great quality selections from our half bottle list.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 2007 Foradori Granato, 94 points:  "Ripe, silky tannins caress the palate as the 2007 Granato emerges from the glass. Crushed, flowers, raspberries and spices meld together beautifully in this mid-weight, gracious Granato. Today the aromas and flavors are quite primary, but the wine should harmonize to a greater extent with another year or two in bottle. Subtle notes of oak linger on the elegant, polished finish. This is another superb Granato from Elisabetta Foradori."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Palmento Event, Celebrating the Wine and Food of Sicilia

“I went to Sicily in the winter of 2008 to explore and write about an emerging wine scene. What I discovered in more than a year of travels to the island was more than a fascinating, teeming wine frontier; I found something close to my own heartbeat.” 
Robert Camuto

Most of you who read my blog or make regular visits to the shop know that I am enamored with the wine, food and culture of southern Italy and particularly that of the island of Sicily.  I've been writing about Sicily, especially the Mount Etna region for over 2 years now.  At the time there was not one wine from the Etna available in New Orleans.  But now through the help of a few daring wholesalers, especially Matt Lirette, I can pick and choose from many whites, reds and roses from an area that I feel is one of the most exciting up-and-coming wine regions on the planet, period.

So you can imagine how excited I was when Robert Camuto, author of Palmento, a Sicilian Wine Odyssey, contacted me about making New Orleans part of his national book tour and if we would be interested in doing an event around his visit.  Knowing what a huge Sicilian population resides in our food and drink obsessed city, I told him we were very interested and that I thought he would be well received.  And then the wheels started turning, how could we present an event that best compliments the book?  Sure we could do a wine tasting and book signing at the shop, but we would be missing an extremely important element of Sicilian culture....here's how things have come together:

The star of the show, of course, will be Robert Camuto, who will do a short presentation on his book as well as sign copies that will be available for purchase that evening.  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading Palmento and how it transported me back to that wonderful two weeks we spent visiting most of the producers that he speaks of in the book.  From the slopes of Mount Etna to the shores of Marsala and the island of Pantelleria, Robert takes you on a wonderful journey introducing you to the current players, some new and some whose families have been there for generations, but who all have important roles in this exciting, constantly evolving wine scene.  Robert is a writer who appreciates wine, not a critic, and his book explores the very human elements that effect what is your glass.  He shows you how family, relationships, food, history and wine are all intricately entwined in a uniquely Sicilian way, creating a culture that is unlike any other.

Kerry and me with Chiara Planeta
Now onto the rest of the event...So of course my first phone call was to chef Josh Smith at a Mano, because no Italian wine event is complete without regional foods to pair, and there is no better place in the city than a Mano to do something focused on southern Italy.  Josh too was very excited, and we decided we wanted to do something different the traditional sit down dinner approach.  We also wanted to make it affordable and expose as many people as we could to the amazing wines and foods of Sicilia, keep it fun and create many different pairing opportunities.  So we are presenting the event in more of a "walk about" style where you will move from station to station and sample a unique wine and food pairing at each one; twelve wines, twelve traditional Sicilian dishes from all over the island.

Tasting with Frank Cornelissen on the Etna
As in Robert's book, we wanted to represent the small artisan producers as well as the more internationally know icons of the industry.  So my next two phone calls were to the wholesalers in the area whose portfolios best suit those parameters, Antonio Molesini from Republic National Beverage and Matt Lirette of Lirette Selections.  When I told them the premise behind the event, both were excited to be involved and we began pouring over portfolios to select the best wines to represent the island of Sicily, and let me tell you that narrowing it down to 12 wines was a difficult task!

Tasting Marsala with Renato De Bartoli
But the list is now in chef Josh's hands and I am anxiously awaiting his menu ideas to pair with the wines.  Antonio and company will be representing the international stars of Planeta, Donnafugata and Feudo Maccari while Lirette Selections will focus on the small offerings from Frank Cornelissen, Occhipinti and Pietradolce.   I can't wait to see it all come together, and hope that you will consider joining us to meet Robert and celebrate the wine, food and culture of Sicilia!

Event details:
March 20th, 5-7pm
a Mano, 870 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Palmento will be available for purchase at the event.
Call 504.304.0635 for reservations, prepayment is required.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Meatballs, Mezzogiorno Style

I am a huge fan of the wine and food from Southern Italy, hence my love of a Mano in the warehouse district, and am always searching for new wines, cookbooks and recipes from the region.  One of the most complete books I have come upon that takes an in depth look at both the cucina povera (humble cooking) style of food and the wacky indigenous grape varieties is the A16 Food + Wine from one of San Francisco's most popular restaurants.  Former chef Nate Appleman and wine director Shelly Lindgren have put together a wonderful resource that is part cookbook and part textbook, beautifully written and with stunning photographs of Italy, the restaurant and some of the cooking methods.  I did a quick post on it last year when I first got the book, but this week I made one of the recipes that I've been eying since I bought it.

Meatballs anyone? How can you not love a meatball, the traditional start to the Sunday dinner in most Italian families?  However in Italy, meatballs are rarely served as we do atop a heaping pile of spaghetti covered in a rich tomato sauce.  Throughout most of Italy meatballs (polpette) are usually served as a second course without toppings or sauce, with the exception of southern Italy where a variation is prepared in tomato sauce but is a main course without pasta as in the recipe below.

 What intrigued me about the A16 description of their meatballs was the light texture due to the higher bread content that is prevalent in recipes from the Mezzogiorno (southern Italy).  More bread means less meat and less expense, hence cucina povera, and it the case of this recipes a deliciously light, airy meatball.  With the added bread they are a meal in themselves, but I have to say I deviated from the recipe in that I did serve them over a little angel hair pasta...

Besides the fact that my mouth watered every time I looked at the recipe, I also wanted to try out the meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aide mixer that I have to say performed beautifully.  But if you use a meat grinder be sure to read the instructions for your equipment on grinding meat and bread, as they will tell you the proper methods and speeds to get the best results.

I only deviated from the recipe once (besides the addition of pasta...) and that was in the amount of salt I used.  The pork fat I got was from Whole Foods and the label on the package saild "salt pork"  so I decreased the amount of salt to 2 tsp instead of a tablespoon and only added 1 tsp to the tomato mixture.  I'll note this in the ingredient list to remind you.  There will be a point in the recipe where you can adjust if you feel you need more salt.

The result was nothing short of fabulous! The texture was incredible and nothing like any meatballs I've ever had.  It does take some time though to grind every thing if you do as I did, but it was SO worth the effort!

I so wanted to drink the recommend wine, and Aglianico from Campagnia, but was too lazy to go to the shop and get a bottle.  So we settled for the most amazing bottle of the Conterno Fantino Mon Pra, a super Piemontese blend of Cabernet, Nebbiolo and Barbera that blew us away.  Not cheap, but definitely one of those bottles I'd like to have again and again...But we do have a wonderful Aglianico from Bisceglia in stock that would pair beautifully at $16.99.

Ok, so on to the recipe.  Take your time and have fun with this, you will thoroughly enjoy what comes out of the oven.  But don't cut corners with ingredients and sub low fat milk for whole milk or leave out the pork fat as one blogger did with not so good results!  It's a meatball!

A16's Monday Meatballs
Makes 28 to 30
-10 ounces boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-10 ounces beef chuck, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-6 ounces day-old country bread, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-2 ounces pork fat, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-2 ounces prosciutto, chilled in the freezer for 15 minutes, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-1 cup loosely packed, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
-**1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided **(I used 2 teaspoons plus 1 teaspoon)
-2 teaspoons dried oregano
-1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
-1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
-2/3 cup fresh whole milk ricotta, drained if necessary (if sitting in whey, drain overnight in cheesecloth)
-3 eggs, lightly beaten
-1/4 cup whole milk
-1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes with juice
-Handful of fresh basil leaves
-Block of grana padana for grating
-Best-quality olive oil for finishing

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread, pork fat, prosciutto, parsley, 2 teaspoons salt, oregano, fennel seeds and chile flakes and mix with your hands just until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs and milk just enough to break up any large curds of ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the ground meat mixture and mix lightly with your hands just until incorporated. The mixture should feel wet and tacky. Pinch off a small piece, flatten it into a disk, and cook it in a small sauté pan. Taste and adjust the mixture’s seasoning with salt, if needed. Do this, it will help you determine the correct amount of salt

3. Form the mixture into 1 1/2 -inch balls, each weighing about 2 ounces, and place on the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 30 meatballs.

4. Bake, rotating the sheets once from front to back, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the meatballs are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees. (At this point you can continue with the recipe or after they've cooled, refrigerate meatballs for up to 2 days or freeze and thaw completely before starting the next step)

5. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining salt, and then pass the tomatoes and their juices through a food mill fitted with the medium plate. Alternatively, put the entire can of tomatoes and salt in a large bowl, don an apron and squeeze the tomatoes into small pieces with your hands.

6. Pack the meatballs into 1 large roasting pan or 2 smaller roasting pans. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and braise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the tomato sauce.

7. Remove the pans from the oven and uncover. Distribute the basil leaves throughout the sauce.

8. For each serving, ladle the meatballs with some of the sauce into a warmed bowl. Grate the grana over the top, drizzle with olive oil to finish and serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!

Under the Radar Wines

Here's my latest on wines in the store right now that I think are really interesting, with distinct personalities that you should know about.  These aren't expensive, none of them are even rated by any of the industry mags, but just really good solid wines with a sense of place that deliver a lot for the money.

2009 Cuvelier Cuvee Maule - Hands down one of the most interesting, complex, unusual and absolutely tantalizing wines I've tasted in a while, and especially at this price point.  You find something different every time you put your nose in the glass and the palate just keeps you coming back for more and more...Made in Chile by Baptiste Cuvelier (whose family just happens to own Chateau Leoville Poyferre in Bordeaux...), one of many French winemakers enjoying the freedom that comes with making wine in South America.  The 2010 earthquake in Chile destroyed much of what was in barrels from the 2009 vintage, forcing Baptiste to make an unusual blend of the undamaged wine.  And what a blend it is!  Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, Carignan, Cinsault and Pais are all blended to create a pure, dense, rich and incredibly balanced wine with spicy red and black fruits, herbs and fresh mint.  All organic fruit and natural wine making techniques, this is a stellar wine at twice the price, but at $17.99 a bottle...what can I say.  I tasted this with Baptiste last month in the shop and was extremely impressed with all of the wines, but this was the standout and a new favorite!

2009 Taburno Falanghina - If I had to pick a white in the shop that I could drink over and over again and not get bored (which is difficult for me...) this would be the wine.  Made in Campagnia near the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, the mineral ridden volcanic soils at 1,000 foot elevation produce a delightful Falanghina.  This grape is native to southern Italy and provides the perfect accompaniment to light meals or just by the glass sitting on the porch! Crisp and fruity, this is an absolutely delicious wine! The falanghina grape can be tasted in perfect purity, with notes of almond blossom, lemon, and fresh nectarine. Refreshing, clean, perfect!  $17.50

2009 Delas Freres Cotes du Ventoux - One of my favorites on the cheap and tasty rack, this red has a level of intensity and richness well beyond what one can usually find at $10!  The Ventoux is a sub appellation of the Rhone and produces wines of the same varieties, this being 80% Grenach and 20% Syrah.  It's got loads of texture and density, red and black fruits, with a bit of an olivey note and soft, velvety tannins.  Great with cheeses, light meat dishes and would really shine with a grilled pork loin!


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