Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kerry's Kale and Ceci Soup

When we had that little cold, wet, dreary spell early in January, Kerry started making this delicious meal in a bowl soup.  And even though the weather has warmed up, we are still eating it weekly!  Ceci is Italian for chickpeas and they featured in many Italian soups.  Here's a link to one I did a few years back too, Pasta e Ceci.

Kale and Ceci Soup
•    Olive oil
•    3 to 4 strips of bacon
•    1 lb of Italian sausage
•    2 cups finely diced yellow onions
•    1 cup finely diced celery
•    1 cup finely diced carrots
•    4 cloves garlic, sliced
•    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
•    1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
•    2 (14-ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed well
•    2 quarts chicken or veg stock, plus extra water if needed
•    2 sprigs rosemary
•    3 sprigs thyme
•    1 sprig oregano
•    Red chili flakes to taste
•    4 cups greens (lightly packed), stems removed and cut into bite size pieces (Lacinta kale, dino kale, Russian kale, beet greens – any combination of)
•    Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated for serving
In a large soup pot fry the bacon until crisp, remove and leave fat in pot. Add a decent splash of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery, carrot and garlic for 5 minutes or until soft.
Meanwhile crumble the sausage and brown in a separate pan.
Season soup pot with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Add the diced tomatoes, then 1-1/2 to 2 cans of the chick peas, and the stock. Using kitchen twine, tie the herbs into a bundle and add to the pot. Season with the red chili flakes. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the kale. Continue cooking until the kale is tender. Add the cooked sausage and all the drippings from the pan – deglaze the pan with a little wine to get all the good stuff. Simmer gently for a few more minutes, taste check for salt and pepper.
Put a handful of cooked pasta (small shells, elbows or similar) into a soup bowl then ladle soup in. Sprinkle with cheese and finish with a dash of olive oil on top.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wine of the Moment: Bodegas Ordonez Nisia Verdejo

When you taste as many wines as we do a week, it is sometimes hard to find one that really grabs you.  It's not that we're tasting bad wines, it's just that the more you taste the more developed your palate becomes and therefore the pickier you get about what you buy. Which for you, our treasured customers, is a good thing because the quality of what you buy at Swirl at any price point has gone through our tried and true scrutiny.  The wine might not always suite your style, but I can promise, except in those rare occasions of an flawed or corked bottle, you'll be drinking a well made wine with its own charm and personality.

The down side of tasting all of these wines per week for me is that it takes a lot to get my attention.  Out of probably close to trying 75 wines per week, only 5-10% of those are considered for the store.  It's not about price, it's about quality for the money; it's not about just being "good" enough, but about over delivering.  And last week there were a few that met that criteria as we are looking for new wines for our wine bar list and were pleasantly surprised.

The Bodegas Ordonez Nisia was one such wine which is currently on our shelves and will have a spot on our new list which will be released on Wednesday.  The wine is a special project by importer Jorge Ordonez, who for the last 25 years has championed Spain, treasure hunting from La Rioja to La Mancha to bring its jewels to the world and especially America. Some criticize him for his new world style wines, a bit homogenized for old world palates, but there are some real gems in his portfolio no matter what your style.

Lately, over the past couple of years, Jorge and his sister, Victoria, have upped their investment by actually purchasing several Spanish estates and taking over every aspect of operations. The 2011 Nisia is the product of Ordonez' newest acquisition, a superb Rueda plantation of old-vines Verdejo just outside the city of Segovia. The harvest is done at night when the temperatures are much cooler than those during the day in September, the typical harvest month in Rueda. The vines used for Nisia are more than 60 years old, and you can taste the quality in this wine. The poor soils here, mostly river stones and sand, and low yields, results in a level of concentration that is seldom experienced in Spanish white wines.  You can buy this little beauty for under $15...what are you waiting for?

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 91 points
The 2011 Nisia is made from 100% old vine Verdejo (the youngest vines were planted in 1942, and others are nearly 100 years of age). The wine is aged sur-lie, and fermented in both stainless steel and large format French oak. It is undeniably one of the finest Verdejos I have ever tasted. Yields were less than three tons of fruit per hectare, which is noticeable in the wine’s old vine intensity. Notions of caramelized white citrus and tropical fruit blossoms along with a naked, natural texture as well as finish make for a terrific dry white with loads of personality and complexity. This beauty sells for an absurdly low price. Enjoy it over the next year.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fondue Recipes and Pairings

We had a wonderful evening on Thursday at the shop with our friends from St. James Cheese for our Fondue and Wine class. PJ Rosenberg from Uncorked poured some really fantastic wines to pair with the cheeses and a good time was had by all!

We were talking last night about how the American fad of fondue in the '70's kind of diminished the importance of this age old tradition in Europe.  Historically the first evidence of the practice is given to a reference in Homer's Illiad regarding a mixture of goat's cheese, flour and wine.  The middle ages in France saw the use of raw meat dipped in hot oil for a quick meal during the busy harvest season and in the18th century the Swiss created the mixture we currently use.  As a wintertime, communal meal, hard aged cheeses would be melted with garlic, wine and herbs while the hardened, stored bread could be softened by dipping into the mixture. And of course it was the Americans who popularized the dessert version where cake and fruit are dipped into melted chocolate!

But what we focused on for our event were more traditional recipes.  So here they are and also listed are the red and white wine pairings that were definitely a hit last night as well.  St. James recommends the Swissmar Fondue Sets which they sell at the their store or you can find them here at Amazon.  All of the cheeses, wines and the kirsch are available at Swirl.

The wine lineup for the evening, the Schoffit Chasselas was amazing!

Traditional Nuchateloise Swiss Fondue
Served with the 2010 Domaine Schoffit Chasselas Vieilles Vignes and the 2011 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais

1-1/2 Cup grated Gruyere or Comte
1-1/2 Cup grated Ementhaler
1/2 Cup grated Vacherin Fribourgeois
2-3 T. of flour
1 garlic clove, halved
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon lemon juice1 dash Trimbach Kirsch (cherry brandy available at swirl)
Salt & fresh pepper to taste
1 pinch nutmeg

Toss the shredded cheeses and flour together in a bowl until thoroughly combined.

Combine the wine and garlic in a 2-quart fondue pot or any flame-proof dish and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes before removing and discarding the garlic.

Lower the heat so the wine barely simmers and add the cheese mixture a handful at a time, stirring constantly with a fork and letting each handful of cheese melt completely before adding another.

When all the cheese has been added and the fondue is smooth, stir in the kirsch, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Place the fondue dish over an alcohol burner in the center of the table and serve with cubed bread. Traditionally, each diner spears a cube of bread with a long fondue fork and dips it in the cheese mixture to coat it completely before eating.

Fondue aficionados know that allowing a crust of burned cheese to form on the bottom of the pot results in a treat which some consider the best part of the meal.

Italian Fondue
Served with the 2011 Caggiano Devon Greco di Tufo and the 2010 Revello Barbera D'Alba
2 T. butter
3/4 Cup whole milk
3 Egg Yolks, lightly beaten
4 oz. Fontina Val D'Aosta, grated or diced
4 oz. Sottocenere al Tatufo, grated or diced

In a bowl whisk together the milk and yokes and stir in the cheese.

Melt the butter in a double boiler set over medium heat

Whisking constantly, slowly add the egg, milk and cheese mixture until it has thickened, 8-10 minutes

Transfer to a warm fondue pot and serve with bread and vegetables

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Wishing you all the Best in 2013

As we locked up the shop last evening, literally closing the door on 2012, I felt a calmness about the coming year that I've not experienced since opening the shop in 2006.  We've had a great year, our best yet in many ways both professionally and personally, and I finally feel like I may be able to stop holding my breath just for a moment and take it all in...Owning a small business, and we are truly a small business, is tough.  You have to wear multiple hats while spinning many plates and juggle standing on one foot.  But both Kerry and I love what we do and we love sharing it with you.  So as I relax in the moment for just a bit before I begin working on an even better 2013, I wanted to take a minute to thank all of you for your support.  Because without you, your sense of adventure, curiosity, and willingness to try something new, Swirl would not exist.

We know you have many places to shop for wine in New Orleans and options seem to be increasing rapidly.  Grocery store chains are beginning to realize that New Orleanians are looking for something other than Yellow Tail and Sutter Home and many energetic entrepreneurs are jumping headfirst into opening small neighborhood retail shops.  We understand how easy it could be to fill your grocery cart with wines while you shop or just pop into the closest place with easy parking.

So for those of you who still enjoy the thrill of discovering a new producer or obscure variety, selected by people who truly care about the products we stock or who like to hear the story behind a particular wine on our shelves or who just like hanging out in the shop enjoying a glass with friends, we thank you.  We thank you for trusting us to make your selections, for sharing your company and for supporting us through the years.  And for those of you who haven't been in the shop in a while for some reason or another, come by.  You'll always get the same warm greeting, thoughtful help and quality wine whether you are spending $10 or $100.

Cheers to you, and here's hoping you have the happiest year of your life ahead!


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