Posts for December 1st 2010
Sparkling wine's rarely inappropriate for an occasion, but there's also hardly a time more fitting to drink it than during the holidays. For a particularly memorable gift, I'll occasionally indulge friends in an over-the-top bottle of bubbly, but with all the festivities that go down between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I typically turn to wines with value.
Overall, American bubbly offers more bank for your buck than French champagnes, and among West Coast sparkling wines, one can hardly get a better value than with Schramsberg. Vintage bubbly is less common and more expensive, but this wine house offers a reasonably-priced selection. Sommelier Eugenio Jardim recently turned me on to the 2006 Rosé ($30).
The blush-tinted bubbly is one of the few left to be hand-riddled in production, and it has a bright, yeasty nose that conjures images of the season's best harvest — apples, pears, cranberries. Like Jardim said, it'd be ideal with Winter squash soup — but it's great alone, too. What are your picks for sparkling wines with value?
Despite well-timed seasonal drink promotions at nationwide coffee chains, I couldn't help but notice that Winter beverages are looking less-than-creative this year. Now that peppermint mochas and pumpkin spice lattes are household phrases, what's the new flavor of the month?
New couple Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal might have the answer: maple lattes. In the past week, the two have been spotted at beaneries across the country, sampling versions of maple coffee drinks in Brooklyn, NY, and two Nashville, TN, coffeehouses.
Although a latte with maple flavoring made the rounds in the Northeast and Canada as recently as five years ago, it's not been seen at mainstream coffee chains in recent times, despite scattered campaigns to bring it back. Given the trend of the tree sap in tipples, could Taylor and Jake single-handedly push Grade B maple syrup back into the coffee mainstream?
Source: Flickr User karine*imagine
- ABC is developing Family Owned, a food truck sitcom.
- ABC is developing Family Owned, a food truck sitcom. — Eater
- San Francisco's "best year for restaurant openings" may overshadow old standbys. — Grub Street SF
- Shipping cookies: how to do it right this holiday. — Chow
- Is it kosher to ditch a restaurant before ordering? — Inside Scoop SF
- Marketing sham? Wendy's revamped fries are virtually the same. — Serious Eats
- Simple truths about salt, straight from a Portland selmilier. — The Kitchn
- Chef Susur Lee rethinks the sequence of the Western meal. — Huffington Post Food
- The ultimate Top Chef Power Index.— The Stew
When serving a large crowd on a special occasion, I recommend making at least one casserole-style dish that can be prepped in advance and baked while the party gets going. Lasagna and macaroni and cheese are great ideas, but if you want something a little more unexpected, make the Barefoot Contessa's Conchiglie al Forno, or baked pasta shells with mushrooms and radicchio. It's a rich, hearty, and wintry dish that's flavored with cream, four types of cheese, and fresh sage. If you don't normally use radicchio as an ingredient, this recipe is perfect for a first-time experimentation. The salty cheese and woodsy sage offset the bitterness of the purple chicory. Ready for the excellent recipe? Keep reading.
From Ina Garten
Conchiglie al Forno With Mushrooms and Radicchio
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (2 medium heads) finely shredded radicchio
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup coarsely shredded fontina (1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola (3 ounces)
2 teaspoons ricotta
6 leaves fresh sage, chopped (see note)
1 pound imported conchiglie rigate (pasta shells)
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
- Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot.
- Remove the stems from the mushrooms and reserve for another use. Slice the mushroom caps about 1/4-inch thick. Heat 6 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet; add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the mushrooms, radicchio, cream, cheeses, sage, and remaining salt.
- Parboil the pasta shells for 4 minutes; drain and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Toss to combine.
- Divide the pasta mixture among 6 to 8 individual, shallow, ceramic gratin dishes (1 1/2 to 2 cup capacity). Alternately, pour the entire mixture into a 9x13 inch baking pan. Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and bake until bubbly and brown on top, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Note: In the absence of fresh sage, do not substitute dried. As a substitute, choose one of the following: 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh tarragon OR 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves OR 8 leaves fresh rosemary OR 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed.
It's the most wonderful time of the year: the holiday season! Between edible gift making, Christmas cookie baking, and cocktail party hosting, we've got an incredibly busy 31 days ahead of us. However, that doesn't mean we won't treat ourselves and our loved ones to some culinary decadence. Of course, we're happy to share our foodie obsessions with you! Here are our must haves for December.
If you need a cocktail idea for a holiday party, birthday celebration, or other fun gathering, here's a delicious drink that is great for large groups: sparkling Rosé punch! Besides a sparkling Rosé, you'll need St. Germain elderflower liqueur, club soda, lemon juice, and sugar. Watch our video that we shot at Hip Cooks to learn how to make this crowd-pleasing punch!
Bravo's cooking reality show Top Chef has issued the ultimate challenge with its latest season: it's the battle of the best! Top Chef All-Stars premieres tonight with a roster of 18 former cheftestants (see Yum's predictions here), including notable runners up like Richard Blais and Jamie Lauren, plus notorious villains like Marcel Vigneron and Stephen Asprinio.
I've been a longtime Top Chef viewer, so I'm inordinately more excited to see these contestants of seasons past compete again. Stephen and Jamie are two of my favorites, though I wonder who else I would have cast as an all-star if it had been up to me. Who are your all-time favorite Top Chef contestants?
Photo courtesy of Bravo