Creamy Asparagus Soup

Food: Asparagus Soup is one of our favorite recipes from Salute to Healthy Cooking. Since it freezes perfectly, we make big batchs in the spring to enjoy all year long.  Enhanced with the addition of a swirl of Boursin cheese and Finn Crisp with melted Swiss cheese, it is delicious and even low in calories.

Asparagus soup w: Dutcher Chardonnay One and a half pounds asparagus                                             ½ c onion, roughly chopped            1 cup potato in 1″ dice                                                               5 cups chicken stock                                4 oz raw chicken breast cut into 4 pieces                                 salt & pepper                                         per serving:             1 and ½ tsp Boursin cheese                   4 pieces of Finn Crisp crackers               1 ½ oz Swiss cheese [1 deli slice]

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and cut spears roughly in half. Pour the chicken stock into a sauce pan. Add the onion and asparagus. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables so that it will steam/poach while the asparagus is cooking. Bring the liquid to a simmer and put on a lid. Remove the chicken when it is cooked and put it in the blender. When the vegetables are cooked, remove them from the stock and put in the blender. Cook the potato in the pot and cook until soft. Pour the stock and the potatoes into the blender with evrything else. Blend until smooth. Return to the pan and season to taste. Cool and divide into 6 portions to serve or freeze.                                                                                                                                   Put 1.5 tsp Boursin in the center of the hot bowl of soup and swirl it around to mix slightly.   Cut the slice of cheese into 4 strips, 4” x 2”, and put a portion on each cracker. Warm in the oven until cheese melts.

Wine: 2013 Dutcher Crossing Chardonnay (Costello Vineyard)

Dutcher Crossing has long been one of our favorite wineries. We visited them on an extended drive through Sonoma County a few years back. Their winery is located in the beautiful Dry Creek Valley, though they have vineyards in several areas of Sonoma. Their chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and zinfandel are all excellent. This particular chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the nearby Alexander Valley.

Dutcher Costello Vinyard Chardonnay, 2013

Tasting notes: A lovely melon and honeysuckle fragrance is detected on the nose. Gentle flavors  of tropical fruits (notably pineapple) and peach highlight the palate and finish. A light touch of oak and some bright acidity help provide a nice balance to the flavorful fruit. ‘The natural cooling provided by the high elevation of this Costello vineyard on the Alexander Valley’s eastern slopes provides an ideal climate for chardonnay.  Asparagus can be a challenging food to pair with the right wine, but this wine compliments perfectly the delicate flavors of the asparagus soup.

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A source: One can purchase this wine directly from Dutcher Crossing at their website


Baked Halibut with Cheese Sauce and Sancerre

Food: Halibut filets are great by themselves. Topping them with a Welsh Rabbit cheese sauce kicks it up a notch. The fish is topped with the sauce then baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes/half-inch of thickness. Halibut w: Welsh Rabbit & Clos de los Siete

Wine: Joseph Mellot Sancerre La Chatellenie 2009. Sancerre is one of the signature wines from the Loire Valley region of France. It is made from the sauvignon blanc grape and many believe that Sancerre is the standard against which all sauvignon blanc should be measured. It is a wine that not only pairs well with a variety of foods [especially seafood] but is a delight to drink on its own. Although Sancerre is usually a sharp, focused, dry wine, a very gentle hint of sweetness softens this particular wine and compliments well the cheese sauce used in this dish. (Sorry … no picture of this wine)

Tasting notes: On the nose, one gets a wonderful amalgam of tropical fruits, but one can notice pineapple particularly. One can also detect the unusual aroma of boxwood. The lovely tropical fruit flavors persist on the palette, and combine nicely with a light touch of gunflint [which comes from the chalk/ limestone soils in which the grapes are grown].

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This is an excellent website that provides extensive information on the wine and on the Loire Valley region.

Bangers and Mash with a California GSM

Food: Bangers and Mash is a simple, country dish from England. What could be heartier or easier than sausage, gravy, mashed potatoes, and a green vegetable?  How interesting that a quintessentially English dish should pair so well with a wine originally from the Southern Rhone region of France, or, in this case, from the Central Coast of California.

Bangers & mash w: The Offering

Wine: 2009 The Offering from Sans Liege.  A typical Southern Rhone-style red wine  is a combination of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre, hence the nickname ‘GSM’. A GSM from California is cleverly referred to as a “Rhone Ranger.” This California wine made by Sans Liege is from Santa Maria in the Central Coast region. It is composed of:

42% Grenache, 31% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre, and 2% Viognier

The Offering, GSMV

Tasting notes: On the nose, one detects cherry and raspberry fruit leather. The palate reveals a refined fruitiness. ‘Hedgerow jam’ might be the best description of the flavor of this GSM. Mellow and round, lush and delicious.

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A source: Brown and Company, Portland, ME

Mom’s Favorite

Food: Mom’s Lamb Shanks & Spaghetti paired with Clos de los Siete

This was one of my mother’s very favorite dishes, long-simmered in her cast aluminum stew pot, the delightful smells of cooking lamb permeating the kitchen. Two or three lamb shanks are browned in a large pan, then simmered with tomato juice, sauteed green pepper and onion, and seasoned with chili powder, salt and pepper. Two or three hours should be long enough for the meat to just fall off the bones. Thicken the sauce if needed, add the deboned meat, and serve over spaghetti. Delicious!Lamb shanks & Spaghetti

Wine: 2009 Michel Rolland Clos de los Siete. The Clos de los Siete is a wonderful, rich, blended wine from the Mendoza region of Argentina. The grape varieties that comprise this blend are some of the signature varieties that bring fame to this wine-producing region. The composition of the wine is

57% Malbec, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Syrah, and 3% Petit Verdot

Any one of these varieties taken by itself can be a lovely match for lamb. Taken together, you get a heavenly combination particularly for this dish. The leftover wine will pair nicely with our Fore Street pizza, made with blue cheese, leeks and chantrelles.Clos de los Siete

Tasting Notes: On the nose, one gets a palette of mixed berries with blackberry shining as the most prominent. One can also catch a pleasant hint of cigar box in the aroma. The wine has a round and unified taste that, like good French food, is difficult to discern any particular flavors, but taken together tastes wonderful. Blackberry, cedar and hints of spice are recognizable when enjoying it with the lamb.

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Seafood Chowder with Robert Oatley Chardonnay

Food: Seafood Chowder has been a family favorite here for decades. Since one batch makes many servings, it is our habit to serve it multiple times throughout the year, usually around holidays. Nothing could be easier than taking dinner out of the freezer, which leaves time to do more necessary things than cooking. This incredibly rich and flavorful soup is made wih a one and ½ pound lobster, two pounds of clams, a pound of shrimp, and a pound of scallops. For complete directions, see March 27, 2016 “After Easter.”

Seafood Chowder

Wine: 2013 Robert Oatley Chardonnay from the Margaret River area of western Australia. This region is home to some of the finest Chardonnays made anywhere in the world. It’s also fun sampling wines that are made from locales that are about as far away as one can get on planet earth. Chardonnay is a perfect pairing for a range of different seafoods and ideal to drink with this chowder made from several different shellfish.

Robert Oatley Chardonnay

We finished off the bottle the following evening pairing this Chardonnay with crepes stuffed with asparagus and ham in a Gruyère-béchamel sauce. Yum!

Tasting Notes: A bright, mid-weight wine that is only gently oaked to retain the honest flavors of the Chardonnay grape. A lovely fragrance of melon tickles the nose, while melon and white peach is prevalent on both the palate and on the finish. A very pleasant and drinkable wine paired with food or just for sipping on its own. Easy on the wallet, too. ($15)

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