A Lord of the Rings Celebration … with Sam’s Rabbit Stew

Pairing:  Samwise Gamgee’s Rabbit Stew paired with 2007 Barolo Rocche Costamagna Rocche dell-Annunziata

Background:  March 25 is a day of very special significance in the history of Middle Earth. It is the day the One Ring is destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom as told by J.R.R. Tolkien in his epic literary masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). This is a special book to our entire family … we’ve each read it multiple times, individually and together as a family.  So, we celebrate the book every year on this most important day in Middle Earth, March 25. We celebrate it by creating a meal composed of foods described in various parts of the story.

Lord of the Rings Books

Food:  This is a meal that Samwise Gamgee made for his master, Frodo Baggins, in Ithilien on the border of the Dark Lord’s fortress lands of Mordor. Their guide (and sympathetic villain), Gollum, has brought Sam a couple of freshly killed “conies” and Sam asks if he might go find him some “taters” for the stew. “What’s taters, precious?” is Gollum’s response. Sam never gets his taters, but we’ve added them to our stewing rabbit, along with some simple seasoning (salt, pepper, crushed herbs). Sam would be pleased. Sam and Frodo carried dried fruit and elvish honey cakes called “lembas” on their perilous journey to Mordor, so we’ve added them to the meal. Our version of lembas is a recipe for Lebkuchen that we make at Christmastime. We save out some of the cookies, unglazed, then freeze for eating at our LOTR meal.

LOTR Rabbit Stew

Wine:  Sam and Frodo didn’t drink any wine with this meal, but surely would have enjoyed this extraordinary Barolo to complement the rabbit and dried fruit. Barolo is a prized red wine made from the Nebbiolo grape grown in the Piedmont wine region of northwestern Italy. Some would say that this picturesque Piedmont area of Italy, surrounded on three sides by the Alps, is home to the finest wines and cuisine in all of Italy. And Barolo is the king of wines.

Barolo LOTR

Tasting Notes:  This pale ruby, almost transparent, red wine has a bouquet of red cherry, blueberry, and a hint of fig, combined with some more assertive tobacco and leather aromas. The palate wonderfully balances pleasant tannins with wild cherry, blueberry and leather. The wild cherry lingers on the long, long finish. A perfect complement to the simple flavors of the rabbit and dried fruits (apples, apricots, and cherries), and even the honey cakes. Very special.

Other Foods That Pair Well with This Barolo:  Truffles (or dishes made with truffle oil), Game (e.g., Venison), Beef (Braised or Stewed), Lamb Shanks, Mushroom Risotto.

Other Wines That Pair Well with Rabbit Stew:  Barbaresco, Bandol, Pinot Grig (Alsace) Chateauneuf-du-Pape (white or red).

Read About:  http://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-barolo

A Source:  www.wine.com


Shrimp Arrabbiata … Paired with a Beautiful Verdicchio

Pairing:  Shrimp Arrabbiata Paired with 2012 Monasesca Verdicchio di Materica Riserva

Food:  This recipe is adapted from Artist’s Arrabbiata with the addition of shrimp to this light, but spicy, tomato pasta. Arrabbiata means “angry” in Italian, or spicy when describing this dish. Pancetta, garlic, red pepper flakes, and Romano cheese … all classic ingredients that contribute to the spiciness. But, the shrimp cools down the heat a bit.

Shrimp Arrabbiata

Wine:  Red or white? This is often a relatively easy question to answer when selecting a wine to pair with a meal. Most seafood or vegetable dishes pair best with a white wine, while meat or pasta in a rich tomato sauce go nicely with a red wine. And some foods (eg., roast chicken or pork) go well with either a red or a white. Obviously, there are many exceptions to these generalizations, but you usually can’t go wrong with these pairings. However … what do you do with a dish like this shrimp arrabbiata that combines delicately flavored shrimp and a more assertive tomato sauce with pasta? One could overpower the shrimp with a red wine or overwhelm a white wine with a rich tomato sauce. This was my dilemma when considering a food/wine pairing for this dish. The tomato sauce is not really made with a long, slow cooking that would intensify the tomato flavor. Rather this recipe calls for a low simmer for only about 15 minutes. This results in a lighter, fresher tomato taste which suits both the delicate shrimp and a pairing with a crisp, flavorful Italian white … Verdicchio. Perfecto!

Verdicchio Di MatelicaJPG

Tasting Notes:  Ah … the wonderful fragrance of honeysuckle in full bloom … light and sweet smelling. Along with the intoxicating aroma of fresh, ripe cantaloupe. That sweet cantaloupe taste fills your mouth with a wonderful counterpoint to the spicy tomato sauce as well as a lovely complement to the shrimp. There’s even a hint of clementine on the finish. A delightful wine and a nice pairing for this shrimp arrabbiata.

Other Foods That Pair Well with Verdicchio:  Grilled Seafood, Pasta with a Creamy Sauce, White Fish, Scallops

Other Wines That Pair Well with Shrimp:  Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), Chardonnay (Italian), Chablis, Dry Riesling (Alsace)

Read About:  http://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-verdicchio+di+matelica

A Source:   www.klwines.com

Mom’s Tuna Casserole … Dressed Up with Fresh Ingredients and White Burgundy

Pairing:  Tuna Casserole (version 2.0) paired with a 2011 Jacques Bavard Saint-Romain

Food:  Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I remember a staple of Friday night dinners was tuna casserole. Garrison Keillor’s stories are laced with anecdotes about bringing tuna casseroles to church suppers. The formula for making it usually consists of a can of concentrated Cream of Mushroom soup (Campbell’s of course), a couple of cans of tuna, a generous Tbs or 2 of Old Bay Seasoning, some form of cooked noodles or pasta, and a heavy dusting of fine bread crumbs and grated cheese. Assembled and baked at 400F until golden brown and bubbling on the edges. Still a fine, tasty and quick meal. (Version 2.0) takes it up a few notches and takes a little longer to prepare. Instead of the canned soup, make a simple béchamel sauce and combine it was sautéed, sliced fresh mushrooms. In place of the canned tuna, take a fresh tuna steak (about 6 oz.), cube it (1/2 in. cubes), pan sear the cubes, and mix it into the sauce with the Old Bay Seasoning and noodles. Same crumbs and parmesan cheese topping. Bake until golden and bubbly on edges. Viola!

Tuna Casserole

Wine:  It is fair to say that the word, Burgundy, is probably one of the most widely known wine terms in the world of wine. Yet, only the hearts of true oenophiles skip a beat when thoughts turn to Burgundy. This relatively small wine region in east-central France is where arguably the world’s finest, most exclusive wines are made (though vintners in Bordeaux may take exception to that claim). One often hears of the extraordinary (and expensive) wines of the Cote de Beaune sub-region of Burgundy where one finds some of the rarest and best white wines on the planet. These wines often have the word Montrachet as part of their name. However, there are some quiet backwaters tucked into the remote hills and valleys of this area that produce some very flavorful Chardonnays (all whites in Burgundy are Chardonnays) at very reasonable prices. Saint-Romain is one of these places.  A charming place we were lucky enough to stay in for a few days during our first visit to Burgundy.


Tasting Notes:  The bouquet of this pale gold wine is of apple blossoms, green apples and hints of citrus. On the palate one gets Granny Smith apples and honeysuckle. A very pleasant, drinkable white wine by itself or as an accompaniment to food. Flavors are a nice complement to the tuna, mushrooms and the mace and nutmeg added to the béchamel sauce. A real treat.

Other Food That Pairs Well with Saint Romain:  White Fish (Grilled, Roasted), Roast Chicken,  Oysters, Lobster, Trout

Other Wines That Pair Well with Tuna Casserole:  Unoaked Chardonnay, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir,  Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand or California), Dry Riesling (Australia)

Read About:  http://winefolly.com/review/white-burgundy-tasting-pairing-and-french-chardonnay/

A Source:  www.klwines.com

Leftover Pheasant … with a Shiraz from Western Australia

Pairing:  Pheasant and Wild Mushrooms paired with 2011 Frankland Estate Rocky Gully Shiraz

Food:  It’s nearing the dining time. Well … time to dive into the freezer to see what delectable leftovers we can uncover. Ah … some leftover roast pheasant (doesn’t everyone have that buried in their freezer?) and a bag of assorted wild mushrooms gathered late last summer  (chanterelles, fairy ring mushrooms, meadow mushrooms). Yum … surely there is something to be done with such special ingredients. Sauté the thawed, partially cooked mushrooms in some butter, add a little red wine (the wine we are drinking, of course) and brown stock/ sauce/ gravy. Cook down until the desired consistency. Warm the boneless pieces of the pheasant in the sauce, season with salt and pepper, and pour it all over some noodles. Perfect!  Wine?  Hmmm …

Leftover Pheasant over Noodles

Wine:  When we think of Shiraz, our thoughts frequently go to Australia … often to the Barossa Valley region of South Australia. But … not today. We’re going to travel further west on that beautiful continent, about a thousand miles, to the appropriately named Western Australia. Those clever Aussies! Clever indeed to grow their beloved Shiraz grapes in a wine region known more for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling. The Frankland Estate winery is located near the Frankland River about 50 miles inland from the ocean, giving a Mediterranean-type climate to the area. The making of their Rocky Gully Shiraz follows the principles born in the Northern Rhone region of France, where winemakers add a teeny bit (about 5%) of white Viognier wine to the red Syrah (what they call Shiraz) to make their renowned Hermitage wine. So, Rocky Gully tastes a lot like Hermitage, but way less inexpensive (about $15).

Rocky Gully Shuraz

Tasting Notes:  You’re standing by the stove making a black currant/ black cherry jam. The kitchen takes on the aromas of the cooking  jam. That’s the nose of this deep, dark reddish-purple wine. Dip a spoon into the cooling jam and taste it. That black currant and black cherry jam is the dominant flavor you get on the palate … along with a touch of pepper. What a nice warm sensation you get in your mouth as you sip this wine. And what a nice lingering finish … delicious!

Other Food that Pairs Well with This Shiraz:  Venison, Duck, Mushrooms, Grilled Sausage, Barbecue Ribs

Other Wine that Pairs Well with Pheasant: Red Bordeaux (Saint-Émilion), Red Burgundy, Pinot Noir (Oregon), Chardonnay (big and oaky from California), Barolo

Read About:  http://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-frankland+river

A Source:  www.wine.com


It’s Mardi Gras … time for a spicy, meaty Jambalaya paired with a cool,crisp SB

Pairing:  Jambalaya and 2013 Sea Fog Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley

Food:  Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a really big deal … parades, floats, costumes, revelry … and food (and drink!) and lots (excess?) of it! This “Carnival” is celebrated in places throughout the world and held on the day before the start of the liturgical season Lent leading up to Easter. Lent is a time observed, in part, by fasting and denying oneself of favorite foods and beverages. So, Mardi Gras/ Carnival is a last chance to consume such favorites, including meat. Jambalaya is one of the most common food traditions during Mardi Gras. Basically it is rice and vegetables flavored with Cajun spices with one or more meats added to it, usually some combination of chicken, ham, andouille sausage, and shrimp. We use all four (gotta get that meat in before Lent!).


Wine:  When one is talking about the Napa Valley wine region just north of San Francisco Bay, the topic is usually the famed Cabernet Sauvignon. And rightfully so … the Cabs here are often the benchmark for the world’s most popular red wine. But, Napa is a great place for growing other wine grapes. Sauvignon Blanc is one of those varieties that often gets overlooked among the vast expanse of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. Sea-Fog Sauvignon Blanc is made by The Grade Cellars in the Calistoga district in the northern part of Napa. Calistoga is noted for, among other things, its hot springs and spas.


Tasting Notes:  OK … imagine yourself on a breezy day in June, out by the clothesline with the dry sheets billowing in the breeze. Your nose presses up against the sheets as you take them down off the line … and a clean, fresh smell caresses your senses. Nearby, the honeysuckle is in full bloom and you get the lovely honey-scented fragrance of them on the breeze. That’s the best way to describe the nose of this utterly delightful golden yellow wine. The palate extends these clean, crisp qualities added to the gentle flavors of green melon and white flowers. These clean, fresh tastes are a perfect foil to the spicy Jambalaya. Wonderful pairing, but this wine is great, too, all by itself.

Other Wines That Pair Well with Jambalaya:  Pinot Grigio (Italy), Albarino (Spain), Sancerre (France), Chenin Blanc (South Africa)

Other Foods That Pair Well with Sauvignon Blanc:  Fried Chicken, Grilled Shellfish, Raw Oysters, Raw Tomatoes (to name just a few foods that go well with this food-friendly wine)

Read About:  https://napavintners.com

A Source:  www.wine.com