Mussels With Fettuccini, Morels, and Asparagus

Food:  The basic recipe is from Molly O’Neils A Well-Seasoned Appetite.  We have prepared and enjoyed ‘Mussels O’Neil’ for years.  For this version, we added freshly picked wild morels from our “secret location” and asparagus for a real celebration of month of May. The mussels, morels, and asparagus are each cooked separately. While the pasta is cooking, steam the mussels in a little water and white wine (preferably the white wine you have paired with the meal). Cut the asparagus into two-inch pieces and saute in a little butter. When the mussels are done, remove them, reduce the remaining liquid to about a cup and add some cream. When the pasta is done, combine it with the mussels, sauce, morels, and asparagus. Season to taste.

Mussels w: morels, asparagus +

Wine: 2012 Sarno 1860 from Avellino, Italy. Avelino is in the Campania region near Naples. The wine is made primarily from the Fiano di Avelino grape. The Sarno 1860 is considered to be an excellent expression of that grape.

Sarno 1860 Italian white

Tasting notes: The nose carries a lovely scent of honeysuckle and other white flower floral notes. On the palate, one can taste white peach, pear, and a light touch of citrus and minerals. It has a nice lingering finish, and is a good match for this meal complimenting the mussels, morels, and even the asparagus (a notoriously difficult flavor to pair with).

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A Source: K & L Wines (online)

Sicilian Shepherds’ Sauce on Tortiglione Pasta

Food: Here is a favorite from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s wonderful The Italian Country Table. This begins with a thick, hearty marinara sauce, generous with sage, garlic, and hot pepper flakes. [If you aren’s serving a crowd, divide the sauce in half before proceding. Cook 2-3 ounces of pasta per person until it is underdone. Mix the pasta in with some of the sauce and heat for 2-3 minutes, adding more salt and hot pepper as needed. Put the pasta and sauce in your serving dish and top with ricotta cheese. Bake at 425 degrees until hot through. A completed casserole, unbaked, will freeze very well for a quick meal later.Pasta with Sicilian Shepherd's Sauce

Wine: Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva 2009Querceto Chianti Classico

Tasting notes: The nose has faint black berry and vanilla notes, while on the palate black cherry, black berry and earth are tasted. Well-matured tannins make for a smooth taste. The finish goes on and on and on.

read more: The site is written in Italian, but Google will translate it for you…..

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

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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Food: Swordfish steaks (about 1″ thick) are oiled and seasoned, then cooked on a grill pan for about 6 minutes on a side, shorter or longer depending on individual tastes. The salsa is homemade or your favorite, with the addition of canned or fresh peaches. The rich fish plays nicely off the spicy/sweet flavor of the salsa. Serve with sides of your choosing.  We enjoyed peas+carrots with brown rice pilaf.

Swordfish w: peach salsa, w: Novellum Chardonay

Further pairing: Since we don’t consume an entire bottle of wine at a meal, we need a good pairing for later in the week.  The wine also paired well with Pork and Vegetables  in Tandoori Sauce.

Wine: The Languedoc-Roussillon region of France provides us with Michel Gassier’s Costieres de Nîmes Nostre Pais White, 2011   Like most wines from the south of France, this is a blended wine. This particular wine is composed of 90% Grenache Blanc, 5% Roussanne, and 5% Viognier. This wine proved an exceptional pairing with this swordfish.

Costieres de Nimes

Tasting notes:  This full-bodied white wine has a delightful nose of melon and honeysuckle. On the palette, one can taste melon, honeysuckle, pineapple, and hints of stone fruit, particularly peach, likely brought out by the peach salsa.

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St. Patrick’s Day is a day for many people to celebrate their Irish heritage. Traditional foods are often part of the celebration. When I was growing up, my mother would always serve corned beef and cabbage, never a favorite of mine. Instead, in our household, our family always enjoys lamb stew and Irish Soda Bread to help comemorate this special day. (sorry, Mom)

Wine: Vina Ardanza Reserva ‘La Rioja Alta’ 2004Vina Ardanza

Rioja, one of the best-known wine regions of Spain, is located in the northern part of country but west of the Pyrenees. Tempranillo is the most widely planted grape variety, followed by Garnacha (called Grenache elsewhere) a distant second. Two other varieties of grapes are frequently added to Rioja wine in very small quantities, Mazuelo (called Carignan elswhere) and Graciano.

Grapes in Vina Ardanza = Tempranillo 80%, Garnacha 20%

Tasting notes: Nose has notes of leather, black currant, cloves, and mushroom. On the palette: black currant, earth, cedar, leather, and a hint of spice. A very nice level of acidity, reminiscent of the best of Old World wines. Full-bodied wine with 13.5% alcohol. Delicious with the lamb stew.

Food: Lamb stew from Salute to Healthy Cooking, served with peas and Irish Soda Bread. For the stew, cubed lamb shoulder is baked in a covered oven-proof casserole with sauteed onions, thyme, bay, and water for 45 minutes. Adjust oven heat [around 350 degrees] so that the stew does not boil. Carrots are added for 15 minutes, then potatoes are added and the stew is baked, covered, another 45 minutes. This is all done the day before. Adjust the seasonings. Glazed baby onions and glazed, sliced turnips are added when the stew is reheated before serving. Bake the Irish Soda Bread, cook the peas.Lamb Stew w: Irish soda bread, peas

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Greek Meze [small plates] with Robola

Sometimes all you want is “a little smackeral of something” (as Winnie-the-Pooh would say) instead of a big meal, and this delightful grouping of foods certainly fills the bill.

Food: Spanokopita rolls [purchased frozen in a Greek market, or make it yourself], oil-cured olives, cherry tomatoes, loukanico [a Greek specialty made from lamb] sausage, artichoke spread, toasted baguette slices.Greek Snacks w: Rebola

Wine: 2011 Gentilini Robola of Cephalonia. Robola is an indigenous white grape variety of Cephalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands of Western Greece. The grapes are grown on the steep slopes of Mount Ainos. It is vinefied by the producer, Gentilini.Robolo of Cephalonia

Tasting notes: The 2011 vintage is a beautiful golden color. Citrus notes are prominent in the bouquet, along with white flowers, honeysuckle and a hint of almond. A lovely combination. These flavors are echoed on the palate, and balanced with nice acidity and minerality.

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In Portland, Maine, one of our favorite restaurants is Fore Street. One of our dinners there inspired this pizza.

Food: On each 8” pizza shell (see Feb 12 posting Pizza v. 1.0) smear some richly-flavored vinaigrette salad dressing, then a large dollop of plain yogurt. Sprinkle over it: ¼ cup sauteed sliced leeks; 1/2 oz cooked, chopped chanterelle mushrooms; ½ oz crumbled bleu cheese; 1/2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese.ForeStreet Pizza

Wine: Mitolo “Jester” Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010. From McLaren Vale, AustraliaMitolo Cabernet Sauvignon, the Jester

Tasting notes: This pizza is absent the tomato sauce, mozerella cheese and Italian seasonings common to the more traditional pizza that pairs so nicely with a Chianti. Instead, we’re looking for a wine to pair with bleu cheese, leeks, and mushrooms. Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent pairing with these ingredients, particularly with a delightfully sharp blue cheese. Our choice for this dish is the 2010 Mitolo “Jester” Cabernet Sauvignon from the McLaren Vale in Australia. It is a lush, richly-flavored Cab, amazingly complex and concentrated, with aromas and tastes of black currants balanced with silky smooth tanins. An unusual feature of this particular Cab is that 20% of the grapes are air-dried, similar to the making of an Amarone wine. And this wine is a steal at about $16.

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