Remembering Perigord … Drinking Cahors

Pairing:  Périgordian Cuisine and 2011 Clos La Coutale Cahors.

Food: Twenty years ago we were fortunate to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in the Périgord region of southwestern France. While there we enjoyed a memorable dinner at a tiny bistro called Chez Tarrade. Arguably one of our best meals ever … multiple courses; delightful chats with Madame, the seventy-year old chef; an unnamed local red wine that went with everything… heavenly. This is our attempt to recreate that amazing dinner. We’ll take it course by course. Then select a wine to go with all of it.

For the first course, Madame served Pâté de Fois Gras with Truffles, accompanied by Pain de Maïs (a baguette made with corn). For our version, we had Chicken Liver Pâté made with chicken livers, onion, garlic, cognac, heavy cream, nutmeg, thyme, salt & pepper.


The second course was a cêpe omelette. Madame used fresh cêpe mushrooms. We made our omelette with dried porcini mushrooms.


The main course at Madame’s was a simple 1/2 inch thick pan-seared Bistro Steak served with Potatoes Sarlat (Our version consisted of thinly sliced potatoes, each slice dipped in melted duck fat, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. Then stacked the slices in three-layer piles in a heavy saucepan and baked at 450F for about 20 minutes.) For a perfect medium rare steak, cook on a hot grill pan, hum the first verse of The Marseilles, then flip the steak and hum it again. I’m serious. No need for a timer!


The steak and potatoes were followed by a simple salad and a plate of assorted cheeses.

And, finally, for dessert we enjoyed homemade Neapolitan Ice Cream (a block of raspberry, pistachio, and chocolate with chocolate chunks).


To complete the illusion of dining at Chez Tarrade and capture some of the ambience of this charming bistro, we ate at a table in front of our own fireplace. Very special!


Wine:  Cahors is a small wine-growing area that surrounds the city of Cahors located on the Lot River in southwestern France a little ways south of the Périgord region. Here, Malbec is by far and away the mostly commonly grown grape. Many people will immediately associate Malbec with Argentina where it is widely planted. However, it is this lovely little corner of France that is the birthplace of Cot which is the original name for Malbec. Wine-making in this locale dates back to Ancient Roman times. This wine from the Clos La Coutale winery is 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot.


Tasting Notes:  The predominance of Malbec (80%) in this Cahors wine produces an extraordinarily deep dark red, almost black, color. (Note:  Tiny amounts of Malbec are often added to Red Bordeaux wines to darken them.) On the nose, one enjoys blackberry and earth. The palate is a big, robust, complex melding of blackberry fruit leather, tobacco, earth, and hints of licorice and chocolate. The earth notes in particular go beautifully with the pâté, the mushrooms, the beef, and even the chocolate components of the dessert. Amazing how one wine can pair so nicely with a multi-course meal such as this one.

Other Foods That Pair Well with This Wine: Cassoulet, Roast Duck, Duck Confit, Mushrooms, Roast Lamb

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Meal: Bergerac, Red Bordeaux, Tempranillo, Côte du Roussillon

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Pasta Rustica with Primitivo (Italian Zinfandel)

Pairing: Pasta Rustica with 2009 Leone de Castris Primitivo di Mandoria Villa Santera

Food: Pasta Rustica is a favorite meal of ours that we enjoy frequently (on Wednesdays … of course!). It is made with turkey or chicken sausage, canned tomatoes, herbs, and three cheeses … ricotta, fontina (or mozzarella), and Parmigiano-Reggiano. A link to the recipe can be found here. Although the recipe calls for penne, almost any shaped pasta can be used. We prefer tortiglioni. Our dish is accompanied by toasted olive bread and Italian green beans.


Wine:  The vineyards of the Leone de Castris winery are found near the tiny village of Salice Salentino on the Salento Peninsula in Puglia, the southernmost wine region in Italy. Think of the “heel of the boot” when looking at a map of Italy. Savvy travelers know this to be among the prettiest coastal areas in all of Italy and not nearly as touristy as other more well known regions of the country. The Primitivo grape is widely planted across Puglia. Fairly recent DNA testing has revealed that Primitivo and Zinfandel (grown widely in California) are genetically the same, both grapes tracing their origin to the Crljenak Kastelanski, an ancient Croatian variety. We like to think of Primitivo wine as Zinfandel with “elbows” (our own term), a desirable roughness found in many Italian wines.


Tasting:  This full-bodied wine is a deep reddish purple color. The nose is rich in blueberry and cherry notes. On the palate, flavors of dark fruit, cinnamon and cloves are present. There is an overall gentle sweetness to this dry wine that goes well with the sweet tomato sauce and cheeses used to make the Pasta Rustica.

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Food:  Chianti Classico, Barbera d’Alba or d’Asti, Valpolicella

Other Food That Pairs Well with This Wine:  Aged Cheeses, Grilled Chicken, Sausage, Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce

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Mother-in-Law Request

Pairing: Chicken Fricasse with Dumplings and Homemade Baldwin Apple Wine

Food: One year we asked my wife’s mother what food she would like to eat on her birthday.  “Chicken and Dumplings” was her prompt reply.  What a good choice.  While it is a fine way to use up a fowl or old hen, the recipe can be prepared with a young hen, too.  Cut up a 4-5 pound chicken, including the back, and sauté in butter until well browned. Add water to cover, sliced onion, carrot, celery, 4 pepper corns, and simmer for 45 minutes. If the chicken is old, cook for 45 minutes more. Either way, add 2 tsp of salt at this point.  Cool the chicken and strain the broth. Remove the meat from the bones.  Thicken 2 cups of the broth with flour made into a roux with butter. Put the chicken into a stove-top pan (cast iron if you have it) with enough of the thickened broth to come up 3/4 of the way on the meat. Stir in the vegetables from previous cooking and bring to a simmer.  Make dumplings from flour, milk, celery seed, and baking powder.  Dollop the dumplings on the meat and heat uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and continue to cook for 10 minutes more. Oh my … is that delicious!!


Wine:  Apple wine was the first wine we ever tried to make ourselves. We used apples from an ancient Baldwin apple tree that we preserved when we cleared the land for our house site. It’s impossible to know how the tree is still alive and standing given all the holes in it’s gnarled old trunk. And it still produces the finest of apples about every third year. The apple wine is made from the apples that are particularly ripe (almost rotten!) that have fallen to the ground. We have found that those deadfall apples make the most delicious of wines, with almost a sherry-like quality to it. For those of you who are not yet ready to make your own wine, good commercially-produced apple wine (please … not Boone’s Farm!) is available in many retail liquor stores and apple orchards.


Tasting: Apple Wine is most frequently a light to dark golden color. As you can see in the photo above, our Apple Wine has a beautiful, deep blush. The fragrance of the wine is noticeably red apple (not green). No surprise there. The palate is a wonderful combination of apple jelly, red currant jelly, sherry, and honeysuckle. There’s also a touch of spiciness to it. However, this is not a sweet wine. Rather it is more of a semi-dry wine, very much like a Gewürztraminer.

Other Food That Goes Well with This Wine:  Roast Chicken, Pork, Indian Cuisine, Curries, Ham, a Variety of Soft or Aged Cheeses.

Other Wine That Pairs Well with This Food:  LaBelle Apple Wine, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer

A Source:  NH State Liquor Stores

Something to Do with Leftover Lobster

Pairing: Lobster Aromatique and 2012 Marques Casa Concha Chardonnay

Food: I know … who ever heard of leftover lobster? Well, here is a dish and a wine pairing that is worth saving some of that cooked lobster from your summer cookout or clambake. It’s a recipe we found in an ancient copy of the Four Seasons Cookbook. Not sure if the famous Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City even still exists. But their recipe for Lobster Aromatique is simply astonishing. It calls for 2 cups of cooked lobster (for 2 servings), a cup of your favorite béchamel sauce, and the following seasonings: 2 T chopped shallots, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp each of mustard, paprika, cayenne, and curry powder, and 1 T each of lemon juice, minced chives and parsley. Lightly saute the shallots, add the chopped lobster and flame with 1/4 cup Pernod or brandy. Add all of the seasonings to the pan. Mix and add the béchamel sauce and reduce over low heat for 3-5 minutes. Serve warm. You may never again eat lobster any other way!

Lobster Aromique

Wine: 2012 Marques Casa Concha Chardonnay hails from the Llunaras de Camarico  Vineyard in the Limari Valley in Chile. This growing region is one of the northern most wine growing regions in Chile, 200 miles north of Santiago. A number of grapes are grown in the Valley, but Chardonnay is the star. And the 2o12 Marques Casa Concha received numerous accolades from several prominent reviewers highlighting the lovely flavor and the modest price.

Marques Chardonnay

Tasting:  The nose reveals aromas that reminds one of a Spring walk through an apple orchard with the trees in full bloom and white clover growing in the grass. On the palate one gets a mix of fresh apple, peach, pear, and honeysuckle, with hints of lemon. What a lovely wine and a great pairing for this elegant lobster dish. Enjoy!

Other Wine Pairings for the Lobster:  Viognier, White Burgundy, Sparkling Wine

Other Food Pairings for the Chardonnay:  Seafood or Chicken (grilled, roasted, or with a Cream Sauce)

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Sources:  Prince Edward Island Liquor Stores,


A Classic Pairing – Salmon, Mushrooms and Pinot Noir

Pairing: Grilled Wild Salmon, Wild Mushrooms, and 2008 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir

Food: Although we love salmon prepared in a variety of ways (seared, poached, roasted, etc), our very favorite is to grill it after briefly marinading it in olive oil, salt and pepper. Saute some wild mushrooms (or cultivated if you wish) in some butter and pour on top of the cooked salmon. We like to serve it with buttered new potatoes and freshly shelled peas. Delightful!

Salmon and Mushrooms

Wine2008 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir Don Miguel Vineyard

Some of the very best Pinot Noir comes from the Sonoma County region of California, north of San Francisco Bay. And the beautiful Russian River Valley is home to some of the most renowned wines. Miramar Estate is located in the southwest corner of the valley. This wine is a fine example of a New World wine (versus an Old World wine). New World wines tend to be more “fruit forward” where big fruit flavors dominate. Old World wines are more nuanced, and have a bit more acidity and earthiness in the flavor profile. Among the most widely known Old World Pinot Noir is Red Burgundy from France.

Marimar Estate Pinot Noir

Tasting: This Marimar Estate has a wonderfully complex flavor profile. On the nose one gets cherry and flint aromas. The palate is an amazing array of flavors. Cherry, hedgerow jam, leather, and earth. The finish combines hedgerow fruits and forest floor. The mushrooms served on the salmon really bring out the scents and tastes of earth and forest floor in the wine.

Other Pairings for Pinot Noir:  Roast Chicken, Duck, Pork, Beef Tenderloin, Mushrooms

Other Pairings for Grilled Salmon:  Chardonnay, Rhone Style Wines, White Burgundy

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Father’s Day Steak and Shiraz

Pairing: Grilled Steak with 2010 Two Hands Lily’s Garden McLaren Vale Shiraz

Food: There are some traditions that must be upheld and, in our family, there is only one thing to eat on Father’s Day … a 1 and 1/2 inch thick sirloin (or ribeye) steak grilled to perfection over a searingly hot wood charcoal fire. It’s marinated for about four hours in a simple marinade/ basting sauce composed of 1/3 cup each of olive oil, ketchup, soy sauce, and fresh rosemary. “Scorch” each side for about 3-4 minutes, then continue to cook for about another minute or so on each side, basting continuously, for a medium rare doneness. Let the steak rest off the grill for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with grilled peaches, thrice-baked potatoes, Spring-fresh asparagus, and sautéed mushrooms. Perfection!!

Steak Dinner

Wine: 2010 Two Hands Lily’s Garden McLaren Vale Shiraz There are a number of classic wine pairings for steak … Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel being two notable examples. But for our money nothing beats a rich, intensely flavored Shiraz from Down Under. Two Hands is a particularly special Shiraz that is a true exemplar of what this type of wine is all about. McLaren Vale is one of the premier regions in Australia for growing the Shiraz grape. It is located just south of the city of Adelaide within sight of the ocean on the south coast of Australia. Lily’s Garden is one of the wines of Two Hands’ Garden Series The website below provides wonderful descriptions of this beautiful region and the delicious wines made there.

Two Hands Shiraz

Tasting Notes: This is an intensely flavored, concentrated, full bodied, beautifully dark wine that really stands up to and complements the rich flavors and smells of the steak. On the nose one can immediately detect an abundance of dark fruit … blackberry, blueberry, black current. On the palate, the flavors of these same berries blend and merge with hints of plum, earth and leather. And the long finish carries with it the delights of mocha and spice. This is a wine you can really set your teeth into!! Happy Father’s Day!!

Other Wine Pairings for Grilled Steak:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec

Other Food Pairings for Shiraz:  Duck, Barbecued Ribs, Venison, Grilled Tuna.

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Crab Cakes with The Hermit Crab

Pairing: Maine Crab Cakes and 2013 d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab.

Food: Most people have a favorite crab cake recipe. We certainly do … it’s from Todd English’s cookbook, The Olives Table. It’s heavy on the crabmeat (1/2 lb) and light on the fresh bread crumbs (6T or 1 small slice of bread). An egg, some yogurt (2T), dijon mustard (1 tsp), parsley (2T), salt and pepper to taste. Mix together gently, form in a 1/3 cup measure, and saute the formed crab cakes in a little olive oil until golden brown. Yum!! Whenever possible, we try to use crabmeat from the Gulf of Maine. Sanders Fish Market in Portsmouth, NH is a favorite haunt.Crab cakes w: Hermit Crab

Wine: 2013 d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab is from the McLaren Vale region of South Australia. D’Arenberg is a widely known and highly respected winery most noted for its red wines, particularly their shiraz and cabernet sauvignon wines. The Hermit Crab, however, is a white wine made from viognier and marsanne grapes. The proportions vary from year to year, but the 2013 is 64% viognier and 36% marsanne. Year in and year out, this is a consistently great wine and has been a favorite wine of ours for years. And it’s very reasonably priced at $16. Check out their website linked below to learn more about their wines.

Hermit Crab 2013

Tasting Notes: The Hermit Crab is a pretty, golden-colored wine with lovely aromatics. On the nose one can catch the delightful smells of white flowers, peach, and pineapple. Peach carries over to the palate, along with a touch of honeysuckle and spice.

Other Wine Pairings for Crab Cakes: chardonnay, white burgundy, sauvignon blanc, or a dry riesling.

Other Pairings for The Hermit Crab: lobster prepared most anyway, but particularly fantastic with lobster rolls.

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