February 23, 2010

Love Affair with Wine

“Food without wine is a corpse; wine without food is a ghost. United and well matched they are as body and soul, living partners.” Andre Simon

Before marrying my subtly amazing husband, I found myself briefly enamored with a local winemaker.

Long ago, even before dating said winemaker, not only had I not dated in over 18 years, I had no education or clue about how exquisite really good wine could be. In my practical suburban existance, as a young stay-at-home mother and housewife, I didn’t have the patience, interest or time to unearth and research the treasure of wine. When I did imbibe, it was because I remembered to grab a bottle or two of Charles Shaw at Trader Joe’s, (lovingly referred to as Two Buck Chuck)  

After all, it didn't really matter what one "paired" with Mushroom Tater Tot cassarole.

I did not know of the magic that could occur to ones palate while tasting a fresh in-season pear with aged gorgonzola cheese, then sipping a subtly sweet-crisp Viognier. 

My Casanova-ish Winemaker was suave, stylish and worldly. He was an excellent cook, best friends with owners and chefs of some of the great restaurants in Portland and always impressed me when he waxed poetic, giving passionate speeches about his extensive romantic /scientific knowledge about how fine wine and great food are a match made in heaven. He was debonair and dashing and he knew food.
He was the perfect introduction to re-entering the dating scene. He also introduced me to fine restaurants, cooking with local seasonal ingredients, Chet Baker's music and of course…

great wine.

My brief infatuation with the Winemaker was short lived and as you know, in the end, I married my best friend (who is also super dreamy but much less of a Casanova)
but I’m spoiled now.

Don’t get me wrong. I dig a diner style burger with a lowbrow beer as much as the next girl, but I cannot resist a soft and buttery oak and fruit tinged chardonnay or an aged deep ruby, complex multi-layered glass of Pinot Noir. It reminds me of glamour and romance, great food and celebration.

And good wine is all of those things.

Last week, one of my favorite co-workers, Steve and I celebrated our birthdays with a gorgeous bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay 2008 that the President of the Culinary School gave us as a gift from his personal cellar. It was so lovely… gently chilled, soft and rich, buttery with a note of toasted vanilla and a slight hint of peach. I practically swooned after taking a sip, and promptly decided that it would be my new first pick when it comes to wine. (The price-tag is a little hefty at about $31 a bottle, but it’s unbelievably good and worth every penny when you want to splurge)


This rainy afternoon as I sit at my desk, I am dreaming of a simple, seasonal, early spring dinner of fragrant buttered leeks, gently baked sole with sea salt and parsley… a menu that I think I’ll prepare this weekend when I have some time to relax in the kitchen. Maybe I’ll even play a little Chet Baker in the background while I cook.
 
If you want to follow along, buy a special bottle of Chardonnay this weekend and try it with this amazingly delicious and easy leek recipe. I promise it will disappear from the serving dish faster than you can imagine and will soon become a staple side dish to add to your repertoire…
 

Simple Butter Braised Spring Leeks


• 4 small or medium leeks, tough outer leaves discarded and leeks trimmed to about 7 inches long and cut lengthwise into quarters or eighths
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup chicken broth
• 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

In a shallow dish soak leeks in cold water to cover 15 minutes, rubbing occasionally to remove any grit. In a heavy skillet melt butter over moderate heat. Lift leeks out of the water and with water still clinging to them add to skillet. Cook leeks, stirring occasionally, five minutes and add broth and zest. Braise leeks, covered, 5 minutes, or until very tender, and season with salt and pepper.

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