October 29, 2012

Vouvray Tasting, Vol. 1

I recently participated in an online tasting with a number of wine bloggers that was conducted by Tastelive. The tasting was in conjunction with the Loire Valley Wine trade organization. You may remember my past posts on Loire Valley wines. The thing that has drawn me to Loire Valley wines is that they represent great value for wines that are often produced naturally, with biodynamic and non-interventionist methods.
As part of this tasting, we tried 5 recent release Chenin Blancs from several of the top producers in Vouvray. The wines pictured above, 2011 Francois Chidaine Les Argiles, 2010 Marc Bredif, and 2011 Domaine Les Aubuisieres, were the stars. Others in the tasting included Domaine Champalou and the 2011 Domaine Bourillon Dorleans Coulee d'Argent. There really wasn't a clunker in the bunch; though the wines were young and could use a couple of years to flesh out a bit. There wasn't a wine in the lineup that I wouldn't mind owning and its refreshing to get wines of this quality for less than $20.

October 23, 2012

2012 Decatur Craft Beer Festival

I'm not exactly sure how this happened with me living in Decatur for the last 15 years, but I had never been to the Decatur Beer Festival before attending this past weekend. I was usually out of town or had other things going on during previous festivals, or maybe I simply wasn't quick enough to jump on the tickets that usually sell out within an hour of when they go on sale. However, I finally made it to the festival this weekend where the weather was perfect for mulling around Decatur square drinking craft beer.
The crowd was huge, as always. It was almost prohibitively crowded with it being difficult to literally get through some parts of the festival based on the layout. I know the organizers purposefully limit the number of tickets sold to 4,000, but honestly, it wouldn't hurt if the number of tickets sold was half that number.
That being said, there was some very good beer being poured from the more than 40 breweries represented. There was also a good number of local and regional brews like Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. out of Mississippi which had a strong lineup, including the rocking good Jefferson Stout.
The good folks from Georgia's own Wild Heaven were also there serving some of the longest lines of the day at their tent where they were pouring Invocation and Ode to Mercy as well as Let There Be Light.
Some interesting beers from Lost Abbey/Port Brewing Company out of San Marcos, CA. The Lost Abbey bottles feature some rather menacing labeling, but the beers are pretty damn good.

One of my favorite beers on the day: the Sorachi Ace from Brooklyn Brewing. A re-fermented saison that uses Japanese-developed Sorachi Ace hop. The beer has lots of floral aromatics and a citrus-driven, crisp taste on the palate. Really tasty stuff that I'd never tried before.

One of the strongest lineups of the day came from Green Flash Brewing Company out of San Diego. For some reason, I don't think of San Diego when I think of craft beers, but these beers are the real deal. Their Rayon Vert is a tasty, Belgian-style ale.

Other favorites from the festival include Finch's Beer Company out of Chicago and Mother Earth Brewing  from NC.

October 18, 2012

Home Cooking: Pig, Pasta, Porchetta and More

It all started with a pig leg. Well, not actually, but I figured the pig leg would get your attention. My buddy Jimmy and I had been talking for some time about doing some fall cooking; I think we work well together, having knocked out a successful stock day last year. We were able to get some time this weekend to do some cooking that resulted in a four course dinner for our regular crew on Monday night.
The pig was perhaps the centerpiece. The leg and shoulder was sourced locally from Riverview Farms. You can see Jimmy butchering about eight pounds of shoulder away from the leg on my patio table in the picture above. We then wrapped that shoulder in an eight pound slab of pork belly for a porchetta that you can see more detail on below.
We also rolled out our own dough for ravioli stuffed with duck confit I had made earlier in the week, along with roasted pumpkin and mascarpone cheese. The four course meal went a little something like this:
Green salad topped with chanterelles and ricotta and egg "ravioli."
In this preparation from the folks at Ideas in Food, the egg yolks and ricotta are buried in durum four for a couple of days until a thin skin/crust forms. This added an interesting textual and visual element to the salad. Paleos can stop reading now.
Pictured above are the duck confit, pumpkin, and mascarpone ravioli in brown butter-cherry gastrique. Not the prettiest presentation, but the ravioli were quite tasty and survived without any breaks or bursts.
Perhaps the strongest dish of the night was Jimmy's handmade pappardelle pasta with duck ragu and mascarpone quenelle. A comforting and homey dish that was rich and satisfying. Just delicious stuff. Fresh, handmade pasta can be a pain in the ass to make, but it's worth it.
The porchetta after slow roasting for several hours before being finished in a hot convection oven to crisp the skin. This was a pretty magical dish, not that it was a total success on every point, but it was right fulfilling to take a whole pig leg and shoulder to this finished product over the course of 24 hours.
As you can see in the pic above, we ended up with a bit too much fat left on the belly surrounding the shoulder. Perhaps a longer roasting time would have melted more fat off, but the skin was crisp and tasty while the shoulder stuffed inside was juicy and succulent.

As we are wont to do, we drank some wine as well. Including a pretty amazing 1968 Barolo Monfortino from Conterno. Sorry, but somebody has to drink this stuff. All-in-all it was a good way to spend a Monday evening with some good friends. We ate and drank well and learned some lessons for when we get busy on the next meal.

October 15, 2012

Neapolitan Pizza: Skillet-Broiler Method

I tried my hand at some homemade pizza again last weekend. This time, I used the skillet-broiler method from Kenji over at Food Lab. I used his basic Neopolitan dough recipe, which is composed of 20 oz of flour, 13 oz water, .3oz of yeast, and .4oz salt. After quickly kneading the dough together, I let it rest on the counter for 10 hours, before dividing into 4 equal balls of dough, which I then let do a cold rise in the fridge for 48 hours.
The result was pretty damn good, some of the best pizza I've made at home. Kenji goes into great detail in his post, but the basic idea is that you get really good dense heat transfer on the stove top which produces a crisp bottom crust quickly, which produces similar results to cooking in a 900 degree oven, which is how the real deal is done. Using the broiler also gives a nice blistering to the top crust. Total cooking time is around 10 minutes going 4 on stovetop, 3 or so under broiler, and another few minutes on the stovetop. I really liked the result here, there was a good flavor and spring to the crust and with decent pockets and nice blistering in spots. As good as the real deal from a 900 degree wood-fired oven? No way, but these pies were certainly comparable in taste for something made at home and worth making again. And often.

October 9, 2012

Ramen at Miso Izakaya

I finally got around to trying the ramen at Miso Izakaya last week. In case you haven't heard, the ramen lunch at Miso is drawing big crowds, and for good reason. I won't go into great detail here as the Miso ramen story has already been covered expertly by EatItAtlanta and Creative Loafing. I tried the Shoyu, pictured above which is with its soul-satisfying fatty-salty-rich broth, curly noodle, and fishy naruto cake. You need to try this a bowl of pure comfort. It will be especially perfect as the weather continues to cool. But, get to Miso early, there's only 16 seats at lunch and the ramen starts flowing at 11:30 until it runs out. Which doesn't take long.

Miso Izakaya on Urbanspoon

October 3, 2012

Szechuan-Southern Fried Chicken

I was fortunate to hang out with some good friends last weekend and eat some ridiculously good Szechuan-style-southern fried chicken, a specialty of a local friend who is a jedi in the kitchen. This is not your everyday hot chicken, it's cast-iron fried and then doused liberally in a variety of spices, including some very spicy szechuan peppers. This chicken has been immortalized and deconstructed here in the past. I'll just say it's some of the best spicy chicken you'll ever have. Actually it's beyond spicy, hot and numbing is perhaps a more apt description.
What to drink to put out the flames from some each eats? A German Riesling with a good dose of residual sugar served on the cold side. The sweetness from the 1990 JJ Christoffel Auslese** pictured below was a perfect match for the uber-spicy chicken.
As we are want to do, we drank some great wines, including this sublime trio of aged Lopez de Heredia Tondonia and Bosconia. These LDH wines age incredibly well, becoming almost Burgundian in their fragrance and subtlety. And it's always fun to drink a birth-year wine for me.
Per usual, we drank some good Burgundy, too.