Tag Archives: Wine Pairings

French Fridays with Dorie: Muenster Cheese Soufflés

If you would like to order the soufflé, please notify your server forty five minutes in advance.

Muenster Cheese Soufflé

Forty five minutes?  This restaurant maxim and looking at many golden Muenster cheese soufflés at the crack of dawn inspired me to step away from the computer and head to the kitchen at 6am.   Turns out I had a real French Friday in me today after all.   The forty-five minute estimate, however, only applies to restaurant kitchens with all their ingredients already set up and ready to go.  It took me about ten more to make the soufflé start to finish.  Today’s breakfast was a big departure from the cereal/coffee routine.
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Seattle Trip Report 2013: Seafood and Sips

2013 Seattle Trip Report: View from the Space Needle

Has a full month really gone by already?  Four weeks ago, I was eating, mingling, and seeing my way through Seattle, WA.    I am missing the delightful company of my fellow food bloggers, the comfortable fall temperatures, and yes, the seafood.  Seattle and the Pacific Northwest are brimming with fresh, delicious seafood caught locally and mostly sustainably. Read More…

The Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA

A section of the Herb Farm's edible garden

“What was Paradise? But a garden, an orchard of trees, and herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights”
-William Lawson

Eduardo and I capped our trip to the US Pacific Northwest/Canadian Southwest with a meal for the ages.  We visited The Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA on our last night in the greater Seattle area.  The Herbfarm is considered one of the US premiere “destination restaurants”. While wine tasting in Woodinville after IFBC 2013 wrapped up, we stopped to check out the restaurant and the grounds of the adjoining Willows Lodge.  We were already curious about the restaurant based on the multiple accolades we had read about: AAA five diamond rating, National Geographic Traveler, and multiple ‘best in Seattle’ lists.  After sleeping on our decision for a day, we called and made our reservations/deposit for the Indian Summer nine-course dinner.  The menu for this meal was inspired by the shoulder/harvest season between summer and fall.
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French Fridays with Dorie: Mussels and Chorizo

Mussels with Chorizo Without Pasta

Happy belated Valentine’s Day!  Predictably enough, I saved this week’s French Fridays with Dorie selection, Mussels and Chorizo, to celebrate the manufactured holiday and a successful presentation at the office.   Other than the tedious process of sorting, rinsing, and debearding five pounds of mussels, this was an easy, tasty meal.  We love our bivalves with pork and tomato during this time of the year! Read More…

French Fridays with Dorie: Salmon and Tomatoes en Papier d’Aluminium


This frazzled accountant is grateful to the FFwD powers-that-be for choosing the easiest, quickest, tastiest recipe for this week.  During the first week of every month, it’s crunch-time at work.  I won’t bore you with the details of what I do, but let’s just say that once the Thursday night arrives, I’m sick of twelve hour weekdays and cooking is the last thing on my mind.  If you follow me on Twitter, you must have also read about my refrigerator’s down time during the long weekend. That did not help my cause at all.   Read More…

Burgers and Bonarda

During my Saturday errands, I stopped at a wine shop that carries some of the wines I tasted during our trip to Mendoza, Argentina three years ago.  In addition to a replacement Malamado bottle (port-style Malbec), I purchased a bottle of inexpensive Bonarda.  Although Bonarda is the second most commonly grown varietal in Argentina, it is not that well known or easy to find.  For starters, it has a bit of an identity crisis.  This grape is known as Charbono in the US, Corbeau/Douce Noire in France, and its’ practically extint in its current form in Italy.   Bonarda wines can be lighter in body than a Malbec, darker in color (almost inky), with lots of fruity notes (cherries, plums, figs), light tannings and moderate acidity. Read More…

French Fridays with Dorie – Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port

“When has a slightly overcooked carrot ruined a meal” – Anthony Bourdain


Weekends are made for braising meats, drinking wine, and being a little lazy.  Some early effort in the kitchen is rewarded by the most delicious and comforting dishes and the promise of future spare time if there are leftovers.  In our two-person household, this is usually the case!  This weekend, I didn’t get to be lazy until Monday from working for and enjoying our dinner party.  Lucky me got the day off for Presidents’ Day so I made up in the R&R department.  Back to braising – and the recipe – Tyler Florence says it best in his book, Stirring the Pot: “When you bring up the heated liquid to a certain temperature, what you are really creating is a flavor whirlpool with all the tastiness from the liquid interacting with the flavors of the food in a continuous cycle”.  This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie (FFwD) was a slightly different take on the typical French/Italian oso bucco and short rib braises.  It combined the ‘expected’ mix of aromatics with a fruity red wine and port, plus a few surprising touches like ginger and star anise.


Hello, steamy flavor whirlpool!

While shopping for the ingredients, I learned a few facts about port wine.  This fortified dessert wine from Portugal can be either ruby or tawny.  Ruby port is bottled after the first fermentation in metal tanks, while tawny ages for at least one more year in oak barrels.  The recipe called for ruby, but I could only find tawny ports.  Since the distinction between both port types was not a big deal for cooking purposes, we got an inexpensive bottle of tawny.  Curiously enough, when I opened the bottle and measured out the amounts, it looked more like ‘ruby’ than ‘tawny’.  We used a Malbec/Syrah blend we found for under $7 (total steal!) and stuck to Argentine wines for the rest of the gathering.  


The ribs we found in the supermarket were these flat ones with little pieces of bone, which didn’t look like the picture in the book but worked out just fine.  We could barely fit the six pounds of meat we got into the five-quart Dutch oven and had to broil them in two batches.  Maybe it is time to upgrade to an seven or eight quart?  We served the ribs with simple mashed potatoes (a mix of Yukon Gold and red-skinned), salad with white balsamic vinaigrette, and the reduced braising liquid on the side.  We skipped the gremolata – a combination of citrus zest, herbs and garlic – but we almost always do when making braises.  


If you want to join in the fun, visit the French Fridays with Dorie website and check out how other fellow bloggers did with their recipe.  I love how much creativity goes into these posts; last week’s seemingly straightforward pancetta green beans were made into appetizers, served in a meal reminiscent of an airline food tray (presentation only, of course), and there are also the stories behind each interpretation or circumstance under which the dish was made.  We already have our recipe schedule for March.  I see savory French toast in my future!

Béarnaise Sauce

Ever since we came back from Paris, I have been dreaming of Béarnaise sauce.  I grew up with the Knorr mix version (which is hard to find these days around these parts) and thought that it was pretty fantastic, but of course my encounter with the real thing ruined me for life.  I even had a taste of a restaurant version and it screamed Hollandaise at me – a very good Hollandaise – but lacking the shallots, tarragon and tang of the white wine vinegar signature of the Béarnaise.  Our early attempts at making this sauce from scratch were laughable, but every year we added it to our ‘to cook’ list and chose to ignore it. It felt too daunting to pull off.

I visited my parents this weekend, with the intention of picking up my newly arrived copy of the French Culinary Institute’s “The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine” and borrowing an old Mexican food cookbook I knew my mother had around somewhere.  I stepped on a stool and stood before the row of dusty cookbooks and came across this pleasant surprise – a 1961 edition of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ that belonged to my Grandmother.  Yes, she is still very much alive, but that book is MINE now!  Having recently seen Julie and Julia on cable tv, I cooed like Meryl Streep at the discovery of this family heirloom. OOOOH!!!!!


Armed with these two veritable references, suddenly my quest for Béarnaise sauce didn’t seem that daunting!  Out of the freezer came out the remaining ‘fishtail’ (el moñon, as my family calls it) of a seven pound beef tenderloin I purchased for the holidays. The beef was be seared and finished in the oven until medium rare.  We decided to roast some red-skinned potatoes in the oven too, in order to make the most of the indulgence.  Eduardo and I made a deal that could elevate this meal: if the sauce turned out well, we’d take out one of those bottles of wine we’ve been collecting from our trips. If it didn’t, a $10 bottle would have to do. I stretched my arms and back, took a deep breath, and began to work. The first step was to review both recipes as to proportions and tips to facilitate success, as the method for preparing the sauce is really that classic piece. Based on that comparison, this is what we did:
  • Take out two eggs and separate them, allowing the yolks to reach room temperature. Store the whites in the back of the fridge for macarons. 😉
  • Melt 14 tablespoons (yes, 1 3/4 bars!) of butter in a small saucepan and separate the milk solids to obtain clarified butter. Once it is ready, set aside on a low burner to keep warm.
  • In another small saucepan, combine: two tablespoons minced shallot, 2 1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried tarragon (1 tablespoon if you have access to fresh), and five peppercorns or about 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Set to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until reduced by 80%. In the meantime, prepare a double boiler by setting a larger saucepan filled with about an inch of water. A heatproof bowl should be able to sit in the saucepan without touching the water.
  • In the a heatproof bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 tablespoons of water, the reduced vinegar/shallot/tarragon mixture, and the two egg yolks until frothy. Place over the saucepan with water and whisk for about three minutes. After whisking for three minutes, the mixture will be airy but should start to thicken.
Making Béarnaise Sauce

DH pinch hits and continues whisking while I take a picture. It felt safe at that point! I’m not taking any chances after that burned roux!

  • While I continued to whisk the yolks, DH slowly and steadily streamed the warm clarified butter into the heatproof bowl. If you feel the mixture is getting too hot, take it out of the larger saucepan and continue whisking until cools off. It is better to be safe and remove it if you have doubts as to the temperature because once it curdles… you loose the sauce. It might take a little longer, but it is completely worth it.  After ten minutes of stirring, you should have a silky emulsion you’ll want to lick of the plate
  • >Adjust the seasonings to your taste: 1 teaspoon or 2 of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Strain it if you like smooth sauces, or if you enjoy a bit of shallot here and there forego that step.

Could you guess that we made it? At one point I thought my arm would fall off, but it didn’t! We achieved the velvety, buttery sauce we wanted. It was only fitting to serve it in my Gradmother’s gravy boat.

Béarnaise Sauce
Beef tenderloin with Béarnaise Sauce

As for the wine, we pulled out the last bottle from our 2004 trip to Napa, a 2004 Joseph Phelps ‘Le Mistral’. The Le Mistral is a blend, reminiscent of the Côtes du Rhône region of France, of Syrah, Grenache, Petit Syrah and Alicante. It was delicious and assertive enough to stand to the steak and the rich sauce. What a way to close the weekend!


Béarnaise Sauce Wine Pairing


Bernáise Sauce




Out of order alert!  This post is the follow up to our Bolognese adventures.  After arriving into the Boardeaux area from Bologna via Ryanair and resting for a bit (the maximum amount of rest I would allow DH, had all the calls been up to me), we set out to explore the city and find L’Estacade, one of the recommendations from the Fodors France 2010 guidebook.  We would come to rely on many Fodors restaurant recommendations for dining in France.  With a sense of “phew, we made it”, we walked into L’Estacade after a long, leisurely walk in the Garonne riverfront area.  It was quite the trek after a long day of travel – literally a “trains, planes, and automobiles” day – but a gorgeous one.  Bordeaux’s architecture owes a lot to Paris.  They wanted to be just as glamorous, but right by the water and it worked out just fine for them.  It is a gorgeous, compact urban center that was declared part of the world heritage by UNESCO. 

When we walked into the restaurant, we were marveled at the view.  The whole restaurant has glass panes that provide an unobstructed view of the city.  Had we made reservations, we might have gotten a better view, but it was fantastic just as it was.  We started out with a celebratory aperitif of Sauternes wine.  Sauternes is a French dessert wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux. Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. This causes the grapes to become partially raisined, resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavored wines. 

To continue varying from our Italian wine experience, we ordered a white Bordeaux blend, the 2007 Clanderelle.  Straight out of the Clanderelle website, the blend was made of


  • The Semillon is dominated by a white floral and lemon fragrance with hints of beeswax and honey. It provides a fairly full body and tends to be low in acidity. The Semillon possesses an extraordinary richness and a succulent texture.
  • The Sauvignon is characterised by its grapefruit, mineral, lemon lime and melon-like fragrance. It shows a great intensity of flavour. The Sauvignon contributes “freshness”, as well as a balanced acidity and a dry citrus finish to the wine.

As for dinner, per se, we started out with a goat cheese in phyllo entreé (in the French sense – starter/appetizer), which I am trying hard to remember but cannot remember much other than the fact that there were two, served with some microgreens, and that it was probably delicious.  The main course, a seafood platter, was much more memorable.  It had several types of fish, including salmon and shrimp, and was served with a corn souffle/mousse.  Bordeaux is a seafood town, and we could appreciate the fresh catch.  The piece de resistance was dessert – a gorgeous tarte tatin served with a gingerbread and apple sorbet.  I remember vividly the caramel sticking to my teeth.  I had not had anything like that apple sorbet before.  It was just the fuel we needed to walk out to the bridge to catch the ‘streetcar’ back to the hotel and definitely the most memorable dessert in a Bordelaise meal. 

Semillon Sauvignon Blanc