We just got home from a wonderful Thanksgiving week with family in Wisconsin. Our Brother in law, Matthew, and daughter/niece Lucy were front and center in the kitchen. They make THE BEST buttermilk pancakes we have ever tasted. We thought it would be nice to share the recipe with you all.
Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
vegetable, canola or coconut oil for the pan
Optional: 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract can be added for extra flavor. Add blueberries, or chocolate chips, or pecans for a different twist now and then.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees, Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Using a whisk, make a well in the center. Pour the buttermilk into the well and crack the eggs into the buttermilk. Pour the melted butter into the mixture. Starting in the center, whisk everything together, moving towards the outside of the bowl, until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not overbeat (lumps are fine). The batter can be refrigerated for up to one hour.
Heat a large non-stick griddle or skillet, preferably cast iron, over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Turn heat up to medium-low and using a measuring cup, ladle 1/3 cup batter into the skillet. If you are using a large skillet or a griddle, repeat once or twice, taking care not to overcrowd the cooking surface.
Flip pancakes after bubbles rise to the surface and bottoms brown, after about 2 to 4 minutes. Cook until the other sides are lightly browned. Remove pancakes to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and keep heated in a heated oven until you are ready to serve.
As many of you already know, we are just ending a 5 night layover in London before our onward cruise to the West Coast of Europe including Madeira, the Canary Islands, and Morocco.
The weather in London this week was typical for this time of year. Chilly mornings, warming in the afternoons, mostly cloudy but only a tiny drizzle now and then.
We have spent our days exploring new and old sites, catching up on movies and trying new (and old) restaurants.
Our hotel was a block away from the Earl’s Court Underground Station on Cromwell Road. We like this part of town, easy access to all of central London. The Piccadilly and District Lines offer easy connections to the rest of the London Underground as well as bus service in several directions. There are several parks and several major museums within walking distance. The neighborhoods are charming and ever changing.
This is a small chain of Indian restaurants with seven locations in central London. Self described as “Fresh, Healthy and Friendly” and we agree wholeheartedly.
Tasty grills, homestyle platters, and regional curries highlight the menu. The space is bright, modern, stylish and affordable. There is a full bar along with a good selection of beers and wines.
The Little French Restaurant
The name of this restaurant is completely accurate. This tiny restaurant is tucked away on a little lane 100 yards away from the Earl’s Court underground station.
The simple menu features a generous three courses at very affordable prices. The choices are limited but all are traditional classic dishes. Side dishes and beverages are very good quality. Service is warm and attentive. Cash only!
This is a charming restaurant tucked into a little patio that opens into a few lovely rooms where authentic traditional Thai food is served.
Service is warm and genuine. The food is even better! High quality ingredients, served in a classic style. Specify your spice preference from mild to inciderary. Full bar, popular.
Steps away from Earl’s Court Tube Station. Open continuously from 2 pm to 11 pm daily.
This small locally owned restaurant served some of the best Lebanese cuisine we have enjoyed in years. The smoothest hummus, lamb and chicken shawarma (marinated and grilled), rocket, onion and tomato salad, homemade goat cheese grilled bread and more. Almaza (Lebanese beer) and a nice wine list.
This North Indian restaurant has specialized in Punjabi Cuisine since 1946. This is some of our favorite food anywhere. Everything was delicious. Pappadums, samosas, chicken korma, lamb boti kabobs, basmati rice and Cobra beer. Yum!
80 Neal Street, Covent Garden
Chiswick House and Gardens
Nestled among the neighborhoods of West London is Chiswick House and Gardens. After all our visits to London, this was a wonderful discovery. The grounds are expansive and open to the public from 8:00 AM until sunset. There are ample paths, gardens, a conservatory, a charming cafe and the main house, now a museum open for visiting at a fee.
The house is the first Neo-Palladium structure in the U.K. Dating back to 1729. It is a great place to spend a few hours.
There is a great walk between the tube stops Angel and Highbury & Islington. For a different look at London as a smaller town, take a walk between these two tube stops. Follow Upper Road to Essex Road (and zig zag as you go for more discoveries). The neighborhood shops are both interesting and unique.
This was a dreary industrial area only a few decades ago. If you haven’t seen it lately, prepare to be wowed! It is a surprisingly well planned city within the City. Scores of new commercial office and residential towers as far as the ey can see with more under construction everyday.
While the first look is impressive, the second response is it seems a bit sterile, void of character or community.
That said, upon closer look, there is shopping and restaurants galore. There are waterfront views everywhere. The architecture varies from modern boxes to stunning design. We are glad we took the time to discover this new part of the city.
Westfield Shopping Center at Shepherd’s Bush
Normally we are not interested in shopping centers (there are scores of Westfield Shopping Centers in the US.) What brought us to this complex was a movie theater.
What we discovered was arguably the most expansive Shopping/entertainment/dining complex we have seen in a long time. Over 350 stores and restaurants in a beautifully designed complex. One could spend days in here and still not see it all. Outstanding!
It was a delight to accept the invitation to a small dinner party for John’s retirement next Monday.
Chez Panisse, the Berkeley landmark made famous by the acclaimed Alice Waters, the creator of California cuisine, is still going strong decades later.
Below is a recap of our evening.
It was a delightful evening, great food, lots of laughter, exceptional service, a cozy ambiance and a couple of bottles of a nice Pinot Noir!
The restaurant is divided on two floors. The main dining room is on the first floor and offers a four course fixed menu with two sittings Monday through Saturday. The first sitting is 5:30 P.M. and the second sitting is 8:00 P.M.
Reservations are essential and can be made up to 30 days in advance between 9:00 AM and 9:30 P.M. at (510) 548-5525 or (510) 548-5049. Online reservations are also available 28 days in advance. Prices vary by menu. Go to chezpanisse.com for more information.
The cafe is on the second floor servicing a cafe menu of a la carte choices or the Menu du Jour. Hours are Monday through Thursday 5:00 P.M. to 10:30 P.M. Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M. to 11:30 P.M.
After a recent post on the Wines of France, several subscribers asked about wine produced in Italy, especially since that was one of our most recent travel destinations.
It only took a moment to consider the idea. So after a little research, here is an Italian wine summary by region along with a note on each region’s cuisine.
I cannot think of a better way to explore this list than to seek out a few good wine shops and sample the various regional wines first hand. Although I like the idea of an extended stay in Italy to “research” the wines in person. Something to contemplate no doubt…
Main Cities: Alba, Asti, Biella, Cuneo, Novara, Turin
Cuisine: The Piedmont Region is the most French of the Italian regions. Lots of butter, cream and dairy products. This is a cheese lovers heaven, where gorgonzola is a favorite. This is also white truffle country. Common ingredients include: rice, polenta, potato gnocchi, agnolotti (little ravioli) and simple flavorful broths. Sweet red peppers, mushrooms, hazelnut and chestnuts round out local favorites. The locals love their breadsticks, mixed fried meats and intense condiments.
Wine Regions: Langhe, Monferrato
Reds wine: Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Dolcetto lead the pack.
White wines: Asti Spumante, Chardonnay, Cortese di Gavi, Moscato d’Asti are among the most popular.
Main Cities: Aosta, Cogne
Cuisine: This is a mountainous region that produces a hearty variety of dishes using rice, chestnuts, polenta, potatoes, cabbage and apples. Cured meats are popular. Salted beef and smoked pork (speck) are favorites along with a hearty rye bread and fontina cheese.
Wines: Local wine production is limited. There are excellent Chardonnays and Syrahs from the Les Crete area.
Main Cities: Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Mantua, Milan, Pavia
Cuisine: Similar to the Piedmont region, small stuffed pasta is popular as is pizzoccheri, a buckwheat and wheat noodle often layered with potatoes, leeks or cabbage and cheese. Meat lovers will like ossobuco or breaded veal chops, beef roasted or slowly braised. There are several cow’s milk cheeses including gorgonzola, grana padano, marscarpone and taleggio. Popular spices are clove, nutmeg, white pepper and cinnamon along with saffron and gremolata (a mix of garlic, parsley and lemon zest).
Red wines: Erbusco, Franciacorta, and Oltrepo Pavese.
White wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Resling
Historical note: Compari, a mildly bitter rose scarlet beverage was first marketed in Milan in the nineteenth century.
Trentino and Alto Adige
Main Cities: Bolzano, Trento
Cuisine: This is a cold mountainous region in Northern Italy where the cuisine is a hearty mix of Lombardy and the Veneto. Polenta, buckwheat, barley, dumplings, cabbage, mushrooms, game, sausages and dark bread are highlights. Spices include cumin, poppy and caraway seeds. Olive oils tend to be lite and cheeses are made in the alpine huts.
White wines: Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Red Wine: Cabernet, Lagrein, Marzemino, Merlot, Terldego.
Main Cities: Padua, Venice, Verona, Vicenza
Cuisine: It is all about seafood! Fish and shellfish, crab, scampi, cuttlefish (not a personal favorite), salt cod, octopus, eel. Meats include turkey, duck, squab and other game birds. White polenta, rice, beans, artichokes, asparagus, radicchio. Pine nuts, raisins, pomegranate, cinnamon, and cloves. Cheese include asiago, Monte Veronese, and ricotta.
White wines: Bianco di Custoza, Cortese di Gavi, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, Soave, Tocai
Red wines: Amarone, Bardolino, Breganze, Cabernet, Corvina, Merlot, Valpolicella.
Main Cities: Gorizia, Trieste, Udine
Cuisine: Influenced by the Slavic table, sauerkraut, sausages, game. Tyrolean and Austrian ingredients: speck, poppy seeds, gulasch, dumplings, paprika, cumin, horseradish, mustard, as well as Venetian foods. This area is famous for its prosciutto, crisp cheese fritters, gnocchi, stuffed cabbage, cured meats, pork dishes and seafood stews.
Red wines: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Refosco, Schioppettino
Main Cities: Genoa, Camogli, Imperia, La Spezia, Lerici, Rapello, San Remo, Savona
Cuisine: Ligurian diet is defined by its narrow mountainous coastline. Most meals are seafood oriented. Fish stews and soups, salt cod, calamari, pizza with anchovies. Focaccia, rice, polenta, gnocchi and ravioli with walnut sauce. Creamy ricotta, fruity olive oils, and lots of fresh herbs are common with most dishes.
White wine: Bianco della Cinque Terre, Pigato, Trebbiano, and Vermentino.
Red wines: Cilegolo, Ormeasco, Rossese di Dolceacqua, and Sciacchetra.
Main Cities: Bologna, Cremona, Ferrara, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Ravenna, Reggio Emilia, Rimini
Cuisine: The “big three” foods are Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, prosciutto di Parma and balsamic vinegar. Cured meats including pork rump, mortadella, and sausages are popular. Butter, cream and braised meats fill many menus.
Several egg based pastas include pappardelle, fettuccine, tortellini, and tortelloni. Polenta, aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a creamy mascarpone are considered staples.
White wines: Albana, Pignoletto, Trebbiano
Red wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Lambrusco, Sangiovese di Romagna
Main Cities: Cortona, Florence, Livorno, Lucca, Pisa, Siena
Cuisine: Simple and straight forward. Lots of beans in the soups, salads and side dishes. A saltless bread is used to thicken soups or in “bread salads”. Game is popular, especially wild boar, hare, pigeon and rabbit. Bistecca alla fiorrentina is a trademark dish, typically a large thick marbled steak with bone in grilled over an open flame.
Porchetta (roast pig) is another mainstay dish, typically served with wild mushrooms, tomatoes, artichokes, fennel or kale. Calamari and tuna are seafood options. Most towns make their own peppery olive oil and pecorino toscano cheeses.
White wines: Trebbiano, Vermentino, Vernaccia
Red wines: Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the “Super Tuscans”, Cepparello, Fontalloro, Grattamacco, Luce, Saffredi, Sassicaia, Solaia, Summus, and Tignanello.
Desert Wine: Vin Santo
Main Cities: Assisi, Foligno, Norcia, Orvieto, Perugia, Spoleto
Cuisine: Known for its black truffles, wild mushrooms and a variety of beans. But Pork eclipses all other foods in this region. Porchetta is pig roasted with fennel, rosemary and other fresh herbs. Cured pork products of all kinds are right in line behind. Roasted birds are next in line, pheasants, squab, duck, and guinea fowl are favorites.
The olive oils are a deep green and the most cheeses are produced from sheep’s milk.
White wines: Chardonnay, Grecchetto, Orvieto, Trebbiano
Red wines: Rosso di Montefalco, Sagrantino di Montefalco, Sangiovese, and Toriano.
Note: This is our favorite region in Italy. While we adore Rome, Florence, Venice and Sicily, Umbria feels like home. The good news is it is less expensive and less crowded than most of the popular destinations in Italy. J&J
Main Cities: Ancona, Macerata, Pesaro, Urbino
Cuisine: Look to the sea, saffron fish stews, baked sardines, and raw fish. Rabbit, pig, poultry and game follow right behind. Primary seasonings include garlic, rosemary and fennel. Pastas are often stuffed. Olives are also stuffed and fried. Black truffles are popular as are prosciutto and sheep’s milk cheeses or part cow’s milk and part sheep’s milk cheese.
White wines: Trebbiano, Verdicchio
Red Wines: Lacrima, Montepulciano, Rosso Conero, Rosso Piceno
Main Cities: Frosinone, Rieti, Rome, Viterbo
Cuisine: Primarily a pastoral pallet including sheep, lamb, and pork. Pasta sauces range from tomato based with spices all’amatriciana, egg and cream alla carbonara, cheese and pepper cacio e pepe. Artichokes, peas, asparagus, favas, chicory and celery are the most common vegetables. Antipasti range from fried rice balls filled with mozzarella, toasted bread with olive oil and garlic often followed by grilled meats, cheese and prosciutto.
White wines: Colli Albani, Est, Frascati, Malvasia, Trebbiano
Red wine: Mostly imported from other regions.
Abruzzo and Molise
Main Cities: Avezzano, Chieti, L’Aquila, Pescara, Sulmona, Teramo
Cuisine: Similar to Lazio but also adding lamb stews and lamb pasta. Pecorino cheese is made here. Mozzarella is popular as well. Cured meats and sausages are prolific. Semolina pasta is dominant in this region. Potatoes, sweet red bell peppers and celery are common vegetables. Local saffron is excellent. Clams and fish stew are popular. Soups and stews typically will include lentils, dried beans or farro.
White wines: Trebbiano
Red Wines: Cerasuolo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Main Cities: Benevento, Capri, Caserta, Naples
Cuisine: With its long coast, seafood stews and salads are common. Steamed clams and mussels are popular. World famous mozzarella di bufala and San Marzano tomatoes are prized ingredients. Some of Italy’s best pasta comes from this region. Stuffed vegetables are a staple. Pizza was born in Naples. Lemoncello is both an apertif and an after dinner drink as lemons are abundant.
White wines: Fiano d’Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Lacrima Christi
Red wines: Aglianico, Falerno, Taurasi
Calabria and Basilicata
Main Cities: Catanzaro, Cosenza, Matera, Potenza, Reggio
Cuisine: Calabrian seafood is bountiful here. Fish Stews, tuna, swordfish. Basilicata is mountainous where pork and pork sausages, lamb stews, soups and pastas include beans and vegetables. Eggplant with tomatoes and mozzarella and double crusted pizzas are common dishes. Burrata, mozzarella and provolone cheeses are the most popular. Garlic, oregano and chiles are added to broccoli and other green vegetables
White wines: imported from other regions.
Red wines: Aglianico del Vulture
Main Cities: Altamura, Bari, Brindisi, Foggia, Lecce, Otranto, Librandi
Cuisine: This is wheat country. No surprise the crusty breads from Altamura, olive bread and pretzel crackers are known throughout Italy. A variety of pastas and abundant vegetables are served together. Seafood is also served raw, in stews and steamed or grilled. Lamb and pork are common and cheeses like aged ricotta, burrata and provolone are served most with meals.
White wines: Bombino Bianco, Chardonnay, Verdeca
Red wines: Aleatico di Puglia, Malvasia Nera, Negroamaro, Primitivo, Salice Salentino
Main Cities: Agrigento, Catania, Messina, Palermo, Syracuse, Taormina
Cuisine: Close to Africa, the Arabic influence shapes much of Sicilian cooking. Vegetables are central to the diet. Fennel, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant are seasoned with spices and onions, garlic, pine nuts and raisins. Surrounded by the sea, swordfish, tuna, sardines, octopus, sea urchins, mussels and clams can show up in any number of preparations. A variety of olives, citrus fruits, and nuts are paired with local cheeses from cows and sheep.
White wines: Chardonnay, Catarratto, and Inzolia blends
Red wines: Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Nerello, Nero d’Avola
Fortified and Desert wines: Malvasia di Pantelleria, Marsala, Moscato di Pantelleria
Main Cities: Cagliari, Nuoro, Olbia, Sassari
Cuisine: Sun-dried tomatoes, mint, saffron, fennel and bay leaves are the main flavors added to pastas, seafoods, lamb and pork dishes. A crisp flat bread is a staple for most meals. Sheep’s milk cheeses include ricotta and pecorino. Almonds and honey are common ingredients in deserts.
White wines: Vermentino di Gallura, Vermentino di Sardegna, Vernaccia di Oristano.
In a perfect world, home made marinara should be made with vine ripened tomatoes picked at the peak of the season. But then there is the blanching and peeling all necessary before the cooking begins.
This recipe trims a few corners but I double the recipe (it takes the same amount of time) and freeze it in 1 cup freezer containers and draw on it for a simple pasta for two, or multiple cups for dishes like lasagna or stuffed shells.
Note: recipe below is a single batch. Double the recipe and use a good quality 8 quart pot.
Garlic, finely chopped (I use more)
1 28 oz. can
Diced Tomatoes, preferably Italian brand
1 28 oz. can
Strained Tomatoes, preferably Italian brand
Dry red wine (375 ml.) Good quality or better
2 Tsp. each
Dried: Oregano, Basil, Thyme
Sea salt, black pepper, sugar
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and saute about 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, oregano, basil, thyme and bay leaf and simmer on a low heat until thick, stirring occasionally, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar before serving.
You can serve immediately. Or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.
Serving suggestions: Use this sauce for pizza or serve over polenta with grated cheese of choice.
Mom’s Meat Balls
John’s Mom is one of the best cooks ever. She has taught me so much about cooking, especially Italian cooking. Many of the family recipes have no portions, just a little of this or a pinch of that.
We love the recipe below because it can be used so many different ways. Added to any kind of pasta sauce, served as a side dish or with a crusty Italian roll or French baguette with a little spicy jardinere.
1 lb. Ground chuck (beef)
1 lb. Ground pork
1/4 cup (or less) Bread crumbs (to bind)
Garlic cloves to taste, finely chopped
1/4 cup (or less) Grated Romano or Parmasean cheese
1 egg, (2 eggs if you are adding 1/2 lb. or more meat to the base recipe.)
Fresh Parsley to taste, finely chopped. Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl until evenly mixed. Hand roll into balls of your choice, about 1-1/2 inch give or take to your personal preference. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a lipped tray and space the meatballs evenly apart.
Roast in a 400 degree oven until brown, about 20 minutes (+/-). Cool, use immediately or freeze in plastic zip lock bags for up to 30 days.
There are many ways to roast a chicken. My favorite after 35 years produces a moist meat and crisp skin without basting.
Serve with mashed, baked or roast potatoes and a salad or veggie of your choice.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
1 whole chicken, the higher quality the better, giblets and excess fat removed.
1 medium onion, quartered
1 lemon, quartered (optional but recommended)
Garlic to taste, halved or smashed with the flat side of a knife.
Salt and pepper to taste for the cavity and skin.
Olive oil and or butter for the skin (I like both but either or works)
4 to 6 cups (or more) low sodium good quality chicken stock.
Wash and dry the chicken inside and out. Salt and pepper the cavity. Add onion, lemon and garlic, add fresh herbs if you have them (thyme, rosemary, etc. but not required). Truss the chicken into a compact “package”.
Slather the skin with olive oil and or butter. Place on its side on a v-rack. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Add two cups (or more)of stock to the bottom of the pan. Reduce oven to 400 degrees. Roast for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and flip the chicken to the other side. Return to the oven and roast for another 30 minutes. Replenish the stock to the pan.
Remove from the oven and flip the chicken to the breast side up. Return to the oven and roast for another 30 minutes. Replenish the stock to the pan if needed.
Remove from the oven and place on a carving plate. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm and allow to rest for another 30 minutes before carving/serving.
Juices and stock will make a great GRAVY. Limit salt in the cooking process to keep gravy from becoming salty.
Deglaze the pan with white wine over low temperature heat.
Add and melt 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons flour. Mix with flat wisk.
Slowly add stock in portions to incorporate. Season to taste.
We just got back from our Niece’s wedding in Rochelle, Illinois. Rochelle is roughly 85 miles East of Chicago. It is farm country. Lots of trucking. And the confluence of one of the largest rail intersections in the country.
We stopped at an unusual viewing platform and watched a huge freight train ramble by along with about 20 other ‘regular’ observers. This spot has it’s own radio station, various placards of historical significance and a history of the Lincoln Highway. It’s worth a stop but probably not worth a detour.
We did discover a couple of local restaurants worthy of recommendation. Restaurant Tecalitan is a family owned and operated place serving authentic homemade Mexican food. They have an extensive selection of entries. Everything is house made including the salsas. The consensus at our table was a unanimous thumbs up!
Restaurant Tecalitan, 1071 N. Caron Road, Rochelle, IL 61068. 815-561-7576.
Also suggested is the Sunrise Family Cafe. We went for breakfast and loved it. We were a party of 16 and called ahead for a reservation. Most guests are seated first come, first served. The breakfast menu is extensive and hearty. Everyone seemed pleased with their choices. The restaurant also serves lunch and dinner.
Sunrise Family Restaurant, 1181 N. 7th Street, Rochelle, IL 61068 Open 5AM to 10 PM daily. 815-562-4877.
If you are traveling to France anytime soon, or simply need a reminder next time you want to stray from US wines, print this shortcut or reminder of what is what from French vines.
First the basics.
Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC)
These wines are the finest (with Vins de Qualite Superieure, AVODQS, finishing a very close second). Vineyard growing areas, yields, grape varieties and alcohol content are scrupulously regulated. When looking at the label, note that the word for the area of origin will often replace “d’Origine” as in “Applellation Beaujolais Controlee.”
Vin de Pays (VAN DUH PAY-EE)
These wines bring you to the delightful bouquet of the French countryside. They are often varietal wines whose growing area, grape variety and minimum alcohol content are carefully delimited. But do not limit yourself. Serve these delicious wines with all your favorite meals.
Vine de Table (VAN DUH TAB)
In France, these are the wines the French enjoy daily. They give you a consistent blend of fine quality and good value. French table wines are easy to get to know and a joy in their diversity. Available in red, white, and rose, these wines are splendid with a wide variety of foods.
Now the regions.
Loire Valley (LWAHR)
Extending the length of France’s longest river, the Loire, this valley was known as the vacation spot for the French royalty. Today, you can dine just as royally by having a Loire wine for every occasion. There are sparkling wines, for the aperitif hour, crisp, refreshing whites perfect with seafood; light reds and roses for simple meat and poultry dishes, even demi-sec (slightly sweet) and moelleux (sweet) wines for desert.
Since the 1st Century A.D., the region of Bordeaux has been creating wines which have delighted everyone from ancient Romans to modern Parisians. This 2,000 year experience has led to wines which are considered the epitome of the winemaker’s art. Serve Bordeaux whites with seafood, ham, poultry, and pork. Serve Bordeaux reds with lamb, duck, and any roast with rich sauces.
Situated next to Bordeaux, this is an enormous wine-producing region which is noted for Bergerac and Cahors wines among many others. 100 years ago, the vineyards were devastated by disease. Remarkably, the vineyards now bloom again with rediscovered local, historical grape varieties. In fact, these age-old varietals producing red, white and rose wines, both dry and sweet, are being enjoyed by new generations of wine lovers.
Languedoc-Roussillon (LANG-DUC RUE-SEE OWN)
On the slopes, hillsides, terraces, plains and coastlines the vineyards of this region in southern France represent the world’s most extensive wine growing area, producing world class varietals. This is an emerging wine region with new growths, new wines and a new sense of importance among wine lovers. Here you’ll find wines with a powerful bouquet, fruity roundness, full body and pleasant spicy character.
Dry, white and fruity, the wines of Alsace are ideal for a variety of menus and are especially well matched with exotic spicy cuisines. These are the French AOC wines which are named after the grapes from which they are grown- Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris (Tokay d’Alsace), Riesling, Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Sylvaner.
TRAVEL NOTE: These are among our favorite wines in France. They are typically white, affordable and very drinkable. Ask the shopkeeper or waiter for the “dry or not sweet” choices. By the way, a week long trip along the region’s “wine road” is delightful. Loaded with charming hotels and one of the largest concentrations of affordable Michelin starred restaurants. Consider the off season for no crowds and affordable prices.
Fly in and out of Frankfurt, rent a car at the airport, add Strasburg at the beginning and a spa stop at Baden Baden on the end and make it 10 days or two weeks. (Now back to wine!)
For centuries, the region known as Burgundy has produced marvelous whites from the Chardonnay grape and wondrous red wines from the Pinot Noir variety. Whites go especially well with seafoood and many poultry preparations. Reds complement all types of beef. Between Bourgogne and Beaujolais thrives the sub-region of Macon where winemaking dates back to the founding of the abbey at Cluny in 910. It’s famous for wines such as Macon-Villages, Macon Lugny and the renowned Pouilly-Fuisse.
From Beaujolais Nouveau to basic Beaujolais to Beaujolais-Villages to the 10 Beaujolais crus, these 100% Gamay grape reds have a refreshing, fruity bouquet. There is a Beaujolais to go with everything from gourmet dises to pizza, from pasta to burgers. Best served slightly chilled, Beaujolais is known as “the red that drinks like a white.”
Rhone Valley (ROAN)
The Rhone valley in southern France is an area rich in history with vineyards dating back to pre-Roman times. The whines produced here are as robust as the climate. Noted for rich, spicy reds, Rhone wines are perfect with poultry, game, stews and hearty cheeses.
Situated in southeastern France is an area on the Mediterranean, Provence is a region of contrasts – flower filled valleys and rugged mountain ranges, lush forests and the famed beaches of the Cote d’Azur. This is the home of bouillabaisse, salad nicoise, hearty stews and strong aromatic white, red and rose wines.
The island of Corsica, off the southern coast of France, is best known as the birthplace of Napoleon in 1769. Wines is a integral part of the Corsican way of life. Corsican proverbs, sayings and maxims assess life’s experiences with wine and the vine. The inhabitants of Corsica produce many fine white, red and rose wines which go wonderfully with seafood as well as with meats.
TRAVEL NOTE: We were lucky enough to have a wonderful Corsican meal including their wines on a brief stop while on a Mediterranean cruise. The white wine we ordered was crisp, tart, bold with a clean finish. We would go back in a heartbeat to see more of the island and its Italian neighbor Sardinia. We have never found a Corsican wine in our stores. Has anyone out there found these wines in the US?
I love marinades! The investment of a few minutes to prepare a marinade pays huge dividends at the dinner plate. The ordinary become extraordinary. Give these a try and let me know your thoughts.
Red or White Wine and Herb Marinade
This is a basic recipe for a classic French marinade. Vary the herbs according to the wine and the meat, poultry, or seafood that you are using. Try oregano, rosemary, marjoram, or chives. This marinade is particularly well suited to poultry, lamb or beef.
1 cup olive oil
1 cup good red or white wine
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar, optional
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 medium red or yellow onions, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme, or 2 tsp. dried
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 bay leave
4 whole cloves, crushed
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Use or cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 2 1/4 cups liquid.
Spicy Peanut Marinade
This marinade is similar to the sauce used with Indonesian satay. Use with pork, beef or chicken.
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. bottled fish sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp., packed, minced fresh ginger
1/2 to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, whisking until smooth. Lower the heat and simmer the marinade for 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl to cool. When cool, use or cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Honey Mustard Marinade
This marinade keeps well for about two weeks in the refrigerator. Add some garlic or cayenne or Tabasco for a spicier marinade. Add chopped fresh herbs such as chives, parsley, thyme or tarragon. Use with lamb, chicken, pork or salmon. When cooked, the marinade forms an appetizing crust.
1/2 cup Dijon-style mustard
1/2 cup grainy mustard
1/3 cup lemon juice
freshly ground pepper to taste
Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. Use or cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 1 3/4 cups.
This is a delicious marinade with a Greek flair. Try on fish, poultry, veal, or pork tenderloin. Change the herbs as you like, or add lots of coarsely ground black pepper for a lemon-pepper marinade.
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup drained capers, optional
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork or whisk. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 1/2 hour before using; this will develop the flavors. Use or cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 1 1/4 cups.
Indian Yogurt Marinade
This is a variation of a typical tandoori marinade. Use with boneless chicken breasts, shrimp, or pork tenderloin.
1 piece fresh ginger, about two inches long, weighing about 1 ounce, peeled and cut into chunks.
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of ground clove
Place the ginger and garlic in a bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break up the pieces. Add all the remaining ingredients and process until the ginger and garlic are almost pureed. The marinade will have a grainy texture. Use the cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.
In Japanese cooking, teriyaki refers to a sweet soy sauce-based sauce that is applied during the last stages of cooking seafood, chicken, pork or beef. Teri means gloss, which describes the sheen of the dish. This effect, or glazing, is achieved during the broiling (yaki) of the food. Here we are using the sauce as a marinade.
You may buy commercially prepared teriyaki sauce, but this is such a simple, quick preparation, it’s best to make it yourself so you can keep the amount of sugar to a minimum. This sauce will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator, covered in a glass jar. Use as a marinade for beef, pork, chicken, or seafood, particularly salmon, tuna, or bluefish. You may also use as a dipping sauce for dumplings, tempura, shrimp, chicken fingers, or spoon over rice or noodle dishes.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine or sherry)
1/2 cup sake (rice wine)
2 tsp. sugar, brown or white
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix with fork to dissolve the sugar. Use or cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
Using a vinaigrette or salad dressing as a marinade is a simple method to impart big flavor to foods. Let your imagination go and create your own special combination. Try red wine vinegar instead of the balsamic and use minced red onion and thyme with it. Use raspberry vinegar and add some sweet onions, or sherry vinegar and grated orange zest.
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, or 1 tbsp. dried
1 tbsp. minced shallot
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the vinegar, salt, pepper, basil and shallot in a small bowl and whisk to dissolve the salt. Slowly whisk in the oil until smooth. Use or cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. If storing before use, whisk again just before marinating to mix the vinegar and oil. Makes about 1 cup.
You may increase the spiciness of this marinade by using more jalapeno chile or replacing them with the spicier serrano chile. Use this marinade with chicken, seafood, pork or beef.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup lime juice
1 small onion, chopped
2 jalapeno chile, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 1/2 hour before using to let the flavors to develop. Use or cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 1 1/4 cups.
This is an instant marinade that adds a unique flavor to smoky-sweet barbecue sauce. If you have the time, make your own barbecue sauce. Use this marinade on pork or beef ribs, chicken, or lamb.
1 cup barbecue sauce of your choice
3/4 cup pineapple sauce
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Use or cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 1 3/4 cups.
This is a powerfully flavored marinade with all the classic Chinese ingredients. Use on pork, beef, poultry and lamb.
6 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 scallions, sliced
1 Tbsp., packed, minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. honey
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to mix well. Use or cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes about 1 cup.