Today's post has been brought to you by the TOMATO! Let's chat about pairing wines with this glorious summer fruit (yes, a FRUIT...not a veg!), shall we?
Tomatoes have a LOT going for them...they are, arguably, the culinary equivalent of the little black dress. Tomatoes are also very naturally high in acidity...which may SEEM like a problem when it comes to pairing wines with them.
FEAR NOT, my friends! A few simple guidelines will have you sprinting to your garden or local farmer's market to grab these colorful little juicy jewels.
Rule 1: Acidic foods make wines taste less acidic. Tart wines will taste more fruity when paired with acidic foods, such as tomatoes. So for FRESH tomatoes, let's first...THINK PINK. No shock there, as i tend to preach the pink as a food partner for many reasons. Rosé IS summer, so let's grab those heirlooms and drizzle them with some excellent extra virgin...crown them with a flourish of kosher salt and adorn them with a chiffonade of fresh basil. The olive oil will tend to soften the acidity of the tomato...toss a little burrata or fresh mozzarella into the mix to further tone down that little tomato. Wines to avoid include big, buttery Chardonnay (the horror!) and reds that are high in tannin. Wines that are high in acidity are the ones to look for here. In addition to my precious pink...seek out a Sauvie...procure a Pinot Gris...reach for a dry Riesling...search for a sparkler. And..you can never go wrong with a cool Italian white, such as Arneis, Gavi, or Soave.
Rule 2: COOKING the tomatoes will reduce their natural acidity, rendering them almost sweet. (think about how a fresh tomato tastes versus a sun-dried tomato) With this type of preparation..stick with reds that are high in acidity, but not tannin. Barbera is a great choice, as is Sangiovese...the grape of Chianti. There's a REASON that so many Italian restaurants feature such a variety of these wines on their lists. They are GREAT with tomato sauced dishes! It has often been stated, and sometimes overstated that what grows together GOES TOGETHER...but, i find the adage to be helpful, particularly when we are talking about Italian cuisine and the wines to match. And, don't neglect the whites when thinking about pairing certain dishes bathed in a robe of red sauce. Mussels Fra Diavola and Cioppino literally cry out for a crisp, acidic white. And, although I don't often tout the virtues of Pinot Grigio...there are wonderful examples to be found and they are just the ticket for certain tomato-sauced creations. Stick to smaller production Pinot Grigio...Jermann, St. Michael Eppan, Lechthaler...or even Ferrari-Carano and De Loach from the good old U S of A.
There! Fairly simple and not as difficult as one might imagine! Now--get thee to your local farm stand, farmer's market, or backyard garden...and prepare to take your tomato game to a whole new level. Cheers!
For those of you who were stuck in the 5-1-8, living semi-vicariously through me on social media, you have no doubt seen a few of these pix already. My apologies to those who had to brave the HELL that was Stella, while I shared pictures of sunshine and vine. #SORRYNOTSORRY
After all, I have diligently "liked" all of YOUR vacation posts, while I sat...quietly selling wine...unable to take a vacation of my OWN, until we sold our shop. This WAS, for all intents and purposes, our honeymoon...after 8 plus years...so if my apology sounds a touch less than heartfelt, that's because it IS.
This was our first sojourn to what I will now refer to as the HAPPY Valley...the smile didn't leave my face until we had to leave. This post is FAR from a complete travelogue (I am working on THAT as well)...but, a few of you have asked what some of my highlights and can't miss spots were during my trip. The following is the first installment, focusing on Napa itself. Sit down..pour yourself a nice, big glass of Napa Cabernet and enjoy. (and book a flight asap)
On the advice of my good friend, Dominick Purnomo (you MAY have heard of him), we stayed right in the Town of Napa, rather than Yountville, or another location. Literally at the southern tip of the Valley that takes its name, this is a great place to stay. Not only is it the location for the beginning of The Napa Valley Wine Train, it's also VERY easy to navigate...restaurants are within walking distance and lodging is fairly reasonable. We stayed at The Westin Verasa, and I highly recommend it. Free nightly wine tastings right in the lobby area...a Michelin-starred restaurant, "La Toque", located right in the hotel...very friendly staff...super accommodating...you can walk to everything in Napa. Oxbow Market is a stone's throw away, as is Model Bakery (home of Oprah's..and MY... favorite English Muffins), Gott's Roadside (FABULOUS burgers and similar fare), several tasting rooms, and The Napa Valley Wine Train Station is RIGHT across the street. Although the restaurants in Napa are not as famous as those in Yountville (hello...French Laundry...heard of it?), we uncovered a little gem called TORC. There is also a Morimoto satellite, Bounty Hunter BBQ, as well as numerous other spots that will more than satisfy, should you choose to lodge right in Napa proper. Stay tuned for my next post, which will focus on CAN'T MISS winery visits, as well as a little thing I call WINE TASTING ETIQUETTE...trust me, a LOT of people need it! Cheers!
I am a lover of many things, but at the very top of my list (until track season, anyway) are food...WINE...and? FOOTBALL. I am the Commish of a Fantasy Football League, aptly named Fantasy Fillies..and...I was the champion this season. Who were my quarterbacks? TOM BRADY and MATT RYAN......Go ME. But, this post is not as much about football as it is about FOOTBALL FARE.
NO need to be DEF:LATED (😂😂😂😂) if your team is busy scouting draft prospects, rather than playing in the Mother of ALL Grid Iron games. IF you are a football fan, you're WATCHING The Super Bowl on Sunday. Hells bells, even if you're NOT a football fan, you are most likely watching, albeit under some duress.
One fact that remains undisputed is this: Super Bowl Sunday is an excuse to PIGSKIN OUT. And, I'm talking about foods that you do NOT admit that you ever ingest, when your Doctor asks. Yes...on Super Bowl Sunday, the major food groups become Cheese, Meat, and Alcohol. (and not necessarily in that order)
So...what's cooking in Patti's Bitchin' Kitchen THIS year?
I often decide my Football Fare based on the teams that are playing, and this year is no exception...read on...get a little inspiration of your own...and may the BEST VICTUALS claim VICTORY.
Representing the AFC...THE New England Patriots.
The Dishes: Cape Cod Chips w/caramelized onion dip ( a bit more work, but definitely better than the dip in a tub)
Lobstah Cobb: It is easy to find pre-cooked lobsters in most grocery stores these days, if you are not up to steaming the little buggers yourself. Mix lobster meat with chunks of avocado, bits of bacon, and dress with a scant amount of lemon and dijon mayo.
Yankee Pot Roast Slidaaaahs: Simply make your favorite pot roast recipe in your slow cooker the day before. The day of the game, just pull part with a fork and toss them on a slider roll.
Whiskey Dogs: EASIEST app on the planet...little weiners, bourbon, ketchup and brown sugar. I sometimes toss a little chili sauce for a but of heat, but it's NOT required.
Patriots Potato Salad: Use your fave tater salad recipe, substituting a mix of baby red and purple potatoes...until I can find BLUE potatoes, purple will have to suffice.
Sam Adams Cheddar Fondue: Beer...cheese...I believe I have your attention.
Dessert: WHOOPIE PIES. If you've never had them, you have NO idea what you're missing. Not only are these little beauties the official dessert of Maine, Marshmallow Fluff was invented in Massachusetts. WICKED GOOD.
Representing the NFC...The HOTLANTA Falcons.
The Dishes: Mamie's Cheese Wafers: Find these little coins of happiness in the frozen section of Fresh Market. You'll be glad you did.
Patti's Pimento Cheese: I like to think that I contributed to the current Pimento Cheese Passion that seems to abound on local menus lately. I've been on it for YEARS.
#DEVILFANTASY Eggs: I don't believe you are permitted to attend ANY gathering in the South unless you love deviled eggs. And...I LOVE them. Easy to adapt to your favorite flavor profiles as well....toss in some chopped bacon, a little chipotle puree...or go traditional with a little pickle relish. I've never met a deviled egg I didn't like.
Sausage Balls: Great BALLS of FIRE, these are easy and tasty!!!
Straight out of Paula Deen's Savannah Country Cookbook. Ok--Savannah isn't Atlanta, but it's damn close.,..and well...SAUSAGE BALLS.
Country Ham and Biscuits: SO simple. Try to avoid the temptation to purchase those Spiral-Sliced numbers, as you really want thick chunks of ham on your biscuits, not pretty little slices. And, if you're not up to making scratch biscuits? No big deal...buy Pillsbury Frozen Buttermilk Biscuits or Callie's Biscuits (also at Fresh)..or visit your favorite local bakery and buy some. NO ONE WILL CARE.
Traditional Southern Potato Salad: Taters, Celery, Onion, Seasoning, DUKE'S Mayo, splash vinegar. Optional: pickle relish
Hummingbird Cupcakes: Now, I admit, I ordered the Whoopies from a bakery in Maine...but the Hummingbird Cuppies, I am making myself. It's like a spice cake on steroids...flavored with pineapple , cinnamon, bananas and pecans...it is THE quintessential Southern dessert. Topped with a little cream cheese frosting and garnished with a slice of dried pineapple...Y'ALL with me????
Happy SUPER BOWL SUNDAY!!!!! #goPATS
Fare FAVORITES 2016 Edition.... YOUR BEST BETS ON and OFF track...for dining, drinking and general, good-natured debauchery.
YES. It's THAT time of year again...
Ahhh...CHRISTMAS in July for ALL of us who love The Sport of Kings and all the craziness that goes with it when attention turns to our little corner of Thoroughbred Paradise. As I have been known to say..."It's NOT the days that will kill you...it's the NIGHTS".
But...man and woman cannot live by winning wagers alone...we've ALSO got to EAT when our thoughts turn from gambling to gastronomy. And, as I am in a unique position to recommend restaurants to all of my out of town visitors at the shop...and also have quite a bit of expertise in the area...HERE are MY 2016 PICKS. In NO particular order...
STILL THE best restaurant in downtown Saratoga and one of the toughest tables to be had. Chef Brady's creations are legendary, both in presentation and palate. The Lobster Parfait is a particular favorite of mine as a starter and the Halibut satisfies even the most carniverous of customers. We usually prefer patio dining, as our outdoor season tends to be somewhat abbreviated in these parts...and the patio menu at 15 Church is extraordinary. My picks are Hot Crab Dip, Smoked Trout Dip, Clam Chowder (and i KNOW my chowdah) and their spin on Chicken & Waffles. Can't go wrong with anything, really. And if CRAVING their Zeppoles daily is wrong...I don't WANNA be right. Fab dessert menu options...but I JUST can't order anything but these crunchy-soft, cinnamon-showered little puffs of joy. SUPERB cocktails...my favorites are Burke's Lemonade, Blood Orange Margarita and Fresh Squeeze... and wines??? Exceptional by the glass and bottle program and an equally exceptional cordial, scotch and after-dinner selection. FIRST CLASS in EVERY way. There is a reason it's the most sought-after rezzie since Rao's.
Sperry's was in need of a serious culinary facelift, in my opinion. With the arrival of Chef Brian Bowden...it got one. Chef B hasn't missed a beat...I, however, had REALLY missed HIS BEETS. Unlike the tedious Beet Salads that are, QUITE literally, EVERYWHERE...Brian's is more app than salad and features a goat cheese mousse that is HEAVEN.
I know--I KNOW. Bear with me, here. Siro's has suffered from a SERIOUS case of schizophrenia the past few years. Open..NOT Open..for sale...NOT for sale. BUT--I am happy to report that THIS year? I think they FINALLY got their meds right. The wine list is FAR more comprehensive this year...a tad more reasonably priced (it is SIRo'S after all) and a new Chef in the kitchen from Hunt & Fish seems to be just the medicine required. We went to their soft "friends and family" opening and loved the Crab Cakes...just loved them. Try the DuMol Chloe Chardonnay if you're in the mood...it paired extremely well with the Crab. I'm hoping the Siro's of yesteryear has been resurrected....only time will tell...
Salt & Char:
Lives up to the hype. Lobster, Crab and Corn Chowder...texture of silk. Wine list: Arranged by "style" rather than varietal, which gets me all totally geeked out. LOVE that. Reservations via Open Table and I would strongly suggest it.
Hamlet & Ghost:
Definitely the HIPPEST of all the recently opened spots in the Spa. Cocktails pay homage to the classics...Pimm's Cup, Pisco Punch and Gin Fizz are but a few...and small plate specials rotate frequently. Their Pimento Cheese is fairly addicting and I think we all know how I feel about that particular Southern staple. Check them out.
Makes my list every year. Just great Italian prepared with care. A super post-track spot. Greek Scampi is a favorite appetizer...their Steak is one of the best in town and the Shrimp Genoase melts in your mouth. Perennial favorite.
If you're a steak lover, your cup runneth over in Saratoga Springs lately. Morton's is real-deal classic steakhouse and the staff and service are exemplary. Excellent wine list...priced very well. Try the Liporita Napa...a well-priced Cab that over delivers for the price.
Offering more of a California-style spin on traditional Mexican, Blue Agave (located in the former Leon's spot on Crescent) is like a breath of fresh, cilantro-scented air. Guac offerings are traditional and a seasonal spin is also featured. Blue Agave Ceviche is a refreshing and LIGHT delight. The Queso Fundido is also a favorite...I mean, WHO among us can resist gooey, melted CHEESE in a dish? DON'T lie!!! And the cocktails? Please. Just order me a Diva Margarita and I'll meet you there.
When we feel like braving the parking disaster that IS downtown Saratoga---this is where you will most likely find us. Share several small plates...my suggestions? Blistered Shishito Peppers...Fried Potatoes with a garlicky aioli...Stuffed Dates....Ham Croquettes and Pork Belly.
Fish @30 Lake:
The latest addition to the Mazzone Group and my favorite of all of them. (in Saratoga, anyway...I love Tala also) A MUST order dish is the Goat Cheese Panna Cotta....served with a medley of tomatoes and a perfectly crispy garlic toast...delICIOUS. Raw bar is fresh, fresh, fresh....the Gnudi will make you want to get that way. LOTS of familiar and friendly faces as well. Say hey to Marty behind the bar and request Jillian as your expert server.
When you just can't take the hustle and bustle of Saratoga....venture a mere 15 minutes away to Galway, where you will find Sandy Foster in all her glory. MULTIPLE award winning wine list...Sandy GETS IT...she wants YOU to enjoy wine as much as SHE does...and, as such, her wine list is extensive and offers a bottle for EVERY budget. Couple that with wood-fired pizzas and perfect pasta? Yup, I'm IN.
The Wishing Well:
An institution in Spa City dining. The Lee Family just exudes such hospitality and CLASS that I always find myself wanting to eat here. Honestly, may just be my very favorite restaurant in all of Saratoga. Plus--it was always one of my Gram's favorites and nostalgia does hold a very special place in my heart...and my tummy.
There you have it! I am sure I have omitted some that are YOUR favorites and if so--drop me a note and let me know! We are fortunate to have SO many spectacular dining options in and just outside of town!!!
Bon Appetit...CHEERS... and I'll see you trackside, barside and tableside!!!!
I was recently interviewed by a local newspaper about holiday cocktail traditions and was inspired to create a few new ones to add to my spirited stockpile. Most of these may be adjusted for alcohol-free versions for the kiddos and designated drivers, and for those who simply do not partake. Cheers.
1 quart Cranberry Juice cocktail
1 quart pink lemonade
1 can frozen pink grapefruit juice, thawed
1/4 cup grapefruit liqueur (creme de pamplemousse…preferred brand is Giffard..available at most fine wine and spirit shops)
1 750ml bottle Prosecco, Cava, or other high quality sparkling wine
Combine 1st 4 ingredients in a large punch bowl or whatever container you will be using. Add the sparkling wine and serve. Garnish each cup with few cranberries on a cocktail stirrer or threaded through a thin straw.
For the Non-Alcoholic version: Simply omit the grapefruit liqueur, use sparkling water in place of sparking wine, and add a pint of rainbow sherbet to the punch bowl.
Strawberry Sangria Punch
2 750ml bottles fruity red wine, such as Beaujolais or Red Zinfandel
1 cup Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 cup strawberry liqueur (such as Giffard)
1 cup best quality orange vodka (such as Stoli)
1 cup strawberry nectar
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup sliced oranges
club soda (may use plain club soda…or your favorite flavor of sparkling seltzer…lime works well)
The Elf Fell OFF The TOP Shelf
The Elf Fell Off The Top Shelf
2 parts Grey Goose Cherry Noir
1 part Luxardo Cherry Liqueur
1 part Cran-Cherry juice
splash freshly squeezed lime juice
garnish: 1 maraschino cherry and 2 cranberries threaded onto a cocktail pick.
Mix first 4 ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice. Mix. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish appropriately.
1 1/2 parts Coole Swan Irish Dairy Cream Liqueur
1/2 part green creme de menthe
1/2 part white creme de cacao
Garnish: sprig of fresh mint and chocolate shavings on top.
Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with shaved ice. Strain into a frosted martini glass and garnish with mint and chocolate shavings. Those chocolate stirrers also make a festive garnish!
As most visitors to the SPA and to Saratoga Race Course make Crush & Cask and YOURS TRULY their first stop....I am asked constantly about where to dine and drink in our little corner of Paradise. Below, you will find my "GO-TO" list which includes a few favorites from last year, as well as some scratches and changes. Bon Appetit.
In no particular order...
Pennell's Restaurant: Jefferson St.
A perennial favorite. Just had their Veal Parm last night and it is THE best around these parts. Leave the gun...take the cannoli. Seriously, you can HAVE Chianti. THIS winechick prefers Pennell's.
The Brook Tavern: Corner of Union and Nelson
My second home? Some people think it is. Bob Lee's attention to detail does not go unnoticed. I still adore The Wishing Well if we are feeling a little fancier...but The Brook? I'm surprised my fanny hasn't made an indelible mark on the barstool in the corner. Jimmy is a barkeep extraordinaire (and one HELL of a great guy) who KNOWS his booze and crafts a superb cocktail. BEST BET.
15 CHURCH: (duh...15 Church St)
Probably THE best restaurant in downtown Saratoga. SUPERBLY crafted and inventive cocktails (the Burke Lemonade is a particular favorite), a wonderful and thoughtful wine list, a superb menu. What more can you ask for? OH...RIGHT!!!! There is also a NEW, spacious OUTDOOR dining area, complete with a retractable roof a la Cowboys Stadium. Go say hey to my friend Janine behind the patio bar.
Bravo: NEW Addition (located where Jack Dillon's used to be...and if you're REALLY old...Joe Collins WAY back when. lol)
Recently opened by the owner of Mama Mia's Pizza and Restaurant. The original plan was a steak and seafood place...but there are a lot of other options here as well. I wish they would shorten the menu just a bit since it's difficult to pull off THAT many dishes flawlessly...but...we shall see. The last time Hubster and I dined there (at the bar), it was great. But---we all know track season can make even the most WELL-oiled machine get squeaky...and they are new...so proceed with optimistic caution.
9 Maple Avenue: (duh again...9 Maple Ave)
NO explanation required. You want the best scotch and bourbon selection in town? Look no further. Period. End of story.
Shake Shack: (Saratoga Race Course...adjacent to the paddock)
I'll admit it. I am obsessed. We just completed our Burger Smackdown in Saratoga...and Shake Shack wasn't included because they weren't open yet...good thing as they would have been my vote without question. There is JUST something about them that I CANNOT resist. My countdown to Opening Day is as much about the fact that I can have a Shake Shack burger as it is about horse racing and cocktails.
The Barrelhouse: (Beekman Street)
Disclaimer: One of our best friends is an owner. As of last season's writing, they had just opened and were still tweaking things a bit. Happy to report they are thriving in their little spot. Tyler STILL makes the best Bloody Mary in town...their craft beer offerings are wonderful and ever-changing. Try The Michigan Dogs.
The Lodge: SCRATCHED. SADLY, they will ONLY be open this season for weddings and special events. Which COMPLETELY bums me out. Someone's gotta get their shit together with this. No offense...but let someone run it who is passionate about it and knows food...drink...and proper MARKETING (like ME..but I digress)
Siro's: Changes: (NEW company to be in charge of the INSIDE area, including the kitchen...Hunt & Fish Club from NYC)
Nothing will ever say "I am in Saratoga" as much as Siro's does. It's an institution for a reason. Expensive? Hell, yes. Worth it? It's a bucket list thing. Seriously. Where else can you have dinner sitting next to Bobby Flay?
NOVE: Route 9, Gansevoort (but it still feels like Saratoga to me)
Yeah--this list is probably a little Italian-heavy...BUT...that's only because of the wealth of quality Italian restaurants we have around here. We love eating right at the bar here and Danilo has got the hospitality thing down to a T. He also loves to chat about vino.
Village Pizzeria: Galway
When we want to get a little out of the 12866...we head to see our friend Sandy. The wine list is EXCEPTIONAL..oh, and it's NOT mind and pocket numbingly expensive either. Are there $200 Barolos? Of course..but Sandy wants her customers to enjoy wine as much as SHE does. And it shows. Hubster is obsessed with the Lobster Pizza and I am obsessed with just about everything else.
Hattie's: I really don't need to elaborate here, do I? And...you really don't need directions, do you? Just follow the aroma.
Panza's: (Saratoga Lake)
TRY to go there on a Friday night when my friend Jay is bartending..,oh, and please...do me a favor and order 5 different kinds of annoying drinks...he LIVES for that stuff. They have recently resurrected a location on Brown's Beach as well that's a bit more casual. This is old-school EYE-Talian at its best.
Mangino's: (Saratoga Lake)
Another TOTAL old-school spot that will make you think you're an extra in Good Fellas. The Shrimp a la Mangino is fantastic.
And...there you have it. The list is shortened ONLY because of space constraints...be sure to follow me @winechick24 or @saratogafare for more information or to just drop me a HOLLA.