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Okay, you know how I was super upset at the last wine “tasting” I went to? The one where I felt like I was in an infomercial for Italian wineries? Yeah, that left such a bad taste in my mouth, I had sworn off tastings, until I found out about Wine Riot. Wine Riot is a huge tasting event where wine tasting is made less stuffy and more cool. The target is 21-35 year olds, to open up the world of wines to a younger audience. 

Update: We’ve had a ton of comments about the age range. There’s no age limit, ladies and gents! Their mission is just to make wine more approachable for a younger audience, who have previously thought about tastings as super stuffy and B-O-R-I-N-G. All you over 35s are welcome!!

What makes this tasting so cool? Well, check this out:

  • Over 250 wines to taste
  • Experts on hand to ask questions, while you’re tasting. (Even “dumb” ones.)
  • DJ Spinning (Who doesn’t want to dance a little when you’re tipsy?) 
  • Photo Booth (For when you get twisted and feel like dressing up.)
  • Food (Small bites to soak up the 250 wines you’ll be tasting.)
  • Local Wineries (A few from Virginia: Breaux Vineyards, Tarara Winery and Rappahannock Cellars.)
  • Mobile App (To remember what you’re tasting and what you liked. After 250 glasses, I’m sure they all meld together.)

Wine Riot is coming to DC, after having successful events in LA, Boston, Chicago and Brooklyn. I spoke with Rachel, their PR person, and she said they picked DC because of it being a cool east coast, urban location with public transportation (read: No DUIs on their watch.) Get on it, DC!!

Tickets are $50-60, and you can buy them here.

Riot One: Saturday, Oct. 22, 1-5 PM

Riot Two: Saturday, Oct. 22, 7-11 PM

Location: Daughters of the Revolution Constitution Hall

1776 D Street Northwest, Washington, DC

Enjoy!

~ Dana

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Okay, no pictures today. Just a good old fashioned opinion. I have to write this. Last week a few girls and I went to a wine tasting at a well-known wine bar in the 14th/U Street area in DC. Not just well known, but one of the best, winner of many awards. And it sucked. This wine bar recently added a tasting room and market, and had a space above the market to taste the wines. They brought in a group of wine importers, based in Italy, who spoke about the wines they selected and why. I was excited. I love Italy, and all things Italian (see my pasta addiction…). The instructor studied winemaking at UC Davis and moved to Italy. He spoke Italian fluently. Amazing. But when we had one wine glass on the table, and ten wines to taste, I should have known something was wrong.

I’ve been to wine samplings where you are given one glass. I say samplings because that’s what they were. They were free. Because the point was to just taste something, see if you liked it, and purchase something. Not to teach the participants about wine.  At Bottle Rocket in NYC, Christina and I went to a self-guided sampling, where the bottles and the descriptions were set out and they had staff on hand to answer any questions. But, with one wine glass, there were pitchers of water to rinse the glasses. Considering Bottle Rocket is a bottle shop, it made perfect sense to have a less fancy setup. And the point was to taste the wines to find a bottle to buy. At the Whole Foods in Fairfax, Virginia, they have an enomatic machine, where you can squirt out little single tastings of the 50+ wines they have and try before you buy. Same at Union Square Wines in NYC.

At this DC wine bar, I felt like I was in an infomercial. After every tasting, we heard: “this wine is available downstairs”. Great, but put it out there that what we’re doing is trying to find a bottle of wine for you to go buy. Don’t call it a guided wine tasting. Say, I’m going to give you a sip of 15 bottles of wine for you to figure out what you like. Good luck, sort it out, and if you want to learn about wines, go somewhere else.

If you happened to not like the wine that was in the glass, or drank a little slow, you were finding yourself having to chug the wine before the guy came around with the next bottle. The descriptions were all out of order and I honestly stopped paying attention halfway through the reds section.

The point of tastings is to learn what you like to drink, so you can start to recognize characteristics in wine that you like or don’t like. You start to learn things about what you’re tasting. For instance, as you may know, I don’t like sweet wines. So once I understood the adjectives that described these wines, like “has residual sugars”, or the region that makes these wines like Germany or Austria, I knew which wines to  stay away from. But if you don’t spend any time on the characteristics of the wine itself, and only focus on the pricepoint and anecdotes about the grower, what really is the point?

So in short, I was super disappointed. Really, DC, this is all you have to offer? Email me if you want to know what wine bar it was, to save you the trouble and money. And email me if you have some suggestions for good wine tastings in DC — I’m not giving up yet.

Here are a few places that have outstanding tastings.

Guided:

Artisanal Cheese, NYC

483 10th Avenue
New York, NY

Institute of Culinary Education, NYC

50 West 23rd Street
New York, NY

Murray’s Cheese Shop, NYC

254 Bleeker Street
New York, NY

Self Guided:

Bottle Rocket, NYC

5 West 19th Street
New York, NY

Bin 38, San Francisco

3232 Scott St
San Francisco, CA

Bin 36, Chicago

339 North Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL

Whole Foods Wine Market, Fairfax, VA

4501 Market Commons Dr
Fairfax, VA 22033

Union Square Wines, NYC

140 4th Avenue
New York, NY

I have recently become obsessed with braising. Partly because after getting married I now have fancy cast iron pots and partly (mostly) because I am a food nerd.  As is typically the case, I fuel that nerdiness with recipes from Bon Appétit. In February, they had an issue on braising, and a Portuguese Chicken recipe that I could not pass up. One of the things that stood out was the fact that wine is used in this recipe not one time, but three times. I was sold on trying it.

You will need:

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
    • 1 3- to 3 1/4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
    • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
    • 12 cipolline onions or 1-inch-diameter pearl onions, blanched 1 minute, peeled
    • 2 large roasted red peppers from jar, halved, cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips
    • 6 large garlic cloves, pressed
    • 4 large fresh Italian parsley sprigs
    • 4 large fresh bay leaves, bruised
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 1/2 cup tawny Port
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature (optional)

Blanching Onions

So first, regarding blanched onions, you’re probably wondering how to do this. Blanching is super easy. It’s basically putting pearl or cipolline onions in boiling water for about a minute, then immediately into ice water so that the outside is easy to peel off and the onions are perfectly shiny and peel free. Why do this? It makes these little thin-skinned suckers super easy to peel, and you don’t get that nasty onion smell on your hands.

Roasted Red Peppers

And regarding red peppers: You can get the ones out of a jar, but a more cost-effective way to do this is to roast them yourself. Put them on the top rack of a 500 degree oven. Roast until black all over, turning to get the other side. They should look like the picture below. Let them cool, peel the skin off and de-seed them. Amazing flavor and sense of accomplishment. 🙂

Okay, just some side notes. Carry on with your recipe, below.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in large bowl.

3. Add chicken pieces to seasoned flour, 1 at a time, and turn to coat.

4. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.

5. Add chicken, skin side down, and sauté until brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

6. Transfer chicken to plate; reserve skillet.

7. Arrange chicken in single layer in large ovenproof pot.

8. Top with tomatoes and juice, prosciutto, onions, red peppers, garlic, parsley, and bay leaves; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon paprika.

9. Add wine and Port to reserved skillet. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Remove from heat.

10. Whisk in mustard and tomato paste; pour mixture over chicken and bring to boil. Cover; transfer to oven.

Okay, let’s stop here for a second and talk about wine. I just posted an entry on cooking with wine here

I used Trader Joe’s Sauvignon Blanc. I used this wine because it’s dry, acidic and leaves a clean taste. This wine was cheap-o. $6.99 to be exact. And perfect. So why Sauvignon Blanc versus another dry white wine? Sauvignon Blancs are not typically aged in oak, and are usually consumed younger, which I prefer, because you have just the fresh flavors of the grape to deal with. Depending on the age of Sauvignon Blanc, the flavors can range from crisp citrus flavors to red and green peppers. Pretty awesome when you think about cooking with it.

You’ll notice that even Grey Poupon has white wine in it. So okay, this probably doesn’t really matter, but it’s another dimension of flavor.

And lastly, I used tawny port. What is that exactly? It sounds like some shy girl from my high school in Virginia. But, it’s not. Portugal is known for its Port wines, which can be quite sweet. Tawny port is made from red grapes and aged in wood, and is aged for less time than those vintage ports you hear about. It is less sweet as well. Vintage Ports can be almost syrup-y. As with all ports, they are fortified with a neutral grape spirit (kind of like a grape vodka) for a higher alcohol content. Because Tawny Port is aged in wooden barrels, it is exposed to oxidation, which adds a bit of a nutty flavor to the wine. This sweetness in the wine balances with the bitter of the Sauvignon Blanc and the mustard we added. It helps to round out the flavors in our chicken.

Braising is kind of like simmering for hours in the oven versus the stovetop, so the flavor will not be overwhelmingly alcohol-y.

Okay, to finish the recipe:

11. Braise chicken until very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Discard bay leaves and parsley.

12. Using tongs, transfer chicken and toppings to platter. Return sauce in pot to simmer.

13. If thicker sauce is desired, stir 1 tablespoon flour and butter in small bowl until smooth paste forms.

14. Add flour paste to sauce and whisk to blend. Simmer until sauce thickens to desired consistency, whisking often. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

15. Spoon over chicken and serve.

Enjoy!

~ Dana

 

I made this with 3 types of wine. Jealous?

One thing that shouldn’t surprise you about us in knowing that we love wine is that we often cook with wine. There’s a good reason, and not just because we like to drink it. When cooking with wine, the result is a different dimension of flavor to the food. Wine actually serves to pronounce the flavors and especially the smells/aromas in food. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – eating is not just with your tongue, a large part of it has to do with smell. It’s about creating an emotion around an experience. Food memory is a large part of the enjoyment of food.

Here are some rules to follow when cooking with wine:

1. Stay away from “cooking wines” or risk being laughed at.

“Cooking wines” are corny. What is the point of having a bottle of a wine that you can’t drink and can only cook with? I’ll answer for you – there is no point. When you cook with a wine, there’s something great about finishing off the bottle with your meal (or while you’re cooking, up to you). It provides continuity all the way through. In addition, so-called “cooking wines” usually have added salt or sugar, which can affect the way your food turns out. And you’re fancier than that.

2. If you wouldn’t drink the wine by itself, walk away. You’re too classy to bring that home.

Don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. I’m all for using cheaper wines to cook with, but not wines so cheap that I wouldn’t drink them.

I will disclaim here for those who have known me for a while and are about to blow my cover: When I was younger there was basically no floor to the cheapness of wine I would drink. But now I’m married. And more sophisticated. My floor has raised to $5 and up…

Think about it – when you cook, you are basically distilling down to the essence of the wine, and making the underlying flavors more pronounced. Why in the world would you want to do that for a wine that tastes like crap? Not a good idea. Plus you’re going to have wine left over. You just are. So make it something you can drink while admiring your handiwork.

3. I’m all about the two buck chuck.

Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean a better wine. I cook with Sauvignon Blanc a lot, and usually use a Trader Joe’s wine. The wine is literally $6.99. And being in marketing, I know a lot of pricing has to do with perceived value, so price isn’t necessarily indicative of quality. However, if you have an amazingly expensive bottle of wine that you’ve been dying to drink, and you’re only going to use ½ a cup in a recipe, I say do it.

4. How much wine am I going to use to cook? I’m dying watching all that alcohol evaporate.

So speaking of ½ a cup, how much wine should you use? Not a ton, let’s just say that. Use it as you would a seasoning – in moderation. This isn’t chicken stock, okay? The recipe that I’ll post on Friday uses 1 cup in total, which is for a whole chicken. Use that as a gauge when thinking about how much to add. Especially when cooking with meats, remember that it soaks up the flavors. Ask me about my crock pot chicken wine mess sometime. Nasty…There is definitely a limit. Alcohol evaporates as food cooks, so don’t try to use a meal as a way to get alcohol. Doesn’t work…That said, if you add wine and don’t simmer it, it can taste really wine-y and less flavor-y.

 5. Sweet or Dry?

Remember that sweeter wines will bring out more pronounced sweetness when simmered down, whereas dry wines will leave more of a clean wine taste. If you are doing a sauce with currants and apricots, say, I think a sweeter wine would fit perfectly. But imagine doing a shrimp scampi with a Muscat wine. Not cute. How does candied shrimp sound? You’re right. It sounds terrible. Use common sense here. Adding a sweet wine is adding sugar to your recipe, straight up.

6. Red or white?

What’s great about wines in cooking is that they follow some of the same rules as pairing drinking wines with food.

General rules are that red meats/heavier stewed dishes work with red wines, and chickens/seafood/lighter meats work well with white wines.  If you think about the fruits that are present in wines (white = apples, pears, strawberries, citrus; red = mushrooms, green peppers, cherries, raspberries, blackberries), that’s a good place to start. Need a refresher? Click here .

When thinking about tannic reds, think about what happens when you eat with them.  A tannic red wine can become more bearable when eating it with a fatty steak, because the combination softens the tannins. Same is true of cooking with tannic wines. I use a Pinot Noir that is less tannic in my Bolognese, because I use turkey meat which is less heavy. If I were using beef, like you’re supposed to in Bolognese sauce, a Cabernet would work great.

Acidic white wines work great in cooking because it’s like adding lemon juice or zest to bring out the brightness of a dish. Remember, same rule when pairing cheeses starts here – usually acid + acid = good. A splash of white wine really works with a fresh tomato sauce, which is acidic to start. “Buttery” whites, like Chardonnays, also go well with cream sauces, to add a bit of palette cleansing and brightness to cut the rich, heavy cream.

With the recipe that I’ll post for next time (see pic above), we use three types of white wines, which meld perfectly with the chicken, onions and red peppers that are stars of the recipe.

~ Dana

None of these make the cut...Trust me!

None of my friends drink rosé wines. As we’re climbing our way up in society, brunching and acting sophisticated (while still watching Jersey Shore and American Idol), they’ve said that it seems well, a bit corny to ask for a rosé wine. Like, you’re not grown up enough for a full-bodied red? Do your friends ever ask you: “Hey do you want white or rosé? I’ve got both here in the fridge.” Nope, mine either.

So why is that? Truth be told, rosé wines aren’t so different from reds. We think of them as weaker red wines, instead of a whole entity within themselves. In reality, rosé wines and red wines start off in the same place. The thing that makes red wines red is the contact with the skin of the grapes. Whereas in red wines the skin is left in with the liquid during the fermentation process, it’s thrown out after a few days with rosé wines. Contact with the skin of a grape creates tannins as well as color, but good flavor can happen in a wine without prolonged contact with the skin. The skin creating the color, to be honest, makes perfect sense, because if it were the fruit itself that made the wine red, people would be making wines out of cherries. (Which actually sounds delicious, by the way…)

As you may have guessed from the name, rosé wines in name hail from France. As is always the case, the same wine can be made all over the world, but called different things. These wines are made in Spain, Italy and here in the US.

So I want you to get this out of your head the whole “rosé wines are white zinfandel” thing, which yes, is true. But wine in a box isn’t exactly classy, and not what I’m talking about. I think people don’t drink rosés because they don’t know what these wines really are. Here are a few points about rosés, and I’m hoping you will want to try them for yourself:

– Great rosé wines come from Provence, France. If you’ve discovered Croque Monsieur, that should be enough to convince you that good things come from France.

– Rosés are typically dry, dry, dry when made in Europe, and sweeter when made in the US

– They are quite fruit forward — with flavors of raspberries and strawberries

– They are lighter bodied (yes, they still have body) and best served chilled

– Rosés are extremely versatile when it comes to food

So I’m just saying — give the wine a chance. I promise if I see you sipping on a rosé wine, I wont’ judge. Now my friends judging you, that’s another story…I’m trying to bring them around…

~ Dana

Casa is participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

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