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Blue Smoke dinner and the London KFWE 2019, posh events in a growing kosher wine and food market

As I said to me old and new found friends in London, I will miss the people, I will miss their kindness and their civility, but they can keep the weather and their inability to drive on the correct side of the road!

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Well anyway, back to wine and food! As stated in my previous post, this was the first year I tried going to more than two KFWE events around the world. I arrived in Paris on Monday, Went to the Bokobsa Sieva tasting, and then on Tuesday, I took the train to London. I arrived in the afternoon and I then got a short rest before heading to a crazy dinner at Andrew Krausz’s house, the master chef of BlueSmoke.

I first met Andrew, and his sidekick, Mordechai, on the hilltop of Four Gates Winery, some 20 months ago! The wines we enjoyed there are listed here. But beyond the wines, one quickly got a sense for the Jewish community of Hendon, London. I must say, I still have nightmares from the dump of a hotel that we stayed at in Golders Green, a large Jewish community kitty-corner to Hendon. Hendon reminds me of everything that is great about London. The people are really nice, the community is tightknit, and they are a bit more aware of the outside world than say Golders Green. That said, I have heard wonderful things about the Golders Green community, I just need to exercise the nightmares of my past. Anyway, enough of my nightmare! The next time you need a nice hotel in Hendon area, Pillar Hotel! Solid, kept up nicely, kosher, and the folks are really nice.

Blue Smoke and Andrew Krausz

Take a quick read of this article to get a sense of Andrew and the work he puts into Blue Smoke and the joy people are getting from it. The dinner at Andrew’s was insane, to say the least, and there were many winemakers there that we would be seeing again the following evening at London’s KFWE! The courses were highlighted by cured more than smoked but streaked with bits of smoke throughout. The dinner started with gravlax and pickled beetroot. The pickled beetroot was straight crack! It was infused for 6 months! I hope this starts to give an understanding to the participants of the level of effort that was made to put this event together. The care and love for the task at hand by Andrew and his family! Yes, the family, were incredible! They have to live with the madness that fed people like me. From what I could tell, they are happy travelers on the road of food madness that is paved by Blue Smoke, but I am sure the 25 or so people invading their home on a weeknight, and the days and weeks of preparations leading up to that day, may not have been a path so easily traveled. Also, please understand that we would see Andrew for a few seconds as he explained the dish and then he disappeared into the same black hole from which he miraculously reappeared from over and over again. That black hole, the cavernous sized kitchen, was packed with humanity and hands coordinated by Andrew to push out 25 dishes over and over again throughout the evening. Read the rest of this entry

Kosher European Wines, Hagafen Wine, Kosher Meat Lasagna, White Bean and Kalamata Soup, Vegetable Kugel

This past weekend we had a bunch of friends over to the house and we were so happy to celebrate the good health and recovery of a dear friend of the family who honored us by coming on over for the meal. It is starting to feel a bit chilly around here, so we thought it would be great to try some lovely White Bean and Kalamta Olive Soup. The link to the recipe was the best I could find on the web. The one I use is from Mollie Katzen’s cookbook, which I have no right to place on my blog, please buy her book she is a genius!

The soup is simple to make, and I follow her recipe to the tee, short of adding in a wee bit more wine than her recipe calls for. Personally, that is the ultimate compliment, using someone’s exact recipe, with little or no change, because it is perfect as it is.

We then cooked up meat lasagna. I have modified the lasagna many times, as I am constantly looking for the perfect lasagna that is not too dry or too runny. I think I have finally done that! This past week the lasagna was killer, very tasty, and it was solid without being the least bit dry. The recipe is a change from another cookbook I use, but I have modified this one to not worry about sharing it. Also, I wrote a lot about the process, so the recipe looks long, but I am just adding in my years of struggle with these recipes to make sure you do not. Overall a pretty easy recipe:

Meat Lasagna Recipe: (Makes two pans of lasagna)
2 Tbsp. Oil
2 chopped onions
5 garlic cloves smashed (or just use the frozen garlic)
2 lb. of ground meat
1 sliced green pepper
1 sliced orange or yellow pepper
3 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
12 oz. of red wine (more acid and tannin the better)
4 to 5 Tbsp. parsley
2 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. of basil
salt and pepper to taste

16 oz. (18 pieces) of dry lasagna noodle (normal pasta that needs to be cooked)
1 LARGE eggplant sliced 1/2 inch thick

In a large Dutch oven or tall walled pan, heat up the oil until shimmering and then throw in the chopped onions and cook them till they are close to being browned. Then throw in the crushed garlic and as soon as it starts to smell garlicky, throw in the ground meat. Be careful never to burn the garlic, as that is nasty! Move around the meat and make sure it nice and browned. Now throw in the sliced peppers and lets cook until tender. Then throw in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, herbs, salt and pepper. Now mix the pot around a fair amount until the wine color disappears and the tomato color is bright. Keep cooking the sauce until it reduces by 20% or until the sauce looks nice and thick. This step is VERY important, so do not skimp on this, it takes time but you will be generously rewarded.

At this point, bring a very large pot of water to boil and then place the lasagna noodles and cook them 1 to 2 minutes before al dente. We do this because we want them to finish in the oven. NEVER TRY the already cooked or NOT cooked pasta – it does not work. Cook the pasta and you will get the lovely texture that is not available any other way. Once cooked, pour out all the water, and put in some cold water in the pot to keep the pasta from drying up. Read the rest of this entry

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca and a nice bottle of Savia del Sol Rioja Crianza

This past week we were looking for some down home cooking and relaxing recipe, which brought us to our modified version of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. I have nothing against the original version, but as I have stated in the past, I love to cook once a week and enjoy leftovers. So we cook a bunch of the Puttanesca before the weekend and enjoy it throughout the week. Also, I want to be able to eat a bunch of it and not feel guilty. So instead of pounding the spaghetti, I eat the sauce, which is filled with good stuff. I add in just one ingredient to the recipe, two pounds of ground soy “meat”. It tastes great, is good for you, and not nearly as caloric as the spaghetti.

We looked for a good wine to pair with the red tomato, anchovy, and olive sauce, and came upon a new wine on the market, the 2007 Savia del Sol Rioja Crianza. Rioja is a region in Spain and is a wine made totally from Tempranillo grapes. The Crianza is a wine that is aged two years, with one of those in oak, the other being in the bottle. This is one of those wines that we have had in the past that start off showing red wine characteristics. Overtime, the wine turns more black on the nose and the palate. The wine was fun to start off with, but became even more fun as the wine became richer and more intensified. This was a real fun wine to drink and one that I was able to enjoy slowly, allowing me to watch it progress through its life cycle in the glass and bottle, once it had more air.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Savia del Sol Rioja Crianza (Spain, Navarra) – Score: B++
This is a fun wine that starts off displaying red wine characteristics and over time shifts into a black wine. To start the wine shows its red side. The nose on this purple colored starts off with spicy oak, plum, raspberry, crushed herbs, loamy dirt and vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is full in the mouth with plum, raspberry, oak, and nice tannins. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, oak, spice, and nice tannin. The finish is long with raspberry, plum, spicy oak, vanilla, nice tannin, and a drop of chocolate.
After many hours the wine turns black as the night with a nose of ripe blackberry, raspberry, dark rich plum, herbs, chocolate, tobacco, along with nice cedar notes and a hint of vanilla. The nose is enveloping and some of the lovely characteristics are hidden. The mouth is full, concentrated, and coating with nice and well integrated tannin, smoky notes, ripe blackberry, plum, and raspberry. The mouth is almost explosive with the attack of cedar, nice tannin, along with bright and ripe black fruit. The mid palate is balanced with acid, cedar, more smokiness, chocolate, and herbs. The finish is super long with ripe blackberry and plum that linger long on the palate along with chocolate, tobacco, licorice, and mounds of vanilla.

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