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2013 Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) lived up to all its billing

For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.

This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.

To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry

Parve French Onion Soup, Meat Lasagna, Roasted Green Beans, Spinach Kugel, and Many Kosher Red Wines

Some five weeks ago found my wife and I gathered around the table with our dear friends, good food and wine.  Wow, the blog has been in the basement for a bunch of weeks, but hopefully we will get back into the swing of things soon.  So now on to the food!  We wanted to have some friends over that we did not see for sometime, and they brought over a guest from the east coast.  The funny thing is that the guest did not eat certain foods, which foods – the VERY ingredients that we were using to make the courses that would grace our table.  Thank goodness we had other menu items that met her food needs.

Anyway, the meal started with a Parve French Onion Soup.  The core of this recipe came from a cookbook called Spice and Spirit, but the recipe in the cookbook called for too few onions, brown sugar, and no wine!  So instead, I modified the recipe so that it looks more like what is found below.  The recipe used to be a serious pain in the neck, because of the need to thinly slice the onions.  Well that is easy now!  How Because my wife bought me this wonderful contraption called a mandolin.  The device is a God send!  It easily makes quick work of 8-10 onions, which used to make me cry, and not just because of Syn-Propanethial-S-oxide.  With the ability to easily slice onions, recipes like French Onion Soup, vegetable additives for you lox & bagel or burger, become a joy and almost a game, to see how thin and how nicely you can slice the onions! Thank you so much Oxo!  Not only does the mandolin, it was cheap and stores away easily.  The only con is that it does not slice tomatoes so well, and it cannot handle very large items, which should be avoided anyway, as on the average, the larger a vegetable gets, the less flavorful it becomes.  A quick note, if you are sick of peeling and crushing garlic, get some of this stuff!  It tastes great and is always waiting for you in your freezer, as long as you buy some!  Trader Joes has some along with other supermarkets.  Another note, this is an obvious twist on the classic French Onion Soup, but there is no animal product to be found, so no Gruyère cheese.  However, in an attempt to mimic the cheese like consistency, we throw in rice, which when it swells up thickens the soup and gives it that sticky and gelatinous like structure.

Parve French Onion Soup
3 tbsp oil
8-10 thinly sliced white or sweet onions
3 tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried Oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
3 or 4 bay leaves
4 or more cloves of garlic (frozen is easiest)
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 cups of red wine
4 cups of vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 a cup of brown rice

Put the oil in a Dutch oven and heat it up till the oil starts to shimmer.  Then throw the sliced onions into the pot and sauté them till golden brown.  One they are truly brown, add in the nectar and spices, and sauté for another 10 or so minutes, or until all the liquid is gone.  Toss in the rest of the ingredients (except for the rice), and simmer for 30 or so minutes until the soup reduces by 20% or so.  Then toss in the rice and cook for another 15 or so minutes or until the soup looks and moves semi-gelatinous.

The meal started off with a bottle of the 2006 Ella Valley Ever Red.  A nice bottle, and one that is ready to drink up.  It was followed by my wife’s not-classic (and THANK GOD for that) whole wheat challah.  The challah did not survive past the soup course, which is par for the course, and totally appreciated by the table.  We paired the 2008 Elvi Wines Matiz with the soup.  The extreme acid base of the wine paired nicely with the tomato note high acid) soup.  Normally, when pairing one wants to not fight fire with fire.  However, that rule is only for extreme cases.  For instance, when pairing spicy food with wine, I recommend you use a nice sweet yet acidic wine, like Hagafen White Riesling, which has enough acid and sweetness in harmonious balance to counteract hot peppers.  However, when the flavor in the food is not as extreme as hot pepper or chocolate soufflé sweet, the correct course of action is to fight fire with a bit more or at least the same amount of fire.  So, when enjoying a tomato based food like Tomato soup, that has no animal products in it (that help to balance the flavors), you are left with a tart/acidic soup whose best bet is to balance the flavors with a bit of sugar and starch.  Still, the soup is still acid in nature, and is best paired with an acidic core wine, like almost any estate bottled red from Four Gates Winery (whose wines always have a natural acidity to them), or an Italian  Chianti, or a lovely Tempranillo like the Matiz, which packs more than enough acid and tannins to keep up with the tomato soup.

For the second course we served meat lasagna, parve spinach quiche/kugel, roasted green beans, and a fresh green salad.  The guest could not eat the lasagna or the spinach kugel, but she brought some chicken over for herself before shabbos.  Some of our friends who joined us that evening do not eat meat, so we also made a lovely Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf – recipe below.  To pair with this menu we opened two other bottles, a 2003 Château Labégorce-Zédé and a 2006 Castel Petite Castel, the wine notes are found below.  making the meal was a blast as was the company.

Quinoa Onion Mushroom Pilaf
Sauté onions until golden brown and then sauté mushrooms until they have released most (but not all of their liquid).  The excess liquid will be appreciated by the quinoa.  Throw in salt, garlic, and some basil.  Throw in 2 cups of quinoa, and let the quinoa soak up all the liquid and just start to toast.  Then throw in a cup of white wine and then three cups of water, and let the quinoa cook till fluffy.  Then let cool, and add oil, toasted almonds, and optionally some craisins to boot.

Wines notes follow below (listed in the order they were tasted):

2008 Elvi Wines Rioja Matiz – Score: B+

The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine has raspberry, black cherry, rich plum, stone mineral, oak, herbs, and kirsch. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and mouth coating with black cherry, kirsch, tart cherry, and raspberry. The mid palate is bright with heavy acid and not yet integrated tannins. The finish is spicy and long-lasting with black cherry, coffee, and nice tannins. NOTE: This wine has sediment, not sure why such a young wine has so much sediment, so keep the wine upright for a couple of days and make sure not to pour the wine till the last drop, as the last poor person, may get a slushy or chunky glass of wine.

2006 Ella Valley Cabernet-Merlot Ever Red – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet to mahogany colored wine starts with some blackberry that over time blows off, along with ripe raspberry, plum, oak, cherry, crushed spices, tobacco, and smoke. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe with soft caressing tannins that give the wine a fuller mouth, along with ripe raspberry, plum, and cherry. The mid palate is a bit fat though balanced with just enough acid and oak. The finish is long and smoky with ripe red fruit, tobacco, soft tannins, and oak. Drink up as this one is ready if not already on its way down, if only from its color and length of life in the glass.

2003 Château Labégorce-Zédé – Score: A-
The nose of this garnet colored wine is hopping with rich oak, truly lovely ripe and rich raspberry, blackberry, ripe black plum, lovely blueberry, tobacco smoke, herbs, and slight stone minerality. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is super rich and layered with lovely tannins that gives you a full mouth with ripe and rich raspberry, plum, and blackberry. The mid palate is balanced with rich oak, tannin that shows nicely, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is long with oak, tobacco, herbs, mineral, and blueberry. A really lovely wine that is at its peak and worthy of drinking.

2006 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is a beautiful and rich experience with rich tobacco, ripe and rich plum, rich cedar oak, crushed/roasted herbs, blackberry, and chocolate. The mouth of this full-bodied wine has a rich full mouth that has lovely mouth coating tannins, rich oak, ripe plum, and blackberry. The mid palate is balanced with rich oak, integrated tannins, and tobacco. The finish is long and luscious with tobacco, black plum, rich oak, chocolate, and herbs.

Willm Gewurztraminer, ElviWines Matiz Rioja, Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

This past week saw us eating at our brother’s house and we brought over a few bottles of wine.  The dinner started with a sweet and sour Salmon, so we complimented it with the newly released 2008 Willm Gewurztraminer.  On an aside, this is the very first time that one of the famous houses of Alsace has released a kosher wine, super cool!  The wine’s crazy alcohol content is some 16% – and I think it was higher!  The mouth is super rich, with lychee, apple, and honeyed flavors, and DRY!  Forget about that sweet and cloying like wines that some of you folks drink for Kiddush or desert.  Nope this is a classic Alsace Gewurztraminer, which is dry and honeyed and can stand up to sour and/or spicy foods.  In many ways it tastes like a Viognier, except without a drop of sweet oak or sweet flavors.  That said, the sweetness comes along in a weird way because of extremely high alcohol and not because of a heavy perfume and/or residual sugars.

After the bottle disappeared between the meal occupants, my sister-in-law brought out a bevy of main courses – four of them I think, along with an abundance of side dishes.  The main courses consisted of a beauty roast,  potatoes and meatballs, pepper steak, and shoulder roast.  The side dishes were large and varied, along with some nice kibbeh and Moroccan cigars. My sister-in-law made a ton of food, and many others, brought over food, and it was a crazy feast.

We had a two wines to pair with the rich meat dishes and both of them were nice, but the clear winner was the 2003 Ella Valley Cabernet.  The other wine was the 2008 Elvi Wines Matiz Rioja.  The Matiz was awesome out of the gate with rich chocolate and tobacco on the nose and mouth, but that petered out quickly and what we were left with was a slightly boring wine, to be honest.  The EV Cab on the other hand was a multi layered and complex wine that was just awesome.  Really a nice showing for the winery, and it is not even the acclaimed Vineyard Choice.

Thank you my brother and family, and I hope to share many more happy occasions.  The food and the ambiance were killer!  The wine notes follow below:

2008 Willm Gewurztraminer – Score: B – B+
The nose on this rich golden yellow color, is hot from its 16% alcohol, along with honeycomb, jasmine, lemon, lychee, and a touch of mineral.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is viscous and tastes somewhat sweet while not being so (an offshoot of the alcohol).  It follows with a Muscat like flavor that helps to pick up the rest of the mouth that consists of honeydew, apple, and orange juice.  The mid palate is light on acidity and bitter from mineral flavors.  The finish is medium long with a strong honey presence and some bitterness that trails out of the mid palate.  This is an OK wine, but it lacks balance, crispness, and is a bit too bitter.

2008 ElviWines Matiz Rioja – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet, 100% Tempranillo wine, starts right out of the bottle with a powerful nose of chocolate and tobacco.  As the wine opens up, the chocolate and tobacco give way to cherry and raspberry notes.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is smooth and concentrated, with cherry and raspberry fruit that follow the nose.  The mid palate is bright enough to balance out the wine while sharing space with a hint of tannins that are integrating nicely.  The finish is long with a return of the cherry fruit, acidity, on a bed tobacco leaves and chocolate candy.

2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is hopping with blackberry, cassis, plum, sweet oak, and roasted herbs.  The mouth of this brooding, complex, and multi layered wine is really nice with black fruit that comes at you in layers after layers of blackberry and plum.  The mid palate flows nicely from the layers of fruit with oak, bracing acidity, and integrating tannins.  The finish is extra long with black fruit from the mouth, along with hints of sweet oak, tobacco, and spice.

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