Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wine and Cheese French Edition

I was super stoked when I walked into the class and saw that we would be having some of my all time favorites: Pouilly Fuisse and Epoisses!

Since this is the French version of the wine and cheese series put together by Angie Ortmann, aka STLwinegirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com), I was really hoping that we could actually have some champagne but we had a Francois Montand Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine instead. There were few bubbles in it, which seemed strange, and it was quite tart. This was a paired with a St. Angel Triple Crème and they both tasted rather barnyard altogether.

Luckily, my favorites saved me since next up was a Bucheron Chevre with my favorite Chardonnay-style wine, Clos Reissier Pouilly Fuisse. It doesn’t have the oak or buttery taste of a California Chardonnay and instead there is more crispness and flavor, which helps cut through the thick, creamy cheese.

One of my all time favorite cheeses, Epoisses, is a small wheel with a creamy center. Since it was still fairly chilled, the cheese was not as oozing as I prefer it to be after it sits for awhile, but it still stood up well against the Jadot Marsannay, which is made from the Pinot Noir grape. The cheese by itself is quite pungent so it really helps to have a wine with some bite to it so they both calm each other down.

The Mimolette is French’s version of cheddar, which was aged for 18-months. Unfortunately, I don’t think this was old enough, meaning not sharp enough, to stand up to the Eschappe Bel Bordeaux, a very dry wine made from the merlot grape.

And for dessert, a Blue d’Auverge was paired with a super sweet Chateau Gravas Sauternes, which could have been dessert all by itself. The blue really did not calm it down enough to make it drinkable for me.

Since it’s the holiday season, there aren’t any more classes planned for awhile but I’m sure things will pick right up in January!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beaujolais Nouveau 2010

I got to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaujolais_nouveau) with my cheese class friends on the third Thursday of the month for one of Jill Aboussie’s (http://www.facebook.com/jaboussie) wine classes. The theme was holiday wines and Beaujolais Nouveau fits in quite well, but Ellen still brought an aged Beaujolais so we could compare the two. While I don’t mind the full fruity flavor of the Nouveau, the aged version was still smoother.

The hard part about Jill’s classes is that you have to share all the cheese with everyone. And with the eight different glasses of wine, it was hard to make the cheese stretch!

My favorite pairing is always the lightest ones…the sparkling wine with the triple crème and chevre. Jill says that the better sparkling wines have smaller bubbles, more bubbles overall, as well as longer lasting bubbles. But everyone agrees that you should NOT drink so slowly that you find out how long your bubbles last!

It was a good thing I was in Whole Foods that night so I could stock up on cheese for trivia night, the following evening. At the end of the night, I was happy that the Midnight Moon (one of my favorites) was the biggest hit. Hehe

Then Saturday, the FAC club tried out Ichigo (http://www.ichigomodern.com) in Clayton, which is right next door to The Wine and Cheese Place on Forsyth. The restaurant has plenty of space inside with high ceilings and was very casual. I was very surprised that there weren’t that many types of rolls, and the list was split into raw and cooked. But they did have a very different menu from your typical sushi restaurant so it was good to try new things.

I had a Crunchy California roll and a Soft Shell Crab (Cucumber, Avocado, Scallions), which were the “cooked” rolls. For the raw roll, and my favorite, I got a Shangri-la (smoke salmon, avocado topped with tuna, white tuna, and yellow tail).

But my favorite sushi restaurant in Clayton is still Tani Sushi (http://www.tanisushi.com/). I have been a couple of times now and the décor is more what you’d expect from a classy sushi place. They have quite a few rolls named for Rams players but the most fun roll is the “Oh My God”, which they set on fire! Hehe Just about every table orders one so you see the flames going by all night. hehe

Friday, November 5, 2010

Spanish Cheese Class

Even though Italian cheese class was cancelled, Spanish cheese class at The Wine and Cheese Place (http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com) was a huge hit and required two tables to seat everyone. Hosted by Angie Ortman, (http://www.stlwinegirl.com), Spain is mostly known for their sheep’s milk cheeses and they tend to have a little more of a bite. All of the cheeses were paired with Spanish wines, of course.

We started with a lighter wine, a cava, or what Spain calls their sparkling wine. This was a Brut Rose so it had a pretty strawberry shade but tasted dry and the bubbles didn’t last too long for the finish. Instead of going with a light cheese, it was paired with a Roncal, a drier sheep’s milk cheese. The two made a great pairing because the sharpness of the cheese was toned down and it helped bring out more of the fruit of the Rose.

When I first smelled the Verdejo, I immediately thought Sauvignon Blanc. Turns out I was right! Once again, it’s the Spanish version of the same wine and this was paired with a goat’s cheese that was mixed with parsley and garlic. The cheese was VERY creamy and it helped to balance out the crispness of the Verdejo. This cheese was definitely my favorite and I purchased a jar of it.

My favorite pairing of the class was a Valminor Albarino white wine and Mahon. The wine was a bright yellow color, like a Chardonney, so I immediately guessed oak! Both wine and cheese had a creamy, full flavor and managed to balance out each other quite well.

We only had one red wine and the Rioja was very smooth but once again, had a fruitier taste once paired with the dry Manchego.

Last was the dessert wine, a brand of sherry, which of course was paired with a blue cheese. I could barely make it through either of them. I tried to take a few sips of the sherry since it was an expensive brand but could not handle it for long. Luckily my table neighbors helped me out with all my wine leftovers!

Here are the pairings:
Cristalino Brut Rose – Roncal
Esperanza Verdejo/Viura – Le Call Bardines
Vlaminor Albarino – Mahon
Montebuena Rioja – Rosemary encrusted Manchego
Michel Couvreur PX – Blue cheese

While there aren't any Provisions classes planned for this year, November is still a busy month. Next week is the Ernesto’s event on Monday, November 8th, and seafood class at Whole Foods on Tuesday, November 9th.

Then Thursday, November 18th is Beaujolais Nouveau and I will be at a cheese class at Whole Foods so hopefully they’ll break some out for us!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vin de Set

Thanks to Angie Ortmann, aka STLwinegirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com) and Feast Magazine (http://www.feaststl.com), I finally got the opportunity to eat at Vin de Set (http://www.vindeset.com)! I had heard about the restaurant and its rooftop bar for awhile now from friends and family and it had been on my “to eat at” list for a long time.

Once a month, Feast Magazine hosts a wine tasting at a different restaurant around St. Louis that is free, but you have to RSVP. I was so thrilled when Angie, one of their writers, picked Vin de Set, and the event was held in their Malt House Cellar!

According to information that was handed out, it used to be the entry to the tunnels for the historic Schnaider Brewery. On one end is the Lounge room where there is a huge bar and at the other end was the Game Room where I could see a couple of pool tables. It turns out there is also a foosball table, a shuffle board, and two dart boards. We sat in the middle of the two rooms under brick arches and it definitely was chilly underground! But I liked the intimate feel of the room.

Since this was a free event, we only had four tastings and the food pairings were very small, but I didn’t care since my friend Lara had made a reservation for a full dinner upstairs. My favorite pairing was the 2008 White Wire from New Zealand because it combines all my favorite white wines together into a very mild blend. This went well with the kick provided by the red pepper aioli which we dipped our crab cake bites into. I almost licked the rest of the sauce off my napkin it was so good!

Here are the pairings:
NV Charles de Fere Brut, France
Sliced pear with Boursin cheese and crispy prosciutto

2008 White Wire, New Zealand
Maryland Blue crab cakes with red pepper aioli

2008 Ben Marco, Argentina
Smoked duck crostini with sun dried cherry chutney

2007 Steltzer Claret, California
Phylo cup of beef tenderloin and wild mushroom

Upstairs at dinner, I started with the She Crab Bisque, which was excellent, and for my main course I selected the Fried Eggplant Napolean with tomatoes, spinach, goat cheese, and balsamic reduction. My dinner came out in rings stacked tall with the tomatoes in between the slices of eggplant. I could have done without frying but it was really delicious. Regardless of what Angie says, I paired it with their house Reisling as I always do. hehe

Lara was nice enough and shared her Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash with quinoa, spinach, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and maple glaze…which was my second favorite item on the menu.

Vin de Set has quite a few unique items like quail and duck so I admit, I am curious about some of their meatier items. I am definitely hoping for a return visit someday soon, especially to sit outside on their rooftop. What a beautiful view of the city!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chicago Cheese

I just got back from Chicago, visiting some family, and the last couple of times, I have gotten to stop by the Oak Park cheese shop called Marion Street Cheese Market. (http://www.marionstreetcheesemarket.com/) My favorite thing about going to a cheese shop in a different city is the different variety…Chicago is able to pull in more types of cheese from the northern states as well as local farmers in the northern Illinois area, so there is always something new to try.

This time, they finally had some Zingerman’s goat cheese (http://www.zingermanscreamery.com/cheeses/) in stock, from Ann Arbor, MI, which I cannot find in St. Louis. Zingerman’s is a well-known deli up in Michigan and I found out about them in one of my cheese classes. The cheeses I tried were both goat: Detroit Street Brick (in a brick shape!) and the Lincoln Log (in a log shape!) and both were fantastic. I really enjoyed the soft bloom around the edges of the Detroit Street Brick, but the Lincoln Log had the better flavor.

I also picked up a Gruyere that my niece ate most of and a 10-year aged cheddar. Unfortunately, the cheddar had a bitter finish to it so I’m thinking that maybe it’s better stick to a three to six year aged cheddar. At least I can say that I tried it!

Speaking of cheese, earlier this week was another cheese class hosted by Whole Foods. 8 of 10 who showed up were from our group of friends and the other one was a Whole Foods employee. It’s starting to get scary how our attendance now dictates whether or not the class happens so I think this means we really need to start getting the word out more. It’s really tough when classes are scheduled on the same day and we have to decide which one to go to.

Anyway, this month’s cheese class theme was “local” cheeses although almost all of the cheeses came from the Kansas City area. Three of the five cheeses came from Green Dirt Farm (http://www.greendirtfarm.com/) and we started off with the Wooly Rind, which is a Camembert style cheese made out of sheep’s milk. Sheep’s milk cheese, well sheep in general, is pretty rare in Missouri! To me, it tasted like mild brie and went well with the champagne it was paired with. Next was the Bossa and it was quite a big step up in flavor and more creamy flavor, so a sweet wine was paired with this. (I took some Bossa home with me and now it’s a “stinky” cheese too! Woah!)

Skipping to a Yummy’s Choice cheese spread (http://www.yummyschoice.com/), we got to taste Lebaneh, which is a combination of feta and cream cheese flavored with olive oil and various spices and herbs. Wow…you can really taste the spices and herbs and you’ll never want to go back to regular cream cheese after tasting this! We also got to add a little bit of Shatta on top of it, which is a jalepano spread that you can get in either sweet or spicy. A little bit of the spice goes a LONG way!

Going back to Green Dirt Farm, the last one we tried was called “Dirt Lover” and it was a triple crème, like butter! I had to have a cracker or knife to be able to eat it and this was paired with a strong red wine so that the tannins could balance out the creaminess.

Last but not least, we finished the class with a Prairie Breeze cheddar that is actually produced by a Mennonite family based in SE Iowa (Milton) - http://www.miltoncreamery.com/. We spread cranberry chutney on top of the mild cheddar and it was just like eating dessert!

In future Whole Foods news, there will be one last seafood class in November!

Friday, October 1, 2010

September Post

Wow...I just realized that it's almost been a month since I last blogged. I guess I was definitely busy with holidays and traveling (found a new love for mimosas) and so I have a few classes to write about at once here. I would say that I hope next month would be better but I highly doubt it. hehe

My friends and I are enjoying taking over Ernesto's (http://www.ernestoswinebar.com) wine and food pairings once a month there. There were nine of us and luckily we all arrived at different times so there was no waiting in the food or drink lines. Angie, aka STLWinegirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com/), served two whites and two reds with the 2nd white aimed at the special dish for the night prepared by Chef Cassy, who was able to find locally grown pears!

On one half of a pear, Chef Cassy gave a healthy dollup of goat cheese and secured it with a wrapping of prosciutto. I loved the combination of the sweet pear with the savory goat cheese doing without the piggy, but it did add a third salty flavor.

Since attendance was sparse and the cheese table was somewhat limited, I went ahead and ordered the shrimp sliders on the appetizer menu. These were delicious, especially thanks to the layer of goat cheese on top, and it even paired well with the wine.

This Monday event was followed up by Whole Foods' (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/) seafood class the very next day with a "shrimp" theme. Michael kicked off the class with a "shrimp pizza" of his own before Chef Matt took over. This was one of the best courses along with the Spicy Thai Peanut Shrimp and Asian Slaw. My buddy Curt even made the slaw for me at a later date he liked it so much. The other courses were a beer boiled shrimp cocktail and shrimp etoufee, which was good but hard to find the shrimp in it and it's quite spicy. Each course was served with white wine except for a token one.

Since the rare Whole Foods seafood class (once every 2-3 months) coincided with Angie's class at Provisions (http://www.provisionsmarket.com), also with a seafood theme, I only made it to one in September. At least it was one of the best ones: Chef Scott's Top 5! You know we all had HIGH expectations since Angie polled several people to find out their favorites.

I would talk about the pairings but Provisions classes are all about the food and this one was no different. By far, the best meal...probably the best I've ever had from Chef Scott...was the Salmon Wellington. The puff pastry just melted in my mouth soaked in a hollindaise sauce. The salmon was light and it came with a stuffed mushroom spread on top. Out of this world. It was paired with a Chardonney, but since it wasn't oak-y or buttery, I was able to guess it was French! (I don't think I'm quite ready to take the sommlier class but it is pretty fun playing "guess the country".)

Seriously, the best pairing was the first one (because I love the light stuff) with a gewurtraimner matched up with spicy cajun rice and andouille sausage. Chef Scott loves his cajun! Angie (and I agree) always prefers light, sweet wines to offset spicy foods like Thai or Indian.

And of course I always learn something from Angie's classes. This time, the five grapes of the Bordeaux region are the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

My next favorite was dessert...Chef Scott's French Toast paired with a Petite Syrah. The Syrah was fairly dry without being overbearing, and that matched up well with the super sweet syrup and strawberry flavors.

Here is the full lineup:

Dirty Rice with Andouille Sausage
Gewurtraimner

Salmon Wellington with Mushroom Pate
French Chardonney

Grilled Canneloni with Chicken, Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Lirac (Granche/Syrah)

Muffaletta Sandwich with Roast Beef, Tapenade, Swiss Cheese
Red Zinfandel

Loaded French Toast
Petite Syrah

Next month is more of the same thing, which is a GOOD thing. Angie is kicking off a new cheese series at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton with country themes of Spain, France (November), and Italy (December). (First Thursday of every month, which is October 7th.)

SIP.City's theme in October is "Women in Wine", which will take place October 11th and butts up against Angie's "Ocktoberfest" class where she will pair a beer and a wine with each course and let YOU decide which is best. Unfortunately, I will have to miss since Whole Foods is dusting off its cheese classes on October 12th.

So plenty of activities for you to come and join!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Beer and Cheese Sept 2nd

At first I was going to post that this was the last of three cheese classes held at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton (http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com/), but Angie Ortmann, aka STLwinegirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com), gave me the heads up that there will be THREE more classes planned for the fall - one for France, Italy, and Spain!

I was a little nervous about this class because I don't have much of a beer palette. My preferences lean heavily towards the lighter beers, even more so than white wines, so it's hard going in knowing that I probably won't enjoy the tasting as much as I normally would. I find that beer does not have as much give when it comes to being influenced by food.

But the moment I walked in, I saw a familiar friend, Midnight Moon, waiting for me in the first slot. I even called it out from a few feet away! Now I was surprised that my favorite went first because I think MM has a little bite at the end and would have been paired with something stronger than the first beers...the lighter, Belgium wheat beers. It was actually a good pairing because it calmed down the citrus/spice flavors.

The second pairing featured a young, pecorino toscana and that was a real treat because I've never had a soft version like this before. I think of parmesean when I hear pecorino! I also didn't realize it's a sheep's milk either. Unfortnately, because this cheese was so soft and young, it didn't have the bite to keep up with brown ales that it was paired with. Angie was trying to pair the nutty, tangy flavor but I think an aged version would have held up its flavor a little better to the beer.

We moved on to the IPAs next so an English Cheddar was paired with it but once again, the cheese was just not sharp enough to stand up to the beer. I would have liked something with more bite again. But the cheddar was still good enough that I bought some later (to go with my Midnight Moon)! hehe

I didn't recognize the name, Fourme d'Ambert, so I was surprised when I got hit by a blue cheese. I usually expect a blue for the last pairing with a dessert wine, but this one was mixed with two barley wine beers. Now here, the blue cheese overpowered the beer but I'm overly sensitive to blues.

Most interesting was the double creme paired with a beer that tasted more like a Rose wine! The rich, creamy flavor really broke up the tartness of the "beer" and was probably my favorite pairing of the night, although the Midnight Moon definitely stood out as the best cheese by far.

Here are the pairings:

Midnight Moon
DePreof La Grande Blanche and Boulevard Two Jokers Double Wit

Pecorino Toscana
Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown and Corsendonk Brown Ale

Barbers English Cheddar
Southern Tier 2XIPA and Lagunitas Hop Stoopid

Fourme d'Ambert
Amager Batch One Danish Barley Wine and Hofstetten Barley Wine

Fromage d' Affinois Double creme
Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sushi, Sake, and Wine

Sushi, sake, and wine was the theme for this Provisions (http://provisionsmarket.com/) class and I was stoked because I love sushi so much. I have only tried sake once, thanks to my friend Anne, and it wasn’t too bad but it doesn’t have the easy-drinking flavor that I enjoy with sweet wines.

This class was totally different than previous classes at Provisions because we were given all our beverages first…two types of sake, a sparkling wine, a plum wine, and Schlafly Summer lager (http://www.schlafly.com). I think Angie was trying to knock me off my game, especially since she did not provide a menu for me to follow and take notes on. Not only is it tough to read my own handwriting but I’m having to write this review via napkin notes.

Yet, there was a method behind this madness because this allowed us to try a variety of flavors with each course. At times, this presented quite a challenge because it was hard to have enough bites of sushi to last all five beverages. And then you had to make sure to ration all five to make it through all the courses. Luckily, my buddy Joe asked for seconds so I was able to get seconds as well…especially seconds of my favorite…sparkling sake!

I was very surprised that there was even such a thing as sparkling sake but it added the missing sweetness to sake that it so desperately needed. We also drank both sakes cool or at room temperate. It turns out that sake is often heated to hide imperfections or lower quality sake.

I thought that the sparkling wine or plum wine would go best with all the courses since sparkling wines tend to go well with everything, while plum wine is frequently served at Japanese restaurants. But I found them both to be far too tart for the courses. Instead, the sparkling sake was easily paired with everything because it held that hint of sweet.

The first course was tempora vegetables and anything fried is well cut by bubbles. That’s one of Angie’s top ten wine rules. Someone should create a list…hmmm…she could probably write a book of them.

Anyway, the second course was a salmon avocado cucumber roll…definitely one of my favorites of the night because that’s typically what I get a at a sushi restaurant. I even tried it with the wasabi, but it just overpowered all the beverages, although the plum wine almost stood up to it.

The third course was a seared ahi tuna with ginger, which had a light flavor so again, only the sparkling sake was light enough to match up.

Another first, I had a Korean-style sushi roll with egg and ham inside and an overall sweeter flavor. So one more time, no heavy drinks went well.

Finally, the last course, beef tenderloin in a teriyaki sauce, could handle the regular sake. The beef was so soft and tender, I was definitely wishing for seconds.

Unfortunately, I will be missing the next Provisions class due to a concert but it looks like it will probably sell out: August 24th – A Taste of the Mediterranean (http://www.stlwinegirl.com/UpcomingEvents.html).

Ernesto's

I went to my first SIP.ciety event at Ernesto’s (http://www.ernestoswinebar.com/) earlier in the week, located in Benton Park, and it was neat to try a new wine bar. Ernesto’s is a reference to Hemingway and there are some great pictures along the walls. There are a handful of bar stools and not too many tables, but there is a nice patio in the back. Hopefully someday soon it won’t be too hot to actually use it!

My friends and I got there early to beat any crowds but I don’t think there were any since we stayed until 7:30pm. It worked out great for us because we took over the bar, got easy access to the wine for tastings, as well as great service from the bartender. hehe I even managed to leave some cheese to share with everyone else!

I actually started with the pulled pork sandwich station that was ran by Execute Chef Cassy herself. I was a little nervous pairing a rose wine with it but since the pork was not too greasy, it was a good pairing, but I still preferred the pinot with it. The best part of the sandwich plate, though, was the strawberries and sauce that adorned the side of the plate. The sauce, with a brown sugar flavor, was fantastic and I ended up dipping my pork sandwich into it! Delicious!

Of course I enjoyed all the cheeses that were provided...the brie definitely paired well with the Cava, (which was my favorite rose wine of the night) while the smoked gouda and blue cheeses went well with the heavier pinots. I was expecting the pinots to be high in tannins but both were smooth with a hint of fruit. Ernesto’s also has a full menu but my friends just ordered some appetizers while I had no problem filling up on the sandwich and cheeses.

The next open house, entitled “Red, White & Green”, will be on September 13th from 5:30-8:30pm. There is a cost of $15 but Chef Cassy will give a cooking demonstration in addition to the wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres.

Summer Reds with Cheese

It’s been a busy week of classes with Angie Ortmann / STLwinegirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com) and so I have a lot to write about tonight. We’ll start with the first one, and the best one, which was cheese class at The Wine and Cheese Place (http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com/) entitled “Summer Reds and Rose Wines”.

I was a little worried about attending a class full of reds but was pleasantly surprised that there were a couple of rose wines listed. I think rose wines are sweet and refreshing, perfect for summertime. Angie picked a lot of my favorite cheeses but everyone else liked them too so there weren’t too many leftovers at the end. The first rose was paired with a triple crème that looked like brie. The creaminess of the cheese helped to break through the tartness of the wine.

The second rose was a little stronger, so it was well paired with a thicker Chevre. It reminded me of peanut butter…sticking to the roof of my mouth…so it definitely needed a fuller body wine. But neither flavor was really changed by the other and I prefer a combination that is better than the individual flavors by themselves.

The first real red was Beaujolais and I was actually interested because I have gotten to take part in Beaujolais Nouveau (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaujolais_nouveau) the last couple of years. The wine comes from the same region in France and had a very fruity bouquet but ended up tasting quite dry. Luckily, it was paired with aged cheddar, with little moisture, so it had a sharper flavor to match up to the stronger red wine.

For the first time I had an aged Manchego, which is a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain. I wasn’t sure how it would go with the Shiraz it was paired with because it had a pepper smell and burned all my nose hairs! But it did not taste spicy at all and the lower tannin flavor went well with the cheese.

Of course you gotta finish strong so the Blue Stilton was paired with a Napa Valley Cab. It had an oak smell and was high in alcohol – 14.2%! So I figured it would have some legs and walk across the table to start a fight with the stilton. I only had small samplings of both!

This means that there is only one cheese class left, beer and cheese, on September 2nd. Hopefully these cheese classes have been successful enough that Angie will have more themes in the future.

Menu:
Delice de Bourgogne Triple Crème
Schramsberg Rose

Homboldt Fog Chevre
Maiple Rose of Malbec

Vermont Clothbound Cheddar
Manior du Carra Beaujolais Villages Unfiltered

Aged Manchego
Thorn Clarke Shotfire Shiraz

Blue Stilton
Rubus Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Boogaloo

Thanks to a Groupon (http://www.groupon.com/stlouis/), my friends and I hit another tapas restaurant, Boogaloo (http://www.boogaloostl.com/), in downtown Maplewood - but with a Cuban flare. We definitely lived up to the FAC tradition and ordered just about every tapas item on the menu in addition to three desserts.

I actually had been to Boogaloo before but I never turn down the chance to try other things on a menu. One friend ordered what I had last time, the plantain encrusted tilapia, with sweet potato-andouille hash, orange scallion remoulade. The tilapia is so light and the cream sauce that has sweet flavor.

Another friend ordered the muffaletta sandwich, which came with a good amount of meat, but you gotta like olives! Hehe Still, I was there for tapas. While I was a little nervous about all the spicy-sounding items, it actually worked out in my favor because most of the items were not spicy at all. So it might be disappointing to you if that is what you were expecting, but the spices just brought out subtle flavors instead.

The jerk chicken wings just had a hint of spice and came with a coconut sauce but even that was not too strong of a flavor so neither one overpowered the other.

The Louisiana crawfish cakes, again, were not fishy and you mostly tasted the breading. The jalapeno tartar sauce had no kick at all either. More tangy than hot.

The Brazil nut encrusted manchego cheese was definitely my favorite by far but like my friend said, it might as well had been a giant cheese stick. I did enjoy the romesco sauce since it was lighter and sweeter than typical marinara sauce.

My second favorite was the wasabi pea encrusted tuna with mango slaw. The wasabi sauce gave the tuna a little flavor but it was not hot at all like you normally associate with wasabi anything. The tuna was perfectly cooked. I was definitely wishing for more on the plate.

Of course the ONE item that surprised me is the one that didn’t really mention spice, so of course I was totally caught off guard. The andouille sausage had quite a bit of heat to it even though the Worcestershire glaze gave it a sweet flavor at first.

The spinach and artichoke empanadas were like fried baby tacos stuffed with the cream sauce but it had a stronger spinach flavor and not the creamy-dip flavor that we were expecting. At least the fried shell made it easier to eat. Hehe

Saving one of the best for last, the island style pork ribs were very good and the meat just fell off the bone making it very easy to eat. It still had too much fat for my taste but definitely one of the best items on the menu.

For dessert, we ordered the bread pudding, the tres leche cake with caramel sauce, and I got the chocolate brownie after being peer pressured into ordering the chocolate item since that’s normally what I get. But after all those tapas and taking bites off of everyone else’s plates, I was so full!

The brownie was very disappointing because it came out hard inside and out. After taking a Facebook poll, brownies should be somewhat moist or soft in the middle at least. But my friends loved their desserts…the bread pudding was sweet but was way too heavy to eat on top of a large meal while the leche cake looked light and fluffy.

The last couple of times the FAC has gotten together for “FACing” (a new verb that was coined), we were all dying to meet up for some sushi so I have a feeling that is going to be where we end up going next. But I still haven’t forgotten about Quintessential on St. Charles Main Street.

We thought Boogaloo would be too much of a bar atmosphere but it was just casual dining and as long as you don’t sit in the bar, you won’t get any smoke odors.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summertime means burgers!

I am very late on writing this blog post, which I really shouldn’t do because then I forget all the juicy details and flavors, but I wanted to get this done before August starts and it’s back to back classes again! Next week is Angela Ortmann’s (aka STLWineGirl) second cheese class at The Wine & Cheese Place (http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com/) in Clayton and then Provisions is hosting a “sushi and wine” class...another one of my favorite foods!

In honor of summertime, this Provisions' class theme was “Burgers” and for variety, each “burger” was a different kind of “meat”. I use that term loosely because we started off the class with a portabella mushroom and it was paried with a sparkling Vouvray from France. The best part was the cheese that was melted on top of the mushroom and it really helped to mellow out the wine, which had a mineral flavor to it.

The salmon burger was a large salmon patty but was actually a little bland. I expected something striking to be mixed in with the patty, but instead came with a creamy tarter-like sauce added on top. Maybe if I had a little more sauce? It was paired with an equally creamy Chardonnay. Angela then had us pour our wine into a plastic cup so we could taste the difference! There was really NO smell whatsoever and your hand warmed the plastic much quicker without a stem to hold on to. Not to mention that it’s way too easy to spill your wine! Alcohol abuse! Let’s just say, I learned my lesson and we all quickly dumped our wine back into our regular Riedel (http://www.riedel.com/) glasses. (Guess what I'll be asking for Hanukkah this year!)

I also think I had my first ever course that I didn’t like at a Provisions class…a pork sandwich. To make matters worse, there was bacon on top of it too! It just oozed with grease which is such a turnoff for me when it comes to food. The cheddar cheese melted on top of the bread was clever, but it couldn’t save the sandwich. I did try two bites so as to give it a proper chance but the pork meat had that piggy flavor that I cannot stand. What was really sad is that I had none of my piggy-loving friends to help me finish it off. Not that they would have had room in their tummies at this point anyway! The pork sandwich was paired with a Burgundy from France.

The old-fashioned “beef burger” came in “Big Scott” style since he used a similar style of sauce like in a Big Mac. It was definitely my favorite burger of the night by far and it was covered with havarti cheese on top. This was paired with a Tempranillo, which I still need practice saying. For this wine, Angela let us try a very young 2009 and compare it with a 2006 version. You could easily tell that the 2009 was “quaffable” by itself since it was a lot lighter than the older version, but the 2006 held up to the beef flavor much better.

For dessert, calling it a “burger” was a bit of a stretch but it consisted of a chocolate mousse “patty” surrounded by pound cake “bread” with a strawberry. So delicious! Of course this was paired with a Muscat dessert wine which was way too strong and sweet.

This class probably served the biggest proportions out of all the classes I had been to and I didn’t even eat too much of the pork burger. Although, it was easy to fill up due to needing a couple of slices of some type of bread which helped make the burgers even more filling. Still, Chef Scott is most generous!

Angela has a chock full of classes coming up in the fall so be sure to check out her events page on her web site. http://www.stlwinegirl.com/UpcomingEvents.html

Be sure to pick up a copy of Feast (http://www.feaststl.com/) as well, in which Angela is a featured writer!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wine and Cheese Place pairings

I am so happy to report that wine and cheese classes are back! Thanks to STLwinegirl, Angie Ortmann, The Wine and Cheese Place (http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com) has agreed to host a class for this month, as well as August and September. You can see all of Angie’s summer classes here: http://www.stlwinegirl.com/UpcomingEvents.html
I just got back in town and I didn’t have football practice so I totally lucked out that I could go!
In addition to focusing on cheese, all the wines served were white so it really was a good class for me to go to. I feel like I have lost some cheese knowledge since I hadn’t gone to any classes in awhile so I really enjoyed the refresher course.
Three out of five of the cheeses were soft and creamy, so I could have used a fork and knife to eat the cheese instead of using two crackers as utensils. hehe
Of course we started out with the lightest wine, a sparkling wine, and worked our way to the fullest body wine, a Chilean Chardonnay. It’s funny how white wines can have such range and even wines like Rieslings can have a wide range of flavors.
I would say the class was a big hit because all of the pairings were great at contrasting each other, which I feel is what improves the taste of wine. In combination, the pairings should improve each other but I am biased in that the cheese improves the wine. Hehe
Angie says that sparkling wine goes well with just about everything, but I definitely think it is best paired with a light cheese, such as a triple crème. The creamy cheeses really help cut through acidic wines well.
The second pairing featured the local Baetje Farms, http://baetjefarms.com, and their goat cheese. We just had the regular flavor but they also come in a variety of flavors as well. It has such a sweet finish! It was paired with a Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.
I was super excited to see a German Riesling on the list, but it was paired with a blue cheese. Ugh. At least it had a mild flavor but Angie swears by pairing the super sweet wine with the pungent blue cheeses. I guess the two extremes help both calm the flavors…
Another treat in the next pairing was the Taleggio paired with a white blend, mostly Pinot Gris. The Taleggio is rich and creamy, but has more of a strong aroma and flavor. A full-bodied wine is definitely needed.
And the last pairing was very full-flavored as well as a Spanish Mahon was paired with the Chilean Chardonnay. Let’s just say I helped to finish of what was left of the Mahon at the very end of class! Hehe
In addition to discussing the pairings, I always enjoy listening to Angie’s stories of her time in San Francisco, where she learned everything she knows first-hand and on the job! It certainly makes learning a lot easy for the rest of us who don’t have the time to eat and drink our way through a city. Hehe
Here are my takeaways:
· Cheese is always freshest when cut from the wheel as opposed to wedges that have already been cut and wrapped. Although, cheese stores go through their cheese pretty quickly so it’s not like it really sits all that long anyway.
· Store cheese in the bottom of the fridge, not in the deli tray, and wrap it in plastic.
· Never freeze cheese…it will quickly break down if you do! And that’s cheese abuse!
Somehow we got on the topic of pricing and restaurants usually charge three times the price of a bottle of wine but then you also have to deal with corkage fees if you bring your own.
And the most expensive meal I’ve ever had? With Angie. Hehe
The next cheese class is August 5th!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Seafood Class June 2010

I know it’s been awhile since I blogged but hopefully it was worth the wait in between posts since this week was seafood class! Now that the cheese classes are defunct, I don’t get to go to Whole Foods too often anymore. They do have a monthly wine class but they’re always on Thursday nights when I have football practice. (http://wholefoodsmarket.com/storesbeta/st-louis/store-calendar/) Rumor has it that the instructor, Jill Aboussie, always pairs the wines with quite a few cheeses and other Whole Foods goodies during the classes, but I prefer to hold out for the real thing.
Wine Merchant in Clayton had a couple of Friday night cheese classes this month but I called too late to sign up for them. I guess I should let a few others learn how awesome cheese can be!
I have been attending Angie Ortman’s (STLWineGirl) classes at Provisions on a regular basis since those are on Tuesday nights and she has just finished her summer schedule. (http://www.stlwinegirl.com/UpcomingEvents.html) Not only does she have her regular food/wine pairings, but she will also be teaching wine and cheese pairings at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton on Forsyth (http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com/).
Anyway, this month’s seafood class theme was Alaskan Seafood, which we had done at some point last year so the Cod Cakes were a repeat, but it was one of my favorites so I didn’t mind. The cod cakes actually had some chipotle peppers so they had a little bit of a kick by themselves but when dipped in the mustard sauce…watch out! I think there was more than just a pinch of Cayenne pepper in them. That’ll teach me not to fill half of my plate with sauce!
We actually started with halibut tacos which was a light course. Chef Matt heated the tortilla shells so they were crispy, which made them hard to fold. I probably would have left them room temperature, especially since the tacos also had other “cool” toppings like mango, avocado, and shredded cheese.
One of my favorites for the evening was a Yukon (potato) wrapped sable fillet. I have never had sable before much less eating anything wrapped in a potato slice! The potatoes were sliced very thin (using a mandolin slicer…that’s fun to say!) so they could be wrapped around the cut of fish and held together with a kabob stick. After the kabob stick was full, he cooked them in a skillet with vegetable oil, using the stick to flip ‘em. I thought that was pretty slick.
When it came time to eat, the fish really didn’t stay inside of the potato blanket, but the fish was super tasty because it had the flavor from the potato grease. Not to mention the fish was so light and soft…it melted like butter! I definitely would be interested in trying more sable if it always tasted that light.
For the first three courses, white wines were paired, which is typical for fish, but for the salmon course, a red wine was paired and held up pretty well. The last course is always something special and this class did not disappoint. Chef Matt pulled out a full Copper River Sockeye Salmon that had been caught on Saturday and delivered on Tuesday morning! That’s pretty darn fresh for St. Louis!
Luckily the fish had already been beheaded and gutted so all Chef Matt had to do was cut the fish into steak slices. It definitely put me in the mood for some sushi! Hehe The steaks were just salted and peppered and squirted with olive oil…that’s almost something *I* could do! Even the Dijon mustard marinade (with balsamic vinegar and a heavy dose of honey) even seems like something I could handle, and it made for a very sweet topping for the salmon.
I learned that fish should only sit in marinade for fifteen minutes at most or else the fish becomes mushy. The salmon was cooked with the skin and bones to hold in the flavor so you had to be careful while eating, but the meat was so soft the bones came right out. Chef Matt said there are fewer bones from the stomach to tail than from the stomach to the head too.
Since Whole Foods does not hold classes in August, the next seafood class won’t be until September.
Even though I haven’t been going to as many classes, I haven’t been starving by any means and have been going out quite a lot lately. I took a friend who was new to the St. Louis area to one of my favorite brew houses, Trailhead Brewery on St. Charles Main Street (http://www.trailheadbrewing.com/), and I finally got to try Iron Barley (http://www.ironbarley.com/). Great steaks, incredible beer selection, but super far away.
Earlier in the month, I went to visit a friend in Ames, Iowa so I also got to make stops at Dublin Bay, which I’m pretty sure is THE Irish pub of Ames (http://www.dublinbayames.com/), and Prairie Moon Winery (http://www.prairiemoonwinery.com/). At Dublin Bay, I had “Irish nachos” for the first time…all the usual nacho goodies on top of waffle fries! Hehe At the winery, I picked out a gouda, gruyere, and an aged cheddar to bring with me and we had their sweet white, Moon Beam White. Since most of Ames is surrounded by farmland, it was nice that we didn’t have to go that far to get to it! Hehe Definitely the highlight of my trip.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gluten-Free class

Last week, Angie held a special “Gluten Free” class and I thought the menu might be interesting to see how she creatively came up with some tasty alternatives.

This class, the topic of aging wines came up and as usual I learned something new. For red wines, the higher the tannins, the better it will age. For white wines, the higher the acid, the better it will age.

Course 1:
Vegetable Stir Fry
2009 Kung Fu girl Riesling $16.99
Washington State

I definitely found a new favorite Riesling with Kung Fu Girl which is made by Charles Smith. This was paired with a vegetable stir fry so both food and wine balanced each other nicely but neither stood out. But it’s all about what you prefer.

Course 2:
Black Bean & Shrimp Tostada
2008 La Cana Albarino $14.99
Rias Baixas, Spain

Moving to a little more kick, the black bean and shrimp tostada was spicy enough to chill out the white wine that was paired with it. The wine had a mineral taste and was too dry for me. I think the wine would have gone well with a cream sauce too.

Course 3:
Parmesan Chicken & Quinoa
2008 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba $16.99
Piedmont, Italy

The best meal of the night was the Parmesan Chicken and Quinoa...and definitely in the top 5 of meals I've had by Chef Scott. The chicken had such a creamy, cheesy sauce…WOW. It was so good that Chef Scott has won awards for this gluten-free number using a cheese coating instead of bread crumbs. The wine that was paired with it was low in tannins but still too dry for me.

Course 4:
Open Face Chili-Cheeseburger Polenta Cake "Bun"
2007 Rombauer Zinfandel $26.99
California

I was quite happy to see that for the third course in a row, cheese was a factor in the dish! And there was NO bacon OR ham throughout the whole meal! What a treat! The chili went great with the cheese on top and polenta underneath, almost like cornbread. The sharp cheese and spices held up great with a dry red!

Course 5:
French Vanilla Creme Brulee
2005 Le Tertre du Lys D'Or Sauternes $18.99
France
Dessert was also tasty and sweet (even though it wasn’t chocolate) but unfortunately the Crème Brulee was a little runny. Something creamy was definitely required to go with the dessert wine!

Angie is already planning her summer course schedule…BBQ is next, then burgers, and beer vs wine!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Beer class at Provisions 4/27/2010

Angie, STLwinegirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com/), took a break from the norm this month and hosted a beer and food pairing for Craft Beer Week (http://www.stlbeerweek.com/). I was hoping the beer theme would get a few new folks out to a class and I managed to get a couple of newbies. Unfortunately, the class overall was pretty small. I don’t know if it’s a busy time or year or the wine drinkers refuse to branch out?

As usual, I always learn a lot from Angie since she always does her research beforehand. Germany has the largest number of beer drinkers per capita (40 gallons per person per year) and beer is the third most popular beverage behind water and tea.

I was a little nervous with this class because I’m not the biggest beer fan and there were TWO beers paired with each course. (Yes, you all really missed out big.) Angie’s goal was to introduce an old-style beer versus a newer craft beer, which I thought was creative.

The best part of the class was the food (of course) but more specifically, the combination of the beer and food REALLY stood out…more than any wine class.

Below is the menu:

BREAKFAST:
Crab and Cheese Frittata
Saison Dupont vs. Goose Island Sofie (http://www.gooseisland.com/)

LUNCH:
Chicken Mole Enchilada
Newcastle Brown Ale vs. New Hollands Mole Ocho.

AFTERNOON SNACK:
Ham and Potato Croquettes, Meatballs, Cheese Straws
O'Haras Irish Red vs. Moylans Danny's Irish Red

DINNER:
Smoked Beef Brisket with Onion-Tomato Au Jus
Aecht Rauchbier vs. Haandbryggeriet Norwegian Wood

DESSERT:
Caramel Cheesecake
Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout vs. Boulevard Smokestack Dark Truth Stout

I think breakfast was one of my top favorites because like wine, I prefer lighter beers. Not that I would drink one for breakfast, but it was light enough to go well with eggs. The Saison was still too spicy for me so I prefer the milder Goose Island beer. (I normally drink the 312 so I was definitely biased there.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever had an enchilada (I’m a quesadilla kind of girl) but it was quite tasty and it made sense to pair the fuller flavored beers with it. The Newcastle was way too plain but the Mole Ocho definitely goes well with spicy foods. Woah!

Another top pairing was the smoked beef brisket with smoked beers. These two beers caused me to make the “bitter beer face” by just SMELLING them! I could barely stand to taste them! The Aecht Rauchbier actually had a bacon flavor to it! (Just when I thought I was safe from bacon on the menu!) As for the Haandbryggeriet…it tasted like leather.

Luckily both these beers tasted SO much better once paired with the food….definitely tolerable so I could swallow at least but those both immediately were handed over to my friends.
My favorite pairing probably had to be the dessert one since the cheesecake was phenomenal (and a huge slice!) to begin with. I’m not a dark beer drinker so I had my doubts about the stouts. It was a little strange that the Chocolate Stout was better by itself and yet when paired with the dessert, the Boulevard Dark Truth actually was better because it could stand up to the creaminess of the cheesecake.

This is the first class where I wasn’t able to finish my neighbor’s leftovers either! I even tried not to drink too much beer.

I still don’t have any other classes lined up since I still have a couple more months of football left, but unfortunately, there is no more monthly cheese class at Whole Foods. Luckily, the Wine Merchant still has some cheese classes but they are on the same nights at football practice. So hopefully I can pick up my class attendance in the second half of the year.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The New Chez Leon

I got to try out the new Chez Leon in Clayton for my Dad’s birthday earlier this month. Really it just moved from the Central West End. We selected the prie fixe meal option for $40 so we got to select courses from three different sections. (http://www.chezleon.com/Chez_Leon/__Dinner_Menu_~.html)

I decided to start with the cheese plate as an appetizer while my stepmom got escargot. The cheese plate included six or seven slices ranging from soft to hard and included quite a few crackers and dates on the side. I would have preferred larger slices myself but enjoyed the fruit. The escargot doesn’t do anything for me since it has a chewy texture like mussels.

I opted for a salad course instead of a dessert course because the cheese really could have been dessert by itself. I didn’t share any cheese, while I still was able to steal a bit of the chocolaty dessert!

The hardest part was deciding on the main course. I was torn between the filet and the veal. Luckily, my Dad ordered the veal and it was just as delicious as I had imagined. They both were excellent choices so I couldn’t go wrong.

I was a little disappointed that the restaurant really crammed the tables in and we were seated by another early table. There wasn’t much privacy or quiet but it did help for scoping out the food on the other tables. But by the time we left, there were only two small tables left so I guess it’s smart to get in as many tables as they can.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Creole Cuisine seafood class March 23rd

The theme for this month’s seafood class was Creole Cuisine so I knew I was in for some spice. We started out with oysters (paired with a sparkling wine) that came with a side of tasty jalapeño sauce - a flavorful upgrade from just tossing hot sauce on ‘em.

Next came oysters wrapped in bacon, also known as “angels on horseback”. Not sure why. I wasn’t sure which one was the angel and which one was the horse either. I was thinking maybe it should have been “angels on a piggy”? Anyway, I took the bacon off so as not to ruin the oyster part but everyone else seemed to love the combination. Luckily, my friend Ellen was there to rescue me and took my bacon away!

We finally moved on to some meatier courses after that and I have to admit that I had a hard time picking my favorite from the last three courses.

The etouffee was delicious and had quite a kick and was paired with a refreshing Riesling.

After that we took a spice break with a simple salmon filet. So soft it melted in my mouth! Michael was a little daring and paired it with a pinot noir (a red!) from Australia.

And the last course was Shrimp & Sausage gumbo. The spice was more manageable in this course and it was paired with a strong Chenin Blanc from France.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Comfort Foods and Restaurant Reviews

I finally made it back to a Provisions class with STLwinegirl, Angela Ortmann. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time for classes these days. Whole Foods is no longer hosting my favorite cheese classes so I’ve been really bummed about that. At least Seafood class is coming up next week.

Angela came up with a really interesting menu with the theme of “Comfort Foods” so it was everyone’s favorites…but with a little spin…and paired with wine of course.

We started with Fish Tacos and they were covered in shreaded cheese! This was paired with a 2008 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. This wine had a screw cap and I learned that how you store the wine is not near as important as one with a cork, but it still doesn’t keep as long since no oxygen can seep in as with a cork. So no aging! But then again, no cork rot either, which has a 10% chance. Anyway, this wine is only harvested at night when it’s cooler so there is less stress on the wine.

My favorite pairing was probably the Breaded, Baked, and Bacon Mac and Cheese. If there had been no bacon, it would have been perfect, but I can’t escape Angela’s class without SOME bacon. This was paired with a 2008 Four Wines “Naked” Chardonnay. Turns out that “Naked” means that it is not stored in oak barrels but stainless steel, which in turn makes the Chardonnay a lot less full or buttery. More of a calm finish.

The next two pairings were chicken and dumplings with 2005 Domaine Alain Michelo Bourgogne from Burgandy and a stuffed meatloaf with a 2006 Estancia Meritage from California. Both were red wines that were too strong for me and the food did hold up against them. The chicken and dumplings were at least thick and creamy but the meatloaf was way too bland for the tannins in the Meritage.

We finished the class with apple pie and caramel with a 2002 Blossom Late Harvest Riesling. Normally I like all Rieslings but this was a “dessert wine” and extremely sweet. For those who REALLY know me, know that I like chocolate sauce on my fruit pies and that would have helped match up against the wine in this case. Definitely too sweet to be drank regularly.
In addition to the “Comfort Foods” class, I have also been to a few great restaurants recently that I highly recommend.

First, I went to SubZero (http://www.subzerovodkabar.com/) in the Central West End, right across from Drunken Fish, which is a little strange location since I’ve only heard about SubZero for their sushi, in addition to their vodka drinks. I thought the sushi was fantastic and I ordered a citrus-flavored vodka drink. I admit that I love “foo-foo” sweet tasting drinks and they had plenty of them! And for vegetarians, they even had no-meat pot stickers.

This past week I went to the Boathouse in Forest Park for the first time and every Thursday from November until April, they host a “shrimp boil” for $16 per person! Each meal comes with soup or salad to start out with (salad was really sweet but I didn’t like the spicy white bean soup flavor) . Then the main course comes out on a huge plate all mixed together: andouille sausage, potato wedges, and GIANT shrimp!! These were the biggest shrimp I have ever eaten. And I couldn’t finish them either. Got to have quite a delicious meal the next day too!

Last weekend I went to Sasha’s Wine bar on Shaw (http://www.sashaswinebar.com/), which is much bigger than the location in Clayton. It was not too crowded at 8pm but really hoppin’ by 10pm. In addition to the extremely large wine list, I was really impressed with their menu, which had quite a few choices for light meals. Of course I was stoked to find SIX different cheese plates to choose from! We ordered the World Tour and the French plate. Everything I had was fantastic!

For my main course, I thought I’d try something different and ordered a Triple Crème Brie, Apple and Mango Chutney crepe. It was delicious. And the chef was nice enough to make a mistake and make us a second one! I hope that was because we bought two bottles of wine…first an Argentinean cabernet and then a Chilean pinot noir. I definitely cannot wait to go back!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

February St. Louis Cellars

Last Tuesday I went to St. Louis Cellars (http://www.saintlouiscellars.com/) for their monthly wine tasting and I was happy to see Angie Ortmann/STLWinegirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com) there as well. It turns out that she will be teaching classes at the NEXT Cellars wine tasting on Wednesday, March 3rd.

This tasting was a little disappointing from the quality of their previous food offerings since they only served appetizers such as two kinds of cheese, strawberries, chips and salsa, pita bread and hummus, bread slices, and chocolate brownies. All of the food went very quickly and the chocolate brownies were a big hit.

They also moved the serving station to behind one of the kitchen counters and there was quite a bit more traffic altogether.

I was running an hour late so I did my best to catch up with my friends in tastings. It’s hard to get a fair taste in when you’re rushed and the snacks don’t hold up to the wine. The white wines were a little bland but the Salvatore Principe Prosecco sparkling wine from Italy was light and delicious. Only cost $17.99.

I actually skipped one of the reds, the Cab (gasp!), to skip ahead to the dessert wine, which was Chocovine from Holland. They were selling it for $13.99 but I found it in Schnucks for $9.99. I think it tasted like a chocolate milkshake with a hint of red wine!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

STLWinegirl and Provisions cheese class

After months of begging Angie, she finally created a cheese pairing class for me at Provisions. Angie really outdid herself because not only did she provide a small plate of the raw cheeses, she also had Chef Scott Phillips come up with a dish with a cooked version of the cheese.

In addition to the pairings, Angie also provided some cheese facts for us:

--China is the only major country that does not produce any cheese.

--The U.S. is the largest producer of cheese but most of it is sold domestically.

--This was also the first class where there was no bacon! Hehehe

1st Pairing:Saint Andre Triple Crème

featured in a puff pastry with a caramelized onion and fig compote Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco

The first pairing was one of my favorites because I tend to prefer lighter wines and cheeses. Triple crèmes just melt in your mouth like butter. I learned that a “double crème” must be 60% milkfat and a “triple crème” must be 75% milkfat.

2nd Pairing:Mt. Vkos Feta

featured in a torta with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes & pine nuts 2008 Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc

The feta was paired with the sharp Sauvignon Blanc because the cheese has a high salt contain which helps to cut the acidity of the wine. Much like putting salt around the rim of a margarita.

3rd Pairing:Fontina Cremalpina

featured in a stuffed Italian meatball with a rustic marinara sauce

2008 Damilano Barbera d'Asti, Italy

The fontina had a very mild taste and this went well with the Barbera, which I find to be a mild red, one of the few reds that I like, for that reason.

4th Pairing:Aged Manchego

featured on top a polenta "flatbread" with chorizo

2007 Atteca Old Vines Grenacha, Spain

The aging of a manchego makes the cheese a little sharper, so it stood up pretty well to the Grenacha.

5th Pairing:

Bleu d'Auvergne featured in honey "blue" cheesecake with shortbread crust & candied pecansGraham's "Six Grapes" Reserve Porto

Another great pairing was the "blue" cheesecake with the port. It really pulled the best flavor of the blue cheese and was strong enough to match up to the port. Probably the best non-chocolate cheesecake I have ever had.

Unfortunately, Friday's Wine Merchant cheese class is sold out so it may be awhile before the next class....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sort of new cheese class

There was a new instructor for cheese class this month at Whole Foods and the theme was “Spain”. I definitely was spoiled with Mike and Dave because they pre-cut all the cheeses and gave everyone their own plate ahead of time. Then a specific cheese was paired with a specific wine. So it was a little harder to pay attention to the instructor with all the fidgeting going on. At least the cheese trays contained a nice variety of olives, grapes, and nuts which is always an extra treat at Whole Foods.

Still, I had a lot of confidence in the instructor because it was the same person who helped me pick out a primo Scotch for my Uncle’s birthday present. I was really impressed with all her knowledge and once again I learned a lot.

Italy and France are the top two producers of wines and Spain comes in third. While Spain has the largest area of the three for growing grapes, their dryer climate produces a lower yield. Also, the Spanish government only started to allow irrigation in 1996.

Of course we started with a Cava sparkling wine paired with goat cheese, and of course there was a Manchego for the second pairing. But it was nothing but reds after that, which I learned is because Spain is more known for their reds, especially Rioja.

My favorite pairing was a red Rivola with a cheese called Mahon. I think the cheese is what made the wine taste so good but the wine was nice and mild.

My least favorite was the dessert pairing of sherry and blue cheese. But you all knew that already didn’t you? Hehe Yet, I did learn that “port” is fortified during the fermentation process to make it sweeter while “sherry” is fortified after the fermentation process to make it dryer.

Two classes next week...STLWineGirl's cheese class at Provisions and another cheese class at Wine Merchant in Clayton.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Giving the gift of cheese!

It’s been another cheese and wine-filled week thanks to my brother bringing me cheese from his neighborhood cheese store, Marion Street Cheese Market, in Oak Park, IL. They were all out of Zingerman’s goat cheese (foiled again!) but instead brought me three great cheeses: Bucheron (France), Les Feres (Wisconsin), and my favorite, Ewephoria, a sheep’s milk gouda from the Netherlands. This one reminded me a little bit of Gruyere, a firmer cheese with a small kick to it.

On another high note, I also received two new cheese knives and a protector for your hand while you're cutting. Hmm...I now wonder if that was intentional?

Three days later, it was time for another Provisions food and wine pairing hosted by @STLWineGirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com/UpcomingEvents.html) and this month's theme was "Winter Warm Up". The best part about Angie's classes is that I always learn a lot and she encourages a highly interactive class.
  • "Legs" on a wine are actually generated by the alcohol content and not necessarily an indication of quality.
  • White wines tend to turn more brownish as they age.
  • Old world wines are named by where they are from whereas new world wines are named by their grape.
  • And most importantly, don't wear white to a wine tasting but if you do, have "Wine Away" handy! (http://www.wineaway.com/)
1st Pairing:
Winter Salad with Goat Cheese "Fritters" and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
2006 Argyle Burt Sparkling Wine – Oregon $21.99

As with most wine classes, we started with bubbles and Angie said you really don't have to use tall flutes for sparkling wine. Flutes do cause the bubbles to release slower but then it's harder to smell. The likelihood of your champagne going flat while you drink it is pretty low.

The sparkling wine was mixed with a goat cheese "fritter" and I just don't think grease goes well with sparkling wines. Angie pointed out that while you have every right to eat French fries with champagne, it's probably not the best pairing! hehe

2nd Pairing:
Cajun Jambalaya with Crab Claws
2007 Treana Viognier/Marsanne - Central Coast, California $19.99

Chef Scott Phillips LOVES to cook Cajun food so the best serving was the Cajun Jambalaya with Crab Claw. It was paired with a wine that had some bite to it. Sometimes liked paired food and wine calm each other down but in this case, they both became too spicy.

3rd Pairing:
Traditional Coq au Vin
2007 JL Chave Crozes-Mermitage - Northern Rhone, France $24.99

The third pairing was a match of the milds: Tradition coq au vin, or chicken and dumplings, French-style. The wine served with it also had a smooth finish so neither overpowered each other.

4th Pairing:
Lamb and Root Vegetable Masala
2008 Gascon Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina $11.99

Malbecs are one of five grapes that are grown in the Bordeaux region and is usually paired with “gamey” meats. This was a good of example of sweet food and spicy wine pairing well together for a good balance.

5th Pairing:
Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme
2003 Dr. Parce Rimage Banyuls - France1/2 bottle $33.99

The dark chocolate had a very thick consistency and was a little spicy with cayenne pepper mixed in. It was so rich, that it totally stood up to the bitter dessert wine. This was definitely the best pairing even though not my favorite flavors. In fact, the chocolate was SO rich, that I couldn’t even finish it!

Anyway, I consider this to be a good “warm up” for the next class…Angie has finally heard my begging and pleading and has created a cheese pairing class for me on Feb 2nd!

http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com/cart.php?target=category&category_id=32

She is going to serve the cheese plain and then cooked in a dish. Unfortunately, this means she will not be serving Epoisses (French for “the best cheese ever”) but I am still thrilled that she is using cheese. I hope to continue to bug her so that “the cheese class” will be a special event once a year!

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Year of Reviews

So the New Year picked right back up where last year left off…lots of restaurants and lots of classes to attend and review!

Thanks to a Groupon (http://www.groupon.com), I got invited to try Jade (http://www.jadestl.com), a sushi restaurant located downtown. The restaurant is beautiful inside and there is a parking garage directly across the street. We had great service and my favorites were the Rainbow and Alaska rolls. I also go to try hot Sake, which I think is much better than when served cold because it seems a lot less potent when served hot. Hehe

The Food Adventure Club was supposed to go to Quintessential on St. Charles Main Street but I got a call the day before from the manager that they were going to close the restaurant for a staff meeting during our Sunday 5pm reservation. That’s our prime time for meeting so who knows if we’ll get to try it. It’s a really snazzy place, more like a lounge, and there is a bar area upstairs from the restaurant.

I was really disappointed about the cancelled reservation but Curt and Amy came to the rescue by picking out HuHot (http://www.huhot.com), which went into the spot vacated by Ruby Tuesday’s in West County. It’s Mongolian BBQ, which we have done before, so I didn’t have high expectations, but I was really pleased. They use much smaller bowls than other places but you are allowed to go back as many times as you want. The selection was MUCH better so there is something for everyone. Although this was a problem for me because I wanted to try everything!

My first bowl, I loaded up with all kinds of meats so that when I went back the second time, I did mostly vegetables. They have sauce suggestions with the amount of “heat” clearly labeled. VERY clean and good service.

A FAC meeting wouldn’t be complete without ordering dessert and I got to try the Khan’s Cake (chocolate) and the Molten Muffin. The muffin had hot fudge coming out of the middle and that was the better of the two. Curt and Amy had the Cheesecake Rangoons and we’re all hoping to go back sometime to try the Sweet Victory S’mores. How much fun would it to make your own at the table! Hehehe

Last but not least, the demise of the Whole Foods Galleria (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/st-louis/storecalendar.php) classes was greatly exaggerated and their first of the year was their famous seafood class! Curt has also become a convert now as well.

We started off with Oysters Rockefeller and yes, if it’s covered in cheese, it’s going to be fantastic! The oysters were followed by Panko-encrusted Sole with White Wine Butter Sauce. The best item of the night was the Ciopino Stew, which used tomato paste from a tube! None of us had seen anything like it before but they sell it at Whole Foods under the brand 360. The stew was amazing because it had so much quality seafood all mixed together: crabmeat, mussels, clams, squid, scallops, and cod. Several people ask for seconds on the stew because it was so good but I knew better and saved room for the last fish.

Chef Matt showed us how he cut the tilapia almost in two separate wings…but left them still attached at the very bottom. With one “wing”, he cut it down the middle, but just in the center. This way it could be folded on top of the other “wing” to form a pocket to hold the stuffing!

Unfortunately, the tilapia was a little fishy for me on a couple of bites but the stuffing really helped wash it down.

And the best thing about seafood class? Almost all the wines are white with one red at the very end.

Unfortunately, the cheese class at the Wine Merchant was cancelled for this month but I still have more classes coming up this month.