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 ( 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! (
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!

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 (, I got invited to try Jade (, 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 (, 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 ( 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.