Friday, August 13, 2010

Sushi, Sake, and Wine

Sushi, sake, and wine was the theme for this Provisions ( 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 ( 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 (


I went to my first SIP.ciety event at Ernesto’s ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.

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


Thanks to a Groupon (, my friends and I hit another tapas restaurant, Boogaloo (, 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.