Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Al's Lesson in Port Wine

Okay, so I had a bad Monday but I am already over it and ready to move on. Easter was glorious and fattening but I think I stayed pretty lean and green. I did have a 2 hour workout on Saturday then a 1.5 hour workout yesterday so I think I'm good. :).

A good friend of mine asked me about Port Wine yesterday and I am obliged to give Al a full answer.

Port Wine is one of the oldest wines in the world. In the Portuguese Douro region there is a tradition of wine making centuries old, but it was in the 17th century that wine production had an important development. In this period, in 1703, Portugal and England made a commercial agreement, the Treaty of Methuen, in which Portugal would sell its wine in exchange for the importing woollen goods. Because at that time the distances were much longer than today, to prevent that wine deterioration it was added to it brandy in order to stop the fermentation. When the wine reached England they noticed that the wine was stronger and sweeter and much appreciated.
As a consequence of this, the process was improved and in 1756 the Port Wine brand was created, with the creation of a marked region in Douro. In this region around Douro River, near Regua and Pinhão are settled the Quintas and Estates where the production is made. This Wine started to be exported from Portugal to England by English Family Companies, some that still exists today, which explains why there are so many English Branded Port Wine.

Although wine-making techniques for port now comply with very modern
criteria and up-to-date methods, they have an important historical background.
The harvest of the grapes in the Douro starts at the end of September and for
the most part is still carried out manually. In old times it was also the time for
traditional festivals. Grapes usually arrive at the winery in baskets holding about
60 kg or in not too large special steel containers carried by tractors.
The production of a good quality port depends on the complete and rapid
extraction of both the colour and the flavour from the tannins of the berry skins.
These must be extracted before must fermentation is stopped by adding
fortifying spirits after two or three days. As the grape juice spends a shorter time
in contact with the skins than most red wines, the maceration process should be
really vigorous. In its first few months, wine is aged in vats, ranging from large cement tanks to small casks, in the Douro region, where low temperatures help its fining
down, and it is finally transported to the Vila Nova de Gaia shippers’ cellars.
The quality of the wine and the aging methods determine the final categories of
port, which can either be matured for a few years in containers and then be
ready to drink after fining, filtration and bottling or be designed to mature in
bottles even for twenty or thirty years after a short time spent in wood on casks.
Within these two general categories there are many different types of port.
(thanks to my former boss Franklin Houser for the info...this is what he taught me.)

Okay Al there's the technical stuff. Now let's really talk about the delicious Port Wines that are available today.

Aged Tawny:
Blended from top quality Wines
Aged in oak wood casks
The older the better
More expensive

Not-Aged Tawny:
Not aged enough in oak wood casks
Red or White
Lower price

Best Wine
Made from wines of single year from best vineyards.
Blended and Bottled after 2 years of wood.
Mature, very long time in bottle.

L.B.V. Late Bottled Vintage:
Wine of Single Year
Bottled between 4 and 6 years after harvest.
Filtered or not filtered (needs decanting).

Deep red should be full of lively fruit flavor.
Aged 2 or 3 years in wood or not.
Less complex and expensive than vintage or LBV.

Made from white grapes
Sweet or not sweet
To be served chilled as an aperitif
Less alcohol

Port wine , by many is considered a dessert wine and is savoured at holiday gatherings. In my kitchen I use Port in many dishes in many ways.

There are combinations of Port Wine and food that work better than others.
Here are some of the natural combinations that you can choose when you serve port wine.
LBV and Vintage Port Wine with blue cheeses like Roquefort and Stilton.
LBV Port Wine with cured cheeses like the Portuguese Tenrricho or Ilha São Jorge (Azores)
The Aged Tawnies with 10 and 20 years with the deserts like Custard or Almond Tart
Ruby or Ruby Vintage with red fruits like Strawberries or Raspberries.

Cooking With Port:
This is my favorite part...merging the sweet flavors of Port with FOOD!!!!

Tasty Tastings Everyone!!!!!!

Blue Cheese Crusted Filet with Port Wine Sauce   serves 4


1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup minced white onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 cup beef broth (prefer low-sodium)
1/2 cup port wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 filet mignon steaks (1 1/2 inch thick)
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs


  1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring constantly, until onion is tender. Stir in the beef broth, scraping any onion bits from the bottom of the pan, then stir in the port wine. Bring to a boil, and cook until the mixture has reduced to about 1/2 cup. Set aside. This may also be made ahead of time, and reheated.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Heat oil in a cast-iron or other oven-safe skillet over high heat. Sear steaks quickly on both sides until brown, then place the whole pan into the oven.
  3. Roast steaks in the oven for about 15 minutes for medium rare - with an internal temperature of 145 degrees F (63 degrees C). You may adjust this time to allow the steaks to finish just below your desired degree of doneness if medium is not what you prefer. Remove from the oven, and place on a baking sheet. Stir together the panko crumbs and blue cheese. Top each steak with a layer of this mixture.
  4. Preheat the oven's broiler. Place steaks under the preheated broiler until the cheese topping is browned and bubbly. 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve with warm port wine sauce.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The "Lucha Libre" and All-U-Can-Eat-Tacos

Those that keep up with my FB status know I went home to Lauderdale for an overnight mini biz trip, those that don't....well now you do. I had a blast! Can't believe how much the strip has changed over the years but it is for the better. The skyline was glorious and amidst the towering buildings lay the cornerstones of the infamous "Strip". The outdated, musty, "if these walls could talk" true icons of ghost's of Spring Breaks past, the classic, retro beach hotels. We decided to stay at one of these iconic legends, The "Ocean Holiday Resort". Now for being 50 something years old this place was very clean and must free. i was pleasantly surprised and it was perfect for us as we were not planning on being in the room much anyways. We'll take it!

I got ready and we headed out on a walk to Las Olas for dinner at a happening place we saw on the drive in, "Rocco's Taco's" on Las Olas Blvd. This place looked like a nice, fun family restaurant around 8:30 pm as we drove into town, but upon arriving by foot at 10:30 we found a totally different atmosphere than we expected. Other than the fact the "LIVE DJ" blasting out some really good jams, and when I say blasting I mean really friggin loud music, the place was really aesthetically pleasing. It reminded me of an upscale cantina, only that it played no latin music. The decor was that of dimly lit bar with a "Lucha Libre" back theme. There were 8x10 paintings of comical wrestlers with I Rocca as the local hero. I wish there would have been more of it as it started to tell a story that could have carried through the restaurant. We were seated immediately and our server came to the table and said "HI I'M STAN, I WILL BE YOUR WAITER!!!!!!" as he is competing to the really cool, really loud,  Amy Winehouse "Rehab" mix. He started to yell the specials and I managed to make out $5 Herradura Silver Margaritas. "DOS' ON THE ROCKS, SALT" I scream out the order. He then handed me the menu and pointed at the night's specials. I could tell he really didn't care for the night club in a restaurant atmosphere but he was fun and played along nicely. We noticed that at the table next to us was a server making Guacamole table side. Cool concept and it looked and tasted great. I finally went to take a look at the menu and realized how dark it was in the place and how thankful I was for J bringing his new found flashlight pen so I could read it (memo to self: bring flashlight and earplugs next time I go to Rocco's). So when I finally could get some light on the subject I saw the tempting choices for "ALL-U-CAN-EAT Taco Night $14.99. Beef, Pork, Chicken, Shroom, Shrimp, Blackened Mahi....wait did it say Blackened Mahi, it did and I am all over it. 3 BLACKENED MAHI PLEASE!!!!!!!! So we mixed and matched, J got the shrimp,  I got the Mahi. J got the Shrooms, I got the Mahi, J got the Mahi, I got the Mahi. 6 Blackened Mahi tacos later and the fact that I could not eat anymore. No dessert this time and I really thought I saved enough room for it. Great meal, great fun, great service (speak up please), great prices, my ears rang for an hour after we left but all in all I would for sure go back. The decor was amazing and the food phenomenal.

Rocco's was the closest to the unique flavors I experienced while living in Texas. It was the best Mexican food I have had since moving home to Florida. Personally, I always try to bring a little bit of Texas to my dinner table as the flavors I learned to savour there have become near and dear to my palate. I love this fish taco recipe and I hope you will as well..

Tasty Tastings Everybody!!!!


2 pounds fresh fish filet-I like mahi mahi because it is mild (we used about .7 lb for 5-6 small tacos)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon allepo (or cayenne) flakes
¼ teaspoon ancho powder
1/8 teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon sharp paprika powder
¼ teaspoon allspice
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the fish into small filets or even smaller for more spice.  Dip in spices and either blacken in cast iron pan .   Cook until firm.  It was about 5 minutes in the pan for ume 

Toppings (suggestions)
Mexican Queso Fresco crumbled
1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped

chopped Avocado
Grated Jicama
Diced Tomatoes

10 soft corn tortillas

Chef Sheri's White Hot Sauce 
2 Cups Sour Cream
2 teaspoons of Wasabi powder

juice from a lime
chipotle chili powder

Mix well in your blender. Spoon on Taco's for some extra flavor.

2007 Finca La Linda Torrontés Argentina bottled by Luigi Bosca.  This wine was produced in Argentina and consists of 100% Torrontes grape.  Torrontes is the wonderful and distinctively aromatic signature white grape of Argentina. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's All About the Hog, Fish That Is!

Here in the "Sunshine State" we all start sweating this time of year. I don't care where up north you are from or if you, like myself, are a native Floridian, YOU SWEAT. So a nice, cool spring food and wine pairing is a great way to beat the spring heat. I can't tell you how many times I have debated having a crisp salad over firing up the Weber and standing in the direct line of smoke that seems to follow me wherever I go. I crank up some Norah Jones or Sade invite some friends over and start the springtime ritual of food and wine pairings officially named "Spring Fling". Now my winter foodie parties are much heavier than the ones in the "warm" months and I really enjoy the fresh locally grown produce from our local Farmer's Market to make light and interesting dishes. So I start my Saturday shopping at our downtown Farmer's market for some fresh Florida produce. Now it is hard to get me out of there as I love the vibe a Farmer's Market gives out. Live music, the aroma of fresh herbs and the bright color palate of peppers, it stimulates my senses. Next is a trip to Merrick Seafood to pick up my catch of the day. I do live on a Gulf Access canal and I am not scared to catch my own fish but it seems catfish and mullet are all that want to nibble on my bait so I am forced to rough it and grab some tasty, fresh fish from Merrick Seafood here in the Cape. Now I really love visiting Amy at Merrick. She always knows how to upsell to me and I love sharing my recipes with Amy and the staff. This Merrick Long Island family owned seafood market in the heart of SE Cape is the best fish market around. From fresh, Florida (sustainable peeps) shellfish and fish to hearty Maine Lobsters (not so sustainable but delish) Merrick Seafood aims to please. GET THERE EARLY!!!!! I have found that when I procrastinate and get there a couple hours before closing the pickins' are slim so take my advice and call ahead and reserve your order or get there when they open to pick your fish. The real trick is timing and getting the elusive Hog Snapper or Hog Fish, as us Crackers call it, before it disappears. Us Floridians' know the delish factor of Hog Snapper but for my up north friends good luck trying to find this spear caught fish. So today I want to pay tribute to my favorite fish, The Hog Snapper! Hog Snapper is highly-prized for it's firm, alabaster flesh which flakes apart nicely. The flavor is mild with subtle sweet undertones. Although many purists would maintain it should only be prepared pan-seared with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, Hogfish is a very versatile fish and works well whether baked, grilled, marinated, or smothered in a tasty sauce. Now you are not going to find this fish at you local grocer you really have to do some research and make some calls to local fish mongers and if they say "yes it's in" be prepared to leave right then and there to go get it as it sells out rather fast. So today's recipe is one of my favorites, "Hog Snapper in a Pineaplle Chili Lime Sauce" paired with a nice crisp Vinho Verde wine will make a most excellant main dish for your next Foodie Spring Fling.

Tasty Tastings Everyone!!!!!!!

Freshly Speared Florida Hog Snapper with Pineapple Chili Lime Sauce

4 - 6 to 7 oz. Hogfish fillets (skin off)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 an onion, diced
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large clove garlic, diced
Juice from half a lime
8 oz. fresh chopped pineapple
2 oz. pineapple juice
1 tablespoon mild sweet chili sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
4 Tablespoons butter (2 for fish, 2 for sauce)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon Cajun spice
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper

The Sauce
1. In a small saucepan, warm olive oil over medium heat.
2. Saute onion, bell pepper and bell pepper for 4-6 minutes, then add garlic.
3. Saute garlic with onion mixture for another 30 seconds.
4. Add fresh squeezed lime juice, pineapple, pineapple juice, sweet chili sauce, brown sugar, and chili powder to onion mixture. Stir well.
5. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for 15+ minutes, until pineapple has broken down and liquid is reduced to a syrup. Be careful not to burn during last few minutes.
6. Stir in 2 tablespoons of butter, until melted. Reduce heat to low.
The Fish
1. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.
1. Season the Hogfish fillets with kosher salt and black pepper.
2. Mix seasoned salt or Cajun spice in with flour.
3. Dredge Hogfish fillets in seasoned flour.
5. Once butter in pan is melted and sizzling, add Hogfish fillets to pan.
6. Cook 2-4 minutes on each side, or until fish is cooked through.
7. Plate fish and scoop Pineapple Chili Lime Sauce over fillets. Garnish with slice of lime.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Soup Kitchen

After a great deal of thought I could not go to sleep tonight without posting one of my favorite specialties Avocado Poblano Soup. This soup pairs well with a nice, crisp, springtime Margerum 2007 Sybarite Sauvignon Blanc and will have you craving more. I prefer the soup warm but as it is a bit too reminisant of guacamole when served cold or at room temp.

Whilst living in Texas i really got to experiment with Tex-Mex flavors and found them to be a favorite to my palate. I was fortunate to have worked for a small boutique winery and was able to pair many of my favorite dishes to the unique taste of Texas wine. I kinda miss those days as it was one of the most interesting hats I have ever worn. Wines made from the French Colombard Grape became my one of my favorite whites and those who know me know I am red all the way. I learned to expand my palate and really take in the sensuality of every bottle opened.

I think I can sleep peacefully now knowing that you now have my favorite soup recipe to make for your very own.

Tasty Tastings Peeps!!!!

Avocado-Poblano Soup


1 pound poblano chiles, washed, seeded and coarsely chopped (skin on)
2 carrots, washed, peeled and roughly chopped
sweet onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup flour
8 cups fresh chicken stock
2 avocados, halved, seeded and peeled (pebbly-skinned brown-black Hass are preferred)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup heavy cream
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste


Corn tortillas, cut in strips and fried in hot oil, for garnish In a large stock pot, sauté poblanos, carrots and onion in canola oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add flour, mix well and sauté for 5 more minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add chicken stock and mix well. Simmer over medium low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add avocado. Purée with wand blender or in batches in blender. Add cilantro and cream, and blend until thoroughly mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or chilled. Top with fried corn tortilla strips

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My First Blog

Hello Fellow Foodies! As I have no followers as of yet I have to ask myself, "who do I want to share my thoughts and recipes with"?. I can only answer myself by saying "anyone who shares the same passion of food and wine that I have". That's it!

I hope by writing this blog we can all learn something new. If you like what I have to say please share my blog with your friends.

So for my first recipe I think I am going to keep it simple with a spring favorite of mine, Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad with mango Poppyseed Dressing

Makes 4 Roasted Beet and Arugula Salads
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • 3 large golden beets (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz baby arugula leaves, washed (about 2 large handfuls)
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted carmelized pecans
  • Bottled Mango Poppyseed Dressing dress to suit
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash the beets and coat with 1 tbsp of the oil. Wrap in several layers of foil and bake for 1 hour or until tender. Let cool to room temp or refrigerate. This may be done in advance.

With a knife, scrap off the beet skin, and cut in 1-inch cubes. Add to a mixing bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients, except the goat cheese. Toss well to combine, and divide on to 4 plates. Crumble over the cheese, and serve.
Tasty Tastings Everyone!!!!!