Cuisine Food Wine

The Wine Trials 2010 Release Party


Elizabeth and I went to The Wine Trials 2010 book release party at Seppi’s on Wednesday night.  I was one of the blind tasters for the first edition of the book. The Wine Trials 2010 is a completely rewritten new edition that “recommends 150 wines under $15 that outscored $50-$150 wines in brown-bag blind tastings of the latest vintages.”


While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, we were served some Brut Cuvée from Domaine Ste. Michelle, a $12 Washington state sparkling wine that was preferred by over two-thirds of The Wine Trials blind tasters over a $150 bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne.  As a passed appetizer, we had some Alsatian tarte flambée, which looked and tasted like some really good thin crust pizza.  I can’t think of a better pairing to showcase the values of The Wine Trials than pizza with bubbly.

Roasted red beets and frisée salad with goat cheese over apple

After sitting down for dinner, we were served roasted red beets and frisée salad with goat cheese over apple paired with a Grüner Veltliner, Federspiel Terrassen, Domäne Wachau from Austria.  The thinly sliced beets reminded me a little of beef carpaccio in appearance, which I think disturbed our vegetarian table mate.  I still had some of the sparkling wine left over when the salad was served, and I actually preferred it over the Grüner with the salad.  Although I am usually a Grüner fan, I thought that the herbaceous subtlety of the wine couldn’t really stand up to the vinaigrette in the salad.

Lobster bisque with crab cake on sugar cake

Next up was a lobster bisque with crab cake on sugar cake matched with a  White Rioja from Marqués de Cáceres (Spain).  I’m not sure what “sugar cake” on the menu referred to, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise of sugar cane, which formed the “stick” on crab cake “lollipop”.  I appreciated the whimsical tropical allusion in the hearty cold-weather bisque.  I have fond memories munching on sugar cane when I was a kid in Taiwan.  The white Rioja had a vegetal lightness to counterbalance the creamy hearty soup.

Duo of monkfish "osso bucco" over saffron risotto and miniature rack of lamb over sautéed spinach

The main course was a duo of monkfish “osso bucco” over saffron risotto and miniature rack of lamb over sautéed spinach.  I’m not sure where the osso bucco reference came from, but the dish tasted great.  Both the monkfish and the lamb were perfectly cooked.  I didn’t really taste the saffron in the risotto, but otherwise it was wonderfully executed.  The wine pairing was Rioja Crianza from Bodegas LAN in Spain.   I’m not sure what LAN stands for in this case, but Elizabeth and I noted that it is a geek-friendly name, and could play well with 8-bit wine.  LAN party anyone?

Cheese plate with blue cheese and Gruyère

The next course was a cheese plate with blue cheese and Gruyère paired with an Altano Douro, Symington Family Estates from Portugal.  I am a frequent vinho verde drinker, but I had never tried a red from Portugal before.  It was a real revelation.  Elizabeth and I both agreed that it was a unique wine and our favorite of the evening.  I don’t have the words to describe it, just try it, it’s less than 10 bucks a bottle.

Flyer chocolate cake

Finally, for dessert, we had a flyer chocolate cake paired with a dessert wine from Greece, Mavrodaphne of Patras, Kourtaki, which had a caramelly taste, and a nice lighter-bodied alternative to the usual pairing of Port with chocolate.

More photos on Flickr

The Wine Trials 2010 Official Website

The Wine Trials 2010 on Amazon

Arizona Cooking Cuisine Culture Taiwan

Making Taiwanese Tamales 包粽子

I was visiting family in Arizona for Thanksgiving weekend. I spent the Friday after Thanksgiving with my mom, aunt, and uncle making zongzi or Taiwanese tamales, a fitting description that reflects my Pacific Islander/Southwestern identity. 😉 The zongzi are based on my Taiwanese grandmother’s recipe, and includes sticky rice, peanuts, pork, fried shallots, dried shrimp, dried daikon, shiitake, and salty duck egg yolks wrapped in bamboo leaves. The bamboo-wrapped packages are then boiled and steamed. Yum!

Making "Taiwanese Tamales" (包粽子)

Making "Taiwanese Tamales" (包粽子)

Making "Taiwanese Tamales" (包粽子)

Making "Taiwanese Tamales" (包粽子)

My Thanksgiving photos on Flickr

Cooking Cuisine Food Recipe

Sweet Potato Gnocchi Gratin

I improvised this sweet potato gnocchi gratin for a night in with Elizabeth and Catherine.



2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
1 teaspoon of herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon of pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 heaping tablespoon of white miso
1 half package of Neufchatel or cream cheese
2 handfuls of grated Gruyère
1 egg, beaten
Olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 fresh shiitake, chopped
2 roasted red or yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
Half package of membrillo (quince paste), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 package of frozen sweet potato gnocchi
1 slice of whole wheat toast, blended into crumbs and sautéed in olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste




Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Make the Béchamel cheese sauce: melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the flour. Add the milk, herbs, and pimentón. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Whisk until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and mix in the miso and the cheese while the mixture is still hot.

Cook the vegetables: in a large (12 inch) cast iron pan or other oven-proof pan, heat up some olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until they start to brown. Then add the shiitake and cook until lightly golden. Add the bell pepper and sauté for another minute or two. Turn off the heat and stir in the apples and the membrillo.

Cook the frozen gnocchi in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes, until the just start to float. Drain and add the gnocchi to the vegetable mixture. The sauce will have cooled off slightly by now. Whisk in the egg and pour the mixture into the pan and mix.

Bake the gratin in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Add the bread crumbs on top for the last 10 minutes of baking.

Cooking Cuisine Food Fun Recipe

Instant Messenger Iron Chef: Turkey & Rice Stuffed Yellow Squash

Zucchini Touched

My friend Sophia IM’ed me the other night while I was at school. She asked me for some cooking advice based on the ingredients she had in her kitchen.  It turned into a game of IM Iron Chef or Stump the Cook from The Splendid Table.   Here is a log of our chat (edited for readability).  I’ve also posted photos from Sophia of the final result.

Sophia: ok Iron Chef, I’ve got ground turkey, yellow squash, broccoli florets, onion, tomato, garlic, some white rice, bag of frozen cut veggies (carrots/corn/peas), heavy cream. olive oil and balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, ground pepper.
And Fage yogurt

me: ok. You have a rice cooker?

Sophia: yup

me: Ok, easy. Cook the white rice.
while that happens, saute onions, garlic
add tomatoes and ground turkey
add the cooked rice in
and use that as stuffing in the squash (cut in half and partially hollowed out)

Sophia: woaaaahhh

me: you can chuck in some of the other veggies too
or a bit of the yogurt/cream to enrich things
and then put the stuffed squash in the oven
until the squash is cooked through

Sophia: nice – so I’m stuffing the raw squash?
(they’re skinny, is that ok?)

me: yeah, cut them in half lengthwise
and partially de-seed using a spoon

Sophia: oh shoot they’re yellow zucchini
that’s what I meant to say

me: yeah, you can still do it
to save time, you can parboil, steam, or roast the squash while the rice cooks

Sophia: I’m hazy on what cooked through for squash is – got an estimate on time?
oh ok

me: 30 minutes (or however long it takes for the rice to cook)
you can pre-cook the squash and make the squash then
if you have cheese, you could melt it on top
or put the Fage yogurt on as a topping instead of the sauce

Sophia: nice
that’s amazing – you need to do this for a living
or we have to put you on a blog

Sophia: how long would you cook ground turkey for? It’s always dry for me

me: because there is very little fat in the turkey, put the ground turkey in the sauce after you saute and onions and garlic and add tomato
so it cooks in sauce instead of frying it dry

Sophia: also – I was always taught to cook meat separately from veggies – in this case it’s ok to add raw meat to the tomatoes/garlic/onion?

me: yeah, because you are cooking it a long time
the turkey is not frozen, right?

Sophia: nope

me: or if you want to brown the turkey for color or taste, cook the turkey first in olive oil.
remove it from the pan, then cook the onions, garlic and tomatoes
then put the cooked turkey back in when the tomato sauce reduces

Sophia: I like it better not browned. So I can just add it raw to the onions? How long do I simmer/cook this together

me: here are the steps:
heat the pan. When it gets hot, put some oil in. Then the onions and garlic
then put in some turkey
and saute it until it changes color
then the tomatoes
bring to boil
then turn the heat to the lowest setting
until the rice is done
which would be about 20 minutes or so
if you are putting yogurt and cream into the sauce, put that in after you have turned the heat to low

Sophia: it’s ok to cook yogurt?

me: if you use yogurt, just stir it in just before you stuff the squash
but for cream, put it in when you turn heat to low
but I would choose 1, not both

Sophia: awesome. I’m going cream I think

me: sounds yummy. I’m in class and STARVING

Sophia: lol I have green onions too – would that mess it up?

me: no, I would chuck in the green onions at the end, just before you stuff the squash

Sophia: gotcha

me: in order of doing stuff: preheat oven to 400 degrees, wash the rice and get it going
then cut all the veg. Pop the halved squash in the oven
then make the sauce

Sophia: Definitely blog this!

Turkey Stuffed Zucchini

Cooking Cuisine Food France Recipe

Mussels in Curry Cider Cream Sauce

Normandy meets the Pondicherry of my post-post-colonial imagination in this improvised dish I made last night.

mussels in cider curry cream

2 tablespoons of butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon of minced jalapeño
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 pinch of saffron (optional, I just couldn’t help myself)
1/2 teaspoon coarsely-ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
4 pods of cardamom
2 bay leaves
1 bag of live mussels
1 cup of dry cider (I used Cidre Bouché Brut Etienne Dupont, an unfiltered and unpasteurized cider from Normandy)
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup of crème fraîche, I suppose regular heavy cream would work too
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley and/or cilantro for garnish

cidre brut

Clean the mussels and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and sauté everything except the mussels and the liquids over medium heat until lightly browned. Take your time with this part to achieve a nice caramelization of the onions.

Add the mussels, cider and lemon juice and simmer until the mussels pop open. Stir in the crème fraîche and serve immediately with crusty bread (or, if you are hardcore, French fries) to soak up the sauce. To drink: the rest of the bottle of cider. Yum!

Serves two people as a main course, or 3 or 4 for an appetizer.