Tag Archives: wine and food

Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut

Wisconsin-style bratwurstThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this new, occasional feature. This edition: three wines with Wisconsin-style bratwurst and sauerkraut

There are bratwurst, and then there are local, butcher-shop brats prepared in the Wisconsin bratwurst style. That means brats poached in beer with onions, peppers, garlic, and spices. Yes, you can use grocery store brats, but it’s that much better with the local product. Can I recommend Lake Geneva Country Meats, a long-time pal of the blog?

Since this is a wine blog, I poach the bratwurst in wine instead of beer. Use one-half bottle of a fruity, dry white wine; almost anything but an oak-infused chardonnay will work. The other key? Add a well-drained can of sauerkraut to the poaching liquid after you take the bratwursts out and simmer. I use 69-cent grocery store kraut, which works as well as the more expensive, plastic-bag version. The sauerkraut picks up the flavors from the poaching liquid, and becomes something other than just sauerkraut. Plus, you don’t waste all the flavor in the bratwurst-infused poaching liquid.

A tip o’ the WC’s fedora to Nick Vorpagel at Lake Geneva, the third generation of the family business and a fine wine guy, too. Who else would hold a cava and Wisconsin-style bratwurst tasting? Hence, cava works with this dish, so enjoy the blog’s legendary $7 Cristalino. Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe.

But consider these wines, too:

Falesco Vitiano Bianco 2017 ($12, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is one of the blog’s all-time favorites, and pairs with sausage as if it was made for it. Imported by The Winebow Group.

Foncalieu Le Versant Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): One more $10 French pink that does everything rose is supposed to do. Plus, it doesn’t cost as much as  bottle of white Burgundy. The Foncalieu is crisp, has a hint of red fruit, and ends with a pleasing, almost stony finish. Imported by United Wine & Spirits

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti 2015 ($8, purchased, 13%): This Italian red is usually one of the best of the cheap Chiantis, though I noticed some bottle variation this vintage. Otherwise, competent as always — lots of tart cherry, earthiness, and soft tannins. Imported by TWE Imports

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles
Wine and food pairings 1: Chicken, okra and sausage gumbo
One chicken, five dinners, five wines

Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles

roast chicken saladThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this new, occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles

Technically, this isn’t chicken salad, not the kind that Americans know all too well – leftover, dried out chicken glopped with too much mayonnaise. Rather, it’s a way to take ingredients as simple as chicken thighs and lettuce and turn it into a dinner more interesting and more fun to eat during the week – yet still easy to do.

This dish has its roots in late 1980s nouvelle cuisine, where the goal was to pile as little food as possible as high on the plate as possible while charging as much money as possible. So, given my sense of humor, why not do the same sort of thing, but that was cheap and enjoyable? In other words, make a simple green salad, top it with the Chinese noodles, and then top the noodles with the roasted chicken thighs. Drizzle with vinaigrette (made from the chicken fat and liquids from roasting, even), and you have one dinner, one plate, and minimal cleanup.

There are two keys here: marinating the chicken thighs in lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and fresh rosemary; and using the odd Chinese noodles that are dyed yellow. You can substitute rice noodles or even ordinary thin egg noodles, but the Chinese version seems to work the best. Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe.

Pairing wine with this is not nearly as complicated as it may seem:

GrooVee Grüner Veltliner 2012 ($10, purchased, 12%): Gruner is an Austrian grape that has been touted by the hipsters and the sommeliers as the next big thing for a decade. This is a Hungarian version that turns most Austrian gruners on their heads, despite its age and silly name. Look for a petrol aroma and peach and lime fruit. Imported by Quintessential. Highly recommended.

Zestos Garnacha Old Vines 2015 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Spanish red is a little heavier and more Parker-like this year, but still well worth drinking and neither hot nor too flabby. Lots of red cherry fruit, almost candied, but backed with a peppery finish. Imported by Ole Imports

Arrumaco Rose 2016 ($8, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish wine is pink. You’re having chicken. What else needs to be said? Look for lots of almost sweet strawberry fruit, though the wine is bone dry. Imported by Handpicked Selections

More on wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 1: Chicken, okra and sausage gumbo
One chicken, five dinners, five wines
One pork shoulder, five dinners, five wines

Happiness through cava and bratwurst

Happiness through cava and bratwurst

So where’s the cava?

Or, how a small meat market in central Wisconsin sells cheap wine, makes money, and pleases its customers. In other words, happiness through cava and bratwurst.

“You’d be surprised how many times people walk in, see our wine, and tell us they never realized we had this great selection,” says Nick Vorpagel, whose grandparents opened Lake Geneva Country Meats in 1965. “How often does it happen? Frequently.”

Which isn’t surprising, given the way the wine world sees itself. Wine comes in heavy bottles with corks and it’s supposed to be expensive, two traditions that proponents have been reasserting as wine sales have picked up over the past year. Throw in the foolishness that has been going on in the past month or so among my colleagues in the wine writing business, who are in a death match about what constitutes a proper wine writer, and it’s enough to make the Wine Curmudgeon take to his bed with a case of $10 Hall of Fame bottles until whatever this is passes.

But there’s no need, because smart retailers and wine drinkers, like Lake Geneva Country Meats and its customers, don’t need us or our silliness. How else to explain the meat market’s success with wine since 2005 — some 300 labels in butcher shop in a tiny town that Vorpagel happily admits is in the middle of nowhere. You’ll see very little high-priced wine and very little wine snobbishness; just, as Vorpagel describes it, “wines in the $10-$15 price range that are a little better than the price tag and that need to be good with food.”

Is it OK if the Wine Curmudgeon sighs contentedly?

“We’re really passionate about we do,” Vorpagel says. “We really believe in helping our customers have an enjoyable full meal, and what complements food better than wine? We’ve made the investment, and our customers appreciate it.”

The headline, by the way, comes from one of the market’s monthly wine tastings. This month’s featured Spanish wine, including Segura Viudas cava (and tip ‘o the WC’s fedora to my brother, who sent me the market’s e-mail). It was, says Vorpagel, one of the most enjoyable — but not as fun as the spring rose tasting, which will feature nine pink wines from around the world this year, up from three in 2011.

And just think: Vorpagel’s family figured that out without guidance from everyone is who supposed to be smarter about wine than they are. So I know where I’m getting the brats for my next cava party.

Catfish meuniere, Randall Grahm, and Spy Valley

Honest wine

Honest wine is the best pairing for honest food.

The most important lesson I ever learned about seafood came from the late, much loved and much missed Merlin Kleinpeter: If you can ?t buy it from Robert at Bayou Seafood, she used to say, then don ?t buy it.

Which was Merlin ?s way of telling me that fresh is what matters, and that any supplier who wasn ?t honest about things like freshness wasn ?t worth my time and money. If the crabs weren ?t good that day, then Robert told her so, and Merlin didn ?t buy them.

I mention this because food and wine are inextricably linked, and not just about which wine goes with which food. Pairing wine with most takeout pizza, which never tastes as good as you think it should, is one thing. That ?s what $10 grocery store merlot was invented for.

But pairing wine with honest food ? food that someone cared about and that required them to make an effort when they prepared it — is another matter entirely. More, after the jump:

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Buying wine for dinner

image from www.sxc.hu One of the things that too often confuses consumers is buying wine for dinner. They get hung up on pairings, they're flummoxed about whether to serve red or white, and wine pricing makes them nervous.

The Wine Curmudgeon has seen this many times, including an especially sad case several years ago when a youngish man stared helplessly at a liquor store employee and begged for advice on "buying wine for pasta." When someone needs help buying a cheap bottle of Italian red to have with spaghetti, we're all in trouble.

Though this confusion is understandable, given the way the wine business treats consumers, it's not necessary. Buying wine for dinner should be fun, and not approached with the same enthusiasm as mopping the floor. It's actually one of my favorite things about wine — going to the store, even a grocery store, and trying to see what I can find (and spending as little money as possible, of course).

After the jump, some tips on buying wine for dinner:

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