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Food for Thought: Chayote and Hearts of Palm Salad

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Hearts of Palm: mysterious and delicious.

If you work at a trendy wine shop in the East Village, you are bound to brush shoulders with some of the movers and shakers of the city and beyond. Matt Dillon once graced the store and proceeded to lick cheese off my coworker’s knife while his girlfriend strolled around the store looking for something “with a lot of fruit and some kick to it.” One of the more interesting and fulfilling encounters I’ve had at the shop has been with Food Network chef Aaron Sanchez. Restaurant owner, author, consultant and co-star of Food Network’s popular, Chefs vs. City, Chef Sanchez is one of the leading contemporary Latin Chefs in NYC and a regular shopper at Alphabet City Wine Company. We began talking about food and I eventually asked him to give me some simple, yet refined, recipes to impress and make one’s heart happy. He got back to me last week with three recipes. All of them, fittingly, use ingredients indigenous to Latin America.

Chayote

The first one I will share is Chayote and Hearts of Palm Salad. You might be asking yourself (as I did), “what the heck is a chayote?” Chayote is a tropical trailing vine which produces fruits. Although, it is treated more like a vegetable than a fruit; think of it as the summer squash from Latin America. Also known as Mexican Squash, vegetable pears, and Christophine – among other names – chayote can be enjoyed both cooked and raw. When lightly cooked it retains a nice crispiness; while raw chayote is usually added to salads or salsas. For this particular recipe the chayote is lightly cooked and then added into a salad. Enjoy!

Chayote and Hearts of Palm Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 2 pound chayotes (also called mirlitons; 4 medium)
  • 2 (14 to 15 – ounce cans hearts of palm, not salad-cut), rinsed well and drained
  • 2 large celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Print a shopping list for this recipe

Preparation:

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt using side of a large heavy knife. Whisk together lime juice, oil, and garlic paste in a large bowl, then add onion, tossing to coat.

Halve chayotes lengthwise, then peel with a vegetable peeler and scoop out pits with a spoon. Cut chayotes crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices then halve slices lengthwise to make 1/3-inch-thick sticks (sticks will not be uniform). Cook chayotes in a 4 to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water until crisp/tender. It should be about 6 minutes. Drain well in a colander, then, while still hot, toss with dressing. Cool to room temperature.

Cut hearts of palm diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then add to chayote mixture along with celery, parsley, cilantro and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently toss.

Enjoy!

Wine for Thought: Our newest guest blogger joins Cocktail Fodder with a value Rosé you can’t miss!

July 21, 2010 1 comment

Spain's wine regions.

In today’s Wine for Thought segment, I would like to introduce Sarah as our first guest wine blogger. I’ve wanted to give Sarah a guest spot on the Fodder since her arrival at the East Village Wine Geek‘s shop a month ago. Sarah splits her time as a wine manager at the shop and as an intern at WineChap; a slick online resource that gives you reviews of restaurant’s wine lists throughout New York City. (Definitely worth a look!) A passionate student of wine with an already enviable palate, (“Sarah, I still don’t get the citrus fruits in this wine!”) Sarah will be helping out on Wednesday’s Wine for Thought segments. Here is her first post about a 10 year old Spanish Rosé that is worth a try for the daring and curious wine drinker. Enjoy!

Wine is not just for drinking. Obviously, wine is great for just drinking, but there comes a time in a drinker’s life when the urge to get something more than intoxication out of a bottle may arise. The desire to taste something new, better and different can overcome even the most apathetic boozer and encourage them to find a new experience.

Enter López de Heredia. One of the oldest bodegas in Rioja, López was founded by Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta in the late 1800s during the post-phylloxera exodus from France to Spain. While the bodega is decently large, with three vineyards covering 170 hecatres, the López family continues to make traditional wines with care and attention that are released only when deemed ready.

Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva 2000

The López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva 2000 is love in a bottle. Bottled love is a pretty good experience, and this blend of Garnacho, Tempranillo and Viura is the best lover that you can get at this price point. She has been waiting for years to become exactly what you want and need; to fulfill desires you did not know that you had. Most rosé is made to buy young and drink yesterday, but this is primed to give you all the nutty caramel goodness you could possibly want.

The day-glo orange hue and distinctive oloroso-style nose come from the purposeful oxidation of the wine throughout the ageing process. When oxygen comes in contact with wine, it beats the poor drink into submission. However, in a controlled environment, oxygen can be used to add complex flavors and aromas. While hints of burnt sugar and sweet spice are evident on the nose, the palate is dry and tangy; she is surprisingly fresh for her age. Drink chilled but not cold, with food or without, but definitely in good company.

To be clear, this wine is a bit bizarre. This is especially true if it is your first time with an older one. That said, the López rosé – which is aged for four years in barrel before being tucked away in some dank, dark corner for another six in bottle – offers a chance to taste age at a ridiculously low price. While $26.99 may exceed your normal wine budget, remember that this weird, orange wine has been lying down in the cool dark for ten years waiting for you.

Until next time, keep on sipping and swirling the good juice.

*For those of you in the Tri-State area, September Wines in New York City currently carries the 2000 vintage. Be on the lookout at your local wine shop to see if they carry any of this producer’s wines.

The World Cup Wrap-Up: Why this World Cup will hurt the chances of soccer in America, best goals & national anthem and the underbelly of the competition

July 15, 2010 1 comment

Part 1: An underwhelming World Cup with a worthy champion.

Farewell until Rio...

The curtains have officially closed on the 2010 World Cup and I am surprisingly unfazed. I thought that I would feel anxious and saddened by the fact I would have to wait another four years for my World Cup fix; that simply has not been the case. It may have something to do with the fact that this year’s edition of the world’s greatest sports competition was an oddity. There were few roller-coaster matches, no classic encounters, a visible lack of big stars and a cynical, nervy, often negative final match that was mired by a multitude of fouls and a hesitant referee.

The first act of the competition saw 2006’s finalists – France and Italy – exit ignominiously, while the finale saw two European powers – who had never won the Cup before last Sunday – vying for what was once believed unattainable. For the final matchup alone, this World Cup was intriguing. Spain ended up winning the Cup, deservedly so, for the first time in their history due to their display of a style that celebrated slick possession and movement over direct play and goals. Spain had to work hard for their goals in large part due to the opposition putting their players behind the ball and hoping for a counter-attack. The fact that they won the Cup is a testimony to the failure of this strategy and the superior class of the Spanish side. Bravo. Here’s a bit more insight…

The zeitgeist of this tournament proved to be defense and the counter-attack; a style of play perfected by Jose Mourinho, the current boss of Real Madrid. His Inter Milan squad of 2009-2010 succeeded in defeating the all-powerful FC Barcelona in this year’s Champions League Final using the logic of having the opposition hold onto the ball for the majority of the game while keeping defensive shape and quickly taking advantage on the counter. The World Cup Final pitted Spain, a team largely composed of Barcelona players and founded on possession, against the Netherlands, a team who slowly shed the colorful and flamboyant “Dutch” play for a style most in-line with Mourinho’s Inter Milan. According to the de-facto Dutch national philosopher on soccer matters, legend Johan Cruyff, the Oranje renounced their traditional style and played “anti-football” on the pitch. The embodiment of this unfortunate transformation of the Dutch team was Marc Van Bommel. The ultimate enforcer, he was like your friend in grade school who quietly stirred-up a lot of trouble but was never punished for it. Fact: Van Bommel did not receive a SINGLE yellow card for his malicious and incessant fouling until the final against Spain. It was unfortunate to see a team traditionally respected for its creative use of space and fluidity around the pitch resorting to fouling the Spaniards as their only way to slow them and gain a semblance of control in the game. In the end, the “beautiful”game prevailed but I was left underwhelmed. The interminable histrionics and continual fouling led me to walk away from the final happy for Spain but unhappy with how it all went down.

In contrast, the Germany vs. Uruguay 3rd place match gave us a teasing display of the kind of back and forth game that we wanted to see throughout the tournament; the teams were unafraid to make forays into the opposition’s half and they were willing to give up goals as a result. It was a thoroughly entertaining game.

Bold prediction: this World Cup did not help the case for those in America striving to prove to the traditionalists (American football, baseball and basketball fans) that soccer is an entertaining and enjoyable sport to watch. It’s surely not the fact that the games were low-scoring; the beautiful game has always been low-scoring. Rather, it was the way the game was played and the lack of flair and audacity — the stuff that make people’s jaws drop, bar tabs rise, and spirits lift. It all makes a sad truth for American soccer fans.

Part two: Goals of the tournament, best celebration and best national anthem.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Siphiwe Tshabalala

Diego Forlan – World class from the Golden Ball winner

Surprise of the Tournament: Uruguay

Reaching their first semifinals since 1970, the Uruguayans proved to be an industrious, well-organized, and an ultimately creative side to watch. The 3rd place match against Germany was the best tie of the tournament.

Disappointment of the tournament: The “marquee” stars

Rooney, Ronaldo and, to a lesser extent, Messi are just a few of the names on the list of the game’s superstars who failed to perform on the highest stage. What can explain this? I would wager fatigue from long domestic campaigns and, of course, pressure to succeed for their home country and not just for a multinational club.

Best Goal Celebration:

The Black Stars’ celebration after scoring against Australia takes the cake.

Best National Anthem:

One part opera, the other part pop song. I’ll be playing this at a party. Maybe not, but it’s still a cool song.

Part 3: The underbelly of the World Cup.

While the tournament was a bit underwhelming, we can at least say that the social, economic and political gains from having the World Cup in South Africa were significant, right? Well, yes and no. In Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski point to scholarly research which shows that the anticipated “economic bonanza” a World Cup is purported to bring (jobs, boost in tourism, investment ,etc.) is, in fact, a misleading notion. Countries compete to host the World Cup because it makes them feel as if they are in the world’s elite and fosters a sense of national solidarity amongst the various classes and groups of society. Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, presides over a country with the largest gap between rich and poor in the world and where a third of the population lives off of less than $2 a day. Before the World Cup, he had to grapple with riots in the shantytowns as well as trying to find new schemes to lower his country’s high unemployment rate. There were many critics who voiced their concern over South Africa hosting the World Cup due to the amount of money that would be spent on infrastructure and stadiums. Improved roads and trains are politically and socially viable goods that can be used after the competition, while the state-of-the-art stadiums will be much harder to fill. (The majority of Japan’s glittering stadiums used in the 2002 World Cup are largely unused to this day; almost lurking in the background to be used as chips for future World Cup bids).

Tom Humphries of the Irish Times recently wrote a decidedly scathing op-ed entitled, “Bye South Africa, thanks for being had by us” in which he sheds light on the underbelly of the World Cup. FIFA, or as Humphries likes to call them – “the pin-striped mafia” – were sitting on €2.6 billion in TV and marketing rights before the competition even began and will walk away with the lion’s share of profits. Underestimating the cost of building the stadiums caused the final price-tag to be 2 billion rand more than initially planned. Host cities were thus obligated to pick up the excess. Upwards of 355,000 unsold tickets forced the South African government to buy up tickets and sell them to their own people at subsidized rates. Meanwhile, 450,000 pre-booked rooms were put back onto the market by Market AG after overestimating the number of visitors. The ubiquitous markers of global capitalism superseded the local culture as colorful street vendors in front of stadiums were replaced by proper sponsors’ tents. What should we make of all of this? Is FIFA essentially offering the glitz and glamour of the world’s most popular sporting even while effectively stripping it of the selected host’s local culture and flavor for the benefit of global capitalism? Was the only truly South African contribution to the World Cup the vuvuzela?

There are all questions that should to be seriously pondered as we head into World Cup 2014 in still-developing Brazil…

Wine for Thought: An introduction to wine and cheese

July 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Wine and Cheese

In this week’s Cocktail Fodder “Wine for Thought,” I want to talk about pairing wine with cheese. Wine and cheese just makes sense together and have been enjoyed that way since the beginning of time. The Greeks were even known to grate cheese directly into their wine goblets! Blasphemy by today’s standards, but maybe they were onto something like they were with democracy. Anyway, if paired correctly, wine and cheese can enhance your overall food experience and allow you to better appreciate both. Discovering new tasting notes on a wine, by way of cheese, is quite the rewarding gastronomical experience.

A Caves Saint-Pierre Vacqueyras

I came into the shop yesterday and enjoyed an impromptu wine and cheese pairing with my co-worker Sarah. We chose a southern Côtes du Rhône from Vacqueyras that was 50% Grenache, 50% Syrah. After letting the wine aerate for some time, we took a sip and made our initial tasting notes: the nose was earthy and vegetal, while the palate exhibited a prominent yet balanced acidity with hints of ripe berries. Acidity is the chemical property (pH) in wine that makes your taste buds perk up and tickle. After the initial taste, I strolled over to Barnyard to pick up two cheeses to match up with the wine. Since the wine had a bright acidity, I decided that semi-soft cheeses were the order of the day. With pairing, you can either mirror or contrast the wine and cheese. In this instance, I chose to contrast. I went with a delicious French goat cheese called Bucherondin and a triple-crème-style cheese known as Pierre Robert. The Bucherondin was delicious with a crumbling claylike consistency and slight tangy flavor, while the Pierre Robert was creamier with an even more pronounced tanginess.

The Bucherondin succeeded in softening the wine’s acidity on the palate while allowing the fruit to come through. (Success!) The Pierre Robert was an interesting pairing with the Vacqueyras in that it seemed to prop up the acidity on the palate. I honestly think I came up short with the Pierre Robert pairing. Sarah and I were both craving soft cheeses — goat cheese in particular — so both cheeses allowed us to discover what worked and what didn’t. To add a wrinkle to the story, Sarah preferred the Pierre Robert over the Bucherondin with the wine. The moral of the story: to enjoy wine, there are no rules just guidelines.

Here is an informative website with general guidelines for pairing wine with cheese.

Sip on!

Goat Cheese & Mint Bruschetta: the best thing to happen to bread since it was sliced

July 14, 2010 Leave a comment

A delicious, easy summer bruschetta.

Hey there Cocktail Fodder readers! I went to my favorite East Village café, Paradiso, the other day for an iced coffee and ended up having bruschetta with goat cheese, caramelized onions and a side of olives. (I’m admittedly forgetting some of the other key ingredients but this should give you an idea of the goodness.) Once finished, I decided that I should post a recipe for both the bruschetta-lover and bruschetta uninitiated. Now, I’ve had bruschetta before in the past, but never really thought much of it until my recent encounter at Paradiso. I cannot think of a better light and flavorful dish to whip up this summer to impress your own taste buds as well as the others in your presence. Great as a summer appetizer, everyone should have a quick bruschetta recipe up their sleeve. (Kudos to Marisa and epicurious.com!) What’s that you say? You don’t have one? Well then, you’re in luck today!

How does crispy bruschetta with goat cheese, tomatoes and mint sound? Hopefully as good as it does to me.

**SIDE NOTE: Goat cheese is the perfect pairing with a rosé wine — I implore you to get a little goat cheese on your next grocery trip and stop by your local wine shop for a nice, dry rosé.**

Anyway, back to the recipe:

Ingredients:

12 1/2-inch-thick slices of Italian or French bread (Preferably, from about a 3-inch-diameter loaf.)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, halved

6 plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

4 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Find a baking sheet and put the bread slices on it. Use a brush and spread olive oil on both sides of the bread slices. Bake the bread until they reach a golden hue; about 6 minutes on both sides. Remove the bread and rub the halved garlics on them. Take the plum tomatoes and fresh lemon juice and combine them in a medium-sized bowl; season with salt and pepper to taste. Up the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the goat cheese over the toast and place the tomatoes on top, dividing equally between slices. Bake the bruschetta for another 8 minutes. Once done, place on a serving platter and garnish with the fresh mint.

Et voilá!

Quick hit wine recommendations: French Rosé, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and any Chenin Blanc.

What do an unwashed cashmere sweater, a national anthem with no words, and an erudite octopus have in common?

July 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Answer: The World Cup.

Spain

So here we are. The final stage of the World Cup. A competition filled with utter disappointments, pleasant surprises, heartbreak, and the power of youth. Spain and the Netherlands will go head to head in pursuit of their respective nation’s first ever World Cup trophy. We will see who will prevail. Until then, here’s a quick overview of last week’s quarterfinal and semifinal matches.

1) Brazil vs. Netherlands

Brazil came in as the undisputed champs, at least in their own minds, and in the first 15 minutes they showed their athleticism, guile, creativity, and superiority against the Dutch who were chasing the game. Felipe Melo, the Brazilian defensive midfielder, started the game as the hero and ended it, unceremoniously, as the villain. His sublime through ball to an in-stride Robinho gave me goosebumps, while his childish petulance and histrionics made me cringe. Melo’s rise and fall in the match closely mirrored how the Brazilians played. They started off well, performing in the superb, only to regress to playing like a wounded animal with no place to hide. The Dutch deserved to go through. For their part, the second half was a clinical exhibition of possession and movement.

2) Ghana vs. Uruguay

This game was a true heartbreaker for the neutral fan. With all the hopes and aspirations of a continent on their shoulders, the Black Stars of Ghana were unable to advance to the semifinals of the competition. The game was theirs to win or lose and Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s star striker, missed his penalty in the 120th minute. Regarding the handball incident that led to the penalty, the uncomfortable truth of the matter is that any soccer player would have done the same thing. While I find the hand ball reprehensible and unfortunate, it was the only play that Luis Suarez had to keep his team in the game. By handing the ball he knew he would be ejected but it luckily (didn’t feel that way at the time) left the fate of the game in the hands of his keeper and the fallibility of the opposition’s kick taker. Gyan missed the penalty kick and Uruguay stayed alive. Well played. Poor penalties sealed Ghana’s fate and left me scratching my head. Not all is lost for Ghana though–they are the reigning champions of the U-20 World Cup and should figure in the World Cup of 2014.

The Netherlands

3) Germany vs. Argentina

Germany absolutely demolished Argentina 4-0 in an impressive exhibition of counterattacking soccer. Argentina failed to adapt their game and remained narrow in their attack with Leo Messi, Carlos Tévez, and Gonzalo Higuaín continually frustrated by the stout German defense. Their midfield lacked creativity while their defense was finally exposed with Gabriel Heinze and Nicolás Otamendi horribly dismantled by the speed of Thomas Müller, Miroslav Klose, and Lukas Podolski.

4) Spain vs. Paraguay

This game started as a bore and then turned into a white-knuckler with penalties on both sides of the pitch within 5 minutes of each other. As expected, Spain dominated possession, leaving Paraguay to chase the game for the majority of the match while creating sporadic opportunities in the front of the Spanish goal. Spain deserved to go through but left a lot to be desired by only scoring one against the pesky Paraguayans.

Semifinal recap:

1) Uruguay vs. Netherlands

This high-scoring affair sure had its moments. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s master-class strike was one for the ages. While scoring three goals, the Dutch still looked quite vulnerable in the back with Khalid Boulahrouz continually making things interesting on the right side of the defense. When asked what the difference was between the 2010 Dutch team and those of the past (’94,’98), the current crop of players stated that they expected to win regardless of how they got there. Long gone are the days of playing beautifully but not getting the results. They have the confidence and expectation to win but the “Dutch Way” is no longer their modus operandi. Check out this illuminating article by Raphael Honigstein about Dutch soccer and the death of total football.

Uruguay was missing the services of the suspended Suarez – leaving Diego Forlan to create on his own chances, which he did – and the sturdy defender Diego Lugano who would have provided more of a test against the wily and melodramatic Arjen Robben. Uruguay can be proud of making it to the semifinals for the first time since 1970 and will most certainly make noise in Brazil in 2014. Brazil will hope that they don’t. Some Cocktail Fodder for you: Uruguay beat Brazil in the 1950 final in the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janiero 2-1. A rash of suicides in the country befell the country, as well as national competition to change the colors of the Brazilian team uniforms. A 19 year old came up with the winning design and won a yearlong internship with the national team.

Goal of the tournament:

The Prize

2) Spain vs. Germany

The youthful multicultural team of Germany finally met its match in the polished, methodical, geometrically ascetically pleasing, near lull-inducing Spanish squad (whew!). Not even a debonair coach with the unwashed lucky blue cashmere sweater could prepare his team well enough. From the beginning of the match one could tell that the Spanish were going to dictate the pace of the match with the Germans occasionally mounting a threatening counterattack. Now, there is something rather interesting and sobering about the Spanish starting 11 that is worth noting: the majority of them ply their trade at either Real Madrid or Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga. At the start of each season all the teams in La Liga, from Getafe to Real Madrid, have the same number of points (Check out the Alphabetized 2010-2011 standings) However, once the ball is kicked, the season is eventually predetermined with the only tension in the campaign revolving around whether Barcelona will continue its recent dominance or if Real Madrid can overtake them. Valencia finished in third place last year with 25 points between them and second place Real Madrid!  It is only natural that the national team be made up of the players from both squads as they are not only the leagues best paid but also the best players pound for pound. I like to think of this Spanish squad as Barcelona plus 5.

Where it gets even more interesting is in the identity of the player who scored the winning goal in yesterday’s semifinal to propel the team into the World Cup Finals for the first time. Carles Puyol, the shaggy-locked central defender, is from Catalonia; one of the 17 semi-autonomous regions of Spain. Spain could lift the World Cup for the first time thanks in large part to the talent pool generated by FC Barcelona; a well-established Catalonian institution and a sporting representation/symbol of Catalonian independence. I find this quite remarkable. General Franco would be rolling in his grave if he saw what was happening on the pitch.

A World Cup soothsayer?

Here is some more fun Cocktail Fodder for you: the Spanish national anthem has no words. It is one of the few in the world devoid of words. Why is this? Because the regionalism of Spain makes it virtually impossible to create a song that encapsulates what it means to be a “Spaniard.” From Galicia over to Catalonia and down to Andalucía, one finds areas that are politically, culturally, and linguistically distinct from the central government of Madrid. When one of the ESPN commentators noticed that none of the Spanish players were singing the national anthem I almost threw my drink at the screen (not really, but you get my point).

Patrick Cox’s podcast The World in Words from Public Radio International has two excellent episodes in which he touches upon the Spanish national anthem and whether the 2009 Champions league win by Barcelona could be hailed as a win for all Spaniards– definitely worth a listen. Here is the main page (http://patrickcox.wordpress.com/) with the topics of Spain coming up in the first and fifty sixth episode of the podcast.

Finally, check out this article about the “psychic” octopus who correctly predicted that Spain would beat Germany keeping its streak of correct match predictions alive: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jul/08/soccer-octopus-world-cup-final

Enjoy the final. Until next time, cheers.

Wine for Thought: Gamay from the Beaujolais!

July 7, 2010 2 comments

Beaujolais Nouveau: Good to chill

In this week’s Wine for Thought, I am going to touch upon a red wine that you can put on ice and chill. I mentioned Gamay in last week’s recipe of the week. It still stands as a perfect compliment to that Pesto Shrimp Penne recipe. Today, though, I’ll give you a bit more on the grape’s history and current state in the wine market.

Joseph Drouhin's Beaujolais Villages.

Gamay is grown all over the place but its ancestral homeland is in Beaujolais, located in the southernmost part of Burgundy, France. Although technically a part of “Greater Burgundy”, its soil, topography, and climate are distinct from the noble area to the north. The red wines produced in Beaujolais are predominately made from the Gamay grape. The Gamay grown in Beaujolais produces a wine that is light and fruity with a bright acidity on the palate. All three of these characteristics make it a great wine to have chilled at a picnic, at the beach, or at a barbecue in the park or rooftop.

Some people will recognize Beaujolais Nouveau as a wine that is released on the market in September/October; right after the harvest. Georges Duboeuf, the large French negociant, is synonymous with Beaujolais Nouveau. His wines, festooned with flowers, are the quintessential quaffing wines. So if you want to try one, you can’t go wrong with a Georges Dubeoef. Beaujolais Nouveau is the most predominant example of Beaujolais on the U.S. market and is your best bet to find and throw in that waiting bucket of ice.

There are other, more serious Gamay Beaujolais wines that are also great on ice. Instead of serving them between 55-65 degrees (the preferred red wine serving temperature), serve them between 45-55 degrees and enjoy the juicy fruit and spice. So ask your local wine merchant for an affordable Gamay from Beaujolais, pop it into the fridge, wake up in the morning, prepare your snacks, get outside, and enjoy the goodness offered from the region of Beaujolais.

In the future, I’ll make sure to throw out some more examples of wines that can and/or should be chilled this Summer. Until then, keep sipping the good stuff.

A Scrumptious Salad Recipe: Caesar Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

July 7, 2010 1 comment

Caesar Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

It’s about time that the Cocktail Fodder crew offered you a simple, quick, and delicious salad to enjoy in the summer months. I’ve made this salad on several occasions and love the flavor sun-dried tomatoes add to it. The original recipe is from Joie Warner’s Caesar Salads: America’s favorite salad. I checked in with my wine boss (and king of wines), Keith of ABC Wine Company, about wine pairings. He reckons that a round white wine with moderate depth would do the trick. It pairs perfectly due to the creaminess of the dressing and the sun-dried tomatoes. The Pecorino from “Wine for Thought” two weeks back would do well with this salad. As would an Orvieto, a white wine from Italy, or even a Chardonnay (unoaked). So keep these pairings in mind and enjoy this quick, simple, and easy recipe.

Until next week, keep eating and sipping.

Ingredients:

1 large romaine lettuce head, rinsed, dried, and broken into bite-size pieces

2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets, drained, chopped (I actually prefer tuna but go with whichever floats your boat.)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (Only the best!)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (Store bought lemon juice is fine as well.)

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

½ cup olive oil

10 large, halved sun-dried tomatoes, drained and diced

½ cup fresh Parmesan Cheese, with extra for plating

1 ½ cup of Croutons (You can make your own, if you’re feeling extra ambitious, but I usually go with store-bought.)

Directions:

Take a medium bowl and whisk the garlic, anchovies/tuna, mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar until well blended. While you are whisking slowly, add the olive oil in a thin stream until the mixture is thickened. Take your chopped sun-dried tomatoes and stir them into the mixture along with the Parmesan cheese. Toss the romaine lettuce in a large salad/mixing bowl with the dressing until thoroughly coated. Add croutons and toss again. Plate with added Parmesan cheese on top to taste.

Bon appétit!

World Cup Quarter-Final Predictions

July 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Soccer City

1) Brazil vs. Netherlands. Friday, July 2 at 10 am EST on ESPN.

History is on the side of the Brazilians who beat the Dutch in the 1994 and 1998 Quarter-finals in the United States and France. The first 30 seconds of the 1994 youtube clip is too funny. Hawaii Five-O meets the pitch! Both teams are playing well at the moment but I would put the Brazilians as slight favorites to win against the Oranje.  Expect tight passing games from both teams. While the Dutch will be more of the adventurous type in attack, the Brazilians will play tough defense and wait for an opportunity to pounce and counter.

2) Uruguay vs. Ghana. Friday, July 2 at 2:30pm EST on ESPN.

Ghana’s Black Stars, the last hope for Africa in this tournament, take on the defensively solid La Celeste of Uruguay in the first-ever clash between the two countries. Uruguay is making its first appearance in the quarter-finals since 1970 and their attack force of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez has scored 5 of the 6 goals for the team so far. Ghana will be without the services of Andre Ayew and John Mensah due to accumulation of yellow cards. I expect Ghana to enjoy the lion share of possession in this game but see the pesky Uruguayans advancing on the back of either a Forlan or Suarez goal.

3) Argentina vs. Germany. Saturday, July 3 at 10 am EST on ESPN.

This is going to be a rollercoaster of a game. Both teams are playing attractive, high-scoring soccer and there is some bad blood between the two stemming from the World Cup in 2006. Watch this match with a group of friends and have the beer flowing as the action will be non-stop and the cards may be flying. This game is hard to call but I give a slight edge to Germany and think they can catch the Argentinean defense flat-footed on one of their trademark counters. Also, if there is any game that Lionel Messi could choose to make his mark this would be the one. He needs to step up.

4) Paraguay vs. Spain. Saturday, July 3 at 2:30 pm EST on ESPN.

I obviously expect Spain to win this match and advance and would not be surprised if they have 70% possession of the ball. Paraguay played an uninspiring match against a much weaker Japanese squad and I just don’t see how they will be able to compete with the Spanish. That said, once the ball drops it is anyone’s game.

Here’s another nice little preview:

World Cup Recap #2: How the English failure to advance can be explained by history, if only Twitter was around in 2002, and why the United States team needs a complete reshuffling — starting with the coach.

July 1, 2010 Leave a comment

In this week’s footie post, I will address the huge disappointments of the English and American World Cup campaigns and attempt to put them in perspective for the Cocktail Fodder reader. Everything else can take a backseat at the moment.

Jabulani

English Ineptitude:

Let’s begin with the English. Their failure to progress beyond the round of 16 is a classic example of a dysfunctional family of overpaid superstars put together and expected to perform when all signs already pointed to calamity; a shaky defense, mediocre goalkeeper options, and a genuine lack of leadership within the squad. (And this is only to name a few.) The pressure to bring home the World Cup trophy for the first time since 1966 hung heavily over the heads of the English players and they caved in. Players like Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, superstars in the English Premier League, transformed into lamentable shells of themselves on the international stage in South Africa.

After their ignominious exit from the European Championship qualification round in 2008, the English soccer authorities thought it best to bring in a Continental coach with a fresh, more refined, less brutish version of the game for the English to play. As was we have seen, not even a well-dressed Italian tactician, Fabio Cappello, was up to the task of bringing glory to England. So whom is to blame for their exit? The English media are looking for scapegoats but they should look no further than history itself. Here is some Cocktail Fodder for you to use when talking about England’s early exit from the World Cup: In six of their eight last World Cups, England has been knocked out by either Germany or Argentina. From the infamous “Hand of God” by Maradona in 1986, to the most recent 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Die Mannschaft, the English seem destined by history to continually lose to former wartime combatants in the World Cup. (I picked up this bit of fodder from the entertaining book Soccernomics. Definitely worthy of a read.) The English players are back in England, preparing themselves for another season in the most popular league in the world where the pressure to succeed is high but nowhere near the level associated with playing for country.

The Hand of God:

The 4-1 Drubbing:

The Great Deception

The United States failure in the round of 16 against Ghana was a major step backwards; a blunt reminder of how much work is yet to be done for the country to be taken seriously on the international stage.

Just when one thought the team had effectively turned the corner by winning their group for the first time since 1930, they were quick to revert to being uncreative, mediocre, and one-dimensional; a team unsure how to carry itself and play with confidence. Let me put it bluntly: The 2010 United States soccer team was grossly overhyped due to heightened media coverage. Social media tools, Twitter and Facebook especially, attracted large numbers of soccer converts and casual watchers to take an interest in the cup. The team’s pluck and never-say-die ethos resonated with the general public. This unfortunately imbued them with a belief that the team could actually go far. The party was rocking with high levels of patriotism (red meat anyone?), but the team was destined to fall short.

The high-water mark for the USMNT* was in 2002. In that World Cup, they actually beat a European powerhouse in Portugal and advanced all the way to the quarter-finals only to be robbed of a place in the semifinals by the opportunistic hand of a German. Does anyone even remember who played on that team? Here’s something to think about: Imagine if the 2002 World Cup of South Korea and Japan was held in Europe where there is a shorter time difference and social media tools were as pervasive as today? Would the level of participation, funding, and general excitement surrounding the beautiful game be more significant today? Hard to say, but I am inclined to say yes. What do you think?

US-Portugal:

Robbed by Germany:

What needs to change:

What needs to change in order for the United States to realize its potential? First, the American coach must be replaced by a European—preferably German or Dutch—manager who will be charged with restructuring the team to run with purpose, while conserving energy, and make the ball do the bulk of the work. An American coach should be involved as an understudy to the European to learn the game. Issues of strength, conditioning and nutrition should be kept in American hands. (We are, at least, very good at this.) Second, if the United States wants a winner, they need to take it seriously and correctly finance the program. As Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski rightly state in Soccernomics, “If only Americans took soccer seriously, the country’s fabulous wealth and enormous population would translate into dominance.” With a population of 307 million plus and large immigrant communities from such soccer crazy continents like South America and Africa, there is a surplus of potential soccer stars out there.

The underlying problem with soccer in the United States was astutely underscored by former German national team player and coach Jurgen Klinsman in the post-match segment of the USA vs Ghana matchup last week. America’s first touch–how a player receives and handles the ball when passed it—was inferior to other teams. The first touch in the rest of world is the beginning of a love affair; playing the game becomes second nature and a daily occurrence. Why is this? To keep it short, generally speaking at least, soccer is seen elsewhere in the world as a viable vehicle of social mobility from the lower to upper classes of society. If one has the potential, at least. Children in Brazil are scouted at a young age and whisked to soccer schools where they receive an education, hone their skills on the field, and become upstanding citizens. Here in the United States – football, baseball, and basketball – are the preferred vehicles of social advancement. This is highlighted by the absurd amounts of money the average player makes. As a result, youth soccer players only see the sport as a way to potentially attend a great collegiate soccer program and receive a top education for their life after sports. This is nothing to scoff at but it drastically changes the soccer culture of our country. Can we make those changes? I do not know. We should try though.

*USMNT: United States Men’s National Team