Posts Tagged ‘self indulgent’

This might as well be me.

I may be the most financially reckless person I know. Or the most fiscally irresponsible. Regardless of how you want to say it, I am bad with money. Chalk it up to that second X gene, enabling parents, a lack of discipline, a loose character, youthful naiveté  – whatever.

I blame the economy, the recession, the City of New York and any other factor at play that abdicates me from assuming any and all responsibility for bad financial habits.

I was so thrifty last week I only spent $50 to feed myself from Sunday dinner through Friday dinner (with the exception of a quick jaunt to Momofuku Noodle on Thursday Night). That is 5 light breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 5 dinners – 15 meals on $50. That’s roughly $3.33 a meal. And yet, come Monday morning I find myself nearly destitute yet again

How is this feat possible? First off, I’d like to thank Café Gitane in the Jane Hotel for freeing me of, really, at the end of the day, a superfluous $24 that I was keeping in my bank account out of sheer curiosity– you know just to see what would happen to it if it stuck around for a while. That $24 was instead dispensed on a cocktail of iced-tea flavored water, a mound of ice, a squirt of lemon, and a splash of Jack Daniels. The extra shot they gave me to turn the whole sorry thing into some remote semblance of a cocktail cost me $10. I could have bought a pint of Jack Daniels with $10.

Next, Employees Only, you had a part to play in this whole production, too, and I’d like to see you get the recognition you deserve.  You served a beautiful Sazerac. It was gorgeous! Delicious! And $14.

Last, Cabbie that didn’t know how to get from 13th Street and 7th Avenue to the corner of Jane and Washington Streets (It’s straight by the way. You go straight.) –  thank you. Thank you for relieving me of the $9 that was burning a searing hole in my pocket, really, and don’t ever change.

So what does any of this have to do with wine? It doesn’t really. It’s merely a reminder to all of you that no matter how much more than you I know about wine, I’m still just an idiot sometimes. That being said, if I make sense out of wine and the strange world in which it resides, it should be cake for you. Instead of drowning my financial anxiety in a glass of wine tonight, I’ll be scrounging around my fridge for something to take the edge off the gin I’ve got stashed away in the back of my freezer. Because that’s the only alcoholic beverage in my apartment. Donations are welcome.

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Often as soon as I mention to people that I write a wine blog, the first question asked is, “What’s your favorite wine?”. I hate that question. And not just because it puts me on the spot, but because, honestly, my taste for wine changes with my mood, with the weather, with what I’m eating – the variables are endless.

(Favorite Everyday Reds: )

However, I can say that there are wines that I return to and tend to defer to for special occasions. Generally, I’m a red drinker and generally I like wine that is far more masculine than my petite frame and girlish charms would seem to suggest. There are a few things that I look for depending on variety; I like spice in a Syrah, leather with a touch of vanilla in my Merlot, and muscle in my Priorat.

(Favorite Everyday Whites: )

I have a strange fondness for Beaujolais – a wine that lies on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as the wines I just mentioned. Beaujolais is a light wine, and it’s endlessly quaffable, but when it’s good it is sooo good and, I would argue, largely unappreciated. It can be delicate, poetic, and pretty at it its best, and the fact that it’s best served chilled doesn’t hurt it’s go-to status come summertime.

(Go-to gifting wines: )

When it comes to whites, I’m picky. I like clean, minerally and dry on one hand and floral, succulent, and crisp on the other. Pinot Noir is a tricky grape for my palate, and unfortunately I’ve found that – with a couple exceptions – I’m more inclined towards the expensive stuff as a matter of taste. I like a long lingering finish, firm structure and obscure flavors like lavender and smoke. All that being said, I’ve compiled a few short lists for my some of my favorite wines and categorized according to price. Next time someone asks me what my favorite wine is, I can simply direct them here.

PS. If you are eager to try any of the above or just want to copy me (don’t worry…it happens all the time – you’re not alone. My roommate copied my shampoo just the other week!) but you can’t find any of the specific bottles above just check out something from the same region, producer, or grape and let me know how you liked it…you can never have enough go-to’s when it comes to wine.

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When my friend and current roommate Jenna and I were looking for our first apartment in New York, one of the criteria we noted for every apartment we looked at was its proximity to a decent-looking wine shop. Given that there is an alarmingly high abundance of wine shops in this city (seriously, I couldn’t even begin to understand how they all stay in business), we should have known better than to thrill every time we found our potential apartment sharing a corner with a liquor store.

Another factor under consideration during our apartment hunt was location – though on this small matter Jenna and I largely disagreed. Jenna was content to settle in uptown while I was rather stubbornly intent on finding a place somewhere south of 42nd street…until the only place our broker could find in our price range was in Times Square. To a resounding chorus of “aw, hell no!” (like in a rap voice) we shuffled into our broker’s air conditioned car and headed uptown without even looking at the place and I left all downtownly ambitions behind.

We ended up in on the 2nd Floor of an old tenement building on W. 88th squarely on the Upper West Side – a neighborhood I neither knew anything about nor had ever had any inclination to explore. As it turns it out, my neighborhood is great – especially for a wine geek. Due to its, ahem, more mature population (read: parents, parents of parents, and people about to become parents) there is an abundance of great wine bars all within easy walking distance from my apartment (score!) and each with a different focus and approach to their wine lists.

A couple of weeks ago, Jenna and I left the apartment to have a glass of wine for a change, and walked a mere block and a half north to Accademia Di Vino, which specializes Italian wines. Their wines-by-the-glass list was two pages long each for both reds and whites and offered something for every kind of wine drinker and from every major region. Our bartender was friendly (not to mention cute!) and gave each of us two different wines to try before we ordered – which meant that we both got to try four.

I was pondering whether to order a Sicilian wine that was a blend of Nero D’Avola and Syrah grapes or a single-varietal single-vineyard Montepulciano that was listed under the guise of a Rosso Conero from Le Marche, a region that occupies the eastern coast of central Italy.

Jenna, on the other hand, was torn between a Rosso di Montalcino, a single-varietal Sangiovese from Tuscany and a Barbera (made from the grape of the same name and always from Piemonte). As we tasted, Jenna asked what the difference was between the Sangiovese she had tried and a Chianti listed below it that also piqued her interest.

When I told her that they were actually both made from the same grape, but in different regions and in different styles, she, exasperated, asked why they had to make it so confusing!

In the end, I settled into a glass of the Sicillian wine, called ReNoto, in favor of the Rosso Conero. I was in the mood for a big challenging glass of wine and the latter was a bit of a fruit-bomb and too easy for me in that moment. Jenna however, found the Barbera too sweet and the Rosso di Montalcino not quite as delicious as the Rosso Conero I’d asked to try, so she ordered up a big glass of it.

While we were happily sipping and chatting we didn’t care what the red stuff in our glasses was called.  Knowing, however, that the second wine she almost tried was made from the same grape as that of the first wine she didn’t like, though the wine list made no mention of it, steered her away from another bad choice.

This story introduces a new project that I want to include you all in! The nomenclature of wine is hard enough (what with all those foreign pronunciations) without even beginning to broach the subject of the naming systems employed by various wine-producing countries. That said, I’m going to do my very best to elucidate the whole thing according to country in the coming days. Just knowing what something is called can help you sort this whole mess out a little better and perhaps even impress a cute bartender some day (*wink*).

Rosso Conero, San Lorenzo, Umani Ronchi, Marche 2006

Grape: Montepuliano

Region: Le Marche

Tastes like: The fresh and juicy flavor of wild cherries with a tinge of earthy wood notes       and an herbal quality that the menu listed as “liquorice” which made my roommate turn     her nose up at it at first.

Rosso di Sicilia, ReNoto, Feudo Maccari, Sicilia 2006

Grape: Syrah and Nero D’Avola

Region: Sicily

Tastes like: Rich, spicy, full bodied, with lots of ripe fruit without being fruity, a touch of smoke and a strangely savory note of  bacon that makes this wine deelish

Rosso di Montalcino, La Fortuna, Toscana 2007

Grape: Sangiovese

Region: Tuscany

Tastes like: On the verge of fruit-bomb but with big spice, bright acid, and a dry finish

Barbera d’Alba, Bussia, Giacosa Fratelli, Piemonte 2007

Grape: Barbera

Region: Piemonte

Tastes like: Medium-bodied and on the sweet side with predominant flavors of ripe strawberries, a streak of vanilla, and a soft but dry finish



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One of the coolest parts about writing about wine is that I get to tell people I write about wine. Regardless of how the preceding conversation has gone, no matter how clumsy or bumbling I may have been, as soon as I mention that I write a wine blog,  I get taken just a little bit more seriously.

I’m much more of a wine geek than the sophisticate they may have momentarily imagined dining on caviar and not deigning to drink anything less than Latour.

Honestly? I’ve never had a sip of Chateau Latour (hardly unbelievable given the minimum $1,000 price tag) and I’m not really one for caviar. Oh sure, I probably spend more than most on my day-to-day wine but that’s just because I’d rather imbibe those calories blissfully than guiltily and, well, I am attempting a wine blog…

But as far as food goes (another area in which I am queen of the nerds), I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret: some of my favorite food, for which I have an incessant craving, is best served in a Styrofoam container.

That’s right — I’m talking take-out. So what better way to marry my two great culinary loves than to pair great wine with greasy goodness? You may think it doesn’t make sense to waste good wine on cheap food, but, oh, the pleasures that await you!

I realize that pairing wine with food often presents a daunting task for even the most devoted of oenophiles. It’s hard enough understanding wine all by itself without trying to match it, like a puzzle piece, with its perfect mate — the dish that will enhance the wine and bring out its best flavors while, in turn, being elevated by its alcoholic companion.

My favorite strategy for pairing food with wine comes from Karen MacNeil, author of the celebrated Wine Bible. Macneil suggests that you use wine as a mirror and hold it up against the more pronounced qualities of a dish. Pair spicy with spicy, sweet with sweet, earthy with earthy, and so forth.

If you run into a flavor profile that doesn’t quite have its match in a wine, look to texture — is it rich? You can match it with an equally rich wine and languish in velvety mouth-feels or you can pair it with something bright and full of flavor that will match the intensity of your meal but cut through the richness with some acidity. This is one of the reasons that lobster pairs so well with chardonnay and salmon goes so swimmingly with pinot noir.

For each of my favorite take-out dishes, I’ll go through why I pair each dish with its particular wine and hope to enlighten you through example. Once you’ve successfully paired something as low-brow as Panda Express, there’s no turning back from full-on wine geekdom.

Pad Thai with Tofu: Voignier
Great pad thai is tangy, savory, and a little sweet. The tamarind-based sauce gives it that fruity acidic taste that leaves us hungering for more. Voignier is a grape that is often described as “luscious” and has a characteristic honey aroma. The grape is inherently low in acidity which makes it a perfect match for pad thai, already so tangy, and often has flavors of ripe peaches, tropical fruits (ahem, tamarind), and fresh orange peel.
Try: 2008 K Vintners, $20

Yellow Curry with Shrimp: Grüner Veltliner
Yellow curry is sweet and delicately spiced. It’s the mildest of Thai curries and the most redolent of coconut milk. The complex and delicate broth requires a wine that accents the spice without overpowering. Grüner Veltliner is an Austrian white grape that yields a sweet wine that is noted for the characteristic rush of white pepper on the finish. The combination of sweet and spicy makes it an ideal match for Thai curries.
Try: 2008 Hiedler, $16

Pad Kee Mao with Chicken: Savignon Blanc
Aka “drunken noodles,” this dish is one of my personal favorites among Thai cuisine. You get spice from the chilies, an herby fresh flavor from the mounds of Thai basil that the noodles are tossed with at the very end, and the grassy flavor that comes from bell peppers only cooked slightly. Sauvignon Blanc, especially from New Zealand, with its bright acidity and grassy herbaceous notes is a perfect match for this bold noodle dish.
Try: 2008 Jules Taylor, $15

Chicken Tikka Masala: Côtes du Rhône
The dish is rich, creamy, sweet, and redolent of spices without being spicy. The wine has a good deal of sweetness and spice as well — with a rich, smooth mouth feel that complements the creaminess of the sauce.
Try: 2008 Domaine Alary, $16

Lamb Vindaloo: Dolcetto d’Alba
Another tamarind-based spicy dish, but this time with gamey lamb and heavy heat, this dish calls for something with a lot of fruit, good spice, and a brightness to match the tang of the tamarind. Dolcetto is one of my favorite grapes — I’m tempted to describe it as the Beaujolais of Italy. It’s a lighter wine with nice acidity, lots of fruit like raspberries and cherries, and a spicy finish.
Try: 2006 Moccagatta, $16

Sweet and Sour Chicken: Albarino
Ah, the old standby. Sweet and fruity one minute and pungent the next, this is a great opportunity to get creative. Albarino has a zing to it that makes me love it for sweet and sour chicken — it also has a tendency toward sweetness and an almost unbearable lightness that lets it shimmer on your tongue instead of weigh down your taste buds.
Try: 2006 Morgadio, $13

Beef with Broccoli: Bordeaux
This traditional favorite is salty soy-goodness at its best. The good kind will also have a nice ginger and garlic flavor that is well matched by this rich red wine. The wine has notes of ginger, very soft tannins, and a velvety mouth feel that makes it easy to drink.
Try: 2005 Chateau Guiraud-Cheval-Blanc, $14

Moo Shu Pork: Priorat
Priorat is the name of the region in Spain that makes robust and earthy red wines that go well with Moo Shu Pork. Look for a blend that features syrah as the dominant blending grape — it will lend a gamey, almost funky ,quality to the wine that will accentuate the woodsy mushrooms in this dish.
Try: 2007 Joan D’Anguera La Planella, $19

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