A Weekend in the Poconos – Poire Williams and Irish Whiskey

A weekend in the Poconos isn’t complete unless some fine liquor is consumed.  While the food was fantastic (well mostly, I made a forgettable Scotch Broth), I am going to focus on an amazing Poire Williams from France and a lovely 16-year-old Whiskey from Ireland.

Poire Williams is a pear flavored ea-de-vie/brandy/schnapps made mainly in Germany and France.  Most of the times it is around 70 proof (35% alcohol), but this special bottle of Joseph Cartron Poire Williams from France is 98 proof (49% alcohol) and packs a delicious punch.  The sealing wax used to keep the cap on is always a pain to break through, but it gives it a beautiful touch.  Unfortunately I cannot find it anywhere in the United States, so it is one of those items that I get when I travel to Germany.

As for the Irish Whiskey, it is 16-year-old single malt from Bushmills (Northern Ireland).  It is a fantastic whiskey with nutty flavors and a lot of character.  I am guessing that comes from the fact that it ages in three different casks: an American Bourbon cask, a Oloroso Sherry cask, and finally finished off in port wine pipes.  Long story short: Delicious!

01/29/10 – Recent Wine and Champagne Experiences

Astor Wines and Spirits is an oasis in a city filled with overpriced alcohol.  Not only is their selection unrivaled, but their prices simply can’t be beat.  The also tend to purchase wine from a great number of small importers.  This allows us to experience some very small vintners that you can get nowhere else in the U.S.  And finally, the icing on the cake:  Top 10 under $10.  They choose 10 different bottles (a mix of white and red), of which 2 are doubled, for a unique case of 12 wines that always comes in at around $80 a month.  It simply cannot be beat for the wine drinker who is searching for incredible value at a great price.  Now that I am done with my unpaid testimonial for Astor W&S, I will move on to some of the recent wine and champagne we have had over the past week or two.

This Sangiovese Toscana from Le Chiantigiane came in at a whopping $5.99 and tasted like it cost much more than that.  I love Sangiovese.  In fact, it is probably my favorite varietal from Italy.  This bottle, although incredibly cheap, was delicious!  The tasting notes from Astor mentioned “soft cherries”, which couldn’t be more accurate.   This Sangiovese went down very easily and had the qualities I like in an every day drinking wine (cheap, delicious, and not over the top with tannins).

This week was all about the cheap wine.  Usually when you get to the under $7 mark, your options become extremely limited.  What a surprise then when I find this Colli Vincentini Cabernet Sauvignon for a whole $3.99 a bottle.  That’s entering Mad Dog 20/20 territory, people!  The best thing about a $3.99 bottle of wine is if it is absolutely rank, you can pour it down the drain without much guilt.  We were so happy when it turned out to be a completely drinkable bottle of red wine.  Like the Sangiovese above, it was very mellow/soft, making it a perfect wine to have without food.  I also used a bottle of this to make the Beef Burgundy last week (scroll down for details).

What can I say about the widow Clicquot?  She’s a foxy ol’ girl, but how I love her.  Veuve Clicquot is one of the premier Champagne producers in France and the orange-yellow labeled bottle is probably one of the most easily recognized labels on the market.  Usually a bottle runs around $40-$50, but when I lived in Colorado they were on sale for $24.99 so I had to buy a case.

Beef Burgundy – Slow Cooker Style

I’ve never owned a slow cooker in my 33 years until approximately one week ago.  I usually find meals that come from ‘slow cooking’ to have a monotonous flavor, be overly herbed, and lack any real texture (unless you calll “mushy” a texture).  On a recent trip to my parent’s house they served an Irish stew from a cookbook called ‘The Gourmet Slow Cooker‘.  It was surprisingly delicious (surprising due to the fact it was slow cooked, not the fact that my parents made something delicious).  A few days later I ordered a 6 quart slow cooker with my Visa Rewards points in hopes of making some similar stews and soups when there wasn’t enough time for active cooking.

This leads to the first recipe that I made: Beef Burgundy/Bœuf Bourguignon

I had to tinker with the recipe, of course, but am very satisfied with the results.  Granted, whenever you stew anything in wine it will almost certainly be delicious.  In this instance I used a bottle of 2008 Colli Vicentini Cabernet, a table wine from Italia.

Recipe:

1.5 lbs bottom round roast, trimmed.  Cut into 1-2 inch pieces.
1 bottle dry red wine
4 carrots – chopped into large pieces
1 lb crimini mushrooms – cut in quarters
1 lb boiler onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
Olive Oil
Thyme (Fresh)
Bay Leaf
Salt
Pepper
Flour

Dredge the meat with a mix of flour, salt and pepper.  Shake off excess flour.  Cook the meat over medium-high heat until browned on all sides in a large pan with a touch of olive oil.  At the same time, sauté the minced garlic with a bit of olive oil in a small pan until fragrant, about 60 seconds, and remove from heat.  Remove the browned meat from the pan and drain on a paper towel.  Deglaze the pan with 3/4 bottle of red wine, scraping up the delicious browned bits.  Feel free to drink the remaining quarter bottle at this time.  Add the garlic from the other pan to the wine mixture.  Cook for a few minutes over medium-high heat to thicken and reduce.  Place the meat along the bottom of the slow cooker and then pour the wine mixture over the top.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Set to low and begin cooking for 6-8 hours (until the meat is tender).  About an hour before it is done peel the boiler onions and quickly sauté in a pan until browned.  Add these to the pot along with the carrots (if you like your carrots more on the mushy side, add them an hour earlier).  About 15 minutes before the meal is complete, add the quartered mushrooms.  Finally, remove the thyme and bay leaf and serve.

DISCLAIMER:  By no means does this post imply that I am now a slow-cooker fanatic.  I added the slow cooker to the arsenal so it can be used when there is not enough time for active cooking or I am feeling lazy.

Pork Chops with Leeks and Mustard Sauce

After a long week, the thought of staying in and having a nice meal and a bottle of wine is quite possibly my version of nirvana.  Brie made pork chops in a lovely leek, mustard, bacon (oh thank you!) and yoghurt sauce featured in the May, 2009 Bon Appetit magazine. The Chobani brand of yoghurt that she used is so thick it easily replaced the sour cream/crème fraîche that the recipe called for.  Along side the entrée was a side of steamed broccoli and roasted butternut squash from the Door to Door organics delivery that arrived earlier in the week.  With the stronger flavors of mustard and bacon I decided to go with a lighter red and chose a 2006 Saint Joseph Domaine Faury Rhone Syrah.

It was a great meal and a decent bottle of wine, although I don’t think I would buy another bottle again: it was fair, but it didn’t deserve the price tag.  To top it all off, Brie is pulling out a loaf of banana bread from the oven.  Happy place, happy place, happy place!