Italian wines for Sunday lunch

September 23, 2009

Sundays in Bangkok is usually fish day. There are many beautiful fish for sale in the markets. So for lunch we select a fish and a white wine. Often I choose to have a Riesling with the food. This time we went “Italian” and bought two bottles of white wine, one on the cheap side, the other a bit dearer. The former was a ‘2007 Montecelli Soave Classico’ from Piave in the Veneto, the latter a ‘2008 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio’ from the Trentino, in Alto-Adige, Italy.

Pinot2

2007 Montecelli Soave Classico

Pinot3

2008 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio

Pinot4

The Soave might costs about 3-4 Euro in Europe (or less). If I would buy the Pinot Grigio in the US I would have to pay 25 to 28 US$ for the bottle. In Thai Bath I paid about 500 for the Soave and about 1,000 for the Pinot, which corresponds roughly to 10 and 20 Euro respectively. We liked both wines. The Soave is a bit edgy and had a salty/oily after taste. The Pinot Grigio from Santa Margherita is just great, light bodied, spritzy with crisp acidity and a light lemon-citrus flavour.

Pinot6

Fried potatoes, zucchini and onions

Pinot7

Red snapper in caper and olive marinade

The food was simple. Red snapper is a beautiful fish which I like very much. The recipe is from the Philosopher’s Kitchen by Francine Segan. I have written about this fabulous cooking book in earlier entries of my blog.

I just love lunches like this one. We all relax, enjoy the food and the company. This was the first time we moved away from the dry Riesling-fish pairing and moved tp the Italian whites. We will repeat this, for sure.
And as Epicurus said: “Pleasure is the beginning and end of living happily”.


Riesling-Traminer Cuvée from Saale-Unstrut, Germany

April 6, 2009

saale1

“In all things there is something of the marvellous”, Aristotle, 384-322 B.C.

Four days ago my colleague and friend Christian brought us a bottle of Riesling Cuvée from Saale-Unstrut, the most northern wine region of Germany. It did not last long. The first occasion was excuse enough for us to open this rare bottle of German wine. The ‘2007 Riesling Traminer Saale-Unstrut’ from the Winzervereinigung Freyburg-Unstrut (a type of co-operative) was a most amazing wine, a treasure here in Bangkok.

saale5

Saale-Unstrut is not only the most northern wine region of continental Europe but also one of the smallest in size (below 700 ha). It takes it’s name from two rivers: Saale and Unstrut. Grpae growing and wine production, though, go back a long way. The earliest prove dates from around 998 A.D. and covers the wines from Memleben Abbey.

The climate in the region is generally rough and very cold. Only in very warm years can good wines (Spaetlese, Auslese) be made. Yields are usually very low in comparison with other German wine regions. About 75% of the grapes grown are white varieties, among them Mueller-Thurgau, Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Traminer and other white varieties. However, given global warming more and more wines from Saale-Unstrut are of outstanding quality and find eager consumers.

saale6

We had this Riesling-Traminer Cuvée with Sunday lunch. I must admit that I never before heard of such a cuvée blending Riesling, my favourite white wine, with Traminer. Both are aromatic varieties but of a very different nature. The Cuvée displayed a honey aroma and tasted like peaches and apricots. The finish was acidic and sharp but not unpleasant. The wine has 12% alcohol, is very young but well balanced. Unfortunately, we had only this one bottle. It matched the food perfectly. So what was the food?

Well, it was a recipe from my favourite cooking book, the Philosopher’s Kitchen by Francine Segan which contains recipes from ancient Greece and Rome.

“Grouper with herbs and pecorino” (originally the fish in the recipe was ray fish, Francine uses skate, but any white fish will do) was the plate of the day.

The dish is accented with fresh fragrant marjoram, a herb that “Aristotle believed was an antidote to most poisons”. You take the following ingredients:

– 1 ½ cups of white wine
– 2 pounds skinned grouper, cut into 4 pieces
– Salt and freshly milled pepper
– 2 tablespoons minced assorted fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint, dill, and chives, lots of majoram
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 2 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese

How is it done?
Well, first bring white wine to a boil over high heat until reduced to half (5-6 minutes); season the fish with salt and pepper.
Then add marjoram and minced herbs, oil and mix with the hot wine, add fish and cook until firm, about 3 minutes. Serve topped with the cheese and a sprig of marjoram. The recipe can be found in the above book of Francine Segan page 97 (From Life of luxury, Archestratus).

We had it with potatoes and a salad (cucumber with orange and walnuts).

saale2

The potatoes

saale31

The fish with the herbs

saale4

On the plate

Needless to say, the food was very yummy. The four of us gobbled it up in no time. Especially my children were amazed (usually they prefer meat) that fish can taste that good. It is only the second recipe I know of where fish and cheese are successfully matched together.

saale9

After lunch it was espresso and Averna and some Belgian chocolates. I followed up with a cigar (a Casa de Torres, CT, Nicaragua, hand made).

saale10

What a beautiful smoke!


A philosopher’s lunch

March 30, 2007

What a beautiful lunch we had the other day. I have to give away the secret of the most delicious dishes we enjoyed last Sunday. In fact it is not a secret at all because the recipe is from a very well known and very beautiful cookbook, the Philosopher’s Kitchen by Francine Segan.

This cookbook’s subtitle reads, “Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook”. Nothing sounds better to the ear of a Celtic Treverer who had enjoyed Roman cuisine for a couple of centuries. We had a fish dish and afterwards a salad, that’s all, but what most delectable food this was. I would have loved to have Sucellus, Epicurus and Lucretius over for lunch that day. Only on the wine side I would have made concessions to modernity. A Sauvignon Blanc from the new world vineyards I find much more appealing than a wine of Roman times which would have needed mixing with water and honey to be drinkable at all.

Wine god

On a portal in Trier: Bacchus and vine leafs

And here is the recipe: red snapper in parchment. The ingredients are as follows:

– juice of freshly pressed lemons
– 2 garlic gloves, minced
– ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
– 4 bay leaves crushed
– 1 ½ teaspoons whole pink peppercorns
– 2 table spoons of capers, rinsed
– 15 oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
– 2 red snapper fillets, without skin
– Salt and freshly milled pepper
– Lemon wedges

Mix and combine the lemon juice, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, capers and olives in a large bowl and soak the red snapper(in Bahasa Indonesia: Kakap Merah) in this marinade for about two hours in a cool spot. Then put the fish into the oven (up to about 200°). We put it into aluminium foil and topped it with the marinade; then closed the foil and baked it for about 10 to 13 minutes. We served the fish on a plate. We had just plain baguette with it but you can add all kinds of things, eat it with rice, potatoes, and with various vegetables. It was such a wonderful dish, mouth watering. The capers in the marinade give it a spicy edge, and this complements the white flesh of the fish. The olives and the capers take you to the Mediterranean. I could see the ocean, the sand, the beach…and taste the salt, the smells of the water….

After the main course we had a warm spinach salad. The recipe is also in the above cookbook and is called, “Baby Greens with Caper Vinaigrette”. The caper vinaigrette is similar to the marinade, just that no olives and no garlic is added. It goes as follows:

– 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
– ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil
– 3 tablespoons of capers
– Salt and freshly milled pepper
– 3 cups of assorted green vegetables

As I said, we used spinach (Bahasa Indonesia: Bayam Hijau) which we blanched before adding the vinaigrette and the warm salad did in fact complement the first dish and harmoniously end this philosopher’s meal. I highly recommend the cookbook. It makes a wonderful gift. If you love the classics and you want to delve in the past of these two great Mediterranean cultures, you should get it (www.atrandom.com).

You will have noticed that I did not yet mention any wine so far. Well, the wine I chose was a disappointment. I though a Sauvignon Blanc would go well with it, and this is certainly so. I chose a 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from Giessen of Marlborough, New Zealand, of which I had fond memories. But what a surprise. It was stale, oily and did not display any of the varietals’ characteristics of a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc. With sadness and melancholy I thought of times gone by and our own 2002 Two Hills Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and it’s brilliant taste. Unfortunately, we were down on white wine and we just ended the meal with a port and an Italian coffee. I might have to consider buying a special wine fridge so that this cannot happen again.