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Monday, June 27, 2016

Boordy Vineyard's Sweetland Cellars Wines

About a month ago, as we toodled up Long Green Pike on our way to visit friends in Forest Hill, we drove past Boordy Vineyards. Not having realized it was so close to us, we decided a visit was in order. That opportunity came more quickly than we anticipated, as we were soon invited to a dinner to celebrate the wine producer's Sweetland Cellars line of wines.

Formerly known as Boordy's "Just for Fun" series, products from the Sweetland Cellars brand are, as the name suggests, on the sweeter side.

Some folks may turn their noses up at sweet wines, but other people will drink nothing but. Personally, I think Moscato and some Rieslings are great "gateway wines" for the uninitiated. I grew up drinking my grandmother's home-made wine, which was very strong and very sweet. A shotglass-full was enough, but it was delicious and fruity. My tastes have expanded over the years and I can appreciate bone-dry wines, but there's still a special place in my heart for the sweeter ones.

Sweetland Cellars offers six wines so far, two whites, three reds, and a dark pink wine--Jazz Berry--that contains primarily strawberry and raspberry juices with some grape. Tango Peach is a Moscato flavored with peaches and White Sangria is infused with mango and citrus. The blueberry-infused Zinberry, the citrus and spice Viva Sangria, and the even spicier Spiced Wassail, round out the line.

While these wines would be great to sip with friends on a fun evening (or all alone in the privacy of your bathtub - we don't judge), we discovered that the Sweetland Cellars wines also pair well with food and can be used as ingredients in cocktails.

After an opportunity to taste the wines and snack on a spread of charcuterie and cheeses by Hampden's The Food Market served in Boordy's barn, we got a little tour of the Sweetland Cellars state-of-the-art winemaking facility, which was completed in 2013. Everything a winemaker needs is in this cathedral-like structure, the result of the De Ford family's many years in the wine business.

After the tour, we were treated to a five course small plates-style dinner with cocktail pairings, each including one of Sweetland Cellars wines.

The first course was tuna tartare with "everything" spiced aioli, dried veggies, and wheat toast. The accompanying cocktail, "Peach on the Beach," featured Sweetland Cellars Tango Peach wine. (The recipes for the cocktails we tried and more are on the Sweetland Cellars web site, but I've included them here as well.)

3 oz chilled Tango Peach
1 oz Citron vodka
2 muddled raspberries
Splash 7-up

The second course was spicy grilled shrimp with a charred pineapple "pudding" and chewy morsels of dehydrated pineapple. The accompanying cocktail was a "White Sangria Fizz," that complemented the sweet pineapple flavors.

3 oz chilled White Sangria
1 oz vodka
2 oz apple juice
Splash of club soda

Our third course was pan-seared duck breast with cherries, chocolate, and pecans served with a Jazz Berry chocolate martini.

3 parts chilled Jazz Berry
1 part Chocolate vodka

Another meat course of lamb chops with coffee, black garlic, goat cheese, and chimichurri evoked the flavors of India and was served with a "Zinberry Smash" cocktail.

3 oz chilled Zinberry
1 oz vodka
Muddled blueberries
Twist of lemon
Splash ginger ale
Splash tonic or soda water
Sprig of mint

Finally, we enjoyed desserts made by one of Sweetland's employees. The mini blueberry cheesecakes used Zinberry wine in the glaze, while the peaches on the peach cupcakes were poached in Tango Peach.

It was a fun night. Everything was so beautiful, from the grounds to the food, hell, even the people. The De Ford family was so nice and willing to answer any and all questions about their Sweetland Cellars products, and offered a good introduction to a line of wines with which we were not familiar. Time to stock up so I can drink alone in the bathtub experiment with wine cocktails to go with our own dinners.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Flashback Friday - Korean Pork Meatball Tacos

We don't often hear the term "fusion cuisine" these days. That's because Korean burritos and the like are becoming more common. I like to mix my cultures in tortillas and call them tacos.


This post was originally published on May 28, 2014.
Korean Pork Meatball Tacos

The flavors of Korea and Mexico work well together, disparate though they may be. Cuisines that seem more similar, like Indian and Mexican, which share the use of strong flavors like cumin and cilantro, are almost never combined. Have you ever seen a chicken tikka taco or vindaloo burrito? Why not? But there is a proliferation of bulgogi burritos and tacos garnished with kimchi in the current culinary world. And they work.

I've fallen in love with making my own corn tortillas, so tacos are a common occurrence in our house. Ground pork called out to become meatballs, and because we had a tub of the Korean red pepper and soybean paste called gochujang in the fridge, they fell into the whole Korean-Mexican melting pot. While I also flavored a bit of sour cream with some gochujang, sesame oil, and sugar to make a sauce, the rest of the elements, avocado, cilantro, and roasted corn salsa, were more likely to be found in a traditional taco. And they all worked deliciously together.

Korean Pork Meatballs

For meatballs:
1.15 lb ground pork (amount approximate...some packs may weigh slightly more or less)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 tablespoon gochujang
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for frying

For glaze:
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon gochujang
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

To make meatballs: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Form 30 small meatballs.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. Add meatballs and cook until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel-lined plates. Wipe out frying pan.

To make glaze: Place ketchup, vinegar, soy, sugar, and gochujang in a sauce pot and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil.

Place drained meatballs into cleaned pan. Pour over the bbq sauce and stir well to coat. Heat over medium heat until sauce coats the meatballs like a glaze. Sprinkle sesame seeds over and toss to coat.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Minxeats at the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament

Mr Minx and I attended a Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament round one battle on Monday: Chef Fabio Mura of Grille 620 vs Chad Novak of Das Bier Haus.

The competition starts out with a half hour of cold prep. No cooking is allowed at this time, at least nothing that needs to be prepared with heat. So ice cream-making is fine, as is chopping, dicing, and breaking down meat products.

The theme of this battle was Game Day, and the teams were expected to produce three courses of food that would be appropriate for eating at a sporting event. There were theme ingredients provided by the competition's many sponsors, this time including Dr Pepper and bone-in pork butt, among other items.

After cold prep, the cooking began in earnest. Partway through, I was called over to assign mystery ingredients to the chefs. I chose to give Fabio ghost pepper smoked salt, while Chad got sriracha peas. Neither ingredient seemed to be an impediment.

During the competition, we purchased food and adult beverages from the Tournament's venue, the Inn at the Colonnade. Their restaurant, Alizée, offers a limited menu to Tournament attendees (the full menu is available inside the restaurant proper).

After an hour of cooktime, the chefs plated their food for presentation, then prepared plates for the three judges. (I was a judge once, back in 2010, which was fun, even though I don't think my opinion was taken at all seriously.) After careful consideration, for it was a close contest, Fabio Mura was declared the winner.

Chef Mura and his team from Grille 620 will face Brett Arnold from Smokin' Hot Bar & Grille on
Monday, July 18, 2016. Doors open at 5:30; the competition starts at 6pm and generally runs until 9:45pm. To purchase tickets for this or any other match, and for more details, go to the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament web site.

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