Vintage Watch XIII

The coming week or two really are the crossroads of this harvest season. Producers in the north of California are focusing on bringing in some of their later vineyards while in Oregon there is a bit of a scramble as growers have to make the tough decision to pick a bit early and get fruit in before possible rains, and it is raining there, or to wait it out and hope for the best.

The waiting game is in full force in regions across the Atlantic. Rioja is about two weeks away from the heart of harvest and in Piedmont some of the early reds are in and will continue to be harvested this week and next but the big gun, Nebbiolo, is waiting in the wings; a notoriously late ripening variety that may test the patience of producers in 2013.

By: Snooth – Articles

Life on the Cayman Islands – In words and recipes

Today the Cayman Islands loom large as a holiday destination. Long beaches of white sand, glorious accommodations, and an impressive array of restaurants cater to a broad cross section of travelers seeking out relaxation and a slower pace of life, if only for a few days. Not surprisingly, many people make the move to these island destination with that same thought in mind, a slower life and a place to enjoy while living. The truth of the matter is that doing a great job and what one does requires a devotion that often interferes with these best intentions, case in point Chef Keith Griffin .

 

With over 30 years in the Hospitality Industry, Executive Chef Keith Griffin is one of Cayman’s most renowned chefs. As the Past President of Cayman Culinary Society and Director of the Caribbean Culinary Federation, Keith is the Manager of the Cayman Islands National Culinary Team. He is certified as a Culinary Judge for International Competition and Vice Consular Culinaire of the Chaine des Rotisseures (Cayman). After ten successful years as a popular local Restaurateur, Keith is now focusing on teaching, cooking demonstrations and Personal Chef Services. 

After being introduced to Chef Keith at Snooth’s People Voice Awards Grand Tasting, where he worked in tandem with Chef Vidyadhara Shetty preparing a lovely seared salmon in coconut foam topped with a mango slaw to the appreciation of all in attendance, I recently was able to catch up with Chef to ask him a few questions about life on the islands, and the people he currently is cooking for. With a successful professional Chef service, Chef Keith is now catering to regular customer and returning visitors to the islands, though his services are not reserved for the rich and famous. next time you are sitting back on island time somewhere, say somewhere like the Cayman islands for example, ask yourself if another restaurant meal is really what you want. You just might find that your answer is no, and you might be even more surprised to find out that having a professional chef come to you is often only a little more than the complete night out, and you don’t even have to put on your shoes, though the Chef would appreciate it if you could find your pants!

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An Interview with Chef Keith Griffin

 

GDP  – What brought you to become a private chef in the Caribbean?

 

Chef Keith – I’ve been living and cooking in the Caribbean for over 30 years, 27 of which have been in Cayman so, as you can imagine, I have worked my way through most of Grand Cayman’s kitchens. I had my own Restaurant here in  George Town for 10 years, which I closed two years ago having decided that it was time to cut back from the 12-14 hours a day routine. Private dining was just a very logical step, I found that I had a good client base from my time in the restaurant and I really wanted to get back into the kitchen and work directly with food which is something that gets away from you when running a restaurant. Now I have the freedom to organize my schedule according to my own plans, enjoy time with my family and focus on food rather than business matters.

 

GDP – Who are your typical clients?

 

Chef Keith – Many of my clients are people I have known for years through the restaurant industry as well as returning vacationers, which makes for a very social, almost friendly atmosphere when I go into their homes to cook. Recently I have been working with a couple of condo resorts, designing meals for families and small groups, most of whom want to experience very local produce and have somebody cook for them who can tell them a little about the background and evolution of Caribbean cuisine.

 

GDP – What types of dishes are most requested by your clients?

 

Chef Keith – It can vary, many of my local clients are big wine connoisseurs who want me to design menu’s around their wines, in that instance we are usually talking about big flavors; red meats, cheeses and quite European style menus. With vacationers it’s completely different, we are surrounded by the oceans and have an abundance of the freshest fish so its fairly easy to build a great menu around our seafood and local produce, people are always amazed at our range of produce and the incredible flavor in our natural foods.

 

GDP – Do you have any local dishes that you try to turn your clients on to?

 

Chef Keith – A lot of traditional Caribbean foods are a little ‘rustic’ for todays market, I’m talking about things like  Cow Foot, Stewed Salted Pig Tail, Chicken Foot soup, these are the kind of ‘building blocks’ of Caribbean food culture and go way back to the days of the slave trade, but, if you can bring yourself to try them, they have amazing flavors and are incredibly nourishing.

 

Sometimes you have to use these ideas in new ways to get people interested. Take oxtail for example, one of my favorites, it’s incredibly rich and  flavorful but is loaded with bone and gristle, however, if you take the time to pick through and separate the meat you can turn it into ravioli, Asian style dumplings or the most fantastic, rich, meaty risotto imaginable. Our produce is always an easy sell, we have a wonderful variety of sweet potatoes and yams which people always enjoy, calaloo (similar to collard greens) can be paired with most things and who can say no to a big sweet mango or pineapple.

 

GDP – What has been the weirdest or most outlandish request? 

 

Chef Keith – I guess you can say I’ve been pretty lucky through my career and have not run into too many real shockers, I can recall one or two surprising instances, for example, the gentleman who sent his steak tartar back to the kitchen to have it cooked or the one time in Bermuda when a guest stormed into the kitchen and demanded the chef replace his lobster because the one he had been served was a male and wanted a female. I think, for the most part, people have become very educated about food and know enough about the industry that those instances are a thing of the past.

 

GDP – Where do you go out when you’re dining out? Our readers would love a few tips.

 There’s so much choice in Cayman, and we really do have something to offer every palate. My personal favorite at the moment is Blue Cilantro, the chef has a great feel for marrying flavors and his food always seems to be that little bit more creative than most places. For sushi (I’m a big fan) I like Karma, Chef Arron is a real talent and serves some interesting twists. Any body who wants to stroll and ‘graze’ should go to Cayman Bay, it’s a pedestrian area in a marina type setting with half a dozen or so great eateries no more than 30 yards apart so you can have an appetizer here, a glass of wine there and just spend an evening soaking up the atmosphere. For fine dining “Big City” style ‘Blue’ at the Ritz Carlton is a must, Eric (Le Bernadine) Rippert’s signature restaurant showcases all that is good about fresh caribbean seafood and great cooking.

 

GDP – What are the raw ingredients you source locally in the Cayman Islands and which three could you not do without?

 

Chef Keith – Luckily we have a huge variety of produce, from tomatoes, eggplants, onion, garlic, peppers (especially the hot ones!), lettuce, greens, squashes, beans, sweet potatoes, yams, pretty much whatever you need is available. Our farmers produce great pork and chicken, and of course, there’s all the wonderful Caribbean fruit. The only small drawback can be that there is only a limited supply of many items but since I’m no longer cooking in great volume, I can generally get enough for my needs.

 

One item I could not cook without would have to be eggs, they are in so many recipes from appetizers through main dishes, sauces and desserts, not to mention pasta, pastries and breads, the list is endless. Olive oil is another ‘must have’ for me, I use it in most of my cooking whether for sauteing, salad dressings, marinades, or just a light drizzle on pasta and rice dishes, I could not imagine what I would use instead.  And don’t get me started on Mangoes…I could not even live without those!

 

GDP – What’s your typical day like?

 

Chef Keith – I’ll spend an hour or so in the morning answering e-mails and following up on bookings or dinner requests, then a couple of hours preparing food items for the evenings dinner party. In the afternoon I hit the supermarket for any last minute supplies or next day shopping, I like to do this in the afternoons since my drive takes me past the local fish market and most days the fishermen are there with their catch around 2.00pm. that way I can get the pick of the days fish. Then it’s back to home to finish prepping, pack everything up, gather plates, linens and equipment and usually by around 5.00 or 6.00pm  I’m on my way to the location.

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Roasted Corn and Crab Cake

 

Prep Time: 20 minutes plus 30-40 refrigeration 

Servings: 6 (2 patties per serving)

 

Ingredients

 

1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped 

1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped 

1/2 cup red onion, chopped

1/2 cup ripe plantain

1/2 cup cilantro

1 lb fresh snow crab meat

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 cup roasted fresh corn kernels pinch Old Bay seasoning

1 tbsp bread crumbs

salt and black pepper to taste

 

Directions

 

In a food processor, roughly chop the bell peppers, onion, ripe plantain and cilantro. In a bowl mix

the crabmeat with the chopped ingredients, mayonnaise, corn, Old Bay seasoning, bread crumbs and season the mix with salt & pepper. 

 

Portion the mix into 2 oz patties and store in the refrigerator. Allow the patties to sit in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes to properly chill and ‘firm up’. (The patties can be made up to 2-3 days in advance if stored well chilled.) 

 

When ready to serve, sear the crab cakes in a little clarified butter or olive oil over high heat until golden brown and then bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 325 degrees.

 

Serve with Tamarind Chutney

 

Tamarind Chutney 

 

Prep Time: 10 minutes 

Servings: 4-6

 

Ingredients

 

1 cup tamarind paste

2 tbsp Caribbean pick-a-pepper sauce 

1 tsp Asian chili-garlic paste

 

Directions

 

Place all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, remove from heat and allow to cool.

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Tomato Ceviche

 

Prep Time: 10 minutes to combine the ingredients and boil, plus 40-45 minutes cooling down prior to adding the tomatoes

 

Ingredients

 

1/2 cup grape tomatoes 1 cup rice wine vinegar 1/2 cup water

1 tsp Thai chili

1/2 cup sugar

 

Directions

 

Cut the tomatoes in half, and set aside. Combine all liquids, Thai chili and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool. 

 

Add tomatoes to the cold liquid and marinate for two days.

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Cumin Scented Wahoo 

 

Prep Time: 10 minutes 

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients

 

4 x 6oz wahoo steaks (or tuna, swordfish or halibut)

2 tbsp olive oil

Spice Rub Ingredients

2 tbsp fresh coriander seeds, roasted & ground

2 tbsp dill seeds

1 tsp coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp dry chili flakes 1 tsp salt

 

Directions

 

Combine all of the spices in a small bowl. Rub the wahoo steaks with the spice rub and set aside for 30 minutes for the flavor to infuse. Brush the fish with olive oil and sear in a smoking hot pan for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side.

 

Serve with Pickled Cucumber

 

Pickled Cucumber 

 

Ingredients

 

1 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tbsp pink peppercorns 1 bay leaf

2 cucumbers

 

Directions

 

Bring the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns and bay leaf to a boil in a deep pan then remove from heat and allow to cool. Peel and seed the cucumbers and cut lengthways into thin ribbons. Place the cucumber ribbons in the vinegar and allow to steep for 2 hours before serving.

 

Note: Do not leave cucumber in the brine too long to prevent it from breaking down.

 

By: Snooth – Articles

The Essence of Wine: Flaws

vinography_essence_flaws.jpg

Image © 2013 Leigh Beisch

The essence that is not an essence. Universally unloved, the flaws in wine are as insidious as they are unwanted, and come in many forms. The sharp vinegar and acetone tang of volatile acidity; the rotten eggs reduction; the overly nutty or balsamic note of oxidation; the sweaty socks, garlic and stinky cheese of mercaptans; the wet dog or manure of brettanomyces yeast; and yes, the all-too-common wet cardboard or wet band-aid aroma of cork taint. All too be avoided rather than celebrated. But knowing the difference between a faulty bottle and a wine that you just don’t like remains harder than you might think. Levels of sensitivity to these compounds vary among individuals, and to make matters worse, in tiny amounts they don’t always ruin a wine. A modicum of volatile acidity and brettanomyces are even coveted by some winemakers (and their customers) as a distinct element of either their terroir or their intended style. One drinker’s rustic wine is another’s sewer of bacteria, or so it seems. Learning to recognize these flaws is a useful skill for anyone who enjoys wine, but this proves not so easy to do outside of a classroom. Serious students of wine should spend at least one afternoon subjecting themselves to sometimes-gag-inducing levels of these delightful monsters at some point in their careers. Know thine enemy, or so the saying goes.

You didn’t really expect me to recommend faulty wines, did you?

Pay attention to how your wines smell and taste, and never pass up the opportunity to smell and taste a little of a wine that someone around you has identified as flawed. The more exposure you get to such wines, the more you will be able to spot them on your own. My personal experience is that my sensitivity to cork taint in particular has dramatically increased over time, and I know others who have experienced the same.

Most wine education programs will include a session on wine faults, which can be invaluable for anyone looking to experience the range of things that can go wrong in a wine. I highly recommend these experiences.

This is part of an ongoing series of original images and prose called The Essence of Wine

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Hat Tip To: Vinography: A Wine Blog

The White Wines of Santorini

I was planning on tasting these wines during the dog days of August, which never came not that I was in any shape to be tasting wines during them but that is another story. Fortunately for us summer seems intent on lingering a bit, so we can still enjoy the sun when we take our late afternoon snacks of grilled octopus and spicy shrimp on the patio. That of course is where the white wines of Santorini really shine, as a foil for simple yet decisively flavored foods. The char of the grill or the pungent flavors of lemon and mint can provide the perfect backdrop for the fruit and mineral flavors of Assyrtiko.

 

During the past few months as I’ve been tracking the weather on Santorini it has been undeniably beautiful with a virtually unbroken string of sunny days. That is what we tend to think of when we think of Santorini, and by association its white wines, and while that octopus on the patio sounds fantastic right about now, the truth is that these wines have their place year round, particularly when they see a little age on them or extended oak ageing.  Having said that, a young bottle of Assyrtiko has such energy in the mouth, clarity and vibrancy that I can’t imagine not wanting to drink some year round. Try a bottle of the Gavalas Santorini  or Sigalas Assyrtiko and see what these wines are really all about!

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2012 Gavalas Santorini  White 13%  $17

 

Unspecified blend of Assyrtiko and Aidani

 

Tight on the nose with a fine blend of mineral and subtle sage like aromas. Juicy on entry, this hits the palate with admirably purity and liveliness showing off very clear and tense flavors of dusty dry earth, yellow fruits, and a faint hint of yellow tomato that picks up where the sage on the nose leaves off. I really the clarity this shows on the palate and tension in the mouth. Definitely towards the lighter bodied end of the spectrum, this is another wine with salty minerality that extends the finish, but accompanied by such a wonderfully refreshing purity of fruit. I can drink a bottle of this on the patio even if I didn’t have any octopus. 91pts

 

 

 

Subtle and complex on the nose with a fine blend of floral, dusty mineral and orchard fruit aromas. With excellent focus this enters the mouth broad and firm delivering layers of polleny floral, pithy citrus and minerally flavors that show excellent depth on the palate. This is at once lean and somewhat rich on the citrus, melon and faintly fig flavored palate and shows excellent length on the minerally and tense finish. Almost salty on the finish this begs one to take another sip, another mouthful of food, another sip… 90pts

 

 

Tight on the nose with a hint of tar laying under notes of dried peaches and preserved lemons. Very smooth and polished in the mouth, theres good acidity here and fine underlying minerality but this has a richer mouthfeel than most whites from Santorini, a mouthfeel even a Chardonnay lover could be attracted to. The flavors lean towards the mineral, with some under-ripe apple and peach notes on the mid-palate that lead to a long, slightly astringent and textural finish that offers quite the contrast to the lush mid-palate. A modern take on Assyrtiko that remains true to its roots. The finish here really shows how assertive Assyrtiko the grape . It is not to be tamed. 87pts

 

 

Minty and floral on the nose with green tea accent notes helping to frame the core of almost jammy and yet unripe apples with a hint of strawberry like red fruit to it. This is the middle of the road. Everything is in balance with solid acidity, round apply fruit, good minerality but the wine feels safe right through to the mineral laced yet somewhat rounded finish that shows a pleasant pineapple character along with green apple skins. Attractive but I’m not sure what direction this should be going in. 86pts

 

 

Honeycomb and pumice greet the nose with subtle notes of old apples, old wood and dried flowers all topped with hints of coriander and caper adding complexity. Moderately rich and certainly powerful in the mouth, this feels less acidic than it might be, though it stays well structured in the mouth relying on both the acidity and minerality for stability. The mid palate is deep and rich with fruit that shows flashes of red fruitiness along with a core of sweet pear, spicy herb and a touch of wood spice before the minerality kicks in on the back end, along with a touch of heat. The finish is so dusty its tactile, with fine length to the pear and peach skin flavors that linger until a fine, bright mineral note appears on the finale. This is a powerful wine that demands some food, and something more substantial than grilled octopus at that. The heat detracts from the appeal a bit but I would like to see where this goes with some age. 86pts

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Lovely on the nose and fairly fruit with hints of apricot and quince under a sheen of sapwood framed lime with just a pinch of dusty minerality as a top note. That friendly, fruity character on the nose translates to the palate as well where this is fairly fruity, though not lacking in either acidity or minerality. Zesty and bright, this finishes strongly where the minerality really plays out dueling with the flavors of quince leading to an apricot finale.  Yet on the palate this is almost a bit sweet with fruit and shows an attractive if surprising hint of mint on the back side of the palate. 85pts

 

 

 

Dry and a bit stony on the nose this shows a bit of a woody accent and a little hint of the sweetness of oxidation wrapped up in aromas of sweet gum and beeswax. Supple, low and elegant in the mouth, there’s a softness here that benefits from the modest richness of this wine. Very easy drinking, if a bit short on the finish, this delivers modest yet balanced flavors of stony minerality and unripe peach skin notes but the appeal of its texture is undeniable. Perhaps not as assertively flavored as some wines from Santorini, this will be more of a crowd pleaser. 85pts

 

 

Deep and golden in color. This smells predominantly of old wood with fair underlying complexity of dried fruits, dried flowers, spearmint. honey comb and toasted almond. Smooth, with integrated acidity, this does have a lovely texture with flavors that have faded somewhat with time yet remain well balanced and moderately fresh. There’s a touch of honeycomb here, along with a chamomile note and some dried herbal elements that carry this through the finish where some creamy citrus flavors add their impact. Rather refined and decidedly for the crowd who appreciates the character of aged white wines, this is more interesting than enjoyable though should be better with food. 85pts

 

 

Preserved lemons, lemon verbena, flowers and a sweet, nutty base note greets the nose. A bit softer than most whites from Santorini, this does show of a nice white minerality in the mouth but it lacks some height in the mouth and intensity of flavors. A bit of lime, a bit of mineral, a bit of herb, attractive flavors are here but they don’t knit together particularly well and float away on the finish which is modest yet somehow leaves on with an aromatic freshness in the mouth that recalls the smells of the air after rain. 83pts

 

Source: Snooth – Articles

Enjoy Wine More

Wear sandals, short pants, short sleeves, always have a glass in hand, and always drink with friends.  I kid, but that would be a pretty good set of tips don’t you think! Works for me. 

 

Back to reality, and with the arrival of Autumn we’re leaving the freedom of summer behind us. I don’t know for sure, but I think there is something deeply ingrained in our psyche that makes this moment in time one where we refocus ourselves. It is no doubt a vestigial response to the return to schooling we all experienced around this time. We might as well go with the flow and if our brain wants to study something, well it might as well be wine!

 

The thing is, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around we’re already lollygagging, looking out the window and blowing spit balls at cute girls named Denise. If we want to make our study of wine stick, we’ve got to be at least a little serious. Not too serious of course because in that case this might become actual work and nobody wants more work. No, this is almost all for fun, and of course a little education. Education about the wines, sure, but more to the point it should be education about what we like and what we should be buying to increase the chances that we’ll like the next bottle we buy, and the bottle after that, and the bottle after that. It’s not hard, really it isn’t and these 5 super easy tips will make it that much simpler.

 

Source: Snooth – Articles

Vintage Watch XI

With summer fading into a memory, more quickly in some places than others, grape growers and winemakers are all in the midst of harvest. As the grapes reach peak maturity, which of course means different things to different people, growers do tend to look forward to the same sorts of weather.  Cool nights to help preserve the grape’s acidity and warm, sunny but not hot days so that the maturation arc of the grapes is slow and steady, affording the growers longer hang times, staggered picking between varieties or regions, and a longer window in which to actually harvest the fruit at that peak stage of maturity. And of course no one wants rain, so let’s take a look and see who is relaxing this week and who might be rushing out to get fruit in ASAP.

Via: Snooth – Articles

Chef Shetty – In words and recipes

Last year we were fortunate to work closely with the Cayman Islands, promoting the islands as an epicurean destination, as well as a pretty beautiful and convenient place to just chill out. It’s great to get away from it all and surrender yourself to your surroundings, particularly when they are as indulgent and satisfying as the Caymans can be.

 

When we do take vacations, and I know for many of us that is far too infrequently, it is easy to forget that the reason our vacations are so enjoyable is because there are professionals catering to us, concerned with our well being and determined to make sure that everything appears effortlessly. It’s part of the vacation tourism industry, as I found out first hand catering to vacationers for several years. As easy as it to vacation on a place like the Cayman Islands, working there is another story entirely, especially when it comes to the hospitality industry, and the restaurant side of things in particular. 

The competition for our time is fierce, so you better believe that destinations such as the Caymans are constantly honing their game, finding out what we want before we want it, and making sure it’s available when we want it. Case in point: the Cayman Culinary Society. Led by Executive Chef Vidyadhara Shetty, the Culinary Society brings together the culinary community of the Caymans, allowing them to share ideas and inspirations, secrets and of course the keys to preserving their indigenous cuisine.  Per the Society’s promotional materials: 

 

His goal as President of The Culinary Society is to offer the top chefs in the Cayman Islands the opportunity to shine in their art and excite the world by creating “authentic contemporary Caribbean” dishes. ‘It is essential, in this fast-paced environment, to be surrounded by a professional and dedicated team’ says Shetty. ‘I am fortunate here on this beautiful island paradise to be surrounded by people who share a genuine love of the kitchen and food.’

 

Chef Shetty, as he is known, brings decades of experience to his role as President of the Culinary Society, having won the prestigious Cayman Islands “Chef of the Year” award in 1999 after polishing his craft  in the restaurants of his hometown Mumbai, India, throughout the Middle East, as Chef with the Cruise Ships of the Caribbean and finally, since 1994, at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman. I was recently able to interview Chef Shetty and dig a little deeper into his background and his life and work in the Cayman Islands.

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An Interview with Chef Vidyadhara Shetty

 

GDP – Working on a Caribbean island is beautiful, but does it present any challenges in the kitchen?

 

Chef Shetty – Some of the challenges living on island are getting all the ingredients and receiving them in time. Getting and retaining good employees can also be difficult.

 

GDP —  Can you give us an idea of what authentic Cayman cooking is and how recipes have been adapted for a more international palate?

 

Chef Shetty – Authentic Cayman cuisine features dishes that are typically made from Turtle Meat ( Turtle Stew ), Steamed Callaloo, Steamed Fish (Snapper, Grouper) Fried Grunts, Jack , Conch. Curry and jerk spices are used for Chicken and Goat dishes. For dessert we have Cassava cake, Johnny cake and fried plantain. We have found that the more we remain faithful to these original recipes the more interest we get from our international visitors. No need to change a thing!

 

GDP – What are the raw ingredients you source locally in the Cayman Islands and which three could you not do without?

 

Chef Shetty – Local Fish, local Vegetables and Scotch Bonnet Pepper

 

GDP – What is one thing you wish you could grow locally but can’t?

 

Chef Shetty – I wish we could grow some spices e.g. Black peppers, cumin etc.

 

GDP – Where do you go out when you’re dining out? Our readers would love a few tips.

 

Chef Shetty – Blue Cilantro! I’m joking, but it is really good and you shouldn’t miss it but seriously I don’t have a favorite Restaurant you can pick any Restaurant on the Island  and no one will be disappointed

 

GDP – You currently are leading the Cayman Culinary Society, can you tell us a little bit about the mission of the Society and how you achieve your goals?

 

Chef Shetty – My goal as President of The Culinary Society is to offer the top chefs in the Cayman Islands the opportunity to shine in their art and excite the world by creating “authentic contemporary Caribbean” dishes. Also to compile a cookbook for all those Chefs who have participated in the Local competition, and sharing their recipes. 

 

GDP – When is the best time to visit the Cayman Islands? Are there any culinary events that people need to know about?

 

Chef Shetty – I think anytime is a good time to come to Paradise but usually November to May is very nice and the heat might be a little less intense. We have Culinary Events throughout the year but we attract great international crowds for the Cayman Cookout, The Cayman Culinary Society –Annual Competitions for Chefs and the Gala dinner thereafter, as well as The Taste of Cayman to name a few.

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Roasted Sweet Potato Soup 

 

Prep Time: 45 minutes 

Servings: 6

 

Ingredients

 

2 lb sweet potato, peeled & roughly cut 1 medium onion, peeled & roughly cut

1 medium carrot, peeled & roughly cut 4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tbsp olive oil

1 qt chicken stock

1 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp sugar

salt & pepper

splash of hot sauce or pinch of cayenne to taste

 

Directions

 

In a heavy bottomed saucepan saute´ the sweet potato, onion, carrot & garlic in olive oil until tender. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. 

 

Blend to a pure´e then return to the saucepan, add cream and bring back to a boil. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.

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Caribbean Sweet Potato and Callaloo Cake 

 

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes plus 30-40 minutes refrigeration 

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients

 

1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped 1/2 cup red onion, chopped

1 tsp garlic, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup callaloo, chopped & blanched 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1 lb sweet potato, baked, peeled & mashed

1 tbsp bread crumbs

salt and black pepper to taste

 

Directions

 

In a food processor, roughly chop the bell peppers and onion. Heat a medium frying pan and saute´ the garlic with the olive oil until fragrant, add the chopped vegetables and cook until tender. 

 

In a separate bowl mix the callaloo with the cilantro and the sweet potato, add the saute´ed ingredients together with the breadcrumbs and season the mix with salt & pepper. 

 

Portion the mix into 2 oz patties and store in the refrigerator. Allow the patties to sit in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes to properly chill and ‘firm up’. (The patties can be made up to 2-3 days in advance if stored well chilled.) 

 

When ready to serve, sear the patties in a little clarified butter or olive oil over high heat until golden brown and then bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 325 degrees F.

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Sweet Corn and Pumpkin Fritters 

 

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes 

Servings: 6-8

 

Ingredients

 

1 cup corn kernels

1 cup sweet potato, diced

1/21/2 cup onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 teasp scotch bonnet pepper, chopped 1 cup flour

1 teasp baking powder

1 egg

little water

 

Directions

 

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl to form a thick paste. Shape into balls and deep fry at 350 degrees for 3-4 minutes until golden.

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This sweet and spicy sauce can be used as an accent for fritters or Callaloo cakes.

 

Fresh Mango Coulis 

 

Ingredients

 

2 cups ripe mango flesh

1 tbsp sweet chili sauce

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil zest of 2 fresh lemons

1 tsp salt

 

Directions

 

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend to a smooth pure´e.

 

Via: Snooth – Articles

$20 Pinot Noir

Last week I wrote up some reviews on “value priced” Pinot Noir, and I received a few comments asking if it was worth spending a few more dollars on wines costing a bit more. It was a fair question, and one I myself had explored just a week or two early when I compared “value priced” Sauvignon Blancs with wines costing just a few dollars more. The answer to the question is that of course you can get a better wine at a higher price point but, that is by no means a foregone conclusion.

 

There were some standout wines in this group, the 2010 Santa Barbara Winery Pinot Noir is not my style of wine but it delivers a ton of flavor and fruit for $20, so not only can I say that it’s notably better than the “value priced” wines samples last week, but it’ll also give some wines twice the price a run for their money, particularly with consumers looking for this rather intense style. Following on the heels of the Santa Barbara Winery Pinot Noir is a tightly packed group of four wines, all offering distinctive expressions of Pinot Noir where terroir begins to play a role. A bit surprisingly my favorite of the bunch was also from Santa Barbara, the 2011 Byron which was really a very satisfying glass of Pinot, lean, focused and with admirable varietal character!
Of course there are also wines that didn’t appeal to me, as can be the case with a fickle grape such as Pinot Noir. Let’s face it, rating and reviewing wine is an inexact science at best, and people have vastly differing palates, but I do believe that most people, given a set of wines, can make a fair assessment as to the relative quality and/or enjoyability of those wines vis a vis each other. On thing that consumers often value more than reviewers is more. More oak, more weight, more tannin, more fruit. In fact I think that this has been the commercial strategy of the wine industry, and certainly the California’s Pinot Noir Industry for much of the past two decades.

 

We are moving beyond the more is better paradigm, focusing on things like nuance and complexity as opposed to more intensity, though that remains a valid and sought after expression of Pinot Noir. My point here is that with Pinot Noir in particular, a grape that is equally capable of both nuanced and powerfully styled wines, it’s tough at times to arbitrarily decide that a wines is not that good because it’s produced in a  style you don’t particularly like. I try as best I can to identify why I don’t like a particular wine, which is why both the wine review and the numerical score associated with it have value. 

 

The bottom line, there is a lot to like at $20 when it comes to Pinot Noir. There are wines that begin to show real refinement, complexity and nuance but if you are looking for subtlety and drinkability, you may very well be just as happy sticking to the top offering in the “value priced” end of the market. I find appealing wines ay both prive points, but the best here really do start to be interesting to me as opposed to merely enjoyable. 

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A bit mineral on the nose with well integrated wood spice, hints of toasted almonds, violets, and some used oak notes all melting into a pool of wild cherry and blackberry fruit. Clean and clear on entry with vibrant acids and fine tannins supporting some unabashedly fruity fruit. This still maintains some nice focus and grip so it delivers attractively intense fruitiness without the weight and density that so often accompanies such fruit. There’s some nice cherry skin and jammy, almost grapy fruit on the palate with a hint of something green, lime zest or herb, adding some complexity on the back end as this transitions to a slightly hot and slight drying finish that shows excellent length and persistence to the grapey, blackberry and plummy fruit which ends with a burst of cola. Not my style but in this style this is very good and it certainly is zesty! 90pts

 

 

Tight on the nose with some oak showing a hint of cocoa and a sweet medicinal edge to emerging black cherry fruit that shows some bitter orange rind notes and gently floral top notes.  Also a bit tight in the mouth, showing fine red cherry skin and raspberry, almost strawberry fruit in an attractively lean and well focused style. This has the feel of Pinot Noir, no baby fat, good clarity on the palate, finely grained and almost mineral tannins that transition to some gently herbal bay leaf and vanilla toned accents on the backend before fading a bit quickly on the finish. A bit understated, yet this is my style of Pinot, snappy, focused, and even though there is a vein of oak through this this still manages to be a wine of varietal character.  88pts

 

 

Smelling a bit beefy and peppery this is a bit of an odd take at first with subtle citrus and pineapple aromas growing in the glass before being joined by tart red cranberry fruit and lemon verbena notes. There’s also a dustiness on the nose and blind I might very well think this to be a white wine. Tart red fruit laced with citrus notes greets the palate with nice breadth and some fine grained tannins and early mineral accents. This opens nicely across the mid-palate delivering fine raspberry fruit with a slight roasty herbal edge and a core of used wood tones that stretch out across the rather long and finely focused finish along with additional tea and herb flavors, moe dusty minerality and some tart red cherry fruit. Rather subtle and understated, this is a patio pinot for old world Pinot lovers. 88pts

 

 

Fairly intense and immediate on the nose with lots of earth, tea, and slightly rubbery smoky  aromas. This is pretty powerful and front loaded in the mouth with a slightly chewy, glycerin rich mouthfeel that makes this glossy and a bit indistinct in the mouth. There are fine underlying tannins that dimple the surface and add an attractive  touch of mouthgrab here supporting cranberry and lightly vanilla laced flavors that pick up a nuanced vegetal hint on the backend before fading into a mineral and earth driven finish of moderate length. A bit tacky with fruit tannins, this will probably improve over the next 18 months or so. 88pts

 

 

Perhaps a touch hot or just peppery on the nose with some warm forest floor and baking spice notes framing plump black cherry fruit. There is a pepperiness here, a bit in the herbal register. Smooth like silk on entry, this enters the mouth surreptitiously and then appears on the mid palate with pretty good focus and clarity to the herb and forest floor inflected red cherry and cranberry fruit that barely covers a bit of aggressive wood tannins and picks up gentle wood spice notes on the backend. The finish shows some attractive texture, a bit of stem herbal quality and fine grained wood tannins all coming together with fine persistent if showing a touch of rusticity. Shows some power built on a spice of well judged acidity and complexity in a style that would benefit from food, a fine candidate for pairing with planked salmon. 88pts

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Very smoky, charry and oaky on the nose with notes of grilling beef wafting up above the base of cola and medicinal herbs. This is fairly rich, broad and yet tart on entry with a nice blend of liveness and plushness in the mouth that is unusual. There’s a bit of drying tannin here but it is well buffered by the cola laced dark cherry/berry fruit that shows some herbal spice on the back end. The oak reasserts itself on the backend, yet the fruit sticks out lending this a fairly nice balance right through to the earthy, herb tinged finale. A pretty mainstream example of Pinot that hints at something a bit more sophisticated. 87pts 

 

 

Bright fruit greets the nose though it gains a jammy accent fairly quickly built upon a base of smoky, toasty oak vanilla oak, though there are some subtle herbal accent here adding some detail. Round, supple and mouth filling, this is a crowd pleaser to be sure. The balance here is excellent with plump, sweet black cherry and almost black currant fruit on the palate framed nicely by well judged oak notes. The backend shows off black cherry and sassafras notes and leads into a moderately long, slightly tacky finish enlivened with hints of grapefruit peel. 87pts

 

 

Deeply earthy and fairly darkly fruited on the nose with notes of cherry pie and raspberry accented by hints of tea and cola. This is lovely in the mouth, bright and zesty yet with a touch of roundness, though it still retain good clarity in the mouth. The red fruit flavors, recalling cranberry and strawberry, are framed with slight austere tannins that lend this a slightly chiseled feel in the mouth. The backend shows fine herbal and slightly salty mineral note through the gauze of raspberry fruit thats topped with just a hint of herbal stemminess. The finish is just a touch dry, refreshingly so with moderate length to the mineral driven dry red berry flavors that end with as burst of wood spice. Air allows the tannins to build a bit in the mouth, sucking some of the clarity here and adding more wood spice to the palate, but this is remains attractive. 87pts

 

 

Twiggy and even a bit funky on the nose with sweet raspberry and cranberry fruit framed with notes of used wood and black tea. Smooth and succulent on the palate, this shows lovely austere little tannins peaking through a veil of red raspberry and strawberry fruit that picks up nuanced used wood and herb notes on the backend before fading into a dusty, earthy, long and vibrant tart red berried finish. This might be a bit of a small wine, and a bit of a simple wine, but it’s appeal lies in it’s fine balanced and purity that makes this so easy and pleasurable to drink. 86pts

 

 

A bit light on the nose with nuanced earth, smoke and cola aromas floating over a base of slightly tarry blackberry fruit. Bright on entry with a little sweet tart interplay going on quickly leading to some candied flavors of vanilla and caramel which form a base under bright red fruit on the palate. The fruit lacks a little intensity here, and while this is smooth and well balanced its a little bit more about the wood than the fruit today with drying, chalky tannins outlasting the fruit on the modest finish. This holds its alcohol well though there is a touch of alcoholic sweetness on the palate, which many people will find appealing. 84pts

 

 

The modest age here does show through on the nose where one finds a bit of a sweet earthiness and some tarry tertiary notes adding complexity to the core of candied, vanilla scented black fruit. Smooth and initially almost delicate in the mouth, this quickly becomes dominated by the oak with little fruit left to buffer the wood tannins and modest if noticeably spicy flavors. The finish is drying and raw with tannin and wood. 78pts

 

Hat Tip To: Snooth – Articles

Fun and Flexible

This past Wednesday I published an article on five, admittedly obscure, wines worth tasting this fall. As is generally the case when one suggest obscure pursuits, I received a few emails asking for more information about the wines. One common thread ran through them, when do I drink these wines? I thought I had made that kind of obvious: in the fall, but there is no doubt that people are afraid of making a mistake when serving wine. Serving the wrong wine with the wrong dish, or a cocktail wine with dinner seem to have risen to fairly significant social sins.

 

I’m here to tell you it ain’t true. The best time to serve a wine is when you want to drink it. End of story. But if you’ll allow me a minute I will suggest that you can enhance your experience with any particular wine by serving it with the right food. It’s not required of course, but in an effort to help motivate you to try something new this fall,  may I present a few pairing recommendations for 5 Wines to Focus on this Fall. 

Origin: Snooth – Articles