What to pair with your Easter Dinner

WestchesterWineGuy:

Wow… a blast from the past! I posted this for Easter 5 years ago… and while some of the actual wines may no longer be available, the pairings still hold true. Take a look if you are in need of some Easter Wine Pairing help… Cheers!

Originally posted on Westchester Wine Guy:

As Good Friday has arrived, it’s time to start thinking about a lot of things for Easter Weekend….. where to hide the Easter eggs, which masses to hit (preferably the ones that aren’t like 3 hours) and what wines to buy that will complement the Easter feast you have planned. Not to fear…WWG has a few easy recommendations to help make your meal a hit! I should mention that even though I am Westchester based, I am always happy to have new followers that live in other areas too (yes, even out in Massapequa, LI… you know who you are!)

The two most popular meats that people cook on Easter are ham and lamb. So let’s start with a ham pairing. As far as meats go, ham is a little light and usually has some form of a sweet glaze on it. Even though I almost always prefer a red…

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Is Your Favorite Wine…Toxic?!?!

The simplest, yet most confusing, answer is…possibly. However let me start by saying that this arsenic controversy only seems to pertain to the least expensive, most highly produced California wines and if you are drinking a good amount of it. I’m not going to dive into all the details regarding the actual lawsuit, but if you are interested Forbes has an article with a run down of the situation…see below.

Arsenic And California Wine…Do You Need To Worry?

But the basics of the lawsuit (remember, it is still just an allegation) state that many inexpensive wines in California have higher than acceptable levels of arsenic. You can check the link below to see if any of your favorite wines are on that list:

Full List of Wines Named is Arsenic Lawsuit

What is arsenic? It is basically a metal that is found in various natural resources, namely soil and water, but can also be a result of certain forms of manufacturing. So if proper care is not taken during wine production, or the soil or water used is not the best quality, then it seems reasonable that elevated levels of arsenic could be found in cheaply made wines that don’t utilize the most thorough production methods.

So then the question comes down to how toxic, if at all, are the wines you enjoy on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? If you find that your favorites include some of California’s most frugal selections, then it is possible that there are increased amounts of arsenic in that juice (we won’t know for sure until the lawsuit lends definitive results). But no need to panic until this is all resolved by the powers that be. In the meantime, there is an old saying which states “Life is too short to drink cheap wine”… I think that is fairly applicable to ALL wine drinkers right about now.

How To Do A Steakhouse On A Budget

There are few culinary delights that can surpass that of a top tier steakhouse dining experience. From the seductive aromas of grilled beef and butter that are taken in at first entry to the last sip of port enjoyed with that decadent chocolate lava cake, they offer something  utterly satisfying that few other restaurants are able to do. But all of this hedonistic enjoyment can cost a pretty penny. The better steakhouses will charge $45+ for a cut of beef, and that normally does not come with any sides…just a piece of meat on a plate. Once you factor in all the starters, the trimmings to accompany the steak, not to mention that big Napa Cab, a few desserts, espressos and after dinner drinks, the bill can end up totaling the same as your monthly mortgage.

But does a steakhouse meal have to be that exorbitant? In a word…Nope!There are some very simple ways to cut a few corners in order to still enjoy all that a quality steakhouse has to offer while keeping the expenditures down. It’s all about efficiency.

The first pitfall for many is the allure of the seafood tower…as it clearly rocks. However they really are over the top when you consider all the crustaceans they load them up with.  You may be better off just ordering your favorite shellfish for yourself. Whether it is a half dozen oysters or a shrimp cocktail platter, the amount it will cost for the individual appetizer will be significantly less than the per person cost of an overindulgent seafood platter tower. The ever popular bacon appetizer can also suck you in as they are fantastically delicious, but super pricey for what is usually a single strip serving. And let’s be honest, you are about to dive into a giant, juicy piece of meat… do you really need more meat as an app?

The biggest unnecessary expense in most steakhouses is that of Napa Cabernet Sauvignons on the wine list. Why you may ask? Because they are effing delicious and make for a perfect pairing with grilled meat…plus they are sort of a status symbol to some, particularly those trying to impress clients or first dates. These establishments are well aware of this and will mark up those wines more than others. I find that CA Merlot and Zin, as well as the Cotes du Rhone and Spanish selections offer the greatest pairing value without skimping on quality, depending on the producer and year of course. But without question they almost always carry significantly lower markups. A good rule of thumb is to go with the second least expensive wine in any given section of the wine list, although even if you get the cheapest bottle they are typically not pouring swill at any of these fancy joints.

One place you don’t want to skimp out is on the steak. The main reason you are probably dining at a highly rated and expensive steakhouse is to enjoy that perfectly cooked piece of dry aged beef… so go for it! However there is no need to add that lobster tail for the surf and turf effect, or even those few grilled shrimp on the side. Remember, shellfish ain’t cheap. If you choose to order side dishes, you want to stick with two sides for every four people. So an order of creamed/grilled spinach and hash browns is more than enough for a table of four. Again, the steak is the star of the show so let that bad boy shine!

If you have ever actually looked at what jacks up the bill at the end of the night, more often than not it ends up being beverages of all kind. Of course the wine and booze are the biggest culprits, but the fancy coffees and all the accoutrements are no slouch. I love a double espresso with Sambuca as much as anyone, but in a steakhouse that one little luxury can run up to $20. Stick with the regular coffee and split a dessert or two instead of going overboard with the port, cognac and oversized dessert platter. Or skip the dessert and coffee altogether and enjoy the last course in the luxury of your own home.

Bonus Wine Tip: Ask the server if they have any by the bottle wine specials. Many times these steakhouses have an older bottle they may need to move out in order to make room for a new vintage. If they have a few loose bottles that are no longer on the menu and don’t have a listed price, you may get lucky and score one of those older Napa Cabs or Bordeauxs at a bargain price.

So get out there and enjoy some of those fantastic steakhouses that Westchester has to offer, as there are certainly many to choose from.

Salute!

 

Break out the Bubbles! Top 5 Options for New Year’s Eve

As unfathomable as it may seem, this year is already over! The Christmas season just flew by and now the pre-New Year’s Eve jitters set in. You know that last minute frenzy leading up to New Year’s Eve… Should we go out or stay in? Will it be too crowded? Who is going to drive? What should we drink? While I can’t help you with the driving that night, I can lend a hand in selecting some tasty Sparkling selections for your festivities. Below are my 5 Favorite Bubbly options from $15-50.

Wallpaper holiday, new year, wine glasses, a bottle of champagne, 2014, bokeh

La Marca Prosecco – For around $15 I don’t think it gets much better than this Italian sparkler. Dry and zesty, the sweet honeysuckle notes enhance the core fruit of apple and peach while the crisp acidity runs straight through to the finish.

Domaine Carneros 2009 Ultra Brut – This Taittinger owned winery makes some of the best sparkling juice in all of Cali, and at $25 this is easily their greatest value. Aromas of lime zest, lemongrass and lovely floral notes lead to a dry and complex palate of apple, marzipan and almost flinty minerality.

Sparkling Pointe Brut – Keep it local and drink some tasty Long Island sparkling this New Year’s! Delicate, yet not simple, on the palate with lemon citrus and green apple fruit. Those classic yeasty and biscuit flavors find their way towards the finish leaving you looking for your next sip. Not a steal at $30, but Long Island real estate ain’t cheap.

Charles de Monrency Brut Reserve – A ‘grower’ Champagne that has all the quintessential qualities of top vintage offerings that are twice the price. Fine and lengthy bubbles lead to nutty, honied and toasty aromas and flavors. The biscuit and melon notes on the finish hang around long after the juice is gone. A lucious, mouthfilling mousse on this one as well.

Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut – Without question my favorite Champagne for around $40+. It has that dry and crisp minerality that balances harmoniously with the citrus, green apple and subtly yeasty notes. For my palate this is as good as it gets under $50.

Whatever you choose to sip on this New Year’s Eve be sure to enjoy with family and friends, as that is sure to enhance any Sparkling experience.

Have a Happy and Healthy Y’all, catch ya in 2015!

Wine Serving Temps and Tips

Not sure if you are serving your wine at the right temperature or how to get it to the perfect serving temp? Confused on what stemware to use? Check out the Wine Enthusiast piece below (by WWG) that has all the info you need to ensure that the lovely juice you are pouring at your holiday party is being enjoyed to its full potential.

Your Cheat Sheet to Serving Wine

 

How to serve wine

5 Simple Rules of BYO

With more and more consumers reluctant to pay the high markups that are inherent to many wine lists, BYO has become more prevalent than ever. Restaurants tend to mark up wines anywhere from 2-4 times the retail price that you will find at your local wine shop, not to mention the mark up from their cost. While the convenience and selection is well worth the price to some, others prefer to select from their own collection then the restaurant’s wine cellar. Below are 5 simple rules to help determine the appropriate scenario to bring your own bottle and some guidelines for restaurant etiquette if you choose to do so.

  • Free is for me! – If there is no corkage fee, than there is no reason NOT to bring your own bottle. Even if restaurants charge a nominal (under $10) corkage fee it still makes all the sense in the world. You could choose to bring a moderately priced bottle and it will still be a lot less at your local wine shop then at the restaurant.
  • Big names = Big Corkage Fees – If you are going to a top tier steakhouse or a popular French bistro, you are probably looking at a corkage fee of $35-75. For these eateries you’re probably better off sticking with their wine list.
  • Make it worthwhile – You certainly could bring an inexpensive bottle, but that would defeat the purpose. Mark ups are typically higher on the reserve selection wines, especially from older vintages, so the better bottle you bring the more you are saving.
  • Tip on the service – The server should provide the same service on the bottle of wine whether it is purchased from the restaurant or not, so be sure to include something in the tip for that bottle. A good rule of thumb is to multiply the retail cost of the wine times 2 or 3 and add that to the total bill before calculating the tip.
  • Buy an additional bottle from the wine list – If you’re dining with a large group, doing this shows you appreciate their hospitality and would like to thank them for it…that is of course if you are enjoying the meal and the experience!

 

Cheers!