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Entries in Champagne (2)


Highlights from a Iaciofano Thanksgiving 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Monday! How was everyone's holiday? Still recovering? I thought so. Before we wander too far away from the dinner table, I'd like to recap the Iaciofano Family Thanksgiving 2011.

As usual, Marmo made way too much food. John ate way too much apple pie. Aunt Emily drank way too much gin (thank goodness), The Box did way too much complaining about turkey being unpalatable. And I was generally good natured, pleasant, and fun to be around. I'm sure everyone would agree with that assessment.

Ahem! What follows below are the food-related highlights from our family Thanksgiving. These recipes can be used throughout your holiday season. Some of the (especially the featured cocktail) should be earmarked for use throughout the year....

I learned to make this drink at a Champagne Cocktail class given at the Astor Center. We made a lot of cocktails that night. At least I think we did.... This one is slightly sweet thanks to the Grand Marinier, delightfully citrusy, and fizz-tastic. It's fun, festive, and they go down rather easily.

The Moonwalk Champagne Cocktail

What You Need:
Makes 2 drink cocktails
A Cocktail Mixer, strainer, shot glass
Lots of ice cubes
Champagne - get one you would drink on its own, without additions
Grand Marinier
Grapefruit juice
1 orange
1 teaspoon sugar
2 champagne flutes

What You Do:
Fill your cocktail mixer with ice.

Pour two shot glasses worth of Grand Marinier into the mixer.

Pour one shot glass of grapefruit juice into the mixer.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of sugar into the mixer.

Seal the mixer and shake it well for about 10 seconds. Don't be afraid to make lots of noise - that's the fun part (aside from drinking the resulting cocktail, that is).

Fill the champagne flutes half full with the resulting mixture.

Top with champagne.

With a peeler, peel away a two small curls of orange rind. Twist, and plop into the filled champagne flutes.

Serve! Make more. Serve those too....

This soup was the clear winner of the meal. Is it weird for a soup to walk away with the crown? Maybe but this Roasted Chestnut and Hazelnut Soup had it all: creamy, nutty and smoky (bacon AND prosciutto!). Make this ALL WINTER LONG. Please.

What You Need:
Makes 6 servings - from the Silver Palette Cookbook
1 pound raw chestnuts in shells
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped bacon
3 tablespoons chopped prosciutto
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon chervil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups of chicken stock
1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy
Creme Fraiche for garnish

What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roast the chestnuts according to this recipe.

Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, prosciutto, onion, celery, carrots, thyme, chervil, salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and the stock. Stir in the chestnuts. Heat to boiling. Then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, toast the hazelnuts in the oven (or the toaster oven!) at 350 degrees until they begin to brown - about 15 minutes (less time in the toaster oven as it takes less time to heat up). Remove from the oven and rub the hazelnuts back and forth in a kitchen towel to remove the skins. Let them cool and then chop them coarsely by hand or in a food processor.

When the soup has simmered for 45 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the milk, cream and brandy.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, adding a handful of hazelnuts to each batch. Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot, taste and adjust the seasonings if you like.

Gently reheat the soup until it is hot. Ladle it into small bowls and garnish each with a dollop of Creme Fraiche.

For the turkey (seen above), there was much debate. Initially, we were going to fry one. All poultry puns aside, we chickened out. Instead, we decided on a Maple Glazed Turkey, based on this recipe from Martha Stewart. We even made The Box go to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day to pick up the Riesling. We are nothing if not compassionate.

For side dishes, we did a little experimentation. Usually, we got for a Cauliflower Gratinee – a creamy, baked perfection of a dish that just happens to be vegetable based.

This time, we decided to ditch the cream (I really don't know why) and try out the Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins and Breadcrumbs recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine. The combination of raisins and capers was my favorite part of this dish, as it provided that salty sweet flavor combination that I enjoy so much. It was a touch dry, and I prefer the gut-busting cream option (it's the holidays, after all, people).

For dessert the clear winner was the Apple Pie. Every year Marmo claims that this is the best pie she's made yet. She wonders if it's a new kind of butter she used.

To be honest, the pie tastes the same to me every year - AMAZING. It really is, hands down, the best apple pie I have ever had. EVER. The pie was gone by the end of the night. Can you guess who ate the whole thing? It wasn't me this time.



Dinner at Italian Wine Merchants with the Team

Recently, I was invited to a special wine and food pairing. The kind of thing I usually don't get invited to, mostly because I'm too busy going to bed at 9pm so that I can make practice the next morning.

However! I had special permission! And a "Get Out of Practice Free" card for the next day from none other than my coach, Scott. This does not happen often, folks. Trust me.

So I pulled myself together (as best as I could) and headed over to Italian Wine Merchants to celebrate Bill B.'s (a stand-out and extremely generous athlete on our team) birthday with a special wine and food pairing dinner.

We were given this handy-dandy guide to our food and wine, which included images of the wine labels (very helpful for those of us attracted by pretty pictures, like me).

We were also given a human guide – Philip – an extremely knowledgeable and patient gentleman who did his best to educate us about the selected wines.

I'm afraid Philip had his work cut out for him with a group of 10 hungry triathletes (seen below), but his efforts were admirable!

I will break the meal down for you in case you would like to try any of these pairings for yourself.

1. We began with a Champagne-Chardonnay, Salon 1997 Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and also an Edi Kante 2008 Vitovska from the Friuli-Venezia region of Italy. We sipped on these while we enjoyed our antipasto (pictured above). I particularly enjoyed the anchovies, which I had never had before. Watch out for a pizza recipe featuring them to come soon.

2. Then onto the whites: one from France and one from Italy: France was represented by a Burgundy-Chardonnay – Domaine Matrot 2008 Puligny-Montrachet 1erCru Les Combettes, while from Italy we had Fiorano 1993 No. 25 Bianco from Lazio. I must admit to really enjoying the spicy and earthy notes (pointed out by Philip) in the Fiorano.

We drank these fabulous whites while nibbling on a Roasted Swordfish with Spring Veggies and Warm Pappa Pomodoro:

A note about the Pappa Pomodoro. "Pappa" means "mush" in Italian. I thought it meant "Pope" but that's "Papá." However, this tomato mush deserves a sceptre and a "pope mobile" for transport because it was holier than thou. By which I mean awesome. Tangy, light and fresh with just the right amount of olive oil. The swordfish was also surprisingly white and and lean, not in the least oily or gray.

3. Next up - Pasta! Caserecci with Caponata and Black Pepper Fonduta which we enjoyed with two reds: Poggio de Sotto 1999 Brunello di Montalcino and Case Basse di Soldera 1999 Brunello di Montalcino. That last Brunello was a table favorite, full bodied and complex. It made friends at our table.

4. The pasta came with a side kick (or side dish, whichever you prefer), a Risotto with Local Ramps, Braised Rabbit and Mushrooms. Risotto can be a tricky dish to get right, but this one was the perfect consistency and creaminess.

And now a message from the table....

I think these were just my glasses....

5. But there's more: A Sirloin Steak with Arugula and Parmigiano which was paired with yet two more reds: La Spinetta 2004 Barolo Vigneto "Campé" and Sandrone 2004 Barolo Le Vigne.

This sirloin was perfectly cooked - a tender, juicy cut with just a drizzle of oil and a few shavings of parm. It was meaty perfection. And the Barolo's 1 and 2 were both heavy hitters, well matched.

6. We did move onto dessert (I'm afraid my, um, camera stopped working at this point and I don't have a proper photo...) A glorious flourless chocolate cake paired with one of my favorite drinkables on this planet: Brachetto d'Acqui. I am so in love with Brachetto. I could drink it with a straw. And I would if someone would just hand over the darned bottle. This one was a Ca' dei Mandorli 2010. I smiled with every sip.

I did manage to snap a photo of the bathrooms. Everything was very well manicured and decorated with a warm Tuscan flair.

The next morning, being excused from practice, I went to work (slowly). I received a call from my coach Scott at around 11:30 am.

Scott: Where were you?

Me: You said I didn't have to show up!

Scott: To the bike. You were supposed to come to the run.

Me: (hysterical laughter at the very idea) Dude, I slept in my clothes.

Many thanks to Bill B (happy birthday, yet again!), my entire team, Italian Wine Merchants, and Philip for a fantastic evening.

Italian Wine Merchants
108 East 16th Street
(between Park Avenue South & Irving Place)
New York, NY 10003
Phone: 212.473.2323