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Entries in Jameson Fink (3)

Monday
Nov122012

An Italian Thanksgiving? Have Some Apple "Pie".

I'd like to discuss an oxymoron: Italian Thanksgiving.

As you know, Thanksgiving is an American Holiday. Italians have similar feast days of thanks, called Le Feste di Ringraziamento, but these are usually religious holidays, held at various times of the year.

Thanksgiving comes but once a year. And "thanks" be for that...there is only so much gin on the planet to appease Aunt Emily's tolerance for turkey. And speaking of turkeys, you most likely wouldn't find one on a table in Italy, as they are pretty hard to come by in that country.

Which brings me to my point: What we have here is an Italian-American Thanksgiving, and as such, it presents a challenge to John and myself. You see, our passion for Italian food extends to protecting the authenticity of its traditions....when and where is limoncello served? Why are rice dishes more popular in the North of Italy? And etcetera.

So where Thanksgiving is concerned, we really only have our Italian-American family traditions. However, many of these (except for serving Aunt Emily copious amounts of gin) are derived from actual Italian food and holiday traditions. And with Thanksgiving on the horizon, this is what we would like to focus on:

How to incorporate traditional Italian foods into your feast, giving your holiday some Italian flair.

And in true John and Elana fashion, I will begin with pizza.

I can't think of a dessert more American than apple pie, or more appropriate to Thanksgiving. Except when the "pie" in question is, in fact, a pizza pie. I think this is the beauty of pizza – its versatility. A traditional Southern Italian food, pizza has been adopted by American culture wholeheartedly (admittedly not always in the healthiest ways).

This particular "pie" is a true collision of Italian and American cultures. It combines an earthy whole wheat crust with farm fresh apples, thinly sliced gouda cheese, plump cranberries, fried sage and a smattering of honey.

This pie works as an appetizer, a wonderful addition to an antipasto plate, or as a sweet and savory dessert, to be served along side a selection of other cheeses and fruit.

Here's how you do it:

What You Need:

1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough (found here). This recipe makes 4-5 personal sized pizzas. You can also purchase uncooked pizza dough from your grocery store or local pizzeria.

3 apples, thinly sliced. Use what your local orchard is dishing out. I like Honey Crisp, but I also threw in some Golden Delicious and a tart Granny Smith.

1/4 Gouda cheese. You want something semi-soft.

1/4 cup dried cranberries

6-8 sage leaves, fried in olive oil and crumbled

honey - as much as you like

salt to taste

What To Do:

Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and heat to 500 degrees for at least a half hour prior to using it.

In the meantime, thinly slice the apples. I sliced mine to an 1/8" thickness. 

Next, slice the cheese.

You can also prepare the fried sage by heating tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, place in the sage leaves. They won't take long to fry, about 30 seconds or so. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to absorb the oil (like bacon!). You can crumble them with your hands, and once the pizza pops out of the oven, sprinkle them on top.

Sprinkle some semolina flour or cornmeal on a pizza peel and stretch out a pizza dough round to about 10-12" in diameter.

Place some of the apple slices down on the dough. Don't overload it with slices at this point, just about 8 should do it. 

Follow up with some slices of cheese, and then another layer of apples.

Don't make your pizza too heavy – save some toppings for the other pies! 

Sprinkle with a little salt and a handful of cranberries.

Drizzle with honey. 

Shimmy the pizza into the oven and bake for about 8 minutes. 

Using the pizza peel, remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle with a little more honey and sprinkle with the crumbled, fried sage.

Buon Appetito!

What You Should Drink:

I politely begged Jameson Fink of Wine Without Worry to give me a pairing recommendation for this pizza. Here is what he suggested:

When Elana asked for my help picking a wine to pair with pizza, I said, “No problem.” Tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni? Have a Chianti. Boom. Done! Then I actually paid attention to what she told me: a pizza topped with apple, gouda, cranberries and fried sage. Gouda grief! I’d have to put on my thinking cap.

In honor of Elana’s family heritage, I’m sticking with my initial thought of an Italian wine. And in honor of my personal penchant, I’m selecting a rosé. Which gives me the opportunity to go on a mini-wine rant. You think rosé is just for summer sipping? Let me give you my best John McLaughlin: WRONG! My pick, the 2011 “Il Chiaretto” from producer Azienda Agricola San Giovanni, has year-round charm and appeal. It’s from the region of Lombardy, not far from the lovely shores of Lake Garda. A refreshingly unusual blend of four grapes (Groppello, Marzemino, Barbera, and Sangiovese), it is pizza-ready.

So let’s take a look at Elana’s culinary creation, starting with the cranberries. (Especially since Thanksgiving thoughts are turning in my head.) A dry rosé has a reminiscent tartness; a fine match whether cranberries are a side dish or atop a pizza. And rosés also have a savory, slightly herbaceous quality perfect with crispy fried sage. Plus the acidity in the Il Chiaretto will play nice with crisp apple, and cut through the rich gouda to get you ready for another dang slice.

Last but not least, it comes in a squat, stubby, attention-getting bottle. Turns out it’s a bottle with a purpose. I asked Birk O'Halloran, who is a manager for the company that imports the wine (A. I. Selections), about the bottle. Here’s what Birk had to say:

When I spoke with [owner/winemaker] Paolo, he told me that by his calculations about 70% of the total carbon footprint of wine comes from the glass. The bottles he uses are about 30-40 grams less than a conventional bottle. This has been one of many ways he tries to minimize the carbon footprint of his wine. If you look on the back label you can find amount of carbon produced by the production of the wine. Since he has started recording it he has lowered it every year.

I would also add that this design makes it less difficult to knock over on a table crowded with pizza and friends.

Monday
Nov212011

A Few Educated Words on Finnriver Cider from Jameson Fink

I was exchanging some e-mails with Elana (probably pizza-related) when the topic of cider came up. "I know NOTHING about cider," Elana wrote. "Except that I like drinking it!" With such a willing spirit and thirst for knowledge (and cider), how could I resist the opportunity to answer the call for a guest post? I ran out of my house and hopped on a ferry to begin the journey to Finnriver Farm and Cidery on Washington State's Olympic Peninsula to learn more.

Let's start at the beginning: What apples are used to make cider? I turned to the man in charge of cider at Finnriver, Keith Kisler, who explained: "We use different types of apples for different types of cider. Granny Smith, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Pinova, Pink Lady, and Gravenstein make up the bulk of our base apples for our ciders. We blend traditional cider apples known as sharps, bittersweets, and bittersharps to varying percentages depending on what flavor profile we're going for. The higher acid dessert types of apples give a crisp, tart, light, green apple profile whereas the traditional cider apples give an earthy, tannic, complex, astringent, and sometimes spicy profile."

All these descriptors sound like what I would use to describe a wine; they are practically interchangeable. I asked Keith about some of the similarities between making cider and making wine: "I'm no expert, but from what I can tell making cider and wine are pretty similar. Both have many styles and approaches. It really comes down to taking fruit, getting the juice out of it gently, adding yeast or risking a wild fermentation, managing the fermentation correctly, racking off the lees, aging, filtering (in some cases), bottling, drinking." (Here is where I give Elana credit for understanding this vital, final step in the cider-making process.)

One of the preconceived notions about cider is that it's all sweet. Though grapes are sweet we don't assume that the resulting wine is going to be, but sometimes I think people are surprised by a dry apple cider. So I want to focus on two fantastic dry apple ciders from Finnriver.


The Artisan Sparkling Cider
is an example of how elegant a dry cider can be. It's made using the same technique as Champagne, where a secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle: Added yeast and sugar work together to produce bubbles. Unfortunately you are then left with the difficult task of getting rid of the resulting sediment. This process is definitely a labor of love at Finnriver, as each bottle is hand-turned (riddled) to slowly move the spent yeast (RIP, heroic yeast) to the top of the bottle. This sediment is then removed (disgorged) in a process that shoots it out like a rocket, and the bottle is quickly corked. While I was happy to attempt riddling, I was not keen on volunteering for this seemingly dangerous endeavor. (The danger being my fear of wasting cider with my clumsy, ungraceful movements.)

So what does all this extra hard work that secondary fermentation demands add to the finished cider? "It tends to have a yeastier, toasty flavor," Keith explained. In addition he noted how the carbonation is distinct: fuller, with a creamy foam (mousse), longer lasting in the glass, and with finer strings of bubbles (perlage). And as I'm sure by now Elana is wondering what to eat with this cider, Keith recommends spicy foods like Thai and any white fish with "light sauce or no sauce."

The Dry Hopped Cider
was really unexpected. With Washington State being such a powerhouse in hops production, I am intimately familiar with the intake of them on a regular basis in the form of beer. But in my cider? Two of my favorite worlds collide! And, as Keith said, it turns out this is pretty much how it came to be: "Farmers Jeff and Janet grow a small plot of hops for homebrewing and they threw some hops in a keg and we loved it. So we followed their lead and recipe and have experimented in minor ways but for the most part have stuck to the original recipe. We think of it as our transition cider for the IPA folks out there." So what is Keith pairing the dry with? "Popcorn with plenty of salt and nutritional yeast." (Naturally I applaud all popcorn and sparkling beverage recommendations.) Beyond popcorn? "Most any other food, especially in the afternoon summer sun barefoot after work. I love the dry hop cider."

So kick off your shoes let's enjoy some cider. I'll bring the popcorn.

Jameson Fink is the Wine Contributor at Foodista.

He responds to my occasional requests for blog contributions with grace, ease and exceptionally well-written and researched stuff. Not like I need to tell you that, you just read it. I have never met Jameson in person. We met on Twitter. This is the magic of Twitter. If you too would like to follow Jameson around on Twitter (I recommend it), you can find him here.

Thank you, Jameson!

Tuesday
Jun212011

Pair That White Burgundy with Chips – A Recommendation from Jameson Fink

Today we have something special for you. I have recruited a certifiable wine expert to recommend a pairing with my new favorite type of wine – White Burgundy. I first encountered this wine at Rouge Tomate on the Upper East Side, and was smitten. But it seemed like such a fancy-pants wine. And let's face it, folks, most days my pants are decidedly unfancy.

I wanted it to be approachable, every-day. So I approached one, Mr. Jameson Fink who is the Social Media Director and European Buyer for Esquin Wine Merchants. While his Twitter profile says he would rather be drinking Champagne and eating popcorn, I somehow convinced him to talk White Burgandy and potato chips.

Here is his knowledgable advice:

I'll admit that the majority of my wine dollars go towards cheap and cheerful whites, or what I like to call porch-pounders. I guzzle an ocean of zesty, bracing, dry whites with enamel-chipping acidity. (That last part maybe doesn't sound so pleasant, but I'm exaggerating for effect. Slightly.) But every now and then I like to pry open the coffers of Jameson, Inc. and have a wine with a little more richness and distinction. And nothing is fancier than Burgundy, exquisite French Chardonnay from hallowed grounds. If you turn up your nose at Chardonnay – and I've certainly drank enough examples from all over the world that make me extremely sympathetic to that position – I highly recommend finding a bottle from the world-wide HQ for the finest expression of the grape.

Burgundy is admittedly a wine region whose navigation is fraught with uncertainly and trepidation. And even if you work your way through the confusion, finally getting a grip on the geography and classification, you can still encounter disappointment. My best advice is to build a relationship with the employees at your neighborhood wine shop. I guarantee you that if you walk in and declare "Help me find good Burgundy"!" you just might make their day.

But  if you are shy (or stubborn) I'm going to give you a tip on how to get something memorable at a reasonable price: look for Bourgogne Blanc. What this means is that you're getting a Chardonnay from Burgundy made from grapes within anywhere in that demarcated region. You need to acquire some knowledge of good producers and, when you do, you'll find out that a lot of times they put some damn fine grapes from prestigious real estate into their basic Chardonnay. One of my favorites is Remoissenet. It's an extremely elegant, pleasurable Chardonnay with a judicious amount of oak for richness and plenty of acidity on the finish for refreshment. Impeccably balanced, which for me is the hallmark of truly fine wine. (Indeed.)

So you'd think if I'm going to multiply the amount of dough I normally spend on a white wine, I'm going to have something luxurious to eat as an accompaniment, no? Lobster? Crab? A rich risotto? A rich risotto with lobster and crab? Naaah. I'm picking up a bag of potato chips. Yup. Just the classic: potatoes, oil, and salt. No gilding the lily here. Something about starchy potatoes, with a bit of salt and fat, is so lovely with richer Chardonnay. (Or Chardonnay in sparkling form. Like a Blanc de Blancs Champagne.)  And after a hard day at work, isn't it nice to come home and know that all you need for dinner is a corkscrew? 

The man himself, Jameson Fink.

Thank you, Jameson! If you'd like to get more expert wine advice, including what Jameson is pairing with his vino, please check out the blog he writes for Esquin Wine Merchants here.

And all this fabulous photography is courtesy of Jackie Baisa. You can check out her website here.