We are getting ready for a wedding in our family, my step-daughter is getting married in September. Last week my husband and I had a pre-nuptial trip to Boise, Idaho for talks of wedding plans. This was all to be considered and discussed at a dinner which included my husband’s first wife along with the future parents-in- law, yikes! Decisions had to be made on apparel, cakes, invitations, shoes, music, relatives and ever-growing extended families. The evening was an interesting and diverse mix of people with varied relationships and ages spanning from 25 to 65. There were enough backgrounds and life events to fill a night’s conversations with entertaining and thought-provoking stories. No topic was out of bounds or taboo as we covered everything from the best way to ripen avocados to current affairs to wedding invitations. It was a great evening of fun, laughter and growth. As we were tidying up my step-daughter said to me, “wow, tonight was certainly an interesting blend”.
Which, of course, made me think about wine. Totally understandable as the evening had consisted of at least 4 different bottles of vino and they were-- blends. While some varietals like Pinot Noir or Chardonnay are best as a single varietal because blending can overwhelm the unique characteristics of thin-skinned grapes, many varietals suffer from this imposed solitary confinement. Wine blends often deliver increased complexity and are more interesting than single varietal wines. In fact, some of the world's greatest wines are made from a blend of grapes rather than a single varietal.
Some of the most prestigious wines in the world are blends. Bordeaux wines from the left bank of the Gironde River in France are typically blends of Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. When blending Bordeaux varietals in the U.S. they are known as Meritage blends.The pronunciation is often subject of debate but the correct usage rhymes with heritage.
Sassicaia is approximately 15% Cabernet Franc blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to create one of the most sought after and priciest Super Tuscan wines made.
Robert Parker of Wine Advocate described Castello di Amorosa ‘s Super Tuscan blend, La Castellana as “Full-bodied, lush and seductive”. La Castellana marries Sangiovese and Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon to create this blended masterpiece.
Blending gives the advantage and potential of adding complexity to the resulting wine and provides a tapestry of multiple flavors and aromatics. It also offers an opportunity to achieve balance-- the happy ‘marriage’ of fruit, acid, tannin, alcohol, and oak that makes great wines sing in perfect harmonic splendor and not-so-great wines seem full of wrong notes and missed opportunities.
People and grapes, we’re not so different.
Mikaela and Jon getting ready to embark in life as a blend, cheers to a happy marriage!
The great thing about a blog; I am able to write about whatever I am feeling or thinking or what may be inspiring me. Given the time of year and last week’s heat wave I considered an esoteric look at grilling and barbecue. But, in all honesty, the outdoor grill has never has been my forte. Cinco de Mayo had possibilities as cuisine from south of the border is infinitely more inspirational to me than a gas grill, a Weber or a hibachi--and practically anything made into a taco is delicious.However, as we approach Mother’s Day, I decided to take it home.
My Mom was a great cook which was no minor achievement for an Irish woman who married into an entirely Italian family. I’m not simply referring to pot roast or a weekday casserole. No, she was creative in her use of spices and seasoning. Mom was instinctively technically correct and taught me the importance of making food visually appealing before we had top celebrity chef royalty or cable networks devoted to food with culinary game shows and cooking competitions. As a child I would sit and play quietly each afternoon while my mom watched Julia Child or Graham Kerr aka The Galloping Gourmet. As they explained the dish featured on the episode she would comment “oooh, I think I will try that on Dad’s birthday” or “Julia is sure using a lot of cream today!”
My mom was also a great hostess and loved to entertain. Monthly cocktail parties were particularly exciting for me. Although I may not have sampled the libations, the yummy and abundant little treats made for the occasion were so tasty it was just cause for excitement-- especially if mom’s delicious mini meatballs were on the menu! I knew while the adults milled about, that evening I would host a private party of one with my own little array of goods. With a Shirley Temple stuffed with more cherries than liquid in hand, off I would go to my bedroom for an evening of sitcoms du jour and yummy bits from the gala. Mom checked on me to replenish my sustenance but eventually I would nod off to the sound of canned laughter from the TV and the comforting banter of my parents and friends enjoying a festive evening in the background.
I guess I inherited mom’s love of entertaining and hopefully, her talent of being a great hostess as I have the distinct joy and pleasure of entertaining guests at the Castello on the 'Royal Paring', a food and wine pairing experience. With one of the most beautiful settings in the world as my backdrop, and at times with a lump in my throat, I envision my mom smiling and nodding with approval at a job well done.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Italian Style Chicken Mini Meatballs
1.5 pound ground chicken 90% dark meat preferred (or Italian chicken sausage removed from casing)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan style cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons dried or 1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried or 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 TBSP sea salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 -2 Tbs fennel seed
¼ C seasoned Italian bread crumbs (optional, use more grated parm if no bread crumbs used)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken, grated cheese, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes, fennel and bread crumbs. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Measure mixture into approximately 1.5-ounce portions. Shape or scoop into rounds and place the meatballs in individual, miniature muffin tin cups. Bake for 15- 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Serving suggestions: Toss in a light marinara before serving and sprinkle with additional cheese.