We didn't have any plans for the holiday weekend, but we heard that our favorite local winery (Fabbioli Cellars) was having a 10% case discount, so we decided to do a little wine trip.
We started with Fabbioli, and got a tasting. Apparently it's been 4.5 years since we last went out there, crazy. We normally just order online or through Whole Foods. In that time, their tasting price has gone up from $5 to $15, and the pours are much smaller. But they now include a small bite of food with each wine, encouraging you to sip, eat, and then sip again to taste the difference. I loved that. And the bites were delicious, too! So I'd say it all works out for the better. The tastings are still run in small groups, so that you get personalized attention, and our girl was very friendly and knowledgeable.
The first wine was Una Pera - a sweet white made with Asian pears (they actually place the bottle around a young pear and let it grow inside the bottle, it's pretty cool). This was paired with a pea puff topped with honeyed goat cheese and a sweet potato crisp.
Next was Something White (a joke from people asking the owner when he was going to start making "something white") - a Viogner and Vidal Blanc blend, paired with mascarpone and sea salt caramel on a cracker.
The first red was a light Sangiovese, that is good for hot weather and as a table wine - pared with grilled asparagus and garlic cheddar, wrapped in prosciutto.
Next was a dry Zinfandel (our least favorite), paired with a roasted beet crisp and salted ginger thyme butter.
The Tre Sorelle was also dry - Jasper liked it, I didn't. It was paired with goat cheese, rosemary, and smoked sundried tomato on a saltine.
The first of the dessert wines was the Raspberry Merlot, made with raspberries grown on property. I'm fond of this sweet table wine, Jasper is not. It pairs beautifully with chocolate, and the bite they provided us was, in fact, a dark chocolate truffle.
Last was Jasper's favorite (he orders it by the case, and has been known to drink a whole bottle in one evening) - Rosa Nera, a black raspberry port. They served it with a lemon honey truffle - I wouldn't have thought to go with such a bright lemon flavor, but it really worked.
I love the small bite tasting idea, it makes me really want to host a tasting at my house and do something similar.
We brought some salami and cheese with us, to have a picnic lunch before moving on to the next winery. We got a late start, and spent so long at Fabbioli, that we only got to visit one other place before heading home.
That place was Sunset Hills Vineyard, which Jasper chose because it had won some awards. It was hopping when we arrived - people camped out everywhere, picnicking, listening to live music, playing frisbee. The grounds are large and beautiful, so it's a great place to hang out, plus they had a BBQ truck! There was a wedding going on in the main building, too.
The tastings were in a barn-like structure with some big fans that I appreciated greatly in the heat, making it shaded and breezy. They were $10 and featured 6 wines. Unfortunately, we weren't a fan of any of them. There was one white that I liked (Sunset White - tasted like a sweet Gewurztraminer) and one red that both of us liked (the Cabernet Franc blend), but not enough to warrant buying anything or returning to the winery.
They had these big frozen slushee machines making "wineritas" with Chardonnay and margarita mix. So I tried one of those and it was actually pretty good. We also got some ribs at the BBQ truck and they had good flavor, but weren't very tender. So I think this would be a fun spot to have some wineritas with girlfriends and listen to live music, but it's not really worth it for the wine alone.
It's time for another collaboration with Smells Like Brownies (although we actually made this back in June, oops!) - not vegetarian this time, but rather pescetarian. A hearty tomato based broth filled with all kinds of seafood - Cioppino. Melissa actually chose this dish for her blogging group, the Secret Recipe Club. For more info on that, check out her post here.
Making the broth takes up the most time in this recipe, but you want to let it simmer and develop deep flavor, so it's worth it. Olive oil, garlic, shallot, oregano, and a bay leaf go in first; followed by bell pepper, tomato paste, and red wine. Oh yeah, and red pepper flakes - watch it here, this is where you determine your spice level. Next comes canned tomatoes in their juices, clam juice, lemon juice, and veggie broth (not stock). Let it do it's thing for 30 minutes before adding in some mussels.
I meant it when I said this soup was full of all kinds of seafood. While the mussels simmer away; prep the rest of the seafood - scallops, red snapper (or something similar, like halibut), and shrimp. Who knew a bunch of raw seafood could look so pretty?
After the rest of the seafood is cooked through, top with fresh basil and parsley and dig in. Serve with some crusty bread for dipping and eat right away! This Italian stew is perfect for any time of year - hearty and warming, but not heavy - so enjoy!
So, I'm kind of obsessed with the new shopping area called Mosaic District, I spend a lot of time there. It has a lot of restaurants, but not many of them are sit-down type places. Of the few that are there, I like Matchbox the best. The food is good, the drinks are decent, and it's right next to the movie theater. For these reasons, it tends to always be crowded. But don't let availability on Open Table fool you - every single time it has claimed to have no reservations, we have walked in and been seated in less than 15 minutes. It's billed as a pizza joint, but more than half the menu is other types of food. I'd say it's pretty comparable to Chef Geoff's, but in a better location.
One thing that is pretty cool is that they have wines on tap, so you can order by the glass pretty easily. But what's even cooler is a deal with Swirl and Sip where if you buy a bottle of wine from them, Matchbox will waive the corkage fee!
This is one of my favorite pizzas - the prosciutto and black mission fig with black pepper, arugula, and honey.
Another favorite (for Jasper, as well) is the chicken pesto pizza.
This is the crab and avocado salad with roasted corn and tarragon aioli.
This month for Food 'n Flix our movie is Bridesmaids, hosted by Cheap Ethnic Eatz. This movie is hysterical, with a lot of heart. I've seen it multiple times and I still lose it during the scene where the main character drives back and forth in her car doing various illegal things to get her cop friend's attention.
Kristen Wiig plays a woman whose bakery fails because of the economy crash. There is a very memorable scene of her making a gorgeous single cupcake and then chowing down on it. So I knew that I definitely wanted to do a cupcake for this post. There is also a lot of drinking in the movie, so I thought - what about a boozy cupcake? Perfect.
I ended up making Moscato Cupcakes with sweet wine in both the cake and the frosting - so good. Though I made a lot of changes to my inspiration recipe - subbing half melted butter and half coconut oil for vegetable oil, subbing vanilla sugar for regular sugar, and subbing whey (from all that cheesemaking) for buttermilk. I also made a simple syrup from equal parts moscato and vanilla sugar to brush over the warm cakes to boost the flavor. And I used half cream cheese and half butter in the frosting (I'm not a big fan of too sweet frosting).
I actually ate here a while ago, but the experience was so bad that I have been putting off writing about it for a long time. Vinifera is located inside a Westin hotel near Reston. I decided to head out there for some wine and tapas before picking my husband up at the airport, and it ended up being a huge mistake.
I sat out on the patio, which was totally gorgeous, but it took 20 minutes before I could flag down a waiter to take my order. I put in an order for a whole bunch of tapas at once, and also some wine. The wine arrived pretty quickly, but the food didn't even start arriving until 40 minutes later. 40 minutes!!! And then it was only the little one bite skewers; the rest of the food took even longer. That is totally unacceptable. And the food wasn't even that good. Less than average, I would say, and I tried a whole range of things. I won't even break down for you what I ordered, because it was all so forgettable. The $1-2 "pintxos" seemed like a great bargain, but they are literally tiny toothpick bites like you would find passed around at a party. Tiny, not that good, not worth $1-2 each, and definitely not worth a 40 minute wait. The rest of the food (and wine) was also overpriced.
I would maybe, MAYBE, say that it would be a nice place to grab a glass of wine on the patio, but not if you are on any kind of a timeline and watch out for a steeper than average mark-up.
Pot roast is a pretty standard American meal. Many folks have their own recipes that they love. But just in case you don't, here's mine! An herb crusted beef roast goes into a pot with potatoes, veggies, red wine, and beef stock until it is super tender - yum.
First step - rub that beef. Combine kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning to make a rub. Sprinkle over and press into the meat.
The you are going to brown those veggies and sear that beef. Heat olive oil in a heavy dutch oven until very hot. Then add an onion and carrots and cook until really browned. Remove the veggies temporarily, add more oil, and sear the beef on all sides. Then take that out, too, because you need to deglaze.
You should know by now how much we love Marcel's - the restaurant where we got engaged and where we spend many of our special occasions (previous posts here and here). So when I saw a post about an amazing looking wine dinner on their Facebook page, I immediately called and made reservations. The dinner was four courses (plus Amuse and cheese) designed to pair with seven wines from Grapes of Spain, a Spanish wine importer with a focus on new talent and modern wines. Grapes of Spain president Aurelio Cabestrero, and winemakers Javier Candon and Isaac Fernandez were in attendance. For each pairing, we were given an in-depth description of the wines from the type of land the grapes are grown on, to how they are harvested and prepared, to the tasting notes. It was incredibly informative and a lot of fun, especially as we got to know the other people at our table. The best part? These wines are incredibly reasonably priced, I would even say cheap - most were between $15-$20 a bottle! And we got a discount for being at the dinner, and an even bigger discount for buying a case (mix and match, too). Such an insanely great deal!
Without further ado, I present to you the pairings:
Amuse Bouche - Lobster Egg with Osetra Caviar. This was a lobster bisque topped with custard and caviar, served in an egg shell - delicious.
Biutiful Cava Brut Rose NV - 100% Garnacha. A delicate, subtle, dry, sparkling rose with notes of raspberry and citrus.
First Course - Diver Scallop Tartine, Aged Sherry Shallot Butter, Smoked Trout Roe. Excellent, my favorite course.
Adras Godello 2012 - 100% Godello. My favorite wine of the night - earthy and funky like my beloved French whites, but with more floral and citrus notes making it super balanced and perfect for pairing with food.
Second Course - Saddle of Rabbit Stuffed with Cumin Scented Rabbit Sausage, Butternut Squash Puree, Chanterelle Mushrooms. Very earthy and yummy (I think we can acknowledge that all the courses are going to be yummy). I was starting to get tipsy already at this point, yikes!
Adras Mencia 2012 - 100% Mencia. A light bodied but velvety fruit-forward red.
Third Course - Breast of La Belle Farms Duck, Duck Confit, Valrhona Chocolate, Brandied Cherries. I really liked this course, and boy were those cherries boozy!
Acentor Garnacha 2012 - 100% Garnacha Tinta (Red Grenache). Dry and spicy, Jasper preferred this wine with the duck (and overall - it was his favorite). We both thought it was the most drinkable of all the wines (meaning on it's own, not necessarily with food).
Bovale 2011 - 100% Bobal. Jammy with ripe berry and chocolate notes. I thought this was the better pairing with the duck because of the chocolate in the dish, but I was definitely in the minority at the table.
Fourth Course - Herb Brioche Encrusted Rack of Border Springs Lamb, Scarmoza Polenta Cake, Madeira Lamb Jus. I think I ate this really fast because I needed food at this point, haha.
Finca La Mata 2011 - 100% Tinta del Pais (Tempranillo). Medium-bodied and fruit-forward with depth. Very satisfying, but not a standout in this group, especially since it was more classic versus unusual.
Arrocal Selection 2010 - 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo). This was deep and rich with notes of black cherry, vanilla, and spice. This wine was the outlier in terms of price point - at $40 it is well above the others.
Cheese - Reblochon Cheese Cake with Green Gauge Plums. There was no wine paired with this course, so we all took our time finishing whatever we hadn't been able to yet.
Then came a few petite fours and the filling out of the order forms. The wines were ready to pick up in just a few days. We got ours yesterday and I am so excited! The dinner was lovely and I highly recommend looking to see if any of these wines are available near you. The quality is wonderful on they're own, but paired with the price they're unbeatable.
The January pick for Food 'n Flix is the 1987 Danish film Babette's Feast (now included in The Criterion Collection), chosen by Culinary Adventures with Camilla. This is the story of two deeply religious and puritanical sisters who live on the remote coastline of 19th Century Denmark. They give up much in their lives in order to live the way that they were raised and to help the people of the village. Late in their lives, a French refugee comes to stay with them for many years and cooks them a fabulous meal to thank them. The sisters and villagers are afraid to give in to the decadence of the meal, but it ends up healing many of their wounds and rifts. It is a story about the healing power of food and how it can show love and thanks.
The food cooked in the movie is quite extravagant and I didn't think I could take on turtle soup or quail stuffed with foie gras and truffles, so instead I decided to just go French in general. I must have been influenced by all the soup that the Danish villagers ate (and the stew meat in my freezer), because I made a French stew with beef and red wine - cooked low and slow in a crockpot.
Beef is seasoned with salt and pepper and placed into a bowl with onion, garlic, shallot, celery, carrot, thyme, bay leaves, and lemon zest.
This is the fun part - a whole bottle of red wine is poured over the ingredients and then left to marinate (refrigerated) overnight. The wine is the stock for this stew, and the flavor permeates everything. So make sure that you use a good one! I suggest a Cotes du Rhone for this.
As a thank you to all the bloggers and media folks supporting their events, DC Wine Week hosted an invitation only brunch at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar. The space is very cool - a three story townhouse with big windows and modern decor.
There were three sparkling wines available for tasting: Ca'del Pucino Prosecco, Lovisolo Brut Nebbiolo Spumante Rose, and Opera Lambrusco. The Lambrusco was our favorite - a sparkling red with raspberry notes that reminded us of our favorite black raspberry port from Fabbioli.
Small bites of brunch food were served buffet style. This was a sneak peek at the new brunch menu at Sonoma, just for us!
On the menu were roasted baby beet skewers, prosciutto wrapped melon, French toast bites with apple and cinnamon, cured meats, and cheeses with homemade fruit spreads. The big item on the buffet was a breakfast "burger" - with a house-made sausage patty, bacon, and Cabot white cheddar on a house-made bun.
Everything was very tasty so I would love to check out the regular brunch menu, or the dinner menu, or any menu - why isn't this place in NoVA?!
And that brings us to the end of DC Wine Week! We had a great time and will definitely be participating next year. I hope to see you there!
What's your favorite wine bar? Leave your answer in the comments.
Wednesday night's DC Wine Week event was an outdoor wine tasting at the Italian Ristorante I Ricchi. Venders offered tastings of 16 Italian wines, plus 2 full glasses of your choice. Cheese and charcuterie were served, as well as a few grilled dishes, while Chef Ricchi herself made the rounds to talk with guests.
Chef Ricchi managed a family restaurant in Tuscany for close to two decades, before coming to DC to open a restaurant here in 1989. She serves authentic, rustic Tuscan food and creates events like the weekly Women's Club - where women can enjoy 50% off while they network. We really enjoyed talking with her about Tuscany, where we spent our honeymoon.
The grilled food we were served at the event consisted of a decent chicken skewer and an outstanding bean and sausage dish. The later contained white beans with tomato and rosemary, served with a grilled sausage and a stick of (addictive) fried polenta.
The wines served were as follows:
Prosecco – Canella N/V
Ribolla Gialla Sparkling - Colutta
Lambrusco Amabile - Ca’ Montanari
Vernaccia di San Gimignano – Montenidoli
Pinot Grigio – Jermann
Chardonnay – Antica, Antinori
Soave Classica – Suavia
Greco di Tufo – Loggia Della Serra
Valpolicella Classico – Nicolis
Dolcetto – Marcarini Boschi di Berri
Il Bruciato – Guado al Tasso, Antinori
Chianti Classico – Il Molino di Grace
Cabernet Sauvignon – Antica, Antinori
Col Solare – Antinori/Chateau Ste. Michelle
Barbera d'Asti – Damilano
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Fattoria del Cerro
The standouts for us were the Soave Classica (a funky, earthy white) and the Col Solare (predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec). We were offered the opportunity to purchase the showcased wines at a discount from Schneider's of Capitol Hill.
The weather was gorgeous, the piazza was lovely, and the wine was flowing - truly a lovely night.