Archives for posts with tag: wine

The weather in New York is finally starting to turn and there are some days that truly feel like autumn. Colder temperatures always remind me of comfort food (or, okay, I am reminded of comfort food any time I am hungry, any day of the year, fine), I think because a lot of comfort foods take the warm and gooey approach to comfort.

But just because I want to cram seventeen triangles of grilled cheese (no crusts, please!) into my mouth doesn’t mean I can’t do it with a little sophistication. It’s times like these when Boyfriend turns out to be particularly useful, being a sommelier and whatnot. Listed below are four of my favorite comfort foods, as well as Boyfriend’s suggestions for wine pairings.

1. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Who doesn’t love this combination? This is the first thing you can eat after you’ve been sick for a week. It’s the meal you go for on the second night of a snow storm when you’ve been stuck in your apartment and are running out of food and sanity. It’s the thing you can eat the day you move into a new apartment and can’t find any cooking utensils. This is not your favorite party dress; this is your favorite sweatshirt that you will wear and cherish until the threads literally fall off your body.

Personally, I am fond of Heinz’s Cream of Tomato Soup and the most basic grilled cheese available. I am all for upscale takes on comfort classics; Daniel Boulud, one of my culinary heroes, has arguably made a career out of this. But to me the wonderful thing about comfort foods is that they do not require creativity or sophistication to be satisfying. Butter up that Wonder Bread and layer on as many slices of Kraft American as you dare. Yum.

Boyfriend’s Pairing: I would have this with a demi-sec Vouvray.  Made from 100% Chenin Blanc and coming from France’s Loire valley, Vouvry’s are often made in an off dry style exhibit aromas of fresh orchard fruit, earthy wool, and honey.  This all underscored by a beautiful crisp acidity that keeps the wine refreshing rather than cloying.  I think it would cut through the heaviness of the cheese and highlight the sweetness of the tomatoes.
His pick? Huet ‘Le Mont’ Demi-Sec Vouvray, 2008

2. Mac & Cheese

I’m not going to dwell on this dish, since I just posted about a cheeseburger chili version of this comfort food staple. However, true to its comfort food classification, it’s hard to mess this one up. Cook some pasta (multiple shapes work!), throw some cheese in there, get it all melty, broil it for a bit to get that perfect crusty top layer, and voila.

Boyfriend’s Pairing: Why not turn to Italy for this delicious bastardization of their culture [editor’s note: What?? Mac and cheese is not a bastardization of anything. Anyway, carry on…].  I say go with a beautiful Gavi di Gavi.  Made from the Cortese grape and hailing from the north of Italy in Piedmont, these wines exhibit crisp citrus tones and enough weight to stand up to butter and cheese laden macaroni.
His pick? Broglia Gavi di Gavi 2009

3. Tuna Melt

Are you sensing a trend? Perhaps that melted cheese is the express lane to the well of happy, safe, loving feelings we constantly try to capture by stuffing our faces with food? Well anyway, I always make the tuna salad with extra mayo, relish, and diced red onion. I vary on the cheese, and have been known to dump something French and creamy such as Brie or Camembert on top, but similar to my feelings about grilled cheese, this is not a moment for food snobbery. Toss me that individually-wrapped Kraft single and I’ll be a happy camper.

Boyfriend’s Pairing: Here we turn to one of my favorites: Savagnin.  A grape cultivated in the Jura, usually in Arbois or L’Etoile, and, depending on the producer, made in an oxidative style.  If you find an oxidative one, you’re likely to be surprised by how salty it seems to taste.  These wines are big on chesnut and pinenut aromas with an almost salty taste, perfectly suited to a tuna melt.
His pick? Puffney Arbois 2005

4. PB & J

This is less one of my personal favorites (go ahead, I’m ready for backlash), but I recognize that for many people, it has powerful comfort food allure. Go classic with more Wonder Bread, JIF (creamy or crunch?), and Smucker’s strawberry jam. Dress it up with some whole grain or whole wheat bread, homemade peanut butter, and an unusual jam. Recently I made cherry-ginger jam and raspberry-basil jam. They both turned out pretty well; you want about a 1:2 sugar-to-fruit ratio by volume, plus whatever other little bits of flavor you want to throw in there.

Boyfriend’s Pairing:Boal Madeira is one of the sweeter grapes used in the production of Madeira, but it’s not over the top.  Boal madeira’s tend to be off dry with nutty elements to them and hints of baked fruit.  A perfect pairing for a PB&J.
His pick? D’Oliveiras Boal Madeira 1977

So go forth and pair your comfort foods with confidence! You’ll likely be saving money on the food, so go ahead and splurge on the wine. Hint: if you’re looking for a particular bottle, check out websites like Wine Searcher to locate a store.

I usually like to post about my nobler cooking and dining experiences, but no one is perfect all the time and even the most pretentious foodie has his or her dark moments stuffing junk food down their throats, perhaps late at night in a secluded room. Last night I did not sink that far, but it was certainly an interesting evening that involved a lot of unnecessary egg carnage and a very messy kitchen.

It started innocently enough. I came home from work and decided to use up some of the vegetables lying around the refrigerator. So I threw mushrooms, broccolini, green beens, carrots, and celery in a pan with a little a lot of butter, some garlic, and some white wine. While that bubbled away on one burner, I started another pot to poach my egg (Egg count: 1). A few minutes later, I had a plate of beautiful veggies with a perfectly poached egg lying on top. For anyone who watches Top Chef All Stars, I could not agree with so-called “egg slut” Wylie Dufresne more: “The yolk is nice and runny, just the way we like it.” I love warm, runny yolk. It was a simple, strange dinner, but also tasty.

I ate my food, relaxed on the couch, chatted with roommate Becca when she arrived home, and thought that my culinary adventures for the night were over. How wrong I was. Around 11 pm, dear roommate Nick decides to grace us with his presence. Let me remind you that it is the season of holiday parties, and Nick had clearly participated to his fullest abilities in a holiday party open bar. Somewhere in the course of our weaving conversation, I mentioned that I had a poached egg for dinner. It was like a light bulb lit up inside his head.

“I’M GOING TO POACH AN EGG. RIGHT NOW.”

Several flags went off in my mind at this point. But, because I like to encourage my friends to follow their dreams and because I wanted a good laugh, I said, “Go for it.” The first several steps of this process actually went by without a hitch, and by the time the water started boiling I thought that perhaps this would not be such a catastrophic event after all. But then he started with the eggs.

First egg: actually a moderate success (Egg count: 2)

Second egg: Nick pokes the yolk open in the water, ruining it (Egg count: 3)

Third-Sixth eggs: Nick pokes the yolks open in the water, each time insisting that it’s somehow not his fault (Egg count: 7)

Seventh egg: I get frustrated and demonstrate how to poach an egg. I’m sure being sober helps. (Egg count: 8 )

At this point I wander out of the kitchen, thinking that Nick will happily eat the egg that was actually poached and call it a night. But after a suspiciously long time had passed, I went to check on him again and saw that two more eggs (Egg count: 10) had met unfortunate ends in Nick’s Pot of Death. Nick was happily scooping remains of the massacre out of the pot and collecting them on a plate. It was an unappetizing mess, but he ate every last bite.

You may have noticed that we are two eggs short of a dozen still. Well that is because after watching the carnage of Nick’s zealous poaching, I got hungry again. I know, this is confusing because all his eggs looked so gross, but it is the sad and embarrassing truth. So I pulled out some of the leftover mushrooms from my first dinner of the night, threw them in a pan with butter and the last two eggs I whisked together, and made an omelette. Add ketchup and hot sauce, and that, my friends, is how to use (waste?) a dozen eggs in one night.

Thanksgiving dinner has to be one of the best meals of the year: the mountains of food, the copious amounts of wine, the trips home to see family. But as wonderful as all those things are, I often find myself thankful for my friends on this particular day of reflection. With similar thoughts in mind, my friend Alice and her roommate Meg came up with a brilliant plan to host an early Thanksgiving dinner so we could celebrate the holiday with our friends.

(Image courtesy of Nick Northrup)

So this past Saturday I woke up, made some cranberry sauce, and hauled myself out to Bushwick. Guests brought a variety of cheeses, crackers, and wines, some much better than others (I brought a few bottles of Asti Spumante, which Alice promptly guzzled). We encountered the very real and daunting fear that we would become too full on cheese and not have enough room for the actual dinner, but being the motivated and ambitious individuals we are, we somehow persevered.

The chosen bird, fondly referred to as Hugo, was delicious. Meg, Alice, and Rob slaved over Hugo the whole day, carefully dressing him, stuffing him, and basting him. Once finished, the spread was impressive: turkey, stuffing, tomato potatoes (ask Rob, I prefer to lather my potatoes in butter and cream), cranberry sauce, kale salad, sweet potato casserole, yams, and possibly other delicious dishes that I then forgot during my subsequent food coma.

After dinner the night unraveled into a wine- and gravy-soaked bacchanal, but I remain impressed by dinner. Growing up, I always assumed that at some point between college and the real world, I would suddenly inherit Adult Knowledge. Things like using a real estate broker or building a stock portfolio or, in this case, making an entire Thanksgiving dinner. Over the past two years, I have realized that becoming an adult is a much different kind of process. You don’t take a class to learn how to make Thanksgiving dinner. One day you just have to wake up and do it. Although this particular dinner was a group effort (that I personally did not put that much effort into, if we’re being honest), it was still a more delicious meal knowing that we made it ourselves. When I go home in a few weeks, my parents’ turkey will taste even better because I’ll be at home and it will actually be Thanksgiving and, well, it was cooked by my family. All the same, I applaud Alice and Meg for being delightful hostesses who took the plunge and gave us our first taste of Thanksgiving adulthood.