Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine

Here’s another great recipe from Candle 79 Cookbook: Modern Vegan Classics from New York’s Premier Sustainable Restaurant by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos, and Jorge Pineda (Ten Speed Press).

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole nutmeg, halved
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 dried chipotle chiles
  • 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 cup drained canned or jarred chestnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 8 cups water
  • Balsamic-Caramelized Pears
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or safflower oil
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Sea salt

Serves 6 to 8

  1. Put the cinnamon stick, nutmeg, lemongrass, cardamom pods, ginger, and chipotle peppers in cheesecloth. Knot securely or tie with string and set aside.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leek and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the squash, chestnuts, sage, cheesecloth pouch, and water. The water should cover the squash by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, cover, and simmer until the squash is tender and falls apart, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

  3. To make the caramelized pears, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the pears and sauté for 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium and stir in the maple syrup, cinnamon, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the pears are soft and the liquid becomes syrupy and coats the pears. Set aside to cool.

  4. To finish the soup, remove the cheesecloth pouch and discard. Add the maple syrup and salt to taste. Transfer the soup to a blender and process until smooth, or process the soup in the pot with an immersion blender. If the soup seems too thick, add a bit more water.

To serve, gently reheat the soup, taste, and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with the caramelized pears, and serve warm.

Reprinted with permission from Candle 79 Cookbook: Modern Vegan Classics from New York’s Premier Sustainable Restaurant. Copyright © 2011 by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos, and Jorge Pineda. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA. Photo credit: Rita Maas.

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Goat Cheese Grits with Rosé Wine

Despite their versatile, fruity flavor, rosé wines are often overlooked. France is the leading producer of rosés, but Spain, Portugal, Australia, Italy and the United States also offer plenty of varieties. The warmer weather of spring and summer is the perfect opportunity to uncork a bottle of this so-called “patio-wine” to enjoy with a meal.

These wines range from sweet to dry, and with a lower alcohol content and high acidity they are easy to pair with a wide range of dishes. Since rosé wines are produced from the same dark grapes as red wine, consider the body of the grape when making a selection. Something to keep in mind – the lighter the color, the lighter the taste. It’s fantastic with spicy foods like curries, but it works equally well with backyard barbecue fare. It also complements egg dishes like omelets and frittatas quite nicely and would be a great wine to serve at a summer brunch. A tart goat cheese perfectly balances the fruitiness of the wine. 
Here’s a recipe for goat cheese grits that would be great with poached eggs and a colorful salad.


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked grits (quick-cooking is best)
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup goat cheese
  • pepper to taste


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add salt and grits, stirring constantly.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until thick. Stir occasionally to avoid clumps.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in goat cheese and pepper, if using. Serve warm.

Serves 8

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Spring Sparklers & Mango Sorbet

Spring has finally sprung and summer is right around the corner. What better reason to celebrate? Sparkling wines are the perfect pour for a festive gathering and can be paired with all kinds of seasonal favorites, from appetizers to entrees to desserts.

Drier varieties are fantastic with cocktail-hour offerings like spring rolls, mini crab cakes, and sushi. From there, you can branch out into dinner by pairing with poultry and light seafood dishes.

Sweeter sparkling wines are perfect for dessert. You could go with something chocolate, but why not emphasize the crisp, coolness with something like fresh fruit or homemade sorbet? Below is a recipe for the easiest, most delicious mango sorbet you’ll ever have!

Simple Mango Sorbet

Serves 4


* 1 1-lb package frozen mango chunks or 1 peeled mango, chopped and frozen
* 1 tbsp lemon juice
* 1 tbsp honey, agave or sugar (optional)
* 1 cup rasberries, for garnish
* Mint leaves, for garnish


1. Place mango chunks, lemon juice, and sweetener (if using) in a blender or food process or blend until smooth.
2. Pour into large container (such as a 32-oz yogurt container) and freeze for at least 2 hours.
3. Take out 15-20 minutes before serving. Scoop into glasses or small bowls and garnish with raspberries and mint. Serve immediately.

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Here is our second recipe from 100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love that author Jill Silverman Hough wanted to share with our readers for summer.

Steak Salad with Tomatoes, Parmesan, and Dijon Vinaigrette
Pair with Zinfandel
From “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love” by Jill Silverman Hough (Wiley, 2010)

You can definitely enjoy red wine with salad, especially if it’s a hearty salad like this one, where although the portions are light, the flavors are bold. Ingredients that help make the bridge to Zinfandel include not only the grilled steak but also the bright vinaigrette, playing off the acid in the wine, and the slightly bitter radicchio, playing off the tannins.

Serves 6

  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press or minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese
  • 12 ounces boneless sirloin steak or flank steak, about 3/4 inch thick
  • 6 cups loosely packed mixed salad greens (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 head radicchio, halved, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch shreds (you should have 2 3/4 to 3 cups)
  • 9 cherry tomatoes, halved

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, whisking to dissolve the salt. Whisk in the olive oil. Set aside. (You can prepare the dressing up to 3 days in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before serving.)

Use a vegetable peeler to cut the cheese into thick shaves (you should have about 1/3 cup). Set aside. (You can shave the cheese up to a day in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the grill to high heat and lightly oil the grate. Sprinkle the steak with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Grill to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove the steak from the grill and let it rest, loosely covered with foil, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the greens, onion, and radicchio with about half of the dressing. Arrange the mixture on a platter or on individual plates, dividing it evenly.

Cut the steak across the grain diagonally into thin slices. Arrange the steak and tomatoes over the greens. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, sprinkle with the cheese, and serve.

Copyright Jill Silverman Hough. All rights reserved.

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The other week we reviewed 100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love and the author, Jill Silverman Hough, wanted to share some recipes with our readers that would be great for summer. First up is her Cold Peach and Mango Soup Shooters which she pairs with a Gewürztraminer.

Cold Peach and Mango Soup Shooters
Pair with Gewürztraminer
From “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love” by Jill Silverman Hough (Wiley, 2010)

This soup is just charmingly fun. It’s pretty, it’s tasty, and it’s easy to make. A gulp or two, served in a little glass, makes for a quick, refreshing treat.

For best results, make it in the summer when fresh peaches are in season. In a pinch, you can use frozen fruit, but make sure it’s unsweetened.

Serve the shooters at a standing-and-eating sort of party or as an amuse-bouche between courses. You can also serve the soup as a first course, which would be a great way to kick off a summery dinner party. If that’s your plan, double the recipe for six one-cup servings.

Makes 12 shooters (1/4 cup each)

  • 2 limes
  • 1 ripe freestone (the flesh doesn’t cling to the pit) yellow peach, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, or more to taste
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 12 fresh cilantro leaves

Zest the limes. Set the zest aside. Juice the limes to yield 3 tablespoons of juice. In a blender or food processor, combine the lime juice, peach, mango, buttermilk, orange juice, salt, and cayenne and process until very smooth, scraping down the jar or bowl as necessary (you may have to do this in batches). Transfer the soup to a container and chill for at least 2 hours. (You can prepare the soup up to 3 days in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator.)

Taste, ideally with your wine, and add more lime juice and/or salt if you like. Serve the soup chilled, each serving garnished with a cilantro leaf and some of the lime zest.

Food and Wine Tip:

If your fruit is particularly sweet, you might notice that the soup makes your wine seem a little sour. To fix this, just add more lime juice, a teaspoon or two at a time, until the soup and the wine nicely complement each other.

Copyright Jill Silverman Hough. All rights reserved.

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We were fed up with wine. It’s a bold statement for two people who are as passionate about wine as myself and Jonathan Russo, our OWJ publisher. But on a recent cold night, that’s why the two of us found ourselves at Resto, in New York’s Gramercy neighborhood, where we were about to have a beer experience like no other.

Resto is not your average Belgian mussels and frites joint. In fact, it so thoroughly changed my perception of Belgian cuisine that I have been telling anyone within earshot that they need to grab a seat at the bar, put your stomachs in their hands and enjoy the ride.

Several days before our meal, I called and asked owner Christian Pappinacholas if he had any beer that was made with natural yeasts or in a manner that would deem them worth reviewing. This is a common ploy I use to get Jonathan to pay for the meals. Little did I know, however, that owner Christian has an armada of “natural” beer. This is a tough job people but someone has to do it.

We started with something called Deus. Christian explained that it was a beer from Flanders made in the Methode Champenoise – the Champagne Method for those playing along at home, which simple means the secondary fermentation happens in the bottle. It was made with natural yeast and had a wonderful hazelnut aroma and was slightly spicy. It was a great way to start our decent into oblivion… I mean, tour of fine Belgian beers.

Up next was t’Gaverhopke Singing Blonde. This beauty had a whopping 9.8 % alcohol content and was very fruity on the nose, nicely balanced and was slightly sweet. By now, our blood alcohol level was quickly rising so we were very happy when our Chicory Salad arrived, complete with crispy pigs’ears, yellow beans, soft egg and a warm guanciale vinaigrette.

How a proper critic takes notes on beer.

With things heating up and a mad scientist look in Christian’s eyes, we moved on to an ale that was 100% organic, 10.5% alcohol and was called Piraat or “Pirate.” This was crazy, and I mean crazy in a good way. It smelled like bananas on the nose but was finely balanced between being rich, bitter and just extraordinarily tasty. This was the highlight of the night – or so said my scribbled notes when I recovered the next day – see the photo. This beer paired perfectly with the house made pappardelle, made with a warm porky ragu. Yes, I said porky.

Next up, we drank Orval which was another 100% organic beer made by Trappist monks in Luxembourg. It had a very floral and sweet nose that smelled like baked bread. Christian explained that the beer was made with brettanomyces (wild yeasts) that gave this beer a very unique and complex taste. With this naturally delicious beer, Christian rolled out their killer frites plate, complete with 10 different dipping sauces for the fries. It was just in time because my giddiness and dizziness was extremely happy to meet a plate of fried potatoes complete with their own sauces.

As a sidenote to the Orval, Christian opened a bottle of Westmalle Trappast ale and told us that Westmalle was the benchmark ale for all Trappast ales in Belgium. It was a stinker, full of skunk-like hops and very bitter notes but when you drank it, there was a very clean and sleek taste that just seemed to cleanse your palate and make you want more. I love drinks like this when eating rich food so it made perfect sense to have at towards the end of this killer meal.

Finally, Christian went above and beyond and opened a bottle of geuze from a producer called Cantillon. For those not familiar with geuze, it’s essentially a cross between beer and wine which is made from blending lambics that are 1 year old with ones that are 2-3 years old. This particular bottle was from 2005 and was called Iris. Jonathan noted that it smelled like “sour pumpkins” and I thought it smelled like an attic or more appropriately, like my Grandmother’s attic. It was musty, funky, dirty, and entirely unique. We were told that it was fermented from 100% barley and aged in oak casks and that this particular property had spiders that lived among the grounds to keep it free of certain pests. In a sense, this was the closest thing to biodynamic beer I would ever have.

As for the taste…? Honestly, I can’t remember. By this point, I was so thoroughly full and, um, happy, that anything else was just icing on an already sudsy, salty, fried delicious cake. I guess this means I’ll be going back to Resto in the near future and making sure to order the Cantillon first before things get too out of hand.

The Cantillon and the damage done.

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Kuma Inn

The first week of the New Year is the slowest one for restaurants. We eat out then to show support and take advantage of the lower crowd levels. We also wanted to ring in the year with a toast to one of our all-time favorite wine makers Tony Coturri. We made our way to Kuma Inn on Manhattan’s Lower East Side with two bottles of Coturri in hand, a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Bollens Vineyards and a 2007 Barbera from Testa Vineyards, both from California’s Mendocino County.

Kuma Inn is BYOB and enables one to pair away with abandon… what a joy. They serve Asian tapas, small plates of great food. The inspiration behind it is chef King Phojanakong, who worked with both David Bouley and Daniel Boulud. His mother is Filipino and his father Thai so fusion is in his DNA. We started out with a chuka salad; mixed seaweed, sesame and chilies and a plate of grilled baby octopus with pickled bamboo shoots. We opened the Barbera first. It was deeply luscious, fruity without any sweetness, ruby red and smoky. There was a perfect balance of acid and tannins that gave a silky mouth feel. The wine drank ripe and mature yet I think it could age for several more years. The consensus at the table was that the octopus was one of the best octopus dishes ever tasted, in any ethnicity; Spanish, Italian or Japanese. Soft and succulent, grilled to perfection with dense flavors of a balsamic reduction. The pickled shoots counterpointed the smooth flesh with a crunchy texture. There was joy in our mouths and smiles at our table as we experienced the tapas. Meanwhile the Coturri kept opening up with each minute and each bite.

Next, we chose three dishes: a Pancit bihon – stir-fried noodles with port sausage, bean sprouts and carrots, a pan roasted ocean scallops with bacon kalamansi and sake and finally sautéed tofu with Thai basil and wood ear mushrooms in spicy soy mirin. Out of control best describes this course and the Coturri Cab. Clean strong fruit greets you, then a rich smooth tar and leather feel rests on the tongue. A round smoky richness lingers too. Frankly by this time the dinner evolved (or degenerated depending on your point of view) into a series of sips and chews accompanied by grunts and hums of joy.

The food here is exquisite. I had lunch four days later at the justly acclaimed Momofuku and honestly the food at Kumma Inn is equal. The tastes and flavors are bold, innovative and utterly competent in their execution. The ingredients come together perfectly and the sauces are exquisite. This is a cash only second story joint. Ringing in the New Year with Tony Coturri and King Phojanakong augers well for drinking and eating in the coming decade.

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garden1 garden2 garden3 garden4

It worked. Seeds were planted. They sprouted. And today, the novice gardener ate her first pick of the season.

OK, for many of you out there, this is far less than a miracle. After all, humans have been growing food for around 12,000 years. But remember, I’m a child of the iceberg-in-plastic generation. For me, this is thrilling.

So far, the garden has been much easier than we thought it would be: plant seeds; give them water; watch them grow. However, my husband and I have made our share of mistakes. We accidentally ordered bright red—I’m talking screaming-scarlet—mulch for the aisles. Therefore, instead of the organic-hued rows we envisioned, we’re left with racing stripes. Worse, however, is that the spot we chose for the plot—right next to the house—doesn’t receive nearly as much full sunlight as we had thought (we fear the spinach might never make it past infancy). Oops.

Today, however, I’m feeling optimistic (and who doesn’t love baby spinach, anyway?). I just ate an unforgettable salad of freshly snipped arugula leaves tossed with a buttermilk and herb dressing. Delicate and sweet, peppery yet cool—nothing could taste finer.

I suspect that the salad would taste good even with grocery store or farmer’s market arugula. But, if you haven’t ever done so, try growing your own. You’ll see what I mean.

Arugula Salad with Buttermilk & Herb Dressing

This makes plenty of dressing, which can be used throughout the week if kept in a jar in the fridge (it also makes for a great marinade for poultry). For a smaller serving, cut the recipe in half.

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspooons honey
  • 2 garlic clove, smashed to a paste (or passed through garlic press)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh marjoram or basil
  • 2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch arugula
  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and let sit or 10 minutes at room temperature, or for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
  2. Drizzle the dressing (you won’t need it all) over the arugula and serve immediately.

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