Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photo sourced from http://www.grampashoney.com/tag/cheese-pairings/
Honey, I Love You
Something sweet is coming this Valentine’s and it’s not wrapped in a heart-shaped box. Rather, its golden, slow-flowing and dripping of sweet sappiness—giving way to a moment of je ne sais quoi. Perhaps Winnie the Pooh describes it best: “Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
-- Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner
The Greek gods called it ambrosia, because it was the nectar to restore youth, heal the body of its ailments, and provide pure ecstasy upon its touch to the lips. With all this considered, I will court a new romance this Valentine’s with a new cheese class at Red, White & Bleu wine shop in Falls Church. I will pair a multitude of honeys with cheese and wine. Honey represents the new food fad sweeping the nation, but its beauty is recalled by Pooh bear. We will revel in the moment of anticipation right before actual indulgence—that fleeting second when your mouth salivates, your heart flutters, and your mind soars on surges of euphoria. This reaction reminds me a bit of love, but in reality, it’s simply HONEY—artisan and varietal—and true to your heart. If you’ve never had this “Winnie the Pooh” moment, I insist you must discover the magic between honey, wine, and cheese—truly a meal for the gods.
These days, honeys are just as sophisticated as wines; and like wines made from different grapes grown in varying climates and soils, honeys are uniquely distinct and express the facets of a bee’s life, mainly its diet. Two classifications exist in the honey world: varietal and artisan. To define it in lay terms, a varietal honey comes from a single source, like raspberry honey or clover honey, or sumac honey or tupelo honey. On the opposite spectrum, an artisan honey is a blend of honeys sourced from different plants depending on the year and climate at hand. In other words, artisan honeys are more a melding of Mother Nature’s discretion.
In Virginia alone, over 2,000 hobbyists and professionals alike keep bees. If you visit the Loudon Bee Association http://www.loudounbee.org/honey_varieties.html, you will see over 50 varietal honey sources listed. Each spoonful of honey displays its own taste based on the weather during the season, the moisture in the soil, pest pressure, and the craftsmanship of the beekeeper himself/herself. If you can’t make this Valentine’s event, I encourage you to experiment at home. Visit the local farmer’s market, buy a varietal or artisan honey, seek out different cheese styles, and drizzle some amber ambrosia on your cheese concoction, followed by a sip of wine….visions of Aphrodite may appear.
For your Valentine, may I suggest some delectable pairings? Slice a green apple into slivers, cut a wedge of aged parmesan cheese, and drizzle a tad of truffle honey over the two and sip a nice Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, or anything red from Tuscany, Italy—truly divine! Or purchase a blue cheese, hard, soft, gooey, you name-it, any blue will do, and top smatterings of a mild-flavored, lightly-colored honey, such as clover or lavender honey and pair with a sweet Riesling or white dessert wine from Sauternes, France or from or Virginia wineries. Don’t be afraid to add some red grapes with your blue cheese and honey bites and pair with a bold California Cabernet Sauvignon. I promise this odd combo will blow your mind!
This Valentine’s join us at Red, White & Blue wine shop Sunday, February 12th for an instructional tasting of honey, cheese, and wine. Phone for details, and remember to say this year “Honey, I Love You!”
Christianna Sargent
Certified Sommelier
Advanced Certificate--
Wine & Spirits Education Trust
Association of Italian Sommeliers
French Wine Scholar

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Renewed Resolutions: a season in wine

 The New Year brings new ambitions, or rather renewed longings for resolutions forgotten. Either way, with holiday festivities quickly fading and Old Man Winter slumping on your stoop, I picture you clutching your wallet, foregoing those desserts, dining at home, and passing on the wine.  I must confess the first two weeks of January call for frugal routines, lean-mean exercise machines, and ultra-value sales at every retail venue imaginable. But when those initial two weeks leisurely pass and the temptations rise stealthily to the forefront of your mind, don’t deny yourself the pleasures of a healthy, satisfying diet and a reasonable entertainment budget. As the old adage goes, everything in moderation from fiscal fun, wines to splurge on, and bountiful dining habits homespun.
The trick to managing a healthy diet is consuming delicious wines (in moderation, of course) with heart-healthy, mouth-watering foods that don’t put a dent in your wallets. For instance, last night we went to deplete the pantry and fridge eliminating a trip from the store; after some thought, I whipped up some cauliflower mac-n-cheese with baked panko-breaded chicken breasts (recipes all sourced from the click of Google search). I uncorked a hearty little gem, Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel, that only set me back $10 (on-sale at Trader Joe’s!). Just the other night, we roasted a pork loin rubbed in whole-grain Dijon mustard, with some lemon juice sprits to liven it up (a recipe I plucked from Food and Wine magazine http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/alexandra-guarnaschellis-healthy-wine-pairings), and we paired it with Catena Malbec—another whopping delicious wine for $10 at your local grocer and around-the-corner wine shop! Just waiting for me in my basement is a $7 Chardonnay from Rex-Goliath that I can pair with asparagus and fettuccine tossed in a black-pepper chardonnay sauce.
You see, the beauty of eating healthy and taking that last bite right at the moment of being full (and not after two or three servings), is that you get to quaff down a wine that makes the meal ever-so-more fulfilling. Quenching the hunger cravings for sweets, heavy starch, and rich dishes proves challenging in this curl-up-beside-the-fire weather warming your toes. But resist the urge to fall victim to a case of the gimme gimmes. Mind control empowers everyone, and taking less from the wallet can only brighten your mood. Regularity and moderation in every habit you develop is the key to a heart-healthy lifestyle.  Eating fresh, eating less, more wholesome foods is a trend overtaking America. Drinking wine in moderation is now proven to increase longevity, reduce heart-attack risk, lower the risk of heart disease, and more. The point is, the time is right, the time is now—in a skeptical stock market with an election year ahead—to be fiscally responsible and eat right. Great wines for under $12 are out there! Seeking them out enhances the fun.
Due to the call for heart-healthy wines and the never-ending search for healthy food and wine pairings, I am launching a new tasting/eating series at Red, White & Bleu Gourmet Wine Shop in Falls Church this month, dubbed A Year in Wine. Every last Monday of the month, you can join a group of neighbors (all wine-lovers at heart) and learn how to eat and drink seasonally for a nominal fee of $25. We will present mouth-watering recipes that are friendly on your waist-line, easy to prepare in your home, and sourced from local, in-season ingredients. The wines to pair will be pocket or purse friendly (whatever your gender), and most importantly, boasting body and flavor profile appropriate to the weather and current month! This is a new form of book club, inspired by Dr. Vino’s A Year in Wine. Come learn how to make your homespun experience all the more heart healthy and fun!