cucina bene; mangia bene (local wine shop discoveries)
One of the great things about being in the personal chef business is the opportunity to discover new products, whether its food or drink related. We are fortunate here on the Oregon Coast to have many outlets for purchasing unusual products, inspiring our own passions for creating up very unique menu ideas. Food pairing with local wines, craft-style beers and even American-made Spirits make menu planning a really fun activity to explore at home alone or within a group setting.
For experimenting with Oregon Coast food pairings, I enjoy taking time to visit with specialty retailers located on the coast to learn more about their new products. These retailers have wonderful perspectives on the products they market and they can be a great source of knowledge in preparing one of a kind menu plans. Allow enough time to explore these stores and you will be rewarded with some excellent goodies to try out.
Recently, I stopped by to visit with Karen Richards, the shop owner of the Nelscott Wine Shop based in Lincoln City. The Nelscott Wine Shop features a variety of Pacific Northwest and International Wines, craft beers, gourmet cheeses, and other specialty food items. Karen discussed with me some new products she carries now including a barrel aged beer from Widmer Brothers known as ‘Brrrbon’.
‘Brrrbon’ is an ale-styled beer aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels. The beer is part of a limited production series and represents the third one released to date by Widmer Brothers. I purchased a bottle and decided that it would be interesting to develop a menu pairing with it.
Normally, I would try to taste the product first before developing different menu options. This time though, part of the adventure was planning a menu instinctively based on my previous food experiences and also from beer reviews published on the Internet. To start the plan, I reviewed various websites covering tasting notes on ‘Brrrbon’ to gain a sense about the character of the
Additionally, I spent some time reviewing general information on food pairings with American Bourbon and also with various styles of beer. ‘Brrrbon’ provides a rare opportunity to match a menu plan to the qualities of winter ales produced with lots of hops together with the subtle nuances of the bourbon barrel aging process.
After reviewing these tasting notes, I determined that some foods would compete against the beer/bourbon qualities and ruled them out. Anything too complex or spicy would not work, including such ingredients as wasabi, horseradish, or hot pepper sauce. I then put together a summary of different foods for consideration in building the menu plan.
The list included the following:
Salads: Most kinds with mild dressings
Cheeses: Blue Cheese, Cheddar, Pecorino, Asiago, Parmesan, Piave, Smoked Gouda
Fruits: Apples, Oranges, Mangos, Bananas, Coconuts, Raisins, Dried Fruit
Vegetables: Carrots, Potatoes, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Peas, Brussels Sprouts, Garlic
Nuts: Almonds, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Roasted Peanuts, all lightly salted
Meats: Grilled or Roasted Beef, Pork Chops, Porchetta, Lamb, Roast Duck or Game
Seafoods: Salmon, Shellfish, Tuna, Crab, Sushi, Cod, Bottarga, Swordfish
Other Foods: Bread and Butter, Olive Oil, Brown or Durum Wheat Bread, Popcorn
Spices: Cocoa, Vanilla, Allspice, Ginger, Curry Powder and Indian Spices, Cinnamon
Sweets: Chocolate, Crème Brulee, Custard, Bread Pudding, Butterscotch, Honey
After my review, I developed two menu plans to consider. The first one was based on using local seafoods like oysters and fish, and the other plan including a beef roast as the main entree. I decided to go forward with the beef menu.
The Seafood Menu Plan:
Yaquina Bay Oysters raw on the half shell in their own liquor topped with black pepper
Smoked Salmon, Broiled Cod or Grilled Tuna marinated in ginger, garlic and orange juice
Couscous or Buttered Rice with Almonds
Roasted Carrots in Hazelnut Oil or Peas sautéed in Olive Oil
Vanilla Crème Brulee, Bread Pudding or Caramels
The Roast Beef Menu Plan:
Roasted Beef Chuck Roast with orange zest and a cocoa powder dry rub
Au Gratin Red Potatoes made with Oak Smoked White Cheddar and Brie Cheeses
Roasted Brussels Sprouts tossed with Walnut Oil, Toasted Walnuts, and Orange Zest
Sautee of Wild Mushrooms in Pasture Butter and Ground Black Pepper
Pumpkin Pie with Honey Yogurt Soffio (A Cheese Plate would have been nice as well)
Overall, the general flavor profile of the ‘Brrrbon’ was very hoppy throughout most of the taste, quite normal for winter-style ales. The finishing tastes did reflect the subtle nuances of the bourbon aging. The smokiness of the cheddar cheese in the potatoes worked very well with the beer. The orange zest in both the beef and the sprouts also paired nicely with the beer. All in all, the food items complimented the beer qualities and made for a fun food adventure.
Karen also showed me a wine made by Windfall Winery, located in Prosser Washington. The wine is made with Asian Pears and pairs nicely with seafood, poultry or Asian cuisine. Pati and I enjoyed the wine with Vietnamese food one night and it was an outstanding match!
Another great wine shop with lots of goodies is the Nye Beach Wine Cellar located in the historic section of Nye Beach in Newport. Store Owner Zachary (Zach) Wahl is a tremendous resource on food and wine, and his store carries an excellent assortment of wines and specialty food items.
Recently, Zach spent some time reviewing with Pati and myself different styles of wines and aperitifs for enjoying at the end of a meal. We reviewed some nice selections of Vermouth in addition to several aperitif wines from Europe. These fortified wines feature a blend of herbs, fruits and spices that can be enjoyed at the start of the meal in a mixed drink, or later on to aid in digestion after a meal.
We purchased two aperitif wines which we have been enjoying over the holidays. The first wine is known as Americano Cocchi, and is produced in Asti Italy by Giulio Cocchi Spumanti. The second wine is Bonal Gentiane-Quina made by a French producer. Each of these aperitif wines have been delightful to try after dinner with its complex flavors of spicy herbs and hints of floral citrus stimulating the palate.
With the holidays approaching, visiting our local wine shops and specialty food retailers can be a superb way to learn more about food and drink, and you might find some great gift ideas along the way for loved ones, or maybe even yourself!