Monday, July 13, 2015

Ribera y Rueda: Si What's Next Tour Hits Boston This Week!

A few months ago I introduced you all to the great new partnership of Ribera del Duero and Rueda wines.  The regions, joined in this partnership under the name of Ribera y Rueda produce intricately unique wines, concentrating mainly in Tempranillo and Verdejo.  Both of these wines are perfect for the hot summer months as they pair easily with lighter style foods and the all important BBQ.  

Verdejo, grown mainly in the Rueda region, may be one of the most perfect summer sippers.  High in acid, light in body, it projects elegance and refinement.  These wines are often very fruit forward with strong notes of peaches and nectarines with subtle hints of citrus.  Easy to sip on its own, and perfect to pair with lighter styles salads and seafood dishes, this is a perfect accompaniment for any summer gathering.  

Tempranillo is a fascinating grape.  A major component in Rioja wines, rarely do
you find it on it's own, more often playing a supporting role to Garnacha.  I am loving that Ribera del Duero is finally allowing this grape to shine on its own.  Rich in color, powerful tannins and high acidity makes this wine complex.  Full of flavors of dark fruits and plums with hints of smoke, I love pairing this wine with grilled meats and veggies.  

The association of Ribera y Rueda asked me to host a gathering featuring these
incredible wines and two of my favorite items- cheese and donuts.  I expanded the palate to include a few other fun items- namely a highly citrus based Gazpacho full of light summer vegetables, spiced with Serrano chili peppers and enhanced with cilantro, and the ultimate summer food - boiled local lobsters.  

We downed the Gazpacho, which I topped with the wonderfully crumbly and salty Cotija cheese and the lobsters with a bottle of the 2014 Circe, a truly wonderful Verdejo.  Light in body, high acid with very gentle sweetness it was a perfect compliment to the slight heat of the Gazpacho.  It also worked really nicely with the lobster providing bright acidity to contrast the decadence of the rich lobster meat and the totally necessary melted butter dip.  

The Tempranillo's were paired with a mix of decadent cheeses, sweet accompaniments and donuts...Union Square Donuts to be precise.  Let's start with the cheeses, yes?  Tempranillo, with it's deep color and flavor palate is a
fun one to pair.  Taleggio, a semi soft, usually cow's milk cheese with a washed rind, is the go to.  Taleggio has wonderful nutty and citrus notes that pair beautifully with the dark fruits and meatiness of the Tempranillo.  

Both of the Tempranillo's, the Celeste Crianza 2012 and the Heritage 2011, paired very with the Taleggio.  The Crianza was in the perfect state of aging- showing still bright fresh fruit notes, but also starting to show mellower flavors of mocha.  Medium + in body, and with great acidity and round tannins this was a beautiful wine.   The Heritage showed a bit more of a tartness on the palate, stronger vibes with the sour cherry and cranberry notes.  It's acidity was slightly higher and definitely held a bit more of a punch than its counterpart.   When paired with the Taleggio it brought out more of the citrus notes and worked well into a mouthwatering combination.

I went a bit crazy with my cheese pairings and also picked up a fresh cows milk
Robiola topped with shaved black truffles, an aged Manchego and a Crayeuse.  Robiola is one of my favorite cheeses simply because its fascinating.  I insist that if you pick this up - you must get a fresh milk version.  Robiola is a soft cheese and its flavors are purely determined by what the animal feasted on prior to milking, hence why the fresh milk portion is necessary.  The flavors can change by the season for this reason which makes it a fun cheese to check in on year round.  The decadent addition of truffles here brought a touch of mushroom earthiness to the otherwise tangy cheese.  Crayeuse is another cows milk cheese but this one is aged in stages- first quickly so the exterior portion is soft almost to runny and then slowly so the interior remains somewhat chalky.  The combination keeps the palate entertained.  Manchego was the only hard cheese I got to mix things up a bit.  Manchego is nutty and sometimes a bit gamey, a great stray from the citrus notes of the previous three cheeses.  Combining the Manchego with the Heritage was fantastic as it brought out more of the undertones of the wine, cutting past the tart fruit piece.  

The final, most important, piece of this evening was the donut pairing.  Union Square Donuts brought a dozen of their incredible confections to my door step making it basically the best day ever.  Included were flavors of Strawberry Glaze, Creamsicle, Malted Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Covered Pretzel and Bacon
Cheddar Sage- yes you read that right- Bacon. Cheddar. Sage.  Now you may not picture wine with donuts- I assume most of us pair coffee with those clouds of heaven, but let me tell you- this is a good pairing.  Follow the same rules as you would for any food/wine pairing - and match flavor components.  The light fruity flavors of Verdejo pair perfectly with the bright strawberry flavor of that glaze.   The deeper flavors of the chocolate or the savory sage, bacon and cheddar worked perfectly with the Tempranillo's even helping to temper the tannins down with the decadence that is a donut.  

If you want to experience all this for yourself, Ribera y Rueda is cruising around this summer in their own food truck and invite you to "Si What's Next" at the Taste of Cambridge tomorrow night, Tuesday, July 14th from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and will be at Bauer Wine and Spirits on July 15th, from 4:00 pm to 8 pm EST doing tastings as well.  

Whether you can make it out to one of those locations or not, the Ribera y Rueda wines are perfect for your summer gathers whether your hosting a clam bake, relaxing at a barbecue or munching on some donuts with friends! 

The Spring House Bistro, Block Island, Rhode Island

As amazing as the hotel, location and staff is at The Spring House, I was truly blown away by the food.  The dedication that the team shows in caring for their multiple on site gardens is evident as you tour the grounds, but it becomes overwhelming when you taste the food.  We often discuss how much fresher food tastes when served closest to where it's grown, there may be no better place to taste this difference then at The Spring House Hotel.

Sitting out on their gorgeous wrap around porch, I feasted at dinner- taking
full advantage of their Restaurant Menu- so much of which was grown right on their grounds, or caught off their shores.  I began with their Calamari, tweaked from the typical pairing of banana peppers, to call on Italian influences.  Lightly fried, the delicate rings were paired with fresh leaves of basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and tossed with cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers and capers. I've found that calamari, while simple in its essence, seems to be something that is often over complicated or poorly constructed.  The Spring House let fresh, bright, clean ingredients shine.

I selected their pan roasted local cod for my main delicately set atop roasted
turnips grown in the garden just a few feet away and then piled high with spring rabe and a fennel orange salad.  It can't go without saying that the cod was perfectly cooked, but the stars of this show were the perfectly seasoned vegetables that combined into a wonderful play of varying textures.  The tunips had just a bit of bite to them, the rabe was sauteed to a soft mound, and the fennel, raw and sweet, brought a refreshing crisp to the plate.  The flavors were light and bright- a perfect homage to the summer that lay before us.

Every ingredient used in their dishes is carefully planned.  The vast majority come from their own garden which means that they are intimately familiar with every single one.  They treat them like the special gems they are- revered for their own beauty and nutrients.  They are playful with their dishes while keeping the integrity of classics.  The Spring House welcomes guests and visitors to the island alike to share in their culinary masterpieces, their views and their incredible hospitality.  It is a must stop for any island visitor.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Spring House Hotel, Block Island, Rhode Island

The snow piles have finally faded.  There are no more icicles hanging treacherously from every awning. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and it is time to relish every single second of this summer.  So how's this- I have the PERFECT spot to do exactly that- Block Island!  

Located just off the mainland in Rhode Island, Block Island is 9 miles of complete heaven.  Chock full of bike rentals, mopeds, ice cream stands, beaches, hiking trails, kayaks and everything else that screams summer.  Recently I was invited out to the island to experience the island's oldest hotel- The Spring House.  

Built in 1852, The Spring House Hotel sits overlooking the ocean just outside
the busy town center and just a short walk from where the Ferry docks.  Honestly, I can't think of a better place to stay.  The hotel itself combines rustic historical features with all of the new amenities that one may desire during their beach retreat.  Antiques fill the common areas, throwbacks to the times when ball rooms were used for balls, and horse and carriages filled the large driveway, but the rooms are outfitted
with flat screen tv's and updated bathrooms.  My room, set on a corner with
views of the ocean close enough to hear the waves, was my respite.  Hours of naps and the most delicious night sleep that I've had in months were spent there.  

A great place for rest isn't all that The Spring House offers however, though I
personally think it would be great if it was.  A lively pub sits on the first floor of the hotel, a place used for decades for visitors and residents a like to gather, take in a pint or a glass of wine and dinner.  The expansive wrap around porch, with gorgeous views of the ocean, features it's own bar and menu for those who want to relish every single second of that sweet island life.

The grounds also contain multiple gardens where the majority of the produce used in
the Spring House restaurant, and, my favorite piece, the cafe and juice bar named The Phone Booth Cafe. Every day the friendly staff will combine their unbelievably fresh produce into juices to help their guests start their days off on the very best foot.

Over the next few days Ill take you on a tour of the rest of The Spring House's food (which is incredible) as well as the rest of Block Island, but first let me say this:  The Spring House Shines. It shines for its service, it shines for it's location and it shines for its amenities. It is the perfect combination of bowing to it's own history and forging into the future.  

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