With your New Year’s Eve hangover in the rear view mirror, here are 5 Fabulous Wine Resolutions to guide your vinous exploration in the New Year. From becoming a better taster to planning a trip to your favorite wine region, I’ve got ya covered:
1.) Mix It Up: Because the world of wine can be confusing it’s often easier to just stick with the same wine day in and day out – but how boring is that?!? To break out of your vinous rut, why not vow here and now to sample a different wine every week or at least every month. I’ll have plenty of great recommendations here on The Glamorous Gourmet as well as my weekly Facebook LIVE Show “Wines of the Week.” I also recommend finding a local retailer who can guide you towards selections based on your preferences. To sign up for my weekly newsletter with ALL the latest wine dish, please click here.
2.) Start a Wine Collection: If you’ve been drinking wine long enough to have a favorite wine region and/or producer why not sock a few bottles away for a later date? Aged wine can be a truly enjoyable revelation but collecting wine does NOT mean you have to commission a custom built, 15,000 bottle capacity cellar, in fact, far from it! All you’ll need is a small wine fridge and a few age-worthy bottles to put in it. This piece of equipment is VERY important since varying temperatures and humidity levels as well as any mechanical vibration (i.e. refrigerator, A/C unit) are the arch-enemies of wine. Also, if your budget allows, purchase a fridge with a little room to grow, wine lovers have a habit of outgrowing them faster then they think.
3.) Learn to Taste Wine: I know we all know how to physically “taste” wines, just take a sip, right? But to really learn about wine you need to taste it in a particular way, utilizing ALL of your senses including sight, smell AND taste. This sensory information provides valuable insight into a wine’s place of origin, grape variety and “terroir” which are all critical factors to learning about and understanding wine. So if becoming a better wine taster is on your list of New Year’s Resolutions, please join me every Friday at 5pm EST for my brand new Facebook LIVE show “Wines of the Week” where you can taste four wines along with me EVERY week (click here to be taken there).
4.) Drink more sparkling wines: The focus on sparkling wine/Champagne consumption around special occasions like New Year’s Eve leaves the majority of the year unbearably bubbly-free. While Champagne’s price tag may limit it to more of a special occasion wine, there are many sparklers from around the globe that are priced for everyday consumption. Wines like Prosecco, Cava and Crémant (for some examples, please and here) are perfect for enjoying on a Tuesday night after work or when a friend stops by to visit. As an added bonus, sparkling wines also have less calories and alcohol than a glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir – affordable, delicious AND figure-friendly – what’s not to love about that?
5.) Wine-related Travel: Next time you’re booking a getaway why not head to your favorite wine region? Whether you’ve collected wine for years or are new to it, nothing will give you a greater appreciation for what’s in your glass than standing in the vineyard where the grapes are grown and talking to the people who make the wine. Most wineries offer tours and tastings which you can sign up for via their website and they’re usually very happy to hear from you! Here’s a link to some of my travel-related articles.
I hope these suggestions inspire you to further embrace the world of wine in the New Year! If you have any other wine-related resolutions I’d love to hear about them, please let me know in the Comment section below.
After an evening of Champagne and deliciousness (for all the deets on Day 1 or Day 2 please click the links) somehow we all managed to make it to our morning cooking class on time. Of course it helped that the kitchen was right outside our bedroom doors. And we could wear our comfy PJs and/or yoga clothes!
Day 3 began with Chocolate Fondants. You know those decadent chocolatey little cakes with the melty chocolate centers that ooze out when you greedily dig into it with your fork? Yeah, that was how we started Day 3. Chef Dominie guided us through the proper steps of combining the melted dark chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, flour and cocoa and the subsequent dividing of the heavenly concoction between our generously greased and cocoa-ed baking tins.
Then we focused on some classic French sauces including hollandaise and aioli. Chef Sandrine demonstrated her tried and true recipe for hollandaise which was so incredibly creamy and luscious it caused a feeding frenzy among us. Ok, maybe it was mostly me who couldn’t control myself BUT it just so happened to be ready precisely when Steve and I pulled our Artichokes Confit out of the oven. Is it really MY fault if they taste so good slathered with hollandaise?
I had never even made artichokes before but I was so inspired by them at the Antibes market. And what better place to attempt uncharted culinary territory than The Courageous Cooking School? It turns out with a little guidance and some teamwork with the Hubs, it wasn’t so difficult after all.
We simply trimmed the bottoms, giving the artichokes a flat surface to rest on, popped them in a baking dish and seasoned them liberally between all of their triangular, serrated leaves with extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, sea salt and pepper. They emerged from the oven a burnished greenish-brown and the flesh inside each leaf was incredibly succulent and flavorful.
We were also tasked with using the ingredients on hand to come up with side dishes to serve with the evening’s meal, a very special Salt-Baked Fish prepared by Makenna. Steve and I decided on a variation of Potatoes Lyonnaise featuring thinly sliced potatoes and caramelized onions sauteed in butter and then garnished with chopped fresh herbs.
After all of our dishes were prepped, we headed out for another field trip to a very unique winery. We took the scenic route east through the undulating hills of the South of France, passing oodles of charming towns, each more inviting than the next.
Approximately 45 minutes later, we pulled into the driveway of Domaine des Hautes Collines located in Saint-Jeannet, one of the Perched Villages of the Cote d’Azur. Founded in the 12th and 13th centuries, these charming villages were founded when coastal inhabitants fled inwards to protect their families from marauders and pirates. While not so much an issue today, these hilltop villages provide dramatic views of the beautiful coastline.
Lining the driveway of the chateau were large glass vessels filled with white and red wines. Little did we know, these vessels are key to producing the winery’s unique offerings which include white, rosé, red and late harvest wines.
We were greeted by Proprietor Georges Rasse, an affable, mustachioed gentleman who, together with his brother Denis, took over the winery for their father in 1986. Rasse spoke very passionately about his wines and the region, informing us the area has been making wine since the days of the Romans.
Today, the 4 hectare estate grows a wide assortment of grapes including Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, Semillon, Rolle, Braquet, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay.
What makes Rasse’s wines so unique, however, is how he incorporates one of wine’s supposed “enemies” in the winemaking process: namely the sun! Rasse fills the clear glass vessels with his wines and then exposes them to direct sunlight, sometimes for up to three months, before they are bottled or transferred to oak barrels. He claims this sunlight exposure helps to stabilize and purify the wines thereby reducing the need for sulfites or other preservatives.
We thoroughly enjoyed touring the winery and listening to Rasse’s interesting history making wine in this special region. We also tasted through a selection of his offerings including a white, two rosés, two red wines and a late harvest Semillon before it was time to head back to La Pitchoune (more on these wines later!).
The pièce de résistance of the evening’s meal was Makenna’s Salt-Baked Fish with Stuffed with Lemon and Herbs served with a dreamy, garlicky aioli. While it might sound (and look) quite glamorous, this is actually an ancient way of cooking and once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite easy.
Makenna chose a beautiful fresh dorade for the recipe although snapper, sea bass or bream would work just as well. She proceeded to make the salt crust mixture out of raw eggs, fennel or coriander seeds, lemon peel, water and of course kosher or grey salt. When fully combined, the mixture had the consistency and weight of wet sand.
The cleaned fish was then stuffed with fresh, citrusy lemon slices and an assortment of fresh herbs including rosemary, thyme and parsley. The stuffed fish was then laid upon a baking sheet already covered with the salt mixture and then enveloped in the briny, citrus studded crust.
The result was a succulent fish seasoned to perfection – it didn’t taste over salted at ALL! The garlicky aioli was the perfect accompaniment as was the array of side dishes we had all made including our Potatoes Lyonnaise, a delicious Quinoa Salad, delightful Rice Pilaf with Toasted Almonds and Roasted Asparagus with a spicy, flavorful Romesco Sauce.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, I couldn’t help but think we only had one full day left at La Pitchoune. Thankfully, between my contentedly full stomach and rosé wine haze I decided to worry about that tomorrow.
The post Postcards from La Pitchoune: Day 3 of The Courageous Cooking School appeared first on The Glamorous Gourmet.
As I swirled the hot pan, the generous knob of butter sizzled and skated across its surface. Just before it browned, I ladled in two beaten eggs which sizzled and spat as they hit the butter.
According to Julia, my timing was spot on.
“You should hear the eggs sizzle as they hit the pan,” her distinctive, melodious voice instructed in the vintage French Chef video. Seconds later, after vigorously shaking the pan to fold the mixture over, the omelette was done.
“Then flip the pan upside down and onto the plate.” As I turned my omelette out onto the green ceramic plate that looked suspiciously similar to those in her iconic TV series, a sense of wonderment washed over me.
Here I was in the South of France, in Julia Child’s former kitchen learning her favorite way to make an omelette. For a life long foodie, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Our culinary mecca had taken us across the pond to La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s home in the South of France where they spent many a blissful Summer sipping rosé and cooking “à la Provençale.”
They built the modest home, complete with stucco walls and a red tiled roof, in 1964 on the property of Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking co-author and dear friend, Simone Beck. The handshake deal between the friends specified that once the Childs were done using it, the home would revert back to Beck’s husband’s family.
The Childs decided to call their home La Pitchoune, or “The Little Thing” (also affectionately called “La Peetch”) and it was a dream come true for both of them. Standing there in that hallowed kitchen, I certainly shared their sentiment.
While used for cooking classes over the years, La Pitchoune is currently under new ownership and home to The Courageous Cooking School where we were enrolled in its first official, week-long cooking retreat. The six of us students resided at La Peetch during that time (the house has three bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms) and all of our cooking classes took place in its wonderful kitchen, still adorned with outlined pegboards, an array of copper pots and pans and other reminders of its past.
Our fearless leader for the week was the property’s new owner and founder of The Courageous Cooking School, Makenna Held. A statuesque six feet tall, Held has a lot more in common with Child than just her height. Like Child, she is also an American-born Francophile and Smith alumna with a passion for the culinary arts and a dynamic drive.
Held did a remarkable job planning and executing our week long curriculum despite a few minor curve balls, including the unexpected, holiday weekend closure of the local épicerie and boulangerie which provides the ingredients for our cooking classes. Well accustomed to the nuances of life in rural France, Held made the experience feel more like an adventure than an inconvenience.
Held greeted us on a sunny, Sunday afternoon as we arrived at La Peetch. With a glass of Champagne in hand, we all toured the beautiful property and got acquainted with our classmates for the week, a fabulous group of Canadian gals.
When finished, we eagerly feasted on a mouthwatering meal including succulent, freshly shucked oysters; a trio of French cheeses; a divine charcuterie board featuring prosciutto, saucisson, French pepperoni, cornichons and tangy Dijon mustard; a duo of savory tapenades served with bright green, crunchy endive leaves; plump green and black olives marinated in olive oil and herbs; a delightful mixed green salad, and a loaf of crusty, country bread with oodles of heavenly French butter.
We washed the deliciousness down with a seemingly endless supply of Champagne and rosé. Needless to say, La Pitchoune had a certain je ne sais quoi that made The Miskews feel right at home!
Our cooking classes began bright and early each morning around 8:30am. In between our classes, we were treated to yoga classes, field trips to local purveyors and winemakers and, on our last full day, a fabulous, multi-course lunch at a local Michelin 2-star restaurant.
Day one began with the mastery of the aforementioned omelette which turned out deliciously well, although not the most perfect thing I’ve ever made.
But that’s what Julia was all about, after all – NO apologies, NO excuses!
And when finished with some additional butter and a generous sprinkle of chopped thyme, marjoram and parsley plucked straight from La Peetch’s garden, it was so delicious it didn’t matter that it didn’t look perfect.
Our omelette lesson was followed by a lesson on knife skills taught by our two resident Chefs for the week, Dominie and Sandrine. We each took turns thinly slicing potatoes and layering them in a deep baking dish, seasoning generously between each layer with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The layered potatoes were then drenched in a fragrant, garlic-infused cream before being baked in the oven until golden brown and bubbly. The end result? Heavenly Potatoes Dauphinoise!
Next, we tackled a duo of tartares: salmon and steak to be exact. We continued to hone our knife skills by chopping each protein into small, lustrous cubes, although, that’s essentially where the instruction ended.
You see, The Courageous Cooking School doesn’t focus on individual recipes per se. Rather, it promotes the mastery of techniques which can have many useful applications, as well as learning to trust your own taste.
The ingredients for both the salmon and steak tartares were set out for us to experiment with and guidance was readily available from our resident Chefs. In addition to knife skills, this exercise focused on layering flavors and textures and learning how they synergize with one another.
In the end, we each had a slightly different, yet delicious incarnation of these classic dishes which represented our own unique, individual styles. As someone who didn’t like salmon prior to the trip, I was pretty much hooked after this class! I’ve already made our version of Salmon Tartare twice since we’ve been home (please see recipe below!).
A mid-afternoon yoga session was the perfect remedy for our weary, jet-lagged bodies after a long morning in the kitchen. Held, who’s also a certified yoga instructor, led us on a 30 minute, non-intimidating session focused on relaxation, stretching and breathing. With my pre-existing orthopedic conditions, I was reluctant to participate but ultimately, VERY glad I did. It left me relaxed and back spasm free for the rest of the day!
And what better way to end one’s day than with a trip to the local confiserie (aka candy shop)? The beautiful drive through the back country of Grasse to the small town of Gorges du Loup where the confiserie was located was a welcomed chance to bask in the sheer beauty of the day. The brilliant sun, verdant scenery and heavenly temperatures were true sensory ambrosia.
Located at the foot of a towering viaduct along the banks of a roaring river, Confiserie Florian was nothing short of enchanting. Founded in 1949, the confectionery welcomed us with charming, creamsicle colored walls and intricate wrought iron gates. The interior was also elegantly decorated with 17th and 18th century French antiques and beautifully patina-ed candy making equipment.
As the perfume capital of the world, Grasse is home to many fabulous fruits and flowers such as violets, roses, lemon verbena and clementines. Confiserie Florian transforms this bucolic bounty into its signature candied clementines, floral and fruit jams, as well as crystallized verbena leaves, violets and rose petals.
Our guided tour led us through the traditional, time intensive processes used to make many of these specialties. Our wonderful tour guide also allowed us to sample some of their offerings including the citrusy, minty crystallized verbena leaves; sweet, perfumey candied violets; and lightly sugared, fruit flavored bon bons.
That night back at La Pitchoune we happily enjoyed the fruits of the day’s cooking classes as our dinner before falling into bed with visions of candied clementines dancing in our heads.
Stay tuned for Postcards from La Pitchoune: Day 2!
The post Postcards from La Pitchoune: Day 1 of The Courageous Cooking School appeared first on The Glamorous Gourmet.
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Easter is one of my favorite holidays. In addition to its religious significance, it’s also the holiday on which my husband proposed and it occasionally coincides with my birthday (March 31st) which is always fun. It also signals the arrival of Spring, a season rife with many of my favorite things not the least of which is some of the... Read More
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