Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Sunday March 06, 2011

Saturday Swirl:
Drink only organic wines!!!

Saturday Evening Toast 3/6/11

Ah, February is but a mere sunny memory for me! Sunny????? Yes! I was fortunate to go on my first vacation in over 2 years. I went home to Rio de Janeiro for 10 days to bask in the sun and the comfy warmth of family!

Oh my, and was it ever hot, 115 and sunny every day!!!! Fortunately, I was able to go to the beach every day and there is always a lovely breeze  not to mention the ocean at the beach. My family’s warmth consisted of tons of love, stories and of course, mountains of food! Thankfully, it was too hot to eat too much!

I came back to the chill for one day where I rode in a “spin-a-thon” for charity and repacked my bags to go to Florida for a 12 day demo marathon for my wines.

I spent 12 days traveling through the upper ½ half of Florida. Fortunately, I was able to spend the bulk of my trip on the west coast, Tampa and Sarasota areas.

I did 2-4 hour demos per day….lost my voice by the last day! These demos all took place in Whole Foods, Publix stores and various independent natural markets. One of the wonderful things about Florida is that wine and beer can be purchased in any type of grocery store or market. Without getting into the nightmarish intracacies of the individual state liquor laws, I will say only that each state and sometimes even at the county level, have different laws when it comes to where alcohol can be sold. Suffice it to say, one needs a degree in absurdity to understand it all!

Of course, I was “tasting” only Alex Elman Wines but that wasn’t too bad!!! I was fortunate, as I stated previously, that I was doing demos in predominately, natural stores where I could buy fresh, local, chemical free foods for my dinner. My dinner usually consisted of a salad or soup eaten gleefully in my bed staring at the “box”!!! I did not think I would be able to speak to one more person after all of those demos!

I did go out to dinner a couple of times. One night I went to a wonderful restaurant. What is so great about this place is that the food is organic, locally grown when possible, and each portion is 450 calories or less! It is a perfect portion of food, I even took mine home! The desserts come in a shot glass, how much more do you really need! I was tickled pink by the whole experience except for the wine list!!!!

The wines are chosen by a master sommelier, so I was looking forward to a great and creative wine list. I always have to remember to temper my expectations when I am out of NYC. So, here I am all excited to drink anything but Alex Elman Wines and my hopes were quickly dashed and doused by yuck! First of all, for an organic restaurant, there were only 2 organic wines and 1 biodynamic wine on the list. To further light my ire, the list was predominantly domestic and California to make matters worse! Before I upset anyone, it is not that I do not like and respect California wines, I just feel that they have developed a certain style that, for the most part, does not fit my sense of “correct and honestly” made wines. There are always exceptions to the norm but this is what I usually find, in “btg” by the glass selections.

I wanted something spicey to drink. Since I did not see any sirah/shiraz (these are the same grape just come from different parts of the world), I went for the red zinfandels. These are only found in the US. Oh, sorry, I tasted a sip of the only carmanere, the red wine of Chile, on the list. Normally, I love carmanere but this one was an abomination!!! So overwhelmed was this normally spicey delicious wine by oak that I wanted to take my pallet to the local lumber yard and get an estimate for tonnage! I quickly changed course, lowered my expectations and tasted 3 different zinfandels before I found one that did not send me back to the lumber yard.

The zin I chose went well with my BBQ chicken salad and I was happy. I did, however, comment to my distributor’s rep, with whom I was dining, that I was going to pay for the wine the next day. He looked at me quizzackly and I proceeded to explain. I have been drinking and eating only “clean” organic foods for quite some time now and I am too clean. Whenever I drink “conventional” wines, I feel horrible the next day, no matter how little I drink. This is due to the pesticides, herbacides and fungacides not to mention all the chemical preservatives(sulfites) and chemical yeasts that are added to wines especially wines from California. Moral of the story, according to my mother, dirty up your system again!!!! I am always amused by this response from Mama!

The moral of my story, I paid for the wine! I felt awful and I had no “cleanser” to get the poisons out of my system. Oh, the real moral, drink only organic wines!!!

This is probably the most “critical” post I have ever made on this site. I do not want to put down domestic or California wines ever. I am concerned by the need for otherwise wonderful dining establishments, taking the easy way out! Often, they are pressured by alcohol distributors to take certain wines, a topic for another day, but this is no excuse. In my humble opinion, it is the responsibility of a good restaurant to educate their diners. If a restaurant is making an effort to create great, creative menus, why allow the wine list to be so pedestrian. There is a ton of wine out there, put different wines on the list. Teach the staff about them and they, in turn, will teach the diner and the process continues. Furthermore, if a restaurant is a purported establishment that serves “organic” fare, one would think, by default, that the wine list would have more “organic” wine options! Afterall, it is only the fastest growing area of wine. Again, I want to be very clear here, I have nothing against the restaurant. Much to the contrary, I loved it! The food, ambiance and staff were fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone. I was disheartened by the wine list. So, bring your own bottle!!!!

This was a bit Dennis Milleresque today but my passion for wine overrides my sensible, diplomatic side sometimes.

Saturday January 22, 2011

Saturday Swirl:
Saturday Evening Toast - Ode to Scotch for a Cold Winter’s Drink

BRRRRRRR!!!!! It is frigid outside!!!! What to drink on this freezing eve….red? hot toddie? Eau de vie? Cognac? Scotch!!! I think Scotch would be the perfect beverage for this frost bite warning day! As my Granny Stella used to say, : it warms the cockles of your heart”! So, Scotch it is!

There are so many different types of Scotch on the market today. There are blends, single malts and everything in between and below. Do you like it smooth, peaty, smokey or “neat”? I want to touch on the latter first. I recently had a little education on what exactly “neat” means. No self respecting Scotsman would ever have Scotch on the rocks only “neat” will do! So, what does this mean? We know that it means Scotch, alone pure and simple not diluted by dirty water in a low ball to put hair on your chest or, preferably, warm the cockles of your heart! According to the ambassador of a well known brand of Scotch, it may actually be a bastardation of NAKED! It seems that somewhere along the line someone did not quite understand a native Scotsman's wonderful accent and naked became neat! Just one explanation but I like that one so I am sticking with it!

I happen to have become a bit of a Scoch drinker of late. I have been present at a number of professional Scotch tastings and I have begun to be able to distinguish between the flavors. There are days that I enjoy a “peaty” Scotch, depending on my mood and the company, of course! Not too long ago, I had developed a taste for a particularly peaty Scotch, that I can never pronounce. I was out with a very good friend of mine who also enjoys the libation. I expressed my delight in my new found Scotch and we decided to have a shot or three. The shots arrive and we sniff and sip. I anxiously awaited his thoughts. He put the shot glass down and promptly extolled” it tastes like old band aids”! Needless to say, I have not been able to drink that particular single malt again!!!

I, of late, have begun to delight in the well blended, creamy smooth Macallen’s 18 year old Scotch. It is better than the 12 year old and easier than the 24 year old. Of course, this is only my opinion and taste, right now


Scotch derives it’s particular flavors from a number of sources. The one that has always stood out for me is the flavor that comes from the barrels. Barrels for aging Scotch come from a number of sources. The one thing that they all have in common is that they are well used! The barrels are sourced from: wineries, Bourbon distillers, Sherry producers, Port producers to name a few. One can definitely taste the flavors from these different sources in the specific Scotch they choose to drink. There is nothing better than to have a sip of a wonderfully warm Scotch and taste a hint of Sherry or Port or great wine. I, personally, find it extremely interesting to snatch a hint of Booker’s Bourbon, somewhere in the heat of a sip of single malt, peaty Scotch!

So on this Saturday before Robert Burn’s birthday, January 25, may I suggest that you sit in front of a roaring fire with a low ball glass filled with Scotch, neat of course, and toast to that randy poet of centuries past! Skip the hagass and have a tasty piece of lamb sausage and some Cock-a-leeky soup instead. This should help your own “ode to Scotch” to flow freely!


Sunday January 02, 2011

Saturday Swirl:
New Year Toast - 1.1.11

Saturday Evening Toast 1/1/11

Perhaps today’s commentary should be dubbed “Sunday morning brunch with toast! Not the most auspicious first entry for 2011 but, alas, I persevere even with the reminder of last night still plaguing me a little bit!
The new year brings along with it so many hopes, wishes and possibilities. I am of the firm belief that one should drink copious amounts of sparkling wine all the time yet we seem to drink it only on special occasions, why? I have no good answer for this as in every sparkling wine making region in the world, Champagne in France, Penedes in Spain, Santa Catarina in Brazil, all over Italy, they drink the “bubbly” all the time. Sparkling wine, especially those that use “method champanoise”, which adds a “dosage” makes people happy, gregarious and quite talkative. A dosage is an addition of either sugar or yeast to cause a second fermentation in the bottle.

When I worked for Perrier-Jouet Champagne in Epernay, France, at the very beginning of my wine career we drank Champagne all the time. I found this strange but, of course, went along with it. The Champanoise, people who come from the Champagne region of France, say: Champagne makes women’s eyes sparkle and men fall in love”. Pour me another glass!!!

This year we ushered in 2011 surrounded by great friends, delicious food, perfect wine and lots of bubbly to keep all of us sparkly and in love. We talked of the events of the year gone by and, privately, about our individual hopes for the coming year. Ever hopeful, I enter into each year with vim and vigor knowing it will be at least as great as the out going year.

I, personally, had a great 2010. I made new friends, met a perfect partner to share my life with and launched my private label wine…I consider myself blessed in many ways. I must drink not only to the new year but to the past year and all the years that came before that have allowed me to get to this point in my life.

So, despite my inauspicious start this year(it is still the first day of the year and Saturday) I toast each one of you with a glass of something bubbly, be it Champagne, Cava, Proseco, Spumante or whatever tickles your fancy, makes your eyes sparkle and allows the love to flow! My first recommendation for 2011 is to drink sparkling wine at least 3 times per week. I am positive that there is something that each one of us can celebrate, at minimum, 3 times per week. Sometimes, I like to have a glass of bubbly because I know that I have completed all of my tasks for that day…that, in itself, is a reason to celebrate! Life is a celebration, make it a “resolution” this year that celebrating life is as important as washing your hands.



Saturday December 25, 2010

Saturday Swirl:
Christmas Evening Toast - Pairings for your Christmas Feast!!

Christmas 2010

What is a traditional Christmas dinner? This is a loaded question! It depends completely on your personal history.

Christmas dinner for me consists of 2 separate meals. My name is Alexandra (Alex) Elman and I was born to a Brazilian mother and an American father. My father is Jewish so a “traditional Christmas dinner” is a moot discussion. My mother’s family is an all together different story….

My mother was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to an English father and an Italian/Portuguese mother, who were both British Colonists in British Guyana in the West Indies. My traditional Christmas dinner has a deliciously intricate history.

We start with “breakfast”. This would be at about 1PM in the afternoon after presents are opened. Everyone is given a “wishing pie”, this is a little pastry filled with minced meat, shaped into a star shape and sprinkled with green and red sugar. We have “carne vina d’aije”. This is a traditional Portuguese dish which consists of chunks of pork, veal and steak marinated in vinegar, anise and garlic for a number of days. The meats are then fried, and then bread is fried in the marinade, YUM! This is served with tiny pickled onions and slices of Edam cheese as well as homemade orange and pineapple marmalade. After this scrumptious feast, we all roll around and wait until dinner. I always go to the beach and swim as much as possible so I can have some space for the next chapter in my familial nostalgia.

Dinner is a traditional English Christmas dinner. We have roast turkey, baked ham with cloves, tiny roasted potatos, sautéed string beans, stuffing, some salad, cookies and various types of cakes. Our Christmas always closes with flambé plum pudding being passed over all of the heads of the invited guests who are to make their wishes for the new year à la St. Lucia! We are all convinced that my grandmother mishmashed all of her favorite things about Christmas together. Regardless, this is my traditional Christmas dinner!

Please remember that this all takes place in the Southern Hemisphere, it is about 100 degrees at midnight on December 25th! We all feast, drink, laugh and sweat together!

Now, you might ask, why is this blog called The Saturday Evening Toast? Well, I have worked in the wide world of wine for all of my adult life and was brought up tasting wines from all over the world. I am a wine importer and have a group of private label wines. Alex Elman Wine Treasures are a family of wines that I bring so all Americans can taste the best examples of the particular type of grape from the soil it grows in. Now that you know, a little, about me, I wanted to talk about Christmas dinner wines!

What wine to drink with your:
Roast beef
Pork roast

Well, let’s begin from the top. If you are serving a roast beef I would go with a juicy rich red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Malbec are favorites for meats.

A pork roast sings with Pinot Noir, a dry Rose and even a bottle of aged Sauvignon Blanc.

Turkey , Goose or Duck…always Christmas favorites. These wonderfully rich fowls match swimmingly with a delicious dry Riesling, a crisp Chablis (Chardonnay, unoaked please!) and my personal favorite, *Torrontes.

Champagne or any sparkling wine will bring extra giggles to any meal, holidays or not.

Whenever possible, try and choose organically made wines, they will taste better, you will feel better, and the earth will be able to give better fruit for the next harvest!

Torrontes is originally a blending grape from the North West of Spain, Galicia. It was brought to Argentina by European settlers and the grape has done extremely well in the high, dry climate. This is a wine that has notes of tropical fruits, citrus and a hint of floral aromas with a base of good minerality to ground the wine.

Cheers to all and to all a very good night!