Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gruner Veltliner - The other white wine

The other day I was enjoying a beautiful afternoon out by the San Francisco Bay at Waterbar, a Swanky restaurant on the Embarcadero that faces the Bay Bridge to the far right and Marin to the left. Sailboats float by and on a clear sunny day you just can't ask for better. They have great happy hour specials (which we happened to be enjoying at the time, pre- Giants game) and oyster menu to die for. All we needed to round out the experience was just the right bottle of white wine. As I perused the list my eye was drawn to the usual picks- Sav blanc from New Zealand or a Rose from Provence... but today I wanted adventure and there in the middle of the list I found what I had been looking for!

As we approach late summer some of you may be saying, "Jen - I have really been enjoying this warm weather and the excuse to drink gallons of white wine... but my palate is bored. If I have to suck down one more glass of Pinot Grigio- I'm swearing off white and switching to cocktails!". Fear not my Friends. There's a new young gun in town hitting your wine lists and it's taking no prisoners. May I introduce the white wine Prince of Austria- Gruner Veltliner! Ok so it's not really that young, initially dating back to the 1800's, but it's popularity state side has just begun to burgeon on wine lists on both coasts over the last 5 + years and in my opinion is really beginning to pick up steam. My first experience with this varietal was in a nine grape blend called "Evolution" produced by Sokol- Blosser out of Oregon. This deeply complex (and delicious!) white wine brought a lot to the table but when tasting it I never quite knew which component belonged to the Gruner Vetliner. Was it there for acidity? Sweetness? Color? Aroma? I just wasn't sure. As it turns out Gruner Vetliner is best known for it's food friendly acidity, citrus flavors sometimes stone fruit aromas, notes of white pepper and that lovely minerality on the finish. I'm not one for overly sweet white wines and the G.V.'s I have tried so far have a crisp profile most closely resembling Sauvignon Blanc's which I love. Gruner Vetliner represents about 1/3 of the vines grown in Austria- a substantial chunk. While it is beginning to grow in the U.S. for now I say go for the real deal and buy Austrian!

Now that I have told you all about it no doubt you are currently jogging to your car to go pick some up! I did some leg work for you but was sadly disappointed. After searching my local Trader Joe's, BevMo's, Cost Plus World Market, & Safeway I could not find any in stock. My goal was to present you with 3 options at different price points. Luckily enough the single bottle I found (Carried at Whole Foods Market) was on the bargain end of the spectrum, so while I cannot offer you a break down of options- at least I can suggest a bottle to try that is affordable! At $11.99 pre tax this is a great deal for a fantastic summer wine.
2009 Gruner Veltliner, Lossterrassen, from Felsner, Austria

Chin Chin!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lavender Sugar- A perfect way to give your Cocktails & Desserts something new!

Awhile back I went wine tasting up in Carneros (Sonoma) for a bachelorette party. One of our first stops, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, not only has great tasting & affordable Italian inspired wines they also have a fabulous artisan olive oil and gourmet foods shop. After our private tasting we took a little time to peruse the merchandise. With so many fun things to sample I was on foodie over load! After a few olive oil tastes (Blood Orange infused?! What?!) I moved on to some of the other products lining the walls. Adorable home wares, cookbooks, and tapanades were everywhere but what drew me in was a selection of Lavender products. As a frequent recipe peruser and stalwart Bon Appetit reader I had noticed lately a number of lavender seasoned dishes and was intrigued by the Lavender sugar with it's seemingly endless possibilities. Produced locally by Little Sky in near by Boulder Creek, California the all natural organic sugar is blended with dried lavender grown on their farm to create an intoxicating aroma with a nice subtle flavor that gives baked goods and other treats a unique elegant flavor.

I have experimented with the Lavender sugar I purchased in 3 ways- as a simple syrup for cocktails & beverages, in Madeleine's, and in & on pastry dough for a Fig and Gorgonzola Gallette. Included in this article I have the recipe for the simple syrup (which is also on the packaging) with cocktail suggestions as well as pictures and recipes for the Gallette (a rustic flat pie like pastry).

While we have a few more weeks to enjoy our summer time let's take advantage of the warm weather as an excuse to sip some cool cocktails. This lavender simple syrup plays great into any crisp and refreshing cocktail as a replacement for your standard simple syrup. To make the simple syrup combined equal parts of Lavender sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil so the sugar can dissolve then lower to a simmer for about 5 minutes or so to give it time to thicken. take your syrup off the heat and let it steep for 20- 30 minutes so the lavender flavor really infuses into the syrup. Once it has cooled and is done steeping strain out the lavender. Can be kept in the fridge covered 5- 7 days.

I enjoyed this syrup in a nice refreshing mixed drink- In a shaker full of ice combined 2 parts vodka, 1 part simple syrup and the juice of 1/2 a lime. Shake vigorously, pour in a glass over ice and finish with mineral water (I chose the lime mineral Water from Trader Joe's it made an excellent compliment. I prefer mineral water over club soda for it's finer carbonation and more natural flavor). Garnish with a round of lime and voila! A refreshing drink for a hot summer day!

Which of your favorite cocktails could you incorporate this simple syrup into?

Fig & Gorgonzola Gallette with Lavender Sugar

I began making Gallette's around Christmas time last year with a fabulous apple recipe. While I am not a big pie person this gave me everything I liked about pie without the parts I didn't Beautiful flaky crust with no slimy filling just delicious fruit!

Pastry Dough:

1 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour

1/4 Cup Lavender Sugar

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

3/4 Cups (1 1/2 sticks) Chilled unsalted butter cut into small cubes

2 Tablespoons (or more if needed) ice water


5 oz Gorgonzola Dulce ( I found a nice little block of this at Whole foods it had a nice creamy consistency, not to overwhelmingly tangy that went great with the fig flavor and melted well when baked)

1 Pint basket of whole fresh Black Mission figs

Whipping Cream and an extra Tablespoon or two of lavender sugar for the finish


In a food processor combined all the dry ingredients. Slowly add the chunks of chilled butter (the colder your butter the flakier your crust!) and process in quick on off turns until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (I sometimes have to give my dinky little food processor a good shake to make sure everything is incorporating properly.... yes I realize this somewhat defeats the purpose of having a food processor to do that for me. Hopefully I can upgrade soon). Once you the dry ingredients and butter are incorporated add one tablespoon of ice water at a time until the mixture begins to cling together into a dough. Remove from the food processor and form a disc wrapped in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour (you can do it up to 2 days in advance).

Are you starting to see a trend here? Cold cold cold! Whenever you are making pastry dough you want everything cold cold cold. The reason being that those little chunks of cold butter melt as they are baked helping to create the sort of layers that make your crusts nice and flaky. If there are no chunks to melt... there will be no separation of layers and your crusts will be dense.

Preheat Oven to 450 Degrees

Between two sheets of parchment paper roll out your dough into an 1/8 in think round. You have a few choices here- with this particular recipe I actually quartered the dough and made 4 individual ones but you can make one large one if you prefer! Don't worry about trying to make the edges perfect, part of the charm of the Gallette are the rustic edges. Transfer dough on the bottom sheet of parchment onto a baking sheet.

Spread the dough with honey up to about 1 inch from the edge.

On top of the honey arrange thin slices of the gorgonzola. Since I made individual gallette's each one I used a slightly different ratio of cheese and found that having a heavy hand was better both in texture and flavor. Since the Gorgonzola dulce isn't as pungent putting more let the flavor still come through. In concentric circles layer the slices of fig starting at the outer edge (where the honey ends) and working in. Go ahead and slice your figs a little thick so you will have a nice juicy piece to bite into. Fold the edges up over the edge of the fruit sealing in all the topping. You will have to crimp and fold a little but this is all part of the rustic appeal, don't try to make it to perfect just work on even.

Once all of the edges have been folded up take a pastry brush and brush the entire top and edges with the whipping cream and sprinkle with the remaining lavender sugar.
This will help the crust get that beautiful glossy Golden edge to it while also adding a little bit more of that lavender essence.
Now the bake time will vary dependant on if you make one full size gallette or individuals. If you choose the full size bake for 20 minutes at 450 then reduce your oven temp to 375 for an additional 30 minutes or so. With the smaller one's I would cut these bake times by about half. Mostly just be mindful and check on your pastry regularly to be sure it is baking at an even pace getting nice and golden but not burning! After removing it from the oven slide a knife around the edge to unstick any parts from the parchment paper. Transfer to a rack to cool. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Would be lovely with some lavender ice cream! Enjoy your rustic yet refined treat.