Posts Tagged ‘Wine’
In the United States we are used to wines being named after the grapes they are made from. Chardonnay, for instance is made from chardonnay grapes. In Europe the wines have been named for the region where they are grown. This is because where they are grown, the climate, rainfall, soil and other elements of the region result in completely different wines even when they are from the same grapes. Compare a French Chablis with a California chardonnay, for example. Both are made from the chardonnay grape, but are worlds apart in flavor. Then sample a French Montrachet. Same grape again, but a world of difference.
Need help picking a wine for your gift basket? Please call. We love to talk food and wine!
How does that song by Gladys Knight start?
“Mm, L. A.
Proved too much for the man”
And the Pips go
“Too much for the man
He couldn’t make it”
That’s how my week was going
(and I have always wanted to be a Pip)
Then came Friday night.
Single guy in the big city!
Hiding from the world.
And I was doing it with 3 companions
– Humboldt Fog. A cheese made from fine goat milk. Made by California’s own Cypress Grove Chevre.
– Zoe’s Uncured Ghost Pepper Salami. Ghost pepper is 900.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The salami makers added tequila and cilantro to round the flavor.
– A bottle of Old Zin Vines Zinfandel. This Lodi wine is red, intense and very friendly.
I locked myself in a closet with my three friends
Like an old Daffy Duck cartoon, smoke came out of my ears when I bit into the Ghost Pepper salami. A dab of the Humboldt Fog cheese put out that fire. The mixture got me high. And then the sips of Zinfandel?
Let’s just say the world outside couldn’t touch me!
I was wild
Civilization be damned!!!
Until my roommate broke down the door on Sunday night, finding me foaming at the mouth.
Having stripped down to my Superman briefs sometime Saturday afternoon, (I don’t know cuz time doesn’t exist in my closet), I sat in the shower for 2 hours. Civilization stormed back into my life, unfortunately.
On Monday I once again donned my dress shirt and tie
And thought over my list of companions come the next Friday
Sparkling wines are usually reserved for special occasions, but why wait? We crack it open when we’re looking for something that can easily transition between different food flavors and textures. And while yes, bubbles add a festive touch; they also act as a perfect palate cleanser between bites. The natural acidity of these wines helps brighten food flavors instead of overwhelming them.
When thinking about pairing wines, we go with two rules: “like with like” and “opposites attract.”
Light, fresh dishes call for a light wine, and sparkling wine fit the bill. Think of classic pairings such as oysters, caviar or cheese.
But bubbly is also wonderful with salty, fatty or fried foods -the exact type of foods we usually find on the Thanksgiving table which is why we recommend it especially at Thanksgiving – because the brightness of the wine balances out the richness of the dish. The wine leaves you with a refreshed mouth and prepares your taste buds for another rich spoonful.
Sparkling wines and Champagnes are food-pairing champions and provide both complimentary (like with like) and contrasting (opposites attract) notes.
Canella Prosecco, $20
This is a flavorful, fun and festive Prosecco from Italy’s Treviso D.O.C in Veneto.
It is characterized by its lively aromas and fruit and the ideal balance of acidity and sugar, which renders it both mellow and fresh. A lengthy sojourn on the lees endows it with concentration and intensity of flavors. Dry and persistent on the palate, it is a marvelous aperitif as well as an all around fish & fowl wine to accompany the entire meal or for pairing with fresh cheeses.
Champalou Vouvray Sparkling Chenin Blanc, $25
Another sparkling wine made from Chenin Blanc, this one hails from France and is made by the Champalou family. It’s aged two years in the bottle before release, giving it a pale, straw color with floral and aromatic notes.
J. Lassalle Brut Champagne Cachet D’Or, $44.95
A family-owned winery in the heart of Champagne, France, J. Lassalle is one of the only wines from the area that is allowed to complete malolactic fermentation. What results is a complex and diverse wine that totally delivers at this price point. Much more sophisticated than other mass marketed champagnes, this is true artisan champagne that will be appreciated and enjoyed with a variety of food.
Veuve Fourny & Fils Rose Champagne, $60
Founded in 1896, this winery produces grower champagnes that are characterized by super-fine bubbles, rich and deep aromatics and complex minerality that refreshes the mouth after each sip.
J. Lasalle Angeline Cuvee Champagne, $70
Coming from a small, family-owned winery run by a mother-daughter team, this wine is given great attention to detail at every level. It is a true grower Champagne. This wine is light yellow-gold in color, has smoky notes filled with citrus and pears and a long, lasting finish. This is truly bottled magic.
We have a large selection of Champagne Gift Baskets which can include any of these delicious champagnes.
Pick 3-4 Cheeses to serve. A general rule is 4 ounces a person but it depends on the time of day and what else you are serving with it.
Vary the consistency of the cheese: a soft fresh cheese, a semi hard and a harder cheese like Parmesan.
Provide three different milk types: a goat, a sheep and a cow’s milk for variety.
Serve at room temperature.
Leave the wedges whole with a knife to cut, or cut a few slices to get it started
Decorate the platter with grapes, cucumbers, apple slices…
A nice jam to serve with it would be fun, like Laura Ann’s Blackberry Bayleaf or Raspberry Habanero!
Serve with fresh bread. You can also add some simple crackers or a nice crostini.
Open a bottle of wine!!
A Fresh Goat Cheese or Crottin, Point Reyes Toma, Aged Gouda, Ossau Iraty Sheep Cheese
California Cheese: Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam, Central Coast Creamery Goat Gouda, Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar, Cypress Grove Lambchopper
American: Nettle Meadow Kunik from N.Y. (a creamy blend of Goat and Jersey Cow milk), Beehive Cheese Barely Buzzed, Utah (rubbed in coffee), Beecher’s Flagsheep, WA (voted best cheese by the American Cheese Society).
We have a great selection of cheeses in our store. Need a basket with fresh cheese? Try our Cheese 101 Gift Basket or check our Gourmet Gifts page for other delicious gifts.
Need help? Come to our store or call us at 855 313 5680.
There he stood, tough looking but with kind eyes a striking amber color. With the name Thunder along with his long black goatee he resembled a character out of the show Portlandia – northwest urban hip. He was just missing the required piercings and tattoos. Oh yeah, and he is a goat.
Thunder was one of the many acquaintances we made while touring Vermont and striking out on the Cheese Trail. He is the main stud at Fat Toad Farm, that magical place where they make the goat milk caramel our students swoon over at our cheese classes. This small family farm, (they have about 100 goats just next to their red cottage), also makes phenomenal fresh goat cheese. I love the one with Maple – but they only sell those locally, out of a shed they’ve turned into a tiny shop.
A goat named Jupiter, who was over with the other females, stole my heart. She nuzzled and cuddled and made me want to move from my modest Hollywood home so I could have a few goats of my own.
Over on the Western edge of Vermont on the banks of Lake Champlain we had the good fortune to get a private tour of Shelburne Farms, a farm and educational center set on an old Vanderbilt Estate. Set amid acres of farmland and trails butting up against the lake there is a glorious hotel with huge porches in what was once a summer home for the Vanderbilts. There are also animals, a petting zoo, a farm, classrooms, an old milking barn that hosts performances, a world-class cheese making facility and some of the cutest brown cows I’ve ever met. Cute to the point of being distracting.
So cute that while talking to the herd manager I was oblivious to the fact that this little creature with the huge brown eyes had managed to consume the majority of my long gauze skirt. I looked down and there it was in her mouth! I slowly pulled it out, like a magician with the scarves coming out of his sleeve; it just kept coming and coming. A little slime here and there but no harm to the skirt. Alison, our tour guide, said a cow had once gotten most of her jacket. They’ll eat anything. Ah, the hazards of hanging with the animals.
The Vermont Cheese Trail had been on my to-do list for a long time. Yes, I am a nerd, as is my husband Wally. We spend many of our vacations talking to the producers of our products at Fancifull, meeting with winemakers, cheesemakers, chocolatiers and such. Traveling to the areas where our food is made gives us sense of place. We get to see the operation personally, talk to the people making the food, smell the air, pet the animals, and feel like we are part of a community.
We are very much a part of the community that celebrates American Craftsmen, while also supporting people around the world who grow food responsibly.
I feel very strongly that they are the stewards of the land. They are growing food that is healthy while also taking care of the health of the planet. They ask us almost as many questions as we ask them. What do our customers like? Is the organic label important? This is a big question because, as one farmer said, “to do that you have to let the government run part of your business.” It isn’t because these people don’t farm organically. But the cost and the rules, often inane, can make operating a small farm with limited resources difficult.
We were encouraged when a farmer in the Hudson Valley told us that more and more young people are coming back to the farm rather than going off to college and on to new careers elsewhere. And they are coming back armed with new knowledge and better practices that make farming viable again. So, whereas a decade or so ago many farms were abandoned, now you have some flourishing due to the renaissance of American food. Yes you may pay a little more for artisanal food, but when we meet these farmers and see all the work they put in, we are getting a bargain. For most of them it is a passion, not just a job. They deserve to live comfortable lives as do their animals. The food they are producing is also higher in nutrients, so this is of personal benefit to all of us.
I will try to stay off my soapbox, which I keep handy at all times, but I do think this celebration of American Food is vital to all of our survival. Organics and sustainability makes sense for our planet at large. I often get asked, “Is this fascination with food just a trend?” I hope not. I don’t think it is a trend at all. Fifty or sixty years ago this was not “artisan” food, it was just food. Big industry came in and took over and often went for the cheapest solution, not the best. I think producers will come and go and maybe our zeal will lessen as this becomes the new normal. With any new movement there is bound to be some overdoing. We all don’t necessarily need to know where every particle of food comes from and we certainly should never be pretentious or snobby about it. The people we meet aren’t. They are hard workers who want to create great food. My theory is that once you begin to eat real food it is hard to go back to industrialized food as your main diet. The stuff that is being created by Artisans the world over is just too darn good. And I intend to keep meeting them, one by one, so I can better understand the process and help bring their food to market. That is my passion.
We have always loved the idea of organics. Who wouldn’t? Organic products are better for the environment and the people on the planet. Unfortunately, we found that better for the environment didn’t always translate into better taste. Wines we tried lacked balance; baked goods were heavy and bland.
Then, on a trip to Italy, we were visiting a Parmesan cheese factory near Bologna and learned that even though it wasn’t mentioned on their packaging, all their cheese was from local cows fed on organic hay and grains, without the use of antibiotics. They didn’t think to advertise it. It was the way they had always done it. This discovery led us to ask more questions as to how the products we carried were made. I was in for a surprise!
I began reading labels on our product shelves and found that some of our favorite cookies-such as Aunt Gussie’s Pecan Cookies (buttery and not too sweet)-contained mainly organic products. Then, purely by chance, we discovered that a wine that we love – a rich, balanced, complex Merlot from Robert Sinskey – is an organic wine. As I write this, my husband and I have just returned from France where we visited one of our favorite wine makers, Sylvain Fadat, and learned that he, too, farms completely organically.
Checking further on our shelves, I found that few of the products we carry have any additives. I guess looking for things that taste good naturally has led us to natural products. You’ll find a good example of this when you try some of the “cheese products” other companies use. They use very little real cheese and you can taste the synthetics. We have always insisted on real cheese.
We also have organic tomato spread, olive oil, honey, coffee, all natural bruschetta, preservative free whole grain chips, additive free chocolates, organic bath products, organic cotton baby clothes and other products that fall into the natural/organic category.
We have come to realize that if we just keep with our purpose of searching for the best products the world has to offer, we will naturally be lead to all natural products. The flavors speak for themselves, and that’s great!
Many of my vacations truly are “working vacations”. Yes, we spend three weeks in France, but we are visiting wine makers, cheese producers and the like. Yeah, I know, tough job but someone has to do it. I can’t complain. I do work at hunting out products. Much like the truffle pig, I am always sniffing around, looking in local shops, watching what the locals are eating. Of course this often means eating and drinking many things to be assured of quality – I never just take someone’s word for it – but that is another story altogether.
When I eat a cookie I like in Italy, I will find out who imports it to the U.S. I am quite vigilant. This is just the best way to bring my customers items they might not find otherwise, such as many of the wines we have in our shop and in our gift baskets. Sometimes I find them through a focused tasting or meeting wine makers. Sometimes greatness just falls in your lap, almost like Divine Intervention.
Forces were at work when we discovered the lovely wines of Jacky Blot: Domaine Taille aux Loups (whites) and La Butte (red).
The Intervention came by way of a kindly Paris wine shop owner, Christophe Vidal. While we were buying some wine from his shop, I noticed some odd whiskeys from Japan which started up a conversation (and some sampling of said whiskeys, did I mention how nice this guy was?). In our discussion of the wine business, we mention that we are planning to visit a winemaker or two in the Loire Valley. As we are about to leave we hear a shout. He comes running up to us with an open bottle of wine. Turns out that the winemaker, Jacky Blot from the Loire Valley, had been in his shop earlier for a tasting of his wines. Jacky had left an open bottle but Cristophe didn’t need it, perhaps we could take it back to our apartment and enjoy it. We took our Taille aux Loups wine, happily skipping back to our apartment and marveling at the kindness of strangers.
showing us their sparkling wine.
The wine is a delightful surprise. Chenin Blanc grapes, light, crisp, wonderfully balanced. What a nice gift! Wally, ever diligent, looks up the winery and I can see he is contemplating, actually becoming determined, to find the winery in our travels. We move on to the Loire and are having dinner in the city of Tours when, lo and behold, the Taille Aux Loups is on the wine list by the glass. We have to order it, and yes, it is as good as we remembered. Okay, that settles it, we have to find this winery.
After a few days of trying wines in Chinon and Saumur (both great cities to visit and sample wine), we track down the winery Taille Aux Loups. We drive along curvy roads, follow the river (because we don’t know exactly where it is) along the south bank of the Loire east of Tours. Eureka, we find it! Jacky’s daughter Françoise greets us warmly as we come in from the rain, and sets up quite a tasting for us. We try sparkling wines, the whites that we love, and reds from nearby Bourgueil. It is quite fantastic, especially since we don’t even have an appointment. Jacky pops in and gives us an exuberant hello, but he is quite busy with a bunch of clients in another room. We write down the name and phone number of their distributor in California and buy some bottles to add to the collection we have amassed during the previous few days. We high five ourselves once we get in the car, feeling the excitement of another successful hunt. We rub our hands in anticipation of tasting this wine for our clients back home, and hope that the distributor, Adventures in Wine, carries the wines we want. We have never bought from them before, or even heard of them.
We return to our Paris apartment a few days later with our cache of prized wines. I really want to serve Jacky’s wine at our upcoming tasting in two weeks. I need to email my assistant Dave to find this company. As I am looking in my purse to find the business cards from the wine makers we visited, I find a card for Adventures In Wine! I have no idea how it got there. I don’t remember ever meeting the person whose name is on the card. There is no other business card from America in my bag, having cleaned it out before we left. Françoise at the winery did not give me a card, she just had me write down the name in my notebook. But here it is. Magic! That did it. We were obviously destined to have this wine in our shop.
The importer has the whites I want, not the reds, but they are ordering them for me. So with this happy set of circumstances, I am able to offer this fantastic wine to our customers in our wine gift baskets. And it all began because I had noticed some odd whiskeys at a Paris wine shop and started asking questions.
Terroir is an important concept in wine. I believe it also translates to food. Here is a good definition of Terroir from the Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil:
“This French word means the total impact of any given site: soil, slope, orientation to the sun, and elevation, plus every nuance of climate including rainfall, wind velocity, frequency of fog, cumulative hours of sunshine, average high temperature, and so forth. There is no single word in English that means quite the same thing. Generally viticulturists believe that soil indirectly bestows flavor (and relative quality) only insofar as it is one of the voices in the chorus of terroir.”
Wines from different vineyards, coffees from different plantations, cheeses from different regions, indeed all real foods everywhere exhibit the effects of their terroir. This is one of the things which makes the foods we carry in our shop so interesting.
It doesn’t matter what you are eating, whether it is a hamburger and fries or foie gras and champagne – it is the ingredients used that make each one marvelous or mediocre. At Fancifull that is what I look for when choosing what goes into our gift baskets. Fresh natural ingredients, organic, no odd chemical fillers. Because you want to taste the food, not the chemicals. I’ve tried cookies where the butter leaps out at you because it is so fresh, and then I’ve tried ones – in beautiful tempting packaging – that taste like cardboard. For example: Americans have a style of chocolate, as do the Europeans. Both have great chocolates. I can’t argue that a fresh truffle is better than a perfect peanut butter cup if both are made with good ingredients. And why argue anyway? Eat them both and enjoy. We will always be searching, tasting, and finding the best ingredients the world has to offer so you can send the best gourmet gift baskets.
Genuine, real, not fake. I like to travel because I like to experience authenticity in the world at large. For instance, I love being in the countryside of Italy and eating what is grown locally. I want to smell the air, meet the people, find out how they have been making this food for hundreds of years and why it is so good. This is true of anywhere I go, whether it be close to home or in far away lands. Even more so, I love to bring these experiences back to share with friends and family. I cook meals similar to those I’ve had on my culinary voyages and bring back jars of ingredients to taste. I find this is a better snapshot of a country than a photo. My joy in Fancifull is that I get to delight you with the pleasures I have found. I get to stock my shelves with the foods and wines I’ve tried and share them with you and your friends. Welcome to the family.
Gourmet gift baskets and wine gift baskets containing genuine artisanal wines and foods can be purchased online at www.fancifullgiftbaskets.com, in our store at 5617 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038, or by phone at 800.350.4437.
Terry and I spent this last weekend at Raleigh Studios as part of the LA Wine Fest. Guess what we weren’t serving? Wine!
With over 50 wineries participating, we decided we would provide much needed relief by offering artisanal cheeses and the world’s best salami. We were right; we were swamped.
The Tumelo Classico Gouda style goat cheese sold out the first day. Next to go was the Point Reyes Toma. Then the Soledad Goat Cheese with Honey and Lavender. We were also sampling and selling Beechers Cheddar, Vella Cheese and Beehive (Seahive Cheddar). In the end we had almost nothing left.
The story was the same with the salami. The Fra’ Mani salami is incredible. If you’ve never tasted it, call us and order some. It’s made by Paul Bertolli, famous as the chef at Olivetto and Chez Panisse, and it is the best salami I have ever tasted. Other favorites were the Olli Calabrese and a Wild Boar salami from Creminelli.
We are very proud that all of these products are hand crafted in the United States. We feel that a food renaissance is happening here and we’re happy to be a part of it.
All this talk about food is making me hungry. so I’m going to go have some cheese and salami right now. Of course, any of these things can be included in our gourmet gift baskets and wine gift baskets. But you really should take advantage and order some for yourself. If you’re in Los Angeles, stop in. You never know what we might be sampling.