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Malbec Match Made in Heaven: Alain Dominique Perrin and Michel Rolland

One made a name for himself running one the world’s most renowned luxury brands. The other is a world-renowned oenologist. When Alain Dominique Perrin, formerly CEO /Chairman of Must de Cartier and Cartier International, purchased the historic 16th century Chateau Lagrézette in Cahors, France, he tapped Michel Rolland to oversee construction of the new wine production facility. Using his eye for detail and design, Perrin oversaw Chateau Lagrézette’s restoration, and Rolland tended to the vines.

Michel Rolland recalled a first meeting with Alain Dominique Perrin. “We drove through the vineyards in a convertible car that belonged to Brigitte Bardot. That was classy!”

At the time (1988) Chateau Lagrézette was still a winery cooperative. Says Rolland, “This was a first for me: to consult for a private client with wines vinifed in a ‘kolkhotz’! I quickly discovered the drawbacks of the cooperative and immediately warned Alain that my intervention would useless. Not being a man to take ‘no’ for an answer, he told me, ‘I promise you a beautiful Lagrézette winery in just a few years.'”

Alain Dominique Perrin (right) Michel Rolland (left)

Construction on the new winery was completed in 1992. The first two vintages of Le Pigeonnier and Cuvée Dame Honneur became flagships of the appellation. Chateau Lagrézette has three vineyards. Caillac Vineyard, located between the winery and the Atlantic Ocean, and Landiech Vineyard, to the west of Chateau Lagrézette, both produce Malbec, the estate’s main focus. Rocamadour Vineyard, sixty kilometers from Caillac, produces Viognier.

Michel Rolland, Maguy LeCoze and Alain Dominique Perrin at Le Bernardin

Thirty years later, the two are still close and toasting to their success and good health. We had the chance to join them at a dinner September 27, 2018, that Perrin hosted in honor of Rolland at the New York Times four-star-rated Le Bernardin. Pairing two of Chateau Lagrézette’s silky Malbec wines with two of Chef Eric Ripert‘s sublime seafood dishes, Octopus with Tomato Salsa with Red Wine Molé Sauce, and a combo of Hawaiian Walu and Seared Waygu Beef with a Tomato Summer Roll in Spiced Red Wine Sauce, were both unexpected pleasures.  www.chateau-lagrezette.com 

Chateau Lagrézette aerial view. The estate dates back to 1503.

 

Listen here to our show with Alain Dominique Perrin

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Everything is Coming Up Vermentino in Sardegna

The wisp of a fresh sea breeze and the soft scent of wildflowers and Mediterranean brush remind me of a recent trip to Sardegna just before summer crowds of tourists flooded the island and just in time to taste some newly released wines. My trip was an immersion experience to learn about Vermentino, a light-skinned white grape that produces vibrant citrusy high-acid wines that make you salivate for a plate of fresh shellfish or just-caught, lightly grilled branzino with fresh herbs.

Vermentino grapes. Photo courtesy of LAORE

Vermentino is also cultivated in Corsica, where it’s called Vermentinu and in parts of Languedoc-Roussillon, where it’s called Rolle. In Liguria, it’s known as Pigato, and in Piedmont, it’s called Favorita. In Hungary it is related to Furmint. Recently I even tasted a Vermentino from Australia.

Seventy percent of Italy’s Vermentino is from Sardegna, where its production is strictly regulated to assure the highest quality wines. The characteristics of Vermentino wines vary slightly by appellation, thanks to different soils and vineyard elevations. All the wines I tasted reminded me somewhat of a Loire Valley Sancerre but with a tad more, albeit pleasant, salinity.

Hills of vineyards at Siddura Winery in DOCG Vermentino di Gallura

Vermentino is cultivated throughout Sardegna, but the wines of Vermentino de Gallura DOCG in the region of Olbia to the north of the island are considered the jewels in the crown. Here, the soil is more granite and limestone which lends a flinty character to the wines.

Overlooking the vineyards at Auduraya Winery in DOC Vermentino di Gallura in Southern Sardinia

To the south in Vermentino di Sardegna DOC the soils are more calcareous (clay, chalk) . Tasting these wines, I detected a much more floral and herbaceous character, much like the Mediterranean wildflowers I kept smelling throughout my trip.

The Vermentino wines had a lovely essence of wildflowers and herbs like this wild fennel

Vermentino wines should be served chilled, but not too cold. Given their Mediterranean provenance, they pair beautifully with seafood. Fatty tuna, octopus, langoustines and sea bream are just a few of the seafood dishes I enjoyed during my stay in Cagliari.

Fresh from the sea and perfect with a glass of chilled Vermentino

A special thank you to the agriculture marketing agency LAORE, who organized the trip. We all had the chance to taste a range of wines Vermentino wines from the north (Gallura and Alghero) and to the south around Cagliari, a bustling seaport and popular tourist destination. We met with dozens of producers at organizing tastings and meals. I found their local pride was as captivating as the wines.

Three generations of the Auduraya family at Auduraya Winery

Sadly, there was not enough time to visit Sardegna’s world-classes beaches and take a dip in the sea or tour its many archeological ruins (we did visit one). That’s another trip, and I look forward to returning and exploring this beautiful island more extensively.

This is the closest I came to the sea. the view was stunning!

Meanwhile, I will savor the memory of the sea breeze, sun and wildflowers when I order a glass of Vermentino.

Spiral pasta fusilli with tuna fish, tomato sauce, olive oil and basil is a typical Mediterranean dish which people eat especially during the summer and hot days. With white wine Vermentino from Sardinia final sensation is fantastic. ©-Loran-Zutic-Dreamstime.com_

 

In this edition of The Connected Table SIPS! Donatella Muscianese, Agenzia Laore Sardegna, discusses key growing areas and styles of Vermentino: DOCG Vermentino di Gallura.

 

Recommended wines

Vermentino di Gallura DOCG

Surrau  This winery mays sparkling and still Vermentino. Try Sciala Vermentino di Gallura DOCG Superiore which is aged one year, (ID Beverage)

Cantina Tani (Monti, Gallura) Family owned winery. Mother is a chef in the family winery restaurant Try Taerra 2008 (Importer: Artisan Wines)

Tenute Olbios. I really like this winery’s selections, especially the no dosage sparkling Vermentino called Bisso.

Vermentino di Sardinia DOC

Argiolas – Founded by wine legend Antonio Argiolas in 1906, the winery is now run by his granddaughters and celebrates 80 years in 2018. Try Costamolina. (Winebow).

Antonella Corda – Vintner Antonella Corda is a granddaughter of Antonio Argiolas who decided to create her own namesake label.  Try Antonella Corda Vermentino di Sardegna.

Cantina Auduraya -The word “auduraya” means “nobility of the soul.” This lively winery hosted a tasting of delicious local Argiolas cheeses as well as their wines which include other native varieties like Monica, Bovale, Nuragus and, of course Cannonnau and Vermentino. Try: Auduraya Vermentino.

Cantina Santa Maria La Palma – Located in Alghero, this cantina is the largest producer of Vermentino in Sardegna. This winery produces a few Vermentino wines. Its bestseller is Aragosta (“lobster). I was partial to Vermentino Blu. Another interesting wine is Akènta is a sparkling Vermentino that is ‘cellared’ deep in the sea in the Porto Conte Natural Park. (MS Walker Imports and Bacchus Imports).

Sella & Mosca – Sella & Mosca is an expansive winery that produces wines from several native varietals, including a significant amount of Torbato, a white varietal, and Nasco, which produces a sweeter wine. Try: Sella & Mosca Monteoro Vermentino de Gallura Superiore. (Palm Bay Imports)

Cantina Trexenta -All the wines tasted were exceptional. in addition to Vermentino, Cantina Trexenta produces wines from the indigenous Monica, Nuragus and Cannanou varietals.  Try Contissa Vermentino di Sardegna.

 

Akènta is a sparkling Vermentino that is cellared beneath the sea. The bottle is a mosaic of sea creatures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Little Joie de Vivre with Jean-Charles Boisset

Does Jean-Charles Boisset have a James Bond complex? Perhaps. He definitely blends dapper and debonair in his style and businessman-meets-bon vivant. The descendent of Burgundy wine producers, Jean-Charles oversees the family business on two continents. In France this encompasses: Jean-Claude Boisset Winery, Domaine de la Vougeraie, Bouchard Aîné & Fils, Ropiteau Frères, J. Moreau & Fils, Château de Pierreux, Mommessin (all Burgundy), Bonpas (Rhône Valley) and Fortant (Languedoc).

 

Jean-Charles Boisset, International Man of Mastery When It Comes To Making Wine an Experience of the Senses

In the U.S.A., Jean-Charles acquired Buena Vista Winery (Carneros) the first bonded winery in California, Raymond Vineyards and De Loach Vineyards. And he’s created the lifestyle “brand,” JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset.  The Boisset Collection also includes jewelry, home decor, fine goods, gifts and exclusive tasting events in addition to his wines.

 

Buena Vista Winery (est 1863) was acquired by Jean-Charles Boisset in 2011. Read the entire story here.

Jean-Charles has also recently published a book, co-written with Sommelier Marnie Old, entitled

Passion For Wine: The French Ideal and the American Dream

The book takes a sensory-and sensuous- approach to learning about and enjoying wine and we found it easy to read and very informative. We love how they compare certain styles of wine to screen sirens. What do you think is the “Elizabeth Taylor” of red wine? Or the Bridget Bardot of white?

 

Jean-Charles Boisset and Marnie Old. (photo from The Boisset Collection)

 

Listen to our edition of The Connected Table Live! with Jean-Charles Boisset here:

Or click and listen here:

 

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From Valpolicella- Raffaele Boscaini, Masi Agricola

We visit Valpolicella, the “land of many cellars,” with Raffaele Boscaini, General Coordinator of Masi Technical Group and Director of Marketing, who represents the seventh generations of this venerable 200-year-old wine estate.

The name Masi comes from “Vaio dei Masi,” the little valley purchased by the Boscaini family in the late 18th Century.  Masi Agricola also manages the most historic estate in Valpolicella, which once belonged to descendants of the legendary 14th Century poet Dante, the noble Serego Alighieri family.


Sandro and Raffele Boscaini (front row left) with the MASI Technical Group team

You can call the Boscainis one of the “noble families” of wine making in Valpolicella. Wine Writer Hugh Johnson has called Masi wines “milestones of enology in Verona.” We’ll discuss the family’s history and role in the production of Amarone and Recioto and evolution of MASI’s trademarked APPAXXIMENTO® (appassimento) method of drying grapes. In 1964 MASI introduced a “supervenetian” category of wine, Campofiorin. Masi also has projects outside the Veneto in Tuscany and Argentina, in collaboration with Serego Alighieri.

Listen to Raffaele Boscaini on The Connected Table LIVE! on iHeart here:

 

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The Breakers Palm Beach- Ageless & Timeless

I’ve been fascinated with grand hotels ever since my father took me to New York when I was five to visit Eloise at The Plaza. The front desk told us she was with her Nanny in Central Park. Eloise mailed me a thank you postcard for stopping by.  A girl with manners!


One of the items on my travel “bucket list” is to visit many of the grand dame hotels around the world. While staying with David’s mother in Florida last week we spent the day at The Breakers Palm Beach and hosted our show at the hotel. Our guest was Nick Velardo, VP of Food & Beverage, who oversees the resort’s nine restaurants. We dined at two of them, The Seafood Bar and HMF restaurant and cocktail lounge.

Quiet gardens are everywhere

 

So are awe-inspiring floral arrangements

It was my “Eloise” moment, and the day did not disappoint. It was easy to say “Hello” to this Grand Dame and hard to say “Good Bye.” An interesting tidbit: The Breakers is still family-owned, and the heirs of Henry Flagler invest about $30 million annually to keep the property fresh and fabulous.

A place so refined event the cocktails wear a monogram. “Blueberry Bootlegger” at HMF
(Pisco, blueberry, lemon and ginger)

We were in Palm Beach during the off season, but you wouldn’t know it at The Breakers. The July 4th holiday brought families, couples and loyal fans, and the the hotel was bustling. Still, the team made time and accommocations for our last minute plans to visit.

“Natural” sushi at HMF. No rice is kind of nice.

 

Baked Alaska at HMF

Nick Velardo and his team, including Master Sommelier and Wine Director Virginia Phillip, have their work cut out for them. The Breakers is a place where guests’ expectations are high, and the crowd comes hungry. That’s why The Breakers sells annually:

  • 75,993 martinis
  • 621,087 pieces of sushi /sushi rolls
  • 11,757 stone crab claws
  • 1,365 pounds of caviar
  • and 27,200 slices of Key lime pie.
Make that 27,201 slices after we devoured ours.

Here is the iHeart link to our July 5th show with Nick Velardo, VP of Food & Beverage at The Breakers Palm Beach and Stanislas Thierry, VP of Sales & Marketing for Vranken-Pommery America, who shares the legacy of Louise Pommery who is credited for creating the Brut Champagne style. (LINK)

Or click here:

 

 

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The Sweet Smell of Success – Our Maple Syrup Weekend

After a week of intensive wine tasting in Napa Valley, we decided to treat ourselves to a maple syrup weekend in the Hudson Valley. We picked two farms to visit in nearby Dutchess County: Madava Farms, producers of Crown Maple Syrup, and Soukup Farms.

A “farm” can be many things much like a “country house.” The large stone sign at the entrance to Madava Farms was followed by a long driveway opening up to a vast property still covered with snow and surrounded by a forest of maple trees linked by sap tubing. The large sap production building and company store was packed with visitors coming for the weekend of maple syrup tastings, maple inflected cocktails and lunch offerings such as maple chicken tacos, maple pork sliders, fried chicken strips with maple syrup waffles and maple shakes. Outside, kids (and one big kid) roasted marshmallows over a fire pit.

David at Madava Farms, home to Crown Maple Syrup
Fool the eye photo: The sign is actually down a long driveway leading to the sap house.

Madava Farms started as a family retreat for Robb and Lydia Turner. They’ve turned it and their sought after maple syrup into quite a business! Madava Farms has 20,000 trees over 800 acres, plus 4000 acres in Vermont.

Just a short drive away and a world apart in style but equal in substance when it comes to a quality product lies Soukup Farms. It’s more of a farmstead with all the Soukup family members living in separate houses on the property. Originally a cattle farm, the Soukups started tapping maple syrup in 1955 as a hobby. Today they produce over 2000 saps from two sugarbushes (a cluster of sugar maple trees).  Pat Soukup gave us a tour of the small facility where we met her husband, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Three generations of the Soukup Family Farm in their store.

The maple season is short, roughly 40-50 days depending on the weather. It takes freezing nights and thawing days for the best sap. Higher temperatures can affect the quality. This year’s warmer winter was a curse; the recent blizzard and colder temperatures were a blessing. As Pat Soukup told us, “We are farmers first. We learn to deal with the weather and the outcome.”

Demand for maple syrup is on the rise. Health and wellness gurus promote it as a preferred natural sweetener (in moderation) and filled with antioxidants to fight inflammation, among other benefits. Chefs and bartenders are adding maple syrup to dishes and drinks. There’s even Drink Maple water which we tasted at the Summer Fancy Food Show.  We learned at our tasting at Crown Maple that lighter grade maple syrup is better for diabetics and the darker grade for athletes. We learned at Soukup Farms that the tree holds the secret to the color of sap that will seep out as demonstrated by this rainbow of saps collected this winter.

Saps at Soukup Farms

Listen to our interview with Michael Cobb, CEO at Crown Maple Syrup. The Connected Table LIVE! on iHeart.com

 

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Spring (Bud) Break In Napa

The spring buds are breaking in Napa Valley which puts everyone in a good mood after recent rains. Driving along Highway 29 gazing out at expansive wine estates, it’s hard to envision the ranch towns of the 1960’s when Napa Valley’s earliest vintners scooped up farmland for a fraction of what it would cost today.

Sign at Freemark Abbey Winery

It was an investment that paid off, and a gamble that hit the jackpot with international media attention from promotional stunts like the 1976 Judgement of Paris and numerous accolades for Napa Valley wines.  Still, in spite of its international reputation, Napa Valley is still among the world’s smallest wine regions with just 4% of California’s wine grape harvest and only one-eighth of the planted acreage of Bordeaux, according to the Napa Valley Vintners Association.

 

View from Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Stewards and Successors

Napa’s first commercial winery was established in 1861. America’s first designated Agricultural Preserve in 1968, Napa was established as an A.V.A. in 1981; today there are 16.  95% of Napa Valley’s wineries family-owned. Meet founding families of Napa who are working hard to preserve their legacies:  Janet and Hailey Trefethen, Trefethen Vineyards, and Bill and Will Phelps, Joseph Phelps Vineyards.

I have always had a fascination with cowboys after spending a few nights on a cattle station in the Australian Outback and at a dude ranch in Arizona. But I’ve never met a real-life cowgirl. Janet Trefethen is a top ranked equestrian and a member of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She’s also the first women CEO of an American Corporation. Janet and John Trefethen oversee the winery established by his parents Eugene and Catherine in 1968. The historic farm property located in Oak Knoll  was originally built in 1868 as “Eschol,” which is a biblical term for “lush cluster of grapes.”

Janet Trefethen, Trefethen Vineyards

Janet’s daughter and son, Hailey and Loren Trefethen, have joined their parents in running the winery. Hailey  has been overseeing the restoration of the original 1868 building which was damaged in the earthquake on April 24, 2014. The building is reopening this May (2017). Recently we spoke with Janet and Hailey on The Connected Table LIVE.

Hailey Trefethen

 

1973 was a big year for both the Trefethen and Phelps families. It was the first vintage for Trefethen and it was the year Joseph Phelps purchased a 600+ acre cattle ranch on the east side of St. Helena to create his namesake winery. Phelps, who owned a construction business, worked with architect John Marsh Davis to build the winery of his dreams to produce the wines he desired. He’s credited with being one of the first California producers to focus on Rhone style blends as well his signature Bordeaux blend, Insignia. We visited Joseph Phelps Vineyards for the first time this week. It was like visiting a sanctuary for fine wine.

Bill and Joe Phelps
Bill and Joe Phelps

Bill Phelps joined his father’s winery after a career in law and finance. Like his father, Bill takes a long-term strategy to producing wines and maintaining the Phelps legacy. One of his most notable initiatives was to transition the entire winery portfolio to estate grown. Bill will be joined by son, Will Phelps, who is the winery’s Director of Marketing.

Will Phelps
Joseph Phelps flagship wine, Insignia

 

Listen to our show with Janet and Hailey Trefethen and Bill and Will Phelps on iHeart.com

 

 

Listen anytime on iHeart.com and the iHeart and live Wednesdays, 2pm EST on W4CY.com. Connect with us on Twitter@connectedtable, Instagram@theconnectedtable and Facebook@connectedtable

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Sonoma Stars

It had been awhile since either of had spent much time in Sonoma Valley, so we felt lucky to add three nights for a visit following our stay at Meadowood in St. Helena for the Professional Wine Writers Symposium. Where Napa feels gentrified and sophisticated, Sonoma feels bucolic and achaten-suisse.com laid back. It’s like comparing cashmere to fleece; they both feel great and will keep you warm outside, and you want both for different reasons.

Here we are with John Jordan in the barrel room

The first two nights were spent at Jordan Winery in Alexander Valley tasting wines, exploring the expansive estate and enjoying a quiet dinner with Lisa Mattson and her husband, Damon, at BarnDiva in nearby Healdsburg. Lisa was a guest on The Connected Table LIVE! to talk about her book, “The Exes in My Glass.” We met proprietor John Jordan whom we learned has a thing for “Star Wars” movies.  Jordan specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and does both well.

 

 

Another night took us to The Shed Cafe, a restaurant located in a cookware shop and bakery. Most of the food is locally sourced within 10 miles of Healdsburg. We suggest checking out the four- course tasting menu for $58 with a $25 wine pairing option.  Address: 25 North Street, Healdsburg. 707-431-7433  www.healdsburgshed.com

 

Winter Citrus Salad with Avocado, Miners Lettuce, Sea Buckthorn and HomeFarm Olio Nuovo at The Shed in Healdsburg

 

Our final night was spent at Valette whose chef-owner, Dustin Valette visited with us on The Connected Table LIVE March 8th. Dustin began his restaurant career at the age of thirteen washing dishes at Catelli’s in his hometown of Geyserville. A Culinary Institute of America grad, he worked at several top restaurants to fine tune his skills, most recently spending six years as Executive Chef of Dry Creek Kitchen, a Charlie Palmer restaurant in downtown Healdsburg.  With his brother and fellow restaurant worker, Aaron Garzini, Dustin hatched a plan to open Valette in a building which housed his great grandfather’s bakery.  The two brothers opened Valette in 2015 spotlighting their deep passion and dedication to Sonoma Country and its food and wine purveyors and producers.

 

Chef Dustin Valette opened his restaurant in the same location where his great grandfather ran a bakery.

 

Valette is located at 344 Center Street, Healdsburg, CA  Phone: 707-473-0946 www.valettehealdsburg.com

The restaurant is hopping!  We dined there the night of the “Oscars.” David noshed on Dustin’s house made charcuterie and Coriander Crusted Liberty Duck Breast with tart pickled cherries and dick + foie grad torchon.  Little Miss Healthy Me enjoyed a vegetarian “beet Wellington” described on the menu as Tangerine Infused Beets en Papillote with preserved lemon, farro risotto, baby carrots and Laura Chenel goat cheese and Hawaiian Ahi Poke.

 

Tangerine Infused Beets en Papillote

 

 

Hawaiian Ahi Poke Styl

 

Give This Gal a Forklift!

Katie Madigan, is winemaker at St. Francis Winery.  Like many women winemakers I’ve interviewed, Katie started out planning on another career path not realizing the great opportunities for women in wine. She was a chemistry major intent on going into the pharma business. She took an internship as a lab technician at St. Francis in 2003 to pass the time and never left.

Katie Madigan has worked at St. Francis Winery for 14 years

Now 14 years later Katie is in charge of making St. Francis’s award winning wines. She says she’s most proud of making great wines widely available for everyone to enjoy.  I asked Katie for career tips for aspiring women winemakers. She says: 1. get your experience working in the cellar, 2. learn to run a pump and forklift  3. be ready to get your hands dirty 4. be confident on your palate and 5. be very patient.  Careers in wine, like the wine itself, can take time to mature.

While we did not make it to St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa, we are very familiar with the wines. David has written about St. Francis Winery for Tasting Panel Magazine, and many years ago my former PR firm, M Young Communications, produced St, Francis’s Big Red chef events in New York and Los Angeles. You can arrange a visit, and we hope to next trip. www.stfranciswine.com

 

Here is our show with Chef Dustin Valette and Winemaker Katie Madigan on iHeart.com and the free iHeart App.

 

 

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Harlem’s Queen of Comfort Food: Melba Wilson

Melba

“The way I see it,” says Melba Wilson, “Soul food is the foundation of American comfort food.”

She’d know. For Melba, a Harlem native, or as she likes to say “I am Harlem born, bred, and buttered,” owns one of  most influential soul food restaurants in New York City’s most exciting dining neighborhood, aptly named Melba’s.

Like many children, she grew up watching her mother and grandomother cook and learned to love food, and soul food, in the process. But, Melba actually went into marketing and sales after school, anything from cosmetics to limo driving, finally entering the restaurant business on a lark when the great Sylvia Woods, Harlem’s Queen of Soul Food and owner of the world famous Sylvia’s, called and asked Melba to spearhead the 25th anniversary of the restaurant.

Melba did such a good job that Sylvia offered her a postion at the restaurant, starting her love affair with the hospitality business and eventually leading to her opening her own place.

melba's_v4_460x285
Melba’s, on the corner of 114th St and Frederick Douglas Blvd

Opened in 2005, Melba’s was an almost overnight success, with a family style menu that as Melba likes to say, “blends my Carolina heritage (her family is from South Carolina), with a dash of extra spice, a little urban edge, a taste of the melting pot, and a few ‘dee-lish’ twists.” It’s also been covered regularly in foodie magazines, and Melba even “Beat Bobby Flay” with her fried chicken recipe, now renamed Throwdown Chicken in honor of that accomplishment.

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Fried Chicken and Waffles

 

Comfort Food’s reigning authority, Melba Wilson joins us to talk about her passion and new cookbook Melba’s American Comfort (Atria Books) on The Connected Table LIVE Wednesday May 18th at 2:00pmET.

melba book cover_240x340_67
#1 seller in biscuits and muffins. Click book cover photo for link to purchase.

THE CONNECTED TABLE BANNER WITH TIMES

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Meet the Golden Girl of Persia

There’s just something about the name “Persia” that seduces us. We are drawn to the flavors and aromas. Mint, cumin, cinnamon, oranges, pomegranates, dates and honey are ingredients we

like add to many of our everyday dishes. Aside from Melanie’s coming of age tour to Israel as a teenager, we’ve only traveled to the Middle East by way of our palates and the few restaurants we’ve experienced here in the USA. One of our favorites is recent JBF Award Winner Shaya in New Orleans.

Learn more about Sabrina Ghayour at www.sabrinaghayour.com
Learn more about Sabrina Ghayour at www.sabrinaghayour.com

Lucky for us a book entitled, “SIROCCO: Fabulous Flavors form The Middle East” by Sabrina Ghayour transports us and offers us new ways to accent our food at home. Dubbed “the golden girl of Persian cooking,” Sabrina is a self-taught cook, food writer and host of the popular Sabrina’s Kitchen Club in London. Her first book was “Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond.” In SIROCCO Sabrina draws on her Iranian

heritage and features dishes with a modern twist integrating African spices and Mediterranean staples.

BOOK COVER

 

A sirocco is a hot, dry wind that blows from northern Africa through the Mediterranean and southern Europe. Sabrina’s SIROCCO spreads the fragrant flavors of this region throughout her recipes.

Lamb Shank Tagine
Lamb Shank Tagine
Butternut Squash, Feta, Pesto
Butternut Squash, Feta, Pesto

 

Buy SIROCCO here and experience the flavors of the Middle East for yourself.

 

 

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Peter Lehmann’s Ian Hongell: Barossa’s Straightshooter

It seemed like the perfect plan: Help out Barossa Valley grape growers unable to sell their fruit in a changing market by making wine from their grapes, sell it off in bulk to those who need wine to sell and go play golf for the rest of the year.

Well, something like that, anyways…

A champion of the little guy, Peter Lehmann, a fifth generation Barossa native who grew

up surrounded by vineyards, was originally a winemaker and buyer for a large British-owned Barossa Valley wine company. In 1979 when told by his superiors not to buy fruit he had contracted for, Peter, knowing it was the only source of income for his suppliers, decided to buy and process the fruit himself under the name of Masterson Barossa Vineyards (aptly named after Sky Masterson, the gambler in Guys and Dolls) – and he did it at his employers winery and with their blessing!

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The Cellardoor at Peter Lehmann Wines

However, when the winery sold the following year, the new owners halted the arrangement, forcing Peter to go out on his own. The result, Peter Lehmann Wines, enabled him to keep his relationships with growers in good standing and also showcase the increasing depth of the region’s growing capabilities, a move and philosophy that eventually earned Peter the title “Baron of the Barossa.”

Thirty-five years later, Peter Lehmann wines, founded in the late 1970s as an act of compassion by its namesake  with a group of like-minded wine industry veterans,  produces some of the best wines in Australia.

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The winery is now owned by the Casella Family Brands of [yellowtail] fame with a winemaking team helmed by Chief Winemaker Ian Hongell, another Barossa native who made his first wine at age 7 in a plastic bucket. Peter Lehmann Wines are now sold worldwide, and count upwards of 30 wines in the portfolio ranging from entry level easy drinkers to top-tier tiny production wines that are continuously heralded as benchmarks of the region’s output.

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Chief Winemaker Ian Hongell with Founding Winemaker Andrew Wigan and Peter Lehmann

Peter Lehmann’s winemaker, Ian Hongell, visited with The Connected Table LIVE! on Wednesday May 11 to talk about Peter Lehmann’s legacy, Barossa, and of course the region’s most famous varietal, Shiraz.  Listen to our podcast of this show on iHeart.com and the free iHeart App. Click here for the link.

 

Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple
Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple. Connect and follow: Twitter@connectedtable Instagram#TheConnectedTable Facebook/connectedtable

Connect and follow each of us:

David: twitter.com/Ransomwrites
Melanie:  twitter.com/mightymelanie

For more on the inspiring story of How Peter Lehmann wines was started, check out this video:

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David Ransom Drink Explore INSPIRE Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Casa Dragones Tequila Raises The Bar

 

Bertha Gonzales Nieves
Bertha Gonzales Nieves of Casa Dragones

 

She’s called “The First Lady of Tequila” and is the first female “Maestra Tequila” certified by the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila. And she makes a pretty amazing

tequila called Casa Dragones.

After years building the Cuervo brand globally, Bertha Gonzáles Nieves stepped out in 2009 to create her own style of tequila to rave reviews. Casa Dragones is an ultra premium, 100% Blue Agave, hand -crafted sipping tequila that’s smooth, soft and warm with no bite – the way a good tequila should taste. From the sea blue blue packaging and perfume bottle design to the platinum-hued liquid inside, everything about Casa Dragones speaks luxury. This is a sipping spirit to lift the spirits and savor slowly.

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Casa Dragones Joven

So what is Casa Dragones Tequila? Well, it’s a game changer – and part of a growing category of bottlings that are taking the art of crafting tequila, long thought of as a delicious and complex but somewhat pedestrian spirit, to new levels of refinement and elegance through the use of different techniques in distillation, aging and blending. With Casa Dragones, think Cognac with Tequila flavor, but without the burn, or in this case, the color.

First, Casa Dragones is not your old method Tahona wheel/wood-fired Still traditional type of tequila. It is a double column distilled sipper that is clean, ripe with florals and fruit in the nose, and subtle on the palate.

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Bertha Gonzales Nieves

Second, unlike the traditional styles of Tequila – Blanco (or Silver), Reposado, and Anejo – Casa Dragones makes what’s called a Joven Tequila, a blended tequila that is primarily Silver, but with other, more aged lots – in this case a bit of 5 year-old Extra Anejo (the recently added fourth main category) blended-in to add complexity and smoothness. In the case of the Casa Dragones Joven, the color is removed from the Extra Anejo portion to keep the final spirit clear.

 

With the proliferation of Tequila labels on the market these days, many of which are billed as traditional and with a classic Tequila style. Casa Dragones stands out for being exactly not that. It is not a rough, hot, meaty spirit that feels like it was made in a hand-made still in the barn behind the hacienda, but a soft, smooth, elegant spirit with a lightness and level of refinement that liken it more to the sipping equivalent of drinking silk than wool.

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Co-Founders Bob Pittman and Bertha Gonzales Nieves

Casa Dragones Co-Founder Bertha Gonzáles Nieves joins us on The Connected Table LIVE! this Wednesday May 4, 2016 for a chat about Casa Dragones, and her views on Tequila and the state of the Tequila industry. Listen in at 2:25pm

on W4CY Radio.

Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple
Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple