Herb Crusted Salmon w/ Lemon Caper Vinaigrette Wine Pairing Recipe

herb crusted salmon
Norwegian salmon works best


One of the best herb crusted salmon pairings is the 2010 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. The lemongrass notes work well here, especially if you grill some asparagus and squeeze a little lemon juice with grated Parmesan on top.  This is a full throttle white wine that you gotta swirl around in your glass to get the full experience.

Big expressive notes of lychee, lemongrass, passionfruit, fresh grapefruit are evident even as the glass is sitting on the table in front of you.  It's not very often you can smell a wine that's almost two feet away from your nose.  The aromatic fireworks  practically fill the entire room.  The notes are a good example of New Zeals Sauv Blanc typicity, but what I like about this one is it has a fatter mouthfeel because the winemaker leaves the wine on the lees longer.  The result is a full body texture that'll stand up to the full body, rich texture of the vinaigrette.

Mini Me Crab Cakes w/ Spicy Sauce


Last week I picked up a fresh Dungeness Crab (and this recipe) from Whole Foods that was caught that morning from Bodega Bay, and was cleaned as well as cracked....all for $4.99.  Gotta love this time of year in the bay area!

These tasty little gems are great for parties.  They're two bites of sheer awesomeness...make ahead of time and reheat or make 'em fresh.  Please share you wine pairing suggestions below in comments.  Cheers!

INGREDIENTS 1 LB Dungeness Crab (or lump crab meat) 2/3 cup bread crumbs (wheat crumbs work well) 4 green onions, sliced thin 1 egg 1/4 TSP fresh ground pepper 1-1/2 TSP Old Bay seasoning 1 TBSP Dijon mustard 6 TBSP mayonnaise, divided 1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper, chopped 2 TBSP hot sauce 1-1/2 TSP grated lemon zest 1 TBSP canola oil

Place crab meat in a large bowl and use your fingers to gently feel for and remove any pieces of shell or crab cartilage. Add green onions, bread crumbs, Old Bay and pepper, toss to combine. While that's going on, get out a smaller bowl and whisk together dijon, egg and 2 TBSP of mayo, and pour over the crab mix. Toss until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes

Meanwhile, take a sip of the wine you're thinking of pairing :) And also, make the sauce while you're at it. Nobody wants to be a total lush. In a blender, combine bell pepper, hot sauce, lemon zest and remaining mayo. blend until it's silky smooth. Cover and refrigerate until it's ready to use.

Form the crab mixture into 24 small 2-bite crab cakes...each about 1-1/2 inch in diameter. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the cakes until nicely browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel and serve warm with sauce.

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Citrus-Dusted Tuna *What wine would you serve?


6 6-OZ tuna steaks 1 cup fresh orange juice 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 1/2 cup fresh lime juice 3 TBSP sugar 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 TBSP fresh ground pepper 1 TSP salt

Heat grill on medium-high.  In a medium bowl, combine OJ, lemon juice, lime juice, sugar and garlic.  Bring to boil, cook until reduced to 1/2 cup.  Remove from heat. Season tuna steaks with salt and pepper.  Spray grill with cooking grill spray like PAM, grill fish for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Brush fish with OJ glaze, grill for 1 minute, turn fish and glaze other size with OJ glaze.  Cook 1 minute for medium-rare tuna steaks.

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Greek Mahi Mahi

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1-1/4 LB mahi mahi fillets 1/3 cup olive oil Juice from a lemon 3 TBSP fresh oregano, chopped 4 TBSP fresh mint, chopped 2 garlic clove, minced 1 TSP lemon zest 1/4 salt

Rinse mahi mahi and pat dry.  Cut fish into bite-sized pieces.  In a small bowl stir together olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, garlic, mint, lemon zest and salt.  Marinate fish in mixture for at least 1 hour. Pour marinade in a separate bowl.  Prehat grill to medium heat.  Spray grill with grill spray and grill fish for about 5-6 minutes each side.  Brush with marinade while grilling.  Serve with diced tomato and mixed vegetables.


Wine Pairing -

Picture the ingredients and how they'll register on your palate.  Start to imagine how they'll be perceived by your sweet, sour, bitter and salt combined with umami receptors.  The lemon will provide some sour while the garlic will lend some of the bitterness.  Umami will be perceived by the cut of fish, try to get the mahi mahi as fresh as possible by going to a market other than a massive chain grocery store.

There's not much sweetness going on here.  You can either match flavors by getting a wine that compliments the lemon flavor like a Sauvignon Blanc or you could contrast that and go for something that isn't lemon, and is sweeter like a Riesling.  Personal preference.

Personally, I'd go with a wine that's more closely aligned with the region the dish originated from.  Since this is a dish that comes from the Greek/Mediterranean part of the world, I'd seek out a wine that is also from that region.  Greek producer, Boutari produces a white wine called Moschofilero that would pair beautifully with this dish.  The wine comes from the Mantinia regoin of Peloponnese from 2100 feet above sea level.  That provides a climate for a fresh, crisp wine with the acidity to stand up to the sauciness.  Look for honey, citrus and melon notes that will intermingle with the Oregeno and Mint on your tongue.  Enjoy!

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Balsamic Glazed King Salmon



I'm finding salmon to be a really great fish for wine and food pairings.  There are so many different ways to prepare salmon, and a wide range of wines to pair with.  One of my favorite grapes is Pinot Noir, and Pinot just happens to go hand in hand with salmon.

This dish makes good use of the Balsamic vinegar to cover up any fishy taste.  Norwegian salmon is nice and fatty, and has a flavor perfect for this dish.  When you grill the salmon, the grilled flavor really gives the salmon a nice glaze.

Check out the 1996 Domaine Leroy Bourgogne from Burgundy. Burgundy Pinot Noirs take longer to come together in the bottle so you have to be patient.  When you get a good one, it's magic in a bottle.  Burgundy has 4 levels designated on their labels:

Bourgogne - when you see that on the label, it means the grapes were sourced from anywhere in Burgundy.  Pretty broad area.

Villages - Burgundy is broken up into villages, such as Cote de Nuits.  This zooms into a smaller area within Burgundy.  Grapes from that village are in a Villages bottle, pronounced (vilaj).

1er Cru - Also known as Premiere Cru.  This zooms in even more to a specific vineyard that's within a village, which is within Burgundy.  Pinot really starts to express terroir when you get into a specific vineyard.  Quality and collectility goes up.

Grand Cru - When you get a wine from a Grand Cru vineyard, you have something special.  This is the ultimate expression of terroir and winemaking.  Some Grand Cru wines from Burgundy fetch upwards of $2,000 a bottle because the quality is the highest, but supply is the lowest.

Leroy is one of the top producers in Burgundy, so although her Bourgogne is the lowest of the four levels, hers is still spectacular.  The 1996 is very youthful, velvety and complex.  Aromas out of the glass are like a tractor beam bringing the glass to your lips—you're powerless to stop it.


recipe from Chef Ron Barber

INGREDIENTS 4 salmon steaks – about 6 ounces each, 1 inch thick 1 cup balsamic vinegar 1/2 cup Cabernet Franc 1 TBSP fresh lime juice 1 TSP sugar

Combine the balsamic vinegar, wine, lime juice, and sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and reduce the mixture by half – allow to cool.  Add the salmon steaks to the marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Prepare a charcoal or gas grill.  Remove the salmon from the marinade and pat dry.  Season with salt and pepper and grill over high heat for about 4 minutes per side.  Serve with grilled vegetables and steamed rice.

photo via SheKnows

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Dungeness Crab Cake Salad with Watercress, Fennel and Orange

watercress INGREDIENTS for CRAB CAKES 1 egg, beaten 1 LB fresh Dungeness crab 3/4 cup bread crumbs 1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese 1/4 cup mayonaisse 3 shallots, finely chopped 2 TBSP dijon mustard juice from one lemon 1/4 cup green bell peppers, minced 1/4 cup red bell peppers, minced 1 TBSP green onions 2 TBSP parsley, finely chopped 1 TBSP butter 1/4 TSP cayenne pepper

INGREDIENTS for SALAD 4 cups watercress, rinsed 4 oranges, peeled and separated juice from one lemon 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 1 fennel bulb, cleaned and sliced thinly Salt and Pepper to taste . . To prepare the crab cakes, heat butter in a sauté pan over medium low heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together shallots, grated cheese, lemon juice, mayo, egg, mustard, bread crumbs, bell pepper, salt and cayenne.  After mixing, add in crab meat, then divide into 8-10 balls.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To prepare salad, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  In a separate bowl, toss watercress, orange segments, fennel and onion together.

Remove crab balls from refrigerator and flatten into one inch thick cakes.  Heat 2-3 TBSP oil or butter in a skillet and cook for 4 minutes on each side over medium heat.  Distribute salad mix on chilled plates, top with dressing and crab cakes then serve.

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Wine pairings for this dish are pretty easy.  It's a flexible dish suitable for many Chardonnay's or rich whites.  The crab cakes are pretty hearty, so make sure to serve with a white wine that can hang.  I've tried oaked Chardonnay's and unoaked Chardonnays.  The both worked.  Pinot Grigio, Semillion, Viognier and other whites also work.  If I had to pick one wine as the most ideal pairing, it would be the Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay from Livermore.

I'm more of an unoaked Chardonnay kinda guy, but once in a while, you just want that buttery butter ball that even Mrs. Butterworth thinks is buttery.  The Riva Ranch Chardonnay isn't obnoxious — still refined and a great expression of the vineyard.  Many people don't realize the Wente's were one of the first wine family's in California going back to the 1850's.  They've quietly gone about producing consistent well-priced estate wines.

The Riva Ranch has a creamy "dusty" texture with mineral highlights that can best be described as a combination of wet rocks and smoke.


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Holiday Wine+Food Pairing Recipes


Strawberry and Almond Spinach Salad


INGREDIENTS 1 LB baby spinach leaves, washed 1/2 cup sliced green onions 1/3 cup slivered almonds, drizzled with honey and slightly toasted 1 cup sliced strawberries 2-3 TBSP chopped fresh dill

INGREDIENTS FOR DRESSING: 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 1/4 cup sugar or Truvia 1 TSP garlic, minced 1/4 TSP sea salt 1/4 TSP fresh ground pepper 1/4 TSP dry mustard powder 1/4 TSP onion powder 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, sugar or Truvia, olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, dry mustard and onion powder.

Wash dill and pat dry or use a spinner. Trim off feathery ends, discarding thick stems. finely chop dill and set aside. Wash and slice strawberries.

Wash spinach and spin dry or pat dry with paper towels. Place spinach in large mixing bowl. Thinly slice green onions and add to spinach in bowl. Add slivered toasted almonds and chopped dill and mix together.

Whisk dressing a few time to be sure it's well-mixed, then add desired amount of dressing to salad and toss.  To keep dressing from making leaves heavy, pour dressing around sides of bowl mixing spinach against it rather than pouring dressing directly on to spinach.

Arrange salad on individual serving plates. Toss sliced strawberries with 1-2 TBSP of dressing, then arrange strawberries over salad on each plate and serve.

Wine Pairings: The strawberries deliver a bit of tanginess that would benefit from a touch of salt and pepper. This recipe is meant to be easy to make and easy to transport to parties. It's colorful, it's light and it's healthy. Better yet, this recipe is created to pair with wines you'd expect to find at holiday parties like Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. An unoaked Chardonnay will be even better because the fruit and acidity will be more complimentary with the strawberries. Here's a few wines I'd recommend:

+ Bethel Heights Pinot Gris - Oregon + Spann Vineyards Chardonnay/Viognier - Sonoma + St. Supéry Oak Free Chardonnay - Napa


Roast Lamb with Shallots, Mint and Mustard

Roast Lamb Chops

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS For lamb: 1 crown of lamb made from two 8-rib racks (about 4 1/2 pounds total) 3 TBSP butter, room temperature 1 TBSP plus 1/2 TSP Dijon mustard 2 TSP dried rosemary

1 cup dry white wine large shallots, chopped 1/4 cup chicken stock 3 TBSP fresh mint, chopped

For Spring Vegetables with Mint: 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, halved 1 baby carrot bunch, stems trimmed to 1 inch, peeled 1 10 OZ. basket pearl onions, peeled 1 LB fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut crosswise into thirds

3 TBSP butter 3 TBSP fresh mint, chopped

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon mustard and 1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary in bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Place lamb in roasting pan. Rub all over with butter mixture. Roast 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. and continue roasting until thermometer inserted into lamb registers 140°F. for medium-rare, about 40 minutes. Transfer lamb to platter; let stand 15 minutes.

Pour off fat from roasting pan and set pan aside. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over low heat. Add shallots and 1/2 teaspoon rosemary; sauté until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Add wine to roasting pan and bring to boil over high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Add wine to skillet. Add stock; boil until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon mustard and mint. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon vegetables in center of and around roast. Serve, cutting lamb into chops and spooning sauce over.

To make spring vegetables: Place potatoes in vegetable steamer and steam 10 minutes. Add carrots and onions and steam until vegetables are almost tender, about 10 minutes longer. Add asparagus and steam until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes more.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add mint and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and stir until vegetables are coated with butter.

Wine Pairings: The right selection of lamb will make all the difference. Colorado lamb is some of the best in the country and should be readily available at most decent markets. The resulting holiday dish will be tender and flavorful which bodes well for a lighter style red wine. Cabernet or high alcohol reds will most likely overpower the flavors. Here's a few I recommend:

+ Chateau Musar Rouge 1995 - Lebanon + Twisted Oak River of Skulls - Calaveras County, CA

+ Lucienne Pinot Noir Doctor's Vineyard - Central Coast, CA

+ Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc - Walla Walla, WA



Herb Crusted Filet of Beef


Serves 6

INGREDIENTS 1 3-lb. Beef Tenderloin 3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1/2 cup Madeira 2/3 cup Vermouth 1/4 Cognac 1 bay leaf 1 TBSP butter 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 TBSP marjoram 1 TBSP fresh thyme, chopped 1/2 cup cold water sea salt and pepper

HERB CRUST: 3 slices white bread, crusts removed 1/2 cup fresh herbs, chopped (thyme, marjoram, rosemary, parsley) 2-3 cloves garlic, minced

At least 2 hours before cooking, combine all ingredients together (not Herb Crust or Madeira) in a large bowl or pan. Place meat in mixture and cover entire cut of beef with herb mix. Refrigerate for later cooking.

To make herb crust, place bread in food processor with herbs and garlic. Process until well blended and fine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grill Method: Preheat grill to medium high. Take beef out of marinade and set marinade aside for later. Cook each side of meat 4 minutes or so giving it a nice sear on all sides. After searing, move beef to upper rack or cooler side of grill and cook 20 minutes.

Oven Method: Preheat oven to 425°F. Oven sear beef (brown sides, about 5-7 minutes each side) then reduce heat to 350°F. Cook for 30-35 minutes making sure to baste throughout cooking.

After beef is done cooking, remove filet from grill or oven and place on a platter, then cover with foil tent. Place platter in oven with oven off and door open, or with the oven on WARM for 20 minutes. Take the marinade that was set aside and pour it into a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Bring to boil and reduce liquid by half, add madeira, then reduce by half. Serve sauce on the side late with beef. If you cooked the beef in the oven, you can use the roasting pan instead of a small saucepan so you get all the yummy bits.

To finish, rub herb crust mixture all over beef, brush a light amount of olive oil if needed. Place herb-covered beef back on the grill and cook each side about 2-3 minutes per side taking care to not burn the crust. If using the oven, broil each side for 2-3 minutes taking care to avoid burning.

Carve beef and serve with sauce on side.

Wine Pairings: Here's a regal beef dish that's sure to be a crowd pleaser. If you actually like the people you have over at your house you can bring out the good wines to impress them. Better yet, pull out a magnum. If it's your family and they're driving you up one wall and down another you can opt for the lower tier swill. If you dine at Chez Bakas, chances are it's all good stuff. Because this beef dish requires a little extra preparation, why not serve a wine that's got a little extra Bruce Lee round house kick to the taste buds? I'd serve these wines with this dish:

+ Quinta do Crasto Old Vines Reserva - Portugal + Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon - Washington + St. Supéry Dollarhide Ranch Cabernet - Napa + Vilafonté Series C - South Africa


Garlic Roasted Chicken

garlic roasted chicken

INGREDIENTS 1 free ranch whole chicken 2 whole heads of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half horizontally 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 cup white wine 3/4 cup chopped fresh herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, Marjoram Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375° Rinse chicken inside and out with cold water. Drain and pat dry. Mix together 1 TBSP fresh ground pepper, 1TBSP sea salt and herbs in a small bowl. In a 9x14 roasting pan, cover chicken with olive oil making sure to coat entire bird. Rub salt, pepper and herb mixture all over chicken including inside the cavity. Wrap chicken legs together with string. Put halved garlic heads into pan around chicken. Put roasting pan in oven on center rack and cook for 20 minutes. Baste chicken with wine and roast for another 25 minutes. Baste chicken again using pan juices. Turn chicken over and repeat process. After 90 minutes chicken skin should be golden brown. Chicken is done when clear juices run from thigh after poking with a knife.

Place chicken on platter with tail in the air so moisture and juices flow downhill to breast meat. Cover with foil and let chicken stand 10 minutes before serving with roasted garlic.

Wine Pairings: Here's a chicken dish that'll go with that buttery butterball Chardonnay you've been wanting to open. It's chicken. Keep it simple and enjoy! A few wines I'd serve:

+ Au Bon Climat Nuits Blanches Chardonnay - Santa Barbara + Sokol Blosser Evolution - Oregon + Domaine Jean-Marc Vincent, Les Hautes, Auxey-Duresses 2006 - Burgundy

Snowball Cookies

snowball cookies

INGREDIENTS 1/2 cup butter 2 TBSP sugar 1 TSP vanilla 3/4 cup chopped pecans 1 cup flour 1/4 TSP salt Powdered sugar

Cream butter Add all other ingredients, except the powdered sugar. Mix well. Shape into 1" balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes. These should be light in color, not brown. Cool and roll in powdered sugar.


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Wine+Food on the Napa Wine Train

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Ninety days ago I moved to Napa Valley from Boulder, Colorado and have to say it's been a blur.  There is so much good food and wine around this place, coupled with the fact I just watched Bottle Shock recently which leads me to believe I now live in one of the greatest places on Earth.  We have so much good wine here in the Napa and surrounding areas like Sonoma, Healdsburg and Lake County among others that are driving distance from where I live.  Add in Central Coast, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles and others—yessiree, California is an incredible wine producing part of the world.  A weekend drive to just about any wine region will be ripe with unexpected surprises both from the vine and locally picked food fare.



Of all the delectable offerings from Napa, one stands out as a true five-star experience—the Napa Wine Train. My wife and I had the privilege of enjoying an evening in the Vista Dome car recently.  It's not just the enjoyment of stellar Napa wines or the tantalizing offering from Chef McDonald.  It's complimented by the unique feeling of going back in time to a simpler moment in history where things were simple.  Once you get on the Napa Wine Train, you feel like you're transported through time to the 1940's.  Around each corner you expect to see characters like Humphrey Bogart smoking a cigarette wearing a suit and Fedora.

Just being on the train is a break from reality and worth the price of admission.  But then they start bringing you the wine and food...that's when you  thank yourself for taking the time to visit Napa Valley in the first place.  IMG_1604

Napa Wine Train

Our first course of the evening was a choice of Grilled Shrimp with Scallop Ceviche in a Lobster Jus OR Seared Fie Gras Au Poivre Served on Raisin Toast with Cognac Creme.  I went for the Grilled Shrimp and it was delightful.  We paired St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc which was an ideal combination.

Next course was Soup du Jour - in this case a home-grown tomato bisque with tomatoes sourced from the Napa Wine Train organic tomato patch.  The soup was an ideal mix of tomato, cream, spice and a kiss of cognac.  Yum!

Next — Intermezzo! A delicate trio of the Napa Wine Train sorbet's.

Then, onto the main course.  I opted for the Roasted Beef Tenderloin wrapped in bacon.  Why? Because te chef added bacon to the menu just for me.  Sweet!  Freaking bacon!  Not only bacon, but bacon wrapped around some beef tenderloin.  He could have wrapped bacon around road kill-I would have loved it.  With this preparation, however, it was Beef Tenderloin wrapped with bacon with shallots, roasted garlic in a Chimichurri Sauce.  We paired St. Supery Elu with this one and it was sublime.  When you enjoy a good recipe, you can tell when the chef makes the extra effort to source quality, fresh ingredients as was the case here.  The beef was an organically grown cut sourced from local California cattle farms.

Tomato Bisque

Grilled Shrimp with Scallop Ceviche

From that point on the evening got a little fuzzy.  We had a good time...no, a great time.  The Napa Wine Train treated us a special experience not only with the wine and food pairings served but the incredible scenery passing through some of Napa's most famous vineyards.  If you get a chance, I'd highly recommend taking a ride on the train whether it's for a full dinner or just for drinks.  The scenery alone is worth the ride.


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Grilled Tuna w/ Lemon & Caper Sauce


Griddled tuna steak
Image via Wikipedia


3 tuna steaks cut in into 1-1/4 inch thick (about a pound each) 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 2 TBSP capers, drained 1 lemon, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices 2 TBSP parsley, finely chopped 4 TBSP butter Seas Salt & fresh ground pepper

Preheat grill (or broiler) to medium high. Brush both sides of tuna with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter is light brown. Cut lemon slices into quarters. Add them, along with their juice, along with capers to saucepan. Reduce heat and cook stirring frequently. Grill, or broil tuna turning once until charred outside and slightly pink inside (about 3-4 minutes per side). Transfer tuna to large platter and cut into thick strips. Pour lemon and caper sauce over fish and serve garnished with parsley.

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In Search of the Best Clam Chowder near Cape Cod

Wine and food... few things in life are as enjoyable to me as wine and food.  I love those two things because they've been the centerpiece of society since the Roman Empire.  When you get to travel to places where wine and food are part of the local culture, it's even better.  Boston is a great city for many things related to wine and food.  Boston has some of the best seafood around, especially clam chowder.  There's also a number of great breweries who are doing cool things with beer and food pairings. I was on a mission to find the best cup of chowder after an inspiring moment in the Willamette Valley where I had Salmon Chowder with bacon in it.  So I headed from Boston towards Cape Cod in search of the best example of what good chowder should be.  The criteria for the best cup was a sliding scale but based loosely on the quality of ingredients, balance of flavor and amount of stuff in there.  I stopped in Plymouth, Mass. and sampled a few offerings from the local restaurants.  Since I work for a Napa winery famous for Sauvignon Blanc, I'm always on the lookout for a good pairing to go with our Sauvie B.  Clam chowder can be a good pairing if it's done right.  Here's what I discovered:

Contender #1 - Woods

Woods Clam Chowder

Right on the dock in Plymouth, Mass. is Woods. Half seafood market, half restaurant. I ordered a cup of their chowder and it was creamy, but didn't have very much in it. In fact, I don't have much to say about it other than that.  The cream base was good but it could've had more stuff in it.  The clams were kind of rubbery.

Contender #2 - Lobster Hut

Lobster Hut

Lobster Hut was down the street from Woods, located on the water.  The Lobster Hut clam chowder had more ingredients in it, yet had the same cream texture as Woods'.  It wasn't too bad for a family diner setting.  Potatoes were just right and the clams were softer and not as rubbery as the Woods' chowder.

Contender #3 - CabbyShack

Cabbyshack Chowder

Cabbyshack is the kind of place you walk into and expect to see waiters wearing flair.  They come over and offer to start you off with Chicken Cluckers® or the Cabbyshack-tacular Margarita.  Think Senor Frogs but in the Northeast.  When my cup of clam chowder came, it was loaded with all sorts of ingredients.... In fact, too many ingredients.  It was no longer a Chowder, but rather a "Crowder"—all the stuff was crammed into the cup.  You'd think more is more, but in this case too many potatoes, clams, etc. caused the texture of the actual chowder to be too thick.  It was almost so thick that it resembled spackle.  Sadly, out of the first 3 contenders, this one was the best.

Contender #4 - Legal Seafood

Legal Seafood

My winning clam chowder is the cup from Legal Seafood.  If you take all the best parts of the previous 3 contenders, you have Legal Seafood Clam Chowder.  The cream base was just the right thickness without being overwhelming, there was just the right amount of high quality ingredients.  Rumor has it the White House serves this clam chowder and I can see why.  This is the best clam chowder I had in Mass.

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John Tyler Pinot Noir

Russian River is not only a beautiful place to drive through, but its location makes it well-suited to produce exceptional Pinot Noir fruit. Pinot Noir is such a delicate grape, and really requires more work to produce a great wine.  Where Cabernet or Chardonnay grapes have a thicker skin, Pinot Noir's skin is thin and the grape produces more dramatic results.  If you get a good one, it's magic in a bottle, if you get a bad one, it's really not enjoyable.  Russian River sits in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country and is home to a number of family wineries, including John Tyler Wines. This winery is a joint project between the Bacigalupi family and Heck family. Both families have rich histories with plenty of accolades.  Luckily for John Tyler Wines, they have a wonderful vineyard well suited for producing exceptional Pinot Noir fruit. A few weeks back I invited a few friends to taste two vintages of John Tyler Pinot side by side. The food pairing was Apple Soy Grilled Salmon which went well with the pinots.  My favorite part about the John Tyler pinots was the beautiful aromas rising out the glass.  The other impressive thing was the ALC % level in both wines, coming in between 14.1%-14.4%.  Perfect for California Pinot Noir. There is a pretty good balance of flavors on the taste map. The apple provides sweetness, the soy provides saltiness and I throw in a little ginger or garlic to add some bitterness to the recipe. The end results is equal balance of flavor. The wine too had an equal balance of sweet, sour, bitter and salt. Together I'd say both the recipe and wine had a similar intensity of flavor.


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Seared Scallops with Saffron Beurre Blanc

Butter and a butter knife
Image via Wikipedia

2 LB large sea scallops 2-1/2 cups white wine 1/3 cup champagne vinegar, or white wine vinegar 1 cup butter (2 sticks) cut into 3/4 inch cubes 1/4 TBSP saffron 1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped 1 TBSP sugar 2 OZ red bell pepper, minced

In medium or large saucepan bring wine, vinegar, shallots and saffron to a simmer, reduce to 3/4 cup.  Add sugar.  Slowly whisk in butter pieces fully mixing in one before adding another.  Do not let sauce boil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle scallops lightly both sides with salt and pepper.  Melt remaining 2 TBSP butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Sear scallops about 3 minutes each side until browned.  Spoon sauce onto plates, add scallops, then garnish with red bell pepper on top.

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Grilled Chili Lime Shrimp

. . . INGREDIENTS 1 LB jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined 1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped 4 garlic cloves, minced Juice from 1 lime 1 Anaheim or jalapeno pepper, diced 1 TBSP ginger, minced 1 TSP pepper

Clean and prep shrimps.  In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.  Pour over shrimp and marinate for 1 hour. Heat grill to medium-high.  Grill shrimp on each side until opaque.


The garlic and cilantro offset the tanginess from the lime juice.  Depending on how much heat you want from the chili, it will determine which wine to pair with. For a spicier option, go with the jalapeno pepper and pair with a creamy Riesling. If you go with an Anaheim pepper instead, the flavor is a bit faint but it makes this dish more friendly to pair with a Sauvignon Blanc such as the Warwick Sauvie B from South Africa or the Snapdragon white blend from Isenhower Cellars in Washington. Again with the creamy texture--it's a Rhone-inspired blend of Roussane and Viognier. The tropical notes compliment the lime and garlic nicely without overpowering the dish.


For this to be a $30 wine+food pairing, the wine needs to be about $15 or less.  Depending on if the shrimp are on sale or not, you should be able to get all the ingredients for about $15, which is nice.  With that in mind, I looked for a wine that would lock horns with the smokiness of the grill and the chili-lime fresh flavors.  The 2008 Domaine Ricard Touraine les Trois Chenes is a fun little Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley.  Imagine your chili lime shrimps coming off the grill feeling feisty and ready to get into the ring with a lime, a cilantro bunch and a tangerine.  The battle royale of flavor that would ensue is what your taste buds are going to witness.  The Domaine Ricard grapes are biodynamically grown, and for you, the wine drinker the result is a pleasant, crisp, tropical wine with tangerine lime zest notes on the nose that fit like a puzzle piece with the shrimps.  Enjoy!