Last week, we launched our new, weekly column. Check back each Friday for the next edition of “Wine Down for the Weekend”. Read on for an easy-to-prepare-at-home fabulous dinner paired with an affordable wine and a viewing suggestion. We’re here to help you sit back, “wine down and chill.”
What to watch
All right. Awards season is finally over. Maybe your favorite actors, actresses and movies won some flashy hardware. Maybe they didn’t. In fact, I’m still perplexed why “A Star is Born” did not win best movie. And how was Bradley Cooper not nominated for Best Director? Sigh! But at least we had that dreamy duet with Lady Gaga.
Winter is still (unfortunately) very much alive and kicking so there is plenty of opportunity to stay huddled indoors. Go ahead, cuddle up with your bestie or your fur baby. Pick up a bottle of wine. Flick on the TV and stream something. It’s time to wine down and chill.
Last week’s Academy Awards served up the most diverse collection of creatives in its history. I watched so many talented women and people of color receive their golden boy statues that it sparked an idea for this week’s food-wine-show pairing. You may be a bit shocked by my choice but give it a chance! It’s not the snoozer that you might be inclined to think that it is. Stream “RBG” ($2.99 on Amazon) and I am confident you won’t be disappointed.
The movie is about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or “Notorious R.B.G.” as she is affectionately named. RBG embraces her moniker, named in parody after the rapper, Notorious B.I.G. (because “they have so much in common” she says). When she’s not drafting a dissenting opinion or attending an opera, she enjoys some wine.
She is as formidable as she is petite – but don’t let her diminutive stature fool you. She is feisty to her core. RBG attained icon status in her 80’s and is celebrated equally across five different generations of admirers. Most importantly, she has created a legacy that will live beyond her passing. Which, of course, none of us want to see. In fact, with her recent health scares, the Twitterverse has called on The Planet to protect that luminary in bubble wrap.
RBG, right out of the gate from law school, embraced diversity. She has spent a lifetime advocating for equal rights for women and people of color. As one of only two women who have been appointed to the illustrious Supreme Court, she is part egalitarian, part politician and part phenomenon. A modern-day rebel with a cause who was also a traditional caregiver. Did you know that she slept only two hours a day so that she could push her ill husband and herself through law school while taking care of their 2-year-old toddler?
The movie touches on her fortitude and exposes us to her softer side through the 58-year love story with her now deceased husband. This 85-year-old woman works out with a personal trainer everyday. And she rocks out to opera. In her honor, play a little Pavarotti or one of my favorites, Renée Fleming, while you are preparing dinner.
What to drink
When it comes to chardonnay, it seems about half the people admire the buttery notes and tongue feel that comes with aging in an oak cask. The other half? Not so much. That half tends to prefer the steel-aged wines that are a little more acidic and lighter on the tongue. Personally, I’m all about butter. Any way that I can get it …
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape originating from eastern France (Burgundy region). As it is relatively easy to grow, it is now widely cultivated worldwide as the second most popular varietal grown. Aging in oak barrels is a common practice that helps bring out some creamy vanilla, buttery notes.
The 2017 Hogue Chardonnay is value priced at $13 and is broadly available in the Greater NYC area. Wine Enthusiast rates it at 87, which is a rather impressive score for a cheap bottle of wine. This chardonnay grows in Eastern Washington. There, the days are long, warm and sunny while the nights lean towards the cooler side. This helps bring out some acidity to the wine which is important so that it’s not super sweet and has a little crispness to it.
2017 was one of the warmest seasons on record for the region which accelerated the timing of the harvest. The atypical warmth also brought out richer flavors balanced with low acidity.
How to taste this wine
This wine smells like pear and apple. Sniff it carefully, can your nose detect those notes? Can your tongue taste them? Here is a fun little way to teach your nose and tongue to be more attuned to the wine’s notes.
Cut up a small piece of a red apple and a small piece of pear. Smell the apple, put it on your tongue and taste it for a few seconds without chewing it. Then chew it and swallow. Next, sniff your wine then take a sip. Hold the wine on your tongue for a few seconds then swallow.
Can you find the apple notes now? Follow the same steps with the piece of pear.
What to eat
You’ve set the mood with some tragic heroine singing her aria softly in the background. You’ve opened a nicely chilled bottle of a creamy chardonnay and have your glass poised next to you on the kitchen counter. Now it’s time to whip up a fabulous dinner so that you can wine down and chill.
Five ingredients plus five steps … here we go. Salmon, a bottle of prepared marinade, asparagus, rosemary and olive oil is all that you need. And wine. Don’t forget the wine!
Five ingredients and five steps
One, purchase some fresh salmon. As a rule of thumb, a typical portion is about 0.3 lbs.. Note that people on the hungry side may prefer up to 0.5 lbs. Take your pick whether it is wild-caught or farm-raised but ensure that it is fresh. Frozen or not-so-fresh fish tends to have a strong (and foul) odor that is best described as “cat food”.
Two, liberally coat the salmon with a sweet’n’sour Hawaiian style marinade. If you don’t have it on hand, mix a bit of ketchup, pineapple juice and touch of soy sauce to approximate the same flavor combination. Sprinkle a little garlic or sea salt on top if you like a bit of a salty taste.
Three, lightly coat your baking dish (e.g./ cookie sheet or Pyrex casserole) with olive oil. Or, if you want less mess to clean up, line your dish with tinfoil then oil it before you place the salmon on it.
Four, take a rolling pin or beverage glass and apply pressure to the fresh rosemary stem to bring out more flavor. Snip off all the leaves and sprinkle liberally on the salmon.
Five, wash your fresh, baby asparagus, chop off the ends and place alongside the salmon in the same dish. Drizzle olive oil over the asparagus and sprinkle with sea salt plus the crushed rosemary.
Bake around 30 min at 350°F. Gently pry a spatula along the bottom of the salmon filet to separate the fish from the skin. If you want to be a little flashy, garnish with an intact rosemary stem and slice of lemon. Plate and serve a healthy, fabulous meal that pairs oh-so-perfectly with this chardonnay.