Ultimate Cheese Plate with Wines of Garnacha/Grenache


European quality Garnacha/Grenache wines are not as expensive as some other styles of high-quality wines, making them the perfect wines to impress guests without breaking the bank. Their wide range of styles and aromas mean there is a European quality Garnacha/Grenache wine for any occasion or seasonal celebration.A symbol of European food culture, European quality Garnacha/Grenache wines are meant to be shared with others and enjoyed with delicious food and loved ones. Since the Garnacha/Grenache grape comes in all styles, European quality Garnacha/Grenache wines can pair with anything: Garnacha/Grenache's tannins are moderate enough as to not taste bitter when paired with sweet, sour, salty or spicy sauces, yet Garnacha/Grenache retains enough tannins to cut through meat fats; There is the umami factor, specifically, the reaction of salt and acidity when activated by foods high in amino acids (such as mushrooms, aged cheeses, sea vegetables), which reduces the sensation of bitterness. In today's food & wine post, I'm sharing my ultimate cheese plate (some of my faves) paired with wines of Garnacha/Grenache, in that both French and Spanish wines can go together very well with this assortment of nibbly food! Yum...

Obviously, with a cheese plate comes the cheese, so let's talk about which kinds of cheeses are my favorites and which ones go well with which wine. 

  • Emmental (Emmentaler or Emmenthal) is a yellow, medium-hard Swiss cheese that originated in the area around Emmental, Canton Bern. It has a savory, but mild taste. This cheese is produced in the central cantons of Switzerland. It is a traditional, unpasteurized, hard cheese made from cow's milk. It's hard, thin rind is covered by paper with producer's name on it. The aroma is sweet with tones of fresh-cut hay. The flavor is very fruity, not without a tone of acidity. Emmental has walnut-sized holes. It is considered to be one of the most difficult cheeses to be produced because of it's complicated hole-forming fermentation process. The cheese tastes delicious with a glass of wine, for example, Côtes du Roussillon.
  • Colby Jack or Cojack is a classic American combination of Colby and Monterey Jack cheese. The cheese was invented when Colby and Monterey Jack were blended together before pressing. A semi-soft cheese, it exhibits a unique eye-appealing marbled white and orange exterior that makes it a fun snack to eat on-the-go, and is probably one of my most favorite cheeses ever. The taste of Colby Jack varies from mild and smooth, to lightly sweet, to sharp and tangy. It groups well with deli meat, sandwiches, soups, sauces, burgers, dark breads like pumpernickel and rye, omelets, casseroles, steamed vegetables, baked potatoes and fruits like apples and pears. Perfect with red.
  • Camembert Marie Harel created the original Camembert cheese from raw milk in Normandy, France in 1791. Today, however, a very small percentage of producers make cheese from raw milk with the same process as Marie Harel would have used. Those who produce cheese using Marie Harel's method can legally call their cheese Camembert Normandie under the AOC guidelines. However, the production of Camembert cheese has now transcended the AOC designation. Very good varieties of Camembert cheese made from pasteurized milk can be found in Normandy today. The best of them is the Camembert Le Châtelain. The fresh Camembert cheese is bland, hard and crumbly in texture. Young Camembert has a milky and sweet taste. As the cheese matures it forms a smooth, runny interior and a white bloomy rind that is typical to Camembert cheese. It has a rich, buttery flavor. The rind is bloomy white caused by a white fungus, called penicillium candidum.The rind is meant to be eaten with the cheese. Goes well with red wine.
  • Gruyere is named after a Swiss village. It is traditional, creamery, unpasteurized, semi-soft cheese. The natural, rusty brown rind is hard, dry and pitted with tiny holes. The cheese is a darker yellow than Emmental but the texture is more dense and compact. Slightly grainy, the cheese has a wonderful complexity of flavors - at first fruity, later becomes more earthy and nutty. To make Gruyere, raw milk is heated to 93 degrees F and liquid rennet is added for curdling. The resulting curd is cut into small pieces which release whey while being stirred. The curd is cooked at 110 degrees F and raised quickly to 130 degrees F. The pieces become shriveled which is the cue to place the curd in molds for pressing. The cheese is salted in brine for 8 days and ripened for two months at room temperature or a quick method: 10 days at 50 degrees F. Curing lasts from 3 to 10 months (the longer the curing period the better the cheese). Loved this the most with the red Garnacha Las Moradas de San Martín.
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The Las Moradas de San Martín Garnacha wine was the winner in my book of all the wines I paired with my ultimate cheese plate. Their winery began in 1999 on the Madrid side of the Gredos range of hills, recovering the ancient Garnacha vineyards that have been cultivated since the 12th century in the municipality of San Martín de Valdeiglesias. Pago de los Castillejos is where the Madrid region meets the northern part of Toledo and the southern part of Ávila on the edge of the Gredos range. Its climate and special soils make it possible to make wines with plenty of personality and quality. A commitment to the future of people and this land. “Las Moradas” (known in English as “The Interior Castle”) is the title of the last book Saint Teresa wrote. The name is intended as a nod to literature, as the wine of this area is mentioned by the most important writers of the Spanish Golden Age, and we reflect this on the labels of our bottles. 

I also really appreciated the Côtes du Roussillon Les Vignes de Bila-Haut white Grenache wine as well. A little background on this wine: The Roussillon history is complex and compelling, and has at times been quite violent. Terraces on stony soil, with a rich geological background and a climate that man has adopted for his crops. The Roussillon was bound to attract Michel Chapoutier’s attention. He decided to locate his domain at Latour de France. Black and brown schist to give the wine a solar touch. Gneiss for minerality and freshness. Combination of Limestone and chalk for strength and balance. Three varieties of grapes grow on the land covered by Domaine de BILA-HAUT. Syrah, with its savage aromas of scrub and spice. Grenache, so full of surprises. And Carignan, for mineral wines with crispy tannic notes. The “Vignes de BILA-HAUT” and the “Domaine de BILA-HAUT Occultum Lapidem” are the main expressions of this terroir. The pale yellow color with green tints exhibits citrus aromas such as lemon & grapefruit with smoky notes. It has great acidity (perfect with the Emmental cheese) with a lot of freshness on the finish mixed with salty notes, which express the minerality of the wine. 

Other favorites included in my cheese plate are Saucisson Sec aux Herbes de Provence (cured sausage), Mousse de Canard au Foie Gras or rather, duck foie gras, duck liver and duck meat elegantly combined, then sweetened with fresh grapes, raisins, and Sauternes wine. (oh so lovely with the white wine), cornichons (miniature pickles... sort of ha ha!), and lots of bread and red seedless grapes to pair with everything together. What are some of your favorites choices in a cheese platter of sorts? And how do you like to pair your plate with what kind of wine(s)? Leave your comments down below with your favorites and don't forget to check out these delicious Garnacha/Grenache wines here and here! Right in time for the weekend :)

LOVE & XX'S,

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Sushi and Sapporo: A Perfect Match

This post is sponsored by Sapporo USA, but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

 

SUSHI AND SAPPORO: A PERFECT MATCH

 

Like I need a reason to eat sushi. And can you blame me? It's fresh, healthy and truly delicious. I didn't know International Sushi Day was a thing but now that I do I can't wait! Whether you're sitting down for a one-on-one omakase (where the sushi chef selects for you), grabbing a quick bite with friends, or making a few rolls all on your own, amazing sushi demands an amazing beer to go with it. And Sapporo Premium Beer is my go-to choice. With its light body and crisp, clear palette, Sapporo Premium heightens the subtle umami tastes found in sushi. The beer's refined bitterness balances with the salt in the soy sauce and the sweetness of fresh fish, making it a match made in Heaven. So, what's my favorite kind of roll to go with the perfect beer?

Many of you asked me what is my favorite sushi roll, and my answer is and will always be, Dragon Roll. I simply love the crunchy texture of shrimp tempura inside the dragon roll. The Red Dragon Roll is a roll within a roll! It consists of a center of shrimp tempura roll & cucumber, and is topped with spicy tuna, Masago, green onions and finished off with a spicy mayo. The "red" in the name is supposed to make it sound spicy, but it's really not that spicy. A close runner-up is the Spider Roll, but it has soft-shell crab and isn't always in season. 

Celebrate International Sushi Day this year with a platter from your local sushi bar, like one of my faves, spicy tuna red dragon roll, and don't forget a round of Sapporo Premium to go with it. What better pairing after a long, hot, summer day?

Follow Sapporo on Facebook for International Sushi Day content and exclusive giveaways – and feel free to share how you’re celebrating International Sushi Day with the brand!

LOVE & XX'S,

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Kimchi Risotto

A rainy start to the work week, I wanted to create some new food content as a lot of you have been making several requests as of late. Plus, I've been going through a lot personally, and cooking has always been therapeutic, for me, at least. Eating well never sucks and having others enjoy the food I make results in me being happy, which also never sucks :) So let's talk about this wonderful recipe I tried out - it's nutty, buttery, and tangy with just the right amount of heat, and perfect for a chillier day like today... kimchi risotto! What the heck did I just say?!

Kimchi Risotto

photos by ©  Suzanne Spiegoski

photos by © Suzanne Spiegoski

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/2c Kimchi juice (squeezed from kimchi)

1/2 Kimchi (minced)

3c Vegetable stock

2Tbsp butter

2 Cloves garlic (minced)

1c Sushi rice

3-4Tbsp Gruyére cheese (grated with a microplane)

Directions:

  1. Squeeze the juice out of the kimchi using your hands to make 1/2 cup of juice and then weigh out 100 grams of squeezed kimchi. Mince the kimchi.

  2. Pour the vegetable stock into a pot and bring to a simmer over high heat. Turn down to low to keep warm.

  3. In another pot, add the lard and garlic and saute until fragrant.

  4. Add the minced kimchi and continue sauteing until the kimchi is translucent.

  5. Add the rice and stir until the rice has evenly absorbed all the oil.

  6. Add the kimchi juice along with a ladleful of hot vegetable stock and stir the rice until most of the water has been absorbed.

  7. Continue adding vegetable stock a ladleful at a time and stirring until the rice is your desired consistency. You may not need all the stock.

  8. When the rice is done, add the grated Gruyère and stir into the risotto. Serve immediately.

I know, initially the idea sounded a bit peculiar. Swiss cheese with kimchi and sushi rice? But the combination of flavors go wonderfully within this dish, and though I've made risottos in the past, I've never tried a fusion recipe of this kind before. And the results were sublime, I'll tell you! One of my favorite dishes is risotto, which would make sense given I'm such a rice girl. But the creamy warm flavors delight my taste buds, as I'm sure they do yours. I love a mean, mushroom risotto, but this kimchi risotto certainly takes the cake! The flavors are really all there, you don't even need to add salt! 

I normally use arborio or baldo rice when it comes to making risotto, but I found sushi rice to be an interesting type of rice to use in this fusion recipe. Though this recipe is derived from here, I did a bit of my own tweaking in terms of measurements and the different use in rice. You could also try using a different form of kimchi, such as turnip/radish, which would still bring the acidity into the risotto. I'd love to give a zucchini kimchi a go, what do you guys think about the sounds of that? 

Here are a few tips to achieving the ultimate risotto: Number one - the broth you use to mix the risotto should be very heat, it better cooks down the rice giving it that smooth, creamy goodness that should be when making risotto. Number two - you can use lard instead of butter should you want a more rich flavor but I like to eat pretty healthy (not that butter is any healthier lol), should you not want to use butter at all, you can try making it with coconut oil! And lastly, when it comes to making your own risotto, try to live a little on the wild side. Mix up the flavors, try something you haven't tried before. Get creative. After all, that's part of the fun when it comes to cooking, am I right or am I right? :) 

LOVE & XX'S,

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Korean Coq Au Vin

Happy Friday and Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! Kiss me, I'm Korean (and Polish)! ;)

In light of the 'blizzard' this week here in NYC, we got lucky. Expecting over 2 feet turned over to only about a foot and the conditions were mostly icy with frigid temps! I bet a lot of you are looking forward to spring just as much as I am! With a snow day on our hands midweek (seriously everything was closed, from schools to banks... even Starbucks!), I cooked up more of a fall/winter dish that I've been dying to make. A well known French dish, I also wanted to put a twist on it and created a Korean Coq au vin.  

Korean Coq Au Vin

Serves 2-4

photos + recipe by  Suzanne Spiegoski

photos + recipe by Suzanne Spiegoski

Ingredients:

24 to 30 pearl onions
4 chicken thighs and legs, or 1 (5 to 7-pound) stewing chicken
¼ to ½ c AP flour
2 Tbsp water
6 ounces bacon, chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp butter
2 bottles red wine, preferably pinot noir or cabernet
2 Tbsp Gochujang
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, quartered
2 medium carrots, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock

Directions:

Preheat oven to 245 degrees F.

Cut off the root end of each pearl onion and make an "x" with your knife in its place. Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop in the onions for 1 minute. Remove the onions. Allow them to cool, and then peel. You should be able to slide the onions right out of their skin. Set aside.

Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the chicken pieces, a few at a time, into a large sealable plastic bag along with the flour. Shake to coat all of the pieces of the chicken. Remove the chicken from the bag to a metal rack.

Add the 2 tablespoons of water to a large, 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat along with the bacon. Cover and cook until the water is gone, and then continue to cook until the bacon are golden brown and crispy, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the salt pork from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, using the remaining fat, add the pearl onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté until lightly brown, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. Next, brown the chicken pieces on each side until golden brown, working in batches if necessary to not overcrowd the pan. Transfer the chicken into a 7 to 8-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.

Add the mushrooms to the same 12-inch sauté pan, adding the 1-tablespoon of butter if needed, and sauté until they give up their liquid, approximately 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Pour off any remaining fat and deglaze the pan with approximately 1 cup of the wine. Pour this into the Dutch oven along with the chicken stock, tomato paste, gochujang, quartered onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Add all of the remaining wine.

Place the chicken in the oven and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the chicken is tender. Maintain a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally.

Once the chicken is done, remove it to a heatproof container, cover, and place it in the oven to keep warm. Strain the sauce in a colander and remove the carrots, onion, celery, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Return the sauce to the pot, place over medium heat, and reduce by 1/3. Depending on how much liquid you actually began with, this should take 20 to 45 minutes.

Once the sauce has thickened, add the pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon and cook for another 15 minutes or until the heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, remove from the heat, add the chicken and serve.

*Tips: If you want to do it overnight, just do everything up to putting the chicken in the oven. That part is for the next day :) The longer you marinate, the better the flavor! xo

Coq au vin is a French dish of chicken braised with wine, lardons, mushrooms, and optionally garlic. What are we talkin' bout here, optional?! I LOVE garlic so hell YES you best put those bad boys in with the rest of the ingredients! So what's the Korean twist? Kimchi? Nope. I used a spicy red pepper paste called gochujang. It's a staple paste in Korean cuisine and I thought the already-complex flavors would be killer-good in this dish. And with old school mashed potatoes? Oh YAY. 

What's the secret to the most delicious mashed potatoes of your life? Butter, milk, and salt. That's it. I make sure to really boil the bejeezus out of the potatoes and make sure they're Idaho! I feel like this is the starchiest potatoes and are perfect for mashing. I know I'm sure I've mentioned it before but you guys have no idea how much I LOVE mashed potatoes. I always tell people if I were deserted on an island and only had one choice of food to live off on, it'd be just that. And I'd die a happy woman. HA HA HA! BUTTTTTTT, (enter sad face) I've discovered after experimenting for a few months, that the more dairy products I consume, the more my skin breakouts! Also, did you know that eating more dairy also dries your scalp, leading to dandruff and other skin issues? A good substitute is chicken or vegetable broth, if you want to opt out on the milk in the potatoes.  

Stay tuned for a new post coming up on the blog featuring an amazing NYC-based ethical luxury handbag brand that I had the pleasure of working with! Can't wait to share with you guys our photo shoot! It snowed that day and we had lots of fun taking photos in the Financial District of Manhattan. Soon to come, have a great Friday, friends! For more recipes, check them down below. :)

LOVE & XX'S,

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Kimchi Hummus

I'm so glad it's the weekend! In the past, I always worked on the weekends and would get up extremely early (we're talking 4:30am folks) just to get to where I needed to be on time. Now, if I had the chance to redo it all over again, would I go back and change anything? No. Would I still want to do that though given the choice? Nope. I bet some of you are wondering what it was that I did to put me in such strange circumstances. I was a figure skating coach on-and-off for ten years. I loved what I did, to the point of sacrificing much of my time for it for a good chunk of my life (I was also involved in the sport long before and trained seriously for also nearly ten years) but I love what I do now even more.   

Weekends now are meant to be my downtime. Throughout the week there's shoots, meetings, events, edits, promos and let's not forget to mention the crazy amount of emails I have to go through on a daily basis. It's a constant hustle and I am not complaining in the least bit, but everybody needs to recharge their batteries and it's really good to make time for your loved ones. Healthy, even. So this is what I try to do on the two days at the end of each week. There is the occasional photo shoot or meeting that'll occur on the weekend. Last weekend I shot & styled  5 looks in one day because my main photographer, who is also my hubby, wasn't going to be available for a while due to work schedule conflicts and that's how I got sick... staying out in the cold too long freezing my butt off ha ha! Totally worth it, though.

Kimchi Hummus

photos + recipe by: Suzanne Spiegoski 

photos + recipe by: Suzanne Spiegoski 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

16 ounces can chickpeas

¼ cups kimchi (napa cabbage chopped)

¼ cup tahini sauce

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ cup water

Directions:

  1. Add all the ingredients except kimchi a blender. Blend the ingredients on high until smooth. Add in chopped kimchi with juice, omit the juice if you want the hummus to have a thicker base. Serve with naan or pita bread.

But when I have more time I enjoy spending it at home. I love going out and exploring my city, but I love to cook and hang out with my boys. Because I've been so busy working on fresh, new fashion content for you guys (especially more on the regular lately and that it's all a one-person job - aside from my husband taking the photos) it's been rather crazy and I've had no room in my schedule to create more food content! And I know a lot of you have been missing new recipes so I'm going to try to do one once per week. We'll see how it goes and as much discipline as I have, life is unpredictable and I just have to go where the 'wind carries me'. 

On a more delicious topic, can we all get an amen to kimchi hummus?! I LOVE hummus. The rich, creamy texture paired with yummy naan bread is one of my favorite snacks. Even with veggies, like carrot or celery sticks, it's healthy and tastes heavenly. I paired it with kimchi, it's tart acidic flavor blended wonderfully together with the hummus. What's the secret to getting the ultimate creamy hummus everyone wants? The dryer the chickpeas are before you blend them is the trick. I love spiciness so I added in kimchi juice, which is why my hummus's texture is a little more smooth. I also didn't blend the chopped kimchi with the other ingredients for the hummus. 

I suggest blending the kimchi with the main ingredients if you want a creamier, paste-like texture to the hummus. I'm Korean and love kimchi and actually like the added punch it gives when you bite into it here and there. The grilled garlic naan bread goes really well with the kimchi hummus too. I didn't make the bread from scratch but you can get it at the store and grill it over the stove top or in a grill pan of some kind. I used my cast iron grill pan to give it a nice char, the smoky flavor is awesome with the garlic. I'm getting hungry again just talking about this! :) Hope you all have a nice weekend. I'll be back on Monday! 

LOVE & XX'S, 

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