Sunday, April 7, 2013

Wine Tasting, Rating and Pairing Foods

Delightful Rioja
Life is getting hectic. My husband and I hosted a little wine tasting last evening for a couple of friends. We will be a part of a big "Wine Renaissance 2013" event this coming weekend with all proceeds to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen Area. Our little wine tasting last evening was a bit of a primer to show our sponsor what rating wines is all about.

We have hosted a few wine tastings over the last few years, helping people to try new wines, both alone and then with a food paired for that wine. This helps people to better distinguish what about a wine they like, and if it is one they like alone, or if it is better with food. Using a rating sheet to mark down all pertinent descriptors is another way to learn more about a wine and ones likes or dislikes. I put together some wine rating sheets years ago, but have continued to refine them as time passes and more ideas come up.

Asparagus Appetizers for
White Graves Bordeaux wine

I have an ability to "taste" foods in my mind when reading a recipe, and it serves me very well also when trying to pair foods with wines. I will be making some little appetizer foods to pair with the wines for the Wine Renaissance event next weekend, and that should keep me busy all week long. (Add to that we are moving in a little mover a month and I have a huge household to pack up.)

For last night's little wine tasting I served a white Graves from Bordeaux I had never tried before, along with three I'd had before, though not recently. Knowing about the styles of a wine helps when pairing foods. I knew that the Graves would be quite dry and minerally, and those kinds generally pair well with something like asparagus. Asparagus can be tricky  to pair with a wine, but these little asparagus appetizers went extremely well, making a slightly austere wine taste more rounded and buttery.


I paired a pork tenderloin, marinated in hoisin sauce and then rolled into Dukkah seasoning and roasted. The Dukkah had almonds and hazelnuts in it along with cumin and coriander and I just felt those flavors would go well with the Rioja wine I served next. I made aioli and spread that onto tiny rounds of bread and broiled the aioli to take the harsh edge of garlic off. One little medallion of the pork went on top. They went so nicely with the Rioja wine. While I served thin slices as an appetizer portion, they can equally well be sliced thicker and served as an entree:


Pork Medallions in Dukkah Seasoning

Pork Medallions in Dukkah Seasoning on bread with aioli:
served with a red Rioja wine

An inspired combination, simple to make, sliced thin and served on baguette slices, these are excellent with a red Rioja wine. Use Aioli to give the meat a little spark of garlic flavor.

Makes about 25 slices

1 pork tenderloin (1 - 1½ pounds)
¾ cup hoisin sauce
¾ cup Dukkah seasoning

Place pork, cleaned of fat or silver skin, into a zip-top bag and pour on the hoisin sauce. Marinate the meat in the hoisin, turning every few hours, for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Place the Dukkah seasoning onto a plate long enough to accommodate the length of the pork. First, using kitchen twine, tie the pork tenderloin in about 5 - 6 places along the length. This ensures the pork comes out in nicely rounded slices. Trim any excess twine. Roll the pork into the Dukkah, pressing so it adheres well. Set aside to rest for at least ½ hour. This drying time helps the Dukkah stay on. Place the roast onto a rack over a baking sheet with sides. Roast at 450 for approximately 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Remove from oven and tent the roast with foil. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

NOTES: Hoisin sauce will likely contain gluten. Seek out a gluten free hoisin sauce to make this gluten free. If the GF hoisin is not sticky enough for the Dukkah seasoning to adhere, you might mix just a little honey into the hoisin before marinating the meat.


For the third wine, a California Syrah, I made the same little beef rolls from flank steak that I had made before, and again the pairing was perfect. The last wine, a dessert Muscat from California, was a tougher pairing. It is hard to  make a dessert that is not too sweet. If the food is too sweet, the wine will taste sour. I decided to try and make some cookies that were heavy on nuts, as that will usually go well. My little cookies turned out great. I called them Saffron Almond Tea Wafers. They would be perfect with a nice cup of tea or coffee, but they were absolutely perfect for the Muscat dessert wine. 

Saffron Almond Tea Wafers:
paired with a sweet California Muscat wine

Saffron Almond Tea Wafers


Makes about 48 little 1½ x ¼-inch little cookies.

1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup almond "flour" (very finely ground almonds)
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cardamom, ground
½ teaspoon lemon zest, finely minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
2 teaspoons milk, heated
1 egg, lightly beaten

Coarse sugar: "Sparkling" Sugar, Turbinado, Demerara

Place the first 5 ingredients into a large bowl. If you own a mortar and pestle, place the saffron threads into the mortar and grind them to a fine powder. Otherwise, use fingers to powder the threads as well as possible. Add the hot milk to the saffron and set aside.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture in the bowl as for making pie, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the saffron milk to the egg and beat with a fork to combine, then add to the mixture in the bowl and toss together to form a cohesive dough. Cut two pieces of plastic wrap about 12 inches long. Divide the dough into two sections and roll each into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Set a log of dough onto the edge of one of the pieces of plastic wrap and roll the dough into the wrap, tuck edges under. Repeat with second piece of dough. Refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. On a large plate, pour about 1/3 cup of the coarse sugar. Remove one log of dough from its wrapper and roll it, pressing gently, into the sugar to thoroughly coat the edges. Slice the log into ¼-inch thick slices and lay them onto a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Repeat with the second log of dough. Bake the cookies for about 6 to 8 minutes, until they are completely set and the edges just begin to show color. Remove from cookie sheet immediately.


Last night went perfectly and our guest enjoyed the wines and food pairings so that was a success. Now I am geared for next week's event and all the foods to prepare over the course of this week. I am going to invent recipes for all of the 6 wines I will showcase, so recipes will be turning up either here or on my website soon.


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.  

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