Melt for Raclette: Throw a Raclette Dinner Party

Raclette is a hearty dish, meant to be enjoyed after a day on the Alps slopes. Even without the skiing, it’s a fun meal to share with friends and requires very little actual cooking. That makes it ideal for the busy hostess, so I love hosting raclette dinner parties in the winter.

raclette, raclette cheese, cheese,

If you don’t already know raclette, let me introduce you to one of Switzerland’s signature dish.

Raclette is four things really:

  • A pungent washed rind cows milk cheese.
  • The dish you make with that cheese.
  • The grill you use to melt the raclette (cheese) for the raclette (dish).
  • The dinner party where people get together to eat the raclette (dish) made by melting raclette (cheese) on the raclette (grill).

Are you still following me? lol

It’s actually a very simple dish with humble origins. Like its melted cheese cousin fondue, raclette came about as a way to finish dried old cheese and already opened wine. In fondue, the cheese is melted in a pot (fondue comes from the French word fondre which means to melt) and eaten with bread. In Raclette, slices of cheese are melted in a little pan under a table side grill then scraped (raclette gets its name from the French word for scrape: racler) over warm potatoes and cold cut meats. In the United States, raclette isn’t so popular. It’s a lot easier to find the cheese and pot for fondue than the grill for raclette. I got my raclette grill off our Williams and Sonoma wedding registry though you can find more affordable options on Amazon (this 4 person grill is pretty convenient for your every day raclette needs). As for the cheese, you can occasionally find some at Righteous Cheese, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Raclette is traditionally served with a simple tossed salad, boiled potatoes, cornichons, cured meats and dry white wine. For starch adverse guests, you can substitute the potatoes with artichoke hearts. Raclette is a communal dish and all the host or hostess really needs to do ahead of time is boil the potatoes and prepare the salad. The cold cuts (getting a variety gives your guests more options) and slices of cheese should be arranged on serving plates too. After that, each dinner party guest just melts his or her own slices of cheese using the small coupelles of the raclette grill then scrapes the runny raclette over a boiled potato topped with prosciutto (my fave!) or turkey meat.

Scrape the melted cheese from the grilled and brown surface of the cheese that’s been exposed to heat and eat this melting bit of cheese with a bite of the potatoes.

For pairing, dry white wine is typically what you would serve with Raclette, like an Alsatian pinot gris or a Sauvignon Blanc. At the recommendation of the folks at Modern Liquor, I recently tried a light Austrian red with my Raclette and it worked out really well. Dry sparkling wine works really well too.

A version of this post appeared in Borderstan back in February 2013.

Wine Wednesday: A Special Screening of American Wine Story on November 13

A couple of years ago, my husband and I ran the Lawyers Have Heart 10K through Georgetown to benefit the American Heart Association. That was fun. But you know what sounds like an even more fun way to benefit that same association? Not running, and watching a documentary on American winemakers followed by Q&A and tasting reception instead. Definitely.

American Wine Story Screening

You’ve heard the claims before… drinking red wine (in moderation) may lower the risk of heart disease, and every year the American Heart Association hosts an amazing 4-days wine auction event in Washington, DC, called Heart’s Delight. The fundraiser celebrates exceptional food and wine and has raised more than 13 million dollars for the American Heart Association over the past 15 years. This year’s auction will be held April 22-25, 2015 (so save the date for that too!) but until then, you can celebrate wine AND benefit the American Heart Association by attending a special screening of “American Wine Story” on November 13 at E Street Cinema. The film celebrates the men and women at the heart (pun intended) of the American wine industry, including Jimi Brooks, a young Oregon wine maker who died of a heart attack at the age of 38. When he passed away, just before harvest, his fellow winemakers banded together to make his wine. The film also profiles a number of passionate local winemakers like who put aside their initial careers to start over and follow their dreams of making wine. Among the winemakers highlighted in the documentary are Al and Cindy Schornberg of Keswick Vineyards in Virginia or Luca Paschina of Barboursville, also in Virginia. All three will be present, along with David Baker, who wrote, directed and narrated the film (which he funded through Kickstarter,) at a wine tasting reception and Q&A session following the screening.

For more information and ticket sales (tickets are $50) click here. Or, you know, you can start training for the Lawyers Have Heart 10K. It’ll be on June 13 next year 😉

 

 

A Taste of Provence: Miraval Rosé

Looking for a good rosé to sip this summer? Here are a few words I thought I’d never say: try Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Château Miraval Cotes de Provence rosé. Last year, the famous pair released the first vintage of rosé from their South of France estate (read more about the Château here), made in partnership with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel. The wine comes from a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah and Rolle. And it’s pretty good.

 2013 Miraval Cotes de Provence Rose, brad pitt wine,

Clearly, Brad and Angelina bought  a good vineyard 😉 The rosé is light pale pink and has a lovely floral nose. It retails between $18 to $22 (I found my bottle at Whole Foods), which is a little pricey for this type of rosé. You can definitely find rosé of similar quality at a lower price point, but you’re also paying a premier for the Brandgelina nose…

Do you have a favourite summer rosé? Cheers!

Wine Tour de France: Discover the Pays d’Oc IGP

The 2014 Tour de France is making its way through the Languedoc-Roussillon this weekend. That part of the country, which encompasses  the Mediterranean coastline stretching from  the rugged Pyrenees mountains to Provence, happens to be one of the largest wine producing region in France. Soil types and terroir vary widely throughout the Pays d’Oc IGP and winemakers there have more than 56 grape varieties to play with, so this enormous wine region produces very diverse wines.

Tour de france, tour de france wine

I don’t follow the Tour de France as religiously as I do the World Cup (though to be fair, if the Tour de France happened only once every 4 years, maybe I would…) but I do like my wine, and in the summer I especially like my rosé. And wouldn’t you know, the Pays d’Oc IGP happens to produce some very fine rosés… Here’s a trio of wine, two rosés and one white, all under $20, from the Pays d’Oc IGP that you might want to try, whether you’re sipping them while watching the Tour de France or not.

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Anne de Joyeuse, Camas,  Pinot Noir Rosé 2013, Pays d’Oc IGP (available at Modern Liquor and Calvert Woodley) is a medium bodies, dry rosé with bright acidity.  It typically retails in the $10 range, making it a GREAT value wine.

Villa des Anges, Old Vines Rosé, Cinsault 2013, Pays dOc IGP (available at Cork on 14th street for $14.99) is a perfect warm weather drink! It’s crisp, fresh and light bodied and pairs perfectly with salad or grilled pork or chicken.

Paul Mas Picpoul de Pinet, Picpoul 2012, Pays d’Oc IGP (available at Cork on 14th street for $17.99) is made out of Piquepoul grapes, which are fun to say but also mainly grown in the Languedoc and neighbouring Rhone region. It’s a very fresh, kinda mineral wine that’s also great in warm weather, and with fish.
If you would like to learn more about the wines from the Pays d’OC IGP, they have a very colourful website in both English and French.

All wined up and ready to go!

DC Wine week

I tend not to make the best decisions after a boozy brunch with my friends… Vanessa French and Lisa Byrne, on the other hand, do. Like 3 years ago when they decided to launch D.C. wine week over a boozy brunch at Belga Cafe. I’ve said it before, I think every week should be wine week. But in the District, it’s officially October 12-19 and there a little something for everyone this year!

Starting with Downward Dogs and Upward Sips on Sunday, October 13 (6-7:30PM; $20; Vida Fitness U Street). Since I can barely hold my tree pose sober, it’s a good thing the wine portion of the event comes at the end of the work out, on the gym’s roof  😉

On Monday, it’s Columbus Day for some and Canadian Thanksgiving for others… Either way, you should celebrate with wine at the Coupe (6-8PM; $20). There’ll be complimentary pours and specials on wine by the glass so you can discover new varietals (and new technology too… bottles are dispensed from Napa Technology Wine Stations.)

OPA! Before moving to D.C., I spent two weeks traveling around Greece with a girlfriend. I’ve had a certain weakness for Greek wine ever since and I love any opportunity to try some κρασί. On Tuesday, October 15 (6-9PM; $5 glass, $11 carafe) Kellari Taverna and the Greek Embassy are teaming up to introduce Washingtonians to Greek grape varietals we may not about during an extended happy hour. Sounds wonderful to me!

After Greek wines, sample some 16 Italian reds, sparklings and whites at i Ricchi (Wednesday October 16, 6-8PM; $30).

One of my favourite pairings of all is oysters and sancerre… hopefully, the sauvignon blanc will be flowing at Tel’Veh Cafe and Wine Bar’s Oyster and Wine Happy Hour on Thursday (October 17; 5:30-7:30PM; $1 oysters and happy hour specials on wine).

Finally, the week will wrap up with another great pairing: wino and bocce (Friday, October 18; Vinoteca; 6-8PM). And yes, while I prefer petanque to bocce, I do love me some Vinoteca and $5 wines-by-the-glass and bocce sounds like the perfect ending to a fun wine-filled week!

Clearly, my girlfriends and I need to step up our game next time we have unlimited mimosas 😉

(Canned) Wine Wednesday

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One of my guilty pleasures when I’m out “clubbing” is sipping on a can of bubbly Sofia Blanc de Blanc. I had to put clubbing in quotation marks here… I’m in my 30s and have been married for 6 years… clubbing pretty much means I’m out past midnight and there may even be loud music involved 😉

So I’m not opposed per se to the idea of drinking wine out of a can. I admit it, I’ve done it. I’ve even enjoyed it.

I’ve also bought wine in a box, mainly for sangria-making purchases though. I’m just saying, I might be French, but I’m open minded. Well, sort of. All that wine was American wine and I’m not sure how I feel about French wine in a can. Good French wine. AOC* wine. In a can. French start-up Fabulous Brands is making me assess how I feel about it though with the launch of Winestar, a label of wine en canette. Their goal, as explained by one of their founder, Cédric Segal to Le Figaro, is to “democratize” wine and turn Winestar into the “Nespresso of wine.”

 

wine-in-a-can

Now I love me some Nespresso (Nespresso > Krups ANY day of the week) but I’m not sure I see the parallel. It’s basically idiotproof espresso you can easily make at home. I can already get good cheap-ish wine in bottles. I don’t see what the cans really bring to the equation… Though I guess I do see some advantages to it if you’re on the go or out “clubbing” (even really clubbing, like if you’re at an actual club and you want a glass of vino). It’s easier to transport cans, making wine in a can a good option for airline carriers. Spirit Airlines seems to think so too and they have announced their plan to serve passengers wine in a can (if you call strawberry moscato wine…) And that’s the whole issue: perception. Wine in a can comes with an image problem that it has to overcome.  Germans apparently consume some 60 million units of wine in a can a year, so wine in a can has the potential to be successful, but can it be successful in France? We’ll have to wait and see if the “young and hip” urban beer drinkers Winestar is targeting want good wine in can. I’ll stay open minded, and I’ll try it. But please, no Wine Light or Wine Zero though… I have to draw the line somewhere 😉

Would you drink/buy wine in a can? AOC wine in a can? I think I might stick with my Sofia.

*AOC = Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée basically translates into “controlled designation of origin” and applies to cheese, wine and other agricultural products to certify that they come from a specific geographical location (like brie from Brie etc.)

Wine Wednesday: Star Trek Into Darkness Drunkness

Marriage is all about compromise and last Sunday said compromise took the shape of going to see the new Star Trek movie with the husband. The movie itself is nothing to write (or blog) home about. I can’t say the same though about these limited edition Star Trek wines from Viansa Winery in Sonoma, California…

Photo: Juan Ortiz/Viansa Winery

Photo: Juan Ortiz/Viansa Winery

STAR TREK™, The Wine, allows fans and winos to “boldly go where no one has gone before” with the release of a 3 limited edition (there’s only 1701 cases of wine available on members-only wine site Vinport.com) bottles of wine, named after “three of the most beloved episodes of all time” from the original series: “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “Mirror Mirror” and “The Trouble with Tribbles.” I haven’t tried the wine (and probably won’t) but I must say I love the artwork, which was designed by artist Juan Ortiz in celebration of Star Trek: The Original Series.

Wine Wednesday ~ Vintage Virginia

IMG_1362Thanks to The Hill is Home (and to my friend Lisa who drove us to Centerville) I attended Vintage Virginia last weekend. The annual wine and food festival features the Commonwealth’s best wine (there were 40 wineries representing!), food and music each year during a fun-filled festival at Bull Run Park Special Event Center. Here are a few things I took away from the event:

  • I loved seeing that some of my favourite food trucks (Red Hook Lobster Pound, DC Curbside Cupcakes, DC Empenadas or Big Cheese among others) drove all the way down from DC for the event. I toyed with the idea of trying Grapevine, a Richmond-based food truck, but ultimately couldn’t resist a hot bowl of pho from Phowheels. Pho is not the best in 80+ degree weather and it doesn’t go *that* well with Trump Monticello Rosé 2011. But oh well…I just can’t seem to say no to pho. Plus I cooled down afterwards with one of Sinplicity’s amazing sinwich.

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  • Rebec Vineyards poured an interesting Gewurztramiver. Though I wouldn’t drink a full glass of their Bulgarian inspired spicy sweet wine Sweet Sofia, I was glad to try it. Also, I was glad to hear the winery hosts a wine and garlic festival in the fall. Looks like I’ll be heading to Amherst, VA comes October 12, 2013….
  • Wine slushies are a thing, apparently. Oh Virginia…

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  • While Lazy Days Winery‘s  2010 Malbec is a Bronze Medal Governor’s Cup Winner 2013, it was their Capuchin White (100% Petit Manseng) that really impressed me as a good summer wine. I brought home a bottle.
  • Williamsburg Winery had a sweet Vin Licoreux de Framboise that I could see making a good kir with.
  • Some wineries have very gimmicky names (I’m looking at you Unicorn Winery!) and occasionally decent wine. Who would have thought Well Hung Vineyards‘ wines could indeed “stand up to any occasion.” Also, they have delicious hot and spicy nuts 😉

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  • I tried some wines I’m not proud of, most of them from Peaks of Otter. There was the Mango Tango, the Pina Colada, the Kiss the Devil Chili Pepper or (le gasp) the Chili Dawg. Never ever should you lick cheddar Kraft Easy Cheese (from a can) off your finger before taking a “shot” of wine. Ever. Please France, don’t revoke my citizenship 😉

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  • Wine can be paired with Indian food. Pandit and Dr. Sudha Patil purchased Narmada Winery back in 2009 and now offer 13 different wines which can be paired with Indian food in their tasting room… or at home. While the wines didn’t necessarily stand out as particularly amazing, they were good. As soon as the wine rep. mentioned lamb vindaloo as I was sipping my pour of 2010 Midnight (100% Chambourcin aged in French and American Oak) I immediately thought it was a brilliant call. It’s so hard to pair wine with indian food…

Overall, it was a really fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, try new wines and hang out with friends. Merci again for the tickets giveaway The Hill is Home!

Put a Cork In It ~ Part Deux

I have my little tradition every Earth Day. Since all natural cork is 100% renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, I save all the natural corks from the bottles of wine I drink at my house throughout the year. Then, on April 22nd, I raise a glass to small steps like cork recycling and bring my corks to a drop box.


Interested in recycling your corks as well? There are two leading cork recycling organizations here in the US: Cork Reharvest, which has partnered with Whole Foods stores, and ReCork, which is sponsored by Amorim of Portugal, the world’s largest producer of natural cork wine closures. You can easily find a ReCork drop off location near you on their website but in D.C., the public collection partners include hotels like Topaz, restaurants like Bistro Lepic (one of my favourite French restaurant in the city!), wine shops (Weygandt WineWide World of Wines and Schneider of Capitol Hill) or businesses like Living Social (7th street location).
Of course, you can also get some inspiration on pinterest for some crafty do-it-yourself cork projects. Either way, just don’t drop your corks in the garbage can. They can be re-used or recycled. On that note, let’s raise a glass (of wine preferably) to Earth Day! 

 

Put a Cork in It: 10 Cork DIY Projects Inspiration

If you’re like me and you enjoy the odd (or not so odd) bottle of wine at the end of a long workday, you probably end up with a lot of corks. Unless you’re drinking that cheap twist off stuff of course 😉  I hope you’re also like me and that you drop off your empty bottles of Bordeaux and Sancerre in the recycling bin. But what do you do with the corks? Did you know you can recycle them too?  

Cork comes from trees and while it cannot actually be reused as a wine cork (something about bacterial concerns…), it can be recycled into lots of useful products from floors to shoes (how awesome are these Burberry Stour Suede Cork Wedge sandals? *want*). It can also be used in lots of DIY projects. Here are a few fun ones I found on Pinterest:

1) WINE CORK HERK MARKERS 
wine cork herb markers

Wine Cork Herb Markers from Tim Vidra on the blog AfterTaste.

Whip out some fun herbs markers for your planter or garden using Tim Vidra’s quick DIY guide. It seems pretty simple too, you basically just need some dowel rods, wine corks, a drill and a marker. Works for indoor planters or outdoor herb gardens too.


2) CORK TILE PLACEMAT

Creme de la Craft made a cute placement using her extra corks. Seems pretty simple too!

3) CABINET DOOR KNOBS 
Do you really love wine? Let your house show that! Use champagne or wine cork stoppers as cabinet knobs.

cork cabinet knobs, cork craft, cork DIY prjects

Photo: Tria Giovan for Southern Living

 

4) CORK BACKSPLASH 

If you are a more ambitious homemaker, and you have a *lot* of corks to use, try a cork backsplash

cork backsplash, cork home DIY projects, do it yourself, corks

Cork Backsplash from Houzz Cool House Tour by CG&S Design-Build

5) CORK BATHMAT

Cork is naturally waterproof so why not turn them into a bathmat? Craftynest shows you all the steps.

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Wine cork bath mat from CraftyNest.



6) WINO-HO-HO 

Spread some holiday spirit with a DIY wine cork Christmas wreath. WineFolly has a version that seems a little bit easier to make here. PS: I could totally see my DIY-wreath-genius-friend Bianca do this with her corks!
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Also, you can easily make a non-Christmas wreath to keep on your door year-round:

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7) WINE CORK JOURNALING 

I think personally I will settle for something a little less ambitious…like keeping corks as mementos. Write down when you had that bottle of wine or have the person you enjoyed it with sign it for prosperity.

wine cork journaling, wedding guest book idea, cork wedding guest book, cork craft,

Wine Cork Journaling, from the blog Mintage Home

These would actually make a cute alternative to a guest book for a wedding too, with corks from bottles the bride and groom have enjoyed throughout their travels or lives together 😉

8) WEDDING (OR DINNER PARTY) PLACE CARDS 

Speaking of weddings… I had a really hard time committing to a theme for my own wedding. One of them was champagne. Yes, one of *them.* I had a couple… and I got married WAY before Pinterest came to life… I can’t imagine what kind of pressure the site puts on ADD brides like I was 😉 We used large “silver” champagne buckets as vases for our purple roses and dark blue berries centerpieces as well as mini champagne buckets with candle votives on the tables. We didn’t manage to drink enough champagne to have individual champagne place setting cards for each of our 98 guests (though we tried very hard….) So we named each of the table after a French champagne house and made our own Champagne cork wedding place cards.

Details from my August 11, 2006 wedding at DAR in Washington, D.C.

Details from my August 11, 2006 wedding at DAR in Washington, D.C.


10) RECYCLING 
I hope the one take-away from this post is that you shouldn’t toss you corks in the trash can. Hold on to them. You, or someone you know might put them to good use. And of course, the last option is to recycle your corks! But that’s not as much fun now is it? [For more information on recycling your corks in DC, check out this related post.)
{This post first appeared in Borderstan on July 30, 2012.}