Autuman in Alsace

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West of the Vosges mountain range and bordering east of the Rhine river is Alsace. A true gourmand delight. Its rich soils and long warm summers are ideal for slowly, ripening grapes that produce delicious cool climate wines; arguably some of the best in France.

(Yes, I said it).

Though one of the smallest wine growing regions in France, Alsace is most known for Vendange Tardive, or late harvest. Lucky for us, we get to enjoy these luscious liquids just in time for our favorite Autumn recipes!

Binner Negoce Pinot Noir 2012 is Natural, Biodynamic and is great evidence that natural wines can age and age well. Open your mind to blackberry and boysenberry aromatics with a smoky mesquite finish.

Reminiscent of bon fires and hay rides, it is aged for 11 months in 100 year old oak barrels and is certified organic, biodynamic with no added sulfites.

Binner has been around since 1770 and has holdings in two of the most valuable growing areas in Alsace. 40% of their vines are over 60 and many are reaching 100 years old. The grapes are hand harvested in early to mid October, and yield fully ripen fruit.

This wine is best enjoyed decanted. Decant and it will open itself up to a Burgundian style Pinot Noir. I promise you’ll like it.

 

White Truffles!

While strolling the city, I’ve noticed the colors of the leaves are changing . Autumn has arrived! One of the world’s most rare ingredients has arrived too; the white truffle. These are not the black truffles of Burgundy, France seen on menus all over the world.  The Alba white truffle is one of the most expensive foods in the world. It grows wild and it can not be cultivated. The Alba white truffle is a true piece of gastronomic luxury.

Starting in early to mid  September through December truffle hunters along with their dogs prowl the Piedmont in search for what some call the diamond of the culinary world.

Once brought to surface, the truffles are sold to purveyors around the world. These precious fungi contain an aroma that is very earthy and can compare to mildew, or sweat, but trust me, it is strangely becoming and very intoxicating. You can smell a truffle from a few feet away but once shaven, the aroma fully exposed floats in the air. The truffle purveyors save their largest truffles for the best Chefs and restaurants and they eventually end up on your plate; garnishing buttered pasta, risotto, pizza, steaks, burgers, and even eggs. img_3126

I wish you a happy truffle season. Bon appetite! 

Panzanella!

img_3439The Italians love their pasta. They also love their Panzanella. Variations of this dish are known throughout the boot of Italy, though, there is nothing quite like savoring the flavors of this dish – especially in the Summer. Tomatoes are ripe and plentiful, and gatherings with friends are many. Preparation for Panzanella is easy for the novice cook, and the freshness in flavor is bound to impress anyone. Paired with a crisp bottle of Roero Arneis, the fruit forward notes provide a subtle balance while still offering a bit of a bite. Raise a glass, send off the Summer season in style!

Ingredients

1 (12- to 16-ounce) loaf sourdough bread

2 to 3 large heirloom tomatoes

1/2 large cucumber

1 medium red or yellow bell pepper

1/2 medium red onion

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper, to taste

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Instructions

Slice or tear the bread into roughly 1-inch cubes. I usually leave the crusts on, but you can remove them if you prefer. You should have about 10 overflowing cups of bread. Tear your bread for a more rustic presentation.

Spread the bread cubes over a baking sheet. Bake in a 300°F oven until hardened on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking.

Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. Peel, and deseed the cucumber.  Slice the onion into thin slices and soak in a bowl of cold water for 10 to 15 minutes while assembling the rest of the salad.

Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a small bowl and whisk together.

Combine the bread and chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and thoroughly combine.

Let the salad sit for 1/2 hour to 4 hours: Let the salad sit at least half an hour before serving, or up to 4 hours. Stir occasionally so the juices and vinaigrette are evenly distributed.

Add fresh basil just before serving. This salad is best eaten the day it’s made.

Mangia!