Friday, February 26, 2010

Soave with Pumpkin Ravioli in Sage Butter Sauce

Pumpkin Ravioli in Sage Butter Sauce

Truly one of the most pleasing dishes you can present at a table. Pumpkin Ravioli in Sage butter speaks to our desire for a cozy, warm feeling on a cold winter night. The spicy pumpkin, with the silky fresh pasta, and the salty bite of Parmigiano-regiano, covered in a sauce that wafts aromas of woodsy sage into the air.

2008 Pieropan Soave Pieropan
As for the wine, I chose Soave Classico. Soave is a blend, primarily garganega and, in this bottles case, a small amount of trebbiano di soave. Ten years ago you would have to work hard to find a good bottle that was anything more than “just another Italian white” but times have changed and many producers are creating soave of outstanding character. One of my favorites is Pieropan. The best part is the price, around $15. Don't be mistaken by the name either, this is a Soave from the classico designation, it doesn't bear the name on it's label because its bottled under screw cap (not "yet" allowed by the rules of the Soave Classico DOC).

My Notes:
A wonderfully fresh and fragrant soave with aromas of pear and peach, lavender and a bit of fresh cut grass coming across on the nose. On the palate it shows finesse and vibrancy, from it’s brisk acidity, and flavors of apple, lemon and minerals. The finish is fresh and cleanses the palate. It paired perfectly with the woodsy sage, spicy pumpkin and rich heft of the butter sauce.

Pumpkin Ravioli in Sage Butter Sauce

To keep this simple, I’m going to make the assumption that you are not making your own pasta and pumpkin filling. That’s not to say that we can’t cover that in a future installment, but for now, let’s talk about the sauce. Once you make sage butter sauce you will realize its many uses. Pumpkin ravioli is the tip of the iceberg. Try it with mushrooms, sauté chicken, poached fish or drizzled over risotto.

Sage Butter Sauce

Note: If you are buying premade pumpkin ravioli, please go for quality. Look for a fresh brand (not frozen). If you have a local gourmet deli with their own house style, than give it a try. However, I’m sure you can find it at Trader Joes or Whole foods in a pinch. Follow the cooking directions, for boiling time, on the package. Plan for four ravioli per guest, more if a main course.

Sage Butter Sauce (Serves 4)
1 stick butter
2 sprigs of fresh sage, minced
¼ grated Parmigiano-regiano
salt & pepper

1 Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and allow it to melt completely. Once the butter has stopped foaming (that’s the water cooking out), add half of the minced sage leaves.
2 Allow this mixture to cook over medium heat for 2 - 3 minutes.
3 Now strain the butter sauce into a bowl. The strainer (use a chinois for best results) should capture most of the cooked sage leaves (The cooked sage leaves can be thrown away).
4 Keep this mixture warm until ready to plate.
5 When plating, season with a salt and pepper, add the ravioli and then spoon the sage butter sauce over the plate. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-regiano. Lastly, sprinkle with the remaining fresh, minced sage.

Click here to find the 2008 Pieropan Soave on Wine-Searcher

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Barbera, a wine for every occasion

Let's talk Barbera. Why? Because out of all the wine I have experienced, in the last four years of drinking and learning, no wine has proven to be more dynamic than Barbera. This northern Italian beauty performs well at the dinner table, the back yard BBQ, or on it's own. It's fruity, juicy and in some cases rich but for me it's the freshness and vibrant acidity that wins my heart. Whether you're eating pizza, mexican or fine dinning, you can't go wrong with Barbera. I've listed three of my recent favorites in order of price. Each one is currently available at retail and worth seeking out.

The daily dinner wine ($13 - $15)
  • 2007 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore Le Orme - Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d'Asti Superiore
    The nose shows red fruit, undergrowth and chalk. I could have mistaken it for Chinon from the nose alone. On the palate you find bright cherry fruit, citrus rind, and minerals. Medium refreshing red fruit finish. It's a streamlined barbera with juicy acidity that showed beautifully tonight. I will buy more.

Perfect for a plate of pasta ($16 - $22)
  • 2007 Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne - Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d'Asti
    A very pretty wine and a text book example of barbera. The nose is full of cherry, red licorice, cedar and undergrowth. The palate shows a very focused acidity with cherry fruit, clove and bitters. The finish is fresh with tongue curling acidity. Simple, unpretentious and just right for a plate of pasta with red sauce.

To impress your guests and yourself. ($40 - $50)
  • 2007 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d'Alba Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Barbera d'Alba
    Dark crimson red color in the glass. The nose is like a basket of fresh picked, super ripe berries followed by holiday spices, new leather and a bit of oak. Some heat is present but does not detract from the experience. On the palate you find masses of dark fruit, sour licorice, pepper and bitters. Very balanced with the acidity showing just a bit through the rich fruit. The finish is long but fresh with blackberry fruit. Don't be afraid to pair this against hearty or spicy dishes.

A personal preference: Try pulling the cork on your bottle about an hour before you plan to drink it. Most reds benefit from the small amount of circulated air that makes it into the bottle. I like to pour a small glass for an early taste, bringing the level of the wine to the mid-shoulder of the bottle, and giving a little extra breathing room.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Welcome to The V.I.P. Table

I've toyed with the idea of starting a blog where I could share the work I do with food and wine. A place that I wouldn't need to over think what I write but instead to concentrate of the creative side of my work, the artistry. Also, to share the things I find along the way, whether it be a special bottle or a restaurant experience that turned my head. That is what The V.I.P. table is all about. So take a seat and enjoy.

Trespass Cabernet Franc with Mushroom Risotto

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Californian wines may not be my "Thing" but some of the producers I met, on my visit to Napa in the summer of 2009, have become favorites of mine. Trespass is one of those producers and this is now the third bottle I've opened that has blown me away with it's elegance, intensity and freshness. Now, I've never seen a bottle of Trespass wine in a store and so I would highly recommend visiting their website or plan a trip to visit if you are ever in Napa. (Imagine sitting under an umbrella, with the owner, in the middle of his vineyard while sipping wine and listening to his commentary... Priceless.)

  • 2005 Trespass Cabernet Franc Estate Grown - USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (1/17/2010)
    Opened and left to air for two hours before the first glass, shows an amazing nose of sour cherry jam, wild berries, dark chocolate, ginger and fresh cut flowers. The nose shows so much depth and yet retains a freshness that's quite admirable. Full bodied and with a velvety mouthfeel. On the palate you find black cherry, mocha and cedar with a dark chocolate and red berry finish that seems to go on for at least a full minute. (92 pts.)

Sometimes you pick the food to go with the wine and in this case I choose a Mushroom Risotto. It's not easy to pair the typical california wine with such a dish but the elegance and balance of this Cabernet Franc really accentuated the aromatics of the risotto and added further complexities in the mouth. This made for quite a meal as the earthy mushroom flavors provided a counter balance to the rich fruit of the wine.

You can find Trespass wines at: