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Filtering by Tag: Marco de Grazia

Real Crispy Skin Salmon, For True

Beth Ribblett

I admit that I am a bit obsessed with Salmon. Grilled, seared, plank roasted, baked it in parchment, topped with chermoula; you name it, I've cooked it!  It is a weekly item on our menu, especially when I need something quick, healthy, delicious and easy to pair with either red or white wines.

But my latest obsession has been crispy skin salmon, which I was never successful at until now!  I found a recipe a few months ago, which I'm sorry to say I could not find again to reference in this post, that I've modified a bit to create the perfect salmon.  The big crunch of the skin is truly the perfect contrast to a fat piece of tender, juicy salmon.  And when I say crisp I mean like a crunchy potato chip!

I will also admit that as beautiful as the Coho and the wild salmon looks, I love the fatty North Atlantic and King Salmon.  Much richer and more flavorful, I select which ever fits into my current budget.  The new Whole Foods on Broad has a really nice fresh selection and is easy to just pick  up a piece after work.  

So here it is, just a few simple tricks to create the perfect crunch:

Trick #1:  You have to descale it.
Take your salmon fillet ( I get about a pound to split between Kerry and I and we usually eat the whole thing!) and put it on a cutting board.  Then grab your chef's knife and run along the top of the skin with a bit of pressure, scraping the scales off.  You can tell they’re gone because the skin has a netting pattern to it:
Give the salmon a quick rinse to remove the scales.

Trick #2:  Water is the enemy 
Dry the salmon very well with paper towels. Water is the enemy of a good crisp sear so soak up as much as you can. Next, season the fish skin with a good pinch of salt (no pepper on the skin, it will burn) and let the fish sit for 5 minutes. Then touch the fish skin and notice that there’s moisture there. This is because the salt pulled out moisture from the skin. You've just set the skin up to be even CRISPIER.  Give the skin a good pat with paper towel again to soak up that excess moisture, and now it’s ready to be seared.

Trick #3:  Cut the salmon into even pieces.
The more evenly the meat is distributed the better it will sear.  With a large fillet you usually get the thick piece of the body and then the thinner part of the belly.  Cut off the thin part - you'll just cook it a little less.

Trick #4:  No non stick pans!
You just don't get the same sear and if your heat is high enough it won't stick anyway.  So start with an uncoated pan, fairly close in size to the piece of fish.  Heat up your pan somewhere between medium to medium high heat (6 or 7 on a 10 scale), and let it heat up for about 3-5 minutes (3 minutes for gas stoves, 5 for electric).  Since we are using an uncoated pan, you’re going to want to have a sturdy, metal turner that can really get under the fish, not one of those flimsy plastic spatulas.

Trick #5:  You need a high smoke point oil.
Olive oil or butter won't work here.  My preference is ghee or coconut oil but the ghee really helps to brown it evenly.  You could also use grape seed oil.   Add enough to really coat the bottom of the pan.

When the oil starts to shimmer, take your piece of fish and test it by touching the very end of it to the pan. If it makes that hissing sizzling noise, that means the pan is nice and hot, and go ahead and lay the fish down in the pan, skin side down, always away from you so the oil doesn't splash. (and if the fish doesn't sizzle, your pan isn’t hot enough).  Now you can season the top meaty side with salt and pepper.

Let the salmon cook for 90% of the time on the skin side. You need about 5 minutes per 1" thickness of salmon.  With the fillets I get I usually end up doing 7 minutes on the skin side.

While the skin is cooking, take a lemon and zest about half of the skin.  Take the rest of the lemon and cut into quarters to squeeze on the fish before serving.

When it is time, flip it over and give it a about a minute or so on the other side. Remove it, put a few pats of butter on it and the lemon zest and serve immediately with the lemon quarters on the side. Fantastic!!

Ok now what wine to serve?  The reason I had to make this was to give me an excuse to open the 2012 Terre Nere Cuvee delle Vigne Niche from Macrco de Grazia.  We just received our very very small allocation and half of it has come home with me!

Etna White Cuvée delle Vigne Niche 2012
Wine Spectator Score: 92

Aromatic, with floral and spice notes. There's power to the racy acidity and smoky minerality of this finely meshed white, which is elegant overall, offering flavors of creamed apple, almond skin, apricot and preserved lemon. A vanilla-tinged, leesy overtone echoes on the finish. Drink now through 2025. 250 cases made.

Ancora Wine Dinner with Anne Zakin, Marco De Grazia Selections

Beth Ribblett

Fine Italian wines from small growers were virtually unknown in 1980 when importer Marco de Grazia first offered a handful of estates from Tuscany and Piedmont. Driven by fascination and passion with a vision of great possibilities, he progressed through the northern regions, then the central zones and finally into Italy’s rich and promising south. 

In 2004 Marco established a U.S. based company, little used until 2008 when Anne Zakin became the director. Thanks to Anne and our friends at Uncorked, the wines of the Marco de Grazie have a prominent presence in our shop and we are excited to have her host this dinner at Ancora.  Please join us in celebrating the wines of southern Italy tonight paired with chef Jeff Talbot's regionally inspired menu.

Date: Tuesday, September 24
Time: 6:30 apertivi, seating @ 7pm
Where: Ancora, 4508 Freret Street, New Orleans
Reservations: Call Swirl 504.304.0635, credit card required
$80 all inclusive

A Selection of House Made Anti Pasta
2011 Vini Iovine Gragnano Rosso Frizzante Terre del Gragnano, Campania
NV Cantina del Taburno Vino Spumante 'Folius', Campania 

Gnocchi and Lobster with Butter
2011 Terre Nere Etna Bianco Le Vigne Niche, Sicilia

A Tasting of Local Rabbit with White Beans and Wild Mushrooms
2011 Centonze Frappato, Sicilia

Roasted Wild Boar with Local Braised Greens, and Louisiana Polenta 
2008 Pardi Sagrantino di Montefalco, Umbria

Chef's Selection
2008 Pardi Passito, Umbria 

Marco De Grazia at Swirl in 2010

Terre Nere Olio d'Oliva, A Rare Treat from an Amazing Producer

Beth Ribblett

Ancient elixir, ritual anointment, symbol of peace, gift from Athena to the Greeks, the olive has been an integral part of life in the eastern Mediterranean since the first stirrings of civilization.  In many ways, olive oil is one of the most important agricultural products of Europe and most wineries devote considerable acreage to the beloved olive tree for their own personal use and many for export.

So it is no wonder that one of our favorite Sicilian winemakers, Marco de Grazia of Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, produces an exceptional olive oil that we are very excited to have in the store. Marco's estate occupies prime real estate on the slopes of the famed Mount Etna, the still active volcano producing some of Sicily's most extraordinary wines that we had the privilege of visiting in 2009.  The estates has 1,500 trees, many which are centuries old, that are all farmed and cared for organically. Lovingly tended, the olives are hand harvested, cold pressed that same day, with the luscious green/gold oil bottled unfiltered.  The volcanic soils give it an almost sweetness, with elegant, spicy pepper notes; pure quality flows from the bottle.

We had the pleasure of Marco's company in the shop a few years ago for an intimate, seated tasting of his wines as well as a few others he is importing.  Soft spoken, loquacious and extremely passionate about the region, it was wonderful to hear about his approach to wine making on the Etna, to taste the wines with him and hear his stories about what makes this reason so special and one of the most exciting wine producing regions in the world today. His approach to wine is one of minimal intervention, using certified organic practices, and an almost indiscernible use of oak, allowing the expression of the true character of the wine. In tasting his olive oil, it is obvious that he applies this same careful, thoughtful approach to its production as well.

Olive oil is a daily staple in our home.  We use it liberally and as often as we can, often finding excuses to design a dish around it.  Having met Marco and visited the wild world of the Etna, this oil is extremely special to us. We have it now, it probably won't be here for long, so if you have an appreciation for this ancient culinary delight, representing generations of farming and centuries of history made by people who truly care, come see us.  

Driven by a passion for wine, food, travel and good company...

Beth Ribblett

As I sat at my desk this morning putting all of our upcoming events into the calendar, I couldn't help but scratch my head and wonder how we are going to pull all of this off. While it would be so easy to sit back and just be a fun wine bar and market, I can't help myself. Because in sharing our love of wine, food and travel through our events and trips, we connect with others who share our passion; chefs, winemakers, importers, wine wholesalers, restaurant owners, slow food folks, farmers, customers and more. New friendships are formed and others deepened with delicious food, interesting wines and wonderful company. After all, isn't that what this is all about?

So I hope you'll join us sometime soon for a wine and cheese pairing night, a dinner or two, a flite nite at the bar or just wander on in for a nice glass of wine and some lively conversation. Besides our regularly scheduled events that we do each and every week like Fat Falafel Tuesdays (6-8pm), Wednesday Nite Flites (6-8pm), Friday Free For Alls (6-8pm) and Saturday Happy Hour (all wines on our menu are 1/2 off, 4-6pm), here are some exciting things on the books and in the works!

The Famed Wines of Montalcino with Antonio Molesini and St. James' Cheese Casey Foote. A seated tasting of Rosso di Montalcino, Brunellos and Super Tuscans from one of Italy's most famous hill towns. And since no Italian event is complete with out a little food, Casey will pair delicicous Italian cheeses and meats with the wines. $30, Reservations and prepayment required. Thursday, February 21, 6:30pm @ Swirl.

Premium Pinot, a special Wednesday Nite Flite featuring 12 artisanal Pinot Noirs that retail from $40 to $100 a bottle from California and Oregon. We are teaming up with our friends from Mystic Vines for this exclusive event limited to 25 participants. $20, Reservations and prepayment required. Wednesday, February 27, 6:00pm

Three Muses Supper Club
with James Moises a small, intimate event featuring a special menu for the evening that we will pair with Oregon and Washington wines presented by our mutual friend James Moises. I sent a special email out on Friday with the menu, pairings and reservation details. We were sold out by Sunday, but keep an eye out for more events with Chef Dan. Tuesday, March 12 @ 7pm.

Italian Barrel Wine Dinner
with Antonio Molesini will feature 5 courses with wine pairings with our favorite Italian Wine Guy, Antonio Molesini. The dinner will be prepared by Chef/Proprietor Samantha L. Castagnetti a native of Verona in her true Italian style trattoria. Menu and pairings TBA, but mark the date! Tuesday March, 19th at 6:30pm. $70 inclusive, only 20 spots available!

The Oregon Wine Road Show with Bizou Wines featuring 30 Oregon wines from artisan producers, most of who don't sell their wines outside of Oregon. James Moises represents a slew of small producers who make incredible Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Viognier, Syrah and of course Pinot Noir that few in New Orleans have ever tasted. This is a don't miss tasting for all you Pinot lovers or any who wants to taste some amazing wines and learn about what is happening in Oregon. This tasting will be an extension of our Wednesday Nite Flites on March 20th. More info TBA!

Artisan Winemaking Tour with James Moises of Bizou Wines for a unique, hands-on experience of small production, artisanal winemaking at its best!  We'll take you to the stunningly beautiful Pacific Northwest for a five day tour to visit small, off the beaten path wineries and vineyards; meet, taste and dine with winemakers and witness one of the most exciting times of the year in wine country, the harvest!  You will get an exclusive, insiders look into what goes on behind the scenes as you'll have the opportunity to pick grapes, sort fruit and see many aspects of the grape harvest and early stages of production first hand. October 9-13th, details and pricing coming very soon!

Also in the works for March... an unforgettable event with Marco De Grazia Imports President, Anne Zakin on March 14th at a fabulous NOLA restaurant...and in early April a Slow Wine and Food Event with Slow Food NOLA featuring Italian wine, pasta and the new Slow Wine book!

See anything interesting?  Call us!  504-304-0635

Maximo's and Marc de Grazia Selections Wine Dinner

Beth Ribblett

Join us at Maximo's Italian Grill with Anne Zakin, president of Marc de Grazie Imports USA, for a dinner featuring an outstanding selection of wines from the portfolio paired with Chef Thomas Woods creative cuisine. 

We're taking you on a tour of Italy presenting wines from the Veneto, Campagnia, Sicily, Tuscany and Alto Adige with a mix of obscure and well known grape varieties while Chef Woods' regionally inspired menu provides the perfect pairings. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

6:30pm Cocktails (cash bar), 7:00pm Dinner

$95 per person, tax and tip included (prepayment is required with reservation)

Maximo's Italian Grill, 1117 Decatur Street


Tonight's Menu
Wild mushroom veloute with confit green apple 
and shredded ham hock
2009 Kofererhof Kerner, Alto Adige

Marinated grilled sardines with baby arugula, capers, heirloom 
tomato and shredded Reggiano
2010 Cantine Antonio Caggiano Greco di Tufo Devon, Campania
Veal Napoleon with roasted red bell pepper marinara 
and braised fennel
2008 Mazzi Valpolicella Classico Superiore Sanperetto, Veneto

House made crushed red pepper fettuccini served with duck confit, spinach, sun dried tomatoes and baby portobello, tossed in a mascarpone duck demi-glace
2007 Azienda Agricola Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Toscano

Brown sugar pork belly accompanied by spicy whipped sweet potatoes 
topped with a black cherry compound butter
2009 Terre Nere Etna Rosso Guardiola, Sicilia

Braised farmers market peaches with toasted walnut and aged 
gorgonzola, accompanied by a vanilla gelato  
2007 Azienda Agricola Gini Recioto di Soave Col Foscarin, Veneto

Selecting the Wines: Dinner at Maximo's

Beth Ribblett

Selecting wines for our dinners with local restaurants is one of my favorite things to do.  And believe it or not, there's a lot more to it than just opening up a bunch of bottles we like and designing a menu around them.  It is a process that involves the input and collaboration of quite a few individuals who all have a vested interest in you having a great wine and food experience.

I've been to dinners where it was obvious that there was not much communication between the wine people and the food people.  The latest experience, believe it or not, was in Tuscany. And as bad as the event was, it was actually very good for me to see what happens when proper planning is obviously not involved. Food comes out without wine or wrong wines in your glass when the food comes out and little or no thought going in to the actual food and wine pairings which means neither the wine nor the food really gets to shine.

Anne Zakin
Now onto our upcoming dinner at Maximo's...We are working on an event in late September when Anne Zakin, President of Marc De Grazia Imports USA, will be in town to host the dinner and present the wines. I met with sommelier Michelle Gueydan, who has been working with the staff at Maximo's, Chef Thomas Woods, General Manager Eric Solis, and Nick Selby from Uncorked, at his office to put our heads together to make the selections.   And I am really excited by the line up!

Chef Thomas Woods
We wanted a wide range to show case the depths of the portfolio and Chef Thomas' diversity in cooking styles.  We needed interesting wines but with good acidity and structure to pair with foods and even turned down a wine that we all fell head over heels for because we felt another would better fit our purpose (more on that wine later...). And although we tend to want to taste higher end wines at these dinners, it is important to present selections at various price points to show that not all wine needs to be expensive to be good.

So we decided to take you on a tour of Italy, presenting wine and food from the Veneto, Campagnia, Sicily, Tuscany and Alto Adige with a mix of obscure and well known grape varieties. The list is now in Chef Thomas' hands and it is up to him to create some culinary magic in the kitchen to pair with the wines.  The dinner is Wednesday September 21 and menu and pricing will be coming soon, but here's a little information on a few of the wines we selected:

2009 Kofererhof Kerner - Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 93 pts:  The 2009 Kerner bursts from the glass with an exciting array of mint, flowers, passion fruit and crushed rocks. This is a beautiful, vivid white that takes shape in the glass, continuing to show off its remarkable class. A textured, creamy finish rounds things out in style. The estate’s Kerner is one of the great, great wines of Alto Adige, and the 2009 is nothing short of breathtaking. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2015.

2007 Az Agr Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - Robert Parker's Wine Advocat, 90 pts:  Dei’s 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is wonderfully soft and expressive in this vintage. Bright red cherries lead to subtle notes of earthiness and pipe tobacco as this sexy, radiant Vino Nobile opens up in the glass. Fine, silky tannins frame the long, beautifully articulated finish. This understated, delicate Vino Nobile is a gem from Dei. 

2008 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso Feudo di Mezzo, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, 92 pts., (RP 93 pts) - Good deep red. Delicately smoky, penetrating aromas of redcurrant and crushed rock, with a liqueur-like nuance; seems a bit less intense than the Guardiola. Supple, creamy and sweet, which is typical for this vineyard bottling, but with very good acidity and a recurring rocky quality nicely complementing the berry and smoke flavors. Finishes with sweet but mounting tannins and notes of aromatic herbs. This has the structure to age but also offers considerable up-front appeal, though the tannins are such that I'd suggest laying this away for another couple of years.

Coming Full Circle with The Etna

Beth Ribblett

The first time I tasted a wine from the Etna, I knew that something very special was happening in the eastern part of Sicily.  We were in New York in late January for an Italian Trade Commission wine event and we needed a bottle of wine for our friend Lisa's birthday party. I had become intrigued by the region while researching the wine producing areas of the island for our wine and culinary tour later that year, but there was nothing from the Etna in any of our wholesaler's portfolios.  In fact, like me, most had never even heard of the region until I started inquiring about the wines.  

So, needing a bottle of wine to take with us to a little party, we popped into a shop in the East Village, that actually had a decent selection of Sicilian wines and there on the shelf was a wine by one of the producers I had been researching, Terre Nere.  The 2006 Etna Rosso was under $20, which was very reasonable for anything coming from the area, so I was really excited to try it.  And needless to say we were all impressed as it was lush (a prominent quality in the 2006 vintage) and easy drinking, with a purity of fruit and hints of dark cherries, tobacco and wild herbs, it had an earthiness and texture reminiscent of Burgundy but is distinctly Sicilian. Made with Nerello Mascalese, a native grape to the region, I was hooked and needed to know more about this region.

 Fast forward, almost 2 years later, having now spent time in the region, I had been working with 2 of our wholesalers, Uncorked and Lirette Selections, on getting some of these wines to New Orleans. Pietradolce and Salvo Foti's wines were on the shelf, Frank Cornelissen's were on their way, and the Terre Nere wines would be here for Uncorked's portfolio tasting this month.  And arriving with the wines was the producer himself Marco de Grazia, one of the pioneers of the region and the man really accredited with putting the Etna on the map.

So last night we had the pleasure of Marco's company in the shop for an intimate, seated tasting of his wines as well as a few others he is importing.  Soft spoken, loquacious and extremely passionate about the region, it was wonderful to hear about his approach to wine making on the Etna, to taste the wines with him and hear his stories about what makes this reason so special and one of the most exciting wine producing regions in the world today. His approach is one of minimal intervention, using certified organic practices, and an almost indiscernible use of oak, allowing the expression of the true character of the wine.  And what a beautiful expression it is!  Unbelievably fresh with incredible aromatics, finessed tannins and a weightless quality reminiscent of Burgundy and Nebbiolo, the wines speak for themselves.

It was a wonderful experience, coming full circle with this region that has so intrigued me now for almost 2 years. So the second time I drank the Terre Nere Etna Rosso was with Marco himself in our shop with friends and customers, and I'm still just excited as ever about this wild, crazy volcano and the incredible gift it gives us in these unique wines. 

Thanks to our friends at Uncorked, our inventory should arrive next week and we'll be carrying the Rosato, Etna Rosso and single vineyard Gaurdiola.  Trust me, you need to try these wines!

From Robert Parker: "Proprietor Marc de Grazia is one of the pioneers of the Etna. Not only was he among the first producers to recognize the value of these once-forgotten, ancient terroirs, he also was the first producer to bring attention to the specific qualities of these vineyards by bottling single-parcel Nerellos that have become reference-point wines for the Etna."  Wine Advocate, June 2010