Can you believe it's almost the middle of December already?! Where has the time gone? The holiday madness is now in full-swing and The Wine Chef is here to help you with some tried and true suggestions for all of your wine and foodie friends and family.
- Zingerman's Mail Order - Zingerman's Deli is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and I was introduced to their mail order items years ago when our friends Howard and Wendy sent us a sampling of their amazing, artisanal breads. WARNING: you will get hungry looking through their online catalogue! In addition to their breads, they offer many cheeses, oils and vinegars, meats and fish, sweets, coffee cakes (a best selling item since they opened in 1990) and more. Their unique monthly clubs range from the 'bacon club' with a monthly package of specialty bacon that arrives with recipes and stories — yes, bacon stories! — to the Forbidden Foods Club, a "monthly subscription to "diet-busting, allergy-inducing, religious-lawbreaking foods".
- Via Quadronno's Panettone - This traditional Northern Italian Christmas bread is light, fluffy and delicious to have first thing in the morning with coffee or late in the afternoon with tea or during the evening with Sauternes — basically anytime of day or night! Via Quadronno's panetonne is beautifully packaged for the holidays and comes in two sizes, small ($40) and large ($45). You can't order online, so you have to shop the old-fashioned way and actually go to the store. Make time to stop for a delicious cup of espresso or cappuccino while you are there. They have two locations on the Upper East Side of Manhattan: 25 East 73rd Street and 1228 Madison Avenue (between 88th & 89th Streets).
- American Spoon - For 35 years, this award-winning company has been hand-crafting artisanal fruit preserves, condiments and gifts. The flavorful fruits are sourced directly from a group of small, family-owned farmers, and cooked in small-batch copper kettles in the American Spoon kitchen located in Petoskey, Michigan. In 2010, Florence Fabricant of The New York Times wrote that "American Spoon was ahead of the curve when it comes to the artisanal movement.” Don't miss the recipes on their website like this one for Brioche French Toast, topped with their Fruit Perfect Blueberries and Fruit Perfect Sour Cherries.
- Frans - If you have never had Fran's Gray & Smoked Salt Caramels, you must order them right now! The thick and buttery caramel is covered in either milk or dark chocolate and sprinkled with a little smoked salt. They are absolutely delicious! Don't miss out. Whenever I order them for friends, I also get a box for myself. (from $15 for 7 pieces to $220 for 160 pieces)
- John & Kira's - The Chocolate Honey Caramel Bees are as wonderful to look at as they are to eat. Inside their hand-painted chocolate bee-shaped shell is a creamy, almost liquid caramel center. Pure heaven and a beautiful gift. (9 piece box $29.95, 16 piece box $44.95)
- Old Man Artist - My friend Harry is the "Old Man Artist" and his inspiration comes from everyday life on the streets and in the restaurants of New York City. His pen and charcoal drawings are depicted on these witty and whimsical greeting cards and canvas wine totes. The cards make great stocking stuffers and the totes, filled with your favorite wine, make an excellent host and hostess gift. (5 cards for $25 and $10 for the tote).
BOOKS ABOUT WINE:
- Red Wine, The Comprehensive Guide To The 50 Essential Varieties & Styles by Kevin Zraly, Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen - What I love about this book written by my fellow wine friends is that it's easy to read and gets right to the heart of the matter with engaging and in-depth details. Each chapter profiles one grape variety or style giving a brief history along with tasting notes, food pairings, recommended wines and beautiful photographs. You don't have to read it from start to finish either. The authors recommend reading up on the grape varieties before, during or after drinking a bottle of red wine. Now doesn't that sound like fun?!
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil - I agree with Danny Meyer who said that this comprehensive book about wine is “The most informative and entertaining book I've ever seen on the subject”. Many books about wine are dry and read more like a textbook but this 'bible of wine' can even be enjoyed while on vacation relaxing by the pool, as I've been known to do. Jam-packed with factual — even technical — information, it's presented in a fun, conversational and easy-to-understand way. Highly recommended for both novice and experts alike. Make sure you purchase the revised and updated 2nd edition which came out in 2015.
For a holiday wine gift, you need to splurge on something special, something indulgent that your wine-loving friends and relatives would not buy for themselves. Any of the following wines will make a very memorable gift — and please let me know if you need my address ;)
- White - Condrieu (Cohn-dree-uh) is the way to go this holiday season. This white wine from the Northern Rhone is made from 100% Viognier (Vee-ohn-yay) grapes and is a dry wine with a rich and luscious mouthfeel. Try one from any of these producers: Georges Vernay, André Perret or Domaine Faury.
- Rosé - For all of those year-round rosé lovers on your list, I recommend giving them one (or two!) bottles of Bandol rosé made in the Southern part of Provence. These Mourvèdre-based rosé wines are darker colored and fuller bodied than other rosés made in Provence. Look for Chateau de Pibarnon, Terrebrune, and Domaine Tempier.
- Red - Amarone is what I'll be serving with the holiday roast. This full-bodied dry red wine comes from Valpolicella in the Northeastern Italian region of Veneto and is made from mostly Corvina and Rondinella grapes. The grapes are dried for about four months before being made into wine so the flavors are very concentrated and rich. Amarone makes an ideal accompaniment to robust dishes on a cold winter's night. Favorite producers: Bertani, Sartori, Masi, Allegrini, Zenato or Dal Forno.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE WINE CHEF!