I was a six year old bear when I had my first glass of wine. I remember like it was yesterday, stolen from a campsite by my older, bad bear cousin Rico (RIP). Red wine, I loved the stuff and spent the next year or so devouring campsites, flipping over airstreams and digging through Coleman coolers to find it. Years later when I arrived in France, my love for wine was renewed. French wine opened up my pallet in a way I couldn't have imagined when I was drinking the homemade stuff from Alaska in my youth. My travels have taken me all over the world and I've always made sure to pair the finest wine I can get my paws on with my meals. It's become an obsession that almost rivals food, which is why I created the Wine by Bear program. Along with Sommelier Kaitlin Brooks, we're serving up 6 great wines every other Tuesday night. Our current lineup highlights the 6 Noble Grapes, and I asked Kaitlin to write a guest post about a couple of the varietals.
When was the last time you picked out a Merlot to pair with your Filet Mignon (or dry-aged Ribeye)? Did you know that in a case of life imitating art, the movie Sideways drastically altered the way wine consumers viewed Merlot, and subsequently the amount of Merlot being planted in the United States dropped? Cabernet Franc is actually a parent grape to both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and so Merlot is often mistaken for Cabernet Sauvignon in blind tastings. Have I convinced you to revisit it yet? What if I told you that Merlot often has a flavor profile of tobacco, fig, raspberry, mocha, and nutmeg?
Riesling is another under-appreciated grape varietal, and one of my personal favorites to drink right now. Many people are quick to assume that Riesling is sweet and dismiss it. While Riesling can be made in a sweet style (and those are often very delicious if well-balanced), it can also be completely fermented to dryness. I love bringing dry Rieslings to dinner parties and pairing events and surprising guests when I tell them they are drinking Riesling. It is also one of the few grapes that can pair well with spicy foods, Chinese food, curries, as well as cured meats. On Tuesdays we have been discussing some of the most common (read: noble) grape varietals and the stories behind what make them so world-renowned. Sign up to join me in learning about new wines, winemaking styles, etc., all while tasting a curated selection of excellent and interesting wines. Happy drinking!
If you need a thoughtful last minute Mother's Day gift, may I suggest this bread, beet butter and lemon oil combo? I'll be delivering to some of my favorite mom's on Sunday, so say hi if you see me around!
Bear's Ciabatta Bread: beet butter + lemon oil
3 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 t kosher salt
3/4 t sugar
1 1/2 t dry yeast
1 3/4 c lukewarm water
3 red or pink baby beets
2 c unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 1 in. pieces
1/2 c olive oil
Add flour, salt, sugar and yeast to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for 30 seconds.
2. Add the water slowly while still mixing until dough starts to come together.
3. Increase speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes.
4. Clean and change out the paddle for the hook attachment. Mix on medium-high speed for 5 minutes.
5. Clean and remove the hook, and with floured paws, reach underneath the dough, lift straight up, and slap that sucker back into the bowl against itself. This will begin to create small bubbles that will appear under the surface of the dough. Slap it silly for about 5 minutes, or until you tire yourself out.
6. Lightly grease the inside of a large bowl with olive oil and scrape the still tacky dough inside. Allow to rise until doubled in size in a draft-free space, 1-2 hours depending on the heat and humidity in your kitchen.
7. Once doubled, preheat your oven to 400F and turn the dough out onto a floured baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the crust is a light bear brown.
8. Remove from the oven and let cool a little before devouring it at once!
For the Beet Butter:
1. Preheat oven to 300F. Wash and trim the tops and bottoms of the baby beets.
2. Place beets in a foil pouch with a dash of canola oil and kosher salt. Seal the pouches and roast beets in oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until very tender.
3. Remove beets from oven, open puches and allow beets to cool. When cool to handle, remove the skin from the beets with a damp towel you wanted to dye red anyway.
4. Place beets in a blender and puree until smooth. Scoop out of blender into a bowl.
5. Clean the bowl of the blender and add the butter and puree until smooth. Slowly add the beet puree until you can taste a nice balance of butter and beets. Season with salt, or keep it unsalted, as you wish.
6. Scrape the beet butter out into a container with a lid, and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
For the Lemon Oil (if you don't have the proper equipment, I suggest picking up a bottle of Lusty Lemon):
1. Zest the lemons.
2. Place the zest in an empty whipped cream canister .
3. Add the oil.
4. Charge the canister with 2 cartridges, then swirl the canister for 30 seconds.
5. Allow the oil to infuse for 2 miuntes or longer depending on how deep you want the lemon flavor to be.
6. Slowly dispel the air from the canister pointed down into a bowl. Once the air has emptied out, open the canister and strain the oil into a fun little bottle.
7. Enjoy that stuff on everything!
Before I arrived in San Diego, I was spending a good chunk of my time in Mexico City, where I fell for another chef I was working with. Her name was Osa. I credit her for creating and naming this drink after me.
El Oso Peludo
1 oz. Mezcal (the smokier the better)
2 oz. Mead (I recommend The Foundation from Meadiocrity )
1/2 oz. ginger syrup
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/4 oz. honey syrup
Add all ingredients to a Boston shaker and shake. Fill old fashioned glass with ice or one whiskey cube. Pour ingredients and then with top with Mead. Garnish with candied ginger and drink it up!