Vin Chaud aux Oranges Brûlées & The 2013 McCormick Flavor Forecast

6 12 2012

Charred oranges.

Those two words were the first to jump out at me from this year’s McCormick Flavor Forecast.  In what sounds like one of the most fun jobs in the world, their team of chefs, food scientists, and market gurus work all year to identify trends in food.  Using those trends as a jumping-off point, they then seek out the flavor combinations that best exemplify each one.  After months of playing around in the kitchen work, they have distilled the cooking zeitgeist down to five Trends of Global Flavor, each with two sets of ingredients designed to evince the philosophy (I would almost call them Trends in Food Philosophy, but that might sound too poncy).

sugaredoranges

A side objective of these flavor pairings is to push the envelope a bit, maybe combining things in unusual ways or introducing lesser-known ingredients to a wider audience.  Like in Empowered Eating, where Dukkah (a delightful mix of spices, seeds, and nuts that hails from Egypt) livens up broccoli, or Global My Way, where cajeta (a Mexican goat milk caramel) is joined with anise.  As I look over the range of trends, a few things seem to repeat, or be representative of even broader trends.  I’m seeing:

  • Bitterness – on display in the smoked tomato, chocolate, molasses (don’t worry, those aren’t together), and the aforementioned charred oranges
  • Hazelnuts – (hooray!) used in the Dukkah and paired with artichoke and paprika in Hidden Potential
  • Tropical flavors – rum, passion fruit, plantains, chili peppers (again, not together, but why not?)

I’m telling you all of this because McCormick (in France, Ducros) has given me the opportunity to preview this year’s forecast, which brings me back to the charred oranges.  Paired with allspice and black rum under the category “No Apologies Necessary”, the allure of smoky, caramelized oranges was irresistible to me.  When I had a Skype interview with McCormick’s executive chef Kevan Vetter, I mentioned how that particular combination called to me, making me think of hot drinks by the fireplace, or warming up after being out in the snow.  Interestingly, he had nearly opposite associations with the mix, saying it had been conceived as a sort of “tropical getaway”.  But that’s what’s so much fun about working or playing around with ingredients.  You give ten people the same mystery box and you’ll probably get ten different takes on the best dish to make from it.  That could probably happen with just one person, too.  I mean, given these three, I’ve already jotted down at least four different recipes I’d like to experiment with.  Charred orange eggnog, anyone? How about an orange brûlée tart or charred orange and allspice ice cream with rum caramel sauce?

charredoranges

For now, though, I’m pretty content with this take on vin chaud, the hot spiced wine that is near-ubiquitous this time of year in France.

Vin Chaud aux Oranges Brûlées

Inspired by the McCormick Flavor Forecast for 2013, this is more more focused – and dare I say “tropical” – version of the classic winter beverage. Allspice alone takes the place of a blend of spices, the charred oranges add lovely smoky bitter notes, and a finish of dark rum warms you through and through.

2 large oranges
2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar (also called cassonade or raw sugar)

1 bottle (750 ml) red wine – no need for anything fancy here
10 allspice berries
¼ c. Turbinado sugar
3 oz. (85 ml) dark rum

  1. Heat your broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Halve the oranges pole-to-pole, then cut the halves into 4-5 thick slices each. Lay them on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar. Broil, checking frequently, until charred, about 5 minutes.
  2. Place the charred orange slices into a medium saucepan with the wine, allspice, and remaining ¼ cup sugar. Bring to a simmer, then cover, remove from heat, and let steep 15-30 minutes.
  3. Add the rum and heat everything back up before ladling, steaming hot, into mugs.

Serves 4.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

This post was sponsored by McCormick, but the opinions are my own.

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Around Paris: 4th: La Reserve de Quasimodo

15 02 2011

Yes, it sits in the shadow of Notre Dame, one of Paris’ biggest tourist draws.  And yes, the chalkboard menus are in English as well as French.  But don’t let either of those usually deterrent factors stop you from paying a visit to La Reserve de Quasimodo, one of Paris’ most affordable, least pretentious, and – dare I say it – off-the-beaten-path wine bars.

La Reserve de Quasimodo

Wine bar can be a tricky term.  Some fit the description well: bars that serve a larger-than-usual variety of wines, and maybe some nibbles to go with them (Le Baron Rouge and Tombé du Ciel are two good examples).  Others are really more like restaurants, requiring reservations and serving full-on meals (think Le Verre Volé or Chapeau Melon).  Often food purchases are required, due to liquor license intricacies.  Many operate as wine shops during non-meal hours.

So what kind of wine bar is La Reserve de Quasimodo?  Well, it has a wine cellar, from which you can buy wines by the bottle.  You can either take them away and do as you see fit (Nick and I are looking forward to summer, when we can stroll in, pick up a nice bottle of something chilled, and then take it to the river bank to sip), or you can enjoy them in the dining room.  The droit de bouchon, or corkage fee, is a mere six euros – probably the cheapest in Paris.  It is one of those places where eating something is required, but if you aren’t in the mood for a full meal, they offer cheese and charcuterie plates to share.

Cheese plate at La Reserve de Quasimodo

I have yet to try the charcuterie, but I’ve had the cheeses twice.  A little round of aged chèvre, a slab of piquant bleu d’Auvergne, a hunk of earthy Saint Nectaire, and a quarter-wheel of creamy Camembert.  The Camembert is the standout, but all are good, and a little variety is important, no?  On an unrelated note, did you know that a pie chart in French is called a Camembert?  I find that hilarious and awesome.

Duck and foie gras salad

Making up a large part of the menu are salads and tartines.  The salads are big enough for a meal, the selection of hearty toppings ranging from duck prosciutto and foie gras terrine (pictured above) to jambonneau with Puy lentils (below).

Jambonneau and Lentil salad

The tartines are of the open-faced sandwich family, as opposed to the bread smeared with butter and jam ilk, and are piled high with goodies like cheese, tomatoes, and anchovies.

For those hungry for something warmer and stodgier, there are hot menu items as well, though I can’t vouch for them as I haven’t tried any.  Yet.

The space itself is worth a visit.  Steeped in history, it’s been operating since the 12th century, and among other things, once served a s a hangout for the infamous Cartouche, Paris’ most notorious criminal of the early 18th century. But you can read all about that, and other historical tidbits, on the signs out front.  Inside, the front room is like a glass-enclosed patio which offers great views over the Seine of the Hôtel de Ville, while the back room feels much older with its exposed beams of dark wood.  The toilet is, just as they claim, “atypical.”

Door

La Reserve de Quasimodo serves both lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, and the wine shop is open continuously from 10:45 am.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Chartres

1 11 2010

Chartres is one of those places, if you’ve studied French for a long time, that you’ve heard about over and over.  It’s home to the best-preserved cathedral in Europe, which is also one of the purest examples of Gothic architecture, built relatively quickly between 1206 and 1260.  And it’s only about an hour from Paris. But I had yet to visit, until last weekend.

The catalyst that finally got me to hop on the train was an invite to a salon from Domaine La Beille.  A small winery run by a couple (he’s Australian, she’s French) in the Languedoc, not far from Perpignan and the Spanish border.  They make some nice wines, and I especially like the way they buck traditions to make single varietal wines in a country where blends are the norm.

Since the train tickets were a little spendy (14 euros each way), Nick and I figured we’d make a day out of it.  I researched some places to eat and made phone calls from the train.  I got a reservation at the first place I called, the Brasserie La Cour at the hotel Le Grand Monarque.

Table setting at Braaserie La Cour

After a short but cold walk from the train station, we walked into the elegant lobby of Le Grand Monarque.  Straight ahead was the airy dining room of the Brasserie La Cour.  Thus named because it is actually situated in the courtyard of the building, the space is very light.  It almost felt like we were dining outside, save for the fact that it was warm and we weren’t getting rained on.  So, better.  I was immediately charmed by the mini-baguettes that were part of the place settings at each table.  I was also a big fan of the little butter crocks, which contained perfectly softened butter.  (It’s a pet peeve of mine when restaurants serve ice-cold, rock-hard butter.)

Butter crock

Of course I had found out the local specialties before we headed to Chartres, and topping the list is a special pâté.  Pâté de Chartres is a rustic, meaty pâté with a hunk of foie gras in the center.  It’s wrapped in pastry and baked, then any space is filled with aspic.

Pâté de Chartres

Here it was served with a salad and a few pickled cherries on the side.  I liked the way the tangy cherries played off the richness of the pâté, but Nick wasn’t a fan.  (Of the cherries.  He definitely liked the pâté, and he also lucked out and got the piece with the big chunk of foie gras.)

Given the gray, rainy weather, for my main course I opted for the “Cocotte du jour,” which happened to be pot au feu – a French classic that consists of slow-cooked beef and vegetables in a rich broth.

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A City Known for Mustard in a Region Known for Wine

16 10 2009

Maille boutique, Dijon

Dijon, located in the Côte d’Or département, is a city full of great food, wine, and shopping opportunities.  Nick and I arrived in town Saturday morning and headed straight for the market, which was packed with local and regional cheeses, charcuterie, wines, and produce.  If the weather had been nicer, we would have picked up some goodies and found a picturesque spot to enjoy a picnic.  Alas, it being October, we got gray skies and intermittent rain.  Nonetheless, we did not go hungry.  After a long lunch in a restaurant near the market, we wandered over to the rue de la Liberté, the city’s main shopping street (in fact, it is what I remember most about my last visit to Dijon, in 2000, particularly the H&M).  This time, though, I was shopping for mustard.  The Maille boutique features dozens of flavors of mustard, from cassis to herbes de Provence to marc de Bourgogne.  I wanted to try them all, but feared for my sinuses.

Stoneware mustard jars

My favorite feature of the shop is the mustard taps, where you can have a stoneware mustard pot filled with your choice of fresh mustard.  Apparently Maille has one other boutique in France, located in Paris – D’oh! – so when I run out, I can go there to get my pot refilled.

Mustard Tap

And then we were off in search of wine…

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Pour Votre Santé…

2 10 2009

There seems to be a law in France that all ingestibles must come with a warning.  Ads in the Métro for anything remotely edible from fresh melons to KFC have a banner across the bottom from an organization called mangerbouger.fr.  They say things like:

  • Pour votre santé, manger au moins 5 fruits et légumes par jour.  (For your health, eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day.)
  • Pour votre santé, pratiquez un activité physique régulièrement.  (For your health, regularly engage in physical activity.)
  • Pour votre santé, ne mangez pas trop gras, trop sucré, trop salé.  (For your health, don’t eat too much fat, sugar, or salt.)*
  • Pour votre santé, bougez plus.  (For your health, move more.)**

And so on.  These warnings also occur on TV commercials as well as in radio ads.  Today at work, we were listening to the radio, comme d’hab, and my favorite French supermarket, Carrefour, was advertising six bottles of Bordeaux for 15 euros.  (I can’t imagine it’s any good – it’s still two buck chuck.)  Anyway, the ad came with the requisite warning: Pour votre santé, attention à l’abus d’alcool.  (For your health, watch out for alcohol abuse.)  The Homer Simpson part of my brain went “Mmmm… alcohol abuse,” followed immediately by my less boneheaded self , “well, it is Friday… I should pick up some beer and/or wine on the way home from work.”

So thank you, mangerbouger.fr, for the tasty beer I am sipping now.  And the next one.

*I am always amused to see this one on McDonald’s ads.
** This one is popular on the radio.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Salon Mer & Vigne et Gastronomie

16 03 2009

Yesterday, Nick and I went to the Salon Mer & Vigne et Gastronomie.  Longtime readers may remember the write-ups I did on it last year, but for those of you who are interested, they were ThreeLongPosts.  And completely worth reading, if I do say so myself.  This year, though, I’m giving you the highlights.

Since March is Savoie monthhere on Croque-Camille, I made a beeline for the first cheese stand I saw.  Fortunately, Aux Saveurs des Montagnes, while based in Toulouse, had a wide variety of incredible Savoyard cheeses.  We tasted about half a dozen cheeses, all of which were remarkable.  The man at the stand made a point of explaining how his cheeses had nothing to do with their supermarket counterparts, and he wasn’t kidding.  We sampled the absolute best Morbier I’ve ever had the pleasure of placing on my tongue.  I never knew this, but it turns out Morbier comes from… Savoie!  Looks like this region may merit more than one cheese post.  After we’d made our selection, the guy tried to tempt us further with a nibble of Swiss Gruyère, which was outrageously good.  It had a texture not unlike really good Parmigiano-Reggiano, with little crystals of intense flavor scattered throughout.  The man pointed out that the Swiss Gruyère has no holes, and told a little joke: “Why are there no holes in Swiss Gruyère?” “Because they don’t have any mice in Switzerland!” Ha!

The array of wonderful wines from G. Prieur

Next we headed straight for G. Prieur, who had sent us free entry passes for buying a case of wine last year.  We were recognized immediately, and got to cut right to the excellent wines (instead of wasting time with the merely good ones).  Opting to start out by sampling the white wines this time, we were presented with a series of four excellent whites: a simple white Santenay, which would make a great table wine; a very distinctive and mineral 2005 Meursault; an exquisite apéritif-worthy 2006 Meursault, which Alain (our liaison) claimed was from one of the very best parcels in Bourgogne; and a premier cru Chassagne Montrachet 2007, whose briny character would make it a perfect accompaniment to any seafood dish.  (Here’s an insider secret I learned: true wine aficionados don’t pronounce the “t” in the middle of “montrachet,” such that it is pronounced “mon-rah-shay.”  Drop that one the next time you’re chatting up a French wine merchant – they’ll probably be impressed.)

G. Prieur's tasting glass

Moving on to the reds, of which we sampled eight, we learned that while 2005 Burgundies (both white and red) will age beautifully for several years, the 2006 vintage is best enjoyed sooner rather than later.  The highlights of the flight included a 2005 Vosne-Romanée, which was eyes-rolling-back-upon-first-sip good and a 2004 Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru, which Nick and I decided tasted like the best raisins ever.  Wines classified as Grand Cru in Bourgogne represent the top one percent of the region’s production, and let me tell you, you can taste the difference.

While we were tasting wines, we spotted our favorite Burgundian cheese producer (or at least their representative), so after buying more wine than we meant to (how do these things happen?) we headed over to sample some delicious washed-rind cheeses.

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Vins d’Alsace

1 03 2009

I know it’s March now, but since it’s such a long month, and February is so short, I’m sure March won’t mind if we borrow a day to talk about Alsatian wines.  It just seems ignorant to spend a month writing about Alsace without dedicating a post to the wines of the region – besides, they are some of my very favorite white wines.

The holy trinity of Alsatian wine: Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, and Sylvaner

The wines of Alsace are notable among French wines in that they almost always list the grape varietal on the bottle.  (Many French wines are blends.)  The grapes used are also much more common in German winemaking than in French.  While their German counterparts tend to be quite sweet, Alsatian wines are usually vinified dry, clearing the path to better appreciation of the subtle flavors of the grapes and the mineral qualities of the terroir.  They also have a distinct, elongated bottle silhouette, which strikes me as elegant.  Regal, even.  In fact, in my now-infamous wine bottle manger scene of Christmas 2000, bottles from Alsace played the three wise men.  (The animals were represented by stumpy Côtes du Rhône bottles; Mary and Joseph were a feminine Bourgogne and a somber Bordeaux, respectively; and Baby Jesus took the form of a tiny bottle of Kronenbourg.  If I had the wherewithal to upload 8 year old film photos that are currently in storage in the US, I would totally share that one here.)

Anyway, the wines of Alsace are perfectly suited to the cuisine of the region – their mild sweetness and citrusy or tropical fruit overtones balance the hearty fare with aplomb.  But they also happen to pair quite well with spicy food, especially dishes from and inspired by Southeast Asia.  And let’s not forget the apéritif!  In fact, I think I’ll uncork one right now.

Yeah, it's a little early, but hey, it's Sunday.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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