Posts made in March 2011

Call of Madeira & Port

Madeira’s longevity earns it a special place in the realm of old wine. What other wine requires over a half century to mature? And what other wine, when a century old, still benefits from several hours of breathing and can stand up to several weeks in a decanter without losing its complexity or its richness? And…how many wines can live for two centuries and still offer not only the pleasure of their antiquity, but also the enjoyment of drinking?
First and foremost, we should thank Anthony Dias Blue, Editor in Chief of Tasting Panel Magazine ( and his staff for producing events like the Blandy’s Madeira Bicentenary Tasting.

The hostesses for this March 24th, 2011 NYC event were the gracious marketing and events director, Allison Levine and the assistant executive editor of “Tastings”, Nicolette Teo.
Moving right along…
Where is Madeira and, as well, where is it in relation to Portugal…the home of Port?
The Madeira Islands are 540 miles southwest of  Lisbon, Portugal in the north Atlantic Ocean. They are an autonomous region of Portugal, with Madeira Island and Porto Santo Island being the only inhabited islands.
They are a popular year-round resort and famed worldwide for their Madeira wine.

What is Madeira wine and how does it differ from Port wine?

Port originates in the Douro Valley, Portugal. The valley stretches east from the city of Oporto to the border with Spain. The term “port wine” can only refer to these wines, much like French regions lay claim to certain titles such as Champagne or Bordeaux.

Both Madeira and Port are ‘fortified’ wines; the wine has had grape brandy added to it after a couple of days’ fermentation, making it about 80% wine and 20% brandy. The main difference is in the regions the wines originate and the grapes used, making Madeira a bit more exclusive. Madeira is made with four varieties of grapes, and a bottle of madeira should be labelled according to which were used in it. These are:
-sercial, a very dry taste, light color
-verdelho, medium dry, golden color
-bual, medium sweet, velvety, dark gold to brown
-malmsey, the original grape, sweet, chestnut-brown
Back to the show…
I didn’t know a lot about Madeira wines, however I owed it to myself and my clients to learn what I could and to make it part of my service @ BetsaPasta.
To me, a Madeira was akin to a Tawny Port and a bit on the sweet side with that creme brulee smoothness and taste.
To a great degree, this is true…however primarily in the young wines and not true in the older vintages.

Upon entry, the tables were set in such a way that you were able to taste the younger 5 and 10 old wines first. Next were the older 15 year, 25 year and 35 year old vintages. Last were the 40-45 year old vintages, and rounding out the last table was the 90 year old 1920 Bual. Just to get to taste a wine this old is very special, however being a relative beginner in world of Madeira, I am probably a number of years away from truly enjoying and appreciating a wine of that magnitude.
I’m not going to discuss prices, however I will tell you retail Madeira costs range from quite affordable to very very expensive.

To complement the wines of the day, the hors d’oeuvres included empanadas with mango salsa, caponata with goat cheese, grilled chicken & cacciatorini (Italian salumi) pnini’s and a blockbuster short ribs (pulled pork style) with a parmigiano crust.
Getting back to the wines; I found the younger ones quite enjoyable…taking nothing away from the older vintages that were in a different class.
It’s clear the number one goal in any business is sales, and you can’t sell 45 and 90 year old wines exclusively and expect to survive. You must have a balance between all the ages available and in doing so please all the age levels of your customers.
To this point I would heartily suggest everybody go out today and start with a purchase Blandy’s 5 Year Old Alvada Madeira. It’s a perfect start into the world of Madeira wines. You can sip this wine as an aperitif or after dinner with dessert,  or you can mix it with tonic water and a slice of orange. Fabulous!
(75%-80% Tonic…20%-25% Old Alvada)
As one grows with Madeira, one’s taste buds will yearn for a more sophisticated taste and then onto the older wines.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet many interesting people and pose with the biggest names in the world of Madeira and Port, namely Michael Blandy and Rupert Symington, a Fourth generation Symington from the Symington Family Estates (, the leading producer of premium quality Ports.
They probably would  have felt the same about me if they knew they were hanging with a ‘brilliant’ chef.  
The gentlemen were really quite gracious, and Rupert couldn’t help but sneak a queek peek at my BetsaPasta badge. He’s probably
still wondering where pasta fits into the equation.
If he were to have asked, I probably would have told him to simply saute an assortment of mushrooms, leeks and a bit of garlic in olive oil and sweet butter until golden…add some flat leaf “Italian” parsley, kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper…and then Madeira wine. Toss with fini linquine or thin spaghetti…and Mangia Baby!
Ahhh…he probably knew that anyway.

Thanks to Drew Kligman (above) for pointing the virtues of the 5 year old Alvada and the other young Madeira’s… and posing for my pic.

Pierre Dumas, the Canadian connection to Madeira wines was quite informative as was Ricardo Tavares, the Sales Director (it was his mixed drink recipe you will find above), and Arnold Trabb, the east coast account manager and gracious host of the 45 and 90 year old tasting table (Vintages 1966, 1968, and 1920).
I also have to thank Paul (last name missing) for taking the picture of the big guns and Bert.
To Dave Handschuh, a photographer at the Daily News newspaper in NYC and fellow foodie…I’m sorry I missed riding down with you in the elevator. Here, however, is the blog entry I said I would forward to you. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we all enjoyed the afternoon!

Please note: A bit of technical information relating to geography and history was pulled directly from the Internet and I tried to be as accurate as I could with answers to my own questions.
Either way, please feel free to communicate with your “comments” and, as well, in order for me to correct any information that is not 100% accurate.
Enjoy…and thanks for staying posted to phoodographs and finds!

Signs Of Spring & Potato Leek Gratin

 Sandy & I happened to be fortunate enough to be the beneficiaries of a sunny 76 degree day last Friday, especially befitting our foray to the beautiful north fork of Long Island with spring just a few days away.

 See a stunning array of primroses, dafodils, pansies and tulips. The colors are just faaaablous. Can you actually fathom that the little faces in the pansies always make me smile?
It’s true.

Ahhhhhhh…The Signs of Spring!

Happily, Briermere Farms was open for muffins and coffee.


 David Wines and son Chris of  Ty Llywd Farm were upbeat and had a spring in their step getting ready for the new season.
We left with a beautiful collection of pussy willows…and with the biggest fur balls we’ve ever seen. As well, the small German butterball potatoes and leeks we bought were destined for this weekends Potato Leek Gratin, a recipe I found in the NY Times March 16th issue…and, of course, changed to suit my taste buds and reduce the chubbiness of it all. 
Potato Leek Gratin

Time to prepare and cook 1 hour 45minutes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for greasing the casserole dish

3 large leeks, trimmed and halved lengthwise…each leek is app10″ long each after removing tops and bottoms
3 pounds peeled Yukon Gold potatoes…or I used the German butterball potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Gruyère, grated.


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Wash the leeks WELL to remove any grit inside the layers and slice thinly crosswise…app 1/4″…no bigger
2. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice the potatoes into rounds 1/8-inch thick. Toss with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh mill pepper. Layer the rounds in the gratin dish.
3. Melt the 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for one or two minutes. Add sliced  leeks and remaining salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until leeks are tender and golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Add 1/2 & 1/2 and bay leaves to the skillet and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Put leek mixture in with potatoes and toss using gently two large spoons and then your fingers after it has cooled a bit. This is to make sure all the potato surfaces have been touched my the mixture.
5. Add 1/2 of the grated cheese and gently integrate the cheese into the blend. Sprinkle with the nutmeg and then add the rest of the grated cheese to cover the top.
6. Cover with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 50 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese is bubbling and golden, 15 to 20 minutes longer.
Suggestion if you like a more crisply and brown top…Broil @500 degrees for 5 minutes (over door open a bit).
Let cool slightly before serving.
Yield: 8-10 servings.

Ty Llywd Farms is a “find” you need to visit.   If you really want a taste of what you are in for, make it a point to take the 2011 North Fork Foodie Tour.
Don’t want to wait for the Foodie Tour? Go now!
David and Liz Wines operate their family farm in Northville, New York, on the north fork of Long Island and they sell fresh brown eggs, seasonal vegetables, hay and potatoes. On the foodie tour, you can even pick your own fresh eggs from the chicken coops.
The farm has been in the family since 1870.
Below is the sign you need to look for (it comes up fast) as you you travel (5793 Sound Ave). Monday through Saturday any time between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Don’t be shy…please feel free to comment…or feel free to become a follower of phoodographs and finds…
Have fun!
Coming Soon: Chaos Revisited

Hamantashen Time @ Sharyn & Joel’s

“As matzos are to Passover, hamantashen is to Purim.
Purim, which falls this Sunday March 20, celebrates the biblical story of the Jews’ deliverance from a plot to kill them by Haman, minister to the Persian king, is a special time when people drink, dance and play jokes.
Gifts of food called shalah manot are distributed, which include fruit, cookies and, of course, hamantashen” NY Times, March 16, 2011.
It is now a yearly tradition that Sandy & I visit our family friends Sharon and Joel (last name left out in order to protect the innocent) in their home on Long Island to bake hamantashen for the whole family.
Sharyn taught us how to make them and, in her grace, insists I take all of them home for distribution to my family. By this time she has already conquered one batch and will be making another batch for her whole mishpuchah…ie…family.
This time Sharon let me use my Apricot preserves. Because of the more liquid consistency of preserves, they flatten out a bit, but that’s a quirk I just seem to favor for the sake of my taste buds…taking nothing away from the traditional filling, which is made with a thicker consistency. There are many kinds of fillings one can use to make hamantashen, and Sharon chooses to use Raspberry, Apricot, Dried Plum (prune) and Poppy Seed. According to today’s NY Times article, the poppy seeds are the ultimate stuffing. I prefer, however, the apricot and prune. I’m not sure why, but to me there was something traditional about prune. For some reason, as a kid, I thought they were made only that way…or maybe it was poppy seed that looked like prune. Either way, love that Dried Plum!

Enjoy…and for more info and recipes, click “control” and the link below.

Remember…comments and your input are always appreciated….
thankyou for saying posted…
c u again soon…

Orchids, Burrata and…Fresh Mozzarella & Roasted Peppers

What? Huh? Orchids and what?
Burrata, or “Buttered” in Italian, is a gastronomy that must be experienced…and is literally 3 minutes from The New York Botannical Gardens in the Beautiful Bronx.
In short, a day at the BBG’s Orchid Show (click “Blog Archive” to see Orchid pics) that runs until April 25th and then finish up on Arthur Avenue (Closed on Sunday) starting at Teitel’s…a true Italian salumeria.
Burrata is not available all the time, but when it is…grab it @ 7.95 for an 8oz. ball of fresh mozzarella stuffed in the center with shards of fresh mozzarella that have been soaked in cream (available now and then for 9.95 to 10.95 in most other places).
Parmigiano Reggiano was $9.95 lb. the last time I was there. Wonderful extra virgin olive oil packed in Italy for Teitel’s at $ 20.00 is another very good value.
It goes beyond the overall quality of the sliced meats, pastas and many other imported Italian foods at very fair prices. It has a lot to do with ambience and that old time feeling. And the smell…ohhhh that smell!
Next…onto Peters Meat Market just down the street (just ask the local barber where Pete’s Meat Market is) for the best a butcher has to offer.
We love the thin sliced veal that is sliced thin and pounded to order @ 15.99 lb. (in general, a fair price…but great price based on the standout quality).
I usually make my own meat balls, however tried theirs and found them to be exceptional, especially @ 5.99 lb. Considering beef is 3.99 lb, its worth it to let them make them for the extra $2.00 lb.
The salt capers in the barrel are phenominal…get ’em!…and don’t miss the fruits and vegetables all over the place (seen in foreground of this pic).



Wait!!! I almost forgot to tell you about Addeo & Sons Bakery…a real throw back to the 1950’s.
PHE-nominal bread in all shapes and sizes…and ohhhh goodness..that smell!
It’s actually on a street that runs just one block parallel to Arthur Avenue…so just ask and you’ll find it.
There I go again…the ole food tangent.
Back to the Orchid Show. DO NOT FORGET YOUR CAMERA and try to arrive early…let’s say by around 10:30 or 11:00 AM. in order to avoid the crowds.
The show is unmatched in beauty, not to mention the gardens themselves.
Take the tram ride and if you want the best of all worlds…buy a family membership instead of individual tickets for the day…and all for only $125.00 for all the visits you can make in the year…and that includes free parking. The place blossoms and sparkles all year long inside and out. Really, the most valuable membership ever.
An added treat…all the cafe’s on the property are gourmet. Now, there’s a surprise.
Bottom line…2 more “finds” for you all to enjoy.
So…from me to you…”Just Say Yes”!!!

Recipe for Burrata and Proscuitto di Parma
*1/4 lb. Proscuitto di Parma (covering the entire plate)
*1  8 oz. ball Burrata cut in half (in center of plate)
*1/4 lb. Red and/or Gold Roasted Peppers Winter or Summer)…or…Fresh Sliced Tomato (Summer)
*Drizzle fresh basil infused EVOO over Burrata
* Drizzle Manodori Balsamico wherever you want
*Fresh sliced bread from Addeo & Sons Bakery (or your favorite) very lightly toasted and gently rubbed with a piece of fresh garlic
*Your favorite Olives
*Few fresh pepper grinds
…and Mangia Baby!
…sorry… no other balsamic will cut it. So…those of you who have this brown gold, you are in luck.
Those who do not, you can place your order with me for this special vinegar at cost. Just let me know and i’ll give you the details.
Seriously…this is the best vinegar, however if you do not have it or do not want to spring for the bucks for this special product, be sure to use a good balsamic.
See one of my past entries titled “Vinaigrette in it’s simplest form”.

All the best and thanks for reading my food blog…
and PLEASE feel free to comment!