Why spend more on wine? That’s because – in general – the more you are willing to pay, the better you’re going to drink. A powerful strain of reverse snobbery runs through the wine world; this school of non-thought holds that big-ticket wines are mostly a lot of hype.
Because we have a good selection of lovely “everyday” wines that retail in the $10 or so/bottle range, we get a lot of questions along the lines of, “Well if this $10 bottle is so good why on earth would I want to spend $20?” It’s true that more expensive wines are not always necessarily the better wines, but many times they are. In the case of the wines in our “Whites with Something Extra” and “Reds To Impress” categories, we can assure you they definitely are. You can find great wines around $10, but they are rarely amazing. The characteristics of an amazing wine include a wonderful aroma; complex, harmonious flavors; good structure (polished tannins, pleasant acidity); and a long, delicious finish. But most important of all, we believe, is the relationship of flavorful wines and flavorful food. Even a Whopper Jr with cheese will be elevated by an amazing wine -a complementary wine with the deep flavor and great finish to bring out its best aspects. So to help you justify perhaps digging a little deeper into your pockets, I’ll compare/contrast an uncomplicated dinner cooked at home, accompanied by an amazing wine, versus something comparable at a local restaurant. Let’s put it this way, 6 people could eat and drink wonderfully well at home for the price of two eating out!
For the sake of comparison, I’m using as an example Bistro Bis on E Street , about a block from Union Station. I love Bistro Bis and there are certainly many reasons to go out to a restaurant if you have the cash and inclination. But if you ordered for example, a “beet salad au citron ” (roasted beets. goat cheese, walnuts, orange, arugula and citrus infused olive oil) followed by “trout grenoblaise” (sauteed trout with pommes chateau, haricots verts & lemon caper butter) for 2 with a nice bottle of white Bordeaux it would set you back nearly $250 with tip and tax (not including dessert). The wine alone is $62/bottle.
Compare that with a similar dinner , cooked at home. Even using the most expensive ingredients the food would not cost more than $50. Add an amazing white bordeaux: Château Milon Bordeaux Blanc 2006 (on sale for $15/bottle) and your tab comes to $65. The Milon Bordeaux Blanc is 50% Muscadelle, 45% Sémillon, and 5% Sauvignon Blanc. It starts with a lovely ripe fruit flavor, like apricots, and has a nice crisp finish. The wine is aged in oak but not to hide anything, and the oak provides a good counterpoint to the other flavors. It’s a truly elegant white wine, substantial enough to stand up to food but wonderful for sipping on its own.
Now on to the recipe. This is a simple menu – for the beet salad au citron, simply purchase the best ingredients you can find (as described above) and drizzle with a citrus infused olive oil. You can infuse your own olive oil by adding lemon and orange zest to about a cup of high quality extra virgin olive oil and allowing it to sit for a day or so, then filter out the zest. Here’s a simple recipe for the Trout Grenoblaise with lemon caper butter. Serve with steamed green beans and new potatoes with chopped parsley. Magnifique – and you’ll even have some money left over for dessert 😉
- 2 butterflied whole trout
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Flour, for dredging
- Olive oil, for sauteeing
- 1 tablespoons butter, plus 1/2 tablespoon
- 1 lemon, supremed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 tablespoon capers
- Toasted Croutons, recipe follows
- 1/8 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/8 cup chopped parsley leaves
Lay out the trout so the skin side is down. Open the flesh like a book. With a sharp knife, carefully cut out the backbone, making sure to keep the fillets attached at the head and the tail. Season both sides of the trout with salt and pepper.
Lightly dredge both sides of the trout with flour, shaking off any excess. Heat a large saute pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil until it shimmers when swirled. Carefully add the trout, flesh-side down, starting at the tail and laying away from you towards the head. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and keep warm.
Once the trout is cooked, return the pan to medium-high heat and remove all but 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and cook just until it begins to brown and smell nutty, about 3 minutes. Add the capers, lemons, croutons, white wine, and lemon juice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley and pour over the trout.
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 (1/2-inch thick) slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add the olive oil and heat. When the oil is hot, add the bread cubes and cook, stirring, until toasted and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cool.