My Fast Food & Wine Pairing Experience: Pancheros

After reading an article recently about pairing fast food options with wine, I decided to try my own version to see if it was even worth attempting to pair in my opinion.  I decided that I would like to try the concept of fast food pairing with some of my favorite carry-out options.  I want to test a spicy Chinese dish with a Rose, a local fried chicken joint with a barrel fermented Chardonnay, a local pizzeria pairing as well as a burger pairing from the local dive bar that dishes out some fabulous, juicy burgers and hand-cut fries.  My first experiment was with one of my go-to lunch/dinner on the run stops, Pancheros.

One evening I stopped at Pancheros Mexican Grill and bought a steak and carnita burrito with chips and salsa for dinner.  For those of you unfamiliar with Pancheros, it is similar to a Chipotle.  They make their own homemade tortillas and press them fresh when you order and load up the burrito with your choice of proteins and fresh vegetables (along with the typical rice and beans). In a word, delicious. On my drive home, I decided that I would try to pair it with a red wine that I had at home.  Upon finding a Tempranillo on my shelf, I decided to go for it. The Tempranillo was from Spain, the burrito derives from Mexico.  They speak Spanish in both countries.  That seemed like enough reason for me to pair them.  In all seriousness, I thought the flavors from this wine would compliment the pulled pork in my burrito.  This pairing did not fail me.  The particular wine I purchased was fairly weak in intensity, but the savory spice flavors in the wine married with the acidity of the pico de gallo and chips as well as the fresh veggies and meat in the burrito.  I would definitely put this combo together again!

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Villa Antinori Toscana “Super Tuscan”

Villa Antinori

Toscana “Super Tuscan”

(Tuscany, Italy)

On Bottle/Website:

* 60% sangiovese, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 15% merlot, and 5% syrah

* ‘Villa Antinori’ have been made under the Chianti Classico DOCG till 2001

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, bright, garnet, rim variation, high concentration, medium viscosity

Nose: clean, medium minus intensity, pepper, dark berries, leather, tobacco

Palate: dry, medium bodied, young, licorice, smoky, leather, low acidity, low alcohol, low tannins

There is no law that regulates what grapes are used in a Super Tuscan.  In my mind, this can give the winemaker a bit more freedom in mixing different varietals to make something spectacular.  To my knowledge, the term “Super Tuscan” used to be used more infrequently to denote a high quality blended wine from the Tuscan region.  Now, it seems, that any blend of wine from the region slaps the label on as a marketing tactic.

After shopping for a baby gift for my cousin, the younger girls wanted to eat at The Olive Garden.  I am not a fan of chain restaurants in general, especially this one, but I can manage with the soup, salad and breadsticks.  I purchased a glass of this wine and was not impressed.  Maybe the ambiance skewed my perception, but I hardly thought this wine was worth the label “Super Tuscan” and I’m fairly certain the actual label does not even qualify it as such.

Folie a Deux Zinfandel

Folie a Deux

Zinfandel

2010

(Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California)

On Bottle/Website:

* Intense, juicy and jammy

* Bright raspberry and blackberry fruit with black pepper spice

* Lightly blended with of Petite Sirah to enhance color and mid-palate flavors

* 14.3% alcohol

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, bright, ruby/garnet, high concentration, rim variation, ruby on the edges, medium plus viscosity

Nose: clean, medium, medium minus intensity, younger dried fruit, black cherry, blackberries, cinnamon

Palate: dry, medium bodied, spicy, fruit confirms nose, medium alcohol, low acidity, medium tannins, short finish, low complexity

Guilt Free Cocktail: Limoncello Mint Sorbet

The beginning of the school year historically seems to bring out the humidity in Iowa weather.  This week is projected to be no exception.  This time of the year is perfect for a cool cocktail, and one with guilt free properties is especially delightful.  Fresh fruit adds a seasonal touch to this refreshing drink.

Limoncello Mint Sorbet

2  cups water

1 1/3 cups sugar

1/2 cup limoncello

1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 large lemons)

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

2 cups blackberries

Lemon slices (optional)

* Combine first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; add lemon juice and mint. Cover and chill.

*Strain juice mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm. Serve with blackberries; garnish with lemon slices, if desired.

* If you don’t want to use the limoncello, you can substitute 1/2 cup of prepared lemonade.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:  184 CALORIES, 0.2 G FAT, 0.6 G PROTEIN, 34.3 G CARBS, 2 G FIBER

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine

Chandon

Brut Classic Sparkling Wine

(California)

On Bottle/Website:

* Made using méthode traditionnelle, this wine goes through second fermentation in the bottle

* Made from the traditional Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier

* Displays apple and pear flavors and aromas with a hint of spice that leads to a soft, dry finish

* Recommended to refresh the palate when eating salty, creamy, or nutty foods such as Caesar salad, fried calamari, oysters, or fresh sashimi and sushi

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, day bright, clear/light straw, low concentration

Nose: clean, medium intensity, pear, apple

Palate: Off dry, medium bodied, fruit confirms the nose, medium alcohol, medium minus acidity, medium plus finish, medium complexity

This sparkling wine tasted divine with the creamy, decadent crème brulee and strawberries that I paired it with for dessert.

Galena Brewing Company

The Galena Brewing Company is located on Main Street in Galena, Illinois.  They offer a flight of five beers for $8.  I tasted both their flagship beers as well as the seasonal brews.  In the past, I was impressed with their offerings and I was not disappointed during this visit.

Flagship Beers

* Farmer’s Cream Ale: crisp, refreshing, slightly malty, light, unassuming, no bold flavors, 4% ABV, 15 IBU

* Miner’s Treasure Amber Ale: deep amber in color, slightly malty taste, lightly hoppy, sweet aftertaste, 5% ABV, 20 IBU

* Annabelle’s India Pale Ale:  golden, slightly citrus and pine flavors from dry hopping, 7.5% ABV, 70 IBU

* Uptown Brown Nut Brown Ale: deep chocolate brown color, roasted malt flavors including nuts, molasses & toasted bread, 6% ABV, 25 IBU (one of my favorites!)

* Uly’s Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Stout: rich, creamy, full-bodied ale, notes of chocolate, roasted malts and coffee, light/drinkable stout, 6.25% ABV, 45 IBU

Seasonal Brews

* Summer Weisee Bavarian Style Hefeweissen: citrus, light, crisp, easy on the palate, appreciate no lemon more orange flavors, 4% ABV, 10 IBU

* Rustic Rye Saison Farmhouse Ale: light, crisp, little more bitter, higher alcohol, best flavor with ABV, 7% ABV, 22 IBU

* Identity Crisis India Black Ale: dark, stout, coffee flavors, 8% ABV, 83 IBU

* Rastafa Rye Carribean Rye Ale: interesting, almost hemp flavor (maybe my imagination or the power of suggestion with the name!), 5.7% ABV, 22 IBU

* Intombi Tart Berliner Weisse: lemon flavor, summery, too sweet for me, 4.8% ABV, 5 IBU

Alamos Red Blend

Alamos

Red Blend (Malbec, Bonarda and Tempranillo)

2010

(Mendoza, Argentina)

On Bottle/Website:

* Displays deep, ripe flavors of blackberry and plum with layers of brown spice

* Vineyards lie in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, with intense sunlight and pure snowmelt water

* Embody the richness of this rugged, remote region

* 13.5% ABV

My Notes:

* Appearance:  clear, day bright, medium intensity, ruby/garnet, purple rim, medium plus viscosity

* Nose: sound, clean, medium intensity, aroma/youthful, dark berries, blackberry, brown baking spice

* Palate:  dry, medium bodied, confirms nose, medium plus alcohol, medium intensity, medium complexity, medium length

When I purchased this wine I was on my way to a friend’s house to enjoy a rigatoni dish filled with fresh garden vegetables.  I wanted to pick up a Malbec from Argentina to pair with this meal.  I recognized the Alamos bottle from a review I had recently read and struggled with the choice of the red blend or full Malbec.  Although I do not put a large amount of stock in wine ratings, as everyone’s tastes are subjective, the sign about this particular red blend getting a high rating from Wine Enthusiast did sway my decision.  It was a slightly older vintage than the Malbec, while also having Malbec as the primary grape varietal, so I thought I would take a risk.

I am glad that I purchased this bottle because we were both very pleased with the smooth, slightly spicy taste.  We had a difficult time pinpointing the actual spices, even after clearing out her spice cabinet and comparing the aroma in the wine with the smells of the different spices.  It was a great refresher in one of the tasting exercises I have completed about olfactory acuity.  Ringing in at just above ten dollars, I will certainly purchase this wine again in the near future.  It paired very well with the tomato, basil and other vegetables in our dish.

Rigatoni with Eggplant & Pine Nut Crunch

Fresh vegetables from the garden shine in dishes during the summer months, adding a layer of depth to meals that can not be duplicated in Iowa during the winter months.  I recently enjoyed a splendid rigatoni with eggplant and pine nut crunch at my friend’s house.  She is a great source of support for me as I am learning more about wines and expanding my memory bank of wine flavors.  She generously saved the recipe from Epicurious for me, knowing that it would be useful for me to use in my blog as an accompaniment to the tasting notes I was making about the Alamos Red Blend, made primarily of Malbec grapes, we drank throughout the meal.  The spicy notes of the wine paired nicely with the hearty vegetables used in the recipe.

She even sent me off with some homemade pesto and a bunch of basil leaves to take home, as I had commented about how relaxing I find the scent of basil.  I placed them in a vase beside my bed and enjoyed the best night sleep I had encountered in awhile. Basil rivals the sleep qualities of lavender in my book any day.

Rigatoni with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch

non-stick vegetable oil spray

1 unpeeled large eggplant (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 medium yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch squares

2 cups grape tomatoes

2 large garlic cloves, divided

1/3 cup olive oil

2 cups (firmly packed) fresh basil leaves, divided

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 pound rigatoni

1 pound whole-milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

** I know my friend adjusted this recipe slightly, making her own homemade pesto sauce to mix in and using actual whole tomatoes versus canned.  Make any adjustments to your own taste preference. Any hearty vegetables such as zucchini and yellow squash would work beautifully in this recipe. **

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray; add  eggplant and peppers. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise; add to sheet. Using  garlic press, squeeze 1 garlic clove onto vegetables. Drizzle vegetables with  oil; toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender,  stirring often, 35 to 45 minutes.

Combine 2/3 cup basil,  1/2 cup Parmesan, pine nuts, and 1 garlic clove in mini processor. Blend until  crumbly. Season topping with salt.

Blend tomatoes with  juice, cream, 1 1/3 cups basil, and 1 garlic clove in processor until smooth.  Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in pot of  boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring  occasionally; drain. Return to pot. Toss with vegetables, sauce, and 1/2 cup  Parmesan. Transfer to 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella and  pine nut topping.

Bake pasta until heated  through, 25 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Aged & White Wine

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When the wine is aged and white:

* Serve with dishes that feature similar flavors (nuts, sherry and dried fruits) to mirror the flavor profile.

* Compensate for the lost acidity in the mature wine with acidity in the dish (a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar).

Toasted Head Chardonnay

Toasted Head

Chardonnay

2011

(Dunnighan Hills, California)

On Bottle/Website:

*Brilliant, gold straw color

* Pears, citrus, apple blossoms, lemon, toasty coconut, peach, pineapple and cinnamon

* Barrel fermentation and aging on the lees contribute a creamy mouth feel and toasty finish

* Tastes great with poultry, seafood in a lemon-butter sauce and creamy pasta

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, bright, gold, low concentration, no rim variation, low viscosity

Nose: clean, medium intensity, youthful, oak, white flowers, peach, nuts, honey, spices, mushroom

Palate: dry, medium bodied, peach, red apple, banana, honey, spices, mushroom, medium alcohol, medium acidity, medium plus finish, medium plus complexity

This is a solid wine that was smooth, mild and enjoyable.  It did not pair well with seared rare ahi tuna (which I assumed would be the case!), but I perceived a hint of honey and sweetness in the wine after eating.