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Lewes, Delaware
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April 6, 2012     Cape Gazette
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April 6, 2012

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@ Cape Gazette FR~DAY~ APRIL 6 - MONDA'~ APRIL 9, 2072 107 The inspiration for this week's column started with a pedicure - I was in the salon when Ellie Menser walked in with a con- tainer of Italian wedding soup, During our conversation, I learned she had made it that morning in a class she was teaching for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Lewes. She invited me to her home to attend a session of Italian Cooking 101. I arrived at the same time as several other class members, who were chatting and laughing like a large extended family. This was the last session in the se- mester before the final exam when the students would pre- pare the food. Ellie and her co- instructor Shellie DiLauro seat- ed us around the table in Ellie's kitchen. They began the lesson by pulling freshly baked br- uschetta from the oven. As in each of the classes, qual- ity ingredients were the focus. That day, we compared and con- trasted different breads -texture, flavor, aroma and compatibility with the toppings. In earlier les- sons, the students had done a similar analysis of canned toma- toes, olive oi!s, pastas and cheeses. Before outlining thelrecipes for this session, Ellie distributed handouts updating her recipe for panettone bread pudding. The moans of delight from around the table had me wishing I'd been there for that demonstra- tion. It must have been inspiring, as several students mentioned they'd already tried making it at home, obviously studying for the final. Ellie and Shellie had thought- fully prepared for class. Ingredi- ents were measured into prep bowls; utensils and baking dish- es were stacked nearby, and the red wine was opened to breathe. Within the first half hour, it was clear why this class had such a long we{ring list. We were in the hands .of two very talented cooks with a thorough knowl- edge of Italian cuisine. They were also an excellent stand-up comedy team. While Shellie assisted, Ellie began assembling the cheese. and spinach stuffing for pasta shells. She explained how the surprise ingredient in her dish - lemon juice and zest - would add brightness to its flavor pro- file. After draining the perfectly al dente pasta, she deftly filled a few shells with the spinach and cheese mixture, demonstrating how to use the edge of the pasta to scrape out the bowl of the spoon. Before turning the stove over to Shellie, Ellie had us sample two white wines for which she'd prepared descriptions and tast- ing notes. She also mentioned the local stores she'd shopped for ingredients and the mer- chants who supported the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute with price discounts for students. Shellie had gone a bit farther afield for her ingredients, travel- ing to Philadelphia for her pre- ferred brand of sausage. She peeled offthe casing and crum- bled it into a skillet, saut6ing the fragrant sausage while slicing onion and mincing garlic. Ellie returned with a large baking dish of neatly arranged stuffed shells that were drizzled with tomato sauce (gravy) and placed in the oven. To keep us engaged while the pasta baked and the sausage sim- mered, Ellie had us sample two varieties of marinated arti- chokes, asking why we preferred one over another. As in each of tile previous tastings, opinion was divided roughly in half, with no clear winner. She also took the opportunity to point out these are not the best ingredi- ents for the roasted artichoke and fennel in the photo; the marinade may not have the high- est quality olive oil and could add unwanted flavors to the JACK CLEMONS PHOTO- ROASTED FENNEL AND ARTICHOKES make a striking presentation. dish. ed When Shellie began boiling 2 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil, divid- the oricchietti to go with her ed sausage sauce, we sampled El: zest and juice of 1 lemon lie's elegant stuffed shells along 1/2 t grated nutmeg with sips ofthe first red wine. In salt & pepper, to taste the final minutes of the class, 2 C tomato graw Shellie served her dish with gen- Preheat oven to 375 E Cook erous sprinkles of grated Lo- the pasta according to the pack- catelli cheese, a perfect pairing age directions until al dente. " with the last wine, a fruity Chi- Drain, rinse in cool water and anti. Although we'd been there set aside. Thaw the spinacli in for two hours, no one seemed in the microwave and drain thor- any hurry to leave, except one of oughly; set aside. In a large mix- the students - she had an ap- ing bowl, lightly beat the egg. pointment for a pedicure. Add the ricotta and mozzarella Ellie's Stuffed Shells and 1 C Parmesan cheese; stir to 1 Ib jumbo pasta shells combine. Mix in spinach, 1 T 10-oz box frozen chopped spinach olive oil,'nutmeg and salt & pep- 1 large egg per. Cover the bottom of a 9-by- 16 oz ricotta cheese 13 baking dish with 1 C of tomato 1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese sauce; make sure the dish is 2 C grated Parmesan cheese, divid- Continued on page 108 ast Saturday, I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday with Bar-- bara and my grown-up children at Espuma. We had a very nice meal and several inter- esting wines. The service was especially well done by a de- lightful young woman named Florina. I mention this because the restaurant staff was obvious- ly surprised by a large contin- gent ofwalk-in business. Some- how everyone was billeted and handled in a fairly expeditious fashion. Only folks who work in a high-anxiety, a la minute busi- ness fully grasp the complexity of managing a large group of un- expected, hungry diners. I Wrote ofEspuma a few months ago, so I'll leave it at: the same or better than ever. One of the wine selections that we found to be particularly appealing was the Barrel 27 High on the Hog 2009. A Viognier blend (this is easy to pronounce, folks - try vee-ohn-yay. It rolls right off the area in your mouth and on your tongue that has most to do with wine snorting and tasting) with Roussanne and Marsanfle that is straw golden and opens with a complex bou- quet of honeysuckle, marzipan, lemon zest and jasmine aromas. The wine was served a tad cold for my taste, but a few minutes in the glass and a bit of hand warming brought it right into proper perspective. High on the Hog is full-bodied with flavors of ripe peaches, lemon and tart apple. The frame has plenty of acid to support this "fat" wine and provide a lovely, clean fruit finish. A wonderful food wine, you can probably find it priced under $15/bottle in the store. Goes great with rabbit. By comparison, a French Viognier, E. Guigal Condrieu 2007 is coming into its perfect drinking window 2012-16, rated 90-92. Expect to pay about $50/bottle. I think the Cali Rhone Rangers have got this down, and therefore it is not worth the extra cash to buy French Condrieu in most cases. The following are some of the better Call producers; buy under $30. Mban Vineyards, Conway Family wines and Wild Horse plus Ironhorse T-Vineyard from Alexander Valley in Sonoma. Upscale in price is Joseph Phelps, Nape. I'm a big fan of Joseph Phelps Insignia Eisrebe, the Nape cab and even the sec- ond label Innisfree; the 2007 was a 90-point lovely selling under $20; the 2009, 87 points priced up at $27. There ain't no infla- tion. We can trust our leaders. Ignore those gas prices behind the green curtain, but the Vi0g- nier 2006 priced at $50 has failed the pricing test. Avoid!! Warning!! Major sticker shock coming. Recently, many 2006 Bor- deaux have come on sale on my favorite sites. The discount ap- pears to be 20 percent on a bot- tle. Generally speaking, the 2006 Bordeaux, especially the St. Mien drinking window, won't open until 2016-18 and they will drink well into 2035. Quite a few were highly rated, i.e., second- growth Ducru Beaucaillou was rated 93-95 points by most. I ex- pect pricing to trend down a tad. The huge vintage hype effect is on. The 2009 are selling for $300/bottle, and thehigher-rated 2003 are selling for $230. Smart _shoppers can find the 1995, rated 94 by Tanzer and Parker and 97 by WS, for $2,100/case, maybe less than $200/bottle; 1995 is in its perfect drinking window. The 96, rated lower, are selling around $230. You tell me. Once again the annual Tasters Guild International is coming up. For folks with time and some disposable income plus an "abid- ing interest in wine. this event is a terrific initiation into wine tasting. The 2.012 event will be held in Grand Rapids Mich., April 25-28. This is an annual event where more than 2,000 BARREL 27'S HIGN ON THE HOOG Viognier is straw golden and opens with a complex bouquet of honeysuck- le, marzipan, lemon zest and lasmine~ aromas. wines from 15 countries and 30 states are judged. Here is last year's list: http://www.tasters- ings/2011-tg-international. Don't forget Abeja Heather Hill Cab Sauv 2008 and wine- maker John Abbott. Wrote of it last week. Trust me, folks, this a winner and.a producer to keep a close eye on. Send comments, questions or recipe ideas~