PIGMINT PAPER CO.

I didn’t like Rebecca at first.

Pigmint Paper Company | Blue Jean Gourmet

We were placed in the same room, along with two other roommates, our freshman year at Rice, and my first impression of her was of someone cold and distant. My mom, however, whose white-witch premonitions I should have known by then to trust, told me, “You two are going to be friends.” And like every story that includes a pronouncement from my mother, she was right. By October of that year, we were inseparable.; that was fourteen years ago.

Back then, whenever we would talk and dream about the future, the conversation would include some impassioned version of the following: “We have to pursue our art, not put it on the back burner such that we turn fifty and realize we haven’t spent time doing what we love the most!” We pledged to support each other in our various pursuits—writing for me, visual art for her—and you know what? We have.

Anyone who’s tried knows how hard it can be to carve out room in our lives for artistic pursuits, but Rebecca and I have one advantage—we have each other. We have held each other’s hands (literally and metaphorically) through the process of figuring out how to pursue our craft while also working jobs, grieving parents, getting married, and becoming parents ourselves. Through it all, we have been each other’s sounding boards, cheerleaders, and gentle pushers.

Pigmint Paper Co. | Blue Jean Gourmet

Which is why I am so, so excited to share Rebecca’s latest venture with you. Last year, she teamed up with a former colleague of hers, Jenny, to create Pigmint Paper Co., and already they are producing stunning letterpressed paper goods, including invitations, announcements, and custom stationery, a sampling of which is pictured here.

The idea for Pigmint began when Rebecca asked Jenny, “If you could do anything five years from now, what would you be doing?” When Jenny replied, “Graphic design…and letterpress!” a seed was planted, which the two revisited a year later over brunch.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What would happen if we started doing what we would really love to be doing?’ Jenny recalls. “What I thought was still a daydream quickly turned into reality when I put in my notice a month later and found myself attending a letterpress workshop with Rebecca!” Pretty soon, they had purchased a letterpress machine named Clara and had it shipped from Oregon to Texas, where they hired a crane to move the thousand-pound machine into Rebecca’s house!

Pigmint Paper Co. | Blue Jean Gourmet

It’s so inspiring to see these ladies dive in headfirst, and take the risk of building something new out of their shared love for creating beautiful items that enhance people’s lives. They have put thought and effort into every detail, from using only the best oil-based inks and 100% cotton paper to incorporating the lace from a bride’s dress into her wedding invitations. And whether it’s monogrammed stationery, baby/bridal shower invitations, or birth announcements, each card is printed by hand on Clara the letterpress!

I’m biased, of course, but absolutely guarantee that you will have the very best experience working with Rebecca and Jenny. They produced this year’s Diwali party invitation, which I couldn’t be happier with—not only are we celebrating the Festival of Lights at this year’s party, but also our legal marriage, so I wanted something extra-special. They delivered, wouldn’t you say?
Diwali_detail 1

Rebecca and Jenny would love to work with you on creating a custom photo card for your family for the holidays or a package of personalized stationery, which makes an excellent gift.  The ladies at Pigmint have generously offered a discount code for Blue Jean Gourmet readers to use when placing orders between now and the end of the year—use HOLIDAY10 to receive 10% off any purchase; offer ends 12.31.15.

XPC1

 

Please go support these fantastic artists & businesswomen!

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SOMETHING SOMETHING SOMETHING GRAND

Even though it’s no longer National Poetry Month, we’re still going to share about poems, because why wouldn’t we?  Today’s guest post comes from Lauren Eggert-Crowe, whom I had the pleasure of earning my MFA with at The University of Arizona; she’s remained a fine friend, generous collaborator, and all-around inspiration.  Enjoy! —Nishta 

My relationship with poetry has been like a marriage.

celebrating National Poetry Month at Blue Jean Gourmet

I started young, very young, single digits young. Back then, everything was rhymes about snow and rhythmic couplets. I wrote poetry inspired by whoever I was reading at the time, so there were a lot of little Shel Silversteinesque quatrains about misbehaving twins or Robert Louis Stevenson-style odes with big fancy words like “immortal.” I was easily and uncomplicatedly in love. I thought I knew everything there was to know about poetry. It seemed simple enough and I was happy.

In high school, I had an English teacher who I adored. He belonged in one of those Inspirational Teacher movies from the ’90s, that’s how good he was. But during the poetry unit, I hated him. Him and his stupid class. I was seventeen and pissed off and frustrated and defensive, and there was nothing more I wanted to do than slump behind the fortress of my folded arms with a glare that said, “Just *try* to engage me today. Just try.” He gave us a packet of xeroxed poems by Tess Gallagher, D.H. Lawrence, Wilfred Owen, etc. Some of the poems I liked enough but I could not bear another minute of raking through the poems line by line, unpacking their meanings and metaphors. I had a good marriage with poetry  – why was he making me work harder at it? I didn’t want to deepen my understanding or think beyond the obvious. In hindsight, I know he was actually doing a good job, but I was a teenager who hated feeling like she didn’t understand something. So I resisted.

It happened again in college. My poetry professor was a warm, affectionate, spitfire. She loved her students with a grandmotherly charm, and she loved teaching us to love poetry. But she loved to talk smack about our favorite poems even more. Every day I would go to bat with her over my Holy Trinity of Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and Marge Piercy. She goaded me to go beyond inspirational poems whose meanings were laid bare. I rolled my eyes. One day, when she floated an interpretation of Eliot’s “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” that I completely disagreed with, I protested. “You’re making this up! Stop!” When she had us mark the metric feet all over that whole poem, and “beat out” the rhythms as we read it, I said I didn’t think “Prufrock” was a poem that could be beaten out. “Oh, someone needs to beat the shit out of Prufrock,” she retorted.

At the end of the year, she nominated me for “Most Outstanding Sophomore.” Really.

At the end of college, I finally had a poetry class that made it click for me. Or maybe I had finally matured enough to open myself up to stranger, weirder poetry. Stuff that was more lyrical than narrative, that left me feeling unsettled at the end, unsure about what I had just read. I learned to be okay with the ambiguity, to even seek it. I started writing poems that focused more on imagery than epiphany.

I backslid a little bit in grad school, intimidated as I was by all my chain-smoking smartly dressed poetry peers who referenced John Ashberry and Frank Bidart and Milosz. I retreated a little more to what was comfortable. Workshops made me cry sometimes. I didn’t understand and I felt hopeless. I considered ending this marriage, jumping ship, defecting to the Nonfiction department.

I don’t know how it happened. Maybe with time. Maybe with reading. But I let the oddness in again, the scariness, the messiness, the “what-the-fuck-is-happening-here”-ness. I stripped away my punctuation and syntactic rules, little by little, until I was galloping and war-whooping through mazes of surreal prose poems. I started to see language as a marvelous raw material. Poems didn’t have to be an algebra problem.

Working for Kore Press certainly introduced me to the exciting developments in contemporary poetry. While I worked there, in 2007 they published Loveliest Grotesque by Sandra Lim, an Iowa Writers Workshop grad. I read her whole book in one day, as I often did back then, binge-reading poetry the way we now slam through Netflix series. I didn’t understand, but I did. Or, rather, I understood that there were multiple ways to understand. It made me want to write and write, to collage the hell out of words, to experiment with all the ways words could be jammed together, dropped, whipped, folded, buried, floated, flung, detonated.

Lauren Eggert Crowe on Blue Jean Gourmet

Something Something Something Grand

Sandra Lim (originally published in Zyzzyva)

I adore you: you’re a harrowing event.

I like you very ugly, condensed to one

deep green pang. You cannot ask the simplest

question, your hold is all clutch and sinker.

                                               Cannibal old me,

with my heart up my throat, blasting on all sides

with my hundred red states. Hidden little striver.

How not to know it, the waist-deep trance of you,

the cursing, coursing say of you. Embarrassing today.

                                               Curiouser and curiouser,

your body is a mouth, is a night of travel, your body

is tripling the sideways insouciance. The muscle

in you knows gorgeous, in you knows tornadoes.

In an instant’s compass, your blood flees you like a cry.

                                               You put on my heat,

(that’s the way you work) I’m a bandit gripping

hard on the steal. The substitutions come swiftly,

hungering down the valley, no one question to cover

all of living. I arrange myself in the order of my use.

                                               You’re wrong and right

at the same time, a breathless deluxe and a devouring

chopping down the back door. You slap my attention

all over the dark. What’s in me like a chime?

Sometimes, sometimes, I come to you for the surprise.

I loved this poem in particular for its juicy muscular language. I didn’t know exactly what was going on. For awhile I was like, “Maybe this is a 9/11 poem? Or maybe it’s about writing. Or remembering a breakup?” But I knew I didn’t need to know. I could just lose myself in its urgent pace, its switchback metaphors.

I want everyone to fall in love with poetry and have multivalent marriages. When people make offhand comments about how they don’t “understand poetry,” I want to take their hands and let them in on the secret: You don’t *have to* understand it. There’s no “getting it,” there’s no secret code you have to decrypt like a hacker. I want to tell people they can experience poetry the way they watch a modern dance performance or the way they look at paintings. You can just let the images wash over you. Just gaze at the lines, at the movement. Get the hell in there and play in the sandbox. You don’t have to figure it out or map its every mappable part. You can just let it be beautiful. Or scary or sublime or dark or whimsical or naughty. Sometimes, sometimes, you can come to it for the surprise.

Lauren Eggert-Crowe | Guest Post on Blue Jean Gourmet

Lauren Eggert-Crowe is a poet, an essayist, book reviewer, food writer, and non-profit assistant in Los Angeles. She has been published in The Rumpus, L.A. Review of Books, The Nervous Breakdown, The Millions, Salon, Tupelo Quarterly, SpringGun, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor to TROP and is about to start a blog of poetry chapbook reviews.

 

WHAT IT FEELS LIKE

Today, an interruption in the National Poetry Month guest posts, which will, incidentally, continue into May.  Couldn’t let this day go unacknowledged. —Nishta

Dear Papa,

I almost feel like I don’t know how to write these letters anymore.  Today would have been your seventy-second birthday, and I know everyone expects me to say something heartwarming about how much I miss you and what an amazing human being you were and how I’m trying to raise Shiv to know and honor you, but fuck all of that heartwarming shit.  I’m so tired of it.

me & my father | Blue Jean Gourmet

Every single one of the heartwarming things is true, of course, but what’s also true—and what goes unsaid—is that this isn’t getting any easier.  In fact, in some ways it’s harder, the farther away I move from you in time.  There’s so much forgetting  There’s more and more of my life that would be unrecognizable to you.  Sometimes I say things like “Papa would love this,” and then I wonder if I even know anymore.  Would you?  I worry that I can’t trust my sense of you, that it’s fading, and that scares me.  There’s so much that’s new, so many things that you were never a part of; nothing smells like you anymore.

People are fond of saying that even though you’re not with me, you’re “with me,” and I know they mean well, but it sounds like a cop-out every time.  Because some things are never going to be okay, and some things are never going to get better, and some things are not fixable, nor do they have an upside, and I wish that people would just tell the truth about the fact that you being dead is one of those things.

We got cheated, Papa.  End of story.  For once, I just want to say what’s so without worrying about sounding pleasant or optimistic.  I am pissed.  I am bereft.  And I still get ragingly jealous of other people’s parents, the ones who are still alive, still together, still celebrating anniversaries, still coming to visit, the dads who comment weirdly on their kid’s Facebook and text awkwardly and give frequent, unsolicited advice.  I know I’m not supposed to, but wow do I covet.

In the end, there are a few things I feel like I know for certain so I stick to them: one, that you would be so proud of mom, of her bravery and her willingness to change and shift and be open to new things, of the way she and I have built a new relationship and new incarnation of our family, and of her happiness.  Two, that you would absolutely love and delight in Shiv, and he in you.  He is so much like you, Papa, that it’s almost eerie.  He has your joie de vivre and your appetite and your significant charm, and on the days when I am more filled with gratitude than rage, feeding his voracious little palate feels almost like feeding you.  I’ll take it.

Shiv at Easter 2014 | Blue Jean Gourmet

Three, it’s always been clear that the best way to honor you is to be present in my life to the greatest degree possible: to enjoy each and every day, to err on the side of extravagance, to find satisfaction in ordinary details, to maintain traditions and enact rituals, to give generously of myself and my time, and to do my best to ensure that everyone I love knows that I love them, because that’s what you did.

Right now, your grandson is running around pants-less, holding my toothbrush aloft and giggling like a banshee while Jill chases him around the kitchen.  I wonder if this is what you were like when you were his age, and the thought that it might be makes me grin.  I wish you were here to see him.

Always and forever,

Nito

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KINDNESS

Today’s post–the third in my National Poetry Month series–is especially meaningful because its author is the person who first inspired me to take a second look at poetry.  Please enjoy this honest, timely meditation from my friend Katherine.   –Nishta 

"Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye | Blue Jean Gourmet

I don’t remember the moment that I was introduced to poetry.  My mother read poetry to me amidst my bedtime stories as a child.  My father sat at the kitchen table and wrote poetry on Saturday mornings.  The first poem I remember crafting by myself for myself was during a long car ride sometime my seventh grade year.  I wrote poetry off and on through high school and into college, but I only began to read poetry in those college years.  That’s not quite right.  I read poetry – a lot of poetry – in high school courtesy of the specially printed Tome that girls of my era at my school toted around risking permanently stooped shoulders.  I was introduced to poetry, but I didn’t fall in love with poetry.  We were cordial.

It might have been Jorie Graham who baffled and intrigued me; it might have been Li-Young Lee with his peaches.  Something began to connect.  I read the poems of Denise Levertov and found someone whose heart flickered with faith.  I laughed with Billy Collins, and I breathed deeply with Mary Oliver.   My poetry crush began to develop.  Somewhere along the way as I met these poets, I found that I loved reading poetry and somehow that reading poetry loved me.  Poetry certainly accepted my attention span, and then I discovered that poetry enlarged my faith with its metaphors and its loose ends.  Then I learned that poetry swelled my voice as it hunted for beauty.  We weren’t just cordial, and the flush of first love had passed, we were partners now.

I don’t write much poetry these days (insert usual litany of excuses here), but since I climb in and out of church pulpits with some regularity, I find myself leaning on others’ poetry as a second scripture.  Those metaphors, so much like parables.  Those loose ends, so much like my weak grasp.  The hunt for beauty, so much the truest call to faith I can claim.  Poetry is part of why I’m a believer, and often offers me the best words for what I believe.

I figured out somewhere along the way that I can be most faithful to poetry in its wide span.  I love an anthology more than a single poet’s voice – perhaps the Tome shaped more than my vertebrae.   Or maybe it’s because poetry is another scripture, and my Bible is an anthology of stories and poems and perspectives and strangeness and of the faithful seeking forward.  If you’re looking to fall in love or just interested in meeting a poet or two, try Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems or the (often unfortunately named) anthologies curated by Roger Housden.  They are as worn as my Book of Common Prayer.

As for my choice of “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye, this isn’t the first poem I loved.  It’s not even my most recent favorite.  But it’s the one that I thought of immediately when Nishta invited me to share.  Now she tells me that my post will go up on Good Friday, a day of darkness that for me as a Christian must be lived and not avoided.  A day for all the hurt and the pain that is all too real.  “Kindness” speaks to that, and also professes the hope that follows.  If, as someone has said, our bruises and wounds are how the light gets in, then when we rise battered but not broken, that’s how the light gets out.

“it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,/ only kindness that ties your shoes/

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread”


Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.


How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.


Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

“Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. © Eighth Mountain Press, 1995.

Katherine McQuiston Bush | Blue Jean Gourmet 

Katherine McQuiston Bush is a wife of an actual public servant, mother of twin boys, younger sister, second daughter, all too fair-weather friend to many, Episcopal priest, school chaplain, occasional writer, secret blogger, poetry reader, and friend of Nishta’s for something like 15 years now.

ESSAY POST: STRAIGHT DEFINITION

Hello, friends.  This post is long overdue–I haven’t added a new essay to the blog since November 2011–yikes!

Please forgive my delay and accept my thanks, as always, for being willing to read my work.  I am so blessed to have such a wonderful audience, and I do not take your time or comments for granted.

This one’s is long, and it’s about my dad (of course), my hair, and not being a straight girl.  You can find it linked here, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Yours,

Nishta

(the above photo was taken by Jill during our visit to Oregon last fall)

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PAPA, YOU’RE STILL DEAD

This is an essay about grief.

You may not be grieving, but chances are, someone you are close with is.  Perhaps this will be their first Christmas without their husband, or first Hanukkah without their mother, or first New Year’s Eve without a best friend.  As joyful and celebratory as this time of year can be, it can be just as acutely painful when there are people missing.

I hope that some of you will see yourselves in this essay and that others may see grief in a new light.  As always, I am grateful for any feedback you are willing to share.

Back soon with a recipe,

Nishta

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THE POMEGRANATE KING: AN ESSAY

Dear friends,

Today I’d like to share another essay with you. 

It’s about my dad–big surprise, I know.  But it’s also, unlike the last two essays, about food!  In a sense, I suppose you could consider this piece an extended meditation on the origins of my appetite, the existence of this blog, and why I love cooking so very much.

You can reach the essay by clinking on the “essays” tab in the blog’s header, or using this link.  If you’d like to read the essay on paper instead of the screen, the little orange Joliprint button at the end of the essay will format it into a PDF for easy printing.

As always, I thank you deeply for your readership; I am so grateful for you.  And if essays aren’t your thing, I’ll be back later in the week with a recipe!

Yours,

Nishta

FIVE-INGREDIENT STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM

It’s so close to summer.  I know this because, for several days now, I have been dreaming of it—vivid, cinematic dreams with supporting casts and happy endings.  My dreams feature long, easy days of cooking, loose and floppy bread starters blooming in my fridge, jellies and jams and pickles and platters of things being carried out to the grill, pitchers and bottles of very cold drinks.  Reading books in a chair all day.  Dancing on a hotel rooftop with a view of the Mississippi the night my friend Kristen gets married.  Reading books with my sweet godsons, who have somehow managed to become five years old.  Eating ribs in my hometown.  Writing, planning, scheming, letter-writing, ice-creaming.

Oh yes, the ICE CREAM.  There is going to be ice cream all summer, and other frozen, fruity-or-creamy things—ice cold watermelon all down my arms and legs, cold almond puddings with warm, boozy cherries, every kind of popsicle I can think to make, mango sorbet and pistachio kulfi and cups of falooda, the strange, rose-water drenched treat of my childhood.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  For now I am just sitting here dreaming about these things because I have bronchitis, and I’m not good for much at the moment.  Yeahhhh, bronchitis.  Have you had bronchitis before?  I hadn’t.  It kind of sucks.  There are a LOT of things that suck worse, though.  I know that.  I promise you, I keep that in mind.

If my bronchitis is the bad news, then the good news that comes with it is…Jill is cancer free!  That is what the doctors told us last week, when we went to the hospital for her surgery-follow-up appointments.  They said—“We think we got it.”    They said—“No further treatment necessary.”  They said—“No appointments for six months.”

We were, at first, in shock.  We went to our favorite near-the-hospital lunch spot and ordered our favorite big bowls of shoyu ramen, only to realize we wouldn’t be back the next week, doing the same thing.  Over the days that followed, there were celebratory emails and tweets, the clinking of beer bottles over a table of homemade hamburgers, an actual date involving dinner reservations and concert tickets (and the Avett Brothers making me cry, in a good way), and lots of wonder and the melting-away-shock that we might could start imagining a future without hospitals and external IV lines and chemotherapy in it.

Jill has written, rather eloquently if I may say so, about how cancer has changed her.  Of course, it has changed both of us, and it has changed us, deepening our trust and intimacy, making pretty much everything even more precious than it used to be.  Also?  Given Jill’s newfound emotional sensitivity and the fact that I’ve always been a serious crier, it’s almost funny how much tearing up is happening in our household these days (Google Chrome commercials? You’re killing us.)  Ans now we’re trying to figure out how to re-enter “normal life” without abandoning the crystallizing, tenderizing effects of this unexpected adventure.

When things were their worst—when Jill was her sickest, and I was my most exhausted and both of us were asking ourselves “How do people do this?”—there were things I knew for certain.  What was important, and what wasn’t.  What was worth spending time, and energy, and money on, and what wasn’t.

I guess what I’d like to say is that I want to have the balls to care about the right stuff, even when cancer isn’t lurking in the background.  I want to be a brave woman whose priorities are clear, and clearly reflected in her life.  So I will be adding that to my summer project list, along with “make lots of ice cream.”

FIVE-INGREDIENT STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM

You don’t need me to tell you this is good, do you?  And that you should use the prettiest strawberries you can find, and thick, glorious, local heavy cream?  No, I didn’t think so.

I prefer this particular ice cream soft-serve, meaning eaten right when it’s churned or shortly thereafter.  If you keep some in your freezer for a few days (as you can), I highly recommend using it to make milkshakes.

ingredients:

1 lb. strawberries, washed, hulled, & halved
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
pinch salt

Mash the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, & salt in the bottom of a plastic container with a lid.  Let the mixture stand, shaking it occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Here’s where you get to make choices—if you want smooth, perfectly pink strawberry ice cream, pour all of the strawberry mixture into the blender and puree with the heavy cream.  If, like me, you want some chunks of strawberry for texture, reserve up to half of the strawberry mixture and pour the rest into the blender and puree with the cream.

Pour everything back into the plastic container, seal with the lid, and chill in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours.  Take the container out every once in a while and shake it up.

Once you’re ready, freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.  Yields about a quart-and-a-half.

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2010 YEAR-IN-REVIEW

Things I like to do at Christmastime: read “The Gift of the Magi,” enthusiastically sing Christmas songs, carols, & hymns, bake things I think Jill’s daddy would like (this year, pecan pie with a butter/lard crust and a sorghum/bourbon filling), and sort through the past year’s letters and journal entries reminding myself of what’s transpired, the milestones, blessings, changes, subtractions, sadnesses, and additions.

In my world, 2010 has yielded two weddings, one funeral, some incredible concerts (Robert Plant! Patty Griffin! Local Natives! The National! Iron & Wine!), play time in New York and Chicago, and Lord knows how many hours in the kitchen.

Jill and I signed fancy paperwork (nothing says “Let’s Stay Together” like Durable Powers of Attorney), took a long-overdue vacation to Mexico, adopted a sweet kitten, and welcomed some incredible new people into our lives.

And always, one constant, this virtual place and you very real people out there, reading.  Thank you for your presence, it truly is a gift.

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW…

This was Blue Jean Gourmet’s first full calendar year of existence, so it was fun to comb back through and choose a favorite post for each month.  Some I chose for the recipe itself, others for the slice of life the blog post reveals.  All show off  Sonya Cuellar’s mad photography skills.

I hope you’ll enjoy combing back through these twelve, and back through your own memories of this year.  Merry Christmas, all!

JANUARY—CHICKEN & DUMPLINGS

FEBRUARY—GREG’S BROWNIES

MARCH—CINNAMON ROLLS

APRIL—RADISHES, TWO WAYS

MAY—ROASTED CHICKPEAS

JUNE—PEACHES, THREE WAYS

JULY—MY LIFE IN OKRA [guest post by Jill]

AUGUST—TOMATO CORN PIE

SEPTEMBER—PANKO-CRUSTED PORTOBELLOS

OCTOBER—CARAMELIZED ONION TART

NOVEMBER—DIWALI 2010

DECEMBER—MEYER LEMON THUMBPRINTS

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VALENTINE’S WINE: ON THE FLY & ON THE CHEAP

So…we’re all in luck because our Blue Jean Sommelier, Anders, is back just in time for Valentine’s Day!  If like so many folks, you’re trying to save money by cooking at home instead of going out, here are a few tips for picking the right bottle of wine to go with your gustatory tryst.  Check back Friday for a killer brownie recipe sure to woo any sweetheart.  Come to think of it, who says you need a date to enjoy either?  Wine + brownies for all!  xoxo, Nishta

Anders’ advice:

1.    Decide if you want your cuisine to highlight a special wine or a decent but basic wine to highlight a more intricate dinner.  For instance, if I had a Bordeaux from 1982 I would select a menu with delicious but simple flavors to frame the complexity of the aged French wine – filet mignon with baked potatoes and grilled vegetables would work well.  If your focus is the food, think mainly about the structure of the wine for the pairing.

2.    Plan your wine choice with your meal according to the basics; wine needs to be sweeter than the food, tannin helps cut through fats and proteins, alcohol accentuates spice (go for low alc content with hot foods) and acidity balances acidity.

3.    If possible go to a local wine specialty shop that offers a range of values and has a friendly, knowledgeable staff.   Present them with your desired price and a basic idea of what you are looking for (red vs. white, structured vs. smooth, earthy vs. fruity, oak-aged vs. stainless etc).

4.    If looking for an inexpensive bottle, try varietals that typically can be made with lower overhead costs (i.e. does well in stainless tanks/neutral barrels), is inexpensive because it relative low demand vs supply or is created where labor is less expensive; Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Sauvignon Blanc, Torrontes, Syrah, Merlot, Albarino, Vino Verde, Riesling, Unoaked Chardonnay, Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais Cru, Aligote, Negroamaro and Valpolicella are all good options.

5.    Finally, if you are in a rush here are a few wines I have always found to have good value for price point: Columbia Crest Grand Estates and H3 wines, Ravenswood Vintners Blend, Catena,  Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Rouge or Blanc, Argiolas, Layer Cake and Porcupine Ridge.

For this blog I put myself to the test with five minutes to select three wines at a small corner market in the Mission district of San Francisco.  Here’s what I came up with:

2008 Alamos Torrontes- Argentina – (~$9.99)

Torrontes is an aromatic white grape that originated in Spain but now is grown almost exclusively in Argentina.  This bottling by Alamos boast decently intricate aromatics with unabashed lime, passion fruit and floral notes.  The palate is balanced with good acidity, a creamy mouthfeel and overt mineral-lime flavors. .  A great choice to accompany salads, cheese and crackers and or a fish/seafood entrée.

Anders’ Rating:  Class for the Coin

2007 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Merlot – California – (~$11.99
)

Ravenswood is one of the biggest names in Sonoma wine country and although it’s now owned by the corporate wine juggernaut Constellation Brands, its founder and winemaker Joel Peterson purportedly still has considerable control over the wines. The Vintners Blend wines are actually composed of wine that Joel purchases from across the state of California and then blends together as he sees fit, they are therefore what is known as negociant wines (a tradition that has been common in France for centuries).
  This wine has a beguiling, rich nose of spice and fruit.  The palate is a little light but very flavorful.  I get bright plum and black cherry.  While this a very smooth and soft wine, it is not going to improve with age and doesn’t have the tannin to stand to heavy meats,  All in all, quite tasty.

Anders’ Rating: Class for the Coin

2006 AR Guentota Old Vine Malbec – Argentina – (~$20.99
)

The AR Guentota was the only wine I couldn’t identify at the market and has price that typically indicates higher quality production methods with Argentinean Malbecs.   However, this bottle disappointed me.  It had ample tannins but the palate was a little bitter and the fruit came across as overripe.  Still a good price point for malbecs, but I prefer the Catena for about the same amount of money.

My Rating: Maybe Next Year

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