We’re Tasting: Premium Ingredients

Gary and I had a very exciting weekend which featured premium ingredients.  I am a girl who likes to find a bargain and understand the importance of thrift…but it is hard to be frugal when it comes to good food, and Gary and I are suckers for good ingredients. 

The word truffle makes us melt…aged balsamic is heaven…. super creamy, triple-cream brie is decadent… small production, premium wine from hard to get wineries will send us over the edge.  We are crazy for good products. 

For Valentine’s Day Gary gave me what has become one of the best, and truly most romantic if you consider the above, gifts to date.  A bottle of 6 year aged, super sweet and thick Ritrovo Balsamic Vinegar.   It is just like candy, we drizzle it on a strawberries for a sweet little treat, which we did Friday night as we sipped a bottle of Wrath Doctor’s Vineyard Syrah  from Santa Lucia Highlands.  Santa Lucia Highlands is one of our favorite regions for producing spicy, earthy and vibrant Syrah.  Syrah is a tough grape to sell, either you love it or you don’t (which we do) and you have to be willing to taste a wide range of flavors in a Syrah if you love them because you never know exactly what you are going to get.  Unless it is from Santa Lucia Highlands because every Syrah we have from this region tends to have the same overall flavor profile with smokey, meaty, spicy flavors with depth and finesse.  The small production Wrath is a great example of one done right, from Texas native Michael Thomas.   The combination of flavors with the berries and the balsamic, with a touch of Rouge River Smokey Blue (another premium ingredient we can’t get enough of.)  A great foodie start to the weekend. 

Saturday night, after watching Cinema Paradiso during the day, we had a superb dinner with the Winspears prior to attending Rigoletto (Gary’s favorite, performed beautifully by the Dallas Opera.)   The Winspears had invited us over for pre-opera dinner, and to our delight fresh Wild Columbia River salmon was on the grill, picked up just hours before from TJ’s.  Foodie tip two…run to TJ’s Seafood Market!!!  This was some of the juiciest and most delicious salmon both of us have had (keep in mind, Gary is from Portland where fresh salmon is a staple.) This was beautiful. Topped with a layer of sweet brown sugar and pecans, and cooked to barely medium keeping the fish succulent and moist.  We started with a super creamy, yet still light and crisp, Wild Yeast Chardonnay from Miner Family Vineyards.  One of our favorites from Napa Valley, made by allowing wild yeast in the air to ferment the wine.   We then moved on to an earthy Pinot Noir from Edge Hill in St. Helena.  Big fruit balanced with earthy, forest floor flavors, it is a balanced wine with structure and elegance, with a layer of chewy tannins cutting through the good fatty salmon flavors.

After the Opera we finished the night with an Ice Wine from Mission Hill Winery in the heart of Canada’s Okanagan Valley.  Vibrant and crisp, this wasn’t the typical Ice Wine that is super sugary sweet. Instead lush green apple, citrus and tropical fruit stands out with a layer of nutty praline on the lingering finish.  A perfect end to Saturday night.

Sunday our friends the Pratts invited us over for dinner to share stories from their recent Italian adventure, and highlights from South Africa and the new adventures of Lascaux.  Needless to say we had lots to talk about, but the most fun was their adventure through Italy – the shopping, the pasta, the wine, the architecture, the cheese, the countryside, the fresh flavors.   I can’t get to Italy fast enough.  But in the mean time, we lived vicariously through the fantastic stories they had to share.  And over dinner we got to taste.  They had brought back several decadent products from their trip including Olive Oil from their stay in Cortona.  Bright, green, herbal flavors perfect used to saute zucchini with salt and pepper, or drizzled over grilled tuna steaks with fresh herbs.  Though I am usually not a big oil fan, a perfect product should be celebrated and a simple drizzle that maintains the natural, herbaceous flavors has to be enjoyed.  Paired with a Patz and Hall Pinot, also with intense earthy flavors this was a great night of food and wine with rich, elegant flavors.

At the end of the day, all of these items may not be the standard on the shelf at all supermarkets, but they are simple additions that will elevate the flavors of a dish to the next level.  Jimmy’s Italian Food Store is a great place to find Italian ingredients, as is Central Market.  Cheers to enjoying a little something special with your next dinner at home.