Food + Wine

Residual Sweetness

This post will have to be short (and hopefully Sweet…)  Many of you may remember the Jamaica trip that never happened a couple months ago.  It fell through due to something out of everyone’s control, but nonetheless, I was a bit bummed about the whole thing.  The trip opportunity came from this wonderful company I work with called The Daily Meal.  I’ve been working with them since last September as a part of their Culinary Content Network and they’ve been incredible. They are incredible.  (Go check out their site, it’s awesome.)  And ever since the Jamaica trip was cancelled, I’ve been in talks with them as to what may be coming next.  Press trips, as these are called, come their way on a weekly basis, and they have a lot of members who are interested in going.  These trips are not vacations, they’re writing assignments.  After a member comes back from one, there’s a pressing deadline, there are rules and minimum words involved, photos, slideshows, it’s a big deal.  So, one would really hope that a press trip, if it ever came one’s way, would involve something that was of interest.

And this brings me to today.  As of last Friday, when I received a late afternoon e-mail from my editor at The Daily Meal, I discovered that they wanted to send me to…wait for it, wait for it…Napa Valley.  And Sonoma.  A.k.a. California Wine Country.

‘Would I be interested?’, the email wrote.


My response?  ‘Um….yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.




Talk about a custom made assignment!  This trip was made for me.  We’re visiting wineries that aren’t even open to the public, we’re hiking on secluded mountaintops, dining with proprietors, staying at Meadowood, (which, if any of you have been to the area, know is fantastic).  I feel like I’m about to go meet my crush for the first time.  I’m excited, I’m anxious, I’m…happy.  It feels nice to have something that I can call my own.  I’m getting the opportunity to go flex some muscles that haven’t been used in awhile and that’s such an exciting feeling.  Staying home with my kids full-time, I get to witness some very Sweet and amazing things.  Everyday they do something new and cool and I get to be there to see it.  I’m lucky in that I’m able to work from home and still be with them.  However…those little guys also keep me on a pretty tight leash.  Let’s just say, I don’t get out much.  They also make it easy to forget who I used to be before they came along and turned me into Mom.  I used to read wine encyclopedias as novels and now I’m wiping pee off of Elmo books.  So when I read my itinerary for the first time, I started to cry.  My brain just didn’t know how else to compute it all and I think my brain has been a bit tired lately.  This trip, even though it’s work, even though it will be stressful, allowed my brain to exhale…through my eyeballs.

I know I said in the beginning that this would be short, and I’m beginning to become a liar.  But before I go I want to let you all in on the wineries that I get the pleasure of visiting…(and if any of this is lost on you, trust me, it’s a Sweet deal).

The people at The Daily Meal and Jarvis Communications have made me feel so incredibly at ease, in the know, and elated during this whole process and I couldn’t thank them enough.  I’ve already started wardrobe planning, list-making and research doing, half of me is already there…

So if I happen to not write much from now until mid July, you know my reasoning.  I’m gonna be a bit of a crazy lady for a little while, I’ve already let the stress get in the way of my job, it’s currently all I can think or talk about, but will try very hard to balance it all in my tired brain because, at the moment, I’m feeling quite a bit unbalanced.  I know I’ll relax into it a bit, it’s all very new and exciting now and I just need some time to breathe it into calmness.  Like a fine wine, the excitement of this trip, the anxiety of it all, just needs the proper time to develop and mellow.  If you were to taste a wine too soon, right after harvest, before the proper time was taken to allow it to mature, the flavors would be unbalanced, perhaps more acidic and overpowering than it will soon grow to be.  Simply put-  It needs time and patience.  And with the proper patience and time, if you allow that same wine to mature and relax, it will become graceful, elegant…balanced.  That’s my plan, that’s where I need to be.  I shall turn my current sharp edges into grace and structure.  My austerity into harmony.  My alcohol content…well, that will probably remain the same.

And soon, if all goes according to this plan, what is now unbalanced and in need of structure, what is now cloying and overpowering, will eventually be feminine, yet expansive, and will linger delicately, with just the right amount of residual Sweetness.

This recipe is such an easy way to fancy-up some brown rice.  It’s healthy, hearty and delicious. 
*Brown Rice Cooked in Wine

(It’s important to use the ‘instant brown rice’ for this recipe because un-cooked brown rice will need to absorb too much of the wine and it will be too strong.  Don’t use the pre-cooked brown rice that simply needs to be reheated, but instead use the kind, in the box, usually labeled ‘instant’.  Otherwise, use plain, normal white rice if you desire.)

-In a small saucepan, saute 1 small onion, minced, in a little olive oil with some kosher salt and pepper, until cooked through and a bit brown on the edges.

-Add in 2 cups of the Instant brown rice and stir to mix with the onions and to coat in the oil.  Season with a pinch of kosher salt.  Allow the rice to toast a bit, about 1 minute or so, while stirring occasionally.

-Pour in 1 3/4 cups of a dry, red wine (I usually cook with Cab Sauv) and drop in 1 bay leaf.  Stir, making sure to scrape any bits of rice or onion that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Allow the wine to boil for about 1 minute, uncovered.  This step is important so most of the alcohol cooks off and doesn’t make your rice taste like a chewy glass of wine.

-Season with 1/2 tsp sugar, more kosher salt, and a pinch of allspice.  At this point, a lot of the liquid has evaporated due to the boiling so you will need to replace it with something before covering and continuing to cook.  I like to add 1 cup of beef broth/stock but I’m sure chicken or even veggie broth (to make it vegetarian) could work as well.  (You may need more later, so keep some close by.)  Bring this to another boil and then cover.  Reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.  Stir in 1 TB of unsalted butter.  This step is optional, I suppose, but it really does round out the dish and soften any sharp edges.  Taste it and make sure it tastes good, with the desired texture.  Adjust the seasoning if necessary, add more stock if necessary.

-Mix in a small handful of minced, fresh sage leaves* and a handful of slivered almond, reserving more for a garnish if desired.

-Serve warm.

(*this would also be wonderful and completely different if you used fresh tarragon leaves instead of the sage.) 
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