Posted on April 17, 2014
Filed Under Wines | Leave a Comment

Albarino is a low-yielding, high-quality wine from Spain’s Galicia (or Rias Baixas) (ree-ahs-buy-shuss) region. Although reasonably productive, these grapes are so thick-skinned that only a small amount of juice can be extracted from them. It pleases the Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc lovers on one hand and the Viognier and Chardonnay lovers on the other. The wines are rich and creamy with complex flavors of apricots, peaches, and citrus. This varietal is rarely cultivated elsewhere. Aromatic noses of honeysuckle, citrus, melons, pears, yellow fruits (peaches, apricots, and mangoes), spices, and mineral flavors for palate-cleansing qualities that are similar to a very good Chablis.

An important tip…choose the freshest vintage you can find. Albarino will be at its most alluring when young, since the vibrancy of the varietal dissipates fairly quickly. While most Albarinos do not see oak, there is a modern move toward barrel fermentation. Although the five sub-zones in Rias Baixas express subtle differences, the wines share certain characteristics — good natural acidity and a medium-body with moderate alcohol.

Albarinos are married to mussels, oysters, clams, shrimp, lobsters, octopus, and all things that swim. Also dream of this wine with rosemary or vegetarian casseroles.


Posted on April 4, 2014
Filed Under Cordial Chronicles, Spirits | Leave a Comment

Absinthe is one of the most storied spirits the world has known. Originally created as a medicine around 1800, the next hundred years saw it evolve from treatment for digestive distress to popular aperitif to “dangerous psychotic” elixir that caused hallucinations. It was banned from many countries in the early 20th century including the United States. After 95 years, the dangerous myths associated with Absinthe have been dispelled, bans have been lifted, and a new generation is getting to know this iconic green spirit.

Absinthe is made by mixing “the Holy Trinity” of Grande Wormwood, sweet fennel, and green anise seeds and then is distilled in a method very similar to that of high quality gin.

Absinthe spoon and sugar cube

By the mid-19th century, Absinthe had been embraced by Parisian artists and poets as an aperitif. The time from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. was then known as “l’heure verte” (the green hour.) Absinthe was served with cubes of sugar, ice water, and Absinthe spoons. The specially-made slotted spoon fit across the top of the glass, held the sugar cube, and allowed one to pour as much water through the sugar cube to dilute the Absinthe as preferred. As Absinthe is diluted, it turns from green to milky. Eventually the Absinthe fountain was invented, which allowed everyone at the table to dilute Absinthe with water according to their own taste. During the bans on Absinthe, Pastis or Penrod were considered adequate substitutes.

Genuine Absinthe must obtain its green coloring from the herbs (no dyes), have no industrial extracts, and contain no sugar when bottled. No sugar on bottling is why Absinthe cannot be classified as a liqueur; it is a spirit. It has a very high alcohol content, as much as 72 percent.

On March 7, 2007, Ted Breaux of Lucid Absinthe Supérieure was granted the first rights to import Absinthe into the United States since the drink’s ban in 1904. The rise in the cocktail culture has helped raise the curiosity about Absinthe. Cocktails today are all about unique combinations. Experiment with adding Absinthe to a classic cocktail such as a Bloody Mary to taste different levels of flavor.

Absinthe Fountain

When I had the pleasure of tasting Lucid Absinthe, I personally preferred the Absinthe diluted with water only, not diluted through the sugar cube. Although an Absinthe fountain was available during my tasting, a shaker can also be used to mix Absinthe with water and sugar as desired.

Offer your friends a unique experience.


Posted on March 25, 2014
Filed Under Spirits, Wines | Leave a Comment


Cuisine Concepts announces Varietal Vignettes and Cordial Chronicles. This series will spotlight posts about a specific varietal or cordial during the coming weeks. These will be quick reads that will deliver super-knowledge faster than a search on your smartphone.

Varietal Vignettes will highlight major white and red varietals as well as some unique varietals of each. Likewise, the Cordial Chronicles will cover the gamut from classic (Sherry, Brandy) to avant-garde (Vin Santo, Calvados).

We will be covering them all, A to Z.

The first post in this series will be to define “varietal” and “cordial.”

The best way to define “varietal” is to imagine yourself in the produce section of your favorite market or at a farm stand. In front of you are all kinds of delicious apples. Do you want a classic Red Delicious, a tart Granny Smith, or a sweet Pink Lady? They are all apples, just different varietals. You alone know the type of apple that will satisfy your taste buds the most at that moment. During this series, you will gain the aforementioned super-knowledge about wine varietals to know which one will best suit your taste.

After a great meal, a cordial is in order. “Cordial” refers to a certain class of liquors that are strong, often sweet, and highly flavored that are generally intended to be drunk after dinner. Cordials are becoming a lost art amongst our younger generations. May these Chronicles reacquaint us with a pleasure from the past and educate the 20 and 30-somethings about a fine dining tradition.


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