The Improv Chef: Name Place vs. Appellation for Wines

You may have noticed while perusing the wine aisle that wines made in Europe vs. America have widely different names, even if the grape is the same. But why? Chef Josh Hebert delves into a brief history on how the difference in naming wines came to be and gives a quick lesson on how to tell them a part in this edition of the 3-Minute Sommelier.


The Improv Chef: Light White Wines for Summer

As temperatures continue to rise during the summer months, finding quaffable, refreshing wines to enjoy is a must. In the 3-Minute Sommelier, Chef Josh Hebert provides some tips and interesting facts on some not-so-common white varietals that taste delicious poolside or paired with a light meal this summer.

A look inside the James Beard House

On April 7 we had the honor of cooking at the iconic James Beard House in NYC. It was an amazing experience. Our crew prepared a 6-course dinner paired with wine for nearly 50 people. The courses included:

  • Popcorn soup with clarified butter
  • Moroccan spiced ceviche with “dahl” tostada
  • Escargot beggar’s purse with rich mans caviar sauce and uni foam
  • Lamb crepinette with yogurt mint sauce
  • Kangaroo chop with hop shock beer demi-glace
  • Corn sorbet, corn “bread” pudding with bourbon corn caramel sauce

For more behind the scenes photos head over to our Facebook page.

How to Make Smoked Butter

Love that subtle , smoky flavor in your dishes? I do too.

One easy way to infuse the delicious smoky flavor into nearly any dish is with smoked butter. It’s super simple to make and only requires a couple ingredients. The butter can then be used for cooking meat, fish, added to vegetables, spread on bread…the options are endless. Enjoy!

The Improv Chef: What is Old World and New World wine?

You may see it on labels and restaurant menus from time to time…”Old World” and “New World” but never quite knew what it meant. It’s fairly simple once you get down the basics of each and it can help you better select your wine.

Old World wines are from Europe, but that’s not all there is to it. Wines from Europe can also be New World depending on a variety of characteristics. Here’s a few quick tips on how to identify the two styles. Cheers!

Healthy Eating Habits in a Fast-Paced World

This article originally appeared on Frontdoor News.

Healthy Eating Habits in a Fast-Paced World

Food is a cornerstone to life. Of course we need it for nourishment, but it’s also enjoyable, comforting and a great tool for bringing people together. With food being such a fundamental component of life, it can also be easy to overindulge in it.

If you’re like me – always thinking about your next meal – you might have a tendency to eat and want great food. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but when it becomes troublesome is when we overindulge. There are a few tips and tricks that can be implemented to help you bypass the extra calories without forgoing a satisfying meal.

Many nutritionists suggest, and I happen to agree, that one of the top adversaries to healthy eating is our hectic lives. Eating on the go, and not sitting down to let the body register that food is being consumed can lead to bad food choices and overeating.

So, for instance, if you cave to that afternoon craving, don’t eat it in the car when you’re driving. If you have a favorite restaurant that serves good snack foods and appetizers, go in, sit at the bar, and order your favorite small dish. This option is healthier for you and gives you that much needed 10 or 15 minute break in the average person’s busy day.

In the end though, finding something that works for you is key. For instance, my wife leaves just a small portion of food aside on each plate she has throughout the day. In her mind, she’s leaving 300 to 400 calories out of her diet on a daily basis, thus preventing her from gaining weight. What you do with the leftovers is your business. Alternatively you could ask your dining companion to split a dish with you, try scaling back on a recipe to yield a smaller portion, or ask your server if they offer half portions.

However, not everyone has the willpower of my wife to leave perfectly delicious food on the table. I was once witness to a friend who, near the end of our meal, poured packets of sugar all over the gooey, cheesy, deliciousness on their plate. I was appalled and verbalized my disgust, to which they replied, “Yes, I know. Now I won’t eat it.” Like I said, whatever works!

Another great tip for eating less is to ask for to-go boxes at the beginning of the meal. Once you’ve eaten to taste, put the leftovers immediately in the to-go box and push it to the side of the table. This way you’re not picking at your food, and eating past the point of being full while waiting.
My number one tip: opt for smaller portions spaced out over time. Your body will have time to register the food and you will know when you’re full before it’s too late.

Feel free to share your own tips and tricks with us. We’d love to hear from you. Cheers, and happy eating…within reason!

The Not-So-New Red Meat

This article originally appeared on Frontdoor News.

The Not-So-New Red Meat

It’s no secret the cost of food is going up. While the price increase is not exclusive to proteins, meat and fish have certainly experienced a big jump. But there may be a tasty, and surprising, protein alternative.

I’m not talking about tempeh, beans or soy…I’m talking about goat meat.

Goat has historically been a dietary staple in cultures around the world. Though it is not commonplace in North America and North Europe, it became the most widely consumed red meat as of 2010 – enjoyed by more than 70 percent of the world’s population.

Goat is a welcome site at the dinner table during Easter time in parts of Italy and Greece, and cabrito (baby goat) is considered a specialty in Latin cuisines. In Africa, goat is consumed because it has the ability to live off of next to nothing. Goat also appears as a culinary staple in African, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Caribbean dishes to name a few.

A well kept secret

Why hasn’t widespread consumption of goat meat reached the U.S.? Well in certain niche markets throughout the country it has become very popular and consumption has been growing. In the desert Southwest we’ve seen more of a movement towards goat meat by local chefs. Why? It could be influenced by our neighbors to the south as goat meat is often used in Mexican cuisine and many are bringing their traditions to Arizona. Today, local chefs are exploring more ways to use this delicious and well-priced meat.

The flavor is similar to lamb, but has a clean, tender aspect reminiscent of veal. The best way to describe it.. is well…to try it yourself. There’s little harm in giving goat a go. At $3 to $4 per pound, the barrier to entry is very low. Most ethnic food markets such as Mexican, Middle Eastern, and African markets carry the meat. Baiz Marketplace and Zam Zam World Foods are a couple Phoenix grocers that carry goat meat.

Making a case for goat

Cost and delicious flavor aside, there are nutritional benefits to consuming the lean red meat. Goat meat is actually higher in protein, than beef, and lower in fat content than chicken.

So now that you’re sold on the idea, how do you actually cook it?

Because of the low fat content of goat meat it can lose moisture fast, and toughen when cooking. The best way to prepare goat is cook it slowly, and with moisture.

Goat meat, contrary to our American way, is a practice in patience. Therefore, it may come as little surprise that most traditional goat recipes involve braising, stewing, and simmering the meat until it is fall-off-the bone tender. Goat has an adaptation to tomato-based dishes and rich-roasty spices. Spicy stews, street tacos, goat masala, curried goat, or goat teamed with garlic and white wine, all make for delicious, cold-weather comfort foods.

My suggestion, pick a region known for goat consumption, choose a recipe that sounds appealing to you and enjoy the adventure! Cheers, and happy eating.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits

Want to mix it up a bit at the Thanksgiving table? Try these sweet potato biscuits. Two traditional seasonal items in a slightly untraditional way. Enjoy!

Yield: Approx. 1 dozen

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 ½ t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
2 t sugar
1 t salt
6 T cold unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sweet potato puree, cold (leftovers)
3 scallions chopped
1 cups butter milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients. Cut in butter using the piecrust making method (cut butter into thin slices and work into the flour using fingers and working quickly). Chill for 20 minutes. Toss scallions into flour mixture.

Make a well in your flour mixture and add the sweet potato puree. Slowly fold it into the dough (the more you work it, the tougher your biscuits will be). Chill an additional 20 minutes and when cool, make another well and add buttermilk, mixing with hands until just held together. Using a spoon to scoop, drop on to a greased baking sheet. Brush melted butter on top.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 17 minutes or until done. Enjoy hot, right out of the oven, especially with wasabi butter!

By Chef Josh Hebert, Posh Restaurant

Conquering the French Label

This article originally appeared in Frontdoors News.

Similar to your first go-around at algebra in high school, reading French wine labels can be a challenge. But like algebra, there’s a formula to it. Understanding the basic parts of the equation, you’ll be able to identify what you’re drinking and where it’s from.

The most important thing to remember are French wine does not list the grape varietal on the bottle. Instead, the region is displayed front and center to indicate what is in the bottle. So what we’re learning about French wines is we first need to memorize the place so we not only know where it came from geographically, but also which grapes are associated with that region.

Like math, you’ve got a little homework to do. Running through a few flash cards on the major regions and their grape varietal will go a long way.

The regions behind the wine

The great thing about French wine is the region dictates the wine. Some of the major players include:

Alsace – a primarily white-wine region in eastern France it grows Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Muscat.

Beaujolais – typically a red-wine region with Gamay grapes. Best known for its Beaujolais Nouveau.

Bordeaux – this region is home to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Here the Medoc River is the key. On the left side cabernet is grown, and on the right you have predominantly Merlot.

Burgundy (Bourgogne) – located on the eastern side of France, this region is known for producing both red and white wines. It also has the largest number of appellations of any French region, but the two main grape varieties are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Champagne – this one needs little explanation. Many of us are familiar with the bubbly stuff. This region is in eastern France near Belgium and Luxembourg.

Loire – known as the Loire Valley, it primarily produces white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre and Chenin Blanc to name a few. Since it stretches along the Loire River, grape varieties and wine styles vary.

Rhone – the Rhone Valley, primarily a red-wine producing region, is divided into the southern and northern halves for wine growing. The two halves house a number of appellations as well.Hermitage is one appellation in Northern Rhone. It produces Syrah. As interesting side note – the AOC on labels stands for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). This is a French certification granted to certain geographical locations known for producing specific products. A wine with an AOC of Hermitage will always be 100 percent Syrah. The Southern Rhone Valley Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most well known red wines. It is a blend containing up to 19 varieties of grapes.

Conquering the label

The three basics of a French wine label are the producer, usually listed at the top, the region, displayed front and center, and the vintage year.

Next time you pick up a white wine that says “vin de Bourgogne,” you know from your homework this is Chardonnay from the Burgundy region. Alternatively, if you pick a bottle with Hermitage featured prominently on the label, you know it is from the Rhone Valley and is 100 percent Syrah. Now you know the grape varietal, region, the vintage, and if it’s AOC and what that means; enough to decide whether it may be something you would drink.

Understanding French wine varietals is a craft in itself. With these basic variables though, you are on your way to embarking on a palatable adventure. When in doubt ask your friendly server or sommelier for their French wine recommendations, and as the French say, ” Life is too short to drink bad wine.”