I figure it’s about time we gave Kermit Lynch a shout-out. After all, we have been loyal fans drinking his wine for almost a decade now.

As most of you oenophiles already know, Kermit Lynch is somewhat of a living legend in the wine importing world. He is highly respected for his portfolio of wines, which he hand-selects while staying true to his philosophy- supporting producers who represent the best of their appellation in the purest form, with minimal external influence or manipulation- or as the French say, vin naturel. He is also an author, an educator, and a winemaker. His first book, Adventures on the Wine Route, is a must read for anyone interested in how a self-described hippie helped to revolutionize the accessibility of French wine in the US. I have read it twice.

Thomas Jefferson's sacred words "good wine is a necessity of life for me," adorn each bottle blessed with Kermit Lynch's label- and truer words have never been spoken.

Last November, Susie and Albert shipped me a case of Kermit Lynch’s (“Kermie” in our family) wines- an early Christmas present. To say that it was difficult to keep my hands off of the case for 6 months is an understatement, but I was determined not to break into it until they came to visit me in DC. When Susie came for a weekend in April, we finally broke into a first bottle of Silvio Giamello’s “Villa Gentiana”, a classic rich yet subtle Nebbiolo from Barbaresco. Susie and Albert, having met the winemaker personally the year before (during which Alby self-admittedly developed a man-crush on Silivo), couldn’t stop raving about his wines. I was sold the moment I encountered the first aromas from the glass. It was a truly lovely evening with my family as we drank from a bottle of handcrafted wine delivered to us by Kermit Lynch and baked goat cheese, prosciutto and olive pizzas.

Since then, I have opened each bottle from the case with assiduous care. That is not to say that I am hoarding the wines, failing to spontaneously enjoy those that are ready to drink now, but rather making sure that each time I open a bottle it’s with people that I love and want to share the memory with. Luckily, the past few weeks have given me special occasion to open two more of the coveted KL wines: a bold Syrah from Domaine Auguste Clape in Northern Rhone and a Gigondas-esqe Grenache blend from Brunier. Both proved to be true expressions of the terroir from which they were born.

2008 Domaine Clape Le Vin des Amis

Nose: musky nose with warm spices of cloves and nutmeg, violet aromatics, and notes of black pepper and fennel.

Palate: vivid palate of strawberry, cherry, and dark plum fruits; dry with medium tannins and a savory complexity.

Notes: region- Cornas (a tiny 250 acre village) in Northern Rhone ; varietal- 100% Syrah; Auguste Clape is affectionately called the “King of Cornas” by many, both because his wines are widely considered to be the best from this tiny appellation and because he has fought to maintain its integrity and recognition over the years. Clape continues to use neutral oak barrels or steel for all his winemaking, and he has no problem waiting months on end for the fermentation to finish. Likewise, most of his wines are still made by hand and meticulously picked, sorted, crushed and fermented in single lots. These lots, after they have taken their time to ferment and age for a while, are blended to make the final wine.

2007 Brunier "Le Pigeoulet en Provence" Vin de Pays de Vaucluse

Nose: dark fruit aromas of raspberry and plum, roasted sage, tobacco and sandalwood.

Palate: flavor of crushed herbs, cherry, pomegranate, and raspberries; open and soft with nice acidity and a mineral core. An excellent everyday drinker.

Notes: region- Provence, France; varietal- 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Cinsault, 5% Carignan; The name Pigeoulet was given to this Vin de Pays de Vaucluse – the “house wine” at Les Vignobles Brunier – because it is the name of the vineyard where the family home is located. Because there is no irrigation on Brunier’s vineyards, there is considerable hydric stress in the summers, which contributes to the intensity and character of the grapes. The maturity of these grape and harvesting tend to come two weeks later than in CdP. The grapes are picked by hand and destemmed, then undergo 12-15 days’ vinification in temperature-controlled concrete vats. Pneumatic pressing and systematic malolactic fermentation take place before the wine is aged in vats for 6 months, and then in foudres for a further 6 months or so. Click here, for my review of the Pigeoulet blanc.

“Wine is, above all, pleasure. Those who would make it ponderous make it dull” – Kermit Lynch


In celebration of Susie’s birthday last weekend, we decided to launch an experiment baking Momofuku’s notorious Crack Pie. I’ve been to Momofuku Ssam and Milk Bar several times, though admittedly I’ve never tried the crack (I can never convince myself to pass up the captain crunch milk shake!). But given that everyone from Ashton Kutcher to Anderson Cooper and Martha Steward raves about the thing, we figured we had to find out for ourselves why it’s so popular. Crack Pie is a twist on Chess Pie – a dessert found in the “Joy of Cooking,” popular because it can be made with common pantry ingredients such as butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Although there are several recipes for pastry chef Christina Tosi’s celebrated pie floating around out there, we based ours primarily on the recipe in the recent Bon Appetit magazine, with a few adjustments along the way. We used more butter in the cookie crust because the dough felt a bit dry at first. We also used additional salt to the crust to accentuate the “crack” element of the pie which comes from the combination of sweet and salty flavors.

Momofuku’s Crack Pie

Ingredients

Oat cookie crust: Nonstick vegetable oil spray, 9 tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature, divided), 1/3 cup light brown sugar (divided), 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 large egg, 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, 1/3 cup all purpose flour, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt

Filling: 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar, 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (melted, cooled slightly), 6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, 4 large egg yolks, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, powdered sugar (for dusting)

To make the oat cookie crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.

Using your hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

To make the filling: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight.


 

A lot of people hold the misconception that Bouillabaisse is difficult to make, most likely because its French and it involves fish. The truth is, its really just all about the stock. If you can get the soup base right, you can throw in just about any white fleshed fish or shellfish and come out with a fantastic dish.

Clam and Calamari Bouillabaisse

To make a delicious soup base, sweat down 1 large sliced yellow onion and 1 sliced sliced leeks in ½ cup of olive oil. Stir in 2-3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (or 1 3/4 cups canned tomatoes in the winter), and 4 cloves mashed garlic. Cook for 5 more minutes.

Add 2 1/2 quarts water, a handful of fresh or dried herbs (parsley, bay leaves, thyme, basil and fennel seeds are great. You can also add saffron or any other exotic spice, but make sure to taste along the way), a pinch of pepper, 1 tbsp salt, and approximately 3-4 lbs of left over fish trimmings, such as fish head, bones, and shells (or substitute 1 quart clam juice and 1 quart water, but then don’t add any salt) to the kettle. Bring to a boil, skim, and cook, uncovered, at a slow boil for about 30 to 40 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve.

When you are ready to make the bouillabaisse, bring the soup base to a rapid boil in the kettle about 20 minutes before serving. Add clams and calamari (of course, you can also use lobsters, crabs, mussels, scallops and any other white fish you have on hand). Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Serve with a loaf of fresh baked french bread and good wine.

Bouillabaisse with 2007 Flowers Pinot Noir

 

Wine pairing: We paired the bouillabaisse with 2 different wines. First, we finished off a bottle of the 2007 Brander Sauvignon Blanc– the minerality and soft velvety texture was a great combination with the saltiness of the soup. We then moved onto a bottle of 2007 Flower Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. The pinot worked well because it had a light smokey undertone, which balanced out the fattier fish. I’d also recommend a rose from Bandol or a Sauternes for a more classic pairing.


We adapted this recipe from the Il Viaggio Di Vetri cookbook. We did a few things differently- some of which turned out for the better, some for the worse. First, the original recipe calls for fresh black truffle. Since we don’t live in Piedmont (yet) and didn’t happen to have any fresh ones on hand, we left that ingredient out. We also decided to add a gouda bechamel to give the flan an extra kick. Finally, rather than cooking the flan on the stove, we baked them in the oven. We found that they took a little longer to set this way and therefore the egg yolks inside turned out a bit over cooked- next time we’ll try it over the stove to get a runnier egg yolk.

Cauliflower flan with egg yolk, gouda bechamel, and crispy pancetta

Cauliflower Flan

Ingredients: 12 ounces (4 cups) cauliflower florets, 3 tbsp heavy cream, 1 large whole egg, 1 tbsp flour, salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, 1 tbsp unsalted butter, 6 egg yolks, 6 slices pancetta, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the caulifloewr and boil for 4 minutes, or until just tender. Drain the cauliflower, transfer to a blender, and process until very smooth and thick, adding a little water if its too thick. You should have about 1 cup puree. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, and gently whisk in the cream, whole egg, and flour. Season with salt and pepper and a touch of nutmeg.

Butter six 1/2-cup ramekins. Fill each half way with the mixture. Gently place a raw egg yolk in the center of the mixture in each ramekin and cover with remaining mixture, making sure the egg yolk is completely covered.

Place ramekins in a wide saucepan. Pour in boiling water into the saucepan so they come half way up the ramekins. Cover the pan and cook in oven for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is set.

In the meantime, in a frying pan over medium heat, heat and fry the pancetta for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on the edges. Transfer to paper towels and drain. Cut into large bite size pieces.

To make the sauce, melt 3 tbsp butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add 3 tbsp flour and whisk over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 cup whole milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 pound Gouda (or other melting cheese) and whisk just until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the ramekins from the water bath. Top with 2 tbsp béchamel. Grate fresh pepper over the sauce and garnish with freshly picked thyme and garlic flowers.


Point Reyes & Fontina Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

Ingredients:  1 loaf ciabatta bread, 6 ounces Point Reyes blue cheese, 8 ounces Fontina cheese, 2 Vidalia onions (cut into 1/8 inch slices), olive oil, salt, pepper.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Heat frying pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil and onions.  Reduce to low heat and slow cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are completely translucent and caramelized.  

Cut ciabatta into 4 even slices (2 tops, 2 bottoms).  Lay on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Top one side with caramelized onions and Point Reyes blue cheese. Cover remaining slices with fontina and freshly ground black pepper.  Bake in the oven on the highest rack for approximately 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and ciabatta is golden brown.  Remove from oven and assemble sandwiches.  Serve with a Sidecar (recipe below).  

The Sidecar

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, 1 lemon wedge, 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) Cognac, 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Cointreau or other Triple Sec orange liqueur, 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh lemon juice, 1 cup ice.

Spread superfine sugar on small plate. Rub lemon wedge halfway around rim of chilled martini or coupe glass. Dip moistened side of glass in sugar to lightly coat outside rim of glass. Set aside.

In cocktail shaker, combine Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Add ice and shake vigorously until well chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into prepared martini or coupe glass and serve.

Manhattan, Daiquiri, Sidecar


 

Nose: limestone, lemon zest, and white peach, with subtle hints of vanilla custard

Palate: soft, minerally, and fresh; perfect pairing with a salty crudo.   

Notes: region- Santa Ynez, California; varietal- 100% Sauvignon Blanc; the grapes are given 24 hours skin contact before being moved into stainless steel tanks for aging, which gives the finished wine a little extra texture.  Drinks beautifully now but also built to improve in the cellar.  Available at Brander Vineyard Wines.


Tablas Creek Mourvèdre grapes, one of the three varietals used in the Pic Saint Loup

Nose: pepper, black licorice, lavender, very earthy with jammy red and dark fruits

Palate: cherry, plum, mocha; rich and full with vibrant fruits and mineral notes

Notes: region- Languedoc, France; varietal- 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre. This is an amazing red that blends the best of Bandol and Chateau du Beaucastel like flavors into a easy to love complex wine that is a super value and can be enjoyed now. Available at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.