Tasteful Tailgating

picnic basketIs it September already? Yup…here we are at the end of the summer, the kids are back to school, the temperature is starting to dip…and football season has begun! Are you a fan?  Whether you are or not, the game will either be on the tube or you’ll be hanging out with friends and family in a parking lot where beer, burgers, hot dogs, chili, wings and potato salad reign. Or perhaps you’re a fan of the Steeplechase. Had enough of the usual?

Although it may be difficult to replace those popular grilled staples, why not look at the tailgate as if it were a multiple course dinner affair, each course paired with a wine? Here are some ideas to upscale and add to the offerings to make it a more tasteful and fun experience!  And remember, just because it’s getting cooler doesn’t mean white wines are out. Get out your fancy wicker picnic basket and real wine glasses and let’s get something started.

oysters

Oysters on the half shell – Open and clean in advance. Make a mignonette sauce and you’re good to go! White wine vinegar, shallot and black pepper is all it is. Don’t forget the lemon.

The wine – Northeast coast oysters are ideally paired with Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire River, most commonly known as Sancerre or Pouilly Fume. The briny and steely nature of these oysters pair nicely with mineral or flinty qualities of a dry white wine. Or how about a Blanc de Blanc champagne?

chili

White Chili – OMG good. Get out your crock pot the day before and throw in uncooked chicken cubes, white canned beans, white corn, chopped Vidalia onion, clove of garlic, package of taco seasoning, green chilies and chicken broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Top with sour cream, lime juice, cheddar or Colby-Jack and serve with corn tortilla chips.

The wine – Choose a Chardonnay from Chile. Its bright fruitiness and acidity to cut the creaminess of the chili.

breslin lamb burger

Burgers – Try mini lamb burgers instead! If you’ve ever been to The Breslin in NYC, you know how amazing a lamb burger can be. Keep it simple and fresh. Ask the butcher for American lamb patties. Sea salt on each side, then grill it to medium rare, top it with sliced red onion, a slice of feta cheese, ground black pepper, olive oil and put between toasted ciabatta bun.

The wine – Serve with a good Rioja for dark fruit, spice notes, ripe tannins and good acidity or a full-bodied Beaujolais rosé, with notes of ripe fruit, ranging from juicy watermelon to dark cherry or an earthy and smoky Pinot Noir.

salmon

Cedar-Planked Salmon – The salmon rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper and fresh thyme and the lovely cedar notes from the plank are amazing. Don’t forget to soak the planks the night before!  Roasted lemons and a garlicky spinach with fennel are nice compliments.

The wine –  An elegant Pinot Noir with a smoky, cedar and cinnamon stick finish

fondue

Fondue party – Go retro and get out those fondue pots and sticks! The possibilities are endless….a Gruyère cheese fondue with artisan multigrain bread cubes, hot oil fondue with cubed beef tenderloin, coconut shrimp or veggies. Then there is chocolate fondue for dessert with marshmallows, cake or fruit! And please, make sure it’s good chocolate like Valrhona (available at Whole Foods).

The wine – Wow…too many twists and turns here.  Pair the Gruyère cheese fondue with an off-dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc and the beef tenderloin fondue with Tempranillo, Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. It also depends if you have a dipping sauce so pair to the dominant flavor. For a dark chocolate fondue dipped with nutmeg-sprinkled orange slices, biscotti or banana bread, try an Argentinian Malbec with notes of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and anise.

Luxx Chocolat Contemporary Collection

Chocolate mini-bar – Have a nice array of chocolaty treats! Try an artisan chocolate and wine flight of 3 chocolates paired perfectly with 3 types of wine. Or perhaps griddle pan Belgian waffles. Yes! Waffles made right on the BBQ. Drizzle them with dark chocolate caramel sauce made with Grand Marnier or chocolate-covered drunken strawberries (cognac or champagne soaked before dipping) with whipped cream or cinnamon Belgian waffles with a bourbon and banana caramel sauce and dark chocolate shavings. Oh, I could go on and on!

The wine – The answer here is that it all depends. Depends on the flavors and aromas of all elements of the decadent dish, the percentage cacao, the type of chocolate…etd. Have fun and experiment or ask someone in the know.

Tailgating fare doesn’t have to be the usual! Mix it up and make it an experience involving finer flavors! It’s a winning combination.

Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

Like fairy tales? Not when it comes to wine or chocolate… Fairy tales Dispelled Part One

fairy-tales-002

Just when you think you have a good handle on something, surprise! Well, it’s time to dispel some common tales and partial truths associated with wine and chocolate. And since there are SO many, this is only the first part you’ll be reading. Knowledge is the key to better experiences and offering proper guidance to your family members. And you’ll also look even more brilliant at your next event or dinner party.

Better wines are sealed with a cork?

CorksNot necessarily. Screw capped wines can age just as well as a cork. And times are changing. Traditional cork is becoming a limited natural supply and has ongoing quality issues which impacts the ability to preserve wines from the negative effects of oxygenation on aging and wine preservation and even cork spoilage. Many wineries have been experimenting with plastic and plant-based polymer alternatives and screw caps and can attest that quality control is much easier and in many situations can improve wine aging. The use of these alternatives though are associated with cheap wine, right?

That image started to change about a decade ago, when commercial winemakers in New Zealand and Australia started using the enclosures much more widely for all kinds of wine, including some higher-end bottles. The fact is, screw caps have topped bottles from some of the world’s best wineries for about a decade, and even the most reputable wine critics openly acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with sealing a wine bottle with a screw cap in lieu of a cork. New Zealand is leading the wine industry with the majority of wineries converting from cork to cap. Wineries in Australia, Spain, South Africa, South America, Canada, the U.S. and France are all testing the capping trend as well.

But even with many advantages over cork, expanded cap adoption really comes down to wine industry marketing reservations due to wine drinkers’ attachment to the pomp and circumstance of opening a bottle elegantly with a cork screw. What matters is what’s in the bottle, no?

Wine critics are always right?

winesnobWine criticism is a very particular thing. Everyone has a different palate although some wine reviewers may have fallen in line with your particular taste on an occasion or two. In order to be exactly in step with a wine critic, your expectations from any particular bottle of wine need to be shared. How do you really know you share the same taste? Our noses, mouths and brains vary in performance from one individual to the next. What it comes down to is learning what traits you like in different types of wines and to trust your palate. Ultimately, you are the one that counts.

Sweet wines pair best with chocolate?

cropped 90s beautySweet dessert, sweeter wine? Why? Forget those who think this is the only way to go. Remember, it’s about your palate, not a narrow-minded view on what makes a great experience. Please…no…  Don’t get caught in the sweet trap as it will limit your chocolate and wine pairing pleasure! Dessert wines, like Sauternes and Ports can make way for too much sweet going on. Occasionally a nice Port and a very dark high percentage and more bitter chocolate, ok. But how often do you really drink dessert wines? Your goal should be to compliment or provide a nice contrast with the actual flavors that exist in the many wines you enjoy normally…like smokiness, pepper, black berry, earth, cherry, honey etc. and not to overpower or compete on a sweetness level. It should be about flavors, scents and aromas! Note though that not every wine does go with chocolate, especially very dry tannic wines, so we’ll be discussing those principles as we go forward. It’s not a simple as it appears.

Stay tuned for the next fairy tale installment of wine and chocolate!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

Sunscreen protection…with wine and chocolate? Yes!

red-wine-sunWelcome summer!  The kids are out of school, everyone is outside and it’s time to take a well-deserved vacation. The bright, hot summer sunshine can be a beautiful thing and a not so nice thing.

What’s good about sun exposure? In appropriate and measured doses it has a number of health benefits.  Sunlight helps synchronize the hormonal rhythms of your body and enhances our mood and energy. UVB rays produce Vitamin D which is important for maintaining optimal health. UVB also has been associated with cancer prevention and as an important treatment for various skin conditions including atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and vitiligo. Many experts now agree that the importance of daily exposure shouldn’t be underestimated. All in moderation. But since UVB rays can burn your skin and UVA rays can cause skin damage, wrinkling, age spots and premature aging, the best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light, or broad-spectrum.

We all know to use sunscreens daily while we’re at the beach, the pool or just running errands and chauffeuring the kids around. But did you know that both wine and chocolate offer UV protection? Not by slathering them on your skin, but by the simple enjoyment of them. Now there’s another reason not to feel guilty! (just no driving after you’ve had wine)

Did you know that…?

  • Eating dark chocolate and drinking red wine can help prevent UV damage
  • Multiple studies have shown that eating dark chocolate regularly may significantly protect skin from UV damage – skin reddened less when exposed to UV light
  • One study showed that when dark chocolate was regularly consumed for a longer period of time, the level of UV protection increased and that skin texture and hydration was greatly improved
  • Increased UV protection can be attributed to naturally-occurring antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules in chocolate and red wine called polyphenols, flavonoids and flavanols
  • Polyphenols, flavonoids and flavonols are found naturally in plants and fruits, including cacao (cocoa) and red wine
  • Red wine, made with the dark skin and seeds of grapes, is rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that includes resveratrol, also shown to have very powerful cancer-fighting properties
  • Flavonoids can actually stop the chemical reaction that causes skin cells to die, and thus causes skin damage. They may also help fight a wide array of conditions – including diabetes, strokes and heart disease
  • Flavonols can relax your blood vessels, thin your blood and lower your blood-pressure numbers naturally
  • To get the UV benefits of chocolate, make sure to get dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa, which will be stated on the package label

 But this great news doesn’t mean you should skip your sunscreen altogether, or even cut back. Just sit back and enjoy more of the pleasures that wine and chocolate can bring! A piece of 70% + dark chocolate and a glass of red wine regularly does your body good!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

  1. luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

“Women cannot live on chocolate alone. That’s why there’s wine”

wine-dark-chocolateOh, the decadence, the satisfaction and the pure joy that wine and chocolate can bring to our lives. Held high in admiration for centuries, these glorious substances stemmed from Mother Nature. They were deemed as gifts from the ancient Gods and prized for having special powers, offering medicinal properties, health benefits and even having a role in religious and fertility ceremonies and, of course, inspiring love and passion. There were many goddesses and gods connected to chocolate and wine around the world. The most well-known for chocolate being the Mayan Goddess Ixcacao, the God Ek-chuah and the major Gods of wine, Greek Dionysus and Roman Bacchus, the wine party God. We still highly revere the power of chocolate and wine today and perhaps worship them in our own way.

Did you know…?

  • The beginnings of chocolate are now believed to date back over 3,000 years with the Olmecs in Central America, not the Mayans
  • Cacao, meaning “God food”, was worshipped by the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs for its mystical and aphrodisiac properties. Chocolate is made from beans grown in pods on a cacao tree
  • Aztec emperor Montezuma, who had over 600 wives in his harem, is reputed to have consumed fifty golden goblets of chocolate a day to enhance his abilities
  • Casanova is even said to have indulged in chocolate before seducing his women
  • Cacao was so highly prized, the Aztecs used it as currency
  • The first solid chocolate bar was introduced in 1847 by a British chocolate company called Fry’s. Up until then, chocolate was consumed as a drink often mixed with spice, vanilla and honey
  • Wine is our most ancient alcoholic drink, perhaps dating back 10,000 years, and it still is held in high esteem
  • Wine is said to have saved growing populations from the diseases caused by bad water
  • In ancient Greece, a dinner host would take the first sip of wine to assure guests the wine was not poisoned, hence the phrase “drinking to one’s health”
  • “Toasting” started in ancient Rome when the Romans continued the Greek tradition but started dropping a piece of toasted bread into each wine glass to temper undesirable tastes or excessive acidity
  • Early Roman women were forbidden to drink wine, and a husband who found his wife drinking was at liberty to kill her. Both the Egyptians and Romans believed that women who drank were promiscuous and adulterers
  • An Italian study argues that women who drink two glasses of wine a day have better sex than those who don’t drink at all

But even though wine and chocolate have been associated with excess, they don’t have to be guilty pleasures. Today we know, in fact, that both dark chocolate and red wine have magical qualities as they contain vital antioxidants that, in moderation, may help prevent cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. We will explore these and other health benefits throughout the summer!

Cheers!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

 

Sauvignon Blanc beats the heat!

Baby, it’s hot out there!

sauvignonLooking for the perfect hot weather wine? It’s definitely Sauvignon Blanc (SB) on the top of the list. Crisp, cold and refreshing, it’s light in body yet full in flavor. SB’s distinctive herby yet fruity qualities make it a stand out from Chardonnay, which tends to fill your palate with weight since it is full-bodied. It’s like wearing a sweater when it’s 90 degrees. We’re less inclined to pull that out on a sweltering day.

SB grapes produce aromatically pungent wines with strong citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit) and gooseberry tones along with grassy and herbal notes. Using the word “herbaceous”, “green” and even “cat piss”, yes you heard it right, as a descriptor of its bouquet (smell) will impress even wine connoisseurs. But don’t let that scare you away. SB is a beautiful wine and perfectly pairs with light seasonal food fare and even a bit of chocolate for dessert.

There are many styles of SB, so if you’ve tried one and have not been a fan it doesn’t mean you’ll dislike them all. While it traditionally has a “veggie” or “herby” flavor, the fruity and mineral-like character of it changes depending on the climate and the soil it’s grown in, or terroir. When looking at a label, check to see where it’s coming from and whether or not it’s a warm vs. cold region. Here are some general guidelines below. But remember that the winemakers add their own artistry, like blending with other grapes, so there will be variations from vineyard to vineyard.

Warm = more tropical fruit styles such as mangos, peaches and melons, California, Australia and Washington State

Cold = more citrus fruit styles such as lemongrass, grapefruit, lime and pears,  France, Chile and New Zealand

NZ vineyardSB Growing Regions

“Old World” – Loire Valley (France), Graves (Bordeaux, France),

“New World” –  New Zealand, Australia, California, Washington, Chile

SB’s homeland is the Loire region of France –  most famously from Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. No other wine-producing region on earth can quite match the Loire Valley for the pungent citric, grassy style of SB along with a lovely flinty cement-like mineral character (Sprite-like).  New Zealand comes closest. SB from California ranges in style from minerally, grassy, and citric wines (more akin to examples made in the Loire Valley or New Zealand) to opulent, tropical-fruity wines. Try different ones and see what you like!

Here are some fun facts about Sauvignon Blanc:

  • The SB grape gets its name from the French word sauvage (“wild”) and blanc (“white”) due to its possible early origins as an indigenous grape growing all over southwestern France

  • Did you know that Sauvignon Blanc is the mother of Cabernet Sauvignon? The father was Cabernet Franc. This was proven in 1997 by DNA testing

  • Sancerre and Pouilly Fume are also SBs. This is because wines from France are usually labelled according to area or region rather than grape

  • Sancerre wines are generally more delicate than close-by Pouilly Fumé. Pouilly-Fume tends to be richer and a bit fuller-bodied, with greater aromatic pungency perhaps due to more flint in the soil

  • White Bordeaux is also a blend of Sauvignon Blanc mixed with Sémillon and Muscadelle grapes

  • Sauternes is an area of Bordeaux famous for its white dessert wine. This too is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle

  • New Zealand has only been growing Sauvignon Blanc since the 1970s

  • Oaked Californian versions of SB are sometimes called Fumé Blanc

  • French SB is the best in the world, although New Zealand and other New World examples, from California, Washington, Chile, New Zealand and Australia, are rapidly improving

  • There’s little if anything to be gained by cellaring these wines. Go ahead and open that bottle!

Perfect pairings…

SB is perfect for lighter fare such as shellfish, spinach-artichoke dip, grilled veggies, garlic or Italian seasonings in creamy sauces, fragrant salads – like Greek, Caesar or Garden, Thai food, sushi, chicken and the list goes on. It’s good with just about anything other than heavy red foods such as steaks and marinara sauces.

Lemon Honey Panna CottaAnd even though it can easily melt in this heat, chocolate is always in order! Try pairing a 72% dark chocolate with a lemon filling, like our Lemon-Honey Panna Cotta, or a white chocolate that has a filling that features lemon, grapefruit, or matcha tea like our Gotcha Matcha. These complimentary flavors will enhance similar aromas and tastes in the wine.

Stay cool!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder ofLuxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind,  recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America.

And again! Voted one of 2014 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America!

Thank you again International Chocolate Salon and TasteTV! 

Please take a look at our latest press kit!  Click FINAL Luxx Press Kit update March 2014AmericasBest2014-4star

Luxx Chocolat as 2013 Best in America? You bet!

Happy New Year!! And what a great start to have…Luxx Chocolat was named one of 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America!

AmericasBest2013-4star

TasteTV and the International Chocolate Salon announced the names of the 2013 Best Chocolatiers and Confectioners in America Award winners on January 3rd. The International Chocolate Salon Awards are based on the combined total number of Gold and Silver Awards received by each entrant in the 2012 TasteTV Chocolate Salons in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Fall (SF) and standalone Chocolate Salon Award Competitions for Best Caramels, Toffees, Bars, Truffles, Chefs Roundtable, and Best Bridal Chocolates.

Luxx Chocolat was the proud winner of the following in 2012… THANK YOU ALL!

Luxx Chocolat 2012 awards

Want to know more about Luxx Chocolat? Check out our press kit!  FINAL Luxx Press Kit update March 2014

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