Super Bowl Wine Pairings

when-is-the-super-bowl-2011[1].jpg

Super Bowl XLV is approaching fast and everyone should have a good idea what food will be on the menu for the big game.  Beer is probably the beverage choice for over 70% of you,  but I'm calling an audible to put a twist in your gameplan.  Here's a few typical Super Bowl foods and some pairing ideas:

IMG_1046[1].JPG
  • Pizza.  An extremely popular choice which needs a beverage that can stand up to sweet, tangy tomatoes, cheese and topping choices.  You're going to need a wine with decent body and acidity to play with the tomato, some tannin for any meat, spice and juicy red fruit to enhance the experience.  I love Sangiovese, like Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano ($15.99), or a Zinfandel like Foxglove ($12.99).
  • Buffalo Wings.  Food like this is synonymous with sports viewing.  You'll definitely need some body on the wine along with some sweetness to pair with the spiciness of the wings and saltiness of the blue cheese.  I like Riesling, like Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler QbA ($12.99), Pinot Gris like Seven Hills ($13.99) or a very fruity Australian red like Mitolo "Jester" Cabernet Sauvignon ($11.99).
  • Chili.  The crockpots will be working overtime this weekend and you're going to need a wine with body, meatiness, acidity and spiciness to stand up your recipe.  Syrah/Shiraz is perfect for this dish, and I'd go with Ben Glaetzer Heartland Shiraz ($13.99) or Four Vines Paso Robles Syrah ($13.99).
  • Burgers.  Many will be firing up the grill for some burger delight.  You'll need a beefy wine with some tannins, body and ripe fruit to help you take a bite out of that charred flavor.  I love Malbec for the task, especially Cueva de las Manos Malbec Reserve ($12.99).
  • Hot Dogs.  Another popular meat choice, this depends mostly upon how you'll be topping it.  For the typical Chicago-style, I like my German Riesling choice we used for the wings.  For a chili dog, go with the Syrah/Shiraz choices from the chili.

So for beer drinkers who want a little more than Pilsners, I suggest you try something different like Goose Island Pepe Nero, Two Brothers The Bitter End Pale Ale or Bell's Best Brown Ale

Whatever you do, I know you'll score but if you take any of these picks, they're guaranteed to be a touchdown!

Super Bowl XLIV Wine/Beverage Picks

The big game is around the corner, and whether you're entertaining or bringing your favorite snacks and beverages to your friend's house, you'll want to put your best foot forward and pair up your eats with your drinks.  You can impress your friends and make them envious of your picks.  Besides Peyton and Drew, you'll be the talk of the party!  So let's get on to some colossal pairings:

Before we get into the wine, I always like to have some beer onhand.  It not only has that slight hoppy bitterness but is also a thirst quencher.  For this Sunday I like Lagunitas "The Censored" Rich Copper Ale.  It has everything you want in a beer and more.  A creamy, malty flavor, slightly bitter but smooth hops, a rich copper color, a touch of citrus, caramel and brown sugar.  You can find this for around $10.99/6 pack.  It's also great because it pairs well with most foods you'll enjoy, including spicy ones.  I love it with chili, wings and spicy chips.

Wine value picks with tough names are what's called for on Super Bowl Sunday.  You should have some white onhand, in case it's called for, and I couldn't think of a better one to have than 2008 Big Fire Pinot Gris ($12.99).  This grape has a great roundness to it and the wine packs the fruit in: grapefruit, tangerine and pears.  You can feel honey and smell flowers in the glass, giving you no problem when the spice from hot wings comes a-knockin'!

For the reds, we'll kick off with 2007 Torres Sangre de Toro (blood of the bull), a blend of Garnacha and Cariñena ($8.99).  It packs cherry and raspberry fruit flavor with cola and dried floral scents.  The medium body and soft tannins are a great blend to accompany your Super Bowl chili creation.  Next we aim to please our Pinot lovers with 2007 Three Saints Pinot Noir ($24.99).  Even if you're not a Saints fan, you will still enjoy the blackberries, raspberries and tea notes, along with the ripe acidity.  We can finish off the wine with two big, luscious examples.  First off, we have 2007 Tait "The Ball Buster" Shiraz, which has big dark fruit, vanilla, oak and smooth tannins ($17.99).  Also go for 2008 Owen Roe Abbot's Table ($22.99), a big blend of eight varietals, mostly Sangiovese and Zinfandel.  It's a big bite of rich red and dark fruit, and ready to take on your pizza and nachos.

The most important thing to take away from the pairings is what goes well with this cuisine.  You will be enjoying some spice, tomato based items (chili, pizza) and fried and greasier dishes.  You will need beverages that have a touch of sweetness to put out the fire, are fruity, a lower alcohol content (usually enflames spices) and that have a touch of spice themselves to mesh with the food.

I love making my own food (especially my World's Best Nachos), especially for big events.  I will have to include my wings and pizza recipes later, but in the meantime, I will give out some of my favorite vendors:

No matter what you pick, remember to drink responsibly, don't mix it with driving, and have a great time.  Any event that you get together with people you like is a sure to be a great time, so make sure it is positive from start to finish.  Have fun!

Birthday at Spacca Napoli

night1Another birthday is coming up and my wife decided to help me indulge in my heritage with a trip to Spacca Napoli.  They make pizza in the traditional Napoletano style: wheat flour, thin crust, with fresh ingredients cooked in a wood burning oven.  We heard so much about it from friends and reviews, so we took a drive up to try it out.

Almost everyone loves pizza, but you can never truly appreciate it until you have the best, which is made in its 190px-traditional_pizza_from_napoli1home- Napoli.  Very good pizza is made elsewhere, but it's at its best in southern Italy.  On a visit there, I asked "Why?".  Many did mention the wheat, but all said it was the water.  Only natural spring water is used to make the dough.  I will always remember the pizza there, with every establishment making the most perfect crust, amazing sauce, and fresh ingredients.  The picture to the right is of a typical pizza made in Napoli.

Now on to Spacca Napoli.  My wife and I walked in and were seated promptly.  Our server was peppy and announced the specials before retrieving a Peroni for me and some Prosecco for my wife.  Our appetizers were then brought to us- a Bufala Mozzarella salad with ripe red tomatoes and very large leaves of delicious basil drizzled with olive oil, and an Insalata di Mare- calamari, shrimp, and cuttlefish with chopped celery.  The dish was a bit flavorless and not quite as fresh as others I've had.  Our server pressed us about four times for our pizza order (it seems as though they are coached to "turn and burn" the tables), and we finally gave it after ordering a bottle of Cantina del Taburno "Fedelis" Aglianico.  Aglianico is the special red grape of southern Italy.  It can create big bodied, fruity, earthy, long lived tannic wines.  This one was satisfactory with ripe dark plum and espresso flavor accompanied by slightly grippy tannins, but with a medium minus length and finish.  They give small drinking cups with all wine, and while I believe this is taverna style, I also think if you order a bottle you should be given proper stemware. 

oven1Our pizza came out VERY fast- I believe in less than five minutes!  This usually does not bode well, and did not in this case.  The crust was soft and tasty, but had more than a few burn marks, which affected the flavor.  The middle was still a bit rare.  I attribute this to two factors: 1) Pizza not left in long enough, away from the flame, and 2) the sauce.  Tomato sauce should be rich, thick, and deep red.  This was not the case, as it was thin and not very flavorful.  Also, the small amount of basil used was thrown together instead of lovingly place atop the pizza.  Plus, the mushrooms atop my wifes pizza were definitely not quality.  They seemed to be drowned button mushrooms, while I would have used fresh cremini as an ingredient.

On to dessert.  We shared a tiramisu, which had a fluffy sweet mascarpone top over slightly over marinated savoiardi biscuits.  Our bill was brought to us before we could order coffee, but we did anyway.  Overall, we felt Spacca Napoli tries to rush you in for some pizza, and back out.  The dough is quite good, but the making of the pizza along with the ingredients make it fall far short of Napoletano style.  I love the wine list which is almost totally comprised of southern Italian wines.  Whites include Fiano, Greco di Tufo, and Falanghina, while reds of Primitivo, Aglianico, Nero d'Avola, and white and red Lacryma Christi are offered.  If you are in the neighborhood, try it out, but remember there are better options in Chicago.