Rhône Blend White Wines are a Dream to Pair with Foods

Fried Goat Cheese, Butter Lettuce Cups, Green Apple, Almonds, Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream

Fried Goat Cheese
Butter Lettuce, Green Apple, Almond, Borage
Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream with Cardamom

paired with

Le Cigar Blanc 2012
Bonny Doon Vineyard
Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, California

for

Grocery Outlet’s
Spring Wine Sale

Rhône Blend white wines are a dream to pair with foods. Who can resist the tempting flavors of peaches, apricots, ripe pears, sweet spices and honey, or the seductive aromas of honeysuckle and tropical fruits? White wines from France’s Rhône tend to have these characteristics. Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, and to a lesser extent Picpoul Blanc – are the dominant varietals in the region. Many of the wines tend toward a creaminess that is rich but not heavy, with a refreshing acidity, and a pleasing minerality and nuttiness.

California Winemaker Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyards has been a tireless champion of the grapes of the Rhône for decades. It is difficult to resist his stylish wines as well as his quirky sense of humor. This wine, Le Cigare Blanc (The White Cigar) is named after his flagship, Le Cigar Volant (The Flying Cigar), so-called in honor of the cigar-shaped flying saucer banned by decree of the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a true story,  in 1954 the mayor and the council voted to ban alien craft from the airspace of their hamlet in order to protect their precious crops.

The 2012 vintage of Le Cigar Blanc is made of 48% Grenache Blanc, 44% Roussanne, and 8% Picpoul Blanc. The Grenache Blanc adds notes of green apple and lemon-lime citrus. The Roussanne brings honeyed notes with a rich mouthfeel and nutty aromas. These characteristics are highlighted and elevated by this salad’s rich goat cheese, sweet/tart meyer lemon cream with a hint of warm cardamom spice, allumettes of green apple, and lightly toasted almonds. Soft butter lettuce, creamy cheese with a toasty panko breadcrumb crust, and crisp Granny Smiths add contrasting textures.

This goat cheese salad and Rhône blend make a quite dreamy pair.

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Chèvre Chaud Salad, Limoncello Dressing

Chèvre Chaud with Grape Arugula Salad, Limoncello Dressing
Chèvre Chaud over a Salad of  Arugula, Grapes, and Marcona Almonds
Limoncello Rosemary Dressing

How did this fall off my radar? Often, I would serve a Salade de Chèvre Chaud at dinner parties. It’s been years  – but now, fried goat cheese back. This time with arugula, grapes, marcona almonds, and a zippy limoncello rosemary dressing.

Food Network is featuring grapes this week, so I was thinking about foods that might pair well: goat cheese, almonds, lemon, rosemary, arugula, alcohol… Alcohol? Yes – like wine, cognac, brandy, rum. How about limoncello? The dressing is bold, lemony, and definitely zippy.  It adds unexpected character and balances the rich fried cheese. All the ingredients just came together and voilà – this bodacious “adult” salad was born.

Chèvre Chaud Recipe

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Kristy’s Chèvre Chaud Salad

Chèvre Chaud
Mixed Baby Lettuces, Teardrop Tomatoes
Chopped Hard Boiled Egg, Toasted Pinenuts
Dijon Vinaigrette

Kristy’s Table Setting
Last May we traveled to Paris to celebrate my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday. And recently I went to visit my family in Chicago. Of course we had to get together and have a dinner party with “the gang who went to Paris for Kristy’s birthday weekend.” And I was more than happy to be the chef.

PARIS REUNION
Le Menu

Pommery Brut Champagne
Starter
parmigiano-reggiano
toasted buttered baguette
Salade
“Kristy’s Salad”
chevre chaud, mixed lettuces, toasted pinenuts, 
hard cooked egg, teardrop tomatoes
dijon vinaigrette
Puligny Montrachet 2006 Domaine Carillon 
Plat Principal
wild mushroom agnolotti
pinor nior veal stock reduction
fried sage
Domaine Serene “Evenstad Reserve” 2006 Pinot Noir
Le Dessert

a drizzle of honey
whipped crème fraîche

Kristy’s  Chèvre Chaud Salad

Form goat cheese into medallions and refrigerate. Dip chilled goat cheese medallion in a beaten egg, then in panko breadcrumbs. Fry in hot peanut oil turning once. When the breadcrumbs are golden, transfer to paper towel. Season with sea salt.

My favored Dijon Vinaigrette comes from Jacques Pepin:

  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 3 Tbs Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 c red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 c extra virgin olive oil
I also a 2 tsp minced shallot.
Put all ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid, and shake very well.

This salad is named for my sister-in-law Kristy. Several years ago I made this salad for her and it became one of her favorites. Now, like enjoying a Chicago-style hot dog or having lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab, this salad is also one of our culinary traditions. I make it every time I come to town.

French Goat Cheese – Cheese of the Month

Goat Cheese Katsu Salad
Soba Noodle, Edamame, Spring Greens 
Creamy Sesame & Sweet Soy Dressing

Goat Cheese Katsu:

Dip chilled goat cheese medallion in egg white, then in panko breadcrumb/black sesame seed mixture. Fry in hot peanut oil until golden, transfer to paper towel. Season with sea salt.

Soba Noodles with Edamame:

Toss cooked chilled soba (buckwheat) noodles, edamame (shelled boiled green soy bean) and sliced scallions with dressing.

Creamy Sesame & Sweet Soy Dressing:

Heat ½ c. each low-sodium soy sauce and mirin (rice wine) in a sauce pan, with 1 t. each minced garlic and ginger. Reduce by half. Add honey to taste. Let cool then mix with 1/4 c. tahini (sesame seed paste).

Assemble Goat Cheese Katsu Salad:

Place baby leaf spring greens on a platter, drizzle with dressing. Place soba noodles alongside the spring greens, top with warm Goat Cheese Katsu medallion.

I used the delicious Ile de France Goat Cheese. It is an indulgent, fresh, tangy, snowy white rich cheese made from milk of goats grazing in the French Alps. Looking for ideas for the next time you serve goat cheese? There are many creative cheese recipes in the Ile de France Spring Follies here.

The inspiration for this cheese served with an Asian-style twist came from my favorite local restaurant, Gina Lee’s Bistro, owned by my dear friends Scott & Gina Lee. They serve a delicious Chicken Katsu over Soba Noodles with Asian Vegetables. And if you are a fan of chèvre chaud you might enjoy this pumpkin seed crusted version as well.