Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wine of the Week:Hardys Nottage Hill Chardonnay

Reviewed by Dwight Casimere


Celebrate those lazy, hazy crazy days of summer Aussie style with a great new offering from down under, Hardys Nottage Hill Chardonnay.  What makes it even more exciting is that, in addition to the intense, bright flavors that we associate with Australian wines, it sells for about $10 a bottle. You can find a case price online of just $7.99 a bottle if you do a little Google searching.

Hardys Nottage Hill Chardonnay is the perfect summer “house wine” because it goes with just about anything you’d put on the grill; or serve on the patio or backyard picnic table. Grilled fish, chicken, shrimp, corn on the cob and all kinds of salad and fruit dishes are the perfect match for its bright, fruity taste filled with flavors of ripe peaches and nectarines and a bouquet of white flowers with just a touch of light oak. I lucked out with a recent sale of lobster and dungeness crab at the local market and made myself a “white” version of that  San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf favorite, Cioppino. The dish is based on a Sicilian dish, Zuppa di Pesce (soup made of fish) and uses a marine “kitchen sink” mish-mosh of fish, with crab and lobster as the star attraction. I substituted fresh leek for the onion and garlic in order to lighten the flavor profile.  I also left out the chopped tomatoes that customarily go into the dish for the same reason and in order to enhance the use of HARDYS Nottage Hill Chardonnay as a vital ingredient.

Here’s the recipe:

In a large stew pot, slow cooker or Le Creuset cookware pot, combine ingredients in stages

1/4 cup  extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium sized leek, sliced into thin slivers
1 cup HARDYs Nottage Hill Chardonnay
1      container free range chicken stock from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s
4 sprigs fresh garden thyme, or one tablespoon dried
2 tablespoons of chopped, flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 pounds sea bass, grouper, cod, or any other fleshy white fish, cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
2 medium to large lobsters, preferably live Maines,  broken into pieces
1 large Dungeness crab cleaned and broken into pieces
8 large shrimp, preferably head-on and deveined (find them in your local Chinatown or at any Korean market)
1 lb. bag or raw mussels, thoroughly scrubbed
A big loaf of Sourdough bread for sopping
In the large pot,  simmer the olive oil with the leek until soft and shiny,. then start adding the chopped white fish in handfuls and allow to saute.

 Add the Hardys Nottage Hill Chardonnay wine to the pot and reduce wine by about half before adding the chicken stock, thyme, and parsley. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to medium low.
 Add all of the shellfish and cover the pot.  Let it all C-cook for about 10 minutes, then turn the pot off and just let it steam for a few minutes so the flavors can marry.
Remove any mussels that didn’t open.
Laddle the stew out onto your best vintage Fiesta  ware bowls (I use the handmade pottery bowls I brought back from Sicily last Spring!) Pour the Rest of the Hardys Nottage Hill Chardonnay, pass around the loaf of Sourdough bread, letting each person break off a piece in large chunks and enjoy. Molto Bene!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Louisiana and New Orleans Roll Out the Red Carpet for Summer Travel

French Quarter photography by Dwight Casimere

NEW ORLEANS--Louisiana has all of the qualifications to have itself named a sovereign country. It has its own languages and dialects, regional cuisines, music and culture, as distinctive as any found in Europe. In a recent national tour, the Louisiana Office of Tourism, spread the word about the many exciting festivals and diverse sights and sounds that the state has to offer.

"Most people will be surprised at how diverse Louisiana is," stated Misty Velasquez, Director of Programs and Services for the Department of Culture, Recreatioln and Tourism. "Most only associate Louisiana with New Orleans and the French Quarter, but even venturing just a few miles outside the city, you can be thrown into a completely different experience in terms of cuisine, culture and the visual landscape.

Case in point; the Lafayette area. "When you come to Lafayette, you'll see areas of misty swamps and lush, over-sized vegetation that will have you thinking you're in the rainforest in South America or walking somewhere on a distant planet." said Ben Berthelot, Executive Director of Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. " The visual effect is almost hypnotic!" So is the food and the music. "Lafayette is home to some of the most authentic Louisiana music you will ever hear. The "King of Zydeco" himself, Clifton Chenier, is from St. Landry Parish where both he, and Zydeco music were born. Audiences around the world consider him music royalty." The Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center is the repository for all things relating to Zydeco and the culture that surrounds it.

Besides 2013 being the Year of Louisiana Music, Cuisine, Culture and Nature Festivals abound throughout the state, the most recent being the New Ortleans Wine and Food Experience in New Orleans. Memorial Day Weekend.

Lake Charles, Louisiana is often described as the epicenter of Cajun Country and is recognized around the state as a major stop on the "Boudain trail," named for the local sausage produced there which is a distinctive mix of ground pork and livers or crawfish, mixed in with rice and Cajun seasonings. Boudin are considered the 'national dish" of Cajun country, and can be eaten for breakfast or lunch, or anytime snack.

If you're looking for live music or some gaming action, head to Lake Charles' casinos. L'Auberge Casino Resort is famous during the summertime for the Liquid Society's Party by the Pool, a poolside concert series held every Thursday night. If you'd like something a little more adventurous, head out on the Creole Nature Trail, where you can see live alligators or stroll remote beaches.

The Great River Road area is home to the distinct South Louisiana sound of swamp pop. Mix rock n' roll with a little bit of R and B, country, Cajun and Creole influences and you have the Swamp Pop sound. Originated in the '50s, Swamp Pop has gained national recognition with such hits as Phil Phillip's Sea of Love. The Swamp Pop Music Festival will be held in July in Gonzales.

Livingston Parish is home to some of the Bass fishing to be found anywhere. Just minutes from Baton Rouge, it offers more than 400 waterway miles and a host of exciting experiences for campers and naturalists at Tickfaw State Park. Take a ride on the Tiki Zip Line or watch a Ciuvil War Re-enactment before heading out to Livingston's charming antique district and for dining at its terrific restaurants, bed and breakfasts and new hotels.

Baton Rouge area and its West Baton Rouge Parish is the home of James "Slim Harpo" Moore, a self-taught harmonica player and guitariost who became a swamp blues great. The Rolling Stones recorded a cover of his hit "Shake Your Hips." Philip's gravesite is considered a local shrine and can be found in the Mulatto Bend Cemetary in Port Allen.

Shreveport-Bossier City area is a Sportsmen's Paradise, with its waters flush with bass, catfish and bream. Superior Duck Hunting attracts top hunters from around the globe. To the east are the architecturally significant prehistoric mounds. Created by pre-historic people more than 3,000 years ago, the mounds stump archeologists. They are considered the oldest earthen mounds in North America.

Save the best for last! After all that trekking through the swamp and bass fishing, it's time to kick back and relax in one of the most luxurious hotels in all of America, the Hotel Monteleone. Founded in 1886 by Antonio Monteleone, a Sicilian shoemaker, who arrived in America's most European City, New Orleans, and bought a modest-64 room hotel on the Corner of Royal and Iberville Streets. His simple lodging later morphed into an historical landmark that is one of the last great family-owned and operated hotels in the city and is recognized world-wide as the sparkling "jewel in the crown" of the French Quarter.

Catch the Robin Barnes Jazz Quartet or Lena Prima, daughter of the great singer and trumpeter Louis Prima and The Prima Musical Legacy in the world-famous Carousel Bar and Lounge, home of the Sazerac cocktal, or dine on some of New Orleans' best cuisine at the Criollo Restaurant. Executive Chef Randy Buck has been named 2013 Chef of the Year, by the American Culinary Federation, New Orleans Chapter, placing him in the pantheon of the Great Chefs of New Orleans such as Paul Prudhomme, Susan Spicer, Emeril Lagasse and John Besh.

Hotel Monteleone is designated a Literary Lasndmark, because of its history of welcoming countless authors over the past century. In 1951, two of America's greatest authors, called the Monteleone home, William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. Faulkner received the French Legion of Honor Award there. Tennessee Williams mentioned The Monteleone in two of his plays, "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "The Rose Tattoo." "In Cold Blood" author Truman Capote claimed to have been born there.

With its entrance on Royal Street and its prime location at the very start of the French Quartert, the Hotel Monteleone is the perfect place to being your New Orleans experience. Who knows, you may be inspired to write a famous book or play yourself, or at least learn to singalong Fats Domino's"Blueberry Hill" with one of the talented street musicians that line Royal Street.

 Chef John Besh in the kitchen of his American Sector restaurant in the Wharehouse District
 Royal Street Stroll revelers step off from the famous entrance to the Hotel Monteleone
 Robin Barnes and her Jazz Quartet and Lena Prima and the Louis Prima Legacy at the Carousel Bar
 In step for Mardi Gras
 The Rooftop Pool and Spa at the Hotel Monteleone
 The famous entrance to Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street in the French Quarter
 Guest rooms and Suites at Hotel Monteleone

 The Fitness Center at Hotel Monteleone
 Dwight Casimere with Great Chef of New Orleans Emeril Legasse
 The great Susan Spicer, chef/owner of Bayone restaurant in the French Quarter
 A "Second Line" Band in the French Quarter
 Dwight The Wine Doctor with Hosea Rosenberg, Season Five winner of Bravo's Top Chef 2010
at the fabled entrance to Hotel Monteleone

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Orleans: Breathing life into history daily!

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

New Orleans: Breathing life into history daily!

New Orleans: where the ghosts of history and the spirit of the present live in harmony

Story and photo album by Dwight Casimere

NEW ORLEANS—Few places reverberate with the voice of history, as does the City of New Orleans. Walking the cobble stoned streets of the French Quarter in the pre-dawn hours, when the only other sound is the distant clip-clop of a mule drawn carriage, one can almost hear the faint whispers emanating from its time worn walls. As dawn casts its golden spell from the depths of the Mississippi River across Canal Street, the restlessness of time shrugs the sleepy shoulders of this gracious old Southern Belle and sends her groggily down Bourbon Street, sidestepping half-spilled bottles of Arbita Ale and shattered Hurricane glasses, the dregs of the previous night’s revelry.

New Orleans is history’s museum come to life. Each wayward turn down a rain-slicked alley or peek behind a flower encrusted garden fence is a window into its past and a looking-glass view of its present and future.

A streetcar trundles down Canal Street towards the New Orleans Museum of Art, now celebrating its centennial. Friday evenings, “Where Y’Art” is a series of live music performances, family activities, gallery walk throughs, impromptu theatre performances and speeches.

The nearby Warehouse District is bursting at the seams with new restaurants and museums. The National World War II Museum has both, in the form of a 4D movie and exhibit that traces the course of the war, recalling images of the courage and sacrifice of those who served.

Chef John Besh’s new restaurant, The American Sector, adjacent to the museum, celebrates New Orleans and American cuisine, circa the1940s with a nostalgic stroll down memory lane, complete with southern comfort foods and a USO-inspired floorshow complete with Andrews Sisters look and sound-alikes.

Contemporary Arts Center offerings spill out into the street with examples of cutting-edge art dominating the nearby parks and street corners. Next fall, the CAC will mark its 35th anniversary with its Art for Art’s Sake street fair market, expected to bring out thousands of art lovers from around the world.

Fall is the perfect time to visit New Orleans. The gardens seem to vibrate with color. Many restaurants feature garden spaces for casual dining, It’s a great way to enjoy the chef’s dazzling creations and sample the city’s myriad culinary treasures that span everything from classic Cajun and Creole to Latin, Mediterranean and New Orleans fusion.

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and nowhere is that more evident than in the clubs along Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street. Just stray a bit north of the main part of the Quarter and you’ll stumble upon Snug Harbor, the restaurant and cabaret where music legend Ellis Marsalis, the patriarch of the Marsalis music dynasty, holds forth with weekly jam sessions that often include the likes of local and international superstars Aaron Neville and Allen Toussaint. The upcoming free sixth annual Blues and BBQ Festival, October 14-16 is a perfect opportunity to catch up with these music legends.

The soul and spirit of “Joie de Vivre” lives and breathes in New Orleans.

Friday, August 19, 2011

St.Lucia: Instant Paradise. Just Add You!

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

Scenes from St. Lucia, Caribbean Sea at the Royal by rex resorts