Riesling, Wild Ginger, & Haiku Contest
Without a doubt, summer is upon us here in the Pacific Northwest. This season means cutting grass, growing gardens, and drinking light, crisp, summer wines.
Take Riesling, for example….
RIESLING: That’s right, Riesling – a wine made from a white grape varietal that originates from a region in Germany known as the Rhine, with earliest records and documentation confirming its existence at least as early as the 15th century. Known for its perfumed nose, balance of both high sugar and high acidity, and light body, Riesling wines are as diverse as their terroirs and makers, ranging anywhere from dry to sweet to sparkling and everywhere in between. Note that Riesling grapes require special handling, so as to avoid damaging the skins, which would likely lead to a leakage of tannins into the juice that would thus compromise the taste and aroma of the end product. These qualities of balance and lightness make Riesling wines very versatile for pairings with food. In particular, this wine holds up particularly well to salty, spicy, strong and/or complex-flavored foods, such as many dishes from Asia.
“Summer of Riesling” 2011: Given that, it’s no wonder that 20-year-old+ Wild Ginger (Seattle and Bellevue) and the Triple Door are hosting a 3-month-long “Summer of Riesling” 2011 celebration. From June 21st, 2011 to September 22nd, 2011, these properties will be offering all things Riesling, including Riesling wine pours by the glass, Riesling-friendly paired dishes, and Riesling-centered events. (Check out their blog for more information.)
Where did this idea come from, you ask, dear hedonists? It all began in the summer of 2008, when Paul Grieco decided to pour only Riesling by the glass all summer long at his New York East Village bar called (rather appropriately) Terroir. It was such a success, he repeated this offering in 2009. Then, in 2010, he expanded this summer celebration by way of invitation to other NY establishments to join him. This summer, it’s finally reached our Best Coast, officially making this “Riesling Rush” bicoastal.
Riesling Pairings & Recipe: Last month, your Hedonista was invited to a private one-on-one rendez-vous at Wild Ginger Seattle with their Company Wine Director/Director of Operations Jake Kosseff to sample some of their Riesling offerings paired with food. I was not disappointed. We sampled five Rieslings in all: a 1994 Weingut Günther Steinmetz German Riesling from the Mülheimer Sonnenlay Vineyard (Spätlese), a 2008 Dr. Loosen Graacher Himmelreich German Riesling (Spätlese), a 2002 Hiedler Austrian Riesling from the Steinhaus Vineyard, a 2009 Owen Roe U.S. Riesling from the DuBrul Vineyard, and a 2006 Joh. Jos. Prüm German Riesling from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr Vineyard (Auslese).
All of these wines both stood on their own and paired well; in fact, we sampled them with several dishes, made with everything from seared tuna to spicy sausage to crustaceans. Filled with complex, nutty-spicy-fishy-hot-vegetal flavors, these heady dishes paired well with the cuttingly cooling effects of the various Riesling wines, which held up extremely well.
Wild Ginger’s Vietnamese-Style Soft-Shell Crabs
4 Soft-Shell Crabs, cleaned (NOTE: Live crabs are the best but they’re not always easy to find. To select the tastiest, use your nose. When fresh, they smell clean and astringent, like sea mist. To clean them, hold the crab in one hand, and using a pair of kitchen shears, cut off the front of the crab, about 1/2 inch behind the eyes and mouth. Squeeze out the contents of the sack located directly behind the cut you just made. Rinse and pat dry.)
For the Crust:
1 cup peanut oil
1 ½ cups rice flour
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
For the Sauce:
1-1/2 Tbsp. thin sliced shallot
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp. finely sliced lemongrass
¼ cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1-2 tsp. sugar (depending upon taste)
1 tsp. black pepper
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
Heat oil in a large sauté pan until it reaches 325 degrees. Sift flour, salt and pepper together. Beat eggs in separate bowl. Immerse cleaned crabs in egg mixture. Drain slightly then roll into flour mixture. Pan-fry crab until golden brown (use caution as oil may splatter). Drain on paper towel. Remove all oil from the pan except one tablespoon. Fry shallots in this oil on medium high heat until golden, then add garlic and lemongrass, stirring constantly until fragrant, about one minute. Add chicken stock, fish sauce, sugar and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to preference. Place crabs in pan and gently turn to coat with sauce. Plate and garnish with rough chopped cilantro.
Riesling Haiku Contest: But that’s not all, dear hedonists. Jake and I hit it off like a house on fire … and thought it would be fun to hold a month-long Riesling Haiku Contest! The rules are simple: Between today and 11:59 p.m. PST on Saturday, August 6th, 2011, send us your best haiku as a comment via Heed the Hedonist. Please include your email address so we can contact you in the event you are the winner. All (acceptable) haiku and author names will be approved as comments on this website as well as posted on Twitter (both @heedthehedonist as well as @WildGingerRes). (Please provide your Twitter handle so we can tweet it too!) Both standard and non-standard haiku forms will be accepted. The word “Riesling” itself does not have to be present, but its description within the haiku must be clear. Jake and I will together select the winner. The prize? A magnum-sized bottle of the 2008 Dr. Loosen Graacher Himmelreich German Riesling (Spätlese) … which the winner will be required to accept in person at the Seattle Wild Ginger location (so we can photograph the winner with the prize). Value of the prize: priceless (because Jake says they had it specially made for the restaurant), but similar such bottles retail for approximately $100. (Which means 21+ years of age, dear hedonists.)
Feeling intimidated? Don’t – to inspire you, both Jake and I penned/keyed our own haiku. First, Jake’s haiku:
By stony acid
sweet fruit was slayed
Riesling pairs with ease
- be it of salt, spice, or sweet -
to foodie’s delights.
P.S. If white wines just aren’t your thing, fear not, for Wild Ginger has just released a 2009 “Confucius Says” Red Table Wine last month, which it created in partnership with àMaurice Cellars of Walla Walla. This wine is a blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc and 28% Merlot, with grapes sourced from the Wallula Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, and the Weinbau and Bacchus Vineyards in the Wahluke Slope AVA. Sold by the glass ($9) and bottle ($35) at Wild Ginger (Seattle and Bellevue) and the Triple Door, it’s truly worth checking out.