Going to Grape Lengths: Pt. 2

Last week we covered grape’s different roles in wines made from underripe and…let’s just say very overripe sates. Today we’re going to chat a bit about putting grapes on the hot seat so to speak. Intentionally heated wines that is.

Madeira and The Dutch: Out of the Fire and Into the Cask

“C’mon, Hancock. Leave some room for the rest of us!” – Franklin probably

There was a romanticized version of American history taught to me well throughout my public schooling. I think that’s probably true for a lot of people to be honest. It wasn’t until college American History that I learned the genuinely fun fact that our Founding Fathers were pleasantly buzzed during the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. And rightfully so. It was a scary thing they were doing committing all that treason and what not. A little liquid courage goes a long way when one needs to sign a document that could have you drawn and quartered. But what was it that they were drinking? Well the preferred drink at the time was Madeira, a lovely beverage from the region of the same name in Portugal.

Madeira has a history that begins during the age of exploration and like many stories from the book of booze it began as one thing and ended up as something entirely different. Much like the founding fathers bolstering their spirits with spirits, early explorers stocked their ships with alcohol for the voyages ahead. Intensely long stays on the ocean blue and the hot Sun’s continuous presence led to eventual spoilage of the wines they had picked up from ports of call in Portugal. After some time this style of heavily oxidized, nutty and straight up boiled wine became a flavor preference not only for the sailors but the people they brought it to at the ports they visited.

USS Are We There Yet

Making a trip around the world in just to cook and age your wine is not what we would call efficient, though I imagine it would be a mean marketing gimmick in 2019. Thus, the Estufagem (bless you!) process was created. Estufagem, or ‘stoving’, emulates a long sea voyage on the more tropical parts of the ocean. There are a few ways this environment is re created, from circulated hot water to barrels exposed to hot steam. The most time intensive and interesting involves barrels being stored high above the ground in hot rooms for up to a century. Should you find yourself looking to kickback and drink like a revolutionary, there are many available types and brands of Madeira out in the world waiting for you to discover.

Here at vomFASS MOA we have a very special Whisky produced outside the city of Mumbai in India. This Whisky is aged for 6 years in 98 degree heat giving it an uncommon maturity for other Whiskies of the same age. ‘Amrita’ has an alcohol of 45.6% and a decidedly maderized quality about it. It’s a deliciously different Whisky and we will be happy to give you a taste next time you find yourself in Bloomington, Minnesota!

A different approach to stocking ones vessel with valuable wine was employed (albeit anecdotally) by the Dutch. The Netherlands Natives had reservations concerning cooking/spoiling the wine on long journeys. To prevent the maderization of their precious cargo they would first distill the wine into what could be equated to concentrated wine. This wine spirit, called Brandewijn or ‘burnt wine’ was, for all intents and purposes, eau-du-vie or unaged brandy. They popped that hooch into barrels with machinations of reconstituting later on with water. Of course as you have no doubt guessed by now, people preferred this different alcohol and interests shifted in favor of brandy.

Cognac is said to be the wonderful outcome of forgetfulness and neglect much in the same way Tokaji MUST have been (nobody sets out with hopes and dreams of drinking mold wine, right?). Hundreds of years ago grapes from Cognac were cheap and they made cheap uninteresting still wine. That wine however sold well. Eventually after having been concentrated down through distillation, someone popped that hooch into a barrel and promptly forgot about it at the port. Upon returning some considerable amount of time later it was discovered that, hot dang, Cognac is delicious. The motif here is necessity breeding ingenuity and ingenuity leading to now long established traditions and products. Cognac is the most famous brandy in the world next to Armagnac and Calvados (made from apples) and we only stumbled upon it because we were trying to preserve our precious wine.

Whether cooked beyond recognition or distilled into something entirely different, grape based alcohols seem to be endlessly versatile. Grapes truly seem to be Homo Sapiens favorite fruit.

Satiate your thirst for brandy anytime at our vomFASS location in The Mall of America. We stock a plethora of world class Cognac from the Seguinot family, Armagnac from the DeLord family and other worldly brandies. We offer 10 year old, 25 year old and vintage 1973 Armagnac to a 12, 20 and 50 year old Cognac. Other options include a phenomenal 20 year old Italian brandy and 15 year old Spanish brandy from the Sherry Triangle in Jerez. You will also find a wonderful apple brandy from Madison, Wisconsin and a 20 and 25 year old Calvados from Normandy, France. If I still have your attention, you should also know about our Pear eau-du-vie and Kirsch eau-du-vie, both beautiful unaged brandies.

Stay tuned next week as we wrap up our journey with tales of Italian Grappa and a foray into the world of natural wines.

Will O’Reilly spends his days surrounded by brandy. Find him, and the brandy, at vomFASS in Bloomington, MN.

Oh What a World…Of Whisk(e)y Pt. 2

Sláinte!

Welcome back to week two of breaking down the many faces of Whisk(e)y. Today’s focus: Ireland!

With the discovery of perfume distillation 500 some odd years ago, you, me and everyone we know have the Irish monks to thank for turning their noses up at perfume and eyeballing instead those yummy looking ferment hungry grains. The Emerald Isles’ traditional spirit experienced some serious ups and downs in the years between 1890 and 1990. Between an increasing appetite for Scotch across the board and effectively being cut off from major markets due to a less than friendly relationship with England, Irish whiskey went from the hot ticket to the kid with cooties with relative swiftness. Fast forward through the popularity nose dive and it wasn’t until about the 1980s that attention turned back to Éire and her beautiful Uisce Beatha (again meaning ‘Water of Life’, only this time in Irish). Indeed, the increased interest in this Irish beauty is certainly palpable. Nowadays it’s a product you can see more and more of on retail shelves not only in the states but all over the world.

Irish Whiskies available exclusively at vomFASS
Photo Cred: My wonderful coworker Lynn!

Commonly triple distilled, generally unpeated (but not always!) and made from malted and unmalted barley and other grains. For Whiskey producers unmalted barley and grains like corn offer a nice price break considering both are less expensive than malted barley. Like Scotch, Irish Whiskey must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels. When enjoying a nice glass of Irish Whiskey, you’ll more often than not find it to be on the lighter side than others. With notes of cereal grain, honey and flowers Ireland offers a strikingly different spirit when compared to Scotch, especially Scotch from the Islay region. The key noticeable difference for my palate when comparing Irish Whiskey and Scotch comes from the triple distillation process which creates a lighter distillate with much more subtlety. Irish Whiskey on the whole is more liquid poetry than anything. Light, friendly, approachable, it does not demand that you acquire a taste for it but rather it asks for you to just simply listen and enjoy the song it has to sing.

Here at vomFASS MOA we carry four expressions of Irish Whiskey from one producer in Dublin as well as their Single Malt Moonshine. “Against the Grain” is a corn mash Irish Whiskey aged 5 years in Bourbon barrels and Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. This is a beautiful expression of a Single Grain Irish Whiskey, one of the most approachable spirits in the store and a personal favorite. “Stephen’s Choice” and “Jack’s Choice” are 5 and 11 year old Single Malt Irish Whiskies, respectively. The former being a more traditional approach and the latter actually being finished in Sauternes casks, Stephen’s Choice and Jack’s Choice are not to be missed. At 14 years, “Brother’s In Arms” is the oldest Irish Whiskey in our store. This expression shows off a wonderfully complex Sherry cask influence through notes of fruit, spice and more gourmand hits of toffee and caramel. While not technically a Whiskey but rather an unaged Irish spirit, our Single Malt Irish “Moonshine” shows an array of explosive herbs, pepper and a rich, crisp backbone. Surprisingly easy going for it’s 55.5% abv. Drop on in sometime and let us pour you a sample or two!

Before you go, let us discuss Whiskey v. Whisky. What is the deal with that seemingly complicated parenthetical ‘e’? The Irish call it whiskey and the Scots call it whisky and stateside we mostly call it Whiskey with the exception of some (I’m looking at you, Maker’s Mark). It seems to be a remnant of translation and here in the U S of A, it stems from the melding of cultures. That little ‘e’ seems to have been brought over by the Irish during their influx into the great American melting pot. It also found wide spread use in American spirits due to the shrewd attempt at associating American spirits with the, at that time, more expensive and exotic Irish spirits. Today, the ‘e’ finds it’s home in Irish and most American whiskies. Whisky sans ‘e’ can be found of course in Scotland (as it is the law) but also in Japan, Australia and literally every other Whisky producing region in the world.

Next time you’re in vomFASS at Mall of America, have a taste of this 6 year old Indian Whisky.
Photo Credit: Lynn again!

Will O’Reilly likes to talk at length about the world of Alcohol. Come chat with him at vomFASS in The Mall of America.

Fig Chili Balsamic, How Do I Love Thee?

I recently got some family members hooked on vomFASS Fig Chili Balsamic Vinegar, and now they are clamoring for more ideas and recipes for using it!

My first love is to use Fig Chili as a seasoning for burgers – beef, bison, turkey – namefig-chili burger2 your protein! Mix your burger meat as usual, and add about 2 tablespoons of Fig Chili Balsamic per pound of meat. It adds great flavor and a little bit of kick to your burger.

Then, make some balsamic glazed onions with Fig Chili Balsamic to top the burger, add some bleu or gorgonzola cheese, (and bacon, if you’re feeling really decadent!) and you just made the best burger in town!

Balsamic Glazed Onions

1 large sweet onion thinly sliced
2 T. vomFASS Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 T. vomFASS Aceto Balsamico Platinum
vomFASS Himalayn Salt and Peppercorn Mix
to tasteonions caramelized glazed balsamic vomFASS Mall of America Minnesota Food

In medium sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Sauté until onions are soft and semi translucent – about 10 minutes. Add Aceto Balsamico Platinum.  Stir to coat onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and caramelized.

I recommend doubling this recipe, as these are great on salads, sandwiches, pizza, in mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs – chime in with your own ideas for using them!

Other quick and easy ideas: 

  • Drizzle Fig Chili Balsamic on tomato soup – homemade or purchased. One of my go-to convenience foods is the Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup from Costco – its gluten free and organic, and with a pop of extra flavor from Fig Chili Balsamic, it’s delicious! (Don’t forget to dip your grilled cheese sandwich in it!)

  • Use Fig Chili Balsamic as your “secret sauce,” to season roasted meats, steaks and poultry. 
  • My favorite olive oil to pair with Fig Chili Balsamic is vomFASS Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Lemon EVOO is a good alternative to Orange. Use as a marinade for grilled chicken or shrimp, or as a vinaigrette for a Southwest salad, or quinoa salad.
  • Drizzle on pizza, roasted veggies, caprese salad, fish tacos, and yes – even ice cream! Wow, yum!

Here are some more recipes. Let me know what YOU make with this sweet + heat all-star balsamic!

Grilled Fish with Balsamic Marinade

¼ cup vomFASS Madonia or Don Carlos Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup vomFASS Avocado Oil
¼ cup vomFASS Fig-Chili Balsamic Vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 Tbsp fresh, chopped)
1/8 tsp vomFASS Sea Salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground vomFASS Peppercorn Mix
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard

In small mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well mixed and emulsified.  Place fish fillets into large zip-lock bag.  Pour marinade over fish, distributing well.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.  Remove fish from marinade when ready to cook.  Discard any remaining marinade.  Grill according to package directions.

Fig Chili Shrimp or Chicken  Serves 4

1 lb. raw shrimp or cubed chickenvomfass15-2521
3 T. vomFASS Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 T. vomFASS Fig Chili Balsamic
1 clove minced garlic
½ t. vomFASS Danish Smoked Sea Salt, divided
Freshly ground vomFASS Peppercorn Mix, to taste 

Combine oil, vinegar, garlic, half the salt and a few cranks of ground pepper in a glass bowl with cover or plastic zip bag. Add shrimp or chicken and marinate 15 – 20 minutes. Do not marinate shrimp longer; chicken may be marinated up to two hours. Empty contents of bag or bowl into a hot stir-fry pan. Toss just until cooked through. Finish with Smoked Sea Salt and Peppercorn Mix to taste. Serve immediately.

Black-Eyed Peas and Walnut Lettuce Wraps Serves 6-8

2 cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed or 3 cups cookedBlack Eyed Pea Lettuce Wraps Mediterranean Diet Cooking Class vomFASS Mall of America
1 onion, chopped
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly grated
½ C. chopped walnuts
1 red bell pepper, chopped
¼ C. fresh parsley, chopped
2 T. vomFASS Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ C. vomFASS Fig Chili Balsamic
1 t. vomFASS African Rub spice blend
vomFASS Sea Salt and Peppercorn Mix, to taste
16 leaves iceberg or butter lettuce

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, pepper, carrots and water chestnuts. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and continue cooking until veggies are tender crisp, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in walnuts, black-eyed peas, balsamic and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly. Spoon about ¼ cup of the mixture into each lettuce leaf.  Fold the leaves in half and eat taco-style. vomFASSified from Oldwayspt.org

Fig-Chili BBQ Sauce

Makes approximately 1 cup sauce

4 Tbsp vomFASS San Gimignano Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ medium-sized onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ketchup
½ cup vomFASS Fig Chili Balsamic Vinegar (for less spicy, see NOTE)
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 cup water
¼ tsp vomFASS  Sea Salt
¼ tsp vomFASS  Black Peppercorn Mix

NOTE: For a less spicy version, use ¼ cup Fig Chili Balsamic + ¼ cup Star Fig Balsamic.

In medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté one minute more.

Whisk in the ketchup, vinegar(s), honey, mustard, water, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a low simmer.  Cook the sauce until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to two weeks.

Black Bean Salsa  Serves 4 – 8

1 – 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsedBlack Bean Salsa vomFASS Cooking Class Mall of America Minnesota Food
1 cup chopped cherry or grape tomatoes
½ small red onion, minced
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, canned or frozen and thawed)
2 T. cilantro, chopped
1 tsp vomFASS Chili con Carne spice blend
1 T. vomFASS Fig Chili Balsamic Star Vinegar
1 ½ T. vomFASS Agora Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 t. vomFASS Calamansi Balsam Vinegar
¼ t. vomFASS Sea Salt
¼ t. vomFASS Peppercorn Mix

*For a spicier version, replace Agora Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Red Pepper or Jalapeno Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Place all ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir gently until well combined.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.  Stir again just prior to serving. Serve with tortilla chips as a dip, serve as a condiment for tacos, or add to a green salad or grilled entrée of fish or chicken.

Fig Chili Chocolate Truffles

6 oz. heavy cream
2 T sugar
2 T vomFASS Fig Chili Balsamic Vinegar
8 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 T butter
4 oz. Apricot Grappa
1 T Honey

Bring cream, sugar and vinegar to almost a boil.  Add chopped chocolate, cover and let sit for 5 min. Stir in grappa and butter.  Emulsification starts in the middle, continue stirring until grappa is incorporated and ganache is shiny.  Taste, add honey if necessary.  Let cool.  Form  ½ in balls and roll in cocoa.  Look, Taste, Enjoy!

I hope you’re feeling inspired! 

Let me know if you create something wonderful – take a picture and share your recipe by tagging our Facebook page!