Wine Tasting Fit For a Foodie
In preparation for my first trip to Napa, California (soon to come), I jumped on this offer from the Long Island Wine Council offering free shuttle service to many of the wineries in the “North Fork” area of Long Island.
This was my very first true wine tasting tour and I learned a lot. Prior to this trip I have done tastings at my local wine stores which is always fun!
First off the areas that these wineries are located in are quite lovely. I happened to be blessed with a gorgeous day which always gives a pristine, sharpened view of everything before the eye. Something else I learned, not everyone who takes a wine tour does it for the appreciation of wine but merely for the effects the wine offers (so many of my fellow passengers were less interested in the wine varietals as they were the opportunities to become inebriated and to behave self-indulgently).
What I learned about the free shuttle service is that it is best to just jump on and jump off and experience the various wineries without prejudging them. Some of my fellow passengers knew this right off and came away with experiencing 4-5 different wineries in the time span whereas I experienced two.
It was a definite fun learning experience. Some wineries offer free tastings and some offer a menu of 4-5 different tastings for a fee of about $10-$25.
My first and favorite winery (so far) was the Lieb Cellars or as they are currently known – the Tasting Group.
The staff were so welcoming after I announced that it was my first experience. They immediately put a small glass in front of me and filled it half way with a delicious blended, crisp white wine. They mentioned they were offering two more complimentary tastings and then went into descriptive detail of all their offerings as I tasted each. They asked where I came in from and I expressed my confusion about the area and they were helpful in suggesting places to eat and more importantly how best to walk there since I was not willing to wait for the shuttle pick up.
After leaving this lovely place, I walked quite a ways to a place called “Love Lane”, suggested by the Lieb staff (such a lovely name, how could I go wrong). I discovered a great Italian gourmet deli where I ate a satisfying spinach/ricotta calzone-type dish.
Afterward I caught a shuttle to another winery, Macari Vineyards, offering paid tastings for $12. I enjoyed one of the four I tasted. Many of the images posted here are from the Macari winery. I found the staff to be attentive, informative and friendly in the midst of a busy tasting session.
Shuttling back to the LI railroad, we stopped at a mouth-watering fresh produce stand. I was so tempted to get off and take my chances waiting for another shuttle back to the station to make the final train back to NY but my thoughts flashed to a scenario of a missed train and a stranded me out here in the cold darkness with little knowledge of the area and an earnest desire to accept the first invitation of warmth.
My next trip: by car with a designated driver.
I enjoyed this trip and was so ecstatic about being out of the city for a day.
North Fork Long Island inlet.
One of the vines from Macari Vineyards.
Macari – up close look at where wine comes from.
Macari Vineyard – such a beauty!
Don’t know figs at all; wouldn’t recognize them if I saw…
I was surprised to hear my organic-food-promoting friend mention that he ate Fig Newtons (Nabisco). Of all the cookies I once loved… this cookie never was a favorite of mine. Since trying to move away from processed foods of all kind — those ingredients that allow for a super long shelf life are alarming – I purchased a freshly-baked “fig bar” from Zarros Bakery in the city. They’re baked daily and are pretty good; I took a liking to them as well.
Coincidently, fig season was approaching… perfect time to tackle this new fruit.
I started searching the web to find out all I could about them. They’re in the raisin family with a similar yet fruitier flavor and recipes often have fresh figs paired with various cheeses drizzled with honey which is all right with me (the simpler the better).
I am also learning that thin-skinned produce is highly recommended to be purchased organic and figs fall into this category. I watched a You Tube video of a fig tree owner who went out to his yard and picked fig after fig from his tree and popped them into his mouth! How interesting and fun to discover new foods!
Some of the health benefits of figs include:
Folates : 6 µg
Niacin : 0.400 mg
Riboflavin : 0.050 mg
Thiamin : 0.060
Vitamin A : 142 IU
Vitamin B6 : 0.113 µg
Vitamin C : 2 mg
Vitamin E : 0.11 mg
Vitamin K : 4.7 µg
Calcium : 35 mg
Iron : 0.37 mg
Magnesium : 17 mg
Phosphorus : 14 mg
Sodium : 1 mg
Zinc : 0.15 mg
Potassium : 232 mg
This from Nutrition-and-You.com
The phyto-chemical compounds in fig fruit help scavenge harmful oxygen derived free radicals from the body and thereby protect us from cancers, diabetes, degenerative diseases and infections.
Dried figs are excellent sources of minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc.
Searching recipes I found many which include unique flavor combinations to make jams and baked goodies. They are also used in main dishes. Search around for some recipes and you’ll see.
This recipe includes thyme which I thought would be interesting.
Here’s my own rendition of this fig bar recipe from Fine Cooking.
The result was a buttery fresh, delicately crumbly, fruit pastry.
Fig Bars with Thyme
Ingredients – Pastry
1 C all-purpose flour
½ C whole wheat flour
½ C light brown sugar
¼ C organic sugar
¼ t salt
½ t baking powder
7 T butter – chilled
1 egg yolk
1 t vanilla
In a large bowl combine flour, sugars, salt and baking powder. Using a cheese grater, grate the chilled butter into the flour mixture and combine to make large crumbs. Add the yolk and vanilla. When mixture holds together upon pressing, it is ready. Separate 1/3 of the mixture (to be added to nuts for the topping) and flatten and press the remaining mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet in a rectangular shape.
Tip: keep ice water nearby in case the mixture is too dry.
Ingredients – Filling
1 ½ – 2 lbs. ripe organic figs
¼ C water
¼ C sugar
7 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 t lemon zest
2 T lemon juice
Infuse ¼ cup of water with the thyme, lemon zest and lemon juice by boiling for about 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer then add the liquid back to the pot; add the sugar cook and dissolve the sugar. After sugar is dissolved add the figs and cook until they are soft about 20 minutes. Let cool then process in a food processor.
Ingredients – Topping
½ C almonds (or another favorite nut)
2 T organic sugar
1/3 of pastry mixture from above
Grind nuts and sugar in a food processor until fine. Add the pastry mixture to the nut mixture to make the crumb topping then add on top of the fig layer.
Bake at 350 F for about 25-30 minutes
A bit of sci-fi here…
The cookie-like, buttery, pastry crust.
The fruity, fig filling — what makes this recipe!
Spreading the main ingredient!
Making sure it gets onto every inch…
And it did!
The nutty, crumbly mixture tops it off!
Three layers of fresh, yumminess!
The finished bars…
Go really well with coffee, a glass of milk or all on their own.
This just in: my colleague, Linda, browsed my blog and made the recipe above. She brought in samples of her efforts and they were spot on, good! Now who’s next?