saltwater sommelier

Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

In renewal of our Wine Spectator Award for 2010…

In Sommelier Corner on December 29, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Dear Mr. Shanken,

The wine program at The Litchfield Saltwater Grille has this year gown to include international selections.  Originally the list was “All American” focusing on small boutique wineries in mostly California, Washington, Oregon, and a few from New York State.  Looking back I am happy I took this customized approach since I would not likely have discovered some of my still favorite hidden gems.  Some of those gems in my opinion include the Tangent wines (particularly the Pinot Gris that we serve by the glass), Blackbird Vineyards Proprietary Red (an epiphany of a wine experience for me), the Soter wines, and Ca’del Solo Albarino by Bonny Doon (the wine that introduced me to Randall Graham and biodynamic farming), to name just a few.  Why go international?  In one word: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noirs.  My wine list had taken an approach of “New World Wines” crafted in honor of “Old World Styles.”  Veronique Drouhin was making Pinot Noirs in Oregon on par with her fathers great French Burgundy’s.  Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc impressed our Sancerre drinking customers.  And one of my personal favorites Joesph Phelps Vineyards Le Mistral expressed the qualities of a Rhone wine.  Yet nothing could compare to New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs.  Currently 2005 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand is our Sauvignon Blanc by the glass.  There are four New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs by the bottle on the list yet I felt that the Brancott was exactly what should be expected from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  The New Zealand Pinot Noirs are so complex encompassing spiciness, herbal notes, chocolate, and earthiness, in a light to medium bodied, easy drinking wine. I simply felt there was nothing comparable in America and the list would truly be missing a piece if it did not have New Zealand wines.  Plus, I really wanted to add my new favorite a Gruner Veltliner.  No now I present The Litchfield Saltwater Grille’s new international expanded wine list.

Sincerely,

Brett Clugston, Owner and Sommelier

The Pitter Patter of Feet

In The Mount Veeder Blog on December 28, 2009 at 11:34 pm

It’s just one of those things. Like when you get cabin fever or go food shopping on an empty stomach. You go a little wild and crazy, and in the aftermath, you can’t help but wonder why you did it.

I finally cracked the other day. I needed to get out of my frame. In fairness, could you hang out on a wall for three years and never explore the rest of your home? I can see into the foyer and somewhat into a dinning room, but that is it. There had to be more. And I was fed up with just hanging out on the wall. So after the fire went out one night, I hopped down to the floor. Holy mother of pearl was it cold outside the glass! In an attempt to warm up, I jogged up the stairs to the loft.

I was surprised by the spaciousness of the loft; there must have been enough room for fifty people. There was a lovely view of the wine racks, so I climbed up on a soft, cushy couch like seat and had a gander at the bottles. I delighted in what I found until I remembered that there were other places to explore. I scooted down the stairs and past the foyer, but not before admiring the many bright bulbs.

I ended up in a bright dining room with big glass doors and windows. A Christmas tree levitated, or so I thought, in the middle of the room. Upon further inspection I realized it was really hanging from a hook in the ceiling. Thank goodness.

But that relief was short lived. There was a rustling from the wall, and curiosity got the better of me. I blame being stuck in one room for three years. Anyhow, I slid around the corner, and there was Moose. And as implicit as his name is, he’s actually a dog. I’d not seen him in years; we arrived together at the restaurant but got separated during decorating. After a good ear scratching, we played catch with a pinecone and fell asleep under the round table. Trouble was, I had to be back in the lounge by morning.

The crash of ice jolted me awake, and I got up wearily. The raw bar was being set up, but no one was around at the moment. A short dash back to the bar brought me almost face to face with one of the owners. Fortunately she was warming the cider for the Candy Apple Cider, which is completed with butterscotch schnapps and cinnamon stick, and had her back to me. A quick jump placed me back in the poster just in time. The smell of cinnamon permeated the air, and I settled in for another day, dreaming about the adventures I could have the next night.

50% Off Wine Loft Special

In The Wine Loft Blog on December 28, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Monday, January 4th 2010 we present 2003 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State as our featured Wine Loft bottle selection at 50% off.  $36 per bottle (regular list price $72.00)

This first selection is one of my favorite boutique wines.  Customers always ask me what I mean by “boutique winery.”  Basically I just mean a small gem of a winery with very small production that has gained a very positive reputation by wine connoisseurs.  To put it into prospective Woodward Canyon produces about 17,000 cases a year and Kendall Jackson produces over 4 million. Woodward Canyon wines are what one would call “cellar worthy.”  Robert Parker rated the 2003 Washington State vintage year for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah a 90T translating: “Outstanding, still tanic, youthful, or slow to mature.”  With almost seven years of aging in the bottle I would say this Cabernet is ready to drink beautifully and is at its peak.

Wine maker Kevin Mott at Woodward Canyon describes this Cabernet as medium to full bodied, spicy oak on the nose, chocolate and ripe fruit on the palate, with a long finish.  Chef Albert Clugston III at the Saltwater Grille suggests pairing this wine with a petite filet mignon and lobster tail duo.  Since this Cab is so balanced and smooth it will pair nicely with a delicate cut of Filet Mignon and will not overpower the light yet meaty lobster tail.  Some come on in to The Saltwater Grille and enjoy this collectors wine for ½ the price with some friends.

Brett Clugston, SWG Sommelier

Woodward Canyon Winery

VintageChart

All Aglow

In The Mount Veeder Blog on December 23, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Christmas Eve is getting close, and I am very excited. The chef is putting together some very festive specials. The last rumor to go around was that the main course is going to be a fish platter styled after a traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner. Hopefully some people will sit in the bar so I have an opportunity to hear about and see everything.

Additionally, presents have been piling up under the Christmas tree in the main dining room. The owners of the restaurant do a toy drive for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center during the Christmas season. Each visitor to the restaurant is invited to take an ornament from the tree and return with an unwrapped present for a child between the ages of 1 and 18. I’ve seen oversized teddy bears, nerf guns, board games, and dolls. It always warms my heart to see how generous and kind our community is.

As the days go by, the last few Christmas parties are being held. I am always amazed at the degree of planning that goes into them to ensure that everything is to the hosts’ and their guests’ liking. From specialty foods to spectacular wines, diners are dazzled with the best the restaurant has to offer. And there are so many possibilities… imaginations really do seem to be the limit here. I can only wonder what the New Year parties will be like this year. If they are anything like last years’, it should be a wonderful night to be a poster on a wall.

Holiday Spirit

In The Mount Veeder Blog on December 15, 2009 at 1:30 am

There have been changes. With the holidays upon us, the restaurant has been a busy place. Most days I have the luxury of napping into the bright hours of the morning, but lately my overabundance of beauty sleep has been interrupted. Lights flicker on and moments later the chatter of ice can be heard as the raw is set up. Soon after the aroma of warm apple cider fills the lounge and cheery lights glow. If I’m truly lucky, the fire goes on. It’s hard to keep warm given my condition. Anyhow, as I said, it’s been busy.
 
Chef has begun making jams, relish, and sauces, among other things, and these JARS have been a big hit. Samples of them are readily available both during the day and at night. For the holidays, they have been decorated in festive colors and are available in the restaurant and at many of the local holiday fairs.
 
Aside from putting all of this together, the staff has been busy coordinating holiday parties both in and out of the restaurant. I am very happy that a few of them have been here. I cannot go out to visit people, so it’s nice to have people come here. It’s not as if we talk, but their happiness is contagious and makes me feel as if I am among friends again.
 
Anyhow, the other night there was a company cocktail party. The lounge tables were removed so people could mingle and the few that remained sported platters of cheese, crackers, vegetables, and Spanish olives. Throughout the course of the evening, a server offered passed hors d’oeuvre. There were clams, sirloin steak sautés, smoked mozzarella and bacon stuffed mushrooms, oysters, mini Kobe beef burgers, bruchetta, crab cakes, and sea scallops wrapped in bacon. Veggie, California, and spicy tuna rolls were also crowd pleasers.
 
Several wines were available as well. Among them, my favorite was the Laetitia Pinot Noir. It has a delightful spice and plum scent, which I suppose is not a lot to go on, but while back, there was a wine tasting, and this vintage was described as having cherry notes and a long, pleasant finish. All the servers thought it was very user friendly.
 
All through the night, the wines went down with smiles as did many a cocktail. The Acai Martini was extremely popular, and given its content, I am not surprised. This exquisite number has VeeV Acai Spirit, Pomegranate, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Dash of Orange Bitters, and is served in a martini glass with blueberries. Both pretty and more than palatable, many a lady enjoyed it.
 
As the evening drew to a close, the party headed into the loft for speeches and a Yankee swap. Warm bread pudding with cinnamon, raisins, and warm rum caramel sauce awaited them as did chocolate mousse with hints of amaretto and kahlua, and tiramisu with chocolate sauce. Though I could no longer see them, their cheerful presence could still be felt, and I was glad that they had returned here for their third Christmas party in row.

The Traditional Italian Christmas Eve Dinner…

In The Kitchen on December 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm

OR THE FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES….. Back in the 6th or 7th century when the Pope would give three masses on Christmas Eve was about the time someone decided to offer a banquet of food for all the guests to enjoy between the services. Now, many years later, this “Feast of The Seven Fish’s” or “La Vigilia” as it’s known has become one of Italy’s most famous traditions. And as all good Southern Italians know, some of the best seafood and fish come from the waters around the Italian coast. Now, as far as the number goes it could be related to the seven sacraments in the Catholic Church, or the seven days it took God to create the world. The Seven Hills of Rome comes to mind but the tradition really was a southern thing and rarely stretched as far north as Rome. Tradition has it that it wasn’t the number of fish’s you cooked, but more the variety of seafood. Ten, twelve or fifteen choices were often available. Along with the many different fish dishes most hosts would offer local cheeses, vegetables, fruits, desserts and wines. The more popular fish items that most families served were things like Squid, Mussels, Clams, Oysters, Eel, Shrimp, Anchovies, Sardines, Octopus, Dried Codfish (Baccala) ,and scallops. All these choices were of a moderate cost and easily obtainable throughout Sicily, Naples, and all of the southern coast of Italy. If you came from a household with a little more Lire you may have served Crab, or Lobster, or maybe a fresh White Fish or Snapper.

 

As in most old world traditions menus vary from family to family and from town to town. A traditional pasta dish of Vermicelli with garlic and olive oil with anchovies seems to always show up as a first course, usually offered with or without Acciuga, to keep the kids happy. Along with the ever favorite cold seafood salad with Scallops, Shrimp, Octopus, and Calamari, tossed in XVOO, garlic and fresh herbs. Dried Codfish is a very standard dish served at the feast, known as “Baccala”. It can be made into a cold salad or served hot over pasta in a wonderful tomato stew. Fried seafood is another way the Italians enjoy their fish, with dishes like Fried Calamari, Fried Scallops or Fried Sardines, or even Deep Fried Butterfly Shrimp Scampi… Fresh vegetables like Broccoli Rabe or Roasted Eggplant or Charred Sweet Bell Peppers, and even Mushrooms stuffed with seafood would grace the table. Every family had their own special Christmas Eve Seafood dishes that showed the spirit of the holidays in every bite. Along with all the wonderful fish the oceans serve up and many handed down family recipe’s from Christmas Eve to Christmas Eve, hosts were always proud to serve the wines made right in their small towns by families and friends enjoying the feast with them. When these meals were cooked it took days of preparation for everyone and the outcome was a true feast enjoyed by all. Remembering that this was a feast in honor of the holiday, after dinner it was time to go off to midnight mass. Dessert and beverages were always served after the next mass with lots of sweets and coffees and aperitifs. Holiday time throughout Italy is famous for the Italian Sweet bread called Panetone and is served and enjoyed at all the feasts. The Litchfield Saltwater Grille will be serving a traditional Christmas Eve Dinner …. “The Feast Of The Seven Fishes” this year on Christmas Eve Friday, December 24th. Chef Albert will be creating many family inspired dishes that catch the spirit of the holiday. Along with plenty of our regular popular menu items this will make for a great way to enjoy a family meal that everyone will love. View the complete menu here. Start your own family tradition by calling and making a reservation @ 860 567-4900. Happy Holidays to all.

Albe Galotta, SWG Chef

The Food You Eat…

In The Kitchen on December 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm

 

Local restaurants and specialty stores are doing a great job of “changing the image” of the foods we buy and eat today by utilizing locally made, farmed, or grown ingredients. Ever wonder where the greens in your tossed salad or the Goat Cheese in your omelet are from, or the well marbled steak you are enjoying at a popular restaurant in town has been farmed. Sometimes it’s nice to know that everything you eat is not from some far off land like Costa Rica or Japan but actually from right in your own town. Local farmers are working well with restaurateurs and market owner’s, offering a larger variety along with more healthy, all natural and organic choices for them to feature on their menus and in their stores. Many locally grown or farmed products can also be more cost effective all round, with less shipping and handling expense, and with the benefits of keeping the money locally in a small town everyone involved seems to win.

     Searching out local stores and restaurants that are run by owners and chefs that are involved  with these practices has its benefits.  The New England area and most of all Connecticut has an abundance of local products produced in many small towns.  With Sheep’s milk cheese from the local Abby, or Cured fresh hams from the Egg and I farms and even the best smoke house on the east coast (Nodine’s) as local as Goshen, Litchfield may have more to offer then you thought. The October farm in Bantam , the Marble Valley Farm in Kent and the Hidden River Farm in Morris all grow  wonderful Organic vegetables in a wide variety of spring, summer and fall offerings. Litchfield is also not far from a few of Connecticut’s best Wineries, apple orchards and dairy farms. Litchfield has also always had a wonderful Farmer’s Market where local farmers and businesses show off their wares. Some restaurant owners like the ones at the Litchfield Saltwater Grille also grow and maintain organic or raised gardens of their own.  Having a raised garden that produces early crops of spring greens, fresh herbs, and numerous vegetable selections and is still capable of supplying a bumper crop throughout the remainder of the season is a great advantage.  This gives the chefs @ the SWG lots of healthy, tasty, and varied choices to make menus and specials, with a local fresh flair. Chef Albert also enjoys the privilege of a large organic garden at his home that he tends to daily, often experimenting from season to season with many exotic plantings.   This year’s crop has produced more than dozen items now used in his new ‘JARS’ line which you can check out on their website.  http://www.litchfieldsaltwatergrille.org/ 

Don’t wait till the New Year to start eating better and enjoying local products. Many of the areas specialty stores have just the right items you need to make an all local inspired menu for the holidays. When you think about going out this holiday season why not take the out of towners to the Litchfield Saltwater Grille and enjoy some of what our area has to offer. It’s always been said that ‘to live well is to eat well” especially when you can do it close to home….  Happy Holidays….

SWG Chef Albe Galotta

Nodine’s Smokehouse Torrington and Goshen  http://www.nodinesmokehouse.com/

Arethusa Cow Farm, Litchfield CT http://www.arethusafarm.com/main.htm

Litchfield Farmers Market http://www.litchfieldhillsfood.org/

Connecticut Wine Trail http://www.ctwine.com/

Connecticut Caterers (Local/ Organic/ Vegan Offerings) http://connecticutcaterers.org/

…Winter Wonderland…

In The Mount Veeder Blog on December 8, 2009 at 6:29 pm
 
When the food came, I was tickled pink. Escargot stuffed mushrooms with parsley butter graced the table as did a chilled half lobster cocktail. This was followed by a salad. Next up was sole with rice and zucchini, and the special pasta dish. The fettuccini had lobster, shrimp, and bay scallops as well as gently wilted spinach and a chardonnay dill cream sauce. A side of goat cheese hash browns appeared last. I would love to try these. The chef encrusts goat cheese in panko breadcrumbs and then cooks the whole thing. The breadcrumbs are a little crunchy and create a wonderful dichotomy with the soft, warm cheese inside. Paired with one of chef’s homemade chutney’s or relishes, they are always a huge palate pleaser! Around five, the phone began to ring and a few reservations cancelled. I was disappointed. But my disappointment quickly disappeared. People came in to sit at the bar and by the fire. Others entered to enjoy the quieter ambiance of the dinning rooms. When all was said and done, we had a busy night. And I must say I was quite pleased. It is always good for the business when there is a flurry of activity, but more than that, I get to enjoy the smell of food! The cocktails look lovely, but their scents don’t drift my way. But the food! Oh the food was wonderful.

 Below me, a group of three enjoyed several of the specials and one of the new cocktails. The Caramel Brulee cocktail is a delightful mix of chilled Absolute Vanilla Vodka and Crème Anglaise with a star-shaped, hard caramel garnish that sits right on top of the martini glass. I’m sure it warmed them right up.

 

 

To finish off the meal, a crème caramel and chocolate mousse with a little amaretto and kahlua were share. They looked pretty with their whipped cream garnishes, and the powdered sugar on them seemed so appropriate given the weather. Sunny or snowy, I’m glad we were open. Great people come to visit, and great food gets enjoyed.

 

…Lovely Matches…

In The Mount Veeder Blog on December 1, 2009 at 4:14 pm

There is nothing sweeter than seeing true love. Go ahead, laugh. What could I know? I’m just the poster that hangs on the wall. But I see a lot. People come in droves to sit at the bar and enjoy a drink or dinner. They also come in on their own. And one afternoon, a man came in, though he was not looking for a mid day drink. What he really wanted was to design a very special birthday dinner for someone dear to him. And that is just what he did.

A few days later, the man arrived once more, but he was not alone. Six smiling people sat down at the chef’s table to enjoy a unique dinner. The owner of the restaurant and server introduced themselves and welcomed the party. As everyone settled in, mini acai martinis arrived to compliment the amuse bouche: double Brie with pineapple papaya chutney and chives. Yummy!

As the mini martinis disappeared, a bottle of 2003 Soter Beacon Hill Brut Rose Oregon Sparkling Wine was opened and poured by the owner. Having a great wealth of knowledge about wines, she told everyone about the drink and shared stories about the winery from which it came. The first course arrived as the last glass filled with bubbles, and I have to admit that I was jealous. I try to be good, but it is so hard to see such good food and know I cannot have any. As a California girl, I love sushi ensembles. It was Hawaiian tuna poke with Flying Fish caviar and crispy rice cakes. At least they got to enjoy it…

Next up was braised duckling with buckwheat soba noodles and peanut ginger sauce. Save a few noodles, the dishes were bare. The third course was preceded by the pouring of a 2007 Bernkasteler Riesling Kabinett Mosel Germany. This wine complemented the exotic mushroom vol-au-vent that had warm chevre and a Szechuan peppercorn cognac sauce very well.

After the vol-au-vent was cleared, glasses of 1999 Shafer Merlot from Napa Valley arrived as did a lovely Spanish onion soup with smoked sweet paprika, Madeira, saffron, and sharp Manchego. The soup’s spices made me feel as if I could taste it: absolutely delicious! As the soupspoons were laid to rest, it was decided that a break was in order. So much food with so little tummy space simply had to be accommodated with time. Presents and cards appeared on the table amid smiles.

A while later, baby arugula salads with fig and blood orange compote, grapefruit segments, white balsamic vinegar, toasted pine nuts, and Cabrales blue cheese made their debut. It was a very colorful dish. Once it was finished, the main course arrived: parsley and panko crusted trout with hot mango chutney and julienne endive. It was paired with a 2005 Breggo Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, which was my favorite wine of the meal. Light and somewhat fruity, it had hints of honey and almond too. I would say it was a lovely way to finish the meal, but dessert was yet to be served. Mini bunt-shaped cream cheese frosted carrot cakes with Kona coffee ended the meal.

All in all, the dinner lasted about three hours and was a delight to behold. Between the wine and food explanations, a few of which were done by the head chef, the experience was both delightful and informative. But more importantly, it was something special, and I am glad I had the opportunity to be a part of it.

Happy Birthday Annie.