Tag Archives: 2009

Wine O’Clock: Pancake Cellars Big Day White 2009

10 May

A recent evening that began with 5 hours of roller derby, ended with a kitchen full of friends, dips and drinks – including this bottle of Pancake Cellars Big Day White 2009. The others were not impressed, so I felt obligated to weigh in with my increasingly well-traveled palate.

Also, THIS IS MY 100TH POST! Thanks for sticking with me for over half a year’s worth of too many beer and wine reviews, random music shout outs and a smattering of recipes from a cook who admittedly hates recipes.   It’s humbling to know that there are people out there other than my mom who care about what I have to say (or at least have nothing better to do while procrastinating at work).

Pancake Cellars Big Day White 2009

Style: White Blend

Vitals: Grapes – 27% Chardonnay, 24% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Viognier, 21% Muscat Canelli, 4% Pinot Blanc; Origin – Paso Robles, CA (Santa Maria Valley AVA)

Company Line: “A freak of nature, the BIG DAY WHITE offers delicious flavors of white peach, apple and cantaloupe, along with orange blossom, honeysuckle and lemongrass.  Serve with Thai green curry, turkey sandwiches, chicken apple sausage, or pesto anything.”

My take: pale straw yellow in the glass.  Nose bursts with white peach juice, clover honey, oaky Chardonnay vanillin (as the majority component, it’s not surprising that the Chard characteristics shine in this blend) and a spike of sharp lemongrass.  Palate is off-dry and incredibly soft, with hints of orange blossom and melon.  Acidity is sharper when chilled and the finish lacks some luster as it warms.  This is the type of blend that I’ve come to really enjoy as of late.  They go great with grilled white meats and seafood and are a refreshing respite as the weather warms (if it ever does – HEY WISCONSIN> It’s the middle of May.  I don’t want to see Thirty-anything on the thermometer anymore.  Enough already).  Hard to go wrong with this 5 buck-ish bottle from Trader Joe’s.


Obsession: Three Cup Chicken

5 May

As I mentioned in my early piece on Natt Spil, their Three Cup Chicken (or San bei ji) is one of those dishes that worms its way into your head and demands being sated several times a year.  There’s nothing shy about this traditional South China/Taiwanese dish – obscene amounts of minced garlic and ginger, sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce with a heavy-handed dose of fresh basil, paired with a spicy-sour salad of sliced cucumber and tomato.  Too much of a good thing means nothing in my book, so this dish is right in my wheelhouse.  And should be in yours.

Three Cup Chicken (San bei ji)

Ingredient Rundown:


  • Chicken thighs, de-boned and roughly chopped (3 healthy-sized thighs yielded 2 healthy-sized servings)
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use reduced sodium)
  • 1/3 cup rice wine (I’ve used Dry White Sherry to fine results)
  • 1 large thumb-sized lobe of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Fresh basil chiffonade, to taste
  • 1 heaping tsp corn starch
  • 1 cup dry Jasmine rice

Pickled Cucumber/Tomato Salad

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into sticks
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • basil chiffonade, to taste
  • dash of garlic powder, powdered ginger
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime (or several small key limes in my case)
  • squirt of Sriracha
  • splash of soy sauce
  • pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

How I do it:

  1. Prepare pickled salad by marinating sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in rice vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, basil, and spices.  Gets better with time, but give it at least an hour or two.
  2. Add sesame oil to large skillet or cast iron frying pan and saute minced garlic and ginger over medium heat for 5-8 minutes
  3. Add chopped chicken thighs, seasoned with kosher salt and saute with garlic and ginger for about 10 minutes until lightly browned
  4. Prepare 1 cup of jasmine rice, as directed on package (in general the rice should take 20-25 minutes to cook, so now would be a good time to start it so it finishes with the chicken)
  5. Add rice wine, soy sauce, most of the basil and corn starch (I made a slurry by mixing corn starch with an equal amount of soy sauce – this prevents lumps and allows it to incorporate better to thicken sauce) and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by 80-90% and a thick sauce remains.
  6. Serve with jasmine rice and pickled salad.  Garnish liberally with more fresh basil.  Bask in its effervescence.  Life is good.

I enjoyed this batch of three cup chicken with some delicious La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2009 that I just picked up at Barriques Wine and Spirits. I really enjoyed the previous vintage this fall and the fresh stuff really went well with this dish.  Heavily acidic with the first glass I sampled the night before, the wine really opened up with a night under its belt and the fresh notes of lime and ginger shined through, highlighting those aspects of the food nicely.  A pretty nice way to spend an 70 degree evening in early May, I must say.

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