Tag Archives: sauvignon blanc

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.


Wine O’Clock: Glazebrook Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2008

28 Apr

Any self-professed geography nerd with a blog named after the geographic coordinates of his hometown has got to love a wine that proudly displays the lat and long of its home soil.  41 degrees 28 seconds South, 174 degrees 54 seconds East places this Glazebrook Sauvignon Blanc in the Northeast corner of New Zealand’s South Island.  Marlborough is a region renowned for the Sauvignon Blancs that sparked the nation’s wine industry and comprise some 70% of domestic production.  I first had this wine as part of a Wildman & Sons portfolio tasting at Barriques Middleton a few weeks ago and both I and my coworker were stricken by its intense herbal/grassy bouquet.  As the lawnmowers creep out of sheds across southern Wisconsin, the greenness of wines like this draw the mind to the summer days that lie just around the corner.

Glazebrook Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2008

Style: Dry White

Vitals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc; 13% abv;  current Barriques Middleton tasting selection

Company Line:


In each vineyard the grapes were machine harvested in two lots to give flavor complexity. They were de-stemmed, cooled and the juice left in contact with the skins for four hours before gentle pressing. Two different yeast strains were used to maximize varietal flavor. Fermentation at 12-14ºC took place in tank and the wine was bottled young without malolactic fermentation.

2008 Harvest Notes:

The growing season started cool then developed into a warm, mild summer and harvest period. The grapes for this wine were produced from three vineyard sites, one in Brancott to the south, one on Raupara Road to the north of the Wairau Valley, and one in the upper Wairau. Each site contributes to the spectrum of flavors in the final blend. The four year-old vines were cane pruned and VSP trellised.

Tasting Notes: The wine shows intense passion fruit and mango aromas, backed by classic herbal notes of boxwood, nettle and ripe capsicum. It has a lively palate of tropical fruit with crisp lime acidity and lingering passion fruit.

Food Match: sushi, shellfish, salmon, oysters, grilled vegetables, fish, crab, chicken, Asian cuisine.

My take: Pale straw yellow wine  displays ample nose of melon, white peach and grassy herb.  Intensely herbal on the palate with a bracing acidity cut by lighter fruit notes of tropical citrus and passion fruit.  Another overwhelmingly grassy New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc that opens up in fruit and acidity as it warms slightly.  The greenness really grew on me the more I drank and I can imagine this going as well with grilled seafood as it did with the fresh, cilantro-heavy, smoky pico de gallo I made this morning and am snacking on as I type.  Summer feels closer with each sip.

Wine is fine: La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2009

10 Dec

I thought drinking a wine called “The Beach” might make me forget that it is currently 6 degrees outside and there is a foot and a half of snow on the ground.  I was wrong.  Mostly.  I won’t let my cabin fever sully my enjoyment of a damn fine wine, however.  This is one of our best sellers both in the bottle and by-the-glass at Barriques, and for good reason – its crisp fruitiness transports you to the beaches of Chile.  Not really.  Not even close, actually.  What I’m trying to say is this is good stuff.  And less than 10 bucks.

Wine: La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Vitals: Composition: 100% Sauvignon Blanc; Colchagua Valley, Chile; 13% abv; Age of Vines: 17 yrs; Total acidity: 6.83 g/l; Residual sugar: 4.2 g/l, (love the thorough stats on their website – there’s lots more that I have no idea how to interpret)

Company line: “A consistent favorite with the critics, this pale yellowgreen wine has a bright and floral nose, with aromas of blossoms, lime and honeydew. On the palate, it is fresh, well-structured and shows a lively acidity, with crisp lemon-lime zest, citrus candies and a note of fresh grass. –laplayawine.com

My take: pale yellow(green, I guess) in the glass, a vibrant lemongrass, crisp green bell pepper and tropical citrus nose belies bright acidity, lime zest and aromatic flowers on the palate.  Fruitiness masks its dry mouthfeel which is amplified by a hearty alcoholic presence.  This wine was made for summer and barbeques, but is a refreshing treat any time of the year.  Even when you want to trick yourself into thinking it’s July when it’s really December.

Thanksgiving Preamble: Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc w/ (Almost) Famous Bowl

24 Nov

More like a success pile in a happiness bowl.

Thanksgiving is three days away.  The fatness is palpable.  As if I wasn’t already on the way to eating mashed potatoes and turkey for the next two weeks following Thursday’s Glutton Bowl, an aborted pre-Thanksgiving dinner for my roommate and her friends netted us with a fridge full of turkey and mashed potatoes.  You know I had to do my part in chipping away so there will be room for leftovers this weekend.

For any of you out there still unfamiliar with the brilliant Patton Oswalt – get your mind right and rectify that.  One of my favorite bits of his is an inspired exposé of the KFC Famous Bowl.  I’ll let him get you up to speed if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Kind of depressing to think about, but, ultimately, pretty damn tasty for anyone who likes to mix their food together on their plate anyway (guilty as charged).  You, too, can create your  very own failure pile in the sadness bowl of your choosing following (or, heck, during) Thanksgiving by combining your favorite leftovers, topped with a little cheese and gravy in the vessel that suits you best (spork optional).  I went simple with mashed potatoes, diced turkey, turkey gravy, shredded cheese and a secret blend of herbs and spices.  Tonight’s beverage pairing comes from down under in the form of Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine: Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Vitals: Alcohol:13.00%   Acidity:7.10g/L   Residual Sugar:/L   pH:3.42

Vintner’s Notes: “The intensity of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has made this wine style recognizable the world over.  Warm days and cool nights allow us to harvest fruit brimming with aromas and flavors of gooseberry, passion fruit and nectarine.

This dry white wine should be served slightly chilled and can be enjoyed as an aperitif , or partnered with salads and seafood.  It is best drunk while it is young and fresh.”

My take: Pours an extremely pale yellow.  Nose is bright with tropical fruits (I don’t eat enough gooseberries, passion fruit or nectarines to identify them specifically, so I’ll take their word for it).  Tartness hits strong on the palate with a medium mouthfeel that is cut by the lime-like acidity.  The exotic perfume of the nose is somewhat overshadowed by the dominant acidity in the mouth, but this remains a highly drinkable sauvignon blanc that would certainly pair well with seafood that could use the citric acidity.  I might be wrong, but perhaps the winemakers didn’t have the Famous Bowl in mind when they devised this one.

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