The Hungover Gourmet


I Like Wine, Call Me "Wino Emil"

I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but I've sorta lost my love for beer. For those that don't know me very well, this might not seem like a big deal. For those that've hung out with me or partied with me, this is akin to blasphemy.

The Hungover Gourmet, you see, grew up on brewskis. Quite literally.

I got my first taste of beer as a pretty young kid, thanks to a pair of older brothers that bought my silence at parties with a Schlitz Tall Boy, some McDonald's cheeseburgers, and a chance to play in their party poker games. Toss in a little cigar every now and then and I'm mute.

Years later, beer became the beverage of choice after a tennis match, a game of water polo, or a swim meet. A round of golf or a game of one-on-one.

So, when college rolled around, I gravitated towards beer, beer, and more beer. Liquor -- rum, vodka, gin, etc. -- was only for those situations where we needed a quick drunk before a show. Wine only showed up in the form of Mad Dog 20/20 or the occasional bottle of Thunderbird.

What was I thinking? And, more importantly, what do my insides look like?

Years later, and this has become The Summer I Fell Out of Love with Beer.

Part of this can be attributed to moving to Pennsylvania a few years ago. Instead of being a normal state -- where beer can be purchased in six packs -- PA insists that beer be purchased in case packs. And, unless you're gonna buy the more expensive sample cases you end up with a fridge full of the same beer for a week or two. This, for the true gourmet, becomes a real drag.

This is where wine comes in.

Though PA liquor stores SUCK (state run, bad selection, helpless staff), wine made a nice break from the beer blitz. Each bottle -- cheap or expensive -- was a new taste experience, and made for a nice relaxing way to end a work week, spend a cool Sunday afternoon, or accompany you during dinner prep.

Wine X MagazineWe recently moved close to the PA/NJ border and made a fine discovery -- Phillips' Fine Wines & Liquors in Stockton, NJ. Run by Richard Phillips, the small, charming storefront houses several rooms with floor to ceiling racks of wines from around the world. In fact, a run to the store last weekend scored us 11 bottles of fine wine from California (David Bruce Zinfandel), Australia (Wyndham Estate Bin 444 Cabernet Sauvignon), France (Cuvee de Pena Vin de Pays de Pyrenees Orientales), and Chile (San Francisco de Mostaxal Cabernet Sauvignon). The cost? A mere $88!

Plus, the knowledgeable staff makes recommendations, can help you put together a case, and just plain knows their stuff.

I, on the other hand, don't know my stuff. I like red wine, but I'm not a fan of white. That's about the extent of my wine knowledge. If you're like me, and you don't want to pour through stuffy wine mags, try out the new magazine Wine X. Published by California "wine brats," the mag is filled with articles on the hows and whys of wine without the pretentiousness of Wine Spectator or Food & Wine.

It's a little cool and rainy today, making me feel like Fall -- my favorite season -- is right around the corner. The following is one of my favorite wine-based recipes, and makes a great dish for a cool Fall-like day. It's from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, an American classic.


Burgundy Beef

1 lb. salt pork, diced
1 large onion, chopped
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 lbs. stewing beef plus bones
1/2 tsp. marjoram, crumbled
1 tsp. thyme, crumbled
1 cup Burgundy or other red wine
1 cup beef broth
12 small white onions, trimmed and peeled
1/2 lb. mushrooms

Melt the salt pork over medium heat in a heavy Dutch oven or covered casserole. When crisp and golden, remove and drain on paper towels. Add the chopped onions to the melted fat in the pan, slowly cook them to a light golden brown, remove, and set aside. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate and roll the meat in the mixture. Brown the beef, a few pieces at a time, and add the marjoram, thyme, wine, and beef broth. Return the pork and onions to the pot, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add the small onions and cook 20 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook 10 minutes more. Correct seasoning. When the onions are fork-tender, the stew is done.

Makes 4 servings.

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