Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wine in my life ...

I have had a passion in food and beverage since a teenager, a passion that had led to further studies in Hotel & Restaurant Management with focus on gastronomy which gave me the opportunity to work with very good chefs, sommeliers and managers over the years in various hotels of excellence as Food and Beverage Manager. Huge experience was gained in the field of food and wine matching, especially with Mediterranean and fusion cuisines with wine from all over the globe. I am a founder Member of the “Cyprus Sommelier Association” and Former “Officer of Training and Education”.

Now I manage the operations of the Villa Rentals of “Aphrodite Hills Holiday Rentals” but I can never let go of the “hotelier” in me. This is one of the motives for this blog but the true reason is to come closer to people with an interest in wine and be able to share comments, suggestions and ideas about food, beverages…or villas!

Constantly friends ask my opinion and recommendations with menus, wine lists and food and wine combinations. This is a passion that I wish to share. So please place your queries or any gastronomic experiences you wish to discuss.

The questions I get about wine.


Many people talk about wine with passion, mystique and desire. Others don’t see why the commotion. What is your opinion on this?

Even though I stand with the former, I will look into this question with as little bias as possible. The “Passionate” have their own “language” that is used to the others dismay. They use common terminology and metaphors that sound so meaningful to them but totally vague to others. This obviously creates a strong and immediate bond between these people, it is logical; they share the same passion and may communicate with little knowledge of each other’s actual language. To me this can similarly relate to art, music and dancing. They are also socialising and are consuming alcohol at a generally moderate pace that facilitates to loosen formalities and etiquette thus creating good ground for bonding. This is actually the problem. Barriers are put up! Yes barriers are put up from the people like myself that use their knowledge and “wine language” to communicate with “fellow wine lovers “ but leave out of the conversation other wine lovers with less academic knowledge and great passion to learn. What an injustice! Sommeliers owe it to society to become more “down to earth”, modest and simple. We should be passing the knowledge to ALL, allowing and encouraging people of varying wine experiences to freely express their individual opinion on the wine they are sampling.

Why do some people say “I don’t like wine”?
I don’t blame them! Some people have had very bad first, second and third experiences when provoking their initial experience with wine. Many have been lucky to have started tasting wine young and with wines that had been produced in good practice. This provides a sound base for future appreciation and allows the individual to benchmark against past experiences. However if an individual tries wine later in life after experiencing generally available beverages (alcoholic or not; juices, beers, spirits, coffee, artificial drinks) these will be the only form of comparison that will allow him or her to accept or reject a wine. Now if this wine is not even of a good wine making practice or served poorly then how can that person accept wine in general? In addition to this every person does prefer different tastes, simply because we are brought up on different experiences. For me the most important time is to introduce someone to his preferred wine, by discreetly probing into his or her gastronomic background.

How do you actually evaluate/appreciate wine? Is it difficult?
The how needs time and can be very easy to start with and then become very complex and challenging as one becomes more proficient, again very similar to any art. I am sure Vincent Van Gough’s paintings when he was three years old were almost as good as yours or mine.

Risotto ai Funghi Porcini - Mushrooms risotto

To serve: 4
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 12-15 minutes

Ingredients:
A one-ounce packet dried porcini (25 g, about a packed half cup)
1/2 of a small onion, finely sliced or shallot
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, or: 3 tablespoons olive oil + 1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups (300 g) short-grained rice, for example Arborio or Carnaroli
1/3 cup dry white wine, warmed in a pan on the stove (use red wine if you like more strong flavor)
1 cup (50 g) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
The water the mushrooms were soaked in, strained, and a quart of simmering water, beef broth, or vegetable bouillon
A bunch of parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Steep the porcini in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the onion finely and sauté it in either three tablespoons of oil or 1/4 cup of butter. When it's lightly browned remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon and stir the rice into the drippings in the pot. Sauté the rice for several minutes, until it becomes translucent, stirring constantly lest it stick and burn.

Return the onions to the pot, stir in the wine, and continue stirring until it has evaporated completely. Then stir in a first ladle of liquid (if you're using plain water, add about 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt at this time), and while it's absorbing, chop the mushrooms and strain the liquid they soaked in, which can contain sand. Add the mushrooms and their liquid to the rice, and then continue adding water or broth a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally. About five minutes before the rice is done, check seasoning. As soon as the rice is al dente, turn off the heat, stir in the remaining butter, and half the cheese, the cream if you're using it (DON’T USE), a little bit of ground pepper, the parsley, and mix (mantecare) the risotto for two minutes. Serve with the remaining grated cheese.

The wine:
A light red, along the lines of a Sangiovese di Romagna or a Valcalepio Rosso would be nice.

Note:
For a libidinous treat, use fresh wild mushrooms. If you have abundance, and the mushrooms have large caps, I would use just the stems, chopping them, while grilling the caps (they're wonderful over a steak). If you don't have abundance, or the caps are small, use them too, and figure about a pound of wild mushrooms for four people



Buon Appetito
Chef Andrea

Friday, September 10, 2010

We love Pizzas !!!


Pizza with fresh yeast

Ingredients

• Flour - 500g
• Fresh Beer Yeast - 25g
• Extra virgin olive oil - 4 spoons
• Tepid water - approx. 300ml

Preparation
Pour the flour onto a rolling board or on a marble work surface. Crumble in the centre the beer yeast, melt into it spoons of tepid water, helping with the fingertips and then add salt and the oil. Begin to incorporate the flour into the ingredients at the centre, slowly adding the tepid water. It is necessary to obtain a soft mixture, easy to work and smooth. Work it energetically until any trace of the mixture does not come off onto fingers. The dough, at this point, must be soft and also elastic.Reduce it to a ball, cover with flour, then cover with a napkin and let the dough rise in a warm place sheltered from draughts, for about 2 hours or at least until the mixture doubles in volume.


Pizza with dry yeast

Ingredients

• Flour - 500g
• Dry Yeast in granules - 7g
• Tepid water - approx. 300ml
• Sugar - 2 teaspoons .
• Extra virgin olive oil - 4 spoons

Preparation
A similar process as with fresh yeast. The only difference is that the yeast must be melted before working it with the flour, using half a glass of tepid water (30°C) with salt and sugar added. Pour the flour onto the rolling board. Add in the centre the yeast of beer melted in water and then oil. Incorporate the flour into the ingredients into the centre, adding the tepid water. It is necessary to obtain a soft mixture, easy to work and smooth. The quantity of water necessary can vary from time to time. Work it energetically until any mixture trace does not come off on the fingers. Cook in a conventional oven at 180 degrees for 10 mins.
Buon Appetito!
Chef Andrea

Keeping occupied

A child who spends all day colouring inside will miss out on the physical benefits that can be gained from out-door play. Similarly, a child who never does quiet activities may struggle with concentration.

My children feel that they have stepped into an exciting Adventure of World discovery when ever they come up to the Resort.

At the Kids Clubs of Aphrodite Hills there are diversified selections of activities that cater for all children, whether it is outdoor games on the multipurpose courts, garden games at the Village Square or water polo in the out door pools. In the Clubs they can join in a variety of indoor games as well a vast assortment of Arts & Crafts. My favourite being the scrap booking which is usually done using photos from the Photography session. If you want something specific to keep your child occupied whilst on Holiday, these Clubs are the places to be.

My girls first learnt to use a camera right here during the photography sessions, my son played his first ever game of tennis the other evening with William and since then I’ve had to buy a tennis game for his Wii. I think he imagines himself to be the next Marcos Baghdadi, however I think I would liken him more to the 1980’s tennis star John McEnroe.

Wait till he tries out the football, I’ll be looking for a David Beckham t-shirt next. Well perhaps he can design his own in the Kids Club during his next visit.