Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Vino Veritas - and now the Truth will Be Told

A few years ago, I became acquainted with Natalie MacLean. We began to e-mail each other, and I listed her on my website Cooking with Love, and she listed me on hers Nat Decants.

Now, while I love to cook, I don't know a thing about wine, and this is where Natalie shines. I am including the review of her book Red, White, and Drunk all over that I had done on the old website. If you want to learn about wine, and have a good time doing it, this book is for you. You'll find the review at the bottom of the post.

Both Natalie and I have grown through the years. I wrote a cookbook, added a blog, starting some cooking classes, she expanded her website, has a fabulous newsletter which you can sign up for on her website, added some recipes, and now, her latest gem is a widget for pairing food and wine. The picture at the top of the blog is what the widget looks like on the sidebar. I have placed the widget on the blog so that whenever you need to know what wine will go with what food you can just scroll down near the Wine Loving Foodfanataholic listing and check it out.

Natalie sent me an e-mail today and here is what she wrote about her latest accomplishment:

New York, March 10, 2009 - Which wine tastes best with pork chops in a maple glaze? Does rosemary-marinated grilled halibut invite red or white wine? Are there also great food pairings for beer, spirits, cocktails, coffee and tea?

To answer these questions and thousands more, the web site now offers a new Drinks Matcher widget, a portable version of the site's existing food-and-wine pairing tool. You can download the free Drinks Matcher widget in just three clicks to your computer desktop, web site, blog or social media page like Facebook, MySpace or iGoogle from

"The variety of food-and-drink combinations has exploded in the last five years," says Natalie MacLean, publisher of North America's largest wine e-newsletter. "Chicken isn't just chicken anymore: Now we eat it stuffed with pancetta and fresh herbs, rubbed with curry spices or sautéed in an orange balsamic sauce. We're looking for more interesting flavors, both on the plate and in the glass-and we want them to work together."

During the eight years that Natalie spent testing the combinations for her Drinks Matcher, she found two extremes when it comes to food and wine pairing: "Some people say that it's complete nonsense, while others insist that there's only one perfect match for every wine. Neither approach helps wine lovers."

"People want some guidance, even though the pairings are subjective. It all comes down to balancing flavors and textures. I'm a thoroughly hedonistic researcher. Of the thousands of combinations I tried, some were delicious, others were a disaster. I share the ones that worked in the Drinks Matcher."

You can search the matcher for drinks to pair with meat, pasta, seafood, vegetarian dishes, pizza, take-out, sauces, herbs, cheese or dessert; or you can find dishes to go with wine, cocktails, liqueurs, beer, spirits, cider, coffee, tea-and yes, even water. The Drinks Matcher is meant to be a springboard to help you discover the matches you prefer. The perfect pairing, of course, is between you and the wine you like.

Natalie is in a position to know...she has been the winner of several awards, some of which are listed here.

The moral of this post is, whenever you need to have a wine question answered, you now have a place to go. If the widget on this blog doesn't help you, Natalie's website is just a click away.
If you are a wine love, want to learn about wine, want to cook with wine, this is the place to go.

Good luck Natalie with your on going, and on growing website...we look forward to all the new things you will bring to us in the future!

Here is a review of Nat's Book, red, white, and drunk all over as it appeared on Cooking with Love:

This month's selection is a little different than our ordinary choices in that, it isn't a cookbook. This fablous book is written by well known sommelier Natalie MacLean. Ms. MacLean has won numerous awards for her writing including the James Beard Journalism Award, the IACP Bert Greene Awards, The Association of Food Journalists Award among many others.

You may be asking why a girl who drinks nothing stronger than unsweetened iced tea selected this book for our cookbook of the month. I figured it was time to diversify, and that maybe I would learn something along the way.

Natalie's journey into the world of wine began when she met her husband Andrew , I'm a lot further behind. As she states in the beginning of the book, "Language and wine are two of the most pleasing things we consume:they animate us and become part of us." I figure I'm okay on the language part, but I need a lot of help with the wine!

I wasn't really a fan of Sideways even though I love Paul Giametti, and I wouldn't know a Merlot from a Pinot Noir. They might think about doing a sequel to Sideways using Natalie's book. It would be a lot more interesting, and she's a heck of a lot better looking!

I thought that perhaps being a cookbook author, I should know a little more about wine, as I probably would have been very happy using Holland House Cooking Wines if I hadn't heard over and over, if you won't drink it, don't cook with it. In addition to the fact that my daughter Lauren, a senior at the Cornell University School of Hotel Management is taking the wine tasting course this semester and regaling us with the tales of what she has tasted and learned...I am embarrassed by my ignorance.

Here are a list of the chapters:

  • Introduction:The Making of a Wine Lover
  • The Good Earth
  • Harvesting Dreams
  • The Merry Widows of Mousse
  • Purple Prose with a Bite
  • A Tale of Two Wine Stores
  • A Glass Act
  • Partners at the Table
  • Undercover Sommelier
  • Big City Bacchus
  • Acknowledgments

From the Burgundy regions of France to the hills of the Sonoma Valley in California, to the Champagne Region of Renoir, through Natalie's brilliant descriptions, you can feel the wine, as though you were the one tasting it..."another exuberant premier cru chardonnay with aroma of nutmeg, creme brulee, and toast. It rolls to the back of my mouth like an incoming tide of pleasure, growing and growing until I'm flooded with its scent." Interestingly, the book is an much about the wine as it is the soil in which it grows, or the glass from which it's sipped...who would have thought that dirt or glass could have so much character or impact???

I think my favorite chapter is The Merry Widows of Mousse, a chapter filled with not only the intricacies of Champagne production, but with a history lesson included as a bonus. We women know what we have known all along that it is the women who are the ones who, when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

The chapter regaling a dinner party in Natalie and Andrew's home leaves your mouth watering. My only tiny criticism of the book is that there isn't one of Andrew's marvelous recipes included. I'd love to be a guest at their dinner table.

Chapter after chapter draws you in and quenches your thirst for more. From the soil where the grapes are grown, to the fine nuances of the wine industry, this book will entertain you, educate you, and liberate you pursue the road to becoming a wine-lover. I couldn't put the book down.

The holidays are coming and I can't think of a better gift for all of those on your gift list whether they be a wine novice, an aficionado, or a connoisseur, they will enjoy this book. In fact, I am going to buy another copy for Lauren because I won't part with fact, I am going to suggest that she purchase one for her professor at the end of her wine tasting course at Cornell. The book is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and directly from Natalie's web site which you should definitely check out: Natalie Maclean and sign up for her newsletter, Nat Decants. Natalie, you'd be very proud of me, I actually learned something, a pinot noir is a type of grape and I promise, I will never use Holland House cooking wines again!

Sample Recipe from the book:

Since the book does not include any recipes and we are a cookbook site, I have taken the liberty of including one of my son Jeffrey's recipes, a recipe for steamed clams cooked in wine.

Steamed Clams


  • 4-6 pounds steamer or littleneck clams

  • 3 cups dry white wine (I use Inglenook® Chablis)

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 8-10 cloves garlic; crushed

  • 12 black peppercorns

  • 1 (13 ¾ or 14.5 ounce) can College Inn ® Chicken Broth

  • Good handful of fresh parsley, chopped

  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

  • 3 cups water

    Place clams in cold water to which you have added 1-3 tablespoons of cornmeal. Let the clams sit about ½ hour. Rinse well in cold water. Discard any clams with broken shells or those that are open before cooking or closed after cooking. Wrap the clams by dozen - dozen and a half in cheesecloth before putting them in the pot (cut pieces of cheesecloth in large rectangles, place the clams in the middle and tie with kitchen twine). This makes it easier to serve later on. Place the wine, onions, garlic, peppercorns, parsley, basil, and water in a large steamer or pot. Add the clams. Bring to a boil, keep covered. Stir or mix by shaking the pot for about 6 to 8 minutes or until clams are opened. Serve with melted butter. Serves 8.

Title: red, white, and drunk all over

Author: Natalie MacLean

Category: Wine and Wine Making

ISBN: 1-58234-648-8

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Publishers address: 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010

Website or e-mail of publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Published: 2006

Edition: First

Description: Hardcover

Illustrated: none

Photographs: none


Reviewed by: Elise Feiner - October 31, 2006

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