I create meals that I would want to eat.
All too often I will be discussing a recipe with a friend when she stops and says, “But I don’t like that.”
“Well," I respond, "Let’s find a suitable substitute.”
For this recipe, instead of running to the store to pick up all the necessary ingredients, experiment with a few substitutes. Since I cook the pork chop at a higher temperature for an extended period of time, I want a fat that will not break down. Coconut oil is the my first choice, but it can be substituted with olive oil or canola oil. Unless you lower the temperature, which you can do, avoid using butter. It will break down and burn. If you do not have pomegranate juice, you can substitute it for another tart acidic fruit such as cherry or cranberry, just make sure you use pure fruit juice without any added sugar.
Experimenting with recipes that have opposing yet complementary tastes and textures is a lot of fun. I've found that many of these recipes are flexible and forgiving - I can always adapt them to my friends' preferences and allergies.
Texture evokes nostalgia in a way that taste cannot. When I close my eyes and sip a creamy soup or dig into the crunchy breadcrumb layer on a homemade macaroni and cheese I am always transcended back into childhood.
The more depth and opposing dynamics you build into a recipe the more interesting it becomes: balance a rich element, such as cream, with an acid like lemon juice. Round out a spicy dish with a pinch of brown sugar.
Playing with complementary flavors is my artistic outlet and extends beyond the main recipe and into other components of the meal such as which wine to serve.
Tonight I am serving the 2013 Amwell Ridge Vineyard Counoise.
Counoise is a red variety traditionally grown in the Rhone region of France and often blended with other red varieties. Unionville Vineyards is one of only a handful of wineries worldwide bottling this flavorful, fruit-forward wine as a single varietal. I am in love.
The bright acidity of Counoise complements the richness of the pork loin and the pomegranate reduction. The broccoli pesto and wild rice bring out a more earthy side to the pork, balancing the white pepper notes in the Counoise. The pomegranate reduction rounds out the the fruit notes in this rare wine.
There is nothing a cook enjoys more than new and interesting ingredients, especially ones you can enjoy in a glass with friends. What are some of the new ingredients you are experimenting with in the kitchen?
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Desk or vineyard? This is the question I asked myself when making the leap of faith to leave my corporate life behind to pursue my passion for wine. After working in the medical communications space for 10 years, 2022 was the year of epiphany. It may sound old fashion, but I did have a major realization in the beginning of the new year that I was not meant to work behind a desk and chug along doing work that I was no longer passionate about.
My first notion of my interest of wine came during my frequent business trips to Boston about 4 years ago. For the first time I was immersing myself in the world of wine through client dinners, networking events and a lot of self-exploring through Beantown. During this time was my first encounter with sommeliers and wine experts. I was fascinated and intrigued by the expertise knowledge of wine, wine making and learning about the intricacies that goes into producing a bottle of wine. At this moment, I thought about how amazing it was to witness such passion for the craft of wine.
I enrolled in an online sommelier level one course at the Wine School of Philadelphia and began studying and reading everything I could about wine. This is where my 2nd major epiphany happened – I asked myself, the question that I stated in the beginning “desk or vineyard?”
This is the question that started the major stepping stone to my journey. I no longer wanted my wine passion to be in the background – I wanted to be 100% committed and both feet in. Unionville Vineyards was the first winery that popped into my head when I thought about making my “9:00- 5:00” switch. I attended a wedding at Unionville the year prior and loved the atmosphere, the wine and the people. The position that I applied to was half farm work half hospitality. I was instantly attracted to the idea of being out in the field to where it all begins in wine making. Thoughts of my “office” transforming into the beautiful vineyard was something I desired. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Unionville has multiple vineyard sites with the Coventry site located within Coventry Farm in Princeton being my favorite (love the views there!) Working at the different sites allows you to see how the different micro climates, soil and land impact the vines and fruit cluster growth. Also working in the field to me was the perfect learning opportunity to understand the craft of wine making soup to nuts. Being surrounded by vines that produced grapes such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay was eye opening to me. I was so used to seeing the finished product of these grape varietals in their bottled form, but actually being able to perform farming techniques on the vines starts to create another level of perspective and appreciation for wine.
One of my favorite farming tasks to perform in the field on the vines is leaf pulling. Leaf pulling is when you remove leaves from around the fruit clusters. The rule of thumb is to remove leaves that are across and below from the fruit cluster. Removing the leaves creates oxygen flow, openness for pesticides to be sprayed and exposes the fruit to more sunlight. I enjoy seeing the satisfying result of a perfectly balanced vine with the right number of leaves removed. Working in the field creates a huge bond between you and your other field peers. You become a family unit and learn how to work together and communicate as a team. To me, this is a very important factor for having a successful vineyard. My experience with people at Unionville in general has been amazing. You have the opportunity to interact with people from all different backgrounds (teachers, college, corporate, etc.) which makes for some great conversations and comradery.
To anyone reading this, do not be afraid to follow your passion and take a chance on doing what you want to ensure your happiness. It was scary to make such a drastic shift from corporate to farm work, especially since the two are extremely opposite ends of the spectrum, but I have no regrets and I am happy with where my career and focus is going.