Each month in this space we celebrate the joy of living along America’s Third Coast, and the bounty we enjoy from the Gulf, our lakes and the land.
This missive is not a burden for me, although sometimes the moments to lay down my thoughts can be difficult to find. However on the plus side, I have the opportunity to reflect on all of our good fortune to be placed here, a wondrous spot on God’s Green Earth.
Then along comes November, with America’s very own holiday, Thanksgiving, and suddenly the good feelings, the good beverages and the good cuisine go into overdrive. While the English Pilgrims may have celebrated the first Thanksgiving way up on the East Coast in what is now Massachusetts, it has been our pleasure to perfect the observance.
Turkey and Treats
While we are a bit traditional when it comes to the staging of Thanksgiving, we have added into the mix cooking techniques, drinks and ingredients that are uniquely ours. In the spirit of the season, we have shared our approach with our fellow Americans, because we know to whom the newest good ideas belong.
America has embraced our fried turkey preparation, as well as many of our creations. Turducken is something that now appears in every town across the country about this time of year. Is oyster dressing a dish that was invented in Illinois? I think not. Stewed okra and tomatoes add color and taste to the feast. And don’t get me started on grandma’s biscuits or pecan pie. When that baking aroma fills the house, no football game on TV stands a chance of keeping our attention. (By the way, I understand that November is National Vegan Month, which I find odd timing.)
For the moment, let’s focus on the beverage portion of the menu. You know what has to be accomplished for the food, now what do we serve in liquid form?
To begin the day, let’s have something special. Champagne or Sparkling Wine is always a good choice, depending on your budget or the number of folks who will be enjoying the beverage with you. If your family enjoys the real deal, look to Perrier-Jouët, Mumm’s Cordon Rouge, or Moët et Chandon, direct from the great Champagne wine region of France.
COURTESY OF CHAMPAGNE Perrier-Jouët
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2006
If you are not so committed to a high-end bubbly beverage, America has some great choices in Domaine Carneros, Mumm Napa, or J. Stepping just a bit, both in quality and price, but sacrificing not much in terms of enjoyment, there are Prosecco sparkling wines from Italy; cava wines from Spain, and Mousseaux designated wines from France.
There are also lesser priced wines with bubbles from California and New York State. These are perfectly fine, quite good, in fact, for your guests who are not particularly enamored with seeing bubbles in their wine but who want to participate in the toast.
The proper Thanksgiving mood can also be established with cocktails. Bloody marys set a good speed, and just about everyone knows how they like theirs. I enjoy Zing Zang mix because I fall somewhat on the spicy but not overly-so side. Don’t forget the celery, olives, pickled beans, and for a special kick, rim the glass with Tony Chachere's spice. Suddenly I am very thirsty.
For a bit more body, make a Bloody Bull. Said to be invented in New Orleans but with no real proof of that claim, the Bloody Bull adds beef bouillon to the mix, giving the drink more body and structure. Sort of like getting your vitamins and minerals along with your alcohol.
Then there’s this drink, if you are even higher along the health meter:
Carrot Ginger Splash
Courtesy of Chilled Magazine
Fresh ginger (five thin slices)
6 ounces Carrot juice
2 ounces Apple juice
3 ounces Vodka
Splash club soda
Preparation: Muddle fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add carrot juice, apple juice and vodka and shake well. Pour into cocktail glass, top with a splash of club soda and garnish with a lime slice.
The "grand challenge" at Thanksgiving is that there are so many flavors, cooking techniques, textures and food groups all on the same table, how do you pair one wine to go with the variety? Some folks don’t worry too much about such matters and stick to beer. Okay, that’s one way.
Another approach is to stay with something you like, no matter what the color. You like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc? Then there you are. You like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot? That’s okay. Enjoy.
I would suggest going for a lighter-style wine rather than something heavy. If you have fish, like redfish or even the oysters in the dressing, something with a lot of deep, red color and tons of alcohol just won’t blend in or add to the total enjoyment.
Two suggestions for you, and maybe you have avoided both. Trust me here: First, look to a Dry Riesling. They are not sweet so remove that from your thinking. And they go with a broad spectrum of dishes. Riesling and spice is a match made in wine heaven. Secondly, just before Thanksgiving the Beaujolais Nouveau arrives on these shores. The 2013 vintage (yes, it’s the first wine in the world from the current year) is available on the fourth Thursday of November and it is the wine from the Beaujolais region of France made from the Gamay grape. It is light in style but refreshing and quite tasty. Plus you will never get a wine any fresher than this. The wine goes very well with whatever you are having on your Thanksgiving table, even that cranberry roll with the can marks.
We at Gulf Coast Wine + Dine wish you and your family the happiest Thanksgiving possible. As we are all giving thanks for our many blessings, we will be giving thanks for your readership and support. Thank you.