Friday, December 26, 2008

Recipe: Smoked Duck Confit in Puff Pastry

Smoked Duck Confit, Raspberry Habanero Glaze in Puff Pastry

Christopher J Davies
Prep Time: 2 hours
Serves: 6-10

If you are looking for a different, but relatively easy appetizer to serve at your next gathering, try your skills and patience creating this savory appetizer. Duck legs are now being sold at Costco. All other ingredients are available in your grocery store.


Maple Leaf Farms Premium Duck Leg Quarters
(12 oz)
4 T Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic
1 T Paprika
1 T Salt
1/2 T White Pepper
1 Jar of Primo Foods Raspberry Habanero Preserve
1 Package of Pepperidge Farms Frozen Puff Pastry Dough
1-Egg for Egg Wash

1) Marinate duck legs in olive oil with crushed garlic cloves, paprika, salt & white pepper for 1 hour in refrigerator.
2) Prepare 1 cup of smoking wood chips( Hickory or Mesquite) in water
3) Start your barbeque and heat to 400 degrees
4) Place wet wood chips in barbeque onto hot coals
5) Place rack with drip pan into grill. To minimize cleanup, add aluminum foil onto drip pan.
6) When wood chips begin a steady smoke place your duck legs onto the grill rack.
7) Cook on each side for 10 minutes.
8) Remove cooked duck legs from grill and let cool for 10 minutes.
9) Remove all eatable meat and crisp skin from the duck legs and mince into small bite size pieces
10) Place Duck Confit in mixing bowl
11) Add 3 Tablespoons of Raspberry Habanero preserve and stir meat for 3 minutes evenly blending glaze over meat.
12) Turn on your oven in the bake mode at 400 degrees.
13) Defrost frozen Puff Pastry Dough for 15 minutes.
14) Create egg wash with 1 scrambled egg and 1 T of water
15) Brush the puff pastry squares with Egg Wash and place 1/2 T of Duck Confit on each pastry square
16) Fold and seal each puff pastry
17) Place on cooking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees

Serve warm


Serve with a Late Harvest Chardonnay or comparable dessert wine to counteract the fat of the duck and spicy kick of the Habanero.

I paired my dish with 2006 Wolffer Estate (Hamptons) Late Harvest Chardonnay 375 ml, $37

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ireland's Excellent Wine Themed Lodge

Wineport Lodge
Athlone, Ireland NA

The Irish Tourism Bureau has courted Darcy and me for several years. They have been telling us that we would be impressed with Ireland’s cuisine, wines, whiskeys and luxury accommodations. While they do not make any significant amount of wine in Ireland, the culinary scene has experienced a revolutionary transformation that sets Ireland light years apart from England’s meat and potatoes offerings.

We visited Ireland in September 2007 on a self-guided press trip. The Irish Tourism Board carefully planned our entire itinerary. But when we arrived at Shannon Airport we were basically on our own self-guided, seven-day journey of the emerald Isle.

We have so many stories and experiences to share from this visit. But I thought that it would be best to tell you about Ireland’s premier wine themed hotel and gourmet restaurant.

Wineport Lodge
Located almost dead in the center of Ireland, The Wineport Lodge is located on a peaceful inland waterway in Glasson County on the inner lakes of Lough Ree, which is fed by the Shannon.

The lodge was founded in February 1993 by husband & wife team Ray Byrne and Jane English. Their success with Wineport has enabled them to expand their holdings to 4 other distinct properties.

When we arrived, we were elated with the lodge’s location overlooking the lake. It was a sunny day and locals told us how lucky we were to be experience sunny and dry 80 F degree weather. Apparently they had three weeks of torrential downpours that ended just days before our arrival.

The concept of this place is every wine lovers dream. Each hotel room is named after a legendary wine brand. Ours was the Taylor Fonseca room. When we arrived at our room their was a decanter waiting with Taylor Fonseca Port! After opening the blinds we were elated with the gorgeous view of Lough Ree with classic wooden hulled yachts moored on the pier. Our room was spacious and well appointed with walnut furniture by leading designer Robert English. Our bathroom was large and spa like.

Guests arrive by road or water, and the bar & restaurant is popular with gourmet diners, tourists, corporate clients, the local community, families, golfers and sailors. We noticed several anniversary parties with middle-aged children toasting their fox haired parents 50th anniversaries.

The kitchen, under Chef Feargal O'Donnell's helm, offers a wide variety of International cuisine’s and approaches. He focuses on using local organic ingredients for most of his menu. Of course the wine list is extensive. It includes a great stable of French and Italian classics. But to cater to the Irish market, a great selection of popular priced Aussie wines are offered.

Before dinner we were offered a seat on the outdoor deck overlooking the sunset falling across the Lough Ree. The Bar Manager knew we were journalists and asked if we would like to try some Irish whiskey. I asked him to pick something special. He shortly appeared with two bottles of 16-year-old Bushmills. As a scotch drinker I was impressed with this whiskey’s smoothness.

We were treated to a chefs sampling of Wineport’s signature dishes.
One of our favorites was the Steamed Fresh Mussels with Coconut Coriander and Sweet Chili Cream. It offered a satisfying variety of sweetness, texture and spice.
(See recipe below.)

Other notable dishes include;


Wineport soup & crusty breads.

Steamed Lissadel Bay mussels, white wine & gremolata cream sauce.

Tempura of confit pork belly, sweet soy & fried shallot.

Main Courses
Served with daily changing potatoes & vegetables

Roast breast of chicken,
black pudding & port raisins, pancetta & glazed turnips.

Bouride of smoked seafood, Parmesan potato crust.

Braised beef olives, honey roast root vegetables,
sage & pearl onion bordelaise.

Dessert Menu €10

Wineport banoffi, pineapple & mint salsa.

Risotto of pear, vanilla bean, Muscat & saffron.

Chocolate raspberry tart, Tia Maria mascarpone.

White chocolate orange soufflé, Baileys ice cream.

Classic crème brûlée with rhubarb & anise compote, sesame tuille.

Banana & buttermilk pudding, caramelized Bramley apple,
black treacle sauce, honey & cinnamon ice cream.

Wineport ice creams, seasonal fruits.

Seasonal fresh fruit with natural yogurt or fromage frais
available as a healthy alternative to dessert.

Ideally accompanied by a glass of Rosé
Enate Rosado, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spain €6.50

Dessert Wines

Noble One – Botrytis Semillon 2000, De Bortoli, New South Wales, Australia
Glass €19 1⁄2 btl €55

Orange Muscat & Flora 2002, Brown Brothers, Victoria, Australia
Glass €7.50 1⁄2 btl €22.50

Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2001,
Glass €6.50 1⁄2 btl €20

Sauternes, Château Guiraud 1er Cru 1996
Glass €22.50 1⁄2 btl €69

By Chef Feargal O'Donnell
Steamed Fresh Mussels with Coconut Coriander and Sweet Chili Cream

Serves 4


2lb fresh clean mussels
1/2 can coconut milk
Small bunch fresh coriander (chopped)
4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce


Bring a thick-bottomed pot to heat.

Add mussels & half a glass of white wine.

Cover & cook for 2 1/2 minutes on medium heat.

Add coconut milk, coriander & sweet chili, bring to the boil & cook for another 1 1/2 minutes.

Divide into four bowls & serve with some crusty bread on risotto rice.


If you are planning as trip to Ireland, I highly recommend a visit to this lodge. The friendly staff really enjoy their jobs. You will love their service a premium level accommodations and cuisine.
Wineport Lodge Glasson Athlone Co Westmeath Ireland

Tel Ireland 090 643 9010
International (00353) 906 439 010

Friday, December 5, 2008


My wife and I recently visited the sleepy Languedoc region of Southern France with our two Son's. This region is on the Mediterranean Sea between Marseille and the Spanish boarder.

Vin de Pays is the major appellation, but our favorite region visited was Côtes de Thongue, which produces wines from grapes grown to the west of Pézenas. The winemakers and proprietors were genuinely friendly and quite happy to offer tastes of their wines without charge!

Most people don't know that the Languedoc-Roussillon region is dominated by 740,300 acres of vineyards, which is three times the combined area of the vineyards in Bordeaux!
As one might imagine, the wines are designed to match the region's seafood. Dry Rosé that is fruity but bone dry, is gaining popularity. Cabernet, Merlot, Carignan Noir, Syrah (red and rosé), Pinot noir, Grenache, and Sauvignon are also produced.

We were quite surprised to find that the average price for a Côtes de Thongue wine was Euro 3.99, which at today's currency rate cost only $5.75 US! As the world's largest producer of wine, France's overproduction has greatly benefited wine consumers. The French are even redesigning their labels to help make them more consumer friendly! The market and extreme competition has set the price. Even after an importer adds his profit margin and delivery costs, wines from Côtes de Thongue should cost American consumers less than $15 per bottle.
That my friends represents an extraordinary price to quality value!

People that visit Long Island Wine Country are sometimes put off by the prices. Many of the smaller boutique producers only make 500 cases or less of their wines. They price their wines based on the artisan standards and techniques used to create their wines. And with the dramatically increased flow of tourists to the region, demand is so great that it seems like consumers will tolerate premium prices if they feel that they are getting premium quality.

Does this mean that all Long Island Wines are overpriced? Not at all.
But one must search out some of Long Island's hidden gems to find exceptional values. Here's a few of my recent favorites:

LAUREL LAKE VINEYARDS,LAUREL, NEW YORK 2006 Chardonnay $14.99 Unwooded Chardonnay. It's a light crisp and generous fruit-driven wine, abounding in ripe pineapple, fresh lemon and mineral flavors. The palate displays pineapple and mineral characters with soft creamy finish. This chardonnay is ideal for salads and appetizers.


Just released! 2008 Early Wine $16.99

A young, fresh wine made from Chardonnay picked in September 2008. This wine is fresh and clean with just a touch of satisfying sweetness on the finish. A crisp apple flavor makes this wine a great holiday treat.

Collina 48 Merlot
$9.99 An enticing nose filled with spice, black olives and a touch of bittersweet chocolate, leads to a palate rich with the flavors of sweet plums, dark cherries and a very round velvety mouthfeel. This wine exhibits a satisfying rich, lingering finish.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc
$21.99 This Sauvignon Blanc exhibits a tangy and fragrant bouquet of grapefruit, lime, grass, and lemon blossoms. It has a crisp, vibrant citrus and graphite mineral quality leading to an intense finish.

$16 Light, fresh and fruity. Cherry, blackberry and raspberry. Racy blends of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.


$12.99 A non vintage, rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Dry, complex, a subtle fruity bouquet dominates the palate. Called Pindar's "Mini-Mythology" after their top of the line Meritage blend.

2007 Johannesburg Riesling A semi-dry white wine, with peach and pear on the nose. Apricot and melon on the palate. Gold Medal Winner at The 2008 Denver International Wine Competition.

Regina Maris Chardonnay
This wine exhibits fresh tropical flavors of apple, melon and a hint of pineapple framed by light butter and toasty oak. A delicious crisp chardonnay

2004 La Ferme Martin Merlot $15.00 Dark Red Brick in color. The aroma has wonderful red fruit and cloves with hints of vanilla and spice and a fine touch of oak. The mouth-feel is medium bodied with wonderful coffee, dark chocolate and mark characters.89% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 5% Pinot Noir.

Local Flavor Merlot 1.5 Liter (Magnum) $16.00
This Merlot possesses delicate hints of plum and blackberry in the nose. This softness carries through to the finish where you’ll notice just enough tannin to end on a firm note and maintain the wine’s structure. Magnum size equals two standard bottles!

2003 East End Select Merlot
Vibrant berries and upfront fruit. Represents Long Island terroir with an excellent finish.

On the nose, aromas of cherry, blueberry, and cinnamon are accented by hints of sweet peppers. A soft mid-palate leads to a smooth finish with subtle notes of spiced vanilla. This is a great red wine match for spicy foods.

Soft straw in color this Pinot Blanc exhibits great varietal character. Initial scents of nectarine, pear, and citrus fruits give way to hints of honey and chalk. On the palate this medium-bodied, bold Pinot Blanc is refreshingly crisp with a clean, lingering finish.

East End Sauvignon Blanc
This predominantly stainless steel fermented white has a small portion fermented in oak puncheons. The nose is intensely aromatic with pineapple, mango and key lime.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wine 102-Proper Serving Temperatures

OK. If you passed Wine 101 and know the basics of wine tasting, holding your glass by the stem, swishing, swirling and spitting's now time to get the best taste out of every glass of wine. You simply need to serve your wine at the proper temperature.

If you serve Chardonnay straight out of the frig, it is way to cold. If you live in Phoenix and serve your Cabernet Sauvignon at room temperature your wine is too warm. If you have a basement, that may be the coolest place to store your wines.

If your budget permits, you should look into purchasing a wine refrigerator. We purchased a Haier 42 Bottle unit at Lowes for $249. It has really done wonders for our wines. The unit has two basic temperature settings Red or White. I suggest that you set yours to Red. You can still obtain great control for your white wines if you store them on the bottom shelves.(Remember heat rises!)

If a wine refrigerator is not in your current budget, you may consider purchasing a wine thermometer. They are available at fine wine stores or online at


Champagne, Sparkling or Dessert Wines 42-45*
(Should be as cold as beer!)

Most Whites 42-45*

Rose and Beaujolais 48-52*

Light Reds (Pinot Noir) 54*

Most Reds 59-64*

If you can obtain these serving temperatures, you will notice a mouthful of delicious fruit and flavor!


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Diary of a Grand Vintners Fundraiser Dinner

Bertrand Bouquin, Executive Chef of the Broadmoor Colorado Springs and Chef Paul Schutt of The University of Denver’s HRTM School Photo © 2008 by Christopher J Davies

Once a year, we produce the Grand Vintners Fundraiser Dinner, which is undoubtedly the highest profile event at the annual Denver International Wine Festival.

00% of the net proceeds all revenue generated from this evening will benefit the John S Davies Scholarship Endowment Fund. The scholarship is dedicated to the memory of my Father who was a talented Chef and Hospitality Manager. Dad died tragically at the age of 26 as the result of a car accident.

In it's second year, the John S Davies Scholarship Endowment will directly benefit students of the University of Denver's HRTM School. In 2007, Cristina N.Mariani-May, family proprietor of
Banfi Vintners, generously supported our first Grand Vintners Fundraiser

This year's wine sponsor was Silver Oak Cellars. David Duncan, the President of Silver Oak, is a graduate of DU. So he graciously agreed to provide his wine and himself for this year's dinner. With such a prestigious Napa Cult Cab maker on the roster, I thought it would appropriate to try to elevate the culinary offerings.

Chef Paul Schutt is the HRTM school's Executive Chef. His resume is filed with top haute Denver Restaurants such as Jax Fish House and The Capital Grille. I wondered if he would be open to permitting another chef to collaborate with him on this dinner? It was a touchy subject as I did not want to insult him. When I approached the school and him with this idea, I was surprised at their openness to the concept. Chef Paul, said it would not hurt his ego, in fact he thought that it might be fun!

My first choice was one of my favorite French chefs in the state,
Bertrand Bouquin, Executive Chef of the Broadmoor Colorado Springs. As Chef at The Broadmoor's Mobile 5 Star Summitt Restaurant, Bertrand has a very busy schedule. It was a long shot to ask him, but if he accepted, this could create a good buzz for the dinner. He replied that he liked the idea but needed approval from management.

After about a week of waiting Bertrand's boss, Craig Reed, The F&B Director at The Broadmoor gave his nod of approval! With 60 days to go, all we needed was to taste the wines and create the menu.

Chef Paul and Chef Bertrand met with me at The HRTM School in late August. At 12noon, we were tasting the four wines that Silver Oak Cellars sent us. Sniffing, swirling and tasting these delicious wines spurned a lot of menu ideas. How about Duck with this Merlot, I asked.

Bertrand replied yes...let's make a smoked duck with baby turnips and spinach. This was cool, after having attending attending several hundred Vintner's Dinners, I finally had a chance to put in my two cents on the menu creation!

It took us about an hour to taste the wines and create the preliminary menu. 5 delicious courses with 4 wines!

The Denver International Wine Festival
Grand Vintners Fundraiser, Wednesday October 29, 2008
John S Davies Scholarship Menu

Assortment of Passed Canapés
Covides Gran Gesta Cava Brut Reserve, Penedes Spain

Poached and Smoked Salmon Rillette with Spicy Pear Remoulade
Twomey, Pinot Noir, 2006 Russian River

Spiced Honey Glazed Roasted Duck breast,
Baby turnips and Spinach
Twomey, Merlot, 2005 Napa Valley

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Red Wine, Baby Carrot,
Parsley Mashed Potato
Silver Oak , Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 Alexander Valley

Assortment of domestic and Imported Cheese
Dry fruit Chutney and Mâche Salad
Silver Oak , Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 Alexander Valley

Guanaja Chocolate Tartlets with Cabernet Sauvignon Sorbet
Blueberry Coulis
Silver Oak , Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 Napa Valley

Now that we had killer wines and a foodie lovers menu, we had all the ingredients for a successful Grand Vintner's Fundraiser Dinner, right? I believed so, but we had to make sales. Our capacity for the dinner was 150, so that meant 75 couples or fifteen tables of 10 guests each. With less then 60 days, we had some selling to do!

Check my blog soon for an entry about the actual dinner.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Long Island Wine Country Tour

I was so pleased to host a tour of 37 wine lovers on Saturday. We departed from The Soho Grand Hotel at 8:30AM and picked up guests at Grand Central Station and Long Island. The morning was misty, but as we approached the North Fork things dried out.

Our first stop was Macari Vineyards in Mattituck. This is one of my favorite wineries on Long Island. The Macari's are a great family that produce wonderful wines. Their wines have a great quality to price value. So unlike other LI wineries, I feel these wines compete competently amongst similar priced wines from domestic and international wineries.

According to Joseph Macari SR, the proprietor, the 2008 Harvest was OK and not as fruitful as last year.

We tasted Macari's new Early Chardonnay($16.99), which was made from grapes just picked this September 14th! The wine was crisp and had a powerful scent of ripe apples.

Our second taste was a Cabernet Franc, which is in my opinion one of Long Island's best growing varietals. It has an earthiness that makes it versatile enough to pair with spicy Thai or Mexican dishes.

We were treated to two of Macari's premium wines, the powerhouse Meritage style red, Bergen Road and Block E, a delicious dessert wine that is made under the supervision of Austrian Winemaker Helmut Gangl.

After guests purchased wine for home, we trekked east to Greenport Harbor for lunch at Claudio's restaurant. Bill Claudio met our motor coach in the parking lot. We were lucky to be seated and have placed our lunch orders before a second coach arrived. Claudio's Stuffed Shrimp was delicious. I ordered a glass of Marlborough NZ Sauv Blanc, which tasted like an orgy of citrus.

Our second vineyard was a private estate owned by Theresa Boyle. I am leaving the wine brand out of this blog so that my competitors do not attempt to bring tours to this vineyard. This way I can continue to provide a really exclusive experience for my tour attendees.
Everyone enjoyed Terri's down home and humorous personality. Her wines were also well received.

Number three was Laurel Lake Vineyards. They are Chilean owned and put their soul into making wines with personality. Proprietor Juan Sepulveda has a lot of knowledge. He offered guests a personal tour and tasting.