Buffalo was once considered an exotic protein, but has become much more available in the last ten years. 7.5 million pounds of Buffalo meat is consumed annually in the US. Many local gourmet grocery stores now carry various cuts of buffalo in their inventory. If you cannot find buffalo at your local purveyor, you can easily order it online. I like to use #D’Artagnan. The product is shipped frozen or fresh and arrives on ice within a day, depending on order date.
Buffalo has gained in popularity due to fact that it has a rich flavor similar to beef, but has reduced fat and cholesterol. It has roughly 80% less fat than beef and 22% less cholesterol in the same serving size. When cooking Buffalo, it is important not to over-cook it. Without the large amount of intramuscular fat, the meat can dry out fast and goes from beautiful to dull with even slight over-cooking. So, make sure you keep the meat medium-rare. I also like to marinate Buffalo steaks, which I normally do not do with Beef.
One of the things I love about Buffalo is that it lends itself to a number of wine pairing possibilities. While it has the richness to stand up to deep reds, it can also pair beautifully with less tannic red wines. I love to pair classic varietals, like Merlot and Cabernet Franc with it.
Merlot has a bright fruit character that seems to lift the richness of the Buffalo. The right Merlot will offer a balanced acidity that helps cleanse the palate. This creates a sensation that stimulates the appetite and opens the taste receptors.
A varietal that is even better with Buffalo is a well made Cabernet Franc. This wine has a beautiful herb perfume with spice and darker red fruit undertones. With the right aging, this wine is elegant and silky on the finish. The flavors play perfectly with the finesse of the steak. I also love our Smith Wooton Mélange with Buffalo. As a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it brings the best of both worlds to the party.
We cook and serve Buffalo many different ways here at the CROZE Kitchen. Hanger steak has become a favorite, but we also braise Buffalo short ribs, and sear Buffalo tenderloin. I highly recommend you add this flavorful and versatile protein to your arsenal and have a blast researching wines that pair perfectly with your creations!
At the winery we are always looking for new dishes to pair with our wines. Actually, one of the very best aspects of our profession is sharing great recipes and wine. It is hard to find a fine wine lover who is not also a self proclaimed “foodie.” Recently we paired our 2013 Croze Chardonnay with a poached lobster and saffron cream. It was an amazing pairing. The richness of both the lobster and cream highlighted the full bodied chardonnay. Yet the crisp acid on the finish of the wine cut the richness of the food and left your palate craving more. So here is our recipe for Lobster with Saffron Cream:
We poached a 2.5 lb lobster in salted water and then chilled it in an ice bath. Save a half cup of the lobster liquid.
To make the cream: chop a shallot and a garlic clove. Place them in a sauce pan with a tbs of olive oil and saute over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and white pepper if you have it. Toss in a few sprigs of thyme and let it wilt. Then add a good pinch of saffron and let it heat gently. Add 2 tbl of white wine and a 1/2 cup of the lobster stock. Reduce this over medium heat until there is just a couple tablespoons of liquid left. Strain the mixture and return to the sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream and let it slowly heat and reduce until sauce consistency. Meanwhile gently warm the lobster meat in saute pan with melted butter.
I am often asked by customers and friends who visit the Napa Valley which restaurants I recommend. There is no shortage of fine dining options here in the Valley and, in particular Yountville, where I live. My number one recommendation is always a small local Italian Restaurant called Ciccio.
What can I say about Ciccio that has not already been said. They have received critical acclaim from the Travel Channel, SF Chronicle, and just about every other publication that reviews restaurants. The food there is simple and amazing. Most of the reviews I have seen focus on the food, as they should. However, it is the people that keep us going back and giving recommendations. We are lucky enough to be within walking distance so we dine there often.
The staff at Ciccio are simply fantastic. Their attention to detail when it comes to hospitality is way above what you expect from a neighborhood pizza and pasta joint. The crew treats every table as if they are family visiting for Sunday dinner. Quite honestly, that is the best way to describe the overall vibe here…family dinner. On most nights you can find the owner there at his table, with his family having dinner.
From the hostess to the servers, everyone makes a point to visit our table and make sure everything is perfect. They are genuine and accommodating. For that we make Ciccio a weekly stop and encourage all of our visitors to give it a try.
I could list our favorite dishes and recommend things to try, but why? Everything on the menu is great. Pick something that sounds good to you and you will not be disappointed. Just make sure you order a pre-dinner negroni and a bottle of wine!
Thanks to our friends at Ciccio for providing us such a wonderful neighborhood restaurant.