Friday, July 17, 2009

Crème Fraiche & Milbrandt Riesling

Crème Fraiche

Yes, we’re pretty late to the party. We make our own garlic Aioli by grinding fresh garlic cloves in a mortar. We use fresh herbs instead of dried whenever possible. We cook just about everything from scratch. But we never bothered to make Crème Fraiche.

Crème Fraiche is a French matured cream, but not at all like our U.S. sour cream. We’ve never found it in our semi-rural grocery stores, but we’ve read for years how “easy” it is to make. Even Julia Child has a recipe. The typical recipe calls for a cup of cream and a tablespoon or two of buttermilk. But who in the world has buttermilk in the fridge anymore, especially when it comes in quart cartons? Yet a few weeks ago we found a tiny half-pint carton of buttermilk, and decided to try this creation.

We mixed (without measuring, as usual) the cream and buttermilk and let it stand overnight until it actually did develop a nice, thick creamy consistency. It had a wonderful bite yet a smooth creaminess that sour cream just doesn’t have.

Since then, we’ve mixed it with Dijon mustard for a salad dressing; we’ve added honey and vanilla for a topping for fresh wild raspberries (not that the raspberries really needed anything); and we’ve mixed a bit of it with a leftover tomato-artichoke-olive sofrito to go on top of red potatoes steamed with fresh rosemary.

We’re hooked. Our most recent meal using Crème Fraiche was as the potato topping mentioned above, and for that dinner we also had halibut sautéed in butter and herbs accompanied by a crisp Washington state Riesling, reviewed below.

Milbrandt Riesling 2006 – Washington

When we bought this, we had no way of knowing if it were dry or sweet. Many Rieslings will note a style on the label (and we wish all wineries would), but without that information it’s hard to know whether to open a bottle of Riesling as an afternoon sipper or as a dinner wine. We took a wild guess, and were right with this one.

The nose is mild, with a bit of apple and herbs. The tastes are a nice medley of crab apple, apple, mild herbs, maybe a little grassy or leafy. It finishes crisply, with some mild but nice acidity. Surprisingly for a Riesling, it was still fine as it warmed in the glass on an 87-degree evening. It developed more depth and complexity, without losing that distinctive Riesling character.

The best part is the price – only $6.50 when we found it. At that price, it’s a House/Yes wine for sure (depending on availability).