Friday, August 21, 2020

Why Don't You Pull This Pork Right Here



I confess to being a wee bit late to the pasta game. I was that kid that didn’t like macaroni and cheese and desperately hated Spaghetti and Meatballs. The latter I suspect inspired by squishy, sweet, ketchup and oregano flecked versions from elementary school cafeteria lunches and my mother’s, “doctored up” Prego offerings full of loose ground beef, and jars of texturally questionable mushrooms. Mix that with the “oh-please-don’t-make-me-eat-that” assortment of casseroles dripping with warmed mayonnaise and cream-o-something soup and you’d have better luck getting me to expose my roller skating scabbed knees in a dress than getting me to eat a plate of pasta. Or what I thought of pasta for the first half of my life.


“I don’t like red sauce” a now laughable comment that I would adamantly repeat, over and over again when someone suggested Italian food for dinner. Not a tomato hater, was semi famous in my little family as that weird little girl that ordered a green salad with blue cheese, with a side of tomato juice with lemon, for breakfast and thought the single greatest sandwich of all time, aside from the mayonnaise and Fritos one of course, was one of white bread, a thick swath of mayonnaise and slabs of cherry red tomato with a sprinkle of course salt fresh ground pepper. Loved all things tomato, outside of ketchup and, “spaghetti sauce”. That was, until.


Fast forward a hundred years when a awkwardly placed, but earth shatteringly delivered kiss introduced me to a man, well, he was on the verge of turning 21 and still living at home but, a man that would forever change my life in ways I am still discovering 26 years later. “My parents want to meet you” a sentence that made my heart race for two reasons, the obvious of course but, I knew his mother was Italian. What if she is making red sauce?! Sheer panic.  





Suffices to say, I have been rightly schooled on “red sauce” and all things pasta. My, now mother in-law’s red sauce tastes of bright, tangy tomatoes and is heady with sausage and braised pork. One bite and much like that kiss, my life changed forever.

I’ve learned that it ain’t all squishy and ketchupy tasting and not all pasta comes with, “red sauce” which is now affectionally referred to as, “gravy” at my house. Needless to say, this opened another world of exploration and palate adventure for my face, my family and my wine pairing prowess. Pasta has become a vessel to absorb various layers of flavors. A body to handle the varying loads of complexity if you will.


This broken pork pasta dish was inspired by a new find for me, Smitten Kitchen. I did some of what she told me  but true to form, (or as my husband likes to say, “True to Kemner form”) I changed things a little to make it easier and more loose to individual interpretation.  




Slow Cooked Pork & Broken Pasta


This dish can be slow roasted, (and I think there is slightly more intense flavor if you do) but I delightfully found that it works well in a slow cooker which doesn’t heat the house up too much. I even did mine overnight on a very warm weekend which made it even less stuffy and sweaty work for me)


Pork Shoulder

2 Small Bulbs of Fennel rough chopped

1 Large Onion rough chopped

4 Cloves of Garlic (at least) peeled and smashed

1 Stalk Celery rough chopped

3-4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

4-5 Tablespoons Butter (I use unsalted, but it doesn’t matter)

1-2 Lemons juiced and zested

4 Cups Chicken Stock

Parmesan Cheese grated and at least 3 tablespoons but I use way more because, well because it’s cheese, man.

1 ½ to 2 Cups Arugula I like it chopped but torn is fine too

2 Boxes Dried Lasagna Pasta broken into 2-3 inch shards

Salt and Ground Pepper

Olive Oil only if you are roasting 






Heat oven to 350 degrees

Trim any excess fat from roast (NOT all of it, you will want some for flavor) and gently salt and pepper leaving the pork out for at least 30 minutes.  

In a Dutch oven, or heavy pot with a lid, heat over medium high heat and add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. When oil begins to shimmer add fennel, onion, celery, and garlic. Cook until veggies are tender but not brown. Add stock, thyme, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add pork, cover with lid and roast for around 90 minutes or until very tender.


Slow Cooker- Add pork, veggies, stock, thyme, salt, and pepper (plenty of the pepper) and cook on low for 8-10 hours- Continue as follows


Let pork and braising liquid cool until you can either pull apart into shreds with forks or, if you’re badass, with your fingers. You are looking for soft ribbons of pork, not completely shredded into a pulp. Keep some chew.


Strain veggies from braising liquid (I like to keep a little and mash it up into a paste and add it to the pork for more fennel flavor) toss veggies and cover the ribbons of pork in just enough liquid to keep it from drying out. Pour remaining broth into a pot and simmer until reduced by half.

Add pork and any liquid remaining into reduced broth until warmed through. Add butter and stir to emulsify.

Put on a large pot of salted water to boil.


Toss a bunch of Parmesan some lemon juice, lemon zest, arugula, a little salt and lots of black pepper in a bowl together-


Cook pasta just short of al dente, drain and add to the pork. Add (more) Parmesan, lemon juice and black pepper and toss to coat. Serve in wide bowls topped with a scoop of the prepared arugula mixture. Devour and wonder how soon is “too soon” for you to make this again. 




Wine Pairing

Because of the subtle, and very bright, flavors here there are plenty of options from white to rose to light red but I would stay away from anything with too much oak or tannin because they will clobber the subtle porky flavors and delicate lemony pop.


White Wines

Chateau De Chaintres Saumur Blanc $18.99

Herve Villemade Cour-Cheverny $31.99

Abbazia Di Novacella Kerner $17.99

La Baia Del Sole Vermentino $24.99

Claude Riffault Sancerre $36.99



Domaine Jean Teiller Menetou-Salon Rose $19.99

Domaine De La Croix Cotes De Provence Rose $15.99

Chateau La Canorgue Luberon Rose $17.99




Matteo Correggia Anthos Dry Brachetto $19.99

Poggio Di Bortolone Frappato $18.99

Maison Angelot Bugey Gamay $12.99

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Wine Business Interview with Importer Mary Taylor

I first had the pleasure of meeting with Mary Taylor last year right around Summer of 2019. She was with one of my favorite sales reps promoting her Mary Taylor wines and I was instantly drawn to her passion, comfort and ease with talking about her project, importing honest European wines at very fair prices. Encouraging American consumers to feel confident "Thinking outside the grape" as she likes to say. Kevin and I were two wines into the tasting lineup and we were instantly charmed by both she and her traditional wines of Europe.

Mary is not interested in taking credit for making the wines and she proudly displays the name of the grower/winemaker right  on the front label along with her own, making her conduit between her family winemakers and us, the end consumer.

Her wines have consistently flown off the shelves for us and our long time fans of Kermit Lynch, Beaune Imports and Aline Wines have found more classic wines of Europe to fall madly in love with.

Back when I was regularly writing my blog, Samantha Sans Dosage, I was lucky enough to be granted interviews with people like Kermit, Michael Sullivan and wine writers like Eric Asimov, always more for fun than hard hitting and we thought it might be a way for those of you that have not had the pleasure, to meet Mary Taylor!

First off, thank you for taking the time, in the middle of dealing with importing during a pandemic and looming increased tariffs to do this little, “get to know you” interview. Even though we’ve only been working together for about a year we already have an eager band of, “I’m with her” customers, there are still bunches of folks that had not have the pleasure of tasting your wines so, hopefully, this little chat will let people know what you and your Mary Taylor wines are all about.

SD- So, you mentioned to me that you showed up in New York September 4th 2001, what brought you there and did you bring with you a passion for the wines of Europe?

MT- I worked for Elie Wiesel at Boston University and he needed an office manager in NYC, so I took the job! Was a very exciting time for me.

SD- Do you remember the first wine that shook you? If so, what was it and do you still love it?

MT- 1990 Bonnes Mares from Roumier

1990 Bousse d’Or from Pousse d’Or

1990 Rousseau Chambertin

Montlouis from Jacky Blot and from Stephane Cossais (RIP)

Sancerre from the Mont d’Amnees

The Cab Francs in Bourgeuil

Barbaresco all day long, the taste of Nebbiolo – my GOD

1983 Chateau Palmer

Every wine from Urziger Wurtzgarten

The list is LONG!

SD- How long has Mary Taylor wines been a thing?

MT- I got the inspiration in 2009 when I was starting a NY NJ CT distribution company and in the midst of a terrible breakup --- I was in Bordeaux and I was tasting with a good Pessac wine grower whose labels were ATROCIOUS and I knew I had to create a consistent label through the AOP system.

SD- How many states are Mary Taylor wines available in? And is that plenty or are you looking to increase that?

MT- About 30… We would like to be everywhere. Missing HI, AK, WA, OR, ID, NV, UT, NM, OK, AR, KY, OH, MI, IA, MI, KS, Nebraska (?), ND, SD. We just started in Mexico and Sweden!

SD- Playing rock star in your car right now, who are you pretending to be?

MT- I am one of the Pet Shop Boys and I’m cruising on the Grand Central Parkway to meet my lover somewhere breezy. (this is all fictional).


SD- For many of my importer friends new wines are sourced through other vigneron that they are already working with. How do you discover new wines to bring to the Mary Taylor label?

MT- I go to the APVSA tastings, this little trade group out of Montreal. They really understand rustic EU growers. No sommeliers or retail buyers ever show up and the room feels quiet. Otherwise I go to trade shows in Europe. People send me wines (the post office knows me well). Sometimes I find one gem in a box of duds and I need to know more. That’s how I found Christophe Avi, my beloved Buzet farmer!

SD- Criteria for selecting a wine to import? How many boxes need to be checked off before you pull the trigger?

MT- Wine must be excellent – uniqueness and terroir – can’t have ANY makeup on.

Price must work

Social Consciousness – no misogynists and there are many in Europe. 

Willingness to work together

AOP/DO/DOC status only for white label

SD- Ever have a winery that you really wanted to work with but couldn’t manage to convince them? If so, from which region….I’m imaging Italy because I’m French wine biased.

MT- NOPE! We have some serious credibility 😊 I feel like a secret celebrity at trade fairs.  The word spreads quickly among the French farmers about which buyers are serious and who pays their bills. 

It would be cool if Jean Louis Chave would make us an affordable Northern Rhone appellation, but there is really nothing affordable.

SD- Super fancy Euro food thing that everyone loves but you think is overrated or downright yucky?

MT- I am so over micro cuisine. Sorry, give me a big pot of incredible stew and a baguette and a hunk of excellent cheese. I do not want your frozen miso watermelon with micro green and soy marmalade. Please no.

I won’t eat the Italian song birds, but I will dig into a bowl of Trippa alla Fiorentine.

SD- Hangover cure of choice?

MT- Pickle juice. I recently tried pickled jalapeno juice.

A long ass nap!

SD- Have you ever felt that your gender has worked for, or against you when sourcing wines?

MT- YES! OMG, in the beginning especially. Now, not so much. Although the other day an Italian broker got in my face because he thought he knew more about tariffs than me and insisted Italy was NOT on the list. I found out he supports the liar in chief. I asked that he be removed from my relationship with my women-owned Sicilian winery. Brokers are the worst, but they come in handy sometimes.

Gender was a real liability when I was climbing the ranks in the NYC wine world. A lot of crazy inappropriate stuff. I’ve had my share. Thank GOD I work for myself now.

SD- What has been the biggest obstacle for you to climb importing wine?

MT- I put myself out there so much. I don’t have any investors. I am careful but this is all on my shoulders. At first the extremely arrogant NYC wine community laughed in my face and ignored my project – then I showed them what I could do, and I get a lot more respect.

I have to be careful about taking on too much. I tend to be a workaholic. Now, stuck in my secret cottage, I can just never leave and work 24/7. I have to get myself outside for exercise. It’s a struggle.

SD- Any unexpected perks?

MT- It’s like a puzzle. I am manifesting my own destiny but there are pitfalls. Like that Atari game, pitfall? I LOVE the puzzle, and I love the relationships I develop because of this. I am hoping and praying that this former colleague of mine comes aboard to be my CA brand manager! My life is so full of people I would have otherwise not known, here and in Europe where I get to be part of a dozen and growing families.


SD- Your home consumption ratio of red to white wine?


MT- Haha! I NEVER drink rosé alone. I probably drink 2 reds for every white.

SD- Any new additions on the horizon? A little sparkler maybe?

MT- YES! I have a Pet Nat Grolleau. I have a Prieto Picudo from Castilla Y Leon. I have a Cahors, a Corbières, and all of Italy to play with. Bardolino anyone? (When I ran a wine store in Manhattan, I bought 80% all Italian wine).

SD- If you had to pick three wines that might explain, or help us understand your palate and passion for wine, what would they be?

MT- Ha!


Chinon from Philipe Alliet

Savenierres from Damian Laureau

Chateau Chalon from Domaine Macle

SD- Is there a region, or variety, that you could never have again and be cool with it?

MT- The NEW WORLD – (sorry)

SD- Boxers or Briefs?

MT- BOXERS – although depends who

SD- I know you have been very involved in fighting the next round of tariffs on wines from Europe. Can you give our customers what kind of increases we are looking at and what that has the potential to do to your business?

MT- If 100% tariffs pass, I sell through my inventory and either double my prices and see if I can eke out 25% of the sales I was doing before, OR I park a barge off the Connecticut coastline and bring in pallets by night. Seriously, if this passes, I will have to go full on into building out foreign markets and scrap plans for my American business. We’ve only been importing wine since 1650 – just a small insignificant industry right? Wrong! Why is the party of so called “Freedom” letting the government tell them what to drink?

SD- Have you ever sneezed while peeing?

MT- Probably?

SD- Finish this sentence, "The wines that utterly thrill me are"

MT- crunchy, full of tension, minerality and have a sense of place.