Tandoori Arctic Char

About a year ago I visited a Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Washington, DC called The Source, (http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3941).  They had an appetizer that I really liked, Tandoori Arctic Char.  Arctic Char is a wonderful fish with light orange flesh and a great flavor that I find similar to salmon.  The fish was prepared with Indian Tandoori seasoning and was so good that I have been thinking about it ever since.  So, I decided that I needed to try it at home.

I didn’t follow a recipe for this meal, I just made it up as I went along, so my notes on how I prepared it are below.

I purchased an Arctic Char filet, rinsed it and rubbed it with olive oil, then coated it with Tandoori seasoning.  I used the Penzey’s Spices Tandoori Seasoning and coated the fish heavily with it, placing it into a glass baking dish.  Then I covered it, put it into the refrigerator and let it sit for 2 hours.

I pulled the fish out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for about 30 minutes.  Then I poured canned Coconut Milk over the fish, covering it.  I also lifted up the fish and put a little Coconut Milk under the fish.  Then I added a little more Tandoori Seasoning on top.  I let this sit while I started working on the rice.

In a medium pot, I added 4 cups of Chicken Broth and began heating it up.  I cut up 1 bunch of Green Onions into 1/4 inch slices and added them to the Chicken Broth.  I also peeled a 1-inch piece of Ginger root and sliced it into 1/4 inch slabs, then added them to the Chicken Broth.  Once the broth was boiling I added 2 cups of Basmati rice (basically followed the package directions for water to rice ratio).  The directions said to stir the rice and broth, then reduce the heat, cover and leave it alone – so I did just that.

While the rice was cooking I put the Arctic Char under the Broiler at 500 degrees.  I cooked the fish about 10 minutes or until the fish flaked easily and the coconut milk browned.  Then I pulled the fish out, covered it and let it rest until the rice was done.

I also cooked up a little Kale to add a vegetable and some color to the meal.

What Went Right

Well, everything for once!  The fish was very moist and had that great Tandoori flavor I had been craving.  The coconut milk added a nice creamy touch to the dish also.

The ginger and onion flavors of the rice were a nice complement to the Tandoori seasoning giving the meal a nice Asian flare.

What Went Wrong

Hummm, there wasn’t enough fish I guess – really could have kept eating this all night.

What I Would Do Differently

The Source dish came with a Cardamon Raita which I tried to replicate with the Coconut Milk.  I might actually try making the Raita next time and cook the fish “dry” with just the Tandoori Seasoning, just to see how that tastes.


For this meal, I poured a Pinot Noir from California (Radio-Coteau I believe).  I find that Pinot Noir goes really well with Asian food and frankly I was just in the mood for a red wine.  You could also go with a white wine here, perhaps a Chardonnay (a rich, lightly oaky style) or a Rhone style white like a Roussanne.  The Pinot Noir however worked really well with the full flavors of the fish.

Give it a try and let me know if you enjoy it as much as I did.



Velvet Falernum

There is a local wine store here in Maryland that has been holding spirits tastings over the past few months, letting people try different vodkas, gins, rums, etc.  In a recent tasting I was introduced to a new liqueur called Velvet Falernum – a rum based liqueur from Barbados.  It is sweet but has a unique spice flavor to it, apparently from cloves and other herbs.  It is a unique and very good taste that I really like.

I have developed a winter-time taste for rum based Manhattans using a dark rum, a good sweet vermouth (such as Dolin) and old fashioned bitters.  So I decided to try my favorite Manhattan with Velvet Falernum to see what would happen.  Ummmm!  It was a great change of pace.

The Velvet Falernum was sweeter than the vermouth I usually use, so I had to dial back the amount.  And since the Velvet Falernum had some spice flavors, I also cut back on the amount of bitters used.  Here is the recipe I used:

  • 1.5 ounces of dark rum (I used Blackwell Jamaican Black Gold Special Reserve)
  • 1 to .75 ounces of Velvet Falernum liqueur (use 1 oz if you like sweet drinks, if you like less, go with the .75)
  • 7 dashes old fashioned bitters (I used The Bitter Truth Old Fashioned Bitters, my favorite)
  • Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake
  • Pour into a martini glass and enjoy!

I have been trying to come up with other uses for the Velvet Falernum and found several on the Internet that look promising.  I think it would also be a good addition to a Mojito, used in place of the sugar syrup.  I plan to try that as soon as the fresh mint is available.


Five-Spice Duck with Fregola and Balsamic Jus

I love duck and have been craving duck breast with Chinese Five-Spice powder for weeks.  Something about the richness of duck meat and all the different flavors of the five-spice were just calling me.  So I found a recipe on Epicurious.com and generally followed that with a few tweaks to make it my own.   I also picked up some Hibiscus powder on a recommendation from a friend and thought it would be a really good addition to the duck.

Here is the link to the Epicurious recipe:



I decided to prepare the duck with just the spices in the recipe rather than trying to incorporate the Hibiscus powder.  I planned to add a small amount of the Hibiscus powder into the wine/balsamic jus to give it a more fruity / sour flavor, which sounded like it would really compliment the duck.

To round out the meal, I wanted something that we could pour the jus over and soak up the duck juices.  We had a bag of Fregola, which is a pebble shaped pasta and decided to do it risotto style, which is slowly adding warm chicken broth and stirring until the pasta becomes soft and creamy.  We also cooked a small butternut squash to add some color and a vegetable.


For a wine, Pinot Noir is a great match with duck and the recipe suggests a Russian River Valley Pinot from Sonoma.  I decided to open the DuMol Aidan Pinot Noir from the Green Valley in Sonoma.  I wanted a darker and fruitier wine to stand up to the sauce with Hibiscus powder.


What Went Right

The duck was cooked really well, a perfect medium rare.  The duck breasts I used were thicker than those in the recipe so I had to increase the oven roasting time by another 10 minutes (20 minutes total in the oven).

The Fregola turned out great.  We actually sauteed a few green onions before starting the risotto process, which gave the pasta a nice little flavor kick. The creaminess of the pasta was a very good contrast to the duck.  Would definitely do this again.

The wine was very good, but didn’t exactly match the flavors of the meal – more on this below…


What Went Wrong

The duck did not have much of that Five-Spice Powder flavor I was craving.  I think since the duck breasts were thicker, I should have increased the amount of spice.  I would definitely increase the amount by half next time and perhaps cut the duck breasts in half to give more surface area for the spices.

The wine / balsamic juice was terrible.  Adding the Hibiscus Powder made the sauce gritty and gave it an unpleasant sour flavor.  We decided to abandon the sauce and remake a wine / balsamic reduction.  It didn’t have much of the duck drippings however, so it lacked a lot of the richness I was expecting.


What I Would Do Differently

More Spice!  As I mentioned, more spice and better coating of the duck breast to really give it that Five-Spice flavor.

Skip the Hibiscus Powder since it really clashed with the Five-Spice Powder.  I will probably try duck breasts with just Hibiscus Powder because it really does seem like it would pair well with duck.


Well, my first recipe post is out of the way.  I learned a lot including that this is harder that I thought.  Time to step up the game.  So look for new and improved posts coming soon.


My First Recipe Post…

Before I began this Flavor Blender blog, I studied a number of food and wine blogs to get ideas, find styles, etc.  They all made it look so easy.  Recipes that worked perfectly, food that tasted great and looked amazing, and beautiful photos of the process and finished results.  “I can do that” I recall saying to myself.

So imagine my surprise when I attempted my first recipe for this blog over the weekend and things didn’t go so well.  Hmmm a learning process indeed!

So I have been thinking about how to post this first attempt and have decided that perhaps just telling the whole truth would be best.  My “challenges” might just save someone else from those same things.  It also confirms that things don’t always turn out perfectly.  So for this post and probably for most posts I’ll include “What went right”, “What went wrong” and “What I would do differently” sections.  I also realized I need to improve my photo skills.  Most of my pictures turned out like a middle school art class still life.

At least I have a lot to work on and improve.  So look for better posts in the future.  For now its a work in process.


Poutine at Victoria Gastro Pub

One of the good restaurants in the Columbia, MD area is Victoria Gastro Pub.


They have a small but unique menu with a great beer selection.  There is a limited number of entrees, but absolutely the highlight of every visit is the Poutine (pictured above).

Their version of Poutine is duck fat fries (french fries cooked in duck fat), with duck confit meat sprinkled on them, covered in melted gruyere cheese, with some duck gravy.  They usually have a little sea salt and a faint rosemary flavor on top of the duck essence.  It is soooo good, we usually wipe the dish clean.  Something about duck fat fries is so appealing, but they are so rich, you won’t be able to have any for a couple of weeks.  Then the craving starts all over again.

In our latest visit to Victoria, we found a really different beer, Wells Banana Bread Beer.  A wonderful beer from Wells and Youngs Brewery in the UK.


This beer was delicious.  I am not usually a beer drinker, but this was really good.  A smooth ale with a faint taste of bananas.  Not overdone, not sweet, not fake, just a great banana aftertaste, and no bitterness.

Now a banana flavored beer would not have been my first pick to go with duck fat fries, but somehow it just worked.  Actually, I think the banana beer would have gone with just about anything.  As I was thinking about the meal, I’m not really sure what type of wine would go well with Poutine, it seems to work better with a beer given all the strong flavors.

The banana beer is seasonal, so it probably won’t be around for long.  The Poutine is available always at Victoria Gastro Pub, and always been the highlight of dinner.



Welcome to Flavor Blender!

For me, flavor is everything.  Creating a great meal with layers of flavor is one of my pastimes.  Finding a great wine that goes well with a meal is one of my passions.  But when you combine the two, great things can happen.  Thus the name, Flavor Blender.  Combining tastes, ingredients, textures and more is what this little endeavor is all about.

So what will you be seeing here?  Well recipes for sure.  Probably some wine reviews too.  The occasional restaurant review.  And most importantly, the combination of flavors and the experience that creates.

I feel like I should share some of my “philosophies” that will guide what I write here.

First, a recipe is only a suggestion.  I find that adjusting a recipe to my own tastes usually works out best for me.  That usually means more flavor or some extra ingredients to match other parts of the meal.

If it doesn’t taste good, don’t eat it.  Occasionally, it just doesn’t work.  Either the flavors don’t work, or something is over-cooked.  In these cases, call the Pizza guy.

If it doesn’t taste good, don’t drink it.  Everyone’s wine tastes are different, and you should drink wines you like.  No one, no matter what type of “wine expert” they are, can tell you what you should like.  Now, you should try new things, because it’s a great way to learn, and you may just find a new favorite.

There are actually bad wines.  Wines can go bad, either from being too old, or not being stored properly, or from having a bad (tainted) cork.  Don’t drink these thinking you don’t appreciate fine wine.  Stick with the thought above, if it doesn’t taste good, don’t drink it.

I think that’s enough guiding principles for now, I’m sure others will come up as we go along.

So now that Flavor Blender is officially off the ground, I need to start getting some posts together.  I’ll be working on that and get some content up here.  Let the journey begin!