Friday, May 12, 2017

Mother's Day Menu, Plus Discover Mother’s Day Brunch & Dinner Wines from Hungary, Bulgaria, & Spain - Value Priced and Delicious

Before we get to the flowers, candy, champagne brunch, rhubarb martinis, Prosecco Pops (I have your attention now, right?!) - a little history lesson is in order to understand how we got to this extraordinary holiday. After all, one could argue that every day is Mother’s Day!

Research shows that “Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans -- of course, all roads lead to the Acropolis -- who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother's Day is the early religious festival known as “Mothering Sunday” where the faithful - especially servants - were given a day off to pay their respects to “mother church.” So 1% of them!

The background to our American celebration is after that church thing kind of fell out of favor, one dedicated daughter revived the tradition - albeit in a more secular way.

Anna Jarvis is most often credited with founding Mother's Day in the United States.
Anna Jarvis, Photograph by Bettmann, Corbis 

Designated as the second Sunday in May by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, aspects of that holiday have since spread overseas, sometimes mingling with local traditions. Jarvis took great pains to acquire and defend her role as “Mother of Mother's Day,” and to focus the day on children celebrating their mothers.

The white carnation, the favorite flower of Anna Jarvis's mother, was the original flower of Mother’s Day. “The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying," Jarvis explained in a 1927 interview.

Today, roses are more often than not, the bouquet of choice for Mother. Did you know that more than a quarter of the roses sold in the US are grown in the Sierra of Ecuador? It’s true. The high altitude and year-round spring like climate allows Ecuador to boast extraordinary roses and cut flowers to supply the world with such a special token of love. The rose and flower plantations are next to Hacienda Cusin - the former 16th century monastery hotel where I travel to in January to work garden designs and menu development. You must bring your Mother to visit me and the Cusin family there!


Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.

While Jarvis had initially worked with the floral industry to help raise Mother’s Day’s profile, by 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized.

A bit of a tiger mom about the customs surrounding “her” creation, Anna, fought against the the commercialization of the money holiday, working to protect it from "the hordes of money schemers." She even lobbied to rescind the holiday. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies.

It’s been written that since Mother's Day's early years, some groups have seized on it as a chance to raise funds for various charitable causes—including mothers in need and that Anna Jarvis hated that. She resented the idea that profiteers would use the day as just another way of making money.

Well it’s all worked out. And that wallet issue is a kind of a seque to my review of some very delicious wines to be served for Mother’s Day that are priced so affordably and offer such value, even Ms. Jarvis would approve of your thriftiness.

But first, the Mother's Day Brunch Menu

Starter / Appetizers 
  • Bellini Pops
  • Garden Fresh Tarragon & Scallops 
  • Frittata ~ with Homegrown Garden Fresh Asparagus 

  • Ginger & Citrus Sorbet


  • French Toast ~ with Mother's homemade bread, Charred Rhubarb & Strawberry Whipped Cream 
  • Salmon Eggs Benedict 
  • Bacon and Bacon Coulee with Homegrown ramps 
  • New Orleans’ Brennan’s Bananas Foster with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream 


  • Strawberry Short Cake layered with Strawberry & Rhubarb Panna Cotta
  • Rosemary Rhubarb Daiquiri / Strawberry Rhubarb Daiquiri 
  • Finishing Touches’ “Purple Haze” Champagne with Creme de Violette & edible blossoms
  • Bellini Pops
  • Patricius Katinka Dessert Wine with Fresh Berries 

Recently I attended a wonderful wine tasting of Bulgarian wines, followed by the lucky chance to taste both Hungarian and Spanish wines. I can share the results of the tastings and recommend these wines - not only for their value pricing but their taste. I like to sample the wines then read what the vineyard says -- so I’m not unduly influenced. Plus I like to see how my tasting review syncs up with their stated profile.

Further, if you’re like me, you love the thrill of discovering something new in wine. And there’s plenty of narrative behind these eastern European wines from Hungary and Bulgaria - as well as the ones from Spain. I was fascinated learning about the ancient legacy of wine growing in Bulgaria and Hungary. The Bulgarian producers were proud to note that during WWII the area was not bombed by either the Nazis or the Russians because both sides revered the wine. And then, how they had to trade almost all their wine to Russia during the era of occupation. In the 1980s they were the second biggest wine producing country by volume. After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the effort to restore private ownership that had been taken away during Communism’s collectives, there was the challenge to determine who did - or would - own the land of the vineyards… Today, these countries grow and produce wine from traditional grapes -- meaning those grapes from other countries, including merlot, and cabernet, and pinot noir - and their own indigenous grapes such as the “magical” Mavrud!

Just as the ancient roots and modern history found in how we came to celebrate Mother’s Day make for cocktail party talk, you can add to your dining table conversation with the accounts of the vineyards.

Let’s start with the Patricius Tokaj wines and vineyard. A Hungarian family-owned estate, deeply passionate about their wines and our heritage, the Patricius Winery is found in the Tokaj region and was established by the Kékessy family.

Patricius is a latin word for nobleman, as it speaks to the Kékessy family’s origins. The vineyard writes: “With long standing roots in the region, life has come full circle as the family re-established itself in today’s Tokaj. The family’s maternal and paternal ancestors were well-known vineyard owners in the regions of the Tokaj and Mátra foothills from the 18th century. The maternal ancestors—the Okolicsányi family—had vineyards in Tokaj, Szegi, and Szoloske, and also held important offices as public servants. The winery is a reconstructed winepress house of the vineyard Várhegy. The building was previously owned by Jesuits and various aristocratic families.”

Patricius Wine Collection:

Patricius Katinka

First off let me just me say that while it’s usually best to write about wines as the menu progresses - this “dessert” wine is so fantastic that I have to share my exuberant enthusiasm for this star. There was a time when most every dinner party - at home or in a restaurant - ended with a cordial or dessert wine. How did this tradition fall out of favor?

Well, I’m here to single-handedly revive this luxurious, languorous, addition to dining pleasure.

The Patricius Katinka Blue Danube wine veritably waltzes on the tongue. I can’t say enough good things about this wine. There is a smooth, honey taste but light and refreshing. You must serve this at your Mother’s Day meals. And later for bridal showers -- and happy meals that honor family and friends.

What does the vineyard say? “This late harvest is an explosion of bright, stone fruit flavors.

Bunch picked, partially botrytized berries exude notes of apricot

and white tea on the palate. The soaring acidity and touch of minerality

form a wonderful balance, topped off with an incredibly long finish”

Recommended Food Pairings: cheese course at the end of the meal. Or with dessert.

Price: Katinka: 24.99


I found this wine provided round, bold flavors for quite a dry yet fruity and very satisfying, robust wine. There is a lot of nuanced notes to savor in this wine. This is in contrast to what I find in many white wines. What I mean is that, in general, the chardonnays can be too heavy - almost oily in their butter-ness. Some sauvignon blancs can be dishwater limp...

What does Patricius say? “Distinctive stone fruit characteristics on the nose combine with minerality -- (my notation: the soil the grapes grow in is very rich in mineral content) - and an elegant, vibrant acidity on the palate. Hints of white peach and tropical fruit flavors make for a well-balanced and easy-to-drink white wine.”

Price: Dry Furmint 2014 is a too-good-to-be-true $14.99


I found the Muscat light, spicy, and refreshingly smooth, though a bit bland given all the fruity notes. I did like the crispness. What the vineyard says: “Bright, tropical fruit aromas on the nose are followed by soaring acidity and conclude with a round, pleasing finish. The taste is characterized by minerality and crisp acidity; pure sunshine in a glass. Tasting Notes: Crisp acidity with elegant fruitiness. Nose: Wildflowers Palate: Citrus

Price: Dry Yellow Muscat is $14.99

Bulgarian Wine

Asenovgrad Winery

At the formal Bulgarian wine introduction and tasting at NY’s Hunt & Fish Club moderated by the effervescent, irrepressible, and very knowledgeable Marika Vida - we tasted a suite of wines. There were two very delicious wines made with the region’s indigenous grape Mavrud -- The Plaisir Divin Mavrud 2016 and the Mavrud Reserve 2013.

The Plaisir Divin Mavrud was a discovery on more than one account. Straight away we were told the wine is not aged in stainless steel nor oak barrels but rather in concrete casks.

While initially I couldn’t help but see a crumbling sidewalk of wine-streaked concrete, I quickly did a search while listening to the sommeliers’ talk and I learned that clay casks were the first to hold wine. Today’s commercial casks are just the prodigy of what I now believe is a taste enhancing way to produce the wines. I eagerly asked if the concrete casks didn’t impart the wine’s taste much like an element of terroir? After all, stainless steel doesn’t offer any trace elements of taste and oak - whether French or American - as most of what the the Bulgarians use - does indeed offer that toasty, rich flavor but it’s not the local, unique flavor that a concrete cask can. I love this. And the wine. Wow.

The vineyard says: “Taste characteristics: “Wine with sparkling, deep, ruby-red color. Complex brand aroma, which reminds of a ripe wild blackberry, sweet dark cherry, and fresh forest fruits. In taste it is a juicy, fruity, mature with pleasant unostentatious freshness, soft tannins and long elegant aftertaste. Vinification:The grapes is from own vineyards with controlled yield.

Elenovo Mavrud 2013

This is another wine made from 100% Malvrud indigenous grape variety. The single vineyard Mavrud is made from carefully selected hand-picked grapes grown on the estate of the winery near Elenovo village in south-east Bulgaria. The vineyard says: “The wine possesses intense red colour with brownish hues, and attractive nose, rich in ripe cherries, with hints of mushrooms, dry leaves, walnuts and smoke. The body is full and supple, rich in soft tannins. Excellent structure and complexity, long and memorable finish.”

This wine is aged 24 months, 60% in Bulgarian oak barrels, 40% in French oak barriques, and minimum 6 months in the bottle.

This is a delicious wine.                                                                 

Both the Mavruds pair best with red meat - steaks and lamb. Mmmm.

     Loved this Bulgarian too.

Vivanco Wines

According to the vineyard: “This dream of four generations began 100 years ago, when their great grandfather, Pedro Vivanco González, started to make wines with grapes from a small vineyard that the family had in Alberite, La Rioja, Spain.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, I want to highlight Vivanco’s acknowledgement that “ was our grandmother, Felisa Paracuellos, who encouraged him to prosper. She started it all somehow, particularly because of her spirit and decision making capability. She was the one who encouraged our father, Pedro Vivanco Paracuellos, to study. And she was the one who fed the flame of the wine culture that was gradually spreading through our family.”

Cheers to Mother Felisa!

The Vivanco Viura Tempranillo Blanco Maturana Blanca Rioja is a very good tasting white wine -- it’s fresh with crisp aromas of green apple and peach. The citrus and tropical fruit flavors flood the palate.

The Riojas can be a lovely gift for special other mothers, such as Godmothers. It’s also a great table wine and hostess gift.

There is also a rosé wine Garnacha 2016. I haven’t yet tasted this wine but I look forward to tasting and reporting on that -- I have come to love rosé - and it’s summery, light and refreshing mix of fruit and spice. The winery says it has notes of raspberries, strawberries, red licorice wrapped in a floral component of roses and violets., The vineyard suggest a food pairing of vegetable, white meats, salads, and charcuterie.

The Vivanco Reserve was spectacular - rich and intense. The vineyard says: “dark cherry red. Aromas of ripe cherries and blackberries with an earthy, mineral component, accompanied by spicy notes of cinnamon and sage. Deep, and complex on the palate, with a velvety, silky.

Perfect with all kinds of meats, stews, game dishes, mushrooms, aged cheeses.

These Vivancos range from $12.99 to $22.99

Next up is the Mother’s Day Brunch menu you can pair these value-added wine with. Both Vivanco and Patricius are located in select stores throughout the United States. Also, Vivanco can also be purchased at and Patricius on


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