Rose wine

Masala Peanuts and the Sonoma Rosé


San Francisco is already starting to feel cooler than the last few weeks. It always makes me sad when summer is ending. Hailing from the city of Madras (aka Chennai) in South India, I need sun to exist!

I had to maximize on snacks that remind me of good old hot, summer days in Chennai (which is every day by the way!). And what better way to do that than with spicy, crunchy masala peanuts?

One of these days this week, I got back home from work and jumped in to my Masala peanuts mission right away. The recipe for this dish is not that hard at all, yet the results - so rewarding!

I dry roasted one cup of peanuts, made the batter with the spices, coated the peanuts with the batter and deep fried them. All done in 20 minutes! (The curry leaves fried separately and sprinkled on top is to die for!)


The WINE paired with Masala Kadalai

There is a particular wine I have been eyeing all summer and kept waiting for the right occasion to purchase it. And with this dish, it seemed like that moment had arrived. It is the 2013  Heintz Rosé of Pinot Noir. I have always known this as a very sought after wine from a single vineyard wine maker from the Sonoma county. In my mind, it was a no-brainer how well this chilled rosé would pair with the spice coated crunchy peanuts. Also, pairing a wine from an acclaimed winemaker so close to home with an Indian street food so close to my heart was just the right thing to do!

Tasting notes

I grabbed a handful of the masala peanuts and shoved it in my mouth. Then washed it down with the Rosé. The first impression was, how clean the wine felt on the nose and palette.

The bone dryness along with crispy acidity was just perfect to follow the chilli powder and cumin coating the peanuts. Then there were light floral aromas, definitely strawberries and raspberries dominated. 

Overall very very smooth and refreshing with the spicy, crunchy peanuts.


The verdict

For me, Marina beach in Chennai inevitably comes to mind when I say or even think about peanuts. They are sold everywhere - literally. However, the peanuts' recipe sold on the beaches of Chennai are even more simple than this. The vendors with steaming carts/baskets of peanuts would just sit down and hand you a paper cone filled with these goodies. Walking down the beach, staring at the several statues lined up while munching these peanuts used to be so blissful!

What would life be without these simple pleasures? And if I added a glass of Rosé to sip on along with these peanuts, how could life ever suck? 'Whistle podu' to simple pleasures! :)




The Chennai street food on a Greek Island


Ahhh Kothu Parotta... this is what I call street food with a zing!

A very special street food especially famous in my city of Chennai - the Kothu Parotta and its ingredients constitutes a very sumptuous meal. But, even more notable than its beautiful colors, aroma and taste is the sounds associated with making this dish.

Yes! The clinging and clanging of the steel/iron spatula on top of the hot cast iron - that is what I remember with the most nostalgia when I think about Kothu Parotta.

Kothu in my mother tongue (Tamil) indicates the loud, noisy motion with which the steel spatula is used to mix the various ingredients of this dish.

And those main ingredients include, layered flat bread (parotta) that is minced and mixed with all the vegetables and eggs (optional).

So to appease my uncontrollable urge after thinking about all this, I decided to make my own Kothu Parotta.

First, I sautéd on a (very) hot cast iron vessel, the onions, bell peppers, carrots with ginger, garlic, green chillies and the spices (cumin powder, asafoetida, coriander powder, turmeric, chilli powder and salt). Then, while the cast iron is still hot, I added the (finely) minced parotta (I bought the Pillsbury ready made Paratha at the Indian store) to it. Though I did not have the exact steel spatulas and cast iron I have seen on the streets of Chennai, my utensils were sufficient to take care of the job.


The best part of this dish is that several different vegetables can be used, I just chose to pick the aforementioned vegetables.

Also, eggs can be scramled along with the vegetables if you prefer - and then it is called Muttai (Egg) Kothu Parotta. 

The WINE paired with the Kothu Parotta

Kothu parotta absolutely requires a wine with a decent amount of weight (body) and yet enough acidity to balance the tomatoes and wash down the spices, oh and no oak whatsoever!

So, it was no surprise why I chose to buy the Zafeirakis rose made from the Limniona region (in Thessaly, Greece).

 Tasting notes

This rose was very unique from several other Roses I have tasted; I say this because, it had an amazing body that is atypical to most Roses!

The very first flavor notes that hit me were of strawberries and ripe red raspberries.

For a minute I almost felt like sipping on a Sharbat.

The other remarkably prominent flavors were that of - believe it or not, bay leaves!

Wow! that was a mind blowing rose for just under 10 bucks!

The verdict

I licked my first spoonful Parotta off the spoon and sipped on some Greek vino.

The weight of the rose married in to the bold flavors of the parotta perfectly. The rose had sufficient fruits and acidity to wash down the coriander and chilli flavors. And, the bay leaf flavor just wrapped around the earthiness of the cilantro and cumin flavors beautifully.

In a nut shell, I felt all these mixed feelings all at the same time - the waves of nostalgia with the sights, sounds, aroma and taste of the Parotta combined with the kaleidoscope of flavors from the vino!

Almost made me forget my present settings....and transformed me to this place that served hot parottas and chilled roses that I could just enjoy wearing flip flops on a beautiful serene Greek island!


Well, what did I know? Indian street food and wine pairings are an 'out-of-body' experience! :)


Masala vada, mousetrap and wine


This blog post  is written for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #9 (MWWC#9).  April's topic  - FEAR was chosen by  last month's winner The Drunken Cyclist. To learn more about this contest, or if you like to vote for my post please click here.



Fear is a very strange feeling. Personally, I am very intrigued by fear.

Come to think of it, just the right amount of fear can actually translate in to a good thing – It can cause complacency to be thrown out the window and it can give inertia a run for its money.

But, with a little too much fear, it can dominate everything else and can be quite detrimental.


The Story of Masala Vada

The first Indian street food that popped in to my head when I started thinking about fear is: Masala Vada, aka Masal Vadai – that’s how Chennai-ites (residents of the Chennai city in India) like to call it.

Masal Vadais are basically lentil fritters, sold in every teashop and road side stalls in every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu (South India). Many south Indians, from all walks of life would start their day with a Masal Vadai and spiced Indian Chai.

The ritual would go something like this: One bite of the Vada, then sip on some tea; take a another bite and another sip and so on.

There is something about the lentils (Bengal gram) mixed with green chillies, ginger, onions and curry leaves when fried together, tastes so delicious and the aroma… is to die for!

Trivia: For those who have never had the good fortune of biting in to one of these vadas, here’s something to help relate to its taste: This snack and its ingredients are very similar to another famous snack from the Greek cuisine. Yes! The Masal Vadai tastes and smells a lot like the Greek Falafel.

So what about this dish do I associate with fear?

Well, remember my above-mentioned ‘to-die-for’ aroma? That is not just from human standards, but for rats too!

Yes, Masala Vadas were famously used in mousetraps to attract the rats running around the garages in homes and other places in south India. The idea was to use the amazing aroma of the Vadas as bait and once the rats are in, BOOM! the trap door would close.

I remember so clearly, as a child I would wait and watch patiently (sometimes for hours) for these mousetraps with Masala Vadas to catch its prey. Can you imagine, how these rats were willing to risk their precious lives for these delicious Vadas? Well I get it, and anyone who has devoured these Vadas will too!

Such is the power of the taste and aroma of these Vadas.

All these thoughts were sufficient motivation for me to soak the lentils, grind and make my own Masal Vadais.


 What wine to pair with this fearful Indian street snack?

A rosé is a rosé is a rosé (think wine, not the flower)…

I have heard and read a lot about how difficult it is to pair Falafels with wine. But as far as these Masala Vadas go, I had a strong intuition for what wine would pair well with them. And, coincidentally (?) this choice of wine has a strong association with the kind of wines I fear the most too!

My wine of choice…a Rosé! The crisp acidity, the light and refreshing red fruits and the mild spices that come through a Rosé seemed like a perfect match for the Masala Vada. Wait, but what has fear got to with a Rosé?

Somehow, I always tread cautiously while choosing a Rosé. I cannot put a finger to why that is? It could be because of the psyche associated with a Rosé. At one point, the rosés were treated like a taboo wine, then they turned in to a trendy ‘summer wine’ (especially here in the USA). Now, I think it has finally been given credit for what it is…like Gertrude Stein proclaimed so wisely many eons ago: A rosé is a rosé is a rosé!

So, I went with my gut and bought home the Domaine de Fontsainte Rosé (2013) from the Corbieres appellation.


Tasting notes

 This rosé was amazing! It was mind boggling how many flavor profiles there were - all in one wine! There was sour cherries and strawberries, a vague hint of vanilla, a light kiss of cinnamon and even some mint! This wine is from the Boutenac commune under the Corbières appellation (in southern France); I made a mental note to self to remember this region while pairing wines for Falafel-like dishes in the future.


The verdict

The crispiness in the Vadas just hugged the crisp acidity of the wine. There was ginger, green chillies and onion pieces in every bite of the Masala Vada which paired so beautifully like music and lyrics, with all the different flavors of the rosé.

So, I was happily gobbling up the Masala Vadas with so many thoughts about fear racing through my mind. Thankfully, the rose had a huge calming effect. But, at the end I thought, you got to give it to those rats. In spite of the risk of death, they always followed their heart (and stomach!?) and walked on a thin line every time they spotted or smelled something akin a Masala Vada. The outcome could be treacherous, it could be a delicious meal or…. death! It could be a masala vada or a mousetrap. But, how would we know, unless fear was overcome and we dared to try?

 After all, is it not true that: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it"?