Coffee-Roasted Pork Ribs with Mexican Chocolate Dry Rub

A few weeks ago I had quite the kitchen adventure.  I love to be inspired by recipes but I rarely follow them exactly–I’m a recipe rebel.  This was the inspiration:   I was tuned on a winter Sunday afternoon to NPR’s Splendid Table for a recipe involving slow cooking carrots on coffee beans.  And my immediate thought was, I want to do this with slow-cooked meat.  I want ribs. 

When the coffee beans heat up, the oil from them sweats out, infusing whatever is touching them with those said oils.  And what else goes well with coffee but a little chocolate and spice?

Here is my recipe:

Heat oven to 225 degrees F

1 rack St. Louis-style pork ribs, with bones, of course (mine was about 2 1/5 pounds)

about 1/2 cup whole bean coffee

Line the bottom of your broiler pan, or other heavy shallow baking pan, with parchment paper.   Arrange the coffee beans in a single layer on the parchment paper.  Place meaty side of rib rack on top of beans.

Dry Rub Recipe:

2 T cocoa powder

2 T Red or green chili powder (hot spicy)

1 T cumin

1 T cinnamon

1 T salt

1 T black pepper

1 T red chili flakes

With a rack of St. Louis ribs, one side will be more meaty than the other.  I placed the meaty side down on the coffee beans, so it would absorb more coffee bean oil and flavor.  The dry rub I just dusted over the top, exposed side of the ribs.  The dry rub recipe could be altered for your taste.  I like spicy, flavorful food, so bring on the chili spice!  Or leave it out, or reduce it.  This makes more than enough to coat the ribs, and you’ll have some left over.  I was a little disappointed because the heat wasn’t as prominent as I thought it would be.  I finished it with more cracked black pepper, salt and red pepper flakes.

Cook for 4 hours at 225F.  That’s it.

What I’ll try next time:  coffee beans on the bottom and the top of the ribs so that the oil absorbs into the top layer of ribs–trickle down effect? Continue reading


2010 Terre del Principe Castello delle Femmine

In the 1990s, two native Italian grape varieties, once thought extinct, were rediscovered in Campania and cultivated by Peppe Mancini.  These grapes are called Pallagrello Nero & Casavecchia, and they comprise, in equal amounts, the blend of Castello delle Femmine.  The story goes that one ancient vine was discovered, proper research revealed its native origins, and subsequent cuttings led to eleven hectares of successful wine vines.

Campania is a southern Italy wine-growing region on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, near Naples.  This winery is closer to Caserta, about 30 miles from Naples to the north.

This wine and I are already becoming great friends.  Which means, I may be in love?  Continue reading


2011 Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Rhone Valley Vineyards

This is a southern Rhone blend of 70% grenache & 30% syrah from the Ventoux region of Provence.  This vintage smacks with black and blue berry fruit in a New World way.  There’s peppery spice and top soil undertones, but I remember former vintages being a chewy, earthy mouthful, a polarizing wine with drinkers who were looking for some fruit for balance.  For that I thought made this wine a little more interesting.  I liked its rustic charm and the leathery dirt and tannic weight.  Vintages can be quite different . . . maybe my memory is serving me wrong? This is a young vintage and could see a few more years of cellar time.

Make no mistake: this wine is a solid table wine.  Certainly versatile and approachable when pairing with food, open this wine for barbeques, grilled pork, and pizza.  We decanted this for at least an hour.  Served with buffalo stroganoff and egg noodles.  Continue reading


2010 Tinto Pesquera

On the eve of spring several more inches of snow fell on the mean streets of Saint Paul.  (Spring, please!  I am ready for rosé!)  But what better way to spend a late winter night than curled up with the man of my dreams with a pizza & a bottle of Spanish wine?

The Tinto Pesquera comes at you like a torero in Spanish leather, a wash of iron and mineral in the glass, something animal-like rising like duende to hit the senses.  This is a big, beefy bottle of Tempranillo that smacks with these great non-fruit elements.   But the fruit is just as present:  bold, bright pie cherry, raspberry jam and bramble linger on your front teeth leaving a layer of fruit-tannic evidence.  The 18 months in French, Spanish and French oak show off more on the finish adding another layer of complexity, body and heft.  Decanted for only 40 minutes, this wine could use a little more coaxing towards its full potential.  I’d let this relax for several hours next time. Continue reading


2005 Arthémis Grand Vin de Bordeaux

From the “right bank” of the Bordeaux region, where Merlot dominates over Cabernet Sauvignon in the bottled blends, good values and safe gambles can be found with little risk, especially from this vintage year:  2005, a great year, and drinking towards its peak, this bottle in particular.  We wanted to try a few different Bordeaux wines from 2005, and grabbed this one off the shelf at Total Wines.  It was one of the more expensive wines of the trip at $60.   We decanted this wine for just over an hour.  The initial sip had biting tannins and a big dry finish. These elements mellowed out in no time to a well-balanced, structured wine loaded with dried red stone fruits (cherry & plum), herbal rosemary dust, mocha, and a presence of oak aging that rounded out the rough, tannic edges and gave the wine a more feminine tasting profile.  Lovely and lush.  Delicious overall.   Continue reading


Port from California?

I had a question the other day whether or not bottles of California fortified wine could be labeled as “Port.”  According to my indispensable wine reference book, The Wine Bible, written by Karen MacNeil:  “Port-style wines are made by a hand-full of producers with traditional Portugese grape varieties, such as touriga nacional, tinta cao, and tinta roriz.  There are also, however, some excellent examples make from zinfandel and petite sirah.  (The United States government allows vintners to use the word Port, even though most other countries refrain from the designation out of respect for Portugese law which stipulates that true Port can only come from the geographically delimited region of the Douro Valley in Portugal.)” (MacNeil p 656-657)  This California Zinfandel Port from Charles Krug has great body with rich raisin and prune with flavors of seasonally ripe, red cherries that have been dried and seamlessly integrated into the wine.   Spice and jammy notes add to the finish.  A little more ruby than tawny, Continue reading


2010 Villa Antinori Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva

I wanted something to drink last night into my extended “Meat Week.”  We picked up dinner at the local Italian deli:  prosciutto (I call it “ham candy”), finocchiona, hot and sweet sopressata.  Three cheeses:  LaTur, a firm pecorino, and Broschetto with black truffle flakes.  And assorted Greek olives, pumpkin seeds, spicy peppers, and chocolate.  By the way, my new favorite chocolate bar is the Green & Black’s Spiced Chili Dark Chocolate.choc Continue reading


My new favorite wine book: Moleskine
Wine Journal

For the poet in me, I am always carrying around a notebook for inspirations, images, to-do lists, books to read, albums to listen to, and to keep track of the wines I try.  Dear friends just gifted me with my first Moleskine Wine Journal.  Described as “your ideal wine cellar on paper,” it is complete with conversion charts, wine terminology translations and sections for sparkling, white, red, rosé, and fortified wines.  There’s even a section for spirits.  The other genius element of design:  three sheets of stickers to note “good year” or “everyday” wines.  (Stickers!? I love stickers!) Now imagine Ernest Hemingway the patron fan of Moleskine journals drinking his way through one of these Wine Journals.  The notes for Death in the Afternoon in pencil, various versions of the “Hemingway” cocktail being devised and revised on entire pages.  Or Pablo Picasso finding inspiration after his third glass of cava to finish Bottle and Wine Glass on Table.  This will be my new blogging tablet I take on-the-go.  Take that, iPad!  Wine is bottled poetry.

pickled onions

Sweet & Spicy Pickles

Also, try these super simple Sweet and Spicy Pickles to spice up salads, sandwiches, pizzas.  Whatever.  Pickles are great supporters of healthy digestion, helping to break down fats, and stimulating salivary and stomach acids to break down food more efficiently.  I was craving pickles during my Master Cleanse, so I am happy to finally indulge in sour foods again.

One large onion (you choose: red, sweet, yellow, white).  Halve and slice thin

2 cups vinegar (I use Apple Cider Vinegar, but red wine is also suggested)

2/3 cup sugar

2 jalapenos or other pepper/chile of your choice.  Stemmed, seeded, and cut into thin rings

1/2 teaspoon salt (I use sea salt)

Place onion in heat-resistant bowl.  Dissolve sugar in vinegar with peppers & salt over medium heat.  Pour over onions and let cool to room temperature.  Once cool, drain some liquid and put onions in large jar.  I also make this with cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and ginger.  I eat some of this at every meal.