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Vinkara wine

Vinkara Wines: Indigenous Grapes from Turkey

Love Old World wines and looking for something new? Try the wines from Vinkara Winery in Turkey, a place where winemaking started some 15,000 years ago.

Vinkara is a leader in the production of indigenous Anatolian grape varietals. They are now introducing their wines to the United States.

Vinkara Winery is located in Kalecik, in the Ankara Province in north-central Turkey. The village gives its name to Kalecik Karasi, a red wine grape that originated there.

Vinkara Narince Reserve 2012Vinkara’s 135 acres of vineyards are planted at an altitude of 2,000 feet, and are influenced by a continental climate with cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. The grapes for all their wines are harvested by hand, and grow in a mix of sand, clay and limestone soils with high mineral content.

I had a chance to taste two of Vinkara’s wines – the Narince Reserve 2012 and the Kalecik Karasi Reserve 2012.

Narince, pronounced nah-rin-djeh and meaning ‘delicately’ in Turkish, is a white wine grape. The 2012 Narince Reserve is a dry white wine that is reminiscent of Chardonnay or a fuller boded Sauvignon Blanc. It opens with citrus, tropical and floral aromas. On the palate are flavors of pear, grapefruit, pineapple and white flowers, with a touch of vanilla and well-balanced acidity. $25, 13.5% abv

Vinkara Kalecik Karasi Reserve 2012The Kalecik Karasi Reserve 2012, pronounced kah-le-djic car-ah-ser (with ‘er’ as in ‘father’), immediately brought to mind a spicy Pinot Noir or Gamay. This dry red wine is medium-bodied with aromas of red fruits, spice and smoke. Plum, red cherry and blackberry flavors are layered with black pepper, nutmeg and subtle notes of smoked meat. Smooth tannins and a lingering finish make it a really pleasing sip. The wine was aged for 14 months in French oak barrels.
$27, 13.5% abv

Though the wine producing region may be unfamiliar and the names may be a bit awkward to pronounce, all you need to know is that the wines of Vinkara are easy to drink and approachable, and well worth seeking out.

For more information on Vinkara Winery visit www.vinkarawines.com.

Vinkara wines are imported by The Winebow Group.

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Smokebelly BBQ

Smokebelly BBQ Now Open

Celebrate Labor Day weekend at Smokebelly’s Q & Brew Lawn Party. On August 31st from 5pm onward there will be a whole hog roast, $5 craft cocktails, $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon and live music.

There was something about Smokebelly BBQ that made me like it from the moment I arrived. Maybe it was the vintage décor that called to mind my favorite barbecue spot in Houston. Or the Led Zeppelin playing over the speakers. And it certainly didn’t hurt that we happened to be seated near a TV showing the Yankees game. But after the first sip of my cocktail, the smoky and spicy Southern Pina, I was happy to welcome Smokebelly to Buckhead.

And that’s the thing about barbecue – it’s a food that makes you happy. Have you ever seen someone looking depressed while digging into a plate of pulled pork or brisket?

Smokebelly BBQ is a new joint venture between the team behind The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill, Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails and Tin Lizzy’s Cantina and Trey Humphreys (the Fur Bus, A Social Mess and The Pool Hall). Helmed by Executive Chef Darrell Rice, Smokebelly offers a menu of regional barbecue favorites complemented by craft beer and cocktails.

Smokebelly cocktailsThough beer is a natural pairing for barbecue, you won’t want to miss out on the cocktails. The Southern Pina, Smokebelly’s take on a margarita with an added kick, is made with house smoked Mezcal, pineapple, lime juice, jalapeno and agave syrup. Another top pick is the Blackberry Whiskey Smash, made with bourbon, blackberries, lime, mint and sugar. The berries are muddled and then strained, so you get pure juice and no seeds.

Dave, our server, was the ideal guide for our first time at Smokebelly. While giving us an overview of the menu, he made sure to recommend dishes that we would have overlooked.

One such recommendation was the Blistered Peppadew Peppers. They were served on top of goat cheese, smoked almonds, black pepper and honey, with house-made crackers. On paper it was perhaps unusual but together the gently spicy pepper, creamy goat cheese and sweet honey were a tasty combination. We also enjoyed the Fried Pickled Okra, served with a barbecue ranch dipping sauce, and the Cherry Cola Ribs, which were flash fried and tossed in the house made sauce.

For the main course my husband and I shared the Sliced Smoked Turkey Breast and the Sliced Beef Brisket. The brisket had great flavor and the turkey was cooked just right (our favorite of the two, if we had to pick one). Both were even better when paired with one of Smokebelly’s sauces.

Smokebelly saucesAbout those sauces — you will never have to worry about running out. There are large bottles on your table, and a full lineup at the sauce bar. There’s the mustard-based Carolina Gold; the vinegar-based Carolina Red; the creamy Alabama White; the Cherry Cola; and a Sweet, Spicy and Savory.

Trying a bite of brisket and turkey in each of the sauces is the closest you’ll get to playing with your food as an adult.

Smokebelly turkey plateSmokebelly sliced brisketDon’t worry vegetarians, you’re still welcome at Smokebelly. There are a variety of vegetarian options and entrée size salads. All diners will enjoy the Chilled Sweet Corn and Edamame “Succotash,” and the collard greens-style Smoky Braised Kale is a standout among the sides (though just a warning for vegans, the kale and the baked beans are made with bacon).

Smokebelly banana puddingIf it is possible that you still have room for dessert, you’ll want to find out about the evening’s special offerings. While the peanut butter cake sounded incredible, we went for the (seemingly) less rich banana pudding. Lightly caramelized on top, with sliced bananas and a decadent creamy filling, it was a gourmet take on the southern sweet.

Smokebelly BBQ is open for lunch and dinner Sunday through Wednesday from 11am to 10pm, and Thursday through Saturday 11am until late. Plenty of free parking is available at the restaurant.

Smokebelly BBQ, 128 East Andrews Drive, Atlanta (Buckhead).
404.848.9100, smokebellybbq.com

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Twitter: @SmokebellyBBQ
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