Delicious food on the table assumes a supporting role to great wine in the glass, when the entertaining curtain rises at Jackie Quillen’s contemporary townhouse in Burleith. And for good reason. Quillen’s cultivated senses have served her well as a wine expert , smelling and tasting her way through a celebrated career, which spans more than four decades. As the founder of auction house Christie’s New York Wine Department, where she appraised rare wine collections, she is known as “The Nose.”
“I like to say, keep the food simple and spend more time with your guests,” says Quillen, as she slowly stirs a saucepan of grits with one hand and flips simmering shrimp with the other. From start to finish, all cooking is completed in less than 20 minutes. We take our seats under a mature plum tree in the garden, near a small fountain. A chilled white wine is at the ready. Still, this oenophile is not ready for that initial taste.
“First, you must look at the color, smell deeply. It’s not about drinking,” she says, giving her glass a swirl. The terroir, or nuances of geography, geology and climate, come into play, into conversation. “That’s how you get into a wine.” Only then does she allow that opening sip.
What wines is Quillen serving guests this summer? Corks will fly from two favorites: a white and rose (both available at Potomac Wines & Spirits, 3100 M St., NW). “ I love Alsatian whites, low in alcohol, just very refreshing. And Schlumberger Pinot Blanc (2011, $17.99) is lovely,” she says. “Alsatians aren’t as popular as they should be. Perhaps, people are confused by the German-sounding names or expect them to be sweet. Few are.”
Whispering Angel (2012, $19.99), a rose from the Cotes de Provence, has a place at her table. “It’s an affordable approximation of Domaine Ott Cotes de Provence, the Holy Grail of all Roses. It’s crisp and delicate, but nicely rounded without a hint of heaviness. A lovely color in the glass.”
But her best summer buy isn’t really a summer wine, but a great value Bordeaux, a Chateau Rousset-Caillau (2010, $15.99).
Steve Feldman, owner of Potomac Wines & Spirits, calls this French varietal “The best Bordeaux, for the money, that we have stocked in 15 years.” Quillen plans to break into her case this fall and winter. “But perhaps one warm summer evening when you are grilling lamb you might serve this Chateau just very slightly chilled,” she says. “And sitting outside in the garden, it would be divine.”
Shrimp and Grits
16 medium raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup stone-ground grits
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Parsley, optional garnish
In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil and slowly stir-in grits. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring frequently for 15 minutes. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat and add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Off heat, add cheese to grits and stir until combined.
Spoon grits onto a luncheon plate, arrange shrimp on top and add garnish.
What’s Cooking, Neighbor? visits with wine, food and entertaining professionals, who call the Georgetown area home.
Georgetowner dining columnist Walter Nicholls is the food critic for Arlington Magazine, a former staff writer for The Washington Post Food section and an East Village resident.