Bo Ssäm and a Comparative Riesling Party! #WinePW

David Chang's Bo Ssäm is a delicious and surprisingly easy way to feed a group! We used the occasion to have comparative Riesling tasting with versions from the Finger Lakes in New York, Alsace in France, and the Nahe region of Germany.


One of our very favorite restaurants when we lived in NY, was David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar. The first time we went was in 2011 for a friend’s birthday not too long after we’d moved to the city. We’d pre-ordered their Bo Ssäm for the event and what a feast it was! It continues to be one of my very favorite food memories. 

Photos from our first Bo Ssåm at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, plus a much younger Greg with our friends Glenn, Rob, and Adam. We were there celebrating Glenn's birthday.

The Bo Ssäm is one of several large-format meals the restaurant offers that are available for pre-order. (Well, when one can go to restaurants again I assume it’ll be available again.) It showcases a big hunk of pork with all kinds of fixings. Here’s the website description:
The Bo Ssäm features a pork shoulder that we cure overnight, then slow roast for 6–8 hours before glazing with brown sugar and roasting juices. It comes with a dozen oysters, white rice, Bibb lettuce, Korean-style barbecue sauce, kimchi, and ginger scallion sauce. In the spirit of “ssäm,” which is Korean for “enclosed” or “wrapped,” we encourage guests to make wraps with the pork and condiments, or eat as they please. (Available for parties of 6–10 guests)
I loved the amazing mix of flavors and playing around with the different sauces. The oysters were also a surprise. They seemed like they shouldn't have worked in the mix, but their brininess cut the fatty richness of the pork in a beautiful way.  The whole spread was unbelievably good. What I’ve now discovered is that it’s also unbelievably easy to make! 

 
After over two months of being quite strict about social distancing due to Coronavirus, Greg and I decided it was time to start figuring out our “quaranteam” or social bubble, whatever you want to call it. Our friends Lucy and Drew were the first additions, given we’d all been similarly strict and we all love preparing a good feast together. (Regular readers will recognize them from our many trips to the Culinary Cabin, and you’ll be seeing more of them since they’re part of the team now.)


A Bo Ssäm feast seemed like an excellent group project to celebrate reducing isolation! We used the version of the recipe up at NYT Cooking. That’s behind a paywall, but luckily the recipe is up at various different sites including Epicurious and Taste. The recipe is also in the Momofuku cookbook, which I definitely recommend. I prepped and babysat the pork while it cooked, Drew shucked and prepped the oysters (I love oysters, but I hate shucking them!), the guys and I divvied up the sides and fixings, and Lucy made dessert. 




The pork preparation could not be simpler. The curing and cooking were both super easy, it just all requires time, although it doesn’t require a lot of your attention through most of the process. We stuck to the recipe pretty faithfully, although we cut the quantity in half – I’d say even that made more than 6 servings. Shucking oysters aside, this has to be one of the easiest, most showstopping ways to feed a crowd and it packs a flavor punch. 



I realize we’ve been on a slow-cooked pork kick around here, as two piggy posts have landed next to each other. But hey, it’s so freak’n good!!!

 

Riesling Party

An added bonus of a dinner with friends is that you get to open multiple bottles of wine, and I love to mix and match to see what works best. The mix of spicy, sweet, fatty, and salty flavors here screamed out for Riesling to me. Since several bottles would inevitably be required, I figured, why not have a comparative riesling party?!

I’ve mentioned that Riesling is my favorite white grape, and a big part of that is its ability to make such a wide range of wine styles –– sparkling, bone dry, and every level of sweetness to full-on dessert wines. Moreover, the incredible range of flavors it’s able to produce makes it easy to pair with a wide range of cuisines. It also tends to be high in acidity, which is another plus when it comes to pairing it with food. This is also a very aromatic grape, that will often jump out of the glass with a whole kaleidoscope of aromas and flavors that can include everything from citrus, stone fruits, apples, pineapple, stones, honeysuckle, jasmine, ginger, and of course the petrol notes that it’s often known for.


I decided to open bottles from the Finger Lakes in New York (the subject of this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend discussion), Alsace in France, and the Nahe region of Germany. All three wines are from standard-bearers in their respective regions, and all were in a similar price range. In a way, this line-up also reflects the progression of my relationship with this grape. 


All wines today were purchased via Wine.com.

 

Dr. Konstantin Frank Semi-Dry Riesling 2016


My appreciation of Riesling started with a trip to the Finger Lakes in New York. Funny enough, this trip was just a few months after that Bo Ssäm at Ssäm Bar. We headed up to Seneca Lake for a party celebrating the wedding of two friends (the bride is from the area). We tacked on a couple of days to explore the wine region – I actually wrote about the experience here. (Wow! I'm realizing that trip was exactly 9 years and one day ago! Where does the time ago?)


We were delighted with the QPR of the wines of the region in general and we learned a ton. The trip really opened my eyes to the grape’s possibilities. The region makes its Rieslings in a full range of styles from dry to sweet, which quickly undid me of the notion that Riesling equals sweet. (This was before I’d started studying wine.) I also found that often a little a bit of sweetness was not a bad thing, as a touch of residual sugar often helps balance out the grapes searing acidity on the palate.


One winery I always wished we’d been able to visit is Dr. Konstantin Frank on Keuka Lake, as it’s a key benchmark winery of the region. There has been a wine industry in the Finger Lakes since the 1800s, however, native species like Concord grapes were the norm for the majority of that time. It gets REALLY cold in the Finger Lakes and their growing season is very short. It’s at the upper latitudes of where it’s possible to grow wine grapes and has a climate very similar to many of Germany’s wine regions. The lakes themselves help moderate temperatures and without them, grape growing would be impossible. Nonetheless, it proved quite tricky to coax Vitis vinifera, the species to which all of our beloved wine grapes belong, to grow here.


That all changed thanks to Dr. Frank. A professor of plant sciences who held a Ph.D. in viticulture, Dr. Frank arrived in the US in 1951 and soon took a position at Cornell University. He had experience working with cold climate grapes and became convinced that the real problem was that they weren’t working with the proper rootstocks for the conditions of the region. He eventually found a collaborator in  Charles Fournier, a French Champagne maker and president of nearby Gold Seal Vineyards. Their work made a difference and now the region is well-known for its fine wines. Dr. Frank founded his own winery in 1962, just over a decade after his arrival in the US, and it continues to be one of the benchmark wineries of the region.


We opened the Dr. Konstantin Frank Semi-Dry Riesling 2016 for our Bo Ssäm. I chose the semi-dry version because I thought a little residual sugar would help match the sweet and spicy components in our meal. It worked out great! It actually proved the pairing winner. Even Lucy, who is not a fan of off-dry wines in general, had to give it to this wine as the best match.


For me, this wine stylistically fell between the other two examples. It had a little more residual sugar and was fruitier than our wine from Alsace, which was key for the reason mentioned above, but it also had a more robust structure than the version Germany, which helped it stand up to the robust textures and flavors of the food. Admittedly, it was less complex than the other two wines, but it made the best pairing.


Tasting Notes: Pear, peaches, tangerine skin, ginger, and honeysuckle. It finished with lots of minerality, and showed the most petrol character of the three wines. Fresh acidity helps to keep the sweetness balanced.


Geeky Details
(From the tech sheet.)

Winemaking: The fruit was picked in the early morning to retain freshness and fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The fermentation was stopped before dryness to preserve the fruity character of this wine.

Additional paring suggestions:  Orange chicken, paella, gumbo, turkey with cranberry sauce.
Alcohol: 11.5%,
Acidity: 0.73 g/100mL
pH: 3.10
Sugar: 2.5%
Price: $19



Dr. Konstantin Frank Rielsing with Bo Ssäm. Photo By Greg Hudson.

Trimbach Riesling Alsace 2017


This is one of the wines that really cinched my love for  Riesling. I’m not certain, but I’m guessing I first tried Alsace’s take on this grape during my CMS Somm course. I started buying this bottle of Trimbach regularly because I always found it to be excellent at the price point. I’ve continued buying it ever since.


Alsace is generally known for a dry style of Riesling, although wines at all sweetness levels exist. Trimbach’s wine are known for being particularly steely. I went into depth on Alsace and it’s wines here, so I’ll invite you to check out that post for background on the region. It also happens to include a previous vintage of this wine with additional details.


The Trimbach Riesling Alsace 2017 was the crowd favorite when sipped on its own, but it did not work with the food. It wasn’t bad with the oysters, but it clashed with the pork. It was just way too dry for the sweeter components in the meal.


Tasting Notes: Stony minerals galore. Grapefruit, white peach, green apples, and white flowers. Super steely with lots of acidity. It was definitely the driest wine of the group and had the most minerality.


Geeky Details

(From the tech sheet.)
Winemaking: The grapes are normally harvested in late October and fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel and concrete vats. There is no secondary malolactic fermentation in order to maintain as much natural acidity as possible.
Alcohol: 12.5%
Residual Sugar:  2.7 g/L
Price: $20 on sale. (I usually see this for around $24-$25.)


The Trimbach might not have worked with the Bo Ssäm, but here's another recent pairing where it did work. 





 

Dönnhoff Estate Riesling Nahe 2018


It took me a little longer to understand and appreciate German Rieslings. While the are variations by region, the German style of Riesling tends to more ethereal, and they indeed escaped me for a while, like I couldn’t quite pin them down.  It’s also hard to get a handle on all of the classifications. (And we are not going to get into them today!) Now I love them, drink them regularly, and I’ve come to appreciate the precision of their system.


Nahe is a smaller region in Germany, and not as well known, perhaps because it’s flanked by the two more famous regions of Mosel and Rheingau. The Dönnhoff family has been in the area for over 200 years. They slowly grew from a modest farm to a full wine estate over time, and are now in their 4th generation. 


The Dönnhoff Estate Riesling Nahe 2018 is labeled as dry, but I got a little bit of residual sugar, which rounded it out and helped it work well with the food. We all agreed that it was a close second in terms of pairings. Drew actually preferred this wine with the oysters.


Tasting Notes: Flowers blossoms with white peach, pears, and light hints of spice. It was the most delicate of the three wines with the lightest body, but it still had lots of refreshing acidity.


Geeky Details
(From the tech sheet here and here.)


Soil:The vines grow in stony, weathered volcanic soils of porphyry and melaphyr in particular, with certain amounts of slate and quartzite.

Winemaking: Fermentations occur in a combination of stainless & used large oak
Age of vines:15 - 30 years
Alcohol: 11.5%
Price: $24

This was such a fun feast! And I love any excuse to pop open a bunch of Rieslings. Plus, now that I know how easy it is to make a Bo Ssäm, I will definitely be doing it again!




*****

The rest of the Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) blogging group is also exploring wines from the Finger Lakes. Be sure to check out their posts:





  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm is “Exploring the Wines of New York’s Finger Lakes Region.”
  • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing “Bibimbap with Garden Banchan + Forge Cellars Classique Riesling 2017.
  • Lori at Dracaena Wines is Delving Into the History of the Finger Lakes with John Wagner.
  • David at Cooking Chat is exploring “Finger Lakes Wine Paired with Everyday Favorites.
  • Cindy at Grape Experiences shares “An Impressive New York Treasure: the Finger Lakes Wine Region.
  • Teri at Our Good Life pairs “Zero Degree Riesling with Pan Seared Scallops over Cheesy Grits.
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click! suggests “New York Finger Lakes – I Hope You Like Riesling!
  • Jill at L’OCCASION offers “New York Finger Lakes: Wine For Summer Pairings.
  • Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings shares “New York Finger Lakes Wines – Lonesome Stony Rose and Fox Run Rieslings Paired with Quick-Prepped Seafood.
  • Jane at Always Ravenous offers “Picnic Fare Paired with Finger Lake Wines.
  • Rupal at Syrah Queen discusses “The Charm Of New York Finger Lakes Rieslings.”
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles is pairing “Finger Lake Riesling and Alsatian Salmon.
  • Gwendolyn at Wine Predator offers two posts: “Two Riesling from the Finger Lakes Paired with a Potluck” and “#RoseAllDay for #RoseDay: 3 from New York’s Finger Lakes.
  • Susannah at Avvinare shares “Delightful wines from the Finger Lakes.
  • Jennifer at Vino Travels takes a look at “Wines from Around Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Region.
  • Finally, Linda at My Full Wine Glass is sharing two posts: “Three Takes on Finger Lakes NY Cabernet Franc Rosé” and “Two Pairs of NY Finger Lakes Riesling – a Winning Hand.


  • Additional sources used for this post:
    Vinous.com: Finger Lakes Rising 
    Wine-Searcher.com
    Winefolly.com: The Taster’s Guide to Riesling Wine 


    This post contains affiliate links, including the following Amazon Associate links, from which I might receive a commission at no cost to you.

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    14 comments

    1. What a great feast to usher in the next phase - social teaming. I admire your cooking prowess and love the Riesling comparison. I like comparing varietal styles too. Fun!

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      1. It was a lot of fun. One of the best parts about this though was that the pork really did not require any kind of prowess!

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    2. What a grand dinner - the raw oyster and the Korean-style slow-roasted pork! Excellent idea to do a taste compare on Riesling from NY, France and Germany!

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    3. What an amazing feast and you were so brave to try this at home! I'm inspired to dive into Rieslings from around the globe.

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      1. It was an amazing feast, but it was really so easy! I highly recommend for high return to minimal effort. (Oyster shucking aside since I find that difficult.)

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    4. Yay! A new recipe for pork shoulder, I bet I could smoke the Bo Ssäm. Can't wait to give this one a try!

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      1. Oooh, I bet that would give it a delicious twist!

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    5. Wow Nicole, what a feast and a comparative tasting of Rieslings from different regions sounds like a lot of fun!

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    6. what a great night! The idea of comparing the same grape to different wine regions is a wonderful and fun experiment.

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    7. What a fun party after so long without, made sweeter by all the memories you had to share. I'm sure you had a great time.

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    Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!