Posts Tagged ‘Leslee Miller’

Somm Speak: A Season for Sharing – Thanksgiving Pairings

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

I’ve a confession to make. I like to drink wine.

Another confession is that I didn’t really know very much about wine until I met my wine buddy, sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusée. (Leslee’s last name is now actually officially “ThewinesommthatIworkwith.”) We started teaching together in 2009 at Cooks of Crocus Hill. That relationship has grown over the years both professionally and personally. We do regular corporate and private events together as well as teaching, writing, and organizing classes and outings that bring beer and wine together under one umbrella. We also just like to hang out and drink. It has been said of us that we are more recognizable together than we are apart.

As part of this ever-expanding partnership, we have started exchanging blog posts. You can find my Monthly Pint column on Leslee’s Amusée blog. And she will start offering a monthly Somm Speak column on mine.

It’s good to expand your horizons.

A Season for Sharing

Whether you’re a beer enthusiast or a wine fanatic, there’s one thing we can all agree upon this Thanksgiving season, you’re gonna need one or the other for this season of sharing. Knowing that half your holiday gatherings will want beer and the other wine, Michael and I thought it a good point to introduce a brand new exchange of blogs from A Perfect Pint to Amusée – showcasing both libations, so you’re set to go with just one click!

On Amusée, Michael now writes a monthly column called A Monthly Pint and I now pen a monthly piece for all you beer enthusiasts called Somm Speak on A Perfect Pint’s blog.

This month I bring you a few of my favorite wines paired to a variety of Thanksgiving dishes!

Grateful Grapes

Thanksgiving brings a whole variety of food. From traditional family recipes to a slew of fun new finds, we know for most of us that turkey will act as our main dish. From roasted, deep fried, smoked or grilled – the almighty bird needs a few tips for pairing from the wine side.

In for a roasty bird with a gorgeously oven-browned, buttery skin? You know, the kind where you shove several pounds of ‘Paula Dean’ under the skin and roast your birdie for a few long hours, leaving it juicy with bits of melted butter and ‘just right’ browned skin for enjoying?

Generally, the rule of thumb in this situation – and certainly one where you most likely can’t go wrong – is to go with a Pinot Noir. If you head this route, splurge on something nice. I’m a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir, yet sometimes a nice Russian River Pinot with bits of minty eucalyptus and dark raspberry fruit does the trick. Want a few Pinot picks for your table? Head here to my Pinterest board – Yes, I’m a Pinotphile – for a list of suggestions.

St. Urbans-Hof ‘Ockfener Bockstein’ Kabinett RieslingLove smoking your bird? Try the second most traditional grape for the season, Riesling! Remember, not all Riesling are sweet! Want fresh, inviting and dry – head to Germany. One of my favorites for pairing to smoked poultry is St. Urbans-Hof ‘Ockfener Bockstein’ Kabinett Riesling from the Mosel. Notes of peach, apricot, creamy apple pulp, and spice cake envelope gorgeous aromas of freshly picked blue and white flowers – violet!

Quinta do Crasto Douro Valley Grilled bird? Smoke and char call for one thing – something dark, medium bodied and delicious when it comes to turkey on the grill. I’m a huge fan of Portuguese reds for this category. Go with a winery that I’ve most recently visited, Quinta do Crasto, for the best value! Quinta do Crasto Douro Valley red, Portugal. For just over $22, the dark juicy jammy fruits combined to the black pepper back of the wine’s body snuggle in perfectly with a charred, crunchy skin of a grilled turkey, yet they don’t over power the juicy delicious meat of the bird.

Lastly, deep fried! To all you crazy Minnesotans who are into deep-frying your birds – I’m finally game for this technique. Tender and rich, and when cooked just right, frying will give you a skin that you’ll never trade for again any other Thanksgiving. Try a wine like a light bodied Zinfandel from CA or even a darker, more structured (older vined) Gamay from the Loire Valley of France. Like Gamay but not a Beaujolais Nouveau fan? Try these two ‘sister’ wines from the Loire Valley of France for a bit of a change when it comes to this grape.

Now that you’ve got your main bird covered, you won’t want to forget the opening appetizer wine and your closer. First things first… No one enters my house any time of year without a glass of bubbles. Of course ‘bubbles’ can refer to beer as well, but in my domain, sparkling wines rule!

François Chidaine MontlouisHere’s a fun little winery from the Loire region of France (again) that will keep everyone happy, not to mention, will pair beautifully with anything squash on your table. Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, try the François Chidaine Montlouis, yum! Creamy pear, apple & bright stone fruit make this a great opener for all things – cheese, creamy dips, to chips and sweet pickle plates.

Alright, alright – the pie! From pumpkin pie to pecan, I’m telling ya – fortifieds are your answer. Yes, Port will absolutely do the trick, but if you want the ultimate pairing to pumpkin pie, go with a sweet sherry from Jerez, Spain – like Moscatel, with its honeyed, orangey bits, will make any pumpkin pie pairing perfect. Need a recipe and pairing for your table, check out Amusée’s latest ‘Drunkin Punkin’ Pie recipe and pairing blog.

And if you’re just south of the Mason Dixon line (or happen to love a little southern something for Thanksgiving dessert), Pecan Pie and Madeira could be the match for you. Michael, I’m sure, has a gorgeous line up of beers for all these sweets, but when it comes to truly being in doubt when it comes to sweet, go Madeira. Try a sweeter version, like Malmsey, for a perfect pairing to pecan pie!

From top to bottom, we’ve got you covered. Looks like no one should go thirsty this holiday season if you’re keeping up with A Perfect Pint and Amusée! For more monthly wine tips, check in often for my guest posts along A Perfect Pint’s blog line labeled “Somm Speak.”

Until then, Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

Beer & Wine University is Back

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Beer & Wine University is Back!

Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusee and Certified Cicerone® Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint are bringing the popular libation bootcamp back – not just once, but twice a year!

Each session we promise to mix up the fun & education, so you can build upon your repertoire of delicious wine and beer knowledge. If you made it to our last series, come again! It’ll be different each time around.

The next session’s fun starts on October 21st and runs three consecutive Tuesdays through November 4th!

When: October 21st, 28th & November 4th. Class starts promptly at 6:30pm and run until 8:30pm.

Where: TBD

Cost: $40 per class session or sign up for all three at once for just $100!

Buy your ticket here!

Contact Leslee Miller directly at for all questions & inquiries.

The Sessions:

Oct 21st: Beer for wine lovers, Wine for beer lovers

Let’s agree to come together! Wine lovers will find much to love about beer and vice versa in this interactive class taught by Sommelier Leslee Miller and Cicerone Michael Agnew. From grape varietals to beer styles, you’ll discover the right beverage for your palate. Are you a Cabernet drinker? Let us show the beer that best matches the complex bold flavors of this grape. A Pilsner drinker? We’ll give you the grape alternative for this crisp, refreshing beer style.

Oct 28th: Why oaking matters

Toast, caramel, macaroon, pancakes and crème brûlée. You guessed it! These are all descriptions for the impact of oak on a libation. Elevate your senses in this creative ‘why oaking matters’ class with Cicerone Michael and Sommelier Leslee. Not all oak is the same. The wood’s subtle nuances vary by country of origin and level of toast. Explore those differences and more as we examine the effects of wood on your favorite drinks from grapes to grains!

Nov 4th: Festivus for the rest of us!

A joyous, holiday feast – what else? Sorry, Kramer won’t be there, but we will! Come learn the art of combining beer and wine with food as two of the Twin Cities’ most passionate food and libation instructors, Sommelier Leslee Miller & Cicerone Michael Agnew, pair their way through three genres of holiday celebrations. From a traditional turkey dinner, to a full Festivus layout (spaghetti & meatloaf), to a Hanukkah feast with latkes and jelly doughnuts, you’ll sample the wonderful variety of the holiday table and pick up some tips on the best beverage accompaniments.

Cicerone Michael Agnew & Sommelier Leslee Miller
In May of 2009, Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint and Certified Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusee teamed up for the first time to teach a beer, wine, and cheese class at Cooks of Crocus Hill. It turned out that the pairing of the two of them was as magical as the ones they created with the cheeses. Since that night their professional relationship has grown to include joint classes and private tasting events, food-service consulting that encompasses both beer and wine, and the highly successful, bi-annual Beer & Wine University. The teaching chemistry between them is so strong that a class alum once told them, “you two are more recognizable together than separate.”

Working together allows Michael and Leslee to speak to audiences they might not otherwise reach. During the course of an event even the most hardcore wine or beer people find at least one sample that makes them want to know more about the other side. 



She Said, He Said: Endless Summer Pairings at Cooks of Crocus Hill

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Cooks Logo

Sommelier Leslee Miller, Chef Mike Shannon, and I have been teaming up to teach She Said:He Said beer/wine/food classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill since 2009. (Really? 2009? It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.)We’ve built up a camaraderie and easy-going teaching style that has made our classes the most popular of the Cooks lineup. They always sell out – usually very quickly.

Our next beer/wine pair-off happens August 8th at the St. Paul location on Grand Avenue. You don’t want to miss this. Leslee and I are going head-to-head with thoughtfully selected beers and wines paired to four courses of Mike’s summer deliciousness. Check out this menu.

  • Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad
  • Mediterranean Lemon Quinoa Bowl
  • Lamb Chops with Chickpeas and Tomatoes
  • Lemon Blueberry Mascarpone Tartlets

There are still a few spots available. You can register online at the Cooks of Crocus Hill website. Come join us!

Beer & Wine University is back!

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Beer/Wine University

Due to overwhelming success of our fall Beer/Wine University Series, Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusee and Certified Cicerone® Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint are bringing the popular libation bootcamp back – not just once, but twice a year!

Each session we promise to mix up the fun & education, so you can build upon your repertoire of delicious wine and beer knowledge. If you made it to our last series, come again! It’ll be different each time around.

The next session’s fun starts on April 17th and runs three consecutive Thursdays May 1st!

When: April 17, 24th & May 1st. Class starts promptly at 6:30pm and will run until 8:30pm.

Where:  The Carlyle Building, 100 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis

Parking: There is absolutely no inside building parking.  Street parking is available, along with an open air CASH pay lot across the street from the building.

Cost: $40 per class session or sign up for all three at once and receive a $20 discount!

Buy your ticket here!

Contact Leslee Miller directly at for all questions & inquiries, DO NOT contact The Carlyle Building

Session #1 – April 17th: Back to Basics: Wine/Beer Bootcamp: Learn the basics of beer and wine with two of the Twin Cities’ most passionate beer and wine educators, Sommelier Leslee Miller and Cicerone Michael Agnew. From styles, regions, grape varietals to all the sensory perspectives of grains to grapes – Michael and Leslee introduce the basics of beer/wine in this introductory 2 hour course.

Session #2 – April 24th:  Pantry Pairings: Understand the basics of how to pair beer and wine to the world of food. Whether the dish is light and bright, salty and savory, or earthy and umami, you’ll learn the time-tested tricks of correctly pairing the right libations to the right foods and gain an understanding of when the ‘old school’ rules need not apply.

The best part…we’re pairing to all the easy eats that you prepare Monday through Thursday; things found in your pantry, from guacamole, chips & dip to Minnesota hot dish! We have the libation answers to your weeknight cravings.

Session #3 – May 1st:  Open that Bottle Night!: Looking to really step outside your box?  This is the class for you!  From weird and whacky grape varietals, obscure growing regions, and funky vintaged wines to the world’s most interesting specialty and extreme beers (and maybe a beer cocktail to boot!), this class takes your knowledge of beer and wine to the next level.  Beverage selections for this class won’t be revealed until the night of!

Beer and Wine Tips and Videos in June Cambria Style Magazine

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

A while back I teamed up with my good friend sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusée to create some super pairings for the summer issue of Cambria Style Magazine. Outside, the gray and snowy day hardly made one think of summer, but inside Kitchen Window in Uptown things were warm and glowing. We shot several videos that day to accompany our written pieces about pairing beer and wine with food. The only down side was that the food and drink were being photographed for the issue, so very little sampling was done. Nonetheless it was a great day. The videos came out beautifully. Be sure to check out the magazine spread as well.

Summer Beer/Wine/Food Pairings

Pouring a Proper Pint

Summer Beer Classes

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Now that I’m back I’m hitting the ground running. I have a bevy of public events and classes coming up that I want to let you know about. Check these out.

Beer & Cheese Pairing at Midwest Supply
June 23, 6-8 PM, FREE
People usually talk about pairing wine and cheese, but beer is a much better companion. In fact, they are sort of the same thing (learn why by coming to the event). In the class we’ll talk about some basic principles of pairing beer and cheese while sampling the wares of some of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s best cheese makers and brewers. Midwest Supply is going to stay open later than normal so you can stock up on your brewing supplies while you’re there.

Summer Fresh Beer Pairing Dinner at Cooks of Crocus Hill
June 24, 6-9 PM, $75
With Chef Jeremy Reinicke
Fresh, light, easy. These are all the words that spring to mind when we think of summer food. But summer beers are no different! They’re fresh, light and easy to drink. Join Cicerone Michael Agnew and Chef Jeremy Reinicke for the perfect pairing of yummy warm-weather favorite foods and summery suds.
Menu: Assorted Fresh Cheeses; Summer Harvest Salad with Honey Basil Vinaigrette; Tuna Tartare with Dill on Toasted Baguette; Roasted Leg of Lamb with “Flanders Red” Marinade; Summer Berries with Puff Pastry and Aged Balsamic; a Selection of Summery Craft Beers.

Beer, Wine & BBQ at Cooks of Crocus Hill
July 29, 6-9 PM, $75, SOLD OUT get on the waiting list.
With Chef Mike Shannon and Sommelier Leslee Miller
Smoky. Sweet. We’re not just talking about the food either! Chef Mike, Sommelier Leslee and Cicerone Michael are back together again, this time pairing grapes and grains with the great summer flavors of the grill. Join them as Mike fires up the grill and Michael and Leslee throw down the pairings. There’s no better way to beat the heat this summer.
Menu: Grilled Tomatoes with Mozzarella; Grilled Romaine with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette; Coconut Shrimp with Vanilla Gastrique; Knife and Fork Manchego Burger; Grilled Peaches with Grand Marnier Cream.

Hope to see you there!

Cozy Comforts Beer & Wine Pairing Dinner at Cooks of Crocus Hill

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Last night the tastebud-teasing trio of Sommelier Leslee Miller, Chef Mike Shannon, and Cicerone Michael Agnew (that’s me) came together at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul for another beer, wine, and food pairing experience. This one, called Cozy Comforts, focused on the kind of foods that Minnesotans need to help them through January’s deep-freeze. As temperatures routinely drop well below zero, we crave rich and wholesome foods like pot roast and mac & cheese; the kind of food that your grandma used to make (only a lot fancier). During the three-hour class, guests tasted their way through five courses, each paired with a beer, a wine, or both.

I started the night off with a welcome beer, Schell’s Snowstorm. Snowstorm is the annual winter seasonal release from New Ulm’s August Schell Brewing. Every year it is brewed to a different style. This year’s version is a dark wheat doppelbock (just try saying that three times fast). This is a fantastic beer to warm the soul, combining the familiar banana and clove flavors of a German Hefeweizen with the rich, sweet, caramel maltiness of a doppelbock. Several people told me that they typically don’t like wheat beers, but that this one made them reconsider.

The first course was braised winter greens with bacon. Imagine kale (I love kale) braised in cider and topped off with cranberries and bacon; bitter, sweet, tart, and salty/savory all in one place. Leslee paired this with Helfrich Riesling from Alsace. The wine had earthy aromas of wet stone and a bright acidic tartness. It really spoke to the cranberries in the dish and made them absolutely pop.

For the second course Chef Mike whipped up four-cheese macaroni and cheese with gruyere, white cheddar, parmesan, and just a touch of gorgonzola. I paired this with Isolation Ale from Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. Isolation Ale is a traditional English winter warmer, malt-forward with a bit of bitterness to balance and light orangey citrus notes. It paired well, but I think I could have gone even maltier with something like an English barleywine.

Next on the menu was ginger orange Cornish hens with sweet potatoes and green apples. Leslee made an unexpected pairing to this dish, choosing a bigger Spanish red, Caliza Syrah from Marqués de Griñón. The wine had strong peppery flavors that spoke to the ginger in the dish, while the citrusy sauce and sweet potato/apple side-dish pulled out nice fruity notes from the wine.

The pairings with the fourth and fifth courses were the best of the night. The fourth course was a very traditional pot roast with carrots and shallots. Leslee focused on the sweetness of the carrots and onions, choosing Root: 1 Carmenere, a red from Chile. It featured juicy plum and berry flavors with light tannins on the finish. The wine went perfectly with the veggies and also pulled some sweetness from the meat. I went with Meantime London Porter, a medium-bodied, moderately-roasty porter from England. The roastiness of the beer was perfect with the meat and the light caramel sweetness also spoke to the carrots and onions.

Desert was S ‘more Pot De Crème, an original creation of Chef Mike. Rich chocolate custard was topped with crumbled graham-cracker and torch-toasted marshmallow cream. The drink pairings offered a lesson in both complementary and contrasting flavors. I chose Rogue Chocolate Stout, rich, sweet, and chocolaty. I was going for chocolate overload. The flavors melded perfectly as one disappeared into the other. Leslee went with Astoria Lounge Sweet a tasty sparkling wine from Italy. It’s deep honeycomb and fruit flavors countered the rich chocolate/marshmallow of the desert and the light sparkle cleansed the palate for the next bite. It reminded me of the way a tart raspberry sauce enhances a dark chocolate cake.

Our next Cooks of Crocus Hill beer/wine pairing event is on April 15th. The theme is “the Big Thaw”; food, beer, and wine to bring us out of hibernation.

Upcoming Beer Classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I have a couple of beer classes upcoming at Cooks of Crocus Hill. Check these out.

ABCs of Beer
Monday, December 20th, 6-8 PM
Cost: $55
What’s the difference between ale and lager? What’s the best glass for my favorite beer? Which beers can I cellar and which ones should I drink young? Join Certified Cicerone (the beer expert equivalent of a sommelier) Michael Agnew as he shows you all the basics and then some. You’ll learn how to taste, select and care for beers of all types and styles. Includes a selection of Craft Beers from around the world representing basic styles and light snacks.

Cozy Comforts Wine & Beer Pairing Dinner
With Sommelier Leslee Miller and Chef Mike Shannon
Thursday, January 6th, 6-9 PM
Cost: $75
The weather outside is still frightful, but the wine, beer and tasty comfort food at Cooks are totally delightful! Snuggle up with Sommelier Leslee, Cicerone Michael and Chef Mike for a fun-filled new take on Minnesotan winter comforts.
Braised Winter Greens; Four-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese; Cornish Hens with Ginger-Apple Sweet Potatoes, Smore Pot de Creme.

Smoked, Grilled, and Sauced: A Beer and Wine Pairing Experience

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Friday night I co-taught a wonderful class at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul. My co-presenters for the class were Chef Mike Shannon and Level III Sommelier Leslee Miller. Thirty-six guests were treated to a five-course meal of grilled and smoked delights each paired with either a beer or a wine. The final two courses were paired with both. As we ate and drank our way through the deliciousness the three of us traded off explaining the pairings, offering up knowledge, and weaving tales about our respective passions.

As we offered our introductions, guests enjoyed a light, sparkling, wine from Portugal. Famega Vinho Verde was a delicious white with a gentle touch of spritz and fantastic strawberry and pear fruit. I had to comment when Leslee mentioned that its 9.5% ABV made it a “low-alcohol wine that you could drink quite a bit of in an evening.” Coming from the world of beer, when we get above 8% we start talking about strong beers that have to be consumed in moderation.

The first dish that Chef Mike offered up was a twist on the traditional Cobb salad with lightly sauced pulled pork in place of the chicken. I paired this with Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier. Hefewizen pairs well with egg and cured meats, so it was a natural with the boiled egg and bacon on the salad. My main concern was that it wouldn’t stand up to the pulled pork. Guests however commented that the spicy yeast character of the beer really pulled out the flavors of the pork while the full wheaty/yeasty mouthfeel was able to hold its own against it.

The next course was a smoked salmon pizza with Asiago cheese. Leslee paired this with Croatian Korta Katarina Plavac Mali Rosé. This was another light, fruity wine with strawberry and rhubarb notes. It managed to stand up well to the assertive Asiago cheese and the smoked salmon brought out smoky notes in the wine that were not there when tasted alone.

The next course was mine to pair, a grilled Jamaican jerk chicken with a fruity/spicy Caribbean slaw. I paired this with Meantime IPA. The citrus and stone fruit flavors played well with the fruit of the slaw while the hops brought out the spice. This is a balanced English IPA with enough malt to knock heat back again on the way down.

After a short break we returned for the dish that I was really anticipating, a middle-eastern seasoned lamb chop with tomatoes and chick peas. Both Leslee and I took this one on and both pairings were possibly the best of the night. Leslee poured 2004 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino. This big, Italian red made with 100% Sangiovese grapes had intense dark fruity flavors and spice notes that stood up to the well-seasoned lamb, while tannins in the finish swept away the fat. I paired this dish with Ovni Ale Biére de Garde from Flat Earth Brewing in St. Paul. Caramel, toast, and spicy hops in this beer was another perfect match with the similar flavors in the lamb. Both the wine and the beer were perfect with the dish.

The desert was cheesecake with a sour cherry sauce. I went for Lindemans Kriek with this one. The sweet and sour cherry beer matched the cheesecake flavor for flavor. Leslee chose Schlink Haus Dornfelder, German Sweet Wine. Sweet, but not too sweet, and loaded with cherry fruit notes, this was another great match.

Three hours, five courses, and eight pours after we began a satisfied crowd filtered out of the upstairs kitchen space at Cooks. I had a blast and I believe the guests did as well. I hope to teach another course with Leslee and Mike soon. Thanks to all who came.