Menus for Valentine’s Day

valentines-day-wineWe’re heading towards one of my favorite holidays, Valentine’s Day!  My Super Hubby proposed on Valentine’s Day, we were at a ski resort, on a chairlift.  Guess you could say I was a captive audience.  I love the beautiful red decorations, the idea of showering your loved ones with hugs and kisses, and of course the chocolate.  What’s not to love about that?

In our home, we do not go out to a restaurant for Valentine’s Day.  We figure the restaurants will be crowded, the waitstaff with be harried, and it is possible the restaurant will run out of items on the menu.  Instead, we have a quiet dinner at home (okayvalentines-day-dinner, when
the kids were little, it wasn’t always so quiet), and we are able to enjoy each other’s company without a lot of intrusion.

Many people like beef and shellfish, and there is nothing wrong with these foods, but we have food allergies in our home so these items will not be on the menu.  I prefer to cook something that is not overly heavy, preferring something light – and something that doesn’t involve too many dishes!

garlic-ultra-premium-olive-oilI recently roasted a pork shoulder that turned out amazingly wonderful.  I rubbed some garlic infused olive oil on the meat portion of the shoulder, not the fat.  We get our infused olive oils at Saratoga Olive Oil.  If you do not have infused olive oil, just mix about a teaspoon of minced garlic with some light olive oil, and that will work.  Mix some good sea salt, cracked pepper and a pork-roasthealthy dose of crushed rosemary, pat that all over the roast.

Preheat your oven to 450°F, put about 1/2 cup of liquid in thepork-roast bottom of the pan.  I like to use a roasting rack, but you don’t have to.  The liquid can be water, or for more flavor, use apple juice or cider.  Peel and halve some potatoes, red or white, quarter some yellow or white onions and put the potatoes and onions around the roast.  Lightly sprinkle the same seasonings over the potatoes (salt, pepper and crushed rosemary). Put the meat and vegetables into the oven and set your timer for 25-30 minutes.  When the timer goes off, set the temperature of your oven to 375°F, cook for another 25 minutes per pound or until your carrot-cake-jamemeat thermometer reads 155-160°F.  Approximately one hour prior to your roast being done, add the carrots.  I like to put some melted Potlicker Carrot Cake Jam on my carrots just prior to serving.

If you would like an actual recipe, here is something similar.  I like to add the carrots for extra color.  You need to use a pork roast that has a bone in it, it will take longer to cook but it will have a lot more flavor and the meat will be juicier and more tender.

Roast Pork Loin and Potatoes

BON APPÉTIT MAY 2000
Yield:  Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 4-pound center-cut bone-in pork loin (rib) roast
  • 4 large russet potatoes (about 3 pounds), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk 1/4 cup oil, garlic, butter, sage and rosemary in small bowl to blend. Place pork in large roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub herb mixture over pork. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.) Cover pork loosely with foil and roast 2 hours.

Divide remaining 1/4 cup oil between 2 heavy large skillets. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Divide potatoes between skillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until potatoes are golden but not tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to roasting pan with pork. Toss potatoes with pan juices. Continue roasting, uncovered, until pork browns, potatoes are tender and juices are slightly reduced, about 40 minutes.

Place pork in center of large platter. Surround with potatoes. Pour pan juices into 2-cup glass measuring cup. Spoon fat off top of juices and discard. Pour juices over pork and potatoes.

firesteed-oregon-pinot-noirWith pork roast, I would serve a slightly chilled Pinot Noir.  One I am enjoying lately is Firesteed from Oregon.  I was able to try the wines from the Firesteed collection and found all of them to be lovely.  There is a large spectrum of pricing, from $15.99 to $69.99.  I prefer the lower range of price, and found all so good; a bottle of the Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Riesling came home with me.   The spicy notes, together with the plumy flavors of the Pinot Noir, bring out the rosemary in the meal and compliments it well.

This is a rich dinner, so I would simply add some extra dark chocolate and some Petite Sirah for the dessert.  Open the wine when you sit down for dinner and let it breathe while you’re enjoying your meal.  This will blend out the tannins and open up the chocolatey goodness a good Petite Sirah provides. Look to the mcmanis-petite-sirahLodi region of California for an exceptional value in wine that will provide an exceptional flavor.  I always go for the McManis Petite Sirah.  I keep it chilled, then open at the beginning of my meal, it is served slightly above room temperature with the extra dark chocolate, yum.

For my vegetarian readers, I would suggest:

Vegetarian Cassoulet

Prep 20 m
Cook 9 h
Ready In 9 h 20 m

“This is a vegetarian version of the traditional French dish. If you are home while this is cooking, give the beans a stir every couple of hours.”

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight with a tablespoon of salt
  • 4 cups mushroom broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 cube vegetable bouillon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried crushed rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh lemon thyme, chopped or 1 tsp dried lemon thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh savory or 1 tsp dried savory
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 can diced green chilies (optional)
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

Directions

Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir onion and carrots in oil until tender.

In a slow cooker, combine beans, carrots and onion, broth, garlic, bouillon, and bay leaf. Pour in water if necessary to cover ingredients with water. Tie together parsley, rosemary, thyme, and savory, or add the dried ingredients if you’re using those, add the poultry seasoning and chilies to the pot. Cook on Low for 8 hours.

Stir in potato, and continue cooking for 1 hour. Remove the fresh herbs before serving.

You can add mushrooms or celery to this if you would like.  Add the celery when you’re adding the carrots, add the mushrooms the last half hour of cooking time.

vegetable-cassouletGarnish with hot sauce or grated cheese, serve with crusty bread and perhaps a vinaigrette salad.

This meal has mild flavors.  My wine pairing with this beaujolaiswould be a Beaujolais, preferably a Cru Beaujolais, but a Beaujolais Villages or Beaujolais Supérieur would be okay.  Serve slightly chilled.  A Beaujolais is a wine that is fresh and lively with soft tannins. This wine will not over-power the light flavors of the cassoulet.

Serve fresh berries with a dollop of freshly whipped creme and perhaps some chilled sparkling Shiraz.

If chicken or poultry is on your horizon, I’m going to reach into the archives of my menus and pull out a recipe from the late 1980’s.  Cornish Game Hens.  These can be very romantic, and easy to make.

Cornish Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

Prep 20 m
Cook 1 h
Ready In 1 h 20 m

Ingredients

  • 4 Cornish game hens
  • 4 large red potatoes
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc work well)
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of each hen. Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan, and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Peel and halve the red potatoes and place around and in with the garlic cloves, lightly salt and pepper the potatoes.   Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over hens. Don’t worry if some of the basting liquid gets onto the potatoes, but focus the liquid on the hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes  If you’re lucky, and you have some Potlicker Garlic Chablis Wine Jelly in the house, melt several tablespoons and baste the tops of the hens, this will give the hens a beautiful crispy top .  Turn the oven off.

cornish-game-hensTransfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm. Transfer the potatoes to an oven proof dish and put back into the warm oven. Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. Add the potatoes to the plate.  Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, and serve.

If you’re fortunate to have young Spring Green Beans, steam these for about 90 seconds.   I like to put salt and about a tablespoon of lemon juice into the water.  If you have some young fiddleheads, lightly saute and add to your meal.  If you’re in a colder climate, serve steamed broccoli with the hens.

Pair this with the same varietal of wine that you’re using in the ingredient list. louis-latour-macon-village It doesn’t have to be the same vineyard, but if you’re using Chardonnay, pair with that.  If you’re using a Sauvignon Blanc, pair your dinner with that.  You get the picture.  I like a French  Chardonnay or White Burgundy (which is basically a French Chardonnay).  My preference in the White Burgundy regions is the Bourgogne Blanc or the Mâconnais.  Bourgogne Blanc are a light-bodied white with more depth than a non-oaked California Chardonnay. Mâconnais is a bit more complex, still no oak but more depth and interest. My favorite are the Macon-Villages.   I think the Macon-Villages wines are the perfect winter white. Excellent to drink when you’re on the ski slope.

Dessbest-browniesert can be room temperature blue cheese with a glass or port, or if you’re in the mood for chocolate, try this recipe for brownies.  I’ve been making this recipe for my family for years, and it is still a family favorite.  They are called “Best Brownies” and they are.

Best Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Frosting:

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

To Make Frosting: Combine 3 tablespoons softened butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Stir until smooth. Frost brow
nies while they are still warm.  It is very important to frost the brownies when they are warm, the frosting is very stiff and needs to melt slightly into the brownies.  I put little globs of the frosting all over the top of the brownies, let it sit for a few minutes then gently spread over the brownies.coppola_black_label_claret_2006

If you want to go out for dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I certainly understand that.  Enjoy a meal in a restaurant, then enjoy a quiet dessert at home.  These brownies go fabulous with a Cabernet that has depth, I suggest the Francis Coppala Claret Black Label.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!happy-valentines-day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Few of My Favorite Things

raindrops

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens….no, not my favorite things.  Instead, I’ve been enjoying a few cosmetic items which were new in 2016, and some that hail from years gontom-ford-eyelinere by.

Three makeup items which I used almost daily are; Tom Ford’s eyeliner, YSL primer and YSL Highlighter.  Yes, sad to say, these items are pricey, but I am trying to streamline my makeup collection by investing in products I want to use on a daily basis, and items I can get at least six months out of.  The Tom Ford eyeliner was purchased last April, I use it at least five days a
week, and it is still going strong.

The Toangiem Ford Eye Defining Liquid Liner Pen has a brush on each end of the pen, provides both a fine line and a thicker line.  The pen is the perfect weight and size (at least I think so), and the color is a nice semi-matte black.  I have given this pen as a gift to my daughter-in-law, and her response was “I can finally get the perfect wing – thank you!” Enough said.ysl-chinese-2017

The surprise for me this year was the YSL products.  I have tried YSL cosmetic products off and on for the past 20 years (or more) and have never found anything that really knocked my socks off.  All of the products are nice but I felt they were overpriced.  Yes, their
ysl-chinese-2-2017packaging is amazing and beautiful, what’s not to love about the YSL packaging?  However, I am moving on from being sucked in by  beautiful packing, I’m moving forward to functional and productive packaging (but sheesh – have  you seen the YSL Chinese New Year collection?  Whoa.  Still, it was with reluctance that tried the ‘Touche Éclat’ Blur Primer and the Sparkle Clash Touche Éclat Lumiere Divine Highlighting Finishing Powder.  These items were recommended by a youtuber that I follow Uppiesbeads59  She recommended these products and showed the results of using them, so I capitulated.  I’m happy I did.

The  ‘Touche Éclat’ Blur Primer is a silicone based primer with the slip that a silicone based primer will give, but also has tiny gold sparkles in it.  You won’t see the gold sparkles on your skin, they blend into your skin, but give nice radiance to any foundation.  I apply it under my foundation, with aysl-primer flat foundation brush, and then use my fingers to meld in into my skin. The primer is clear, no worries about it matching any skin tone.  I don’t think it keeps my foundation on longer, but it makes the application of my foundation go on smoother and easier.

The Sparkle Clash Touche Éclat Lumiere Divine Highlighting Finishing Powder has become my favorite highlighter.  It gives a subtle glow, no chunks of glitter, no actual glitter at all, just a lovely shimmer.  Can  you ysl-highlightersee it from the moon?  No.  I don’t want my face to be seen from the moon, just want a little highlight on the top of my cheeks and above my brows.  I use the Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder Brush #20 to apply the highlighter. You could use any brush that you prefer, or even your fingers, to apply this beautiful highlighter.

My final big favorite of 2016 is the Viseart eye shadows.  These are fabulous.  I have been slowly getting rid my of most of my shadow collection and I am just using these palettes.  If you’re not inclined to buy the larger palettes, and I don’t blame you, try getting your toes wet (or your eyelids

viseart-theory-palette
Viseart Theory Palette in Cashmere

powdered) by getting one of the smaller six-pan palettes.  You won’t be sorry.  If nothing else, these are the perfect size for your purse or travel bag.

The Viseart eye shadows are what the professionals use, and for good reason.  They are smooth, buttery and blend perfectly.  You can wear one color or six colors and they will all blend into each other, just the way you want them to.  With no fall-out and easy blending, why use anything else?

As for foundation, I am still on the look-out for the perfect foundation.  I guess that will be something I’m always looking for.  You have a good foundation, even a great foundation, then the cosmetic companies come out with new formulations, new textures, and you think – hey, that may be better than what I have.  So, the search continues.  What I have been using this past year, and I seem to always go back to it after I try something new, is the Burberry Beauty Fresh Glow Luminous Fluid Base.  burberry-foundationThis is the foundation I would purchase tomorrow if all of my foundations were empty and gone (gads – imagine that!). This foundations suits my dry skin, and wears for at least 9 hours, something other foundations do not do.  I have found this foundation to give me a medium coverage without sinking into fine lines, and without creasing or sticking to any dry patches I may have.  I don’t think this is the perfect foundation, but it is my favorite foundation thus far.  Other foundations that I used, that I am comparing the Burberry Fresh Glow foundation to are: Tom Ford’s Traceless Foundation (too heavy for daytime use), Guerlain ‘Lingerie de Peau’ Fluid Foundation (it looked too dry on me, too matte),  Chanel Vitalumière Aqua (did not last long enough on my skin), and the new Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick (exaggerated any dry patches I had on my skin).

For reference; I am a MAC NC20-25, I use the Burberry Fresh Glow in Porcelain, Tom Ford’s Traceless in Bisque, Guerlain’s Lingerie de Peau in 00N which was too light, SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESChannel’s Vitalumière in Beige and the Hourglass Vanish Stick in Nude.

Lippies, mascara, bronzers and blush were not on my list of favorite things this year because I did not find anything that really stood out for me.  The Marc Jacobs Air Blush Soft Glow Duos are pretty, but I did not think they were anything better than what has been out in the past years.  Of course the Tarte Shape Tape is the absolute best concealer, but I have my eye on the new NARS Soft Matte Concealer.

What are your favorites from 2016?

 

 

Winter is Here and the Bourbon is Flowing

bourbon-glassWinter is my favorite time to drink bourbon.  The blended taste of caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch, smoothly mixed with nuances of tobacco, leather and smoke, warming me as it goes down, banishes the winter cold from the room.

Like wine, bourbon has a complexity to it which bourbon-trail3depends on the maker, distillery and the barrel.  Unlike wine made in the United States, all U.S. bourbon has at least six laws, and some can be confusing.  The laws change with regard to bourbon which is sold in the United States, and bourbon made for exporting.  However, for simplicity of this blog, we will stick to the U.S. Federal Laws, which are:

  1. Produced in the United States
  2. Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
  3. Aged in new, charred oak containers
  4. Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume)
  5. Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume)
  6. Bottled (like other whiskeys) at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume)
  7. Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period. Products aged for as little as three months are sold as bourbon.  The exception is straight bourbon, which has a minimum aging requirement of two years. In addition, any bourbon aged less than four years must include an age statement on its label.
  8. Bourbon that meets the above requirements, has been aged for a minimum of two years, and does not have added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits may (but is not required to) be called straight bourbon.
  9. Bourbon that is labeled as straight that has been aged under four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.
  10. Bourbon that has an age stated on its label must be labeled with the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle (not counting the age of any added neutral grain spirits in a bourbon that is labeled as blended, as neutral-grain spirits are not considered whiskey under the regulations and are not required to be aged at all).
  11. Bourbon that is labeled blended (or as a blend) may contain added coloring, flavoring, and other spirits (such as un-aged neutral grain spirits); but at least 51% of the product must be straight bourbon.

bourbon-distill_masterLaws aside, to make a fine bourbon, you need to begin with an excellent Master Distiller.  The Master Distiller, or the Maker (hence the name Maker’s Mark), determines the recipe of the mash; how much corn, barley, rye and perhaps wheat will be in the batch.  The percentage of each of these grains greatly determines the final product.  If a bourbon has wheat in the recipe, the taste will be smoother, less pepper.  The rye is what gives the bourbon the pepper.  The farther north the location of the rye, the less pepper the whiskey will have in it (think Crown Royal from Canada – low on the pepper or burn as some people say).

The Maker may also determine the length and location of the aging process.  This aging white-oak-barrelsprocess is detrimental to the taste and smoothness of the product.  Longer aging, smoother bourbon, but it is a costly process because every year a little of each barrel evaporates.  This evaporation is called the Angels Share.  This is one reason why bourbon that is aged longer is more expensive.

Now come the barrels.  By U.S. bourbon law, it is required the barrels are made of new charred oak.  A lot of the taste of the bourbon will come from the barrels, depending on how, where, and how long they are stored.  If a barrel is stored in a barn which is not temperature controlled, the weather can change the batch.  A long hot summer will bring a lot of caramel and vanilla into the batch, while a cooler summer will create a bourbon that has a shorter finish and more pepper in it.

top-75-bourbon-bars-in-america-2280x1052_cAnd now comes the fun.  Every bourbon tells a story.  The age, size, and location of the distillery leaves its own story in each bottle.  Just like wine, some bourbons can change with the production year.  Bourbons that are “single barrel” and “small batch” are dependent on the barrel and the storing of the barrels, making each batch a bit different from the other.

Many people feel Kentucky is the only place where bourbon should be made.  I disagree. bourbon-smugglersThere are many, many fine bourbons made in Washington (Tatoosh), Utah (High West Spirits), New York (Hillrock), and Vermont (Smugglers’ Notch Distillery).  I am sure there are other States making excellent bourbon, but I have not had the opportunity to try them.  Don’t get me wrong, Kentucky makes a lot of good bourbon, but it is not the only State making good bourbon.

Kentucky is historically famous for their bourbon, they do have the oldest distillery – Maker’s Mark (Burks Distillery) – and Kentucky is also home to Buffalo Trace (George T. Stagg).  Buffalo Trace was allowed to stay open during prohibition to make bourbon for “medicinal purposes”.  But just because a distillery is old, doesn’t mean they make the best bourbon.  The best bourbon is the bourbon you enjoy the most.

bourbon-whiskey_fireAfter doing a lot of taste testing (that is what we call it), we have found our mood, the weather, the ambiance, and the occasion determine which bourbon we want to drink.  Sitting by the firepit on a chilly evening calls for more pepper in the bourbon.  Some bourbons which have more pepper to the finish are; Knob Creek, Very Old Barton, Bullet, and Weller 107.  Celebrations, good friends and cocktails before dinner will find us sipping a sweeter bourbon such as; Maker’s Mark, Four Roses Small Batch, and Tatoosh. A quiet evening, just the two of us, and we will be sipping a bourbon with a longer finish, which would be; Smuggler’s Notch, Woodford Double Oak, and Town Branch.  Of course, this is just my opinion, and that’s what is wonderful about bourbon, everyone has an opinion as to what thbourbon-cocktailey like and want.

If you’re new to drinking any type of whiskey, you may not like it because of the typical  “burn”.  Many bourbons have a lot less burn than most other types of whiskies (Scotch, Tennessee, Irish, and Rye.  If you want to try bourbon without any pepper or burn to it, try a cocktail made with dark chocolate liqueur.  Just a small amount of dark chocolate liqueur (it must be dark chocolate – other chocolate won’t blend), will take out the burn, and if you don’t add too much, you won’t taste the chocolate.

bourbon-glassesIf you want to stay true to the nature of bourbon, simply add a large ice cube (large cubes melt slower and dilute the bourbon less), or a splash of good clear water, to two ounces of bourbon.  The water will open up the flavors of the bourbon, which is why some people will order a bourbon with a “water back”, meaning a glass of clear water served with a glass of straight bourbon.

Cocktails which are available in most bars or taverns include:  Manhattanbourbon-cocktails, Perfect or Not (a Perfect Manhattan has both sweet and dry vermouth, a regular Manhattan only has sweet
vermouth in it), Old Fashion, Whiskey Sour, and perhaps a Mint Julep (although many bars do not have fresh mint).  Other cocktails that may be a little more difficult to procure are:  Whiskey Smash, Brown Derby, and the Boulevardier.

As you can see the options are unlimited.  Try bourbon-barbecue-saucedifferent ingredients, be adventurous – or not, I’m sure you will find a bourbon you will enjoy.  Even if you find you do not want to drink the bourbon – cook with it!  It’s marvelous in barbeque sauce, basting the ham, mixed with sweet potatoes – hmmm…I think I see a trend here, looks like Southern food to me.

So – what is your favorite bourbon?

No matter what you choose to add to  your bourbon, or perhaps you add nothing at all, drink responsibly!

 

 

 

 

 

Spring is in the Air

vermont in MayThe weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer for us here in the Northern Hemisphere.  This is when our household starts to clean up the grill and lighten up in the kitchen.  I recently made a dinner that turned out to pair nicely with a beautiful Sean Minor Pinot Noir. I thought I would share this dinner and the recipes with you.  I hope you are able to enjoy it as much as we did.

We started the meal with some grilled flat flatbreadbread.  I
brushed the flat bread with Saratoga Olive Oil.  I used one called “Butter” which tastes just like melted butter, then added some olive oil infused with Hirassa pepper (just a smidgen of this goes a long way).  For the garlic flat bread, I used a Tuscan Herb infused olive oil.  El Hub grilled the breads using the indirect method over a medium heat.

I also made a fruit salad, using up a few very ripe pears and grapefruits.  The key to this salad is the jicama and cilantro.  I was bowled over with the taste of the dressing mixed with the fruit.  I did leschmag saladave out the mango, didn’t have one, and I only used one jicama.  I also did not have orange extract, so I substituted the juice of one half of the oranges with that.  I was able to get a perfect Honey Crisp apple, which surprised me, I wasn’t aware they were still available in the market.


Schmag Salad

“It’s a fruit salad with a refreshing twist. Along with a mix of fruits–pears, oranges, apples, and grapefruit–there are a few surprises, like jicama, mango, and a delicious cilantro and citrus dressing.”

Ingredients

  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 jicama, peeled and diced
  • 2 pears – peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 oranges – peeled, sectioned, and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples – peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 mango – peeled, seeded, and cubed

Directions

  1. Cut the grapefruit in half, and set aside one half. Juice the remaining half, and combine with honey, cilantro, and orange extract. Set aside.
  2. Segment the reserved grapefruit, and combine with jicama, pears, oranges, apples, and mango in a large bowl. Pour cilantro dressing over the fruit, and stir to combine. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

This salad was fantastic.  I was not prepared to even like the salad, but the flavors melded so well together (who knew cilantro and apples taste like heaven?).  Of course I didn’t follow the recipe, if I had followed the recipe, we would have had enough salad for at least 8 people.  As it was, I only used one-half of a large jicama, and two oranges.  I used two grapefruits, so I had extra grapefruit juice.  I did use the same amount of cilantro and honey.  I would say to use what you have at the house, and be prepared to have a lot of salad on hand.  It does keep for about three days in the refrigerator.

Served with the grilled flatbread and salad, was a Rosé by Bonny Doon Vin Gris De Cigar, which is a lovely Rosé from the central part of California.  This Rosé is made of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, Carignane, Cinsault, Marsanne, and bonny-doon-vineyard-vin-gris-de-cigare-rose-california-usa-10632090Counoise.  Whew – that’s a lot of grape varieties.  Even though the name insinuates it of the Vin Gris method, because this wine is made in California, not France, it can, and does, have more grape varieties than the French law of Vin Gris method of Rosé allows. This Rosé has enough substance to hold up to food.  We enjoy it with light food, such as this flat bread and salad, or a pasta made with olive oil and fresh vegetables.

I marinated a pork tenderloin in our favorite marinade made of soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, sugar and  green onions. I marinated this overnight, but it will work in about four hours.

Asian Pork Marinade (for every one pound of pork tenderloin)

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 6 green onions (finely chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

Combine everything together, pour over the pork tenderloin, marinate for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight.

The secret to this marinade is the sesame oil.  There is a hot sesame oil on the market, if you prefer spicy foods, use this product, but you do need real sesame oil in this marinade.

sean minor pinot noir
We moved on to the Sean Minor Pinot Noir when the main dish was served.  I was pleasantly surprised when I first tried this pinot noir wine.  Made in California, in Sonoma Coast region, this pinot noir has a very smooth, not over the top pepper taste to it. Nice and easy to drink.  The flavors are sweet cherry and plum with a hint of vanilla and oak notes.  The spicy finish lingers on the palate.  This wine should be opened about 15 minutes before serving.

We rounded this meal out with a wild rice pilaf and grilled asparagus.  Spring is a short season here in New England, Summer is not too far away.  What are you putting on your grill?

 

 

 

A Rosé by Any Other Name…Is Not the Same Wine

rose-wine-summer-trend-openerApril is here and it is time to stock up on Rosé wine.  Don’t stock too many bottles, just what you’re going to drink between now and November.  Rosé wine does not keep.

Years ago, Rosé wine was a sugary sweet pink wine.  Something the “ladies” might drink.  Today’s Rosé wine tends to be usually dry and more complex.  You can still find a sweet Rosé wine, but most of us are not drinking it.  The dryness or the sweetWhispering angelness of any wine depends on the grape used to make the wine.  If you’re looking for a dry Rosé wine, look for one that is made with a blend of grapes that include Pinot Noir, Syrah, or Grenache Grapes.  I prefer my dry Rosé wine to come from France, or the Western United States (California, Oregon or Washington).  As many of you readers have heard me say, my very favorite Rosé wine of all time is the Whispering Angel.  Unfortunately, the Whispering Angel has priced itself out of my wine cellar.  The last bottle I purchased was $20.99, which is more than I want to pay for a Rosé wine.  There are many other lovely Rosé wines for the $10.99 to $14.99 price.

April is when the wineries start to distribute their Rosé wines to the public for purchase.  It is for this reason, it is wise to stock up now because Rosé wines are a limited production.  If you find a Rosé wine you like (and they are very yummy, especially during Spring and Summer), I recommend getting what you like during the month of April because they may not be available in May.

10 great rosesRosé wine is made from a variety of grapes, generally red.  The color of the wine ranges from pale peach to brilliant pink. The color is obtained by keeping the skin in contact with the juice, usually one to three days.  The color is dependent on which grape is used and how long the skin is in contact with the juice.  There is very little maceration in the making of a Rosé wine which in turn lends to a very short shelf life.

Rosé wine comes from various regions.  Two of my favorite Rosé wine regions in France are Provence and Rhône.  Rosés from this area are typically maFrench winede from a blend of grapes including Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Cinsault (among others), and have a color that runs from blush to salmon.  The Provence wines are generally lighter in fruit notes and will pair well with almost everything you might eat in the warmer weather.  I like to drink this wine alone, with light appetizers or with a light dinner (fish, chicken, salad).  The Rhône wines are a little more robust, holding up to spicier foods and grilling, but also pairing beautifully with any fruit and cheese platter you would be serving on a warm Spring afternoon.

rosatello-rose-bottleRosés coming from the Northern reaches of Italy will have crispness and structure, but will still have the fruit notes of associated with a lighter wine.  When you move to the Southern areas of Italy, you will get a more predominant sense of a fuller structure, not as crisp, and more fruit.

Spanish Rosé (Rosado) tends to be fuller, less fresh and crisp.  Some are made with Garnacha and Tempranillo, others can be found that are made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  These will be darker in color and pair beautifully with red meat, grilled pork and smoked fish.

The United States is also making some very lovely varieties of Rosé wines.  From Pinot Noir (Oregon) to Grenache blends (California), you will find many styles of Rosés coming from the United States.  I love the Rosés made from Pinot Noir grapes.  These have a more floral nose to them, think honeysuckle and bougainvillea, accompanied with fruit notes such as honeydew melon and lime.  Drink these and enjoy with prosciutto, mustards and smoked cheeses.

ZumYou will find a large variance of pricing when buying Rosé wines.  We recently found an enjoyable Pinot Noir Rosé wine from Germany called Zum.   Yes, good Rosé wine can be found in Germany – who knew?  This wine retails for about $10.00.  You can usually find a nice Rosé wine in the $9.00 to $12.00 price range.  You can also find the Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence,  for $21.00 and Les Clans, Côtes de Provence, at the price of $65.00.  Is the more expensive wine worth the price?  Not sure.  I do know that I enjoy the Whispering Angel, but I also enjoy my Zum.  I think the preference is an individual choice.

Rosé wine is Rosé wine, it is not White Zinfandel, or Pinot Blanc – these are blush wines.  Rosé typically starts out as a red grape that has been made pink by keeping the juice and the skin of the grape together for the amount of time it takes to turn the white grape juice pink.  A Rosé wine can be still or bubbly, it can be dark or light.  It can be dry or sweet – wow, how confusing can it get?

All you really need to know about Rosé wine is that it comes in many shades, and many styles.  Dry to sweet, dark to light.  Chill it and enjoy it.  Find the type you like, whether it is from the Pinot Noir grape, the Grenache and Cinsault style or a Zinfindel/Merlot blend, keep an open mind.  If you find a Rosé wine that you really enjoy, make note of the region and grape varieties irose winen the wine, shop around, and you will find many others in that same region and style to add to your cellar.

The only bad thing about Rosé wines is they does not keep for more than a year, so you must drink them now, all of them.  Now.   Well, I guess that’s not such a bad thing after all.  *****runs off to the cellar to grab a chilled Rosé ****

tried running

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Forward? Or not…

spring weatherIn the Northern Hemisphere, Spring technically begins on March 20th.  In New England,  Spring weather usually begins around the end of April.  Add to this the time change, Spring is a very frustrating for us in the northern climate.  There are several ways I try to counteract the topsy turvy ride that is “Spring” in New England.

It starts out with the first few days of warmth and sunshine (35 degrees of warmth), some time in late March, then wham – here comes the single digits and darker days.  It is now April 3rd and I’m looking out my window at snow squalls and temps in the teens.  At least I know this is a short lived snow and most likely the snow will not stick – too much.

One of my bigger frustrations is how anxious I get to move the winter clothing into noreasterstorage, and get the lighter clothing out of storage.  I appease this with moving the heaviest winter clothing into storage, and appreciating the space I get in my closet and drawers.  The heavy wool sweaters, the turtlenecks and wool pants all get put into space saver bags, then plastic tubs – Yay!  No more turtlenecks for at least six months. This is happiness.

Another way I change things up is with my cosmetics.  Because we still have colder temperatures, I don’t change out cleansers or moisturizers, but I do lighten up the shadows.  I keep the same shade for foundations but start to warm it up with bronzers and warmer blush tones.  I am fortunate to have a neutral skin tone which means I can go more chanel spring 2016cool tone in the Winter, warmer in the Spring and Summer months. This works with the colors in my seasonal wardrobe.  I move the darker shadows into a cosmetic case in a dark space to help keep them from getting corrupted with bactria and daylight.  If you use clean brushes and keep your shadows away from daylight, they will last longer.

Another change, and a very fun change is to go and get spring pedi a mani-pedi and go for the bright colors!  At least on the toes.  Even though I do not get to break out the sandals until May, I enjoy getting that spring time mani-pedi and the bright colors on the toes. It is great to visit with the new polish colors at the salon and it is wonderful to look down at coral sparkles on my toes.

I also change out the seasonal colors on throw pillows in the main room, runners on the tables and other surfaces and bring on the floral and lite scents in the candles.  We use a lot of scented candles in our home, bamboo candlebalsam and cinnamon in the colder months, floral and greener scents in the warmer months.  I love to open the windows as soon as possible so I do not use many candles in the warmer months. The colder temps during our Spring months enable me to burn green and floral scents, bringing the sense of flowers into my home. Bath & Body Works has a lovely selection of candles for every season. Put away Winter, bring on Spring.

The final transition to Spring is to place my order for Rosé wine. Yes, this is one of my favorite activities in March. I get to anticipate the arrival of Rosé wine in April. I try (and yes, this is such a difficult task), to finish up the older (1 or 2 years old) Rosé wine that is left over in the cellar before April to make room for this year’s purchase. I always purchase at least two bottles of Whispering Angel Rosé, and then about 10 bottles of other dry Rosé wine, something of the Pinot Noir whispering-angel-2015variety, Spanish, French or Coastal California in origin. Two of my recent acquisitions are Zum Pinot Noir and Daniel Chotard Sancerre Rosé wine.  Zum is from Germany – who knew?  This is a fun job, searching out Rosé wines to stock my cellar with. I have been purchasing Whispering Angel Rosé wine since 2012, and I’m sorry to say it has almost doubled in price in the last four years. Unfortunately for me, (because of the price) there is no better Rosé wine, in my opinion, on the market. So, I limit myself to two or three bottles per year, can’t cellar a Rosé wine, so no reason to stock up on this. I place an order in March, to be picked up in April. The anticipation of picking up the Rosé wine in April helps get through the colder days in March.

Now that I’ve gotten over the one-hour time change, switched out some of my clothing, lightened up some of my cosmetics, and have placed my Rosé wine order, I’m in a better place to cope with the falling snow that is outside my window, this first week of April.  What do you do to get through the topsy-turvy Spring months?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bourbon? Yes Please!

bourbon-trail3
I do apologize for an off-the-topic blog, but we recently purchased a beautiful bottle of bourbon (Four Roses Small Batch) and it spurred me on to write a blog about what a wonderful beverage bourbon is.

I started drinking whiskey many years ago.  I drank Crown Royal and VO – both Canadian whiskeys, both rye whiskeys.   There are several nice U.S. rye whiskeys,  Bulleit, Heaven Hill and Sazerac Company all make a nice rye. And, we found the farther north the rye is grown, the milder the whiskey,  but this blog is not about rye whiskey, it’s about bourbon.

We recently took a trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  We thought we could see enough in  two weeks, and found it would take at least four weeks to see everything we wanted to see.  Kentucky has two bourbon trails, one is the classic Bourbon Trail, the other is the KentucTrailMapPageky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, this one focuses on the smaller distilleries, those that may be new, or they may be just more handcrafted in their approach.  It would be difficult to pick a favorite.

The classic Bourbon Trail features the big boys, those distilleries we all know,  Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Woodford’s Reserve.  The Craft Tour features smaller distilleries you may not have heard of: Limestone Branch, MB Rolandmbroland, Barrel House.  Regardless of the tour, each distillery offers something special and unique.  Each distillery has their own method and their own recipe for making their bourbon.  This is one of my favorite aspects of drinking bourbon.  Like wine, each distillery makes a unique product.  Unlike wine, the product does not vary greatly from year to year unless the distillery gets a new master distiller (uncommon) or if the distillery stores their barrels in a warehouse that is not temperature controlled and we have very erratic weather, again, uncommon.

I found on Wikipedia the six primary federal laws (27 C.F.R. 5) which pertain to bourbon made for consumption in the United States.  They are:

whiskey laws

There are other laws regarding bourbon made for consumption in the United States, but these refer to the aging and get very detailed.  If you’re interested in these laws, they can be found on Wikipedia here.

markers_markMost bourbons are made from corn, rye and barley.  A few are made with the addition of wheat.  If you are new to drinking bourbon, you should be forewarned there is a slight pepper burn to most whiskeys.   Bourbon made with wheat has less of a pepper burn to them, the wheat gives the bourbon a sweeter, less pepper taste.  Maker’s Mark (the one with theWLWellerSpecialReserve__84263.1361597905.1280.1280 iconic red wax on the bottle)  is the most well-known bourbon made with wheat.  Other bourbons made with wheat are; Barton’s 1792,  Heaven Hills’ Larceny, and, if you are lucky enough to procure some, W.L. Weller Special Reserve by Buffalo Trace.  My personal opinion on wheated bourbons is:  yum!  The wheat smooths out the bourbon, allowing the buttery, sugary caramel corn flavor to come forward.   Ha!  Now you know the secret as to why so many people love bourbon, yes, it is that buttery, sugary, caramel corn flavor.  What’s not to love about that.

Okay, so you’re new to bourbon, you want to try it but you’re not enthralled with the idea of burning your throat.  I suggest you start with a bourbon cocktail, something manhattan cocktailalong the line of an Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan.  An Old-Fashioned is made with sugar muddled with bitters, pieces of orange and a cherry.  A splash of soda is added to the mixture, topped with bourbon and your bartender should garnish the drink with fresh orange and a cherry.  I think this is a very sweet drink, it is not my favorite, but if you’re new at drinking bourbon, and you like a sweet drink, then order an Old-Fashioned.  Manhattans on the other hand, are one of my favorite drinks.  They can be made “prefect” or not.  A Manhattan is a mixture of bourbon, vermouth, and bitters.  A perfect Manhattan has both sweet and dry vermouth, a regular Manhattan is made with only sweet vermouth.  You can enjoy a Manhattan straight (served in a martini glass) or over ice (served in a low ball glass).  I like my Manhattan made perfect, served over ice in a low ball glass, and with a twist of lemon instead of the usual cherry.  You may prefer yours straight up in a martini glass with a cherry.  No problem, there is no wrong way to drink bourbon.

Now, to move on to drinking bourbon without additional ingredients.  To really appreciate the subtle nuances of bourbon, try it either neat (no ice) or with one large bourbonice cube.  You don’t want too many cubes because that will eventually dilute the bourbon.  You can purchase an ice tray that makes large cubes.  One will do.  Pour the bourbon either neat into the glass or over the ice. Take a deep whiff of the bourbon, just as you might do with a red or white wine.  Swirl the bourbon in the glass, just like a red wine.  With bourbon, you will notice the liquid will stay on the side of the glass for a moment or two.  Now, slowly sip the bourbon.  Take note of the initial taste, the middle taste, and the lingering taste as it leaves your mouth.  This is where you will start to notice the different nuances of the distilleries.  If you are drinking your bourbon neat and you want to “open up the bourbon” (meaning you want to really bring forth the caramel corn
flavors), try a slight splash of good water (water without chemicals or sulfates in it).  The water will make the bourbon more flavorful.  Some people do not want to clutter their bourbon with a lot of flavors, others do.  Again, there’s no wrong way to drink bourbon.

If you’re looking for a robust bourbon, head immediately to Knob Creek.  I have found Knob Creek to be the bourbon with the most pepper in it.  KnobCreek_featIf you’re not enjoying the pepper in the bourbon, but like the flavor, add a little Dark Chocolate Godiva Liquor. The Dark Chocolate Godiva Liquor removes all traces of the pepper, leaving only the lovely taste of the bourbon, and you don’t really taste the chocolate (unless you add too much – meaning one-half Godiva one-half bourbon).

When we finally arrived home after our trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, we had seven bottles of bourbon with us.  This was not an easy feat.  You cannot legally ship alcohol from Kentucky to where I live.  This means kentucky bourbonwe had to purchase an extra suitcase and then, because a bottle bourbon weighs at least 5 pounds, we had to mail our heavier items home.  Regardless, we made it home with 7 bottles of bourbon.  We had:

We also added two Vermont bourbons, Smuggler’s Notch Bourbon and Mad River Bourbon.  We did a taste testing and when we took the dollar out of the equation, despite all you have heard about Kentucky bourbon (and yes, it is good), the winner smugglerswas the Vermont Smuggler’s Notch.  However, it is expensive ($49), so…putting the dollar back into the equation, the W.L. Weller won.  The only problem with the Weller is, you can’t get it!  At least we can’t.

So, back to the results.  After tasting all of the above, removing the Smuggler’s because it is too expensive, and the Weller, because it is unavailable, we like the Town Branch Bourbon, made in Lexington, Kentucky.  This is not an easy bourbon for us to get, we have to drive several hours to Boston, but we can get it, and it is a reasonable price ($34).

You may be wondering what the point was to this tasting.  The point was to find a bourbon we felt was the best for us, something we could easily afford, and easily obtain, that is our favorite tasting bourbon because every bourbon is different. That may be why so many people enjoy drinking it.  More than likely if you like drinking spirits, you will find a bourbon you enjoy.

There is a lot of history in the making of bourbon.  There are the stories as to how some distilleries did not close woodforddown during prohibition because they made  “medicine”.  Yes, you could get a prescription for bourbon during the years of prohibition.  There are recipe wars, whiskey clubs (Women who Whiskey), and there is the story of Pappy Van Winkle.  In my opinion, this adds color and fun to the bourbon experience.

I trust this blog has given those of you who are inexperienced with bourbon some information as to why so many folks enjoy drinking bourbon, perhaps you will give it a try.  I hope you do.

Cheers