Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits
There are three types of people in this world: those that like cherries, those that like cherry-flavored, and those that like neither (or both, which makes this category 4 I suppose). I’m wedged into the latter but have slowly learned to appreciate the seasonal gift of fresh cherries.
Please don’t get me wrong. There are no agendas, no personal allergic antedotes, nothing of the sort. Growing up fresh cherries weren’t a part of my family menu. To us, cherries were the gloopy, glossy globes that didn’t need a cherry pitter but a can opener. Something tells me that’s not quite the way Mother Nature intended them to be enjoyed but purely an act out of mankind’s thifty desire to preserve their short season.
It’s only been the past few years that I’ve learned to have my way with fresh cherries in the kitchen and that has resulted in a slight cherry crush. I don’t want to eat cherry pie or clafoutis unless you can convince me you made it yourself and please for the love of god keep any fauxcherryanything far away from me. That includes Luden’s.
Still, I can’t help but get a teensy bit excited when I see cherries.
There is no better way to celebrate a special event than with a glass of sparkling wine. All across the world people turn to sparkling wine in moments of great celebration, be it holidays, birthdays, or any momentous occasion. The French have Champagne, which is named after the region in which it is made. The Spanish have cava, which is named after the natural caves in which the wine ferments. Anywhere else we call wine that bubbles sparkling wine. Italy's version is Prosecco or what I like to call the wine of sheer joy.
Prosecco is a white wine made from grapes of the same name. It is one of the most armoatic wines that you will ever try. And its taste and finish are crisp, clean, and refreshing. This year I'm drinking Prosecco for New Year's Eve and I have many reasons why. It is affordable, extremely flavorful, very elegant, and it's easily a crowd-pleasing drink. Prosecco is a wine that not everyone is familiar with, but it is a wine that is easy to adore.
Prosecco is produced in the Veneto region of Italy, of which Venice is the capital. It originally was produced as a still wine, but somewhere along the way fermentation was introduced into the process, and a sparkling wine was created. Today we would not recognize the original Prosecco as a sparkling wine, because the bubbles were very soft and delicate. Many Prosecco wines produced today have vigorous bubbles. The lightly sparkling version is called frizzante and the fully sparkling version is called spumante. Either is very nice. It's personal preference that dictates which you choose.
Tired of being the host and the bartender at your party? This is the perfect solution...a festive drink your guests can serve themselves.
When's the last time you brought out the punch bowl? They are hip now and back in style....very retro and not to mention look beautiful on a table. If you don't have one, get yourself over to Goodwill...they have shelves and shelves of vintage ones they are dying for you to take home.
This drink is a very fun way to start of your party. This punch along with some bottles of wine will keep you concentrating on the meal while your guests help themselves to some cheer!
We were really happy to sample the new PomWonderful drinks as a prelude to the holiday season. Pom Mango, Pom Hula, Pom Coconut. And since we’re not going away for Christmas this year, it was an excuse to pretend we were lounging under an umbrella on the beach, listening to the waves pound against the shore, and watching the sunset as we tasted the new varieties. (For the record, these were sent to me as samples, but as people who know me know, I don’t always write about the samples that I’m sent, not unless I like them, anyway – those crabcakes shaped like baseballs come to mind...)
But the new Pom drinks are really fresh – they have to be refrigerated – and they’re so luscious, they work as a snack instead of food. And if I have anything to say about it, they will now be a staple in our house...
The Pom Mango is pure deliciousness, fresh, and amazing. The Pom Hula makes you a little less sad you’re not on the beach. And the Pom Coconut (well let me say this, coconut cake is my favorite thing) so I was already there.
But then we decided to a little cocktail experimentation. For the record, this involved tasting only (kind of like a wine day), although spread over many, as it’s my personal belief, and potentially an old rock and roll adage, that you’re not supposed to mix hard alcohol on any given day.
I am not a big drinker. It’s rare that I finish a glass a wine at dinner and I rarely order a “cocktail”. With that said, when I do invite friends over for dinner, I like to have a little cocktail on hand for those that simply want one.
Seeing a lot of fruit infused vodka on Pinterest sparked my interest to create a red, white, and blue cocktail for the 4th of July. Seeping the blueberries in the vodka for 36 hours, creates the most amazing scent. For lack of a better word, the smell was intoxicating.
When I do indulge in a cocktail (I much prefer to eat my calories), it’s generally something slushy, fruity, and not overly alcoholic. Grabbing the last of the Meyer lemons from my tree, I made a huge batch of Molly’s raw honey lemonade. Making something slushy was what I was craving. Tossing the lemonade and some ice in the blender, this frozen lemonade and blueberry cocktail was created.
I wanted to use the blueberries as garnish, but didn’t want them simply floating in the glass. Grabbing a handful of small wooden sticks, I skewered them and then put them in the freezer for about an hour. After the fact, I thought how yummy these would have been if I would have sugar coated them.
Freezing fresh, organic, summer berries and fruit from the farmers market is my newest obsession. I see many more fruit and vodka combos in my future.
I'm a tea drinker and I love experimenting with it as an ingredient. I make hot chocolate with tea and use tea to smoke chicken. But I have to admit, I only heard the term cambric to describe tea made with milk, such as chai, at an event recently at the T-We Tea Shop hosted by the California Milk Processor Board. It's an old fashioned term for a combination of tea, milk and sugar often served to children. But that doesn't mean you can't make it into something enticing for adults.
The certified tea specialist and proprietor Christopher Coccagna made a number of wonderful drinks for Winter with tea and milk. Some of the drinks had alcohol in them and others didn't. Some used herbal teas and some used black teas. Some will definitely perk you up while others are perfect as a relaxing nightcap. There's really something for everyone, even kids and teetotalers. Check out the recipes for all kinds of luscious tea and milk drinks including Vanilla Mint Cambric, Lavender London Fog Latte and White Russian Caravan at GotMilk.
If I ask you about your favorite wine, you will probably tell me where you enjoyed it and with whom. Perhaps it was at a picnic on a perfectly sunny day, or on a date with the love of your life. Maybe it was at the winery where the wine was made, but probably not. My point is this, wine, like food, is enjoyed in context. It can be very hard for a winery to create a truly memorable experience with wine, but one winery is giving it a shot.
I'm lucky to have gotten to spend some time at the Jordan winery and to enjoy firsthand the food, wine and hospitality that they are about. I've stayed on their property, had lunch and a full tasting, attended one of their famous halloween parties and gotten to know their talented and creative chef and his wife who heads up hospitality and events. Those experiences have been limited to a privileged few, up till now. And while Jordan uses as many means possible to share the winery experience and lifestyle virtually including photography, videos and even a blog, nothing takes the place of being there.
The soon-to-be-launched Jordan Winery Estate Tour & Tasting is best described as a fully immersive affair. You start at the winery for a little continental breakfast with fresh fruit grown on the property plus fresh baked goods.
I like bourbon, but not whisky. I know, I know, bourbon IS whisky, but to me there's a big difference. American bourbon is smooth and sweet and has complex flavors that I enjoy in food--warm spices, fresh herbs, toasted nuts, all kinds of fruit, vanilla, coffee, toffee, chocolate, caramel and more. Whisky, is fire water. Though a fan of all whisky, Chef Michael Symon summed it up this way, "drinking whisky should be a massage, not a wax!"
Symon was in San Francisco to talk about bourbon and Knob Creek in particular, an award winning bourbon made in small batches. It's aged in very deeply charred oak barrels, and is bottled at 100 proof. It has a distinctive sweetness and big flavor. Symon told me he like the boldness of it, saying it goes great with the kinds of things he likes to cook. "It's smoky, you can taste the age, like you can with a good salami. It has great depth of flavor, like wine and I appreciate what goes into making it--the 9 year aging process." Bourbon matches Symon's approach to cooking, "Things I like to cook take time and patience like charcuterie. Knob Creek is the charcuterie of the spirit world."
My tea of choice is neither herbal nor green, but classic black tea. While I can be quite content with a cup of Lipton’s, my preference is for the English brand PG Tips, a strong black tea in a pyramid shaped bag.
I’m thrilled when I can find a box of 80 in LA for $6 or 7.5¢ a bag, but on my trip to London last month, I found a classic BQ Bang for the Buck that ensures I’m going to enjoy great iced tea all summer long…and hot mugs through the fall and winter too:
At Marks & Spencer, 80 PG Tips were £2.49, which is $3.86 or 4.8¢ a bag.
It's only a few days until Cinco de Mayo. Woo-hoo!
That means margaritas, chips and salsa, margaritas, carnitas, margaritas. Are you seeing a pattern?
Having previously lived in Southern California where Cinco de Mayo was BIG, we always celebrated with some type of special Mexican meal. For me, the tradition will always live on no matter where I am, and that tradition will always include margaritas.
I would like to share with you one of my favorite margarita recipes. The Wild Boar and I concocted this recipe for a margarita contest we entered and WON! It was a long time ago but we still make this margarita as often as we can.
This Peach Margarita has a fresh and refreshing taste that will soothe your mouth as you eat your salsa-laden burrito this Cinco de Mayo.
So come on, find your lost salt shaker and let's get to blendin'.