Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

sgroppino.jpgIn Italy, digestivos are commonly drunk after the meal and when we were in Sicily, we certainly had our share of Averna after meals. But this digestive is drunk in the Venetian region of Italy and is bright, fresh and clean. A sgroppino is made by whipping together Italian Prosecco, lemon sorbet and vodka. Sgroppino means "to untie" as in, to "untie your stomach" after a meal. So you have a great excuse to make these after dinner! But hey, these are so refreshing we drink them on a hot summer day before dinner.

Some versions of this drink use gelato but most use sorbet, which has no dairy. When you make this drink, don't use a blender – whisk in the sorbet by hand so that it retains some of its texture. You don't want it too thick, but you don't want it real thin, either.

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The-Best-MojitoThe mint growing in my garden is prolific. I'm really bad about getting out there and thinning it so it pretty much takes over. I don't mind though, I love sprinkling it over summer fruit and mixing it into iced tea and water in the summertime. As far as I'm concerned I could never really have enough mint, I find it's uses endless.

Between the prolific mint and a recent trip to Mexico, (where Mojito's were flowing) and a slight suggestion for a mojito party, when we returned to the states...the Best Mojito Recipe was born.

Up until now, I was a mojito drinker, not maker. I'm not sure why, but it's something I left to the bartender. So I did a lot of research and read a lot of comments about certain recipes. Mojito's are a finicky drink and can quickly go from refreshing to medicinal tasting, when the ingredients are not balanced. As a winemaker I'm always concerned with balance in wine, in food and cocktails. I found that specific ingredients make a difference for varying reasons.

I hope you give my version a try.

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summerdrinks.jpgI haven't met an herb I didn't like. Right now in my garden have more than a dozen varieties of herbs growing. I have different uses for all of them. Some I love to use when roasting meats or vegetables, like rosemary and sage. I put parsley and mint in my salads. I also use mint in my teas. I use cilantro in guacamole, which I make almost every week. And of course I have a bush of basil for when it comes time to make homemade tomato sauce.

This year I've tried growing Greek basil and Thai basil with great success. My stir-frys and Thai curries are so much better with the addition of Thai basil, which has an anise-like flavor. For years I've been growing lovage, a perennial herb that grows four feet tall every year. Its flavor is a lot like parsley and celery combined, and its tall stalks look much like celery except that they are hollow like bamboo. You might have come across lovage used in a Bloody Mary but not have known what it was. The stalks make very nice straws.

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vanillateaI'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.

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