Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

salmonI 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."

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altThe quest for health and wellness continues. Kombucha is an acquired taste. A few years back, I picked some up at my local health food store. I was totally tuned off. This past year, I tasted homemade Kombucha at my friend, Carrie’s. I was hooked.

I loved it so much that when I left her house, I was gifted a little glass jar filled with my very own Kombucha culture. The 93 mile drive home was done with a big smile on my face.

My little jar sat in the passenger seat; I had company. The next day I purchased the few ingredients I needed to concoct my own black tea, fizzy cocktail. I was in business.

After my visit to Carrie’s I made it endlessly.  There was always a batch brewing. I had to ration out the kombucha in the fridge so it would last the entire week. I lost weight, my sweet tooth subsided, and I was addicted.

Then I took a break. You ask why? I cannot answer that.

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laraine newman cameo lgwineglassI’m sure there are stranger routes that land you on a tour of a winery surrounded by the beauty and quirky history of Santa Clarita, but you wouldn’t think a rare breed of dog (and a college application) would be one of them. I take my dog, who is a white Portuguese water dog, to a play group (don’t judge me) in Pacific Palisades. Jill Miller, a breeder of Rottweiler’s and the lady who surrenders her back yard to be mangled by at least 9 puppies every Saturday happened to mention one day that she knew someone else who had owned my rare breed of dog. At that same time, our daughter Hannah and I recently toured Chapman University and had fallen in love with it. Turns out, that same owner of our rare breed of dog, Barry Goldfarb, also had a daughter who had gone to Chapman and he stayed very involved with the school. Jill insisted we meet.

I dragged my heels for a while, but finally, at Jill’s assurance that Barry was a ‘cool guy’, I called...

He invited Hannah and me to his house. My first thought upon seeing him was: jock. I only mention this because it’s the last thing you expect a vintner to look like, but that was his business. After we talked and he showed me and Hannah his amazing collection of antique slot machines, he was gracious enough to offer my husband Chad and me, along with Amy Ephron and her husband Alan Rader, a tour of his winery, the Agua Dulce Winery.

It was important that Chad and Amy and Alan come. I needed them to come. Not only do I know nothing about wine. I don’t drink. A lifelong teetotaler, if it didn’t taste like Delaware Punch, I was out.

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peachmargaritaIt'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'.

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The real secret to a great Margarita is choosing the best tequila, so save these for special occasions with just a few friends. Start this recipe the day before your party – it’s worth it. The longer the zest and juice mixture is allowed to steep, the more developed the citrus flavors in the finished margaritas - the full 24 hours is best, although the margaritas will still be great if the mixture is steeped only for the minimum 4 hours.

classicmargarita.jpgClassic Fresh Lime Margarita

4 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 medium limes
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 to 3 medium lemons
1/4 cup superfine sugar
pinch table salt
2 cups crushed ice
1 cup 100 percent agave tequila , such as Don Julio Reposado Tequila
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1/4 cup Triple Sec

Combine lime zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, sugar, and salt in large liquid measuring cup; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until flavors meld, 24 hours.

Divide 1 cup crushed ice between 4 or 6 margarita or double old-fashioned glasses. Strain juice mixture into 1-quart pitcher or cocktail shaker. Add tequila, Grand Marnier, and Triple Sec, and remaining crushed ice; stir or shake until thoroughly combined and chilled, 20 to 60 seconds. Strain into ice-filled glasses; serve immediately.

– Recipe courtesy of Cook Like James