Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

proseccoThere 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.

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cocktail fznlemonade vodkaI 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.

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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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wallys.jpgIf you spent three days driving throughout the Central Coast wineries, from Santa Barbara to Los Pasos, you could not have sampled a fraction of the wines you could have in an hour at Wally’s 8th Annual Central Coast Food and Wine celebration. The event benefits the Michael Bonaccorsi UC Davis Scholarship Fund and the endowment at Allan Hancock College for students who want to pursue careers in Viticulture and Enology. There were over 55 wineries serving 150 unique wines you could sniff, swirl, taste and savor. It was like wandering from room to room in one of your favorite art museums only to discover another gallery filled with astonishing paintings you’ve never seen before.

In addition to such luminaries as Au Bon Climat, Qupe, Melville and The Hitching Post, to name a few, there were dozens of small hands-on wineries. Hard to find wines whose producers grow their own grapes, ferment them, and even drive to local wine stores to sell them. You could chat, query, and get a deeper appreciation of what goes into making unique wines in a market increasingly dominated by wine consultants and corporate ownership. Although the Central Coast is known for its distinctive Pinots and Chardonnays there was a healthy dose of Syrahs and Grenaches. These grapes are poised to make the same kind of impact in California that Cabernets did in the 90’s and Pinots in the 2000’s.

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roseglassesWhich foods pair best with rosés? The question is almost beside the point. Rosés are made for warm summer evenings, dinners outdoors with friends and laughter. Serve dishes that fit with that kind of setting and you're on the right road.

Think of summer foods, like tomato salads, olives, salumi, vegetables right off the grill. Rosés love brash flavors: salty, a little spicy, redolent of summer herbs like basil and oregano, and, of course, garlic.

Olives, cured with cumin and garlic or baked with herbs? Of course. Prosciutto and melon? Perfect. Toasts with tapenade? Even better.

Pork sausages right off the grill are terrific with rosés, and so are grilled vegetables, such as peppers, zucchini and eggplant, seasoned with handfuls of basil and moistened with good olive oil. 

To my mind, there is no single better match for a dry rosé than a good aioli. Mash garlic and a little salt in a mortar and pestle. Beat in a couple of egg yolks, stirring until they're lemon-colored. Very slowly, a drop at a time at the start, stir in olive oil and maybe a little lemon juice, depending on your preference (I think it helps match the wine better). It should be the consistency of soft mayonnaise.

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