30 November, 2017

Top Five Reasons to start your California Wine Journey in Sacramento #SMF

The International Food Blogger Conference was held this September in Sacramento for a second year.   I was once more delighted by the amazing farm to fork food along with other intentional items like the Original Balsamic Vinegar. Many thanks to the organizers, Foodista and Zephyr, as well as all the attendees and presenters.  You made my IFBC17 experience memorable and productive.  See you next year when I will again enjoy the reduced conference rate for writing about the conference! 
 For my third obligatory post, I wanted to write about Sacramento as a destination.  Many of the sponsors provided food for free.

 First, when planning your wine vacation in Northern California, don't forget to check Airport code SMF.  Many people like the glamour and plethora of long haul direct flights to SFO and others like scrappy, affordable OAK.  For many people SMF or Sacramento will get you to a number of up and coming wine regions as well as get you past a lot of icky traffic if you are going to Napa.  Download their handy wine region card here: Check out some very tasty wine regions that are an easy drive from an easy airport and you will see why SMF is a great base to explore.  Especially if you are coming from across the country, make your trip easy and spend your first planning night in Sacramento.

It will give you the opportunity to try the best of California produce transformed into delicious meals and snacks. So much of the produce that comes from California makes its freshest appearance in dishes in Sacramento

Two of my favorites were Vegan/vergetarian.  My favorite Vegan Option came from Red Rabbit.  2718 J Street, Sacramento. We we sampled the most delicious Vegan Poke I ever had.  With the mastery of spices and fresh produce the team at Red Rabbit conjured up a meaty yet meatless Poke.  With such nuanced spices and deft preparation, I didn't miss the Ahi! From cocktails through desserts, Red Rabbit focuses on the fresh and the seasonal and how they can help you experience farm to fork.

Another was Thai Basil 2341 J Street, Sacramento.   Connect with them on Facebook to learn more.  They provided IFBC attendees with a bite of authentically Thai spices and fresh California produce.  I was so enamoured of the bite I forgot to take notes, but the star was unmistakable; it's on my list for my next SMF Sojourn.

Downtown and Vine 1200 K Street Suite 8 Sacramento rocked my world with a taste sensation I would never have thought to put together: Edamame and roasted Grape Crostini.  Each bite was savory and crispy and the roasted grape was a revelation.  They do catering, have an event space and also have a tapas room.

Puur Chocolate was a delicious treat for all of us.  Chef Ramon Perez has taken his well earned pastry expertise to create a unique online chocolate boutique.  His skill with confisserie and his facility with relationships culminates in creative and provocative chocolate combinations.  Delicious!
it was amazing to try his combinations.   I hope I end up on Santa's nice list to get some of these under the tree!

I can't leave you without a shout out to my favorite Sacramento hot spot Ella's, 1131 K Street Sacramento - valet parking on 12st)where Randall Selland puts out amazing farm to fork cuisine, the wine list is a delight (I don't even know what their corkage policy is as I never feel the need to BYOB), and the bar is a spirit filled revelation .  We closed down our IFBC experience there with a series of small plates..including my favorite:Patatas Bravas.

And of course, a recap of last year's favorite things can be found here:

Next year in New Orleans, people!  I will miss Sacramento and the fresh delcious farm to fork cocktail to dessert feasts!

31 October, 2017

Last minute Halloween Wine Pairings - #rieslingrules

Happy Halloween!  Finally in the mood to do my wine pairing, a special bottle jumped out at me.

Dr. Loosen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese 2006, Mosel, Germany

Pale caramel and clear, aromas wafted up as soon as I lifted the cork.  In the glass, aromas of peach brulee with a soft underpinning of petrol.  a small twist of lemon, and a touch of cellared apple.  Satiny and medium bodied, the wine has flavors of honey, apples, peach, lemon and love.  While the sweetness is up there, the acid in the wine keeps the taste light and refreshing.

From a food paring perspective, Rieslings are a gift.  This wine in particular has a satiny, medium plus bodied texture.  Its elevated sweetness would pair well with spicy cuisines.  In this case, I paired it with tart-sweet, acidic Smarties.  I might be late for my Halloween newsflash, but I am starting early with the wine and candy! Note the crafty last minute touch of Witch's Broom Smarties Bouquet, which I hand crafted with bakers twine and a straw.

 Mosel Valley where some of my favorite Rieslings originate, has gorgeous scenery, a lambent river flowing through vine laden cliffs,that seem impossibly steep.  The slate based soil looks more like alien AstroTurf than something that would foster such delicious flavors.  Blue slate and red slate produce different flavor profiles, with blue slate contributing stone fruit, citrus and more delicate flavors.  Red slate is colored by volcanic deposits.    Expect drama, lychee fruit, honey and magic.  High sugar balanced against high acid creates an interplay as tight as a trip wire in a Tom Cruise summer blockbuster.  Even if you don't like sweet wine, try it and be dazzled. I stashed away a bottle I sourced from DeeVine Wine Imports.  The color after 11 years has deepened to pale caramel, while the flavors have intensified to honey and stone fruit.  Auslese wines are hand picked (not surprising in vineyards
Steep Mosel Hillside Vineyards

this steep.  The soil, climate and wine culture from the Roman appropriation through swaths of history both the peaceful and challenging, have carved out a space that has cradled these grapes and allowed wines of extraordinary character to blossom and grow.  Wines of Germany maintains a great site to learn more
Ready for their closeup: Mosel Riesling Grapes
Phot Credit: Dr,. Loosen: Wehlener Sonnenuhr Vineyard

Have a wonderful Halloween!  And if you have the time to try Riesling from the Mosel, find a way to do it

19 October, 2017

Day of the Dead Mexican Chocolate Cocktail, Mocktail or Craft Project

Day of the Dead Cocktail/mocktail recipe
Day of the Dead will start on October 31, 2017 and end on November 2nd.  It's a Mexican custom, but it really serves a need for me to remember those who have passed on.  Bonus: it's one more way to push food on people.

I create an altar and decorate it with a marigold garland, papel picado, and photos of loves ones who have passed.  Little dishes of favorite foods and beverages add to the display.  Thinking and remembering keeps memories alive.  And it's great to have an excuse to create themed treats and invite people of all cultures to share.

This year, I added a craft project where I made marshmallow pops decorated like sugar skulls . A Kraft Jet-Puffed Jumbo marshmallow, some Wilton Candy Melts in white, Wilton Candy markers, pop rocks and lollipop sticks made cute marshmallow pops.

Why?  To dip in Mexican Hot Chocolate of course.  It's actually pretty easy (especially if you give yourself permission to be more creative than perfect with your crafting).  With the recipe below you can customize silky, spicy hot chocolate that will fill your mouth with a dark as midnight, sweet as sin taste sensation perfect for a Halloween or Day of the Dead celebration

Here's the recipe:
Mexican Hot Chocolate: makes 2 servings
Place 2 cups whole milk in a medium saucepan on low heat.  Whisk in  2 Tablespoons white sugar (you could use honey, agave or brown sugar depending on your taste).  I under sweeten a little because the white chocolate, candy coated oversized marshmallows add a lot of sweetness.  5 tablespoons dark unsweetened Cocoa.  My favorite is Hershey's Special Dark because of the depth of flavor and color it gives.  Keep whisking in 1/4 tsp Chili Powder, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp grated Nutmeg and a 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract.    Finish with a generous pinch of salt. These are just guidelines.  If you like it hotter, add more chili powder or cloves or allspice or whatever you think tastes best.  Keeps whisking till the milk comes to just a simmer---you don't want to scald it.
Make it a cocktail with Captn Morgan Spiced Rum

Once it's hot and well mixed, it's ready to drink. Pour it into a mug.  Place the Marshmallow Pop in like you would a swizzle stick.  Advise your guests to dunk the  marshmallow pop into the hot chocolate.  If your Marshmallow Pop has been decorated with Pop Rocks candy, audible fizzling and popping will ensue, which makes it more fun..

And speaking of more fun, if you want to add an adult aspect to this, stir in about an ounce and a half of Captain Morgan' s 100 Spiced Rum to each mug.  It takes a family drink to the next level.  Yar!
Marshmallow Day Of the Dead Pops

The Marshmallow Pops were fun to create.  First,  I dipped the marshmallows in white chocolate melts that I had melted in the microwave.  For variation, I rolled the back of some of the marshmallows in Pop Rocks candy for color and flair.

I let them dry overnight.

Then I looked for Sugar Skull inspiration and drew the skulls on the marshmallow puff with edible markers.  They are not perfect but neither am I.  They are, however,  delicious.  When you dunk them in the hot, spicy chocolate, they melt, lose their white chocolate and become heaven on a stick. Ooey gooey over the top sweet and soft.  It's a great counterpoint to the hot spicy chocolate,   I didn't add whipped cream, but that and a dusting of the spices would be tasty too.
Marshmallow pops coordinate with my Day of the Dead decor
  I hope you try this easy fun project and enjoy Day of the Dead.