06 December, 2017

Looking for a perfect gift: Wines of Hererdad = Armchair travel

Wines of Heredad
Tis the season! If you are making a list and checking it twice, then scratching your head and trying to come up with something dazzling, let Santa Liza help out.

Last year at our fund raising gala, one of the most hotly bid items, was what we called an "Armchair trip to Spain".  We put together three bottles from three regions and packaged it as a way to get together with a few friends and learn about Spanish wine together.

Turns out, the Ferrer Family was a few steps ahead of us.  We leveraged a great palate, but they leveraged more than a century of wine making history to create a collection of lovely limited-release, ultra-premium wines that each showcase a Spanish region.  I was lucky enough to try them early in the Fall and made a note: What a perfect gift this would make!  Whether you are shopping for one oenophile who wants to peruse at her leisure or a book club full of gal pals that want to grab some tapas and run through the gamut, the wines of the Heredad Collection will surprise and delight.

Best of all, this handy Locator will light your way better than Rudolf to where you can quickly and easily find what you need for your gift basket.

The stated goal of the Heredad Collection is to present "wines of character with a distinct sense of place"  They carefully curate all the details of this program from an enological perspective to bring the taste of Spain's top regions to the international wine drinking community.  
Wines of
The Heredad Collection
                              Valdubón Cosecha and Reserva         D.O. Ribera del Duero
                              VAZA Cosecha and Crianza             D.O.C. Rioja
                              Vionta Albariño                            D.O. Rías Baixas
                              Morlanda Criança                         D.O.C. Priorat
                              Mas de Subirà                              D.O.C. Priorat
                              Garbó Red and Rosé                      D.O. Montsant
                              Paramus Verdejo                           D.O. Rueda.

All of the wines were delicious with a distinct taste of place, unique characters and star quality.  And speaking of stars, we were led through the tasting by Freixenet's International Wine Development Direct, WIll Willis, who himself bears a striking resemblance to Hugh Grant, though his real claim to fame is an impressive knowledge and enthusiasm for all things wine!

Vionta,  Albarino, Rias Baixas Think food..Think Spain.This fine wine is made to match salads and fishes.  Our hosts suggested using the Vionta Albariño as mignonette for oysters.  100% Albarino, it had a clear yellow color with a touch of green.  The flavors were tropical that broke to a pleasant peachiness.  Acidity made it crisp and delicious and a wonderful pair for our salad
Paramus, Verdejo White Wine , Rueda 85% Verdejo and 15% Viura, The road to Rueda is the route that brings fish through heart of region, so it's natural the region's wines are tasty with fish. Bright straw yellow, its nose was complex and interesting, shifting in the glass with aromas of white flowers, herbs and pear. It is an everyday food friendly wine great with salads 

Garbo, Rose, Montsant This beautiful rose has a gorgeous watermelon pink color coming from 6 hours of skin contact of the 70% Garnacha/30%Shiraz blend.  Floral aromas,red fruit and the refreshing splash of river rocks make  great wine.  At 14.2 % alcohol, but very balanced.  Garbo means "jig of delight"  

Vaza Cosecha, Rioja Vaza taken from the word "Bazas" which means "new beginnings". This wine hails from the medieval village of Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa and it is made in a modern yet traditional way.  100% Tempranillo it had a dark color and welcoming aromas of red fruit.  Modern techniques make it rich as well as accessible quickly

Mas de Subira, Priorat   50% Garnacha Tinta with 50% Carinena All hand harvested, these low yield ---1.25 tons per acre--produce high payload flavor. Cherry and smoke seasoned by 12 months in French oak.  Looking at the label, you will see 15.7 alcohol, but the wine is so well balanced, it does not taste or smell hot.

Morlanda, Priorat  
50% Garnacha Tinta with 50% Carinena Coming from soils that are are steep and terraced, this was my favorite with its dark pretty color.  The aromas were intense and complex, cherry with notes of dark fruit and luscious flavor.  

Valdubon, Crianza, Ribera Del Duero 100% Tempranillo with aromas of red fruit, anise, and exotic elements.  Lovely tannins.  Complex , elegant and that perfect guest at your dinner party that goes with everything. Made in a style that brings it to market quickly but allows ageing potential. I hope you have the patience, because I would find this wine difficult to resist

Valdubon, Reserva, Ribera Del Duero  100% Tempranillo Dark intriguing wine.  Balanced and beautifully made from carefully grown fruit bringing together spice, dark fruit and a nice structure

Spain has 69 denominaciones de origen  but these represent the best areas.  Trying these wines will give you a sense of what makes each region special and what makes Spain so special.  Sharing with friends and food will be a great gift for anyone on your list.  Wine always makes it better, doesn't it?

Many thanks to the wonderful folks at Ferrer who imbue each experience with hospitality and sabor.  Thanks so much for the invitation and opportunity to learn more about your wonderful wines!

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 - that's Sacramento. .  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 12th street.  This lovely spot where Randall Selland puts out amazing farm to fork cuisine, has a  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!

15 November, 2017

Materra WIne Review - Perfect Thanksgiving WIne and fun place to visit

Photo Credit: Materra/Cunat Family wines
This time of year, a lot of people ask me where to take their out of town relatives in Napa. With so many delicious, luxe fun places, I wanted to highlight a "smart" choice, where you can "drink for the kids"** during this holiday season.  I was hosted here during the summer.

Materra| Cunat Family Vineyards in the Oak Knoll District is a relatively new tasting room open by appointment where you can taste wines of quality.  Here, artistry in oenology is served in art filled setting.  

Brian Cunat and his wife Miki and their extended family invested in fifty acres in the Oak Knoll AVA in 2007. Today, they leverage relationships with mountain fruit growers as well as their own estate fruit to create lovely Napa wines.  
We get excited about Fancy sorter destemmers

Calling their wine club the "Dean's" list is a nod to Dean Cunat,  a Midwestern farmer who inspired a love of the land and farming in his son, Brian.  When Miki and Brian saw the lovely parcel in Oak Knoll with its distinctive soil, then experienced the flavor profile of local finished wines, they knew they had found their spot.  Partnering with Brian's brother, John to purchase the estate, today many members of the family participate.  We met Neena, the oldest daughter who leads the winery's efforts.  Neena walked us through the impressive production facility and did not laugh when we gushed over their pristine operation, which includes a very cool mechanical sorter destemmer.  We also quizzed her about a cool experimental cone shaped stainless vat.  Walking around it was easy to see the family's investment in action.  But what was more fun was to taste through those successful efforts:

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon,  Rutherford($65) Wine from this tough year is frequently sparse but delicious,  Materra is no exception.  Difficult harvest produced a wonderful wine with a long elegant vinous driven finish.  Flavors are a balance of vinous and fruit with a top note of black raspberry and gorgeous dusty notes, the hallmark of Rutherford dust.  They marked the bottles with silver foil to mark the achievement.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain (wine Club only) Blending in a little Petit Verdot, Merlot  and Malbec creates a Bordeaux inspired wine. They only produce fifty cases of this Wine-Club-Only  wine.  A luscious perfectly integrated blend with lively aromas of anise and blueberry and a beautifully vinous finish will tempt  you to join.  

They also make white wines,  Both a lovely Viognier, which is a balanced wine with nice structure and hints of stone fruit as well as a rich, but elegant Chardonnay with "Golidlocks" oak #Just_Right. 

Tactile art in one shelf-drinkable art in the other
Their Merlot varietal is lush and balanced lots of dark fruits and touch of bittersweet chocolate in the aromas and flavors with dark, forest-y berry in the finish.  Until December 31 2016, Materra has a cool holiday special of  a three bottle Merlot vertical that includes one bottle each of 2009, 2010 and 2011 Right Bank Reserve which is a bargain at $100.  Merry Christmas to whomever receives that!

It's a great place to visit.  Care is taken to telegraph the family's artistic focus by their beautiful facility.  Artful touches like the beautiful, tactile art enhance your visit.

**For Christmas they are doing something awesome.  If  you bring a new and unwrapped toy with a value of at least $25, Materra will waive your tasting fee as well as organize toy delivery to Toys 4 Tots.  So you are as smart as a Dean's list member, drinking great wine to benefit the kids.
Even if you miss the holiday festivities, it's a great place to visit to experience artful wines in a friendly place.

For more information about tastings and tours, click here:
Visit Materra

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.

17 October, 2017

Healthy up your Brunch with #CAStrawberries - recipe and wine pairing #IFBC2017

Easy Strawberry tart recipe
Strawberries are beautiful and delicious, but did you know they are healthy too?  My eyes were opened at the recent #IFBC2017 in Sacramento, where the California Strawberry folks schooled me.

For example, did you know eight gorgeous strawberries will provide 110% of your recommended daily dose of Vitamin C, 5% of your daily value for potassium, plus 3 grams of fiber and antioxidants galore?  And if you're trying to bump up your folate intake with leafy greens and beans, strawberries can also contribute to your efforts there. Deliciously.  Lots of health benefits come from eating just 8
Eight Strawberries a day are a delish way to eat better
strawberries a day.

Look for berries that are red all the way up the berry. Plan to use them right away or if you know you can't,  place the entire clam shell package in the fridge.

That knowledge and a gorgeous package of perfectly ripe California strawberries inspired me to create a tasty and easy brunch treat that pairs well with one of my favorite sparkling wines:  Napa Sparkling Wine (more on that later, but feel free to click the link if you cannot wait---I never can).

It's easy to make.  Basically get frozen puff pastry, your favorite strawberry Greek yogurt; I used Chobani. some heavy whipping cream, an egg, sparkling sugar and of course beautiful strawberries.

Strawberry Yogurt Breakfast Tart
1 package frozen puff pastry
Egg for egg wash
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 5 oz container Strawberry Greek yogurt
Sparkling sugar (optional)
1 tbsp fruit preserves (optional)

First, spread out the puff pastry into a rectangle that will fit on a 1/4 baking sheet.  Score a border of an inch or so across all four sides of the puff pastry to create an inner rectangle.

Score carefully and try not to cut through the puff pastry, but if you do. it's easy to cover that up with the yogurt cream.  Take a fork and pierce the entire area of the inner rectangle that the border surrounds  Leave the border itself  unpierced.  This will let the border puff while the docked area will lay flatter and form a base for the tart filling.

Beat the egg in a small dish and when the yolk and white are completely mixed, brush on the border with a pastry brush,  This will make the border shiny when baked,  I also sprinkle sparkling sugar on the border to make it extra fancy, but you can skip that step if you don't have the sparkling sugar.

Bake according to puff pastry directions or if there are none for 12-15 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  After the tart shell has cooled,  whip about 1/4 cup of the the cream into soft peaks.  You can add sugar and/or vanilla or not; I usually do.  Open the yogurt container and stir to loosen it up and makes it smooth and consistent. Lighten the yogurt with the whipped cream by folding the whipped cream gently right into the yogurt container.  If you want to avoid cream, you can skip this step and just use strawberry yogurt. Go ahead and carefully slice the strawberries into 1/8 inch slices.  You can be super careful if you want the tart to look perfect or less so if you, like me, prefer the rustic "Yes! I did make this myself" look  Once the tart shell is cool, spread an even layer of the yogurt cream onto the tart.  Then layer the strawberries in a tight pattern on top.  You can microwave a few teaspoons of preserves with water for 20 seconds to create a glaze you can brush onto the strawberry slices or serve immediately as is.
Either way, serve immediately. Served warm, the crispy. puff pasty cuddles the lightened yogurt and sliced strawberries  It cools quickly and takes on an almost custardy texture. So have your sparkling wine chilled and ready to pop open.

Speaking of sparkling wine.  I would recommend a sparkling wine with a touch of sweetness and generous fruitiness.  NV Cuvée M, Mumm Napa, California ($24) This wine itself has a lovely color--pale gold warmed by peach.  With a touch of creaminess in the mouth feel, it's a great match for the yogurt cream. I get flavors of strawberry, stone fruit and a hint of toast. These act as bridge ingredients for both the strawberries and the puff pastry.  The residual sweetness (RS) is listed as 3% coming from a dosage of a proprietary blend of late harvest wines.  The sweetness is a good match too.  

After the fires, things are settling down, but the beauty of Napa wine will not be diminished.  NV Cuvée M can be ordered here and is widely distributed via Wine.com and BevMo.  Of course nothing beats seeing for yourself in person, so feel free to plan a visit with your brunch and bubbles loving gal pals here

This is the second of my three required posts for the International Food Blogger Conference

07 October, 2017

The Second Annual Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival or "We olive olive oil"

B. R Cohn 2nd Annual Sonoma Extra Virgin Olive Oil festival - It's on!
Editor's Note: Our hearts go out to the many affected in the recent Wine Country fires.  One of the best ways to show your support is to visit and support tourism in Sonoma and Napa.  We have every hope that this great festival will go on and we will see you there.

When I think of California agricultural products the first thing that pops into my mind is wine grapes, because yeah, I'm a wine blogger. But let us not forget California olives, which according to the California Olive Oil Council, have been experiencing a renaissance in the 21st century. One of the best ways to learn about California Olives, and olives from Sonoma in particular, is to attend the Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival, which will take place November 4th and 5th, 2017 at the B. R. Cohn winery in Glen Ellen. I attended last year and was impressed with the number of producers and the large variety of olives grown in CA. Plus, there is food, wine, music and a blessing of the olive harvest. Her is where to find more information about the festival:

B.R. Cohn Winery—one of America’s premier producers of premium wine and extra virgin olive oil—announces the 2nd annual Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival (All Things Olive) will be held at the property on November 4th and 5th, 2017.

 A hallmark of the olive oil harvest in Sonoma Valley, the weekend event will commence with a hand harvest and blessing of olives from B.R. Cohn’s 160-year-old heritage trees. The olive harvest typically begins after the grape harvest concludes, leaving one more cause for celebration before the holiday season starts.

A winegrowing estate in Sonoma Valley founded in 1984, B.R. Cohn is also a leader in ultra-premium olive oil production in California. Since its launch in 1990, the B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company has produced extra virgin, organic, unfiltered and flavored olive oils, sought after by professional and home chefs alike. B.R. Cohn’s Olive Hill property includes nine acres of Picholine olive trees, the largest collection of its type in California. The B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company also produces a range of distinctive wine vinegars.
Most recently, B.R. Cohn’s olive oils and vinegars were recognized with gold, double gold and best of show awards at the 2017 Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

“We are blessed with a climate that is ideal for not only winegrowing, but for producing high-quality olives as well. It’s an honor to host this collaboration between local olive growers, producers, purveyors and artisans and showcase the best of what our region offers,” commented Debra Eagle, B.R. Cohn’s Estate Director.

Numerous olive oil vendors include B.R. Cohn, Coldani, Figone’s Olive Oil, Frantoio Grove, Gloria Ferrer, Grumpy Goats, Lucchetti Family, Olive Don, Olive Press, River Road, Petroni, McEvoy, Stone Edge and Wild Groves. In addition, confirmed food vendors will be available at the festival, including: The Fig Rig, The Baker Bread Co., Trader Jims, Oysters from Michael Watchorn (founder of Hog Island Oysters), Drums and Crumbs, Sweet Scoops Ice Cream and Cousins Maine Lobster.

The weekend will showcase educators and cook book authors, including Maria Teresa’s Kitchen, chef and cookbook author, Sally James, Sonoma Syrup, Olive Don and Carol Firenze, all of whom will explain the marvels of this ancient fruit. Live music from The Butterdishes, People of Earth and singer songwriter and guitarist, Clay Bell, will also be available during the Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival.

Event tickets will include a one-day admission to the festival and a glass of wine from B.R. Cohn’s premium range of wines. Tickets may be purchased here for $20 and the festival will run from 11:00am-4:00pm on November 4th and 5th. For more information, visit: http://www.brcohn.com/sonoma-extra-virgin-festival

04 October, 2017

Martha´s Vineyard Food and WIne Festival - Oct 19th - 22nd, 2017

Photo Credit-http://mvfoodandwine.com/
If your bucket list, like mine, is full of Champagne, lobsters and Alsatian wine, this festival is for you.

It will take place on Martha´s Vineyard and will give you the opportunity to meet the people who are involved with fishing, culinary and fun on the island,

Chef demos will include celebrity chefs and wine pairings
Best of all, a portion of the proceeds support two local organizations who are actively supporting learning, the Island Grown Schools, and farming, the Agricultural Society´s Farmers Program.

This event is celebrating its 10th successful year.   Next year, I really have to go. If you are able to go, I highly recommend getting your ticket now.  Lots of the small amazing dinners and pop ups are selling out.  The Grand Tasting sounds like an amazing way to get a flavor of island living with a convivial company and dramatic scenery.
You can taste and sip on the Great Lawn of the Harbor View Hotel.  Three hundred winemakers, spirits, breweries, gourmet foods, and restaurants will sample their wares against the background of an amazing Vineyard shoreline. 

There will be great wines from all over the world.  Two of my favorites are representing.  Gosset Champagne.  You can see some notes on this fizzy elixir at Wine Harlots . Let's face it, literally everything is better with Champagne.  The Gosset tasting experience lets you float on a cloud of real Champagne as well as have knowledge deftly imparted 
photo credit Gosset Champagne
Another producer that is simply divine is Trimbach.  They have been making wine since 1626 in the region of Alsace.  Perfect conditions, skill and history conspire to make this region known for consistently excellent wines.  Wine Folly explains it all if this region is new to you.

Photo Credit Trimbach
Lukes Lobster, Boston

The 12th generation winemaker, Jean Trimbach will lead lucky diners through a tasting to arguably the best dry Rieslings in the world. Data point: this wine is on all the 3 Star Michelin wine lists. Tickets for this amazing event are here

Another super fun event is LobsterPalooza.  I can resist neither a lobster roll nor a palooza.  But alas, bad planning left me unable to swizzle my schedule to attend.

The full list of events is here: Click at your own risk as these will make you swoon,  Sake and Oysters? Salumi?

I would love to jealously follow the Instagram feeds of all who do attend at @@mvfoodandwine  and #mvfoodandwine 

29 September, 2017

It's National Coffee Day 9 /29/2017

Wicked Joe believes Coffee should be black s hell, strong as death and sweet as Love
A day without coffee quite literally feels to me like a day without sunshine.  I mean, before that first cup kicks in, I don't really even see color.  Then that magic brew gets everything started. 

This Friday, September 29th, is National Coffee Day.  Several participating retailers throughout the US have put together offers; more on that later.

I was given samples of a new delicious coffee from Wicked Joe Coffee.  Located in Topsham, Maine, Wicked Joe is a family owned company committed to producing exceptional coffees using sustainable business practices from crop-to-cup.  100 percent of Wicked Joe Coffee is certified organic and is roasted in their state of the art and energy efficient facility.  To complement their sustainable business practices, all of Wicked Joe's coffee beans are purchased directly from farmers and cooperatives across the globe.
Lessons in cold brew

Having found myself haunting the new Sprouts Markets that have bloomed around me, Wicked Joe Coffee is something I noticed over a tasty pistachio Sprouts muffin.  Over the summer, all 247 Sprouts stores started carrying this Maine product.   It inspired me to shake up my ordinary coffee routine.  I learned how to cold brew coffee and had delicious concentrated coffee elixir in my fridge just in time for yet another heat wave,

First, you add cold water to the coffee blend in about an 8:1 water to coffee ratio.  You let is steep in the fridge overnight.  Strain to remove the grounds and place in nice serving jar.

I tried two Wicked Joe varieties,  The first was the Sumatra which is a single origin varietal.  Wicked Joe imports Sumatran coffee from Sumatra and does not blend with other coffees.  The taste was smooth with a smoky notes.

Layer coffee, coffee&cream, and cream
The other sample was The Wicked French.  It is also fair trade but blended form several sources and put together to be dark as midnight with nice smokey flavors.  Not only was the cold brew delicious, but it inspired us to do some other coffee experiments.

Because the coffee tasted special, I wanted to see if we could make it into a cocktail for National Coffee day.  Of course with my Game of thrones obsession, I ended up concocting The Lady Melisandre.  Because the night is dark as this coffee and when dealing with things that are full of terrors, the natural inclination is to add over proof Bourbon and fire.
It was powerful, pretty and full of Bourbon.  It had a great kick.  It needs more work but I loved how the ice cube came out.

Coffee, over proof flaming liquor and a fancy ice cube made from layering coffee, coffee and cream, and cream into a large frozen cube. What could go wrong?
We tore up my kitchen but had the best time doing it.

Coffee brings people together.  It's nice to find an affordable, delicious product that is organic and focuses on making the world a better place.  With distribution in 2200 stores across the US or online, it's a cool product to try.

Back to the National Coffee Day offers.  Refinery 29 put together a nice list , if you want to see what's free near you.  I hope you have as much fun as we did conjuring up "The Lady Melisandre"

The night is dark and full of terrors, but in the morning, coffee will see you through!
Enjoy National Coffee Day! Thanks to Wicked Joe for the samples, and to BrixChick Janesta and Wine Harlot, Nannette Eaton for the production assistance.

25 September, 2017

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Live Blogging - For #IFBC17

Charge your devices Find a WiFi Backup
Sacramento is once again the host of the 2017 International Food Blogger Conference.  This little blogger is so excited to get to see, taste, explore and lucubrate all the bounty the conference organizers have gathered.

The agenda item I am most excited about is the Live Food Blogging.  With nine years of past attendance at the Wine Bloggers Conference, I have learned to love that portion of the event.  It wasn't always the case.

How I learned to stop worrying and love Live Blogging...
Keuka Springs Gewurtz has a fun evangelist

Here are some quick Live Blogging Survival Tips:
1, First, make sure you have your devices with you and they are charged.  A handy thing to have is a device with cell service or Mifi in case the conference center infrastructure gets hit with too many tweets flying out at once.

2, Second make sure you have a stack of business cards handy.  Since the time with the producers is so limited, it's great to have an easy way to make a connection.

3. IFBC put the names of confirmed presenters on the website at this handy link. Take a sec and follow them now, and as a bonus you can get a sense of what they are doing currently.  It also makes it easier to tweet/Instagram/Facebook later.

4. Fifty minutes. Ten presenters.  Five minutes per visit means it will go by superfast.  Some presenters are naturally good at this format.  They come with signs
Life goes by fast.  Live blogging is supersonic!
imprinted with their soc media info and offer hashtags they would love for you to amplify.  Others need some coaxing .  They are experts in their field, but today, they are running the gauntlet of all our splendid blogger diversity.  Others know exactly what they want to present and have fun doing it.

5. Get a table rhythm going.  Hopefully one that doesn't savage the presenters.  No one likes a "MeanGirl". I mean unless that's your thing...no judgment... #judgment,  For the record I sometimes buy Bandit Wine after seeing the Bandit rep expertly handle some drunk, obnoxious wine bloggers. She knew her stuff!

Post like the smartest person you know

6, It can be hard to know what to post.  Some of the presenters may be focused in areas not of interest to your audience.  Whether you are a promoter or a critic, a nice picture and a snappy update are usually easy to find. After all, these passionate producers invested in connecting with us and our audiences. Find something new or fun or interesting. take a snap and post.

7, With live wine blogging, tasting lineups might range from dessert wine to a Pinotage to a cult Cabernet; this has given me vinous whiplash.   No hours at home to sip, swish and repeat. Just a few minutes to listen, experience, learn and comment.  It challenged me to quickly sample and comment even more quickly.  Be prepared to move fast.

I am very curious to see if live blogging wine and food together is easier or harder.  Mostly I am looking forward to seeing all the tweets/grams/posts. And also to seeing all the attendees.  See you in SMF!
If you're doing it right, it gets messy

19 September, 2017

Happy 5778! Celebrate with Kosher Rosé from Baron Herzog

Baron Herzog Rosé of Cab Sauv $10 Kosher Wine
 Shana Tova! Or Happy New Year.   Wednesday 9/20/17 at sundown marks the start of the Jewish New Year celebration known as Rosh Hashana.   Jewish people throughout the world celebrate the new year with sweet foods, a visit to the synagogue and hearing the shofar.  The Shofar is a horn that is blown with a dramatic and somewhat plaintive call during High Holiday service.

As  gentiles and Jews alike,  we ring in the  new calendar year with one evening of drunken revels and the regret of a (sometimes painful) hangover the very next day.

The Jewish religion also celebrates Rosh Hashana. This opening of the New Year chased ten days later with Yom Kippur, an official day of atonement, gives celebrants a goodly slice of time to consider their year and how to make 5778 their best year ever.

Knowing how I run around on December 30th, I wanted to offer a short cut to a delicious Kosher wine and a wonderful salad to help you if you are doing the same on Rosh Hashana Eve, or if you are just curious about a great rosé.

Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, Baron Herzog Wines, California - 2016 ($11) Made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, this wine is a watermelon pink, my favorite for celebrations.  With aromas of red fruit and and subtle strawberry notes in both aromas and flavors.  The wine has a freshness with an enlivening tartness that I enjoyed both as an aperitif as well as with charcuterie. This time of year, when in the SF Bay Area we never know if it's going to be rainy, foggy, or broasting hot, rosé is a great choice both to welcome guests and to pair with food.   We agreed the the wine would have both held up to more substantial fare, as well as had the freshness to pair with salad.  I love a versatile, pretty wine for less than $10!

 Herzog Cellars currently located in Oxnard, CA, makes only  Kosher wines.  They have an amazing story of tenacity and survival spanning  six centuries and many countries.  Having escaped the Nazis, the Herzog family landed in New York in the late '40's.  Initially Baron Philip produced  both Kosher as well as non-Kosher wines.  With dedication and investment, the Herzog family worked together to shape Royal Wines into production of European style wines, .  Eventually they gravitated to California in the mid '80's, where they currently produce delicious wines that are also Kosher.  I throw around the phrase "history in a bottle" like a punchline, but in this case, the interesting, sometimes poignant, story flavored the wine for me.  I hope you get a chance to try some.

I recently had a life changingly good salad when Nancy Silverton took over the kitchen in San Francisco's Cotogna.  If you have seen the Netflix series, "Chef's Table" featuring Nancy, you cannot help but crave an opportunity to try her food.  Her new cookbook "The Mozza CookBook" features recipes that enable the home cook to recreate these delectable dishes in the context of Nancy's experiences in SoCal and Italy.  Lots of yummy, deceptively simple dishes where what you invest in prep time and pursuit of the best ingredients pays off in ease-filled entertaining.

 While the full recipe for the salad is only in the book, the ingredients for the salad dressing are online here.

Find and arrange the freshest, tender squashes you can and marinate them in the ingredients.  One tip from the book, add fresh oregano right before serving. Since honey is the flavor enabler to coax out the sweetness of the squashes, it's a perfect dish for Rosh Hashana.

Part of the Rosh Hashana celebration involves eating apple slices dipped in honey to symbolize wishing your fellow celebrants sweetness in the upcoming year.  Honey is an ancient food and consuming it connects us with the past as it wishes us good things to come in the future.  We can all use a great salad, a fun, sub-$10 rosé, and a wish for sweet blessings in the year to come.
Shana tova!

I received this wine as a sample