Tag Archives: wine

Wine Dinner Night Out

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red wineMy blog just asked, “Was it something I said?” because I’ve not posted since 3/31! No, Blog, it’s me. I’ve been blogging for others. For money. But I’m back to report on a very special event I attended at the end of April – a wine dinner. That’s right. I sometimes actually leave the house and do something social. I haven’t done one of these dinners in years and now I remember why they’re so appealing. Wonderful food paired with amazing wines, presented by people who really understand the concept.

Spagio’s Wine Dinner
Spagio’s is a restaurant in Grandview, Ohio that’s been open for close to 30 years. It’s one of those places that maintains an impossibly high standard of creative food preparation due to Chef Hubert Seifert’s talent and experience.

In addition to a chance to make a trip back to Spagio’s, my friend Colin Gregory recently became the restaurant’s Wine & Spirits Director (don’t you just love that title?) and presides over the Wine Lounge. It’s in the lounge that the wine dinner took place. I went with pal Ali, who happens to be Colin’s girlfriend. So, enough intro. On to the dinner!

Triumph Cellars Hosts
Calistoga, California’s Triumph Cellars owner Roger Louer hosted the event with Colin and Chef Hubert. It’s always a treat to meet the person that oversees creation of the wines. Here’s what was on the menu:

Amuse Bouche
Crisp Feuille De Brie

Filled with olives, goat cheese and almonds. This was a phyllo dough filled with those goodies. It was passed around as we mingled with other guests and met Roger.
Paired with Triumph Cellars Sauvignon Blanc.

The tasty treat was as good as it sounds and the richness of it was countered by the crispness of the Sauvignon Blanc. I often find this wine to be too grassy and lightweight, but this one was bigger, fruitier and nicely balanced.

Shrimp Bisque
Garnished with creme fraiche & spicy shrimp.
Paired with Triumph Cellars Chardonnay.

I have to say I’m in the “ABC” contingent – Anything But Chardonnay, so keep that in mind. But this was wonderful. So much so that I was tempted to buy a couple bottles. Again, what stood out was the balance – not too oak-y or over-orchestrated, like someone tried too hard. Nice!

Arugula Salad
With roasted red peppers, feta cheese, tomato, red onion & sherry vinaigette.
Paired with the Sauvignon Blanc.

First of all, I’m a huge fan of arugula and this was a standout salad. Not one I’d immediately think of having with that wine. But it worked, even with the sherry dressing.  OK, on to the BIG wines…

Grilled Diver Scallops Wrapped in Thurns Double-Smoked Bacon
Served over celery root puree and finished with chipotle beurre blanc.
Paired with Triumph Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.

OMG, this was incredible! Diver scallops are one of my faves. What surprised me was the Cab did not overwhelm the scallops. The bacon was probably partly responsible for the nice complement. Have to say I’m also not a Cab fan. I love reds, but most Cabs are too big and alcoholic for me. This one was really wonderful and fruit forward.

Wait, there’s MORE! Ikr?

Oven Roasted Veal Loin
Served with risotto cake, caramelized carrots & a light porcini reduction.
Paired with Triumph Cellars Reserve Cabernet.

Who doesn’t love a porcini reduction with red meat? Yikes. It was fantastic. The wine was a perfect example of why a reserve gets the big bucks. There was an extra element that made this wine incredibly jammy, balanced and perfect with the veal.

Are you counting? That’s five courses so far and five wines. The finale was fun AND there was more wine…But before dessert, we were served a nice bonus – a very special red. 2007 Roberts and Rogers Howell Mountain Cab Napa Valley. Wow! This is an $80 wine and they were pouring generous glasses. I’ve had more expensive wines (and as you know if you read this blog, much less expensive wines I’ve loved), but this was sensational. Now keep in mind, this is technically wine #6, but we had the Sauvignon Blanc twice. I would love to try this red another time when I’m not in a semi-coma from food and really feeling the other wines.

Key Lime Tart
This was served with a “Surprise Wine Selection.” Colin, Roger and Chef chose a local Ohio wine – white, off-dry, not quite a dessert wine but it paired well with the tartness of the key lime.

Although this was officially the dinner’s end, we were treated to a Port after-dinner wine – NV Calistoga Port. I like Port, but I’m not going to buy and open a bottle just for me. It was a nice finish to the evening.

So – great night, fabulous food, new wines  and great company. Maybe I’ll try to get out more…

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Super Bowl, Party of One

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Vera JamsOh please, don’t think for one minute that headline is sad! That poor woman – alone on Super Bowl night… Seriously, since when is Super Bowl Sunday a romantic holiday for couples? I suppose maybe it could be if your idea of date night is crap beer and some sad nachos. If so, you might want to set the bar higher.

 

(This is a pic of the fab Vera Wang jams I wore to my own Super Bowl party. What can I say, I have innate style.)

I really didn’t mind watching the Super Bowl alone. Didn’t have to clean my house, make food for anyone, worry about people having enough to drink or too much (or drinking all my GOOD beer). These events are especially easy without “He Who No Longer Inhabits” who felt the need to reinvent chicken wings or foof up some simple appetizer. Very tiring. Not a chance. The pup got a couple extra Milk-Bones and I had a plate of Trader Joe’s frozen shrimp pot stickers w/ their bottled goyza sauce. (Highly recommend!)

Since it seems I’ve gotten away from listing GROCERY LISTS on here, I’ll share a combo of two I’ve carried around lately. A two-week work project left zero shopping time so I didn’t get to any stores until last Fri. Then I forgot to buy most things on the list except wine, of course.

Here’s the list:

  • Drain cleaner – My puppy, Shedding Sister, has the potential to clog every drain pipe in my county. This pup never shed until about 3 weeks ago and then it was insane. Fortunately, it seems to have slowed down a bit.
  • 3-way light bulbs – Is it just me or do you blow out one setting on a 3-way bulb all the time? I use the 50 watt and 100 watt settings on different lamps. I’ve had this item on a list for 2 months
  • Wine – Although my normal cold weather choice is red, I also buy whites. I just don’t want wimpy whites that I might drink in the summer. Finding interesting, full-bodied, affordable whites is tough.
  • Frozen – That’s my shorthand for “lazy-ass food” I buy so when I’m working 10/11- hour days, I just heat the oven or throw in micro.
  • Creamer – Again with the “fat-free” half and half – such a concept!

So, did you notice there’s really nothing to eat on that list except for the frozen category? That’s right. It’s why I call this “single people’s grocery lists.”

Cheers.

Chicken Sausage Pizza? Yes, Really.

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Unfortunately, I haven’t curtailed my holiday level eating. So unless I’m going to become a sumo wrestler or try out for a new reality show, “Bariatric Place,” I better cool it. I think I’ll start by not buying whatever pops in my head or see at the grocery store. But still on a food austerity program, I try to use up what I have on hand and only buy essentials like bread, wine and dog food.

Chipotle Chicken Sausage

I’ve talked before about my affinity for gourmet chicken sausages. Ideally, I like to grill them on charcoal, but I’m not firing up that grill in the snow drifts. So having a couple left over from a dinner earlier in the week, I decided to make that main attraction on a pizza. Yes, I know it’s not pepperoni or “real” sausage, but it’s a decent substitute and more interesting.

As you’ll recall, I don’t mess around making my own dough/crust. That’s what the gourmet cook “who no longer inhabits” used to do and I see no reason for it. But I do get creative and all gourmet on your a** w/ toppings. Here’s what I put on this one:

  • Store brand spaghetti sauce – not much, just enough to coat the crust
  • Sautéed fresh spinach and shallots
  • Sliced chipotle sausage w/ cheese
  • Bagged mozzarella
  • Fresh mozzarella – cut in 1/2 in. cubes
  • Chopped fresh Greek oregano ( under the snow in my herb bed – It Lives!)
  • Toasted pine nuts

I popped the oregano and pine nuts on top when I pulled it out of the oven. Just follow the directions on the prepackaged crust for time/temp it’s usually 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

OT RED ALERT: Pal Sarah just told me Trader Joe’s now has CRUNCHY Cookie Butter!! I couldn’t concentrate on anything after I heard that. I felt like Keith Richards when he finds a new supplier! Yowzer. I bet Sarah will work her magic w/ that stuff.

Nothing Says “Happy New Year” Like Bacon Cookies

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My excellent pal Sarah and I hung out on New Year’s Eve. For food choices, the menu was simple –  steamed shrimp w/ salsa verde, bean & ham soup I made from the damn interminable ham from Xmas (“Holiday Hogs”) and maple bacon chocolate chip cookies. Yes, you heard that correctly and more on it in a minute.

For beverages, S brought some apple pie-flavored jet fuel and whipped cream-flavored vodka. I had some cheap rose brut sparkling wine, chocolate stout and some other choices. See, told you it was an easy menu and so nutritious!

Cookies From God

Back to the cookies which are the most amazing things I’ve eaten in a while. I got the recipe from Bitchin’ Kitchen on the Cooking Channel. Being mesmerized by them on Nadia G’s show, I decided it would be the NYE highlight. Here’s the link to recipe:

(I believe in citing and giving proper credit to sources – AS YOU ALL SHOULD!)

Milk Chocolate Chip Maple Glazed Bacon Cookies

S and I substituted dark chocolate chips because milk chocolate is lame. Make them your way, but be prepared to start looking at them like Gollum looks at the Ring – you’ll get really weird about them, I promise.

The Batman

After consuming some alcohol, snacks and The Cookies, we decided to watch “The Dark Knight Rises.” I’ve been a fan of this series and had high expectations. But feeling particularly dumb for not being able to follow it, I asked S if she was. Nope. I don’t want to give full credit to the pie and whipped cream booze because I think the movie was rather convoluted. We didn’t finish watching it.

The next day, I saw that TNT was running the second Batman movie, so I watched it to see if it would help me keep up. After that, I did finish the third, but wasn’t wild about it. Oh, and when did people start calling him “the” Batman?

It was a tolerable holiday thanks to the company and the wonder that is bacon…

Looks innocent, doesn't it?

Looks innocent, doesn’t it? Photo credit: Sarah: Co-conspirator

Burning the Latte

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"Medium" Starbucks Pumpkin Latte

“Medium” Starbucks Pumpkin Latte

After recently paying over $4 for a festive holiday latte at Starbucks, I’ve started making my own at home. Don’t get excited. I didn’t buy one of those insanely expensive new coffee/espresso/latte/single-serve machines. I use leftover coffee, a couple hits of Hershey’s dark chocolate syrup, cinnamon and fat-free creamer. It’s not bad. There’s no foofy foam on top or sprinkles, but it’ll do.

The other morning, I actually burned the latte. I was doing remote cooking in the style of  HWNLI (“He Who No Longer Inhabits” or the “new” Voldemort) and left the pot simmering away while I was distracted by the pup. My gas stove that goes from gentle simmer to fry the hell out of it in under 8 seconds made a boiling, sticky mess all over the burner. Lovely. I drank some of it anyway.

Carbo Load

What is it about this time of year, besides my rampant SAD (seasonal affective disorder – kind of depression “lite”), that makes me put every sugar-laden item in a five-mile radius in my mouth? Brownie bites are no longer satisfactory alone – they must have a scoop or TWO of peppermint ice cream on top!

This would be a good plan if I wanted to be a sumo wrestler. Reminds me of something a psychiatrist with whom I used to work (not as a patient, a colleague) said when I mentioned trying to lose weight. He said, “Maybe you should just revise your goals to become as big as possible.” I worry sometimes that he gave similar advice to his patients.

Fruit

In an attempt to cool it w/ the sweets, I had a clementine orange today. OK, let’s quit pretending that fruit is just as satisfying as a hunk of chocolate. Seriously. I love apples, but this time of year, they need to be baked w/ brown sugar or dipped in something.

To Ham or Not to Ham

Not unlike the masses, I think about buying one of those spiral-sliced, glazed (see brown sugar above) hams this time of year. If I do, I then have to eat 34 ham sandwiches even after splitting leftovers w/ my mother. But it’s often worth it for the bean soup I make w/ the bone. But now these suckers are like $4.99/lb. and of course the smallest you can purchase is 73 lbs. I may have to opt for another meat du jour this year.

Okay, I just proved my own point that most blogs go on and on with the most inane drivel disguised as interesting stuff. But maybe now you too are inspired to chuck the expensive latte habit and burn your own at home?

Alter Ego

When I’m not writing this blog about trips to Trader Joe’s and wine selections, I actually write for a living. I know, I know. That’s hard to believe, but I often pay my bills w/ writing income. In the interest of cross-promoting (like cross-dressing, but w/ less flair and mascara), here’s an article I wrote that was just re-posted on the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop blog. Thanks to author Tim Bete for his assist. Check it out and then stay and read about other humor writers who don’t have side jobs…

“Ahoy Matey: Pirate Parenting Eases Stress of Moving”

Is Peanut Brittle a Vegetable?

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I got an unexpected check this week (from what I assumed was a deadbeat client) which facilitated a long overdue TJ’s trip for staples like dark chocolate peanut butter salty caramel truffles. I also went to the reg. grocery store and stocked up. It’s amazing how much your menu-planning becomes more creative when you have actual food.

Holiday Food

I used to look forward to making holiday food like peanut brittle, lemon pound cake w/ lemon glaze, cheese balls, etc. Not really up for it this year, but I did find some raw peanuts from last year. Evidently, I wasn’t up to it then either. Still w/i the use-by date, I think I’ll make some.

My grandmother taught me how to make peanut brittle the old-fashioned way – cooking on the stove and spreading it out on a marble slab to cool. I make it in the microwave. I know how to make other candy-type things like caramels, but it’s a tricky process. You can end up w/ mortar if you don’t watch that thermometer. So, microwave it is.

Shopping Spree

Here’s the Trader Joe’s bounty:

  • case of wine – haven’t been able to afford that in a while. It makes sense because essentially you get a free bottle w/ the 10% discount. BTW, try a Gruner Veltliner if you can find one. Don’t worry if people scoff at your pronunciation.
  • gorgonzola – the real Italian version
  • smoked salmon – I swear I could live on it
  • sea salt pita chips
  • fig butter – for that apple pizza I’ve talked about
  • garlic hummus
  • spinach and kale dip – better than it sounds and low-fat
  • rosemary and raisin crackers – ditto
  • other stuff I can’t remember

At the reg. grocery I bought:

  • 2 lbs. of frozen E-Z peel shrimp – like the salmon, I could live on this.
  • brownie bites
  • green beans – I steamed them for me and the pup. Maybe eventually we’ll just eat the same diet. No comments, I’m kidding, people.
  • booze – I’m not a booze drinker, but I wanted a coffee liqueur for the occasional after-dinner drink and rum for a hot-buttered rum recipe I love. (see above holiday “food”)
  • other veggies and fruit
  • almond milk – it’s better than soy and I had a coupon
  • other boring stuff I can’t remember

Design-a-Tote

Hey, if anyone is interested (and why wouldn’t you be? I’m an artist, too!), I’ll design you a SPGL tote like the one below. Just send me your nutty grocery list (leave a comment and we’ll go from there) and I’ll design a tote for you. How fun is that? Well, you probably have more fun than I do, so it’s relative. This isn’t about trying to monetize my blog, I just like to tote cp (240x240)make the totes and they’re really affordable.

I Need a Wobbly Food Dispenser

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Because my pup inhales her food and then amazes me w/ loud belching, I bought her one of those treat/food dispensers that has a small hole and is weighted so it wobbles on the floor. This makes feeding time more challenging and lasts longer, so she eats slower. It’s also hysterical to watch. If I had means to make a video of her, I’d share it. She’s smart, so it didn’t take her long to figure it out and now it’s a game.

Human Food Dispenser

Watching her work for the food and realizing I must be subconsciously training to be a sumo wrestler if my recent eating habits are an indicator, I think I need one of these devices. If I had to roll something around on the floor in order to get my truffle brownie w/ peppermint ice cream on top, at least I’d get a bit of exercise. It wouldn’t be pretty and certainly not entertaining to watch, but I might be less likely to give in to a craving.

Wal-Mart Shopping List

I’m not a fan of Wal-Mart. Don’t get all righteous on me, I’m not a shopping snob (I go to Goodwill sometimes.). I don’t like their labor practices (sexist, racist, ageist, etc.), but damn, they have some good prices. Best for pet toys, drug store stuff and their food is good.

While visiting the Mother Unit this week, we ran in for a few things. I don’t know what she bought because I was distracted by the elaborate plan she laid out for us to meet up after shopping. We didn’t synchronize our watches, but there was way too much discussion.

Here’s what I bought:

  • two lemons
  • loaf of wheat bread
  • Milk-Bones (small multi-flavors version)
  • nightlight bulbs (my only concession to holiday decorating is those little electric lamps you put in the window. I do that in memory of special folks and beloved pets.)
  • gum

Still money challenged, that was it. But it kept me from having to go out amongst them in any other retail environment for a while.

I’m not going to say “Happy Holidays” because I wouldn’t mean it. But if I like you, I’ll wish you some down-time and less exposure to the dysfunctional family crap than usual.

If I get a check this week, I’m buying a case of wine and will report in later.

Cheers….

Dog Trumps Blog

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I hope there’s a support group out there for neglected blogs. Mine needs it. At group, I imagine you’d hear them say things like, “She was crazy about me at first, posting daily and then I guess the thrill wore off…”

My last post was 9/25. The only excuse I have is I got a puppy. I honestly don’t know how you human parents do it. I’ve barely had time to work or do anything not puppy related. Training, buying matching/coordinating collars and leashes, vet visits, throwing the squeaky ball 23,000 times, etc. How do you manage??

She’s doing great and at almost 9 months, needs less attention. But when I’m on deadline, there needs to be a puppy equivalent to Dora or Nemo DVDs for the busy Dog Mom.

Thanksgiving Non-Holiday Foods

My mother informed me she’d like to just hang at home this year, so I have no Thanksgiving plans. Before you feel sorry for me, it’s actually the way I like it. Too many years w/ the ex’s family –  giving each other “suggestions” while cooking and then getting stuck w/ the horrific clean-up that followed their insane food fests did me in. I could give a sh**.

But I’ll check in next week and tell you what wine I I’m choosing to go w/ the pizza or Whopper combo I’m having. And I have baby Butterfingers leftover from Halloween. Score!

Just Running in for Some Coffee and Torilla Chips…

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You may remember I’m a coffee snob (“Am I in the Chemex Cult Now?”). I’ve succumbed to the belief that I must buy coffee that was roasted w/i the last 24 hours. Anything less is blasphemous to my elaborate coffee-making set-up. So after getting my hair cut yesterday, I planned to go to Whole Foods. I don’t know if they are a national chain of grocery stores, but I’m lucky enough to have one a short 35 miles away. I was in the ‘hood after all.

Coffee Choices

I still pretend that I am doing the healthier thing by mixing decaf and reg. – less caffeine and all. But in the higher echelon of coffee snobbery, the types I buy aren’t just cranked out in a reg. and decaf version. So I mix it up. Yesterday I bought Bel Canto reg. and a Mexican decaf something. (I always mean to write the name on the bags, but forget.)

Tortilla Chips from God

One day, my friend Rhonda brought these over from Whole Foods (WF). I thought, okay, tortilla chips, that’s cool. She said to try one. I did and it changed my view of the lowly tortilla chip. These are homemade in-store and totally amazing – not greasy, not too salty. Next to TJ’s Cookie Butter, these are like meth.

Having completed my short list of  the two items, I intended to leave because this store is pricey. Mainly because I gravitate toward the World of Cheese That’s the Cost Per Pound of a Bentley. I resisted cheese world but took a detour to Wine World. Here’s what else I bought:

  • 3 bottles of wine – These were affordable. The most expensive was $7.99
  • Brownie bites – My rationale is that they are “two-bite” treats with fewer calories and fat. Right.
  • Smoked salmon salad – This is right up there w/ CB and the chips. I wasn’t going to cave, but the guy told me they had just smoked the salmon yesterday and he was making a fresh batch. OK, I’m in.
  • Beer – When it’s 90+ out and I’ve tried to die by working in my yard, I need a cold beer when I’m done. I bought Brooklyn Summer Ale on sale. I don’t usually like summer ales because they’re often Belgians/wheat, which I don’t like, but this looked good.
  • Arugula – I’m growing some, but I don’t want to deplete the crop.
  • Organic lemonade – It was $1.50.
  • Strawberries – I don’t usually spring for organic fruit, but these were $2.50.
  • Some other stuff I don’t remember.

Total was $68.00 which should not be a surprise. I go in there w/ the best intentions of grabbing just one or two items, but I’m weak.

Black Bean Burgers and Weirdness at the Mall

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Sunday, I went to a local mall w/ friends to see a movie. The one we wanted to see was sold out (the freaky Snow White one w/ Charlize Theron, who I think is way cool). So, since the other choices seemed lame (Tom Cruise as an Axl Rose wannabe? Yikes!), we headed to a fave restaurant for black bean burgers.

As you know from reading SPGL, I’m not a vegetarian, but I crave these veg. burgers like I do a cheeseburger which means when it pops into my head, I’m going to have to get one. My one friend had never had this item, so we were glad to make the introduction. After ordering and sitting down, we decided that because we missed our movie, we should have a bottle of wine. I don’t normally drink in the middle of the day, but it was appealing. We had a Lagaria Pino Grigio and it was tasty.

People Watching

Possibly fueled by the wine, we spotted some fashion disasters outside the restaurant window and entertained ourselves by commenting:

  • Cowboy boots w/ short skirts – Unless you’re receiving a CMA, leave this look at home.
  • Maxi dresses w/ running shoes – Where are your flip-flops or cute sandals, ma’am?
  • Kardashian Klones -We were blinded by all that faux bling, tight lacy apparel and a shoe style that starts w/ “f.”
  • Hair adornments – We even saw bitch clips, that old stand-by from the eighties you used to hold your big hair in place (in addition to your Paul Mitchell “Freeze and Shine” spray.)

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, but explain to me how it’s it possible for a cranky baby to hit that level of decibels in a restaurant w/o amplifiers? I don’t think it was just me because my friend has three kids and six grandchildren and she wanted to poke her own eye out w/ a fork. Mom walked baby around the restaurant, which wasn’t making the child any happier. She did calm down a bit when handed off to Dad. I bet that make moms really irritated when they do that.

Restoration (Black Amex Card) Hardware

As we left the restaurant, it started to pour so we ducked into Restoration Hardware. I’m not a shopper, but I do like me some RH stuff. Who doesn’t need a 6-foot high, folding office-in-a-metal-trunk? So cool. Maybe not for $8K. I don’t know if that’s the price, but I’m sure it’s not far off. Price tags were noticeably absent. To me, this usually translates to, “you better have that Black Amex on you.”

Since it was still raining, we settled into some fine leather couches. Attractive sales guys wearing headsets kept asking us questions. Haven’t seen that headset thing outside of Vickie’s Secret and those chicks scare me. But these guys were bored, so we must have been entertainment.

The girls wanted to head over to The Container Store, but I said I needed to go home and get some work done. But you know, I actually like that emporium of “stuff you don’t need, but have to buy.” People my age get off on that place – it’s kind of like a cool night spot for the over-50 set. Don’t judge. You know you’d like some brightly colored, stackable mesh storage cubes in 12 sizes…