Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Valentine’s Day Food and Drink Stock Up

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, here are some of my latest finds for you to stock up on.

Lynfred Winery…
My friends at Lynfred Winery, which happens to have a very romantic B&B near Chicago, sent over two of their prized wines for me to try and they were both a hit with me.  The Lynfred Reserve Chardonnay has the butter and vanilla of oak, but goes down extremely smooth. 

An entirely different wine is the Lynfred Nero d’Avola. This Italian grape is a bit fruity, with a strong white pepper and just a bit of dryness on the finish.

More Locations…
Last time I received Locations Wine, the brainchild of winemaker David Phinney, it was Argentina, France, and Spain. This time, the red were from the United States, California, Oregon, and Washington – the three most recognized red wine regions in the country.

Tasting these Locations Wines was a lot of fun for me as a way to introduce my friends to the subtle differences in wines based on climate or, as Phinney puts it, location.  He picked what he felt would be the best reds from each spot and all spent 10 months in oak (the Washington is a combination of American and French and the rest were all in French). 

The Oregon is 100% Pinot Noir. It is the lightest in taste and color. On its own, it’s a good wine, but it didn’t stand up against the two tough competitors.

The California is a blend that sounds unique (Barbera, Grenache, Petite Syrah, Syrah, and Tempranillo), but it works very well. It’s filled with deep dark fruit and gives testament to some wonderful grapes from Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and the Sierra Foothills.

The Washington wins the prize of impressing the most from those who don’t taste a lot from this region. The blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Petit Syrah is lighter than it would have been from California, with a hint of white pepper and subtle blackberry.

It’s Partea Time…
This is definitely one of the most unusual things I’ve been able to try in a while. Partea is a booze infuser with less than a gram of sugar and a lot of flavor. You fill the mason jar with a “tea bag” with the liquor of your choice and let it infuse for a day or two, before putting your cocktail together, or simply serving it over ice.

I did the Wild Berry with vodka and the Jalapeno with tequila. I can’t say the Wild Berry was very flavorful, but I really liked the Jalapeno. It made an excellent margarita.

More Tequila…
It was 25 years ago (1972) that the Rolling Stones had their legendary Tequila Sunrise Tour.  Jose Cuervo is commemorating this event with a special limited edition Rolling Stones bottle.

Additional limited edition bottles have also been released by Cuervo as the tequila celebrates its 222nd birthday. Other bottles pay homage to: The King of Spain, who in 1795 granted Jose Antonio de Cuervo.a royal concession – the first -- to produce tequila commercially; Aqua del Diablo (Devil’s Water) that first crossed the U.S. border in 1873; and A Special Lady, Ana Gonzalez-Rubio y de la Torre, who was the ground-breaking woman who led the Jose Cuervo company after the Mexican Revolution.

Rolling Stone Tequila Sunrise
1 part Jose Cuervo Especial® Silver
2 parts orange juice
1 tsp grenadine

Put Jose Cuervo Especial® Silver and orange juice in a shaker filled with ice.
Pour into a Collins glass.
Slowly add grenadine in glass.
Garnish with an orange wedge and cherry.

BFree Gluten Free Breads…
Even though I do not follow a gluten free diet, I occasionally receive gluten free products to try out. This month I’d like to give a huge shout out to BFree. They make an assortment of breads, rolls, and bagels that are all gluten free. I was amazed how soft and tasty these were. I never would have guessed the white roll, at only 120 calories.

I had a friend with Celiac try out the products and she said they were wonderful, “I haven’t eaten that much bread in a long time and it was all delicious! The bread was probably the best I’ve had gluten free.”

Since I had some to spare, I even crumbled some up and put it under the broiler and made BFree bread cubes for my Italian Meatballs. No one noticed the difference. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ready to Stock the Bar and Fridge? Here are my latest finds

I hope your holiday season is going as well as mine. I have been spending lots of time with family and friends.

Get out the basket…We’ve all seen those standard fruit, cheese, and meat baskets passed around during the holidays and other occasions throughout the year. The cheese is simply “cheddar,” or something just as generic. I was happy to hear from Murray’s Cheese about their selections, which are anything but ordinary.

They sent me The MVP: Most Valuable Player. It includes: tasty Murray’s Gruyere, tangy Humboldt Fog, mild and delicious Grazier’s Edge, and hearty Point Reye’s Bay Blue cheeses, as well as an excellent Prosciutto San Daniele and a lean Creminelli Wild Boar Salami. The Pistachio Cranberry and Olive Oil Crackers were a perfect accompaniment, and the buttery Marcona Almonds are addicting.  

One of the other things I love about Murray’s Cheese is that they let you build your own basket from all these interesting ingredients. Definitely give them a try for your next gift giving.

Grab the Little Black Dress…If you haven’t tried LittleBlack Dress Wines yet, you should. I sampled and enjoyed their Diva Red. It was quite fruity and not too dry. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is also a bit less dry than most, retaining its dark raspberry notes.

A different kind of red…
Pinot Noir is far from my favorite wine, but I did a double-take when I tasted the 2014 from AdlerFels. It’s unlike any other I’ve tasted. This Monterey, California, selection is light and filled with blackberry, cassis, and other dark fruit.

International wines…
Some wines from around the globe I would definitely recommend you stock up on.

Astoria Caranto Pinot Noir carries the more traditional oak and dryness of a pinot noir, but it’s smooth enough that you don’t need a big steak with it.

La Cana Albarino is an easy drinking white, with light citrus and a bit of acid.

Luna Nuda PinotGrigio is something I could drink all the time. It’s very fresh and filled with fruit.  

One 8 Distilling…I didn’t have a chance to visit One8 Distilling on my trip to Washington, DC, but they sent me a box full of samples of their spirits to try out. The company’s name comes from it’s opening date, January 8, 2015. Despite only being open two years, they have quite a selection of gin, vodka, and whiskey.

I’m not a huge fan of barreled gin (I think the spirit should have enough flavor on its own, as their Ivy City Gin does), but the One 8 Untitled No. 1 had a fairly short (3-10 months) aging in old bourbon barrels so it doesn’t lose its juniper and spice. I also recommend their White Whiskey, and their District Made Vodka, which is made from rye and uses Russian Distilling.
                                                                                                                                                              
Experiment with cocktails…
There’s more to life than gin & tonic, Captain & Coke, and Bloody Mary’s. You need to mix it up a little and why not do some mixing with something healthy?

Natalie's Orchid Island Juice Company has a selection of all natural juices that mix very well with your favorite spirits.

We paired the sweet Honey Tangerine with tequila, the tart Strawberry Lemonade with vodka, Orange Beet with gin. Their newest flavor, Pumpkin Apple Spice, was excellent with whiskey. And, of course, you can mix the Orange or Lemonade with endless possibilities.

What a great combo…I was excited to try Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur, which is a blend of cognac and fresh pears. I was not disappointed. This is a perfect after dinner drink with or without ice, or mix it in some cocktails such as these:

Spiced Pear Affair.75 oz. Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur           
1.5 oz. Premium Reposado Tequila 
1 oz. Lime juice 
.75 oz. Agave nectar        
Dash cinnamon and cayenne     
Cinnamon and sugar, for garnish
Shake with ice and strain into martini glass, rimmed with cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Snowy Pear Lager
1.5 oz. Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur
4 oz. Winter Lager
1 oz. Apple cider
.5 oz. Lemon juice
Apple slice and cinnamon, for garnish
Shake together Belle de Brillet, cider, and lemon juice. Strain the mixture into a glass. Add beer. Garnish with the apple and a shake of cinnamon.

Healthy frozen vegetarian…I’ve tried and enjoyed cedarlane frozen meals before. They had sent their delicious breakfasts to me in the spring. This time I was able to taste two of their gluten-free vegetarian options, the Three Layer Enchilada Pie and the Chile Relleno. Both were flavorful and very filling, and under 400 calories for a complete meal.