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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Don’t Forget These for your Holiday Season

It’s that time a year when entertaining includes indulging in not only food, but wine. Check out these finds for your holiday table.

Apple Pie in a Glass…
Who says apple pie is just for dessert? Not Oliver Winery. They’ve released an Apple Pie wine this year which doesn’t take like fruit wine or cider, it takes like apple pie! They fresh press tart apples and mix it with all your pie seasoning favorites, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, so it’s not a super sweet wine and is refreshing before, during, and after holiday dinners.
My kind of Pinot…
Some mean Noir, but with me it’s usually Grigio. I found two to love this month and they’re both within everyone’s budget.

Mommy’s Time Out Pinto Grigio is a delicious treat. It’s fruity and light, and under $15. Have a few bottles around for the holiday as your go-to white.

In the same price range is Astoria Alisia Pinot Grigio. This one is also good, but with more lemon notes if you prefer a more citrusy pinot.

Have some Popcorn with that…
I happen to love popcorn, even when it’s plain, but I found a few that have outdone themselves this month.

If you live in Chicago – or have ever travelled through it – you certainly know about Garrett’s Popcorn. They make some superb flavors, the most popular of which is their original CaramelCrisp®.  I had the chance to try their new Buffalo. Like the chicken wings, it has quite a kick. It’s a nice change from the sweet and the tin went pretty quickly during the tasting.

I confess that I personally usually go for the sweet over savory. Popcorn Indiana sure had me pegged when they sent samples of their latest, Dark Chocolate Peppermint and the Dark Chocolate Fudge Drizzled. I’m not much of a binger, I usually have a bit of a treat each day, but neither bag lasted the night! Pick up some for the holidays and you’ll forget about the candy canes.

Don’t forget the Snacks…

When I start cooking feasts I often forget to eat myself. That’s why it’s good to have some quick snacks around. GoMacro sent me a sampler of their new Thrive Bars and they are a healthy treat with organic ingredients, such as hemp, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and natural sugars. My favorites are the Caramel Coconut, Blueberry Lavender, and Chocolate Peanut Butter.