Friday, December 30, 2011

Ring In a Spirit Filled New Year’s

It’s going to be a quiet New Year’s for me this year, but if you don’t have plans yet, there’s still a little time to make some interesting plans. Here are some suggestions for celebrations. Enjoy!

Atlantic City, New Jersey
It may not be beach weather, but there’s plenty going on in this Jersey Shore hotspot. The Goo Goo Dolls are playing at the Circus Maximus Theater at Caesars, which will also have a selection of party options at the Toga Bar. Over at the Tropicana, Gladys Night will be toasting the new year on stage, while Brand New will be at the House of Blues at Showboat Resort & Casino.

If you are looking for some laughs to start off next year, you can see Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers perform at the Borgata Casino Resort & Spa or the legendary Don Rickles at Harrah’s Resort, where The Pool will be having a champagne filled celebration.

Check with the individual hotels for overnight packages.

Chicago, Illinois
It’s a Bootlegger’s Ball – Vegas style – at The Red Canary. Play some blackjack, try your luck at the craps table and feast on appetizers and cocktails before the champagne toast. There’s also a four course dinner if you prefer a sit down celebration.  Reservations can be made at 312-846-1475.

SUSHISAMBA is ringing in the new year with a Brazilian Carnaval Party. Two seatings are available, with a midnight countdown in conjunction with the Times Square ball.  For reservations and details, call 312-595-2300, or visit their website.

Chef Michael Noll will be offering two menus at Elate in River North on New Year’s Eve. Wine pairings are available with each and a complimentary champagne toast will be given to those there at midnight. Call 312-202-9900 to make a reservation.

The new Cantina Laredo offers a festive dinner on New Year’s Eve (and New Year’s Day). Enjoy tequila cocktails and modern Mexican specialties from Executive Chef Larry Sinclair. Call 312-955-0014 for details.

At the Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club there’s always some themed fun and on December 31st it’s the “Glitter and Glama Gala.” Join Kit Kat Divas Traci Ross and Madam X for their impersonations of female entertainers, including Tina Turner, Madonna and Lady Gaga. There’s also a four course dinner, available at two different seatings. Reservations are available through 773-525-1111.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
The Grand GenevaResort & Spa, an AAA Four Diamond property, is offering a selection of New Year’s activities for singles, couples and families. Events begin at 6:00 pm on the 31st with musical entertainment throughout the resort. Options for the night include a DJ spinning at the night lounge Evolve, a big party in the Grand Ballroom and multi-course dining options at Geneva ChopHouse, Ristorante Brissago and Grand Café. Overnight packages are also available. Call 262-248-8811 for availability.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Cocktails You Want to Try

Whether you are gathering around a Christmas Tree, Menorah or Kinara, holidays are a time for celebrating. Dress up the festivities with some holiday cheer.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Mistletoe Delight*
1 ½  oz Grand Marnier
1 ½ oz Cranberry juice
½ oz fresh Lemon juice
½ oz Simple Syrup
Fresh Rosemary needles

In a shaker with filled with ice, shake the first four ingredients together.
Garnish with rosemary needles.

½ oz Cointreau or Triple Sec
3 oz Cranberry Juice

Chill all of the ingredients beforehand.
Pour the Cointreau and cranberry juice into a chilled champagne flute.
Stir well and top with champagne. (cocktail pictured right)

*If you don’t feel like making these cocktails yourself, stop by Texas de Brazil and let the bartender make one for you!

Herradura Pomegranate Swizzle
1 ½ oz Herradura Reposado Tequila
2 oz Pomegranate Juice (unsweetened)
½ oz Vanilla Syrup
1 oz Heavy Cream
Candy Cane & Pomegranate Seeds for garnish

Fill a highball with crushed ice and pour in tequila, juice and vanilla syrup.
Stir ingredients and insert candy cane and a clear straw.
Place cream into an ice filled shaker, shake.
Layer cream in glass and sprinkle pomegranate seeds over top. (cocktail pictured below)

Farmer’s Shortcake
2 parts Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka
1 part Lemon Juice
3 parts muddled Strawberries
Fresh Mint leaf

Suggested Pair:  A triple-crème cheese, such as Nettle Meadow’s Kunik or Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam.

Red Planet
1 part Crop Organic Tomato Vodka
2 parts Cranberry juice
1 part Club Soda
Squeeze of fresh Lemon

Suggested Pair:  A blue cheese, such as Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue or Point Reyes’ Original Blue.

Nutcracker Bellini with homemade Tea- Infused Vodka
1 ½ oz Russian Standard, Tea Infused (recipe below)
¼ oz. Limoncello
Sparkling Wine (such as Cava or Prosecco)
Three candied cherries pierced on a skewer or drink stirrer for garnish

Tea Infused Vodka:
1 Tbsp loose Silver Needle Chinese Tea
1 (750-milliliter) bottle of Russian Standard Vodka
Add tea to vodka and shake to combine.
Set aside for 3 hours to infuse.
Strain out tea and store vodka in a cool, dark place until ready to use.

In a shaker, combine the Russian Standard, Tea Infused Vodka and Limoncello.
Shake well and pour with into a champagne flute.
Fill up with sparkling wine and garnish with cherries.

Sugar Plum Cocktail
1 ½ oz Russian Standard Vodka
1 oz Sugar Plum Infused Reduction (see recipe below)
¼ oz Lemon Juice
Fresh ground Cinnamon & 1 whole Cinnamon Stick for garnish

Sugar Plum Reduction:
2 Tbsp Plum preserves or plum reserves
¾  cup Lemon Juice
½ cup water
1 cup Demerara Sugar
Place all ingredients in a pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s reduced by half.
Strain through a fine metal strainer and discard solids

Combine all ingredients in a Martini shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously.
Strain into a medium sniffer.
Garnish with ground cinnamon & cinnamon stick. (cocktail pictured right)

Nielsen-Massey Peppermint Pattitini
2 oz. Vodka
2 oz. Half & half or cream
1 heaping Tablespoon hot cocoa mix
¼ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Peppermint Extract
½ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract
½ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Tahitian Extract (Madagascar or Mexican if preferred)
Chocolate syrup
Mini candy cane

Add all ingredients except the syrup in a shaker and shake vigorously.
Pour into chilled martini glasses.
Garnish with a swirl of chocolate syrup and candy cane.

If you are looking to save a few calories, try these simple cocktails. Sparkling ICE has no calories so these cocktails are all under 100 calories…

Black Raspberry Ice
1 oz. Makers Mark Bourbon
½ oz. Dry Vermouth
2 Bourbon Cherries
1 Splenda

Top off with Black Raspberry Sparkling ICE

Pink Grapefruit Ice
1 oz. Beefeater Gin
4 Cucumbers muddled
2 Drops of lime juice
1 oz. Blueberries muddled

Finish with Pink Grapefruit Sparkling ICE

Lemon Lime Ice
1 oz. Bacardi Light Rum
1 Splenda
6 Basil leaves lightly muddled
Splash of lime

Finish with Lemon Lime Sparkling ICE

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gizmos, Gadgets and Wine….

I was traveling quite a bit this fall, which means the boxes have been piling up in my apartment. I still have a lot to go through, but I’ve sifted through some and I thought I would pass along some great finds so you can add them to your holiday shopping list.

It’s one of those simple little things that makes a world of difference to a traveler. The Tugo is easy and lightweight. It attaches to your luggage and acts as a cup holder. No more trying to balance your drink and your luggage (and ultimately spilling it all over your clothes). Buy one before your next trip.

When I was first approached with the idea of designer bags that meet the TSA Ziploc requirement, I thought it was a bit much, but since receiving them I have to change my opinion. Showoff’s are more like buying cosmetic bags than a Ziploc – cosmetic bags that are clear enough and the right side to go through security.

For $15, you get three colorful and sturdy quart size bags, three refillable bottles and three gallon bags (with the same design) to carry them in when you leave security.

I stated at the S’Well for a while, trying to figure out what made it different from any other thermos or water bottle. The wine bottle type shape did catch me, and it does its job at keeping hot things hot and cold things cold, but it took a bit of research to find the real uniqueness in this bottle that would make me trust my water… or wine… or vodka… in it.

There’s nothing breakable inside like a thermos that you have to worry about. It’s all good old-fashioned stainless steel. It helps keep the outside of the bottle from ever feeling too cold or hot. The bottles available in 17 ($35) and 20 ounce ($45). Ten percent of all sales go to the WaterAid Organization.


Light by Beaujolais
If you are looking for some inexpensive, easy drinking red wines, I have two you should check out. They are part of a Light by Beaujolais line and that’s just what they are. Both are 100% Gamay. The 2009 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie is a bit dry and nutty, with just a bit of dark fruit on the palate. You’ll get more of a Christmas fruitcake out of the 2009 Domaine de la Voute des Crozes Cote-de-Brouilly, with cherries, nutmeg and a touch of cinnamon. The wines sell for around $20.

Freixenet Cordon Rosado
Sparkling wine is definitely becoming more popular, as is rose, so it’s always interesting to see something that combines the two trends. Freixenet Cordon Rosado is a Cava is made from two Spanish grapes, Trepat and Garnacha It is aged for just over a year.  It’s much drier than you would normally expect from a rose, but it goes down rather smooth and has just a bit of berry in there. For only $12, this is a great aperitif for your holiday dining.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Must Enter Trip Contests

People always ask me if I pay for travel and the truth is, I don’t because it’s part of my job. It’s a fun and wonderful job that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The fact is, though, I am working when I’m traveling for Wine And Spirits Travel, as well as many other publications.

In addition to the day of going to wineries, checking out hotels, eating at great restaurant and those dreaded (lol) spa treatments, there's the part of making deadlines. I’m up at dawn at the computer and often back there late at night. It’s a lot different for most of you so I’m happy to pass along ideas for vacations – especially when you can even do them for free.

It just happens that I was hit with three contests this week for places that are on my bucket list for 2012 so I thought I’d pass the information along.  I hope to hear that one of my lucky readers will be enjoying their very own free trip!

Anguilla is in the Leeward Island chain of the Eastern Caribbean. It’s small enough to drive through in a half hour, yet has everything paradise needs.

The Anguilla TouristBoard is anxious for more people to know about their treasured island, so they are promoting it with a “Share A Secret, Bring A Friend” contest.  Every time you enter with both your names for the monthly newsletter (where you can learn more about Anguilla), each of you has a chance to win a five day, four night stay! You can enter as many times as you would like on this webpage.

The unspoiled beauty of the Galapagos Islands are so magnificent that they have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Marine Reserve and a National Park. Red Mangrove Galapagos and EcuadorLodges is a leader in accommodations in this area and they would like to show you their islands in celebration of the 180 years since they were named the Archipelago of Ecuador.

All you need to do is signup for the travel blog to be entered to win this vacation package. Included are stays at three of Red Mangrove’s Galapagos lodges on Floreana, Isabela and Santa Cruz Islands. Many of additional travel expenses and excursions are included. See the website for details.

New Zealand
Everyone wants a trip to New Zealand, but can you prove how far you will go for it? The tourism board in New Zealand is running a competition to give away a trip each month. All you have to do is tell them how bad you want it (in a way that’s better than anyone else).
This contest looks like a lot of fun since you get to be creative through photos and videos. Check out all the details on what you need to do to win one of the spectacular trips they are offering at Stories Beat Stuff

Also, while you are traveling around the world you are going to need some internet. Check out the Gogo Online contest to win free internet up in the air!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

for Your Holiday Shopping List...

It’s that time of year. We’ve put away the turkey and taken out the holiday shopping list. It seems to get easier every year to shop online and the deals this year are simply amazing. Skip the search for a parking spot, save some gas, and even save some money by shopping online.

Before you even think about shopping online, sign up for Ebates. You will immediately earn a gift certificate and then you will start earning money every time you shop online. It gets even better – they have coupons. So, you click on Ebates, find the store you want to shop in, see the coupons for the store and then you will get more money back at the end of the quarter.

I have vowed to dramatically cut down on paper this year and it’s working great. I love my Apple iPad for everything from reading magazines to catching up on television shows, to taking notes so I don’t have all those pieces of paper. My mom is spending all her time on her Kindle and is reading more than she ever thought she could. And, I hear the new Kindle Fire is even better. I don't know anyone who wouldn't love either of these gifts.

Wines, Red Wine, White Wine
If you are reading this I think it's a pretty good guess that you enjoy wine and spirits. Wine Globe is one of the few places online where you can order a good selection of both. They even have some wonderful gift baskets if you aren't sure of what to get. Also look into some of the great glasses and wine storage units at Wine Enthusiast for a gift. They are even running a sweepstakes so you may end up with a gift of your own.

You will find some great bargains out there if you are looking to give travel as a gift. You can save up to 70% on Business Class Flights with Alpha Flight Guru. Then, book a luxurious place withPreferred Hotels & Resorts, or find a cute Bed & Breakfast.

Before you make a final decision, read reviews and discover more great deals at Trip Advisor.And, for that special traveler, check out some of the neat and unique gadgets on sale at Magellan's.

What beer lover doesn't want to be a brewmaster? Now, anyone can thanks to supplies from Mr. Beer. You can by everything one needs for home brewing right here.
If you happen to be in the Ohio area, you are in luck because there are some wonderful Belgium beers brewing at Rockmill Brewery. Pick up a three pack of their beautiful bottles for a deliciously interesting gift.

Save before you ShopIF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO GET
There isn’t anyone who doesn’t like a gift certificate. If you aren’t sure what to get, the gift certificate is the way to go. I recently discovered EBillMe. Not only can you get a whole bunch of different gift certificates at the same place, but you will actually receive cash back on the purchase.

Another option, if you want to give your recipient a big headstart on paying for a great dinner, pick up a gift certificate and you can give them twice as much meal for half the money! Similar discount certificates to events and stores are available atGroupon..

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tasting Time, An Assortment of New Beverages

The Fed Ex guy has been spending a lot of time making drop offs at my apartment lately. This weekend I had some friends help me check out some of it.

Downslope Wine Barrel Aged Rum
Downslope was one of the distilleries I sampled on my trip to Colorado. Aged rum is not unusual, but Downslope has chosen wine barrels for its aging. The result after one year is a 80 proof rum that definitely tastes differently from most rums. I felt it tasted like cognac and my fellow tasters agreed. I highly recommend Downslope Wine Barrel Aged Rum it if that’s your taste in spirits.

Belvedere Bloody Mary
I was a little apprehensive when I heard about Belvedere Bloody Mary. The premise is that it contains all the spices you need to make a Bloody Mary if you just add tomato juice. I actually brought this bottle along with some tomato juice to a tailgate and it got an interesting response. I enjoyed it very much and would definitely keep a bottle around the house. The results were mixed among others, mostly because it isn’t very spicy. I happen to like my Bloody Mary’s mild, but those who like spicy ones said it wouldn’t be worth the trouble of having to start flavoring this, it would be easier to use Bloody Mary mix and straight vodka.
Also of note on the Belvedere front is Belvedere Red, but this isn’t a new and different spirit, it’s a very special bottle. This special edition of the vodka is all about giving back as Belvedere is donating 50% of the profits to the Global Fund in Africa to fight HIV/AIDS.

Bols Genever
Bols Genever is considered to be gin, but it tastes like anything but – and this comes from a true gin drinker. This is a spirit that has been made in Holland for nearly 200 years. It’s a grain spirit, made whiskey-like with a wheat, corn and rye distillation, barrel aged for 18 months in oaked. The gin designation comes from a distillation of juniper and other botanicals. The bad news is that – as a gin drinker – I didn’t like Bols Genever. The good news is that it got the thumbs up from some Jack Daniels drinkers who quickly mixed it with Coke and enjoyed.

Twist Essence Water & Kona Red
Not all of the liquids that come my way are alcoholic.  I recently received two beverages that come without any alcohol that are totally different. Kona Red is made from the fruit of the coffee plant and is full of antioxidants. It’s delicious and full of nutrients, however, it is rather high in calories and sugar. I would suggest mixing it with some club soda (or a clear spirit) if you aren’t prepared to give up 380 calories for a bottle.

Twist Essence Water doesn’t have any calories, but that puts it in a class with dozens of other fruited waters. As a Vitamin Water Zero fan, I was interested in trying this. The Pomegrante-Blueberry just has a very light fruit taste and is even a bit tart (despite an addition of Stevia). On the other hand, I really liked the Mango-Acai. I thought it was fruity and slightly sweet and I would definitely think of purchasing this as a Vitamin Water substitute.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Exciting Activities at Two Great Places

Whenever I see something I want to find room for in my schedule, I know it’s worthy of passing on. Willows Lodge in Washington will forever remain and the tip of my tongue thanks to the hot bubble bath they had waiting for me when I came back from dinner. As for Pueblo Bonita, I haven’t made it to their Los Cabos properties yet, but if they are anything like the Mazatlan ones, you will want to book your plane ticket!

Willows Lodge Holiday Food & Drink “Boot Camp”
If you are looking to prepare food and cocktails like a pro this holiday season, why not join the pros at Willows Lodge in Woodinville for their Holiday Entertaining Classes in the Fireside Cellars Lounge.  The classes will take place on Wednesdays from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm and the lineup looks like a lot of fun:

November 30, 2011
Party appetizers with Barking Dog Executive Chef Bobby Moore

December 7, 2011
Desserts with Pastry Chef Matt Kelley

December 14, 2011
Cocktails with Restaurant and Wine Managers Matthew Davis and Jennifer Schmitt

Visit the Willows Lodge website to make reservations for the classes and the hotel. Classes are free, but space is limited.

* * *

Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts and Spas in Cabos San Lucas
I had toured Pueblo Bonito when I was in Mazatlan and was quite impressed with this luxury chain. Now I hear that the chain’s properties in Cabos San Lucas are working toward the addition of an all-inclusive plan, which will begin December 1st.

All-inclusive packages are already available at the Mazatlan location, as well as at Pueblo Bonito Rose and Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos, but the company was looking to do something a bit different at the more secluded Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach. They have introduced a “Luxury Without Limitations” plan that includes extras such as beachside dining, poolside lunch service and free wireless internet.

For more information on Pueblo Bonito properties, visit their website.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Champagne Day!

As far as I am concerned, every day is champagne day, but today is actually the official day of celebration for this bubbly from France.

I’ve spent a lot of time with one of my favorite beverages in the past year. Last fall, I left my home in Champaign, Illinois, and took a trip with the French tourism board to Champagne, France. I spent four days there learning all about the beverage and the region. During that trip I was able to spend a wonderful night at the Veuve Clicquot estate, Manoir de Verzy. I also had a tour of the winery and went through my first champagne cave.

My trip to Champagne also included a chance to sit down with the Krug winemaker Julie Cavill and learn about the process of making champagne. I came home with a bottle of their Grand Cuvee and opened it up on my birthday (it’s wonderful). Krug Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn had his own celebration in New York a few weeks ago when he was honored for his lifetime achievements.

In March, I had the pleasure of being invited to Paris for the 200th Anniversary Celebration of Perrier Jouet. It was a black tie affair, full of celebrities and a dedicated piece of art by Daniel Arsham to the champagne. It was then I got to taste what has become one of my favorites, the Belle Epoque 2004.

Champagne should be savored whether or not there is a special occasion. It will certainly be a part of mine.  I actually enjoyed a glass of the 2002 Laurent-Perrier Brut with my dinner at Bernardus Lodge in Carmel. My first Wine and Spirits Travel Guide will actually be about champagne (the drink and the region) and I hope to have it available in the next few weeks. In the meantime, pop the cork and celebrate the day!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pairing and Sampling the Wine & Spirits

Flavor! Napa Valley is the ultimate wine and food pairing. This four day event will take place November 17-20 and sommeliers and chefs are joining to put together four days of tasting. There will be demonstrations and dining experiences, as well as seminars that will explain how the pairing process comes into play.

The ultimate food and wine event at Flavor! Will be held at The Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. Over 100 Napa wineries will be paired with over two dozen of the valley's restaurants. For tickets and more information, visit the official website. You can also follow @FlavorNV on Twitter.
* * *

Experience Napa -- and Sonoma and Champagne -- pairings in Phoenix, as the Arizona Biltmore begins its 22nd season of Winemaker Dinners. The first one (ZD Winery of Napa) was this week, but there's plenty more to come. This is about more than the pairings as guests can hear about the wines direct from the winemakers themselves. There's also fashion and jewelry shows by Saks Fifth Avenue to keep it even more interesting.

The menu of four-to-six course dinners are created by Arizona Biltmore Executive Chef Todd Sicolo and Executive Sous Chef Conor Favre, pairing each course with an appropriate wine.  Upcoming wineries include: Rombauer Vineyards,
St. Helena, CA;  Henriot Champagnes, Reims, France;  and  St. Francis Winery, Santa Rosa, CA

* * *

I love hearing about dinners that pair spirits. The Mercadito in
Chicago is doing a series of them, with Fortaleza Tequila October 17th; Hennessy Cognac November 21st; and El Tesoro Tequila December 19th (they had Belvedere Vodka in September). Guests first taste the spirit and then learn about how Executive Chef Aldo Ayala and Chef Patricio Sandoval chose the cocktails and dishes. The Spirited Dinners are $55 per person. Call 312-329-9555 for reservations.

* * *

And speaking of sampling, I've received some great wine lately that I thought I would tell you about. The first was Nine Walks Sauvignon Blanc from W.J. Deutsch & Sons. I'm a big fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and this one -- which is only around $10 a bottle -- is everything they are supposed to be. There's a bit of mineral and earth, and lots of citrus. I even got a bit of tropical fruit in there. It's certainly worth keeping around the house for that price.

The other wine was also a Sauvignon Blanc, but quite different. It's Emeri by DeBortoli and it's a sparkling wine by this wonderful Yarra Valley, Australia house. I really enjoyed it as it's light and refreshing, and full of fruit. I tasted both lemon and peach, for an easy drinking aperitif. They also sent me a bottle of the  Sparkling Pink Moscato, which is safely tucked away at the right temperature!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Check Out Whisky in the South, North and West

It’s been two years since I’ve been in Whisky and Bourbon country, but I do occasionally get opportunities to sample until I get a chance to go back. Two opportunities came across my inbox recently that are open to everyone so I thought I’d pass them along to my whisky-loving friends…

Kentucky Bourbon Trail at Beaumont Inn
It’s not always easy to get to all the distilleries down in Tennessee and Kentucky with one visit. One place in Kentucky is making it a bit easier. The Inn is close to eight of the major distilleries in the area, making it a great place to stay while you visit. If you prefer to skip the driving and concentrate on the drinking, that’s a possibility to.

The Old Owl Tavern is located at the Beaumont Inn. It’s a pub that’s offering its own version of a “bourbon trail,” offering 35 different bourbons. Innkeeper Dixon Dedman happens to be a bourbon aficionado himself and he’ll be happy to sit down with you to discuss and compare the bourbons on hand.

For more information on the Beaumont Inn, visit their website or call (800) 352-3992.

WhiskyFest San Francisco
At WhiskyFest San Francisco, you can do plenty of whisky and bourbon sampling. The event will be held at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis for the fifth year. It takes place on October 7th and will feature over 250 whisky, Scotch and bourbon from around the world.

You can also attend seminars, enjoy a gourmet buffet and receive a goodie bag filled with treats at WhiskyFest San Francisco. Tickets are $135 (or $185 for VIPs, who receive an extra special tasting). For more information, visit the official website or call 617-233-8024

Canadian Club’s Five Cent Tours
In conjunction with the “Compliments of Nucky” campaign for the Boardwalk Empire show HBO is conducting, Canadian Club Whisky is offering five cent tours of their Ontario, Canada distillery. Now through November 30th you can visit Canadian Club’s Heritage Center and take their tour.

The Canadian Club Heritage Center is in Windsor, just over the Canadian border from Detroit. To be eligible for the deal, visit the Canadian Club Facebook page and click on the “CC Brand Heritage Tab.”  From there you can print out the voucher for the five cent tour.  If you’d like additional information, visit the Canadian Club website.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Enjoy Fiji Island Just Like the Bachelorette

If you were watching Bachelorette Ashley Hebert take her magical date to Fiji and dreaming that you could do the same, you can make that dream a reality. Koro Sun Resort & Rainforest Spa in Savusavu, Fiji Island, is offering a package inspired by that Bachelorette visit.

“Passion Under the Palms” Package Inspired By ABC The Bachelorette. 
 Fijian welcome with a coconut milk foot soak and leg massage and freshly chilled green coconut beverage;
5 nights at Koro Sun Resort and Rainforest Spa Fiji; Three gourmet meals and afternoon tea daily; 
One Full American Champagne Breakfast in the privacy of your own villa, with fresh exotic plantation fruits; 
One  Rainforest Rendezvous private candlelight dinner for two in the Rainforest, with hors de oeuvres and a succulent three course seafood platter; 
The Ultimate Indulgence, a 1.5 hour treatment starts with Banana Leaf Body Wrap, followed by a Couples Massage in the Rainforest Spa, (rated “Top Island Spa” by Islands Magazine); 
Ladies Sulu (sarong) complimentary gift; Guided Snorkeling excursion of Fiji’s soft coral capital; 
Fantasy Suite turndown service on the final night, including floating candles in the villa’s plunge pool (Edgewater Villa/Kavika Falls only), followed by a trio of decadent desserts; 
Waterfall Excursion with Fijian Village Visit and Kava Ceremony; Behind the Scenes Tour of J. Hunter Pearl Farm in Savusavu Bay;   
Private Beach picnic with tropical fruits, and lunch prepared for your day in the in the South Pacific sun.
The package is per couple, based on space availability, for July 18, 2011 to March 31, 2013. Prices range from $2,350 for an Oceanview Bure to $6,400 for the Kavika Falls Luxury Villa Ashley stayed in. For more information, visit the Koro Sun Resort & Rainforest Spa website, or call 877-KOROSUN.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fall into Washington State Wine

I had a great time in Washington this past spring discovering what their wine regions have to offer. The fall is a great time to head up there, with lots of events to celebrate the harvests.

Yakima Valley
The Second Annual Skewered Apple Barbeque Championship will be held September 11-12, hosted by the Yakima Valley Museum and Tree Top.This event is national competition for grill masters. Whether you compete or not, you can enjoy the live music, cooking demonstrations, and the beer and wine garden. Hours for the event will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit

The Fresh Hop Ale Festival will be held in Yakima on Saturday, October 1st. Celebrate the Valley's hop crop (which contributes 77% of the hops in the U.S.) hop with fine craft beer. The festival will be held downtown and will include numerous breweries. There will also be live music and dancing; food from local restaurants; brewing demonstrations and a cigar tentin downtown Yakima for the Ninth Annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival. Ale Festival goers can enjoy beers from numerous participating breweries in addition to brewing demonstrations. Ticket are only $30 in advance and $35 at the gate, with all proceeds benefiting Allied Arts of Yakima Valley. For more information, visit or call (509) 966-0930

The Catch the Crush Wine Festival will celebrate the area's 25th annual seasonal grape crush Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25. Participating wineries in the area will offer tours, tastings, free-run juice and hors d’oeuvres. Crush pads will be set up for live grape stomps on Saturday afternoon and there will be great sales all weekend. Admission is free.

Savor the Flavor, the largest wine, beer and culinary event in Eastern Washington, will take place October 21-22 in Pasco. Meet celebrity chefs and enjoy Tastings and seminars for nominal fees. Proceeds will go to Modern Living Services, a non-profit organization offering services for developmentally disabled adults.

For more information on events in the Tri-Cities region, visit or call 509-582-7221.

Lake Chelan
Lake Chelan is a fairly new (recognized in 2009) wine region in Washington. They will be celebrating the harvest with a Crush Festival the weekends of     October 1-2 and October 8-9. The area, which is full boutique wineries, will celebrate the harvest season during the annual Crush Festival. There will be exclusive vineyard and winery tours, tastings and live music music at each of the wineries. Visitors can mingle winemakers and enjoy meals from locally grown produce paired with wines. For more information on the festivities in Lake Chelan, visit http;//

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Eat, Drink and Spa This Fall

I’m planning on heading here for my own full report on Wine And Spirits Travel, but the rest of you might want to go ahead and make your reservations at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls in. September is Pawpaw month and this super nutritious food is being used throughout the property. The Spa will feature Pawpaw treatments, the Tavern will have pawpaw infused cocktails, and the restaurant will have dishes with pawpaw.

You can catch me at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls mid-September for a Girls’ Getaway with a Pawpaw Facial, Pawpaw Martini and Pawpaw Crème Brulee! To make your own plans, visit or call 1-800-653-2557.

There’s another place I’m working on a trip to this fall offering something unique and exciting (along with the beautiful beach and award-winning resort they already have). Las Ventanas in Los Cabos, Mexico, has a new program called “Challenge the Chef.” Guests get to check out the ingredients chosen and discuss their dish idea with Executive Chef Fabrice Guisset (left), who came up with the idea. Then, they have one hour to make the dish before Chef Guisset comes back to sample and rate the food.

If you think you are up to the challenge  -- or just want to enjoy this AAA Five Diamond resort --  visit the Las Ventanas website or call 1-888-767-3966.

It looks like Restaurant R’evolution of New Orleans will have even more to offer than award-winning chef John Folse and Rick Tramonte. The duo has hired Molly Wismeier (right) as their Wine and Spirits Director. This restaurant in the Royal Sonesta Hotel is putting as much effort into the drinks as the food with a custom-built 10,000 bottle wine cellar. Wismeier is looking to find wines that pair especially well with the eatery’s Cajun and Creole menu. She also plans to offer many of them by the glass, along with a full menu of inviting cocktails and rotating beers from local breweries.

Restaurant R’evolution is scheduled to open this fall.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Food, Wine & Spirits Home & Away

I’ve just returned from 10 days in San Diego and I have to say that it’s probably the only place left on earth with perfect, predictable weather. I didn’t see a drop of rain and was thrilled with the partly sunny skies and 70-75 degree temperatures every single day. I feel like I’ve been in a heat tunnel everywhere I go these past few months so it was a nice change. I’m looking for an excuse to get back there and it may just be the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, November 16-20. The festival offers the opportunity to taste from nearly 200 wine and spirits producers; taste samples from 70 San Diego Chefs; participate in cooking classes and wine tastings; and dine with celebrity chefs from other parts of the world.

Another event on my wish list for November is Cornucopia. When I was out enjoying British Columbia this spring, one place I didn’t get to but heard great things about was Whistler. This event appears to be the best experience a foodie and wine lover can have in this picturesque area. They call it the “festival of indulgence” and I can see why as it celebrates the wines and chefs of the region with parties, winemaker dinners and tastings. With seminars such as “Va Va Va Vinha: Salud to Spain,” “Sharing Life, Love & Local Foods” and “Argentina: More Than Malbec,” I’m hoping to get there for the spectacular November 10-13.

If you aren’t seeing a major food, wine and spirits festival in your fall plans, you can always just make one at home. I spent 10 days on a Celebrity Cruise and I can tell you they know what they are doing when it comes to preparing food.  I’m not the only one who was impressed with the dining experience and the request for details has prompted Jacques Van Staden, Celebrity’s Vice President of Culinary Operations (and also a James Beard nominee) to ink a book called “Excite the Senses.” The 400 page coffee table book takes a look inside Celebrity’s kitchens and wine cellars, offering cooking tips and recipes. Purchase the book at