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!