Weekend In Review

 

If you follow the Winekindasseur on Twitter, you may have noticed my Monday morning Tweets called Weekend In Review. In the weekly photo, a few empty wine and booze bottles are lined up, ready to head out to the recycle bin. A concerned friend tweeted, “Did you guys really drink a whole bottle of Limoncello over the weekend?” No, but it’s funny you should ask…

Just as we were inspired to clean out the pantry a few weeks ago, we’re attempting to reduce our liquor bottle count as well. The motivation isn’t expiration dates, since most spirits last for years, but rather that we’ll be moving in a year or so. Now you’re probably wondering, why don’t we just pack up the liquor and wine and drive it to our new place? To some extent we will do just that, but our problem is that there are hundreds of bottles.

Prior to becoming liquor store entrepreneurs, we had an average size collection of spirits. In order to be knowledgeable for our customers, part of our ‘homework’ was to try products at home. After the store, our curiosity led us to continue trying new products and testing in the drink lab. Oftentimes, we made a few cocktails from one bottle and then put it aside to move on to the next experiment. This behavior has resulted in every nook and cranny of our kitchen and dining room being occupied by a partly-consumed bottle of booze. Open a cabinet door and you never know what you’ll find.

I can imagine some less thrifty readers may want to suggest that we pour the bottle contents down the drain and be done with it.  Blasphemy!  This dilemma has delivered an opportunity to revisit our prior mixology dabbling and encourage friends to help us with our project. Certain bottles are ‘targeted’ for completion. When the goal of emptying each bottle has been accomplished, they are collected on the counter for a final farewell photo in memoriam.

Here are a couple of highlights:

Lemon Sorbet

We originally made this cocktail with Dr. McGillicuddy’s Intense Lemon Drop Schnapps. Since the shapely Limoncello bottle was targeted for completion, we’ll substitute it for the Schnapps. We give ourselves a pat on the back for our efficiency because finishing the Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka is next on the project timeline. I just love achieving my milestones!

  • 1.5 oz. Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka
  • .5 oz. Limoncello
  • .5 oz. lemon juice
  • .5 oz. simple syrup

Shake over ice and pour through a strainer.

Sazerac

Our friends who like to travel to bourbon and whiskey country in the south brought us a souvenir bottle from a distillery they visited. Davy Crockett Whiskey was a gift that kept on giving but after a year or so, it was time to bid farewell to our Tennessean friend. We’ve made a couple of minor changes to the traditional preparation of the Sazerac cocktail: using simple syrup in place of a sugar cube, and shaking instead of stirring.

  • Splash of Absinthe
  • 1.5 oz. whiskey
  • .25 oz simple syrup
  • Few dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • Lemon rind
  1. Prepare the glass with a wash of Absinthe and fill with crushed ice. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, peel some lemon rind.
  3. Fill a shaker with ice and add the whiskey, simple syrup, and about 3 dashes of bitters. Shake vigorously.
  4. Pour out the crushed ice from the glass. Strain and pour the whiskey into the glass. Twist the lemon rind and garnish the drink.

Sazerac

Ingredients On Hand Challenge

Ingredients On Hand Challenge

I have a secret fantasy. In it, I’m appearing on The Rachael Ray Show to promote my book about living the Boozy Lifestyle and I’m asked to participate in a cooking challenge. The game is to create a meal out of five random ingredients. I know I’ll ace it since I perform this very activity at least a couple of times a week. My daydream may be less exciting than folks who imagine sipping champagne in a private jet en route to dine in Paris, or thrill-seeking adventures like climbing Mount Everest or sky diving but it’s my unheralded superpower, nonetheless.

This ingredients-on-hand challenge was initiated by cleaning out our pantry, stocked with those irresistible 10 for $10 sale items that have no immediate plan for consumption. Normally, I not very aware of the aging of canned and packaged goods in the cupboards since they’re meant to last for a few years. But when an elderly relative serves you dip from a jar with a “Best By” date sometime in the last century, it’s a wakeup call to check the dates.

To my pleasant surprise, there’s nothing in this pantry sweep that needs to be thrown away. I make a collection of items with expiration dates drawing near, including a package of Knorr Pasta Sides. Prepared packaged goods like Knorr side dishes or Kraft mac-n-cheese aren’t foods I prepare on a regular basis; but I keep these items on hand for occasions when we are inclement weather-bound, or overcome with laziness to the point of cooking incapacitation.

I choose the microwave directions and, for the last two minutes of cooking time, add a cup of par-boiled broccoli florets. It’s a tasty accompaniment to grilled chicken legs and thighs seasoned with Italian herbs and parmesan cheese.

Paired with Buena Vista Pinot Noir.

Next up in the Ingredients On Hand Challenge, we move on to cleaning out the refrigerator. Frequently there’s a smidgeon of ricotta cheese, a chunk of mozzarella, or a few ounces of cooked pasta left over after making lasagna, stuffed shells, eggplant parmigiana, or a homemade pizza. Here’s an easy way to put those leftovers on a plate instead of in the garbage pail.

Baked Spaghetti 

Ingredients

  • ¼ – ½ pound of cooked spaghetti (or whatever is leftover)
  • 3 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ – ¾ cup of tomato sauce
  • ½ cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of parsley
  • ½ teaspoon of dried basil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and combine with ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.
  2. Add the spaghetti into the ricotta mixture and gently coat.
  3. In an oven-safe dish, pour a bit of tomato sauce on the bottom. Transfer the spaghetti to the dish.
  4. Layer the mozzarella over the top of the casserole. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top and allow some to coat the sides of the dish to prevent the spaghetti from sticking and burning.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Baked Spaghetti2

Paired with McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.

McManisCab

 

May The Fourth and Cinco de Mayo

May The Fourth and Cinco de Mayo

When we got married on May 4th twenty years ago we had no idea that our anniversary date would be hijacked by Stars Wars, “May The Fourth Be With You”. Likewise, May 5th was just an ordinary day; not the Cinco de Mayo holiday that’s so popular today. As much as I love tequila and Mexican food, Cinco de Mayo will have to wait until after our two-day anniversary celebration.

A local steakhouse, Rails, serves uniquely delicious appetizers, premium steaks cooked to perfection, wonderful sides, and sinful desserts. Quality food, nice atmosphere, and professional service come with a fairly hefty price tag so we save our visits to Rails for special occasions like our anniversary. From my longtime practice in the art of the Boozy Lifestyle, I’ve become pretty familiar with retail wine pricing. This knowledge makes it difficult to order wine with a 400% markup so we put the wine list aside in favor of their creative craft cocktail list. The bourbon-based drinks we order are refreshingly full of fresh herbs and muddled fruits.

Here’s a sampling of Rails’ wine list. The Library Reserve Selections has some of the giants of Napa; Caymus, Silver Oak, and Far Niente. If you’re willing to spend big, the Nickel & Nickel Tench Vineyard is about the best deal on the wine list since it sells in local liquor stores for about $100.

Rails Wine List

With day one of our anniversary celebration complete, day two is set for uncorking Baldacci’s Four Sons Fraternity 2012 to pair with our steak doggy bags. Fraternity is a red blend from Stag’s Leap District in Napa Valley, California. I couldn’t locate documentation of the varietals in the 2012 blend, but my guess is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.

I open the wine for an hour of decanting and notice that the freshly popped cork is full of sediment. We purchased this bottle about eight months ago and it has been stored on its side ever since. It’s a good idea to stand a bottle upright the day before opening it, and maybe I’ll remember next time. I pour the wine into the decanter through a small strainer to remove the remaining grit.

The nose is full of ripe cherry fruit, oak, and vanilla with floral and tobacco notes. The fruit is dominant but not overpowering. I don’t detect much in the way of earthy or vegetal aromas. Acidity and alcohol seem a little harsh on the back of the throat at first sip, but disappear over time. The palate is full of juicy plum, cherry, and blackberry. Dark chocolate and coffee flavors add a trace of bitterness, along with subtle notes of graphite that become more noticeable after swallowing.  The finish is long and leathery. Overall, Baldacci Fraternity offers a balanced structure from start to finish.

Mexican food and margaritas may just as easily be enjoyed on Seis and Siete de Mayo.

Premium Margarita

  • 1 oz. Don Julio Anejo
  • 1 oz. Patron Citronge
  • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice and simple syrup (half and half)

Shake over ice, strain into a margarita glass, and say Salud!

Panini Style Black Bean and Chicken Burrito

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic
  • ¼ Teaspoon cumin
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 oz. chicken breast (1 large or 2 small), cut into small cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
  • ½ cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • Pinch of pepper or crushed red pepper for more heat
  • 2 large flour tortillas

Directions

  1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pot and cook the garlic and cumin for 1 minute. Add the minced red pepper and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. (If I don’t have a red pepper, I use a small onion or a stalk of celery.) Add the rinsed black beans. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the chicken.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag. Add taco seasoning and pepper to the bag and shake until chicken is coated. Brown the chicken in a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add ¼ cup of water and continue cooking until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  3. Pre-heat the Griddler (panini press) to Grill/Panini between High and Sear.
  4. Brush olive oil on the outside of the wraps. Flip them over and fill with cheese, chicken, and the bean mixture. Fold them up and cook in the Griddler for a few minutes until the outside shows some nice grill marks.

Top with sour cream, taco sauce, and cheese.

I’ve Been Summer-ized

I’ve Been Summer-ized

It’s not actually summer according to the calendar, but 80 degree weather, light past 7:30 p.m., and a Friday night to boot herald this evening as the official opening of the Boozy Lifestyle Summer Season 2017. We’ve used the barbecue several times already this year, but we’ve yet to sit outside for eating and drinking.  The deck is set up with our screened in gazebo, table and chairs, and television. Friday night is typically a non-cooking dinner but we’ll make an exception and fire up the barbecue for easy burgers. But first, cocktail hour. 

Cocktail hour begins Achaval Ferrer Malbec and a bit of cheese. Lori at Dracaena Wines (dracaenawines.com) brought this Malbec to my attention via her blog posts and #Winestudio on Twitter and, as a fan of Malbec, I had to try it. When we got home from the liquor store I happened to notice that I picked up the 2014 vintage instead of the 2015 that she had reviewed. I hope it lives up to expectations.

We’re using the decanter for this big boy. In the glass, the pour is sparkly pretty with purple edges. The nose takes a while to open up; but after a while, aromas of berries and oak appear. The flavor of anise is dominant on the palate, accompanied by intense, chewy tannins. Hints of prune, dark chocolate and coffee join the party. The sip ends in a solid, medium-length finish.

Achaval Ferrer Malbec is one of those wines that grows on you over time. By the second glass I begin to appreciate how well the nuance of licorice and sensation of chewiness complement each other. My drinking buddy, who had given up by the second glass said, “You shouldn’t have to work that hard.” Oh, how I toil for my art.

AchavalFerrer3

This Malbec paired well with our cheese plate, especially the Boursin with a slice of spicy pepperoni on it. Honestly, I haven’t encountered any pairing disasters when it comes to dry red wine and cheese.

Even inside the screens, it doesn’t take long for pesky little gnats to find the wine. Thank goodness for my trusty glass covers.

AchavalFerrer2

Cheers to getting summer-ized!

Cline Family Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvèdre 2015

Cline1

In the 1980s when Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay dominated the field of California wine, a rebel band of vintners formed an informal group to promote the use of grape varieties from the Rhône Valley, France, and dubbed themselves the Rhône Rangers. The fruits of their marketing labor have resulted in Syrah and other Rhône varietals becoming more prevalent in today’s California wine scene. Fred Cline, one of the original Rhône Rangers varietal insurgents, is the owner of Cline Family Cellars, located in Sonoma, California.

Cline, grandson of Valeriano Jacuzzi (the man whose name is synonymous with spa tubs), and his wife Nancy founded Cline Family Cellars in Oakley, California in 1982. They began their wine business by restoring 100-year-old vines of Rhône -style varietals. Mourvèdre and Carignane, along with Zinfandel, make up Cline’s Ancient Vines Series of varietal wines.

Today the winery is located at a 350-acre ranch in Carneros Valley in Sonoma County, and produces many different varietal wines and blends from vineyards owned by the Cline family throughout Sonoma County. The vineyards are sustainably farmed using the Green String farming method developed by Fred Cline and Bobby Cannard.

Oakley, where Cline’s Mourvèdre grapes are grown, is in the Contra Costa County appellation, 40 miles east of Sonoma County. It’s a sub-region of the very large Central Coast AVA which stretches from San Francisco in the north to Santa Barbara in the south. The area’s terroir provides favorable conditions for this grape variety that likes to have its face in hot sun and feet in cool water. Vines are planted in sandy soil along the delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers where summer days are warm and sunny.

Cline2

The pour is inky purple with lots of leg action consistent with a high alcohol content of 15.5%. There’s not much fruitiness on the nose. Subtle aromas lean more towards hay, leather, and cedar. Over time, scents of grassy herbs are added to the bouquet. On the palate are flavors of ripe plum, tobacco and spicy black pepper with very bright acidity. A short clean finish closes with smooth tannins.

Cline Mourvèdre is reminiscent of visiting the horse stables; hay and saddles without the manure. The grape’s characteristic bright acidity that works to its advantage as a blending grape threw this single varietal a bit off balance. Overall, the wine was a nice change of pace from the typical fruit bomb and interesting enough to warrant a blog post. The Cline Ancient Vines Series varietals cost between $17 and $23 as per their website.

Welcome the Winery Ghost: Phantom 2013

Phantom-Bogle

At first glance at the Phantom label, it’s not obvious that this proprietary red blend is produced by Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg, California. That information is hiding on a hard-to-see watermark on front label and more prominently shown on the back.

Our first encounter with the Phantom was about seven years ago when we owned a liquor store. One of our employees had “reserved” half of a case in the back office. We asked him why he did this but suddenly his English wasn’t so good. The lack of information gave us all the more reason to take a bottle for “homework” and find out firsthand what all the fuss was about. 

I can’t find any personal tasting notes from so long ago and I don’t remember if we liked it or not so Bogle Phantom 2013 provides an opportunity for a fresh start.

The Bogle label is so prolific that when I began researching it online, I thought I’d find it was owned by some conglomerate maker of mass produced wines. But in fact, Bogle Vineyards is a family-owned business that produces a selection of value brand wines, including popular varietals and two red blends.  The Bogle family farms 1600 acres in Clarksburg and the Lodi appellation, as well as sourcing grapes from various California growers.

We find the Bogle varietals and blends in most liquor stores selling in the range of $9 to $11 a bottle. Their reserve wines are offered on their website for about $24. As per some of the online reviewers, Phantom, priced anywhere from $16 to over $20, tends to sell out before the next year’s vintage arrives. And so the Winemaker’s Note, “Welcome the winery ghost into your home with the latest vintage…before it vanishes again” is fitting.  

The 2013 Phantom is a blend of 39% Zinfandel, 38% Petite Sirah, and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose has equal amounts of ripe cherry fruit and briary, vegetal aromas. At the first sip, I realize that although we’ve decanted the bottle for about 15 minutes, it’s quite alcoholic and can use a little more time for the alcohol to blow off.

Coming back to it after another 15 minutes, flavors of currants and ripe berries combine with black pepper and spices on the palate. The flavor is balanced with oak in a medium to full-bodied mouth feel. A long finish has a trace amount of bitterness and slightly hard and chewy tannins. Maybe a little more aging in the bottle will mellow them out?

Overall, Bogle Phantom 2013 has a decent level of complexity for the price point and is one that I’d buy again (and hold for a while before drinking for a bit more aging in bottle). My impression of Bogle wines in general is that they offer consistent quality for the price and are easy to find even when traveling.

Here is an interesting interview with Bogle’s Director of Public Relations, Jodie Bogle: https://hucklegoose.com/journal/meet/meet-bogle-wines

Here are my notes on Bogle’s Essential Red: http://wp.me/p4rcsv-2f

 

 

 

 

The Miso Soup Quest

IMG_20170326_170544667

I first became aware of miso during my stint as a vegetarian in the 1970’s. It was long before there was a sushi joint in every strip mall and hibachi restaurants hosting children’s birthday parties. To try recipes with miso at home, we had to buy a Japanese cookbook because there was no internet to search. It was truly the Dark Ages.

An e-newsletter from Food & Wine Magazine links me to a recipe for miso soup with turmeric and tofu and my miso soup quest begins. While the recipe starts with making vegetable broth from scratch, I decide buying ready-made is easier and add it to my grocery list along with white miso and tofu.

Veggie stock and tofu were easy to find in my local supermarket, but miso, though it may have been hiding somewhere in the store’s 45,000 square feet of space, could not be located.  Not to worry. With Amazon Prime, I order it online with free shipping and get it in a couple of days.

I followed the recipe pretty closely except for the store-bought vegetable stock but was not happy with the result. Even though I like turmeric, especially as an ingredient in curry powder, in combination with miso it just didn’t make the cut. So it’s on to more internet reading and other recipe ideas.

During my reading, I remember that most of the miso soup I’ve ordered in restaurants has seaweed in it. A little more searching tells me that there are different types of edible seaweed used for different applications. Nori comes in sheets and is the type that’s used to make sushi. What I need for my miso soup is called wakame. It’s another ingredient that’s easier to buy online than to hunt down in the supermarket. Amazon Prime is turning out to be a great way to stock the pantry.

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My eagerly awaited wakeme has arrived and I’m excited to try another batch of soup. The colorful seaweed package is delightful with its Japanese writing on it. The dehydrated seaweed is dark and crunchy. The spoonful I’ve taken to reconstitute seems too small so I add another three-finger pinch. Just add a half cup of hot water and watch it grow…and grow. And expand to much more than I need for two cups of soup!

There were some dissenting views about using broth for miso soup so my second round is made by dissolving the miso paste in hot water. I add tofu, scallions, and only some of the over-abundant wakame. This batch is better than the first but a little watery and not quite there yet. Let’s hope the third time’s a charm.

For round three, I’m back to vegetable broth but this time diluted with 50% water. I’ve got a better handle on reconstituting the wakame and the proportions of miso, tofu, and scallions are tweaked to satisfaction. The third iteration is a winner in our book.

Since this is a quick and easy recipe, I found it better to only make the portion we plan to eat, rather than making a large batch that lasts several days as I do with other soups. For this reason, the recipe is tailored to two servings of one cup (8 ounces) each.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried wakame
  • ¼ cup of tofu, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon scallion, chopped

Directions

  1. Reconstitute the seaweed in warm water. Drain off excess water.
  2. Pour the broth and water into a pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Ladle out approximately a half cup of hot broth and dissolve the miso in it using a whisk.
  4. Pour the miso back into the pot and add the tofu, seaweed, and scallions. Simmer for one or two additional minutes until the ingredients are hot. Don’t overcook.