Follow by Email

Wine Oh!


View My Complete Profile

Hey, welcome to the food blog.

I hope you enjoy wine and food as much as I do and like to share recent discoveries and great bargain finds. I am not an expert by any means. I just know what I like and can usually afford, and occasionally splurge on.

The rest of the time is just work, travel, cookbooks, cooking, eating and life with wine. . . it's so much nicer.

Our ratings are based on how much we did or did not enjoy each wine. No professional advice here, just honest opinions. The same goes for the restaurant ratings.

We drink what we like with what we like to eat.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Twin Vines Vinho Verde 2007 (Portugal)

$ - Great Bargain Find ($6.98 HEB)
White Table Wine [10%]
Will I buy this again? You bet!

This white wine is crisp with a slight sweetness and effervesence. Refreshing on a hot summer day. Goes well with lighter fare.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Rating $ Pricing Scale:

Our ratings are based on our enjoyment (or lack of it) that each wine gave us. No professional advice here, just honest opinions. The same goes for the restaurant ratings.

$=under $10
$$=$10 - $19
$$$$=we don't usually go there

$=under $12
$$=under $20
$$$=under $35
$$$$=under $50
$$$$$=$50 and up

Our Golden Rule:
We drink what we like with the food we like.

Down and Dirty

For the first time I tried my hand at preparing real dirty rice—raw chicken livers and all—not something that came out of a box rice mix.

This has been a weekend of experimenting with Creole and Cajun flavors, and the bottle of Central Market Brand Creole Remoulade Marinade that we picked up last week is nearly empty. So far, we have used this mustard based marinade to create a vinaigrette, grilled lamb chops and grilled chicken halves. Everything has tasted really yummy and I’ll share all the recipes and our wine pairings with you.

Grilled Lamb Chops

4-6 center cut lamb chops, 1” thickness
8-12 lamb rib chops trimmed of fat or frenched
Creole Remoulade Marinade, Central Market Brand
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

We absolutely love lamb—but without the traditional mint sauce. I have a few tricks up my sleeve for other sauces that enhance lamb and now we have added this recipe to our favorites list.

Season lamb chops on both sides with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Brush each chop (both sides) with Creole Remoulade Marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Prepare an indoor or outdoor grill (charcoal or gas) for direct grilling over high heat. Oil the rack. You may also use your ribbed grill pan for this.

Using tongs, place the chops over the hottest part of the fire or directly over the heat elements and grill, turning once until browned and crisp on the exterior and medium-rare at the center when tested with a knife. 7-10 minutes total. You can also use the touch test [see below]. Transfer to warmed plates and serve at once.

Makes 2-3 servings

Side suggestion: baked sweet potatoes with butter.

Wine suggestions: Torres Vina Brava 2006 Tempranillo (Spain) [14%]; Charamba 2005 Vino Tinto red table wine (see review)or any other medium to full bodied red wine.

Touch Test for Doneness

Gently press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. The flesh beneath the thumb should give. This is medium rare.

Press the tip of your ring finger and your thumb together. The flesh beneath the thumb should give a little more. This is what meat cooked to a medium doneness feels like.

Press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. The fleshy area below the thumb should give quite a bit. This is what meat cooked to rare feels like. Open up your palm again and compare raw to rare.

Anything firmer is well done.

Dirty Rice

1 lb chicken livers, chopped fine
1 lb pork sausage
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cups cooked rice, cooled
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup bell pepper, chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic chopped (we like lots of garlic)
2 cups chicken broth, unsalted
3 tbs olive oil – more if necessary
1-2 bay leaves, to your taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon each: cayenne, paprika, dried oregano, dried thyme leaves, and onion powder

In a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven style pan, brown chicken livers and sausage in olive oil. Be sure to give the meat plenty of room so it browns and doesn’t steam.

Once the meat is browned, add a little extra oil if needed and add in onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Cook for another 5 – 10 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper and other spices and mix well. Add in chicken broth and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add in rice and mix well. Let rice stand for about 5minutes to absorb juices and flavor. Add parsley in last, mix and serve.

Makes 6-8 Servings

Creole Remoulade Grilled Chicken

1 whole chicken, rinse and cut in half
Creole Remoulade Marinade, Central Market Brand
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Pat chicken dry and place in a shallow dish. Season chicken halves on both sides with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Generously coat each half (both sides) with Creole Remoulade Marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Prepare an indoor or outdoor grill (charcoal or gas) for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Oil the rack. You may also use your ribbed grill pan for this.

Using tongs, place the chicken halves skin side down over the fire or directly over the heat elements and grill, turning once. Basically you want to get good grill marks because we are going to finish this chicken in the oven.

Reduce oven heat to 375. Transfer chicken to a baking sheet and place in oven, uncovered, for 40 - 55 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reads 170 and the chicken is browned and crispy on the exterior. Time will vary depending on your oven.

Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut chicken into pieces and serve over dirty rice.

Makes 4 Servings

Wine suggestion: Twin Vines Vinho Verde 2007 (Portugal) [10%]. This white wine has a slight effervescence and sweetness that just pulls the spices and flavor out of the chicken and dirty rice. (See review.)

Ca c'est bon!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Charamba Douro Vinto Tinto 2005 (Portugal)

Red Table Wine [13%]
$ - Great Bargain Find

Will I buy this again? You bet!

A red medium bodied table wine with a nice round flavor, essence of black berries and a nice finish. Pair with hearty soups, pasta with meat ragus and seafood stews and pasta.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Beating the Heat In Austin - Another 100 Degree Day

Will it every rain again in North Hays County? My yard is completely dead and the new plants we put out at the end of May are struggling to survive.

We are on our 18th day of 100 degree weather here in Central Texas. When it gets this hot, the last thing I want to do is go home and heat up the house by cranking on the oven and a bunch of stove burners.

Tonight it's just hot. . .and we are just a little bit hungry. . .and I'm starting to think that all of my creativity has evaporated into the Texas heat while I walked into the house from the car. I'm thinking, What do we have in a can that I can nuke? Then I remembered the wonderful loaf of sourdough bread that my Dad made and gave to me along with a grocery bag full of homegrown tomatoes—and I have a pot of basil and fennel growing out on the patio.

Bruschetta it is! No need to reinvent the wheel here, just simple homegrown ingredients. We diced the tomatoes, grated a couple of cloves of garlic, quickly did a chiffonade on the basil and added some extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper for a great bruschetta topping.

I’m lucky enough to have a Jenn-Air cook top with an indoor grill. So we sliced up the sourdough and brushed it with olive oil and grilled it up indoors—in our nice, cool air conditioned kitchen.

We added a side of organic mixed salad greens dressed lightly with a Creole vinaigrette, sliced some brie and served up marinated artichokes and olives along side, and finished off a previously opened bottle of Charamba Douro 2005 Vinho Tinto Red Wine (Portugal) and our last bottle of the P.K.N.T. cabernet. Both of these wines were super great buys at our local Central Market style HEB. Yea!

So indulge yourself with a few of life’s small pleasures. Set the thermostat on 68 (at least for a few hours), kick back and beat the heat with a cool platter of mixed greens and other nibbles and a few glasses of your favorite wine.

Creole Vinaigrette

4 Tbs of Creole Remoulade Marinade- Central Market brand
Juice of ½ a Lemon
¼ cup Olive Oil

I don’t think this needs any salt, but season to your own taste. Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and give it a taste. Re-season if necessary.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Santa Rita 120 (Chile)

$ - Great Bargain Find ($6.00 HEB)
Will I buy this again? You bet!

Santa Rita's Carmenere is a good smooth red. Carmenère is an ancient grape and was imported to South America in the 1850s. Chile has some of the largest established vinyards for this variety. I now that this wine has become one of our new favorites and is a staple in our wine rack. Carmenere pairs well with beef and hearty pastas, and makes for a great braising liquid for oso buco.

Costs around $6.00--don't be a wine snob--this one you've just got to try to believe. Note: I think HEB has discontinued this wine. Check Specs.

P.K.N.T. Silver Collection 2005 (Chile)

Great Bargain Find - $
Cabernet Sauvignon - [13.5% by Volume]
Will I buy this again? You bet!

If there is one word to describe this wine, it's "juicy." The wine has a nice mouth feel. You really can taste the cherry flavors. We paired it with brie, Chilean Artisan Pepper Cheese, "grilled" oysters and organic greens with lemon remoulade vinegarette. This wine can stand by itself and doesn't react badly to hot spice.

Be sure to check out my recipe for grilled oysters!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In Pursuit of Grilled Oysters

Over the weekend we headed out of town to Galveston, TX. The trip was set for a business conference for my husband David, but what we were both really thinking was "grilled oysters, yum."

We have been known to hop in the car (pre-$3.95/gallon gas) and make the three and one-half to four hour trip to Galveston from Austin just to eat grilled oysters at one of our favorite restaurants, The Ocean Grill. The OG was a great place—the restaurant was set on a pier out over the Gulf with a great deck at the back. Yes, I did say was. Back in '06 we had planned a little trip down to the Gulf with grilled oysters on our mind only to hit the seawall salivating and find that our precious OG had become a HOOTERS!

Sacrilege! What brand of wickedness was this? From Ocean Grill to Hooterville—another local restaurant sucked out with the tide.

Now, I don't know about you, but for me at least being a Semi-Old Broad, when I drive three and one-half hours to the Gulf through Houston traffic for grilled oysters, that's exactly what I want—not chicken wings. And I want to sit on the deck and watch the brown pelicans glide over the muddy waves rolling in—not to watch Hooters! No, it's not a morals thing or the fact that a Hooters might offend some family-minded type. I just really wanted my grilled oysters.

But not to worry, there is at least one other local restaurant in town that I know grills oysters and that is Clary's Seafood Restaurant. Clary's was introduced to us by Sammy, a local Galveston resident and friend of ours. Clary's overlooks Offats Bayou and has a semi-Cajun soul. Of course, both restaurants have a slightly different take on their version of grilled oysters, but they are both equally good. The advantage of Clary's is that the other menu items are equally as good and we ate some killer grilled trout topped with crab meat and a Creole seafood sauce this weekend.

Now to the wine. Clary's does have a full bar and a small wine list. They do offer some decent choices by the glass in the $7 - $9/glass range and following our own golden rule we drink what we like with whatever we are eating. (I do agree that some pairings are more complimentary than others and are duly noted.) David chose a Pinot Noir and I had—I think—White Horse Merlot which we both agreed was the better wine. There was also a fair selection of white wines, but white wine is usually not my first choice for drinking unless it is a nice Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon. The service was excellent as always.

Restaurant info, recipe and cookbook suggestion follow.

Clary's Seafood Restaurant
8509 Teichman Road
Galveston, TX 77554
Phone: (409)740-0771
Toll Free: (800)278-0771 (Be sure to read some of the reviews. We are not the only ones who drive to Galveston for seafood.)

My Version of Galveston's Grilled Oysters
(Serves 2-4)

From my dining experience I can feel confident in saying that grilled oysters are not prepared on a BBQ grill or a ribbed grill pan for that matter. I believe the "grilled" part comes from sautéing/frying them on the kitchen's large flat grill. For my recipe I use my stainless steel skillet (slanted sides). Also, I'm a cook not a chef so my measurements are for my tastes and group size. I think these are best eaten by themselves with no sides to muck up the creamy goodness of the oyster.

Grilled Oysters

1-2 Lg Containers of Shucked Oysters
2 Heaping TBS Cajun Seasoning (unsalted)
2 cups Wondra Flour
1 Stick Butter
¼ cup Olive Oil – add more if necessary during cooking
2 Eggs beaten for egg wash and dredge

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees and prepare an oven proof platter for finished oysters. Mix flour, Cajun Seasoning, Salt and Pepper in a pie plate. Drain liquor off of oysters and set aside, dip each oyster into the egg wash and then into the flour mixture and set aside. Melt butter and oil in skillet on med-hi. As soon as the oil comes to temp, place 6 to 8 oysters into the oil and fry quickly about 30-45 seconds per side. Remove cooked oysters from the skillet and drain on paper towels or a brown paper bag. Transfer to a warmed platter in the oven and continue frying remaining oysters in batches until done.

Red Sauce

¾ cup Ketchup
1-2 Tbs Prepared Horseradish (not creamy) to taste – I like mine hot
1 Tbs or to taste Worcestershire
Juice of ½ to 1 Lemon
Tabasco to taste

Mix all ingredients together and taste, re-season if necessary and refrigerate.

Cookbook Suggestion:

by Jairemarie Pomo
Book Hardcover
176 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: May, 2007

This is a great little book. About half of the book discusses the history of Hog Island Oyster Company and its founders, oyster species, varieties and taste profiles from every source imaginable. Contains 40 nice recipes and great pics. I bought mine through book club.

Here's to more culinary travels and grilled oysters. Cheers.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pink Birds and Lost Wages

I have spent the last 20 some-odd years raising my daughters to be confident women, independent both financially and personally, and motivated enough to want (and to work for) at least what their Father and I have been able to provide—and hopefully much more. I think that's what most Moms want for their children.

My oldest daughter graduated from Southwest Texas State in 2006 and became a middle school math teacher. This is probably the last career I would have ever guessed this child would have chosen. But I suppose I only knew my daughter as my child and not really as the person she had become while she attended school and lived away from our home.

Steph was on the "6-year" plan—it being SWT and all—but she finished and along the way she found a young man. So the 6 years went something like this…

- Graduate high school
- Party down first year of college—ah, life in the dorm—Mom and Dad say "now you get to help pay"
- Move into apartment with female roommate
- Migrate to apartment with male roommate
- Graduate college—still with male roommate
- Get teaching job—still with male roommate
- Call your Mom in September of '07 and tell her we're getting married January 3rd in Vegas!

Keep in mind it's September, we're not made out of money, the clock is ticking and I'm saying to her, "Oh, honey, you're [not] really getting married—at the Garden of Love wedding Chapel? And, you're [not] really wearing a white, [internet] bridesmaid's dress instead of a real wedding gown?"

[What actually came out of my mouth were my edited thoughts for our relationship's sake.]

Now you must understand that my oldest daughter likes simplicity and plainness. That is her style. She has also always been my penny-wise child and to her a wedding dress for a hundred bucks was a real find. She was trying to be considerate and frugal, but what about my dream? Come on, only 4 months to plan (and pay for) a wedding?

After I vented and caught my breath, I managed to convince her that she really did want to get married in a nicer wedding chapel facility—for her grandparents' sake you know—and promptly showed her beautiful photos of the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel's chapel and gardens. Guilt is a beautiful thing when used sparingly and appropriately. So, the minute she agreed that she really did like it better, I immediately got on the horn and called the Flamingo to put down the deposit—then we went shopping for a veil to match her bridesmaid's wedding dress. . .

A Bride's Veil
A Short Story from the Mother of the Bride (MOB)

Pouf and sparkle flourished as we entered David's Bridal to look for a veil—to match her bridesmaid's wedding dress. It was a triumph just to get her into a bridal shop. Remember simplicity and plainness. But we were there and headed straight for the veils…which were, of course, next to the tiaras…which were behind and through wave after wave of white and ivory billowy dresses. We passed by several brides-to-be, mothers and bridesmaids laughing and oohing over their choices. With cameras clicking and flashes like disco strobe lights the MOB's photographed their little princess's fittings. I suddenly realized that I only had my little cell phone camera for our impromptu outing.

We quickly found a veil that would probably match her internet bridesmaid's wedding dress, and then she spotted the tiaras. "Would you like to just try it on for grins?" I asked. "Sure, why not, we're here." she said noncommittally. The moment the combs locked into her long blond hair and she saw herself in the mirror, it was decided that she was a queen and not a princess. We ended up with the biggest, most sparkly and expensive tiara in the case. We were finished shopping and about to leave. I panicked. I needed just a little more time. . .

"Are you sure you don't want to just try on a wedding dress while we're here?" I asked. "Sure, but nothing huge and poufy and no sparkles." she said. So I headed for the size 4's and found the sleekest, ivory halter wedding dress I could find—it did have a few beads but nothing outrageous.

As she walked out of the dressing room, jeans and t-shirt piled on the floor behind her, she breathed out, "Oh, Mom, I love this dress." "I'll buy it for you honey." I responded, as the attendants quickly guided her to a pedestal in front of a full-length mirror and brought over shoes jewelry and new veil options to try on with her queen's tiara and real wedding dress.

The End

Anyway, the wedding at the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel's wedding chapel was beautiful. Our wedding coordinator Madelaine was great as was all of the staff. Our guests honored us by attending and enjoyed everything Vegas had to offer along with a beautiful wedding. So don't panic if your child springs it on you—there's always Las Vegas—where you can get almost anything you need at a moments notice, any time of the day or night.

Yes, we did drink lots of wine and champagne. Mostly the old standbys like 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel and a couple of Spanish wines that I can't remember, and the video poker machines and three-card poker and craps tables sucked up our Christmas money and end-of-year bonuses, but we had a great time.

If you are a fan of Zin, then 7 Deadly is a must try and usually runs in the mid-$$ range. This is a big red wine, usually very jammy. We drink what we like with most things and this wine is no exception to that rule. But if you must pair it, I suggest a good ribeye or tenderloin with risotto and something green thrown in for good measure. You can make a reduction sauce with the steak pan drippings, shallots, Zin and a little butter to finish it off--perfect. A simple recipe is included below.

My Pricing Scale:
$=under $10
$$=$10 - $19
$$$$=we don't go there

Tenderloin Filets

2 Prime Beef Tenderloin Filets - 1.5 to 2 inch thickness
Pepper - fresh cracked
2 Tbs Butter
1 Tbs Olive Oil

Take your steaks out of the refrigerator (covered) at least 20 minutes prior to cooking and bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Season steaks with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the olive oil and butter in an oven safe skillet (I use stainless steel)on med-hi heat. When your pan is almost smoking hot, place steaks in pan and let sear without flipping for 1-2 minutes, then flip and sear for another 1-2 minutes to form a nice crust and get some good color. Remove pan from stove and place in 475 degree oven for about 5-6 minutes for a med rare-steak or 7-9 minutes for medium.

Remove from oven and set steaks aside on a plate to rest. Don't through out the all of the fat! See the Zin Reduction recipe below for a great steak sauce.

Zin Reduction

2 Shallots
1 clove garlic (optional)
1/2 - 3/4 cup Red wine (Zin)
2 tbs butter (the real thing please)

After finishing the steaks and setting them aside to rest, have your spouse pour you another glass of wine so you can start the sauce! Tongs in one hand and a glass of wine in the other is how I like to cook.

Saute 1-2 minced shallots (you can use red onion instead and add minced garlic if you like). Medium hi heat is fine, remember your pan is already hot. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. When the shallots are tender, crank up the heat and pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of Zin in the pan and let it reduce to about 1/4 to 1/3 cup. Shut off the heat and wisk in about 2 tbs of butter. Pour over the steaks and enjoy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Vegas Wedding

Awake at 3:00 a.m.

Sometimes there is just too much thinking going on at 3:00 a.m. when you need your brain to be really quiet so you can sleep.

So, now you know that instead of snoring I was lying in bed awake at 3:00 this morning thinking about being almost 47--almost. There are so many things in my life that I want to remember, but I know I'll eventually forget like when my girls were little and what was the name of that wine we had the other night? Since I type for a living and my penmanship has gone to $%@!, I thought this blogging thing might be something I could do and still be able to read later.

Never kept a diary or a journal. . . so I'll (we'll) see where this takes me. I'm not a wine authority. I just know what I like and I like to try lots of new things.

What I do know is that after spending a long day working for lawyers, a glass or three of a nice red wine makes it all better.

Corking it for now.