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Wine Oh!


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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.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tyler, Bobby, Jamie O! - I'm an FN DVR Junkie

My cable was acting strange so I decided to check my DVR recording space--it was at over 90% full--no wonder I couldn't pause or rewind! Like many of y'all, I'm guessing, I'm a Food Network DVR junkie. Press "List" on the remote and you'll get the past month's worth of Tyler Florence, Bobby Flay, and Jamie Oliver--regardless of whether or not it is a new episode. Sometimes you just like to re-watch one that you forgot all about. You can bet that if you just drop by my house at any time on any day, the Food Network is on TV. Inspiration at its best.

There are at least 92 cookbooks lining one of the shelves in my pantry including the HUGE Culinary Institute of America's Professional Chef. I have looked at all of them--I have read some of them. My cookbooks are used for inspiration and reference mostly. I don't think I have ever followed a recipe to the letter. Have I told you that I can't bake to save my soul? The former statement is probably the reason why! Hey, I'm a cook not a chef.

Anyway, a couple of days ago an episode of Tyler's Ultimate aired featuring his ultimate chicken cacciatore. I must say I have never ever eaten chicken cacciatore let alone made the dish. So, in my house this would be a new use for the same old chicken. I think I'm best at watching someone prepare the meal, then recreating it. Well, I compared Tyler's show to one of Giada's recipes--they were close--so I improvised as usual.

We roasted our own red peppers and held pretty true to Tyler's recipe except I used San Marzano canned tomatoes and one fresh tomato. I was even able to get Himself in the kitchen picking the leaves off of some basil for me.

If you have at least 6 pieces of chicken, some flour for dredging, olive oil for frying, an onion, roasted red peppers, capers, red pepper flakes, garlic, a lemon, anchovies, basil, a little dried oregano, tomatoes, chicken broth and white wine you are in business. We served ours over parmesan polenta and it was yummy. We are looking forward to the leftovers. We cooked and paired with Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc and then just drank another bottle of Gazela Vinho Verde. Check out the wine links at for wine details.

So to my fellow FN junkies, record until your DVR memory is shot, reboot and start again.

(Tyler Florence's Ultimate)
"Thanks for the FN inspiration!"
Wine With Life Please . . .

Crios 2005 Syrah-Bonarda (Argentina)

$$ - ($14.00 Specs)
Susana Balbo wines
50% Syrah 50% Bonarda [13.5%}
Mendoza Argentina
Will I buy this again? Heck Yes!

This is another example of the Specs Guy being right on the money with his recommendations. If you are in doubt on what to buy, ask! I don't always know what to buy and I have some strike-outs on my record--those have also been reported on this blog.

This wine has a deep red color and is smooth in the mouth. Ripe fruit and excellent balance at the right price.

LoTengo Malbec 2007 (Argentina)

$ - ($9.99 at World Market)
Bodega Norton S.A., Mendoza [13.5%]
Will I buy this again? You bet.

This was another fine Malbec from Mendoze in Argentina. The wine was very red and fruity. Great with hearty dishes or just by the glass.

(I know quite a few of the photos show empty bottles, but sometimes I can't get Himself to wait until I take a picture before he cracks the bottle open.)

Teriyaki Salmon with Spicy Asian Noodles – My "Kitchen Sink" Attempt at Asian Food

The agreement at our house is I cook and you clean—I just love that agreement! (I'm the only one that ever cooks.) I wanted something fast and good for dinner, but I didn't have anything that wasn't still in its rock-hard frozen state. Leaving the dress shop after a quick stop on my way home, the garlicky, sesame smells of China Bowl or Fire Bowl—whichever one it is now—wafted through the air and smacked me. The husband noted that something smelled "greasy" so I knew not to even suggest it. But that little smack got my brain going full speed ahead to planning dinner. I would use whatever ingredients I could gather up at home and we (he) would have Asian food. . .

This looks like a lot of steps and ingredients, but it really came together quickly.

Teriyaki Salmon with Spicy Asian Noodles

For the Salmon and Pasta
1 lb salmon filets, no skin
Teriyaki marinade
1 lb linguine

1. Place salmon filets in a shallow glass dish and coat with teriyaki marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Bring salted pasta water to a boil and add linguine. Cook per package instructions.

3. Heat grill to medium high (a grill pan will work fine). Spray the grill with cooking spray or oil and place fish on the grill about 4 minutes each side or until done.

For the Sauce:
1 T fish sauce
1 T sugar
2-3 T soy sauce
1/3 c water
1 T Mirin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T Sambal
1 lime juiced
¼ cup Tahini sauce
¼ c canola oil
1 t sesame oil
½ c scallions, chopped green and white parts
½ c cilantro, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 T toasted sesame seeds
*Optional ingredients: ginger, orange juice, or additional sugar

While the fish is marinating, mix together all ingredients except Tahini, oil, sesame seeds, scallions and cilantro in a medium bowl or measuring cup. When sugar has dissolved completely, add in remaining ingredients and ½ of the scallions and cilantro, mix well and refrigerate until needed. [Note: You might want your sauce a little sweeter than mine, just taste and adjust the seasoning.]

For the Stir Fry (add whatever vegetables you like--this is just what I had on hand)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced
½ large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced in rounds
2 T chopped garlic
2 T Sambal (I told you it was spicy)
2 T soy sauce
1 T Mirin
Canola oil, enough to stir fry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat oil on high in a wok or frying pan. Toss in onions and jalapeños and cook for about 1 minute, add in remaining vegetables and cook for another 2-4 minutes. When vegetables are nearly done, add in Sambal, soy sauce and Mirin, let liquid reduce and steam for about 1 minute.

2. Pour stir-fried vegetables over cooked linguine, add in broken pieces of salmon filet and sauce, toss gently to coat. Finish with the remaining cilantro and scallions and toss again. Garnish with additional toasted sesame seeds. I also drizzled a little Ponzu sauce on the dish as an additional garnish. Serve immediately.

Note: Put your pasta water on to boil first. While the salmon is marinating, make the sauce and chop the vegetables. When all ingredients are ready to go, drop the pasta into the boiling water and put the salmon on the grill. If you can juggle, stir fry your vegetables while waiting on the pasta and salmon—everything should be done about the same time.

Makes 4 Servings

Doniene Txakolina 2005 (Spain)

$$ - ($17.00 Specs)
Bizkaiko Txakolina [12/5%]
Will I buy this again? Probably.

I was introduced to Txakolina while watching another episode of Made in Spain hosted by Chef Jose Andres on PBS. This wine is from the Basque Country in Spain. I guess I expected something along the lines of the vinho verdes that I had been drinking, but I was pleasantly surprised by the difference when I tasted this wine.

Txakoli has more citris and is more like the style of a nice sauvignon blanc. It was very crisp and had nice acid. I thought it was a little on the expensive side for a white wine--this is because I really like reds and I don't mind paying a little more for them. I would definitely recommend that you try this wine and if you are a white wine fan, you might just find a new favorite.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Seeing Red

Yes, I have been blogging quite a few red wines. It seems like red wines are the only type of wines we drink—it is our favorite. Recently, we have added some additional white wines to the list. I tried vinho verde from Portugal for the first time this summer and I have really enjoyed it so we are testing other vinho verdes from different winemakers to see how they compare.

Another new white wine for me is Txakoli (pronounced cha cō lē) from the Basque Country in Spain. I was introduced to this wine while watching another episode of Made in Spain hosted by Jose Andrés. While I was expecting a wine along the lines of the vinho verdes that we had been drinking, I was pleasantly surprised by the crisp acidity of the Txakoli. It is more like a sauvignon blanc. This is definitely another white wine I will add to my list.

Now you probably won't see very many reviews on Chardonnays on the blog because I got really burned out on over-oaked white wines. I do like Louis Jadot, Macoln Village Chardonnay. (I hope I spelled that correctly—I don't have a bottle in front of me.)

I just love the cast iron Dutch oven that Himself got me for Christmas last year so I thought I would attempt chicken cacciatore for the first time tonight for dinner. I will use Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc for this dish and serve it over creamy polenta. Hopefully, I can load a photo of the finished dish tomorrow.

So, be sure and check out the wine links to the right of this post under the Let's Drink Wine pull down menus and after another bottle of Gazela vinho verde and some Santa Rita sauvignon blanc, we'll be back to seeing red.

Baltos Mencia 2005 (Spain)

$$ - ($12 Specs)
Dominio de Tares [13.5%]
DO Bierzo
Will I buy this again? You bet.

I had never tried Mencia until now and I will definitely look for this grape again. The bottle caught my eye because it had a funky label and a 90 rating tag hanging below it. Most times, I don't pay too much attention to those because after all it's about drinking what tastes good to you. Anyway, I bought a bottle.

This juice has a deep red color and is a full bodied wine with cherry aromas--nice balance on the acid. Over all a good drinkable red right out of the bottle. We have been very pleased with the Spanish wines.

Famega White Wine Vinho Branco 2006 (Portugal)

$ - ($6.99 World Market, but $4.99 Specs) [9.5%]
Will I buy this again? You bet (at Specs)

This is another nice, young white wine that has a little more citris than the other Vinho Verdes I have tried. If you like white wine, this is a good, reasonably priced choice for a go-to, keep-in-the-cooler bottle of white.

Gazela Vinho Verde (Portugal)

$ - ($5.99 World Market) [9%]Will I buy this again? You bet.

I just love the label on this bottle--told you I was a sucker for a great label. This young, fresh white wine is crisp and floral. Great summer white at the right price. Serve very cold.

La Capitana Barrel Reserve Carmenere 2006 (Chile)

$$ - ($14.99 Specs)
Vina La Rosa, Cachapoal Valley [14%]
Will I buy this again? Heck Yes!!!

This has to be the best Carmenere I have tried to date. When the Spec's guy told me that this was one of the smoothest Carmeneres he had ever tried, I just had to try it too. Deep red color, lots of berry aroma and taste. Very velvety.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Night BOGO - I'm in Tex-Mex Heaven

I can't think of one good reason to cook dinner on Monday night as long as Serrano's (Tex-Mex Mesquite) BOGO is on the menu board. (Sorry about the cell phone photos.)

Every Monday Serrano's restaurants in Austin offer a buy one get one deal on their regular enchilada dinners. Now, not all Tex-Mex is created equal. I feel like we are the lucky ones in Austin--there is no disputing that we have GREAT Mexican food. Actually, there probably is a dispute because those folks from San Antonio--just down the road a ways--suggest that they have the best, most authentic Tex-Mex around. I'm not saying that SA Tex-Mex is not good, it's just different and I'm sure they would say the same about Austin Tex-Mex. But I was born and raised in Austin, so Austin Tex-Mex is what my taste buds are attuned to.

I think the worst withdrawals I ever had was when we moved to Washington State in the early 1990's and there wasn't a decent Mexican food restaurant. As for fajitas?? What the heck was a fajita?

Anyway, Serrano's Tex-Mex Mesquite has some of the best enchiladas in town and we took time out from the wine for a fantastic, cold and tangy margarita on the rocks. If you judge a Mexican restaurant by its chips and salsa, then Serrano's is already a winner before place your order. Their service is great, and these guys are probably the hardest working line cooks in Austin on a Monday night.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Nitty Gritty

Grits aren't just for breakfast anymore. They make a great side dish and substitute for mashed potatoes. Now before you just turn up your nose at grits answer this question. Will you eat polenta? Ok, ok, in the end some methods of preparation result in basically the same type of finished dish in texture and taste, but grits are usually white in color. Grits are a Southern staple—I'm from Texas and yes there is a difference. To me "Southern" refers to the southern states east of Texas. Anyway, my Mom and Dad fixed (translation "cooked") grits and so do I.

In short, grits are made from hominy, which is a hard kernel corn that has been dried, removed from the cob and soaked in a solution, hulled, de-germed and then dried again and ground. Masa harina, the flour used to make corn tortillas, is also ground from hominy. You like tortillas don't you?

The term "fixed" or "fixing to" (pronounced "fix'n to") is definitely a Texas slang used to indicate that you are either getting ready to do something, doing something, or have done something, and not that you repaired something broken. I know that makes sense if you think about it.

Ok, then—let's fix some grits 2 ways!

Jalapeño Cheese Grits

*This makes a double batch so I can bake my leftover grits. Feel free to substitute the cheese and jalapeños with ingredients that you like.

2 T olive oil
1-2 fresh jalapeños, diced fine
½ c yellow onion, diced fine
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
8 c chicken broth, low sodium (plain water or vegetable broth can be used)
2 c grits (regular cooking, not quick cooking)
4 oz cream cheese (I have also used mascarpone)
¾ c shredded cheddar cheese
3 T butter
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil on medium-high in a large heavy bottomed pot. Sauté onion, garlic and jalapeños with a pinch of salt and pepper until softened. Add in broth and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in grits so they won't lump. Reduce heat to medium and continue whisking for about 5-7 minutes. Beware of flying molten grits-so just keep whisking. When grits have thickened, remove from heat.

2. Stir in cheese and butter. Mix well, taste for seasoning and cover and let stand for about 5 minutes.

Makes 8 Servings

Serving suggestions: Top with a poached or fried egg for a southwest breakfast sunrise. Serve as a side with a grilled ribeye steak.

Baked Jalapeño Cheese Grits

Cooked grits from above recipe (about 4 cups)
2 eggs
¾ c provolone cheese, shredded
1 c panko breadcrumbs
½ c parmesan cheese, grated
2 T fresh chopped or dried parsley
1 t red pepper flakes
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°

1. Mix cooled pre-cooked grits and eggs in a large bowl until combined. Season grits with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour into a buttered 9x9 baking dish. Top grits with provolone cheese, parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle the top with olive oil to help brown the breadcrumbs.

2. Bake grits for about 40-45 minutes until heated through, eggs are set and the top is golden brown and crunchy. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 Servings

Serving suggestions: You can also bake these grits in individual ramekins for a more chic presentation. This would make an excellent side dish for beef tenderloin.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Biscuits and Gravy Remix

I know you have heard your kids or spouse or just someone in your house say it, "We don't have anything to eat around here." It's Saturday morning again (thank goodness) and the masses are searching for breakfast fare. So it is up to Mom--that's me at our house--to come up with something that they'll eat, but will satisfy my desire for creative and interesting food. I have been wanting to share my technique for microwave béchamel (white sauce) because it is a great tip for the holiday's when all of the stove burners are taken and there is not another empty pot or pan in the house. I didn't have biscuits and I didn't want to make them—But I did have eggs, part of a French baguette, milk, butter, flour, and some frozen left over ham from a Sunday dinner. Here's how it turned out.

Biscuits and Gravy Remix

1 c cooked ham, shredded (substitute bacon or sausage if you like)
1 ½ T butter (plus a little more for frying eggs)
1 T all purpose flour
1 c milk
1 baguette, split lengthwise and cut into 4 pieces
olive oil
4 large eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T of chopped fresh herbs of choice for garnish (I used thyme from my patio herb pot)

*Preheat your oven to 150°

1. For the toast: Brush baguette slices with olive oil and grill on an indoor grill or grill pan until golden and toasty with a few good charred grill marks. Place toasted baguette slices in preheated oven to keep warm while you finish the gravy and eggs.

2. For the gravy: Microwave at high for 40 seconds 1 ½ T of butter in a 4-cup glass measure (4 cups or bigger) until butter is melted. Add in flour and whisk together with melted butter. Microwave at high for 1 minute to cook the raw taste out of the flour. Blend in the milk. Make sure you get all of the flour and butter mixture off of the sides of the cup. Microwave at high for 1 ½ minutes. Whisk again and return to microwave at high for 1 ½ minutes. Note: You will have to watch the sauce to make sure it doesn't boil over at this point. If you are using a 6-8 cup glass measure, you are a little safer from a boil over. Just stop the microwave and whisk briefly then restart the microwave until the 1 ½ minutes is up. When sauce has thickened, add in shredded ham and set to the side. Season with Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

3. For the eggs: Heat olive oil and 2 T of butter in a non-stick skillet on medium-high. Crack the eggs carefully into the skillet so not to break the yolks. Fry on medium to medium-high until whites are set and yolks are still sunny.

4. Plate individual slices of toasted baguette topped with about a ½ cup of creamy ham gravy. Add a sunny-side up egg on top and garnish with herbs. Serve immediately.

Makes 2-4 Servings

The "aha" moment. This is a nearly foolproof way of making béchamel, white sauce, country gravy or whatever you call it. It doesn't lump, burn or stick. You can add in nutmeg and use white pepper for a true béchamel, add in grated Gruyere cheese for Mornay sauce, or mix in good old American cheese, chilies and sautéed onions for a great Tex-Mex chili con queso.

The trick to the sauce is the ratio of fat, flour and milk. 1 tablespoon of butter to 1 tablespoon of flour to 1 cup of milk; hence you can use a 2:2:2 ratios as well to make a larger batch. If you go much bigger than 2 cups, I would suggest the stove top method.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Eggplant Involtini with Homemade Ricotta Filling

I will try to get a photo of this recipe uploaded quickly. We just dug right into the dish without thinking about pics.

Eggplant Involtini with Homemade Ricotta Filling

1 extra large egg
1 ¼ cup Homemade Ricotta (recipe follows)
1 medium onion, medium dice
1 28 oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes and juice (or other good quality canned tomatoes)
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth, sodium free, more if necessary
½ cup quality parmesan cheese, grated (I used Grana Padano aged 18 months)
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (more for garnish)
2 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
12 slices medium sized eggplant, sliced lengthwise and grilled*
Kosher salt and pepper

*To save time I used frozen pre-grilled eggplant slices and heated them up on my indoor grill. (A grill pan would work great too.)

1. For the Sauce: Heat olive oil in skillet on medium-high. Saute´onions with a pinch of salt and pepper until transluscent, add in 2 cloves of chopped garlic and saute´ for another 2-3 minutes. Deglaze pan with wine and reduce by ½. Add in tomatoes, crushed with juice and the chicken broth. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. You don't want the sauce too dry because it still has to go into the oven. Stir in ½ of the parsley and basil in the last few minutes of cooking. Remove from heat and pour sauce into a baking dish. Alternatively, if your skillet has an oven-safe handle use it to bake off the involtini and save yourself one extra dirty dish.

2. For the eggplant: If using fresh eggplant, cut 12-14 ¼ inch slices, lightly salt and let drain in a strainer for about 10-15 minutes. Rinse the slices, pat dry, brush with olive oil and grill until pliable. If using frozen pre-grilled eggplant slices, brush with oil and re-heat on a grill pan until thawed. After eggplant slices have been grilled, set them aside on a plate to cool before filling.

3. For the filling: In a large bowl mix egg, ricotta, remaining garlic, parsley and basil, and parmesan cheese. Season the filling mixture with a pinch of salt and some pepper. Top each cooled slice of eggplant with about 1 tablespoon of filling and roll up. If the sauce is ready, place the involtini seam side down on top of the sauce in your baking dish or pan, drizzel with olive oil and place in a preheated 350º oven for about 30 minutes until everything has been heated through. (If the sauce is not ready, place the involtini seam side down on a plate and hold until the sauce is ready and continue as stated above.)

4. Toppings: If you like, you may top your involtini with seasoned breadcrumbs and olive oil or cheese during the last 5 minutes of cooking. When done, remove involtuni from oven, sprinkle with extra parsley and parmesan cheese and serve. Serving Suggestion: Serve involtini on top of a mound of capellini pasta.

Makes 4 Servings

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Did you ever wonder what to do with that ½ a gallon of milk that is going out of date today or tomorrow and you know you'll never drink it all? When I decided to make the involtini I discovered that I didn't have any ricotta cheese and I really didn't want to go back to the store which is 20 minute trip each way. So I decided to try my hand at homemade ricotta. It turned out pretty darn good if I do say so. Don't fret if you don't have cheesecloth. A new, unopened package of knee-high hose works great as a strainer. (That was the husband's idea.)

2 quarts of whole milk
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Heat milk and lemon juice to 200º very slowly in a heavy bottomed pot so the milk won't scorch and the curds to stick to the bottom of the pot. Use a candy thermometer or insant read type thermometer with an alarm to monitor the temperature of the milk mixture.

2. Remove from heat when the temperature reaches 200º, cover with a lid and place the entire pot inside an unheated oven to slowly cool and separate. Let it sit for the next 6 hours.

3. Strain strain off the curd from the whey by pouring through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. (If you use the knee-high trick, use a tall pitcher with a lid, a Mason jar or something similar from which to securely hang the knee-high so you can pour the liquid through it and catch all of the gooey cheese curd.)

4. Wrap the ball of cheese tightly in the cheesecloth (or knee-high), gently squeeze out any excess liquid and place it in a strainer inside a covered bowl to drain any excess liquid for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator before using the cheese. This will yield a creamy, semi-firm ball of ricotta cheese.

This really works great and makes about 1 ¼ cups of creamy, tasty ricotta cheese.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gascon Malbec 2007 (Argentina)

$$ - ($12.99 HEB)
Don Miguel GascÓn [14.2%]
Mendoza Region
Will I buy this again? You bet!

I finally found a Malbec that doesn't have "that taste." This wine is a deep magenta/red that clings to the glass. Lots of black cherry taste and aroma. I also tasted dried fruit like raisins and prunes. A nice lingering finish and you get the dried fruit tastes at the back of your throat. Good balance--not too acidic.

7 Deadly Zins 2006 (California)

$$ - ($16.00 HEB)
Lodi Appellation [14.5%]
Will is buy this again? Heck Yes!!!

What more can I say? This wine is absolutely fabulous--a perfect example of what I think a very drinkable Zin should be. Lots of jammy, smoky berry flavors. Spicy and robust. This wine is great right out of the bottle. I have never had a bottle of 7 Deadly Zins that I didn't just love.

If you haven't Zinned this week, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tempus III Bobal 2005 (Spain)

$$ - ($12.99 Central Market)
Villa Iñigo Winery [13%]
DO Utiel-Requena
Will I buy this again? Not Tempus III, but I will try one more Bobal just to be sure.

I have to admit, I'm a sucker for an attractive label--be it color, design or artistically unique. (That's what kept me from trying Ridge Lytton Springs Zin, an ugly label, and boy was I wrong about that one--more later in another post.) I just liked this label and I had never tried wine made from Bobal grapes.

This wine has a beautiful dark red color, but it is very astringent in both smell and taste and was very dry. I'm ok with the "dry." I don't suggest drinking this wine by itself. It requires strongly flavored foods.

We paired with 3 cheeses from Spain--Campo de Montalban a nutty cow's, goat's and sheep's milk cheese, Iborres a goat's milk cheese with a slightly sour/aged flavor and of course Val Deon blue cheese. The blue cheese worked the best. It brought out some sweetness and smoothed out some of the astringency.

I'll be interested to try another Bobal from a different winery to see if I have the same reaction.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Los Cardos Malbec 2006 (Argentina)

$ (HEB)
Doña Paula [14%]
Will I buy this again? Probably not.

I am fairly particular about Malbecs. There is a certain taste to Malbec that needs to be tempered a little and I can't quite put my finger on it. I have had some other Malbecs (not yet blogged on) that I have really enjoyed.

This wine was a little harsh for me and it never mellowed out with time in the glass.

Campo Viejo Rerserva 2002 Tempranillo (Spain)

$$ - ($13.99 at HEB)

Bodegas Campo Viejo [13.5%]
Will I buy this again? Mmmm, maybe. It's up for discussion.

I was really looking forward to this bottle of wine and unfortunately I was dissapointed. This wine was a little sharp for me and it didn't seem to mellow out decanted. I'll have to try this one again and amend this review with better details.
I have had less expensive Tempranillos, like Manyana, that I liked better.

Mediterranean Homestyle Potatoes with Harissa and Poached Eggs

The Harissa homestyle potatoes and poached egg came out great! I only had one egg when I checked the refrigerator for supplies, but I did find a bonus--a small cache of olive oil that I had used to brown my pancetta the other night when I treated us to mussels and linguine. I'm very glad I thought to save it. So here's the recipe--I had to write it down before I forgot it. If you like spicy breakfasts, then you are in for a treat.

Mediterranean Homestyle Potatoes with Poached Eggs

3-4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and medium diced
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1/2 bunch of scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Harissa (taste for saltiness)
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil (pancetta drippings if possible)
1/2 teaspoon Hot Spanish paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (easy on the salt)

1. Bring one and one-half quarts of water and vinegar to a simmer in a 2 quart sauce pan over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs into individual bowls to allow them to warm up a little and to check for shells. Hold until time to poach.

2. Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the chopped garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add in diced Yukon Gold potatoes, stir to coat with oil and fry, stirring occasionally, for about 12 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add in white part of scallions about half-way through the cooking time. When potatoes are done, add Harissa and stir to coat. Remove potatoes from pan and drain on kitchen paper or a brown paper bag. Keep warm in the oven until ready to plate.

3. Drop eggs into simmering water and poach for about 4 – 5 minutes depending on how done you like your yolks. When eggs are done, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

4. Mound potatoes in the center of each plate, top with poached eggs, remaining scallions and a dusting of hot Spanish paprika. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 Servings

Baritone Shiraz/Cabernet 2005 (Australia)

$$ - (Around $10 at Specs) [13.5%]
South Eastern Australia
Will I buy this again? You bet!

One of the great features of this wine is that it is packaged in a true 1.0 liter bottle--not 750ml. So instead of having to crack open a second bottle for that one extra glass of wine, you get that extra glass in this bottle.

The wine is a deep red color with an aroma of smoke and black currents. The predominant tastes, for me at least, are black currents and cherry, with a slight acidity. This wine is nice to drink without decanting. The labels says it can be cellared for up to 5 years.

Wine doesn't last that long at my house!

Saturday Morning Coffee, Peace, Quiet & New Ideas

Well, it's finally Saturday--the day most of us working folks live for. It's about 7:00 a.m. in Austin, TX and I'm sitting out in my backyard on the patio with a hot cup of coffee enjoying a light south breeze. The weatherbug says it's only 71°, but the heat index is already nearing 80°. This morning it is just me and the 4 monsters—the dogs. “Himself” (the husband) is off playing golf with the guys in a fundraiser tournament. Oh, by the way, those two are "biggy" and "little bitty;" two of my four monsters.

The only sounds are the birds and an occasional dog barking. There is not a lot of traffic noise because we live out in the country.

The next order of the day is to decide what little interesting morsel I want to try for breakfast—after all it is only me and I can experiment with anything I want—no one to impress but the “little bitty,” my Chihuahua . I am thinking about trying spicy breakfast potatoes (homestyle) with Harissa and a garnish of scallions topped with a poached egg. If it turns out decent, I'll put the recipe on. So if you don’t see the recipe, you’ll know what happened. Harissa is a Mediterranean spice mix. Instead of making my own I bought a pre-made Harissa paste. If you buy pre-made, be sure to taste it for saltiness before you use it. The brand I bought is a little salty—so I adjust my seasoning accordingly.

I’m still exploring different looks for the blog and trying to find an easier way to keep up with indexing/linking to recipes and reviews. The site will most likely go through another round of changes until I find a look and method that I really like.

Oh well, so much for the peace and quiet. It sounds like the neighbors kids are up and outside on the playscape. Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Spain and the World Table

The book is beautiful—lots of colorful, mouthwatering photos and recipes. The book delves into the history of Spanish cooking, the different regions of Spain and what each region brings to the table as well as a look at Spanish wines and sherry. The ingredients seem easily obtained and recipes authentically recreatable. I was hooked on Spanish Tapas after eating at Jaleo in Washinton, DC, just one of the fabulous restaurants in which Chef José Andrés showcases his culinary talents. (Also, check out Maid in Spain on your local PBS channel.)

If you are ever in DC, Jaleo is a must as is Zaytinya (Greek, Lebanese and Turkish mezze also one of Chef José Andrés restaurants).

Try Spanish food—and if you are a cookbook nut like me, get your hands on a copy of this book.

Spain and the World Table
Book Hardcover 272 pages
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley, Inc.
Publication Date: April, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mussels & Linguine

We love mussels, clams, garlic and butter. This is really a very easy and quick dish to make even for a weeknight. Once you have the basic formula in your head you can whip out this rustic but elegant dish--good enough for company. One variation of this recipe is to add a mixture of mussels, clams and shrimp. Fresh clams and mussels are great, but I use packaged frozen mussel from HEB that create good and consistent results. If I can find fresh live cherrystone clams, I get those. If not, I stick with the frozen mussels and fresh, tail on shrimp.

Mussels & Linguine

3 lbs frozen mussels
4 - 1/2 inch thick slices of pancetta, medium diced
1 lb linguine
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, minced
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1/3 cup basil, medium chiffonade
1 Tbs Fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 - 1 1/2 cups dry white wine (I use Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc)
1/2 lemon juiced
2 Tbs Olive oil
3 Tbs Butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Hot, crusty garlic bread for dipping

Start pasta water and bring to a boil, add a good amount of salt. In a sauté pan (with lid), heat olive oil to medium high. Render pancetta until crispy. Add in garlic and shallot and sauté for 3 minutes or so. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Add in half of the basil, thyme and parsley and sautee for 1 minute. Add in mussels and stir to coat with oil and garlic, add in tomatoes and white wine. Mix well and cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Steam mussels for about 10 minutes until mussels open. While mussels are steaming, cook pasta.

Drain pasta well and pour onto platter or large serving bowl. Top with mussels and cooking liquid, lemon juice, and remaining herbs. Discard any mussels that remain closed. Toss and serve family style with hot garlic bread for dipping.

Makes 5-6 Hearty Servings

Wine suggestion: Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde, Pinot Grigio

Casillero del Diablo Carmenere Reserva 2006 (Chile)

$ - $9.99 (HEB)
Concha Y Toro, Rapel Valley [13.8%]
Will I buy this again? You bet!

This is just another good bottle of Carmenere. Deep garnet red color with nice viscosity (legs). On first and second sniffs (nose) you get pepper, spice and cedar. After 1 hour in the glass you notice more of the berry and floral essence. First taste right out of the bottle is peppery and spicy with a slightly acidic finish. After breathing for an hour the wine mellows out to reveal its berry flavors and a sweetness that is not sweet, but the essence of sweet.

This is a good wine that can stand up to very flavorful food or for just having a glass of red.

Best if you let it breathe for about an hour.

Fall Creek Meritus 2004 (Texas)

$$$ ($35 HEB)
2004 MERITUS (90%) Cabernet Sauvignon, (5%) Merlot, (5%) Malbec
Will I buy this again? You bet!

This wine is luscious--what more can I say. Texas wines aren't usually my favorites, but this wine is the exception. This wine stands with the best Tuscan style wines I have had. Big and jammy with a nice long finish. It is dense and has good "legs."

Occassionally, HEB on Escarpment will have a Fall Creek representative hosting wine tastings and if you are lucky, this will be one of the wines. One slurp and you are hooked. If you have a special occasion, this is a must try.
About $35.00 at HEB. We can't drink this one every week, but we will drink it as often as we can. (I would even buy this one if it hit $$$$.)

Monday, July 7, 2008


Wow! What a little html knowledge will do for a blog site. Please stay with me as I move from labels to drop down menus for all of the recipes, wines, restaurants and other topics. Maybe I can streamline this site. Woohoo!

Venta Mazzaron Tempranillo 2003 (Spain)

$$ - ($15.99 World Market)
Vino de la Tierra del Vino de Zamora [14%]
Would I buy this again? You bet!

This wine was luscious. A big, dark red wine with lots of spice and berry flavors.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Shellfish Ceviche

I love ceviche, but sometimes I’m not fond of the white fish restaurants use to stretch the product. It was Saturday afternoon and we had been doing yard work and wanted a light, cool snack/lunch. So, after staring at the container of crab in my refrigerator that I had bought to use in another application, I came up with my version of ceviche using only shellfish. This ended up being our dinner as well as a snack the next day. We paired with Twin Vines Vinho Verde and a Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc—both delicioso. Sometimes you get lucky and hit a homerun--we both thought this recipe was a "homer."

Shellfish Ceviche

½ lb diver scallops, diced
12 oz pasteurized crab meat (I used claw meat)
3 cups of cooked shrimp, chopped (I used frozen cooked shrimp)
1 orange, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
3 limes, juiced
¼ cup olive oil
½ bunch cilantro, chopped (more to taste)
2 jalapeños, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1 avocado, diced (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl mix orange, lemon and lime juices, salt and pepper to taste ½ of the chopped cilantro, 1 chopped jalapeño, ½ of the scallions and all of the shallots. Gently fold in diced scallops. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Remove ceviche from refrigerator and gently add in remaining jalapeño, cilantro and scallions, chopped shrimp and crab meat that has been checked for shells and cartilage. Taste for seasoning. Can be served immediately or refrigerated for up to a day. Top with diced avocado and more freshly squeezed lime juice. Serve with thin, crispy tortilla chips such as El Milagro brand.

Appetizer Serves 6–8
As a lunch course serves 2-4 depending on how hungry you are.

Natura Carmenere 2007 (Chile)

$-$$ (around $10 World Market)
Emiliana, Valle Colchagua
Organically grown grapes
Will I buy this again? Probably not.

This is a nice Carmenere, a little bit bolder than some--I like Santa Rita better especially for the price.

Restoration Old Vine Red 2006 (Portugal)

$-$$ - ($9.99 World Market )
Vinho Regional Alentejano
Vinho Tino Red Wine [13.5%]
Will I buy this again? You bet!

This a nice, full-bodied red wine. I had to look at the label again to make sure it didn't have a higher alcohol content than 13.5%. It reminds me a little of the big, red Zins we drink. Fruity and robust and it didn't need decanting. This wine was good enough to warrant a second bottle!

Manyana Tempranillo 2006 (Spain)

$ - Great Bargain Find ($6.99 World Market)
Bodegas San Valero Soc. Coop
Carinena [12.5%]
Will I buy this again? You bet! If I can find it.

We don't usually drink red wines with an alcohol content under 13.5%, so we were completely blown away by this bottle of wine. So much so that we went back to the store and bought the last 2 bottles on the shelf.

This is a medium to full bodied juicy red wine. Fruity flavors and deep red color--with a little bit of a jammy quality up front.

Over the course of a weekend, we paired with lamb chops marinated in harissa and grilled; a rib-eye grilled simply with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper; mushroom risotto; bacon wrapped jalepenos stuffed with cream cheese, cilantro and shrimp; crab, shrimp and scallop ceviche; and roasted fresh corn-on-the-cob. It worked well with all.