We’ve all heard it before: There is no better wine pairing than potato chips and sparkling. Could this be true? Was it the holy grail? Quite possibly. But what happens when you take some amped up Neal Brothers’ kettle chips, in flavors like Pink Himalayan Salt and Spicy Sriracha, and pair them with Iron Horse Vineyards fizz? Pure magic. With the pure, sweet, spicy and just plain tasty flavors, we found a perfect pairing for each of the Iron Horse sparkling wines, as well as each of the four chip varieties. 2012 Iron Horse Ocean Blanc de Blanc – this limited edition wine supports National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative, and is bursting with crisp apple notes and salinity that makes your mouth water. Notes of citrus and chalky minerality make this a natural pairing for bright, clean flavors for the Pink Himalayan Salt was the perfect match. 2012 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee – with a hint of raspberry, strawberry and blood orange, the sweet hints coming from the 78% Pinot Noir paired perfectly with the Spicy Sriracha. The sweet and spicy Sriracha brings forward the blood orange and ruby red grapefruit in the wine. The Wedding Cuvee also matched the intensity of the Montreal Steak Spice, with strong pepper and herbal notes. 2012 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut – the classic, clean flavors of this wine, with grapefruit, brioche, and stone fruit play off of the Pink Salt, as well as the Sraiacha. Often, Classic Brut can feel dryer than dry, but the special quality of the Pink Himalyayan Salt chips tone this day and create a savory explosion. 2012 Russian Cuvee was originally made for the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings, which helped to end the Cold War. This wine is a richer style, with bold flavors of strawberry, blood orange, and dried tropical fruit. Surprisingly, the crazy Maple Bacon flavor of the Neal Brothers chips was the perfect match for this wine, which can be perceived as sweet and fruity. The sweet maple and savory bacon really played off of the Russian perfectly. What is your favorite potato chip pairing? We tasted several more sparklers from Iron Horse that are sold out, so I won’t tease you, but go out, and have fun. Pick up a few bags of Neal Brothers kettle chips and experiment!
After a full day of learning about the history of the El Dorado County wine culture, we headed in to Placerville for a pairing dinner at The Independent. While I had ducked in here for dinner the last time I was in town, I was happy to experience the pairings and enthusiastic locally fresh cuisine by Chef Ryan Montgomery. Owned by Jeff & Judy Thomas, together with their son Ben Carter, who manages the facility, The Independent is their second venture in Placerville. The now acclaimed Heyday Café in old town Placerville, where I enjoyed a delicious lunch, inspired them to open The Independent, with an expansive outdoor space and focusing on fresh, creative American fusion. Here are some snaps of the meal! Paired with the local wines, it was simply delightful. While I refrained from detailed tasting notes during dinner, the thoughtful pairings and fresh flavors were delicious. If you’re ever in Placerville, make a beeline for The Independant! Featured wines for the first two courses, as well as the not pictured Scallops: Skinner Vineyards & Winery – 2012 Seven Generations ($26) – 52% Grenache Blanc, 21% Roussanne, 17% Marsanne, 9% Viognier, 2% Picpoul Blanc and 2012/2013 Mourvedre ($26) A blend of 5 classic Rhone varietals, it was fresh and lively with the salad, and scallops. Holly’s Hill – 2013 Grenache Blanc ($25), which was delectable with the salmon. I am a huge fan of Grenache Blanc in general, and this was no except. Flinty, floral and citrus notes combined with fresh pears. With this gut busting steak, the David Girard Vineyards – 2011 Coda Rouge – 46% Mourvedre, 36% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 3% Counoise ($30). This bold red Rhone blend was perfect for the meat course, and really gives you a wonderful idea of what syrah can do in this hills. The Coda Rouge blend is a prime example of the Rhone focus in El Dorado County, and the elegance that some elevation can give to classic blends. Beautiful spice notes, plums, and a hint of graphite follow bold berry and hibiscus. When you are in Placerville, or driving up to Tahoe, make sure you stop by and stay a while at The Independent. You won’t be sorry!
How is it possible that there are only 4 days left until Christmas? For those of you celebrating other holidays around this time of year, like Festivus, or the 8 days of Chanukah, or any other celebration – you are, no doubt, in the thick of things. This time of year, we often realize that we have forgotten to shop, whether it be for one specific person or for several hard to buy for family members. Or perhaps you are throwing together a last minute dinner party to celebrate with the family and friends. Nothing says stress like a party for 6! Instead of running out to Whole Foods and fighting for the last organic ham, check out this new service from Kitchit. Kitchit brings talented local chefs to you, in your house, to cook up a storm . It’s like having a private chef on demand! Cooking a wide variety of special menus for up to 6 people, you can whip up the feast in no time. Kitchit chefs each have their own style, and menus to choose from. Customers can select a chef and menu that meets their needs. From only $39 per person, you can build a gorgeous dinner party and sit back and relax! The chef preps, cooks, serves and — here is the amazing part – cleans up! Yep. That’s worth $40 right there. But wait! Like a Ginzu Knife commercial, there’s more! It all starts with the menu; with an ever changing collection of Kitchit Tonight menus in collaboration with chefs and local specialty vendors, focusing on high-quality seasonal ingredients. Why not try the “Leaf Strewn Streets of Lyon” for your holiday dinner? Roasted Beets, Duck Confit, Paris Breast for dessert. Viva la France! Or perhaps you’d rather have a “Roman Holiday”, with stuffed squash, Saltimbocca, and Crostata de Ricotta. Yum! Have little ones at your house? Don’t worry, you can add on kids meals for $9 each. But, if you something specific in mind, check out the chef matching tool. Chef Tiffany Friedman is cooking up a Sonoma inspired dinner party with poached pear & prosciutto crostini, scallops, duck, beef loin, and lemon pudding cake. I know I’ll be checking some of these great deals out. Need a great gift? Kitchit also has gift cards to help your friends and family survive the holidays. Happy eating! Kitchit is available in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, back in Istria, we were exploring the countryside and small wineries that are producing some amazing wines, that are holding fast to traditional styles, such as at Konoba Batelina. While there are certainly international varieties creeping in, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, the vast majority of production includes Malvasia and Teran. Along the same note, Istria plays host to some of the most amazing food I’ve had travelling in many years. After the lunch at Konoba Pineto, I could have died happily, but we were in for more treats at Konoba Batelina. Arriving at this small tavern in a village outside of Pula, there is no menu. Instead, the offerings are given to you verbally by your extremely enthusiastic waiter, who describes each dish with a lust that made my mouth water. Hey, if Konoba Batelina is good enough for Bordain it’s good enough for me! I was a little worried as we were told that we would not be getting a selection of dishes, but rather…ALL of them, but my worry turned to a fight for the last bite as they brought dish after dish of hot and cold appetizers from the Adriatic nearby. I love fish, and I order it a lot when I’m travelling because a) I can’t cook it worth a #$(*& and b) coastal countries know what they are doing. Chef David Skoko presented us with our menu (I undoubtedly forgot some dishes but there were something in the neighbor of 8 colds, 6 hots, pasta, and dessert): Monkfish Shark liver pate Conga eel Red Mullet in lemon Marinated sardines Octopus salad Scallops Boiled spotted Dog-fish Crab salad (yes, this one I avoided but BrixChick Liza got my share so she’s happy!) Grey mullet fish soup with a corn meal “scallop”, basically polenta that was cooked in a scallop shell which was a beautiful presentation pasta with dried fish roe, a house specialty and famous. The salty brininess of the fish roe was so subtle, and entirely amazing Dessert. Oh I can’t even go in to dessert. There were 7 of them! Each one was a different taste sensation. More than the food, the conversation with the chef enthralled me. David’s stories of his life growing up in Istria, and his father’s adventures as a fisherman, which inspired him to open the restaurant, as well as our conversations about how Croatia joining the EU on July 1st will impact the local economy were inspiring. From the local fish to the politics of a region that has been influenced by a dozen cultures, Konoba Batelina is a stop you need to go out of your way to visit. Special thanks to the Istrian Tourist Board, our guide Marko, and Chef David for a truly unique and wonderful experience. Google
It’s July 31st. HOW is it the end of July already? Eeks. Must. Go. Pack. I’ll be leaving in 10 days for some pre Wine Bloggers Conference fun, and meandering through Oregon experiencing the best of the Willamette with my friend from Fab OC Wine Chick. Can we say I cannot wait? But really, the point of my trip to Oregon is to attend the 5th annual Wine Bloggers Conference, where 350+ wine bloggers, food bloggers, travel bloggers, and industry people of all sorts will get together to exchange ideas, get to know each other, and learn from each other. What a way to spend a weekend! That said, there are a large amount of WBC Virgins attending this year. Even those that have attended before have been guilty of not following some of these suggestion below, and have left a…lasting impression. Here are a few things I have learned from my five conferences. Five years and five conferences, the event has grown and changed – but most of these tips hold true no matter the size. Get to know your sponsors. We have a few hours on Friday to learn who has made the event possible; stop by and say hi! You never know what relationships might form. I will be there manning the WBC Scholarship table for the first time (YAY!), so if you’ve ever wondered what we’re about, please come talk to us. Attend the keynotes with Rex Pickett and Randall Graham – The keynotes are a fascinating way to get to know how the wine community thinks of bloggers, and also, how they became who they are. Attend the breakouts – There is a lot to learn. Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out. While you need choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, not attending them is just a waste of your time. Spit spit spit. I can’t emphasize this enough. Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum. It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party. Present yourself accordingly. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Our goodie bags are sure to contain an aluminum water bottle which you can use to fill up at every opportunity. Don’t forget to sleep – There is nothing worse than a blogger snoring in a session. Enjoy your wine responsibly – no one likes a drunk blogger. It is embarrassing for others, irresponsible, and sets a bad tone. Additionally, it is not looked upon favorably by speakers and sponsors when the audience is only half full after a night of partying. You will miss parts of the conference while sleeping off your hang over! By all means, enjoy yourself. I certainly plan to partake. But if you cannot get your butt int he chair the next morning, please go to Vegas instead. Engage in the spontaneous events – these are the best way to network with your fellow bloggers, writers, and industry professionals. Going […]
On our last day in Barcelona, we were fortunate enough to have a private tour of La Boqueria, the lively market on the town’s busy Las Ramblas boulevard, by Chef Isma Prados, one of Barcelona’s most noted celebuchefs. Isma is something of a phenomenon in Catalonia, and is a mix of Jaime Oliver and Gordon Ramsey. His focus is on the true expression of the food, and stresses that you should use only the best ingredients to create the best foods. He also pays particular attention tot he relationship between food and wine, and as we were here to learn about Cava, on this day, we were cooking with and pairing food with the sparkling star. After we tooted around thee busy market, we picked out fresh ingreidents for a wonderful show, a cooking class above the market a bit later on. Yes kids, we were cooking for our lunch! I will spare you the delicious details of the meal but we had: Spring Salad with winter strawberries. These are meatier and firmer than the sweet summer berries and take the acid of a cava based dressing well. Halibut Cheeks with fresh peas, au jus Sofrito with pressed & stuffed black Guinea Hen fresh ice cream Each course was more delicious than the last. The use of the ingredients with the natural flavors, a touch of salt and pepper, and lots of passion made this the most memorable meal I had in Spain. Enjoy!
It’s time to get super! Super Tuscan that is. Traditionally, wines from Tuscany are Chianti, made from the Sangiovese grape. These days however, more and more “Super Tuscans” are turning up, making use of the newer plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. Adding a big, round red to a Sangiovese will give the resulting blend, making a plusher, bigger, more New World style, which is really a crowd pleaser for the average wine drinking. In this case, the Super Tuscan that I tasted was the La Sala Campo All Albero, which was 85% Cab and 15% Sangio, provided by Wine Passionate, a great new website dedicated to value oriented Italian wines. This wine was dry and earthy, with flavors of tobacco and dried plum. It was chewy and meaty and was great with food. I was also able to taste the 2010 Pandiani Aglianico from Sicily, a great wine for a crazy price ($12). Aglianico is not a grape I come across frequently, and I was really pleased by this valiue wine. Though to be brought over by the Greeks, Aglianico is a black skinned grape that produces a dark, intense wine. Fermented in stainless steel tanks instead of barrels, this gives the wine a freshness and bright quality with a lot of great acid. It’s an easy wine to like, and goes great with any pasta dish. I loved sipping on this and it really opened up over the evening. Lots of dark red berries, chocolate, Chinese Five Spice, and pepper in here, with a strong anise undercurrent. I love discovering new wines, and now I can add this to my Century Club list, and go out and see other Aglianicos! The moral of this story, is, be adventurous. DOn’t be afraid to try something you have never heard of, especially at these prices. You might be delightfully surprised! Thank you Wine Passionate for providing these wines for me to taste!
Hey check it out! A new and different kind of wine event is hitting the airwaves this weekend in Sonoma Valley. Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15, 2011 Sonoma Valley Reserve will host the newly coined Reserve (which replaced Passport to Sonoma Valley) with a series of themed daytrips that will showcase rare offerings and hidden gems of Sonoma Valley wine destinations, many of which are seldom open to the public. “Our vintners have teamed up to create an upscale event that provides a passport to Sonoma Valley,” said Maureen Cottingham, Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance Executive Director, “It would otherwise be impossible for people to visit many of the stops on the daytrips.” The motor coaches seat only thirteen to twenty-four people per vehicle, so the groups are small. Sixty-one wineries are participating in the event featuring the twenty-three unique tours. Examples of some of the tours include: Meet the Winery Rock Star Tour – Behind every benchmark Sonoma Valley winery, there’s a leader whose vision helped create its worldwide reputation. On this tour, participants will meet some of Sonoma Valley’s most charismatic and creative personalities, and taste the wines for which they’ve gained global acclaim. Bridal Tour – Seeking the perfect Sonoma Valley spot for your wedding day? From panoramic views to vineyard vistas, this tour will help find the wedding location of a lifetime. All Access Tour – An exclusive opportunity to gain access to wine destinations rarely open to the public and others that are accessible by appointment only. This tour provides the chance to find those wineries known only by the most experienced Sonoma alley isitors. Food and Wine Pairing Tour – Embark upon a tasting tour unlike any other. Wineries will reveal the complex and magical art of pairing wine with food. Palates will be thrilled with perfect pairings created from the fresh and abundant local foods of Sonoma Valley. I’m personally looking forward to the awesome food that will be paired with the Cannihan 06 & 07 Pinot Noir and Syrah, by gelato fiend and sometimes chef Jason Mancebo. Sip now and sip often! Participating wineries include Sonoma faves Loxton, Kaz, and Gundlach Bundschu to name a few. Each winery tour takes you to 4 uniquely themed destinations, including lunch. You could tour some of the small family wineries, or perhaps focus on zin. You decide! Tickets for Sonoma Valley Reserve are extremely limited and on sale now at $85 for one day or $135 for two days. Sonoma Valley Reserve ticketholders can opt for the $30 round trip transportaiton from Sonoma, Mill Valley orSan Francisco. which frees you up to do the drinking. I’ll see you up there at Cannihan!
I am a huge fan of the simple dinner. Being a single girl, I like to come home, kick my feet up and open something tasty to drink. Dinner is a necessary evil, so I look for the simple solution. Such was the case one day a while ago, when I looked in the fridge and noticed that I had pretty much nothing left but a few leftover cheeses and of course, bacon. Assuredly, I had in my trusty cabinet, several boxes of pasta, so off I went to make MacDaddy & Cheese for supper. I have to say, this was, without a doubt, one of my best bacon works to date. This is a grown up’s Kraft Dinner, and it’s very simple. First, prepare the pasta to your liking. I suggest slightly al dente, because you will be cooking it with the cheese mixture. While the pasta is cooking, make the bacon. I personally use the microwave because it’s fast and easy, and I’m mixing the bacno anywya. If i were eating the bacon alone, I might bake or fry it up. Drain on a towel and set aside. Drain the pasta when done, and add back to the pot. With the head on medium low, add about 1/4 cup milk. In to that, I added about 3/2 cup chunked sharp cheddar, 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, and some other odds and ends of the cheesy variety. Really, you can add whatever kind of cheese that you have in the fridge, because this is a dish best made when you have a bit of everything. The only requirement is that add the blue cheese. This is what makes this dish sing. Gently cook the pasta until the cheese is melted and the milk is absorbed and it is creamy. Then, crumble the bacon and add to the pot. With this, I served a dark and smoky Cabernet Sauvignon. I would try to find one that isnt’ a fruit bomb, because the dark rich tobacco and leather of an old world Cabernet will go better with the blue cheese mixture. The result of this minimal effort8 is a truly amazing grown up dinner that you can make in a flash on a night in! Happy bacon-ing! Google
For this week’s Bacon Fridays post, I am honoring the Zinfandel Festival but pairing Jalapeno Bacon Cheddar Popovers with a California Zin. Zinfandel has been named America’s Heritage Grape, and for 4 days every January, the Zin world comes together in celebration. The Bacon Freak graciously provided me of samples of the Jalepeno bacon, and i incorporated this into one of my favorite side dishes, the Popover. Ok fine. So i usually eat the whole pan. Shush! To make this tasty treats, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray LIBERALLY! Try to use a light pan if you can, because dark ones burn easily. While the oven is preheating, cook the Bacon Freak Coastal Caliente Jalepeno Bacon until crisp. I do this in the microwave, between 2 paper towels, on full power for 1 minute for each full slice. You want to be able to crumble it easily. In a bowl, whisk together: 2/3 cup milk 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons flour 2 teaspoons olive oil 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 ground pepper Whisk in 2 eggs, which you have beaten in a bowl. Spoon 1 Tablespoon of the batter in to each muffin cup. Sprinkle each with 1 tsp sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 tsp grated parmesean cheese, and 1/4 slice crumbled bacon. When you have done all 12 muffin cups, spoon the rest of the batter on top of ecah cup to cover. bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Continue to cook until golden brown, about another 15 minutes. Remove from the baking tin and cool on a rack. These popovers are best slightly warm! To pair, I suggest a spicy zinfandel. I tasted this with a lovely specimen from Paso Robles, which is known for black pepper and sweet spices. I also tried this with a Sierra Foothills Zinfandel, which also has some lovely baking spice flavor characteristics that match well off of the kick of the popovers. Happy tasting and please follow @baconcandy on twitter! Google