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My Little Valentine

Valentine’s Day is coming up quickly.  While this traditionally has been a holiday I’ve shrugged off, my husband loves to go all out and give me roses and chocolates.  On one occasion, I got a teddy bear and the flowers.  Last year he gave me custom jewelry with his and my son’s birthstones.

Needless to say, he’s changed my attitude about Valentine’s Day.  I wholeheartedly admit I love flowers and candy.  To be given those things from him makes them even more special.

img_3421Usually I cook him his favorite meal for this holiday.  This year, I decided to do something different.

My husband is Cuban.  There is very little that he loves more than a pastelito.  We live walking distance to Porto’s Cuban Bakery, which has all sorts of Cuban and Cuban-inspired treats.  We used to go there all the time.  It’s cheap.  It’s delicious.  The food is fresh.  The coffee is strong.  The lines are…long.  Oh…that’s right.  It usually takes a minimum of an hour to get in and out of Porto’s, even if the items have been ordered ahead.

Regardless, I wanted to make him something.

Guava pastries are not difficult.  They are basically puff pastry, guava paste, and the optional cream cheese.  While they are always delicious, mine have not always been pretty.  In fact, it seems like no matter how hard I try, they always turn out pretty ugly.  For Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make him something beautiful.img_3431

I decided to make my husband a Cuban-inspired guava macaron with a guava paste center and guava/cream cheese frosting around the edge.  Macarons are ALWAYS pretty, right?

I experimented with this macaron during the holidays.  I wanted to gift them to his family and close friends.  However, the humidity and constant rainfall in Atlanta this last December made it so the shells cracked and wouldn’t form correctly.  They tasted great, but weren’t the right texture.  They were the perfect pink color img_3432with a dusting of sparkly rose gold.  Yet, the finished result looked sad.

I was so disappointed.  I tried twice.  I failed twice.  Finally, I gave up.  They got devoured anyway.

I hadn’t made a macaron since then, so I was trepidatious – especially since desert dry Los Angeles has been wet.

I took a breath and started to sift…

Happily, they came together!  My husband was so excited, he couldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day to eat them.  That’s fine with me.


BASIC MACARON SHELL (Click here for the recipe)




  1. Match the macaron shells into pairs and lay them out to fill.
  2. Place the cream cheese into a bowl for a stand mixer.
  3. Cut the guava paste into slices and place in a small pot.
  4. Add a splash of water to the guava paste. Heat on medium until most of the paste has broken down into syrup.  Keep stirring until there are no lumps.  Then let it cool slightly.
  5. Pour half of the guava syrup into the bowl with the cream cheese and begin to blend with the whip attachment.
  6. While the cream cheese is blending, place the remaining guava syrup into a piping bag and pipe a small circle in the middle of the macaron shell.
  7. Add the confectioner’s sugar to the cream cheese and blend together until completely combined.
  8. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into a piping bag.
  9. Pipe the cream cheese around the guava paste, leaving some space on the edges for it to spread.
  10. Top it with the matched shell and move on to the next one.
  11. Refrigerate macarons to keep fresh.


The Cure for the Holiday Hangover

It’s January.  Most of us are trying to eat better and work out more.  However, it’s generally cold in the mornings and we’re all feeling a little sluggish from the holidays.

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January may be the time of resolution keeping, but it is also the time of the Holiday Hangover.  For that, I like nothing more than a hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

My husband and I have been grinding coffee and brewing it up in our Italian espresso maker.  Add a touch of Splenda and some 2% steamed milk, we have the beginning of a productive day.  It’s our slice of morning heaven.

However, do you know what makes it even better?  A little treat.

That’s right – a treat.  An itty-bitty, something yummy is the perfect way to start the day – even if it isn’t on our diet.  That’s where the Coffee Cookie comes in!

I drink alcohol from time to time, as you may have guessed from the title of my blog.  On

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one boozy night, I had a hankering for some cookies.  It was around 2am, and we all know nothing good for us happens at that time.  That cookie craving I had wasn’t just a desire, it was a necessity.  Not only did cookies sound amazing, I knew we needed to have them to head off that morning hangover.

So, I made cookies.

Only, in my drunken haze, I forgot part of the recipe and put in way too much flour and cinnamon.  When I realized my error, I thought the cookies would all be ruined.  Thankfully, I was wrong.  Instead, the Coffee Cookie was born!

This cookie is denser than your average cookie and it’s not as sweet.  It is truly the perfect pairing for a nice hot cup of java.  Enjoy!



  • 2 sticks butter (softened)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Add Ins: (You can customize your cookie with any of these or add in your favorite cookie additions)

  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin (bake for a couple minutes longer)
  • 1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup dried blueberries
  • ½ cup shaved coconut



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Blend the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until completely combined
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon
  5. Add the flour mixture one spoonful at a time into the butter mixture until all of the ingredients are combined
  6. Stir in any add-ins
  7. Spoon the dough onto cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes
  8. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on a wire cooling rack

Bangladeshi Chicken Curry

Many years ago, in a time that seems more like a dream than reality, I lived in London for a spell.  It was a fantastic time of my life.  I had attended a summer session at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, home to such great actors as Sir Anthony Hopkins, Alan Rickman, and Sir Richard Attenborough.

That summer fueled a desire in me to really hit the pavements as an actor.  Having lived in Los Angeles my whole life, London called to me for a change of venue.  I was young.  I was eager.  I was a starving actor – literally.

Luckily, I became familiar with an area called Portobello Road, in Notting Hill.  Yes, the same Notting Hill as the movie, which showed the street on the weekends, when it became a bustling outdoor flea/antique market. The Portobello Road I knew, was the place to get good quality kosher meats and fresh-from-the-farm vegetables for cheap.

img_3070I discovered this area when a Bangladeshi actor friend helped me rent a small room at Bangladesh Center.  It was close to a Tube Station and was just a stone’s throw away from the market.  The room was about $20 per week.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to have the lodging in such a great locale.  I hung out with the other tenants and was immersed in their culture.  It was there that I learned how to make curry.  It was a hearty meal that could last for days, stretch the dollar (or the pound, as the case was), and satisfy a rumbling tummy.

Over the years, I’ve altered the recipe a bit and have made it my own.  This is so easy to do with curry, since we never measured ingredients and changed it up, based on what fresh vegetables were available at the time.  I always used chicken for my img_3067curry, but any protein should be fine.  In London, I purchased drumsticks because they were inexpensive and flavorful.  I would dump them into the stew with the skin and bone.  Now I usually buy breast or thigh meat and cube it to make it easier to eat.

This has become one of my favorite comfort dishes.  Not only does it remind me of my London days, but it is tasty and filling.  It is a lovely choice for a cold day.



  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 3 tablespoons Garam Masala
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1-2 fresh Indian green chilis, diced (optional – you can usually find these in an Indian market)
  • 2 pounds chicken
  • 1 onion, sliced in long pieces
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 small head of broccoli, chopped in small pieces (you want the broccoli to practically melt into the sauce)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed
  • 4 eggs, boiled


  1. Place all the spices, chilis and oil into a pot and mix into a paste.
  2. Cook on medium heat until it starts to sizzle and you can feel the spices in your nose and the back of your throat.
  3. Add in chicken and stir until coated and the outside is seared.
  4. Add in onions and stir until they start to become glassy.
  5. Add in tomato, broccoli, and potatoes, stir until coated.
  6. Pour in the water until it just covers everything in the pot. Bring it to a boil.
    1. For fast curry, keep it boiling for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Do not cover it.  Simmer until it reduces down to half (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally.
    2. If you have time to develop the flavors, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. About 30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, uncover the pot and return the curry to a boil.  Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid reduces to half, stirring occasionally.
  7. While the curry is being made, boil the eggs in a separate pot.  Turn off heat, cover and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Deshell the eggs and put them in with the curry.  I like to make small slits in the eggs so the sauce can get inside.
  8. Serve with rice.

Macarons – Those Temperamental Little B!+(#es

French macarons have been a long-time favorite dessert of mine.  I love the colors, flavors, and that slightly chewy, tender cookie with a fragile crust.  I heard they could be fussy, so I never tried to make them.  Instead, I left them to the French pastry experts.

That is, until I caught a video on making macarons.  It looked so easy!  What could go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, a lot of things.

Let’s start with this:  If you read my blog or know me in person, you know I am very bad at sticking to the recipe.  I enjoy “cooking with love.”  In other words, I like throwing things together and making something yummy.

The first time I made macarons, I followed the directions of the video I had watched.  These were very tasty, but the video left out a very important step:

Sift, sift, sift.  Then sift again.  If in doubt, sift.

E31C59FB-B4AC-4D3F-B4CA-016881608D2AAs I said, the first macarons I created were delicious.  However, they were grainy.  They were completely the wrong texture.  They were not smooth.  They were not shiny.  They didn’t have that beautiful, easily fractured crust.  Nor did they finish with a slight, chewy bite that dissolves beautifully on the tongue.  These were dense, with a typical cookie texture.  I was disappointed.

I tried the recipe again, this time sifting through once.  They had a better texture the second time, but still lacked the true qualities of that delicate macaron.

I decided to give up.

However, just as I made this decision, my friend Jenn asked if she could pay me to make macarons for a bridal shower she was hosting.  I was so flattered, I accepted.

Then I panicked.

Then I became obsessed.

I had to up my game!

My husband gifted me a book on macarons.  I “poured” over the pages and familiarized myself with the different techniques.  Apparently, I had used the Swiss technique before – the simplest one.  After talking with Jenn about what she wanted and consulting the book, I decided to try out the Italian method, where the sugar is cooked before pouring it into the meringue.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I am about to enlighten you.

In my research I came to understand that the shell of a macaron (the cookie part) is essentially a meringue, with almond flour (or any nut based flour) added to it.  This explains why the shell is so light and fragile.  This is also why it is absolutely essential to sift that flour and powdered sugar before adding it to the meringue.  Any clump, any larger grain, even any slightly unclean bowl, can change the texture of the shell and ruin that shiny, smooth finish.


As if that isn’t bad enough, I also discovered through trial and error that even something as simple as ridges on a baking sheet can change, not only the appearance of the macaron, but also the rise of it.  It can flatten out.

Exhausted yet?  Well, wait for this…

Then, even if you have sifted five times, cooked your sugar, made sure every bowl was pristine, AND used flat baking sheets, the temperature of the kitchen can botch a batch!


I made the mistake of having dinner prepping in the slow cooker one time.  The whole batch was ruined.  Well, not ruined.  Strangely enough, the macarons were the perfect texture three days later.  However, they were initially hard and many were cracked.01EA55AD-6FCE-4F0A-867A-D98DE5F1806E

Finally, I have a few more tips and tricks:

  1. Buy a food scale.  You need to weigh all of your ingredients for macaron shells to come out right (don’t worry about the filling – that is much less of a science and more of an art),
  2. Make sure you have older eggs, preferably bought the week before you’re going to make the macarons, and have them at room temperature before making the meringue,
  3. If you can, use a silicone baking sheet with circles to guide you. That way each shell should be close in size,
  4. Once the shells are piped, slam them hard on the kitchen counter about 10-20 times to get rid of any air bubbles,
  5. Give yourself time! Make the macarons about 2-3 days ahead of when you want them to be consumed.

In the end, the macarons for the bridal shower both looked and tasted great.  Some were not as perfect as I would have liked, but they were close enough.  Jenn loved them, and asked me to make them again for a Holiday Open House she was hosting for her jewelry business, Bella Sparkle.604DFFA4-22B9-4DE0-832C-AB2F64BE1FFE

Since my first time, I have experimented with a variety of flavors, including key lime pie, raspberry/lemon, and s’mores.  Once I got past the unpredictable and moody nature of macarons, I’ve had a great time coming up with different flavors and designs.  I even created a macaron for Jenn’s party with her favorite flavors (crème brulee) and color (turquoise).  I still think the shells are temperamental little b!+(#es, but I also think they’re fun.






  1. Sift the almond flour 2 times.
  2. Sift the powdered sugar into the almond flour, then combine thoroughly.
  3. Sift the almond flour/powdered sugar 2-3 more times, put aside.
  4. In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites at medium speed with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form.
  5. While the egg whites are whipping, cook the sugar with the water in a small pot until it reaches 235 degrees, whisking while it cooks (you do not want this to burn). If you do not have a thermometer, you will know the sugar is ready when it is boiling rapidly for about 5 minutes.  Note:  This process will take much longer than you think it will!
  6. When the sugar reaches 235 degrees, quickly pour it down the side of the bowl with the egg whites while still whipping (the heat of the sugar can cook the eggs if you don’t keep them moving).
  7. Increase the speed of the mixer and whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. This will take about 8-10 minutes.  You want to be able to turn the bowl over and not have the meringue move.67CA1389-F6D7-451F-A51B-8036B6873874
  8. Create a well (or a hole) in the middle of the almond flour/sugar. Pour the meringue in the center.D5832821-2274-4C80-84F8-4D72772EF1C2
  9. Mix the ingredients together with a rubber spatula. Be sure to completely blend the meringue and almond flour and sugar so it’s flowing, but don’t over mix (those shells will crack!).  A124CC4C-9D8F-4120-8C6E-C7044481225D
  10. Add a couple of drops of food coloring and blend through.
  11. Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a round tip. (Tip:  Put the piping bag in a drinking glass – it will be much easier to fill).
  12. Pipe the meringue onto the silicone mat or baking sheet, making small, circles, about 1 inch wide (try to make them uniform – a guided mat or the squares on parchment paper should help you). Cover any extra batter with plastic until you are ready to pipe it.6C933736-DBDE-4705-9B6A-78786D7AE6BB
  13. Firmly tap the baking sheet about 10-20 times to release any air in the batter.
  14. Let the shells sit for 30-60 minutes, until you can lightly touch them without denting the outside.CC1AECBD-3466-45B9-A938-CBAAF872AE63
  15. Heat the oven to 300 degrees, then bake one sheet at a time, for 9 – 12 minutes, depending upon how hot your oven gets. Vent the oven once or twice throughout the baking process.  You want the air to get in there.
  16. Remove the shells and move the silicone mat to a cooling rack. After a few minutes, gently remove the shells from the mat.


For the filling, your imagination is your limit!  Just think:  lemon curd, lime curd, caramel, marshmallow, Nutella, chocolate ganache, guava, or even combinations of flavors!  Just enjoy and delight your senses!  Below is a very easy raspberry buttercream recipe.



  • 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • ½ cup raspberry jam with seeds



  1. Blend together the butter, sugar and raspberry jam until completely combined.
    • If you would like it to be thicker, add more sugar.
    • If you would like it to be thinner, add some milk.
  2. Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag.
  3. Pair the macaron shells, matching them by closest size and shape.
  4. Pipe the buttercream onto one of the shells, leaving some space on the edges for it to spread.47A796BF-C71F-48FF-BCFE-2F00A256BA3A
  5. Top it with the matched shell and move on to the next one.
  6. Refrigerate macarons to keep fresh.
  7. Take a deep breath… YOU ARE DONE! Pour yourself a glass of wine and put your feet up.  Cheers!DF853D2A-9642-4306-9363-7DF0739B6009



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Pali Wine Company and Mystery Red Blend Review

I finally checked out one of Pali Wine Company’s tasting rooms and their exploration into natural wines.

Pali is traditionally known for delicious California Central Coast Pinot Noirs, but now they have a cornucopia of different wines varieties. A rainbow of wines are available from a hay-colored Roussanne to a rose of Sangiovese to a skin contact Pinot Gris, into darker tones of rubied Grenache and deep purple hues of a Mystery Red Blend, as known as “Everything but the Pinot.” There is definitely something for everyone these days.

I selected the “Taste of the Summer Flight” which is advertised as 100% natural, 100% sustainably farmed, 100% delicious! And it was! A delight for the eyes, as well as the palate, this flight included some fantastic wine names such as “Blue Skies” (a Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Chardonnay blend), “The Jar” (a blend of Carignan and Viognier), and my personal favorite, “Scorcher” (a blend of 50% Pinot Grigio and 50% Sangiovese). These were such unusual and absolutely delightful blends – wines I wouldn’t typically think would work together, yet they did so well.

I paired all this with the large charcuterie platter, which featured prosciutto, goat cheese with strawberry jam, gouda, olives, pickled artichoke hearts, almonds and pistachios, along with a bunch of other board favorites and two types of crackers.

For those who follow me, you know I feel “variety is the spice of life!” So is at Pali Wine Co’s tasting rooms.


Here is a review of the Mystery Red Blend:

The menu called it a “Mystery Red Blend.” Needless to say, I was intrigued – especially after trying a variety of unusual blends at the Pali Wine Company Anaheim tasting room. ⁣

A glass was brought to our table, and we blind tasted. There was definitely Syrah – that was the strongest note for me, as black pepper laced my tongue. Probably Grenache, with it’s soft white pepper and red fruit notes. I also guessed Merlot. So, we told our server our guesses, and he confirmed the three. Then we found out there were 11 red varietals in the blend! Our winetender joked that they call the mystery red blend “𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘗𝘪𝘯𝘰𝘵.” The other varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Petit Sirah, Dornfelder, Carignan, Sangiovese, Cinsault, and Zinfandel. ⁣

With all those mostly bold grapes, I would have expected that wine to come up and slap me in the face. Yet, there was a lovely finesse about it. The wine, though still strong, was infinitely softer than I would have expected. The nose, a fragrant basket of berries and ripe fruits, with a hint of earthiness. The mouth was filled with flavors of cherries, tart plums, the aforementioned pepper, and spice. There were light tannins and a good amount of acid. ⁣

I had to take a bottle home. It came in a refillable growler, as the wine was on tap. How cool! ⁣


I just had to share that a recipe for churros I posted on Instagram (you can follow me there for more frequent recipes, wine and cocktail goodness at @the_wine_muse) was posted in Zulay Kitchen’s blog. You can check it out here:

In the meantime, here is the recipe:⁣
• 1 cup water⁣
• 2 tablespoons sugar⁣
• 1/2 teaspoon salt⁣
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil⁣
• 1 cup all-purpose flour⁣
• 2 cups oil (for frying)⁣
• 1/2 cup white sugar⁣
• 2 tablespoons cinnamon ⁣

1. Combine water, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and bring to a boil. ⁣

2. Remove from heat and add the flour. Mix until combined. Let cool, then spoon the dough into a piping bag.⁣

3. Heat 2 cups of oil in a pan. Pipe dough in long strips and fry until golden brown. Flip over and fry the other side. ⁣

4. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Roll the fried churros in the sugar mixture until coated.⁣

5. Enjoy!! ⁣

2019 Left Coast Estate White Pinot Noir and Pinot for the People

I’ve posted about earlier vintages of this wine before and have thoroughly enjoyed its unique qualities. I’ve been fascinated with this version of the Pinot Noir varietal crafted into a white wine and fermented 100% in stainless steel. I’m not sure if I expected typical Pinot Noir notes, but muted or something more pronounced, but that isn’t what this wine is. It is a white wine and drinks like one.

In the past, I’ve been delighted by the austerity of the wine. Earlier vintages have been so crisp, so clean, so lovely. And this one is too…but this one has something more.

This 2019 vintage is elegant and luxurious. It has gorgeous aromatics and a supple mouthfeel with great acid. It is the lightest straw color in the glass, but greets the drinker with bright aromas of lychee, orange blossom, and pineapple. It tastes of white raspberries, honeysuckle, and honeydew. Delightful!

This leads me to one last reminder for 𝐏𝐢𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞, the program which allows 𝐘𝐎𝐔 to name your price for a bottle (or 12) of Cali’s Cuvée Pinot Noir. Anything over $12 is donated to your choice of nonprofits selected by Left Coast Estate.

From Left Coast Estate:


2020 has been a hard year so far and we want to help. We are making our Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir more accessible with a name-your-price-campaign. Pick any price above $12 per bottle. This is an online promotion. Our Suggested Retail Price is $24. Any revenue over $11 (the cost to produce our wine) will be donated to your choice of the following nonprofits:⁣

𝐍𝐀𝐀𝐂𝐏: Works towards equal rights for all without discrimination based on race⁣

𝐒𝐚𝐥𝐮𝐝: Provides healthcare to seasonal vineyard workers and their families⁣

𝐃𝐮𝐜𝐤𝐬 𝐔𝐧𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐝: Conserves and protects wetlands and waterfowl habitat⁣

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐣𝐞𝐜𝐭: Works for a fair and effective criminal justice system in the U.S.⁣

𝐎𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐨𝐧 𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐅𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧: Aims to improve the lives of all Oregonians through philanthropy

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay 2017

Growing up, I would hear stories from my parents about when they were dating. They reminisced about glorious sun-filled days drinking wine at the Robert Mondavi Winery while eating a picnic of crusty bread, fresh cracked crab, and crumbly aged cheese. It always sounded so romantic, so idyllic, so mouthwatering!

When I was finally of age, I convinced my boyfriend at the time that we needed to go to Napa. It was as wonderful as it sounded, and the Robert Mondavi Winery stood as a glorious backdrop to this region with its California Mission style architecture, complete with bell tower.

I think of Robert Mondavi Chardonnay as the classic California Chard. With a blend of 80% of the juice aged and fermented in New French Oak for 11 months, while 20% of it was in stainless steel. This is definitely an “oaky Chardonnay,” but it is also refined.

Golden in tone, it had aromas of ripe pears and juicy pineapple. It tasted of lemon zest, with clean tropical fruit flavors, and a creamy texture. Paired with a lively chicken tikka masala, this Chardonnay opened up and had notes of toasted marshmallow and grilled peach.

Founded in 1966, Robert Mondavi has practiced sustainable wine-growing from the beginning. They are so committed to their role in sustainable practices, that they partnered with the Napa Resource Conservation District to form the Napa Sustainable Winemaking Group (NSWG) to help educated others in sustainable farming, water conservation, and other progressive methods to practice environmental responsibility.

Alto Vineyards Vidal Blanc

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I lived briefly in Central Illinois. Having come from Los Angeles, CA, I was a a bit out of my comfort zone. Then I found out there was a tasting room for Alto Vineyards, an Illinois winery, two miles from my home. Of course, I went as soon as I could.⁣

It may have only been two miles, but it seemed worlds away from the town I lived in (video below). When I arrived, there was one other customer, who didn’t stay long. ⁣

Left alone with the tasting room manager, she and I spent the better part of two hours chatting about wine and tasting! I was impressed…well, mostly. I’ll admit, the Concord Grape wine (that I refer to as alcoholic grape juice) was not for me, but the other white wines were delicious! Refreshing and beautifully voluptuous, they easily went down with or without food. ⁣

Last night I opened the Vidal Blanc and devoured it with a lemon spatchcock chicken. It was perfect with round, tropical fruit notes – lots of papaya and pineapple on the palate and floral notes of honeysuckle and jasmine on the nose. ⁣

However!!! Do you notice something missing from the label? There’s no vintage! I’m assuming this is a 2014, but can’t be certain. Regardless, it survived a cross-country move back to California and time. This wine has not gone past its prime yet and could lay down for a couple more years.

Aja Vineyards Malibu Coast Syrah

Malibu is the epitome of California living. It’s known for gorgeous beaches and coastline stretching as far as the eye can see. It is synonymous with wealth and celebrity-lifestyles. However, only a couple of miles away from the coast, there is a completely different environment. The surf gives way to jagged cut canyons, filled with native flora and fauna. The curvy roads lumber past hiking trails and rustic mom and pop establishments. There are breathtaking views and a beautiful silence. This part of Malibu seems worlds away from the clogged freeways of Los Angeles in spite of its proximity. This part of Malibu is something special.

This is where the Malibu AVA (American Viticulture Area) is located with 38 wineries registered under it. This area has hot days and cold nights, usually cooled off by the coastal fog – the perfect recipe for growing grapes.

Aja Vineyards is among these wineries. First planted in 2007 with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, the vineyard has grown to include Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and most recently, Sauvignon Blanc.

Like most in the area, Todd and Heather Greenbaum’s vineyard has been family-run. AJA stands for the initials of their children, Alec, Jack, and Amanda. While Amanda is the Winemaker, Proprietor, and Vice President of the winery, she and Todd are the faces of the vineyard. They exude warmth with a friendly and very approachable demeanor. There is no LA snobbery here – just great wine that has been clearly created out of passion and love for the craft and the vines.

This can be seen in the 2013 Malibu Coast Syrah. It is a well-crafted, complex Syrah that is round and robust. Inky purple in the glass, it smells of lavender, lilacs, roses, and spice, with fresh cracked black pepper and cherry compote. It has a good balance of acid and tannins, with flavors of ripe, bursting plums, black currants, menthol, green pepper, and smoke. It is a truly delightful and food-friendly wine. It paired well with a grilled New York Strip, Portobello mushrooms, and barbecued chicken.

You can check out this wine and others at

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Tres Leches Three Ways

I’ll make this brief and get on to the recipes. Since I met my husband, I have thoroughly enjoyed diving in Cuban cuisine – “the food of his people,” as he calls it. Tres Leches has become a staple for celebrations for us. No matter the season, it is decadent, delicious, and delightful. So, here is a video tutorial and three recipes for Tres Leches. Enjoy!

The Easy Way:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan
  3. Cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar together until smooth (about 5 minutes)
  4. While the butter and sugar are mixing, sift the flour and baking powder together
  5. Add eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla to the butter and sugar, and combine thoroughly
  6. Add flour to the mixture, a little at a time until blended, pour into pan
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean
  8. Allow the cake to cool, then poke it with a fork or toothpick to create small holes
  9. Whisk together the whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk, then pour over the cake
  10. While the milks are absorbing into the cake, whip the heavy whipping cream, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla together until thick (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down)
  11. Spread the whipped cream over the cake and decorate as you like. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then enjoy!


The Harder, More Authentic Way:

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease a 10×15 baking pan
  3. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form
  4. Gradually add the sugar until the mixture is glossy
  5. Add in the egg yolks one at a time, until thoroughly combined
  6. Gradually add in the flour, baking powder, milk, and vanilla until combined
  7. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean
  8. Allow the cake to cool, then poke it with a fork or toothpick to create small holes
  9. Whisk together the whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk, then pour over the cake
  10. While the milks are absorbing into the cake, whip the heavy whipping cream, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla together until thick (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down)
  11. Spread the whipped cream over the cake and decorate as you like. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then enjoy!


Chocolate Tres Leches (not traditional, but delicious!):

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate milk
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan
  3. Cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar together until smooth (about 5 minutes)
  4. While the butter and sugar are mixing, sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa together
  5. Add eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla to the butter and sugar, and combine thoroughly
  6. Add flour to the mixture, a little at a time until blended, pour into pan
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean
  8. Allow the cake to cool, then poke it with a fork or toothpick to create small holes
  9. Whisk together the chocolate milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk, then pour over the cake
  10. While the milks are absorbing into the cake, whip the heavy whipping cream, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla together until thick (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down)
  11. Spread the whipped cream over the cake and decorate as you like. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then enjoy!


*Thanks to Ed Lima for the use of his music in the video. Check him out at

Featured Wine of the Week – Mumm Rosé Brut

Mumm Rosé Brut – what a delightful way to celebrate! ⁣

It has cheerful golden pink bubbles with rich, creamy red berry flavors created in the Méthode Traditionnelle process. I drank this over the weekend to celebrate my anniversary, but there were other reasons to celebrate: a socially distant visit from dear friends and the beginning of life slowly returning to normal as stores and restaurants open once again. ⁣

Mumm has been a long-time favorite of mine since visiting their stunning winery in Napa years ago. While their sparkling wines are the main attraction, the fine art gallery at the estate with historical photos of old Hollywood stole my heart. ⁣

Ice Wine

Let’s talk ice wine.

Ice wine is a style of dessert wine where the grapes are harvested when they become frozen on the vine. Since only the water in the grape freezes, the sugars and other components of the fruit become concentrated. This produces a wine with exceptional sweetness and flavor.

I’ve heard that winemakers are one part artist, one part mad scientist, and one part gambler. I think this could be even more true for the producers of ice wine. They allow the grapes to hang on the vine longer than typical, usually well after other grapes have been picked. Then, when the grapes freeze, they need to be harvested within a few hours. It’s an extremely risky operation, and whole crops can be lost.

That said, the result is lovely when all goes well. The wine is high in acidity and has bright, complex flavors. It’s the perfect digestive and pairs well with an assortment of desserts from cheese to ice cream.

This week, I did a side by side tasting of two different ice wines. Both were made with the Vidal Blanc grape, which grows well in cooler climates and is known for its high acidity and sugar content. Both ice wines were from North America. One was from Canada, which is known for ice wine, and the other was from Ohio, which is not known for wine at all. While this may not seem like a fair comparison, they were surprisingly similar and delicious.

Now on to the tasting!

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The first I tasted was a 2005 Chateau des Chames Vidal Ice Wine, VQA, from Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada. This bottle has been in my collection for several years, and it has aged nicely. Auburn in hue, it had great acidity and a lingering finish. Floral notes along with honeyed raisins and caramel apple flavors were prevalent. There was a slightly musty taste, which makes me think there may have been some Botrytis* when harvested (*wine nerd alert – this is a fungus that removes the water in grapes in some dessert wines, like Sauternes and Tokaji). While this is unusual in ice wine, it can be present.

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The second wine was gifted to me by a friend a few years ago: 2013 Debonne Vineyards Vidal Blanc Ice Wine from Grand River Valley, Ohio, United States. Not knowing much about Ohio wine, I didn’t know what to expect. Grand River Valley is on the edge of Lake Eerie, so it has similar climate conditions as the first wine I tried from Niagara-on-the-Lake. This wine was delicious and definitely comparable to the first! It was golden brown with a bright sweetness, good acid, and long finish. There were flavors of poached pear, grilled pineapple, and caramel.

Cline Cellars – 2011 Live Oak Zinfandel

I’m finding this time in quarantine to be a wonderful time to drink those wines I’ve been holding on to. This week I finally opened up a 2011 Cline Cellars Live Oak Zinfandel from Contra Costa County.

I love Cline wines and I love what they do. They practice their own sustainable farming they have named “The Green String Method.” With minimal human intervention, they use sheep and goats to clear the weeds from the vineyard and cover crops to feed the soil. They reuse all organic waste and compost it, then introduce it into the vineyard through the drip irrigation system. Volcanic rock is crushed to add minerals to the earth and owls are used for pest control. Furthermore, 100% of the energy used on the farm is solar.

These sustainable practices are not only good for the environment, but the wines are also absolutely fantastic! I used to belong to the wine club because I love every one of their wines and their winemaking style. Big, bold, delicious!

The 2011 Live Oak Zinfandel has been in my collection since its release, and it did not disappoint.  Dark garnet in color, there were lovely aromas of candied violets, boysenberry jam, and toasty baking spices. There was a good amount of acid on the palate with well-balanced tannins. Honeyed dates, stewed black fruits, cinnamon, and Turkish Delight flavors lingered in a long finish on my tongue. Delightful indeed!

I would have liked to enjoy this with braised lamb shank or a nice grilled rib-eye, however, I did manage to have it with a luxurious chunk of gorgonzola cheese. Cheers to deeply pleasurable moments and wines during this time!