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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)

GUAVA/CREAM CHEESE FILLING

Ingredients:

Directions:

  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.

 

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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!

 

Ingredients:

  • 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

 

Directions:

  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.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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.

Seriously.

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!

Seriously.

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.

 

BASIC MACARON SHELL – Italian Method

Ingredients:

 

Directions:

  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.

EASY RASPBERRY BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

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

 

Directions:

  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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Featured Wine of the Week

Even when I was a new wine drinker, there was something about Rhone varietals that I loved more than anything else.  I would take a Syrah any day over a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot.  Can you believe it?  However, there was something so juicy, so spicy, so lovely about Rhone varietals that I just fell in love with them.

f8c5d574-a003-47b5-b08c-6cf0b55e1ca1In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, some Rhone varietals include Syrah, Viognier, Grenache, Grenache Blanc (a different varietal than Grenache – not the white version of one), Mourvedre, and Rousanne, to name a few.

Most recently I’ve become enamored of GSMs, or Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre as a blend.  So, when I went to a local wine bar the other day, I asked for one.  What I got was a 2016 Kivel Stadt Cellars “Father’s Watch” Red Blend.  It was a GSM, with one addition:  32% Carignane.  This wine was completely unexpected.

699d1173-c58c-49d3-bd1b-3eb86969594bSince I went into it blindly at first, I thought I was drinking a wine from France.  It was earthy, with bit of funk – the usual signs of an “Old World” wine.  I was wrong.  This wine was from Mendocino County in California! I was amazed and delighted.  I decided right then and there I needed to feature this wine.

Details:

Kivel Stadt Cellars

2016 “Father’s Watch” Red Blend

32% Carignane, 27% Grenache Noir, 22% Syrah, 19% Mourvedre

13.1% Alcohol

81% Venturi Vinyard, Mendocino County AVA, CA

19% Naggiar Vineyard, Sierra Foothills AVA, CA

 

On the Bottle:

“My father’s watch keeps perfect time, ever since his father bought it in 1946.  Great watches are a blend of precision, craft and creativity.  This red Rhone-style blend is like that, the perfect melange of art and science.”

 

Tasting Notes:

90b0f868-3e62-4487-9b24-dd7444043102Inky and deep garnet in color, this wine paints the glass.  Long, viscous legs seductively slink down the wine glass, beckoning and hinting at the voluptuousness to come.  Primal clay and earth aromas are potent, along with spices, pepper and bell pepper.  Finally, I can wait no longer.  I taste and I am intoxicated by perfumed roses and chewy tannins.  Herbaceous flavors of artichoke and sour plum, with pepper over the top dance in my mouth.  This is luscious. This is divine.  This is what wine should be.

Featured Wine (Event) of the Week

Happy Wine Wednesday!  I’m dreaming of bubbles this morning after attending a super fun event put on by J Vineyards at the PaliHouse in Los Angeles.  It was advertised as a wine and cheese interactive tasting led by Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock of J Vineyards and Francois Robin of Fromage France, followed by a cheese and wine soiree.

So, let me get this straight…one of my favorite Sonoma wineries was putting on an event with a French Cheesemonger? Um….yes!  Yes please!

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I’m not sure what I expected, but I did not expect the wonderful cheese and wine extravaganza I got to enjoy!  There was a bar pouring four beautiful wines from J Vineyards:  J Sparkling Brut Rose, J Cuvee 20, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir.  More on those in a moment…  There was a giant table in the middle of the courtyard filled with several different French cheeses, including Brillat-Severin, Tomme de Savoie, Bleu D’Auvergne, and Beaufort.  There were olives, almonds, berries, honey, and of course, the requisite bread.

Oh. My. God.  I was in heaven!

As if all this wasn’t enough, a table in the corner held the largest display of stacked champagne glasses filled with sparkling wine I had ever seen.  It was so impressive, I had to check it out to make sure it was real.  And of course, it was glorious and lovely.

e6dcb2cb-e3e5-4c26-b17a-55599ad92bdcThen came the best part of the evening. I had the opportunity to talk to Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock at length.  We discussed sustainable farming, drip irrigation, and she even told me about a technique J Vineyards uses where infrared photos are taken from an airplane of each separate area of the vineyard to determine what different blocks of grapes might need.  Fascinating!

The wines were delicious, and I did my due diligence by tasting all four.  So, without further ado, here are the tasting notes:

J Brut Rose: The first wine I tried was the J Brut Rose.  I have a fondness for sparkling roses, and this was no different.  The rose gold color was inviting, with lively bubbles and soft aromas of minerals and rose petals.  It was crisp and dry on the palate, with good acidity and flavors of strawberries, currants and green apples.  This wine retails for around $40.  It paired nicely with the harder French cheeses.

60bee7d2-b66e-4240-85dc-84feecbb74b4J Cuvee 20:  I tried this sparkler next and had it again before I left.  It was my favorite of the evening.  It was a light golden hue with a slight sweetness both on the nose and the palate.  It had a lovely effervescence with flavors of honeyed almonds, candied lemon, peach, and a slight flinty minerality. This wine retails for around $40.  I paired it with the bleu cheese and the brie.

2017 Pinot Gris:  As I’ve mentioned in my blog before, I am usually not a fan of lighter wines like Pinot Gris, but this one was delightful!  The bartender gave me a rather large glass of it, and I drank it all.  It had intoxicating tropical fruit aromas, with pineapple, papaya and lychee on the palate.  It had great acidity and paired beautifully with the stinky and soft Epoisses.  This wine retails for around $20.

2016 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir:  This cooler climate Pinot Noir had delicious notes of raspberries, vanilla and spice on the nose.  Flavors of blueberry, lilac, and black currant with brioche and spice fill the palate.  This wine retails for around $40.  I paired it with the Tomme.

 

 

Vegan Chocolate and Granola Pancakes

I may have mentioned, I have a very rambunctious toddler.  I wish I could bottle his energy.  Every morning he wakes up and is ready for the day.  I mean, READY!  He is ready to run!  He is ready to play!  He is ready to EAT!

Seriously, my toddler can eat in the morning.  It’s his largest meal of the day.  I usually start with a cereal bar for him.  Then I go into fruit – usually a banana or an apple.  Then we have breakfast as a family.

I like to make something protein based for breakfast, but recently, my boy has learned how to request food.  There is nothing he loves more than pancakes.  He can eat his weight in them!

One morning he requested pancakes, and I had nothing in the house.  So, I went to my pantry and started to get creative.  From that, I created this recipe, which has become a family favorite.  I tweak it from time to time, sometimes omitting the cocoa and granola to make simple pancakes.  I also like to add cinnamon for a bit of spice or a sliced banana for some sweetness.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup granola

 

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Create a well and pour in the water and oil.
  3. Whisk all the ingredients together until blended.
  4. Warm a pan on medium heat and spray with cooking spray or oil.
  5. Pour in small amounts of the batter and sprinkle some granola on each cake.
  6. Cook until bubbles start to appear through the dough.
  7. Turn each cake over and cook for about 1 minute longer.
  8. Serve with condiments of your choice. I like to eat mine plain, but they can be served with maple syrup, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, Nutella, or…?

Featured Wine of the Week

Happy Wine Wednesday!  Here we are again, and I thought it was only appropriate to feature a wine that speaks of Spring, warm weather and the #superbloom!  Today I am featuring another wine from Urban Press Winery, a Grenache Blanc with the name, “Fiore,” meaning flower.

bfa3b1a9-f4c6-4ca7-9fb7-ec3f7a7c0400This wine has become my hands down favorite white at the moment.  I’ve always loved a good Grenache Blanc, since I was first introduced to it years ago at Bouchon in Santa Barbara.  At that time, I got to try a Tercero Wines Grenache Blanc.  I took a picture of the bottle and went on a hunt for more.  I wasn’t able to find it, but fast forward to a couple of years later, and I was working an event where I got to meet Owner/Winemaker, Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines and taste his other beautiful creations.

Grenache Blanc is still hard to find, and when I find a good one, I latch on to it.  Giovanni D’Andrea, Owner and Winemaker of Urban Press, has filled that niche for me – especially since it’s so easy for me to get here in Los Angeles.  The 2016 vintage is good, but the 2017 “Fiore” is absolutely fantastic!  It’s fresh, floral and fruity.  Yum!  The scent of this wine is so delicious, I don’t know if I want to smell it or drink it.  No, that’s a lie.  I want to drink it.

So, here are the tasting notes.  Cheers!

Details:

Urban Press Winery

2017 Grenache Blanc “Fiore”

14.2% Alcohol

Alexander Valley, Sonoma County

California, USA

Tasting Notes:

9c8fbe66-df75-4052-933a-0c3ad442715cThis lustrous wine is immediately inviting, with its golden hue and intoxicating aromas.  Perfumed floral notes of honeysuckle and jasmine, with layered citrus is on the nose.  The wine has a playful, silky quality and bright acids.  Flavors of lime zest, lychee, honeycomb and white flowers round out the palate.  I recommend this wine if you’re stuck between a wanting a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc.  It is superb!

 

Featured Wine of the Week

I had the most extraordinary experience over the weekend by visiting a tasting room I had walked by time and time again. This time, I went in. I’m so glad I did! I discovered a beautiful space with some succulent wines. I’m going to feature a few wines from Urban Press Winery over the next few posts. They were too good to feature just one!

📚Details:

2013 Urban Press Cabernet Sauvignon

Moon Mountain District

Sonoma, California

Red Wine

🍷Tasting Notes:

Deep garnet in color, this silky Cabernet Sauvignon has aromas of ripe cherries and red fruits. On the palate it has a smooth, long finish with medium tannins and good acidity. The red fruits are present along with hints of cinnamon and cloves. There is a touch of menthol and pepper.

Healthy(ish) Granola

I’ve always loved granola.  It’s my “go to” for a healthy(ish) breakfast.  I love to mix it with Greek yogurt and fresh berries.  However, it wasn’t until I had a child that I really began to appreciate it.  Oats are magical…especially if you’re nursing.  They’re a natural way to not only get things moving, but also to increase milk output.

img_0962When my baby was only drinking breast milk, I began to make my own “Boobie Bars.”  I didn’t just eat them for breakfast, I ate them throughout the day.  They were so easy to just pop in my purse and grab any time I needed a snack.

I still make Boobie Bars just because they’re great to have around, but now I mostly make simple granola.  Each batch is basically the same, but I like to change it up if I have some fun stuff in my pantry.  My family loves it – especially when I add it to ice cream or pancakes.  Yum!

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups oats
  • 1 cup ground flaxseeds
  • 1 cup pecans
  • ½ cup chocolate chips or dried fruit (optional)
  • 1 cup maple syrup or brown rice syrup
  • ½ cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon flax oil

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all the ingredients
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy clean up)
  4. Spread the granola out on the sheet
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes

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Featured Wine of the Week

It’s #WineWednesday again!  I’ve been seeing Australian wines and vines all throughout my social media feeds.  It makes sense – this time of year is the end of their harvest season.  Here in California, we’re experiencing the opposite vine cycle, bud break, where all of the vines beginning to wake up from their winter slumber.  In Australia, grapes are being plucked and are in their beginning phases of wine.  So, it seems appropriate to feature an Australian wine today.

Details:

Yalumba

“The Y Series”

Shiraz Viognier

2015

96% Shiraz, 4% Viognier

13.5% Alcohol

South Australia

Red Wine

 

Tasting Notes:

I couldn’t wait to taste this wine after I found it.  With the addition of the Viognier (a white wine varietal) to the Shiraz, I expected it to have some roundness.  Strangely enough, the place I noticed the Viognier the most was in its aroma.  It smelled earthy with a touch of vanilla and lilac.  The wine was a beautiful deep ruby color in the glass and tasted of berries with a dusting of pepper and baking spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves at the finish.  It was well balanced with strong tannins and good acid.  It would pair nicely with pork.

 

Trivia:

This wine went through cool fermentation with whole grapes that were not pressed.  There was no oak in the winemaking process.  It is VEGAN friendly!  Strangely enough, this is difficult to find in wine since most go through a fining process, where agents such as egg whites or fish oil are used in the wine to absorb unwanted particles.

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