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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.

 

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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Transformed Thanksgiving Leftovers – Turkey Croquettes, Turkey & Gravy Papa Rellenas, and Cilantro Garlic Cream Sauce (3 Recipes)

I’m one of those people who loves Thanksgiving leftovers. This year I prepared an 18 pound turkey for four people. I know that sounds crazy, but I had a plan.

On Black Friday, I firmly placed myself back in the kitchen and created Turkey Croquettes along with Turkey and Gravy Papa Rellenas. I’m not going to say these were easy or quick. They weren’t. They piled up a more than a few more dirty dishes in my sink. They were, however, delicious, hearty, and fun to make!

Turkey Croquettes

Ingredients (makes 12 croquettes):

  • 2 cups turkey (shredded in a food processor)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespooon cilantro or parsley
  • Salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups of breadcrumbs

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a pot at medium heat
  2. Add in the onion and cook until soft
  3. Stir in the flour and cook for two minutes
  4. Slowly add in the milk. The sauce should be thick. If it seems thinner, add in a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Add the sherry and nutmeg and combine completely
  6. Stir in the turkey. Mix completely, then set aside. Add salt and cilantro to taste
  7. Beat the eggs in a bowl and set aside, pour bread crumbs in a separate bowl and set aside
  8. When the turkey mixture has cooled slightly, shape the mixture into smallish – 2 inch long logs.
  9. Roll the logs in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. Do this twice for each log, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  10. Heat canola oil in a pan to 350 degrees and crisp each croquette to a golden brown. These can also be deep fried. Serve with cilantro garlic cream sauce or gravy

Turkey & Gravy Papa Rellenas

Ingredients (makes 8 papa rellenas):

  • 1 cup turkey, diced
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup stuffing
  • 1/4 cup gravy
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups breadcumbs

Directions:

  1. Start forming a scoop of mashed potatoes into a hollow ball in your hand (about 1/4 cup)
  2. Add some stuffing (about 1 tablespoon), then add 1 teaspoon of turkey and 1/4 teaspoon of gravy
  3. Massage the potatoes around the turkey and stuffing and form into a ball
  4. Set aside and repeat
  5. Beat the eggs in a bowl and set aside, pour bread crumbs in a separate bowl and set aside
  6. Roll the papa rellenas in the egg, then in the bread crumbs, coating completely. Do this twice on each papa rellena, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours
  7. Heat canola oil in a pan to 350 degrees and crisp each papa rellena to a golden brown. These can also be deep fried. Serve with cranberry and gravy

Cilantro Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sour cream (or Greek Yogurt)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients and chill until ready to use. Enjoy!

Spicy Cranberry Sauce

Hi there! I took a little break, but I’m back!⁣⁣
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I’ll admit, I’m a fan of canberry (canned cranberry) sauce. It’s a terrible confession, I know. ⁣⁣
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This year, though, I’ve been craving some fresh, homemade cran. I haven’t made it in years and was reminded of a recipe from my old friend, Travis, who I’ve reconnected with recently. So, I decided to wing it, with his recipe in mind, and the result was fabulous! This cranberry sauce is spicy and flavorful. Enjoy! ⁣⁣
⁣⁣
• 12 oz fresh cranberries⁣⁣
• 1 12 oz can of ginger ale (𝘐 𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘊𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘥𝘢 𝘋𝘳𝘺 𝘉𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘎𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳 𝘈𝘭𝘦)⁣⁣
• 1/2 cup orange juice⁣⁣
• The zest and juice from 1 orange⁣⁣
• 1 cup sugar⁣⁣
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon⁣⁣
• 1/2 teaspoon cloves⁣⁣
• 1/4 teaspoon allspice⁣⁣
⁣⁣
𝘊𝘰𝘮𝘣𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘱𝘰𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘣𝘰𝘪𝘭. 𝘉𝘰𝘪𝘭 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝟷𝟸-𝟷𝟻 𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘵𝘦𝘴 𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘭 𝘴𝘢𝘶𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘯𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘺. 𝘓𝘦𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘰𝘭 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦. 𝘊𝘢𝘯 𝘣𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝟸 𝘥𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘢𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘥.⁣⁣

Butterkin Soup

We’ve had a brief, but wonderful cooling here in Southern California. Of course, temperatures are scheduled to go up again this week, but over the weekend, I took advantage of the cooler weather to make some Autumn soup and fresh bread. ⁣⁣
⁣⁣
These are butterkins – a cross between butternut squash and pumpkin – and they are delicious! They are everything I ever wanted in a squash. 😉⁣⁣
⁣⁣
Here’s the #recipe for this quick, easy, and delicious soup:⁣⁣
• 1 tablespoon olive oil⁣⁣
• 1 small onion, chopped⁣⁣
• 1 clove garlic, minced⁣⁣
• 1 teaspoon fresh sage⁣⁣
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika⁣
• 1 medium butternut squash (or 2 butterkins), cubed⁣⁣
• 1 32 oz. container of chicken or vegetable broth⁣⁣
• Salt and pepper to taste⁣⁣
⁣⁣
Directions:⁣⁣
1. Sauté the onion, garlic, and sage with the olive oil in a large pot until the onion is soft and clear⁣⁣
⁣⁣
2. Add in the smoked paprika, broth and squash and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cover pot. Let cook for 30 minutes.⁣⁣
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3. Remove the pot from the heat and either transfer the soup to a blender or use an immersion blender until the soup is smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

Bonny Doon Vineyard: Biodynamic Wines or “Aliens Exist!”

I received the most wonderful package, which is going to take me on a journey through 𝐛𝐢𝐨𝐝𝐲𝐧𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐜 𝐰𝐢𝐧𝐞.⁣

𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐧𝐲 𝐃𝐨𝐨𝐧 𝐕𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐲𝐚𝐫𝐝 is known for doing things a little differently. Go to their website, and you will be greeted with the image of a Jules Verne-esque spaceship projecting a beam down on a farm. The original “Rhone Ranger,” Randall Grahm was one of the first in California to experiment with Rhone varietals. Due to the nature of the grapes, Randall began practicing biodynamic farming. By engaging in this type of viticulture, he found the grapes took on more unique qualities that created beautiful and lively wines; in his words, “the most vibrant wines possible.”⁣

Biodynamic farming is similar to organic farming in that natural elements are used on the crops versus pesticides or herbicides. However, biodynamic agriculture goes a few steps further. There is a focus on the health and well-being of the soil. The practices are intended to “restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony.” Cover crops, crop rotation, and the use of animals for manure, weed, and pest control is used. There is also a spiritual and mystical element to it, including the preparation of compounds that are said to revitalize the soil. An example of a “compound” is the practice of filling a cow’s horn with cow manure and burying it in the ground in the Fall to decompose during the winter so it will be used as fertilizer in the spring.⁣

Please read below for reviews on four of Bonny Doon Vineyard’s wines.⁣

Thank you to @bonnydoonvineyard @social.bacon

𝐁𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐲 𝐃𝐨𝐨𝐧 𝐕𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐲𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝟐𝟎𝟏𝟗 𝐏𝐢𝐜𝐩𝐨𝐮𝐥⁣

“Picpoul” or “lip-stinger,” this delightful wine is high in acid and has tangy flavors of Meyer lemon, apple, and white flowers. I’m not sure if it stung my lips, but it was certainly lip-smacking good! ⁣

I wanted to pair this with some fresh oysters or a nice Cioppino. That would have been delicious! Since I couldn’t find the right seafood at the market, I went a completely different way and paired it with a savory Japanese curry, which was delightful!⁣

I tasted it on a Root Day, according to the Biodynamic Calendar. This is not generally considered a good day to taste wine, but it was delicious nonetheless. ⁣

𝟐𝟎𝟏𝟗 𝐁𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐲 𝐃𝐨𝐨𝐧 𝐕𝐢𝐧 𝐆𝐫𝐢𝐬 𝐝𝐞 𝐂𝐢𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐑𝐨𝐬é or “𝘗𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩”⁣

With 79% Grenache, 5% Grenache Blanc, 5% Grenache Gris, 5% Vermentino, 3% Cinsault, 1.5% Picpoul, and 1.5% Clairette Blanche, this is quite the blend! This is the type of blend I call, “Everything but the Kitchen Sink.” You may notice this wine also has white varietals – this is unusual in that rosé is typically made out of red grapes. I’m discovering more and more the unique and fun creations coming out of Bonny Doon Vineyard, and I love them!⁣

Seriously, I could drink the whole bottle in one sitting (and anyone who knows me IRL knows I’m a 1 or 2 glass kind of girl – as much as I love wine, I am, and always have been, a lightweight). This pink wine is delightful in hue and smells gorgeous with notes of strawberries and cotton candy. It tastes divine – rounded and full bodied with a good amount of acid and flavors of sweet plums, bursting berries, and even a little rhubarb.⁣

From the label: 𝘞𝘦 𝘧𝘢𝘳𝘮 𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦𝘴, 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘪𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘴𝘶𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘷𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦-𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘴𝘰𝘪𝘭 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘢𝘳𝘮 𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘭 𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘵𝘺. 𝘖𝘶𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘦𝘹𝘤𝘦𝘱𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵-𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘥, 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘭 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘱𝘶𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯.⁣

🍷Tasted on a root day by the Biodynamic Calendar, this is not supposed to be a good day for tasting wine, but this one was quite delightful.⁣

🍷Paired with a Vice Presidential Debate ( – pairing NOT recommended – ) and some aged Gouda (highly recommended).⁣
⁣⁣

2018 𝐁𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐲 𝐃𝐨𝐨𝐧 𝐕𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐲𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐋𝐞 𝐂𝐢𝐠𝐚𝐫 𝐕𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐭, “𝘊𝘶𝘷é𝘦 𝘖𝘶𝘮𝘶𝘢𝘮𝘶𝘢”

𝟐𝟎𝟏𝟗 𝐁𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐲 𝐃𝐨𝐨𝐧 𝐕𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐲𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐋𝐞 𝐂𝐢𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐁𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐜, “𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩.”

𝐀𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐬 𝐞𝐱𝐢𝐬𝐭!⁣⁣👽⁣
⁣⁣⁣
At least, according to the 1954 village council of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, they do. They were so “𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘣𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘩𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘧𝘭𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘢𝘶𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘳 ‘𝘧𝘭𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘤𝘪𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘴’ 𝘮𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘥𝘰 𝘥𝘢𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘺𝘢𝘳𝘥𝘴…𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘯 𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘩𝘪𝘣𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘧𝘭𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘢𝘶𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘳 𝘧𝘭𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘤𝘪𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘺𝘢𝘳𝘥𝘴.”⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
The label goes on to talk about Oumuamua. the cigar-shaped comet or asteroid spotted in October 2017. Because it exhibited non-gravitational acceleration, plus its shape and unusual shininess, some experts theorized it might actually be a spaceship that was accelerating with the aid of a solar sail.⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
With that, I give you 𝐁𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐲 𝐃𝐨𝐨𝐧 𝐕𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐲𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝟐𝟎𝟏𝟖 𝐋𝐞 𝐂𝐢𝐠𝐚𝐫 𝐕𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐭, “𝘊𝘶𝘷é𝘦 𝘖𝘶𝘮𝘶𝘢𝘮𝘶𝘢” and the 𝟐𝟎𝟏𝟗 𝐋𝐞 𝐂𝐢𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐁𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐜, “𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩.”⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
The “𝘊𝘶𝘷é𝘦 𝘖𝘶𝘮𝘶𝘢𝘮𝘶𝘢” is a gorgeous blend of 52% Grenache, 35% Cinsault, and 13% Syrah. A dark ruby color in the glass, this wine has aromas of dark cherries, pepper, and blackberries. On the palate, it tastes of blueberry compote with black pepper, baking spices, blood orange, and leather. This is definitely a bottle I would greet aliens with to introduce them to the fruits of our Earth.⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
The 𝘓𝘦 𝘊𝘪𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘉𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘤, blend of 46% Grenache Blanc, 34% Vermentino, and 20% Clairette Blanche, had a gentle bouquet of peaches and cream and pineapple that played with a creamy mouthfeel, balanced acid, and a long, long finish. There were tropical fruit notes on the palate along with Fuji apple, orange and lime zest, followed by some herbal qualities- sage and something green and stemmy.⁣⁣⁣
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🍷Tasted on a Flower Day, according to the Biodynamic Calendar – a good day to taste wine. And so it was!⁣⁣⁣
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🍷Paired with an episode of Season 2 of The Crown and hearty carnitas tacos. Both wines paired nicely.⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣

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! ⁣

Churros

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: https://www.zulaykitchen.com/blogs/recipe/churros-recipe

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 ⁣

Directions:⁣
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. https://leftcoastwine.orderport.net/wines/Pinot-For-The-People

From Left Coast Estate:

𝐏𝐈𝐍𝐎𝐓 𝐅𝐎𝐑 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐏𝐄𝐎𝐏𝐋𝐄⁣

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 ajavineyards.com.

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