“Hey Girl…I love SAHMs”

Two friends.  Two everyday locations.  Two sightings of Ryan Gosling in two days.  Posted too late for me to stalk.  I know, I know.  Generally, I am not starstruck.  I think about how I would like people to respond to me if I were just trying to grab some breakfast or do some shopping.  I play it cool even through the thrill of recognition.  If the opportunity arises, I interact as I would with any stranger.  But I have a feeling that a Gosling sighting might lead to a rapid descent into giggling school-girl.

It did lead to a hilarious game of “Hey, Girl” from the perspective of a mom of young children.  The conversation began with joking about how we could have our kids “run away” right into him.  He’d say, “Hey Girl, cute kids.”  Our eyes would meet and he’d throw Eva to the wind.  And since we were already in dream land, we continued with the fantasy.  I invite you to play along. Or if you have gotten this far and you are a married male, you’re welcome for the tips.

“Hey Girl, you look so sexy in the yoga pants with a smear of Mac and Cheese.”

“Hey Girl, is that Day 2 or Day 3 hair you got goin’ on?”

“Hey Girl, those stretch marks are just souvenirs, signs of the strength of your body.”

“Hey Girl, don’t get up, I’ve got the dishes.  Then I’ll give you a massage.”

“Hey Girl, you gonna eat those crackers on the floor of your mini van? I’m kinda hungry.”

“…and I’ll vacuum it for you when we get home.  In my boxer briefs.”

“Hey Girl, those aren’t grey hairs, they’re wisdom strands.”

“Hey Girl, do you want these washed in hot or cold?”

“Hey Girl, I love watching you through the windows I am washing.”

“Hey Girl, sorry if my hands are rough.  It is all the dishes I have been doing.”

“Hey Girl, how about some hot tea?  Then we can snuggle and watch Downton Abbey.”

“Hey Girl, cleaning tubs is my specialty.  Relax with this Brunello and trashy magazine.”

Had to get wine in there somewhere, right?  Play along.  What would Mr. G say to you?  And when you read this, Ryan, which I know you will since you read everything written about you, I am right here in Austin and I’d be happy to take you to the hotspots in town.   I know where they have the best playgrounds and children’s menus.  Bet Eva can’t say that.

A Bit More From Biltmore

When a wine contains your two of your favorite grapes, you expect to love it.  So when I saw the Biltmore Century Red Wine contained Sangiovese and Merlot, I was on board, expecting great things.

Although it suggests pairing with Prime Rib or Barbeque Ribs, I chose to play on the Sangiovese and pair it with Bilinski’s Organic Italian Herb Sausage.  I sauteed some onions and red peppers and made a side of Gemelli with Marinara.

The wine is a vibrant red, with a bit of fuschia.  The nose is full of tart cherry with a bit of smoke.  As it opened I got a hint of vanilla.  The tasting notes were a match.  A ton of tart cherry and a hint of plum with the most flavor at mid-palate.

When I started writing, I was candid about the fact that some of my pairings may not work.  I was off on this one.  The wine was tasty to sip, but didn’t add anything to the food.  Nor did it really detract.  I didn’t do much.  Since we had company, we opened something else to finish the meal.  I preserved the wine to try the next day.

As I prepared last night’s dinner, I poured a small glass to try again.  Some wines do well with a little air and time.  I found this wine unchanged, which can be a good or bad thing.  Again, very pleasant for sipping, but still one note.  I enjoyed the wine, but at nearly $16, I hope for more complexity.  I will own that it may have just been a pairing miss, but I would like just a bit more from this Biltmore.

*{Disclosure: I was provided with this wine from PR Firm, Folsom & Associates. All statements and opinions expressed in this article are my own.}

My Favorite Kind of Evening

If you have littles, you know how hard it can be to make plans ahead of time.   The best laid plans are easily derailed by a runny nose or a meltdown brought on by a missed nap.  My good friends understand this, so we are all fans of the last-minute plans.  One example, that is quickly becoming a tradition with my sweet neighbor, is the last-minute potluck. The conversation usually begins like this. “I need to get out of my house.  What are your plans for dinner?”  And it usually ends with, “I’ll be over in 30 minutes.” 

Now, if asked to describe my ideal evening, it would be good food, good wine, good friends, on a good porch.  We had all of those last night.  We must have been on the same wavelength because we were both planning on Portobellos for entrees and a tomato salad.  Our combined effort became a delightful Italian feast, alfresco. Our spread included:

Grilled Portobellos marinated with balsamic, olive oil, and herbs

Sautéed Portobellos with fresh mozzarella

Tomato Basil Salad

Tomato, Cucumber, and Olive Salad

Roasted Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes

Grilled Ciabatta with Goat Cheese and Grilled Red Pepper

Arugula Salad with Parmesan and Lemon

We paired the meal with a  2007 Wellington Meeks Hilltop Zinfandel.  Gorgeous berries and just enough spice.  Black pepper and licorice.  Intense fruit and soft, smooth finish.  Super yum.  A good rule of thumb when pairing food and wine is to match regions.  Cheese from the Loire Valley?  Open a Vouvray or Cab Franc.  Paella on the menu? Rioja or Granacha should work. Central Italian fare?  Primitivo, Zin, or Sangiovese if you are looking for a red.  Of course, this isn’t a “rule,” just a starting point.  As your palate develops, you will know just what you want, which may or may not be a regional match.

I love a good Merlot with good chocolate and that is exactly how we ended our evening.  After a rousing game of flashlight tag, complete with an Opossum sighting, we opened a 2007 Pellegrini Cloverdale Ranch Merlot to have with a bar of Patric 70% Dark Chocolate.  The wine brought out the berry in the chocolate; the chocolate enhanced similar notes in the wine.  A perfect pairing and a perfect way to end my favorite kind of evening.

Discoveries from Columbus Weekend

Although some would question the political correctness of celebrating Columbus Day, few would argue about the long weekend. And a long weekend means more time to drink wine, especially enjoyable when you have been doing (mostly)dry weeks. We packed this weekend with equal parts productivity and revelry. Here are some fun discoveries.

On Wednesday, I joined Gusto Tastings at III Forks for an evening of Viognier.  Anatoli Levine, who writes Talk-A-Vino, happened to be in town so I invited him to join me. I thought it was a great opportunity to see what is going on here in the wine industry. Texas vs. The World is a comparative tasting of Old World, New World, and Texas wines. We tasted seventeen Viogniers including a vertical tasting from Flat Creek Estate. As luck would have it, we sat with the winemaker, Tim Drake and his lovely wife, Spring. It was a fantastic evening. In my opinion, Texas took this one. The 2011 Flat Creek was amazing. A glorious nose and equally impressive taste. I am also a fan of McPherson Cellars and the Brennan Vineyards. We even got to do a barrel tasting of the Flat Creek 2012 which is only six weeks in to a very promising journey.

I spent Friday and Saturday consumed in garage sale drudgery, motivated only by the fact that it was for charity. I realized that, in the future, I will likely take the path of less torture and donate both the items and some money. Needless to say, I was ready for a glass of wine at the end of the day. I had been wanting to try a sample that I recently received from Mommy Juice wines*. Great name and marketing. The white is 100% Chardonnay and the red is a blend of mostly Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab Franc, with a dash of this and that. I am a tough sell on Chardonnay, especially entry-level wines, but I really liked the red blend. It was a very nice, easy drinking wine.  Berry nose with a hint of vanilla. I tasted a lot of Bing Cherry and some brighter red fruit. At about $10, it makes a perfect Monday wine. And I know many Mommy’s that need a little juice at the end of a Monday, or Tuesday, or any day.

On Sunday, the hubs and I headed out to Flat Creek Estate for Grape Jam. The event featured wines from eight wineries and music. I love seeing the growth in the Texas wine industry. Collectively, there are some very exciting things going on here and I love trying new producers. I was introduced to new grapes like Bending Branch’s Tannat and Black Spanish grapes of Dry Comal Creek. I found some new loves in Flat Creek’s Super Texan and Pinot Blanc. More importantly, I was able to spend time with some fabulous people. I talked at length with Rick Naber, the owner, and Tim Drake, the winemaker. I came away with a better sense of the challenges and the tenacious spirit of the Texas winemaker. But that is a whole different post.

On Monday, after my man trimmed the trees, and the kids and I hauled the branches, I headed to Whole Foods for a …PIE FIGHT! The event kicked off the fundraising efforts of Les Dames E’scoffier. They have some great items up for auction. No matter where you are in the country, if you love food and wine, there is something for you. Check it out at www.austinfoodfight.org. Because my partner, Scott Calvert of The Cake Plate, and I had the most Social Media buzz (thank you!) we got to go last. We faced the reigning champion, Chef Josh Watkins and his partner Jennie Chen of Miso Hungry. I was doing pretty well at dodging and weaving, but they took us in the end. Scott was a true gentleman and took most of the hits. And speaking of hits? I hit a JUDGE. In the FACE. My thumb got stuck in the melting crust and my frisbee attempt failed miserably. Oh my goodness, I was mortified and profusely apologetic. Other than my egregious throwing error, it was a great evening.

Tonight, we are headed out again to The Taste of Kenichi, an event introducing their new Executive Chef, Richard Lee. It should be fabulous! I’ll keep you posted on the yummies. Cheers!

*Mommy Juice wine was provided as a media sample.

I Heart NY, Even More

In February, I was first introduced to the fabulous Rieslings in the Finger Lakes region when I visited Lamoreaux Landing.  In July, the quality was confirmed with a sampling of eight Rieslings which were sent to me by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.  Last week, I had the opportunity to, once again, participate in a virtual tasting with eight additional producers, showcasing their 2011 Rieslings.

Let me just start with a disclaimer.  I adore Dry Rieslings.  Crisp and complex, shale and stone fruit, acidity with balance.  A delightful glass of wine.  I also love the addition of residual sugar when I am having salty cheese, spicy Thai, or pouring for my family matriarchs.  Yes, our moms love the sweeter Rieslings.  That being said, I admit that I may be an easy sell, but these wines are really easy to sell.  There is something for everyone.  Want an Old World style with yeast nose and a lemon finish?  Try Ravines.   How about the soft, floral fruit in Sheldrake Point?  Something with more classic stone fruit?  Swedish Hill is lovely.  There was so much diversity in these wines.

I learned from my last attempt at tasting eight wines at one time.  I didn’t feel like I was able to give the last few wines the attention I gave to the first few.  Also, I had a hard time focusing on the wine and the listening to the winemakers while trying to tweet.  What can I say?  I am new to this game.  So, I spread out the wines, tasting a few at a time, pairing with different foods, and taking notes so that I could really focus when it came time for the virtual panel.

When the wines arrived on Monday, my brother, who happens to be a fabulous chef,  was in town. My whole family was here so I thought it was the perfect time to start tasting.  He made a Mediterranean spread and we opened three bottles, two dry and one medium sweet.  I tried the wines from Ravines Wine Cellar, Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars, and the Fox Run Vineyards the first night.  I enjoyed all three.  We all thought they were delicious.  The Dr. Konstantin Frank seemed to pair best with the food, and they really liked the Fox Run.   My parents both prefer a sweeter wine.  The Fox Run has enough fruit and sugar to keep them happy with the complexity that my siblings enjoy.  I would drink any of them again.

I shared the Lakewood Vineyards and the Knapp Winery with neighbors.  The Lakewood had a beautiful nose-vanilla, stone fruit, and citrus.  Fruit-forward, a big mid-palate, and a crisp, clean finish.  The Knapp was really interesting.  The nose, to me, was just like the vanilla coating on the outside of white Tic Tacs.  I bet you’ve never read that in a wine description before.  Silly, I know, but that was all I could think about when I was drinking it.  This was a favorite of some of the tweeters. Some of my neighbors didn’t think they liked white wine.  It seems they just haven’t tried the right ones.

On Thursday, I planned ahead and made Tom Kha to enjoy with a glass after the chat.  I opened the wines from Lucas Vineyards, the Sheldrake Point Winery, and the Swedish Hill Winery.  I really enjoyed all three of these wines.  If pressed, I would say that the Sheldrake Point stood out to me.  I like to taste before I read the descriptors.  I picked up on the tropical, stone and citrus medley, and I noted something floral but couldn’t place it.  When I read “lilac,” it took me right back childhood and my walk to school, stopping to smell the heavy blossoms.  So, I guess I’d have to say that this wine wins on sentiment.

The winemakers all agreed that 2011 was a challenging year due to the weather.  You wouldn’t know it.   They made some beautiful wines. The price points ranged from $12-$30 so there is something for every palate and every budget.   Once again, many thanks to Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for providing me with these samples and for all you are doing to promote your local wineries.  If you want to learn more about the region and winemaking in general, their website is a great resource.   I am really looking forward to my next visit.

Disclaimer: The wines and photos were provided by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for review.

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