June 2010 archive

Palmetto Lager

We’re hot and sweaty at the Quarterdeck in Harbortown, Hilton Head. WineGirl and I have been riding bikes around the resort for the last 3 hours.
HarborTown, Hilton Head

We rolled up to the cafe, racked the cycles, and the first bottle was gone before I had a chance to review.
So, round 2!

The lager is pale in the bottle (no glass for pouring). No distinct flavor … Not smooth, not bitter, and a little nutty, says the WineGirl. A little bite at the end, says I.

I’ll give it 3 kegs.
3 of 5 Kegs

Beer Guy

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Beach Brunch for the Fam

So I mentioned that my best breakfast ever was the one the Beer Guy and I had our first morning at The Farmhouse Inn during our Wine Country 10th Anniversary Trip last year.  It was this Oat Griddle Cakes topped with strawberries, homemade whipped cream, candied walnuts, maple syrup, and the best bacon I’ve ever had.

Well, maple syrup was available, but the griddle cakes were so yummy and flavorful with all the other toppings that I just never got around to adding the syrup.

About 3 weeks after our return the Beer Guy’s brother and his wife made the trek from Memphis to Charlotte for a visit with us.  I decided to try and recreate it for our guests.  Through diligent internet searching I found this Rachel Ray recipe for Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes.  You’ll notice that the recipe calls for raisins, which makes perfect sense if you are aiming for pancakes that taste like oatmeal cookies.  I like raisins, but since my original breakfast did not have raisins and I was aiming for a recreation, I just didn’t add those into the batter.

Now, please do not fool yourselves into thinking that I attempted homemade whipped cream to top this deliciousness like The Farmhouse.  I am secure enough to admit that I did not and Cool Whip worked just fine.  I did, however, sort of whip up my own recipe for candied walnuts.  I didn’t really measure things out. Basically, I melted a couple tablespoons of butter, stirred in about a tablespoon of brown sugar, added cinnamon until it looked right, poured that over about a cup of walnuts, stirred to coat, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, then popped them in the toaster oven for a couple minutes.

Not half bad for a makeshift candied walnuts on the fly.

Breakfast was so well received by our guests, that I decided to make it for my own family last year while on our annual beach vacation.  We were there over Father’s Day and I thought it would be a nice way to treat the dad’s in our family.  So I garnered a little help for my, then 3 yo, niece…

and whipped it up again.  (Please excuse the “bed head” on each of us.)

Once again, it got rave reviews.  So, I’m not sure, then, why I was surprised that when planning for this year’s trip my sister posted this comment on my Facebook wall – “I know you are planning to make those banana waffle things again this year.”  (In case you haven’t checked out the recipe, there are mashed bananas in the batter.)

Um, well.  I hadn’t planned on it, but I guess I am now… So I gathered the ingredients, packed my handy dandy Cuisinart Griddler (love this thing, but that’s another post), and whipped it up yet again.  This time I enlisted the BG’s services as the official griddle cake flipper.

Have griddle, will travel.

Not a bad recreation, huh?


Wine Girl

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Get Me, I’m Sporty

I’ve told you that the Beer Guy is outdoorsy and adventurous and I’m not, right.  One of the things he loves to do is go biking.  Here at Sea Pines there are miles and miles and miles of bike trails.  It didn’t take BG long to discover that we could rent bikes from The Bike Doctor for a $25 for the week.  That offer was too good to pass up.  So, since I’m trying new things, I acquiesced and allowed him to rent one for me too.  In fact, the whole family rented bikes so that we could have some family excursions as well.

The sand here in Hilton Head is not as fine and sugary as the beach sand I’m used to on the Gulf.  It’s more grainy and firm.  Monday afternoon I discovered that it’s really fun to ride bikes on the beach.  I also discovered it’s a lot easier when the wind is behind you!

Since the BG is always begging me to go ride bikes with him in CLT, I decided to grant his request and go for a little biking outing with just the two of us.  We intended to just be out for ~45 min-1 hr.  For efficiency’s sake, we decided to combine our outing with running an errand to pick up the tickets for the boys pending golf day.  Well, we rode for 8 miles, and when we were about 5 min from our destination, realized that I had left the necessary paperwork to procure said golf tickets in the trunk of my car…which was parked at our villa…where we started…8 miles back.   Long story short, our 45 min outing turned into a 4.5 hr excursion, during which time we biked more than 25 miles.  (Mind you, until Monday, I had not been on a bike since I was about 10 yrs old.)  For you serious cyclists and sporty types that may not seem like a lot.  But for someone who hasn’t been on a bike in 20+ years, that was A LOT of biking, definitely adventurous, and exhausting.  Get me, I’m sporty!

Of course, no adventure is complete without lunch and the appropriate refreshments to cool you off and rejuvenate you.

But I’ll let the Beer Guy tell you about that later.  Suffice it to say, I was pretty proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and opting to something adventurous (for me at least).  I forgot how much fun it was to ride a bike, and I had a great time just being out and about with my hubby, taking in the beautiful scenery, not having a particular schedule.  Don’t tell BG, but I may be willing to do that again before we go.  4.5 hours and 25 miles on a bike – not bad for a city girl who spends most of her time in stilettos!  Get me, I’m sporty!

Wine Girl

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Beach Bound!

Beach packing list:

Bikinis, beach towel, big hat, books, sunscreen and sunglasses…

all I’m missing is a margarita and my packing is done!

The Beer Guy and I are off to Hilton Head Island, SC today. Sadly, after 5 years of living in North Carolina, this will be my first trip to the Carolina Coast. Better late than never, right?

And, by the way, this puppy wants to go too…

Can you see that she all but put herself in my beach bag?  Sorry, Little One.  The resort says “no pups allowed.”  Clearly they would change their minds if they saw this pitiful picture.  Maybe next time…

Stay tuned! We’ll keep you posted on all the food and fun!

Wine Girl

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Nessa Albari̱o РUncorked!

Welcome to the first installment of what will also become a regular spot on this blog – Uncorked! This is where I will review new wines I’ve tried or just give you my thoughts on tried and true vintages I love.  Please keep in mind that, while being a sommelier sounds like heaven to me, I have absolutely no training in this and have no “wine expert” credentials.  But, I do know what I like and am continuously working on refining my palate. 🙂

Tonight’s Uncorked! varietal is the 2009 Nessa Albariño

I picked it up because I wanted a Spanish white to go with the seafood paella I made yesterday.  I was perusing the Spanish wine section of my local Harris Teeter and noticed that this one had been granted 88 points by The Wine Advocate, so I thought I’d give it a try.

As you can see, it has a lovely golden color.  It looks beautiful and kind of bubbly in the glass, doesn’t it?  It has a bouquet of apples and pears, is dry but not too dry, and has a light citrusy aftertaste.  It was light enough that it didn’t compete with the heavy flavors of the paella.  After making my notes for this post, I Googled this wine to see what other folks thought about it and how easily accessible it is.   Check out commentary from The Wine Cellar here.   I found a couple websites, such as LaTienda (a great site for all your Spanish cooking needs), that are selling it for ~$17-18.  My Harris Teeter had it for $12.  You can’t beat that!

All in all, I’d consider it a lovely, light, and crisp summer wine.  Uncork a bottle yourself and see what you think.  When you do, come back and tell me about it.


Wine Girl

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Spanish Cooking Saturdays – Paella

Today, I introduce what I intend to be a regular spot on this blog – Spanish Cooking Saturdays.  I do not promise that it will be a weekly spot, but it will be at least a monthly spot, possibly a little more frequently than that. I’ve got a big cookbook full of Spanish recipes, courtesy of Mario Batali, which will serve as fodder for many future blog entries.

Since I have this handy dandy new paella pan, I shall start this adventure by trying my hand at paella.  Apparently, before actually using the paella pan, it must be properly seasoned.  I don’t remember all the rationale as to why this needs to be done, but I think it’s got something to do with keeping the pan from rusting.  Anyway, seasoning the pan involves wiping it down with canola oil and placing it on my stove burners until it changes from the pretty, shiny, silvery steel color to a golden brown throughout the surface of the pan, like so:

Being generally persnickety and liking for things to always be clean and new looking, this sort of distresses me.  However, I choose to look at the seasoning of my pan as evidence that it is being put to good use, not just getting “messed up.”

And speaking of good use…

Now, Mario and Gwyneth made this on a open fire in Valencia with a well “seasoned” chef.  Not having access to a space for an open fire in the heart of Charlotte, I asked the Beer Guy to fire up the grill for me.  I’m not exactly sure how to go about doing that myself.  We made a”rule” when we got married – I’m in charge of indoor cooking, he’s in charge of outdoor cooking…and he who does not cook it is in charge of cleaning it up! (That’s works out pretty well for moi as most of our meals are made indoors. 🙂 )

Making paella isn’t difficult, it just has several steps.  The whole process took about 1 1/2 hrs, but it was well worth it in the end.  I chose to make a seafood paella since I will likely be making this for my family at the beach next week.  I grabbed some lobster tails, shrimp, tiger prawns and the like from the seafood department at my local Harris Teeter.  First you throw those in the pan to brown them and establish the seafood flavored base for the dish.

Looks good enough to eat by itself, right?  But we must press on…Remove the shellfish, add the onions, and cook until soft.

Next add pureed tomato, sweet Spanish pimentón, and saffron.

Add the Bomba rice and the stock.  If I was super cool I would have made my own stock.  But when there’s no time for that, store bought stock works just fine.

Cook until the rice has absorbed nearly all the liquid

Add the shellfish, any other uncooked seafood, and some peas into the mix and cook until the remainder of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is all brown and crunchy around the edges of the pan.  Mario says to cook it until the pan starts to make a funny “crackling noise” and you are starting to worry that it’s burning.

Voila-The finished product!

(And yes, I’m aware that I used a French term to punctuate the completion of my Spanish dish, but I am unaware of the Spanish equivalent.)  Since the paella needed to “rest” for 10 min or so before serving, there was ample time to snap some “finished product” shots.

Next up, crack open a great Spanish wine

eat it right out of the pan (‘cuz that’s what real Spaniards do)…

and enjoy your Saturday evening!

I can think of no better way to eat in on a Saturday night, can you?


Wine Girl

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Words Cannot Describe…

how happy this makes me:

Isn’t it GORGEOUS? It’s so sparkly, and whimsical, and elegant, and modern!! I am utterly in LOVE!!!

I saw it on Isabella and Max Rooms, a design blog I discovered last week, and instantly knew I had to have it.  I had been casually looking for a light fixture to hang over our dining table since we bought our townhouse nearly two years ago.  I saw things I liked, but nothing I found thus far was exactly right.  I couldn’t articulate why, but they just weren’t right.  As soon as I saw this piece of art I knew it would be perfect.  And it is! It is!  IT IS!!!

I tracked it down at the Horchow website and it just happened to be 25% off!  Plus, Horchow was running a free shipping special as well.  Just like my paella pan, I am quite certain this was meant to be.  This Horchow Comet Pendant Light and I were meant to be together.  Technically, I was trying to finish our bedroom before I started working on the dining area, but this deal was too good to pass up.  I ordered it.  It arrived today and the Beer Guy (who just happens to be the sweetest guy in the world) hung it for me tonight.  I just can’t stop staring at it!  Look how it sparkles!!

I feel like it’s New Year’s Eve and the Times Square Glitter Ball dropped over my dining table.  Maybe that explains my sudden urge to drink champagne out of my fancy crystal glasses.

I know this post is not about food, or wine, or beer, or travel, but my spectacular new chandelier  IS hanging over my dining table. So, that’s kind-of food related, right?  There will be many wonderful meals eaten under it’s glittering light. It makes me want to have a dinner party just to show it off!

If we have to work some food into this post, I snacked on one of these tiny treats while my fella did all the dirty work…he ate his after.

Wine Girl

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Lazy Friday Night

I had a long and busy day at work today. Don’t feel like cookin’. Looks like wine and a CPK frozen pizza are on the menu.

And for our entertainment, it’s a Jon Cusack talking to the camera kind of night.

What did we ever do before Netflix?  Happy Friday, everyone!

Wine Girl

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So I mentioned my obsession with Mario Batali’s 2008 series for PBS, Spain on the Road Again, right?  After watching the original airing of the series and all the reruns I could find, I decided to ask Santa Claus for both the accompanying cookbook/travel guide (I WILL take that trip one day) and the DVD series.  That was the Christmas before last (as in 2008) and I have barely made anything out of it.  That is all going to change VERY SOON!  Of all the scrumptious recipes in the book, the one I have most wanted to make is the paella.  I have yet to make it because I did not have a proper paella pan, which is apparently essential to making paella…something about the distribution of the heat for the rice.

Well, since the Beer Guy and I are trying new things and breaking out of our rut, I decided to seek out a paella pan.  On a hunch, I decided to just pop into Sur La Table after work since it is located in the mall right next to my office, just to see if they happened to carry paella pans.   And guess what… THEY DO!  What’s more, they were 40% off!!  So, I got this beautiful 16″ paella pan and 2 lb bag of Bomba Rice (which is also apparently essential to a good paella) for the same price as the pan would normally have been by itself!

I’m not usually one who gets overly excited about bargains, but this made me giddy.  It’s like it was meant to be!  I can’t wait to take it for a test drive!

Wine Girl

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