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Archive for February, 2009

Wine Dictionary – Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva

Spanish Labels:


I was talking to a co-worker about Spanish wines. He was telling me that he really enjoys drinking Spanish red wines but didn’t understand why some of the labels were marked “Crianza”, while others said “Reserva” and “Gran Reserva”.


When you see one of these terms on a Spanish wine label, it refers to the length of time that a particular wine has been aged in an oak barrel.


If you see the word “Crianza” pronounced (Kree-AHN-zah) this Spanish wine label is telling you that this particular wine has been aged in an oak barrel for 12 months.


If a Spanish label says “Reserva” this means that the wine has been aged for 2 years and at least 1 year in an oak barrel.


Finally, the last term that you may see is “Gran Reserva”. If you see this term on a Spanish wine label, it means the wine has been aged for 2 years in an oak barrel and 3 years in the bottle before its put on a retailer’s shelf.


Normally, the differences in pricing reflect how long a Spanish wine has been aged.  So generally speaking Crianza will be the cheapest of the three and Gran Reserva will be the most expensive of the three.


Food Review – Braised Beef Lasagna

Have you ever woken up feeling like it’s going to be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?  Today, I could tell was going to be that day for me.

braised_beef_lasagnaI woke up feeling a lot like Alexander in the classic children’s story, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”.  In the book, Alexander wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.  His morning starts out with bubble gum in his hair and everything after that continues to go “south” on him for the rest of the day.  Similarly, nothing was going right for me either. I woke up feeling sick. I couldn’t get out of the house on time, thus I was late for work.  Next, my log-in password expired and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out a password that was no less than 8 and no more than 15 characters long.  My printer stopped working and I was late for every after work obligation that I had to do.  To say the day did not go well would be an understatement.

 By the time we put the kids to bed and were ready to sit down for dinner it was after 9pm.  We looked at one another and asked, “Who’s making dinner”?  By this time neither of us was interested in making dinner. I remembered that we still had a one month old (I’m probably being generous with its age) braised beef lasagna in the freezer. After doing a visual inspection for freezer burns, we threw into the microwave and nuked it for about 15 minutes. To our surprise, this over month old leftover was just as delicious as the first time we had it.

If you like lasagna but would love to try a new twist on this traditional Italian dish, you might want to try the braised beef lasagna that we bought online from MacKenzie Limited. It is pretty good.  I can also attest that it has the ability to age well in your freezer. And the dish is awesome with a California Red Zinfandel.

Ohhh.  The day closed on a very high note.

Wine Review – 2007 Jekel Vineyards Riesling


In our wine review on February 10th, we shared with you some of our thoughts about the Riesling grape. Riesling is an amazing white grape that can be expressed in a spectrum of different ways. It really boils down to the winemaker and how they would like to showcase their passion for this grape.


We recently had a Riesling that blew our minds. The 2007 Jekel Vineyards Riesling from Monterey, CA is, in our opinion, one of the best and tastiest white wines that we’ve had in a long time. It’s rich, powerful, and distinctive. The balance and harmony of this wine is truly something special. We wish that more wines were made with such care – the wine just tasted so incredibly “pure”, not manufactured. What else is there to say about this wine besides- “wow!”. And at under $15 bucks, this wine is a steal.


We thoroughly enjoyed drinking this wine. We would caution you when trying to decide what to eat with this Riesling. It’s an amazing wine to drink alone! Once sipping it, you may get a better feel for what you might like eat with it. We had grilled chicken and mixed vegetables with this wine, and our taste buds were singing.


What a terrific effort by the folks at Jekel Vineyards.


WineLife365 Rating: 4-Star 



Poor Man’s Chef Says “Buy This”

It’s tough enough trying to make a great meal with nearly no food in the house, but your problems will only get worse if you don’t have a few great kitchen tools to save the day.


Here is a list of a few kitchen life savers that I personally like to use often:


1.)    10” and 12” All-Clad sauté pans. These babies are pure stainless steel. They’re the heaviest frying pans that I’ve ever used. They are like picking up a set of dumbbells…so if you don’t get to the gym on a regular basis, you can stand in the kitchen and do some arm exercises. They heat up in seconds and cook unbelievably.  Additionally, they are basically indestructible – I just absolutely love to see if I can get the oil in the bottom of the pan to be just about the same temperature as hell before I actually put anything in there to cook.  And I can tell you, while most other pans would have had a hole burn right through, the All Clad has no hole, so based on my very bad habit, I would suggest that these pans are approved by the Devil himself.  I “read” (obsessively researched and shared every last finding with my wife until she told me to shut it, handed me the credit card and told me to just go make the purchase…somewhere far away) about All-Clad and how great their cookware is. I have to tell you, once you’ve used All-Clad it’s hard to cook with another brand. All-Clad makes incredible cookware but it sure ain’t cheap. However, their cookware does carry a lifetime guarantee. Look at it as an investment for thousands of great meals at home. Another idea is to let your family and friends know that you love cooking with All-Clad. My mother-in-law has purchased several pieces of All-Clad for me over the years.


2.)    Cuisinart GR4 Indoor Grill. cuisinart_gr4I love to grill. I’m that guy who grills in a –15-degree below hailstorm. Lies, total lies, I USED to be that guy in my younger days – now if the temperature is below 70 or if there’s a chance of rain in 2 days, I’m cooking inside.  Given these limitations of my older age, I desperately wanted a way to relive my younger, wilder barbequing days and I thought that it was ridiculous to limit great BBQ cooking to only one season. I told my wife that I wanted an indoor grill. She said “No, I refuse to buy anything until you obsessively research it.”.  I did a ton of research and narrowed my contenders down to the Cuisinart GR4 Indoor Grill and the George Foreman G5 Indoor Grill. The Cuisinart Indoor Grill offered a little more and the consumer reviews were more positive towards the Cuisinart. Plus let’s be honest, if a guy gives the same name to every member of his family, do you really want to buy his product?  Additionally, I’ve used several different types of Cuisinart kitchen tools. They’ve all been terrific.


3.)    A great 4-1/2 to 6.5 quart Soup Pot/Sauce Pan. With a pot this size, you can cook a full meal in it. As I’ve done hundreds of times with mine.  I even threw in the kitchen sink one time when we had the “REALLY” Poor Man’s Dinner. Some brands to consider are All-Clad, Anolon, Calphalon, Circulon and Le Creuset.


4.)    Stainless Steel Kitchen Tools Set. Don’t even waste your time or money on those plastic ones. I can’t tell you how many plastic spatulas that I’ve gone through – need I remind you of my propensity to make my oil as hot as hell (literally)?  If your family is anything like mine and they just don’t really like chewing on bits of plastic spatula in their Poor Man’s Dinner, then do right by them and get the stainless steel tools. Like the pans above, you’ll use and have these puppies forever. Again, All-Clad is a favorite. But, I’ve seen a nice set by Chef Jamie Oliver that is very affordable.


Checkout or to see if they offer any coupons for these items before buying.

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