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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Get Out Much?

Get out much?  I get that question from time to time since most of my posts revolve around my food and wine experiences at home.  In all honesty, I’d have to answer that question two different ways:  yes and no.  I definitely enjoy traveling, dining and going out to new places (when I’m traveling), and meeting lots of new people (when I’m traveling).  But when I’m not traveling, I tend to stay at home and hang out with a small circle of friends – cooking, entertaining, drinking wine and throwing back shots (well, maybe not so much of the last one).  It’s not like I’m some freaky house hermit – I just enjoy being at home!  Call me simple, but there’s nothing more fun than hanging with your favorite peeps, having a good old time in the kitchen, and drinking a glass (or two, or three…) of wine. 

With that said, this past Wednesday, my wife and I were graciously invited to a special wine dinner at a nearby tavern, called James Street Tavern.  Voted 2010’s “Best Pub/Tavern” in Delaware Today’s “Best of Delaware” issue, James Street Tavern serves classic American Fare, along with your standard pub food.  Although the wine dinner wasn’t showcasing food from their standard menu, we thought it would be a great opportunity to try some place new.  So, even though it was a “school night,” we decided to get a sitter and give it a go.

Little did I know that the evening’s menu would be filled from top to bottom with ingredients that were “…all caught or picked in Delaware – except for the rice,” as Chef Matt Haley announced beforehand to the 50+ guests.  The menu, specially created for this event, was put together by local restaurant entrepreneur, Chef Matt Haley of SoDel ConceptsChef Haley is the owner and operator of five Delaware beach-area restaurants that includes Bluecoast in Bethany Beach, Catch 54 in Fenwick Island, Lupe Di Mare in Rehoboth Beach, Northeast Seafood Kitchen in Ocean View, and Fish On! in Lewes.  His approach is to use the freshest, locally grown, organic ingredients simply prepared, but with sophistication.

“I’m passionate about letting the natural flavors shine and combining the best local ingredients so that they complement each other.  Nothing beats the taste of locally grown ingredients—and the people who nurture them…it’s been great working with the terrific farms and local purveyors in Delaware.”

We started with a tomato gazpacho, topped with a pinch of micro greens.  The gazpacho had a great zip of spiciness, which proved a little much for some, but my wife and I loved it!  It was paired with a pink sparkler, Poema NV Brut Rose Cava ($11.99), which reigned in the heat with its fresh strawberry and raspberry flavors.

For the second course, Chef Haley and his team constructed a grilled mahi-mahi with local squash, red onions, grilled zucchini, shaved chilies, fresh cilantro and lime that was paired with Don Olegario Albariño ($20.99).  The acidity of this Spanish white wine, along with its slight sweetness, took both the fish and fresh garden vegetables to another level.

The third course was a roasted skirt steak with baby red onions, wilted wild greens, in a brown sugar vinaigrette, accompanied with the 2008 Abadia Retuerta Rivola Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.49).  Before I give you my take on the combo, I’ll share some of the comments I heard while eavesdropping on the table next us. ;)

“One of the best dishes I’ve had.”

“I LOVE arugula and this wine!  It’s OUTRAGEOUS with it!”

“Oh my god – I can’t get enough of this wine and the beef was fabulously cooked.  It’s all very delicious.”   

As for my take, I just wanted to stuff my mouth with these tender* little pieces of heaven and wash it all down with this very elegant and silky wine!

Lots of people were diggin’ on this combo…’nuff said.

We topped this meal off with rice pudding.  Wha..what!!??  –You’re gonna serve us all up rice pudding and cooked raisins after treating us to three delicious courses?  That’s what was going through our minds when we first found out this was the dessert.

I’ll be honest with you:  1.) I’m not a big dessert person; and 2.) The idea of rice pudding with cooked raisins was not sending me into a sugar frenzy.  But when I tell you that this couldn’t have been more of a “happy ending” to a delicious meal – I kid you not…really!!

My wife and I sat there scraping every last morsel of the rice pudding, laced with golden raisins, honey powder and sea salt; and polished off every sip of the Savory & James Manzanilla Deluxe Pale Dry Sherry ($10.99) paired with the dessert.  I heard voices from other tables, including ours, oohing and ahhing about how delicious the nutty, sweetness of the sherry complemented this very adult dessert.

Chef Haley and Jen Blakeman, the person responsible for creating possibly the greatest rice pudding ever, were kind enough to share the secret recipe with WL365:

Ingredients

3 cups cooked rice
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup water
2/3 c sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. orange juice
1/2 T ground cinnamon

Mix all but rice in a pot. Add rice and simmer stirring often until almost all liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat and add raisins (1/2 cup). Serve warm or chilled.

A big special thanks to Jen Blakeman for sharing!! 

After the dinner was over, Chef Haley was quick to give credit to his team who prepared the entire meal; and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the servers at Delaware’s James Street Tavern – they were terrific!!  We look forward to going back to check out their regular menu…hopefully they’ll add the rice pudding!  :)

*  Sorry Linda – I had to use this word.

You Want to be Where Everybody Knows Your Name…

Our troubles are all the same, right?!  It all starts around 6:00 AM with a sore back from sleeping on a WWE action figure all night; then as you make your way to the coffee maker while stepping over a pile of the kids’ clothes (that somehow couldn’t find its way to the hamper), you find your pet hovering over the kitchen sink trying to get some leftovers from some dishes you left from the night before.  You wrap up the morning with a 20 minute Q&A session with one of your kids while in your closet, half dressed, trying to make yourself look moderately presentable.  You’d love to stick around for more of this blissful morning glory, but it’s off to the workplace for even more fun and excitement.  The fun and laughs seem to never end, as this episode replays itself for 5 (long) straight days…  On day 5 you wake up in your typical haze, but then you stop and say to yourself, holy shit…it’s FRIDAY!!!!  You get so excited by the thought of it that you break out into a happy dance, a River Dance, and even the Cabbage Patch Dance!  You stir that pot of chocolate pudding like there’s no tomorrow, because it’s FRIDAY baby!!

Now that the weekend is here, what are you gonna do for fun?  Are you going to just stay home and watch SuperNanny, Kitchen Nightmares, or My Big Redneck Wedding??  For Pete’s sake – haven’t you been on your couch enough for one week??  :) Why not do something fun with a group of pals – like a wine tasting party?!  That’ll certainly kick start your weekend!

That’s what my friend, Holly, recently did – and so can YOU with just a little help!

There are lots of great ideas and themes to choose from when putting together a fun tasting. I thought that it might be a blast to do a unique, in-store wine tasting for my friend and her wine gang.  Now when I say “in-store wine tasting,” you’re probably envisioning a mini-bar or table set up off to the side of your favorite local wine shop.  You know…the free tastings that take place on most Friday evenings and/or Saturday afternoons at many wine shops across the US; but I’m not talking about that sort of “unique” in-store tasting in the least.  What I’m talking about is a truly private tasting for just you and your gang in the store’s wine cellar! 

I’m lucky to live near several outstanding independently owned wine shops where the owners are truly passionate about their business and provide customers with superb selections and individualized customer service.  One of those great little gems is Peco’s Liquors.

I’ve recently gotten to know Edward Mulvihill of Peco’s.  Ed grew up in the family business and he’s now the store’s Director of Sales & Marketing.  When I first met Ed, I had no clue that Peco’s even had a wine cellar – even though I’d shopped at this establishment for the past 12 years.  Since seeing the old cellar for the very first time a few months ago, Ed and the Peco’s staff have done an amazing job renovating it. They’ve created an intimate atmosphere that is perfect for entertaining and sharing good cheer with 12-20 fellow wine lovers.  I was quite eager to share the cellar with some of the locals, so I asked Ed if he’d be willing to host a private soiree and he graciously agreed to my request.  So now that I scored a swanky venue for Holly’s wine tasting party, I needed some great wines to serve up.  I worked with both Edward Mulvihill and Alex Calla, who is the store’s wine specialist, to come up with a tasting flight that we hoped would receive high praise from our party host Holly and her 20 thirsty guests.

Here’s the line-up that we decided on:

When Alex, Ed and I were trying to come up with the tasting flight, we wanted the line-up to be a little bit off the beaten path, yet not totally out in left field.  We were also aiming to introduce the group to several new wines that would be perfect for everyday drinking (under $20) and that would also pair well with a variety of recipe ideas. 

So what did our thirsty guests think about these wines?

Well, based on the responses and written feedback that I received from our evening’s host and her guests – there were a few that hit the bull’s-eye and a few that missed the target.

Here were the ones that hit the mark and received the most accolades from the group:

Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago NV (Veneto, Italy) - This crisp Italian Sparkler was such a big hit that folks were lining up for more even after the tasting had ended.

2006 Trapiche Broquel Bonarda (Mendoza, Argentina) – Guests raved about this wine’s beautiful aroma, great body and impressive, big and full flavors.

2009 Bodega Septima Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) – This was another winner from Argentina with the guests.  Lots of folks commented on the richness of this wine and many expressed that its flavors were very complex.

Unfortunately, one wine that totally struck out was the 2009 Alamos Torrontés (Salta, Argentina).  Many in the group had never tried an Argentine Torrontés before, so we had hoped that the Alamos would be a nice entry into this category to leave a positive, lasting impression on our guests.  Sadly, those lasting impressions were of “armpits,” “feet,” and “grandma’s basement.”  I’m not quite sure if the last comment was a term of endearment or not.  :)

The wine with the most mixed reviews was the 2008 Penley Estate Sparkling Pinot Noir (Coonawarra, Australia).  Many did enjoy the smell of this wine:  bursts of strawberries, raspberries, and light spice.  And there were a few people that embraced this less traditional rendition; describing it as “FUN,” “Surprising,” and “Awesome!”  However, the majority of the tasters thought the sparkling nature of this wine was a little odd and too different from what they’re accustomed to from a traditional Pinot Noir.

Finally, the 2006 Henry Estate Pinot Noir (Umpqua, Oregon) – which was the most expensive wine of the bunch – also received a few mixed reviews from the tasting group.  Some said, “it’s very earthy,” “reminds me of the woods,” “flat taste,” while others said, “amazing,” “very smooth,” and “very good.”

Oh well, you know the old saying, “You win some and you lose some…”  But at the end of the night, everyone goes home happy, feelin’ good, and ready for the rest of the weekend!  :)

Very special thanks to Peco ‘s Liquors, Ed, Alex and Josh for a great evening! (Peco’s FaceBook Page)

I’d also like to thank my good friend Holly for bringing the incredibly delicious cheese selection and a great group of wine lovers to party with!

I’ll Be Back!

If you’re kickin’ yourself for missing the 4th Annual New York Wine Expo this past weekend – you’ve got good reason!

My wife and I made the annual trek to NYC to sample a remarkable array of wines from Old World producers from places like France and Italy, to New World wines from South America and the United States –  to name just a few.  Attendees had a whopping 760 different wines to choose from; and over 190 wineries from around globe were on hand to pour their newest creations.

I’d either be lying or still passed out drunk somewhere in a New York City alley if I told you that we were able try all 760 wines, but we did our best to try at least a few of the wines at each exhibitor’s table.

Here were just a few of the wines that left us tipsy in their awesomeness:

  • Winemaker, Miguel Jesus Gonzalez Sahuqillo of Bodegas Villavid traveled all the way from one of Spain’s more obscure wine regions, Manchuela, and dazzled our taste buds with both the Blanco Villavid (D.O. Manchuela)  and the Woman Soul (Made for a woman –and good enough for a dude! :) ), both consisting of 50% Macabeo and 50% Verdejo grapes.  

  • On the red side of things, both Wines of Argentina  and Portugal Wines brought their A-games.  They were well represented by dozens of exciting and a few barely pronounceable reds like the Portuguese 2007 Esporão Reserva that was a blend of Aragones (Tempranillo), Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Alicante Bouschet.  Try saying that 3 times fast! 
  • We also loved, I mean LOVED the 2007 Saurus Patagonia Select Pinot Noir from Familia Schroeder in the Valley of San Patricio del Chañar (Argentina). 
  • For the very wealthy wine collector or someone who really wants to splurge, there was a lot to Ooh and Aah over with the nearly $100 bottle of 2008 Achaval Ferrer Finca Bella Vista Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina that oozed with seductive elegance and refinement. 
  • For dessert, wine lovers with a sweet tooth had lots of treats to choose from.  Our favorite was the 2008 “Naturally Sweet Wine” Vinsanto from Santorini’s Santo Wines.  Comprised of 75% Assytriko and 25% Aidani grapes, this barrel aged, very rich wine provided a happy ending after a long afternoon of tasting.

Notwithstanding the many great wines at this year’s expo, there were also some terrific wine personalities as well to help pour on the education.  We had the pleasure of meeting Mark Oldman, best-selling author of Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine and the beautiful and energetic Leslie Sbrocco, otherwise known as Thirsty Girl.

Finally, we happened upon a great local wine story this year.  Or, should I say that “it” found us! :)    As we were preparing to wrap things up for the day, we were stopped by a gentleman named Craig.  As it turned out, Craig was the boyfriend of Alie Shaper, president and winemaker of Brooklyn Oenology.

Shaper, a former aerospace engineer, decided a few years back to turn her hobby and love of wine into a new full–time career and began Brooklyn’s first urban winery.  Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “they make wine in Brooklyn?!”  Well, not quite yet at least.  BOE currently doesn’t have its own vineyard; the company rents space and winemaking equipment from Long Island’s Premium Wine Group to produce its own line of wines made from grapes mainly sourced from local Long Island grape growers.  What I also found particularly interesting about Brooklyn Oenology wines was the incredible and unique artwork on their labels.  To help showcase local artists, Brooklyn Oenology features artwork on each of their bottles created by an artist living or working in Brooklyn.  Another cool thing about their artistic labels is that they easily peel off in case you’re interested in saving the label.  The company recently opened its first tasting room where they showcase their own Brooklyn Oenology Wines and also feature a rotating guest selection of both wines and artisanal spirits from around New York State.

And so ends another great time at the New York Wine Expo!  If you didn’t make it to the expo this year, I highly recommend marking your calendar for next year…’cause you never know who or what you’ll discover!

A Job for ‘Big Joe’ or ‘Big Carl’ in NYC

If you watch the ABC sitcom Cougar Town, then you know exactly “who” I’m talking about…HILARIOUS!!

Do you love wine?  Do you love it by the gallons?  If you answered yes to either one of these questions, then you might want to consider packing up ‘Big Joe’ or ‘Big Carl’ along with a few of your favorite wine drinking buds and head to the Big Apple for the 4th Annual New York Wine Expo.  It’s a 2-day wine event that’s open to the public on February 25th and the 26th at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Drinkers Tasters will be treated to more than 600 wines from over 150 winemakers from around the globe.  Who knows, maybe you’ll have a chance to taste some cool Brazilian wines, possibly the mysterious Greek white known as Moschofilero, or some other less familiar gems like we did at this very event last year.

If you’d like to find out more about this great wine event, check out the website; and be sure to use promo code WINELIFE at the checkout line.  It’s good for $10 off your admission price on Friday or Saturday, but it expires on 2/18.

My wife and I will be going again this year, so if you see us – be sure to say hello!

By the way, my wife has a word of advice for the ladies:  keep your high heels or whatever other form of footwear that you deem as being “cute” at home because they don’t look particularly fabulous when they’re filled up with wet, sloppy, gray slush (if it snows again)…not to mention, you will be on your feet all day!

Cheers!

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