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Archive for the ‘2-Star’ Category

The Kids Are Alright…Are We?

Once a year, our kids take a vacation to get away from us.

Well, that’s not entirely true…

You see, every year during the first week in July, since our sons were toddlers, my parents take them to the beach…without us!  Time on the beach, boat rides, water slides, bumper cars and junk food…the whole nine yards for one entire week. 

With all of the day-to-day commotion that takes place in our house – the kids, the dog, the laptops, television, video games and constant tomfoolery – it’s hard enough to hear what we’re saying to each other, let alone hearing yourself think.

It’s funny, though:  my wife and I start out excited to have some alone time, but by mid-week we miss them like crazy!  Nevertheless, Kristi and I do, in fact, get to spend some quality time together, which includes having more time to try new wines!  :)

One of the most intriguing wines that we sampled, when the kids were away, was the 2008 M Trignon White (MSRP: $23.99 US).  This wine is from Chateau Du Trignon, which is nestled at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail in Gigondas, France.  The 2008 M Trignon White is made up of 100% Muscat, and it packs one heck of a concentrated sweet/dessert wine punch!  Right off the bat, you might think you’re drinking a French Sauterne. Fermented in stainless steel and cold stabilized to preserve freshness, this wine just oozes in sweet honey, honeysuckle, apricots, lemon and peach flavors.

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2008 M Trignon White.  It’s crazy-syrupy-sweet, cheaper than most Sauternes, and it comes in a rather interesting, perfumey-looking bottle.  It’s perfect for those who would rather drink dessert than eat it.

Another wine, which was a bit off the beaten path for us, was the 2010 Domaine Houchart Rosé (Sample, MSRP: $12 US) from Domaine Houchart which is owned by the Quiot family from France’s famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  The thing that drew me to this wine was its interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault.  This summer sipper possesses a lot of nice acidity that makes it a pair well with many different food combinations.

I paired it with a thinly sliced spicy grilled chicken breast topped with fresh bruschetta and shaved parmesan cheese.  The soft strawberry, lavender and minerally finish paired nicely with this dish, however it wasn’t quite enough to give it 2 big thumbs up.

2 Stars out of 4 for the 2010 Domaine Houchart Rosé.  This Rosé definitely shows its best characteristics around foods with a little gusto and spice:  it’s a no-brainer with barbecue.

 

 

Fire Extinguisher

About that pan-seared salmon I was mentioning the other day

Well, we just had to have it…on top of a mound of broccoli rabe.  :)

Whoo-wee!!  That broccoli rabe was fully loaded with garlic and red pepper flakes!  It lit our mouths on fire, I tell you! 

We definitely needed a wine to cool things down, so I grabbed for the 2011 Calcu Rosé from Chile (Sample, MSRP: $13 US).

This Chilean rosé made up of 55% Malbec, 35% Syrah and 10% Petit Verdot is slightly sweet, with hints of cherry and strawberry.

2 Stars out of 4For some reason, thoughts of creamsicles entered my mind, but it’s perfect for extinguishing mouth-fires on contact.  :)

 

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Well, how you doin’?  I know, I know…it’s been forever since my last post.  I could provide you with a host of excuses for my mysterious disappearance -  some interesting and others not so interesting – but what’s the point?  Let’s move on and talk about LOVE!  What about it, you ask??

The simple truth of the matter is that I’ve fallen in L-O-V-E:  not with one, but with 2 very special things since the start of 2012.

I’ll describe my first love of 2012 as restoration from devastation.  After 15 years with our beloved cats, they both passed away within weeks of one another at the end of 2011.  Noodle, our terrific alley cat who loved Fancy Dinner Friday and a big old plate of spaghetti and meatballs, passed away just before Thanksgiving.  Then to our complete shock (just a few weeks later) Noodle’s housemate and our soft and cuddly roomie, Church (who bore a striking resemblance to the cat from Pet Sematery), also passed away.  We bawled and then bawled some more all the way through the holidays. 

Shortly after the first of the year, my kids pulled me aside to ask the question, “Dad, can we have another pet?”  “What do you have in mind…a kitten…a litter of kittens?” I asked.  “No. Can we have a DOG this time?”  I did what every good father would do in this instance:  I turned to them and said, “Umm…I dunno, talk to your mother.”

A few mornings later, as we were waking up, my wife asked, “Can we get the kids a dog?”

I couldn’t believe it?!  They got to her.  The person who said that we would NEVER have another pet.  BRAINWASHED.  My immediate response:  “Are YOU going to get up at 4:30 in the morning to take it out?”  As far as she was concerned, that was the end of the conversation.

Later that day, something came over me and I thought to myself that it wouldn’t hurt to check out some cute dogs on Petfinder.com.  I sent my wife a couple links of some cute dogs, and that was the end of it:  A Mom’s love for her boys kicked into full gear.

It sure didn’t take her very long to track down the cutest, sweetest little doggie in the whole wide world to join our family and fill that open void in our hearts.  Nothing like gushing and being a proud new daddy (and all it took was a little coaxing :) )…

Meet the newest addition to our family, Billie.

Look at that cutie! 

We adopted Billie from Paula’s Dog House, a dog rescue in Mount Olive, NJ.  She was aptly named by the people at the rescue:  she has the cutest underbite that sort of makes her look like a little billy goat.  We’re not quite sure what breed she is, but whatever she is there might be some bunny rabbit mixed in since she loves to hop up and down the stairs!  ;)    What else can I say  – she’s adorable, super friendly, and a great new addition to our family!  Something tells me that you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more about Billie. :)

Not a pet person?  Well I have another true love that has recently entered my life.  The second love is a kitchen super-tool that every aspiring master or top chef needs:  a pressure cooker!! 

After watching countless episodes of cooking shows last year, I decided that I needed to take my Poor Man’s Chef Creations to a whole new level.  I became infatuated with pressure cookers and begged my wife and friends for one of these nifty kitchen devices.  So what makes a pressure cooker so damn great you ask?  Well, imagine cooking something in an hour (or less!) that would take a crockpot/slow cooker all day. 

Ask and you shall receive!  The pressure cooker that I received as a gift was the Fagor Futuro 10-Qt. Stovetop Pressure Cooker.  One word for you – AMAZING!!

It’s even inspired my wife to get down, MasterChef Style!  It’s dishes like this one that make us want to use it nearly every night of the week.  Chicken Adobo!

Here’s a link to the recipe.

I decided to give our chicken adobo dish a go with two different wines:  the 2010 Morro Bay Split Oak Vineyard Sur Lie Chardonnay from California (Sample, MSRP: $11 US) and the 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile (Sample, MSRP: $16 US).  I figured the sweetness of the molasses would be a good fit for a Chardonnay.  Why the Cabernet Sauvignon?  Well…just because I was feelin’ Cabernet.

Brimming with tropical fruits such as fig, papaya and pineapples, the 2010 Morro Bay Split Oak Vineyard Sur Lie Chardonnay had bright acidity with a touch of sweet spices that was a perfect complement to this chicken adobo recipe. 

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2010 Morro Bay Split Oak Vineyard Sur Lie ChardonnayNot oaky in the least – it worked perfectly with this chicken dish, but would have been just as enjoyable all by itself.

For the red wine, I opted for the 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for no other reason besides wanting a Cabernet – you know how that goes.  :)

I’ve reviewed several Los Vascos wines before and have found them to be reliable, go-to wines.  However, there was something different about the 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was the first Cabernet Sauvignon that I’ve tasted from Los Vascos that teetered a little too much (for me) into that juicy-sweet New World style.  The 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon delivers a sweet flow of cherries, blackberries, cinnamon and chocolate flavors from start to finish.

2 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  I tasted this Cab over the course of three days with similar results:  it made me want to search through cabinets looking for the half-eaten Whitman’s Sampler that was leftover from the holidays.

Here’s to great new beginnings!

 

SMOKIE

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At some point in this lifetime, I see myself falling head over heels in love with South African wines.  I want to love them – I really do – but it sure is difficult when you feel like you’ve been shot out of a hookah pipe when tasting them.  However, I’ll be damned to write off an entire varietal, let alone the wines from an entire country!  My tastes have evolved over the years, so I won’t let my reservations – most notably towards smoky South African wine - stand in the way of finding some exciting South African wines to share with you.

Last night…

There we were, the two of us in our little bat cave in the basement, enjoying a stack of burritos topped with charred and fried sweet corn niblets (I’ve been dying to use the word niblets in a post :) ), green chilies, spicy salsa and a mound of sour cream.  Not a pretty sight for a Kodak moment, so I’ll spare you the picture.

I grabbed two South African wines from Partnership Vineyards.  Partnership Vineyards is the result of a partnership between farmers and Riebeek Cellars in South Africa’s Riebeek Valley. Since 2004, they have planted nearly 60 hectares; 15 hectares dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc plantings on the farm they aptly named Partnership Vineyards.  This fair trade venture is divvied up 40% farm and cellar workers, 40% farmers and 20% Riebeek Cellars. Riebeek Cellars serves as the marketing and production arm of this unique, empowering initiative.

Our first wine was the 2009 Partnership Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (Sample, MSRP: $13).  I’ll sum this wine up in a few words:  a mouthful of fresh pineapple laced with an herbaceous smoky undertone.  A piece of advice:  don’t over-chill this Sauvignon Blanc like I did.  Once it warmed up, the flavors really shined and paired well with those spicy burritos.

2 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 Partnership Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc.

The second wine of the night was the 2008 Partnership Vineyards Shiraz (Sample, MSRP: $13).  Unfortunately, this red gave me flashbacks of my less than stellar encounters with other South African reds.  Right off the bat, its savory smokiness had me gasping for air.  The combination of Slim-Jim, tobacco, vanilla, menthol and a slight hint of plum was all a bit much for me at first.  This wine needs a lot of time out of the bottle to let off some smoke before consuming.  It was much more approachable and appealing on the second day.

2 Stars out of 4 for the 2008 Partnership Vineyards Shiraz.

 

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