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Posts Tagged ‘California’

Went Wrong

If you’re a serious food and wine lover, then chances are you’re familiar with both the Food Network and Wente Vineyards

Recently, the world’s premier food and lifestyle network teamed up with one of the most respected wineries in California’s Livermore Valley to create a collection of wines called Entwine.   The central idea behind this interesting name is “the coming together of extraordinary things.”

Sadly, my very first taste of the 2009 Entwine Pinot Grigio (MSRP:  $13 US) was a far cry from extraordinary.  This white wine delivered a mouthful (as well as a nose full) of sawdust and super-tart Granny Smith apples.  Fortunately, the finish was extra short.

1 Star out of 4 for the 2009 Entwine Pinot Grigio.  I was left scratching my head wondering how this wine went so extraordinarily wrong.   

*Note:  I tried this wine over the course of three consecutive days with the same results.

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  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!


25 Days of Christmas: Day 21

Hallelujah…we’re finally done our Christmas shopping!!  Wrapping those little buggers will be a whole different story…but that can wait until tomorrow!  Tonight’s post is about celebrating life’s small achievements – NOW!  On the 21st day of this Christmas countdown, what better way to end a nightmare day of standing in long lines, sitting in slow moving traffic, and having no damn place to park, than with some BUBBLY and your honey!

Woohoo!  Pop those corks, baby!!

Last night, we decided to celebrate the Tuesday before Christmas.  Why, you ask?  Why not, I say!

To ring in the New Day, I decided to pop open two badass sparklers from California:  the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (Sample, MSRP:  $20) and the Mumm Napa Brut Rose (Sample, MSRP:  $20).  But wait…we need dinner too!

One of my favorite combinations of flavors is Sparkling wine and any foods that have an Asian flare.   I find that the wide range of spiciness, sweetness and textures of Asian-infused dishes, or even some Chinese takeout, really complement a refreshing glass of bubbly.  Each play well with one another and nobody is starving for attention.

In preparation for the gluttony to come in the next week, I decided to keep things clean, simple and light by preparing a tossed salad with a little twist to have with the sparkling wines:

  • 1 Part Trader Joe’s “Champs Elysées Salad” *Green leaf lettuce, frisee, radicchio and carrots mixture 
  • 1 Part Spring Mix Salad
  • A sprinkle of fully-cooked lentils (Also from Trader Joe’s)
  • Diced salad beets (Also from Trader Joe’s)
  • A sprinkle of chopped walnuts
  • A sprinkle of crumbled bleu cheese
  • Drizzle with Trader Joe’s Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette

The Mumm Napa Brut Prestige was absolutely brilliant!  An assemblage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, it’s crisp and refreshing with flavors of pear, fig and sweet spices, enveloped by creamy vanilla.  This sparkler is fruity, spicy and delicious!

My favorite with the salad, though, was the Mumm Napa Brut Rose.

This bubbly, made from 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay – with its fresh and lively strawberry and zippy flavors – played terrifically off the Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette, beets and lentils in the salad,

Cheers to celebrating EVERY day!

25 Days of Christmas: Day 20

Finding the perfect gift can be quite a challenge.  What should I get?  Can I afford it?  Will they like it?  The same holds true in my search for badass wines for the holidays, and sometimes this means asking for a little help – especially on Day 20 of my 25 Days of Christmas.

Hey Frank, I’m looking for a special bottle of red wine that will impress everyone when they see it and have them falling off their chairs after tasting it.  By the way…a first-growth Bordeaux and/or Opus One is not what I have in mind.  Do you having anything else that’s more reasonably priced?

It was my good friend, Frank Pagliaro, proprietor of Frank’s Union Wine Mart who rose to the challenge and pointed me in the direction of the 2009 Clark & Telephone Vineyard “Belle Glos” Pinot Noir.

Checkout the wax seal on this California Pinot Noir! That alone screams, badass!!

 Whoa!  This thing is dipped in wax!!  How often do you come across a wine bottle where you need to pry off a wax coating before you can even get to the cork?  Does this imply that the nectar of the gods is inside this lovely vessel?  Sure, I know it might be one big pain in the ass just trying to open it, but there’s got to be a huge reward, right?

Fortunately, there is a big payoff!

Aside from the impressive packaging, the 2009 Clark & Telephone Vineyard “Belle Glos” Pinot Noir ($50 US) crushes it with bright acidity, a wicked and forceful display of cherry, strawberry, cinnamon and ginger spices, along with hints of licorice, smoke, black currants and spiced tea.  It is the TOTAL PACKAGE…inside and out.

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