- Basic info: Esztebauer “Nagyapam” Kadarka, Szeksard, Hungary – 2016
- Type: Red
- Price estimate: $28 (Somm Select)
- Look: Ruby red in color with some translucence at the edges.
- Smell: (Stay with me, this is a little weird) Smoke, herbs, trees and plums (yes, really)
- Taste: Red berries, especially almost ripe or under ripe raspberry. Cola and a little rose. Nice finish.
- Conclusions: This was one of the most unique wines I’ve ever had. It ranks up there with the strange Sicilian wine with had in December that totally changed flavor with food. This was good, very good, but unlike anything I’ve tasted before. All of the flavors were there, but hard to identify. When looking at what we said it tasted like, it sounds bad and the wine should be bad (based on those flavors) but it was good – very good. This was one of the few times I wished I had a really good palate so I could accurately describe this wine.
- Other notes: I was intrigued by this bottle and since I had never heard of the grape varietal, I decided to try it. I like trying new varietals and while I am sometimes disappointed, this was not one of them. Both Bob and I lingered over our glasses and sipped and contemplated because we had a hard time describing the wine. The smell and the taste were also so different that it was hard to believe they were the same wine.
- From the bottle: “Above all other wines, my grandfather (Nagyapam) loved to drink the Kadarka of Szekszard, still cool, straight from the barrel. Harvested from our oldest vines, this exuberant, jasmine and raspberry scented rendition was made in his honor. Our family has farmed the chalk and loess hills of Szaksard since 1746.” 12.5% alcohol by volume.
I love salads for lunch, but the issue is always the dressing. With lettuce based salads the issue tends to be either finding a container to put the dressing in and hoping it doesn’t spill, or pre-dressing the salad and hoping the lettuce holds up. Some salads also leave my hungry a few hours later so I want something that will hold me until dinner. This week’s option – chickpea quinoa salad.
This recipe is based on a recipe from the New York Times. I’ve changed a few things, but I’ve also made this as written before and it is still fabulous. This dish comes together very quickly, especially if you keep cooked chickpeas and quinoa in your freezer. If you don’t, go with canned chickpeas and just make the quinoa as you chop the celery and make the dressing. Sumac (I generally sub Zatar) can be hard to find, but if you have a spice shop, they should carry it – if not, try Amazon. Really, you can find just about anything on Amazon. The recipe is best with the dill and chives in it, but if I don’t have them on hand, I just leave them out and it is still delicious. I also never include the mint. I’m just not a fan of mint in my salads.
- Basic info: Raorao Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand – 2017
- Type: White
- Price estimate: $7 (Trader Joe’s)
- Look: Very pale straw/hay colored.
- Smell: Apple, melon and salt
- Taste: Crisp, tart green apple, melon, apricot and white peach initially. More tropical fruits like pineapple and orange at the middle part of the wine and it finishes with lemons and oddly, a hint of banana. (Yes, that sounds weird, but it wasn’t.)
- Conclusions: I thought this was a really nice summer wine. It was crisp, tart and had a hint of sweetness without being a sweet wine. Bob was not as enamored with this one as I was as it was too citrus-y for him. This was also really easy to drink and was just enjoyable without being fussy.
- Other notes: For a long time I’ve avoided Sauvignon Blanc wines because I associate them with grapefruit flavor and I really don’t like grapefruit. However, ever since the Longboard, I’ve started going back to the varietal and while it still isn’t mu favorite, there are enough different styles of it that I will absolutely try it – I even ordered a glass at dinner recently. In the middle of summer when it is 90+ degree outside, a nice, crisp, unfussy white wine is really nice.
- From the bottle: No bottle notes. 12.3% alcohol by volume.
So I have a new job! Yay! This new job is back in public schools and at a district level which means I am not in one school all day. I’m not even in one place all day or the same place two days in a row. It’s exciting, but it makes lunch a little more complicated. I decided to take a page from a former colleague and try to make lunches for the week on Sunday. I don’t know how long this will last, but if I can get in the habit of doing it, it could work out well.
One thing I need to keep in mind is that I don’t know if I will have access to a microwave on any given day. Lunch, therefore, need to be a not heat required lunch. If I can make it “eat on the go” friendly, all the better. Up first – mini quiches.
The weekend I made these I had not been to the farmers market or the store. I was sick Saturday and just lazy Sunday morning (if lazy includes walking the dog, feeding the pets, litter boxes, dishes and laundry that is). I had to come up with something that would not require me to go to the store, and would not use what I had on hand for dinner for Sunday or Monday. The result – mini crustless quiche filled with tomato, sweet pepper and scallion.
I started with roasting the vegetables. I did this mainly to soften them and eliminate some of the excess moisture. I didn’t want my quiches to leak or get soggy. I also added pre-shredded cheddar cheese. Yes, I know I could have gone for better cheese, but I kind of like the low moisture stuff for cooking. The result – cute and tasty quiches. I packed them two together and that should satisfy for lunch – maybe with grapes and a granola bar if I ever get around to making granola.
- ~1/3 cup cherry tomatoes
- ~1/2 cup chopped sweet peppers
- 1 bunch scallions, whites and light green parts only
- ~1/2 cup shredded cheddar
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (can substitute yogurt – I generally do but didn’t have any on hand)
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 375. Chop tomatoes, scallions and peppers and place on large baking sheet. Coat in about 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread on sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.
Mix 5 eggs and 1/2 cup cream together. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the cheese and roasted vegetables and mix well. Use an ice cream scoop to put into prepared (greased or lined) muffin tins, filling each tin about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool in tins, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack, unless eating right away. Makes 12 mini quiche.
- Basic info: Vintjs Rose, Monterey, CA Rose wine – 2017
- Type: Rose (no varietal noted)
- Price estimate: $7 (Trader Joe’s)
- Look: Bright pink
- Smell: Strawberry and a hint of peach
- Taste: Strawberry and watermelon are the major flavors. The wine is slightly sweet with a little bramble notes at the middle. Ripe summer raspberry on the finish.
- Conclusions: I thought this wine was okay. It didn’t wow me and it isn’t something I am going to remember, but for a summer wine to just enjoy, it works. I didn’t get a lot of the acid and brightness that makes rose so great, but it was fine.
- Other notes: I made a concerted effort to pick up some sub $10 wines recently for a few reasons, only one of which was budget. Part of my experiment, if you want to call it that, was to see how different types of wine were at that price given what I (little) I know about how expensive it really is to make wine. I started with rose and white wines because they do tend to be a little less expensive than reds since you don’t need to age them and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. So far there haven’t been any wines that wowed me, but for an everyday drinking wine, these have been pretty good. We did have one bottle that was just not drinkable to us and we tossed it. The others made the trip to Trader Joe’s well worth it.
- From the bottle: No bottle notes. 12.5% alcohol by volume.
- Basic info: Vignobles Lacheteau Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, Loire Valley, France – 2016
- Type: 2016
- Price estimate: $7 (Trader Joe’s)
- Look: Very pale yellow, almost clear in the glass, with a slight green tint
- Smell: Apple, melon, salt, jasmine
- Taste: Tart green apple, lime, tiny bit of lemon. Round feel in the mouth with a little honeydew, apricot and white grape. Good finish with a little saline and melon notes.
- Conclusions: For a sub ten dollar bottle of wine, this was great. Super easy to drink, nice taste and a little complexity – not a lot and it isn’t one that I will seek out all the time, but for the price I think it’s fantastic. I would happily pick up a few bottle of this to have around for the summer.
- Other notes: One of the wine podcasts I listen to has mentioned getting wine at Trader Joe’s a few times. The one “near” us is not convenient, easy to get to and the parking lot is always full, so I’ve never been inside despite really liking the store (from my days back in Jersey). But, when we were in Tallahassee we stopped by the Trader Joe’s there and picked up some wine. Definitely worth it and I may have to find a time to go to our local store this summer when I can actually get in the parking lot.
- From the bottle: “Issued from the MELON grape variety and vilified in he respect of the Loire Valley traditional methods, this wine is matured “on the lees” at least for a winter to offer richness and complex floral aromas. Best enjoyed with starters, seafood or fish dishes.” 12% alcohol by volume.
Holy cow, I actually kitted a cat blanket. Mid July I needed a hobby (see post) and decided to try knitting. I found, once I got the basic hang of it, that I really like knitting. I like the routine of it, the visual progress and the vague sense of accomplishment. I worked a lot on the squares (I had the time) and I ended up actually making a little blanket for the kitties to lay on.
Little by little I managed to A. get a little better at knitting and B. get closer and closer to making a blanket. Once I had all the squares done, I re-visited You-tube and learned how to attach them. That took an entire day. About 5 hours to stitch together the squares and weave in the ends (there were a lot of squares). My shoulders HURT at the end, but I have a cat blanket!
I realized part way through that I stitched together a few squares backwards – as in the seaming is visible on those squares on the opposite side of the blanket from the other squares. I thought about going back, taking out all of those stitches and starting over, but I decided to embrace the mistake.
That is something knitting is helping me with. There are a lot of errors as I learn and sometimes those errors are huge and need to be corrected immediately (usually by ripping the knitting up and starting over) but sometimes I can let them go. Those mistakes, in the overall project, don’t detract from the finished item and they are a good reminder that mistakes, generally, aren’t fatal. And really, at the end of the day, it is about the project, learning something new and the kitties. The kitties are important and they are not complaining about the mistakes in their blanket.
I like making bread, although I’m not fantastic at it. I tend to over-proof and under knead my dough, which makes for weird textures in the bread. But … with the stand mixer, I decided to give it another try.
I went with the recipe from Veganomicon, the great vegan cook book by Isa Chandra
Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I love the baked goods in this book, and the basic Rosemary Focaccia is one of my favorites. But, because I can’t just follow a recipe, I decided to add in sun-dried tomatoes early in the mixing process. I thought about adding them at the end, but decided to go in early and let the flavor really permeate the dough.
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
- 3 – 4 cups flour**
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, dry packed, chopped
- oil and finishing salt for baking
Mix the yeast and water together in a bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes to proof. Add 1/2 cup flour, olive oil and mix. Add 1/2 cup flour, rosemary and salt and mix again to form a soft dough. Add 2 more cups of flour and mix lightly. Add sun-dried tomatoes and the, using a stand mixer and dough hook, knead dough on medium speed for about 6 minutes. Check the texture of the dough and if it is too wet, add more flour, 1/3 cup at a time, to achieve a soft, yet not sticky dough. Remove dough from bowl, coat in oil, return to bowl and let rise about an hour (should double in size).
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a pan (I used an 8 x 11 glass dish). Punch down dough and knead a few times. Stretch or roll dough to fit in pan and then sprinkle more oil on top, especially at the edges. Let rise a little as the oven heats up, then add course salt to the top and bake for 30-40 minutes.
This was one of my better breads and it went really well with cheese, oil and vinegar, and with pesto for a kind of flatbread. Mom thought the flavor was too strong, so she made croutons out of the piece I gave her, but both bob and I really loved this.
*Recipe adapted from Veganomicon
**Everyone says baking is exact, but I’ve found the amount of flour I need varies on other factors. Very dry days, I need less. Hot/humid and rainy days, I need a little more.
- Basic info: Folktale Winery “Golden” Pinot Noir, Monterey County, CA – 2017
- Type: Red
- Price estimate: $20 (local wine shop)
- Look: Dark ruby red almost opaque even at the edges.
- Smell: Fresh raspberry and cherry pie. (Yes, I know those two things seem incompatible, but that’s what I got.)
- Taste: Very ripe raspberry, blueberry, black cherry. This was a pretty smooth wine and easy to drink. Notes of chocolate and a little oak in the middle with a tart finish. with lots of cherry and a tiny bit of chocolate.
- Conclusions: I liked this wine. It was easy to drink and went with dinners as well as sipping by itself when watching tv. It isn’t really memorable, but it was definitely pleasant.
- Other notes: I had this wine over the course of a few days and while I liked it when I first opened the bottle, it was better the second and third days. Bob thought this was “fine” but it wasn’t his favorite.
- From the bottle: “Our Monterey Pinot Noir is a classic style of red fruit, spice, floral, and great acidity. A background of toasted oak and a soft supple texture on the palate create pure enjoyment.” 14.2% alcohol by volume.
With summer coming to an end, Bob and I decided to take a short weekend away just for a change of scenery. We didn’t plan a big trip this year since I was furiously looking for a new job (more on that later) and didn’t want to risk missing an interview if we were away. But Winter Park is only a few hours drive and it is a cute, quaint little town that has a lot of good restaurants, most with really good wine and beer lists.
We stayed right downtown – right in the heart of the old town which was both the best decision we made and the worst. The hotel was great – really awesome people, very convenient to everything and comfortable. The problem? Let’s see if you can spot it.
That is the view from our room. Cute, right? Do you see the railroad crossing sign painted on the street? Yep. The railroad (which in most old towns is no longer running so no big deal) is still operational and frequently trains go by … including around 5:30 am one morning and 2:30 am another morning, Sigh. The price you pay for convince.
We really didn’t have an agenda with this trip. I know, no spreadsheet of places to go and restaurants to eat at, no pre-planned outings or specific exhibits to see. We wanted to relax, eat well and drink good drinks. The first night we were in Winter Park, we hit it out of the park (sorry, bad pun) with the restaurant we chose. The Parkview was a close walk and had some really interesting wines and beers. In my mind the food was secondary this evening, but it really impressed. I could not remember if I like artichoke or not – I don’t have it often enough to really think about it and I’m pretty sure it is one of those hit or miss vegetables – but I decided to go with the artichoke crostini and wow … just wow. The wine was also highly impressive and I again took a risk with Hanging Garden wine flight. These wines were from old and not as well know regions – Lebanon, Greece, Israel and Turkey – so not something I have every day. The Lebanese wine was my clear favorite from this bunch, but they were all really good.
On our only full day in Winter Park, we decided to walk to the botanic gardens. I love gardens and try to get to them in every city we visit. There is something particularly special about nature in the middle of a very developed area and this was no exception. It was hard to remember that we were just a few miles from Orlando proper.
As good as our first dinner was and as pretty as the gardens were, the highlight of the trip was the donuts. We happened by (on our way to the gardens, then stopped in on the way back) Little Blue Donut is this great place that does to-order donuts. Seriously. they make the general donuts, but they are super fresh and then they hand top them when you order. This was absolutely the best donut I’ve ever had, including Portland which is known for donuts.
For a really quick trip, this was just about perfect. I would have liked a little more sleep, but for the wine, food and scenery I’ll compromise. I was kind of glad we didn’t make it a full week, because that train would have driven me mad after about three days.