I've been getting up really early these last couple of weeks - "and for my next trick I will make an iced coffee and make it disappear in 90 seconds!" Instant coffee, milk, stir, drink.
I had been using the Starbuck's VIA but recently bought a jar of Folger's instant and it isn't bad; that's my new trick for cutting through the fog of sleep when the sun hasn't yet made its appearance.
Some highlights, food-wise, were the homemade cauliflower and chickpea curry, a little sushi, [not one but] two trips to Pizza Port, and finishing off the SWAG from the Foodbuzz Festival.
This week was brought to you by the Firestone Winery (which is now owned by Foley), Sebastopol Hills Winery, the Sacred Hill Winery, and New Belgium Brewery.
I didn't make a slideshow last week so this one is doubly special. We have been doing more take-out and cereal, and our wine consumption is up. Highlights included a trip to a Peruvian place in Encinitas called Q'ero, a wine bar in Del Mar called La Tienda, and the Rotary Club's Oktoberfest in Carlsbad.
There has been some tasty waves in San Diego lately and those keep me hungry. In between meals, I've been grinding on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Olivia's Organic Croutons, and Special K. You've got to keep your energy up, you know, for riding parallel stance in the tube...
This week was brought to you by New Belgium Brewing Company, the Boston Brewing Company, Cameron Hughes Winery, and two of our favorites (we've been dipping into the cellar lately) Ridge and Curtis.
The highlight of the week was, by far, celebrating our 5th year anniversary at French 75 in Laguna Beach. Thanks to grandma and grandpa for babysitting, there were scallops, halibut, mussels, lobster, wine, laughs, and romance was in the air.
Unrelated to food, I surfed the "shark infested" waters off San Onofre and froze my rear end off - really people, it's August, why am I still wearing my 4/3?
There was some P.F.Chang's in the mix somewhere in there, a Lobster Roll, and I discovered the wine section at Oceanside's Grocery Outlet. The clincher was pulling out a Houghton's 1999 "Jack Mann" Cab/Malbec for $9.99. It was pretty amazing.
A friend of mine is taking a wine class at UC Davis and met the wine buyer for them. They have some of the best deals around. I think he said because many are blemished labels. Sorry Trader Joe's, but I think I know where I'll be getting all my swill from now on.
This week was brought to you by Duvel Beer, Carhartt, Hogue, and Houghton Wineries.
With all the fresh produce of summertime, we've been eating a lot of salads. Did I say a lot of salads? I meant to say almost exclusively salads. Steak Salad, Greek Salad, Peach Salad, Roasted Potato Salad, Tomato Cucumber and Feta Salad - it's Salad Season.
I also discovered, with some help with my friends, what a real Gordita is. Don't "Run for the Border" for one of these - the ones at Taco Bell have little to do with bone fide Gorditas. I am now the Foursquare Mayor at La Gordita in Vista, CA.
Real Gorditas are thick corn cakes that are fried on a skillet, then deep fried so that they puff up; then the pouch is opened and they are stuffed with a multitude of items. Much like how pita bread has a center that can be stuffed, these come however bearing carne asada, carnitas, or chorizo and potato.
We were given a tomato plant as a gift from the padre and have been enjoying real tomatoes. There's nothing like a tomato that came right off a vine, we've been eating half of them with just salt and pepper. I also ate two pulled pork sandwiches in one week, that's OK, right?
This has been brought to you by Trader Joe's Pinot Noir, Odwalla's Superfood, The Yard Semillon, Primo Beer from Hawaii, and Clos LaChance Winery.
We've all likely been there. At the BBQ, camping, or maybe on a boat. There sits the bottle of wine... and no one brought a corkscrew. The thoughts that go through people's heads. The tools they use. We humans are very creative creatures, especially when there is booze involved (think Legend of Zelda-themed party ice luge).
There's the Wikihow on how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. They illustrate a technique using a screw, a screwdriver, and a pair of pliers (pulling it out, caveman-style) or a hammer (using a first-class lever which is much more civilized).
They outline the old pocket knife method, the wire coat hanger, the
Diner enters restaurant, is seated, and peruses the menu.
He places the menu on the table, indicating that a decision has been made. The server greets the diner and takes the Diner's order, but what's this? Red wine with fish? The Cardinal Sin! Not on my watch!
The Server, aghast: "One moment sir, I'll fetch the sommelier."
Diner: "That won't be nec..."
Server: "One moment sir, just one moment."
Sommelier enters scene, corkscrew a blazin': "May I make some recommendations, sir?"
Diner: "I'll have the Argentinian Malbec with my Mackerel please."
Sommelier: "Instead Sir, may I recommend a New Zealand Savignon Blanc?"
Diner: "The terrior at this particular Château, mon frier, has a very low iron content. I will have the Malbec and I will wallow in my own decanal and heptanal if the case may be, thank you."
Sommelier: "Um, but, um. But the tannins, sir, the tannins. Um. Very well."
What did the diner know that the sommelier didn't? What's this about iron? In a recent article published this past August in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a team of crack-shot food scientists broke open the door to pairing red wine with fish... and it's not the tannins.
We recently took a river rafting trip down the Truckee River in Northern California near Lake Tahoe. Calling this particular section a Class 1 Rapid would be a bit of an exaggeration, and "hair-raising" is not a description that comes up often. Typical gear includes sun screen, a well stocked cooler, a hat, squirt guns, sunglasses, and a dog.
Packing a cooler, by the way, is a finely tuned art...
We received some boisterous radishes from our CSA box, both red and white, and decided that they should be consumed in a way more traditionnelles. In France, radishes are often consumed with sweet (unsalted) butter, and a little salt, sometimes on a piece of bread. What would go better with this than a glass of champagne? I don't know.
It doesn't have to be Champagne, mind you. Any dry sparkling white wine will do the trick. The piquant bite to the radishes would, in my opinion, pair well with a Spanish Cava, an Italian Prosecco, Asti, or Franciacorta, a Portuguese Mateus rosé or Vinho Verde, or a bottle of bubbles from California (just keep your André Cold Duck in the fridge for another day).
On a side note: according to the Gallo website, André is the #1 selling sparkling wine in America. Not surprisingly because it averages around $4 a bottle. But what's even more interesting is that they can legally call it "Champagne." Despite the fact that André is not made in Champagne France, is not likely made up of traditional Champagne vatietals, and it is most definitely not produced from the méthode champenoise, André was grandfathered in.
The radish (Raphanus sativus) is in the Brassicaceae family which also includes cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, Chinese cabbage, and horseradish. What gives radishes and many of its "cousins" their punch is a neat little system of the vegetable's version of chemical warfare.
Allyl isothiocyanate is the chemical responsible for the sharp peppery note generated by some members of the Brassicaceae family and it is what keeps animals from eating the plant. It is; however, harmful to the plant itself so it stores two otherwise harmless chemicals in separate containers within the cell walls. When something takes a bite of radish, the enzyme myrosinase is released and transforms a glucosinolate into allyl isothiocyanate.
Mmm, allyl isothiocyanate. Delicious.
Champagne, butter and radishes with some sea salt - what a great appetizer. For your viewing pleasure, I found a vintage André commercial, "Greet the season and your friends with the best, André"
We had dinner over at a friends house the other day and I noticed they use an $80 magnum (1.5L) bottle of "J" Winery's Brut as their doorstop. Granted, it was hot inside with all the cooking - but I thought this was so funny, I had to take a picture.
Here is the perfect Spring drink to celebrate everything coming into bloom.
It is pink. It has bubbles. It is easy. You can make the extract ahead so that you have more time to spend with your guests. What more do you really want?
Hibiscus is most commonly found in the form of a drink at Mexican restaurants as an agua fresca commonly called jamaica. You often find it on ice, in large jars, with metal ladles. It is tart, fragrant, and absolutely delicious.
My only complaint is that in aguas frescas, I think its wonderful astringency is often masked with too much sugar. But then again, I don't drink it everyday so... who am I to blow against the wind?
You buy hibiscus as dried flowers like these:
Bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil. Turn the heat off. Add 1 cup of dried hibiscus flowers. Allow to steep for 20 minutes. Strain to get your hibiscus extract. The extract can be added with water and ice in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio for making aguas frescas.
Dried hibiscus flowers can be found at any Mexican market, and remember: they are almost always found under their Spanish name jamaica.
You can also get them online at Mexgrocer.com:
Once you've made your hibiscus extract, to make Hibiscus Bubbles, add about a tablespoon to each Champagne flute and then fill with a sparkling wine. We used a "California Champagne" but an Italian Prosecco or Spanish Cava would also be fantastic.
As long as it is sparkling, it doesn't really matter. My only advise? I wouldn't use something very expensive because the tartness of the hibiscus and the added sugar take center stage. They will mask any subtle nuance you may have paid for.
We dropped in a flower into each glass for presentation. Enjoy!
Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) was created by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, wine-loving husband-wife authors of the Wall Street Journal Tastings column. OTBN is the one night each year when wine lovers around the world open that bottle they are afraid to open. It is the bottle people cherish, the one that is most special to us. Maybe we received it from a past loved one, a special winery visit, or maybe it’s a bottle we bought but couldn’t afford. Ultimately it is the bottle that, if we hold it for too long, will result in disappointment. OTBN encourages you to open that bottle.
People around the world celebrate OTBN on the last Saturday of February with food, family, friends, or sometimes in the comfort of solitude. Dottie and John highlight some of the more notable experiences in their Tastings column.
This year for Open That Bottle Night I surprised my girlfriend by taking her to Vinopolis, a wine tasting and education experience in London (www.vinopolis.co.uk). While we found the atmosphere cheesy and the “experience” to be catered to wine neophytes, the opportunity to taste new and obscure wines made the event pleasurable.
Of the 22 wines we tasted (we each had 11 small pours, which we shared), our favorite by far was a Mavrud from Bulgaria. We found the Mavrud laid-back and pleasing; it tasted predominantly of berries, with just enough black cherry and tobacco to add nice depth to every sip. The wine felt young, but not over-simplified or abrasive. At £6.99 this wine was a steal by UK standards, so we came home with a case. Neither of us had ever tasted Bulgarian wine before.
After Vinopolis, the special part of the evening really began. A little tipsy and laden with a case of wine, we cancelled our restaurant plans to come home and make linguine from scratch. We found it ironic to celebrate OTBN with an “everyday” wine, but our pasta was perfect and it tasted even better with a newly-acquired bottle of Mavrud.