Tag Archives: wine

The Sunday Table: June 26, 2011

A bill in my home state of Massachusetts will make the quahog the state shellfish. What?! Did I hear a snicker out of you? Surely it’s because you don’t understand the magnificence of the quahog. And in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced co-hog, not qwa-hog as a delusional Midwestern executive chef once tried to tell me. Who did the staff believe? Me, of course. Respect. Of course you know how to pronounce quahog if you’re a Family Guy fan.

But what about the soft-shelled clam? Doesn’t it have rights to the state shellfish title? Will it be edged out by the hard-shelled quahog? Fried clams and steamers vs. chowder, cherrystones and stuffies? That’s a tough one.

That’s not the only news out of the Massachusetts State House. Another bill is pending to make Rex Trailer the state cowboy. Surely that one will pass unanimously. My first brush with TV fame was on the Rex Trailer show. I only remember a procession through the set and then having pancakes with Cactus Pete. It was very exciting. Boom, Boom, Boomtown!

Continuing with the Massachusetts theme, did you know that New Bedford is the largest U.S. commercial fishing port? They can thank their scallop fishery for that status. In 2009 the scallop harvest was valued at $249 million, according to the latest federal fishery statistics. “And scallops, unlike lobster, have proven remarkably recession proof with prices rising steadily through the downturn even as the amount caught held relatively steady.” I keep an eye out for sales on scallops at Harris Teeter; their selection always looks fresher than scallops in other markets. The next time I buy some, I’m making Baked Buzzards Bay Scallops – quick, easy and so delicious.

raleigh freelance writer blogger

Oh to have a plate of these right now, sigh. (photo by Flickr/joo0ey)

One of my favorite breweries outside North Carolina, New Belgium, is celebrating their 20th anniversary. Twice recently on visits to the Busy Bee Cafe I swooned over their Dunkelweiss. Last night I bought of six-pack of their summer seasonal, Somersault Ale, a kolsch they describe as “a perfect, summer lounge-around ale that is easy to drink.” Yes, it is. My next six-pack purchase will be from a North Carolina brewery. I support my local brewers whenever I can, but since I’m a beer geek and like to try new things, I usually alternate between NC and out of state beers. However, I must confess, because I’m in a constant battle with the bulge, I keep Yuengling Light Lager in stock as my summer house beer. At only 99 calories, it’s my compromise refreshment beer.

Whenever someone I know goes to northern California to visit the wine country, they always head to Napa or Sonoma. I did too until I moved to Sacramento and discovered the more modest wineries hidden among the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. You’ll especially love that area if you’re a Rhone lover like me or a Zin fan. Just 30 minutes from Sac, you’ll find really good wine at more reasonable prices than Napa or Sonoma in a setting that is often more gorgeous. You won’t have to pony up money for tasting fees. At some wineries you may feel like you’re in a rec room or dressed-up shed, but the person pouring wine might just be the vintner. There’s gold in them thar hills!

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from Robert Louis Stevenson: “Wine is bottled poetry.”

And now, W.C. Fields: “What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?”

Happy memories! Terre Rouge & Easton Wines in Amador County

The Sunday Table: January 9, 2011

North Carolina is frigid today; it went all the way down to 18 last night. I know that’s nothing for all you hardy northerners, but brrrrr. A storm’s coming in tonight bringing snow and freezing rain. Times like these call for making a big pot of chili. If my newly tweaked recipe turns out well, I’ll post it on Wednesday. Make yourself at home; I’ll have a bowl ready for you soon. In the meantime, have a beer, a Sierra Nevada Porter a Duck-Rabbit Porter (changed my mind at the store), some for the pot, some for us, and let’s talk food.

As much as I love excess, I am paying a bit more attention to my health this New Year. I’ve always taken it for granted, but I’m hitting a milestone birthday this year and it’s starting to sink in — I’m not invincible anymore. It’s time to make fitness more of a priority in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I was doing okay until I moved here and then I lost my momentum. But I’m back! Joe Miller at the Get Going NC blog gives us seven useful tips for a better 2011.

Joe’s blog led me to The Couch-to-5K ® Running Plan. I’ve seen references to this program, perhaps from friends on Facebook. I’m not sure if it’s for me but I like the idea of burning calories efficiently. I haven’t run since high school. I was a miler and cross-country runner but stopped after getting three tibia stress fractures in a row. Until now I’ve never been tempted to run again, all that bone banging put me off. But we’re talking only three miles, not thirteen miles, hmmm.

pimento cheese beer white wine cheese honey food cooking

photo by Kristen Taylor

Back to the fat. I could have called this one: 2011 will be the year of pimento cheese, says Time. No kidding. I have seen an onslaught of recipes for pimento cheese dips, pimento cheese potato gratin and pimento cheese bacon bites. They’re all residing in my “make one day soon” list. I live in the land of pimento cheese. Even in the most basic supermarket, there are at least a few different brands. What’s not to love? Cheese, mayo, peppers? 2011 will be a very good year.

This is a fascinating and disturbing story, fittingly printed in the Crime section of The Globe & Mail, about honey laundering: the sour side of nature’s golden sweetener. Honey makes its way onto supermarket shelves and into food processors’ factories (for cereal, bread and more) from China where it’s been contaminated with dangerous antibiotics and diluted with sweeteners. Please please please buy local or made in USA honey. Support your local beekeepers. Support the US honey industry that supports our agriculture.

Everyone loves their Trader Joe’s. We all have our list of staples that we only buy there. Of course we always come out with more than the items on that list. It always cracks me up when the cashiers say, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” And everything I wasn’t but am compelled to buy! Even their beers, or at least some of them, are great deals. Tom Cizauskas led me to this post revealing the real breweries behind those silly Trader Joe’s names.

I’ve always been an advocate of pairing good craft beer with cheese, but when I had a cheese party for myself on my birthday this year, I chose white wine instead. I just think it goes better. Years ago in London, I had a picnic in my hotel room with cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy; I chose white wine that night too. David Lebovitz’s post, Why You Should Drink White Wine with Cheese, made me realize that I’m not weird.

white wine cheese beer honey pimento cheese food cooking

photo by Arnaud Clerget

Warm Up with Glühwein on Christmas Eve

When I lived in Sacramento, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) at the Turn Verein, a German community center, in my old neighborhood. After browsing craft tables, buying a Christmas tree ornament, German Christmas cookies and maybe a sausage sandwich, I would make a visit to the glühwein stand.

Glühwein is a mulled spiced red wine fortified with a bit of liquor. There’s nothing better than a walk home on a chilly day with a steaming cup of glühwein in hand. I suppose that’s illegal but who’s to know. Besides, tis the season, officer.

This recipe is pretty flexible. I started long ago with a recipe that made gallons of glühwein. I cut back the ingredients, improvised a bit and ended up with this one. However, it’s different every year depending on the wine. Give it a taste after it’s heated up to decide if you want to add more spice, fruit or sugar.

Don’t go too cheap on your choice of wine; otherwise your glühwein could taste a bit vinegary when heated up. The less oak in your wine, the better for this recipe. I recommend Beaujolais, Garnarcha, Nero d’Avola, Pinot Noir, Syrah (Shiraz) or Zinfandel.

A crockpot of this makes the house smell like Christmas. It’s a great beverage to serve before dinner, at a party or just to warm up a chilly afternoon. I’ve stored leftover glühwein in the refrigerator for a day or two, covered, and heated it back up in a crockpot. Make some this afternoon and enjoy it as you wrap presents, make dinner and hang out with your loved ones.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

gluhwein mulled wine recipe christmas

flickr photo by flamesplash


  • 1.5 liters dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup granulated or brown sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves, whole
  • Optional – 2 crushed cardamom pods, 2 star anise
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp mace
  • 3/4 cup brandy
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced

Set crock pot to low and pour in the wine. As it begins to warm, add the 1/2 cup sugar. If you have cheesecloth, enclose the spices in a square of cloth, tie it off and add to the pot, otherwise just drop them in. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the brandy, orange and lemon. Steep for about one hour over low heat.

Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if you wish, stirring well so it dissolves. Turn the crockpot to warm or turn off the heat completely, keeping it covered, until you’re ready to serve.

Serve hot. Ladle into glasses. I like footed glasses with handles (Irish coffee glasses). Garnish each glass with an orange slice, cinnamon stick and/or star anise pod.

Merry Christmas!

gluhwein mulled wine recipe christmas

photo by Leon Brocard

The Sunday Table: December 12, 2010

Look Santa! Another Julia Child book to add to my wishlist just in time for Christmas! Christopher Kimball, of Cook’s Illustrated fame, reviews a new book edited by Joan Reardon, As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. If not for Avis, I wonder if Julia would have ever managed to get Mastering the Art of French Cooking published.

I’m a bit of a nut for the aroma of pine. Not those hanging pine trees you see in taxis, but expensive candles and soaps, and, of course, real Christmas wreaths and trees, although sadly we have two fake trees so we use one of those instead of a real one. Michael Bauer from the SF Chronicle alerted me to a new culinary trend – chefs are cooking with Douglas fir. I wonder how it would work as a substitute for rosemary.

Have you tried any of the new cheap wines from Whole Foods? They’re selling Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Three Wishes Vineyards — their own version of Two-Buck Chuck, the famous Charles Shaw wines at Trader Joe’s. Slashfood gave the wines a try, and gave them a thumbs up.

freelance writer blogger

flickr photo by Amy (Samdogs)

Jim and I entered the holiday season with a little extra meat on us, if you know what I mean, so I’m not making Christmas cookies this year. However, I bookmarked a page on the Providence Journal’s website for next year — links to hundreds of holiday cookie recipes published in other newspaper food sections.

Nutmeg makes its appearance in my kitchen throughout the year but has a special role at Christmas when I grate a bit on glasses of my homemade eggnog. It also made an appearance on ABC News this week for its part in a new trend in teenage drug use. Yes, nutmeg. It has quite a history, according to Saveur, and quite a hold on our brains. Food manufacturers add it to the most unlikely products because we’re hard-wired to prefer its taste.

You’ve probably heard of unami, one of the five basic tastes – sweet, salty, bitter and sour are the others. It’s the savory taste that gives food its oomph. Now you can get unami paste in a tube, “ripe with the flavors of anchovies, black olives, tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese” – your new secret ingredient.

Here’s a way to keep the fat off during the holiday season: just think about eating. Hmm, I do that anyways, maybe I can do it with more intention and cut back on what I actually eat. I read about a new study that found that “people who imagined themselves repeatedly indulging in sweet or salty treats ended up eating less of the actual foods than people who didn’t visualize eating the same foods.”

Merry Christmas!

freelance writer blogger

flickr photo by TW Collins

The Sunday Table

I love food. I love to eat, so I love to cook. I spent much of my adult life working in restaurants in the front of the house and then some time in a pastry kitchen and culinary school. I’m always thinking about food, what to eat, what to make. I love reading about food — blogs, books, cookbooks, magazines — it never tires me because I keep on learning. I once heard an interview with Julia Child in which she said she loves her work in the kitchen because she learns something every single day.

If you were sitting with me now, sharing some good wine or beer, munching on something simple and delicious, what would we chat about? On Sundays I’ll share some of my discoveries from the week, like the dinner being held tonight in a Hong Kong hotel where guests will feast on a 900 gram (about two pounds) white truffle that sold for $142,653 at auction. How about just a wee bit shaved over some pasta? Sigh.

In the back-to-reality category came news about Senate Bill S. 510: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. I dislike over-regulation but feel something has to be done about the factory farms that keep producing unsafe food because of their disregard of safety in their drive for profit. Trust me, I’m all for profit, just don’t kill us trying to get there. However, many say that one size doesn’t fit all so there’s an amendment to protect small farmers from the potentially harmful economic effects of this bill. I still have a lot of reading to do on this bill and its status since I’ve only heard one side of the story.

There is one less thing to worry about as far as the federal government is concerned: the USDA isn’t using our taxpayer dollars in cahoots with Domino’s to promote extra cheese on pizzas. The Atlantic explains why journalists got that story wrong.

flickr photo by Matthew Ginger

On Tuesday UNESCO added “the gastronomic meal of the French” to their list of intangible cultural heritages. That may sound crazy to those who aren’t devotees of MFK Fisher, Julia Child and others who fell in love with the pleasures of the table because of an amazing meal in France. “The gastronomic meal emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature.” Life at its best.

It was also a good week for Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco who were promoting the inclusion of the Mediterranean diet to the list — “a nutritional model….consisting mainly of olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruit and vegetables, a moderate amount of fish, dairy and meat, and many condiments and spices.” For both the French and Mediterranean entries, the UNESCO committee lauded the social elements of these cooking and dining traditions. It’s not just the culinary skill or ingredients that matter, it’s how the entire experience — from kitchen to table — enhances our lives.

Beaujolais Nouveau c’est arrivée! I used to see this sign all over Washington DC, but not so much in Sacramento or Raleigh. Beaujolais Nouveau is a French red wine that’s fermented only a few weeks before it’s released for sale on the third Thursday in November. My friend Scott always arrived at Thanksgiving with a few magnums of Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s a good wine for quaffing — lightweight and fruity alongside pre-turkey hors d’oeuvres. Chris Spagnuolo, in an oldie but goodie post, tells us how this craze began.

The Four Loko mania has led the FDA and state ABC to ban the sale of caffeinated alcoholic drinks. When I was a wild 20-something, an Irish coffee was my preferred way to get a speedy buzz. Will the FDA get around to banning those too? Thank goodness, our delectable roasty coffee stouts aren’t endangered.

I managed restaurants before the days of OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation system, so I had no idea how much it costs for restaurants to participate. A San Francisco restaurant, Incanto, home of chef Chris Cosentino, decided OpenTable wasn’t worth it and explains why on their site. It might be time to check a restaurant’s website and pick up the phone to make that reservation.

I wrote about the Cooks Source copyright controversy on my other blog. It’s no surprise that the magazine is shutting their doors. A tough lesson in copyright and public relations for its now infamous, and most likely unemployable, editor, Judith Griggs. Before their website was shut down, she wrote one last “don’t blame me” unrepentant rant. Maybe she can get her own reality show, she’s perfect for it!

And finally, because she’s a kindred spirit, I want to share this interview with Nigella Lawson.

flickr photo by Hajime Nakano