Saturday, February 28, 2009

Newton - Unflitered Chardonnay - 2005

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The Newton winery is recognized as an American pioneer of unfiltered wines, a philosophy that adds complexity to the winemaking process and demands meticulousness and attention to detail, but maximizes all the subtle characters of the fruit. The grapes are estate grown in the Carneros region, which are ideal for the full and rich flavors.

I have been a devoted follower of the unfiltered Chardonnay for many years. One of my good friends previously worked for the winery and I attended her wedding. Of course, the Chardonnay served was the Newton unfiltered – what a treat!

The Unfiltered Chardonnay is an inviting dark straw hue. This
powerful wine opens with rich crème caramel, butterscotch and fresh
vanilla bean aromas, later revealing baked apple and nutty characters.
Flavors of white peach and caramel with a touch of honey round out this
full-bodied, balanced wine with a lingering creamy finish. It is aged for 20 months in French Oak.

Recommended Food Pairings:
Fried Shrimp Tempura
Poached Salmon
Fettuccini Alfredo


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Salty Dog

My friend Phil introduced me to the "Salty Dog". This cocktail is really refreshing with the tart grapefruit juice and the salty edge. Enjoy on a warm summer day or by the fire with spicy nuts.
2 oz. Vodka
4 oz. Fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice or the best store bought version
Salt for rimming
Rim a highball glass with salt. Fill glass with ice cubes. Add vodka and grapefruit juice and stir.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Great Cheese & Great Friends

Our dear friends Dean (left) and Mark (right) recently moved to Arkansas from Northern California due to a job change. We miss them! Dean called Friday afternoon to let me know they were in town and would love to see Charles and me.

I had just gone to the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building last weekend and bought some great cheeses from The Cowgirl Creamery. Invited them to come over to enjoy wine and a great cheese platter.

From left to right, the cheeses are (see photo below):

Red Hawk - Made by Cowgirl Creamery, triple cream, washed rind, cows milk cheese, aged 6 weeks with a brine solution. A bit stinky, but divine!
Point Reyes Farmstead Blue Cheese - made by the name sake, creamy, salty flavor, aged 6 months, one of the best blue cheeses around!
Midnight Moon - Made by Cypress Grove, goat's milk cheese, dense and chewy, aged one year, brown butter flavor with caramel undertones. In a word - WOW!
Lamb Chopper - Made by Cypress Grove, sheep's milk Gouda, smooth, buttery with a light fruity aroma. Great sheep milk cheese, especially once it comes to room temperature.

Accented the cheese platter with grapes, dried apricots, sweet & spicy pecans, medjool dates, pistachios, salami and a fig jam. Bought a fresh baguette!

We had a great Chardonnay from Steven Kent Winery in Livermore and a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon that Dean and Mark brought.

Great to spend a relaxing evening with such great friends!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Auction Dinner - An Opportunity to Give Back

My husband and I attended our nephew’s school auction in 2008 and we decided to donate our time and talents to help raise money for the school. Wanted to translate my passion for cooking and entertaining to tangible funds for the school, so I decided to offer a seven course tasting menu at our house as an auction item. Five couples decided to go in as a collective group to purchase the dinner for $1,000. Took a bit of time to coordinate everyone's busy schedules but finally held the dinner at our house in early 2009.

The dinner was such a hit with everyone that they asked the "chef" to come out for a toast! It was a bit surreal for a moment, that I was the chef. The group even joked that they would tell everyone it was "not that good", so they could win it again this year. What a rewarding experience to do something that I have such passion for and at the same time, raise money for such a wonderful cause.

This year’s auction is around the corner and I am planning to design another tasting menu to have as an auction item to help raise money for our nephew’s school. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to earn $1,500 for the school? Stay tuned...... (Quick update - we earned $1,300 for the dinner and will schedule soon - not too bad considering the challenging economy.)

Tasting Menu

Crab Cakes
Lemon Aioli, Avocado Jicama Citrus Salad
(Caymus Conumdrum 2005)

Roasted Red and Golden Beet Salad
Blood Orange Vinaigrette, Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese, Toasted Pistachios
(John Anthony Sauvignon Blanc 2006)

Zucchini Bisque
Crème Fraiche, Handmade Petite Chive Biscuit
(D.R. Stephens Chardonnay Hudson 2004)

Palate Cleanser
Meyer Lemon Sorbet with Prosecco

Seared Alaskan Salmon
Parmesan & English Pea Pure, Lemon Scented Free Range Chicken Stock with Shallots
(Barnett Vineyards Pinot Nior 2006)

Petite Lamb Chops
Mint-Cilantro Relish, Assorted Roasted Vegetables
(Spencer Roloson Syrah La Herradura 2003)

Braised Short ribs with Orange Hoisen Sauce
Roasted Garlic Potato Puree, Green Beans
(Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2004)

Warm Molten Chocolate Cake
Handmade Caramel Sauce Accented with Berries
(Artisan Lattes, Cappuccinos and Coffee)


Special note: Gave everyone a small white box with a black/white ribbon tied around it which was filled with my famous toffee (recipe under "Cookies and Candy"). Topped it off with a pretty little white card tied to the ribbon that said "tomorrow". By the next week, I learned that not too many people waited until the next day and were inquiring about the recipe.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rudd - Sauvignon Blanc - 2006

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I first experienced Rudd’s Sauvignon Blanc at the Grand Opening Party at Calistoga Ranch’s Resort in the upper Napa Valley. I fell in love with the vibrant and elegantly smooth finish that is full of citrus flavors and a hint of vanilla. Rudd is best known for their Cabernet Sauvignon but has been quietly producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc. Robert Parker rated this wine “Outstanding 93 points”. Other flavors include: notes of guava, fig, honeysuckle and honeydew melon.

Recommended Food Pairings:

Chicken Salad
Goat Cheese Crostini with Roasted Red Peppers
Lobster Bisque


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Conundrum - California White Table Wine

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Caymus "Conundrum" 2005 is from Napa Valley and is a terrific blend of three grapes - Viognier, Roussanne and Marsannel. A very floral bouquet is prominent on the palate with hints of honeysuckle and butterscotch. The tropical flavors come through with mango, papaya and kiwi. Fresh fruits flavor such as peaches and pear tease the palate and have a honey & silky finish.
Caymus Conundrum has been selected by Wine Spectator as "Wine of the year" in 1989 and 1994.
Recommended Food Pairing:
Crab Cakes
Shrimp Scampi
Blue Cheese, Pears and Pecans
Approximately $20 to $22

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cocktail Party Mix

Recently I created a playlist on itunes titled "Cocktail Party Mix". (Go to imix on itunes, if you want to upload) It is a set of various artists and perfect for your next cocktail party. Enjoy!

NOTE: Simply click the arrow to the right of the "Page 1 of 6" to scroll through the list.