A Sparkling Tasting

Thursday, December 30, 2010 - 
Last week, hubs and I attended a champage tasting from the Moet-Hennessey distributors.  It was full of great bubbly and educational information.  But, it didn't have something our tasting last night had - food.  Great food made by our friend Steven at Tastings: A Wine Experience

Aperitif - Poinsettia Champagne Cocktail: a great way to begin the meal as I adore Champagne cocktails.  This was a mix of cranberry juice, triple sec and champagne.  The citrus of the lime was the main smell, but the cocktail itself was delish.

First Course - Schramsberg 'Blanc de Blancs' Brut with Caramelized Apple Tart & Gorgonzola Potato Bite: The sparkling wine (made in California) was overwhelming in carbonation, but it did break up the typical "dryness" of a brut disolving like air in the mouth.  The tart consisted of diced caramelized apples with creamy St. Andre brie, all on top of a buttery and savory dough.  The roasted baby yukon gold potato was hollowed out and filled with sharp gorgonzola, savory toasted cashews and a Bleu cheese sauce that worked well with the sparkling wine.  Both were delicious, two of my favorites.
Second Course - Poper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne with Spiced Plantain Crostini & Goat Cheese Crostini: I was dissapointed with this champagne, as it was so subtle in flavor, I really expected more out of the wine.  But the crostini's would have overshadowed the champagne either way because they were absolutely fantastic.  Though mild in flavor, a spiced plantain puree burst to life with roasted pineapples and feta to finish it off..  The other was a savory Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor cheese with a rich toasted walnut pesto and white balsamic spring onions.  It smelled amazing and the richness of the cheese with the truffle balanced the nutty pesto. Divine
Third Course - Carras Vinas 'Vino Espumoso de Calidad' Brut with Tuna Skewers with Fennel and Spanish Shrimp Cocktail: This was the most interesting wine of the evening, as it had an extremely nutty smell and flavor to it.  Hazelnuts stood out making you want to wrap your head around the flavors (it took us quite a while).  Though intriguing, I don't know if I would order this out, but would sip it again if offered.  It was paired extremely well with both appetizers we were served.  The tuna, though a little fishy, was cooked medium rare and served with a crunchy shaved fennel salad in a bright lemon vinaigrette.  The other was a deep smelling paprika roasted shrimp, boasting sweet hints of honey, with a rich toasted almond romesco. 

Fin - Banfi 'Rosa Regale' Sparkling Brachetto with Lemon Tarts & Brownie Bites: I've had the rose colored wine before and thought it was great, but this time around it got sweeter with each taste.  And the two desserts were also too sweet for me this evening (I think I was in a savory mood!)  The lemon curd was tart, but still sweet, as it was paired with a crisp pie crust, light fluffy whipped cream and a tarragon raspberry jam.  The chocolate-Wenselydale brownie was rich in deep chocolate flavor, but the black currant Rosa Regale sauce gave it the sweet factor of a dessert.

After trying all of these sparkling beverages, I've decided to bring back a philosophy of mine that faded about two years ago: a girl should always have a bottle of sparkling wine in the fridge.  You just never know when you might need to entertain the day with a celebration.  Thus, I may bring this back, along with a few other resolutions, this New Years...but moreon that later.

If you are popping some bubbly this New Year's, what will you be drinking?

Grilled Romaine Salad (yes, in the Winter)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - 
I have been wanting to use this for quite sometime...
My mom had an extra tube and insisted that I take it with me when we left Wisconsin after the holiday.  On Monday, I decided to make the most simple item I could think of out of the paste - Caesar dressing.  
This all really started with the fact that hubby and I had these fantastic kabobs to eat.  Whenever we are in Green Bay, we always stop at Maplewood Meats - this insane meat market.  The quality and variety of the meat products is abundant and we always end up running around like kids in a candy store, drooling over the counters and waiting patiently as we take a number and wait to be called upon to order.  It is quite an experience, and I love everything about it.  We purchased beef sticks (which we ate for dinner on Sunday after we arrived home), stuffed pork chops, beef teryaki kabobs, pizza burgers (mmm...), breakfast sausage, andouille sausage, and so much more.  I knew when we bought the kabobs that I wasn't about to freeze those, so we kept them in the cooler (yes, we travel with a cooler due to our anticipation of the butcher shop) for our Monday night dinner.  They are large portions, and both the veggies (mushrooms, peppers and onions) and meat are always tender. And might I add that it isn't just beef tenderloin, but they throw hunks of ham on their too.  I love you Maplewood Meats...nom nom...

Thus, on Monday, we fired up the grill and I pondered, "what shall we have on the side?"  Then, I thought about the delicious grilled romaine salad I had at Pizzology a few weeks ago.  And rather than an herb salad, why not make some Caesar from the anchovy paste?  I gathered up some garlic, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mayo and some herbs along with the anchovy paste and started pulsing while adding olive oil.  And just like that - Caesar dressing.  Delish.
As hubs grilled the kabobs, I decided our salad needed croutons as well.  I buttered up some bread that we had and sprinkled Italian herbs and a healthy dose of garlic powder on top before popping them in the oven.  I also prepped some mozzarella and Indiana tomatoes for the salad.  

Once the kabobs were just about ready, hubs added the lightly oiled romaine halves to the grill.  When they were done, we had a meal that was perfect for the summer - or in our case, a Wisconsin-ites winter, because outdoor grilling is year round of course.  The kabobs were tender and delicious, bursting with flavor that had me yearning for an al fresco dining session.  And the salad, crisp and warm, was dressed perfectly and had the subtle char taste we were looking forward to.
It was a great meal, not too heavy, especially since I didn't eat all of the kabob.  Leftovers were saved, and as I sit here writing this, I'm enjoying this:
Yup, I sauteed the remaining peppers, onions and tenderloin, added some tomatoes and made an egg scramble.  And don't judge - I like to cut up my toast and make it mini for easier eating. Plus, mini is just adorable.

We also LOVE to shop at Festival Foods when in Green Bay, but that is for a different post (teaser - let's just say that remember I said my husband was jealous of the amazing King Crab I had in Vegas?  Well, after Thursday, he won't be jealous much longer...  
Is there a place that you just HAVE to stock up when visiting?

I'll Be Home for Christmas...

Monday, December 27, 2010 - 
Hubs and I made our trek to Green Bay, Wisconsin to see family for Christmas.  It was great to go on social media hiatus for a bit (though I did miss all of you) and spend every minute with family.  It was a "long" weekend, but it went by very quickly as the two full days were both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, thus we spent every minute with our families.  But it was fantastic to see everyone, and I loved every minute of it. 

We spent Christmas Eve with my family and ate a lot of great food, including prime rib, roasted Brussels sprouts and corn, creamy bleu potatoes and other delicious sides.  And of course, we drank some merry concoctions of peppermint martini's (peppermint schnapps, whipped vodka and Bailey's) as well as Creamsicle martini's (whipped vodka with orange juice) and of course, Manhattan's, Old Fashion's and wine.

Christmas Day was spent with Tim's family.  We were able to spend sometime with our darling nephews, including our two week old nephew who we met for the first time, nieces, and both Tim's immediate family and their significant others and his extended family of aunts and uncles.  Socializing over lunch of prime rib, roasted chicken, baked ham, mashed potatoes, dressing, dumplings and little nibbles of candies and apps, we had a great time (and of course, watched the Disney parade!) watching all the children open their presents.  The smiles are priceless!

We left early on Sunday to dodge holiday traffic in Chicago and ended up making it back to Indy in great time.  We even managed to catch the Packer game over our "we just visited Wisconsin" dinner (it seems as though every evening we get back from Wisconsin, we ended up having a dinner of cheese, beef sticks and beer - I am not complaining, just sayin').  It was a great long weekend, but I'm excited to be back home and have the week off.  Unfortunately, hubs does have to work four days this week, but in that time span, I plan on cooking and organizing to my hearts content.  And of course, watching Netflix.

How was your holiday?

The Christmas Break

Thursday, December 23, 2010 - 
Hubs and I have celebrated the holidays all month long and the final week is upon us.  Unfortunately, his advent activities didn't really play out well this week after Day 20.  We were schedule to dine with friends to celebrate Pseudo-suave's birthday on Day 21: A Holiday Birthday and Day 22: A White (Wine) Christmas was to bring us to Tastings for some delicious food and drink.  But things happen - those two events were not one of them.

Here we are, Day 23: I'll Be Home for Christmas.  Hubs and I will be driving to Wisconsin for a long weekend of family, friends, food and holiday cheer.  I'm excited to meet my new nephew who was born last week, eat some fantastic food with family, and just relax.  Our activity is just how it sounds - driving to Wisco while listening to some jolly music and books on cd.  I've packed up some treats and I'm crossing my fingers that we get through the weather and Chicago in a timely fashion.  Day 24: Christmas Eve Treats consists of a stocking full of treats for hubby to share while we celebrate with my family.  Christmas Day, we'll make our way to his mother's home for more celebrations.

So to all of you that celebrate Christmas, I hope it is full of merry delights! 
From Disney Parks Blog

Next week, I'll be off of work and will be entertaining life each day in the kitchen or at friendly celebrations.  Until then...

A Weekend of Modifications & Cooking

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - 

Yup, I've been fighting a cold since Saturday.  'Tis the season I guess.  And though it isn't a horrible cold (despite that I sound like a frog and my head is pounding), it still doesn't make me want to do much despite the pending holiday.  So our advent fun has been slightly derailed...but alas, we still try!

Day 17: Happy Chrisma-Hanukwan-Zakah Celebration: Every holiday, hubs and I host our annual holiday gathering for our close friends.  Uber casual affair: claymation (specifically Rudolph, hubs fave) and other holiday movies are shown while people mix and mingle with drinks & nosh.  Featured this year was hubs home brew of Nut Brown and Hefe - both delicious - and mix of food, including jalapeno popper dip, mini crab quiches, fruit salsa and gorgonzola & pear pizza's drizzled with a honey balsamic sauce.  It was a wonderful, laid back evening - thanks to those who joined us!

Day 18: A Stately Affair: We modified this day, as we were going to visit the Indiana State Museum to see both the Titanic Exhibition and 'Odd Indiana.'  Plus, Celebration Crossing is always cute if you want to get in the holiday spirit.  They even have this little train you can ride, it's adorable.  Unfortunately, neither one of us were quite in the mood to go and ended up catching up on some DVR'd tele and holiday shopping.  But I'm not complaining!  We even decided to have a home fondue evening.  We only made it through the cheese course (a basic swiss with adobo chili and bacon) as we were too full for our pending chocolate.  Maybe we'll get to it later in the week, and if not, we'll just have lots of fruit to eat up!

Day 19: A House of Ginger: This is another modification, because we didn't build our Gingerbread house as intended.  I guess the weekend of no plans was in full force!  Instead, we finished holiday shopping and made lots of yummy food throughout the day, including bleu cheese meatballs in this rich and creamy bleu cheese sauce (note - sounds like a lot of bleu, but in reality, it wasn't at all.  Fantastic with some good bread too, which we had), sausage and cheddar biscuits and bacon wrapped jalapenos (of course I had to use up the leftovers from the dip!)  This was all after a yummy breakfast of pumpkin spiced waffles (subtly, cause we spread some blueberry sauce on top still) and thickly sliced bacon.  Lazy Sunday, my favorite.

Day 20: Holiday Exchange: Our own private holiday gift giving, hubs and I have decided to exchange a few small items because we are going to get something 'big' after the holiday.  By big, we mean probably another pup.  We plan on rescuing one from Tri-State Rescue, so we are waiting for the right one to come along as well as the right time.  Nala does need a playmate, so we'll see...but back to the evening.  I must have been a good girl this year, because I got lots of Disney love, especially Nightmare Before Christmas.  I heart Disney's Vinylmation, so that was a fun treat. And the ornament exchange is tradition, as is the Disney Precious Moment (hubs gets me one every year since we've been married because we had one on our cake table.)  I gave hubs his ornament, some basic beer mugs for the sharing of home brews (time to pack up some of those pint glasses!) and his last gift hasn't arrived yet.  He really wanted the 1 liter beer mug, similar to the Hofbrauhaus glass.  What my baby wants, my baby gets - it should arrive a few days after the holiday.

The final week of the advent calendar is here - looking forward to some great food (my taste buds better start working as should my nose...) with friends and holidays with the family!  And of course, happy Winter Solstice!

Gift giving - anything you excited for if you are giving or receiving?

Holiday Bubbly: A Champagne Tasting

Saturday, December 18, 2010 - 
Almost every week, the Payless Liquors in Carmel hosts a wine tasting.  A smaller group of regulars is always there and the two times Tim and I have been, we have felt like the party crashers, but I know this isn't the vibe they want to set.  It is open to anyone who wants to join, you just have to sign up in advance.  We enjoyed ourselves at a German wine tasting, so when I say the Moet Hennessy tasting around the holiday season, I signed us up knowing that it would be perfect for Day 16: Holiday Bubbly on the advent calendar.


A distributor from Moet Hennessy USA presented us with eight different sparkling wines or champagnes to enjoy.  They were all unique in their way, and I learned a lot about the history of the sparkling wine:
  1. Chandon Brut - seemingly bitter, this is a sparkling wine from California.  Primarily Pinot Noir, followed by Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier for grapes.  Light in color, it was a dry sparkling wine that paired great with the cheese we were given (first photo above.)
  2. Chandon Blanc de Noir - another Californian wine, I thought it was too simple in flavor.  It was very subtle, and when eaten with anything, the subtle flavor was overpowered.  This would be a sip alone beverage, if you enjoy the light taste.  I prefer more bold flavors personally (second photo above.)
  3. Moet Imperial - this champagne is formerly known as "White Star" but changed names to adapt globally for sales.  Smells subtly sweet, and consists mostly of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
  4. Clicquot Yellow Label - hubs and I wanted to try this again, because we thought it smelled a little off when we tried it.  Strong in yeast smell, the champagne was odd on it's own, but great with the brie (third photo above.)
  5. Ruinart Blanc de Blanc - all Chardonnay grapes (which makes sense for a white on white), the bottle was definitely unique in presentation.  Subtle yeast smell, this champagne tasted much better with food than on it's own.  Fun fact - Ruinart is buried next to Dom Perignon, they were close friends who both had a great sense of knowing when grapes were ready to be harvested, thus producing some great champagnes (shown below, with the following wines to follow.)
  6. Chandon Rose - the sparkling rose was sweet, but a clean rose which didn't seem typcal.  Predominately Chardonnay grapes, the color is from the Pinot Noir still wine which is added for both sweetness aned color.  Would be great paired with a spicy food as the acid would cut it perfectly.
  7. Moet Nectar Imperial Rose - though sweeter in flavor (it has a residual sugar of 3%,) this was one of our favorites of the evening.  It is something my friends who enjoy sweet wine would also like, but with the subtle dryness, I too would be able to indulge in this champagne.
  8. Ruinart Rose - another great bottle, this champagne popped in your mouth with all the carbonation.  It was a good way to end the tasting - though we were munching on potato chips at this point (yes, potato chips and champagne, really a great combo!) so it helped cut the sweet factor a bit.

The tastings typically last from 6:30-8:00 p.m., and they are entirely free.  From what we've scene, the distributors of the products are the presenters, but the owners of Payless are just as knowledgable ready to answer any questions you have as well.  In addition, you then have the option of purchasing any of the products you just tasted at a 10% discount.  It really is a great deal, and I love that it is right down the street!

Which holiday bubbly do you plan to pop over the upcoming New Year celebration?

Best Alaskan King Crab Ever. Period.

Thursday, December 16, 2010 - 
I was in Las Vegas for work this week - got back to Indy last night.  There are two things about Vegas that I appreciate: the abundance of Cirque shows and the food.  Unfortunately, I was working so I didn't get to any shows, but I did eat an amazing meal at Hank's Steakhouse at the Green Valley Resort.

Despite it being a steakhouse, I ordered some sea scallops.  They were luscious, swimming in a pool of buttery broth. Seared and perfectly seasoned, they were probably the best scallops I've ever had.  The two women dining with me, one had some lamb chops that looked fantastic, and the other had these amazing Alaskan King Crab.  Delicious - best crab ever.  It had to have been poached in butter as it was utterly amazing.  They give you a side of butter to dip it in, but it is absolutely not necessary.  Oh heaven on a platter - delicious.

We also ordered sides, which are served family style, of green beans almondine, grilled tomatoes with Parmesan and spinach, and these amazing truffle 'tator tots'.  Honestly, these tots were probably the best potatoes I've ever eaten (my tots were good, but not like these!) as they were creamy and earthy, full of truffle flavor on the inside and had a slight crisp outer layer.  Great meal, I'd definitely return.

Thanks Frito Lay for making hubby happy!
While I was enjoying this lovely meal, what was hubby doing?  Celebrating advent bachelor time once again of course.  All of his advent treats were small gifts, Day 13: Bare Necessities was loving named after Disney's Jungle Book, but was a gift of clothing necessities.  Day 14: Bachelor Advent was once again a tribute to his bachelor time while I traveled.  Hubs loves to indulge on chips and soda when I'm not home, since we normally don't have them in the house.  Specifically, Funyuns and Mountain Dew.  So I gave him a pack of the small bottles which he eagerly started drinking immediately I'm sure.  Day 15: 'Who' to Watch With was a tribute to my favorite holiday cartoon, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  Love that - and of course, I was the 'who' to watch it with!

Tonight's event was a champagne tasting, and tomorrow is our annual holiday party.  More to come on these two events - should be great fun!  And I'm happy to report that I have tomorrow off from work as well!

Oh, and we ended up making our wreath this past weekend during all the festivus as well!  Normally we use fir, but we decided to opt for a more simple wreath this year, all for around $5.  Can you believe it?  I grabbed some of the leftover ornaments we didn't use to decorate the trees with and added for a festive touch versus a bow.  What do you think?

A Very Merry Social Weekend

Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 
Just coming home from my travels, hubs and I dove into a weekend of celebrations. We had not only the pending holidays to celebrate, but also my bestie's birthday!  It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but we definitely had a great time with friends while also celebrating our time together.

Day 10: Tini's & Turtlenecks was a theme carried through by our friend (who Tim loving refers to as 'Cougar') who was hosting her holiday party.  It was a great evening filled with new friends, a fantastic food spread and delicious drinks.  We were all cheery on Friday evening - how could you not be when surrounded by friends?  I adore LE, she is one of those fantastic people you meet in life and appreciate more and more each day.  And her brother D and other roommate T were fantastic hosts as well!

Saturday was Day 11: Beer with a Twist, hubs first physical gift.  Hubs loves his beer (as I speak, he is upstairs brewing) and pretzels.  I found a place out of Brooklyn, NY called Liddabits that makes beer and pretzel caramels, so why not give them a try?  I ended up purchasing a gift package named 'The Cult Classic' which consisted of the beer & pretzel caramels, sea salt caramels, honeycomb, and two candy bars (the Snacker and King.)  The caramels are all we've tried so far, and they really are fantastic.  Sweet, one piece is all you need.  The beer flavors are subtle, but compliment the salty crunch of pretzels.  Look them up if you are in Brooklyn, but know that Indy has some pretty fantastic sweets as well (hello Indy's Best Chocolate WeeMac truffles...and have you seen their holiday flavors?  I can't wait to give them a try!!!)

That evening we also celebrated my dear friend MM's 28th birthday with dinner at Scotty's Brewhouse and an evening of comedy at Morty's.  Dinner was stellar, comedians were lack luster, but the friends were everything expected - fantastic.  Hope she enjoys her birthday - love you M!

Today, Day 12: Holiday Brunch included hubs and I making some Sunday brunch together.  We had settled on crab benedict (such a lover of crab for breakfast) and I prepped the crab, english muffins and poached the eggs while hubs whipped up a homemade hollandaise sauce.  Over some delightful coffee, we enjoyed breakfast while the snow came down.  Next up, football and an evening out at Fogo De Chao for Tim's work holiday party.

And of course, happy birthday wishes to MR, the future Mrs. PD, who is celebrating her birthday in Boston.  Can't wait to see her get married in February - virtual hugs from Indy my dearest, I adore you!

On a sad note, one of our hedgehogs isn't doing so well.  I think we may become a one hedgehog household very soon.  Good vibes to Erbert today...

How was your weekend?