Michael David Winery & Deadly Sins

Friday, January 28, 2011 - 
Wednesday wine dinners at Tastings always provide a great environment to try delicious wine paired with fantastic food.  This past Wednesday was no different.  Not only was Michael David Winery the featured wine for the evening, but the food theme was inspired by the winery's well known (and delicious) 7 Deadly Zins.  Plus, there is quite a story to Michael David winery.  Tom, the regional sales manager, gave a few tidbits about the grapes, history of the brothers and research from UC-Davis that brought this winery to where it is.  Quite interesting - I encourage you to do more research on the varietals as each wine has its own story.

I apologize for photo quality - all I had was my phone as I left my camera at home by accident.  Really, the photos don't do the wine or food justice at all.

First Course - 2008 Symphony served with Spicy Tuna Tartare with Edamame Hummus
This first course blew me away - great pairing due to great components.  The wine was subtly sweet with tropical flavors while producing a clean finish.  The hybrid grape is a flavor that I've never experienced, and this could easily be shared by all wine lovers for any occasion.  Plus, the simplicity of the bottle marketing created enough interest that I couldn't wait to try.  Paired with the wine, a siracha-infused tuna tartare that was freshened with cilantro and lime sat on top of the best hummus I've ever had.  A wasabi-edamame hummus was at a perfect level of spice without the expected horseradish taste.  I can't describe how much I wanted a bowl of this right then and there, not to mention the next morning for breakfast.  Providing a further bite crunch and spice to the tuna were cayenne roasted cashews - I could have eaten these by the handful.  A ginger soy glace brought all these great components together with a salty finish.  Fried rice noodles finished the dish with a perfect crunch.  If this is wrath, I'll take it any day.  A shout out to the new culinary woman in the kitchen - she did a great job and I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.

Second Course - 2009 Seven Heavenly Chardonnay served with Caramelized Pear Tart
This wine was the redemption to the brother's 7 Deadly Zins, and a very pleasant one at that. Full bodied, the wine was creamy in all the right ways of a Chardonnay with tones of oak.  Slight vanilla flavors also played on the tongue, and with the subtle oak, was a perfect combination.  I may have found a new Chardonnay for my collection.  The pear tart really cleaned and balanced the wine, bringing the two together for a great pairing.  Roasted anjou pears were rustic in flavor and lightened with some lemon and sugar.  Subtly sweet caramelized onions were layered on top of a creamy and dominate Taleggio cheese layer of flavor.  The puff pastry, always rich and buttery, was the vehicle for the cheese and layered with a nutty, gruyere heavy arugula-comte' pesto.  Overall, the tart was rich and savory, cut with the sweetness of the pears - perfect for the creamy Chard and perfect for envy.

Third Course - 2008 Incognito Red Blend served with Sausage and Quail Gumbo
I've tasted the Incognitio blend before, and it was as delicious as I remembered. Sharp in taste and fruit forward (blackberries and blueberries on my tongue) with sweet tannins.  Delicious blend of grapes, once again, paired with a spicy Southern dish.  The gumbo was rich in the anticipated creole flavor, subtle in spice and thick with sausage - three varieties to be exact.  Duck, buffalo and turkey flavors mixed perfectly with the basil steamed Basmati rice.  A rue and the holy trinity of cajun cooking (diced onion, celery and carrot) were the basis of this dish and proved great things can happen with the combination of paprika, garlic, thyme and other herbs and spices in this style of cooking.  On top, a beautifully crisped fried piece of quail breast.  Perfectly tender from buttermilk and salty like fried cooking should be - I'd be proud of this dish too.

Fourth Course - 2008 Earthquake Petite Sirah served with Chocolate Braised Pork Belly
Almost purple in color, the Sirah was perfectly dry in the center of the tongue.  A stunning label, this full bodied style of wine had a touch of berry and floral taste.  It couldn't have been matched any better than with pork - especially pork belly.  This fine piece of meat was a slow braised Berkshire Farms pork belly - the best of the best.  Slightly seasoned, the meat spoke entirely for itself.  The fat added some amazing flavor to perfectly cooked meat - it really was divine and didn't need anything.  But of course Steven didn't disappoint by presenting it with an amazing sauce to slather the meat in - a chocolate-blackberry BBQ sauce.  The dish smelled of dark chocolate, so I was very surprised to taste a smokey and sweet BBQ flavor.  A touch of honey, balsamic vinegar and blackberry jam were added to a basic BBQ sauce to give it all that flavor before dark chocolate was melted into the mix.  Oh my, divine.  This was all on a bed of velvety Seahive Cheddar grits.  Best dish ever. Period.  I'd be a sloth in a minute if I had this pork belly.

Fin - 2007 Earthquake Zinfandel served with Stuffed Doughnut Bread Pudding
Another fantastic label, this Zinfandel was a surprise to me.  It was intense in fruit with smokey and spicy notes.  Bold and intense,like a good cup of coffee with a sweet dessert - nothing what I was anticipating but everything that would make me come back for more.  And when you have a bread pudding made out of cinnamon and powdered sugar doughnuts, the wine was everything I needed to cut that sweetness.  Imagine sitting in your favorite donut shop (why hello Dunkin!) and enjoying your favorite donut holes (or munckins) by dipping them in a beautifully warm vanilla-cream cheese glaze.  That is what this dish was, but you were given a bit more flavor with a blueberry and cherry filling.  Glutony at its finest.

Amazing and satisfying, I couldn't have been more happy when we were finished (that is, unless I could repeat it all over again).  As always, service was fantastic, food was epic and the wine was an utter indulgence.  We were able to stay a bit longer and sip some more, and I think I found my favorite Michael David - Petite Petit.  Exploding with black fruit flavor, the purple colored wine was a fantastic ending to my evening.  It was dense with flavor and full bodied - truly a great mix of sirah and verdot.  I've never left Tastings as satisfied as I did on Wednesday, and I'll be checking shelves for the Petite Petit next time I'm in the wine aisle.  Not to mention, I would plan a visit to Lodi, CA just to visit and sip my way through that vineyard. 

Thank you Tastings (Steven - you and that pork belly - nom!) and Michael David for a truly epic evening.

Tastings: A Wine Experience
50 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Michael David Winery
4580 West Highway 12
Lodi, CA 95242

One last note, I'm shifting restaurant reviews over to my new blog, City Nom Noms!  I hope you join me as I nosh through the city one bite at a time!  One of these days, I'll nosh on Tastings small plates from their menu and City Nom Noms is where that review will be!

Something New : An Announcement

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 
Remember that New Year Resolution about a new blog?

Well, the time is here.  May I introduce - City Nom Noms!

This blog will continue to showcase events, travels and in the kitchen cooking.  Don't worry, I won't abandon it as I still love to do everything I normally do.  City Nom Noms is solely for restaurant love (or not love) as I eat my way through life outside of the kitchen. 

My dear friend, Tara, over at Two Designs is creating some artwork as we speak.  The current look is only temporary as we move forward.  But my reviews are beginning to build and I really wanted to get them posted soon.  Thus, expect some quick changes over there, and who knows, this place may get jazzed up a bit too.  I guess we'll see.

Lots of food postings (I made this spicy maple pork last night with sweet potato hash - nom!) and events (Winterfest is Saturday!) will be posted soon.  I hope you continue to join me as I entertain life daily here while enjoying the city nom noms over there!

Respectfully on Cloud 9

Monday, January 24, 2011 - 
The Green Bay Packers are going to the Super Bowl!  Whether you are a fan or not, hear me out.

Born and raised in Green Bay, I have always loved my Pack.  I don't fully remember my first game because I am fortunate to have season tickets in my family name.  Yes, the classic "they were my grandfather's and now my dad and uncle each have a set" type of situation.  Would I love to have those tickets someday?  Why yes, yes I would (hint mom and dad - I know you read this!)  I am passionate about my team.

When I was in college at UMass-Amherst, I wore my cheesehead proudly.  And now here in Indy, I still have it on display with my signed helmet from Donald Driver.  Love. The. Packers.  It is tough not being in Titletown when it comes to the love, but I do my best to support the team.

But why was this game a big deal?  Not only because it was on Championship Sunday, but because it was the Bears. 

The two teams haven't played each other in a championship game since 1941.  It is a rivalry that I respect.  I have many friends who are Bears fans, and I adore them all the same.  I respect them because of their history, which is similar to the Packers.  There is not a team who I would have wanted to play more in that championship game, because I love the intense situation it puts us in.  My nerves were all over the place as both teams had more than the Super Bowl to play for (though yes, that is the big one.) 

But, I still love to hate them.  I mean, it is a rivalry after all.  I did raise my glass at the end of the game in a salute because it was a battle.  I am extremely happy that the Packers came out victorious, but I will not be the one who gloats to the Bears fans.  If roles were reversed, I would hope they would do the same for me.  Respectable fans are the best fans.

Here's to February 6 and the great road that we took to get there.  No matter the outcome, I'll wear my cheesehead proudly and raise my glass of cold beer (let us hope it is draft PBR) in freezing temperatures to support my team.  Always.

Who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl, and why?

Pantry Rice for Prawns

Friday, January 21, 2011 - 
When hubs and I were in Wisconsin for the holiday, we had stocked up on some great seafood from Festival Foods.  It was time for us to cook up some of those gigantic prawns that we purchased, but what to pair it with?  I looked around the pantry and thought rice would be a good component with the prawns.  While hubby prepped the prawns that were bigger than my hand (no joke - they were huge, like mini lobsters), I got to work on the side dish - tomato rice.

Uber simple - I diced up an onion and sauteed it with some brown rice for a few minutes in olive oil.  Minimal olive oil was needed, just enough to give some crisp texture to the rice and to saute the onions a bit.  Then, I grabbed a can of tomatoes.  Though diced tomatoes would have been perfect, I only had a can of whole, so I started to chop them up.  The now diced tomatoes and their juice were poured into the pot with the rice, a cup of water, thyme, garlic salt and pepper.  That was it - I let it boil, then lowered the heat and let it simmer, covered of course, for about 15 minutes.

While that was going, Tim broiled the prawns in butter, garlic and curry.  I even sauteed some extra spinach we had in the butter and garlic mix I stole from Tim.  The rice had a great texture, not to mention good flavor, because of the tomato and juice that was added to the mix.  It matched well with the light, but very garlicky, spinach.  The prawns were tender and had subtle curry flavor.  The butter helped it melt in your mouth - a great meal on a cold Thursday evening.

I love using up items in the pantry and refrigerator only to have a really great meal on the table.  Plus, anything to flavor up rice is good to me - I love cooking it in something other than just water or adding veggies and flavors to the mix. 

Have you "cleaned" out the pantry lately and made a great meal?

Broccoli Soup & Crostinis

Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 
With the New Year, I decided more veggies had to be incorporated into my meals. This also means hubs gets to eat more too.  I saw broccoli was on sale this past weekend, so I scooped up two pounds knowing that I could make a simple, yet tasty, broccoli soup.  It would be a light, Sunday evening meal after eating out over the weekend - perfect way to kick off the week.

I began with what would be the "hardest" part of this recipe - the veggie prep.   After chopping the onion, hubby sauteed it in olive oil while I finished the veggies.  I peeled and diced the potato and continued onto the broccoli.  One thing I notice that many people do with broccoli is disregard the stem.  For a soup though, you can really use all of this once you peel and prep it.  Thus, I thought I'd give you a basic four step procedure to using the stems.

1. Remove the broccoli heads
2. Trim off all the "branches" of the stem (makes it easier to peel)
3. Stand up the broccoli on an end, then cut away the outer layer with a knife, like you would with a pumpkin or melon skin.
4. Ta da!  You are done!  Chop and use!

Now that we have all of our broccoli chopped with the potato, I added all the veggies to the onion Tim had been cooking (muah, thanks hubs!)  We then added a few cups of vegetable broth (you can use chicken, beef, whatever you have) and then finished it off with water just until all the veggies were submerged.  I also added some red pepper flakes, pepper and garlic salt.

That's it.  Let it boil, then lower the heat so it simmers for about 20 minutes.  Grab the hand held submersion blender your mother gave you back in the day (or, you could also use a blender, just be cautious cause the liquid is hot.  Do it in batches and cover it with a towel to make sure there are no splatters) and go to work.  Whatever consistency you like, we preferred super smooth.

And the whole time the soup is simmering, hubs is being fantastic and making crostinis to compliment the meal.  Simply enough, toasted french bread was topped with a mix of artichokes, parsley, Parmesan, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Absolutely fantastic with the soup (would be a great appetizer too!), that evening and the next day.  And while your coworkers are looking at the soup in disgust due to the green appearance, you can sit back and enjoy the warm soup in your belly knowing it is not only tasty, but good for you too.

Make anything recently that was perfectly light and hit the spot?

A Stately Visit

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 
Still glowing from the Green Bay Packer win on Saturday, hubs and I made our way to the Indiana State Museum the following day.  We were to visit the museum back in December for his 25 Days of Christmas, but plans change.  So on the final day of the Titanic exhibit, we made our way downtown for the early afternoon.  Though it had been quite a while (December 2009) since we had been to the museum, we decided to only see two exhibits: Titanic and Odd Indiana.

Titanic had been at the museum for a while, but we weren't the only ones who waited until the last day to see the exhibit.  We arrived early, because we read we had to be at the exhibit 15 minutes prior and we also wanted to see the Odd Indiana exhibit.  Our Titanic tickets (which were $18 a piece) gave us admission to all the exhibits and I had wanted to see Odd Indiana, this was the perfect time do so.  We arrived around 11:30 and began our tour.

Odd Indiana was just that - odd - but also, disappointing.  I expected so much more from this exhibit and I need to chalk that up to the marketing department.  They had me all excited to see some very odd things - whoever did the marketing deserves a raise.  It really looked so interesting, so when we saw some basic things, I couldn't help but to be a little disappointed. 

Now, there were some great items - like the electrifying hair contraption or all of the hair art.  But some of it wasn't odd at all, leaving me questioning why it was on display.  For instance, a paper Barbie plate that was used during the opening of the Barbie exhibit in 1983.  It seemed as though they had all of these random items in their archives and thought, "how can we make an exhibit out of this?"  Some had good background stories, but overall, we walked out of the room with disappointment.

For Titanic, we were instructed to return to the exhibit 15 minutes prior to our ticket time.  Unfortunately, the timed tickets were utterly useless.  Though our ticket said 12:30 and we arrived at 12:15, we didn't get into the exhibit until 1:00.  After the 45 minute wait, we were presented with our "identities," which is probably what I was most excited for.  Right away, I knew that I "survived" because their was a quote about how my character, an Irish immigrant who was visiting her cousins in Missouri, had given a homeless man some coins and he had said to her, "there will be a tragedy, but you will survive."  Kind of a given that I survived huh?

The first room was the history of the build with a few artifacts here and there. My favorite piece in the room were the horns from the ship, as it was Tim's.  The second room showed cabins and the ship in general - there was a replica of how first class looked (both Tim and I had characters from the third class,) dishes, playing cards and lots of other items.  Though interesting, I was still looking for more information regarding the tragedy itself.  It is amazing to see all the detail that went into the boat, as well as compare how things have changed today with cruise ships (um, hello Disney's new ship, Dream?!  So jealous...)

As we began to make our way into the final room, we were stopped and told we couldn't proceed due to someone have a seizure.  Medical emergency, understandable, so we stood aside and waited.  However, the museum continued to allow people into the room which we were in, thus making it more crowded.  Not the best idea, but we continued to wait it out.  Another 45 minutes later, we were allowed into the final room through a hallway which featured another cabin replica.  Tim's character, a family man, was actually in a photograph as it was the kind of room he and his family would have had.  I thought that was fun - once again, the character part really making the exhibit for me at this point.

The final room was the best setup.  It had pieces that were presented just like they were found on the ocean floor, there was a large piece of ice you were invited to touch to showcase how cold it was, and a model of the front portion of the ship.  Someone was available to answer questions, videos were shown and signs explained how the ship was excavated.  This room was the most interesting and really allowed me to appreciate all that was done to preserve our history of the event.  I do wish the other rooms were similar in design as it was setup better for flow and the overall atmosphere matched the mood of how I felt looking at the items.

Unfortunately (but understandably), we weren't allowed to take photos within the exhibit.  But, there are some photos and other recaps over at the Doing Indy blog, so if you missed out you may get a recap over there.  Despite our delays and lack of enthusiasm from the Odd Indiana exhibit, we still left content due to the final room of the Titanic exhibit.  Though we all know the story of the ship, reading and seeing brought a whole new appreciation to those who make the study of this tragedy their life experience through finding and uncovering the history.

Have you been somewhere recently where the marketing was fantastic, only to disappoint you in the end?

Want s'more cupcakes?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - 
A while back, I had baked some s'more cupcakes because, well, I really wanted a s'more.  Alas, I was baking for a recruitment event and knew I couldn't bring a plate of the delectable summer treat, so I transformed cupcakes to satisfy my craving.  This time around, I changed out a few things, but the end product was still delish.

I began with a basic chocolate cupcake rather than a yellow or white.  I sifted the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together.  I also threw in some cinnamon for good measure.

Creaming together the sugar and eggs, I always add the eggs slowly and individually.  Of course, this avoids any egg shell mishaps and ensures the mixture all gets the same amount of love.  Adding a bit of vanilla extract, I whipped it all together before adding the flour mix and milk on a low speed to avoid splatters.

Once the mix was complete, I scooped it into the prepared pans.  I couldn't decide between mini or standard cupcakes, so opted to bake both. By doing so, all those New Year's resolutions people made could be in check while those who didn't care, they had a larger option to select.  When they were done, I let them cool as I wrapped up the dulce de leche blondies I was also making (oh yes, double baking was happening!)

This time around, I didn't fill the center with fluff.  Instead, I attempted to make the fluff not so messy as frosting.  Now, I understand marshmallow's are sticky and messy and all, but it doesn't mean I can't attempt to change that.  I added some vanilla extract and powdered sugar to the fluff for a better consistency (and taste I guess?) before smearing it on top of the chocolate cupcake.  I thought, "why not toast the marshmallows?  Then it will be just like a s'more!" and won't leave them all sticky.

Well, I didn't really think about the graham cracker topping.  I don't know if I would have burned the graham crackers if I put it on prior to toasting the topping under the broiler, but at least they would have stuck.  Unfortunately, once toasted, the graham's weren't having the toasty marshmallow goodness.  And of course, the chocolate pieces were melting into the mess, but that is how a s'more is!

They were all delicious the same, even with the tweaking from last time.  They were gobbled up at the football game watch, and the four that remained were eaten the next day at work.  Maybe next time I make them, they may become pumpkin s'mores...mmm...

Dulce de Leche Blondies

Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 
Cooking or baking can be theraputic.  This past weekend, I needed some therapy.  On a sad note, one of our hedgehogs, Erbert, passed away on Friday.  Though this is sad, I experienced something worse when I received the call two days later about my aunt.  She was caring, loving and always smiling.  Many people loved her and she had a lot of love to give - she'll absolutely be missed.  While wrapping my head around all of us, I found myself in the kitchen.  As we hadn't gone grocery shopping yet for the weekend (which we ended up not doing due to the trip to Wisconsin), I found that I had little to work with except for baked goods.

Due to some strange reason, many of my friends think that I'm a baker.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, it isn't my strong suit.  All the measuring and timing, sometimes it is just more than I want to think about while I'm in the kitchen.  However, by friends request, I was informed I'd be bringing some desserts for an evening potluck (pitch-in, etc., whatever you call it, it works for me).  The timing was perfect for some baking and I began with some of Tim's favorite brownies, Ducle de Leche Blondies.

I had found this recipe in a $4 cookbook entitled, "The Cookie Bible," which I had bought when I first moved to Indy six years ago. I've used it maybe 3 times, and this is a recipe I've made twice now.  They are sweet, full of caramel flavor while holding up the brownie name.

I began by prepping the oven at 350 degrees and then greasing a 13x9 pan.  I sifted the flour, baking soda and salt together and set them aside.  Then, I turned to the mixer to beat the butter and sugar until creamy.

Slowly, I added the eggs and vanilla.  I like to crack the eggs into a separate bowl and add one by one.  This guarantees no egg shells and blends all of the ingredients together thoroughly.  Then, slowly add in the flour mixture (while of course turning down the speed so you don't end up covered in flour.)

Pour 2/3 of the batter into the greased pan, spreading it out as you go.  This bakes for 7-8 minutes - it won't be completely done, just partial, so don't be surprised by this.  Cool it for a few minutes on a wire rack (it helps for ventilation underneath the ban if you wonder why people say to use a wire rack.)

All during this baking process, I started on the caramels.  Taking a small saucepan, melt the caramels (which husband has helped you unwrap without any type of sighing of course) in evaporated milk on low heat.  

Once these are melted (of course, you've resisted sticking your finger into the hot liquid to taste the sweetness) and the baked brownies are cooled for a bit, pour the caramels over the baked layer.  Take the remaining batter and drop dollops over the caramel layer - swirl with knife.  You can swirl as little or as much as you like - I like to get it throughout the whole pan so each bite has a good combination of the flavors.  Then, bake 25 more minutes or until golden brown.

  •  2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tea. baking soda
  • 1 tea. salt
  • 1 c. unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tea. vanilla
  • 14 oz. caramels (one package)
  • 1/2 c. evaporated milk

These brownies are addictive.  The first time I made them, I didn't put enough of the batter down for the first layer, so instead of a soft, chewy brownie I ended up with a crunchier type of bar.  The taste was still there, but the texture was off.  I shrug my shoulders to this because I liked both versions to be honest.  And I guess others did too, because there weren't any left over after I brought them to work.  Another piece of advise, don't cut them big - since they are so sweet, I advise on small squares (think 1 inch, or at max 1.5 inches).

Lots of love to my family and thank you for all the kind thoughts and words our friends have given us.  Every day will get easier we know, and we appreciate your support.  But I'm back and moving forward - thanks for understanding the week of silence.  And for those wondering - Gerbert is just fine - personally, I think he is enjoying not sharing the food or his sleeping hut.

Pork Fried Rice

Saturday, January 8, 2011 - 
Fried rice has a basic concept, but everyone still makes it their very own with the ingredients they add.  This time around, I had three ingredients I wanted to flavor up my fried rice.  Okay, in reality, I had three ingredients that I wanted to use the remainder of because they just had to be replaced.  They were...
  1. Sriracha sauce - the bottle was just about empty (though I shook it up so you couldn't see that) and not to mention covered in a sticky substance of something that must have leaked.  And I cleaned my fridge over my holiday break...so who knows...
  2. Soy sauce - I've been using up these take out soy packets for a few recipes here and there.  But I had four more to use before breaking down and purchasing a new bottle.
  3. Ginger - though it keeps well in the freezer for a while, it doesn't keep well forever!
I began cooking brown rice and then cooling it in the freezer while hubs and I prepped the veggies and pork.  Hubs chopped up the pork to bite sized pieces and then sealed the rest to freeze for another time.  During his butchery love, I chopped and gathered the other ingredients: carrots, celery, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, scallions/green onions,  garlic, ginger, sesame oil and olive oil.  Then, we got to work.
First, I sauteed the pork with some salt and pepper.  After removing the pork from the pan, I sauteed the carrots and celery (same oil) and then poured them into the bowl as well.  Next up, a little bit more oil for ginger, garlic and the ends of the scallions (whites.)  They cook very quickly, so constant stirring is a must before adding the rice (and thus - the bad photo since I was moving so quickly!)
When I added the rice, I let it sit briefly to get a tad bit crispy.  Briefly because it is a hot pan that has been a cooking machine.  I would have loved to use our wok, but it isn't the best wok (though, our pans are not the best either...we really need new ones!)  Once it crisps up a little, I make a well to scramble an egg in the center.  Then, mix it all together and add the pork mix.
At this point, I added the sesame oil, soy sauce (thank you packets) and the sriracha.  Mix it all together, add bean sprouts and water chestnuts (though your hubby protests from across the room), top it with the greens from the scallions and you've got some tasty fried rice.

This is definitely healthier than take out (though I can't speak badly against take out - after all, I did use the packets from a previous experience!) and made a large portion for both of us.  The next day, it reheated well without all that oily residue you get from take out.  Thus, I still felt good knowing I was eating a healthy version of this rice dish.

What do you add to your fried rice to make it your own?