Rinse with Wine Not Water

March 28th, 2014

When you are at a wine tasting event, do you enjoy the aroma and taste of chlorine infiltrating your wine? If not, then please stop rinsing your glass with that tap water (which is what is in those pitchers on the table) between each taste! Not to mention, you’re diluting the wine you’re trying to experience. It’s not the worst faux pas at a tasting event, mind you (read Table Talk Northwest’s post here about 9 Things You Shouldn’t Do at Taste Washington). However, unless the last wine you tasted was flawed, you need not rinse with water. If you’re going back and forth from red to white, or sweet to dry, then it’s best to rinse with a splash of the wine you’re about to taste. Just ask for a little wine rinse. Get a splash in your glass, swirl, and dump. Yes, you heard that right, dump. It’s okay. It doesn’t offend. Give it a try at the next tasting event you attend, and report back here.

5 Tips for a Festive Table

February 17th, 2014

While shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond I overheard a soon-to-be-bride being assisted with her bridal registry. The shop clerk asked, “Would you like to register for any table linens?” The reply was a blunt, “No.” A little part of me died inside. I could never pass up such an opportunity. Decorating the table is one of my absolute favorite things to do.

Last month, I had the opportunity to go all out when we had friends join us for dinner shortly after the new year. The time of year made me feel as though the decor should be shiny and gold. Mind you, just because we’re going glitzy and using the good china, that doesn’t mean the table has to look stuffy. Here’s how to do it.

  • Repurpose items. Here, I used a crystal wine bucket as a centerpiece and filled it with gold beaded Christmas garland. A mirror is underneath the bucket to create an additional layer of interest.
  • Add photo props to encourage picture taking.
  • Use fun candles. Tapers with some sparkle or stripes add impact. I find the best time to find a great deal on candles is during the after Christmas sales.
  • Light more candles than you think you should. I always incorporate a mix of votive candles, even when using tapers. That way we can dim the lights and create a relaxed ambience.
  • Mix up your china patterns to create playful place settings.

Since this type of table decor doesn’t call for any fresh flowers, you can set it up well in advance of your party. Doing so means you’ll be able to be as relaxed as your guests when they arrive. If you have fun with it, chances are your guests will, too!



Sausages with Apples

February 9th, 2014

This recipe is easy, quick, and perfect for a weeknight meal. The hubby asked if we can add it to our rotation, so it’s also a keeper! This was inspired by a contribution from Daniel Orr that I recently saw in Food & Wine Magazine.

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 12 oz. package of sausages – I like Aidell’s Chicken and Apple Minis
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 apples (we like Fuji or Granny Smith), halved
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in an oven safe skillet over medium heat. Add the apples to the skillet, cut side down and cook until they start to brown. Add the sausages and wine. Put the skillet in a preheated 375° oven for 15 minutes until sausages are heated through and apples are soft.

Serve over creamy polenta, such as this version via Simply Recipes.

Wine Pairing

In our house we drink a lot of Riesling. Aged Riesling, dry Riesling, sweet Riesling, German Riesling, Washington Riesling – any of it and all of it! Between the sausage and the apples, the dish has some sweetness to it making it a perfect pairing for an off-dry Riesling. Especially if the wine has some apple notes to match the dish.

We also enjoyed the dish with a crisp chardonnay, as the wine played well with the creamy texture of the polenta that accompanied it.

Squash Blossom Pizza with Arugula Cilantro Pesto

August 16th, 2013

The squash blossoms at the local farmers market this summer have been tempting me each week as I walk by. There’s just something about their delicate nature and vivid orange hue. They look the way summer should taste.

However, not having cooked with them before I wasn’t sure what I would do with them. Knowing that they wither quickly, I had to have a plan in place before I could bring them home. My friend Cindy suggested this Squash Blossom Pizza recipe from Saveur. Sounds good, right? I wasn’t in the mood for a tomato based sauce, though. Pesto sounded somehow more suitable for our warm weather.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I found a recipe for Cilantro Pepita Pesto from Secondhand Goods. Perfect. Except that I wanted to use up some items already in the kitchen at home. Some arugula that was about to surrender to the hands of time. Also, sunflower seeds that were hanging out in the pantry. So, here’s the version of pesto I arrived at.

Cilantro Arugula Pesto

1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup packed arugula
1 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Just load all the ingredients except the oil into the bowl of a food processor, and turn it on. While it’s running, drizzle in the olive oil adding more or less until you reach your preferred consistency. I like mine a little thicker. This recipe will likely make more than you need for your pizza. Use any leftover pesto to sauce pasta the next night.

Squash Blossom Pizza with Cilantro Arugula Pesto

Now, let’s make some pizza! To save even more time, I cheated and purchased some pre-made whole wheat pizza dough at my local supermarket. On a weeknight after a long day at work, do you blame me?

Pizza dough

Cilantro Arugula Pesto

12 squash blossoms, stamens removed

1 pound burrata

Set a pizza stone on a rack in the middle of your oven, and turn on the broiler. This is a little trick someone taught me to quickly get the pizza stone hot and create a very crispy crust on your pizza.

While the stone is heating up, roll out your pizza dough. The dough I purchased made two 10” pizzas. Put a little cornmeal on a pizza peel. This prevents the dough from sticking to the surface. Place one portion of the rolled out pizza dough on the peel and spread 1/4 cup of the pesto on top leaving about a half inch border (of course, feel free to add more or less to your taste). Top with squash blossoms.

Change the temperature of the oven to 500°. Transfer pizza from the peel to the pizza stone in the oven and let bake for about 10 minutes or until crust turns golden brown. Remove pizza from oven with the peel and top with chunks of burrata. Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing

On this warm summer’s eve, we enjoyed the pizza with a nice brut blanc de blanc sparkling wine. The palate cleansing bubbles complement the creamy mouth coating consistency of the cheese. Lambrusco would do the same, and pair nicely with the savory notes of the pizza.

Top 5 Sauces to Pair with Red Wine

April 21st, 2013

Sure, we’ve all heard by now we don’t have to abide by the old rule of drinking only white wine with chicken or fish. Yet, how many people know how to go about pairing red wine with these dishes? One method is to pay close attention to what you prepare to accompany the dish. Put a sauce on it.

In our house, we typically put these sauces over simply roasted chicken or a hearty fish such as salmon or halibut. Sometimes, we improvise and put them on pizza or pasta. It’s that simple.

Here are some of our favorite sauces to pair with red wine.

1. Romesco Sauce, such as the version from the reliable food blog, Simply Recipes,  stands up to Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon Try the Romesco over prawns sauteed in garlic.
2. Savory Blueberry Sauce pairs wonderfully with Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
3. Mole Sauce can top everything from traditional roasted turkey breast to anunexpected pasta dish and has a complex flavor profile that plays nicely with Malbec.
4. Sun Dried Tomato and Red Pepper Pesto make a delightful accompaniment for Sangiovese.
5. A deVine Twist on Pesto pairs nicely with Barbera.

Do you have a favorite sauce to serve up when you’re pouring a big red?



Mystery Date Wine Pairing

March 4th, 2013

Skiing Date Props

Remember the Mystery Date game? The premise was for the player to collect enough cards in order to be ready for the date that will appear when she opens the door. The cards identify different components of an outfit. Naturally, each outfit corresponds to one of four dating scenarios including the formal dance date, bowling date, skiing date, and the beach date.

Keeping those scenarios in mind, what would happen if you replace collecting the right outfit with procuring corresponding wine and food? For example, say you’re going to the beach. What wine would you want to drink? Then consider what food you’d want to take on a beach date. Doesn’t that make food and wine pairing sound a lot easier than navigating a lot of rules about tannin and acidity in wine?

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My Big Fat Buttery Chardonnay Dinner

January 28th, 2013

There is no doubt about it, Chardonnay is definitely one of the hubby’s favorite wine varieties. So as a Christmas gift to him, I organized a special wine dinner at home featuring Chardonnay along with some of his favorite food pairings.

Sure, a lot of people have moved to the ABC camp (Anything But Chardonnay).  A big oaky Chardonnay isn’t for everyone, after all. Plus, the oakier the wine, the harder it can be to pair it with food. Pick the right foods, however, and you get some nice butter on butter action going between the food and the wine. That’s right, you had me at butter. Read the rest of this entry »

Food and Wine Pairing at Taste of Tulalip

November 10th, 2012

Tulalip House Cured Lox

Looking for something to do this weekend? Then head to the Taste of Tulalip for the Grand Taste on Saturday, November 10th. When it comes to great food and wine, this event seriously has it going on. And I know I’ve said it before, but who would’ve thought a casino could do food so well? Yet, they do.

Last month I had the luxury of being a special guest at the Taste of Tulalip Preview Tweet Up – the kind of event that dreams are made of, filled with amazing food and creative chefs who push the envelope. Not to mention a bevy of beverages. As I savored each dish, I imagined what kind of wine I’d want to enjoy with it at the Grand Taste. Here are my suggestions.

The House Cured Sockeye Lox with shaved shallots, cucumber, Chevre, taro root crisp was delightful paired with Louis Roederer ’02 ‘Cristal.’ I would go for a do over!

Lemongrass Coconut Soup

The Lemongrass Coconut Soup wowed us with its aromatics which were amped up a notch by a ribbon of lemon zest tied around each diner’s spoon. I’d be tempted to seek out a Sauvignon Blanc with some citrus notes to pair with this comforting dish. I can just imagine the acidity of the wine cutting through the creaminess off the soup while the citrus characteristics play off one another. Read the rest of this entry »

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries and Bubbles

September 9th, 2012

Roasted Strawberries

This recipe comes from my food and wine pairing instructor, Chef Lenny Rede with a slight tweak on my part. On the night he served this dish in class, these strawberries were the rich, syrupy contrast to fluffy, creamy desserts  paired with bubbles. When I returned from a recent trip to Oregon with a bottle of dark vinegar wondering how best to use it, this preparation immediately came to mind.

The Recipe

  • 2 pints strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 3 tablespoons dark vinegar such as balsamic ( I used Willamette Valley Vineyards Black FigVinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spread the strawberries out on a baking sheet (Tip:  for easy cleanup, cover your baking sheet with foil). Drizzle with vinegar, agave nectar or honey. Sprinkle salt on top. Shake the pan a bit to evenly distribute the vinegar. Bake for 25 minutes or until the strawberries are soft and the vinegar has become syrupy.

Strawberries ready for the oven

So, what to do with your roasted strawberries? Top your pancakes with them. Or follow the example set by the blog Scarborough Foodie and serve them atop toasted bread with goat cheese. Topping ice cream with roasted strawberries as done by the Flourishing Foodie is another option.

Wine Pairing

No matter how you serve the strawberries, I recommend pairing them with sparkling wine. When Chef Lenny served these berries in Food and Wine Pairing:  Desserts class, we tasted them with Cerdon de Bugey, a lovely bubbly rosé composed of Gamay, La Spinetta Moscato which is so breathtaking it will have you calling for the smelling salts, and Pineto Brachetto D’Acqui. With regard to Brachetto, I ask, “where have you been, and why hasn’t anyone told me about you before?” If there is one thing I’ve learned after three years of food and wine pairing classes it’s that you can hardly ever go wrong with bubbles.


Dinner at Willamette Valley Vineyards

September 3rd, 2012

Cheers to new friends!

As we hustle down the hallway of the hotel a warning is shouted at the masses, “Get on a bus NOW! THE BUSES ARE ABOUT TO LEAVE!!” The sense of urgency makes me feel like we are on a ship that just ran into an iceberg and we’ll be doomed if we don’t save ourselves by finding a way out.

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