Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Favorite Wine Book: Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 25th Anniversary Edition

Let's face it wine is not an easy topic.  When I started educating myself on wines, everyone drank Chardonnay.  Now the big white is Pinot Grigio.  It is easy to latch onto a trend and drink what everyone else is drinking because in all honesty, it can be quite reliable. My philosophy is take a risk because you are missing out on some of the truly fabulous wines out there if you don't.  I was really not a wine drinker when I started learning about wines but I have to admit it was a job requirement.  I never worried much about pretenses (and still don't), I just knew what I liked.  At the time, I was in Texas and the restaurant I worked at was interested in introducing and educating its clientele on the local Texas wines.  Come to think of it, this was probably my first introduction to buying local.  Texas produces some pretty darn good wines but they are hard to find outside of the state.

I live in the state of Pennsylvania now and they do have wineries around here but they can't really compete with the west coast wines or, in my opinion, Texas wines. There are a couple of OK wines.   Pennsylvania just doesn't have the right growing conditions and usually produce fruity, sweet wines that I am just not that fond of.  PA also has some archaic liquor laws so generally you can't have wine shipped into the state. This was a difficult concept to swallow when I was standing in the middle of Napa Valley surrounded by incredible wines that I could only buy there or would be difficult to find in the keystone state.
This is a wall of champagne bottles that is going through its second fermentation.  These bottles will eventually go through the process of remuage which is turning the bottles a quarter turn to collect the sediment from the spent yeast. This process at Schramsberg is still actually done by hand and prepares the bottles for the riddling process.  These two processes are responsible for the clear champagnes that we drink today.
 As in this bottle.  Cool, huh?!  This is before the riddle process which is when the sediment is trapped in the neck of the bottle and eventually disposed of before the final corking.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spiced Apple Cidertini

I finally bought a bottle of Calvados.  I have always bypassed it because it was a bit expensive and I didn't think I had enough uses for it. That thinking has changed.  I am the type of person to have bought liquor in the dark ages and still have it.  It takes a while going through liquor when you use 1/4 cup or less a year.  Liquor has a tremendous shelf life so it is not a problem, or is it?  Beware when your kids become teenagers. Strange things seem to happen in the liquor cabinet.  The traditional pumpkin pie flavored with Southern Comfort suddenly doesn't taste quite like it used to, sort of bland and lacking that Southern Comfort flavor.  Maybe a bit diluted. That is a story for another day.

Back to the bottle of Calvados.  Calvadoes is a French apple brandy that is used in drink and food recipes. I am also sure that a warmed brandy snifter would be a perfect vessel for this apple brandy as an after dinner drink or a digestif.   For now, I want an apple cider martini.  It is the season and it just seems right.  I love spiced or mulled apple cider based drinks and I just happen to have a jug of apple cider. I have had a few apple martinis but some were too sweet and appley, kind of like apple bubble gum.  So for the past couple of weeks I was determined to come up with something I liked and that friends and family would enjoy.  So guess who became taste testers.  That is right, family and friends. They were more than happy to help out with this task.  This is what we all agreed upon . . .

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sun Dried Tomato-Basil-Parmesan Scones

It was time to start dinner and on the menu was meatloaf and only because I had one in the freezer.  So nice and easy, as long as you remember to unthaw it in time.  I am not much for defrosting in the microwave because that can just get weird.  I might use the microwave to defrost something to get whatever it is started thawing, but that is it.  The microwave can be wicked. I will always have a microwave, but for me it has its limitations.

The other reason I wanted to make meatloaf is that I had made a spicy ketchup and I wanted to see how it was as the topping for the meatloaf.   It was really delicious but I think it still needs some tweeking.  I usually bake my meatloaf with tomato paste mixed with chili sauce instead of ketchup like most meatloaf lovers do.  Regular, store bought ketchup is too sweet for my taste and I like the tangy, savory flavor of tomato paste.  And for that extra special touch, about 15 minutes before it is done I cover it with sharp cheddar and continue cooking until the cheese has melted and has lovely, crunchy edges.  Yum, there is nothing like baked cheese.

Meatloaf aside, savory scones are what I am really about today.  Sun Dried Tomato-Basil-Parmesan Scones.  I had a lot of fun making these.  I am a big scone lover but until now I have only made sweet ones and I wanted a bread to go with the meatloaf that I was cooking.  I have had this savory version swooshing around in my head for a couple of days now and I need to make them or the universe will be out of balance.  (Don't recipes swoosh around in your head!).  Let's face it, I will just be annoyed with myself if I don't make them and they sound so darn good.  So, here goes!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fresh Apple Bread

This apple bread recipe is a spin off of the Fresh Peach Bread in a previous post with a few changes made.  Cinnamon was added, along with apple butter.  Brown sugar replaces some of the white sugar and I used apples instead of peaches.  We got lucky one day and ran across a basket of fabulous Honeycrisps that were seconds and half price.  They were almost perfect apples, except for a few natural scars and very few bruises.  We had to buy them and they were the inspiration for this apple bread.  Each one was huge and we have really enjoyed them.   One apple cut up was equal to 2 cups.  All weren't that big, but most were.  Honeycrisps seem to be the "bomb" apple.  They are always priced more that other varieties because of demand, but they are so worth it.
Note on Honeycrip Apples:  The Honeycrisp is a relatively new apple that is a cross between a Macoun and Honeygold and is American made.   This variety was developed by the University of Minnesota and introduced to the apple growers in 1991.  The Honeycrisp has been wildly successful and many growers can't keep them in stock.  As more growers are producing Honeycrisps availability is becoming less of a problem, although they are still priced higher than other apples.  They are great eating apples as they are sweet and tart at the same time and crisp.  They are also very good cooking and baking apples because of their texture and flavor, that is if you have enough left over to bake with.  The honeycrisp is a win-win apple, don't you think?  My family can't get enough of them.

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