Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Leftover Quandary

You go out to eat, or make a lovely upscale dinner at home, and end up with a small container of leftovers. Maybe its yours, maybe its your spouse/sig other’s, maybe its both. (like in the instance of a few ounces of each steak left so you just combine into one box) You put it in the fridge and there it sits. Occasionally you look at it, wondering if the other person will ever eat it, but you don’t eat it. Maybe its because its theirs and that’s the rule you have…. “Don’t eat my leftovers until I say you can”. But what about those times its not so clear? Who eats it? Will you be mad if I eat it? Will I be mad if you eat it? Are we saving it for something special? I call this The Leftover Quandary.

We experienced The Leftover Quandary a few weeks ago. We went to a lovely meal, had some excellent steak, and took a little baggie home. Honestly, we had quite a bit to drink and couldn’t exactly remember whose steak was in there (don’t fret-we didn’t drive). I think it was a few ounces of mine and few of his, but he thought it was mine. Anyway, there it sat. I saw it every day, calling to me, reminding me of how good it was. I even thought about making some killer omelets with it, but felt that was a waste. I felt the need to save it. Perhaps Mr. Lush wanted it for something. Well, there it sat, until a week later, when I threw it away, sad that no one loved it enough to finish it.

In general, the Lush Leftover Philosophy (the movie version will be out in 2010) is you have 3 or so days to eat “your” leftovers then it’s a free for all. But I think both of us wanted to save it and make sure we didn’t upset the other one, since it was such a great steak. But in the end, our selfless act ended up for naught, with some good steak tossed in the trash. Does anyone else have a Leftover Philosophy or is it just us? If not, dear readers, make one of your 2009 resolutions to define a Leftover Philosophy and stick to it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Your West County Wine Tour Guide

Every now and then I grab Mr. Lush or a friend (or both) and embark on the West County Wine Tour. Its not an official tour, its an informal “wine store crawl” of the wine shops in West County on Saturdays, where the vast majority have free tastings. Although they (most) all offer free tastings, the level of detail and “fun” vary wildly, as Mr. Lush noted this past Saturday. Please take note of Lucy's Tasting Room Etiquette tips of course, and here’s a tour plan for your next free Saturday.

12:30-1:30: Lukas Liquor: It’s the Lush’s dream, really. The size of a grocery store, its got almost every wine, beer, and alcohol available in Missouri. Its set up a bit like a grocery store, and doesn’t have quite a cozy feel, although having space to navigate your shopping cart is a good thing, and trust, you need a shopping cart. They offer free tastings every half hour on Saturdays from 12:30-4 (maybe 4:30) of 8 wines. These are “class style” in a room off to the side, (although no chairs) typically done by a distributor (although last weekend the manager did them), you’re given an actual glass for your tasting, and someone talks about the wine, so you actually get a chance to learn about the wines. The wines in the tastings are usually priced from $10-28, a few whites, a few reds, and often a sparkling. However, last weekend it was a special treat and we got a chance to taste Franciscan Stylus, a $100/bottle Bordeaux blend. (it was good, although it really needed a few more years to age) Often there will another distributor or two (or three) showcasing their wines/liquors/beers in the main part of the store. All in all, a good start to the day. If its your first time or they have a lot of distributors, you might need more than an hour.

1:45-2:15: Wines of Wildwood: It’s a bit down on Manchester, however, a right turn out of Lukas’s parking lot, which if you’ve ever tried to turn left you know what a pain it is. Its much smaller than Lukas, although that’s to be expected. More focused on wine, little to no beer and very little alcohol. A few wine accessories, such as glasses, glass holders, decanters, wine stands, etc. They have 4 wines to taste from 1-4 on a little table in the back-you stand while you taste, and they also provide a glass to taste. I’ve been twice and both times it was 2 whites and 2 reds, and the price range is typically $11-25. There is someone there to talk about the wines, and the “tasting” begins when you want it to. Prices are relatively competitive, which is nice to see in a smaller store.

**Note, I do need to clarify, the glasses provided are for tastings only, its not like a winery where you get the glasses to keep**

2:30-3:00: Wine and Cheese Place off Clayton Rd. It’s a bit out of the way, and their tasting is a bit plain. They leave a few bottles out (usually 2-4) priced $10-35, with some plastic cups, and some cheese. It’s a serve yourself format from 1:00 to “whenever wine runs out”, and while some people would enjoy that, I personally prefer a class style. Their selection is average to better, with a good amount of wine, liquor and beer. And of course, their cheese selection is massive. I’d suggest stopping by once then deciding if its worth your time next trip.

3:15-3:45: Straubs on Clayton/Clarkson. (previously reviewed) They have some wines to taste on Saturdays, although it appears their main tastings are on Friday. Its in a plastic cup, and you stand, but there is someone there to tell you about it. Overall I recommend stopping for a few reasons, mainly because they have a bathroom, which lets be honest, we’ve been drinking for nearly 3 hours now, we have to go, if we haven’t already. Not that the other places don’t have a bathroom, but you don’t have to go through the back room by the broom closet to go. Also, it’s a good time for a little snack, as you know I recommend eating while drinking, and Straubs is a grocery store (hence, they have food). So go to the bathroom, go to the tasting, grab a snack and a bottle of water, and sit down in their dine-in areas. (or, you can get a glass from the bar or a bottle of wine and split it with friends, of course)

3:50-4:15: Wine Chateau on Clarkson. I almost hesitate to recommend this place but I’ll start with the good-they have semi-organized tastings with actual glasses from 1-4:30. Its starts when you walk up and someone is there to tell you about the wine. Their selection is nice, with much more focus on French wines and usually things in the above $25 price range overall. (there are some exceptions, but far less under $25 than over.) They have some alcohol, not much to any beer, if I recall. Now for the bad-I’ve never found their staff to be particularly friendly, nor have I heard anyone say anything good about them. I’ve actually found a few people to be downright rude. As with Wine and Cheese Place, I’d recommend trying it once and seeing if your experience is any different.

4:30-5:00: Wine Styles on Clarkson. The good news is that their tasting goes on until 6, so if you run behind on this vigorous schedule, you have plenty of time to make this tasting. The store is smaller and categorized by wine style (thus the name), such as “mellow”, “bold”, etc. They have a large tasting bar (with chairs *bonus*) and glasses. The tasting begins when you walk up, there is an info sheet (*double bonus*) and the staff will also talk about the wines, although be prepared your “pourer” might change, if they are called off for a recommendation. They pour 6-8 wines, priced from $15-$50. Prices a bit inflated, as are most wine stores sold by style and the selection is small, however, what’s nice is that every wine, in addition to being classified by style, also has a little info sheet next with the description. Overall, I’ve found the tasting and store to be the most fun- the staff is extra friendly- but I will note that this is after a day of drinking, so perhaps anyone would be extra fun. This concludes your West County Wine Tour and all in all it’s a good end to your day with a fun tasting and puts you right by 64/40 for an easy way home.

Let me know if you’d like to go but would prefer personalized instruction, I’m available as a tour guide on most Saturdays, as long as I don’t have to drive. ;)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas- $9 wine mag

Merry Christmas- here's a subscription to Wine Enthusiast magazine for only $8.99!

(note: I just ordered it myself so I can't vouch for the quickness or overall satisfaction level, but I did a search online and only saw good things)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Homemade mulling spices for mulled wine

Earlier this week, Lucy posted a recipe for mulled wine, courtesy of another friend, Mrs. P. However, I didn’t want to buy mulling spices because they are rather expensive, so I made my own mulling spice bags. I bought some cheesecloth and made little baggies with white string. (note: you might have to double or triple your cheesecloth) Each baggie contains:

2 cinnamon sticks
1 small whole nutmeg
1 tsp. whole cloves
Long orange peel, twisted

Use this bag in place of the 2 tbs Mulling Spice in the recipe Lucy posted and viola! You will lovely aromatic mulled wine. I agree with Lucy and that an American red Zinfandel is just fantastic.

I’ve also seen variations that include star anise, allspice, and candied ginger, but I like the simple version better. You might have most of the items in my recipe already in your spice cabinet and if not, they are in most grocery stores.

These would also be a nice (inexpensive) home-made touch for holiday gifts. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Best Grocery Store Dining - Straubs in West County

I work in a rather affluent part of St. Louis, so the grocery stores are a bit nicer than what you might get in another part of the city. Recently, a few new ones have opened and have reintroduced grocery store counter / cafe dining. And why not? They clearly have all ingredients to make food, why not make it and serve it there? Makes sense and makes work lunches quick and good. The Schnucks on Woods Mill & Clayton Rd makes an excellent steak quesadilla, but I will have to give the award for Best Grocery Store Dining to the new Straubs on Clayton Rd & Clarkson. Recently open, it’s a beautiful store. And the wine selection is just amazing for a grocery store, even better than a lot of wine stores, with wines from $8 to $1500 in the reserve section.

This past weekend, after doing a bit of (wine) shopping, I thought I’d stop in to Straubs and really check out their in-store dining options. I was pleased to find that they not only have beer on tap, but wine by the glass, and…..you can buy a bottle there, at grocery store prices, and drink it there, with no corkage fee. (but don’t forget to tip the bartender!) Glorious!

To top it off, they have Kobe burgers. Now, I’ve never had a Kobe burger, but the Lumiere place sells one for $50, so the $9 one at Straubs seemed like a steal. I ordered it medium rare, topped with smoked Gouda cheese, and went to pick out a wine. We chose the 2005 Jack London Cab, previously tasted at the vertical tasting, got a few more dishes from the food bar/buffet, such as pot roast tips and mashed potatoes (sold per pound) and bellied up to the bar for our gourmet grocery feast. Let me tell you-the burger, was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Best burger I’ve ever had in my life. Part of it was the beef, but just as important to me is the way it was cooked. Perfectly medium rare, which is hard to come by in a burger in the Midwest. Even burger specialty places can’t get it less than medium to medium well. But no, it was cooked perfectly, and just melted in my mouth. Tasted fantastic with the Jack London cab, as did the roast tips.

Just a fantastic trip, really. They have more options than the burger, too many to list, but really, check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thrift Gift Thursday (all week): Decanter and glass set

I have had lots of decanter and decanter related accessories as part of the Thrifty Gift Thursday series, but I couldn't resist just one more. A decanter AND a 4 pc stemless glass set for $9.99 is just too way good of a deal not to post about!
Or, if you are partial to the stemmed glasses, here's a "duck style" decanter and 2 stemmed glasses for $14.99.
Standard shipping is just 4.95, but it is a bit more if you want expedited shipping.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thrifty Gift Thursday: Wine / Picnic Sticks

Last summer I was at an outdoor jazz concert enjoying some wine with friends. I was constantly struggling with balancing my glass and my plate of food on the picnic blanket and enviously eyed my friend using these wine holders. These picnic sticks (wine sticks) will hold your bottle and glass when there's no table nearby. How fun! Of course, that good friend got me a set for my birthday, and I love them. For your outdoor drinking friends, here they are for a steal-just $12.95 for the set.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thrify Gift Thursday (all week): Electric Wine Opener

When we registered for this electric wine opener, I wasn’t sure how often we’d use it. We were pretty used to the lever style opener (like the Rabbit) but I was really trying to register for some $20-ish gifts and so I put it on there. The truth is we use it all the time-for almost every bottle.

2 notes: 1) don’t use it on old wines, it'll likely shred the cork and 2)every now and then the synthetic corks are stubborn about coming out of the opener. (but that’s after the wine’s open, so no worries!) It’s a must for any party or wine tasting -it makes opening many bottles a snap. Since its probably one of the most used gifts we received, I absolutely must recommend it for others. It also comes with a foil cutter.

We have the Emerson one (above) and love it-its a steal for $19.99, but for the same price, if you like the stainless steel look, here's the Oster one for the same price.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Xmas - from Layla

Look- mom put a santa hat on me.

How ..... cute, right? I sure love it. Tons.

Happy holidays, be safe, and spoil your dogs,


Thrifty Gift Thursday (all week) Stocking Stuffers

Whether you need things to actually stuff in stockings, or if you just want to “top off” a gift of a nice bottle of wine with some fun wine accessories, here’s some ideas:

A red wine drinker with a decanter can always use a funnel, here’s one for $10:

A cooled sleeve is a must for a white wine drinker. I prefer ones with a little stretch, to accommodate a slender Sauvignon Blanc bottle or a big Chardonnay bottle. Here’s a good neoprene one for $12, w/ free shipping:

Wine tags can be expensive, but unless you’re like Lucy who has every item in her cellar memorized, they are a must for anyone with 50 bottles or more. Here’s 100 for $8.00. You can also get them in plain white. (order two-one for you and one for them!)

For the friend who always bring a bottle of wine wherever they go, here’s a neoprene travel bag for $6.99.

WineLights are fun-we like to fill them up with citronella oil and use them outside in the summer. It’s a pretty way to keep mosquitos away, or you can use regular lamp oil and use them inside. You can get these in stores, but they are usually $8-12 each- here they are for $3.99.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thrifty Gift Thursday (all week): Wine Funnel

Decanters are great, but sometimes they are hard to pour out of (especially those big wide bottom ones). They are also hard to travel with, so if you have a bottle of wine you're bringing for a special occasion that you want to decant, a wine funnel might come in handy so you can put the wine back in the bottle. Of course, they are also handy for pouring into a decanter.
Here's one for $19.99 that comes with a filter and a stand. A great gift idea, in fact, I hope to be getting one for Christmas myself!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thrifty Gift Thursday (all week): Personalized wine tote

Ok, dear readers. Because Christmas is around the corner, I wanted to give you a present. All week, Sunday through Friday, is "Thrifty Gift Thursday" to give you some last minute (well, last minute including shipping time) gift ideas for your wine loving friends, or as a present to yourself.

Who doesn’t love personalized stuff? This personalized tote is supercute and what I like best about it is that it doesn’t totally scream “I HAVE WINE WITH ME”. Which, sometimes, a regular wine tote is fine. I use ours often, such as when we’re going to a wine club meeting. But for those nights when you’re going over to a friend’s right after work and you don’t want the bottle sitting in your car, this is a nice low key bag that you could even sneak into work. Its on a ton of websites but with shipping this is the lowest overall price. (its 20.55+7.95 shipping)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thrifty Gift Thursday: Wine Journal

This wine journal is a nice gift for your wine tasting friends. While I actually keep my tasting notes (when I remember) in my PDA for quicker referencing while in wine stores, I do love to see people bring out a wine journal at a wine club meeting or other tasting and jot down what they thought about the wines. There are tons of options in a variety of sizes and price ranges, but this one is $20.36, features a glossary of key wine terms, a "how to" section on wine tasting, and 15 wine label removers.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Livin the high life earning 5%

So, a few years ago I had a job for a short amount of time before I was laid off. I only put aside what they matched in my 401K (typical for a 20-something, right?) so I had a small amount when I left, so small that I couldn’t leave it there for them to manage. In order to avoid paying the early withdrawl fee, I rolled it into an IRA CD through a credit union. I know, a CD? Not a very good ROI-such a small interest rate and people were rolling in the money in their 401Ks. Well, my options were limited with such a small amount, so I figured that would be my “safe investment” and I checked out a few IRA CD options and got it at decent CD interest rate in 2007. People laughed last year when I told them my 401K was in a CD. Well, people under 65 laughed. Ok, even retired people laughed.

Well, its sad to say that my CD well outperformed Mr. Lush’s 401K. Like many of us, the 401K took a hit with the economy-I think his lost about 35%, give or take. But not me. My “savvy investment skills” earned me a whopping 5%.

I’ll be available for financial advising appointments next year.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Sangiovese / Shiraz showdown

I recently made chicken marsala for the Luce’s and so we had the opportunity to officially kick off the Marsala Quest by trying two different wines with it. They brought 2004 Poggio San Polo Rosso Di Montalcino (100% Sangiovese) and I purchased the 2004 Clos Du Bois Shiraz. I’d never had a Shiraz with it and thought I’d give it a try. My method of deciding was rather un-scientific- we didn't have a Shiraz at home so I skimmed over the descriptions on the back of a few potential bottles at the store and picked one with the least mention of “peppery”.

I decanted the Shiraz for about 2 ½ hours prior to dinner and the Poggio was decanted for about 1 ½ hours. (its when they arrived) Both were really good, but in different ways. The Poggio was a bit more earthy, but still had some nice berry flavor. The Shiraz, a bit fruiter, somehow stood up nicely as well. Honestly, even after many (many!) tastes and discussions, none of had a clear favorite. Both were very good, so go forth and buy either-you won’t be disappointed!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thrifty Gift Thursday: Wine themed coasters

Even though stemmed wine glasses don’t usually sweat, for friends who have stemless wine glasses, or who value their furniture and just like to use coasters, here’s some coaster options.

For a classic look for $19.99:
An option for $17.99:
Another option for $14.99:

And finally, for your modern décor wine friends, another $14.99 option:

Of course, these items are heavy, so both sites have about a $7.50 shipping charge.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Duck, orange tea sauce and a Cal-Ital

Last night, I tried a new recipe- roasted duck with orange tea sauce. I was weary of the tea sauce, but it got really great reviews, so I tried it out. It was actually pretty good! Start by browning the skin of the duck, put in oven but keep the drippings. Stir in chicken broth, oj, 3 orange spiced black tea bags and reduce by half, and then stir in a bit of honey and butter. The sauce was a bit salty by itself, but tasted fantastic on the duck.

I read that duck goes well with Italian or Cal-ital wines, so we had it with the 2000 Pietra Santa Sassolino, which I’ve reviewed before. It was really great-the oak and tannins cut through the duck fat and it was just a fantastic meal.

Cheers to trying new recipes!

Monday, December 1, 2008

%@&!% Traffic

We had a nice Thanksgiving. Got to see some family and some friends, did some shopping, got some good deals and didn’t have to wait in line too long. Didn’t get the tree up, but that’s ok, we’ll do it this week. All in all, a nice 4 day weekend. Until this morning. Traffic f-ing stank.

Now, I’ve mentioned a time or two in my blog that while my commute is a long distance (27 miles each way) its not that long of a drive because for the most part, I can go the speed limit, minus a few mile stretch each way. Let me correct that this morning. Because of the first snowy mix weather, there were accidents and car fires and even more accidents, so it took me over twice as long as it normally does. Grrrrrr. &*%$!@

But its not just today though-there’s been a ton of accidents recently, even in the dry weather, so my commute has really stunk the past few weeks. Many times I’ve come home from work dying for a extra dirty martini to sip my sorrows and stresses away, and its only been because of the drive. Thank god Highway 40 is almost open, and while I do not take that route to or from work or school, others do take it. Those others are hogging up my easy traffic route, hating every minute of their commute, getting impatient, so they’re getting in accidents. It wasn’t bad at first, but I think people have just got impatient and started to resort to their past drive time habits. Its just done downhill. I can’t wait until it opens. Just can’t wait.

Has anyone else in the Lou noticed a spike in commute time in the past month? Am I unreasonable to want a relatively open commute for my 27 mile drive? Am I just really that spoiled?

Possibly…..but isn’t that the perk of living in a non-popular part of town? So your commute is less congested??

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thrifty Gift Thursday: Personalized Wine Stoppers

While Mr. Lush and I often finish bottles in one sitting, we hear others keep theirs for days, even a week, having a little glass here and there. For those friends, get the personalized wine stoppers. Here’s two options:

Use code PC15GFT to get this one for $12.71. I would opt to just get the monogram, (I think you just leave the other fields blank) versus the names, because it seems very wedding gift-y with the names, but that’s just me. Plus the solid initial makes it a gift for your single wine drinkers. The single monogram would look something like this.

For a funner but let flashy option, here’s a push botton one for $11.99.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I sure don't need LESS energy.......

While perusing a magazine, I noticed a commentary about this "interesting" beverage:
Yes, its called “Drank” and its an “extreme relaxation beverage”. The slogan on their website:
So remember…. Just “Slow Your Roll” with Drank.

Here’s some more info:
“Drank anti-energy drink finds its roots in "purple drank," a slang term for a concoction popularized in the South by the hip-hop community, according to Wikipedia. Purple drank typically includes promethazine-codeine cough syrup which produces a stoned sedation. Promethazine is an antihistamine while codeine is an opiate narcotic. The syrup is colored purple hence "Purple drank."

However, Drank's active ingredients are all legal, and can be found at health and vitamin shops. Drank's press release says, "From design to production, every aspect of this calming drink was inspired by today’s popular hip hop artists who embrace the much sought-after hip hop lifestyle that encourages people to capture a stress-free state of mind."”

Ah, now I see. Who knew “stress-free state of mind” is also known as “stoned sedation”??

I think I might just do some yoga and drink a glass of wine, how 'bout you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Help the 100 neediest families in the Lou

I was browsing the online edition of the paper and saw something about 100 neediest families in St. Louis. I admit I’m a bit skeptical with giving charitable donations-I don’t always believe that the dollars collected really will be given to the families in need. I’ve read too many horror stories about how communities rallied to “save” someone, only to find out the money collected goes to the cause, not necessarily the person or that so much goes to the administrative costs. As you might know, my good friend Lucy profiles good causes on her Good Cause Monday posts. She has inspired me to be more philanthropic so decided to take the time to investigate. I found out that every dollar does indeed goes to the needy families, and that you can even designate who you want what to go to. I'd never heard of it, so I thought I'd share the info with you.

From the website:
Each year, more than 10,000 families in need receive help from the 100 Neediest Cases program. An effort is made to assist every case in some way. With your help and big heart, we can make the holiday season a joyous one for thousands of people in the St. Louis region.
All administrative and fund raising costs are absorbed by United Way of Greater St. Louis, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and more than 100 area social service agencies. Every dollar raised for the 100 Neediest Cases program goes directly to help people.

Here’s two cases, out of the 100.

Mrs. D, 73, lives with her husband on a fixed income. Both are disabled and diabetic.
After suffering a stroke, Mrs. D is losing her vision. She also is coping with high blood pressure, a heart condition and Alzheimer's disease and must use a walker to get around. But even with the walker, she has trouble getting around, as she is missing half of one of her feet.
She also no longer has taste buds.
Mrs. D and her husband need a refrigerator, as theirs is falling apart and no longer able to freeze food. They also need help with eyeglasses, medical bills and food.

Another one:

It was a rough introduction to the world: V was born with his kidneys outside his body. At age 11, he leaks urine and has to wear adult diapers.
His mother, Ms. W, has medical issues of her own, and has suffered several strokes. This little family receives income only once a month; the money often runs out before the month does. And that means Ms. W can't buy V's diapers. When that happens, V has to stay home from school: He needs several changes every day, and goes to the nurse's office to change them.
There's no laundromat in their neighborhood, and the W's don't have a washer. Ms. W has to do the laundry by hand. V frequently goes to school smelling of stale urine, and his classmates can be cruel. In spite of it all, the people who know him report that he's a sweet, polite boy, and doesn't complain. Contribute online
The family desperately needs a washing machine. Also near the top of their wish list are gift certificates for new clothes, groceries and diapers. Your help could make an enormous difference in V's life.

And the stories go on. Here’s how to help:

ADOPT: Individuals, corporations, families and organizations can volunteer to adopt one of the 100 families. Adopters are encouraged to fill at least one of the family's stated needs and to buy at least one present for each child. Everything goes directly to the family, through the family's social worker.
DONATE: The 100 Neediest Cases general fund is used to help the 12,000 other families identified for the program. Every family will receive something, and every dollar will go directly to a needy family. Last year, $1.3 million was raised and distributed.
HOW: To adopt a family or make a donation, call 314-421-6060 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, send mail to 100 Neediest Cases, Box 955925, St. Louis Mo. 63195-5925, or go to http://www.100neediestcases.org/. To review the cases that have been published, go to www.STLtoday.com/neediest.
Checks should be made out to 100 Neediest Cases and sent to:
100 Neediest Cases
P.O. Box 955925
St. Louis, Mo. 63195-5925

Check your local paper / community services and see if such a program exists near you. If not, please check those cases out and send some diapers, socks, etc to these families in need. If you're in the Lou let me know and maybe we can all go in on a more sizable purchase to really help them out, like a deep freezer for that couple.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Marsala Quest begins

One of the most searched items on my blog is “what wine to pair with chicken marsala”. Well, dear readers and random Google searches, that is my winter quest. (Lucy, that means we’ll just have to have chicken marsala a ton of times this winter, sorry to put you through that!!) Last night I took a stab at Veal Marsala. I will note it wasn’t the best cut of veal, but I wanted to give it a try. It was ok, but I think I might prefer chicken a bit better. Here’s a picture-which looks almost identical to how my Chicken Marsala would look.

On to the wine, since that’s really the most important part for a WineLush. We had both white and red wines with it, since it’s a rich, beef / beef broth based sauce with mushrooms, but with a creamy touch, as well as fettucine alfredo as a side dish. One was the Shoofly Buzzcut ($12ish), a white blend from Austrialia made of Verdelho, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon. It’s a little citrusy, has enough acidity to cut through the side of alfredo and the oil used in the Marsala, but enough body to stand up to a rich dish. It was good. The other was La Rochelle Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, a recent $38 selection from a wine club we belong to. The pinot was fantastic, a bit fruity at first, and actually got a bit better and more complex after being open about an hour.

It was a tough comparison, as both were good with the Marsala. In the end, we determined the pinot was better, but only by a tad. Its possible we just weren't able to look past the fact we both really liked the pinot better as a wine, thus we enjoyed it more, thus it was of course better with the food.

I’ll keep tasting all winter, and post my thoughts on each. If you’re reading this wondering what to pair with it, my thoughts are a lighter bodied red or a fuller bodied white blend. See my past thoughts on pairing options with the label Marsala Quest.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thrifty Gift Thursday: Decanter Dryer

Most wine lovers have a decanter, but those suckers sure are hard to get dry! Enter decanter dryer. Often they are $30 and up, but here's one for $12.99! (decanter not included) Its a bit on the simple side and will only work with the standard decanters, but it has the dish at the bottom for the water to collect, which is nice because that water has to go somewhere!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kreativ, thankful, but blog-barren

Lucy recently awarded me with the Kreativ Blogger award. (Thanks Lucy!!) I’m supposed to list 6 things I’m thankful for and 6 blogs I stalk. This is actually a problem. While I casually read some blogs, other than Lucy’s, I don’t visit any daily or even weekly, which is a far cry from stalking. So please, if you’re someone who casually reads my blog, help me out. Share your top 2 or 3 faves, and perhaps they can become my favorites as well.

In the interim, 6 things I’m thankful for, in no particular order:

1. My wonderful husband. He appreciates my good qualities and knows all my faults, and loves me anyway. He puts up with my peccadillos and indulges my whims. I’m also very lucky a co-worker locked her keys in her car that day or else we wouldn’t be together.

2. My good friends. I’m blessed to have some really good friends, who also put up with my peccadillos and indulge my whims. They are often a good sounding board, from personal problems to work issues, and are there with a glass of wine to celebrate or to help cheer me up.

3. My good friends who are also handy and those who have handy husbands and “pimp them out”. This might be a specific item to the Luce Family, but after spending last night organizing our basement with shelves Mr. Luce helped Mr. Lush build, I think they deserve a double mention.

4. General good fortune. As mentioned in #2, friends are often there to help cheer me up. Well, thankfully, that’s not very often. I don’t know if its necessarily “good” fortune- it might be more of an absence of bad fortune, but it still counts and I’m thankful for it. I have had some really bad luck moments, but they are few and far between.

5. My health. I take horrible care of myself and still, I’m not sick. As noted in my post about my general absence of flu, I have generally good health. I don’t know if this will continue, but I swear every time I watch the TV show House I am thankful that I don’t have some crazy odd disease or condition, as well as just an average bad condition that could be managed with daily medication. Good genes, cosmic luck, whatever the cause, I'm just thankful I'm generally healthy.

6. My working situation. I’m currently working part time in a job I mostly like (really, that's all we can ask for) and I have a great boss. I’m so thankful that I even have a job while I’m in school, not to mention that this job pays relatively well, and that it’s also related to my field and to top it off, my boss is great and lets me work on things I want to and get additional career growth experiences that are so important. I’m also thankful I have identified what I want to do when I finish school and while I don’t expect to get my perfect job, I’m doing what I can to get as close as I can.
7. The fact I got to use "peccadillo". :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Unexpected wine moments

Do you ever have those random unexpected wine moments? Ones that are either fantastic or slightly disappointing, but either way you learn something along the way? I’ve had a few in the past year. I’ve gotten to taste some wines I’d never buy but were curious about, such as Cristal (good but overrated), along with wines that were so good I wish I never knew about them because I’ll covet them forever (such as Viader and Stag’s Leap Cask 23), a bottle that the sulfur aroma was so strong decanting just made it worse, a box of 20+ year old Riesling that was suddenly offered to us, which was akin to apple juice at that point but interesting to taste, and one more this past weekend.

We were over at a friend’s house who doesn’t really drink much, particularly not wine, and he says “Hey, I’m glad you guys are here. I’ve some old red wine and want to know if its still good.” Now, Mr. Lush and I are weary of old wine owned by non-wine drinkers after the Reisling, but we say its red, so its got a shot. He opens a cabinet and shows us 4 bottles of French wine his dad gave him shortly before his death. At this point I’m more than just lightly curious. Of course, French wines can age and I’ve never had any old Bordeaux so I really want to taste them, but am sad that they are being stored in not optimal conditions (room temp now and no idea about the past), so its fairly likely they are bad, or on their way. There was a 1977 lower end “red grape wine” and a 1959 Grand Cru (I don’t remember the other two). He said lets open them. Well, ok, but we caution him that its unlikely they are in good condition, although the Grand Cru is probably the best shot, but does he want to open them with us? On a random Friday night? He states he just wants to open them, and if they are good, have someone who likes wine to enjoy them with. We oblige.

First up is the 1977: we peel off the label and see the top of the cork is basically soaked through and is sugary-looking. Not a good sign. Sure enough, we put the corkscrew in it and the cork falls right through. The wine has spoiled. Sadness sets over all of us. But he doesn’t give up, opening the 1959 Chateau Bouscaut Grand Cru. Well, the cork (which was really long) was fairly soaked all the way the way through, but was holding tight in the bottle and kept intact, so are hopeful when we smell-it smells like wine, not like funk or dirty feet or anything like that. We pour a glass. Sip. Hmm. Tastes….surprisingly ok. A real possibility. So, we pour a few glasses and let them sit for a bit. About an hour plus later, we drink. It was fairly good and the finish went on forever, although I’m sad to say we thought it was a bit past its prime. It hadn’t gone bad yet, but it was heading in that direction.

Yesterday I looked up information and there isn’t a ton of info except that that vintage was the last of the original Chateau because of a fire, but it was rebuilt. However, its clear based on pricing that the rest of the world agrees its past it prime. (Not readily available and recently $250+, it was reduced to $170.) So, even if it had been stored in optimal conditions, this particular wine wasn’t meant to last quite this many years. Either way it was an interesting experience because if a 49 year old Bordeaux that’s been stored in less than optimal conditions can still be drinkable, I have hopes and reasons to buy quite a few bottles on our trip next year and put them out of sight and out of mind for the next 25 years.

Cheers to unexpected wine moments- keep 'em coming, wine gods.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My first vertical

Last weekend my wine club had our first vertical tasting. (A vertical tasting is where you have the same wine, but different vintages, side by side.) Often wineries will sell these, but its usually the top end wines, averaging $80 or more per bottle. I think $30/bottles are worthy of saving and trying, and that's about all we can afford right now, so that's the price point we went with. We tasted the following wines:
  • 2003 Kenwood "Jack London" Cabernet
  • 2004 Kenwood "Jack London" Cabernet
  • 2005 Kenwood "Jack London" Cabernet
  • 2003 Simi "Landslide" Cabernet
  • 2004 Simi "Landslide" Cabernet
  • 2005 Simi "Landslide" Cabernet
We started off the evening with some Gloria Ferrar sparkling and cheeses then we served some filets with some yummy sides, and tried the wines. Both wines are from California, one is from Sonoma (Kenwood) and the other from Napa (Simi). Both use other grapes for blending, although the Simi is about 85% Cab and the Kenwood is about 90% Cab. It was interesting to see what the difference was, both in year and between the two. As suspected, I liked the 2003s more. I tend to like my cali cabs about 5 years old. What was slightly suprising, was that I liked the 2005s and 2004's about the same overall. Personally, I liked the Kenwood Jack London more, which is sad because its not as readily available here in the Lou.
For those of you who want to do a vertical tasting I have a few tips:
-Pick something ageable, but that you can also afford to keep for a few years.
-Start with the oldest one first. Its harder to track down an older vintage than the newer one and you don't want to be stuck bidding on some older wine to complete the vertical. Mr. Lush and I had both the 2003's and one 2004, so filling in the newer wines was easier.
-Speaking of newer vintages, don't be discouraged if you have a hard time getting the most recent vintage either. The 2005 Kenwood was hard to comeby because all the distributors wanted to sell out of the 2004 first. Which, of course if I had waited until the 2005 was out, the 2004 would've been hard to find. So planning and patience are key.
-Its best to have a group, even a small one, to taste. Then you aren't left with a bunch of opened wine or drinking the nice bottles by yourself. We had a group of 8, and with the sparkling before hand and dessert wine after, it was perfect. We split the cost of the wines between everyone and everyone brought a side dish. Of course, a downside of a group is the glassware needed.
-Get some cheap stemless glasses. The Dollar Tree (or other local dollar store) usually has them for, you guessed it, $1. We bought about 60 for the reception in the spring and kept them to use for wine functions. They travel well, store easy and if they break, who cares, they were only $1!
-Remember to label the glasses in some manner, whether paper labels on the glass, or the same wine charms for the certain year, whichever, you just don't want to get the wines mixed up.
-Get a measured pourer. I have a one ounce pourer we used for club tastings, so we had one person pour two ounces in each glass, and "eyeball" matched the level. (since we had the same glasses, this was an easy method) The two ounces was perfect, enough to sip each one a few times, but left enough in the bottle you could go back for at least one or two of your top favorites.
-Remember to print off a bit of info on the wines. I only printed off the blend percentages and how long it was aged in oak. If you're tasting the same wine, its better to know as much as you can about why you like one and not the other.
-Finally, if you do want to do a vertical tasting, I recommend starting off at Sams Club or another warehouse like place. Often Sams Club has multiple vintages, since they will cut a deal with a distributor. Sometimes you'll luck out and get 3, but usually they'll have at least 2 years. For example, on Tuesday, Mr. Lush and I picked up the next vertical- the 2003, 2004, and 2005 Mount Veeder Cabernet were all at Sams Club and we noticed they had another cab in 2003 and 2004.
Cheers and good luck!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thrify Gift Thursday: Port Decanter/Glass Set

This is an excellent gift for the port lover, as it comes with a decanter with a stopper, in addition to 4 glasses. However, its just a bit of a splurge item, according to Thrifty Gift Thursday guidelines. Its $34, however, you can save 15% on your order by using the coupon code COUPONSEVEN15, putting it at $28.90. Which really, is a steal, as this set looks like a $50 plus gift! And, to top it off, I bet the recipient will be so thankful they'll serve you some nice port, and who doesn't love a gift that keeps on giving??

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Elegant Tuesday Night Meal

Since Mr. Lush was off for Veteran’s Day, I took the day off as well. Nothing beats a weekday day off. We played a little and did some errands (boo hiss on being an adult and not being able to play all day!) and we ended the evening with an elegant Tuesday night meal. We had some lamb chops drizzled with a balsamic reduction sauce, asparagus, and a recent selection from one of our wine clubs, the 2003 Michaud Syrah.

First the lamb chops- seasoned with tarragon, a smidge of thyme, garlic powder and fresh ground pepper. Quick pan-seared them in some olive oil, set aside, deglazed the pan with some (about ¼ cup) balsamic vinegar, added some chicken broth (about 2/3 cup), and the seasonings from the meat. Let reduce a bit, put in a bowl and set it to the side, then finished cooking the chops to about medium rare-medium. I sautéed the asparagus in minced garlic, olive oil, and fresh ground pepper. The lamb chops were amazing. The sauce was good, although next time I’d use better quality balsamic vinegar (we had about mid grade and it really needs high grade) so it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been and I’d probably let it reduce a bit more or add some cornstarch to thicken.

On to the wine-it was fantastic as well. Slightly petrol nose, but mostly flavors of black cherry and just a bit of pepper, none of which were overwhelming, and it had a nice long finish. We got it from the Taste of Monterey club, and of course, its from Monterey CA, specifically from the Chalone appellation. Per the notes: “Wines from the Chalone appellation require a little additional time to open up to their maximum expression. This happens 15-20 minutes after a bottle is opened. If you would like to hasten this process, we recommend decanting the wine.” Luckily for us, even though we didn’t read the notes before hand, we did pour the wine into our glasses about 30 minutes before we ate, so it all worked out to be the recommended time. It was excellent with the lamb, particularly with the tarragon. I think it retails for about $40.

I so love cooking at home because you get the opportunity to justify splurging on some nice cuts of meat, like lamb chops. And really, who doesn’t like an elegant meal on a Tuesday, particularly in today’s economy, for what ended up being cheaper than a meal at Applebees?? Can’t beat it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

2002 Kenwood Artist Series

November is my wine club’s annual Big Red Tasting. The point of it is to try some wines that might be special occasion wines, or nice gift wines, or if you have more money than I do, just nice wines that might be in your regular weekend drinking repertoire. (if so, I am oh-so-jealous) Of course, since I collect Artist labels, this is justification to purchase (and keep the label) of a Kenwood Artists Series Cabernet. I’ve had 3 or 4 of them, and loved every one. The 2002 is currently released and so we purchased that. It was just wonderful, as I expected. What I like about the Artists Series wines. other than the labels, is how smooth they are. They don’t require decanting to drink, they improve with some breathing, but they are very drinkable directly out of the bottle. Too many cabs need air to be enjoyable. I don't mind decanting, but I wouldn't mind enjoying a half glass while I wait and seeing the difference. Its the top of the Kenwood line, so its also consistently good. Typically, Kenwood adds just a little bit, maybe 10% or so, of other varietals to smooth out the blend. The 2002 is:91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 3% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and is aged 26 months in French Oak. Here’s some tasting notes from the winery:

The 2002 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich, concentrated wine with aromas of red currants black cherries, and plums followed by aromatic notes of French oak, spice and black licorice. It exhibits excellent structure that is characterized by its full-bodied mouth feel, smooth tannins and lingering, silky finish. This Artist Series was bottle aged before release making it very drinkable now but it should continue to improve for at least another decade.

It retails for $65-70, if you can find it for less than $50 on a closeout, pick up a couple bottles. If you can find it for less than $40, pick up a case and I’ll buy it from you. Cheers!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thrifty Gift Thursday: Personal Decanters

Even though I do love wine and wine accessories, I don’t have a lot of disposable income and thus don’t spend a lot of money on wine accessories. I’d rather buy a bottle of great of wine than to spend a $100 on an item to open, decant, or drink out of, so I deal shop and regisstered for a few neat things when we got married. Recently, I got a great deal on a decanter glass set and Mr. Lush gave me a very dirty look because we already have THREE decanters. I told him I wasn't sure if I was going to give it as a gift, but he still gave me the look and I realized I do get a tad bit carried away. I do so enjoy searching for good deals, but have issued a stop order on my wine accessory shopping through the end of the year. However, I know I’ll still run across some good deals and hopefully by sharing them with you, I can pretend its like I’m buying them. So, from now through the end of the year, I’m going to feature a thrifty gift for your wine loving friends, or something to buy yourself this holiday season. The gifts will be wine related and priced under (or around) $25. Disclaimer: there might be one that sneaks through that’s over the price range, but if so, it would be a spectacular deal or a really great gift idea.

First up are a set of 4 personal decanters for $20. Typically, I find WE stuff to be over priced, but wouldn’t these be great? Either to use as a personal decanter, or to just not clutter up the table with a big decanter that just a glass or so left in it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

An undecided political rant

Confession- its now just “hours” until election day and I don’t know who I’m going to vote for. I know. I think I’m the only person I know who hasn’t decided. We all have to act like our vote matters, that our vote is the deciding vote, so of course I’m freaking out because tomorrow I must vote for someone but who?? (caution, what follows is the political (and somewhat uninformed) rantings of an undecided voter!)

In general, I’m more of a democrat in terms of moral values. (pro-choice, pro-homosexual rights, etc) However, I don’t dig socialism and wealth redistribution is a form of socialism. (watch out now, I said "form") I think aid should be provided to those in need, but only a very limited basis, which is very anti-democratic of me. So maybe I’m a democrat with a timeline?? Here's some money, but put it to good use, this well runs dry eventually. I don’t think people who make over $250,000, sorry, $200,000 as he said in his last “infomercial”, should have to pay more taxes. What about the 40% of Americans who don’t pay ANY taxes? Who I hate isn’t someone who’s making $200,000, I hate the SOBs at the mortgage companies and banks who are leaving with tens of millions of dollars after screwing people like my dad, who are left with 40% of his retirement money. I don’t think $200,000 combined household income in rich….I think that’s upper middle class, and I hope to be in that class within 5-10 years after finishing my Master’s. I have no problem giving my money, whether in taxes or a check, to help people out in need, but I want those recipients to use it to better their lives and not need help anymore. Ongoing unlimited help, at the expense of taxpayers, is not the way to go. I think everyone should pay taxes (even if its $100 a year).

McCain’s old, Palin’s annoying, Biden talks without thinking sometimes (I can relate ;) but Obama started off the campaign lying about taking the federal money for the election, and thus has way more money to spend. I’m cool with my president being a good liar, but really, starting off lying isn’t very cool. But I also don’t dig our president being in bed with the oil companies for another 4 years. However, I’d rather have a job and pay $8 a gallon for gas than the alternative and I figure every politician’s in bed with someone, or else where would all this campaign money come from? So who am I to say you can't sleep with the oil companies, but other than that I don't care who you sleep with?? I don’t think Obama’s a terrorist, although I don’t doubt that he, along with every single politician, has gotten money during his life from somewhere I don’t want to know about. Naturally, I’m tired of getting those emails and calls about where all his money came from (terrorist) or even that he’s a live baby killer. (did you see that commercial? Yeah-evidently Obama supports the killing of live babies, birthing them, then leaving them to die. Ok, now, really.)

But do I want another 8 years of Bush? Economy is in the dumps, we're pissing money away in a useless war, we're bailing out car companies, mortgage companies, banks, etc. We're so bad we're even bringing down the WORLD economy, and the only reason we're paying less than $3 a gallon for gas is because its election time. We're way behind the rest of the world in alternative energy and I certainly want our country to really focus on other forms of energy. While I would pay $8 a gallon for gas if it meant I had a job to drive to, I don't want to, you know? We have sun and wind for free, why not figure out how to harness that energy in an affordable fashion? I think the white house should be powered by alternative energy sources- why not? I think we should all get solar panels on our houses and be able to run our cars on something other than oil and if we didn’t have a president in bed with the oil companies car companies might actually put money into developing that research. I mean, come on, a car can practically parallel park itself, why can’t we get a more fuel efficient car? Oh yeah, because oil greases everything.

But god, what if something happens to McCain, do I want Palin to be my president? Heavens no. I absolutely can’t stand the fact she doesn’t think sex education should be taught in schools. Yeah lady, clearly the parents taking the role of sex education worked out for you.

I guess in general, I’m inclined to disbelieve everything I read or hear from one candidate about the other one, so it leaves me with where do I go from here? See why I’m lost? I can come up with arguments for both side, but I admit, I have gaps in my thoughts. In the past I’ve been a “one issue voter” as my dad calls it. (ie Bush was against homosexual rights and pro-life, so I voted against him) But I feel like I’ve been of voting age for over 10 years, its time I make an educated decision, right? Tonight I plan to spend some time going over each candidate’s websites, as well as skimming over any applicable propositions. And for all you other last minute deciders, Lucy's recent post has some good links for getting up to speed on what else is on the ballot.

I leave with this good news for Missouri voters: under Missouri voting leave law, companies are required to give up to 3 successive hours of paid leave for regularly scheduled work time to go vote. I’m scheduled to work at 7:30, so that means I get paid until 9. (I’m part time because I’m in school, so I’m actually hourly) If only I got paid to decide who to vote for!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wine in the morning

As you might notice, I use Sitemeter. It tells you what brought people to your website or blog, within some level of detail. The vast majority of my visitors (who don’t comment for some reason) come from Google searches. My public service announcement about how to make ringtones for my Sony phone seems to be a top traffic point, as is my post on wine koozies, Black Mountain Pinot Noir, and what to eat with chicken marsala. Of course things like salmon and chardonnay, or specific searches for wine come up, how to age wine, etc, are searches as well.

However, a recent review of my sitemeter referring urls revealed a search for “wine in the morning”. Well. I just don’t know what to say. Don’t get me wrong, I drink in the morning sometimes, and no not just on St. Patrick’s Day or vacation. Sometimes, particularly if my parents are in town, we’ll have some Godiva & coffee or even a shot of Rumplemintz in the morning. (yes, I know having a shot of Rumplemintz in the morning with one’s parents seems very odd, but that’s another post) But this search made me think about all the drinks I’ve had in the morning. Probably the closest to wine in the morning I’ve had is a Mimosa (sparkling wine/OJ). I feel like I’m letting someone down though. I mean, they came to me, Wine Lush, for an answer and I didn’t provide them with one.

So here I am, at 7:58 in the morning. I didn’t drink anything last night, so I’m not hungover, and I’m looking in my wine fridge to see what sounds good. Now, I’m not actually going to open a bottle of wine. I don’t work today-Thursdays I stay at home, do school work, run errands, etc. So I could if I wanted to, but I’m not going to. But if I were to drink, what would I open? Red wine doesn’t sound good. Well, certainly not a Cab Sav, maybe a Beaujolais, something lighter and fruity, I suppose would be ok. Chardonnay doesn’t sound good, of course Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t sound good. But, a fruity Riesling sounds pretty good, or some wine that would go good with spicy food. Of course, with or without OJ, a sparkling sounds nice, although not a brut.

So, dear reader from Oregon, should you search again, my morning wine recommendation is something fruity, such as Beaujolais, Reisling, and a sec or semi-sec sparkling.

Regular readers, feel free to offer your suggestions and to all my passerby readers, please, stay a bit and comment, even if you disagree!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hold the grass, Sauvignon Blanc

Its probably no secret that I'm not a Sauvignon Blanc fan. I don't hate all sauv blancs, just mostly dislike AU & NZ, and don't care much for CA and find White Bordeaux (blend of Sauv Blanc and Semmilion) to be the most tolerable. That being said, I don't voluntarily purchase them. However, we do occasionally get some in our wine clubs. One of which was Niner, from California. Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of being with Sauv blanc fans and so I brought it, in hopes it would be well liked and enjoyed by all, or at least most, minus me.

Here's the skinny on the wine:
Grown in conditions similar to those in Bordeaux, France, the Niner Wine Estates 2006 Sauvignon Blanc was produced from the leading Paso Robles vineyard Bootjack Ranch. Planted mostly to red varietals, a small portion of the Bootjack Ranch property is planted to Sauvignon Blanc, as is typical in France since the grape thrives in the same conditions. Cool nights and warm days contribute to a long growing season, ultimately yielding grapes of deep color and concentrated flavors. This award-winning vintage received a Gold Medal from the Central Coast Wine Competition, a Silver Medal from the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, as well as a Silver Medal from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Fresh and rich in texture and flavor, the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is aromatically lively with aromas and flavors of pear, grapefruit, and pineapple that are juxtaposed by persimmon, lemon meringue and buttery nuances. It is refreshing, with a good mouthfeel, full body and a nice acid balance. The soft citrus candy finish lingers on the palate. Winery food pairing recommendations include cheese tortellini with pesto and toasted pine nuts, grilled swordfish with olive tapenade, and pizza with spinach, bacon, and caramelized onions. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy now until 2010.

Back to the tasting....By itself, I thought it was fine. It wasn't grassy at all, and the citrus was fairly minimal. I had hopes reading the description (buttery nuances) that I might actually like it. Then we had it with some bacon wrapped dates and then some salad with figs, goat cheese and a mustard vinagrette. It was really good with both, but it was best with the salad. It moved to one of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs. Mind you, its a short list, but the acidity was just enough to cut through the fat/oil, but not so much I felt like I was drinking lemon grass. I like wines I can drink with or without food. I'm not sure if I would purchase it again, but I would certainly recommend it for someone who tends to dislike the grassy Sauv Blanc style.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Guessing with a reason

I know in a post last week I mentioned that I had two blind tastes last weekend so I want to tell you about them. Well the first was one organized by a wine shop. I didn’t do so well. I didn’t get any totally right, as in both location and correct varietal(s). On one, I got the country right and got one grape right, but it was a blend. On another, I knew the country, picked the wrong grape. And one, I was close, I had it narrowed down to two and picked the wrong one in my “final answer”. Frustrating, but I should see it as I am getting better.

Another one was my wine club’s. Mr. Lush picked 3 new world and I picked 3 old world. And you know what? Even though I knew what I had, I still only got one right of my 3 right. However, I am getting a bit better, I have an idea, I’m just not good yet.

I could say that October’s not over yet, but it is almost over. I still have a chance of having it all come together in some way, but at least at this point I can say I’ve gotten better, because in the beginning of the month I was really just blindly guessing. Now I’m actually guessing with a reason. Maybe guessing correctly in a month is too much to hope for?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Europe 2009 ... the dream and the beginning

Well, as some of you know, 2009 is a big year for me. I finish graduate school, turn 30, and Mr. Lush and I will be married a year. All good reasons to take a trip to Europe, don't you think? Well, I'm in the very baby beginning phases of planning. So far, we've decided Burgundy for sure. Everyplace else, including a non wine country visit to either Ireland or Amsterdam, is up in the air. Although last night we looked at the map and Ireland is really far and while Amsterdam is far as well, its not as far.

Well in my preliminary searching, I'm looking up existing tours to get ideas, as well as hotel names, chateaus, etc. I found one that has a lot of great stuff. Its private and its a bit expensive, though. Ok, more than a bit. Read on:

LUXURY WINE & CULTURE (11 Days, 10 Nights)
To really know a wine you need to know its terroir, an utterly French alliance between a wine and the region that produces it. Come along on a tour de force journey through the wine regions of Champagne, Alsace, Burgundy, & Chablis. Taste each region's different wine and enjoy gastronomic cuisine. This journey will enable you to sample the finest wine and cuisine day after day. Your journey will conclude with a visit to Paris . This is a once in a lifetime experience!


Upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), you will be met and escorted in your private car by a professional private guide, who will stay with you throughout your journey. You will be driven to the prestigious 4-star Château de Montvillargenne. Located only 30 minutes from CDG, and yet secluded in the Chantilly Forest, this Château was built at the turn of the 20th century, combining local and foreign architectural styles including Norman, Württemberg, and Béarn. Here you will find the perfect setting for some R &R after your long trip. The Master Chef of the Château will prepare a light 4-course gastronomic dinner for you this evening, and the sommelier from Maxim's in Paris will help you select your wines for the meal.

After buffet breakfast, departure for the illustrious Champagne region of France. Your first stop will be the town of Epernay, one of the two towns that produce champagne and the home of Moët et Chandon, the world-renowned champagne house. This house makes, arguably, the most famous champagne in the world, Dom Pérignon. After an exclusive private tour of Moët et Chandon cellars, the ´Chef de Caves' will guide you though a champagne-tasting, and you will have the opportunity to purchase some superb champagne from this eminent champagne house. We will continue to the city of Reims, the other home of champagne. Reims is called the "City of Kings" because its Cathedral was once the site of the coronations of the Kings of France. Indulge in a gastronomic lunch at the 2-Michelin Star Boyer Les Crayères, including wines selected by the chef. After lunch, visit the famed Maison Pommery in Reims with its 11-mile galleries. These galleries, lined with sculptures carved into the chalk walls, are used to allow the champagnes to age under precisely controlled conditions. From Pommery you will be taken to the legendary champagne house of Mumm founded in 1827, for a visit to its cellars that hold an inventory of over 25 million bottles. Your day ends at the Château d'Etoges where you will spend the night. Just 30 minutes from Reims, this 17th-century chateau, surrounded by a moat, was once frequented by kings during their travels east. This evening, the chateau will feel like a grand private home where you can relax for the night.

After a restful night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, depart towards the Alsace-Lorraine region. Your destination is the beautiful village of Ribeauville situated at the foot of vine-clad hills, with its charming old shop signs, turrets, pierced balconies, and flower-decorated houses. This village is celebrated for its Riesling and Geürztraminer wines. Overnight at the Clos St-Vincent, a charming 4-star hotel surrounded by vineyards that affords a great view of the Alsatian countryside. Mr. Chapotin, the owner, will provide a dinner of Alsatian specialties as well as comfortable lodgings for relaxation after a full day of traveling.

Today, you will experience part of "The Wine Road of Alsace" and discover wineries off the tourist track. Your guided excursion will take you north along the wine road starting with a visit to Sélestat, an important city during the Renaissance. Overlooking the town is the Château Huat-Koenigsbourg, the largest château in Alsace. This 15th-century castle was dismantled during the Thirty Years War by the Swedes and rebuilt by Germany in 1901 as a gift to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Continue on to Oberbeim for free time for shopping at your leisure and lunch on your own. We recommend a light lunch so that you can thoroughly enjoy your elegant 7-course dinner this evening. In the afternoon, travel along the wine road sampling wine in a few villages including Riquewihr, well-known for its "Eau de Vie de Framboise" a distilled raspberry liquor. Then after some to relax at the hotel, you will be taken to the renowned Auberge de l'Ill in Illhaeusern. At this 3-Michelin-star restaurant known for delicacies like Frog Mousseline created by Paul Haeberlin, you will feast on a sumptuous 7-course gourmet dinner featuring specialties chosen for you by the Chef.

Today you will say "au revoir" to the Alsace region, but before leaving, you will enjoy the morning in Colmar, a medieval city that is a gateway to the Rhineland. The third largest city in Alsace, Colmar is also an excellent place to ask your guide where to buy delicious Alsatian wines like Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat d'Alsace, Tokay Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Noir. Now, with the best of the local wines of the region in your suitcase, you will travel along the German and Swiss borders to still another border, the border of the Burgundy wine country. Your drive is bound for Dijon, the mustard capital of the world. Your home for the next two nights, Château de Gilly, is located between Dijon and Beaune, the capital of the Burgundy wine region. This château was the home of the Cistercian Monks until the French Revolution in 1790. It was restored by the government in 1978 and became a hotel ten years later. Dinner tonight will be in the chateau's Le Clos Prieur Restaurant, under the direction of Chef Olivier Dupart, newly arrived from the 3-Michelin-star Lucas Carton in Paris.

This morning starts with a guided tour of the Hospices de Beaune. Founded in 1443 as a paupers' hospital and home to the brilliant Ven der Wayden altarpiece "The Last Judgement", the Hospices remains famous today thanks to the world's largest annual charity auction ´Sales of the Wines of the Hospices de Beaune'. Following the tour, savor a gastronomic 6- course lunch at the 3-Michelin-star Lameloise Restaurant including some local wines: Apéritif Bourguignon, Chassagne-Montrachet 2000, Savigny-lès-Beaune aux Guettes 1er Cru 2000. After this culinary delight, you will pass through the villages of Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, and Montrachet. During this journey, your guide will discuss the origins of the region's wines, including the villages, the soil, and the grapes. He will also examine the history of the region, as well as some ancient tales. Cellar visits and comparative wine-tastings will take place throughout the day. Upon return to the Château de Gilly, another delectable dinner will take place in the prestigious Le Clos Prieur restaurant.

After breakfast we will leave for Vézelay, another city in Burgundy and always a high point of time spent in this region. Vézelay is a living museum of French antiquity. Frozen in the Medieval time period, this town holds what is believed to be the tomb of Mary Magdalene, the'beloved and pardoned sinner,' making it one of the great pilgrimage sites in the Christian world. Continue on to your hotel for the night, Hotellerie les Clos in the town of Chablis, home of the wine of the same name. This charming hotel is located in the heart of Chablis, right across from the city hall. Michel Vignaud and his team of sommeliers will welcome you to their vaulted cellar and discuss the different grapes of Chablis and Auxerrois, followed by a wine tasting of: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Vieilles Vignes, Chablis 1er Cru, and Chablis Grand Cru. A 5-course culinary feast will follow in the Hostellerie's
one-Michelin-star restaurant.

After this gastronomic 'tour de force' in Alsace, Burgundy, and Chablis, it is time to return to Paris, the City of Light, where a pleasant 3-night stay awaits you at the Hotel Meurice. This 5-star luxury hotel, member of the Dorchester Group and Leading Hotels of the World, is the first choice of celebrities, presidents, and sovereigns. Each morning, you will be served an American breakfast in either your room or the hotel's magnificent main dining room. The rest of the day is at your leisure in Paris. Dinner this evening will be at Le Céladon Restaurant. This Regency-style one-Michelin-star restaurant is adjacent to the Hotel Westminster, just a short walk from your hotel along the Rue de Castiglione. With a backdrop of pale green damask wall hangings and Chinese porcelain, painting, drawings, and antique books, a gastronomic meal will be prepared for you by Le Céladon's master chef, Christophe Moisand, formerly sous-chef at Le Meurice. This restaurant is known for specialties like its choice fowl, cream soup and crêpes with 'Paimpol' (white beans and black pasta).

DAYS 09 & 10: PARIS
There is so much that Paris has to offer that one day simply would not be enough, so we've given you two days to explore the city on your own. The Concierge at the Hotel Meurice will be able to direct you to all best places to visit and arrange any number of activities for you during your stay. This is also a great time to do some last-minute shopping before your return home. On Tuesday evening, your farewell dinner will take place at Le Meurice, the Hotel Meurice's two-Michelin-star restaurant. Under an elaborate ceiling adorned with gilt and crystal chandeliers, in what is surely one of the cities most opulent restaurants, Chef Marc Marchand will prepare for you a French culinary experience that you will never forget as the fitting climax of your French gastronomic journey. To complement the excellent cuisine, Antoine Zocchetto, the restaurant's sommelier, has selected the perfect wines for your last evening's dinner in Paris.

Transfer to Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) for your flight back home.
Note: this luxury journey can be customized to fit your needs.

* Transportation in a luxury car with a certified driver
* 1 Night accommodation on B&B at Château de Montvillargenne
* 1 Night accommodation on B&B at Château d¢Etoges
* 2 Nights on B&B at CLOS ST VINCENT
* 2 Nights on B&B at Château de Gilly
* 1 Night on B&B at Hostellerie les Clos
* 3 Nights on B&B at Hotel Meurice
Not Included
* International airfare (upon request)
* Meals, drinks not specified on the itinerary
* Items of personal nature (laundry, phone charges, etc)
* Special dinners per the program

* $6,100 per person
* $1,500.00 for a single supplement

Yeah, $12 grand. Not including airfare or some meals, or the thousands in wine we'd buy. Ah. To wish.....

But, at least it's a start. We're thinking Day 2, 6, 7, interest us most. Stay tuned for more and please, share ideas!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Double Tip

As some of you might know, I used to be in the service industry. I was a busser, then a hostess, then a server with a short stint being a bartender throughout college and beyond. So, I often evaluate the service I receive on many levels but usually Mr. Lush and I are low maintenance people who drink, so our checks are high and we tip well. However, I realized with horror last night, that I’m not the tipper I hoped I’d be.

I mean, I tip fine, its just there’s a difference between tipping fine and being the tipper that your server self wanted to you to be. When I was a server I expected 20% for meeting their needs and expected more when I exceeded them or when the table required more attention than others. Particularly tables with children. Do you know why servers typically dislike tables with children? I won’t speak for all, but why I was less than thrilled when my party of 13 ended up being 8 adults and 5 children, versus 13 adults:
· Kids eat cheap and obviously don’t drink. This lowers the check, which since we tip off of the total check, lowers the tip.
· Parents often drink less, if anything, when they are with their kids. What might have been 2-3 cocktails per person turns into 1 or 2 beers for the whole party. Once again, lowers check, lowers tip.
· Kids make a mess. Even the most conscientious parent, who doesn’t let them empty sugar packets and tries to keep the food on the plate, can’t keep their 4 year old’s eating area as neat as an adult.

So, when I waited tables, I swore that I would over tip when I got great service and especially when I got great service when I had kids.

Well, back to present day. Last night we had family photos, with Mr. Lush’s whole family at a park. Afterwards, we decided to go to Red Lobster. Of course, our party was 8 adults, 5 kids. As I said before, not much drinking was happening. Since only one person had a beer and Mr. Lush and I had a solid weekend of drinking, we decided to opt for ice tea and a coke. We had two servers, who did a great job. Despite the fact the kids weren’t next to the parents, the servers kept who was on who’s check straight, they kept the refills coming (Mr. Lush goes through about 4 glasses of iced tea), ensured there were plenty of paper napkins, plenty of those biscuits, all the things that attentive servers do. Well, when Mr. Lush and I got our check, I tipped about 25%. As I drove home, I realized that wait a minute, our check was more than it should’ve been. Of course, I didn’t think twice to look at the check in great detail, because typically we’d have a cocktail or two so it was less than it would’ve been. So I pull out the receipt and see that the group gratuity of 15% was added in. So, I actually tipped our server about 40% on our check. I got upset. I mean, why didn’t he tell us? I was all ready to go home and call then I realized….

Oh my god. Who have I become?

Its my fault I didn’t look. And more importantly so what if I tipped him 40%. That might sound like a lot, but really, come on, it was Red Lobster and we didn’t drink, so it was only 5 or 6 bucks extra. I’m sure some in our party didn’t give any extra and their service certainly warranted more than 15%, so in the grand scheme of things, perhaps we helped them out a bit, made up for the fact they worked hard for a small check.

Even if everyone double tipped, who cares? Didn’t I love the double top when I waited tables???

Yes, yes I most certainly did.
So, go forth and grossly over tip this week. Do it now, before you get to the belt tightening holidays. Why not?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The appendix is an evil flu giving machine

Last week my good friend Lucy called for aid to assist her in the war against the cold and flu. Of course, I offered my two cents, but she knows she can’t take what I say to heart. Why, you ask? It might be the fact I've had the flu once since 1993. Of course, I do get a 1-2 week cold twice or so every year.

Wow, I must eat great and take excellent care of myself right? Well, no. Her post made me think of what I consume on a daily or nearly daily basis during flu season:

I drink Minute Maid Vitamin enhanced OJ as well as cranberry juice a lot. Of course, I drink both with lots of vodka and wine (mostly red) on days I don't have vodka. Sometimes both in the same day. I also drink coffee and eat meat every day and personally consume about a half gallon of skim milk per week. I don’t really eat veggies, although I try to get them in at least 2-3 times a week. I wish I could say exercise was a regular thing, but its not.

Clearly my diet is not what normal feel is healthy, but Mr. Lush does the same and he's usually not sick much more than I am.

Of course, I must get the flu shot, right? No. In fact, my mother gave me a hard time because I told her I’m not getting it and I don’t every get it.

So, why on earth am I healthier than my friend Lucy who exercises regularly, eats veggies everyday, (or nearly) and takes vitamins? Here’s a couple of theories, knowing that simply putting this in cyberspace means I’ll have the worst sickness of my life this year:

Theory 1: Appendixes make you sick.
In 1993 I had an appendectomy. Does the appendix serve a purpose, positive or negative? Here’s a snippet I found:
Although the study stops short of providing direct proof of this proposed purpose for the appendix, researchers say there's a strong case to be made for the appendix based on new information about the role of bacteria in intestinal health.
Hmm. Well, it stopped short of direct proof, so I can’t put any stock in the fact that appendix have a good purpose, although even if they do, everything I’ve found is digestive health related.
So perhaps having my appendix removed has helped me stave off the flu?

Theory 2: My body is a well conditioned germ fighting machine.
I was sick a lot as a child and frequently am around germs, thus my body is well oiled germ fighting machine. When Mr. Lush is sick, I don’t steer clear. I don’t even avoid kissing him. As Lucy can attest to, when she says she’s sick, I don’t mind. Provided they are up to social visits, I will hang around them anyway, although no, I don’t kiss them. That’s mostly because its not socially appropriate to make out with one’s friend and her husband than the fact I’m scared of their germs.
In short, while I don’t go out of my way to share germs with those who are sick, I don’t avoid my sick friends either. Perhaps this is constant conditioning for my immune system??

Theory 3: I use other people’s illnesses as a quasi flu shot.
The flu shot gives you the flu in small doses, and lets your body build up immunity to it. Perhaps as I’m around other people, I’m slowly building up immunity to their sickness. For example, I don’t get sick when Mr. Lush gets sick. When I was younger, I didn’t get sick when my parents got sick. I don’t get sick when office mates or good friends get sick. Which, sort of goes back to Theory 2 I suppose.

Theory 4: I am a freak of nature.
Perhaps that’s it.

But, just for fun, ask around to your friends and see if you can find anyone else without an appendix who has an oddly lucky immune system and in the meantime, drink liquor, eat meat, and be lazy. But do it on a consistent basis. Who knows, that might be the key.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Grab-n-go lunch options?

I shamefully admit something.... the Lush family is uber lazy when it comes to making lunches to take to work. We both have to be at work at 7:30 so we sleep in to the last possible minute, making the 3-5 minutes it might take to throw together a leftover lunch or put some lunchmeat between two slices of bread way too much work. That leads to me typically not bringing anything, because I can go out and get something but Mr. Lush is stuck at his job for his 30 minute lunch, so he has to bring something. Luckily, he's not a picky eater, however, MSG doesn't agree with him, so frozen dinners are pretty much out.
We are not planners like Lucy, so we don't think or make time to prepare a lunch in the evening, or if we do its far and few between. So he is left with grab-n-go options, remembering his work kitchen in pretty nonexistent- think dormroom.
However, luckily for us, more and more self-contained meals have been popping up. What a wonderful country, eh? See below for some frequent options in Mr. Lush's lunchbox, with a new addition we haven't tried yet-the Healthy Choice pasta. Before you feel too sorry for him, we usually do have fresh fruit on hand, as well as yogurt and relatively healthy breakfast bars, so its not like he's living on Easy Mac.
But, if you have any other options, please, do share.....perhaps I'm missing them.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

So, a blind squirrel does find a nut now and then....

Well, I'm happy to report a mini-success in my blind tasting. Tuesday at Casa Luce we brought sushi and had some blind wines courtesy of Lucy, and she suggested I blog about my success.

Of course, we had sparkling wine and it was yummy. I guessed it was a US sparkling cuvee, thinking perhaps it was Gloria Ferrar, one of Lucy's standby's. It wasn't, but it was a US sparkling- Domaine Ste. Michelle, which was profiled in Lucy's blog. Our other wine was fruity with just a bit of sweetness it in, I guessed a Gewurztraminer Pinot Gris blend. It was a Gewurztraminer Marsanne blend. I would've never guessed the Marsanne, but I'm happy I got the Gewurztraminer part right.

So, I got some close to right, I suppose that counts as a little something? I will admit, I did have a bit of insider knowledge-I knew Lucy wouldn't serve wines that wouldn't go well with sushi so I had the ability to narrow down the options. Alas, it appears I do better in whites than reds in general, but that might be because there are less white varietals that I have access to?

I'm attending a blind tasting this Friday, wish me luck!