Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday morning cup-o-joe

Much to the chagrin of my coffee purists friends, I like flavored coffee. Yes, I like a Caramel Macchiato, but that’s not what I’m talking about – I’m not talking about putting flavor in coffee, I’m talking about actually flavored coffee. For example, our favorite is Boca Java’s Surfin Safari: An exotic blend of sweet vanilla, rich caramel and tantalizing kahlua. Our next favorite is Lee’s Caramel Kiss, which is drinking coffee for a good cause: Coffee with a caramel and chocolate kiss. Dedicated to Lee Freck, cherished wife, mother and grandmother, who battled leukemia for thirteen and a half years. A portion of the proceeds from this coffee will be donated to the leukemia and lymphoma society.

Boca Java’s an internet coffee company-see the link to the left bar for a discount or to check out their site. They have other somewhat normal flavors too- Chocolate Hazelnut Heaven, Rip Tide Rasberry (choc and raspberry), along with a few odd ducks: Coastline Creamsicle (tangy orange and creamy vanilla), Apple Gourmet in the USA (like apple pie) and Maple Bacon Morning (yes, bacon and maple syrup). Keep in mind, these are all coffee- so its not like you’re having a creamsicle, you’re having a coffee creamsicle. All in all they have 33 flavors, not counting their non flavors, from dark to light roasts and all that. They even have reserve Jamaican blue mountain coffee.

Well, its not cheap, in fact, its priced close to Starbucks coffee beans. A bit ago, I asked a coffee purist friend to do a blind taste test on one of their non flavored beans to give me a quality assessment. Not that it really mattered, its far cheaper than Starbucks, and we like it anyway, but I was hoping she’s say it was good quality and that would make me feel better about special ordering coffee over the internet. Which she did. (whew)

But, we’ve been drinking it for about two years now and have looked and can’t find anything else that comes close to how yummy it is. The best part-its sugar and carb free and low in calories-just like a regular cup of coffee. But better.

Drink up, its Monday.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sangiovese the Intensifier

I have a confession to make. I like milk with red sauce. Pizza, lasagna, marinara, whatever. I suppose its because that’s how I grew up-drinking milk with everything that the two naturally go together with each other in my mind. I’m trying to break this habit, since so many Italian-style wines are made for food and we like them so.

The other night I made my marinara sauce and served up some Imagery Sangiovese, a gift from the Luce’s. Side note: I’m not a recipe follower – I’m a taster. Taste, add a bit of something, taste, etc. So by that point, I had tasted the sauce at least 4 times to ensure that it was perfect. A bit of herb spiciness, but not hot. Robust flavor. I'm excited to have them together.

First sip of the wine…yummy. Delicous. Another sip, just as yummy. Oh this is going to be good. Take bite or two of pasta. Yummy as well. Drink of wine. Hot. Huh? Eat. Drink. Eat Drink. Hot. Spicy. Hot. I don’t understand. The description doesn’t say anything about hot spice. Its all lush and fruit. (which is how it was by itself)

TASTING NOTES: Our 2005 Sangiovese is a lush, full-bodied, complexly flavored wine. With beautiful richness and lengthy finish, the dominate flavors include dark fruit, such as black cherry and ripe plum, with an earthy balance of tobacco and oak.

Hmm. After a bit, I ask Mr. Lush “is this hot to you”? He says “yeah, you made the sauce too hot”. No, I didn’t, I say. Its actually less hot than I made it the last time. I know the wine isn’t hot, it was great. Then it dawns on me. I get a glass of milk. Eat. Drink. Eat. Drink. Not hot at all. Ah. I see.

The sangiovese has totally highlighted and intensified the spices. My normal “robust” pasta has become extra robust and zesty and downright spice-hot. Perhaps its my tendency to drink milk, but we'd had reds before with it and it hadn't happened. I had no idea and was really suprised.

The wine was delicious before and after dinner. Not a hint of spice. Just not a pair for my marinara sauce. Oh dear. I’m not sure what to do…modify my recipe so its more wine friendly or keep trying other wines until I find the perfect mix. Hmm.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where have all the descriptions gone?

I have a bone to pick with restaurant managers who make a wine list. Give a description. Not a long one, but something-even a phrase. Yes, I’m aware that some wines and some regions typically don’t need a description. However, some do. Chardonnay, for example, can be vastly different. Is it minerally? Buttery? Oaky? Crisp? The same with merlot. Is it fruit forward? Full bodied (for a merlot) or light and easy drinking?

This is especially true for blends. Now, if I have no idea what grapes are in it or the rough percentage of grapes, I can’t even fathom a potential description. So please, help me out. Give me a couple words.

Where does this plea come from, you ask? Well, Mr. Lush and I were at an Italian restaurant. We both ordered a cream based sauce. Keep in mind, Mr. Lush and I are not sauvignon blanc fans nor are we big pinot grigio fans. So, we’re looking over the wine list to come up with something that we’ll both enjoy while waiting for the food and with the food. Hopefully something a bit crisp, but not too much. A buttery creamy chardonnay wouldn’t cut through the thickness of the cream sauce, and I don’t recognize all of them and don’t want to take chances. Then I see a white blend from Hayman & Hill- Interchange. Well, my pasta is supposed to be spicy, so if it’s more Gewurztraminer/Viogner/Chardonnay based it would probably be fine with my food, if its more Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc based, it would be good with Mr. Lush’s food. It arrives, and it’s fuller bodied and rich, tad bit of crispness but not a lot, and goes fairly well with my food. (should my dish have been spicier, it would’ve gone better) Mr. Lush liked it, but said “its better alone than with my food”. He did enjoy it before and after his food, so all was fine in the end. (It is a nice wine, a good everyday drinking type blend. Just don't eat it with rich pasta-go for slighly spicy food instead.)

Now, I looked it up and the composition is:
47% Chardonnay
34% Sauvignon Blanc
7% Muscat Canelli
5% Malvasia Bianca
4% Semillon
3% Gewertztraminer

Description: Hand crafted blend then stainless steel fermented for freshness (with only a small component barrel fermented). Aged in small French oak for six months for complexity and softness.
Tasting notes are: Bright citrus and mineral acidity give the wine a fresh, clean backbone. Complimented by a rich and smooth palate to round out the tropical fruit characteristics.

Should I have known that it was a Chardonnay based blend, or that 60%+ was fuller bodied grapes, some sweeter, or that it was aged in oak, or that it had a rich and smooth palate, we probably would’ve ordered something else that Mr. Lush would’ve enjoyed with his food.

Yes, I can talk to a sommelier and get their advice, but why must we? Why can’t they give enough information to let people make a quasi-informed decision on their own??

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cab, Cuvee, and a rack of lamb

The other night Mr. Lush and I picked up a rack of lamb and we grilled it up. I seasoned it with some terragon, ground thyme, garlic powder and pepper and Mr. Lush grilled it up nice and rare. We had both the 2004 Bennet Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the Taria 384 Cuvee. Both have Cab Sauv and both were very good-the Taria seemed to harmonize perfectly with it, but the Bennett Family Cab really showcased the lamb flavor. You know what I’m talking about-the specific lamb taste- it really made that stand out. Really both were very good, with many of the same characteristics, although the Bennett Family had more chocolate presence. In the end I preferred the Taria and Mr. Lush preferred the Bennett Family as the lamb pairing choice- but he also likes that lamb taste more than I do. Either way, I think both wines would be good choices with lamb.

As a side note, I noticed the Taria doesn’t start off tobacco-y; you have to let it sit in the decanter for about 45-60 minutes first. Duly noted for next time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thank god for meetings that run late

Yesterday in the Lou there was a horrific accident- a semi ran over some cars, others flew into other cars, etc. 11 cars total involved. A very horrible accident-I have never seen that amount of wreckage in one place before, aside from a junkyard. Well, the accident was on my way home-about 10 minutes from work. I left early to go study for my final, about 3:30. I had a meeting that was supposed to get over at 3, but ran late. At the time I was quite irritated because I wanted to get on the road about 3:15/3:20. But I didn't-instead I left at 3:30. The accident happened at 3:30. So, if I had left when I wanted to I would've either just missed it, or been a part of it. As it was, I was stuck in that space past the last accident and the accident so I had nowhere to go. Due to the multiple fatalities, the entire highway was shut down until 8:30ish that night, so I had nowhere to go for a long time and had time to ponder this fact as ambulance after ambulance flew by. Of course, I didn't ponder anything. I was irritated and cursing and mad. It took me nearly 3 hours to get home (we eventually drove the wrong way on the highway to get off) and it normally would take me about 25 minutes at that time. I was even crabby most of last night and Mr. Lush and I snapped at each other. (don't worry-we made up) But now, sitting here, drinking a cup of coffee, (putting off studying) I sit here and think how lucky I was. And how lucky I am in general. Hopefully we all take a bit of time to be thankful now and then and it doesn't take a near death (or near miss) experience in order to make us take the time to appreciate. So, all you bloggers out there….call you mother, hug you brother, kiss your significant other, and tell your friend you're happy they are your friend. (Lucy-I'm happy you're my friend)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cheap dessert and 20 year Tawny port- who knew?

= yummy

The other night we had the Luce’s over. While I was at school (I know, on a SUNDAY-the horror!) my husband took it upon himself to plan the day and meal. (how sweet of him) We BBQ’d up and for dessert, he bought ice cream sandwiches. No, not Klondikes or some sort of gourmet dessert bar (if that exists in the ready made section of the fridge), but regular ice cream sandwiches. The kind many of us hadn’t had since grade school. Hmm. I don't know about that sweetheart- I mean normally we have something a bit more decadent, like the fantastic Luce brownies. But, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? He did afterall plan the entire day by himself, so I kept my mouth shut.

With this top notch treat, I poured some 20 year tawny port. I had never had the pairing, but what could go wrong- port tastes good with both vanilla and chocolate, right? At the very least, our guests will be pleased to have good port. Well, it was amazing…wonderful in fact. Astonishing wonderful. What made it extra wonderful is that no one had to sweat over making this treat. No one had to bake andything. Pour port, unwrap sandwich, enjoy. Viola. A perfect summer effort.
The best news? The cheapness of the dessert counterbalances the expensive port. Justification is so glorious, isn’t it?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Friendly Blogging?

My friend Lucy recently came clean about her posting habits and the fact she’s 6 weeks ahead. Which, I think now she’s up to maybe 8-10 weeks as I heard her bring up October post topics not to long ago.

Recently, we were having dinner and both commented on our desire to post about a certain topic. She commented first, but I was thinking it. Anyway we started talking about who was going to post about it. No, it didn't result in a mud wrestling match (much to the dissaspointment of both Mr. Luce and Mr. Lush) but it got me thinking. Can friends post about the same thing or do they have to respect each other's blog topics on a first come first serve basis? Like the "shotgun" of post topics?

First, if we’re going to start “calling" topics I could never compete with her. She’s an amazing planner and has probably thought about and drafted a post for every wine related topic I could even think about. And to top it off, she’s very clever and witty and her posts are usually fun to read. (Not that mine aren’t sometimes) Secondly, how do other friends handle this? We socialize a good amount together and thus have quite a few of the same wines and pairing experiences and since we are friends, we also have in common a lot of the same ideals. (minus the desire to breed, of course) So naturally, if you were to read my topics and hers we overlap a bit. In addition our tastes in wine are similar, minus my love of Chardonnay.

So, naturally, now and then our posts will be similar, whether it be because each other’s posts remind us of a topic or by pure chance and overlap of thoughts and experiences. Is this a big deal in the world of blogging etiquette? If so, I’ll be signing off soon, because really, Lucy is the Queen of Blogging and I’m a mere “blogging wannabe” compared to her.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hazy shade of... pink?

In the spirit of the summer and expanding my non red drinking selections beyond Chardaonnay, I’ve been trying some Rose’s. Its been a bit of trial and error method because frankly I haven’t had enough to know how to pick one out. I think I tend to like darker roses, but last year I had a really good Domaine Ott Rose and if I recall it was very light-a pale, but sort of dull pink. Of course, it was $35, if I recall. It was fantastic, but I wouldn't pay $35 for it.

We tried a Cali Rose that was medium pink – the Line Shack Syrah Rose a few weeks ago and it was just bleh. Almost “white zinfandel”-esque. Last week we had a Mission Trail White Merlot- it was a medium pink. It wasn’t complicated, it was almost like a simple sauvignon blanc, minus the grassiness. Crisp, clean, good for a hot day and I think I got it through a wine order for $11. That was the same price as the Line Shack and while the same level of complexity, it was so much better.

So, now I’m back on the darker pink=better thought process. Last night I had a really great California Rose that was a beautiful dark pink color-2007 Pianetta Rosato. Its 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Syrah. “A light blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with a lot of dry fruit flavor. Made by the Saigner method, in which grapes are crushed and pink juice is removed from the must early. This process, known as bleeding the vats, results in a richer wine with more tannins and red color. Barrel fermented and aged, this light but rich wine can be enjoyed with cheeses, fruits or as an aperitif.”

We brought it to the Luce’s and it was yummy. It’s full bodied for a rose and did have a smidge of tannins. Of course, the price tag matches the yummy factor-retails for $21.

In our wine fridge we currently have a French rose that’s the same color as the Domaine Ott. Perhaps I like pale pink on in French Roses? Stay tuned-I’ll probably be posting a few more roses over the summer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

All the wrong temps

Recently, my friend Lucy blogged about being served wine at less than ideal temperatures. Which, evidently, based on her comments, my experience, and those who commented on her blog, is a frequent happening. Really, as she said, if we’re paying a premium for a bottle of wine, I expect it to be served at the idea temperature for that wine. (that means I want my sparklings iced for a few minutes and my pinots colder than cabs…)

But I’m going to take this one step further…if you’re a wine bar, or a high class restaurant with many bottles on your list in the $200-400 range (or higher) and you aren’t serving it at the correct temperature that means you aren’t storing at the correct temperature. So, should I ever have $1000+ to spend on a bottle of Harlan Estates, (go Powerball) I expect it to have been stored in ideal, climate controlled area so it will not be spoiled. And if it is spoiled, is it because that "just happens sometimes" or because they stored it incorrectly??

Furthermore, lets talk about wine stores and how even those are room temp. Perhaps it’s a regional thing, who knows, but all the wine shops here are the same temp as a clothing store. Not that I expect wine shops to be 55 degrees, but perhaps less than 70 would be nice. Even "grocery store temp" would be fine. Or even have a high end room, housing things above a certain price point, that’s more temp controlled?

I guess it baffles me that we as consumers, are supposed to know all the rules about wine serving and storing temps, but those who sell us the wine can totally disregard them.

Pics of Layla Lush (10 weeks)

I realized that I haven't updated with pictures. And its unfair to talk about a cute puppy and not update with cute puppy pictures, right??

Ok, I'll be honest-I staged this one a bit. She was sleeping with the sheep, but her little arm wasn't around it...
No, this isn't trick photography-the soccer ball is bigger than her!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Ok, to at the risk of being overly excited....Layla is turning the bend on the potty training. We were having troubles, to be honest. Yes, I know, she's only 11 1/2 weeks old. Its a bit of that and a bit because she didn't know how to let us know she needed out. During crate time, whining/barking doesn't get her anything. So, how does a little puppy let us know she needs to go potty? Well, after some research, we put a string of bells on the back door handle.

Provided we hear them (this is the tricky part) she will ring when she wants to go out. As of right now, 4 the past 5 times she's rang them she's gone out and gone potty. (the other time she wanted outside) That seems exciting, right? Well...lets not get too excited, but its a start.

For those of you who didn't know, I'm a cat person who likes dogs and Mr. Lush is a dog person who likes cats. I told Mr. Lush if she quits peeing in the house while she's still cute, she might win me over....I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, pray that the bells ring loudly. :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Power of the Palate Cleanse

In May I posted about the Taria 384 Cuvee and ranted about how great it was. A bit later, I brought it the Luce’s house for dinner one night. We started off with a Cabernet Franc then followed with this. Since there were only 3 of us and the Luce’s are well endowed with glasses, we were able to taste them at the same time. (well, sip of one, sip of the other, not shooting them both) I hadn’t noticed the tobacco before, but wow, it was really prominent next to the Cab Franc. (It was a casual dinner, so we weren’t doing much palate cleansing.) So much so that it almost tasted like I ate a cigarette. But I had loved it so much before- I was so sad that it wasn’t wonderful. It was fine, it wasn't a bad bottle, the tobacco flavor was much stronger than I like.

Then recently I took it to a dinner another night with a different friend. We started with a white, then moved to the Taria. The tobacco, while present, was only ever so lightly present, so lightly that I probably wouldn’t have been able to pick out the tobacco if I hadn’t known it was there. It was great and went well with both my steak and my friend's sea bass with sugar pea and mushroom accompaniment. That's the Taria I remember.

Of course, it stands to reason that the bottle at the Luce’s was some freak of production, but I think it was so different because of what it was next to. It made me really realize the importance of palate cleansing at tastings-honestly I don’t really do much of it unless it’s a vastly different wine (ie a red to a white or visa versa) and then, honestly, shhh… I still don’t always. It just seems so snobby. “I need to cleanse my palate”.

But, after this experience, I really think I’ll take it up again.