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 d├ęcor 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??