Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Artsy Australian Riesling

Last week I shopped at the Straubs by my work (home of the beloved Kobe burger). I'm sad to report that the store is closing.....which makes me sad on many levels. However, to soften my sadness, everything was 20% off- including wine. Well, of course I had to pick some up and one was the Leeuwin Estate "Art Series" Riesling from AU. ($17 reg price)

Yes, before you ask, the primary reason I picked it up is for my Artist Series Quest....according to the website...."the "Art Series" represents Leeuwin's most opulent and age-worthy wines. They are identified with paintings commissioned from leading contemporary Australian Artists."

Ok, enough about the's the WINE? Its good, actually. A bit fruity, with a nice round finish with some acid mineral in between, has some nice body. Honestly, it was one of the nicer and more complex Rieslings we've had in a long time. This might be because we often buy cheaper California Riesling to pair with a spicy shrimp pasta that is often on the Lush Dinner Menu, but nontheless it is significantly better than what we've had in quite sometime and reminded me of what good Riesling is like. Good with the pasta, but very enjoyable to drink by itself. If I see it again I'll purchase for sure.

And.....a nice addition to my Artist collection. (I know, when I get them up I'll post a pic)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Remodeling woes and whoa's!

We recently remodeled our (only!!) bathroom. After many many (MANY!)snafus, its pretty much done and I finally downloaded pics. (pro of having an 8gb memory card for your camera - can hold lots of pics, con is that you are in no hurry to download pics- our Europe trip is still on there! )

Anyway, here's some before pics:

Here's some in progress pics:

We decided to keep our tub and get it reglazed. Now, they also had to take the old glaze off - note the blue underneath. Now, please remember that we knew it was going to be reglazed so we were a big sloppy with the mortar and other things, so the "before" looks REALLY bad:

And here's the "after":

Yes, it really IS the same tub. Really. 7 1/2 hours of scraping (and more scraping) and finishing and spraying, it really looked like a brand new tub. Amazing and worth every single penny (yes, we paid someone to do this).

Here's the after pics- its a small bathroom, so its hard to get a good angle:

Trust me, we went from 1985 printed wall paneling and bronze fixtures to a 2009 look with a lot more storage. Dramatic improvement.

So now we have a recently remodeled bathroom and kitchen, and while both look really pretty good, both were really stressful (showering somewhere else other than your house for 2 weeks in a row really sucks, as does having a destruction zone for a house when you're both sick). Mr. Lush and I are not really very handy, so we have to give special thanks to my parents, his parents, and of course Mr. Luce for the quick mudding and custom shelves. (its just going to be light stuff up there, like toilet paper, no worries!)

Here's what we have learned in our remodeling (lessons for the novice):
1) Everything will cost more than what you think. Even with the good deals, the little stuff will add up and it will end up being more than you thought.
2) Everything will take longer than what you think. Really, especially if you're inexperienced and doing ANY of it yourself. Even pros take longer than they quote sometimes.
3) Ok, everything will take a LOT longer than what you think.
4) Read directions and measure. Then read directions and measure again. In a hurry? Reference #2 and #3.
5) Neither one of you is probably as good as you hope you are on anything. Try to capitalize on what you are good at but still take your time on every single thing you do. Hurrying = mistakes, I promise.
6) Recognize that you will be crabby when you slowly realize #1-5. Apologize to each other even if you think you're right; its a good chance you're both stressed out and tired and just want the god damn motherf***ing project to be done. It will be someday and there's no sense breaking up your relationship over it.
I'm not saying we can really do either of these projects again alone, but we have come a long way. At the very least, we've managed to stay together through 2 majorly stressful remodels and that's something......right?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rack of Lamb and Merlot

Last night I tried a new recipe for a roasted rack of lamb. It came out well so I thought I’d share it with you.

Mix ½ cup of breadcrumbs, a tsp of garlic powder, and 1 tbs rosemary (dried or fresh is fine – I used dried and crushed it with my magic bullet to blend it with the breadcrumbs). Set aside.

Mix 3 tbs of my new favorite marinade, Kraft Honey Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing and Marinade, 1 tsp dijon or deli mustard (I used Deli), a dash of cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Slice 1 frenched rack of lamb and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in ovenready skillet and quick sear the lamb. Brush with Dijon sauce and cover with bread crumb mixture. Arrange lamb bones up in the same pan you seared them in, so they leaning on each other. Cover bones with foil to prevent burning and bake in oven for 6-7 minutes at 450 for rare-med rare or longer for more done.

It was very yummy and went EXCELLENT with a birthday gift from a friend, a 1994 Canoe Ridge Merlot from Washington. (thanks Nat!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops and Petite Sirah

Last night I grilled some bourbon glazed pork chops while Mr. Lush worked late. The glaze, which is based on the old TGIFridays Jack Daniels sauce, has soy sauce, pineapple juice, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, a little bit of cayenne pepper, onion and garlic and some bourbon. (ok, a lot of bourbon – I quadruple the recipe amount but it reduces for 45 minutes so all the alcohol is cooked out)

Anyway, the glaze is fantastic – helps the pork chops stay moist (even the really thick ones, especially if you give them a quick high heat sear and move them to indirect heat), but I admit, I was a little lost on what to pair with it. I've only made it once since I really got into wine and I didn’t really want to go white; the glaze is pretty dark and strong. But, its also pork, and it has pineapple juice (and was served with grilled pineapple) so I didn’t want to go too heavy a red. I did a search on for recipes containing pork and soy sauce and looked at their recs to pair. Wow, a big range – from a Pouilly Fuisse to Pinot Noir to a “tannic-rich” Bordeaux. In the end, I decided on the Peltier Station Petite Sirah. (I was going to pick a Syrah, but the only one we had was a $55 bottle and it just wasn’t a $55 Tuesday.) It went fairly well with it, not a perfect pair but a bit fruity to complement the pineapple and a bit rich to stand up to the soy/teriyaki sauce and bourbon based glaze. I would probably pick a nice full Pinot Noir next time or a fuller Syrah, because it was just a smidge “big” for it. Not much, but just enough to keep it from being a perfect pair.

Oh, and update on the Blind Ambition Tour…. I got a couple right in a row – a Cab and a Pinot and in fact, I even guessed the Pinot was from Monterey, but that it was probably a cheaper one because the mouth didn’t quite live up to the nose as well as the recent ones we had in the $35+ range. (and in fact, it was a $20 one – good, just not as good as the others) So, we’ll see, I think I’ve still gotten more wrong this month than I’ve gotten right, but at least I’m improving.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Loving Monterey Pinots

Ok, I’ve officially decided: I love Central California Pinot Noirs, specifically Monterey County Pinots. As you know, we belong to the Taste of Monterey Wine Private Reserve Wine Club and love it. We get quarterly shipments of 3 bottles of wine and often, if not every time, the shipments include a Pinot Noir. We have loved every single one we’ve gotten from them. They are so big and full, both fruity but with a hint of cedar/tobacco. They are so big, in fact, I didn’t even guess that one was a Pinot during a recent at home blind tasting.

In my defense, I wasn’t expecting he’d break out a $40 bottle so Pinot wasn’t even a thought in my mind. However, we both need to quit trying to cheat and figure out what our options are based on what we’re having, what wines we’ve had and what price point we’d likely break out. We end up talking ourselves into a small select amount of choices and picking from there, instead of doing what we should be doing in our blind tasting….which is deciding based on the wine characteristics.

That being said, I didn’t think the wine was a Pinot – it just seemed too full. But, when it was revealed it was a Monterey Country Pinot…well it made sense. They all have so much more body and layers than a lot of Napa Pinots I’ve had, and a lot more warm spice and dark fruit characteristics than the Oregon Pinots I have had. Honestly, they remind me a lot of the wines we had in Gevrey Chambertin.
Anyway, this particular wine was the Chateau Christina Black Mountain Pinot Noir, but others that we’ve had and loved are Pelerin St. Vincents, Michaud, La Rochelle Classic Clones, among others. If you’ve been disappointed by Napa Pinots in the past, pick up something from Monterey….you’ll like it, particularly if you get something in the $30-45 range.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mirassou pairing dinner

Last week I was invited to an event hosted by Mirassou winery, which has been around for 150+ years. The event was at Mia Rosa, a restaurant north of The Hill. They traveled around the country, visiting 5 different restaurants to come up with a wine pairing cookbook (some recipes posted online here) and invited various media/bloggers to the events. Evidently my blog and “association” with the St. Louis Wine Club made me a good candidate for an invite; luckily Mr. Lush was able to come as well. The attendance was smaller than I anticipated-only 8 plus the winemaker and marketing person. What else surprised me was that the other attendees were more “foodies” than “winos”. However, I was totally ok with this, because it allowed me to sit directly across from the winemaker, David Mirassou, and I pretty much had him all to myself to ask questions about the wine!

We started off with the Pinot Grigio. Normally I’m not a big fan of Pinot Grigio (or Sauv Blancs), but it wasn’t as acidic as others might be. Then we had the Sauv Blanc, paired with a garlic tomato flatbread. The Sauv Blanc was perfect with the flatbread, but I didn’t love it (or the Pinot Grigio) as much on their own. The wines were fine – although neither were the highly grassy acidic profile I expected, they just aren’t my preferred style of wine. Then we moved on to the Chardonnay with gorgonzola polenta fries. Oh, lovely Chard, it was so welcome after the other two! Now, for my non Chard lovers out there, only about 5-7% of the wine sees oak- the rest is all stainless steel fermented. This leaves a crisper, but still round in body Chardonnay. Its not a butter oak bomb, but it has a nice round mouthfeel. I didn’t love the polenta fries, nor did I love the pairing as much as the other, but I liked the wine a lot.

Then we had probably our favorite course of the evening – a smoked scallop Carpaccio drizzled with basil oil paired with the Pinot Noir. Oh….my…gosh. The dish was so good, the smoked fish went perfect with the Pinot.

We also had a warm beet spinach salad with goat cheese with a Merlot and veal madallions on garlic mash with the Cabernet, finishing off with a chocolate puff with the Reisling. It was a lot of food and a lot of wine!

I’ll leave it up to the “foodies” to really evaluate the food – almost everything paired wonderfully with the wine, but honestly other than the scallops I wasn’t crazy about anything I had and I won’t be rushing back to the restaurant. What about the wine you ask? Well, Mirassou makes their wine to be consistent year after year, so the grapes come from all over the state. The good news is that if you liked it last year, you can feel confident you’ll like this year’s vintage as well. The bad news is while there’s no bad year, there’s no great year either. But, in the spectrum of the wine world, I like to have some stable choices in addition to those stellar vintages, and its not like I have one winery I drink from exclusively, so I think that’s ok. I prefer a bit more oak and body in my Cabernets and Merlots, and the Mirassou ones are a bit soft – he uses almost exclusively not new oak. However, that’s just personal taste – once again the good news is you can buy it today and drink it tonight and not have to lay it down. Mr. Lush and I really liked the Chardonnay and liked the Pinot as well – we were lucky enough to each get a signed bottle of Pinot in our “media kits” and we’ll certainly have to have it with something smoky because it was pretty fruit forward. I also liked the Riesling, and will probably pick that up to pair with something spicy.

All in all, it was a great time and it was wonderful meeting the winemaker:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quick rant

I’ve gotta rant about a few things…

1) Multiple magazine subscription renewal notices. Really? My subscription expires in February and I need an “urgent” renewal notice in September? I don’t think so. Send me one in December then another in January. I don’t need one before I even get finished reading my first magazine. Speaking of wasting paper….
2) Paperless bills. Yes, I know, bills use paper and cost you postage. But, no, I don’t WANT to remember my login to see my bill. If you sent my personal bill to my personal email in a PDF like you send my personal bill to my personal mailbox. I’d sign up for paperless billing. But I don’t need one more login to remember with my 2,000 other ones. I don’t care if its not “secure”….someone can walk up to my physical mailbox and take my mail, so that’s not that secure either, so get over. Or, at least give me the option to log in or have it attached when I sign up for it.
3) Restaurants/bars being fussy about modifying their specials. Don’t tell me that a dirty martini is on special but if we ask for no olive juice you’ll charge me full price. (I happen to like my martini extra dirty so this doesn’t apply to me, but still) Now, I understand if we want to add something or the special order in question costs more money. (if the special comes with fries and I was to sub a twice baked potato, then ok, charge me) But really, you having specials but then making it so I can’t take advantage of them when I’m there doesn’t accomplish your goal…now I REALLY don’t want to come back and pay full price.

Ok, off my soapbox. That’s it for now.