Monday, October 20, 2014

The Coop



With the success of Cask & Larder, Orlando seemed ready for more Southern cuisine. Enter the folks of 4 Rivers Smokehouse (the BBQ joint that is an obsession for some Orlando residents) and you have The Coop, a casual take on classic Southern comfort food in Winter Park.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

2011 Frei Brothers Zinfandel Reserve

 I was a latecomer to the Zinfandel fan club. There are so many unbalanced, hot, jammy, fruit bombs out there that I didn't feel much love for the grape. Then I started drinking Ridge wines, and my world turned upside down. Finally, Zinfandel that held onto the luscious fruit, but with balance and restraint. From there I started seeking Zins out and my affection for the grape has grown larger and more fervent.

So when I enjoy a bottle like the 2011 Frei Brothers Zinfandel Reserve, I have to share. Here we have a classically styled California Zinfandel, high alcohol, jammy fruit, full bodied, but balanced. Tasty and complex enough that you can drink it by itself (while watching late night tv) or if you want something to enjoy with food. This is definitely a wine to go with meat, from burgers to steak, bbq and more, and at roughly $15 (and easily found in grocery stores), it won't break the bank on a Thursday night.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cask & Larder

The ham sampler that began my love affair.

When Cask & Larder opened in the fall of 2012, I was beyond excited. Sister restaurant to my favorite, The Ravenous Pig, my expectations were high and I was eager to try out their take on a Southern Public House. I was not disappointed. Yes, there were hits and misses, but the highs were so high, I keep going back.

Monday, October 06, 2014

2010 Alain Corcia Les Avaux Beanue 1er Cru Pinot Noir

Burgundy is tricky. As I've written before, some of my favorite wines are Pinot Noir from this prestigious region in France, but every time I try a new producer, I know it's a gamble.

I'm not going to say I lost that bet with today's wine, I just didn't win. For a Premier Cru, I was underwhelmed. The cherry fruit and Earth were there, but muted. It needed decanting to open up, but it never really reached the complexity or intensity I was hoping for. It was silky and well balanced, but on the boring side. Tannins were very light. It is not impossible that I opened it too early. The acidity in the structure shows it can age, but I'm not sure how much this wine has to give. I'll be looking for an earlier vintage before I make my mind up about this producer.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Michael's Genuine

Burrata and perfectly ripe peaches. Simplicity at its best!


I hadn't read about Michael's Genuine. It was only after I visited that I found out it had been featured on Food Network. It wasn't on my original list of places to eat in Miami, but friends of mine gave it such a glowing recommendation that I changed my plans just to check the restaurant out. I am very glad I did.

Friday, September 26, 2014

2013 Valley Vineyards, The Royal Chenin Blanc

I've been drinking a lot of Chenin Blanc recently, mostly Vouvray from the Loire region of France. So when I saw The Royal at Total Wine, I was curious to see what South African Chenin Blanc (also called Steen in South Africa) tasted like.

For less than $10, I've got to say I was extremely happy with the purchase. The wine was easy drinking, apple and passion fruit on the nose with a hint of minerality. The wine was clean with high acidity and good balance even if it was very simple. This is an excellent example of what to drink on a hot summer day when you want refreshment instead of complexity.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Caprice Cocktail


I was so excited when I heard about this cocktail. I've been playing with Bénédictine recently, mostly tinkering with the proportions of the Vieux Carré, and the idea of combining this spicy and sweet liqueur with clean and aromatic gin, made me giddy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Skillet Potato Gratin








Meat and potatoes. Sometimes it's the simple things in life that offer the most pleasure. I've spent countless hours perfecting dishes, experimenting with recipes, playing with flavors, but you know what? Sometimes, when I've got all day to make dinner, my husband says, "Lamb tagine sounds nice, but can't you just make steak and potatoes tonight?"

So I sigh, shrug my shoulders, pull out the manliest steak I can find, and make this skillet potato gratin to serve alongside.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vieux Carré Cocktail

Now that the weather is starting to change, days are getting shorter, nights are getting cooler, and I'm craving heavier drinks. Give me a stormy night, and I want to curl up on my couch, binge watch some tv, and have a bottle of red wine, or a good strong cocktail to nurse.

Enter the Vieux Carré. Named for the French Quarter in New Orleans (Vieux Carré means "old square" in French) this potent drink uses rye whisky, sweet vermouth, cognac and Bénédictine to create a spicy, warm cocktail that is somehow comforting when the weather is nasty or you feel particularly gloomy.

If you are unfamiliar with Bénédictine, it is a sweet medicinal liqueur invented, like Chartreuse, by monks. Unlike Chartreuse, which comes in two versions, green and yellow and has a more herbal/vegetal quality (think anise, mint, etc) Bénédictine is amber in color with a sweeter flavor that is spicier, think vanilla, nutmeg, coriander and cardamom. 


Sunday, September 21, 2014

2011 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Pinot Noir is one of those grapes that can be expressed so many different ways in wine. From silky and light, to complex and rich, it not only expresses where it is grown, its terroir, but also the choices and preferences of the winemaker.

Its blessing can also be its curse. Thin skinned, temperamental, and prone to disease, Pinot Noir that is not handled well either in the vineyard, or by the winemaker, can turn very bad indeed. It is not a particularly easy grape to grow, and good bottles of wine from Pinot Noir are not easy to make.

Enter tonight's Peay Sonoma Coast 2011. This bottle shows exactly the care that I'm talking about. Tart cherry in the nose with complexity showing through a touch of bramble and black tea. It took a bit of time to open, (I'd definitely decant in the future) but was well balanced and silky. This is quality wine made by a caring winemaker with restraint and finesse. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for another bottle, I'm not sure it is yet at its peak. In another year or two, it might be even better.