Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Montecito Memories

Don's birthday is early in the year and we celebrated while we were in Santa Barbara, California. The last post I referenced a lucky celebrity sighting. I'll get to that soon!
We had been to San Ysidro Ranch and Bacara Resort and Spa that afternoon on our tour of the area. We shopped, explored the homes on the coast and ate at  
Pierre La Fond Market and Deli. This market and deli is across the street from the San Ysidro Pharmacy, also a good place to dine for breakfast and lunch. Great food and we will be returning! 
We were blessed to be given a generous gift certificate to another restaurant named Lucky's.  I made reservations for us the night of Don's birthday. Click on the link and you will see some of the celebrities that have dined there, along with menus and a gallery. It was constructed in 1926 close to the original Pacific Coast Highway or PCH! Several businesses had occupied the establishment and had failed until the early 90's when the current proprietor took over the business and gave it the love it deserved. It is now referred to as "Montecito's second living room."
The wine we had that evening with our dinner was a Frank Family Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a bold Cabernet with "dark and dense magenta hues." It's loaded with intense aromas of cassis, mission figs, plums and enhanced with cedar and leather scents." It is delicious and sells for about $50!  We visited their winery and tasting room July 2012.
Oh, so you want to know the celebrity we saw while dining at Lucky's? Oprah Winfrey was sitting with a group of friends a table away from us. Don could see her the whole time we were there. She was pretty casual that night and Don wanted so badly to meet her. But the waiter thought it wasn't a good idea. She left the restaurant and everyone waved at her and she waved back. Very friendly but stay back! She's just an ordinary woman eating at her favorite restaurant before retiring to her "Promised Land", a 42 acre estate with ocean and mountain views! She's worked hard for it! You go girl!

Until next time......Life is too short to drink cheap wine!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Joyas de la Costa Californiana

If you know me, you know I can't speak anything but English (so I need to buy Rosetta Stone's program and learn a new language-I know!). But thanks to the internet, you can actually type in your language and voila! It translates into another language. Hence the title of this post-Jewels of the California Coast!
In my California Dreamin! post, I began sharing our January Santa Barbara escape. I also mentioned that I would share some of the luxurious hotels and resorts that attract movie stars yearning to escape Hollywood paparazzi.
The first gem is the Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara owned by Beanie Babies magnate Ty Warner. Originally built in 1927, it has seen a series of beneficial restorations over the years as well as the addition of a luxurious spa and fitness center. It is truly a stunning hotel in a gorgeous location.

Four Seasons Biltmore
San Ysidro Ranch, built in 1825, lies in the neighboring posh town of Montecito. It is also a Ty Warner property, with roots steeped in California history. It began attracting the Hollywood elite in the 1930s.This is the place where John Huston finished the script for 
The African Queen. Other famous guests that have spent time here include John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy on their honeymoon, Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Winston Churchill, and the Obamas. 
On the property of the San Ysidro Ranch
It is difficult for one to imagine a more delightful place with the mountains behind you and far below, one can see the white line of the beach. There are 41 suites, cottages and rooms. You can stay in the Kennedy Cottage, which we were lucky to be escorted through-beyond beautiful! They also toured us around the property to Ty Warner's home and let us in to view it! You can't imagine the extravagance of these "cottages". BTW, pets are welcome at San Ysidro Ranch! 

Bacara Resort and Spa

Our last stop for the day took us to Bacara Resort and Spa, nestled on the bluffs and beaches of the Pacific Ocean. We toured the entire property, including the hiking trails along the bluffs by the ocean, the luxurious spa, the gift shop (of course I had to buy something), the pools, and the bar. We had cocktails and went on our married way!
That night we celebrated Don's birthday in Montecito! The next post will be all about the movie star we saw!
Stay tuned!

Friday, April 26, 2013

California Dreamin!

The east-west trending coast of California is where I long to be heading! It is situated between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Who wouldn't want to be there! You've got the best of both worlds right? 
This coast is known as the "American Riviera" because of it's Mediterranean-like climate. Needless to say, it is a very popular destination for tourists with a few unique resorts that I will share with you later.

Butterfly Beach near the cottage
January 6, 2013 we headed to the quaint town of Santa Barbara! We stayed in a little cottage by the sea that belongs to our friends. They were so kind to let us stay in their home, which was in walking distance of the beach pictured above. 

Our friends' cottage
While visiting SB, we took a day to visit some wineries in this region of California. One of the places we visited was a boutique winery called Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez. It is said to be "the premiere destination winery on the central coast." We had a wonderful time there, picnicking on their property, tasting their wines, and viewing the 5,000 feet of caves built into the hillside. At this winery you can have weddings, private tastings, and other events in the caves, tasting room, or the courtyard. 

They also have their own dipping oils for tasting. We brought home a bottle of the Tuscan Style dipping oil. It is so delicious with warm yummy breads! 

 One of the wines we had shipped back to Dallas was the Soleil Blanc 2009. This wine is predominately Sauvignon Blanc with Pinot Grigio and sells for around $24 a bottle. It was stainless steel fermented and aged. The winemaker's notes are " bright citrus and exotic fruits with hints of lime zest." It is soooooo good! 

Until next time......more wine, less whine!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Surprise Us!

That's what we told the sommelier at the DCC the other night. After hearing our selections for dinner were the kind that swims in the ocean, he asked if he could ponder the question for a bit. When he returned, he introduced us to a bottle of wine that had been there before he came on staff. It turns out that he had just returned from Napa and had stayed at this winery. He went on and on about how beautiful it was and how great the wine was that he had tasted. So I wanted to share it with you. This is Inglenook Winery in Rutherford, CA, Napa Valley. It is owned by Francis Ford Coppola.

The wine he surprised us with is Blancaneaux 2008. It is a blend of three varietals-Roussane, Marsanne, and Viognier grown entirely on the organically farmed vineyards of the Rubicon Estate. The vines are more than ten years old which makes the wine more aromatic, rich in texture and complex in flavor.

 This wine is fermented in stainless steel drums for more than six months, so there are no oak tones. The winemaker notes that this wine has a "creamy texture and nuances of cloves and confections. Juicy flavors of peach and pineapple layer nicely with the more intriguing notes of honeysuckle, minerals, and citrus, making this wine intensely rich yet impeccably balanced and bright."
 This wine sells for around $47 a bottle. Click on the name above to order from a wine outlet that has it on sale for $42 a bottle.

We enjoyed the wine so much we bought the whole bottle and brought what was left home with us. Until the next time.....

Thanks Nat and Abs!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Battuto Italian Kitchen

Don received an email recently inviting us to a grand opening of a new restaurant in North Dallas. We had planned a date night anyway, but didn't have any detailed plans yet. So that's what we decided to do. Heading to Plano around 6:00pm any evening takes a little patience. But once we made it through the traffic, we arrived at the restaurant. I was so excited!

You might be wondering why I would be so excited to go to Plano to a new restaurant where they were serving bites and samples of their food and free wine right?! Well, yes, free wine is exciting (if it's a good wine). But here's the thing-the owners of the restaurant are what made it so interesting and exciting.
Gene and Julie Gates, former morning show hosts on KVIL 103.7 Lite FM, are the owners of this new kitchen featuring Italian foods including handmade pastas and pizzas. These are the radio hosts I used to listen to when I would drive from Dallas to Fort Worth everyday to teach school. I LOVED them! And I was determined to meet them!
Here's Gene holding a bottle of wine that he served us. Julie was really busy with her guests.
Don says the Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is always a good choice. It sells for about $20 a bottle. Winemaker notes state that this wine is "rich, round and full-bodied. It is layered with blackberry, cherry, dried plums, and a hint of cocoa. It has a generous weight on the palate and smooth mouth-filling tannins. The finish lingers with rich flavors of cassis and black cherry."

We had a great time and left after about 30 minutes of mingling with the guests! Our next destination, the DCC for dinner where we had a very interesting white wine!
More to come on that wine in the next post!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wine is Bottled Poetry

My husband recently brought home an Italian-based catalogue for me to browse. The first intriguing thing I came upon was about wine! It prompted me to share my thoughts about journaling the wines we taste and bottle. If you are interested in remembering all the wines you try, you need a journal. Here is what I found in that catalogue.

via Fabriano Boutique
This is the ideal present for the wine lovers out there. Following the instructions carefully, you can remove and save labels from your best bottles of wine and place them into your wine journal. Now, all you have to do is write about it.
This boutique is based in Italy and the papers used to produce their products are Fabriano. Fabriano has been making high-quality papers since the medieval times.

 Art via Marco Marella

This is my current journal given to me by my sister-in-law this past Christmas. I love it so much. The inside is filled with Marco Marella's art and classic quotes about wine. He lives in Venice, Italy and you would love his art. Here is a link to where you can buy this journal in Australia. I couldn't fine the exact one in the states.

Of course, you can always do what most people do to remember the wine they drink! Take a photo of the bottle with your smart phone. But the problem with that is, you can't write down those very important notes about the aroma, the flavor, and the finish. Those of you who love doing things the old way, using paper, well, that never goes out of style! Does it Don?!!!

If you just want to remember when you had that special bottle of wine, you can actually write the date on the cork. We do this all the time and it's fun to go back and read them and see what else you wrote after drinking a bottle of wine! 

via My Cork Collection (and that's not all)

Above all, have fun with wine and record what you taste. You will never remember what it tastes like or what you ate with it once days and months have gone by. It's good to keep a journal of the things you love about the wines you drink!

Cheers and enjoy!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Charles Krug

It's been so dreary and blustery the past few days! Even in Southeast Texas it looked so gloomy and rainy. I don't know about you, but it makes me feel sleepy! I am one that need lots of sleep anyway! Always have!

I returned home from a trip mid-week visiting my family in Beaumont. Don, my driver and husband, met me at the airport and asked if I wanted to go grocery shopping. After getting back from any trip, all I didn't want to do was go to Tom Thumb. I wanted to sleep! But I agreed and we headed to the store. (Don didn't return to work that afternoon, which I thought was so sweet of him!) We strolled down each aisle of the store, choosing the things we thought we needed and then checked out.

We chose to grill that night on the patio. He had carefully picked out two small filet mignons for us. I ran to the packaged salads and got a apple, walnut, blue cheese salad. We also chose a bolilo roll (I'm not sure of the spelling of that and I've already thrown the package away!)

But here's the good part of the meal! Don opened a bottle of 2009 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon from Yountville-Napa Valley. This is Napa Valley's first winery established in 1861. On the back label it states that it "evokes aromas of black cherry, raspberry and a hint of cocoa. Flavors of black currant mingle with rose petals while supple, smoky overtones visit the back palate. A silky mouthfeel and balanced tannins create an elegant finish to this classic Napa Valley wine." 
A visit to this winery is in order in either May, June, or October. I'll be in California those months. Maybe more if we're lucky!

My roses Don bought me at TT!

Now, during the grilling of the filets, the dumping of the pre-packaged salad into a bowl, and steaming some broccoli with cheese from a jolly green giant, I was sipping on this silky wine. (This bottle retails for around $29, which isn't bad for something so good!) 

The filets were perfect, the broccoli was steamed and cheesy, and the salad was like a dessert with the apples and raspberry vinaigrette. Rarely do the two of us put down a whole bottle of wine in one night. But we did last night! It was the perfect bottle of wine for the filets. I agree wholeheartedly that it is silky, down to the last drop in the bottle. 

And that was the last drop! Cheers everyone!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chilean Wine-Vistamar Sauvignon Blanc Brisa

This past week I've been out of town! I headed back to Dallas from Beaumont, Texas yesterday after spending lots of fun times with my youngest daughter, her husband, and two adorable little girls. We played games, baked a lemon pound cake, took walks, and of course I slept in the 5-year old's room! We rearranged furniture, upholstered chairs, hung pictures, made bows, cooked meals! To say the least, I'm dead tired! But it's a good tired!

Both flights were short, which I so appreciate. I used to drive five hours down the most boring stretch of road between Dallas and Beaumont. But thanks to American Airlines, which now offers a quick trip to my destination out of DFW, I can be there or back to Dallas in 50 minutes! 

As I settled into my assigned seat 5D, I got as much WiFi time that I could before the flight attendant told all 13 of us to put away all electronics. I did as I was told. (I hurried and got the last text or two to family/friends.) Done!

The flight attendant quickly took our orders by memory because, like I said, there were only 13 of us! (10 on the way to Beaumont-my oldest daughter calls this flight  my private jet.) Lucky they didn't cancel the flight! On my way out to Beaumont, I ordered a white wine and it turned out to be pretty decent for a plane ride! Do you get any other choices when you're 36,000 feet above the ground?!

So in one hand I had a grande skinny vanilla coffee drink and a bottle of 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Brisa from the Central Valley of Pelequen, Chile.  The 2011-750 ml bottle sells for $13.99 on Amazon. I haven't located this 2012 wine in the states yet! Brisa is pale yellow with a tinge of green and a fresh and fruity flavor. If you like grapefruit, green apples, and pineapple, then you'll love opening up a bottle of this inexpensive wine.

It cost a total of $7 per drink on the flight and that's all I really had time for! You get your drink, she comes back by with a trash bag, and the pilot says we're landing! It was short and sweet! Cheers! Gulp!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Note on St. Helena, CA in Napa Valley!

As I stated in a previous blog, I have only been to Napa Valley once. (Shhhh-don't tell anyone!) Every time we go to the beautiful golden state of California, we head straight to the Sonoma region to either taste wines or bottle wines (or both). That is a whole story in itself which will take several posts. So let's get to St. Helena.

Don took me to a very special vineyard last summer over the hills from Sonoma. He said it was a friend of his and they wouldn't mind if we just showed up at their gate. So we did! Of course it was closed and by appointment only! He pressed the call button and begin to talk to a woman on the other end. Not very long into the conversation, she recognized his voice and opened the gate and we drove down the most beautiful drive I've ever seen!

We had arrived at Kelham Vineyards! Notice the address-pretty cool huh! I wish I could have that address! But with that address comes years of hard work! And a big payoff I'm sure!

Once inside the vineyard, we arrived at the front house, which is part of their tasting room. They don't live there, but work there, so I guess, if it's like me when I worked, I lived there! I met Suzanna and her sons, one of which will be pictured below with Don and I. They took us out to the gardens and outdoor tasting area to open up bottles of wine! Yippee!

Unbelievable! Gorgeousness everywhere! And I do mean everywhere! And uncorking one of their wines or all of their wines is a one-of-a-kind experience you'll want to try out for yourself. Their bottles are so unique in that their labels are designed by a French artist, Gerard Puvis. He produces this fine whimsical art from the neck foils of Grand Cru French and California Wines. He hated the thought of wasting the foils after opening a bottle and begin to design magical chefs and winemakers into dancing prints across fine paper (of which my husband sells by the way-fine paper that is). These prints were commissioned by Puvis to the finest wine estates in France and Kelham Vineyards.

Here's one of the prints by Puvis. It's the Cigar! Don likes cigars with wine, so what a perfect purchase. It's quite unusual to look at and imagine how on earth this man did this out of foils! But I guess he's fairly recognized around the world having his art displayed from Japan to Spain! Good grief! I wonder if he ever cuts himself on that foil!

Here's the wines we have in our cellar right now. A Sons Red Wine and a Sauvignon Blanc. You should definitely go to their website. It is just as gorgeous as they are! It features Gerard Puvis's dancing foil prints, plus you can read all about the wines, see the vineyards for yourself, meet the handsome family and dogs, and purchase their wines.

A note about one of the wines above is as follows: The Sauvignon Blanc, and I quote, "is a brilliant clear stream of golden straw colors with Meyer lemon and roasted hazelnut on the nose. Grapefruit fresh from the tree, peach and vanilla tempt the palate as a slight tannin lingers with bright acidity to finish." I say OMG! Get me a glass right now!

The blend on the left is Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Merlot. You had me at "Merlot"! Haha! They say "this creation is harmonious with rich extracted currant, wild berry and blackberry flavors." I say YUM!

To purchase their wines, you will have to call for pricing. Sit down.......... but order! You won't be disappointed AT ALL!!!!!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chicken and Mushroom in Garlic White Wine Sauce

I tore this recipe out of Cooking Light November 2012 issue back in November and hadn't even used it until this past week. It's one of those recipes that you can cook super-fast, like in 20-minutes if you already have all the ingredients. I usually have to go to the store and get the stuff I don't keep around much, like mushrooms!


4   ounces uncooked wide egg noodles

1   pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used the strips-easy to cut in one-inch  squares)

2   tablespoons all-purpose flour-divided

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

2   tablespoons olive oil, divided

1   tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1   (8-ounce) package pre-sliced exotic mushroom blend, such as shiitake, cremini, and oyster

1/2  cup dry white wine

1/2  cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

1    teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

1    ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)

Family will ask for more!!!!!

Recipe: Serves 4

1.  Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and keep warm.

2. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Place chicken pieces in a zip-lock bag with 1 tablespoon flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Toss gently to coat.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove chicken from pan.

4. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add garlic and mushrooms; cook 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Add wine; cook 1 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon flour; cook 1 minutes, stirring constantly. 

5. Add broth, remaining salt and pepper, cooking 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring frequently.

6. Return chicken to pan; cover and simmer 2 minutes. Uncover and cook 1 minute or until chicken is done. Stir in noodles and tarragon; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.

7. Place about 1 1/2 cups chicken mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 tablespoon Parmesan shaved cheese.

8. Serve this with the following white wine or one of your choice. I chose Soda Rock Chardonnay because we had been there last summer when we stayed in the Alexander Valley for 10 days. 

This 100 percent Chardonnay has "lovely aromas of freshly sliced apples, pear and pineapple that greet the nose. The smooth entry offers fruit flavors of bright pear, crispy apples, and juicy tropical fruit, with just a hint of caramel and butterscotch in the finish."

It sells for $36 a bottle.  Enjoy!


Recipe by David Bonom, November 2006

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Uh-Oh! We Did it Again!

Have you ever been in such a hurry that you forget something? Come on-we all do! Such is the case of a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay 2011 yesterday. I used to drink it whenever I wanted a white wine and was just beginning to branch out to other wines after Reislings! Okay, I know! That doesn't say much. But hey, everyone has to begin somewhere, right?! 

After discovering that DON left the bottle in the freezer all night, I decided that it would make for a quick post this morning. I guess you noticed the other, uh, frozen containers (Mi Cocina Mambo Taxi and Margarita pre-mixed) in the background! That was put there on purpose, but also left there on purpose too! It's too easy to go to Mi Cocina and just order one or three, rather than wait for the stuff to thaw out. More fun too!

I found out after some research that it doesn't really harm the wine if frozen, but you don't want to put it in there and forget it over and over (like we do)! If left too long, the pressure moves the cork up and allows air to enter the bottle and causes oxidation. There wasn't much left in the bottle anyway, and it was a leftover wine that we didn't even order Saturday night at the wine auction. Room service brought the wrong white wine! Bummer!

By the way, there isn't a cork in this bottle anyway! It's a screw top! So cheesy! But easy!!!

So I thought, maybe freezing wine isn't too bad after all. If you plan to use it to cook with, which is what I did with about a cup of this bottle the other night, you're good to go. I know it's too buttery and not considered a dry wine, but I used it anyway. It was fine! (Someone I love told me not to use it, but I didn't want to open another bottle just for a half cup of white wine!) I plan on trying to freeze some wine for cooking in a tray like this and just pop out what I need! VOILA!!!!

OOPS! I just said that I used a half cup in the recipe and before I told you a whole cup. I don't remember which one I used, but it was great! I'll post the recipe another day!

This is what a bottle of UNFROZEN Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay 2011 should look like poured in a glass. It sells for about $24 a bottle. 

Winemaker notes say that it has an intense and rich aroma of honey, apple pie, butterscotch, (which I detest), and hazelnuts. This is complimented with lemon blossom and lemon curd. It pairs well with grilled chicken, turkey, or pork and seafood such as lobster, shrimp and flavorful fishes. Vegetables to serve with it would be spinach, asparagus, and avocado.