Sunday, June 21, 2015

Kitchen playtime: Summer produce is finally here!

Well, I've been here, there, and everywhere, or that's how it seems. The past month and a half has included trips to North Georgia, Athens, Dallas, Seattle, Okanagan Valley, and Vancouver. I do plan to blog on some of those, but I wanted to get back to the basics. I'm ready to get serious about reporting on my kitchen playtime, which I will try to do every week. Yes, I hear you scoffing. That only motivates me further. Hmph.

Here in the South, we have four seasons:  rainy, pollen, hot/humid, and dark too early but pleasant. You can guess where we are now with highs in the nineties and humidity that makes my naturally curly hair shrink up about an inch every time I walk outside. Mindfulness teaches us that nothing is all good or all bad, so as much as we hate going outside in the summer, we do get the benefit of amazing summer fruits and vegetables. Here in Atlanta we have several farmers markets that focus on local organic produce, and Hubby and I hit the Freedom Park market yesterday after we ran the Braves Country 5K. Yeah, next year I think I'll go back to my "no races during the summer" rule.

My first two recipes are courtesy of the July and June 2015 issues of Cooking Light, respectively. In the first, Greek Tomato Cucumber Salad with Farro, they return to a familiar combination of tomatoes, cucumber, feta, and vinaigrette that they first introduced me to in the early 2000's with wraps, which I couldn't find the recipes for. Let's play compare the pictures. Here's what their salads looked like:

And here's mine:

Yes, it's in a big bowl because we doubled the recipe so we could have leftovers for lunches. But aside from the plating difference and the fact that their recipe hides the farro and includes the cheese, I'd say I got close. The farro cooked quickly, and the biggest hassle of the recipe was all the chopping, but even that wasn't so bad, especially since I got the pre-halved, pitted kalamata olives. The best part - it didn't heat up the kitchen.

The next recipe, Tomato-Leek Pie with Quinoa Crust, didn't have that advantage. It's not a quick recipe, and it, too, has a lot of chopping but this time in a kitchen with a preheated oven. We were so hungry by the time it was finally done I didn't get a picture until after we'd gotten into it:

I have a habit of buying berries when they're in season and then freezing them with all the best intentions of making smoothies. This can result in us having several "vintages" of berries. Since the oven was already on, I decided to go ahead and clear out last year's vintage as well as a few stray strawberries from 2012 (don't ask) and make a mixed berry cobbler:

Oh, and some of the blueberries had already been used for pancakes this morning:

The cobbler recipe came from The Joy of Cooking, and the buttermilk pancakes from Cooking Light. Links not included because I couldn't find the CL one, and the Joy of Cooking is a book not a website.

Finally, our wine of the week is the Thralls 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir. I once overheard one guy say to another at a rosé tasting, "If you're a dude drinking pink wine, you're going to have to take some [stuff]." It's really good, and even if you're a dude drinking this pink wine, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Hubby, who is notoriously picky about rosé wine actually likes this one. It pairs well with vegetables, light grilled meats, and hot flashes. We're in the wine club, so we got a discount, but this one is well worth the price.

So where do you go after all that lovely vegetable-ness? We ordered pizza tonight.

Oh, and to share my kitchen dumbassery of the week, I found out that when berry juice goes all over your counters from berries that thaw way more quickly than you expect, it looks like someone was murdered.

Have a lovely week! Just a reminder, if you'd like to sign up for my newsletter to find out about my books, sleep tips, and extra wine info, click here. I only send one out every one to two months, so you don't have to worry about getting them too often.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tasting and a potential book pairing

Hubby and I live in an area of Atlanta that's frequently called a city of functional alcoholics. I would say I don't know why the Decatur/Avondale Estates part of town has that nickname, but we do have a lot of great pubs, bars, restaurants, and wine, beer, and liquor shops.

One of our favorites is the Little Wine Shop in Avondale Estates. We're members of the wine club there and are regular attendees of the wine club tastings, which occur on the first Tuesday of the month. Typically a representative from the distributor will come and talk about the wine, and one of my favorites is Jeff Hagley from Atlanta Wholesale Wine. He's helping me with a blog project, and hopefully I'll be hearing from him soon. Meanwhile, I'll talk about last night's Spanish wine tasting, which occurred in the lovely loft space at TLWS:

Photo shamelessly borrowed from TLWS website.

When Jeff lined up the bottles after the tasting, he put them backwards, so, from right to left, here's the lineup:

And the highlights:

The first bottle, the bright green one with the yellow label is the Ulacia Txakolina, which is a lovely crisp white with a little frizzante, which is wine-speak for some fizz but not sparkling-wine level bubbles. This would be one to impress your friends with.

Of the reds, I liked the 2012 Al-Muvedre Monastrell from Alicante. The nose promised blackberry and dark cherry, and after some determined swirling it delivered, but in a nice, elegant way. The term used for this one was "quaffable." I agree.

Finally, my favorite of the evening:

This was the "bonus wine," a chance for Jeff to bring something special in his portfolio. The 2009 Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial from Ribero del Duero is a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah. It got a "wow" from me in my wine notes for its spiciness, but in a good flourless chocolate cake kind of way. Alas, it was only available for special order, and the price point - $33.

If you like to pair wine with books, check out the Little Wine Shop's Wine, Women & Words book club, which meets quarterly. My book The Mountain's Shadow is the selection for May, and there are still spots available. You can purchase your tickets here. The cost is $15.00, and that includes two wines with tasting notes and munchies. I'll be there to lead the discussion, and of course I'll have goodies to give away. Yes, it's for women only. Hope to see you ladies there!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Kitchen playtime: Easter weekend

Hubby and I always look forward to Easter, which we feels gives us the opportunity for some serious kitchen playtime. We start discussing the menu weeks in advance, and there is a careful selection of recipes as well as strategizing what to pick up where. Yes, I just made up a word.

So first, the cooking wine:

Yes, that is the 2013 Blanc de Syrah Brut from Wolf Mountain Vineyards here in Georgia. They make fabulous sparkling wines, and while they do have one sweeter one, the rest are nice and dry. This one is like spring strawberries in a glass.

And now the recipe sources:

Those would be the November 2014 Cooking Light (chard salad), John Sarich's Chef in the Vineyard (roasted lamb with cherry sauce), and perennial favorite Brother Rick Curry's The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking.

Of course the first part of the meal to be started was the yeast rolls since they rise twice. One thing to remember about the recipes in this book is that the dough tends to be very soft when you turn it out to knead. My best trick for dealing with this issue in this particular recipe is after the initial mixing/kneading period, switch to the dough hook and knead for two more minutes adding 1/2-3/4 cup more flour. It really helps. So, here they are. Rise, my pretties!

And baked. Seriously, I love this recipe.

And now for the Chopped Chard Salad with Apricot Vinaigrette:

This is a great salad for when the farmers' markets are still full of wintry stuff. Yes, come on, spring! I'm ready for some good spring and summer produce. The salad is just as good with feta instead of goat cheese. And hey, it's Cooking Light, so it's healthy.

Finally, the roasted leg of lamb with cherry sauce. Being half Belgian, I'm a sucker for meat/fruit combinations. I might have gotten a little too into the stabbing it before stuffing the herb mixture into the crevices and rubbing it:

But stab, stuff, and rub I did. Here's the cooked leg of lamb:

And Hubby engaged in his own knife work:

Ta da! Easter dinner (salads in bowls on the side):

The cherries in this sauce added more tart than sweet notes and made for a nice acidic foil for the meat. 

And, of course, the Easter wine, the 2012 Les Serrottes from Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Yes, this one is unfiltered and needs to be decanted for at least 30-60 minutes for that reason and to let it smooth out. Once it did, though, it went great with the roasted meat and cherry sauce.

Whatever you did, I hope you had a lovely Easter/Passover/spring weekend!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The blog is risen!

So now that I'm probably in trouble with half my readers for that blog post title, here's the scoop on what's happened over the past year and a half.

First, I'm sorry to have disappeared for so long. I actually ended up getting a fiction book deal, and then it turned into another, and then the third in the trilogy was contracted, and, well, you get the picture. The first two are available in ebook and paper, and the third is currently ebook only.  All of them involve much eating and drinking of alcoholic beverages.

And then book four, which is a stand-alone, is coming out on May 12. It actually has a character who's an oenology student.

For info on the books including links to excerpts and places where you can buy them, please visit my writing blog, Cecilia's Random Writings.

Second, there's been a lot of personal and health stuff that I'm not going to go into and some major developments with the day job. Yep, it's been busy, and I now have a minion. But never fear, through it all, we have continued to drink lots of wine and eat really good food. In fact, here's what I'm drinking today:
Wolf Mountain Vineyards 2013 Blanc de Syrah Brut

Oh, and we got a kitten. Kittens are bad for productivity, but at least he knows what one does with a bottle of wine. Yeah, it makes me worry that he's observed us open a few too many of these that he knows that the top comes off.

Meet Timothy Mouse. Look at that smug grin.

I couldn't find evidence of him decanting it.

So here's what Hubby and I have planned moving forward:

1.  Since we do most of our cooking over the weekends, we end up doing most of our food and wine pairings then. I'm going to try to write about what we ate and drank as well as recipe commentary. With regard to cooking expertise, I'd rate us as moderately proficient, which means we're still learning and making mistakes. Yes, I'll post about the mistakes, too. Just don't ask about the purple tofu.

2. I'm going to try to bring some of my psychology background into the blog with interviews of people in the wine industry. If you are such an individual and would like to be interviewed, please email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com

3. Continued commentary on wine, wineries, and restaurants.

4. More random posts from Hubby because he's good at random, and he's really funny.

5. An updated site. Yep, it's in progress. We'll let you know when we move it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wines and Wineries - Our Weekend Dash Through Sonoma County

Okay, wow, where did September and October go? I had every intent to post this soon after returning from our California trip, but yeah, life got busy, I released a novel, and I had two of the busiest weeks ever at my private practice. Although I've been drinking plenty of wine, there hasn't been much time to write about it. I do intend to tell y'all about the vertical Claret tasting we did today at Wolf Mountain winery, but I'll do that next weekend.

Sonoma County will always have a special place in my heart because that's where we went in May, 2005 for my "Holy crap, you're finally done with school!" trip. Although I wouldn't officially graduate with my Ph.D. until August, we partied like I was already a doctor. Wine -- it's medicinal, right?

This September, after two whole days of PowerPoint Slides at the APA Work and Well-Being Conference in San Francisco, I needed some wine. The conference was good, but I have a low PowerPoint tolerance.

We started out from San Francisco on Saturday morning after having stopped at Molinari's Deli and gotten sandwiches. Here's a picture from inside the Deli, which is on Columbus Avenue. Yes, this is where Italians get to stop by on the way to Heaven if they've been very good:

After navigating through a bunch of traffic, we finally made it up to Healdsburg and Unti Vineyards, where Hubby went inside to go to the bathroom and came out with a bottle of 2012 Rosé (83% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre) and a couple of glasses. We enjoyed a late picnic lunch with the sandwiches. We discovered Unti on one of our previous trips to Healdsburg because they do wines with Italian grapes. Annoyingly, my notes wandered off between the end of the trip and now, but the wines were just as good as I remembered, and the 2011 Barbera came home to Georgia with us. 

We checked in at the Haydon Street Inn and wandered into Healdsburg for more wine. Of course we had to stop by Selby Winery because we're in their wine club. Their big, fruity reds are a must for chilly nights with hearty dishes. Highlights on this tasting trip included:

2012 Sauvignon Blanc:  Yay! More floral and tropical fruit aspects than grass, but still with good structure.

2012 Rosé of Syrah: With a "kiss of Grenache," this one is nicely balanced.

2008 Cabernet Franc:  Nice and fruity without the harsh tannins sometimes found in Cabernet Franc.

2008 Petite Syrah: This grape can sometimes come across with grape soda flavors, but not this one, which is very nice and elegant.

2009 Old Vines Zinfandel:  Yes, Selby does Zin very well.

2010 Bobcat Reserve Zinfandel:  Always a favorite.

Next stop was Roadhouse Winery, which had some decent Pinot Noirs and a good Zinfandel, but nothing spectacular. To be fair, I'll admit that by September, I'm pretty over Pinot Noir because it's a go-to summer red. Next year I've got to follow through on that perpetual vow to drink more French and Italian reds to find some other light-bodied options for summer.

We went to the Topel Winery tasting room next, whre we tried both the Red Flight and the Winemaker Special Flight. A lot of the grapes came from outside Sonoma. I don't have detailed notes, but the highlights included the following:

2010 St. Helena Battuello Vineyard Gamay:  Not Beaujolais Nouveau by any means.

2007 Mendocino Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Mendocino Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 St. Helena Battuello Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Finally, that evening at the B&B, there was a tasting with wines from Portalupi. Three out of the four got a "Very Good" rating from me, the 2010 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley), 2010 Barbera (Shenandoah Valley -- the West Coast one), and 2011 Old Vine ZInfandel (Dolinsek Ranch, Russian River Valley). 

We met some very nice people and even shared some of our Unti rosé with them after the tasting. We finished it up later by the fire pit:

Sunday morning, we drove town toward the town of Sonoma itself and hung out with our friend Ed Thralls, who works for Flowers Winery and is now making his own stuff. His first vintage was promising, and the Pinot Noir we tasted from him this time around was very good. He's going to be one to watch. He also has an awesome view from his back door. No, his wine isn't that light in color, it's just how the light is hitting it.

We didn't do much tasting in Sonoma itself, just stopped into wine bars and explored the town by the glass. The night ended somewhat randomly when the sound of jazz lured us into the Erick James tasting room, where the winemaker himself as "Sonoma Satchmo" and his band played to a small crowd. It was random but fun.

If you're wondering about my book, it's an urban fantasy mystery featuring werewolves with a scientific twists, and it's available in all ebook formats. You can get the details including summary, excerpts, and links to buy it at my author website. Yes, my characters eat and drink well. It's also very helpful during harvest and while sampling Malbec grapes:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Know Your Saints: Saint Maurice

September 22 marks the feast day of Saint Maurice.

Some people call him Maurice.

Why ever is he here? Read on!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Central Coast California: Day Three

I'm taking advantage of the free wireless at Eno Wine Bar, which is off Union Square in San Francisco, to post this, the last report from Paso Robles. Later this week, I'll be sharing our adventures in Sonoma. I'll also be doing that from a computer, so I can get my links embedded beyond the first picture, which just isn't happening on my iThing. The events below happened on Tuesday, September 10.

Any day that starts with a hot tub and massage is a good day. Yes, this was the day we spent the morning at a spa.

We decided to mosey on after our relaxation-fest to Hug Cellars, where we enjoyed talking to Raquel. She also has a nifty reference book collection and gave us some great recs for when we return to San Francisco. Seriously, though, I could definitely stay in Paso Robles for a while. Because they have fried Mac and Cheese (at Pappy McGregor's):

Okay, back to the Hug wines. We liked all of them. We joined their wine club. No, this was not under the influence of hot springs and massages, they were just that good and highlighted how good Paso Robles winery do Rhone blends.

Then we moseyed on to Eberle (, which we'd been wanting to visit since a friend of ours discovered their Zin at a wine bar in Atlanta. As we expected we liked their big reds the best, but some of the whites also surprised us, specifically:

2012 Estate Chardonnay:  Although it had a hint of smoke on the nose, it was mostly tropical fruit and green apple on the palate.

2011 Mill Road Vineyard Viognier

2010 Barbera:  Came back with us, didn't last the afternoon

2010 Steinbeck & Wine Bush Vineyards Zinfandel

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah

2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

We only bought one because they have a lot of distribution, including to our area, and the guy we were talking to gave us the contact info for the distributor. We'll likely be reaching out to them once we get to big red season. They also had the nicest views so far:

Then we went on to Pear Valley Estate ( I liked:

2012 Viognier: very nice, especially on the finish

2010 Zinfandel: no comments, just yum

2009 Inspiration: 59% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 9% Mourvedre
Yes, another GSM. I'm telling you, they know their Rhone grapes here.

2009 Syrah: see Zinfandel

And that was it for the wine tasting for us. We were insane to tackle eight wineries the day before, so we decided to chill and write blog posts for the rest of the afternoon. This occurred in an Irish/Scottish pub, so we felt right at home. Now if we can only get The Marlay House, our Irish pub at home, to start doing fried Mac & Cheese...