Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review: The Flavor Bible

This book is very interesting; I've actually never reviewed a book quite like this book ever. This is not a cookbook, but a reference book on food from a holistic perspective. This book is for the home cook or chef who loves to examine flavor affinities when developing recipes and looking for "gourmet" results in that finished dish. The focus seems to be on recognizing food affinities that will assist a "true foodie" in creating wonderful dishes and even wine pairings.

The authors, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg list great examples of food affinities for Chardonnay, which can be found on page 101 in the book. The authors list butter, butter sauce, chicken, crab, cream and cream sauces, fish, lobster, salmon, scallops, shellfish and veal. This reference to food pairings is in keeping with my food pairings listed in my review for Jordan Winery 2008 Chardonnay.

You can find this book at

This wine has a light straw color with a slight hint of green. The nose is fresh and clean, then opens up to aromas of apple, pear and peach. The palate mirrors the nose with an addition of a bit of spice and a hint of lemon zest on the finish. This chardonnay is quite elegant and smooth; it begs to be paired with food due to its great acidity. I would pair this wine with roasted turkey, roasted chicken, grilled shrimp, crab cakes, grilled fish and shrimp and chicken dishes served with a pasta in creamy Alfredo sauce. Note: This wine was a sample provided by Jordan Winery.

Kitchen Gadgets

Burger Press

Who does not love a burger? You can make them out of beef, chicken, turkey, pork, seafood, and veggies. I am a fan of the beef burger and I love stuffing them with flavor. I use rosemary and sage compound butters or cheese to stuff my burgers. The variations are endless. This burger press would come in handy, to make sure the filling stays inside the burger. The big thing is not to "press" the burgers when coking them. Not only will the filling come out, but the juices that keep your burger moist will escape as well. I found this burger press online at Williams and Sonoma. I have not picked one up yet to try it out, but it looks neat!
KitchenAid Food Processor

There are so many kitchen gadgets that make our "cooking lives" easier. I just don't know what I would do without my food processor. I use it to chop vegetables or as we call it in New Orleans "seasonings", which means, onion, celery, parsley and some use green bell pepper, not one of my favorites in cooking. This may seen odd to my fellow New Orleanians, but green bell peppers are a bit too strong for me. Green Bell peppers are quite good with beef, because beef can stand up to their bold flavor. I like to have my seasonings already chopped and ready to use at a moments notice, so the food processor is a must for my kitchen. Biscuits can be made in the food processor as well as salad dressings, doughs, soups and a multitude of foods.

Biscuit Cutter Set

Pineapple Slicer

For those of you who love fresh pineapple, this tool is so useful. It takes all the work out of having those fresh, perfect pineapple slices. You can even fill the pineapple shell with fruit for a buffet.

There are a few other things that make life easier in the kitchen and one is a good bread knife, an electric knife and an all purpose knife along with kitchen sheers. A grill pan for the stove top is nice along with a big splurge an induction cook top; you can use this appliance inside or outside to fry fish, chicken, seafood and boil seafood. Induction cooking is fast, but you need to use cookware that works with this method of cooking. A cast iron skillet or cast iron pot works well on induction cook tops.

Just remember, you should cook smart, not hard and these kitchen tools will help you accomplish that! Also a glass of wine while cooking helps make the job a bit smoother! Try a glass of J 2009 Pinot Gris while preparing a light meal like grilled shrimp on skewers or just to sip while cooking.

This wine has a light straw color. The nose is beautiful! I have to say that I have a "thing" for wines with ripe beautiful noses. The nose has a "warm" tangerine and honeysuckle nose with just a slight hint of spice. The palate mirrors the nose with an addition of honey and lime. I think this wine is one to have during the warm months and also in the the cooler months due to the warmth of the nose, the citrus flavors (tangerine), and the acidity of the wine and the hint of spice. I think this wine would pair well with ripened goat cheese, pork, orange glazed chicken, crab cakes, and grilled shrimp, which were marinated in a marinade that included orange juice with a bit of ginger and lime juice. This wine is one that I will have in my cellar, just to sip or to pair with a meal. Note: This wine was a sample provided by J Wines.

Wine Review: Arrogant Frog Lily Pad Red

Arrogant Frog 2009 Lily Pad Red

This wine has a deep garnet color. The nose is filled with dark fruit, spice and a hint of vanilla. The palate has ripe dark fruit flavors with an elegant and lush mouth feel. The tannins are just enough to balance the ripe fruit and make this a balanced wine. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This wine is truly a "bang for the buck" wine. I would pair this wine with a burger, steak and pasta. It would also pair well with a nice piece of aged cheddar. Note: This wine was a sample provided by Palm Bay Imports. SRP $9.99 You can search for this wine at

I have reviewed this wine before, but I wanted to re- visit it on my blog. I did get a piece of three year aged cheddar and this was a great pairing along with a slow cooked beef pot roast with chopped sage leaves in the gravy. Try this and let me know what you think. Hint:  I purchased the three year aged cheddar from my local Fresh Market. You can ask for a sample of the cheese before you purchase it and also ask them to cut an already packaged piece to size/weight.

Also, this bottle when emptied makes a whimsical candle holder.

Just add the Arrogant Frog empty wine bottle and smile. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Real Food and Wine

Magazines with fancy food are interesting to look at, but do we really eat that kind of food on a regular basis or really ever? I don't; so I must talk about real food and wine. As Americans we have certain foods that we love; we have eaten them out entire lives, and are not going to give them up soon. So, what I do is make those meals we love a "little gourmet." Just spice them up, make them a little pretty and enjoy them.

I just recently saw a Burger King commercial and they have added hot peppers and cheddar cheese to a burger. We all love burgers, but may want the volume of flavor cranked up, so now there is a new burger on their menu.

My first case in point will be the burger. For those of you who like blue cheese, add a piece of blue cheese inside of your burger, then grill or you can put a piece on top of your finished burger and sip a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with your blue cheese burger. I love this french wine by Arrogant Frog with burgers.

I also love adding a pat of sage or  rosemary compound butter inside my burgers ( make sure the butter is totally encased inside the burger) before grilling them. The deal with stuffing burgers is not to press on them. You really should never press on a burger, you press the juices out of the burger. I enjoy Syrah with foods flavored with sage and Cabernet Sauvignon with foods flavored with rosemary.

Roast chicken is a favorite of many people. I like to season my chicken well on the inside and outside and under the skin. I sometimes lift the skin of the chicken gently and add some rosemary compound butter under the skin to impart more flavor. Another trick is to make a rack with stalks of celery. It keeps the chicken raised from the bottom of the pan and adds flavor. I always add lots of herbs and vegetables inside the cavity of my chicken. I season it first, then add two quarters of a sweet onion, two celery stalk halves, a bay leaf, fresh thyme and fresh rosemary. I tie the legs with cooking string, tuck back the wings and add a bit of leftover chardonnay to keep the chicken moist while roasting. I also add a little olive oil or butter on the chicken to help it become a beautiful brown color. Flavor, color and moisture are the things I'm going for when roasting a chicken. Chardonnay pairs well  with  roasted chicken. Try this one by Jordan. The sides are up to you, but I love wild rice or garlic mashed potatoes and a vegetable.

Pot roast is a dish we all know so well. I like adding chopped rosemary in my gravy for an added jolt of flavor. Some add a bit of rendered bacon and a splash of cognac to their pot roast. A nice red wine like a Merlot, Meritage or Cabernet will fit the bill with this dish.

Seafood is one of my favorite foods to eat and cook. I love grilled shrimp on skewers. I like to create marinades for them and let them absorb all the great flavor and then put the on the grill. A nice chardonnay always pairs nicely with grilled shrimp and grilled fish. When having pan seared salmon, I love a Pinot Noir.
When pairing oysters a sparkling wine, especially a Brut will always do the trick. I just love fried oysters, oyster Po-boys and my favorite oyster appetizers. These appetizers come to life when paired with sparkling wine.

A nice rib eye steak is a "big meat feast" for a girl like me. I just love a nice Syrah, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon with a grilled steak. To impart big flavor, I marinate my steaks in Stubb's Beef Marinade. I also like to top my grilled steak with a pat of sage compound butter. For a real treat and a special occasion, try pairing this steak with Women of the Vine Syrah.
Pizza Stone

When eating fun food like pizza, a nice red wine like a Syrah pairs nicely. Try buying pizza dough already rolled and cut into pie shapes from your favorite pizza shop and put the dough on a pizza stone||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules-_-and add your favorite toppings and put it on the grill to get that pizza kitchen smokey flavor.

When eating BB Que ribs, I love a Zinfandel or Syrah.I just think the fruit and peppery notes pair well with the sauce on the ribs.

In closing, we are all searching for the best wine and food pairings, why not start with the foods we eat everyday!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wine and Home Decor

Lenox Tuscany Classics Grand Bordeaux
Well, I'm sure you know how much I love wine and the oenophile lifestyle. There are so many things I see in catalogs and websites that catch my eye because they are wine inspired. Elegance meets utility is my decorating style. Wine stemware is a passion of mine. I use stemware that has a big bowl and good weight when serving wine. My favorite stemware is Lenox Tuscany Classics. I drink my big reds in this glass, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel. The glass has such a nice size bowl you can really get a great swirl to open up the aromas on those red wines. I really love the entire line of this pattern. It can be used for everyday and to set your dining room table with your good china. I must admit I should utilize  my dining room more often. My excuse before Hurricane Katrina was that I had carpet on the dining room floor and wine and food would damage the floor; now I have hardwood, so really no more excuses.

I don't own this collection, but boy is it beautiful. The Marble Grapevine Collection at  Another item at Napa Style is this chandelier. I would love to see how it looks in person and see reviews of this item.

Bottle stoppers and my one antique corkscrew represent a sense of style, substance and practicality in my home. If you have been reading my blog, I just adore this bottle stopper; I have yet to order it because it is so pricey. It really is an Object d' Art and it is the symbol of my hometown of New Orleans; the Fleur de Lis.

The wine cellar or sometimes called the wine refrigerator is a nice alternative to a room which has the racking and temperature control that is truly an in-home wine cellar.  It allows you to have your favorite wines on hand stored at the right temperature and lets your family and friends know you are truly an oenophile. I would love to upgrade to this unit one day!

Sub Zero 424 Free Standing Wine Cellar

I love these cheese knives from Pottery Barn. I own the ice scoop from this collection and it is wonderful!
Pottery Barn Antique Cheese Knives

Cheese deserves to be handled properly and I think these knives will do the job.

Wine Pillow

This nice wine inspired vignette has empty wine bottles used as a candle holder. These are iron candle holder inserts  and wine pillow  can be found at I love how they look inserted in my favorite empty bottles. Be mindful that the candles do drip, so I put a place mat or a piece of cloth under my bottle holders. The look is so elegant and rustic for the cost of a few dollars and an empty wine bottle.

Caspari wine Label Cocktail Napkins

I am a sucker for great cocktail napkin or great paper products. Caspari is always my splurge when I want to purchase something fabulous that won't break the bank. I feel like I can have a small bit of luxury for me and my guests. Believe me, your guests will appreciate these small touches and feel so welcomed in your home.

For the Love of Puff Pastry

Puff pastry can make a gourmet cook out of almost anyone with the right recipe. This product should be a staple in any one's freezer who loves to entertain. I have made sweet and savory dishes from this delicious product. I love to use this to make appetizers that are filled with an artichoke, spinach and cheese mixture and then rolled and cut into pinwheels. I also like to cut the sheets int squares and place them in mini muffin tins and fill them with savory or sweet fillings for a party. I want to try a tart that was featured on the show The Barefoot Contessa;  the puff pastry was scored around the edges and docked with a fork to make a savory tart with goat cheese, tomatoes, onions and thyme.

I just love the buttery flavor and the flakiness of the pastry. The possibilities are endless with this product. Southern cheese straws are a snap when using puff pastry. On Williams and Sonoma's website, I was a recipe for a breakfast tart made with, what else, puff pastry!

Can you imagine this for Brunch with a Mimosa! Go to William's and Sonoma's website and put breakfast tart in the search engine to get this recipe. I think this looks stunning!


Palmiers are a wonderful sugar laden pastry made from puff pastry and sugar. These are easy to make and elegant. Just get yourself a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy. I bet if you made some vanilla sugar to sprinkle on these palmiers or added vanilla powder to the sugar they would taste extra delicious. I think I will try this and let you know how they came out.

Here is another brand of puff pastry. I have not used it before, but look forward to using it in the future. I will look for it in my area.

Dufour Puff Pastry

Appetizers in Puff Pastry

As you can see the possibilities are endless when using this wonderful product. Check out this link with some of my puff pastry recipes Get some friends with clean hands in the kitchen and let the baking begin. Our hands are our best tools in the kitchen, so the more the merrier. Open a bottle of wine and cook, laugh, eat and love....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spices and Salts Matter

Do you remember when you were growing and you watched your mother or grandmother cook; there was the blue box of salt with the little girl with the yellow umbrella. Now we use all kinds of salts for our cooking, baking and finishing of meals.  I love this Australian Flake Salt by on freshly fried french fries. It gives them just the right amount of salt and they seem like a gourmet treat.
The Victoria Gourmet's Celtic Sea Salt is great for baking. I made some simple butter cookies filled with chopped pecans and rolled in powdered sugar, and used this sea salt and they came out superb!  you had a little salty surprise to balance out the richness of the unsalted butter and the sweet powdered sugar.

When I am cooking and need to add salt I love the Trapani Sea Salt. It is so versatile in it uses.

I use this salt to boil pastas, rice and when I roast garlic. I never knew that salt could make such a difference in the finished product of a dish. Spices are also a big punch of flavor when cooking a meal. I've always told you how I love their Herbes de Provence.

 It is great on salmon, chicken and vegetables. The flavor makes you feel like you are cooking and eating a dish from the French countryside. I love to serve a Pinot Noir when I create a salmon or chicken dish with Herbes de Provence. This one from Davis Bynum makes a great pairing when using this spice.

Tasting Notes:   This wine is a lovely dark garnet color. The nose is filled with aromas of bright red fruit flavors, (cherries), a bit of dust, a hint of caramel and spice. The palate mimics the nose with a silky mouth feel. This wine paired well with a turkey rubbed with an herb infused compound butter. It would also pair well with roasted chicken, pork roast and salmon. Note: This was a sample from Rodney Strong Vineyards.

Winery Tasing Notes:  Ferrari-Carano’s Italian heritage is reflected in this Sangiovese-based, easy-sipping, multi-dimensional blend. Select lots of grapes were chosen from our vineyards in Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys to create a beautifully balanced and medium-bodied wine. SIENA has delicious aromas of cherries, blackberries and currants complemented by sweet vanilla oak and caramel. On the palate, this wine offers ripe, juicy, baked berry pie with anise, cocoa and cola flavors, with lively acidity, supple tannins and a lingering finish. Note: I have not sampled this vintage of Siena, but previous vintages have paired well with Tuscan inspired meals.

Victoria Gourmet also makes a Tuscan Seasoning. I love to add this seasoning to red pasta sauces and to meatballs when I create Italian inspired meals.  This seasoning is also good in a marinade for meat to be placed on the grill. I love to pair this spice with a Tuscan inspired wine like Siena

This seafood seasoning works so well on grilled or broiled fish. You can use it sparingly because it is so flavorful. It also works well on oven roasted grilled shrimp to eat as an appetizer with cocktail sauce or a mayonnaise based dipping sauce with capers. I would also use this as a component to a marinade for seafood that would be placed on the grill. A great wine that would pair well with grilled fish prepared with this seafood seasoning would be Women of the Vine Chardonnay.

This wine is a straw color. The nose is tropical with aromas of pineapple, citrus, and honey. The palate mimics the nose with an addition of a hint of spice. Even though this wine has not seen oak, it seems to have oak integrated with the fruit. This component gives this wine structure and makes this a wine to be paired with food. I would pair this wine with roast chicken, pork roast, grilled fish and grilled shrimp. Note: This wine was a sample provided by Women of the Vine Cellars The SRP  is $13.99.

I never brined a chicken before I used their Traditional Brining Blend. It made my chicken so flavorful and juicy. I followed the instructions on the jar and just added my half of sweet onion, half stalk of celery, a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary inside of my chicken. I then rubbed my chicken with olive oil and a sprinkle of Tony Chachere's Creole  Seasoning. Be mindful of any additional salt, because the brine is seasoned well. I just can't resist adding a little taste of home on my roast chicken. 

I have several more spices from this gourmet line of spices to review, so stay tuned for more spice reviews.
Victoria Gourmet has so many wonderful spices that you should go online and give a few of them a try. Note: These were samples provided by Victoria Gourmet.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sparkling Wine & Goat Cheese

Sparkling wine and goat cheese is a wonderful pairing. I like Garrotxa cheese broken into chard's with a Brut Sparkling wine. No cooking just broken chard's of this cheese in a lovely bowl.

Another favorite is Humboldt Fog by Cypress Grove Chevre on a thin slice of French bread with a glass of sparkling wine.
Add a glass of Roederer Estate Brut sparkling wine and you have a great pairing. 

Another favorite is Cypress Grove Chevre's Truffle Tremor and a sparkling Rose`. This goat cheese has truffles in it and the earthiness of the truffles pairs beautifully with a sparkling wine that is primarily made of Pinot Noir.
Truffle Tremor

I like to let the goat cheese come to room temperature and put a little on a thin slice of French bread.
Try having a sparkling wine and goat cheese platter at your next gathering. Note: I like my goat cheese to be young. As it ages, the flavors intensify; I like the fresh taste. So always check out the maturity of the cheese before you purchase the cheese.

This is a lovely sparkling wine to pair with Truffle Tremor goat cheese.

Wine Review: 2003 Women of the Vine Rojo, Red Wine

This wine has a beautiful dark almost purple garnet color. The  nose has aromas of  cherry, cassis with an addition of spice. The palate mimics the nose with an addition of an herbal note ( maybe sage) and a long fruit and spice filled finish. This wine would pair well with hearty foods, especially beef and meats off the grill. Hint: I would prepare a sage compound butter and put a pat of this on a grilled steak and pair it with this wine.  I would also pair this wine with aged cheddar and other full flavored cheeses. Note:  This wine was a sample provided by Women of the Vine Cellars. The SRP is $42.99.