Monday, May 30, 2011

Impromptu Entertaining Secrets

Impromptu entertaining can really catch a host or hostess off guard. A friend can just call and say, "Girl, I really need to talk; can I come over?" Depending on your friend, that may mean you need to have something to drink whether it is alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink. Also, something quick to snack on is always welcomed. 

Coffee, tea and some great cookies will be a great addition to your pantry.  One of my favorite cookies are these French chocolate covered cookies by LU . They are wonderful! 

A quick appetizer is a block of cream cheese with pepper jelly spooned on top served with crackers. This is quick and tastes great with Riesling or Zinfandel.

Things that have a decent shelf life like aged cheddar cheese, and one of my favorite semi-firm goat cheeses Garrotxa is great to have on hand. I usually cube or make slices of the cheddar and the Garrotxa is broken into chard's.  

Nuts, olives, chips, popcorn, crackers, pretzels, pate`, good olive oil,  a jar of roasted red peppers, a few blocks of cream cheese and pre-packaged dips are great to have on hand; they go great with cocktails, soda or water. I want to try Stacy's Pita Chips I think a spinach and artichoke dip and a nice Sauvignon Blanc would pair nicely with these chips. I love trying new products and sharing my opinions. These days we have to be careful and thoughtful on how we spend our money.

Having a few appetizers that can be made ahead and frozen work well; you just have to thaw and bake. Also, fondue whether cheese based or chocolate is quick to prepare and looks fabulous served in a pretty pot. Have lots of things on hand to dip for fondue, like french bread( cheese fondue), marshmallow's, fruit, cut up pound cake,doughnuts( chocolate fondue) or for a savory fondue, meats.

Of course wine has to be on hand as well as non-alcoholic sparkling cider, sodas, beer and bottled water. I like to make frozen drinks from time to time, but it has been hard to find my Fat Tuesday drink mixes in Little Rock. Oh well, I will have to pay shipping if I want my frozen drinks with that New Orleans flavor; they are wonderful! 

When I'm having champagne or sparkling wine, I love to pour my guest who don't drink some bubbles in a flute, so sparkling cider fits the bill; everyone is included when I entertain.

Martinellis Sparkling Cider

This product is easily found in your local grocery store.

Now, I like to have sparkling wine, white wine, rose` wine and red wines on hand. This allows you to have flexibility in pairing with the foods or snacks that you have on hand.

Try this with the chard's of Garrotxa cheese or Humboldt Fog cheese.

I can't wait to sample the 2010 vintage!

Try this wine with with bruschetta or cocktail meatballs in a smoky sauce. Rainy days are great for making cocktail meatballs that you can cook and freeze. When you need them all you have to do is thaw them, and heat them in your choice of  pot, whether it be a sauce pot, crock pot (the stainless ones look nice) or keep them warm in a fondue pot to be a bit fancy.

Well, I think you get my point; having a few staples in your pantry and fridge will always save you when you have to entertain without much notice. Also, buy French breads on a Friday and put them in the fridge; they will come back to life when heated in the oven when making bruschetta or small sandwiches. Let me know if you know of any great store bought appetizers so I can give them a try.

Angoves Nine Vines Rose` is a nice rose` to sip on a warm day.

Send me an email and let me know what you think.



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Inspires You In The Kitchen?

My focus of this blog is food and wine, so I look to the Internet, cooking shows, bargain food and wine books, food and wine pairing guides found on the wineries websites and my imagination for inspiration. Sometimes I get ideas from my monthly delivered Food and Wine magazine. My style of cooking takes its roots from New Orleans style cuisine, but with the focus being on wine and food pairings.

Going to my local Fresh Market and seeing different new products also inspire me to "stretch out" a bit of my comfort zone and try something new. I am usually game, but my family may not, so I have to play it safe or fix them another meal!

Going to wineries websites and looking at the tasting notes of the winemaker along with their suggested food pairings (if available) will provide you with a guide to develop your own recipes or menu.

The seasons and what fruits and vegetables and other seasonal ingredients that are available in my area also dictate what dishes I prepare. Fresh herbs, especially basil, thyme, rosemary and sage are planted in small terracotta pots and kept in my kitchen window sill or outside on the deck to be used in my cooking; I think it is a waste to buy herbs in those plastic packages in the grocery store. The never look fresh and the spoil quickly. I "literally and figuratively" have a "brown thumb", so growing things has not been easy for me. I've noticed sine I moved to Little Rock I seem to be able to keep some plants alive.

Salts and Spices do matter when you want maximum flavor in your dishes. I have a passion for Victoria Taylor's Australian Flake Salt; this makes a fried french fry taste like a gourmet treat when lightly sprinkled when the fries come out of the fryer. I also love their Trapani Sea Salt for cooking.  Note: These were samples provided for review. I am all out and need to order some for my pantry; I am hooked!

I love to grill, but have to be up to cleaning the grill before using it. I must admit I hate cleaning the grill! But, if the weather is not too hot, I'll stand on the deck and use my old "hand me down" Weber Kettle. My brother Keith bought it when he and his family lived in Little Rock when Katrina hit my hometown of New Orleans. We had so many wonderful times grilling foods and drinking wine in our shared apartment in West Little Rock. The patio was small, but big enough for us to "get our grill on!"

Grilling can open up a whole new world as it relates to cooking. More people are eating grilled fruits and vegetables off the grill and introducing their children to eating healthier foods because of the great taste grilling imparts in food. Grilled pineapple is great alone or with ice cream or frozen yogurt for dessert. It can be tricky, but grilled oysters on the half shell are great with a sauce of garlic, butter and a bit of Parmesan cheese.

Wine inspires me in the kitchen. When I am drinking wine and cooking, I always think of ways to make the dish better or take it to another level. Maybe the wine relaxes me, and I begin to think beyond the daily grind and to focus on something I enjoy doing. Also, the flavor profiles of wines seem to placed in some sort of "memory chip" in my brain which allows me to match the wine, food, herbs, spices and sauces with ease. Sounds hard, but I've been lucky with my methodology so far; I think it is because of practice and the opportunity to sample so many great wines and products. Right now, I'm in love with crisp white wines with hints of melon, pear, and orange blossom; so mostly Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blancs.

Honig 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Rose's have a great place in spring and summer as well as sparkling wine. I can drink sparkling wine all the time! Also, Cabernet Sauvignon is a must for a steak or gourmet burger off the grill. Right now I'm in love with the Rodney Strong 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the Honig 2008
Cabernet Sauvignon, both are wonderful!

Honig 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Rodney Strong 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Note: These wines were samples provided for review. Tasting notes for these wines are provided on this blog.

One of the things that many may not think of is a pleasing space to cook in. I love my kitchen. It is not a designer space, but it has warm Tuscan colors and most of the appliances and gadgets to cook with right at my fingertips. The space is airy with my gas cook top that I could not live without. When I moved into this house, there was an electric cook top. I was blessed enough to have the resources to do a kitchen face lift and the cook top got replaced with my beloved cooking source, gas. I love a pretty kitchen, it makes me happy. I found a pretty paper towel holder that fit in perfectly with my style along with some other object's d' art for my kitchen.

The color is a deep rust and it can be found at I own some pieces of this collection and they really brighten up a kitchen.

What inspires you in your kitchen? Let me know; I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Product Review: Rutherford Ranch's Ecco Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Ecco Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This olive oil is buttery with hints of herbs and spice. It makes a great finishing oil on steaks and salads. Note: This was a sample provided by Rutherford Ranch for review.

I decided to write about this olive oil again because I used it in a quick red gravy to add flavor, and a nice texture to the finished red sauce. I also love to have great olive oil on hand to make bruschetta. Basically you need good bread, I like the French Baguette's from our local Fresh Market. The bread is good and the right size for a small bite. You can brush the bread with olive oil and either grill it on a charcoal grill as it is done in Italy, a gas grill or in the oven until lightly toasted. Some add a bit of salt and pepper on each slice then rub it with a garlic glove while warm, then top with their favorite topping. I think if you are making a dish, especially one with a few ingredients, each ingredient should be of good quality. I really love the flavor profile of this olive oil by Rutherford Ranch

Bruschetta is becoming so popular there are books written on preparing this delicious small bite or appetizer. Here is a bruschetta cookbook that looked interesting while cyber window shopping  on

Bruschetta di Pomodori

There are so many toppings that can be put on bruschetta. I saw this recipe on the Food Network. Giada is so inspiring at times.

 I want to try this recipe for Apricot Chicken Bruschetta and pair it with J 2009 Pinot Gris

 I think that the flavors of the wine would be perfect with the apricot preserves on the bruschetta.

Also check out my Bruschetta Recipe and pair it with Rutherford Ranch's 2008 Napa Valley Merlot or 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rutherford Ranch 2008 Napa Valley Merlot

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wine Review: Ceja 2008 Bella Flor Rose`

Note: This bottle image is from the 2007 vintage.

This wine has a light cranberry color. The nose is fresh, with a slight hint of rose petals and aromas of red berried fruit like raspberries and dark cherries. The palate has those same red berried fruit flavors along plum, with a hint of pepper.  The wine also has great acidity. This is a full-bodied  and well-structured rose` which is made from Syrah. This rose` would pair well with spring and summer fare right off the grill. I think this wine would pair well with a burger, spicy sausage (like andouille), pork chops or chicken off the grill. Another pairing would be a basic tomato, garlic and basil bruschetta. I would also pair this with a nice piece of cheddar cheese as a quick appetizer.  Note:  This wine was a sample provided by Ceja Vineyards. RSP $22.00

This is a rose` that a man could feel "manly and proud" to "drink pink!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Love Of The Burger

With spring here and summer approaching, the burger is the star of the grill party. I just love them big or small. Sliders, the little burgers make for a great appetizer. Grill them and have small bowls with all the "fixings" or toppings. For the big burgers, I like them stuffed with either a rosemary compound butter stuffed in the middle of the burger and then paired with Cabernet Sauvignon or stuffed with sage compound butter and paired with Syrah.

You have to start with freshly ground meat. I love ground chuck with an 80/20 ratio, meaning the meat has 20% fat content. You have to have some fat content to produce a flavorful burger. Here is an article that I found that provides a little history of the burger and how it has become a gourmet treat. The basic technique for how to make a compound butter is also in this article.

This wine has a dark garnet color. The nose is filled with aromas of ripe dark fruit and a hint of chocolate. The palate has flavors of blackberries, dark plums and chocolate with very smooth tannins. This wine was lovely! I love a wine that is great to sip on its own and also be paired with meals, and this wine fits the bill. This wine would pair well with burgers, steaks or my super bruschetta. Note: This wine was a sample provided by Rodney Strong Vineyards. SRP $25.00

This wine would be great with burgers stuffed with rosemary compound butter or burger patties infused with some finely chopped rosemary. Burgers with this wine steps the whole burger experience into the "gourmet" dining experience.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Look At The Past: We Are Where We Came From...

A Portrait of Asher Moses Nathan and his son

 Circa New Orleans around 1845

Marie Thereze Carmelite Anty Metoyer, New Orleans Placee`

The Feasts Of All Saints

Free woman of Color
Woman of Placage, New Orleans

We have so much craziness in our political and social world as it relates to race. I think that we as Americans have forgotten our past and how it has affected our present,  who we are as a people. As Americans whether we like it or not we are a melting pot of people from all parts of the world. Immigrants came to America to have a better life and some were brought here not of their free will. We have to stop looking at each other as if we are not connected; we are connected because we are all Americans. A lot of the past is not so easy to accept, but it is what it is,  and we need to embrace it and move on. The food and wine culture is represented then and now as a testament to the past.

I have become fascinated with the past of New Orleans; this includes the system of Placage. Placage is a "left-handed marriage of a free woman of color to a Creole (white) man. This was accepted, but not legal in New Orleans. This concept is crucial in learning about the culture of people of color in New Orleans before the Civil War.  Being an African American woman from New Orleans I know some of the history of people of color,  and throughout my growing up I have witnessed the good and bad about being black in New Orleans. I thank God for not experiencing the barriers that people just a few years older than I experienced in the 1960's. By the time I started school, things had legally changed, but not socially.

The idea of me being an African American Oenophile is strange to some, even my peers. I looked at a movie The Feast f All Saints written by Anne Rice; the movie which had some fiction, but was a real look into how free women of color lived in the system of placage and had a life of privilege, also with a life of oppression. The privilege part is where I want to weigh in on, as it relates to food and wine.

I wish that I could go back in time and peek into those homes in the Faubourg Maringy and off of  Dumaine Street and the Treme` area and see the foods that the slaves prepared for the placee` and her wealthy Creole lover and children, and the imported French wines that they consumed. I am sure that the foods included local produce and of course lots of seafood. Many of the famous foods like gumbo and jambalaya were developed by slaves that were given bits and pieces of leftover food. They combined the leftovers and added their Caribbean and African influence and made foods that are indigenous to New Orleans and are foods we all have come to love. 
The wines would have been opened with corkscrews, which if they survived usage and time, now are antiques. I have one antique corkscrew that is good operating condition, which was purchased in New Orleans and I am looking to add more to my collection. 

I think the reason why so many people love to come to New Orleans is for the food, libations, culture and a look at the past. I cook like any New Orleanian with a little skill cooks, but all of it has to have flavor and I try to add a little flair. The food is a mixture of African, French, Spanish, Indian and love. My love of wine I think is inherit to where I came from, my ancestors. The only person in my immediate family who drinks wine with some form of appreciation is my younger brother, Keith. Keith works in the food industry, so he is always being exposed to new wines. My mother's brother, my uncle Donald was in the military and has been all around the world; he also has an appreciation for wine and food.

We are a product of our past, our ancestry; this also includes the methods and recipes that have been handed down by "mouth" or those that have been written down on slips of paper. I must admit, I do cheat and use some ready made products when cooking. I'm okay with that as long as it does not destroy the integrity of the final product.  I just love my oyster appetizers with Brut sparkling wine or champagne. In New Orleans we make an appetizer for special occasions like the holidays called Oyster Patties. The oyster mixture would be placed in oyster patty shells from a famous bakery called McKenzie's which no longer exist. The shells were mini puff pastry shells and they were wonderful. This recipe is a spin off of that recipe. Just open a bottle of Blanc de Blanc champagne and enjoy!

 Oyster Appetizers

  • (1) 16 oz. container of oysters, drained and chopped (I pulsed them about 7-
  • 8 times in the food processor)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of mixed seasoning (I used fresh Italian parsley, yellow onion, celery)
  • 1/4 teaspoon or more to taste of Creole Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2/3 cup of Italian bread crumbs (add up to 1/3 more if desired)
  • 1/2 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • (3) 2.1 oz. boxes of mini fillo shells, 15 to a box ( I used Athen’s brand)
Melt butter on low heat in a skillet. Then add the chopped seasoning and the creole seasoning,
cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. Let mixture cook for about 5-10 minutes on low flame. Stir
mixture. Then add chopped oysters. Stir. Cook 4-5 minutes. Then add 1/2 can of cream
of mushroom soup. Stir. Cook 2-3 minutes. Then add 2/3 to 1 cup if needed of the Italian
bread crumbs. Cook another 2-4 minutes. Stir. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Fill
mixture in mini fillo shells. I used a teaspoon and dinner knife, to fill the cups neatly. Place
on a cookie sheet and bake at fillo shells heating instructions, which are on the back of the box. About 30 minutes.

They can be frozen. Let them sit at
room temperature for about 30 minutes, then heat 10-15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Bake at 350 degrees. This recipe makes 45 appetizers.

Wine Recommendation: Blanc de Blanc, which means white on white sparkling wine or champagne. I think Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc is a nice sparkling wine. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Delish Small Bites and Wine Pairing Suggestions

You just have to love the idea of having a variety of small bites to try at a cocktail party. To me it is just one of life's little luxuries when paired with the right wine.

I do add the minced garlic in the tomato mixture. This tastes better if it marinates for a few hours; the flavors just unite! This pairs well with Zinfandel. I paired this with Frank Family Vineyards 2007 Zinfandel.

I love this book by Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford -Snell; it is a blueprint on how to make wonderful small bites.

Trois Petits Cochons
Pate` aux Champignons
Pate` with Mushrooms

I really can't say enough about the smooth pate`s by The Three Little Pigs or Trois Petits Cochons. I just love the pate` with mushrooms and the Mousee Truffle served on good crackers. They are so creamy and full of decadent flavor. I love pairing this pate` with Brut sparkling wine.


St. Andre`

This is a wonderful and buttery soft French triple cheese. Explorateur is wonderful when spread on crackers or a thin slice of French bread paired with sparkling wine. Another cheese that is soft and buttery and pairs well with sparkling wine is St. Andre`

Sparkling Wine

J Cuvee 20 Sparkling Wine

Always remember that puff pastry is your friend. You can fill it with almost any topping and roll or shape it in so many ways to create wonderful appetizers.

Puff Pastry Appetizers

Lorrie’s Salmon Salad
  • (3) 7.1 ounce packages of Chicken of the Sea Pink salmon
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons of chopped seasoning (onions, celery and Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of dried chives (additional chives for garnish, optional)
  • ½ cup of finely chopped pickles
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 3 shakes of ground ginger
  • 1 light sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
  • 1 pinch or to taste of cayenne pepper
  • Enough mayonnaise to moisten (I use Blue Plate Mayonnaise)

    Combine all ingredients with mayonnaise and adjust seasonings and mayonnaise if needed. I like the Sociable crackers by Nabisco with the salmon salad.

    Wine Pairing Suggestion: Mirabelle Brut Rose by Schramsberg Vineyards

    Lorrie's Super Bruschetta

    1 head of roasted garlic (recipe will follow)
    (1) 8 oz package of cream cheese
    ½ cup of sharp cheddar cheese
    1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
    ¼ teaspoon of Creole seasoning
    2 tablespoons of melted I can't believe it's not butter
    ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
    20 diagonally sliced pieces of French bread
    (1) 12 oz jar of roasted red peppers
    ½ lb. of thinly sliced beef pastrami
    (1) 8 oz. block of Fontina cheese
    dried chives for garnish

    To roast garlic:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the top off the head of garlic, just enough to see the garlic toes exposed. Put in a square of aluminum foil. Put olive oil on top and add about a teaspoon of water on the bottom of the foil, close up and bake for an hour. After the garlic has cooled, squeeze the roasted garlic toes in a small bowl. This can be done ahead of time to save in prep time.
    In addition, the cream cheese mixture can be made ahead as well.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix melted margarine and olive oil together in a cup. Brush the bread with the olive oil mixture and bake for about 5-7 minutes.
    In a food processor, combine cream cheese, roasted garlic, cheddar cheese, cayenne pepper and Creole seasoning and pulse until blended. 
    Remove the bread slices from oven and spread a teaspoon of cream cheese mixture on each slice of bread. Then add a piece of roasted red pepper. Then add a small piece of pastrami, then a thin slice of Fontina cheese, and a drop of oil on each slice of bread. Sprinkle with chives. Bake in oven until the cheese is melted. About 5 minutes.
    Wine Suggestion:   2008 Rodney Strong Alexander Valley, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lorrie's Best Hostess Gifts

Getting an invitation to someones home to share a meal is truly an honor. So much thought and care goes into entertaining at home; that's why I love to show my appreciation for the invite with a small gift. Hostess gifts should be thoughtful and really speak to the interest of the host or hostess. I got the book pictured above from my dear friend Audrey. She knows my love of cooking, antiques with a purpose and learning about the past. The book, "the epicurean collector" was purchased in New Orleans, my hometown. The book is signed and includes a quick quote by Mr. Patrick Dunne and is dated 2009. This book makes a great read as well as a lovely coffee table book.

What I love about the past is that people took their time to make the table setting as beautiful as possible and they shared all of their beautiful china and accoutrement's with their guests. Also, the idea that dining was an experience, when time was taken to eat several courses while enjoying a glass of wine is so very pleasing to me. We live in such an hectic world, one without servants, or at least most of us don't, but we can slow down and just enjoy a beautiful table setting, good food, good wine and great company.
Books are a great hostess gift and can be purchased new or slightly used at

For the baker, I found these cookie cutters online at I really want to order these and make cookies to use as place cards and have a few ladies over for lunch. I just love the shimmering gold metallic sugar. I bought this for myself months ago when browsing around our local Williams and Sonoma. I made a tea bread with a confectioner's sugar milk glaze and sprinkled these golden sugar sprinkles on top for a little glamour. It makes a beautiful finished product.  The beauty of these gifts are that they are all under $10.00.

For the music lover, who likes to relax with a glass of wine or a cocktail check out Boney James. I just love his sound. His CD's make the perfect backdrop for a cocktail party or a private party. I also love his new release "Contact."

Send One Your Love by Boney James

Pottery Barn Ice Scoop

For those who make cocktails this ice scoop is a beautiful hostess gift. I loved having this on hand for my guest to make his cocktail. It is functional and beautiful.

Olive oil is one of my little luxuries. I just love making salad dressings, cooking and finishing steaks with olive oil. in addition, I always add a little olive oil in red sauce; I think it creates a nice balance and mouth feel in the finished sauce.

Ecco Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This olive oil is buttery with hints of herbs and spice. It makes a great finishing oil on steaks and salads. Note: This was a sample provided by Rutherford Ranch for review.

And last, but not least wine always makes a nice hostess gift for wine lovers. I must say that I am so privileged to sample so many good and great wines. Here are a few that would make great hostess gifts.

Value: Honig 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Splurge: Honig 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Both of these wines are from Honig Vineyard & Winery.Note: These wines were samples provided for review by Honig Vineyard & Winery. The Sauvignon Blanc is great and the price makes it a great candidate for a hostess gift.

Wine bottle stoppers are inexpensive and make wonderful hostess gifts. They come in all types of themes that fit a person's personality, kitchen or home decor. They are also functional.

Clock Wine Bottle Stopper