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Category Archives: Wine

One. Perfect. Weekend.

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I don’t know where to begin. Maybe it’s the fact that weekends like this one are the reason we don’t move south. Those absolutely breathtaking weekends, with foliage, crisp temperatures, sunshine and beautiful places to visit.

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My weekend began out at Sharp’s Farm, for a Conservancy sponsored event. Denise Sharp, who is absolutely amazing and passionate about her farm, and farming in general, led 43 people on a tour of the farm. It was an event we asked her to create and lead.

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It’s the third time that I know of, where the Conservancy sponsored an off site event. This time, the premier event showcasing Howard County farms. It also was created to use the off site due to the construction at Mt. Pleasant.

I had the pleasure of partnering with Denise, setting things up and leading the scavenger hunt. Denise, she got the fun job. Taking them on a hayride through the farm, including a creek crossing.

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Off they go, to tour the property.

My favorite part of Saturday morning, watching the children feed the animals.

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They fed the goats, the chickens, the cows and the bunnies. And they loved it.

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So did the farm animals. All that attention and extra food.

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After all, when was the last time you got to pet a cow.

This weekend was the last one at the farm. Just like Larriland, who closed today. And, I believe, Clark’s. It’s the end of the season, except for the local wineries. That’s the other thing we did on this perfect weekend. Headed out to Black Ankle to pick up wine.

Along with hundreds of others, we sat outside and enjoyed the view and the wine. Didn’t even take the camera. It was just a lazy afternoon surrounded by fall foliage.

Every year this early November lovely weather, accompanied by the changing leaves, makes us love the state of Maryland even more.

Bitter Sweet

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Bitter like the greens. Sweet as the beets.

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It may be a slow improvement, but still. The change to my lifestyle and my eating habits since retiring has been paying off. My annual physical was yesterday. Saw much improvement by moving away from commercially prepared highly processed foods and by cooking from scratch as much as possible.

I considered naming this post “A1C is the new LDL” since decades of eating low fat, or no fat, and not cooking with basic ingredients has impacted our health. Face it, we had significantly more sugar in our diets while we worked and commuted. Too many frozen dinners, carry out meals and high carb restaurant choices like pasta, or pizza.

Now, my generation fights the battle against Type 2 Diabetes. All those low fat meals contained hidden sugars.

I am glad I made the switch. Even though it is time consuming to cook this way. I also know that my CSA is the real reason I don’t give up.

That salad up there. I made the dressing. The greens and beets and berries are from my CSA. So is the cheese.

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The creamy dressing. Yogurt without added sugar. A very tiny bit of preserves. White balsamic and good olive oil. A pinch of salt and pepper.

It’s not the only thing we have added to our vegetable share. We get cheese, fruit, meat, yogurt, and bread. I have added a grain and flour share for fall.

This is the bread we now eat.

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A different one each week. No dairy. No sugar. The miche is awesome with soups and stews. Comes with our CSA delivery. Made in a bakery in Brooklyn NY. This one and the polenta are my favorites.

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Today I threw a whole bunch of things in the crockpot. Minimizing sodium, sugar and preservatives. Yeah, I didn’t skip the fat. Mostly the healthy fats, like olive oil. A layer of greens. A layer of beans. Some lovely beef short ribs from Boarman’s.

I admit it. If I didn’t have a year round CSA delivery, I probably wouldn’t have stuck to the “real food” diet. I would have been lazier and bought some ready made items. Having those vegetables hanging out in the fridge and on the counter reminds me daily that I need to continue this path. I don’t want my golden years to be consumed by health issues. I don’t want to take all sorts of prescriptions to combat something that I can prevent with a little effort.

Here’s to my feeling good about the progress. Here’s to getting better, while not feeling old. Here’s to that heart healthy red wine. Can’t forget that.

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Going for the Green

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In wineries. Black Ankle Vineyards is an amazing place to visit if you want to see a “green” winery.

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Sitting there on the patio, looking up at the living roof.

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Noting the solar panel, on your way down to the building. Once inside you can see the straw construction, and the reclaimed material in their counter tops, along with many other examples of how they continue to reflect their love of the land, and their dedication to sustainability.

We hadn’t been there in a while. It is one of the closest wineries to our home. One of the priciest in Maryland as well. They tend not to participate in festivals. They do a very good business with sales on site. In the past, we found very few wines available year round. They often sold out of the most popular varietals.

Friday night music, with hundreds picnicking on the patio and the lawn.

This visit, we went on a Sunday. Still, one very busy place.

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They are adding a new outdoor tasting area, to handle the crowds on popular days.

We did a tasting, and rejoined their wine club.

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Sat outside and enjoyed a glass of rose and of the Reserve Chardonnay. With a local cheese, from Cherry Glen. One of the two great goat cheese producers in Maryland.

Glad we took a day trip out there and reconnected. They are still making outstanding red and white wines from estate grown grapes.

ISO @mdsbest Wineries

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What makes an exceptional winery? Do we have any here in Maryland? I hear people say there aren’t any good wines from Maryland. Obviously, they aren’t looking in the right places.

These days we have many very good options to find viniferous grapes being grown, blended and bottled, to make very, very good wines. I just spent some time looking at this year’s Comptroller’s Cup wines, from the latest competition (not sure what the difference is between Comptroller’s Cup, Winemaker’s Choice, and Governor’s Cup, but we seem to have many different competitions).

It prompted my husband wanting to take a trip to Boordy. Maryland’s oldest winery.

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I actually wanted to go to Old Westminster, but they weren’t open during the day. They won the latest competition. For their Malbec.

We will get there sometime soon, as we haven’t been visiting for the past year or so.

As for Boordy, it was OK. Not great. They used to have a very good Chardonnay, but the latest vintage didn’t impress. We drove there to try the Albarino and the Viognier. Personally, Black Ankle makes a better Albarino and Big Cork, a much better Viognier.

It’s summer. White and pink wine season for us. Since I am a “locapour”, championing local wines, I try to stock my beverage refrigerator with light wines that do well in the heat of the summer.

In our experience so far, Black Ankle, Big Cork and Old Westminster are our closest wineries producing outstanding wine. And, right up there. Elk Run.

If you are into local foods, expand a bit and try local wines. You may be pleasantly surprised these days.

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… Plus You Get Strawberries*

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Strawberry season is upon us.

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Gorman Farms opened this past week. Details on their web site. TLV Tree Farm is bringing strawberries to the Howard County Farmers Markets in Oakland Mills, Miller Library, Maple Lawn and HoCo General Hospital.

Larriland has a notice up on the web site. Look for picking to start sometime next week. I will probably be there, as usual.

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It doesn’t take long to fill a basket.

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One basket is roughly ten pounds of berries. Two baskets make twenty pounds, where you get the price break. I come home and start processing. This is the easy part.

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Just hull them. Clean them up a little. Flash freeze them and put them in small bags or containers in the freezer. Perfect to drop into lemonade or wine or a cocktail.

A little harder. Make puree and freeze it in ice cube trays.

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Put one of these in a glass of wine. Chills it perfectly and makes your own wine cooler.

When we are ambitious, we make crisps and crumbles and pies and shortcake, but mostly we just enjoy the fresh berries.

*The quote from Ron Finley’s Guerrilla Gardener TED talk, a favorite of mine. “gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city, plus you get strawberries”

Grazing Meals

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Simple to set up. For those times when maybe you want a leisurely dinner, or you don’t want to cook very much, or you just want to try something different without a major commitment to one item.

Tonight, we did that. Overwhelmed by all the running around to get ready for this week’s projects in house repair and renovation, I just wanted something simple, yet really nice to eat.

Roots Market, Harris Teeter, my CSA, my freezer, and a couple of local wineries came to the rescue.

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I’m not sure if anything is as decadent as the contributions from Roots. Their mushroom pate. And their “Indian Candy”, a luscious smoked salmon. These two items were the inspiration today.

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The mushroom pate, vegan, made with walnuts, tamari, maple syrup, olive oil and thyme was perfect on their rosemary pistachio crisp breads.

The salmon, served with onion, lemon, capers, and fresh dill, on last week’s bread from She Wolf, courtesy of our CSA. Last week’s bread was a caraway rye.

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A plate of raw vegetables, the highlight being one of those watermelon radishes that Lancaster Farm Fresh has delivered twice now in our winter CSA.

Finally, fresh kielbasa from Pennsylvania. The last of the kielbasa purchased a few months ago on a trip to the Pittsburgh area.

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The fun part of the meal. Taste testing and comparing two local wines from Virginia. The latest offerings in Sauvignon Blanc from Linden Vineyards, and Glen Manor. Two of our favorite vineyards. Totally different styles. Glen Manor makes theirs in the style of New Zealand. Citrusy. Tart. 2014 was a good year for local wines. Then, there’s the Avenius single vineyard selection from Linden. Shari’s vineyard is situated on flint, giving her grapes the characteristics of a Fume Blanc. With those mineral notes, and much more austere.

It was interesting to compare and contrast how they paired against the three choices for dinner. You can’t go wrong with either wine with the salmon. The Avenius was a better match to the kielbasa. The Glen Manor to the mushroom pate.

If you want a great date night meal, find a couple of bottles of the same varietal wine. Pick up two or three things that go well with that varietal. Have your own grazing meal, relaxing and taking the time to savor the experience.

Date Nights

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With a local and small business influence. Do you do date nights? You know. Dinner and a movie. Or binge watching your favorite TV series. For us, we go out infrequently in the winter. Don’t want to deal with slick roads and deer.

We also find it interesting to put together a special meal. Maybe tapas. Maybe home cooked, but always using some of our favorite local foods.

Besides, we can put together one awesome meal at a fraction of the cost of eating out.

Take this week. Snowed in, for the most part. Many things to do around here. Not particularly the best time to head off across town.

We like to pick a special local wine. Like this one.

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You can build a meal around a very nice local white or red. Your preference. For us, we have four “go-to” wineries. Linden. Big Cork. Black Ankle. Old Westminster. We’ve always found their wines to be excellent. Yes, they are a bit pricey. All of them, but putting it in context, a bargain compared to buying wine in restaurants.

Consider this. A glass of house white may cost $7-$9 for a five ounce pour. Two glasses each over the course of dinner. $30-$40 before tax and tip. I can buy lovely wines like that Linden Hardscrabble for less than $30 after discount. At $30, a restaurant bottle of wine may be in the $10-12 retail range.

I start with a chosen wine. Build a meal around it. Our latest date night used 100% purchased foods. No cooking. No fussing. Just a couple of quick preparations. And I used small local sources for most of the food. I felt like I had created one of those small plate dinners like we enjoy at Pure Wine.

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This was it. Mushroom pate and spring rolls from Roots. I have tried to make my own pate and it’s OK, but not as good as Roots makes. The salmon. From Friends and Farms. Offered on a fresh catch special recently. That lovely watermelon radish. From our Lancaster Farm Fresh winter CSA. The bread, from Harris Teeter (only because we were told our CSA bread shares were victims of the blizzard). The bread was a Limited Edition Russian Black bread, made by their bakery.

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Sipping that big buttery Chardonnay while enjoying small tastes of fresh foods. Not a bad start to date night.

Total cost. Less than $60. Much less than going out.

Challenge yourself some Friday night. Pick a favorite local wine. Head over to Roots or Davids and see what looks good. Or, just pick up a rotisserie chicken. A few local cheeses. Maybe some chocolate for dessert. We love to have a red wine with dinner and finish off with a locally made chocolate like the ones from Salazon, made just north of us in Carroll County.

And rent a really good movie.