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Category Archives: Wine

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.

They Say It’s My Birthday

Or at least it was, yesterday.

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My better half even remembered to get the card, the flowers and a tiny box (just the right size, 6 truffles) of chocolates. He is pretty good about remembering dates, and almost as good at getting the little things that make it special.

Sixty three years old. I have to admit, I think there is some truth to how quickly the years seem to pass as you get older. I am amazed at how fast I feel that 2015 went by.

We have lived in this house almost 11 years. I realized it is the second longest time I spent at one address, in my entire life. The 23 years in our Columbia townhouse is significant. I wonder if I will spend 12 more years here, until I am 75. Who knows? It certainly is peaceful and lovely out here.

I grew up a city girl. Twenty two years. Then, 30 years in suburban Columbia. Commuting elsewhere after the first year of living there. Eleven years now a rural route resident.  Almost half that time as a retiree.

Reflections of why we did what we did in life. And speculation about what we want to do in the future. Those things always seem to come up on birthdays and anniversaries.

A few highlights of our dinner and evening.

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A very simple appetizer. Homemade bagel crisps (easy, just thinly slice a Wegmans plain bagel, then toast it). Served with Firefly Farms chevre and housemade smoked salmon from Bardines Smokehouse in western PA. The smoked salmon was picked up on one of our day trips. To Petrolia PA to buy some tower accessories for my husband. He gets to go look for radio stuff. I get to stop at someplace to indulge my locavore and small business habit.

We were actually there looking for fresh kielbasa. Theirs is award winning and we have to compare it to the homegrown style in my husband’s PA birthplace. It’s good. It’s close, but not as garlicky as what his hometown favorite is. For us, we have to have that homemade kielbo for New Year’s.

I can’t let the opportunity pass to say something about this wine. It is a six year old Chardonnay from my favorite VA winery, Linden. If you closed your eyes, or covered the bottle, you would not know it to be a VA wine. It tastes just like a good white Burgundy. Not premier cru, but up there. A perfect mate for the tartness of the chevre and the richness of the smoked salmon.

Dinner, too, was fairly simple, yet elegant. I put beef short ribs over a bed of white beans, onions, Brussels sprouts and mushroom gravy. Slow cooked it for six hours in the oven.

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Not the best light for pictures. I served lightly glazed carrots with the beef. A yellow one, a white one and an orange one. CSA carrots come in all the colors of the rainbow around here. I am working my way through that full root vegetable drawer since the end of the fall CSA. Good thing carrots last a long time.

The splurge for my birthday dinner. The 2012 RdV Rendezvous. Just released in October. Quite an austere wine. In the manner of a Bordeaux, it does best when paired with food. The beef short ribs did OK as a match. This wine needs a few more years to mellow. Still, it’s a lovely balanced wine. Who would guess it’s from Delaplane Virginia.

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We finished this wine later in the evening with one of those truffles, while watching the Kennedy Center Honors. As for the Linden, here’s hoping the half we didn’t drink survived a night in the fridge. That’s the thing about older wines. They don’t tend to hang in there for the next day.

This birthday, like many of ours, was spent here at home. Leisurely. Relaxed. Full of great food and wine. Easy to make dishes. I really enjoy putting together a make ahead meal, and spending time just having uninterrupted conversations with my better half. While also enjoying locally produced beef, vegetables and wine. Not a bad way to turn 63.

 

Sixty Five Years Young

Yesterday. My better half’s very significant birthday. Normally, I cook. We open a special bottle of wine and have a leisurely dinner at home.

This year, we celebrated in a bigger way. With a dinner at Bistro Blanc.

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Paired with wines from our cellar, and a few from our friend, Raj Kathuria, who has always made Bistro Blanc a favorite place for us to dine. We had friends from radio, and friends from wine dinners join us. “Marrying” his two favorite hobbies.

Chef Diego met with me last week to put together a menu. Using many local items. Very small plates. Paced so we could talk and laugh and enjoy the company. I only took the phone out to record the very last course. The small treats finishing the meal.

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Peanut butter and vanilla macarons, and bourbon toffee bonbons. The dessert courses were accompanied by one of our very old bottles of vintage port.

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From the year we were married. Bought decades ago at Wells Liquor in Baltimore, from the liquidation of the wine cellar of the Brentwood Inn. On very special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays, we have opened four of the six bottles we splurged on in the early 1980s. Back when we started putting wines under the steps in our town house basement. Most of what is here now is local. Good stuff from Linden, Black Ankle, RdV, Glen Manor, Barboursville and more.

This was the first time I ever put together a private dinner party. Bistro Blanc did an incredible job. We used the private dining area that holds up to sixteen people. We have been in that room a number of times for their wine dinners.

Thanks to all our friends for the pleasure of their company and for the thoughtful gifts and cards given to my husband. It was a memorable birthday in so many ways. Now, he just has to finish signing up for Medicare. Does that make us officially “old”?

The Thanksgiving Wine Decisions

From the local perspective.

I always try to serve local wines with our Thanksgiving meal. Since I go to the trouble of getting a local fresh turkey, and I have local organic CSA vegetables around here, I like to make the whole meal local. Sort of like those original Pilgrim meals. Food from near where you live.

I will be picking up my turkey at Maple Lawn this year. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I feel like being part of that tradition, or really, just maybe I want to get a few other items to put into the freezer for later this winter.

As for the wine selection, I am slightly changing my candidates this year.

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I am leaning towards serving the Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir. We have yet to make it down south of Charlottesville to visit this winery, but we have bought their wines at Early Mountain, north of Charlottesville. I will probably take the Linden to my brother’s house, as it is light and refreshing.

I considered that dry Petit Manseng.

For red wine drinkers, the Big Cork reds aren’t that heavy yet, as they still have younger vines. Their Cabernet Franc is light enough to match with turkey.

Big Cork is a Maryland winery. Another good local Maryland winery to pick from, is Old Westminster.

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They are one of the closest wineries to our home. They make some lovely wines, like their white blends. You can buy them at the Wine Bin in Ellicott City.

No matter what you choose, pick one or two local wines to serve. Make it a real Maryland Thanksgiving.

The Antietam Highlands Wine Trail

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Something to do on these lovely autumn days.

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Fall foliage season is fast approaching. I picked up this brochure at Big Cork a few weeks ago. The offerings interested me.

Like the Meadery and Ciderworks.

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Filed away to try out on a weekend soon. But today, the first sunny day in a long time, we ventured out to taste at Knob Hall.

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Just west of Hagerstown. They were harvesting red grapes and sorting, when we got there.

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And, you know what? They make some lovely wines. Not very expensive. But, really well done. The tasting room is in a 200+ year old bank barn. They make one awesome cheese and charcuterie plate. We enjoyed their Chambourcin Reserve for a late lunch.

For those who love good wine, this is a very nice place to check out.

We will be heading back out there to try out the other offerings just west of Frederick. Who can resist the pull of the Appalachian mountains in the fall?