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Ruby

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The 40th Anniversary. According to Hallmark, it is Ruby. You know, incentive to buy cards and other things from that Hallmark store.

August 9th 1980. In 95+ degree heat. We got married.

We thought that we would be going away to celebrate but Covid-19 ruined those plans.

As our celebration, like we do for minor events where I cook and we open old wines, we decided to commemorate that Ruby theme by opening an old Port. From the year we were married.

Yeah, it’s no longer ruby red but it was really incredible. We bought these Ports from Wells Liquors in Baltimore. They were from the closed Brentwood Inn. We figured they would obviously survive for anniversaries far beyond what a bottle of wine could do.

I served the Port with a few lovely dark chocolate salted caramels from Sweet Cascades. We picked them up at the Wine Bin.

I made simple pan fried tenderloin filets. Bought at Boarman’s. Seared to perfection. Opened a Beringer reserve cabernet. Buttered fingerlings. Sliced heirloom tomatoes. Nothing difficult to make.

It’s been an adventure. Forty years together. These days far more time together since we don’t get out much. Not the way we intended to spend retirement but thankfully having a larger hone and a big yard we can get some alone time when we need it.

Let’s hope better times are coming. So we can go out and celebrate my husband’s 70th birthday later this year.

Napa and Sonoma

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I think if there was one place that we would love to live, and that we loved visiting, it was California wine country. For me, the combination of agriculture, culture, climate and activities made it one of our favorite vacation spots.

It depresses me to see it burning out of control.

We spent 10 days there, a decade ago. Rented a house. Visited wineries. Cooked. Grilled. Strolled through amazing farmer’s markets. Ate at awesome restaurants.

Chateau St. Jean. In the news now for the damage to their property.

It was one of the first places we visited. Picnic in the gardens while enjoying a glass of wine.

We went to over two dozen wineries that trip. Some of them were known because of our wine dinners at Iron Bridge.

Like Corley.

Family owned. Transplants from Virginia. We still get wines from their wine club, and we hope they are doing OK. They are between the Silverado Trail and Highway 29, fairly far north in the valley.

We first met them at a wine dinner in 2005. Out there, they remembered my husband and were so nice to take us everywhere on the property.

We made other friends out there. One, St. Helena Olive Oil. I would order their oil on line to be delivered here. They lost part of their production facility, although Peggy posted that her house was spared.

The impact on all of us. The loss of produce and fruit. Sonoma was a humongous producer of vegetables and fruit, for the US market.

US olive oils. Hopefully, those old, heavy producing olive trees survived. Otherwise, it could be years before production comes back to normal.

Avocados. Nuts. Citrus. Berries. The melting pot in Sonoma.

Makes me nervous when Florida and California have losses in citrus. Between the hurricane and these wildfires.

Add to it all, the disruption in income when all these businesses can’t open. For them, and their workers.

It’s been a crummy year here in the US, hasn’t it?

Watermelon Gazpacho

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Really. Excellent. Gazpacho.

All because we had it at The Turn House last week, so I had to try my own.

My first visit there, and review.

It’s a locally owned, farm to table menu. They graciously told us what was in the gazpacho, so I came home and tried my version of it.

Recipe: 4 cups watermelon, two large tomatoes, peeled and seeded. Equal amounts of red wine vinegar and olive oil. I used a couple of ounces of them. Half a cucumber, peeled and seeded. Your choice of how much hot pepper and sweet pepper. Two garlic cloves, minced. Salt. Pepper.

Make it to your taste. Your liking. I just throw things in a blender, and adjust.

Perfect for Buy Local Week. What’s not to love around here? It’s watermelon, cantaloupe, tomato and corn season in Maryland. They star in most of our meals. After all, the tomatoes are winning.

Five pounds today. They are making me work hard to preserve them.

Like these. Tomatoes, onion, garlic, pepper, olive oil, salt, pepper, a splash of sugar. Roasted. To put in the freezer to make winter that much more tolerable.

Dinner tonight.

The gazpacho. Cornish hens with local basil and butter. A potato from my CSA. A very good Virginia Viognier.

Buy Local Challenge nailed.

Summer Sizzle

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Yes, baby, it’s warm outside. Time to fire up the grill. Buy locally at the farmer’s markets. Look for refreshing light beverages to serve for dinner. Like craft beers.

Do you have a local liquor store that sells growlers full of light, interesting craft beers? The Wine Bin in nearby Ellicott City fills our growlers with locally produced beers, just right for dinner on the patio.

Maybe a step above. Like a daiquiri or a Dark and Stormy. Made with locally produced rums. From places similar to Lost Ark. Who, by the way is helping us at the Howard County Conservancy with a summer program “cocktail party” with famed Bug Man Dr. Mike Raupp. Stay tuned to see about that August program. In the meantime, check out their rums.

Yep, rum drinks with little umbrellas are awesome, but for us, the best summer drink is either a homemade Sangria, or a locally produced  rosé.

I stumbled upon a great blog post, listing a very large amount of Maryland dry rosé wines, which will help you find a perfect match for your summer sizzle meal. Here is the link.

Tame that summer heat. Don’t heat up the kitchen. Grill and chill.

“Meat” Me in Westminster

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I really miss having a weekly food delivery service, that provides me with locally sourced pasture raised meats. When we lost Friends and Farms, and the reasonably priced option of meats from Wayne Nell in PA, I scrambled while looking for an alternative that gave us something that flavorful, without costing a large amount of money.

Simply put, excellent quality in pasture raised meats isn’t inexpensive.

I discovered Evermore Farm in a roundabout way. I saw their post before Christmas featuring Rheb’s chocolates. They were located not far from one of my favorite year round farm stands, Baugher’s in Westminster. We took a trip out there, met the owner, and became a fan of their products. Their beef, pork and lamb were competively priced, and they were an outstanding product. Love their lamb merguez sausage.

Fast forward to the announcement of their CSA, a four month program, with small, medium and large shares. An option to buy chicken, and eggs. Delivery or farm pick up. I signed up too late for delivery, so we headed out to the farm for our first small share pickup. A good size for two people. 8-9 pounds of meat a month. Roughly $8-9 a pound, with much of what you are getting the more expensive cuts of meat, so it is worth the cost.

Not long after joining this meat CSA, we see that another favorite source, albeit almost as far away from us, Copper Penny Farm, is now offering a meat CSA. Two sizes. Small is 12 pounds and large is 25 pounds a month. A bit more than we would likely use, but a very good value for a family. They also have an egg option.

For us, we did add the poultry and egg option from Evermore.

We could have chosen three dozen a month, but two dozen is perfect for the two of us.

I have already planned my monthly trips. Next month, pick up CSA and hit Baugher’s for vegetable plants for my community garden. June, pick up CSA and head to Old Westminster Winery for my quarterly wine club pick up. July? Head over to Baugher’s orchards to pick peaches. Between the insulated bags, and my various ice packs, we can do this.

 

In Vino Veritas

Spring came to our area last weekend. It doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. It was a perfect weekend for a winery trip, and we didn’t even have to leave the state.

Maryland has over 60 wineries now. When we first got married and interested in local wine, there wasn’t much out there. Byrd, Boordy, Basignani, Fiore, Elk Run, Linganore, and Montbray are the ones I remember. Back then, we were looking to buy a few Maryland wines to have with our wedding anniversary dinners. Knowing that most of the wines weren’t made to age for decades, we focused on whites for the first few years. We also looked for those specially made reds, or dessert wines, to get us through our second decade of marriage. Byrd made decent reds in 1980. So did Elk Run. Not much else. Cabernet Sauvignon wasn’t widely planted in the state. Now, it’s different.

On the Maryland Wine website, I see that we’ve visited 14 of the 68 active wineries. Quite a list to ponder future destinations.

For this “trip”, we went to two of the closest wineries to our home in Central Maryland. Black Ankle and Old Westminster. We have been to these wineries before. I have written about their wines in my local dining challenges, and just in my locavore posts.

Why were we visiting wineries this weekend? Black Ankle, because it was wine club pick up weekend. Old Westminster, because the weather was gorgeous and we hadn’t seen the new tasting room, which opened last year.

If you have good local wineries where you live, you might want to consider their wine clubs. There are many different models. Look into them, you may find one that fits your budget, and your desired types of wine. Also, compare, some clubs are extremely flexible about exchanges and substitutions.

The clubs are very popular. They also give you special events, and small lot wines not available for general purchase. We belong to three in Maryland. Big Cork, Black Ankle, and as of yesterday, Old Westminster.

Why these three? Convenience of pick up, flexibility, and quality/consistency of product. There are quite a few excellent wineries in the state these days. For us, it came down to location coupled with selection. We enjoy the events at the local wineries. We tend to take picnic lunches or dinners with us when we go to get our quarterly allocation.

All three of these wineries allow you to bring in food, and have ample space for you to picnic on their grounds. I finally figured out what drew us to this model. It was simple. Feeling as if we had returned to the days where you could pack a picnic, spread out a blanket, listen to good music, eat good food and drink good wine. We lost that model in our communities and our parks. Restrictions on alcohol, due to liability issues, mostly.

But I digress. We had a lovely weekend around here. It warmed up enough on Friday afternoon for us to take a small cooler with some salads, fruit and yogurt and head out to Mt. Airy. Black Ankle is open from noon until 8:30 PM on Fridays.

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Every Friday night they have live music, year round. Winters, they are indoors. In good weather, they set up out front and tables, chairs and picnic blankets cover the lawn.

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Second Saturday nights, every month, are member only music events. After the winery is closed to the general public. Black Ankle has over 2300 wine club members, so there is always a crowd. A much younger crowd than what we used to see at wineries. Which I think is a great thing. A few decades back, we would only encounter people older than us at winery events. Nice to see the resurgence in interest in good wines. Black Ankle’s wines are pricey. But worth it. Consider a Friday night there as a better choice for dinner and music. Yes, the wines begin at $28 a bottle. They are a bargain compared to spending that much in a chain restaurant for a bottle that retails for $6-10. They are also very well made. All of them.

Yesterday, we headed up to Old Westminster to visit that new tasting room.

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So did many others as seen in the picture taken as we were leaving, just before closing time at 5pm. The building is sleek, clean lined and there is adequate space to host events for the over 1000 club members here. A relative newcomer to the Maryland wine scene, Old Westminster began selling wine less than 5 years ago. They make very, very good sparkling wines. One of only a handful of wineries in our state that make sparklers. It’s the reason we joined their club. Limited numbers of their premium wines.

We will be getting our first trio of wine in March. Looking forward to it. Also interested in food truck Fridays at the winery. They should be fun. Coal fired pizza with wine, anyone?

Stay tuned this spring and summer when we wander the state to see what else is out there.

Simple Indulgences

Just in time for Valentine’s Day. A compilation of some of our latest simple meals. Made with high quality local items and consisting of less than six ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).

I will be cooking at home again tomorrow to avoid the overcrowded restaurants. It will be simple also.

You can easily make these at home.

I did parsnip fries the other day. I loved them so much we will be making them tomorrow again.

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Baked in a 400 degree oven. Just cut the parsnips, lay them on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary. Mix them before putting in the oven. Roast for about 12 minutes. Put them on a paper towel to drain. We had them with a yogurt based dressing for dipping.

I will be making halibut, maybe on the grill like I did these a while back.

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The weather here is going to be close to 50 degrees tomorrow. It’s time to check out the grill and move things back outdoors, as spring isn’t that far away. This grill method is very easy. Minimal seasoning. Brushed with oil. I used some of my pesto cubes from the freezer for this meal, but you can always buy a small jar of good pesto. Or, just whirl some parsley or basil in the processor with olive oil, salt and pepper.

We will have assorted cheeses from my CSA, and do another of our comparison wine flights, like we did here with two local Sauvignon Blancs. These were from Virginia. Glen Manor is made in a New Zealand style. It has that pineapple-y citrus-y taste. It goes well with seafood, and with omelets, and of course, with cheese. The Linden Avenius, made more in a French style, flinty and with a bit more acid on the finish. We served these wines with a mushroom omelet. And with an aged Gruyere cheese.

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Tomorrow, I am thinking of serving two Viogniers for comparison. More on our final decisions when I post again, after Valentine’s Day.

You may want to try a simple meal at home, instead of going out. Take your time. Dine by candlelight. Make something with just a few ingredients.

Change is Hard

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First of all, Happy New Year! I have been fairly busy with the painting around here, and haven’t kept up the blog. At least I remembered to change the copyright notice date to the current year. Hopefully, I can remember to write the correct year on all these checks we keep writing.

As for the past, current and future, I admit, not sorry to see 2016 go away. To us, 2016 brought Medicare, Social Security and lots of other reminders of getting older. Like realization that bad weather is worse when you aren’t a spring chicken anymore. Last year’s blizzard and tornado proved to be problems for us. In minor ways, but still problems.

We learned that we had to change things. Make things more accessible. Eliminate possible accident sources. Update bathroom, kitchen and other interior spaces. All these things are disruptive. Sometimes I think even more so because we are retired and here most days. We didn’t get to run away to the office and come home to the chaos only at night. Or, have the luxury like those on-HGTV people who could stay elsewhere while their houses were under renovation. I understand why people resist doing renovations. It can literally stress you out to the point of wanting to give it up. Yes, the results are nice, but living in complete disarray gets to me.

Every item from my pantry is in bags and boxes on my family room floor. Cooking is difficult.

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Add to it, the sheer shock factor of going to a bright yellow.

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Let’s just say I really like it. My better half? He’s still adjusting to the major color change.

We at least had New Year’s Eve dinner even while working around it all. I have to say that this recipe is a keeper, and it was a simple meal served with an excellent bubbly.

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Emeril Lagasse’s Oyster Stew. Recipe from online. Oysters from the Jessup Seafood Market. A side salad. Champagne savored from beginning of cooking through to a glass just before we gave up and crashed around 11:30. Yep, we couldn’t make it until midnight.

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Here’s to a better brighter 2017! At least my kitchen will be bright and cheery.

The Hurrier I Go …

… the behinder I get. Credit to Lewis Carroll.

When did Thanksgiving creep up on us? Ten days to go. Halfway through November already. Time just flies by, and nothing much is getting done on time.

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I finally ordered my turkey. Went to pick out the wines I will take to the family get together. Did my own planning for when we will do our turkey. I am one of those who really loves the cooking and baking and coming together to share a traditional dinner, but in our family, Thanksgiving is my brother’s day to shine, so to speak, as the turkey maker and the central point of family and friends gathering.

This year, our little turkey (we order a 10-12 pound bird and pick it up from the farm on the Monday before the holiday). Less crowded, and I can brine it Tuesday and cook it Wednesday. For us, dinner where we open a really good Pinot Noir and share the best parts of the dark meat is our Thanksgiving at home. With totally non traditional side dishes. Things we like, maybe crispy Brussels sprouts, creamed parsnips and onions, or a leek casserole.

As usual, we are using a local farm, Maple Lawn, as the source for our turkey. Here, you have many options. Go to the farm and pick up the size bird you ordered. Instead of a whole bird, you want just the bone in turkey breast. Or, a smoked breast for serving up sliced and used for many sandwiches.

This year I did order the small turkey, and a new item for us, the bone in breast. I will also pick up a package of drumsticks for the freezer, to use for soups in the future. The bone in breast will be frozen to use later. I like going to the farm. The prices are great. $2.30 a pound for fresh turkey. $6 a pound for the bone in breast. Cash or check only.

You can also order from local stores, like Boarman’s, Whole Foods Columbia, and David’s Market. They tack on a surcharge, and yes, you can use plastic to pay for it. Still the same turkeys as we pick up directly.

If you want to find local turkeys where you live, you can use the marylandsbest web site and search. Other states have similar resources.

For us, too, we like to serve local wine with our dinners. I will be taking local white wines from Maryland to my family celebration, and we will be opening an Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir from Virginia at our little dinner. Our favorites for family meals are local dry rosé wines, maybe a Riesling, or this year, we are taking one sweeter wine for those who don’t share our passion for dry wines, a “Russian Kiss” from Big Cork. Made with grapes native to Russia.

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We were up at Big Cork yesterday to pick up our quarterly wine club wines, and then, a great detour. One I tend to forget to make. If you want to add one local item to your dinner, think about ice cream.

South Mountain Creamery is on the Maryland Ice Cream Trail. And it is on the back way home from Big Cork. We got to watch the cows gather for their afternoon milking.

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I got some salted caramel ice cream to have for our Thanksgiving, along with some cheese, yogurt and I found a small beef brisket in the frozen meat case. I miss having South Mountain at our Glenwood market, but they stopped attending the market in favor of weekly deliveries of milk, cheese, meat and other items, door to door across our county.

As our largest supplier of the Thanksgiving food items, our CSA will deliver next Tuesday. Who knows what new items will become a side dish.

I need to end this post, and get things done. Or I will be even more “behinder” than I am now.

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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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