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Deviled Eggs with Wine

Living near the city of angels was anything but angelic.  As most of you know, my life has been a patchwork quilt of different cities and friendships due to an unstable childhood.  I recall people from my past, but often have a hard time placing where I met them.  Those early years of my life were like a roller coaster ride filled with many highs and lows.  One minute I was enjoying my life living next to the beach and the next I was in the inner city trying to toughen up.  It wasn't all bad, however.  Living near the beach for a steady 4 years was one of the best times I can remember.  I had a group of close friends that I spent almost every day with.  One night we had a slumber party at my friend Vanessa's house and snuck out in the middle of the night to go teepeeing.  We grabbed a box of eggs out of the fridge and countless rolls of toilet paper.  Don't ask me why but we decided to tee-pee our elementary school.  It sounded like a great idea as we all dug through Vanessa's closet to find something black to wear.  I had always been a good girl and hated to get in trouble, but suddenly I was excited about being bad.  As we walked a couple blocks toward our school, we ducked behind parked cars so that no one saw us.  Upon arriving, we all giggled as we threw egg after egg and toilet paper roll upon toilet paper roll at the teacher, we hated most classroom.  This wasn't the first time Ms. Shigeta had been teepeed and for good reason if you ask me.  We were so full of adrenaline after stringing the last bit of toilet paper that we ran home as fast as we could.  Vanessa quieted us as we came upon her house, hoping her mother wouldn't notice we left.  It was a night to remember in a sea full of good and bad memories.  Luckily, no one ever found out what we did.  However, it was the talk of the school the following Monday morning.  We all kept tight lips as we listened to others gossip about what happened.  Although I'm no longer out teepeeing in the middle of the night, I still enjoy being devilish with eggs.  Only this time it's a food preparation, accompanied by a fantastic glass of wine.

No party is complete without deviled eggs to snack on.  They're fairly simple to make or you can pick up a ready made package at your local grocery store.  I always wondered what made these eggs "deviled."  According to Wikipedia, "The term "deviled" in reference to food, was in use in the 18th century, with the first known print reference appearing in 1786. In the 19th century, it came to be used most often with spicy or zesty food, including eggs prepared with mustard, pepper or other ingredients stuffed in the yolk cavity."  I must have a devilish side to me because I love spicy food!  To accompany deviled eggs, I recently chose Nino Franco "Rustico" Prosecco from the Veneto, Italy.  Prosecco is a sparkling wine and grape varietal that is native to this area of Italy.  It is served at nearly every wedding and Sunday brunch in this region.  This wine is somewhat reminiscent of champagne being in that most Proseccos display a fruity, floral character and not the crispness of acidity, layered flavors and massive body of excellent champagne.  Typical Prosecco is just fruity and floral with often, a touch of sugar.  Although white peaches and flowers are found in the wine, it has a steely and rich mouthfeel with incredible acidity.  After sampling a bite of the food and then a sip of the wine, I enjoy how the acidity in the wine stands up to the sharpness of the mustard.  At first, the fruit in the wine is most noticeable.  The flavor of the wine then suddenly drops off and you taste the egg white more so than anything.  I like how the mouthfeel of both mirror each other, creating a creamy texture on the tongue.  Finally, the bubbles help to wash the oily texture of the egg off the palate and you have a pairing that is playing at the same volume.  Just like the perfect couple, they compliment each other.  Cheers!

Wine featured in this photo: Nino Franco "Rustico" Prosecco NV (means Non-Vintage)

Cheese & Peanut Butter Crackers with Wine

I'm a lover, not a fighter.  Nowhere was this more evident than in my childhood.  I can recall coming home from school and crying to my mother about how mean kids could be.  I was extremely sensitive and would get my feelings hurt over just about anything.  To make matters worse, I had gaped teeth and was teased about it constantly.  I just wanted to be liked and fit in.  I had always found the space between my front teeth to be something that made me unique and a source of fun since I would shoot water through it.  Suddenly, I went from being a cute little girl to an awkward pre-teen.  I tried to hide my gap by purposely smiling with my mouth closed or holding my lips over my front teeth.  Fortunately, this didn't stop boys from liking me, but it did take a toll on my self-confidence.  After being called "gapy" for what seemed to be the millionth time by a boy at school one day, I begged my mother for braces.  I was only 10 and I knew she didn't have the money, but I wanted to stop the pain.  My mother suddenly opened up about her own experiences of being teased in school and said these famous words, "Honey, sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you."  Words did hurt, but I learned to look at the situation differently.  I developed a wall of steel and no matter what anyone said to me, I tried to only believe what I thought was the truth.  It was the beginning of a defensive mechanism, as well as streak of stubbornness, choosing to believe only what I wanted to believe about myself.  Luckily, a few years later my grandmother financed braces for me and I was able to put that skeleton in the closet.  As I entered a new high school in a new city, no one knew that I ever had gaped teeth.  Although that didn't stop kids from finding something to tease me about!  Sometimes I wonder if I still had gaped teeth, would I shoot wine through the center of them? Hopefully not, since it wasn't very lady-like and would be a waste of my precious vino.

Cheese and peanut butter crackers remind me very much of my mother.  On a recent trip to Canada, I brought along a few packages for her to munch on.  She's always loved the snack and it's one of the reasons I chose to pair it with wine.  As I watched her munch on the crackers, I decided to show her how they too can work with wine.  As soon as we arrived in Vancouver, I searched for a local wine shop.  Low and behold they had exactly what I was looking for, the 2008 Okanogan Estate and Vineyards Gewurztraminer (geh-VURTZ-tra-MEEN-er) from Washington state.  The wine is off-dry (slightly sweet) with characteristic notes of honeysuckle, lychee and orange blossoms.  I tell my mom to stick her nose in the glass and see if she can pick any of these scents out.  She likes to garden so she immediately smells the orange blossom.  Then, I tell her to take a bite of the food, followed by a sip of the wine.  I want her to notice how the saltiness of the cracker and peanut butter is contrasted beautifully by the sugar in the wine.  The honey, peaches, apricot and lime flavors also help to off-set the saltiness of the food.  The honey-like texture of the wine is mirrored by the creaminess of the snack.  Finally, the wine has an incredibly clean finish that helps to wash all the flavors off the tongue.  My mom was impressed by how much she likes the pairing.  Although, I figured she would since it's one of her favorite snacks and the wine is extremely easy to drink.  I hope you'll enjoy it as well!  Cheers!

Gimme Some Sugar with Wine

I said yes!  My boyfriend of 3 years dropped to one knee and proposed on my birthday, just weeks ago.  The day started out like any other birthday.  I bought a beautiful new dress and headed to my favorite nail salon.  I couldn't believe I was turning 29.  I remember being 9 like it was yesterday and here I was all grown up.  As I rushed to get dressed, we jumped in the car and drove to Simon's restaurant at the Palms.  Our friends were awaiting us and greeted me with open arms and huge smiles.  We sat down, ordered a drink and chose our menu items.  As I enjoyed the food and silly jokes with friends, I noticed Brandon was a little more quiet than normal.  I asked if everything was ok and he nodded yes.  Soon, the waiter brought out dessert and I blew out my candles.  To be honest, I don't really remember what I wished for.  I just remember that when the check arrived, there was a coupon for $25 off drinks at Alize on the 51st floor.  Alize is where Brandon and I had our first official date.  Still, I had no idea of what was in store.  As we traveled up the elevator, everyone was aware of what was going to happen but me.  Once inside the restaurant, we sat down at the bar and I ordered a glass of vintage Port in celebration of my birthday.  I had only taken one sip when the manager of the restaurant walked around the back of the bar with what looked like a giant scroll and presented it to me.  After another hard look, I realized it was a massive fortune cookie.  He sat it down on the bar and Brandon looked at me with a huge grin on his face.  I pulled out the fortune and it read, "Courtney Rich - Will you marry me?"  I smiled so hard it hurt!  Then, he bent down on one knee and took a ring out of his pocket.  "Courtney, you know I love you with all my heart and you know I want to spend my life with you.  Will you marry me?"  I don't even remember saying yes!  It all happened so quickly and as I started to tear up, I was in shock at how beautiful the ring was.  He had chosen it himself and the only thing I could utter was, "oh my God!"  It was a moment I had dreamt about since I was a little girl only even better than I could have ever imagined.

With planning a wedding comes so many questions.  The question I get asked almost more than any other is, "What wine pairs with wedding cake?"  To answer that, I employed the help of celebrity cake designers and local boutique cake studio, "Gimme Some Sugar."  "Gimme Some Sugar" is unlike any other cake shop you're used to.  They can design a cake into just about anything you desire from Louis Vuitton bags to gigantic diamond rings and everything in between.  Stars like Kim Kardashian, Kid Rock, Puff Daddy and Paris Hilton have all enjoyed their cakes.  Their cakes have also graced the pages of magazines such as "US Weekly" and "InTouch".  What makes "Gimme Some Sugar" so unique is the quality and affordability of their work, accompanied by its delicious flavor.  And how many of us have seen a pretty cake on display only to be later disappointed by how bland and boring it is?  You can choose from not only a variety of cake flavors, but also a variety of cake fillings and create your own combination of flavors.  They use nothing but fresh ingredients and bake your cake on demand for you, which I can only imagine is a feat with how many orders they have on the table at one time.  Since June is the most traditional month to get married, I chose the Luscious Lemonberry from their "D'luxe Cake Combinations."  The wine you should select for your wedding really depends on the flavor and filling of the cake and your budget.  Conundrum is the perfect wine for "Gimme Some Sugar's" Luscious Lemonberry cake.  It's a blend of several white grapes from California.  After a bite of the cake and then a sip of the wine, I immediately love the balance of weight.  Both the wine and food are round and creamy, mirroring each other.  The lemon flavors found in the cake are heightened by the lime zest in the wine.  The tropical fruit flavors play nicely off the raspberries and the vanilla flavors found both in the cake and wine complement each other nicely.  Conundrum has incredible acidity which not only works to match the tart raspberry and lemon flavors of the cake, but also helps to cleanse the palate in between bites.  For more information on "Gimme Some Sugar" and an incredible gallery of their work, please visit their website: http://gimmesomesugarlv.com/.  If you should need help with what wine to pair with a particular wedding cake flavor, please e-mail me: courtney@quitWINEing.com!  Cheers!

Hungry Man with Wine

We've all seen the commercial.  Two guys in a storm laying sand bags talking about what they had for dinner.  One says he had a Hungry Man dinner that equaled up to a pound of food.  The other guy says he had a sliver of trout spritzed with lemon and baby carrots as he gets blown away by the storm.  "Should of had Hungry Man!" the narrator proclaims.  As I strolled down the grocery aisle thinking of what would be fun to pair with wine in the frozen food aisle, I couldn't resist grabbing the Hungry Man dinner.  Although I'm not a huge fan of frozen dinners, I chuckled at the thought of it.  "Wine and frozen food?  Why not?"  I thought to myself.  I want everyone alive to enjoy wine, even if that means you're pouring a great glass of something special with a Hungry Man dinner.  And because this meal only costs around three dollars a package, you'll have plenty of money left over to splurge on the good stuff, vino!

Can you imagine the scene if wine was included in a Hungry Man commercial?  As a big burly man throws his frozen dinner in the microwave he goes to the kitchen drawer, pulls out a corkscrew and very delicately removes the cork from a fine bottle of wine.  I love it!  The Salisbury Steak Hungry Man dinner calls for an equally rustic wine to match its appeal.  After sampling several wines with this dish, the 2008 Tres Picos Grenache from Spain did the trick.  The wine has intense aromas of black fruit and wild strawberries laced with a hint of earth, smoked meat and black pepper.  The wine has a vibrant acidity helping it to stand up to the salty brown gravy sauce drenched over the meat.  The Hungry Man Salisbury steak isn't a very thick piece of meat either.  Grenache is also a somewhat lighter style of red wine mirroring the weight of the meat.  Many people say that Grenache is like Pinot Noir kicked up a notch.  The meaty and peppery notes in the wine play off the flavors in the food and the fruity acidity helps to wash it all down.  Other wines to try with a Salisbury Steak Hungry Man dinner are Pinot Noir (esp. with good acidity like New Zealand or Oregon to stand up to the salty gravy), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon (esp. from WA), Bordeaux blends, fruity styles of Shiraz, Dolcetto and Barbera.  Cheers!