Monday, August 3, 2015

Great red wines for summertime BBQs: Motto

I recently discovered a new wine that I would definitely reccomend for your summertime BBQs and get togethers. Motto is a collection of distinct, dark, rich wines from California that offers a new take on California wine. The wines are dark and bold, yet fruit-forward.
Aside from being great, bold reds that all pair well with food, they have interesting names that caught my attention: Unabashed, Gung Ho and Backbone. But today I'll focus on Gung Ho, as this one was my favorite...
This Red Blend is full of contrast—rich, yet delicate; fruity, yet structured; soft floral aromas and flavors of blueberry pie.  Lots of character and complexity here and a price point ($15) that makes it a perfect take-along to a summertime dinner party.  Any of these three would pair well with burgers, grilled chicken or salmon. The Motto collection is now available nationwide and at

BadA** Beer Fest at Tampa Bay Brewing Co

Beer is your friend. This is a true statement.

...and it's the motto of Tampa Bay Brewing Company.
I was pretty excited to find out that they were hosting their BadA** Beer Fest at their new location on Race Track Rd this past Friday, July 31. Some say the location is in Westchase, some say it's Oldsmar.... Either way, I'm happy we have craft beer on my side of town. 
What a cool event!  Tampa Bay Brewing Company brought the annual BadAss Beerfest to the site of its second location. A crowd of 3,500 attended.The craft beer festival, which also functioned as the grand opening of the new brewpub at 13937 Monroe Business Park, coincided with BrewCo's 20th birthday as well as a lunar blue moon. To celebrate, the Full Moon Madness anniversary brew was released during the event, and each guest got to take home 16-ounce can of this new "subtropical porter."
 My favorite beer discovery of the night was TBBC's Reef Donkey, a rye-hopped American Pale Ale made using a "secret selection of hops" to give this nice dry beer a lemon/lime aroma and citrus & slight tropical fruit flavor.

This is quite the facility. Outside, there are tables with built-in firepits and an outdoor bar. It was super-crowded and tough to get any good pics of this part of the event. 
There was live music from the band Stormbringer,  beer tastings from 40 different area breweries, food trucks and more. The restaurant at the brewery opens today and I can't wait to check it out. I was told the menu was similar, but not exactly the same as menu at the location in Ybor City.

Overall, an awesome event for Tampa Bay craft beer enthusiasts and I look forward to trying the food here on my next visit, paired with a Reef Donkey of course. Cheers!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Salmon Craze - and Liberated Cabernet

We just got back from a trip to Oregon to celebrate our friends' wedding. 
What an incredibly beautiful, pristine landscape and the food....Oh my goodness. Farm-to-table is simply the way of life and one of my favorite things was the smoked salmon you can find just about everywhere you go.  One of my favorites was this Kale and Spinach Salad with Smoked Salmon from Pacific Pizza and Brew in Bend.

Another was this grilled salmon dish from Southpark Seafood in Portland.
The salmon in this part of the country is amazingly fresh and tasty. So when we got back yesterday I was immediately craving -- yes, more salmon. To the grocery store I went and I found some fresh/never frozen sockeye salmon fillets - and they were actually on sale this week: bonus!

Here's 2 salmon recipes I've posted before. I've made both this week, on our salmon kick!

Recipe: Honey Dijon Glazed Salmon

Recipe: Lemon Glazed Salmon
We paired the salmon with a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon called "Liberated." 
This wine's slogan is "Free yourself from convention" - so while I probably should've paired my Oregon-inspired meal with an Oregon wine, I threw caution to the wind and tried this Sonoma County red. It has notes of black cherry and currant, with "aggressive tannins" and is "soft and rich on the palate" (from the winemaker's notes and I agree!) It paired really well with the strong flavors of the sockeye salmon. You can find it for about $20 at Total Wine. What are your favorite ways to cook salmon?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Wine Dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill

This Tuesday night I was lucky to be a guest at a Wine Dinner at Carrrabba's. Kicking this off with full disclosure, I work for their parent company, in another division - but I truly love Carrabba's food and opinions here on my blog are 100% my own.
These special event dinners are held each time Carrabba's launches a new set of menu items - they are created for those who love great Italian food and wines paired with each course.  Here is what the menu looked like for this night, below. Four courses paired with four wines, for $40. It's a value price point for all the great food and wine you get to enjoy -- and also a really cool wine experience, as the beverage manager presented each wine and explained why they each were chosen to pair with the selected courses.

First Course: Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp
Wine Pairing: Apothic Red Blend

Second Course: Italian Salad
Wine Pairing: Noble Vineyards 242 Sauvignon Blanc

Third Course: "The Johnny" served with Cavatappi Amatriciana
Wine Pairing: Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon

Fourth Course: Mini Cannoli 
Wine Pairing: Carrabba's signature Sangria

The Prosciutto-wrapped shrimp were delicious and served on a bed of orzo with roasted red peppers and Kalamata olives. This and a basket of bread with olive oil for dipping, and we were all happy wineaux from the moment this meal began.
The salad course (not pictured) was paired with 242 Sauvingnon Blanc from Noble Vineyards. Crisp, light and refreshing. I'm not sure  I've ever had a wine specifically paired with a salad course before. This was a really nice touch!
The Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon was the pairing with "The Johnny" which is a combination entree of wood-grilled chicken topped with sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, fresh basil and lemon butter sauce -- and Sirloin Lombardo Marsala. There were many bold and delicious flavors on this plate,and a full-bodied red was the ideal complement to stand up to the entree course.

Side note, I love Cavatappi Amatriciana! Pasta is my happy food and Carrabba's really knows how to make a great sauce. At this point we were more than stuffed but there was still dessert to be enjoyed! I took my Mini Cannoli home to share.
What a great night! In the Carrabba's kitchen they say "There is no love more sincere than the love of food." I definitely agree with that - great meals like this can really bring people together around the table. I highly recommend you keep your eyes peeled for the next Wine Dinner. And to check out all the yummy photos everyone was tweeting and posting that night, check out #vinodinner on Twiter and Instagram.

Which pairing looks like it would be your favorite? Do you want to attend the next Carrabba's Wine Dinner? Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wine Wednesday: H3 Chardonnay

Here's a great white wine at a value price point that is a must-have for the summertime: H3 Chardonnay 2013. Columbia Crest H3 wines were created to celebrate the winery's rich heritage in the Horse Heaven Hills as well as its innovative winemaking and sustainable practices.
This is a medium-bodied Chardonnay with aromas of spiced pear and freshly sliced apples. Hints of coconut join flavors of pineapple, grapefruit and oak, ending with a vanilla finish. In other words - delicious!
I paired it with a 1 lb. thick-cut tuna steak that we coated with sesame seeds and seared for just about 90 seconds on each side. On the side, a simple cucumber salad -- just cucumbers slices and tossed in rice vinegar and a little sugar.
The H3 Chardonnay's fruity notes complemented, but didn't overpower the tuna. This meal was so easy to make, and I couldn't believe how much ahi tuna we got at the fish market for just $10. The wine is about $10-$12 as well. Other ingredients pictured here are less than $4 total. This, plus a value priced wine and you've got a healthy, balanced, budget-friendly meal, with wine -- for 2 for less than $25. Cheers!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Biltmore Winery Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Biltmore Winery in North Carolina celebrates a milestone this year with its 30th anniversary. Since first opening its doors on May 11, 1985, Biltmore Winery has become America’s most visited winery.
Located in Asheville, NC., Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt. Wine has been a part of Biltmore’s history since the very beginning when he founded his now iconic estate. Vanderbilt enjoyed wine and he apparently brought a lot of it home from his travels to Asheville. Wine played a prominent role at grand celebrations and everyday meals. He created an extensive agricultural program on his estate.  

A great white wine for summer sipping is Biltmore’s Riesling 2013. It’s crisp and refreshing, and pairs with most grilled foods nicely.

It’s crisp and refreshing, and pairs with most grilled foods nicely. Now back to the Biltmore Estate itself: America’s largest home is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, exhibiting the Vanderbilt family’s original collection of furnishings, art and antiques. 

The estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres including renowned gardens, and it is definitely on my travel "to visit' list for 2015 (or maybe 2016, time this year for me is quickly running out...) Biltmore produces award-winning wines using fruit harvested from its own vineyard as well as from partners in N.C. and other premium growing regions including California.  

Have you ever tried a wine from Biltmore? Leave a comment below!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Tampa Bay Brewing Company's Bad A$$ Beerfest II Coming July 31

On July 31, 2015, Tampa Bay Brewing Company will be hosting BadA** Beerfest II- A Full Moon Event. This event will be a celebration of their 20th Anniversary and Grand Opening of ther new Production Brewery in Westchase. I am personally so excited to see a craft beer event like this come to our part of Tampa!

More than 40 breweries will be pouring at this event. The event will be VIP admission from 6-7pm and general admission from 7-11pm. 

July 31st is a full moon (hence the event name) and during the fest, they will release their 20th Anniversary beer: Full Moon Madness, a subtropical porter. Every participant will receive one 16oz can of this limited edition beer. 
There will be a VIP only area inside the brewery that will be open for the duration of the event, which will feature live music, beer sampling and food trucks. Tickets will be available in advance for $35 or $50 at the door. VIP Tickets are $50 or $65 at the door.