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.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Warm Corn Salad -- and a wine pairing

One of our favorite summer side dishes is a warm corn salad. It's simple and healthy and every time we make it, our guests ask for the recipe.
Last night we made the warm corn salad with Bison Burgers. For the burger recipe, which involves the deliciousness of blue cheese and jalapenos, click here. And here is how to make the side dish:

Warm Corn Salad (serves 4)

  • 4 fresh (large) corn cobs
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced fine
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Boil the corn for 5-7 minutes
  • Remove from the water and "shave" it off the cob with a sharp knife into a bowl
  • Add all other ingredients into the bowl and mix.
  • Serve warm (but it's also great refrigerated if you have some left over)

A great wine for grilling out is Kendall Jackson's Grand Reserve Pinot Noir 2013. It has flavors of berries, black cherries and vanilla.
Pairing your meal with a wine like this turns barbecuing into an event! This wine is delicious -- fruit forward and nicely balanced. It's a great red for summertime sipping and a great pairing for a "burger and warm corn salad" kind of night.

What are you grilling up this week? Which wines are you pairing with your barbecue?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wine Wednesday: Gia Pinot Grigio

Here's a white wine I am loving for summer: Gia Pinot Grigio by Coppola Winery. The granddaughter of Francis Coppola, Gia Coppola is not only a filmmaker, she’s also a talented photographer, artist and now a winemaker. I'm a big fan of her PInot Grigio, especially this time of year.
Here are the tasting notes from the winemaker: "With an alluring perfume of bergamot orange, honeysuckle and plumeria flowers, Gia Pinot Grigio presents vibrant flavors of pineapple, white peaches and the minerality of wet stones. It delights the palate with bright acidity, a touch of sweetness and a lingering finish of fresh fruit.
All of these flavors paired well with these spicy grilled chicken sandwiches we grilled up on Memorial Day. I made a batch of fresh guacamole and as you can see, I believe the more guac the better - why not use it as a base layer and a topping?!
I love the legacy of family heritage behind the Coppola wines and this month their story is featured on the cover of Wine Spectator Magazine.
You can find this wine for under $15 at Publix or Total Wine. If you're making a trip to Northern California, I highly reccomend a visit to the winery. In the summertime you can rent  And be sure to check out their restaurant, Rustic, which serves all of Coppola's favorite Italian dishes.

Happy summer sipping! Whats in your glass this time of year? Do you have a favorite Pinot Grigio to reccomend? Leave a comment below!