Monday, August 25, 2014

The Flavor Run is Coming Back to Tampa!

It's back! The Flavor Run is an family fun, un-timed 5K walk/run that includes a new fun twist on the popular color runs by engaging all of your senses; taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight. Instead of traditional color stations, they have "Flavor Stations" where runners/walkers are covered in fruit flavored color powders.
Plus, they have an awesome Post-Run Flavor Zone that includes vendors, live entertainment, fresh fruit and children's activities. The Flavor Run donates a portion of their proceeds to local children’s charities, including Kid’s Charity of Tampa Bay and Camp Boggy Creek.
When: Saturday, September 20th, 2014 at 9am
Where: Florida State Fairgrounds
How much: $35/person when you join/create a team or family + kids 6 and under are free.

As a reader of my blog, you get a $5 discount. Use the promo code TAMPAUNCORKEDSAVE5 when you register and $5 will be taken off the price of your registration. For more details, check out the Flavor Run website, Like the race on Facebook page, or join the event on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Donatello Restaurant: a Tampa Gem, Rich in History

Earlier this week I attended a fun get-together of Tampa food bloggers at Donatello Restaurant. This restaurant has been on my list of Tampa places to check out for some time. I'm so glad I did, and it will be the first of many visits to come. I absolutely love Italian cuisine and this family-owned restaurant is as authentic as it gets.
The owner, Gino, shared with us the restaurant's rich 30-year history -- and, an amazing spread of appetizers, including calamari fritti, bruschetta topped with fresh mozzarella, agnolotti filled with spinach and ricotta and two types of baked oysters.
A glass of Prosecco was the perfect pairing to taste all of these delicious items.
The entryway wall was filled with photos of celebrities who have visited throughout the years.
A different angle of my colorful and tasty plate. Thank you for hosting us, Donatello. I will be returning, without a doubt.


Recipe: Zucchini Noodle Salad

Whew, it's hot out right now.  Like most other people, I love winter and spring in Florida, but summer just gets unbearably hot. Some days, too hot to turn on the oven or the stove. Here's a no-cook recipe that will keep your kitchen cool and makes a great side dish or light lunch. You just need to have a mandolin on hand to julienne your zucchini into ribbons. 
If you don't have one yet, I promise -- it's worth investing in one! It makes pretty veggie noodles that are super healthy. It takes about he same time to chop them with  a knife, but it'll appear like you really spent some time on your dish.

Zucchini Noodle Salad
  • 3 medium to large zucchinis
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup white wine or red wine vinegar
  • handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • Using the mandolin, grate the zucchini, lengthwise, into thin noodles.
  •  Chop the tomato and remove the excess liquid. 
  • Toss zucchini and tomato into a bowl with chopped cilantro and onion. 
  • Whisk the oil, vinegar and honey together in a small bowl, then toss to coat the noodles. 
  • Refrigerate for an hour before serving.
Enjoy your salad with a nice glass of wine. This particular day I paired it with a crisp glass of Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2012. A summer white wine favorite that you can find at the grocery store for less than $15 a bottle.
What are your favorite "hot day recipes"? Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Become a Virtual Vintner

On Twitter today I learned about a project too cool not to share -- by La Crema, called Virtual Vintner. Beginning today, La Crema is inviting fans (like me and you) to help create a crowdsourced wine through this new choose your adventure-esque winemaking journey. 

Decision points about the wine include: varietal, appellation, specific vineyard, with educational videos every step of the way from winemaker Elizabeth Grant-Douglas. The popular vote will determine the path, and ultimately the wine that will be made.  
Everyone who votes in the first five decisions can be entered to win a trip to Sonoma County to visit the La Crema winery in person.  Visit the La Crema web site to begin the experience!

Friday, July 25, 2014

California Uncorked Dinner at Mitchell's Fish Market

This past Thursday, I was lucky enough to attend the unveiling of the new California Uncorked menu at Mitchell's Fish Market at Westshore. The idea behind this menu is that through four courses, paired with wines from Kendall-Jackson, Matanzas Creek, Murphy Goode, and Freemark Abbey, you take a culinary journey through Northern CA. The selection of wines really showcased the unique characteristics California wines can develop due to different factors -- when grapes are grown in different soils, exposed to different amounts of sunlight, wind and varied temperatures. The menu was presented beautifully by Mitchell's Executive Chef Ben Bowman and included:
The appetizer course was a Shrimp & Vegetable Summer Roll with Classic Dipping Sauce, paired with Kendall Jackson, Vintner's Reserve Riesling (Monterey County.) This Riesling was just how I like it -- fruity but not too sweet, and a great complement to the fresh flavor of the spring roll. The dipping sauce was pleasantly spicy and different from your typical spring roll condiment - I really enjoyed it.
Next up was a Fried Goat Cheese Salad, with Boston Bibb lettuce, grape tomatoes, red onion, and lemon-thyme vinaigrette. I loved the earthy flavor of the goat cheese -- it was perfectly crispy on the outside, and warm and creamy in the middle. This course was paired with Matanzas Creek Winery's Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma County.)  The wine was crisp and refreshing, and left us ready and eager for the entree course.
The entree was a Grilled Lobster Tail & Tenderloin Skewer with grilled summer vegetables and sautéed asparagus.  Paired with Freemark Abbey Merlot (Napa Valley) this was a flavorful and hearty main course. The full-bodied merlot stood up nicely to the bold flavors of the tenderloin and the tomato butter dipping sauce served with the lobster tail.
And finally, it was time for dessert: This  "Campfire" Brownie, with Marshmallow, Zinfandel chocolate sauce, and graham cracker crumbs was like a sophisticated S'more. I'm a lover of all things chocolate, and this dessert was as rich and decadent as you can get. It was paired with Murphy-Goode's Liar's Dice Zinfandel (Sonoma County). I am a big fan of Liar's Dice and this reminded me of my trip to the Murphy Goode tasting room last seems like yesterday.  I don't have a vineyard vacation planned for this year, sadly. But in the meantime, this lovely California Uncorked dinner helped to fill the void. Seating for this dinner will be offered at $49.99, plus sales tax and gratuity per person.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wine Wednesday: Riesling and Thai

Not all wine pairings have to involve elaborate recipes that take hours of prep work. If you know me, you know I love to cook, but I feel that some of the best pairings can be made from coupling a great bottle of wine at home, with your favorite takeout foods.
Aside from summer rolls, one thing I often order when getting Thai takeout is Panang Curry Chicken.  
I love the complex flavors from the kaffir lime, garlic and fish sauce combined with creamy coconut milk. Another is Drunken Noodles, or pad kee mao, with beef, a glorious noodle dish full of tangy, sweet and spicy flavor with a punch of basil. These dishes are from Siam Thai in Tampa.

My favorite wine to pair with Thai takeout is Riesling. Why does Riesling pair so well with Thai?

  • Rieslings can offer a complex flavor profile, which stands up well to the complex flavors (like chile peppers, lime, lemongrass, cilantro, basil) found in Thai food.
  • Compared to other wines, Riesling is relatively low in alcohol, so sipping it between each bite is refreshing.
  • A slight sweetness in your wine is a nice balancing note to hot spicy food. Not all Rieslings are sweet, and in my opinion, the best Rieslings balance sweetness with acidity, which also is a nice contrast to the heat that comes from Thai peppers.

This past Sunday, we got back from a weekend of traveling what seemed like all over the state (read: lots and lots of driving.) I was exhausted and didn't want to cook, so as it often does, Siam Thai was calling my name. And a Dry Riesling from Chateau Ste Michelle was the perfect complement to the meal. It's a crisp, dry and refreshing style of Riesling, with flavors of peach, apple and mandarin orange, and ends with a clean finish.  It's a great one for those who are afraid that Rieslings are too sweet, and also an ideal wine for a hot summer's day. The fruit flavors tempered the heat of the dishes and complemented the meal perfectly.

Do you agree sometime the best pairings happen with takeout food? Which are your favorite wines to pair with Thai takeout? How about pizza?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Recipe and a Giveaway: Sundried Tomato Chicken Sausage with Mediterranean Quinoa

This healthy recipe is also versatile because it can be served hot or cold. If served hot, it makes a great dinner and can serve 4.  When served cold, it can be brought to a BBQ or family gathering as a great side dish for 8 people. 

If refrigerating to serve cold, double the dressing recipe so you have extra to add when  serving, as the quinoa soaks up the dressing.  The al fresco all natural sundried tomato chicken sausage is made with lean, skinless chicken meat, 70% Less Fat than Pork Sausage and has so much flavor that nicely brings together the Mediterranean ingredients. 
I truly like this dish served either way, but always (of course) with a nice glass of wine. For a wine pairing to accompany this particular recipe, you can look no further than the wine you use to make the recipe: Columbia Crest Chardonnay.   

Some tasting notes from the winemaker: "The Grand Estates Chardonnay opens with bright tropical fruit aromas that lead in to notes of soft oak and butterscotch. Ripe fruit flavors are bolstered by lively acidity, yet balanced deftly with a subtle creaminess." In my opinion, this is an easy-drinking white wine that is great for summertime. I enjoyed a chilled glass while I prepped my ingredients for the recipe below.

 Recipe: Sundried Tomato Chicken Sausage 
with Mediterranean Quinoa

Serves 4 for dinner or can be a side dish at family gatherings

·         1 package al fresco all natural Sundried Tomato Chicken Sausage
·         1 cup Columbia Cresta Chardonnay
·         1.5  cups quinoa
·         1 8 oz. package of crumbled feta cheese
·         1 large handful cilantro, chopped
·         1.5 cups chickpeas
·         3 cloves garlic, minced
·         ¼ cup green onions, chopped
 I used a combination of vibrant red and yellow cherry tomatoes. 

Dressing ingredients:
·         ½ cup olive oil
·         ½ cup red wine vinegar
·         1 tbsp. honey
·         1 tbsp. mustard (Dijon or yellow)
·         ½ tsp. black pepper
·         1tsp. sea salt


  • Cook the quinoa according to package instructions.
  • ·While quinoa is cooking, slice chicken sausage in small bite-size pieces. Cook in a pan on Medium for about 5 minutes, turning to brown both sides.
  • Add the chickpeas and garlic to the pan and continue to cook on Medium Low for 3 minutes. Add the Columbia Crest Chardonnay to the pan and turn heat down to Low and simmer for 2 minutes, allowing the flavor of the wine to really infuse into the chickpeas.
  • Remove the quinoa from the heat and place in a large bowl. Add cilantro, green onions, cherry tomatoes and feta.
  •  Add the sausage and chickpea mixture to the bowl.
  • Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, pepper and salt in a small bowl. Pour into the mixture and stir so the dressing flavor gets infused in all the quinoa.
  • Serve immediately (hot) or refrigerate for at least two hours to serve cold. 


Enter a comment below to enter. Just answer the question, "What's your favorite summer side dish?" and you're entered to win this grand Prize:  

  • al fresco coupons for (2) free products 
  • al fresco trivet
  • spatula 
  • grilling brush  
  • Columbia Crest wine opener and bottle stopper
Winner will be chosen at random and announced next Monday, July 21. As part of this national promotion you can enter to win an ALL-EXPENSE PAID trip to the Columbia Crest Winery in Washington State.
All you have to do is ‘Like’ al fresco on Facebook and submit the required form as directed!