Simple Happiness

Some of my friends think I’m crazy, some of them are in complete agreement. Going grocery shopping is fun. And going to Wegmans is even better! There isn’t one near me; I have to drive at least 25 or so minutes to get to one. But once there, it’s just pure, simple happiness. So much produce, bread, cheese, meat, seafood, other stuff. They just have everything, you can’t go wrong…bliss.

I hope one gets built in upper NW DC where the Fannie Mae building is. I was so hoping one was going to come to North Bethesda. I could have walked to it. Though walking home from Wegmans could be tough after shopping. That could also help limit what you buy, I guess.

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Purple Cauliflower

I’m always up for fun veggies, and new ones. So the last time I was at Pike Place Market (in Seattle) there was of course overwhelming presence of everything fresh. The purple cauliflower caught my eye as I had never had it. I’d heard that it could turn white when cooked, so that gave me more reason to grab it to see what all would happen.

After going over a few options, we decided that if we grilled the cauliflower, there would be little chance that it could lose its color. So we broke it into medium size pieces and threw it on the BBQ after drizzling it with some olive oil and S&P. As you can see in the picture below, still bright purple! The ‘inside’ is white though. The taste was very nice — a tiny bit sweeter than traditional white cauliflower. I look forward to picking more up at farmer’s markets throughout the year, along with some of the other non-white colors.

 

Dead Head Red

There is a joke in my family about the Grateful Dead because of a Santa mistake that happened years ago. So anytime we see anything related to the band, we tend to get it. Normally it has to do with those cute little dancing bears. Well, now life is getting so much better! My Christmas present from my aunt and uncle was Grateful Dead wine. I’ll take that. The name is ‘Steal Your Face’ and it’s a blend (85% Syrah, 15% Petite Sirah) from Mendocino County. Great table wine, perfect for any dinner.

Got a box of three. One was enjoyed over Christmas with the family, one stayed with the (immediate) family and one came home with me and is still waiting a bit to be enjoyed. Have to pick the right people to share it with. Who should I tell the story behind the bottle with?

Also, the place that distributes this is Wines that Rock — they have various other wines from well known bands. Pretty fun and great gift ideas.

Buck’s

Want to go fishing? Want to camping? Are you in DC? Just go to Buck’s. You might not actually get the true aforementioned, but you’ll get a great dinner.

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I had heard much about this place, located on Connecticut Ave., at the intersection of Nebraska Ave. in upper NW. Buck’s Fishing and Camping, here I come.

My friend and I checked it out in February and they had the Valentine’s theme going on, so the cocktail menu included sparkling rose. Bring it on! A perfect way to start off the evening.

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We opted for an appetizer to tide us over while we looked over the menu. It was a special that night, a white bean hummus with homemade chips.

Wit Cellars

When visiting WA wine country, I was pointed to a new winery by an established one. This new venture is Wit Cellars, which is just about a year old. They are not a huge winery, producing about 3,500 cases of wine a year and are located in the Prosser Wine Community of Yakima Valley. Their name comes from ‘We’re in It Together.’

The tasting room is in a sort of hidden place. Not in the middle of beautiful vineyards, but more of a ‘strip mall’ of tasting rooms.

Yakima

(photo source: wineyakimavalley.org)

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When we arrived (early in the day — strong wine drinkers!), there was only one other group in the tasting room. So one of the employees came over to help. With a tasting you get to sample eight wines, oh yes, half a dozen plus two (though one was out of stock). He was a bit concerned because he had been called in that morning to work, and was the husband of one of the owners and didn’t know all the info to a tee on the wine. Fast forward…he was quite good.

So as previously mentioned, the guy pouring us our wine ‘didn’t know a ton about them,’ so he was looking through some notes to tell us what they were supposed to taste like, etc. We ended up having a great conversation about each one and talking about them sometimes before and after he told us what the notes said. One of the best tastings you could have as the three of us were bouncing comments off each other as he had to enjoy some of the wine, too. What was great is that he gave us his history — former college football player, then in the Marine Corps, now in some IT/security/networking (he lost me after that) gig and part time in the wine industry because his wife is an owner.

So, what we enjoyed (info is directly from website, my notes in bold italic)

2015 Rose
The beautiful coral color will put you in a festive mood. On the nose you will be greeted with notes of strawberry, rhubarb and pink grapefruit. The lively acidity plays on the palate, while hints of spice and dried herbs round out this lively and refreshing summer sipper.
Price: $14.00

Light and crisp.

 

2015 Pinot Gris
Light bodied fresh and lively summer sipper possess hints of mandarin orange, honeydew melon, bosc pear, and green apple. Ancient Lakes is a cool site which lends itself to aromatic whites. You can literally taste the tortuous past of these prehistoric soils. A gravely minerality mixes with citrus notes and dazzling acidity, to create a unique gem true to its sense of place.
Price $18.00

Minerality!  LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Left with a bottle.

2015 Chardonnay
The feast of reason and the flow of soul brought us to the Ancient Lakes Appellation to source aromatic whites of exceptional quality. The vines struggle in high elevation silt loam vineyards on fractured caliche and basalt. This extraordinary example of Chardonnay possesses hints of green apple and pear. The saline minerality and focused fruit void of white noise; set this wine apart from any other. This wine is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of Wit.
Price $22.00

Unoaked, cheddar on the nose. Neutral oak barrels. I would give it ‘crisp oak’, Very unique.

2014 Riesling
Again the Ancient Lakes Appellation shines with Riesling. We were able to create a Riesling of exceptional quality. Bright acidity mixes with clove, peach, apricot, spice, honey-suckle and clover blossoms. Of course, the underlining feature of this wine is the gravely minerality brought by the tortured prehistoric soils of this majestic appellation. This racy gem is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of wit.
Price $18.00

Not syrupy like a Riesling could be, but it was still a Riesling.

2013 Red Blend
The colors of this wine are the deepest shades of inky purple and red.

The enchanted flavors of raspberry liquor, vibrant pepper, baking spice, blackberry, graphite and gravel will tantalize your taste buds. This is an extraordinary elegant wine with silky smooth texture and lingering finish. I found that this wine leaves me fully satisfied, but longing for one more taste.
Price $45.00

Nice nose. Melt in your mouth. Just so much good stuff happening. Left with a bottle.

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2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
We were drawn to Elephant Mountain Cabernet because it showcases the vibrancy of the site. Only at the extreme margins of this black beast can you detect a deep garnet color. An abundance of black currant, wild cherry, raspberry and cedar greet your nose and caress your pallet. The lingering finish will provide hints of anise, vanilla, toasted hazelnuts and roasted coffee which are balanced by gravelly earthy notes. This is a particularly well balanced and beautiful wine. Your first sip will leave you wanting more.
Price $50.00

Jammy, but not overkill, and not too chewy.

2013 L’armonia Red Blend
This is a big wine with an abundance of dark beautiful fruits that blend harmoniously with it’s ample body and structure.
The integrated tannins dance across your palate while flavors of huckleberry cobbler, vanilla and brown sugar tempt your taste buds. By combining classical Bordeaux varietals we believe that each individual piece of this red blend has come together to sing.
Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 14% Malbec, 3% Merlot
Price $60.00

I got tastes of coffee, kahlua and fruit. Unique.

 

As you can see, I left with two bottles. One was enjoyed that night when we returned to a friend’s house in Seattle, and the other the following night at the same house. Of course these guys/this winery can’t be kind and sell in stores on the east coast, let alone in stores in their area. It’s all direct from them. They do have have three wine clubs, though. The requirements aren’t super demanding, on them either. So I might have to join down the road. Overall, spent well over an hour there. I can easily see these guys getting into some of the big wine magazines in the coming years as an up and coming winery. Cheers!

 

Cowiche Canyon

When visiting Yakima Valley, had to find a place to enjoy dinner. Many locals suggested the same restaurant – Cowiche Canyon. Ok, I guess that’s where you go. Their tagline: ‘Craft cocktails & American classics are served with a modern twist at this industrial-chic hot spot.

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Arrived and fortunately were able to get a table easily. Had checked out the website before going and they weren’t on OpenTable… And why would one call to make a reservation these days, come on?

So we sat down and of course when in Yakima Valley wine is a priority. After looking over the options we decided to go for a bottle vs. glasses. Reason, if you don’t finish it they just put it in a paper bag and off you go. The vino we chose was the Syncline Subduction Red. It’s a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Counoise. It was a good medium bodied wine, nice fruit notes, and some spice. Just very tasty.

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For dinner (I’d checked out the menu on their site before), I was leaning towards the halibut. Of course halibut is pricey. I also found out why from a friend – it’s fished ‘by hand’ – as in it’s not net-caught. The fisherman use these things called fishing rods, if you’ve ever heard of them. So, it’s all completely manual labor for catching halibut, so pure man hours for each and every piece of halibut we enjoy.

Looked at some of the other seafood and meats, and all looked tempting, but halibut is something I don’t usually cook at home or get frequently because of cost. So, the two of us ended up splitting the halibut and getting starters – a house salad and roasted asparagus as first round, along with the homemade bread. I assumed we would have bread brought to the table as on the menu it mentioned that their breads are handmade from scratch every morning. But, we had to order it instead.

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Service was slightly under par. Took us about 3 requests and 20 minutes to get water. We also ordered the salad and asparagus as first course. Those and the halibut came out quickly (before the water and the bread). We asked for the halibut to go back and be served as the main course. The server was a bit confused.

However, the food was delicious. The halibut was spicy, with the posole it was served on top of. The asparagus had chimichurri on it, which added a great flavor, but the ends that you should snap off were still on there, on several pieces. The salad was nice and simple and the bread was just deadly. Overall, however, the restaurant lived up to the recommendations it received.

We Love to … and it Shows

Well, I love to travel, and it shows. You can see my loads of pictures, hear my stories, look at my passport when it’s international (though it’s not stamped as much as many of my friends). And, sometimes see my wine rack (and the blog).

A lot of travel requires flying. Things happen. I don’t really have anything to say about what has happened in the flight world the past several weeks. When I have traveled recently a friend gave me drink coupons to receive free vino on my flights with the airline associated with the recent media…score! On my flight outbound, I had mentioned something to the flight attendant about wine and she said ‘I don’t want your drink ticket. Why should I take it, we both love wine?’ Don’t have to say that to me twice. She also gave the guy across the aisle a free beer because he had helped with something. Cool.

On my way back I asked what the premium wines were. The flight attendant said Malbec. And the premiums are twice as much as the ‘normal,’ so didn’t know if I would need to provide two tickets. He just handed me this split of wine, a nice plastic cup and pushed that cart on its merry way. And, note, the price might be twice as much but you also get twice the volume (a split vs a one-glass size).

I might be the lucky one, I don’t know if an airline is working hard to repair something. I have a friend who works for this company and don’t know how that person is doing. But, right then and there, I was loving enjoying my Malbec and it showed (don’t take that in some crazy inappropriate way) thanks to the service. Cheers!

Side note, as a bonus, the person I met for a getaway weekend was flying home to a different destination. We saw that at a gate next to mine there was a flight leaving to her destination two hours earlier than the flight she was slated to be on. I told her to go ask if she could get on that flight. Success with zero change fee! Simple things.

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The Ides of March/Shrimp & Radicchio Salad

I have been part of a Supper Club for over a decade and we have slowed down the past couple years. But, we are coming back to life! So last month we were able to catch up with a very fun theme – the Ides of March. How did this come about? Somebody RSVP’d on this day, so why not make that the theme, even though the event didn’t take place on that day.  So, anything you brought had to have an ‘I’ in it – black bean dip, skirt steak, pizza. You get the drift.

It was funny, because I thought awhile on this, because so many things I was thinking about didn’t have the letter ‘I’ in them. I was out running on the Sunday morning of the dinner with a friend who cooks a lot and we were talking about this and I was bouncing ideas off of her. I’m making this sound like I’m making a major life decision! She told me come the end of this 12 mile run – ok, worst case scenario, it’s ‘Mel’s Recipe’.  Thanks, score!

Well, I ended finding a great one – Shrimp and Radicchio Salad. I think I was pretty covered there. It was so simple. I also happened to have all the ingredients already, too, except for the radicchio. I had both raw and precooked shrimp and I opted for the precooked, which made it so much easier. Made it a no-cook meal. The tang in the dressing/marinade was awesome. And that’s what was great. You just marinade the shrimp and then toss them all together with the salad.

Ingredients

1⁄2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1⁄2 lb small shrimp, cooked and drained
1 head leaves lettuce, shredded (used a big of mixed greens)
1 head radicchio, shredded
1 cup cherry tomatoes

Directions

Combine first five ingredients (olive oil – mustard) in a bowl.  Stir in shrimp ***I just put all those ingredients in a ziploc and then added the shrimp. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. In a large salad bowl combine lettuce and radicchio, pour shrimp and dressing on top. Toss add tomatoes and toss again.

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Also, at the dinner, we had pizza, dips (both appetizers and desserts) and quinoa. And of course some wine.

Baby Goat

As you might have read several times in my blog(s), Trader Joe’s is one of my two favorite grocery stores (Wegmans being the other). The other thing you might have read is that I am a lactard (thanks Caroline for giving me that term, as you are also one), but can eat goat or sheep’s milk (cheese).

While strolling through TJ’s recently I was just really wanting some cheese. Stood there staring at the cheese section for several minutes then my eyes fell upon these ‘baby goat’ (as I like to call them) cheese discs. They are just the goat cheese logs divided into smaller pieces, or as they more appropriately term them Medallions. Each package is 1oz., very nicely sealed and there are about 5-6 per container. Of course I can’t remember the price, but I’m fairly certain it was less than $5.

Handy to have around and they will definitely be making it to my kitchen more frequently.

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Smokin’ It

I love seafood, I love smoked seafood. So on my weekly or bi-weekly trip to Trader Joe’s I of course swung by the demo station. Had a bite of what they were serving (I think it was a egg salad). And at the station, they had a stack of Smoked Trout. While I have had their (and others’) vacuum packed/sealed stuff, this one was canned. Think of a sardine can, with a pull-top lid. It’s farm raised (not my favorite), skinless and in canola oil.

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So I grabbed some and used it on a salad.  Simple arugula, tomatoes, kalamatas, hearts of palm and baby Brussels sprouts. Just delicious blend of flavors. So as long as you’re not totally against the farm-raised, this is great stuff to have on hand. Stack it in the cupboard with the tuna and the other stuff and you’re good to go.