Monday, August 30, 2010

Heading Home from York

Saturday. Our cleanup and packing went smoothly. Margot and I left the keys on the table, locked up and bid farewell to our beach house for the last week around 9 AM. With only an hour ride home and fantastic weather we decided to hang out on the beach for a while before hitting the road. The cool breeze across the beach was lovely and we did several circuits along the beach before the tide came up too far.

We grabbed take out breakfast at the Sun ‘n Surf Restaurant located right on the beach. Their egg sandwiches (on toast, bagels or English muffins) and home fries are cooked to order and were really good! We had eaten at the restaurant before, but something about grabbing it at the counter and sitting outside overlooking the ocean made it special.

Before leaving town we headed back to the Nubble Lighthouse and took some really nice pictures of the lighthouse and surrounding waters. We stopped at Brown’s (again) for ice cream, enjoying their raspberry chocolate truffle ice cream on a bittersweet ride home.

I’ll leave you with some vacation smiles.



Lobster & Steamer Night in York

You have to love friends who have a food ritual when they vacation. Our last night at the beach is lobster and steamer night. No frills, and none needed! Lobsters, steamers, corn, lots of butter and stacks of napkins!

We tortured Lenny by steaming his family members. We tried to distract him, but to no avail. He was sad, but likes hanging out with us so he went along. Merv invited her parents over to join us for dinner, resulting in lots of good conversation amongst family and friends.

I purposely saved several dry white wines from my vacation supply to pair with our seafood dinner. In particular I held back the 2008 Viognier and the 2009 Pinot Grigio. I also brought along the newly bottled 2010 Viognier to try side by side with its sibling from two years ago. It turns out we bottled it early and it is a bit hazy. The haze definitely has a taste component associated with it, and as such I capped the bottle and brought it home. Both the wines went very nicely with dinner, although I preferred the Viognier.

I also cracked a couple of sweeter wines for idle drinking, and was greatly rewarded with the feedback. The 2009 Plum/Riesling and the 2010 Blackberry Cabernet were greatly enjoyed. I never got any of the Blackberry Cabernet which tells you much everyone enjoyed it.

We closed out the night around the campfire, lamenting the early morning of cleaning and packing up the next day. Vacation can’t last forever, but when you are really enjoying it the prospect of the end really sucks!



Biking Around Peaks Island

The first time Margot went to Old Orchard Beach with her sisters they all took the ferry from Portland to Peaks Island and rented bikes to tour the island. The stories sounded cool and the pictures were awe inspiring. Needless to say Margot and I went last year when we stayed in York. The weather was fantastic and we ended up having a wonderful time.

This year we weren’t sure if we would make it, depending on how many nice days we were going to get. Friday was our second beautiful day so we ventured to the island once again.

We left early planning to find some trek-worthy breakfast in Portland before jumping on the ferry. I did some quick research and came across lots of mentions of Becky’s Diner on Commercial Street about ¼ of a mile from the ferry terminal. The menu looked like it was from an old school diner serving all meals all day. We were not disappointed. The parking lot was full and guests were moving in an out at a brisk pace. Good signs all around. We were seated within 10 minutes and had fresh coffee sitting in front of us in another two. Margot ordered a mushroom and cheese omelet and I ordered the Hobson's Wharf Special breakfast plate hoping to try a few different things and see how they spin them. The food was cooked very well, hot and tasted great. The potatoes definitely get talked about and the Texas toast style bread for the French Toast rocked. The price was great and service was awesome for so many diners and the busy pace. We had smiles thinking about that meal powering us around Peaks Island in an hour or so.

The ferry ride to the island is only about 15 minutes and offers views of the oil transfer station, an old prison, several lighthouses and whatever boats are moving about. Right up the ferry dock street are several restaurants and an inn. More on those later. Take a left and head down two blocks and rent a bike, from Brad & Wyatt’s Island Bike Service, at $10 for up to 3 hours.

The route around the island provides an initial tour of the main village in either direction. If you head back the way you came you do reach the open views and ocean quicker, but either way you are there soon enough and the views are excellent everywhere.

My photo plan for the day was to get some nice wave splashes on the rocky shores of the island (at end of post). I snapped quite a few and got several really nice shots. We explored a few areas where the small rocks, driftwood and shells collect; pretty cool stuff! We did two circuits of the island and then dropped our bikes off and went out in search of a cold drink and a snack.

The Inn on Peaks Island sits at the top of the hill right up from the ferry and has a beautiful façade and views, both indoors and outdoors, of the Portland harbor. We settled into the air conditioned bar and checked out the beer selection from Shipyard, a Portland Maine brewer with considerable attention.

I tried two beers, the cask conditioned (didn't get the name) and the Blue Fin Stout. Margot went with Coca-Cola and we ordered some boneless buffalo chicken tenders for a snack. The quiet time before the ferry ride back was very relaxing. The ferry ride back always seems really short and we spent most of the time comment on Dixie, an obvious Jack Russell mix, sailing home with her companions. Back to York and lobster and steamer night with friends!!



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guest Post - What’s for Lunch?

The Ardent Epicure has graciously provided a guest post to finish out our vacation. This dish looks fun, educational (learning a new trick?) and tasty. I brought a homemade Belgian White beer on vacation this week. I am betting it would be a good pairing for this dish. Make sure you stop by the link above and check out the other posts on the blog.

What’s for Lunch? - Cheese Quesadilla’s with Handmade Cilantro Tortillas, Tomatillo Salsa and Fresh Guacamole

Hello everybody, we are very pleased to be doing a guest post here on

Ancient Fire Wines. We would like to thank Jason and Margot for having us.

Although tortillas are very simple to make, several people that we know

have never tried them at home. So we thought we would make some here for you today.

What you will need:

For the tortillas

3 cups unbleached flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/8th cup warm water

¼ bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

For the salsa

10 medium tomatillos

1 jalapeno pepper

2 large garlic gloves

2 teaspoons cumin

2 limes, juiced

½ bunch of cilantro

1 small shallot

Salt and pepper to taste

For the guacamole

2 medium avocadoes, diced

2 fresh tomatoes

1 jalapeño

1 teaspoon cumin

½ lemon

½ lime

Salt and pepper to taste

Let’s get cooking:

For the tortillas

In a large mixing bowl add flour and baking soda (note you can lessen

or omit this for thinner tortillas if you do not have a tortilla press)

Add remaining ingredients except water, and mix until completely incorporated.

Slowly add your warm water until you achieve a firm dough, add more if needed.

Once you have firm dough, dust a cutting board lightly with flour.

Knead your dough for about 5 minutes, and then allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

With slightly floured hands, begin to knead your dough again for 5 minutes of so.
Now allow to rest again for 10 to 15 minutes.

Cut dough into sections and roll each section into a ball.

*You should have 8 sections for small sized tortillas

And can uses larger sections for larger tortillas.

With a lightly dusted rolling pin, roll dough and shape into circular pattern.

In a hot frying pan or cast iron skillet, head each tortilla for a few minutes

on each side until lightly toasted.


For the salsa

Remove top portion of each tomatillo, and place in a blender or food processor.

Add all remaining ingredients and blend on high until incorporated.

Really easy!

For the guacamole

Using a mortar and pestle or mixing bowl if you do not have one.

Add chopped avocado and tomato, and crush until avocado begins to smooth.

Add remaining ingredients and mix with a fork or spoon until blended.

Continue with your pestle until desired texture is achieved.

Super easy!

I am pretty sure you do not need directions for the quesadilla, but here they are anyway…

Now place a small amount of oil in a frying pan, placing one tortilla in the heated pan.

Add desired amount of shredded cheeses and place another tortilla on top.

Flip quesadilla over once the bottom becomes golden, and cheese begins to melt.

Cut each quesadilla into fours and serve with salsa and guacamole.

Serves 4


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Long Sands Cocktail

York Beach has two separate sections, Short Sands and Long Sands. We vacationed on Long Sands last summer, fell in love with it and came back this year. To commemorate I created a new cocktail and named it the Long Sands.

When I was dreaming the drink up the word “long” in the name kept making me think of a Long Island Iced Tea, which I don’t actually drink. Tea sounded fun to work with and we brought some I could use, so I went with it.

We didn’t actually get this right the first time and sat around later talking about what we would have changed. The recipe that follows is what we all agreed on and will be looking forwarding to recreating in the future.

Long Sands Cocktail

3 oz Ancient Fire Peach/Moscato wine
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz citrus infused vodka
½ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz strong black tea (cooled)
2 canned peach slices
2 mint leaves
Club soda

Muddle the mint and peaches in the bottom of a shaker. Pour everything but the soda into the shaker, and shake with ice. Pour into two highball glasses and top off with the club soda.

This drink was inspired by a day of sitting on the beach with friends. We all hope you try it and enjoy it as we did.



Dinner at Lobster in the Rough

We took Lenny out with us for seafood on Thursday night. Lobster in the Rough on Route 1 in York is the out-back take out counter with open seating to its sit down version out front. With good weather you have to sit and enjoy for a while. They have a full service bar out front, live entertainment and bocce.

Last year Margot and I killed a couple plates of fried clams, scallops, shrimp, onion rings and a mound of fries. We had already had all of these things earlier in the week so we opted for lobster rolls with smaller portions of fries and onion rings. We were not disappointed at all. The pieces of lobster were massive, they were seasoned well and not drowning in mayo. The bun was toasted and the fried snacks were cooked perfectly.

We knew we were going to be tormenting Lenny this week so we blindfolded him while we ate dinner.

After dinner Lenny had a couple of beers and got in on giving Merv a hard time. Some friend!

We look happy, and we were. It was one of those beach days you dream of.

We finished the night with some Ancient Fire wine sitting around a bonfire and telling stories. Here’s to vacation!

This week we drank Amarone from 2008, Pinot Noir from 2009, Syrah/Mourvedre from 2009 and some of all of our whites late 2008 to early 2010.



York Beach Maine - Trip Update

As you may have gathered from Wednesday’s post, we didn’t quite have the best weather to start our beach week. It finally changed and with only two days to salvage vacation we have been off having fun. Not before we saw this though,

These two photos were taken at Soher park and the Nubble Lighthouse from inside the car with a Blackberry phone. Anyone who knows this area knows what it looks like when the sun it out. The rain and wind was so heavy our whipped cream topping from our Brown’s ice cream sundaes was blowing away! If you haven’t been to York or Brown’s in the summer, put it on your list.

Thursday the sun came back and we packed up to hit the beach. For breakfast we cooked up some sausage from our 2009 pig and paired it with fruit, cheddar cheese and toast. It was a nice bump for a day on the beach.

Margot and I went up early before breakfast to find a good spot. It was cool and breezy and
everyone seemed to be taking their time getting to the beach. Not us!

Here we all are getting some beach time!

I was digging the shade and cool ocean breeze.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Luck in Finding a Good Beach Diner

Lenny is back today sharing a few details from the last couple of days. On Monday night we mixed up a new drink with our SavvyHost Bartender-In-A-Box set, the Raspberry Beret (thanks Prince!). Merv and Phil are experiencing some cabin fever on the third day with clouds AND rain at the beach, and thus the names Zombie Apocalypse and Cabin Fever were offered. Lenny can be shown displaying the ingredients to the new drink below.

 Raspberry Beret

1 oz Pomegranate Vodka
1 oz Grenadine
4 oz of Lindeman’s Framboise
Slice of lemon

Shake vodka and grenadine. Pour over lemon slide. Top up with Framboise.

John, Julie and Kora came to visit us last night in York. The wind was blowing and the low clouds and beach spray made it look a lot darker out than it really was. We had planned to hit an age-old Italian place on Long Sands, but they weren’t in service this night. It was even BYO, something we could happily do! We took off north towards Ogunquit figuring we would find a restaurant to sit and laugh for a while. We happened upon Bessie’s at the four corners downtown where found a nice eclectic mix of home-style comfort foods and all sorts of sides and appetizers to mix it up. The food was good to excellent, the service was prompt and accurate, but the conversation is what made the night. Kora didn’t weigh in on any of the hot topics. I suspect she is still collecting information on the players to feed her master world domination plan that will be debuted later. The giraffe she was playing with was pretty cool though.

Resuming our monthly dinner dates John and I (I forgot Julie and Margot, or did I?) talked about everything, and from some people watching earlier in the day I had some great stories to poke fun at. Colorful alliterations, crazy outfits, kids hopped up on sugar and other fish out of water never fail.

We walked down to the beach to take some photos and enjoy an unusual summer day. The beach wasn’t completely deserted, but did offer opportunity for some good photos.

I’ll end with our group photo from the beach. Kora did such an excellent job taking the picture… I asked, she just laughed. She was too busy playing with her own hand.


-- Jason

p.s. Lenny hung out for breakfast this morning. Bacon, sweet breads, cheddar cheese and bananas made for a nice slow meal to start the day. He wouldn't say what he was up to while we were all out last night...

Nuts About Granola Review

Today I am reviewing a sample pack of Off Road Edition granola from The fee-free sample was provided after I contacted them indicating I would be interested in trying their product and writing about my experience on our blog. Nuts About Granola is a Pennsylvania based company with product placement in a number of retailers in their local area and an online storefront for those of us living elsewhere.

I have enjoyed granola and similar products like trail mix, dried fruit, roasted nuts, etc for the majority of my life. Granola isn’t in my grocery cart every week, but when I do crave it I tend to try different and new products wherever I can find them. Local, organic and natural products tend to satisfy that craving better, primarily because they actually have good flavors that aren’t overrun by things you wouldn’t want in a snack.

Eaten plain the Nuts About Granola granola presents a nice balance of sweet, salty and aromatic spices. The sweetness is not overwhelming, a very nice asset for a granola. There is a mix of oats, nuts and dried fruit including almonds, peanuts and walnuts in addition to dates and cranberries.

I finished my sample with some vanilla flavored almond milk which served to enhance the spices in the granola making me think of using it as a crumb topping for an apple pie. The product is very fresh with nice crispy edges to the oats and nuts while the dried fruit still contains a bit of moisture making it easy to eat. A great breakfast on a rainy day at the beach!

I would definitely recommend checking out the entire product line from Nuts About Granola for your snacking and cooking needs. At a recent #FNI TweetUp I was told they also sell granola bars, something I am definitely going to have to try on our autumn hiking expeditions. And to be sure, an apple pie using the granola in a crumb topping will be made real soon.

Thank you to Sarah and the staff at Nuts About Granola for offering a sample of their product. I'll be back for sure.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Guest Post - Cassoulet From A Busy Mom

A special guest post today from our college friend Jen. She shares a recipe for cassoulet that works for the busy family. Something everyone might learn a few things from.

I first met Margot and later Jason back in the days of dinning halls, take-out food, and cheap drinks. Ahh college! My how our food and beverage worlds have changed! I was very honored when recently these same dear friends asked me to guest post on a topic I know very well, food and the busy mom.

First off I feel I should explain my culinary point of view, the one of the busy mom. Sorry if that sounds too "The Next Food Network Star" (I love that show btw! Did you guys see the finale?!). Anyway, I grew up having nightly family dinners with a mom who cooks and bakes like nobody's business. My family owns restaurants and I have done every job imaginable from the front of the house to the back. I read cookbooks like some people read the latest Oprah Book Club selection. And as a child I was the pickiest of eaters. Since becoming a mom to my twins over four years ago I think I've lost count as to how many times I've apologized to my parents for my childhood dinnertime theatrics! All of this has played some part in influencing my culinary point of view.

As a parent I am a firm believer that my husband (who by the way cooks too!)and I are not short order cooks. We make one meal and the kids eat what we prepare. Sure we have nights where there are protests, it's not perfect. We only ask that they try one bite of each item on their plate. And there have been nights when someone has refused dinner and gone to bed hungry. And you know what? It wasn't the end of the world.

Okay now on to the food! The dish that I have selected to share with all of you for a weeknight family dinner is quintessentially French, a cassoulet. I know you just read the word FRENCH and you are now rolling your eyes like how easy is this going to be? Won't it have to cook for hours? Hold on before you wave your white dish towel and surrender to the drive-thru window for another family meal... keep reading. Over the years I have adapted a version of this traditional slow cooking bean stew from a recipe in Rachael Ray's very first cookbook, 30 Minute Meals. Cassoulet is common in the south of France and incorporates meat, white beans, herbs and other vegetables.

Quick Cassoulet

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
4 sweet sausages
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 celery stalk peeled and diced
1 small onion peeled and diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 cup of dry white wine (ask Jason for recommendations here)
1 can (15 oz.) cannelini beans, rinsed
7 sprigs of fresh thyme - strip the leaves
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 oz.) of chicken broth

Dice chicken into bite size pieces. Heat a deep pot or skillet on medium high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the whole sausages and diced chicken to your pot. Brown for 5 minutes then remove chicken and sausages from the pan. Add a second tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Now add to the pan carrots, celery, and onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and then add the wine to the pan. Scrap up all the good "bits" on the bottom of the pan. Once you have done this now you can add the beans, thyme, bay leaf, salt & pepper, diced tomatoes and chicken broth. Slice the sausages into bite sized pieces and return them to the pot along with the chicken to finish cooking. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

Garlic Croutons

1 French baguette
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, smashed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice 1 whole baguette and place the rounds on a cookie sheet. Bake until toasted about 7 minutes. Combine olive oil and 2 smashed garlic cloves and heat them either in the microwave from 45 seconds or on the stovetop for a minute. Then baste both sides of the bread rounds with the garlic infused oil. Serve the bread with the cassoulet.

Mom’s tips: I like to rinse my canned beans before I add them to the pot. I also prefer to use canned tomatoes with no added salt so I can control the salt in my dishes. I love Kitchen Basics stocks, flavorful and not filled with MSG and other things that I can't pronounce or spell. The leftovers for this dish are amazing since everything has had a chance to sit together for a spell. We love to place a few of the garlic croutons in a bowl and then heap the cassoulet over them. The juices from the cassoulet seep into the bread and well it's really delicious!

My husband and I spent our honeymoon traveling the French countryside and now as busy parents we rarely get out for a date night. With this recipe I can easily recreate a delicious French meal that can take me back to that moment in time before kids. Ahh! Seriously people a classic French dish on the table in 30 minutes! Who needs a bag of food from the drive-thru window now?



Monday, August 23, 2010

Rib Dinner & Introducing Lenny da Lobstah

Last night was Cliff and Cindy’s first vacation dinner night. After getting into quite a bit of detail about the importance of rubbing the meat, Cliff entertained us with his slow smoking adventures. Needless to say the laughs did not at all diminish the ensuing plate of food. The ribs were meaty, juicy and had so much flavor. The wood smoke was prevalent but not overpowering. Served alongside some fresh green beans and corn on the cob this dinner put us all in the zone.

I’d like to welcome Lenny da Lobstah to our blog for the first time. The Lenny da Lobstah bobble-head is our vacation mascot and the alter ago of the lot of us while we are here. Fitting.

As you can see from the pictures Lenny also enjoyed the ribs paired with some homemade wine. Later, more wine having been consumed, Lenny was grooving to the music and enjoying some good laughs around the fire. He refused to have pictures taken of his shenanigans. We protested, but ultimately gave in.

The wine pairing with the ribs was a 2009 Ancient Fire Syrah/Mourvedre that was an incredible complement of juicy red fruit and tobacco for the ribs. For not having been planned in advance I am genuinely happy to have been able experience this match.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Guest Post - Chocolate Chip Banana Coffee Cupcakes

Today's guest post comes from Jessica at the Messie Kitchen. Last week she teased us in her post about visiting a friend in Texas with a picture of the cupcakes she is sharing with us today. Finally, the recipe!!!

Everyone has one in their office. You know, that person who bakes every week and more often than not has leftovers to share with her hungry coworkers? The one who can brighten up a bland Thursday morning with fresh muffins or perk up an Tuesday afternoon lull with chocolate chip cookies?

I think there is a love hate relationship with this person. You love her because she brings goodies in every week. You hate her because you can’t resist the goodies! Well, it’s more love than hate, I’d say.

The point is, if I didn’t work in a wellness center, I would totally be this person. The problem is that my coworkers and I work in shifts, so usually there are no more than two of us. If I bring a plate full of cookies, you can rest assured that the two of us will get far more than our share.

Because of this, I can’t be Susie Homemaker of the office until I work in a real office.
Enter Allie Daus. Yes, if you refer back to my blog you will see I just visited a good friend in Texas. Daus works in a real office. One with business casual and a big staff. She works in the mother load for bringing office goodies, and when she asked me to bake something for her to bring in last Friday, I was chomping at the bit.

Brownies? Cookies? Maybe scones? I wanted something that could pass off as “breakfast-y” so that her coworkers could sit down at their desks with a cup of coffee and munch away the morning.

Coffee cake. Perfect. What’s more accessible than coffee cake?
CoffeeCUPcakes! Chocolate Chip Banana Coffee Cupcakes. Wonderful. And this is what I did (for 18 cupcakes or a Bundt cake).
Chocolate Chip Banana Coffee Cupcakes

What ya need:

½ cup of butter, softened
1 cup sugar, divided
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mashed banana (about 3-4 ripe)
½ cup sour cream
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup chocolate chips
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

What ya do:

1. In a small mixing bowl, cream the butter and ¾ cup sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the banana and sour cream.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture.

3. Combine the cinnamon, chocolate chips and remaining sugar in a bowl.

4. Spoon half the batter into 18 cupcake tins and top evenly with cinnamon, sugar and chocolate mix. Top with remaining batter.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back lightly.

6. Top with chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

What ya need:

1.5 semi sweet chocolate chips
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp light corn syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract

What ya do:

1. In a double boiler over hot but not boiling water, combine chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Add vanilla.

2. Drizzle over cupcakes

Though this recipe called for using a Bundt pan, I think the cupcake idea is super cute and much easier to eat…and who wants to work at eating! I hope you enjoy this recipe and that it’s a hit in your office…or maybe you’ll just keep it to yourself!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Canadian Martini

Whiskey has never been one of my preferred spirits. Well, to be honest I did not like it all. The thing about whiskey is that I always felt like it did a bait and switch. The smell was so sweet and it always reminded me of butterscotch candy. Then I would take a sip and hooooo MAMA that is NOT what my nose conveyed to my taste buds!

Like any good sommelier/husband Jay has been trying to get me to expand my horizons in the beverage department. He has helped me make strides, even to the point of really enjoying and appreciating red wine. But whiskey, I just did not think that would ever happen. Then one a night like any other it happened, my awakening, and it came in the form of a Canadian Martini.

For some time Jay had been perusing a multitude of “bartender bibles” and spirit recipe books. While flipping through the pages he would talk about what he was seeing, recipes that caught his eye. Truthfully I think that he mentioned the Canadian Martini because we love Montreal and I am very much a Canadian-American. We chuckled at the name as it reminded us of the dive Martini bar we frequented in Canada. I love martinis so I was interested in what the Canadian twist would be.

Canadian Martini
Ginger Ale (preferably Canada Dry, of course)
Crown Royal

That’s right….Canadian whiskey. At first I felt betrayed again, calling something a martini and having it contain whiskey! That is no martini. But Jay prevailed in convincing me to try one.

That sweet whiskey smell was there, like brown sugar, molasses and caramel, but this time with a hint of ginger. I took a sip…waiting for the deception to occur again. But wait! This time the smell delivered with the flavor. The sweetness of the ginger ale brought out all those flavors I had always smelled in whiskey and the whiskey heat brought out the spiciness of the ginger in the ginger ale.

So like many of life’s surprises this has now become my favorite drink, my go to after a long hard day. I am not sure if I will ever become an “on the rocks” or “straight up” whiskey drinker but I am a Canadian martini fan for life. I never should have doubted my fellow Canadians…or my personal sommelier.

Drink Up!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vanilla Vodka Infusion and the Crème Brulee Martini

An infusion of vanilla was on my list of the last batch vodkas to make. One bean cut open sat in 8 oz of 100 proof vodka for 24 days and then it was strained. The color came out to be a nice gold. The reason the jar is nearly empty in the picture to the left is that because when the vodka comes out really food it doesn’t tend to last.

As for my bar tools, a big thanks goes out to the SavvyHost for my prize of a bar in a box set from the Foodie Night In event a few weeks back. A new drink was perfected with the new tools, which makes its debut even sweeter.


When the vodka was doing its thing I got to considering what to do with it. I decided I wanted “a drink” to herald this creation in. The first thing that came to mind was crème brulee. Two issues confronted me, first how to get a custard taste out of the drink, and secondly how to garnish the drink to give the impression of crème brulee and creating some flair for the experience.
The first problem was solved with the use of CoffeeMate Italian Sweet Cream coffee creamer as the cream base for the drink. Some might argue, but for those looking to try it, consider the creamer only adds 70 calories and less than half of that in fat. That is for one drink, making it approachable for everyone. Back to the drink.

The vodka and a shot of amaretto to add some additional flavor and complexity and we have ourselves a nice egg custard flavor.

As for the garnish, a little bit of genius. Demerara sugar under the broiler to great some sugar chips to float on the drink. It works, it looks cool and it doesn’t dissolve in the drink so you get a nice caramelized sugar crunch at the end of the drink.

Mission accomplished!

A few weeks back I exchanged some nice messages with the SpiceSherpa about herbs and spices and how I was planning on using vanilla next. Margot and I have had a couple of events since, and my attention was more distracted that I thought it would and I didn’t finish my drink experimentation. The SpiceSherpa has a wonderful blog about creating your own vanilla extract which is effectively what I have done, except mine was intended for drinks. But it doesn’t have to be. Either way the aromas and flavors are so much better doing it yourself than the average product you can buy in the grocery store.

Ancient Fire Crème Brulee Martini

2 measures hand-infused vanilla vodka
2 measures CoffeeMate Itlaian Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer
1/2 measure Amaretto

Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a sugar chip.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New England Wine Review & Call for Guest Posts

I am looking for some guest posts for next week. I need at least three and am open to all sorts of topics.

Review of Sakonnet Vineyards Eye Of The Storm

In the lead up to the July wine tasting we hosted my mother brought us a bottle of Sakonnet Vineyards Eye Of The Storm that had been resting in our wine fridge until tonight. I was intrigued by the color, a burnt pink orange, when I first saw it, it reminded me of our strawberry wine.

The wine has a very fruity aroma with flavors of strawberry and cherry. It has a long smooth finish and is medium to off-dry. There wasn’t much information at the winery web site about this wine, but the story on the bottle is interesting enough to create some mystique.

“On September 27, 1985, Hurricane Gloria passed over Rhode Island bringing winds of 60-70 ,ph. Sakonnet Vineyards first produced “Eye Of The Storm” to celebrate out survival of this disaster. The picture on the front of the label is a reproduction of a satellite photograph of the actual hurricane.”

I made up a batch of caprese salads tonight just because I could. With so much basil in the garden, why not! This wine was a wonderful pairing with the fresh tomato, basil and creamy mozzarella cheese. I didn’t plan this and won’t even attempt to take credit for any positive experiences you might have as a result, it just happened. The sweetness of the wine is successfully enhanced against a bit of salt on the tomato, and the fruit flavors pair with the flavors in the fresh tomato.



Sunday, August 15, 2010

Grilling Pizza with Friends

Hardcore home cooks and hosts have lots to be anxious about when planning large and involved outdoor events. Will it rain, will too few or too many people show up and will enough people want to get involved to help pull it off? Yesterday those anxieties were just a preparation exercise; because everything came together in that magical way we often dream of.

A few months back we hooked up with Boboli through to host a grilled pizza party on August 14th, 2010. We were excited to execute a party theme that was very different than anything we had done before; thus we set out to invite everyone we could and collect some attention getting pizza recipes to make.

All the recipes for the pizzas can be found in the photo journal below. Much thanks to Boboli and are an order; the gifts for our guests and party planning tools were great assets for our day. Boboli provided some tips on how to grill pizza (used for all of recipes) which we have summarized here:

• Use uneven heat in your grill by turning one burner off, circulating the heat is key
• Grill the crusts on both sides with a little olive oil before assembling pizzas
• Pre-cook all ingredients and use them at room temperature for the best results
• Watch the crusts so they don’t burn, lower heat works

( i rehydrated dried figs when no fresh figs could be found )

We kicked off our party with a pizza recipe submitted by Pam at the Sticks Forks Fingers blog, a frequent reader of ours. Her Brie & Fig pizza was extremely flavorful and the figs provide a distinct texture that got plenty of attention. Our friend Richard had a nice quote about this pizza, “it was like a sunburst of flavor.” he said with a smile. A twist for this pizza was offered when I couldn’t find a traditional block of Brie cheese and ended up with Crème de Brie. We warmed the cheese first and then spread it on the crust. Ed, Melanie and Margot assembled this pizza and though that would be a worthy trick to use in the future. Please visit Stick Forks Fingers and see what Pam is up to. Make sure and leave a nice comment about how she contributed to our incredible event.

( much thanks to Richard for helping on the grill )

Our second appetizer offering was a whole-wheat grilled Boboli, cut into wedges and served with a shrimp, feta and zucchini salad. The inspiration for the salad came from our friend Cyndi who brought stuffed zucchini (stuffed with a shrimp & feta salad) to a wine tasting of ours and went home with an empty platter and lots of feedback. The fresh cold salad on top of the Boboli wedges reminded us of bruschetta. The salad was a nice palate cleanser for guests to transition from snacks to dinner!

We knew from a survey of our guest list two days before that we could have 40 people or more and in response we made sure we had plenty of pizzas ready to make. With both unique and straightforward styles our guests were not disappointed:

* Two styles of Margherita pizza
* Bacon, Onion & Mushroom Alfredo
* Chicken, Pesto and Ricotta
* Pepperoni & Mozzarella
* BBQ Pork, Caramelized Onions with Jack cheese

Along with our invitation we asked guests to come ready to help us assemble and cook pizzas, something we thought would add even more flair to a day of grilling pizza. We couldn’t have expected the enthusiasm we experienced, with party goers jumping up to help and asking to have “their” pizza be next. Margot finished the day cooking a dessert pizza with two of our youngest guests, who will most likely be talking about the fun they had for some time. Our friends are the best and days like yesterday are great reminders of how much we have to be thankful for. Mellissa & Kennedy loved making the Chicken, Pesto & Ricotta pizza, a recipe Melissa submitted to us and said she orders from her local pizza place. The fresh garlic and basil pesto from our garden played nicely with the grilled chicken and creamy cheese.

Margot’s high school friend Melanie and her husband George have recently orbited into our lives and are owed considerable thanks for their help with setup, cooking and cleanup. Margot and I were afraid to try and force Melanie to stopping washing dishes. George agreed we were smart to step away! Melanie also brought the ingredients for the Bacon, Onion & Mushroom Alfredo pizza. The unique spin on this pizza was that all of the ingredients were grown, made and purchased locally. The smell of the homemade garlic sauce used to grill the crust filled the air as we prepared the pizza. This pizza was the favorite of many of our guests, a well deserved recognition.

( this pizza had the best aromas of all of them, the smoky bacon was a hit! )

( just look at it!!! )

( Margherita pizzas )

( chicken, pesto & ricotta )

My special project for the week was a BBQ pork pizza with caramelized onions and Monterey Jack cheese. I slow cooked country style pork ribs with whatever BBQ sauce we had, some orange juice and liquid smoke until they fell apart. I had enough pork to go edge to edge with it on the crust. The caramelized onions were placed on top of the cheese and create a nice crisp crunch on the top of each

( BBQ pizza never dissapoints! )

During our preparations Margot knew she wanted to make a dessert pizza with bananas, peanut butter and chocolate, something I also knew would be a ticket to success. We decided on Nutella in place of plain chocolate and thus the name “Double Nut Banana Chocolate” pizza was born. This pizza lasted about 3 minutes and I only got a bite of the piece Margot snuck off before guests dug in. What a great affirmation of a tasty idea! Margot enjoyed working with her assistant chefs Gracie and Amelia to make this pizza. They had so much fun taste testing all of the ingredients before using them!

( Margot and girls cooking up some dessert )

( it looks like a messy delight!!! )

We didn’t specifically pair our wines and cider with the pizzas allowing guests to experiment with different flavors themselves. Quite a bit of praise was offered for the 2010 Pacific Quartet, a wine that I believe is just coming into a sweet spot of drinkability. Our 2009 traditional dry-style cider was tasty on a warm sunny day, and especially a hit with the guys! Several guests paired the Margherita pizzas with our 2009 Pinot Grigio and found a good match. I have to thank John for his words of appreciation for our 2008 Cabernet Blend. I hadn’t opened a bottle of this in some time and found it to have developed even more since I last had it. After dessert I broke out bottles of 2009 Peach/Moscato, 2010 Jalapeno dessert, 2009 Vermont Dandelion and 2010 Pomegrante/Black Currant wines. This was a pretty eclectic selection of wines for a mini-tasting, but the feedback suggests that some of our more obscure and small batch wines are very interesting to our friends. I’ll have to keep at that then!

( I'm smiling because I was having a lot of fun! )

We couldn’t have hoped for a better party and are so thankful to have been able to spend such good times with our friends. All of the recipes can be found below and leave comments with questions about anything you see.



Disclaimer: We did receive $50 in coupons for Boboli product as hosts for a Boboli Beat BBQ Boredom party.
 Recipes and Party Photos

Brie and Fig Appetizer Pizza

One Boboli crust
4 oz. wedge Brie
6 fresh figs, sliced
1/4 c. walnuts, toasted and chopped
3-4 Tablespoons honey
Fresh black pepper

Thinly slice brie, and arrange atop the Boboli crust. Scatter fresh figs and walnuts over the cheese. Grill over medium coals until the cheese is soft and melty. Drizzle with honey and give it a good sprinkling of cracked black pepper before cutting into thin wedges.

Margherita with Mozzarella
1 Boboli Crust
Handful of fresh basil
½ sliced tomato
½ of a 4 oz mozzarella ball sliced
1/3 jar of pasta sauce

Margherita with Grated Parmesan
1 Boboli Crust
Handful of fresh basil
½ sliced tomato
3 oz grated parmesan
1/3 jar of pasta sauce

1 Boboli Crust
15 slices of pepperoni
6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 jar of pasta sauce

Grilled Chicken, Pesto & Ricotta
1 Boboli Crust
1 split chicken breast, marinated in Italian salad dressing, grilled and cut small
½ cup fresh garlic and basil pesto
6 oz ricotta cheese
2 oz shredded mozzarella

BBQ Pork & Caramelized Onions
1 Boboli Crust
2 meaty country pork ribs, slow cooked in regular
BBQ sauce, orange juice and liquid smoke
4 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 large onion, slide and caramelized
3 oz of BBQ sauce

Prosciutto, Bacon, Onion, Mushroom & Peppers with Alfredo Sauce

Homemade Alfredo Sauce
Caramelized Red Onions
White Button Mushrooms
Homemade Garlic Infused Olive Oil
Fresh smoked bacon
Sweet peppers from the garden

Double Nut Banana Chocolate Pizza

1 Original Boboli Crust
3 large ripe bananas
3 oz peanut butter
3 oz Nutella
½ oz honey (spread on crust after pre-cooking)
Spray whipped cream