Friday, October 13, 2017

A Paddling of Duck(horn)s #MerlotMe #WinePW #Sponsored

 This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf Duckhorn Vineyards, one of the #MerlotMe event sponsors.
Complimentary wine was provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.
However, all opinions expressed here are my own.

This is my third year participating in #MerlotMe thanks to my involvement with the Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers. Wine Pairing Weekend - #winePW - happens on the second Saturday of the month. And this month - October 2017 - foodwineclick is hosting. Jeff invited us to jump on the #MerlotMe bandwagon with him again this year. Click to read his invitation.


Before my introduction to the #MerlotMe event in 2015, I really didn't take this varietal seriously. It seemed too gentle, too fruity, too simple. But, after I explored it a little bit, pairing Merlot with Crisped Mushrooms On Warmed Le Welsche and with Wine, Butter, & Herb-Roasted Mushrooms, I was happy to be proven wrong. Last year, for year two, I even did an entire dinner paired with Merlot (click here) with Merlot-friendly Cheeses, Merlot with Braised Lamb, and Merlot-Poached Pears.

#WinePW Collides with #MerlotME


I want to share a bit about this varietal before I get into the food and wine pairings for this year. Merlot is a dark almost blue-black colored grape. It is used both as a blending grape - fairly common as an element in Meritage blends - and as a single varietal. It's thought that the name 'Merlot' might come from the French word for blackbird, merle.

All of the #MerlotMe participating wineries can be seen here. My first year (2015), I received complimentary bottles from Duckhorn VineyardsTwomey, and L'Ecole No. 41. Last year (2016) I received bottles from Duckhorn Vineyards and Pope Valley Winery. And this year (2017), I received bottles from Duckhorn Vineyards (woohoo for year three!), Goldschmidt Vineyards, and J. Lohr

Click to read about my pairing of Chevre Crostini with Chelsea Goldschmidt and, soon, I'll be posting my pairing of Fig-Glazed Duck Legs with J. Lohr's Los Osos Merlot.



A Paddling of Duckhorns
With a the generous shipment of their wines, and the fact that they have provided me with samples for three years, I decided to focus on Duckhorn for this post.

Do you know what a group of ducks is called? I always thought it was a 'flock'. Turns out that there are multiple terms, including words that differentiate between a group of ducks on the water and a group of ducks in the air. Really?!? I love etymology and was happy to add some words to my vocabulary. But one of the words for a group of ducks is a 'paddling.' 


...And a Paddling of Duck Meatball Recipes
I decided to pair each of the Duckhorn wines I received with a different duck meatball.

Duck Kofta with Duckhorn's
Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014
A Middle Eastern-Inspired Nibble served with Israeli Couscous

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces ground duck
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T dates, pitted and diced
  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground allspice
  • 1/4 t ground cardamom
  • 1/4 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t ground paprika
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 C ground almonds
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Also needed: cooked Israeli couscous, small skewers for serving, and chutney (I used my Heirloom Tomato Chutney)


Procedure
Place all of the ingredients - up to the ground almonds - in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well with your hands and shape the mixture into 9 or 10 oblong meatballs. Melt the butter in olive oil until it's nice and foamy. Roll the kofta in ground almonds and place in the pan. Cook until nicely browned and cooked through, approximately 12 to 14 minutes.

Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. When ready to serve, pierce with skewers and place on a bed of Israeli couscous. Serve with chutney.


Duckhorn Vineyard's Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014
$98 on the winery website
86% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot
This wine was powerful and elegant. It opened up with notes of red fruit, as I expected, but had a robust structure with lingering hints of spices on the finish. The pepper and clove paired nicely with the big flavors of the Middle Eastern-inspired kofta.

Duck Polpettine with 
Duckhorn's Napa Valley Merlot 2014
An Italian-Inspired Bite served with Wilted Spinach

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces ground duck
  • 1 T minced shallots
  • 2 t chopped fresh basil
  • 1 t chopped fresh oregano
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs

Sauce

  • 1 C fresh tomato sauce
  • 1 T minced shallots
  • 1 t chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • Also needed: wilted spinach for serving



Procedure
Mix all of the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. Form walnut-sized meatballs. Set aside.

In a large, flat-bottom pan, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the shallots until they begin to turn transparent. Add the tomato sauce and herbs.


Gently drop the meatballs into the sauce and simmer until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a splash of olive oil to make it all glossy. Serve on a bed of wilted spinach.


Duckhorn's Napa Valley Merlot
$54 on the winery website
88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Where the Three Palms is large and bold, the Napa Valley Merlot has a softer appeal. While there are still intense fruit aromas, on the tongue there is a beautiful balance of vibrant acidity and velvety smooth tannins. The finish is long with a softness of roasted coffee. This was a lovely pairing with the Italian-themed meatballs.

Duck Tsukune with 
Duckhorn's Decoy Merlot 2015
An Asian-Inspired Appetizer served with Brown Rice

Ingredients
  • 1 C soy sauce
  • 1 C mirin
  • 1/4 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 8 ounces ground duck
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch organic scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • oil for frying
  • Also needed: cooked rice, black sesame seeds for garnish



Procedure
In a medium saucepan, bring the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the glaze cool.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix the ground duck with the salt, pepper, scallions, and ginger until well-combined. Form the meat into 10 small meatballs. Heat the oil in skillet and cook the meatballs until they are firm to the touch and nicely browned, approximately 10 minutes. Pour glaze over the top of the meatballs and heat until the sauce is bubbling. Be careful so they don't burn. Turn to coat completely. Serve on a bed of rice with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds as a garnish.


Decoy Merlot 
$25 on the winery website
92% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petite Sirah
Made in neighboring Sonoma Valley, this Merlot by Duckhorn's Decoy imprint offers lush fruity layers of black cherry and cassis. This is a velvety sip where the acidity adds length to the vibrant berry notes.


Thank you to Jeff, of foodwineclick, for arranging the #MerlotMe tie in with #WinePW. And thank you, especially, to Duckhorn Vineyards. These were three lovely and unique expressions of the varietal. And they paired with my dishes beautifully. I have received no additional compensation for this post. All statements are 100% mine and 100% accurate.

You may find Duckhorn Vineyards... 
on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter

*Disclosure: I received compensation for recipe development and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Delectable Date at the de Young


We rarely will eat at a museum cafeteria. I mean, really, the word cafeteria gives me nightmares. My college dorm cafeteria scarred me for life.

But, after I read an article about the food court at the de Young and the Cal Academy of Sciences, I planned for us to grab a bit there before we headed to the Legion of Honor. I'm so glad we did. The food was great! And I never say no to a mid-day bloody mary and ceviche.


The presentation was beautiful. The freshness was apparent. And the flavors were incredible. I ordered the seafood ceviche which came in an enormous portion with crisp chips. 


You know chips are my guilty pleasure...and I love seeing tentacles in my ceviche. Not everyone uses them, but it makes my little foodie heart flutter.


Jake's posole was delicious and impressive. He said, "You have to figure out how to make this." I have made that. "Nope. You have to make it like this." Fine.


And we ended with a strawberry rhubarb tart. First, we would have preferred just rhubarb, no strawberry. Second, it was way too doughy. Oh, well...it was pretty, right?!?

So, if you happen to be at the de Young in San Francisco for a day, no need to go driving all over the City for a great lunch. The cafeteria is amazing!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Slimer Sippers #FoodNFlix


For October's Food'N'Flix, Kimberly at Coffee and Casseroles asked us to watch Ghostbusters. Here's her invitation.

On the Screen
Let me start with this: I am humor-challenged. Comedies aren't usually my genre of choice and silly comedies are even less so.

But perhaps more than that, when I watch movies, I ask myself, Did this movie need to be made?And, in this case, I heard Jeff Goldblum in my head - from the original Jurassic Park movie - Yeah, yeah, the filmmakers "were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

I really did try to give this film a chance because I remember liking the original when it came out in 1984...when I was 11. Maybe I was more tolerant of silly back then. But, I just didn't find this film funny and I really don't think it stands on its own. It trades a lot on the first movie. And, honestly, one of the only things that tickled me was seeing the cameos from some of the original cast members.

Since this is a post for Food'N'Flix, you know I have to watch the film with a foodie eye. I was pleasantly surprised to find many, many food references. I did chuckle at the soup crisis...

Abby (played by Melissa McCarthy): I have one wonton! I have a tub of soup and one split wonton!
Erin (played by Kristen Wiig): I'm sorry you're having a soup crisis.
Abby: There isn't even any meat in there. That's just a carrot.

And Abby's rant continues later: "I’m just looking for a reasonable ratio of wontons to broth.  This is absolute madness."

The other quotation that stuck with me was when Patty (played by Leslie Jones) comments that "it smells like burnt baloney and regrets down here." But, I don't eat baloney and can't imagine a recipe that would be improved by burnt baloney!

Jillian (played by Kate McKinnon) laments the irresistibility of Pringles. "Just try saying no to these salty parabolas!" she cries. I said 'no' and skipped trying to recreate my own Pringles!

So, while I was underwhelmed by Ghostbusters, the remake, there was quite a bit of tabletop inspiration. I will say that when the boys came back, they saw the DVD on top of the entertainment center and asked to watch it. They appreciated the silliness and thought that the Chris Hemsworth character was hilarious. They did keep calling him 'the ditzy Thor' though. That made me laugh!

Next month, Amy at Amy's Cooking Adventures hosts as we watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Stay tuned for more on that.


In My Glass
As the boys were with my parents for Fall Break last week, Jake and I imbibed more than we usually do on weeknights. We uncorked wines, popped beer tops, and created cocktails. I was initially going to create a cocktail inspired by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, but it was too warm for any spiked hot chocolate libations.

Then I considered making a bright green cocktail in honor of Slimer. Slimer makes in appearance in just about every iteration of Ghostbuster - from the original movie to the sequel and from the animated TV series to the video game.

One funny note: when my sister-in-law saw this title in her social media stream, she thought it read 'Slimmer Sippers.' Ooooo...maybe I could get behind this cocktail, she said, thinking that it was a low-cal libation. Sorry, Liv. No, it's not!


But, as a general rule, I steer clear of food coloring. So, I decided to use kale juice to make two green sippers. The reason I needed to make two versions: he likes tequila while I'm a bourbon girl!

Slimer Sipper #1, like a Whiskey Sour
Ingredients makes one cocktail

  • 1-1/2 oz rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz fresh pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz ginger syrup
  • 1/4 oz fresh kale juice
  • lemon curls for garnish
  • ice

Procedure
Mix all of the ingredients - through kale juice in the list above - in a cocktail shaker or mason jar filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Add a few ice cubes to the glass. Garnish with lemon curls.


Slimer Sipper #2, like a Margarita
Ingredients makes one cocktail

  • 1 oz tequila
  • 3 oz freshly squeezed kale juice
  • 3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz ginger syrup
  • ice cubes
  • fresh kale leaves for garnish

Procedure
Place 2 to 3 ice cubes in your glass. Pour in kale juice, ginger syrup, lemon juice, and tequila. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with a small kale leaf and serve immediately.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Chevre Crostini with Chelsea Goldschmidt #MerlotMe #Sponsored

 This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf Goldschmidt Vineyards, one of the #MerlotMe event sponsors.
Complimentary wine was provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.
However, all opinions expressed here are my own.

When I got a text from one of my best friends to stop by for dinner on our way home from San Francisco this weekend, I texted back 'yes!' and that I would bring wine. She told me to just bring ourselves, but I had this bottle in my bag and we hadn't uncorked it.

I did some reading, when I received the bottle for #MerlotMe, because this was a completely new-to-me vintner. Nick and Yolyn Goldschmidt are based in Healdsburg. Though they are originally from New Zealand, they have traveled, lived, and made wine all around the world. They have designed their labels to showcase single varietals and single vineyards. 

Nick's social media profile reads: "All Wines are 100% single variety, 100% single vintage, 100% single vineyard." I have to admit that that singularity is appealing to me. I feel as if I can really taste from where the wine comes when it's not blended at all.

And the Goldschmidts are keeping the business all in the family. They now have three other labels that are named for three of their five children - Chelsea Goldschmidt, Hilary Goldschmidt and Katherine Goldschmidt. It was a bottle of a Chelsea Goldschmidt that I had tucked away.


And, after I watched a video of the Goldschmidts harvesting their fig tree, I knew it would be perfect with an appetizer that Jenn was making with her home-grown figs. 

In the Glass
This Chelsea Merlot is from their Dry Creek Vineyard which is slightly cooler than the Alexander Valley Vineyard. They report that the soil composition encourages the vines to mature fully without exploding into high yields which produces powerful, concentrated grapes.

While this wine is powerful, it's also elegant. It's packed with ripe fruit and balanced with woody notes of pine and herbs and softened with chocolate on the nose. This is a richer, more full-bodied Merlot. And it paired well with Jenn's Chevre Crostini.


On the Plate
Jenn's Chevre Crostini matched the wine in its complexity and elegance. I love simple, flavorful bites! I had to move away from the platter...before I devoured them all.

photo courtesy Jenn Gonzalez

Ingredients
baguette slices
blood orange olive oil
chevre
homemade fig jam (made with Japanese plum liqueur)
crisped sage leaves
 
Procedure
Rub the baguette slices with olive oil and toast in the oven till desired crispness. Crisp the sage leaves and set aside. To assemble: spread chevre on the toast, top with a dollop of fig jam, and garnish with a sage leaf.

You may find Goldschmidt Vineyards... 
on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter

*Disclosure: I received compensation for recipe development and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sprinkle-Topped, Frosted Pumpkin "Cupcakes"


So, you can read about how I ended up with plastic sprinkles in my pants. I decided to reuse them into a Halloween craft this afternoon. The boys declared, "Mom, we think you spent too much time at the ice cream museum." Maybe. But, I like these sprinkle-topped, frosted pumpkin "cupcakes."


Just a note: I rarely post something that you can't ingest; but these are cute, aren't they?!?


Ingredients

  • mini pumpkins
  • acrylic paint (the pearly paint looked the best)
  • clear craft glue
  • plastic sprinkles
  • foam paint brushes



Procedure
Place pumpkins on a covered surface. Squeeze paints onto a paper plate. Layer paint thickly onto the top part of the pumpkin. You can make a nice, smooth edge on the pumpkin or let the frosting paint drip down the sides a bit.


Drizzle the top with clear glue and scatter sprinkles over the top. Let dry completely before handling.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream...and He Screams from Pink Overload #MOIC

I was fortunate enough to land some tickets to the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco - but, just two tickets. And, as luck would have it, the boys were in Hawaii with my parents during our assigned time slot. So, Jake and I headed up to the City after work and made an overnight date of it...starting at the Museum of Ice Cream.


This photo pretty much sums our experience: I was much more amused than he was...and there was a whole lot of pink goin' on. Yes, I did ask him to wear a pink shirt. He, grudgingly, humored me. And, I'm pretty sure he regretted matching the walls. In. Every. Single. Room.


If you have tickets to any of the museums - this one, the one in Los Angeles, or the one in New York - you might want to stop reading right now. I don't want to influence your opinion of the experience. If you have been, I'd love to know what you thought.  


Let me start with this: I'm glad I went...because I'll never have to wonder if I missed anything. I think the museum maintains its hype by severely limiting the number of people who can experience it. No one can get repeat tickets, nor would they want to! At least I don't see a point in going more than once. 


It's a one-way experience. You get grouped into 'a team'; our team was about a dozen people. We had to have a team captain, a team name, and we had to stay together. If you know me - and Jake - you know we don't like to clump. We prefer to wander at our own pace.  


One thing that mitigated his grumpiness: samples. Our first taste was a scoop from Bi-Rite Creamery. It was a gingerbread ice cream with some strawberry compote on top. Or something. The server didn't really annunciate. And, even when I asked again, he still mumbled. I gave up and just ate the ice cream. Clearly, I picked the correct nail polish color for the day!


I loved the 'Make a Statement' room. Metal walls with pink magnetic letters. So much fun. Do you like my message?


As we left that room, there were samples of mochi. I picked the double double chocolate mochi.


Then we had cotton candy with edible pink glitter. As I said, Jake was in pink overload. I'm sure he objected to the sparkly factor, too.


There were only three rules that were conveyed. First, do not touch the cherries. Second, do not touch the gummy bears. And, third, have fun.


 I wasn't sure if we weren't supposed to touch the big cherries...


Or the hanging cherries. I didn't touch either. But I wanted to.


Then, there were the gummy bears. I'm not sure why people would touch them. They were just hard plastic. Had the gummies been plush or squishy, I might have understood that injunction. But they weren't very cuddly or inviting.


The 'Unicorn Milk Ice Cream' made us chuckle. "Dipped in magic," it read. Hilarious.


The unicorn's name is Grant. The magical ice cream was nothing special. Super cute, but nothing special.


The one room that Jake actually enjoyed was the rock climbing wall on the way to the Rock Candy Caves.


He scaled the wall and made his way around the corner...


...all the way to the Rock Candy Cave where we took another pink-laden portrait and I grabbed some pop rocks pouches for the boys.


The Sprinkle Pool was fun despite the ridiculous warnings - you just need to say the sprinkles are plastic; you don't have to give multiple warnings about not eating them; they're plastic...who eats plastic?!? - and the pool attendant who was a crazy strict time keeper. "Okay, time to get out of the pool, now," she barked.


There were sprinkles, sprinkles everywhere.


And, as it was a pool, there were floaties. Pink floaties.


The last stop was the Banana Swing. Jake swung a few times, then said, "You! It's your turn. I'm done having my picture taken in this museum." Fine.


I've always loved swings...


..and macarons. I love macarons. Too bad they didn't have samples of these.


When we got back to the hotel, after dinner, plastic sprinkles fell out of my clothes. Hilarious. Good thing there wasn't a rule about that! I would definitely have been guilty of that one.


So, what do you think? Have you been to any of the Museums of Ice Cream? If so, would you go again? Did you think it was worth a $40 price ticket? 

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