Food For Thought

Looking for advice

This week’s blog is a little different, as I am reaching out for feedback from the people that regularly read my blog. A penny for your thoughts, if you will.

Don’t see these any more in Canada

I would like to share a little history on this blog. I started this blog, and bought my name dot com, in 2009. Believe me, it wasn’t a bidding war, no one else wanted it LOL!! Back then I wrote about whatever was on my mind. The blog was called ‘In My Opinion’. I wrote about movies, current events, news, food, wine and anything else that crossed my mind.

Then in 2012, I started my 5-year journey into becoming a Certified Sommelier. Just so you know, it doesn’t take everyone 5 years. I moved to a different province, which interrupted my studies, and also took a trip one Spring with my sister, that had me passing on a particular course for that year. So, in 2012, my blog became entirely focused on wine, and I renamed the blog ‘Wine, In My Opinion” and since then “Wine, It’s Just My Opinion”. And the reason I did that, is that I have met many wonderful people who have totally different palates than mine. And they are not wrong, I’m not wrong. No one is wrong when it comes to which wines you love, that’s the beauty of winelovers everywhere.

Learning how to make homemade pizza

Then, back when the pandemic started, and I started learning new recipe ideas, learning how to make homemade bread, and learning a whole bunch of easy delicious recipes that I wanted to share, the blog went from being just wine, to wine and food. Those that know me, know I absolutely love to cook. My friend Angie says there is total joy on my face when I start talking about food and recipes. And back in May I learned how to make homemade pizza dough, and shared it with you, my readers. People went wild. Hundreds of new readers, lots of feedback, and people really enjoyed it. So I started experimenting with adding food to my wine blogs. Because after all, what goes better with food, than wine.

I shared pasta dishes.

Pasta with chicken & spiniach

I shared recipes for marinades, sauces & aiolis.

Sweet Thai Chili Aioli

I shared recipes for meats done on the grill.

Ribs, still my favorite protein

And this recipe for garlic parmesan potatoes took on a life all it’s own, with almost a thousand comments, questions, & requests for the recipe on Facebook and Twitter.

Garlic Parmesan Potatoes

This past week, I decided to do some meal prep, and shared this picture from my kitchen on Facebook and Twitter. It was +4-degrees here in Halifax and a perfect evening for grilling. And I love to grill. People went crazy again. LOL. Lots of comments and feedback.

Meal prep

Pictured are a new potato medley, pork chops, chicken skewers, garlic glazed carrots and I’ve been trying new recipes for cauliflower including a maple buffalo sauce and a homemade honey mustard glaze. I found cauliflower on sale at a Farmer’s market here in Halifax so I decided to buy a couple and try some new recipes. And I shared with my friend Angie, who really doesn’t like to cook. But she’s a great taste-tester and gives me feedback on new recipes.

So here’s where you come in!!

I need your honest feedback on the direction of this blog. I’m going to be honest, sometimes it’s tough getting up every Saturday morning and writing a wine blog. I get writer’s block, and I sometimes struggle to write about wine topics that appeals to people. That’s where the food starting coming in. It’s a perfect compliment to wine, and everyone has to eat. And let’s face it, we are always looking for new simple cooking ideas, so we are not eating the same food again and again. This is a struggle for people, which is why food companies like Hello Fresh, Chef’s Plate and Good Food are doing booming business. We’ve all seen this meme, and there is a lot of truth to it.

I’m also thinking about doing a short video in the blog. From my kitchen, showing how easy it is to prepare some of these recipes. So I’m asking for the reader’s opinion. Please be honest, please be kind. But whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or the comments below, I really would like to have your thoughts on what you would like to see in my blog. Just wine, keep with the food, expand into other areas but still include wine? I really really need your feedback. For a while, I felt it kind of turned into a grocery list of wine, and readership did start to drop. Then when I introduced food, boom!! Readership quadrupled some weeks. Thank you in advance.

I do have a new wine of the week…

A great Italian Rosso

Had a steak last night, with wings, onion rings and potatoes. I got home late, so I was starving, and ate it before I could take a picture. And I tried this new wine with it. Delicious. It’s from Tuscany and it’s 70% Sangiovese and 30% other grapes. The reason they don’t name the other grapes, is because they change up the 30% from year to year. Other red wine grapes grown in this region of Italy include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This was an easy to drink tasty Tuscan red wine, that is on sale right now for $15.99. It’s a great value and a great wine, and I highly recommend it.

Till next week, Cheers. And thank you for the feedback.

Darlene

Love Is In The Air (Nope, that’s Wine)

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I’m here to help with gift giving ideas for the special person in your life. Wine! If that special someone in your life is a wine-lover, like myself, here are some great suggestions.

Roses, romance, dinner, Champagne? Champagne can sometimes be hard on the wallet, with prices aiming towards $100 per bottle. Try an Italian Prosecco or a Spanish Cava.

Hola Spanish Cava

Hola is how people greet each other in Spain, and that was the reasoning behind the name. It’s crisp and dry, which means not sweet. Made with the Traditional method, just like Champagne, it’s a show-stopper at just $21.99.

However, if it is Champagne you’ve been craving…. here’s a beautiful one.

Top Chef Canada Winner Renee LaValee

Renee LaVallee is a winner of Top Chef Canada and the acclaimed chef and owner of the Canteen in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She teamed up with Duval Leroy Champagne House in the Cotes des Blancs region of Champagne France, to partner and create this beautiful Champagne.

A better picture of the bottle

They have been making Champagne for 160 years, and I was thrilled to meet Renee at 2019’s Port of Wines Show at the Casino Nova Scotia. She said this Champagne is in harmony with her style of cuisine. I loved it, it woke my palate up, when I tasted it. A beautiful treat for that special someone, or a gorgeous gift. Renee LaVallee’s Champagnes from Duval Leroy sells for $69.99, and in my opinion, that’s an excellent deal for this great Champagne.

If the person in your life is a white wine lover, you can’t go wrong with Pinot Grigio or a Pinot Gris, it’s the same grape variety.

Kim Crawford Pinot Gris

As a matter of fact, the gris means ‘gray’ in French, because it’s a white grape with a grayish tint to it. True story. And if you see the word ‘Grauburgundur on the label, it’s a Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio from Germany. (Spatburgundur is German Pinot Noir) This wine hails from New Zealand, and although New Zealand is better known for it’s Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, they do grow a wide variety of grapes. With its gorgeous flavors of peach and honey, if fish is on the menu, this is the wine for you.

Truth!

Before I tell you a great wine for the red wine lover on your list. Let me share what I had last night. A steak. And I do my steak very simply. Melted butter, I did put some fresh herbs in the melted butter last night to try it. I saw it on the Food Network. But you don’t need them, not for a steak. Sea salt and ground pepper. That’s it.

Then I heat up the Sear Zone on my grill, and put a beautiful char on the steak. 1 minute, turn, 1 minute flip, 1 minute turn again.

My Sear Zone
Isn’t that a beautiful sight

So, here’s a great red wine to serve on Valentine’s Day, especially if you are celebrating with a good hearty protein.

Last week I was telling you about the fantastic wines that are coming out of Paso Robles California, and here’s another one. Paso Robles is now on my bucket list as places I would like to travel to. Like the Napa Valley, I think it would be like wine heaven, gorgeous scenery and great wine. At least that’s what I hope Heaven is like. This wine is racking up great wine reviews, I even read one from a guy who said he hadn’t had a great Merlot in a while, until he had this one. It’s under $2 a bottle.

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend to all my readers. Happy long weekend here in Nova Scotia, it’s the Family Day weekend.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Little Known Wine Facts

Did you know that a glass of wine was actually enjoyed in space? It was 1969 and astronaut Buzz Aldrin bought a vial of wine with him. A small vial of wine boldly goes were no beverage has gone before. Just before stepping onto the moon, feeling a little anxious, Buzz Aldrin took communion.

i’m always reading about wine, and I love finding interesting little titbits like the one above .

People are surprised to hear white wine contains more sulphites

Benjamin Franklin has been quoted as saying wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. Here are a few more interesting things

  • Wine Flavored Kit Kat bars are actually a thing
  • There is a free wine fountain in Italy. It recently opened. Believe me, it wasn’t there when I was in Italy almost 4 years ago, I’d still be there. It’s located in the Abruzzo region of Italy just outside of Rome.
  • Not all wines are vegan, some use a filatration process that uses animal byproducts like gelatin.
Lots of benefits of red wine
  • Drinking to one’s health, actually started in Greece. The host took the first sip to prove to his guests he wasn’t trying to poison them.
  • How many grapes are in a glass of wine? A glass of wine typically contains one cluster of grapes which is approximately 75.
  • Women tend to be better winetasters, only because their sense of smell is a little better, especially in their reproductive years. Those years may be far behind me, but a glass of wine still smells pretty good.
Had a feast going on the grill.

So as you can see, I was in a bit of a mood to cook and try some new recipes last night. On the menu for last night and today were homemade chicken fingers, chicken skewers, chicken fajitas, crispy roasting potatoes just to name a few. But would you like to know my favourite thing I made last night?

Mint Cilantro Chutney

It’s a mint cilantro chutney, it is SO easy and so delicious. I used it as a dipping sauce for my chicken skewers, and all through the night I couldn’t stop dipping different foods in it, it’s that good. A store in my area had all kinds of fresh herbs on sale this past week, including mint & cilantro as well as parsley. This recipe contains plain yogurt, chopped mint, chopped cilantro, some fresh lemon juice, a little bit of garlic and a dab of sugar. I found a recipe online but I didn’t include the ginger or the cloves that it called for. Its here.

And now for my Wine of the week…..

Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon

When I visited California and the Napa Valley region 20 years ago, one of my favourite places was Francis Ford Coppola‘s winery and wine tasting room. I actually went back an additional 2 times. Upstairs was a display where he showed a piece of paraphernalia from every movie he directed, and even had his Oscars on display. My friend Richard texted me a picture of this wine 2 weeks ago, saying how much he enjoyed it with friends, and I decided to feature it again as my wine of the week. Francis Ford Coppola, being Italian, has a long history with wine. His grandfather used to make it in the New York apartment using vats he made himself. Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t make wine in his basement, he has perfected the art of making wine. This Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied, decadent, delicious and priced under $24 a bottle.

True friends

Have a great week. Till next weekend, Cheers

Darlene

Wining About January

Does anyone else feel like this is the 76th of January? I don’t usually start my blog with something on the negative side, but I have to say, I’m feeling some of the January blahs. It feels like weeks since I took my Christmas decorations down and in reality, I only took them down the 3rd of January. It’s the 16th of January and honestly, it feels like the 76th of January. And this is a little strange for me. I don’t normally mind January, especially when the weather has been as mild as it has been. May I have to stop watching so much news about the Looney Tunes down South, and his Vice Poodle, and doing more things that make me smile. Exercise, reading, puzzles and cooking! Here’s the book I’m reading now, and it is excellent.

I love Harlan Coben

Excellent, can’t put it down, I can clean that tomorrow kind of book! I also just finished this puzzle that I got for Christmas.

And my friend Sharon gave me this awesome meat thermometer as a Christmas gift

I’ve needed one so bad

One of the things I’m doing to help blast away the January blahs is walk with my friend Beth, and eat better. Remember the chicken skewer recipe I told you about last week, one of my new favorite all time recipes. Well it goes with salad too.

The salad dressing is made right here in Halifax. It’s one of only salad dressing I don’t make myself. This is made by an awesome group of kids here in Halifax called ‘Hope Blooms’. If that name seems familier, you may have seen them on the Dragon’s Den.

Hope Blooms Lemon Smoked Caesar

The Hope Blooms Lemon Smoked Caesar is one of my favorites, and they also carry a Maple Balsamic, a Basil Pesto and many more. This is an amazing organization and you can check them out at www.hopeblooms.ca

I have a couple of friends that do Dry January every year, and my friend Anthony posted the other day saying ‘If you think you’re January seems long, try doing Dry January’. So, there’s that. Let’s talk some wine.

January is all about trying something new. And why not extend that to your wine palate. One of the things we do really well in Canada – Ice! Why not try an ice wine. Canada produces some of the finest Ice wines in the world, because if anyone can produce a frozen grape, it’s us here in Canada. As a matter of fact, Peller Estates, who have been producing wine here in Canada for 50 years, has an ice wine tasting room.

How cool is that

Peller Estates makes a beautiful Ice wine from the Vidal grape, and guess who else has the cooler weather to grow the Vidal grape and make a great Ice wine? You guessed it, Nova Scotia.

Grand Pre Vidal Icewine

This is the Grand Pre Vidal Ice Wine from right here in Nova Scotia, and it’s a gorgeous dessert wine, with the excellent price tag of $24.99 Most of them start at about $50 a bottle. Ice Wines are beautiful after you’ve had a big meal, you would like something sweet, but don’t want a heavy dessert. They are served ice ice cold, and in a small sipping glass. It is a delicious satisfying way to end a great meal.

Looking forward to wine tastings again

And now for my wine of the week.

I’ve been craving a steak. It’s not something I have often, so when I do, I really really enjoy it. So, I’m seeing one in my future. Because I don’t have steak that often, I do tend to treat myself to a nice cut of meat. Here’s the wine I think I will go and buy to have with it. I love Kenwood Estates. They make a fantastic Zinfandel, and they don’t disappoint with this Cabernet Sauvignon. The Sonoma County, which stretches from the Pacific Coast to the Mayacamas Mountains, plays a huge role in the terroir and the unique taste of this wine. Full-bodied and firm, this beautiful wine has gorgeous rich flavors of black currant and fig. Please excuse the wine stain on the picture, I spilled a little and then took the picture.

That’s it for this week. Let’s take a moment to wish Betty White a Happy 99th Birthday. You Go Girl!

Till next week, Cheers

Wine Trends for 2021

2020 was an interesting year

For many many people, 2020 was a challenging year, me included. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad. I re-discovered my love of cooking, new recipes and new wines. I also read some great books, rediscovered a love of jigsaw puzzles and appreciated every minute I got to spend with family and friends in my bubble. But there is hope, with the introduction of 2 vaccines and more on the way, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. While we are in the tunnel, it’s a great opportunity to catch up on some reading, including some things to watch out for in the wine world for 2021. The first of the year, I tend to do a wine blog on the upcoming wine trends. Here we go!

  1. Rose Wine continues to be hotter than ever.
Mionetto Rose Prosecco

Last year I read that you will see a Rose Prosecco in 2020, however Covid slowed that down. But Food and Wine magazine says it’s coming in 2021. I have had Mionetto Prosecco several times, it’s a great sparkling wine to take to wine tastings. Mionetto has produced a DOC certified Rose Prosecco, unfortunately, it’s not available here yet. Once it is, you have my word, I will buy a bottle and try it. Rose wine sales increased 43% in the Summer of 2020 over the previous Summer. 43%! Wow. Keep in mind, more people were staying close to home this past Summer worldwide, drinking on their patios, and from the looks of it, many were enjoying Rosé wine.

2. Online Sales of wine will continue

More and more people started buying wine online in 2020. This statement probably comes as no surprise to anyone. Most people I know started buying online for the first time, thanks to the lockdown provided by a global pandemic. Bloomberg says we are going to see this trend continue, people liked the convenience and the delivery. Wine stores, who started doing deliveries in 2020, will probably need to continue with that trend.

How I ended 2020 and started 2021

3. Hard Seltzers will continue to gain popularity

East Coast Lifestyle Rum Soda
White Claw Mango Seltzer

Many local brewers from Nova Scotia and around the world are producing these sparkling water based drinks. Sparkling water with a boost of alcohol, and many food and wine magazines are calling them hard seltzers. Many wine lovers are not huge fans from the reviews I’ve read, but I really like them. They are refreshing and tasty and they are perfect for Summer. The top picture is the East Coast Lifestyle Rum Soda from right here in Nova Scotia, and the bottom is the White Claw mango hard seltzer from the U.S.. I have a palate that likes many different kinds of drinks, and I love these drinks, especially the low sugar ones.

Before I tell you about my wine of the week, I have to share my new favorite recipe. I love a show on television called Watt’s On The Grill, featuring Chef Spencer Watts. It’s filmed right here in Canada. He also has a show ‘Watt’s Cooking At The Cottage’. On one episode he made these chicken skewers. Oh. My. God. They are so good, and easy.

First I cut up the chicken breasts and marinated it for 8 hours. Over night works well, even 3 or 4 hours. You really should marinate.

Brown Sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, & Worcestershire sauce.

5 easy ingredients for the marinade. Then I grilled them on my BBQ. About 3 – 4 minutes per side for me.

Set some marinade aside to baste with

I set aside about 1/4 of the marinade to baste while they cooking. Flip, baste and repeat. Then he recommended this sweet thai chili mayo sauce that I have made twice and have even used this mayo on a sandwich and it’s heavenly.

1st night I basted with the mayo sauce
It’s also great on pork

The mayo sauce has equal parts Mayo & Sweet Thai Chili sauce, garlic, and cilantro. He calls for fish sauce, but I’m allergic so I used Hoisin sauce, which is like molasses meeting soy sauce. You can use any green fresh herb you like, I happen to have cilantro, because I make my own salsa. It’s awesome. His recipe is here.

And now for my wine of the week..

Silvia Cellars Three Barrels blend

I’m going to start this description by telling you that this wine is $7 off right now at the NSLC on my street. It’s a great wine for $23, it’s spectacular for $16, which is what I paid for this wine yesterday. Sylvia three barrel blend is a blended wine of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel. Beautiful and full-bodied.

I have the 2011 vintage last night, and I will give this tip. Either let it sit, or decant it. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah , and Zinfandel tend to be higher alcohol wines all on their own, around 14%. This wine has been sitting in its bottle for almost 10 years, so the first thing you may taste if you open and try it right away, like I did, would be alcohol. Once I decanted it, it was amazing. Full-bodied with flavors of toasted oak and candied orange peel’s, I’m going up today to buy another one or two!

Priorities

Have a wonderful week. Thank you for reading

Darlene