We All Deserve A Treat

We are almost 2 full years into a pandemic that has crippled society. There have been lockdowns, restrictions, and loneliness for so many people. If anyone deserves a treat, it’s us. Am I right?

Last Friday, February 18, was National Drink Wine Day. And although it was a long weekend I didn’t get a wine blog out, because it was a fun filled weekend with family and friends. Like every Friday since January came in, we had a storm. A wind storm. Last evening we had a snowstorm. I’m not kidding when I say there’s been a storm every Friday. My nephew Riley’s flight got cancelled so we had a great evening Friday evening together.

And then on Sunday, I got together with an old friend, Shane, and a new friend, his husband Ken.

Shane & Ken

And boy oh boy, did they bring some great wine to the party. Normally this blog is about great wine at great value. Today we are going to cover a couple of treat wines. Like I said, we all deserve a treat.

The first wine we had that evening was a wine I’ve been dying to try for a few years. Total treat wine!

2018 Caymus Zinfandel

The Wagner family has been making great wine in Napa Valley for decades. The winery was started in 1906 when Carl Wagner bought land in Napa Valley and today is run by Chuck, Charlie and Jenny Wagner. Generations of great wine-makers. This wine retails for anywhere from $60 to $70 in Canada and it was spectacular. The Wagner family who has the Caymus label, also has Mer Soleil, Connundrum and Emmolo, just to name a few. Josh Wagner, from this Wagner family, has Belle Glos Vineyards and makes great Pinot Noir. This wine is the ultimate food wine. Shane had put out an amazing cheeseboard, and the combination was awesome.

Austin Hope Cabernet

So my friends have an amazing wine collection. And my apologies for the blurry picture, this was the 3rd bottle we opened, after a martini! My mistake was suggesting we open the Italian Ripasso that I bought before this one. This was another spectacular treat. I couldn’t find it anywhere in Nova Scotia, but elsewhere in Canada it sells for about $80 a bottle. Paso Robles in California is putting out extraordinary wine, and this one definitely tops the list. I love how they age this wine in oak. Lots of grapes are aged separately for a minimum of 11 months in a combo of 10% new oak, 25% once used oak and 65% in 2 – 3 times used French oak. Then as a whole, the blended wine is aged an additional 3 months in 75% new and 25% once used French oak. Wow. I’ve never heard that before. This creates a gorgeous complex wine on the palate, and the proof is in the glass.

Spinach Chicken & Bacon Penne

Before I go, I wanted to share an awesome recipe for Penne pasta. I had made a similar pasta a few weeks back that just didn’t have a lot of flavor. So I decided to make a roux for the sauce and add in more cheese and seasonings. Normally in the Summer, I have lots of fresh herbs, but they are all gone. And because this was a spur of the moment decision, I didn’t run up to the grocery store to buy some herbs. So I will definitely make it again, but adding some fresh basil is necessary, and chives or parsley, I feel, would really add a bit of zest as well. Here’s the recipe I started with, but tweaked along the way. Cook the pasta al dente, and set aside, including the pasta water. That is flavor that can thin your sauce, because it can get thick. Cook the bacon. Then use the bacon drippings to cook chicken and onions. I also marinated my cherry tomatoes in balsamic, salt and basil. They can handle a lot of flavor thrown at them. This recipe doesn’t call for a roux, but after I took out the chicken, I added butter and flour, made a roux, added both cream and chicken broth, and a couple of different types of cheeses, including parmesan, mozzarella and smoked gouda. It was very good, and I’ll definitely make it again. You can add your favorite cheese to make it a little different each time.

On the cheese board last weekend my friend Shane served the best blue cheese I’ve ever had. Blue cheese can be a love or hate thing with many people. And I’ve had some that is over-powering. This was mild and beautiful, and I can’t remember the brand name, but I’ll find out and share it with you. That would even go well in this pasta.

Loved this wine last night

Last night it was back to reality for me and wine. I did enjoy this beauty, a Primitivo made by Tommassi, called Surani Hercules Primitivo. Full-bodied, delicious, and $20 a bottle.

Before I go, I have to share some cuteness.

You all know Maggie

I was Facetiming with my sister Jackie, and Maggie, who you all know, seems to think she’s 10 lbs. She is a real lap dog, who doesn’t believe in personal space. Can’t wait to see her in March.

That’s it for me for this week. I hope you have a wonderful week, and let’s take a moment and pray for the people in Ukraine.

Darlene

Making Valentine’s Day Sparkle

If you’re looking for love advice, I am definitely not the person to come to for Valentine’s Day. However if you would like to add some spark to your Valentines day meal, then I’m your girl. Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s wine! And nothing adds spark to a great meal more than wine.

Since we are talking about adding sparkle to a meal, let’s start with a sparkling wine

Villa Francesca Prosecco

You can’t go wrong with Prosecco, the Italian favourite. The majority of these wines are priced under $20 and it’s a super cost efficient way to enjoy a delicious sparkling wine. Crisp, light and tasty all on its own, it’s also a great pairing with shellfish, vegetables, sushi and cured meats. Prosecco is a great way to enjoy a sparkling wine without blowing the budget.

Instead of roses, try rose wine!

Rose wines have become so popular over the past few years, and with good reason. They are reasonably priced and delicious to drink. As a matter of fact, it’s made a huge surge in ‘day drinking’. There is no better wine to have with lunch or brunch.

Angie with the Arrogant Frog

My friends and I found this delicious rose wine, made from Shiraz (Syrah) grapes. Arrogant Frog is a wine packed with flavor, and priced under $15. It is a little heavier on the alcohol side than many rose wines, coming in at 13%. But it’s so delicious, and food friendly as well.

Ribs with a dry rub

Normally when I make ribs, I marinate for several hours and then slow cook them for a few hours, before finishing them on the grill. Everyone knows I am a huge fan of the Food Network and Bobby Flay and Michael Symon hosted a show called BBQ Brawl. Susie Bulloch was the underdog and ended up coming in 2nd place. She has a website called Hey Grill, Hey! I love it, she is a barbecue Queen1 And this is where I got the recipe for the dry rub. It’s Suzie’s Dry Rub recipe and you’ll find it here. I still slow cooked them and finished them off on the grill with sauce, and they were soooo good!

Have I made you hungry for ribs on Valentine’s Day? Here’s your wine!

7 Deadly Zins

7 Deadly Zins is a delicious full-bodied wine that is so food friendly. I love the ‘peppery’ flavor of a Zinfandel and this one really highlights that. If the $28 – $30 price tag is a bit more than you wanted to spend, here’s another option.

Cupcake Red Blend

It’s been a while since I’ve had this, so I had to use a stock photo. But this blend of Merlot, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah is so rich and decadent, it’s sinful. And this one is priced under $18 in most places. Juicy ribs deserve a juicy wine, and this fits the bill.

That’s it for me this week. Enjoy the Super Bowl tomorrow and Valentine’s Day on Monday. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Another Weekend, Another Storm

The view outside my window

2022 seems to be the year of the weekend storm, this time it’s a freezing rain storm. It’s hard to see in my pictures, but the trees outside my apartment are heavily laden with ice.

Branches are bending

As of Saturday morning, over 57,000 households in the province are without power. I’m amazed but grateful we have power. Fingers crossed it stays that way. I was living in Moncton in the winter of 2003 when we had a major ice storm. New Brunswick had a bad one in 1998, 2003 was worse. I was without power for days. It was awful. I know what the omicron variant, people are encouraged to stay home, this weather is making it very easy. So we’re going to stay home, let’s enjoy some good food and some good wine.

Bread & Butter Merlot

Regular readers of my blog know I love the Bread & Butter Pinot Noir. Well did you know, we are now able to get the Bread & Butter Cabernet Savignon here? And very new to Nova Scotia is the Bread & Butter Merlot. Because my family lives in Newfoundland, except for Riley who arrived back at St. FX this week, I have a very small bubble here. It includes 3 other ladies from my apartment building who I get together with every Saturday night to play a game of Rummikub!

This is such a fun game. The ladies and I throw a little wager in, which just adds to the fun and makes for a cheap night of entertainment. Anyway, I digress. Angie and I drink red, so we enjoyed this gorgeous Merlot which she brought to the party. Gorgeous and decadent, it is around the $23 mark, but it was a really nice treat. Rich plum fruits and warm baking spice notes, we savored every sip. It’s really good.

For my white wine loving friends, here’s a great white to go with all your favorite comfort foods.

Canyon Road Chardonnay

Canyon Road is one of the best deals here in Nova Scotia. The Cabernet Sauvignon is a staple in my wine rack. I discovered it about a year and a half ago, and both the red and the white are available not only here, but to my friends and readers in Newfoundland.

And although we are provinces next to each other, there is a $4 price difference in both wines. Both of these wines are $11 a bottle here in Nova Scotia, and the wine is very easy to drink at that price. In my home province of Newfoundland, both wines are $15 a bottle. Still a good price point, but I was surprised to discover that when I was home for Christmas.

The Chardonnay is rich and buttery with hints of caramel. Try it out.

Before I get into my wine of the week, I have to tell you about a new recipe that I tried this week.

Vegetable Medley

Leave it to me to make vegetables not quite as healthy as they should be, yes, that is bacon you see in this dish. I started with carrots, sweet potato, red onions and yes, bacon.

I roasted the carrots all the way, but you could par boil them for 5 – 10 minutes, as they take the longest. Once these were cooked I added a bag of frozen Asian medley vegetables and toasted some pecans and almonds to add a little texture. Then I added a little balsamic and maple syrup and these veggies were delicious.

Soak your pecans

I didn’t know this prior to this week but apparently we should soak our pecans before adding them to a recipe. It removes some of the bitterness.

And now for the wine of the week..

Run, don’t walk, to the liquor store, as this wine is on sale. It’s around the $16 mark, and such a great value. The Louis Bernard Cotes Du Rhone is 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah (Shiraz) and such a delicious and elegant blend. This was my Friday night treat and I enjoyed every sip.

I’m the cool Aunt

Well, that will do it for me this week. As always, thank you for taking some time this week to read my wine blog, it is very much appreciated. Till next week, Cheers.

Darlene

Wining Away January Blues

Grumpy nails it

January has never been my favorite month. The one holiday day is the very first day and your next long weekend is not till mid-February. All your Christmas decorations are down, so your home looks a little empty, and the weather tends to suck. I’m sitting here right now looking out at a snow storm.

This meme is so true

This weekend is the last weekend of January and we are getting hit with another storm, the third weekend this month that we’ve been hit. Lots of snow followed by 4 – 8 hours of freezing rain. Fun times in the Maritimes. So, here’s my advice. Stay in, make your favorite meal and enjoy a glass of wine. I went to the liquor store yesterday and it was busy! The man in front of me says ‘a storm must be coming’.

But first, I want to tell you about a cooking win. In last week’s wine blog I told you about the Orange chicken recipe that didn’t turn out so good, the breading was falling off. So I tried again, but this time learned from my mistake and dried the chicken before the flour and egg mixture. And I did it in General Tso sauce that was so easy to make. Doesn’t it look good?

General Tso Chicken

I made the chicken the exact same way. I cut up the chicken breast in bite size pieces, dried it off, and then put salt, pepper, garlic powder and Chinese 5-spice in the flour. I put the chicken in the flour, then the egg wash (egg & water) and back in the flour. It cooked perfectly. In the sauce is Soy sauce, rice wine vinegar (you can use white vinegar), hoisin sauce, sugar, cornstarch and water. You can get the recipe here.

I also tried a couple of new wines recently, and they are great values.

I shared this with my friend Angie on Wine Wednesday and we really enjoyed it. It’s not an overly heavy Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s definitely medium bodied, with very little tannins. It’s from Chile and is priced at $13, and is definitely a wine I would buy again.

With the crappy and cold weather we’ve been having, I love doing jigsaw puzzles. I finished this one last Saturday and started a new one on Friday.

But I digress. My wine of the week this week is another great value.

Granatello Rosso

I love an Italian Rosso because I really enjoy red wine blends. This is a blend of Merlot, Nero D’Avalo and Sangiovese. Nero D’Avalo is the most important grape from Sicily, and has gorgeous plum and pepper flavors. This was a great blend, and is priced at $14 here. Nothing drives away the January blues than finding a great wine at a great price point.

Mom, Jackie & Maggie

My Mom turned 87 on January 5th and my super sweet sister had her over for supper and cake. I had to share this picture of my Mom, Jackie and of course Miss Maggie herself. Full grown now, Maggie turned 1 year old in January.

Have a great week. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Cheers to Betty White

On Monday, January 17, Betty White would’ve turned 100 years old. Sadly, she was taken away from us on December 31st, the very last day of a challenging year, 2021. A global movement started to mark her 100th birthday, asking people to give as little as $5 to their favorite animal charity, because Betty White was such an advocate for animals. Imagine passing away 17 days before you turn 100, and people saying she ‘left us to soon’.

I participated in the challenge, donating money to the Halifax Cat Rescue Society. I chose this particular charity because of this fella.

Gabriel

Gabriel is my second forever foster from the Halifax Cat Rescue Society. They look for forever foster homes for cats that still have lots of life left, but have an illness that makes them unadoptable. Gabriel is FIV+, so I provide a loving home and all his food, they pay all his vet bills. I’ve had Gabriel for almost 4 years, so there is lots of love to be had by these kitties.

Leo

Leo was my first foster from HCRS, and sadly he died just before I had him 2 years from Feline Leukemia. But he was so sweet and I loved taking care of him for his final years. As you can see Leo loved his life here.

Betty White’s show business career spanned 8 decades, and her love of animals even longer than that. She was an activist and supported many organizations to make lives better for cats, dogs, and all kinds of critters.

So let’s raise a glass to Betty White. Betty also loved her wine. She has been quoted as saying “A glass of wine a day will help you live longer, let’s live forever”.

She was living proof!!

My friend Angie and I shared a wine Tuesday evening that was definitely a treat celebratory wine.

Francis Ford Coppola Directors Cut Cabernet

My nephew Brady wanted to give me a bottle of wine at Christmas and I told him I loved Zinfandel. So when I opened the gift and saw the label, I thought it was the Director’s Cut Zinfandel, which I have had several times, as you used to be able to get it in Halifax. When I opened the wine and tasted it, I did a second take, and realized it was Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh My God! It was delicious. Hands down the most full-bodied wine I have ever had. It was so full and heavy on the palate, I wish I had one to have with a steak LOL. You can’t get it here in Atlantic Canada, but starting in Quebec and heading West you can. If you see it, pick it up, it’s a great wine.

Regular readers know I love to cook, I love to eat, and I like to share recipes. Sometimes I try recipes that don’t work out as well as I would have liked. Case in point – Orange Chicken. It didn’t turn out horrendous, I ate it, but the sauce was a little sweet for me.

Orange chicken

I love Chinese Food and I’m always trying the recipes at home. So, I wasn’t sure where I was going with this piece of chicken first, so I always marinade boneless skinless chicken breast.

So I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, so I started with a marinade of salt, pepper, Chinese 5-spice, balsamic vinegar and orange juice. A site I use a lot for recipes is ‘Rock Recipes’, originating in Newfoundland, and let me tell you, this man can cook. Check it out at www.rockrecipes.com I love this site, but I’m not as talented as Barry is.

Check out his Orange chicken recipe or his double crunch honey garlic chicken. I did the flour with the spices and the egg wash. In the flour I had salt, pepper, garlic powder, Chinese 5-spice and a little ginger. However, the mistake I made, I didn’t dry off my chicken pieces before adding the coating. Why is that important? The breading won’t stick to the chicken. You can see the breading falling off as it’s cooking.

I used a cast iron frying pan, and the chicken turned out delicious, just not as pretty as the recipe. I also found the Orange Chicken sauce a little sweet, so I only used half the chicken with that sauce, and used the offer half in a sweet Thai chili sauce. I’ll definitely do the process again, learning from my mistakes. That’s the fun thing about trying new things in the kitchen, they don’t always turn out, but you still have to try.

Last but not least, my wine of the week..

Monte Antico Toscana

I have many friends and readers in Newfoundland, so this wine is available both here and in Newfoundland. A fantastic Tuscan wine that costs under $20. This is a Super Tuscan wine, consisting of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, an absolute perfect blend. This is a great food wine, because of the 3 grapes, it will go with anything you serve for dinner.

A big thank you to everyone who donated to their favorite animal charity this past week. I hope everyone is doing OK in January, it can be a long month.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene