It’s been three months since I have posted a blog. During that time, traffic to my website has taken a deep dive and Pinterest went from 40,000 to 3,000 monthly viewers. However, analytics haven’t stopped me from cooking and baking. Each experience has been deliciously satisfying and that to me, has been more important than worrying about insights or an Instagram post. Today, I’m sharing a recipe for a Pumpkin Cake Roll, a perfect Thanksgiving dessert.
This year has been challenging and the time that I have neglected my blog has been dedicated to new projects. As this year closes, today’s Thanksgiving dessert brings to mind a few things that I’m grateful for.
Flour: Sounds silly, but flour is now easily found.
Work: I am thankful for new and different opportunities where I’m not subjected to so many deadlines.
Time: With less work, I have more time to pursue projects that I thought that I wouldn’t get to until retirement.
Friends: I have more time for people now and that’s nice. Can’t wait until I can see more of them in person.
Recognition: I am thankful for being interviewed by Shoutout Miami. Please read it to get to know me a little better.
Connections and Community: One of my new projects, Live in Italy Magazine has allowed me to meet new people and learn new traditions. (Something that has been lost during these times that we can’t travel.)
Pumpkin Cake Roll Recipe
This Pumpkin Cake Roll is delicious and easy. There are a few different versions, but the one that I used can be found here. Per request, I’ve also translated it into Italian. Click here.
3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional confectioners’ sugar, optional
Line a 15x10x1-in. baking pan with waxed paper; grease the paper and set aside. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and pumpkin, beating on high until sugar is almost dissolved.
In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold into egg yolk mixture. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gently fold into pumpkin mixture. Spread into prepared pan.
Bake at 375° until cake springs back when lightly touched, 12-15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.
Turn cake onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Gently peel off waxed paper.
Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side. Cool completely on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth.
Unroll cake; spread filling evenly to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up again, without towel. Cover and freeze until firm. May be frozen for up to 3 months. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before cutting. If desired, dust with confectioners’ sugar.
I’m currently re-reading The Alchemist, so it seems appropriate to end with a quote from Paulo Coelho’s book.
And, when you can’t go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward.
I’m not sure when I’ll have time to blog again, but in the meantime, please subscribe to one of my newest projects: Live in Italy Magazine.
Be sure to let me know what you’re thankful for and what’s your favorite Thanksgiving dessert in a comment below. 👇🏼
Lemon Ricotta Cake is a Perfect Finish to the Summer BBQ Dinner!
Here’s the perfect way to use up leftover Ricotta cheese. This Lemon Ricotta Cake recipe is the ideal finish to the summer BBQ dinner. The “secret sauce” is the lemon rind which means that you need real lemons. Please don’t use bottled lemon juice! Keep scrolling to read where you’ll find the best lemons in the world. 👇🏼
A Little History
It was impossible for me to find the Lemon Ricotta Cake’s true origin despite the many versions that are available on the internet. I am going to guess Sicily, because that area of Italy claims to be the founder of ricotta cheese. (Since my readership is largely based in Italy, feel free to comment at the end of the blog should you know differently. 👇🏼)
I love how in traditional Italian Cuisine, you can find innovative and tasty examples of how nothing went to waste. Ricotta (it’s really a curd rather than cheese) came about when someone wanted to find a way to use the whey leftover from other cheeses. In fact, Ricotta translates to “re-cooked.” One of the earliest references to ricotta was made by a Sicilian history professor.
Curious about how Ricotta is made? I suggest that you watch this video.
World’s Most Famous Lemons
Probably the biggest and best lemons in the world come from the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento. Have you been there? If so, tag #LiveinItalyMag @LiveinItalyMag in your photos for re-gram consideration.
Now despite Sorrento’s claim to lemon fame, it’s believed that this citrus fruit’s roots go back to Northern India, China and Malaysia. It was the Medici’s of Florence that brought lemons to Italy and started cultivating lemons in the 16th Century. Read more here.
This cake is called Migliaccio (pudding) in Naples. The name is indicative of the Lemon Ricotta Cake’s texture. In this version, semolina is used rather than flour. Here again, is a great example of making something delicious of ingredients readily on hand.
1 1/3 cups (188g) all-purpose flour (scoop and level to measure)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (356g) whole milk ricotta cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together sugar, butter and lemon zest until pale and fluffy.
Mix in eggs one at a time (mixture will appear lumpy), blend in vanilla.
Add in half of the flour mixture and mix just until combined, add ricotta and mix just until combined.
Add in last half of the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Gently fold batter to ensure ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared springform pan and spread into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven until cake is set (a toothpick can come out moist but no batter), about 45 – 50 minutes.
Let cake cool 10 minutes then run a knife around edge to loosen any edges that may have stuck slightly, remove springform ring and continue to let cool.
Once cool, dust the Lemon Ricotta Cake with powdered sugar and serve it with fresh fruit and whipped cream, if desired.
A Ricotta Life Lesson
I’m enjoying this journey to discover the history of some of the ingredients that go into Italian dishes and desserts that I love. I hope you will enjoy joining me on this food journey too.
Quality ingredients are key. However, being mindful and not letting anything go to waste strengthens our appreciation of what we make.
Cu’ non mancia ccu’ so’ cucchiaru lassa tutto ‘o zammataru. (Those who don’t eat with a spoon will leave all their ricotta behind.) ~ Professor Santi Correnti, chairman of the history department of the University of Catania and a preeminent historian of Sicily.
If you like lemon desserts, check out this easy, No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake recipe.
All food bloggers including me, need to take a break from the kitchen for rest and inspiration. This week’s blog post explains the reason why I tried to make Focaccia and the history of Vitello Tonnato. There’s a perfect pairing and French Wine connection explained at the end too.
Riviera Focacceria Miami: A Focaccia Tradition Born in Liguria
Feeling a little “flight grounded,” I’ve been needing another escape. A lunch get-together in Miami gave me the energy boost that I needed to return to the writer’s keyboard! If traveling to South Florida, I highly recommend that you visit Riviera Focacceria. It’s located at the Shops of Midtown Miami.
Currently, you can’t sit inside because of Coronavirus restrictions. However there’s a shady patio with a succulent wall on one side and animated street view on the other. To simulate an ocean breeze, try a wine “infused with the sea” and enjoy one of their seafood dishes. Your imagination and taste buds will quickly transport you to Liguria on the Italian Riviera!
A Focaccia First
I first visited Riviera Focacceria in 2014, (shortly after it opened) to pick up lunch to take to a meeting. The smell of freshly baked focaccia lured me in and the variety of baked yumminess on display were fascinating. Little did I know, that Miami’s best Italian sandwich was in that takeout bag! Forget Panini made from Ciabatta bread. When eating a sandwich made with homemade Focaccia, your teeth first sink through a crispy exterior. Then, they’ll descend into buttery craters to reach their final destination: delicious fillings like cheese, Prosciutto, Speck or vegetables. It’s heavenly!
When the Calf Met the Tuna Fish: Vitello Tonnato
Vitello Tonnato means Veal in a Tuna Sauce. Although this partnership seems odd, think of it as the Piedmontese “Surf and Turf” — thin slices of aromatic veal served cold and topped with a creamy tuna, anchovy and capers mayonnaise. Trust me, it’s delicious and the history of Vitello Tonatto is quite fascinating.
DYK Piemonte (land of Barolo and Barbaresco) is only a one and half hour drive from coastal Liguria?
The concept of “fat” relating to meat and “lean” to seafood, as two separate nutritional entities dates back to the Middle Ages. At some point in Italian food history, a cook decided to challenge this idea and the first experiment, to no surprise, was adding anchovies to a sauce. Salt-preserved anchovies were used to boost the flavor of meat sauces and at this moment in history, an umami lover’s miracle was born!
Fast forward and some culinary experiments later, a medical researcher came up with three variations of Vitello Tonnato. Not only were they tasty, but he felt that each would benefit the digestive track.
By the 1950’s, Vitello Tonnato became the culinary sensation that we know today: thin slices of veal topped with a sauce enriched with a creamy mayonnaise.
A French Wine Connection: Domaine Ménard-Gaborit, 2012 Monnières-Saint-Fiacre 2012 (Muscadet Sèvre et Maine)
🍇: Melon de Bourgogne
Muscadet was on my wine newbie “to do” list. Melon de Bourgogne is the only grape used in Muscadet. The Pays Nantais region (where this wine dominates) is located in the western Loire Valley on the Loire River — the longest river in France. Additionally, it’s also 31 miles (50 km) from the Atlantic Ocean. Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine is the most famous Muscadet appellation.
Funnily, luck was on my side that day. My favorite wine guru decided that the Domaine Ménard-Gaborit wine would go well with Vitello Tonnato. We also ate an octopus and artichoke appetizer and seafood pasta.
I greatly enjoyed the new release, Contre Courant (“against the current”.) With “notes of seabreeze,” it paired perfectly with lunch. Additionally, the one that I took home, the 2012 Monnières-Saint-Fiacre, had me thinking and salivating for days!
Note: This wine is not on Riviera Focacceria’s wine list. However, they have a wide selection of quality wines that complement the Ligurian-inspired menu.
Riviera Focacceria’s central location makes it a perfect spot for lunch or a relaxing evening with full course dinner. They also offer delivery services should you be staying home during COVID-19 and need a cooking break. Check out their food and wine menus here.
In short, here is why I tried to make Focaccia. I hope to one day get better at making this Ligurian specialty. Somethings like Focaccia though, may be best left to the experts.
At Riviera Focacceria, the spotlight is on Ligurian cuisine. Enjoy regional icons such as: Pansotti, Focaccia di Recco (filled with Stracchino cheese,) and Mandilli de Saea “silk handkerchiefs.”
Our plate and glass keep us connected with Italian history and culture. That connection makes us want to visit Italy over and over again. Or, some may even wish to live there one day.
Thanks to the people who keep these gastronomic traditions alive, we can find some new experiences close to home too.
It’s the not the destination, It’s the journey. ~ Ralph Emerson
Note: I thought long and hard about writing about a veal dish. If you’d like to know more about this subject I suggest you read this website. There is a movement for better practices in cultivating the meat and that can be read here.
There’s nothing pleasant about living in South Florida these days. This year, the stifling heat and humidity are minor burdens compared to the reality of living in Florida, the COVID-19 epicenter. We’re just sitting and watching our impending, pandemic doom. Read it to believe it here. So, when life gives you lemons, make an easy no-bake lemon cheesecake.
Here’s the recipe below and some history about this famous saying at the end 👇🏼 – just keep scrolling if you’re not making this dessert. However, I suggest that you do because it’s a great finish to a BBQ dinner.
Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugars in a medium-sized bowl. Add melted butter and use a fork to combine ingredients well.
Pour mixture into a 9″ or 10″ springform pan. Use the (clean!) bottom of a measuring cup to firmly pack crumbs into the bottom of the pan and gently press up the sides. Use your fingers to pack crumbs tightly into the sides of the pan.
Place in refrigerator or freezer while you prepare cheesecake filling.
Pour Lemon Jello gelatin mix into 1 cup very hot water and stir well. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, stir cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth and well-combined.
Add sour cream and stir well.
Mix in vanilla extract.
Only once Jello mixture is no longer hot to the touch, gradually pour into cream cheese mixture. Stir slowly at first (to avoid splashing) and then increase speed until mixture is completely combined (pause to scrape down sides of the bowl periodically). Stir very well.
In a separate bowl, pour your heavy cream and use an electric mixer with whisk attachment to beat to stiff peaks.
Fold whipped cream into cheesecake mixture until well-combined.
Fold in lemon zest, if using.
Pour over graham cracker crust and transfer to refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight to chill.
If desired, top with whipped cream before cutting and serving.
I made two versions. For the second one, I used strawberry Jello because I needed a July 4th dessert. It came out pink, so I added a strawberry to the center and outlined the no-bake cheesecake with blueberries and whipped cream. Hooray for the red, but really pink, white and blue! 😊
The lemon version is a much tastier and more sophisticated dessert, because it doesn’t taste at all like Jello. Next year, I’ll just add some red food color to the original, no-bake lemon cheesecake recipe.
When Life Gives You Lemons
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is a memorable proverbial phrase that many of us like to pull out of our pocket and slap on like a Band-Aid, when something goes wrong. The phrase originates from a obituary titled, “The King of Jesters” penned by Elbert Hubbard who was inspired by the life of a disabled, but highly successful, dwarf actor.
In stressful times such as now, we turn to these words of wisdom and hopefully, find positive ways to escape. For me, it would be a visit to a museum, walk on the beach, or lunch with a friend. However, these simple solutions are now like unattainable luxuries as Floridians struggle to stay healthy and economically stable.
I’ll continue to temporarily forget by escaping to my kitchen and “make lemonade (or lemon cheesecake) from lemons.” However, it’s getting harder…
P.S. I am very thankful for all you who have shared this recipe. I was asked to post it in Spanish and Italian, so there are links at the top of the recipe. I am not fluent in Spanish or in Italian, so I used Google Translator. So, excuse any typos! 😊
Ricci Curbastro Guided Wine Tasting Seminar: History, Area, and Wines
If you haven’t had an opportunity to try Franciacorta, know that there are many reasons to do so. Once you’ve had just a few sips, I can almost guarantee that you’ll fall in love and possibly make this style of wine you’re preferred choice of bubbly. Today’s blog post is solely dedicated to the wine presented at the Ricci Curbastro guided wine tasting seminar.
Yes, I’ll mention the suggested pairings at the end and possibly in a future post. However, today I’ll recap the one hour, World Wine Web Masterclass seminar led by wine expert, Lyn Farmer and featuring Riccardo and Gualberto Ricci Curbastro of Ricci Curbastro Farm Estate Winery. A group of about twenty-five guests including lucky me, had a chance to learn about the history, vineyards and wines.
What is Franciacorta?
Franciacorta is a small wine-producing area in Lombardy, Italy and is also a style of high-quality sparkling wine made using the Traditional Method or when speaking about Champagne, Méthode Champenoise. Now is not the time to compare ‘apples and oranges,’ because Franciacorta has its own unique identity, so let’s first dive into some history.
The cultivation of vines in Franciacorta goes back very far. Think about evidence of prehistoric grape seeds and mentions in the writings of Pliny the Elder. You can read more here.
The agricultural tradition of the Ricci Curbastro family dates back to the thirteenth century. Eighteen generations later, Riccardo leads the business alongside his eldest son Gualberto who bears his grandfather’s name.
Franciacorta received its DOCG status* in 1995 and was the first Italian sparkling wine to achieve this designation. The region consists of about 120 producers. Gualberto explained at that time, the term Traditional or Classical Method was no longer used and replaced with Franciacorta as the only word to describe the wine style.
*Read about Italian Wine Classifications here.
There’s Something About Soil
A few years ago when Riccardo was sorting through papers, he discovered a map that dated back to 1908. It documented the research that his grandfather and great grandfather made to decide what was the best combination in terms of grafting American roots and European varieties after the phylloxera epidemic.
“Franciacorta is the stratification of great patience and a lot of research in getting always better and better quality,” remarked Riccardo with a tone of admiration and appreciation for his forefathers. “And, we started a long time ago.”
He explains that Franciacorta has over sixty soil profiles. For this reason it is very important that Ricci Curbastro has vineyards in three different villages because of the variations in soil. Plus, the microclimates are different between the three. I suggest you watch the full video on the World Wine Web’s Masterclass Facebook page to understand more.
“There is something pretty unique in terms of characteristics: soil and climate,” says Riccardo when explaining the area, located at the foot of the Alps and north by the shores of Lake Iseo. The area has an unusual mix of climates, including Mediterranean.
One of the ingredients of our wine is time. ~ Riccardo Ricci Curbastro
We tasted three wines: Franciacorta Brut NV (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir); Franciacorta Brut Satèn 2014 (100% Chardonnay); and Franciacorta Rosé Brut NV (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay.) You can read the wine specs here.
What engages me the most about wine seminars is to hear from people who create the wines. The insights and anecdotes are a trajectory from what’s in my glass to the vineyard and history.
For example, I learned that the word Satèn (silk) is a name that is typically only from Franciacorta and infers Franciacorta’s past when they were producing a lot of silk, as well as wine. Silk is a perfect metaphor for Franciacorta Satèn: “When you touch a scarf you have the sensation of something that is smooth but, at the same time, it is a very strong cloth,” explains Riccardo noting that the first parachutes were made of silk. “The wine’s strength is like roundness and very good structure.”
Not Just for Toasting
Lyn, Riccardo and Gualberto emphasized that the Ricci Curbastro wines go well with food and are not just for toasting at special occasions. Gualberto who grew up with Franciacorta at the table said when speaking of the Rosé Brut: “We’ve tried the best and worst with Franciacorta, but barbeque is always a good combination.”
Riccardo refers to the Rosé Brut as a “light red” and explained that the dryness, acidity and elegance of the wine balances with the richness of grilled meat.
We were drooling, when Lyn presented his 11:00 am “perfect pairing” – Smoked Salmon and Bacon-Wrapped Scallops. Yum and I need to hurry back into the kitchen lab!
Falling In Love
While I won’t write about it today, I suggest you watch the video and learn more about the Sustainable Winery 3E logo that is on the back label of Ricci Curbastro wines. You can also read more here.
Lyn commented on one of my Instagram posts that “Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta is the ultimate postcard in a glass.” I couldn’t agree more!
Once you’ve watched the seminar, read the Ricci Curbastro website to learn more, and drink the wines, I suggest that you watch this film: “F is for Franciacorta.” If you’re anything like me, you too will be ‘falling in love’ with Franciacorta.
Falling in love consists merely in uncorking the imagination and bottling the common sense. ~ Helen Rowland
A Very Special Thanks for the Invitation to this Virtual Event💕
Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce Recipe Paired with 2015 Jean- Baptiste Riesling Kabinett by Weingut Gunderloch
Today’s recipe and pairing wine is taking me out of my comfort zone. This Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce recipe nicely complements the 2015 Jean- Baptiste Riesling Kabinett by Weingut Gunderloch and is a perfect Sunday meal that will give you more time to relax than spent in the kitchen.
How Do You Like Your Wine?
Typically, I like white wines that are bone dry and red wines with some ‘oomph.’ When it comes to food, I prefer dishes that are savory and avoid anything sweet that goes alongside them like turkey with cranberry sauce.
Just like last week, I still have my nose in a glass and in a pile of books. If you’re not making these recipes, scroll down for some Weingut Gunderloch history and some introductory German wine vocabulary too. 👇🏼
10 to 12 ounces apricot preserves (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons chicken broth (or dry sherry)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
In a large food storage bag or glass bowl, combine 1/2 cup chicken broth, the soy sauce, minced garlic, dry mustard, thyme, and ginger.
Add pork roast, turning to coat well.
Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, turning occasionally.
Remove pork roast and discard the marinade.
Heat the oven to 325 F.
Place pork roast, fat side up, on a rack in a foil-lined roasting pan.
Bake in the preheated oven, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until a meat thermometer or instant-read food thermometer registers at least 145 F when inserted into the center of the roast.
Remove the roast from the oven, tent loosely with a sheet of foil, and let it stand for 15 minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the preserves, 2 tablespoons of chicken broth or sherry, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.
Bring the sauce to a boil and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 1 minute.
Slice the pork loin thinly and serve it with the apricot sauce.
The Wine: 2015 Jean- Baptiste Riesling Kabinett by Weingut Gunderloch
The Weingut Gunderloch vineyards are in an area called Roter Hang which means ‘red slope’ and located in Germany’s Rheinhessen, Germany’s largest wine region. This area had been known for producing average wines, but this reputation is being redefined by wineries such as Weingut Gunderloch. You can find out more about this area here, but to put it into a better perspective, I suggest that you watch this video.
I found this wine at Wine by the Bay in Miami and a great write-up with descriptor here. I’ll dive briefly into Riesling and sweetness below, but here are Tim Lemke’s notes:
“The nose is powerfully floral and lemony. It smells absolutely wonderful. The palate offers crisp lemon, apple and peach flavors with good balance, perfect acidity and a pleasant mouthfeel. It has plenty of fruit, and is more tart than sweet. The finish is plenty long, and features lingering peach flavors. This is a pretty tasty Riesling.”
Just How Sweet is Sweet?
As Tim Lemke describes, the 2015 Jean- Baptiste Riesling Kabinett is somewhere between dry and sweet. That hint of sweetness means that it pairs very well with the Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce. Although designated as “Kabinett,” I feel that this wine is much more complex than the definition of Kabinett implies. Possibly, the aging in this case made the difference and Wine Newbie me feels like it drinks more like a Spätlese. If you disagree, feel free to leave a comment at the end. 👇🏼
Speaking of sweet, if you’re practicing for the WSET 2 exam and struggling with the Riesling classifications, here is a short breakdown of some of the things we must know: “Sprechen Sie Deutch?”
Landwein: Table wine and generally low quality. Like the category, “Protected Geographical Indication” it means that there are regulations in place.
Qualitätswein: Like the category, “Protected Designation of Origin.” Read more here.
Prädikatswein: Same as, “Protected Designation of Origin, but” this category is divided into subdivisions by levels of ripeness (sweetness.) I found it hard to memorize at first, but generally with repeated practice, it began to register:
Kabinett: Usually light wines made of fully ripe grapes.
Spätlese: Literally means “late harvest” and are more intense in flavor and concentration than the latter categories.
Auslese: Select picking of very ripe bunches.
Eiswein: Ice Wine – Wines of at least BA intensity are harvested while frozen
Neither the wine or this recipe would have been at the top of my “kitchen lab” list, but I needed to try Riesling as part of my wine education journey. I enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone. And, once again the wine inspired the dish. There are many “Reasons for Riesling” and future wine pairings too!
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Donald Walsch
I’m so antsy, aren’t you? South Florida summers aren’t pleasant, so since I won’t be hopping on a plane any time soon, I need to find ways to bring travel to the table.
Two Spanish Tapas Recipes and Rioja Wine
Take me back to Spain! It’s time relive vacation memories by making two classic Spanish recipes: Huevos Rotas (Potatoes with Broken Eggs,) Espinacas con Garbanzos (Chickpeas with Spinach,) and drink a Rioja Gran Reserva (Tempranillo.)
I’ll get to the WSET 2 studying part near the bottom of this blog 👇🏼. It’s important too, so keep reading…
Traditionally, this is a Tapas dish and not a side or breakfast!
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 pounds new potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces if necessary
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Lemon wedges, for serving
Flaky sea salt, for serving
In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil, paprika, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, a generous grind of pepper and 1 cup water. Put the potatoes in a large skillet and pour the olive oil mixture over them. Then, bring the potatoes to a boil, then cover and cook on high until the potatoes are fork-tender, 6 to 9 minutes.
Uncover and turn the heat to low. If the potatoes are sticking or dry, add more olive oil. Next, arrange the potatoes in an even layer, cut side down if halved, then add the onion and garlic surrounding the potatoes. Finally, cover and cook until the potatoes are golden-brown and the onions are softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
Stir the potatoes (if they’re sticking, add more oil). Make 4 nests in the potatoes and crack an egg into each. Season with salt and pepper and then, cover and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny, 4 to 6 minutes.
To serve, break the yolks gently with a serving spoon, then scoop some potatoes and an egg onto plates or into shallow bowls. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and flaky salt.
1/2 cup prosciutto cut into strips (optional) – I skipped this part and substituted baby spinach
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, simmer the onions and garlic in olive oil until they are soft but not browned. Add the chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, parsley, oregano, cumin and prosciutto, if using, and simmer for 30 minutes more.
Taste the mixture and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. If it does not seem moist enough, add a little of the reserved chickpea liquid or some olive oil, or both. Serve lukewarm with a green salad and good bread and butter or garlic oil.
Note: Since I was serving Serrano ham and Manchego cheese on the side, I skipped that part and substituted baby spinach instead. Simply stir in about 2-3 cups into the chickpea mix until the spinach wilts, but still keeps a bright green color.
The Pairing Wine: 2004 Viña Olabarri Gran Reserva
80% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 8% Mazuelo
I love Spanish wines, but the majority that I’ve tried are quite powerful. They work well with Spanish and Latin food that’s not spicy, but seldom would I think to drink one without food. However, the 2004 Viña Olabarri Gran Reserva is definitely a Rioja wine that I’d sip while reading a good book. I’ve never had a Gran Reserva wine before, so it was a treat to experience a wine that had been aged for 36 months in French and American oak barrels, plus cellar aged for another 36 months!
Here are the tasting notes provided by Viña Olabarri:
Color: Deep ruby red color with subtle brick red hues on the rim from the ageing process.
Bouquet: Intense aromas of black fruit and spices, with a mineral hint.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, integrating beautifully the rich ripe fruit with the sweet spices provided by the oak.
A pleasant, clean aftertaste of remarkable harmony.
A Little History
Viña Olabarri was founded by Pablo Olabarri Bikandi, who since 1958 spent long periods of time in Haro; due to his love of Rioja wines, in 1985 he decided to buy an old 19th century winery in Calle las Bodegas, in Anguciana.
As a result, the need for bigger, more modern facilities to make the wines took him to build a new winery in the outskirts of Haro in 1989, with capacity to hold 4,000 barrels and up to 800,000 bottles.
His son, Luis Olabarri is currently in charge of the winery.
It’s Test Time!
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’ve had my nose in a glass and a pile of wine books for some time. I started the Society of Wine Educators Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) course, but was finding it difficult. Although I can master self-study, I really needed to begin my wine journey with some guidance.
One good thing that’s come from the COVID-19 pandemic, is that there has been a plethora of new opportunities to learn online. I’ve wanted to take a Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) course for some time, but found it difficult to find the time. Also, since Florida Wine Academy is located in Downtown Miami, getting there once I finished my workday would have been a challenge. Shortly after participating in a couple Florida Wine Academy’s free Zoom webinars, they announced that the WSET 2 would be offered online. I immediately registered!
Registrants have the option to purchase the wine packs through them, but I found the required wines either near my home or at Wine by the Bay in Miami.
The course is six weeks and I’ve completed that part and now am studying for the exam. It’s been an exciting journey so far and the most important thing I’ve discovered, is that I’m still a Wine Newbie and loving it. This trip will take a lifetime and just when I’ve mastered one part, I realized that there’s so much more to discover.
This education is brain stimulation and tasty and I look forward to many more food and wine pairing weekends!
Wine Newbie Resources
Here are some additional resources that I found useful to enhance the WSET text and workbooks:
“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.”
― Benjamin Franklin
If you have a useful wine education resource to share, feel free to post it in a comment below. Plus, if you have your own Spanish tapas recipes or a Rioja wine to share, tag me in your photos on Instagram! Or, let me know how you bring travel to your table.
Today, I’m going to talk about how a delicious French Pinot Noir inspired me to make Broiled Salmon with Beurre Blanc. Be forewarned that if you’re counting calories, this classic French dish is rich in butter and cream and will take a bit of time to prepare. Overall, it’s an easy weekend meal that’s sure to please.
I’ve reversed the order of my previous posts leaving my personal reflection about this past week out of quarantine, until last. I think it’s important, so I hope you make it there. 👇🏼
Most of the time when I prepare a meal, I turn to Google or my favorite Wine Guru for advice to find the perfect pairing. Now that I have a little bit more knowledge about wine than I did six weeks ago (I’ll get to that next week), I’m doing the opposite. Needing to practice the WSET Systematic Approaching to Tasting (SAT) each weekend, I find a quiet moment to sit and analyze the wine: it’s color, aroma, taste, and do a bit of background research on the winemaker’s website or read some reviewer’s tasting notes. Then, I figure out what dish will work.
The Wine: Arnaud Baillot – Bourgogne “Haut Tartre” 2018
100% Pinot Noir
It’s extremely difficult to find information about Domaine Arnaud Baillot. They don’t have a website, but you can follow them on Instagram. You also won’t find reviews, but that could easily impede your visceral reaction. Despite how much you may know about wine, a simple like or don’t like is a great start. Then, you can research this area of Bourgogne (Burgundy) to further understand how expressions of Pinot Noir from here differ from other areas of the world.
I found this wine to be rich, yet refreshing. It brought back childhood memories of eating juicy summer cherries after a morning of picking at Niagara-on-the-Lake – lip smacking delicious! There were hints of strawberry, cherry candies, and dark chocolate. The wine had a lovely finish. I’d happily drink it on its own, simply paired with the summer sunset!
If you’re an expert reading my wine newbie descriptor, feel free to write a more in-depth review in the comment box below. Remember, that I’m just practicing. 😊
Domaine Arnaud Baillot is located in Beaune, the heart of the Côte d’Or. Owner and winemaker, Arnaud is passionate about the diversity of wines the Burgundy region has to offer. He and his wife Laure (grandaughter of Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat in Chambolle-Musigny) produce a spectacular range of villages and crus Burgundy wines.
You can find some of Arnaud Baillot’s wines at Wine by the Bay in Miami. (The owner, Stefano BTW is the above-mentioned “Wine Guru” and my wine mentor.)
Salmon with Beurre Blanc (inspired by the Morton’s Steakhouse recipe posted on Delish.)
1 teaspoon clarified butter or olive oil
¾ heavy cream
1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper
In a medium saucepan, heat the clarified butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it softens without coloring.
Add the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the wine reduces and the liquid coats the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and simmer, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until reduced by half.
Reduce the heat to low and begin adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition. Do not allow the cream to boil once the butter is added.
For the salmon, I brushed each side with olive oil, sprinkled the salmon with salt and pepper and broiled each side for about 7 minutes.
Place the Beurre Blanc sauce on the dish, top with the salmon and garnish with lemon slices.
Thinking in Reverse
Today, I’m thinking about “thinking in reverse.” My pairing menu was planned and the blog written in reverse order. Thinking in reverse may initially feel like walking backwards: it makes us uncomfortable. However, it leads to greater creativity and maybe better and long-lasting solutions. Read more here.
It’s now Week 2 of the return to the “new norm.”
It’s also now just past one week of international protests, which is a term that I would rather say than “civil unrest.” Writing about food and wine seemed trivial last week – kind of self-indulgent, so I paused and spent the week listening and thinking.
COVID-19 reminds us that there are forces beyond our control and millions of people worldwide stopped daily life to protect each other from accelerating the pandemic’s impact. With respect to the protests, it’s time to pause and listen. We can’t reverse history, but it’s time to think in reverse.
Let’s determine what we value most and re-examine our values.
“Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control.”
Homemade Hamburger Buns and Bernaise Sauce Recipes
Two Favorite Beef Dish Recipes, Syrah Wine Pairing and a Rant About Choices
It’s now Week 1 of the, “we don’t have to stay-at-home anymore” order and my Week 11 at home. If it wasn’t for continuous rainy days, I think there’d be a lot more people outside enjoying all that South Florida has to offer. Before I get to the homemade hamburger buns and Béarnaise Sauce recipes, plus the Northern Rhône Syrah wine pairing, I thought I’d talk about making choices that we can or will make during the COVID_19 pandemic.
Where’s the Beef?
DYK the history of this slogan? It was part of a 1984 advertising campaign for Wendy’s. Ironically, this fast food chain recently announced that it was short of or had run out of beef at some of its restaurants. If you’re a marketing geek like me, you’ll find this story interesting and see how this catchy campaign set Wendy’s apart from its competitors.
Seems like everyone has something to say lately and our voices are amplified through social media because the reality is, no one can really hear you through a mask and we can’t get together like we used to. People reluctant to head to the beach or restaurants are called cowards (or much worse) by some, and the ones out frolicking around like immortals are named pillars of mass death by others. Yes, that is the extreme POV, but I’m not making it up – just check out the conversations on Facebook.
True to my Canadian nature, I’m more on the reserved side: quietly working and entertaining myself at home thinking that my stay-at-home actions are for the greater good. My biggest indulgences these days are a good meal and bottle of wine.
I love filet mignon, but at $13-$20 per pound, it’s a splurge meal. Rather than thinking that the cost of eating a prime cut is at least double the expense of at least one family meal, I put that rationale aside. I’m lucky to have this liberty, but If you prefer to stick to ‘Feeding Five Under 25 $,’ choose recipe one because there’s nothing better than a juicy hamburger to satisfy our craving for beef.
If you’re not interested in the recipes, be sure to scroll down and read about the ‘Que Syrah Syrah’ wine pairing and my conclusion about making choices.
The recipe as stated worked best for sliders. If you want full size hamburger buns, double up the ingredients. Either make your own hamburger patties or buy prepared ones. I served the hamburgers with homemade guacamole and potato chips that I sliced whole potatoes with a mandolin.
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Do not let rise. Divide into 12 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 3 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Preheat oven to 425°.
Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake until golden brown, 8-12 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.
Notes: While hamburgers don’t take long, both the Smash Potatoes and Béarnaise Sauce take quite a bit of time, so make this on a day with lots of free time. It’s a great opportunity to listen to a podcast since you shouldn’t take your eyes off of the Bernaise Sauce!
1/4 cup chopped tarragon
1 teaspoon drained capers
1 tablespoon cold butter
Use a mortar and pestle to combine the ingredients. Wrap the compound butter in plastic wrap and refrigeration while you make the Tarragon Reduction.
1 cup fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 rounded teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup water
Simmer the tarragon leaves and peppercorns (or ground pepper) in the liquids until you have about 3 tablespoons of reserved liquid. Gently squeeze all of the liquid through a strainer so you have a clear broth.
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar reduction
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 tablespoon caper tarragon compound butter
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
freshly ground black pepper, optional
Add 2 egg yolks and tarragon reduction to a stainless steel bowl or pot and whisk until combined. Add all of the cold butter cubes and whisk together on medium heat. Keep whisking until the color lightens and it thickens. Add the compound butter cut into cubes and keep whisking until combined. Remove from heat and add salt if desired.
Note: I seared the filet mignon (coated lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper) with a tbsp of butter and one of olive oil and then finished the meat in the oven set to 425 ° until medium. You can grill them too.
You can watch Chef John’s video for help. I made the Compound Butter before the Tarragon Reduction. I suggest using room temperature eggs.
Place potatoes into a 5-quart stockpot and cover with 3 quarts of cold water. Add kosher salt and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until potatoes are just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. Let potatoes cool just until they’re safe to handle.
Transfer potatoes onto a sheet pan and continue cooling to room temperature. Make 4 or 5 shallow cuts down the sides of each potato, about every inch or so, to ensure the skin splits evenly when smashed. Refrigerate until completely chilled and ready to smash; 8 hours to overnight is best.
Combine butter, sliced garlic, rosemary, and thyme in a small pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts and begins to bubble, and garlic softens and starts to turn translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (232 degrees C). Line 2 metal baking sheets with silicone baking mats (such as Silpat®) and generously brush on some of the infused melted butter.
Remove potatoes from the fridge and gently smash each between two pieces of plastic using a flat, heavy object until 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides, being careful not to break potatoes up into small pieces. Transfer onto a sheet pan, being careful not to overlap potatoes. Very generously drizzle and brush most of the melted butter on top.
Bake potatoes in the preheated oven until well browned and crunchy around the edges, 35 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the pan with the remaining garlic and herb butter back over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic starts to turn a very light golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.
Carefully transfer potatoes onto a serving platter and scatter over the golden brown slices of garlic. Crumble the toasted herbs on top if desired. Serve immediately.
Every day I learn something new about wine. However, each day I also realize that I still know very little. If you’re a wine newbie like me, I think that one of the first things you question is the high cost of certain wines and how to justify the expense. It’s a safe assumption that if you have an opportunity to pay more for a wine made by a top producer, you should. However, if you can’t, I am learning (thanks to Wine by the Bay) that some winemakers offer affordable choices that allow you to experience for example, a winemaker’s expression of a vineyard or grape variety; or a winemaking style. These offerings also don’t compromise quality for the sake of affordability.
You could say that today’s wine is like the hamburger substitute for filet mignon – multiplied exponentially! Domaine Jean-Louis Chave wines fetch anywhere from $20.00 to more than $8,000.00 per bottle! Needing to taste a Crozes-Hermitage for the WSET 2 class, I luckily found myself at the lower end of the price spectrum. However, this wine is fantastic and since I’m nowhere near being one who can judge, I suggest you rely on these recommendations by two reputable wine critics: Erik Asimov and Josh Raynolds.
Bright violet. Mineral-accented cherry, boysenberry and smoky bacon aromas are complicated by suggestions of olive and candied flowers. Energetic and focused for the vintage, offering concentrated bitter cherry, cassis and violet pastille flavors braced by a spine of juicy acidity. Closes sappy, smooth and quite long, with sneaky tannins and a lingering suggestion of juicy black and blue fruits. Drink date: 2022-2030. Score – 92. ~ Josh Raynolds
The Whatever Will Be, Will Be Philosophy Isn’t That Comforting
Freedom of choice, too many choices, making choices, and no choice. It’s just too easy and I think irresponsible to say, “Que Sera, Sera?” Whatever choice you make today may greatly affect what happens tomorrow.
Freedom of choice is also freedom to decide when you do not want to choose. ~ Simona Botti.
Today’s blog pays tribute to my mother and includes two cherished Canadian desserts: Nanaimo Bars and Butter Tarts. My Mom wasn’t a very good cook, but she loved to have people over for dinner and no one ever turned down an invitation. The problem with my mother’s cooking was that she was too limiting, for example: lesser quality ingredients to save money; less salt because sodium isn’t good for you; and she was British. Let’s face it, when it comes to food England isn’t France or Italy. Growing up, I suffered through a fair share of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, Bubble and Squeak, Bangers and Mash, Trifle and Plum Pudding while silently wishing that I was born Italian.
On the other hand, my frugal Mom could bake and she never skimped on butter, sugar, chocolate, or whatever ingredient was needed to make dessert. The best part about mediocre suppers (as a Brit says) was that on special occasions, we could eat at least two kinds of desserts and Christmas was a sugar smorgasbord! It’s these memories that inspire today’s dessert menu — just keep reading a little more…
It’s now Week 10 of the now relaxed, stay-at-home order. Since I’ve always worked remotely and anyone who I deal with is also doing the same, there’s nowhere yet to really go. I’m not so sure either if I’ll be heading out soon for a socially distant lunch, shopping spree, or nail appointment. Will you be?
In May I Mourn
Today, marks nine years since my Mom passed away. As soon as May arrives, it’s like a dark cloud sits over me. No matter how fast I run from this cloud, it follows me. Like so many people in these current circumstances, who are saying their last goodbyes from a distance, I can relate. My Mom lost her battle with cancer one week after Mother’s Day. I sat in my backyard while she was at a hospice center in Canada, when we cried through one of our last conversations – a Happy Mother’s Day wish. It wasn’t happy, but what could I say?
The Reasons Why I Blog
Yes, I won’t deny it – I do blog for SEO. What writer or business owner doesn’t? However, my “call to write” is because of the following:
I write because I can express myself so much better than in spoken words.
I want to be heard because sometimes the people closest to me aren’t listening. I also want to be heard by others and I do appreciate the feedback received on social media.
Expanding on the latter point, I hope that someone else identifies with my subject and is inspired to cook, bake, drink wine, learn more about art, etc.
Finally, I write to leave something behind. When you lose a loved one, you hold tight to memories and material things such as photos, birthday cards, letters, Fine China – anything to keep that person close long after they’re gone. This blog is for my own children. Currently, they are slightly annoyed that they can’t eat before I get the perfect photo. However, maybe one day they’ll treasure these recipes and ramblings.
Unless you’re from Quebec, it’s really hard to define Canadian food. However, I’m delighted to share a couple of my favorite desserts that are apparently indigenous to Canada (not England.) There’s an interesting history to Nanaimo Bars (named after a city in British Colombia) and I suggest you read it here. If you visit B.C., you can follow the Nanaimo Bar Trail! Although there are many versions of this recipe, I’ve adapted the one created by the winner of the 1986 Best Nanaimo Bar Recipe contest held by the then, Mayor of Nanaimo. You can find Joyce Hardcastle’s recipe here.
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter (preferably European-style cultured butter)
5 Tbsp (75 mL) cocoa powder
¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ¾ cups (425 mL) graham wafer crumbs
1 cup (250 mL) shredded coconut
½ cup (125 mL) almonds, finely chopped (Note: I didn’t use nuts. See Blog Bloopers below.)
1. Pour 2 cups (500 mL) water into bottom of double boiler. Place on stove over medium heat and bring water to simmer.
2. In top of double boiler; combine butter, cocoa and sugar; place over simmering water. Heat, stirring, until butter has melted and mixture is smooth.
3. Add beaten egg; stir until thick. Remove top of double boiler from heat. Stir in graham wafer crumbs, coconut and almonds.
4. Scrape into parchment paper-lined 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish. Press firmly to create even bottom layer.
5. Tip: If you don’t have a double boiler, half-fill a saucepan with water and heat over medium heat until water begins to simmer. Then, place a metal or glass bowl over the simmering water and proceed as directed.
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp + 2 tsp (40 mL) whipping or heavy cream
2 Tbsp (30 mL) vanilla custard powder
2 cups (500 mL) icing sugar
With a mixer, cream together butter, cream and custard powder. Gradually add icing sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Scrape over bottom layer, smoothing top with spatula or palette knife.
4 oz (115 g) semi-sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter
In clean double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. When cool, but still liquid, pour over custard layer.
Cover and refrigerate until cold. (About six hours.)
Unless I’ve forgotten, my mother never made her own Butter Tarts. It was a dessert staple and a cheap sweet treat. There are versions of this recipe that include raisins, but I never liked them included then so certainly will not add them now.
2 ¼ cups flour, pastry flour is best to use but all-purpose will do
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening, Very cold and cut in cubes
1/2 cup butter, Very cold and cut in cubes
6 tbsp ice water, approximately, enough to bring the dough together
1. Pulse the cold butter and shortening into the flour sugar and salt using a food processor until the shortening or butter is reduced to pea sized pieces.
2. Sprinkle the water over the surface and toss with a fork until the water is just incorporated into the dough. Do not over work the dough; handle it only enough so that the dough stays together.
3. Form the dough into two rounds about an inch thick.
4. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for about a half hour.
5. Roll out on lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds with 4 inch cutter. Fit into muffin cups. Chill in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the filling. Cold pastry heading into a hot oven will always be flakier.
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
(Optional: ½ cup raisins, substituting, pecans, walnuts or chocolate chips.)
1. Combine all filling ingredients except raisins.
2. Mix well.
3. Sprinkle raisins in a single layer in the bottom of the pastry lined muffin cups.
4. Fill 2/3 full with syrup mixture.
5. Bake on bottom shelf of oven at 425 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Cool completely on a wire rack and remove tarts from from pans.
Baking is an exact science and if you want to improvise, stick to cooking. A few things went wrong:
(1) For the Nanaimo Bars, I only had a rectangle baking pan and an 8-inch round, springform pan. Because of a nut allergy, I added more graham cracker crumbs to make up the difference. With too much crust crumbs on my hands, I had to decide between discarding some of this mix to fit in the round pan or fill a rectangular pan. I did the latter and what a mistake! There wasn’t enough custard filling and spreading it thinly was a disaster (see below for the lesson learned.) I then made more ganache to cover up the mistake and avoid a sweet tragedy!
(2) For the Butter Tarts, I did not make my own crust, but plan to do so in the future so I left that part in. As you know, some items are hard to come by, so I substituted store-bought pie dough for pastry flour to make a dough from scratch. I then cut the full size pre-cut pie dough into small circles by using a glass. Note: anticipating a gooey baked mess, I also used foil cupcake liners that I later removed once the tarts had cooled.
Wine of the Week: Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Crozes-Hermitage Silene 2017 from Wine by the Bay.
(3) When conceiving a blog post, I usually plan the wine and prepare the meal before I take the photo. Because I had already opened this bottle the night before for dinner, I had just presumed that a Syrah would work with a chocolate dessert. While this pairing wasn’t bad, it wasn’t perfect. The Crozes-Hermitage Silene 2017 is a gentle beauty and a nice expression of this style. It paired well with my French-inspired dinner and I’ll write about it next week!
Can Actions Speak Louder than Words?
My mother never told me that she loved me. It’s strange to grow up never hearing those three words and although I struggle to say it myself, I make sure that the ones I love hear it maybe not every day, but enough. I honestly can’t understand why it was so hard, but as I failed to evenly spread the middle layer of Nanaimo Bars, I thought of my mother’s perfect centers: yellow and creamy and not a crumb from the first layer mixed in. (I guess it may have taken her a few times to get it right.)
It’s at that moment when I realized that maybe what she couldn’t express in words, she was able to say in her dessert making. A way for her to communicate, like writing is to me.
The kitchen is where we deal with the elements of the universe. It is where we come to understand our past and ourselves. ~ Laura Esquivel (Author of Like Water for Chocolate.)
If you are grieving loss or have lost a loved one during the COVID-19 Pandemic, here are a few helpful articles.
Wake me up because I’m tired of dreaming. It’s Week 9 of the stay-at-home order, although some of you may have started quarantine either later or earlier than me. I typically never recall my dreams, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been able to vividly retell what took place during REM before I’ve had my morning espresso. Some nights I’m being screamed at by someone because I forgot my mask, or I’m lost in a supermarket, or living back in Canada (I’ll get to that next week.)
I wondered if I was the only one who was having weird dreams, so after doing some searching, I discovered that scientists have documented why and how the coronavirus is affecting our dreams. There’s even a website called Lockdown Dreams and you can share your experiences with others. I’m sure that’s therapeutic for some people, but frankly, I’m tired of remembering. Why would I want to read about other people’s life-like nightmares?
I began running around five years ago, but really started taking it more seriously and working on a mind-body regimen about a year ago. Where getting in a car to go basically nowhere hardly gives me pleasure, running now gives me a sense of freedom and purpose to weekends with nowhere to go. Running is my superpower. What’s yours?
Daydreams Are Different
For a week I daydreamed about making Risotto with Sausage, drinking Barbaresco (see below,) and most importantly, taking a virtual trip to Italy. Thanks to Wine by the Bay in Miami, a Saturday tour of Pier Paolo Grasso’s Azienda Vitivinicola Pier (located in Treiso, Piemonte) gave me a chance to forget those stressful trips to the supermarket and an inbox filled with work requests mixed with a barrage of breaking news headlines.
The Zoom event was perfectly orchestrated by Wine by the Bay’s owner, Stefano Campanini. After signing up, a small group of “travelers” received a bottle of Barbaresco and video link to a pre-recorded demo by Sara, Pier Paolo Grasso’s wife who explained step-by-step how to prepare the dish. While we had lunch in our kitchens, the Grasso’s enjoyed dinner overlooking their vineyard! The video tour was divided into three parts starting with a 360° look of the estate; followed by the cellars; and concluding with the bottling and packaging areas. In between, we chatted, ate lunch and drank the wine pensively, but filled with excitement because we could hear insights from the winemaker himself!
Possibly it was the 14% ABV, but by glass number two, I felt like I was sitting in the same room with everyone. Imagine, guests from Washington, Texas, Florida, Quebec, and Piemonte enjoying this great experience together!
The Wine: Azienda Pier by Pier Paolo Grasso – Barbaresco Riserva Piccola Emma 2007
The Nebbiolo grapes used for this Riserva come from La Fenice vineyards. After vinification in steel, Piccola Emma 2007 was matured for ten years in 50hl oak barrels. Bottling took place in December 2018.
The wine sports a charming garnet color, a rich and elegant olfactory emerges, initially dominated by notes of red currant and morello cherry jams which, in a short time, reveal hints of dried violet and undergrowth as well as a slight blood tinge; a vertical balsamic vein runs through the bouquet giving it an intriguing olfactory three-dimensionality.
Note: I didn’t write this description. You can read the full review here and run it through Google translator if you don’t speak Italian. You can find some more history of the winery and a nice photo of Pier Paolo and Sara here.
If you hadn’t read this far, you would have missed out on the best part, or maybe the second best part, or equal parts. Alright, the wine and recipe tie for first place!
While it was not the first time that I’ve made risotto, it was the first time that I’ve made it with a newly opened bottle of Riserva red wine. Trust me, those tears shed from losing a half cup of Pier Paolo’s Barbaresco to this dish will quickly dry up when you taste your perfect pairing!
1 c arborio rice
4 – 6 cups of hot chicken stock
1 small onion
1 tsp of Thyme
¾ c of chopped Baby Portobello mushrooms
1/2 c of Piccola Emma (or quality red wine)
4 sausages each cut into thirds (I simmered the sausage in a bit of water until almost cooked and had acquired a little bit of color.)
2 tbsp butter
1 c of grated Parmesan cheese (save some for topping the dish or shred some more and reserve until the end)
1 tbsp chopped Parsley
Using a wooden spoon, gently sauté the onions in olive oil and a dash of salt until translucent.
Add the mushrooms and Thyme and stir until soft adding more olive oil if needed.
Stir in the Arborio rice and coat with oil and lightly toast.
Add the wine, stir and simmer until it evaporates.
Add the first 3 or 4 ladles of stock until the rice is just covered with broth. Let the rice gently simmer, stirring frequently.
Repeat this step a few more times until the rice is “al dente.” When you run your spoon down the bottom of the pot, the rice will separate and you see a clear line.
Remove from heat and stir in first the butter until it is melted and combined, followed by the Parmesan cheese.
Cover for a 5-10 minutes before serving.
Note: Since I had prepared this ahead of time because I had a work commitment before the trip, I left the rice warming over another pot filled with some steamy, hot water. If your rice dries up, you can add a splash of broth (or cream) to make it creamier.
The End Is A Beginning
This pandemic has thwarted our sense of purpose and to work without the reward of time off or a vacation is extremely hard. However, dreams help us prepare for adversity. So when you wake up, keep remembering that where the bad dream ends, there’s still a day filled with possibilities, plus a daydream or two to keep us going — This too shall pass.
“I have had dreams, and I’ve had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.” – Jonas Salk
Note:Dr. JonasSalk first tested his vaccine against the polio virus in 1952 before announcing to the world in 1955 that a viable vaccine against the feared virus was now a reality. Albert Sabin followed Dr. Salk a few short years later by licensing an oral version of the polio vaccine in 1962.
Resource: Talking about your dreams may be a good idea if you are feeling anxious. Read more here.
It’s Week 8 of the Florida stay-at-home order, although things are slowly starting to open up. However, if you take a look at traffic and social media, you’ll know that people are flocking to the marinas and any open recreational spaces – public beaches are still closed. We may have to redefine “slow.”
It’s also May 5th or Cinco de Mayo. Typically, bars and restaurants are crowded with people who don’t mind invading each other’s personal space while downing Margaritas and Mexican-ish finger food. You’ll have to grab your Mexican food curbside this year and hopefully, bought your Margarita Mix and Tequila earlier than today. Since liquor sales are way up, you last-minute planners may find yourself drinking wine, like me!
DYK that May 5th is the 126th day of the year since 2020 is a leap year? According to Wikipedia, this day marks the approximate midpoint of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and fall in the Southern Hemisphere. There are also 239 days left in the year. However, who’s counting because since the start of the pandemic, we’re just taking life one day at a time. And, even if you remember what day of the week it is, it just doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
Cinco de Mayo
I don’t know much about Cinco de Mayo other than it’s a day when people get drunk and eat tacos. So just in case you don’t know much more than me, I figured it’s time to dig a little into the history. First of all, it’s not Mexican Independence Day – that’s on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo officially commemorates the anniversary of an early victory by Mexican forces over French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is not the anniversary of the defeat and expulsion of the French forces by the Mexicans, which occurred in 1867.
It’s also not a United States national holiday, but is meant to be a day to celebrate Mexican culture, plus the achievements and experiences of Mexican-Americans. So narrowing down the day from celebrating achievements and culture to a drunken, Tequila fest is really sad. However, not surprising: 💰kaching 💰.
Feeding Five Under 25 $: Making Soft Tacos/Tostadas from Scratch
Since this is a recipe blog post, I’m not going to go far into taco history. If you’d like to feed your food geekiness, I urge you to read this article by Smithsonian Magazine. Otherwise, I see tacos in this way: You can purchase a bag of Maseca® corn flour and chop up and season leftover meat, quickly feeding a lot of people for just a few dollars! So, that’s what I did.
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
Note: The original recipe says peel the garlic cloves, but I left them on and then removed them from the skins once broiled.
While the tomatillos, garlic and peppers cool, chop up the onion that has been rinsed under water.
Add all of the ingredients into a blender and blend to the desired consistency.
Soft Tacos/Tortillas/Tostadas (Found on Kitchn, but this recipe is also on the corn flour bag)
2 cups masa harina
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups hot water (hot tap water is fine)
Mix the flour and salt and then add the hot water. Stir until combined.
Knead the dough with your hands directly in the bowl. Add more water or masa (sparingly) to get the desired consistency: it should feel like playdough.
Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 15 – 30 minutes. Note that it won’t rise like regular bread dough.
Roll a few tablespoons of the dough to make golf ball size balls.
Flatten with a tortilla press that is covered with plastic. ]
Note: I don’t own one so the bottom of a small pot worked and then I just tossed it by hand to thin it out a bit more. The plastic wrap separating both of the flattened ball helps.
Warm a cast iron skillet on medium heat until you can feel the heat an inch above the surface.
Cook the tacos on each side for about 2 minutes.
Remove and keep tacos warm in a dish towel.
I’ve used, on two separate occasions, leftover beef and chicken combined with sausage as the filling. Gently warm the meat in a pan and add some of the homemade taco seasoning. Combine and add a few tablespoons of water and then simmer until the water evaporates. Remove from heat and cover the pan to keep the filling warm and moist.
I used shredded cheese, homemade guacamole, salsa verde, tomatoes, sour cream and a dash of sriracha. However, choose your own and what you have on hand.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you are planning to make your Cinco de Mayo just a little more authentic and before you get drunk, think about the great things that Mexican-Americans have contributed to the US.
Mexican food is far more varied than people think. It changes like dialects. ~ Gael Garcia Bernal
Recommend Reading:Gael García Bernal: ‘The pandemic has taught me that I need something to say.’ Or, if you don’t have time to read this article, give his statement some thought: There’s something more straightforward now in how we see things – it’s stronger, more elemental and pulsating. We’re so emotionally charged. Artistic expression can affect us for the better, making us feel we’re all in this questioning together.
Here we go! Week 7 of the stay-at-home order and I’m thinking about death. How can we not think about it when we read the numbers each day in the news? Keeping the statistics in mind, there’s a high probability that someone close to us may die of COVID-19 related complications. We dart through grocery stores like the living dead, avoid eye contact, and grunt through masks only when we must speak.
I have thought about leaving the ones I love behind and spending my last moments alone. I worry for elderly family members and the people I don’t know personally, but put their lives at risk each day—grocery store workers, healthcare professionals, bus drivers, etc.
I had a high school English teacher who loved New Orleans and jazz. He once told us that if there was a nuclear war, he’d accept his doom provided that he had a steak dinner, a glass of red wine and Louis Armstrong playing.
His philosophy stuck with me and I’ve decided that if I must face my fate, my last meal will include a steak and a glass of wine, but also some form of Death by Chocolate. You’ll find a recipe for this chocolatey namesake below, but first a little…
Death by Chocolate History
The first death by chocolate took place in Mexico in the 1600’s when some rich parishioners couldn’t stop eating chocolate during Mass. This prompted a ban by the Bishop who then met his fate after drinking a poisonous chocolate concoction. Read the full story here.
Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, then add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in 1 cup semisweet chips and dark chocolate chips.
Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out dough onto prepared baking sheet. Bake until centers are set, about 12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then place on cooling rack to cool completely.
Make ganache: Place remaining 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a bowl. In small saucepan, heat heavy cream over low and bring to a gentle boil. Pour cream over chocolate chips and let sit 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.
Dip cookies halfway into ganache and sprinkle dipped side with flaky salt. Let harden before serving.
Notes: I used milk and white chocolate because that was what was available at the grocery store. However, next time I’ll look for better quality chocolate and use semi sweet and dark as called for in the original recipe.
The light sprinkle of sea salt is key! I waited until the ganache set a bit before adding it so that it could not only be sensed (you really don’t taste salt—it accentuates the flavors,) but also be seen.
The Wine: 2015 Oremus Mandolás – Tempos Vega Sicilia (100% Furmint, Hungary)
This dry Tokaji immediately triggered a memory of a late night snack at Bar Casa Julio located next to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. I ate fried calamari and drank fino sherry. Now, it would be totally incorrect of Wine Newbie me to say that Oremus Mandolás is like fino sherry. It has a dry sherry feel and I can imagine having it with lightly salted, fried seafood.
Before I return to the earth (6 feet under that is,) you’ll find me sipping this dry Tokaji while soaking up the sun. Read more here. (BTW I enjoyed Oremus Mandolás on its own and would not recommend having it with either steak or Death by Chocolate cookies.)
Because of my mother, I suffer from an extreme case of the travel bug. Long before the internet, my mom learned how to travel on a budget. She’d check out Fodors Travel Guides from the local library and before committing to a reservation, spent plenty of time on the phone or telex with potential hotels, airlines and tour operators. “Telex,” you ask? You’ll need to consult an encyclopedia for the answer!
I was six years old when my fearless, single mother took my brother and I on our first trip to Europe. My fondest memories include a boat ride down the Rhine, exploring the Swiss Alps by cable car, and riding a tricycle around the Eiffel Tower. (The latter was probably a reward for making us climb the stairs up the Eiffel Tower. At each level, she’d give us a candy because I am guessing we complained all of the way up!)
We had many travel adventures together until I could afford to take my own and because of her, I learned to travel on a budget and discover what fun you can have too when venturing off the beaten path.
I’m now into Week 6 of the voluntary, stay-at-home order (although some people started later than me.) Never mind that I miss taking a plane–I’d give anything to go more than 10 miles in a car! Whether in the recent past or the very soon future, we will always rely on the internet to continue travelling and do so both easily and affordably.
Why I Went To Spain
There’s a few reasons why I went to Spain last year: 1) the Alhambra was on my Bucket List because I fell in love with its history after taking a Spanish Art and Architecture course at the University of Toronto; 2) a non-stop British Airways flight deal was an offer too good to pass up; and 3) Spain Revealed – James Blick.
When it comes to travel, I do like and find TripAdvisor very useful. However, when I’m tired of reading, there’s no better place to investigate places to go than YouTube. There’s a lot of people who make travel videos and we have that one “no names mentioned,” older guy who’s been making travel video for years. However, if you are a food lover wanting to visit Spain, I suggest that you subscribe to James’ channel. Besides the knowledge that you’ll gain, it’s great fun!
I can credit his videos for discovering places to eat in Madrid and clues to live like a local, plus tips to understanding Spanish culture. Living like a local is key for me and the first thing I typically do when arriving in a new city is visit a local market.
James is the co-founder of Devour Tours that began offering food and wine-focused walking tours in 2012. Their mission (found on the Devour Tours website) is to connect curious travelers with local food and communities in a way that helps culture thrive. What began in just Madrid has expanded to include other cities in Spain, Paris, Rome and London.
James’ wife Yoly runs Flamenco Guide for anyone interested in the best place to experience flamenco.
Because I subscribe to Spain Revealed, I received a notification that James had posted a new video. Since returning from Spain, I had not watched any recent videos. However, this one caught my eye because there wasn’t a thumbnail, but just a still shot of unshaven James waving from, what I later learned, is their apartment’s patio.
I was so moved by his uncut announcement. “An Update from Madrid” was posted when we, in South Florida, were at the, “how bad can it really get” stage. Fear would quickly intensify as life as we knew it, changed by the minute.
Just watch the video. From both a business and personal level, James’ plea was telling and for all of us very relatable.
A New Message
As a communications and marketing professional, I’ve been fortunately swamped with work. Many businesses have had to change their marketing plan and, for example, switch in-person events to virtual ones and foot traffic to online sales and delivery.
It’s as if the sand is running faster through the hourglass as our livelihood is at stake. Since James posted the video on March 14th, I’ve kept up with his Instagram and have been so impressed how quickly they have provided a new experience for their audience. Although probably not enough, they have found a way to raise some money to help out the business and employees.
By now a lot of us might be tired of Zoom after spending a work or school day online. Devour Tours now offers some entertaining alternatives: cooking classes live demos; cool merch to add some fun to the stay-at-home wardrobe; and my favorite one, a downloadable cooking book, “Recipes from the Devour Tours Kitchen.”
I’ve already made a couple of the dishes and although my past blog posts have included recipes, I’m encouraging you to buy the cookbook to help support a Devour Tours experience that you may have taken in the past or one that you’ll take in the future.
A Different Kind of Back-to-Business
This week, Spain has begun easing some of its restrictions and many non-essential workers can return to work. However, it will take quite a bit of time before tourism returns to where it had been.
Remember that the travel industry needs our help. While you might not be ready to travel, continue to engage and support the restaurants, stores and businesses that you’ve come to know while on holiday. A like, share and review can go a long way.
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this article, here are some of my favorite Spanish spots to eat and drink or buy wine. It is these memories and new connections why I miss Spain less.
Here we are, Week 5 (or longer) of the stay-at-home order and begrudgingly accepting our new norm. One thing I know is that I’m learning to be more resourceful. Nothing goes to waste and everything gets added to the pot, so to speak.
Tip: To limit how many times that you need to visit the grocery store, make sure you buy two types of vegetables or fruit: short and long-lasting. I go through things like spinach near the beginning of the week and leave the less-perishable ones for later. Here’s a good guide to some long-lasting choices.
For this week’s “Feeding Five Under 25 $,” it’s back to basics and business. Here are a couple of fast and easy breakfast recipes that you and your loved ones can grab and go. Okay – not grab and literally go, but get on with the day from the desk at home.
Using oats makes both recipes gluten free. Use an egg substitute and non-dairy milk product to make them vegan.
Baked Banana Oatmeal Cup Recipe (found on YouTube)
3 cups rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8th teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup mashed banana (2-3 bananas depending on their size)
2 pastured eggs
1.5 cups of unsweetened almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
¼ cup sunflower butter (you can use peanut butter or almond butter, but I needed a nut-free version)
3 cups boiling water
1 cup steel-cut oats
Pinch of Salt
Fresh or defrosted frozen fruit for serving.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium shallow casserole or baking dish, combine 3 cups boiling water and the sunflower butter and stir until smooth-ish. (Don’t worry about a few lumps.) Stir in oats. Season the mix with a big pinch of salt, and some cinnamon or nutmeg if you like.
Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, stirring halfway through. Taste and if the oats aren’t cooked enough, let it bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Garnish with fruit and serve. (There’s no sugar in this recipe so add honey or a raw sugar if you need this dish sweetened.)
If that isn’t a depressing headline, I don’t know what is. Here in South Florida, we’re into what should be Week 4 of the stay-at-home order, although the state itself didn’t declare a full shutdown until last Friday. From the looks of traffic, I’m not sure if everyone is listening.
For those of us who are heeding the mandate, the unnamed days are feeling longer and restlessness has evolved to anxiety and often, anger. I myself can fully understand why we no longer cage animals. I’m even starting to question the idea of zoo “habitats” — maybe captivity should only apply to animals that can’t survive in the wild.
I was curious to know when was the last time that people couldn’t go to church on Easter Sunday. DYK the year? In 1918, during the Spanish Flu. Read more here. Although dubbed the Spanish Flu, the virus originated in New York.
Feeding Five Under 25 $ — A Fast, Family Meal
Let’s face it. The people who are telling us what to do with our “extra” time, may not be managing a family indoors or feeling a pandemic-related, psychological fatigue. So, today’s meal inspiration and pairing isn’t either labor intensive or expensive. However, it will look and taste great!
Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Fennel Salad and Tomato Orzo paired with Pinot Noir
The bacon wrapped pork tenderloin recipe can be found on BonAppetit.com.
2 heads of garlic
4 garlic cloves
1 rosemary sprig
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, make a paste from the finely chopped garlic cloves, rosemary, fennel, olive oil and salt and pepper.
Rub the mixture onto the pork tenderloin and wrap the pork with about 6 pieces of applewood smoked bacon to completely cover it.
Add the whole garlic cloves to the baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.
Refrigerate for a few hours.
Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking at 425º. Since I have a double oven and the top oven is not full size, found that 425º was too high for the entire baking time. About halfway through, I reduce the oven to 375º.
Note: I prefer to top the salad with the shaved Parmesan rather than toss it in, especially if making it ahead of time.
The Wine: 2017 Comtes de Saint-Martin Bourgogne
I was looking for a French wine made of 100% Pinot Noir and turned to my favorite, local wine shop for advice: Wine by the Bay. Great value (under $25, yay), but an even greater wine that was a perfect pairing to the Socially Distant Easter Menu. Think of this wine as that first breath of warm, spring air filled with a delicate song of new life.
A little bit of wine info because I can’t resist an opportunity to learn. Comtes de Saint-Martin is located in Beaune where you can enjoy Bourgogne (Burgundy) wines, hike, bike through the vineyards and enjoy fine dining.
It’s impossible to find anything about this winery or the wine. Should you wish to read more about Pinot Noir, native to Bourgogne, and its distinct characteristics visit this link.
A Different Kind of Celebration
Whether or not you celebrate Easter or Passover, at least try to remember that it’s Spring. Although we shall mourn the loss of many, let’s turn to the beauty of bud break and birds chirping and remember that…
“Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush.”
In celebration of World Health Day (April 7th), today’s blog post is dedicated to artist, Registered Nurse, wife and mother, Meg Wallace. A couple of weeks ago I asked on LinkedIn and Facebook, for local artists to share a work and statement of hope to include on my blog.
A Little History on #MyArtEscape
I began #MyArtEscape Instagram posts on June 10, 2014 after a visit to the Bass Museum to see the El Anatsui’s solo exhibition, “Gravity and Grace.” It was at that moment when I started documenting my visits to art museums, galleries, or art in public spaces as a means for me to escape from reality.
Art is that special place where I can leave behind deadlines, stress, arguments or sadness. The work of art must take my breath away and transport me somewhere else. I then research about the artist and his/her work and then watch how my visceral response transforms into a moment of intellectual truth.
More than 1,000 posts later, #MyArtEscape has evolved and I now focus my writing on travel, food, wine, nature, art and art fairs not just on social media, but for art and travel publications.
Hand in Hand by Meg Wallace
“It was a beautiful moment I captured with my daughter and hubby not too long ago,” explains Meg. “It was lightly raining at the time and it looked like they were walking on water. To me, it gives me a great sense of calm. It also brings to my mind the biblical story of when Peter got out of the boat to walk on water. When Peter began to sink in fear, Jesus reached down and lifted him by his hand. In moments of crisis, we can vacillate between being courageous and being struck down by fear. It is important to know we are not alone. We can get through this together, hand in hand.
I have no idea what the future holds, but I am so encouraged to see most of the world coming together in this crisis and helping each other through these difficult times.”
When Meg had sent this photograph and statement, her sister had been hospitalized and was not allowed visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although filled with worry, Meg’s faith helped her cope.
I met Meg at the Home Design and Remodeling Show where she was an At Home with Art showcase featured artist. (At the time, I was the managing curator of this show activation and also did the PR and social media. I have since become the Marketing and Communications Director.)
Part of her submission was a commitment statement. Here is what Meg wrote:
“Born and raised in South Florida, I have been infused with flavors unique to South Florida. With various cultures, comes various beliefs and artistic forms of expression. I believe art can transform and influence others in powerful ways. For over 17 years, I have volunteered with youth, abused and neglected children and women in our community. I have had the privilege of proposing and assisting with The Human Rights/ Human Wrongs campaign and Exhibition in 2012 and offering art therapy to sex trafficking child survivors at Kristi House. Art can bring hope into hopeless situations as well as instigate conversations amongst people. If I was given the chance to be an ambassador to the South Florida Art Community, I would use this platform to find a way to bring the Art Community together to help positively influence the South Florida Community.”
Meg wrote this statement in 2017, but her words seem even more meaningful today. Art does have the power to start conversations and transform our lives and community.
Today and always, we are thankful for healthcare professionals for taking care of us and our loved ones. Let’s also remember to thank artists like Meg who through their expressions, continue to give us hope.
It’s now Week 3 of the South Florida shelter in place order and I’m craving bad carbs, saturated fats, salt and sugar.
I’m crumbling and probably you are too. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a hurricane that will blow into the Atlantic in a few days. This is our modern day Hiroshima — a silent and invisible cloud looming over the entire earth. We can’t just change the channel and tune it out because it’s someone else’s war. It’s a world war and we’re in it together.
That being said, I think we deserve some chocolate. If you’re home schooling the kids, the smell of yumminess baking and the reward of cookies after lunch will most certainly get them through the morning classes with ease and give you some well-deserved comfort.
I did not adapt this recipe and it’s the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe found on New York Times Cooking. Although there’s nothing original about a Chocolate Chip Cookie, with this recipe you are biting into some history (pass that DYK on to the kids!)
The History Lesson
In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, ran the Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant in eastern Massachusetts, with her husband. Using an ice pick, Wakefield broke a semisweet chocolate bar into little bits, mixed them into brown-sugar dough, and the chocolate chip cookie was born. In 1939, she sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages (reportedly for only $1) and was hired to write recipes for the company, which supposedly supplied her with free chocolate for life. This recipe is very close to Mrs. Wakefield’s original (hers called for a teaspoon of hot water and ½-teaspoon-sized cookies), and the one you’ll still find on the back of every yellow bag of Nestlé chocolate chips.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups/12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
I’m not sure who came up with the saying, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles” or “C’est la vie.” Whoever did though, probably didn’t live through a pandemic.
It’s impossible to shrug this off and small doses of comfort food or comforting are needed each day. Rather than mask your feelings, I suggest that you confront them. Here’s an article titled, “Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus” that has helped me put this into perspective and if you really need help, reach out to a friend or for professional help, but just remember…
“Chocolate is cheaper than therapy and you don’t need an appointment.” ― Catherine Aitken
If you need professional help, here are some resources:
It’s a sunny and warm day in South Florida and the
streets are empty. I ran 4.11 miles and I saw about six people and a few cars.
(Please cars, watch out for pedestrians and runners – red light still means
Many people are struggling to live with the new norm, “working
from home.” Plus, homeschooling the kids too?
Although I’ve worked remotely for years, it’s still
strange to think that I won’t be driving south to Miami for meetings any time
soon. I’m starting to regret all of the times that I complained about traffic. Seriously, who misses traffic? I do.
Everyone needs a fast breakfast even when working from home, because no one wants to start the day with a full inbox and a sink full of dirty dishes. Because we’re experiencing a shortage of certain food items, I’ve created a Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $blog series designed to give ideas on how to make food on a budget and with what is (hopefully) available in both your pantry and the grocery store.
Today’s recipe is Oatmeal Breakfast Bars. One bar along with fresh fruit and yogurt make a complete and nutritious breakfast. It’s also vegan-friendly. I adapted a chocolate oatmeal cookie recipe as follows:
Preheat oven to 350°
1 c Crisco
½ c brown sugar
½ c cane sugar
2 tbsp of egg substitute dissolved in 3 tbsp of water
1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
1 ¼ c all-purpose flour; ¼ c whole wheat flour
2 tsp cornstarch
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
3 c of old fashioned rolled oats
¼ c of Chia seeds
1 ¼ cup of raisins or dried fruit or combo (I used just raisins the first time and then raisins and chopped dates the second time. Craisins would be good too.)
With a mixer, combine the Crisco and sugars.
Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
Combine the oats and Chia seeds.
Dissolve the egg substitute in the water and
whisk until smooth.
Combine the sugar/Crisco mix with the egg mix
Once combined, slowly add the dry ingredients
into the Crisco/sugar/egg/vanilla mix.
Stop the mixer and stir in the oats and dried
fruit until combined.
Lightly grease a 9×13 non-stick pan or line a
pan with parchment paper.
Press the mix into the pan so even on all sides.
Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until
Someone asked me on Twitter if this recipe is gluten
free. Since flour is used more like a binder, I think any gluten free flour
would do. I’ll give it a try sometime.
Oatmeal breakfast bar(s) with fresh fruit and a tumeric shot mixed with seltzer.
If your bars crumble, save the crumbs to add to yogurt
as a topping or eat them on the spot!
From someone who works from home, I know that finding free time is just as hard as when you work from an office. I put in more hours per day than I should and take the laptop from room to room thinking that I’ll just use it to read or watch videos at night. However, I end up answering emails. If you’re like me, try to leave the laptop “at the office” and spend time reading an actual book, rather than the tablet.
Find time for this recipe knowing that you’ll have a
quick and nutritious breakfast for at least the next few days. Good luck and
“Hope makes a good breakfast. Eat plenty of it.” ~ Ian Fleming
I live in South Florida and as the numbers of confirmed cases of COVID_19 continue to rise, everyone is running around trying to find the basic food and household necessities fearing that everything except essential businesses will shut down. Wait! Everything has shut down, but things are moving faster than the Florida Everglades wildfires, so I temporarily forgot.
With parents struggling to work at home and also home
school the kids, there are more meals to make. Items like bread, eggs and meat are
hard to come by or not available. Rather
than buy supermarket convenience food, I’ve
put my mother’s World War II “how to feed a family” strategies into place.
Periodically on my blog, you’ll find tips on how I’m, “Feeding
Five Under Twenty-Five” dollars. Keep eating healthy and exercise because that
will help you manage the stress.
Here’s my first “Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five” recipe:
Cast Iron Cooked
Flatbread Filled with Leftover Meat
1 package of active dry yeast
2 tsp of sugar
1 c of warm water (115°) – use only ½ c of water for the
2 ½ c of all purpose flour
1 tsp of salt
3 tbsp olive oil
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in ½ c of water and reserve
the other half.
Wait at least 5 minutes until the yeast becomes active. The
top will resemble beer foam.
Combine the flour and salt. I use a mixer with bread
hook, but with a spoon is fine. Slowly add the yeast and then the olive oil and
the water (you may not need all of it) and blend until almost combined. I do
the rest by hand and then knead until everything comes together and you can
form a smooth ball. You don’t need to knead it too much, but here’s a ‘how to’ video.
Coat your mixing bowl with about 1 tbsp of olive oil and
place the dough back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a (warm water)
damp tea towel.
Go do something else for an hour. I chose to run outside because it’s a great way to get some Vitamin D and restore my sanity while in quarantine.
should double within the hour. Punch it down and remove the dough onto a
lightly floured surface. Roll it into a tube and cut into six even pieces.
I used semolina flour, but any flour for rolling will do. Sprinkle some flour onto a rolling pin and roll into a thin disk. You can also rotate and stretch the dough like you’d do when making pizza. See this link which BTW is my favorite pizza dough recipe.
Heat a cast iron pan on medium until it is very hot
(think pizza oven hot!) Add one of the rolled out dough pieces and watch it
bubble up quick. Wait about 3 minutes and take a peak. You can flip it when it’s
golden or get the charred look. Cook for another 3 minutes.
Note: A cast-iron pan gets very hot, so lower the temperature slightly if you think the dough will brown too quickly.
To keep the flatbreads warm and moist, wrap them in a tea towel.
I filled the flatbreads with leftover carné con papas (beef stew) from the night before. Shred the meat
and chop the potatoes into small pieces. There wasn’t a lot of meat left so I
added some chorizo too. Top the meat with chopped tomatoes, avocado, shredded
cheese and cilantro. I didn’t have sour cream, but it’s healthier without it.
If you’ve read this far and hopefully making this recipe,
I hope you’re now sharing my joy of creating something wonderful to eat. More
than that, here’s a great time to stop watching the news or checking social
media. You’ll have a yummy distraction for yourself and make your loved ones
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
When it comes to what’s in your glass — that sumptuous work of
art, do you resign to the visceral or let a wine rating or tasting note dictate
While I understand that tasting notes are needed in the industry as a means to sort, order, classify and make a wine brand marketable, should the rest of us be controlled by this numbered rating? Must we fill our thoughts with aromas of wildflowers or forest floor before we even take a sniff or sip?
Wine Newbie Me, is not trying to diminish in any way the credibility of the world’s wine experts and big names such as Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, or James Suckling, just to name a few. In fact, I learn a lot from them and love to read their reviews and articles, especially Jancis Robinson.
Or, if you explore (hashtag) #wine and try to keep up with the ever-growing Instagram and Twitter world of sommeliers and wine lovers, you can become easily swayed by the next up-and-coming wine critic’s notes because he/she has over 30.5K followers. That’s fine I guess, but before I get called self-righteous, I do have a point…
The Mom Factor
Would you tell a mother that you know more about her child than
she does? You better not — that is if you value your life! I imagine a
winemaker might not be so quick to react as strongly as your mother. However,
he or she is the creator of the wine: from the soil tilled, to the excitement
of bud break, to the blisters on the hands. He/she loses sleep over that
unexpected wind, rain or cold spell, or even Corona Virus!
The winemaker is ever present. He/she celebrates the joyful
moments and courageously plows through the suffering (pardon the pun.)
He/she too can express in words the wine better than anyone
With that being said, I found this little poetry in motion.
Baron de Brane
Margaux 2015: Château Brane-Cantenac
Henri Lurton is the composer of what he describes, “Une vraie
valse de fruits rouges, arrivés à parfaites maturité. La robe est grenat,
intense et profonde.” — A waltz of red fruits at perfect maturity. A garnet
dress, intense and profound.
Bottles from the world’s greatest wine producers have a story to tell and when you go beyond the tasting notes and pairing recommendations, you’ll find both the history and the story. By story, I mean what is present and what the possibilities can be.
Learn more about Château Brane-Cantenac at this link.
Top Art Fairs: The A-Z of Where #MyArtEscape Will Be.
It’s my favorite time of the year! I have all of my press credentials in place, am reading voraciously about art, art installations, events and VIP soirees. The trickle of incoming press releases has become a flood, and I’ll soon be swimming through miles of art. Hooray, Art Basel aka Miami Art Week is (almost) here!
Without delay, below is the A-Z of where I’ll be. Read all the way to the end because I’ll recall a couple of the past VIP events that I’ve had the good fortune to attend. You may also wish to follow my daily, Art Basel Instagram stories for highlights of each fair and a couple of special events.
Note: I’ve scaled down my art fair trekking from last year’s 10 fairs. As much as I’d like to see it all, I was art oversaturated and no shoes or running prep could condition me for that much walking.
I really don’t understand people who say that they won’t go to Art Basel like it’s some kind of art fair boycott against the 1%. Sorry, but Art Basel is the OG of international art fairs. Maybe you can’t afford to buy anything, but why would you pass on an opportunity to see a new work by huge artists like Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama or my favorite American artist, Nick Cave?
December 5-8 at the Miami Beach Convention Center
focus: 269 leading galleries from across the world to exhibit, with 20
galleries joining the fair for the first time
edition and 500,000 square feet of exhibition space
A new sector located in the Grand Ballroom of the Miami Beach Convention
Center. Curated by Magalí Arriola will bring together around 30 projects that
push the boundaries of a traditional art fair layout.
I said it last year and I’ll remind you again, Art Miami came first! It’s a sophisticated and intellectually stimulating art fair. You’ll find just about all of the highly collectible and blue chip artists’ work sought by wealthy collectors that you would find at Art Basel. Art Miami also makes great efforts to spotlight Miami galleries, museums and artists. Support local!
December 3-8 at the Art Miami pavilion in Downtown Miami
Returning for its 30th edition, Art Miami is recognized as one of the preeminent international
modern and contemporary art fairs, Art Miami will showcase an array of iconic
and important art works, dynamic projects and special installations from more
than 170 international galleries from nearly 22 countries representing 69
Platinum VIP Preview on December 3rd will benefit the Perez Art
Admission $55.00; Seniors $35.00; Students (12-18) $35.00
The Art Miami Pavilion, One Herald Plaza @ NE 14th Street, Downtown Miami. On Biscayne Bay between the Venetian & MacArthur Causeways | www.artmiami.com
Sister to Art Miami, here’s the perfect example of supporting local and emerging artists. I love this fair and most of the art is affordable for people like you and me. They offer some great programming too and I’ve enjoyed in the past, sitting down and listening to one of their talks. Looks like this year guests can enjoy visual performance art.
at the Aqua Hotel in South Beach, the unique setting (open courtyard and rooms
transformed into art exhibition spaces) has become a favorite gathering
spot for collectors, curators and art lovers to discover fresh talent and
acquire new works while exchanging cultural ideas and forming meaningful
Presenting its 15th year and last year recorded the strongest sales
and attendance to date.
Admission $25.00; Seniors and Students $20.00
If I’m not staring at new works by Porky Hefer
at Southern Guild, you’ll find me swooning over very expensive ceramics or an
Armani Casa living room. A girl can dream right? Since I love sculpture,
functional art (and I know artists and designers hate that term) makes so much
sense. I want to fill my house with objects that I can touch and maybe use now
Updates: Design Miami will take place
for the first time in the newly completed Pride Park with its entrance directly
facing Art Basel at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The reconfigured fair
tent will have a glass façade at the entrance to house the new Design Forum
presented by SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design.) Occurring alongside Art
Basel in Miami and Switzerland, Design Miami/ has become the premier venue for
collecting, exhibiting, discussing, and creating collectible design.
in its 15th edition, Design Miami 33 galleries and 14 Curio presentations from
13 countries, including three galleries exhibiting for the first time.
I really love NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance)
too. Maybe’s it’s the Ice Palace’s interior black walls and curated gallery
spaces that make me feel like I’m walking through Soho on an autumn day. These
curated spaces appeal to the intellect, but don’t feel shy to ask questions.
There are millions of artists and you can’t know them all.
its 17th edition, NADA will showcase a
diverse selection of local, national, and international galleries with 136 exhibitors
representing 56 cities from 25 countries. The
fair continues to grow in the 17th edition, welcoming 28 first-time
exhibitors and 71 NADA Member galleries.
Admission $20.00; Seniors and Students $10.00
Last year was my first year at PULSE. I must
admit, it’s a little out of the way and parking is not easy. Yes, you can do valet
at the Eden Roc if you’re okay with the fee. However, don’t let that stop you.
You have options: shuttles run between the main fairs and you can park further
south and take a rideshare. The galleries are worth any little inconvenience.
Celebrating its 15th anniversary and announced its new fair
director, Cristina Salmastrelli. Visit over 60 globally-renowned galleries and
artists. New this year is PULSE Perspectives, a dual language programming
series presenting talks and tours in English and Spanish. Find a variety of
programming and also a wellness lounge and restaurant in partnership with Eden
Roc/NOBU Hotel Group.
Here’s a great fair for young collectors and who can resist the location right on the South Beach sand? You’ll find works that are bold and gutsy, rich in statements about society and the many complications that we face today.
Returning to Miami Beach for its 19th
edition, SCOPE will welcome 134 diverse contemporary exhibitors featuring The New
Contemporary, a genre that stands as a critical contribution to both global
politics and local community engagement. New to the pavilion this year is
OASIS, an experiential multidisciplinary program located in our expanded
Atrium. OASIS will present daily programming featuring large scale
installations, music performances, and panel discussions while continuing our
long-standing commitment to wellness.
If I had to choose a favorite art fair, UNTITLED, ART would be it. I really enjoy visiting galleries that focus on curation. The Untitled team is made up of curators, designers and architects providing not only an overall cohesiveness in the quality of galleries it selects, but in the fair design itself. It’s a pleasant and stimulating place to be. The natural light flows in through the skylights. I just love how each gallery is set back differently and the concept is open – not boxy like other fairs.
Find a collection of 126 international
galleries and nonprofit spaces from 28 countries and 57 cities make up the 2019
roster, carefully selected by Artistic Director and Curator Omar López-Chahoud.
As I am writing this blog post, the Instagram hashtag Yayoi
Kusama (#yayoikusama) has 850K related posts and @yayoikusama_ (which I presume
is the artist’s official Instagram) has 31.3K followers. There’s plenty of
unofficial accounts and a variety of Yayoi-ish hashtags. Search Yayoi Kusama
news on Google and you’ll find 40,400 results. Switch to “All” and there will
be more than 7 million results.
It’s infinite and that’s
There’s nothing that I can write that hasn’t been written
before about Kusama, who has lived through a turbulent, personal history for
nine decades. Today, I can only relate my personal experience and it was a
I adore polka dots and my daughter’s first Easter outfit was a navy blue dress with white polka dots. The hat had a matching fabric sash. I loved it and she hated it. I tried for all of her preschool years, to force polka dots on her, but failed.
Before even knowing anything about Yayoi (can we be on a first name basis?), I was drawn to one of her pumpkin sculptures at a gallery participating in Art Basel Miami. A man looked at it pensively while I wondered what he was thinking.
A couple of years ago a friend recommended to see a
documentary about her life. I did plan to watch it, but it got bumped off the
long list of things to do. Over time, I would hear other Yayoi murmurs and
rather than research, I would just recall those dots.
Then, recently I received an email that I must go see All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins at the ICA Miami. Without thinking twice, I purchased two tickets for $30.00 for myself and a friend, and squeezed that one minute experience, which I might add entails a 2.5 hour round trip car drive, into my busy schedule. Yes, if you are blinking at the last sentence: it translates to $15.00/person for a 60 second, solo view of Yayoi’s Infinity Mirror Room.
In order to prepare for the visit, I finally watched Kusama: Infinity and I suggest you do the same.
Connecting the Dots
Between that first work of art that I saw to some last minute research, I gained a compassionate understanding of Yayoi Kusama’s life and career. To think that at ninety years old, she walks to her studio almost every day and meticulously and obsessively creates dots on canvas or other two or 3-D mediums, fascinates me. Her therapy became#MyArtEscape.
It was reported in January, 2018 that over 75,000 people visited With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever at David Zwirner in New York. At ICA Miami, they receive 20 people per thirty minute time slot and hundreds line up on Thursdays when entrance is free.
I imagine during Art Basel/Miami Art Week attendance will skyrocket.
Multiply those figures by the amount of people who will visit any of the Infinity
Rooms around the world, from today until a closing date of probably never,
means that Yayoi’s artistic legacy will be limitless.
Buzz Lightyear said, “To infinity and beyond” a remark
embraced by children and adults alike. How often do you see Facebook posts, “I
love you to infinity and beyond?” Infinity is the fictitious place (or non-place
to be exact) that we dream to reach.
For Yayoi, infinity may once have been a location to escape like fields of flowers or an infinite reflection of polka dots, but now it’s eternal hope for her and us all.
And, as we make the most out of our 60 seconds, immersed in that infinite field of spotted pumpkins, we can reach Instagram immortality by the click of our iPhone. Or, if we leave our phone behind (which I plan to do next time), our imaginations will be forever sealed in that magical spot/polka dot.
Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity. ~ Yayoi Kusama
About This Town by Artez | Calle de Fuencarral 31, Madrid
A brief visit to Puerta del Sol in Madrid was Instagram
worthy, but crowded with shoppers. The stores were mostly American and there
were the familiar fast food restaurants. I was disappointed.
However, my eye caught sight of this colorful mural. “About This Town” depicts a girl holding a pile of books with a bird and its birdhouse balanced on top. There’s a plant behind her or maybe she’s holding that too. The eye happily travels up and away from the crowded street to appreciate the blue sky above.
Born in Serbia, Artez painted this mural in four days to be a part of the 2019 Urvanity Art Fair. On his website, he explains: “This mural tells us the story of Madrid, a place where visitors from all around the globe are welcome to come and enjoy the vivid artistic and cultural content that this city has to offer. Positioned in the very centre of the town, this mural creates a contrast with the pedestrian shopping street in which it is located. Instead of carrying shopping bags, girl depicted on the mural is holding a pile of books important for the history and culture of the city, and a plant with a small birdhouse that is inviting all the “birds” to come and feel like home!”
A closer look reveals the title of one book Miau by Benito
Pérez Galdós (considered to be one of Spain’s most famous writers since Cervantes)
and another references the painter Francisco Goya. Possibly this reference is a
commentary about the maladies of society.
I would say that a deeper reading surfaces from Artez’
mural. Possibly, the tourist should spend more time getting to know Madrid’s
history and culture. Or, maybe it’s the Spaniards
who should pay more attention to Madrid which may be selling its soul to the
tourist industry. Who knows?
In any case, she’s my soul sister. I’ll give up shopping bags for a pile of books any day. And, if my nose isn’t in a book, I’ll be birdwatching with my zoom lens pointed to the sky.
El hombre de pensamiento descubre la Verdad; pero quien gozan de ella y utiliza sus celestials dones es el hombre de acción.
~ Benito Pérez Galdós
The man of reflection discovers Truth; but the one who enjoys it and makes use of its heavenly gifts is the man of action.”
It’s Foodie Friday and unlike last week, I’ve eased back
into routine ready to tackle deadlines and a long ‘To Do’ list. Although the
memory is far from my taste buds, through the joy of social media I can savor
and share with you another yummy experience.
Speaking of social media, I have a love/hate relationship
with it. While for years I’ve valued its marketing potential, affordability and
used it long before many others did (and nah nah to all of those people who
thought I had nothing else to do with my time), I feel it imposes on private
Our decision making in so many ways, is formed by social media, whether you’re a: ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ user like me who likes, comments, follows and unfollows every day: or those silent stalkers (what I like to call them), who claim they don’t have time or like social media, but have an active account and silently watch what everyone is doing all of the time. Which one are you?
While preparing for the trip to Spain, I turned to YouTube rather than reading travel blogs because after spending a whole day reading and writing, it was nice to just let pictures and sound fill me with information. Plus, how great is it to know that there’s so much more to watch about travel than Rick Steve’s Europe? A lot of my travel decisions were influenced by Devour Tours co-founder James Blick and wife Yoly. The two of them are so cute, so if you are not familiar with their YouTube channel, Spain Revealed, check them out!
Because of all the hype, I was debating whether or not to visit tourist infiltrated, Mercado de San Miguel. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I greatly enjoyed visiting the humble, Mercado Anton Martin. However, since I planned to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid and Plaza Mayor anyway, I figured that a good lunch stop would be nearby, Mercado de San Miguel.
Note: For me, Google Maps did not work in Madrid. Whether, it was tech ignorant me or because everything in Madrid is an abundance of circles (or maybe squares,) using my phone for directions seemed to get me where I needed to be, four times longer than it should have. After two days of trying, I just parked the phone and relied on remembering landmarks and talking to people. Besides, the old fashioned way is so much nicer. Get your face away from the phone and enjoy getting a little lost because asking for help in Madrid, seems to always turn into a nice, five minute conversation.
Like I said in my last blog post, it’s good to enjoy getting comfortable with standing room only and that’s all you’ll get when you visit Mercado de San Miguel. However, that is a large part of the experience. Food and social gatherings are synonymous in Madrid. And while millions of us share our food experiences on social media to connect with others, here is the ultimate, in person, communal opportunity. The energy is impressive and contagious. Although they must answer the same questions every few minutes, the vendors treat each customer courteously and share their joy of food with speed and efficiency.
And when eating in Madrid, as the travel experts also claim, you can find great quality food and better prices elsewhere. Unless it’s something you really can’t do without, I suggest you avoid those 15 Euro tapas. However, to not go would be a shame. Plus, here’s a place where it’s totally okay to pull out your camera and capture every moment — just be courteous of others who want to get up to the counter just as much as you because they’re hungry. Things move very quickly and I greatly enjoyed this rhythm and pace. Don’t miss it!
Tip: You can buy a glass of wine (or another libation) and walk around with it to as many stops as you like. Just don’t linger and eat at a stand where you didn’t buy any food. The outer perimeter of the market is lined with a glass counter with enough space for your small plate and glass. Again, elbow room only makes for a great social experience and ‘yum’ is the international language!
Here’s some of the highlights:
La Hora del Vermút: If you know me, you know that I don’t really drink. Ha, you may exclaim after checking out my Instagram. Me and alcohol don’t really get a long, so I limit even the amount of wine I drink and it’s consumed almost always with a meal.
I must thank James Blick for having me try something new. Spanish Vermouth is a must-try when in Spain and I had a dry option with some delectable olive tapas at La Hora del Vermut. Make it your first stop.
La Casa del Bacalao: Unless you hate fish, you must visit La Casa del Bacalao. Aesthetically pleasing and flavorful, try a variety and you’ll be satisfied with a nice selection of tapas for about 10 euros total.
Mariscos Morris: I know the next time that I return to Spain, I’ll be visiting Galicia. If for some reason, you can’t make it there either at least you can get a little taste of what can be expected of Green Spain’s culinary landscape at Mariscos Morris. The plates shown above (which are more like a meal portion, rather than a tapa) are 12-15 Euros each.
El 19 de San Miguel: Speaking about Galicia, my glass of Vermut is long gone and it’s time for wine! Less than elbow room only, it amazed me how the nice folks at El 19 de San Miguel were able to still keep a lively conversation going on, while serving up glasses of wine and Cava. I loved the Albariño from Rias Baixas (Galicia.) It was a bit more than the other whites at 4.50 Euro, but worth the extra (and wine is still much cheaper by the glass than it is in the US.)
Tip: Buy a bottle for no more than 40 Euro (and most offered are much less) and split it with your friends or make new ones! Remember that you can carry the bottle and your glass around with you.
Amaiketako: Yes, there is much more at Mercado de San Miguel than seafood, but that day I was indulging my pescatarian doppelgänger. Amaiketako began three years ago as an online store specializing in artisanal products from the Basque country. Try the Gazpacho with Ahi Tuna bits and garnished with watercress. I’ve forgotten the prices of each tapa, but I’d say about $3.50 average.
Horno de San Onofre: For just 2.50 Euro you can end (or begin) your San Miguel experience with a rich and creamy meringue. You’ll never go back to those crunchy and messy blobs of egg whites again. Or for 1 Euro more, find happiness on a plate with one of their Milhojas.
Café Negro: Your last stop should be a coffee to get you through the next part of your uphill and downhill day in Madrid. You’ll enjoy and value the choices at Café Negro because it’s no secret: it’s hard to find a good cup of coffee in Spain.
Tip: Save one of your receipts to get you into the restroom, otherwise you’ll have to pay.
“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles
Until next time, know that it’s okay to eat ‘for the gram’ because you’re part of a worldwide community united in one of life’s greatest past times. However, find balance and opt more to enjoy the day’s unrecorded and flavorful moments with friends, family or even strangers – standing room only.
de San Miguel: More than 100 years have gone by since the Mercado de
San Miguel opened its doors as a wholesale food market. Today, this historical
building stands out as one of the world’s main gastronomic markets. It allows
visitors to experience the essence and most significant flavors of every corner
It’s #FoodieFriday and what better way to recover from the
post-vacay blues than to indulge in a tasty flashback?
I intentionally planned a late morning arrival time in Madrid, so I could throw in a load of laundry and go out for lunch aka tapas/early happy hour. “Que viva España!” — after spending five days in Madrid, I have concluded that it may be “five o’clock somewhere,” but in Madrid it’s five o’clock, 24 hours a day! (No joke. Go experience it for yourself.)
Like many of you, a lot of planning goes into a vacation. Some people fill each minute with an itinerary so hectic that by the time the vacation is over they’re exhausted. Me? I have a few criteria: (1) try to stay somewhere where I can experience life as a local; (2) there has to be art nearby; (3) I’m near a local and authentic food market; (4) it’s totally possible to walk to just about anywhere I’d like to be; and (5) there’s a window or terrace with a view if I want to read or must do some work.
I may talk about the Airbnb apartment in Barrio de las Letras some other time, but if you need a great place and can afford a little more than what people expect to pay for a vacation home through this popular site, visit this link. Shout-out to Teresa who had made my first Airbnb experience a perfect one.
Mercado Antón Martín
While travel sites and YouTube place much more emphasis on the popular Mercado San Miguel (I may write about it later,) Mercado Antón Martín is a great place to experience day-to-day life in the center of Madrid. Support local and avoid the convenience and grocery stores.
Note: There’s another market called Mercado de San Antón in the Chueca neighborhood. I popped in quickly, so I can’t give any first-hand information. It seems more chic and gourmet than Mercado Antón Martín, but not as Instagram moment-touristy as Mercado San Miguel.
At Mercado Antón Martín, you’ll find a traditional market and the early morning rush of Señoras planning that evening’s meal and grocery shopping European style that is – no Costco versions of stocking up here. And then when the butcher and seafood stalls are being washed up before closing, the market transforms into a lunchtime eatery and as the afternoon progresses, you guessed it…Happy Hour!
While circling around figuring out where to stop, one unassuming stall stood out to me as looking authentically Spanish, Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica. Owner Paz Sánchez is unpretentious and very passionate about wine and food. She prefers to say,“cosas ricas” rather than gourmet, just adding to the homey atmosphere. Quality though is not compromised and she did not hesitate to open a bottle, just so I could try something on my “regions to discover” note saved on my phone.
Tip: Enjoy the social scene and be like a local who doesn’t care for a seat or table. Stand and get comfortable with elbow room only.
Then she quickly pours the wine with a little introduction, darts off to attend another customer and then disappears (if it’s even possible to disappear in a small space) to her prep counter and returns with a plate of something yummy (cosas ricas.) “Try this,” she says in Spanish. “I just made it today” and she sets down a generous serving of bacalao (salt cod) pate. Paz is so cheerful and warm that you feel like you’re sitting in her kitchen at home. She explains that she used to have a career which had her traveling a lot, but wine is her passion and she is much happier with this business. In between glasses of wine and anecdotes, she disappears again and comes back with Escabeche of Iberia Secreto. When I saw Iberia Secreto on a menu in Granada, I just presumed it was just a cute name. However, Paz explained that Secreto is a special cut of pork. Read more here.
I asked her what dish would best be paired with the Mencia and she laughed teasingly as if to say, you can’t handle bold Spanish wine like a Spaniard? However, after a pause to think, she disappears again and comes out and says, “try this” while setting down a small plate and then introduces me to aged chorizo and cheese from the same area of Northwestern Spain. To me, the partnership made perfect sense and I was anxious to wash the bites down with the wine and ask for a refill.
Note: When I return to Spain, it will be to Galicia.
Four glasses of wine later and stomach full, I felt like a true Madrileña! When I left Paz said, “Come back when I’m less busy and I’ll sit down and teach you a lot more.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t return until the day before I had to leave and that day Donde Sánchez was packed. I waved, but I don’t think she saw me because she was too busy pouring wine with a smile and preparing “muchas cosas ricas.”
“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ~ Julia Child
Until next time, let accidents happen and lick your plate clean.
@AllegoryPR #MyArt Escape
Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica is a retail store and bar specializing in wines, craft beers, sparkling wines, vermouth, cold meats, cheeses, pate, preserves, chocolates, jams.
Find it on the lower floor of Market Antón Martín
Santa Isabel, 5 28012 Madrid
Tue – Fri 12:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Sat 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Postscript: It doesn’t cost to drink or eat well in Spain. Paz’ store is not only a great experience, but great value. She’ll introduce you to wines that don’t break the bank, but are unique and from all areas of Spain. Her homemade tapas are delicious. Eat there and/or takeaway. Check her schedule for special guests and entertainment.
Questo Rotolo dolce alla zucca è semplice e gustoso. Ecco la ricetta in italiano.
Rotolo del Rotolo Dolce alla Zucca
Ingredienti per la torta
3 grandi uova, separate in tuorlo e albume, a temperatura ambiente
1 tazza (200 g) di zucchero
2/3 tazza di zucca in scatola
3/4 tazza (96 g) di farina
1 cucchiaino di bicarbonato di sodio
1/2 cucchiaino di cannella in polvere
1/8 cucchiaino sale
230 grammi di crema di formaggio, ammorbidita
2 cucchiai di burro, ammorbidito
1 tazza di zucchero a velo
3/4 cucchiaino di estratto di vaniglia
Zucchero a velo extra, facoltativo
Foderare una teglia da 40x25x2,5cm teglia con carta da forno; ungere la carta e mettere da parte. In una grande ciotola, sbattere i tuorli ad alta velocità fino a raggiungere una consistenza densa e un colore simile a quello del limone. A poco a poco aggiungere 1/2 tazza di zucchero e la zucca, sbattendo ad alta velocità fino a quando lo zucchero è quasi sciolto.
In una piccola ciotola, montare gli albumi. Aggiungere poco a poco lo zucchero rimanente, montando a neve ferma. Incorporare alla miscela di tuorlo d’uovo. Unire la farina, il bicarbonato, la cannella e il sale; incorporare delicatamente al composto di zucca. Stendere nella teglia preparata in precedenza.
Cuocere in forno a 190°C fino a quando la torta risulta elastica al tocco, per 12-15 minuti. Lasciar raffreddare per 5 minuti.
Capovolgere la torta su un panno da cucina spolverato con zucchero a velo. Rimuovere delicatamente la carta da forno.
Arrotolare la torta a partire dal lato corto fino a formare un rotolo, aiutandosi con il panno. Lasciar raffreddare completamente su una gratella.
In una piccola ciotola, sbattere la crema di formaggio, il burro, lo zucchero a velo e la vaniglia fino a ottenere un composto omogeneo.
Srotolare la torta; distribuire il ripieno in modo uniforme entro 2,5/5 cm dai bordi. Arrotolare di nuovo, senza panno. Coprire e congelare finché non diventa compatto. Può essere congelato fino a 3 mesi. Togliere dal freezer 15 minuti prima del taglio. Se lo si desidera, spolverare con zucchero a velo.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that my past two posts included recipes for a no-bake lemon cheesecake and lemon ricotta cake. Last week between voluntary lockdown (I live in Florida, the COVID-19 epicenter,) the Hurricane Isaias threat and heat, I just didn’t feel like baking. So, today’s post is about an unexpected surprise and tasty Upside-Down Lemon Cheesecake made by Pots & Co. that has made its Southern U.S. debut.
In Pots We Bake
Pots & Co. bakes their delicious desserts in ceramic pots because it gives them depth and creaminess, plus doubles their fridge life. Once you’ve tasted one though, I doubt that they’ll be in your fridge for long! In addition, the pots are reusable and besides using them to bake something new, try something decorative. For example, check out this nice display of plants using Pots & Co. pots.
Dessert with Conscience
For anyone watching their weight, no dessert is guilt free. However, in times like we’re now living, I am the first person to advocate for indulging your sweet cravings! Rest assured, the portions are small enough to satisfy them without breaking the calorie-counting bank.
Most importantly, the pots and packaging are eco-friendly. Even if you don’t reuse the pots, they are recyclable. Moreover, if you add them to the regular trash by mistake, they are biodegradable and release only the Spanish clay in which they’re made of, back into the earth.
A Full Range of Yumminess
I received a box of four Upside-Down Lemon Cheesecakes, but as you know I love chocolate (check out next week’s blog for a new recipe.) I think I’ll next try either the Chocolate Fudge Lave Cake, Chocolate & Salted Caramel Lava Cake, or 70% Chocolate Ganache. You can find the complete range of flavors and heating instructions (if needed) here.
From London to Your Fridge
Good news! Since June 15th, Pots & Co. desserts can be found in the U.S. They’ll be sold at Costco in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Yes, Florida! 🙋🏻♀️
In Pots We Trust
In 2014, founder Julian Dyer had a dream with determination. Having grown tired of the restaurant world, he wanted to bring proper desserts to people at home. Julian explains, “I was standing in a lemon dessert factory and there wasn’t a fresh lemon in sight. I’m a chef – this didn’t make sense. So I started making potted desserts using top ingredients.”
There’s something very nice about guilt-free consumption. In Pots & Co., we trust that quality with conscience can be a regular, if not a daily addition to our table and home. I hope you can try them and if you do, let me know in a comment below!
1 cucchiaio di scorza di limone appena grattugiata (17.07 g)
Unisci le briciole e gli zuccheri del cracker Graham in una ciotola di medie dimensioni. Aggiungi il burro fuso e usa una forchetta per combinare bene gli ingredienti.
Versare il composto in una padella a forma di molla da 9 “o 10”. Usa il fondo (pulito!) Di un misurino per inserire saldamente le briciole sul fondo della padella e premere delicatamente i lati. Usa le dita per mettere le briciole saldamente nei lati della padella.
Mettere in frigorifero o in congelatore mentre si prepara il ripieno di cheesecake.
Versare la miscela di gelatina di gelatina di limone in 1 tazza di acqua molto calda e mescolare bene. Mettere da parte per raffreddare.
Nel frattempo, mescolare crema di formaggio e zucchero a velo insieme fino a che liscio e ben combinato.
Aggiungi la panna acida e mescola bene.
Mescolare in estratto di vaniglia.
Solo una volta che la miscela Jello non è più calda al tatto, versare gradualmente nella miscela di crema di formaggio. Mescolare lentamente all’inizio (per evitare schizzi) e quindi aumentare la velocità fino a quando la miscela è completamente combinata (mettere in pausa per raschiare periodicamente i lati della ciotola). Mescola molto bene.
In una ciotola separata, versa la tua crema pesante e usa un miscelatore elettrico con attacco a frusta per battere a picchi rigidi.
Piegare la panna montata in una miscela di cheesecake fino a quando non ben combinata.
Piegare nella scorza di limone, se si utilizza.
Versare sulla crosta del cracker Graham e trasferire in frigorifero per almeno 6 ore o durante la notte per raffreddare.
Se lo si desidera, coprire con panna montata prima di tagliare e servire.
Combine las migas de galletas Graham y los azúcares en un tazón mediano. Agregue mantequilla derretida y use un tenedor para combinar bien los ingredientes.
Vierta la mezcla en un molde de resorte de 9 “o 10”. Use el fondo (¡limpio!) De una taza de medir para empacar firmemente las migajas en el fondo de la sartén y presione suavemente hacia los lados. Usa tus dedos para empacar las migajas firmemente en los lados de la sartén.
Coloque en el refrigerador o congelador mientras prepara el relleno de tarta de queso.
Vierta la mezcla de gelatina de gelatina de limón en 1 taza de agua muy caliente y revuelva bien. Ponga a un lado para enfriar.
Mientras tanto, revuelva el queso crema y el azúcar en polvo hasta que quede suave y bien combinado.
Agregue la crema agria y revuelva bien.
Mezclar en extracto de vainilla.
Solo una vez que la mezcla de gelatina ya no esté caliente al tacto, vierta gradualmente en la mezcla de queso crema. Revuelva lentamente al principio (para evitar salpicaduras) y luego aumente la velocidad hasta que la mezcla esté completamente combinada (haga una pausa para raspar los lados del tazón periódicamente). Revuelva muy bien.
En un tazón separado, vierta su crema espesa y use una batidora eléctrica con un batidor para batir a picos rígidos.
Doble la crema batida en la mezcla de pastel de queso hasta que esté bien combinada.
Doblar en la ralladura de limón, si se usa.
Vierte sobre la corteza de galletas Graham y transfiérelas al refrigerador por al menos 6 horas o toda la noche para que se enfríen.
Si lo desea, cubra con crema batida antes de cortar y servir.