Friday, May 29, 2009

Stinky Cheese

We have some really good friends visiting us from Connecticut. They arrived last night.  So we bought some snacks to munch on while we caught up.  Of course we had a couple of bottles of wine too - - Cellar No. 8 Cabernet from California and Cerejeiras Red from Portugal - both were quite tasty.  

I picked up some cheese made by Cowgirl Creamery. My favorite cheese of theirs is the Mt. Tam Triple Cream Brie.  The store I stopped at for the cheese was out of the Mt. Tam so I picked up The Red Hawk instead. 

I didn't notice the scent of the cheese at first. Then I really started to smell it in the car. So I opened up the back windows. By the time I picked up our friends from the airport and got home you could REALLY smell the cheese. I was beginning to wonder what I would find when I opened the package. I was imagining something green and fuzzy.

Well, we got all the snacks together and gave it a test. It tasted MUCH better than it smelled. It was creamy and delicious. My friend Kerry really liked it. Don wouldn't try it. He couldn't get past the smell. I'm not sure why it smells so much. But thankfully, it tasted good. Put a little wedge on a cracker with some fig spread.  Mmm, mmm, good.

I just looked up the cheese on the Cowgirl Creamery website. It says it's a triple cream, washed-rind, fully-flavored cheese made from organic cow's milk from the Straus Family dairy. It's aged six weeks and washed with a brine solution that promotes the growth of bacteria that tints the rind a sunset orange. They forgot to add, "and gives it a lovely, stinky aroma."  Oh well. At least it tasted good. Now hopefully the fridge won't get too stinky.  ewwwww.

Tonight we're going to Kokkari for Greek food.  Should be a good time! I'll tell you all about it next week.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Flour + Pits + Flute = unhappy Kris


My plan last night was to bake the Cherry Apricot Cobbler I wrote about on Monday.

In my mind, I was going to shop the farmer's market for fresh fruit, with Elli skipping by my side.  Then go home and bake a lovely fruit cobbler which my family would enjoy. Sometimes things don't go as I imagined.  (Sort of like this photo.  That is not me!)

First, I had a client meeting on Tuesday that ran long so I wouldn't be picking Elli up from school, which means I won't be going to the Farmer's Market which is right next to her school. I did manage to swing by Bed, Bath and Beyond to pick up the cherry pitter.  Which works like a charm - if used correctly.

So I went to Safeway to get the missing ingredients - apricots, cherries, flour and buttermilk. I got in a short line to check out - which turned out to be the slowest line, and, the guy behind me started playing a FLUTE!!!  Yes, a flute. Like the kind you play in band.  Great. It's finally my turn. The last thing the cashier rings up is the cherries. "You don't want these." she said.  "Yes I do. That's the reason I'm here." I said.  "Well, they're $8.99. Are you sure you want them?" Jeez. No, I don't want to pay $8.99. But what am I going to do? I'll take them anyway.  Thanks. AND DUDE, STOP PLAYING THE FLUTE!!!!!!

So I got home and put Elli to work pitting cherries.  She loved doing it!  I started on the rest of the recipe. DOH!  I need self-rising flour.  I bought all-purpose flour. So I Googled what to do. My dear friend Wiki, said add baking powder. Ok.  How much? I ended up adding 1t for each cup of flour.  

I finally got it put together and in the oven.  It bakes for 20 minutes. I checked it at 15 - it was looking good.  I pulled it out a few minutes before the timer went off because the top was getting really brown.

Here's the good news and the bad news.  It had good flavor. And the biscuit dough did rise. But it was a little under-baked. The dough was still a little doughy on top of the fruit. So that was kind of icky.  And, most of the cherries still had their pits.  Don's comment, "Next time don't give the cherry pitting job to a seven year old." Thanks, dear. And sweet little Elli wanted a Tootsie roll that she got from the parade for dessert.  No cobbler. "No thanks, mom."  WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE???  This is NOT how it was supposed to end!

Then to top it off, neither Don or I could sleep last night because of all the sugar in the cobbler. Big sigh.......

What is the lesson here?  hmmm. Don't bake on a Tuesday night after a long day. Instead, go home, relax and enjoy a glass of wine.

Check.

Apron photo from www.jessiesteele.com  

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What the heck is ACAI?

Acai. I've seen it here and there. Now it's in my Yoplait yogurt.  So what the heck is it?  And how do you say it? Well wouldn't you know it, our local paper the Marin Independent Journal has a whole feature about this mystery berry.

First, how do you pronounce it?  "ah-sah-EE".  I always thought the "c" was pronounced like a hard "k" - guess not!

According to the article, acai is a berry native to Brazil. It tastes like an earthier version of a blackberry. Sounds interesting. Some even say it tastes like a chocolate covered blueberry. Now we're talking! 

I went on the acai website, www.acai.org, but all their info is from wikipidia. Interesting..... So I went to wikipedia. The acai fruit is only harvested twice a year and deteriorates rapidly, so they freeze the pulp or dry it for use in beverages, ice cream, yogurt, soda, etc. You probably won't see it very often in your local market. If you do, I'm guessing it will be expensive. So far the only thing I can find it in are beverages, yogurts, and powder products that super humans use to get healthy.

I have to say, I'm curious about how something that looks like a blueberry got this big?  What if we rename a fruit - similar to the whole prune/plum thing - and market its superpowers? I think we should rename the blueberry something really exotic and market it as the next superfruit.  

So I did some quick wiki research. Did you know that blueberries are native to North America? They are considered a Superfruit (I thought I was making it up - like superman, superfruit) because of all their nutritious qualities.  The plant is technically called a Vaccinium something or other.  If you look it up on Wikipedia you'll get all the technical mumbo jumbo.  The first sentence lost me:
"Blueberries are flowering plants in the genus Vaccinium sect, Cyanococcus."  Huh?

I think I'm on to something. So I'm going to think about it some more. 

I wonder if they've made Acai flavored vodka yet? Hmmmm. (Just checked. Yep. Someone already thought of that. doh!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cherries are in season!

It's cherry season! Cherry vendors have pitched tents all over the place. You can drive by only so many times before you have to stop. It's impossible not to. Because fresh cherries are yum-my. I don't know about you, but our cherries rarely make it to the fridge. They make it all the way to the sink where they get a quick rinse - then that's it. Down the hatch they go. 

There was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday with some great tips:
  • Look for cherries with the deepest, darkest hues
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to five days
  • You can freeze cherries by simply putting them in a ziplock. Didn't know that.  Excellent!
Jane Tunks, the author of the Chronicle article recommends making a simple sauce for chicken, duck or pork by sauteing cherries in some broth and butter. It sounds really simple and good. Of course,  you have to save some cherries when you get home.

Personally, I'm a sucker for fruit cobblers. So I think that's what I'm going to make. I found a recipe for Sweet Cherry and Apricot Cobbler that sounds delish.  The Mill Valley farmer's market is every Tuesday.  I hope I can find apricots.  I know they'll have cherries.


I've never mastered pitting cherries. So before I make the cobbler I'm making a quick stop at Williams Sonoma for a cherry pitter. I've always wanted one, now I have the perfect excuse. Plus, it also pits olives.  Love it! 

I'll report on how the cobbler turned out later this week. The judging committee (Don and Elli) will be happy to tell me what they think!
Cherry photo from www.nwcherries.com

Friday, May 15, 2009

Relax + Recover

Two and half years ago, my husband and I bought a business in Napa called Pollin's Interiors and Custom Upholstery.  We always talked about having our own business, so when the opportunity came up - we went for it.  It hasn't been easy, but all the hard work, stress and sleepless nights, have been worth it. 

Being from the advertising business - we're firm believers in the power of advertising and PR. We know what it can do for a business. 

So when  California Home and Design Magazine contacted us back in February to make all the furniture for a feature story about using outdoor fabrics for indoor furniture, we jumped at the chance.  We remade two sofas, a chair and countless pillows in all shapes and sizes (pg. 140-144).  The feature includes all the pieces we made. If you go on the website you can see the before and after pictures.  Plus, there is a video interview with Don.

We also submitted photos of Michael Chiarello's new restaurant Bottega - which they included in a Napa story (see pg 64.)  We did all the patio cushions, cubes and many of the chairs in the dining room.

Click here to see the issue.

Thanks for taking a look - it's a really big issue for us. Our own ad is on page 91.  It's nice to have an ex-creative from NY designing our ads. (He never has to argue with his client - which he loves. Ha!)

Feel free to pass this on to all the people you know in the SF Bay area. We'd love to keep the positive groove going in Napa!  

-Kris

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oh, James......

Don't you just love a guy in a tux?

purrrrrrrrr........

I just read about a Champagne for all the wanna-be Bond girls out there. It's called Ayala.  It has no sugar, so it's a bone-dry champagne with fine bubbles. Great with caviar, sushi and shellfish.



I haven't tried this champagne. But I'm willing to dress Don up in a monkey suit and get myself all dolled up in a dress and heels and give it a try. 

Except my Bond (my hubby Don) isn't too fond of monkey suits, so we'll probably just pick up some sushi and enjoy it at home. I'll put the heels on anyway!

So I know some of you out there will wonder why I chose THIS Bond photo.  I was going to use a picture of Sean Connery.  And then I saw this photo of Daniel Craig, our current James Bond. And I have to say, I find him quite sexy.

Oh, one more thing.  Enjoy this chilled, not shaken, or stirred.

Cheers!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Just one more cookie, please.

Last weekend, Don treated me and Elli to the most amazing weekend.  

We had a FABULOUS night at the Ritz Carlton, San Francisco - on the Club Level. If you have ever stayed at the Ritz on the club level you know how special it is.  If you haven't, well, it ain't no Hampton Inn. Trust me, it's special. And if you're on a business trip - schedule all your meetings in the lounge or you're going to miss out on all the yumminess.

Funny story....there is a concierge sitting at a desk right in front of where the elevator doors open. Elli and I weren't expecting anything to be there. The doors open and we saw a lounge with tables set up for a big buffet - and we squeeled!  "OOOOOHHH!"  The concierge laughed. They were between set-ups. We were looking at empty silver platters. He said, "I can't wait to see your reaction when we have the food set up." Hello. The rif raf has arrived. We tried to behave ourselves from that point on - but it was hard. All I can say is, thank goodness Elli is so cute. He barely noticed me and Don.

So when the food was set up it was Heaven. They had a spread of food, wine, champagne, open bar - pretty much all day long.  The food changed depending on the time of day. Breakfast, lunch, happy hour, after dinner snack, dessert. We Mulkey's were like kids in a candy store. Everything was gourmet, first class. They had gourmet meats, cheeses, breads, chocolate fondue, pastries, home-made marshmallows, home-made potato chips, I could go on and on. I don't know about you, but I don't get home-made marshmallows every day. And the potato chips were like nothing you've had before. And that's not even the gourmet stuff that most people brag about.

So on a beautiful silver platter were delicious little cookies, all different colors. I passed them up for a white chocolate macadamia cookie (my personal favorite.) And since I had already pigged out on everything else - I was drawing the line at a little cookie.  BIG MISTAKE.

On Sunday in the SF Chronicle, there was a big article about these precious little cookies. Oh, if I could only go back for just one cookie. Do you think they'll give me a cookie do-over?

Big sigh................

Guess we'll just have to go back to the Ritz. Honey? Don?  Sweetie? Our anniversary is coming up??? #18. (gulp)  I think we deserve a whole plateful of little cookies!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My little Picasso.

This post has nothing to do with food.  Or wine. It's about Elli - the budding artist.

She is one of about 40 elementary kids chosen to be in a Mill Valley School District art and poetry show.  We have five elementary schools in Mill Valley - so this is a pretty big honor!

Here she is with her masterpiece. 

This weekend, Elli told us she wants to be nine things when she grows up.
  1. Singer
  2. Dancer
  3. Artist
  4. Teacher
  5. Veterinarian
  6. Fish store owner (aquarium kind of fish) 
  7. Dress shop owner
  8. Mom
  9. President (of the U.S.)
Well, she's already a singer, dancer and artist. Better watch out America. Elli's on a mission. You may have your first Chinese-born American running things in 30 years.  Wouldn't that be amazing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Finally, a wine to pair with cheeseburgers!

I get so many emails from different retailers.  There just isn't enough time to view them all. Sometimes I just read the subject line before, delete!  And sometimes I actually click on it to see what they're trying to sell me. Just depends on what kind of day I'm having.

I get a ton of wine-related emails.  Most of which are an eye-sore.  Way too much copy and technical mumbo jumbo.  For some reason, this one caught my eye.  It said, 

'06 Peter Lehman Barossa Shiraz, $12.99
91pts Wine Spectator
Ripe, juicy and balanced - drink this full and flexible gem with everyday fare such as pizza, grilled or fried chicken or a bacon cheeseburger.

All right! 

I haven't tried this wine.  But for twelve bucks there's not much risk.

You can order it from PJWine  Or call 212-567-5500.

It's also available at BevMo.  But it's not on sale - $19.99. hmmmm...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Don't forget mom this Sunday!

Mother's Day is this Sunday.  So take a moment to tell your mom how much you appreciate her.  

I have no idea how my mom did it with four kids, or Don's mom with five kids. I only have one, nearly perfect child, :-) and I can barely keep up.

I won't get to see my mom this mother's day - but I will see her in a  few weeks so we'll have a delayed celebration. My mom is the greatest, most supportive mom around. I'm always telling everyone how much fun she is.  I've discovered that's not the case with everyone's mom. So I feel very lucky to have such a special mom.

Here are some ideas of things to do for your mom, or things your kids can do for your wife, (hint, hint) that will bring a smile to her face and make her feel appreciated.

Things to do for your mom:
1) put your dishes in the dishwasher
2) hang up your coat - in the closet
3) pick up the wet towel off the bathroom floor
4) sweep the patio
5) wipe the toothpaste splatter off the bathroom faucet
6) make your bed
7) wash her car and fill it with gas
8) vaccuum 

Gifts for mom:
1) give your mom a hug
2) send or bring her flowers
3) smile and tell her how special she is
4) take her on a picnic
5) go for a family bike ride
6) one hour of quiet time, with a magazine and a glass of wine (ahhh.......)

There you have it.  It's pretty simple.  A little pampering goes a long way. If you're feeling really generous, you can do items 1-8 every week.  THAT would be awesome.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Champagne and Sparkling Wine

I love champagne and sparkling wine.  Whenever we go out to dinner I like to start the evening with a glass of sparkling wine.  We went out to dinner Saturday night, and that's just what I did.

Did you know that unless the wine is from Champagne, France they can't call it Champagne?  It has to be called Sparkling wine. I learned that from Judy, the very thorough proofreader at Hoffman Lewis (where I work.) 

As I've mentioned before, through my job I get to taste some good stuff. We had a BevMo meeting at Mumm Napa a while back. They showed us how they turn the bottles to get the bubbles just perfect. It's pretty amazing to me that someone, somewhere, thought of all this stuff. 

We had the most amazing lunch with a private wine tasting. It was awesome. Then we went shopping for wine. My favorites are the Mumm Brut Rose (formerly called the Blanc de Noirs) and the Mumm Blanc de Blanc.  These are not $5 bottles. But they don't cost a fortune either.

But back to Saturday night. I love the bubbles, and love starting an evening with a glass. On Saturday I had a glass of Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc Napa '05. It was delish. Cool, crisp and just sweet enough.

I didn't know much about Schramsberg. So I looked it up online. The Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc has an interesting history. It is made from the chardonnay grape (where the Blanc de Noir is from the Pinot Noir grape.) The Blanc de Blance was the first wine Schramsberg produced in 1965 and was America's first commercially produced, Chardonnay-based, sparkling wine. Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc gained national recognition in 1972 when then President Nixon served the wine at the historic "Toast to Peace", in Beijing, China.  Wow, that's more than I thought I would discover. I just thought it tasted good!

Bottomline, don't save champagne or sparkling wine for New Year's Eve alone. It's great all year long.  

Most good wine shops and restaurants, sell half bottles when you just want 2 glasses. And, the special cork stoppers they sell for sparkling wines really do work.  They keep it carbonated in the fridge for a day or two.

So there you have it.  Cheers!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm smitten with Sauvignon Blanc

I'm sitting here reading Wine Business Monthly and came upon an article about Sauvignon Blanc. It's my favorite varietal. It's perfect to have when hanging out or when eating just about any food. I prefer it much more than Chardonnay. It's not oakey or buttery and doesn't over-power food.  So I was interested to know what the pros think.

What is the attraction?
1. Sauvignon Blanc grapes can grow well anywhere in any type of soil. And they don't need to be aged. The wine can be bottled in January and ready to drink in March. Sweet.
2. Apparently the grape is difficult to work with and there are lots of special techniques to"tame the vigor of the varietal" -but the pros have it all figured out. It is a grape we're talking about, right?
3. They describe the wine as having amazing fruit flavor and aroma.  There are hints of melon, tropical fruit, grapefruit, lychee. The flavors are descriptive and bright.
4. It usually has good acidity so it pairs well with a lot of food. It's crisp, fruity, dry and served chilled, so it is the perfect compliment for summer picnics.
5. And last, but not least, it's usually a good value. It can almost always be counted on to deliver a wine of great interest at a price that will still allow you buy some food. Excellent! It's affordable.

So, if you find yourself out and about and don't know what to drink. Or you're mindlessly wandering around the aisles of BevMo! Give the Sauvignon Blanc a try.  You won't be disappointed.

Here are some recommendations:

From Josh Nichol, my boss: 
Rodney Strong, Sauvignon Blanc.  You can find it a BevMo! for $9.99CB.  It got a silver medal at the 2008 Long Beach Wine Comp.

My recommendation: 
Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc.  Also $9.99CB at BevMo!




Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's Fiesta Time!

What is Cinco de Mayo anyway? And why don't they make it a national holiday so we can get the day off?  Or at least a regional holiday. Heck, half of California is from Mexico. 

According to Wikipedia, the holiday celebrates Mexico's defeat of the French army in the battle of Puebla. Why were they at battle you ask?  Well, the Mexican government had ceased making interest payments on their debt, so the French invaded Mexico to try to force payment of the debt. Am I missing something? Are we celebrating the fact that Mexico bullied France out of their country so they wouldn't have to pay them back? I think we are. 'Cuz it doesn't say anything about Mexico ever paying them back. Nice.

So do smashing pinata's at a party represent beating the tar out of the French? hmmmm.....

This history lesson is spoiling the mood. No wonder they invented tequila. Something had to numb the guilt. So let's get to it. Grab the tequila, the triple sec, some lime, ice and mix yourself a margarita.

Good tequila to try:
* Cabo Wabo (Sammy Hagar's brand)
* El Tesoro
* Corralejo
* Patron
* Cazadores
* Herradura

Speaking of Sammy Hagar, we saw him recently somewhere.  Where was it? He was in line behind us and you couldn't help but notice his hair. Oh yeah, in line at airport security. Don and I were whispering and doing the whole pointing with your eyes kind of thing. Elli caught on that something was up and had a little fit 'cuz we wouldn't tell her the secret.   sigh...............

Anyhow, back to Fiesta Time.

Grab some chips, salsa, guacamole and have a fun little fiesta at home and make some fajita's or super deluxe nachos. Believe it or not, the best nachos we ever had were at the patio restaurant at the Biltmore in Scottsdale. I just checked their menu and they don't serve the nacho's anymore.  Bummer. They were good. If we still lived in Dallas we would definitely go to Chuy's for our menu favorites: the 9-1-1 Hotplate and Chicken Relleno's.  But we're not.  

So we'll probably make margarita's and have chicken fajita's at home. Better drink just one margarita, though. It's a school night.

Margarita recipe:
1 1/2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce Triple Sec
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Rub the rim of a cocktail glass with lime, dip in salt. Fill with ice. Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into glass and serve.

Salud!


Monday, May 4, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire


Don and I watched the movie Saturday night on our big screen at home. We're a little behind the rest of the world in catching this flick. But since we missed it at the theatre, we had to wait for it to come out on DVD. 

We knew it would be good since it was the big Oscar winner. But that doesn't always mean you'll like it. 

It's a great movie.  I can see why it got such great reviews and ultimately became the big winner at the oscars. Who doesn't love a story where you get to route for the underdog - a poor, uneducated street kid in love with a beautiful girl. The story follows his life and how he ended up on the show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." It has action, suspense, lots of bad guys, a good guy, a beautiful girl and a cool sound track. 

I give it two thumbs up.

Click here to see the movie trailer.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mint Julep. The signature drink of the Kentucky Derby.


Today is the Kentucky Derby. 

So if you find yourself watching the race, here's the same cocktail all the ladies and gents will be sipping at the track.  The classic Mint Julep. 

I love the way the bartender in the attached video gets the ice to crush into ice powder. He puts ice cubes in a canvas bag and beats them with a big wooden mallet.  I have got to try that at home. (Talk about a free therapy session!) I just told Don and he said, "we can buy crushed ice." Hmm.  I'm buying a bag and a mallot!

Here's a video to show you how to make it.  Click here.

You only need 4 incredients:

Simple syrup (sugar and water)
Ice
Mint
Bourbon

Of course the bartender serves it in a really cool pewter cup.  

Enjoy!

That's it.  Have a good weekend everyone!

Click here to order cool cups for next year!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday night movie review.

It's been an exhausting week. No recipes or cooking tonight. It's date night!

Don and I love watching movies. And we love seeing them on the big screen. We don't go to the movies much anymore - unless they are family flicks. So when we do get out we really enjoy it.

Last Friday we had a real (adults only) date - dinner and a movie.  The thought of it sounds so good right now. It's been a long week.

We had dinner at a fantastic new restaurant in Mill Valley called Balboa Cafe. The meal was great. Our two favorite things were the Ahi appetizer and the Blueberry Bread pudding for dessert. It was served with really good vanilla ice cream. It was warm with a bit of crunch on top. Soooooo good. I might have it instead of an entree next time.

After dinner, we saw the movie Sunshine Cleaning. We both enjoyed it. I really like Amy Adams and Emily Blunt.  I loved Amy Adams in Enchanted.  And thought Emily Blunt was terrific as the secretary in Devils Wears Prada.  Anyhow, this movie is funny, sweet, and sentimental. It's all about family and friends and how we stick together no matter what. I give it a thumbs up. It has its heart tugging moments, which of course made me teary eyed. So if you're like me, bring a tissue! (Don gave me the eye roll.  What-ever!)

Click here to see a preview.

Happy date night!