Tasting notes: 2001 Château Greysac

Oh Man! Where do I begin?! This is one of those wines that will stay fresh in my memory for a long time. We were having friends over for dinner & I thought a bottle for while we cooked would be in order (we had a lamb roast & I will post the recipe in a bit). I was going to decant this bottle, although I tasted this immediately after opening the bottle & it was good but not great. After about 30 minutes in the carafe, it was a whole new wine, rich, thick, velvety & delicious. My only regret was that I drink too much before dinner & we only had a glass a piece with our lamb but luckily we had a magnum of Côte de Ventoux ROUGE stashed away. It was such a good compliment to the lamb, I was blown away. I didn't think it could get any better.

I tired a bottle of this in December & I was not nearly as impressed, so I am going to have to think it was the time in the carafe that really made this wine shine.

nose:leather, dead leaves, black currants, blackberry with a hint of barnyard.

palate: leather, meat, dried fruit, well structured tannins, a nice little bit of acidity that rounds everything out. The finish was long & elegant with some licorice in the background.

It was also a bargain & I will be picking up another bottle of this real soon.

Crunchy Parmesan Chicken Tenders with Balsamic Dipping Sauce

Recipe from

This is a great, quick & easy meal to cook in the middle of the week. We use Panko bread cumbs (a staple in our kitchen) & season it with italian herbs. For the dipping sauce we used some 20 year old Balsamic vinegar that Kathy sent us that just sent it over the top (THANKS AGAIN KATHY!!). It was sooooo good. If you can't find chicken tenders just cut a boneless breast length wise once or twice, depending on the size.

4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders (about 18)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
3/4 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Brush 1 tablespoon of oil over each of 2 heavy large lined baking sheets. Place the buttermilk in a large bowl. Add the chicken tenders and stir to coat. Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mash the garlic with the salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the vinegar and then the remaining 1/2 cup of oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with pepper. Transfer the vinaigrette to a small serving bowl.

Stir the Parmesan and bread crumbs in a pie dish. Remove the chicken tenders from the buttermilk and dredge them in the bread crumb mixture to coat completely, pressing to adhere. Arrange the coated chicken tenders on the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the chicken tenders and bake until they are cooked through and golden brown, about 12 minutes.


Tasting notes: 2003 Dancing Bull Zinfandel

This was a weekday bottle from last week that I picked up for $10. I think we had this with parmesan chicken tenders, but I can't remember, which is OK, because the tenders deserve a post of their own because they rock.

This was good bargain wine & I can't complain about it at all. It was just your straight forward Cali Zin.

nose: Aromas evident immediately after pouring. Blackberry cobbler, spice, blackberry jam & some raspberry.

palate: Jammy, fruity, plummy & spicy.


Tasting notes: 2004 Avila Pinot Noir

We enjoyed a bottle of 2004 Avila Pinot Noir with our burgers on burger night & it was very nice match. Avila Pinot Noir is from San Luis Obispo County on the Central Coast of California. This was a great Pinot at a great price...$15.

nose: Lots of cherry with hints of raspberry & pine needles. There was also some earth, touch of soy sauce & some mushrooms.

palate: Fresh red cherries lead into some pine & cinnamon notes. Very spicy. I picked up on some kind of vegetables on day two. The veggie notes were close to shrooms but not. More wood on day two. The finish was nice, long & woodsy.


Burger Night!


We celebrated burger night a few days ago. It is a rarity that we have burgers because of an aversion that we both have towards ground meats of any type. But we decided it had been long enough and time to relish in the ease, simplicity and complete self indulgence that is the burger night.

We don't ever use ground beef. We gave up on it a long time ago. It is ground meat that I can't stand. Instead we use ground turkey. It's not nearly as heavy or greasy, and in my opinion, has a lot more flavor than ground beef of any kind.

Here's the recipe for the burgers

1/2 pound of ground turkey
1 tbsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup diced cheese of your choice. Something melty, preferably. We used garden Havarti for these burgers.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and form into patties. I usually get three patties out of 1/2 pound of turkey. I cooked these in a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil but they are easily grilled as well. Medium High heat, about 5 minutes on each side.

In the meantime I sauteed some sliced crimini mushrooms and sweet onions to go on top.

The burgers were served on whole wheat kaiser rolls with a little stone ground mustard and mayonnaise and a side of home made frozen fries. (I said it was easy and self indulgent.) Another favorite side we have with burgers is homemade (for real), sweet potato fries. I'll have to get that recipe up at some point because they always turn out great.



My slow-witted next door neighbor was cleaning his grill inside his shed Thursday. He lit the grill (gas grill), evidently it flared up & caught his shed on fire. We got home from the park just as it started blazing. La called 911 & I went to knock on the door to see if they knew about the raging inferno from the bowels of hell in their backyard. The lady came to the door & said "Dave's taking care of it." I asked her if she had called 911 (La was on the phone with them at this point) & she said "No, Dave is taking care of it." Never once removing the Virginia Slim from her lips.
They both were totally cavalier about the whole situation. I think they are on drugs.

He caught his shed on fire.

Here he is trying to put it out with a garden hose. moron.

At one point I asked him if anything was flammable in there & he said "I hope not". yeah, me too.

About frikkin' time. It only took like 4 minutes from the time La called 911, for the FD to get here. We live 2 blocks away from the Police Station so we had Cops galore around before the FD showed up.

At one point the flames leapt to their roof & started to burn, but this was after the FD was there.
So, they just blasted it with H2O. TAKE THAT FLAMES OF FOOLISHNESS!!!

BIG RED TRUCK. Loud too, I might add.

Another funny thing. As soon as La was on the phone with 911, I ran back to grab the camera & I was snapping pics, when this lady pulls up in a sedan. She yelled out in her best sassy voice "YOU GONNA CALL SOMEBODY, OR WHAT?!". And of course I yell back something smart-assed (I can't remember, but yall know me, so you probably have an idea) to her & she gets out of her unassuming sedan & she is PACKING HEAT! She had on Kevlar, a belt with cuffs, radio, etc. & TWO nines strapped to both of her thighs. She was part of the OCU (organized crime unit). Luckily her energy was then focussed on getting my neighbors out of the house which was quite a task, evidently.

There were no casualties & the only things destroyed were the shed & the junk inside. There is never a boring day living in Midtown, Memphis. That is why I love it.


Tating Notes: 2003 Firesteed Pinot Noir

2003 Firesteed Pinot Noir
Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
My exploration of Pinot Noir has turned into something else. Not so much an infatuation, because my love for this wine is not fleeting. I really love how many styles of Pinot Noir there are & the diversity of wines from producer to producer. I feel like I could drink nothing but Pinot for a long time & not get bored. One of this weeks picks was a 2003 Firesteed Pinot Noir from Oregon. I love Oregonian Pinot's & I think this may be my favorite out of the OR Pinots I have tried. Oregon is said to have growing conditions much like Burgundy. With more rain & a shorter season than California. The Pinots I have tried from Oregon seem more subtle & complex...more Burgundian if you will, than those from California, which all tend to be in your face, fruit bombs. But they still have more ooomph, fruit wise than the Burgundies I have tried (my experience is limited, I know).

nose: A little funky & earthy with bright fresh cherries & strawberries.

palate: Fresh berries, earth, a touch of cedar. Bright acidity & a medium-light mouth feel. A long spicy finish with clove & vanilla wrap it all up.


Tasting notes: 2004 Hogue Late Harvest Riesling

I got a bottle of 2004 Hogue Late Harvest Riesling with the soul purpose of learning how to make Beurre Blanc or a white wine butter sauce, if you prefer. It turned out pretty good the first try, so I had a bottle left with only 1/3 cup of wine gone. We had the Beurre Blanc with some nice fillets of pan fried Sole. It turned out great. This wine was also great too.

nose: Fresh pineapple, apricots & lemons.

palate: Thick & sweet with apricots & tropical fruit. A nice acidity slices through the sweetness balancing everything out. Nice fruity finish.


How retarded am I?

I picked up a magnum of La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux, one of my favorite cheap reds, last week when I bought a 4-pack (if anyone knows how to add the ˆ to an O, on a Mac please let me know).
I didn't open it until yesterday & boy did I get a surprise. I poured my first glass & it was pink & I could see, with near crystal clear clarity, all the way through my glass. I was a little gun shy after my bad bottle of Malbec, so I thought something was wrong. Something was wrong. It was Rose'. Now I dont have anything against Rose', but it was shocking to see what was I was expecting to be a red wine come out pink as rose'. I was in the mood for some red, so I used my trusty funnel & poured it back in the bottle. So now we have a magnum of Rose' in the fridge. I couldn't write tasting notes because I didn't drink any, so keep an eye out for the tasting notes. That is, IF I ever get around to drinking this.

Tasting Notes: 2004 El Portillo Malbec

I got my first bad bottle of wine. I don't know if it was corked or what, but it wasn't good.

At first it had no smell, it then gradually opened up with a dusty old smell, like the top of the bookshelf that is breeding dust bunnies like...well...rabbits.

It was lip puckering sour & completely undrinkable. It was a shame to pour it out, but it had to be done. I am a big fan of Malbecs from Argentina, so I will have to try this one again.


Memorable Meals: Varsailles Restaurant

If you are ever in Miami or more specifically Little Havana, you must take the time to eat here. We ate lunch there with my parents when we were visiting them in Fort Lauderdale & it rocked. We showed up at noon on Saturday & the place was packed. I think we were the only people there, that weren't having a conversation on Spanish. The menu was Old Testament fat....frikkin' huge. It took us longer to decide what to order than it took for them to cook it. We all ordered sandwiches & La got garlic & egg soup too. I had a roasted pork sandwich & La had a Cuban sausage sandwich & I can't remember what my parents had, but the general consensus was that it was unbelievably good. La's soup won the prize, though. It was beef based broth with tons of chunks of roasted garlic floating in it with a piece of toasted Cuban bread in the middle with a fried egg on top. I think I could live off of that soup. It was great place & great experience. If you are ever in Miami & want some good Cuban homecooking, head to Versailles.



How to get your moneys worth from Paul Mason.

This nugget is from Randy:

  • Buy carafe of plonk.

  • Pour out plonk.

  • Pour in good wine.

  • Enjoy drinking good wine from $3 carafe.

  • Tasting notes: 2003 Cline Zinfandel

    I am not a big Zin drinker. I used to be...well, we both used to be...big time. Not in the way you are thinking, though. Back when our wine drinking consisted of giant jugs of "Burgundy" or "Chablis" (note the quotes) that could be had for less change than what could be found in the cushions of our couch, we used to get an E. J. & Gallo jug called Cafe Zinfandel, on the extra cheap tip. We drank the stuff by the gallons, literally. It met all of our criteria at the time. Cheap, sweet, fruity, available in mass quantities & it even had a nice effervescent quality to it (I still dont know if that was intended or not).

    That was then. Enter phase two of our Zinfandel love affair.

    We tried a bottle about a month ago, a 2002 Renwood Zin. I almost flipped out. It was so good. It had so much character. A new meatiness, I had not tasted in other wines (nothing like Shiraz meaty). New spices & nuances, I had yet to taste. I was hooked.

    I have been meaning to try another Zin since then. I could not find one in a boat, I could not find one with a goat....whoa, sorry. I was channelling Dr. Seuss there for a minute.

    So, I picked up this 2003 Cline Zinfandel last week. I almost flipped out again.

    nose: a melange of red berries & plum leaps out of the glass leading to a spicy meatiness, that is full of pepper, clove & cinnamon.

    palate: follows the nose. Every sip begs to be savored. It is full of fruit, raspberry, black cherry & plum. Lots of clove & white pepper. Very spicy. The supple tannins lead into a lasting finish.


    I cant wait to get my hands on some more Zinfandel.


    Tasting notes: 2002 Michel Picard Bourgogne Pinot Noir

    This was an impulse buy. I had what I wanted in my hands (1/2 bottle of Rosa Regale) & I couldn't resist perusing French section at Buster's while I was there. This was on Friday, so I knew impending doom was coming in the form of ICE STORM 2006 & I figured if we are iced in, we better have some Burgundy. I found this bottle for $10 & my mind was made up.

    nose: blackberry, cherry with some initial funkiness that latter couldn't be found. There was a tiny hint of vanilla & spice.

    palate: In the mouth this was really light. It had bright cherries, firm tannins rounded out by some spiciness & a tart mouthwatering acidity. The finish was nice but faded away quickly.


    We tried this side-by-side with the Castle Rock Pinot Noir & man, were they different. The best analogy I can think of is, the Castle Rock Pinot from Monterey County was like a rootin' tootin' cowboy with a ten gallon hat firing his pistols in the air trying to get everyones attention & the Bourgogne Pinot was like an understated Frenchman in a beret, quietly painting on his canvas an intricate impressionistic masterpiece.

    I dont know which I like better. I guess it just depends on my mood.


    Fun with Google Maps

    Paso Robles Vineyards
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    I was bored today because I am trapped inside due to ICE STORM ARMAGEDDON 2006. It has been sleeting all day & it is 21° outside & there is no way am I going to venture out in that insanity.

    During this mundane moment of boredom, I started paying with Google Maps. I was originally trying to see how far away Paso Robles was from L.A. & just checking the lay of the land on the Central Coast. After getting a good idea of the geography, I started to zoom in with the Satellite Images turned on to see if I could spot any obvious vineyards. As you can imagine that wasn't too hard to do. I found one that looked cool & wanted to investigate further, so I turned on the Hybrid feature that composites the road data on the sat images & figured out the closest intersection. After plugging the intersection into Google Maps, I came up with a few returns that looked like they could possibly be the place I was looking at. After some more pointing & clicking, I found an address....1985 Penman Springs Road
    Paso Robles, CA 93446. I plugged this into Google Maps again & the pin was right there. It turns out it is the Penman Springs Vineyard in Paso Robles.

    Looks like cabin fever & the interweb go together like wine & least if you are a geek.


    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    There is nothing better in the morning than steaming hot grits...well, coffee is kind of hard to beat, but that is more of a necessity. To step it up, add shredded cheese, some Cayenne & lots of butter. La used some hickory smoked cheddar that ruled.

    What's a grit? A Southern staple of small broken grains of corn. They were first produced by Native Americans centuries ago. They made both "corn" grits and "hominy" grits. These are corn grits. Give them a try if you never have. They are usually in the grocery store near the breakfast cereal.



    Snow day

    snow day
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    Last weekend we got snow! It was so nice. We hardly ever get snow, usually we just get sleet or freezing rain, nothing fun. We woke up early last Saturday & went to the park with Roxi. She loved the snow more than us. This weekend we are supposed to get more Winter precipitation...but not the fun kind. The way they are talking about it on the news, it is going to be an ice storm armageddon. We'll see.

    I stocked up wine just in case, so we are prepared. I say let it, whatever. As long as it melts by Monday.


    Tasting notes: 2004 Castle Rock Pinot Noir

    Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2004
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    I hit up Midtown Liquor again (sorry Joe & Buster!). I got the 4 pack special, which is any 4 bottles (magnums included) for 10% off. I had a good chat with their distributor who was very knowledgeable, most of those guys are full of shit, but he seemed to know his stuff & he was very friendly. Everyone that came into the store while I was there cashed their pay checks....Welcome to Midtown Memphis!

    On to the vino.
    They had a handful of Pinots that were under $10 & as bad as I wanted to try the Benton Lane Pinot Noir from Oregon, I decided to save our splurge bottle for Saturday (it was $20). So I opted for the 2004 Castle Rock Pinot Noir.

    nose: black cherries, spice & tinges of alcohol that was borderline unpleasant.

    palate: cherries & plum off the bat, with some clove. very faint tannins with a flash of heat. The finish was quick.

    This is a good thursday night dinner wine. There isn't much to it & I think you need some food to tame the heat.

    Podcast review: Graperadio

    I have been hooked on podcasts, as I mentioned a while back. Recently I found Graperadio & have been addicted ever since. Their slogan is "Where enthusiasm for wine gets personal" & enthusiasm is an understatement. They love wine (don't we all) & these guys are chocked full of wine knowledge. They are consummate wine-geeks, but don't let that scare you off if you are new to the wonderful world of wine. They don't come off as snobs at all & they explain everything in an interesting, easy to understand way. Don't let this bother you if you think you know everything about wine either. They have tons of great interviews with some very interesting wine industry people. Everyone from authors, wine makers, sommeliers, people that I could listen to for hours.

    The conversations can get personal too (just like the slogan says). During their recent Pinot Showdown, a whopping four parter, that kept me glued to the I-pod, there was a heated debate between two Cali wine makers about their differences of style making Pinot Noir. Sort of a New World vs. Old World debate. The gauntlet was thrown down, some accusations were made & an enthralling debate ensued.

    Besides great content, the production value is outstanding. I don't know who set these guys up with their studio but they did a great job. One thing I love that makes me drool every time is when they refill their glasses. You didn't think they would podcast about wine without a glass did you?

    Check them out at


    Tasting Notes: 2003 Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Shiraz

    One of my favorite grapes is Shiraz & we usually have at least one bottle a week & this week was no exception. I stopped by a new wine shop...well, new to me, to pick up our weekly dinner wines. The place is called Midtown Liquors & I was initially turned off by the giant "CHECKS CASHED HERE!" sign, but decided to stop anyway. It proved to be a good decision. The prices were very competitive & their selection was decent but nothing to write home about. One reason I know I will go back is they have 10% off discount on any four bottles & 20% off of a case. Most places here will only give you 10% off on 6+ bottles. This bottle was the only 2003 with a bunch of 2004's but priced the same. I know nothing of vintages in Australia but I figured I would give it a whirl. Plus it has some shiny gold stickers boasting the awards it has won, so it has to be good, right? ;) For $8 a bottle it wasn't much of a gamble anyway.

    nose: musty & meaty, kinda' like salami. The fruit was dark & brooding. The olfactory hues were black.

    palate: Heavy, spicy, thick, intense with blackberry liqueur. A nice subtle acidity balances the fruit & mild tannins. The finish just keeps going.
    4 of 5

    If this wine was in a band, it would be in Black Sabbath circa 1970.

    This was an excellent find. I am going back to look for this one.


    Tasting Notes: 2004 Trapiche Pinot Noir

    2004 Trapiche Pinot Noir
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    WOW! This was a screaming deal at $8. I have found that with Pinot Noir, you get what you pay for. This is not the case here. Leave it to the Argentineans to produce a VERY drinkable cheap Pinot. I have said it before & I am going to say it again...the Argentineans know how to grow some grapes.

    The nose was full of cherries with a hint of mint & some cedar. In the mouth it was very light, with bright cherry notes leading into a faint lime-like acidity. Very little tannins until the finish where they were very soft. The finish left quickly & had hints of cloves.
    3.5 of 5

    I will be getting a bottle of this again. It is a very good mid-week wine & the price can't be beat.

    Last nights dinner: Curry Lamb Stew & Cous Cous

    Curry Lamb Stew & Cous Cous
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    This was my first time cooking Indian. It is something I have been wanting to tackle for a long time because I love Indian & the Indian joints here in town never seem to make curries hot enough, even if you ask them to make it "Bombay Hot". I was long overdue taking matters into my own hands.

    I started by sautéing 2 onions, a handful of garlic cloves & a good heap of minced ginger. After that cooked about 5 minutes I added 1 can of green curry paste (check your local ethnic market), some turmeric & some homemade smoked hab powder. After all of that married with the onions, garlic & ginger, I threw in the lamb chunks. I let this brown & then threw in 3 chopped potatoes, 1 sweet potato (should have used more), about 4 carrots, 1 can of tomatoes & enough H2O to cover it. I then brought it to a boil, then turned the heat down so it could simmer & put a lid on it. An hour later, we had some powerful Lamb Curry Stew with tri-color cous-cous.



    Tasting Notes: 2004 Tres Picos Garnacha

    2004 Tres Picos Garnacha
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    Spain has lots of good value reds, I can't remember but I think this was $13. It is a pretty straight forward, no frills Garnacha. Garnacha is spanish for Grenache. So same grape different name...different language for that matter.

    nose: strawberries & a little plum.
    palate: follows the nose. with a little cinnamon on the finish.

    3 of 5

    Raspberry Chocolate Cake with Rasperry Grenache & Framboise & Sparkling Wine.

    We made this earlier in the day & it tested our will power. While we licked the beater every chance we got, we never cut the cake until after dinner. La made some fresh whipped cream & we topped it with fresh raspberries. It was the perfect finale to the meal.

    We went with the wine pairing that the recipe suggested, sort of. We had a bargain bottle of bubbly & we made cocktails with the Bonny Doon Framboise.

    Recipe here.


    Tasting notes: 2004 Sebastiani Pinot Noir

    Sebastiani Pinot Noir 2004
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    nose: woodsy with faint cherries.
    palate: bright & snappy with some cherry & red plum. It goes down easy with subtle tannins. The finish is quick with a little mint.

    This really wasn't the best choice to go with the tomato sauce but it was outstanding on it's own. The acidity of the wine seemed to clash with the sauce. I think I like Pinots from Oregon the best so far (Erath & Big Fire).

    Valentines Dinner

    Valentines Dinner
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    So last night we celebrated Valentines Day. We both have to work on the 14th & La won't be home until late due to school too.

    Randy, my uncle in Germany, sent a pack of Squid Ink Pasta from Italy with Zach, when he visited a couple of weeks ago. (THANKS RANDY!!!) We were saving it for a special occasion & this was it. We also used some leftover sauce we made with the spice pack Zach brought. It was so hot that we added more tomatoes & more garlic, just because we love tons of garlic. We boiled the octopus for an hour earlier in the day & put it in the fridge to sit until we were ready for dinner. We prepared the Squid Ink Pasta just like any other pasta, while the octopus simmered in the sauce (for about an hour). We also had Italian Creamed Spinach. I will let La tell you how she worked her magic. The dinner was outstanding. The octopus was so tender & tasted like a sweet sea breeze. The smell of life as my Dad once put it, referring to the smell of the ocean.

    More photos here.

    Stay tuned, the wine list is up next!


    My better half, Laura. We are going to tag team See, Sip, Taste, Hear, since we are both in the kitchen together most of the time. She is the brains behind this operation & keeps it all together in the kitchen (& keeps a close eye on me!).

    I know it is kind of a late introduction (see post below) but better late than never!


    Smothered Pork Chops continued.......

    Well, mark this post as my SSTH debut. Smothered pork chops are a staple in the south. The recipe is great to have around because its super simple and all the ingredients are staples in any well stocked pantry.

    1/3 cup flour
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    2 cups water, cold
    2 onions, sliced
    salt and pepper
    4- 6 oz pork chops (bone in or out, we used butterflied chops)

    Heat the oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and then cover in flour. Brown pork chops on each side, about three minutes per side. Remove pork chops from oil and set aside.

    Add the onions to the oil and let cook about 1 minute. Add flour, stirring until flour starts to brown. Add 2 cups of cold water, mixing well until all flour is incorporated and the bottom of the pan has been de-glazed, bring to a boil. Add pork chops to gravy, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until pork chops are tender.

    Plate pork chops, season gravy with salt and pepper to taste (I love loading it up with fresh ground black pepper). Spoon gravy over chops.

    Cheese Grits
    We had spicy cheese grits as a side with the chops. Grits are another pantry staple around here. I used instant grits because that's what we had on hand.

    Cook the grits according to the directions on the package. We usually make four servings so that we have leftovers for breakfast the next day. While the grits are cooking I add about 1/4 cup of cream and a tablespoon of butter. Cheese grits usually need a little extra liquid to keep them from getting sticky and clumpy. When the grits are finished cooking add salt and pepper to taste. I add some homemade smoked habanero powder to our grits but cayenne works just fine. We like our cheese grits spicy. Add about 1/2 cup scallions/green onions/spring onions, sliced very thinly. Then add grated cheese of your choice to taste (usually about 3/4-1 cup). My personal favorite is smoked cheddar. Parmesan is really good too. Stir until cheese is melted and incorporated.

    Now, you can serve it like this, or you can transfer the mixture to an appropriate sized baking dish and bake the grits at 350ºF for about 10- 15 minutes. This gives it a nice firm crust with a really gooey, creamy interior.

    Bon Appetit


    Last nights dinner: Smothered Pork Chops

    We had a nice 'down home' soul food dinner last night. Total comfort food. It was snowing & very cold, so we needed something that would warm us up. The pork chops were smothered in onions & gravy (I will get La to post the recipe), cheese grits with hickory smoked cheddar & steamed broccoli & cauliflower. I love soul food & I love it even more, when we are the ones cooking it. (sorry no pics)



    Tasting Notes: Big Fire Pinot Noir 2004

    Big Fire Pinot Noir 2004
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    Nose: succulent & juicy with ripe red berries & baking spice.

    Palate: velvet texture, loaded with cherry pie, nice lip smacking quality, the finish fades quickly with lots of Vanilla.

    Wine labels that piss me off.

    Sorry, but I dont want to pick up a bottle of Pinot Noir & read a Haiku...Or ANY poetry for that matter. Don't get me wrong, I like poetry. I am not a huge fan but I do enjoy reading the occasional Ginsberg poem every now & then. What purpose does poetry have on a wine label? It doesn't let me know that the wine is made in an Old World style or that it is going to be hedonistic fruit bomb brimming with ripe fruit. Sure, some of it is nice....if I was in the mood for poetry. About the only thing worse is a paragraph about the winemaker's logo. What would I like on the label, you ask...Information.
    Tell me that the Zinfandel vines that produced the grapes for the wine are over 50 years old. Let me know that I should expect a big peppery & meaty Syrah. Let me know that the fruit I cant figure out on the front of my palate is Pomegranate.
    Just dont get all "Nature's first green is gold" on me.

    Things to come...

    Things to come...
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    This is for our Valentines Day dinner this weekend.

    Last nights dinner: Pasta Carbonara

    This is a good "go to" recipe. We weren't very motivated & the pork chops were still in the freezer, so we whipped up some Pasta Carbonara. Here is how it went down...
    I sauteed an onion in some extra virgin olive oil, then added about 6 pcs. of bacon cut into 1 inch pcs. let that cook over medium high heat. Laura started my whole wheat angel hair in a pot of boiling water. While that was going, I beat 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of sour cream & a lot of grated parmesan with S & P. When the pasta was done we strained it & folded it into the bacon & onions. Then the burner was turned off & the egg mixture was stirred in.

    It was quick, easy & delicious. Just what I was in the mood for.



    The sauce

    The sauce
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    I didn't take pics of the actual dinner. By the time it was ready, I was already wolfing it down. We polished off the Mencia too. This weekend we are going to make a special Valentines dinner, since it is on a Tuesday. Vino line-up & menu will be posted soon. I have to run out & pick up provisions tomorrow. It should be fun.

    Italian spice pack

    Italian spice packet
    Originally uploaded by djcollinator.
    Another goodie from the Fam across the pond. We used this last night for our Penne. It was just how I like my sauce...SPICY & oh so good. We also had Crunchy
    Parmesan Chicken Tenders
    courtesy of Giada from FoodTV.

    Memorable Meals: Vietnamese BBQ in Zion, UT

    I am going to start a series of posts today called Memorable Meals. Feel free to share your own Memorable Meals with me too.

    This Memorable Meal was a Vietnamese BBQ that we ate on our honeymoon in Zion, UT. We were in Zion National Park hiking the narrows, which is a creek that runs through a tight canyon that is approximately 15 miles long. There is no trail, you hike in the creek. It was so awesome being surrounded by 2000 foot canyon walls meandering the the path the Virgin River cut through the rock. It was the best way to escape the hot Southern Utah heat (this in the middle of July).

    We only hiked for a couple of hours because it was getting dark & our stomachs were growling. At the time Laura was a vegetarian, but she has finally came to her senses. A lady in the park suggested this weird Vietnamese/Indian/Ice Cream parlor place because they had a nice vegetarian selection. So that is where we went. Utah has some pretty crazy beer/liquor/wine laws so we stopped by the store to pick-up an assortment of local micro-brewed beers. I don't remember what they were, but I do remember they hit the spot. We had vegetable samosas to start things off & then for the main event, we had the Vietnamese BBQ.

    There was a flying saucer type grill they put on our table with a little flame in it & they brought us a huge plate full of raw chicken, beef & shrimp (La still ate seafood), a big plate full of greens, mint, lime leaves, thai basil, sprouts, limes, & jalapenos. There was also a dish of rice paper to wrap the goods in. What you do is take your meat & dip it in sesame oil & then place it on the grill, cook to your liking, pull it off, twist it up in the rice paper with a good handful of veggies & then you dip it in Fish Sauce & cover it with sriracha & enjoy. It was kind of like Vietnamese fajitas now that I think about it.

    It was one of those perfect meals. We were in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with 2000 foot cliffs behind us, the company & conversation was top notch & we had the excitement of the rest of our trip.

    If you have any Memorable Meals please share!


    The Burgundy Pyramid

    Being on a Pinot Noir kick right now, I thought this was very interesting & blog worhty. I found this on Flickr!. It was taken by Dey, who also has some great photos of India & Nepal. Check them out!

    Now if I can only get my hands on a Grad Cru or a Premier Cru.


    Tops BBQ & Spanish wine--> Match made in Heaven!

    I picked up a bottle of 2002 Altos de Nunez Mencia from Joe's today after work. I have been wanting to try a bottle of this wine since I first tasted this a few weeks ago at the Spanish wine tasting. One tasting sized pour was not enough. It has a rustic, Old World quality that is very fascinating to me. The nose is full of funk, petting zoo (some say barnyard but Laura labeled it petting zoo & it stuck) that changes quickly into dirty diapers. This may not sound appealing, but mind you these are only notes & these smells dont knock you over the head, it is kind of a complex mustiness. There is also some black fruit, smokiness & burnt coffee. This is a complex wine. On the palate it is very well balanced with medium body. The fruit is almost savory on the front of the palate quickly flashing to a crisp acidity that holds out until the lengthy finish. There is something I can't put my finger on in the finish, I will have to do some more exploring.

    I stopped for lunch while out & thought BBQ would be a good match to the Mencia. It was. I stopped at Tops in Midtown & it was packed, which was a very good sign. The more customers, the better the chance for getting some 'cue fresh out of the smoker. I dont think it was as fresh as I was hoping for but pretty damn good none the less. I wished I had my camera because the place was brimming with photo ops. I don't think the place has changed since the 70's & I am super nostalgic when it comes to kitchsy 70's interior design. The service was quick & painless too, which is something that is hard to get in Memphis, especially during the lunch rush.

    Tasting notes: 2002 Torres Coronas Tempranillo

    Nose: lots of ripe blackberry, plum & some cassis, a little bit musty & funky.
    Palate: rich casis with some earthy notes in the background, not as much as you would expect (or hope for) from a Tempranillo because it is a blend of 86% Tempranillo & 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. Some cedar chips are there too. There is some vanilla in the lasting finish.

    I had this with mole fajitas & it changed into a really funky beast. The fajitas were loaded with smoked hab powder, cumin & cocoa, among other things... The flavor profiles did some crazy shape-shifting. Like in Terminator 2, the cop that could melt into the shiny liquid metal goo. "Have you seen this boy?"


    Weekday wines & weekend wines

    That is how I keep my wine budget in check. My weekend wines are my "splurges" & I use that term losely. A splurge for us is usually $20...$25 max. My weekend bottles are usually whatever varietal or region I am exploring/obsessing over at the moment. As you may have noticed, my object of desire, at the moment is Pinot Noir. During the week we get what I call the big-assed-cheap-bottles...or BACB's...or at least until I can find a better acronym. It is usually a 1.75l of some Shiraz from down unda' (check out LIttle Penguin & Jindalee) These are great because we can cook with it too & not burn through a bottle in one night. We also turn to Argentina a lot for our mid-week quaffers (just peruse my previous posts on a number of Malbecs). You can get an excellent bottle of wine for under $10. This weeks we are having the most elusive of our wines...the left overs. A 2002 Torres Coronas Tempranillo. Daniel brought this over & it didn't get opened, so it is now the official 'week' wine. So maybe I will be drinking Pinot tomorrow night.

    Gerwurtztraminer Eiswein tasting notes

    This 2004 Rheinhessen Gewurtztraminer Eiswein was a gift from Zach. He brought Laura a bottle from Germany a couple of weeks ago. It made an excellent desert after our meal of chicken garlic confit, with sauteed mustard greens & acorn squash bread pudding.

    Eiswein is made by picking the grapes while they are still frozen on the vine. The grapes are even pressed frozen, thereby separating the concentrated juice from the water (because it is still frozen & the juice is not). This produces a sweet, syrupy wine, that some call the Nectar of the Gods.

    The nose was ripe & concentrated fruit with hints of apple & pear. On the palate it was heavy, almost syrupy but effervescent too. I know that seems like a contradiction, but it was a fleeting effervescence that was crisp on the front of the palate & then left very quickly. Very sweet concentrated ripe grape flavors with a hint of clover-honey coat the mouth. This desert wine needs no desert because it IS desert. It may not be for everyone but we both loved it. 4/5


    My first taste of Burgundy

    I picked up a bottle of Louis Latour Marsannay 2003 this weekend & had my first taste of Burgundy. I drank this while cooking last Friday & it was a great way to start off the weekend.

    This is soooooooo different compared to all the New World Pinots I tried last week.
    I feel I really can't compare the two. The NW Pinots were scratch that, they WERE over the top compared to this wine. The NW was all intense ripe fruit & in your face. The Burgundy was more subtle. I would like to explore Burgundies more & I would love to taste a 1er Cru.

    Here are my notes:
    nose: light cherries, floral hints, almost like the potpurri at my Grandmothers house, a little bit of funky barnyard when I first opened the bottle.
    palate: follows the nose, more complex though. light mouthfeel. some cherry with strawberry & some raspberry with some spicy mint too. more tannins than I expected. the finish was nice & faded away slowly.

    I liked it a lot & would happily get another bottle.

    Wine Poetry

    Words by Zach, photo by me.


    Friday's Hedonistic Feast

    Last Friday we had friends & family over to enjoy great food, great drink & great company. Memories were forged, bonds were strengthened, we satisfied our carnal thirst for blood & fire & drank a lot of wine.

    We started the evening with a 2002 Renwood Zinfandel that Daniel brought over. This was my first taste of good Zin. I liked it a lot & it is worth exploring more. It had a nose of ripe red & black berries with a touch of clove. On the palate it was intense following the nose more clove though & some nice meatiness. 3/5

    Next up was trip around the globe to Bordeaux. This was one of Zach's pick, 2002 Barton and Guestier Saint Emillion. This one sat in the decanter for an hour, I think that might have been too long, I am not sure. The reason I say that is that it kind of fell flat. Thinking back I have to wonder if drinking the Zin first, just zapped my palate or if it was just too young. I dont know but there wasn't much there. What I did pick up on was a charred bellpepper & some new leather with only a hint of blackberries on the palate. The nose left much to be desired. 2/5

    While we were sipping on the Bordeaux the Lamb was finishing up on the smoker. I put it on at 12:00 & pulled it off at 6:00pm. The rest of the spread consisted of lentil salad with parsley & onions, some kick-ass potato salad that Tony & Kimberley brought over, roasted veggies cooked by Zach, which consisted of 2 of everything at Easy-Way.

    With the Lamb we cracked open the 2002 Polissena Sangiovese. This was the wine of the night. Zach hit a home run with this bad-boy. It was a perfect match to the lamb. The nose was dense, with spruce, white pepper, tobacco, black currants & black berries. On the palate, the intense, but not over the top, the smoky blackberries & black currant notes hugged every part of my mouth. This wine is a meat blade with a medium-heavy mouth-feel
    & nice supple tannins. The finish was nice & lingering with lots of licorice notes. Perfect harmony.
    The meal was topped off with cheese, accidental toffee, carmamlized grapes & two more bottles of wine. A 2001 Schmitt Sohne Riesling Auslese & a 2001 Schramsberg Cremant Demi-Sac. Both were outstanding & really dont remember much more than that. ;)
    At one point I think someone broke out the Cuervo & there was talk of doing shots with fleur de sel but I stashed out of sight before the travesty was comitted. I have more pics posted in my Flickr account so check them out if you want.

    *I keep having posts dissapear I am going to have to contact blogspot & see what is going on. I will re-post everything that has been lost as soon as the problem is resolved.
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