Pics From The Road

Somewhere in Arizona.

....more to come....



A post from Solvang, CA

Our first blog post on the road!

We made it to Cali after a stop in Flagstaff & two days in Zion National Park & today we are working our way up the coast to Avila Beach. I should have pics to post soon of the beauty of Zion National Park.....after we get a WiFi spot that we aren't poaching (shhhhhh....don't tell, I promise I am not using a lot of bandwidth).

Update coming soon...Stay tuned.



Recipe: Seafood Pasta Paella

Do you ever eat something that blows your mind & you have to have it again...soon. That was the case with this dish. The first time was on Friday night & then again the same weekend, even. Earlier in the day, on Friday, I picked up some Key West Pink Shrimp & a pound of mussels. The support for the fresh shell fish, thin spaghetti, saffron infused fish bouillon, asparagus, red peppers & lots of garlic & shallots. The makings for dinner time bliss.

Paella is traditionally made with rice, so it makes since that pasta would be a good stand-in. The traditional pasta of choice is fideo noodles from Spain, but broken up thin spaghetti works just fine.

We enjoyed this with a 2004 Protocolo Rose' & it was simply d-frikkin-lish. The wine choice was very fitting being a Spanish wine & Paella being a celebratory Spanish dish. It was a big, spicy, dry Rose' & suited the shellfish perfectly. It was also a steal at $6.99.

Seafood Pasta Paella

*this serves enough for 2 with leftovers.

Olive oil
12 ounces fideo noodles or broken up thin spaghetti (about 2"pieces)
5 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
crushed red pepper to taste
3 cups fish bouillon (or clam juice) diluted with one cup of H2O
small pinch of saffron
salt to taste
handful chopped asparagus
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 lbs. of mussels
1 pound of shrimp (peel 'em if you want...we didn't)
any other seafood you see fit

Heat the oil in a dutch oven, over medium heat. Add pasta stirring constantly until brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic & red pepper, stir about 30 sec. until aromatic. Soak saffron in liquid. Add liquid & bring to a boil. Season with S & P to taste. Add veggies. Cover & cook over medium heat until pasta is barely al dente. Add H2O if necessary. Add mussels cook for 4 mins. or until all mussels are open. Add shrimp, cook until pink,m then remove from heat immediately. Sprinkle with parsley & serve with a crust piece of bread to sop up all of the juicy goodness.



Epic Road Trip, One Week & Counting

Here is our route. Blue is the route on the way out. Red is on the way back (minus some backtracking).

Our plan is to leave next Friday & drive as far as we can after I get off work at noon & then wake-up Saturday & finish the haul to Zion National Park. We will spend a couple days there camping & exploring ,then shoot on over the Santa Barbara.

Once we get to Cali, we are gonna take it easy & tool up & down the coast between Santa Barbara & Paso Robles. It is going to be totally set itinerary, just chasing the great Central Coast wines, in between the great mountain biking trails we will be riding. We will camp most nights in Cali except for our anniversary. We plan on staying in Avila Beach at the Inn at Avila Beach for a couple nights to live it up & celebrate 2 years of blissful married life.

After our livers start crying from all the wine (about a week, I am guessing) we will head back East...taking our time with maybe a stop in Vegas, baby.

We will stop again in Utah, stocked with cases of primo vino, since the great Mormon state of Utah has a major problem with people enjoying adult beverages within the confines of it's borders. Happy Hour is actually illegal in Utah (?!). Mother nature (Utah is one of the most beautiful places on Earth) & the cases of wine in tow will help us cope. We haven't decided where we will stop in UT. Maybe Bryce Canyon, Moab, or the Brian Head Ski Resort for some downhill mountain biking.

From there, we will head to the Mountains. The San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado to be exact. We will spend the last few days of our epic journey, soaking in hot springs, breathing in the crisp, clean, cool mountain air, sleeping under the stars. We may get some more mountain biking in near Durango, right before the sad but inevitable day when we have to head home.

It will be a sad trip home to Memphis (it always is) but we will have a head full of new memories & hopefully some wine left. We will see.


Last Nights Dinner: Chicken with Orange Pan Sauce

Oh man, this was fabulous & besides that, it was quick & easy. We enjoyed it with rice with peas, grilled asparagus & grilled peppers. Add a bottle of 2004 Tortoise Creek Syrah & you have the makings for mid-week, dinner-time bliss.

Here is how it went down....

  • 4 bone-in chicken breast halves with skin

  • 5 teaspoons ground cumin, divided

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed

  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

  • 1/2 cup orange juice

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Slide fingertips beneath skin of each chicken breast to loosen. Sprinkle each chicken breast with 1 teaspoon cumin and salt and pepper; rub seasoning beneath and on top of skin.
    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken, skin side down, in pan and cook until skin browns, about 5 minutes; turn chicken over. Place skillet in oven and roast until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
    Transfer chicken to plate. Add remaining oil to drippings in skillet; add garlic and sauté over medium-high heat 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, orange juice, lemon juice, orange peel, lemon peel, and remaining 1 teaspoon cumin; boil until reduced to 1 scant cup, about 3 minutes. Pour sauce over chicken; sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

    Makes 4 servings.

    Bon Appétit.



    New Orleans Wine & Food Experience: Re-cap

    Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez. That's the unofficial slogan of New Orleans.

    Let the good times roll.

    Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez. That is also how I would sum up the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. It was a culinary whirlwind of food from the cities best restaurants & legendary eateries. Names like Commander's Palace, Galatoire's & Brennan's come to mind & they brought the big guns. The plethora of wine was more than impressive. Meeting the wine makers & winery owners gave it a personal touch that let us enjoy the wine on a whole new level.

    The food & wine on Friday was an eye opener as to what was ahead for the whole weekend. As soon as we walked through the door of the ballroom, our senses were bombarded by smells of spicy crab cakes & bubbling bisques. There was a perpetual motion of foodies & wine lovers meandering from booth to booth tasting the treats that were being poured or served. Sounds of people chatting was overcome by the roaming jazz band, playing Dixieland classics. The vibe of the city permeated the generic walls of the two Hilton's ballrooms. If you could see good times rolling, this was it.

    It seemed the good times were rolling more so, on Saturday. The food on Saturday was stellar again, with chefs offering different specialties, as well as the previous nights favorites. So much wine was offered I only revisited one table from Friday, The Peachy Canyon booth with owner Doug Beckett pouring. He had some great offerings especially his Jester blend.

    Saturday was full of opportunities to eat, taste & learn. The Duck, Duck, Duck Gooch seminar (I swear, that is what is was called) was eye opening to the many ways to prepare duck. It was also interesting to hear hoe duck has come from being a gourmet only food, served in only five star restaurants, to something that is almost as common as chicken. Don't bother with the 'Taste like chicken' similie...because it doesn't.

    Besides taking home great memories of wonderful people, fantastic food & stellar wine, there was the chance to soak up as much knowledge about food & wine as humanly possible.

    If you are wondering how the city is doing post Katrina, as I know most people are. It is still visibly scarred outside of downtown & even still, it is noticeable to a degree. The real destruction is outside the downtown area, French Quarter & the Warehouse District. There is still plenty to see & do in the city, so if you are thinking about should. Will the Crescent City bounce back....Yes. I feel confident it will. This years attendance record for the NOWFE beat last years numbers. Anyone who knows New Orleans knows it won't be long.

    There was so much to see, so much to taste & eat, so much to do. I think next year we will take the entire week off, so we can enjoy the whole five day event.

    For the 2006 Fleur De Lis Award winners please click here.

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    NOWFE Part 4: Seminar on Duck-Galatoire's Restaurant

    Well, we slept through the farmer's market seminar. Truly poor planning to end a grand tasting at 8.00pm Friday and have a farmer's market seminar at 7.45 am Saturday morning. Haha. Poor planning on my part really. Anyway we heard it was packed so it may have worked out for the best (but I'll always have a secret yearning for what might have been).

    I digress.

    After misreading the schedule and missing out on the Rioja seminar too (I know, I know, get it together, right?) we decided the duck seminar could not be missed. We made our way over the Galatoire's early, hoping that the event wasn't sold out. Its common courtesy for press to give up their seats to people who purchased passes to the event, and I really really wanted a seat.

    It filled up quick, but there was just enough room for everyone who arrived on time. The focus was duck duck duck. I have never eaten so much duck in my life. There was a short talk about the wine. Two Pinot Noirs and a Pinot Gris from MacMurray Ranch Winery. We sat to the side and it was hard to catch everything that was being said, so I'll leave the review off the wines up to Collin.

    The seminar was set up in a panel type discussion. Chefs from four New Orleans area restaurants prepared and spoke about the duck dishes they have on their menu.
    The guest chefs were-
    David Gooch, Galatoire's Restaraunt
    Greg Sonnier, Gabrielle Restaurant
    Philip Chan, Asian Cajun Bistro
    Bob Iacovone, Restaurant Cuvee

    Here's where it gets confusing. We were sitting off to the side where we couldn't see or hear too well (I said it was packed, right?) and we got mixed up on which chef prepared which dish. Unfortunately, there wasn't a detailed menu of the dishes served. Instead of crediting chef's with dishes incorrectly, I'm just going to give a run down of the duck.

    Duck Gumbo served with Potato Salad-
    Dark duck stock with duck meat and rice. Really really rich flavor. Excellent way to wet your appetite for the duck tasting to come. Surprising light for such a rich flavor.
    The potato salad was fresh, full of red peppers, hard boiled egg and duck cracklin'. It went great with the gumbo.

    Slow Roasted Duck in Puff pastry and Seared Foie Gras with Fruit Chutney-
    So this was my first time for foie gras. I was super excited when I found out we would get to try it. It was not what I expected. It had a very delicate flavor. Not quite as 'organny' as I expected. The texture was less distinct than I thought it would be. Very smooth with a slightly crisp exterior. I would like to try it again, prepared differently. I think I would have been upset if I had dropped serious coin to taste it.

    Beijing/Peking Duck, Duck Egg roll and Orange Duck-
    This was my favorite duck by far. All three were delicious. The Orange duck was moist and flavorful. The egg roll was nice, the duck flavor out shined all the other ingredients. The peking/beijing was good too, very straightforward, very traditional. Duck was, once again, the center of attention in all of the dishes. While the flavor could have been easily overpowered by other elements, it wasn't. My only complaint was the dipping sauces. Duck sauce and hoison were served with the dishes. The flavors went well (of course, they are the traditional sauces to accompany these dishes) but my complaint is that they both tasted like sauce you get with your takeout chinese. I was hoping for something a little more gourmet (must be the food snob in me coming out).

    In all the duck dinner was fabulous. The food was great but the whole dining and panel discussion experience was even better. I wish we had made it to more seminars.

    I apologize to the chefs of each of these dishes for misrepresentation of any sort. It was difficult to hear, and the wine was good. I will gladly make changes to any dish that I butchered.

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    Fabulous Favorites Festival Roundup Posted

    Lenn at Lenndevours has posted the much anticipated Fabulous Favorites Festival Roundup Posted.

    There are some great dinners & write-ups from all over the food & wine blogosphere. Go over & check it out, but don't blame me if you get drool on your keyboard.
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