wine pairing with food

7 Wine tips to increase your palette

Have you ever been to a restaurant with the intention of buying a glass of wine, only to be handed a binder full of selections to choose from? Well, it’s times like these where knowing a bit about wine can go a long way.

  1. Try not to exclusively drink the best (read: expensive) wine that you can find at all times. Sometimes, you will notice that some of the best tasting wines are medium grade and not the creme of the crop. Explore all types of wine and try them with different meals to determine your favorites. Also note that when you ask for a server’s recommendations, a good server will not exclusively recommend the most expensive.
  2. If you are having red meats, stick to red wine. This is the general principle, and should rarely be veered away from. Red wine helps to bring out the flavor in the steak or meat that you choose and vice versa, giving you the best possible experience. While red wine may also be appropriate for fish, white is never a good balance for steak.
  3. wine and food pairing

    Always pair red wine with steak

    When purchasing a wine for dinner, make sure to ask in the merchant if the wine is ready to drink. Some wines need to age in order for their true flavor to come out. This might mean months or even years should go by before the bottle is enjoyed. By asking if the wine is ready to drink, you have a better chance of walking out with a bottle you will enjoy.

  4. Read everything you can get your hands-on with respect to wine. Check out blogs and reviews. New ones are coming out all the time, and they can be very valuable in helping you select wine that you might enjoy. Hint: when you find a wine you like from a certain reviewer, make a note that you have similar tastes and this a reviewer you should heed reviews from. There are even apps for your phone that can help with wine selection.
  5. Choose your food and wine pairings carefully. Typically, white wine is suitable for light dishes, salads or fish. Red wine goes well with heavier dishes and dark meats. The rule of thumb is the heavier or darker the dish, the darker the wine that you choose. If you have having a multi-course dinner, start with white wine and progress to red wine.
  6. Be mindful of wine experts and what they say, yet also take their considerations with a grain of salt. Any expert worth his weight in salt will admit to his own fallibility. Also, their personal tastes will never identically match your own. You should never allow an expert opinion to override your own feelings.
  7. Go to wine tastings. There are plenty of free wine tastings at restaurants to get patrons in on slower evenings. Check these out to taste wines you may not otherwise, feel comfortable purchasing a full bottle. Here you can also network and make friends with other wine newbies.

As you now know, there is a lot of information to deal with when it comes to wine. However, when you have the right information and put in a little effort, you can be a wine expert in no time. Just make sure to enjoy your wine education, as it is supposed to be fun!

Bleeding heart valentine's Day beer

Valentine’s Day: A Beer For Bleeding Hearts

Second Self Beer Company’s seasonal release of “Bleeding Heart” for Valentine’s Day

For some, Valentine’s Day represents passionate emotions…and for others it is a lonely nightmare trapped between the echoes of lost love. Some will choose to celebrate in solitude, while others go all out making reservations for a romantic dinner. This Valentine’s Day, consider swapping wine for beer, especially when there’s a beer made especially for the holiday. Second Self provides Bleeding Heart beer as a compliment to either Valentine’s Day experience.

There are definite notes of cocoa and mocha both in the nose and on the tongue for Bleeding Heart beer. This festive amber ale is a balanced beer that can be paired with several kinds of dishes. Be that pasta, salmon, flank steak, the beer matches well. So if you are a beer lover and dining solo, with friends or a special someone, be sure to try Bleeding Heart or another amber ale. Be sure you have the best beer glasses to serve your Valentine’s day guests as well.

As a seasonal release, and in staying true to the fleeting nature of cupid’s arrows, Bleeding Heart is only available for a limited time. This year Second Self is releasing a canned version which is available for purchase at a handful of retail locations across the city. No matter your relationship with the Valentine’s Day holiday, a good beer is always worth having. Bleeding Heart is a nice companion for this time of year and is both shareable and good in isolation. Be sure and give it a try while you can!

tequila for your health

Why You Need to Drink More Tequila in 2017

There are many health benefits to drinking Tequila in moderation. Here’s some reasons to incorporate Tequila into your diet.

1. It helps control diabetes. Tequila helps lower blood sugar by triggering insulin production and therefore lowers blood sugar.

2. Fights off colds. We should note that this has been said about Whiskey too. While a shot of Tequila may be good, it is better if mixed with equal parts of agave nectar and lime juice. Half an ounce of each should work.

3. Fights cholesterol. Tequila helps lower triglycerides in blood levels. This, in turn, reduces of cholesterol levels.

4. Tequila helps your body absorb medicine more efficiently. When you take any drugs the acid in your stomach breaks them down before they reach your intestines which introduce them into the rest of the body, decreasing the drug’s effectiveness. Tequila acts like a protective barrier for these drugs as they work their way into your system.

tequila for your health

5. You can drink it straight without wanting to throw up afterward Have you ever tried throwing back straight shots of vodka? Chances are they’re coming right back up. When it comes to tequila, you can rest assured that it will sail smoothly down your throat.

6. Pain Reliever. Tequila helps to numb pain by dilating the blood vessels, which results in better blood flow, minimizing pain levels.

7. Cleans your colon. Researchers at Mexico’s University of Guadalajara claim that blue agave found in tequila helps deliver drugs to the colon, which helps to treat illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, colitis, IBS and even cancer.

8. Helps you rest. Just one or two shots of Tequila will relax you enough to drift off to sleep. Next time you can’t fall asleep, try sipping on some Don Julio.

It is important to remember that this advice is for tequila by itself. Having three or four margaritas or any cocktail that contains Tequila is not recommended and may even be more harmful. Always remember to drink Tequila in moderation.

foods that speed up metabolism

Foods that Speed Up Metabolism

So you’ve pretty much eaten your way through December. Now it’s January and you’ve stepped on the scale and wishing you’s passed on that dessert or ten. Kick up your metabolism to help shed that weight. Here are some foods that speed up metabolism.

You must burn more calories than you eat, bottom line, no matter what kind of a diet you’re on.  Forget fad diets, low carb, no carb, no gluten. Here are some foods, some you may already be eating that help speed up your metabolism. Note that the diet industry makes money off many Americans’ desire to lose weight. But don’t waste time on these fad diets. Start eating these foods to speed up your metabolism and burn more calories in a healthy way.

    • Wine – Like red wine? Great. Start drinking a glass per day to help speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that just one glass a day helps to burn calories. Make sure to stick to just one glass a day as more than interfere with sleep and can actually have the reverse affect of burning calories.


    • Fish – Sardines, tuna and salmon are high on the list of foods that speed up metabolism. Not only are they great sources of heart-healthy fat and Omega-3, they help lower your levels of a hormone called leptin. It’s easier to lose weight when your leptin levels stay in the lower ranges. Eat more fish, and if you don’t like fish, take fish oil supplements.
    • Peppers – Hot and spicy peppers like cayenne, habanero and jalapeno make the list of foods that speed up metabolism. How does this work? They contain an ingredient called capsaicin which can boost your metabolism for up to 3 hours after you ingest it. Not only are hot peppers are terrific way to speed up your metabolism if you can tolerate them, but they can liven up many bland dishes.
    • Whole grains – When it comes to burning calories, you have to think in terms of foods that are going to keep you full for a long amount of time. So, you’ll want to avoid sugary snacks and pastas. Whole grains are among some of the best foods that speed up metabolism, because they digest slowly and keep your blood sugar levels even. Cinnamon also has blood sugar-regulating properties, so use of this spice can help keep your metabolism chugging at high speed.

foods to speed up metablolism

  • Proteins – Protein-rich foods like nuts, eggs, beans and lean meats give your body the fat to keep everything running smoothly.
  • Water – If you workout at the gym, have you seen those people that go around sipping water from a gallon jug? They know that part of the secret of speeding up metabolism is consuming a ton of water. It keeps your body operating at top efficiency. Add lemon for a burst of citrus flavor!
Texas wineries

Texas Terroir: Hill Country Wineries

Texas Wines are a Secret in Hill Country

While most of the country believes the best wine can be found on the West Coast, the Texas Hill Country has been quietly building up an abundance of lovely wines. In fact, the Hill Country has nearly 40 wineries. The under the radar destination even hosted the wine marketing tourism conference this year.

Texas wineries

Enjoy the view at Becker Vineyards

What makes Hill Country Wineries unique?  They aren’t the kind where a huge tour bus lets a bunch of people out. In fact, they suggest making appointments, so you can truly savor the experience. Co-0wner, Chris, of William Chris vineyards says “We’d rather people not come, than us not be able to give them the attention they deserve.”

Wine is not produced in quantities large enough to be exported. So, you must visit Texas to imbibe. Here are three of the best wineries in Texas to visit.

Becker Vineyards (Nature / Scenery) If you like Instagram worthy spots, then Becker Vineyards should be on your list of spots to sip on wine and take in the lovely scenery. Must try wine: The Prairie Rotie. A Silver Medal winner in the San Francisco International Wine Competition, it is a light bodied red with a hint of spice and cherries. Tastings are $15 for 6 tastes.

Kuhlman Cellers (Fit for Foodies) If you have a foodie in your midst, then you don’t want to miss out on this Texas winery. Each wine is expertly paired with a small bite. The winery works closely with a chef to create delectable bites to bring out the best of the wine. Think Pumpkin Pureé in a Phylo shell with Wild Mushrooms. Cost is $20.00 per guest ($5 will be waived from the cost of the tasting for each bottle purchased). Upgrade to the $27.50 tasting to experience one additional wine and one additional taste.

Wiliam Chris Vineyards Texas

Roussanne at William Chris compliments desserts nicely.

William Chris (Get to Know the Winemaker)  The names of the two founders of the wineries, these guys know what they are doing, with 35 years experience under their belts. As noted above, the owners are quite involved in the business and often give tours themselves. Tours are daily and are $20 per person, but reservations are recommended.  Try the Mouvedre and Roussanne. Mouvedre wine is popular in France and Spain, but this Texas winery has put its own spin on the full bodied red. Roussanne is the perfect dessert wine you’ve never tried.

The lovely town of Fredericksburg, Texas makes a terrific home base for exploring the Texas wineries. Make sure to put Texas Hill Country on your vacation list for 2017.



How to Plan an Easy Rachel Ray Style Holiday Meal

Have a Rachel Ray Style Holiday Meal

A Rachel Ray holiday meal isn’t just a great feast. It’s bound to be something almost anyone can do. Because Rachel Ray holiday meals are easier than many other chefs’ ideas, even inexperienced cooks have great success with her recipes.

Holiday meals by Rachel Ray typically include all the standard things. There’s a potato of some kind, poultry or ham, vegetables, bread and a dessert. They’re not the standard dishes you might be used to on holidays. But if you want the same old thing you probably wouldn’t be looking for recipes in the first place.

One of her holiday meals includes whole Yukon gold potatoes. While mashed potatoes are the standard fare, her potatoes are cooked whole in chicken stock and then just slightly smashed to crack them open. The method of cooking and the spices she adds give the potatoes a unique flavor.

If you’re tired of having the exact same foods every holiday, Rachel Ray’s recipes like those potatoes can add some variety. A holiday variation of hers is also having Rock Cornish game hens instead of the traditional turkey. Cooking these smaller birds is much faster and easier than cooking a large turkey.

Speed and ease are what Rachel Ray recipes are all about, so it only makes sense that her holiday recipes would be simple, too. Her vegetable recipes use fresh veggies and some simple spice to make elegant but easy dishes. Braised carrots and fennel is a simple dish that has a very fall/winter flavor. It only takes a few ingredients, too.

And because Rachel Ray says herself that she’s not a baker, her pumpkin pie recipe involves a ready-made pie. The recipe is actually for the spiced whipped cream to put on top of it. You can buy a pie and dress it up with homemade whipped cream. Or you can add her tasty whipped cream recipe to your home-baked pie.

If you like Rachel’s folksy, friendly style, then there’s no reason not to try her holiday recipes. Especially when they are a bit different and more interesting that the standard, traditional holiday dishes. She has some of her holiday dishes in her cookbooks, and of course there are her television shows. Many of her holiday recipes are readily available online, also.

One good thing about her holiday recipes is that, aside from a pre-baked pie or purchased bread, the ingredients are all fresh. She doesn’t use mixes or boxed items, so you won’t get additives like fat, salt and MSG.

And to make Rachel Ray’s Holiday recipes even healthier, bake your own bread and your own pie, and use her spread and whipped cream recipes on your baked creations. Then your Rachel Ray holiday meal is as fresh and unique as possible.


Stunning Georgia Wineries

While most think the west coast has the market cornered on the best wine, a wine renaissance has been happening in the Southeast. Several wine makers purchased land in North GA and built some stunning wineries. And the wine doesn’t disappoint.

“Wines from Georgia?” Yes, Georgia is more than just fried foods and moonshine. Here are three wineries in North Georgia that are worth the one and a half hour drive from Atlanta.

Kaya Vineyards
Kaya is a lovely new Georgia winery with arguably the best view of the mountains. The 1600 square foot tasting room includes a large patio, perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon. Future plans include building cabins for weekend getaways. Whatever you try, don’t miss the Oola red wine at Kaya. On weekends, Kaya features a guitarist with a velvety voice to serenade you while you enjoy the dog friendly patio. Tastings start at $11, and the winery is open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Montaluce Winery
The winery is open daily and tours are free, but it’s best to book the $45 tour and five-wine tasting. Then enjoy dinner at Le Vigne, the posh restaurant overlooking the vineyards. The cuisine at this Tuscan-style winery is just as outstanding as the vivacious wine. The property even has beautiful villas on site where you can stay overnight.
Yonah Mountain Vineyards
Yonah is the beautiful mountain that can be seen from the many wineries in Cleveland, close to Helen. Want to see a magnificent winery that has spared no expense? Yonah Mountain Vine yards is it. Built for special events (mostly weddings), there are even wine caves where some special wine dinners take place. Not a Chardonnay fan? The un-oaked, buttery Chardonnay at this Georgia winery might just change your mind. But the Genesis 7, a blend of Malbec, Merlot and several other reds was is stunning. Tastings start at $10, and the winery is open every day.

Since it is only a one and a half hour drive to these wineries from Atlanta, a day trip is feasible. But what’s even better is taking time to enjoy each winery for its merits. Do the tasting and pick your favorite vino, then relax and enjoy a glass or two at each of the wineries. Many wineries have live music or festivals (especially in the fall), so totally worth spending the afternoon or even overnight.


How to Plan a Tasty Vegetarian Thanksgiving

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your house and are expecting vegetarian guests this year, don’t worry about preparing one large meat eating meal, and another separate vegetarian meal. Most vegetarians do not require a ‘meat equivalent’ at Thanksgiving. Yes, traditionally Thanksgiving has largely about the food. But more importantly it’s about family, togetherness, happiness and peace. And if this is your first Thanksgiving after transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle, try some of these ideas to incorporate healthy food preparation into your meal that your vegetarian guests, and you as host, will be thankful for this Thanksgiving:

– Bake some stuffing outside of the turkey for your vegetarian Thanksgiving.

– Make a small portion of vegetarian gravy.

– Keep cooking utensils separate to prevent “cross-contamination” between meat foods and vegetarian foods.

– When recipes are adaptable, use substitutions like vegetarian broth, soy margarine (the formulations without whey are suitable for vegans), soy milk, and kosher marshmallows which are made without gelatin.

– Use vegetable oils instead of animal fats for frying, and vegetable shortening like Crisco for pie crust.

– Read ingredients lists carefully on pre-packaged foods, being aware of terms like gelatin, whey, and “natural flavors” that can be animal-derived.

– Prepare plenty of vegetable and fruit side dishes, but leave them plain.

– Offer plenty of breads, beverages, fresh fruits, and non-gelatin desserts, which are suitable without modification for most vegetarians.

– Invite your vegetarian guest(s) to prepare a “Tofurky” or vegetarian ‘turkey equivalent’ entree to share with you the rest of your guests, or if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, prepare a small one. Your meat-eating guests might just be curious enough to want to try it!

– Ask your vegetarian guest for help, tips, or recipes for your vegetarian Thanksgiving. You may find that your guest offers to help out in the kitchen or bring a dish from home. Please don’t take a dish from home as an insult to your cooking; take it as a desire to share traditions at Thanksgiving. Even meat-eating homes can benefit from a healthy, nutrient-dense vegetarian recipe idea any time of the year!

– Most importantly – make TONS of new, delicious (not overly cooked) vegetables that are perfectly in season like squashes, sweet potatoes, and green beans, etc.


7 Dishes You are Mispronouncing

Sure, we all know how to pronounce “chipotle” now. But if you are a foodie, then there are lots of other items you eat regularly. It’s always good to know the correct pronunciation as you dine with friends and during networking.

  1. A common appetizer at Italian restaurants is bruschetta, a tomato mixture almost like a salad or salsa that sits atop toasted or grilled bread. Most of us in the U.S. take the letters “sch” and pronounce them “shh,” but the correct Italian pronunciation is “brew-skeht-uh.”
  2. Charcuterie: Popular at many restaurants, it is a selection of cured meats. These can be salami, chorizo, ham, and other meats. These high-quality meats are cured for long periods of time and have a salty, nutty flavor. They are often served with a selection of cheese too. It is pronounced “shar-koo-tury.”
  3. Even if you’ve never heard the word crudités, you’ve had it. It is basically fresh vegetables, like carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, and others, that are colorful and look good on a platter for parties. They are usually served with a dip, like ranch. The French word is pronounced “cru-dih-tay.”
  4. Foie gras: This controversial food is a rich, decadent, and expensive dish that is served in fine-dining restaurants, often as a starter. The dish has a special kind of buttery taste that is from the liver of a duck or goose. It is often served with bread and jam. It is pronounced “fwah-grah.”
  5. Haricots verts: These are like the French version of green beans. They are often fancied up and served with items such as almonds or bacon. As often with French words, you can pronounce it by dropping the last letter of the word: “ah-ree-koh-vehr.”
  6. Jícama: This Mexican root vegetable, similar to a turnip, is not only full of flavor but also quite healthy too. Full of fiber, it is great for weight loss, with only 35 calories for 100 grams. It is also full of nutrients and helps to regulate blood pressure. It is pronounced “he-caw-ma.”
  7. Sommelier: Like wine? If you are really good at detecting tastes and deciphering smells, then you could have a career as a sommelier. Sommeliers work in restaurants and make recommendations for wine to pair with meals. They also travel and lecture about wine at food conferences. Pronounce it “saw-mall-yay.”

3 Pumpkin Recipes to Fall For

It’s Pumpkin Season! Bring on the Pumpkin Recipes

There are many reasons to love fall: the cooler weather, boot and scarf season, and of course Pumpkin in every form is EVERYWHERE! I can’t get enough of Pumpkin – lattes, bagels, pumpkin beer, it’s everywhere and I love it! I especially love this recipe for Pumpkin Waffles with Bananas & Warm Caramel Sauce. Here is the recipe and photo courtesy of Hot Shot Bakery & Café in St. Augustine, FL.

Pumpkin Waffles with Bananas

Pumpkin waffles

4 eggs, beaten
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp sour cream
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 ½ cups milk
Mix all together till smooth.

3 cups unbleached flour
½ tsp salt
2 cups oatmeal
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
1 ½ tbsp baking powder
Mix till smooth.

½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup water
Pour all ingredients into heavy saucepan and stir. Simmer until sugar is dissolved.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup corn syrup
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla
Melt until caramel golden brown.

2 Tbs. chopped pecans
½ sliced banana
¼ cup cold butter

Pour 1 cup batter into waffle iron and top with chopped pecans. Remove from waffle iron and place 2 pats of butter and sliced banana on top of waffle. Pour warm caramel sauce over waffle. (Batter can stay fresh in frig for five days).

Pumpkin Slow Cooker Coconut Curry

I love this recipe because so often Pumpkin recipes are so sweet with coffees and desserts. But this embraces Pumpkin’s savory side. Don’t be fooled by the name, the recipe includes chicken. I found that chicken tenderloins shredded quite nicely as well. Plus you get all kinds of good vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes in this too.

Pumpkin Hummus

Who doesn’t love hummus, right? If you are having guests over, this a great appetizer to whip up. You can even add in a can of chickpeas to give it a more “hummus” taste. Also, a good substitute for the parsley is cilantro.