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.

 

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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.

north-georgia-wineries

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.

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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.

vegetaraian-thanksgiving

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.

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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.”
must-try-pumpkin-recipes

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

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

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

CARAMEL SAUCE:
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.

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

Prepare:
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.

 

espresso selection

Choosing the Right Espresso Cups

True espresso drinkers will be more likely to obsess over the cup their espresso is in! You maybe surprised to know that in other countries besides the US espresso cups are actually thought to be more of an art than anything else. For example, in Italy and parts of Europe espresso cups are hand made. If you are enthusiastic about drinking espresso then choosing the right kind of espresso cups is probably an important component of how you drink the beverage. Perhaps you aren’t an avid espresso drinking but interested in purchasing cups for someone you know who is. Here are a few tips that go along with choosing the right espresso cups, though, that pretty much everyone should be aware about:

The Quality of Espresso Cups
The first and foremost issue that you’ll want to be concerned with is the quality of the espresso cups that you buy. There are definitely all different types of espresso cups that can be bought, including sturdy plastic, glass, among other materials, but the best quality material that is frequently chosen for espresso beverage cups is porcelain. Not only have porcelain cups been a tradition throughout many countries down through the ages, but making the cups has been an art in and of itself!

The size of the porcelain espresso cup also makes a big difference as well. Traditionally, however, porcelain cups that are used for espresso usually come in 2- to 3-ounce glasses. This is not to say that you’ll be filling the entire espresso cup with the espresso beverage, but many people like to add toppings such as whipped cream and chocolate shavings as well! Pouring about 1-ounce of espresso mixture and leaving the rest of the room available for toppings is what most people do when they have their typical espresso shot!

The Style of Espresso Cups
As mentioned, many espresso porcelain cups have a personal touch added to them and many people place a good deal of importance on the design on espresso cups. There are all sorts of neat designs that one can choose for their espresso cup, but the digital age has truly revolutionized the way images are put on glasses and other materials throughout the world. For this reason there may be high-tech and colorful espresso glasses around the world thanks to some of these great pieces of technology! Nevertheless, though, espresso cups are traditionally bought with having a good design in mind.

All things considered, the materials of the espresso cup as well as the design are two issues that espresso drinkers consider important and should be considered when choosing espresso cups. Drinking espresso has had a long tradition throughout many countries in the world and part of that tradition rests on just how it is consumed!

wine festival greenville, sc

A Wine Lover’s Festival in Greenville, SC

If you fancy yourself a wine connoisseur, one of the fun things to do is attend food and wine festivals, right? There are a couple reasons food and wine festivals are a fantastic and fun way to enjoy wine. For one thing, you get to try new wines you’ve never heard of. Plus you can totally geek out with other wine enthusiasts. And of course, it’s wonderful to see the different pairings of food with wine and attend educational seminars. If you live in the Southeastern United States and love wine, you should plan to attend Euphoria, Food, Wine and Music festival in Greenvill, SC.

Happening during late September, which is the optimal time to be outdoors in the south, this year’s festival runs from September 22 through 25. Friday evening begins with a food tasting on the banks of the beautiful Reedy River. Just steps away are expertly selected wines to sip on while you enjoy a concert at the adjacent pavilion.

wine festival greenville, sc

Taste of the South at Greenville’s Euphoria Food, Wine and Music Festival

Rest up Friday night, because Saturday is full of adventures for wine lover’s at this Greenville festival. Beginning in the early afternoon are the wine seminars. They curate topics on specific varietals that delve deep into various components like region, production, pairings and more. These seminars, taught by master sommeliers, allow you to learn from some of the most knowledgeable wine experts. Past seminars have included “Perfect Pinot” and “Rosé Renaissance.”

wine seminar euphoria greenville

Wine Seminars are Taught by Master Sommeliers

Wine Dinners. Euphoria selects only the best restaurants to host these coveted wine dinners. A well known chef prepares a unique menu to compliment the wines. Tipsy? No need to worry about transportation as nearly all the restaurants are close to host hotels. Basically, every festival event is in walking distance to the Greenville hotels, though you can Uber it if you don’t feel like making the short walk.

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Sunday Supper at Euphoria Greenville

The Sunday Supper is well worth sticking around for. It is the bittersweet culmination of a fabulous weekend sure. But it is also the opportunity to taste a one-of-a-kind collaborative dinner from chefs all across the South.

You’ll be hard pressed to find such an intimate, yet magnificent feast offered by big name chefs. Past chefs have included Sean Brock and Frank Lee. One of the great things about this wine festival in Greenville is that tickets can be purchased to individual events. You can buy your tickets here.

 

beer-cheese-pairing

How to Pair Beer and Cheese

You don’t have to be an expert to host a beer and cheese pairing. Just knowing a few basics about beer and characteristics of cheeses is really all you need to know for to pair beer and cheese. Similar to wine, beer has a natural progression, so you’ll want to follow that from light to dark. If you start with a strong beer like IPA it can ruin the nuances of the other beers in your flight. The other thing to be careful of when trying to pair beer and cheese is to make sure not to have too many different kinds or the flavors get lost.

Pilsner – A Pilsner is mild and has floral notes. It pairs well with spicy items. So go for a spicy, peppery cheese like a spicy Havarti. That would bring out the best notes in the beer. Avoid cheddar though. Habanero Cheddar sounds great but may be too overpowering for the beer.

Wheat – This pairs nicely with a Chevre, slightly sweet goat cheese.

Brown Ale – What’s nice about this beer is that it is friendly with many cheeses. Try it with an aged Swiss or mild cheddar. Another cheese that would do well with it is a sheep’s milk cheese. Taste a couple cheeses and pick which one you like best for your beer and cheese pairing.

IPAs – IPAs or India Pale Ales are hoppy and have a strong flavor. Pair it with a blue cheese or a sharp cheddar. Since IPAs vary so much, you could put out two different cheeses for your beer and cheese pairing and let your guests try both. Some guests may like one better than the other.

Stout – Lastly you’ll be pairing a dark beer like a stout with your cheese. The coffee-like taste of a stout needs something a bit smokey to pair with. Gouda is probably one of the best cheeses you can pair with a stout.

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Lobster Sustainability Matters

If you are a lobster lover, you seize every opportunity you can to have this seafood delicacy. As tasty a treat as lobster is, if you don’t live near a city or town where lobster is caught, you may not be getting the best lobster possible. Sure, it is possible for this to be shipped, but it requires that there is a demand for this specialized lobster.

Here is a behind the scenes look at lobsters from Maine and straight talk from lobstermen who are out there on a daily basis catching these majestic creatures. There’s a lot more to the quality that you may know. Plus, these lobster men care about sustainability and have been practicing these efforts long before it was cool.

Protecting the quality of their product and the marine environment is paramount to Maine lobstermen. Some regulations that help ensure the health of the lobsters include:

Harvest Method: Harvesting in Maine is by trap only. Traps include escape vents for under size lobsters as well as biodegradable escape hatches to free lobsters in lost traps.

Minimum Size Limit: Minimum 3 1/4″ measurements make sure baby lobsters have the opportunity to mature and reproduce before being harvested.

Tail Notching: Female lobsters with visible eggs cannot be harvested. Before releasing her, the harvester notches her tail to identify her as a good breeder, thus protecting her for life from being harvested.

Trap Limits: The total number of traps per harvester is limited by both the state and lobster zones.

Lobster Seed Fund: Supported by license fees, the Fund purchases females that extrude their eggs after being harvested. This unique buy-back program helps to ensure that the good breeding stock is returned to the ocean to reproduce.

Here’s your guide on how to crack a Lobster:

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Photo credit: Lobster of Maine