Austin Hope Wine Dinner

D – Last year Marc and I went to a fabulous wine tasting featuring 10 different Grenaches from all over the world.  One of our favorites of the evening was a California Grenache from Austin Hope Winery.

We purchased a bottle, and have been holding on to it for a special occasion.  It turns out that some friends of ours had a couple of bottles of Austin Hope wines sitting at home as well, so we decided to have our own private tasting – along with a good meal, of course.

Here are the wine pictures and info:

Austin Hope Grenache 2009 – M- Beautiful Grenache with a balanced taste, great body, great drinking

Candor Zinfandel – M- Here’s the party animal.  Full mouth of flavor, but not sloppy.  Great full-bodied chunk with a bold class in the glass.

Troublemaker Blend – M- As the name sounds, this guy is bold and crafty. A great full-bodied, trickster of multiple layers of mischief. Great contrast to the grenache, and a definite relative to the Austin Hope. Balanced, yet a different shade, real different shade of grape.

Our first tasting task was to decide on which wine would be used for the Bordelaise sauce mentioned below.  We had no expert idea on how to choose.  So, we decided to pick the most complex or full flavor with interesting qualities we felt would hold up in the sauce.  We chose the Zin, Candor.

Now for the menu …

 APPETIZER– Cheeses from Whole Foods (S. Lamar)

  • Amish Blue – Nick’s favorite
  • Delice de Bourgogne – a lovely triple cream brie
  • Landaff – a “fab” full flavored cheese from New Hampshire –

Ginger-Peach Preserves from Confituras –

Italian Salumi from Central Market – Creminelli Coppa and Varzi –

Fresh figs, almonds and wafer crackers

 SALAD – Caprese Salad


 ENTRÉE – Grilled Steak with Bordelaise Sauce, Rosemary New Potatoes with Blue Cheese Butter (oops– took a bite before the photo was taken…couldn’t resist)

*Note – This was the first time I had ever attempted a bordelaise sauce.  It was much easier than I anticipated – and absolutely amazing with the steaks that Marc perfectly grilled!  Here is the video/recipe I followed:

The blue cheese butter was another “first time” offer and even easier – just took a some salted butter, softened it a little, then used a fork to mix it with some blue cheese ( My ratio was 3:1, but the verdict was that more blue cheese would have been fine, so next time I think I’ll go for 2:1).

 DESSERT – Strawberry Shortcake

Tasting Results-  What we discovered is that these three reds each brought their “A-Game” to the table.  Each had been lying down for over a year, and opened up in a slow seduction to our taste buds.  Each, by itself, evolved into a beautiful portrait of flavor, changing as the night went on, dancing a different step with each part of each course.  And, making it through the entire evening, lasting with style and panache.  I couldn’t tell you which one went better with which course.  They were all good.  Each went beautifully with the grilled meat and sauce.  Result– Austin Hope Wines are fantastic.  Wonderful dance partners on the table, if you will.  And we are lucky to have been invited.

We look forward to more intimate and delicious evenings like this one.

Anyone have a recommended trio of wines that would make for a great wine tasting dinner?

Summer Cleaning

D – As I was doing a little “De-Clutter 101” around the house, I paused in front of my bookshelf of cookbooks a little too long.  Giada’s Kitchen jumped out at me and said “Make something delicious for dinner tonight!”   Two nights later, we have discovered two fabulous, new entrees that will be definitely joining the rotation of family favorites.

No, I did not take pictures (sorry).  Perhaps next time they grace our table.

Here are the links, however, to the recipes online at FOOD NETWORK.

Balsamic BBQ Chicken – super easy!  Sauce would be delicious with pork or beef as well.  Served with a salad and new potatoes (with a blue cheese butter – see the Austin Hope Wine entry for more details).

Prosciutto Lamb Burgers – Another simple recipe.  I found ground lamb and prosciutto at the Far West HEB.  (the packaged COLUMBUS brand prosciutto actually worked great – they smaller, uniform slices made for easier assembly).

Serving with the slice of fresh tomato and basil is a must!

Cooking at Home – Week of July 16, 2012

D – Our vacation to Colorado was wonderful, but it is good to be back in Austin.  Here is a sampling of our “at home” dining this week.

OK, I confess.  We did not fix dinner Monday night.  We arrived home around 3:00pm, cleaned up, and walked right back out the door to head off to Nick’s SPOTLIGHT ON OPERA concert at Whole Foods.   We only had a little over an hour, and the WINK Wine Bar is just minutes from Whole Foods, so we made a pit stop for Happy Hour.  Sorry I don’t have a picture, but I can highly recommend the BRIE BURGER SLIDERS with a lovely glass of Riesling.

Special Note—If you are free next Saturday afternoon (July 28) at 2:00pm, Nick will be singing again – and we will be there!  Come join us.  Here is a link to all of the upcoming performances:

On to Tuesday– Our first official night at home called for a family favorite – the Famous Tamale Casserole.  This dish never fails to please the tummy – a delicious combination of cornbread, chicken, red sauce and cheese.  Here is the link to the recipe from Cooking Light ( ) .  The only change we made to the original recipe was to omit the green chilies.

Wednesday — I pulled out the crockpot and tossed in a couple of medium sized pieces of boneless pork shoulder with a can of root beer.  Seven hours later, I took the pork out of the pot, drained the liquid, shredded the pork, then returned half of it to the pot.  I then added BBQ Sauce (Sweet Baby Rays) to the pot.  The other half of the pork I seasoned and served with some delectable mole sauce that I had saved in my freezer from our New Year’s Eve dinner.  So now we have pork 2-ways!

Here is a picture of my mole taco (with tomatoes, lettuce, lime and Cana de Oveja cheese (from Antonelli’s –

** Note: A BIG recommendation to try the MISSION brand Artisan Corn and Whole Wheat Blend tortillas.  They are available at HEB and complement the pork perfectly.

Thursday I made Baked Meatballs with a simple homemade tomato sauce.   It was served with a bowl of mixed pasta – trying to use up some of the extra misc. pasta in our pantry.

Friday we enjoyed another one of our favorite family meals – Thai Beef and Chiles and Basil over Coconut Rice.  This recipe comes from the Martha Stewart archives:

Thai Beef and Chiles and Basil over Coconut Rice

It is so easy to make!  I have made it both with/without the fish sauce  – didn’t notice much of a difference, so now we make it without, since fish sauce is not an ingredient that I usually stock in my fridge.  Just add some extra soy or teriyaki if you need a little more sauce).  The red chiles are not always available at HEB, so I just use jalapeno.  I also serve with Thai red chili sauce.  You can add as much heat as you want that way J.

There’s more to come – stay tuned for our Saturday Austin Hope Wine Tasting Dinner!!

Praise for Braise

BRAISE – JULY 2012  –

I purchased a Groupon for Braise several months ago for a 4-course prix fixe meal.  We are always on the hunt for new food & wine experiences in Austin.  We found some adventurous friends and finally made a reservation.  Here are the highlights:

* relaxed, quiet atmosphere

* Excellent service – our waiter was focused and charming.  He recommended some excellent wines, both by the glass, and bottle.  The food and drink service was seamless – several people quickly and quietly moving around the table to present or collect plates, silverware, fill water glasses, etc.

* Flavorful and interesting courses:

Playful presentation of the appetizer (loved all the flavor options on the pork rillette, especially the pickled tomatillo);

Don’t miss the “liquid” pumpkin pie if you are a pumpkin pie lover (like me);

Say “yes” when they offer to add pork belly to your mixed green salad (definitely worth the extra charge);

Melt in your mouth Osso Buco with perfectly cooked collard greens (according to the expert at our table – thanks for the review Jay!);

Amazing grits, served under a chicken and rosemary salisbury steak, with a touch of creamed tomato sauce on top – delicious combination of textures and flavors.

Braise on Urbanspoon

Grand BBQ in Grand Lake

D – after a refreshing morning hike and afternoon drive in Rocky Mountain National Park, we decided to make a trek to Grand Lake, on the opposite side of the park.  After a few stops to view some big horn sheep and Lake Irene, we headed to the Sagebrush BBQ and Grill.  We discovered this spot last summer and were excited for a return visit.

The boys both ordered the BBQ sampler

D- I decided on the “special” – slices of smoked pork loin served with a raspberry sauce and two sides. The pork was so flavorful, although I preferred it with the other BBQ sauce offerings versus the raspberry sauce (especially the mustard version that I am sure Marc will mention below). Loved the baked beans and baked sweet potato – served with a side of brown sugar:)

M- The Elk Sausage Hogie—Okay, we did take a few pictures of some beautiful Elk in RMNP, but this sausage was “to die for” (bah dum dum). Thank you, I’m here all week—try the Elk! But try it with this sauce from Heaven- a mustard, rosemary Carolina-style bbq- perfect paring. Speaking of perfect pairing- not wine here, but a pint of Fat Tire. WOW!

Snooze It!!

Snooze- Denver, CO –

D – We soooo need a SNOOZE in Austin, Texas!  On this, our 4th trip to Colorado, we could not resist a third visit to SNOOZE.  Although it was the longest wait for a table (almost two hours, yes, on a Saturday), the food did not disappoint!  The pancake flight is the way to go – then you get to sample three culinary adventures in one sitting.

Pancakes with names like Pineapple-Upside Down, Peanut Butter Cup, Red – Eye Velvet, Sweet Potato, Chocolate Chip and Blueberry Blossom all made it to our table.  You can go to the Snooze website to read the specifics on the flavor profiles for any pancake on the current menu.  ALL of them were delicious – completely devoured.  The winner, in my opinion, for this round is the Sweet Potato Pancake (a regular offering on the menu) – a fluffy sweet potato buttermilk pancake with homemade caramel, pecans and ginger butter (the secret weapon). A perfect balance of flavors and textures!

Snooze on Urbanspoon

“Amarillo by Evening”

D – Amarillo has been our overnight stop on our treks to Colorado these past three summers, so an evening meal in the “helium capitol of the world” is always a necessity.  Our previous two dining experiences were “underwhelming.”  We really enjoyed our dinner at Jorge’s this time around.

The service was good, and the menu extensive.  At our table we ordered the chorizo egg platter (devoured by my teenage son),

the traditional beef enchiladas,

and the “special” – mole chicken enchiladas.

Excellent quality, generous portions, and reasonably priced.  We had already sent payment for our bill when we saw an order of sopapillas walk by.  Marc and I decided to order just one and share.  Delicious with a drizzle of honey

Pizza, Pizza! Oh My!!!

D – one of the BEST things about summer is enjoying more frequent meals together as a family at home.  Marc and I started off the day with Blueberry Pancakes, and culminated our dining experiences with a fresh spinach and strawberry salad and homemade pizza.  This particular pizza recipe has become a bi-weekly event, thanks to the wonderful pizza crusts we can order from FarmHouse Delivery.  They come par-baked and conveniently store in the fridge until you are ready to use them.  Now for the toppings:

* tomato sauce ( Sautee ¼ cup of diced onions and 1-2 minced garlic cloves in olive oil.  Add one can of HEB Fire-Roasted Tomatoes and cook over low heat for aobut 30 minutes.  Puree in food processor to desired consistency)

* Fresh mozzarella – when I found out that I could buy fresh mozzarella (Lioni) at Antonelli’s Cheese shop for about the same price as the grated bagged stuff from the grocery store, I was sold.  If you want to splurge, the Burrata mozzarella is amazing!

* Chorizo – Slice up a link of Aurelia’s Chorizo (Made right here in Central Texas), and you will forget you ever enjoyed pepperoni!

* Other misc. meats – We like meat on our pizza, and have tried several other meats in combination with the chorizo, including shredded cooked chicken and leftover meatballs.

* Fresh herbs – Thanks to my thriving herb garden, I have fresh oregano and basil to sprinkle on top of my pizza.  Cilantro is also a great accompaniment for the chorizo.

What’s on the cheese platter tonight:

* Cana de Oveja – a soft sheep’s milk cheese from Spain.  Here is a quick description I found online – “Blanketed with a cottony white mold, the cheese immediately under the rind is ecstatically gooey but gives way to a flakier, crumblier center. With notes of tangy butter”.

– purchased from Antonelli’s Cheese Shop (

* Confituras Fig Walnut Preserves (  Confituras creates locally sourced jams, jellies and preserves in small batches.  They are delicious!!  Paired beautifully with the Spanish Cana de Oveja.

* Landaff  ( – We all agreed that this cheese was special.  Made from raw cows milk, this semi-soft cheese has a long flavor profile – tangy, clean and buttery – all in one bite!  They have some great photos and information on their website about the farm in New Hampshire, including a video of the cows enjoying the “spa” and some insight into the cheese making process.  (also from Antonelli’s Cheese Shop)

“I Love You a Bushel & a Peck”


D – Just over a year ago, I started attending regular bootcamp classes at X-TRAIN ( .  I could go on and on about the awesome trainers there ( a big SHOUT OUT to Barron and Jeremy) and how they convinced me to keep up with an exercise routine for the first time in my life (better late than never).  Along with precise instructions on how to exercise correctly and more efficiently, they also believe in nutrition education and healthy eating habits.

Wouldn’t you know?  Just a few weeks after making adjustments in our food choices at home, I came across a Groupon for FarmHouse Delivery.  It seemed like a perfect opportunity to challenge our family to eat more fresh produce and to support local farmers.  I recommend that you take a look at their website for all the details, but here are the basics of how it works.

Every two weeks we get a delivery, or “bushel” of fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables.  It arrives on our doorstep on our specified delivery day (which happens to be Thursday for our zip code).  Here is a picture of what was included in our most recent box:

The week prior to your delivery they send you an email with a “prediction” of what they anticipate will be included in your bushel.  At this point you can also go to their website and order additional produce or prepared food offerings from local food artisans.  Our two favorite additions to our delivery are the CONFITURAS preserves ( ) and the SLOUGH DOUGH BREAD Ciabatta and pizza crusts.  You can read a very interesting story about this Houston based bakery on this blog:

ALERT!!- This just in!  Literally!!  Farmhouse Delivery is offering a special offer. New members can get $30 off their first delivery.  Promo code: FANDF .

So, tonight we will enjoy grilled corn-on-the-cob, caprese salad and a nice fruit salad, including the lovely peaches pictured.

QUESTION:  In the picture above you will see we received a small (approx. 6” round) winter squash varietal.  Besides roasting/baking, does anyone out there have a good recipe for using this veggie in the summer?

Summer Chili

D – Just a quick entry to share a favorite Rachel Ray recipe I found a couple of years ago – SOUTHWESTERN CHILI MAC SALAD.  This pasta dish is good warm or cold, and is great for leftovers.  I have modified the recipe (link below), by substituting ground bison for the beef.  I use whatever onion variety is handy.  Thanks to our bi-weekly FarmHouse Delivery ( ), we usually have some kind of onions on hand.  This week we used spring onions, along with some cherry tomatoes and corn on the cob from our bushel.  Besides using the bison, whole wheat pasta can be substituted for a healthier version.  To ensure that the bison is flavorful, don’t be shy with the chili powder (I always add extra, along with some comino).