Credo

IMG_6526Although we’ve been away from this blog, we have not been away from eating and talking.  Talking with our friends about food and wine.  Talking with our waiter, talking with our chef– Talking.

So often, people don’t ask about what they’re eating and drinking.  What’s the story behind the dish, the pairing of wine, the decor, the choices made, the story of the chef.  Too many people show up, eat, leave.  They are missing the depth of the experience by not asking.  Not talking.  Time and time again, we find the person serving or creating for us ALWAYS willing to talk.

We think, too often, those providing the cuisine never get to take it further and share the passion behind the culinary choices that have been made.  It’s not just making a dish or pairing a wine– there’s thought, insight, and PASSION behind what they are serving.  They want to please with their art form.  We, as consumers, need to ask.  We are the audience they want to hear from.  Not complaints– interest.  Interest in getting the most out of the experience of dining.  That’s our credo– the experience of dining and the passion behind it.

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It’s time. We’re back.

IMG_2712Ok.  We’ve missed you.  And we’ve missed sharing.  Many people have asked us for our advice about eating in and out, drinking good wine, and cuisine.  Beginning now, you’ll begin seeing our regular musings.  Here we go!

 

A Friday Night Wine Tasting – Pinot Passion

WINE TASTING AT THE RED ROOM LOUNGE – DONUM ESTATE WINES  IMG_1054

It’s Wednesday night.  Marc is at a dress rehearsal for Austin Opera’s A Masked Ball.  He texted me earlier in the day “let’s do something fun Friday night.”

Inspiration came in an email from the Red Room Lounge on 3rd Street:

Exclusive Wine TastingThe Donum Estate with Anne Moller-Racke.  There are only two days left until our next tasting event at The Red Room Lounge. The Donum Estate will be showing their wine collection for an exclusive tasting on Friday, November 7th.

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Marc & Deb with winemaker Anne Moller-Racke, president and winegrower of The Donum Estate

Anne Moller-Racke, President and Winegrower of The Donum Estate, will be in attendance to discuss the wines showcased at the event. Anne is also the Featured Winemaker for The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas’ Rare and Fine Wine Auction that will take place in April 2015.

We have visited the Red Room Lounge on 3-4 occasions prior to this event, but never for a wine tasting.  This place is so unusual and fun, and we always feel an excited energy in the room.  The front door on 3rd street has only one red light that is lit when it’s open.  You step into what looks like a speakeasy, wishing you had a red carnation for entry.  As you step down into the establishment, the dark and cozy atmosphere is romantic and hushed, but with a fun energy of the those who serve you.  The decor is a mix of ancient artifacts and signed electric guitars–yes, unusual and fun.

After the pain of facing Mopac traffic and parking downtown, we were treated to a fascinating tasting of California wines (mostly Pinot Noirs) from the Russian River Valley area of Sonoma.

The set-up featured a table set with eight wines available for tasting. Ms. Moller-Racke graciously poured and shared information about each wine. A lovely spread of cheese, nuts, olives and dried fruit was also provided to enjoy with the wines.

We found a comfy corner of a couch to plant ourselves on for the duration of the tasting.

Literature about the winery and the Pinot Noir growing area of Sonoma provided us great reference material.  As always, I am overwhelmed by how little I know about the wine-making industry.  Once we begin tasting, however, I am reminded of why I love tasting wine:

  • It is an activity that invites the use of multiple senses.
  • It is a process that provokes uninhibited thought and conversation with friends and those closest to you.
  • It is an amazing learning process – life long learning – yeah!
  • It brings you close to nature and the humans that nurture and celebrate the earth.
  • It is fun!

The wines we tasted (and a few notes on our favorites):

Stemmler Estate Chardonnay, Carneros 2012— crisp, clean, and citrusy without the surge of oak.  Pleasing to the palate, paired with cheese and dried fruit like a champ

Stemmler Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros 2011

Stemmler Estate “Nugent Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2011

Donum Estate Chardonnay, Carneros 2012

Donum Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros 2012

Donum Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2011
This “hands down” jumped to the top of our list.  What an amazing wine!  luscious, velvety texture with a voice that quietly says, “I’m a Pinot and I know it.”  A Pinot that touches your soul and reminds you that God speaks through these grapes.

Donum Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2012

Donum Estate “West Slope” Pinot Noir, Carneros 2011

During the course of the evening, Ms. Moller-Racke visited with us several times.  We mentioned to her that we had recently become quite fond of Oregon Pinot Noir, and she was eager to hear our thoughts about her wines.  So charming and approachable, Ms. Moller-Racke was happy to chat with us about her wines and the area of Sonoma she calls home.  She also shared some great travel tips for visiting the region.

“A Quiet WEEKEND” from the Empty Nesters…with great food

Here is a tour of our eats and drinks Thursday – Sunday, October 16-19, 2014.

THURSDAY>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Corn ChowderDinner: Cheddar, Corn, and Potato Chowder
A recipe from the Whole Foods App.  I serve it with Aurelia’s Chorizo.  You can find this on occasion at HEB (the Besitos – small links). Central Market also carries Aurelia’s chorizo products. The authentic flavors in this chorizo can no be beat!

FRIDAY>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Dinner: Conan’s Pizza – Marc grew up with this Austin landmark.  Still has the phone number memorized. (sorry – no picture.)
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Wine: Cote 125 2013 Corbières, a new French offering from our favorite Austin wine shop, EAST END WINES.

Beer (my Dad joined us): Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale

 

 

 

SATURDAY NIGHT>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

SteakDinner: Beef Ribeye, Bacon and Mushroom Potato Gratin, Salad, Chocolate Coconut Bars

Marc grilled Beef Ribeye, served with a Porcini Butter (an idea I borrowed from Vino Vino). The Potato Gratin was amazing! I found this recipe on a favorite blog – the Brown Eyed Baker. This recipe will definitely grace our table again, most likely when a friend like you is over for dinner.

Recipe link – Bacon, Mushroom and Potato Gratin

IMG_2129Wine: After finishing the Cote 125 Corbières from last night, we opened Domaine de Colette Régnié Beaujolais, another great French offering.

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For dessert, I made Chocolate Coconut Bars, a recipe from Martha Stewart.  All of the ingredients were already in my pantry, so this was easy and fun.  I substituted vanilla wafers for the graham crackers. I used a variety of chocolate chips – all were partial bags left over from a previous recipe (or Ben’s late night snacking). These bars are soft and chewy, but not sticky. We will be eating these all week long!

Recipe link – Chocolate Coconut Bars

SUNDAY>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Image 2Breakfast: Trader Joes’ Pumpkin Pancakes
At $2.99, this pancake mix is a real deal. They were very easy to make, needing a minimal amount of extra ingredients. The texture was soft and the flavor reminded me of Kirby Lane’s version. A nice treat for a quick breakfast before church.

Lunch: Sierras Mexican Restaurant in Georgetown
Our son, Nick, introduced us to this new place. Now that we are attending church in Georgetown, it is nice to eat locally so we can spend time with Nick. I’ve had the beef enchiladas both visits and they are great. Solid Tex-Mex fare with great service, good price point, and no wait.

Dinner: The famous Chicken Tamale Casserole – an Erck staple.
I found this recipe in a Cooking Light magazine years ago. I’ve altered it slightly, omitting the green chilies, and using one whole egg, instead of the egg white.  Heats up wonderfully as leftovers.

Recipe link – http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-tamale-casserole

Dinner, the Symphony, & ACL Traffic

One of our favorite symphonic pieces lured us to an Austin Symphony concert.  Several years ago, Debra played a band arrangement of Scheherazade at LBJ High School (a big SHOUT OUT to Don Haynes, LBJ Band Director).  Marc played the same transcription at Anderson High School.  A few years ago, the Anderson High School band played an entire marching band show featuring the work’s amazing themes by Rimsky-Korsakov.  What can we say.  We love it!

Due to ACL (Austin City Limits), we knew that our best bet for a bite to eat before the concert would be to get down to the Long Center early and find some spot close by to dine.  We decided on El Alma, described on their website as a “homespun take on the contemporary flavors of Mexico”

The wine list is pretty limited (only 4-5 offerings by the glass).  The Malbec Debra selected was fine, but did not hold up to the mole sauce in her entrée.  Marc went with a Negro Modello on tap.  Excellent choice.

For dinner, we enjoyed the following:

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Fish Taco – marinated black drum, Valentina aioli slaw, avocado

 

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The Tamale Special

 

 

 

Duck Enmoladas – Shredded roasted duck enchiladas with pasilla mole and almonds.  Side serving of Corn Pudding

 

 

The duck enmoladas were fantastic – a generous portion of shredded, tender duck meat rolled in a soft tortilla and covered in an authentic mole sauce.  The mole was excellent – in the same category as our favorite mole sauce at Manuels.  The Corn Pudding was served like a small cornbread casserole muffin – creamy texture and good balance of sweet flavor and heat.

I might also note that they serve chips with two styles of salsa while you are waiting for your meal. I really like the smokiness and the texture of their red salsa.

After the concert we had planned on stopping somewhere for dessert, but it took us over an hour just to get out of the Long Center parking garage (due to ACL traffic).  Oh well, I guess that goat cheesecake at Vino Vino will have to wait.

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Home Is Where the Heart Is… and Good Food!

DINING AT HOME – OCTOBER 2014 — Now that Marc and I fall in the “empty nesters” club, our meals at home look and feel a little different.

First adjustment: servings.  Although it is nice to have leftovers for the lunchbox, an abundance of servings equals waste – or eating the same dish for multiple days in a row. Neither of those options suits me. Therefore, our goal is 4 servings max.

Second adjustment: variety of offerings at one meal.  Now that there is no longer a need for multiple veggie/fruit choices on the table (aka picky eaters), we aim for a protein, a veggie or salad and one “extra” – either a starch, fruit, or additional vegetable.

Third adjustment: adventure and budget.  New recipes are much easier to put on the table now – and we have already found a few keepers that I think the boys are really going to like when they are home.  Sometimes new recipes require ingredients that are more expensive and/or more challenging to find.  With just two servings needed, however, it is not as cost prohibitive to reach out to a special cut of meat or fish.

Here are a few of our most recent dinners.

SUNDAY NIGHT: Grilled Maple Chipotle Pork chop, roasted sweet potatoes, saladIMG_0973

I found the pork chop recipe on myrecipes.com. This is one of my go-to sites for easy, yet fresh ideas for meals. The maple chipotle sauce is a winner – also works well with grilled shrimp and the Gouda Grits suggested in the same recipe.

Here is a link to my Pinterest Page that features this recipe (and several other family favorites).  Musicdillo’s Favorite Family Dinners (Pinterest)

MONDAY NIGHT: Grilled Sausage, Gouda Grits, Butter Lettuce salad with Fuji apple, Goat Cheese and Toasted pecans 

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We are becoming fonder of the new Whole Foods location in Austin, just north of the Domain.  If you go for the sales, you can get some high quality produce and meats at a very reasonable price.  They always have a very interesting offering of homemade sausages.  We selected two – the Cranberry Chipotle Pork (which we have had before and LOVED) and a Pumpkin Apple mixture (can’t remember the other ingredients). Both were delicious!

The grits recipe is another from myrecipes.com.  You can find it on the Pinterest page linked above.  I can’t get enough of this dish – super easy and amazingly flavorful.  Easy to reheat – just add some milk to the cold grits in a saucepan over low heat until you get the consistency you like.

The salad was my favorite part of the meal. I dressed the fresh ingredients with a light vinaigerette – white wine, white vinegar, a touch of honey, Italian herbs, cracked pepper and olive oil.

Image 1TUESDAY NIGHT: Julia Child’s classic Quiche, fresh fruit

I’ve been making this quiche recipe forever!  It is so easy, and great for a quick meal when you are not sure what’s available in the fridge.  I use frozen regular pie crusts.  Do not use the deep dish – they take too long to cook through and the crust will be overcooked.  Brown the crusts (I always make two at a time) for about 10-12 minutes in a 350F oven.  While the crusts are cooking, combine eggs and milk (2% works fine).  The ratio is ONE egg plus milk = ½ cup. It takes about 6 eggs to fill the two pie crusts.

When the crusts come out of the oven, add meat, cheese and/or veggies to your pie crusts.   Cooked bacon and cheese (swiss is my favorite, but I use whatever I have in the fridge) is our go-to favorite.  In the past we have added things like fresh basil, sliced cherry tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions.

Pour the egg/milk mixture over the other filling items. Sprinkle with seasoning – salt, pepper and paprika are possible options.

Cook at 350F for about 30-35 minutes. GREAT as leftovers for breakfast!

Serve with a salad, or on this occasion, fresh fruit on hand. Nothing elegant, but easy to prep and delicious.

Not sure what’s for dinner tomorrow night – What are YOU serving for dinners at home these days?

FLOUR & VINE… and the KING – OCTOBER 2014

After a year hiatus, we are back! We look forward to sharing with you again our culinary adventures – both out and about and at home.

Date night – Friday, October 3, 2014 — Dinner and a Show!!IMG_0971

After a challenging week at school, we headed out early (due to ACL) and parked our car at Zach Scott. Before heading to the theatre, we walked over to a relatively new wine restaurant in Austin– Flour and Vine. After reading reviews online, I decided we should sit at the bar and take advantage of their Happy Hour deals. We hit the jackpot.

If your goal is to try several wines, the flight is a good deal.  Three half-glasses for half price. We asked the bartender to select a flight of whites and a flight of reds for us from a nice selection of wines sold by the glass.

WHITES:

  1. 2013 Château Bellevue Entre-deux-Mers, France
    70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon blend.
  2. 2013 Lícia Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain
  3. 2012 Mouton Cadet, Bordeaux Blanc, France

REDS:

  1. 2011 Vecchia Cantina, Rosso Toscano, Campaltino, Italy Sangiovese & Canaiolo.
  2. 2011 Damilano “Marghe” Nebbiolo, Piedmont, Italy
  3. 2012 El Cortijillo Tempranillo, La Mancha, Spain

The Happy Hour food offerings are very reasonably priced.  We had:

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* The antipasto platter – three cheeses, two meats, cashews, olives, dates, peppers, crostini and mustard. A variety of textures and flavors, which provided some nice pairing with our wine.

 

 

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* Sauteed Gulf Shrimp, served with paprika rice and a lemon garlic sauce. This was our favorite offering of the evening – and an absolute steal at $7.00. The sauce was reminiscent of our favorite shrimp dish at Paesanos (in San Antonio) – clean, fresh, simple.

 

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* BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders – served with an apple slaw. The pork was delicious – not fatty like some other offerings. Great texture and just the right amount of seasoning.

The bar staff took good care of us as we took our time enjoying our wine and food pairings. It was an easy jaunt to the theatre afterwards for an AMAZING performance of the KING AND I at Zach Scott Theatre.

Hats off to the cast and crew for a moving and memorable evening!!!

10649821_10204735999457548_2401743179557155461_nSpecial “thanks” to Mel Sagrado Maghuyop and Yuki Ozeki for visiting my school (Hill Elementary, Austin ISD) and sharing a little theatre “magic” with my 4th graders).  Mr. Maghuyop was a captivating King (I cried from the ballet sequence all the way to the end of the show!).  Go see the show and support live theatre in Austin, Texas!!
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