September 15, 2011

Margarita Francesa, por favor!

Today kicks off the 25th Anniversary of National Hispanic Heritage Month so naturally that means we need to get a buzz on with some signature Hispanic cocktails. Margarita anyone?

Grand Marnier and Rosa Mexicano created this de-lush-ious Margarita Francesa to toast the occasion whether at home or at the restaurant. A traditional margarita mixes together the spirit of Mexico (hola, tequila!), orange liqueur and fresh lime juice and is actually the #1 selling cocktail in the United States. But, over the years its popularity has sparked unique twists on the classic recipe (hell, it’s how Bethenny made her fortune!)

I love this variation because it simply reverses the amount of spirit ingredients from a traditional margarita to give it a more vibrant taste. The result? A smoother profile that is balanced with the enticement of citrus notes and the complexity of cognac.

Go on, mix it up!

Margarita Francesa

  • 1.5 oz Grand Marnier

  • 1 oz Alma Tequila

  • 1 oz Lime Juice

  • 1/2 oz Orange Juice

  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Preparation: Combine Grand Marnier, tequila, lime juice, orange juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a tall glass with ice and garnish with an orange wheel and lime wedge.

August 22, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Citrus & Solitude

Bombay Sapphire recently hosted their “Most Inspired Bartender” competition in New York City at Tribeca Rooftop, and joining the festivities this year as a judge was the beautiful, Selita Ebanks.

The model, actress and budding mixologist took her judging duties seriously – asking the bartenders questions and scribbling detailed notes about each cocktail. Her favorite drinks were those that had a little sweetness and a little spice, which she said reminded her of her upbringing in the Caribbean. So impressed by some male bartenders’ shaking abilities, Selita was overheard saying that she wished some of the bartenders could make their drinks shirtless! We're with you, girl!!

The winning cocktail? This yummy Citrus & Solitude from Sean McClure of craft which we re-created this weekend at our #WineDown.

Citrus & Solitude

  • 1 1/2 oz. BOMBAY SAPPHIRE
  • 3/4 oz. BENEDICTINE Liqueur
  • 3/4 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
  • 3/4 oz. Fresh Shibori yuzu juice
  • 1/4 oz Simple syrup

Directions: Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain over a 2" ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

August 16, 2011

Happy Rum Day!

It's National Rum Day and in honor, we're bypassing glasses and going straight to the pitcher with this delicious summer cocktail created by The Cocktail Guru, Jonathan Pogash. Bottoms up!

The Panamanian Soother (serves 8-10)

  • 1 1/2 cups Ron Abuelo Añejo

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice

  • 1 oz agave nectar

  • 1 pack blueberries

  • 12 sage leaves

  • 2 bottles Diet Ginger Beer

Preparation: In large pitcher, muddle the berries and sage together. Then add remaining ingredients with ice and stir very well.

August 13, 2011

Keepin’ “Chile” During the Hot Summer

Summer time is one of the most social seasons of the year -- with outdoor happy hours, rooftop parties and dinner gatherings galore! Often that also translates into excess calories that leave the bikini line in a bulge... but, August is the month it doesn't have to!

With the rise of "skinny" cocktails (our waist lines thank you, Bethenny Frankel!) there's no better time to revamp your seasonal libations than now -- National Chile Harvest kickoff month!

Fact is, chiles are not only a key ingredient in decadently spicy foods and beverages, they also offer many positive benefits to the body. According to my dear friend (and mentor), Pat Baird, RD, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant, "Chile peppers are a good source of most B vitamins, particularly B6, and are high in potassium, magnesium and iron. Chiles also contain special plant nutrients (phytochemicals) that protect cells from damage, and maintain overall health.”

For me? Well, you know I’m never going to forego a cocktail on an evening out and about (and we know they are in plethora), so it's all about checks and balances. That’s exactly why I opt to trade in more sugar-clad Pina Coladas and daquiris, which are high in calories, for something a little more saucy! You'll not only reap the benefits of the chiles themselves, but the spicy attributes will make you sip slower and avoid frequent 'refill' stops at the bar.

I’ve scoured some of the top bartops and spoke to prominent mixologists in the country to identify the hottest August sips. Thirsty yet? Whip up some of these chili-infused finds:

Hot Lips
By Manny Hinojosa, CORZO Mixology Specialist
• 1 1/2 oz. Corzo Silver
• 2 oz. fresh press pineapple juice
• 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
• 1/2 oz. Natural agave nectar
• 2 slices of Serrano chile (muddled)

Preparation: Slice chiles and add to a shaker. Muddle using cocktail mixing whisk or spoon. Add tequila and let sit for a few minutes to let the spice infuse into the liquid. Add agave, pineapple and lime juices ice and top with ice. Shake well and strain into a well-chilled martini glass.

Red Chili Martini
By: Eugene Mardell of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa
• 2.5 oz of tequila
• 1 tsp. of Mango chile puree
• Splash of fresh lime juice (to taste)
• Cayenne salt to rim
Preparation: Place in shaker over ice, shake and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with small, red chile.

Red Ice
By Stacy De Fino, WinoBee
*Makes 4 glasses
• 1/4 cup Haagan Daas Mango Sorbet
• 1 tsp fresh lime juice
• 1/2 tsp of lemon or lime zest
• 1/8 tsp chile powder (or muddled Serrano chiles)
• Lemon wedge (to garnish)
Mionetto Prosecco

Preparation: Using an immersion blender, mix sorbet, lime juice, zest and chile powder. Spoon mixture into a champagne flute. Fill with prosecco and stir lightly until ingredients are well meshed. Lightly rim lemon wedge in additional chile powder. Add lemon wedge to side of champagne flute to garnish.

As seen on “Good Morning Connecticut” on 8/13/11
Video compliments of WTNH-ABC

August 8, 2011

Food Network Launches Entwine

Here come the bride and groom... and in my case, they come in the form of a huge, flavor-bleeding flank steak and robust Cab! Ah, now that’s my kind of wedding - because food and wine, after all, is the perfect marriage.

And much to my agreement, a strong union has just been formed as the empire of all-things-grubbing, Food Network, has finally joined the ranks of lushes (like myself) nationwide. That’s right, Food Network has ventured into the wine making business and I couldn’t be more excited.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the launch party for new Entwine, a collaborative effort between the Food Network and Wente Vineyards of California. Sergei Kuharsky, General Manager & New Business Chief for Food Network, mentioned that this effort was focused on the fact viewers are intimidated by the world of wine (gee, I couldn’t agree more!) and how naturally they wanted to make it easier and accessible for viewers by creating food-friendly styles of wine that people could understand (amen!).

In fact, with Entwine, Food Network takes all the fear out of sipping by labeling each of their four wine varieties with easy terms that even the least seasoned wine enthusiast can understand, like licking raspberry jam off the back of a spoon. We likey!

Even Chef Anne Burrell (a WinoBee fav - see here) of Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” and “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef,” joined the fun and shared her most prized wine tips!

"Go out and do research,” Burrell advises. "Go out to dinner, eat food, buy wine, drink wine. Decide what you like. Wine doesn’t have to be scary. When you go to a resturant, ask the people who are selling wine to help you. The more you drink it, the more you experience it, the more comfortable with it you’ll become... Let’s cook and enjoy the process of getting to dinner, and while we’re doing that we’ll try some wine."

And try some wine I did - with four varieties to select from, my glass was optimistically half full for most of the evening! If you don’t believe me, just look at the picture on the right!
  • Chardonnay -- apple and citrus notes that team up with citrus-bathed scallops, as the acidities balance one another out. Without the pairing, this wine may seem a little too tart.
  • Pinot Grigio -- a refreshingly, crisp wine with accents of green apple, lime and honey. Piggyback it with some kimchi grilled cheese for a little punchful pizzazz.
  • Merlot -- my favorite and just as the bottle says, like licking raspberry from a spoon. Pairs delightfully with pork loin tapas topped with tomato jam. The sweet and savory mix is a combination to win palates, tummies and hearts.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon -- a colorful blend of herbs, spice and dark fruits that pairs nicely with a Mediterranean beef slider infused with olives, nuts and raisins - the mixture of earth and sweet bring to life all the flavors housed in this little bottle of Cab.
All bottles retails for about $12.99, making it a great value wine for the everyday WinoBee. For more, scope out our video of Sergei, Anne and Karle Wente here:

July 20, 2011

BeeHind the Vine: Alessandro Lunardi of Frescobaldi

Alessandro Lunardi has been with the Frescobaldi family for over 20 years and is well versed in every aspect of wine from viticulture to marketing. I had the opportunity to chat with Alessandro following an evening he hosted recently, “Everyday Wines From the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi family."

Alessandro opened up about this historic family, their fabulous wines and even offered some of his own tips:

Tell us about the history of Frescobaldi wine.
The Frescobaldi Family has been making wines for 700 years from spectacular estates scattered in the Tuscan countryside. They are passionate about their vineyards and define themselves as “stewards of the land”, for this reason they make wines with a strong sense of place. They have been constant innovators, and have often challenged the status quo from when they first planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in their Castello di Pomino Estate, to the creation of Mormoreto, a Bordeaux blend wine, made since 1983 at the Nipozzano estate. The guiding philosophy for the Frescobaldi's is getting the most from the land. Sometimes that means adhering to traditions and sometimes that means new ways of looking at their estates and different varieties. The Frescobaldi's have always been strong advocates of the Tuscan viticultural tradition they belong to, vigorously advocating that Sangiovese can make world class wine when planted in the right place.

Why is working at Frescobaldi so important to you?
Because Frescobaldi is a great company and an exceptional family where people represent “the” core value. When you work at Frescobaldi you are embraced in the family values and ethics, you share the passion and dedication of everybody, and are made part of the magic and success of the company. In addition this is a very well managed company, with clear strategies, a managerial structure that is second to none, and excellent support for those like me who are in the “front line”.

Which is your favorite Frescobaldi wine?
It’s hard because I like them all … each has a soft spot in my heart. But if I have to pick two wines stand out: Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino is for me the essence of great Sangiovese, made from vineyards on volcanic soils in the South West of Montalcino, it epitomizes the great elegance and harmony that belongs to everything in Tuscany; but above all I adore Mormoreto, a wine made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, that has the classic style, aristocratic complexity, and gorgeous structure of the greatest wines of the world. And despite its French appearance Mormoreto breaths of Tuscany from the moment you pour it in a glass. And lastly Mormoreto frames the courage of the Frescobaldi family: when it was not fashionable at all, they decided to plant those unfamiliar varieties because they were the best to express that vineyard site … and this dedication to the place just amazes me.
Can you tell us a bit more about your Frescobaldi wine app? Any plans for future apps?
It is a new tool that will allow the consumers to enjoy wines. We are looking at expanding our reach to the consumer, especially the younger generations, providing as many tools as necessary to understand our wines and the places where they come from … so, stay tuned, there will be more coming!

Prior to joining Frescobaldi, you were a Wine Education Manager for Robert Mondavi - what is your biggest advice to individuals who are just starting to learn about wine?
The single most important advice to those who are starting to learn about wine is “trust your palate!” There is so much intimidation in our industry, with so many wines experts, and so much information that it may be frustrating to many people. I believe when it comes to wine nobody is wrong, it’s a question of pleasure, and each palate is different, so concentrate in understanding and appreciating what you drink, do some homework, and little by little refine you palate, but stick to it! Don’t drink a wine just because it received a high rating from a critic. This is how I started … and it worked.

Any advice for the more seasoned enthusiast, too?
I may just suggest to always drink wine with food, and evaluate how they complement the meal. I hear so many people talking about the extremes of wine, concentration, power, richness, and I am afraid we often forget that the ultimate experience is to have balanced wines that dance on your table with right meal.

Where do you see the future of wine extending to?
I think in the future, wine will be linked more closely to the place where it comes from, beyond the labels or the catchy fantasy names. I believe the younger generations, who are much more informed, are interested in discovering the stories and the places behind a wine, and are interested in experimenting. I also believe environmental sustainability in the vineyards and in the winemaking will be a strong trend. I continue to see more women in wine, at all levels, winemakers, sommeliers, sales reps, and customers. I am amazed by their acute sensitivity to wine and how accurate they are in their descriptions. I think women have one more 'gear,' a greater sensitivity for identifying and describing the nuances of fine wine.

If the world were to end tomorrow, what food and wine pairing would be your last supper?
Ahhh! Tricky question! I am from Tuscany and love our wines, but if had to pick the last bottle of my life it would be a Grand Cru Burgundy from a great vintage of the past, with the divine foie gras stuffed quail my sister-in-law, Sophie, makes.

Alessandro was kind enough to offer me several new Frescobaldi wines to try at my leisure, so be sure to check back each day this week to discover vicariously through my sipping!

July 18, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Champagne Float

Bubbly and sorbet can actually team up to create an instant classic. Not to mention the combination is a great almost-guilt-free indulgence. If you have your own ice cream maker at home (or if you just want to snag some Breyer's at your local supermarket) try mixing up the below concoction on a hot summer's day:

Champagne Float
  • Korbel Champagne (or other sparkling wine)
  • 1.5 spoonfuls of Lemon Sorbet
  • 1 Tsp. Lime Syrup
  • Diced strawberries or blueberries (optional)
  • Fresh Mint
Add champagne, syrup and sorbet into a small bowl. Use an immersion blender to infuse all of the flavors. Pour into champagne flute and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Optional - drop in a few diced strawberries or blueberries to the bottom of an empty champagne flute. to add color to your presentation.

July 12, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Dutch Root Beer Float

Italy has gelato, the Midwest has frozen custard, even the future has "nitro ice cream." Fact of the matter is that summer is in its prime and sometimes a sweet frozen treat is just what the doctor ordered. But how about amping up your frozen treat with a little liquid cool? Try this indulgent Dutch Root Beer Float from Van Gogh Vodka:

Dutch Root Beer Float

  • 2 oz. Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka

  • 1 scoop fat-free vanilla ice cream

  • 6 oz. chilled diet root beer
Add the vodka directly to a tall glass, then top with root beer, and lastly the ice cream (add slowly, as it has a tendency to overflow). Garnish with a long straw and enjoy!

Disclaimer: A bottle of Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka was provided by Truth Be Told on behalf of Van Gogh Vodka. All opinions are at the discretion of the reviewer.

July 11, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Frozen Berry Dream

Normally when I see someone dropping an ice cube into their glass of wine, I shake my head in shame. But truth is, those people may have been setting the landscape for a hot new trend. Even Moet & Chandon has caught on, and is introducing Ice Imperial, the first champagne crafted specifically to be enjoyed over ice.

I love being a trendsetter, but to that point, that means taking this concept one step further now. So, given the sweltering heat of summer, I'm thinking an icy treat is in store for all. Cue tones playing "Jack and Jill went up the hill." Its the Ice Cream Man coming! Well, sort of.

Check in all this week to enjoy adult icy treats with a twist, starting with this Berry Dream from The Cocktail Guru, Jonathan Pogash, sure to satisfy your sweet tooth:

Berry Dream
  • 2 oz. Van Gogh Açai-Blueberry Vodka
  • 1 scoop sugar-free raspberry sorbet
  • 1 tsp. coconut cream
  • 3 oz. skim milk
Add ingredients to blender and blend. Pour into hurricane or tall glass. Garnish with coconut flakes and fresh seasonal berries.

Disclaimer: A bottle of Van Gogh Açai-Blueberry Vodka was provided by Truth Be Told on behalf of Van Gogh Vodka. All opinions are at the discretion of the reviewer.

July 7, 2011

Pairing Party: Chilean Sea Bass and St. Supery Virtu

There's no better time for having a fresh fish dinner than during the summer months when evening cravings tend to be a bit lighter. When flying back last week from Cabo, I was reading Hemisphere magazine and uncovered a refreshing recipe for Herb-crusted Salmon Steak with White Bean Stew from Chef Marcel Lagnaz, Senior VP of Operations and Partner of Gourmet Foods, Inc.

The picture look delectable, but given that I am not a big salmon fan, I decided to tweak a few ingredients to each recipe and devise something all my own. The end result, Chilean Sea Bass over Small White Bean Stew.

For cooking the fish (for one person), you'll need:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • (1) Five-ounce Chilean sea bass fillet
  • Salt and pepper
Place oven on broil setting, on high. On pan, coat with a small layer of extra virgin olive oil. Place sea bass fillet on the pan and baste with additional oil oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for approximately 10-12 minutes. The time will depends on thickness of the fish, so check every so often and remove once the item is slight white and flaky.

For Small White Bean Stew, you'll need:
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for sauteing
  • (1) can Goya small white beans, drained and rinsed
  • (1) small yellow onion
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced small
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes
  • Garlic salt, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. Champagne vinegar
Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Saute onion and red pepper for about 4 minutes. Sprinkle on garlic salt to taste. Add beans and saute for another 3 minutes. Keep stirring. Add vinegar and tomato and saute for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve beneath sea bass fillet.

Pairing Party Suggestion -- 2006 St. Supery Virtu
This popular Cali vineyard is know for its blends of classic Bordeaux grape varieties, and this particular meritage white blends Sauvignon Blanc with Semillion. While is a bit fuller bodied for a white, you'll definitely score a few hint of mouthwatering fruits, like peaches and nectarines, and a little taste of oak.

Cost: $28/bottle
Where to Buy: St. Supery

July 5, 2011

Cabo ReWINEd

Hola! It's summertime in Los Cabos and the living is indeed easy. The water is perfect (well, minus the oversized Pacific waves), the fish are jumping, and with high's in the 90s everyday, the weather is unbeatable. Don't believe me? Look at Mama WinoBee and I amidst the endless blue...

Its the ideal setting for vacation, but also to my discovery, a foodie's salvation! From traditional Mexican to extraordinary seafood and classic bistro fare, my personal culinary journey was plentiful (my current waist size is proof!).

And perhaps one of my most enjoyed meals was at La Frida Restaurant, a 2011 AAA Four Diamond Award winner and home to award-winning Chef Antonio De Livier. It wasn't just because of the amazing ambiance, oceanfront views, and overpriced La Crema Chardonnay (cough, $270 pesos, cough) I took in that I made me enjoy this experience most, but rather because of the exceptional blend of flavors and ingredients contained in each portion of my meal - from the best local fish, meats and vegetables to his own adventurous combination of spices. Just look at the artistry of my BlueFin Tuna alone...

On a separate "non-grub-indulging" note, who knew Mexico actually has three regions where they produce wine - the highest producing one being in Baja where Cabo is!? It's true!

The North area includes Baja and Sonora, and then further South is the La Laguna area. Most of these areas have a fairly warm climate, which tend to make Mexican wines spicy, full-bodied and ripe, which is exactly what I experienced with the two wines I tried:

Sandy Hill Sauvignon Blanc
San Vincente, Mexico
Tasting Notes: Super young wine thats very light on appearance, nearly clear. On the nose, a combination of lemon, lime and grapefruit with a surprising hint of papaya. Overly ripe and similar to drinking lemon juice straight from the bottle. Late linger of grassy notes helps subtle acidity a smidge, but overall not a must-have.

Red Clay Cabernet Sauvignon
Pueblo Bonito - Mexico
Tasting Notes: Dark ruby, nearly onyx in color. Plethora of dark red fruits like blackberry and plum with a tobacco undertone. On the finish, overcome with smokey notes.

To live vicariously through my consumption, check out the video blog and pics below... no shoes, no makeup, no problems!

June 24, 2011

WinoBee is in Cabos

Lil' Miss WinoBee is enjoying the sun, the sand
and the drinks in her hand this week in Cabos!

Adventures in drinking upon return...

June 23, 2011

Pairing Party: Stuffed Peppers & Bordeaux

It's not like we haven't been indulging in deliciousness, we've just been too busy to write about it! So today (even though its not Monday) we're making time, as we're long overdue for a Pairing Party.

Check out this fabulicious recipe for Stuffed Peppers from Lisa at The Novice Nosher, accompanied by a vino selection from yours truly. Bordeaux, baby, Bordeaux!

Stuffed Peppers

  • 5-6 bell peppers (any color)
  • 1 package lean ground beef (between 1 and 2 lbs)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bag of boil-in-a-bag rice, cooked
  • 1 small package of dill, mince
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • chicken broth or stock
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional: Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top of the peppers and remove the seeds so that each pepper is like a cup. Keep the tops. Set peppers aside.

Mix the diced onion, ground beef, rice, dill, about a tablespoon each of salt and pepper, and all but 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste in a large mixing bowl. Mash and combine thoroughly with your hands.

Stuff the peppers with the beef mixture. There should be enough beef mixture so that you’ll have some overflow – no need to pack it in so that it’s all inside the pepper. Place each pepper in a shallow glass pan or baking dish.

In another mixing bowl, combine ¾ cup of stock with the remaining tomato paste and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle about a tablespoon each of liquid onto the stuffed peppers. Place the pepper tops back onto the peppers to cover the beef a little.

Pour the remaining liquid into the dish; it should reach about halfway up the pepper (if it doesn’t, you can add more stock or broth into the dish). Cover the dish with foil and carefully place into the oven. Bake for 1 hour.

Remove the dish and spoon more of the liquid onto the cooked peppers. Serve warm and add Tabasco or hot sauce to your liking.

A Note From Lisa:
This is a recipe my mom recently made while she was visiting me here in DC. She adapted it slightly after learning it from a Greek friend. She's also made these before with different types of peppers, hot or mild, so as long as they're big enough to stuff, you can put this beef mixture into any kind of pepper. And because this is basically protein and grains inside a vegetable, it makes for an easy and filling dish, especially if you have a family or visitors over for dinner - we were able to stuff 6 large peppers with the amount of mixture we made. Plus all you would need to accompany this is just a side salad, and of course a glass of red wine, like the one Miss Winobee has suggested below.

Pairing Party
The combination of protein and acid in this dish will lend well to a wine that offers the same attributes, that's why we went with a #Bordeaux!

Try this '03 Chateau Tour de Guiet which is just as big on flavors as your Stuffed Peppers dish. You'll experience cocoa, black cherry and even some floral notes on the nose, but you'll be greeted with balanced earth tones and an essence of driftwood on the taste. Its medium-bodied with light, smooth tannins and a velvety finish.

Cost: $16/bottle
Where to Buy: Morrell's Wine

June 22, 2011

Happy Summer Solstice!

In honor of yesterday's summer solstice, its time we officially kick off the summer season with a bit of sexy and spicy, while keeping on the skinny. Check out this sultry Chile Martini from the mixologists at the Hyatt Tamaya Resort & Spa in New Mexico... its sure to light a fire in more places than your mouth!

  • 2.5 oz of Tequila
  • 1 tsp of Mango Chile Puree
  • Splash of Fresh Lime Juice (to taste)
  • Cayenne Salt (for the rim)
  • Chile Pepper (for garnish)
Place in shaker over ice, shake and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with small chili pepper.

Why chiles?
  • Buh-bye OJ! Red chiles contain high amounts of vitamin C and carotene and one fresh, medium sized green chile is equivalent to the Vitamin C in six oranges.*
  • Chile peppers are a good source of most B vitamins, and vitamin B6 in particular!*
  • They are very high in potassium, magnesium, and iron.*
*Source: Wikipedia
**Photo provided by Cocktail Culture

June 10, 2011

Bellini Week: The Sweet & Sassy

Meet Amy...
I think this picture speaks a thousand words, how about you? Amy is one of my closest friends in the city and also my "partner-in-crime." Our time together is normally spent bypassing the gym to hit up #WineDownWednesdays at our fav go-to-spot, The Palm (don't ask, sometimes we think we're rich and in our 40's I guess) where we indulge on Hearts of Palm salads and overpriced bottles of Justin. Amy's not just a friend though -- she's a confidant, a goofball, an intellect and a career bulldog all wrapped into one #gfree sandwich. So with a personality like Amy's, I didn't know where to begin...

  • Amy has a rich characteristics (as exhibited in photo A above) so that called for a cocktail that was just as decadent!
  • Amy packs a punch when she needs to (e.g. don't ever try to steal Ike Davis of the Mets from her - that's her man!) so I needed to spice things up a bit!
  • She was with me when I got this Godiva vodka, so it was a practical decision to use it here. DEFAULT (hehe!)
  • It's gluten-free, just like Amy!
  • 1 shot of Godiva vodka
  • 1 tsp of chocolate syrup
  • cayenne pepper
  • Sparkling white wine
Layer 1 tsp. of chocolate syrup on the bottom of your champagne flute. Add 1 shot of Godiva Vodka and stir. Top and fill with sparkling white wine of choice. Pepper in cayenne pepper to taste. Rim glass with chocolate syrup and additional cayenne pepper for extra spice.

June 9, 2011

Bellini Week: The Clarabelle

Meet Clara...
Clara, Clara, Clara - where does one begin with Clara? Oh, I know... about 9 years ago and embarking on my first days as a collegiate. That's right, Clara was my "randomly assigned" dorm-mate in the halls roaming West Ambler Johnston at Virginia Tech (RIP Henry, our pet fish). Unlike most of my friends who had traumatic roommate stories, I lucked out, cuz' seven years after we first met, we became roommates once again... this time in the city that never sleeps! Sometimes we joke that I'll live in her guesthouse when we're old, gray and I'm a spinster. But we'll live in the now... for now... which means its Bellini time!

  • When I think "Clara," I immediately picture popped collars and Polo shirts (c'mon, we weren't all born to love hoodrat music and have "honky tonk" boyfriends - see photo above for proof) Fact is, she's a traditionalist, so she needed a cocktail that evoked those same simple, tasteful characteristics.
  • When we have roommate dinners, I literally have to hide veggies in her meal, and then lie about it when she asks me. She's like my own personal 4-year-old, so naturally I had to include things I knew she would never eat. I probably even lied when she asked me the ingredients as I was making it. Guess you know the truth now -- oops, sorry C!

  • 1 half mango
  • 1 half peeled cucumber (remove seeds)
  • Mint leaves, muddled to taste
  • Mionetto Prosecco (or other sparkling white wine)
Pure mango, cucumber and mint leaves using a food processor. Add mixture 1/4 of the way up your champagne flute. Top with prosecco and garnish with additional mint. For strong flavor, add diced cucumber following.

June 8, 2011

Bellini Week: The Pearnut

Meet Kristin!
Kristin is not just one of my many fabulous co-workers, she's also an amazing friend whom I've grown very close to over the past year. She's a young woman with so many creative talents and an appetite for life that keeps her adventurous and spry. Not only does she inspire me (and keep me feeling like I'm in my "mid-twenities" again, hehe!) but she teaches me to go outside my comfort zone and make discoveries all my own... and so thats how "The Pearnut" was born!

  • Kristin is one of the most beautifully eclectic people I know so naturally I had to select ingredients that were just the same.
  • Her adventurous nature, particularly when it comes to her culinary side inspired me to channel my own "inner-Kristin" by trying something completely out of my ordinary and seeing if I could come up with something fabulous.
  • One time Kristin decided to give up sweets for a month, and naturally I harassed her with desserts nearly every day... here's another one!
  • (1) Asian Pear
  • 1 Tbsp sugar; 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • (10) Walnuts, crushed
  • 3 pitted Dates, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg, sprinkle
  • Sparkling Wine
  • Cinnamon stick, optional
  1. Slice up pear and dates and crush walnuts using a food processor.
  2. Add coconut oil to sauté pan over medium heat, followed by pear, walnut and dates.
  3. Add sugars and cook for approximately five minutes.
  4. Put pear and nut mixture into a food processor to puree until smooth. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.
  5. Add mixture to 1/4 of the way up a champagne flute. Fill with sparkling wine of choice.
  6. Garnish with cinnamon stick.

June 7, 2011

Bellini Week: The Lovebird

Meet Alycia and Mike!
Also know has my best friend and her amazing fiance. They are both gearing up for their BIG DAY in just over four months, so when I decided to implement Bellini Week, I immediately knew I wanted to create a wine cocktail that possessed the same passionate attributes that these two individuals do -- not just for each other, but for life in general... and so "The Lovebird" was birthed.

  • Nothing says love like a bright burst of pinks and reds, so naturally I swayed toward delicious, in-season red fruits.
  • They're a Florida-based couple and exude the sunshine they breathe so I wanted to make sure the cocktail was refreshing and filled with pleasant bursts of flavor.
  • Aly's infectious personality calls for a little extra pizzazz, which meant we need to add some liquor!
  • Fresh blueberries
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Dark plum, peeled
  • POM pomegranate juice
  • Chambord liquor
  • Prosecco, or other sparkling white (I used Mionetto)
  • Fresh mint, optional
  1. Puree blueberries, strawberries and plum with a splash of water and splash of pomegranate juice.
  2. Add about 2 Tbsp of pureed fruit mixture to champagne flute.
  3. Add 1 additional Tbsp of POM juice to flute.
  4. Add 1 Tbsp of Chambord.
  5. Fill remaining portion of glass with sparkling white wine and accent with fresh mint.

June 6, 2011

Bellini Week: Classic Bellini from Harry's Bar - Venice

One of the things that has recently sparked my interest is extending the wine experience beyond the basic sipping of a classic Chianti or ripe Rose. What if we could make wine less of a traditional experience and take it up the trendsetting ladder?

Truth is, wine is versatile so its somewhat easy to do if your willing to get adventurous by creating your own wine cocktails. In a world consumed with customization, why shouldn't we parlay this into our wine drinking experience? Wine cocktails are exciting, as they can express so much about you - they can be sexy, flirty, colorful, full of flavor and perfect for entertaining. Your personality can be shine through in every wine cocktail you make and it can also reflect the emotion you may be feeling at the time of creation. Use your personal flare and maybe you'll discover something new.

Using a basic Bellini as your foundation can be a great way to start the path of exploration, as the interpretations you can devise with them are nearly endless. Bellinis are a long drink cocktail that originated in Venice and blend sparkling wine (traditionally Prosecco, but you can use Cava or even Champagne) and peach puree.
This week, we're going to make some discoveries of our own and I'm using some of the WinoBee swarm as my muse. Sound fun?

To get things kickstarted, let's toast to a fun week with a classic Bellini recipe invented at Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy:

  • 2 ripe peaches, peeled and pitted
  • 1 bottle of sparkling white wine
1) In a blender, process the peaches until smooth.
2) Pour into a champagne flute about 1/4 of the way, then fill with the remainder with sparkling wine.

May 23, 2011

What is Natural Wine?

Organic... sustainably farmed... biodynamic... all terms relating to a topic thats both incredibly hot and invariably misunderstood - natural wine!

Luckily for us, last week I had the opportunity to serve at another tasting event (hosted by NY Wine Salon) to put some of these common misunderstandings to rest - this go-around in a more educational format featuring both a tasting and panel discussion on natural wine.

Along for the ride that night were NY wine influentials including the likes of:
And on tap we had more than a dozen delicious natural-tagged wines from around the world, served with platters of artisan cheeses, charcuterie and bread. Sip, nibble, discuss, repeat.

Here's a snapshot of the flights for you to go out and try yourself:

Flight #1
  • Valli Unite 2009 “Il Brut and the Beast” Sparkling Cortese (Piemonte)
  • Domaine de la Haute Borne (Vincent Careme) 2006 Vouvray Sec (Loire Valley)
  • Three Trees 2009 Rosé (Roussillon)
Flight #2
  • Casa Lapostolle 2008 “Cuvee Alexandre” Chardonnay (Chile)
  • Pacific Rim 2008 “Wallula” Riesling (Columbia Valley)
  • Hajszan 2008 “Gemischter Satz Weissleiten” (Austria)
Flight #3

  • Shinn Estate NV Red (North Fork, LI)
  • Christophe Pacalet 2010 Beaujolais-Villages
  • Palacios Remondo 2009 “La Vendimia” Rioja (Spain)
Flight #4
  • Montesecondo (Silvio Messana) 2007 Chianti Classico (Toscana)
  • Guilhem 2009 Moulin de Gassac (Languedoc) from half bottle
  • Bucklin 2008 “Bambino” Zinfandel (Sonoma)
So what exactly makes wine “green?” Let's break down the basic levels and learn together:

Organic wine is made from grapes that have been grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Look to differentiate wines labeled with "organic" connotations by deciphering whats actually on the label. For instance, wines labeled "100% Organic" refers to those produced with grapes that are certified 100% organically grown and do not have any added sulfites. "Organic" wines refers to wines that have at least 95% of their ingredients from certified organic sources. These wines may have an additional 100 ppm of sulfur dioxide added to them. And "Made with Organic Grapes" labels implies that these wines that have at least 70% of their grapes from organic sources. These wines may have sulfur dioxide added as well.

Sustainably Farmed
This term refers to growers and vintners who have adopted sustainable winegrowing practices and to measure and demonstrate ongoing improvement. These practices could include steps to reduce source water use in cleaning and sanitation; minimize use of cleaning products and other chemicals; decrease the volume and strength of wastewater produced and associated energy required for treatment; minimize the water and energy needed for heating and cooling operations; and optimize the effectiveness of land application systems for wastewater treatment.

Biodynamic wines are wines made using the principles of biodynamic agriculture. Biodynamic refers to both the agricultural methods and the handling and processing of the fruit post-harvest.

May 16, 2011

Spin the Bottle with Six Springtime Reds

I remember middle school like the back of my hand. And I'm sure most of you will agree with me when I say that 7th and 8th grade were the peak of curiosity and start of relationship exploration.

Most of us went on our first dates during this time - likely to the mall or the rolling skating rink, where we could publicly display our affection through copious amounts of handholding and hair petting. And if you were "seriously" involved with someone, like mwah, you likely hit up the local movie theatre and got to split a slushee with your sweetie.

Ah, the days of innocence. Or were they? Truth is, way back when, dating was less than monogamous (as monogamous as dating at age thirteen can be, of course). In fact, it feels, now, that my girlfriends and I were all too eager to "swap" our significant others with one another.

I remember being thirteen and dating the hottest bad boy in school (some things never change - guess which ones we are below - wink, wink). I distinctly remember being approached by one of the "mean girls" during recess one day. She made a snarky remark to my friends and I, and its funny that nearly 15 years later (yes, I'm dating myself) I am recollecting her words verbatim. Whats even funnier, is how I'm finally relating to them...
"You share your men like you share a glass of wine," she said. Ha! Little did I know this girl was on to something I'm sure even she didn't know.

What am I getting at? Well, with wine, fooling around is sometimes better than marriage. Yes, you can pair a nice Cabernet with a hefty steak or a oaky Chardonnay with a white fish -- they are complimentary. But just like relationships, drinking wine doesn't always have to be about abiding by the standards that life lays out for us. In fact, discovery can be way more exciting and you might find things out along the way that spark a new passion in you.

So now, I set the challenge...

I recently had the opportunity to pour (and sippy) some tasteful, tantalizing springtime reds at an event for @NYWineSalon. These wines are stylish for any occasion or pairing, so what I want you to do is grab one and make your own discovery with it. Perhaps its interpreting the aromas or tasting notes, maybe its using one as a base for a delicious new red wine cocktail. Hell, maybe for you it is about finding the perfect food pairing, or even using it to set the ambiance for a hot first date. Its time for you to be your own wine "relationship" tour guide and make your own discoveries.

  • '07 Cedrus Malbec -- a delightful red that combines dark cherry, raspberry and cassis with earthful undertones ($11, 67Wines)
  • '09 Yellow & Black Malbec -- a straightforward 1L boxed wine with youthful black fruit aromas and dark cherry and chocolate notes ($11.99, FranklyWines)
  • '08 Zvy-Gelt Zweigelt -- a super light, fruit-forward Austrian wine with a light spice at the finish ($10.99, 67Wines)
  • '09 Roger Perrin Cotes du Rhone -- a 3L boxed wine thats offers an earthy nose and light tannins on the palate ($35.99, FranklyWines)
  • '09 Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot -- a medium wine that combines blackberry, chocolate and light spice ($14.99, FranklyWines)
  • '09 Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage --a unique wine that blends notes of dark fruits, espresso and a hint of smoke ($13.99, FranklyWines)
Now go on, spin the bottle and pucker your lips to something new!

May 11, 2011

Sip for Service, please!

I'm all about doing good and empowering other self-philanthropists to make big changes in their communities, so when I heard about Markham Vineyards "Sips of Service" sweepstakes, which rewards those that promote positive changes in their communities, I had to share with you guys!

Now for the past few years, Markham has implemented their own Mark of Distinction, which awards two $25,000 grants to community-based initiatives. For example, last year’s Mark of Distinction grants were awarded to a crime-prevention alert system in Erie, PA and a business district affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA. Love it!

This year, Markham is extending its program and celebrating individuals, like us, who believe that even small changes can make a huge impact (I mean, don't they)? They are awarding do-gooders with weekly $200 gift cards. Submissions will be accepted on Markham Vineyard’s Facebook page, and one weekly winner will be chosen now through October 2nd. Go on, do something good... and drink something good in the process!

PS - A little birdie also told me that to further honor grant recipients, Markham will be producing two single-vineyard, limited production Estate Cabernet Sauvignon wines appropriately named "The Philanthropist" and "The Altruist." The 2009 vintage wines will be released in Fall/Winter 2012 and will detail the 2011 recipients’ causes on the wine labels. Markham Vineyards will donate an additional $1 from each bottle sold to the respective initiatives (up to $3,600 for each of the two grant recipients). Hoozah!

May 10, 2011

Cocktail Corner: My Sherry Amore

As mentioned yesterday, I was able to indulge in the James Beard signature cocktail during Friday's activities and I couldn't resist sharing with each of you. Enjoy!!


In a martini glass, add 1 part gin, 1/5 part Sherry, 1/2 part Aperol. Fill with grapefruit and add bitters and twist at garnish. Adjust to taste.

Recipe compliments of Nick Ban Tiel (on behalf of Beefeater Gin)

May 9, 2011

2011 James Beard Foundation Awards

One of the most amazing things about living in New York City is the accessibility you have to some of the most magnificent experiences in the world. Its the epicenter of all-things-cultural and on Friday night I had the opportunity to extend my portfolio with a moment-in-time that blended two of my greatest passions -- journalism and being a foodie!

Now, I work in an industry where I'm surrounded by fancy things and celebrity, but even to this day, I remain awestruck when presented with these scenarios.

As I entered the eSpace venue on Friday, I was greeted with a flute of Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV Champagne (a WinoBee fav!) and even rubbed elbows after check-in with Ace of Cakes' Duff Goldman! As I grabbed my signature cocktail, "My Sherry Amore" (recipe coming tomorrow), the night continued and I was sharing a room with some of my favorite foodie personalities including hosts Gail Simmons of Top Chef and Food Network's Ted Allen, and even had a distant sighting of Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern.

But despite the glitz and glam (and even heartfelt acceptance speeches) the night was taken over by the delectable multi-course tasting menu, which combined plates from some of the most famous chefs around the world, including:

by Michael Psilakis of Kefi, NYC (an UWS fav!)
  • White asparagus and morel salad with Marcona Almonds and Pecorino
  • Pickled White Sardine Sashimi with Cucumber Plan, Black Olive Puree, Sour Greek Yogurt, Dried Tomato and Bronze Fennel
  • Head Cheese Trotter with Three Fennel Salad, Dried Thassos Olives, Coriander and Pickled Radish
  • Paired with Stella Artois

by Ana Sortun of Oleana, Cambridge, MA
  • Salmon in Vine Leaf with Turkis Spices, Pine Nuts, Currants, and Sorrel Butter
  • Paired with Jacob's Creek Steingarten Reisling 2006 - Barossa, Australia
Cost: $24/bottle
Where to Buy: Southern Wines
Tasting Notes: Very clear, almost water-like clarity. Earth and mineral accents on nose. Grassy notes on palate with a tart bite at the finish.

by Mourad Lahlou of Aziza, San Fransisco, CA
  • Certified Angus Beed Tenderloin with Green Farro, Ras el Hanout, Ramps, and Vegetable Escabeche
  • Paired with Campo Viejo Rioja Gran Reserva 1998 - Rioja, Spain
Cost: $20/bottle
Where to Buy:
Tasting Notes: Dark ruby color. Light viscosity. Dark berry and cocoa on the nose. Raisin, plum cocoa and light espresso notes on palate. Moderate tannins.

by Pichet Ong of Spot Dessert Bar, NYC
  • Green & Black's Organic Chocolate Marquis with Tapioca, Melon, Coconut and Aleppo
  • Paired with Sandeman Armada Rich Cream Oloroso Sherry - Spain
  • Served with Lavazza Coffee
Congrats again to all of the winners. Who knows? Maybe in forthcoming years, it'll be me making my acceptance speech!

May 6, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Mother's Day Mom-osa

On Sunday, make sure your momma rises n' shines with something special. Express your thanks for all her support over the years through the universal language of food and drink by creating a homemade brunch made with love and a classic staple with the twist... the Mom-osa!!

Whether you prepare buttermilk pancakes glistening with warm maple syrup or if you’ve perfected eggs benedict, adding a sparkling cocktail proves to momma that she's the sparkle in your eye.

  • 2 parts chilled MARTINI Asti
  • 1 part Orange Juice
  • Pour orange juice into a flute glass. Top with MARTINI Asti and garnish with strawberry.

May 2, 2011

Celeb Sippy Cup: Cointreau MargaDita

Looking for a tantalizing haute-cocktail with a spicy twist? Then look no further, as international burlesque star, Dita Von Teese has officially lent her latest namesake to a cocktail.. the Cointreau MargaDita.

Just in time for Cinco De Mayo and the summer soirée season, this bold and seductive reinvention of the classic Margarita includes Cointreau, tequila, fresh lime juice, aromatic Monin Rose Syrup for a hint of floral, feminine perfume, and a dash of chipotle powder for an unexpected smack.

Cointreau MargaDita
  • 1.5 oz Cointreau
  • 1.5 oz Silver Tequila
  • 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Monin Rose Syrup
  • 1 pinch Chipotle Spice
Mix all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a chilled coup glass. Garnish with floating organic yellow rose petals. For an added kick, add a chipotle and salt rim.