Thursday, June 23, 2011

Italy 2011: Rome Florence Venice

I recently took a trip to Italy with my family where we started in Rome, took a train to Florence and ended up in Venice.  I especially enjoyed the Tuscan countryside and Venice...stunning places.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from our adventure.


Gatto di casa.

This is a random church in Rome. ;)

On a stroll. My brother, step brother and step sister.

These trees were everywhere and remind me of my favorite, the Cypress. 

Mesmerized by this modernesque art piece found in ancient Roman ruins.

We found him roaming the streets.

Tuscan vineyards.


Just Engaged! xo

Courtyard in Florence where kids were playing.


People and Pigeons.


In the name of art, Diana, sit down.

 Grand Canal.

Favorite white wine we found. 

Mom on a walk.


Salami heaven.

Night of the Gondola.

Fresh from the morning Farmer's Market.

 Arrivederci Venezia. Lo manchero.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Rice: Light, Creamy and Delish.

I often have days in the office where I am sitting and staring at my computer crunching over sales numbers and e-mails.  What makes this less painful is that I work from home...and I always have the Food Network on in the background.  Often, a chef's recipe stands out to me and I can't wait to finish my work, go to the store, come home, pour a glass of wine, and finally, start the cooking.  Tonight, I wanted to write about this recipe from Giada de Laurentiis- she called it Nonna Luna's Rice after her late grandmother.  I am going to call it Summer Rice, as it tastes like a summer rice dish my mom would always make while we were growing up.  I changed it a bit by using half olive oil and butter for both the rice and meat preperation and I also used brown rice instead of white. 

SUMMER RICE with Shrimp or chicken: I made this two ways since my friend does not like shrimp, it was so easy and not messy.

The Rice:
1. Over medium low heat add 1TBS of butter, 1TBS olive oil and 1 whole clove of garlic and melt so the garlic infuses into the butter and oil.
2. Remove garlic, set aside
3. Add rice and stir around until it begins to toast
4. Add proper amount of low sodium chicken broth, bring to boil, cook to al dente (AKA, follow instructions on bag)

The Shrimp/Chicken:
1. Over medium low heat add 1TBS of butter, 1TBS olive oil and 1 whole clove of garlic and melt so the garlic infuses into the butter and oil.
2. Increase to medium heat , add shrimp/chicken (keep in mind that chicken will take longer to cook, shrimp cooks rather quickly)
3. Add salt immediately, stir.  Add 12 shakes of Tobasco Sauce (use Tobasco as the vinegar is needed)
4. Add the juice of one or one and a half lemon
5. Reduce heat so there is no more simmer, add cream and stir until heated through

Serve over rice, add lemon zest and more Tobasco if needed.  You know what else this would be good with?  Scallops.  And I also think it would be good to add a quarter cup of dry white wine after step 2 and before step 4.  Try it!  And Enjoy!

We switched over to the 2010 vintage of our KENWOOD Sauvignon Blanc so I get to drink the remining bottles of 2009 that I have.  And it just so happens that it pairs EXTREMELY well with this dish!
   This is what it looked like when I was finished with seconds...(I'm still drinking the wine though, so there is no empty glass to take a picture)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Zinis zinifera...I mean, Vitis vinifera

I grew up in Lodi, California, the zinfandel capitol of the world. So naturally, I have always had an affinity for this varietal- Vitis vinifera. Zinfandel can be so interesting, as each climate can produce completely different flavor profiles; yet, at the core of each wine, you always know its a zin. This is also a varietal that holds a very interesting historical story. Its said that Croatia founded several indigenous varietals related to Zinfandel, thus forming their wine production in the 19th century. Sadly, most of these varietals were wiped out by the phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century. In summary, this was a nasty bug that caused fungus to rapidly spread on grapevines, in turn, killing all the vines. Again, it is said, that "way back when", just after the phillloxera epidemic, one of these surviving vines was smuggled into Lodi where is flourishes today... and all throughout the state. 

The Zinfandel vine likes hot days and cool nights, making good 'ol Lodi the perfect place for a home. However, there are great zins growing all up and down the state of California.  If you ever have the chance to pick a ripe, sweet blackberry from the wild- do it.  Beacuase this is what a good Zinfandel tastes like.  Growing up I remember going to Healdsburg with my best friend and her family to stay long weekends at their ranch house. We would spend all day long picking wild black berries from the bushes that were surrounded by grapevines. We'd walk up and down the hills, covered in the sweet black juice, sticky and dirty. To get the best and most plump berries we would even step into the treacherous bushes that were filled with sharp thorns; the one outside the bush would hold the others arm just in case we fell in all together. I don't think we felt any pain back then. That dusty, fresh brambliness with a bit of tartness and tannins the wild blackberries were filled brings me back to those days all the time.

So to relive more of these memories- this time over decadent cheese and charcuterie- I joined my good friend, Tanya, along with three different Zinfandels from three different appellations in California. 

Irie 2007 Zinfandel
Hahn Estates

Paso Robles
A spicy note of clove on the nose along with ripe raisin. Smooth and delicate on the mouth, very elegant. Currant and blueberry take the high notes on this one with a pleasant dusty fruit coming through at the end. This Zinfandel is just short of hearty, has great tannins and acidity, and lingers quite nicely 

Kenwood 2008 Jack London Zinfandel
Sonoma Mountains
This wine is a melting that it was difficult to pick out the specific flavors as they were all very melded together creating one balanced wine...but here is what we got.
High notes of dark cherry and tar on the nose and more dark cherry on the mid palate. This wine is filled with vibrant, juicy acidity and has a slightly smokey finish. Slightly jammy and the tannins last for quite a while, while they are not overbearing but very soft.

Dogwood Cellars 2007 Zinfandel

The nose was filled with blackberry, black currant and hickory. Followed by jam, jam and more jam; this wine is your typical California jam bomb.
Plenty of spice on the front end and a bit of black pepper that almost resonates through out the palate. It finishes with lots of vanilla and cranberry...and more jam.

Charcuterie: I was especially grateful for the help I received from the Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. With their help we had a delightful selection that paired very well with our Zins.
Cheese: Whole Foods- enough said.

I, Melissa Nilssen, do not encourage spitting wine.  Drink wines that are over $5 (you know who you are). If you drink from a box and you are my will no longer be my friend (again, you know who you are). You don't have to spend over $20 for a good wine.  Please take time to eat, drink and talk about the experience- tis quite fun.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chardonnay, why do you make me say such things?

Its New Years Eve eve and I wanted a burger.  Nothing like a nice, juicy, fatty burger, with lots of ketchup and red onion to cleanse the palate before tasting some California Chardonnays...God, I love America.  And I must say, Chardonnay pairs quite nicely with burgers. 

I have been craving Chardonnay for the past several months...the weather got cooler and my need for red wines decreased while my need for white wine increased...particularly Chardonnay.  This is the opposite of what naturally happens- I should be craving the red in cold weather and vice versa- right?  

But regardless, here is a "get over it" ode to all the ABC (Anything But Chard) people out may not be cool to like Chard, or portray the best of palates...Well, stuff it, is what I say to that.  So let's drink some Chard and eat homemade, oniony burgers!
(Later in the tasting, with the help of my step sister and mom, I realized- although I knew already- that having onions before a wine tasting was stupid)

Central Coast (Santa Ynes)
If you are a fan of the Green Apple Jolly Ranchers you will like the way this one smells.  The oak is quite soft with a hint on the nose and palate and a silky mouth-feel.  (This means that it feels silky in your mouth).  My favorite aspect is the musty- but pleasant- dried dried apricots, giving it almost a Riesling characteristic.  Very well balanced oak, fruit and acidity. 
We finished the whole bottle. 

Sta. Rita Hills
Now I'm picturing myself in a boulangerie in Paris.  This wine has a buttery mouth feel in a silky, appealing way. Carmel and vanilla on the nose and palate with a hint of bread, preserved Meyer lemon (not sour but sweet), and baked peach cobbler.  The acidity is very bright, especially as the bottle stays open for a bit.  This Chardonnay is nice and hearty where the malolactic fermentation is obvious but enhances the wine and does not over power.
There was half a glass remaining. 

Lake Sonoma Chardonnay 2008 
Russian River
This wine is very aromatic. Like a campfire on a mild evening in the I'm not. 
There is toasty oak and vanilla on the nose and also on the palate.  A slight butteriness that is balanced out by the vibrant acidity on the mid palate and then it falls a bit short on the back.  Apricot, honey, and baked apple are the more upfront fruit notes that you can both smell and taste.   
We drank the whole bottle.

Cool Gadgets To Use:

Ravi Instant Wine Chiller.  My mom got a really cool device that instantly chills wine.  No need to wait to chill you chard, just click here.

VINTURI Essential Wine Aerator.  We always use this for our red and white wines.  It actually opens the wine up substantially so try before and after.  It works!

I, Melissa Nilssen, do not encourage spitting wine.  Drink wines that are over $5 (you know who you are). If you drink from a box and you are my will no longer be my friend (again, you know who you are). You don't have to spend over $20 for a good wine.  Please take time to eat, drink and talk about the experience- tis quite fun.