Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Boy Are We Enthusiastic--Wine Enthusiast Party

As some of you may be aware:  I like wine.  A lot.  And not necessarily just to drink.  I love to learn about wine, wine regions, producers, and grapes.  I enjoy trying new wines from regions I’ve never tasted before.  If it is wine related, I want to know more about it! 

My children have called it an obsession.  I disagree…kind of.  I do have a tendency to find wine or wine-related venues wherever I go.  I say I just have a special “spidey sense” when it comes to wine.  Like a gift.  (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

It just so happened that on a recent trip to Chicago, my wine sixth sense (actually it was a very kind wine connection from Chicago) turned me on to a wonderful wine event when I was in town—the Wine Enthusiast Red and White Bash.  This fun charity event featured wines from around the world that scored highly in Wine Enthusiast Magazine.  Food, music, wine, and fun all mixed with a reason to dress up?  I was in!

Wine events and festivals like these are great opportunities to try something new and different.  I was able to try some wines from Virginia (which had been on my radar for quite some time) and some wines from Israel (which were not on my radar at all).  Great food stations were interspersed between the wine booths, and the hit of the night was Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse with its filet slider and horseradish sauce.   I also got to meet two of my online wine connections in person at this event.  Another special treat was Peter Mondavi Jr. pouring at the Charles Krug stall…my first Mondavi sighting!

Scenes from Wine Enthusiast Red and White Bash
 Your Sweet Sommelier enjoying the bash!

 Hair and makeup stations were enjoyed by many.
 Accordini Igino 2007 Le Bessole Amarone.
 Charles Krug 2010 Vintage Selection Cab and 2010 Generations Red.
 Peter Mondavi Jr. pouring Charles Krug selections.
 Louis Roederer NV Brut Premier--I do love a sparkling!
 Fun dancing to a 1920s style swing band.
New friends:  Italianwinelovr Sabatni.
Old friends:  my Meig and Char.

So whether you really like wine or only kind of like wine (I know, it sounds weird, but I’ve heard these people actually do exist), use all of your senses to attend a wine event near you.   You will not be disappointed, and you may try new wines and meet new people.  It is a win-win, wine situation!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

At Its Peak--Crow Peak Brewing

I did it once more.  I cheated.  I am here to confess my transgressions.  I cheated on wine…with beer…yet again…

Frankly, I blame the fascinating microbrew community for making me do it.  It’s not my fault.  I just couldn’t help myself.  There were too many temptations for me.  I should not be held responsible for my actions!

Today it was Crow Peak Brewing.  I was instantly attracted to the exterior looks.  It is one great looking facility!  Tall, dark, and handsome.  Two stories with an outdoor, upper deck—who wouldn’t be attracted to that?

Crow Peak looks good!

The inside is just as striking.  The large, open seating area lures drinkers in…even wine drinkers like me.  The unique fire place was practically calling my name as it winked at me and said, “How you doin’?”

Unique and inviting on the inside too.

I took the bait.  I sat down at the bar and let the beer talk to me.  I was in trouble.  They were all so seductive. 

First, it was the three beers Crow Peak produces and distributes all year around:  Pile O’ Dirt Porter, Canyon Cream Ale, and 11th Hour IPA.  These three show the range of styles Crow Peak spans, and they are impressive.  From the dark porter, to the hoppy IPA, to the light ale, all show the quality original owner Jeff Drumm was reaching for when he started brewing on a large scale in 2007.

Next, I was attracted to the seasonal options, some distributed in the Midwest and areas surrounding Spearfish, some only available on tap at the brewery. 

The 5.2 Imperial Decade IPA, brewed by Jeff for himself on his fifty-second birthday, is a masculine beer filled with hoppy bitterness (100 IBUs to be exact!). 

But these beers are in touch with their feminine sides as well.  Take the Ancient Mariner for instance.  It uses a saison yeast brewed with Chai tea for that sugar and spice and everything nice factor.

This season’s Easy Livin’ Summer Ale is the perfect date for a hot summer day with its light hop and slightly sweet flavor.  (And it just smells so good!)

Spearbeer, the first Crow Peak beer Jeff brewed, shows there is no fear of commitment here.  It is a beer with staying power.

And to keep the excitement alive, Mjollnir is an ale with a secret…a secret ingredient.  Mjollnir, meaning Thor’s hammer, uses Black Hills spruce tips in the recipe to spice things up!  Unfortunately, Mjollnir also likes to play hard to get as it is a winter seasonal beer, not available for purchase at this time. 

Mjollnir is secretive, seductive, and spicey.

As if all of these beer selections weren’t enough to cause even the best wine drinkers to stray, Crow Peak carries eight beers on tap and has a rotation of over forty beer recipes that could show up on the menu at any time. 

With so many options fighting for my attention, it is no wonder my eyes wandered away from wine and to the many beers Jeff and crew (Josh, Matt, and Adam) brew.  There are just too many temptations for someone to be faithful all the time.  Though wine is my first—and true—love, my attentions may be pulled to the booming craft beer movement in the Black Hills more often.  And let’s face it:  every once in a while, a girl just needs a beer!  Forgive me, please. 

Josh, Jeff, and Matt tempting wine drinkers one beer at a time.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer, Summer, Summertime--Summer Salad Recipe

I live where winter begins early.  Incredibly early.  As in a blizzard-the-first-week-of-October early. 

I also live where spring starts late.  Incredibly late.  As in still-snowing-at-the-end-of-April late. 

If you want to see what spring fever really looks like, come to the Black Hills in May when the sun shines for three days straight and the temperature actually hits forty-five all three days.  People are in their shorts and flip flops, ready for summer…NOW!

I was particularly ready for the warmer temperatures of spring and summer this year, and though Mother Nature wasn’t moving as fast in that direction as I wanted her, I decided to speed things along by cooking as if it was summer:  more grilling, summer veggies, and light bites.  I dug through my recipes and found the ones that would make summer appear on my plate, and none did this more so than an orzo salad recipe from my incredibly great chef friend, Kirsten.  The dill (fresh if you can get your hands on it) and lemon in this recipe are both flavorful and zesty while being light and refreshing…just like summer.  I made this salad for my lunch for three weeks in a row (did I mention I had spring fever?), and I enjoyed it more each week as I perfected the recipe with the amounts and ingredients I preferred.  Here it is:  summer on your plate!

Summer Dill Orzo Salad

1 pound orzo pasta
3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
zest of one lemon
2 tbsp. finely (extremely fine) chopped onion (green onion or shallots will also work)
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp. fresh dill or 2 tsp. dried dill weed
¼ cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
2 medium cucumbers: peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 large carrots:  peeled and chopped
6 oz. feta cheese crumbles

1. Cook the orzo according to package instructions using ½ tsp. salt in the water. Cook until al dente.
2. In a separate bowl, combine lemon juice, zest, mustard, and onion. Add a few pinches of salt. Then whisk in olive oil and dill.
3. In a large bowl, pour lemon-dill dressing over still-warm pasta. Add cucumbers, olives, and carrots. Stir well. Refrigerate until chilled before serving.
4. Sprinkle feta over the top of salad just before serving. 

Serve as a side to grilled steak, pork chops, or chicken (when I served it as supper, I grilled marinated chicken skewers as the protein ) or add chunks of grilled chicken to the salad and have as a meal itself (which is what I did for my lunch for three weeks).

I served with Erath Pinot Gris from Oregon (not with my lunch, but when I fixed this for supper one evening before taking it for lunch).  However, other Pinot Gris/Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc wines would be a nice compliment pairing with the acid of the lemon juice and zest.  For a contrast pairing, try a Riesling or Gew├╝rztraminer, any sweetness level.

If you want summer on your plate and in your glass, this recipe is waiting to be prepared.  It took me through the “dark” days when I was beginning to suspect Mother Nature wasn’t going to give us a summer at all.  But I never should have doubted her.  As I sit on my patio enjoying my summery meals and wines, I forgive her for her shenanigans with our wintery weather this year.  As she lets the sun shine on me, I love her again…at least until the first snow storm of October!