Friday, June 29, 2012

Zest Bistro, Downers Grove, IL

A restaurant in a grocery store, not necessarily a unique idea (Eataly in NYC has nearly a dozen in their store), but I’ve never seen it integrated so thoroughly. Walk through the doors of the Lemon Tree Grocer and the shop wraps around the restaurant, which spills outside and across the front of the store. Located in our village of Downers Grove, it’s a restaurant we’ve visited for lunch here and there, we’ve shopped in the store, my wife Laima has even brought our daughter’s Brownie troop for a field trip. Tim Canning and Shaun Black, the owners, have made it a priority to reach out to the community. Being located in our little downtown at the train station, they have become an integral part of the Downers Grove experience.

Zest Bistro  is envisioned as a part of the daily routine of the grocery store. The barista opens early – so grab a cup of coffee and a freshly baked pastry to satisfy your sweet tooth. Fresh fruit is available to carry-out and snack on. The menu offers freshly caught seafood, custom cuts from Niman Ranch, generous burgers, pasta dishes, locally sourced produce, wine and cheese flights, cheese plates, craft beers, and made-to-order sushi. Zest Bistro also features gluten-free and vegetarian options and is family-friendly. The restaurant hosts a variety of monthly events and happenings including wine tastings, live music, daily menu specials and more.

Even though the restaurant area is enveloped in the store, there is also separation, a coziness and a different vibe. Modern design and furniture, along with a curtain wall give it a separate identity while remaining part of the whole.

As an aperitif, we both immediately chose the Bele Casel Prosecco Colfòndo, a welcome start to a meal on a warm summer night. This is sparkling Prosecco sur lie with no dosage, quite dry, with almost foamy small bubbles.

Next up, for me, the Alpha Estate Axia Malagouzia 2010 – a yellow, almost greenish white wine, this was a balanced charmer, with some melon qualities in taste and floral aromas on the nose. Laima ordered, at my request, the Domaine Saint Gregory Pinot Meunier 2010 – an acidic wine, with berry flavors, and a mid-length finish, this went well with all our food choices (Laima even had a second glass!). Both these varietals were new to me, so additions to the Wine Century Club!

Appetizer choices, unfortunately, were limited to three seafood options, which we found puzzling. I chose a side, Spicy Garlic Broccolini, while Laima ordered the Mediterranean Chopped Salad (Romaine Hearts, Cucumber, Grape Tomato, Chickpea, Kalamata Olive, Red Onion, Feta Cheese, chopped rotisserie chicken, pita crisps, Greek dressing). Both were very tasty, and Laima’s salad could have been a dinner entrée easily.

Main courses were a tougher choice for Laima, not so much for me as they only had one vegetarian option. The Berkshire Pork Chop, with Tuscan Kale, Bacon Lardon, Roasted Seasonal Root Vegetable, and Apple Mostarda was ordered for Laima, while I chose the one and only option, the Vegetarian Burger (Lentils, Bulgur Wheat, Vegetables, Mushroom), with Bibb Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion, on a pretzel bun. It was offered with Pesto Mayo and Pepper jack cheese, but I took it without those. Both entrees were outstanding, my vegetarian burger was one of the best I’ve ever had, by far, and probably the best at a restaurant. Laima’s pork chop was humungous and delicious, with the sides doing their supporting act wonderfully. I also added a side of sweet potato fries with curry aioli – the fries were crisp, well-seasoned, and very good. Though I didn’t taste the aioli, Laima did and thought it went very well with the fries.

For dessert we opted for the molten chocolate cake with housemade salted caramel gelato – truly dynamite. Lighter than many molten cakes we’ve tried before, it was full of flavor and the caramel gelato was the perfect accompaniment.

The wine list is quirky and innovative, offering little known varietals as well as a few safe standbys, which makes it ideal. I got to add two new varietals to my Wine Century Club list, which is pretty amazing. We sat near the grocery’s wine area, which seemed huge for a relatively small store – great variety in there as well. Kudos to Beverage Director Todd Hoffman, who clearly is a beer aficionado as well.

Thinking that a Wednesday night, early, would be relatively quiet at the restaurant was incorrect. The tables around us filled up and stayed filled for the approximately two hours we were there. The bar, with 6 or so bar stools remained full up. Johnny Don’t played guitar and sang, people ate and drank and talked. It really had the feel of a neighborhood joint, reinforced by seeing people we knew.

Johhny Don't

We had the opportunity to meet with Shaun (one of the owners), who circulated amongst the tables, chatting up the patrons, offering help, even busing tables when needed – very hands-on. We had hoped to meet Tim, the chef, but unhappily for us and happily for him, the restaurant remained busy, so he couldn't come out. Next time.

We were ably served by Cori Jenkins, who turned out to be one of the Zest managers. She seemed to be everywhere at once and was able to answer all our questions regarding the food and wine.

Most of the items on the menu are also offered in the store; one dessert menu option is to stroll over to the pastry case and choose what you like, very cool touch. Both the store and restaurant are constantly evolving, based on new products, response to the community, and fresh ideas from this creative duo. One can tell that the support staff is top-notch, and everyone pitches in to make sure customers get what they need.

Can improvements be made? Not many. I obviously wish there were vegan options, or at least more vegetarian choices. The food we did have seemed fresh, was well-made and tasty, and, apart from the lack of non-seafood appetizers, had some interesting variety. Even though their website states they have wine flights, I didn’t see it (or missed it) on the menu - this would be a dynamite list to choose a sampling of wines to try with the food. With just a few tweaks here and there, I can see this becoming the go-to place for eating in Downers Grove.

Lemon Tree Grocer

Lemon Tree Grocer offers the highest quality produce, wine, meats and cheeses. Purchase sushi, artisanal cheeses, have a coffee or espresso. Shop to eat at home, get prepared food, heck, they even cater!

Proximate to the expressways, steps from the train, Zest Bistro is well-worth seeking out whether you live in Downers Grove or make a special trip to dine here or shop in the store. Both Lemon Tree Grocer and Zest Bistro have become a charming and essential part of our community.

Lemon Tree Grocer on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of Zest Bistro at Lemon Tree Grocer. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

TasteLive! Tastings Today

TasteLive! is the worlds premiere online wine and beer tasting community. Their platform leverages the increasingly powerful social media tools of Twitter, Facebook, Posterous and other services to create a community that brings together consumers, bloggers, press, suppliers, brewers and winemakers across the world together to share in their favorite beverage. TasteLive! is a direct link between consumers and winemakers, no filter, no middle man. Today, for the first time, I will be a participant blogger!

Wines of Alsace, Binny’s Beverage Depot and TasteLive are teaming up for Drink Alsace: Wines of Pure Expression. It starts with an Open Forum discussion from 4pm to 6pm and an interactive comprehensive tasting from 6pm to 7pm, all lead by Patrick W Fegan. A panel of regional and national wine and food bloggers will join Patrick from 6pm to 7pm for the comprehensive tasting.

Featured Wines for the Drink Alsace tasting will include Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rosé, The Fürst Pinot Blanc 2010 , Gustave Lorentz Riesling 2009, Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris 2009, Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2008. Looks like a great selection!

Join the conversation with Wines of Vinho Verde Brand Ambassador Laura Maniec, MS, Thursday June 28th at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. Laura will lead a tasting of 4 specifically selected Vinhos Verdes with wine bloggers across the US.

Featured Wines for the Vinho Verde tasting will include: Adega Ponte de Lima Adamado 2011, Lagosta Vinho Verde 2011, Quinta de Gomariz Loureiro 2011, and Great Sense Vinho Verde Rosé. A fun-looking group of wines.

Come join us!

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Video Wine Chats: Natalie MacLean

Do you subscribe to Natalie MacLean's newsletter? If not, maybe you should -- it's chock-full of interesting things, from wine reviews to something new for her, video wine chats.

From the Painted Rock website

One that came across recently is something near and dear to most of us, the pricing of wine. If you read Joe Bastianich's new book Restaurant Man, he claims that no winery spends more than five dollars to make a bottle of wine. $5.00! The rest is made up of expensive real estate, real or perceived scarcity, and other factors. I'm not sure I actually believe him, but since he is a winemaker as well as a restaurant mogul, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt. In the video, Natalie chats with Painted Rock Winery owner John Skinner about how wine prices are set, if expensive wines taste better than cheaper wines. It includes questions such as can you buy a good wine for under $15?; can big wine producers make good wine?; what does the B.C. wine industry need to do better?; and more.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Illinois River Winery

On a recent family trip to Starved Rock State Park, we took the opportunity to taste wines from two wineries who are part of the Illinois River Wine Trail. The first winery was the Illinois River Winery, which was founded in 1998 with the establishment of Starved Rock Vineyards by Gregg Kane. They now make wines from their own grapes, other Illinois vineyards, and grapes sourced from other states. Since we were driving home, we opted to share 6 tastings, which limited the types of wines we got to try, but also made it safer to get home.
  • Cabernet Franc (2009) - A light bodied dry red made from Illinois grapes, this was our favorite. Decent balance and mouthfeel.
  • Norton (2009)- A medium bodied dry red, also from Illinois grapes, this had promise but was a little off-balance to me, perhaps a bit dry for my taste. A decent effort.
  • Cayuga White - A floral nose, this is a fruity sweet wine.
  • Riesling – They called this a semi sweet white wine, but definitely on the sugary end of Rieslings we’ve tried.
  • Vintner's Blend – an interesting blend of dry and sweet grapes. This was a wine that seemed to me made to drink with food.
  • Niagara – like tasting white Welch’s grape juice. That’s what the tasting hostess said and she was right. VERY Sweet.
The Illinois River Winery  is worth a stop if you’re in the area – they take part in a lot of festivals as well, so taste their wines when you can!

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Meatless Monday: Vegan Lasagna

I recently came across a dynamite vegan mozzarella cheese at Whole Foods, made by Daiya Foods of Vancouver, BC. With that we mixed in some Beef-less Ground Beef from Trader Joe's along with some frozen mixed veggies, organic olive oil, and lots of Italian spices and herbs. The filling was layered between sheets of bionaturae (based in Connecticut) organic 100%whole wheat lasagne pasta. Baked in the oven under foil and then without to crisp it up, the whole family really enjoyed it!

We had it with a Vinas Chilenas Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2011 from Trader Joe's - nice complement to the Italian spices.

Another great Meatless Monday!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

The Classic Water to Wine Tour

I love wine, I love to be on the water, I'm thinking I'd probably love this trip.

“Combine the fun of a Ducky Kayak trip on the Verde River with wine tasting at the Alcantara Vineyards and you get the idea…the best of two worlds. The Classic Water to Wine tour begins with a one hour Ducky Kayak trip on a scenic stretch of the Verde Valley River with just enough chutes and riffles to add a bit of excitement without ruffling any feathers. Your Ducky Kayak trip ends in the shade of giant cottonwood Trees where you will take the gravel path up through the vineyards to the Tuscan farmhouse at the Alcantara Vineyards for your wine tasting delight.”

“The Alcantara Vineyards  is a favorite on the Verde Valley Wine Trail featuring award winning wines and friendly sommeliers who guide you through the tasting. The Wine Tasting room inside the Tuscan Farmhouse overlooks the vineyards and the rolling hills beyond. The Classic Water to Wine Tour features great photo ops, fabulous scenery, abundant wildlife, and excellent wine. You even get a credit for purchasing wine or gift shop mementos. The Classic Water to Wine tour is truly an unforgettable experience. Approximately 3 to 4 hours from start to finish. River time is approximately 1.5 hours. Wine Tasting time is also approximately 1.5 hours.”

For more information, check out Sedona Adventure Tours.
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Illinois River Wine Trail

Recently, on a trip to Starved Rock State Park, to go hiking with our children, we made time to visit 2 tasting rooms located in Utica, IL. The two wineries are part of the Illinois River Wine Trail. August Hill Winery, Illinois River Winery, Mackinaw Valley Winery, Kickapoo Creek Winery, Willett’s Winery and Cellar, Hill Prairie Winery, and Ridge View Winery make up the Illinois River Wine Trail. Located two hours south of Chicagoland, this central Illinois wine trail features wineries dotted along the Illinois River Road Scenic Byway.

Upcoming reviews will include August Hill and Illinois River Wineries - we're looking forward to visiting the others as well!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Vineyard in My Glass

Gerald Asher's A Carafe of Red was like a well-crafted summer wine, light, slightly effervescent, refreshing, simple and easy to read. A Vineyard in My Glass takes a different tact with more studious, almost muscular writing. The point of the book is to discover and write about wines that reveal their place, their terroir:
"If I find in a wine no hint of where it was grown, no mark of the summer when the fruit ripened, and no indication of the usages common among those who made it, I am frustrated and disappointed."
Asher takes first through France, then Italy, Germany, and Spain, before turning his eyes to California. All along, the emphasis is on the place, the methods used in vinification, the resulting site-specific wine:
"They built a handsomely vaulted underground cellar, where they installed large wooden vats to age their white wines to allow them to soften and acquire fuller flavor without being overwhelmed by oak."
While Asher mentions names of winemakers and occasionally the food served with the wines, it is really the vineyards and resulting wines that hold centerstage. A nice complement to his other writing, showing his broad range of abilities.

Gerald Asher is author of The Pleasures of Wine, Vineyard Tales, Wine Journal, and On Wine. As an international wine merchant, he was decorated by the French Government in 1974 for his contribution to French viticulture, in 2001 was named Outstanding Wine Professional of the Year by the James Beard Foundation, and in 2009 was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the University of California Press. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Eden Road Hilltops Shiraz

Eden Road Wines, Australia
Hilltops Shiraz 2010
(Media Sample)

I am a big fan of Eden Road Wines. This is the 3rd Shiraz of theirs that we've gotten to taste, and each one has just been outstanding. Their Shirazes are so smooth, so well-balanced, such a pleasure to drink. The majority of Hilltops vineyards, from which fruit for this wine is sourced, are located on rich and deep, typically dark red granite clays impregnated with basalt. The resulting wine is an incredibly deep color, tasting of clean fruit, pepper, and that something that sets Australian Shirazes apart from all others. Can't name it, but I can certainly taste it. Another winner for Eden Road.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Meatless Monday: Twitter and Veganism?

You probably never imagined you’d need an app that let you share really important information in only 140 characters, let alone imagine the founders might change the way you eat either. Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone and former Twitter VP of Product Jason Goldman are backing Beyond Meat, a company that purportedly makes meat replacers that are closer to the real thing than products from other companies. While the first product is soy-based, the company plans to expand beyond that: "Instead of just relying on soy, we want to use lupin, mustard seed protein, and barley to give consumers a broad range of plant-based proteins," says Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

The Little Red Wine Dress

My wife forwarded this on to me, couldn’t wait to share – a dress made of wine! Love the comment that STL Mike left on the article: “I am old, I remember when wine was used to get you out of a dress.” That’s clever.

“We've heard red wine can benefit your health, but how about your closet? Researchers at The University of Western Australia have just discovered a way to make the beverage into clothing. The process is a lot easier than you'd think: the fabric actually creates itself without any weaving. Talk about futuristic fashion!

Scientist Gary Cass was inspired to create cellulose garments when he noticed a skin-like rubbery layer covering a vat of wine that was contaminated with Acetobacter bacteria (don't worry--it's non-hazardous and non-pathogenic). He worked together with artist Donna Franklin and used the bacteria to transform alcohol into a cellulose fabric by pouring and wrapping it against a mold or human body. The resulting material clings to the body and is entirely seamless. The duo then successfully created fermented fashion made of red wine, white wine, and beers like Guinness, which all retain their natural odor and color. Apparently the fabric feels like sludge while it's wet and forming, but once it's dry the fitted material acts like a second skin. Since the clothing is made with living microbes, the creators have named the fabric Micro'be'.

Wine is made into an actual garment on a mold. Photo courtesy of bioalloy.orgThe creators are first to admit there are some flaws to their design. The fabric lacks flexibility--clearly a big problem. How would you take these items on and off? How would they wear? Another dilemma: wearers may not enjoy smelling like an alcoholic beverage all day long. Cass and Franklin are currently working on these issues to make the fabric more commercial, and they're optimistic about their experimentation.

Even with these issues resolved, Micro'be' garments may take some getting used to. (We feel the fleshy appearance of red wine fabric looks like Lady Gaga's famous meat dress!) But there are many advantages to using the unique textile. The garments require no sewing, which means less labor and low production costs. Micro'be' is also eco-friendly, organic, and biodegradable. So while we don't see this material taking over the fashion industry just yet, we do think Cass and Franklin are on to something.”

Originally posted by Joanna Douglas to Shine on Yahoo!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stray Dog Bar and Grill, New Buffalo, MI

We vacation a lot in Union Pier, MI, which is the town over from New Buffalo. New Buffalo has many of the things in a shore town that Union Pier does not - a pier, harbor, shopping district, a library, and so on. While Pier has some decent restaurants, it's also fun to head over to New Buffalo to take a stroll, look in some shops, and then have dinner out. This last trip we opted to return for a second time to the Stray Dog Bar and Grill, a simple bar and grill located near but not on the water (though the view from the upstairs deck must be great).

There is really nothing fancy to this place, either in decoration or to the menu, which is on the limited side (what bar and grill doesn't have onion rings?), but which also makes it easy to choose. The menu is very skimpy on vegetarian items, with even more minimal vegan options. The kids opted for basic burgers and grilled cheese (pronounced tasty), though my daughter ordered the veggie tacos from the adult menu. A soft taco, they are made up of chilled avocados, colby jack cheese, corn and black bean salsa, and lettuce - she opted to take the chipotle ranchero sauce on the side (my wife ate most of it with her fries). My wife and I chose burgers, veggie for me and  the Windward for her. The veggie burger was a tasty black bean burger, nicely cooked, with lettuce, tomato and onions on the side, accompanied by french fries (did I mention the Stray Dog doesn't have onion rings?). The Windward was their burger topped with guacamole and colby jack cheese, very good according to my wife--high praise as she doesn't eat cheese that often.

The main decorative element is photos of dogs, framed and unframed, extending all the way into the restrooms. As always, I checked out the bathrooms for cleanliness and, while a bit faded from a decorative standpoint, smelled and looked clean. Nice job, Stray Dog!

Stray Dog Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ravenswood Winery: “No Wimpy Wines”

No Wimpy Wines

When I was young and just starting to get interested in wine, Ravenswood was THE cool winery, at least among the novice drinkers I hung out with. Probably it was the logo, maybe it was the echoes of Edgar Allan Poe in the winery’s name. Maybe it was the inky dark red wines that were made from what we thought was California’s native grape, Zinfandel. Even in the 80’s, there were rumors of century-old Zin vines growing in the Northern California hills. When I later moved to a Chicago neighborhood called Ravenswood and my new landlord handed me a bottle of the winery’s wine, it simply confirmed how it had retained its coolness.

When we tasted the 2009 Sonoma County Old Vine Zin recently, the idea of a wimpy wine was the furthest thing from our minds. The nearly black, opaque wine had a heft and substance to it on looks alone. The initial taste and feel in the mouth confirmed it – this was no wimpy wine.

“Robust and red are two qualities that define the wines of Ravenswood. No Wimpy Wines. Ravenswood strives to honor…venerable vineyards with soulful wines that are representative of place, person and period in time.” They truly succeed.

“The Circle of Ravens
Ravenswood’s trio of ravens, talons interlocked in a secret handshake, was designed by David Lance Goins, the California artist who also created distinctive posters for Chez Panisse. Joel Peterson hung out at Alice Water’s now-famous restaurant in its early years, and he admired Goins’ aesthetic of rustic classicism. With its hand-hewn feel, [their] iconic logo has a timeless Craftsman style with a quirky twist of M.C. Escher and gothic elegance—perfectly in keeping with Ravenswood’s obsession with nuance and hands-on approach to the craft of winemaking.”

Love Ravenswood wines and live near their Visitor Center? Willing to get a tattoo? Ravenswood logo tattoos earn complimentary tastings for life!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Ravenswood Sonoma Old Vine Zinfandel 2009

Ravenswood Winery
Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel 2009, CA
$15.99 (Media Sample)

My wife and I both noticed some floral notes on the nose, along with some berry aromas. Incredibly dark in the glass -- berry and cherry flavors, good balance, and a lingering finish made this tasty with a pasta dinner and also on its own.

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Ravenswood Winery, via Folsom and Associates. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Meatless Monday: What Is It?

If you’re a wine drinker, you’re probably also a gourmet or gourmand, enjoying food along with your wine. Too much food and/or wine can lead to health problems, or shorten one’s life, which would be a bummer, because, hey, less time to drink wine.

I’m a vegan and already don’t eat meat or other animal products, but some people struggle with giving up meat as part of their diet, even temporarily. Enter Meatless Monday. With recipes and other support, the website can help you cut out meat that one day a week.

An international movement to help people reduce their meat consumption by 15% to improve personal health and the health of the planet. We are a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


On average, Americans consume 8 ounces of meat per day – 45% more than the USDA recommends. Going meatless once a week can reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help limit your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.


Multiple studies have shown that periodic health prompts lead to positive behavior change. Monday is the beginning of the week, making it the perfect time to reevaluate our choices and set our intentions for the coming days. With a Meatless Monday, you have a scheduled, recurring reminder to start your week off on a nutritious note. And if this Monday passes you by, next week is another opportunity to focus on health!
Key Benefits of Meatless Monday

Beans, peas, nuts and seeds contain little to no saturated fats. Reducing saturated fats can help keep your cholesterol low, and cut risk of cardiovascular disease.


Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce cancer risk. Red meat consumption is associated with colon cancer.


Research suggests that plant-based diets –particularly those low in processed meat –can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.


People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body
mass indices. A plant-based diet is a great source of fiber (absent in animal products).
This makes you feel full with fewer calories, ie. lower calorie intake and less overeating.


Red and processed meat consumption is associated with increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.


Consuming beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and
magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.
To do my part, I’m going to start a regular feature for Meatless Mondays, showcasing a meatless meal, restaurant, or cookbook. Many people think of vegan or vegetarian food as hippie mush, but it has come a long way. Something that tastes good and is good for you? Bring it on.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Wine Wit: Missing

"If I ever go missing, I would like my photo put on wine bottles instead of milk cartons. This way my friends will know to look for me."

Too funny and I stole it from my wife over at Women's Endurance Gear!

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Asheville Marathon - Biltmore Estate

Continuing the Biltmore theme of this week so far...

The Asheville Marathon, a new race for 2013, will take place on the Biltmore Estate. In the Asheville Marathon, held on the grounds at Biltmore Estate, runners will explore 26.2 miles through America’s largest backyard. Inaugural Asheville Marathon runners will wind through leafy hardwood forest, crayon-hued meadows, spring bloom-crackling gardens, and freshly cut views of the estate on Sunday, March 3rd, 2013. This is the first-ever race of its kind to come to Asheville, North Carolina.

This is a great opportunity to not only visit Biltmore and taste the wines there, but also to complete a marathon in a one-of-a-kind location.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs

Biltmore Estate Wine Company, Asheville, NC
Blanc de Blancs Brut
$24.99 (Media Sample)

Made of California Chardonnay grapes sourced from the Russian River Valley, this méthode champenoise sparkler is good for sipping alone or paired with a variety of food. Nice lemony scent on the nose, with yeasty taste and crisp acidity - a well-balanced wine, with good mouthfeel. Lots of little bubbles make it fun to drink!

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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Biltmore Estate Wine Company

The Biltmore Estate is George Vanderbilt’s extraordinary home and beautiful gardens, nestled on 8,000 acres in the mountains of Asheville, NC. The celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt modeled the house on three châteaux built in 16th-century France. It would feature 4 acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The basement alone would house a swimming pool, gymnasium and changing rooms, bowling alley, servants' quarters, kitchens, and more. The grounds of the estate were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator of New York's Central Park and the father of American landscape architecture. He not only developed acres of gardens and parkland, but in his efforts to protect the environment and reclaim over-farmed land, Olmsted established America's first managed forest.

The most visited winery in the United States isn't located in Napa Valley. It's at Biltmore in the mountains of North Carolina, where approximately 1 million visitors stop by to sample award-winning estate wines each year. The first vineyards at Biltmore were established in 1971 in an area below Biltmore House. French-American hybrids were planted initially, with vinifera plantings following in a few years. Inspired after several years of experimenting, William A.V. Cecil, then president and owner of Biltmore, decided that a winery was the natural outcome of ongoing research and a logical extension of his grandfather's intention that the estate be self-supporting.

The estate vineyard is in a valley near the French Broad River and enjoys a favorable climate for grape cultivation. Varieties include Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. All grapes are picked by hand, with a harvest averaging 250 tons of grapes annually.

The Biltmore Estate Wine Company vinifies red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines.

Information and images in this post regarding the Biltmore Estate and the winery was gathered from The Biltmore website.  Please like Biltmore on Facebook, follow on Twitter,  and view on YouTube

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