Thursday, August 30, 2012

Darcie Kent Vineyards

Darcie Kent Vineyards

Founded in 1996 in Livermore, CA, Darcie Kent Vineyards is the team of Vintner/proprietor Darcie Kent and Winemaker Julian Halasz. Darcie’s ancestors came to the United States from their vineyards in Switzerland to cultivate the Missouri River Valley into a wine-growing area. Darcie’s great-grandfather, Christian Ruegsegger, arrived in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1875 and founded Alpine Winery, U.S. bonded winery #62, in 1883. An artist, himself, Christian also created his own art for his wine labels. Continuing that wine art tradition at Darcie Kent Vineyards, each wine is finished with a label painted by vintner and artist, Darcie Kent.

Darcie Kent Vineyards - Art of the Vine

The Livermore Valley is ideal for growing grapes and Darcie Kent Vineyards handcrafts small lots of single-vineyard wines using Darcie’s own estate-grown fruit, as well as grapes sourced from several highly respected family-farmed Central Coast vineyards. Darcie Kent wines are vibrant expressions of the “art of the vine,” each one an impeccable reflection of a particular vineyard and its terroir.

With Darcie, it doesn’t make sense to separate her painting from her wine, and her new tasting room is, in fact, part art gallery, part winegallery. Her paintings are beautiful, reflecting that special sense of light that is unique to the Northern California wine region, seeming to glow from within. I’m looking forward to the day when I can visit her wine gallery, taste some wines, and see her work in person!

I was lucky enough to sample both Darcie Kent Vineyards Reds and Whites recently and they are definitely worth searching out!

More information can be found at the Darcie Kent website and on Facebook.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday Tasting on a Wednesday: Darcie Kent Reds

Darcie Kent Vineyards, Livermore, CA

Darcie Kent Vineyards Red Wines

2010 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir, from Monterey County’s Rava Blackjack Vineyard, this wine has a nice berry nose. Initial flavors offer more berry with some stone fruit as well. This leads to a finish with spice overtones.

2008 Merlot

100% Merlot, these Livermore Valley grapes are from the Crane Ridge vineyard’s “Crown Block.” The nose offers stone fruit. It has a balanced, layered texture of stone fruits leading to a lingering finish.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Another wine from Livermore grapes, this is a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 7% Merlot, and 2% Petite Sirah. Sourced from the Madden Ranch, stone fruit and earth are on the nose. With tannins for further aging, this balanced wine finishes long with spice flavors. Perhaps my favorite of the Darcie Kent wines.

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Darcie Kent Vineyards. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine 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, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Darcie Kent Whites

Darcie Kent Vineyards, Livermore, CA

Darcie Kent Vineyards White Wines

2011 Grüner Veltliner

This 100% Grüner Veltliner is vinified from grapes grown in the Rava Blackjack Vineyard, which is located in the Monterey Valley. Some citrus and peaches on the nose, it has a nice acidity, complementing food and tasting quite good on its own equally.

2010 Chardonnay

The DeMayo Vineyard, in Livermore Valley , consists of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Chardonnay grapes. This 100% Chardonnay, sourced from DeMayo, has a nose of tropical fruits and citrus. Lush mouthfeel, with a long finish, this is a pleasure to drink with food, and stands on its own as well.

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Darcie Kent Vineyards. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine 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, August 27, 2012

TL's Four Seasons, Bartlett, IL

TL's Four Seasons Collage

TL's Four Season's sits just across the street from the Bartlett train station, making this restaurant easily accessible by public transportation and by car. Housed in a beautiful old building in the historic area, the restaurant is modern inside, with Asian touches evident but never feeling kitschy. Since the menu consists of both Japanese and Chinese cuisine, there are never ending options to explore, either for a romantic dinner or as part of large group. Two bars anchor the space, one for drinks, the other for sushi. Flat screen TVs run an endless loop of possible delicacies to order.

TL's Four Seasons Sushi and Sake Collage

Sushi and Drinks

Volcano Roll (spicy tuna, avocado, cream cheese, tempura with honey mustard sauce), a Veggie Roll (rice , veggies, in a soy paper roll), and an Orange Dream (cannot remember the ingredients, it was the special of the day). If you are like me, and cannot abide eating sea items, definitely ask if the sushi chefs have soy paper for rolling—so yummy and a great opportunity to experience the magic that is sushi. For drinks we ordered a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Grigio, and a flight of sake, all went wonderfully with the variety of items, from sushi to dessert. The sakes arrived cold, and changed noticeably throughout the meal, reflecting not only the flavors of the food, but also changes as it warmed up. Definitely something to try!

TL's Four Seasons Appetizer Collage


From the Japanese menu, Laima started with Wakame Sunomono (cucumber with seaweed sprouts in sweet vinegar sauce), while I tried the Vegetable Tempura. The Tempura was really unique, featuring large pieces of vegetables, including asparagus, carrot, eggplant, bell pepper, and sweet potato – a great option to order. From the Chinese menu, Scallion Pancakes, amazing as always, one of my favorite dishes.

TL's Four Seasons Entree Collage


It was hard not to order pretty much everything on the menu! With that in mind, we tried several of my longtime favorite Chinese dishes. Wide Rice Noodles (locally made, fresh wide rice noodles, wok crisped and tossed with bean sprouts, snow peas, onions and red peppers in soy and hoisin sauces) were well-made, tasted like fresh vegetables, and had just the right amount of sauce. I prefer my rice noodles a bit crispier, but they certainly weren’t underdone. The Kung Pao Tofu (wok crisped with spicy kung pao chili sauce) was next, really a good substitute for the classic chicken dish. Sichuan String Beans (pan fried and wok tossed w/Sichuan marinated vegetables, drizzled with a spicy soy and Sichuan peppercorn oil) rounded out the vegetable entrees, and this was another example of how well-seasoned and prepared all three dishes were. My carnivore tester Laima opted for a house special, the Dry Stir-fried Shredded Beef (shredded sliced beef, wok fried and tossed with spicy bean sauce, Sichuan peppercorn oil, tender bamboo tips and scallions) – the tender bamboo tips were a new one for us, neat-looking and a good addition to this dish.

TL's Four Seasons Mochi


Rice Wrapped Ice Cream was on the menu, so we tried the Green Tea, Red Bean, and Mango. A really good ending to an outstanding meal!

We were very pleased with our lunch at PL8 Simply Asian  recently, so it was exciting to see how this sister restaurant stacked up. The menus have some overlap, though TL’s Four Seasons is definitely a more comprehensive menu. Some of the plates we tried were the same at both restaurants and both were incredibly tasty.

TL’s Four Seasons does feel a bit more established however, and it is reflected in the interaction between owner, servers, and guests. It seemed like most of the people coming into the restaurant were known by the staff, and greeted warmly. I can see how this would become a favorite of ours very quickly, if we lived nearby. As it is, my in-laws are not too far, and we definitely plan on bringing them here to taste the amazing food and drink, and to enjoy the warm hospitality.

Highly recommended and well-worth the drive or train ride to seek out this tasty restaurant!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Earn Some Wine!

Silver Moon Winery Harvest Helpers

Silver Moon Winery, in Lanark, IL is looking for harvest helpers--pick 4 buckets of grapes and you earn a bottle of wine! Sounds like a fun experience to have on the weekend if you are in the Chicagoland area.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

La Madia, Chicago

La Madia Chicago Collage

La Madia (59 W Grand Ave, Chicago), a Contemporary Pizzeria, is relatively unobtrusive as you approach. On the ground floor of a multistory building, with plenty of parking nearby, or walk from public transportation or your hotel. Clean, simple, modern design greet you upon entrance, with the bar and lounge area to your right, hostess left, and dining forward, leading to the kitchen with its open display. You can also choose to sit at the pizza bar, in a private room to your right, or additional seating to the left. We sat near the kitchen area in the main dining room.
“At La Madia, two pleasures - great food and distinctive, delicious wines - come together. Named for an Italian cabinet traditionally used to knead dough and store bread, La Madia is an urban restaurant that upholds Italian tradition. Every day, our chefs make our pizza dough and fresh pasta from scratch from little more than flour, water, and salt. The wine list is a wine lover's dream, with more than 75 wines by the glass and hundreds of bottles. And every week, we feature two of our favorite wines for just $5 per glass.”

La Madia Appetizer Collage

The menu gives plenty of options, with appetizers divided into three sections: Starters, Bruschette, and Salads. Laima thought about salad, but then opted for the Seasonal Wild Mushroom, Marsala Glaze and Whipped Ricotta Bruschetta instead. A divine choice, might be the best bruschetta I’ve tried to date! I added the Spinach and Taleggio Fondue with White Truffle Oil – served with a puffy pizza crust bread, this was less a typical fondue and more a dipping sauce. I would have preferred it a bit thicker, but cannot complain about the taste, really outstanding.

The extensive wine list (Wine Spectator Award Of Excellence winner) is almost overwhelming, with myriad by-the-glass choices, along with plenty of bottle options as well (including large format). I do have a complaint, yes a complaint about this incredible wine list. There are no rosé wines by the glass. The outstanding Lucien Albrecht Cremant Brut Rosé NV, Alsace, FR is on the list, but unfortunately was not available that night. We hardly suffered though. I opted for the Argyle Brut 07, from Willamette Valley, Oregon, outstanding on its own and with all the dishes we had (it might have been finished before dessert though). Laima went with the Little “B” Bordeaux 06 (Medoc, France), a worthy exemplar of the region. Spotting the Beckmen Cuvee le Bec, GSMC 10, (Santa Ynez, CA). I had to try it—my first biodynamic wine! Laima’s second choice was the Cusumano Benuara Nero d’Avola/Syrah 09 from Sicily, a suggestion by the barkeeper, an inspired choice with her pizza.

La Madia Pizza Collage

Pizzas are the focus here, though pasta, sandwiches, and options are available (there’s a section of the menu detailing which items are gluten-free, a nice touch). Laima went traditional, trying the Margherita, made with Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Tomato Sauce and Torn Basil – I think of a typical Margherita as one with fresh tomatoes, so this wass an interesting twist. I had to try the Taleggio and 3-Hour Roasted Grapes—a pizza with grapes?! Very tasty and unique, though I don’t think one could eat too much of it at one sitting (I only managed 3 slices). Another I would have liked to try was the Seasonal Wild Mushrooms and Smoked Mozzarella—sounds divine, but we had mushrooms for the appetizer and the roasted grapes were just too unusual to pass up. A menu addition I’d love to see is a pizza tasting flight, wherein one could order 4 or 5 of the pizzas in a small size, to sample, rather than the 1 or 2 that is more likely.

La Madia Dessert Collage

Save room for dessert, as there are plenty of mouthwatering options. Being chocoholics, we opted for the Bittersweet Chocolate Tortino with Toasted Almonds and the Chocolate Polenta Cake with Vanilla Bean Gelato. The Tortino was moist and delicious, a very good choice, yet was still overshadowed by the Polenta Cake, a molten chocolate bit of heaven. I didn’t get polenta in the flavor, but it definitely affected the texture in a good way. Add espresso and cappuccino and it’s a perfect end to the meal.

La Madia is well worth the visit – the creative menu will allow everyone to find something to eat, be they committed vegan or carnivore. The extensive wine list means you’ll find something you like, with suggested pairings on the menu or by one of the knowledgeable staff. Not interested in wine? (WHAT?!) They have beer, cocktails, and other options as well. This is a place that works as a casual neighborhood drop-in option, as a romantic outing, or for a large group (one made use of the private dining room the night we were there). The front of the lounge is a large expanse of glass that can be opened to the sidewalk--this is clearly a spot that people sit to see and be seen.

Other reasons for a visit include an interactive, 5-course Chef’s Table, hosted by Executive Chef/Proprietor Jonathan Fox. Take a seat at the pizza bar and experience seasonally-creative & locally-sourced dishes as they unfold right in front of you, along with wine pairings. Or, join them for their next seasonal cooking class, which includes lunch and wine.

For reservations and more info, check out La Madia's website, follow on Twitter, and like on Facebook.

La Madia on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of La Madia. 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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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gravity Wine, Baroda, MI

Gravity Wine Collage

Gravity Wine is a newer (October 2011) winery in Baroda, MI. Over 30 acres of grapes have been cultivated for many years, though sold under contract to other winemakers in the area. As those contracts are completed, more of their own grapes will be used to vinify their own wines. As it is, all their bottles are Lake Michigan Shore AVA. Gravity Hour is held Friday nights June - October from music, pulled pork sandwiches, and lots of fun! Tasting is available Friday-Saturday 12-8, Sunday-Thursday 12-6; please note that groups of 10 or more need reservations on the weekend. We had the opportunity to taste there recently and it is well worth searching out! A great addition to the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Gravity Winery, Baroda, MI

On a family vacation day last week, we had the opportunity to lunch at the Greenbush Brewing Taproom, followed up with wine tasting at a newly opened (relatively) Gravity Winery.

All wines are Lake Michigan Shore AVA, coming from 30 acres of vineyards that produce about 200,000 pounds of grapes annually. Many of their grapes are sold under contract to other local wineries, so, in the meantime, some of the grapes are sourced locally to vinify the wine. For tasting, the wines are served by the flight (four different wines (equivalent to a full glass of wine ) and each wine is paired with either gourmet chocolate or cheese.

Gravity Wine Tasting Collage

  • Peaceful White (0%) is a dry blend of Riesling, Vidal, and Vignoles paired with colby-monterey jack.
  • Pinot Gris (1%) was paired with a mild cheddar.
  • Ollie's White (3.5%) is a Vignoles paired with havarti.
  • DynoWhite (6.5%) is a sweet Seyval Blanc paired with gouda.
  • Shiraz (0%) was paired with dark chocolate with cherries and pecans.
  • The Theory (0%) A dry and peppery Cabernet Franc was paired with dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt.
  • Pinot Noir (0%) was paired with milk chocolate with almond.
  • Irresistible Red (2%) is a semi sweet Chambourcin paired with milk chocolate toffee.
 A nice addition to the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail!

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Meatless Monday: Purple Slaw with Toasted Pecans

Purple Slaw with Toasted Pecans

  • Purple cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1 C coarsely grated raw beet
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 garlic glove, minced
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 Tsp agave nectar
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 C silken tofu
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 C chopped toasted pecans
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced thinly
This recipe is chopping, blending, and mixing, very simple. I completely forgot the raw beet, thus had to forgo it, not sure I missed the sweetness, but perhaps it would have added another component I'm overlooking. Beyond the cabbage, beet, pecans, and apples, the remaining ingredients are placed in a blender together to create the dressing. Bryant suggests layering the cabbage with thin slices of apple, creating a vertical salad. I chopped the apples rather than slicing. I then put everything together in a bowl, massaged for 3-5 minutes, then served. Really yummy!

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Rock and Roll Wine: Charles Krug Guitar Auction

Charles Krug Guitar Auction Collage

Charles Krug-Peter Mondavi Family Winery, Napa Valley’s first winery, is auctioning a hand-crafted guitar made from redwood from a historic wine tank, with proceeds to benefit a program which supports students and music in schools. The auction runs through August 31, 2012 at

Affectionately referred to as “B.O.B.” because it was built with wood at the “bottom of the barrel” of a 50-plus-year-old redwood fermenting tank from the historic Redwood Cellar on the Charles Krug estate, the guitar is on display in the Charles Krug Tasting Room. Bidders may view the one-of-a-kind instrument on the Charles Krug web site or at the auction site.

B.O.B. was designed, crafted and donated by David Heitzman of the Napa Guitar Company. In Acoustic Guitar magazine Stevie Coyle wrote, “Warm chocolate is perhaps the best way to describe both the appearance as well as the sonics of this unusual instrument.”
A special label on the inside of the guitar is signed by Peter Mondavi Sr. and sons Marc and Peter Jr. "Everyone connected with the Charles Krug Winery is proud to be able to support this wonderful cause,” said Peter Mondavi, Jr., co-proprietor of the winery and a longtime supporter of music education in the schools.

The auction is solely for the benefit of the Music Connection program of the Napa Valley Educational Foundation for children in grades four through twelve. The Music Connection has provided musical instruments and education to students in Napa since 1997. The program serves nearly 3,000 Napa Valley students with nine distinct music education and appreciation programs offered through the Valley’s public schools. (Information about the foundation is available at

Two complimentary tickets to the annual Tastings on the Lawn at Charles Krug Winery are also included in the package.

The winning bidder will officially be announced at the winery’s Tastings on the Lawn event, September 8th, 2012. The annual event, now in its 61st year, offers food, wine, music, and dancing on the great lawn of the historic winery.

To view photos of the Charles Krug Guitar, place a bid, or learn more about Charles Krug Winery and the Peter Mondavi Sr. Family, visit the winery website.

Thanks to Mackenzie Agency for this heads-up!

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Greenbush Brewing Taproom, Sawyer, MI

Greenbush Brewing Taproom

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of stopping into the Greenbush Brewing Taproom, in Sawyer, MI. Greenbush has a great reputation, and we’ve tried their beers on occasion at restaurants around Southwest Michigan. This was our first opportunity to plan a trip there and actually effect it.

The Taproom has an interesting history, having been an auto shop, a plumbing shop, a laundromat/video rental/garden shop (what?), a laundromat/coffee shop, a men only bar and later became the Albatross. The bar was bought and then became the San Francisco Brewing Company and yet later, The Comstock Saloon.

The brewing system, seen behind a wall of windows, features a hand-crafted solid copper 7 barrel brew kettle made by Fred Zaft, who was a noted coppersmith in the San Francisco Bay area. This was the second to last kettle he ever built. It was housed in a pre-turn of the century bar on Columbus Avenue in North Beach, which is the old Italian neighborhood in San Francisco. The bar had at a point been totally restored to its past glory (replete with a "self-flushing spittoon" under the bar (yes, it was actually a urinal), now, unfortunately, gone.

The room itself is a mix of industrial chic and comfortable seating, with tables of varying heights giving some options to sit at traditional height or on a barstool. There is also an outdoor seating area, which, to our happy surprise, is a no smoking area, really great as we sat next to the exterior door. The façade of the building is a large expanse of windows, allowing plenty of natural light and views of the street scene.

Greenbush Brewing Taproom Food Collage

We skipped appetizers and all ordered Toasted Sandwiches (made with fresh baked breads, served with a pickle and side). Four of us opted for the Grilled Cheese (Michigan cheddar, provolone and swiss sandwich on multi grain). Tazer, being a huge fan of root beer, opted for the Turkey Bacon Melt (Turkey brined in root beer and smoked with ancho chiles, served with bacon, Michigan white cheddar and horseradish remoulade on multi grain), which, while very tasty, did not reflect a root beer flavor. Laima tried the Roast Beef and Provolone (Roast beef, provolone, pesto aioli and Joel’s magically delicious house-made hot giardiniera on focaccia), which she pronounced the best of the sandwiches she tried. The chips on the side were fresh and crunchy, and the pickles were deemed satisfactory, especially by Tazer, who ate 4 quarters himself. Soups and salads are also available, perhaps we’ll delve into those next time.

If you’re in the area, or driving by on I-94, definitely plan on stopping in for food and drink. Lots of beer varieties to choose from, with seasonal brews making their appearance when appropriate. Food was good, if crafted a bit slowly, and was really tassty, as were the drinks we chose.

Greenbush Brewing can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Greenbush Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Inspired Vegan

The Inspired Vegan book cover

I recently picked up Will Allen’s The Good Food Revolution, a book that follows Allen's surprising journey from pro basketball player to urban farmer. His goal is to transform the cultivation, production and delivery of healthy foods to underserved, urban populations; especially interesting as I picked up Bryant Terry’s The Inspired Vegan soon after. Bryant Terry sees his cookbooks as “organizing and base-building tools for the food justice movement.” Synchronicity, right?
”More than just a collection of recipes, The Inspired Vegan assembles many of the things that excite me to live, love, laugh, lounge, and lick my fingers….I approached it as a collage, combining my appreciation for food, design, storytelling, music, photography, and other media. To be clear, though, this is a cookbook, and my main goal is to provide you with the instructions and inspiration to prepare delicious food.”
The cookbook starts with Basics, an explanation for the creation of bases, cooking techniques, and other nuts and bolts useful in following the recipes. The recipes follow, divided according to season. Ingredients can be found at farmers’ markets, food coops, and most supermarkets. Menus that include drinks, appetizers, mains, sides, and desserts flow into each other. While Terry is specific in each menu and recipe, he is also eager to have the reader experiment, substituting ingredients or combining foods as desired.

There are so many interesting recipes, it’s going to be hard to choose the first one for our Meatless Monday!

Bryant Terry

About the Author: Bryant Terry  started writing books because he felt called to engage a diverse national audience to confront the racial, economic, and geographic differences among eaters; recognize their own privileges; and reverse the negative impact the industrial food system has on our health, other animals, local economies, and the environment. His latest project is The Inspired Vegan. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed Vegan Soul Kitchen and co-author of Grub. Bryant Terry can be found on Twitter  and also on Facebook.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the Da Capo Lifelong Books. 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, August 14, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Round Barn Winery

Round Barn Winery Tasting Room

Driving into Michigan on Interstate 94, one of the first exits you come to, number 6, is home to the tasting room for the Round Barn Winery and Free Run Cellars (St. Julian has a tasting room next door). After working as winemaker at Tabor Hill until 1991, Rick Moersch opened Heart of the Vineyard Winery in August of 1992. In 1997, the Moersch family transported and rebuilt a turn-of-the century Amish Round Barn from rural Indiana--this historic building was the perfect home for the round copper pot still-- good "spirits" should be created in a structure where legend says that 'with no corners, evil spirits cannot hide.' The Moerschs changed the name in 2004 from "Heart of the Vineyard" to the "The Round Barn Winery." Along with wine, brandy and vodka, the Moerschs began brewing beer in 2007. Along with the Round Barn Winery wines, beers, and spirits for tasting, one can also taste wine from "Free Run Cellars," a boutique winery that specializes in producing single vineyard designate wines, launched in July 2006 by Matthew and Christian Moersch.

Round Barn Winery Tasting Room Map

While their wine is certainly good and quite representative of the region, their beer is really outstanding. Generous pours and a reasonable price make the short walk to the back of the parking lot worthwhile.

So the next time you are heading up Interstate 94 in Southwest Michigan, take the time to swing off and taste some wine, beer, and spirits. Just a short trip up Union Pier Road is Milda's Corner Store, where you can stock up for a picnic lunch and then walk down to the public beach before continuing your trip.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Meatless Monday: Sesame Rice Noodles and Melon Herb Salad

Sesame Rice Noodles and Melon Herb Salad

The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook, by Kim O'Donnel, features 52 recipes for one year's worth of Meatless Monday dishes for those first venturing into meatless meals. While most of the recipes stay in a safer vegetarian mode, there are a few vegan options. One that caught my eye was the Sesame Rice Noodles and Herb Melon Salad. While the ingredients list is long, for the most part it is everyday items, albeit unusual together, prepared and combined simply. My kind of recipe!

Sesame Rice Noodles and Melon Herb Salad - Ingredients

Rice noodles, prepared per package
Soy Sauce
Lime Juice
Sesame Oil
Vegetable Oil
Onion Mix
Onions (recipe calls for red, we used a handy white)
Lime Juice
Cucumber Salad
Rice Wine
Red Pepper Flakes
Sesame oil
Melon Salad
Lime Juice
Basically, prepare each block above independently by combining the ingredients, then put everything on plate or bowl for final presentation. While the recipe in the book calls for measurements, I feel that this is a recipe that is particularly attractive to winging it, as so much of seasoning is personal. We also adjusted it to take into consideration our 4 children, ages 2-11, so no rice wine, no pepper flakes. I don't eat peanuts, so the recommended garnish was changed accordingly.

This is such a great, simple recipe, that I cannot imagine anyone would not like. The next time I make this I will add some almond or sunflower seed  butter to the noodles to give them heft--the overall recipe was a bit moist for my  textural preferences. Still and all a great recipe, especially since it is so clearly adaptable to a variety of palates.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook

Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook Cover

52 tried and true menus, one for each week of a year, make it easy to use this cookbook to plan for your own Meatless Monday. Chef Kim O'Donnel, an avowed meat lover, was inspired to create this cookbook by the chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, who stated that, if there was one thing an average person can do to help the planet, it's not recycling or driving a hybrid car, but rather eating less meat. Add in the fact that Mario Batali, celebrity chef and notorious for celebrating every bit of animal, instituted Meatless Monday in all 14 of his restaurants. She decided to give it a try.

If you're new to vegetarian eating, or hesitant to enter a world you are unfamiliar with, O'Donnel provides a handy-dandy "Meatless Pantry Lexicon" that is very thorough and chock full of great information. Pretty much everything you need to know to get started is included.

The book is divided into the 4 seasons, with recipes that reflect the type of food one might each at that time of year. From simple and recognized dishes like Rocket Lasagna, to the more exotic pistachio-raisin rice pilaf, the variety is endless. Though it sounds time-consuming, one recipe I'd love to try is Tofu Barbecue, which is prepared similarly to smoked ribs on the grill. Sounds amazing.

Most of the ingredients seem to be available locally, though some things might need searching and, for some readers, might involve ordering over the Internet. The cooking processes are familiar and should be within the reach of the average cook, making this a relatively kid-friendly cookbook as well.

Since it's vegetarian, there are still plenty of recipes that include cheese and eggs, though there are vegan options as well. Check out a recipe we tried this coming Meatless Monday.

Kim O'Donnel

For more than a decade, journalist and chef Kim O'Donnel has dispensed cooking advice at numerous publications, including The Washington Post, Culinate and USA Today. Her first book, The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook, was published in 2010. The Meat Lover's Meatless Celebrations is scheduled to release in October. Kim eats meat, just not as much as she used to. That’s her story, and she’s sticking to it.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the Da Capo Lifelong Books. 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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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cellar Door, Downers Grove, IL

Cellar Door, Downers Grove, IL

Enjoying a quiet spot next to the historic Downers Grove Cemetery, Cellar Door is an attractive part of the little downtown, with plenty of parking in the nearby garage, on the street, or a quick walk for locals from home or the train. We've lived in Downers Grove for nearly 4 years, and finally made time to visit this winebar/wineshop. The menu is simple, upscale bar food, with strong Italian influences.

Cellar Door: Red Crostini

Even though Wednesdays are $3 Tap Beer Night, we still opted to partake in the wines by the glass. I tried, for the first time, a wonderful Spanish wine, Perfum De Vi Blanc 2009, from Raventos i Blanc, while Laima ordered the surprise red ("Surprise Red - Take a chance! You will be pleasantly surprised!"), and received an Australian Shiraz (the name of which escapes me at the moment), which was dynamite. Appetizer of choice was the Red Pepper Crostini, paired with a balsamic vinegar dressed salad. The Crostini was very good, though I wish they had given 6 pieces instead of 5, so that I could have gotten a third (I chivalrously gave the 5th to my wife). On the online menu, this item is listed as a Roasted Pepper Napoleon, which sounds like it would have been fun to try.

Cellar Door: Panini

Though the Flights of Gourmet Cheese and Charcuterie tempted Laima, we both ended up ordering panini. Prosciutto (Prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, spring mix and basil pesto on grilled ciabatta bread) for her and Wild Mushroom Grilled Cheese (seasonal wild mushrooms, Gruyere cheese, caramelized onion, whole grain mustard on grilled ciabatta bread) for me. Each came with more of the mixed greens and balsamic dressing. The sandwiches were tasty and well-made, though I would improve the grilled cheese by altering the mushroom preparation, perhaps searing them. Eminently vegetarian friendly, I of course would love to see some vegan options as well.

Cellar Door: Chocolat du Frances

Definitely leave room for dessert, specifically the Chocolat du Frances (6 velvety smooth, creamy, assorted French chocolate truffles coated with the finest chocolate and topped with shaved chocolate) and definitely order another glass (or two) of red wine to enjoy with it. Laima had some more of the Shiraz and we sampled some with each truffle - a heavenly combination!

The Cellar Door is a nice option and worth a trip on its own to Downers Grove if you are not a local. While it was a romantic dinner for us, this would also work as a casual option - each day has a special, from the aforementioned $3 Tap Beers to Mimosas on Sundays. This is also a wineshop, with a wall of wine that is worthy of serious scrutiny - maybe next time!

Cellar Door on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wine Olympics

Olympic fever is still strong at our house, and it occured to me that there must have been some sort of event, somewhere, called the Wine Olympics. Turns out there have been quite a few, but this is the earliest mention I found.

Wine Olympics

“A Wine Olympics was organized by the French food and wine magazine GaultMillau in 1979; a total of 330 wines from 33 countries were evaluated by 62 experts from ten nationalities. The 1976 Trefethen Vineyards Chardonnay from the Napa Valley won the Chardonnay tasting and was judged best in the world. Gran Coronas Mas La Plana 1970 from Spain received first place in the important Cabernet blend category. In the Pinot Noir competition, the 1975 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve from Oregon placed in the top ten. The 1975 HMR Pinot Noir from Paso Robles, CA placed third. Tyrell Pinot Noir 1976 from Australia was selected for the "Gault Milleau World Dozen" and placed first.”

Source: Wikipedia

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Meatless Monday: Italian Rustic Squash and Kale Tart

A very simple recipe, that was a hit with the whole family--that's saying a lot with 4 kids from ages 2 to 11! Easy to make, took about an hour or so--I used precut, frozen squash, which was microwaved in its bag, so that saved a huge amount of work and time.

Italian Rustic Squash and Kale Tart
1 C unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 C ice-cold water

4 ounces kale, stems removed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4-5 green onions, chopped
6 ounces butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 Tbsp walnut parm or finely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pastry: Mix flour, salt, and oil - dribble in ice-cold water, knead and form ball. Refrigerate for 30 or more minutes.

Filling: Steam squash and kale until tender. Saute both onion types, mix with squash and kale, add salt and pepper to taste along with walnut parm. (Walnut parm is a finely ground combo of walnuts, nutritional yeast, miso paste, and salt.)

Roll out pastry and place into pie pan--spread filling evenly. Bake the tart 30-45 minutes, until dough is golden. remove from pan, cut into wedges, and serve.

The above recipe serves 4--we doubled the recipe and the 6 of us ate every bite!

  • VERY  surprising that this recipe did not call for garlic; next time I would definitely add some to the mix.
  • I misread the recipe and added nearly double a full serving of walnut parm rather than the 6 tablespoons called for--not a big deal in the end.
  • I thought the filling ended up a bit creamy, could have used some texture, in my opinion. Next time, I would add some walnut bits and maybe leave the kale stems to add some crunch. The kale could remain unsteamed, which might help as well.
This was a really easy recipe, especially without having to prepare the squash. With the few changes noted above, this could be even better than it was. Even as is, any dish that works for six people ranging in ages from 2 to 46 is a definite addition to the rotation!

From World Vegan Feast

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Friday, August 3, 2012

London 2012 Olympics Wine

London 2012 is the first Olympics to have its own official wines. The wines are a red wine from Brazil, a Chenin Blanc and rosé from South Africa, great publicity for these winemaking regions (I didn't even know Brazil made wine!). They are on sale at the Olympic Park and other venues.

London 2012 Olympics Wine

It would be very cool to get some bottles of this to try!

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bordeaux Organic Wines Infographic

Slightly out of date wine infographic that explains the difference between organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wines along with the growth of French estates converting to organic:

Bordeaux Organic Wines Infographic
Source: Bordeaux Wines
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wine Wit: Etch-A-Sketch

We've all had days like this...

Wine Wit: Etch-A-Sketch

"I tried to login on my iPad.
Turns out it was an
Etch-a-Sketch and I don't
own an iPad.

Also, I'm out of wine."

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