Monday, December 31, 2007

Should Old Acquaintances Be Forgot?

Holiday cards give old friends a brief chance to reconnect. So on New Year's Eve, why do we sing about forgetting them?

Instead, raise a glass to all those folks who knew you "when" and to the chance to make new friends in 2008.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Upon On The Rooftop & Down The Driveway

After moving snow from every horizontal surface, treat yourself to a warm beverage.

Here are a few ideas.

Hot Buttered Rum
Mix in a bowl 1 stick butter, 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1 tsp. each nutmeg, cardamom and ground cloves, 1.5 tsp. cinnamon. Mix well and refrigerate. Boil a mug of water and a tablespoon of the butter mix and good rum.

Hot Shot
Cinnamon flavored tea with cinnamon schnapps.

Hot toddy

Place a scant teaspoon sugar or honey in a mug, a generous wedge of lemon, a cinnamon stick and a shot of bourbon. Fill mug with hot water.

Hot Buttered Cow

1 lb Brown sugar
1/4 lb Soft butter
1/2 ts Vanilla
1/2 ts Cinnamon
1/4 ts Nutmeg
1/4 ts Cloves
1/4 ts Mace
1/4 ts Allspice
1 pinch Salt

Optional: for each serving add to mug: 1 1/2 ounces dark rum and 1/2 ounce gold or white rum

Beat sugar and butter together until thoroughly creamed and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and spices. Chill.

For each cup to be served, place 1+1/2 teaspoons batter in a preheated mug (add rum if desired) Stir well. Fill with hot milk and serve.

Just remember that the sweeter the beverage, the more calories you will need to burn shoveling!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town!

Besides leaving cookies and milk and carrots for his reindeer, consider fortifying Santa for the long night with a liqueur.

What about Peppermint Schnapps for his cocoa, Irish cream or hazelnut liqueur for his coffee or just a shot of amaretto over his vanilla ice cream.

Feel like saving a trip to the store this weekend? Try some homemade recipes found at this link:

Happy Holidays to you all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Do You Believe?

A 4th century Christian bishop named Nicholas, was famous for his generous gifts to the poor. He is portrayed in ancient relics as a bearded robed man.

Parallels have also been made between Santa Claus and the figure of Odin, a god in Germany prior to Christianity. Children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would then reward those children for their kindness by replacing the food with gifts or candy.

Modern ideas of Santa Claus came from the publication of the poem by Clement Clarke Moore's called "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (better known as "The Night Before Christmas"). In the poem Santa is heavyset with eight named reindeer.

In some early images of 20th century, Santa was depicted as personally making his toys by hand in a small workshop. Eventually, the idea emerged that he had numerous elves responsible for making the toys.

Whatever you believe, be a jolly old elf during the visit to your relatives!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Good Bargain Gone Bad

As you might remember from earlier posts, Sangiovese is our "house" wine. So, during a trip to a large liquor store, I bought a bottle of a 2004 Castello di Monastero Sangiovese Toscana IGT.

At less than $10 per bottle, I thought I had snagged a bargain to enjoy with our rustic Italian meal.

Upon opening the bottle, we noticed an amber to brown color, a sure sign of bottle age or oxidation in a red wine. Normally, you would not see this color until the wine was more than 3 years old, or if it was kept in less than ideal conditions. This was a BIG clue as to what aromas and flavors we would encounter.

The characteristics 0f clove, strawberry, plum and violet aroma were still present, but the taste was thin, weak and acidic to the point of vinegar-like.

Needless to say, the bottle was returned to the merchant for a refund. (Hint: Keep those receipts for a couple of months!)

To learn more about how the color of wine changes during bottle aging, check out this link:

In cooking it is said that you first eat with your eyes. Let color be your first impression of the wine you are pouring.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Necessity Is The Mother Of...

As my nephew and his bride embark on a new chapter of their lives, I thought about how great it is to get a fresh start. For those of us who are taking a chance on something new in our lives, I found a few suggestions for how to reinvent yourself.

Take small steps.
Do little things that scare you, accomplish them, and then develop a belief in yourself that you can do bigger things.

Do your research.
Talk to colleagues and friends about your plans, cruise classified ads and online discussion boards. Find a mentor who can guide you through the changes.

Form a support group.

Gather friends who are also thinking of making changes, career-related or otherwise.
Read books (perhaps biographies of others who have made life-altering moves) and brainstorm about the best ways to launch your reinvention.

Embrace your fear.

As long as you're moving forward, there are no wrong moves. Turn your fear into motivation.

Find your confidence.

Let go of the old life, reach for the new life, and trust yourself.

And don't forget to celebrate the small accomplishments along the way. Have a nice meal, open a special bottle, see a movie, schedule a spa treatment, take a trip, buy a small token to mark your progress. Above all, pat yourself on the back. Change is scary but also necessary for growth.

Good Luck Rolf and Wendy! Embrace this chance to reinvent yourselves.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Here We Come, Walking Down The Street

We get the funniest looks from
Everyone we meet!

Hey, Hey we are wassailing! (Guess I am channeling The Monkees)

Wassailing was associated in the United Kingdom with the Twelfth Night celebrations. These involved blessing the fields and remembering the twelve apostles. Along with drink, there would be a range of Twelfth Night customs including singing, merrymaking in disguise, guessing games and begging to enter a house. At times drink would be demanded while at other times drink would be brought by the participants to the house.

Below is a recipe for Bishop’s Wassail that uses red wine.

1 Bottle red wine
1Pint water
½ lb Honey
1 Lemon and orange, thinly sliced
4 Cloves
1 tsp. Cinnamon

Heat the ingredients, stirring constantly, to just below boiling point.
Pour into a punch bowl, at this point you can add some spirit and raisins. If you add a generous amount of Brandy, it is possible to set it aflame!

It was also often the custom to float toasted bread on top of the steaming liquid, hence the origin of our expression "to propose a toast".

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a wand'ring,
So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,
And to your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you a happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.

Lubricate those vocal cords and find your mittens!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy Hanukkah

Chanukah (Hanukkah) is the eight-day festival of light that begins on December 4th. It celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

During Chanukah it is customary to give gelt (money) to children, so that they can be taught to give some of it to charity.

This year, for our family gift exchange, we are giving to the charity that is important to the person whose name we drew. For me, the choice of my charity was difficult as I believe in many causes. Hunger, (Food Banks, etc.) self-sufficiency, (Heifer International), animal rights, (Humane Societies), medical research, (ACS and Alzheimers), wildlife and nature conservation, (Nature Conservancy, Dawn's flock rescue).... you get the drift.

Giving feeds your soul and is tax deductible. Give charitable donations a try this season.

So today, as you eat a latke (fried potato pancake), open a Kosher wine. Celebrate the miracle of the one day's supply of lamp oil that lasted eight days. Try the 2006 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. It is light golden in color and very aromatic. Nice acidity that will cut through the oiliness. The taste is very similar to a Sancerre.

I will leave you with a Hanukkah blessing that is spoken over the menorah tonight.

"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion."

Going Green

Organic has moved from crunchy granola to wine. To be labeled organic and bear the U.S.D.A. organic seal, at least 95 percent of the grapes must be grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Wineries that bottle organic wines can’t use chemical cleansers or preservatives.

Finding wine makers who use sustainable farming practices, which conserve soil and water, among other issues, is more difficult. New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov recently listed several winemakers who practice some form of organic, sustainable or natural winemaking in his article “When the Wine is Green". They includes Leflaive, Leroy and Lafon in Burgundy; Deiss and Zind Humbrecht in Alsace; Coul√©e de Serrant in Savenni√®res; Chapoutier in the Rhone; Pingus and Palacios in Spain; Movia in Slovenia; Araujo and Grgich Hills in California; Brick House in Oregon; and Cayuse in Washington.

Expand your wine color palate beyond red and white.... to green.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Breathe Deep

Yoga teaches you to focus and use your breath to fuel your strength. It also gives the oenophile an advantage when tasting wine.

Our olfactory receptors are equipped to distinguish more than 10,000 separate aromas. The sensory mechanism called the olfactory epithelium, a little patch about the size of the bar code on a wine-bottle back label, lies at the top of a bony cavern inside our skulls at the base of the brain.

Smells reach the olfactory epithelium through our noses. But smells also get there by an alternative route. Inside the mouth, at the back of the palate, is an internal opening called the "retro-nasal passage". It delivers another aroma shot straight to the brain, giving us a second chance to smell what we're about to swallow.

This mechanism likely evolved to give early humans a second line of defense against consuming rotten or spoiled food. But in modern times, it gives us another way to analyze our wine.

That is why you will sometime see people hold a small amount of wine in their mouth and suck in some air through slightly parted lips. They are aerating the wine and allowing the aromas to reach their retro-nasal passage.

Next time you pour a glass, try this method and see if you don't increase your enjoyment.

Living Up To Expectations

Ah, what an aroma! An erotic bouquet of white peaches, honeysuckle blossoms and a hint of apple. The crested bottle with the decorative label gave very little clues as to the varietal.

Upon further research, I found the 2005 Ottella from the Lugana appellation in the Veneto, was made with the Trebbiano grape. Also known as Ugni Blanc, it accounts for around a third of all white wine in Italy. Trebbiano is also used to produce balsamic vinegar and is the primary grape used in producing Cognac.

I would have preferred to drink either of those. The flavor profile was non-fruity, acidic and thin. It might pair well with a summer salad or shellfish but neither were in our fridge.

It reminded me again that you can't judge a wine by it's label, a book by it's cover (or Amazon rating) or a person by their looks, job or clothes. Once again, I am thankful that my mother showed me how to treat the people with whom I come in contact each day. She showed me that we are all connected and each of us matters.

Thanks Mom! I hope I live up to your expectations.