Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nip At Night

If you have a nip of alcohol at bedtime, it may actually help you to fall asleep, provided you don't do it too often as the sleep-inducing effect can wear off.

Studies show that a moderate dose of alcohol consumed as much as three hours before bedtime can increase wakefulness during the second half of sleep, even though the alcohol has already gone from your body by that time.

If you do want to savor a little wine with your dinner, here's how to make sure alcohol won't hamper your shut-eye that night:

Follow the three-hour rule. Finish drinking at least three hours before bedtime.
Take it easy. Don't overdo your imbibing. Stick with one or two drinks per day.
Retire early. Try not to stay up too much past your usual bedtime as this will increase alcohol's sleep-depriving effects.
Hydrate. Follow the one-for-one rule: Drink one glass of water for every glass of alcohol to help prevent dehydration. And down a few extra glasses of water the next morning, too.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fight The Flu

A new scientific study offers good news for both athletes and wine fans. Researchers at the University of South Carolina say a chemical found abundantly in red wine, apples and onions helps protect against influenza, especially after a rigorous respiratory workout when the body is more susceptible to infection.

The chemical, quercetin, is a known anti-inflammatory found in the skins of fruit and vegetables. The study notes that the anti-viral properties of quercetin remain unknown, but it speculates that the compound may block the ability of the virus to replicate itself.

The South Carolina study is not the only recent research to highlight quercetin. In the March 2008 issue of Atherosclerosis, a study conducted by the Institute of Food Research in England found that the compound reduces inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease.

Try this recipe and serve with your favorite glass of red wine.


3 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/8 tsp. dried mint
Pinch ground cloves
2 lb. red onions quartered lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise (about 4 c.)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 Granny Smith apple
In small bowl combine 2/3 cup warm water, vinegar, honey, raisins, mint, and cloves and let mix stand while cooking onions. In large skillet cook onions in the oil and the butter, covered over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.

Remove lid and continue to cook stirring for 30 minutes or until very soft. Stir in raisin mixture and the apple, peeled and cut into fine dice. Cook over moderate heat until liquid is almost evaporated and apple is very tender and season with salt and pepper.

The chutney may be made 3 days in advance, cooled, kept covered and chilled.

Blend until smooth and use as a glaze for roast ham or chicken, or stir in a little mustard and use as a dipping sauce for shish kebabs. You could also chop it and swirl into softened cream cheese to serve with crackers or apple slices. Or stir into mayonnaise when you want a delicious spread for ham or turkey sandwiches.

A Votre Sante! ( To Your Health!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Buy This Wine

Bought it, drank it, loved it and now, I can't find it! If you get the chance, buy this wine.

Friday we enjoyed the 2003 Lo Brujo Roble Calatayud from Bodega Virgen de la Sierra. This 579 member cooperative winery is located in the village of Villaroya de la Sierra. Mellow in your mouth, medium-bodied and memorable, need I say more?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Big City Bites

Hurricane Ike impacted our Chicago weekend. Most of our time was spent inside a building or car.

Friday afternoon we were able to walk to a nearby boutique liquor store, Lush Wine and Spirits on Halstad St. Their focus is on lesser-known, interesting wines. I loved their chandeliers made out of wine glasses. We tried a Daniel Olivier Sauvignon Blanc- Semillion Blend which was uninspiring and a Lo Brujo Roble Calatayud that was a winner. Wish I would have bought a case!

That evening, we ordered in Chicago's famous stuffed pizza. The sausage and green olive from Giordano oozed with a thick layer of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. One slice was more than enough to satisfy my appetite. The Engelking's upstairs windows offered us a glimpse of the city's shrouded skyline.

Saturday was Dim Sum day in Chinatown. Crowding the streets and sidewalks, old and young residents shopped, smoked or talked on their cell phones, while negotiating traffic. Vendors delivered fresh produce and one open truck had freshly skinned goats hanging inside. Our choice of restaurants was based solely on the number of locals waiting to eat. My favorite was the crispy fried taro. Poi never tasted so good!

Our architectural tour was via Patrick's Honda Fit and my favorite was the Carbide and Carbon building. According to popular legend, the architects chose its dark green and gold colors based on a gold-foiled champagne bottle. The Great Chicago Fire is said to have started around 9 o'clock on Sunday evening, October 8, 1871, somewhere in or very near the O'Leary barn. One of the few buildings to survive was the Chicago Water Tower. Constructed in 1869 using big limestone blocks, its small towers in a 'gothic style', resembles a tiny European 13th century castle.

Rockstar Dog is a one-room, cash only storefront on Ashland, where we ordered the Zeppelin hot dog topped with shocking neon green relish, cheese, onions, hot peppers, tomatoes and celery salt. Every order comes with fries and a soda and if the mood strikes, you can take turns at the stripper pole up front while you wait.

After walking in the rain to the Spice House in Old Town, we needed to warm up both inside and out. The Matchbox was filled with kitschy memorabilia and candlelight that added even more character to this unbelievably tight corner bar. A dozen stools consume all but a few inches along the length of the narrow, window-lined room. The bartender's music choice was classic Johnny Cash, which amplified the melancholy afternoon vibe.

Ike's wet fist still gripped the city on Sunday so we headed home.

Thanks again for your hospitality, Jessica and Patrick!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Windy City

My kind of town, Chicago is.... or will be, this weekend. Can't wait to fill you in on all the sights, eats and drinks.

See you next week!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Minnesota Grown

Today, our local farm report included one on the favorable grape harvest. With the annual Carlos Creek Grape Stomp this weekend, I thought it might be fun to look at a few varieties grown in Minnesota.

Introduced in 1995, Frontenac is the first in a series of new wine grape varieties developed by the University of Minnesota for Upper Midwest conditions. It is a very cold hardy vine and has borne a full crop after temperatures as low as -30 F and is also a very disease resistant. When grown in colder area the berries must be left on the vine long enough to mature fully. It produces only a moderate number of tendrils, which facilitates vine management.

Marechal Foch is a short season French-American hybrid small-cluster grape with hard-cold tolerance to -20 deg. F. It has good resistance to the usual diseases and normally ripens in early September. Grows well in sandy soils, but may need grafting for use in heavier soil types. Noted for producing somewhat light, yet deeply colored and strongly varietal wines described as having a “Burgundian” character. Usually needs the help of carbonic maceration or hot-pressing to enhance quality.

Frontenac Gris is a white wine grape. Found growing at the University of Minnesota as a sport of Frontenac. Culturally, it is identical to Frontenac, having high vigor and yields. Hardy to at least -38 F. Disease resistance is good, with moderate susceptibility to powdery mildew and black rot, and very low susceptibility to downy mildew. Small grey berries are born on medium sized, loose clusters. Suitable for high quality table and dessert wines, possibly ice wine as well. Ripens mid season with aromas that include peach, apricot, citrus, and pineapple.

Seyval (Seyval blanc) is one of the most widely planted hybrid grapes east of the Rocky Mountains. When grapes are harvested at optimal maturity, wines have attractive aromas of grass, hay, and melon. The body tends to be thin, and either malolactic fermentation or barrel fermentation followed by oak aging will enhance quality. The vine tends to overbear and must be cluster and shoot thinned to ensure proper ripening and maintain vine size. Grafting is also recommended on all but the most fertile sites. Fruit clusters are very susceptible to Botrytis bunch rot.

The report concluded that our home-grown wines are becoming more palatable. From the few that I have tasted, we have a way to go. But, with more growers planting vines, it may be just a matter of time before you open a Minnesota wine with dinner.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bottoms Up

Taking a sip of red wine with a bite of red meat is a carnivore's dream come true. And now a team of Israeli scientists say the stomach likes the pairing as much as the mouth. In a report published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, they found that red wine helps the stomach remove potentially harmful substances found in red meats, which are released during digestion, before the chemicals can do the body harm.

And, the researchers say, this same process is also likely to happen with the digestion of other foods that contain the damaging compounds, called lipid hydroperoxides (LOOH) and malonaldehydes (MDA), such as fried, processed foods and products manufactured for long-term storage.

Here's a toast to more good red wine news!