wine

Primera Part: Barcelona, ciutat de tapes i paelle

Three countries. Five cities. Ten days. It was an ambitious trip but we managed to accomplish two end goals: bring our son home from his semester abroad and eat our way across several different regions. We were also able to celebrate 30 years of marriage with every glass of champagne or prosecco, beginning on the flight over! So the journey was a success and I am excited to share so many delicious memories with my readers.

Our flight touched down in Barcelona in the early morning and we hit the ground running. After a quick Cafe Americano at the charming Cotton House hotel, we hopped on a bus to drive by popular sites and get our bearings. Ignoring the chilly weather and any tinges of jet-lag, we capped off our first evening with a walking Tapas Tour. If you know me at all, you know that I L-O-V-E nibble food, so I was more than ready to check out this very Spanish style of noshing. 

Our guide led us and two other couples through the Mercat de la Boqueria where we sampled Serrano Jamon and Manchego cheese from little paper cones, nibbled on cocoa covered hazelnuts and gaped at the butcher stands where EVERY part of the animal was available for purchase. We also visited two different style Tapas Bars--the first served popular tapas family style at the table: Patatas Bravas, fresh tomato bread, marinated peppers and veggies, croquetas, and Tortilla Española all came out in little dishes to be shared by the group. The second establishment offered a pinchos buffet. In this style of bar, you help yourself to any number of tapas varieties, all skewered on toothpicks, and the server simply counts the number of empty picks on your plate to calculate your bill. Seafood figured heavily into these offerings.

My takeaways from casual food in Barcelona:

  • Amazing slices of bread on which you spread fresh tomatoes that are so tender, they burst open when you rub the fruit on the crispy surface
  • Spanish extra-virgin olive oil which I loved drizzling over the above mentioned bread
  • Paper thin slices of jamon (spanish ham)
  • Salty, delicious manchego, a sheep's milk cheese that makes my heart sing

You could serve me the above items any night of the week and I would call it dinner! So first day/night done, and we were able to see a little of the city, taste some of it's flavors, partake of some wine and we were off to a great start.

The next day dawned cold and rainy in the city so we headed out on an hour train ride to visit Montserrat and the monastery set in the mountain. Our lunch at the Restaurant Montserrat was surprisingly lovely--surprising because most of the patrons are tourists and we've all experienced mediocrity of touristy establishments--lovely due to the inexpensive bottle of wine we shared (thought we were ordering a couple of glasses, got the entire bottle!), the fresh tomato bread, and the seafood we consumed.

That evening marked another culinary milestone for us...we dined at a Three-Star Michelin restaurant: Lasarte was elegant, subdued, and pleasantly meticulous. The service was perfection, casually friendly but at the same time, oh so professional. After we made our course decisions, a parade of amuse bouche found its way to the table. My favorite: a jalapeño ice cream that melted into a foam with a single salty clam. And of course, I loved the array of flavored butters presented in tiny little logs to accompany our bread selections. There were five flavors to choose from and I couldn't eat enough bread to sample them all! Our main courses of Chargrilled Pigeon (him) and Sea Bass (me) were stunning. It was a gastronomically excellent night and a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary.

Our final day in Barcelona was spent self-touring the cathedral and Ramblas area and a quick stop at the beach. For a mid-morning snack, we stumbled upon a pastry shop, Caelum, where we sipped cappuccino and agonized over which nun-produced pastries we wanted to try. No lie: the shop specializes in "heavenly" sweets baked by nuns from all over the country! For lunch we sat in sunny Plaça Reial and shared yet another board of tomato bread and serrano ham as well as a bottle of wine. (What?! I was on vacation!) Our only disappointing meal: the paella at Vez Pella, (which came highly recommended) which was served with little shrimp instead of the promised ubiquitous prawns. 

And we were on to the next city...

*The above title translates to "Part One: Barcelona, city of tapas and paella."

 

An evening in the Mediterranean

A sweet lady recommended Sachet on Oak Lawn to me and I did not wait to try it...she has great taste, after all. As it happens, we were trying to decide where to have dinner on a Thursday night and upon her comment, I called and made a reservation, excited to try something new.

Their only available times were 6:15 and 8:00, and as Thursday is not usually a late night for us, we opted for the earlier slot. We arrived at 6:10 and sat at the bar, because we like to check out all the aspects of a restaurant--including figuring out if sitting at the bar for dinner would be a good option in the future. Many times, JB and I enjoy having dinner at the bar...it's a luxury we couldn't indulge in B.E.N. (Before Empty Nesting) The bartender also clued us in that they are happy to let you sample any of their wines and there are so many and from all over!

The bar staff was casual but very friendly. We sipped our Sachet Manhattans and though we declined, the barman offered bread to nibble on while we enjoyed our drinks. A nice touch, I thought. Another nice touch: complimentary sparkling water at the bar and your table. 

The hostess led us to our table at 6:20 and she was also very friendly. She gushed about our table location and indeed, we loved where we were seated: near the kitchen but cushioned from most of the noise of the restaurant, we could have a lovely intimate conversation. We would definitely request that table again.

Our server was cute, happy and friendly. She said "everything is good" which is not super helpful when you are a first time diner, but i'll put that down to the newness of the restaurant. The menu is quite large so we had hoped for a little direction. But we muddled our way through...

The first section, titled Meze, lists no less than 19 options at 3 for $14 and 5 for $21. Most were vegetables, some nuts and olives, with the intent to be shared by the table. We opted for 1) French Lentils served on a spicy pepper dip, 2) Farro, mushrooms, and cauliflower in a lemon sauce and 3) Grilled Carrots and pepitas in an herb sauce. Honestly, this was not my favorite part of the meal. The Lentils were the most flavorful and all the items although "room temperature" were kinda cold. I would definitely order from the Meze again but choose totally different items until we found the tastes we favored.

From the Salad section, we selected the chopped salad ($11) which was perfect, with salumi, olives, sweet piquillo peppers, cucumber and manchego cheese. On the Appetizers list, I chose the Charred Octopus ($13) and it was AMAZING! Might have been my favorite thing all night. Octopus can be chewy when over-cooked and this single, lovely tentacle was seared to perfection.

The Pasta section offered nine menu items that our server promised were small enough to perform as appetizers as well. We selected Ricotta Gnocchi ($12) with prosciutto and Short Rib Ravioli ($13) with mushrooms and crispy kale. I could have eaten either of those dishes all. night. long. Absolutely fabulous. Wait, I just said the octopus was my favorite but I think it was a three-way tie!

After all that, we finally arrived at the main course and chose just one to share. The Grilled Branzino ($26) was two perfect little filets served on a bed of Swiss Chard and accented with Marcona almonds and a lovely lemon vinaigrette. The dish was delicious and a great choice to split after the other courses.

Wait--one more. For dessert we chose Almond cake with huckleberries and Lemon Ice Cream. Yum. Yum. and Yum. 

Other thoughts:

  • The decor is gorgeous and the place settings are adorable with the flatware encased in a little burlap pouch.
  • The lighting is just right, soft but not dark with a lot of natural light from large windows on two sides. 
  • I have used the word "friendly" three times to describe the staff.
  • The atmosphere in the restaurant is energetic and the groups we saw dining at tables for 6 or more made me think of friends that are happy to be together.
  • So much attention has been paid to the details and it really shows.

I know this has been a long review, but thanks for staying to the end...Sachet is a win. You should definitely make a reservation sooner rather than later. But forget about me telling you our table number, because I don't want any competition for that perfect little spot!

 

White Wine Romance

Summer has arrived in all of it’s hot, steamy glory. Everything changes for this season. If you have school-aged children, they will transition to camps, activities, summer jobs, or just sleeping in late. Schedules relax a bit with meals at odd times. The patterns of what we eat may change also; some of you may grill every other meal, never turn on the oven, or eat mainly cold food straight from the refrigerator. And beverages! Summer means lemonade, iced tea, frosty beer, sangria, mojitos, and frozen margaritas.
If you’re like me, on a summer evening after work or play, there’s nothing like a beautiful chilled glass of crisp white wine.

{The chilled glass is essential—JB fills mine with ice and adds water to get the melt going. When the glass is chilled just right, he often offers the water to me to drink before dumping the ice to replace it with wine. Gotta hydrate, am I right?}

I have enjoyed many a robust red in my time. Cabernet Sauvignon with my steaks, and Pinot Noir with my Thanksgiving turkey. I like Chianti with my Italian meals and a nice Malbec with brisket. But I always considered white wine as a warm weather beverage that must only accompany chicken, seafood, and meatless dishes.

However, as of late I find that white wine doesn’t give me a headache or make me sleepy. I can consume several glasses without getting tipsy and let’s all agree, it can be sooooooooo refreshing. So I must confess that I have transitioned to a year-round white wine drinker. Sometimes I go against all conventional thought and enjoy a Sauvignon Blanc with WHATEVER I’m eating!

Turns out I’m not the only woman trending this direction in wine consumption. I recently read a Wall Street Journal article titled “Why More Women Are Siding with White Wine“ and found I am not alone in choosing the lighter version of the grape’s bounty. Many females cite health issues as their reason but a lot of women just prefer the refreshment quality of the whites. Click here to read the article and see the author’s picks for 5 good bottles to feed a white-wine addiction.

And armed with this justification (hey! it’s the Journal!) I will continue down my white wine path into these hot summer days and beyond! :)

How to plan a perfect date night

Step 1.Choose your date. Whom should you take? Well, obviously- your best friend or soul mate, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, daughter, son, any of these will do. And sometimes if you’re very fortunate, the person qualifies for 3 of these descriptions.

Step 2.Choose a day. Now that we are empty nesters, we like Thursday. It starts the weekend, without the crowds and we are always relaxed near the end of the work week. But Saturday is good too. Or Sunday. Or Monday. Finding a day that will work for both of you is key!

Our date night this past week

Our date night this past week

Step 3. Choose your venue. It can be the pizza parlor around the corner or the swanky steak place on Oak Lawn (this was our date this week thanks to a most generous patron). You can take a picnic to the Arboretum or White Rock Lake. Pick a place you’ve never been or one of your old favorites.

Step 4.Commit to putting your phones away while you’re out together. Be present in the moment.

Step 5. Eat a little or eat a lot. Drink a little or drink a lot (Uber required). Laugh. Talk. Whisper. Conspire.

Step 6. (optional)Dance, with or without music. In the parking lot or in the car—yes, you can chair dance in the car—it’s fun! On your front porch, in the bedroom, in the foyer with the kids watching. Dancing is an added bonus to the date experience.

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We all have busy lives but take time to plan a date night this week; you won’t regret it. And for the other nights of the week, I have some delightful menu options for you…see the menu tab above.

Time flies pretty fast from here to the end of the year

This is the time of year when my to-do list is so long, I know I will not complete everything by the end of day. But that’s okay—as long as I keep making lists and trying to cross off a few items when I can, I am making progress!
Its time to start thinking about holiday gifts and meals again and I am very excited about introducing these tasty recipes. New this year, I am offering Pies & Sides for the Thanksgiving week.  I will feature 5 scrumptious pies and several delicious side dishes so you can round out your own Thanksgiving table or be the star who contributes something special to the potluck! (Ask me how you can have a pie baked in your Grandma’s pie plate to take to your gathering!)

My gift selection this year has grown again – and I can’t wait for you to try everything at my Sip & Sample event this Thursday, November 6!  If you did not receive an invitation via post or evite, message me and I will happy to share the details.  I will be sampling ALL of my gift goodies as well as a couple of savory items, several sweet pies and Dallas Fine Wine and Spirits will be on hand so you can taste a couple of wines that pair well with my savory and sweet items.  And I have ideas on how to put together a fabulous, unique gift for that boss who is hard to shop for, the sweet neighbor who always watches your home when you’re gone, your children’s teachers and of course, clients that you want to thank for their business throughout the year.  Don’t miss this fun evening, you’ll have first pick of delivery dates and of course, the opportunity to try many delectable goodies before you plan to give them away.

I am operating a limited pick-up this week for my Dinner Menu since I will be busy with the Sip & Sample on Thursday.  I’m making customer favorites and a new unique pie, here are the mouth-watering details and info on how to order: Menu for Nov 3