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Category Archives: Apricot

Sip Happens… It’s Okay to WINE

Sip Happens… It’s Okay to WINE
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Lynie and me at Bob’s Wine Class

Took a spectacular wine class last weekend at the local community center in my town with my neighbor Lynn. Lynn also happens to be my husband’s cousin, so that makes her extra special. She got me excited about signing up for the class a few months ago, and boy am I glad I did. I’m usually a food blogger. But wine goes well with food, right?

In today’s blog, I will be sharing the highlights about what you need to know about wine and sharing my favorite risotto recipe. Bob Becker a certified Sommelier and Wine professional gave the wine analysis presentation along with his wife Darla. Lynie and I and several other wine enthusiasts learned that Americans drink 900 million gallons of wine a year!  It was interesting to find out that there were only 40 wineries back in 1970. And today, there are 9000 wineries in the US! We like our wine. In fact, Bob said that Americans drank 3.7 billion bottles of wine in 2017!

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My nieces Keri and Jamie last December at Rombauer in St Helena

I had no idea how complicated wine tasting could be. We went through the Seven Components that make up the structure (there happens to be 1200 components in a glass of wine): Aroma, Alcohol, Sugar, Acid, Tannin, Texture, and Body were what we covered.These characteristics helped us learn how to identify the glasses we had in front of us. During our lifetime, we create a memory bank of aromas that our brain remembers when drinking wine. The three types of Aroma are Natural/Floral like a Viognier, a Bouquet aroma (the wine is 4 or 5 yrs old) and was made w molecular equilibrium like raisin or leather aroma, or Wine Maker Infused because of the wine barrels. There are American, French and Hungarian wood barrels.

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Lynie getting serious while waiting for Bob’s presentation

American barrels might smell like vanilla, dill or coconut. Where as the French barrels have a caramel, spice or nutmeg aroma. The Hungarian may taste like cinnamon or cloves and the winemakers add wood chips to get these flavors when they burn the barrels. True story. They can only flavor wine in a barrel three times before these barrels are discarded. When Bob worked at Hess in Napa they had 3,500 barrels at one time and each barrel cost approximately $1,600 each. That’s a lot of moolah.

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Bob’s wife Darla and a few happy participants

Then we learned the five step tasting method: Sight, Swirl, SniffSip and Summarize. Sight– When looking at your wine, look for clarity.  Is it crystal clear? How old is it? White wines get darker after 4 yrs because they start oxidizing. What climate was it grown in? Red wines get lighter as they age. The color pigments fall to the bottom and at 4-6 yrs old the reds have a different color at the outer edge rim part of the glass. Are you confused yet?

Actually we were just getting started tasting the various wines sitting in front of us. It was so fun. When one Swirls, you are aerating the wine releasing esters of aroma molecules that enter the nose. Fun fact! Right handers swirl their wine glass counterclockwise and left handers clockwise. Apparently, legs are those streaks that trickle down the side of any wine glass after you swirl it. They tell nothing about wine. It means the cabernet grapes had thick skin. The slower the legs the more alcohol.

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Lynie and I had to identify various Smells like coconut, pear, lemon, cloves, raspberry, pineapple, diesel and mildew (cause from a moldy cork) that were located in small bottles on the table. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to remember each of these. Smell is the gateway to flavor. For example, New Zealand’s wines have more of a lychee aroma. A Spanish wine over 10 years old will smell like leather. A Viognier white wine may taste like white peaches, apricots or a green apple aroma. And we learned that no two people smell things alike. Who knew?

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My dad Ron and my friend Susan at Rombauer a few years ago. Of course I was trying to be a matchmaker again

It was so interesting to find out that everyone has a dominant nostril when Sniffing wine. The professionals hold their glass within an ⅛ of an inch of the rim to properly sniff. They tilt the glass and use only one nostril. Fascinating!  

Now I know I was supposed to take notes on Sipping and Summarizing too, but there is nothing written here. I wonder if the wine was kicking in…

Bob also talked about ways to recognize bad wine. For instance, if you make a reservation for an earlier time, the restaurants may be serving wine from the day before that doesn’t taste quite right. And if you are paying $12-16 dollars for a glass of wine, it should taste good. Call the waiter and have them open a new bottle in front of you so you know it isn’t old. Great tip!

We talked about Infrared Thermometers that help tell the wine’s exact temperature. We now know that lying a bottle on its side helps prevent air getting in and that we should keep the bottles in a cool dark 55 degree room. Wine cellars can cost $87,000 to build! Interestingly enough, don’t store your wine in a home fridge because they vibrate in there and that changes the flavor of the wine prematurely. It’s also too cold and dry in your home fridge. For those of you that only drink a glass or two a night, buy a coravin. These help suck the wine into your glass and keep the cork in place to keep the wine fresh. These are just a few of the many interesting wine tasting tricks in Bob’s class.

Bob was clear about serving wine from a clear glass with a stem that is thin with a narrow rim like these or these.  The thinner the glass the better the wine tastes. I know these rules are boring you, but I’m excited to have my next dinner party and show off all of my new wine tips.
Thank goodness red wine has beneficial health benefits too. Although it’s best to not over drink. Make sure to drink a wine that is older than 10 years quickly and don’t decant it. The oxygen destroys the flavor immediately. 

Also- Bob pointed out that screw tops are perfectly fine, they are fabulous at preserving wine and are better than corked wines. Five out of every 100 wine bottles have bad corks!

The characteristics of a well made wine are: Expressiveness, Complexity, Pleasing Texture, Balance and Lingering Finish. When you swallow, how long does the flavor stay on your palate? Does it burn the back of your throat going down? This may mean it has a high alcohol content. Side note: Bob mentioned Screaming Eagle Wine founded by female winemaker Jean Phillips. He and Darla had the pleasure of enjoying her wine for $1,200 a bottle! No kidding.

One of the most interesting facts about the class was realizing that wine is full of SUGAR. These bottles show how much sugar is in each wine. Sparkling wine like Cava/Spain, Prosecco/Italy, and Roederer/France has less sugar and go with many foods. It’s against the law to add sugar to wine. Just before the wine is bottled, the vintners dump raw grape juice into the bottle. The yeast eats the sugar and ethyl alcohol is produced.

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At the end of the class Bob revealed what we were drinking. It was fun to find out more about these wines. My favorite was either #4 or #5 because I was picking up a coffee aroma and I love coffee.

#1 A Sauvignon Blanc from Smart Cookie Vineyards

#2 Chenin Blanc from Beringer

#3 A Zinfandel from Quackenbush

#4 Pisano RPF Uruguay Tannat 2013

#5 Apothic Red 2015
I could go on and on with more wine tips, but why not take a class like Bob’s? His email is Beck711@comcast.net. He also does private parties. Or you could go wine tasting at Page Mill Winery in Livermore and meet my hiking friend Debbie.She knows her stuff. Lots of cool things to do in Livermore.

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Wine Wheel that helps while wine tasting

In Bob’s  words “If you wine a little bit, you’ll feel a lot better.” Well, I can tell you that my husbands cousin Lynie and I definitely felt a lot better after taking his class. I hope you have enjoyed this write up and have picked up a thing or two about wine.

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And finally, I will end with a quote from Benjamin Franklin. “In wine there is wisdom, in beer freedom, in water there is bacteria. I think I’ll plan a day trip to the Napa Valley, Livermore or Healdsburg. Anyone want to go? Hit me up! Leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite wine tip.

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My fav chef Michael Chiarello even has his own wine. Pic taken a few years back at Bottega restaurant in Yountville at Marketplace

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Reasons why you should visit Oakland’s Insanely Good Food Scene

Reasons why you should visit Oakland’s Insanely Good Food Scene

 

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Beautiful graffiti art in West Oakland

Had a fabulous day last Friday exploring Tanya Holland’s Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen Restaurant with my friend Sandra. We also took a walk through of the historic Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, one of my favorite places. We shared stories and got caught up while sipping on Peet’s Coffee and nibbling on treats from Fournee Bakery. All this on a rainy March afternoon, so I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

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The view outside Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland

Firstly, If you haven’t checked out Bravo’s Top Chef competition, it’s a must. I’ve been watching since the beginning and I’m hooked. Of course I love learning as much as I can about cooking and I follow the chefs on Instagram to see what they are up to. Tanya Holland owns an Oakland restaurant called Brown Sugar Kitchen. This place is off the beaten path so lucky I had a Google map to find my way there.

Sandra and I were excited to sit at the counter alongside Tanya herself cooking during the lunch rush. The place was packed, but we were happy to sit and watch the chef making her famous soul food recipes like her Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Cornmeal Waffle served w brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup. Yum. Obviously she was teaching her sous chef a few things because I’m sure she is needed in other areas promoting her cookbook written in 2014 and getting other restaurants up and running. Last September she announced she would be opening a BSKC Brown Sugar Kitchen Counter at the San Francisco Ferry Building, and hopes to expand her brand to the Warriors new Chase Center.

The food was exciting, flavorful and soulful. I ordered the Blackened Catfish served on top of rice with roasted red pepper sauce and pickled vegetables. It was good old fashioned comfort food and a huge portion of which I packed up to bring home for later. Sandra ordered the Creole BBQ Shrimp, basmati rice and baby spinach. She kept going back for more of the spicy dish and we shared the garlic green beans. Sadly, I couldn’t find collard greens on the menu, but loved the perfectly seared green beans.

We didn’t stay for dessert, but I got a close up photo of a banana cake w caramel ganache, a red velvet cake and sticky buns with pecans. This place serves my kind of food and it isn’t stuffy like other East Bay restaurants. The drink menu was limited, but I was happy with Drake’s Hefeweizen and fresh lemon. Sandra went for the Urban Cellars California Viognier. And just today I realized Tanya has teamed up with Humphry Slocombes and is making a brown sugar ice-cream with apple jam and a cornmeal cookie. Delicious!

Well,  if I haven’t convinced you to make a trip to the Oakland/Berkeley area yet then I will tell you about a few more places to visit. The Claremont Hotel and Spa happened to be on our way home and Sandra and I couldn’t help ourselves but to stop in for a look see. My husband and I have stayed here before and loved it. We actually spent the first night of our honeymoon there at the Claremont over 29 years ago. It’s historical because it opened in 1915. Even my grandparents frequented there back in the day. My mother and sister and I spent time at their spa getting massages and relaxing by the pool to celebrate Mother’s Day one year.  Their new bar Limewood looked fun and exciting, has a gorgeous view of San Francisco and features craft cocktails, small bites and afternoon tea.

Across from this gorgeous hotel sits Fournee Bakery where we purchased fresh fougasse and French baguettes for our Friday night supper. They sell seasonal desserts like trifles, a TCHO Chocolate salted caramel cake, tarte tatin, Valrhona chocolate mousse cake, and an orange flavored Basque cake.

Lucky for us, Peet’s Coffee was located right next door to the bakery so we could have our favorite espresso mochas while chatting about our day. Overall, I can’t imagine a more fun way to spend a Friday. I loved catching up with Sandra and hearing about her favorite Greek recipes that her and her husband George whip up. They’ve lived near us for over 20 years and have raised their kids in the same neighborhood as us attending the same schools and swim team.

I’m blessed to have the greatest friends who love to have foodie days with me. I hope I’ve given enough reasons to visit the Oakland Berkeley area. I can’t wait to plan my next outing. Any takers? Leave me a comment below and tell me where you would like to go. But first check out this delicious savory tart which would be perfect served on Easter morning or on any occasion. I made it for my coffee group and the women raved about it and of course asked for the recipe. Here it is.

Fennel, Goat Cheese and Cardamom Tart

Pastry Dough Recipe

1 ½ C Unbleached Flour

¾ Stick (6T) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

¼ t Kosher salt

4 to 5 T Ice Cold H20

For Tart Filling

2 large fennel bulbs @ 2 ½ lbs

1 large leek

8 green cardamom pods (or 1 t cardamom spice powder)

¼ C white wine or champagne

¼ C H20

¼ C Olive Oil

1 t Kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 large egg yolk

½ C heavy cream

½ C whole milk

¼ C goat cheese

3 Oz (½ C) Taleggio Cheese cut into extra small cubes

Make pastry dough for tart:

In a food processor, blend flour, salt and butter until blended. Or use pastry cutter or fingers just until most of  resembles coarse meal. Add cold water and blend until combined. Do not over mix or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and make into a ball and flatten. Cover completely and let it rest in fridge to chill.

Directions for filling:

Cut off and discard fennel stalks and fronds. Cut out core and cut up fennel into ¼ in thick slices. Wash and cut leek into ¼ in slices using white parts only. Flatten cardamom pods with side of large heavy knife, then remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds with side of knife and chop finely. Or sprinkle cardamom spice powder onto leeks and fennel in a 12 inch heavy skillet. Add wine, water, butter, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, covered over moderately low heat stirring occasionally until tender about 20 to 25 min. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure rack is in center of oven.

Roll out dough into a 15 in round tart pan. I use plastic wrap to  prevent dough from sticking to rolling pin. Trim dough so that it is flush with rim of pan. Lightly prick dough with a fork, then chill for 30 min. Line shell with foil (I spray with Pam first)and fill with dry kidney beans, rice or pie weights.Bake on a large baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake 10 -15 min longer or until tart shell is golden brown. Remove from oven.

Whisk together eggs, yolk, until foamy and add milk, cream, goat cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer fennel and leek mixture into pastry shell spreading evenly, and dot with taleggio cheese. Pour custard into shell and bake until set about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Serves 6-8 people

 

 

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Should You Take a Summer Vacation or Make Apricot Jam?

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July is almost here, which means most people are trying to get out of town for their annual summer vacation. Me? Well, besides starting a new job, I have plenty to keep me busy in the kitchen. Last week I decided it was time to get my apricot jam on. I mean, get going on the dozens of jars of preserves that I make every year. Apricots are my mom’s favorite fruit. It might me mine too, but I’ve got a thing for cherries too. Vacation is definitely NOT in the plans quite yet. Staycation is where it’s at.

Every year in mid June I drive to Brentwood and purchase 3 cases of Blenheim apricots. (I planted my own Blenheim tree a few years ago, but the critters always get to them before I do!) I love to give the jars to friends and relatives as a hostess gift all year long. My sister in law Nancy thinks I should sell my jam, but I’d rather treat those I love to this special treat. It is great on toast with a little butter or my husband’s fav is to smear it on his toast that has peanut butter on it. I like to use it in my home made salad dressings.

It starts with a call to Wolfe Ranch in the beginning of June. I make an appointment to come by and get the apricots when they are first picked. They have my cases ready when I get there.

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When I get home, I separate the apricots on sheet pans lined with paper towels and wait until they are good and ripe before starting my preserves.

I always use the less sugar Sure Jell fruit pectin (pink package) because it is not as sweet and somewhat healthier. I set out all the ingredients, have the jam jars and lids cleaned and sitting in a hot water bath, have the wax melted in a sauce pan on the stove, have the food processor on the counter next to my measuring cups, lemon juice freshly squeezed, and butter and sugar out ready to go.

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Next, I wash the apricots and cut them in half. I pulse them in the food processor and also cut some of them up with a small knife. DO NOT puree. Then I follow the cooked jam recipe exactly from the Sure Jell package.

  •  I measure exactly 6 cups of apricots into an 8 quart deep sauce pan and stir in 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp unsalted butter.
  •  Measure 4½ C sugar into a separate bowl.
  • Mix ¼ C of sugar from measured amount into a small bowl with 1 box of Sure Jell.
  •  Stir pectin-sugar mixture into fruit
  •   Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat stirring constantly.
  •  Stir in remaining sugar quickly and return to a full rolling boil for exactly 1 1/2 minutes.
  •  Remove from heat and ladle into prepared jars. Fill to within 1/8 inch of the top of the jar. Ladle in paraffin wax.
  • Cover with lids and screw bands on tightly. When cool, wipe off any excess jam on the outside with a warm wash cloth. Enjoy!

Have you ever made jam? Leave a comment for me below and tell me about your tradition. Maybe you like to make pickles or can vegetables. I’d love to try pickling. What are you curious to make? I’m always inspired by the people who live in the middle of nowhere and have to use these methods to keep their food preserved.

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Are you getting away this summer or will you be hanging out at home like me? Either way, keep enjoying what you do. Try to give back when you can. And love the ones you’re with. We need more peace and love in the world. Listen to The Beatles “Let It Be.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih-8K1a_SsA  The Beatles “Let it Be”My all time favorite song because my mom played the clarinet to this song at a Catholic Marriage Retreat when I was a little girl.

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Feel free to check out a previous blog here: https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/a-foodies-dream-edible-flowers-and-delicious-cocktails/

 

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How and Why You need Blackberry Pie

How and Why You need Blackberry Pie

  Let’s Make Mud Pies

Berries. Wonderful Berries.

Why should you make a blackberry pie? That’s a no brainer. Blackberry pie is one of my all time favorite things to make and eat. You can’t have a bad day after treating yourself to a piece of pie. Especially a homemade one. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream it’s the perfect treat. And in just three months the apricots will be back in season and we can bake apricot pies too.

The crust is crispy, crunchy and fall apart melt in your mouth delicious. Blackberries aren’t really in season anymore, but Costco seems to have palates of them. You could  substitute blueberries if you prefer.

This recipe is fairly easy to make and worthwhile for sure. I hope you will try it too!

You can make the berry mixture ahead of time and keep refrigerated and do the same with the dough as well. Here’s how…

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Ingredients:

1 bag of frozen blackberries

2 containers of fresh blackberries

3/4 C. granulated sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the berry)

1 T dried tapioca pearls

1 T of cornstarch

2 T water

2 T lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1/4 teas grated nutmeg

1/2 teas kosher salt

2 T unsalted butter

Instructions:

Dump frozen blackberries into medium sized saucepan with sugar, tapioca, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook over med high heat until sauce is boiling. Mix water and cornstarch and pour into boiling berry mixture and cook until thickened. Cool. Fold fresh blackberries into cooled mixture.

I  find that by using a mixture of frozen berries and fresh berries, it brings out the best flavor and texture to your pie.

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Pie Crust

Ingredients:

3 C. Flour

2 T Sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (1 stick)

¼ C. Shortening

3 Tbsp  H2O

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tsp white distilled vinegar

Instructions:

  1.    In a  large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blended and working quickly to prevent butter from melting into flour, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (or put mixture in food processor and pulse until combined)
  2.    In a small bowl combine water, egg, and vinegar. Stir to mix. With a fork, mix egg mixture into flour just until dough clumps together and moist enough to pat together. If dough is dry and crumbly, add more water 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should not be wet or sticky. (I use the food processor and pulse until combined.)
  3. Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  4.    Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten

This makes enough for two single-crust pies.

Once you have your dough rested and your filling cooled you can fill, dot with butter and top your pie.  Use any cookie cutter you have, or go with the traditional lattice topping.

Pastry likes to stay cold before baked. So put the pie in the freezer for an hour or so before baking to get that great pie crust, if you can wait that long…

Brush with a whole beaten egg. Sprinkle with additional sugar and bake on a sheet pan in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour or until golden and bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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Enjoy!

Last Fall, my husband and I visited Boa Vista Farms http://www.boavista.com/ where they sell frozen pre made pies like apple and berry. We had a blast tasting their apple pastries, apple doughnuts, and caramel apples. They have a fun Wine Tasting counter as well. Worth a drive up to the Placerville area for sure.

Please leave a comment below and follow my blog so you will receive the next one in your inbox. I’d love it if you share this recipe on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Happy Baking!

Teri Smyth

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in Apricot, Blackberry, Dessert, Foodie, Pie, Uncategorized

 

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