All posts by Barbara Payne, Editor

Writer/editor - food, wine, spirits, travel and fun, plus news about developments in biomedicine and about single working women

Chocolate and wine ideas for Mother’s Day

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Cacao beans for chocolate
Cacao beans for chocolate – Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

It’s fun trying new products and sharing with you. Today we’ve got a bit of news about canned wine, and are introducing a new flavor from Round Barn Winery & Distillery in Michigan, along with a new brand of dark chocolate from South America by To’ak.

A recent surprising trend has single-serve, canned wines moving dramatically higher on the popularity scale. Convenience – undeniable. Less waste – you don’t have to open a whole bottle of wine to enjoy a glass. Safety – no need to worry about glass breaking if you take your wine outside, on a picnic in your backyard or sitting in the audience to enjoy a concert in Millennium Park…hopefully one day soon again. Maybe this year for Mother’s Day, plan a picnic on the living room floor!

Get on board with Round Barn's raspberry lemonade sparkler
Get on board with Round Barn’s raspberry lemonade sparkler

Baroda, MI-based Round Barn Winery has added Raspberry Lemonade as the fifth flavor in its lineup of refreshing canned wine options. The new variety blends wine from the winery’s proprietary grapes with natural raspberry and lemon concentrates to create a liquid refresher with a touch of carbonation and 5% alcohol. No high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or artificial flavors are used. Each 12-ounce can – somewhat misleadingly presented as two 6-ounce servings ‘cuz who’s gonna drink half a can? – contains 24 grams of sugar, 10 of which are added, so it’s fairly heavy in sugar. But it also happily doesn’t use any of the not-so-healthy artificial sweeteners. This new flavor is a very pleasant, slightly sweet, lightly fizzy drink with a delightful tang of raspberry and lemon that sparks your taste buds. Would make a lovely brunch cocktail, an aperitif or even a dessert wine – kind of like a Prosecco with a tangy edge to it or a mimosa with raspberry and lemon.

To'ak dark chocolate mini-bars
To’ak dark chocolate mini-bars

The chocolate is dark – full of antioxidants – and made by To’ak in a way that preserves the biodiversity of Ecuador, which they say is the birthplace of cacao. The sample we got came in three flavors that actually carry a “vintage,” that is, the year in which the cacao was picked and made into chocolate. They even give you a little guide that tells you how to smell and taste, and it gives practice naming the taste sensations you experience. Just like your wine.

  • Rain Harvest 2015 Dark (80.5% cacao). Tasting notes say floral, woody, herbal, earthy, berries.
  • El Nino Harvest 2016 (78% cacao). Notes say ripe banana, mint, floral, earthy, berries.
  • Rain Harvest 2017 (70% cacao). Notes say pistachio, orange bitters, black cherries.

Perfect! Sparkling wine and chocolate for Mother’s Day brunch!

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Our caring city of Chicago – food for the hungry and health workers

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The times are incredibly stressful as state governments begin declaring extensions to the stay-at-home orders. The COVID-19 crisis continues to have a profound impact as individuals and businesses struggle with how to respond. As a part of this new reality, many homeless shelters around the country have been temporarily shut down or had their services modified, leaving many without access to food and shelter.

Wrigley Field hosts Lakeview Food Pantry
Wrigley Field hosts Lakeview Food Pantry

The Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field are stepping in big-time to host Lakeview Pantry, and many Lakeview area residents are volunteering their time to help, reports 44th Ward’s Alderman Tom Tunney. Thanks to Vince Fetsch for volunteering and for sharing photos from Wrigley Field , and thanks to Koval Distillery for procuring sanitizer for some of our senior housing facilities. You can support Koval’s efforts, order sanitizer or request a donation here.

Meanwhile, Celebrity chef Art Smith’s popular Windy City eatery Chicago q has launched an initiative to provide free hot meals to the homeless, hungry and healthcare workers who are working so hard to keep Chicagoans healthy. “Before the quarantine, the homeless had a place to go each day of the week to receive a warm meal. However, with many of the shelters now closed, there are many days where they have nowhere to go.” states Fred Latsko, real estate developer & owner of Chicago q. “We are hoping to pick these days up until the crisis is over and the shelters reopen.” Thus far, the restaurant has handed out more than 1,000 hot meals. Kudos, Fred Latsko and Chef Smith!

In addition to the city’s homeless, the team at Top Nosh Hospitality** wants to do what it can to thank and support healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital staff, paramedics and other have also been invited to pick up complementary hot meals from Chicago q.
The meals vary slightly week by week but all include a hearty helping of Chef Art Smith’s signature Southern-inspired fare. For example, this weekend’s menu will include:

  • Saturday, May 2nd – 4 to 6pm: Pulled Pork Sandwich, Side of Coleslaw, Carrot Cake Muffin, Bottled Water
  • Sunday, May 3rd, 4 to 6pm: Fried Chicken Sandwich, Side of Coleslaw, Carrot Cake Muffin, Bottled Water

** Chicago q, 1160 N. Dearborn St., is part of Top Nosh Hospitality, a Chicago-based restaurant group known for cultivating unique dining experiences filled with creativity and hospitality. Others in the group include La Storia, Blue Door Farm Stand, Blue Door Kitchen & Garden and Biggs Mansion.

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Physician shares why continued vigilance is crucial

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Hard to separate truth from fiction these days about what can happen and what we can and can’t do to stay safe in this perilous time. The important thing is to remember to check your source. It is undoubtedly better to heed the advice of the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control than to let politics dictate your behavior.

Dr. Lynette Charity urges everyone to keep observing the cautions
Dr. Lynette Charity urges everyone to keep observing the cautions

We got this in our inbox the other day and found it to be thoughtful advice from a medical professional about keeping the curve down. So herewith, Dr. Lynette Charity, Board-certified anesthesiologist, talks about the need to continue our stay-at-home precautions in full force.

“Although America just experienced the deadliest week since the COVID-19 outbreak, the curve is flattening. It’s been nearly one month since the first shelter-in-place order was announced and experts believe that social distancing and precautionary measures are indeed helping to slow the spread of the virus. #Quarantinelife has become a trending hashtag on social media with scores of people sharing posts about boredom, anxiety, and frustration with their new housebound lifestyle.

‘”As boredom, frustration and grief set in, many people are tempted to ease up on precautionary measures and this simply can not happen,’ says Dr. Charity, a Board-Certified Anesthesiologist who gives CME accredited talks to medical professionals about maintaining health and mental wellness.

“Right now more than 80% of Americans are isolating themselves, dreaming of their previous lives that included dinners out with friends, spin class, work happy hours, family gatherings, play dates, field trips, and more. How long will we have to endure this new normal? It’s easy for anyone to get complacent under these conditions and with news coming from so many different sources, it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction and truth from hype. Are there any health precautions that can be loosened? Which safety practices should you adopt for the long term?

“‘We need to empower each other with motivation, realistic guidelines, and facts,’ says Dr. Charity who has contributed to the growth of physician wellness programs across the country.”

Dr. Charity urges everyone to remain vigilant: do social distancing, don’t get complacent and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle during #quarantinelife. For more info, visit her website.

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Connecting with food friends virtually

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Games, food and drink at a virtual party
Games, food and drink at a virtual party

While we’re in lockdown, we become more aware of our love and need for good food. Thanks to the employees who are hanging in there to make and deliver the stuff to us in our hidey holes. Bill Gates estimates it’ll only last 8 to 10 weeks if we handle the effort well, so let’s all cooperate by staying home and listening to the CDC coronavirus guidelines.

But we can’t for long separate ourselves totally, so let’s look at a few options for connecting virtually to share meals, play games, or whatever ways you feel like being with friends and family.

  • Netflix Party – download this Chrome extension on each person’s computer. Pretty easy. Great synchronization for all participants.
  • Google Hangouts Meet – set up a meeting on your Google calendar and invite people.
  • Zoom.us – download the app. It’s free for basic, but they only allow up to 40-minute sessions. At $14.99/mo you get up to 24-hour sessions.

If you’ve discovered other technologies for simultaneous viewing, video calls, etc., please tweet to @ BarbaraSWWAN. Thanks, and good connecting!

 

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Bubbly and chocolates still perfect for Valentine’s Day

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Photo by Jasmine Waheed on Unsplash
Gal/Pal/Valendtine’s Day. Photo by Jasmine Waheed on Unsplash.

Another of our country’s manufactured holidays coming up tomorrow. But who cares if somebody made it up to sell greeting cards? It does make a nice opportunity to celebrate the love and friendship that make life worth living. And even though it’s a cliché, champagne/bubbly and chocolates will never go out of style as a gift to light up your friend’s/lover’s eyes.

While we have in the past been only mildly enthusiastic about most of the Prosecco we’ve tried, that’s not so anymore. Mionetto brand has us embracing this bubbly as we do champagne. Their expressions of Prosecco are all made with organically grown grapes and are full of flavor. We tried their Prosecco DOC Organic and found it much to our liking, and by the way, you can buy some of these at your local Binny’s or Target. Here are a few of their expressions:

Mionetto Prosecco DOC
Mionetto Prosecco DOC

Mionetto Prosecco DOC Organic. The grapes for this wine are from a certified organic winery in the town of Vazzolo in the hills of Treviso. The winery practices organic farming techniques and grows the grapes without synthetic chemicals and fertilizers. 100% Glera grapes are harvested in the second half of September. Primary and secondary fermentation takes place in temperature control stainless steel. This one is verified separately to ensure purity. It’s bright yellow in color with delicate notes of elderflower and green apple on the nose. On your tongue, the winemaker says you’ll notice an explosion of green apple, pineapple and orange with a refreshing crispness from delicate bubbles. Perfect with cheeses such as Gorgonzola along with dates or figs, or with prosciutto and melon. We love this wine!

Mionetto Prestige Organic Prosecco DOC Extra-Dry
Mionetto Prestige Organic Prosecco DOC Extra-Dry

Mionetto Prestige Brut. Made from 100% Glera grapes from the province of Treviso, an area renowned for high quality Prosecco, this sparkling wine offers a luminous straw yellow hue and stylish mousse. The palate is marked by aromatic notes of honey and white peach. For stocking stuffers, you should start with Mionetto’s signature mini bottles ($4). The classic ribbon beautifully displayed across the bottle means there’s no need to wrap. You can even customize with a notecard displayed around the bottle’s neck. SRP ~$14 750ml / $4 Mini 187ml.

Mionetto Prestige Rosé Extra Dry. This deeply luscious sparkling rosè is the result of soft pressing of red grapes. The wine offers a peach blossom luminosity accompanied by a fine, lively perlage. Intense fragrances of violets, raspberries, strawberries, and wild flowers make a perfect pairing for your holiday table. Serving this cuvée with a grilled turkey breast or fish (or a variety of fish on the Feast of Seven Fishes) is sure to be a recipe for success.  SRP ~$14 750ml / $4 Mini 187ml.

Mionetto Luxury Cartizze
Mionetto Luxury Cartizze

Mionetto Luxury Cartizze DOCG. This elegant Cartizze boasts luminous golden tones and delicate beads of tiny bubbles. A majestic, multi-faceted bouquet releases seductive impressions of apple and pear alongside notes of citrus and glazed almond. On the palate it is crisp, well-balanced, and elegant. The perfect gift for anyone special in your life! SRP ~$45.

And just for fun, think about getting your gal/pal/valentine a prettily decorated and beribboned box of Fannie May Double-Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt Pixies. We totally love the dark chocolate on top and the crunchy pecan pieces and chocolatey caramel inside these gems. But if you love milk chocolate, they come that way, too.  Order from Fannie May’s own Amazon store, or find your nearest Fannie May store if you want to surround yourself with the aroma of fresh chocolate while you drool over all the choices for your gal/pal/val or just for yourself. And because you can buy Fannie May and Mionetto in your local establishment, it’s not too late for tomorrow.

Fannie May Pixies come in milk or double-dark chocolate
Fannie May Pixies come in milk or double-dark chocolate
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New Russian River Valley contender – Dutton-Goldfield Winery

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Beautiful expressions of Pinot Noir by Dutton Goldfield
Beautiful expressions of Pinot Noir by Dutton Goldfield

New wineries are birthed all the time these days, what with global warming making climates around the world noticeably warmer. And for vintners in California, the vast selection of terroirs makes it easy to make many different expressions of grapes grown there. Recently received samples from a new contender that’s breaking out with multiple beautiful expressions of luxury Pinot Noir wines. Can’t go wrong with these lovelies.

Dutton-Goldfield Winery, located in the heart of Russian River Valley in CA, makes wines with the brightness of fruit, complexity, structure and balance you’d expect from grapes grown in this cool coastal neighborhood.
The partners, Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield, each came to winemaking from a completely different direction – Steve from farming and Dan from chemistry – but their partnership has manifested itself beautifully in their work with their now-over-80 vineyards comprising 1000 acres. They grow many different grapes and make small quantities of many different varietal wines, but they specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their Pinot Noirs comes in multiple expressions each year to represent all the different vineyards they own. See the full list of current Dutton-Goldfield releases here. Their Chardonnay is a delightful treat, as an aperitif and with meals. The DG Wine Club is a way for members to connect with the history and knowledge of the founders and to guarantee their own supply of DG’s single-vineyard, limited production wines all year. Below are winemaker notes on some of their new releases with links.
Pinot Noir 2017, Azaya Ranch Vineyard, Marin County. Black raspberry, plum and Bing cherry aromas with undertones of thyme and sandalwood. The palate shows boysenberry, blueberry and raspberry, with cinnamon and nutmeg notes. Perfect with earthy dishes. 360 cases produced. SRP ~$62.
Pinot Noir 2017, Angel Camp Vineyard, Anderson Valley. Aromas of dusky plum, with back notes of brambleberry and sandalwood, along with violet floral accents. In the mouth, sweet plum and wild berry fruit are underlaid with black tea, peaty earth and spice box. Round and soft tannins and a creamy finish complete this elegant wine. Serve with earthy foods. 364 cases produced. SRP ~$62.
Deviate Pinot Noir 2017, Sonoma Coast. Bold aromas of black cherry and black raspberry, with accents of tobacco, thyme and licorice along with violet floral notes. Mouth-filling with rich brambly berry flavors. Drink now or let it unwind, in the glass or the bottle. Black raspberry with black tea notes. the firm tannins carry it to a long, sandalwood-laced finish. Intense wine that pairs well with bold flavors like beef, hot peppers, lamb stew, duck curry or peppery cheeses. SRP ~$72.
Pinot Noir 2017 Docker Hill Vineyard, Mendocino County. Deep and layered. Aromas of black cherry, blackberry, sandalwood, and peaty earth with a base of tobacco and black tea. Taste sweet blackberry and boysenberry that lead in waves to the long, creamy finish. Pair this robust wine equally sturdy foods like ribs, sausages or cumin lamb kebabs or creamy, tangy cheeses like herbed goat cheese or young pecorino. 402 cases produced. SRP ~$68.
Pinot Noir 2017, Dutton Ranch/Emerald Ridge Vineyard, Green Valley or Russian River Valley. The nose alerts you to this wine’s intensity with packed aromas of blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and cherry, rolling like waves after each other. Then berries and cherry compote join sandalwood, cinnamon and a sweet-earthy beetroot on the palate. Firm round tannins are ready now but will keep broadening with time in the bottle. Put this on the table with rich dishes – lamb or game birds with herbs or mushrooms, or with tangy cheeses like manchego. 671 cases produced. SRP ~$68.
01Incidentally, this is only a sample of the selection of beauties from this winery. Explore the Dutton Goldfield website and let your tastebuds tingle as you make your selections. These people do a great job.
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3 book reviews: cauliflower magic, kitchen tips, and dog nutrition

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The books in this collection may make strange bedfellows, but each one is enjoyable, informative and fun in its own way. Did you know you can make pizza crust with cauliflower? Read on for more amazing and interesting tidbits.

Cali’Flour Kitchen by Amy Lacey. You don’t have to be on a keto kick to want to eat fewer carbs. Lots of us have found that cutting carbs is the only way to trim off a few pounds. Amazingly, cauliflower has come into its own as a substitute for refined carbs, and many people have found they actually like it a lot. This book is all about showing you more ways to use the hard white vegetable to make bread-like stuff like pizza crust, but it also has unique recipes for using cauliflower to make soup, Buffalo appetizers and even chips to make your nachos with. We love cauliflower just steamed with a sprinkle of fresh grated Parmesan, so this collection of recipes is intriguing enough to make us want to start making cauliflower rice and cauliflower meal to sub for rice, bread and flour and then go from there into unexplored territories. Their subtly flavored recipe for creamy cauliflower soup beckoned (beautiful pictures throughout the book), and we ended up happy we made it. ~$13 on Amazon.

Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets: 128 Ingenious Tips for survive lumpy gravy, wilted lettuce, crumbling cake, and other cooking disasters, by Joey Green. Light-hearted treatment of legitimate solutions for many common mishaps in the kitchen and around the house. Nicely laid out – easy-to-read labels, color used effectively. You may know some of the tried-and-true solutions already (e.g., vinegar to kill odors). You might be surprised at some of them (salt to get rid of athlete’s foot). You may even find you already have some of your own solutions you like better. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, the book is fun, simple to read and contains nuggets almost anyone may find useful – or at least entertaining (applesauce for a facial). A fun gift for college students or newlyweds who are new to housekeeping. ~$16 on Amazon.

Yin and Yang Nutrition for Dogs: Maximizing Health with Whole Foods, Not Drugs, by Judy Morgan DVM and Hue Grant (not the movie star). If you have a dog, chances are good that s/he’s a beloved member of your family, and you want only the best for him/her. That may include buying pricey toys and/or specialty dog foods. But you may be surprised to learn what Author Judy Morgan says. She is a certified veterinarian who carries a flag for cooking your own animal’s foods. This book is somewhat of an expose; it says the pet food industry in general is lying about what’s in its food and how those foods are made. She has observed in her practice that dogs and cats are increasingly suffering from inflammatory diseases that can be directly tied to the poor quality of the food they’re consuming. The logic is compelling. The recipes sound delicious – and you know they’re good for your pet because the author is a nutrition-oriented vet. The book is nicely laid out. As of this writing, Amazon claims the book is not available because of a quality problem with the publisher’s file, but it should be again. ~$10 for Kindle version. ~$30 in paperback.

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4 fine spirits to cheer you on in 2020

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Yep, it’s freakin’ cold out there. So this is a good time of year to enjoy fine spirits – straight up, on the rocks or in cocktails, either before or with meals, or as after-dinner nips to round out your dining experience. If you haven’t tried spirits in a while, the options listed below give a good place to start experimenting. We tried all of these recently when we received samples. Very nice ways to bring a little warmth and joy to our dark winter nights.

Maker's Mark Bourbon
Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Maker’s Mark Bourbon. This small-batch bourbon whiskey is produced in Loretto, Kentucky by Beam Suntory. 90 US proof, it’s sold in squarish bottles sealed with red wax. Instead of rye, this bourbon is made with red winter wheat along with corn and malted barley. You get to try it when you take a tour of the distillery or when you take the American Whiskey Trail and/or the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Check out the Maker’s Mark website for info on Maker’s Mark 46, Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2019 Limited Release, and other expressions you might like. SRP ~$30. And by the way, Maker’s Mark is partners with Chicago’s own Cubs team.

Gentleman Jack Tennessee whiskey
Gentleman Jack Tennessee whiskey

Gentleman Jack. This Tennessee whiskey is double mellowed for superior smoothness. Its exceptional balanced oak flavor is highlighted with notes of caramel and vanilla, all inspired by the founder of Jack Daniel’s. Visit the website for some beautiful images, more about the distillery and the other expressions like Old No. 7 or Single Barrel Select. There are recipes and even a video with their Master Distiller showing how to taste whiskey and what you can expect from Gentleman Jack. SRP ~$28.

Speyburn 10 Years Old
Speyburn 10 Years Old

Speyburn 10 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky. This single malt offers a classic Speyside experience with its medium-bodied, delicate and fruity character with a long, smooth finish. With its excellent characteristics and its reasonable price point, Speyburn makes a great hostess gift for friends, family or co-workers. Speyburn 10 Years Old exhibits the distillery character and house style – the soft spirit marries with the gentle oak influence to create a perfectly balanced and approachable dram. At ten years old, the quality of this Speyburn is still identifiable before the wood takes front stage. SRP ~$30.

Caorunn Scottish Gin
Caorunn Scottish Gin

Caorunn Scottish Gin. Handcrafted in the Scottish Highlands by Gin Master Simon Buley, is a specialized gin that’s infused with five locally foraged Celtic botanicals along with six traditional ones in the world’s only working Copper Berry Chamber. Rowan Berry, Dandelion, Coul Blush Apple, Bog Myrtle and Scottish Heather are harvested within walking distance of the distillery and come together to create a wildly Scottish spirit in a modern London Dry Gin style. The result is dry and crisp with an aromatic, fruity taste, a floral touch and a long dry finish. Mix with a premium tonic and garnish with red apple slices for a perfect (and festive) drink or mix up any number of traditional or creative cocktails. SRP ~$35,

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Mandrarossa wines shine at Two Restaurant in Chicago

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Mandrarossa wines at Two Restaurant
Mandrarossa wines at Two Restaurant

Sicily is in the business recently of making Americans become increasingly aware of the changes and improvements in Italian winemaking, especially in Sicily since establishing SiciliaDOC, their oversight consortium for quality. This past December Alberto Antonini, long-time consulting winemaker for Sicily’s Mandrarossa Winery, hosted a small group of trade and press at an intimate wine tasting and luncheon at Two Restaurant to showcase some of its excellent wines.

Alberto is among the most influential consultants from Italy with over 20 years’ experience working with some of world’s top wineries. Since Mandrarossa’s inception in 1999, Alberto has worked closely with the winery’s head winemaker and agronomist to identify the top estates within Menfi’s micro terroirs to produce Mandrarossa’s premium line of estate-bottled wines, all imported by Palm Bay.

Mandrarossa Nero D'Avola
Mandrarossa Nero D’Avola
Mandrarossa 100% Grillo
Mandrarossa 100% Grillo

Alberto shared two new expressions from Mandrarossa that represent the deepest level of research and selection to date, “Terre del Sommaco,” a 100% Nero d’Avola grown on limestone soils over 1000 feet asl, and “Bertolino Soprano,” a 100% Grillo grown on limestone soils nearly 500 feet asl. Designated “vini di contrada” or “single territory wines,” these limited production offerings have been crafted to show the purest expression of their respective grape varieties and territories. Additionally, Alberto shared a selection of current releases from Mandrarossa, including expressions of indigenous and international varieties alongside a carefully designed menu.

The wines were paired beautifully with hand-picked courses selected by owner Yamandu Perez and the two chefs at Two Restaurant, a unique eatery situated in West Town at 1132 w. Grand. Its rustic decor and communal tables make for a casual but chic environment in which to enjoy the unique creations that combine American tastes with the many other influences Perez was exposed to during his career –  born in Santiago, Chile; raised in Cuba, France, Uruguay, and Alaska. Having Perez join in the luncheon together with the warmth and friendliness of Alberto and his team made for a very enjoyable experience.

Sun-drenched cleanup after Mandrarossa lunch at Two Restaurant
Sun-drenched cleanup after Mandrarossa lunch at Two Restaurant

If you’ve never been to Two Restaurant, you may want to put it on your to-do list to sample the creations of its two chefs, Executive chef Tom Van Lente and chef de cuisine Kevin Cuddihee. And if you’ve never tasted these lovely wines, you won’t go wrong by giving some of them a try.

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5+ wines to help you wind your way through winter

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Winter is a depressing season for many. But looked at another way, it’s a time full of joy and promise. In the beauty of the magical sky and clouds. The stark beauty of the naked branches braving the wind, sparkling with ice or outlined with pristine snow. And of course, the joys of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Even if the gray skies get you down sometimes, light some candles, get out your good china, and grace your table with one of the many marvelous wines made to the highest standards, crafted with decades and even centuries of winemaking experience. And who says champagne and bubblies are only for the holidays? Here are a few ideas.

Palmer & co. Brut Reserve
Palmer & co. Brut Reserve
Palmer Brut Reserve and IGT Modus Toscana, both from Palm Bay Importers
Palmer Brut Reserve and IGT Modus Toscana, both from Constellation Brands

Champagne Palmer & Co Brut Reserve NV. This, the vineyard’s flagship expression, is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, including many doses of reserve wines. Four years aging on the lees in a maze of deep, chalky cellars 60 feet below ground gives the wine its refinement and aromatic complexity. Enjoy aromas of citrus, pear, and apricot with notes of hazelnut and buttery brioche. A perfect balance of succulent and substantial depth with a delightful freshness that will help make all your occasions sparkle like it’s the holidays. SRP ~$60.

Ruffino 2016 Modus IGT Toscana. This delicious red blend is from the notable wine-making brand, where they consider the Modus – which in Latin means “method” or “the way” – a contemporary way of expressing Tuscany with this blend of three of the most respected grapes in the world of wine. As a result, you’ll enjoy refined texture and red fruit aromas from the Sangiovese and smoothness and delicate notes of berries and mint from the Merlot, along with structure and elegance from the Cabernet. And it all comes together in a gorgeous, rich, deep color. This is a total winner for us fans of big reds! SRP ~$26.

Chateau Lassegue label
Chateau Lassegue label

Lassègue Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2011. A classic red beauty. Renowned vigneron Pierre Seillan and his son Nicolas harvest fruit (Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon) from their south by southwest-facing hillside vineyards to produce Lassègue, which has become known for its simple elegance, striking balance and rich complexity. The 2011 is an austere, full vintage, with notes of ripe blackberries and aromas of leather, baking spices and graphite. This polished wine features a velvety softness with silky tannins that move in crescendo towards a pressingly long finish. A classic expression of Saint-Émilion, Lassègue offers both brightness and sophistication to grace your table any time of year. SRP ~$65.

Charles Heiseick brut reserveCharles Heidsieck Brut Reserve. Excellent champagne – a sophisticated blend that incorporates up to 40% Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reserve wines and sports a lively perlage with an elegant and refined palate. The texture, say the winemaker notes, is like “a crisp layer of nougatine on a velvety cream pastry, filled with plump red plums and ripe cherries.” Lush with finishing notes of praline and vanilla. Fabulous! SRP ~$50-60.

Trentodoc Altemasi Brut Millesimato 2013. A beautiful 100% Chardonnay bubbly with a persistent foam of fine bubbles that ‘s made using the traditional Metodo Classico from grapes grown in the Trentino region of Italy. Complex, highly refined nose with luscious fruity notes of citrus and peach. Dry, pleasantly crisp on the palate with a good, well-balanced structure. A nice aperitif and/or an excellent accompaniment to seafood pasta dishes, salmon and lighter white fish. SRP ~$42.

Kosher wines

Yatir Kosher wines for all year long
Yatir Kosher wines for all year long

Yatir is a well-recognized maker of red and white Kosher wines that are just what the doctor ordered for Kosher celebrations. Kosher wines used to be thought of as bad quality, but modern versions that use traditional winemaking techniques have proven that idea a long-gone myth, according to Adam Montefiore, an expert on Israeli wine and Kosher wine, who wrote on the WineFolly blog on the subject of Kosher wine quality and the difference between Mevushal or non-Mevushal (eligible or not to be poured by non-observant Jews and others). It’s a good article for learning what Kosher wine is and isn’t, and exactly what is different about the process. Meanwhile, Yatir makes wines with many traditional grape varieties you’ll recognize. Read their concise descriptions to help you choose one or more from their portfolio: Yatir Syrah, Yatir Amasa Red Blend, Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon, Yatir Forest Red Blend, Yatir Viognier. Watch the little videos with some of the wines, too. Very upbeat music and brief fun discussions with the winemakers! SRPs range from ~$25 to ~$70.

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