Category Archives: Real. Simple. Food.

Freixenet, Rockaway and some killer BBQ…

A couple of nights ago we hosted a dinner party. We love doing this. It’s a great chance to open some nice wine and kick back enjoying the evening. So, I fired up the BBQ at 9:30 in the morning to slow cook a brisket all day. More on that in a minute, but first the wine!

A lot of people need an excuse or special occasion to open a bottle of bubbly, but not us. And certainly at the price of $6.99. Thank you Trader Joe’s for having this wine on display!

This Cava (sparkling wine from Spain) was bright, crisp and refreshing. Maybe not the most exciting sparkling wine I’ve had recently, but quite a value.

The winner for the night though was this Rodney Strong Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet….

This 2005 Cabernet was quite spectacular. I even pulled out one of my favorite Cabernet’s to enjoy along with this one, but it paled in comparison. Maybe it was the bottle. Maybe it was the food. But I think it was just that this wine truly rocked. There’s all this info and data on the back of the label, but it doesn’t matter. What mattered was the wine that was inside. It was so smooth with tons of fruit and the perfect balance of oak and tannin. My only wish for the evening was that we had another bottle to dive into.

The food was pretty tasty too. My wife made some killer parmasan potatoes and I spent all day tending the BBQ for this….

My first ever slow smoked brisket. This was some of the most tender meat I’ve ever had and the smokey flavor worked perfectly with the Rockaway Cab. As if all this wasn’t enough, my lovely wife baked these chocolate espresso chocolate chip molten lava cakes….


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Wine and Culinary Smörgåsbord

The last 24 hours have been a wine a culinary smörgåsbord.

It all started late yesterday afternoon with the annual event The Hog in the Fog put on by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers. We were invited by my new employer and how could we turn that invitation down? There was fog (it’s Russian River after all). And there was a hog, several in fact, as well as chicken and beef. The event gets its name from being a pig roast and because it goes into the evening, when fog is usually present, they added the fog. Straightforward and to the point – just the way I like it.

The first 2 hours of this event is a huge wine tasting with over 40 wineries offering up outstanding wines from the cool climate Russian River Valley.This area is mostly known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but the reality is that there are many other varietals grown there including Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel among others. We sampled to our hearts content. Luckily there were a few vendors with food, bread and chocolate to keep us from over-indulging.

Then at 6:00, we feasted on grilled chicken, sliced beef and the most amazing pulled pork in a freshly made tortilla. Do I need to mention there was more wine to go along with the food? We continued to enjoy one of our favorite varietals, Zinfandel. Then to top it all off, there was brick oven baked apple pie a la mode. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any dessert wine.

Then today we drove to Cloverdale and met up with our good friends that live up there. We took a short walk to Ruth McGowan’s pub. Out friends have been wanting to take us to this place since they moved up there. Mostly because they have a Dry Irish stout (think Guinness) that they have been raving about. So, we got a pitcher. And, wow, it did not disappoint.

Back in 2005, my wife’s family and I took a trip to Ireland for about two weeks. We really fell in love with Guinness over there. It’s different because they don’t put all the preservatives in it. This Dry Irish Stout was the closest thing I’ve tasted to a real, true Guinness since that trip. It was awesome.

But wait, this is a wine blog. Ok, we went back to their house and opened a bottle of this….

This is an imported French Champagne that’s sold at Family Wineries in Kenwood. I recently tasted there and picked up a bottle. And because all gatherings need a bottle of bubbly, I thought today would be a good occasion to open it. It contained some of my favorite Champagne qualities: creamy texture with tons of yeasty, bread-y aromas. I love that it has the word Dizy on it. It’s actually a town / region in France, but I like the irony.

Then we fired up the grill and shortly after dove in to these….

That’s no ordinary burger. It was assembled with extra special ingredients and lots of  love. Love in the form of bacon. Our friend cooked up an entire pound of bacon, chopped it up in a food processor and then incorporated it with about 3 lbs of hamburger meat. It was complete and total indulgence and worth every calorie.

To round out our day, we had homemade Maui vanilla bean and Callebaut dark chocolate chip ice cream….

I’m done. I don’t think I’ll ever need to eat (or drink) again. Well, until tomorrow anyway.


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Real. Simple. Food.

If I had a food show on T.V., I would call it Real. Simple. Food. And that’s the way I like to cook. My food is not fancy. It doesn’t have strange ingredients that you’ve never heard of. It’s designed to be affordable, tasty and good. Really good.

No, I’m not a professionally trained chef – and I would never claim to be. In fact, when it comes to my cooking I tend to be fairly humble. The last (and only) cooking course I ever took was in 7th grade. I learned to cook because my mom went back to college and most of her courses were at night. Someone had to pick up the slack. My dad can “cook” toast. And even at that, he burns it almost every time. He says that he likes it that way. My sister never really had the desire and cooks enough to get by with two little kids. She has recently taken up baking and is doing a great job.

But enough about all that – it’s just an intro after all.

Tonight we had real, simple, food. I made Mac n Cheese (the hard way).

Pork chops.

With a blackberry / raspberry port wine reduction.

Grilled corn and fresh French Bread.

Seriously, this is easy food. The hardest part for me (typical) was choosing the wine for tonight.

We started with a 2007 Chardonnay from Michel-Schlumberger in Dry Creek Valley.

This valley sits up in the northern part of Sonoma County and is considered a warmer valley. The grapes for this wine actually come from Dry Creek. Let me  tell you, Dry Creek is not where we normally turn to for Chardonnay. It’s actually a rare grape in that region which is better known for its Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.

I was expecting a big, bold and buttery Chardonnay. What I got instead was a beautifully balanced wine with aromas of apples, baked bread and quince. In the mouth this wine got even better. Full, rich and not buttery, but with a lighter finish. During the glass plus that I had, the wine kept getting better and better. Let’s just say I was truly impressed.

With dinner, I chose a Malbec out of the Rock Pile region by Keating Wines.

Keating Wines is a small producer, who is  about ready to open a tasting room south of the town of Sonoma, with some really killer wines. I was first introduced to Keating Wines about two years ago and just fell in love with this Malbec. He also produces small amounts of Petite Sirah and Merlot, with some Cabernet and Zinfandel coming in the near future.

Most of the Rock Pile Viticulture Area is planted to Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, but there’s also a few Bordeaux varietals up there too, including this Malbec vineyard.

I’ve found this to be one of the best Malbec’s in Sonoma County. The fruit is ripe, but not too much so. There’s an excellent  mouthfeel that leads to a long, dry finish, but it’s not overly tannic.

I think it was a great choice for the meal and it paired perfectly with our pork chops and port reduction.

No meal is complete without dessert….

Yes, that’s a Tinker Bell plate. It’s leftover from my daughter’s birthday. My wife made these amazing Nutella butter cookies and we had some vanilla ice cream too. The sauce is the same port reduction that we used on the pork chops. Again, it’s simple. One sauce, two purposes. Everything really doesn’t have to be complicated, just make sure it’s real.


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