Tag Archives: wine

Fresh and Easy Wine Snapshots

On Thursday night, I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in one of Fresh and Easy‘s wine tasting tweet-ups.

Once again, even though this was a Valentine’s Day wine tasting and the holiday + wine should have together suggested a romantic evening might have been in order…

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… I spent it with my friend Lauren.

I also spent it with her boyfriend, Gabriel.

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Honestly, though, it was lovely.

And plus, I’m not sure I had a romantic evening in me. Look how tired I look!

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On second thought, don’t. Ignore how tired I look. Pretend I’m pretty.

We started with the Chianti (the wine Lauren and I are both posing with above), which was definitely my favorite of the night.

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It was smooth and strong and tasted much nicer than the very cheap price tag would have implied.

We also tried a bubbly wine, which was super bubbly. I loved that part of it, but the wine was a little too sweet for me — especially after that nice Chianti.

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Ignore the lemon. We thought it was funny at the time. I blame the wine.

However, on a citrus note, I do think the above wine would make for nice Mimosas.

The third wine was a chocolate wine, which I thought I would love but actually very, very much disliked. I thought it tasted like someone had poured Hershey’s syrup into wine.

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Lauren liked it, though. And, judging from the tweet chat, so did most people! It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

… or, you know, glass of wine.

We also had to fill ourselves with food to balance out all that wine, so we ate the Fresh and Easy Margherita pizza, which I’d picked up when I’d gotten the wine.

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The rest of the evening was spent in shenanigans with Lauren and Gabriel’s dog Spot, who thinks he’s a lapdog.

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He totally isn’t. That’s why it’s hilarious. Duh.

Did you try any new wines this weekend?

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Day 4: Does Wine Count As Alcohol?

So, I’m not going to lie to you. In no way, shape or form did yesterday fall underneath my self-appointed rules. I won’t even try to pretend.

It’s all Fresh & Easy’s fault, really. I mean, they sent me three bottles of wine and asked me to try them all in one night. What’s a girl to do?!

In truth, though, I had somewhat failed the day before I even got there. Not terribly — in fact, even with the wine, I think I did alright — but, you know, accountability and all.

At least I started out with a workout: 35 minutes on the elliptical (at 5:30 in the morning, no less!) and 45 minutes of a strength training class (super heavy on the arms and I can feeeeel it today!).

And I was on point with breakfast, at least.

I had a cottage cheese bowl. It’s high-concept, watch out — it’s a yogurt bowl, but with cottage cheese instead of yogurt.

I know. I just blew your mind.

 

Into the mix went:

  • 1 cup 2% cottage cheese
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • 1/4 banana
  • ground blueberry flaxseeds
  • cinnamon

This combo is really working for me lately. It keeps me full, it has lots of protein, and it has such a variety of flavors and textures that it keeps my tongue interested (TWSS). Oh, and — SPOILER ALERT! — it’s been working so well for me that I actually had it for breakfast this morning, too.

Sheesh. You might as well not even come back for tomorrow’s post.

Annnnnyway. I was on point at lunch, too.

I had the… exact same salad that I had for Monday’s lunch. What can I say? I like to repeat good meals and I like to use the ingredients I actually have in my fridge.

Into the mix went:

  • romaine
  • lentils
  • baby bell peppers
  • yellow grape tomatoes
  • feta
  • cucumber
  • three cheese balsamic vinaigrette

Yum!

It was after lunch that I started to get into trouble. See, I totally forgot to bring an afternoon snack yesterday and I had to scavenge in the unfamiliar-to-me office kitchen when I got hungry. I ended up finding some Kashi bars, which might not be on my plan, but were definitely the healthiest option available.

That was Dark Mocha Almond, or something like that. It was alright, but nothing to write home about. I’ve definitely had better Kashi bars.

Then, when I got home, I got the party staaaarted!

Actually, that’s sort of a lie. By “getting the party started,” what I mean is that Lauren was held up at work and was late, I tried (unsuccessfully) to tide myself over with a low-fat cheese stick, and then eventually realized that I had a responsibility to Fresh & Easy, who had sent me the wines, and needed to start drinking them on my own so I could participate in the tweet-up.

To explain, Fresh & Easy sent us the wines and had us all do a live twitter tasting together. It was a cute and unique concept and I thought it went pretty well. But, obviously, it wasn’t going to work unless the people to whom Fresh & Easy had sent the wine participated, so I took one for the team and broke open the white by myself.

One is the loneliest number…

What’s that they say about drinking by yourself?

I was really pleasantly surprised by this wine. I actually loved it. I’m not a Chardonnay fan and thus expected not to be a fan, since Chardonnay was the first wine listed in this blend. In fact, I opened this wine first because I like to save the best for last and I figured I’d get the one I just knew I’d like the least out of the way. But I was wrong! This wine, called Ma Cherie, was a mix of three whites — Chardonnay, Voignier, and Grenache. I’d never heard of Voignier or Grenache before but after last night’s tasting of this blend, I’m going to go ahead and assume I’m a fan of both — especially because they masked the taste of Chardonnay!

Fortunately, I only got through that one small glass before Lauren joined the party and worked on catching up.

It was a this point that I opened the red (a blend called Doon Buggy) to let it aerate a bit, as suggested by Amanda and Andy in the tweet-up.

It was also at this point that I quickly assembled our easy (and coincidentally entirely Fresh & Easy) dinner.

We split this turkey chili (which has incredible nutritional stats, by the way — this container has 2.5 servings of 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 12 grams of protein each — ridiculously good!).

I also sliced up two whole wheat tortillas to make homemade tortilla chips!

This seriously could not have been easier. I set the oven to 400 degrees and cut the two tortillas into little triangles. I then laid them all out individually on a pan, sprayed them with canola oil, and sprinkled them with sea salt. I set them in the oven looking like this:

… and took them out five minutes later, looking like this:

 

Easy as pie. Wait, no! Way easier. And soooo yummy.

I served them alongside the chili (which was microwaving while I baked the tortilla chips).

In case you couldn’t deduce this yourself from the picture above, I topped the chili with dollops of nonfat greek yogurt and sprinkles of shredded cheese.

This dinner could not have been easier or more convenient. It literally took five minutes to assemble from start to finish, it was pretty darn healthy, and it was inexpensive, to boot! Win.

Meanwhile, during those five minutes, Lauren entertained herself by taking pictures of herself with the wine. She’s like a blogger in training, or something.

After we finished dinner, I rinsed out our glasses so we could move onto the Doon Buggy.

I then tried really hard to get good “pouring pictures” while I was doing the pouring myself…

…which really just did not go very well.

Oops.

Anyway, speaking of failed attempts, Lauren and I then tried to take a picture of ourselves with the wine. We took about ten. Here’s a sampling.

Man.  Maybe we should stop drinking so much wine.

Speaking of the wine…

It was lovely. And it actually grew on me as I drank more of it. It was a rich wine, with a lot of body to it. It felt soft, somehow. I wouldn’t suggest mixing it with the acidic, citrusy white in the same night like we did, but — separately, I thought the Doon Buggy was a very nice wine that would go smoothly with a solid meal.

At some point during this bottle, Mark came home and joined the party, too!

We actually managed to finish the Doon Buggy between the three of us, as well as half of the Ma Cherie. At this point, however, we were wined-out. We never made it to the third wine. We may be lushes… but we’ve got to stop somewhere.

Don’t you worry. That third bottle will be making an appearance on KWH sometime soon.

Oh, and even though wine surely should have counted as dessert, I also decided to have one of my pieces of Ghiradelli Intense Dark 72% chocolate.

Sometimes, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Anyway, like I said, yesterday clearly wasn’t on the plan. However, I think I did alright, considering how badly it could have gone. I also know that this week will have two nights of drinking. Last night, obviously, was one, and the other one will be tonight because I’m going to a party with drinking games and I know I won’t be able to help myself (I love me some flip cup). But — all in moderation, right?

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Cheese & Chocolate Night

As a part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I’m pretty lucky. I get sent samples of some really cool things sometimes. Most recently, one of these cool things was a $25 American Express gift card to participate in the Sargento Taste Test.  Another was a box of samples from Ghiradelli Intense Dark Chocolate.

The offer from Sargento was meant for an educational cheese tasting experience, in which we were to compare Sargento natural cheese to any processed cheese. We also were given enough money to also buy cheese pairings of our choice.

Along with the Sargento cheese you see above, I bought:

Processed Mild Cheddar, Swiss, Colby Jack and Pepper Jack…

Woven Wheat Crackers, Butter Crackers and dried apricots…

A Mixed Red and a Merlot…

And a baguette, which Mark modeled beautifully.

Adorable.

Our friends Ryan and Chris were able to join us for the cheese tasting experience.

Sargento guided us through this experience.

1. Look at the cheeses. Natural cheeses, like cheddar, come in many different colors, but in general an understated and non-glossy appearance. Processed cheeses, however, have a luster or shine to them, even after their plastic is removed.”

2. Touch the cheese and feel its texture. Bend the cheeses. Natural cheese texture can vary by cheese variety, but will normally break in an authentic fashion when you do this. Processed cheese is characterized by a smooth, rubbery and artificially pliable texture, and often can bend and fold without breaking… It can sometimes even feel ‘mushy.'”

3. Smell the cheeses like you’d smell a glass of wine. Natural cheeses’ aroma will vary by cheese type, and the range of smells span adjectives like earthy, nutty, and fruity. Processed cheese is usually lacking in a strong aroma, but can have cooked milk notes due to its heating process.”

4. Taste the cheese. Natural cheeses have an incredible array of flavors — from savory to fruity to spicy and sharp. The dominant characteristic in processed cheese is often described as salty. Take note of the characteristics of the cheese, the intensity of the flavor, the saltiness, sharpness or fruitiness of the cheese.”

The way we used the Sargento cheese, specifically, was to create our “main course,” if you will. I think I’ll call them… pizza dippers.

We used the bread and the shredded cheese…

… along with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Basically, we sliced the baguette, then toasted those slices for about 5-10 minutes at 400 degrees. Then we took the toasted slices out, drizzled them with olive oil and topped them with salt, pepper and cheese, and then put them back in the oven for a few more minutes (until the cheese was melted).

Once they were out of the oven, we dipped them in warm roasted garlic & sweet basil tomato sauce.

It was very popular. We finished the entire baguette between the four of us!

Once we finished that baguette, the dessert portion of the evening came about.

It was Ghiradelli Intense Dark Chocolate time!

You might not be able to tell in the picture, but… Mark and I had already made a serious dent in the Sea Salt Soiree bar before the party.

Oops.

We tried the (rest of the) Sea Salt Soiree, 72% Cacao Twilight Delight, and the 86% Midnight Reverie.

Each of them was delicious. but I’m particularly fond of the Sea Salt Soiree. I love sweet and salty!

This was a perfect end to the evening!

“Ghiradelli Intense Dark chocolates deliver luxuriously deep and velvety chocolate in a variety of cacao percentages… and sophisticated flavors… This line of 100% all natural chocolates delivers unrivaled chocolate intensity in a delicately thin chocolate, allowing the chocolate to melt slowly in your mouth.”

I actually think these rich bars offer the perfect dessert. I could absolutely be satisfied with just one square.

Pretty nice night, right? I had so much fun and loved the guidelines given by each brand!

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Pop Champagne

A couple of weekends ago, I went on a really romantic date.

And I mean, really, really romantic.

It involved champagne….

Dessert….

Mood lighting…

Lots of loving eye contact…  good conversation…

Oh, and the best date ever…

My friend, Lauren!

You see, when I bought the LivingSocial deal for Pop Champagne and Dessert Bar, I assumed that I’d obviously find a guy with whom I’d want to go on a romantic date by the time it expired.

Well, you know what they say about assuming. Oh well! Lauren was more fun than some dumb boy anyway, right?

Anyway, Pop Champagne is on the pricey side, so we did things our own way. Instead of spending the whole deal on dinner, we figured we’d spend it on what they’re known for (champagne and dessert) and we went the classy route beforehand by picking up slices of pizza around the corner first. 😉

Worth it! And FYI, that pizza was fantastic. Best pizza I’ve had in California (which isn’t saying much, but you know what I mean).

When we did head over for our reservation, we each started with a flight of champagnes.

Lauren got the “Pretty in Pink” and I got the “Around the World.” Because, you know, Lauren’s pretty and I’m worldly. Or something.

We also ordered, as you saw the above, the Meyer Lemon Tart. We got it mostly because it came with basil ice cream, which my friend Robyn had recommended.

The tart was lovely but the basil ice cream took it to another level. While we both sort of felt like we were eating pizza ice cream when we ate the ice cream alone, we loved it with the tart.

We spent most of the experience taking silly pictures of the champagne each other.

Ahh, we’re fun.

It was a lovely date. Right up there with the last romantic date I had.

Hmm… maybe I should get a boyfriend, huh?

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Red & White Sangria (No Sugar Added!)

As you may remember from my Fourth of July post, I made both red and white sangria for the BBQ party Mark and I held. In the interest of keeping my diet to only naturally occurring sugar, I made both versions without any added sugar.

Admittedly, there is surely added sugar in both the Triple Sec and the coconut rum, but I did my best.

Please find the (very simple) recipes below!

Red Sangria

2 batches

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles red wine (I used pinot noir)
  • 2/3 bottle sparkling water
  • 1 1/4 cup Triple Sec
  • 3 blood oranges, sliced
  • 2 sweet yellow peaches, sliced
  • 1/2 mango, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups pineapple, diced

White Sangria

2 batches

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles white wine (I used pinot grigio)
  • 2/3 bottle sparkling water
  • 1/2 cup Triple Sec*
  • 3/4 cup coconut rum*
  • 3 blood oranges, sliced
  • 2 sweet yellow peaches, sliced
  • 1/2 mango, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups pineapple, diced

*Note: Next time, I think I’d do opposite proportions here — as in, 1/2 cup coconut rum & 1 cup Triple Sec. The sangria was good, but very coconutty.

Directions (for both red & white):

A few hours before serving, pour wine & liquor over the fruit into whatever receptacle you plan on using to serve the sangria. Stir and refrigerate. Add sparkling water just before serving and gently stir again.

That’s it!

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Grilled Pizza

Have you ever made grilled pizza before?

I definitely had not, nor had I ever considered it before.  I can safely say, as of last night, that grilling your pizza is the closest you can get to having to wood-fired oven pizza at home.

Well, unless you get takeout.

But this is better!

A bunch of friends and I were invited to my friend Robyn’s apartment for this wildly successful experiment.

Naturally, we started with wine.

In big glasses. 🙂

Cute.

We also started with these new Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzels, which I tried at Trader Joe’s and, naturally, had to get.

When do I not get sucked into new TJ’s purchases?

Anyway. The pizza, of course, was the real star of the show.

We decided to make individual pizzas, so Amy and Robyn set about preparing the dough (which we got at Village Pizzeria in Hollywood — totally made the pizza!).

Jen and I tried to help but failed miserably. Amy was the real chef of the night.

Actually, she was the only chef of the night.

First, she grilled each of the individual crusts.

Then, we each decorated our own pizzas with sauce, shredded mozzarella, and bell peppers.

I started with my messed up dough (messed up by my own hands).

Then topped it…

Mine, however, was not as epic as Laura’s packed pizza.

Or, for that matter, as Robyn’s beautiful smiley face pizza.

Anyway, then Amy grilled them over coals while Laura accosted her.

Meanwhile,  the rest of us snacked on garlic bread.

Yes, it was a very carb-heavy night.

Once the pizzas were done, we dug in.

They were absurdly good. I mean, can’t you just tell by looking at it?

By the time dessert rolled around, I was almost too full.

But, come on, there’s always room for dessert. I split a M&M cookie with my friend Jodi.

Lovely night! Pizza + wine + friends = happiness.

(Check out my math skillz.)

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Wood & Vine

Alright, what do you say I quit the pouting? I woke up this morning to an email from my grandmother saying that I was depressing her, so I think it’s time that I snap out of it.

I mean, nobody likes someone who depresses sweet grandmas.

Anyway! Last night, I got together with a few friends from film school for dinner (well, “dinner” and drinks) at Wood & Vine in Hollywood.

We sat out on the patio, which was tres swanky.

Its the kind of fancy-schmancy place that has a new menu each day. See?

I have no idea what was up with my camera last night. You’ll see an even blurrier picture later.

I started off with a nice (but small, for $8!) glass of Pinot Noir.

The evening started with just me, Rod and Chan.

I was about to tell both of them, as I looked at the nice menu at this fancy place, that I would make fun of anyone who ordered a Miller Lite…

… when both of them ordered Miller Lites. 😉

You guys… I think I’ve become a beer snob!

I’m okay with it.

The reason for getting together, by the way, was to say bye to Chan, who is moving far, far away.

He was one of my favorite people at film school and I will miss him dearly.

Anyway, the way Wood & Vine works is that you can order “sharing plates” or cheese plates, but no entrees. Everything comes out as it’s ready, rather than all at once.

Chan broke the rules immediately and ordered a sharing plate just for him. 🙂

This was “hand-torn pasta.”

Then, the three of us ordered a cheese plate.

It comes with toasted baguette slices, honey and pickled vegetables, in addition to the three, six or nine cheeses you choose.

We got three: a soft french cheese with salt rind, a goat cheese, and a taleggio.

My favorite was the taleggio, followed by the goat cheese. I wasn’t a huge fan of the salt rind cheese, though Chan and Rod favored that one.

Soon after the cheese arrived, so did our friends Jenni, Brian and Brian (yes, two!).

Brian #1 immediately hijacked my camera and took pictures of himself and Brian #2. Here’s one.

When Brian #1 ordered a Summer Solstice and I stole a sip, I knew immediately that I’d need one of my own!

It was so good, guys. So, so good.

Not so good: the group picture we got on my automatic digital camera.

How does that even happen??

Anyway, it was a really fun night with lots of laughter. It was so good to catch up with these guys.

We’ll miss you, Chan!!!

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