Cheese & Charcuterie

We love appetizers for all the right reasons: They are pretty, they are flavorful, they can be so easy to make, and most importantly they remind your guests that they are special. Our biggest reason might be that its an excuse to have a glass of wine and chat before the meal is served.

Our go to appetizer is predominantly cured meats (charcuterie) and cheese.  Sometimes we get fancy and add nuts, honey, seasonal fruit slices, or dried fruit. The reason this is our go to appetizer is because we enjoy it, but it’s also easy to keep stocked. If your genetic heritage or predisposition to lactose doesn’t jive with cheese, no worries, add pickles, olives, dark chocolate, popcorn, fresh bread and butter or crackers.

What is the right ratio? Formal planning guides indicate that you should provide 2 ounces of cheese per guest. We aren’t that formal, do what feels right and serve what you love. This means that if you don’t like Blue cheese or olives you never have to serve it. Slice the meat as thin as you can and serve the cheese with knives, so people can cut their own hunks. We try for a minimum of 3 separate items, but the sky is the limit if you want to add more go for it!

How to make it look pretty – we find that there are two types of instruction that help with this. If you need directions use your smartphone and go, look at pictures, then make a variation of one you thought was pretty. If you are strong and independent, imagine you are with the avant-garde chef’s to a Duke in a castle and just riff with it as these appetizer pairings are as old as the castles walls.

The easiest way to enjoy your red wine more

Pour the wine through an aerator

An aerator's purpose is to expand the surface area of wine, which allows the air to mingle with it, resulting in a wine with an expanded aromatic profile and softer tannins. This introduction of atmospheric gasses causes the vast majority of red wines to be more enjoyable by delivering a better bouquet, enhanced flavors, and smoother finish.

 Although we think you should take our word for it, with an experiment this easy, it would be a shame to miss this valuable learning opportunity. Here is how to test this out yourself. Open a new bottle of wine, and pour yourself a taster without using an aerator. Pour yourself a second taster using an aerator. Sample the two tasters casually at first. This casual taste should be enough to convince you that an aerator is worth the trouble every time. As the two tasters are already out, why not pretend to be a scientist and sample the two tasters again with renewed focus and enthusiasm using all of your perceptive organs as your highly calibrated analytic instruments while examining the following elements between each glass:

  1. Which has more smell volume

  2. Which has more distinct and appealing flavors

  3. Which has a more pleasant finish/aftertaste

Please note that if your wine is 10+ years old, you should not automatically aerate. With something this special, it’s important to sample and determine your personal preference. Pour two small tasters in the same manner as the test above, and make a judgement call according to your likes. The more an old wine is exposed to air the sooner it will start to fade.

Don’t have an Aerator yet? No problem, we use and love the Menagerie Rhino Pourer. Its fun, playful, and elegantly simple.  

Wine and Weed

We live in California, and as such are surrounded by the world’s best looking and most creative people getting weird with all sorts of hobbies in the best possible way. This creative expression might be just what you didn’t know you wanted, or conversely just another attention-grabbing gimmick. Today let’s examine a product that is distinctly California and hugely experimental. The product is a cannabis infused wine that holds the dubious reputation of The world’s first THC infused Sauvignon Blanc and is produced by Rebel Coast Winery - https://definitelynotrebelcoastwinery.com/

How is this possible?

With the passing of Prop 64, marijuana is now legal in California for adult-use. The regulations surrounding Prop 64 do not allow anyone to combine Alcohol and THC (the psychoactive ingredient in Marijuana). Rebel Coast has removed all alcohol from the wine to comply with this regulation and thus bringing their product to market through locally approved marijuana dispensaries.  Removing the alcohol also removes a significant number of calories, and the remaining juice only has 35 calories per glass.

Get Weird?

Without alcohol no possibility exists for a hangover, so what are the effects? Each glass has about 5mg of THC and Rebel coast indicates that this is not a particularly strong dosage and notes “Our goal is not to kill you after you’ve had a few glasses. The goal is to get giggly and naked with someone. We set out to mimic the experience you’d find with traditional wine

Champagne and Popcorn

We believe that the world needs more celebrations. More reasons to lavish compliments upon others, freely express how grateful/fortunate we are to have such incredible people in our lives. More reasons to say the world is a big place and I am glad you are in it. We think that it’s entirely reasonable to express such feelings by sharing food, only using words if necessary.

We would like to propose that Champagne and Popcorn should be your go to pairing for celebrations.  This combination is quick to prepare, delightful to enjoy, and a real surprise as it works on so many levels. The Champagne says celebration like nothing else. The popcorn keeps things light and playful. After eating the popcorn your mouth will be left with a residual layer of fat that will be whisked away by the bubbles in the champagne. This quick reset leaves your mouth happy, clean, and ready to experience all of that flavor all over again and again.

Insights on the Pairing:

  • Drink what you love – in terms of how sweet things get

    • Brut = not sweet (our preference)

    • Dry = more sweet

    • Sec = sweet

  • On a budget – no worries. The bubbles are what matter, don’t let price point stop you from having fun.

    • Cava, Prosecco, or Sparkling white wine are all great options

  • Get creative and use additional toppings on the popcorn

    • Parmesan cheese

    • Bacon crumbles

    • Caramel

    • Chocolate

  • Use Real Butter – there is no substitute in such a simple dish

  • Truffle Oil – we mention this with mixed feelings

    • If you have it in your house, it is likely because you enjoy it, so party on!

    • Anthony Bourdain said, "Let it be stated here, unto forever and eternity, truffle oil is not food."[8] He is also known for describing it as the "tomato ketchup of the middle class" – Wikipedia

How to host the essential Sunday brunch

Let’s face it, we all secretly love brunch. Perhaps because of the pageantry, or because it’s efficient (have one big meal instead of 2 smaller meals), or because our favorite people are invited, or because there are no rules for what to eat, or perhaps it’s a great excuse to slow down and avoid thinking about how swiftly Monday is swiftly approaching. We think the key to hosting a great brunch is based on three simple properties:

Anticipation

Help people look forward to it, this is an occasion akin to a birthday, or baby shower. The occasion is brunch. People love to anticipate something as enjoyable and easygoing as a party which is in full swing as the sun reaches its zenith.  Send an invitation prior to the event and provide enough details to get their imaginations going. We like to include a note about the signature dish & paired beverage which will be served to set the tone and consider this an imaginary appetizer.

Spectacle

Since this is likely the day’s big to do, make sure to set the stage. Since you are cooking, wear an apron & wield tongs or spatula. Put out the finest place settings you have access to, and present dishes with that little bit of extra care like adding a few slices of lemon to the water in the pitcher. Try to avoid putting any branding/logos on the table (this means decant the syrup for the pancakes). Add name cards, or flowers, or even fold the napkins.

Tastes worth savoring

Brunch is the one meal where diets go out the window, cholesterol levels don’t matter, and appetites are meant to be indulged. Make sure that all glasses are full of something special. We love to showcase great wines, unusual cocktails, and always fresh pressed juice (make no exception here, buy the citrus and juice it yourself). We also go to great lengths to serve foods worth eating. This means perfectly paired wine and protein, foods so decadent that they are not often consumed, or combinations that are uncouth but divine such as cinnamon rolls & espresso ribeye steak or blini with adobo lime salmon. 

So why go to all the extra effort to host an essential brunch? Because it will most certainly help everybody in attendance enjoy their weekend a little more.

Interview with a Home Winemaker

What first attracted you to wine-making?

My grandfather has several grape vines in his backyard, as a child we would go over to help with the affair. As my grandfather grew older and less capable, my brothers and I would handle the whole operation while he supervised. It brought him great, joy. I decided to continue the family tradition, for no other reason than it seemed right and proper.  

What is your wine-making philosophy; that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?

I have never thought about a wine-making philosophy, but always strive to achieve something that is drinkable. My grandfather famously produced a batch that he would label as UGHHH, the smell was of rotten eggs, and the taste was truly rancid. I hope never to have a batch that is so disgusting, you must bribe people to take it home with them...

Would you recommend others get into this as a hobby?

Absolutely! It’s so simple, and a great hobby for those who are patient. You simply order a kit from the internet watch a little YouTube on how to make a batch, and you are going to be a star. The resulting wine make great gifts, and I think everybody needs a hobby like this because the learning opportunities are endless, and it makes you appreciate wine much more.

Why did you start competing?

I took a bottle of homemade wine to a local tasting room looking to get some feedback on it. Those at the tasting were kind in their critiques and recommended that I enter the Orange County Fair. I did this at their encouragement. I loved receiving the judges tasting notes. I will likely continue competing in the future and encourage others to do the same, as competing makes your newfound hobby sound a bit more legitimate, (and less like you are a lush).  

Are you filtering any of your wines?

We try to keep filtering to a minimum. I typically don't fine my wines because it’s homemade, and nobody seems to mind the sediment. If its particularly bad, I just decant it

Where do you get your grapes?

I purchase my grapes online. I live in a small 2nd story condo in Orange County, and don’t have the space nor time horizon for my own vines yet. One day I will, but until then, the internet has everything I need and so much more.

Anything else we should know?

Get out there and get weird with it! Wine-making is a great hobby as it has been around for thousands of years. You don’t need fancy equipment nor a Silicon Valley budget to start. I won a gold medal at the county fair, fermenting in a plastic bucket that I stored in my parent’s bathroom, with grape juice that I purchased from an online store.

Award from Orange County Fair - Homemade Wine

Award from Orange County Fair - Homemade Wine

Cheers!