Tuesday, July 31, 2012

World Vegan Feast

World Vegan Feast Book Cover

World Vegan Feast is a collection of 200 recipes from over 50 countries, including soups, sandwiches, main dishes, appetizers, and so much more. It features mostly easy-to-follow recipes with ingredients that should be easy to find. A wonderful bonus is the introductory chapter, World Vegan Kitchen Essentials, with explanations of vegan products, recipes for basic necessities, and suggestions for meat and dairy alternatives.

From breakfast to fast food, to hearty meals, and beyond (don’t forget dessert!), this cookbook will give you tasty options for all your needs. Greece, Peru, Nepal, and so many more, are mined for traditional dishes and also for some fusion recipes. Each chapter presents the recipes embedded with history, suggestions, explanation of ingredients, and more. This is not just a cookbook, but an educational tome as well—definitely a necessary addition to your cookbook collection.

Check out my recipe from World Vegan FeastMeatless Monday: Rustic Italian Squash and Kale Tart!

Bryanna Clark Grogan

About the Author: Bryanna Clark Grogan is the author of popular vegan cookbooks, including Nonna’s Italian Kitchen, Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen, The Almost No Fat Cookbook, and The Fiber for Life Cookbook, among others. She also writes the vegan cooking blog Notes From the Vegan Feast Kitchen.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the Vegan Heritage Press. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Pinstripes Bowling, Bocce, Bistro

Pinstripes Barrington Collage

Pinstripes Bowling, Bocce, Bistro has locations in Northbrook and South Barrington, IL and Edina, MN. Pinstripes Barrington, the location we visited, is located in The Arboretum of South Barrington, a 600,000 square-foot lifestyle center, a mix of retail, service and food establishments. When first walking in to the restaurant, the feeling is a bit overwhelming, as the entry is a cavernous two story space, with the individual modules (bowling, bocce, and bistro) raying out like spokes from an axle. Each module is quite comfy on its own, so after the initial shock, it's all good.

Pinstripes Barrington Bowling Collage

We started our  evening in the bowling alley, rolling a game as well as enjoying mozzarella ball appetizers (served with dipping sauce and onion strings) with a cocktail and beer. Thursday night's special happened to be Ladies' Night, with all patrons enjoying lower-priced cocktails - I couldn't resist trying the Puccini (Absolut Peach, mango juice, sparkling wine, over ice with lemon and orange twists) - quite tasty.

Pinstripes Barrington Appetizer Collage

We then headed into the bistro, which is tucked away in the back, behind the front desk and bar. One slightly odd design element was an opening through to the bar, which made the dining area alot noisier than it might have been. Not so noisy that it was obtrusive, but strange nonetheless. Appetizers inc luded the house bread basket with dipping sauce, a grilled vegetable flat bread, and a Greek salad for Laima. From the interesting wine list, I opted for an Inama Soave Classico, while Laima chose the Mazzai Badiola, both of which complemented the appetizers and subsequent entrees. Immediately wee noticed that all the food tasted very fresh, which is always a good first impression.

Pinstripes Barrington Entree Collage

My entree was the Spinach Mascarpone Ravioli, in a tomato vodka cream sauce, very tasty. An amazing smoky warm spinach added depth and complexity to the dish, really a nice touch. One slight improvement, in my opinion, would be to serve a touch less sauce and to place it under the ravioli rather than on top--this would create a dish more pleasing to the eye. Laima really enjoyed her Braised Boneless Short Ribs--she had considered the grilled baby back ribs, but didn't want an entree that was too sweet. The braised short ribs were just right, cooked in a red wine reduction along with roasted vegetables, while roasted potatoes proved an effective foil. I had a second glass of wine with the entrees, choosing a Cesari Mara Ripasso, more dark smoke to go along with the spinach in my dish.

Pinstripes Barrington Dessert Collage

Not sure how we found the room, but we couldn't pass up the desert options, especially with 10 to choose from! We opted for the Flight of Three Desserts: Caramelized Cheesecake, Apple-Pear Bread Pudding, and Frangelico Chocolate Cake. It looked overwhelming when it arrived, stretching across a cutting board with fresh fruit and whipped cream, but we managed a bite or two of each, and a delicious cappuccino rounded out the evening perfectly.

Pinstripes is doing so many things right--it's an entertaining place to go, with good food and drinks matching up to the bowling and bocce experience. With specials each night and a menu that changes at least quarterly, one could return again and again to try the varied options. A gluten-free menu, along with vegetarian options, means that a family or group with differing tastes or dietary needs could all find something. While there are no vegan options on the menu, some of the dishes could easily be adapted, and the chef says they keep quinoa and other items on hand to make it more interesting than just pasta and veggies, a typical choice. Add in the vegetable garden in the back, and it's clear they are making a serious effort to make really good food.

We're excited that Pinstripes is opening a location in Oakbrook, closer to our home, and are planning on a bowling-themed kids birthday party there once they've opened.

For an all-in-one outing that works for a romantic dinner for two, for the family, or for a group, Pinstripes fits the bill, with fun entertainment, good food, and good drinks.

Pinstripes Bocce, Bowling & Bistro on Urbanspoon

More info on the Pinstripes website,  on Facebook,  and Twitter.

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of Pinstripes. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Been Doon So Long

Been Doon So Long Book Cover

The book Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology is a collection of pieces from the Bonny Doon newsletters, journals, magazines, reviews and material written specifically for the book. Love him or hate him, author Randall Grahm’s “Vinthology” most definitely showcases his unique perspective.

A paean to overlooked wine varieties, the history of the Rhône Ranger wine movement, stories from Bonny Doon, unique wine labels—they all make appearances as Grahm uses satire, lyrics, poems and more to skewer the wine industry and impart some celebration along the way. Much like Bonny Doon wines, this is not a book that is looked at once and then put away, but rather one to return to again and again, for pleasure and for edification. Highly recommended!

Randall Grahm photographed by Alex Krause 2005
Photo Credit: Alex Krause September 2005

About the Author: “The Original Wine Derranger,” “Founder, Winemaker, Terroirist/Vinarchist and Prez-for-Life @BonnyDoonVineyd, Defender of Misunderstood and Underappreciated Doon-trodden Cépages of the Earth,” Randall Grahm's writing appears in the World of Fine Wine magazine. He has been inducted into Who's Who of Cooking in America and named Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. He can be found on Twitter at @RandallGrahm and on the web at Been Doon So Long.



Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the University of California Press. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Napa Cellars

Napa Cellars Logo

We were lucky enough to taste 4 wines from Napa Cellars recently. Overarching impression is that, to a wine, these are all very well-balanced, have lots of fruit on the palate, with firm tannins, and long finishes being the norm. Excellent now, most of these will cellar wonderfully for at least a few years.

2010 Napa Valley Pinot Noir
Black cherries and floral notes on the nose. Berry flavors layered over well-balanced acidity, with just the tiniest hint of sweetness. Tannins add tea notes to the smooth and lingering finish.

2010 Napa Cellars Merlot
Spice and stone fruit on the nose. Lots of berry flavors. Plush mouthfeel. Another well-balanced wine, a long finish with dark undertones. Chocolate? The best Merlot I’ve had in recent memory.

2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Berries and chocolate on the nose, with hints of spice. Berries and more chocolate on the palate. Tannins, acidity, and a luscious texture make this drinkable now but well-suited for aging.

2010 Napa Valley Zinfandel
Tea, spices, and berries on the nose. Juicy fruit, nuts, and candy-like flavors add to the complex palate, with firm tannins and good acidity making this a well-balanced wine. Long finish.

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Napa Cellars, via Balzac. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Napa Cellars

Napa Cellars logo

Founded in 1996, Napa Cellars was acquired by Trinchero Family Estates in 2006. Winemaker Joe Shirley vinifies award-winning varietals: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah. Located in the center of the Napa Valley, surrounded by prime Oakville vineyards, the Napa Cellars tasting room boasts several features that have guests returning time and time again. The tasting room pours an exceptional selection from Folie à Deux, Napa Cellars, and Ménage à Trois. After tasting, enjoy a picnic on the winery’s grounds, surrounded by some of Napa Cellars’ finest vineyards.

We recently had the pleasure of tasting 4 wines from Napa Cellars: 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Merlot, 2010 Zinfandel, and the 2010 Pinot Noir. Read my Tuesday Tasting for more details on what we thought.

More information available on the Napa Cellars website  and on Facebook.
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Friday, July 20, 2012

I Dream of Falafel, Chicago, IL

You might think I Dream of Falafel is a typical fast food place with a Mediterranean twist. You would be wrong. While it has some elements of fast food, certain practices move it beyond cookie cutter retail. First, the food is made fresh daily, the chickpeas are organic, and, if you eat in rather than take out, you get actual plates. Yes, actual plates.

At I Dream of Falafel, they have created a unique concept of combining fresh, local, healthy ingredients to prepare delicious Mediterranean cuisine with great, quick service and at a price that is just right. All the meats in their menu are always fresh, preservative-free, hormone-free, and free of additives. All beef and lamb is premium AA sirloin, while the poultry is cage free and grain fed. The menu offers an authentic, appetizing and healthy cuisine that is preservative-free, hormone-free and contains no trans-fat.

Modeled on the Chipotle system of choosing a base, a protein, sauces and sides, options range from falafel to beef shawerma for the protein, with salad, pita, or a tortilla-style wrap as the base. Rice, Jerusalem Salad, tabbouleh, hummus are just a few of the sides available.

I Dream of Falafel Food Collage

Whether you're a vegan, a dedicated carnivore, or something in between, there is food here for you. To maximize tasting, I opted for the Vegan Platter, while my buddy chose the All-In Platter, a meat-lover's dream. We had the chance to meet one of the owners and, along with the story of how the restaurant came to be, he also brought out some of his favorite sides, to go along with some crispy pita chips for dipping. Every single thing we tasted was amazing, as if it had just been made especially for us. Definitely try the sweet potato falafel, never seen it done anywhere else, and they are delicious!

I Dream of Falafel Dessert Collage

What is a meal without dessert? Opt for either the baklava or the date cookies, the latter mixed with pistachios for a unique flavor and texture. The baklava is lighter and less sweet than most, which means you can actually eat more than one bite! Both desserts tasted fresh, though are not made in the restaurant, but rather procured from a local bakery.

Vimto Soda Lite

If you're the soda-drinking type (I'm usually not), check out the Vimto Soda, incredibly sweet, with an interesting spice combo. Be warned though, even the Lite version I tasted was sweet, sweet, sweet!

If you come away with one thing after eating at I Dream of Falafel, it is this: freshness. Everything tastes like it was just made, with high quality ingredients. The falafel is crisp, the meat tender and moist, the bread baked today. You can't go wrong with literally anything on the menu and, because of the variety, a group with mixed dietary preferences can all eat together.

Interested in owning your own? I Dream of Falafel Franchising has recently launched!

More info on the I Dream of Falafel website, on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

I Dream of Falafel on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of I Dream of Falafel. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rieslings and Rodney Strong

Wine Tasting Aftermath

We had such a good time tasting last night. The evening started out with 8 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes region of New York. The wines were divided into two flights, nominally in ascending order of residual sugar: Flight 1: Hosmer Winery 2010 Vintners Reserve Riesling, Fulkerson Winery 2010 William Vigne Dry Riesling, Red Newt Cellars 2010 Riesling - Sawmill Creek Vineyards, and Silver Thread Vineyard 2011 Dry Riesling. Flight 2: Keuka Spring Vineyards 2011 Riesling, Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2010 Red Oak Riesling, Thirsty Owl Wine Company 2010 Riesling, and the Penguin Bay Winery 2011 Riesling. Every wine was different from the next, showcasing the versatility of Riesling and the winemakers themselves. Great intro to this world-renowned wine region!

Rodney Strong Tasting Cafe 140

Second tasting was the TasteLive Cafe 140 featuring wines from Rodney Strong: 2010 Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc Estate Vineyard, the Davis Bynum, 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2009 Knotty Vines Estate Vineyard Zinfandel, and the 2009 Symmetry Red Meritage Alexander Valley. Rodney Strong was ably represented by Robert Larsen, who paired four wines with dishes created by Chef John Francetti of Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar. Adding a little rock 'n' roll spice to the show, Midori of Midori + Ezra Boy was the evening's guest musical artist. The music was great, wines even better, fun conversation both from the Heritage Public House and amongst the participants via TasteLive.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TasteLive Café 140 Tasting

Cafe 140's July show, hosted by Joel Quigley of TasteLive, will tease the upcoming Rootstock Festival (Saturday, July 21 from 2pm to 6pm) with a sampling of the day's players during our live webcast from Heritage Public House. Rodney Strong Vineyards, represented by Director of Communications Robert Larsen, will pair four wines with dishes created by Chef John Francetti of Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar. To add a little rockn 'n' roll spice to the show, Midori of Midori + Ezra Boy is the evening's guest musical artist. The webcast goes live from 6pm to 7pm PT, tobight, Wednesday, July 18th.


Wines featured will be Rodney Strong 2010 Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc Estate Vineyard, Davis Bynum 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Rodney Strong 2009 Knotty Vines Estate Vineyard Zinfandel, and Rodney Strong 2009 Symmetry Red Meritage Alexander Valley.

Featured Blogger Panelists include:


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finger Lakes Riesling Tasting

Finger Lakes Rieslings

Tomorrow night, along with a group of distinguished tasters, I'll be participating in the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance's Riesling Tasting. Wineries participating include Fulkerson, Hosmer, Keuka Spring, Lamoreaux Landing, Penguin Bay, Red Newt, Silver Thread, and Thirsty Owl. The Finger Lakes region is known for its aromatic whites, specifically Riesling, so I am really looking forward to tasting these wines!

The tasting will take place virtually throug USTREAM and Twitter. The USTREAM channel can be found on USTREAM TV by entering Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting Series in the search bar. Follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #FLXWineVT. Hope you'll join us!

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Meatless Monday: American Vegan Kitchen


American Vegan Kitchen: Delicious Comfort Food from Blue Plate Specials to Homestyle Favorites (Woodstock, VA: Vegan Heritage Press, 2010), by Tamasin Noyes, is an unassuming-looking book with a surprising amount of good stuff inside.

200+ recipes replicate the comfort food of America’s diners, cafes, and bistros as vegan alternatives! Included are deli sandwiches, burgers and fries, mac and cheese, pasta, pizza, omelets, pancakes, tasty soups and salads, casseroles, and desserts.

American Vegan Kitchen: Savory Seitan

Since seitan is featured in so many of the recipes, I decided to try out the “Savory Seitan” recipe, so other recipes could follow in turn. One thing I really liked about this recipe is that it has an option written for slow-cooker use—easy as I didn’t have to keep an eye on it. The other positive about the slow cooker version is that it creates "roasts" of seitan, so you have multiple forms that can be cut from each one, increasing the possibilities of this already versatile food. Pretty simple ingredients, with the only 3 not available in my local grocery store (Jewel-Osco) being vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, and soy flour. I didn't use browning sauce (because I didn't know what it was), but everything else you might have in your pantry right now. Easy to follow recipe, especially  in the slow cooker, though I forgot to turn off the cooker and it went an extra hour. Ultimately though, it tasted just like the store-bought seitan!

American Vegan Kitchen: Cherry Chocolate Bread Pudding

The other recipe I immediately tried was “Cherry Chocolate Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce,” because, hey, life is short and you should eat dessert first! Again, ingredients are typical off the shelf stuff you might already have. Soy creamer, vegan margarine, tapioca flour, and vegan chocolate chips are things you might not find at your local grocer. This ended up being made without the vanilla sauce or drizzle, as I had forgotten to purchase custard powder for the sauce and was too lazy to make the drizzle. Flat out, this was an awesome dish -- I could see this being served for a brunch as well as dessert. Just the right amount of sweetness, with the yummy bread taking front and center. If you served this to a non-vegan, they would never know it wasn't made with dairy.

This is a good cookbook for both vegans, those thinking about adopting the vegan lifestyle, or just need to make something for that pesky vegan relative. Most of the ingredients seem typical of most people's pantries and the unusual ones shouldn't be too hard to find at the local natural foods store. It will be nice to explore more of the recipes!

Tamasin Noyes - Vegan Appetite

See Tami's blog at: http://www.veganappetite.com/.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the Vegan Heritage Press. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your book or wine-related product reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Biodynamic Wine Video

After my review of the Authentic Wine book yesterday, I thought I'd follow up with a video on biodynamic winegrowing, courtesy of Natalie MacLean. Enjoy!




"Biodynamic and organic wines: do they taste better? Are they healthier for you? What’s with burying cow’s horns in the vineyard, witchcraft and astrology?"

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Authentic Wine Book Review

Authentic Wine book cover

Ever since I first heard the term “natural wine,” I’ve struggled with it. All wine is made from fruit, so it’s natural, yet all of it has been manipulated in some way, so it’s not natural. In their book, Authentic Wine (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011), authors Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop suggest an alternative—“authentic wine.” It has a nice sound to it, recognizing that, dependent on location and tradition, winemaking varies from location to location. Sadly, this is actually in danger of no longer being true, as the majority of wines are now made in a more international style, consistent but not reflective of provenance.

The book travels around the world, investigating diversity of wine (and future lack?), terroir (“terroir is a partnership between the site and winegrower”), grafted vines (Are they natural? Do they still reflect terroir?), biodynamics and organics, sustainable winegrowing, the chemical and physical manipulation of wine, the natural wine movement, and more. The book is full of examples of the myriad ways people are approaching these wine-related themes around the world.
“What is meant by the term natural? Is wine different from other alcoholic beverages, and why? Is there such a thing as ‘fake’ wine? What is the appropriate use of technology in winemaking? What additions to wine should be allowed, and who gets to decide? And, practically, how can winemakers adjust their methods to make more honest, expressive, and interesting wines?”
These are the questions the authors post at the outset. With clear language, varied examples, and wide-ranging thinking, the authors not only answer the questions but, in my case, helped me formulate some answers of my own. Highly recommended as a balanced look at the sometimes contentious world of “natural wine.”

About the Authors:
Jamie Goode, a former scientific editor, is wine writer for the Sunday Express and a contributor to magazines including The World of Fine Wine and Wines + Vines. His website, http://www.wineanorak.com/, is one of the world’s most visited wine sites. His first book, The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass (UC Press) won the Glenfiddich Drink Book of the Year Award.

Sam Harrop is a Master of Wine, qualified winemaker, and independent winemaking consultant. He co-founded Domaine Matassa and Litmus Wines, and is a co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the University of California Press. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bangkok Cafe, Arlington Heights

Bangkok Cafe - food beautifully presented!
Bangkok Cafe - food beautifully presented!

It wasn't a happy reason to be in Arlington Heights, a wake of a friend's father, but it was nice to discover an Arlington Heights beyond the racetrack. Some Internet research helped us pick out Bangkok Cafe as a place to try for dinner, garnering decent reviews for clean design, beautifully-presented food, and good taste. Six sisters been serving authentic, home style Thai Cuisine to Chicago's Northwest Suburbs since 1994.

A SNAFU with my BlackBerry camera meant only a very few photos were saved, but the restaurant is indeed attractive, and well-positioned just a half-block from the commuter train. Apart from the incongruity of the demising walls not meeting the ceilings (the loft look is not conducive to a homey Thai restaurant experience), the artwork. furniture and general cleanliness made us happy. Happier still when we discovered the clean bathrooms! (Always an indicator of quality, I've found.)

Many vegetarian options (as well as meat, poultry, and seafood), along with a kid's menu meant there was something for everyone. Spring Rolls for an appetizer, fried rice, pad thai, and rama noodles were a few of the dishes we opted to try. All the dishes tasted fresh and clean - I read that the sisters use their own grown herbs and spices, and I can believe it after tasting the dishes. For dessert we opted for the Fried banana with sesame and sauces, a disappointment for me, nearly flavorless, but the kids ate pretty much every bite.

Everything was very good and looked very pretty, but the whole meal was uniformly very sweet and all the dishes seemed to have too much sauce. Apart from those two missteps, it was a very satisfying experience and a restaurant worth seeking out if business, pleasure, or occasional wake bring you to Arlington Heights.

Nice decor and yes, the bathrooms were clean!
Nice decor and yes, the bathrooms were clean!

Bangkok Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: August Hill Winery

August Hill Winery - Utica, IL

On a recent family trip to Starved Rock State Park, we took the opportunity to taste wines from two wineries who are part of the Illinois River Wine Trail. A truly impressive operation (especially once you realize just how small the town of Utica is) greeted us at the August Hill Winery tasting room (our second stop after tasting at Illinois River Winery).

From the photos above, you can see what a keen design sense pervades the establishment - I can imagine whiling away an afternoon on that back patio, really comfy.

We once again tasted 6 wines - with a drive home in front of us, no need to get overserved! Among the wines we tasted were the 2010 Hieland Red (nice basic red, good with food, I would suspect), the Berlyn, the 2011 Traminette (very similar to a nice Gewurtztraminer), and the 2011 Vignoles (flowery, reminiscent of Riesling). While their whites were quite good, the most surprising thing was how good the red wines were - we spend a lot of time drinking on the Lake Michigan Shore Trail in Michigan, and the reds have been relatively disappointing as a whole. These reds were far better!

August Hill's vineyard stands atop a bluff on the south side of the Illinois River. Grape varieties growing in the vineyard include Briana, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Geneva Red (Buffalo x Baco noir), La Crescent, Marquette, Noiret (formerly NY73.0136.17 - [(NY33277 x Chancellor) x Steuben]), Prairie Star (aka ES 3-24-7), and St. Pepin. Grape varieties supplied by other vineyards include Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Chardonel, Frontenac, Golden Muscat (Muscat Hamburg x Diamond), Léon Millot, Marechal Foch (aka. Foch, Kuhlmann 188-2), Seyval Blanc, St. Pepin, Traminette, and Vignoles/Ravat.

If you are in the Utica area, I highly recommend stopping by the tasting room and enjoying some great wines!

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Meatless Monday: Pool Food


When it gets to be a hundred degrees, we think about beach or pool. We're lucky that my in-laws have a pool at their home, not too far from ours. Pool time often means grilling, but sometimes it just is too hot; then we want simple. Handheld is always a bonus. Recently, we had what I thought was an amazing meal, perfect by the pool (Laima and the kids all seemed to agree!).

What we ate:
  • Baby carrots
  • Way Better Snacks Simply Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips
  • Wild Harvest Organic Black Bean Tortilla Chips
  • Sourdough bread
  • Organic veggie chili
  • Galaxy vegan mozzarella cheese substitute
  • Yves Smart Dogs
Laima and I paired this outstanding meal with some Guinness Stout, but it also would have been great with some Francis Ford Coppola Winery Sofia Rosé - we had some recently and it's a dynamite summer wine.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Snake Wine


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“Snake wine is an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol. The drink was first recorded to have been consumed in China during the Western Zhou dynasty and considered an important curative and believed to reinvigorate a person according to Traditional Chinese medicine.[1] It can be found in China, Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia. The snakes, preferably venomous ones, are not usually preserved for their meat but to have their "essence" and snake venom dissolved in the liquor. However, the snake venom is denatured by the ethanol; its proteins are unfolded and therefore inactive.”
(from Wikipedia)

On Naked Underground, Don Wildman visits Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. While there he tests a traditional snake wine. It is important in their culture, especially to the men for the purpose of making them stronger and for sexual activity.



Ever tried snake wine?
Something equally unusual?

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

TasteLive: Wines of Vinho Verde


Last week we also got to participate in a second TasteLive! Event, tasting wines from Vinho Verde, a Portuguese region which includes the Minho province plus adjacent areas to the south. Vinho Verde is not a grape varietal and, while the name literally means "green wine," it is more commonly understood as a "young wine". It may be red, white or rosé, and it is meant to be consumed early.

Wines of Vinho Verde Brand Ambassador Laura Maniec, MS @LauraManiec, led us through a spirited tasting of these Portuguese wines, surprises at the opening of each cork. Wines tasted were Adega Ponte de Lima Adamado 2011, Lagosta Vinho Verde 2011, Quinta de Gomariz Loureiro 2011, and Great Sense Vinho Verde Rosé. General consensus was that, as promised, these are the perfect summer wines, well-balanced, acidic, tasty on their own or paired with summer fare.


Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Wines of Vinho Verde. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TasteLive: Drink Alsace - Wines of Pure Expression

Wines of Alsace: Pure Expression

This TasteLive! event started with insights about Alsace Wines and the region, along with history, by Patrick W Fegan, Director of Chicago Wine School and Wine Columnist for Examiner.com. Hard to believe that wine history could be shared in 160 character snippets, but Patrick did a fantastic job.

According to Binny’s Beverage Depot, a co-sponsor of the event:
“Alsace is one of France’s top white wine regions and is famous for its fresh, aromatic and food-friendly wines. Located on the eastern border of Germany in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, Alsace produces terroir-driven wines of pure fruit expressions from 7 main grape varieties. Unlike other regions in France, the wines of Alsace typically indicate the grape variety on their labels: for example, Alsace Pinot Blanc and Alsace Riesling. When a grape appears on a label, the wines are comprised 100% of that variety. The region also makes high-quality, reasonably priced sparkling wines called Crémant d’Alsace.”
The introductory forum was followed by the tasting, led by Patrick via video, really a neat interactive way to do this. The wines tasted included Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rosé, The Fürst Pinot Blanc 2010, Gustave Lorentz Riesling 2009, Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris 2009, and Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2008. All were amazingly complex and satisfying, really showcasing what the region has to offer.

Wine bloggers in attendance included Ari Bendersky (@aribendersky, http://chicago.eater.com/), David Hammond (@DavidHammond, http://lthforum.com/) , Minna An (@minNAAN, http://chicagoist.com/), Douglas Trapasso (@demilove, http://chicagopinot.wordpress.com/), James McMillan (@WineMizer, http://www.winemizer.net/), Michael Bottigliero (@WCWineGuy, http://www.windycitywineguy.com/), Gwendolyn Alley (@ArtPredator, http://winepredator.wordpress.com/), Tim Elliott (@winecast, http://winecast.net/), and Jason Rzutkiewicz (@jasonswineblog, http://www.jasonswineblog.com/).

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Wines of Alsace and Binny's Beverage Depot. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Meatless Monday: Vegan Pancakes

Pancakes with blueberry syrup

"Tried and true, these pancakes are right for every day and any topping."  This simple recipe is adapted from the Joy of Cooking's "Basic Pancake" and is easily adapted to a vegan version. I add oatmeal, nuts, chia seeds and other protein sources to make these dense and chewy. Omit extra ingredients if you want a more traditional result.

To prepare egg alternative, mix together and set aside:
  • 2 Tbs ground flaxseeds
  • 4 Tbs water

In a large bowl, whisk together
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In another bowl mix together
  • 1 1/2 c soymilk
  • 3 Tbs grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Add flaxseed mix to wet ingredients and then pour over dry ingredients.  Mix together until just combined.

If you want mix in one or more of the following: 
  • 1/2 c oatmeal
  • chia seeds
  • 1/2 c chopped nuts
  • 1/2 c fresh, frozen or dried fruit

Spoon batter for each pancake onto preheated greased pan or griddle.  Cook on medium heat until top of each pancake is speckled with bubbles and some bubbles have popped open.  Flip pancakes and cook until underside lightly browned.  Serve with fresh fruit, syrup or plain.  If not serving immediately, keep warm in 200 degree oven.  Enjoy!

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