Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ready to Stock the Bar and Fridge? Here are my latest finds

I hope your holiday season is going as well as mine. I have been spending lots of time with family and friends.

Get out the basket…
We’ve all seen those standard fruit, cheese, and meat baskets passed around during the holidays and other occasions throughout the year. The cheese is simply “cheddar,” or something just as generic. I was happy to hear from Murray’s Cheese about their selections, which are anything but ordinary.

They sent me The MVP: Most Valuable Player. It includes: tasty Murray’s Gruyere, tangy Humboldt Fog, mild and delicious Grazier’s Edge, and hearty Point Reye’s Bay Blue cheeses, as well as an excellent Prosciutto San Daniele and a lean Creminelli Wild Boar Salami. The Pistachio Cranberry and Olive Oil Crackers were a perfect accompaniment, and the buttery Marcona Almonds are addicting.  

One of the other things I love about Murray’s Cheese is that they let you build your own basket from all these interesting ingredients. Definitely give them a try for your next gift giving.

Grab the Little Black Dress…
If you haven’t tried LittleBlack Dress Wines yet, you should. I sampled and enjoyed their Diva Red. It was quite fruity and not too dry. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is also a bit less dry than most, retaining its dark raspberry notes.

A different kind of red…
Pinot Noir is far from my favorite wine, but I did a double-take when I tasted the 2014 from AdlerFels. It’s unlike any other I’ve tasted. This Monterey, California, selection is light and filled with blackberry, cassis, and other dark fruit.

International wines…
Some wines from around the globe I would definitely recommend you stock up on.

Astoria Caranto Pinot Noir carries the more traditional oak and dryness of a pinot noir, but it’s smooth enough that you don’t need a big steak with it.

La Cana Albarino is an easy drinking white, with light citrus and a bit of acid.

Luna Nuda PinotGrigio is something I could drink all the time. It’s very fresh and filled with fruit.  

One 8 Distilling…
I didn’t have a chance to visit One8 Distilling on my trip to Washington, DC, but they sent me a box full of samples of their spirits to try out. The company’s name comes from it’s opening date, January 8, 2015. Despite only being open two years, they have quite a selection of gin, vodka, and whiskey.

I’m not a huge fan of barreled gin (I think the spirit should have enough flavor on its own, as their Ivy City Gin does), but the One 8 Untitled No. 1 had a fairly short (3-10 months) aging in old bourbon barrels so it doesn’t lose its juniper and spice. I also recommend their White Whiskey, and their District Made Vodka, which is made from rye and uses Russian Distilling.
                                                                                                                                                              
Experiment with cocktails…
There’s more to life than gin & tonic, Captain & Coke, and Bloody Mary’s. You need to mix it up a little and why not do some mixing with something healthy?

Natalie's Orchid Island Juice Company has a selection of all natural juices that mix very well with your favorite spirits.

We paired the sweet Honey Tangerine with tequila, the tart Strawberry Lemonade with vodka, Orange Beet with gin. Their newest flavor, Pumpkin Apple Spice, was excellent with whiskey. And, of course, you can mix the Orange or Lemonade with endless possibilities.

What a great combo…
I was excited to try Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur, which is a blend of cognac and fresh pears. I was not disappointed. This is a perfect after dinner drink with or without ice, or mix it in some cocktails such as these:

Spiced Pear Affair
.75 oz. Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur           
1.5 oz. Premium Reposado Tequila 
1 oz. Lime juice 
.75 oz. Agave nectar        
Dash cinnamon and cayenne     
Cinnamon and sugar, for garnish
Shake with ice and strain into martini glass, rimmed with cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Snowy Pear Lager
1.5 oz. Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur
4 oz. Winter Lager
1 oz. Apple cider
.5 oz. Lemon juice
Apple slice and cinnamon, for garnish
Shake together Belle de Brillet, cider, and lemon juice. Strain the mixture into a glass. Add beer. Garnish with the apple and a shake of cinnamon.

Healthy frozen vegetarian…
I’ve tried and enjoyed cedarlane frozen meals before. They had sent their delicious breakfasts to me in the spring. This time I was able to taste two of their gluten-free vegetarian options, the Three Layer Enchilada Pie and the Chile Relleno. Both were flavorful and very filling, and under 400 calories for a complete meal.




Saturday, July 30, 2016

Food and Laughs in Grand Rapids

My friend Lisa and I woke up in the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton to another clear and comfortable day.

We had heard a lot of wonderful things from people in Grand Rapids about San Chez Bistro, but it turned out to be even better than we ever expected for breakfast.


It took a while to sort through their extensive and unique menu. With some help from our waiter, we filled the table with excellent choices.

We started with the Cinnamon Pecan Roll with cream cheese icing and it was amazing. It arrived freshly baked and was huge! It was hard to stop eating, even though we knew there was a lot more food to come.

My vegetable cheese eggs were loaded and topped with guacamole. Lisa went for the Breakfast Empanadas, filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, chorizo, goat and manchengo cheeses. Yes, it was as good as it sounds.

I would definitely like to return to San Chez someday and also try their drinks. They do infusions of vodka, gin, and tequila.

After breakfast, we drove by the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. We didn’t have time to stop, but judging by the line outside the door, it is quite popular.

We also past the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, in honor of the 38th President, who lived in Find Grand Rapids and represented the state in the House.

Our next stop was at one of the most unique and interesting museums I’ve been to, the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.

It’s hard to even describe the variety of exhibits and activities here.

There is something for everyone, making it an interesting stop for the whole family.

I love Merry Go Rounds so I couldn’t leave the Grand Rapids Public Museum without a ride on their historic carousel, even though we had spent more time there than originally scheduled.

You could easily spend an entire day exploring history, science, and technology, as well as some Michigan specific artifacts.

We were running late and pretty worn out with a late night in front of us, so we didn’t make it to the Grand Rapids Brewing Company. Instead we headed back to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to shower and dress for the evening.

The LaughFest Signature Event with Seth Meyers was held at DeVos Place, the convention center right next to our hotel.

As members of the press, we arrived early and sat in a special area. We sipped some wine the waiters brought out and waited for the presentations to begin.

I didn’t really know a lot about Gilda’s Club before attending this event, other than the fact that it was started by Saturday Night Live comedian and Grand Rapids native Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer, and her husband, Gene Wilder.

The stage was filled with people who had been taken in and given help by this compassionate organization. (Please take a moment to read more about Gilda’s Club, which has locations throughout the U.S., and make a donation, if possible.)

The Seth Meyers monologue was as funny as you’d expect from the late night star.

One thing we didn’t get to enjoy at the Laughfest banquet was the food. The first thing we did when we headed to the Waldron Public House was order some food.

I couldn’t resist one of their cocktails, the Smoked Pineapple Daquiri, with coconut infused white rum, pineapple, lime juice, and fresh mint.  We also had the Tandoori Chicken Pops, which were quite good and served with a cucumber-mint sauce.

We went to the back of the building to a packed room for the Laugh Riot Dolls. The free show (some of the LaughFest events are complimentary) was a wonderful mixture of local women comedians and a lot of fun.

Right after we headed back to the Amway Grand Plaza by Hilton and had a spiked hot chocolate in their rooftop bar and restaurant, CYGNUS27.

We had planned on staying for a while, but were exhausted from another full day in Grand Rapids and headed back to our room instead.