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.




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Boyne Mountain Includes Spa and Zipline

It was my final day at the Boyne Mountain Resort with my friends Brittany, Angela, and Kylie. We continued having a great time until the very end.

After packing up our large three bedroom suite, we filled up during our final breakfast at Everett’s. I would miss the comfort and selection of this restaurant in the Main Lodge.

The grounds of the Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls, Michigan are beautiful and very easy to navigate. Could imagine it is also a fun family atmosphere in the summer, but on this Sunday, we saw a lot of people coming to enjoy the winter sports for the day.

We split up from that point. The younger women were going off to zip line through the snow. Angela and I were heading to the spa.

The Spa, Salon & Fitness Center at Boyne Mountain is quite big and has everything you need for relaxation, as well as fitness classes and workout equipment.

Angela and I were there early enough to enjoy the steam room, sauna, and whirlpools, which are complimentary to those using the spa facilities. We also had a chance to chill in the relaxation room with some tea.

The Spiced Rum Pudding Body Treatment (similar to the Caramelt Me Away) at the Boyne Mountain Resort Spa was heavenly.

It included a milk soak, exfoliation, and oil massage using sweet swelling and moisturizing spiced rum pudding products.

We met up with Brittany and Kylie after the spa. They had lots of fun ziplining.  We picked up some fudge for the road at Kilwin’s before we left.

It had been an amazing trip to Boyne Mountain in Michigan. Even though we spent three full days, there was still things – such as ice skating at Fat Tire Snow Biking – that we didn’t get to.

People don’t always look to the Michigan for snow activities, but this resort has been recognized as having some of the best terrain in the Midwest, with seven terrain parks and 415 skiable acres.

It’s a great place for a family getaway and I hope to be back some day.

Ready to hit the slopes? There’s snow at Boyne Mountain at least four months out of the year. Check out all the late winter and early spring deals on their website.

A special thanks to Get Outfitted for the great ski clothes delivered directly to our resort. 



Friday, December 9, 2016

Downhill and Cross Country Skiing at Boyne Mountain

It was our second full day at Boyne Mountain Resort in Michigan and we were having a blast.

I had brought along my friends Brittany and Angela, and Angela’s daughter Kylie. Boyne Mountain put up in a very spacious Salzburg Suite in the Main Lodge. It had a cozy living room, full kitchen, three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Angela and I each claimed the larger bedrooms and the (grown) girls had a lot of fun in the colorful kids room, which had two bunk beds.

We once again had breakfast downstairs at Everett’s, where the buffet had a nice selection of choices and the Vanilla Bean Pancakes and French Toast, in a vanilla cinnamon custard, are amazing.

From Everett’s we could also see snow-filled views of the Boyne Mountain’s Alpine Village .

After breakfast we went down to the village and walked around the shops until it was time for Brittany and Kylie’s ski lessons.

The Skier Services building is huge. It’s where you get equipment, register for lessons, and purchase ski packages. It’s extremely organized and everyone there is very helpful, whether you are a beginner (as they were) or an advanced skier.

While they were skiing, Angela and I enjoyed some coffee and girl talk. There are benches outside to watch the skiers, and also the Kids Camp, where young non-skiers were having a lot of fun playing while their parents hit the slopes.

After the skiing, we all went to Kilwin’s Fudge Shop for some hot chocolate, followed by lunch at Forty Acres Tavern. We had liked it so much the day before we decided to return.

In the afternoon, I wasn’t feeling great and decided to stay back at the suite while they went Cross Country Skiing. 

They had a great time – Brittany liked it much better than downhill skiing – and thought the path’s Boyne Mountain had available were terrific.

We stayed in the room for some pizza for dinner. After we ate, we went outside to the bonfire and enjoyed s’mores. It was another complimentary amenity the resort had.


It had been a long day of winter fun and everyone was exhausted. We hit the beds pretty early to rest before our last day at Boyne Mountain Resort, Boyne Falls. 


Friday, December 2, 2016

Winter Fun at Boyne Mountain

Last year I had a great trip up to Boyne Highlands with my brother, youngest niece and nephew. 

While we were there, we heard a lot of great things about its sister resort, Boyne Mountain.

It didn’t take much convincing when I was offered a trip to go check it out for myself.

I brought along friends Brittany, Angela, and Kylie for a girls/family getaway at this Michigan resort.

The adventure began on Thursday morning as we headed up for the eight-hour drive to Boyne Falls.

Boyne Mountain Resort has many different accommodations.

We would be staying in the three bedroom, two bath Salzburg Suite, a duplex with a full living room and kitchen.

We arrived early evening and checked in quickly. After we unpacked our groceries and got changed, we headed straight to the Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark.

It is located in the Mountain Grand Lodge and Spa building we were staying in.

The waterpark was a lot of fun and we enjoyed a few hours of sliding and relaxing in the tubes of the lazy river, as well as the hot tubs.  

There is a restaurant, Apris Ski Pub, upstairs from the waterpark, but we were all pretty tired and decided to head back to the room, put on our PJs, and enjoy some of the mac n cheese I had made for the trip.

In the morning, we headed downstairs to Everett’s for breakfast. I had remembered the great breakfasts at Boyne Highlands and I wasn’t disappointed in the selection here either.

We decided to walk off some of the meal by exploring the grounds and buildings before our lunch with Erin Ernst, the Director of Communications for the Boyne properties.

We met Erin at the Forty Acres Tavern, the newest food options in the resort village at Boyne Mountain.

It’s a nice casual eatery at the foot of the slopes. They also have a full bar and big beer selection, with live music at night.

The menu had something for everyone. We started by sharing some of the delicious Grilled Artichoke Dip and Calamari with Mango relish, which my tablemates raved about.

I chose the Loaded Grilled Cheese sandwich, with aged cheddar, provolone, feta, Cherrywood smoked bacon, caramelized onion, avocado, and a sun-dried tomato aioli on Texas toast.

Even though I decided to go vegetarian and take the bacon off, it was sinfully delicious.

Shortly after lunch we went snowshoeing. I had only been once before, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and really enjoyed it.

The trails at Boyne Mountain Resort are much longer and I confess that I barely made it through! Brittany, Angela, and Kylie have more stamina than me, though, and even headed tubing when they were done with the snowshoe.

In the evening, Brittany’s Aunt Teresa came to join us. We picked up some hot chocolate (with RumChata and vanilla vodka for the adults) and took a horse drawn carriage ride through the property. It’s one of the complimentary activities at this resort and it was a lot of fun.

They even provided heavy blankets to keep us warm during the ride.

After the ride, we went into the indoor/outdoor pool for a bit and relaxed in the whirlpool.

It was a great way to end a day filled with fun at Boyne Mountain, but we needed to get some sleep to keep up with the schedule the following day.

A special thanks to GetOutfitted, who provided us with ski clothes for the trip. It's a great service that delivers -- and picks up -- right from your hotel so you don't have to lug everything around. 


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hand Pies, Chocolate and More in Madison

It was day three in Madison, Wisconsin, and my friend Roberta and I were getting ready to leave The Graduate Madison and heading to our next hotel, The Edgewater Resort.

I had chosen to split the stay between the two accommodations because they are totally different.
We certainly had enjoyed the college town atmosphere of The Graduate Madison.

Before we left, we had breakfast in the lobby café, Portage Pi.

Hand pies are the specialty here, and very popular with college students.
Lots of locals show up just to eat here and get coffee and smoothies, while taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi and power hookups.

I went for sweet, while Roberta preferred the savory. Both were good with our smoothies and coffees.
It was one time I wasn’t anxious to turn in my keys as I loved the idea that Graduate Madison had made them look like student IDs, but it was time to head out.
While in Madison, I was also covering a tennis tournament at the university. Roberta dropped me off and did some shopping while I was there. 


She picked me up and we headed to a place I knew I had to visit the minute I saw the sign -- Chocolaterian Café.

The selection here of chocolate goodies did not disappoint and it took a while before either of us could make a decision.

We saw a selection of cookies, including Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Cherry Chocolate, Molasses, and Spicy Chocolate.

There was also something called, Kouiagn Amann, which was a cross between a croissant and a cupcake, layers of butter and sugar, and a crunchy exterior.

We decided to get two things to share: the Ugly Cookie, a chocolate chip cookie with pistachios, cocoa nibs, oats, and, toffee, and a Manona Bar, with gooey caramel, peanut butter, Rice Krispies, and milk chocolate.

With it we completed the cocoa overload with Parisian drinking chocolate. It was a heavenly experience.

Roberta and I left the café and took a scenic ride along Lake Mendota. It looked especially beautiful as the sun was beginning to set.

We checked into The Edgewater Resort & Spa. Our suite overlooked the lake and had a balcony so we could really take in the view.

It had been a few years since I had been to this resort and it had since been totally remodeled, making it the only AAA 4 Diamond in Madison and Dane Counties.



We got settled in and freshened up for dinner in The Statehouse, one of six dining options at The Edgewater (including room service).

I started with a Winter Kiss cocktail and we shared a mushroom flatbread for an appetizer.


It was the first in a selection of delicious food that arrived at our table, including steak, a tender pork chop, and scrumptious macaroni and cheese.

For dessert, the skillet apple crumb pie with ice cream was a perfect choice.


Roberta and I relaxed in The Statehouse bar for a bit before heading to our suite at The Edgewater .
It was supposed to be our one and only night there.