Is the Left Coast the Best Coast?

I am an East Coast girl at heart. I went to the opposite coast once, and I was not into it. There was too much traffic, too many people on juice cleanses, and way too many people trying to become actors or models. I am much more comfortable on my coast where people are always rushing around, drinking coffee, and layering up once December hits.

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However, there may be one thing I really enjoy about the West Coast…the wine. Sure, everyone says California puts out some good juice, but I’m more interested in the lively, crisp bottles I’ve found from the Northwest. Recently, I tried the 2015 Latitude 45° Pinot Noir from Left Coast Cellars. Hailing from the Willamette Valley and named after the 45th parallel which runs through the vineyard, this wine poured a soft ruby color and had aromas of maraschino cherry, smoke, and some earthiness. While those aromas may not seem like they mesh, in the glass they sang. There was a nice acid to balance out the leathery, tobacco heft to this one. It certainly wasn’t a fruit bomb of a Pinot; it had a bit of character to it. I paired it with a spinach ravioli covered in meat sauce, and although those pictures didn’t turn out well enough to include here, I promise you the wine held up against the big flavors. The look of the bottle itself was simple yet sleek, which is exactly how I picture Oregon to be. I’ll have to visit one day to confirm this. If you crave a wine that is comfortable, dependable, and yummy to boot, give this one a go.

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So, while I may not be trading in easy access to N.Y.C., Philly, or D.C. for San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, I’m willing to give the Left Coast a go. What about you? If you live in the area, you may know all that it has to offer, but if not, I suggest skipping the standard California picks and swinging up north the next time you’re in the liquor store. It’ll be worth it.

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

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Back to School and Feelin’ Cool

A few of you may know this, but I am in the process of applying to law school. Nerve-wracking, stressful, and exciting are all words that come to mind as I reflect on going through the application process. The other thing that comes up is that it also costs money. Between the holidays, applying, and actually trying to save some finances to pay for three more years in school, my wine habit has taken a hit. I am fortunate enough to receive samples, but pricey bottles stay out of my shopping cart. Now, I’m seeking out more affordable wines that are approachable and can be enjoyed with a wide variety of food. When I was offered the opportunity to try out the Domaines Paul Mas wines, I jumped at the chance. It was a test to see if affordable wines can also taste good.

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The first bottle I opened was the 2016 Côté Mas Rouge Intense. A fruity wine with a touch of tobacco, this was all cherries and dark red berries on the nose with a nice dose of acid. I tried a rosé from Côté Mas over the summer, and while the pink was decent, this wine had more complexity to it and was easily my favorite of the three I tried. Some wine bloggers I know don’t like to say “oh, this was the best one,” and while I understand this thinking because most of the wines we try have some great qualities to them, I pick favorites. If I try three wines back to back, I’m going to like on the best and I will share that with you. It might not be your favorite in the long run, but it might just help you when you’re picking out your next bottle, and that’s important to me.

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For these wines, I wanted to try them the way the typical college student would. For this wine, I paired it with Hot Pockets. Although I am a snob, I have a soft spot for frozen breading filled with pizza stuff. It was admittedly disgusting with the cheeseburger flavor, but that may have had something to do with the fact that the Hot Pocket itself was gross. Seriously, if you are also a Hot Pocket aficionado, stay away from the burger one. However, pop a pepperoni in the microwave for two minutes, and you’ll have an easy pairing that works. On its own or with this pairing, the bottle feels affordable but it is far from cheap. Over the two days I had it open, it certainly softened. So, with an SRP of $10.99, buy a couple and bring them out while watching trashy TV, or studying for an exam, or just when you need something reliable to drink on a night it. This one shouldn’t disappoint, especially since it comes in a larger bottle with more wine inside.

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Staying in the Languedoc region, the second bottle I opened was the 2016 Côté Mas Blanc Méditerranée. All citrus and tropical fruits and lemon curd, this oversized bottle was the color of leaves just as they start to turn yellow in September. The somewhat creamy, mellow impact of the wine reminded me of some of the Albariño we tried several months ago on #WineStudio. 

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Since my goal was to try these with college foods, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pair this with Ramen. I only touch this stuff on the rarest of occasions and doctor it up with some hot sauce, but the fruity quality of this wine paired surprisingly well with my lunch. I wasn’t expecting much and the fullness of the wine was still a touch too heavy to make it a perfect pairing, but it was certainly one I’d be willing to do again. Overall, it’s not the type of white wine that suits my desire for high acid whites, but it is one that I wouldn’t mind having on hand in the summertime to share with friends. At $10.99 a bottle, I might even buy a few to whip out whenever the occasion calls for something fun and fruity.

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The third and final wine I tried was the 2016 Arrogant Frog Cabernet-Merlot. Made up of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot, this was an uber smooth wine. On the nose, this reminded me of a mulled cider with some bramble berries. The taste was juicy, and while it did lack some of the complexity that the average Cabernet has, this meant it paired well with a larger variety of foods. I paired the critter wine with a real cheeseburger to much better success than with the Hot Pocket flavor. Topped with mushrooms and fontina cheese, the wine gave it a smokier edge. I tried it with and without caramelized onions, and the pairing sans onions was definitely the winner. Overall, the wine was a bit blah to be honest, but working on this one alongside a pairing helped it out immensely. The SRP is $9.99, so although it might not blow you away with layers of flavor, it will be an affordable option for anyone who wants a critter wine with a bit of dependability.

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Throughout my years of blogging, I have tried wines that I would drink every day, some I would never touch again, and a few bottles that weren’t for me that still had some real style behind them. These budget-friendly wines are not blockbusters, but they are great for parties or your average weekday wine. The two blends from Côté Mas are really where it’s at. You can buy all three for less than $40, and if that isn’t a deal, I don’t know what is. As I make this transition from work to going back to school, I’ll be keeping my eye on these options and a few of them will make their way into my regular rotation. Let me know if it makes it into yours too!

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

 

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Foodie Fashion: Being a Boss with Lipgloss

I have a few vices. Wine, food, and ice cream are just a few of them. However, I’ve also got a soft spot for lipsticks, lip stains, and lip glosses. In an effort to be a better person, I try to make these vices as healthy as possible. I’m not going to give up wine anytime soon, so I’m trying to clean up my make-up routine instead. As I read up on how make-up is made, I learned that essentially everything major companies put into their products is terrible. Yet not all brands are bad, and I’ve found a few that produce safer make-up that still lasts. Recently, one of my favorite green make-up distributors, Citrine Natural Beauty Bar ran a promo that included a bag filled with both sample and full-sized products with any purchase. I am a sucker for a promo, and as I am still swapping out some of my big brands for cleaner ones, samples are a great way for me to test products out without putting too much of my money down. One of the goodies I received was a lip gloss from Jane Iredale, and I liked it enough to mention it here.

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Called “Iced Mocha,” this lip gloss is great for a subtle look. It boosts the look of your natural lips with a soft rosy color and adds just enough shine to keep it fun. It keeps a slightly tacky feel throughout the day, which means this isn’t for you matte lovers out there. But if you like some shine, add this one to your wishlist for the upcoming holidays to complete your look! You won’t have to worry about getting lipstick all over your face as you inhale your second serving of mashed potatoes, and it doesn’t get much better than that. Happy Holidays!

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Memorable Mondays: Fantasia

It’s been a bit since I’ve done one of these. For those of you newer to my blog, I have done Memorable Mondays about everything from Persian Thanksgiving to my love of ice cream. Half of what makes food such a powerful topic is that it is intrinsically tied to memory, and that brings up strong emotions in just about anyone. What prompted me to bring my Memorable Monday posts back to life wasn’t necessarily a food, but the Disney movie Fantasia.

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Although I am a Disney lover and own a copy of Fantasia on both VHS and DVD, it’s not the movie I always pop in when I am craving some animation. Those choice are normally Aladdin, Peter Pan, or Beauty and the Beast. However, I recently had the urge to watch this classic that is as well known for its music as it is for its little dancing mushrooms. The centaur part has always been my favorite besides those mushrooms, but I noticed something this time around that I am 100% sure I never picked up on as a kid: the destruction of wine.

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]The scene starts off beautifully with centaur, unicorns, and a whole host of other brightly colored animals getting the party started before Bacchus arrives. Of course, Bacchus and wine go together like a bagel and lox. These scenes from Fantasia probably are the reason why I thought you stomped wine to make it until I was a teen. Once he’s thrown into the mix though, the G-rated party gets rowdier as he chases after centaur girls and shares wine with every animal he comes across. Then Zeus comes to ruin all the fun.

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While I 100% had no clue who Bacchus was at the ripe age of eight, I am old enough now to say R.I.P. to all that wine that Zeus destroys. While Bacchus is too cool to let this cramp his style, and a river of wine does sound kind of appealing, I still blame Zeus for trying to stop all the fun. He’s like a friend that has such bad FOMO he won’t let anyone enjoy anything without him. So, now that you’re probably an adult, next time you watch Fantasia try and emulate Bacchus (though you may want to show a little more restraint than he does) and send a curse up to Zeus for ruining the party. Life’s too short to stomp on everyone’s enjoyment.

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Thirsty Thursday: Fall Jams

When making cocktails at home, I like simple recipes where I don’t need to layer anything, figure out how to use egg whites, or spend twenty minutes trying to decipher the recipe. That’s why the majority of my Thirsty Thursday posts are basic, but I also think they are good. In general, they tend toward the sweeter side, and while I’d like to experiement with that a bit more in the future, this one falls into that category as well. I was inspired by the Absolut My Jam recipe I found when researching how to use Orgeat Syrup. If you want something more tart, up how much lime juice you use and lower the amount of almond syrup you pour. This is a fun one for the transition into the autumn weather we are finally getting, so make it on a fifty degree day with a scarf on and some pumpkins on your doorstep. You can’t get much more basic than that.

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Fall Jams

Yield: 1 cocktail

2 tsp. of blueberry jam (I like Bonne Maman)

1 tsp. of apple butter

1 oz. of Orgeat syrup

3/4 oz. of lime juice

2 oz. of Absolut vodka

five or six fresh blueberries, optional as garnish

jam jar, cleaned, optional

 

1. If using a jam jar, fill with ice. If using standard glass, grab a cocktail shaker and fill with ice.

3. Measure out and pour almond syrup, lime juice, and vodka directly into jam jar or shaker. Top with jam and apple butter.

4. If using jam jar, use the lid to cover the cocktail and shake for about ten seconds before removing lid. Or, use shaker and strain into glass. Top with fresh blueberries. Enjoy. 

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#WineStudio: Some Libations and Celebrations

Over the course of this year, we’ve had everything from Riesling to Tempranillo with #WineStudio, the weekly Twitter get-together that’s all about wine education. When it came to the most recent session, it highlighted this little thing you may have heard of called Prosecco. We kicked off September with Nino Franco, a winery founded in 1919 by Antonio Franco in Valdobbiadene, Italy. One of the oldest wineries in this Venetian region, the estate has seen four generations of producers. The coolest thing about the wines we tried is that they all are 100% Glera, a grape which has only claimed this name since 2009. Throughout #WineStudio, we have tasted the same grape from different wineries, grapes from the same region, and a varied few bottles from the same winery; however, I have never done a session where we tasted the same grape from the same producer, and it was a great way to underscore how one varietal from the same appellation can result in such distinct wines. If you didn’t participate, you only have to read about these four I tried to see that this is true.

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I will unashamedly open a bottle at 11 a.m. if it’s my day off, and that’s what I did with this first bottle, the Rustico Prosecco Superiore. There was nice creamy texture here that added some depth to the yeasty, fruity, and citrusy flavors that abounded inside the glass. I pulled out a slice of homemade Persian flatbread and threw some whipped cream cheese, capers, tomato, red onion, and lox on it. Yes, we know all probably know that bubbles go well with most seafood, particularly oysters on the half shell, but I had never tried it like this. It was a simple, smart choice for my first pairing; just the way I like it. The winery let us know during the Twitter discussion that this was their most popular bottle, and with the SRP of $19 and the great flavor profile of this one, I can see why. It was my favorite, and a great way to start the two months we would be spending on all things bubbles.

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Then, my five day work week turned into a week where I worked nine days in a row, and all my energy went towards just getting my second bottle open. The Brut Prosecco Superiore was very pale in color with flavors that were somewhat sweet with a balancing level of acid. The best part was the dozens of small bubbles that gave this a very light, celebratory feel. If you like the apple or pear or generally fruity profile often associated with Prosecco yet also want something with a bit of linger to it, this is an easy to drink option that demands only your enjoyment. This one is priced slightly above the average Prosecco with an SRP of $27, but it’s worth the few extra dollars. Don’t pass it up.

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The third bubbly I opened was the Primo Franco Prosecco Superiore, a sweeter option that appealed to my grandmother’s tastes more than my own. As soon as I had people try this one, they commented the softness of it. There were aromas and flavors of lush, ripe apples like McIntosh with a dash of Granny Smith. Fruity and creamy and smooth, there was still some complexity here that kept this one fun. With an SRP of $29, bring this one out for a party which includes people that gush about moscato or always stand by the sweets. They’ll enjoy it and even you can sip alongside them without feeling like one gulp contains your daily recommended dosage of sugar.

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The final bottle came wrapped in gold cellophane with the regal sounding name of 2010 Grave di Stecca Brut Sparkling. While we #WineStudio participants were mixed on our thoughts about this presentation, I loved it. Yes, it was cheesy, but it was also a bit of ridiculous fun. Excitedly, I opened it, poured a glass, and brought it up to my lips. Then, I wished I could rip it away because this was not good. Drier than any of the other Nino Franco bottles we had previously opened, odd is the word that comes to mind now when I recall this one.

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The rich, beautiful, marigold color of this wine immediately drew me to the bottle. However, the woodsy aromas and dry taste were not what I was expecting. I had to hunt for the fruit, but there was no denying that there was a fullness to it, some warmth, and eventually flavors of wintery stone fruit with even a hint of pineapple. After some experimenting, I found that this wine absolutely needed food. Most wine tastes better with food, but in general, I am happy to have a glass on it’s own. Do not do that with this one. Whether it’s a cold cut like I chose or tapas or cheeses, have the food on the table before you even open this one. With the heftiest price tag of $49, I would have to say that any basic bubbly drinker should steer clear. It’s not a bottle for the average person, but rather one for someone with an advanced palate that craves the funky stuff.

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The bubbles we tried during this session are way better than the ones your mom poured into the tub when you were a kid. For a lot of my friends, Prosecco are meant to be had when we’re celebrating, yet many of these wines are approachable and affordable. They aren’t just for the holidays or when you get a big promotion or when you get into the college you were hoping for, but they’re for everyday celebrations. Bubbles are worthy of your attention, and these bottles demand it. #WineStudio in November just started and is all about New Jersey wines. So join us over there and check back in a couple of weeks for my thoughts on the other Prosecco we tried before the end of October. Happy drinking!

These wines were kindly provided to me by the winery listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

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Food with the City of Lights

It may make me basic, but I love Paris. Before I visited, I was enamored with the architecture, the language, and the people. After I visited over a Thanksgiving abroad, I was still enamored. I loved how easy the metro was to use. I enjoyed just walking around, even in the frigid temperatures where a scarf, boots, and coat couldn’t fight the chill. One of the best meals I’ve ever had was in a restaurant with maybe eight tables tucked away down an alley in the red light district. My feisty exterior even melted a bit when I saw couples adding their locks to the bridge (fun fact: the original one is in Rome, even though everyone talks about Paris). It’s a city full of promise, as cheesy as that sounds, and it lived up to everything I thought it would be, sparkling Eiffel Tower and all. So, the desire to consume everything from An American in Paris to French guide books when I was younger has grown into even more of a drive to get my hands on anything to do with the city. Recently, I finished The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino, who has lived the life of which I dream. Here are my favorite quotes. After you’re done reading, close your eyes and picture yourself there. It’ll be easy…and cheaper than booking a flight.

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“There are merchants who seduce me with their gastronomic passions: artichokes so young they can be served raw, a Cotes du Rhone so smooth it could be a fine Burgundy, a Mont d’Or cheese so creamy it is best eaten with a spoon.”

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“Picard is a national all-frozen-food supermarket chain with an outlet around the corner. Its frozen red mullet is half the price of the fresh counterpart at La Poissonnerie Bleue, but Picard is viewed with disdain by traditional French cooks. The dirty little secret is that some Picard fish is pas mal, which in French doesn’t mean “not bad”, it actually means pretty good….”

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“At Christmas, when I wrote about chocolate, I brought back dozens of bars from Bonnat, a small chocolate maker near Grenoble, and passed them out like Santa.”

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“Given my family history, I know a lot more about cheese than wine, and more about Italian than French cheese.”

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“He introduced new items, like sweet corn! Corn! The French feed it to animals. The only place I had ever found sweet corn in the neighborhood was at the Picard supermarket, husked, wrapped in plastic, and frozen.”

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“They imported waffle dough from Belgium. Instead of using banal Nutella to make chocolate waffles, the way every other Parisian crêperie and waffle maker seems to do, they stuffed theirs with fine Belgian chocolate.”

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“Every morning, when they open their window, the fragrance of sugar, butter, and vanilla fills the sidewalk.”

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These were the highlights for me, pulling me back to a city that cannot be paralleled. If you get a copy, buy an extra creamy cheese, some lively red wine, and picture yourself on the Rue des Martyrs. The book is easy enough to read in one go or you can pick it up, flip to a chapter and just read. It may not be the best book I’ve ever read about Paris, but it’s one I’ll keep close by when I want a dose of the city. That makes it worth it to me.

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