Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Eating and Drinking Cup Cakes

With Summer right around the corner, I'm on the hunt for good, affordable wine that will be refreshing in the heat; good for both sipping and dining.

I was introduced to Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc at a wine tasting years ago, and I remembered it to be full of lemon and citrus. Last night I tried it again and sure enough that acidic lemon just exploded on my tongue. It worked well with the shrimp, avocado and cilantro salad I was eating. The grapes are sourced from one of the best Sauvignon Blanc growing regions in the world, Marlborough, New Zealand and it's a bargain for around $10.

The cupcake Gods must be smiling on me because also yesterday, I was asked to host a Cupcake tasting Saturday the Firepit City Grill, at Gulf Coast Town Center in Estero, FL. We are trying nine different Cupcake Wines while eating what else....cupcakes! I can't wait to try the vineyard's two blends; Angel's Food and Red Velvet.

The Firepit is featuring Cupcake wines the month of May and we kick it off this weekend. Saturday (4/28). You get $5 glasses with an additional free taste, a mini cupcake and $20 bottles. That's not all, the Firepit has a license to party on the lawn. Typically, alcohol has to stay in the confines of the restaurant's patio. However, Saturday you can take all the cupcakes you can carry, to chairs or blankets on the lawn and listen to live Blues on the center stage of  Gulf Coast Town Center.

See you there!

To see how the event went, click here:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pantry Raid

Although I live in a tropical climate, I've always managed to avoid bug problems in my home; aside from the occasional sugar ants. Several weeks ago I was intrigued by a couple of small, strange bugs around a new plant  next to my pantry. Assuming the bugs were coming from the plant I put it on my lanai. But the bugs stayed.

I gave my pantry a quick look, but saw nothing unusual. Then I got that feeling in my gut. After moving some items around for closer inspection, I found a canvas bag of rice, infested with Maize Weevils. The site made me sick to my stomach, made my skin crawl. So logically, I cursed them out; before, during and after putting a trash bag over the mess and taking it to the dumpster. I killed any residual bugs, poked around a little more and sighed in relief that the ordeal was over.

Bad assumption. After returning from a weekend getaway in Miami, those damn weevils were still hanging around. Round two: I REALLY tore my pantry apart, shelf by shelf, finding them in anything that wasn't sealed airtight, including a bag of chick peas. I was tossing food left and right, even more mad at the bugs for causing such waste.

When I first found the weevils, I took tissues, gently crushing their tiny bodies, wrapping them up and putting them in the trash. But once I saw the assault on my rice, it was all out war. The weevils have no guts, literally. When squashed, they are like powder, so I bypassed the tissue for speed and put my index finger to work.

With their food supply cut-off, the weevils made a run for it, more like a slow crawl. Since I don't stash food under my bed, in linen closet or anywhere else, they eventually parished. I found those little bastards in the corners of my guest room, my office and even my bathroom.

Down to my last trash bag and a bruised finger, I poured myself a glass of wine and collapsed into my favorite chair. I called on The Great One, The Creator of all things, including bugs. Dear God, please stop the carnage, return peace to my pantry. Please end the senseless waste of food. And for the sake of the bugs, make them leave so the massacre will end.

Weeks later I'm still finding dead weevils in obscure places, my rice is in the refrigerator and my pantry is better organized than it's ever been; ready to be re-stocked with hurricane supplies.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Best Beignets Outside of NOLA

That was the message I tweeted to the owners of Morgans Miami after Sunday Brunch.

My friends took me to the Morgans location in midtown, after a long night at Art Walk, in the same neighborhood. We got there too late in the morning to enjoy the fresh breads and jams that they raved about en route. The kitchen was out. But the rest of the meal more than made up for that small disappointment.

Morgans has a generous amount of outdoor seating, which I prefer, but we ended up inside, upstairs in a cozy booth. It was quintessential Miami; white, clean and retro with a small splash of color (orange) from the hanging lamps.

We tried the Eggs Benedict but preferred the Frittata with mushrooms, caramelized onions, chorizo, potatoes and cheese, topped with arugula ($12). I loved that arugula and the little touch of balsamic. The French Toast is described as "pillow soft" and indeed it was. Not to mention, fabulous ($12)!

We were so hungry and the food was so magnetizing that the forks dove in before I could get my camera out...fail. The presentation was lovely, sorry I don't have evidence to share. The Beignets ($8) were last and the feeding frenzy had slowed enough for me to capture them.

They really were some of the best I've had outside of New Orleans; crisp on the outside, fluffy in the middle. However, a couple of them had the slightest taste of chicken, as if fried in the same oil....good thing we all like fried chicken. It really made me want to try Morgans Fried Chicken and Waffles, next time for sure.

Morgans calls its cuisine modern, home-style comfort food. I would agree. And comfort goes beyond the food. The service was excellent, the staff was friendly and my wallet did not take a beating, as can often happen in Miami.

Morgans Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rockin' Wine

Lot's of "famous" people own vineyards, or more often than not, wine labels. I don't buy a wine because I like the owner's music, movies or sports teams, however, many fans do. But I admit to having a certain curiosity about the quality of wine in the celebrity bottle.

Former Bad Company bassist, Paul Cullen makes wine from grapes grown in California's Sierra Foothills called Sonata. He developed an appreciation of wine while touring and drinking it with guitarist Mick Ralphs. At one point in his post-band career, he even sold wine for an Italian distributor. Wine and music are a natural fit to me; Cullen as well. He married the two by forming Unplugged and Uncorked, making "wine friendly" music and selling it at wine events, rather than through big record labels.

I love the concept, but what about the wine? The Sonata Bianco is a refreshing, clean blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Its an acidic wine with citrus and apricot flavors. I'm not sure I would've guessed there was any Chardonnay in there had I not known. It was just enough for some extra body but thankfuly no oak Very enjoyable!

The Sonata Rosso is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Cab Franc. I tasted allspice, clove and some creamy vanilla and caramel. I shared some with another wine lover who picked up the bottle, peered in with one eye, then put it back down with a pout declaring, "I'm so sad it's all gone." I felt the same.

I interviewed Cullen for an upcoming story in Times Of The Islands Magazine (more to come on that). He told me he was most excited about his Rose', the only one of the three I haven't tried yet. It's an interesting blend of Petit Syrah and Fiano, a rare Italian grape. Cullen says it is refreshing but still dry with watermelon undertones. Sounds perfect for summer. Sonata wines aren't widely distributed but you can get them. Retailing around $15 each, they are more than worth the hunt. Sip a glass while listening to his new music for double the pleasure. It's a fabulous combination!

Cullen will be pouring wine and performing live in Fort Myers in May, Labor Day week. Look for him at Yabo and Twisted Vine. I'll keep you posted on other appearances and remind you Southwest Floridians when the time nears. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wine Twits and Tweets

Thank you Twitter for introducing me to a new friend, Lulu B.

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with social media. Keeping track of all of those sites is like a second job; and sometimes an annoying one. I love my friends and appreciate my business contacts but I really don't need to know every detail of every minute of every day. Just hit me with the good stuff!

I've had a Twitter account for quite some time but only recently started to "get it". Sure some people mindlessly tweet about needing of a cup of coffee but more often than not, you'll find people who tell you where to find the best cup (Bennett's Fresh Roast). Now that's something I can embrace!

And that is how I stumbled across Lulu B. wines. I've seen them in a grocery store I frequent, have been attracted by the label, but for whatever reason wasn't moved to put one in my basket. That is until I started tweeting with Lulu B herself, or is it her intern? Either way, the social networking worked for us both. Lulu B. got a sale and I got a great bargain wine.

I bought a Pinot Noir, a Malbec and spent less than $20. The Malbec was perfect for a night at home with pizza and friends. It was full of nice dark fruit and went down easy. According the website
it "pairs well with fabulous". I would agree. I'll uncork the Pinot tonight.

I'm not advocating Twitter above any other social media. However, if used properly, it's a great source of information and networking. I've been introduced to new music, recipes, wines and bloggers; the things I'm interested in and passionate about. Just start following people and businesses with similar interests and see what opens up for you. Start with me: @ginabirch