Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summer Series: A Tale Of Two Whites

I've been doing some spring cleaning this summer, going through my whites and drinking the ones that have a few years under their belt. Most white wines lack the same aging potential as reds.

This week I came across two gems from my wine travels. For me to ship or stash a bottle in my suitcase, it has to be something special, something that would be extremely difficult for me to get in Florida, or impossible if not at the winery.

Mendel was a great stop on a recent trip to Mendoza, Argentina and one of only a small handful of wineries that produces a 100% semillon wine. This grape is typically used for blending, often with sauvignon blanc. On its own at this winery, I thought it was something special, special enough to pack and pass through customs.

I found the 2012 in my stash, chilled it, put in a wine bag and brought it with me for a lunch with my travel companion, wondering how it had aged. Much to my disappointment it had lost its luster, but I could still taste a bit of what it once was. I put the cork back in and took it home to use in some dressings and other dishes. I just couldn't let it go.

Another type of grape that is not typical to find at my house is gewürztraminer, and definitely not one from Oregon. But this is another gem that caught my attention on a trip to Willamette Valley a few years ago. When I noticed this was a 2011 my heart sank a little, not again.

The tasting room at Sarver was a bit frazzled when I visited, a wedding was taking place on the property that evening and all focus seemed to be on the event. I remember feeling rushed and wanting to stay and enjoy these wines more. I managed to leave with one bottle, now hoping against hope that it had survived the years.

Wow, it was still brilliant, tropical and fresh. I wanted more and got online to see what the winery was offering. Gewürztraminer, is not currently available for purchase, it could be a winery only selection and why I picked it up.

As for Mendel's Semillon, it is an award winning wine, imported by Vine Connections, so there is a good chance you can find the current release.

Let me know if you do!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fast and Casual Summer Special

Oh how I've been remiss on getting the word out concerning this restaurant and this great summer contest. It's been more than a week since I first set foot into a PDQ (US41 in Fort Myers). It's funny to hear people who don't know, guess what it means. While you can still play the game, I'll give you the answer:   People Dedicaed to Quality.
The new PDQ on US41 in Fort Myers
This newest chicken chain is the brainchild of some former top brass in the Outback Steakhouse operation; immediately lending credibility. Beginning in Tampa in 2011, there are now 43 restaurants around the country. Each location has the proprietors name on the door; inspiring pride at the top almost always filters down the line.

A fast casual restaurant, don't lump this into the "fast food" category you may have stored in your brain. Everything at PDQ is fresh and made in house. I toured the kitchen and can vouch for that claim. I did not see one microwave, nothing frozen, no plastic bags of premixed anything. It is evident in the taste of the food; chicken tenders, salads, sandwiches and decadent hand-spun shakes.

Even the fries are hand-cut and go through quite a process to get them tasting just right. They are cut and rinsed over and over to get the starch out, then blistered and fried in soy oil just before you order. You can actually taste the potato flavor!

Washed and blistered, these guys are waiting for the fryer
There's a hand washing basin by the drink station, making it fun for kids and easy for adults to wash up before and after meals. The self serve drink machines offer 155 flavors, there are fresh brewed teas including the house special, a jasmine clover green tea. It is made fresh and taste tested every day. So is the lemonade. The PDQ on US41 in Fort Myers hand squeezes as many as two cases of lemons a day, mixing the fresh juice with simple syrup and water: so refreshing!

The chicken tenders are big and juicy. The choices for dipping sauces range from sweet sriracha and chipotle BBQ to creamy garlic, buffalo blue and more.
More than a half-dozen dipping sauces will delight your taste buds

The kitschen is wide open, you can even see all of the way through it to the drive-up window, full disclosure. Ordering at the drive-thru is face to face with an employee, virtually eliminating any chance to mess up your order do to a squeaky microphone in a plastic box.

Sandwiches come with fresh cut fries or blueberry coleslaw

Giving back is an important part of the PDQ SOP (standard operating procedure). Charity nights and other fundraising opportunities abound, along with reward cards. The staff seams to really enjoy being here and will go out of their way to make sure you do too.

Now here is why I need to be whipped for the delay in passing along an great summer ends July 31. If you eat at PDQ ten times in the month of July you qualify to win food for a year and other sweet prizes!

Sign up here. You can still count the times you dined earlier in the month, as long as you have the receipt for reference information. Each restaurant will have a party at the end of the month and draw the winners name. If you frequent any of the newer locations, you're chances might increase as the word might not have gotten around.....until now!

Pick up some tenders for dinner tonight, delicious sandwiches for the office or fool everyone at your next party by serving PDQ's mouthwatering apple slices and toffee dip. You still have time to win so sign up today.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summer Series: Fabulous Franciscan

Every summer it's the same drill, finding some good white wines to accompany seasonal foods and also feel good going down in high temperatures.

I was doing some research on medal winning wines for an upcoming story when I came across the latest releases from Franciscan. The 2014 vintage from Napa has been highly anticipated and thought to be a great year. From what I've tasted here, I'm excited to try more.

Equilibrium (under $25) is one of the signature bottlings from Franciscan Estate and the 2014 is extraordinary. With a beautifully floral nose, the crisp wine had citrus, peach and honeysuckle for a full range of flavors on the palate. This complex blend is sauvignon blanc based, with a little chardonnay and muscat to round things out.

Empty bottles equal a good tasting
The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, in the $20 range, is made from grapes that are harvested from several sub-appelations in Napa Valley, fermented using a variety of techniques, then blended together for a great marriage. The result is a fresh wine with lime and lychee and a finish full of minerals and citrus.

Both of these wines are refreshing accompaniments to fish, summer picnic foods or simply sipping on their own. Be sure to buy several of each, as you will almost certainly want more once the bottle is empty.