Paris – Part II: Bless My Heart

Hopefully you’ve had enough time to read [and re-read] and digest Paris – Part I: Bonjour, ca va?.  If not, I’ll give you a few moments to read it……..Ok?

I’ll pick up at

Day 5: Monday 4/10/17

The day began with a bit of tension.  You see, Jeff has a wonderful sense of direction; but it was failing him. [I later came to realize that this internal GPS malfunction was likely due to the Metro – travelling underground can mess with your bearings, as I believe it did for Jeff – but I digress….]. We took the Metro to Les Halles on our way to O’Chateau – a wine tasting bar.  I know, I mentioned it was the beginning of the day and you’re probably wondering why we were headed to a wine bar at that hour.

To answer the question – we were meeting up with a tour group with whom we would spend the day exploring the Champagne region.  We had this goal in mind as we were aimlessly wandering the streets of Paris before the city had really awakened for the day.  After passing a unique building for the second time [“Big Ben….Parliament” – I know, I know, wrong city] we knew we needed some assistance.  So we hailed a cab and a few moments later we were hopping out at O’Chateau – closer to our hotel than the Metro stop we used!!!  But we made it.

Yes, we made it and were sipping our cafe and eating our delicious pain au chocolat when we found out from our co-conspirators for the day that each group had been told a different arrival time and that we were the last to arrive.  So we hurried through our breakfast, made quick pit stops and were climbing into the van en un rien de temps.

As we zipped through Paris on our way to Reims [grateful for a driver with experience navigating Paris at rush hour] and then as we cruised the highway between Paris and Reims watching the scenery change from bustling city to bucolic countryside, we got to know our travel mates and our tour guide, Richard. Our group consisted of Theresa, Mark, Leslie and Larry (friends from Texas (although Leslie & Larry don’t live in Texas any longer); Tanya from New Zealand and Shyla from Philadelphia (yes, our own backyard) who met running the Paris Marathon the day before; Jeff and me; and Richard.

Richard gave us snippets of information about what to expect from the day, what we would see, where we would visit and a bit of foundational information about champagne – but mostly he saved the champagne talk for stop #1.

We arrived in Reims a few minutes earlier than expected, so Richard gave us a little bit of time to explore the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims – a beautiful structure that elicits feelings of awe and reverence as you step inside.  It is a gothic art masterpiece that welcomes over 1 million visitors each year and is the site where the kings of France were crowned.  And it was a great first stop for our journey.

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Next we headed up the ‘hill’ on our way to La Maison Taittinger – one of the big boys of champagne.  We toured the cellars – which is to say we walked through 4th century chalk mines 18 meters below ground.  As we walked through the cellars we found ourselves both transported back in time and learning about current technologies in champagne production.  We were told about bottle shapes, riddling, disgorgement, aging, fermentation, blending, etc.

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Our cellar tour concluded with a LLLOOONNNGGG trip up a spiral staircase and a glass of champagne in the tasting room.  Richard educated us as we sipped and I learned from a delightful experience that sometimes a BRUT champagne (one to which less (or sometimes no) sugar is added) can actually taste sweeter than a SEC champagne (one to which more sugar – up to 50 grams per liter in the case of a DEMI SEC – is added).

From Taittinger we made our way past Veuve Cliquot to La Maison Penet, which has been family owned for five generations.  The vineyards of La Maison Penet stretch across the villages of Verzy and Verzenay – quaint villages that your mind conjures up when you think about the French countryside.  We sipped a glass [or two] in the cellars at La Maison Penet and then were treated to a fabulous lunch in la maison.  We sat with owner Alexandre and his marketing specialist, Justine.  The dishes served [made by Martine – Alexandre’s wife] were simple but remarkably tasty – a true example of farm-to-table at its best.  I doubt they even use the term farm-to-table in rural France [maybe not anywhere in France] – it’s just the way they eat.  The food is unbelievably fresh and simply prepared in a way that makes even the most humble ingredient a star.  And when paired with Alexandre Penet Extra Brut champagne, Penet-Chardonnet Grand Cru Terroir Escence Extra Brut champagne and Penet-Chardonnet Grand Cru Cuvee Diane Claire champange the foods shined [or is it shone] even brighter!

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After lunch we chatted with Justine, Alexandre and Martine, placed our orders for champagne delivery and reluctantly climbed back into the van.  I could have stayed at La Maison Penet for much longer, learning about champagne and local culture and nibbling from the wonderful cheese tray while sipping some bubbly.

Following our delightful stop in Verzy we travelled to Vrigny to our last destination – Champagne LeLarge Pugeot.  The vineyards of LeLarge Pugeot are spread out across three villages – Vrigny, Coulommes-La-Montagne and Gueux.  In 2010, Le Large Pugeot began its shift to organic farming.

I didn’t fully understand the significance of organic farming until we were standing in the vineyard and we asked about the distinct difference between one row of grapevines and the next. We were told that the left side belonged to LeLarge Pugeot and the right to another – non-organic – vineyard.  Right then I could see the impact of organic farming!

After our walk in the vineyard, we sipped and sipped and sipped some wonderful organic champagnes and then we sipped some more!  Then, wonderfully light-headed from all the bubbles, we purchased champagne, said our good-byes and climbed into the van for our final ride….back to O’Chateau.  Along the way we talked and some of us snoozed and laughed and talked and snoozed and laughed.

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Throughout the day we learned a lot of things……some related to champagne and some not…..

  • 80% of the land in the champagne region is owned by small farmers
  • A good champagne is not produced from a single vineyard
  • The eyes should be pleased before the palate [the same is true for food]
  • The riddlers (not from Batman) can turn about 6,000 bottles per hour
  • A meal without wine is called breakfast
  • A fine Texas proverb – “it’s not bragging if you can do it”
  • Champagne makes you happy in 17 minutes, wine in 30
  • The term ‘bless your heart’ (one with many different meanings depending on which part of the American south you are from) is sooooo much funnier when it’s incorrectly changed to ‘bless my heart’ and spoken with a southern drawl by your Chinese tour guide/somelier [I’m almost positive Richard told me he was from China but I was a bit loopy so I apologize if I got that wrong] who has spent many years living in Paris and speaking French!!!!

  • You can have a marvelous time spending the day with new friends from around the globe – particularly if you add champagne!

Unbelievably, by the time we got back to O’Chateau, said our goodbyes and got our bearings, Jeff and I were hungry.  So we walked a bit to stretch our legs and found a chic Italian restaurant – Daroco – where we enjoyed stuffed zucchini flowers, pizza (Jeff), pasta (me) and a thick, decadent mousse au chocolat (Jeff…..but I had a taste…..or two).

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Still a little bit buzzed with full bellies and happy hearts, we returned to the hotel and fell into a deep champagne-induced sleep!  Ahhhhhhh…..

Day 6: Tuesday 4/11/17

After Day 5 sipping champagne and sitting more than walking, we needed a day to blow off the cobwebs and use our muscles.  We began the day with a quick ‘continental’ breakfast at Lauduree and then visited the Palais Garnier.  We strolled through the opera house, snapping pics and marveling at the opulence.

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Next we took the Metro to the Left Bank and then strolled over several bridges as we explored the islands of the Seine – Ile de la Cite, home to Notre-Dame de Paris, and Ile St. Louis.  We had lunch at another of Rebekkah’s suggested cafes – Le Petit Pontoise.

Then, as encouraged by Norb and Cam, we sauntered through the shops of the Rue Mouffetard.  And we finally took a little time to watch the world go by at a cafe [Cafe Delmas overlooking the ‘fountain’ (now under construction) at Place de la Contrescarpe] where Jeff sipped a beer and I sipped a cafe.  We sat at our little table in the sunshine and soaked in the local flavor.

On our way back to our home base, we walked with our dinner [a lovely roast chicken, roasted potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and a bottle of champagne purchased on Rue Mouffetard] through Ina’s neighborhood. Along the journey we strolled through some pretty gardens and through Place Vendome.  By the time we made it back to our hotel we’d been on our feet for 12 hours and were ready for dinner, a rest, a shower and a long sleep!

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More to come on our trip to Paris – including a day learning to make croissants!!!

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What I’ve Been Doing Lately…

Oh my goodness…..the last several weeks have been a whirlwind!  I’ve wanted to post so many times; however each time I wanted to write, it was about the surprise party I was planning for Jeff. And, of course, writing about it on the blog sort of ruins the element of surprise!

This year was a big birthday for Jeff – in fact, it was the Big Five-Oh! As in OhmygoodnesshowcanIbeturning50!?!  Although this birthday didn’t seem to hit him as hard as his 30th, he was still a bit mopey…throwing out phrases like, “this is my last shower (cup of coffee, work day, etc.) in my 40’s.”

As hard as this birthday was for him, it was hard on me too!  Just about every single sentence I spoke to him from January 15th through March 4th was a lie!  While that may sound easy [and to some it IS easy], it was pretty difficult for me.  I don’t know which was harder – thinking of the lies or remembering the lies!

And in the midst of the planning were Valentine’s Day (which isn’t that big a deal to us, but has to be acknowledged nonetheless), his actual birthday, class prep, a party for a friend, cooking for a bridal shower my niece Ashley was throwing for a friend [which happened to be the same day of the party], my regular schedule, and – oh yeah, just for fun – another kidney stone!!!  Additionally, I was trying to throw this party with 40 guests without raising suspicion that I was spending money – not easy to pull off when Jeff enters all the financial transactions into the computer!  If nothing else, I thrive on stress….

I’d like to say I took tons of pictures of the food; but that would be a lie.  I took pics of the party set up but by the time the party got underway, I was too involved in trying to surprise Jeff and hostessing.  Incidentally, the surprise part was a bit of a flop; but the party itself was a lot of fun!

Jeff’s good friend, Craig (you might remember him from my Something’s Brewing post) brewed two commemorative beers for the occasion and put together a killer playlist (which he and Jeff refer to as a mix-tape – those of you in my age bracket will giggle at this terminology)!  Having Craig take charge of beer and music was a huge help. That allowed me to focus on food and decorations.  So, I thought about what kind of food (1) goes well with beer; (2) can be prepared ahead and secretly transported to another location; (3) feeds a crowd and (4) is on Jeff’s list of favorite foods (or at least near the favorites list).

Chili bar was the obvious choice.  I decided to make my Chilly Weather Sirloin Chili (with ground beef instead of sirloin cubes as a time saver). After choosing the main food, the rest pretty much fell into place.  Rice, Fritos, Ranch Oyster Crackers (thanks, Ron), toppings (such as cheddar, pepper-jack, scallions, sour cream, and cilantro), a big salad [and not just any salad – MIMI’s SALAD], buttermilk cornbread with Honey-Cinnamon-Cayenne Butter, and for dessert – Jeff’s favorite – his mom’s chocolate cake with peanut butter icing and some s’mores bark for good measure.  Obviously, I needed to add some other beverages – wine for the non-beer drinkers, “middle of the road” beer for the less adventurous beer drinkers, bottled water and soda rounded out the beverage options.

Then came the theme – since it was a chili bar, I found some great printables on Pinterest and took it from there.  I designed the invitation and then created a burlap table banner to “match” the invite.  I also borrowed a previously used table banner reading ‘Aged to Perfection,’ which loosely related to the beer theme.  I wrapped “silverware” in brown bags and tied it with bakery twine, made some 50-related signs that I displayed in beer bottles and copied old photos of Jeff onto velum and wrapped clear candle holders with the velum for fun table decorations.  I used six-pack carriers as Frito “bowls” around the room, I put chalkboard stickers on wine and beer cups so people could personalize them and got paper plates and napkins to match the theme.  Throw in some bandanas and a Chili Bar sign and voila – a party.

Deciding where to have it was another challenge – it’s quite a complex undertaking to throw a surprise party for 40 people where the guest of honor lives!!!  I didn’t even try that.  A few places came to mind, but the clubhouse in my parent’s neighborhood was a great landing-place from a surprise perspective.  The challenge; however, was getting everything there without Jeff knowing.  For several weeks before the party I carted things from our house to my parent’s house – and I mean lots of things.  My parent’s living room was gradually getting smaller due to the pile of ‘party stuff’ I was making.

The day before the party, I prepped the food for the surprise and most of the food for the bridal shower (see above) – with help from a friend, thanks Tammy!  The day of, I had to get up early and head to my mom’s house to finalize the shower food and meet my niece for the food hand-off.  After that, Mimi and I set up the room and prepped the remaining food for Jeff’s party.  In the afternoon I raced home to get ready (there was barely time for a shower and some primping) and then met my sister to start carrying the pile from my parent’s living room to the party venue – thanks Laura!

We met up with Craig (my beer & music hero) and Chris (his lovely wife who was such a big help throughout the party). Then Laura and I raced back to my parent’s house to change our clothes in the living room – laughing and somewhat out of breath.  Then Laura went back to the party venue to greet guests while I waited for Jeff to arrive for our “night out to celebrate his birthday.”  On the way out the door, my mom asked if we could help her by delivering her food to a block party (yes, this was part of the lie to get Jeff to the party).  Jeff [carrying some the of food for his own party] and I walked through the door of the clubhouse and were about 5 feet from the door to the room in which the party was being held when he looked over at me and asked, “do you want me to ACT surprised?”

In that split second I thought about the ramifications of murdering him, but decided that 40 witnesses were too many so I did my best not to strangle him and proceeded to enjoy time with our friends and family.  Although the surprise was not a success, the party was.

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And, as it turns out, so was the bridal shower Ashley hosted.  For that I made Cornmeal Cheddar Scones (my friend Tammy’s recipe), Caramel Macchiato Scones, individual omelets in ham cups and fruit skewers with orange vinaigrette.

As I mentioned, in the midst of all this craziness I was also preparing for some classes. The first class – Perfectly Provencal.  The foods and wines were a yummy tribute to the Provencal region of France.  The menu:

  • Double-Baked Cheese Soufflé w/ Parmesan Cream
  • Grated Baby Beet Salad
  • Seared Halibut w/ Spicy Mussel Aioli
  • Luxe French Potatoes w/ Lavender
  • Tian Provencal
  • Blood Orange Sponge Cake

The second class – Bring a Friend to Spain.  The foods for this were from all different regions of Spain. The menu:

  • Coca (Pizza) w/ Candied Red Peppers
  • Festive Frisee w/ Pears & Honeyed Lardon
  • Comforting Chicken in Almond & Saffron Sauce
  • Smokey Spiced Spanish Potatoes
  • Asparagus w/ Tangerine Vinaigrette & Pistachio Dust
  • Quesada Pasiega (Spanish Catabrian Cheesecake)

Perhaps my favorite event of recent weeks was the Doljanchi for our twin great-niece and great-nephew.  The doljanchi is the elaborate Korean first birthday celebration with a very interesting ritual – the doljabi.  In addition to the doljabi were tables and tables of delicious Korean foods and unmatched hospitality from Justin’s family.  We had a wonderful time and best of all I didn’t have to make anything, carry anything or keep anything a secret!!!!  I was able to be a guest and enjoy a beautiful celebration of two very cool little people who have stolen my heart!

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I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t somewhat tired from the flurry of activity over the last several weeks.  However, reviewing it all has reminded me how truly lucky I am.  I have a great husband (who is older than me), family and friends who are quick to ask “what can I do” when I say I’m throwing a party (AND THEY MEAN IT), three beautiful littles who bring joy and hope for the future to our family, and so many people with whom Jeff and I can enjoy life…one bite at a time!

A Day Out

Jeff and I love meandering…..and we love it even better when our friend Ron comes along!  So when we found ourselves with a free day on Saturday, rather than spend the day inside doing housework (which trust me our house could really use) we decided to take a ride.

We didn’t really have A destination in mind.  One of my regular students recently told me about a newish brew pub she’d been to so we made the Rusty Rail Brewing Company in Mifflinburg a stop on our itinerary and planned the rest of the day accordingly.

After a less-than-smooth start (tires needed air, car needed gas, etc.) we finally got on the road.  When we set off on these adventures, we typically stick to back roads – winding through the countryside allows you to get some amazing pics and gives you a lot of time for conversation – and Saturday was no exception to that rule.

Our journey on Saturday included a small grocery store, a winery, a greenhouse, a cruise past Middleswarth Potato Chip Factory in Middleburg, a deep-discount grocery (think scratch-and-dent), the brewing company, Peight’s Country Store in Belleville, a side-of-the-road pumpkin stand (or two), and miles of beautiful countryside!!!

The following are some of the pics from the adventure!

SHADE MOUNTAIN VINEYARD & A PUMPKIN STAND ALONG THE WAY

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THE RUSTY RAIL BREWING COMPANY

We ate lunch at the Rusty Rail Brewing Company.  We shared an order of onion rings, I ordered a bowl of chili with cornbread croutons, Ron ordered the appetizer portion rib, and Jeff ordered a roast beef sandwich with French fries.

The food was good, but not quite great.  It has the potential to be great but needs a little attention to detail.  The sandwich needed a little oomph (sauce or a condiment of some sort), the chili needed a little less sugar and the rib (according to Ron) was on the dry side.

The service was mostly good, although when we asked to switch tables – because the one we were seated at was quite wobbly – rather than moving us to one of the many empty tables around us, the hostess and waitress tried several things to un-wobble the table and were marginally successful.  But other than that, we were well taken care of.

The décor was quite fun – theme-y and historical but it still felt current.  There was plenty of natural light and lots of interesting things at which to look.

And Jeff really enjoyed the sampler of beer he ordered.  I – not being much of a beer person – had a few sips from the flight and liked what I tasted!

With a few tweaks, The Rusty Rail Brewing Company could get an A from me!

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ALONG THE JOURNEY

After lunch, as we continued our sojourn, we came across a field of wildflowers that reminded me much more of spring than of fall.  We stopped for a little while so Ron and I could snap some photos.  Then we continued on a little ways and came across a pumpkin stand at which we could not resist buying a few pumpkin to add to the decorations on our front porch.

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We took a very remote, very scenic road through Bald Eagle State Forest and, although I was widely criticized for how slowly I was driving, I enjoyed being in the mountains and seeing the sights!  There’s something about the air up that high that clears your head and makes you forget everything below.

We ended the day in The Big Valley – a regular stop on our journeys with Ron.  We drove around the valley and enjoyed seeing the sights in the somewhat dreary weather. It’s funny, we anticipated a warm, sunny trip but we hit everything from rain to snow to some bright, juicy sunshine along the way. But no matter the climate, we enjoyed one another’s company.  A day with friends is a great day in any weather!

Something’s Brewing…..

No, it’s not a witch’s brew….although there ARE those who would insist that if I am involved in the process it IS a witch’s brew!!!  It’s actually a pumpkin beer.

Now, I must confess right off the bat that I’m not much of a beer person.  I like a cold one every now and then – especially a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat on a hot summer day after cutting the grass – but I am by no means a microbrew, craft beer or even a mainstream beer aficionado.  However, I always jump at the chance to learn something new and I love kitchen (or in this case part kitchen, mostly garage) experiments!

So when my handsome husband, Jeff, and his friend Craig invited me to participate in the process of their latest beer creation, I grabbed my camera and went along for the ride!  In this experiment, Craig is the beer Batman and Jeff is Robin.  So what does that make me?  Perhaps Batgirl-twice-removed!?! A sidekick, but not the one everyone knows and certainly not one with Batman’s powers.

Anyway, enough of the comic metaphors…..let’s get to it.

This all started when Jeff told me Craig had asked him about what spices to use for a pumpkin beer.  Of course, asked for my two cents, I put in about $1.99 (i.e., more than anyone wanted).  I went on a rant (I know you find this difficult to believe) about how I thought pumpkin beers should taste like something other than pumpkin pie and how everyone uses cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.  and how Craig and Jeff should do something different.

My mind went to star anise, fennel, pink peppercorns……ultimately to Chinese Five Spice.  And someone’s mind – I think Jeff’s – went to cooking the pumpkin on the Big Green Egg (BGE) to impart a bit of smokiness.  So began the experiment….

On Friday, September 25th, Craig came to our house for dinner, BGE pumpkin cooking and spice tasting.  We had Jeff’s beef stew for dinner, decided on a spice combination, rubbed the spices on the raw pumpkin and put it on the BGE to roast.  While the pumpkin was roasting, Jeff and Craig hung out on the back porch sipping beers and swapping stories.  I cleaned up the kitchen from dinner, ran out to Bombay Bazaar for more spices (which we would use the next day during the brewing process) and made up some additional Chinese Five Spice powder (or in our case really 6 spice powder because I like to add a little ginger to mine).

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The next day we met at Craig’s house to begin the brewing process and my small-batch beer education.  Craig did his best to brew with Jeff’s and my assistance (sometimes help from someone else – especially someone who knows nothing about what you’re doing AND asks about 6.2 million questions – isn’t really help at all, but Craig was incredibly gracious), explaining all the steps in the process.

What follows is by no means a complete narrative about brewing.  It is a few of the snippets I managed to record while Craig talked and brewed – so if anything is missing (and I KNOW it is) it’s entirely my fault and not Craig’s lack of knowledge!

Step 1 – MASHING

We began by heating the strike water to 167 degrees F and pouring it into the mash tun (the vessel in which the grains are soaked).  We added the grains (a process called ‘doughing in’) and then they soaked for approximately 90 minutes to extract the sugars.  The temperature of the water is important – too low a temperature extracts more fermentable sugar resulting in a higher alcohol content / too high a temperature extracts less fermentable sugar resulting in a beer with a lower alcohol content with a sweeter taste. Just for reference, we started with approximately 14 1/2 pounds of grains and about 4 1/2 gallons of water.

During the 90 minutes Craig told me a lot about the process and showed me the equipment we would be using, which he and Jeff cleaned in preparation for the upcoming steps.  There was also much talk about beer, rock music and other guy things I didn’t really follow but that seemed to amuse Craig and Jeff very much!

The Rules of Brewing According to Craig

 

“Rule number one: Sanitation is key

Rule number two: If you’re brewing beer you should be drinking beer

Rule number three: Keep detailed notes on each batch”

Some of the equipment and terminology:

  • Throughout the entire brewing process, we took gravity readings – which help you determine the amount of sugar in the brew, which affects the alcohol content of the finished product.  To take the readings we used a portable refractometer.
  • Car Boys – to me this sounds like the male version of diner waitresses who wore roller skates and served you car-side….but not so.  Car boys are fancy glass jugs in which beer is fermented.
  • The sugar liquid that is extracted from the grains during mashing (step 1) is known as WORT.

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Step 2 – VORLAUFING & SPARGING

This process is difficult to explain if you’ve never seen it, but once you have it makes sense.  The liquid is repeatedly siphoned out of the mash tun and then SSSSSLLLLLOOOOOWWWWWLLLLLYYYYY poured (or sprinkled) back over the grains until the liquid finally runs clear.  The process can take a half an hour or more to get right and it’s one of those “you know it when you see it” kind of things.  To simplify – perhaps overly so – the point is to compact the grains in the mash tun so that they create a natural filter through which the liquid is repeatedly passed until it runs clear (no more cloudiness or grains in the siphoned liquid), ultimately extracting the fermentable sugars. If I understood Craig correctly, VORLAUFING is the siphoning and sprinkling, SPARGING is the entire process of filtering the wort.

Craig’s Musings on Beer-Making

 

“Some brewers say, “We don’t make beer. We make sugar-water and yeast makes beer.”  I say, “We’re making beer.””

Vorlaufing & Sparging

Vorlaufing & Sparging

Step 3 – BOILING

According to Craig, most beers are boiled between 60 and 90 minutes.  We boiled ours for 70 minutes – why?  Because Craig said so (BCSS).  Also BCSS a few minutes into the boiling we added our roasted, spiced pumpkin and some hops.

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Step 4 – WHIRLPOOLING

After the wort boiled for 70 minutes, we then used a long spoon to create a whirlpool.  When the wort was moving, we added the spices (at “flame out”) and let it sit for approximately 20 minutes to allow the spices to infuse into the mixture.  According to Craig, this will give the beer not only a good flavor, but a good aroma as well.

Whirlpooling

Whirlpooling

Step 5 – TRANSFERRING TO FERMENTER

Just reading the name of this step makes it sound a bit boring, however it was anything but.  We got to see the THERMINATOR in action – not it’s not an Arnold Schwarzenegger thing.  The therminator is a small piece of equipment through which the wort is passed on its way into the fermenter- the purpose of passing the liquid through the therminator is to quickly bring the temperature of the wort down to 65 degrees F.

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Step 6 – AERATING

This step sounds a lot more impressive than it is.  Boiling the wort forces most of the oxygen out of the solution.Aeration gets introduces oxygen – which is needed for the yeast to properly do its job – back into the wort.  I thought there would be a fancy piece of equipment to perform this part of the process, but it was good old-fashioned muscle – to quote my friend Scott Woolman’s engineer neighbor, “what we need here is brute force.”  Craig and Jeff simply took turns shaking the fermenter.  Although it was unimpressive in the scheme of the brewing process, it did look like a good workout!

Aerating

Aerating

Step 7 – ADDING YEAST

After the wort was aerated, Craig added English ale yeast and we moved the operation from the garage to the basement, where there were previous batches of beer fermenting.

Step 8 – PUTTING ON THE AIR LOCK

The airlock allows carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation and it keeps oxygen, bacteria and wild yeast from getting into the fermenter.

Air Lock

Air Lock

Step 9 – (MY LEAST FAVORITE) WAITING

So we get through all the steps of the process.  The fermenter is transported to the basement.  The airlock is put in place.  And then Craig says, “Now we wait.”  What?  Wait. Wait?  I KNEW there would be waiting involved, but I wasn’t ready for the process to be over so abruptly.  But there is not other choice except to wait 6 weeks to see if our experiment was a success.

Wai ai ai ting is the Hardest Part

Wai ai ai ting is the Hardest Part

So I am waiting…..I wish I could say I am patiently waiting, but that would be a lie.  Sometimes I forget all about our pumpkin beer and then, like a bolt of lightning, a thought of the beer hits me and I get antsy all over again.  I need a conclusion for this post……as the psychologists and psychiatrists and therapists will tell you, I need closure.  Stay tuned……..

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For Better or For Worse…..

No, this is not a post about my marriage….rather, it is a post about the second day of our trip to San Antonio!  Unfortunately, my cold is getting worse; fortunately the food is getting better!!!  And that’s exciting because the food yesterday was pretty darn good.

I wish I could say I bounded out of bed this morning with renewed vigor; but the truth is I slept terribly (probably because of the large iced coffee I had yesterday afternoon to try to stay awake), I was badly in need of cold medicine and I really wanted to roll over and sleep until tomorrow….

But I am so glad I didn’t.  After what felt like a really ssslllooowww process of getting ready for the day, I caught a cab to the Pearl Brewery site – 22 acres north of San Antonio that house the Culinary Institute of America, some funky shops and several yummy restaurants as well as the Pearl Brewery.

I browsed the shops and asked for a lunch recommendation along the way…..the young (OK, to me everyone seems young anymore) girl I asked did not hesitate even for one second to point me to Il Sogno Italian Osteria.  She told me her second choice would be Arcade Midtown Kitchen, which serves a “soup of the moment” not a “soup of the day” – my kind of place!!!

I wandered around the area, taking my time in the shops, watching students through the windows at the C.I.A. and soaking up the Texas heat…..and it was HOT – 102 degrees today…..

When my belly started growling loudly enough for others to hear, I decided to find a spot for lunch….I turned the corner and, as if from a dream, right in front of me was Il Sogno Italian Osteria.

I inquired about whether I was too late for lunch…..2:30 is on the cusp…. but thankfully I was just under the wire.  I was shown to my table and given the lunch menu and the wine list.  I decided I’d just glance at the wine list and only order wine if there was a Falanghina on the list – something that almost never happens.

While I looked at the wine list and the menu, my waiter brought me a welcomed glass of ice water, which was made even better by a tray of thinly sliced citrus fruit of varying types that I could choose to flavor my water.  My aqua du jour … lime orange.  Mmm mmm mmm….especially good on a hot day!

Ahhh Refreshing

To end the suspense, there WAS a Falanghina on the wine list and I did order a glass; but when the waiter came back to tell me he didn’t think they had a bottle in stock I knew it was too good to be true.  By that point I think the waiter and I were both invested in me having  a glass of wine, so I asked for his recommendation.  He brought out two bottles for me to sample.

Of the two, I chose the Venica Sauvignon….not the Falaghina for which I had hoped, but still a nice white.  I was torn between several of the pizze options and several of the pasta options.  Ultimately I decided on Tagliatelle with Meatballs, Pine Nuts and Guanciale.

A Little Wine with Lunch

As I waited for my food, I admired the restaurant…..kind of a modern warehouse meets Italian villa décor.  Very comfortable and welcoming.  The tables were set simply with white cloths covered by white butcher’s paper. And the lighting – recycled wine bottles – was quite interesting.

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The bread that was delivered to my table looked DIVINE.  And looks did not deceive…..it TASTED divine too.  It started as a crusty bread, but the crusts were cut off to form a rectangle.  The bread was then lightly oiled (I’m fairly certain it was oil, not butter) and grilled to a crispy perfection.  It was served with a white bean and garlic spread and a drizzle of olive oil.  I could have made a meal of just the bread, but I stopped after one piece….knowing pasta was to come.

The Bread

When my pasta was delivered, it looked and smelled wonderful.  I couldn’t wait to dig in.     The sauce, a lovely red, tasted as though it had been simmering for hours.  The flavors were deep and robust, but the thin chiffonade of basil gave it a lovely freshness.  The meatballs were INCREDIBLE….perhaps the best I’ve ever eaten…..so light and fluffy…almost like eating a cloud….if it were made of meat…..with garlic….ok, I clearly lost the battle with that analogy!  The pine nuts gave a little crunch to the dish and a nice buttery nuttiness.  And the guanciale….oh, the guanciale…..what a nice salty bite!

Tagliatelle with Meatballs Pine Nuts and Guanciale

I truly savored my lunch.  It was not the kind of meal you inhale….I didn’t want to waste a single tasty morsel.  So I lingered with my wine and my book and my pasta.  And no one seemed to care.

The service was wonderful….my server and a few other folks checked on me as they walked past, but they were not intrusive in the least.  After taking away my empty plate, the waiter and I had a nice conversation about places to eat in the Hill Country, where Jeff and I are headed tomorrow.  After a short chat, I was given the dessert menu.

Too full for dessert, but tempted by the panna cotta and the gelato I looked over the menu and ultimately declined.  The waiter – clearly a man after my own heart – brought out two small nutella cookies saying that you couldn’t have a proper Italian meal without dessert.  Along with the cookies he brought another bottle of wine from which he poured me a sample. The cookies were heavenly….they literally dissolved on my tongue with a whisper of nutella.

Nutella Cookies

What a luxurious lunch experience.  The only thing that would have made it better were if my husband, the man to whom I pledged “for better or worse” many years ago, had been able to join me!

A few snaps from the day:

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On the menu tomorrow?  BBQ….don’t miss it!

Milestones, Markets & Mozzarella

Friday was the anniversary of the first date Jeff and I shared.  Interestingly enough, for that date HE cooked for ME!  22 years ago yesterday, I drove my little red Dodge Colt to his house in Lawn, PA (one of those don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it towns) for dinner.  If my memory serves me correctly that night was quite snowy, much like the winter nights we’re experiencing this year. I also remember having those excited/nervous butterflies in my stomach – would the night go well?  Was he a good cook?  Would this turn into something?  Ah, youth!

For dinner, Jeff made stuffed shells and a salad.  And for dessert – bananas foster.  I was hooked!  He went to a lot of trouble to make a nice dinner for me.  He didn’t just get take-out or throw burgers on the grill, he actually put effort into it.  And he seemed to enjoy the process, which was something we had in common.

I also remember distinctly while sitting at the table talking after dinner Jeff said to me, “I’m so sorry.  I have to clean up this kitchen or I won’t be able to pay attention to you.”  Holy moly! I wish I could say that the kitchen cleaning OCD has lasted throughout the years, but I would be a liar if I did.  That’s not to say that Jeff doesn’t clean the kitchen – he does. (Typically he gets sick of the mess before I do and even when he’s not cooking he’ll sometimes come into the kitchen and banish me to the living room while he cleans up so I can continue in a clean workspace.)  But his tolerance for dishes in the sink and a mess on the counter is dramatically higher now than it was 22 years ago.

Yep, that’s how long it’s been!  22 years since that first date.  22 years of ups and downs.  22 years of laughter and tears.  22 years of love (and some moments of hate).  22 years of being stupid and hopefully getting smarter when it comes to one another!

Through the years we’ve celebrated our “first-date-a-versary,” our “proposalversary,” and our anniversary many different ways.  The one I remember best was our tenth wedding anniversary.  We were on vacation in Maine (my favorite vacation to date) and were staying overnight at a bed and breakfast in Acadia.  We made reservations at a very nice restaurant in Bar Harbor.  We had spent the day hiking and, separately, we were each kind of dreading getting dressed up and using our best manners.  Almost simultaneously, we each blurted out that we didn’t feel like getting all dolled up to celebrate.  So, in a rare moment of spontaneity for Jeff, we scrapped our dinner reservations at the nice restaurant, threw on shorts and t-shirts and headed to The Lobster Pound where we ate fried clams and fresh steamed lobster with butter dripping down our arms!

Today, we are adventuring through Lancaster.  Our first stop, Lancaster Central Market.  If you’ve been reading the blog from the beginning, you’ve read about this farmer’s market previously.  Although I’ve made several trips to LCM, Jeff’s never been there.  This morning he suggested we visit the LCM and also make a stop at Spring House Brewery and Tap Room.

We got to the market an hour before closing, which was just enough time to make it through all the aisles and to buy the things on our list – and, of course, a few things not on our list.

Part of the reason I like the LCM so much is because the building is beautiful…and incidentally, it has been a market for over 275 years!  That’s pretty cool.  Another reason I like it is that I can find things there that I can’t easily find other places – like micro-greens, a selection of sprouts and every time I’ve been to LCM I’ve been able to find Tuscan kale, which I love!  They also have a great selection of prepared food vendors, coffee vendors and other interesting items as well.  On this trip I found fresh turmeric…I have no idea what to do with it, but I bought some and will learn about it!!!  It looks like mini ginger root, but according to the vendor it is not nearly as fibrous as ginger.

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After marketing, we browsed through some of the interesting shops that surround the market and ultimately we made our way to the Spring House Taproom. We had to wait for seats and ended up at the bar, where we remained for the duration of our stay.  Jeff ordered a sampler, which included healthy-sized samples of 9 Spring House Brewery beers.

The Beauty of Beer

We enjoyed our rare time alone together talking and sipping from the sampler (and me from my Diet Coke with occasional sips from Jeff’s beers).  We also chatted with the bartenders and asked about the interesting names of some of the beers. Among those we tasted were Seven Gates Pale Ale, Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout (which Jeff has had before and really enjoys), She Monster Mango IPA (which has nothing on Alter Ego Brewing Company’s (AEBC) Mango Habanero), Lil’ Gruesome Peanut Butter and Jelly Stout, and Smoked Porter (which smelled amazing – I didn’t really appreciate the taste, but I should let you know I’m not much of a beer person (unless it’s brewed by AEBC)).

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There was so much beer in the sampler that Jeff needed a little something to eat….and, of course, I didn’t want him to eat alone!  So we ordered some Monster Mozzies, which are made in-house (including the mozzarella) and are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!  They are served with house-made tomato bacon jam, which was over-the-top good!!!

Monster Mozzies

It’s only fitting that we’re celebrating this “versary” with food (shopping for it, buying it, and eating it) since our first date revealed our mutual love of cooking and eating.  Since that fateful evening 22 years ago, we’ve been cooking, eating and entertaining together.  We’ve shared many meals, tried many recipes, and (as our waistlines will attest) we’ve enjoyed a lot of good food.  Most importantly, we’ve been enjoying life together….one bite at a time!!!

TBTIAAW – The Best Thing I Ate All Week: A Salad?

I have quite a bit of fun testing and tweaking recipes for my classes and I’ve been doing just that for the last week.  The class I’m working on now is entitled Pasta Perfection, so I have to make sure my recipes are as close to perfect as possible.  That can be a good news/bad news thing for Jeff….when recipes turn out well it’s great to be the taster; but when they flop (which thankfully doesn’t happen that often, but it DOES happen) being the taster can be a real drag!

Fortunately, this week has been chock full of homemade pasta.  And how can that be bad?

On Sunday, when the rest of the world was glued to the Super Bowl – which I understand wasn’t all that super – I was hand forming tortellini for a tortellini salad.  And I can assure you I enjoyed being in the kitchen much more than I would have enjoyed watching the Super Bowl.

I made lemon pepper pasta for the tortellini wrappers and let it rest while I worked on the filling.  After it rested, I rolled out the pasta as thin as I could and cut, filled and formed each tortellini by hand.  I have to admit, as much as I dread routine, there is something about getting the assembly line process rolling smoothly that is comforting to me.  Perhaps because I know I don’t have to do it forever!

The tortellini salad I’m working on is not your typical pasta salad.  It’s more like a green salad with tortellini in it.  I thought about the individual ingredients and flavors I wanted in the salad; then I decided which ones would work best in the filling and which would work best in the salad itself.

The next test was to decide which ingredients to cook and which to leave raw.  In order to do that, I made two different salads for us to try – one on Sunday and one on Wednesday.  Incidentally, one of the great things about testing recipes is that you don’t have to think of several different dishes to make during the week – you just keep eating different versions of the same thing, which makes meal planning quite easy! But, as usual, I digress.

Featured Image TortelliniSomething unusual happened as a result of trying both salads, we discovered that both were really good and we’re still having trouble deciding which was better!  Since I will be serving my pasta dishes with Italian wines, I’ll do at least one more test with wine so I can make the final tweaks. [A special thanks to Kirt from the State Store in Lemoyne for helping me with my wine pairings!]

I’ll keep you posted on the salad’s progress and may share the recipe on the blog someday, but for now you can be sure to get the recipe by coming to the Pasta Perfection class!  Oh, and not only will you get the recipe for this salad, you’ll get the recipes for all the dishes AND you’ll sample some really good Italian wines!

The best thing I ate all week (TBTIAAW): Lemon Goat Cheese Tortellini Salad with Roasted Vegetables. Mmm mmm mmm!!!

Great Partnerships: Pizza & Beer and MmmMmmMmm & Alter Ego Brewing Company

I am soooooooo excited about my class this coming Sunday (1/19) that I almost can’t contain myself!  Have you ever been involved in something that just feels RIGHT?  That’s how I feel about this class!

I get excited about each of my classes. I really do, I’m not just saying (writing) that! I love having the opportunity to share my passion about cooking and food I have prepared with people.  But I do believe the Pizza Pizzazz! class on Sunday at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School will be truly memorable.  You see, I am partnering with the wonderful folks from Alter Ego Brewing Company for the class.  Together, we will be presenting an interesting, flavor-packed menu paired with some truly remarkable beers!

Now I may sound a bit cocky about Sunday, but please do not mistake my confidence for ego (no pun intended).  And I AM confident because this past Sunday Jeff and I had dinner at our house with Brandalynn & Theo from Alter Ego Brewing Company and together we worked out the beer pairings for class. We had a wonderful time getting to know one another, tasting food and beer combinations, tweaking our pairings and making sure we were in agreement on serving order.

Alter Ego Brewing Company (AEBC) is a small-batch artisanal brewery that will be opening this summer in Harrisburg, PA.  AEBC’s version of their story is a much better narrative than I ever could have written about them!  The only thing I will add is that when you meet Theo & Brandalynn you will have no doubt about their passion for what they do or their fun-loving personalities!

The menu for the class:

  • Light & Lemony Fennel Salad
  • Roasted Potato & Goat Cheese Pizza
  • Ballpark Pizza
  • White Pizza with Asparagus & Egg
  • Asian Chicken Pizza
  • Espresso Panna Cotta

I toyed with whether or not to include the names of the beers that will be paired with the menu items above, but I decided against it.  That would ruin the unveiling in class and the part of me that loves a little drama simply won’t allow it!  So I would encourage you not to miss Pizza Pizzazz!

Here are a few teaser pics of the food and beer from our dinner with Theo & Brandalynn:

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Not only will you leave with 6 great recipes, but you will taste 6 delicious beers that were hand-selected (or is that tastebud-selected) to pair with the food.  Can you think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than having someone else cook for you, being waited on, drinking delicious beer, and spending time with people who have a passion for what they do?  I sure can’t.

There are still a few seats left for Pizza Pizzazz!  To register, simply click here or call The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School at (717) 243-0906 or toll-free at (800) 391-2665.  I truly hope to see you there!!!!!

Sipping & Sunsets

Jeff and I just returned from a fun weekend at the beach with friends.  I wasn’t feeling too well beginning on Wednesday of last week; so it was touch-and-go as to whether we were going to make it.  But I decided I could just as easily be sick at the beach as I could at home; so we set off on our adventure on Friday afternoon!

Jeff and I left the house at approximately 2:30 pm and had a nice, leisurely drive through PA Amish country and mushroom country and through Delaware on our way to Rehoboth.  The sunset on Friday evening was SPECTACULAR!!!! The colors were so vivid and every time I looked out he car window, the scene had changed in a dramatic way.  It was a wonderful start to our weekend.

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Our first meal was a winner!  Lu made ribs and hot sausage on the grill, along with a salad, a mixed potato gratin and sautéed veggies. Mmm mmm mmm!  The leftover sausages were a thread woven through the remaining meals and snacks of the weekend!  Based upon how quickly Jeff and Mark were snoring, I have to reiterate that the meal was a winner!!!!

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On Saturday morning Jeff and I and Lu and Mark went for a long walk on the beach.  We strolled through the sand – sometimes in pairs or groups, sometimes alone – thinking and talking and gazing in amazement at God’s handiwork.  Of course, we saw many dogs enjoying their time in the surf, chasing balls and greeting strangers.  I’m always happy to see doggy faces when we travel….I don’t miss mine quite so much when I can scratch behind the ears of someone else’s canine friend!

After the beach we dropped Lu off at our home base, picked up Kara (Mark and Lu’s daughter) and took a quick trip to The Fractured Prune for donuts-to-go in honor of our friend Jackson.  Holy Moly.  What a selection of donuts!  And what a fun place!

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After we returned from the Fractured Prune we straggled upstairs for showers, had a yummy lunch and then ventured out for a beautiful drive to Dogfish Head Brewery…..our ultimate destination was the tasting room!  We enjoyed the scenery on the way to DFH – the bright sun seemed to illuminate the colorful leaves from within and it made the greens greener and the blues bluer…….

The DFH campus is quite interesting.  The buildings are industrial, but beautiful in their own eco-friendly way.  There is a wood-fired “lunchbox” offering interesting food for sale (since we had eaten lunch, we didn’t sample any food, but it smelled incredible).  Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the campus is the metal treehouse, in which DFH employees are reported to have meetings.

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Jeff and I were lucky to be travelling with experienced tasters – Lu and Mark knew their way around the tasting room and kept us on track!  We each sampled four offerings – Jeff and Mark sampled four beers.  Lu and I each sampled three beers and the birch beer, which was excellent and the favorite for both Lu and I!  I kept asking, “does anyone taste rosemary in this birch beer?” and sure enough, when Jeff asked about it, we found that there is, in fact, rosemary in the birch beer.  It is a wonderful addition and adds a layer of flavor you don’t get in a typical soda. Mmm mmm mmm!

Of course, we snapped many pics while we were there – Jeff even tried out the Panavision option on his new phone!  And after we were done sampling our beers and sodas, we took a quick trip through the store.  The lone purchase….a beer glass.

Jeff’s pics:

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Upon our return to our home base, we scattered a bit.  Jeff and Mark headed out to buy cigars and a few grocery items.  Lu and her daughter, Kara, did some outlet shopping.  And I went to my happy place – the kitchen.  Saturday night was my night to make dinner so I spent some relaxing time in the kitchen prepping chicken cutlets like my grandmother used to make and a kale salad with roasted red beets, crumbled feta, spiced cashews and a spicy peanut vinaigrette.  I also slid a butternut squash lasagna that I had assembled prior to the trip into the oven to heat.

While I was cooking, Jeff and Mark returned from their adventure and headed to the back porch with cigars and a full growler of DFH Raison D’Etre to watch the sunset and solve the world’s problems.  It was nice to hear the murmur of conversation through the back door and to catch a faint whiff of smoke while I was cooking.

The timing was perfect.  I had just finished cooking, had everything warming in the oven (except the salad, of course), had the table set and had poured myself a glass of wine when Mark spied Lu and Kara pulling up to our home away from home.

We enjoyed a yummy dinner, lots of laughs, and some vintage television.  While watching t.v. my cold (or whatever this is) started to catch up with me and my eyelids became heavier and heavier.  I’m pretty sure I was in bed by 8:00 pm.  Yep, I AM getting old.

Sunday included Lu’s yummy pancakes and sausage, shopping for the girls, a trip to the beach for the guys, a quick lunch and clean up of our digs.  Then we hit the road for home.  On the way, we enjoyed ANOTHER pretty ride – clear skies and vibrant fall colors make for great travel!

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Happily, my cold didn’t slow me down too much and we had a wonderful weekend with great friends!

What did you do this weekend?

Eat, Drink & Be Joyful!

I’ve been very lucky over the last year to be able to share my thoughts about cooking, eating and entertaining via this blog. I’ve gone on a few rants, disclosed some personal things about myself and given you a TASTE of what it’s like to live in my world.

So it’s only fitting that I spent the last few days eating, drinking and being joyful. And the best part is I have the pictures to prove it!

On Saturday I had the rare opportunity to go on a date with my husband! Although we have no children, we don’t schedule time to be alone together as often as we should. In fact, my friend Alicia and I have discussed that when you’re married with no kids it may be more important to be intentional about spending time alone with your spouse. You see, us MNK’s (married-no-kids) often take for granted that we’ll have time TOMORROW to be alone with our spouses….but then all the other obligations get in the way. I’m sure if you have kids, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Yeah? Well try adding kids to the mix!” And I’m sure that is a difficulty….but most of the people I know who have kids make family time a priority. What’s hard to remember is that the spouses in MNK relationships ARE one another’s family.

But anyway – that was a diversion I wasn’t planning to take! My point was to express my gratitude to spend nearly a full day alone with Jeff with the sole intention of being together!

Eat Divider

I worked at the Kitchen Shoppe in the morning, but Jeff picked me up promptly at noon 12:30. (I <3 U, Honey).  Our first stop was lunch – and it was a good thing because we were both famished by the time we reached the restaurant.  We decided on Momma Spriggs in Carlisle – (1) because it is close to the KS, but also because (2) I’ve been wanting to give it another try ever since I went there with two of my co-workers for lunch.

When I went with my co-workers there was a dessert in the case that was calling my name, but that I didn’t try.  It was called Chocolate Joe Cheesecake.  Unfortunately, when Jeff and I went on Saturday, they didn’t have THAT dessert.  Fortunately (for everything except my thighs), they had others!

While we were perusing the menu, I told Jeff about the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich that one of my co-workers ordered on our previous visit.  It intrigued him enough to order it – and by the looks of his plate shortly after it was put in front of him, I’d say it was an excellent choice!

Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

No More Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

I ordered the Johnny Appleseed Burger and French fries.  The Johnny Appleseed is described as a burger with “cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed apples and red onion served on grilled wheatberry bread.”  What is not in the description is that the burger is delicious. I ordered mine medium rare and it was cooked to juicy perfection and was adorned with wonderful flavors from all the toppings.

Johnny Appleseed Burger

Because I knew we wanted to try dessert, I only ate half my burger.  I wish I had had as much restraint with the fries, but they were so good I couldn’t stop!

While Jeff and I pondered our dessert choices, I recapped a conversation I had with my LHA buddies (thanks for a nice dinner David, Kim & Andrew) the other night about sharing food.  I really wasn’t trying to discourage our sharing a dessert, but it worked out that way.  Jeff ordered the Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache and I ordered the Oreo Explosion Cheesecake.

Now I have written before about how disappointing it can be to go to a restaurant and see desserts that you think are going to be great only to order them and find that they are ordinary.  I can assure you that that was not the case at Momma Spriggs.  The desserts were FANTASTIC!  Jeff’s pie was so rich I am surprised he was able to eat it all – but he took one for the team.

Peanut Butter Pie

After just one bite of my cheesecake I knew I’d be taking some of it home.  I was soooo good, but there was no way I was going to be able to finish it and still walk out the door.  So, with a little assistance from Jeff, I ate half the piece of cheesecake.  We split the rest for dessert the next evening.

Oreo Explosion Cheesecake

After we finished our lunch, I decided to snap a few pictures inside Momma Spriggs to give you an idea of what to expect when you go, which I would highly recommend.

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Momma Spriggs has a bit of a diner feel to it, but the décor is much nicer than diner décor.  The colors are relaxing and welcoming and there is a decorated feel. A word about the service.  On my first visit, my co-workers and I waited (what was IMHO) too long to be acknowledged and seated, but on Saturday we were greeted immediately and shown to our table by a nice young man.  Interestingly, during the first visit, the table service was better than on Saturday – but that is not to say Saturday’s service was bad.  I have my fingers crossed that on my next visit I will have good service all the way around!!!!

Drink Divider

After we left Momma Spriggs, Jeff and I headed out to explore Southern Cumberland County and Adams County by car.  Our objective for the day was simply to meander and take some pictures.  And that we certainly did.  It was relaxing to drive and talk and see the beautiful autumn leaves.  And what a nice surprise it was to stumble across Reid’s Orchard & Winery, which we did quite by accident.  After choosing a direction at a crossroads, Jeff decided to turn around and find the vineyard for which we had seen a sign.

I am glad he did because we had a lovely experience at Reid’s talking with Samantha and with Clair, sampling some good wines (which surprised me for PA wines because I admit I have had a somewhat old bias about PA wines all being sweet fruit wines) and hard ciders, and exploring the beautiful property.  We learned a bit about the orchard itself, talked with Samantha about the hard cider making process, had our questions answered about the label art on the wine bottles,  discussed food and wine pairing, and were even able to sample a fruit we had never tried before – arctic kiwi – and a surprisingly delicious blueberry wine that was not at all the sweet fruit wine I expected.

Roaming the property was my favorite part of the Reid’s experience.  It was relaxing to stroll through the rows of grape vines and apple trees.  The smells were interesting – highlighted by fresh autumn air mixed with sweet, fermenting fruit.

I hope the pictures below pique your curiosity!  I would highly recommend visiting Reid’s in the fall; but I’ll also tell you that Clair shared with us that in warmer months Reid’s offers live music on the weekends.  Sometimes there is catered food available, but you can always bring a picnic basket filled with your own goodies.  And wines are available by the bottle and by the glass.  The seating area is lovely with picturesque views.  I can guarantee Jeff and I – and perhaps some friends – will be checking out Reid’s on a weekend when the weather warms!

The majority of the photos below were taken at Reid’s Orchard & Winery, but some are from surrounding farms and orchards and restaurants.  Enjoy!

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Be Joyful Divider

That brings me to today.  As some of you know, I’ve been trying to listen to God’s prompting to “Wait!  Just Wait!”  Some days this is easier than others – especially for someone as “D” as me.  As driven, task-oriented, and impatient.  But I’ve found a lot of joy in the waiting – especially this morning.

I got to work a few minutes before 8:00, which was the time we set to start prepping for classes this morning.  When I pulled into the parking lot at the Kitchen Shoppe, there were NO cars in the parking lot.  I cannot tell you how unusual this is.

But when I looked toward the Le Tort Spring, which runs behind the shop, I knew the empty parking lot was a gift from God and a wonderful reminder of the beauty that can be found in waiting!  I had a peaceful few minutes to walk along the spring and take some pictures.  I wish everyone could begin their day like that!  It was a time to relax, breathe, center and focus.  And to take in the wonder of God!

For those of you who wonder, THIS is why I try to always have my camera with me!

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So as I reflect on the last year of blogging, on the events of the last few days and even on the few moments of solitude I enjoyed this morning – I am reminded to EAT, DRINK & especially to BE JOYFUL!

I received no compensation for either the review of Momma Spriggs or of Reid’s  Orchard & Winery.  The ideas expressed are strictly my own based upon my experience.

Fabulous Friday!

I spent several hours on Friday evening with my friends Ben and Christa, who invited me to the tres bonne annee wine tasting event at the Hilton Harrisburg.  The event celebrated the wines of Chile and proved to be a fantastic time.  This was my first official wine tasting event and I am quite sure it spoiled me for all others.

We arrived a bit early and while we were waiting for the doors to officially open, were able to look at the wines we would be tasting at the “mobile state store” – No, it’s not like the book mobile, but wouldn’t that be fantastic? – and to peek in the doors to watch the elaborate set up.

 

When we were finally able to enter the ballroom I was amazed to see it set for 300 people.  My mind operating as it does, my first thought was – holy moly – we’re tasting nine wines and they are already set in front of us – that means there are at least 2,700 wine glasses in here – who owns 2,700 wine glasses?  Boy am I glad I didn’t have to wash them all!!!

Each place was set with a place mat on which the names of the wines were printed and on which the glasses were set in the order we would be tasting them.

There were also pitchers of water for cleansing the palate and platters of breads, crackers, cheeses, fruits and pate.  The precision with which each place was set – so that there were no discernible difference from one to the next – was quite impressive and quite beautiful.  Although I am a person who generally appreciates that which is different; I was comforted by the uniformity!

 

The panel of speakers included a representative from each of the following:

  • The Wines of Chile, a promotional organization representing 90 Chilean wineries
  • Carmen Chile – one of the three wineries represented at the tasting and Chile’s oldest winery
  • Conca y Toro – one of the three wineries represented at the tasting and another long-time player in the Chilean wine game
  • Vina Arboleda – one of the three wineries represented at the tasting and a young winery fueled by a passion to produce wonderful wines

The panelists each took a turn educating us about Chile, the 4th largest exporter of wine to the U.S., and its wines.  I learned that Chile has 3,000 miles of coastline and that the colder climate on the ocean means a longer harvest.  I also learned that Chile is known mostly for its red wines, but that it has excellent white wines – my favorite of the whites we tasted was the Carmen Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011.

Each winery representative described the wines we were tasting with careful detail.  They told us about the oak vs. non-oak aging, the fermentation, the climate in the region in which the grapes are grown, the aroma or bouquet of each wine, the subtle notes that could be detected in the smell and taste of each wine and the foods with which the wines would pair well.  We saw a brief video about each winery.  For me, the videos made me want to explore Chile on my own.

Fortunately for me, I was seated next to exactly the right person to discuss exploring Chile.  Her name is Liz Caskey, of Liz Caskey Culinary & Wine Experiences, and she is a former Lancaster native who now lives and cooks in Santiago, Chile and hosts culinary and wine tours of Chile and other South American countries.  Although I did not have the opportunity to speak with her at length, I was impressed by her adventurous spirit and her knowledge of the food and wine of Chile.

The following are the wines we tasted in three groups – whites, Carmeneres, and Cabernet Savignons.  I’ve included a few tidbits of information about each wine and my favorite in each group is indicated with an asterisk (*).

We tasted three whites:

  • *Carmen Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – Non-oak aged, fresh green aroma, refreshing on the palate, pairs well with fresh seafood.
  • Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Chardonnay 2011 – Oak fermentation, pale yellow, fine herbal notes, subtle aroma of toast.
  • Arboleda Chardonnay 2011 – Oak fermentation – delicate aroma of fresh fruit and citrus, aroma not as “toasty” as Conca y Toro.

We tasted three Carmeneres:

  • Carmen Gran Reserva Camenere 2009 – barrel aged 100% Carmenere, smoky, spicy, very dry, faint taste of paprika and coffee beans.
  • Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmenere 2010 – 90% Carmenere and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, the pigment “hangs” on the glass more than the other two Carmeneres (I’m not talking about the “legs” or “tears” of the wine – widely debated as an indicator of the wine’s quality, but the actual pigment), very dry, almost dusty mouth feel, pairs well with tomato dishes, pasta and lamb.
  • *Arboleda Carmenere 2009 – 100% Carmenere, fruity on the palate, least dry of the three Carmeneres, paired well with the salty cheese and peppery pate.

Lastly, we tasted three Cabernet Sauvignons:

  • Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Carmenere, complex aromas, I detected traces of raspberry and grapefruit, pleasant rounded tannins (I found a good explanation of tannins and mouth feel at Just Grapes Wine Blog).
  • Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, juicy (which I learned is from the acidity), fine tannins, spicy finish.
  • *Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Carmenere, aroma of plums, cherries and chocolate, a hint of vanilla, nice mouth feel. This is the bottle I purchased because I knew Jeff would enjoy it the most of all the wines we tasted and he wasn’t able to attend.

I find it interesting that I my three favorite wines of those we tasted were evenly distributed among the represented wineries.  I think that speaks well for the youngest of the three wineries – they seem to be on the right track. Christa and I stole a moment with the winemaker from Arboleda – Carolina Herrera – to ask a question about how she determines how much oak and the type of oak to use for fermentation.  I was impressed to learn that she is only 29 years old.  Her passion and enthusiasm for wine making were unmistakable.  I thought she was an excellent representative of the wines of Chile.

Although I know the wines I like to drink; I don’t know much about wine in general. The evening offered the opportunity to learn about the different regions and valleys of Chile, the terroirs or micro-climates that affect wine making and Chilean wines, and the three wineries represented.  It whet my appetite to continue learning about different wines and set a pretty high bar for future wine tastings.

All in all I had a great time spending the evening with Ben, Christa, and 297 of our closest friends!