Tag Archive: wine

Mar 19 2013

An Afternoon with Australia: Food, Wine, and Fun

The Sunburnt Calf

It’s not every day that I get to hop on a train to the City and feast on international cuisine. Yet I was given just that opportunity on Tuesday, March 12th, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a windy, rainy day than imagining myself in a quite opposite clime while enjoying good food and excellent company.

Chef Michael Moore

Chef Michael Moore

It was blustery outside, but the gathering inside was anything but all wet. Food bloggers from the tri-state area were treated to an appearance by celebrity chef Michael Moore, who talked about what Australian cuisine means to him, and we broke bread (pork buns?) with representatives from Australia’s seven states on a quest to learn more about why we should consider Australia for our next food destination.

Rhubarb Gimlet

What is Australian cuisine? Much like American food, it’s a bit of a melting pot of European and Asian influences. It’s really more about the attitude, the state of mind that makes Australian cuisine different. It’s food that is authentically cooked. Food that is fresh as can be. Farm to table is a way of life instead of a catchphrase. Food that captures that moment in time. It’s a connection to the earth and a connection to each other, where everyone works together toward common goals. Sophistication with relaxation. And it’s all about the outdoors.

Rack of Lamb

Go there and you will see all this in action. Whether you’re exploring the 14 wine regions of New South Wales or having a private picnic on the beach on Lizard Island, you’ll find a connection. Go to Melbourne, Australia’s #1 culinary destination, and take part in the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. The whole month of October is devoted to food in Sydney at the Crave Sydney International Food Festival. In the Northern Territory, it’s all about “bush to bowl,” “plant to plate.” Chefs there are learning from the indigenous people, which can only lead to delicious discoveries. And you can’t forget about Tasmania, which boasts the world’s cleanest air and purest water; surely this leads to the best produce, too!

Stuffed Mushrooms

Did you know that Western Australia is well known for its truffles? Or that 65% of the wine exported from Australia comes from the state of South Australia? (It will also be hosting Savour Australia in September 2013, Australia’s first global wine forum!) So many great opportunities to explore food–it makes me wish I could spend a month eating my way through the country!

Pork Buns

I may not have been able to board a plane heading west on Tuesday, but dining at The Sunburnt Calf was the next best thing. We had mushrooms stuffed with wild mushroom mousse, olive tapenade, and Manchego cheese, and delightful steamed buns with red braised pork belly. I tried my first oyster–an oyster “Kilpatrick”–which was a tempura-fried oyster with pickled shallots and Worcestershire-bacon butter served on a half shell. (I had to keep myself from licking the shell clean!) The grilled Australian rack of lamb was superb: tender enough to cut with a butter knife, and accompanied by a colorful array of roasted winter vegetables and minted yoghurt. To top it all off were portions of Pavlova with fresh cream, kiwi, mango, and passion fruit sauce and a peach melba with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. A moment in a meal, captured forever in my mind. If this is what dining in Australia is like, you can count me in!

Pavlova and Peach Melba

For more information on food and wine in Australia, visit www.australia.com.

Disclosure: The Tourism Australia Luncheon was sponsored by BlogHer and Tourism Australia. All opinions and photographs, unless otherwise noted, remain my own.

Nov 02 2012

#TGTaste: Bonterra Organic Vineyards

Normally the ladies at Thirsty Girl set up their Thirsty Girl #TGTaste Twitter events for once a month on a Wednesday. Wednesday being the day of the week known as “Wine Wednesday,” it seemed appropriate. This time they’re shaking things up a bit with a Friday tasting that I am really looking forward to!

Don’t know what Thirsty Girl is? Only a year ago I was in your shoes. Then suddenly, one day, I was approached by Thirsty Girl to participate in a #TGTaste Twitter wine tasting party and my life just hasn’t been the same ever since. After all, how can you turn down someone who encourages you to drink up and talk about it?

Admittedly, I am not a wine connoisseur. I would love to know more, but I’m also on a tight budget. I can’t exactly be throwing my money away on fancy wines that are beyond what my palate can appreciate. Add to that a husband who would be happy if he never had to taste a drop of wine again and I’m set up to become quite the wino without some direction. Because I hate wasting anything I’ve bought. And once you’ve opened the bottle, you have to finish it, right?

Thirsty Girl gives you the opportunity to communicate directly with the vineyards who are producing fantastic affordable wines and learn more about them. Why they’re in the business. What’s so special about what they bring to the table. Even recipes are tossed about, further tantalizing the already awakened taste buds with delectable delights perfectly paired with your fermented grape juice. What’s not to love?

Monthly #TGTaste chats can be a lot of fun. Even on months when I wasn’t offered the topic wine, I’ve gone out on my own and purchased it myself, then cozied up at the kitchen table with my glasses full and my cheese plate at the ready, eager for the discussion to begin. I still have a long way to go before I could say I actually know anything about wine (what are those subtle flavors everyone picks on, after all? why do I not get what they’re getting?), but I’m getting there. I’m a work in progress.

Bonterra Organic Wines - poet in the pantry

Tonight we’ll be tasting wines from Bonterra Organic Vineyards, which has been in the biz since 1993, creating their wines from organic grapes all along. You’d think an organic wine would result in a higher price tag–after all, organic grapes cost twice as much as conventional at the grocery store–but there’s really a very small difference. The 2011 Chardonnay we’ll be sipping retails for around $13.99 a bottle and the 2010 Merlot averages $15.99 a bottle. Quite reasonable for something of such high quality.

Want to know more? Join us tonight! We’ll be chatting with the hashtag #TGTaste at 8PM Eastern Time, headed by @beathirstygirl, @leslieb, and @bonterrawine. Let’s celebrate the end of a very long, stressful week and the good health of those who have made it through!

Disclosure: The views and opinions expressed on this blog are mine alone, based upon my personal experience. While I received 2 complimentary bottles of wine from Bonterra Organic Vineyards, which will be used for the Twitter #TGTaste chat mentioned in this post, I received no monetary compensation nor a request for a positive review. Neither Bonterra Organic Vineyards nor Thirsty Girl endorse this blog post.

Jul 31 2011

Sampling Connecticut’s Finest

The last weekend of July found 14 of Connecticut’s vineyards sharing their wares at the Connecticut Wine Festival. Patrons lined up at the gates of the Goshen Fairgrounds, eager to sample the finest wine Connecticut has to offer.

The Big Guy and I are certainly not wine connoisseurs, only dabbling in the $10 or less bottles from our local package stores. But I had been meaning for a while to get better acquainted with the local wineries, so we checked it out. It took a little while at first to figure out the etiquette (we waited in what seemed to be a line for twenty minutes at the first booth, only to realize that people were stepping around to wherever they could inch their way up to the table, thus preventing the people ahead of us from moving forward), but once we got the hang of it, we pushed our way through the crowds with the best of them.

Connecticut Wine Festival

an absolutely gorgeous day at the fairgrounds

Yes, there were crowds. It was far more claustrophobic than I anticipated. And I avoid crowds like the plague, so I was a bit uncomfortable at first. But even then, once I acclimated, I managed just fine. Eventually, the tasters thinned out and it wasn’t too bad, after all.

The vineyards were divided into two buildings: one for Western Connecticut offerings, the other for Eastern Connecticut. We started with Western Connecticut, seeing as that is home. I was impressed by Sunset Meadow Vineyards, really enjoying their Blustery Blend and Cayuga White. The Woodlands White from Jones Family Farms Winery of Shelton was also quite good. DiGrazia Vineyards sampled the unusual Autumn Spice wine, which has nutmeg and pumpkin notes that urge one to grab a blanket and curl up in front of a fire. My favorite, however, came from Land of Nod Winery in East Canaan. We came home with a bottle of Blueberry-Raspberry Medley Wine and plans to locate their Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Wine in the near future. I’ve never heard of anything like it!

land of nod

jostling for a place at the Land of Nod Winery table

After making the rounds of the Western Connecticut wines, we took a break to check out the vendors. There were dresses, glassware, cutlery, limousines, gourmet food offerings, etc. We tried a sample of some delicious granola from Ola! Foods and, of course, grabbed a bag of kettle corn from Keifer’s Kettle Korn & Italian Ice–a must-have at any fair-type occasion. What caught my eye, however, was the green food truck parked at the end of the row.

Little Sister's Grilled Cheese

lining up for comfort food

Food trucks that sell what is not your ordinary roach coach fare are nothing new to me. I have a bit of a love affair for Rocket Fine Street Food, which launches from my hometown. This one with the longest queue of the concession area specializes in grilled cheese. Yes, this is the grilled cheese truck–more widely known as Little Sister’s Grilled Cheese. The Big Guy and I decided to give them a try.

Little Sister's desserts

not just grilled cheese--Little Sister's had dessert covered, too

The Little Sister’s truck is manned by two: one who takes orders, and the other who prepares them on the flat top. Waits for order fulfillment seemed to run 5-10 minutes, depending on how long the line was. They offered an assortment of grilled cheese options: the Caprese, the Veggie, Honey Bear, Italian… We selected the Little Miss Piggy, described as “Classic (Cheddar & Monterey Jack) with Shaved Ham.” Then, we waited.

While we waited, I watched preparations–and discovered that while we paid $7 for the privilege of this comfort food, the bread was some pre-sliced Italian bread you can buy at the grocery store. The fillings were likely not much better. Despite high hopes, the taste did not live up to the price tag. Rocket‘s grilled cheese is made on locally-sourced bakery bread with high quality ingredients, and this shines through with every bite. Their product tastes better and is more affordable. Sorry, Little Sister’s, my heart still belongs to the Rocket.

perfect day for a picnic

perfect day for a picnic

Having ensured that we no longer had empty stomachs, we moved on to the Eastern Connecticut building. There were less wineries to sample from–6, versus the 8 in the Western Connecticut building–so we got through much more quickly. We could not even get close to the Jonathan Edwards Winery table, so we did skip that one. Sharpe Hill Vineyard‘s Ballet of Angels stood out, as well as Gouveia Vinyard‘s Chardonnay Steel, which is aged in steel tanks instead of barrels. The Hard Cider that Bishop’s Orchards Winery poured was probably the best hard cider I’ve had yet.

As the sun began to sink lower in the sky, we bid a fond farewell to the Connecticut Wine Festival. The hustle and bustle was a bit annoying at first, but the opportunity to taste test from so many local offerings was worth it. I’ve left it a little wiser about wine and with some new favorites for the wine rack. Cheers!