About five years ago, after a lifetime of eating and drinking carelessly, I started putting on the pounds. At 5’2″, my height to weight ratio had topped new levels of embarrassment. That, and my clothes weren’t fitting anymore and I’m too cheap (or lazy?) to shop for new clothes. So for the first time ever, I had to watch what I shoveled into my mouth. Mind you, I’ve never shoved junk or processed food down my gullet but mostly gourmet this, housemade that. It turns out even gourmet and homemade can be the wrong this and that.
I had to make a change and many “diets” eschew wine and any other alcohol. That just wasn’t going to work for me — in my house, wine is a required food group. So I read a ton of books (The South Beach Diet, The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and magazines (Cooking Light mostly), developing a personal diet that worked for me and my lifestyle. I learned that the low-fat craze is a government-sponsored farce and absolutely doesn’t equal better health. The human body needs fat to survive and if you eat a lot of carbs and don’t burn them, they will end up on your ass. These obsessively researched and developed tenets have really worked for me, even as I drink two glasses of wine per day. I figured out the right mix so wanted to share it.
The Doppelbock, a high-powered version of the German Bock, is a favorite of mine. It’s darker, chewier, heavier, sweeter, and higher in alcohol than its goat-labeled little brother. Doppelbocks originated in Munich during the late 18th Century where the Paulaner Monks brewed it as “liquid bread”, which isn’t a serious naming stretch since grain is used and it’s certainly not a watery brew. Those crazy Bavarian monastic peeps even dubbed it “Salvator”, which translates to “Savior” and many of my friends believe beer to be theirs. Paulaner owns the trademark to “Salvator” but many breweries add the “-ator” ending to their own take on the style.
Read more: Doppelbocks: Two liquid bread beers to seek
Temperatures are hitting the eighties here in Sonoma County and my hands are reaching for some chilled white wines (and rosés, but that’s another column). They seem to go down smoother and easier than the lonely, almost dusty Cabernets and Syrahs in the wine rack. And with more and more thirsty folks branching out from their normal white wine routine, I thought it appropriate to introduce a couple of other soft, aromatic, mouth-watering whites: Tablas Creek 2011 Cotes de Tablas and David Hill 2011 Pinot Gris.
Read more: Sippin’ and chillin’ white wines for spring: Tablas Creek & David Hill
A Session Beer is a beer that is relatively low in alcohol (5% or lower), balanced in character, and ideally suited for enjoying one after another. I’m getting just a little annoyed by extreme beers. Do you know what I mean? I’m talking about those striving to be the “hoppiest” or the “strongest” or the most peculiar. When I see brewers boasting that their new ale has more IBUs than ever recorded in history I simply can’t walk away fast enough.
Read more: Session beers: Desperately seeking moderation
Sure, bottled salad dressings are quicker and more convenient. But homemade salad dressing tastes SO much better and fresher. This one takes 5 minutes to assemble, uses heart healthy condiments most people have on hand, and isn’t full of the scary preservatives found lurking in most bottles. This tart, lemony vinaigrette keeps for about a week in the refrigerator and can be tossed with salad greens, drizzled over steamed green beans, or even used as a marinade for meat.
Read more: Easy salad dressing recipe: Garlicky Lemony Vinaigrette
I have a confession to make: Although I live in the fortuitous California wine country, it’s pretty rare that I visit tasting rooms. I remember back before I relocated to Sonoma County from Florida, I would ask friends who lived here what tasting rooms I should visit. I sought out the small, the family-owned, the tasty… and many had no insight. At the time, I was like, “What?? You don’t go tasting on the weekends and loll in the vineyards?” I was aghast. I have a confession to make: Although I live in the fortuitous California wine country, it’s pretty rare that I visit tasting rooms. I remember back before I relocated to Sonoma County from Florida, I would ask friends who lived here what tasting rooms I should visit. I sought out the small, the family-owned, the tasty… and many had no insight. At the time, I was like, “What?? You don’t go tasting on the weekends and loll in the vineyards?” I was aghast.
Read more: Visiting Pinot Noir country in Sonoma County: The best in the Russian River Valley
I will admit I’m not much of a Cabernet Sauvignon fan. Appreciation flows from so many other places, I rarely see the need to fawn. Often, it’s a wine with so much tannin that it begs for food to balm its harsh edges and I’m kind of a wine-for-all-purposes kind of girl (before, during and after dinner). But sometimes, just sometimes, one drops in at a blind tasting that woos me. This happened one night when the Jordan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon showed up.
Read more: Wine review: Jordan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley
Available exclusively at Trader Joe’s — not sure if it’s distributed outside California, but let’s hope it is — La Ferme Julien Blanc from France’s Luberon region is a luscious blend of white French grapes most people have never heard of: Ugni Blanc [oo NE blanhk], Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and an odd-man-out Italian grape, Vermentino. Smooth and tasty, it’s a perfect warm-weather wine with food like raw oysters, slightly spicy fare, or simple roasted chicken. And it’s staggeringly inexpensive… $6
Read more: Wine under $10 review: La Ferme Julien Blanc 2011
Although most are loath to admit it, we all want to squeeze as much value from every dollar, even if we’re rolling in it. I have a friend who doesn’t want for much, but games the sales and savings cards systems with the giddy relish of a child at Chuck E. Cheese. I’ve not graduated to her level of discount-dom, but I admire and perhaps even aspire to her level of value vigilance. For bargain clothes, Groupons and anything household, she is my muse. Cheap wine (ahem… inexpensive wine), however, lies firmly within my sordid skill set. More and more Americans are drinking wine on an everyday basis, a trend I applaud with glee. But most people can’t exactly fork over $20 per night for this daily pleasure. So I’m here to serve up my favorite wine regions for super cheap, tasty wines to pair with dinner or to scratch that end-of-the-work-day relaxation itch we all have.
Read more: More flavor, less money: Buying wine on a budget
Cypress Grove Creamery’s Cheesemaker Mary Keehn started raising goats in the 1970s, but didn’t begin making her magic until 1983. Immediately, her passion turned into winning awards for her now-famous chevre-based goat cheeses like Humboldt Fog, named after northern California’s weather phenomenon in Humboldt County. Today, to focus her energy on cheesemaking, she no longer raises the goats and the milk comes from local sustainable farms that partner with Cypress Grove. Her success has revitalized the farming community by creating opportunities for small dairies to thrive. The initial concept for her amazing Truffle Tremor, back in 2009, involved flavoring fresh goat cheese with truffles, but Keehn thought the truffle overpowered the young cheese. She felt the truffles pined for the complexity of a ripened cheese so she went that route instead. To introduce the namesake umami-ness, Keehn experimented with a variety of truffle products, including truffle oil, before settling on a canned grated black truffle from Italy.
Read more: Good enough to eat with a spoon: Truffle Tremor cheese from Cypress Grove