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. Here are my four guidelines for how to keep wine off your hips or tummy.
Read more: How to stay thin when you drink wine for a living – four nutrition guidelines
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
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
Dark meat chicken gets a bad rap. Sure, it’s a tiny bit higher in calories but chicken thighs and drumsticks boast more flavor and juicy, savory goodness. Plus, they’re not going to set me back as many shekels. In this jerk chicken recipe, the Caribbean seasoning rub includes the earthier scents of nutmeg and allspice, which melds well with this fattier meat. This super fast, super flavorful recipe takes about 5 minutes to prep and 1o minutes to cook, so feel free to whip it up for a weeknight meal.
Read more: Recipe: Quick, delicious thighs, Caribbean Jerk Chicken of course
I don’t hear much about Zinfandel these days, except during the annual Zinfandel Festival in nearby San Francisco. Last year, I produced a video which asked winemakers to describe their ideal Zinfandel food and wine pairings. The results were above and beyond the normal BBQ and grilled beef responses… Asian food? Mole? And why not? Low in tannins, high in juicy flavor with some having plenty of acid, Zinfandel can create quite the zesty love affair with food. Seghesio is a classic producer of Zinfandel, hanging their hat on the varietal and other Italian grapes such as Barbera (one of my favorites that they produce). Purchased in 2011 by Crimson Wine Group, I worried their quality would lag behind profit pressures but they seem to have weathered the transition pretty well so far.
Read more: Everyday drinking wine review: Seghesio 2010 Zinfandel Sonoma County