About ten years ago, I awoke with half of my face swollen like a pro boxer had kicked my head in. Eyes, lips and cheek itching with puffy, dark patches of brooding skin stared back at me in the mirror. All I could say was WTF? Panicked, I hightailed it to my general practitioner doctor who took one look at me and calmly asked, “Did you have shellfish for dinner last night?” As a matter of fact, I had. Canned crab from Asia, the makings of a delicious dip at a dinner party. And the last time I’ve ever consumed crab from a can. Diagnosis: allergy to shellfish. But not just the deliciousness of crab, add in shrimp, lobster, mussels, oysters, and all their other crustacean friends. A little while later, tuna and farmed salmon joined the party.
Read more: When food became my enemy: A quest to cure my food allergies
I visited J Lohr ages ago, wide-eyed and somewhat new to California wine (I studied wine in Europe first then learned domestic grogs). The tour was lengthy, the hospitality warm and the wine impressive. I don’t remember a Rhône program there but that’s because it wasn’t until a few years later that they started down that road. A nice journey it has been. I lean more towards their Rhône whites — Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier — than their reds. The Syrahs are over-oaked for my palate but some people love that.
Read more: Wine review: J Lohr Gesture RVG Paso Robles
For some people, curry is comfort food. Scents of home and slow cooked goodness that fill a kitchen with strong, earthy aromas. I often crave curry and, if I’m not turning to Roasted Curry Cauliflower, I’m making this recipe. Mostly, I use frozen fish and any hearty white fish will be fine. Avoid tilapia since it’s too delicate and will fall apart. Alternatively, you could substitute peeled, deveined shrimp but, since it cooks quicker, add it to the saucepan with the peppers and basil.
Read more: Recipe: Aromatic green or red curry fish or shrimp
As we emerge from the doldrums of the economic downturn, people are rediscovering sparkling wine and Champagne. Bubbles can be sanity-saving– salve a bad day, make Meatloaf Night an occasion or help celebrate a holiday. Luckily these days, high-quality sparkling wine comes in all price points. So whether you have a Hamilton or a Franklin in your wallet, it’s easy to toast to the good life. In the $10 – $25 range, the choices appear endless. From super affordable Italian Prosecco and Cava to carefully crafted Californian sparklers, the wine lover wins. Most French Champagne and American sparkling wines are made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes (a third red variety, Pinot Meunier, is often blended in). But Italian Prosecco and Spanish Cava producers use indigenous grapes that are easier and less expensive to grow. And, as the infomercials say, the savings are passed along to us.
Read more: Bubbles for all budgets: Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cava and Prosecco
Besides the seasonality of this vegetable, I’ve always wondered why we relegate pumpkin dishes to the fall. It comes in a can year round — which is far easier than spearing a fresh gourd — so we could be enjoying its comforting, smooth and rustic flavors all the time. It might be the cinnamon, nutmeg and other fall-tinged spices which contribute to pumpkin’s autumnal reputation. I can’t really talk… I practice the same prejudice but perhaps it’s time for a pumpkin revolution. Go ahead… make this pumpkin roll in the summer. I dare you. Your family and friends will love you for it. That, I guarantee… it’s a fantastic recipe.
Read more: Holiday (and other times) recipe: Easy pumpkin roll dessert
Since I already own just about every food and wine gadget, I can imagine what a pain in the ass I am to shop for. Some tools I use regularly, like my J Vineyards branded Champagne opener or Microplane grater. But some ended up either being re-gifted or donated, like the cordless, electric corkscrewoddly resembling a vibrator – the thought of using it puts a smile on my face, although my old-school Screwpull openergets me there quicker. As we all know, the best gifts are the thoughtful ones; even if inexpensive, they’ll show that you took the time to be creative or find the unique. To come off as someone who thinks, here are my gift suggestions for the wine and food lovers on your list, whether they be newbies or connoisseurs. It’s always nice to give the gift of great food and wine.
Read more: Seeking the unique: Food and wine gifts for all seasons
Parties with a variety of food that we can’t really control can be depressing and/or maddening. If you’re regimenting a strict diet, it can be super sucky if you’re faced with a table full of things you can’t eat (but want to). However, it doesn’t have to be a huge challenge to resist the food you might regret. Here are a few tips:
Read more: Four ways to escape putting on pounds at parties
The hills of El Dorado County are famed for the gold rush in the late 1800s. Hopeful prospectors arrived in the region, set up camp but also planted grapevines. So fun wine history is everywhere. Today, there are over 70 wineries to explore in the El Dorado American Viticultural Appellation (AVA). I found the area lush with earnest smiles, low-priced tasting fees and no attitude — a refreshing departure from the glitz and glam flourishing in, ahem, other wine regions close by. With over 30 different grape varieties growing there, it’s an enchanting place to explore Italian-origin varietals like Barbera and Sangiovese as well as Riesling, Viognier and Malbec.
Read more: Visit Sierra Foothills and El Dorado County: A Golden State wine destination