Although it’s been three years since I moved to California, I still wallow in the awesomeness of Trader Joe’s (TJ’s). Their business model of offering only private-branded food and beverage is unique, so you kind of have to test out the merchandise to see what your favorite items are. Not that this is grueling work. They sell an insanely varied line of foods (around 4,000 SKUs), from über gourmet chocolate to some of the best frozen foods you can find. Having the corner on each specialty item appears to be working for them. Based in Monrovia, California outside of Los Angeles (but owned by a German company), TJ’s is privately held and the actual producers of their grocery items remain secret. This is a fantastic story from CNN.com highlighting Trader Joe’s success and reveals some of their inner sanctum. I know my friends in Tampa FL have been anxiously awaiting the opening of their first TJ’s, and I heard there was line snaking around the block when their doors finally unlocked. Wait no longer.
Read more: What to buy at Trader Joe’s: The full guide to their food
The 2012 vintage in Sonoma and Napa was legendary – lauded by many a wine writer as well as those who really know, the winemakers. The red wines from 2012 are starting to hit the shelves and I wanted to find out the real deal on the hype. So I had a chat with Mark Beringer, a fifth generation winemaker at Artesa Winery in Sonoma’s Carneros region who has wine in his veins. I figured this guy would know the scoop.
Read more: Video: Winemaker Mark Beringer on why the 2012 vintage was stellar
Sometimes less alcohol goes a long way. Imagine sitting by the pool or enjoying a spring picnic with some cool white wine in the GoVino or plastic wine glass. Less alcohol will allow you to enjoy this scene a bit longer — lingering over tasty snacks or ogling the people at the pool. Kinda dreamy, huh? Brancott Estates, known for their New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, has launched a new line of wines called Flight Song, pimping them as having 20% less calories (than their other wines). And lower alcohol. About 4% less alcohol actually, weighing in a 9%.
Read more: Wine review: Brancott Flight Song 2013 Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc
I have become a massive fan of kale… I do feel like I’m in a herd of sheep following the trend, but it is pretty healthy and can be incredibly tasty. Up until recently, I roasted kale as well as tossed it into soups but Kale Caesar Salad was the first raw recipe I embraced. This version originally came from Alton Brown but I’ve altered it generously to make it a bit more healthy and more pungent.
Read more: Hail Kale Caesar Salad Recipe
When I was growing up, a dusty bottle of Greek Retsina held court in our pantry cupboard. My mom purchased it while traveling in Greece back in the 50s, hoping one day to open it with fanfare. To my knowledge, it’s still there, crusty and dusty. Sometime after I’d gone deep into wine, she did ask me if it would still be tasty if she opened it at that point. My response was guttural, mostly because my experience with Retsina resembled grain alcohol laced with turpentine – on a good day. It wasn’t until several years later, when I stumbled into the incredible Mediterranean restaurant Zaytinya in Washington DC, that I realized Greece might have other delicacies to offer than this famed, nose hair-burning liquid.
Read more: Greek wine comes of age
The Daily Meal has published their 2014 best 101 restaurants in the country. Created by 100 different judges from food critics to food writers, this list pretty efficiently narrows down the go-to culinary geniuses in this land of ours. I found it so thorough that I had to publish at least the top 20.
Read more: Daily Meal’s best 101 restaurants in America
Adapted from a recipe in a magazine read so long ago I can’t remember, this mega healthy salad will stave off hunger for hours. The whole grains in brown rice, combined with the protein in the chicken, digest slowly so you’ll feel fuller, longer. And it’s unbelievably tasty, I might add. It even gets better overnight, as the dressing spreads its deliciousness throughout the ingredients. It does take about 45 minutes to make so be patient — it’s seriously worth it. Or make it on Sunday and take this for lunch for two days. You can make this vegetarian by eliminating the chicken and adding another can of chickpeas.
Read more: Awesome recipe: Brown rice salad with chicken, feta and mint
Some wines are for everyday… you knock them back without a care or thought. Those are freeing and ephemeral days. But then, there are wines that give pause… stay in your memory like your first dance with a sweetie. They grab you and hang on for the ride. I recently experienced a sexy slow dance . Tasted back in November, I still remember the wine’s sensations and flavors. But not necessarily when I drank it alone — it’s really too sweet for my palate. But when I paired it with some salty, creamy, thick-veined blue cheese, it transformed. My tweet read: “Blue cheese + Foreau Demi Sec is freakin’ unbelievable”. Not sure I need to say more.
Read more: Food and wine pairing heaven: Sweet Vouvray and blue cheese