The truth about the grocery store brands you love (infographic)

Think you know everything there is to know about the brands you love? Maybe not. This infographic (shared by financesonline.com) depicts the reality of the majority ownership of brands in the grocery store aisles. It’s a bit on the salacious side (“dominate”? “disturbing”?) but the information seems sound and pretty interesting. And, if you’re like me, you shop in the produce and fresh protein section more than anything else and might not even care. But it’s good to know. Pass it on.

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Visit California wine country: Reserve Lunch at Franciscan Estate Winery

Franciscan Scallops

As someone who has been in the wine trade for many years, I’m privy to plenty of special experiences… wine dinners, library tastings, chef-prepared lunches, etc. Most of the time, these sweet gigs aren’t accessible to the general public. Which I’ve always thought a frickin’ shame. Why shouldn’t a winery provide as much fun to the evangelists who sing praises through social media as much as the guy who recommends the wine at a shop? But that’s how the game is played. At least for now. Exclusivity isn’t the case at Franciscan Estate Winery in Napa Valley.

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What to buy at Trader Joe's: The full guide to their food

Trader Joe's Loot

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.

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Video: Winemaker Mark Beringer on why the 2012 vintage was stellar

Winemaker Mark Beringer being interviewed

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.

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Fruits and veggies: Buy organic or not? The dirty dozen

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

My husband and I “went organic” many years ago, figuring that — assuming all the research is correct — spending more money now is better than spending money in the hospital later. Eating real food is way more fun than “eating” from a tube, right? And tastier, I might add. Whether you espouse the “pesticides and fungicides suck” attitude or not, non-profit organizations like the Environmental Working Group have assembled a tome of evidence that recommends staying away from the chemical residue on food. But a huge factor that keeps people from buying organic fruits and vegetables is the higher price. It’s not the farmer’s fault — they have to spend more producing the food so they pass on the added cost to the customer. Although not all conventionally-farmed fruits and vegetables are slathered in chemical residue, there are some worst offenders. To keep track of the pesticides levels on a myriad of fresh food, I recommend a free app called Harvest but here’s a short list of those that should always be purchased from the organic section.

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Reliable hangover cure (really): Forgiven alcohol recovery shot

Forgiven

They call it an alcohol recovery shot but I call it a hangover miracle: Forgiven. The good news is that post-bacchanalia head fuzz and pain might be a problem of the past. A blend of vitamins, herbs and amino acids, Forgiven is a two-ounce post-hangover solution. To test its efficacy, I played the dubious lab rat and downed the liquid after a particular night of… ahem… fun. I felt significant relief literally within two hours. Some of the listed ingredients are an alphabet brew of B vitamins, zinc and sodium, all found on the plate of Eggs Benedict and in a glass of V8 — my former cure which took six hours to kick in. Added bonus: Forgiven only has 44 calories and no caffeine.

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The adventures of opening a brewery: The wheels start to roll

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Much has happened in the last few months at Coppertail Brewing Co. Progress seems to move so slowly at times but after looking back (since the last update) it is frankly surprising how much has taken place. Back then we had a name, a building, and little else. Now, plans have been set, equipment has been ordered, and we’re starting to gain, well… a little momentum anyway. Ironically, last weekend was Wazoo which is where my compadre and fellow co-founder Kent originally pitched the idea to me last year (2012).

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Opening a brewery: Fun, work, headaches, beer

Beers-small batch brewing

Some of the other homework was easy. Craft beer is huge and growing nationwide. Yet in Florida, it’s still in the toddler stage. Anyway we knew there was room in the marketplace and Cigar City Brewing had opened up a few years back and really blazed the trail. With that info we also ascertained that there was a growing demand for fresh, local, craft beer in this metro and that this Bay area thirst would continue to increase for quite some time.

Read more: The adventures of opening a brewery: Fun, work, headaches, beer