Is It Fall Yet?

Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Although the temperatures outside don’t agree, I know that sweater weather is just around the corner.

Tomorrow is a big day for me – stay tuned for that – and next week I will be sharing a post about why wine vintage matters even to those who don’t cellar their wine.

But today, I’d like to share some random things that have caught my eye.

The Art of Liz Lyons Friedman

I first discovered Liz Lyon Friedman’s beautiful work at the Sausalito Art Festival several years ago. Held every year over Labor Day weekend, this beautiful art festival in Sausalito, California, is one of my favorites.

As I walked past her booth, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Liz’s colorful and intriguing pieces.

Liz creates “linocuts” or linoleum block prints. (See details on her process here.)

Their beauty with a touch of whimsy, speaks to my soul. And, the themes Liz focuses on – wine, friends, life, and love – are the very things I celebrate every day.

We have these fabulous pieces in our house along with her award-winning poster from the 2012 Sausalito Art Festival.

Kitchen Crowd by Liz Lyons Friedman

Kitchen Crowd by Liz Lyons Friedman (used with permission by the artist)

Cooking With WIne by Liz Lyons Friedman

Cooking With Wine by Liz Lyons Friedman (used with permission by the artist)

You can visit Liz Lyon Friedman’s site or find her on Facebook to see more of her talent.

College Football Tailgating

In a couple of weeks, we will be heading to Notre Dame for a home football game.

My mouth is watering thinking of the delicious meatball subs, chili and scrumptious baked goods on hand at the tailgate party our friends so generously invite us to.

This post, It’s Tailgate Season, by my blog friend Vicki at Life in My Empty Nest, is chock-a-block full of amazing recipes for tailgate parties. Vicki found all sorts of great recipes on Pinterest (like this yummy looking bacon cheeseburger meatball recipe from An Affair from the Heart) collected just for us!

I have pinned every one of the recipes shown in Vicki’s post. Now I just have to talk someone into making them for me!

The West Wing Podcast

I’m a nerd. My favorite television show of all time (please don’t tell the housewives) is The West Wing.

I loved that show from the first minutes of the pilot all the way through two terms of Jed Bartlett’s presidency.

Imagine my delight in discovering that there is a podcast, The West Wing Weekly, which is an episode by episode analysis of my favorite show.

Be still, my nerdy little heart.

Hosted by Joshua Malina (who played the role of Will Bailey starting in season 4) and Hrishikesh Hirway (musician, composer, podcaster and political news junkie), the podcasts feature analysis of each episode, behind the scenes stories and visits from many of the West Wing actors.

Netflix is offering every season of West Wing. I have been watching each episode, then listening to the podcast.

The only teensy tiny problem is that Netflix encourages binge watching by starting the next episode as soon as the last is done. I have stayed up waaaaaay too late too many nights hanging out with Toby, Josh, CJ and Donna.

And loving it.

Bounty Hunter Wine Catalog

I’ve shared this gem with you before. I consider the Bounty Hunter catalog to be the best source for online wine purchasing. They also carry spirits.

Bounty Hunter Wine Catalog

The fine folks at Bounty Hunter scour the world, curating a collection of wine based on quality and price. There is something for everyone and you can be guaranteed the wine will be good.

Just this weekend, Peter and I pulled a bottle of wine which we had never had before out of the cellar, a 2007 Pedestal Merlot.

2007 Pedestal Merlot

As soon as I saw the Bounty Hunter sticker on the back of the wine, confirming where we had purchased this bottle, I knew it would be a gem and it was!

When you visit Napa, be sure to visit Bounty Hunter’s Smokin’ BBQ Restaurant and Wine Bar for delicious food and a wide selection of wines. It is right in the heart of downtown Napa at 975 First Street.

That’s my roundup for now. By the way, all of these opinions and endorsements are my own. Other than permission to use images of Liz Lyons Friedman’s art, I have received no compensation from anyone included in this post.

Now, what about you? What’s on your radar? Are you ready for fall?

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The Randomest of Random Gift Guides

It’s that time of year – crunch time. Time for triage shopping.

The start of Hanukkah is around the corner and Christmas only nine days later.

This is the time that we rely on quick shipping like Amazon Prime.

I have a confession.

When Amazon Prime was first introduced I jumped right on the bandwagon. Free shipping and I will get my stuff in TWO days?!?! What could be better.

Then I got a little addicted to the speedy shipping. Once in a while I even paid the up-charge to get my stuff in ONE day. But sometimes even that is not fast enough.

Where are those drones?? Taking a coffee break?? Surely I should be able to get my VERY IMPORTANT ORDER by lunchtime today!

Patience is a virtue that I am sometimes lacking, particularly when I have procrastinated and need the speed to get a gift to the recipient on time.

Fear not, there is still enough time to get your gifts if you act soon.

 

If your shopping list is like mine, you are looking for the perfect gift for a wide array of ages and interests. Perhaps this gift guide, with no particular theme whatsoever, can help check a few items off your list.

The Book Of Frank

The Book of Frank

I think we can all agree that teachers are Super Heroes. These special women and men make a difference in the lives of children every single day.

The Book of Frank is the sweet and funny telling of lessons learned in a year of the life of a kindergarten teacher and her rascally student, Frank. Written by Debbie Marsh, the author of the hilarious blog VodkamomThe Book of Frank is a work of fiction but surely reflects stories and characters that Debbie has encountered in her 26+ years as an elementary school teacher.

In spite of challenges presented by Frank and some of his cohorts, it is very clear that the fictional teacher (aka Debbie) is hugely successful in achieving her stated goal of helping children to love school. Even – especially – the spicy ones like Frank.

At just over 100 pages, this is a very quick read. It is the perfect gift for teachers and for anyone who admires and appreciates the patient and talented educators who influence generation after generation.

It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. You should buy this book.

Available at Amazon.

Death At A Distance

Death At A Distance

Does anyone on your gift list fall into one or more of these categories: loves murder mysteries, has run a marathon, has ever lived in or visited Chicago?

If so (or even if not) Death At A Distance is an excellent gift for the readers in your family.

First time author, Mark Nystuen brings us the story of Erick Anderssen, a former Chicago Tribune reporter who now writes adventure “how-to” books to satisfy thrill seekers of a certain age. Erick is convinced to write his next book about training for and running in the Chicago Marathon. The problem is, people around him keep getting killed and he has to figure out why.

The book is full of references to Chicago which I loved.

But beyond that, it is a compelling read, tough to put down and features really, really well developed characters. You will love some of the characters and dislike others but you will be captivated by all and interested in what happens to them all.

I am anxiously awaiting the next book in this series! Mark, can you get working on that?

Also available at Amazon.

Lou Malnati’s Pizza

Lou Malnati's Pizza

via loumalnatis.com

My love of Chicago deep dish pizza has been well documented.

Lou Malnati’s makes it possible to share the deliciousness of deep dish pizza with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

You can choose from a variety of flavors and receive partially baked and frozen pizzas, packed in dry ice, ready to stick in your freezer for later or your oven for RIGHT NOW.

You have the option of selecting two pizzas for $59.99, four pizzas for $85.99 or six pizzas for $108.99 and two-day shipping is included in the price of each package.

Many of us feel like we have way too much “stuff”. I love giving the gift of something consumable that can be enjoyed but won’t take up room in the recipients closet.

These also make great corporate gifts. The team at Taste of Chicago are super helpful and will make sure your order is processed quickly and smoothly.

Plus, the pizza is delicious.

Bounty Hunter Fine Wine

Bounty Hunter Catalog

I bet you wondered when I was going to get to the wine. Well here you are.

The ultimate consumable gift!

Shopping for wine as a gift can be quite daunting. What’s good, what’s not? Maybe I want to splurge on a pricey bottle of wine. I sure want to get my money’s worth.

That is where the fine and talented folks at Bounty Hunter come to the rescue.

These wine loving Californians scour the world for delicious vino in every price point. Their description of the wines both entertains and informs. The website is very easy to navigate and has tabs for reds, whites, gifts, 90+ point wines, highly rated under $20 and more.

And if you need some personal help, just call a Wine Scout (ask for Alan – tell him Mo sent you).

If you have a serious wine lover on your list and want to splurge a bit, check out Bounty Hunter’s wine clubs.

We belong to lots and lots of wine clubs (just ask our UPS man…) and this one is our absolute favorite because of the variety we receive in each shipment. Bounty Hunter is able to bring their customers wines that you just can’t find anywhere else.

I promise that there is a wine in Bounty Hunter’s collection for absolutely everyone!

Von Maur

Von Maur

photo from supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.com

This fabulous and beautiful department store is on my list because they offer free gift wrapping and free shipping. Always.

You can shop Von Maur’s beautiful website just as if you were strolling their aisles being entertained by the live piano player. Everything from clothing to handbags, accessories and jewelry to gifts and collectibles is available to you.

Let’s say you are buying gifts for several different people at different addresses. At most shopping websites you would have to create separate orders for each shipping address. Not at Von Maur!

Once you have filled up your virtual cart, you can designate which items go together as a gift, create a gift note and choose your wrapping paper. And you can do this, all in one order, for each address to which you are shipping.

I’m telling you – this store is awesome. I use their great service for gift giving all year ’round.

But even the elves at Von Maur have deadlines – shop by December 12th to guarantee delivery by Christmas!

(By the way, I have received no compensation from any of the people or businesses mentioned. These really, truly are all places and things I have shopped for, shopped at, enjoyed and given at gifts.)

Good luck with your shopping! Let me know if you have any random suggestions or tips of your own!

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Pizza And Wine – A Perfect Combination

Mo Wine Please

~Beaujolais – It’s not just Nouveau~

In our house comfort food means pizza and wine.

Peter has been having a particularly busy and crazy time at work.  The poor guy had a long and tiring week then had to work all day Saturday.

An evening of deep-dish pizza and wine, while relaxing in front of the TV watching the Notre Dame game was just what he needed to wind down.

(OK, so the football game was neither relaxing nor enjoyable but the pizza and wine made up for it.)

One of the many things we miss about living in Chicago is the mouth-wateringly delicious stuffed pizza. You know, the kind that has a deep-dish crust, about two inches of gooey, yummy cheese and tomato sauce on top.

Pure pizza bliss.

Shortly after we moved to San Diego, a colleague of Peter’s introduced us to Lefty’s Chicago Pizza. It’s about a half hour drive from us but so well worth the trip.

We generally order our pizza “par-baked”.  The pizza comes home partially baked and is finished up in your own oven so it hits your table piping hot.

par baked pizza

Par-baked green olive stuffed pizza

It bakes for 10 minutes then you put the sauce on and bake it for 10 more.

pizza

Pizza with expertly applied sauce

Now you are probably thinking, “I thought this was a Mo Wine Please post. So far it seems like a Mo Pizza Please post.”

{Note to self: consider a new Mo Pizza Please feature. Lots of research necessary.}

Fear not, here is the wine part.

Peter chose a 2011 Domaine des Braves Réginié Beaujolais Gamay ($22 from Bounty Hunter) to pair with our delicious stuffed green olive pizza.

2011 Domaine des Braves Beaujolais

Beaujolais is a light to medium-bodied French wine made from the Gamay grapes. It generally exhibits a higher acidity (more fruity) and is meant to be consumed young.

The name comes from the Beaujolais province in northern France. Although technically part of the Burgandy region, the area’s climate is more similar to that of the Rhône region. Because Beaujolais wine is deemed to be different enough from both Burgandy and Rhône wines, it gets its own category.

The Gamay grape is a cross between Pinot Noir and a white wine grape, Gouais, first brought to France by the Romans centuries ago.  The Gamay grape produces fruity wine in usually abundant harvests. It is much less temperamental than Pinot Noir.

Interesting story: in 1395 The Duke of Burgandy Phillipe the Bold issued a decree forbidding the growing of the Gamay grape. He considered it to be inferior and less elegant than his favored Pinot Noir. In 1455, Phillipe the Good issued another proclamation against the poor, misunderstood Gamay grape. He basically said that he knew best and was protecting all the land from inferior wine.

The result of these bans was that the Gamay crop was pushed further south to the Beaujolais area where the granite soil turned out to be magical for these grapes.

Happy ending.

But wait, there’s more.

The 19th century saw the introduction of Beaujolais Nouveau, a light version of Beaujolais that is meant to be consumed very young. It was originally produced as a simple wine to celebrate a good harvest.

The Beaujolais Nouveau harvest always takes place between late August and early September, the wine is fermented for just a few days and released worldwide, every year on the third Thursday of November.  Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Wineries will ship the wine a few days earlier but it must be kept secure in bonded storage until released, in unison, at 12:01am on Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

Those wacky French and their rules.

This light, fun wine gained worldwide popularity, peaking in 1992 when more than half of the Beaujolais wines produced were Beaujolais Nouveau.

Shortly after that, rumors started building that the quality of Beaujolais Nouveau was declining.  The crisis of reputation got so bad that after the 2001 vintage, over a million cases of Beaujolais (mostly Beaujolais Nouveau) had to be destroyed because no one was buying it.

A noted French wine critic, Francois Mauss, pointed to what he said had been a decades long decline in the wine. He said that the producers of Beaujolais were guilty of ignoring the warning signs and seemed to be satisfied with their “vin de merde”.

Ouch!

You can imagine that the Beaujolais producers were not happy with this characterization of their wine.  There were lawsuits, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Suffice it to say, lessons learned.

The French have lots of rules about their wine. Think of them as the Homeowners’ Association of French wine producers. A necessary evil.  They take their job of maintaining quality and consistency quite seriously.

And that’s a good thing for all of us.

Now you can count on Beaujolais Nouveau to be just what it was always meant to be – a light, inexpensive, easy drinking wine. Look for it to be released this year on November 21st.

Now back to our Beaujolais.

This wine is produced from the Beaujolais Cru “Régnié”. It is believed that this Cru was the first area in Beaujolais planted by the Romans .

The 2011 Domaine des Braves Réginié Beaujolais Gamay is described as having an aroma of wildflowers and cherry blossoms with a hint of baking spices. It’s medium body and good balance come with flavors of red plum and pomegranate.

Bounty Hunter says this: “Cru Beaujolais… one of the wine world’s most underrated secrets! Trust us when we say that this is the stuff that people in the business drink. Bearing zero resemblance to the “nouveau” bubblegum that most people associate with Beaujolais, think of this as bargain Burgundy. It’s a full-throttle, gripping red that’s packed with purple fruits, cherry pie, flowers and spice.”

I love Bounty Hunter. Their descriptions are always amusing with just a touch of judgement.

I would definitely say that this wine drinks much more like a Burgundy than a Beaujolais. It stood up well to the tomato sauce and the richness of the oooey, gooey pizza.

pizza and wine

Except for the football game, it was a lovely, cozy evening at home.

Just us and our pizza and our wine.

And, it must be said that this was not a sponsored post. All of the opinions, along with the delicious pizza and yummy wine were mine (shared with Peter).

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Shopping For Wine – Part Two

Mo Wine Please

Online Wine Shopping

Thanks to the power of the internet and the plethora of sites dedicated to wine, the selection of wines available online is extensive. Whether for yourself or as a gift for a lucky friend, purchasing wine online is easy. For most of us.

Unfortunately not all of you can take advantage of this bounty. Oh, you can BUY the wine, you just can’t have it shipped to you because your state is one of those guided by a) very strong retail wine lobbyists who want to protect their own sales or b) lawmakers who are stick-in-the-mud kill-joys.

In addition to the straight prohibition in some states, there are certain “dry “ zip codes in Alaska, Florida, Idaho and New Hampshire. And shipments to New York cannot include both food and wine.

Some online wine distributors are able to “work around the rules” to deliver wine to states that other sites can’t.

Confusing enough for you?

Perhaps you should write a letter to your elected officials to assert your unalienable right to life, liberty and a glass of vino.

Until the time that we are one America, united against discrimination toward wine lovers, my best advice is check each site’s shipping policy. You might be able to access a loophole.

ONLINE WINE STORES

Google the word “wine” and you will find lots of websites dedicated to selling wine. Some are the online equivalent of big box liquor stores, some specialize in the unusual or hard to find and some cater to high-end clientele.

These sites often have sales on featured wines or offer free shipping with the purchase of a certain number of bottles. You can sign up for email notifications that will keep you informed about these specials. We have set up a separate Gmail account just for wine related things so the messages don’t get lost among our day-to-day emails.

wineexpress emil

Here are a few online wine stores to consider:

Wine Express  – this is the online wine site associated with Wine Enthusiast Magazine.  They cannot ship to Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas and Utah.

Wine.com  – Bills itself as the #1 rated online wine store. Cannot ship to Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Oklahoma, Utah and some zip codes in Alaska.

Sherry-Lehmann  – A New York City wine store that will ship to all states except Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Washington State.

WINE CLUBS

Many wineries have clubs that ship wine to members on a periodic basis. In many cases there are different levels of membership that allow you to decide how many bottle you will receive and allow you to choose between reds, whites or a combination.  If you have visited a winery you like or have found a label in your local store that you really, really like, you can check their website to see if they offer a wine club. An added bonus: many wineries offer special wines or small production bottles to wine club members only. These are loyalty programs, after all, and the wineries want to treat you right!

There are some “consolidator” online wine clubs as well. We belong to one of these, Bounty Hunter, which you will read more about later.  The companies put together a collection of wines from different wineries and often from different regions of the world to give you a little taste of everything. These are excellent for those who are interested in learning about and exploring the wide world of wine.

Some examples of these types of clubs are:

Zagat Wine  – Twelve wines delivered every three months.

The California Wine Club  – Choose from among five different club levels.

The Original and Only Wine of the Month Club – Receive two bottles each month.

Again, you should confirm that the wine club can ship to your state before you get your heart set on joining.

BOUNTY HUNTER RARE WINES

Do you remember in Shopping For Wine – Part One, when I said that a small, local wine store is great especially if you develop enough of a relationship to have your own “guy”?

Well we have “a guy” at Bounty Hunter. It is both wonderful and very, very dangerous.

Bounty Hunter has a retail wine shop (located in downtown Napa, California), online and catalog sales and wine club options. These folks do it all.

Bounty Hunter Catalog

They pride themselves in searching the world for the best wines at every imaginable price point.  The catalog contains detailed descriptions of the available wines often including the back-story on the winery or the winemaker. These stories can give great insight into the wine and make the wine drinker feel more connected to the winemaker.

Bounty Hunter offers nine different clubs that ship wine on a monthly basis and three that ship quarterly. Their “Most Wanted Club” includes twelve of the best of the best bottles shipped quarterly. Some of the selections are from extremely limited productions, as little as 15 cases produced. Very rare, very special.

But the fine and talented folks at Bounty Hunter know that there is nothing better than finding a world-class wine at a supermarket price. Every quarter their catalog includes a page of these “Steals and Deals”. This quarter’s selection featured a dozen wines ranging from a 2012 Streamside Chardonnay from Napa Valley ($16.95) to a 2010 La Fleur d’Amelie Bordeaux from France ($13.95).

Bounty Hunter offers a special deal: buy all twelve for $174.95 and shipping is free. That averages out at  $14.58 per bottle, a bargain price for this hand-selected collection. It’s the perfect way, for a relatively small investment, to expose your palate to a vast array of wines.

WHEN THE WINE IS DELIVERED

Whether it comes via UPS or FedEx, any package containing “adult beverages” will have to be signed for by someone over the age of 21. The drivers are required to get a signature in person; they will not leave a slip for you to sign to authorize delivery in your absence. Nope. No can do.

If you live in a high-rise condo with a doorman or if you are home all day, every day, you are all set.  Otherwise, after several attempts, UPS or FedEx will take your precious cargo back to their warehouse to await your arrival to claim it. These warehouses are often a pain to get to, have limited hours and, with a lack of climate control, are not good places for your wine to hang out.

Our solution: rent a box at the UPS Store.  Wine gets shipped to the UPS Store, they send us an email when a package arrives and we go pick it up. Easy, efficient and safe for the wine.

We belong to a few wine clubs…ok, twelve.

At certain times of the year we seem to get a lot of shipments at the same time. It was during one of those weeks, when I made an appearance at the UPS Store four out of five days to pick up wine shipments, that the UPS guy asked me, “Just how many wine clubs DO you belong to.”

Judgmental smackdown.  Ha, I think he was just jealous.

Do you have a favorite place to buy wine online? Do you live in one of the tricky states and have found a way around the pesky laws? I’d love to hear about it!

(By the way, this is not a paid endorsement. Just me, sharing information with you.)

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