Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy Beaujolais Nouveau and French cheese class

It just dawned on me that perhaps The Wine Merchant ( set up their French cheese class the same week as Beaujolais Nouveau! Or maybe it was just lucky. Not that I need a French cheese class to get me hyped up for the holiday. I think it's pretty funny that I was all excited this year when I had barely heard of it years ago.

The only way to keep my wine snobiness in check is by sharing information with my friends. I finally roped in another unsuspecting victim to one of my cheese classes. I was sorry we didn't get to go to Whole Foods ( this time around to meet those pals, especially since it's a great bargain at $20, but they were having "blue" class. Blue cheeses are my least favorite.

I know I've been going to too many cheese classes when I know half of the cheeses already. But it's always good to retaste and re-remember. hehe My favorite part of the class was talking then having the instructor repeat what I had just said. At least Gail knows I am not just full of it (bull, not cheese - which I am definitely full of)!

Or maybe the best part of class was getting seconds and thirds of the cheeses?

Highlights were the whites of course...
2008 Domaine de Beauregard Musacdet paired with a Chevre
2007 Helfrich Pinot Gris paired with a Racclette
2006 Marc Morey Chassagne-Montrachet "Les Chenevottes" paired with Morbier (A fav!)

Another favorite cheese of mine was the Ossau's a sheep's milk cheese! Nice and light but still full of flavor so therefore usually served with a red.

My friend also bought several bottles of wine, some from the class, so hopefully the Wine Merchant will read this and send me the appropriate commission!

In addition to getting to share cheese class this month, I also got to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau for the second year in a row. Those new wines always have a bit of a bite and I wish I could let it sit out for a little bit. But it got better as I let it sit in my class. And having cheese to go with it helps balance it out!

A Beaujolais Nouveau wine is also a nice, inexpensive wine to bring to your Thanksgiving dinner as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

FAC visits Gulf Shores

I forgot that this past Sunday was FAC meeting in my last blog post and Curt picked Gulf Shores ( in Creve Coeur. I admit that I don’t eat too much fish in St. Louis so I was a little skeptical.

I had a very hard time picking something from the menu because I was torn between choosing a fish item that I knew I’d like (tilapia, lobster ravioli, shrimp) and picking something Cajun-style. After having been to New Orleans recently, I wasn’t sure the Cajun-style meals would be able to hold up to my expectations either. But I figured the FAC is all about trying new things so I gave it a shot.

Luckily for me, I was able to try a variety of items by selecting one of their signature dinners, the Bourbon Street Combo. This came with homemade jambalaya, Andouille sausage on top of a bed of red beans and rice, along with a homemade crab cake and corn muffin. Oh yeah…and some cole slaw to help cool off my tongue. It came in handy after eating a few bites of the jambalaya! My meal was quite good and plenty of spice so not too far off from the real thing down south.

As a group, we started with calamari that was heavy on the batter so they weren’t too chewy but there wasn’t much flavor beyond the batter. Their in-house Cajun ranch dip was very tasty and my friend Lori ended up using it on her salad. We also were daring and tried the Gator Prudhomme, which again, didn't have any standout flavors other than the highly seasoned batter.

All the meals came out on large plates, which could easily be 2-3 portions so don’t be afraid to ask for a box at the end.

I knew I needed a box because the FAC always orders desserts. We try to sample as many as possible and we’re not ashamed! Ok, maybe a little bit. But anyway, I ordered my usual super chocolatey dessert, which this time was the Bourbon Street Chocolate Pecan Pie. (PE-can? Or Pi-CON?) This was just fantastic! It came out warmed with plenty of whipped cream and chocolate. This is how EVERY dessert should be dressed!! Although I admit that I don’t think I heard any complaints from any other dessert eaters. I think I forgot to share too…

The FAC is going on hiatus in December due to all the holidays but I think we have some crepes lined up for the new year!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuesday night FOOD blow out!

While this week was not near as action-packed as the week before, it was still full of surprises! In addition to attending my first STLWineGirl ( event in awhile, I ended up going to a spur-of-the-moment party at Chef Ashley’s house later that same evening!

Normally I am not a big beer drinker, but I figure I just need to take the time to learn about it, just like I did with wine, so I can appreciate it more. And like with wine, I tend to lean to the lighter side. I don’t want to be weighed down by my alcohol and prefer a refreshing flavor. So it was pretty easy for me to pick out my favorite beer of the night: Great Divide Tripel Belgian Style Ale. A close second goes to the Bell’s Winter White Ale that was served as the reception beer.

I could probably write a lot more about the beers I don’t like; the strange beer that came in a wine bottle, IPAs (too much aftertaste!), or anything dark that requires a fork and knife to drink it (Porter). After the last and heaviest beer, the bitter taste caused me to make that “bitter beer face” just like on the commercials: the Dieu du Ciel “Aphrodisiac” warmed.

As for the food pairings…they were out of this world as usual. I am never disappointed and always come away feeling like I’ve eaten two meals even though they’re tasting portions. The salad came with a delightful “Blackberry Vinaigrette” which went well with the fruity beer to start with. Next came the IPAs, so an equally spicy Chicken and Sausage Gumbo was paired with it. Chef Scott said that Cajun food is his favorite to cook and this was excellent, although it’s a little too spicy for me.

One of my favorites was the Wiener Schnitzel with Gruyere Spatzle. (Say that a few times for fun!) The schnitzel tasted like “chicken fried steak” to me but it was covered with a fried egg on top so it became more like a greasy comfort food, especially since the spatzle (looked like bow tie pasta) was covered in melted gruyere. This was paired with my favorite Tripel.

As with wine, the beef item was paired with a heavier and darker beer. I almost didn’t mind the heavy porter since the beef item was actually a mini bison burger with tomato relish. I don’t get to eat hamburgers too often so this was such a treat! I definitely wanted seconds.

And no matter how good the food is, the dessert is always outstanding. I often think Chef Scott should just become a pastry chef because they are so incredible. We finished with a chocolate bread pudding with vanilla bean mousse. Both flavors of the mousse and the bread pudding just melted in my mouth. At this point, I was ready to start picking leftovers off of my friend’s plates.

Luckily, I didn’t mind leaving a little bit of beer in my tasting glasses because I still had more partying left to go. Someone suggested that Chef Ashley throw a last minute get together…and I seconded! Hehe By the time I got there, I was wishing I hadn’t filled up on my first meal because Chef Ashley had a lot of goodies prepared for her guests! I saw a couple of familiar friends…a bowl of guacamole and the vegetarian chili that I’d had a couple of weeks ago. But I also made a NEW friend: Thai vegetable soup! A miso-based soup that included the following: red chili paste, coconut milk, leeks, new potatoes, fresh green beans, bamboo shoots, roasted red pepper, garlic, lemon grass, lots of ginger and curry. It was FULL of flavors to go with all the vegetables in every bite, which is how I prefer my soups. Since it was a Thai soup, it was a bit on the spicy side and so I had to finish off my meal with one scoop of the vegetarian chili.

Since I was eating such spicy and hearty foods, a red wine was definitely in order and I washed my…wait…what meal comes after dessert?...last course with a Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage 2005. Cabs are so smooth. J

In other cheese news…unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I was stuck with quite a bit of cheese leftovers for a birthday party that didn’t happen over the weekend. The scale at the gym is definitely showing proof of all the cheese I’m “being forced to eat” to clean out my fridge. I had a slightly aged red wax Gouda, Kerry Gold’s Dubliner, and now I’m working on Kerry Gold’s Aged Cheddar. I can never tell which I like better…the Dubliner or the Cheddar…which is why I always have to buy BOTH of them. Then I had an Alouette coupon to use so I picked up some crumbled feta for salads and a brie. I’m looking forward to finding out how creamy the brand is…stay tuned for details!

I have been really bumming all week because it looks like I’m going to have to work late on my monthly cheese class night at Whole Foods Galleria ( The class is on November 17th at 6:30pm. But in a way it has all worked out because it is a “blue” cheese class and that is my least favorite cheese.

On that same night, the Wine Merchant ( in Clayton is also having a cheese class, starting at 6pm.

Other than that, nothing else planned except for the big turkey day. My stepbrother and sister-in-law are excellent cooks. But that doesn’t mean the next adventure isn’t waiting right around the corner!

Friday, November 6, 2009

This Week in Food and Wine

I used to watch “This Week in Baseball” as a kid and made a point to watch it every Saturday morning. I had quite a jam-packed week and now that it’s Friday, I can finally stop and take a look back at my food adventures…

Sunday night, I was invited out to my new favorite restaurant, Three Monkeys, ( introduced to me by my friend Anne. Three Monkeys is located off of Morgan Ford near the Tin Can. Incredible food and portions at a very reasonable price. Since it was the holy day, “Football Sunday”, they have $4 chicken wings and $12 domestic buckets of beer. I made the wise choice of copying my table mates and ordering the “sweet and spicy” version, which we all agreed tasted like General Hso’s chicken. Probably the best wings I have ever had. I keep meaning to go there and have a full meal because I keep hearing how good the food is there!

Tuesday night, the main event was Celtic Thunder at the Fox with my friend Amy, and she kept telling me that we were going to meet her parents for dinner at “that one restaurant”. I thought she was referring to Best Steak House ( but it turned out we went to Vito’s ( near Saint Louis University. This turned out to be a great surprise because Italian is my favorite food and I have only been there once before for drinks.

I ordered the eggplant cannelloni and it came with ricotta on top. Amy’s parents kept with tradition and ordered the spinach and artichoke dip as an appetizer. Amy was also loyal and ordered pizza, which is all she ever orders. Hands down, she was right. The pizza was incredible. My guess is the spices in the sauce that grabbed my attention, but I definitely will have to go back and have pizza there for sure.

Wednesday night also was a pleasant surprise since I ended up skipping out on gym night at the last minute to meet up with my “cheese class” friends. Yes, I’m not the only one who attends EVERY cheese class at the Galleria Whole Foods ( ). Speaking of cheese class, the next class is on November 17th but you can have to call the customer service desk to register.

Anyway, my friends are also members of the monthly wine club at St. Louis Cellars ( ) and once a month, they host a special event for members to pick up their wine. At this event, appetizers are served to go along with several wines to taste. This was my first time going in after my friends had raved about the place, mostly about the food! It turns out that St. Louis Cellars also has a deli counter with a wide-variety of freshly made dishes.

The event definitely lived up to the hype. The food counter was a little hard to get to and you could only use napkins but again, it was worth the struggle against the crowd. On one end was hummus, red pepper and traditional, glazed mushrooms, toasted ravioli (stuffed with ricotta – not meat!), cubed cheese, and a couple of others that I know I have forgotten. But the outstanding item of the evening was the turkey and swiss sandwiches on a slightly crispy bun. The bun had some type of honey-glaze, I believe, and it was an incredible melting of flavors with the meat and cheese!! All of us tried to grab as many as we could and they were the first item to run out. It is my hope that they sell full samples of these sandwiches!!!

Of course I couldn’t leave there empty-handed since I had run out of wines at home. Mike and Lara took me to the “Great Wall of Wine” and showed me their favorites, one red (Malbec from Layer Cake) and one white (Torrontes by Crios) and the funny thing is that they are BOTH from Argentina. Mike and Lara are famous for saying that they refuse to buy wine over $20 a bottle because there are just SO many good wines under their limit.

And speaking of wines that are under $20, all the wines that were at the tasting that night were also under the magic limit. Here is the list:

Seguar Viudas Aria – Sparking Wine, Brut Cava, Spain - $12.99

Altanuta – Pinot Grigio, Alta Adige, Italy - $13.99 (This was my favorite…not too sweet, not too dry, as a Pinot Grigio should be!)

Mulderbosch – Chenin Blanc, South Africa - $15.99 (A little too dry for me.)

Valley of the Moon – Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California - $15.99 (Not as sweet as I like my Chard’s to be!)

Jailhouse Rock – Merlot, California - $12.99 (Did you know there is a whole LINE of Elvis Presley wines???!!!)

Evodia – Grenache, Caltayud, Spain - $10.99 (Very smooth.)

Windsor Sonoma – Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California - $19.99 (Also, not too much tannin.)

Now Thursday night was a little bit different. I was actually IN the kitchen for a change. And I mean a BIG change for those of you who know me. I somehow got volunteered to assist my chef/friend, Ashley, in throwing together several dishes for a small party. (Same friend who cooked amazing chili for me.) And I say “throwing” because it’s amazing to see a chef work close up…you have to be quick or else you will get RUN OVER. Hehe

Thankfully, Ashley was very patient and showed me exactly what she wanted me to do since I had never done ANY kind of real cooking before! (I don’t think licking the bowl as a child counts.) First thing, I had to slice avocados and get the pits out. Like everything else, there’s a trick. Wielding a giant knife, scary enough, the avocados are so soft and the pits so hard. Hack at the pit, turn, and wall-ah…it’s out. Then I got to scoop out the insides.

Next task was a little harder…chopping onions. I am guessing there is a trick to that too because I had a lot of difficulty with that one…my eyes were burning so bad…it was hard to see. My pieces were NOT chopped as finely as they should have been but I couldn’t stand it any longer!

Since I was on a roll with the knife, I cut up orange and lemon slices. At this point I was wishing I had paid more attention to my Mom because even that became harder than I thought it should be. I’m probably too much of a perfectionist.

Anyway, after adding the magic spices, I got to mash the whole thing together into one, big green gooey dip. I actually made guacamole! It was really darn good too, except for the giant onion chunks.

After all that chopping, I was off the hook and got to resort to easier tasks such as buttering bread and washing dishes. I felt much safer and more in my comfort zone there. hehe

So maybe if I get tired of computers and social media and sports, perhaps a new career is waiting for me? Don’t worry…won’t be any time soon! My favorite place is still at the table for now.

And today is my day of rest. Stay turned to see what’ll come up for next week’s adventures! Or maybe it’ll be nice and boring for a change?