How to Make a Bad Wine Good {Or a Great Wine Bad}

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Back when I was conducting in-home wine tastings, one of my hosts said that she tended to only drink red wine. When she would drink white wine in the summer, she and her neighbor friends would put fruit in it to make it more palatable.

I found this interesting because it was usually the white wine drinkers who were trying to learn how to enjoy red wine, not red wine drinkers looking to make white wine more tasty.

On a hot summer day last year, I remembered this trick and talked Rob into giving it a try. I mean, we use fruit to make sangria, right?

So we took a mixture of fruit that we had on hand and put it in the bottom of two stemless wine glasses.

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Then we added a chilled dry white wine.

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We finished with a little citrus, too.

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The result? Something soooo tart and sour. I was kind of kicking myself because I know that fruit and wine do not go together. What was I thinking?

I know what it was… I thought about the fruit one puts in sangria, which made me believe this would taste great, too! Besides, it was recommended by a respected red wine drinker. But I didn’t stop to ask her what kind of white wine to which they added fruit. Maybe it was something sweet?

Because that’s why sangria works. You add some sugar (or other sweetener) and a sweet liquor of some sort. I have a slew of sangria recipes here. They never fail.

I recently found this beautiful Rainbow Sangria, too, that I’d love to try. I was looking for a white one to add to my arsenal anyway.

So what does this have to do with making a bad wine good?

It’s not that white wine is bad. Not at all! But if you have a cheap wine, one which you can’t seem to palate as your first (or second) bottle, make sangria with it! My husband used to stock up on wine at the huge liquor store wine sales. I would shake my head when he bought a case of “chianti” because it was a good deal.

“But you haven’t tried it before!” I’d argue. This was a big deal to me since I was marketing wines in a try-before-you-buy fashion.

He quickly learned that a “good deal” isn’t really one if it isn’t a wine you like, nor are likely to drink.

We learned to use these wines to make sangria. With added sugar, liquor and fruit, you can make practically any wine (that hasn’t turned) better.

Don’t think you have the time or ingredients to make sangria? It really isn’t that difficult. But if you want something else ultra quick, pick up a 2-liter of 7-up or Sprite and make this spritzer to bring your bad bottle of wine to life. You can even make it a glass at a time.

Would you want to do this with your favorite bottle? Absolutely not. That would be blasphemous.

How do you use a not-so-tasty bottle of wine?

Cheers~
Carrie

The Most Underrated Pizza in the Twin Cities

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While we were gallivanting about Nordeast Minneapolis one beautiful Saturday afternoon, we were in such of some grub. As we passed by Element Wood Fire Pizza, I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it before. As Rob drove, I looked up Element’s menu online. It sounded delicious. So tell me again, Why hadn’t I heard of this place before?

In the Twin Cities, we all know about Punch, about Black Sheep, about Pizzeria Lola, about Pizza Lucé. I’d never heard of Element. Maybe you have. Maybe I’m just clueless.

But when Rob’s first choice to dine didn’t pan out, I began reading him the menu from Element. He conceded {either because it sounded good to him, too, or he just wanted to shut me up.}

It’s a tiny joint with maybe a half of a dozen tables. I imagine that they get more to-go and Bite Squad orders. It’s located in a part of Nordeast where lots of condos and apartments are situated. I can imagine taking a short walk to pick up a wood-fired pizza like this any day!

You order at the counter. Once your pizza is assembled, they put it in the wood-fire oven. If you are eating in, take a seat. They’ll bring your pizza out when it’s ready.

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There are a few beers on tap, but we ordered a bottle of wine because their prices were very reasonable.

I loved the simple names of the types of pizzas on their menu. They follow the Element theme, too:

  • Element
  • Water
  • Fire
  • Wind
  • Earth
  • Nordeast – They had to make one of these, of course!

And there are many more. It was hard to choose. Rob first considered the Primo which was made with olive oil, mushrooms, garlic and mozzarella. He then decided against it because he thought that to make that one work, a pizzeria would have to do it really well and he wasn’t sure about this place yet. Instead, he chose the Nordeast.

Nordeast - sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms & oregano

Nordeast – sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms & oregano

The crust was perfectly done, especially for Rob, who doesn’t like the burnt bubbles on the crust edges found on many wood-fired pizzas. Everything had very good flavor! But then we tried mine…

Earth - artichokes, salami, garlic & basil

Earth – artichokes, salami, garlic & basil

I ordered this one because I fell in love with salami on pizzas when we were on The Honeymoon in Italy. I don’t see salami as a pizza topping option very often in the U.S.

Rob immediately had pizza remorse.

This one had even more flavor! The garlic and fresh basil did it. Rob was kicking himself because why on Earth {ha ha!} would he order a pizza without garlic?! I offered to share my pizza and all was right with the world. The salami was a little different and not as flavorful as I’ve had in Italy, but I wasn’t complaining. The pizza here is still underrated!

Of course, we took leftovers home. And I didn’t do the pizza the injustice of putting it in the microwave when we ate them. Instead, I set the oven to 350, brushed the crust with garlic olive oil and baked the slices for about five minutes or so. It was devine. And Rob got his garlic after all.

Sure, Pizzeria Lola is still our favorite. Punch still makes a killer classic Neapolitan. But Element is a pizzeria that shouldn’t be left in the dust. They use fresh ingredients and have pizzas with flavor. That impromptu visit was worth every morsel. Our only gripe? The wine was warm, almost hot. It’s hot in there with that pizza oven! A wine fridge may be in order.

In your opinion, what’s the most underrated restaurant where you live?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

His & Hers Bacon and Blue Cheese Mac & Cheese

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This past weekend, I made an impromptu visit to see my friend Stacy. While there, Stacy was kind enough to help me get my sushi fix!

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I was delighted that my visit included not only going to one of the painting classes with which I’ve been obsessed, but also that it was a fundraiser for Stacy’s daughter’s school.

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There was an excellent turn-out.

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Stacy made painting one-handed look like a breeze. But the cast on her broken arm did make for great shadow entertainment on her canvas. E.T., anyone?

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And a couple of hours and glasses of wine later, this:

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…became this:

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Wait? Who set Stacy’s hand on fire?!!

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So what’s on tap this week? Well, first I think I should share a dish I made last week with all of you. Because sometimes I get ideas for meals or snacks when people post what they’ve eaten. I’m sharin’ the love. I’ve definitely gotten some great ideas from these gals.

Last week, I made this Bacon and Blue Cheese Mac & Cheese for the first time.  I really wanted to make my husband swooooooon! I knew it was high-cal, so I separated into six servings instead of the suggested 3 – 4. I dished up our meals into his and hers servings:

His was topped with a little extra bacon and blue cheese crumbles. Hers was a slightly smaller portion served over a bed of spinach and topped with chopped tomatoes. The only trouble I had making this dish is that it was really runny. And if there is anything Rob despises, it is a runny sauce! I tried to let it sit, but it was starting to get cold; so I popped it back on the heat and slowly stirred in some corn starch. That seemed to do the trick.

Rob went absolutely nuts over this dish.

He said he’d order it in a restaurant any day and that it’s probably the best mac and cheese he’s ever had! I wouldn’t go that far. It was great, but I’m not a huge bacon-in-my-food lover. Yes, I just said that. I’m an alien to this planet.

I’m trying to incorporate more meals into our routine that Rob will love and just serve smaller portions, rather than trying to make healthy things he gets bored with or just doesn’t want to eat.

We had a couple free plates coming, so we are trying Plated again this week. To read my Plated review, click here. If you want to give it a try yourself, click my referral link, to get two free plates yourself!

Now for this week:

planning

 Food

Dinners:

  • Monday – Fontina Polenta with Roasted Spring Vegetables from Plated.  Meatless Monday! We were originally going to go with the amazing Grilled Cheese concoction with the chickpea-tomato salad, but they were sold out by the time I placed the order. Lesson learned!
  • Tuesday – Lemongrass Pork with Vermicelli Noodles from Plated.
  • Wednesday - Beer and Beef Risotto. Hey, I made Rob soooo happy with the Blue Cheese and Bacon Mac & Cheese last week, that I thought I’d go with another combo of things my husband loves: Beer, Beef and Risotto. Crossing our fingers it rocks his world just as much!
  • Thursday – Leftovers
  • Friday – Family in Town
  • Saturday - Family in Town
  • Sunday – Family in Town

Lunch:

Breakfasts:

Fitness

  • Monday – RUN: Couch to 5k – Week 5, Day 1
  • Tuesday – Recumbent Bike/Yoga
  • Wednesday – RUN: Couch to 5k – Week 5, Day 2
  • Thursday – Recumbent Bike/Yoga
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – RUN: Couch to 5k – Week 5, Day 3
  • Sunday – REST

 What is your favorite twist on Mac and Cheese?

Cheers~
Carrie

Sophie in a Cup

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Sophie / Shamrock Saturday

For World Run Day about a year and a half ago, I posted this photo of me with my beloved Sophie Jean when she was just a wee pup:

March 2005

March 2005

Now remember that a-dog-able face.

A week or two ago, I got an email in my inbox titled 14 Things You Didn’t Know About Sonic. I don’t know what compelled me to click that link. Maybe because I find their commercials so funny. Or maybe it was that Rob was utterly terrified of the place the first time he went because he wasn’t sure how to order or what to do.

In any case, it doesn’t matter if you are interest in Sonic or not. Just click the link and scroll down to the end of the article…

It’s Puppy Sophie Jean in a CUP!

Enjoy.

Cheers~
Carrie

Four Blogs I Love for Friday

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This Friday, I just want to give a shout out to four blogs I love.

There are many, many more I love. But these are four of the blogs that I read nearly every day {or every day that they post}, regardless of the topic. Maybe you’ll come to enjoy them as much as I do…

Priorfatgirl

I found Jen’s blog by accident through another blogger when I was searching how to make the kohlrabi I received in my CSA box one week. I was pleasantly surprised when I read that she was local to the Twin Cities because I found that I could relate to many of her posts. Hers was one of the first blogs I ever followed. When she taught an Intro to Blogging class, I jumped on board. It’s where Season It Already! began.

Running with Racheal

I found Racheal when I started running, but continued to read her blog even when I couldn’t run. Racheal’s blog is more than just about running. It’s about her daily life. I love her Food & Fitness link-ups every Monday because I can get some great meal ideas. Her Thankful Thursdays always remind me of things I may have forgotten to add to my personal list of gratitudes. She loves her Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. And that little Ina is so stinkin’ cute.

Tenaciously Yours

I’m not sure how I found Kat, but I’m sure it’s because she is also local to the Twin Cities and is a runner as well. We are fellow Francophiles and fans of craft brews. I delight in her writing style and love it when she writes about her travels, too. On Fridays, she writes a Friday Food Round-Up, which chronicles her cooking for the week. You won’t be disappointed making any of the meals she raves about from the cookbook The Homesick Texan!

My Bizzy Kitchen

Biz and I share a love of onions food, while trying the best to make them healthy and indulging once in a while. She journals about her life every day, including everything she whips up in the kitchen, her workouts and all the happenings of her life. She makes cooking look so easy. Hailing from Chicagoland, she often reads my blog even when I write about Twin Cities restaurants! I won’t hold it against her that her husband is a Bears fan… ;-)

Now it’s your turn.

Name one blog you read every day that the blogger posts!

(P.S. My blog doesn’t count, if you do read every post. Looking for new blogs here!)

 

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Dangerous Man

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Two beer posts back-to-back? What is this blog coming to?

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It was a cool, brisk March Saturday afternoon, the kind that makes you believe that spring has arrived until you realize it was all a tease when it snows again the following week. Rob and I had intended to spend our Saturday in Northeast {aka Nordeast} Minneapolis using one of our Groupons. On our whim, we detoured…

because there is a

 Dangerous Man

in Nordeast Minneapolis!

Dangerous Man Brewing is located in a historic bank building at the corner of a fairly residential neighborhood. There’s a lot of street parking. We arrived  about 3pm that Saturday afternoon. We walked in and to us, the place looked packed! All of the tables were taken and the bar seats filled. It was standing room only. We had to wait in line for a beer.

I loved the decor with the copper and metal backsplash and the display of Growlers from other local breweries.

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Little did we know that the place would fill up to capacity. When we departed, there was a line out the door and people smiling that two of us left so that two more could step inside! {Beard = optional. It is not required for entry. ;-) } Originally, we had planned to go with a group. But with how packed and how long of a wait there may have been, we are kind of glad we didn’t. If we do in the future, it’ll take a little more planning on our part. {Aka, get there early.}

 The beers available are constantly rotating. Here were the ones on tap that day:

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The one I was excited to try: The infamous Chocolate Milk Stout!

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It was good, but I found it to be a bit too cold and a little over-carbonated. But what did I know? I was coming off a beer on nitro from the night before. I think my expectations were too high. Kind of like when you are the last one to see That Epic Movie and you think, “I don’t understand the hype. It’s good and everything, but…” I just wanted it to be a little creamier. You know, like chocolate milk.

That being said, I had no trouble finishing this bad boy!

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Don’t you love that glass?! Rob and I try to pick up a pint glass at every brewery we visit. We’ve got a nice collection going, but we completely forgot to get back in line to get one here. They aren’t prominently on display to remind you to buy. Although, they do have a variety of items in their store online. Also, no food is served, but there is usually a food truck parked outside or a special event that will provide some nosh.

I was driving, so I just had a few sips of the beers Rob ordered while we were there.

Triple IPA - 12% ABV / Hazelnut Porter - 6.6%

Triple IPA (shown right) – At 12% ABV, this IPA is Dangerous, Man! It’s so smooth and delightful. But because of that, I think it’d be easy to drink it too quickly. Why is it that double and triple IPAs nearly always seem smoother than the standard ones to me?

Hazelnut Porter - Now this is the one that wowed me. I’ve never had anything like it before. There was so much flavor there! The aromas of hazelnut alone were transcending. It smelled like they had been toasted. The flavor was just as good. And we declared it the favorite of the day.

But alas, because gear and such wasn’t prominently displayed to remind us to buy, we completely forgot to get a Growler to go. But there might be a reason for that. Today I read their website:

Beer sales are flying through the roof; they’ve busted up some cumulus and are now on their way into the outer atmosphere of the Earth.

An unfortunate side effect of this is that we have to reduce our growler sales. Why? Because our production level needs to be balanced with our demand and most importantly of all — we need to have beer in our taproom.

Currently, we are selling 20-30 growlers a day – 1 per customer. Being present when the taproom opens is your best bet. We apologize for this inconvenience. We are currently working on increasing production which will allow us to sell more growlers. More than anything we’d like our beer to go home with you.

So my tip for you. Go early. Like, when they open.

The thing I love most about Dangerous Man Brewing is that  they don’t distribute.

The thing Rob likes least about Dangerous Man Brewing is that they don’t distribute.

You can only get their beer at their taproom. This keeps the beer made in small batches and makes it a true destination brewery. Rob declared it his new favorite in the Twin Cities. So we’ll be back. And we’ll plan to go early. Want to join us?

Do you drink local?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

Barleywine

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

Barleywine, however, is not a wine at all!

So should I say…

“Happy Barleywine Wednesday?”

So what is it then?

Because barleywine isn’t made from grapes, but grain, it is actually a beer. It’s a type of ale that was supposedly developed in England a couple of hundred years ago to replace the beloved claret wine that the English could not import from the French during war. This style of beer amped up the alcohol percentage closer to that of wine, giving it its name.

I love the description of the Southern Tier Barleywine on this menu at the Happy Gnome:

Barleywine - Gnome Desc

Ha ha. Yeah, you probably wouldn’t want to drink more than one. Maybe, two? This beer is all about quality over quantity, people.

Like most ales, English and American versions of barleywine are usually pretty distinct. Rob and I enjoyed the two styles side-by-side at The Gnome recently:

Barleywines

There is an unmistakeable difference in flavor! Because I’m not great with descriptors when it comes to beer, I thought the English Meantime Barleywine tasted more, well… English. But that’s probably because I’ve been drinking more American craft brews for some time now. It’s been a while since I’ve had any English ales. It brought me “back” to those times when I had.

Barleywine descriptions

But I’ll have to disagree with The Gnome’s description of the English barleywine. Yes, English barleywines are the more classic, balanced style. However, I don’t think American craft breweries are trying to emulate them. Generally speaking, I find that American barleywines, like American ales, tend to be more hopped up. Maybe things are changing?

No matter what, the alcohol is there – usually 8% – 15%. You won’t miss that. Today, we find many more Imperial and Double style beers that are also high in alcohol. Does this make them barleywines? No, not necessarily. Barleywine is more a style of beer, from which other high-alcohol beers may have evolved.

Still, generally speaking, many barleywines can be cellared and aged like wine! You’ll find a lot more complexity in a barleywine than you will in your typical ale.

Speaking of cellaring and beer evolution, one of my favorite barleywines puts its vintage year on the bottle, just like you’d find on that of a wine bottle.

CW - BBB Vintage

Okay, you have probably guessed by now that my favorite barleywine is aged in Bourbon barrels. But I’m kind of obsessed with the bourbon-barrel style right now. Who makes this beer, do you ask?

CW - BB Barleywine

It’s Central Waters Brewing Company out of Amherst, WI. This baby isn’t easy to find, nor cheap. But it’s sooooooo worth it. Remember, quality over quantity people.

I don’t drink barleywine very often…

But when I do…

It’s the Central Waters Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Barleywine

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Now, I’m just wondering if I can hold on to one to see if it really does get better with age:

 CW - Better with Age

Have you had a barleywine?

If so, what did you think?

Do you have a favorite?

Cheers~
Carrie