Tag Archives: flavor

2013 Beaujolais Nouveau Battle

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

If you are in a pinch and are looking for some great Thanksgiving Wine Pairings, click here. Or, just drink what you like and don’t worry about pairing!

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But as for this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau, we did the research for you!

It’s been a few years since I’d had a Beaujolais Nouveau. My husband and I are hoping for some good luck in 2014. So it was time to open a bottle before the new year.

But which do you choose when all the Beaujolais Nouveau bottles are staring you down in the store?

Rob and I set out to try a few of them side-by-side to determine our favorite producer for future years. {Although wines will still vary from vintage to vintage!}

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What I learned?

I don’t really like Beaujolais Nouveau, or at least not the 2013 vintage.

Of course, Beaujolais Nouveau is not a big, bold red like a Cab or Zin. It’s truly not a serious wine. It’s meant to be fruity and drunk young. Like NOW. And don’t confuse a Nouveau with other Beaujolais wines. They are all made with the gamay grape varietal, but there are some serious Beaujolais and Beaujolais Cru out there. Some are even made to age. Nouveau is just not one of them.

We picked up the four bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau available when we were at Zipp’s Liquor in Minneapolis stocking up for Ale Fest 2013. {More on that next week!} Then we rounded up our glasses and evaluation sheets.

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Here was our lineup {uh, right to left}:

  • DuBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $9.99
  • Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $12.99
  • Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $10.99
  • L’Ancien Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $14.99

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What we found is that these wines weren’t really the fruity, easy-drinking red that we all know and love. They all started off smelling quite lovely, like strawberries. Rob picked up some violet and rose petal on the nose, too.

But they all tasted astringent to me.

The most heinous offender was Mommessin, which after my second taste, I just couldn’t drink anymore. We did slightly chill these wines, as BN should be, but perhaps we didn’t chill them long enough. {Beaujolais Nouveau should be served right around 55 degrees – colder than a red, but not quite as chilled as a white.}

We began to feel like we did when we came back from Tuscany. All the Italians keep the good Chiantis for themselves and ship the crappy stuff to the U.S. Same thing here perhaps?

Because of this, there wasn’t a clear winner.

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Notes:

Georges DuBoeuf (12%) – Rob said that if he had to choose one to drink, it would be this one. And if we opt to share a Nouveau next year, this’ll probably be it. The aromas mostly consisted of strawberries, violet and rose petal. Besides the strawberry, I tasted something a little more tart – maybe black currant. As expected, both the tannin and body were light, but there was definitely some acidity there, making it great for pairing with food.

Joseph Drouhin (12.5%) – Strawberry, prune and floral aromas. And although these wines see no oak, I got a whiff of vanilla and a hint of spice on the nose, as well. However, the taste was very tart and Rob described it as “almost aluminum” tasting. Again, light tannins, short finish, maybe a bit more complex than the DuBoeuf, but not quite as balanced either.

Mommessin (11% to 14%) – <–First off, how can you legally list that as the alcohol percentage on your bottle? Were you unsure when you made the labels what the alcohol content would be? Did you make a couple of batches then mix them together? Or not intend to label them separately? I’m thoroughly confused by that one. Whatever the case may be, this was our least favorite. Faint strawberry aromas, light-bodied with high acidity. On the first taste, I actually felt that dusty quality that I like in a good Pinot Noir. So it’s something I would not expect out of the Gamay grape. But that was short-lived because each subsequent taste was astringent and vinegar-like. Ack! Oh wait, Mommesin also made this unimpressive wine.

L’Ancien (12%) – Rob didn’t like this one at all; but to me, it was the first BN we tried that I thought tasted more like a serious wine. It was more complex with not only berry aromas, but also that of olive and white pepper. Rob hates that white pepper flavor that can be found in some Grenaches. That’s probably what turned him off here. I liked the label of this one the best because it was basic and not so gimmicky-looking.

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But when it comes down to it, if we’re buying a fruity, easy-drinking Beaujolais Nouveau, we aren’t looking for complexity. That’s why Georges DuBoeuf would be our winner this year. But only by process of elimination.

Next year, we may step up in search of a Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau. Or maybe we’ll do a Battle of the Beaujolais: Cru vs. Nouveau, knowing full well who the winner will be. It would just be a great way to learn and experience the difference.

What wines would you like to see us review or describe next?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Which Food Box to Keep?

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Subscription Box Saturday – Food Box Edition

I know I subscribe to a lot of monthly boxes. But I really try to follow this rule: Only subscribe to one box of any kind. However, I’ve broken this rule with food/snack boxes. I belong to two. It’s tough deciding which one to keep! Generally speaking, I think I like my Love with Food box a little bit better. Why? They introduce me to new products that not only taste good, but are often healthy or just better in terms of the quality of ingredients and processes used. I also love the themes. However, I do get some tasty items in my Goodies box as well. And that one’s only $7! It’s hard to quit that! Here’s a comparison of the May contents.

Subscription Box: Love with Food

Premise: Sample the best gourmet food products delivered to your door!”

Cost: $10/month + $2 shipping. (Special deals if you purchase more than one month at a time)

Extra Benefits: Review products, share recipes and refer friends for points toward free products.

What’s Special: For each box shipped and each order placed, a meal is donated to a hungry child.

To Join: Click here.

May’s Theme: Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed

From Left, Clockwise:

Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves: I’ve received Bonne Maman in a few different boxes now. I’ve always loved this product since I first had it in France nearly 20 years ago. So it’s a welcome treat! I also love the mini sample jars they come in, which I reuse like in this post.

Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning Blend: We haven’t used this yet, but I’ve read that a little can go a long way! I intend to add it to pasta sauce or to season veggies this summer! Maybe I’ll even switch up my usual popcorn routine with a sprinkle, too. Did you know that of everywhere I’ve been, I think New Orleans has some of the best food in the world?!

Mrs. May’s Naturals Strawberry Pineapple Crunch: While these little nuggets tasted good because the ingredients went well together, I thought that the clusters were a little big. It seemed like a lot of calories for just a few little bites! This was the box’s “mystery item” which must be something they recently started. Instead of the insert stating what the product is, you have to go online to find our more info.

LWF insert

Caffe Borsa Hand Drip Single Origin Coffee: I’m stashing this away for a trip when coffee might not be available.

Snapz Crisps – Tomato Crunch: I love tomatoes. They are one of my favorite things on this planet. I was so excited to try these at only 40 calories a bag. The flavor, though, was very concentrated and a lot sweeter than I expected. I could only eat half the bag until it got to be a little too much. I was surprised how satisfied I was on just 20 calories. I think these would be great in a salad to have that added crunch without the carbs or fat of croutons or nuts. Have you tried these before?

Bali’s Best Latte Candy: These were the first to come out of the box! I enjoyed one while Rob had the other. Love these! There is not much  more to say. Coffee-flavored candies? I’m in!

Biscotti Bari Authentic Almond Biscotti: I love biscotti and the almond, almost amaretto flavor of this hit the spot. Yesiree – tastes authentic to me!

“Great Full” Vegan Sweet Potato Cookie by the Cookie Department: The phrase “Vegan Sweet Potato Wellness Cookie” just made the cookie sound disgusting to me. I am not a sweet potato fan. In addition, it sounded like a lame attempt to come up with a cookie for a vegan.

NOT SO! This cookie was delightful! I was completely surprised. I loved, particularly, the molasses flavor. This was the big surprise of the box for me. My only gripe: It uses the words Vegan and Wellness to make it sound like a healthy cookie. But when I look at the fiber and protein content, it’s not all that impressive, especially since one cookie is 2 servings!

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Subscription Box: Goodies

Premise: “Receive a monthly Taster’s Box filled with exciting snacks for you to enjoy. The monthly Taster’s Box includes 5-8 trial-sized snacks and treats enabling you to discover your favorite new goodies.”

Cost: $7/month, includes shipping

Extra Benefits: Review and rate products, upload photos and complete a profile to earn points and unlock rewards.

What’s Special: I guess I’d have to say the price. Although Goodies is a company owned by Wal-mart.

To Join: Click here.

May’s Theme: I think Goodies stopped doing themes about two months ago. You now receive a note in the box instructing to go online to learn more about the products, rather than receiving an insert describing them. When I logged in online, this month’s header read:

May 2013 – Taster’s Box

Sweet and sour. Smoky and spicy. Fresh and refreshing. We’ve got all the bases covered when it comes to flavor this month.

Goodies May Contents

Blurry May Goodies Box Contents

From Left, Clockwise:

Bronco Bob’s Mango Chipotle Sauce: I haven’t tried this yet, but I intend to make the recipe on the back on a night when Rob is out golfing. {You know, that whole fins and feathers thing… oh and mango.}

Zico Coconut Water: I have just started to learn about coconut water by following Paleo bloggers. I’ve found some that I like and some that I don’t. My list of Goodies online wants me to rate a chocolate-flavored coconut water. WHAT?! I certainly did not receive a chocolate one! This big bottle was 4 servings. I poured two into a water bottle to sip on two separate days. It was good, but not the best I’ve had. Still loving the ones with pulp thanks to Kristen at Change of Pace!

Super Seedz Sea Salt Pumpkin Seeds: Tasty change from the normal popcorn or almonds I eat as a savory snack!

Seedz

Wholly Guacomole: I love when subscription boxes know that they can’t send you something, but really want you to try it. So they send you a coupon for a free package! While it’s just as easy to buy an avocado and mash to make your own guacamole, sometimes it’s just nice to have a quick little package to take to work. I like the 100 calorie packs that are just the right serving size without worrying about when you are going to use up the rest of the avocado before it browns too much.That is what I’m going to buy with this coupon!

Chipotle BBQ Beanitos: You know how I feel about BBQ flavors. So I saved these for Rob. I did steal a chip or two and we were both really surprised how the bean element gave these chips so much flavor! Oh boy, I’d love to try another variety.

Beanitos

Blue Raspberry and Pink Lemonade Gummy Straws: These do not interest me. They are going straight home with grandma to my nephew. He’ll love ’em! It’s my job as the aunt to sugar him up, right?!

California Olive Ranch Olive Oil: I so want to do a post about olive oil… the labeling, the flavors etc. I used one of the two sample packages when sauteing some veggies this past week. However, I tasted a little on its own and realized that this was too good for sauteing; it should have been a finishing oil! Also, it’s cold pressed – a bonus. More to come on that in a future post.

EVOO

Numi Moroccan Mint Tea: I am on a tea kick and this one was refreshing and did not disappoint! Plus a coupon to order more.

Numi Mint Tea

These two boxes were excellent this month, so I’m still having a hard time choosing just one. Enjoy the rest of your memorial day weekend!

When it comes to flavor, which spices or sauces knock your socks off?

Cheers~
Carrie

Solera – Minneapolis {Closed}

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Sometimes, the only way to get my husband to try a restaurant is to buy a Groupon. We have to use it, right? There truly is Power in the Groupon!

Solera is a Spanish tapas bar in the Theater District of Minneapolis. I’d been there a few times with girlfriends. I love the concept of small plates and getting to try a bunch of different flavors. It was something my friend Jen and I loved when we were in Barcelona back in 2000.

I just feared that Rob would hate it. I feared that there would be little for him to eat {a lot of seafood on the menu} and that the plates would be too small. I feared he would go away hungry. I had even considered using the Groupon with a friend instead of Rob.

Then I thought, “No! I want him to try it!” And I knew that having the Groupon was the only way to get him there.

As a backup plan to quell both of our fears, I told him that if he was still hungry, we’d stop at the Scottish Pub next door afterward.

I’m so glad we went.

Because he loved it!

Rob hates downtown Minneapolis. I can’t stress this enough. While he loves dining there and going to concerts and sporting events, he detests navigating the city. He hates parking, construction, traffic and when there are so many people that you just can’t get a seat where you want to or arrive on time if reservations are made.

So I made sure to go at an off-time – on a Sunday afternoon, right when Solera opened. It was a beautiful day and we sat at the bar.

We started off by ordering a Spanish specialty and one that you know I like:

Sangria Menu!

Our choice:

Sidra
St.Germaine, sugar • 7

I’d never had a sangria made with hard cider before! It was actually made with Crispin, which is probably the only good thing that particular cider is good for. I just may be actioning my own Cider Sangria next summer!

Pre-meal crusty bread with oil for dunking

When you order tapas, the plates come out as they are ready. You are not served in courses or all at once. I like this concept because whatever you get will be hot and freshly prepared. In addition, if you are still hungry, you can order more. The bartender recommended 3 to 5 tapas for two people, because the size of them really depends on each dish.

First to come out:

Patatas Bravas
spicy harissa, aioli • 8

These potatoes were more than delightful. The spice of the harissa gave them a nice kick. Talk about flavor! As you will come to see, this is certainly not a place where we will be screaming Season It Already!

And why was I worried about these plates being too “small” for dear hubby? With the four plates of tapas we ordered, we couldn’t even finish these, despite how good they were!

You may not know this yet from my blog, but I have a not-so-secret love affair with scallops. I was introduced to them later in life {read: after college} and I almost always order them anytime they are offered {read: when not served with bacon}.

Despite the fact that tapas are plates meant to share, Rob knew that I would need to order the scallops. {He approves of the love affair.} But he also knew we’d be ordering other meat items for his culinary pleasure.

The Scallops

These scallops are different from those on the current menu. I imagine that the flavors change with the season. And while the flavors of these scallops are indescribable {the bartender and server went into intricate detail on how they were prepared!}, let’s just say that I was fully satisfied and smiling ear-to-ear. My plate was cleaned.

Next up:

Bistec al Guacho
seared sirloin, smoked paprika, chimichurri • 9

While Rob said that the meat was just a bit chewy, it didn’t stop him from eating it! And flavor? How could there not be with a fresh chimichurri sauce covering it?

And finally:

Pork Ribs
brandy glaze, pimenton rub • 14

For being an American girl constantly in search of flavor, you may be surprised to learn that I don’t particularly like ribs nor barbecue sauces. {Gasp!} There is something about the smoky and sweet flavors that everyone loves that I’m just not into so much. That being said, I gave these pork ribs a try and was pleasantly surprised. Rob licked his fingers clean.

And you can’t stop in Spain without having a little Sherry, right?

Solera Sherry Menu

Being the girl that cannot make a decision, knows nothing about sherry, and is still in search of her inner Frasier Crane, I finally just had the bartender choose one for us:

Our after-dinner sherry

The perfect end to a meal! I sometimes taste Bit-O-Honey when I drink Sherry or other sweet Spanish wines. Is this just  me?

What are your favorite small plates to eat, make or order?

Cheers~

Carrie

First CSA Box of the Season – What’s in it?

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I picked up our first CSA Box of the season this week!

When I’ve talked about my CSA box, I’ve had people ask me, “What’s that?”

I don’t really know how I’ve come to learn about CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. Maybe it was when our friend Lisa was chopping yellow summer squash when we visited her and her husband up at their cabin. She gave me a piece and told me to taste it.

RAW? Raw yellow squash? I had never heard of anyone eating such a thing. Besides, it had only been during college that I started eating the stuff. I took the piece from her and gave it a try anyway.

I couldn’t believe the flavor – and it wasn’t even COOKED! That was the best yellow squash (to this day) that I’d ever had. It came from her CSA box, also know as a Farm Box.

Maybe that’s when I looked up CSAs online to learn more about them.

Community Supported Agriculture is catching on more than ever now. It’s about consuming local produce when it’s fresh and at its best. In essence, you are eating food when it is in season and supporting the local community at the same time. Food tastes better not only when it is in season, but when it doesn’t have far to travel to you. The fresher the better, right? And you know that I’m all about flavor, right? Oftentimes, farms that participate grow their crops organically, or as organically as possible without having the expensive certification.

How it Works

You can buy a membership or subscription to a local farm participating in CSA. At regular intervals (generally, each week), a box of produce will be put together for you to either pick up or be dropped off at a pre-determined site. I chose our CSA last year primarily based on the drop-off site location. I wanted to make sure that it would be convenient enough that I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to pick it up or feel like I had to skip retrieving it because I didn’t have time.

Shoot, the drop-off site is less than a 5k away from our home at a little co-op grocery store. {And no, I will not be running there and then back with a box full of heavy veggies!} What’s great is that I can stop and get any last minute groceries there if I need them, too. During this first pick-up, samples of this scrumptious snack made me put them in my cart:

Fun, Minnesota-made snack. Only 3 ingredients. Check them out! Softer than a popcorn kernel, but crunchier than popcorn. WARNING: addictive!

Each CSA does things differently, but ours has different sized boxes for different prices. Last year, my friend Jen and I split the Chica box from Featherstone Farm. It was the smaller of the two boxes offered {the other option was the Grande}, and we knew that if we each got one ourselves, that it was just going to be too much stuff to try to use up during the week. The Chica box is meant for a family of two or three. This year, our CSA has added a Solo box, which is meant for one person. My understanding with the Solo box is that the intent is to offer more common stuff and less of the “extras”. Still, we decided to stick with splitting the Chica this year. We’ll take note of what comes in each box to help make our decision for next year.

At first glance, the cost may sound like a lot. Our Chica box is just under $500 for 20 weeks. {We paid the early bird rate of $480.} But do the math: That’s just $24 per week for fresh, organic produce. I think that’s more than worth it – especially to have it picked for you at its peak. Plus, we split it, so it’s really only $12 for each of us per week. In addition, our CSA provides us information on the crops and how best (or how quickly) we should use them. And just like ours, I’ve found that many CSAs have recipes online, too!

Even though we get an email the week of our pickup about what produce to expect in the box, it still feels like Christmas when I open it up:

Hmm… What do we have here?

What am I going to make?!

Depending on the growing conditions each season, boxes can vary in size. While most boxes are smaller the first week of the season, ours was filled quite nicely this week:

Week 1: garlic scapes, spinach, leaf lettuce, mixed greens, garlic chives, oregano, radishes, rhubarb and asparagus

It looks like we are going to be enjoying some salads! My husband isn’t a huge salad fan. However, when I made him one with greens from our CSA box last year, he said that they were ” the best greens I’ve ever had!”

I’m always looking for ways to use rhubarb, though. I’m not a baker and the whole rhubarb crisp or dessert can get old.

A few things I love about the CSA Box:

  • It’s pre-paid, so I’m getting healthy veggies whether I try to or not!
  • I get to try new produce that I haven’t before and learn how to make it or use.
  • It’s an inexpensive way to support the local community while getting quality, healthy produce.
  • If we are on vacation, we can have a friend pick up the box and they can use the contents; or we can let the CSA know in advance and they will donate it on our behalf.

You can find a CSA in your area if you live in the U.S. by clicking here.

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Questions for you:

Are you a member of a CSA farm? If so, what do you like about it?

How do you use rhubarb?

Oh! And remember, I’ll be running the Dog Day 5k tomorrow. You can still come out and register that morning! There is a half marathon going on around Lake Waconia, too. Come back next week for an update!

Cheers~

Carrie