Saturday, January 19, 2013

Deconstruction – A Salad with a Twist

I am going to dedicate this post to my friend Cathy in New York. She was asking about my blog and when I was going to get back to it. It is something I really loved and yet time seems to be a challenge and then days weeks and months go by and I forget about how enjoyable it is to blog; to write about food; to express myself. So here's to you Cathy! Thank you for suggesting I write. I hope you have a chance to read this, enjoy the post and maybe try out the dish!

Last night my sisters and I got together to help my mother celebrate her 70th birthday. There is a bigger party coming but we just had a little family get together for now. Whenever we do something like this we all pitch in and bring something. My sister asked me to bring a salad. We deliberated over what kind. She was in the mood for a vinaigrette with blue cheese and avocado. I rather thought a good blue cheese dressing sounded better. Then there is the issue that so often happens at get togethers... you toss the salad and half of is not eaten. You cannot save salad after it has been dressed. It just becomes a soggy mess as we all know.

So I got to thinking.... what about a deconstructed salad? But my youngest sister is so picky about wanting her salad tossed. So I opted to do a sort of combo. I took some of the ingredients and tossed them with olive oil and lemon juice. In this case I used romaine lettuce, blue cheese crumbles, red onion, red bell pepper, tomatoes and avocado. Then I tried to artfully place all the vegetables I was using on a large platter putting my signature blue cheese dressing in the center for those would wanted it. And flanking the dressing, I placed the pre-tossed salad. I think the display came out very nicely. And it worked well for a small to medium size group of people. I will definitely try this again! And the best thing is, all the left overs are in great shape and I have a good amount of my favorite blue cheese dressing left over for my get together today with friends.

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup mayonaisse
1/2 cup half and half
4 oz. blue cheese (crumbled)
1 tsp. grated onion (I use a little more)
1-3 garlic cloves (diced fine)
1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
black pepper, salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Whisk together all the ingredients in a medium size bowl. Add more lemon juice to taste. I often also add a splash of Worschester Sauce. It adds just a little something to the flavor.

For best results, refrigerate for at least one hour before using. This allows the flavors to truly marry and come together.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

OCWS Wine Extraordinaire!

A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure to attend the annual Wine Extraordinaire hosted by the Orange County Wine Society. This fabulous event featured over 85 small wineries. While most of the wineries were California based, there were a few from as far away as Australia! In addition to all the exciting wines to be tried, there were a variety of food samples from local restaurants, a silent auction, raffle prices, boutique shopping and a souvenir Riedel wine glass!

The venue for the Wine Extraordinaire was the esteemed Hilton Hotel in Anaheim which not only boasts luxury accommodations and all the necessary amenities but it is located adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center and only steps away from the one and only Disneyland, making it the perfect location for business and recreation alike!

Many of the featured wineries are new winemakers or small lot producers. Each winemaker at the extraordinaire produces less than 35,000 cases a year. The event is important in that it enables some of these new or low-production wineries the chance to showcase their amazing products to a large group of oenophiles while at the same time funds are being raised toward scholarships for wine-related educational programs at several California universities.

In addition to providing exposure to new and small wineries, the event is just a whole heck of a lot of fun! I attended along with my good friend and her husband. We had high aspirations to taste a majority of the wine labels being offered and then go back to our favorites. Well this was a lofty goal which I don't think anyone could realize! There were just so many wines. And so many REALLY good wines! To list them all would be a feat in and of itself.

The first rule we had to adopt at the event was to taste and then pour out the majority of the glass. There is just no way you can consume every taste! Or at least no way to consume it all and still remain standing! However, with some of our favorite wines, we did consume the whole taste and we even went back for another... just to make sure it was our favorite of course!

And of course, what good wine event doesn't come with some fine food pairing? There were booths of cheese, meats, cold cuts, sweets, a chocolate fountain, salads and more! My favorite Trader Joe's was there serving up cheese and meats and fruit. Local restaurants showed off their specialties. Boutique companies featured a special product or salad dressing. But the favorite in the food arena had to be Mad Mike's Gourmet Sausages! The bratwurst and the garlic chicken sausages were to die for! If you have a chance, taste some of these! Or better yet, go ahead and order them to be delivered. You won't be sorry!

My biggest regret is not taking a small notebook and writing more down. I have brochures and business cards from many of the wineries we really liked. But I wish I had written more detailed notes for myself. Many of the wineries offered instant discounts if you purchased at the event and all offered free shipping if you ordered that day.

To name a few favorites though.... the 2007 Syrah from Occidental Road Cellars was rich, complex and rather full or big for a Syrah and would pair nicely with so many dishes. I highly recommend it! We had a lot of fun with the Witch Creek Wines too and I intend to head to their tasting room in nearby Carlsbad to learn more. The wines were intriguing to say the least! One of the wineries had an amazing Barbera! I just loved it. Barberas are so hard to find and there are not many growers here in California that produce this grape. But I have no idea which winery it was. Darn it! So here is case-in-point as to why I wish I had taken good notes!

When it comes to white wine, I always gravitate toward a Chardonnay. And the butterier, the better in my book! I adore a true, full, buttery Chardonnay! In fact... while I usually prefer reds, if I can FIND one of these whites, I just drool! Pure heaven. And we did in fact find such a wine from Maldonado Vineyards! In fact there wasn't just one that I liked but two! (This was one of the winery tables we went back to by the way.) The two Chardonnays were close but different... like sisters or cousins. Both had a full round and buttery note. And both stayed in your mouth like the last wisps of a summers day. At first I thought I preferred the 2009 Sonoma Chardonnay. Then I decided I liked the 2008 Napa Valley varietal. And back and forth I went. In the end... I think I was leaning toward the Napa but like with good friends... do you have to choose just one? NO! I think not! I think I can like both equally for different reasons and paired with different food! What do you think?

All in all the day was a great success. We learned about some new wineries. Tasted some amazing wines not to mention food and got to engage in some very educational and exciting conversations about wine, the process and the results. The people at the event were all enthusiasts and it is always a great time to meet with and engage in conversation with like-minded individuals!

And now I know for next year... TAKE A NOTEBOOK! For certainly I must go back to this event next year and take better notes and tell you all about the newest producers to hit the scene.

For more information on the Wine Extraordinaire or the Orange County Wine Society, go to

And if you don't live nearby or don't want to drive home (wise idea), book a room at the Anaheim Hilton and stay to watch the Disneyland fireworks sparkle into your room as you sip the last of the bottle you purchased from your favorite winery.


*All photos aside from that of the hotel are credited to Jim Burk, the OCWS photographer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Oscar Party 2012

I know... I know... Long time no see right? Yes. It has been a while. Why you ask? Well.... this, that, the other thing... AKA... LIFE! LIFE is happening. Kids, work, school, housework, dishes, bills, divorce, cleaning, dinner, soccer, t-ball, homework... It takes TIME and leaves me little time or energy for this blog. But I miss it. I miss all of you. But the good news is I have cooked a few times, thrown a few parties and gone out with some good friends! Life is nice...

And so... I had my annual Oscar Party! I really didn't get the best photos. But here it is. The idea was to go all black and white including the food but that was NOT an easy task. The dessert table was pretty easy... Cheesecake with blackberries, Oreo "Cake", popcorn, black and white candy... with a little red too!

The other food was more difficult. I decided on a white bean dip with pita bread and black tortilla chips. But it wasn't that white. I also did my Cream of Leek Soup which you can find here! One of my sisters brought a cheese tray with black olives and purple grapes. The other brought a crisp and fresh cauliflower salad. A friend brought chicken cakes with horseradish dipping sauce. I made simple pomegranate martini's and there was of course plenty of wine!

The other dish I thought would be good was a sort of dirty black rice with creole shrimp! I looked at a few recipes here and there but pretty much just threw stuff together. It was closest to this recipe though. It ended up really pretty good and even better the day after! But hey, with that much butter.... how could it not?

The main ingredients are butter (a lot!), garlic, fresh lemon juice, Worcester sauce and Creole Seasoning. I then served it over the black rice I made! Do give this a try sometime. It really was easy and sooooo delicious! Have some French bread handy to soak up the seasoned butter sauce!

Set up took some time but I was lucky to get to borrow some linens, serving pieces and a few decorations from the Hilton! A friend of mine is an event manager there and was so kind as to help me out for the decor! Thanks Leah! I also found a red carpet at Home Depot and had real movie lights in the front of the house and a few inside to set the mood of the red carpet event!

It is a lot of work to host a part in style but it is so fun! I just love it! Stay tuned for an update on the gourmet group and a food and wine event I will be attending this weekend!

Happy cooking! Merry Entertaining! Cheers!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Femme Foodie Group

Lately, as I am sure you are aware, my attention has not been on blogging or documenting any culinary adventures. But this doesn't mean that I have not been cooking, dining out from time to time and enjoying gourmet delights. Actually in an effort to pursue my passion for food with like-minded girl friends, I have helped to start up a gourmet group! Planning and coordinating schedules in our busy lives is the tricky part. But the hope is to meet every other month and rotate the host. I thought a cute name would be "Femme Foodies" or "The Gourmet Gals". What do you think? Any suggestions?

We had our first official get together last week. I hosted and since it was Bastille Day, I chose a French theme. Everyone brought a dish or some wine.

I made a tomato tart which was a sort of combination of Stacey's Recipe (from Stacey Snacks) and that of the famed David Lebovitz. For the tart crust I used Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee recipe. In addition I once again made Laura's Veloute of Prawns and grilled up some fresh vegetables.

Others dishes that friends brought were: a cheese platter, a trio of tapenades (olive, tuna fish and eggplant), Gruyere puffs, light green salad, lemon tart, chocolate mousse, palmiers with fruit and whipped cream, and apricot pastries. And of course some very nice wines!

It was a really fun evening with some great women and fabulous food! I can't wait until the next one. While it is the host's job to come up with a plan or a theme, I thought I would look around for suggestions from other gourmet groups as to how they plan or structure the group. What themes are fun? What tips or recommendations do you have? We are open and looking for ideas. We have also thought that in the off months, we might plan to go out to a new restaurant or wine bar or something of that nature.

Thank you again to all my friends for a wonderful night and helping with the food and wine! Until next time!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Red Carpet Ready!

One of my favorite days of the year is Oscar Sunday. The glitz and glamour of it all is so exciting. The dresses, the stars, the thrill of the movies... all an escape into another world. The other world of the movies themselves and that of the actors and this life of glitter in the spotlight.

For many years now my mom and I have termed this day to be OUR "Superbowl" since we really have no interest whatsoever in the Superbowl itself. And several years back before I met my husband and started a family I had begun a tradition of having an Academy Awards Party. I had had about 2 or 3 before we got married then one the first year when I was pregnant with my daughter and then after that.... Well it seemed so hard with the little ones. I got lazy. Lazy about planning... lazy about inviting people... not enough friends in my "new life". My husband isn't into it or wanting to really participate and so I just blew off the party. I still watched of course! And usually made some good food to go along with the show too.

But now, I am ready to get back to some of the things I love to do and have put aside for so many years. I am designing a lot but now starting to read again and ready to put more parties and entertaining and dining out into the mix. I miss it so much. To ensure I went through with the Oscar party, I emailed a save-the-date. And if there is one thing I hate is flakiness and failure to go through with something you said you were going to do. So then I was obligated. I sent out the invitations. The party was ON!

I began thinking of a menu and how to decorate. I didn't want to spend too too much money and did not want anything that would tie me to the kitchen while my guests were here and the show was rolling. So the key was good home created food and decorations with a touch of Hollywood sparkle.

It began with the menu.... I started to think about the films that had been nominated for best picture. The stage began to appear and set in my mind. And I came up with the following!

Black Swan Bean Soup
simple and healthy black bean soup
garnished with cilantro, bell peppers, sour cream and tortilla strips

The King's Salad
the El Torito salad!
romaine lettuce with bell peppers, pepitas, cotija cheese
tortilla strips and cilantro pepita dressing

True Grit Taco Bar
flour and corn tortillas with carne asada and pollo asada
with garnishes of cilantro, onion, tomato, cheese, guacamole and salsa

JalapeƱo Fighter Dip
spicy jalapenos and green chilis in a creamy cheese concoction
with a panko crust and tortilla chips for dipping

Inception Cocktail
part margarita-part champagne
this sexy cocktail is made with a refreshing blend
of lime juice, tequila, mint and champagne

Winter's Bone Brownies
a decadent marbled brownie
with rich chocolate and a cream cheese swirl

Toy Story Snack Bar
all the favorites!
popcorn, red vines, licorice, cinnamon bears,
m&m’s, hot tamales and gourmet gumballs

I decorated the Toy Story bar with my kids toys! Fun fun fun!!!

I made wine charms for the glasses with the various Oscar award categories.

My daughter helped out by cutting stars from gold paper I had lying around and strewing beads around on the tables. The night was a success! Just so much fun and I am thankful that I dipped back into the entertaining game and for all the friends that joined me for grand evening.

And of course... you will need to start with the perfect invitation! I have created one just for the occasion!


Stay tuned for my black bean soup recipe!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wine Lover Business Card from

Wine Lover Business Card profilecard
Wine Lover Business Card from

Do you have a food or wine blog? How about profile cards to promote it? Check out one of my more popular wine designs! The invitations are a hit but these business cards are one of my favorites! They look amazing on the premium pearl or gold paper too!

But maybe you have something else in mind. Let me know what your blog is about or your design ideas and I can work something up for you!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Colors of Summer!

I just loved the look of these peaches in a crate and wanted to share them with you. The colors were so beautiful. The fruit looked so fresh. It just screamed summertime!