Author: Cassandra

I love my children. I like travel, playing golf, wine, beer, goat cheese, bleu cheese, sushi, horseradish, garlic, gourmet cooking, Thai food, dive bars, playing my violin terribly, Colin Firth, Mindy Kaling memoirs, my Keurig and disability advocacy. I hate daylight savings time, red lights, discrimination & intolerance, having my purse stolen, and SMA. My boyfriend and my therapist are my favorite people. You're next.

Scratch ‘N Sniff Your Way to Becoming a Wine Expert!

“Most of what you taste is actually the smell.”

Remember the scratch ‘n sniff stickers from your childhood, the ones we would scratch and were supposed to smell like popcorn, cotton candy, and licorice?  It took him four years, but Master Sommelier Richard Betts has answered the prayers of former 1980’s sticker collectors everywhere with his new board book, The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That.

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert

Curious? Skeptical? Me too. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you ever spy me halfway through a bottle of wine and sniffing a board book it typically just means I’ve had too much wine after reading the kids their bedtime stories, so this gives me a great excuse to scratch ‘n sniff like the mature adult my mother thinks I am.

I enjoy attending wine tastings. My preferences usually gravitate toward heavy-bodied reds while turning my nose up at the sweet white wines. But what if your palate is inconsistent and unpredictable, or you wouldn’t know a granache from a syrah? Would you be interested in learning how to refine what it is you like? Many times your wine tasting attendant doesn’t have the time or training to tell you why your preferences are what they are, so maybe a whimsical board book would be a fun addition to your next wine tasting party!

“Break down the smells, isolate them, show people what they smell like, reassemble them to help people say “Okay, I like x y and z” and then it points you directly at what wine you’ll like.”

Betts (and his collaborators) have broken down the different categories of aromas we smell in our wine glasses, and with scents such as popcorn, vanilla, strawberry, pepper, tarragon, gardenia, butter, and even bacon, his promise is that he’ll help us follow our noses to the wine varietals we will love. (Bacon wine–and it’s Canadian counterpart, Back Bacon wine–should be on tap at Burger King, amiright?) This hardcopy book is available from Amazon and B&N, and you can learn more about the author here. I can’t wait to compare nose smudges above the sniffy parts with my fellow party guests!

“Wine is a grocery, not a luxury.”

Richard is determined to remove the barriers to our enjoyment of wine and being knowledgeable about what we like. I enjoyed listening to his interview on The Wine Crush from February 2016 and am convinced he is committed to taking the snobbery out of wine and educating even those of us who think we know a thing or two about grapes. Check it out!

 

 

 

Noshing at Nosh Eatery & Wine Bar

Nosh Eatery & Wine BarWe had the pleasure of visiting Nosh Eatery & Wine Bar last week, which is the brand new iteration of the space formerly known as Betty’s Nosh, at 6685 N Beardsley Road, off the Loop 101 in Glendale, AZ. Nosh lacks the signature mushroom bar feature I loved when it was Betty’s, which is good news for the mushroom haters but bad news for us fungi enthusiasts. The good news for us all is the new owners still offer a great happy hour, and on Thursdays they still feature their complimentary wine tasting.

Last week Nosh’s wine tasting featured a Napa pinot gris from Three Pears, and while I don’t identify as a pinot gris fan, I found it to be delicious! The first sip might have been just okay, but the manager that night, Marty, already knew how biased I am against white wines and he coached me to pay attention to my second and third sips. It was so worth the investment in my patience!

The second choice that night, the red wine, was a Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon from Foxglove. It lacked the boldness of the big Napa cabs I’m used to, but it was well-rounded and certainly enjoyable.

When we taste new wines at a tasting, we get precious few sips and not much time to aerate them. Because of this I have a little broader range of what tastes acceptable enough to me to want to try again.  My litmus test is to ask myself after each sampling, “would I drink this again on purpose?” The answer for both of these wines is an absolute YES! Especially given such reasonable price points (~$20/bottle).

Nosh Eatery & Wine BarAs for the “nosh”, on this occasion I chose from the starter menu and enjoyed the shrimp eggrolls. With shrimp, cream cheese and jalapeño, it’s a little calorie splurge for me but they were so tasty and satisfying! My only disappointment of the evening was when I saw their famous mushroom bar is no longer. Angry Shrimp stuffed mushrooms, chicken Alfredo stuffed mushrooms, green chile chicken stuffed mushrooms, Byriani stuffed mushrooms… Sigh, I miss all those! Though Nosh no longer offers their virtual cornucopia of stuffed mushrooms, they do still have some mushrooms on the menu in the form of starters.

With atmosphere of a wine bar and patio seating, Nosh Eatery & Wine Bar is definitely worth checking out! Give them a try for your next business lunch, date night or girl’s night out. Keep calm and nosh on!

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SF’s Own Bluxome Street Winery – A Gem in SoMa!

SF’s Own Bluxome Street Winery – A Gem in SoMa!

Bluxome Street Winery: A Review
San Francisco isn’t far from Napa or Sonoma, which might be why wineries generally don’t bother to keep tasting room locations in the city. Sure, the wineries aren’t FAR, but they’re sure not convenient when you’re in the city and want a quick taste of something local—especially if you’re dependent upon mass transit! Bluxome Street Winery is rare in that they bring their fruit from Sonoma to SF where they make, age and serve their wine right there in the city.

When you’re done with the NFL Experience, Super Bowl City, Fan Energy Zone and everything NFL, don’t you want to sit back, relax and enjoy something authentically San Franciscan? Allow us to strongly suggest you visit Bluxome Street Winery.

Their grapes these days are grown in the Russian River Valley, and when we visited the two SF tasting rooms their flights were heavy on Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their Ghirardelli location sells a Cab by the bottle, but we were so pleasantly surprised with the Pinot, we couldn’t resist spending some quality time with a bottle of that instead. We will be back to enjoy that bottle of Cab!

Bluxome Street Winery: A Review
Their Original Tasting Room on Bluxome Street in Soma

The winery has two tasting rooms in SF: the original location in Soma on Bluxome Street where the wine is made (closed Mondays, but a short 5-10 minute walk from Moscone Center, AT&T Park and Caltrain) and a larger tasting room further north at Ghiradelli Square (open daily). We loved both locations, so choose either one depending on where your day takes you.

Bluxome Street Winery: A Review
Bluxome Street Winery’s Tasting Room at Ghiradelli Square

Something to note about the Soma room on Bluxome Street is their original, pre-1906 earthquake location! Many wineries were based in the area before the Prohibition movement in 1920. The quake destroyed virtually every structure and Prohibition killed the wine industry and business in the 7×7. Bluxome Street Winery was one of the only—if not the only—winery to successfully rebuild after the quake, wait out Prohibition and then resume business.

We loved both tasting rooms. The original location at 53 Bluxome had so much character, but what sealed the deal for me was a screen with a running loop of footage from a random film crew dispatched to Market Street in April 1906, mere weeks before the devastating earthquake. It’s fascinating and makes a great conversation piece. On the other hand, their Ghirardelli location is more spacious, offers an outdoor deck to enjoy the sunshine (or the fog, depending on the day) and has a view of the Golden Gate bridge and the San Francisco Bay. You can’t beat it!

Overall this is an interesting winery offering a better than average wine tasting experience and we can’t wait to go back. What else do you need to know? Just get there!

Party Planning: Best Chip Dip Recipe Ever!

dip recipe

Much to George Costanza’s dismay, “double dipping” has indeed shown to increase germs in your bowl of dip by a factor of 1,000*. So long as that number doesn’t scare you, then boy, do I have a recipe for you!

*We’re guessing. Sounds about right. My degree is in Political Science, which means I’m practically a trustworthy scientist anyway.

Ripe, creamy avocado. That bite of fresh garlic. The savory spiciness of jalapeño sour cream. The brightness of the lime juice–yum! This cool but spicy avocado dip recipe is low in cost and makes party-sized quantities, plus is great for dipping chips, veggies, any bite-sized Mexican finger food and pairs great with the Mexican beer of your choice.

I used to make another version of this tasty dip, but since discovering Zesty Jalepeño Sour Cream from Shamrock Farms I am convinced this is the best iteration of my recipe so far! This dip is a new regular at all my parties, including my Super Bowl party and Cinco de Mayo extravaganza (to be honest, that may very well just consist of me, some taquitos and this dip recipe). This recipe is also my submission to the Shamrock Farms Football Food Face-Off Contest, and I encourage you to enter your own recipe for a chance to win too!

Toss all of this into your food processor and pulse for 20 seconds:

  1. Two avocados (avocado prep tip here)
  2. Two cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated on a microplane
  3. The juice of one lime (lime juicing tip here)
  4. Half of one bunch cilantro, or more if you love cilantro (some stems are fine)
  5. 2/3 of a container of Shamrock Farms Zesty Jalapeño Sour Cream
  6. A few pinches of kosher salt

Spicy Avocado Cilantro Jalapeno DipThese quantities are measured for a full sized food processor. If you have a half sized food processor, or one of those cute little choppers, of course reduce the quantity of ingredients and mix the batches together. I trust you. Do your thing.

The spice of this dip depends on Shamrock Farms Zesty Jalapeño Sour Cream. This adds a little spice to the dip, which is mild enough to please most people. If you’re like me and prefer super spicy food, feel free to add one half or one whole fresh jalapeño to the food processor with your other ingredients.

Enjoy!

dip recipe

 

Party Planning: An Introduction

It’s January, you say? That must mean it’s “invite friends over to watch sportsball, eat too much and drink too much” season!

Relax–it’s not as if your guests expect a Snackadium come February 7th. I mean, my sportsball party could never be complete without one, but I won’t judge you if you don’t go through that trouble. (I’m kidding.)

This is the first of a series of party planning posts intended to make your next college football championship party, Super Bowl party, March Madness party, or even a 2016 Masters viewing party your best one yet!

 

Super Bowl Party Planning!
This new Solo cup is the best thing to happen to parties since the first Solo cup.

Have you heard of the latest in disposable beer cup technology at your local supermarket? These It’s My Solo Cups solve the problem of not being able to find your drink two seconds after you set it down! They are “Peel & Scratch”, so no writing utensils necessary! You could also use this product for beer (or wine, cider…) tastings. Number all the cups so your guests know in which order to test them, and everyone can follow along on their notes sheet. These cups can be hard to find, but Phoenix sources suggest first checking at Fry’s Food Stores.

 

 

Super Bowl Party Planning!
The Most Expensive Mouthwash You’ll Ever Make the Mistake of Swallowing on Purpose.

People casually refer to this year’s Super Bowl as taking place in “the Bay area” or San Francisco (it’s in Santa Clara–close enough), which is as true as last year’s casual references to the Super Bowl being held in Phoenix (it was Glendale). Since the broadcast networks, and fan friendly events, will be based in the actual city of San Francisco, serve shots of Fernet at your Super Bowl party. Yes, even you can impress your friends with being “in the know” by serving them this revolting abomination tasting of bitter, black licorice flavored Listerine*. If they aren’t hip enough to enjoy Fernet, explain to them that San Francisco bars would never steer us wrong, that it is very cosmopolitan and they should be, too.

As a matter of fact, just serve cosmopolitans. That sounds way better.

Super Bowl Party Planning!
Not your mother’s bloody Mary. It shouldn’t be anyone’s bloody Mary. Your doctor is angry that you’re even looking at this.

Speaking of San Francisco, what about offering a bloody Mary bar? Everyone in the 415 knows Sunday is Brunch Day, and nothing says “I hope brunch cures my hangover from last night so I wake up on time for work Monday” like a high sodium concoction of vodka and poor decision making. In all seriousness, a bloody Mary bar is a great idea**. Lay out your assembly line thusly:
1. Disposable cups (see above)
2. Ice
3. Bloody Mary mix
4. Vodka
5. Hot pepper sauce (Tabasco or Cholula can be procured from the tables of popular breakfast diners)
6. Skewers of bacon wrapped tater tots
7. Skewers + set of tongs + stirring spoon
8. Bowls or mason jars filled with: lemon wedges; lime wedges; celery sticks (best with the leafy tops left on!); green or black olives, whole; peppercinis, whole (optional); fried chicken, whole (optional).

 

Super Bowl Party Planning!
This Arizona Cardinals fan sure hopes for fewer Seattle-centric Bingo squares.

Death, taxes, and being forced to put up with a non-football fan at your Super Bowl party: these are the only things guaranteed in life. Whether your disinterested guest is a 30 year old girlfriend or a 3rd grader, perhaps a lively game of Super Bowl Bingo will help keep them engaged and feeling relevant! As soon as the two teams are announced (soon!) you could Google “super bowl 2016 bingo” and some cleverly updated printables should return in your search results. And if there are 3rd graders around, let’s hope “marijuana” won’t be a center square this year.

 

In any case, we hope you enjoy our next few posts with party prep tips and we sincerely hope your team wins. Unless your team is Seattle. Amen.

*That was insulting to the comparatively wonderful taste of Listerine. I take it back, Listerine.
**Also in all seriousness, Google image searching “bloody mary” is a terrible idea.

Counoise? Don’t Mind if We Do!

Counoise? Don’t Mind if We Do!

Counoise? Don't Mind if We Do!

We here at CS&B are members of the Page Springs Cellars wine club, and we were intrigued when we saw our wine club selection for 4th quarter. We had never heard of Counoise before and were excited to try it—and it’s a Members Only selection right now, so you’ll have to join their wine club if you want to a taste! Page Springs Cellars Inner Circle club members are lucky enough to receive it as part of their Q1 wine shipment this year, too.

Counoise? Don't Mind if We Do!

Counoise (pronounced “coon-wahz”) is sometimes spelled “connoise”, and is rarely bottled on its own but usually as part of a blend. It is bold, smells earthy with plum notes, tastes of plum and pepper and has high acidity—overall, a great choice for those of us who prefer robust Napa Valley cabs. It is beautifully garnet in color and pairs well with a big steak, or the fireplace and a wedge of Manchego cheese! Page Springs Cellars has bottled it without blending for years—no other winery in Arizona bottles it alone, which is too bad! In fact, few wineries worldwide bottle it without it being part of a blend. Counoise vines have a low yield, which explains the tendency to blend it with other varietals. Counoise is also used to make rosé.

This bottle sells for $34 at Page Springs Cellars (wine club members only), which is a pretty easy price point to feel as if we’re indulging!

Hopheads & Cheeseheads at Mission Cheese!

I love cheese. Scroll down to read my bio–I wrote that months and months ago. I am committed to the saturated fatty goodness which is all kinds of cheese. This week I had the good fortune to attend a wine & beer pairing event with Faction Brewing at Mission Cheese, in San Francisco. It was incredible! I’ve heard of wine & cheese pairings, but beer and cheese? Yes. Yes that is a real thing and anyone who likes cheese should experience it. They joined forces with Faction Brewery Mission Cheese this week to put some thoughtful pairings together and they hit it out of the park!

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The Faction pilsner was okay but their IPAs were outstanding! The Def Con III–a traditional Belgian Dubbel–was paired with the Glacier Blue cheese wedge and the only phrase I can think of to describe it is “mouth feel”. This pairing was so rich, decadent and smooth on my tongue–a real sensory experience–and then the sweetness hit me! It reminded me of that intensely rich taste when you get a forkful of buttercream frosting but no cake. It was so savory and so divine, I dreamed about it last night and woke up with diabetes. (I’m kidding.) (At least, I hope I’m kidding.) I couldn’t remember anything after that Glacier Blue wedge, but overall I think the pairings were really great.

Faction Brewery is a new craft brewery in the East Bay, in Alameda. They’re open from Wednesday-Sunday and are “dog & kid friendly”! You can try & buy in their tasting room as well as purchase growlers and other merchandise. The easiest way to get there using mass transit is to get off at the Lake Merritt BART stop and order an Uber to go the last 3.5 miles. You can connect with them on Twitter and Facebook too!

IMG_4913Faction Brewing

Mission Cheese has been here for four years and is a small venue (maximum capacity of 49 people) with some outdoor seating, but are looking for investors to open a second, bigger location in San Francisco. They serve wine, craft beer and cider, cheese flights and charcuterie, sandwiches, dessert and coffee. They also have a small retail shop where you can purchase cheese, accessories and apparel. Mission Cheese is closed on Mondays to the public, but the rest of the week you can jump off the BART at the 16th St & Mission stop and then they’re a five minute walk–and now that I realize they serve Raclette (an indulgent cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland, all thick and gooey and melted over bite-sized potatoes) I will be back! They also host wine & cheese pairings, which is another reason to watch Sosh for future cheese-centric fun.  Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, then head over to their website to get on their email list and for advance notice of special events.

Mission Cheese
  Mission Cheese

Please Wash Your Hands

 

 

 

 

#WineWednesday Splurge: Napa Valley’s Tournesol

I’ve had $50 bottles of wine that taste like $20 bottles of wine.  (Don’t you hate that?)

I’ve had $10 bottles of wine that taste like $40 bottles of wine. (Don’t you love that?)

So to finally drink a $100 bottle of wine which tastes like a $150 bottle of wine tasted amazingly indulgent!  Moving from the peninsula to San Francisco was the special occasion and Tournesol found itself in the celebration–it could not have been smoother, fruitier, more compact or more satisfying.

Tournesol is a small, organic winery near Napa which farms sustainably. I bought this one from Vintner’s Collective near downtown Napa a few months ago. If you too are a fan of Napa Cabs, you can still buy this 2010 selection here, but I tasted all their varietals and found them all to be remarkable and delicious.

As a side note, not only was the Vintner’s Collective building formerly the site of a brothel it was also one of several Napa Valley structures affected by the 2014 quake in American Canyon–they just reopened at the end of 2014, and still with significant ongoing repairs happening. This place is absolutely worth stopping in for a flight if you find yourself in Napa anyway, but especially now while they continue their rebuilding efforts!

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