Friday, September 12, 2014


Photo by Jolene Thym
I LOVE LAKE COUNTY wines. They have so much depth and character, thanks to the hot, intense heat of the long summer days -- and the cold, freeze-your-toes off nights. This 2011 Cimarron Vigilance is no exception.
It's packed with deep, spicy aromas and flavors, layers of berry fruits and has almost enough structure to hold up the glass. It's a blend of Zin, Syrah, Petite Sirah and a few other red grapes. This is a great wine to serve with meat and bold Italian dishes. The wine comes from Shenandoah Vineyards in the Red Hills appellation, a region known for huge temperature swings between days and nights. This is a wine worth seeking out -- and be sure to buy an extra for the cellar. $25.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Photo by Jolene Thym
CHEESE IS LUNCH IS CHEESE -- at least in my world. Of course I prefer the finest cheese I can put on my cutting board. I love hand-wrapped cheddars, pungent blue cheeses, hunks of Parmigianno Reggiano, spoonfuls of creamy Laura Chenel Chevre, and Humboldt Fog, my all-time favorite. (Someone even gave me a hunk of this for my birthday one year!)
Now, these nicely packaged, adorable, portable Jarlsberg Minis don't rate quite that high on my cheese barometer, but when it's time to stock the fridge with something quick for the lunchbox, these fit the bill. Great with toast for breakfast, or with crackers and fruit for lunch, they are low-fat and have a nice Swiss cheese bite. Personally, I prefer them melted, but that's just me. Find these at most grocery stores. 

Monday, September 8, 2014


DURING MY 11-WEEK CWAS wine course this summer, I learned more than a few things about wine. I learned that good wine costs money, and that it's also sometimes hard to find. During one week in particular, I needed to find and taste a Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley. I scoured the shelves at my local BevMo until I came up with this bottle, which set me back about $15 since it was on the 5 cent sale. (I spent $30 for two.)
Unfortunately, after buying, tasting and evaluating, I realized that there was something seriously amuck with this wine. Not only was it not good, there was no vineyard listed on the label, no website, no info at all. A websearch told me what I needed to know: This Reserve Lot 33 is actually a BevMo label, made and marketed only at BevMo. Even worse, I discovered that there's something a little fishy about those "93 Points/ Wilfred Wong" signs. More than a few wine experts question those claims. So, beware. Read the labels. Don't get suckered just because it's on the 5 cent sale. To learn more about California Wine School, go to

Friday, September 5, 2014


Kuhn Rikon's new peelers are sharp and comfortable to use.
WHEN I GREW up, we had one peeler that we used for everything. It was rusty and dull and turned the task of peeling carrots or potatoes into a serious chore. Today, my kitchen has at least four peelers, each one designed for a specific task. Some work OK. Some should be tossed in the trash.
But some just make you smile. The new Kuhn Rikon Veggie Peelers fall into the last category. They're sharp, compact and comfortable in the hand, and they're fun. Each peeler has a handle that looks like the vegetable it was designed to peel -- Tomato, Carrot, Potato. They're just so fun - and a great hostess thank-you or just-because gift. The carrot peeler is a julienne tool; the tomato peeler is serrated. The peelers can be found at most kitchenware stores. $6.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014



THE LINE OF flavored vinegars was daunting. Red Pepper. Mango. Basil & Oregano. Roasted Garlic. Citrus. I was convinced that Mizkan Nakano had gone over the top. But as it turns out, I was wrong. While exhaustive in terms of choices, every one of the vinegars in this new line is packed with personality and culinary potential.
Slightly sweet, salty, and so mellow that you can almost drink them, these vinegars can be used in so many ways. You can...
  • Sub them for red or white wine vinegar in a dressing or sauce
  • Add them to marinade
  • Sprinkle them on french fries or hash browns
  • Stir some into steamed rice (classic)
  • Add a dash to salsa
  • Stir some into onions as you saute them
I love that they all retain the essential personality of rice vinegar while bringing other popular flavors into play. All of them are pleasant, not so powerful that they'll kill whatever else is going on in your dish. As an added bonus, using vinegar instead of butter saves calories and fat.
Here's a promise: The more you use these flavored vinegars, the more you will want to use use them.


Monday, September 1, 2014


Coppola's Diamond Collectin 2012 Pinot Grigio pairs great
with freesh, herby frittata and garden tomatoes.
NOW IS THE TIME to drink in every last bit of summer -- including some of those crisp California whites that make this state famous for great wines. 
Actually, my wine glass overflowed this summer -- literally -- thanks to my participation in the June California Wine Appellation Specialist course. As I studied the geography, soil types and weather patterns from one end of the state to the other, I gained a much greater understanding of why one wine is better than the next.
This Pinot Grigio from Coppola, for example, has bright acidity and a gorgeous citrus backdrop -- thanks to the ocean breezes that blow in from Monterey Bay, cooling the grapes and preserving their acidity as they reach perfect ripeness.
The wine is crisp enough to cut through rich, creamy and cheesy dishes, but it's also great with a fresh, herby frittata. Find it at most wine stores and many supermarkets. $16.