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Archive for July 20, 2011

RESTAURANTS: A Great Wine Pairing Dinner At The Capital Grille

There are more than 40 The Capital Grill restaurants in the U.S. We’ve only been to one, and it’s a class act. It has become our restaurant of choice when we’re going to dinner with people who want a steak-and-seafood evening with good wine.

If this is up your alley, The Capital Grille is offering the best wine tasting deal we know of:

Now through September 4th, for just $25 with dinner, you can have as much as you want of nine sparkling, white and red wines, including a Port-style dessert wine from Australia (charmingly called The Portly Gentleman). Known as the Generous Pour, if purchased by the bottle, the wine tab would be almost $800.

At a recent dinner, we opted in and tried all nine Generous Pour wines. We declare it the best $25 restaurant wine experience—as well as an enlightening, fun and delicious evening.

You can have your wines any way you want them, including pours of any and all nine wines and refills of your favorites.

 

Days later, we’re still enjoying the Generous
Pour experience at Capital Grille. Photo
courtesy Capital Grille.

 

We started the evening with a Marquis de la Tour Crémant de Loire, a lovely French sparkler that was the apéritif. We asked for more to go with the yummy pan-fried calamari with hot cherry peppers. The buttery St. Jean Belle Terre chardonnay went better with the lush lobster mac and cheese.

The ability to try so many wines with dinner—to compare and contrast—is a wonderful experience. Do you prefer the La Cana albariño or the St. Jean chardonnay with oysters on the half shell? Try it and decide (we preferred the albariño).

We had both whites, the Crémant and a Byron Bay pinot noir with our salmon—and confirmed that we continue to prefer pinot noir to white wine for pairing with salmon.

Those who ordered steak had five different reds to compare, both international and from California. We accepted “donations” of meat from their generous portions to try with the reds.

At this point we should have called it quits and let The Portly Gentleman suffice as dessert.

But no: We allowed ourselves to be seduced by the rich dessert menu (cheesecake, coconut cream pie, crème brûlée, flourless chocolate espresso cake and some lighter temptations).

A wine pairing dinner is a wonderful way to spend an evening with friends or colleagues, sharing good food and wine adventures. The wine selection was specially chosen by Master Sommelier George Miliotes to complement both the menu and the season.

You can send someone a gift card to the Capital Grille. What a great gift (hint, hint)!

  

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FOOD HOLIDAY: The History Of Lollipops For National Lollipop Day

See’s gourmet Lollypops are made from
heavy cream, butter and flavors, in
butterscotch, chocolate, coffee and vanilla.
There are root beer lollys, too. The line is
certified kosher.

 

It’s National Lollipop Day. Read this history of the lollipop as you enjoy one or two.

According to the National Confectioners Association, eating sugar from a stick likely dates to prehistoric man, who licked honey off the stick he used to scrape it from the beehive.

The ancient Arabs, Chinese and Egyptians made fruit and nut confections candied in honey, which may also have been eaten from sticks, owing to the stickiness of the confection.

But what we think of as a lollipop may date to Europe in the Middle Ages, when sugar was boiled and formed onto sticks as treats for the wealthy—the only people who could afford sugar.

By the 17th century, sugar was plentiful and affordable. In England, boiled sugar (hard candy) treats were popular. The word “lollipop” (originally spelled lollypop) first appears in print in 1784, roughly coinciding with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

 

Beginning in the later part of the 18th century, industry, including confectionery, became mechanized. Horehound drops, lemon drops, peppermints and wintergreen lozenges became everyday candies.

While we don’t know the inventor of the modern lollipop, the first automated lollipop machine was invented in Racine, Wisconsin in 1908. The Racine Confectionery Machine Company’s machine put hard candy discs on the end of a sticks, producing 2400 lollipops per hour, 57,000 per day (Today’s machines can produce 3 million lollipops daily).

Far beyond the Tootsie Pop of childhood, today’s lollipops come in all shapes and sizes, from hand-crafted works of sugar art to caffeinated Java Pops and bacon lollipops.

Find reviews of our favorite old-fashioned candies.

  

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RECIPE: Sweet Tea Cocktail

Here’s a summer refreshment for tea lovers over the age of 21: sweet tea vodka.

Created by Chris Cason, co-founder of Tavalon Tea, it combines two summer favorites: sweet iced tea and a vodka cocktail.

The tea-infused vodka is delicious straight up or on the rocks, but it’s also a good mixer.

For example, a 1:1 ratio of sweet tea vodka to fresh-squeezed lemonade makes a Spiked Arnold Palmer (fresh lemonade recipe).

You can serve it as an “iced tea cocktail.” Or for fun, serve it in a teacup with a wedge of lemon.

HOMEMADE SWEET TEA VODKA

Ingredients

  • 1 quart vodka
  • 1-1/2 cups simple syrup (recipe)
  • 1/4 cup English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast Tea,
    loose
     

  •  

     

    Preparation
    1. Combine all ingredients in a quart container (or larger container) with a tight seal.
    2. Shake well to thoroughly mix. Allow to “steep” for 45 minutes, shaking occasionally. Strain.
    3. Serve chilled.

    Find more Cocktail Recipes.

      

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    PRODUCT: Soy-Go Lactose Free Creamer

    Can’t have milk in your coffee? Try SOY GO.

     

    One of our staff was recently diagnosed with lactose intolerance.

    She switched to lactose-free milk and so did the rest of our office (no sense having multiple cartons of milk, and lactose-free tastes the same as regular milk).

    However, she found herself out of luck at many restaurants. She tried bringing soymilk in Tetra Pak cartons (think juice boxes) with her, but found it wasteful to use just a couple of tablespoons and toss the remainder.

    Instead of learning to like black coffee, she took a tip from our vegan photographer and discovered SOY GO, a creamer made from soy powder—the soy equivalent of Coffee Mate.

     

  • Coffee Mate is lactose-free, but it’s full of glucose, hydrogenated vegetable oil (a trans fat), palm kernel and/or soybean oil, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, sodium aluminum silicate, monoglycerides, aceylated tartaric esters of mono- and diglycerides, and artificial flavor and coloring.
  • In comparison, Soy Go is all natural, 100% organic, non-GMO and vegan. The ingredients are the finest soy powder, sugar, natural color, xanthan gum (a stabilizer), inulin (a fiber used to replace fat), natural flavors, dipotassium phosphate (prevents coagulation) and salt. It does requires more stirring to dissolve than Coffee Mate.
  •  
    There are 10 calories per packet. Each packet also contains one gram of fiber and one gram of protein. Packets are designed to “cream” a mug with 8 to 10 ounces of coffee.

    If you can’t find it locally (try health food stores and Whole Foods), you can buy it online.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Chocolate Curls

    We have lots of chocolate bars and pieces of chocolate that have been nibbled on for reviews, as well as blocks of couverture chocolate (used for baking).

    When life gives you extra chocolate bars, make chocolate curls.

    Also known as shaved chocolate, the curls can be used to garnish cake, ice cream, pudding, hot chocolate (or iced hot chocolate), cappuccino or anything that can benefit from a bit of chocolate glamor.

    You can make dark, milk or white chocolate curls—or a combination. We’re particularly fond of white chocolate curls atop dark chocolate frosting.

    TIP: If you won’t be using the curls immediately, place them in a storage container instead of on a cookie sheet.

     

    Chocolate curls are a pretty garnish that
    adds an intense bite of chocolate.

     

    HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE CURLS

    In addition to the chocolate, you’ll need a vegetable peeler, cookie sheet or storage container (we use a low, square Tupperware-type container), waxed paper and a toothpick (we use tiny tongs that our grandmother used to add saccharine tablets to her tea).

    For small curls, shave the narrow side of the bar; for wide curls, shave the broad side of the bar. You may have to practice to get the pressure right (maintain a steady pressure and speed).

    1. The chocolate bar needs to be softened: hard enough to shave, but not so hard as to be brittle. We put our bar in a cold oven for half an hour, or on the stove top for 10 minutes on each side (to be warmed by the pilot light).

    2. While the chocolate softens, cover a cookie sheet or the inside of a square or rectangular plastic storage container with waxed paper.

    3. Make the chocolate curls by drawing the vegetable peeler across the chocolate. Don’t use a light touch, as with a potato or carrot. You’ll need a strong and steady stroke.

    4. Use the toothpick to lift the curls gently onto the waxed paper. If you’ll be using them shortly, place them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to harden. Otherwise, store them in an airtight container in a cool place (we keep them near the vent of our kitchen air conditioner). Some people refrigerate them, but the quick transition from cold to a warm room can cause the chocolate to bloom.

    Once you get the hang of it, we think you’ll be using chocolate curls a lot!

    MORE CHOCOLATE FUN

    Check out our Gourmet Chocolate Section for tips, recipes, reviews, trivia and more.

      

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