Wine Wednesday – KUKKULA

Wine Wednesday and I decided to continue my Kukkula trend.  I love Kukkula’s wines and really love that the vineyard is an easy drive from Los Angeles.

In honor of Twitter’s IPO, presenting Kukkula’s I.P.O. wine.  Such a simple drinking wine with subtle complexity.  71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Zinfandel and 11% Syrah.

Kukkula I.P.O

Kukkula I.P.O

C’mon, of course I was going to love it!  Deep rich purple, not quite inky.  I tasted cherries with an earthiness I like.   Hmmm, dirt!

Kukkula

Kukkula I.P.O.

Kukkula

Kukkula I.P.O.

 

It wasn’t as seductive as Lothario but I wasn’t looking to be seduced tonight.  I wanted to be quietly entertained.  Some times we want a Lothario; some times we want Homer Simpson.  Kukkula’s I.P.O. satisfied all my low-key needs.

#16 Chanel East/West Flap

As I went through the closet, I found several Chanel East/West Flap in hiding.   These lovelies are from 2005 and 2006 — some of the best years of Chanel quality.

Chanel East/West Flap

Chanel East/West Flap in Red Lambskin

Chanel East/West Flap

Chanel East/West Flap in Red Lambskin

Chanel East/West

2005 Chanel East/West Flap in Red Lambskin

Such a great bag but its shoulder strap is too short or it’s better for a shorter petite person. I doubt if this is why Chanel discontinued the East/West Flap but I’m curious as to why it’s discontinued.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

Wine Wednesday – KUKKULA winery in Paso Robles

Have you been to Paso Robles in California?  Have you been to Kukkula winery in Paso Robles?  If your answer is no to either of these, you need to head to Kukkula winery in Paso Robles!

It’s a small, family-owned winery honoring the owner’s Finnish heritage.  My first visit was a surprise — the wines tasty and fun-loving — and I joined the wine club.

Tonight’s wine is Kukkula’s Lothario.  Isn’t that seductive and sexy?  It tastes sexy, too!

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Kukkula

Kukkula Lothario

IMG_1433 IMG_1434

What can I say.  It was easy to drink, tasted delicious, especially as I watch the Boston Red Sox win the World Series.

Is it the wine or the Boston Red Sox?  Both are damn good.

 

Comfort Foods – Mac & Cheese from Bechamel

As October heads toward November, I find myself daydreaming about comfort foods.  Y’know the hearty, savory, soothing food of our youth.  For me, it was coming home from school to the aroma of gently simmering beans and fresh made biscuits in the oven — the type of bean didn’t matter!  Butter, Great Northern, Lima.  Ahhhhhh.

Or beef stew with more fresh made biscuits.

My favorite day was Sunday.  My mom usually cooked fried chicken, collards or cabbage, potato salad or mac & cheese — depending on the season.    I didn’t like mac & cheese as a child, much preferring potatoes or rice.

But now, mac & cheese comes to mind as one of my comfort foods.  Probably because I’ve had some fantastic mac & cheese dishes in restaurants and those dishes have colored my Sunday dinner memories.

Mac & Cheese

Mac & cheese in cast iron skillet fresh out the oven!

Today starts a series of posts on the 5 Mother Sauces of classic French cooking:  Béchamel, Veloute, Espagnole, Hollandaise, and Classic Tomate.

Mac & Cheese is basically cooked pasta coated with a cheese béchamel sauce.  Cheese béchamel sauce being a ‘child’ of the mother sauce.  Good place to start my journey into the 5 Mother Sauces as well as satisfy my craving for comfort food.

I didn’t realize how simple and easy mac & cheese is.  The important decision is the quality of the ingredients.  Buy the best butter and cheese you can afford.  They truly give the dish its flavor and scrimping will only make you feel it wasn’t “that good.”

Ingredients for Mac & Cheese

Ingredients for Mac & Cheese

I didn’t grate my cheese the first few times, I cubed it – DUMB.   It wastes heat and time to wait for cubed cheese to melt.  Spend the minutes early on grating your cheese or buy it grated.

Mac & Cheese

Cubed Cheese ready for Béchamel Sauce

Grate your cheese.

Mac & cheese

Bacon in cast iron skillet

Crisp your bacon.  For 2 reasons.  1) you want the bacon grease that it renders out.  2) it adds delicious texture to your Mac & Cheese.  The crispness of the bacon enhances the creaminess of the sauce and the gentle bite of the pasta.  So good!

I like crispy pasta so I like to add the pasta to the hot skillet before I add the sauce.  You can  put everything in a casserole dish if you don’t like crispy pasta.  You’ll get more creamy than crispy.

Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

What more can I say?  This dish is delicious with a light body red wine.  I tried it with a Sauvignon Blanc and the combo didn’t thrill me.  The Mac & Cheese was too rich for the white wine and I kept thinking, “this needs a red.”  So there ya go!

Mac & cheese

A Serving of Mac & cheese

This is comfort food at its best.  Hope you’ll try it and bring it in for your co-workers.

Comfort Foods – Bechamel
All-American comfort food, Macaroni & Cheese, topped with crispy bacon.
Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Side Dish
Ingredients
  • 1 box pasta of your choice (elbow, penne, shells, rigatoni)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3 – 3½ c milk
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup grated Italian blend cheese
  • ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put a #8,9 or 10 cast iron skillet on the stove. Add 3-4 slices thick cut bacon and bring heat to medium. Cook, turning every now and then until slices are brown and crispy. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. Put skillet in oven to keep warm. Use existing bacon grease and add more, or add olive oil.
  4. Add ¼ cup salt to pot of boiling water. Don’t be stingy. This is your only chance to flavor the pasta.
  5. Add box of pasta to boiling salted water. Boil for 4-6 minutes, until just short of al dente. The pasta should be chewy but not taste starchy. Drain.
  6. Break egg into a small dish and stir. Set aside.
  7. While pasta cooks, make the béchamel sauce:
  8. Melt butter in a saucepan heated to medium high. Let the butter melt until the bubbles subside and the butter is golden brown.
  9. Stir in flour. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. You are making a roux and you don’t want to brown/burn it. You want to keep the color as light as possible. You need to allow the flour time to cook and blend with the butter.
  10. Slowly whisk in the milk and stir. Stirring helps remove lumps and smooths out the sauce.
  11. Add nutmeg and mustard. Keep stirring and allow the milk to come to slow boil. As it comes to a boil, the milk will thicken.
  12. Once the milk thickens, scoop out ¼ cup and slowly whisk the milk into the beaten egg.
  13. Add the tempered egg to the pot. Stir.
  14. Taste the sauce and salt & pepper to taste. If you like heat, add cayenne or red pepper flakes.
  15. Add all cheeses to sauce and stir until cheeses melt into sauce, approximately 2-4 minutes.
  16. Remove skillet from oven and add drained pasta to it. You should hear the sizzle from the hot cast iron. Pour the béchamel sauce over it and stir to mix well. Crumple the bacon and add to the skillet. Stir again.
  17. Sprinkle a layer of cheese on top. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and brown.
  18. Serve!

 

PINOT NOIR? PAS MOI. WRONG!

I don’t like Pinot Noir.  Give me a Cab, Shiraz, Merlot, Cab Franc and keep the Pinot Noir or Zinfandel.  How I have so many bottles of Pinot Noir in my wine closet escapes me!   But I do and, unless I gift a lot of wine for the holidays, I need to drink them.

I reluctantly pulled out a bottle of Sequana Pinot Noir and opened it.  I even let it air, working myself up to taste it.

Pinot Noir

2009 Sequana Pinot Noir

It’s hard to admit I was wrong — horribly wrong.  But I was.  This wine was delicious!  It was delicious on 1st sip and still delicious 1 1/2 glasses later. (Sadly I donated 3-4 bottles of this wine to a dog rescue fundraiser 3 weeks ago.   I hope the  guests enjoyed them!)

This wine tasted of gentle dark fruit — cranberry and raspberry — with a hint of cola.  It poured thin with a large brown band circling the medium purple.  My first thought was the wine had turned.

Thrilled to be wrong.   This isn’t a strong or powerful wine.  Gentle or subtle are the words that come to mind.  It embraced me in a tender cuddle, not a hard bear hug.

I’m not sure I like Pinot Noir still but I do like Sequana Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir

2009 Sequana Pinot Noir