Friday, November 25, 2011

No turkeys were harmed in the making of this feast!


Thanksgiving this year couldn't have been any better!  I got to spend the day with Devan without ANY interruptions! It was a day of relaxation, laughs, and love!  Firstly, we got to sleep in.  He had stayed the night at my place wednesday night and slept in...which he never gets to do when he sleeps over!  We had a fabulous breakfast then went back to his place.  He decided to pull out the tree so we put that up (just the tree and adornments as of yet).  After the tree went up we went to the store and got the ingredients to make dinner.  We decided NOT to go with a traditional turkey meal because we agreed it would have been too much work and ultimately it was just the two of us.  So...this is what we made, thanks to Food Network Magazine:

Active: 30min Total: 40min Serves: 4

4 half inch boneless centercut pork chops
1/2  tsp cajun seasoning
3/4 C all purpose flour
2 tbl olive oil
1tbl butter
1 large onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1tbl fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 C chicken broth
2/3 C buttermilk

1. Sprinkle the pork chops with the salt and cajun seasoning.  Pour the flour into a shallow bowl.  Dredge the chops in the flour turning to coat, and tap off any excess.  Reserve the remaining flour.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet ovr medium high heat.  Add the chops and cook about 3-4 min per side.  Transfer to a plate.
3. Add the butter, onion thyme and salt to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. About 8-10 min.  Add 2 tbl of the reserved flour to the skillet and cook stirring 1 minute.  Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by one third.  About 2 minutes.
4. Add the buttermil and return the chops to reheat through.  Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low andcook till the sauce is thickened and the chops are heated through.
5. Let rest for 3 minutes and serve.

***NOTE:  We did not have the Cajun seasoning so I decided to make my own.  I used equal parts of garlic power, onion powder, ancho chili powder, grill mates montreal steak seasoning, and chipolte powder.  Worked perfectly.  I also served the chops with greenbean casserole and baked potato.  Next time I will serve with a rice or quinoa because the dish overall was too "saucy"...delicious, but saucy!  Had a pinot grigio to drink with this FABULOUS meal!  Devan and I cooked it together, which made it even more special!  (picture does not do justice to this dish)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Let the creativity roll...

Added an appendix to the wine journal:

1. The SITUATION: Mid week friend crisis (exempting death/dumping)
    The CURE: Moscato: inexpensive and acceptable
    OTHER: Best paired with high calorie junk food.

2. THE SITUATION: Informal Dinner Party
    THE CURE: Bring several bottles and serve the best first!
                        RED: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cab blends
                        WHITE: Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
    OTHER: Choose your selection based on the menu.  Don't be cheap. Spend at least $8-15/bottle

3. THE SITUATION: Formal Dinner
    THE CURE: RED: Malbec, Sangiovese, mediul/higher end Cab. Sav or Pinot Noir
                        WHITE: Bordeaux Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sparkling Wine
    OTHER: Multiple bottles are a MUST!  Count on 1-2 bottles/person
                                                                -White before Red
                                                                -Light before Heavy
                                                                -Dry before Sweet
                                                                -Simple before Complex

4. THE SITUATION:  Get together with an unknown crowd and or menu
    THE CURE:  Inexpensive to mid range selctions
                         RED: mid range Pinot Noir
                         White: Pinot Grigio
    OTHER: take at least 2 bottles and go with white first as more people like white initially.

5. THE SITUATION:  Disdain
    THE CURE: RED: Merlot **only**
                        WHITE: Chardonnay **only**
    OTHER: No need for fancy stemwear as guests will not be staying long! "SOLO" (red cups) will do!

6. THE SITUATION: Poking fun at someone's lack of Wine IQ
    THE CURE: Lambrusco, Arbor Mist (you get the fucking point)
    OTHER:  Please reference #5. RULE OF THUMB: If you can buy it in the same store you buy  cigarettes or slurpees, it's a NOOOOO!!!!

7. THE SITUATION: Best friend fights
    THE CURE: #1- Layer Cake- Malbec
                        #2- Tormenta- Cabernet Sauvignon
    OTHER: MUST drink in this order! NO substitutions on wine choices.  Both bottles MUST be consumed

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

There and back again...

Big Carl hasn't been all that busy as of late, but has started to dust off his brim.  His last trip here was back in April.  Since then, some worthy notes are as follows:

*Villa Antinori Toscana: 2006 
I gave this wine a grade of 7/10pts.
It has a heavy body and is very oaky.  I would always pass by it in the store and always wanted it because it's a super blend:
60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Savignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Syrah
This wine is from the Antinori vinyards in Tuscany.  I would buy again but was a little expensive at $22 a bottle.

*Ruffino: Orvieto Classico- 2010
I gave a grade of 6+/10
This is another wine from Tuscany.  I thought i t would be like a pinot grigio but it was much heavier.  was very surprised.  It was light and crisp with a pleasant bouquet and heavy body.  Drank with chicken and pickle sauce.  Perfect accompaniment.

*KRIS- Pinot Grigio 2009

I gave this wine a grade of 5+/6- of 10
This is a very light and crisp Pinot.  It has a light body and very easy to drink.  Had it chilled.  The flavor was that of a light pineapple/pear with very little acidity.  Drank at Navy Pier in Chicago. Perfect dinker on a HOT evening!

*VAMPIRE: Pinot Noir 2007

Grade: 5/10
This is a very basic ipnot.  Nothing special here.  It was a bit rough as first, but becomes easier to drink as it breathes.  Honestly, I got it because of its name and I enjoyed it years ago!  Now that my tastes have changed this was hard to choke down at first.  NOTE:  This wine MUST breathe!!!

*RAZA Reserva- Malbec 2009
Grade: 8+/9- of 10
This vintage was very similar to the 2008 but seemed to be a bit softer.  It is another easy drinker with a delicate but full body.  Flavor consists of berry notes and a smokey vanilla.
I drank with baked garlic/ginger pork chops which accompanied perfectly!!!
I will without a doubt purchase this again AFTER I have the 2010 vintage.

*Toasted Head- Untamed White 2010
Grade: 8/8+ of 10
Fantastic white blend: 70% Viognier, 27% Chardonnay, 3% Moscato
I always seem to naturally gravitate towards California wines for some reason, however this one is among the top.  It was easy to drink with a nice medium body.  I've never had "viognier" by itself so unsure what it really tastes like.  This blend had the dryness of the chardoney and the light sweetness of the moscato.
It was crisp yet buttery...fruity and creamy.  According to the bottle, the barrel heads are toasted with fire.
This helps to create the distinctive toasty flavor in the wine.

So there you have it: Big Carl's latest journey!
If you are going to follow in his footsteps, I would recommend wearing some sensible shoes...

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Devan and I tried out a new recipe today and it was deeeelicious!  I wish there was more left over that I could have brought some back home with me.  The recipe was for a pork marinade/rub.  It called for a pineapple and papaya salsa to go along with it, but we forgot to get the pineapple and papaya at the store and didn't feel like going back out.  So this is what we ended up with:

Grilled Pork Tenderloin
prep: 30min     Marinate: 30min
Grill: 30min     Stand: 10min

*2 1lb pork tenderloins (we used 4 thick slice center cut chops instead)
*2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp. ground ancho chile pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp. garlic powder (we added this to the recipe)

1. Trim fat from port.  Rub ppork with the oice oil.  In a small bowl combine the chili powder, ancho chile pepper, cumin, oregano, 1 tsp black pepper, and 1 tsp. salt.  Rub mixture all over pork until well coated.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to 2 hours.
2.  For charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan.  Place pork on greased grill rack over drip pan.  Cover and let cook till slightly pink in the center (aprox 155F).  (I cooked about 10min and flipped and cooked another 10 and turned out perfect).
3. Let the meat stand for 10 min.
4. Eat and enjoy!


Secondly, Devan and I had the most FANTASTIC malbec last week. It was totally book worthy.  We both agreed that it deserved a grade of an 8+/9- which is the HIGEST grade so far in the book.  We had a RAZA Gran Reserva Malbec 2008.  It had a wonderful bouquet of berries and spice.  Tasting notes of berries and vanilla with a medium soft body.  It was VERY smooth and easy drinking.  We had it last tuesday, 4/19/11 with a tomato and pesto based pasta with artichoke and chicken, of which complimented VERY well.  We both agreed that we will have this again and we got another bottle, but is a 2009 vintage.  We shall see how it compares to the 2008


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Carl's Adventures Under the Big Top

Just the other night, Big Carl decided to take a trip under the big top!

Michael David's "Petite Petit- 2007" was the featured wine of the evening.  The label is what really drew me in.  Cartoony and funny with catchy phrases on the back.  This wine is a blend: 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot.  I had never had a petit verdot so I thought I would give it a whorl (well actually Devan bought it for me as I had said on multiple occasions how I wanted it).

The bottle was very difficult to open.  The cork was very dry and cracked and split, ultimately falling apart as I continued to insert the screw.  I eventually had to take a pair of pliers and pull what hadn't fallen apart, out of the bottle. The cool thing with the cork though is the ends had little black elephants on them. The initial bouquet was nice- light and fruity, of which had me excited!  Upon the first taste I was a bit taken.  The intense tannins and oak seemed to knock my head against the wall.  The finish was as if someone flipped the light switch. It was very light and didn't seem to linger too long.  I noticed blackberry and vanilla notes throughout, but I had to wade through the oak barrels to get to them!  Medium-full body- started off heavy then quickly turned light.

Turns out, this petite-petit isn't so petite.  These elephants have a BIG pair of balls!!!  I think I will try it once more to see if maybe I had a crummy bottle.  Devan was less than pleased with it and chose to dump it and open a much better bottle of Pinot Noir.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A lotta pasta- Chicken Piccata

About a week ago, a delish recipe was discovered by Devan.  He started telling me the ingredients and was a little thrown off because it stated there were capers in it.  I'm not all that fond of capers but he convinced me to try it!

Prep time: 10min
Cook Time: 20min


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/3 pounds chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked to al dente
  • Chopped or snipped chives, for garnish


Heat a deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and the chicken to the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken until lightly golden all over, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and return the skillet to the heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add another tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, the garlic and shallots to the skillet. Saute garlic and shallots 3 minutes. Add flour and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in wine and reduce liquid 1 minute. Whisk lemon juice and broth into sauce. Stir in capers and parsley. When the liquid comes to a bubble, add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the sauce to give it a little shine. Add chicken back to the pan and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss hot pasta with chicken and sauce and serve. Adjust salt and pepper, to your taste. Top with fresh snipped chives.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Barefoot and in the kitchen

I really need to stop watching cooking shows at work because I always have to go home and make them!  I was at work on friday and was watching Barefoot Contessa.  She was making this Asian Grilled Salmon recipe that looked amazing.  The marinade was what got me as I'm not really all that into salmon.  All the while watching, I thought to myself "hmmm, I bet this marinade would go terrific on pork!"...and man oh man was I right!  I used port chops about 3/4in thick.  I suppose you could use a loin, but I've never cooked a loin so I don't know how to do it!  Maybe that will be my next


-3 pork chops, 3/4in thick

For the marinade:
-2tbl dijon mustard
-3tbl soy sauce
-6tbl olive oil
-1tbl minced garlic


1. Preheat oven to 375degrees
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients.
3. In a larger bowl, place the pork chops and pour HALF the marinade over the pork and coat evenly allowing it to marinade for about 20minutes.  The other half you will use as a sauce later.
4. At this point your oven should be preheated and the pork marinaded.  Put pork chops into a glass, oven safe baking dish (9x13in) and cover with aluminum foil.
5.  Cook for approx. 30-45min or until cooked thoroughly.
6. Once cooked, serve and spoon remaining ORIGINAL marinade over pork as a sauce.

In the marinade, I added a touch of onion powder and some basil and oregeno to give it a little more flavor.  I thought maybe some ginger would be good, but forgot to add it.  Maybe next time!  To go with the pork I sauteed a pound of wild mushrooms in oil, butter, white onion, garlic and basil and served over quinoa.  I started to cook the mushrooms and quinoa about half way through the cook time of the pork so they would be done at the same time.  A little drizzle of the marinade went over the mushrooms and quinoa too as I feared it would be a bit dry without.  Excellent dish, easy, and highly recommended!  I also had gotten a bottle of Gabbiano Pinot Grigio to drink with this, but I was so excited about how it turned out, I forgot to drink it.  Next time for sure!

Rachael Ray is okay...(I guess)

I was at work one day on my break and Rachael Ray happened to be on tv.  I typically HATE watching her show because I find her to EXCRUCIATINGLY annoying, however on the afternoon of January 10, 2011, something caught my eye!
I have recently developed my palate to the delicacies of mushrooms; not the typicall button mushrooms (yuk), but WILD mushrooms (shitaki, oyster, portabello, etc).  On the episode aforementioned, she was making a dish called "Mushroom Tetrazzini" and it looked AMAZING so I quick jotted the name down and then when I got home looked it up online and went over to Devans and told him we HAVE to make this dish I saw on tv!  Here is the recipe.  There were a few things I ommitted and or changed to reflect what I had in the kitchen at the time.

-1TBL olive oil
-2 TBL butter
-1 lbs white mushrooms, thinly sliced
-2TBL thyme
-1 large shallot, finely chopped
-3 or 4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
-1/4 c dry sherry or Marsala
-1c cream
-1c grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
-1 pound fettuccine
-1c frozen peas, defrosted

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta.  Once water is boiling, throw in pasta.
2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and thyme, and cook them till they are tender, occationally stirring ensuring an even coat of the butter/oil mix.  This will take about 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and saute another 4-5 minutes.
4. Once the shallots and garlic have begun to appear translucent, deglaze the pan with the sherry or marsala and give it a few nice good stirs.
5. Next stir in the cream and bring to a bubble then reduce the heat to low and simmer.
6.  The pasta should be just about done by this point.  Give it a check and if so, then add the cheese to the mushroom sauce constantly stirring to ensure all cheese gets melted and mixed in.
7.  Add in peas once cheese is melted.
8. Mix pasta and sauce and enjoy!

I did not have fresh chopped thyme so I just used plain old thyme from my spice cabinet.  I also used about 1/4c of white onion in the shallots absence.  I had some Cabernet Sauvignon so I used that in place of the sherry/marsala and I didn't have peas so they were omitted!  I also used wild mushroom instead of the white button mushrooms.  Over all, this was a DELICIOUS dish and will continue to make!  It was very easy and highly recommended!  Devan decided to try his had at it the next day.  He added some pan seared chicken breast and spooned some of the sauce over it as well which really made this dish a little more hearty!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Supper Club 1/9/11

Supper club convened at Stevi's house.  Jenn was in charge of the main dish which consisted of Veggie Lasagna.  The base of the lasagna was butternut squash, which was surprisingly delicious as I had never had it before!  She also added a little nutmeg which gave it a nice sweet/savory flavor, and topped it with almonds!  Stevi had made a spinach salad and I was in charge of the appetizer and the wine.

A few months ago, I had gone to Bekins in Grand Haven for a private cooking class that was based around appetizers.  I had taken the course as I knew there would be many supper club evenings where I would need to make a dish.  At the class I learned about 10 different dishes, one of which I made for this night.

*Bacon wrapped shrimp skewer*
-1 bag precooked shrimp, detailed (as many as you want to serve)
-fresh pineapple, cubbed, one piece per shrimp
-bacon, cut lengthwise in half
-sweet & sour sauce
-garlic powder
-cayenne pepper powder
-baking sheet

1. Take the toothpick and stab through the pineapple then stab through the head end of the shrimp so the pineapple is inside the curvature of the shrimp.
2. Wrap the strip of bacon around the shrimp/pineapple.
3. Place on baking sheet.
4. Repeat each step until all your shrimp are wrapped
5. Once all shrimps are wrapped, put into oven on middle rack and set to broil.
6. Broil shrimps until bacon has crisped, approx 10 min
7. Remove from oven and add sauce to the top of the shrimps, small dollip each

1. in a mixing bowl add approx 5-6 tablespoons of sweet & sour sauce.
2. Then add garlic powder, ceyanne pepper, and salt to taste.  If you like it hotter, add more pepper.  If you like salty, add more salt!
*NOTE: the actual recipe calls for an Asian Sweet Chili Sauce.  I did not have time to go to the store and get some, so I improvised and tried to make my own.  You can do either or!

My friends ate these within minutes!  Huge hit and very easy to make!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tops off to Tapas

Friends have always been talking about how wonderful Tapas is, and I have never had it.  So, to end 2010, Devan and I decided to go to San Chez: Tapas Bistro in downtown Grand Rapids!  The ambiance was very unique with a very Spanish flare.  Was a little crowded so I was glad to have been seated in the corner as I hate being placed in the middle of a restaurant at a table when it's that crowded.  The service was top notch with very friendly waiters and our waitress was very informative and offered suggestions for dishes that she thought might compliment what we were already ordering.

For those of you that don't know what Tapas is, it's a style of eating where you order several entree's and share with whomever you are with.  They supply several small plates at your table and you sample eachothers food.  In a way it's a personal and engaging way of dining with your company, striking up conversation, more over about the food, but interesting conversation none-the-less.

Once seated we were brought fresh baked bread that was just delicious.  An oil accompanied it that was infused with a light garlic and chives.  I went easy on the bread as I didn't want to fill up as I knew I was going to be in for a haul.  The waitress, of whom I was very impressed with her knowledge and professionalism, took our order.  Several of the items we ordered she regrettably stated the restaurant had run out of, which was expected as it WAS New Years eve after all.  So we ordered:
Tapenade de Espana

*Tapenade de Espana: herbed goat cheese, roasted red peppers, pesto all on a grilled bread
*Pan A La Plancha: Garlic bread, tomato and garlic rum with Manchego cheese and Serrano ham 
*Plato de Jamon y Queso: Serrano ham, sausages, cheese, fruit, marcona almonds
*Alcachofas a La Parilla: grilled artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, garlic, aioli.  (this was probably in my top favorites of the night.  Every part of it complimented each other leaving you wanting more and more)
*Ensalada de Pollo y Curry: curried chicken salad, grapes, mango chutney, red onion, banana bread, and organic greens. (this was an amazing dish.  I LOVE chx salad but never thought to put curry in it.  The mango chutney was to die for and really added a slight sweetness to the savory curry.  Top 3 of the night)
*Empanadas: onion, garlic and potato filled pastries, aioli, and habanero salsa. (I'm not all that partial to empanadas, however this was surprisingly good)
Cangrejo del Rio
*Cangrejo del Rio: wild caught crawfish, aise mustard cream, roasted red peppers, manchego serrano croquette.  (this was a delicious dish.  The mustard cream sauce was the perfect accompaniment for the light seafood)
*Sambas al Ajillo: sauteed shrimp in garlic olive oil with red pepper flakes.  (this was more or less just a glorified shrimp scampi.)
*Fritos de Arroz: bason, shrimp and saffron rice fritters with a pesto aioli (my favorite of the night.  I could eat this all day everyday)
*Pollo y Chorizo a la Plancha: grilled chicken and chorizo with a cumin aioli.
..."aioli" is a sauce that is made of olive oil, garlic, and egg whites that have been emulsified.  Other seasonings may be added to flavor and compliment the dish in which it is being served.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience and I will undoubtedly do it again!  Fabulous food, great service, and I couldn't ask for better company!  If ever you are in the Grand Rapids, MI area and you are searching for something different and you enjoy authentic Spanish cuisine, this is the place for you!