Gourmet Veggie Mama

Category Archives: Wine

Mimosas with a Twist, for Mom

Ah, Mother’s Day. For children, it is a time to present the most important lady in your life with a hand-painted mug, handprint ornament, or some other handmade thing that Good Ol’ Dad helped you make (probably at the last minute), and tell her that, despite your attitude most days, you really do appreciate her. For grown-ups like me, with a couple of small children of their own, it’s a time to reflect on how much I really DID appreciate my mom back then, and still do now.

So. Being a mom. It’s not an easy gig. You get spit up on, you have to deal with someone else’s poop on a daily basis (at least for the first couple of years), you get woken up randomly during the night for different reasons throughout your beloved offsprings’ development, you spend a lot of time arguing over matters that completely defy logic with a small but determined opponent,* and you tend to collapse at the end of the day utterly exhausted, but also completely unable to account for anything you really got done.

* Being a corporate lawyer prepared me very well for this part of parenting.

Now that I’m a mom myself, and I have experienced all of those enumerated joys, plus plenty of others that just aren’t springing to mind right now, I really, really appreciate my mom. Really really. And the least I can do is make her a Mother’s Day cocktail.

So, Mom, I’m sorry for every time I threw a fit in public, especially when you had your hands full of groceries and possibly a baby sibling. I’m sorry for every time I told you something on my plate (which you’d probably slaved over and eagerly anticipated my delighted reaction to) was yucky or that I wasn’t hungry or that I just wanted yogurt instead. I’m sorry I took so long to sleep through the night, and once I did, I’m sorry for every time I woke you up in the middle of the night for reasons like “the fan is scaring me” or “I couldn’t find my water.”** I’m sorry for sometimes being a brat who took for granted the loving and comfortable home you provided for me. I wish I had realized at the time how good I had it! I’m sorry for wrecking my car when I was a teenager — even though it wasn’t my fault, I’m sure I could have avoided it if I had been a more experienced driver, and I’m damn lucky I didn’t give you a heart attack. I can only imagine how worried you were when you heard about it. Anyway, I sure do owe you a drink.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 8.36.06 PM

**I don’t know for sure that I did these things, but it seems likely, based on my own beloved daughters and their sleep habits.

When Red Envelope asked me to develop a cocktail recipe inspired by my mom for their Mother’s Day Brunch series, I thought it was a fabulous idea, and I had to put on my thinking cap. My mom is just not your everyday lady. She’s a Texan through and through, a little bit of a hippy, and not too much of a drinker, but she does enjoy a good mimosa. Since Mother’s Day brunch is a thing, I figured mimosas were a perfect starting point. When I saw a few of the last beautiful grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley gracing my grocery store’s produce aisle, I knew it was fate. One of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received was from my mom — a crate of Rio Red grapefruit at the height of the season (delivered after the New Year) when we lived in California, where those sweet, juicy red beauties were not all that easy to get your hands on. Add a cherry, and we’re in business.

rio red mimosa

So, here’s to you, Mom. Thanks for dealing with me for the past thirty-some-odd years. I really appreciate you now, even if I didn’t fully back then. Really.

Rio Red Mimosa
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
  • 5 oz champagne or other sparkling wine***
  • Rio Red grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed if possible
  • maraschino cherry, for garnish****
  1. Fill a champagne flute almost to the top with the champagne. Top off with a splash of grapefruit juice.
  2. Drop in a maraschino cherry (because Mom deserves a cherry on top, damnit!) and serve with breakfast in bed.
*** I used prosecco, which is my favorite for mixing. Use a moderately priced sparkling -- don't go too cheap (you don't want to give Mom a wicked hangover now do you??) but don't go ruining a bottle of Dom Perignon with grapefruit juice, either.

**** I prefer Tillen Farms maraschino cherries, which are made with pure cane sugar and no red dye. Get 'em on Amazon -- it's not too late for Prime shipping!



Antonelli’s and Jordan FTW!

I got to go to a wine and cheese tasting last night. It was amazing. Not only because I was sprung from the house on a weeknight to go do something grown-up,* but also because the wine and cheese, and especially the pairings, were amazing.


* My undying thanks to the hubby for coming home early from work, feeding the little one dinner and putting her to bed… and not even acting like it was a big deal. He is a keeper.

The tasting was hosted by Antonelli’s, an awesome little cheese shop in Hyde Park, and the wines were provided (and mostly paired) by Jordan Winery. How did I get in on this awesome event? I got lucky… literally. The Austin Food Blogger Alliance opened this event to their members on a lottery basis, since there were a limited number of spots, and I was one of the lucky few.

I was psyched to see Elizabeth Van Huffel of Local Savour, Natalie Paramore of Food Fetish, Maggie Louise of Maggie Louise Bakes and Rob Moshein, The Austin Wine Guy (among others) at the event. I love being a part of the Austin food blogger community!

I had never had Jordan wines before last night, but I enjoyed them quite a lot. They pride their wines as more food-friendly than many California wines, and they seem to have hit the mark, judging in particular by how well the Cabernet Sauvignon — not typically seen as a cheese-friendly wine — played with the cheese selections.

cheese plate 2

And, oh, the cheese selections! Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? Jordan only makes two wines — Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The only white was a 2010 Chardonnay (its slightly older sister got some good press recently from California Chardonnay skeptic Jeremy Parzen), and it paired beautifully with a young (first of the season!) and creamy Ste Maure from one of my favorite local producers, Pure Luck Dairy, elevated further by the addition of a dab of lime marmalade.

The other three wines were all Cabernet Sauvignons (from 2009, 2008 and 2003), so we were treated to a vertical tasting. The 2009 paired nicely with Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk, a cheese I am still dreaming about today (and, we were told, one of the only U.S. cheeses currently exported to France). I didn’t try the salumi, obvs, so I missed out on the full impact of the pairing, but that’s cool.

Next up was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, which, along with Onetik’s Ossau-Iraty (erotic cheese!) and a luscious strawberry jam from INNA Jam, was my favorite pairing of the evening. The fresh strawberry flavor really brought out the jaminess in the wine, and the cheese balanced it all out. Good stuff.

Last but not least came the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with an aged Cabot Clothbound and a sublime 74% dark chocolate. I loved the wine — it was probably my stand-alone favorite of the evening. I was not a particular fan of the cheese on its own, and I was on the fence about the pairing until I tried it with the chocolate — and it worked! Shazam.

So, many, many thanks to Antonelli’s, Jordan and AFBA for making such a wonderful evening possible! One of these days, I hope to make it to one of Antonelli’s cheese classes, and I will totally make the drive to Hyde Park for all of my fancy-cheese needs from here on out. Specifically, I need to put in my order for some Ste Maure and Red Hawk, STAT!

2013 Austin City Guide: Where to Buy Wine

I am pleased as punch to be taking part in the the Austin Food Blogger Alliance’s 2013 City Guide. It was right around this time last year that we were moving back to Austin, and the 2012 City Guide really helped me get my bearings, since Austin had grown by leaps and bounds since I last lived here. I’ve spent the past year exploring, and now I’m happy to share my insider knowledge!

AFBA 2013 City Guide


Hi, have we met? I like wine. A lot. Back when I lived in Northern California, I really appreciated being close to California wine country. I did most of my wine-buying either at the wineries themselves (usually fueled by drunken tasting binges), through wine clubs (which I signed up for after drunken tasting binges) or at my favorite local wine merchant (perhaps after a drunken tasting). Naturally, I was anxious about moving back to Texas, where I was unsure what the wine-buying scene would be like. Fortunately, it has evolved quite a bit since I lived here as a college student… or I have evolved, or both. Either way, there are some great choices out there if you know where to look.

Sure, Spec’s or Twin Liquors will serve you just fine as long as you know what you’re looking for in a wine and don’t have anything too obscure or specific in mind. The same goes for Whole Foods and Central Market, each of which have remarkably good wine selections for grocery stores (especially true for the flagship downtown location of Whole Foods). But, I was in search of a great place to buy wine — somewhere with knowledgeable staff, a wide selection and an approachable Texas manner, of course. Here are a few gems that fit the bill.

Best Bets:

east end wines

East End Wines1209 Rosewood Ave.
In addition to a great, eclectic wine selection and staff who knows their stuff, this East Austin shop offers weekly wine tastings and classes, too. Housed in a quaint remodeled Victorian on the same block as Hillside Farmacy and Soma Vida, the shop also features a breezy back patio where you can enjoy your wine on a nice afternoon. The inventory is largely European, but they have a small but well-chosen selection of California and other West Coast wines, as well as offerings from New Zealand, Australia and other “New World” regions. The staff is friendly and free with their wine knowledge, in a non-pretentious, approachable way. They can also get down with their obscure California wine knowledge, so the wine geek in me is just a little bit in love. They convinced me to take home a couple of French wines based on my preferences, so we’ll see what happens. Definitely my personal favorite!


austin wine merchant

The Austin Wine Merchant, 512 W. 6th St. (between San Antonio and Nueces) 
This downtown Austin shop has been around for over two decades, and it’s clear why. The selection is vast, and the staff is helpful and friendly. Their clear focus is on European wine, which doesn’t exactly match my California-honed palate, but they also have a respectable selection of West Coast and other “New World” wines, including a carefully chosen suite of Texas wines. The store itself is rather warehouse-ish, but they also keep an urban garden and offer regular wine tastings — what’s not to love?

Honorable Mentions:

Urban Wine + Liquor, 200 Congress Ave.
A newcomer this year, Urban Wine + Liquor is a breezy, spacious shop (at least by downtown standards) located at Congress and 2nd Street, right in front of the Austonian. It’s convenient to downtown condos and hotels, which would make it a good business bet no matter what, but it also happens to have a helpful staff and a good selection of Texas and international wines. Again with the lack of West Coast selection, though! I shall have to learn to love European wines.

South Lamar Wine & Spirits, 2418 S. Lamar Blvd.
With super-friendly staff and a good selection of bang-for-buck kind of wines (and I am not talking about Yellow Tail, here), I have to include this store in my list, even though I get down to this part of town infrequently. If you’re looking for a specific wine that they don’t stock, just ask, and they’ll do their best to order it for you.

From Gingerbread to Champagne

Merry belated Christmas to you and yours! I had best intentions to stick to a regular posting schedule, but that all went out the window as we bounced from family in town to our own little Christmas celebration. And, let me tell you, Christmas with a 2-year-old is fun, but it is also exhausting.

I made gingerbread the night before Christmas, so we’d have a special breakfast to munch on in the morning (and, let’s face it, a nice, warm snack that evening).


That’s tasty!

Although I recall my grandmother making a mean gingerbread, that recipe is likely lost to the ages, so I used the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated’s Baking Illustrated, and it was predictably delicious. Moist, dense but still fluffy, and nicely spiced. Next time I think I’ll add some crystallized ginger for more of a kick.

Today is Cocktail Thursday, and, alas, I seem to have lost track of my days in the holiday madness, so I don’t have a new cocktail for you this week. But, it also happens to be the Thursday before New Year’s Eve, so the natural choice is, of course, champagne. I’d never dream of drinking anything else on NYE!



If you are in the market for a nice bottle of bubbly to celebrate, I humbly offer my two cents. Veuve Clicquot yellow label is a classic, and predictably good, but also predictably overpriced. In my opinion, it’s about a $30 bottle, so don’t spend much more than that on it. If you have a good wine shop nearby, you may be able to find a bottle of Egly-Ouriet Brut instead, which is a much better value with a similar taste profile. One of my favorite stateside choices for sparkling wine is Schramsberg’s Blanc de Noirs, which I was actually able to score at my local grocery store. Their J. Schram is also flipping fantastic, but more of a splurge.

As far as bang for buck goes, I recommend Chandon’s Blanc de Noirs,* which weighs in about around $20 a bottle. Pretty much all of J Vineyards‘ sparkling wines are brilliant, too.

* I can’t say the same for their more widely available sparklers, as I have never been more hung over in my life than the day after I finished the bar exam and enjoyed (maybe a bit too much) of their Blanc de Blancs. But that’s neither here nor there.

I’m not yet sure what we’ll be toasting with this New Year’s Eve, but you can bet it’ll be one of those bottles.

What are your plans this NYE? Are you planning to crack open a special bottle?

Fusilli with roasted eggplant and goat cheese

I have had to get really creative with eggplant this summer. We get a big haul of it in each CSA box, and I’m just not used to cooking with it much. For one, the hubby was, until fairly recently, not eggplant’s biggest fan. For another, eggplant does really well in the heat, and heat is something we have a lot more of in Texas that we did in Northern California.

Despite the fact that this is the third eggplant pasta recipe I have posted in recent memory, they are all quite different, and this one was delicious. Plus, as I modified it, it used up some leftover caramelized onions, and a handful of cherry tomatoes that I didn’t have another use for, so that’s always a bonus.

Num num.

It was perfect with a nice glass of 2007 Ridge Buchinani Ranch Carignane. There’s nothing like opening a nice bottle of wine to make a weeknight feel special!

Fusilli with Roasted Eggplant and Goat Cheese
Based on this recipe from Food & Wine, January 2010

1 medium eggplant, cubed
4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup cherry tomatoes (optional)
3/4 lb fusilli
2 Tbs pine nuts
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
4 Tbs caramelized onions (optional)
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant and tomatoes (if using) with 2 Tbs of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the eggplant and tomatoes (if using) on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until browned on the bottom. Using a spatula, turn the eggplant, scraping it off the baking sheet (it might break up slightly) and roast for about 5 minutes longer, until very tender.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the fusilli until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a large sauté pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat, tossing frequently, until lightly golden in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pine nuts to a work surface and coarsely chop them.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil in the sauté pan. Add the garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring, until tender, about 1 minute. Add the crushed red pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Add the fusilli, roasted eggplant and tomatoes, caramelized onion (if using), chopped pine nuts, lemon juice and the reserved pasta water and toss over the heat until the pasta is evenly coated. Season the pasta with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Add the parsley and toss. Add the goat cheese and toss gently until the cheese is slightly melted. Spoon the fusilli into bowls and serve.

* We had some caramelized onions left over from our latest grilled pizza adventure, so I just threw them in, but they added a really nice touch. You can always caramelize a small onion to add, if you’re not as lucky as I am to have them already on hand. Just slice the onion thinly, sauté it over medium heat in 1 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs olive oil until it’s softened, and then turn the heat down to low and cook it until it’s meltingly soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Rosé sangria

I love a nice glass of rosé on a hot summer night. However, like most wine snobs, I am really picky about my rosés. I love love love Sokol Blosser’s Rosé of Pinot Noir, which they release every spring, and Riverbench does a nice pinot rosé, too, but please, for goodness sake, don’t offer me a glass of White Zinfandel. Blech.

Until we put in a couple of case orders from our favorite wineries, though, we were stuck with a grocery store selection, and hubby came home with a bottle a while back that I turned my nose up at. We compromised by making sangria out of it.

That’ll do.

What a compromise it was. It was the perfect pre-dinner drink to enjoy out on the back porch with our guests while dinner was on the grill. Cheers to the official start of summer!

Rose Sangria

1 bottle of rosé wine*
12 oz sparkling water
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1 peach, sliced
juice of one orange
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher with ice. Stir well and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Enjoy!

* It should be drinkable, but not too expensive. Just don’t go with terribly cheap swill.

Our last First Friday

Now it’s time for me to wax nostalgic about Ridge, our favorite winery. It’s also a local winery, since they are only 15 minutes away from us* up in the Cupertino foothills.

*From where we used to live… *sniff*

First Friday lineup.

We are members of their ATP Club, so we’re often seen at Ridge’s First Friday events, tasting some spectacular wines and sampling whatever Christopher has cooked up, which this month was a fabulous Toasted Sesame Oil-Basted Grilled Tempeh topped with Tahini-Tamari Sauce.


The tempeh paired so well with the wines, and the sauce was a little bit of heaven. I’m not usually a big fan of “fake meat,” but this was so good I just may have to try it myself soon.

This was the last First Friday we’ll be able to just drive up the road to attend, and that makes me more than a little sad. Not only do they make fantastic wines, but the Monte Bello tasting room is situated in a jaw-droppingly beautiful spot.

What? Am I in your way or something?

The folks in the tasting room are all extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and they have really created a nice little community of wine lovers here. I will miss that a lot. But, at least we’ll still get our wine shipments in Texas. Now I just have to talk to Christopher about how he’s going to get me samples of each month’s culinary offering…

Mushroom ragout

After venturing into the crawl space under our house (which serves as an additional wine cellar for us*) to pull out the wines to be drunk in 2012, the hubby was all excited to crack open a bottle of Ridge 2003 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

*I realize that this is totally ghetto, but we have a wine buying habit with which our storage space just can’t keep up. We tested the temperature during the hottest part of the summer, and it stays cool down there, so why not?

In honor of the occasion, I set off on a search to come up with a vegetarian dish that would pair well with the wine. I found it in a recipe for wild mushroom ragout (which I was easily able to vegetarian-ize) that I served over slices of fried quinoa polenta with a salad. It was excellent, and the pairing was amazing.

Good stuff.

The hubby pronounced it “grand,” so I know it was a hit. The original recipe says it freezes well for later use, so this is something I will definitely make again in a bigger batch.

Wild Mushroom Ragout
Based on this recipe

1 lb mixed fresh wild mushrooms**
1 Tbs unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp Better Than Boullion mushroom base (optional)
1/3 cup cream
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Tbsp chopped chives

Trim the mushrooms, reserving the stems for another use.*** Slice the larger caps and leave smaller caps intact.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid. Add the stock and cook for about 5 more minutes. Stir in the mushroom base, if using, and cream, and cook until it starts to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. Add thyme and chives, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over polenta or pasta, finishing off with a light dusting of grated parmesan or gruyère.

** I used an 8-oz “Chef’s Sampler” pack of gourmet mushrooms, supplemented with sliced cremini mushrooms.

*** I’m saving mine for either a small batch of mushroom stock, or to throw into vegetable stock (where it adds a nice depth of flavor).


I love Thanksgiving. It’s such a pure, joyful holiday, and everyone in our country celebrates it, unless they’re a real curmudgeon. It’s not marred by gifts or commercialism — it’s just about being thankful, and eating a feast of fantastic fall food.* What could be better?

*Unintentional alliteration, woo!

I am so thankful this year. I am thankful for this time I have to devote to my little family — that I’m able to really relish it and appreciate it. I am thankful for a bright, bubbly, energetic, beautiful, often infuriating, and spirited daughter who is about to turn one. I am thankful for a devoted and caring husband who is also an amazing father. I am thankful for so much I can’t even name it all, but those are the biggies. Sometimes it’s good just to take time out to appreciate what you have, and that’s why I love Thanksgiving.

Since it is cocktail Thursday, even if it is an extra-special Thursday, I have the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail to share: mulled wine sangria.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This would be great as a pre-dinner drink, since it’s autumnal, and not too strong (which is helpful in preventing those tipsy dinner table debates). Enjoy!

Mulled Wine Sangria
Adapted from this recipe

1 (750 mL) bottle merlot or other red wine, chilled and divided
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp whole allspice
1/4 tsp whole cloves
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 (3 x 1 inch) strip orange rind
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (from one large orange)
1/2 orange, thinly sliced and cut in half
club soda

Place allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and orange rind in cheesecloth and tie securely into a sachet. Combine 1 cup wine, brown sugar, and sachet in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool. Discard sachet and pour mixture into a pitcher, and add remaining 3 cups wine. Chill thoroughly. Add juice and orange slices. Pour into glasses and top off with club soda.

The perfect table wine

Our quarterly shipment from Rancho Sisquoc showed up yesterday, bearing, among other things, a bottle of Sisquoc River Red. And so, I was inspired to sing the praises of this, my all-time favorite affordable-ish wine.


This is the bottle I don’t feel guilty opening on a weeknight or with a pizza. It’s what I’d consider our “house red” — a nice fallback choice when I’m not jonesing for anything else in particular. That’s not to say it isn’t a great wine in its own right — it’s just a great go-to wine, and not too guilt-inducing to open at around $15 a bottle.

I first discovered Sisquoc River Red on our annual bike-and-wine trip to Santa Barbara wine country. Rancho Sisquoc was our third or fourth stop on a ride along Foxen Canyon Road. You turn off the main road, speed down a gentle hill into a big, green valley, and there it is, like a shady little oasis. I love how laid-back Santa Barbara wineries tend to be, and this one is no exception. The wine is good, everyone is nice, and there is a winery cat. What more could you want?

Hubby and I both fell in love with the Sisquoc River Red, which, if memory serves me, was unbelievably priced at around $10 a bottle at that point. It’s a Bordeaux blend, and very smooth and food-friendly. It has oak, but not too much, it’s fruity, but not too fruity, and has just the right hint of spiciness to it. In short, it’s just about perfect as a table wine.

Since we were on bikes, we didn’t buy any right then, but we made sure to come back the next day and get a case to take home. Since then, buying a case has been an annual tradition on our trip, since we haven’t been able to find it distributed anywhere close to home.

When we took a trip down with Nora earlier this year, we not only bought a case of the Sisquoc River Red, we ended up joining their wine club to sample a little more of what they have on offer. Their other wines are good, but, for my money, nothing tops the Sisquoc River Red.


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