Friday, August 31, 2007

Best Dog



Paws and Pours; a wedding story.
A little post about how wine and dogs or rather, Paws and Pours, is not just the name of my blog, it was pretty much the theme of our recent wedding.

It all started with our first date, over a glass of wine at Tapino. A few dates at the dog park followed. Then, the proposal, which was done over a personalized bottle of wine. Personalized with a picture of Chase on the label (a red wine to go with the red golden retriever). You see, Scott's a very clever man. He knew the way to my heart was through #1) wine and, #2) getting the dog on his side.

Planning a wedding ensued. Once we decided on an outdoor wedding, I knew that Chase had to be a part of it. He would be the "Best Dog." Looking quite handsome in his bow tie collar, he even spoke up a few times during the ceremony.


Being that there is always a breeze on the side of the mountain where we had the ceremony, we opted for unity sand rather than the traditional unity candle. We poured the sand out of two mini wine decanters into one wine glass. To continue our vino theme a bit further, the guest received take home wine bottle stoppers that had a stainless steel heart on top. Chase retired early and did not stay for the drinking and dancing that followed.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Happy Hour

 

After a long week, Friday nights typically find me going out with "the girls" for happy hour. It is a nice time to get together over cocktails and catch up.

But, every now and again, I find myself craving a Friday night at home with the two, o.k...maybe three, loves of my life. Scott, Chase, and wine. So, this particular Friday evening we took Chase, frisbee in tow, down to the field for a quick run. As you can see from the photo, Chase is enjoying happy hour with his favorite pour...

Instead of the traditional happy hour munchies that I might have at various spots around Phoenix, Scott and I wanted to relax by enjoying some wine, and cooking a nice meal together. This recipe, adapted from Cooking Light, is something I had been wanting to try for awhile. Finding the dried morel mushrooms proved tougher than I anticipated. Thus, after finding them for $12.99 per half ounce at AJ's, I thought I would use half shitake and half morels. We also substituted green beans for the asparagus, because, let's face it, asparagus is also not easy to find in mid August. Served over hot pasta, this dish was definately a treat. The only thing I would change next time (and there will be a next time,) would be to up the "sauce." Perhaps a little more of the sherry and chicken broth, in addition to a little extra whipping cream. Believe me, you'll want to lick your plate!


Chicken Scallopini with Morels and Spring Vegetables
adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 ounce dried morels (I used 1/2 ounce morels and 1/2 ounce shitake mushrooms)
4 (4 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp. porcini powder (or substitute more flour) (I just ground dried porcinis in the coffee grinder)
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup (1 in.) sliced asparagus
1 cup fresh or frozen petite green peas, thawed
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
2 TB chopped fresh chives
1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon

Bring chicken broth and sherry to a boil in a small saucepan; add dried morels. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving soaking liquid. Rinse mushrooms and drain.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of heavy duty plastic wrap; pount to 1/4 inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour/porcini powder mixture. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add chicken; cook 1 minute on each side or until golden. Remove from pan.

Add mushroom soaking liquid and asparagus to pan; cook until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Add chicken, peas, and remaining ingredients to pan; cook 5 minutes or until sauce thickens.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

San Diego Booty

A weekend of fun in the sun in wonderful San Diego provided some much needed relief from the relentless heat of Scottsdale. The primary goal of the trip (besides wine of course) was to enjoy the beaches and explore more of San Diego County. We had some awesome meals at restaurants (thanks to Kirsten and my friend Jon for the recommendations) in the area. Highlights include an awesome meal (with an extremely good waiter -- too hard to find these days) at George's at the Cove in LaJolla -- the watermelon gazpacho with crab was amazing. The coffee and cookies from Stephanie's Bakery in Ocean Beach are not to be missed (and were worth a second trip). Del Mar was also a culinary feast, with the coffee at Java Kai and Sbicca Bistro being some of our favorites.

While San Diego is known for its restaurants, one of our favorite things is to take advantage of the good local produce. Unlike Phoenix, where nothing grows in the summer, San Diego's weather provides numerous opportunities for farmer's markets -- there were at least 3 to choose from every day. We took advantage of the market in Solano Beach on Sunday. While Chase was (unfortunately) not as welcome as we would have liked, we still managed explore the market. Nearly full from all the samples, we managed to narrow down our purchases to a few choice items. Our favorites were the peaches and pluots, even better than the ones we had in San Francisco a few weeks ago.

Of course, Paws and Pours wouldn't be complete without some mention of Chase and of wine. Chase decided that the drive to San Diego was actually worth all the headache as he frolicked on the beach. We met some great dogs (and owners too) at the Dog Beach in Ocean Beach. Chase's newfound love of salt water, surf, and curiousity about surfboards made the trip all worth while. Away from the beach, Chase's "California Lovin'" continued, as he decided that everyone at our hotel was going to be his friend, like it or not. Oh, and about those beds at the Sheraton -- they were up to Chase's standards.




Always a sucker to try something new, we decided it was time to try something with squash blossoms. While the guy at the market leaned towards a tempura battering for the squash blossoms, we couldn't bring ourselves to cover up that great natural taste. What better way to let the natural excellence shine through than with a salad? Completed by the organic arugula and figs also purchased that day. I stuffed the squash blossoms with goat cheese and threw some shaved fennel and red onion over the greens as well.

The salad paired perfectly with the Red Truck Syrah. A great value Syrah from Cline, which is usually more known for it's zins.


Here is what I did for the salad:

FIG AND ARUGULA SALAD WITH GOAT CHEESE STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS

2 cups arugula leaves
about 6 fresh figs, halved
1/4 cup thinly sliced fennel
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup goat cheese

your favorite homemade balsamic vinaigrette

Stuff the squash blossoms with goat cheese. Divide ingredients between 2 plates, drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Heading to the Dog Beach!

 

After the past few weeks of scorching temperatures, we have had enough! So, dog and cooler in tow, we are heading to San Diego for weekend. Chase will be in for a treat, as he is a typical Golden Retriever, and loves to be in the water. We plan to take him to San Diego's Dog Beach for some fun and frolicking in the ocean. At home, he has to settle for the little kiddy pool we bought at the grocery store.

Other than spoil the dog, we are looking foward to browsing the Farmer's Markets in the area and relaxing on the beach.

Chase isn't the only one that is already in vacation mode. I finished work a bit early and decided that a dry rose would be a nice way to kick off the weekend. This is one that I picked up at Whole Foods last summer. At about $10, it was one of the best dry roses I've had in awhile. Hailing from Argentina, this organic rose of malbec, had just the right amount of fruit and acidity to be refreshing. It is not sweet, but not as dry as a rhone style rose. It made the perfect late afternoon apertif and makes packing much more fun!
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A New Wine and Asian Halibut with Forbidden Rice


Saturday I had lunch with 2 of my favorite local bloggers, Kirsten and Christine. After lunch, we went food shopping, of course! One of the things I picked up was some lovely fresh halibut. I knew that I wanted to do something that would showcase the fresh fish, but in a way that I could also use some of the Black Forbidden Rice that I found in San Francisco.
Scott suggested we cook the fish en papillote, which is a fancy way of saying, wrapped in parchment paper packets. I love the moistness that this preparation method gives to fish when grilled. I marinated it for about an hour before we put in the parchment packets. I played around with adding ingredients that would give it an Asian flare. Using such healthy ingredients, I thought it should be called the Antioxidant Asian Halibut.

The black forbidden rice was done in the rice cooker with 2 parts green tea, to 1 part rice.

And now, on to the wine. I have always enjoyed the Rosenblum reds. I love their jammy zin, not to mention their petite syrah! But,I've never paid much attention to their white varietals. A couple of weeks ago, while strolling the aisles of BevMo, I found this bottle. I asked the gentleman that was stocking the shelf behind me what it was. He explained it was a blend of viognier, roussanne and sauvignon blanc. Since I really enjoy viogniers, I was intrigued. I have to admit, before I opened the bottle on Sunday afternoon, I was skeptical. It might be a bit heavy or aromatic for the dinner I had planned. I took one for the team and poured a glass for myself. (The things I do - sacrifices, sacrifices!) It was perfect. Just enough floral undertones to remind you of the viognier, but less heavy - from the addition of the sauvignon blanc. Not only would it match the meal, but hit the spot on this record breaking hot day.
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"Antioxidant Asian Fish"
2 6 oz pieces of fresh halibut, (or mahi mahi, snapper, swordfish, cod, etc.)
1/4 cup brewed green tea
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. mild white miso
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
2-3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 -2 tsp. finely chopped shallots
black or white sesame seeds - for garnish
chopped cilantro and green onions - for garnish

Marinate the fish in the first 7 ingredients. Put one fillet in each parchment packet and top with some of the marinade. Fold up and grill for approx. 10-15 minutes over medium high heat. (If you prefer not to do en papillote, put in an aluminum foil pan and cover with a piece of aluminum foil, adjust cooking time appropriately.) Garnish with additional sesame seeds, green onion and cilantro.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Perfect Napa afternoon

When the heat of Arizona's summer gets to much to handle, Scott and I like to take a long weekend and head out of town. Awhile back, we took a trip to Napa for some wine tasting and relaxation. Scott's aunt works in the wine business, and had invited us to a company picnic at the winery. Unwinding from a busy week, we sat out in picnic fashion under fig trees, drank delicious wines, and snacked on various munchies. Life is good...our biggest decision was where to have dinner that night.

The next day we met up with Scott's aunt, and headed to Opus One.
Normally, a tasting at this winery is $25, but because we were with someone "in the business," we got in free. (Keep in mind, this isn't like other wineries, a tasting is one taste of their renowned Cab.) It was a lovely Sunday morning, so we took our glasses and headed up to the top patio. Our senses were overwhelmed, as we took in the view, the sound of birds singing in the background, the cool breeze,and the rich aromas of the lovely cabernet we were sipping. With this surrounding, how could the wine be anything but fabulous?


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Saturday, August 11, 2007

New Kids on the Blog

I 've been wanting to begin a blog for awhile as a way to "show off" all the photos we take of our golden retriever, Chase. When we are not talking about, playing with, or generally being entertained by the dog, we enjoy cooking (and eating) and wine. So, mostly I will write about food we cook and wine we drink, but I will occasionally throw in some doggie pics as well. Bear with me, as my food photos will be a work in progress.

My husband, Scott, and I enjoy cooking together. Most of our creations are a joint effort, or as I like to say, he is my 'sous chef.' Our creativity is directly related to how much wine we are drinking while we cook.

I have always been a bit intimidated by scallops. I love to eat them, but was nervous about cooking them. The trepidation of turning beautiful seafood into rubber was something that led me to walk away from the seafood counter. I decided I needed to conquer that. I am no longer a scallop cooking virgin! Here is a dish that was inspired by a dish I had at one of my favorite restaurants in Tucson Arizona. I didn't do the original dish justice, as it was not nearly as tasty. I am happy to report that while I didn't have a recipe, the scallops were cooked perfectly - not rubbery at all.

POMEGRANATE SEARED SCALLOPS WITH EDAMAME RISOTTO

Since I had not planned on "blogging" this when I made it, there really isn't a recipe. I sauteed lightly salt and peppered scallops over med high heat in olive oil. Meanwhile, Scott was making a basic risotto recipe, with the addition of a handful of frozen, shelled edammame. We layed the scallops atop of the risotto and drizzled with some pomegranate molasses. On the side, broccoli, carrots,and shitake mushrooms lightly sauteed.

We had this with a Bogle Pinot Noir.