Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween is almost upon us, spooky, fun , awesome Halloween. When you are a kid it is second only to Christmas – your chance to be someone or something else for one night, limited only by your parents ability to say no to you. I remember the year my mom made me an amazing pink poodle skirt. I wore a white turtle neck, little white socks with lace tops, and my hair was in a curly pony tail with a pink bandanna. I was rocking it – absolutely rocking it. Add to that the pillow case filled with free candy, the chance to go out on a school night (at least every couple of years). Halloween was awesome as a kid.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Jack O' Lanterns

As an adult, though, the act of celebrating Halloween is no longer about dressing up and being someone else – not for me at least. I have no desire to be around people who dress like “sexy” pizza slices (seriously, how is that even a thing!?!?) and don’t know how to hold their drink. Now, I love Halloween because it is the night I watch Hocus Pocus and hand out treats to the new generation of super heroes, witches, ghosts, and princesses. I love seeing all of the incredibly creative costumes and excited children.

I also love decorating for Halloween, especially carving jack-o-lanterns. In addition to creating awesome displays for my front porch, a night of pumpkin carving gives me one of the best fall snacks a person can hope for – roasted pumpkin seeds, aka pepitas. Spicy, salty, or sweet – I can eat pumpkin seeds (hull and all) by the handful, so it is a good thing they are easy to make. Tom makes the best pepitas using butter, olive oil, and seasonings, so I make him do all of the work. You can follow his simple steps to make your own this Halloween.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 2

How To Roast Perfect Pumpkin Seeds
Recipe based on 1 cup of raw pumpkin seeds

1)     Clean your fresh pumpkin seeds until they are completely clean of all pumpkin guts. Place the seeds in a large bowl and cover with cool tap water and agitate the water to help clean the seeds, picking off large piece of pumpkin meat as you go. Strain using a colander and repeat at least once more.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Clean the seeds 1 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - clean the seeds 2 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - clean the seeds 3

2)     Once the seeds are meticulously cleaned boil the seeds in well salted water. Bring a large sauce pan of salted water to a roiling boil, add the cleaned pumpkin seeds, and cook for 2  minutes. We use approximately 1 quart of water and ½ tablespoon of salt per cup of pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - boil the seeds

3)     Drain and dry pumpkin seeds. Drain pumpkin seeds using a large colander, tossing a couple of times to shake of excess water. Spread seeds out on a clean flour sack or tea towel and pat dry.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - dry the seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - dry the seeds 2

4)    Season and oil  the pumpkin seeds. Place dried seeds in a bowl and drizzle with a mixture of 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil (per 1 cup of pepitas).  Mix the seeds well with the oil, ensuring all seeds are well coated.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - butter the seeds 1

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - butter the seeds 2

Spread the seeds out on a rimmed cookie sheet and season as desired. We used onion and garlic powder, fresh pepper, and seasoned salt.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - season the seeds 2
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - season the seeds 1

5)    Bake at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. Stir seeds about half way through the cooking time. Seeds are done when the outer hull is crunchy and easy to bite through.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - stir the seeds

6)     Eat! Or cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. They are good right out of the tupperware, but we like to pop them in the oven for 2 minutes at 350ºF to warm them up.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 1

Chrysalis Vineyards – How We Fell in Love With Virginia Wine

Chrysalis_Entrance SignHow do I begin this post? I mean, you read the title. Lots of expectations from lots of people on this one.  So where to start…okay, how about this? Emilie and I absolutely love Chrysalis Vineyards.  Yes, yes, we love lots of Virginia wineries, but there are two that I would call our “hang out” wineries.  These two “hang-out” wineries are places we regularly visit with the intent to spend the whole day at rather than, let’s say a winery crawl or a wine bus tour. Chrysalis Vineyards is one of those two wineries.

I first came across Chrysalis in 2009 when  Emilie and our friend Yusef introduced me to Virginia wine and the great Virginia weekend pastime of winery hopping.  Every year Yusef throws a semi-annual cook-out at Chrysalis to herald in the key winery seasons: spring and fall.  When I received my invitation,Chrysalis_E and R 2009 my first reaction was, “Virginia has wineries? How could I have not known this?” I mean, everyone at Total Wine greets me by name.  Then, “Can I wear a sun-dress?” LOL!   On the day of the party, though, driving down the one lane road along side a steep drop-off I didn’t want to roll my car down set me a little on edge. However, when the vineyards opened in front of me with all the tasting tents and the picnic blankets strewn on the grassy hills, I knew it was going to be an awesome day.

Chrysalis_pavillion shot 2009You all know from our reviews that Virginia has many, many delicious wines and fabulous wineries.  So how did we make the difficult choice of actually labeling one a “favorte”?  Well, the things that keep us coming back to spend the day at Chrysalis are also the things Emilie and I feel set it apart from the other wineries. For example, they can handle pretty large groups without requiring a reservation  or ruining the experience of smaller parties (However, Chrysalis does recommend reservations for tasting groups of 10 or greater).  They are able to do this, because they Chrysalis_Tasting Tents(currently) have several tasting tents set up. Tastings take place at certain times and when you pay for your tasting you are assigned a time and a tent. At Yusef’s Herald of Spring party, we paid for and attended tastings on our own (meaning smaller groups) in between mingling and eating and drinking wine.  I’m pretty sure Emilie and I did three tastings that day…first to introduce me to all of the Chrysalis wines…second to remind me which ones I wanted to buy and take home…and third because the wine expert at our second tasting thought Emilie and I were an absolute trip and invited us to the next tasting on the house.

What’s next?  Oh, how about the gas grills!  You may have picked up on weekend picnics at wineries being a thing here in Virginia.  Not hard to imagine as many wineries offer fabulous vistas for your picnic blanket.  However, very few offer Chrysalis_vines and fieldsfood. Maybe you’ll find a baguette or crackers and sometimes wedges of cheese and some sliced charcuterie.  Even fewer actually have built in gas grills available to their guests and at no cost or reservation.  In fact, I can’t recall any other winery that even has grills. (Maybe Casanel, but I’d have to check on that).  I think you  can imagine how many more new friends you might make with juicy burgers and plump hotdogs…or how many bottles of wine strangers will offer as a trade!

There is so much more, but the last I will mention is one near and dear to true die-hard Virginia wine fans.  Chrysalis vineyards is a huge proponent of Norton grape wines; Norton being the only native American grape that can successfullyChrysalis_2003 winning Norton create a single varietal wine with vitis vinifera like characteristics (Other American grapes, like the Muscadine, make very different style wines from those made with the European varietals and their hybrids).   In my tasting notes below you’ll hear about  several Norton and Norton blended wines Chrysalis produces. Also, the next time you are in D.C., be sure to check out the Virginia/Norton/Chrysalis shout out in the Food: Transforming the American Table exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (You know you want to see Julia Child’s kitchen anyway!)

Of course you can have all this stuff going for your winery, but the most important thing is your wine. Therefore, with out further adieu,  may I present to you my tasting notes from my most recent visit to Chrysalis, which took place earlier this month during my “Herald of Virginia Wine Month” winery crawl.

White Wines

2013 Albariño Verde - I was soooo super excited to see this wine on the tasting list!  It’s one of my favorite whites. Until this year, the only other Virginia winery I had come across that had an albariño was Willowcroft (located in Leesburg), but at the time they didn’t have it available for tasting. Chrysalis did Chrysalis_Tasting Sheetnot disappoint with this Portuguese style verde.  The wine’s zesty, lemony nose and crisp acidity will remind you of a Pinot Grigio.

2012 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay – Predominately Chardonnay with 5% albariño for aromatics (albariño can have stone fruit and floral aromas similar to Viognier), this wine is a good balance between oak and fruit, just like the winery’s tasting sheet claims. With a light, peachy nose, it has nice lemon flavors and a very light oakiness.  If you are a white wine lover and the Albariño Verde was too zippy for you, the Chardonnay will probably be more your style. For an oaked white, I found it very enjoyable.

2012 Private Reserve White – Only available for sale to club members (Emilie used to be my “in”), the Private Reserve labels are small quantity, high quality blends.  I’m not sure what grapes were used for this white blend, but from the peach and apple nose, I’d guess Viognier and/or Traminette  made the cut. From the body, vanilla,  and feint citrus I’d also take a guess at Chardonnay. Of course, Chrysalis is always experimenting with the different varietals and with over 20 types grown in the vineyards, i’m sure there are one or two other grapes Chrysalis_Welcome Signplaying in this wine.

2012 Viognier – For non-club members like me, the Viognier is similar to the Private Reserve White, but with more peach. Chrysalis chose to focus on the fruit than floral nature of this varietal. Though you’ll get a little bit of pretty fruit blossoms, the Viognier has crisp acidity balanced out by a light oak. Think candied lemon rind and vanilla.

Rosé Wines

2012 Mariposa – This dry rosé style wine is a blend of four varietals, including the Norton which lends its deep fruity character to give this wine a little bit o’ something that typical rosés lack.  You’ll still get the strawberry flavors, but with deeper body and a bit of tart cherry.

Semi-sweet Wines

2013 Sarah’s Patio White – This semi-sweet white blend is made from Vidal Blanc and Traminette grapes.  You’ll smell the fruit blossoms from the Traminette and taste the juicy tropical fruits from the Vidal Blanc.  I was excited to actually taste the pineapple ( I LOVE PINEAPPLE!!!), as wines like this are more likely to lean towards the less acidic tones bananas and mangoes.

2013 Sarah’s Patio Red - Emilie and I always have this wine on hand in our wine racks.  We also always buy a bottle to enjoy on the grounds at the “Herald of Spring” and Herald of Fall” picnics our friend Yusef hosts. This wine is 100%Chrysalis_Smithsonian Exhibit 2 Norton, a grape native to North America. Unlike other American grapes, such as muscadine, niagra, and concord,  Norton grapes can produce a dry, red wine similar to vitis vinifera grapes. This Norton, however, is a semi-sweet wine, and so the winemakers pulled out the jammy, fruitiness of the Norton. It has a bold grapiness with dried cherry and raisin.  Though sweet, it is not cloyingly sweet. Served chilled, this is a summer crowd pleaser for both red and white wine drinkers.

Red Wines

2011 Estate Bottled Norton – Now here is what sets a Norton apart from wines made from other American grapes.  If you have ever tasted a muscadine Chrysalis_Smithsonian Exhibit 1wine when visiting the South, for example, you’ll notice that they are typically sweet, but more distinctly that the wine has this musky characteristic.  The term commonly used is “foxy”. Some Nortons do maintain this “foxiness”, but Chrysalis is one of the Virginia wineries taking the lead on musk free Norton wines. Don’t believe me? Visit the Smithsonian U.S. History Museum where Chrysalis and their work with the Norton is featured in the Food: Transforming the American Table exhibit. (Horton Vineyards makes a very good Norton, too).  The 2011 Estate Bottled Norton has a complex nose of dried fruit, but tobacco and spice. It is a medium bodied wine with bright cherry, pepper, and tobacco.  I thought it had a nice, clean earthy nuance in the finish.  Of course I brought this one home with me.

2011 Rubiana – A beautiful garnet color, this wine is made from Tinta Cão, varietal from Portugal.  Though still a medium bodied wine like the Norton, the Rubiana moves more to spice than fruit.  This is a nice, smokey spicy wine with bright red cherry.  On the nose you’ll even smell chocolate! Though we didChrysalis_Behind Sarah Patio not do any food pairings, I have a feeling that a piece of dark chocolate will show you a whole new side of mellower, smooooooth Rubiana.

2010 Tannat – 80% Tannat, this wine also has a little bit of Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, and even a surprise: 4% Viognier. We getting a bit bolder as we move along. That spice and smoke we got in the Rubiana now takes center stage.  You’ll get vanilla, spice, oak, and a little bit of coffee in this wine, which ends in an earthy finish.  This wine will definitely pair well with meals, especially roasted meats and vegetables.

2012 Papillon - Mostly a blend of Bordeaux grapes, the Papillon also has a little bit of Norton to lend some of its potent fruitiness and structure. Though the nose is deep with dark fruit, underneath is another bold, spicy red wine with hints of roasted coffee and pencil shavings (i.e. oak and minerals for those that Chrysalis_growing vinesthink pencil shavings sound weird lol).

2012 Locksley Reserve Norton – Chrysalis’ flagship Norton is another dry style, “fox-free” wine.  Mostly Norton, this reserve is blended with Tannat, Petit Verdot, and Nebbiolo which creates quite a complex wine that packs a bold punch that reminds me of some California reds.  Firm tannins give this a clean, earthy taste that ends in a smooth caramelized vanilla finish.  If left to age, I think this wine will take on more spice and vanilla. This will likely be your  red wine lover’s favorite!

 

Post Script:

Chrysalis is opening a new and modernized tasting room in the Dec/Jan time frame.  The current tasting room I described in my post will likely only be available either by reservation or only for VIPs such as wine club members. I am not sure what the Chrysalis_New Tasting Roomowners plan to do. However, the tasting room manager shared pictures of the new facility and it is gorgeous! It has an awesome view of the mountains and lots of outdoor decks, patios, tables, and grass to enjoy the view from.  The creamery that I heard about in 2009 is finally going to open, and will be located in the basement.  Also, the new facility has BATHROOMS.  Yes, this is very important.  Most wineries do not have bathrooms and, just as Chrysalis currently does, must set up porta potties.  Bathrooms are a major plus in this girl’s book!

 
 

~Ruth

Wine Tasting in Fredericksburg

For most of my life, Fredericksburg has had only one meaning – a city in Virginia, known for its proximity to great vineyards and rich history, where I attended college, and met the best friend and blogging partner a woman could ask for. So it wasn’t surprising when, a two weekends ago, Tom surprised by telling me we were going to Fredericksburg on Saturday. Turns out that Texas has its own Fredericksburg, about an hour and a half west of Austin. 

Fredericksburg, Tx Library

The Fredericksburg, Tx library, also the former courthouse.

Fredericksburg, Tx Library plaque

We arrived in Fredericksburg early, around 11am. and found parking at the Visitor Center off of Lincoln Street, behind the National Pacific War Museum. Main Street is lined with dozens and dozens of shops including gourmet food stores, antique shops, clothing stores, and more.  It was Oktoberfest weekend, so it was pretty busy, and more than once we left a shop quickly, tired of fighting the crowd inside. Despite that, I was able to find a great necklace – very similar to something I’d been lusting after for months – at a quarter of the price!  I’m still pretty proud of that.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 2

In addition to great people watching and shopping Fredericksburg, Tx, is ideally situated for a day of wine tasting. It is surrounded by vineyards, with about half a dozen on U.S. Route 290 between Austin and Fredericksburg alone. Several of those vineyards have opened tasting rooms in store fronts on Main Street in Fredericksburg, making it even easier to experience several great Texas wineries while exploring the city. The first tasting room Tom and I stopped in was also my favorite, so much so that I went back to buy a few bottles of wine at the end of our trip.

The Grape Creek Vineyards tasting room is on the corner of Main and Lincoln Streets, and is one of 2 satellite tasting rooms the vineyard manages, in addition to their vineyard tasting room. As it was one of our first stops, we were able to beat the crowds, so it was quiet and easy to chat with Debbie, behind the tasting counter. For $12 you can select 6 of 14 wines to taste, although Debbie kindly let me taste one extra wine – making my total tasting 7 wines.

2012 Cabernet Trois: As the name hints, this medium-bodied wine combines 3 Cabernet grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Ruby Cabernet – resulting in  a rich nose of leather and cedar wood. It is a smooth wine with notes of ripe cherries and warm fall spices. I loved this wine and can’t wait to sip while sitting by the fire on a cold winters night (Austin has those? Right??Please tell me they do…).

Grape Creek Vineyard, 3

2012 Mosaic: This was the last wine I tasted, but my second favorite after the Cabernet Trois.  It is rich full-bodied Bordeaux-style wine that would pair beautifully with a steak and Gorgonzola sauce. It smelled like chocolate and cherries with a light grassy undertone and had tasting notes of dark chocolate, cloves, and ripe berries.

2013 Viognier: This was the only white wine I tried from Grape Creek Vineyard, and I’m glad I did. A 97 point Double Gold winning wine at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition, this is a crisp dry wine with balanced acidity that would pair well with a light cream pasta like shrimp scampi. It has a lovely floral nose and tastes of honeyed peaches with a bright lemon finish.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 1

2012 Rendezvous: This wine, with a sweet floral nose, is a combination of Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, and white Viognier wines in the Rhone Valley style. It was a soft, dry wine with plum and cherry flavors that would pair well with a slightly acidic tomato sauce.

2012 Cabernet/Syrah: I had not originally chosen this wine as one of my six, but my tasting guide, Debbie, insisted I give it a try. Like the Viognier, the Cabernet/Syrah did very well at the San Francisco International Wine Competition where it placed best in class for Cabernet/Syrah blends and also received a double gold medal. It’s complicated wine rich with flavors of plums and pepper.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 7

2012 Petite Syrah: This wine, with its nose of blueberries and cinnamon, is a jammy rustic wine that would pair well with lamb and rosemary roasted potatoes.

2012 Bellissimo:  This blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is a Tuscan style wine with warm vanilla notes, oak, and ripe cherries.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 6

October, as we all know is Virginia Wine Month, but it is also Texas Wine Month, so if you get a chance, be sure to get out and give it a try!

 

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts

“Everything is bigger in Texas.”

Including my new digs here in Austin. For the same price I was paying for a 400 sq. ft. 1-bedroom apartment in D.C., I am now renting a 3-bedroom duplex with a backyard and a garage. We have so much space, I am going to get a craft room – and Tom agreed to it!  It is all pretty fabulous and I am in love with our new place.

Living in Texas - Living Room Living in Texas - Dining Room

Moving from a tiny galley style kitchen with maybe 2 square feet of counter space to my new spacious kitchen (with a dishwasher!) is the best part of the new house. Precious counter space that once belonged to an ever present stack of drying dishes has been given to my KitchenAide mixer. Now it is always close at hand and easy to use in a moments notice. Recipes that involve half a dozen bowls are no longer daunting because those dishes just go into the dishwasher – no more hours of cleaning. I am having a bit of trouble re-learning how to use an electric stove and I may have burned a few batches of bacon, but I’ll figure it out soon enough, I just have to keep practicing.

Living in Texas - Kitchen

After finally unpacking my cooking supplies, I decided to celebrate my new kitchen by getting my hands dirty making my first from scratch meal. No more frozen pizza for me! My first dish in the new kitchen needed to be something fun, not too difficult (I was tired after all that unpacking), and hearty (to fuel a long night of organizing my walk-in closet). By combining Hungarian noodles and cabbage with Italian pasta carbonara, I came up with this fabulous dish of noodles, shaved Brussels sprouts, bacon, and poached eggs. A rustic, satisfying pasta carbonara with veggies thrown in for good measure.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts v 3

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts
2-4 servings

4 cups shredded brussel sprouts (see Recipe Notes)
½ pound uncooked pasta (see Recipe Notes)
1 large shallot, minced
salt and fresh ground pepper
¼ pound of medium thickness bacon
4 eggs
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼  shredded Parmesan cheese + more for serving

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - prep the veggies

1)      Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil for the pasta. Once at a roiling boil, cook pasta according to package directions. Also place a large, wide pan or pot with about 3 inches of water on medium-low to bring it to a simmer (I like to use my large soup pot).

2)     In a large heavy bottomed skillet fry bacon to desired crispness and remove to a paper towel lined plate. Pour off some of the bacon grease, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons in the pan. Make sure you save the extra bacon grease in case you need a bit more.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - fry the bacon

3)     Add minced shallot to pan and cook for 1 minute. Add shredded brussels sprouts and toss to coat in the bacon grease. Sauté brussels sprouts for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that they do not burn, but not so frequently that they don’t brown in places.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - saute Brussels sprouts

4)     At this point your poaching water should be simmering, add about 4 teaspoons of white wine vinegar to the water and, using your preferred method (like the one described here) poach your four eggs. I use 2 eggs per dish for the 2 servings, if you are making 4 smaller servings, you may want to poach more eggs, or just serve one egg each serving.

5)     Remove brussels sprouts from direct heat and add drained, cooked pasta, tossing to coat. Here is where you may want to dribble on a bit more bacon grease. Sprinkle with about ¼ cup of Parmesan and toss to incorporate.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - add drained pasta 1 Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - add drained pasta 2

6)     To serve, spoon pasta-brussels sprouts mixture on a plate, top with a few slices of the cooked bacon, crumbled, sprinkle with extra cheese, and top with your poached eggs. Ta-Da!

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts v 1

Recipe Notes
Shredded Brussels Sprouts sound much harder than they really are – for me the real trick is buying the largest sprouts you can find. The website Almost Practical has a great step-by-step tutorial, with pictures on how prep them. If you want a bit of guidance before you get started, check it out.

Traditional carbonara is made with spaghetti or bucattini, but with the addition of the brussels sprouts, I didn’t think these would work as well. I ended up  using campanella pasta, so that the Brussles sprout shreds could easily wrap around the pasta and be better incorporated. Really, any shorter sturdier pasta like farfella or radiatori should work here.

Hartwood Winery – One of Virginia’s Wine Industry’s Originals

Hartwood Winery Road SignYay, it’s here! Yes, folks, October has arrived and with it, the 26th annual Virginia Wine Month.  As many of you know,  one of our favorite things to do here at Cork and Spoon is travel around, visiting local wineries (and distilleries, and breweries).  I mean look at Emilie. She didn’t move to just anywhere in Texas, but to  Texas Hill Country, which is that state’s wine country.  No worries, though. Emilie and I already discussed whether we’d have an issue with dueling wine countries.  Though it would be fun, we both love our Virginia wine too much. I even put together  a Virginia wine care package for her before she left D.C. (Rest assured there was a Norton in there!). So why don’t we move along to this year’s first stop, Hartwood Winery (…before I start crying).

Hartwood Winery is a cozy little spot in the southern part of Stafford County, Hartwood Winery Entrancejust a hop, skip, and  a jump from I-95 and U.S. Route 17. That means, its super easy to get to, so you have no excuses if you’re driving up or down the East Coast through Virginia! One of my favorite things about Hartwood is that you’ll lfeel like you’re visiting family.  Though getting rarer at wineries further north and west, at Hartwood don’t be surprised if you find yourself chatting with the owners, the Livingstons, during your visit. Of course, Jim Livingston would say it’s the other way around: he doesn’t own the vineyard, the vineyard owns him! With over 30 years experience in the Virginia wine industry, assisting other wineries in the 70’s before planting his own vines in 1981,  I have no doubt he knows what he is talking about!

Hartwood Winery Ready for HarvestingAs I mentioned, Livingston planted the first Hartwood vines, (Cabernet Sauvignon) in 1981.  That era was the very beginning of today’s Virginia wine industry.  Today there are over 200 wineries in the state, but back then? Literally no more than a dozen. Why? Well, growing wine grapes in hot, humid climates is tricky business as our friends further south in the Carolina’s know very well.  Those first Cabernet Sauvignon vines were wiped out by fungus.  Rather than give up, though, Livingston switched course and experimented with heartier hybrids, like the Seyval Blanc. Through the years, the original few Virginia wineries like Hartwood used their experience along with agricultural research conducted by Virginia Tech to figure out how to make vitis vinifera flourish.  Today, you can find Cabernet Sauvignon growing in Hartwood’s vineyard. Take that fungus!

So when you stop by Hartwood Winery this Virginia Wine Month (Or any time! They are open all year round), be sure to ask Jim what made him, at the time a school teacher, decide to begin a winery. That’s exactly what Mr. Hansford Abel, a long time member of the Stafford Board of Supervisors asked him when Livingston applied for his permits…

(The secret’s out of the bag, folks, teachers do drink wine!)

Hartwood Winery Tasting Notes 2014

For $7, Hartwood Winery offers about 12 wines for the tasting dependent on availability. I tasted 11, because the Petit Verdot was nearly sold out.  This is not uncommon during the early fall as Virginia wineries draw huge summer crowds. (The Chardonnay and Merlot weren’t even on the list anymore as they had already sold out.)  I liked every single wine I tasted during my Hartwood visit, but if you want to know more details, here are the notes I jotted down during my tasting.

Hartwood Winery Back Vineyard

Seyval Blanc (2013) – Recently released over Labor Day weekend, this refreshing and crisp white probably would not have lasted the summer if it had been released earlier.  Aged in stainless steel, this wine is clean, light and citrusy. Great for laid back summer picnics.

Hartwood Station White – This white is a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and the Georgian (as in the country not the state) varietal Rkatsiteli. Though aged in stainless steel, the Chardonnay in the blend did receive some oak aging.  If malolactic fermentation isn’t your thing, never fear. The little bit of oakfrom the Chardonnay gives this wine a bit more body than the Seyval Blanc, but no butter here.  Instead you’ll taste another crisp white, though more along the lines of an apple than a lemon. The nose is sweet and fruity, like golden raisins, courtesy of the Viognier.  On the palate, along with the apple from the Chardonnay, you’ll get a very light floral prettiness from the Viognier, and a feint hint of spice from the Rkatsiteli.

Rappannock Rose – Hartwood has a series of wines named for the Rappahanock River, which forms a natural border along southern Stafford County where Hartwood is located. This rosé style wine is made from mostly Chambourcin and is processed like a white wine (i.e. the juice is pressed from the grapes and then the skins are discarded).  The Rappahanock Rose also  has an itty bitty bit of Seyval Blanc.  You won’t find the mainstream, sweet strawberry profile in this wine, which, over the past two or three years, seems to be disappearing from many Virginia rosés. Instead, you’ll get red cherry, a bit more body, and some spice. I’d say this is a good choice for a mixed party of white and red wine lovers.

Rappahannock White – A 50/50 blend of Seyval and Vidal blanc, with 3% Residual Sugar  (RS), this wine is just sweet enough and reminds me of a German Riesling.  Of course the nose is sweet, but an interesting twist is that it might remind you of cinnamon sugar. The spice follows through onto the palate, which compliments the wine’s soft, pear flavors. Definitely a wine to sit back and relax with, I brought this wine home to have with my spicy, Thai inspired recipes.

Deweese White – Another Riesling like wine, the Deweese, made from Vidal Hartwood Winery Wine Library 2Blanc,  is more along the lines of a semi-sweet wine than the Rappahannock White.  At 3.8% RS, this wine was a bit too sweet for me, but I can appreciate it for what it is. I definitely tasted the tropical notes (lots of banana) and the melon (think perfectly ripe cantaloupe).  This wine could easily  take on the spice found in the other Hartwood white wines I tasted, but it’s perfectly enjoyable as it is. Now that fall has finally arrived in Virginia, I’ve got mulled wine on the brain and I think the Deweese White could be used to make make a wonderful warm, fall punch.

Blushing Hart – This is Hartwood’s first foray into dessert style wine. Mostly Seyval Blanc, the Blushing Hart blend also has a touch of Chambourcin and Niagra. I loved the nose of this wine: cinnamon! (Different, don’t you think?). Being a dessert wine, it is a sweet blend. However is has a nice tartness that keeps it from tasting like pure sugar, which reminded me of a cherry jolly rancher. You’ll get a lot of dried apricot and cherry flavors after which I tasted a little nuttiness in the finish. The characteristics of the Blushing Hart reminded me a lot of port style wines, but without the fortified punch.  I can definitely picture a cordial of this with an after dinner cheese platter.

Rappahannock Red – The first red on the tasting list is this Beaujolais style wine for which the Chambourcin is aged in stainless steel.  This is pretty different, as most Virginia Chambourcin takes to oak very well.  For some reason, though, the vines from the Hartwood vineyard do not.  To me, it’s all good.  Gamay, which most Beaujolais is made from, is one of my favorites, and this wine reminds of those fruit forward, light red blends.  In this wine you’ll taste black cherry and licorice and even a hint of chocolate in the finish. You can even serve this red lightly chilled, which always gets a thumbs up from Emilie and me! I had to bring this one home.

2012 Claret – A claret wine is, at its simplest, a wine made from  one or a blend of the five classic Bordeaux grapes.  This claret is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged for 10 months in American oak.  You’ll notice that the ruby red Claret is a cloudy wine, rather than clear, which is the complete opposite of it’s sister vintage, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvginon (We’ll get to a in a bit). A dry, medium bodied red, this wine has a nice smokiness with notes of tobacco, leather, cherry, and spice.

2012 Cabernet Franc – One of my favorite Virginia grown varietals! Aged in American Oak, this wine has a lot of similarities to to the Claret, but lighter bodied.  This wine is clean, with lots of bright cherry and peppery spices as a good Cab Franc should.  A very enjoyable, dry red, the softer tannins in this wine is perfect if you’d rather your wine not punch you in the face!

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon –  Believe it or not, this wine and the Claret are twins. It’s the perfect example of barrel variation in wine making and why barrel tastings are so important to the process. Both the Claret and the Cab Sauv are Hartwood Winery Back Guest Lawn100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the same vines grown and harvested in 2012. They were pressed, fermented, and barreled together, too. For whatever reason after that, though, each wine went its own independent way.  Typically, a winery will blend the varied wines to get a single vintage, but Hartwood decided to let these two do their thing. As I mentioned earlier, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is clear, not cloudy like the Claret, and much deeper in color.  It has a raisen-like, dried fruit nose, but don’t be fooled. This wine, which can be aged for a few more years,  is crisp and clean with lots of cherry accompanied by bell-pepper.

2012 Tannat – The last of the day is a beautiful, deep garnet colored wine that you could enjoy now, but for the patient, a few more years will likely bring you reward. Our red wine only  friends will definitely appreciate this wine. The nose of dried fruits, which is more potent than the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, will fool you. This wine is dry and earthy, rather than fruity,  with evenly balanced tannins and  a clean minerality. The umami (Thank-you, Kathy, from Casanel!) will make you salivate and crave a big hunk of steak! If I had room in my budget, I would have bought a bottle to “cellar”.

Hartwood Winery Vines

Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita

Watermelon Jalepeno Margarita 3So here it is: my “angry” cocktail;  the culmination of channeling my anger into something positive through creative expression.  Hmmm. That was a mouthful, wasn’t it?  Excuse me while I giggle.

Okay. I’m back.

You know, there is something to be said about anger: it’s not really all bad.  Yes, it is a negative rather than positive emotion, but the impact it leaves on you depends on how you choose to handle it.  Take this Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita, for instance. Rather than let my Inner Critic (She is such a you know what!) goad me into wasting my energy in the elaborate plotting of my revenge, which, after all, would only leave me exhausted, depressed and reaching for a Xanax with a pounding migraine, I channeled that precious energy to re-charge my sorely depleted and neglected creativity stores.

So how do I deal with my anger when I’m not re-focusing it towards a cocktail or other project? Well, it’s a pretty deliberate exercise, but at it’s most simple I run through the following steps which I’ve developed out of my therapy sessions.

Step 1 , of course, is to realize that I am angry!

Step 2 is to take a deep breath breath.Watermelon Jalepeno Margarita 1

Step 3 is where I rate my anger. My scale goes from annoyed to wrathful harpy.

Step 4 is where my Inner Critic tries to push her way in as I do an internal Q&A. Why am I angry? What’s the real emotion under my anger? (Refer to my Jalapeño Simple Syrup recipe where I mention that anger is a response to another emotion.)

At Step 5, based on my answer to Step 4,  I get to decide if my anger is justified or if I “artificially” built it up with what they call “catastrophic thinking”.

Resolution takes place at Step 6. If I decided that my anger is justified, I acknowledge it. If it’s not, I call my Inner Critic out and flick her off my shoulder.  Then I determine what I am going to do to re-channel the negative energy such as making today’s cocktail. My favorite, though, is lacing up my running shoes and take a loop or two around my favorite trail…or kickboxing if I need to punch something.

And you know what? Even though I still get fleeting images of revenge (Can’t help it, he hurt me really bad), I’m not so angry anymore.

Which is great, because the weather man said this weekend was summer’s last hurrah here in the D.C. area and I want enjoyed it with a smile rather than a scowl. Cheers!

Watermelon Jalepeno Margarita 4

Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita

serves 1
Ingredients
  • 6 ounces watermelon juice
  • 1-2 ounces tequila
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeño simple syrup
  • 1/4 of a fresh lime
  • crushed ice
  • optional: cayenne lime salt  
  • Garnish options: watermelon cubes, fresh jalapeño slices,  fresh mint sprigs, lime wedges
Directions
  1. Optional – Rim a large glass (14-16 ounces) with the cayenne lime salt. You can do this by pouring the salt onto a small plate, wetting the rim of the glass with a lime wedge, then carefully dipping the rim into the salt.
  2. Fill your glass about halfway with crushed ice.
  3. Pour watermelon juice, tequila, and jalapeño simple syrup over the ice and stir.
  4. Squeeze the juice out of lime wedge into the margarita. Stir again and serve.

Watermelon Jalepeno Margarita 5

 

Wherein One Half of Cork and Spoon Moves – to Texas

D.C. to Texas- cookbooks

Earlier this year, right around my birthday Tom forwarded me Buzzfeed’s 101 Reasons You Should Live in Texas at Least Once in Your Life. We had been considering a future move to Texas, Tom’s home state, about 2 or 3 years down the road, and he was using it to help convince me of how much I’d love Texas. Don’t tell Tom, but I think he was right.

I’ve been in Austin, Texas for just over 3 weeks and I can’t find anything to complain about – not even the 100+ temps. Due to some changes at Tom’s job and me getting the first job in Texas I applied for – our plans fastforwarded about 24 months and I started with a great tech startup at the beginning of September. The job is incredibly challenging and will, if I succeed, do amazing things for my career. Plus our new rental is pretty amazing – so much space! Rosie doesn’t have to hide out in cabinets any more, but can stand proud on the counter.

D.C. to Texas - my kitchen aide has a home

While I haven’t had a chance to really start exploring all of Austin yet, I have spent some time getting to know my neighborhood and what it has to offer. Like the Torchy’s Tacos less than half a mile from my house. Austin is a city that lives on breakfast tacos and I am looking forward to trying every single one, but in the meantime, any excuse to walk Abby and get migas tacos works for me.

D.C. to Texas- Torchy's Tacos

I have also rediscovered the joy of the famous Trudy’s Mexican martini; found delicious gourmet burgers right up the road at HopDoddy; and enjoyed a glass of wine with chips & queso while watching Guardians of the Galaxy at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (they deliver more glasses of wine directly to you while the movie plays, its kind of amazing).

All of that pales in comparison to what may be my favorite store ever: Make it Sweet. This store has an entire wall of cookie cutters and more flavored extracts than I knew existed. But best of all I walked in the first thing I saw was an entire wall of bulk sprinkles. When Ruth comes to visit- forget the bats, we’re going to the baking store.

D.C. to Texas-Make it Sweet

As exciting and amazing as everything has been, it has been pretty taxing and stressful. I packed and moved our house in 3 weeks, while still working, and then moved Abby and myself to Texas a full 3 weeks before Tom. His amazing mother and sister drove in from out of town to help me unpack and keep me company a few weekends ago, but it has still be a little hard to get out and meet new people. That has been the hardest part, especially when all you want to do is come home from work and talk about the new job. But Tom comes in from D.C. tonight! He’s almost home! So, in typical Emilie fashion, I baked him something.

D.C. to Texas-cookies

Using my favorite rolled sugar cookie recipe from All Recipes, I created about 2 dozen Texas state shaped cookies that I decorated like – what else – the state flag. It was really nice just spending the day baking in the big new kitchen, and I can’t wait to spend more time in there.

Did I mention they still have hatch chilies in some grocery stores? Yea, Texas is going to be good for me – and hopefully good for you guys too.

“You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas” ~ Davy Crockett

 

Jalapeño Simple Syrup

jalepeno simple syrup straining 2Not too long ago, my psychologist suggested I try channeling my anger to punch through my Great Wall of China sized writer’s block.  All our other attempts had failed and since dealing with anger has never been a strength of mine, I thought, “Sure, why not?” I’ll take the challenge.  So she pulled out a pad of paper and pen and we started a free flow of recipe ideas that could embody “anger”.

Now here is what I have learned about anger in the year since I started therapy: it’s a secondary emotion.  Anger never exists alone. It is sparked by another emotion.  After hearing this, I challenged my psychologist with, “Well, what about the dumb @$$ that nearly drives me into a concrete barrier on 95 that I give the finger to?” Hahaha, got you there! Wrong. “Ruth, why would you be angry at that person?” Uuummm, because he could have killed or hurt me and others?  It was fear that sparked my anger. Darn it. Doc: 1. Ruth: 0.

So back to channeling my anger…

By the end of the session I had settled on using “spice” to represent anger since I had run out of new “red” ingredients.  We also decided that the recipe would be for a cocktail. After all, it’s been ages since we’ve brought you all something fun for happy hour, right?

That evening I was sipping on some watermelon “soda” and craving more lime jalepeno simple syrup straining 3only to find out I had used the last of my stash.  As I substitute, I reached for a lemon.  Then, as I was squeezing the fresh lemon juice into my drink it hit me…lemon and lime…watermelon margarita!! A spicy watermelon margarita that is.  I had a pint of jalapeños from the  farmer’s market that would do the trick.  I immediately texted Emilie my idea who sent me her virtual thumbs up.

My first try, in which I muddled the peppers,  failed horribly to capture the spice of the jalapeño.  Their watery flavor (think bell pepper) also turned the drink flat. Ok, anger, I thought, turn the heat up already! And I literally had to…I went for the simple syrup route. It was exactly what my margarita needed.

We all know that anger can be quite a destructive force. That’s why so many of us are afraid to confront it. The trick is to deal with it constructively and carefully so you don’t end up burned. It might sting a little, like this simple syrup, but at the end of the tunnel something good is waiting for you.

Anger and action

Don’t forget to stay tuned…the margarita is coming next week!

 Jalapeño Simple Syrup

Ingredients
  • 2 medium green jalapeño peppers
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
Directions
  • Slice jalapeños into rounds. For maximum heat, do not remove the seeds.  To reduce heat remove half to all of the seeds.jalepeno simple syrup slicing
  • Over medium high heat, combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan.jalepeno simple syrup combining
  • Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  • Once syrup comes to a boil, remove from heat.  Allow the  jalapeños to steep for about 30 minutes.jalepeno simple syrup simmering
  • Strain syrup , discarding jalapeños.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.jalepeno simple syrup straining 1

Watermelon Agua Fresca, or More Simply, Watermelon Juice

watermelon water 2Those that know me know that saying I love color is an understatement. I am all about color (For the record, my favorite is orange).  Give me bold, bright, and daring hues! For that reason, I’m not too upset about summer sticking around just a little longer. My summer wardrobe is vibrantly more colorful than my fall and winter, especially in the shoe department.  As much as I love my leather riding boots, I will be sad to put away my stop light yellow, watermelon pink, lime green, and neon orange stilettos and peep toes.

And don’t get me started on my running gear.  I have three half H Half Mi 7 Smlmarathons lined up between now and next spring. Training starts on the 15th and all I have to look forward to over the fall and winter are black leggings, black leggings, and oh, more black leggings. You think my work shoes sounds crazy, you should see what I run in during the summer months! Oh wait, running in the summer is crazy enough, huh? I totally agree. That’s why when Sue asked me to sign up for some summer races, I told her she was una chica loca!

She kept pressing me, though. “C’mooooonn, chiiiica! Just a 5K?” To which I responded rhetorically, “Do you know how hot and humid it’s GloStick Group - smudgegoing to be out there?!” Then she found an evening run…with glow sticks…that benefited a cancer charity.  I caved.  Silly me also thought, what’s 3.1 miles after running 13.2? Well, in the heat…3.1 miles feels like a spring half marathon. That’s where this delicious, hydrating (and pretty!) watermelon juice comes in. (BTW how many drinks this pretty are actually good for you??)

Like many of you, there is always watermelon in my house during the summer.  It’s one of the few foods I can handle on hot days. Then, during our family vacation I came across a blurb in Fitness Magazine’s  June issue about watermelon water.  Apparently it’s been fashionable this summer, but this was the first time I had heard of it. Watermelon, water? Sounds tasty to me!

Apparently it’s great for muscle recovery after a hard workout, not just re-hydration,  too! Watermelon has an amino acid, L-citruline (also watermelon water 4found in onions and garlic), that improves oxygen delivery to your muscles.  A study conducted by the Technical University of Cartagena in Spain further explained that L-citrulline does this by helping remove lactic acid (the stuff that causes your soreness) at a faster than normal rate, hence a quicker recovery period.  Did I mention what a pretty pink this watermelon juice makes?

So, summer, as long as you’re sticking around, let the colors and watermelon juice keep on coming!

watermelon water 1

 

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Ingredients
  • 4 cups watermelon, cubedwatermelon water cubes
Directions
  1. Pour cubed watermelon into a blender and puree.
  2. Place a mesh sieve or a cheesecloth lined colander  over a large bowl and pour watermelon puree through the sieve/colander.watermelon water straining
  3. With a flat spatula, gently push the watermelon solids to help squeeze out more watermelon juice
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3, once or twice more if desired.
  5. Discard watermelon solids and pour juice into a pitcher. Refrigerate to chill.watermelon water straining 2
  6. Watermelon juice will separate. When ready to drink, shake or stir before serving.

Bonus Recipe: Watermelon “Soda”

My favorite way to drink watermelon juice like this: Over crushed ice, fill half to 3/4 a glass with watermelon juice. Top off with sparkling mineral or soda water (preferably lime  or other citrus flavored).  Squeeze in some fresh lime juice and serve. So refreshing!

 P.S. Stay tuned for the watermelon margarita I’ll be sharing in the near future!

~Ruth

Tomatillo Watermelon and Cherry Tomato Salad

tomatillo watermelon salad 1As I said to my friends yesterday, “End of summer my patootie!” Seriously.  On the last day of August, after weeks of pretty delightful weather, the temperature soared to 90 by 10 A.M. By the way, I am not taking into account the humidity and how hot it got later on.  Needless to say, my Sunday morning run went pretty miserably.  Happily, earlier that morning I had visited the farmers market and waiting for me at home was a big ol’, thirst quenching watermelon.

Wishing I had a pool to jump into, but settling for a glass of cold water instead, I started thinking about what to do with my watermelon as I tomatillo watermelon salad 6allowed my body to cool down.  Of course I did not want to repeat something my friends or I had already done, but I also wanted something that could serve as a last minute dish for a Labor Day picnic or barbecue (I, myself, am I poor planning procrastinator).  That’s when my eyes landed on the cardboard container of tomatillos. Hmmmmm.

Now I had originally planned enchiladas verde for my tomatillos. However, as I peeled back the papery husk of one fruit I remembered one of the market vendors last year telling me they were like green tomatoes, only not has hard. Pondering the fruit in my hand, I thought of how pretty the green and pink would look together. First things first, though.  Would I like the taste of a raw tomatillo?

Cutting myself a little wedge, my first bite met a firm, pleasantly textured flesh…followed by quite a tartness!  Thought not as pucker inducing as a tomatillo watermelon salad 4lemon it was still pretty acidic. I don’t think I’ll ever eat a raw tomatillo on its own again, but its sour crunch was just the thing to juxtapose my sweet, melt in your mouth watermelon.

Now that I had my stars, I decided to add some beautiful little cherry tomatoes, which had a flavor and texture right in the middle of the tomatillos and watermelon. To round out the flavors, I drizzled on some of the honey mint syrup I use for my mint-juleps (I also used it last year on the watermelon wedges I brought over to Emilie and Tom’s for the 4th of July).  For the final flourish, I cut some fresh mint leaves from my garden and sprinkled it over the vibrantly colored salad.  Then I placed the salad in the fridge and went to clean my post-run self up.

With the afternoon sun shifted to the front of the house, for lunch I tomatillo watermelon salad 5parked myself on the now shaded back deck. Though still warm, a gentle breeze (a hint of the coming storm) helped keep things pleasant enough to enjoy myself outside.  It was time to dig in! I took a tooth pick and speared me some salad.

Ooohh, yeeessss…crisp, cool deliciousness.  I had tamed the tomatillo.  Though still sharp, its contrast livened up the watermelon. In return, the watermelon and mint helped mellow out the tartness of the tomatillo. I love it when a plan comes together, don’t you?

Have a relaxing “last day” of summer.  Happy Labor Day!

tomatillo watermelon salad 2

 

~Ruth

 Tomatillo Watermelon and Cherry Tomato Salad

 Ingredients

tomatillo watermelon salad ingredients

  • Tomatillo(s), sliced into thin wedges
  • Watermelon, diced medium to small
  • Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Mint leaves, chiffonade
  • Honey mint syrup*
Directions

1. In a bowl, add tomatillos, watermelon, and cherry tomatoes in the following portions: 1:2:1.

2. Add honey mint syrup and mint as desired. The amount used will depend on your tastes as well as the size of the salad you are making. (See Note).tomatillo watermelon salad mixing

3. Toss ingredients and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for about an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

4. When ready to serve, toss one more time to re-distribute the watermelon juices.

*Honey mint syrup

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup wildflower honey
  • 4-6 large mint leaves, hand torn
Directions

1. Heat water in a microwave safe bowl. Approximately 1 minute on high.

2. Add honey to hot water and stir until dissolved into a simple syrup.Blueberry Honey Mint Julep Dissolving Honey

3. Muddle torn mint leaves in the honey simple syrup. Let mint steep at east 8-10 minutes. When finished steeping, strain mint leaves from the syrup.Blueberry Honey Mint Julep Muddle Mint

 

Note:
I made 1 cup of salad. My ingredients came out as follows:
1/4 cup tomatillos
2/4 cup watermelon
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon mint
1 tablespoon honey mint syrup