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LONG ISLAND: INSIGNIA Prime Steak & Sushi

When it comes to the experience my family had at Insignia Prime Steak & Sushi tonight, one recurring theme comes to my mind: hospitality.

From the moment you arrive at this can’t miss Smithtown destination, you feel like a celebrity.

Continue reading “LONG ISLAND: INSIGNIA Prime Steak & Sushi”

WINE NEWS: 2015 Gallo Wine Trends 

Even though I can’t see you right now, raise your hand if you love a good ol’ glass of wine.

I certainly do, and you know what? So do MANY people. “Millennials” (technically I’m one but I’m not the biggest fan of the name) , to Baby Boomers.

And E. & J. Gallo Winery wants to show you just how much you, the consumer, likes vino.

Continue reading “WINE NEWS: 2015 Gallo Wine Trends “

DAYTON: #grocerystoreobsessionsJune10

I eat out of convenience a lot of the time.

If it’s easy, quick, and delicious, I’m all in.

I’ve been keeping a slight (slight) distance from frozen foods. Not that I don’t like frozen foods, I do. But for a little bit now, I’ve been either eating meals from restaurants, or cooking myself.

But this week, I decided to head down the frozen meals aisle, and take a gander at what’s new. I was at my local Target store, and came across a line of foods that after making one of the meals just now, it’s become one of my grocery store obsessions.

The brand? Evol.

As soon as you pop on its website, you can tell the company is taking a completely different approach to the standard frozen dinners.

Its motto? Taste rules!

Its mission: “Inspire people to care about where food comes from and how it is produced by making real food that tastes delicious. Love what you eat.”

Amen to that, right?

The mission, motto, and packaging are very promising.

A selection of its Skillet Meals for 2. photo credit: groceryheadquarters.com

And based off of the grilled chicken Parmesan skillet meal for 2 (butttt I made mine for one), it delivers.

Several things I’m blown away about with this meal:

The meal in my skillet. From frozen to dinner in 10 minutes. evolfoods.com
The meal in my skillet. From frozen to dinner in 10 minutes.
evolfoods.com

1) From cooking the pasta in the skillet, the pasta did NOT turn soggy!

Sometimes this happens with frozen food, if you overcook, the pasta turns into mush. This was not the case today.

2) It had good flavor!

3) The meat looked and tasted good.

Sometimes with frozen meals I find the meat looks and tastes weird ! Do you ever find that? The chicken in this meal tasted really light, tender and fresh.

Evol has TONS of options for you to try, including another one I bought and am anxiously awaiting to try, truffle Parmesan mac and cheese, butternut squash and sage ravioli, a handful of fun breakfast sandwiches, and several gluten free items too.

If you’re looking for something cheap and very easy to make, try out Evol.

My second obsession comes from a recent trip to the salon.

I’m getting my hair colored one day, and my hairdresser offers its drink selection to me, one option being wine.

Every time I’ve gone there so far, I’ve always opted for a Diet Coke, or a coffee.  But that day, I decided to ask about it, and she told me there was a blackberry Merlot.

“Ooh!” I said excitedly.

And lo and behold, it was a wine brand I hadn’t really drank before until now: Arbor Mist.

WOW, friends.

photo credit: totalwine.com

If I had to choose between sweet or dry wine, I would choose dry, and that I have my parents to thank because they love a good Chardonnay, and so do I.

But the blackberry merlot is magic. It has a little sparkle to it, tasting not overly sweet, and has the nice blackberry tangy flavor.

This experience led me to me driving to the local drive thru liquor store and trying other flavors, which were also delicious (Mixed Berry Merlot and Strawberry White Zinfandel).

If you’ve never swung towards Arbor Mist until now, I say go for the gold and try it. You will NOT regret it, and at its good price,  get the magnum!

Have you had any of these two products? If so, please let me know how you liked them!

 

 

HAMILTON: WG Kitchen & Bar

Sometimes, you just have to let the restaurant find you.

This was the case for me, today.

On a mission to find another new brunch place to try, I first found myself in downtown Miamisburg. I was walking the streets, looking for this one place, but I ended up not finding it.

But everything happens for a reason.

Walking around, I came across a noticeable line for a little food stand right in the middle of downtown: Hamburger Wagon.

People in line for Hamburger Wagon
People in line for Hamburger Wagon
I thought this was adorable. #HamburgerWagon
I thought this was adorable. #HamburgerWagon

Each time I walked by, the line got bigger, and from what it looked like, these burgers took time to make.

But as much as I thought about trying Hamburger Wagon, my gut was telling me to hold off.

Across the parking lot my car was in, was the beautiful recreation trail I’ve come across many times now since being here: the Great Miami River Trail, which stretches VERY far.

IMG_0622

There was a bridge going across this big river, and a huge hill, and as curiosity struck me, I decided to drive up.

I ended up making my way to route 725. I ended up driving through several towns, including passing through Germantown (not the downtown, but passing through). I then eventually made my way into downtown Middletown, where I decided to get back on I-75 south.

I got off the exit where Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is a landmark, and started driving up route 129  (which is another highway), and came across this beautiful looking shopping plaza in Hamilton.

A restaurant’s name caught my eye, “WG Kitchen & Bar.”

I had this feeling about it, that I needed to check it out, but I at first passed it on the highway. I turned around and came back to it, and lo and behold, what do I see outside the restaurant? This sign.

IMG_0634BRUNCH!

Score.

The atmosphere:  When I walked in, I was greeted by someone in a chef’s outfit, who seated me. As I found out a few minutes later, that guy wasn’t actually supposed to seat me (and the host and I giggled), but it shows the friendliness of the place. Everyone I encountered there was accommodating.  As you walk in, you’ll find yourself surrounded by bottles and bottles of wine. The bar is huge, and as I found from its menu, you can do wine flights. The three words that came to my mind to describe the inside : classy, rustic, industrial. I loved the details of the restaurant’s interior, from the old school light bulbs hanging above you, to the open ceilings, to the exposed brick wall in one part of the restaurant. Paintings and funky murals line the walls, and there’s even a more enclosed room off to the side that I assume could be used for parties. A lot of natural light was flowing into the restaurant. The music was very light and soothing, from jazz music to Billy Joel’s “Summer, Highland Falls.” The tables and place settings were beautiful; wooden tables that had a very rustic feel. At times I felt like I was inside someone’s home, having a meal.

IMG_0633IMG_0646IMG_0641IMG_0637

What I ate/drank: Warm pita bread with sun dried tomato/basil cream cheese, 2 mimosas, chef’s omelet special of the day which came with roasted red potatoes & fresh fruit.

Price:
Mimosa’s – $7 each

Chef’s omelet – $10.99

With tax the total was $26.61, with tip it was brought to $31.61.

IMG_0635

My thoughts: Because the guy from the kitchen sat me, I didn’t actually get the physical brunch menu until I had asked the host about it. As I saw the brunch cocktails were $7, I jumped on the mimosa train. I’m glad I did. The mimosas were fresh (it tasted like fresh squeezed orange juice mixed with the champagne), it tasted like Orangina in a cup (which to me makes a good mimosa, as the taste is balanced). The waitress informed me of the chef’s brunch specials today, and I decided to try to the omelet. While I waited, she brought out the warm pita bread with the sundried tomato basil cream cheese.

Warm pita bread with sun dried tomato basil cream cheese.
Warm pita bread with sun dried tomato basil cream cheese.

It was a great way to start off the brunch experience, the little warm pita bread triangles with the savory yet sweet cream cheese made me think of having a bagel without actually having a bagel. A nice little appetizer.

Chef's omelette special with roasted red potatoes and fresh fruit. $10.99
Chef’s omelette special with roasted red potatoes and fresh fruit. $10.99

The omelet’s presentation was nice. I loved the cheese on top (I believe it was mozzarella on top?), as well as the cheese inside it. Inside the omelet was fresh spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions, asparagus and feta cheese. The vegetables inside were cooked perfectly: not soggy yet not crunchy, as well as being flavorful. The omelet itself was cooked great as well, light and airy but not runny. I loved the combination of flavors inside the omelet. The flavors that stuck out were the feta and the caramelized onions. The roasted red potatoes were good, not super greasy, and had a nice balance of flavor from the red onions to the herbs mixed in. What excited me was the inclusion of fresh fruit on the plate. That was my palate cleanser between every few bites. As feta cheese is very strong, it was nice to clean my palate before going back to the potatoes, for instance. While I do think the prices are a little higher on the scale of pricey-ness, I thought it was a nice brunch.

Mimosa. $7
Mimosa. $7

Why you should go: I noticed families eating there when I had went this afternoon, but I definitely envision this restaurant as a romantic evening for a date, or a fun girls night out doing wine flights and eating good food. It was a classy but friendly place where you could go in and have a good meal, and a good cocktail. Besides having many choices of wine (where you can also buy bottles), you can go for dinner as well, with its choices of small plates and comfort food dinners such as meatloaf and chicken marsala. There were good choices on the menu regardless of age. The prices were a little high, but the quality of food was great. It had a great open atmosphere and I would definitely go to try the wine flights and more of the food.

Location/Hours:

W.G. Kitchen & Bar
Bridgewater Falls
Lifestyle Shopping Center

3371 Princeton Rd., Unit F105
Hamilton, OH 45011
513 – 887 – 9463

Monday-Thursday : 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Friday-Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

www.wgkitchen.com

Cool Article of the Week – 3/2-3/8

An example of a really good wine, that smells and tastes good. Barefoot White Zinfandel
An example of a really good wine, that smells and tastes good.
Barefoot White Zinfandel

Have you ever drank a glass of wine that smelled downright awful?

And then when you actually tried it either tasted alright, or just like what you were thinking of?

I definitely have.

Before moving to Ohio I lived on Long Island, and many a weekend one of my best friends and I would do what I called vineyard-hopping. There are so many vineyards on the East End of Long Island (check out this site for the full list). If you’re there, it’s a great activity that won’t break the bank. Trying different wines for a small amount of money.

And doing wine tastings for us is not just for the love of wine, it’s for the learning experience, and for really what to look (and not to look) out for.

One thing I noticed at some of the tasting rooms was the aroma of some of the wines were just plain gross. Like smelled like dirt, rotting things, the S word.

And honestly I didn’t understand why.

I’ve been to places (i.e. festivals) where the wine sat out too long and it gets aerated (another reason for it possibly tasting gross), but some of the vineyards I went to, there would be a wine where I’d smell it and just be grossed out by the aroma.

Which brings me to my cool article of the week, which explains some of what I’ve thought about.

According to an article I got in my email from The Daily Sip, it’s “complex chemistry” making each wine smell, or not smell.

Before you read the entire article, here are a couple of the scents, decoded:

wetdog
Photo credit: bottlenotes.com

Wet dog
Found in a wine that has been contaminated by TCA, a compound that can be found in wine corks and contaminates the whole bottle of wine. Also sometimes described as wet cardboard or dank basement.

Barnyard or Bandaid
Comes from a microbe called brettanomyces. At low levels, it can be considered beneficial to the complexity of the wine, but it easily grows out of control and spoils the wine.

Dairy (butter, cheese, cream)
Found in New World chardonnays. The aroma comes from the compound diacytl, the same compound used to make margarine taste like butter. Diacytl forms when a second fermentation, called malolactic fermentation, takes place.

Have you ever had a weird wine aroma experience ? Let me know!

Cool article of the week – 7/7-7/13

If you love champagne, this post is for you.

I am a huge lover of wines. But lately, if I had to choose between wine and sparking wine/prosecco/champagne, I’d go for the bubbly.

There’s something about the feel of the bubbles in your mouth as you sip it in a chilled champagne glass (the skinny tall flutes or the one shown in my picture). And while I’m a dry wine person over sweet (but yes, I do tolerate some sweet wines), there’s a huge variety of sparkling wines you can pick up at the store lately.  And you can find some really delicious champagnes, at REALLY great prices. A huge plus!

Like the one in my picture, the Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato – it’s a sweet champagne (and happens to be pink!). It’s SUPER cheap (depending on where you go, it’s about $10-$12 a bottle), and the fruity flavor pops out at you, it’s not overly sweet either. A favorite of mine!

Which brings me to this: I came across this article and I am donning it the “cool article of the week” in my book.

http://www.bottlenotes.com/the-daily-sip/news/champagne-and-memory-july-2013

Bottlenotes writes how researchers at a university in the U.K. are studying the bubbly first hand. The study’s results point to this: If you drink three glasses of Champagne a week, it could benefit your memory, and possibly, possibly, possibly!!! even ward off diseases such as dementia.

How cool is that!

Read the article to find out more, and here’s the link to the actual press release from the university.

And a tidbit for after you read it: what champagnes/sparkling wines are you into? Join the conversation below!

Food-cation NYC: Chelsea Market

During my trip to NYC I was given the opportunity to see neighborhoods I haven’t been to and neighborhoods that I have been to, yet haven’t taken a closer look at.

One of the days there were a few hours of free time where I decided to hop on the subway and head south to Chelsea. I’ve driven by Chelsea before, but have never taken the time to explore the neighborhood itself.

Lo and behold, I came upon Chelsea Market.

Outside Chelsea Market.

Picture this: a humongous brick building. Several floors of offices on top….the main floor filled with food. Lots of food. An article on Chelsea Market’s website calls walking through here “is to stroll through a sort of postindustrial theme park.” This is so true. This building, also according to the article, used to be the home of the National Biscuit Company Complex and “baked everything from Saltines to Oreo’s.”

Walking inside the big glass doors on one end of the building, I looked to my right and saw signs for not only Food Network, but for several other TV networks as well. But my friends, as it is a market, there were tons of food establishments to check out.

This was very much a fun trip down foodie-lane!

A beautiful waterfall inside Chelsea Market. It changes color!

I walked by several tempting food stores, including BuonItalia, an imported Italian food market, Eleni’s New York, a really cute cookie/cupcake place, Lucy’s Whey, an artisan cheese shop, a Jacques Torres chocolate stand and I even found a raw food restaurant, One Lucky Duck.

But two places in particular called my name that day: Chelsea Wine Vault and Fat Witch Bakery.

There was a sign in the window of the Chelsea Wine Vault for a free wine tasting happening right at the moment I was there. I immediately went inside the vault, which had a very homey, country feel with a wooden interior. To the right of the cashiers was a room where the wine tasting was happening.

With my wine tasting I took a “Wine Report”: the vault’s monthly newsletter. In the January 2011 edition, there was an article on “New Year’s Wine Resolutions,” highlighting new wines to try and giving the reader wine suggestions for this year (including taking wine education classes). There was also a listing of all of the vault’s upcoming classes in wine education, including a wine and cheese pairing class with Lucy’s Whey. There was even a recipe on the back of the newsletter for a Ricotta and Sausage Pasta.

But what I studied most closely was its “January top ten:” ten recommended wines on sale at the vault. Four of ten wines were offered at the tasting I went to.

After being to wine tastings throughout the past few years (including the Great NY State Fair at the wine tent with my friend and exploring the Long Island vineyards with my family) and trying several wines when out to dinner with my family, I discovered I love dry over sweet. I love a good Pink Zinfandel and a Rose, but for the most part, sweet wines have been way too sweet for my palate. What do you prefer, Syracuse?

However, if you asked me whether I like white or red more, I couldn’t answer that. There are certain reds and whites that I like more than others, that’s all I’ll say.

Back to the wine tasting: the man in charge started off with the whites. The first wine I tried was Montinore Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2009 (BIODYNAMIC) (on sale there for $12.99). The vault’s wine report says it comes from Willamette Valley, O.R., and is a Pinot Gris grape. The winemakers note in the report says: “Very aromatic with notes of fresh ripe pear, yellow apple and a pleasant floral/herbal accent. On the palate it bursts into flavors of ripe honeydew melon with hints of mango overlaying ripe apple/pear character. An almost creamy mouthfeel and long finish of crisp apple essence and distinct mineral qualities.” After swirling my small, plastic cup, I tasted a light, and sweet wine that was just okay in my book.

The second white was Hedges CMS White Columbia Valley 2008 (on sale for $10.99 there). This wine hails from Columbia Valley, W.A., and combines the grapes of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Marsasnne. This was another light wine, but more on the tart side. Definitely better than the one before. The winemakers note, according to the wine report, said it’s a “blended white with Sauvignon Blanc dominating over 75% of this wine, this was one of the original malic-acid friendly white wines released from Washington State. Beautifully structured with wonderful Sauvignon Blanc character; the mouthfeel has a delicate balance of acid angularity and defined herbal sophistication. Perfect as an apertif or as an accompaniment to a variety of seafood and shellfish.” Out of both whites, this was the winner of the white tasting.

Onto the reds. The first was Independent Producers Merlot Columbia Valley 2008 (on sale there for $9.99). Another wine coming from Columbia Valley, W.A., this merlot was most certainly a dry wine. After reading the winemakers note in the wine report, I could pick out the rich, yet tart flavors of plum, black currant and cherry: “Plum, black currant and cherry fruit make a strong showing in this well-balanced Merlot. Its producers are more focused on terroir than marketing, so this wine often flies under the radar. Let it land on your table and it will enhance any meal, from pizza to lamb chops.” This one was good, but I liked the next one better.

The overall winner of the tasting was the following: Tenute Valdifalco Loacker Brillando IGT Toscana 2008 (BIODYNAMIC) from Tuscany, Italy. It’s on sale there for $13.99. This was the most surprising of the four wines: the man pouring described it having a candy-like taste to it. It most certainly did, following with a nice oaky flavor, which I love. The grapes in this wine, according to the wine report, are 85% Sangiovese, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot : “With concentrated berry and spice aromas balanced by firm oaky tannins, this wine can either be enjoyed young or cellared for up to 10 years. Serve with game, veal, steaks and aged steaks.” I loved the different sweet, yet dry flavors I tasted in this one, and out of all four, this one I recommend trying the most if you come across it.

Fat Witch Bakery.

After my wine trip, I came across Fat Witch Bakery, which I saw one day reading a blog post on Serious Eats. I remember looking at the picture of the brownie (they’re actually called “witches” at Fat Witch), and thinking, “This looks sooooooo good.” I went inside the cozy, yet open designed white establishment, picked up an original Witch, and took it outside to try.

The original Fat Witch.

This brownie was extremely moist and fudgey the whole way through. It wasn’t cakey at all, it was very similar to eating a flourless chocolate cake in brownie form. It took me on a trip through chocolate land and back.

This bakery has been around since 1991, and its website says the philosophy behind the bakery and the witches are “No icing. No preservatives. No nonsense. Only the best, most natural ingredients. ” Fat Witch says on the website it also bakes the witches in small batches and are in “no hurry.”

If you are ever in Chelsea, please go stop at this delicious brownie kingdom, which also has several other Witches including pumpkin, java, blonde, red , snow and breakfast.

The Fat Witch unveiled. YUM.

And if you’re looking for something smaller, Fat Witch also sells Witch Babies, which I was very tempted to get: smaller, bite-sized witches.

And these were just two of the several restaurants in the market. If you get a chance to head over to Chelsea, take a stroll through the market and try a few items along the way. You will not be disappointed.

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