About Me

My photo
TARZANA, CA, United States
Hello food, wine & beer pals! Welcome to my photo-journal of food, wine and beer adventures. I'm pictured on the right and my home brewing pal, Aron is on the left. Years ago I started watching the Food Network, saving recipe's, making recipe's, trying new things, tasting new things, and it's all blossomed from there, including the weekly tastings (beer & wine) at BevMo. I'm hooked on variety and continuing my search for tasty goodness all over the world. Please feel free to email me with comments and ideas at FoodieWinonBrew@yahoo.com Bon Appetito!

Monday, June 28, 2010


Some days the idea of coming home to a lovely, balanced, ice-cold bitter beer is alright with me; “don’t mind if I do!” And my all-time favorite India Pale Ale (IPA) is Firestone Walker’s Union Jack--it was LUH-ve at first sight and taste! At sight: mesmerizing pure honey-amber in pint glass. At taste: bitter IPA, with a robust hopped up malt of sweet-tart bitterness reminiscent of Ruby Red Grapefruit; bitter hops with balanced lingering malty sweetness. The association got me wonderin,’ “what would happen if I put a shard of Ruby Red Grapefruit in an IPA, such as Union Jack?” Well, I did, and damned if it weren’t somthin’ special! Another amazing nuance of Union Jack is its taste at room temperature: mellow and warm-honey-pepper-hop tones singing of pure lingering texture—the signature of artisan “brew that is true.”

By the way, I am listening to Helen Reddy’s “Ruby Red Dress” a.k.a. “Leave Me Alone.” It’s “L.P.V. Night” when I spin my Long Play Vinyl, and Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits is on now baby! Ironically enough, you don’t want to be bothered when drinkin’ Union Jack—it’s a savory vacation, weighing in at a respectable 7.5% alcohol by volume. So “take it easy,” and savor a true India Pale Ale masterpiece, Union Jack. “Once you’ve tried U-Jack, you never go back!” Har-har…


ABOVE:  The "dough" is ready to go...
50 minutes later...golden goodness!
Check out the close up of the craters!  Just like the moon...
Sliced and ready for butter...
Remember the “bread box?” Well, this installment in the Soda Bread Saga is a bunch of flavors that go so well together I had to experiment with the original Irish Soda Bread recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten. My first attempt was a feverish preparation of pressing garlic, shredding cheese, crushing rosemary and forgetting to add the baking soda—DUH!!! --I like to watch the bread rise in the oven when baking, and that loaf never rose.  To my horror, I realized the crucial ingredient I left out, I was a little devastated. There was some work involved, money and fresh ingredients that all had to be trashed. I shook it off and came back strong—especially since the amazing aroma from the “unleavened bread” that permeated the house was an indication of the flavor I was missing out on. Last night proved more successful, as the only ingredient I forgot was salt—it did need a little salt upon tasting to balance out the sugar and other ingredients. Yeah, can you believe I forgot to put in another ingredient? It might be an indication that I’m over complicating the recipe to distraction—forgetting to put the basic ingredients in, outside of the “fancy twist” ingredients. The other thing I noticed about the baking was after I cut into the bread. It was a tiny bit doughy on a top area, which I didn’t realize until I cut into it. The testing knife had come out clean, so I thought it was done. I guess the extra ingredients pushed the baking time longer. The previous loaves were all baked through, but then again, there was only 1 extra ingredient in those loaves (i.e. the dried blueberries, the chocolate chips, the cheese—three different versions of the soda bread I baked before). So I’ve bumped up the baking time longer. Anyway, this is an intensely flavored bread that is heavenly with a touch of butter. For a side to a salad or on it’s own for breakfast or lunch—you could make a sandwich also out of this bread: think deli mustard and ham, or Dijon mustard & turkey with romaine crunch! However you slice it, it will be lovely! Enjoy!
Modified from Ina Garten recipe

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for cheese
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice.
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg
1 ½ cup cheddar grated
6 cloves of garlic pressed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary chopped
Parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and chopped rosemary in a large mixing bowl, mix with spatula by hand. Add the butter and mix until the butter is mixed into the flour. Add the cheese and mix well so the cheese gets a good coating of dry mix to prevent clumping.
Into a small/medium sauce pan press garlic cloves and add 1 tablespoon or so of olive oil, sauté until tender for about 5 minutes. Put aside to cool.
With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and garlic together in a medium mixing bowl.
Mixing slowly by hand add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. When mixture is too difficult to mix with spatula, dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan parchment paper and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


This quiche above is my latest baby....
I’m just about over quiche making for a little while—don’t get me wrong, I love quiche, its fantastic to eat but rich and fattening as hell! So now I must be moderate in my quiche making and eating. Here’s the last production for a while in my “quiche history”—its been a pleasure getting to know crust-less Quiche-Ville. Enjoy this recipe if you’re looking for an easy delicious quiche to make—I’ve made about 4 or 5 versions of this recipe with different variations on the website, so whichever flavor strikes your culinary fancy, go for it!

This simple-to-make quiche is great for a simple dinner or lunch with green salad. Recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit (January 1981).
SERVES 6 -8 , 1 9inch quiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ Spanish (yellow or white) onion, chopped
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
5 eggs
3/4 lb muenster cheese grated
¾ cup chopped mushrooms (optionally delicious)
1 clove of garlic pressed/minced.
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F.
Spray 9-inch pie plate with non-stick baking spray. (Use a corning ware quiche dish or round baking dish). Put dish in oven on cookie sheet to warm.
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat; add onion, mushrooms and “pressed” garlic, stir occasionally until tender (5 min).
Add spinach; cook until excess moisture evaporates. Put pan aside.
Beat eggs in bowl. Add cheese.
Stir egg-cheese mixture into onion-spinach-garlic mixture; season with salt and pepper. Pour into hot quiche pan, spreading top evenly.
Bake until top is browned and “tester” (use sharp knife or toothpick) comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

RUBBING THE MEAT (snicker, snicker...)

I’ve actually been wanting to bang-out this “bad-boy” of a dry-rub recipe for some time—ever since Anne Burrell told the story on “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef” of how the meat delivery guy (for her NYC restaurant) said: “What do you do to your meat?! It tastes SO GOOD!” Anne’s recipe calls for 1 to 3 day marinade on the rib-eye for an “aged beef” affect, however, I’ve experimented a little with this recipe, making it 5 different times. I’ve simplified it based on my experimenting and I really feel that 1 hour for the dry rub to flavor the rib-eye is enough. The seasonings in the rub are full-flavors, which means a little goes a long way. I’ve found that just taking the meat out of the fridge, rubbing it, wrapping it and putting it aside to acclimate to room temperature (an additional tenderizing technique) is enough time for the meat to “get the flavor” before grilling. Also, I didn’t use a “bone-in” rib-eye any of the times I made it and the size of my steak compared to what she called for was a bit smaller. I made it and ate it, using Alton Brown’s pan searing instructions (I wanted a quick way to cook it)—and I never ate red meat so greedily in my life—I knew what the meat delivery guy meant—it tastes TOO good! Better than red meat has a right too! Cholesterol be damned!!!

I also just made the Rib-eye Love Supreme yesterday again with my Simi Valley drinkin’ buddies, hence the grill picture. The first picture of the meat is on my grilling pan the second time I made it.  The next picture of the meat (three steaks, one has it's "close-up") is on my buddy’s grill. The vote on the rub was unanimous once again, giving the rub a big double “thumbs-up.”

I bow to the rib-eye rub recipe and the joy it brought my taste buds last night again. I don’t eat red meat that much for health reasons, but I will not hesitate to volunteer this recipe to all my grilling buddies—this is sure to be a staple in my recipe repertoire, a real “love supreme.” Thanks Anne!

Modified from Anne Burrell’s recipe

2 tablespoons salt
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon pulverized crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons pimenton (Smoked Spanish Paprika)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Oil, for brushing grill
2 (22 to 24-ounce) bone-in rib-eye steaks
Extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Use your fingers to make sure that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Rub the outside of each steak generously with the rub. Wrap each steak in plastic wrap and put aside, while letting meat acclimate to room-temperature.

Place 10 to 12-inch cast iron skillet in oven and heat oven to 500 degrees. Bring steak(s) to room temperature. When oven reaches temperature, remove pan and place on range over high heat. Coat steak lightly with oil and season both sides. Immediately place steak in the middle of hot, dry pan. Cook 30 seconds without moving. Turn with tongs and cook another 30 seconds, then put the pan straight into the oven for 2 minutes. Flip steak and cook for another 2 minutes. (This time is for medium rare steaks. If you prefer medium, add a minute to both of the oven turns.)

Remove steak from pan, cover loosely with foil, and rest for 2 minutes. Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto plate.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Brush and oil the grill to loosen and remove any crud. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator about 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. Right before cooking remove the plastic wrap and lightly oil the steaks. Place the steaks on a very hot grill to put a char on both sides of the steak. When both sides of the steak have become well charred move the steak to a cooler part of the grill to continue cooking for 6 to 7 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove the steak from the grill and let rest in a warm spot for 7 to 8 minutes. Cut the steak off the bone and slice on the bias across the grain. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve immediately.


I’d like to bring your attention to the brewing efforts of one Ninkasi Brewery in my uncle's "hood" Eugene, Oregon--and the beauty of my favorite kind of brewing—hopped up! Yep, I love “hoppy brews”—I think I mentioned that before. Today’s beer tasting brings us to the seasonal Spring Reign Ale, which is still on its majestic throne, since I was able to buy it at BevMo last Saturday. Its’ gold-amber unfiltered look is extremely inviting at the end of a hard day. And since it’s only retailed in 22 ounce bottles you could call this a lovely entre meal in itself. At first taste is full malt and hops with a lingering balanced salt-yeasty goodness that keeps my palate affirming: “I would like some more please…” The 6% alcohol by volume gives this brew buzz a mellow one once you’ve imbibed it. Upon my next visit to Eugene I will make a special effort to see the new Ninkasi Brewery—I hear they’re building a bigger brewery! Ninkasi—the Sumarian matriarch goddess of beer--be praised! I hope that they will make Spring Reign a year round brew—it’s my favorite of the retail brews available from Ninkasi--all due respect to those other magnificent efforts of which I will review in due time. One last mention of how I appreciate the reasonable 22 ounce price: I can pick up this for $3.99 at BevMo—for the quality of this beer this is a “capital investment” worth risking. All you “hop-dawgs” out there should check it out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


In case you were wondering about my slight obsession with quiche’s at the moment, don’t worry. I’m just playing with the ingredients which have led me to the latest addition in my quiche repertoire: Crust-less Jalapeño & Black Bean Quiche—great for brunch or lunch. The idea had its genesis with my uncle who used to make a “Crust-less Jalapeño” quiche for his work potlucks. I mentioned I was making a crust-less quiche and he told me about his ol’ standby: “I used to make a crust-less quiche to take to work for our special potlucks. Grease a baking dish or pan (I used a lasagna dish). Grate a pound of sharp cheddar and layer it on the bottom of the dish. Pour a dozen beaten eggs over the cheese and sprinkle 4 oz. chopped jalapeno chilies on top. Bake at 350 until the center puffs up. Simple, easy, and tastes great. I sometimes added sliced black olives.” My version of the “jalapeño quiche” is a little like a 7 layer bean dip with eggs. That may not sound like much but it tastes pretty great and the house smelled like a Mexican restaurant—fantastic! I couldn’t wait to taste it! It wasn’t very spicy at all, just the great flavors of Mexican cooking. Give it a try, it’s easy and delicious!

2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ red onion chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 Jalepeno (take seeds out and chop fine—put gloves on to handle chili, to avoid contact with eyes & face, contact after touching chili will burn face & eyes—especially contact lens users! Warning!)
Pinch of coarse kosher salt
¼ teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper
5 eggs beaten
¾ cup drained black beans
2 cloves garlic (through garlic press or minced)
1 cup half & half or cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 9” inch diameter ceramic quiche cooking dish (baking dish) with “stick-free” spray and put on tray in oven while preheating.
In a medium sauté pan combine oil, jalapeño, chopped onion, pressed garlic, and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally until onions are tender. Put aside when done.
In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, cheese, salt, pepper, drained black beans and half & half. Stir in sauté pan mixture evenly. Take tray with pie dish out of oven and pour contents of mixing bowl in dish.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until center is done through. Let cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve.

Ways to lighten-up this recipe calorie-wise and cholesterol-wise: use 8 egg whites instead of 6 whole eggs. Use “percent” milk instead of “half & half” (half milk, half cream).

Monday, June 21, 2010


I'm a confessed anglophile: I love things English. My mom used to tell me about our genealogical ties to England and I was fascinated. Years later I spent a month there drinking my brains out…literally. Before I got to the UK, I was a minimal drinker, but for some reason, when I was over there, I drank everyday…although I have to say I was on vacation. I like to imbibe when I’m on vacation because I'm on vacation. My friend who lives in London said that when she had other visitors they said the same thing: they were occasional drinkers, however in London, they were drinking everyday, like they’d be hypnotized to do so. It’s not hard to notice the overflowing pubs—literally into the street--at “Tube rush hour.” The other fantastic attraction to “drinking every day in the UK,” are all the regional pubs that brew something different that you’ve never tried. As part of your vacation you get to drink the magical local potions of ale! As part of my beer tasting ritual at BevMo on Fridays I cruise the beer aisles, looking for new attractions. Sometimes I can’t resist. This time I was drawn to the pint size, oval shaped St. Peter’s Organic English Ale, in a hunter green colored bottle. It had an “old school” air that charmed me, and once poured, went well with my spicy garlic mashers. Further pairing research (as in purchasing another pint) may be required, to determine if the pint was as “bloody good” as I thought it was. “Haha”—I used a “colloquialism.” Like I said, it went well with my spicy garlic mashers (that’s garlic mashed potatoes with Del Taco “mild sauce” splashed on them, creating a “crime scene” effect). Made in Suffolk (UK) St. Peter's Organic English Ale will not disappoint if you like a medium bodied, malt barley pitch that lingers in bucolic reverie. Yes, this one does, and is another reason why I love the UK—it’s the country that keeps on giving.  Another great sign of quality is the way this ale reacts to room temperature; it maintains it's taste structure as it warms up.  Many great ales do this as a sign of brewing quality.  This won’t be my last “pub ale” from the UK. Three cheers! Hip-hip, horay! Hip-hip, horay! Hip-hip, WHO-RAY!!!  I may have to stop by their pub next time I'm in London...hmmmm.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I’d like to take this auspicious date to share a few things; first, it’s the 38th anniversary of the Watergate break-in! Second, it’s my sisters birthday and also, two of my co-worker’s birthdays, and also, my co-worker’s friends’ birthday, of whom I’m not acquainted but my co-worker mentioned it. And lastly, it’s the wedding anniversary of my “FBI buddy ol’ pal!” A funny little story of how I and my FBI pal met: about 12 years ago I was a bartender—yeah, I know it’s predictable, but I was. And one fine bartending day, two dapper gentlemen dressed in swell looking suits saddled up to Harry’s Bar & Grill in Century City--when Harry’s used to be there. I thought nothing of it, other than “those are two fine looking distinguished gentleman.” That day my niece was mooching free drinks off me at the bar and so we struck up a friendly conversation with the distinguished gentlemen. One fellow was drinking Grolsch—a fine Dutch lager and the other fellow was drinking a Stoli martini, straight up. So went the conversation as I remember…

Fine looking Gentleman #1: “So, are there any fun dance clubs or bars close by?”
Niece: “Yeah, there’s ‘put trendy bar name here’ across the street.”
Fine looking Gentleman #2: “Do we look dressed appropriately?”
Bartender: (Laughs) “You look like a couple of Federal Agents!” (Bartender laughs again.)
And that was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” I don’t know why the words “Federal Agents” came out of my mouth, it just happened, and before I realized what I was saying, the two of them were laughing hysterically. They didn’t tell me until Wednesday (they came in on a Monday night) that they were FBI (they’re supposed to keep a “low profile” haha!) but they came in every day after work for drinks and appetizers, and we caught on like a house-fire talking about this and that, nothing political or anything about what their job was, just casual fun talk about things like where to get good cigars, good drinks, food, and sights to see in Los Angeles.
Ever since then I’ve kept in touch with one of them and we’ve been drinkin’ buddies ever since, emailing or visiting if he’s in town. “A fine gentleman indeed” all these years later. Today’s his 38th Wedding Anniversary and I’d like to raise my glass of New Belgium’s “Mighty Arrow” Pale Ale in his honor. We may live on opposite coasts, but we’ve remained pals. Here’s to you on your Anniversary Dave! Here’s two Irish Blessings on your special day:
May God be with you and bless you.
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortunes
And rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
from this day forward.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains that fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

“To your health!”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Right now at BevMo is the "Nickel Sale" where you can buy a selected wine (of many) and get the same bottle for 5 cents! It's quite the bargain and also, a great opportunity for us "$10 or under a bottle" drinkers to justify the expense of paying over $10 for a bottle--because it's simply a great deal! And the marketing geniuses at BevMo know it. (Confidentially—haha, not anymore--my sister pronounced it "BEEV-MOE" until I corrected her: it's short for "Beverages and More!"..."Bev-Mo." She still pronounces it "BEEV-Moe" for ol' times sake.) This "Super Tuscan" California red is a blend from 3 different vinyards, bringing a medium-full body sweet “butter-bomb” goodness to the palate. Cosentino Winery, vintage 2006 Sangiovese, Il Chiaretto, is a lovely ride. With alcohol hitting 14.9% you’ll feel the lovely mantra of “feelin’ fine as wine”—one of Baretta’s favorite quotes (remember the TV series Baretta?) Notes of black cherry, dark chocolate, with ripe berries and plumb dance about with a subtle touch of oak finish. “Good times are had by all” when drinking this lovely red while enjoying the “RIB-EYE LOVE SUPREME!” Coming soon: “RIB-EYE LOVE SUPREME” recipe!

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


For some reason I got a “quiche bug” over the last week incubating and I made it this morning; mainly, my sister had given me a quiche cooking dish that had a recipe for “Quiche Lorraine” on it gathering dust. However, I wasn’t in the mood for the ingredients in a quiche Lorraine, so I mixed it up to my mood. Looking for a simple recipe online I found one that worked well with my own agenda of “quick and easy.” I’ve never made quiche before but for a first-timer I was impressed at how good it turned out. Who knew quiche could be so easy? I thought it was some complicated chef creation only served at champagne brunches. Turns out if you can break an egg, you can probably make this, just try to keep the egg shells out of the mix. The other thing is this quiche required no crust and you don’t miss it as far as I’m concerned--I’ve always been the type to take the crust off my Trader Joe’s quiche after baking to minimize carbohydrates, calories and wheat intake, so finding a recipe like this was a revelation. The recipe is actually a variation of about 4 recipes, so credit where credit is due. I only used half & half because I had it on hand and thought it would add some extra goodness. The house smelled amazing while the quiche was baking as well as the dish looking amazing: that browning of the edges away from the pie dish, raised up in all its egg glory. I was so excited to try it I forgot to take a picture first—one of the reasons I bought a camera was to take pictures of my foodie adventures including kitchen creations. So the picture is a little different from what it looked like when it came out of the oven, but I will be more of a shutter bug in future to capture the “first look” for effect and evidence of its goodness! If you’re looking of an easy quiche recipe that you can throw different ingredients in (one of the recipes had spinach in it) for variety, I recommend this one. Best wishes for the next foodie adventure!


2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ red onion chopped
1 ½ cups cheddar cheese
Pinch of coarse kosher salt
¼ teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper
6 eggs beaten
1 cup mushrooms chopped
1 clove garlic through garlic press or minced
1 cup half & half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 9” inch diameter ceramic quiche cooking dish (baking dish) with “stick-free” spray and put on tray in oven while preheating.
In a medium sauté pan combine oil, chopped onion, pressed garlic, mushrooms and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally until onions are tender. Remove pan from heat when finished.
In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, cheese, salt, pepper, and half & half. Stir in sauté pan mixture evenly.
Take tray with pie dish out of oven and pour contents of mixing bowl in dish.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until center is done through. Let cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve.
Ways to lighten-up this recipe calorie-wise and cholesterol-wise: use 8 egg whites instead of 6 whole eggs
Use “percent” milk instead of “half & half” (half milk, half cream).

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ruth Reichl (RYE-shil)


This is a genius website and the website of a genius. I’m a little prejudice in her favor since she is a personal hero of mine.  Some how I was turned on to "Comfort Me With Apples."  Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.  I knew I was going to read "Tender at the Bone" next.  After finishing that "Garlic and Sapphires" had just come out in hardcover and that book is one of my all time favorite reads.  The first chapter begins with her flying to New York City to interview for the New York Times Food Critic job, which she has no idea what she's getting into.  A lady sitting next to her on the plane, eye-balling Ruth's food says "are you gonna eat that?"  Ruth says "no" and the lady says "I'd be surprised if you did.  I know who you are..."   Ruth had no idea who this stranger was but the woman continued saying "you're the new Food Critic for the Times, you're worth millions of dollars."  I'm seriously paraphrasing the exchange but she realized that there was no way to give an unbiased review of restaurants unless she wore disguises!  Yeah, that's right--and it's a fascinating read of social commentary about food and people.  I recommend it to anyone who loves food, or considers themselves "foodies."  Get your "Foodie On" and read her books, you won't regret it. 

On Ruth Reichl’s website you can watch her lecture (slides included) and get a peak into a little known universe of food history. Eating to survive is one thing—watching food passionate people is another. I invite you to discover Ruth Reichl through her books, magazine http://www.gourmet.com/ and lectures.
"Bonne continuation!"

Friday, June 4, 2010


Yes, I’m giving you Spud-heads a "heads-up" that there’s a mean beer sale at Rite Aid right now—lots of great imports for only $11.99 a 12 pack. That’s like $1 a beer—unheard of at most bars! Some of the classics: Bass, Heineken, Newcastle, and some of my staples: Long Hammer IPA and Red Hooks ESB, which is lovely in it’s pleasant summer beer goodness—oh sure, ESB stands for “early spring beer” but this is one that you could drink all year. Stop by Rite Aid to see the magical prices before the go away…
Cheers Pals!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


BEVMO—Beverages & More! http://www.bevmo.com/
I thought I’d give a “shout out” to a place where I’ve spent many an hour and “pretty penny” shamefully & shamelessly. There are a lot of great things about BevMo, 2 of them being the $2 wine tastings on Saturday, and $1 beer tastings on Fridays, conveniently at “happy hour” time: 4-7pm. Check your local store for times. I owe a lot of tasting knowledge of beer & wine to BevMo and the people who are also at the tastings can be an encyclopedia of information about wine, beer making, beer festivals, wine festivals, wine country, etc. I first fell in love with IPA’s at BevMo (I should mention my favorite: Union Jack from Firestone Walker—most of the time that sings beautiful tasting notes to me), and also, rosé wines (I should mention Coppola’s “Sofia” Rosé), both of which I had no knowledge of before I discovered them at BevMo. I will be singing future praises of the tastings as those occur (or, as I’m impressed to do so). As for the general praises of BevMo, they have competitive prices in beer, wine and liquor. I often look for a cheaper price on Guinness, or Newcastle, some of my beer staples when I’m in the mood and sometimes after my tastings I buy. I have to say that marketing idea is some special kind of genius—get ‘em liquored up to shop! Well, it worked on me, and depending on how much you spend you get a 5% discount coupon periodically—I think it’s after you spend about $200 or so, and I’ve earned a few discounts in my 3 years or so frequenting BevMo. I worship at BevMo, it’s my Friday/Saturday constitutional…if the mood permits.


[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread. ~M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

Pictured is a local Irish bread referred to as "wheaten bread."  If wheaten bread has a cousin, it's "soda bread," easy-to-make, and easy to eat!  A few weeks ago I was inspired to make something that I saw the Barefoot Contessa http://www.barefootcontessa.com/about.shtml make on the Food Network: Irish Soda Bread. Since then I have made six loafs with different takes on the classic. Ina’s Soda Bread has currents and orange zest which brings out a fresh sunshine taste to the bread, that’s the only way I can describe it.
I’ve modified the loaf slightly since I didn’t have the fancy $300 blender that Ina was using on her show. I figured the Irish have probably been mixing by hand for centuries and hand mixing should work just fine. I found this recipe to be simple and fast and I’ve pasted it here with the modifications. This was my first attempt at baking from scratch and I’m very happy with the results. I’ve only done pre-fabbed cake mixes before from a box. In the last few weeks I’ve made the Ina Garten version (substituting dried blueberries for lack of dried currents) twice [loaves 1 & 2) to use up the leftover dried blueberries; then semi-sweet chocolate chip and tangelo zest bread [loaf 3] (for lack of oranges and because there’s a tangelo tree in the back yard); then double cheddar cheese soda bread [loaf 4] (Irish Cheddar and English Cheddar with chives, about a cup and a half total of cheese); then I went for a all chocolate chip loaf, again using semi-sweet chips this time Belgian chocolate [loaf 5] Yes, Belgian semi-sweet chocolate chips, Ralph’s Select. And finally, a plain version of the Irish Soda Bread [loaf 6], which is multifunctional since you can dress it either way: salty or sweet, as my Irish acquaintance pointed out. Her review after trying my first endeavors was “This is really, really good…” and after saying that a few more times added “it made me tear up…” I was inferring that she was tearing up in a good way, as in “I miss the home cooking of Ireland” tearing up. When the last verdict was pronounced (“You’re amazing!”) I bid a grateful “thank you,” and let it go at that. My Irish acquaintance recommended I also try Potato Brea and Wheaten Bread.  I did make the Wheaten Bread--hence the picture--and the recipe was very similar to the soda bread, just substitute 2 cups of wheat flour in the recipe below [2 cups all purpose flour & 2 cups wheat flour], and you have your Wheaten Bread.  This bread goes great with cheddar, eggs, bacon, ham, etc., like a breakfast sandwich or just add some fantastic marmalade.  The wheaten bread is some of the best wheat bread of ever tasted. 

1 loaf
• 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
• 4 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
• 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
• [optional: 1 teaspoon grated orange zest]
• [optional: 1 cup dried currants]
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl, mix with spatula by hand. Add the butter and mix until the butter is mixed into the flour.
With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup.
Mixing slowly by hand add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. [Optional: Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet and clumpy.]
Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.