Holiday Cocktail Recipe: Warm Woody

WarmWoodyBeverageThis is a very simple hot beverage that is popular at a restaurant up in Lake Tahoe, Riva Grill.  It’s called a “Warm Woody” probably because their other popular cocktail is called a “Wet Woody”.  It has to do with wooden boats or something.  The Wet Woody is a blended beverage chock full of rum.  The Warm Woody is a three ingredient hot drink. Well, four if you include the whip cream…and of course, I do.

I’d link to their website, but it automatically plays music when you go there, so I can’t condone that.

Ingredients:

Coffee
Baileys Irish Cream
Hot cocoa
Whipped cream

If you’re lucky enough to have a Keurig, you can make these one at a time. Just dump a packet of instant hot cocoa into a mug. Put your favorite coffee in the Keurig and brew it right into the hot cocoa.  Add Baileys to taste and stir.  Garnish with whipped cream.

So yummy!!

Wine things we do

The other day, I noticed a strange ritual I perform. I was finishing off another bottle of wine (stop judging me) when I put the cork in a vase. I keep all the corks from my bottles of wine. Does anyone else do this? If not, what do you do with the corks? Just throw them away? Can they be recycled?

Wine-Collage

Yes, I googled it and apparently there are some companies who do recycle cork. Sadly, none of them seem to be in Minnesota. I take that back. Apparently, you can recycle cork at Whole Foods. I can’t seem to find any info on their website about it, but I did find a big list of places on this Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CorkFCA.org) website.

I feel weird about throwing corks away. I’m not really sure why. I just feel like they should be saved. Unless of course they break off in the wine bottle and then all bets are off. Chuck them in the trash!

Is that coffee or a Girl Scout cookie?

It’s no secret that I love coffee. I think I love it more than wine. Don’t tell wine. So, when the folks at Coffee-mate offered to send me two flavors to try out, I jumped at the chance. Normally, I don’t take cream in my coffee…unless it’s a special occasion. But, when I do use creamer, I like it to be flavored.

These weren’t just any flavors sent to me by Coffee-mate. They were the Girl Scout Cookie flavors, Thin Mint and Caramel & Coconut. These are my two favorite Girl Scout cookie flavors. Samoa, Caramel De-Lite or as Coffee-mate calls it, Caramel & Coconut, is the best in my opinion. And these two creamers, taste just like the cookies. I wouldn’t go as far as saying they are substitutes for the cookies, but they are delicious in and of themselves.

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I had initially taken them to work to share with everyone…I shared them with no one, and I’m not sorry. Go get your own!

Honestly though, I’ve always been a fan of Coffee-mate’s flavors. The other day when I was in the grocery store, I saw Dark Chocolate Fudge. If I didn’t have the other two sitting in my fridge (who am I kidding, they’re gone), I would have bought that then and there.

One thing I did notice, when I had some creamer in my coffee, I didn’t crave something sweet for my midmorning snack.

I think with my next batch of Coffee-mate, I might try baking with it. That’s right, I said bake. Did you know you can use it in more than just beverages? This Winter Spice Scones recipe sounds pretty good to me.

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Minnesota State Fair: Stimulation overload

Nothing can really prepare you for the Minnesota State Fair if you’ve never been to it.

It’s not like just any state fair. There is crazy shit everywhere and I’m not even talking about the random people. There was so much to look at that I barely noticed the people. It might be the “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” but I was too busy being in awe of the stuff that I’d heard tales of over the past few months.

Seriously, I think I’ll just post a ton of photos, kind of like a vacation video:

MN State FairThe butter sculptures were fascinating, much like everything else at the fair. I thought there was just one, but as you can see from the above photo, there is a mini rotunda of them. In fact, you can watch one poor soul getting her image created while she sits for 8 hours in the 40 degree box.  Of course, that might not be too bad when it’s 95 degrees outside with a heat index of 105.

The Dairy Building had all things dairy and meat in it.  And yes, that’s a picture of me as a turkey.

There was a building dedicated to the pioneers of Minnesota, some of whom were my ancestors. They had a full bedroom and living room set up. It was a little eerie, but educational at the same time.

Speaking of education, we had to stop at the University of Minnesota building and ensconce ourselves in all things Golden Gopher.  If you didn’t want to buy a shirt, you could learn about rockets or medieval studies from the kids as well as checking out all of the trophies won by their various sports teams.

The Creative Arts building gave us a look into the baked goods of tomorrow. Well, they looked like they’d been baked yesterday and were well past their prime, but I was still in awe of all that cake and jam.

Oh, did I mention the mini-donuts? Yum!  The scent of deep fried dough hangs heavily around the fairgrounds, luring you in like a siren. Also, I had been hearing people talk about cronuts. Apparently, they are croissants cooked like donuts.  I found something similar at the State Fair:

state fair, food, fried, baked goodPersonally, I prefer cake donuts, specifically the old fashioned ones, so the hype is lost on me.

Minnesota State Fair, boozeWhat is not lost on me is the beer!  For $8 you get to taste four beers. I kept seeing people with these little boxes of cups and finally figured out they were drinking flights of beer. Somewhere I saw a sign that said “Land of 10,000 Beers” that sounds way more fun than lakes.

Seriously, the food stands were center stage for me.  I don’t know what Spam curds are and I wasn’t about to find out. The ball of brie dipped in wine batter, shoved on a stick and fried was pretty good. The weirdest stick food was the spaghetti & meatballs and ostrich.  Of course, there had to be a salted nut roll.  I mean they are made here in Saint Paul.

We did see some non-food stuff like the Lego Road Trip exhibit which was pretty much children let loose on Legos.  They had some interesting models like the guy who stepped in gum.

And Paul wanted to see the John Deere exhibit.  He tried to get in that big tractor, but luckily, it was locked.

I don’t remember where the American Gothic picture was taken, but I think it had to do with farmers or something.  Either way, the hole was too big and the image was out of scale, but it didn’t deter me from sticking my head in there.

A tradition is to go to Sweet Martha’s for a giant pail of mini chocolate chip cookies.  We went there last because they pile that sucker up pretty high with those tasty treats and we didn’t feel like carrying them around the fairgrounds.

Wine Review: The Naked Grape

This isn’t your grandma’s box wine.

You know why I love boxed wine? Because if I open a bottle of wine, odds are 50% of it will go bad.  I’m the only wine drinker in my household, so it takes me a while to consume a whole bottle.  I hate wasting wine and love getting a good deal.

The good people at The Naked Grape sent me a sample of their Cabernet Sauvignon in the 3 liter box. I think there are about four bottles of wine in a box this size, which is about 16 glasses of wine…give or take.  You get all of that for under $20.  That’s about $1.25 per glass.  Cheaper than a cup of coffee!

It was pretty good.  Smooth, dry, fruity…It wasn’t the best wine I’ve ever had, but it is a decent daily wine. Is that a thing? Daily wine? Maybe just me. Moving on…

I’d heard of The Naked Grape, but for whatever reason, hadn’t tried their wines.  Now that I’ve had a chance to sample it, I’m definitely putting it on my search list.  They have a way to look for their wines near you on their website, but due to the weird ass laws in Minnesota, it won’t work for me.

Speaking of weird ass laws, if you don’t live in Minnesota, you can go over to The Naked Grape site and download a coupon for a dollar off a box or a bottle.

It’s National Martini Day, of course.

Some of you just went, “Isn’t every day National Martini Day?” and that’s why we get along.

Who wouldn’t want to celebrate what’s essentially a garnished fancy glass of vodka? Well, martinis are more than just a glass of vodka.  They have been for years.  I mean the Cosmopolitan is type of a martini made famous by Sex and the City…was that over 10 years ago when the show first aired?  Wow.

I will admit that the Cosmo and the Lemon Drop are my favorite types of martinis.  In fact, the Lemon Drop is a great drink to order if you are new to imbibing in liquor. When made correctly, it takes like lemonade…with a kick.  It was the drink I would order when I was a 22 year old woman just getting a taste for alcohol.

Vodka has certainly changed since then.  It comes in many flavors these days.  From what I remember, Absolut was the first brand that had flavored vodka.  Now, the field is broader and so are the flavors.  It’s not just fruit anymore. Some of them sound a little random, but I saw this Three Olives Vodka recipe for a Campfire Martini and was intrigued:

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  • 3 parts Three Olives S’mores Vodka
  • Crushed graham crackers, chocolate syrup, marshmallows
  • Dip the rim of martini glass in chocolate syrup and coat with crushed graham crackers.
  • Pour Three Olives S’mores into martini shaker filled with ice.
  • Shake and strain into martini glass.
  • Garnish with a skewer of three toasted marshmallows!

It sounds like a fun drink to make when you are having a few friends over, especially in the summer time.

A Californian Wine Tastes in Minnesota

wine, wineries, MinnesotaLast weekend, Paul took me to some wineries in Minnesota for my birthday. Yes, friends, there are wineries in Minnesota.  I have heard locals speak of such places with condescension in their voices.  Personally, I am open to wineries anywhere in the United States or the countries in Europe I would visit.  I try not to be a wine snob.  You never know when you are going to find something you will like in an unlikely place…kind of like dating.

But, I digress.  We went to Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.  I did not see any falls or anyone fall for that matter so I’m guessing it’s just a clever name.  Regardless, when we entered the tasting room, the etiquette was a little different than what I’m used to in California.  We walked right up to the bar (like I have done countless times in California) and were greeted by a very nice lady.  She was friendly and accommodating.  She presented me with three options for tasting…all having to pay. Now, I’m going to hope that there is some law in Minnesota that requires people to have to pay for liquor because otherwise, I’m totally turned off by this practice.

However, I was impressed by the selection available.  I could have tasted up to 18 different wines in one sitting.  Since I didn’t want to end up puking in the parking lot, I chose the 8 wine option.  They also had a flight of 3 wines available.  This was basically three glasses of wine, I think.

Anyway, after deciding how many wines I wanted to imbibe, we were directed to sit at a table.  This was different, but I liked it.  In California, you usually just hang out at the bar drinking or tasting and chatting with the pourer and whomever was standing nearby.  I liked being seated and having the wine brought to me.  However, I understand that in some places the logistics just wouldn’t work.  The Cannon River tasting room was quite large as you can see from the photos.

wine, wineries, MinnesotaNext we went to Alexis Bailly Vineyard.  This winery was down a dirt road.  I am not kidding.  However, the weird drive was worth it.  The grounds were beautiful and many folks were there picnicking.  They had tons of interesting places to sit, trees to sit under and even bocce ball courts. I was shocked how many people were at this place.  I thought some sort of wine club event was going on, but I think everyone just wanted to drink wine.

Here we were presented with a more traditional tasting situation, standing at the bar and having someone pour.  Again, we had to pay.  Here’s the thing with making me pay $10 for a tasting.  I’m LESS inclined to buy a bottle of wine.  In fact, I didn’t buy one from this winery.  The people weren’t overly nice.  That’s not to say they weren’t nice, it just wasn’t motivating me to purchase.  Also, it was packed inside the place, as well as having live music going on, which was making me anxious.  I’m not a fan of crowds or loud noises, so all I wanted to do was get out of there…after having some wine of course.

By the way wineries, having live music in an enclosed space is a bad idea.  I want to talk to the people around me not hear a band.  There’s nothing wrong with live music, but I just think it takes away from the people working there and their ability to sell product.

wineries, MinnesotaHow was the wine? Eh. I kept an open mind, but it all seemed sort of sweeter than I like.  Everything was a blend.  Now, I enjoy blends, but it was odd to me that every wine I saw that day was a blend.  There were no Merlots, Zinfandels, or Syrah, but they were blended in with what I’m guessing are Minnesota varieties of grape, i.e. Foch, Frontenac, and Marquette.  I did buy a bottle of the Mill Street Red from Cannon Falls. It was very drinkable.

While I had fun going to the wineries with Paul, I think I’m going to stick with the wines from California.  They appeal to me more than the local ones.