Posted in Entertaining

A Christmas Wine Tasting Party

On a cold winter’s eve, a group of friends gathered at my home, escaping the windy night, to celebrate the holiday with dinner, gifts, and to taste my new wines. Thank you to my friend, Annie, for taking photos!

The tree was decorated and all aglow, the twinkly lights and candles were lit and cast a lovely glow. Food was set out all around so that guests would mingle; latkes, cheese balls, olives, pickles, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, chips and dip, limocello cheese cake, and ginger bread.

We created a game that we have done at every party. Guests pair up with someone they don’t know and answer the questions. The questions are based on the origin of our animal’s names. There is always laughter during this trivia game! (You can answer the questions at the end of this article!)

The Chardonnay was everything I wanted to be. It was a very small batch. Caramel apples and light pineapple in every taste of this delicious wine. I was so pleased.

My Merlot was a hit. Sumptuous, with aromas of cranberries and flavors of mulberries and cedar; currants and complexity linger on the palate. We toasted to friends and the new year.

Everyone brought a ten dollar gift to exchange. Numbers were drawn and everyone went home with a wonderful present.

I let each guest have a barrel taste of my new Nebbiolo. It is still sweet with juice but the flavors are coming together beautifully and I think it will be a very fine wine indeed.

Keeping in mind what is really important, gather those you love near, introduce new friends, and gather memories dear.

Ice Breaker:

  • What are our cats, Chuck and Linus, named after?
  • What movie is our cat, Mr. Boogedy Boo, named after?
  • What movie/books does our dog, Gandalf’s name come from?
  • What movie/book do our goats’ names come from? Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones?
  • The sheep we are getting in a few weeks will be named Ebenezer and Fezziwig, where does that come from?
  • Our kittens are named Taos and Socorro- what do those have in common?
  • Our ducks are named Serrano, Sandia, and Big Jim- what do those have in common?
  • Tie breakers- A past cat we had was named Zuzu’s Petals and a greyhound we had was named Bumble; what movies are those names from?
Posted in Entertaining

How to Throw a Memorable Dinner Party

Five records were stacked and ready to start playing as soon as the first guest pulled up. The table was set. Small wine goblets brought out for the occasion. Fresh sunflowers filled canning jars. The dinner party was about to begin.

I decided to throw a four course dinner party for friends, complete with wine pairings. My own garden created inspiration and filled the menu, along with local mushrooms, wine, and cheese. Homemade pasta and sourdough baguettes rounded out the menu.

This was an elaborate party, but it was easily managed by planning out each detail ahead of time. The menu was written on a door painted with chalkboard paint. The chive pasta was made Thursday. The Limoncello cake was made Friday in anticipation for Saturday’s dinner. On Friday I also blended a simple gazpacho style soup using lots of fresh veggies and olive oil in my Vitamix, added seasoning to taste, then stored it in the refrigerator. The soup was served cold topped with crab, which was removed from its cans Friday and stored in a glass container in easy reach in the fridge. Ten sets of plates and bowls were set out on the counter for easy plating.

Everything that could be prepped ahead of time was, like harvesting vegetables, pre-cutting the iceberg lettuce, and making the salad dressing. The white wine and champagne were put in the refrigerator as well.

Saturday morning I met up with girlfriends, rested until after lunch, then hit the ground running baking bread and setting the table. The potatoes were parboiled then smashed and placed on a cookie sheet. I poured crushed garlic and olive oil over the whole thing and put it in the toaster oven to start after the soup course.

Before guests arrived, the wine was opened, a pot of boiling water was started and kept on low for the pasta. The pasta sauce made with garlic and oyster mushrooms was started to the point of adding cream and was then kept off the heat until it was time to pull it all together for the third course.

Cups of coffee and delicious lemony cake was served. Guests meandered the garden, played with the dog, sipped wine and found things in common with each other. The whole dinner was a success. It it is a wonderful gesture to invite those you love from different circles and spoil them with great food and drink and company.

A simple affair is also easy to pull off. Put on a pot of soup. I wanted to make my woofers (farm interns) a truly Colorado meal, so I made them green chile, heated some tortillas on the gas stove, juiced some prickly pears and made the most delicious margaritas ever. The point of a dinner party is to come together as friends and community. Joining together over food is a great way to keep relationships alive and well. It adds such sweetness to life.

Cheers!

Posted in Farmgirl Decorating

Simple Autumn Decor

I absolutely adore this time of year. Autumn is my favorite season, and September is the sweet spot of the whole calendar. The cool desert mornings and starlit nights, warm days, hints of wood smoke, changing leaves, and the colorful harvest all culminate into a beautiful time of year that inspires and settles my spirit. I want to infuse the colors and the feeling of Fall into my wardrobe, my meals, and throughout my house.

The colors of Autumn trees inspire my color palette most of the year, with rich golds, reds, and bright oranges. Mums and throw pillows add these easily to any room.

A simple, faux leaf garland added to each room- over the bed frame, or across the piano- adds a touch of autumn whimsy.

A simple Pyrex bowl of found goodies becomes a charming still life. Here I used pine cones, cedar, and faux leaves. (If you have more deciduous trees than I, feel free to add in real leaves!)

A black cat always adds a nice touch to autumn decor!

Of course, being Pumpkin Hollow Farm, it is probably obvious that we love pumpkins in this family! Jack be little, Princess, Lumina, or Warty, they all make a lovely display. I hope the new owners of my last house are enjoying their pumpkins, this year we buy, but next year the front of the house will be swarming with many types of pumpkins.

Admiring colorful mums, picking up beautiful leaves, decorating with pumpkins, enjoying a glass of wine, making an apple pie; however you celebrate the season, may it bring you great joy and inspiration!

Posted in Field Trips

Queen Creek Olive Mill Tour

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The day was dusty and blustery, actually cool.  We passed a screened in garden filled with Five Color Silverbeat Swiss Chard, already two feet tall and rows of kale and flowers.  We looked out on the expansive grassy area dotted with olive trees then ducked into the store to avoid the wind.  The shop is charming with everything beautiful.  Every item they sell has a lovely label.  Each shelf meticulously designed and each product mouthwateringly tempting.  A large café serves easy fare like paninis and appetizers.  The smells of the coffee shop waft about the shop mingling with the aromas of wood fired pizza and olive oil.

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Rows of fresh olive oil are available to sample, all made there on the property.  They infuse balsamic vinegars there as well and they line the shelves with arrays of colors. Before we sample anything, we get in line for the tour.  We pass a hedge of olive trees and an ancient stone mill.

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Our tour guide has a staccato German accent and a charming demeanor.  He tells us the health benefits and caloric content of olive oil and the many uses.  He debunks the myth about olive oil’s smoke point (I knew it!  Grandmas in Italy know it as well.)  You can roast veggies, sauté, and do all of your cooking with olive oil without fear of it becoming a carcinogen.  (With that I must add that deep frying anything in itself is a carcinogen!)  I was pleased that I knew most all of what he told the crowd and I had to bite my lip to not answer questions and remind myself that I was not the tour guide!  It was interesting hearing about the IOG and their rigorous standards for purity and taste.  One must always purchase extra virgin olive oil, or second best, virgin olive oil.  Anything beyond that is lamp oil.

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As we munched on a cheese platter of pickled veggies and a Chardonnay Herbed Mascarpone and sipped wine, I reviewed the story of the founders.  A family leaving Detroit with a dream to grow olives in Arizona, raising their children on land, building a company, and succeeding.  Queen Creek Olive Mill is the only olive oil company in Arizona.

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We sampled olive oil and filled a shopping basket.  (We have hardly purchased any souvenirs at all on this trip, but we now have two big bags of food stuffs to take home now!  Our souvenirs are always food orientated.  We meandered through a great Indian grocery yesterday too, filling a basket as we perused rows of delicious and ridiculously low priced teas and spices.)  We would have enjoyed walking the grounds but the weather was not cooperative, but if we go back we shall walk around the beer garden and converse with the trees and enjoy the fresh food and olive oil.

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Queen Creek Olive Mill, 25062 S. Meridian Rd, Queen Creek, Arizona

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Your Complete Guide to Holiday Food and Wine Pairing and Gifts

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Perhaps you are entertaining this season, or maybe you entertain all year.  A glass of wine at dinner is better when paired appropriately.  A glass of wine with friends is even better.  Maybe you want to give a bottle of something as a gift.  Or perhaps you are curious about great wine.  Great wine doesn’t mean expensive.  The terroir and nuances and enjoyment of wine and the way it plays with food pairings can be found in a bottle of twelve dollar wine.  You just have to know what to look for.

There are five glasses of wine in each bottle.  A standard pour is five to six ounces.  This will help you plan how much to provide at a party.  Serve whites at 55 degrees.  Reds at 65-75 degrees.  Look for wine between ten and twenty dollars.

For appetizers– a sweeter wine that holds up on its own and is quite delightful is RieslingPinot Noir can be paired with anything.  It is the most versatile.  Look for the cherries and chocolate flavors in this milder wine.

If you are serving something with butter or cream- Mushrooms with butter sauce and Parmesan or Linguine Alfredo, let’s say, or a nice salmon with a creamy herb sauce will pair perfect with Chardonnay.  Chardonnay carries the crisp tropical and fresh fruit flavors of white grapes with the toasty cream finish thanks to the oak it matures in.

If you are serving seafood or salad– Shrimp Cocktail, a beautiful main-dish salad with chicken, or pork roast with apples and cabbage.  Anything that has crisp flavors-apples, lettuce, briny seafood- goes best with a Sauvignon Blanc.  It has crisp fruit and mineral flavors, is dry, and is made in stainless steel.  It goes really nicely with food.  If you want to go a tad sweeter with this type of menu, choose a Pinot Grigio.

If you are serving tomato based dishes or beans- Rich chili, thick pastas and savory sauces, olives, or bean soups all go beautifully with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Anything Italian naturally pairs with Sangiovese, Chianti, or Barbera.

If you are serving red meat or barbeque- You just can’t go wrong with a Merlot or a Malbec with a smoky steak or buffalo burgers.

If you are serving dessert- a thick Port with fudge is divine, a glass of Moscato or Ice wine is a sweet way to end the meal.

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A gift to a wine club is a great present to the wine lover on your list.  Some of the smaller wineries offer wine clubs which gives the oenophile on your list some new and exciting small batch wines to enjoy.  Some of the larger wine clubs offer treats from around the world.

Enjoy your festivities this season, my friends.  Cheers!

 

 

Posted in Field Trips

Travels, Friends, Dark, and Light, and the Breathing Ocean

We walked the beach on that last day.  We alternately dreamed of our future farm in California and the kisses we would receive from Maryjane when we got home.  The air was heady with fresh soil and sea and the birds actively flew overhead.  My skin feels so good in the humidity.  I can breathe better too.  My breath caught though as I recognized a form in the sand behind a rock.  An infant seal clubbed, his spirit and his head missing, decomposing into the soft layers of sand that cradled its small body.  Mankind’s darkness found everywhere.  Glimpses of ugliness scattered vaguely in all the light.  But thank goodness for the light.

We had an amazing time with our beloved friends.  We miss them terribly as the years lapse between visits.  We traversed the back roads and highways, from beach to farm to mountain to sunsets, tasting, drinking wine or waters with lemon from Marigold the Lemon tree who resides sweetly on their fourth floor balcony.  Nourishment in every moment.

We came home to one of our cats, Zuzu’s Petals, missing.  Like losing a penny down the drain.  She is most immersely lost in this wilderness of apartment hell.

And as I sat on that beach in the sand looking out into the widest expanse of water that just graced the sky, and listened to the birds dancing on the rocks, and watched my husband recline and read, I noted the waves as they tumbled forth near my feet and then pulled back into the vastness.  Up and stretched in turquoise waves, then exhaled.  Came forth, pulled back.  I watched the ocean breathe for hours.  She gave, she pulled back, she grew in ferocity, she rested, she was beautiful in all her simplicity of ebb and flow.  She wrote out a poem, a script of life, a beautiful tale.

 

Posted in Entertaining, Food/Wine (and preserving)

The Forest Feast and the Underground Supper Club

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I have found the most beautiful cookbook.  It is called “The Forest Feast” by Erin Gleeson.  You can taste the food and smell the forest and celebrate with friends as you flip the pages.  Cool cocktails and interesting takes on vegetables wooed me into the check out line with it.  I have spent hours lost in its pages.

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I bought it to challenge me.  Sometimes I make the same vegetables in many of the same ways as I always have.  Corn with butter and salt.  Broccoli with  uh…butter and salt.  How about broccoli roasted then tossed with blue cheese and pine nuts?  I served this dish with curried salmon and salad when friends came to dinner and the dish positively melts in your mouth and screams for great red wine.  Cauliflower steaks with cheddar and chives.  Cucumber and strawberry salad.  Paprika and cinnamon crispy carrot slices.  Sangria.

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It inspires me, as so many things out there do.  Shyanne and I have long dreamed of a supper club.  Wildflower and Fawn, after our respective Native names, would be its moniker.  Supper clubs are frowned upon when serving wines and food in a non-commercial kitchen and charging.  But, yet we dreamed.  Four courses, from scratch, organic, local ingredients, wine pairings, my creative take on main and side dishes, and Shyanne’s extraordinary flair for desserts.  A multi-star experience of fresh flowers, laughter, fine china, and delicious food and drinks.  A quarterly event.  A way to express our inner chef/sommelier/baker/entertainer without the restaurant.

The first one filled up in a matter of days.  The next is Memorial Weekend.  The ideas and inspiration keeps gathering force like stardust, and enchantment is all around.

 

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving), Uncategorized

Dinner and Movie Night-Spice and Herb Fish, Artichokes, and Spiced Cocktails

Dinner and a movie at home is one of our favorite “dates”.  Today we will make spice and herb stuffed fish with artichokes and a gingery, fruity cocktail.  The movie is “Burnt” with Bradley Cooper.  We loved it.  We love all foodie movies though.  This one was fast and fun and made our mouths water.

The Cocktail- This cocktail began a year and a half ago as my intern, Ethan, and I loaded a two quart jar with fresh peppermint, apple halves, and good rum as a Christmas present for Doug.  It is sweet and syrupy and delicious but certainly regular rum, or alcohol omitted all together, would be fine.

The base is delicious alone, really.  Load a pot with slices of ginger, turmeric, oranges, and fresh mint.  Drizzle in a generous amount of honey.  Pour over about four cups of water and simmer for one hour.  This mixture can sit in the refrigerator after it is done.

Rodney and Pat gave us a Soda Stream machine which carbonates water.  It makes fun “pop” and cocktails.

Fill a high ball with ice, pour in one or two ounces of rum, then half and half carbonated water and base.

The Artichokes- I do hope you indulge in artichokes.  They are completely delicious and nutritious and fun to eat!  Clip off any sharp points on the outer leaves as well as the top quarter inch.  Trip stem to one inch.  Place in boiling water with half a sliced lemon, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and two cloves of garlic and simmer for 40 minutes.  Drain and cool.

To eat, peel off leaves and pull bottom part through teeth to get meat off.  As you get closer to the center the leaves get more tender and you will eat the lower third of them.  When you get to the center spoon out the fuzzy part and enjoy the whole heart and stem.

To make dip, place a quarter cup of mayonnaise and sprinkle with your favorite season salt.  I love the Market All Purpose seasoning from Savory.  It is full of smoky paprika.

The Fish- I used trout.  I love trout but any good fish will work.  Sprinkle inside of fish with garlic salt and lemon pepper.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder and grate 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and 1/4 teaspoon of grated turmeric and spread on inside of fish.  Stuff with sprigs of Thai basil, green onion, and peppermint (or whatever you have on hand).

Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and 2 Tablespoons of oil (I used a flavorful orange and chili oil from Germany) in a frying pan.  Add fish and cook covered for 8 minutes.  Flip and cook another 5 minutes or until fish is cooked through.

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From my kitchen window, the snow is over a foot high and it is still blowing and snowing.  Another movie and foodie night might be in order!  Happy Eating, Friends.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Results of Making Chokecherry Wine

Drum roll please…..

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Well, it’s been about a year since I brewed the chokecherry wine. It needed to sit for a year and I have patiently waited for the final product.  I was nervous because choke cherries are named that for a reason, they are puckeringly sour and a smidge bitter without two tons of sugar.

Friends, those old timers that wrote that recipe knew a thing or two about turning ordinary wild berries into wine to keep the spirits warm for winter.

The initial scent was of yeast and fruit, sweet berries, and summer.  A taste proved similar to meade with a hint of bitter on the end.  Not too shabby, Folks.  Not too shabby.

For the recipe, see my initial blog post here for making Chokecherry Wine.

(Note: Six months after writing this post we served another bottle and it was smoother and more delicious.)

Posted in Field Trips

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey (a field trip)

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Sometimes one needs to run away, to have a change of scenery, and to put the day to day chaos away and perhaps have a glass of wine!  A change of place can create calm in thought and help bring on new ideas.  We haven’t had a field trip to a winery in some time, so Doug and I with our friends, Rodney and Pat, headed up to Canyon City to explore one in our own back yard.

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The Holy Cross Abbey is a beautiful gothic structure that used to house monks and a boarding school, but as it declined the grounds were left to a viticulturist and the abbey now rests while the winery does the work now.

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We enjoyed the VIP tasting (surprisingly affordable) which included eleven pours to taste most of the wines produced there, from a luscious Petit Sirah to a sweet Apple wine made from local apples.  As we walked outside to the place that the tasting would be held we immediately took in the quaint picnic table set for four with wine glasses.  The vineyard directly behind buzzing with life.  The perfect early autumn air and the smell of nearby mountains and flowers made the event seem as if it were written out of a magazine.

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Our delightful hostess, Elise, was a charming addition to the tasting as we compared stories of herbalism, homesteading, and future dreams.  Her aspirations include starting a community organization that brings like minded people together and turning her parents’ property into a lively homestead for them.  We took to her sweet spirit and enthusiasm immediately.

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It was a day of laughter, good weather, friends, and wine.  We sat in the sun, enjoyed a meal together afterwards, and sang karaoke into the night.  The perfect day.

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If you are in the area the Holy Cross Winery is a lovely place to stop. http://abbeywinery.com