Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Starts with a Sweet Finish

I've been putting off writing this post for a while now. Today was unusually warm and it's quite a definite that spring has sprung. So I thought either I write about this now or it's going to be next year until the topic will be relevant again. I'd like this post to be a celebration of the first day of spring. Since I turned 21, I have always been celebrating this very occasion by going to a winery. This year, the decision was much of an impromptu one, though. A friend of a friend from Chicago was in Atlanta for a visit. So, this year, North Georgia's Dahlonega is my California's Napa Valley and my Mid- Missouri's Hermann. Unfortunately, we only visited Wolf Mountain Vineyards since we didn't leave until late in the afternoon. But let me tell you, it was a very good decision to go.

Wolf Mountain Vineyards has that warm family log cabin feel that makes you want to cuddle up on a rustic cedar log loveseat with your significant other (or your dog- while sipping a glass of zin or cab, of course) by the fireside.

We had a wine tasting and my pick was a tall, sleek bottle of Delicieux (French for "delightful"). It's the winery's first port-styled, full-bodied red dessert wine listed as private reserve. It has dark berry fruit flavors with a finish that fully satisfies your sweet tooth.

Wolf Mountain Vineyards uses mostly French and Hungarian Oak Barrels. Those types of barrels allow the oak flavor to not overpower the rich fruit flavors.

Approximately 3 tons of red wine fruits are fermented in each of these 800 gallon stainless steel tanks.

Photo Credit: Weigy Widyanputra

Photo Credit: Weigy Widyanputra

The winery lost its wolf 'muse' named Nootka last year. Is Nootka the wolf that inspires the winery's name? I'm not exactly sure, but I highly doubt that he isn't.

I snapped a shot of these charming little creatures on my way to the parking lot. Anyways, happy blooming, everyone!

ps: You don't have to visit the winery to get a taste of the wines (although for sure visiting the winery gives you more of the visual and psychological benefits), the wines are also sold in stores throughout Atlanta.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Some Wonderful, Magical Animal"

The Simpsons
Lisa: “I’m going to become a vegetarian.”
Homer: “Does that mean you’re not going to eat any pork?”
Lisa: “Yes”
Homer: “Bacon?”
Lisa: “Yes Dad”
Homer: "Ham?”
Lisa: “Dad, all those meats come from the same animal”
Homer: “Right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!”"

I spent the entire Saturday writing about the so-called Google vs China war. I'm taking a break until I finally start an entirely new and unremitting chapter called proofreading. You would think that taking a break would involve something like getting a drink (or two) or watching a re-run of Kell on Earth, right? Don't get me wrong, I AM taking a sip of my sauvignon right now as I'm writing this, but the entire living room is being occupied by a dozen of thirsty gamers, a.k.a Weigy's friends from work. Therefore, I'm pretty much tied to my desk. So, I decided to write a post dedicated to a celebrate the arrival of Sunday, the day where I can take a break from Lent. That only means one thing: I am allowed to chow as much meat down my throat.

I'm pretty sure you hear this all the time, but it's a pleasure for me to serenade it again to your ears: Bacons are better in chunks than in slices. As you know, bacons are most often derived from pork bellies. Our friend Richmond, likes to cook his pork bellies Chinese-styled using Chinese five-spice powder. I am most grateful of that fact. Sometimes pork bellies are intimidating for some people, especially when they come in huge chunks. The truth is, pork bellies are like diamonds in the rough!

We (by we I mean Richmond) slow-cooked the pork bellies for more than 5 hours and it just got more and more tender. We stir-fried it first before slow-cooking it. The broth turned out to be very rich, fatty, and sweet. We ended up chopping the pork bellies into pieces. I don't like the fatty parts, I always pass mine to Weigy. I guess it's a matter of preference. Knowing that my guilt of eating a generous amount of pure fat might result in some head-banging action, I'd rather take some prevention act in advance. As for the meat, it simply just glides in your mouth, very juicy and soft.

I like to eat the richest and fattiest thing with rice. Rice seems to neutralize everything. Plus, a little bit of that silky and shiny fatty broth on top of the rice? Mmmm...

PS: Yes I know, I need to get one of those nicer wooden cutting board. Blame it on IKEA for being so budget-friendly.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Take a Slow Bite, No Chugging Involved (Late St. Pat's Day Ed.)

The thing that I remember the most about St. Patrick's Day is how every year someone always asks me, "why aren't you wearing green?" Well, that's because I don't have anything in green in my closet. Olive, maybe, but not shamrock-ish kind of green. I just don't like the color on me. That's simply the same reason why I don't have anything in red (and people have the same question also, every year, on Chinese New Year's Eve) or yellow (whoever goes/went to Mizzou knows that not wearing yellow/gold on a game day is pretty much a sin).

But I've been cooking and baking a lot for the past two months. And yes, I'm a beginner, therefore there's a legitimate reason why I had not documented my cooking journey in the past. It simply wasn't pretty.

For this past St. Pat's Day party with the Anthem crew, I followed Smitten Kitchen's recipe for chocolate whiskey and beer cupcakes. These are simply Irish car bombs (I apologize if you find the term offensive) in the form of baked goods sans the alcohol effects. I left out the ganache filling because most of the guests were guys and it's been proven in the past that their sweet tooth isn't as adventurous as girls'.

Since I didn't have much time and my Proctor Silex hand mixer is getting rusty, I used a cake mix (Duncan Hines, never anything else) instead of making my own. Sorry, I know that's just not right. I used Guinness instead of water as instructed for the cupcakes and I followed the recipe to make Baileys frosting. The frosting didn't turn out to be that great, it's a little thin for me (I'm pretty sure that's mostly mine or my Proctor's fault). But when I realized that, that's when the mixer started acting out so I just let go of it.

Weigy has been joking about getting a job as a fortune cookie writer. I thought why not give him the chance to do it. So I let him write "fortunes" for the cupcakes, in which I slipped it in the little shamrock decoration I've made in advance.

Oh and these cute little bottles? Michaels' has them. I picked up the last bag in the store. It says "95% drunk and 5% Irish" if you can't see it.

Unfortunately the Guinness is mostly baked out and you can't really taste the alcohol on the frosting. Adding more Baileys would've made the frosting become thinner and thinner. But still, at least there's something to brag about.

We did the real Irish car bombs that night, but seriously, I have fuzzy memories about that.

ps: This time I don't have to credit anyone for the pictures, I took them myself. But I'd like to credit the camera owner for his generosity. That is, Shawn Borsky of the Anthem Design Group. Thanks, Shawn!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My Little Feet Couldn't Stop Dancing

To Rodrigo Y Gabriela music.

*My detailed, long-form elaboration on why I haven't blogged for the last 6 months will be in the next post, promise.

I went to see Rodrigo Y Gabriela in concert at Center Stage in Atlanta last night. The tix wasn't that pricey and I thought I've seen them on YouTube and they sounded pretty great, I mean, why not? Well, it turned out that I made the best decision of the year 2010. They were amazing. It was one of the best concerts I've ever gone to in my entire life.

The best thing about them is, like Weigy said, "There's no gimmick. It's just two people playing music. Really good music." To be honest, I don't know much about guitar music and therefore, here's a disclaimer, I can't talk that much about the quality of their music technique wise. I just know that I've never heard that kind of music being played with that kind of energy and passion. Very charming, fast-playing, rhythmic acoustic guitar that transports a very strong, trance-like, happy energy. One thing for sure, like Rodrigo and Gabriela said, "This is not flamenco." But really, they are THAT good.

Weigy broke the news to me that Rodrigo Y Gabriela started out their career by playing on the streets of Mexico City. Then they moved to Dublin till they got discovered by Damien Rice, who asked them to open for him. I like it how they didn't mind having a chat with the audience whenever their magical fingers were getting some much-needed rest. You just know that these people are good people who have made their way by staying true to the never-worn-out credo of working hard. And yes, you can tell that they're having fun while doing it.

I would love to see them again. I don't know that watching people having fun can be this much fun. Thanks, Weigy, for introducing them to me. My little feet couldn't stop dancing.