January, 2011


25
Jan 11

Guest Blogger Dan Paulus: My Journey to Wine

My name is Dan Paulus and I am a WINE ENTHUSIAST!

The event that brought me closer to the wine industry was the 2006 NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis, Indiana. I went with a group of men of who were either my college buddies or their fathers. We went to St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, a fine establishment with a wine list that would make most wine stores jealous. I recall sitting at a table listening to my friends’ fathers describe various wines and telling stories about where they first tried a wine, what they thought of it, as they debated over which wine would best compliment this evenings spread.

As I listened, I couldn’t help myself but think either I fell into a group of grown individuals that either had passion for wine or were complete con artists with excellent stories. It was then that I decided I needed to embark on my own wine journey and gain knowledge so that when we ventured to the next Final Four I would be aptly prepared to show off my wine gusto.

I got back to my apartment in Columbus, Ohio and got caught up in the business world again, but maintained committed that at my next vacation slated for June I would make a conscious effort to begin my exploration in the wine industry. June arrived and I recall walking into a grocery store and looking at all the varieties and not having a clue where to start. I recognized a few names; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, but I was overcome by the vast selection. WHERE DO I START?

I walked out of the grocery store and ventured to a wine shop where I found the staff to be increasingly more helpful and much more knowledgeable. I explained that I wanted to learn about wine, but was “green” to my taste, knowledge, etc. They questioned me, do you like dry? Oaky? Full body? Aroma’s with nose? White or Red? Sulfite allergies? Etc. To the point that I just about had a crisis in the store, as I felt like I walked into a Chemistry test completely unprepared at Florida State University with my answering of questions laying in the balance of my future.

I remember saying, “I like sweet stuff.” The wine associate took me to the German section of wines and handed me a bottle of Riesling. He informed me to chill it and come back soon to tell him what I thought. Oh how I loved the sweetness of this particular Riesling – so much so that I drank the first bottle and quickly went back to grab two more. I felt like it was the death of a salesman that next day; my excitement for wine was quickly overshadowed with the hangover from hell, as I laid on my sofa questioning,  “why I did this to myself?”

Case and point made, I could have never drank another glass of wine and been completely happy. I went back to see my wine counselor and we began to make headway with the recommendation of the magazine, Wine Spectator. He quickly showed me why I felt like hell as he showed the alcohol content to be around 13% or nearly three times that of a Budweiser product I had accustomed myself x 3 bottles… I recall leaving the store with a magazine thinking is this really worth it?! I am now buying paper, not wine.

It was truly at this point, I realized I was moving beyond just wanting to get drunk. I wanted to know a product, a line, everything associated with a wine. I read the magazine in the next few days and like a kid who fell off his bike I ventured back to the wine shop and embarked on my new hobby – wine.

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25
Jan 11

Guest Blogger – Dan the Wine Guy

I’m very excited to have my very first guest blogger Dan Paulus.  I briefly met Dan while playing Kickball on the WAKA league in the Boca Division this summer.  This past weekend, my friend Brooke invited me to a wine tasting party at Dan’s place.  Once I realized how passionate he was about wine, I knew I had to ask him to be a guest blogger. Dan is a wine enthusiast and I wanted him to personally  introduce himself and tell about how he got into wine. Check out his story here.

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22
Jan 11

Chicken Fricassee

In my previous post, I mentioned I started making the mozzarella, tomato and basil appetizer after attending a potluck dinner with friends.  Potlucks are great because you get to taste things that you never had before and get the recipe. Now this recipe, I started making after having potluck at the office.  I actually had to beg my coworker Jessica for this recipe.  It took her a while, like a few months, to give it to me.  I think she was just being lazy, but I finally got it.  I’ve made this dish so many times now, but I can still never make it the way she did.  I think she just didn’t give me the right directions.  However, the way I make it still tastes great, hence why I continue to make this dish all the time.

Another reason why I make this dish is because of these guys below. Let me introduce you to them, Miss Tomato, Mr Pepper and Mr Onion. These veggies are like my staples. I constantly use these 3 guys when cooking.  I know I need to expand and try new things but with these veggies you can always find something to cook even on a rainy day.

tomato onion pepper

Ingredients
Boneless Skinless Thin Chicken Breast
Sazon with Coriander and Annatto ( Goya sells pre-packaged packets)
Chicken Bouillon
Garlic
Onion
Peppers – red, green, yellow
Extra Virgina Olive Oil
White Vineger
Can of Dice Tomatoes or Fresh Tomatoes
Sugar (optional)
Hot Sauce (optional)
white cooking wine

Prep:

Cut Onion and Peppers into small pieces.  Take about 2 cloves of garlic and mince finely.

chopped onion pepper tomato

Directions

Prepare a pot of water for boiling.  Add salt, pepper, a little bit of olive oil and a cap of vinegar.  Once boiling, add chicken and reduce heat and cover.

While chicken is boiling:

In a saucepan, add enough Olive Oil to coat the bottom on the pan evenly.  Turn on to high and add minced garlic and chopped onions and peppers.  Allow to simmer for a minute, then reduce heat.  You will then add the dice tomatoes, coriander and annatto, chicken bouillon.  You will add salt, pepper and hot sauce to your own taste.

veggies in pan

Taste dish once all ingredients are added and then add sugar based on acidity

Once everything is in the saucepan – bring to a boil, uncovered for a minutes while stirring.  When I make this dish, there was never enough liquid to boil. I just keep it on simmer.

Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is done.  If you see the sauce has reduced too much, add some of the water from the pot where the chicken is boiling in. (I use cooking wine as I noticed the first few times of making this, the water diluted the flavor of the dish)

When chicken is done, remove the chicken and place on cutting board and begin to shred the chicken.  You can either use your hands or a fork and knife.  Once all chicken is shredded, add to saucepan.

shredded chicken and veggies

Once chicken is added, bring to a boil for a couple of minutes, reduce heat and cover for about 5 minutes then remove from heat.  (Again, I keep it on simmer because if I kept it on boil, the dish would dry out).

Bon Appetite

chicken friscassee

chicken fricassee

—-

Usually potlucks you would hope to  get the correct recipe to follow, but if not you just have to adapt to your taste, experiment with flavors and hopefully it will turn out delicious.

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19
Jan 11

Appetizing Appetizer – Caprese Bruschetta

I first started making this appetizer after attending a potluck dinner party. I’m actually not a cheese fan. Most of you who are reading this and do not know me are probably in shock and saying “who doesn’t love cheese” Well, me! Of course there are some exceptions, like this recipe, but I assure you I truly will never care for cheese like a true cheese lover.

At the potluck,  the girl who made this appetizer  introduced me to balsamic glaze. Amazing! Now, if I can only find other recipes to use it on…

mozzarella tomato basil baguette

Ingredients:
Plum Tomato
Fresh Basil
Mozzarella (cut slice – half an inch thick)
Baguette
Balsamic Glaze
Salt
Pepper

I use a fresh baguette from the store and have them  slice the bread for me.  I’ve tried slicing the bread at home but just ended up squishing the slices.

When preparing this dish, I place the sliced bread on the serving dish.  I layer the bread with the basil, tomato and then the  mozzarella.  I use plum tomato because it the perfect size for the bread.  I sprinkle salt and pepper on each piece. Finally, I drizzle the balsamic glaze across the serving dish onto each piece.

Suggestions:

You can toast the bread prior to layering it with the ingredients to get a warm and crispy texture. I prefer the bread soft. Another suggestion would be to possible butter the bread prior to toasting it to add more flavor. However, I think the balsamic glaze compliments the light flavors of the mozzarella, tomato, basil and bread very well that nothing else is needed. But, hey, I’m bias. :)

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17
Jan 11

Restaurant Grub: Angelique Euro Cafe

I’ve been neglecting my blog… well neglecting cooking for a while.  But that doesn’t stop me from eating.  On Friday, I headed to Miracle Mile in Miami to meet up with my friend Josephra and a few of her other bridesmaids to pick out a bridesmaid dress.  Jo wanted to thank us for putting up with the torture of trying on dresses and take us to dinner. We actually first headed to Tarpon Bend but it was crowded for happy hour.  We then walked over to Angelique Euro Cafe which happens to be the restaurant where Jo plans to have her Bridal Shower.

The Food

Lobster Bisque Asparagus

Lobster Bisque with Asparagus topped with Crab Meat

I ordered this on the specials menu. I wasn’t very hungry as I had a late lunch. Full of flavor, quite delicious.  It was a little thin for a bisque but the flavor made up for it and  it was also lite on the crab meat.  With request I asked for more crab meat and they happily brought over additional crab meat.

Pasta con Fungi

Pasta con Fungi- Braised wild mushrooms, shallots with red wine demi-glace, roasted garlic & herb fused olio.

One girl shared this with another bridesmaid. I asked her what she thought. She said it reminded her of a dish she had at Carrabbas (or some other Italian chain) and it was better there. Ouch!

Gambas Angelique

Gambas Angelique – poached jumbo shrimp in a Worcestershire herb butter sauce and saffron Valencia rice

I wish I had this.  I didn’t get to  try but I love shrimp.

Truffle Potato Gnocchi

Truffle Potato Gnocchi -roasted garlic marscapone cream sauce finished with amaretti crumbs

I always save the best for last. Jo and her friend shared the gnocchi. I was able to get a bite of it and I wanted more. Some people would say truffle is an acquired taste but once you try this you’ll forever be a fan.

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11
Jan 11

Simple Meals: Twice Cooked Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes

Since bringing in the New Year, I actually have avoided cooking a real meal/ taking on a new recipe.  Call it lazy, procrastination, whatever you want. I know I’m not the only one. You know who you are! :)

Tonight I decided to make an easy meal that I’ve made many times.  I don’t exactly have a name for it so I called it Twice Cooked Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes.   This may not be the healthiest meal, but trust me once you make it once you’ll definitely be making it again.

angel hair with tomatoes

Ingredients
Angel Hair Pasta
Tomatoes – Diced
Garlic Salt
Pepper
Adobo Seasoning
Protein of Choice- I use Shrimp or  Chopped Chicken Strips
Olive Oil

Directions:

Do your normal routine of cooking pasta in a pot of boiling water. Drain water in a strainer.  Now heat up a large frying pan with olive oil on medium low heat.  Once pan has been heated, put in the cooked pasta in the pan. Make sure the pasta has been coated with olive oil, you may need to add more olive oil to make sure the pasta does not get dried out.  Add Garlic Salt, Adobo Seasoning and Pepper to taste. After a few minutes of the pasta cooking in the pan, add the fresh cut diced tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have softened.  Lastly, add your cooked protein into pan and your dish is now complete.

Notes:
For your protein, lightly season it with salt and pepper and cook in a pan

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10
Jan 11

New Year’s Eve Dinner – Stanton Social

I took so long to get back to writing that this is kind of old news already but this dinner is worth talking about.  I always find  New Year’s Eve overrated, still do, especially after last New Year’s Eve being an extreme disappointment. Let me back track to last year:

A bunch of my friends came in to Miami Beach to spends New Year’s Eve here.  We decided to have a nice dinner at Phillipe.  By nice dinner, I mean 200 bucks a pop. Sounds crazy right? Well that’s pretty standard for Miami and NYC on New Year’s Eve.  And for that money, you think you would be treated like royalty. (I like to think so).  We had the late seating so we can be there for when the ball dropped.  I honestly forget what the 200 dollars per person included, except that it was suppose to be a bottle of champagne for every 2 people.  They were so stingy and treated the champagne like it was on limited supply and did not let us keep the bottles at the table. It was a shared “resource” between all the patrons at the restaurant.  After begging for champagne, we also had to beg for food. We were not allowed to order, we had to take whatever they gave us whether we liked it or not.  It looked like they were giving us scraps from other people’s tables.  I’m not sure if other table’s experienced this or if because we were the last table to be seated. The whole experience was horrendous.

Now I wanted to share that story for you to understand why we were pleasantly surprised this year. I headed to New York City this year because any attempt of convincing my friend’s to come to Miami after last year’s fiasco would be pointless. We decided on spending New Year’s Eve at Stanton Social in the Lower East Side. Stanton Social on a normal evening is suppose to have amazing food.  The New Year’s Eve deal was unlimited food and Chandon for $125 per person. Sounds to good to be true.  It was legit.  Everything sounded so good on the menu that I let my friends do the picking. They serve family style. I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

amuse- bouche

This was an amuse-bouche. Fun fact-  according to wikipedia an amuse-bouche is not actually an appetizer or ordered by the patrons.  It is selected by the chef and served as an excitement of taste buds both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to cooking.

In the photo above- I had to yell at my friend for touching the food because I did not get my picture yet. As you can see with one of the pieces not aligned right. I wish I remembered what everything was. My favorite was the one in the 2nd row which had Foie Gras in it. Continue reading →

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7
Jan 11

Cupcake-a-holic

Since being back from New York, I have gone into cupcake withdrawal.  This is probably a good thing as I had way too many cupcakes when I was there.  At the time, it was worth every bite and calorie I had.  ( my mother probably would disagree).

Here is my rundown of cupcakes:

Round 1:  Limelight Marketplace- CupcakeStop.com

I met up with my friend Lachelle on Wednesday and told her about my obsession with cupcakes.  She was surprised and confessed that she shared the same fixation.  I’m just in shock that I had no idea she loved cupcakes.  I should of suspected this when she sent my friend Laura a bouquet of flowers shaped like a cupcake (Laura loves cupcakes as much as I do). Once I told her my secret, she knew exactly where to take me. We headed to Limelight Marketplace. It was a sweet tooth lover’s wet dream.

She took me to her favorite vendor… CupcakeStop.com. They actually started with  a cupcake truck around the city which you can find their daily location by following them on twitter.  Lachelle insisted on buying me a cupcake and I did not stop her from doing it :).  I was so excited about the cupcake that I ate it right away and forgot to take a picture of it. I did however take a picture of the location in Limelight.

Cupcakestop.com

Cupcakestop.com – they nailed the frosting but the cake was overcooked/dry.  Lachelle said its never like that, so I would give this place another try.

Round 2: Billy’s Bakery

The following day I was meeting up with my friend Holly and needed to kill some time before she could meet up.  I was already in the 20’s on 6th Ave and remembered that Billy’s Bakery was on 9th. After yesterday’s adventure I knew I wanted to take a bunch of pictures this time.

Continue reading →

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6
Jan 11

Back from New York…My return to the blog

I decided to head to New York for the New Year and was not near a computer to constantly update everything I ate and saw but had my camera on hand.  Now its time to play catch up.

(By the way this is my first attempt making an online collage ( how sad I feel so behind the times) but I did it!)

new york food collage

I typically don’t visit New York during the holiday time but wanted to spend the New Year with my girlfriends.  I normally try to avoid tourists at all cost (no offense if you’re one of them).  It really just makes New York an unpleasant experience, at least for me that is. I recommend going during the slower months, so you can really take in the city for what it really is. I also want to give the places that I did not care for the benefit of the doubt and blame it on excessive tourists for the awful experience. :) Ok “awful” is a bit extreme, but you get the point.

Haru- overpriced sushi – stick to your local joint
Limelight Marketplace – love love love
The Standard Grill –  warm atmosphere
The Oak Room -uptight and stuffy
The Plaza Food Hall – avoid if you hate touristy places
Mercat – excellent food styling but lacked flavor on dishes
Stantion Social – New Year’s Dinner – Good Times
Macondo – Yummy New Year’s Day Brunch
Elmo – trendy yet lacked quality in the food
Eataly – overrated, but New Yorkers love it
123 Burger $1 Burgers, $2 Shots, $3 Beers can’t be that!
The Soup Man – Seafood Gumbo, can you say yummy?

Cupcakes:

I plan on doing a follow up post on my sweet guilty pleasures

CupcakeStop.com
Billy’s Bakery
Sweet Revenge
Two Little Red Hens

I realize I listed all the places I went to with a little comment but since I  put in all this effort to take an overabundance of pictures so I should still write about them.  I probably will only pick a few of the favorites and of course talk about all the cupcakes I had.  Stay tuned…

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