February, 2011

Feb 11

Chianti: A Great Compliment to Pasta

by Dan Paulus the Wine Guy

I would like to begin by apologizing to my followers as I recently had my wisdom teeth pulled and felt my palate was distant between the open cuts and healing medicines in my mouth. As luck would prevail, I survived and as we all know when you feel better a great meal is the best way to CELEBRATE!

This particular evening, I had a group of 4 friends come for dinner and I assumed my usual role as Dean Martin, who best describes it in his song, “Poor Little Old Wine Drinker Me.” I emailed my girlfriend Christine throughout the day to find out what she would be cooking.  She decided to make  Chicken Parm with Rigatoni, an Italian favorite of mine. Now that I knew what to expect for our dinner guests, I headed towards my favorite local wine shop with my knowledge guns loaded, gusto and enthusiasm towards finding just the right wine to compliment the coming meal my wonderful girlfriend was preparing.

Knowing that I was in the market for something to compliment a pasta dish, I instantly thought of a Chianti. Chianti is a wine region in the Tuscan hills of Italy that until 1995 had a strict recipe of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca. In 1995, the region decided that bottles labeled as Chianti could be sold containing as much as 100% Sangiovese and no less than 80%, a native grape of Italy. While we touch on Italy, I will say they are one of the most strict wine regions in the world about what grapes are grown and where. If you were to bring a Bordeaux grape, such as;Chianti Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec or Petite Verdot the wine would instantly be labeled a “Super Tuscan Wine.” The Tuscan wine region accounts for approximately, 1/5 or 20% of all wine production in the World!

I ran into the store and searched the carefully planned selection of Chianti’s and found two bottles of Castello D’Albola selling for $19.99 each and decided I would give a new brand a try. Earlier, I noted I knew to flock to Chianti because the wine has a tendency to bring your cheeks together, a perfect and natural way to prepare your mouth for pasta!

I read the rear label while standing in line and expanded my knowledge of the Chianti as I learned this region is home to nobile and famous families of the Renaissance era. The wine maker suggests that the wine is best consumed with cheese, pasta dishes and roasts. A perfect match for my dinner plans. I promptly returned home to open the wine and much like letting a Genie out of bottle – let this wine, breathe!

Opening wine and allowing it to breathe is a critical step in the enjoyment of wine. I liken it to taking a bite of an apple and letting it sit on a counter for approximately a half hour. When you return you find the apple to be turning slightly brown; much to this effect, wine is best consumed in a state similar to the “browning stage” of an apple. This process allows the aromas to expand and the wine to open up so its features are best exhibited. Recently, Vinturi created an aerator that drastically reduces the “browning” stage of wine and allows the wine to open more quickly, thus allowing a faster open to consumption phase.

My guests had finally arrived and as the 4 guests would expect I had prepared myself to tell them about the Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico vintage 2006 I chose. I overlooked one huge aspect, the marketing! “How come this bottle has a rooster on it?”… “What does Classico mean?”…”This bottle has a 12.5% Alcohol content – how does this compare to beer or a mixed drink?” I truly love talking about wine and these questions I was truly short on answers, but as my hobby has taught me – learning and story telling makes any brown, green or white bottle interesting.

How come this bottle has a rooster on it?

  • A) Roosters or gallo nero in Italian is used to represent wine makers of the Gallo Nero Consortium until 2005, which then was used to represent Chianti Classico.

Speaking of Classico, what does it mean?

  • Classico refers to Chianti that has been stored in barrels for a time period of 4-7 months. Other varieties also include, Riserva is stored in barrels for up to 38 months and Superiore which is planted and harvested with a lower yield, has a higher alcohol content and dry extract while produced under very strict rules of the region.

How does this wine compare to beer, or a mixed drink in terms of alcohol content?

  • Light beers generally contain less than 4.5 – 5.0% alcohol content, while a mixed drink containing Vodka could contain more than 40% by volume.

We toasted the meal, our health and great company and it was now time to stick our nose in the glass of Castello D’Albola and allow the aromas to be discussed.  The swirling motions began and the flowery talk of the aromas were discussed as the scent of Violets was interjected by one guest. Another thought it had hints of other fresh spring flowers. The observation of the color was that of ruby red fading to a deep garnet as you gaze into the wine glass. And, at first taste, my guests fell victim to an amazing wine they both enjoyed and now became filled with knowledge.

Until the next time – bottoms up!

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Feb 11

My Grandma’s Frozen Yogurt Pie

When my grandma made her yogurt pie, I probably never ate it.  One because I was young and a fickle eater and two because I was not a fan of yogurt.  About four years ago, I was at my sister’s apartment for dinner and she made this dessert.  Once I had my first bite, there was no turning back, I was hooked.  I kept thinking to myself why didn’t I try this sooner.  Well you know the reasons.  Anyways, I started making this recipe all the time, once it was finished, I would make another one.

This soon became a family staple when we had get-togethers.  I’ve assumed responsibility for making this dessert.  I do have to give my sister credit for keeping this dessert alive. Now-a-days my mom actually is the one who makes it all the time.  Its funny, I think my sister Jackie was probably the only one who use to like it.  Now, we all fight over the last slice.

Please mind the less than awesome pictures because I was making this at a potluck dinner with friends and got a little tipsy when it was being served.


Keebler’s Ready Crust -Graham Cracker (find this in the baking aisle)
2 Dannon Fruit on the bottom Yogurts ( I use strawberry and blueberry to get a mixture of flavor.
1 – 8oz container of Cool Whip – Free


  • Mix the Yogurt and Cool Whip together until well blended.
  • After ingredients are completely mixed, put yogurt filling in pie crest.
  • Put in freezer for a few hours until filling in frozen


  • Take out of freezer 30 minutes prior to serving, in order to soften the filling slightly.
  • Any leftovers, put pie back in freezer for a later time


ingredients in bowl

ingredients mixed

yogurt filling in pie crust

frozen yogurt pie

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Feb 11

Don’t forget Mom and Pop – Davie’s Subs

Why are we so fixated on going to chain restaurants? Is it because of the millions of dollars of marketing…?  Probably so.  Other than the marketing, the quality of food is just lackluster.  I’m talking about Subway here. For 5 dollars, you can get select* footlongs for 6 slimy pieces of meat. I have to put an asterisk by select because their new campaign Februany, allows you to get ANY footlong for 5. I haven’t been there to confirm if this is true or not, who knows what the little white writing  on the bottom of tv commericals says. Your main ingredient in your healthy so called sandwich is consisting of bread, topped with the extras.  Ok, let me clarify, I’m sure the sandwich is somewhat healthy, but what are we really paying for?  Isn’t a sandwich, a sandwich because of the meat? If  we want extra meat, that costs money. And the quality of meat is a joke.  Now, I didn’t want to spend this much time talking about Subway because that’s not why I’m writing this article. but before I move on to the main point, I wanted to talk about one last component that is missing in chains… customer service.  I believe this is where Subway and most chains fail on.  What happened to the warm greeting and a smile and knowing your name?

A quality sandwich and great customer service goes a long way with me.  In Davie, Fl, off of Davie Rd, there are not many places to go eat except for mainly chains, like McDonalds, Wendys, BurgerKing, this is due to the fact that there are many local colleges down the street. I don’t exactly remember my first time going to Davie’s sub, (it was only a few weeks ago), but I do remember how great the sandwich was and that I wanted to go back. From the outside, I probably would have never gone in there. My colleague said he really liked it there so I was willing to try it out.

Davie Sub

The outside of Davie’s Sub. I think its very busy looking but who I am to say anything to him. I would actually say something but I don’t want to be rude.

Bryan Davie Sub Owner

Meet Bryan, the owner of Davie’s Subs.  We sat outside as it was a nice warm day in sunny South Florida.  Once our food was ready, he came outside to bring it to us. Call that Service!

By the 2nd time, I went to Davie’s Subs, he remembered me from the first visit and wanted to know my name. The 3rd visit, I get a joyful greeting from Bryan plus he remembered my name. I was in shock, who remembers your name these days? At a sub place no less.

He does things a little backwards, he makes you pay after you eat.  He must have a lot of trust these days for people to not eat and run.  I guess that what happens when you become friendly with your customers. He does do the loyal customer thing as well, get 6 subs and get $3 offer.  He doesn’t do the get 1 free sub but hey I’ll take the $3 dollars offer.  Bryan doesn’t offer a card for you to get stamped, but he puts your name in his book, so that you don’t have to remember to bring your flimsy card that you would probably lose.  (side note: do you know how  many times I’ve tried filling out those cards to always end up losing them or never bringing them in with me).

He really tries to keep up with the marketing/promotions for a mom&pop shop.  I’m not quite sure if he can take all the credit in his marketing/promotions.  I’m pretty sure the time he offered free homemade soup for any boar’s head sub probably was his idea.  However, he does partner with Boar’s Head and he started to do a little SMS marketing (mobile marketing0.  You just provide your phone number and he’ll send a text with the sub of the week. If you buy a 6 inch sub that is the special of the week, you’ll get the other 6inch free.  I was impressed with this promotion as I am in online marketing.  I realize this was Boar’s Head marketing to help promote their brand but nonetheless I was impressed.

boars head turkey sub

My Boars Head turkey sub with mayo, lettuce, tomato, sweet peppers and salt and pepper.  Hold the cheese! (not the biggest fan of cheese) It’s a pretty simple sub that you can’t possible mess up but you would be surprised.  Too much mayo or too much salt or pepper could ruin it. Not in this case, this suited my taste buds perfectly.  I love sweet peppers and not ever place has that as add on to your sub.

shih tzu brady

My puppy Brady joined us for lunch.  I’m lucky that I can bring him to the office.  I feel bad leaving him at home by himself. Although having him with me so much, does not help his separation anxiety.

So lesson learned, don’t judge a book by its cover. It may not be the prettiest on the outside but the quality of food I thought far surpassed Subway.  Plus, with the customer service/ friendly greetings that he offers who wouldn’t want to come back.  It’s very hard to find a place that remembers you or even wants to!  Next time you’re thinking of getting a sub, skip Subway and find your local sub shop.  You’ll never look back!

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Feb 11

Guest Blogger Dan Paulus: Wine Knowledge Leads to Improved World Knowledge

As a continuation from my first post on my journey to wine, I wanted to finish up my story on my curiosity of wine and how it is has grown into a hobby that I’m very passionate about. You might never look at wine the same way again.


…I ventured back to the wine store with considerably more knowledge ready to give my new found hobby a second chance. I realized very quickly that once I purchased a periodical telling me about wine, I was doomed. I read articles in the Wine Spectator; I then purchased “Wine for Dummies” and soon was consumed with some knowledge and began tasting varieties to see which ones best suited my palate. I recall being taken back by the cost of my new hobby as wine has a very wide open pricing structure. Ex. Opus One sells for nearly $200 a bottle, while a bottle of Malbec sells for under $10.00.

My choice was based on economics, call me cheap, but I wouldn’t buy Tiger Woods golf clubs if I was just learning the game of golf, either.

I chose the Diseno, Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. I knew nothing about the Malbec other than it had an attractive price point and I overheard another shopper saying it was an excellent wine. I made one commitment when I began drinking wine and that was to always buy two bottles of the same wine. Why? Because if I liked the wine I could try it again another evening to evaluate the complexity and consistency of the notes I took on each bottle of wine. Plus, as I soon learned, my new hobby attracted a neighborly following  that allowed for me to learn more about the culture of people around me.

I recall opening the wine, firing up my laptop and going to Google.com. I am an information junkie – I wanted to know what others thought of my buy? Did I get a good deal? What is a Malbec? Where did it originate? What makes it different than a Merlot? Where exactly is Mendoza Argentina? What is there to do in Mendoza?

After pouring the wine, I examined the glass and noticed the dark hues of red from the skins of the grape used for this wine. I placed my nose in the glass and smelled the aroma’s. I took my first sip and I realized this hobby was EXACTLY what I was looking for at this time period in my life.

As I sipped away on my wine I looked up the answers to my questions, a Malbec is a grape that is native to France’s Bordeaux region and is considered one of the five native red grapes of this particular region. It did not grow particularly well in the Bordeaux region and was exported to the higher elevations of Argentina where it grew a most delicious grape for wine. I also found information about Mendoza, Argentina that lead me to believe the US Dollar, while struggling overseas, was actually able to provide ample buying power in this region and the cost of the wine was a benefactor of this purchasing power. I found maps of Mendoza and was soon able to locate exactly where my bottle originated. But with all my answers, I was only compelled to dive deeper into research as I had a plethora of new questions that needed answered.

At this point, I made another move in my life. I decided to relocate to the South Florida community of Boca Raton. It was here that I met a gentleman in Jim Stephanis that brought my wine studies full circle. To this day, I’ve never met a more talented, enthusiastic salesman than the 78 year old Greek gentleman that warmly greeted me at the local wine store. He educated me about the various ways wine is fermented, the geography of wine and most importantly the way wine can influence nearly every aspect of your life.

Jim will never get enough credit for his wine knowledge, but he holds designations from UC Davis, a leader in the wine industry. He once told me that he made his first batch of wine at age 7! Jim quickly took me under his wing as an understudy teaching me that wine can be fermented in three particular ways: oak barrels, cement barrels or stainless steel. Each way will significantly impact the way the wine tastes. For example, Chardonnay made in the United States can have an aggressive “oaky” taste as a result of placing the wine in an oak barrel and then adding oak chunks floating in the wine during fermentation. Or, that stainless steel if not properly grounded can be shocked through static electricity and will ruin the fermentation process. I truly enjoy seeing Jim to this day as I purchase wine and talk over my broadened wine knowledge; I think it has been rewarding to him that my interest has lead me to complete my own studies. Case and point, I was 26 years old, I now had a way to connect with a man who was nearly 3 times my age. Proof again that wine knowledge not only improved my general world studies, but also allowed me to relate to people with generational gaps.

My next blog I will move past the importance of knowledge of wine regions and actually venture into a specific wine. Until then – stay thirsty my friends!

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Feb 11

Happy Belated Birthday to Me!

Well technically I celebrated my birthday on February 11th but in the blog world I’m celebrating it late.  This year I went to lunch with my mom and sisters and my baby niece at Villagio in Mizner Park located in Boca Raton, FL.  This is my 2nd year celebrating my birthday here.  It’s a good central meeting point between where I live and my sisters live plus I love Italian food. Hey – I would love for them to drive all the way down to me but I have to take  into consideration that they both have kids.  We actually did not invite the other kiddies because well try having 3 additional kids under 5 running around while you’re trying to celebrate an occasion.  We actually did it two years ago for my sisters birthday at Villagio and it was the most unpleasant experience for everyone there, even the other patrons. So we learned our lesson the hard way and now we celebrate all of our birthdays with the just the ladies of the family.

The Food

After ordering your meals, the server will bring your pita bread with bruschetta dipping salsa. This is very yummy and if you can handle your garlic, dig in!

bruschetta with flat bread

My mom and sisters ordered on the boring yet healthy side.  I don’t blame them I love salad too but when it comes to your birthday lunch there’s no going healthy here, at least for me that is. :)

Greek Salad with Chicken - they forgot to put the chicken in so with a quick mention to the waiter, he realized the mistake and got a side of chicken to add to the salad.

greek salad with chicken

I believe this was some type of nicoise but probably called something fancier on the menu as I don’ recall it being called Nicoise Salad.

Nicoise Salad

Now, I saved the best for last. My meal.  I ordered stuffed ravioli with porcini mushrooms and chicken.  It was very delicious and I ate every last bite. I made my mom and sister a bit jealous so I did let them have a bite.

stuffed ravioli with porcini mushrooms and chicken

To a great end to a birthday meal is of course the dessert. Tartufo gelato

tartufo gelato

We attempted to get 3 generations of females in the family picture, but its hard to tell a 5  month old to pose especially when she’s hysterical crying and needs a nap. :)

family picture

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Feb 11

I’ve been M.I.A

This is the second time I’ve been M.I.A since starting this blog late November 2010.

The first time being when I headed to NYC over New Years and was not near a kitchen to cook. I did however eat out a lot and eat tons of sweets but I wasn’t near a computer to constantly update everything I ate. I think that was a big mistake. Lesson learned. Not sure I’ll lug a computer with me when I travel but I will sure to try to get access to a computer and upload photos or videos while I’m away.

This time around… ugh. I had to move, my lease was up. So the week or two prior I was packing up my kitchen and this past week… I have just been trying to get settled in and also lack of internet connection. I don’t wish moving on anyone. Its never quick and easy and it didn’t help that I was pennywise dollar foolish. Lesson sorta learned. Since moving is already painful as it is, do it the right way and don’t always try to save money, it could end up costing you in other ways.

I will say that I may have not been updating my blog but I did join twitter. I really never thought I would ever join. I’m in online marketing, so when twitter first started, I kept saying “this is stupid”, “who cares what your doing” “I’m never joining” “I refuse to join”, well you get the point. I really underestimated the power of twitter. While I may have not been posting, I was maintaining good traffic to my blog thanks to twitter and some natural search. Lesson learned: I will say that I never had a reason to join twitter before but once you have a site it definitely is worth joining at least for some extra traffic. It won’t hurt, give it a try. And of course you can follow me on twitter @foodchowdown.

I know everyone who is a foodie loves pictures and I would take a picture of my kitchen but it’s a mess. I will embarrass my little puppy Brady and upload a picture of him for the hell of it. :) He’s turning 1 on the 17th.

Brady Shih Tzu

Stay Tuned… I plan to post about a local mom and pop shop and my adventures at Boca Raton’s Junior League’s 10th Annual Chocolate Decadence Event.

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