Vina Croatia: A Croatian Wine Region Tour in Midtown

Croatia may be a country known for its gorgeous coastline and striking Game of Thrones–inspiring structures, but its vineyards and wineries, steeped in tradition and history are also a huge part of its charm and appeal. Its dramatically diverse regions from the Alps to the Danube provide a variety of wines that can please every type of oenophile. Recently, a dinner held by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce at Midtown’s Brasserie 8 ½ gave us a taste of what the Croatian wine region has to offer.

Ten flights of wines from light whites and a rosé to deep full-bodied reds were expertly paired with a citrus shrimp appetizer, a choice of filet mignon or a rack of lamb, and warm pear with maple ice cream.

The introductory wine came from the Istria region— where the cold of the Alps mixes with the warmth of the Mediterranean, producing interesting wines such as the 2016 Kozlovic Malvazija (not pictured). It is a dry golden white with notes of fruits and spices and a slight hint of saltiness – which poetically sums up the melding of the coast and the mountains.

The next wine we tasted is a must for every rosé lover. The Erdutski Rosé is made from the Pinot Black grapes of the Slavonia region and has a warm blush pink color. It’s a refreshing medium body selection with a hint of cherries.

Staying within the Slavonia region, our next white wine on the Croatian wine region tour, the Vezak Graševina was a fine example of Croatia’s principal grape variety, the Graševina. The color of this dry white echoes the colors of the golden fields that are characteristic of the Croatian valleys. Its flowery aroma mixed with a fruity bouquet with a slight mineral aftertaste will compliment a seafood meal or a white meat platter.

A different take on the Graševina came in the form of a 2016 Riesling from Vina Antonovic. This wine is an earthy blend of green apples and floral blossoms with a similar mineral taste (albeit a little sweeter than the last white); this seems to be the recognizable trait of the Slavonia region and the Croatian Danube.

 

To say that the next white wine was blessed with the sweetness of citrus, peach, and roses would not be a stretch. The Žlahtina sv. Lucija (not pictured), named for the church of St. Lucy on the island of Krk, is a golden mix of yellow-greenish hues that pair well with meat, fish, rice, and polenta dishes. It certainly enhanced the taste of our rack of lamb.

The Miraz Graševina has won multiple awards for its dry but creamy taste. The vineyard’s wine fermentation process includes extensive supervision and temperature control. Smooth and full-bodied with deeply aromatic notes, this white wine with an enchanting green-yellow hue goes well with just about everything from poultry, to seafood, and pasta dishes.

During the second half of dinner, we were introduced to some very fine red wines. First up was the award-winning Dingač Berba 2015 from Dalmatia — a region known not only for those firehouse dogs but also for the Plavac Mali grapes. The variety is grown in the sun-drenched slopes and coasts of Dalmatia and produces full-bodied reds. This black dry wine had a berry aroma with a hint of a chocolate aftertaste. It brought out the spices in our main course but can also be enjoyed with mature cheeses.

The next Croatian wine region red wine was another award-winning Plavac, the Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru. The grapes, organically grown in the picturesque slopes of the island of Hvar, come from 35 to 50-year-old vines. The wine is then aged in French barrique barrels for two years and 6-12 months in the bottle. It’s a dry red with hints of leather, pepper, chocolate, and prunes. Its earthy quality is best paired with steaks and lobsters or both for a delectable surf and turf option. Depending on how big of a company you are having or how much you can consume (no judgments), there is small, medium, and large bottles available.

The third red wine was the Ivan Dolac Barrique, named for the aforementioned French barrel it matures in, 1also hails from Hvar. It’s a dry robust wine with a berry and almost floral aroma. It’s smooth and easy on the palette and makes a nice compliment to any roast game or grilled fish.

The final Croatian wine region wine of the night was the Kabola Muškat Momjanski, a perfect ending to our Croatian wine introduction. It went well with our warm pear and maple ice cream dessert. It’s a refreshing and medium-bodied white with notes of peaches, rose, and honey with a slight mineral quality that gives it a lingering taste. This is our pick for an ideal summer wine.

You can tell a lot about a country by its wines. The wines were a spectacular representation of the different regions that make up such a fascinating country. From the Mediterranean to the Alps, each wine embodied a distinct characteristic specific to the climate and the area they came from. Based on what we’ve tasted, we’re ready to spend a lot of time in Croatia! Are you excited to visit the Croatian wine region?

Spice Up Your Life: Spice Islands Spices, Herbs, and Seasonings

Repeat after us – when it comes to cooking, spices, herbs, and seasonings are absolutely needed. We love food, that’s why we do restaurant reviews and eat out as much as we can. The best thing about being a foodie is enjoying the various flavors, so we need our meals to be seasoned to perfection. We need much more than just salt and pepper. If you have less than ten varieties of spices, herbs, and seasonings (not including salt and pepper) in your kitchen cupboard, you’re not properly seasoning your food. But worry not, we, and Spice Islands, are here to help you. We are here to introduce you to the vast variety of Spice Islands spices, herbs, and seasonings boasting rich flavors and premium quality. Get ready to amp up your spice rack and cooking with an amazing array of wonderful flavors.

Whether you’re cooking something savory or sweet, Spice Islands spices, herbs, and seasonings have exactly what you need. They search the world for spices and herbs of the highest quality. Then they craft and package them to deliver the most authentic and intense flavor possible. It’s as if you sourced these spices and herbs out of your own garden.

Spice Islands offers everything from A to V – Allspice to Vanilla, with many spices available in multiple forms (think whole, ground, and organic). They go far beyond the basics like chili powder, basil, cayenne pepper, chives, cilantro, etc and offer gourmet options like Jamaican jerk seasoning, Louisiana Cajun, Garam Masala (a hot spice blend of Northern Indian spices), a flavorful blend French countryside blend of spices, extracts, and panko mixes.

It’s a fact that cooking with the right spices can turn any recipe from okay to absolutely mouth-watering and that’s exactly what you get with Spice Islands spices, herbs, and seasonings. Another thing we love about Spice Islands is their recipes. They offer lots of entrees, appetizer, bread, soup, salads sides, sauces, beverages and dessert recipes. They provide the level of difficulty, prep and total time, and of course the correct spices, herbs and seasonings to use for each recipe. Spice Islands is here to make cooking fun and to wow your family and friends with your cooking skills. What more can you ask for? To learn more about Spice Islands and their variety of spices, herbs, and seasonings, visit www.spiceislands.com.

It’s Easy Eating Green: Explore Cuisine St. Patrick’s Day Pasta Recipes

We know when it comes to celebrating the luckiest day of the year, it’s usually done with cocktails, but we’re here to tell you, enjoying a delicious plate of a delicious pasta is another great way to honor the greenest holiday. All Explore Cuisine products are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and jam-packed with nutrients. While they may not be Irish, these Explore Cuisine pastas, made with Green Lentil, Edamame, and Mung Bean, are actually green. Ready to try these Explore Cuisine St. Patrick’s Day pasta recipes?

Free of artificial colors, Explore Cuisine integrates beans, peas, lentils, and rice to provide you with nourishing meals which are easy, quick, colorful, and simply delicious. The following Explore Cuisine St. Patrick’s Day pasta recipes include two pesto dishes and a pasta salad.

Green Lentil Penne with Deconstructed Pesto

1 package Explore Cuisine Green Lentil Penne – cooked, drained
2 T. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
A handful fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
salt and red chili flakes to taste
3 T. pine nuts, toasted
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat oil in a small sauté pan. Add garlic and cook one minute. Toss penne with garlic oil. Gently fold in torn basil. Season with salt and chili flakes. Garnish with pine nuts. Add cheese if desired.

Explore Cuisine Super Green Pasta Salad

1 7oz Explore Cuisine Edamame Spaghetti
4 cups spinach (finely sliced & packed)
2 spring onions (finely sliced)
2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved)
1/2 tsp sea salt
Green Tahini Sauce
1 cup fresh basil (packed)
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup water (the pasta cooking water)
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 lemons)
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup brazil nut parmesan (to top)
Cook pasta for 4 minutes, then drain and rinse briefly under cold water. Be sure to reserve 1/2 cup cooking water – it’ll make a huge difference to your sauce! While the pasta cooks, make up the Brazil nut parmesan by blitzing all ingredients in a blender until crumbly. Once your pasta is cooked, make the sauce by blending all sauce ingredients (including your reserved pasta cooking water) until smooth. Place the pasta back in the pan and turn the element onto a low heat. Add the sauce and spinach, cooking for just a minute or two until the spinach it very lightly wilted but still vibrant. Finally, mix through the tomatoes and spring onions and then remove from heat, (this maintains all the nutritional benefits of the raw vegetables while lightly heating them). Plate your pasta into bowls, adding 1 tbsp of parmesan to each plus cracked black pepper and extra sea salt to taste. **Recipe courtesy of Recipe by Buffy Ellen of begoodorganics**

Organic Edamame and Mung Bean Fettuccine in a Light Pesto Sauce

7 oz. Explore Cuisine Edamame and Mung Bean Fettuccine – cooked and drained
2 large yellow squashes, peeled into ribbons with a peeler
3.5 oz. pecans – peeled & halved
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
3 oz. pine nuts

LIGHT PESTO SAUCE
1 large bunch of fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
2 oz. olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

Peel skin from garlic cloves, and chop into big chunks. Using a food processor, pulse basil, garlic, and nuts several times until finely chopped. Add the salt and olive oil, pulse until blended. Pesto may be thick, so add more olive oil for a looser consistency. Lightly toast the pecans, pomegranate seeds and pine nuts in a skillet. Mix the fettuccine with the sauce, gently fold in the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

What are your thoughts on these Explore Cuisine St. Patrick’s Day pasta recipes?

The Crisp Effect: Chef-Created, Artisan Primizie Snacks Flatbread Crisps

There are times when you crave a snack that features the best of two worlds. Something as delicious as chips, but as healthy as a cracker. The solution? Crispy flatbread. The days of sacrificing health for taste are thankfully long gone, thanks to the chef-created, artisan Primizie Snacks Flatbread Crisps. These deliciously addictive flatbread crisps are flavorful, thick cut specialty chips with a distinctive crunch. Whether you enjoy them right out of the bag (be forewarned – they will not last long right out of the bag) or pair it with any dip or spread (the sweet and savory possibilities are endless – from Bacon Jam to Nocciolata’s Hazelnut spread), you are in for an amazing snacking experience. Flatbread Crisps also avoid the over-saturation and redundancy of crackers, tortilla chips and pita chips that already line grocery shelves.

Founded by husband and wife team Lisa and Mark Spedale, each bag of chef-crafted Primizie Snacks Flatbread Crisps uses minimal all-natural ingredients, are trans-fat and cholesterol free, and have no preservatives. Most are certified gluten-free as well as being non-GMO. The thick cut Primizie Snacks Flatbread Crisps are available in eight flavors, including Simply Salted, Green Harvest, Rustic Beet, Ancient Sprouted Grains, Italian Everything, Gouda Garlic, Chile Lime, and the only sweet flavor, Dolce Caramel. Green Harvest, which incorporates the already popular Ancient Grains flavor with the best and healthiest “greens” including kale, broccoli and spinach; and Rustic Beet, a marriage of the anti-oxidant rich properties of red beets with the hearty, earthy flavor of sprouted grains, are the newest flavors to join his delicious flatbread lineup.

“The growing popularity of flatbreads has them appearing in most casual and many white table cloth restaurants creating an immediate and consistent consumer visibility and awareness,” said Primizie Snacks CEO Shawn Sweeney. “Since our launch, we’ve been a flatbread company first and foremost and now, we’ve refreshed our packaging to more clearly convey that to our consumers.”

Primizie Snacks Flatbread Crisps are available at various locations of Safeway/Albertson’s, HEB, Tops, Winn Dixie, Sprouts, Publix, Central Market, Raley’s, Kroger and more. For more on Primizie Flatbread’s delicious flavors, visit www.primiziesnacks.com.

The Best Things in Life are Sweet: Dana’s Bakery for Valentine’s Day

It is the week of Valentine’s Day, so if you haven’t already picked up a sweet treat for the love of your life or your Galentine, here’s your chance to wow them with something really yummy. Everyone’s favorite sweet spot, Dana’s Bakery, has some delightful, and delicious sweet treats that are perfect for gift-giving this Valentine’s Day. Known for their exquisite traditional French macarons with an American twist, you can easily spoil your Valentine or Galentine.  Say “Be Mine”, I Luv U, and “Kiss Me” in the sweetest and yummiest way possible from the Dana’s Bakery for Valentine’s Day offerings. Check out the limited edition Valentine treats below:

Dana’s Bakery Sweethearts Box

Share the very special message of love, featuring special messages with the Dana’s Bakery Sweethearts Box. This 12-piece macaron gift is available for now Valentine’s Day and comes with six different macaron flavors, each with a special message of love. Enjoy the delicious flavors of Milk Chocolate Molten, Dark Chocolate Raspberry, Milk Chocolate Caramel, Milk Chocolate Pistachio, Dark Chocolate & Orange, and Milk Chocolate Passionfruit.
Each 12-piece Dana’s Bakery Sweethearts Box is $36.00 and they’re perfect for anyone on your V-Day gift list.

Dana’s Bakery Love Box

 

Want your Valentine to know how much you love and care for them? Let them know with every bite of the macarons from the limited edition Dana’s Bakery Love Box. This limited edition heart-shaped Valentine’s Day gift comes with four macaron flavors: Raspberry Jam, Chocolate Molten, Red Velvet, and Cookie Dough. Just like the Sweethearts Box, the Dana’s Bakery Love Box is $36.00 for a box of 12 macarons.

All of Dana’s Bakery macarons are gluten free, made with almond flour, and certified Kosher Dairy by Kof-K, and can be shipped nationwide. What are your thoughts on the above Dana’s Bakery for Valentine’s Day offerings? Which of these delicious macaron flavors are your favorites?

 

 

Baby, I like it Raw: Natural Raw Wonderful Pistachios & Wonderful Almonds

You may have noticed there’s a big resurgence of adding more raw foods to one’s diet. More and more people have been enjoying foods that are mostly or entirely uncooked, and unprocessed. It’s all about attempting to eat clean and healthier. Whether it’s eating more raw vegetables, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, meat, or dairy products. This is a practice that has prehistoric origins with a modern initial introduction in the 1930s and is experiencing a resurgence now. Let’s face it, food is better for you without all the artificial and processed junk. Launching just in time for Heart Health Month, The Wonderful Company welcomes its Natural Raw Wonderful Pistachios, joining their already successful Natural Raw Wonderful Almonds, originally launched in 2012.

Natural Raw Wonderful Pistachios

A perfect way to add more plant protein to your daily diet, the Natural Raw Wonderful Pistachios have a rich, crunchy, nutty flavor, in their natural state. Pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie, lowest-fat nuts around. There is no roasting or salting done to them at all, and they are a delicious way to enjoy the raw food diet. One handful of Natural Raw Wonderful Pistachios (about 30) is a sensible, delicious snack with only 100 calories, with lots of protein and fiber.

“The ‘natural raw’ process maintains the raw properties of the pistachio nut that some of our consumers are looking for,” said Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing, The Wonderful Company. “In fact, consumers are showing an increased desire for raw nuts, with 62 percent of all nut buyers purchasing raw nuts in the past year. Among this group, nearly 80% expressed interest in buying Natural Raw Wonderful Pistachios. With this clear consumer in mind, Wonderful Pistachios Natural Raw was a natural extension to our portfolio.”

Natural Raw Wonderful Almonds

Naturally cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat, and full of nutrition, Natural Raw Wonderful Almonds might be the perfect healthy snack for everyone. They are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, Certified Non-GMO, dairy and soy free, Kosher (certified by the Orthodox Union) and Halal (certified by the Islamic Food Nutrition Council of America). Almonds are among tree nuts that are the highest in protein, calcium, fiber and the antioxidant vitamin E. Plus they are a great tasting, convenient, and heart-healthy everyday snack.

Natural Raw Wonderful Almonds are available now in 1.5oz. bags ($0.99), 6.3oz. bags ($3.99), and 7oz. (4.49). Natural Raw Wonderful Pistachios officially launches this February and will be available in 16oz. bags for $9.99. Both can be found at leading grocery retailers nationwide. Could Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds help you add more plant protein to your daily diet?

Gourmet Gift Baskets for your Sweetheart this Valentine’s Day

We all know Valentine’s Day is the celebration of love, a sweet sentiment that deserves to be celebrated……..with something equally sweet. Does the love of your life have a sweet tooth? Do they love things like chocolates, cookies, brownies, and other decadent treats? Then keep reading on for some amazing Valentine gift ideas from Gourmet Gift Baskets. Offering the best in all sweet treats, as well as popcorn, fruits, nuts, and beer and wine, Gourmet Gift Baskets is your go-to for Valentine’s Day gift baskets filled with delightful champagnes, decadent chocolates, and a variety of exquisite treats that are sure to make your sweetheart weak in the knees. Check out a few of them below:

Send A Bear Hug Care Package, $49.99

Whether your Valentine is close by or far away, receiving this Bear Hug Care Package is sure to inspire a smile. This adorable Send A Bear Hug Care package is stocked full of decadent chocolates that everyone loves, some very gourmet cookies, and a sweet and cuddly teddy bear that’s perfect for snuggling.

“Happy Valentine’s Day” Cookie Cake, $29,99

Say “I Love You” in the sweetest way possible! This 9″ Valentine’s Day Cookie Cake is a heart-shaped, soft, and chewy cookie stuffed with milk chocolate chips and hand decorated with creamy vanilla frosting. This great, big, heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie is the equivalent of 30 regular-sized cookies.

“Be Mine” Valentine’s Day Brownie Cake, $29.99

Does the love of your life prefer brownies over cookies? The “Be Mine” Valentine’s Day Brownie Cake is a great alternative. This heart-shaped, extra chocolaty, brownie cake will easily win their hearts and win you best V-Day gift giver, plus the two of you will get even closer enjoying this very yummy gift that’s big enough to share.

Red Velvet Cake – $34.99 to $49.99

A delectable and different type of sweet gift for you and your sweetheart to enjoy together, whether it’s dessert after a first date or a treat after 40 years of Valentine’s Day dinners together. This double layered cake is made with only the finest ingredients like natural cocoa powder and fresh buttermilk. The rich red color is finished off with a vanilla infused cream cheese frosting and cake crumbles.

We would be completely ecstatic to receive any of these wonderfully sweet and loving gifts for Valentine’s Day. What about you? What are your thoughts on these Gourmet Gift Baskets? Which of these Gourmet Gift Baskets Valentine’s Day gifts would you love to receive from your sweetheart?

Celebrating the Galette des Rois w/ FIAF: A Cake Fit for a King…or Queen

The ball has dropped and the fireworks have long fizzled out, but don’t let the post-holiday blues sink in just yet. We’re still getting into the swing of 2018 and the New Year celebration should continue all throughout January. To keep the party going and to invite more luck and sweetness into our lives, we looked to the French. Specifically, we went to the epitome of French culture and language in New York City, the French Institute Alliance Francaise or FIAF for short. On January 17, we headed to FIAF’s Le Skyroom event space to enjoy some wine, cheese, bread, and cakes with a royal history, Galette des Rois, and Brioche des Rois.

While the Galette des Rois or the “Kings’ cake” is enjoyed in many parts of Europe, Canada, Latin America, and the United States, the focus was on the traditional French Galette des Rois. Dating back to the middle ages, the galette des Rois is served only in the month of January. It celebrates the Epiphany or the visit of the three kings to the Christ child.  It is a puff pastry confection with a frangipane filling. However, different variations exist depending on the region in France. The traditional galette is a light flaky golden brown pastry packed with a dense and palatable almond filling. We were fortunate enough to also taste a Brioche des Rois. The Brioche des Rois is more colorful than its cousin and can be found in the South of France. It’s made with raisins, candied fruits, and orange blossom water topped with pearl sugar and more candied fruits.

The lightness and fluffiness of the bread is balanced with the thick sweetness of the fruits. Best of all, baked into the dense filling and buried within the flaky layers of any galette is a fève or a porcelain charm. Whoever finds the fève inside their piece, gets crowned king or queen for a day. A box of Galette des Rois often comes with gold paper crowns for the lucky guy or gal who gets to rule over the party. Not only that, it’s also said that whoever finds the fève will have good luck for the rest of the year. An important thing to note when serving galettes with fèves in them—be sure to warn your guests to eat slowly and look out for the charms to avoid choking and chipped teeth incidents.

But hurry and get yourself this fun dessert before month’s end! We recommend getting one from Maison Kayser, the bakery who generously supplied the savory spread and the galettes at FIAF. Don’t forget to grab a bottle of wine from Gabriella Fine Wines, who also provided the perfect pairing to our feast. Bon Appétit!