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Oct 14, 2016

5 Must-have Wine Accessories if You are Getting into Wine

(Guest Post by

Wine, like many passions, is a hobby into which one can descend ever deeper. Whether you're just dipping a toe in the water or have already plunged the whole way in, here are a handful of must-haves accessories if you are getting into wine.

An Aerator Decanter

Decanters, the large glass or crystal vessels into which one pours wine before serving, fulfills two purposes: separating sediment, and helping the bottle "breathe." Sediment within the bottle is either the result of particulate like seeds and dead yeast cells, or tannin polymers forming and falling out of suspension in an aged wine.

The latter isn't a factor in bottles younger than 10 or 15 years, and the former is increasingly uncommon in modern winemaking. That said, proper aeration is still very much of interest for the same reason we swirl wine in the glass to release more aromatic compounds: introducing air while decanting helps the wine open up.

Decanters are typically large, expensive, and slow to work their magic, so enter the Aerator Decanter: a device that draws more air into contact with the wine while pouring, helping it decant in real-time en route to the glass. The device is pocket-sized and affordable, meaning it can travel with you and will pay for itself in no time.

Corkscrew Lever Bottle Opener

While primarily made popular by the Rabbit brand, this immediately recognizable style of bottle opener is a huge upgrade over the waiters corkscrew or two-armed twist corkscrews.

Not only are these corkscrew lever bottle openers faster and easier while opening, but they typically do less damage to the cork, making for a nicer keepsake from special bottles, or simply re-corking to save the bottle for another night. While the chrome and stainless steel corkscrews are plenty to get the job done, other higher-end options come with Teflon and nonstick coatings for even smoother operation.

These openers often come in a boxed set with replaceable corkscrews and other essentials like a foil cutter, making them an excellent gift for the oenophiles amongst your life.

Wine Tasting Journal

One can acquire all gadgets and bottles in the world to amass an impressive collection, but the best way to enjoy and learn about wine is through practice. Cataloging your experience with every bottle will not only help you keep track of favorite vineyards and vintages, but the practice of keeping tasting notes can help develop your palate.

As you expand your horizons you'll get better at identifying nuanced changes through the passage of time, as different vintages have produced different results, or by distinguishing how bottles from a single case change with each passing year. This Italian tasting journal provides more than a dozen prompts to start your notation, as well as a dedicated space to paste your bottle labels.

The Right Stemware

As your tastes and interests become more sophisticated it may make sense to invest in specialized stemware to get the most bang for your buck. The good news, is that this doesn't mean you need to buy a complete set featuring a dozen types of glasses for every variety under the sun.

If, you drink from generic wine glasses, an easy upgrade (or supplement) could be in the form of three essentials: larger bowls for big reds, smaller u-shaped glasses for whites, and flutes for sparkling bottles.

Trust us in saying there are countless more options, but the above group of three will help ensure you cover your bases and can better match the bottle with the features of the glass. The bigger bowls of the red glasses aid in aeration while improving aromatic qualities, and the smaller mouth of white glasses helps keep the wine at the desired temperature longer.

A Wine Cooler

If you've reached the point where you're accumulating accessories, you've probably also accumulated your fair share of bottles. Protecting those bottles by storing them in an ideal environment for either serving or aging can be the most important part of enjoying your investment.

Wine coolers are available in a variety of sizes and configurations, so you can always find the best match for your collection and home. Those who drink primarily the same types of wines will have no trouble at all, but even those who prefer a healthy variety of reds and whites can leverage dual-zone units made to keep different bottles at the right serving temperature.

This is our list of top wine accessories. Do you have your own list of your favorite wine accessories? If so, feel free to share them with us below in the comment section.

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I have not paid for nor received any compensation for allowing the above guest post. The views and/or opinions expressed within any guest post featured on this site are those of the guest author and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of

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Feb 15, 2016

Coconut - Curried Lentil Soup

Amazing Lentil Soup

3 Cloves Garlic
1 Medium Onion
4 Stalks Celery
1/2 cup Leeks
1/2 cup Carrots
1/2 cup Chicken Stock 
4 cups Parboiled Lentils
2 cups Coconut Milk 
1 Tb. Curry Powder
To Taste: Salt, Pepper, White Pepper, Nutmeg

Chop the Garlic, Onion, Celery, Leeks, and Carrots
Simmer the vegetables over Medium - Low Heat in a Saucepan with 1/2 c. Chicken Stock until tender
All the Lentils, Seasonings, and Coconut Milk and continue to simmer (Covered). Serve and Enjoy! ~

By TR Hughes, © 2012 - 2014 All rights reserved worldwide. Click here to view the homepage:

Jan 6, 2016


Sancerre pairs perfectly with wine and cheese.
It's light, crisp, with hint of fruitiness, and has a well formed finish.

By TR Hughes, © 2012 - 2014 All rights reserved worldwide. Click here to view the homepage:

Nov 20, 2015

Coconut Milk Spiced Pumpkin Latte

Heat Coconut Milk in a Separate Frothing Carafe
Make a Double Espresso and Add 1 Tb. Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Add Coconut Milk and Foam to Top
Sprinkle with Pumpkin Pie Seasoning Spices

Enjoy ~

By TR Hughes, © 2012 - 2014 All rights reserved worldwide. Click here to view the homepage:

May 7, 2015

Primal Roots 2010 Red Blend

Primal Roots 2010 Red Blend ~

A blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel; Primal Roots is a smooth and yet full-bodied offering. 

It serves up a nice combination of spice and berry, particularly raspberry, red currants, and clove.  It carries end-notes of vanilla and a hint of dark chocolate, thanks to aging in French Oak Barrels.  And, it rounds out with a velvet -smooth finish.

At the average price of $9.50 a bottle – you really can’t afford to pass this one up!

By TR Hughes, © 2012 All rights reserved worldwide.

Mar 22, 2015

What Produce Should You Buy Organic? And Why?

We, as consumers, are bombarded with choices everyday.  Try as we may to make the right decisions, we are often left sorting through tidbits of information that we have heard from others, in the news, or read over the internet. The Organic Movement is an area of confusion for most.  There are scores of naysayers as well as swarms of activists on both sides of the debate. Here is a little info to help you sort through the madness.
The dirty dozen list is something all the experts agree on - here it is:    

Produce to always buy Organic:

The Dirty Dozen:
1.       Strawberries
2.       Blueberries
3.       Cherries
4.       Grapes
5.       Peaches
6.       Nectarines
7.       Apples
8.       Lettuce
9.       Spinach
10.   Celery
11.   Sweet Bell Peppers
12.   Potatoes
    Another way to think at the market – like a farmer:
    My comprehension works like a farmer at the market when it comes to organic selections. Is it worth the extra money to buy organic?  Well, yes and no. Here’s a simple way to make that decision.

    First - consider the “wrapping” – does the selection have a thick outer layer that is discarded?  This is a basic first look scenario.  Some outer shells provide ample protection – making “organic” unnecessary; Like: Bananas, Avocados, Cantaloupe, Grapefruit, Lemons, and Pineapples.  The pesticides do not penetrate the skin – so enjoy these items conventionally.        

    Second – consider if insects are even attracted to the produce in question.  Farmers are not going to waste money on expensive pesticides if they do not have to treat the crop.  For instance – take asparagus.  There really isn’t a need to spray asparagus because there aren’t any insects that even look twice at a long row of asparagus spears.  Another example would be plants that have a built in mechanism for warding off insects themselves – like garlic, onions, cabbage, and broccoli – the aroma given off is not particularly palatable to bugs.  Here’s any easy one – hot peppers - it is even used (itself) as an insect repellent for other plants.   

    Third – consider any fruit that has a porous surface, like strawberries.  The surface of the strawberry is porous and bugs really like it.  So – assume that strawberries have to be sprayed to save the crop from being assaulted by hoards of insects – and that the spray is easily absorbed into the entire fruit through its non-protective porous skin.  So – it makes sense that you should buy berries organic.

    Fourth - consider if the produce can be easily washed of the residue.  Apples take a little scrubbing and yes, probably some of the pesticide is absorbed through the skin.  Lettuce and leafy greens are better cleaned by putting them in a sink bath of cool water and swishing them around a bit to get all the folds of the lettuce rinsed well.   The same can be said for berries.

    My husband used to argue with me about the benefits or lack thereof of buying organic.  I got fed up one day and took an organic apple and told him if wanted a conventionally grown apple – I’d get him one – just hold on a minute.  I went to the garage and got a can of Raid Insect spray and sprayed the apple in front of him. He laughed – but was not amused.  I explained that what I had in my hand was a legitimate pesticide and that the farmers use pesticides that are ten times worse than what the average consumer can get their hands on - he would not eat the apple.  So, I went to the sink and washed it off – he still would not eat the apple.  Kind of brings the message home, don’t you think?

    Nov 18, 2014

    Tagine Cooking (Stove-Top Moroccan Slow-Cooking Vessel) Herbed Pork Roast w/ Apples and Onions

    Fall is a wonderful time for Tagine Cooking.
    I made an Herbed Pork Roast with Apples & Onions

    A Tagine is a traditional Moroccan slow-cooking vessel.  The unique design allows for condensation to rise and then fall back into the base - which is what makes the dishes prepared within the Tagine very moist and flavorful.

    It is kind of like a self-basting mechanism, if you will.

    Pictured above - is my own Tagine.  The Le Creuset Version.
    I recently made a pork roast using the Tagine.


    Sear the pork roast on all sides in a medium-high heated Tagine base.
    (I used a 1 1/2 lb. pork butt roast)
    Season with Salt, Pepper, and White Pepper.
    Add the vegetables: Fresh cut green apple slices and sweet vidalia onion quarters.
    Add the herbs: Fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme.

    Lower the temperature on the Tagine to a low and cover - cook for approximately 4 hours.

    By TR Hughes, © 2012 - 2014 All rights reserved worldwide. Click here to view the homepage:

    Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc

    Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc is a must have.  It's simple, clean, crisp flavor pairs well with most foods.  I keep this one on hand as an easy pick for a lazy Sunday afternoon.  Most often it is accompanied by fresh fruits, cheese, and olives.  It has a well balanced citrus note that lingers with a hint of subtle vanilla and a floral aroma that's refreshing.  A great, affordable find. Around $10 / Bottle.  

    By TR Hughes, © 2012 - 2014 All rights reserved worldwide. Click here to view the homepage:

    Absolute Best Homemade French Onion Soup

    Start with:
    1 c. Chicken Stock
    1 Large Vidalia Onion (chopped)
    2 Medium Shallots (chopped)
    3 Tb. Butter

    Saute the above on med heat (covered)After it starts to boil…uncover, continue for 10 minutes and reduce to Med-Low

    Add a few shakes of White Pepper and 1 Tb. Parsley

    Add 1 can Beef Consommé
    Add 1 can Beef Broth (Double Strength)

    Touch Salt
    1/2 dry packet of Knorr Au Jus
    1 Ounce Good Sherry
    Cover…simmer about 20 minutes
    Cut a nice crusty French Baguette into thick slices
    Toast the slices in a toaster
    Top each slice with a wonderful slice of Gruyere
    Broil until cheese is melted and a little bubbly brown
    Place each cheese toast on top of soup bowl, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

    Feb 15, 2014

    David Bruce Petite Syrah

    David Bruce Petite Syrah Central Coast can be found for about $17 and is one of three petite syrah offerings from the David Bruce Camp. It is a lush combination of plum, cloves, and a hint of white pepper. A very balanced feel that can pratically go with just about any food. Give it a go and let me know what you think. I often revert to this selection whenever I can't decide what I have a taste for.
    David Bruce Petite Syrah

    Jan 19, 2013

    Simi Roseto - Rose from Sonoma County, California

    Simi Roseto - Rose from Sonoma County, California

    This is the first rose that I've tried and actually liked.  It is fruity (think peachy, cherry) - without being sweet - and has a nice floral hint rose...followed by an undertone of white pepper.

    My own interpretation would be: 
    A nice Sauvignon Blanc with a touch of Pinot Noir and a hint of muskiness. - Although it is actually none of these varietals - it's flavor profile, I think, is best described as above.

    It is about $15 a bottle.  Best served slightly chilled.

    May 1, 2012

    North Scottsdale's GianFrancos Delivers Exquisite Italian Fare

    GianFranco Ristorante in North Scottsdale offers unadulterated and simple, yet exquisite, Italian fare. 

    “Franco”, as known by his regular customers, was born in Milano, Italy.  He received his culinary training at one of the best institutions in Lake Maggiore, Italy.

    After migrating to the US, he headed New York’s Rainbow Room and Prima Donna in New Jersey.  His first venture in Scottsdale was Un-Bacio, first in Old Town and then at Gainey Ranch.  After selling in 2005, he opened GianFranco in 2007 and has been serving up the locals and passers-by, alike, with grand reviews.

    The intimate atmosphere and welcoming feel greets you at the door and once inside you will experience a sense of casual comfort. 

    His menu offers Classic Italian selections as well as some Signature Creations that are sure to please.  There are a few seasonal offerings and his daily features are always a welcome diversion.

    Some selections you’ve got to try are:
    • Carpaccio di Manzo con Rucola
    • Scaloppine di Vitello alla Piccata -Veal Picatta
    • Fettuccine Fresche Bolognese
    • Risotto Primavera
    Some of the Daily Features you can’t pass up are:
    • Osso Buco
    • Stuffed Squash Blossoms (Very Limited Season)
    GianFrancos opens daily at 5:00 PM. 
    Reservations are recommended.  Dress is casual. 

    Visit the Website:

    View the Standard Menu:

    By TR Hughes, © 2010 All rights reserved worldwide.
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    White Bordeaux Vairietals

    White Bordeaux makes a perfect partner for a variety of foods and is quite perfect for late summer evenings.

    I've had the opportunity to try several vineyard offerings recently and I have picked my favorite label.

    Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Selection Prestige Bordeaux Blanc 2010.

    Obviously from Bordeaux, France - It is a very nice blend of 60% Semillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. 

    It retails for about $14 and pairs nicely with delicate fish, pork, and simply dressed pasta.

    It's got great legs and a beautiful light floral nose.

    It offers a hint of fragrant gardenia and spicy jasmine as well as subtle undertones of light citrus (lemon), inviting vanilla, and a touch of honey to finish clean and light.  Let it open a bit and develop. 

    I hope you get a chance to enjoy this little gem!

    By TR Hughes, © 2010 All rights reserved worldwide.
    Click here to view the homepage:

    Enjoy your visit to!

    Live Recipe Feeds Below ~

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    Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck (Knopf, 1961)

    The Joy of Cooking (Scribner, various editions 1931-2006)

    French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David (Originally published in 1960. Penguin Classics, 1999)

    Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant by Moosewood Collective (Fireside, 1990)

    Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen by Paul Prudhomme (William Morrow, 1984)

    The Silver Spoon by Phaidon Press (First US edition: Phaidon, 2005)

    The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter, 2007)

    James Beard's American Cookery by James Beard (Little, Brown and Company, 1980)

    The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph (Originally published in 1838. BiblioLife, 2008)

    The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins (Workman Publishing Company, 2007)

    Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill by Frank Stitt (Artisan, 2004)

    What's for Dinner?

    Turkey Zucchini Lasagna
    (Excellent Recipe - Healthy Too!)

    Sweet and Sour Meatballs Over Rice
    (Savory and Sweet - What a Combo...)

    Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Baked Potatoes
    (Guilty Pleasure - But NOT - A Healthy Carb Option)

    Stuffed Green Peppers
    (How long has it been since you've made these? - Too Long!)

    Easy Beef Stroganoff
    (Did I say EASY?- YES!)

    Homemade French Onion Soup
    (Secret Ingredient! - Must Have)

    Hope you Enjoy the Above Recipes ~ I did!

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