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Jan 19

How to Host a Party (and not do anything)

I hosted a small dinner party the other night for several couples. Had Kevin let me, I'd have invited about 8 more people, but I had to cut back. (So if you're a dear friend, don't be mad at me. I picked couples I thought would gel nicely and well, our house only holds so many people.)

Usually when we host a party, we shell out at least $500 in food and alcohol. Then we kill ourselves trying to make everything from appetizers through to dessert. Kevin often spends about half of the party in the kitchen and sometimes the food goes awry. This time we tossed that entire model out the window.

I did two things differently. First, I asked everyone to bring an appetizer or a bottle of Spanish wine. This worked beautifully, as we ended up with a gorgeous cheese plate and several dips. Kevin also prepared some mini quiches, baked cheese sticks, and mini herbed goat cheese balls. Good Spanish wine can be found for under $15 – in many cases under $10 – so we weren't asking our guests for too great of an expense.

Everyone brought a bottle or two of wine, which was fantastic. In fact, we emptied 10 bottles plus a magnum. I kept the wine out on our bar and just let everyone serve themselves.

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Wine and appetizers. So far, an easy party with very little expense to us. But what about dinner? Well, for dinner we brought in Hector Esteve of Paella at Your Place. Hector arrives with his burner, a giant paella pan, all the ingredients and a great personality, and then he whips up some paella. I was worried about the small size of our kitchen, but Hector requires only a stovetop and a small countertop. Alternatively he can use a garage, or in the warmer months, your deck or patio.

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We had a sausage and chicken paella, but he made a portion of it meat
free for our two vegetarian diners. He offers other paella combinations
of various meats and seafoods as well. Hector also arrives with a great salad and bread that starts off your meal. Once the paella is ready, he brings it to the table and sprinkles it with sherry. Alcohol makes everything better, yes?  Then he serves the paella to your guests.

Hector left our kitchen even cleaner than it was when we arrived. Outside of the appetizers, Kevin and I had no need to even be in the kitchen. It was the easiest party I've ever put together and because of that, one of the most fun. I could actually enjoy my guests instead of worrying about feeding them. In fact, we wouldn't have been in the kitchen at all except that everyone was fascinated with the paella process. Hector will tell you about it, step by step, if you wish, with all the patience in the world.

Hector requires a minimum of 10 people (those pans are big you see) and starts at $10 per person. We fed 15 people, although he can feed a party of up to 150. At those prices, feeding 15 people paella is a cheaper option for us than what we would normally shell out to host a dinner party. Kevin just mentioned that by using Hector, we saved about $200 in party
hosting and more than that in time and stress, therefore this is a
Recession Tip! Host a party with your own chef and save money – who
knew?

I know I'll be bringing Hector back for future parties at this house and once we move in about a year. I recommend Hector and his paella (and apparently his tailgating options as well). In fact, I'm trying to figure out how to get him to the pre-Jimmy Buffett parties out at Riverbend. How perfect would that be?

Not sure how you feel about paella? That's okay. Hector will be dishing up his excellent paella at several local stores in the next few months. You can find him at The Party Source on Jan 31 and March 26. I think, although I'm not positive on this one, that he'll also be grilling up some paella at each Liquor Direct for a Jorge Ordonez tasting on February 27 and 28.

I'm embedding a slideshow or you can view our photos on Flickr.

Contact Hector at PaellaAtYourPlace.com or via email (hfesteve [at] fuse [dot] net) or phone: 513.528.5241.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Jan 16

Featured Cincinnati Wine Events: Jan 17 – Jan 23, 2009

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It's a slow, cold week. But if you look at last week's posting, you'll see that tonight there are some interesting events. Other than that though, this week's one-time events are pretty much hosted by The Party Source. I think everyone is just gearing up for February, which is pretty jam-packed with events. In the meantime, a glass of red should help warm you up inside.

Remember, these are just one-time events of which I'm aware. Regular (recurring) events are always listed on the calendar. The calendar is up to date.
Any wine-related events I'm currently aware of are on the
calendar. If I missed something – something local to Cincinnati that is
- let me know!

For information on what's going on in Dayton, you can refer to Mark's blog at Uncorked.

Local Wine Tasting Event Calendar

Map IconFriday Interactive Wine Tasting Map

Map IconSaturday Interactive Wine Tasting Map

Photo Credit: Sarah's Vineyard, Russian River Valley, taken by me, 10/08

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 12:00 pm in Weekly Cincinnati Wine Events | Permalink | Comments (2)
Jan 15

Happy Birthday Chalk food + wine

Happy Birthday Chalk food + wine

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 8:08 pm in Cincinnati, Dinner and Drinks, Local, Photos, Restaurants | Permalink | Comments ()
Jan 14

Breakfast for Dinner, or, Battle of the Blue Bottles

It's time for Wine Blogging Wednesday and this time around (#53), it's hosted by El Jefe from El Bloggo Torcido / Twisted Oak Winery. Jeff requested that we pair wine with breakfast food. So we jumped on the Breakfast for Dinner (Brinner) bandwagon.

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Now breakfast food is perhaps my favorite food in the world, but Jeff requested that we stay away from dessert wines, sweet wines, and sparklers. Kevin and I failed, sort of, but failed happily.

As we mulled this one over, we somehow landed on apple pancakes. Kevin found a fantastic recipe for Baked Apple Pancakes, which I'll publish after the jump. These things are yummy!

From the beginning, I had wanted to try a Riesling with breakfast. Kevin, however, is a fan of Moscato and wanted to go with that, even though it involved breaking the rules a bit. In the end, we went with both, and coincidentally, both were in blue bottles.

Bartenura 2007 Moscato, Party Town, $15: This paired the best with our "brinner." Of course it did – it's sweet. The wine itself really seemed to bring out the apples in the dish. It coats your mouth, and it feels thicker on the tongue, almost like honey. It had a tiny bit of carbonation but wasn't a true sparkler. The nose had honey, lemon, and pear and the taste had a lot of refreshing minerality. Kevin loved it, and I enjoyed it with the food. On it's own, it was a bit too sweet and heavy for me.

Paired: (Kevin & Shel)
Standalone: (Kevin)  (Shel)

Guntrum Riesling 2005, retails for $11: (I should first mention I recieved this wine as a sample from Destination Riesling. Who am I to turn away free wine?) This wine did not pair well with our brinner, proving once again that I am terrible at food and wine pairing. Love wine, love food, incapable of putting them together. This was a dry Riesling, and within that was a lot of dry apple. It would have paired beautifully with spicy foods, but no – I had to have it with our brinner.  However, I really enjoyed it on its own. I found it to be flowery with subtle citrusy notes, such as lemon and pear. Kevin picked up a bit of an oiliness he didn't care for.

Paired: (Kevin and Shel)
Standalone: (Kevin) (Shel)

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Posted by Michelle at 1:31 pm in Tastings, WBW, Wine Notes | Permalink | Comments ()
Jan 13

Review: Alcantara Vineyards 2006 Petite Sirah

Kevin and I have a thing. If we visit a new state, we need to visit a winery within that state. (I have no idea how I'll handle this when I head to Las Vegas.) A year ago we went to Arizona, which was one of the best, and most needed, vacations I've taken.

We used Tucson as our jumping off point and from there, we toured a lot of the state. We took a couple days and drove up to the Grand Canyon, staying overnight in Flagstaff. On our way home, we used a map and our trusty GPS to get to Cornville.

You see, when we think of Arizona, we think desert, but that's the south. As you head north, you enter into mountains, chock full of evergreens. It's gorgeous. And in November of 2007, we had flurries in Flagstaff as we loaded our hiking boots into the rental car. Arizona is a beautiful example of multiple microclimates all along a single highway. Offer me a job and I'd move to Arizona in a heartbeat.

Cornville, Arizona is in this wonderful intersection of moutain and stream, off the highway between Sedona and Flagstaff. It's where you can find wineries owned (and operated) by Maynard James Keenan (apparently of the band Tool), his mentor at Page Springs Cellars, and the wonderful and entertaining Javelina Leap. We also visited Alcantara, which at the time seemed even more off the beaten path, but worth it.

For me, our visit to Alcantara was akin to visiting a friend's house. I felt as if the tasting room was simply a bar, outside the kitchen and adjacent to the living room. At Alcantara I was introduced to a coffee table book for which I searched over a year (and found in Healdsburg), Vineyard Dogs. I was also introduced to a beautiful, and very pregnant, German Shepherd, who stands in my mind as the mascot for the winery.

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Alcantara Winery

I always say that a wine tastes better under either (or both) of two conditions: 1) when you meet the winemaker and 2) when you visit the winery. You see, atmosphere has a great influence, for me at least, on taste. And so it is with Alcantara.

Now, the 2006 Petite Sirah that we drank this evening was blended in Arizona, but made from California grapes. I would think that this year, if not in 2008, most of the Arizona wineries we visited are now able to harvest their own Arizona grapes. I know that Maynard James Keenan is sourcing his own grapes from both Cornville and further south in the state. At the end of 2007, the fantastic Javelina's Leap was close to harvesting Arizona zinfandel. So take our review with a grain of salt – these aren't Arizona grapes. I would encourage you – if you get the chance – to visit as many Arizona wineries as you can. We were impressed with the depth and breadth of knowledge, the wines and blending techniques, and the incredible friendliness of each winery we visited.

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Alcantara Vineyards, Nov 2007

2006 Alcantara Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah is usually the Durif grape, but doesn't Petite Sirah sound so much prettier? A lot of times, Petite Sirahs are a dark purple-y color, and are characterized by black pepper, some herbs, and tannins. But this wine was a lot softer. As a Petite Sirah, we thought we could age it a little longer but tonight, this wine didn't show any tannins. I wish I had my notes from our initial trip to the winery to know what we'd thought a year ago.

When Kevin first opened the wine tonight, his reaction was "Woo! Smell that wine!" It did have a strong nose of fruit and herbs. The attack mirrored that, with strong berries and plums at first taste, but, well, it sort of died mid-palate. Yep, in the middle of my tongue there was suddenly nothing. But as you swallow – the finish – suddenly the flavor rallied. There were fruits and spices all over the place.

I can't help but wonder if we should have uncorked this wine in early 2008. However, we're still thrilled to have tried a wine from the up and coming Arizona wine industry. I hope we can go back and try wines made from Arizona grapes.

Our rating:

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Posted by Michelle at 12:22 am in Tastings, Travel, Wine Notes, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (1)

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