July 29, 2011

Heading Out of Town..... Float Trip!

So, have I mentioned it's hot in Dallas?  The worst part?  It's hot almost everywhere!  So why not hop on an intertube and float lazily down a river?  My thoughts exactly.  We're packing it up and headed just south of Austin to New Braunfels, TX.  Our cabins are right on the river and the grounds are complete with a swimming pool and grilling pits.  All the accommodations one needs for embracing summer.  I'm looking forward to bringing back some wonderful pics of the trip!

These are a few things I'll have in my travel bag:
(1) Nikon D70
(2) Bikini for max sun exposure!
(3) Leinenkugel Summer Shandy -- lemonade + beer = the ultimate summer bevvy
(4) Floppy hat to shield my face
(5) Stud earrings -- just because you're on the water, doesn't mean you're not a lady!
(6) Cover up

I'm hoping to find one of these babies to rent for the day!
via Intex River Run Revew

Have a good weekend!!

July 27, 2011

Cured by Cured Meats!

Ever just have one of those days?  Software isn't working, customers constantly calling, the boss is MIA?  Well, maybe it's not that's not your specific tipping point, but when you work in a high tech startup, you often find yourself backed against a wall.  When that happens to me (and/or Eric -- who works for a different high tech startup), I pull out the big guns.  By guns, I mean delicately wrapped, freshly sliced cured meats and cheeses.  Nothing turns my frown upside down like a meat and cheese plate.  This a plate we recently put together at our house.

Meats (1) Iberico Loin, (2) Jamin Iberico Reserve, (3) Porchetta, (4) capicola.
Cheeses (5) Truffle Goat Cheese, (6) Aged Cheddar, (7) Truffle Tremor (basically truffle Brie), (8) Roquefort (soft bleu cheese), (9) Dunbarton (hard bleu cheese - a bleu for people who do not like bleu cheese like me!).

Try adding some truffle honey and fig confit with some crackers to top off this spread.  Serve as afternoon indulgence or an appetizer which will certainly cure the day you are having!

What are your guilty pleasers?  It can be food, wine, yoga, anything.  I'd love to hear about what gets you going after a hard day.

July 25, 2011

Destination: Bologna, Italy and Parma, Italy

After our layover in Madrid we hopped on a morning flight to Bologna, Italy, to begin our road trip.  After landing, we picked up our rental car and headed North to Parma.  Being that we are super huge cured meats fans, we definitely didn't want to miss out on a trip to Parma to get some real Parma ham, aka Prosciutto di Parma.  So, that's what we did.

Since it was Sunday, we expected the town of Parma to be quiet, which it certainly was.  We got lost wandering up and down the romantically quiet cobblestone streets.  I loved the post WWII restored buildings and their colorful paint schemes that speckle the roadways.  Our first Italian meal was simply stuffed ravioli, Prosciutto di Parma, and a bottle of wine.  The city of Parma was a great place to begin our Italian adventure!

Parma Baptismal - the pink marble is so light and romantic

Parma city street - I love the painted homes, cobblestone streets and iron work

Prosciutto di Parma, ravioli, wine -- If you don't want to pay for the bread, you can always send it back.

After we checked into our hotel, we headed into Bologna.  The city was basically closed down since it was a Sunday night.  We found one restaurant who advertised "authentic" Bolognese sauce, which was our main reason for hitting the city.  Bolognese is my favorite!  Well, the restaurant was certainly a tourist trap and the sauce was pretty terrible.  I will always recommend grabbing some bar food or street food if you are in Italy and hungry on a Sunday night!!  Oh well, we were able to see the University, statue of Posiden, and as many sites as we could on a Sunday night.  Unfortunately, I brought the wrong camera lens into the city, so my pics didn't turn out at all.  Travel Fail!!

Have you been to Parma or Bologna?  I would love to go back during the week or a Saturday to see these cities when they are alive.

Stay tuned.  The next post is our Valentines dinner in the Tuscan country side.

July 18, 2011

Destination: Tuscany

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With the temperatures reaching the 100's every day of the past month or so, I find myself reflecting on our early Spring road trip through Tuscany.  The weather was a bit overcast, but such a perfect setting for driving the countryside and spending our days tasting the diverse wines of the region.  Tuscan wine is so much more than Chianti, but we'll get into that later!  In the next string of posts, I'll share some of our experiences wine tasting, site seeing and sleeping in a real castle tower!!

After a one day layover in Madrid, we flew into and out of Bologna, rented a car and spent eight days driving through Italy.  Our route was Bologna, Parma, Bologna, Arezzo, Montepluciano, Pienza, Montalcino, Siena, Florence, and back to Bologna.  Such an amazing trip with a few fun surprises along the way!

July 6, 2011

Niman Ranch Dinner - Abacus Dallas

We're suckers for food and wine pairing dinners.  Sometimes we miss (*ahem* The Grape's attempt at "gnocchi" that tasted like mushy potato soup at their "Tuscan" wine dinner, gross!) and sometimes the tasting dinner is a major hit. Well, the Niman Ranch Dinner at Abacus was one such hit!

We went into the dinner expecting to get a superbly prepared meal accompanied by some nice wines -- if you're not familiar with Abacus, the restaurant is one of the most important establishments in Dallas.  How often do you get to be hosted by an Iron Chef?!  What we took away from the event was knowledge about sustainable farming and how a simple choice to support sustainability benefits more than just your taste buds.

In a time where corporate farming systematically treats their livestock inhumanely, Niman Ranch looks to produce a superior product that was cultivated using humane, traditional farming practices.  The Niman grassroots movement faces its challenges when it comes to scalability and consistency.  To ensure that the livestock are treated in strictly humane practices, Niman uses tough evaluations of adherence to Niman protocol with lucrative rewards as motivation.  The result is consistently superior quality meats.

Via NimanRanch.com

Host Chef Kent Rathbun kicking off the dinner

Host Paul Willis - He is such an amazing advocate for sustainable farming

Menu for the evening

First Course
Shiner Bock Beer Braised Niman Ranch Pork Cheek
Creamy Smoked Onion Brussels Sprouts
Stephen Vincent, Pinot Noir, California 2008

Second Course
Jalapeno Beer Battered Lobster
Niman Ranch "Ham Hock Mac"
Castello Banfi, Rosso di Montalcino 2008

Third Coursed
Hickory Grilled Niman Ranch Lamb T-Bone
Toasted Garlic-Balsamic Glaze, Carnival Cauliflower Puree
Ferrari-Carano, Siena, Sonoma County 2009

Fourth Course
Niman Ranch Prime Ribeye Filet, Crispy Morel Mushroom Sauce
White Cheddar Smoked Bacon Twice Baked Potato
Caravan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2008

Fifth Course
Tart Washington Cherry Cheesecake
Mint Chocolate Fudge
Ferrari-Carano, Eldorado Gold, Sonoma County 2007

Yours truly and Iron Chef Kent Rathbun
We had an amazing time at the dinner.  Do you ever do wine dinners?  I'd love to hear your suggestions on wine dinner locations!

July 1, 2011

On Board: Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries

I have a little bit of a TV obsession.  I drive poor Eric nuts about the DVR and making time to watch all of my Real Housewives (all cities), Gossip Girl, White Collar, Psych, the random BBC documentary, Weeds, Nurse Jackie, and, yes, True Blood.  After the first season of True Blood ended, I ran out and bought all of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries books from which the True Blook series was based.  It was a great experience being able to plow through the set of 8 books in one string of reading.  They are such a great mix of mystery, love, suspense, and of course a little violence and fantasy.  I mean, faeries don't really exist....do they??!  Anyway, the new book just came out last month and I devoured it in three sittings. (hey, I still have to make time for TV!)

The best thing about the books is that the HBO series has taken a somewhat different direction than the book series.  This means that you get Charlaine Harris' Sookie in the books and HBO's Sookie on TV.  She's the same great character in the books as well as TV.  A small town girl, a little insecure at times, self sufficient and independent, yet never willing to take anyone's crap -- not even from a Vampire!  If you're like me and like getting *ahem* suck-ed into a series, then the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries is a great read.  Enjoy!
Via CharlaineHarris.com
Do you have any book series recommendations?