Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Not for the faint of heart - or cardiologists...

     My oldest son, Mick, is one of those unique kids that makes me often realize how lucky a parent I am.  He fortunately takes after his mother in the ways that really matter in life - an eclectic taste in music, a fascination for all things vintage, a respect for Mother Earth, a passion against corrupt government, and a love of chocolate that is absolutely genetic.

     Mick is a free spirit, an incredibly talented musician (please check out their amazing reggae band - SPRED THE DUB), and as of yesterday, a twenty-five year old man.

Spred the Dub

     Birthday traditions run deep in our family.  Growing up with Principessa (my Mom), our birthday was almost as celebrated as Christmas.  It was our special day, and we got to choose whatever we wanted for dinner and dessert.   Some traditions you just don't mess with - and this in one of them.  Mick choose Beef Stroganoff for his dinner, and left it up to me this year to "surprise" him with dessert.

     Coming in a very close second to chocolate in his favorites category, is bacon.  Thick cut, maple cured bacon to be exact.  The kind of bacon that, as it's cooking, fills the house with an aroma that attracts neighbors I haven't seen in months.  The kind of bacon that makes a vegan salivate. I think I came up with a perfect culinary treat that combined Mick's favorites.

Now quit making that face, and try it for yourself.  Seriously.  You are gonna love it!

They may look spooky, but they taste amazing.  Just ask Mick.

Mmmmickster Pretzels

1 lb bag of Snyders of Hanover Sourdough Specials pretzels
1 lb Maple Cured Bacon - cooked till Elvis Presley well done, then broken into small pieces
1 bag Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate Chips - melt gently in double boiler
1 bag Heath Toffee Bits (optional)

Dip the pretzels, one at a time, in the melted chocolate.  Place on a parchement paper lined tray.  Generously sprinkle on the bacon pieces, and if you are so inclined, add some of the Heath Toffee bits as well.  Set the tray in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to set, one hour.  

Now, I dare you to eat just one.  

Happy birthday, Mick.  I love you!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Vineyard? In North Carolina??

      I am not a wine snob.  The cost of a bottle has nothing to do with whether or not the the grape juice is pleasing on my palate.  I have experienced very expensive wines that didn't entice a second sip, and some cheapo wines that absolutely delighted my taste buds.  So, with that being said, I am always eager to try new wines.  As my dear brother-in-law, Greg would say - why wouldn't I?

The Babe fondling the grapes

     I first learned about the North Carolina wine industry about six years ago.  My initial thought was "I really dislike sweet, Muscadine wines."  (sorry, no offense to any Muscadine wine enthusiasts) they are just not my thing.  My second thought was "how can they grow decent grapes on tobacco land?"  The only way for me to truly know,  I figured, would be for me to try as many different North Carolina wines as humanly possible.

     Note that I am always up to that type of challenge, especially in the name of "research".

Our first bottle of Raylen's Carolinius

     And so I did.  Not only was I impressed with what those North Carolina grapes are squeezing out, I was excited to find a couple of my new favorites!  The vineyards, especially those in the Yadkin Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area), located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, are dadgum good!  There are currently 109 vineyards in the state, growing spectacular grapes from Cabernet Francs to Viogniers - and these good ole winemakers are turning them out into award winning, impressive Pinot Grigios, Cabernets, and wonderful Meritage blends.

     Take that, Napa.

     This summer, the Babe and I visited one of our top favorites - Raylen Vineyards, owned by Joe and Joyce Neely, in Mocksville.  I'm not sure if it was the drive in, passing thru the beautifully tended to grape vines, or the anticipation of the delicious wines, but we found ourselves instantly transported into another time and space.  A place of peaceful relaxation.  A time of slowing down and enjoying the moment...

    And so we did.  We greatly enjoyed every moment of our glass of Category 5.  Vintner Steve Shepard is a master at blending five different grapes; Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, and magically transforming them into a spectacular, full-bodied wine that demands the respect of any American vineyard.  The finish is smooth with caramel undertones, and a delight to our palates.  

      Did I mention that red wine is proven to keep your heart healthy?  And what's better than a happy heart?  Maybe a second glass...