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    Wednesday, 30 May 2007

    Are you having a hard time figuring out what to get people for birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions or holidays? If you said “yes” then maybe you should consider buying a wine basket a Gourmet Grocery Online. Giving a wine gift basket can be just the perfect gift that they needed, or a thoughtful gift in their minds. Here are some things to know when buying a wine online:

    Anytime you buy wine at Gourmet Grocery Online, make sure you know what category the wine falls into.

    •Table wine – table wine has less than 14% alcohol and come in two forms: white and red, depending on what color they are. Table wine is also the least expensive wine you could buy.

    •Sparkling Wine – A sparkling wine is one that has had CO2 added to it through fermentation. In a way, sparkling wines are fermented twice: once when the bottle is closed and the second time when it’s closed. Champagne is the most common example of a sparkling wine. Champagne comes from France; anything else is simply sparkling wine.

    •Dessert Wines – a dessert wines such as ports are very sweet wine that comes with 50-400 grams of sugar, taken from grapes that have reached their optimal ripeness.

    •Fortifies Wines – this type of wine is sweeter and has a stronger alcohol content than regular wines because they are mixed with spirits to enhance the taste.

    •Cooking wine – this is by far the worst wine to drink sitting at a wedding or to relax. Cooking wine is packed with salt and is such a bad quality that it’s only reasonable use is to cook with it. This should only be given as a gift for someone who is interested in cooking; otherwise you may be looked at as a penny packer who doesn’t buy good things for people that you care about.

    As you can clearly see, buying a wine gift online doesn’t have to be hard as long as you know what kind of wine you need to buy. Once you pick out one of the wines in the above list, choosing the perfect wine for that special someone will be easy. Not only can wine shopping be trouble-free! See what wines from foreign countries you can find that are considered obscure.

    Posted by: AT 10:33 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Wednesday, 23 May 2007
    Wine is an ever increasingly popular drink in the United States and around the world. This has been helped in part by movies that have promoted wine, such as Sideways. Moreover, the explosion in the popularity of wine has also meant that it is becoming an ever more popular gift idea. This has given rise to the wine gift basket.

    So what is a wine gift basket then? Quite simply a wine gift basket is a gift basket that contains wine and usually some combination of cheese, chocolate, fruit or any other gourmet food. They make great gifts for the simple reason that they combine wine with other great foods. Below I have included my top 8 reasons to give one as a gift (and 1 reason not to).

    They aren't called wine gift baskets for nothing. People love receiving wine as a gift, it's a scientific fact.
    They usually contain delicious foods and next to wine, food is probably the most popular gift people like to receive.
    You can choose wine gift baskets with your choice of red or white wine or both so you can give one that you know the person will want.
    Also, with most gift baskets you can pick the region the wine comes from allowing for even more customization.
    If you don't know too much about wine it makes choosing a perfect wine gift that much easier.
    You can also usually customize the type of food included. Does the person hate peanuts (or is allergic)? Then replace them with something else; for example chocolate.
    Most gift basket companies will allow to customize what you want and help you if you are not sure what to include. Essentially, you get both flexibility and assistance.
    They are fun! Need I say More

    Thus, the only reason not to give a wine gift basket that I can see is if that person does not like or does not drink wine. I think almost everyone else would really enjoy receiving one as a gift.

    Before to choosing to give one though you will have to consider a few things. First and most obviously picking wine and food the person will like. Second for most people will be price for a decent wine gift basket expect to spend $50 and up. Anything less and you are really sacrificing quality. If you can't afford that you may just want to consider giving a simple bottle of wine instead.

    Finally, remember to stay around after you give a wine gift basket and you may be able to sample a little bit of what's inside for yourself.

    Ian Wright is a lover of fine wine and food. For more information about on giving a wine gift basket or about the wine country gift basket please visit his sites.
    Posted by: AT 12:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Friday, 18 May 2007
    It seems everywhere you go now, everyone wants things fast and easy. No one takes the time to relax and enjoy life anymore!

    Well, I think it's about time we bring those days back. And we're going to start by bringing back the age of the homemade pie!

    Don't you remember when your mom made homemade pie? Oh, it smelled so good cooking, didn't it? And you could wait until the pie cooled so you could get that first piece!

    And, really, pies aren't that hard to make! Sure, it takes a little time, but that just makes it all the more worth it!

    Of course, these days, all you have to do is hit McDonald's drive-thru and you can have a fast and easy pie (if you want to call it that) delivered to your car window. How convenient.

    How horrible.

    Let's bring pies back; what do you say? Are you with me?

    Oh, but I hear you say you don't know HOW to make a homemade pie? Well, then, have I got the solution for you!

    I've created a blog called - oddly enough - "Pie." On my pie blog, I will be posting recipes for my favorite homemade pies.

    I also encourage everyone who loves pie to submit their favorites (with recipes, if possible). If you do, I'll be happy to post your favorite and then we'll see which kind of pie gets the most comments!

    Don't let our favorite dessert die! Visit the Pie blog today and join the Revolution!!

    Posted by: AT 08:36 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Thursday, 17 May 2007

    Meat Grades...


    When shopping for beef, it’s harder to see the quality in a brisket than it is to see the quality in a steak. But if you know how steaks are graded, you’ll have an easier time selecting your next brisket. With beef, safety inspection by the USDA is mandatory, but grading is optional. The top three grades are prime, choice and select. Usually only prime and choice are graded and marked at the retail level. Prime is usually reserved for the nicer restaurants but can be found occasionally in upscale meat stores. Choice is the grade found in most grocery stores and discount warehouses. Select is a lot leaner cut of beef and it is what is sold in the big discount retail grocery stores. “No roll” beef is beef that has not been graded by the USDA. Usually beef that has never been graded would fall into the “select” grade. So, when selecting the best brisket for slow smoking, look for a well marbled piece of meat.

    Here are some good web sites which show the differences in marbling...

    Another way to select great beef is to buy the Certified Angus Beef brand (CAB). Remember that this is only a brand name and not certified by the USDA. CAB grades as USDA prime or the top 35% of USDA choice. So... just look for the CAB brand and your shopping will be a lot easier because you know you will be getting good quality meat. Visit their web site for further info...


    Chicken is a little easier to shop for because there are only three grades - A, B, and C. Grade A is usually the only grade sold in grocery stores. Grade A chicken has no defects, is meaty, full breasted, firm, no broken skin, and no broken bones. Anything else will be grades B or C. Sometimes you’ll find that the “on sale” chicken will be grade B or C. For more information, visit...


    Pork is sort of like chicken... there are only four grades 1, 2, 3, & 4 and most of the pork sold in grocery stores is grade 1. So your choice is fairly simple. Look for pork that is firm, grayish pink in color and has a good degree of marbling. I always buy the full racks of spareribs. The best ribs are “2 and under” but they are harder to find. 3.5 and under are more common and do just as well. Buy 4 and under if you have to but stay away from the “hogzilla” 5 lb spareribs. Remember, this is for the full untrimmed spareribs - not the loin cut, St Louis cut, or baby backs. To see how to trim your spareribs St Louis Style, visit...

    For a pork grade chart, visit...

    For more information on slow smoking competition quality ribs, butts, chicken, and brisket, please visit Bill Anderson's web site at or

    Posted by: AT 08:28 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Wednesday, 16 May 2007

    My family and I know that "Old Glory" does not wave by accident. We have lost loved ones to war. Memorial Day is special.

    Memorial Day is for remembering the sacrifices made by others - for us - for our continued freedom. But I believe the day should also be used to create new memories.

    Having lost family to war, I believe I am able to put this particular holiday in perspective. It is a day, in fact an entire weekend, for us to accomplish two things: remembering and appreciating the ultimate sacrifice made by others and exercising those won freedoms in a way that creates fond memories with those we still have to love.

    Memorial Day should certainly be more meaningful than simply a three day weekend or mini vacation. It is a sacred day of remembrance ...but it should also be a time for the living to celebrate each others company while time permits. I especially like to totally surround myself with family and friends on this day, or even on this entire weekend, to celebrate what we (still) have because of those who gave their lives.

    Memorial Day was born out of the horror of war - first the Civil War - and now for all those who have departed as a result of war. The purpose of this holiday may seem to be fading from some peoples' consciousness. Is it now simply a three day vacation? Is it simply the unofficial start to summer and the barbecue season? Is it an excuse to go shopping since many businesses promote Memorial Day sales? Has the original meaning of the day been lost?

    My family and I know that "Old Glory" does not continue to wave by accident. We take time throughout the Memorial Day weekend to remember the fallen. We go to the cemetaries and place the flags. Old Glory flies at half mast at home. We tell stories, some sad - some happy, about those that cannot be at our family party. We remember them with reverence.

    We also remember my first husband's last words as his Cobra helicopter was on fire and about to explode: "Tell my family I love them. Tell them to live for me."

    So family and I celebrate our freedom - and life. We live our lives together. We do this best by being together and enjoying great recipes and the food they create.

    One of the things my family and I do is talk about how to support our troops today. We put together a "care package" or two or three or four. We send the packages to soldiers somewhere in this world. We don't care where they are stationed or what branch of the service they serve.

    As one soldier wrote recently, "All soldiers need the simple knowledge of one thing...someone must want them to come home. If a soldier has that...they may be able to make it through anything!!!!"

    After the package(s) are wrapped and sent, we do as ordered by our missing loved ones - we celebrate with food and beverage and memories - and we create new memories to be enjoyed forever (see link below). What a gift they have given us!

    Now You Enjoy! Live your lives well, celebrate and ...remember. These Memorial Day Recipes will help guarantee you and your family a memorable day.

    To access suggested Memorial Day recipes, click on Memorial Day Recipes.

    To send a soldier a thank you package, click on America Supports You.

    Donna Hager has owned and operated an American-style restaurant for over two decades. More articles and hundreds of recipes can be found on her website at Real Restaurant Recipes

    Posted by: AT 12:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Tuesday, 15 May 2007

    Gourmet foods are probably one of the most talked about food items and least understood. I have to ask myself all the time what separates the gourmet foods from the regulars? Some persons view? Marketing dollars perhaps? Some people make the foolish claim that they don’t actually like gourmet foods. To each their own I assume but how does one make such a broad based comment? There are virtually hundreds of foods that come under gourmet foods. Some people make this claim mainly because they have not tasted enough varieties of gourmet foods. The list of gourmet foods includes meats, drinks, deserts, cheese, fruits and many more. In fact, gourmet foods are considered to be a delicacy that tastes heavenly.

    The moment a mention of gourmet food is made, one usually thinks of cheese. However, remember that not all cheese are alike; gourmet cheese is not at all like American and Cheddar cheese that you always eat in the eateries and at home. The gourmet cheese, Agour Ossau-Iraty is a cheese that is made from sheep’s milk in Poland. The 34 Degrees Australian marinated feta is produced in Israel and is made from the milk of goat and sheep with some spices. As there are numerous varieties to gourmet cheese, it proves to be rather difficult to choose the right cheese to consume. Take a tip and make it a point to smell the cheese before buying it. What smells good to you is most likely going to taste good to you as well.

    Deserts and sweets are another important part of gourmet foods which includes cakes, candies, chocolate and cookies. You find a variety of cakes for you to choose from like chocolate, lemon, cheesecakes, sponge cakes and raspberry cakes. You can also find gourmet cookies that can be either plain, decorated by look and is available in variety of flavors. You can create or use your own toppings to make your dessert really a gourmet desert. Some suggestions for a topping are honey, syrups, jellies, jams and spreads. These toppings are all available at home or can be bought in the grocery store but really do enhance the taste of your gourmet foods.

    Exotic tasting coffee and tea is another form of well known food. You can choose between loose tea and tea bags, ground coffee or whole beans or a chilly frappuccino; you are sure to find a gourmet drink out there for you. Not only these gourmet drinks, they are also the right choice for the extra energy that you will need to fight the cold on a winter’s day. Great tasting coffee and tea are great for complementing an excellent meal. You can choose between the coffees you like. Biscotti are a great choice with coffee which taste great on its own or when dipped in tea, coffee, milk, wine or cappuccino. There are various flavors for you to choose from in biscotti ranging from hazelnut, gingerbread, chocolate and many others.

    If you love meat, then there are also numerous options in meat for gourmet food like Angus beef strip steaks, escargot, hot salami, caviar, free range turkey, Danish brown sugar slab bacon, pheasant and many other options in meat as a gourmet food. As you can see, there is a great choice for you in gourmet food, which will definitely meet the reason of the occasion for gourmet food. It is possible to even gift gourmet foods from a gourmet food store, catalogue or online. However it is sure that once you try gourmet food, you are sure to get hooked on to its taste.

    Irene has been servicing the Health and Wellness industry since graduating from Cal State Fullerton in 1982. Through her professional experiences in primarily the Physical Therapy field (presently working) she has gathered deep understandings on nutrition, exercise and overall healthy programs to share with her readers and clients of Planet Berry LLC. To learn more on Irene or Planet Berry please visit their corporate web site at or email at

    Posted by: AT 11:57 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Thursday, 10 May 2007

    If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Alsace region of northeastern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local white Pinot Blanc wine.

    When it comes to the total acreage devoted to French vineyards, Alsace ranks tenth out of the eleven winemaking regions. Don’t be fooled by the numbers; Alsace is a major producer of quality French wine. Its wine growing area is only about 60 miles (100 kilometers) long, and at the most a mere 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide nestled between the Vosges Mountains to the east and the Rhine River and Germany to the west. But this relatively tiny area is known for distinctive wines. Their wine bottles are also distinctive; tall and thin with labels that feature the grape variety, not the usual practice in France. Chaptalization (adding sugar to the fermenting grape mixture) is allowed for many wine categories.

    About 95% of Alsace wine is white. The major white grape varieties are Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. Secondary white grape varieties include Pinot Blanc, reviewed below, Sylvaner, and Muscat. The major red grape variety is Pinot Noir, reviewed in a companion article in this series.

    Colmar is an Alsatian town pretty well in the middle of the Alsatian wine villages. Go there if you don’t like rain; given its proximity to the Vosges Mountains, Colmar is the driest town in all of France. This city of about sixty-five thousand was founded in the Ninth Century. In spite of the fact that Colmar was largely destroyed in both World Wars, its old town (Vieille Ville) remains worthy of a visit. Some say that it’s more interesting than Strasbourg. You really should visit both and decide for yourself. Among Colmar’s sights are the St-Martin church constructed from the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth Centuries, the Ancienne Douane (Old Customs House), and the Maison aux Arcades (Arcades House).

    Ribeauvillé is the home of Trimbach wines and has been since 1626. In spite of its size, under five thousand, it has a bit of everything: ancient town walls, picturesque medieval houses, Gothic churches, a town hall with antiques, and a spring. Nearby are the ruins of three castles. And the first Sunday in September, Ribeauvillé hosts a major Minstrel Show.

    Before reviewing the Alsatian wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Foie Gras (Goose or Duck Liver). For your second course savor Baeckeoffe (Meat and Potato Casserole). And as dessert indulge yourself with Gâteau Chasseur (Almond Cake with Raspberries and Meringue).

    OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

    Wine Reviewed

    Trimbach Pinot Blanc 2004 12.5% alcohol about $13.50

    Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials.

    Tasting Note Straw colour; apple, pear fruit aromas with light biscuit and citrus tones; medium- to full-bodied with ripe peachy flavours and a clean, zesty finish.

    Serving Suggestion Smoked salmon, shellfish or asparagus in hollandaise sauce. Alsatian Pinot Gris is becoming increasingly fashionable, and this example illustrates why. Honeyed fruit aromas, such as peach and pear, plus a texture of smoke and mineral seduce in this just off-dry white that's, round, soft and quite rich. The producer recommends this as a good substitute for red wine with meat dishes such as cold cuts, roast beef or game. They also suggest pairing it with smoked chicken, fish or lobster. And now for the review.

    My first meal consisted of a commercially prepared chicken breast with the skin on (more calories, more flavor), potato salad, and a spicy salad based on tomatoes, red pepper and garlic. The wine was refreshingly acidic and somewhat fruity. I finished with fresh pineapple. This combination was quite good; the pineapple’s fruit flavors and the wine’s fruit flavors melded well, and seemed to intensify each other.

    I then paired the Pinot Blanc with a reheated home-cooked chicken leg in a tomato-based sauce with beets and more of the above potato salad. The wine scored as in the first round, but was more assertively fruity including the taste of pears. I am not used to a Pinot Blanc wine being so present, and I like this change.

    My last meal consisted of a cheeseless broccoli, mushroom, and zucchini quiche and mashed potatoes. The wine was powerful and quite fruity, but short.

    The first cheese was a French goat’s milk cheese that really seemed more like a Camembert. At the first sips the cheese sort of cut off the wine. Later the results were somewhat better; the wine was fruity and moderately acidic. Then I went for a Swiss Gruyere with a lightly sharp, nutty flavor. This combination was even better; the Pinot Blanc came out nice and fruity.

    I usually don’t go with a non-imported cheese when tasting wines. However, I am making an exception for a Canadian Asiago cheese that our local supermarket almost never carries. This cheese is perhaps the best that I have tasted in a long time; in my opinion it clearly surpasses its Italian Asiago cousin. When a cheese is that good, I am quite anxious to try it with wine. The result wasn’t disappointing; this gem intensified the wine’s fruit and acidity.

    Final verdict. There is no doubt in my mind, this wine is a winner. And its price is quite reasonable.

    Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His major wine website is and his major article website is .

    Posted by: AT 11:44 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Tuesday, 08 May 2007

    Mountain Drive in Santa Barbara in the 1950s was a center of bohemian life, inspired in part, by Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’. Located in, what was then, an isolated area in the mountains above Montecito, a rich enclave then as now, and because of its then isolation, of cheap land - $1,000.- $2,000 an acre. Almost all Mountain Drivers built their own houses with the help of their friends and neighbors and often without the benefit of plans or permits.

    Many, if not most, had day jobs but in the evenings and weekends they became true bohemians living their iconoclastic fantasies. They celebrated everything worth celebrating, Robert Burns Birthday, Bastille Day, Twelfth Night, the summer and winter equinox, sunset and above all the grape harvest. Wine was the social lubricant in an age where the dry martini reigned, and the wine of preference was Zinfandel from a small family winery in San Luis Obispo.

    A Hollywood movie Seconds starring Rock Hudson includes the wine stomp as a central part of their narrative. Filmed on site and with real Mountain Drivers as extras.

    Our first winemaker at Santa Barbara Winery was from Mountain Drive, an Optometrist by trade, but a bohemian by choice. What started this train of thought is that David Lafond lives in the house of what was then one of the principle actors on Mountain Drive. David has resuscitated, after more than 20 years absence, one of Mountain Drive’s most cherished celebrations - the Mountain Drive Wine Stomp and the choosing of a Wine Queen.

    Today, because of technological advances, only children are allowed to stomp. Being lighter they are gentler. In the good old days the whole community got into the vat and preferably naked. The wine did not turn out half as well.

    The bohemian spirit may have vanished, children rebel against their parents, and these are mostly the second generation Mountain Drivers, and maybe, just maybe, sitting on million dollar properties is inhibiting, but they still have a good time and the spirit is there. Hopefully the tradition will survive.

    Although never a part of this culture Santa Barbara Winery, and in fact, the whole wine industry in Santa Barbara County owes a debt to these pioneers and their love of the grape.

    There is a book, Mountain Drive, compiled and edited by Elias Chiacos, published by Shoreline Press, P.O. Box 3562, Santa Barbara, CA 93130, that covers this early history of Mountain Drive with an ample selection of photos.

    In 1962 Pierre Lafond opened the first Santa Barbara winery since Prohibition. In 2001, he opened another California winery called Lafond Winery. Today, his two vineyards and winemaking operations are some of Santa Barbara's finest. Tours and tastings daily.

    Posted by: AT 12:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Monday, 07 May 2007

    When people think of the wines of the northwest, chances are they ignore Washington and think mainly of Oregon. With its penchant for Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir, Oregon has seemingly left Washington state Pinot Poor. Yet, Oregon is not the only state in this upper region capable of making wine, Pinots or otherwise. Washington, over the past decade and a half, has developed into a major wine player and now has more than the ability to serve as Oregon's tag team partner. Move over timber, the northwest has a new baby.

    Washington Wine is perhaps the tastiest alliteration in vocabulary today (sorry, pickled peppers, you were a close second). Full of flavor, concentration, and body, Washington Wines are giving everyone a reason to wash down their steak with a bottle of Merlot. Yet, it wasn't always like this.

    The first grapes in Washington were planted in the late 1800's. Quite literally late bloomers, they didn't fully develop into greatness until the early 1990's when people began to realize three important things: Washington possessed the same latitude as famous European wine regions, Washington had - on average - two more hours of sunlight a day than California, and Washington contained areas shielded by the Cascade Mountains. This shield left eastern Washington under a geographical umbrella, providing vineyards with nearly ideal climate.

    For these reasons, winemakers began to make wine in the eastern portion of the state. In fact, the decision was made to plant eight out of nine viticultural areas in eastern Washington (and four out of five dentists agreed). The sole western wine region is Puget Sound. Laying west of the Cascade Mountains, it spends its day producing grapes that excel in cold climate - such as Madeline Sylvaner, Muller-Thurgua, and Siegerrebe - and its nights singing Celine Dion's "All by Myself."

    The eastern viticultural areas include Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain, Walla Walla, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke, Rattlesnake Hills, and Columbia Gorge. These areas are famous most notably for two grapes: Merlot and Cabernet. Labeled as among the best red wines in the world, to some people no Merlots and Cabernets can compare to the ones made in eastern Washington.

    On the white side of things, eastern Washington is best known for Chardonnays, Rieslings, and Sauvignon Blancs. However, Chenin Blanc, Fruit Wines, Semillon, and Sparkling Wines are also gaining in popularity.

    The conditions of eastern Washington may seem like a winemakers dream, but it is not without its faults. While viticulturists reap the benefits of a regular growing season and grapes that attain perfect ripening, they must also deal with fits of weather. Mother Nature occasionally wrecks havoc on this area with winter freezes, leaving wine growers to label her a "drama queen" and also destroying portions of vineyards. Sometimes, it takes several years to bring a vineyard back to full production.

    Taking leads from its southern competition, Washington is in the middle of creating a tourism industry that parallels Napa Valley. However, Washington has found itself tangled in a vine of obstacles. These include the remoteness of many of the vineyards - as many of them are located in the proverbial "middle of nowhere" - and lack of lodging (people may find themselves all wined up with nowhere to go). The lack of transportation hubs is also a factor. Nonetheless, the Washington Wine Tourism Task Force was created in 2000. And so, Operation: Wine and Dine, continues.

    If a Napa Valley-like industry is eventually created, it would likely benefit Washington on astounding levels, adding a new element to the economy, creating knowledge of the wine industry, and giving Seattle - the Washington city where tourists tend to flock - some much needed space….needle.

    As of right now, Washington will just have to be happy with where it stands, showing the world that Washington mountains aren't the only thing capable of erupting. Already second in varietal wine production in the US, this blossoming industry has over 31,000 acres dedicated to vineyards, and 120,000 grapes harvested each year. Washington also ships its product to over 40 nations, giving us Americans the assurance that at least one of our Washingtons is on good terms with the rest of the world.

    Jennifer Jordan is the senior editor at With a vast knowledge of wine etiquette, she writes articles on everything from how to hold a glass of wine to how to hold your hair back after too many glasses. Ultimately, she writes her articles with the intention that readers will remember wine is fun and each glass of anything fun should always be savored.

    Posted by: AT 10:06 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Sunday, 06 May 2007

    It is been said that Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born out of the torn genitals of her father. Definitely the most unromantic beginning of divinity for love and beauty. But the stories of her many conquests have given birth of the word ‘aphrodisiac’: a love potion named after her. Different foods have long been associated with romance, love and the ability to increase sexual desire and to stabilize passion. Fruits, vegetables and spices, herbs, sweets, see foods and alcoholic beverages all have place on menu, when it comes to romantic food or the food that trigger your passion.

    Shape, colour, spiciness and aroma of foods been considered as aphrodisiacs. An aroma is specially important for men. The smell of sweet pumpkin pie, fragrant lavender and deep vanilla have been shown to increase blood flow in genitals. Red meet is actually an anti-aphrodisiac. When the Romance is on, remember to have light meal, it will help you keep your passion up and going on and on. Alcohol, a little is all that is needed. Champagne is classic aphrodisiacal beverage; know as the “Drink of love”.

    Chocolate, strawberries and champagne have always been a food of love, quite literally, and its one element that will never be the kebab main haddi in a relationship. A dash of chocolate in wake-up cappuccino is perfect for the morning after. A cup of streaming hot chocolate is a st have as you snuggle up by the fire. And there is nothing like a chocolate liqueur to set your senses on fire. Chocolate fuels your passion every time.

    Posted by: AT 12:19 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Saturday, 05 May 2007
    When starting your wine collection you should consider the following things:

    1) How much money do you want to invest in collecting wine? This will help you determine the size of wine cellar you need as well as help you to select the proper wines to fill it. 2) How much space do you have for your collection? And where are you going to put it?

    The ideal conditions for your wine cellar are:

    a constant temperature between 7ºC - 18ºC
    60% relative humidity
    a darker area in your home
    an area with as little movement as possible
    enough space so the bottles can easily be stores on an angle to prevent the cork from drying out

    If you have the ideal space for your cellar than we recommend that you go with a wooden wine rack. They are easy to find online and through many brick and mortar stores at reasonable prices and made with high quality materials. They offer convenience, expandability, and strength all in one allowing you to continually change and modify your collection.

    If you do not have the ideal conditions for storing wine in your home not to worry, there are incredible lines of refrigerated wine cabinets that create the ideal storing conditions for you. They maintain a stable temperature and humidity which is great for your collection. They also come in a variety of sizes to match your space and financial constraints.

    3) What type of collector do you want to be? Horizontal Collector - collects a variety of wines reaching across the varietals creating a balanced collection. The goal of this style of collecting is to have a diverse selection that is great for any occasion. A typical horizontal collection would include:

    2 – Bordeaux, 2 - Red Burgundies, 2 - "Cru" Beaujolais
    2 - Red Rhone's, 4 - Italian Reds, 2 - South African Reds
    2 - Chilean Reds, 2 - Californian Reds, 2 - Spanish Reds
    2 - White Burgundies, 2 - White Bordeaux, 2 - Alsatian Whites
    2 - German Moseles, 2 - Italian Whites, 2 - Californian Whites
    2 - Australian Reds, 2 - German Rhines, 2 - South African Whites
    2 - Dessert Wines, 2 - Sparkling Wines, 2 - British Columbia Whites

    Vertical Collector - will find a type of wine they like and then collect all the different vintages (years) of that wine. The idea of this style of collecting is to have different vintages of the same wine stacked vertically in your cellar.

    Casual Collector - has no rhyme or reason to the wines they collect and so their collection may be very diverse or very specific depending on their preferences. While this is not the typical method of collecting wine the results will be just as enjoyable to the collector.

    When collecting wine it is important to remember that heat, light and movement are enemies to your collection. To keep these factors to a minimum we recommend that you also invest in a small wine rack for your daily and weekly wines so that you do not have to go in and out of your cellar as often. These racks can be great additions to the decor of your house since they come in such a large variety of shapes and styles.

    Becoming a wine collector may seem like a daunting task but it does not have to be. It does not matter what types of wine you have in your collection just as long as you enjoy them all.

    If you are just starting your collection and you are anxious to see it grow without putting in a large initial investment then we recommend that for every bottle you use, you replace it with two new bottles, following this simple rule you should have a great collection in no time!

    Simone Levesque is a wine aficionado, focused on bringing Canadian wine into the spot light. Through her website, Canada's Wine Education and Tour Guide, she gives tons of information about wine including great tips on what to try and where to go the next time your there.

    Posted by: AT 12:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Friday, 04 May 2007
    Never mind diamonds, when it comes to impressing your girlfriend or wife. The time honored way is by giving her flowers and chocs.

    You can not fail to please her, don’t give flowers when you have annoyed her or as a “please forgive me” this tactic usually fails.

    Give her some nice roses and some good quality chocolates just for a change and she will melt in your arms.

    The flowers do not have to be roses or expensive, infact if you pick your own and give them to her, she can not fail to be impressed.

    Chocolate is also great, I recent fantastic chocolate that I have found out about is the Lindt 99% excellence bar, the only problem with this is its availability, exclusively through Lindt chocolate stores

    So go on… Get down your local florist now and stop off at the nearest shop to get the chocs.

    Also if you fancy really going to town why not try decorating your entry to your house and bathroom with rose petals as a surprise or how about cooking some chocolate treats or cakes

    A fantastic recipe is detailed below, easy to make and fantastic to eat.

    This article is free to distribute or copy as long as it is in full and includes the html link

    Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate topping

    20g of raisins
    20g of apricots
    20g of dates
    30g of Lindt 99% excellence chocolate bar
    1 teaspoon of baking powder
    150g of flour (self raising)
    30g of fine sugar
    1 tablespoon of syrup
    1 egg
    30g of butter
    150ml of hot water

    The chocolate topping
    50g butter
    50g sugar
    50g Lindt 99% excellence chocolate bar
    80ml of double cream

    pre-heat your oven to about 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6

    Place the raisons, apricots, dates, chocolate, baking powder and a pinch of the flour into your food processor (keeping adding the flour until the fruit stops sticking to the blades) Once done place this mix into a bowl that contains the sugar, syrup, egg and melted butter. Stir this mix whilst adding the hot water and remaining flour. You now need to really give this mix a good whisk, either manually or with an electric whisker. Now divide up into 12 cupcake papers and put onto your baking tray.

    Bake for 15 mins

    The chocolate topping is easy, add all the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer until the color goes darker, Remove and leave to cool add the topping to your cakes when they are done.
    Posted by: AT 08:41 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Thursday, 03 May 2007
    Summer is on the way for many of us and this usually means the barbecues get dusted off and we all get down the shops to get some matches and a sack of charcoal. However, often we have barbecues on the beach or in a park so it’s important to bring all the essentials to make sure you don’t have to run back to the house or down the local shops, it’s also important to make sure everything is in good working order. Here are a few of things which are often forgotten on the barbecue.

    The barbecue – Sounds silly but it is always worth checking that the barbecue is in a decent state to use. Last year was a long time ago and any grimy stuff in it could have taken its toll. Give it a good clean a few days before you go to make sure that you don’t have any last minute mishaps.

    Charcoal and something to get it going – Most of us would never forget the charcoal, but it’d easy to forget something to actually get the stuff going! Make sure you bring firelighters & plenty of matches to make sure you can get the barbecue going.

    Utensils – Remember you will have to turn food regularly on a barbecue and this will need some specialist equipment, whether it be tongs, wooden spoons or a good old fashioned fork. You will also need bits and pieces for things like salad and buttering rolls so make sure you remember it all!

    Torch – The nigh time creeps up on us when we have barbecues and before we know it, it is dark. Make sure you bring a torch to make sure you can see if the food is cooked and make sure you don’ leave anything behind when you leave.

    Disposable bags – You will always generate a lot of rubbish when you have a barbecue so make sure you bring enough bags to pack it all away and get rid of it safely. You don’t want to have to carry rubbish around in your hands searching for bins at the end of the night.

    Follow these simple tips and it should ensure you have a stress-free barbecue – Just make sure you check the weather forecast!

    Gary Kingston writes for Utterly Recipes, an online cooking guide for those who want simple & quick recipes. The site offers recipes for, amongst others, beef, lamb, vegetarian and beef recipes. We also have a really nice chilli con carne you may want to have a look at!

    [Shop for BBQ]
    Posted by: AT 09:18 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Wednesday, 02 May 2007

    Extra virgin olive oil has become such a symbol of healthy eating that it is hard to believe that it was once accused of increasing the harmful cholesterol. It was a fat, so it had to be bad for us. Fortunately, we left those times behind and now olive oil and most fats are much better understood.

    The main reason olive oil is healthy is because it is rich in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. About 75% of that monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, which is very stable even at high temperatures. Moreover, our body processes oleic acid easier than other fatty acids.

    Secondly, organic extra virgin olive oil also contains high levels of antioxidants like phenols, and vitamins E and A, which fight free radicals and thus prevent premature aging. Those antioxidants help neutralize the oxidation process, which is common to alls fats, and preserve the properties of olive oil too.

    So, the fact that olive oil is capable of resisting oxidation at higher temperatures much better than seed oils makes it the safest vegetable oil for frying.

    Many in the non-Mediterranean industrialized countries feel uneasy when a Mediterranean recipe calls for frying in olive oil. Frying is an old cooking technique that is very popular in the Mediterranean cuisines. It is as much an integral part of the healthy traditional Mediterranean diet as consuming raw olive oil with bread and salads.

    Some olive oil tips for the kitchen

    When heated up, olive oil expands in volume and food absorbs it less than other cooking oils. Therefore, you need a smaller quantity of olive oil.

    If it didn't burn in your frying pan, you can reuse olive oil up to three times. Some say even five times, but I personally never use it more than twice.

    Olive oil transmits flavors between foods, so never fry meat in olive oil you used to fry fish and vice versa. My grandmother always kept a jar for fish and one for meat next to the olive oil bottle. It is the best way not to get flavors mixed up.

    Finally, olive oil looks thicker than other vegetable oils, but this is only appearance as, contrary to popular belief, it has no more calories than sunflower oil, for instance.

    Olive oil for your health

    In the 13th century Arnau de Vilanova, doctor of the Catalan royal family, already realized that a moderate intake of olive oil enhanced the vital functions of the body. In the 20th century, the late American doctor, Ancel Keys MD, documented that the olive oil based Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

    We see that contemporary research has confirmed what the Mediterranean peoples knew and practiced intuitively all along.

    Heart disease is the Achilles' heel of modern societies living at a frantic pace. Since Dr. Keys and his followers realized that we in the Mediterranean have a better cardiovascular health, the first medical studies on olive oil focused mainly on that area.

    They proved that olive oil balances the cholesterol levels, can reduce the risk of a heart attack, can play a role in the prevention of arteriosclerosis, and fights high blood pressure.

    Later, research was extended to other areas like digestion, cancer, and diabetes. The results have been very positive and olive oil usually comes through with flying colors.

    One particular study concluded that with only two tablespoons of virgin olive oil every day you can begin to experience the health benefits that the Mediterranean peoples have enjoyed for so long. Incorporating it naturally into your eating practices is simple.

    How to integrate olive oil in your eating practices

    The easiest way is to get into the habit of drizzling olive oil over slices of bread or toasts, consuming it as a dressing for sandwiches instead of butter, and adding it to salads with some salt.

    Wherever you go in the Mediterranean, Morocco, Provence, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, Catalonia, Andalusia, or Majorca, you'll find people eating their own combination of bread and raw olive oil.

    As a Catalan I eat pa amb tomaquet, literally bread with tomato, almost every day: as part of my breakfast, as a snack, or, I admit, when I am too lazy to cook dinner. It is the Catalan bruschetta, so to say, and you can prepare it in no time with slices of bread or toasts, both are fine.

    Here is the most basic recipe for pa amb tomaquet. Cut a very ripe tomato crosswise, rub the bread with one half on both sides, drizzle olive oil liberally over the bread and sprinkle some salt.

    You can eat it plain or add any topping and accompaniment you like: prosciutto-style or cooked ham, cheese, tuna fish, an omelet, anchovies, figs, olives. Even with a chocolate bar at tea or coffee time, it may sound weird, but it is delicious.

    Other recipes with raw olive oil are authentic allioli, salads with olive oil dressing, cold sauces like romesco, and sopa de farigola or thyme soup. As the Catalan saying goes: Sopa sense oli no val un dimoni, literally, Soup without oil isn't worth a devil, meaning that a soup with no oil is junk.

    Here is the recipe. In a soup pot, bring 2-quart (2 l) water to a boil together with 2 peeled garlic cloves and 2 sprigs thyme. Simmer for 10 minutes and drain. Place 1 or 2 slices of country-style bread on the bottom of each soup bowl, drizzle them liberally with extra virgin olive oil and ladle the soup over it. In the spring and summer this soup is also great with mint instead of thyme.

    Recent studies have shown that the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are not derived from olive oil alone, but from the Mediterranean diet as a whole. So, eat well and enjoy!

    © 2007 Núria Roig,

    At Núria Roig helps you explore delicious Mediterranean diet recipes, undiscovered Catalan cuisine, and the relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle from the inside. Visit to keep up to date on the fascinating world of the healthy Mediterranean diet.

    Posted by: AT 10:04 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Tuesday, 01 May 2007

    Everyone has a mother, and around the world, no matter which culture or geographic location, you can rest assured that some form of Mother's Day will be celebrated. It is a well-known fact that more of us go out to eat at a restaurant on Mother's Day than on any other holiday of the year. Every holiday has its food and customs, yet in the U.S. Mother's Day has few customary traditions. Instead, you can be sure to give your mother a great Mother's Day gift in the form of a festive celebration that focuses on all the things your Mother likes, in all its customized glory.

    Food is always an important consideration in every celebration, and Mother's Day is no exception. It is easy to make sure that you cover all bases when it comes to gift food for your mother when you present her with gourmet Mother's Day gift baskets. You can be sure to select all the different types of special foods that she enjoys, and include a bit of everything in your customized gift basket. If she is a lover of sweets, then you might wish to add gourmet chocolates, candies, and baked goods. These items could consist of milk, dark or white chocolate truffles, or hand-dipped candies, whereas the baked items could start with decorated gourmet cookies and end with chocolate-dipped pretzels. On the other hand, your Mom may prefer the savory side of life. This is when glorious tastes such as imported gourmet caviar, capers, anchovies, olives, and cheeses might cause her mouth to water. A fine bottle of wine or champagne would be a fantastic finish to a thoughtful gift.

    Another way to customize a celebration to what your Mother enjoys is through the use of color in decorations. If your celebration is meant to be a surprise, you might be able to determine your Mom's favorite colors by the clothes she wears, or the color of flowers she grows in her garden, or even the paint colors she has used in her home. But likely she has told you what shades she likes at one time or another. Now is the time to use those hues to glorious effect, in terms of decorating the table for the celebration, the flowers you might select, and the colors of gift wraps and ribbons that she would most enjoy. It is easy to create a great impression when your gift basket not only includes items in her favorite colors, but the basket itself is wrapped in colorful sheer plastics, and tied with layers of ribbons in all the tones she gravitates toward. The final touch is to include a beautiful gift card to commemorate her happy day.

    Anne Harvester is a homemaker extraordinaire with years of experience creating spectacular events and gifts. She supports those in search of fantastic gift ideas.

    Shop for Mother's Day Gifts

    Posted by: AT 11:04 am   |  Permalink   |  Email


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