Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Review: Cuisine of the Sun: A Ray of Sunshine on Your Plate by Francois de Melogue

This is one cookbook, regardless of the tantalizing recipes, that would also be at home as a coffee table book. (It's that interesting to read!) Written and photographed by Chef Francois de Melogue, Cuisine of the Sun captivates the reader, and the reader’s taste buds, from the start.

Chef de Melogue
De Melogue pulls on his 20+ years as a chef of cross-culture cuisine to tempt us into trying our hand at his unique Mediterranean cooking style he calls “Cuisine Actuelle,” where he focuses on the natural flavors of the dish. Chef de Melogue has always had a love of food, wine and good times; friends nicknamed him Bacchus (after the Greek god of wine and merriment.)

De Melogue encourages the purchase of local ingredients from farmers markets and artisan farms for these recipes. Food that is purchased in-season and freshly picked simply tastes better, and the end result will astound.

But this is not a cookbook for those in a hurry. If you want to get dinner on in 30 minutes or less, steer clear. There are no premixed, premeasured dishes here. Chef de Melogue believes that cooking should take time and involve the senses, the mind, and the soul.

Pistou - Vegetable, Bean and Pasta Soup
On the same note, if you can’t improvise a bit, maybe you should be exploring the kitchen with Betty Crocker, not testing the culinary waters with Chef de Melogue, who has little use for oversimplified recipes, or dishes. According to de Melogue, “It’s ok to lose sight of the shores and venture fearless in search of new lands. I learned by watching my mother cook then trying, and failing, many times. It’s not how many times you fall in life that count, but how many times you stand back up.”

Chef de Melogue believes that food and emotions are strongly connected, so consider this book his passionate love letter to audacious foodies everywhere. As Harriet Van Horne said “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

And de Melogue is a man who is not afraid to live life to its fullest. He will joyously turn a traditional recipe on its head, and create a flavorful contemporary interpretation that astounds. The “Chef’s Notes” are invaluable. It’s the equivalent of having your own personal chef in the kitchen offering tips and tricks you didn’t know.

This is also a cookbook that shares a sense of place, yet timelessness, melding the traditional flavors of the Mediterranean with culinary convolutions that seduce the gastronomer. De Melogue’s writing style is composed of a bit of story telling with humorous, honest, and at times, mischievous details as he let’s the reader in on behind-the-scenes kitchen escapades at home, and in some of the most revered restaurants in the U.S. and France.

But Cuisine of the Sun is more than a cookbook. It is also a labor of love, and skill. Chef de Melogue imagined this Mediterranean cooking guide long before he launched his dream on KickStarter, a crowdfunding site, in August of 2015. On the first day of the project, 12% of the requested money was raised. Less than 10 days later, 60% of the financing was secured. By September 4, less than 30 days into the campaign, a gratified de Melogue had his financing for this spectacular book.

Roasted Beet Salad
Maman's Apple Tart
Peruse the Table of Contents and home cooks, as well as chefs, will be ready to indulge their foodie passions in the kitchen. Whether it’s the Roasted Beet Salad, a Simple Roast Chicken, Beef Cheek Daube, or Maman’s Apple Tart, cooks will find an honest approach, and delight in the recipes, which tempt and tantalize from the pages of this book.

Chef Francois de Melogue
De Melogue’s book is a joy; the writing is personal and witty, the recipes superb, and the photography stunning; he manages to capture little slices of life that appear to burst from the page.

Julia Child said it best, “No one is born a cook, one learns by doing.” And with Chef de Melogue’s guiding hand, you will learn from one of the best.

~ Joy

About the Author:
Francois de Melogue was born and raised in Chicago, but spent his summers growing up near Marseilles, France where he learned the culinary lifestyle of his family. De Melogue graduated at the top of his class from the New England Culinary Institute in 1985, and has worked in Provincial and pan-Mediterranean kitchens in France and the U.S. Check out his blog, EatTillYouBleed.

Book Details:
Cuisine of the Sun: A Ray of Sunshine on Your Plate
by Francois de Melogue
Published by
Available for purchase at Amazon in hardback, and for Kindle

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

3 Ways To Tell If A Wine Is Corked

Maybe you’ve been anticipating enjoying that bottle of wine for a while. Or, you’ve splurged at a restaurant for a special dinner and you want everything to be perfect, but when the wine is opened, suddenly you know something isn’t right. It smells off. It tastes worse. What could be wrong? Is it “corked?” Here’s how to tell:

It Has a Real Cork
Yes, only wine stoppered with a real cork can be “corked.” Long story short, TCA is the “corked culprit.” Chlorine is used to sterilize the corks, but a cork with mold can become tainted. If the cork is synthetic, then you may be a bad wine, but you can’t call it corked.

It Smells Like a Wet Dog
Seriously! The aroma of man’s best friend after a dip in the lake, or a run in the park on a rainy day; yep that’s the corked smell. Other claim it’s more the scent of musty clothing, a moldy basement, soaked newspapers, wet cardboard, or a swimming pool with too much chlorine. You’ll know it once you smell it.

It Tastes Like It Smells
A corked wine doesn’t have the zip, the sparkle, the bright berry nose. If you decide to take a sip, it may have a musty taste, or a moldy flavor. Not a good sign. Some corked wines may offer little in the way of taste and aroma; they're just flat and dull; lifeless on the tongue.

While a corked wine is safe to drink, don’t. I assume you are drinking wine for the experience: the flavors, the aromas, the enjoyment of it.  Do not proceed with a corked wine: dump it, send it back, or request a replacement, or a refund. (The old adage about drinking bad wine is true!)

Corked Wine Can’t Be Determined …
by sniffing the cork. Nope, that will not indicate if a wine is corked. (It just looks good in the movies.) The cork will smell like …well, cork. And, obviously, that’s not helpful.

Final Thought
If you discover tiny bits of cork floating in your wine after you open it, or you notice “wine diamonds” stuck to the cork, please, do not say the wine is corked. It isn’t.

Now, open up that bottle and let the enjoyment begin.

~ Joy

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Review: Love on the Rocks: A Positano Tale

Book Review
Spring is just around the corner and before you know it, we’ll be heading into summer and vacation time. If you want to get a jump on the season, or you’re searching for a summer read to wile away the hours, Love on the Rocks: A Positano Tale by Catie Costa would fit the bill.

It’s chick lit with a wine hangover. There’s plenty of drama, Italian food, and numerous bottles of Prosecco imbibed in during the two summer months best friends Kit and Bridget spend in Positano, Italy.

Positano, Italy
As two teachers from the States, the girls flee their ordinary lives each summer hoping to store up enough memories to make the next ten months bearable, until summer comes again. Both fall in love with the city, its inhabitants and, of course, the drink of choice, Prosecco.

The girls celebrate their freedom in a city where they can remake themselves. There’s plenty of serious shopping, dancing at the disco, and tales of getting "up close and personal" with the locals. It’s all a bit of a thrill until their idyllic vacation takes a dramatic turn, for real.

Suddenly they have to deal with a stalker, a too friendly psychopath, and an unexpected pregnancy. The question of who stays, who goes, and whose happiness hangs in the balance can’t be cured with another glass of wine.

Grab a copy for summer reading on the beach, or your own back porch. Just be sure to have a chilled bottle of Prosecco on hand.

Catie Costa
Catie Costa is a San Francisco Bay resident who loosely based her first novel around a summer she and a friend rented an apartment in Positano, Italy. From that experience she learned that “everybody’s journey is different. Be who you are, go at your own pace, don’t compare yourself to others, and enjoy the journey.”

~ Joy

Book Details:
Available for purchase at Amazon by clicking the link above.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Convenient Communion Wine

The Christian holiday of Easter is fast approaching, and in this era of modern convinces with prepackaged foods and snack comes an offering that may give you pause – prefilled communion cups, with or without the wafers.

There are several companies on the Internet that offer these thrifty containers complete with the option of red or white grape juice - and the samples are free.

Trending Now
Several factors influenced this trend. 

1) Gone are the church ladies who took a couple of hours each Saturday morning to polish up the communion ware, put the plastic cups in the holders, fill them with gallon bottles of grape juice (always red, never white) and place those tiny rectangles or circles of unleavened bread on another carrier tray; all ready for Sunday services. But today, volunteers are few and far between waiting to take on this weekly duty. Modern families are far too busy, and a new generation of church ladies have other things to attend to. (Social media, any one?) The prepackaged cups and wafers make that morning of communion prep a thing of the past.

2) Outreach settings are another reason these prepackaged cups make sense. It’s more convenient, not to mention less wasteful, to carry the prepackaged communion cups into hospitals, nursing homes, religious study groups, prisons, and retirement communities.

3) In our germy world where we use antibacterial soap for our showers, our dishes and our hands, it was only a matter of time before the church caught up. Passing the common cup has been a health concern for years. Sharing the communal cup, or passing communion trays down pew after pew, presents potential exposure to a wide variety of diseases: staph infections, hepatitis, and strep throat are just a few, not to mention the flu, or simply the common cold.

What’s Not To Love?
The prepackaged communion cups require no refrigeration, are shelf stable for 10 months, and are packaged in 100% recyclable plastic. Plus there’s no extra juice or wafers that have to be thrown away. It would appear to be a win-win for the church and parishioners except many are slow to embrace the trend.

Those who do not like the prepackaged communion sets have expressed what they feel is a lack of respect for the communion ritual.  But those who have no problem with the new trend are quite happy with the hygienic role individually sealed cups play in the process, and the ability to use only what you need has also been cited as a positive.

Will prepackaged communion catch on? Only time will tell. What’s your view: A plus or a minus?

~ Joy

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

4 Sparkling Trends for 2016

The old saying of having “Champagne tastes on a beer budget” is about to become dated.

Here are four of the latest trends we can all sip and savor.

Sustainable Sparklers
Now, it’s easier to drink “green!” Organic wine is defined by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) as a “wine made from organically grown grapes, without any added sulfites.” The grapes for these natural sparklers are grown using sustainable agricultural practices which include land conservation, and the reclamation and recycling of materials during the wine making process. That’s definitely something to raise your glass for.

Terroir-based Champagne
Terroir is a word that has a certain mystique in the minds of wine drinkers. While the earth in which the grapes are grown does indeed impart unique qualities to the finished product, most Champagnes are a blend of grapes; the single vineyard Champagne is not that common. But enter the “new” terroir-based sparkles, and you can enjoy a “taste of place” as they vividly express the elements of the soil and region in which they’re grown.

Flavored Bubblies
These are definitely not your mama’s sparkling wines! Millennials want exciting, new experiences and this tasty option brings a bit of variety to those standard bubbles. Sparkling wine flavors range from citrus, apple, pear, and strawberry, to almond and vanilla. Or add some fruit and veggies of your own to create a one-of-a-kind sparkling wine.

Forget the Flute
Toss those fragile flutes and try sipping your bubbly from a tulip shaped wineglass. The wider bowl allows more room for the aromas to mingle, and that can create a surprisingly complex bouquet.

Whether you’re planning a dinner party, outdoor picnic, or girl’s night out, grab a trendy bottle of sparkling wine because there's no time like the present to enjoy a little bubbly.

~ Joy