Friday, April 19, 2013

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 20

Photo from
I was inspired to do a little wine tasting this time around by the book Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik.  The story centers on five women who serendipitously form a book club in their Freesia Court neighborhood in the 1960's. Through forty years of friendship, their lives are unraveled, enjoyed, devastated, and enriched by secrets, marital woes, booze, and inevitable changes and revelations.  I really enjoyed learning about each character's lives and getting the story from each of them because they all had individual voices and perspectives.  The five characters include Faith, a mother of twins who feels a bit lonely, Merit, the pretty doctor's wife, Audrey, resident sex pot (I thought Joan Holloway all the way while I read it), Kari the reliable widow, and Slip who is tiny in size but not in character or strength.The story had both heart warming moments, as well as heartbreak, laughter and of course great books, food and drinks.

I am not the usual wine lover in that I guess I cheat at wine. That is to say that I prefer the sweet, desert wines, so when it comes down to it, I'm not a true wine enthusiast even though I actually have lots of enthusiasm for wine, but my palate is not complex I guess. All I know is that if it is sweet, I like it, no matter the cost, the age, the vintage, nose, varietal, or the obscurity or exclusivity. I don't pick up on nuances like vanilla oak, pepper, rhubarb, or whispers of clove either.  I pretty much stick to a good Riesling, Moscato, Gewurztraminer, and the occasional Zinfandel. And I love sipping a port with some chocolate after dinner too. So this is where the bon bons come in.  I chose three wines and I paired them with a variety of chocolates. I started with Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet, which is a mix of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.  It smelled like any other red wine to me, but it was actually not too dry and just smooth enough for me with a hint of sweetness (although with the name I really did expect some sort of a nod to red velvet cake).  I paired it with white chocolate and it was quite nice to sip a bit at a time with the creamy white chocolate.  Second up was the Chocolate Shop Red Wine which is red wine infused with dark chocolate, and I could definitely smell the chocolate before I took a taste. I paired this one with milk chocolate and it was a nice balance to the headiness of the wine.  And finally I ended with a Quarles Harris Ruby Porto, which is an inexpensive port that has a bit of a kick (for something better I would recommend a Fonseca Porto).  I paired it with a dark chocolate and almonds, but I think a chocolate desert might be best with this one.  Out of all three my favorite was definitely the Chocolate Shop Red Wine. It was smooth, not too strong, with a lovely hint of dark chocolate. I could have even sipped it without the chocolate truth be told, which is rare for me as I usually stick to the white wines.  Overall I think if I'm going to have some dessert after dinner or during a book club meeting, I think having it with some wine is definitely a win-win situation.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons Flight
1 bottle of Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet
1 bottle of Chocolate Shop Red Wine
1 bottle of Quarles Harris Ruby Porto
A variety of chocolate

How to: For this pairing I would recommend making a night of it, inviting some angry or not-so-angry friends over to enjoy the flight with you and just have everyone bring a pairing of a wine and either a chocolate or maybe a cheese or a dessert. And make sure you have a DD as well or plenty of sleeping bags!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Ballantine Books, 2011; 314 pages; ISBN 0345521307
My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars

I took a listen to the audiobook of The Paris Wife, which is the story of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson and more than anything what I took away from the book was a feeling of getting a clearer picture of Ernest Hemingway and his early years as a writer.  The book was never exciting enough or perhaps brilliant enough to warrant a higher rating, but it was still pleasurable and interesting.  The story unfolds from the perspective of Hadley Richardson, who was married to Hemingway from 1921 until 1926.  In the beginning their relationship is beautiful and young. They both have stars in their eyes and Paris seems like a brilliant constellation where they can both map out their dreams (they also travel to other cities, like Chicago and Toronto).  But as the months and years wear on and Hadley has a child, it becomes harder and harder to maintain a sense of themselves. Ernest has a difficult time dealing with set backs in so far as his writing, and Hadley has a hard time situating herself and basically keeping up with Ernest.  Their story was one of true love, but loyalties falter, and in the end Hadley loses Hemingway to another woman, although I think she actually loses him to himself and his writing.  They had one son during their marriage, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, and one thing I did enjoy very much from listening to the novel was the opportunity to learn more about Hadley Richardson as a woman - how she met and fell in love with Ernest Hemingway, and then that prompted me to read more about her in other sources as well.  I learned how she lost some of his manuscripts while in Europe and how Hemingway became obsessed with bullfighting. Also, more insight was given into relationships the couple had with other prominent characters, such as Gertrude Stein and the Fitzgeralds.  All in all it was nice to know that she lived a long life and that she took part in the life of one of our greatest authors.  This is a great book for history and literature lovers and the audio book was well read by Carrington Macduffie.

Photo: From website

Friday, April 5, 2013

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 19

Photo from
I have fallen under the spell of Adriana Trigiani's books, and not just because we share a first name.  Well maybe a little bit because of that. I think so far I have read four of her books and each one has its own charm and enchantment. In The Shoemaker's Wife the charm is double-fold because I fell in love with both Enza, who is the said wife, and Ciro, who is the said shoemaker and husband. Both stories are interwoven from the time of both Enza and Ciro's youth and I think that there is enough editing and storytelling that we truly connect with where these characters are from, without ever getting bored. For this round of read a book, sip a cocktail I took inspiration from having both a feeling of Italy and America in the libation, which is something that we get from the novel. Enza and Ciro are connected to each other in many ways, but very important is this thread that inexorably ties them to their "mountain top". These are roots that both of them feel to their cores, but yet when they come to America they also begin to lay down roots in a new land, without ever forgetting of course where they come from. It is a cliché that I know has been over-told time and time again, one that I as a first-generation Mexican American can relate to as well, even without having been born in another country, but knowing that feeling of being from two places at once. It is a tug that encompasses that feeling of home - of knowing in one moment that your soul is where it should be, where it emerged from, and where it will eventually return to, only that you feel it in more than one place.  The cocktail itself is a blend of bourbon, Disaronno, almond milk, cinnamon and shaved dark chocolate.  The result is a definite cerise and almond-like sweetness mixed with the potency of the bourbon and the comforting richness of the almond milk and chocolate. I think this would make a great before or after dinner drink and I'm calling it "Up on the Mountain Top" in honor of that place that both Enza and Ciro loved, left, and always returned to even if it was simply in their hearts.
“Ciro took Enza's face in his hands. "I have loved you all of my life. I was a boy who knew nothing, but when I met you, somehow I understood everything."”(from The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani)
Up on the Mountain Top
1 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Disaronno*
3 oz. Almond Milk
Shaved dark chocolate for garnish

How to: Prep your glass by adding a few ice cubes to it and setting it aside.  In a cocktail shaker mix more ice, bourbon, Disaronno, almond milk, and a pinch of cinnamon.  Shake for at least 20-25 seconds. Serve over ice and dust some more cinnamon and the shaved dark chocolate on top. I used a wine glass to serve, but feel free to use a rocks glass or a tumbler. Also, the cinnamon got away from me when I first sprinkled it, so I had to take some off before I drank the cocktail. *Disaronno is a brand of amaretto, which is normally made of almonds or apricot pits. However there are no almonds or nuts in Disaronno, it is made of apricot kernel oil, alcohol, sugar and a blend of herbs and fruits. Feel free to substitute any amaretto liqueur for this recipe.

Shaving the dark chocolate which also had some almonds in it.

Before the excess cinnamon dusting.

After I removed the excess cinnamon and enjoyed a few sips.