My favorite soup

Summer means cold refreshing food. That means I can load up on my favorite soup…Gazpacho. The best recipe I have found for it comes from a chef from Food Network. It’s so quick, easy and delicious, I can’t get enough of it.

Macho Gazpacho

Ingredients

2 (32-ounce) cans diced tomatoes in puree
1/4 cup cayenne pepper sauce (for mild heat use 2 tablespoons) — aka Tabasco, Cholula, etc. — I’m a heat wimp, so I only use a couple splashes
1/2 European seedless cucumber, cut into chunks
1 small red onion, cut into chunks — I use whatever I have on hand
2 jalapenos or serranos, seeded and coarsely chopped — again, I’m a heat wimp so I don’t even use these
2 ribs celery, from the heart of the bunch, chunked
Handful fresh cilantro leaves
1 lemon or lime, juiced
Coarse salt and black pepper
Lemon or lime wedges, for garnish

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Directions

Working in batches, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse grind into a thick soup. Adjust seasonings. Pour soup into a thermos and chill until ready to serve. Serve in chilled glasses with wedges of lime or lemon for garnish.

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So quick, so easy, so good. Sometimes I add more or less of some of the veggies. It makes a good amount of soup, too. I can easily cut the recipe in half, or I know I get several days out of it. It’s great served with some grilled fish.

Addictive Watermelon Salad

Was going to a potluck event a couple weeks ago. Wanted to take something different than normal. People tend to bring hummus, guac, etc. It’s summer so watermelon popped into my head. I also didn’t want it to be just basic watermelon. So I started googling some recipes and many came up. I’d had some with balsamic before but wanted a change. Then I found a perfect one for a warm summer afternoon.

Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 8 lb. whole seedless watermelon, chilled (about 12 cups of cubed fruit)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole limes, juiced — used bottled
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese (sheep’s milk feta preferred) — I used crumbled goat because it’s what I found when shopping

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InstructionsNote: This salad is best made just prior to serving. Prepare one hour or less before your meal.

1) Cut rind from  watermelon, then chop the fruit into 1 inch chunks. Place chunks in a colander to drain as you chop.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, fresh lime juice, salt, and black pepper to create a dressing.

3) Place watermelon in a large salad bowl. Pour dressing and chopped mint over the watermelon and toss gently to coat. Pour the crumbled feta into the salad bowl and stir gently to integrate the cheese into the salad. Serve.

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This was delicious. I have made this 5 times in 3 weeks already. So refreshing, light and easy to make. Definitely a keeper.

Aspen Food & Wine Classic

Aspen – many times I only correlate that name with skiing. But every once in a while something else gets partnered with the name. For me this time it was the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. I had heard about it awhile back and it sounded amazing. But when I glimpsed at the ticket price I had no interest in going; costs a little shy of $2,000 to attend.

But this year a company that I work for reached out because they needed some help at their table. So, that meant free entry. Bring it on! I got to experience this at no cost.

This festival is amazing. While I didn’t get to take part in most of the seminars or do as much wine tasting as I would have liked, I still got a feel for all of it. Was able to get some quick sips of wine here and there, little nibbles of during prep time and meet lots of folks. Many regions of the world are represented, so many varietals of wine, so many cultures, so much fun. And you get to see the town all around you. These pictures are just a tidbit of it.

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I found out that volunteers at the event get a one day free pass. Going to consider doing that next year…help out the amazing event then enjoy it, too.

Cheers!

Goose Ridge Orchards, Woodinville, WA

In Woodinville, in the same room as the canned wine, there are also hard ciders. Goose Ridge Winery is very much expanding! These are their Goose Ridge Orchards. And, since I love hard cider, when I have the opportunity to try a new cidery’s ‘apple juice’ I can’t turn it down.

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The background of this cidery —

“The Monson family has been growing apples in the Yakima Valley since the 1950s. They are well-regarded for their modern growing techniques and high quality fruit. Careful attention to natural resources and the seasonal growing conditions (much in the same way grapes are treated) allows for maximum production of exceptional fruit every year.”

Their ciders are bottled in champagne bottles with the same great corks. This is done because of the champagne yeast they use in production.  Not something I’ve seen before, so interesting to see something different, and find out why it’s done.

The tasting was $8 and included the four ciders they produce:

Perry Pear – 6% ABV, $12/bottle

Our Perry Pear cider, light in color with subtle flavors of fresh cut pears and hints of citrus. Whispers of tannins are followed by a slight sweetness for a cider that is artfully balanced.

-Dry. Not much taste, but very refreshing.

Dry Apple – 6% ABV, not available in bottles, only Growler fills ($18)

Made in a refreshing, balance style this versatile cider is bubble and effervescent with flavors of fresh pineapple and citrus notes with a crisp finish.

-Not as dry as expected, and had some sweetness

Passionfruit – 6% ABV, $12/bottle

Absolutely explodes out of the glass with aromas of bright tangerines and passionfruit, followed by tropical fruit flavors and a dry snappy finish. The perfect welcome to spring!

-Sweet, but not too syrupy. Had a good fruit taste.

Berry – 6% ABV, $12/bottle

Tart and juicy aromas of blueberry, raspberry and blackberry, finishing with the slightest hint of sweetness. An incredible compliment to grilled pork chops with a cherry demi-glace.

-Yea, berries were totally there. Didn’t taste like cider at all. Pretty dry, too.

Rankings-wise for my preference I would go:

  1. Passionfruit
  2. Perry Pear
  3. Dry Apple
  4. Berry

Love seeing that more and more cideries are coming about. Will be interesting to see what their seasonal ones are and/or what others they produce for their regular menu.

Cheers.

Cascadian Outfitters, Woodinville, WA – get canned

Checked out Cascadian Outfitters when I was in Woodinville. Now, they do have their traditional wine (Goose Ridge), but then they have their other stuff. And what is that? Canned wine! I totally had to do that tasting. Why stick to the norm? Canned wine is becoming more common and it’s great for if you’re going tailgating, camping or doing anything else where you don’t want a heavy, fragile bottle.

Stats…according to an article on Vine Pair, numbers they had from Business Insider mentioned that canned wine jumped from generating $1.9 million in 2012, to $6.4 million in 2016.

 

So, back to the tasting; at Cascadian Outfitters their tagline is ‘Wine is a can? You bet! Because our adventurous drinkers like to take it along on hikes, picnics, bike rides and beach days. Cascadian outfitters is the “can-do” fit for everyday life!”

They have three wines available in cans:

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2016 Rose – 13.4% ABV

Enjoy the fresh red fruit flavors of strawberry and citrus with hints of tropical mangos and pineapple. A fun and expressive palate of bright and juicy fruit with a refreshing spritz, finish with intense red fruit flavors. This Rose is crisp, bright and more expressive than the view from any summit you club! Cascadian Outfitters is committed to being your leading outdoor essential. Not matter your adventure, take it with a can.

-Perfect for summer, medium dry, so great for a rose.

2016 Chardonnay – 13.7% ABV

This Chardonnay had expressive white floral aromas with subtle notes of orange zest. On the palate it’s fresh and lively with a refreshing spritz, and bright fruit flavors of grapefruit and lemon finish with a subtle hint of spiced pears. This Chardonnay explores bright and fresh notes that hit even the highest of peaks.

-Light on the oak, so for me, not bad for a Chard.

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2016 Red Blend – 13.8% ABV

Our Red Blend has rich red fruit flavors of plum and cherry mixed with toasted notes of spice and caramel. This wine places a big footprint onto your palate with savory spices and bold fruit!

-Pretty light for a red, so especially good for summer heat. Nice balanced blend.

The one problem with these wines is that you couldn’t buy them individually, it had to be by the 6 pack ($30). I was only in town for the weekend and then was flying back home. I wanted to grab a can or two to take back to my friends’ place. And, I didn’t want to check a bag to take them home with me, even though I was flying SW.

But, regardless, it was so much fun to try these out! Love seeing how this part of the wine industry is growing.

 

Cheers!

Ryan Patrick Wines, Woodinville, WA

Another winery/tasting room I had the opportunity to visit in Woodinville was Ryan Patrick Wines. This year they are celebrating their 20th birthday (dang, not even drinking age!). At this one it’s a $15 tasting free for your choice of 4 wines (waived with a $30 purchase). But once again, you go in there, it’s slow, you talk to the great people about their great wine, you get more than 4.

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Rock Island Chardonnay, 2015, Columbia Valley, $20

Enjoy this at your next gathering. This Chardonnay is the perfect accompaniment to a cheese and charcuteries board. (First Place Wine Press NW Chardonnay Competition (tied with Milbrandt, 145 entries) 91 Points, San Francisco International Wine Competition)

-Oaked, with crispier bite at end, but wouldn’t consider it a Chard if I hadn’t seen the label.

Reserve Chardonnay, 2016, Wahluke Slope, Weinbau Vineyard, $35

Enjoy this during your next picnic or boating adventure. This refreshing Chardonnay is the perfect summer wine. (New release)

-All I can say is that it was oakier than the first one, it is truly a Chard.

Rose, 2017, (no spec on location), 75% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre, 9% Grenache, 2% Sangiovese, $15

Enjoy this now! Spring is the official start of Rose season and now is the perfect time to enjoy a glass! (New release)

-As I was told before tasting – ‘the nose is sweeter than it is’ – totally right! There was rose (the flower) on the nose then a light subtle powder taste. Totally a summer time rose to enjoy outside.

Rock Island Red, 2015, (no spec on location), 73% Syrah, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot), $20

Enjoy this with friends. Our Rock Island Red Blend is a crowd pleaser and enjoyed on its own or with food. (94 Points, Gold Medal Winner, Savor NW Wine Awards)

-WOW, ‘BFF Wine’ – per the pourer and I agree 110%! Had the ‘good’ maraschino cherry taste in there (just totally can’t remember the name of them. This was amazing. I left with a bottle to enjoy while in town. This is one I have to get more of.

Reserve Syrah, 2015, Red Mountain, Red Heaven Vineyard, $35

Enjoy this at your next BBQ. This Syrah pairs perfect with barbequed meats like pulled pork and ribs. (Gold, Wine Press NW).

-100% Single Vineyard. Would be so perfect with BBQ’d food. Not sure I would spend $35 on a bottle for a BBQ, but still very good.

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015, Rattlesnake, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, $45

Enjoy this with dessert like chocolate molten lava cake or coffee ice cream with red berries.

-Good medium body, pretty sturdy.

I had such a great time at this place. Talked to the ladies pouring the wine for a while. Learned a lot about that wine region and what they’ve done at the vineyard. As mentioned before, I picked up a bottle of the ‘BFF’ wine, or Rock Island Red. Absolutely amazing stuff. Another one that I hope gets distributed in CO sooner than later so I won’t have to order it and have it shipped.

 

Cheers!

 

J. Bookwalter Winery

Was in Seattle a bit ago and knew that not far north was a great small wine region. I had a day to do nothing so it was the perfect opportunity to check it out! Woodinville, here I come (this is where Chateau Ste. Michelle is).

I checked out the map and it has several areas you can visit. I was there about a decade ago so was aiming to go to a new section. Come to find out the (new to me) parts I wanted to go to are only open on the weekends, and this was a Friday. So I just went back to the ‘old’ ones.

When you park in one place pretty much everything is walkable. Perfect! The first tasting room I checked out was J. Bookwalter Winery, from Columbia Valley. They were established in 1983 and produce roughly 30,000 cases a year. For their Classic Wines they work with co-distributors to bring great grapes to the bottle.

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Nice little shop/tasting room and pretty quiet.  The tasting was $10 (refundable with a $35 bottle purchase)

The tasting is 5 wines…but like any great place, they don’t give you just five wines…so here we go.

2016 Readers Chardonnay, $20
76% Chardonnay/24% Viognier

Our Readers Chardonnay, previously Couplet, continues to be an outstanding 100% stainless co-fermented blend, which offers aromas of fresh citrus, honeysuckle, and peaches,. The symphony of fruit on the palate echoes the aromas and is accented by minerality, quince and chamomile flowers.

-Yes, totally stainless steel!! Love it, no oak Chard taste!! Almost like a Pinot Grigio.

2015 Double Plot Chardonnay, $28
100% Conner Lee (100% Chardonnay)

The Classical style Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay with Asian pear, Meyer lemon and crème brulee aromas. A restrained young wine, it opens to shows abundant sweet fruit and rich persistent lemony flavors. The purist of Chardonnay fruit is the focus, with clean flavors in a rich smooth textures puncheon ages chardonnay.

-Oak, but not brutal! Not buttery. Liking it for a change.

2014 Readers Cabernet $28
50% Conners Lee | 40% Dionysus | 10% Elephant Mountain (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Syrah)

90 points Wine Enthusiast

A stunning Cabernet from Washington’s older and most revered vineyards. Sourced from Conner Lee Vineyard’s old vines from ’97 and ’88 blocks, Dionysus Vineyards’’ old block 18 and Elephant Mountain Vineyards’’ high elevation superior Cabernet blocks, the powerful wine offers fragrant blackberries, mocha and mineral complexity, all built into this fantastic old vine Cabernet’s delicious style.

-Nose from heaven! So smooth.

2015 Readers Merlot, $28
80% Conner Lee | 10% Dionysus | 10% Elephant Mountain (90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet)

An outstanding Merlot from Washington’s revered old vineyards Conner Lee and Dionysus. Our Readers blend tips its hat to all exploratory readers of books and wine. Blending Conner Lee Vineyard’s 1992 old block Merlots and Dionysus Vineyards’ block 15 Merlot combines two super character vineyards. Elephants Mountain Vineyards Cabernet bring spice and complexity to the blend. This powerful wine offers fragrant cherries and chocolate with rich marionberry flavors in this delicious easy drinking style.

-Smells ‘Italian’. WOW. Have to drink it to understand this amazing work.

2015 Antagonist, $45
100% Elephant Mountain (95% Syrah| 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)

Our 2015 Antagonist is a dark and concentrated wine that will deserve to see the inside of a cellar for several years. Aromatics bursting with flowers, oak and dark fruits lead into black cherries and black berries plus smoke, and meat, sandalwood and sweet spices. The smooth fruit profile is nearly identical on the palate as it is aromatically with sweet dark fruits taking center stage.

-I give it crisp and smooth.

The extras I got to taste were their:

2017 Scarlet Hexflame Rose, $24
100% Columbia Valley | 100% Conner Lee

Vintage 2017 was long in the Columbia Valley. Success of our Washington state vintage was due to our desert’s cool nights during ripening in August. A long history with this old vineyard afforded us a predictable harvest of flavorful early fruit. Harvested in August and early September, mainly Cabernet Franc and Malbec, the fruit was full of flavor early with balanced acidity. We protected the fruit from sun burn with a full canopy of leaves. Overall intensity and depth of flavor are the hallmarks of this outstanding vintage.

-It was sweet, but not killer.

2015 Suspense, $60
100% Columbia Valley | 100% Conner Lee

Our most floral reserve wine displays the ripe cassis, cherries and dried rose petal aromas of perfectly ripened Cabernet Franc. Generous and smooth textured, our lucious blend shows off the best of our 2015 vintage Cabernet Franc supported by its classic Merlot complement.

-I got a lot of pepper on the nose and tongue, a bit different than their description

Very much worth the visit. I did not buy anything at the time because I was flying back and was not going to check a bag but they are very high on my list to order from. They are not yet available in my area, but hope they will be eventually.

Cheers!

Antarctica…that’s a wrap

The final couple days on the trip to Antarctica were spend going back over the Drake Passage. We barely knew that’s where the ship was because the water was so calm, making it ‘Drake Lake.’ During this time we did lots of recap of the trip with our guides  and prepared to unfortunately finish the voyage.

At a certain time an unexpected announcement came over the PA system. Based on how fast we had been moving because of the very calm water, we were going to make a detour that is pretty rare. We were able to head over to Cape Horn! Stunning view, and it was amazing to have the water as calm as it was — many competitors in sailboat races would have loved these conditions.

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After being around Cape Horn for a bit we returned up the Beagle channel to port in Ushuaia. After disembarkation we toured  the city a small bit and then went to Tierra del Fuego. Absolutely gorgeous day for it and a nice way to wrap up the trip.

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And a quick view of Ushuaia from the deck:

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This was definitely an amazing trip. Not something you do every year, nor that you would do every couple. So glad I was able to check Antarctica off my list and that I have visited all seven continents. My biggest question now…what’s next?

*If you are interested in checking out this continent, I would highly recommend going through Quark Expeditions. They were amazing. You need to plan/book pretty far in advance, or at least it really helps to. This trip was booked 10+ months prior, and you don’t have to pay all at once. Happy to give more info.

 

Antarctica, Day 10…wow.

This was our final day of exploring on the trip. The next day we headed back towards the Drake Passage and the trip was going to wrap up. This day was absolutely amazing, all sun, light breeze and awesome views. We landed on Deception Island by way of Neptune’s Bellows.

There were buildings there from an old Norwegian whaling station and a British Antarctic Survey base. We also got to hike up this great hill and see for miles. Wanted to stay there…BBQ anybody, let’s just kick back here for a bit!

We also got to see more seals and Chinstrap Penguins for the first time!

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And videos, of course:

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And where we were, Day 10, March 9:

Antarctica, Day 9…landed!

We continued North and were on Day 9 of the trip. We only had two days left for exploring the area. We still had to set foot on the actual continent of Antarctica. All the others times we’d been on land it was islands. Today was going to be the day.

In the morning we ‘only’ took zodiacs ride. Brutal, right…we just got to check out scenery that way. But we were so eager to step on land that it was tough. We did see amazing icebergs, though, that gave unique colors, and seals and whales.

In the afternoon we set foot on land. Finally, I made it to the 7th continent! And, we weren’t warmly welcomed by a seal. This video barely shows how we had to handle it (the guides are the ones you can see). We were told if approached by a seal to put arms in the air and stay away. This went on for several minutes here and yes, hiking/ski poles started coming out. He would back down then come back to action.

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The log, Day 9, Mar 8: