MD Wineries — Cheers!

Last weekend I stepped away from the norm and decided to do this thing I rarely do — drink local wine.  I love our west coast — bring me Napa, Sonoma, Oregon (going in October!!!) and Washington.  But, I live in Maryland and wineries are not far away.  So, why not explore what’s a car ride vs. a plane ride (aka several hundred dollars before the wine purchase) away.

Friends slated 3 wineries for the day and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.  I was expecting nothing superb but ended up with wines that I will put on my regular list.

Our first visit was to Elk Run in Mt. Airy.  For the simple tasting you had 7 pours — lucky number, right?  There was a nice variety.  I was quite surprised when the Cab was my favorite.  That’s normally my last resort for a the wine to choose when picking a red.

ElkRunWinesFor the entire menu, it was quite extensive should you want a regular pour.  This was our first visit, so didn’t want to go too crazy.

MDWineTasting 005Our next visit was about 5-10 minutes away at Black Ankle.  Their grapes grow on rocks and therefore get no leaves.  Per our wonderful ‘pourer,’ it’s very sad.  They get about 2.5 tons of grapes per acre because of the ground.  But let me tell you, GREAT wine, particularly for Maryland.  We tasted 4 wines and they were phenomenal.


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At Black Ankle, they also want you to come enjoy a picnic and relax, so everyone in the group brought food and we kicked back and relaxed for awhile.

LunchOur last destination was Serpent Ridge in Westminster.  I will qualify this as more Maryland wine.  Not spectacular, but we had already been to 2 wineries.  It was nice to explore another location in the area and see what they have to offer, though.


We ended the day by returning to Black Ankle and kicking back for a little bit longer as some storms rolled in.  I just have to say Cheers! to local wineries for expanding their vineyards, wineries, production, etc, etc, etc and drawing in the locals, visitors and everything else.  The expansion of the wine industry throughout the country over the past couple years has been quite interesting.  From the Finger Lakes in NY to MD and VA, to MI and TX.  This country is up for some fun over the next decade+.  Though I know I will always love the West Coast, just like supporting the farmers at your local farmer’s market, the same will soon come with wine.  On that note, what are you pouring tonight?

Veggies, grains, fish and nuts

I continue to enjoy little-to-no-cook meals, and my next great chance came when my friend gave me some cucumbers from her garden the other day.  Can’t let those go to waste.  So I debated what to do with them.  Normally I like to cover them in hummus but decided I could expand my horizons. I decided to go for a simple quinoa and veggie salad.



Quinoa is just a powerhouse for us, if you hadn’t heard.  Need a quick cheat sheet? Check it out here.  It’s also great for those who are gluten intolerant.  My favorite one is the Tri-Color Quinoa from Trader Joe’s.  I cooked that first (the nice 15 minutes, including boiling time).  While that was underway, I cut my cucumbers into big chunks and found the other ingredients I wanted to throw into the salad.  I opted for grape tomatoes, canned tuna, some walnuts and just a simple oil & vinegar dressing, oh, and S&P.


This was perfect!  So refreshing, healthy and very filling.  There are so many variations you can make to it, too.  Any veggie, any meat, any nut.  So, what are you making for dinner tonight?

No-Cook Delicious Meal

Well, it’s still nice and hot here in DC.  That makes turning on anything in the kitchen unappealing.  For the last week I’ve been craving gazpacho and finally got it done today.  My favorite recipe is beyond simple.  It barely requires a knife.  Though it’s not from my favorite chef, I’ll give ’em dibs on the amazing recipe.  It’s called Macho Gazpacho.


I add garlic to the recipe because that’s just essential to life and this kind of soup, and I cheat with Tabasco vs. jalapenos.  I also didn’t use the entire amount of cayenne and used a regular vs. English cucumber (just cleaned out the middle/seeds).

You just cut some of the ingredients into smaller pieces, throw everything in the food processor, blend, eat.  Before the actual eating part, I added some pre-cooked shrimp.


I served this with Stacy’s Pita Chips, olives from the olive bar at Wegman’s (ahhh, bliss…), some hummus and a new wine that the two sommeliers at Wegman’s recommended…a nice, crisp white from Spain, the Valminor Albarino.

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Despite the heat, my friend and I sat outside to enjoy the meal and watched a thunderstorm roll in.  It was a perfect meal and nice way to wrap up a weekend.  Cheers until next time.

Hot Temps Mean Refreshing Dinners

Washington, DC (All Summer) — It’s mid-July, I’m in the DC-area.  What does that mean?  HOT temps.  And, it’s only going to get worse.  This Thursday is going to be high 90s without factoring in the humidity.  So, easy-to-make, refreshing dinners are the best way to go.

My brother told me about an Alton Brown Grilled Mahi Ceviche recipe that was top-notch, and it sounded great.  Since it’s grilled you don’t have to remember to throw the fish in the lemon and/or lime juice many, many hours ahead of time.  Just two and then you throw it on the grill.  Decided to pair that with some easy oil-based coleslaw, chips, salsa and guacamole.

For the Mahi, you just put some basic ingredients together and let them sit for a couple hours.  I bought the Mahi chunks from Trader Joe’s because they were half the price of the steaks!


After a couple hours, pat the fish dry and throw it on the grill.


You keep the ‘marinade’ from the fish, heat in on the stove, and eventually use it again on the fish.


For the ‘slaw, I grabbed a great bag of broccoli slaw mix from Trader Joe’s — super easy!  No cutting or chopping required for the base.  I did chop some cilantro  and garlic and for the dressing, just did a quick vinaigrette of:

IMG_1309-lemon juice

-lime juice



-olive oil

-hint of chili powder



Next step was prepping the pre-made guacamole (because the avocado would have required electrical equipment to mash).  I always add some spice to the packaged stuff:


Now, it’s dinner time!!!!  Mahi, coleslaw, tortilla chips, salsa, guac, red wine.  All to wrap up a great weekend.


As I enjoyed this dinner, I kept thinking the guac was off.  Well, I was house sitting and used what appeared to be salt for the guac.  Yes, I was right when it tasted sweet the first time and added some more of the fine crystals.  It finally occurred to me to taste the stuff. Oh, I was adding sugar not salt.  Note:   Sweet guacamole IS NOT good.

Japan #4: Beer…a button away

It’s Friday, the weekend is only hours away.  So what better to do than loop back to the Japan trip theme and talk about BEER???  T minus 4 hours until Happy Hour. 

There are beers around the world and I was looking forward to having true Japanese beer while in the country of origin.  But the best thing I found while there were beer machines.  What is that you ask?  You want a Coke, Sprite, Mountain Dew?  You go find that machine and throw in a couple bills and voila.  Over in Japan…OH, you can do the same thing for beer.  HEAVEN!  You can tell they aren’t as strict on the drinking (age) as we are.


Also want to highlight a couple of the beers I enjoyed, overall.  There is the ‘normal’  Sapporo, which I only had once.  I also only saw it on tap one time.  Otherwise I looked for the ones we don’t get here or I haven’t tried.  Pictures below (Asahi is the one also available in the machine).

Beer4        Beer5