Friday, April 29, 2016

At Its Very Best

Safe to say -- Michigan State University is at its very best in the spring. The colors pop, wafts of fragrance follow you around and it feels as though everything has put on its best dress to welcome in the warmth of spring. It was like spring prom for trees!

The magnolia trees outside the library are looking splendid.

The tree was huge and it was at its peak!

And so, too, were these lovely blossoms.

...and the red bud trees!

Of course you know I have a love affair with daffodills. Naturally I was thrilled to see this!


Oh, yes I was! Look at those happy faces!

Graduation robes have arrived and on this particular day students were taking photos in their graduation finery. They were everywhere, but this spot -- by the stadium with its Sparty logo -- seemed to be a favorite.

And for those who felt a bit lazier, there was time to snuggle down by the riverside.

I loved the magnolias near Beaumont Tower.

While I was there I was fortunate to hear a selection from "The Nutcracker" on the carillon.

And of course, I couldn't stop taking photos!

Could you?

My walk ended at the MSU Museum. This greeted me at the back entrance.

And inside? Well, more on that one later! I live you with a bit more pink!


Just because I can!

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cork Poppers Sample Rhone Wines

Take one perfect spring day, add a group of good friends, a selection of delicious wines from the Rhone region of France and top it off with a remarkable dinner. You have the makings of the Cork Poppers' most recent tasting!

Although a few of our members were absent, we still managed to have a grand time tasting mostly reds from the Rhone valley in southeastern France. Many of these blends include the syrah grape, which already makes them a favorite for me!

Although the region was cultivated for wine in Roman times, things took off when the Popes (Cork Pope-ers?!) moved to Avignon in the 13th century. Now there are thousands of growing properties and wineries in the area, some producing small batches, others creating the quantities sufficient for export.

We started our tasting with the solo white -- La Vielle Ferme Blanc 2014. It reminded me of a chardonnay (not my favorite of the whites) and is a grape blend of four that does not include the popular syrah. The literature on Dick's handout said it was "quaffable"which started a fun discussion on the quaffability of wine, none of which was relevant but good for grins! While most agreed it was pleasant, it didn't seem to be anyone's favorite, although the price of $7.99 is always a plus!

Barb was next with E. Guigal 2011 Cotes du Rhone. This is Guigal's "entry level" wine and one of their least expensive. Wine Enthusiast gave it 90 points. We gave it high marks too, for its peppery richness. I called it "outrageous" and when the bottle was passed around after our first sips, pretty much everyone added to their glass. Retails at $15 but Barb got this one on sale for $12 -- an excellent price-to-satisfaction rating!

(Interesting fact -- the guys who own this winery make every barrel they use and are the only winery in the Rhone Valley with their own cooperage.)

Anne was next with Georges du Boeuf Beaujolais Village 2014. This wine is designed to be served slightly cool and should be served within one to two years, so we were on the end of this one. It was peppery and had a nice flavor but to me it felt a little thin, more like a burgundy or pinot noir. Retail is $15.49 but Anne found it on sale for $9.99. I'm not sure I'd pay that for it, though it was fine. It's just that some would appeal to me more.

Rick was next with Y/M Cotes du Rhone 2013. Yannick and Capoutier were a combo team of chef and winemaker who teamed up for this one. Roger called it "more mineral-y" while Rick said, Ït will grab your tongue and pull it out of your mouth!" This is a boutique wine, one you're not likely to find in a grocery store. We found it in a small wine shop while we were in Massachusetts in March and I wish we'd bought more than one bottle. It had a fabulous finish and good legs on the glass. The price? $18.99.

Roger offered us Delas Freres Saint Esprit 2014 Cotes du Rhone. This also had a nice finish and a bit more syrah than grenache. We all determined it was not for pizza but would be delicious with roasted root veggies or a stew. The fragrance was terrific. And, at $11.95 a nice wine to add to the selection.

Pat's selection was Les Cotes du Rhone 2014. "That's lovely," Barb said, while Dick said it would be his go-to for "peanut butter and jelly with a slab of American cheese in the middle." Really, Dick? Dick had brought the first white and like this one, that, too, was $7.99. He said, "This is so much better than the white I had for that price." I agree.

(A cooking note: I've noticed in various cookbooks, including Julia and Ina, that when adding wine to a recipe, Cotes du Rhone is often mentioned as an option. At $7.99, this would be one good enough to drink and one tasty enough for your dish.)

Jan was next with Cuvee des Messes Basses, Ventoux 2013. Ï love this wine! It's very good," Dick said, adding it would be good with barbecue. I found the taste and fragrance delightful -- like being in a garden. A nice red blend, it had a very reasonable $9.99 price tag and I'd certainly have it again!

We ended with another from Dick, Chateau Pegau 2012 Cuvee Maclura Cotes du Rhone Rouge. One sniff and I declared "This smells like heaven." Anne declared it had a "really nice taste" and another comment was that the tannins were more "in you face." Wonderful berries and spice and oh! It had a great finish. It was a perfect combination of Grenache and Syrah with a couple of other grape varieties thrown in for good measure. And it measured up very well indeed!

Interesting point on this one -- the grapes aren't destemmed when the wine is pressed. That's what adds to the tannins and makes the wine drier. It would be excellent with red meat or hearty fare, and at $15.50, not too over-the-top price-wise.

All Cork Popper tastings lead to a long, leisurely dinner. Pat was our hostess and her table set the stage for a spring feast!

Even her party favor/place cards echoed spring with a packet of seeds, a pinwheel and flowers in a wee bucket. (I got larkspur!)

As for the dinner, there was delicious lasagna, a huge, fabulous salad and a wonderful broccoli casserole.

Rick brought the Italian bread he made that morning which he displayed to the group a little earlier in the day.

All was topped off by Jan's delicious brownie/cake. And when we left, we were all so stuffed, all we could hope for was a good nap!

For more Cork Popper wine tasting notes, check the tab on the menu bar here. This post is linked to Talk of the Town and Thoughts of Home on Thursday . Check out both these sites for tons of fun links!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Resilience of the Daffodil

I was worried in January. Our Michigan Januarys are not known for being kind months. We are better known in the winter season as being cold and snowy. Streets that aren't plowed all that well end up rutted with ice and we know in due course, when all melts, they will be rutted with potholes.But this year was different. Surprisingly warm days marked the calendar. All right, "warm" is a bit generous. But clearly above the freezing mark. And soon I saw this.

The last thing one wants to see in the middle of winter in Michigan is the sprouting of daffodils.

Oh, it's a nice thought. A hint of spring to come. But we've lived here all too long and know far too well that this warm streak is a tease. Soon those baby sprouts will be under snow and then ice. Will they bloom in spring or has their party boat already sailed?

This weather dance continued in February and March but still, the daffodils grew taller. And finally, the buds bursts from their green cocoons.

There's still plenty of time for worry. Their heads are bowed. Drooping low.

But they bloom.

And the continue to bloom -- now, finally, as the temperatures stay well into normal spring range -- more and more, flashing their sunny smiles to whomever passes.

Their heads now reach high into the sun. "Come and get me," they cry out defiantly to an evening that threatens to be a bit too cool. "I have survived the winter. I will survive you!"

Soon enough they will be joined by other garden friends. Brilliant tulips, clouds of forsythia, the white of the tulip trees and the deep pink of the redbud. But they will be the shining stars, the ones who ventured earliest into this spring and who will continue to pop in all their other variations.

They will brighten up the house in vases by the window, catching the morning sun.

They will intrigue curious cats who might bat them about and become rapidly bored, moving onto some other bright, dangerous object.

They will tell me, with each and every glance, "I told you I'd stand by you. I told you I'd be here when spring came."

And they were oh, so right.

May someone give you a bouquet of daffodils today.

Or perhaps, just to be on the safe side, you treat yourself to some.

They are resilient. And so are we.

This post is linked to the Garden Party at Thoughts of Home and Share Your Cup. Please click HERE for links to some gorgeous gardens!

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