Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Cork Poppers Party Like Its Pompeii!

When our hostess Barb sent out invitations to our most recent Cork Poppers gathering, the theme was "Party Like It's Pompeii." We knew most of the Italian wines would be red and that there would be plenty of fun in store.

Barb greeted us at the door with a spot of limencello to begin the festivities.

After our plates were loaded with Dick and Cheryl's crackers and cheese selections and lovely bits from Meredith's antipasto platter, we were on to the first wine.

This Abazzia di Novacella Stiftskellerei Neustift Pinot Grigio, offered by Dick, was the only white wine but even us red fans were impressed.

"Yummy! It has a bite!" said Barb, while Clayton said he smelled grapefruit, pear and a little lemon.

This wine was from Northern Italy in an area right next to northeast Germany. It certainly ticked all the boxes for taste. At $22 at a local wine shop it was more than I care to spend, but I certainly would be happy to drink it.

At this point, Barb brought out the winesicle. Have you seen these? Freeze them and they are supposed to keep a white wine cool. Needless to say, we had much discussion.

(At this point, only one taste in (if you don't count the Limoncello, which one probably should) we had already disintegrated into loads of laughter and side conversations. So it was a little tough to take notes!)

Photo by Cheryl Rice

My wine was next, a Sanperetto Valpolicella DOC Classico Superiore, 2015 by Roberto Mazzi e Figli.

Roger thought it was quite acidic and smelled very purple, after which we had to discuss what purple smelled like. Barb  said "we embrace the Valpolicella."

Someone else said it reminded them of a light pinot noir, not like a heavy Tuscan wine. Clayton said we should "drink it first thing in the morning instead of Welches," but I think I'll give that idea a pass.

This was $16.99 and I got it at a restaurant in Ann Arbor called Paesano's.

Barb was up next with her 2017 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico, DOCG.

There is often a rooster on the neck of a bottle of chianti, which unfortunately I did not photograph. Barb told us the story of how this came to be (if you're interested, here's a link.) You'll see this mark on a Chianti Classico.

Photo by Cheryl Rice

This one had lots of SanGiovese grapes and was $22 at a local wine shop. We thought it would pair very well with steak or red meat and my notes said, "This is very good!"

Roger was up next with Palazzo Della Torre 2015 IGT by Allegrini.

This Valpolicella came from Northeast Italy near Verona and he told us that it was described as the nose of the wine being forest floor. (You can only imagine the discussion.)

We all agreed it was excellent and at the price (Costco) it was well worth it -- $13.99. (This might have been the wine of the day.)

Somewhere around here we started talking about Pompeii being the Vegas of early Italy -- a resort community with lots of brothels and plenty of mosaics that illustrated what one can do. There were a few on-the-spot limericks and then back to the wine.

Kate offered Maraia Barbera de Monferrato DOC by Marchesi de Barolo which immediately received "Mmmms" from Barb and Jeanie.

Barberas are a really tasty wine. This one came from Torino in Northern Italy and a portion of proceeds from sales go toward the poor and the animals of the area.

Mike said "She pulled into a Sunoco station and this is what they were selling," but in truth, Kate found this excellent bargain at Costco for $11.99.

Photo by Cheryl Rice

If there was a favorite label, it might have been Anne and Clayton's offering of Toscana IGT by Casaponte.

This is a red table wine from Tuscany. "This smells SO good!" I said at the first whiff. "Lock me up in the cellar!" Clayton added.

He said they picked it because Anne liked the label and he liked the wines of Tuscany. It was definitely a good deal -- he bought it at the Meijer store for $13 (on sale). 

Rick was missing this night and around this time we all bemoaned the fact that he preferred to be with cyclists he hadn't seen in decades rather than us. (But he did have a jolly good time riding his bike around Detroit so we shouldn't feel too bad he missed much!)

Our final wine was a Colline Teramane Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOCG Savini Reserva 2012, offered by Dick.

Deep red and tremendously fragrant, it had the full bodied flavor of a really good red wine. Even I could pick up the soft cherry scent.

Unfortunately, this came from Dick's basement and he had no idea of how much it cost or where he got it, but he estimated it was about $20.

Then it was time to hit the kitchen for our dinner. Kate and Anne took on salad and veggie duties.

Mike made a marvelous sausage pasta.

As always, Barb's table was lovely...

...and her party favors perfect, the lava a reminder of Pompeii's fate.

I love how she always incorporates corks into her table settings and floral arrangements.

When all was said and done, we gathered in the living room (the wine was done by then!) and just had a lovely time, talking and hanging out. Friendship. That's what Corkies are all about. (Earlier Cork Popper posts are archived at the menu tab at the top of this page.)

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Oh, What a Beautiful Season!

In Michigan, our autumn arrived late. But when it came, it dazzled.

We spent a lot of our October looking at scenes like this -- a few changing colors early, the rest green.

And then the gold came in.

A little of reddish orange began to show...

...soon bursting into a full-fledge, hot red.

Those bushes in the process of changing were a beautiful mix of different color tones.

Even the speckled, spotted leaves, getting ready to drop, were still shockingly beautiful.

The berries were coming out on the cedar trees, much to the delight of the robins.

Meanwhile, chipmunks were dashing through the woods...

...and squirrels scrambled through the trees. Everyone was gathering nuts when they found them.

Blue skies, gray skies -- it didn't matter. The colors popped.

I have to end this post with a few photos of Harry the Heron, still at the pond in the Ditch, though I haven't seen Ellie Egret for a couple of weeks.

He has such an sharp eye, doesn't he?

The lighting was just perfect for observing Harry on his latest suppertime venture.

He even had a little luck.

With the setting sun, twilight at the Ditch offers some beautiful views.

Soon he will be flying off to a warmer winter climate.

I hope he lands where you are!

I'll end where I began, a beautiful day with a blue sky and glorious color. I hope you're seeing it too.

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Sunday, October 27, 2019

Southern Exposure: Cookie Class!

Kate and I decided to take on Christmas in October with a Christmas cookie workshop at Southern Exposure -- on what might have been the most glorious day of the season!

Follow us down the road, through a tunnel of trees forming a graceful canopy over us! Oh, so beautiful!

Wide fields, plowed for the season, spread out on either side of the road.

Golden trees stood as sentries.

The garden at Southern Exposure is showing its season. Blooms are more faded, leaves changing, petals dropping. Yet it was oh, so beautiful, even in the quiet time.

I'll spare a few of the many photos I took -- after all, many looked similar to ones before!

Soon it was time to enter the milking parlor for our lunch. Angie fixed us a wonderful cider cocktail with salted caramel vodka and a pineapple sage sprig for garnish.

The milking parlor looked beautiful -- I loved the swag on the metal frame that hung on the wall by our table.

Our workshop was set at four stations. Our first visit was to the Corn Crib, petals greeting us at the door. While we were there, Angie shared tiny confetti shortbread bites and a yummy hot chocolate mix. I may be passing some of this onto friends at the holidays! After that we moved into the Corn Crib's kitchen where Elizabeth had us frosting a chocolate cookie (they kept breaking!) and we did a powdered sugar stencil on a sugar cookie.

Then we went to the Hog House. It was beautifully decorated for the season.

I really loved this arrangement.

Jennifer offered us two cookies, including a delicious maple cookie. I'll be making this one!

Finally we ended up in the big tent, where Micah shared two cookies too, including a rather lovely white chocolate chip!

After, Kate and I took a few more photos. I'll be back twice, but for evening workshops and shooting in the dark doesn't always work so well for me!

I wanted to savor every last bloom...

...and every last butterfly!

 Almost time to get in the car and head home.

No, not that one!

I would be remiss if I didn't share a bit of what we did or learned at the workshop. Basically, I didn't learn a whole lot more than I knew before -- I've made a lot of cookies in my time, and most of my recipes I like better! (They're a little more diverse.) Apart from frosting a cookie and doing the powdered sugar stencil, there was no hands-on, which would have been fun, though possibly difficult with 60 people, even broken up into groups. But that said, we both agreed it was one of the most fun workshops we'd done and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I did pick up a few things worth passing on.

  • Check the chip aisle in the store. There are more variations and some even mix dark and white chocolate or chocolate and peanut butter.
  • A sea salt sprinkle on top of a cookie adds another dimension of flavor (before the oven or after if dipped.)
  • When making a rolled cookie, roll the dough in turbinado sugar (or colored sugar) to give them a sweet and sparkling edge when baked.
  • If partially dipping cookies in melted chocolate, thin the chocolate a bit with a splash of Baileys or heavy cream. 
  • For shortbread or sugar cookies, add sprinkles to raw dough and mix together before baking for a confetti look. 
  • Try mini M&Ms when decorating frosted Christmas tree cookies. 

Oh, I hate the idea that our workshop season is coming to an end!

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