Tag Archives: wine

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food & Wine Festival: Family, Fun, & Food!

2014-06-06 10.35.11

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could zip around the globe in one day, making stops at your favorite spots and giving jet lag the slip? Until the descendants of Gene Roddenberry come through with that molecular transporter we were promised, you may just need to take a trip to Busch Gardens® Williamsburg.

Yes, Busch Gardens® Williamsburg is an amusement park that can take you around the globe in a single day (or a couple if you’d like.) 

As an Ambassador for the park, my family and I recently visited the park to put this concept to the test. Was it a coincidence that we just so happened to be there for opening weekend of their annual Food & Wine Festival?   

Yeah, no.

Don’t get me wrong I love a log flume as much as the next girl, but really you’ve seen one you’ve seen ’em all. Now if you’ve got goat cheese crepes and a Côtes du Rhône, that’s my kind of thrill ride!

2014-06-06 11.32.02

Deemed, “The Most Beautiful Theme Park in the World”, Busch Gardens® Williamsburg takes you on a global adventure featuring rides, shows, and YES food from delightful destinations like: Italy, France, Ireland, Scotland, Greece, Canada and Germany. Grab their mobile app on iTunes or in the Google Play Store to help you navigate better than Columbus! Trust me, it’s much better than using a standard park map.

Talk about globe trotting!

The park also boasts an array of wildlife, making this more than just a spot for wild rides like Verbolten. The teen daughter suckered me into riding this one. Um, it drops you… on purpose! I literally did not stop screaming for the entire ride – maybe a few minutes after as well. We all fell in love with the majestic, and a bit mischievous Clydesdale horse and big fluffy sheep in Scotland. The cheeky nine year old had to ask why the Bald Eagle didn’t have any pistachios. 

Damn you Colbert!

2014-06-06 10.36.29

My anglophile offspring were in dazed by the swinging scene in England where Busch Gardens® Williamsburg has welcomed another British invasion with their London Rocks show. These kids watch far too much Dr. Who.

Sculptures and sculptured gardens mark your entrance into Italy. Grab a gelato and stroll through a piazza dotted with shops that feature Florentine glass and fun Italian-esque baubles. I loved that many of the rides here played off a Da Vinci theme. It opened up some great conversations about the time we’ve spent in Italy and the places that my husband’s family still lives. Other than that “center” in Florida, I can’t think of another theme park that sparked such amazing conversations. 

2014-06-06 13.32.21

One thing Busch Gardens® Williamsburg does really well, is mixing rides for all age groups into each area you visit. The big kids can test their nerve on Loch Ness while the smaller thrill seekers can ride the mini Clydesdales just feet away. As the day winds down, and feet get tired, hop on the REAL steam locomotive train that circles the park and revisit the palaces you loved most. 

Another great way to find a respite during your day is a private cabana. We rented one for the day, and it was BRILLIANT!

Nestled in the Wild Reserve next to Lorikeet Glen, our cabana included seating for four, a lockable storage area, FOUR Quick Queue® passes, a spacious mini-refrigerator, EIGHT bottled drinks (we grabbed VitaminWater, bottled water and sodas), PLUS complimentary photo. Note the photo is one of those where you look ridiculous screaming on a roller coaster, not the photos with the Clydesdales – learned that one the hard way. The Queue® passes alone are $20 a pop, and we all know how NOT cheap drinks are in a theme park, combine that savings with having a place to rest and store the loot you found in France and the cost of a cabana makes total sense. They start at $70 in the low-season and go up to $120 during peak times.

kaytie and the dale

The culinary portion of our global tour took us from crepes and wine in France, to beer and cheese in Belgium, gaspatcho (one of my favs!) and sangria in Spain to bangers and colcannon in Ireland. Each country featured dishes authentic to the culture they represent, and paired with iconic adult libations of each nation. The festival also featured the Art of Food, with exhibits highlighting culinary artistry from melon carving to cake artists that had been featured on Food Network. Nibbles range from $4 up to about $14 for wine tastings.

The Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Food & Wine Festival runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 23 – June 29th for 2014.

Busch Gardens Collage

The whole family had a blast, we can’t wait to head back for Halloween!

 

This post was made possible in part by my participation in the Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Ambassador program. My family and I were provided park passes in order to experience the park and share with my readers.  All other items, including the Cabana, food and wine (oh the wine), I paid for. My opinions and those of my family are 100% our own – because YOU deserve nothing less!

“Taste Washington” a Food & Wine Pairing Journey

Julia Child Wine

Traveling through the taste buds is the ultimate experiential journey. Few things serve to acquaint you better with a culture or destination than getting to know the culinary landscape. The beauty of this is that you don’t necessarily need to be in the geographical area to experience what it has to offer.

Visiting cultural enclaves like “China Town” or “Little Italy,” in any city can transport you without a passport. Letting your taste buds to the traveling can also be the start of your journey. Fall for a felafel and you may find yourself booking an exotic adventure to the Middle East.

Food is a universal translator, we all speak fluent “Foodie,” no matter what we like to eat.

I suspect the language of food was the the idea behind “Flavors of the World,” a culinary series and adventure launched by Omni Hotels. Last year at the Omni Berkshire in New York I fell in love with Peddlers Noodles – Char Kway Teow, one of the award-winning foods included in the “Simply Street Food,” portion of the series.

Char Kway Teow or ‘Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodle,’ is a popular dish throughout Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, that was made famous by local street food vendors. Chef Andy Oh of the Pan Pacific Orchard put a modern twist on the dish and it was a featured offering at Omni Hotels. The best part? Chef Oh’s recipe was made available online (check it out here) allowing me to recreate it at home and test it out with several wines.

My favorite? Cashmere by Cline Cellars. A silky, smooth blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah, it paired perfectly with the sweet crab meat and spicy chili paste in the dish.

Watch out Singapore… here I come!

This spring Omni’s latest offering is, “Taste Washington.”  Let your taste buds travel to the Evergreen State with some of Washington’s best wines, hand-selected by the culinary adventurers at Omni, and paired with iconic culinary creations from the region.

“With dishes inspired by local flavors and the indigenous cuisine of Washington State, guests can enjoy: Handmade Washington Cheeses served with fig jam, honey and olives, Dungeness Crab Fritters, Dungeness Crab and Snap Pea Soup, Apple and Fennel Salad, Roasted Salmon served with Wild Mushrooms and Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream.” ~Omni PR

They had me at cheese with fig jam. Honestly it’s a reconnaissance mission, we have so many figs come summer I want to learn how to make jam out of them.

washington figs and cheese

Want to taste a bit of Washington, but your travels are taking you to Dallas, Boston or beyond? March 7, 2014 – May 31, 2014, Omni Hotels nationwide will be serving up the wines and bites mentioned above in their bars and restaurants, as well as offering a “Taste Washington” package. The package includes a Washington cheese plate, Washington bottle of wine and Washington apple delivered in-room upon check-in.

I may be stuck here in Washington, D.C. at the moment, but I’m looking forward to letting my taste buds travel to Washington State. Next stop… Pike Place Market and a Girls Weekend with cookies for breakfast!

 

(The only sponsors for this post were my taste buds. I was not compensated in any way. Though if you stay at Omni for this event I’m willing to take wine and/or figs as a thank you!)

Pairing Wine & Chocolate: A Recipe for Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème

Like most tales worth telling, this one begins with wine. For a twist in the plot, we’ll open this parable on the back of the bottle.pot du creme recp on bottle

Our journey takes us into a world where ancient fruit meets the dark soul of the cacao bean. A torrid affair of vine and pod. Okay, so maybe it was just a recipe for Pot de Crème on the back of a bottle of Cline Cellars “Ancient Vines” Contra Costa County Mourvèdre, still it had me rather excited.

Who knew there were wine producers out there offering up not just pairing suggestions on their labels, but actual recipes? Not me. And here I try to claim I’m a wine-loving,  Foodie… bah!

As it turns out, I may have been alone in my ignorance. A fellow, ” Amante del Vino” pal on Instagram chimed in telling me he liked a fig offering found on another bottle. I’ll have to ferret that one out seeing-as-how our four fig trees leave us  flush with fruit come Fall.

With a few tweaks, and a little personal flair, here is my take on Pot de Crème a la Cline Cellars;

Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème

pot du creme ingredients

Ingredients

3.5 oz 60% Cacao content Dark Chocolate
3.5 0z 85% (or greater) Cacao Dark Chocolate
1 cup Whole Milk (do not substitute with skim or lower fat milk, your end results won’t be as luscious)
3/4 cup Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tsp Pure Extract Vanilla
6 Large Egg Yolks

Optional: Seeds of one vanilla pod. I added these to the heavy cream.

Supplies/Gear/Utensils:

Small Sauce Pan, Chef’s Knife, Ladle, Whisk or Electric Mixer, Roasting Pan, 4-6 Pot-de-Crème cups, small ramekins or teacups.

Preheat oven to 325°

Pot du creme whisk your way

 Whisk or mix mix egg yolks and sugar together until blended. JUST until blended, no need to go crazy here. If you end up with any foam on top, just scoop that off.

pot du creme melt the choco

Roughly chop your chocolate, and pile it onto a cutting board, or any surface that will make it easy to convey it to the stove top.  Combine milk and cream in the small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add in vanilla and vanilla bean (if using). Then add in chocolate and gently stir until melted.

A few words on Tempering: In my early years of learning to cook – while living in Spain –  I attempted a Blood Orange Pot de Crème-esque recipe for a Feria celebration. What I ended up with was sweet, orange and sherry flavored scrambled eggs.  Plus “egg” all over my face. I hadn’t yet learned about tempering.

Boiled down to basics, Tempering is the process of gradually adding a substance (in this case our huevos – eggs) of a lower temperature to a substance of a higher temperature (our milk and chocolate mixture) so that the temperatures regulate without one overpowering the other.  Were we to just dump our eggs into the chocolate without Tempering them, we’d end up with… anybody?…. Bueller?

Yup, Chocolate Scrambled Eggs. Yum. NOT!

So let us Temper.

Pot du creme temperWith a ladle, gradually add the chocolate mixture to the eggs and slowly mix it in until the two are combined. Easy, as scrambled eggs, Si?

Divide your mixture into the serving dishes of your choice. I’d suggest smaller portion sizes as the dessert is very rich. I used four medium sized ramekins and they were just too large.

pot du creme water bath

Place filled dishes into roasting pan. Pour hot water into the pan, enough to fill up to 1/3 of the way up the side of your serving dishes. If you are not using traditional  Pot de Crème pots, cover the pan with foil.

Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon your oven. You’ll know when they are done by checking to see that they are set but still a little “quivery” in the center by shaking the cup a little.

pot du creme done

I like to serve them warm, but you can let them cool for 30 minutes and then pop them in the fridge for two hours before serving. Garnish with some confectioners sugar, maybe a berry?

I’ve always been of a mind that wine goes with pretty much anything. Some wines go better with some foods, but really it is all about enjoying the food, drink and company. This time though there was magic in the making.

We had the Cline Mourvèdre with dinner. The wine that was perfectly pleasant, a little spicy, with a nip of mint as we enjoyed it with Mushroom Risotto at dinner was transformed at dessert. Had I not poured it myself, I would have sworn we’d been drinking something entirely different.  It became mellow, almost as silky as creme that slipped from the spoon, and berries floated on my tongue.

The story ends with the best part, the magic of a perfect pairing; Wine & Chocolate.

 

*I purchased this wine, all the ingredients for this recipe. This is not a sponsored post. 

Shopping, Sake and Pixie Dust: Disney WITHOUT the Kids

Is it any wonder that Disney –World, Land or any other incarnation–  is truly the most magical place on earth? After all, they’ve cornered the market on Pixie Dust and all the world’s Imagineers hang out there.

Just when I thought I knew my “Disney Magic” inside and out, they go and hit me with a “Jasmine” and show me a whole new world. A world with no strollers, where nap time is a choice rather than a self-preservation tacit and you can become a kid again with out a kid in tow.

Recently Disney hosted my family and I at the Disney Yacht Club Resort and in the parks at Disney World as part of the annual Animal Kingdom, a wondrous place transports you to several exotic locations around the globe all without having left Florida.

Here are a few of my favorite KID FREE things to do at Animal Kingdom;

  • Shop. Shocking I know, but not having a child begging for their 10th pair of Mikey Ears leaves you the freedom to really explore the shops and in the case of this park, the Bazaar-like kiosks and treasure filled outposts. Stunning holiday ornaments were on clearance! Tip: If you’re staying at a Disney hotel property, you can have your finds sent back to your room and not have to lug them back to your room.
  • Ride anything you want to and nothing you don’t. Expedition Everest… did that!
  • Slow down and enjoy the scenery
  • Eat, drink and be merry. The food choices when you don’t have to make sure there are chicken nuggets (obviously I’m used to this culinary caveat) are amazing. I recommend the sushi and sparkling Sake at Yak & YetiTip: Find out what time the parade hits the streets and make an advanced reservation with a table on the second floor near the windows. Here you can take in all the sites without being stuck in the crowd.
  • Let yourself go. Dance with the drummers, ride that ride three times in a row and really enjoy the magic!

 

Beautiful architectural details on a door in "Asia"
Beautiful architectural details on a door in “Asia”
Sushi at Yak & Yeti
Sushi at Yak & Yeti

 

 

Be a kid again and let the wonder take you over!
Be a kid again and let the wonder take you over!

 

A great video to embarrass the kids with when you get home is the BEST souvenir EVER!!

Disclosure: My family and I were provided accommodations and park admissions free or at a discounted rate as part of my participation in the Disney and Chevrolet sponsored Traveling Mom retreat . As always are my opinions are authentic and my own , because you deserve nothing less!

How To Make Sangria

Ahhhh, Sangria! Few things say “Summer” to me like the harmonious marriage of fresh fruit and wine that make up the base of a sublime Sangria. One sip of a really good one and I’m back on the veranda of my flat in sunny Spain.

In the three years I spent living in a small, coastal town in southern Spain, I sampled many a Sangria. My extensive “research” led me to uncover the secret to making it. Grab something to write with and prepare for greatness.

The secret to making a sublime Spanish Sangria….

Keep it simple.

Down the street from my flat in Spain, there was a small Bodega, earthen floors and terracotta walls lined with huge oak barrels. Some held the region’s signature Porto Sherry, others “Vino”. In the summer months local Fishermen would gather at the end of their day as the proprietor cut up whatever fruit he had on hand, mixed it with the vino and poured it out into glasses of all sorts.  The cost, about twenty cents a glass. The conversations, priceless.

You see Sangria is anything but pretentious. You don’t need measuring instruments, formulas or a guide of any kind. All you need is; fruit, wine and good company.

Notice I didn’t say “good wine”. I’ll admit that I can be a bit of a wine snob. You’ll never catch me drinking wine that comes in a box. Until recently I’d even turn my nose up at a bottle with no cork. Family tradition isn’t the only reason we make our own wine. Making it, can be far more cost effective than buying wine I’d approve of. Unless we’re talking Sangria. I have only one rule for wine that makes it into my Sangria. It has to be drinkable.

For this post I picked up one of our favorite easy-to-drink wines; Carménère by GatoNegro of San Pedro Chile.

GatoNegroNotice that price tag? It’s rather like hitting the lotto. This wine is FAR better than the price would suggest. Wine Enthusiast even agrees with me on this one.

Next, choose your fruit. When I say “your” that is exactly what I mean. Choose in-season fruits you like. For this recipe I used strawberries, blueberries, grapes and apples. Let your taste be your guide.

Sangria with fruitChop your fruit up into bite-sized pieces. Some people like to macerate (the technical for this would be smooshing-up) their fruits. I do that with the grapes and blueberries so that they release their juices.

Cut sangria fruitThere are two camps when it comes to Sangria. Fizz and No Fizz. Some take this debate rather seriously. I, being the peacemaker that I am, make my Sangria both ways. If you’re a No Fizz-er, simply add your wine at this point and let it groove with the fruit for an hour or so in the fridge. If you’re game for giving Fizz ago, I have a “secret ingredient” that is sure to make your Sangria the star of the party.

Soda sangriaThis stuff is bottled BLISS! My family call it “Kid Sangria”. You can find it in the Hispanic isle of almost any grocery. I found this at Sprawl-Mart (aka, Walmart). Basically, it’s a carbonated, non-alcoholic Sangria soda. I add it to red and white Sangria’s alike, right before I serve.

Glass of sangria

My recipe for the above:

Spanish Sangria

1 medium green apple

1 cup white grapes

1 cup quartered strawberries

1/2 cup blueberries

1 bottle GatoNegro Carménère wine

1 single serve bottles of Sangria Señorial

Cut and macerate fruits. Place into a pitcher, add wine. Chill. Gently stir in Sangria Señorial just before serving. Serve over ice.

Here are some other great Sangria options from around the web (courtesy of my Pinterest board “Bar Wonderful‘)

White Peach Sangria

Apple Cider Sangria

Tropical Sangria (a non-traditional Sangria that includes rum… yum!)