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A little #wine for #NationalTacoDay

4 Oct

It’s not every day I sit around praying for the Taco Muse to visit me as I contemplate what to write about for National Taco Day. But like something straight outta Homer’s Odyssey, a taco recipe landed in my inbox from…wait for it…a Greek food company.

And I know I’ll catch el infierno from my Mexican friends, but I’m gonna pair it with–get ready–Chilean wine. Hey, what’s not to love about a little peace, love and global cuisine in Today’s Crazy World? Besides, I’ve been feeling all ornery-like since the candidates’ debate, so this is me stirring the palate pot.

Further down you’ll find the recipe for Grilled Chile-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa (say that 10 times fast), courtesy of the muy Greek Gaea. But in the meantime, here’s my pairing suggestion.


A bee-yoo-tee-ful glass of 2013 Montes Twins Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon blend is going to send your Taco Tuesday into maximum overdrive. Big, bold blackberries, a trace of red roses and sweet spices will play nicely with the seasonings in the taco recipe. And the saucy tannins are going to grip that flank steak like they mean it. [El Full Disclosure: I received this bottle of wine as a sample from a public relations company, but my opinions are my own. As always. Why can’t the FCC just be happy with me writing about stuff I like? But that’s a whole other story. El Heavy Sigh.]

Oh, and don’t wait until your tacos are ready. Heck, crack open the bottle while you’re cooking. Last but not least, this recipe’s a little on the long side (and no, that’s not me looking a gift Taco Muse in the mouth, but just sayin’), so I’ll sign off for now. ¡Salud!, my darlings, and wish me well on my International Entrepreneurship midterm tomorrow.

Taco recipe.jpg

Grilled Chile-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa


1 1/2 pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of Gaea’s Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Charred Pineapple Salsa

1 small pineapple, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
1 small red onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of Gaea’s Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ fresh jalapeño or serrano pepper, scraped of seeds and minced
16 6-inch corn tortillas

For the Steak Marinade:

In a small bowl, mix all spices, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and blend well to make a paste. Place the meat in a shallow dish and rub the paste evenly over both sides. Cover the steak and let it marinate for 1 to 4 hours.

For the Charred Pineapple Salsa:

When the steak is done marinating, preheat the grill; you’ll cut and grill the pineapple first and then put the steaks on the grill when the salsa is ready.

To cut the pineapple, slice off the leafy top and just enough of the bottom of the fruit so it rests flat on a cutting board. Slice off all the skin with a sharp knife, cutting from top to bottom and taking off as little of the flesh as possible, rotating the pineapple as you go. Discard the skin. Cut out any “eyes” with a paring knife and discard. Slice the fruit away from the core in four or five grill-friendly slabs.

When the grill is hot, place the pineapple slabs on the hot grill and grill quickly until the fruit just begins to show some browning, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. (If you want one side to be truly charred or blackened, let it go for 4 to 5 minutes on one side only.)

Take the fruit off the grill when it’s as browned as you like. Set it aside to cool for a few minutes and then dice the pineapple for the salsa. In a medium bowl, mix the diced charred pineapple, red onion, cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, vinegar, remaining olive oil, salt, and minced hot pepper and blend well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To cook the steak:

Place the steak on the grill and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side or slightly longer if you like it more well done. Remove the steak from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. While the grill is hot, place the tortillas on the grill and grill for 10 seconds on each side then wrap in a linen napkin for serving.

Slice the steak into 1/2-inch slices, place on a platter, and spoon over the charred pineapple salsa. Place the tortillas on the table and serve family style.

What it’s like to be a #wine judge – part 2 #LACountyFair

13 Sep

Picking up where we left off, this past May I was invited  by Planet Bordeaux, the marketing arm for France’s Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC, to be a guest judge at the 75th Annual Los Angeles International Wine Competition.


Since the Bordeaux panel wasn’t until Thursday morning, I was asked to observe a panel of judges evaluating Rhone blends on Wednesday afternoon. Here’s where it gets scary. Imagine you’re prepared to sit back and watch the panel in action. Instead, you’re asked to participate in the panel, and you have exactly 10 minutes to evaluate 15 wines. And then another flight of 15 wines arrives, and you have 10 minutes to evaluate those. And repeat. And you’ve never done this before.

Oh, and did I mention the other judges at your table include a Napa Valley winemaker, a well-known Hong Kong wine journalist, a veteran wine industry publicist, and the head chef and wine guru for The Fancy House Where The Founder of the World’s Most Recognized “Lad Magazine” Parties With “Cute Little Rabbits” (wink, wink)? I kid you not.

Photo by Ann Harrison via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Ann Harrison via Wikimedia Commons.

The wine publicist explained that we were to assign one of four ratings to each wine: Gold, Silver, Bronze or no medal. Easy enough, I thought. After we were finished evaluating each flight, we would go around the table and announce our rating. To my horror, each time I gave a wine a gold rating, the entire table would say bronze. When I said bronze, the table rated the wine as gold. And so it went: if I thought a wine was swoon-worthy, the rest of the table thought it was crap.

At one point, Mr. Lad Mag and the winemaker joked that wineries should come fully equipped with trapdoors to jettison annoying wine tasters. I silently wished there was a trapdoor under my chair that would swallow me whole. Oh, the humanity!

That night, the judges were treated to an al fresco dinner on the Fairplex fairgrounds. Black-tablecloth picnic benches were arranged in long rows in the Fairplex’s garden, while the sweet, smoky aroma of barbecued meat offered a tantalizing hint at what was to come.


All around me, the judges stood in convivial circles, sipping sparkling wine. I availed myself of a glass (okay, two), fully prepared to be singled out as The Girl With the Faulty Palate.


Thanks be to Bacchus, it didn’t happen. I sat at a table with my two Supreme-Goddesses-of-the-Vine wine instructors, Shelby Ledgerwood and Monica Marin. Seated next to me was Planet Bordeaux’s France-based, American publicist, Jana Kravitz, whose job I unapologetically envy.

It goes without saying that each course was exquisitely paired with a fine wine. A glowing full moon bathed the whole scene in the kind of light that only happens in Colin Firth movies, reassuring me that the next morning’s experience would be better.


Moonrise at the Fairplex wine judges’ dinner.

And it was. The Bordeaux/Bordeaux Supérieur panel comprised a well-known L.A. wine importer and a bevy of wine journalists from prominent publications, including a wine critic from France’s Le Figaro newspaper. This time, I streamlined my evaluation criteria to the BLIC formula I learned from Monica Marin: Balance, Length of finish, Intensity, Complexity.

Judging - big flight

To my ecstatic relief, my ratings were in harmony with those of the other judges. And I was finally able to appreciate the experience for what it was–an opportunity to learn, a chance to taste some of Bordeaux’s best wines, and an event I hope to attend again, this time with soaring confidence in my trusty palate.

The winners of the 2014 Los Angeles International Wine Competition are listed in a 132-page PDF that you can download from the Fairplex website. I wish to extend my most sincere gratitude to Jana Kravitz at Planet Bordeaux for the opportunity, to Renee Hernandez at the Fairplex for accommodating me at the last minute, and to the unsurpassed, wine-educating dynamos Shelby Ledgerwood and Monica Marin for all of the wisdom they have so generously and enthusiastically shared over the past three years. Raising a glass to you all. ¡Salud!

In honor of #InternationalDuckDay, #wines with ‘duck’ in the name

27 Aug


Who doesn’t love a duck? In the Señorita Vino household, ducks are universal symbols of all that is right in the world. Rubber duckies brighten our bathrooms–and offices–with their cheery yellow livery, and in the years since we’ve been married, Señor J and I have amassed quite a collection of duckie Christmas tree ornaments.

LA Duckie

Imagine my joy last week when I learned that a rubber duckie as tall as a six-story building would lead a flotilla of tall ships into the Port of Los Angeles. Turns out all of LA was jonesin’ for cuteness. Nearly  300,000 Angelenos made the trek to the San Pedro waterfront to catch a glimpse of the gargantuan bath toy. And because we’re Angelenos, traffic was backed up for miles on Sunday, which was supposed to be the duckie’s last day in L.A.

LA Duck w_people

Thankfully, the Los Angeles City Council came down with a serious case of Rubber Duckie Attachment Syndrome and decided to let the little fella stay on through Sept. 6, which includes today, International Duck Day.

In celebration, here’s a roundup of wines named for ducks.

1. Duckhorn – This Napa Valley wine is named for the owners, who have spun off other labels including “Decoy.”

Image courtesy of Duckhorn Vineyards

Image courtesy of Duckhorn Vineyards


2. Luis PatoPato means duck in Spanish, but this wine is from Portugal. And it’s the winemaker’s last name. So it’s technically not named after a duck, but he put a duck on the label, so there you go.


3. Canard Vineyard – And speaking of foreign languages, canard is French for duck. This Calistoga vineyard produces a Cabernet Sauvignon that’s, uh, just ducky.


4. Baby Duck – It seems this Canadian sparkling wine is no longer in production. It’s a shame, because I can’t think of a better bottle of bubbly than this to christen the tall ships  in the flotilla led by the ginormous rubber duckie last week.



5. Duck Commander – Okay, would you buy wine from these vatos locos?


Exactly. But that didn’t stop them from making Duck Commander. It should, however, stop you from smearing GI Joe paint all over your face and getting your own reality series.

Duck Commander


6. Lucky Duck Wine – Amazing things happen when you do a search for wines named after ducks. It turns out Walmart sells this wine with a most fortuitous moniker, which comes in five different varietals, including Malbec. Now say this in your best Donald Duck voice: Who knew?


7. André Cold Duck Sparkling Wine – Let’s not forget this little piece of American winemaking history. Born in Detroit in the late 1930s, Cold Duck flew away to New York the 1970s–and resurfaced in South Africa nearly four decades later as 5th Avenue Cold Duck.



So there you have it, chicas y chicos. Aren’t you glad to know winemakers all over the world share an appreciation for our adorable little feathered friends? And aren’t you also glad that there’s a rubber duckie for every occasion, including Fraternity Rush Week at your local college campus?


"Which way to Delta Tau Chi?"

“Which way to Delta Tau Chi?”


Diary of a mad wine blogger

27 Jun

Darlings, Señorita Vino is fried. Some of you may  know that in addition to being a wine blogger, my day job comprises freelance writing about food and wine,  and a gig as managing editor of a local magazine that’s not about wine.

The past 48 hours have been a whirlwind of deadlines and wine tasting. Consider the following a glimpse into my diary, a feel for what it’s like to walk in my stilettos  for two days.


Wednesday, June 25.

7 a.m. – Checking email and deleting a ton of pitches from PR people trying to get me to write about stuff not related to wine, like yarn.

8:30 a.m. – My final personal training session. After this, it’s up to me to drag myself to the gym three times a week and force myself into torture-chamber-like devices and pull heavy weights while trying not to look fat.

11 a.m. – Mapquest be DAMNED! Hopelessly lost and late to an interview with An Iconic Artist for an article I’m writing. Nervous as hell–this is my first-ever interview with Someone of Cultural Importance Who Used To Hang Out With The Great Rock Bands of The 1970s.

11:10 a.m. – Just hiked up Iconic Artist’s steep driveway. In heels. Trying to control heart palpitations and hoping the perspiration dries off in the gentle morning breeze.

11:12 a.m. – Wow. Iconic Artist is down-to-earth and really nice! And he likes cats!

1 p.m. – Driving  Iconic Artist to view his new studio. He’s not wearing a seatbelt. Wonder if he’ll get annoyed if I tell him to put it on. Better not risk it.

2:30 p.m.  Driving home with signed copy of Iconic Artist’s book in my backseat.

5 p.m. – Setting up for a Tweetchat about wine. I’ll be attending Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 next month in Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara Vintners has sent me five lovely wines (stay tuned for a future post) from local winemakers.

6 p.m. – On the laptop and iPhone, with five wine bottles on my desk and five glasses of wine, tasting, tweeting, Instagramming, and trying not to spill wine all over myself while attempting to sound  clever in 140 characters or fewer.


7 p.m. Dinner with Señor Jim. Lucky to be married to someone who puts up with wine bottles all over the house.

11 p.m. Reading an academic book sent to me for review. Barely make it past page 2.

2 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. Insomnia-palooza.

Thursday, June 26.

9 a.m. Watching the U.S. – Germany World Cup match–on the elliptical machine at the gym.

11:30 a.m. Germany won. In my kitchen feeling kinda woozy and eating everything in sight.

2:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.  – Rewriting three articles submitted four days late by a freelancer.

7 p.m. A glass of wine and dinner with Señor Jim. Stressed about three articles I have due on Friday that I couldn’t write today because of aforementioned late articles.

10:30 p.m. – Out like a light.

Friday, June 27.

9:30 a.m. ¡MIERDA! I didn’t write a blog post this week!

11 a.m. Writing blog post.

11:30 a.m. YAY! Just found out I passed the WSET Level 3 exam!

12:06: SHOOT! Just remembered I have three articles due today. Wait – isn’t there a World Cup match going on?

#Halloween #Wines – Boo!

30 Oct

Scared silly about what vino to bring to your Día de Los Muertos or Halloween fiesta? Fear not, chicas y chicos. Señorita Vino has cleared the cobwebs and summoned the black cats to unearth some frighteningly tasty wines for your freaky festivities. Ready for some thrills, chills and–we hope–no spills? (Cue bloodcurdling scream).

If you’re a naughty little diablo, this 2010 Velvet Devil Merlot from Washington’s Columbia Valley should represent you well at your boo-riffic bash. Black cherry, dark chocolate and black pepper aromas will pair well with beastly beef sliders and super-scary spaghetti in blood-red tomato sauce.

Spread the Merlot amor at your Día de los Muertos party with some ruby-red fruta. The 2010 Día de los Merlot from the Temecula Valley displays ripe plums and red cherries thanks to a warmer growing climate, making this a festive ofrenda for a vino-loving loved one’s memorial altar.

Speaking of Día de los Muertos, have I got a pair of sweet wines to go with your sugar skulls! Vino de los Muertos Rojo Dulce is a red blend. Its companion, Blanco Dulce, is a blend of white grapes. Both taste sweet and pair beautifully with pan de muertos, the traditional sugar-sprinkled bread loaves sold in Latin American bakeries all over the U.S. this time of year.

Avast ye wanna-be pirates! Leave the Made-in-China Jolly Roger flag at home and seize this wicked bottle of 2010 Poizin Zinfandel instead. Direct from Sonoma County’s Armida Winery, this jammy, spicy red has hints of vanilla and milk chocolate. It’s frighteningly good with grilled meats and barbecued ribs.

Twisted, gnarled vines. A bleak expanse of parched land blasted by a furnace-like sun. ¡Ay, qué miedo! This, chicas y chicos, is not the set of Hostel Part 31, but Aragón, Spain, home to some of the finest Garnacha vineyards. Add some hot thrills to your Halloween party with Garnacha’s famously fiery high alcohol content (this one clocks in at 14.5 percent!) and abundant fruit. Blackberries, black currant and lovely lavender and leather notes make this a good match for rich duck in a cranberry or cherry sauce, spooky sausage, or a hearty fall stew.

This next bottle scared the hell out of me. No joke – I’ll probably have nightmares over this one, good Catholic girl that I am. I mean, look at it! What the hell is that? Someone call an exorcist! I’m almost afraid to type the name, but here goes: Hex vom Dasenstein.

Okay, phew. I’m still here. This 2010 Pinot Noir from Germany displays strawberry and raspberry aromas with a zingy acidity. Pair this Pinot (or Spätburgunder, as Pinot Noir is called in Germany) with bacon-wrapped salmon or pork loin with spooky mashed potatoes.

P.S. Forgive me, darlings, for judging a wine by its label. Through the magic of a Google search, I discovered the real story behind Hex vom Dasenstein. It’s my Halloween treat to you:

Once upon a time in 14th century Germany, a sexy young fraulein whose nobleman father  was an obnoxious control freak made the mistake of falling for a hot, strapping young commoner. When her father discovered that his daughter and the young peasant had hooked up, he threw her out of the castle, leaving her with nowhere to go but a pile of rocks known as Dasenstein [it seems Studly Peasant Man was only after her Deutschmarks, since nowhere in the story does he welcome her into his humble shack once Pops gives her the boot]. These being the pre-Botox days, over time the lovely young fraulein grew into a wrinkly hag. But a nice hag. Dasenstein was surrounded by vineyards, and the vines began to thrive under the watchful eye of the now haggard little lady. And because no good deed goes unpunished, the townspeople thanked her by giving her the title, Hex vom Dasenstein, or the Witch of Dasenstein.

I dedicate this post to the memory of my great uncle Victor, whose humor, wit and intelligence continue to inspire me. Tío, te extrañamos y siempre pensamos en ti. Qe en paz descances.

A #Pisco Cocktail for Peruvian Independence Day

27 Jul

Break out the lomo saltado and the bottles of pisco, chicos y chicas: Tomorrow is 28 de julio, or Perú’s Independence Day ! I know I promised you part 3 in the Canadian wine series, but guess who’s up to her eyebrows in deadlines? So in lieu of the final installment in the Canadian wine series, I present you with a re-blog of a post that was a hit about this time last year: Señorita Vino’s very own “Caipirinka” recipe: A Peruvian twist on a Brazilian classic, with pisco (of course!) as the main ingredient. So shout it with me one more time: ¡Que viva el Perú, carajo! 

Variety, chicas y chicos, is the spice of life, so to add a little sabor to your weekend, it is my supreme pleasure to introduce my latest invention…the Caipirinka. It’s a refreshingly  exotic blend of mangoes, lime and pisco.

Yep, it’s like the Brazilian Caipirinha but with a two-fold Peruvian twist: 1). Pisco is the national drink of Perú*, and 2). Mangos grow happily in Perú. And of course, there’s 2a: Señorita Vino’s parents hail from the land of the Incas.

If you’re not familiar with pisco, it’s a clear alcoholic spirit made from grapes. Some say it’s comparable to Italy’s grappa and Greece’s ouzo. And  like grappa and ouzo, pisco can knock you flat on your asti spumante, so be forewarned: un poquito goes a long way.

Adding to the Caipirinka’s uniquely Peruvian flair is the mango. Perú is one of six countries that exports mangos to the U.S.  The mangos I used to make the Caipirinka were generously provided by the Mango Board, which probably had no idea I’d use them to make an alcoholic beverage.
In case anyone’s keeping track, this is arguably the world’s most nutrient-rich cocktail. Mangos contain more than 20 different types of nutrients and vitamins, and just one cup of mangos is 100 calories and provides 100% of your recommended vitamin C allowance. See? Señorita Vino cares muchísimo about the health (and girlish figures) of her readers.

I used fresh, pureed ataulfo mangos, the oblong, bright yellow fruit in the photo above. ¿Porqué ataulfo? Because this variety has no fibers and is as smooth as butter, making it a great option to blend in cocktails or fruit smoothies. Not only that, but the flesh is gloriously golden, calling to mind the gold treasure of the Inca empire. Now there’s a culture that literally worshipped its bling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So without further ado, here’s how you can add a little Inca gold to your Peruvian Independence Day celebration. Because we all have different palates (See “Vino 101”), you may want to adjust the amount of sugar, lime or pisco. If you do up the pisco content, Señorita Vino takes no responsabilidad if you wake up in an exotic land, covered in gold sequins and tropical bird feathers. ¡Salud!

*There is some debate between Perú and Chile as to which country ‘invented’ pisco. It was Perú, of course (see 2a above).

Señorita Vino’s Caipirinka 

(Serves 4)


1 cup of ripe Ataulfo mangos (about 2), cubed

6 tablespoons of  sugar syrup (make ahead: Dissolve 8 tablespoons of baker’s sugar into 8 tablespoons of water in a pan over low heat. Bring to a boil, then boil for 1-2 minutes. Refrigerate. Keeps for about 2 weeks in the fridge).

8 ice cubes, cracked

4 key limes (or 2 regular limes), cut into small wedges. Save a few slices as a garnish, if desired.

4 teaspoons raw cane sugar, divided

4 ounces of pisco

3 additional ice cubes, cracked

In a blender, place the 8 cracked ice cubes, the mango and the sugar syrup. Blend until the mango is completely liquefied. Set aside. Place an equal amount of lime wedges into four small glasses. Add a teaspoon of raw cane sugar to each glass. With a muddler (see photo) or wooden spoon, crush the lime and sugar until it forms a paste.

Place the remaining three cracked cubes in a cocktail shaker. Add 2/3 cup of the mango puree and the pisco and shake until condensation forms on the shaker.

Shake it, chica!

Pour immediately into the cocktail glasses. Garnish with lime wedge if desired.

Can red wine give you six-pack abs?

3 Apr


Spring is in the air, which means summer is around the corner, and bathing suit season will soon be upon us. Time to dust off this post about red wine and the waistline. Red vino seems to block fat cells from developing, according to scientists at Purdue. The way I see it, a few glasses of vino and before you know it, everyone look hot in a swimsuit. ¡Salud!

Just when you thought it was safe to get on the treadmill, a new (as in, yesterday) study by Purdue University has concluded that a compound found in red wine can block the development of fat cells. This is great news for people like me, whose fat cells haven’t seen the inside of a gym in about two weeks. Not only that, but red wine as a weight loss tool beats the South Beach Diet, hands down.

Red wine. Better than Pilates.

In all seriousness, chicas y chicos, we’ve known about the health benefits of red wine since the 1980s, when someone thought to connect red wine consumption with the reason French people have healthier corazones than we do, despite devouring triple-creme Brie and buttery croissants with a certain je ne sais quoi that looks a lot like goose liver fat.

The French Paradox: Lab rats who drank whole milk got fatter than those who ate cheese. It’s true – watch the 60 Minutes piece on YouTube.

But don’t take it from me. Go to YouTube and search for “French Paradox” to learn how drinking red wine can lead to a healthier heart.

Lest I digress and break into the Camembert, the Purdue researchers identified the fat-busting compound as piceatannol (say that 10 times fast), which, no surprise, is similar in structure to resveratrol, the red wine component that is believed to stave off cancer and heart disease.

Although Señorita Vino is a bit of a science geek, I promise not to get too technical here. In short, piceatannol prevents immature fat cells from  growing. I’ll drink to that.

Glorious. Rich. Creamy. Stinky. Delectable. Delicioso.

Now here’s El Disclaimer: I am not in any way advocating excessive red wine consumption as a weight loss program, so put down that bottle of Malbec. Gently. You might need it later. Common sense (and my husband) says that the only way to lose weight is to eat less and move more. As a matter of fact, piceatannol is found not only in red wine but in blueberries, grapes and passion fruit, proving once again that you really do need to eat your fruits and veggies.

But if a little sip here and there of my favorite Shiraz is sending the fat cells in my thighs into suspended animation, I say pass the queso, por favor!

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