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The Chef’s Table

Thursday Thirteen

During our recent cruise we were lucky enough to dine at the Chef’s Table. My husband has always wanted to attend a chef’s table and was really excited when we were able to book our places.

Our dining experience started when we met the rest of the guests and donned white coats for our trip the ship’s galley. After washing our hands (they take hygiene very seriously) we were introduced to the Head chef and given glasses of French Champagne, which went nicely with our canapés.

After a quick galley visit we were escorted to our dining table and enjoyed lots of delicious food and wine.

Chefs Table_Chef

This is the chef and a shot of our table and fellow diners.

Thirteen Things on Our Chef’s Table Menu

1. Canapés: Ceviche of Chilean Sea Bass and Ginger

2. Foie Gras Terrine on Brioche, Stone Fruit Jam

3. Bistro Mini Quiche Provencale

4. Steamed New Potatoes with Sour Cream and Caviar

5. Entree: Porcini Mushroom Risotto

6. Strawberry and Cracked Pepper Sorbet

7. Main course: “Double Impact” Surf and Turf

8. Lobster Tail, Diver Scallops, Beef Filet Mignon and Lamb Rib Chops

Chefs Table_Main

Chefs Table_Shelleys Meal

This is my dinner since I don’t eat meat. I had this huge fish steak. Very yummy!

9. Rosemary Juice, Lemon Butter Fondue, Mustard Hollandaise Sauce

10. Market Fresh Vegetables, Roasted Chateau Potato

11. Cheese: Potted Stilton with Port Wine and Walnut Bread

12. Dessert: White Chocolate Mousse with Mix Berries

Chefs Table_Dessert

13. Coffee or Tea with Homemade Amaretti and Biscotti

The dinner was delicious and hubby and I went for a walk afterwards!

Have you ever been to a chef’s table or a degustation dinner?

Wine Tasting in West Auckland

Last week I took a day off writing and went on a wine tasting tour with Barry’s Wine Tours. After managing to cause a little chaos, (I got lost and went to the wrong meeting point) we headed to Kumeu, a region I’d only driven through before. Twenty minutes after leaving Central Auckland, we were in the countryside.

Our first stop was Soljans Estate Winery. This is one of our oldest wineries, and it traces its roots back to 1927 when Bartul Soljan arrived from Croatia and started his vineyard.

Pinot Noir Vines 

Most of the vines are covered with nets at present to protect the grapes from marauding birds. The roses were traditionally planted at the end of rows because they show signs of disease first, before the grape vines. They’re sort of like canaries down in a mine. The red roses signify the red grape varieties and yellow roses were planted at the head of rows of white grapes.

Pinot Gris Vines

The merlot grapes weren’t doing well, so the vineyard owner decided to graft pinot gris grapes onto the merlot vines. Experts were brought in from France to do the specialist work. Below the white tape, the grape is a merlot vine. A bud from a pinot gris (white grape) was grafted into the area and has grown into a new vine.

Stainless Wine Barrels

The business end of the vineyard. These are stainless steel casks that hold the wine.

Wine Bottling Machine

This is one of the wine bottling machines. The labels come next.

Wine Tasting Room

Tasting is the fun part of the tour. We tried six different wines, white and red. There are crackers and water to cleanse the palate between varieties of wine. Some people can be snobby about wine. My opinion – if I like the wine then it’s a good one!

Westbrook

This is a photo of West Brook Winery, the second vineyard we visited. As you can see the grounds are gorgeous and perfect to take the family for a picnic on a Sunday afternoon.

The day was lots of fun and the perfect way to recharge my writing batteries.

Where would you go if you have a day off to recharge?

Gone Wine Tasting!

Today I’m playing hooky and going on a wine tasting tour on Waiheke Island. The island is a short ferry ride from Auckland city. Here are a few photos from a day trip my husband and I did around this time last year.

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Beach, Waiheke Island

Vineyards & Olive Grove, Waiheke Island

Waiheke has a slightly warmer climate than Auckland and is excellent for grape growing. I’ve never tried Waiheke wines before, so I’m looking forward to my tour. Have a fun day – I intend to!

Late Harvest by Suzanne Barrett plus Contest!

My special guest today is author Suzanne Barrett. I’ll turn you over to Suzanne since she’s done a great job of introducing herself.

I’ve been writing since 1989, and the book that got me started into thinking I’d like to do this is LaVyrle Spencer’s Hummingbird. In re-reading that well-worn paperback, I can see writing errors we try not to do today, however, I didn’t understand those things then. What stood out for me was that the book drew me in like no other. I went on to read every book Ms. Spencer published, but I liked Hummingbird the most.

As for the writing, I did the usual things: joined RWA, my local chapter, joined a critique group and attended workshops, and of course bought every writing how-to book to hit the bookshelves. Of course none of those things got me published. It was more plain hard work, studying my writing and the writing of people who did it better than me, and making changes where necessary and still remaining true to myself.

I entered contests, and worked myself up to finalist status and winner in some. Late Harvest was a Golden Heart finalist one year. That opened doors but didn’t get me a contract. I continued writing and submitting. Finally, after nine years, I sold to Kensington…and went on to sell three more books before they dropped the line.

So here I am with Turquoise Morning Press and loving the interaction with a small press and its publisher who is herself a writer. Late Harvest is my first release with TMP, however, I have five more books coming out in 2011. It promises to be an exciting year.

Now about the book:

Late HarvestLate Harvest was a difficult sell to New York because it’s not formulaic. Too dark, my Kensington publisher said. “We don’t like Germans,” my editor said. “We might be interested if you change those awful German names.”

I didn’t want to make those changes. Late Harvest isn’t just about wine-making, but about the late harvest wine called Eiswein–made from grapes picked after a first frost. It is, of course, a German wine and German wineries abound in the Mendocino area. So Cresthaven was born, owned by the von Daniken family from Germany’s Rheingau. When the story opens, Otto, the patriarch is bedridden by a stroke, unable to speak, and the key to the artificial method for making Eiswein lies with Glenna Ryan who fled the winery some five years earlier. Kurt, Otto’s nephew, now runs the winery and he’s determined to bring Glenna back so she can facilitate the production of this precious late harvest wine. But Glenna has secrets she cannot reveal and agrees to return by exacting a promise from Kurt: her expertise in exchange for surgery for her son.

An excerpt:

Glenna moistened lips that had suddenly gone dry. “Do I pass inspection?” Her voice sounded a little throaty.

“You look…lovely, Glenna.” Kurt continued his perusal, one lean forefinger tracing his full lower lip.

Glenna found the movement of his hand fascinating. Her own grew moist as her mouth turned dust dry. She moistened her lips with her tongue and realized that he was staring.

Raising her eyes to his, she deliberately blanked her expression. “Why did you do it–buy this dress? I didn’t need a new gown for the ball. My blue dress–”

“Was a made over,” he interrupted gently. “I asked Mags what you were wearing. I wanted you to–” He paused, searching for a word, “–have something more personal.”

Glenna tensed. “I would have looked acceptable even in my made-over dress.” She noted the instant thinning of his mouth, and she pasted on a bright smile. “I’ve grown quite socially acceptable in recent years.”

A hardness crept into his eyes. “You were–are always acceptable, as I suspect you know. God, Glenna. Can’t we just….”

The smile left her lips. Once again she dragged her gaze upward. “Call a truce?”

“No, I–” He slapped the magazine down on the table, then stared intently into her face for what seemed an interminable moment. “Yes, why not? Just for tonight, Glenna, let us pretend we met only this last April, when you came to work for me.”

Glenna found herself mesmerized by the smoky depths of his eyes. Warm and friendly on the surface, but underneath….Underneath lay a deep hunger. She saw it, and felt it as a wave of desire shook her.

In a voice that was little more than a thready whisper she said, “Yes, I’d like that. Tonight is our first…” Her voice trailed off. She couldn’t say it.

“Our first evening together, Glenna. And California’s entire wine community will be watching.”
He made a quarter turn, offering her his arm.

Purchase Late Harvest

CONTEST: Suzanne is giving away a Kindle download of Late Harvest to one lucky commenter. Ask her a question or make a comment and you’re in the draw.

Men Are Like Wine….

Thursday Thirteen

I was having a glass of wine a few nights ago and decided wine would make a great topic for a Thursday Thirteen. So, here goes…

Thirteen Interesting Facts About Wine

1. The Irish believe fairies are extremely fond of good wine. They have come to this conclusion because in the olden days royalty would leave a keg of wine out for the fairies at night. It was always gone in the morning – Irish Folklore

2. Cork was developed as a bottle closure in the late 17th century. It was only after this that bottles were lain down for aging, and the bottle shapes slowly changed from short and bulbous to tall and slender.

3. Poor soil quality tends to produce better wines. The trick is to “challenge” the vines by making them “work” harder.

4. Although red wine can only be produced from red grapes, white wine can be produced from both red and white grapes.

5. The wreck of the TITANIC, holds the oldest wine cellar in the world and despite the depth and wreckage, the bottles are still intact.

6. Wine is considered more complex than blood serum because it has so many organic chemical compounds.

7. A glass of wine (about 4 oz.) contains about 85 calories.

8. The lip of a red wine glass is sloped inward to capture the aromas of the wine and deliver them to your nose.

9. In King Tut’s Egypt (around 1300 BC), the commoners drank beer and the upper class drank wine.

10. When Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii in volcanic lava in A.D. 79, it also buried more than 200 wine bars.

11. Grapevines cannot reproduce reliably from seed. To cultivate a particular grape variety, grafting (a plant version of cloning) is used.

12. Rose bushes are often planted at the end of a row of grape vines to act as an early warning signal for infestation by diseases and insects like aphids. A vineyard manager who notices black spots or root rot on the roses will spray the grape vines before they are damaged.

13. Labels were first put on wine bottles in the early 1700s, but it wasn’t until the 1860s that suitable glues were developed to hold them on the bottles.

And a final quote because it made me smile – “”Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.” — Pope John XXIII

Sources:
www.800wine.com
www.greekwine.gr
www.articledashboard.com
www.beekmanwine.com

Don’t Go Wine Tasting On An Empty Stomach

After our memorable Cook Strait crossing, we didn’t have much time to have lunch. We grabbed a Subway sandwich each and ate them on the way to our first stop on the wine tour.

There were thirteen of us, and we managed to cover a lot of the world with passengers from New Zealand, Australia, England, Norway and the USA. On the South Island side of the strait it was fine and sunny, so my brother-in-law got the weather right. The Marlborough region sees a lot of sunshine—usually grabbing the highest amount each year—so it’s excellent for growing grapes.

Our first stop was at Drylands, one of the larger vineyards with ties to Australia and the USA. We started with a welcome glass of sparkling wine and gradually worked our way through the list. I like wine, so I sampled most of them—both red and white. Most enjoyable.

The second stop was at Framingham. After another eight or so samples here, and I started to feel the wine. This tour was unlike the samplings I’d done before. Obviously it pays to go on a tour rather than turn up with just hubby. The people behind the counter were most generous with their samples, and we purchased a bottle of Framingham Marlborough Classic Riesling here. For those of you who enjoy wine this is a classic New Zealand, off-dry style wine with rich fruit and a juicy acidity. It has complex varietal characters of lemon citrus, mandarin and stone fruit with a long mineral finish. It’s best served with Asian style cuisine and seafood. Sounds good, right? I intend to have some tonight with my dinner.

Photobucket

Our next stop was Nautilus Estate where Mr. Munro and I purchased a carton of wine. Nautilus is shipping it home for us. Our quiet bus was growing progressively noisier, and there was much more chatter and laughter by this stage. I was pacing myself, skipping the odd tasting, and I made inroads on their oil/bread samples.

Our final stop was Hunter’s. Hunters is an older vineyard and one of the first in New Zealand to take their wines overseas and scoop gold medals at the wine shows. Mr. Hunter died tragically early in a car accident (age 38) and his wife took over the running of the vineyard. Her name is Jane Hunter and she has received many wine awards, including the inaugural award for women winemakers, world wide. She also has an OBE.

I loved the Hunter wines. In fact there was only one I disliked. Yep, I admit it—I was decidedly tiddly when I left, but I wasn’t alone. We drove to our last stop, the Makana Chocolate Boutique, with the music blaring really loud Beetles and Queen classic hits.

Photobucket

So, I leave you with a tip—if you intend to hit a wine trail, it’s a good idea to have a hearty meal first. Your head will thank you for it!

Have you been wine tasting before? Do you like wine, and if so, which one is your favorite?