Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Signing with Poppy Tooker at Swirl!

Date: July 31
Where: Swirl Wines, 3143 Ponce de Leon Street
Time: 6 to 8pm
Cost: Free

Slow Food New Orleans Founder, published author, culinary activist and chef Poppy Tooker will be at Swirl Wines this evening for a book signing of The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook where she tells the story of the Crescent City Farmers Market through recipes, anecdotes, and profiles of key market vendors. Local culinary talent Chef Daniel Esses will join Poppy with tapas plates for sale created from the recipes in the book using ingredients from the Crescent City Farmers Market. And as is there is each and every Friday at Swirl, there will be free wine to taste and enjoy as Antonio Molesini, Italian Wine Specialist from Republic National, will be pouring 4 free wines from his native Italy.

Plus local artist Rudy Rowell will be hanging 10 new canvases for tonight,s event. And if you know his work, you know how quickly it sells, so stop by to see what Rudy's up to now!

For more information call Swirl Wines at 504.304.0635.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wine of the Moment, J. Moreau & Fils Blanc

Everyone is on the hunt for summer quaffing wines so we keep our Cheap & Tasty section stocked with the best values under $10 that we can find. The inventory rotates constantly as some new wine catches my eye that I think is an exceptional value, finding a slot on the shelf until its popularity runs out! Last week it was a little French white, the J. Moreau & Fils Blanc that piqued my interest and its $8.99 price tag makes it a steal of a deal for an easy summer white!

J. Moreau & Fils have a 200 year history of winemaking in Chablis, but this uncomplicated little white table wine is made with grapes from the Loire Valley and southern France. A blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc & Colombard, it's a refreshing, palate pleasing white that you should buy by the case to get you through the rest of the summer!

With all stainless fermentation, it’s clean yet fat with Golden Delicious Apples on the palate and some nice minerality on the finish. The perfect aperitif, great with cheeses and light fish or chicken dishes or just sitting out by the pool!

Retail Price: $8.99
Case Price: $8.09/bottle
Club Swirl Case Price: $7.64/bottle

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tender & Delicous Sauteed Kale

Lately I have really been craving my green leafy veggies and kale has been at the top of my list! Kale can be hard to get right but I've found that blanching first takes the bitterness out, makes the tough greens super tender, and somehow locks in a beautiful, deep green color that’s better than what you started with! It is chock full of vitamin A, and has respectable amounts of calcium, iron, protein, potassium, and vitamin C, not to mention all the phyto-nutrients in that dark green pigment! Try this, I've even had two teenagers tell me they never knew kale could taste so good!

1 bunch of kale
3 gloves of garlic chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

*Bring a very large pot of salted water to a boil. While you are waiting for the water, rinse the kale and cut an inch or two of the tough stems off of the bottom.

*Add the greens to the boiling water. Put the lid back on. Bring it back to a boil as fast as you can, and watch the greens intently. They probably only need about 3-4 minutes. When they’re almost tender enough to eat, strain them into a colander and run cold tap water over them to stop the cooking.

*Take out the greens and cut roughly into strips lengthwise about 1" wide. Put back into the colander to finish draining while you prepare the pan.

*Take a large saute pan and add enough olive oil to really coat the bottom of the pan. Heat over a medium flame, add garlic and cook until soft, watching that it does not burn. Add the greens and saute in the oil for a few minutes under tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

July's Club Swirl Selections

Part wine club, part discount program, "club swirl" offers a great way to try new and exciting wines from around the world. Benefits include our 2 wines of the month, discounts on all wine purchases and tastings, invitations to special members only tastings, advance email notices on special wines brought into the store and more for only $39.99/month! Memberships applications are available, call 504.304.0635 for more details.

July's Selections:
2008 Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Te Muna Road Vineyard

When the first growers planted grapes in Marlborough in the 1970s (there is evidence of plantings as early as 1870s), it is unlikely they would have foreseen the extent of the growth and fame that the region’s wine industry would achieve, based upon a single varietal called Sauvignon Blanc. The distinctive pungency and zest fruit flavours of the first Marlborough wines, in particular Sauvignon Blanc, captured the imagination of the country's winemakers as well as international wine commentators and consumers and sparked an unparalleled boom in vineyard development. Worldwide interest in Marlborough wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, has continued to fuel that regional wine boom.

New Zealand's reputation for benchmark Sauvignon Blanc is a direct result of its predominantly cool, dry, sunny climate. Abundant illumination, low rainfall and the infertile, low-vigor, geologically young stone soils, create an ideal environment for this variety. Martinborough, at the North Island's south end, and Marlborough, at South Island's north end, are very similar, but the small differences are critical.

While Martinborough's average 1,109 degree days are close to the 1,140 average in Marlborough, its spring is cooler and its autumn warmer, resulting in a harvest roughly ten days later than Marlborough. Rainfall is nearly identical, but distribution different: Martinborough is wetter in spring and drier in fall than Marlborough, removing the risk of rain with a late harvest. As a result, the wines are more extracted, complex and structured, with more subtle aromatics and greater elegance.

Craggy Range's Te Muna Road vineyard, in the Martinborough district at the south end of the North Island, is an exceptional estate unique in New Zealand. The property is divided into two terraces: an upper terrace lying entirely on the old, stony, decomposing Martinborough soils well suited to Pinot Noir; and a geologically distinct lower terrace dominated by classic New Zealand greywacke stones, a superb terrior for Sauvignon Blanc. This sheltered lower terrace, along the Huangarua River, is the former bed of this river and its deep, stony soils are interspersed with layers of sand, silt and clay. There are also significant deposits of limestone pebbles that have eroded from the adjacent hills over time. The majority of the vineyard's fourteen Sauvignon Blanc parcels, totaling 130 acres, are situated on the lower terrace.

Winemaker's Notes: Pale straw with green hints. The aromas are of white peach, citrus and delicate tropical fruits. The mouth filling palate is awash with flavors of fresh apple, nectarine, lime and tropical notes. The flavors are underlined by fine supporting acidity and a chalky texture that leads into a very long, rich and clean lime and passionfruit finish.

Retail Price: $17.99
Club Swirl Price: $17.09/bottle, $15.29 with club swirl case discount

2005 Craggy Range Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels Vineyard

Hawkes Bay is found on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. It is the second largest wine region in New Zealand, and one of the most respected. The region has produced wine for around 100 years, far longer than most of the other areas in the country.

Hawkes Bay enjoys high summer temperatures, low rainfall, low relative humidity and high permeability of soils - all of which contribute to creating an ideal environment for the production of concentrated grapes.

Within Hawkes Bay grapes are produced in coastal areas such as Te Awanga and Esk Valley, inland areas such as Puketapu and Matapiro , and gravelly areas such as the acclaimed Gimblett Road which has been building a reputation for producing high quality red wines from 'Bordeaux' red varieties and Syrah.

The Gimblett Gravels appellation, covering 800ha, is strictly determined by the gravely soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro River, which were exposed after a huge flood in the 1860's.

The Gimblett Gravels district is warmer during the day in summer and autumn, compared with most other areas in Hawkes Bay. The evenings are also warmer because of thermal conductivity in the stony soils.

The Craggy Range Te Kahu is a single vineyard offering from the acclaimed Gimblett Gravels area. It is 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and is aged 19 months in 55% new French oak. Dense garnet color with vivid purple hues. Dark plum and cassis fruits dominate the nose, supported by cedar, thyme and vanilla characters. Deep weighty fruit on the palate is supported by layers of ripe tannin, soft natural acids and a rich long finish. The structure is harmonious and long, the wine is complete; fragrant, ripe yet finely balanced.

Retail Price: $23.99
Club Swirl Price: $22.80/bottle, $20.39 with club swirl case discount

Or if you are receiving 2 red wines:
2007 Plantagenet Omrah Pinot Noir

The Great Southern Region is a large region running along the south coast of Western Australia. Lake Muir marks its western boundary and the Pallanup River marks the east. There are two other rivers the Frankland to the west and the Kalgan which enters the ocean near Albany.

The region has five sub-regions, Albany, Denmark, Frankland River, Mount Barker and Porongurup. The main town is Albany, followed by Denmark, Porongurup, Mount Barker and Rocky Gully.

The region's viticultural history is entirely recent. John Gladstones and Harold Olmo gave the green light for development in the late 50's early 60's. WA's Department of Agriculture under Bill Jamison established trial plantings at Forest Hill in 1965. Further trials ensued and by 1972 the first harvest was sent to Houghtons and Sandalford for winemaking by Jack Mann and his son Dorham. What transpired was development that gained momentum in the 70's and accelerated in the 80's.

The climate is maritime influenced Mediterranean, with significant differences reflected between the sub-regions.

Plantagenet Wines was the first winery in the Great Southern wine growing region of Western Australia. From small beginnings Plantagenet Wines is now one of the most well respected Western Australian wineries consistently producing quality wines for nearly 40 years. Fruit for many of the wines is sourced from the oldest vineyards in the region.

The fruit for their pinot comes from the Rocky Horror and Bouvary vineyards with a dash from the Hayview vineyard, all from around Mount Barker and the Dunhelm vineyard in Denmark. All vineyards are in the Great Southern area of Western Australia.

Winemaker's Notes: Deep, vibrant crimson hues. Cherry and raspberry with distinct spice and subtle undertones of oak derived vanilla. Supple and smooth on the palate with lashings of sweet fruit, finely polished tannins and balanced acidity that provide a finely poised backbone for the vibrant fruit flavors and varietal spice notes.

Retail Price: $18.99
Club Swirl Price: $18.04/bottle, $16.14 with club swirl case discount

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pinots Rule!

I had the pleasure last week of tasting 3 really delicious Oregon Pinots with the owner of Moises Wines, Dr. James Moises. Although James is better know as a ER doctor and professor in New Orleans, in his "spare" time we works in the Willamette Valley making wine to keep himself sane. The wines were beautiful, and as James quotes, "...are a reflection of my celebrated Lebanese heritage. Known as one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world, the ancient Phoenicians of Lebanon were influential for setting the standards with viticultural and enology traditions. We continue to have a strong philosophy with the same ideology here in the Willamette Valley – practicing sustainable farming in the vineyard and minimal handling in the cellar – producing wines of depth, grace and character."

Through the assistance of our mutual friend Bob McGuire, James and I made an instant connection knowing we needed to launch these wines in New Orleans and Swirl was the place to do it!! So mark your calendars for Saturday August 15th and the Launch Party for Moises Wines. Dr. James Moises will be popping corks on 4 of his amazing Pinots, as we celebrate his debute as a serious player in the world of Oregon Pinots! I'll be writing more about James, his wines and the event in upcoming emails, so stay tuned for more information!

Speaking of Pinot...
Our Tuesday tasting this week will take a look at our favorite "Pinots" from around the world including Pinot Grigio/Gris and Pinot Noir. This will be a great opportunity to taste the stylistic differences as well as the influence of "place" on the same grape varietals. We'll also be tasting my new favorite Pinot Noir rosé made by the exciting team at Lioco. Great summertime wines, these 6 Pinots of either color deliver a refreshing lightness perfect for this time of year.

Wine of the Moment: Alta Vista Premium Malbec

Argentina's Luján de Cuyo is a part of the Mendoza River high region (along with Maipú). The majority of the vineyards in Luján de Cuyo are planted with red varietals with Malbec making up the majority of the plantings . Considered by many winemakers as a viticultural 'promised land,' Luján de Cuyo was the first region to institute the DOC (Denominacion de Origin Controlada) for Argentine Malbec. Approximately 40 minutes southwest of the city of Mendoza, many Argentine wine experts regard Luján de Cuyo as the birthplace of the movement that put Argentina on the map as a serious player on the international stage.

Located in a region known as the Northern Oasis, an odd name considering the region is technically a desert, this appellation sits in the foothills of the Andes where it receives very little rainfall and extremely large differences between day and night temperatures, two key characteristics that make for excellent growing conditions. Most vineyards lie in a relatively wide band between 1500 and 4000 feet in altitude.

The d'Aulan family oversees the Alta Vista winery, one of Argentina's largest independently owned wine producers. They pride themselves on being "Terroir Oriented Winemakers" and have invested considerable time and finances in researching and understanding their homeland. Extensive study was put into the area immediately surrounding Mendoza City, as well as that of Salta, a region in the north that lies in the Andes foothills. Their efforts in Mendoza led to the first comparative study of single vineyard Malbec wines from that region, which then led to the development of their flagship ALTO red wines. Robert Parker has named Alta Vista as one of the top 5 wineries in Argentina.

Alta Vista’s Premium line is made from a careful selection of their old vines mainly from the Serenade Vineyard, in the Lujan de Cuyo region. Their Premium Malbec is quite elegant, the bouquet is concentrated and dense, filled with black raspberry, licorice and spice. The fruit is powerful yet smooth on the palate and it keeps unfolding for ages revealing layers of savory black berries and cocoa touched by a note of earthy minerality.

$18.89/bottle with case discount
$17.75/bottle with club swirl case discount

Slow Cooked Pork Ribs with Spicy Barbecue Sauce

Every Sunday our group of friends holds a potluck dinner to bring us all together for a meal and a few bottles of wine, ending the week on a positive note. This week our offering was a big crock pot full of slow cooked pork ribs with a homemade barbecue sauce. I used a some smoked salt I bought at Whole Foods to give the ribs a little extra pop.

Great food, fun and lots of laughter, shared with people you love, a wonderful way to end the week!

-6lbs. country pork ribs
-smoked salt (optional)

BBQ Sauce Ingredients:

* 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
* 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons vinegar
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 3 cloves garlic minced
* 1 green pepper minced onion
* 1 onion minced
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 teaspoon dry mustard
* 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* salt and pepper to taste
* smoked salt (optional)

-Rub ribs with smoked salt, salt and pepper and put in the crock pot on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
-Cook minced onion, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until onions turns opaque. Add remaining ingredients, except smoked salt, mix thoroughly and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes.
-After ribs have cooked for 2 hours (if on high or 4 hours if on low), add BBQ sauce and finish cooking.
-Put ribs on a platter, spooning sauce over them, and finish with a sprinkling of the smoked salt.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Trust This Tip!

Looking for the best coffee in NYC, the freshest fish in New Orleans, a great little hotel in Paris or simply a romantic spot to watch the sunset in Florence? A new edition to swirl and savor, T3 offers a weekly travel, food or wine related tip that you need to know about! These are not paid endorsements but simply tried and true tips for inquisitive minds.

This Weeks Tip!
Did you know that sprouts are considered super foods? Not only are they packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants, they contain enzymes that are released from a seed as it germinates and sprouts. These enzymes are beneficial to digestion and to cell regeneration. Why grow your own? Economic savings, freshness, quality, ease of digestion, oxygen, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, no pesticides or chemicals and they taste great! Kerry got in to sprouting last year and they are now a daily part of our diet. She bought the Easy Sprouters and seeds at sproutpeople.com and has been using them ever since. It takes only a few days and very little work to have fresh sprouts as a part of your diet. Check out the photo below of Kerry's latest mix:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gattinara, Budget Conscious Nebbiolo

While Piemonte (Piedmont) is most know for the distinguished reds of Barolo and Barbaresco, if you travel northward to Gattinara you may be able to squeeze a little more value out of the Nebbiolo grape. One of a string of villages in northeastern Piemonte, Gattinara is the anchor of “Northern Nebbiolo” territory, which extends roughly from Torino to Lago Maggiore. As is its southern cousins, Gattinara wines are based on Nebbiolo but incorporate other wacky northern Piemonte varieties such as Uva Rara, Vespolina, and Bonarda.

The aging requirements of Gattinara are similar to that of Barolo; it is aged a minimum of three years before release, with a minimum of one of those years in wood (Barolo spends two of its minimum three years in wood). And, like Barolo, a good Gattinara is all about the heady, violet tobacco scented perfume of Nebbiolo. Generally speaking, Gattinara wines are a little higher in acid and a little leaner than their southeastern cousins due to their more northern location, but many a Gattinara can rival Barolo in depth and complexity.

The Travaglini Gattinara is very recognizable for its cool, odd shaped bottle. A special design released to celebrate the excellent 1952 vintage, the curve of the bottle is meant to fit naturally in your hand and catch sediment as the wine is poured. The shape was a hit, enough so that they've kept it for the past 57 years! But, what's in the bottle is great as well, with the entry level DOCG Gattinara receiving 91 points and a top 100 rating from Wine Spectator for the 2003 vintage and the 2004 got a Due Bicchieri nod from Gambero Rosso with 90pts. from the Spectator.

The 2004 Travaglini Gattinara is 100% Nebbiolo and is aged for 12 months in French oak, a further 18 months in Slovenian oak, followed by 6 months of bottle aging. Elegant and expressive with the characteristic orangish tinge at the edge of the glass, you instantly know you are drinking Nebbiolo. Aromatics of violets, leather and tobacco with soft tannins and red berries mingle with an earthy minerality on your palate.

So if you want to experience top notch Nebbiolo without the hefty price tag, seek out a Gattinara. We'll be opening the 2004 Travaglini at our tasting on Tuesday 7/14 with Antonio Molesini.

Wine Spectator, 90pts
Delicate aromas of ripe plum, with hints of cedar and flowers. Medium- to full-bodied, with very refined tannins and a long, complex finish of strawberry and spices. Drink now through 2012. 16,000 cases made.

$28.99/bottle/case with club swirl membership

Gulf Coast Drum with Almond Butter Sauce

When thinking about food and wine pairing, the goal is for the subtle nuances of the wine to compliment the predominant flavors in the food. So as I was thinking about what to pair the with Michele Chiarlo Gavi, I went with one of the distinct characteristics of the wine, which is an almond undertone, and decided to go for a simple Gulf Coast Drum with Almond and Butter Sauce. The richness of the butter and almonds with the light, tangy lemon is the perfect pairing with the medium, sometimes almost oily texture of Gavi. Add some delicious Gulf Coast fish and you have a quick easy recipe that can be pulled together in about 15 minutes.

The fish:

* 2 lbs of fresh Gulf Coast Drum
* milk
* 1/2 cup seasoned flour (1/2 t. mixed salt and pepper)
* olive oil

Dip fish fillets in milk, then in seasoned flour.

Pour olive oil in to a large skillet until you have about 1/4 inch of oil in the pan. Heat on a medium flame; add fillets.

Saute quickly on both sides until lightly browned; do not over cook. Place fish on a heated platter.

The Sauce:
Makes 3/4 cup

* 1/2 cup butter
* 2/3 cup (2 ounces) sliced almonds
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add almonds; sauté 2 to 4 minutes until golden brown. (Do not overcook or butter will burn.) Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve immediately.

Serve with a nicely chilled glass of Michele Chiarlo Gavi!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wine of the Moment: Michele Chiarlo Gavi

The history of the white wine of the Cortese vine is as old as that of the town of Gavi where it was first produced over one thousand years ago. Believed to be native to the province of Alessandria, at the foot of the Appenine Mountains, the white wines of Gavi are mentioned in writings dated June, 972, when the vineyards surrounding the castle of Gavi belonged to the Bishop of Genova and were leased to local free peasants to grow white grapes. Over the centuries, the castle and its vineyards were passed from one royal family to another, and in 1411 fell to the French as the spoils of a war waged with the viscounts of Milan. Both Gavi and Genova remained in French hands until June of 1800.

Its steeply inclined upper slopes, extremely difficult to cultivate, are characterized by argilo-calcerous and volcanic soils with noticeable iron content, shot with veins of chalky limestone similar to that found in Champagne and Chablis. Situated a distance of 30 miles inland from the sea, the zone is warmed by Mediterranean breezes which temper cool mountain air, creating a perfect variation in temperature for the maturation of the fruit. The resulting wine is very dry and delicate.

Because the Cortese grape is so extremely fragile, Michele Chiarlo is particularly watchful to acquire fruit of the most perfect soundness possible, and of optimum maturity, from the most exceptional vineyard areas of Gavi. The grapes are pressed without crushing within ten minutes of their arrival at the winery, and the must is immediately refrigerated to 40 F to 45 F and allowed to settle for 12 to 15 hours. It is then racked into stainless steel tanks in which a low-temperature fermentation, at 60 F to 65 F, lasts from twenty to twenty-five days. The wine is left on its lees until ready to be bottled. The alcoholic fermentation is initiated only with natural yeasts, and no malolactic is carried out.

Michele Chiarlo Gavi is an extremely elegant wine, pale gold with hints of green, and delicately scented in bouquet. It is a classic expression of the Cortese grape; delicate and refined, with lean, subtle pear and white fruit flavors and a fragrance of acacia blossoms offset by notes of almonds.

Want to try it before you buy it? This wine will be featured in our upcoming tasting on July14th with Antonio Molesini. We'll be tasting 6 wines from the Piemonte region including Gavi, Arneis, Dolcetto, Barbera, Moscato and more. But space is limited so please call to reserve a spot, 504.304.0635

Monday, July 6, 2009

Slovenian Beef Noodle Soup

One of the things I get most excited about when I come home is my mother’s homemade beef noodle soup, an old recipe handed down for generations in the Slovenian community she grew up in called Bon Air in Cambria County, Pa. My mother knows how much I love it, so there is always a huge pot waiting every time I come home. It is a simple beef and vegetable broth made with tomatoes, carrots, celery and onions and finished off with thin egg noodles. Comforting and delicious, I make it at home often using my grandmother's old soup pot, but somehow it never tastes as good as it does in my mother's kitchen.

2 1/2lbs beef roast, either English cut or chuck roast
5 1/2 quarts of water
1-28oz. can whole tomatoes crushed by hand, and their juices
4 carrots cut in 1/4" slices
3 stalks of celery cut into 3" pieces
2 medium onions quartered
Thin egg noodles
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the beef in a large soup pot and add water. Bring to a boil, then add tomatoes, carrots, celery and onion. Again bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for 2 hours.

Remove the beef to a cutting board. The beef should be very tender at this point so you can pull apart bit size chunks and cut away any fatty areas. Strain the broth into another pot and add the meat back in to the second pot as well. Put on the stove at low heat and simmer.

Take the strained vegetables and discard the celery and any overly large chunks of onion, carrot and tomatoes. Pour the rest of the vegetables back in the pot, add salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer.

Cook your noodles as to the instructions on the package and strain. Keep the noodles separate from the soup until serving as they tend to soak up too much of the broth.

Ladle soup into bowls and add the desired amount of noodles and serve.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Break From the Sweltering Heat

Greetings from the green hills of central Pennsylvania! I snuck out of town for a few days to visit family and have been enjoying 70 degree temperatures at a beautiful lake where my parents have a summer cottage. Internet connections are scarce, so this will be brief...

I flew into “Happy Valley” home of Penn State, JoePa and the Nittany Lions where I got my bachelor’s degree way too many years ago. It was great driving through the quaint town of State College, seeing some of my favorite old haunts and new businesses that have popped up in familiar spots. We lucky enough to catch a Farmer’s Market on one of the side streets so we pulled over to pick up some of the local flavors! State College is right near the heart of Amish country in central Pa, so most of the stalls featured Amish produce and goods. Incredible cucumbers, kale, carrots, raspberries, blue berries, homemade ice cream and dairy products, lots of fresh baked goods and more lined the sloping street.

My nieces Rika and Hannah were with us so of course we couldn’t pass up the Amish homemade ice cream stand. I opted for a freshly home brewed Kombucha tea while the rest of the family walked away with creamy vanilla cones from which I promptly took a bit from each one. We picked up lots of fresh greens and tomatoes and headed back to the car to finish the drive to Huntingdon.

One of the things I get most excited about when I come home is my mother’s homemade beef noodle soup, an old recipe handed down for generations in the Slovenian community she grew up in called Bon Air in Cambria County, Pa. My mother knows how much I love it, so there is always a huge pot waiting every time I come home. It is a simple beef and vegetable broth made with tomatoes, carrots, celery and onions and finished off with egg noodles. Comforting and delicious, I make it at home often using my grandmother's old soup pot, but somehow it never tastes as good as it does in my mother's kitchen. Unfortunately my niece Hannah likes is just as much, so I had to share quite a bit with her that night.

And keeping in line with our Slovenian heritage that night, my mother also fixed a few perogies made by their friend Tony. Perogies are kind of like a dumpling that is stuffed with potatoes and cheese, boiled and then browned in a skillet with butter and onions. Although he’s still trying to perfect his recipe, it’s hard to go wrong with dough, butter, onions, cheese and potatoes! The flavors melted in my mouth and brought back lots of childhood memories!

The next morning I went for a walk in the woods and there is just something different in the air here, the lack of humidity makes for a clean freshness so unlike the warm wet blanket we encounter outdoors at home. The colors are different as well, a dark lush foresty green covers the hills as opposed to our brighter more tropical plant life. They've been getting a lot of rain here lately so the ground is moist and ripe for fungi. I learned that Pennsylvania is mushroom heaven for those who know what they are doing which unfortunately I don't. But I saw at least 10 different species on my walk and will be sure to bring a guide book with me on my next visit!

We put the boat in the water later in the day, but the weather brought us back to shore early to prepare our Independence Day dinner of traditional American fare; grilled steaks, hot dogs, salad, baked potatoes and crisp, cool watermelon. Hope you all are having a great holiday weekend!!


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