Win A Trip To New Orleans With Sandeman’s Summer Sangria Challenge

sangriaPort enthusiasts will be familiar with the Sandeman brand, but this summer, the distinguished producer wants you to think of their fortified wine in a new light: as a mixer. For their Sandeman Summer Sangria Challenge, participants must submit a photo and original sangria recipe that incorporates a bottle of Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto.

Anything else goes ingredient-wise, but it’s helpful to remember that true sangria is a red wine punch from Rioja, Spain. Traditionally, it combines Rioja or another varietal of regional wine with Brandy and fresh fruit. It’s hard to improve upon a classic, but in my experience, Port makes everything better.

The winner will receive a trip for two to New Orleans to attend Tales of the Cocktail – the world’s premier cocktail festival – in July. To enter, visit www.facebook.com/SandemanPorto by June 1. Recipes should yield one pitcher of sangria.

[Photo credit: Flickr user divya_]

How to Make Traditional Sangria

Holiday gifts for food (and drink)-loving travelers

gifts for food loversHoliday shopping is easy if the people on your list like to eat and/or imbibe. If they’re into travel–be it armchair or the real deal–the options are endless This year, think beyond the predictable bottle of wine or pricey “artisan” cookies and give reusable, portable, eco-friendly gifts or small-batch edibles that are the taste equivalent of a trip abroad.

As for where to get these items, look at farmers and flea markets, street fairs, specialty food shops, wineries/distilleries, and boutiques. One of my favorite spots to shop: foreign supermarkets.

For the green at heart

An inflatable wine bag is ideal for wine and spirit-loving travelers. They’re multi-use and work equally well for olive oil, vinegar, or other fluid specialty products.

A logo tote bag (preferably made from recycled materials) from a specialty food shop, winery, etc. is great for practical recipients. A co-worker recently brought me a signature navy blue number from Neal’s Yard Dairy, a famous cheese shop in London. In two months, it’s traveled to South America and across the U.S., doing time as a souvenir satchel, laundry and grocery bag, and all-purpose carry-on. When I don’t need it, i just roll it up and stash it in my duffel bag or day pack. Love it.

Gift a wine key (opener) salad tongs or bowl, chopsticks, or other kitchen utensils made from local, sustainable materials such as wood, antler, bone, bamboo, or shell. Do a quick online search or ask (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: phrasebooks) about the origins of said object. If you have any qualms about the eco-aspect, don’t buy it and let the shopkeeper know why.

[Photo credit: Flickr user noramunro]gifts for food loversDrink coasters are always appreciated. I’ve picked up woven palm versions in Indonesia, as well as purchased colorful Portuguese azuelos tiles for this use. If the country or region you’re visiting is famous for its leather, woodwork, ceramics, or even recycled metal handicrafts, you’ll probably find a nice, inexpensive set of coasters. Again, be sure they’re made from sustainable materials.

Vintage kitchenware–even if it’s not functional–can be a great gift, especially if your intended is a collector. Salt-and-pepper shakers, wine openers, cheese knives, a set of Melamine bowls: hit up antique stores or street fairs, because you’re sure to find treasures at affordable prices.

For the adventurer

A pocketknife or plastic folding knife from a famous cheese shop or winery is indispensable to hikers, campers, foragers, and DIYer’s who enjoy a good picnic while on the road. Just make sure your loved ones aren’t the type who don’t check their bags when they fly. A mini-cutting board of wood/bamboo or slate is also a nice gift.

Know someone who’s into mountaineering or other high-altitude pursuits? Coca leaf tea (or for a less effective but more entertaining option, caramels or hand candy) really works, and it’s legal.

For the locavore

If you have a friend of the “Eat local/Support family farms” variety, a gift from your travels can still fit the mold. Whenever and wherever I travel, I make a point of purchasing local, handcrafted foodstuffs: jam or other preserves, honey, cheese, candy. What I buy depends upon where I am and whether or not I have to abide (cough, cough) by customs regulations or have access to refrigeration.
gifts for food lovers
If customs and temperature aren’t an issue, consider a gift of cheese, charcuterie, or even some spectacular produce (A would-be suitor once presented me with a tiny disc of goat cheese and one perfect peach before I departed on a flight; I wasn’t into the guy but loved the thoughtfulness of his gift).

If you you’re looking for a shelf-stable product, some suggestions: leatherwood, manuka, or tupelo honey (from Tasmania, New Zealand, and the Florida Panhandle, respectively); sea salt (I love the red alaea salt from Hawaii); Argentinean dulce de leche; drinking chocolate; real maple syrup; dried chiles or posole from New Mexico; palm sugar from Indonesia; spices from India or Morocco; Spanish saffron or paella rice–look for Calasparra or Bomba from Valencia; Provencal chestnut cream; Italian tomato paste or canned sardines (canned tuna from overseas is very often not from a sustainable fishery); barbecue or hot sauce; heirloom dried beans; stoneground grits…

I particularly like to buy items grown/produced by farmer co-ops but unless they’re manufactured for export or are a dried good, beware. A jar of manjar (the Chilean version of dulce de leche) I purchased from a tiny bakery wasn’t sealed properly, and was contaminated with mold when opened. Botulism or other foodborne illness is not a thoughtful gift (although I suppose it’s better to give than receive…), so make sure you’re getting professionally packaged goods.

[Photo credits: wine opener, Flickr user corktiques; honey, Laurel Miller]

On a tight budget this year? Make your own edible gifts based upon your recipient’s interests, favorite holiday spot, or ethnic heritage. Check out the below clip for an easy holiday recipe; bonus points if you know where Moravia is.

Moravian Spice Cookie Wafers

Video of the day: a goaty guide to pronouncing foreign cheeses

The holidays are Cheese Season. At no other time of the year are cheese and specialty food shops as thronged by dairy-seeking customers. They’re hungry for a fix or searching for a gift, recipe ingredient, or the makings of a cheese plate. Cheese is love, and one of the easiest, most elegant ways to kick off a cocktail party or conclude (or make) a memorable meal.

With that in mind, the folks at Culture: the word on cheese magazine (full disclosure: I’m a contributing editor) have produced this clever (and utterly adorable) video to aid you in pronouncing some of those delectable but tricky foreign cheeses from France, Spain, and Switzerland. Happy Hoch Ybrig, everyone!


Daily Pampering: Louis XIII Rare Cask shots for $1,000

Only in New York can you throw back a $1,000 shot and live to write about it.

If you’re looking for a spirit to redefine celebration, you don’t necessarily have to dress up for New York‘s luxury hotels, top-tier restaurants or exclusive bars. After all, this is New York, and luxury can be found in the most obscure places. Instead, direct your driver to W. 33rd Street, between 5th Avenue and Broadway and head to the third floor of gentlemen’s club Rick’s Cabaret – there you’ll find a cognac that’s almost impossible to purchase anywhere else in the United States.

Louis XIII Rare Cask de Remy Martin is not widely available. Of the 786 bottles on the market, a mere 30 were allocated to the U.S. market, which have mostly been claimed by private collectors and consumers, leaving few opportunities for the merely wealthy to enjoy a sip.

Shortly before the armed guards showed up at Rick’s Cabaret with the club’s two bottles, I learned from Louis XIII senior brand manager Remi Brabant, as we sipped a more conventional Remy Martin cognac, that 10 percent of the U.S. allocation – three bottles – is going to Rick’s Cabaret. Two bottles were escorted to the VIP floor at the Manhattan club, after having been carried almost reverently over the red carpet out front, and the third will be served at the company’s Tootsie’s club in Miami.

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Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.
When asked why Rick’s Cabaret received the opportunity to purchase such a large share of the U.S. inventory – particularly that available after private buyers were accommodated – he cited Remy Martin’s long relationship with Rick’s Cabaret, not to mention the strength of the gentlemen’s club’s brand and its financial security (Rick’s is publicly traded and has used the recession to go on something of an acquisition spree, with CEO Eric Langan making some smart pickups). Branant told me, “It’s a great pleasure [to work with Rick’s],” adding, “these are fantastic people to work with.” Ultimately, he concluded, “It’s about friendship.”

According to Ken Sistrunk, the New York club’s general manager, a single ounce of this cognac will cost a customer $1,250, with price breaks coming at an ounce and a half ($1,750) and 2 ounces ($2,200). Even at these prices, he said that the bottles won’t last long. Sistrunk expects the first purchase to be made by the middle of August, with both bottles being exhausted by New Year’s Day.

So, who would shell out more than $1,000 for a single ounce of cognac? Sistrunk explained, “There are still a lot of people making a lot of money, and they want to celebrate.”

Drinking in Utah no longer for members only

Four decades after making it difficult to get a drink, Utah realizes that buying liquor involves spending, too. Last week, the state decided to allow liquor to be sold to anyone with a valid form of ID. For the past 40 years, getting a drink has involved becoming a member of a private club – which required an application and a fee.

The cost of tradition, it seems, is $7 billion – the amount Utah pulls in from tourism every year. Officials figure they can add to that number by selling wine with dinner, among other liquors and situations.

You know what … it just might work.

I know a lot of people by liquor in New York, and I vaguely remember seeing people in Boston, Washington and Chicago spending cash on booze, too. It happens from coast to coast, as of July 1, 2009 without exception.

The private club rules that are now assigned to history were not particularly severe, but it’s not hard to see how they could become a pain in the ass. Annual membership fees started at $12, and you needed a separate membership for each bar. Tourists could buy temporary memberships, starting at $4 for three weeks, but they could only bring up to seven guests into a bar with them.

Hotels built the membership fees into their room rates, so they could drink at the hotel bars without fear of misstep. Bars that served only beer didn’t require memberships.

Yeah, you need needed a chart to keep the various rules straight. Now, it’s pretty easy. Belly up to the bar and order yourself a shot!