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¡TEQUILA!

 

I spent the Fourth of July weekend in Baja Mexico. So patriotic, I know. But what am I going to do with a rare three day weekend? Colonial Williamsburg? I’m, like, 10 minutes from the border. And my few dollars equal several dollars down there. It was a gorgeous trip full of $1 street tacos, smirks at my butchered Spanish, and what is now a firm, established muffin top. I ate everything. And I drank a lot of tequila. I love tequila. Its hands-down my liquor of choice. When I’ve been tasting wines all day at those big, fancy sommelier gatherings, going to the DMV, or taking my toddler to the dentist, all I want is a shot of tequila. Maybe two. And, like, 4 tamales. Yes, I’m Gluttenous McFatty-pants. I didn’t end up in this line of work by accident.

People still hate on tequila. The most common complaints I hear are usually actually just thinly veiled trips down memory lane, people regaling me with stories of body shots at a fraternity party or throwing up at the Margaritaville in Myrtle Beach. And I get it. My all-time worst drunken experience was born from too many tequila sunrises in my early 20s. Let’s just say I was never asked to housesit there again.

But this is a new era for tequila. It currently ranks as one of the fastest growing spirits. And with China guzzling all the Scotch and Cognac, it has left a nice little pocket for premium (read: expensive) tequilas. Even celebs are scrambling to get on this tequila boat. (I would sign up for that cruise immediately.) Justin Timberlake has one. Ray Liotta’s new baby smooth face is a spokesman for one. George Clooney and Mr. Cindy Crawford even have their own tequila, Casamigos.

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Apparently its what they all drink in their Mexican vacation compound. Yes. Cindy Crawford, her stupid husband, George Clooney and that hot human rights lawyer all share a compound in Cabo. What if the Tequila Boat™ cruise ENDED at the compound and you got to drink tequila with them and watch old reruns of House of Style and E.R. and wear high waisted one piece neon color swimsuits?

Sorry. 90’s seizure.

The thing is, if you haven’t had tequila since college or in a frozen margarita from a slushie machine, you probably live in some bunker. Or you’re, like, in a cult. Or maybe you’re in recovery. I don’t know. But, I think grown ups should revisit tequila. No worm, unless you’re breaking it down.

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Much like Champagne, all tequila only hails from one particular region in Mexico: specifically Jalisico and some surrounding counties.  Its soil is perfect for growing those Koopa-looking blue agave plants. The plants take up to 12 years to fully mature, just like English Bulldogs. Then the heart of the plant is roasted and crushed, with its juice pressed kinda like wine. That is what will go on to be distilled, typically twice. Its like a big, scary Mexican artichoke… you know, if artichoke dip gave you the courage to teach others how to Dougie.

And, again, much like my high-maintenance mistress Wine, what happens to the distilled spirit after is equally important. That first distilled spirit is blanco, or “white”. This will show the true essence of the agave’s flavors. This is what you want in a margarita. Clean and clear, letting the other components of the drink equally shine. Ugh. I hate myself so much for just typing that.

Tequila can then go on to be aged in oak barrels, usually bourbon barrels. Anywhere from two months to a year you get reposado, or rested in Spanish. This one’s my jam. It can be used in a high end cocktail or sips well on its own. I think its pairs really well with food, too. Especially my new favorite meal: 14 street tacos. Añejo, or “aged”, is in barrel anywhere from 1-3 years. This one pours a deep amber color and drinks more like a whiskey. Its not my favorite. It leans toward that peaty Scotch thing that makes me think of Republicans. Its also very expensive and men don’t buy drinks for women in their 30s nearly as much as Sex and the City lead me to believe.

 So shots. Sipper. Margaritas. Get it. Pair with tacos, ceviche, or just drink it all night and prepare yourself for some questionable decisions. Its all so grown up. And if you’re like me and you don’t want to leave your house, here is an amazing reposado cocktail recipe to utilize all those cans of Squirt you have in the house. Man, you really ARE like me…

 

Paloma

Ingredients

  • Pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt.. JUST KIDDING! Just salt.
  • 1 1/2 oz. reposado tequila. Don Julio, Forteleza, or Cazadores if you're down
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 2 oz. OJ
  • 6 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 4 oz. Squirt or knockoff grapefruit soda, you Wal-Mart shopper, you
  • Agave nectar
  • Lime to garnish

Instructions

  1. Fill a glass with ice. I use a coffee cup so others at the PTA meeting don't know what the Treasurer is doing. Add the salt, tequila, and juices. Gently stir. Top with the soda, dash of agave, and garnish with lime. Or just squeeze and drop it in.. you know, after your Instagram post.
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http://theenofiles.com/tequila/

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Affordable Spanish Wines *lisps*

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 It’s a verifiable fact that the extent of the average American’s knowledge of Spain is based solely on Madonna’s “Take a Bow” video. 

Some of my readers have complained my wine suggestions are too expensive. Ok. It was only two people: my husband and someone named Rachel Goldman. And my husband is just hating because I spent all the Disneyland vacation money on a bottle of Penfolds. I mean, who cares? I’ll put on a blue dress and sing that song from Frozen. I do that at karaoke every weekend anyway. And would a toddler really know that a churro was from Costco? I digress.

I get it. The problem with drinking good wine is that its impossible to return to drinking anything less. Once you go Pauliac, you don’t go back. And the thing with fine wine, much like fine cars, fine women, and fine Frappuccinos, they’re expensive. There are delicious values out there, though. Lesser known and up-and-coming regions are a great way to find a fantastic bottle without overdrawing the checking account… again.

I know no one would ever describe Spain as up-and-coming. Archaeological digs have unearthed evidence of sophisticated winemaking tools in the Valdepeñas region from as early as 700BC. It is ranked third in amount of wine produced in the world, after stuck up France and sexy, oily, disorganized Italy. But most people will say they A) “dislike Spanish wine”, B) “have never tried it”, and C) “Why are you asking me this? I’m pumping gas. Please stop touching my arm.”

There is more to Spain than big, aged, leathery, dusty, rip your face off Tempranillos. And, while several Riojas rank up there with Bordeaux and Burgundies in price,  there is a treasure trove of sparklers and rosés, or rosados, that over deliver on their crazy low prices. Just like a Crunch Wrap Supreme around 1 AM. Here are two you should immediately snatch up.

2013 Bodegas Naveran Brut Cava, Barcelona

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Cava gets a bad wrap. Like its just poor man’s Champagne. And I guess it kind of is, but only in price. Get your hands on this pretty little bottle. Literally pretty. It has a vintage pretty girl on the label, making it perfect for any place that kind of looks like Monica Geller’s pretty apartment. And pretty in taste: its smoky flavors are punctuated with fresh acidity and perfect, baby bubbles. The fact that Cava is produced in the same way as Champagne (Méthode Champenoise) is the best kept secret in sparkling wine. Well, that and that if you buy three bottles of Cristal in a club, you automatically get a congratulatory text from Lil’ Wayne. Somehow, even his texts are hoarse. This sparkler is perfect as an apéritif, with a dessert or cheese course, and in all bathtubs.

 

 2014 Armas de Guerra Rosado, Bierzo DO

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A rosé made from little known red grape Mencía. And unlike the Carlos Mencia Show, its completely unique. BOOM! 2005 joke!! Mencía is herbacious, with a hint of bell pepper flavor that is also present in Cabernet Franc, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignons, and several of Chili’s® fantastic Lunch Combo offerings, starting as low as $6. It also has beautiful juicy strawberry notes, with a hint of minerality in thanks to the clay and slate soil of Northwestern Spain from which its birthed. I always prefer a rosé with a little more junk in the trunk for food pairing and this babe’s medium body making it a great pairing for duck, Asian seafood dishes, and Chili’s® Smoked Chicken Quesadilla, smoked over real pecan chips!

 

 

There you go. Two easy, cheap ways to feel like you’re already in Spain. Go ahead and take a four hour nap. You’ve earned it, cariño

 

This post was not sponsered by Chili’s®… but I’m open to the conversation. The baby back ribs are in your court, guys.

 

 

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Grüner the Crooner

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Drake drinking white Burgundy with a creepy little owl.

 

As a sommelier, I spend a great deal of time and energy trying to convince people to try new wines. It’s basically the brunt of the gig. Well, the brunt of the gig is breaking down cardboard boxes, but that’s not something we like to talk about all that much. You assemble this giant, complicated, (and hopefully award winning) list with the intention of providing guests with memorable and life-changing experiences. That you will be the person to single-handedly launch Savoie wines into the lexicon. That the celebratory wine you suggest to a newly married couple will be the wine that leads to the incredible and momentous conception of the future President/Aaron Rodgers/inventor of painless bikini waxing.

But most of the time, they scowl at you and order a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…. But it’s incredibly frustrating and just a little demoralizing. Why am I here? Why have I spent so many hours and so, so very much money studying wine? Why don’t they just create a computer system that dispenses Cakebread while making cutesy one liners? Never mind. Let’s not just freely give them ideas.

I’ve decided that I need to take a new tact. I need to go Rick Ross on this shit.

The influence hip hop has had on wine sales is pretty incredible. The most iconic ones that come to mind are Cristal Champagne and rosé. I mean, Rick Ross changed his name to Ricky Rosé. Although that may not be legally binding. If rappers can basically create a domestic moscato industry, I can surely get an old lady to drink a glass of Old Vine Carignan. I need an alter ego. A Sasha Fierce, if you will. Or, rather, a Stefan Urquelle.

Allow me to introduce you to Grüner the Crooner. In the tradition of Eminem, she is Caucasian, has documented anger issues, and once threw up her mother’s spaghetti at a recital. Also, like Iggy Azalea, she has a big butt. And she has gone to her lab, with a pen and a pad, trying to get this wine education off…

When you need something spicy and a lil’ leaner/

Imma pour your mouth full of some Veltliner

I’m on fleek, stacking that cash/

Assyrtiko grapes are grown in soil full of ash

Cheese plate, cheese plate.. put down your port/

You need a Bual Madeira for that Roquefort

So, not exactly spitting fire. But are most rappers these days? Not. Really. It’s about the flash. The Moët and Kia World Tour of the biggest wine bars, gastropubs, and corporate team building outings. In the videos, she can dump bottles of Pinotage on men in white wife beaters and then spank them with battonage stick thingies. And, of course, she will have a Swavorski crystal encrusted goblet around her neck, Dornfelder sloshing about to the beat. It’s a start. I have to do something before I have a nervous breakdown, throw my osso into the ocean and start selling Kendall Jackson to high schoolers out of my trunk.

Watch for the first album: “A.O.C.- Naughty by Hectare”.

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Corkage Rules… Or How Not to Piss Off the Somm

 

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So you want to bring wine to dinner? Most likely you’re poor and/or cheap, but bringing a special bottle of wine to dinner can heighten the experience while also showing other diners you’re one classy broad. Most places will be happy to allow you to bring in and open wine. BUT… just like a John Travolta sex party, there are rules. So, so many rules.

To begin, you always should research the restaurant’s corkage policy before you come stomping in. Nothing like bringing that ’97 Stags Leap you stole from your father’s cellar to a restaurant, only to have to hide it under your chair for the rest of your night when you learn they don’t open outside wine. Many places have their policies on their website, but if not its advisable to call ahead. Like with a phone. This way you will find out whether they do open bottles, how much it will be and if there are any restrictions, like maximum number of bottles. DO NOT ASK THE HOSTESS IF THEY WILL WAIVE THE CORKAGE FEE ON THE PHONE. Those chicks can’t do much more than triple seat servers on a Saturday night. Most of them are Snapchatting or filing their nails or studying for the PSATs while they talk to you on the phone and have little if any clout in the restaurant. Or, frankly, any concern that you’re celebrating your 3 week anniversary.

Speaking of airheads with no authority, DO NOT ASK THE SOMMELIER TO WAIVE THE FEE. Most likely, the restaurant’s corkage policy has long been in effect and they have no ability to waive it. The revenue of a beverage program is integral to the success of the restaurant itself. Like, basically the only real profit margin other than valet and March Madness staff brackets. You make very little money on food in a restaurant. And even less on belly dancers. A restaurant business model relies heavily on the sale of alcoholic beverages, which is why a vodka and tonic usually costs more than the bottle of vodka with the picture of a shirtless Putin sitting in the bartender’s rail. Before you deem this unfair, remember that a) the establishment paid a hefty fee to serve alcohol to the public in the form of a liquor license and b) a restaurant is a business and not a public campground. They have to make money to stay open, so while they understand the desire to bring in wine, they still need to protect their program by generating some revenue. Capitalism. Don’t yell at the sommelier. Yell at Reagan or an economist or somebody, you Commie.

But you won’t be yelling, because you called ahead and asked Krystee/Laycie/@sweetaymeee97 the policy and you know it and you’re not expecting anything for free. So no yelling. Yelling and bullying restaurant staff is a tasteless move. And furthermore, its not even a useful tactic when negotiating with sommeliers and restaurant managers. We get yelled at all the time. By guests, by chefs, by our parents for our poor career choices. You can’t scare us. If you really wanted us on your side, you’d offer us a job with a 401k. Making a scene isn’t going to change much, except for making yourself the topic of conversation post shift at a really terrible bar.

You should also buy a bottle. I know, I know. The whole point of your lugging this thing in was to avoid having to order anything other than tap water. But, its considered good form to buy a bottle in support of the restaurant. Many places actually will waive the fee if you do buy a bottle from the list, which is pretty fantastic. There are many lower priced wines that are perfect for this situation. Immediately Italian whites and sparkling wines from Alsace or Spain immediately come to mind. You get a bottle for a little more than what the corkage fee would have been, sommelier moves some product, and you get even drunker. Win-Win-Win.

And lastly, offer the sommelier a glass of your wine. “I just bought one of their dumb New York state wines to get my corkage removed. I have to take them on a date, too?” A small taste. We live for this shit. And we are probably the only people in the whole building who even care about the bottle you brought in. Second only to its alcohol content, the ability to share with others is wine’s best quality. Some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted have been from bottles that guests brought in to the restaurant and I always appreciate when someone is keen to share. Especially since they pretty much just told my list to f’ off.

You should never be ashamed or embarrassed to bring in wine. I was mostly kidding about the poor and cheap stuff. I myself often bring wine into other restaurants. But, having been on the other side, I try to be as respectful and grateful as possible to the restaurant allowing me to bring in a product they make a living from selling. I thank them. I buy a bottle. I offer the somm a glass. And I typically order two entrees. But that’s just because I’m kind of a fat ass.

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Not Easy Being Green

I’ve been sitting on this beautiful little URL for the better part of a month now. I can’t say what it is exactly that I’ve been waiting for before actually blogging, but all signs point to my crippling procrastination. Which also reminds me I need to make an appointment with my dentist and set my DVR for the ‘Breaking Bad’ finale. Considering my mother’s maiden name is Flanagan, I thought it best to honor her drunken ass and kick off this beast on Saint Patrick’s Day. I think this ensures that my endeavor will forever bask in the warm glow of Celtic luck while also allowing me to justify all the Jameson I just dumped into my to-go coffee.

This blog is about the vast world of wine. How it’s made. Where it is made. Who is making it. How I feel the day after I drink multiple bottles of it.

And food. I really like food.

It’s also about the beautiful interplay of wine and food, each enriching and strengthening the other. Like a fat, drunken marriage. Like Roseanne and Tom Arnold.

And it’s about attempting to craft a life in these crazy times that has enough room and space to fully immerse one’s self into all that wine and food, the assembly of real meals from real food and enjoying them with fantastic complementary beverages- a pursuit that requires much patience and leaves little time for traditional employment or haircare.

Oh and beer! Beer. Because you can’t live in San Diego and not wax poetic about beer. Seriously. It’s a law.

And being a woman. Mostly being a woman in the professional wine and restaurant world, but also just being a woman walking around. Because it’s pretty hilarious and sometimes awful but mostly really great because we can grow humans in our bellies and people rarely expect you to lift heavy things alone.

And maybe place settings because I really like setting tables with linen and succulents and, like, gravy boats full of chutney or vinaigrettes or some other shit. Or, perhaps I can put the succulents IN the gravy boats! That would be siiiiiick.

Ok. Let me start over. I’m Jennifer. I earn my living as a sommelier. I love wine. I love food. I love the magic that is created when like-minded souls gather around a table to enjoy both. And, mostly, I love writing about all of it because I can do it without putting on a bra.

Back to the holiday at hand. I’ve yet to find a better spice blend for making your own corned beef than mad scientist Alton Brown’s. This does require a 10 day marinading cycle, which kind of leaves you shit out of luck today. However, I urge you to try it in the future, be it for next Saint Patrick’s Day or Mark Wahlberg’s birthday or whatever. Since the food coloring they use to dye all the Miller Lite green exacerbates my ADD and makes me want to fist fight any man taller than me, I’m sticking with a bottle of 2012 Negro ‘Dina’ Barbera d’Alba DOC. Barbera is like the Ashlee Simpson of Piedmont- everyone is always looking at her big sexy sister and bringing up that embarrassing time she pretended to be better that she was. In Ashlee’s case it was lip synching on SNL; in Barbera’s, it was the time it killed all those people due to toxic additives in the 80’s. But these days, Ashlee has a new nose and Barbera is safe to drink. Its my standard go-to for introducing people to northern Italian red wines as it lacks the aggressive tannins and hefty price tag of Nebbiolo. I love its pairing versatility. Its fresh acidity will help refresh your palate after the spicy crust of the brisket, it has a lovely nose and elegant black fruit notes, and typically costs under $20. And unlike Guinness, it won’t give you gas.

Thanks for reading… hope you’ll be back.

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