Blind Wine Tasting Party 2015

Yay! I have been wanting to do a party like this for so long. Blind wine tasting has become quite the fuss on the internet. There are so many brilliant ideas out there! Although I am not a big wine drinker (pass me some vodka anytime), I knew exactly how I wanted to do this tasting party. Hopefully these pics make you feel like you were there too!

Here is how it worked:
Each guest brought one bottle of wine of their choice (red, white,  rose.. whatever they wanted) and put it into a labeled white bag before they walked inside our house. We started with whites, and each bottle was tasted one at a time. Using a scorecard that we recreated on Excel (see below), we judged the wine on aroma, taste, body, finish, and appearance.  The bottle that accumulated the most points was given 1st prize. Other prizes included Guess how many Corks, the Wine Loser, and coolest looking bottle. Cheeses, breads, oils, meats, nuts, fruits were all served with the wine. Later on ice cream sundaes were served with fresh homemade brownies. A great night with the friends that mean the most to us! Share your ideas below! We look forward to having another one soon! 

White bags were purchased at Michaels, along with the labels and decorative grapes. We used letters, but you can also use numbers.

 Guess how many corks game was very fun! We had guesses between 50 and 200! I mixed some smaller sized corks in there to make it tricky. In this particular holder (I bought the metal wine holder at Home Goods), we fit 80 corks in! My friend Arielle guessed 76 so she won this prize!

Prizes included: 1st - four stemless wine glasses with creative sayings on them (Tj Maxx) and cupcake wine charms (pier 1), 2nd - An aerator for red wine, 3rd - cork wine coasters (Home goods find), and lastly prize 4 was cute stem wine charms (TJ Maxx). Below is a picture of the prizes.

 We used dry erase food signs to label each cheese. These were bought from various stores including Pier 1 and Target. They are pretty much found everywhere now a days!

This wine was our 1st prize winner! It was so delicious, brought by our friend Stephenie. It was judged by using the rating system and scorecards below.

and then there was dessert...! 


Truffle, the Frenchie!

Good morning world! Time has been slipping away from me a bit, as we added a new little family member to our circle. Meet Truffle, our French bulldog puppy! But of course I had to do a foodie name!

Since marriage (this past new years eve), my husband and I have gone through a bit and needed a little pick me upper. Kevin has always wanted a dog since I met him, but being that I have SIX parrots, I never knew if it would be a good idea. I personally have never had a dog (my family are just not dog people), so it was hard for me to really know what to expect.
Kev has always been fascinated with French bulldogs, so I started doing some research. We checked local rescues & shelters, and we called many breeders around the country. In an amazing way, this little girl found her way to us through a friend. We were so happy to take her!

At 12 weeks old, it has been tough and very overwhelming. My husband works two jobs (sometimes very late) so a lot of it lands on who else? Me, of course! Potty training, vet appointments, doggie daycare, cleaning - where does the list end?! To be honest though, I wouldn't have it any other way. I have really grown to love this little baby and so happy of the attachment she has with me. I will always be her mama, and she will always be my little girl!

With mommy and daddy being huge Giants fans, you knew we had to get her this jersey!

That face, how could you not instantly fall in love?!


Since I have been slacking on the home cooking and recipe development, it was soo nice to come home yesterday to my husband cooking for us. As many know, he does not eat salmon (I know, what is wrong with him?), so the marinated chicken with the fabulous grill marks was for him. The salmon is topped with my favorite, basil pesto butter & dill, and both meals were served with Kevin's really tasty veggie stir-fry (mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, broccoli, and onion)! I even gave some salmon to Truffle, who scoffed it down REAL fast! 


White Truffle Mushroom Risotto

I am still trying to find someone out there who loves risotto as much as I do. To date, this was hands down the best thing I have ever made. I am a bit obsessed, and will be making it again this weekend for some family and friends to see what they think. Find the recipe below, I dare you to try it! :)
We served this risotto with a tri-tip steak that was marinated with an Asian rub, hoisin & garlic. It had a beautiful char on the outside, with a medium pink inside. Perfection!

Servings: 4
Prep/Cook time: 40-45 minutes

What you will need:

6 cups low sodium chicken broth
4-5 baby bella mushrooms (crimini), sliced
2-3 shallots, finely chopped
2 tbs butter, divided
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp of white truffle oil
Salt, pepper to taste
Optional: 1-2 tbs of chopped chives for garnish

1. In a medium sauce pan, bring chicken broth to a simmer.

2. On medium-low heat, heat 1 tbs butter in large saute pan, and saute mushrooms for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove mushrooms and place them on paper towel lined plate.

3. In the same pan, heat olive oil on medium heat and saute shallots for 3-4 minutes, until translucent.

4. Add arborio rice to the pan with the shallots, and stir rice until coated. Add white wine and stir until dissolved.

5. Add one ladle of chicken broth at a time to the rice. Stir constantly until dissolved. Repeat this step until the remainder of the broth is used. (Takes about 20-25 minutes)

6. Stir in parmesan, white truffle oil, mushrooms and remaining tbs of butter. Season with salt & pepper and stir. Optional to garnish with chives.


Filthy Apron Friday

By now... my apron's are all dirty from the week and I am looking forward to a restful weekend with the hubs! We have my sister in law's birthday cake tonight (18! woohoo), and my favorite thing on earth starts this Sunday... GO GIANTS! I have always been a pretty big sports fan, but football has definitely stolen my heart.

Here are some Friday tidbits for you:

  •  Homeland starts in 3 weeks! Kevin and I caught up to the current season at the end of last year. I don't know how we are going to go from week to week waiting for the new episodes!
  • Our chef friend, Allen, is making his killer mac and cheese recipe for Sunday Night Football! I've heard so many good things about it, can't wait to try a bite!
  • Although it is a very sad day here in NY, and all across America, today feels very united. For once, a lot of us are on the same page - politics/race/gender/religion - all of those things divide this country everyday, but today we stand united and remember those who passed on this day 14 years ago. I hope this country starts to really come together, because lately it has been falling apart.
  • This is so true - LOL I'm glad we aren't alone.
  • Thanks to Jessica from How Sweet It Is for posting this recipe yesterday - it looks like a must try! Mmm, I love zucchini. 
  • I start playing tennis tomorrow after a long 10 year break. I played tennis for 9 years while growing up, but stopped in High School when I had a panic attack during my first singles match on the varsity team. The girl I was playing (I can't even tell you what I wish on her), called every single ball I hit out, although they were clearly in. My mom was in the stands and complained to the coaches but they said it was up to the honor system and they couldn't be involved in the match. After a few games of that, I started losing my breath and hyperventilating. Panic attacks are no joke! On a positive note, I can't wait to start playing again! Hopefully my husband doesn't cheat lol. 
  • Speaking of tennis, I really can't stand this Nadal commercial. Am I the only lady who finds it creepy and annoying?
  • I totally just cashed in my dad's FedEx Rewards at work and got some foodie gift cards for myself! Sorry Dad! ;) Bonefish, here we come!
Hope the weekend is full of love, laughs, and warm weather! Halloween decorations may or may not be put out this weekend! I don't know how much longer I can hold out! Enjoy!


Review: Dinner at The Trattoria, St. James, NY


Picture taken from The Trattoria Restaurant facebook page

On Wednesday night, we were invited by friends to join them to The Trattoria Restaurant, located where I grew up in St. James, NY. I have been to the location before, when it was a previous restaurant ( Kitchen a bistro, same owner). It is a very small restaurant, with only 10 tables. The kitchen is opened up to the tables, which is pretty neat! You can really see the cleanliness and organization of the chef, his sous chef and the servers.

The menu is a decent size and there are a few different ways you could go about ordering. They have a chef tasting for $60.00 per person - and a three course prix fixe for $38.00 per person. If you are not a dessert person, you are able to order two entrees instead, one being a half size portion. My husband, Kevin, and I decided to go for the three course prix fixe. I will apologize now for my poor picture quality, as we only had our phones with us!

Picture taken from The Trattoria restaurant facebook page

We started by opening our BYOB, which we brought a bottle of champagne, and our friends brought a bottle of wine. The restaurant leaves wine openers on every table, and will provide a bucket of ice to keep your bottles cold. For bread, we had butter and olive oil. It was nice, crisp pieces of bread, just as I prefer!

Course 1
For my first course, I ordered the sweet corn and crab risotto. I can't say it enough, how much I love risotto. I was hoping to have a bit creamier, richer texture but still, it was very good. The slices of parmesan cheese added the perfect amount of salt that I was looking for. Some people would think corn doesn't go with the softness of this dish, but I loved the layered texture throughout.

My husband ordered what The Trattoria is known for. Black pasta with calamari in a spicy tomato sauce. When they say spicy, they mean it! Whew! I took one bite of his and started sweating lol. My hubby loves spice, so he was absolutely loving this dish.

Course 2
Here is where I get a little mad at myself. I ordered the roast pork loin with rosemary parmesan potato and broccoli rabe - BUT - I changed my order last minute to Chicken Milanese because I heard the waitress say that it was topped with a citrus salad. Don't get me wrong, these chicken cutlets were the bomb... but our friend Allen (who happens to be a chef!) ordered the pork loin and it looked so darn good! Pork is a scary one, it has to be cooked perfectly and theirs definitely seemed like it was! Wish I could've sneaked a piece from him!
As for my chicken, it was breaded perfectly and the chicken was moist and white inside. The crust was crunchy and flavorful. Add the citrus salad with each bite and it was the perfect combination!

Kevin ordered the bucatini carbonara as his entree. I did have to google bucatini to see what type of pasta it was. A thick spaghetti, yum! Their carbonara sauce was good, but we both agreed that it needed more.. body? It was a bit on the dryer side, instead of the creamier side. We both really did enjoy the flavor, as you could taste the parmesan cheese coming right through and it was not greasy like some carbonara sauces tend to be.

Course 3: Dessert
Everyone's favorite course! You save just enough room to indulge in one of these delicious menu options. Our buddy Allen really wanted to try the blueberry custard, but so did everyone else because there was none left! I had to try the black and white creme brulee - gosh, I really can't stop thinking about this... the bottom layer was chocolate syrup, how brilliant! 

Keeping up with our wedding cake tradition, my husband couldn't pass up the cheesecake dessert. It was a lemon cheese cake drizzled with a raspberry compote. The cheesecake itself was a beautiful consistency, and when you got a bite of that compote, it was so tart and sweet! When eaten together, it was a match made in heaven (kind of like us!! lol) ;) 

We truly look forward to heading back to this restaurant and would highly recommend a stop in if you are in the Long Island area! With great friends, great food and great drinks, life doesn't get any better than that! Thank you Trattoria for the wonderful dining experience!


Block Island 2015

Aye, Aye Captain! My husband had to beg my parents a million times to join them this year on their annual Block Island, Rhode Island vacation. My dad who has taken up boating in the recent summers, drives the boat from the north fork of Long Island to Block, which is about 2+ hours. This weekend, we joined my parents and their friends, Dick and Jane. I am not making this up guys, their names really are Dick and Jane.

It took me many attempts to find a hotel to stay in with such short notice. I was able to book a room at the National hotel, but (yup, there is always a but) there was a catch.We arrived at the hotel on Thursday, had to change rooms on Friday, and had to change rooms again on Saturday! All of the rooms were in the same hotel, but it was still a huge pain in the ass! Most of the hotels and inns on Block Island are older, tiny, and dingy. It is not a bad thing, that is just how it is! Island living!

Friday and Saturday Kevin and I rented a moped and toured the island. First we saw the Mohegan Bluffs, which is one of the most breathtaking places to see. They are large cliffs made of clay (it almost looked like wet cement in some places) and they are about 150 feet high! It took 133 steps (Kevin counted) to get down to the bottom, and then you had to carefully climb down the steep remainder of the bluff using a rope to keep from slipping. I won't lie, it was a bit frightening for me! But we made it down and back up!

After the bluffs we drove around the perimeter of Block Island and visited fresh pond, rodman hollow (I loved this spot), both the South and North lighthouses, BI State Airport and the zoo. The weather was perfect for the moped, and what is better than getting to hold on to your husband all day while you're riding on the back?!

Now some food for thought - see what I did there?

Thursday, August 6th:

LUNCH: We arrived to BI around noon so our first stop was The Oar for lunch. My uncle, aunt and cousin joined us after arriving by plane!
I had to try the fried fish tacos (they offer grilled, blackened or fried) in a soft tortilla. The mahi mahi was crispy and fresh, with lettuce, pico de gallo, monterey jack cheese and a delicious baja sauce. My hubby also stuck with mahi mahi and ordered the blackened sandwich with a side of fries. It was so tender with a kick of spice which we all know he loves!
This was definitely tied for first as a favorite lunch spot (down with another place below).

DINNER: Dead Eye Dick's  - We had some locals give great reviews for this place and decided to try it out. Unfortunately, this one missed the mark for me. I must have ordered the wrong dish because it was extremely disappointing. I ordered the swordfish which was peppercorn-seared and served with lobster mash potatoes. It doesn't seem like a hard dish and sounded scrumptious, but ended up being the most bland piece of fish I've ever tasted. After pouring a good amount of salt to try and give it "something" I was still unhappy. The lobster mashed potatoes were ok..
On the other hand, my husband ordered a great meal - Steak frites. It was a 10 oz. hanger steak with a mushroom demi that had a gravy flavor. It was drenched in the sauce which also gave the steak an explosive juicy and tender inside. We shared the calamari as an appetizer and they were very good.

Friday, August 7th:

LUNCH: The National Hotel's Tap and Grille - yes, the hotel we happened to be staying at and we were visited by my parents, and Dick and Jane. I wasn't too excited to eat here due to the reviews from locals, but I am glad that we tried it because we all enjoyed! We started with one of our favorite appetizers of the trip, crab and shrimp spring rolls. They were served with a sweet & spicy dipping sauce, garnished with scallions and a fresh cucumber/pickle slaw on the side. Kevin ordered the special for lunch, a BLT with a homemade spicy mayo. I ordered the "healthy" burger which was a veggie burger made of black beans and sweet potato. It always makes me feel good to order something like this once in a while.

DINNER: Sigh... I am still dreaming about this place! Manisses is a must visit by all. It is on the more pricey side, but you do get what you pay for! I don't even know where to begin..
The apps included bacon wrapped scallops, pickled carrots, raw oysters on the half shell, and a fresh summery salad.
I ordered the Salmon Sampler. It was the most gorgeous plating I've ever seen! Wild Alaskan sockeye & Wild Oregon king salmon served & cooked with a Maine cedar plank roast. On the side was risotto style farro (farro are grains from wheat) and topped with bourbon bacon spinach. Are you drooling yet?
Kevin ordered lamb two ways. The chef grilled a lamb chop, and craised a lamb shank. He served it with candied carrots, potato jo-jo's (they were like big, crispy steak fries), and drizzled with a spinach pesto butter that was to die for!
My mom who is gluten free due to celiac disease, was able to enjoy the 'Pasta Imposter' - according to the menu it was "spaghetti shaped color medley of beets, carrots, squash & cashew-ricotta pesto." My mom happens to be super healthy and she really, really loved this meal.
This restaurant got 10 stars from all of us!

Saturday, August 8th:

LUNCH: I was most excited to try this place.. Poor People's Pub. Also one of our top favorite lunch spots along with The Oar. Kevin ordered the "junk fries" that were swimming in a spicy nacho sauce, topped with crispy bacon bits, sour cream and scallions. He also ordered the onion burger, which you can see looks amazing! For myself was the lobster mac and cheese after I heard a group of locals raving about it. It was creamy and delicate, with lobster in almost every bite. It did have a steep price of $20, but the atmosphere, drinks and menu choices definitely puts this restaurant high on our list!

DINNER: The Atlantic Inn - if you don't have a very open minded palate, you may have trouble finding a dinner choice in this place. The caesar is served with a poached egg and actual anchovies, while most other dishes are served with heirloom tomatoes or chorizo (Spanish sausage). However, there are many tapas to choose from but you have to order a few if you want to leave full.
I studied this menu and just couldn't find anything I truly wanted. I really dislike asking a waiter or waitress to substitute an item, but in this case I had to. I ordered a pork chop served with a risotto croquette. The croquette was wonderful, the pork on the other hand was very tough without much flavor. The puree was also very plain and had a foamy texture which was so unappetizing.
My husband tried two tapas: the truffle mac and cheese fritters which were dry and very "bready" and the coffee smoked and glazed ribs were tasty but hard to eat. This place is not one that we are looking forward to visiting again, especially for the price.
It was a beautiful view from the front lawn and I would recommend stopping there for a cocktail only outside on the lawn.

Our return to Long Island on the boat on Sunday was terrible. 4 to 6 ft waves out in the ocean - but we made it home safe and it was worth the wonderful time we had in Block Island!

We owe a tremendous thank you to my parents. This trip was so beautiful and we are so thankful that they let us be apart of it (and of course helped us pay for a lot of it). Also a big thank you to Dick and Jane, our parents favorite friends for booking the reservations and organizing the trip for everyone. Check out the rest of our pictures below! Cheers!