Wine Recommendation: Seven Daughters Winemaker’s Blend

Looking for a nice, light white wine that pairs well with seafood and spicy Asian food?  Seven Daughter’s Winemaker’s Blend is a great fit.  Pale in color, this white is named for the seven grapes blended into the wine:  Chardonnay, Riesling, Symphony, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, French Colombard, and Orange Muscat.  Each grape brings nuance to the wine, with citrus up front and a hint of spice on the finish.

This is an easy drinker and although the weather has turned to Fall here in the Northwest, I’ll still keep this wine stocked for meals that need a bright wine with a dry sweetness and balanced acidity.  I found Seven Daughter’s at the grocery store for $10.99.

If you are a Top Chef Desserts fan, you’ll see this wine being poured in the “Death By Chocolate” episode during the elimination challenge tasting. The bright, cheerful label is hard to miss.

Tasting notes from the Seven Daughters web site:

SWIRL: French Colombard, Chardonnay, Riesling, Symphony, Orange Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc

SEE: Pale straw color

SNIFF: The deep aromas in this wine feature notes of orange blossom, tangerine and melon with a flirtatious hint of apricot and lychee.        

SIP: This sultry, balanced wine opens with the fresh flavors of lychee and mandarin oranges. The vibrant citrus influence continues on the palate and the presence of Gewürztraminer complements the wine with a closing note of spice.

SERVE: This wine pairs deliciously with fruit salad, sushi, white fish (snapper, grouper, scallops), as well as Cantonese, Thai, and Latin cuisines.

Seven Daughter’s also makes a red blend, although I haven’t seen that one on the shelves as of late. Because I like the white, I’ll keep my eyes open for the red blend in the future.

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Travel Report: New York & Food Network Studios

Guest Recipe:  Dark Chocolate Espresso Kissed Brownies with Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting

Can you imagine:  fifty-four hours of non-stop talking about food, eating food, shopping for food items, and touring Food Network studios while your friend is taping a segment for the Cooking Channel?  Too much!  And that’s exactly what happened earlier this year.  My friend, Teri, who I met at the Cooking Light Ultimate Readers Recipe Contest a few years ago, won a brownie recipe contest with her Dark Chocolate Espresso Kissed Brownies with Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting and was one of thirteen home cooks selected to be showcased on Kelsey Nixon’s TV show The Perfect 3.  Teri graciously invited me to be her “+1″ on her winning trip, so off to New York City I flew.

Now Mr. Darcy is a good man, but usually 4.25 minutes into any food-only conversation he’s nodding his head and looking in my general direction, but his eyes are glazed over and I just know he’s thinking about what the river levels might be on the Skykomish or dreaming up a new fly pattern to land a Stilly steelhead.  So heading to New York to be a part of Teri’s adventure was a special treat for sure.  Fifty-four fun-filled hours of all things food in New York City.

So becasue I was coming in from the West Coast, I arrived the night before Teri did. By the time I got to my hotel, it was late and I didn’t venture out. But in the morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a muffin from a street vendor and headed up to Rockefeller Center for a trip to the Top of the Rock. It was a foggy (smoggy?) morning, but the views were still spectacular. I never get tired of this city.

One of the first things I noticed about the Big Apple is how absolutely friendly everyone was.  New Yorkers have such a reputation of being aggressive and direct.  I just didn’t see that side of the city at all.  Everyone we came into contact with was helpful and nice.  I wonder, is this an after-effect of 9/11?  Are New Yorkers kinder now?  Did I just happen to cross paths with only friendly people in my short time in the city, from every taxi driver to merchant to people on the street?  Or do New Yorkers feign that reputation of abruptness like we in Seattle tell people it rains all of the time so that more people won’t move here?  Oh wait, I’m not supposed to say that.  It’s against the Seattle code.  Shhh, OK?  Don’t tell.  It rains all the time here in Seattle, I swear.

By the time I got back to my hotel, Teri was in the city and I met her at her hotel and the food fun began!  Our first stop was the original Shake Shack location in Madison Square Park – you know I can’t pass up a good burger!  We arrived just before Noon and the line wasn’t as long as I’ve seen on their shack-cams before. 

I ordered the single Shake Shack burger and was pleasantly impressed.  While not a fancy burger, it’s a really good basic burger – way above your average “fast food” burger.  The sauce is tasty and the meat just melts in your mouth.  And I love crinkle cut fries. L.O.V.E.

Next up was a trip to the New York Cakes & Baking Supply store.  This place is amazing.  And while I’m not a baker, I was easily entertained for the hour or so we spent in the shop.  Not only did I find some silicone molds for the new Jelly Shot Test Kitchen cookbook I recently acquired for my cookbook collection, but I also found a tiny, 4-inch spring form pan perfect for appetizer cheesecakes.  Teri, who is a baker extraordinaire, found a bunch of unique items too, for her many baking projects. 

We then hit Fish Eddy’s where they have tons of interesting and retro inspired housewares – plates, glassware, serving dishes, flatware and more.  We walked through shops with gorgeous rugs and home decor items, and then found ourselves at Eataly – an absolutely giant marketplace with restaurants and specialty foods, beverages and items representing all regions of Italy.  It was a bustling and busy place with a great vibe.  We sat at a counter to enjoy a light snack to fuel us on our foodie trek.

From there we jumped on the subway and headed uptown to Dylan’s Candy Bar for some sweets.  Since we were close to Central Park, we took a short walk through it to the Plaza Hotel where we stopped in just to take in the grandeur of the lobby.  Just gorgeous.

Our last stop before walking back to Chelsea (yes, we walked 12.5 miles that day – I had my pedometer on), was to Momofuku Milk Bar for cookies and milk.  We tried the Compost Cookie – chock full of crushed potato chips, coffee beans, rolled oats, pretzels and more – and the Cornflake-Marshmallow.  The cookies were thin, crispy/chewy and packed with brown sugary goodness.  I liked the Cornflake-Marshmallow best.

The next morning was THE BIG DAY.  We headed over to Chelsea Market and up to the Food Network studios via a very unassuming and unmarked elevator (sneaky!).  Here Teri and I are in the test kitchens where Teri got to view her brownies that had been prepped for her in advance by the Food Network test kitchen staff.

We were escorted to the green room where Teri got her makeup done and we met the production staff and the hostess and cook of The Perfect Three, Kelsey Nixon.  She is a doll, by the way.  Kelsey spent some time with us, answering our questions and telling us about what it’s been like for her going from a Next Food Network Star contestant who didn’t win, to a Cooking Channel show hostess with her own show.

While I wasn’t allowed into the studio during Teri’s taping (Studio B, Rachael Ray was taping something in Studio A at the time), they had a monitor set up in the green room so that I could watch the segment being recorded.  And can I tell you, Teri was great!  She didn’t need any retakes for her speaking portions.  She is a natural on camera and I can’t wait to see the brownie episode when it airs on October 16 at 8:30am Eastern (check the Cooking Channel episode info here).

But you don’t have to wait two weeks to see Teri’s video for her brownies.  You can watch it here (scroll through the videos below the player to select her webisode) and you can get her recipe for her contest winning, super moist and fudgy Dark Chocolate Espresso Kissed Brownies with Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting here and below.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Kissed Brownies with Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting
5.0 from 1 reviews
: Dessert
: Teri Ralston
: 20 mins
: 24 mins
: 44 mins
: 9
These brownies are a dark chocolate ooey, gooey delight enhanced by a kiss of espresso powder and finished with creamy mascarpone frosting.
  • Brownie:
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (recommended: Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa)
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Frosting:
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (about 1/3 cup), melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (scant)
  1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch by 8-inch pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and spray parchment with cooking spray.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sugar and stir until the mixture is hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Stir in cocoa, espresso powder, vanilla, salt, and baking powder until well mixed. Stir in eggs until blended. Stir in flour and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until the edges are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, 20 to 24 minutes.
  3. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and turn out onto a wire rack. Cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting: Beat the butter and mascarpone together in a large mixing bowl until smooth and well combined. Add in the melted chocolate and vanilla and beat well. Slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar and salt and beat until smooth. If the mixture looks curdled, keep beating until it becomes thick and smooth. Spread the frosting over the brownies, cut into 9 squares and serve.

Teri’s Recipe Notes: The key steps to making this dish unique and successful is the use of the highest quality ingredients, especially the chocolate; heating the butter and sugar together in the first part of the recipe; a light hand when stirring in the flour; a pinch of sea salt in the frosting, and finally not over baking the brownies.
Make sure the mascarpone is at room temperature otherwise it might “break” (look curdled) when making the frosting. If that happens, just add in the sugar and beat it together.
If you don’t absolutely love dark chocolate, add an extra 1/4 cup of sugar to the brownie batter for a slightly sweeter taste.

Google Recipe View Microformatting by Easy Recipe


Teri and I celebrated her taping success by eating dinner at Bar American (yes, Bobby Flay was there!) and catching a Broadway show.  It was such a fabulous fifty-four hour adventure and I am forever grateful to Teri for inviting me.

Congratulations Teri, on just one of your many recipe contest wins and thank you for letting me be a part of it!!

Yum, don’t those look great?!

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Products for Curly Hair: Frizz-Ease Hair Serum

This month Allure magazine came out with their list of Top 10 Best of Beauty Hall of Fame Products, and while I’ve tried all but two of the products over the years (who didn’t sneak their mom’s Chanel No. 5 as a little kid dressing up in her high heels and clothes?), one of the top 10 products is part of my daily hair regime:  Frizz-Ease Hair Serum.

Frizz-Ease is a slightly sticky serum that you pump into your hands and then lightly apply to wet hair.  Don’t use too much or it can make your hair look greasy.  I usually use about a nickel to a quarter’s worth of a pump when my hair is wet, and then about a dime’s worth on my curls once my hair is dry (especially if I blow dry my hair).

Made by the John Frieda company, it comes in Original and Extra-Strength.  I have tried both products and for my curls, which are on the dry and frizzy side, the Extra-Strength is necessary.  The interesting thing I find about the marketing for Frizz-Ease is that it is mainly touted as a product for making wavy/curly hair straight when blowing it out.  I’m sure that is the case, but don’t underestimate this serum for making your curls more distinct and less frizzy. 

I find that if I let my hair air-dry with the serum applied my curls can be a little on the crunchy side.  But once dry you can squish your curls up to the crown of your head and the crunchiness relaxes a bit.  There is a noticeable difference in my hair (i.e., bad) when I don’t use Frizz-Ease.  It really is a great product.

The price point for Frizz-Ease is excellent – you can purchase it from the Allure site for $7.10 for a 1.69 ounce bottle.  Using it daily it takes me at least a month to go through an entire bottle.  You can easily find Frizz-Ease in any major drug store chain, however, I have seen the price vary wildly from store to store, anywhere up to $12.99 a bottle, so shop around.

If you have curly hair and you haven’t yet tried Frizz-Ease you must go purchase a bottle and see if it changes your locks, taming the frizz and helping to keep the corkscrews in place. It really does deserve a place on the beauty product hall of fame list, especially for curly hair.

Try it and let me know what you think!

See the Frizz-Ease Hair Serum product line from John Frieda here (including overnight treatment which I haven’t tried yet):

See Allure’s full list of Hall of Fame beauty products here:


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Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts & Fried Sage Leaves

An Autumn Savory Side Dish.

I just got back from an eight-day work trip.  When I left Seattle it was Summer and when I returned it was Fall.  Leaves on a few trees are beginning to change color and nights are cooler. 

So my thoughts have turned to Autumn dishes.  This butternut squash recipe is a super flavorful vegetarian side dish that’s perfect for cool evenings.  And it’s another great make-ahead dish for entertaining since you can make the majority of the dish up to a day in advance. 

High in vitamins A and C, butternut squash is also a good source of dietary fiber and minerals such as magnesium and potassium.  Plus you can’t beat the pop of color on the plate the squash provides and the crunchy sage leaves.  Lovely!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts & Fried Sage Leaves
5.0 from 1 reviews
: Side Dish
: 20 mins
: 45 mins
: 1 hour 5 mins
: 4 to 6
A perfect savory side dish for Fall – butternut squash, goat cheese, pine nuts topped with fried sage leaves.
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup sage leaves
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place squash, onion, and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet; toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil until well coated. Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 4 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees F.
  3. Place squash and onion in the bowl of a food processor. Add maple syrup and butter, process until just smooth. Taste and adjust for seasoning, if necessary.
  4. Transfer squash mixture to a baking dish; stir in 2/3 of the goat cheese and 2 tablespoons pine nuts. Top mixture with remaining goat cheese and remaining pine nuts.
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until squash mixture is warmed through.
  6. Meanwhile, heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. In 2 batches, drop sage leaves into oil and cook until crisp, about 15-30 seconds. Drain on paper towels.
  7. Right before serving, top squash mixture with fried sage leaves.

Make-ahead Notes: You can make this dish up to one day in advance. After processing squash and onion mixture in the food processor, transfer mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to bake the second time.

Google Recipe View Microformatting by Easy Recipe

If you don’t like a little kick of heat, simply omit the crushed red pepper flakes.

Try this recipe next time in place of mashed potatoes and see what you think.  I think I’m going to go raid the leftovers right now!

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10 Years: 9/11 Remembered

Ten years ago on September 11, 2001 I was in Atlanta on a work trip.  We were 15 minutes from opening a 10,000 square foot trade show booth in a large, three-day technology trade show when the first plane hit … Continue reading

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Travel Report: New Orleans

Two weekends ago Mr. Darcy and his business partner, Mad Hatter, attended a work-related convention in New Orleans.  Mad Hatter’s wife, CR, and I tagged along, because even in the depths of humid, sticky, sweltering, and super sweaty August, who wouldn’t want to go … Continue reading

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Wine Recommendation: Masciarelli 2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

A few of weekends ago I spent a sunny Saturday with two of my girlfriends on an ‘adventure’ not too far from home.  We like to pick a location somewhat nearby where we live and spend the day or weekend being … Continue reading

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