Wine 101 by James Dressler

Hello friends!
My name is James Dressler. I’m Heidi’s husband. I’m really excited about her new food blog, and I wanted to be a part of it. She has been gracious to let me be a guest writer on the topic off wine. She loves food, and I love wine. What wonderful pairing.

First, the title needs some explanation. I am no wine expert. I don’t have a huge wine cellar, and I don’t go through a bottle a day. Rarely will I have two bottles a week. However, I know what I like and don’t like. In our area, Zinfandel, Barbera and Petite Sirah reign supreme. What joy! I titled this Wine 101 because it is a blend of education of wine tasting as well as it will be the first of many to come wine posts.

Now you may be thinking, “James, can you have wine on keto?” The answer is yes, but of course in moderation. Heidi has to be more careful drinking white wines because the sugar content is a bit higher so she mostly sticks to the reds. I don’t have that problem. I can drink all types of wine. I am fonder of red wines, but if I find a white I really like, I will definitely buy it. It’s rare, but I simply cannot pass on something that pleases my palate. I find that the more I educate myself on wine and understand what I am supposed to be tasting, the more open I am to new experiences. So now, off to the races, as they say.

Something that most people may be familiar with is the Apothic wines. They have several different options, anywhere from their flagship Red to the lesser known Inferno. Yes people, I’ve tried them all and each have their own special qualities. I will be reviewing the one I have had the most of, Apothic Crush.

Apothic Crush was first released in 2014 as a limited release and again in 2015. Most stores carry this wine at a good price point. I tried it, liked it, and then the following year in 2016 bought 13 bottles because I thought I would have to stock up. Little did I know that Apothic decided that year to make the Crush year-round. Yes, I liked it that much! Don’t judge. The question some people ask is can a cheap wine be any good. I am going to explore that in this post. The challenge for me though is to express my experience with this wine in a simple way. Luckily, I have a glass of it right next to me so I can review it without going from memory (when was the last time you tried to describe flavors from a month ago?).

There are three keys to proper wine tasting. The first key is the look, the second is smell and the third is taste. The color is first because it gives an idea of the type of wine. For example, no one would confuse a white wine with a red wine. That is obvious. But what about wines within the same family (white or red)? If the wine is a lighter red and you are able to see through it that will typically be a light-bodied wine like a Pinot Noir. If it is a little darker and not as easy to see through, it could be a Zinfandel/Primitivo, Barbera, or another medium-bodied wine. If the color looks purple and not at all see through, it could be a Cabernet, Syrah, or a similar full-bodied wine.

Let’s start with the color. It is medium-red and I have difficulty seeing through it, so initially I am thinking it is medium-bodied. Looking at it, it reminds me of a Zinfandel, or a lighter colored Merlot. Many people judge a wine by the “legs” or “tears”. I don’t. Wine legs do not determine the quality of the wine, against what some people believe. What it does mean is the alcohol content in the wine. If you are planning on storing your wine for a long time, like over ten years, then alcohol content matters. But for the average person who doesn’t hold onto wine for more than two years, alcohol content is negligible. What I notice about the ” legs” are minimal, so that means the level isn’t very high.

The aroma, or smell, is fruity, but not totally in your face. It is a good idea to swirl the wine to release the aromas more. A good experiment is to see how far away you can be from the wine glass and still smell the wine. So what I pick up is fresh blackberry, a hint of vanilla bean, and plum. To train your senses, close your eyes when you smell and try to visualize the smells. A way to get better is to isolate two or three aromas, like fruits, herbs, spices. I must admit, I am not good at that yet. I can typically get two aromas, but three is really difficult.

Now for the taste. Some wine descriptions describe the flavor as complex. What that means is that it keeps changing every time you take a taste. For example, maybe you taste raspberry and clove first, then oak and tobacco as you swallow. So as I taste the wine, slowly swirling it in my mouth to coat all areas of my palate, I definitely get fresh black fruit and some spice. It does not dry out my mouth, so that means the tannins are low, as you would experience in a Pinot Noir. It doesn’t feel thick and it goes down really smooth. The flavor is constant from beginning to end, so definitely not complex.

What is my opinion of Apothic Crush? It is a simple medium-bodied wine that is good on its own, or maybe paired well with white meat with roasted vegetables. So the next time you are at the store, pick up a bottle. Do your own experiments. I would love to know your experience with this wine. What do you see, smell and taste? Does this post give you an idea of what to expect, or does it turn you off? I welcome your feedback. Until next time. Cheers!

 

Food, People and Beauty – Seattle Stole my Heart

Hello everyone! I’m way overdue on my trip to Seattle. I last left off dining out on Super Bowl Sunday, and trying my first oyster. Let me now share the many culinary delights I encountered Monday through Friday.

Monday: I woke up to my first day of my training course. I started off with my chocolate protein shake and bullet proof coffee. That satisfied until we are released for lunch. I headed out toward Pioneer Square. I couldn’t get over how many restaurants there were to choose from. Where to go? I had to stick to keto so I have to be menu conscious. I walked around and found a park that has foos ball, ping pong, a large Connect Four game, a children’s activity center and bistro tables for those avid chess or card players. What was more shocking was that it was super clean. The homeless were all around the area, but there wasn’t trash laying about. Amazing. I came across McCoy’s Firehouse Bar and Grill. I took a seat, and I was immediately greeted. I ordered the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger no bun and a side salad. I had no idea what it would taste like, but I was being adventurous. It didn’t disappoint. The peanut butter and bacon didn’t clash. It was total harmony even with the lettuce, tomato and onion. I’m sure there would be no way to convince you, but it was quite tasty.  

Dinner rolls around, and I decided to stay in. I had other work to do, and snacks in my room. I”m set. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday: Lunch today was nothing to speak of. I went to Damn the Weather. Let’s put it this way, that restaurant should be called damn that food.

It’s dinner time! Met up with an old friend at Peso’s Mexican Restaurant in Queen Anne. I always get worried with Mexican food, because there is hardly any keto friendly choices. Fear no more keto lovers. Peso’s has an extensive menu that has more than enough to choose from. I got the clam dip – no chips or bread. Huge pieces of clam that is super fresh and tender. I ended the night with their seafood stew. Stop the presses!!! I’m blown away. This tomato based stew is chocked full of rock fish, scallops and mussels. I couldn’t get over the size of the seafood in this massive bowl. They didn’t cheat you on quantity of fish. Good golly, I can’t say enough on how delicious this stew was. It was spicy and flavorful to the point of pure bliss. I got back to the hotel in total food paradise.

Wednesday: I’ll be honest. I didn’t eat lunch. A bunch of us from class were going to go out for dinner to a really nice place on the waterfront. I needed to save my money because I can only spend $60/day on meals. I was starving by the time we got to the restaurant. Dukes! A warm and cozy place. The server was funny, and very attentive. It was still happy hour, but nothing a keto eater could partake in. I ordered a Bloody Mary, a filet with a red clam chowder and grilled veggies. That wasn’t a typo. It was a red clam chowder. I love the creamy based chowder; however, it has potatoes. I don’t eat potatoes. This chowder is a play on the Manhattan style chowder, which is a tomato base soup. The clams were so big that the soup played more like a stew. The seasoned veggies were perfectly grilled in olive oil along with a nice blend of spices. The filet was thick, juicy, and cooked to a tasty medium rare. I followed the Bloody Mary with a Malbec wine, and finished every last bite. The other dishes looked absolutely tempting. Halibut fish and chips, Caesar salad, lamb burger and fried calamari. It was a wonderful night with great food and friends.

Thursday: My week was winding down. Two more days left. So much more to explore and try. Again, a bunch of us from class went to this funky burger place called Brgr Bar. That’s not misspelled. I so wanted to try the peanut butter and jelly burger, but I can’t risk the sugar. I had a scrumptuous 1/2 pound burger with caramelized onions, grilled mushrooms, brie cheese with a garlic aioli. Tasty, but dinner trumped that place. Cutter’s on the waterfront down the street from Pikes Market. Happy hour was insane. Crab Nachos, Beef Yakatori, Crab and Lobster Mac and Cheese and Mussels in a garlic cream sauce. For cheap! I had wine and started with the Beef Yakatori without the sticky rice. The pickled peppers were addicting. Sweet and tangy. The beef was tender. The sauce was smooth and sweet. My instructor James showed up so he joined me. He ordered a feast of the nachos, mac and cheese and the Yakatori. I had the mussels in the garlic cream sauce. The seafood is mind- blowing fresh. The mussels were tender not chewy. The sauce wasn’t thick but wasn’t soupy. It was this pleasant in-between place that was just divine. It also had this surprise kick of spice of red pepper flakes. That was a dinner to remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday: My last day. What did I do? Class got out around 2pm. My instructor James and classmate Amanda decide to check out the sites. We went to Kerry Park. What a view!!! Got pictures of Meredith Grey’s house from Grey’s Anatomy. Went to Pikes Market to the famous fish market and got crab cocktail. I didn’t take a picture of that. I ate it too fast. Sweet, fresh crab off the boat that morning. We continued our exploration. My friends got cookies and cinnamon rolls. I’m sure they weren’t meaning to torture me. Whatever. Walked by the original Starbucks. The line was ridiculously long. Went back to Cutter’s for happy hour. Headed back over to Pikes Market to pick up another crab cocktail and champagne. My new friends and I went out with a bang. Thank you Seattle for the best week of food, drinks, sights, friends, and training. You will be missed.

Tell me what you think. I stuck to keto when it was very hard to do so and still had fantastic food. Would love to hear about your experiences in Seattle or anywhere where you were pleasantly surprised by the food options.

 

Ahh Seattle! Can I still Stick to My Keto Lifestyle?

Seattle is a city that leaves you in awe. The region is rich in culture, the arts, music, and history. I arrive and my eye catches the magnificent cityscape, the diverse markets, and the exceptional restaurants. I’m here on business, and I’m taking the opportunity to explore the cuisine of the local area of Pioneer Square. Delis, specialty markets, international, and the delightfully quirky. So much to do and so little time to do it. I’m so excited. Are you ready to enjoy some food? Let’s go!

Sunday, my first day. Super Bowl. I’m not very enthused about the Super Bowl this year. I’m about to butt hurt some people out there, but who cares. I don’t like the Patriots, and I certainly do not care for Tom Brady. You can throw at me all the stats, and winning records this team has accomplished. I don’t care! To see them in the Super Bowl once again, seems boring to me. However, it’s a terrific fortune that during sporting events there are meal and drink deals that wouldn’t normally be offered. Nachos and a Margarita for $5. Sliders and a beer around $6. Appetizer sampler platter $10. Anything to draw the crowd to their establishment. Is it a Keto rich environment? NO!! I don’t eat chips so Nachos are out. I don’t eat bread so sliders are out. The appetizer platter is filled with fried foods. You guessed it. I don’t eat that either. Heck, beer is out! That one hurts. Don’t despair my friends. I’m a pro. You can order tasty keto food in a bar. Have them make the nachos without the chips (this works the best if they’re loaded nachos), and bring in your own fried pork rinds and eat it as a dip. Yummy! Have the sliders wrapped in lettuce instead of the bun. Most stuffed mushrooms are totally acceptable. If the chicken wings aren’t battered or breaded, eat all the chicken wings you want.

After settling in at the hotel, I decided to venture out and find me an ideal bar food location. I went to Target first and got snacks and necessities for the room – heavy cream, butter, mineral water, chocolate almond milk for my protein shakes and these great snack packs with salami, cheese, almonds and a hardboiled egg. Walking back, I decided to take a detour from my route to get closer to the waterfront. Well, one block down. I was on the hunt for a sports bar. Well, no luck. The streets of Seattle are quiet. Coffee houses, shops and delis line the street. Then I stumbled upon a restaurant that had the game playing in the bar. It was Happy Hour. Perfect! Off I go. I got seated at the bar, and was greeted by a very nice and rather handsome bartender named James. We hit it off right away. No, I wasn’t flirting. He hates the Patriots too. However, he wasn’t perfect. He’s an Oakland Raiders and USC fan. The name of this little find is All Water. They had $2.50 oysters. I’ve had no interest in trying oysters. They just look like snot in a shell. Now that I’m blogging, I must try things I wouldn’t normally. Oysters are keto friendly and the price is right for my food per diem. I order it. The little guy arrives. I’m nervous. I’m unsure. Ugh. I really don’t want to do this. I put some of the red wine vinegar concoction on it, squeezed some juicy lemon on it and slurped it right up like a pro. Eek. Not my thing. It was briny and slimy. It was positively tangy with vinegar and citrus. I don’t know. Maybe prepared differently? I can say now I’ve tried an oyster. Thank you world for getting me out of my comfort zone.

I then order the buffalo chicken wings. I can’t go wrong with that. Really?! I was wrong. The wings came to my seat with luscious buffalo sauce, crispy and quite large for wings. A side of carrots and celery accompanied by ranch dressing. I picked one up and discovered these are not wings but tenders. Ugh! Tenders are breaded! Crap! I should’ve turned them away. But I didn’t. I ate them anyway. Now, if they were bold and tangy as a typical wing is, I would be like whatever and not worry about it. They were bland. No tang. No spice. The ranch was even a bit boring. This meal isn’t worth doing something outside keto for sure. I’m human. I was into the game, drinking my Pinot, which happened to be the best thing I had all night. It was smooth, had a nice mouth feel, and was surprisingly fruity. However, I mindlessly ate the “wings” anyway. I still think this was a great place. I saw a table with the most amazing looking salmon plate, the truffle fries were a fragrant wonder and happy hour prices do give anyone pause. I need to be more careful. I need to ask questions. That’s what is responsible for me to stay on track. I recommend doing what is right for you. If you are following a keto lifestyle, then you know you must be aware. What would you do? Would you have eaten them anyway? Do you think I should’ve returned them? Let me know. I want to hear from you. Until tomorrow’s new food adventure, adieu.