Let Summer Be-Gin!

I am not a Scotch drinker nor am I really a Bourbon drinker, but I can appreciate a well-made Old Fashioned or Manhattan every once in a while. So when planning our last vacation to Scotland, I knew my husband would be extremely happy enjoying the local spirits. The Scots aren’t known for wine and not being a beer drinker I thought I was going to be “Debbie Downer” at the pub. But, I had no idea how much the UK was into gin and other non-Scotch-based cocktails.

I found something to drink there and it was so crisp and just plain refreshing! I had no idea that it would take a trip to Scotland to make me realize just how good a well-crafted tonic could be! Almost every pub and restaurant we went to had not only amazing Scotches to choose from, but a HUGE selection of gin. The variety of mixers was incredible but the one that was most recommended to me to was Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water. I was pretty familiar with that brand name although this particular flavor was one I never had in the States before. It’s a little hard to describe in flavor. Reminiscent of a salty ocean breeze, it has a slightly herbal component to it that kind of reminds me of rosemary or herbes de Provence. Plus, I didn’t even need to add the gin! (But I did—more than a couple of times.)

What I can describe is how easy it is to make a simply stunning and refreshing drink. Cut a thin slice of grapefruit, lime, or orange and place it in the bottom of a glass. If you happen to have some fresh herbs handy, throw in a small sprig of rosemary or a basil leaf (thyme will work too).  Add ice and pour a bottle of Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water to the rim. Muddle or stir, and voila! Or, do like the Highlanders do and add a little gin. Perfect summer drink!

Sweet Summertime: 12 Ways to Savor Summer

Finally, summer is here! This means beautiful sunny days, cookouts, nature in full bloom, picnics, and fresh, colorful food. It’s time to fill your plate and savor all that summer has to offer with 12 of our favorite summer recipes.

1. Frosé

Cool off with one of our favorite cocktail recipes—Frosé!

2. Panzanella Salad

This popular summer salad is THE dish to eat while you’re on your patio soaking up the warm weather.

3. Heirloom Tomato Tart

The combination of fresh basil and tomatoes is unbeatable. This recipe kicks it up a notch with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

4. Carnitas Tacos with Summer Peach & Tomato Salsa

Filled with tender braised pork and bright salsas, these tacos are sure to please.

5. Peach, Tomato, & Watermelon Salad

Try topping this refreshing salad with crumbled goat cheese, sliced grilled chicken, or grilled shrimp.

6. Creamy Shrimp Pasta Salad

Loaded with flavor, this dish is sure to be a hit at your next cookout!

7. The Best Cheeseburger Ever

Barber’s 1833 Vintage Cheddar takes this burger to new heights.

8. Heirloom Tomato and Peach Salad

Embrace the fresh flavors this season has to offer with this Heirloom Tomato and Peach Salad recipe.

9. Summer Ratatouille

Nothing says summer quite like a dish loaded with seasonal veggies.

10. Grilled Peach Salad with Roquefort and Arugula

Summer calls for grilled food, including fruit! This salad hits all the marks—sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy, and so delicious.

11. Mozzarella, Melon, and Prosciutto Kebabs

These fun appetizers are perfect for your summertime cookouts and parties!

12. Gourmet Hot Dogs

Kick your typical hot dog up a notch with these 5 gourmet hot dog ideas!

 

 

Your Guide to Classic Steak Cuts

One of my favorite classes George Punter and I taught was a food and wine pairing class called The Great American Steakhouse. We pulled out all the stops with a classic throwback menu of Clams Casino, Wedge Salad, Steak au Poivre, Hand-Cut French Fries, and Chocolate Mousse, plus wine pairings that were simply stunning. Needless to say we all had a blast, but we did spend quite a lot of time just talking steak.

Rib-Eye
Rib-Eye

I pulled out all of our tender steak cuts and we discussed each of their attributes. If you are always buying and ordering the same cut, I would like to challenge you to break out and try a couple different ones. Different steak cuts vary in textures, looks, moisture & fat content, and obviously price.

Rib-Eyes tend to be the choice of most serious steak lovers. Plenty of tender meat and lots of flavor, it is sometimes called a Tomahawk Steak with the rib bone attached, or Beef Rib Steak, Saratoga Steak, or Cowboy Steak. In my kitchen, I don’t mess around too much with this cut because you are paying for all of its natural, big flavor. Enjoy it simply well-seasoned with some good sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. And a glass of California Cabernet.

NY Strip Steak
NY Strip Steak

Although Strip Steaks have less visible fat, I enjoy the firmer, slightly chewier texture better when I am in the mood for serious steak. This particular cut was made famous by Delmonico’s, an NYC restaurant founded in 1827. This restaurant offered a short loin as one of their signature dishes, and so the cut became known in the East Coast area as the Delmonico Steak. New York Strip, another name, is cut from the short loin part of the sirloin and has a fine-grained texture that has enough fat to produce lots of flavor but tends to not be as tender as a ribeye.

Call it what you want, Filet, Filet Mignon, Tenderloin, or Châteaubriand, it’s unbelievably tender and buttery on both texture and flavor. It also happens to be one of the leanest types of steak cuts. Since fat = flavor here, this is the steak I like to serve with some kind of full-flavored sauce (béarnaise or green peppercorn) or mount with some herb butter to ramp up its flavor.

 

Porterhouse

The Porterhouse is a thick, bone-in steak where you get the best of the strip steak on one side and filet on the other all in one cut. (The T-Bone is the smaller, thinner cut version.) A fun steak to share or carve at the table as one of these can easily feed 2-3 people! I like to grill this one for special occasions, seasoned well and drizzled with some Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.

 

Top Sirloin

 

Love all sorts of rubs and marinades? Then Top Sirloin is for you. I tend to think of this steak cut as the unsung hero. Although it is naturally a bit tougher than the other tender cuts of steak, its grainy texture and leanness will more than make up for it in its overall flavor and price point. This cut benefits from the added fat a marinade can provide or the flavor boost from your favorite rub. I love it for steak salads and sandwiches, plus it can serve a crowd (or my family) who all want steak but are on a budget.

Vary your steak choices based on what you want on your dinner plate. Each steak cut offers different attributes and might not work for every finished dish. Remember two important things: fat = flavor and you get what you pay for!

Get Your Kicks with These 8 Recipes from Route 66

The ultimate road trip in America has got to be driving Route 66, spanning eight states with iconic comfort foods along the way. Although it was officially decommissioned in the 80s, it continues to attract tourists, road warriors, and food lovers looking to taste pure Americana. Today the historic route boasts vintage motels, nostalgic roadside attractions, and some really good road food.

After the Great Depression, folks finally had a little extra cash so they piled into the family car and embarked on a road trip of a lifetime with destination spots like the Grand Canyon or Disneyland Park in mind. Even great movies, songs, and books were inspired by the open road and aura of Route 66. For many, this road trip is also about the iconic flavors, like home-style baked goods, spicy chiles, BBQ, and all-around good country eating!

Buckle up and take a bite out of these eight recipes representing the eight states along Route 66!

1. Chicago Dog

2. Kansas BBQ Rub

3. Country Fried Steak

4. Buttered Pecan Blueberry Cobbler

5. Cowboy Steak

6. Easy Sticky Buns

7. Chicken Posole

8. Fish Tacos with Lime Crema & Cabbage Slaw