Category Archives: Wine

Cocktail: The Garden Party

garden party cocktail, snow and graham notecard, vintage cocktail glass, cocktail hourThis spring has been such a mix of weather. We’ve had everything from melt-your-make-up-off hot and humid to almost fall-like, crisp and cool. Today for Summer Solstice, it’s chilly with a deluge. Last week, we had a couple perfect nights and I was able to sit outside and write letters while the sun was setting. It was a dream evening alone.

Earlier in the day, we harvested our first lavender of the summer, so I decided to celebrate by making up a cocktail. I used some of my dried lavender from last summer to make a lavender simple syrup and mixed it with lemon, Cocchi Americano, and prosecco to make a refreshing, not-too-boozy drink. Cocchi Americano is a little bit bitter, thanks to the quinine, so the cocktail isn’t super sweet. It’s also low in alcohol, so this is the perfect drink for the afternoon (or if you need to keep your head about you while you write thank you notes!)

Lavender Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 Tablespoons dried lavender

In a pan on the stove, dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add dried lavender. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Refrigerate until chilled.

The Garden Party 

2 oz Cocchi Americano Bianco (the white version)

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz lavender syrup

prosecco, to taste

Add the Cocchi, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until fully chilled. Strain into a coupe and top off with a bit of prosecco (or another sparkling wine.) Top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy on your lanai while writing letters, or at an actual garden party with friends.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Phantom Flight Night™ 2017

Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineIt’s that time of the year again–Phantom wine time! Earlier this month we hosted our THIRD annual Phantom Flight Night™, our little wine tasting gathering where we compare notes on several years of releases of Phantom wine. This year, we tasted 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. (2014 is available now at Trader Joes and other wine shops!) Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I packed most of our Halloween decorations in the dining room since that’s where the party was. I labeled the bottles so we could easily identify the year and poured each person two ounces. This was the biggest Phantom Flight Night™ yet, so I had to borrow some wine glasses from Karen so we’d have enough for everyone. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineKaren brought her grandma’s wine glasses. As you can see, wine glasses (right side) were, uh, a little smaller back then. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine, meat and cheese trayKaren made her fabulous homemade pimento cheese and we served meats and cheeses and minestrone soup. The “other Karen” made Lucky Charms treats which were amazing. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I printed some wine tasting wheels so we had some wine language to work with. I’m terrible at discerning different tastes in wine, so it’s nice to always have a guide and some Trader Joe friends who’ve had some wine tasting training. Even though I’m no sommelier, I still find comparing Phantoms interesting. The blend changes a little bit each year (for instance the 2014 blend is 42% Petite Sirah, 34% Zinfandel, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot) and the finished wine is vastly different. Overall, 2012 came through as a favorite.

Every year I love this party more. Mainly because it’s an intimate group of fellow wine lovers, but also because wine, snacks, friends…simple. It’s the perfect October tradition before the busy-ness of the holidays begins.

P.S. Here are the posts for Phantom Flight Nights™ of years past: 2016, 2015


Tagged , , , ,

Phantom Flight Night™ 2016

sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night Another fall, another Phantom Flight Night™. I just love this party…this year it was a small group, only four of us, enjoying Bogle’s Phantom wine from 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Unlike last year, this bottle of 2008 was fine and delicious, though I can’t remember which one we liked the most. sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night Simple decorations this year…sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night We made this one pan Autumn dinner and it was amazing…apples, brussel sprouts, sweet potato…all the best of fall. sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night It was a good night.

Tagged , , , , ,

Ginger Raspberry Bellini

Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, sparkling rosé ginger raspberry belliniWe really enjoyed the cocktail at Jackie’s tea. It was fresh, and ginger-y, and bubbly and the perfect color for a plaid celebration that happened to occur on Valentine’s weekend.

We found the recipe on Driscoll’s website and god only knows how they got theirs so perfectly red…but, our pale version was delicious enough that we hardly noticed. We used a bottle of Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Rosé ($12 at your friendly Trader Joes) and it was really delicious, but if rosé isn’t your thing, I think the ginger and raspberry are powerful enough that you’ll get the same idea with any sparkling wine.

It’s so much easier to make the liqueur mix in batches, so I’ve adjusted the original recipe to serve 4.

Ginger Raspberry Bellini

(makes 4 cocktails)

4 oz ginger liqueur

2 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed!)

2 oz simple syrup

16 fresh raspberries

bottle of sparkling rosé or sparkling wine of your choice

4 raspberries and 4 pieces of candied ginger for garnish

Add ginger liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and raspberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle the raspberries into the liquid. Add ice and shake until fully chilled. Strain mixture into each cocktail glass, about 2 oz per glass. (It’s ok to eyeball.) Top each glass with about 3 oz of sparkling rosé and garnish with a raspberry and candied ginger on a cocktail pick. Toast your friend going on an amazing adventure.

Tagged , ,

Phantom Flight Night™

wine tasting guests, Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingThis week Naoto and I hosted Phantom Flight Night™, a little wine tasting party featuring a Trader Joe’s fall-favorite wine, Bogle Phantom. We have been accidentally collecting (hoarding?) Phantom since 2012 and we had bottles from 2008, 2011, and 2012 (available this year at your friendly local Trader Joe’s) so we thought it would be fun to compare the different years. Because Phantom is a blend, each year the grapes vary, so they end up being slightly different wines*. I love an intimate party, so we invited a handful of fellow wine-drinkers to help us polish off three bottles of Phantom. Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, Paper Source wrapping paperEven though it was a small gathering, I was determined to decorate a tiny bit. I love making paper table runners for parties. I usually use my kraft paper but I wanted something dark for PFN™ so I used black wrapping paper and wrote on it with a chalk marker. Someday, maybe I’ll learn calligraphy and I will be able to make the runner really fancy! Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom WineI added a big candle nested in old wine corks at the end and labeled the wine bottles in the center. Then I went through all of our wine glasses and found a group of three alike for each person. (I didn’t realize how many wine glasses we have around here. I think we need to have more wine parties and use them more often!) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingI labeled each glass with a year marker made from black cardstock cut with a 2-inch circle punch and tied on with twine. (This may have been overkill since we stayed at the table for most of the party.)  Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine About a half hour before our guests came, I poured three ounces of wine from each year into our glasses to give the wine a little bit of time to breathe. I figured three ounces was a decent pour for comparison, and then we could fill our glasses with more as needed, and open a new bottle of 2012 if we really wanted to get crazy. (It was a weeknight so no one got crazy, sadly.) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingWe tasted each wine in order of year and wrote little notes on the paper at our place setting. It was fun talking about the wines even though we were all far from wine experts! Next time, I’ll have copies of tasting notes for everyone–something like this one–to help us express ourselves more, but as it was, we had a fun time laughing about our comments while we tasted. We all loved 2011 the best and we decided that the 2008 was beginning to “turn”. (I guess I won’t be saving our last bottle of ’08 for Phantom Flight Night™ 2016.)simple wine tasting snacks, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WineIn the kitchen, we served cheeses, dried figs, salami, grapes, fruit, nuts, chocolates, and a Trader Joe’s shrimp appetizer–simple bites to complement the wines. wine tasting toast, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WinesI’m already dreaming of Phantom Flight Night™ 2016…in October, with a Poe reading by Naoto. Look for that blog post next year!

P.S. Unfortunately, this post was not sponsored by Bogle or Trader Joe’s, even though it kind of sounds that way. Extra special thanks to James for coining the name Phantom Flight Night™!

*Phantom 2008 is made from 51% Zinfandel, 47% Petite Sirah, and 2% Mourvedre and 2011 is made from 46% Petite Sirah, 40% Zinfandel, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Mourvedre. I couldn’t find the grapes used in 2012, but I’ll update the post if I find that information!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Cocktail Perfected: Lychee Valentine

Lychee liqueur and proseccoWhen we decided to host Peggy and Ken for our first dinner party, I went to work thinking up a fun cocktail to serve. I wanted to make something with the lychee liqueur but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to serve the CAP Cocktail again. So I decided it might be fun to try lychee and cava. Peggy loved it, and so did I. Actually, there’s a plan to whip some up again on Friday night..anyone game?

I named the cocktail the Lychee Valentine because lychees are supposedly one of the world’s most romantic fruits. Apparently they were used by an emperor in ancient China to woo his concubine…if that doesn’t scream romance, what does?

lychee cava cocktailThe best part of the cocktail is that when you put the lychee fruit at the bottom of the glass, it collects the cava bubbles a bit and they sort of explode out of it. Super festive…

Lychee Valentine

1-2 Tablespoons Lychee Liqueur (Soho is our favorite.)

Cava (We love Albero Cava from Trader Joe’s for sparkling cocktails, but you can use any sparkling wine you like.)

canned lychee fruit (found at Asian grocery stores, like Mitsuwa in Chicago)

In a champagne flute, drop in one lychee fruit. Add 1-2 tablespoons lychee liqueur (depending on how sweet you like your cocktail). Fill the rest of the glass with cava.

Enjoy on a cold, snowy night with friends or a romantic evening with your Valentine.

Tagged ,

Big Band at the Library


Naoto and I had a date at the Oak Park Library. In February and March, Oak Park is doing a set of programming–films, discussions, movies and concerts–celebrating America’s music. They kicked things off Saturday night with the Glen Ellyn Jazz Ensemble performing a big band concert.

At first it felt a little weird going to the library on Saturday night, but they had the Veterans Room set up like a “club” with little tables and candles (the battery-operated kind!) and balloons and starry confetti. There was a cash bar in the back (yes, a bar at the library!!) serving up beer and wine and there were cheese trays, popcorn, grapes and candy. In spite of the brighter lighting (the lights were dimmed, but understandably not “club-dark”) it definitely felt more festive than a library event room! We were lucky enough to score a little table for two in the back and we had a really great time listening to the energetic sounds of the band and watching the horns bob and move with musical vigor. A few people were even dancing (but not us…we have the rhythm you’d expect from a small town white girl and an Asian guy)! The whole night made me wonder why we don’t go out and enjoy more music…

The best part (besides the fact that the concert was free!) was that it ended at nine and I could get Naoto tucked in early for his 5AM shift Sunday morning! (Exciting Saturday nights around here!)

If you are interested in seeing the rest of the America’s Music programming at the Oak Park Library, go here.

Tagged ,

champagne season


Tis the season for sparkling cocktails.

I’ve been searching for champagne coupes for awhile now. Goodness knows I don’t need anymore glasses. I have dozens of wine glasses and I have nine flutes, which are actually better for sparking wines because they contain the bubbles better…but there is really nothing more elegant than a coupe. It feels very 30s and chic. I found plenty of options on Etsy, but never loved anything enough to hit “BUY”. I had my eye on some at West Elm, but at $10 per glass, I was afraid that I wouldn’t use them for fear of breakage.

Well, I’m so glad I waited. Last week, when I met my parents, we stopped at the Goodwill to donate some stuff and I found these (pictured above) for…

wait for it…

forty-nine cents each! They are just plain glass (not crystal) and there are two different styles, but I loved them both, and at a whopping $2.94, I figured I could afford all six. I cannot wait to pop open our bottle of Adami Prosecco on New Year’s night!


Tagged ,

The Maiden Voyage of the Yellow Dutch Oven


We finally broke the new yellow Dutch oven out of the box this week and made French onion soup for dinner Monday night. As hurricane Sandy pounded the East and the residual winds battered Chicagoland, it felt like the perfect night to slow cook some onions into caramelized, salty goodness. And, I’m proud to say, I did all of the prep work of the soup by myself. (But once you see how little effort goes into making French Onion Soup, this fact is not impressive at all.)

I’ve been wanting to make French Onion Soup for a long time now, and I suppose I could have made it in our old metal soup pot, but I bet it wouldn’t have tasted as good…there was something so perfect about making it in that sunny pot. And, although the soup takes time, the rest of the work couldn’t be any easier. You seriously just have to slice a few onions–thin slices are important, but imperfect slices are fine!–and roughly measure out the rest of the ingredients. That, and a few stirs of the pot, and you’re done!

Here are the onions in the beginning:


And after almost an hour of cooking & caramelizing:


Delicious, yes?

We used this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen. We halved the ingredients, which made about three small bowls of soup for us. It was the perfect amount (one bowl for me, two for Naoto) with a light, herby salad.

Now that we know this soup will be a part of our regular repertoire, we are adding oven proof soup bowls to our Christmas list. The only thing I would change about our first attempt is that Naoto bought this weird, domestic-made “Gruyere” cheese…to get heavenly results, a good cheese is crucial to this soup…especially if the soup is secondary to the cheese, as it is for me! And, we need a little bit more practice using our broiler before I feel confident that we won’t burn the apartment down…little details…

Tagged ,


Halloween is almost here, and other than making some spooky mail art and decorating my desk, we aren’t really celebrating. I always have intentions of renting scary movies or going out to a bar in costume, but that hasn’t happened in years. I do have a good habit of reading something spooky, mostly thanks to the fact that my book group has a tradition of reading macabre novels and short stories during our October meetings.

But just because we aren’t hosting a party doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some spine-chilling wine with dinner next week. The bottle above–Darkhorse Cabernet Sauvignon–is my absolute favorite. (I’ve mentioned it before in this post.) They were sampling it at Trader Joe’s one afternoon and I immediately bought three bottles. Then, it was out of stock and I was devastated…so much so, that when it came back, Naoto bought a case for me. (You can’t help but love someone who buys you a case of wine.) And, it’s only $6.99 a bottle–a great price for big, juicy deliciousness.

The other bottle of “Halloween wine” in our cabinet is Bogle’s Phantom. The eerie label would be perfect for Halloween night, right? Phantom is a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre. It’s definitely more complicated than the Darkhorse and more expensive at $16.99 a bottle.

My plan is to enjoy both of these wines next week while finally cooking up something tasty in our new pot….and maybe even reading a ghoulish Poe story to Naoto along the way…because if I’m being honest, he will be doing most of the work in the kitchen.

What are your plans for Halloween?

Tagged , , ,