Category Archives: wine

S&C alerts–brought to you from Oprah

A good friend of Ms. S&C’s, and one who is likely in the running for Oprah’s-biggest-fan-ever, recently passed on these S&C-related finds from the August 2009 issue of O magazine.  Ms. S&C thought she’d share, as she does love Oprah’s recommendations, for just about about everything. (In case you missed it, see the post on her “favorite things.”)


Shoe-related newsSoleMates — No more heels sinking into the grass or falling into sidewalk cracks. These discreet, little plastic things attach to most heels, to give stability on grass and to keep you from destroying your heels on sidewalk cracks. They come in clear and black, and seem worth it for $10.00. I usually recommend wedges for grassy events, but I definitely need another solution for walking on brick sidewalks in this city. Read more in the O magazine feature.

Cocktail-related news: BYO Boxed Wine — Check out a new website where you can locate restos that allow you to bring your own wine (just enter your zip code). You’ll be surprised at the number of DC-area places. Only 10 regions are covered so far, but it was  highlighted in O, and that means you can expect that number to go up drastically.

And while you are at it, bringing your own wine and all, consider boxed wine as an option. Yes, I said it. Boxed wine. In higher demand because of its eco-friendly packaging and long shelf life, there’s a new wave of premium quality boxed wine available. For a weeknight supper, O magazine suggests the Black Box Sauvignon Blanc. Ms. S&C has tried the Black Box brand (Shiraz is good too), and highly recommends it. Trust me, this won’t be the last you’ve heard of boxed wine over here. Read more in the O magazine feature.

posted by Ms. S&C

Beach Twists

A Wednesday-through-Sunday beach vacation with friends from high school and college was the perfect chance to put a multitude of cocktails to the test. It was a relaxing, laid-back affair, so exotic experimentation was not at the forefront of Miss Mojito’s train of thought. Rather, this was an opportunity to mix good ingredients in new and interesting ways with refreshing results.

DRINK: Frozen Margarita blended-margarita
TWIST: Grapefruit Juice
1 cup of tequila, ½ cup lime juice, 1/3 cup Triple Sec and a pitcher full of ice make up a standard batch of frozen margaritas. A ½ cup of pink grapefruit juice adds a splash of color and a touch of tang to this beachy concoction.

DRINK: Salty Dog
TWIST: Lime Juice
2 ounces of gin, a large splash of grapefruit and a salted rim go into a traditional serving of the Salty Dog. We found a ½ ounce or so of fresh lime juice to be a nice addition.

DRINK: Sangria
TWIST: A frozen version
A good friend shared her recipe for a frozen sangria that was the perfect easy beach drink – it was fun, fruity and light enough for some daytime-appropriate imbibing. The night before, mix a bottle of fruity white (we used a pinot grigio), a can of frozen lemonade concentrate and OJ in a bowl. Freeze overnight, then mix and serve the next morning. Repeat as needed to prevent beach-related dehydration throughout the course of your vacation.

Posted by Miss Mojito.

Cake and punch

The fun thing about going to a one year old’s birthday party is the party turns out to be one that’s really more for adults. Ms. S&C recently had the pleasure honor of fixing a punch for an adorable lad’s first birthday party. Said adorable lad also happens to be Miss Mojito’s nephew! While the pomegranate champagne punch was a crowd pleaser, the real hit of the party was this incredible rainbow-colored cake baked by the lad’s superstar mom, LC. LC tells me the rainbow cake was inspired by a number of blogs and recipe sites (Google rainbow cake and you’ll get oodles of results). But her cake and icing recipe came from Restaurant Eve’s Birthday Cake. Clever mom that she is, LC implemented the rainbow layering and colored coconut for the topping, rather than using plain old sprinkles.

bday-cakeSpectacular rainbow colored birthday cake

For the punch: when asked to help make a cocktail for the party, I wanted something equally colorful and festive. Since we were serving a large crowd of 20-30 people, I knew that punch was the only practical option. I found a pomegranate rum punch recipe from Bon Appetit on Epicurious. I’ve always been a fan of pomegranate juice – the color and tartness make it a perfect mixer for cocktails. Not to mention all the health benefits. But, I’m not so much a fan of rum (which could be good in a fall/winter version), so I subbed champagne and white wine, and made a few other tweaks. The result was a bright, cheerful, and sparkling beverage that parents, and friends and family of parents, can enjoy.

pom-champagne-punchPomegranate champagne punch with lime and mint

Pomegranate Champagne Punch


  • Simple syrup
  • 5 bottles chilled brut Champagne
  • 2 bottles chilled white wine (Ms. S&C uses sauvignon blanc)
  • 1 cup triple sec
  • 3 cups pomegranate juice,  (Ms. S&C prefers POM Wonderful)
  • 4 limes, thinly sliced
  • Simple syrup, to taste
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • Fresh mint for garnish (optional)
  • 1 ice block


For the simple syrup: bring 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar to boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Cool syrup completely. Note: adding lime slices is always an option to infuse the syrup.

Combine Champagne, white wine, triple sec and pomegranate juice in punch bowl. Add syrup to sweeten to taste. Mix in lime slices, and pomegranate seeds. Add ice block to bowl. Garnish with mint.

posted by Ms. S&C

The winning cheftestant

I think I can speak for many of us when I say that last week’s Top Chef finale was a big disappointment. Carla practically self-destructed; Stefan’s food was described as soul-less; and that left Hosea winning season five.

The final challenge was, as Tom Colicchio phrased it, “cook us the best three-course meal of your life.” The surprise twist, because each episode needs at least one or two surprise twists, was allowing each cheftestant to choose a contestant from a previous season as their sous chef. Carla partnered with Casey, my favorite from season three. Stefan selected Marcel, who apparently has a lot of personality (read: a jerk), but I didn’t watch that season so I can’t really say. Hosea picked (picture me swooning) Richard Blais, the runner-up from last season, to assist him. I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting Richard, albeit briefly, when I was in Atlanta last spring and I heart him. Heart him. Heart him.

The cheftestants served their three-course meals to a mixed bunch of musicians, restaurateurs and chefs at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Carla, poor Carla. Not sure how she was steered so wrong. She cooked her beef using a technique she’s never used, sous vide, and then forgot to lower the temperature of her soufflés. Stefan had a solid evening, cooking the best dish of the night — Pan Seared Squab, Braised Cabbage, Schupfnudeln, Foie Gras and Grape Jus. I guess he got some foie gras from Hosea after all. Stefan’s mistake was going the traditional route and cooking a three course meal that ended with a very average dessert, unfortunately.

In Hosea’s defense, his food overall looked like it was better and was thoughtfully prepared. He was probably Top Chef of the night, just not of the season. His Blackened Red Fish on Corn Cake with Creole Roumelade looked great. And, the Seared Scallop with Foie Gras on Pain Perou, Apple Preserves and Foie Gras Foam appeared delicious.


Hosea’s Seared Scallop with Foie Gras on Pain Perou,
Apple Preserves and Foie Gras Foam

For the drink pairing: The classic accompaniment for foie gras is a Sauterne, a full-bodied, sweet white wine from Bordeaux that has a high acidity and therefore a good accompaniment for rich foods. It is also good for dessert or as an apertif. A Twitter friend recommended this one from Barton & Guestier. Described as supple and suave, with nice freshness on the palate and intense mouth flavors. Hootie-hoo!

Catching up

Alright, so I know we’ve got A LOT of catching up to do on Top Chef. Our last recap/drink pairing was the holiday episode (!), so let’s review.


In episode seven, Toby Young, the hardass Brit, joined the judges’ gang and two cheftestants had to be eliminated. Immunity couldn’t have been more important this round. Radhika won the ultimate-sweet-treat-without-sugar Quickfire Challenge with her bread pudding. The Elimination Challenge allowed the chefs to cook whatever they wanted, because up ‘til now that haven’t been cooking anything great. Their dishes were served family style and they judged each other. Jamie won with her scallop dish and it was sweet redemption. Melissa and Eugene were sent home, and they’re already forgotten. Fabio, the mediocre but charming as hell chef, delivered another winner with “It is Top Chef, not top scallop,” when referring to Jamie’s dish. He makes us weak in the knees. And he knows it.


Episode eight brought back former Top Chef winner Hung for the Quickfire, and the cheftestants went down on the farm for the Elimination. Divided into teams of lamb, chicken and pork, the cheftestants used the fresh home-grown ingredients from Blue Hill Farm to make dinner. Carla, Jamie and Stefan, of Team Chicken, were the winners. Ariane was sent home and I was ticked. Leah is annoying. Even Tom Colicchio said in his blog, “The response to the elimination of Ariane was mammoth.”

The most recent episode was Restaurant Wars. The Quickfire started with a one dish tasting that represented each chef’s restaurant concept. Radhika and Leah were Stephen Starr‘s favorites so they were rewarded (or cursed) with being team leaders. Radhika chose Jamie, Carla and Jeff for her old spice trade style resto, Sahana. Leah chose Hosea, Fabio and was stuck with Stefan. Good lord, he is overbearing and arrogant – but, I also think he can cook. Not sure of the challenge count at this point, but I feel like he wins a lot, or is often in the top. Anyhoo, they delivered the Sunset Lounge as their Asian influenced resto.

Fast forward through romance drama between Leah and Hosea and Radhika’s weak leadership qualities. Sunset Lounge won by a hair and why? The Euro Duo. The charming and thoroughly self-aware Fabio was excellent in the front of the house, and the best dishes of the night were Stefan’s desserts.


To pair with Stefan’s orange chocolate parfait and the ginger and lemongrass panna cotta, I offer the first dessert wine I ever tried. And, it was on a first date. While in college in Williamsburg, Va, Mr. S&C snuck a bottle of Essensia into a movie theater for us to enjoy. Made from 100% orange muscat, the wine is sweet yet refreshing, with a nice accompaniment of orange blossom and apricot aromas.

Shoes and Cocktails wants to know: Who’s your favorite cheftestant? Or, who is your pick to win? Share a comment below.

posted by Ms. S&C

S&C advice–what to drink for the Globes?

Ms. S&C,
After two weeks of drinking champagne over the holidays I need something new for the Golden Globes on Sunday night.  I’m not having a party, so I truly don’t need an entire punch (although, it would be a challenge I’d have to accept).  Any suggestions for a fancy pants drink while watching the Globes?

Many thanks,
Looking for a little fancy


Dear Looking for a little fancy,
I may have a cocktail for you.  While your bar might not be stocked with this spirit (mine isn’t, yet), St. Germain is definitely au courante.  A product of France, this tres stylish liqueur is made from handpicked elderflower blossoms.  I recently tasted it at EatBar, a place that serves of-the-moment cocktails with fine ingredients.  EatBar’s Alchemist Cocktail (I know the name makes it sound like a science experiment rather than a lavish cocktail) contained St. Germain, Sazerac rye and lemon, shaken thoroughly, strained into a martini glass and garnished with minced lavender.  It was aromatic and divine.  And, while I know you said you wanted a break from champagne, the signature St. Germain Cocktail contains champagne (or dry white wine, Prosecco or Cava) mixed and club soda.  Maybe you could think of it as a really fancy pants spritzer?

My second choice would be the Ritz Cocktail.  Aptly named for this occasion and another-fancy-pants-drink-because-its-French.  I really love it.

Hope this gives you some inspiration — let me know what you decide!

Happy watching (and drinking),golden-globes
Ms. S&C

P.S.  Which Best Actress Nominee do you think will wear the best knock-out shoes?  Anne Hathaway, Angelina, Meryl Streep, Kristin Scott Thomas, or Kate Winslet?  My money is on Kate.  After the show, we’ll have to dish about our fashion faves.  And more fun, the fashion faux pas.


St. Germain Cocktail


  • 2 parts Champagne (or dry white wine, Prosecco or Cava)
  • 1 ½ parts St. Germain
  • 2 parts sparkling water or club soda
  • Lemon (for garnish)

Stir ingredients in a tall ice-filled glass, mixing thoroughly. Garnish with a lemon twist.


Ritz Cocktail
This recipe is a variation from many I’ve seen, but I think it is much better (no need for orange juice).  Recipe by Dale DeGroff; presented by Phil Greene at the MOTAC Holiday Cocktails Seminar.


  • 1 oz. Martell’s Medallion VSOP Cognac
  • ½ oz. Cointreau
  • ¼ oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • ¼ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • Champagne
  • Flamed orange peel for garnish

To make one, shake cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, then top with chilled champagne.  To make a batch, multiply first four ingredients by the number of drinks you’d like to make, stir well in a pitcher, then strain into chilled cocktail glasses, about one-third full each.  Top each with chilled champagne.

For the garnish:
The aroma and flavor in citrus fruits is concentrated in the oil cells of its peel.  By extracting the oil, you can add the essence of the fruit to drinks.  Large, thick-skinned navel oranges are recommended for flaming.  Slice a piece of the peel about the size of two quarters, light a lighter (no butane) over the drink, and squeeze the peel over the flame.  The oils will catch fire as they fall on the surface of the drink.

posted by Ms. S&C

Too much of a good thing

Isn’t too much of a good thing what New Year’s Eve is all about?  When Ms. S&C likes something, she kinda gets all consumed by it.  Take Duffy’s Rockferry album for instance.  Once she got it for her b-day, it was in heavy rotation on her Ipod for weeks.  Everyday on the metro, she would listen to the whole album beginning to end (she’s usually a shuffle kind-of a girl).  Now that the Duffy newness has worn off, she’s moved on to T.I’s Whatever You Like.  Damn, that song is catchy.  And, let me tell you — it made the metro ride to work today at least bearable.  The first day back after the holidays is the pits.  Absolute. Pits.

Ms. S&C’s obsession fascination with punch has lasted a lot longer (yes, it made the 2008 Year in Review list).  When given the opportunity to make a holiday cocktail for LKO’s New Year’s Eve party, she could not resist.  Taking cues from the autumn spiced punch and LC’s champagne punch, we came up with this delicious Shoes & Cocktails exclusive — a sparkling cherry punch! This drink’s bright, festive color make it a perfect holiday cocktail.  It was a splendid way to start off the night!


After recently trying a Ritz Cocktail with maraschino liqueur, I knew I wanted to use cherry liquor in something, so I replaced the apricot brandy from the champagne punch.  And, I feel like if you are going to go through the trouble of making simple syrup yourself, you might as well infuse it with something.  I made this simple syrup with cranberries mainly because I had a leftover bag of them in the freezer, but also because I wanted something with the deep red color (I thought more cherries in the syrup may be an overload on cherry flavor).  The frozen cherries were a delicious little surprise at the bottom of the cup, and they helped keep the punch cold.

Sparkling Cherry Punch


  • 4 bottles of champagne
  • 2 bottles of white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 8 oz. cranberry infused simple syrup (see ingredients and directions below)
  • 8 oz. cherry brandy
  • 1 bag of frozen pitted cherries

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl.  Stir.  Easy schmeasy!

Simple Syrup Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bag frozen cranberries

Simple Syrup Directions:
It is recommended that you make the simple syrup a day in advance to maximize the cranberry flavor.  Combine water, sugar, and cranberries in a saucepan.  Bring to boil, reduce heat.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes.  Cover and chill for 12-24 hours.  Strain bits of cranberry from the syrup.

S&C wants to know: What fun, festive drinks did you have to ring in the new year?  Share your NYE drinks below!

Holiday party cocktails

Break out the punch bowls!  S&C has two great holiday drinks for you.  Our friends LC and CA hosted their annual gift exchange party over the weekend.  LC served the delicious champagne punch she makes every year.  I think it is a family recipe.  It is bubbly and festive and everybody loves it.  If you don’t make it for the Christmas holiday, it would be perfect for a New Year’s Eve bash.

LC’s Family Punch



  • 2 bottles of champagne
  • 1 bottle of white wine
  • 8 oz. apricot brandy
  • 8 oz. triple sec
  • 1 liter club soda

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl.  Add block of ice.  For less potency, half the amounts of brandy and triple sec.  (As the night goes on and you continue to refill the punch bowl, halving is not a bad idea.)


After attending the Holiday Cocktails seminar, I was inspired to make homemade eggnog for LC’s party.  Eggnog is quite easy, as long as you have an electric mixer.  And by mixing the ingredients one by one, it ensures that they are well blended.  This recipe is an adaptation of several I’ve seen.  I didn’t add cognac or brandy (a spirit found in most recipes), mostly because I didn’t want it to be too boozy.  I also added more vanilla extract and spices to make it more indulgent and dessert-like.  I think the final product was a perfect accompaniment to chocolate pound cake and the other fine desserts served at the party.  It is also a fine substitute for cream and sugar in your coffee.



  • Dozen eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon clove
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 5 cups milk
  • 2 cups dark rum (I used Gosling’s Black Seal)

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.  Add sugar, continue beating.  Add vanilla, clove, nutmeg, continue beating.  Add heavy cream, little at a time, continue beating.  Add milk, little at a time, continue beating.  Chill for 1-2 hours.  Before serving, add rum and mix well.  Garnish with nutmeg.  For less indulgence, substitute some of the heavy cream with milk.


S&C Wishes You Happy Holidays and Best in 2009!

Something borrowed

In the fifth episode of Top Chef, the cheftestants are teamed up to cook for Gail Simmons‘ very own bridal shower.  Gail’s friend, and Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine, Dana Cowin is guest judge.

The episode starts, as always, with the Quickfire Challenge.  I think most fans of Top Chef really like the reoccurring taste-test challenge, where the chefs have to guess the name of ingredients in a blind taste-test.  This time the challenge was some kind-of disjointed head-to-head thing that I personally didn’t like as much.  Anyway, Hosea wins and gets immunity so you know he’s around for another week.

The Elimination Challenge is Gail’s bridal shower, where the cheftestants draw knives for the something Old, something New, something Borrowed, and something Blue teams.  The “old” team cooks classic foods such as tomato carpaccio and terrine.  The “new” team cooks a disastrous assemble-it-yourself not-sushi-sushi.  The “borrowed” team borrows the Indian heritage of a fellow cheftestant (Radhika), and the “blue” team uses the deep blue ocean for inspiration.  No big surprise that the “new” team is crucified and it is Danny who gets sent home.   He may have been okay if he didn’t insist it was a great dish after hearing everyone destroy it.  The winners are team “borrowed,” and Ariane was the surprise champion.  Jamie was overconfident and therefore totally pissed because the dish was her idea, her concept, her secret ingredient (vadouvan), and she was team leader.  While I think she could have been a bit more gracious, she did get screwed.


 The winning dish was lamb marinated in french and curry spices, served over vadouvan carrot puree, and kale.  While Ms. S&C prefers red wine with lamb, she just doesn’t love it with Indian spices.  She’s open to it, but has never found the right match.  Please send her suggestions if you have ‘em.  Instead, she may choose an Alsatian white wine (Pinot Gris or Riesling) for the pairing.  Sweet, but dry, she thinks it compliments the complex Indian flavors nicely.

PS – Fabio update: We are still swooning.  How about the high praise he bestowed on Tom Colicchio, in his charming broken English?  “Tom come in the room make me nervous.  Colicchio for me is like if you are the priest and there is the pope in the room.”   Yeah, he’s adorable.

Amuse the mouth

We are running a bit behind on the Top Chef recap/drink pairing, so we’re gonna keep things short and sweet.  Episode four brings us Rocco, the chef famous for being famous, and the NBC cross-promotion machine.

The Quickfire Challenge has the cheftestants making a breakfast amuse bouche.  Boy, do I love an amuse bouche.  Mostly because I love saying amuse bouche, but also because I love that small little bite that a chef sends out to get you excited for your meal.  Amuse bouche is a one-bite hors d’oeuvre, and Leah went to great lengths to make sure we, and the judges, understood that she, and not many of her cheftestants, knew that.  It worked; she won the Quickfire by cooking bread and an egg, and was granted immunity during the Elimination Challenge.

The Elimination Challenge involved showcasing the cheftestants’ demonstration and presentation skills.  Yeah, I thought it was lame at first. I overheard a few of my friends mention that the challenge doesn’t really relate to being an actual chef.  While there’s no question that the level of difficulty and complexity of the food prepared was pretty low, my man Tom Colicchio had this to say on his blog:

“It’s amusing to me how so many of our cheftestants said, in response to this week’s Elimination Challenge, that they did not want to “do TV” in their careers as chefs … while they’re doing TV to advance their careers as chefs. As I recall, they were saying those words directly into the lens of a television camera. Let’s face it: The media has long been a critical factor in shaping high-level careers of all kinds, and today’s Top Chefs must be able not only to cook, but to generate heat about their cooking. On TV.”

You never know – maybe some of the cheftestants aspire to be Rocco – a chef that seems to only do presentations and hardly any real cooking.  Anyhoo, Alex was sent home, and your top three contestants, Jeff aka The Hair, Fabio, and Ariane, headed to the Today Show so NBC’s morning talking heads could choose the winning dish.  I honestly don’t remember off-hand what Jeff and Fabio prepared.  I know that Ariane won with an easy as poo lame watermelon, tomato, feta salad with basil oil.


Because time is short, I think I would serve up S&C’s very own watermelon lemonade cocktail with Ariane’s salad.  It is light, refreshing, and the basil garnish would compliment nicely.  Clearly this episode was filmed in the summer, and that being the case, you can also pour me a glass of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

PS – I heart Fabio.