Laura’s Moscow Mule

~ My tips for a delicious Moscow Mule ~

One of my favorite cocktails is the good old Moscow Mule. Something about the super cold copper mug and ginger/lime flavor makes it on of the most refreshing drink on a super hot day. Although we are heading towards Fall on the calendar, we are still setting some record high temperatures in Colorado right now. Plus, all of my garden items are still going strong, so last weekend I mixed up my favorite rendition of this delicious drink for myself and my husband. Here’s how you do it.

My husband first discovered the Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Lemonade can and instantly thought it would be perfect for a Mule. We’ve tried several Ginger Beers which is the traditional mix used, but a lot of them are just too harsh and can be a little bitter. The Canada Dry has a perfect blend of the crisp ginger flavor with a sweeter lemonade taste. Simply mix that in with your vodka of choice – ours is Tito’s – and voila, you have a pretty good drink.

However, I like to kick it up a notch by first adding a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a lime wedge for garnish. To add a summery, herbaceous quality, I head out to our basil plant and tear off a few leaves to add to the mug. Lastly, I pick one of our home grown jalapeno peppers and cut off a few thin slices. Depending on how hot your pepper, this can add a real kick to the drink. Pro Tip: I like to stir all the components around in the copper mug and let it sit for a few minutes to allow all of the flavors to come out. Add some ice and you are ready to drink!

~ Takeaway ~ If you grow a garden of goodies, think about how you can incorporate them into some of your traditional cocktails to spice up your life! Moscow Mules are a great vehicle for fun added flavors and make for a delicious refreshing beverage on hot days – cheers!

Take A Trip: Colorado Wine Country

~ Come with me to check out the best wineries in Colorado! ~

If you know me at all, then you know wine tasting is one of my biggest passions. My husband and I started taking an annual trip to the Napa/Sonoma area of California back in 2012. At the time, we knew very little about wine or wine tasting, but we were happy to learn, (wink).

In the last three years, we’ve also made it a tradition to visit our local wine region of Colorado, Grand Junction/Palisade every Labor Day Weekend. It’s not as established or developed as California, but they are doing some fun and interesting things. If you know where to go, you can find some pretty great tasting and inexpensive wines. Plus, it’s only a 4 hour drive west of Denver so it is an easy trip to make.

Come along with me as I introduce you to some of my favorite Colorado Wineries in Grand Junction and show you the wines I love from each one. (YouTube video above, or hop over to my channel) Cheers!

Building the Perfect Cheese Plate

~ My ideal dinner ~

This week it was my turn to host our Book Club Group at my house. Book Club…cough, Wine Club, cough… is one of my favorite ways to have some quality girl-only time with some awesome women. You never know what might happen at book club – sometimes we celebrate job changes, weddings, pregnancies, babies – and in this week’s case – engagements. Other times it’s an awesome support group to discuss the tougher, non-glamorous parts of life, but you can always count on great company, food and wine.

I could literally eat cheese plates for every meal for the rest of my life and be happy – not kidding. When they are done right and include all the scrumptious components, there’s just nothing better. (This was just an appetizer, I fed them “real food” for dinner lol). However, there are some key things to pay attention to when preparing your cheese board if you want it to be a real success. Here’s what I included in this particular mix.

So yes, obviously cheese, but what kinds make up a great spread? The key is to have a variety of flavors and textures. You want a range of mild to bold tastes. Just be careful of going all the way to the blue cheese end of the spectrum as those can be too strong for some guests. You can usually attain a variety of flavors if you get cheeses made with different types of milk, ie. goat, cow, sheep etc. And clearly you can feel the hardness or softness of the cheese when you pick it up at the store. Diversity in texture and flavor is the key for a successful spread.

I already had some Brie (top right), which is a nice soft creamy cheese made from cow’s milk with a mild flavor which requires a knife to eat. So when I went shopping, I looked for cheeses that would be good additions to the brie. The cheese in the top left is a salty Manchego which is much firmer in texture. Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese originating in Spain. This is one of my sister’s favorites, so I knew she’d be happy to see it on the plate. Bottom left is a Young Goat Gouda cheese that has a little softer texture than the Manchego and more of an almost sweet buttery flavor. Not at all like the bold goaty chevre that most people associate goat’s milk with. And lastly on the bottom right is a Whiskey White Cheddar made from cow’s milk. I always pick a cheddar of some variation because it’s the most commonly loved cheese so it makes for an easy crowd-pleaser. This is a little more bold than the Goat Gouda with a slight tang. Pro Tip – Where applicable, pre-cut all of your cheese and arrange them in little piles. It keeps your guest from having to do extra work by cutting off pieces themselves and they can just dive in to the food!

Now that the important part has been selected, it’s on to some meats. I’m more of a cured and “toothier” meat person, I don’t really love squishy terrines or pates. So, I went with a Calabrese Salami (above the center), which is a pork infused with Sangiovese wine, cayenne, and paprika as well as a Genoa Salami (below the center), which is pork seasoned with white pepper and garlic. Delicious accompaniment to the cheese.

Now, I don’t typically include this on most arrangements, but we had just been to our local farmers market a few days prior and ran into the No Double Dipping Company. They sell nearly 50 different flavors of  little spice packets that you add into sour cream and mayonnaise to make delicious dip. We picked up 10 so I was dying to make one for the party. I went with the Vermont Maple Bacon flavor which was a great sweet/savory combo and served it with some crisp pretzel sticks (top of photo).

If you are like me, I’m happy just eating cheese straight-up, but most people like some sort of delivery system to the mouth in the form of a cracker or fruit. Plus, if you are going to include a spreadable cheese, you are going to need something to accompany it. I added pear and apple slices around the plate and included a side dish of two types of crackers – a standard thin water cracker and a stiffer sea salt cracker. I like my selection to have neutral flavors so it doesn’t compete with the cheese unless I’ve picked a super mild cheese that could really benefit from a flavored cracker.

For some extra visual and taste appeal, I sprinkled some red grapes and cherry infused Crasins around the plate. Lastly, a ramekin of Castelvetrano Olives – my favorite! Pro Tip – Buy olives without pits if you can. If you cannot, make sure your spread includes an empty ramekin that your guests can use to easily dispose of them. 

Other items I like to use depending on the selections are honey, jams, balsamic glaze and nuts. You can always include bread in place of or in addition to crackers, and of course you could include a multitude of different fruits – think about what might compliment the wine you will be drinking.

~ Takeaway ~ If I spot a cheese/charcuterie board on a restaurant menu, I almost always order it just to see what they include. I’ve definitely found that some are far more spectacular than others. Building a delicious cheese plate is an art, but it can be easily done. If you really take the time to search out a diverse variety of flavors and textures, your cheese spread can look just like a pro’s. And don’t forget the wine!

J’adore Paris!

~ Our perfume souvenirs from Parle Moi De Parfum, Paris ~

Anytime I go on vacation, I’m on the hunt for an awesome, unique souvenir that I can remember my trip by. While I’d love to bring home some art or decor pieces for the house, things like jewelry are usually easier and more convenient to pack in a suitcase, so that’s typically what I end up purchasing. 

On our recent trip to Paris in July, we stayed in Le Marais District which was an endless supply of amazing shops and restaurants on every street. We literally could have just hung out in that neighborhood the entire trip and been happy as clams.

I’d spotted this cool looking Perfumerie as we were dragging our luggage from the parking garage down the street in search of our hotel and made a mental note to stop by once we’d settled in. Near the end of our trip we finally made it in on the way to a wine tasting event. We were helped by the sweetest young ladies working the store who patiently showcased all of the perfumes and told the story of the brand.

Here’s a snippet from their website: Parle Moi de Parfum is all about family. Benjamin Almairac grew up with stories about perfume that his father brought home from work. He dreamt of creating a venue right in the centre of Paris where the public could discover the finest fragrances that Michel Almairac had always dreamed of creating and staging.”

Michel Almairac is a world famous perfume designer who has formulated dozens of best-selling scents for big global brands such as Burberry, Gucci, Chloe, Joop!, and Escada. The man knows what smells good, that’s for sure!

After explaining that I am mostly drawn towards fresh, citrusy type scents as well as vanilla, I was shown a handful of selections they thought I’d enjoy most…problem being I actually loved them all! Normally with any line of scented products, I only am drawn to one or two and the rest are completely wrong for my taste. However, at Parle Moi de Parfum I felt like it was a collection of fragrances that were literally curated specifically for me! 

I narrowed it down to the Guimauve de Noel which is described as: “orange blossom and vanilla-scented sugar offer an instant of respite, of letting go, of tender and reassuring memories.” and the Flavia Vanilla which is described as: “a dark and sugary vanilla. Sweet, fascinating and totally seductive.” I decided to have her spray me down with the Guimauve de Noel so I could take it on a test drive while we hit up our wine tasting. It’s always important to see how your body’s chemistry interacts with a perfume before making the purchase!

After our amazing wine and cheese experience, I was sold with how the perfume was wearing so we made our way back to the shop and I signed up to buy the Guimauve de Noel. I think my husband started feeling a little jealous with my awesome purchase, so he decided to select his own fragrance to take home.

Many of their scents are unisex formulas including the Tomboy Neroli which is what he ended up selecting. It is described as: “a novel creation starring orange blossom. Neroli and amber notes give this fragrance a careless sophistication that boys and girls adopt with the same ease.” I was super happy he went with this one as I can steal it and wear it as well. We also brought home their Discovery Set which has little testers of all their current scents just so I can continue to enjoy all of their aromas. Let’s be straight, I’m most likely going to online order some additional creations to add to my collection!

~Takeaway~ When on vacation, always keep your eyes peeled for one-of-a-kind, hand-made, or specialized items that you couldn’t get at home. While a light-up key chain of the Eiffel Tower is fun, I’d much rather walk away with something a little luxe for my daily life that will instantly remind me of the vacation I so much enjoyed. Smell is one of our most powerful senses when it comes to recalling memories – every time I smell this perfume I am taken right back to our time in Paris and that is the best souvenir possible!

The “Essential Red” – budget friendly wine

~ A delicious and money-saving red wine ~

Don’t get me wrong – we love to break out our favorite, exclusive, and pricier wines for our guests. However, there are simply some occasions when you are providing a larger amount of alcohol for a giant party or nights when your husband is out of town and you just can’t bring yourself to pop open a $65 bottle of your go-to wine. I’m always on the lookout for an inexpensive yet delicious bottle of wine for precisely these moments.

This summer we went to the Breckenridge Food and Wine Festival for the second year in a row. It has quickly become a must-do activity for our family every summer and since it is always near my mom’s birthday, the VIP tickets make for a great gift. Set in the gorgeous mountain backdrop, you can walk around all day tasting wines both local to Colorado and from across the country. 

A new wine (to us) that we discovered was the Bogle Essential Red from California. While I immediately pinned their wines as a “favorite of the day”, we wanted to go back and re-taste at home without any misguided or dulled taste buds from the day’s extensive tastings (wink)

We actually found the bottle at our local Costco for under $10 and picked up a few for an upcoming party we were hosting. Turned out the hot weather that day called for more Sangria drinking than anything and we ended up with two bottles of the Bogle that went opened but un-drank. 

Over the following two days I vowed to try the Bogle Essential Red before it went bad since we had already opened them, and to my excitement, it was absolutely delicious. I was stunned that the opened bottles held so well and the wine was as pleasing as I had remembered it in Breckenridge.

Here’s a description I pulled from Bogle’s website: “This compelling blend of Old Vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah had created a ripe and mouthfilling wine. Full bodied from start to finish, this wine has notes of sarsaparilla, dark berries and black plums. Richly textured and nuanced by the flavors of juniper and dried herbs, the wine is juicy, jammy, luscious and finishes with graham cracker and melty s’mores from the American oak aging for 12 long months.”

For a wine with a blend of such heavy grapes, I thought it was super smooth and silky. Definitely a wine that is well paired with foods, but can be enjoyed on its own once your palette has acclimatized. I’ll be bringing this to all of my upcoming book club meetings for sure! What’s your favorite well-priced red wines?