Girl Scout Cookies and Wine Pairing — It Tastes as Great as it Sounds

There are not many things in this world better than wine or Girl Scout cookies. Unless you combine the two. That is just what the fine folks at City Winery decided to do.

Bless them.

The winery hosted an event pairing 4 of their wines with classic Girl Scout cookies. Our pairings for the evening were:

Samoas & 2015 Heinz Eifel Riesling, Mosel

Savannah Smiles & 2015 “615” Sauvignon Blanc, California

Tagalongs & 2014 Centennial Chardonnay, Sonoma

Thin Mints & 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

The wines were selected well. The sweetness of the Samoas paired nicely with the Riesling. The smooth peanut butter in the Tagalongs paired nicely with the Chardonnay. However, my favorite was the Savannah Smiles with the Sauvignon Blanc. The tartness and grapefruit of the Sauvignon Blanc went wonderfully with the crisp lemony cookie. Yum!

The most surprising pairing was the Thin Mints and Cabernet Sauvignon. I am usually not a fan of red wine, it is just too bitter for me. In fact, the only time I’ve really liked a glass of red wine was after a session of flavor tripping. However, I absolutely loved the Cabernet Sauvignon with the minty cookie. It was a brilliant combo.

I have been off sugar and sweets for the last 3 months, so a night of eating cookies was a shock to my system. Sugar overload. I am just hoping that this is not the beginning of a very bad, yet delicious, habit.

So, if you want to delight your tastebuds, lose the milk and grab your favorite bottle for a fun girls night or date night. Or, hell, there is no shame in drinking and eating cookies alone. You do you.

If you want some additional options for your own Girl Scout cookie & wine pairings, several sites have their own suggestions, including Thrillist, Vivino, and Gizmodo. And if you want me to tag a long (see what I did there), I will not turn down the invitation.

Absinthe: Sampling the Green Fairy

Absinthe rose to popularity in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and was fashionable among the literati of Paris. Some famous fans of the drink include Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and my hometown favorite, Edgar Allan Poe. Absinthe was outlawed in the United States in 1915, but since the ban was lifted in 2007, it has experienced a resurgence. While Absinthe has a reputation for being a hallucinogenic, that label is is merely a result of legend and exaggeration. Sorry.

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Despite my past travels to Europe, I had never had an authentic glass of absinthe. So, I thought that it would the perfect thing to help me unwind during a little après–ski. My friends Lilas and Chris joined me in a visit to The Absinthe Bar in Breckenridge, which boasts the largest selection of absinthe in the United States.

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The menu had 19 types of absinthe from France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Austria, and the USA. I selected Pernod absinthe, a French absinthe often written about by Hemingway, which is from the original producer of commercial absinthe and has a high alcohol content and a heavy anise flavor profile. It is made using the same ingredients as in the early 1800s.

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There are a few processes through which absinthe can be made. One method, which my bartender used, is classic French absinthe ritual. The ritual involves placing a sugar cube on top of a perforated spoon, which rests on the rim of the specially designed absinthe glass. Ice water is then dripped on the sugar cube, which dissolves into the absinthe. This causes the green transparent liquor to “louche” into an opaque mint green cocktail.

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The result was a fun, cold liquorish-flavored cocktail. The Pernod was slightly bitter, but that was partially offset by the dissolved sugar. While liquorish isn’t my favorite thing in the world, I’d like to sample more because I find the history and process to make absinthe fascinating.

Chilling at an Ice Bar

As the temperature drops, the winter weather activities begin! Every year Gaylord Opryland features Ice, an indoor display of over two million pounds of ice sculptures hand-carved by 40 artisans. This year’s theme is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. (See below for an example of the carvings and a friendly abominable snowman.) The attraction comes with all sorts of festivities including an ice slide, snow tubing, ice skating, and for the adults . . . an ice bar!

ice-bar

The ice bar, like the rest of the attraction, is only 9 degrees so we were given special parkas to put over our winter wear to keep us warm. (The cold air was a dark preview of the coming months.) The parkas helped a little, but it was still pretty icy in there. The cold wasn’t too bad as long as I wasn’t trying to take pictures. Every time I had to remove my gloves my fingers received an arctic blast.

There were 3 drinks to enjoy: A Goose Island Beer; the Jolly Mint featuring Jackson Morgan Southern Cream and Hangar One Vodka; and a Merry Margarita featuring Milagro Tequila. The Jolly Mint tasted like chocolate milk and the Merry Margarita was the first tequila drink I have ever liked. It was a nice revelation.

abominable-snowman

While the ice bar was a cool experience (see what I did there?), I think it may be better suited for places like Las Vegas where you are trying to escape the heat instead of just exchanging one level of cold for another. It also made me rethink wanting to stay in an ice hotel in Québec.

This visit was also a good lesson that my current winter clothes will not cut it this December as I take my very first skiing trip (and that I should perhaps get some of those iPhone friendly gloves). Stay tuned for that adventure in the coming weeks!

Eating at a Restaurant Alone

Normally when I do something outside of my comfort zone on this blog it involves jumping out of a plane, walking on fire, or plunging into an ice-cold lake. While this week’s post seems mundane by comparison, it actually made me really uncomfortable to think about it. When I saw an article asking “Are You Ashamed to Eat Out Alone?” I decided it was time to mark this one off of the list.

Yes, I’ve grabbed a quick bite here and there by myself before. I have a favorite lunch spot back home that I sneak off to each time I visit and I’ve spent hundreds (probably thousands) of hours studying alone at coffee shops. But I have never gone to a nice restaurant and enjoyed an entire meal alone.

I set up a few ground rules:

  1. I could not go to a bar, but it was ok to sit at a bar.
  2. No technology. I had to keep my phone in my bag (though taking a photo or two was ok).
  3. I had to go to a nice local restaurant.
  4. I had to order, at the very least, a cocktail I’ve never tired, an entrée, and either an appetizer or a dessert.
  5. I could bring one piece of reading material.

Picking a restaurant was not an easy task. There are new amazing restaurants popping up in Nashville every day. The choices were limitless, but I wanted to find just the right spot. Perhaps I was over thinking it, but since the only thing I was there to enjoy was the atmosphere and food, I had to make sure both were just right. I tried to find a place I hadn’t been to, but nothing was really striking my fancy for this particular experience. I perused lists of the best restaurants in Nashville and City House seemed to pop up every single time. I’d been there before so I knew it had excellent food, a great drink selection, and I could sit at the bar and watch what was going on in the kitchen. It was perfect.

I had to work late, so I got to the restaurant after 9. I asked for a seat at the end of the bar. I settled in and ordered a drink called the Bandit, which was made of Averna, grapefruit juice, Ginger Ale, and a lime. It hit the spot.

Margherita

I ordered a margarita pizza. Usually you can order it with an egg on top, but they were out that night. Heart break! If you have not had an egg on a pizza before then you are not living life to its fullest. I had the perfect seat; I could watch the guys spin the dough and then cook the pizza right in front of me in a beautiful wood-fire oven.

Pizza Oven

To keep me company I brought a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, a book I have not read since middle school. Perhaps it is appropriate that the epigraph states, “Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.” I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure. In fact, other than in-flight magazines, I don’t think I’ve read for fun in over a year. I forgot how nice it is.

Kitchen view

For dessert I had the Honey Vanilla Panna Cotta which had fresh peaches, preserves, prosecco jelly, zabaglione, and buttermilk cornmeal cookies. This was my first time trying panna cotta. It was basically a sweet creamy gelatin dessert with some white wine jelly and fresh peaches. The peaches were sweet and fragrant; they were all I could smell while I was eating the dessert. It was absolute heaven.

Panna Cotta

I really liked eating by myself. I was nice to have some alone time at the end of the day. I particularly liked that being alone meant I got to move at my own pace. If I wanted to read for a few minutes while I contemplated having a 4th slice of pizza I could (and did). Usually I am so busy talking at dinner that I forget to eat and then have to devour the food so I don’t make people wait. This time I could eat as much as I wanted at the pace I wanted, and I enjoyed the dining experience a lot more. I even finished my entire dessert (but I did take home the last 2 slices of pizza).

Distillery Tour & A Spirit Tasting

Tennessee is synonymous with whiskey, well, really and kind of drinking. In fact, one of our state songs has an entire verse about moonshine. Wanting to embrace my adopted home, I thought touring a local distillery would be a great addition to the list. My friend Loren (from the ballet and the corn maze) joined me for a girls night out at Corsair.

Getting my corn from a jar

All the folks on Rocky Top get their corn from a jar. This is the most Tennessee thing you’ll ever see me do.

During the tour we learned about the history of Corsair, the building, and the spirit making process. To be honest, I don’t remember much of it, so this post will be short. Not because of the drinking that followed the tour, but because it was just a ton of information. Loren and I talked about doing a second tour just to take it all in (and because we had so much fun the first time).

Corsair

This machine does something, but I really don’t know what. Too sciencey for me (plus I was distracted by the distillery cat). If I recall correctly, grain is carried via a hopper, goes through a wash, and then is processed and separated. The liquid goes on to the still, and the remaining grain is taken by farmers to local farms to be added to feed. I assume there are some really drunk pigs somewhere in Middle Tennessee.

Whiskey Still

The centerpiece of the tour was a 100+ year old copper still. It is one-of-a-kind and survived Prohibition by hiding out in Canada for a few years. Unfortunately, it has no identifying plaques or markers so they don’t know the manufacturer or the exact year of creation.

Whiskey Barrels

After the spirits go through the distillation process, the liquor is put into barrels and aged. The barrel is slowly rotated so the spirits absorb the full flavor. This room smelled amazing. Well, actually it smelled exactly like what you’d think a distillery would smell like.

Whiskey Tasting

Following the tour we had a tasting of some of Corsair’s products. The tasting included their gin, spiced rum, moonshine, quinoa whiskey, and triple smoked whiskey. Loren and I aren’t big girls, so tasting straight liquor got a little overwhelming by the 5th sample. In fact, our lips went numb rather quickly. Usually I dilute whatever liquor I’m drinking in a large glass of coke (sorry connoisseurs) so I liked being able to taste the unique flavors of each drink. While I normally dislike gin (I think it tastes like rubbing alcohol), I really liked Corsair’s gin. It had a very piney flavor. Also, I could really taste the difference between the quinoa whiskey and the triple smoked whiskey .

Swizzle

After the tasting we stuck around for cocktails and a healthy mix of business and girl talk. I had a Swizzle Me Timbers which had spiced rum, lime, nutmeg, angostura (bitters), simple syrup, and absinthe. Loren had one called Messin’ with Sasquatch. Both were delicious.

Eggs Benedict & A Bloody Mary

Two and a half months ago I posted about moving across the state to start a new job. In my post, I mentioned that my next update might be a little late. I didn’t quite expect that it would come 2 1/2 months late. My tardiness is an unfortunate combination of not having internet at my house for 6 weeks and having a job that demanded more of my time than I anticipated. I am happy to report, however, that I absolutely have my dream job.

Now that things have settled down a bit, I will attempt to resume posting weekly about my adventures and new experiences. I am particularly excited because the first day of autumn is just around the corner. I’ve been looking forward to corn mazes, apple picking, haunted houses, and all the other things that are perfect for this time of year.

Thank you to everyone who posted and emailed me during my hiatus. I really appreciate all of your kind words . . . even if you were just checking to make sure I was still alive. Additionally, it looks like I’ve somehow picked up a few new followers during by absense. Welcome! I hope you enjoy the blog. (PS: Extra thank you to Kiran for encouraging me to start this up again.)

To ease back into things I thought I would start with what I intended to be for Week 26: Eggs Benedict & A Bloody Mary.

Eggs Benedict
Eggs Benedict is one of my all-time favorite indulgences. It’s rich, delicious, and the perfect Sunday brunch meal. Eggs Benedict is not named after Benedict Arnold (come on, you know you wondered too), instead it is supposedly named after a stock broker who was looking for a hangover cure in 1894.

The basic Eggs Benedict consists of an english muffin, ham or bacon, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. There are many varieties, but I decided to go for Eggs Benedict Caprese. Instead of the english muffin and meat, I went for fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.

I started with the hollandaise sauce, which is essentially eggs, lemon juice, and a ton of butter.

Eggs

Seriously, it used a lot of butter. I hope you future cardiologists are studying hard out there. I may need you one day. I refuse to substitute the fake stuff for the real thing.

Butter

The recipe I used called for a blender, but I decided to mix by hand. Partly because I actually enjoy doing things the hard way, and partly because I didn’t feel like washing a blender. This probably took a lot longer than necessary. I whisked and whisked for several minutes until the sauce finally began to thicken.

Hollandaise

Then it was time to poach the egg. I thought this would be the most difficult part, but it turned out to be surprisingly easy.

Egg Poaching 1

I read about several different methods of egg poaching, and settled on the whirlpool method. After the water comes to a simmer, you swirl the water and drop the egg into the center. The spinning water helps keep the yolk together. Above, is what the egg looked like right after I dropped it in.

Egg Poaching 2

After the egg began to turn white, I slowly swirled the water so it would not stick to the pot. I was really scared I was going to break to yolk when it came time to scoop it out, but it was a lot sturdier than it looked. I was very very pleased with how the poached egg turned out. I can’t believe I managed to do it right on my first try.

Eggs Benedict Caprese

Apparently, I missed the part of the instructions for the hollandaise that said I was supposed to keep it warm to prevent it from thickening. In the time it took me to poach the egg, it went from a beautiful, smooth, creamy sauce, to . . . well . . . something slightly thicker. I considered recreating this recipe to have something a little prettier for you all, but I decided that that wouldn’t be very authentic.

Finished Eggs Benedict

In the end, it still tasted amazing and I can’t wait to use what I learned to do things better the next time.

Bloody Mary
Let me start by saying that this is the first thing on my List that I never want to repeat again. Bloody Marys are disgusting. How do people drink these things? The cocktail generally consists of vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, horseradish, celery, black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and other vile things I can only begin to imagine. Mine had a cucumber, lemon wedge, and olive floating around it it.

Bloody Mary

The morning after a friend’s wedding a group of us went out for brunch. We were at my favorite Knoxville restaurant, so I thought it might be time to try out a Bloody Mary. When I told our waiter that I was considering having my first one, he responded, “You’ve never had a Bloody Mary!? Did you just turn 12?” I said that I wasn’t sure I would like it because I wasn’t a fan of tomato juice, but I was assured that vodka made everything taste better.

They lied. Vodka did not make it taste better. Nothing could make that horrible combination of ingredients taste better. I took one sip and that was enough for me. I tried to entice someone else to drink it so it would not go to waste, but none of the 6 people at the table wanted anything to do with it. I felt sad for my poor, neglected, unwanted Bloody Mary . . . but not enough to drink it.

Feuerzangenbowle & The Chocolate Factory

Touring a Chocolate Factory
For week 19 of my 52-week project, Leigh and I went on a tour of a chocolate factory. We visited Schakolad, a chocolate shop that makes its own sweets fresh on the premises. The tour included a brief lesson on the history of chocolate, lots of sampling, and making our own goodies.

First, we made “chocolate business cards.” This is one of the owners making his, which looked a lot better than mine. I think I spent more time eating the white chocolate out of the tube than actually writing my name.

Chocolate Businesscard
Next, we learned how to make chocolate lollypops. We made them by scooping chocolate out of the vat and filling smiley face molds and adding sticks. The molds sat on a box that vibrated to shake out any bubbles in the chocolate.

Making Chocolate Lollypops

We then moved on to dipping strawberries. It was pretty simple to do, just dip the berries in the swirling vat of chocolate and spin the berry until it was completely coated.

Dipping Stawberries

Finally, we made dark chocolate covered marshmallows. These were my favorite. So delicious. We made them by dipping our fingers in chocolate, picking up a marshmallow, covering it in chocolate, and and setting it out to harden.

Dipping Marshmellows
I wish I had pictures of the final product of everything. But, to be honest with you, the treats didn’t last very long after I got them home. I have a bit of a sweet tooth.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

I used my newly acquired skills later in the week to dip strawberries for Leigh’s going away party. They weren’t as pretty as the ones at Schakolad, but they were mighty tasty.

Feuerzangenbowle
As I mentioned above, I attended Leigh’s going away party this week. She is moving back to Germany so this will be the last time we will have an adventure together for a while. However, I am sure we still have many adventures to come. For her party she decided to prepare Feuerzangenbowle, a German fire drink traditionally served at Christmas and New Years. Feuerzangenbowle is made with mulled wine, fruit, cinnamon, cloves, rum, and a sugarloaf.

First, you add lots of red wine. Leigh said it’s best just to go with cheap wine, so you don’t waste the good stuff. Please note that the wine has no specific variety and is simply classified as “red.”

Franzia Chillable Red
After dumping 5 liters of Franzia into the pot, Leigh added oranges, lemons, and cinnamon, and let it simmer on the stove for a few hours. It smelled amazing, exactly what you would expect Christmas to smell like.

Feuerzangenbowle on Stove
Finally, it was time for the show! A cone-shaped sugarloaf is placed in a tray above the wine. The sugar is then set on fire, either by soaking it in rum and then lighting it, or by lighting the rum and slowly spooning it onto the sugar until it is completely melted. According to the instructions, you need to use 54% percent alcohol in order for it to burn properly. Leigh said she once used Bacardi 151 and that the resulting flame was terrifying.

This is Leigh’s uncle Dave and me spooning rum over the sugar.

Feuerzangenbowle Pouring

A few times the flames got pretty high and engulfed my hand or caught the spoon on fire. No injuries though!

Feuerzangenbowle Fire
I don’t remember what was happening here, but I think Leigh and I were excited to be done and that nobody caught on fire.

Feuerzangenbowle Celebration
The Feuerzangenbowle was hot, delicious, and tasted a bit like cider. It was the perfect drink to warm us up as we sat around the fire telling stories and singing Rocky Top.

Thank you to Amy Williams for letting me use her Feuerzangen-photos. Check out her Freewill Photography Facebook page!

Constitutional Law: The Music Video
Apropos of nothing, here is a video of Leigh and her uncle Dave singing about Constitutional Law. I’m going to miss her.


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