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!

Flavor Tripping: The Miraculous Power of the Miracle Berry

It sounds like something only Willy Wonka could dream up: a berry that makes everything sweeter. Well, it is real and it is magical. Or, I should say, it is miraculous. The miracle berry causes sour, tangy, or tart foods to taste as if they have been dipped in sugar.

miracle berries

Photo by MiracleFruitFarm

It is called “flavor tripping,” and no, miracle berries are not a drug. This little red marvelous fruit originates in West Africa and its use was first documented in the 1700s. Local tribes used it before consuming sour cornbread, bland oatmeal gruel, and palm wine.

Miracle berries contain the chemical “miraculin,” which turns your tastebuds topsy turvy. Miraculin binds to your sweet taste receptors and sends them into overdrive if the pH of your mouth drops into the acidic range from something sour. In other words, it turns lemons into lemonade. The sweet effect lasts for 1-2 hours.

If you don’t have access to miracle berries you can buy them in pill form (the only ingredients are miracle fruit powder and corn starch).

mberry tablet

You place a tablet on your tongue and let it dissolve. As Morpheus explained, “You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

morpheus-red-pill

We tried an assortment of lemons, limes, blackberries, strawberries, kiwis, apples, grapes, prunes, cranberry juice, and balsamic vinegar. I reached for the lemon first. It tasted like it was covered in sugar and the normal tartness of the fruit was nowhere to be found. The same was true for the lime. It reminded me fruit slice candy. All of the fruit tasted sweeter than normal, but the strawberries tasted like they were sprinkled with fine powdered sugar. The most interesting flavor transition was that of the balsamic vinegar. The miracle berry transformed it into a sweet, thick, grape juice.

A few days after my first experiment, I did a second tasting of grapefruit, pomegranate, more lemons (yum), jalapeños, onion, pickles, and coffee. Once again, the fruit tasted extra sweet and the pickles did as well. The onion still tasted like an onion (yuk) but the jalapeño was rendered virtually tasteless, it lost all of its kick. The best part of experiment number two was the coffee. The straight black coffee became creamy and sweet.

miracle-berry-tasting

If you want to try flavor tripping, just make your own tasting menu with a variety of foods to explore. The miracle berry can have some lingering effects so it is best to try it at the end of the evening when you are done eating for the day. In other words, don’t try to have a glass of wine post-tasting. It will not go over well.

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).

Murder Mystery Dinner Theater

This week I went to my first murder mystery dinner theater. The Murder Mystery Company hosted Murder at the Masquerade, a Billionaires’ Annual Masquerade Ball that takes a turn when one of the guests is killed. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, so I’ll go light on the details.

My friend Jamie, from my hang gliding adventure, joined me for the evening. Mona the French Maid greeted us at the door and led us back to the party. When we walked it, we were interrogated and had our mug shots taken. Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of it to share.

Murder

While we were waiting for the show to begin we were served our first course and chatted with the other guests at our table. Each table a guide to Billionaire’s slang, a/k/a “How to speak like a 1 percenter.”  Some of the sections were “Taxes = What poor people pay,” “Laws = A minor inconvenience,” and “Place in the Hamptons = Billionaire camping.”

Not long after the show began, someone was murdered! Oh no!

Detective

Fortunately, a trusty decretive soon arrived. Members of the audience were pulled into the action, and may were suspects for the crime.

One of the best audience participants was a guy named “Shady Fingers” (below) a known pickpocket (who was unsuccessfully trying to kick the habit). Both the suspects and the interrogators moved around during interrogation breaks. The interrogators tried to get clues to solve the crime. Shady, however, spent his time stealing things from other guests’ tables, which resulted in a pretty impressive bounty at the end of the evening.

Interrogation

At the end of the evening the murderer was reveled … but who it was, I’ll never tell!

They have at least 8 different themes, so they change the show every 4-6 months. I can’t wait to go back for another performance!

3-Day Juice Cleanse

I woke up the first day of the cleanse absolutely starving; this did not bode well for the weekend. I went to the Center of Symmetry (where I tried chakra cleansing a few month ago) to pick up my first batch of juices. I got a carrying case filled with bright beautiful tropical drinks. It wasn’t what I was excepting and I was suddenly very excited about the cleanse.

With the first set of four juices I recieved a packet of chia seeds to add to the juices, a snack for the day, and antioxidant tea. I also received a packet of information about the cleanse, which is the first time I’ve ever had a meal that came with instructions.

Juice Cleanse Day 1

My first drink of the day was “Chipper Elixir,” which contained mango, orange, and pineapple. It was delicious! And, believe it or not, it actually made me chipper. I had a lot more energy after drinking it than I do on most mornings.

Two hours later I got to try my next juice: “Metaboost” which contained lemon, apple, and cayenne pepper. My first reaction was “WOW!” It tasted like an apple and a pepper made sweet sweet love. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I suppose it all depends on your feelings on fruit-vegetable procreation. (Yes, I know a pepper is actually a fruit).

Metaboost Juice

Finally I got to have my mid-day snack, approximately 1 cup of nuts and berries. I’ve never been so excited about trail mix. Halfway through stuffing my face as fast as humanly possible, I realized that I was supposed to have my “snack” after my third drink of the day. Drat! I packed up my trail mix and exchanged it for my lunchtime “Pick Me Up” drink (cucumber, kale, apple, and lime). Not only did it taste like cucumbers, it made my office smell like cucumbers.

Detox Trail Mix

My last drink of the day was “Immunitude” which was comprised of apples, carrot, beets, and ginger. Despite being super hungry, I just couldn’t finish this drink. The ginger was a little over powering and made the drink gritty. Once I let the grit settle, it wasn’t so bad, but I had to leave about 1/4 of it behind.

It was around this time that I started craving food. ALL of the food. Anything I saw on TV I wanted. I wasn’t certain how I was going to make it through the rest of the weekend.

The next day I went to the Center of Symmetry to pick up my second day of juices and have a massage. The massage was part of my cleanse package and a great way to start a Saturday morning, However, at one point I was talking to the massage therapist about this winter and how it snowed a lot when I first moved to Nashville 11 years ago. He responded, “I remember that, I think that was my 7th grade year.” I felt super old. Although he did make up for it later by telling my I was really flexible.

Juice Cleanse Day 2

The juices for day two were good, but not as good as they were day 1. Or, perhaps I was just getting tired of drinking juice. Day 2’s juices were: Invigorate (apple, lemon, and ginger), Replenish (cucumber, apple, and coconut water), Power Boost (apple, kale, pineapple, and ginger), and Vitality (apple, carrot, and spinach).

Green beans and carrot chips

I spent most of my day being really hungry and fantasizing about food. At one point all I could think about was 7-11 nachos and cheese. However, once I had my daily snack of green beans and carrot chips I felt much better. (No, really, they were good!)

By day 3 I wasn’t as hungry, I got over most of my cravings, and I was less grumpy about my liquid diet. Yet, I yearned for Monday when I could eat solid food again.

Juice Cleanse Day 3

The juices for day 3 were: Awake (orange, carrot, and ginger), Refresher (strawberry, apple, spinach, and lemon) (yum!), Beta Cleanser (red grape, beet, apple, and strawberry) (super yum!), and 20/20 (tomato, celery, carrot, and lemon) (not so yum). By day 3 I never wanted to see ginger or any ginger-related products again.

Dried Fruit

It felt like my body got used to the new diet by day 3. I see why people can do longer cleanses. After a while, it just feels kind of normal.

I thought I might feel rundown or weak during the cleanse, but I had just as much energy, if not more, than I normally do. However, I didn’t feel the same beneficial effects that my friends reported after doing juice cleanses. They’ve said they’ve felt healthier, “lighter,” and have even lost weight. I am a vegetarian and eat lightly in general, so I don’t think I benefitted the way others do. I had no expectations or goals going into this, so I don’t feel let down.

A friend of my did the cleanse with me (misery loves company) and she said that she plans to incorporate juices into her everyday diet and use this as a launching point to be more selective about what she eats. Other than going back to the Center of Symmetry occasionally to have more of the juices I really enjoyed, I don’t plan to incorporate juicing into my diet.

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