Monday, July 18, 2011

Wine Tasting

This past weekend, my husband and I decided to visit a winery for his birthday.  After a day's worth of research, I was surprised to find that we had many wineries in Texas, and disappointed that there was no need to travel to Napa Valley. At first, we were planning on making a weekend out of it- staying at a bed and breakfast and visiting the nearby winery. Who knew that it was high season, and the bed and breakfast was booked? Instead, we traveled an hour and a half to Bryan, Texas to visit the Messina Hof winery.

As a University of Texas grad (go Horns!), it felt weird to make a special trip to Bryan, Texas, but the winery was definitely worth it! While it was very hot outside, the winery was beautiful and extremely peaceful. Check out our photos of the vines below. The tiny grapes managed to have many seeds, but had an incredibly sweet taste. We sampled one, but couldn't help but grab a few more! After a brief walking tour of the winery, we ended back into the main room, where we sampled some wine!

Sweet grapes!

More sampling!

Who knew Texas was so pretty?
Barrels of Wine
I'm not a huge wine lover, so I expected to give all of my samples to my husband. To my surprise, I ended up drinking most of the wine because I finally learned how to appreciate it.

According to our tour guide, following these steps will make drinking wine that much better!
1. Swirl the wine in your glass. This helps "mix" the wine since it has been standing upright in the bottle.
2. Smell the wine. After swirling the wine, the flavor usually intensifies and the smell is wonderful! I smelled the wine before and after swirling and noticed a difference (although I could have been imagining things).
3. Finally take your first sip. Our guide told us the first sip is always different than the rest. Before swallowing, swish the wine around in your mouth- this helps bring out the flavor and makes the wine smoother. This method worked for me: I had initially taken the first sip, prior to following any of our guide's tips. The wine was extremely dry. After following his advice, the wine was super smooth. Each sip after was better than the last!

Our guide also provided various tips for drinking reds versus whites, but I found these three steps the most satisfying to my own palate. I couldn't wait to bring a bottle home and try in the comfort of my home. Try for yourself- grab your favorite bottle of wine and let me know how it tastes!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chocolate Covered Bananas

I initially started this blog to share my adventures in nutrition. However, lately I've decided I can add much more insight for readers. As a result, I decided to add a new topic to blog posts: food critiques. In an effort to be consistent  with all food reviews/critiques, I have created the "dazzling star" meter, with 5 starfruits being the best.

Ever since my experience in Malibu, I have wandered aimlessly through grocery store aisles looking for new foods to try and experiences to share. In a recent visit to the local organic grocery store, my husband and I visited the frozen foods aisle in hopes of finding a "healthy" ice cream or frozen treat. As my eyes scanned the packed shelves of frozen delicacies, I stopped when I saw this bright green box with a large picture of a chocolate covered banana:

My husband was equally interested and we purchased a (slightly pricey) box of chocolate covered bananas. We dove into this delectable treat after dinner and were pleasantly surprised. Each banana comes individually wrapped, and upon reading the box, I realized it was the same great treat that I had tried at the Taste of Chicago many years ago!

According to the nutrition facts label, each banana is 130 calories and 6 g of fat. The ones we bought were considered "babies" because it was only half a banana- a perfect serving size. In addition, we chose the heart healthy dark chocolate version (research has shown that dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are good for the heart).

You may like to try out a box this summer as well. I hope you find it refreshing!

Dazzling Starfruit meter: 

Monday, July 4, 2011


I spent the 4th of July weekend in New York City and enjoyed every minute. I lived in NYC a few years ago and missed the excitement and thrill of the city. We managed to visit all of our favorite restaurants and catch up with some old friends. I also had to get used to the extensive amount of walking- I had forgotten how exhausting that can be! It definitely showed me that I needed to work out more frequently just to keep up! My husband describes our whole weekend as a "culinary tour" of Manhattan. As a result, I have shared the names of all the restaurants we visited this weekend.

On Friday, we met up with my former coworkers in Downtown Brooklyn. It was great to see everyone - it seems like forever since I last spoke to any of them. They shared with me all the new drama going on in their lives, and the changes to the hospital. We also were able to pick up tickets to see a Broadway show. My husband is not a huge fan of musicals, so we opted for the play, The Normal Heart. We had seen an interview with Jim Parsons (from the Big Bang Theory) promoting the play which was about the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. It was quite a touching story, and I learned more about the discovery of the virus. I recommend checking out the play if you are in NYC.

Saturday morning we met up with our former roommates for brunch at a cute French place, L'Express. I still miss the incredible views of downtown Manhattan from our high rise apartment in Brooklyn, but it was good to see them and share our adventures since leaving the apartment.

The afternoon was spent shopping in SOHO, although the heat and crowded streets made me want to go back to the hotel room. We also visited the Tenement Museum found in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It was interesting to learn about immigrants who traveled to America decades ago. We were able to tour the inside of an apartment that had not been inhabited since the 1930s and was discovered in the 80s. Everything was kept in its original condition.

In keeping with our culinary tour, my brother-in-law recently moved to NYC and wanted to visit Little Italy. With recommendations from friends, we abandoned the idea of Little Italy since it was too touristy, and tried Otto Pizzeria, an Italian restaurant near NYU, owned by Mario Batali (Food Network Chef). The food was outstanding, but the ambience was loud and sometimes we were unable to hear our own conversations.

Sunday morning, the rain altered our plans somewhat, but we were still willing to wait in line for one of our favorite brunch places, Good Enough to Eat. As a dietitian, I feel guilty recommending this, but the restaurant has the best strawberry butter and biscuits. It's a good thing I no longer live in the city!

In the afternoon, we visited the new High Line park. Living on the West Side near Hell's Kitchen for a year, I was disappointed that the park was not developed until after I moved away. The High Line was created in the 1930s to prevent freight trains from traveling the streets of Manhattan. In 2009, the High Line opened as a public park, gradually opening sections of the park where it will eventually be a mile and a half long. We started at 30th street and walked a mile throughout  the park. Check out the views from the High Line below. This was definitely a great way to work in some physical activity while still enjoying NYC without the traffic and noise.

Rainbow City (AOL sponsored at High Line Park)

Water Fountain in High Line Park that offers friendly advice
View from High Line Park

We also picked up a tram in Midtown Manhattan to travel to Roosevelt Island. Decades ago it was inhabited by a prison, but since then the island has been gentrified, now offering high-rise condos and co-ops. The island has a spectacular view of Manhattan, and is a definite must see for any tourist.
View from tram to Roosevelt Island
View of Manhattan from Roosevelt Island

We ended the weekend with our SECOND stop to Buttercup Bake Shop . This is one of my all time favorite places for dessert. We first stopped in on Friday for sweet treats, specifically the banana pudding because it is the BEST that I have ever had....maybe one day I can get the recipe from them, unless any of you know it, please share!!! On the train ride back to the airport on Monday, we savored every last bite of banana pudding. Who knows when I will have a chance to go back?

To sum it all up, I miss you NYC, but I always look forward to reuniting!

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