Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Get Lucky.

Celeste Shaw is a longtime collector of farm-style antiques and salvaged goods. Her junking passion is represented in her uniquely and delightfully decorated restaurant Chaps in Latah Valley. As if she wasn't busy enough, Shaw’s barn was bursting with inventory and she was destined to open a retail outlet and we're thrilled she did.

Lucky Detour is a one-of-a-kind home d├ęcor store in the cool space that was formerly a gas station in Vinegar Flats. Lucky Detour is filled with fabulous orphaned and repurposed home furnishing and accessories. The inventory includes traditional and sundry items such as restyled furniture, historic lighting fixtures, vintage signs and the occasional library card catalog curio. Reclaimed and shabby-chic finds that are rich in character, some with unknown histories, mingled with carefully chosen new items. Frequent visits are recommended since the merchandise is rotated regularly.

Warning...shopping at Lucky Detour is habit forming.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tiny Bubbles

Nothing quite says “party” like a glass of bubbly. The festive libation exuberantly sets the tone for any gathering with lively sophistication. But when considering what cork to pop, you maybe wondering if all bubbles are created equal. The difference comes down to geography, but sometimes the particular grapes and the method in which the wine is created are also differentiators

In order to officially be referred to as Champagne, the bubbly needs to be from the Champagne region of France and made in accordance with specific guidelines referred to as ‘Methode Champenoise.’ Basically, this procedure means the bubbles come from a secondary fermentation in the bottle rather than carbonation. This strict process requires aging of at least 15 months, which means that the Champagne is kept in the bottle with the sediment that forms and is gradually turned and inverted until it’s time for the sediment to be removed. Vintage Champagne requires it be cellared for three years or more before the sediment that gathers in the bottle’s neck is removed. Three grape varieties are blended in a process called “assemblage”: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. The traditional French method also requires the bottles to be turned, or riddled, by hand. If it’s from France, but not from the Champagne region, it is often referred to as Cremant. Despite the strict labeling laws, many use the word Champagne as a generic term and associate the iconic wine with the lavish lifestyle of the rich and famous.

If you’re searching for a more affordable style, both Prosecco and Cava are similar yet usually less expensive. Prosecco is a sparkling white wine made with Glera grapes, grown in the Veneto region of Italy. It has a past reputation of being sweet and low quality, but that’s old news as today’s Prosecco, made with modern methods, is often indistinguishable from Champagne. With Prosecco, the Italian Charmat method is applied in which the second fermentation takes place in steel tanks rather than individual bottles. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine that can either be white or rose. Like Champagne, in order for it to be called Cava, it needs to be from a specific region and be made in a particular way. In Spain, most Cava comes from Catalonia and is made in a similar way to Champagne. Freixenet and Codorniu are the grape varieties most commonly used in Cava. In terms of taste, Prosecco is arguably the closest Champagne knock-off and an ideal and agreeable aperitif to greet you at a party. Prosecco is usually quite fruity, but varies in regards to sweetness or dryness. Prosecco is soft and approachable. In comparison, Cava typically has more bubbles and a less sweet flavor. One can expect Cava to have a hint of citrus and at times an earthy essence. Cava makes a fantastic nightcap or post dinner indulgence.

Returning to North America, domestic bubbly is referred to as Sparkling Wine and is made with various methods, from mimicking France’s traditional method to Italy’s Charment method. There is no restriction on time in the bottle and favorable climates, especially in California and Washington states, which allow for a vintage wine to be produced almost every year. Current U.S. regulations banned the term “Champagne” from any wine produced outside the coveted French region after 2006. In Washington state, there are over 760 wineries, yet less than 10 make sparkling wine. This could be because Americans associate the festive wine only with special occasions, rather than as an everyday wine. This thinking is due for a change as any day can be a sparkling one.

As early as 1984, Mountain Dome Winery in Spokane began producing a high quality sparkling wine utilizing Methode Champenoise, which included hand riddling and bottle aging from two to seven years. Mountain Dome’s Brut with the whimsical gnome label (nicknamed Gnome Perignon) is a quality everyday sparkler that retails for under $18 a bottle. Don Townshend of Townshend Cellars recently purchased Mountain Dome, retaining second-generation winemaker Eric Manz. The sparkling wine can currently be tasted at the new Townshend Tasting room in the Green Bluff area of North Spokane. Another Washington state option is Karma Vineyards, which is located off the south shore of Lake Chelan. Karma Vineyards opened in 2007 and, like Mountain Dome, is producing quality sparkling wines also using the Methode Champenoise. Karma Vineyards has 14-acres of vineyards and an underground  wine cave that provides great temperature control for the bottles, as well as good acoustics. The winery has blossomed into a popular place for weddings and soirees.

If you still want to explore your bubbly options, go see John Allen at Vino! located just off 2nd Avenue on Washington Street in downtown Spokane, or Matt Dolan at the Rocket Market, atop Spokane’s South Hill off of 42nd Avenue. These knowledgeable wine guys can recommend bubbly at all price points from pretty much any region. Both Vino! and The Rocket Market have popular wine classes and tastings to further your knowledge of bubbles, the happiest wine you can pour.

Bubbly is not just for fancy parties and toasting; rather, food-friendly bubbly might just be the most versatile wine for pairing. Unless the meal includes steak or a very sweet dessert, bubbly is pretty much a sure thing. Bubbly traditionally contains high levels of acidity and a small amount
of sugar. Those two extremes compliment elements in the wide variety of food. From spicy Thai food and mild salmon to boxed mac & cheese, pizza and even popcorn…if in doubt, pour bubbles. Although it sounds almost wrong, bubbles even pair well with junk food. Like other wines, bubbly can range in sweetness. Extra-Brut has 0-6 grams of sugar per liter, meaning this is the driest of
dry, unsweetened. Brut contains less than 15 grams of sugar per liter and is the most
common style, with no sweetness. Extra Dry has 12-20 grams of sugar, giving a hint of sweetness. It gets sweeter as you move to Sec with 17-35 grams and Demi-Sec with 33-55 grams. The last stop is Doux, with more than 55 grams, which is considered dessert wine. Americans tend to reserve bubbly for special occasions but since quality bubbly can be found under $15 a bottle, we need to take another hint from the French and consider it an everyday wine.

Laurie L. Ross is a freelance writer, and the author of the popular Spokane blog, sipofspokane.com

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cabin Fever

I've been a consistently published freelance writer for almost 7 years. Mostly, I write for guidebooks, magazines and social media for cash. But sometimes I write for wine, concert tickets, art and even dinner and lodging. In radio, we called it trade-io. Part cash, part trade is always the ideal kind of trade. You still get paid but you get to fully experience what you're writing about. Though it's never been a full-time gig, I love to write.

I've always dreamed of having a writing cabin. Sometimes I imagine it being in the mountains or by the ocean. I even like the idea of it being a slightly larger potting shed in the backyard. Besides having a good WIFI connection it's always been pretty rustic in my thoughts. It would have a place to dream (nap), lots of books, a thermos of coffee and bottles of wine. Of course, it would also have a proper desk at which to write near a window. Here's some pictures worth at least ten thousand words.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Cheater" Chicken Chili

Maureen posted this on Facebook and I thought I'd give it a try. I renamed it "Cheater" Chicken Chili because it's not  from scratch. Shh...they'll never know. 

mixed it up a bit by using sharp cheddar, Fritos, salsa and diced avocados. 

Paired with Nodland Cellars Bebop, a dry riesling. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread Recipe

Preheat oven to 350. 

Cream 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup sugar together.
Mix  3/4 Cup canned pumpkin and 2 eggs. 
Blend in 1 3/4 flour and 1 tsp baking soda and a dash of salt. 
Add 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp Nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves. 
Stir in 3/4 or desired amount of chocolate chips. 

Bake in traditional loaf pan or 2 mini loaf pans for 1 hour. 

ENJOY! This recipe makes one loaf. I double it to make 2 at a time of 4 mini loafs as shown.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I remember...

This is the story of how the poppy came to be known as an internationally recognized symbol of Remembrance.

From its association with poppies flowering in the spring of 1915 on the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli this vivid red flower has become synonymous with great loss of life in war.
Yet the scope of the poppy and its connection with the memory of those who have died in war has been expanded to help the living as well. Funds continue to be raised to support those in need of help, most especially those suffering from physical and mental hardship as a result of war. In recognition for financial support of any amount a single red poppy pin would be given. In my hometown in the lower mainland of British Columbia you would be hard pressed not to know what day it was as the cheery red bloom would don almost every coat, scarf and sweater.

Similar to the Salvation Army ringing the bell at Christmas, veterans and volunteers would flood public places exchanging poppy pins for donations. My parents would always make a donation and receive a poppy pin or two. After wearing it on her lapel, my mother would affix it to the visor of driver's window of our car. We remembered long after November 11th as with each ride in the car it greeted us until it became dusty and therefore replaced on an annual basis. Each November 11th my father would flawlessly recite the beloved Canadian poem as my sister and I would at least try to be a cooperative and attentive audience of two. To this day the first stanza of the poem is etched in my memory in my father's voice.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

The sight of these delicate, vibrant red flowers growing on the shattered ground caught the attention of a Canadian soldier named John McCrae. He noticed how they had sprung up in the disturbed ground of the burials around the artillery position where he was positioned. It was during a warm day in early May 1915 near the Ypres-Yser canal where he is believed to have composed the landmark poem following the death of his friend, a fellow solider. The first lines of the poem have become some of the most famous lines written in relation to the First World War.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

I remember. Thank you, Mom & Dad for instilling the meaning to this day. Home of the free because of the brave. Thank you to those who serve and have served. I am grateful.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

FALL in love.

Hello November, I'm already FALLin for you.

FALL in love. 
I adore the symphony of the autumn leaves as they change into brilliant colors for their big moment. I'm fascinated as they descend from the trees in an almost choreographed succession. I'm especially fond of the leaves that get distracted by the wind and end up in an unplanned destination. They still made it but chose to take the scenic route. Autumn is amazing, Please, hold your applause until the end of the performance. LLR

Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

TJ Clements went to Thailand. While he was there he took a cooking class and brought me back a cookbook. This recipe for Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup it's from that cookbook and pairs perfectly with Nodland Cellers Bebop Dry Riesling. The coconut milk tames the spice. This soup is my idea of comfort food. 

Cheers & Enjoy! 

Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

2 teaspoons canola oil 
1 cup sliced mushrooms 
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper 
4 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (3-inch) stalk lemongrass, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
3 cups Chicken Stock 
1 1/4 cups light coconut milk
4 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar 
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 8 ounces) 
1/2 cup green onion strips 
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Hands-on: 25 Minutes
Total: 32 Minutes

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and the next 4 ingredients (through lemongrass); cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chile paste; cook 1 minute. 

Add Chicken Stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 10 minutes. Add chicken to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Discard lemongrass. Top with onions, cilantro, and juice.