Monday, June 8, 2015

PEGGED! What Your Signature Drink Says About You.

Article starts on page 175 FRESH INK!

While you may order many different drinks over the course of your life, there will always be that one to fall back on. Your signature drink. Just like your car or your go-to karaoke song, it says something about you. To help you identify your perfect signature drink, we have paired a number of libations and the characteristics they may portray.
Domestic Beer: Boring can be viewed as dependable. It’s all about the way you look at it. If this is your signature drink, you’re loyal and not trying to impress anyone. You like rock or country, but alternative music is foreign to you and you’d like to keep it that way. Domestic beer is safe and predictable, just like you; however, you may risk missing out on adventure.
Imported Beer: Sadly, you think you’re better than the domestic beer drinker. Essentially you’re not, but you pay more for your beer. You fancy yourself interesting and worldly even if you haven’t ventured out of the Pacific Northwest. Often the imported beer drinker doesn’t really think it’s better, especially after a few, but they don’t want to be perceived as boring. So they pay a little more.
Microbrew: You think outside the box and don’t adhere to the status quo (at least that’s how you perceive yourself). Maybe that’s true. Your dream is to own your own microbrewery. You like indie music and bands that don’t get airplay. You see yourself as really interesting and throw out beer terms to prove you really should own a brewery. You’re comfortable with your income status and look for those who appreciate strong or hoppy beer like you do. They’ll be your future business partners. But, you’ll spend more time researching/drinking than actually writing a business plan. That’s okay— at least it makes you feel productive while drinking beer.
Blended Strawberry Margarita: If this is your signature drink, you’re most likely a girl. Let’s be honest, you don’t really like the taste of alcohol but you like to fit in and look like you know how to have a good time. They go down like a Slurpee and before you know it, your dance moves are as loose as your lips. You quickly call your friends the next morning to recap and quite possibly apologize.
Scotch: Young scotch drinkers are attempting to make a statement even if they have to drink something they are still trying to acquire a taste for. Older scotch drinkers are charming, refined and know their limits, but aren’t above drinking games. As scotch is not a spirit that most people start out liking, you are most likely persistent. Because of this, bartenders respect you.
Wine: It really depends on the wine, but many wine drinkers are okay with being known as the classier-than-others wine snobs. They enjoy name-dropping labels, throwing out weird wine lingo and therefore feel rather fancy. White Zinfandel means you’re new to wine. You don’t know what to order but like the idea of drinking wine, even if you don’t find most wines drinkable. Many wine drinkers often start exclusively with white and then graduate to exclusively red. But the sophisticated palate then rediscovers interesting whites as well and switches it up depending on the region or pairing. The true wine lover may break out the Platinum Amex for a good bottle, but could also get excited to find affordable, quality wine that may be indulged daily. They also like the thrill of discovering an up and coming winemaker that no one knows about….yet. Wine drinkers are thinkers with depth, and though they have a casual approach to wine, they are still pretty serious about it.
Vodka Cranberry: Again you don’t really like alcohol, but don’t want to be left out. You lack imagination and possibly have a fake ID on you.
Martini: You may truly be classy, but there’s a good chance you’re a fake and want to be perceived as a VIP of some kind. You can tell the difference by the way a martini is ordered. The true giveaway that you’re a poser is the James Bond line of ordering a martini: “shaken, not stirred” as well as being disappointed if it doesn’t come in the v-shaped glass so everyone knows what your drinking as you hold the glass high for all to see. The refined martini drinker doesn’t drink it for show and truly cares about the details, from the particular spirit to the garnish.
Rum & Coke: You are basically the hard liquor version of the domestic beer drinker. You’re traditional and again, that can be a good thing. It may have been your first mixed drink and darn it, you’re sticking with it.
Gin & Tonic: You’re clean, crisp and straightforward. An older relative most likely drank this in front of you when you were a child and you decided it was still refreshing, but grown up. Either that, or you fancy yourself with a place at the lake and it’s a drink you can slowly sip all day.
Old- Fashioned: You’re a throwback to a simpler, rustic time. But you’re also modern, yet sensible. You really like the taste of bourbon any which way it’s poured. You may like a twang in your country music or go for jazz and blues.
Mint Julep: You’re a Southerner…or at least you want to be one. You’re fancy and maybe over-accessorized right down to the greenery in your glass. You love the Kentucky Derby and seek smooth comfort in your glass. You don’t slur when you order, but have been known to adopt a Southern drawl.
Long Island Ice Tea: You like variety and have a taste bud for every type of liquor. You’re a risk taker because if you have more than one you are likely to make a poor decision. You’re really okay with that. You long for a tropical vacation and an umbrella in your drink.
Jack Daniels: Well, you definitely like to have a good time no matter what. You like classic rock, some country and don’t care what others think. You’re honest to a rebellious fault and may be looking for trouble. Whiskey girls are party girls that can drink with the boys. When Sweet Home Alabama is played in the bar you act like it’s your anthem— even if you’ve never been south of Colorado. Oh, and Sundays are about NASCAR.
Tequila: There are two types of tequila drinkers. The first one is throwing back shots. The goal? To get drunk. Let’s face it— this drinker just wants to be reckless and then blame it on the alcohol. Do you not know your friends are getting tired of taking care of you? The second tequila drinker is a true connoisseur of the Mexican spirit and can slowly sip it without showing any of its potent effects. To this drinker, the brand matters. It’s pretty easy to discern these two tequila drinkers from each other.
If you’re still in search of a go-to drink, consult a good bartender who can, over several visits, take you through the classics, as well as introduce you to some new concoctions.
And if you don’t like what your signature drink “says about you,” speak up and prove your libation companions wrong!
Laurie L. Ross is the author of Sip of Spokane, the popular local wine blog,
As published in Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living magazine June 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

By request...the best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies EV-ER.

Few can deny that peanut butter and chocolate are a blissfully delicious match. In fact, they just may be dynamic duo of a baking world. This recipe is simple yet brilliant as when these iconic flavors are combined and baked, the result is simply irresistible.

The peanut butter cookie recipe was inherited from my sweet Grannie who never bought a bakery item in her life. She made everything from scratch but always welcomed an eager grandchild to assist her in the kitchen.  I can recall the smell of her baked goods engulfing her small home and practically luring us there for frequent visits.  Fast forward to my grown-up kitchen where there are many a shortcut made except when it comes to cookies. My boys were raised to pass on store boxed cookies and often initiated that we bake together.  One day, we strayed from the recipe and tossed in chocolate chips and a new twist on a classic cookie became our family tradition. It doesn't have to be complicated to be divinely delicious. But be warned, this recipe is highly addictive. 

: These irresistible cookies go so well with Spokane blissful blends.

Townshend's T3 and Vortex

Latah Creek's Vinosity and Monarch Red
Barrister's Rough Justice
Arbor Crest's Dionysus
Grande Ronde's Cellar Red
Nodland's Private Reserve
Whitestone's Pieces of Red 
Robert Karl Claret

How do I know this? Research. Lots of research.


Warning: These cookies are highly addictive.


• 3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter 
• 1/2 cup Shortening
• 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
• 3 Tablespoons milk
• 1 Tablespoon vanilla
• 1 egg
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 3/4 cup chocolate chips


• Preheat oven to 375ºF.
• Place sheets of foil on countertop for cooling cookies or use a cooling rack.
• Combine peanut butter, shortening, light brown sugar, milk and    vanilla in large bowl.
• Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.
• Add egg. Beat just until blended.
• Combine flour, salt and baking soda.
• Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix just until blended.
• Stir in chocolate chips
• Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
• Flatten slightly in crisscross pattern with tines of fork.
• Bake at 375ºF for 7 to 8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown.
• Makes 3 dozen cookies


Repeat if necessary.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Cup of Kindnesss


      That morning was like so many others - I was running late and frazzled that the coffee drive-thru was annoyingly slow. Fumbling through my handbag, I realized my wallet hadn't made the trip. I pulled up to the window, counting out loose change when the barista informed me the car in front of me paid my bill. Grateful and shocked, I dumped the change in tip jar and blissfully drove away. That random act of kindness turned around what started as a less than stellar day. That one cup of kindness brought such joy that years later, I'm telling you about it.

     Let's say I didn't just forget my wallet through, and the coffee I craved wasn't financially possible. How much more would I appreciate each sip? Kindness comes in many forms. It can be random acts done anonymously, specific acts done with intention, boldly with fanfare or quietly from the heart. The list goes on, but one thing is constant, kindness has the a ripple effect and apparently can come in a cup.

     Boots Bakery & Lounge, an indy coffee shop located in downtown Spokane may just be the anti-Starbucks. Bright turquoise facade, soaring ceilings, mismatched chairs, local art, an inspiring vegan menu and a heart. This locally owned gathering place has a serious commitment to what's been coined as "suspended coffee." The way it works is when you place an order, you add on one or more extra coffees. Those extra or suspended coffees are then banked for when someone needs to be spotted for their coffee. No questions asked. For those financially challenged, or simply someone who forgot their wallet, can order a suspended coffee. The ripple effect of kindness envelops this friendly gathering place and is reflected by the staff and the patrons. Boots Bakery & Lounge is riding the wave of the suspended coffee movement as a warm cup of kindness can be counted on when needed.

     In the end, only kindness matters. Anonymous random acts of kindness expect nothing in return. Not even a thank you. The only thing you can do is pay it forward. So, would you buy a stranger coffee? You should try it. It feels awesome for both the giver and the recipient.

Boots Bakery & Lounge is located at 24 West Main Ave. in downtown Spokane, and is open Monday – Tuesday, 6 AM – 6 PM; Wednesday – Saturday, 6 AM to 10 PM; Sundays 6 AM to 6 PM, 509.703-7223.

As published in Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living magazine May 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

You're the Wine to my Cheese.

#Wine & #Cheese, quite possibly the dynamic duo of the culinary world. Here's a guide for perfect pairing.

(Graphic Credit: Wine Folly)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Wine Friday!

Wine Chateau sent 3 bottles of wine for SIP to try. One from Paris, one from Italy and one from Argentina. No passport required. So Wine Friday happened at the office. The overwhelming favorite amongst Windermere City Group Realtors was this Malbec from Argentina. Malbec is a grape on the move gaining in popularity. Argentina does it so very well. 
Yes, you may want to try 2011 Terrazas Reserva Malbec.
Wine Chateau sells a large selection of fine wines at excellent prices. Free shipping on case orders. WineChateau®

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Happiest Happy Hours

Where should you go if you’re starting early or want to combine a couple appetizers for dinner? Then there’s style to consider. Around our region you’ll find casual watering holes, classy hotel lounges and everything in-between. Then there’s the curious Spokane trend of teensy-weensy drinking establishments. The following is an eclectic mix of some of our area’s offerings.

Mini Bars (not the in-room, hotel type)

Baby Bar
827 W. 1st Ave (Downtown Spokane)
Low on capacity, high on service. This tiny, well… “baby-sized” bar is located on the corner of 1st and Lincoln across from the Davenport Hotel. The bar is actually nestled behind Neato Burrito and has very limited seating with no plans of expanding. What’s big here is the fresh squeezed juice for some of the best-made cocktails around. Baby Bar also is a strong contender for the best jukebox. This place is quirky in the hippest way.
*Happiest Hours are Monday through Friday 5-7:30 p.m. $1 PBR and $4 wells.

926 W. Garland Ave (Garland District – North Spokane)
This small bar is like a concession stand for adults and is located just off the lobby entrance to the historic Garland Theater. Retro styled with well-crafted classic cocktails and awesome rotating micros on tap. Intimate yes, but still welcoming to those who aren’t yet regulars.
*Happiest Hours are Monday through Thursday 4-7 p.m., and all day Saturday. $5 Signature cocktails, $3 drafts.

El Que
141 Cannon St (Browne’s Addition – West Downtown)
A taco truck-sized bar west of downtown in historic Browne’s Addition. Expect street style tacos and other hand-held foods, remarkable guacamole, Mexican beer and an impressive lineup of house infused tequilas.
*Happiest Hours are non-traditional, such as Monday $2 Modelo, $5 Bloody Marias (yes, that’s correct, Marias) on Sundays, and other random daily specials.

Classy Hotel Lounges

Safari Room Fresh Grill & Bar at the Davenport Tower
10 S. Post St (Downtown Spokane)
Welcome to the elegant jungle complete with exotic zebra-print furniture, carved elephant busts and a full size fiberglass tiger watching over the bar. Complimentary valet parking for all guests with a minimum $10 purchase. Half-off HH is awesome and you can sweeten the adventure with mini shot-glass desserts that run just $2 each.
*Happiest Hours are 4-6 p.m. daily. 1/2 off flat bread and 1/2 off all wine and beer.

Lakeview Lounge at the Coeur d’Alene Resort
115 S. 2nd Ave (Downtown Coeur d’Alene)
This waterfront lounge has a cool vibe and an expansive lake view. You’ll find this plush bar on the seventh floor of the lavish Coeur d’Alene Resort. Expect new twists on classic martinis, creative food options and access to Beverly’s 30,000-bottle wine collection. There’s live jazz guitar on Tuesdays that pairs well with the non-stop lake views.
*Happiest Hours: Daily from 4-6 p.m. $3 off all wine pours, $3 off all house specialty drinks and $1 off bottled beers plus food specials, starting at $3 for house-made chips to $8 for a lobster corndog with several options in-between.

Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops at the Double Tree Inn
322 N. Spokane Falls Ct. (Downtown Spokane, near the Convention Center)
It is here where our area’s movers and shakers gather. Spencer’s is the ideal place for an impressive power lunch or an elegant carnivore dinner. Definitely an establishment where you splurge, but the Happy Hour in the in-restaurant lounge is a delicious option with a substantial 1/2-price offer.
*Happiest Hours: 4-6 p.m. daily in the Lounge. 1/2 off entire the bar menu, which includes some outstanding and creative food items.

Hip & Causal

22 W. Main St. (Downtown Spokane)
Crazy cheap happy hour in a historical building with retro-industrial decor. The urban salvaged look is complete with vintage tilt-a-whirl booths and license plate paneling. The steady stream of live music adds to the ambiance and makes it hard to leave.
*Happiest Hours: Monday through Saturday, from 3-6 p.m. and all day Sunday. $5 tapas style menu, $3 wells and $1 select drafts.

Butcher Bar
404 W. Main (Downtown Spokane)
Tucked in-between Santé and Auntie’s Bookstore in the historic Liberty Building, Butcher Bar specializes in the classics with creative license and local flavor influences. This is Sante’s casual bar offering that’s walk-in friendly with the same quality and attention to detail you’ve come to expect from Chef Jeremy and Kate Hanson. This intimate bar could also be considered a “Mini Bar” due to its limited capacity.
*Happiest Hours: 3-5 p.m. daily, which they’ve dubbed “social hour,” features 1/2-price hand-crafted cocktails.

Moon Time
1602 E. Sherman #116 (Downtown Coeur d’Alene)
This is the Idaho sister of Spokan’e Elk. Expect a casually cool pub house-atmosphere with grubbing good food and rotating taps.
* Happiest Hours: $1 pints on Thursdays from 9 p.m. until the keg blows. Weekly hearty food specials are consistently posted on their Facebook page.

As published in Spokane Coeur d'Alene magazine March 2015 issue

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


graphic credit: diningindc

Congratulations from some fine folks on Linkedin reminded me that today is my blogiversary.
WOW 6 years! Time flies when you're sipping #wine. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Vine to Wine

The process of making wine has existed for thousands of years. Although nature provides the ingredients, a winemaker must guide and enhance the process. There are five basic steps in making wine: harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, aging and bottling. Winemakers can make endless, and often meticulous, modifications in the process, and those variations can result in remarkable wines. The Pacific Northwest is home to many outstanding winemakers, and their wines have the world taking notice.

Cave B

step 1: Harvesting

The winemaking process begins with harvesting the grapes. Grapes produce enough sugar to yield sufficient alcohol for wine. Moreover, no other fruit has the requisite acids, esters and tannins to make natural, stable wine on a consistent basis. For this reason, most winemakers acknowledge that, “wine is made in the vineyard.” In order to make fine wine, grapes must be picked at just the right time. The winemaker or vineyard manager carefully watches the fruit and has a crew ready when the decision is made to harvest the grapes. A combination of science and old-fashioned tasting go into determining the optimum time to harvest. 

Northstar Winery is a sterling example of a vineyard whose perfectly timed harvests lead to superb wines. Founded in 1994, Northstar produces world-class merlots from the Walla Walla and Columbia Valleys. A Washington merlot is bigger and more complex than that of other regions, and this winery showcases those differences brilliantly. Northstar winemaker David “Merf” Merfeld artfully blends other Bordeaux grapes, such as cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc, with the merlot. He spends a significant amount of time tasting grapes in the vineyards from which Northstar sources its grapes.

Variations in the weather and soil composition affect each vintage, sometimes in a dramatic way. For example, unpredictable weather can influence the timing of the harvest. In 2009 Greg Lipsker, co-founder of Barrister Winery in Spokane, found himself in a vineyard near Pasco just after midnight, rescuing the grapes from freezing weather. Even so, the 2009 vintage ended up being an award-winning year for Barrister.

All wine is influenced by terroir, a French term that refers to the total natural environment in which a wine is produced—the climate, soil, and topography. Among other things, it is terroir that gives a wine its characteristic taste and flavor.  A winemaker must understand the region where the grapes are sourced and how its characteristics affect the winemaking process. Spring Valley Vineyard winemaker Serge Leville learned winemaking in his native France, but learned how to make Washington wine in Walla Walla. He capitalizes on the region’s unique terrior and responds to its nuances with his winemaking techniques.

Harvesting can be done mechanically or by hand. Many estates prefer to hand harvest, as mechanical harvesters can often be too hard on the grapes and the vineyard. Once the grape bunches arrive at the winery, winemakers sort them, culling out under ripe and spoiled fruit before crushing. There’s an advantage to wineries that grow their own grapes or obtain them from vineyards closeby. At Coeur d’Alene Cellars, for example, the fruit is hand harvested in the morning and hand sorted to fermentation tanks before the sun sets.

Chris Figgins (Walla Walla)

step 2: Crushing & Pressing 

Crushing whole clusters of ripe grapes is traditionally the next step in the winemaking process. Today, mechanical crushers have replaced the time-honored tradition of stomping grapes into what is referred to as must. using mechanical presses may detract from the romance and ritual of this stage of winemaking, but it is more efficient and sanitary. Mechanical pressing has improved the quality and longevity of wine, thus reducing the need for preservatives. Tradition, however, has not been abandoned completely: many wineries, such as Nodland Cellars in Spokane Valley, host crush parties at which guests can experience firsthand the stomping of grapes.

Not all grapes, though, are crushed at the beginning. Sometimes, winemakers prefer that fermentation begin inside uncrushed whole grape clusters. This allows the natural weight of the grapes and the onset of fermentation to burst the grape skins prior to the pressing.

Prior to the crushing and pressing stage, the making of white wine and red wine is essentially the same. At this point, however, red wine is left in contact with the skins to add color, flavor and tannins during fermentation. Tannins are responsible for the “mouthfeel,” the sensation of a red wine in the mouth. In contrast, winemakers who are making white wine quickly press the must after crushing. This separates the juice from the skins, seeds, and solids. By doing so, they avoid the unwanted color from the grape skins. In addition, the tannins cannot affect the wine.

step 3: Fermentation

Fermentation is when the magic happens. If left to its own devices, the must, with the aid of wild yeasts in the air, begins fermenting naturally within 6-12 hours. In clean wineries and vineyards, this natural fermentation is a welcome phenomenon. Many winemakers prefer to intervene at this stage by inoculating the natural must. They kill the wild and sometimes unpredictable natural yeasts. They then introduce a yeast strain of their choosing in order to influence the outcome. Once the process begin, regardless of whether it is natural or assisted, it normally continues until all of the sugar is converted to alcohol and a dry wine is produced. Fermentation can require from ten days to a month or more.

The alcohol level in wines depends on the total sugar content. Sweet wine is produced when the fermentation process stops before all of the sugar has been converted into alcohol. Whether a winemaker’s experience comes from formal education, mentorship, or simply trial and error, understanding how to manipulate the fermentation process is critical to the end result.

step 4: Clarification 

Barrister Winery

Once fermentation is completed, the clarification process begins. Winemakers have the option of racking or siphoning their wines from one tank or barrel to another. The goal is to leave the precipitates and solids, called pomace, in the bottom of the first tank. Filtering and fining may also be done at this stage. Fining occurs when substances are added to a wine. Egg whites, clay or other compounds may be added: they adhere to the unwanted solids and force them to the bottom of the tank. The clarified wine is then racked into another vessel, where it is ready for bottling or further aging.

step 5: Aging & Bottling

The final stage of the wine making is aging and bottling. After clarification, the winemaker has the choice of bottling a wine immediately or aging it further. Aging can be done in bottles, barrels, stainless steel tanks or ceramic tanks. As with all other decisions in the winemaking process, the choices and techniques employed in this final stage affect the outcome.

From the vine to the wine bottle, any variations in the winemaking process influence the wine. Winemakers differ in their perspective and approach to crafting the perfect taste. Michael Haig of Whitestone Winery in Creston believes that great wine comes from great fruit and that it’s the winemaker’s job to showcase the gifts from Mother Nature. Karen LaBonte, owner/winemaker of Walla Walla’s Trio Vintners claims her wines benefit from three principal features of eastern Washington wine- production: exceptional fruit, outstanding soils, and the perfect climate for growing grapes. Long Shadows is a winery—actually a group of wineries under one label—that brings together superstar winemakers from around the world to make wine from Washington fruit. The gathering place of this winemaking dream team is in the valley where the Snake River and Yakima River flow into the mighty Columbia River. The wines they produce are as diverse as the winemakers themselves and their range of methodologies and winemaking techniques.
Whatever the source of the magic, the Spokane, Walla Walla and Coeur d’Alene region offers the perfect setting for creating exceptional wines. 

As published in the 2013/2014 Essential Guide Spokane : Coeur d'Alene. : Walla Walla

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Honey Balsamic Chicken

This chicken is bursting with flavor. You'll need to be wild about tangy balsamic vinegar, sweet honey, and rich butter to concur but I think this recipe is worth repeating. This dish pairs nicely with a dry Washington State Riesling such as Bebop from Nodland Cellars, fragrant Jasmine rice and sautéed vegetables. 

  • 2 medium chicken breasts 
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (divided) 
  • Pinches of salt & pepper and/or a dash of Thyme & Basil 
  • 1 Tbsp butter 
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • 3 Tbsp honey 

Cut the chicken into thick strips. Place the strips in a quart sized zip top bag along with ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar, one clove of minced garlic, 1 Tbsp of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients in the bag and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to cook, heat the second tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the strips until browned on both sides (about 2-3 minutes each side). Place the cooked chicken aside on a plate.

Turn the heat down on the skillet to medium-low and add butter and remaining 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the skillet. Use a spoon to stir the mixture and dissolve the sticky bits off of the bottom of the skillet. Once the mixture has dissolved together, add the honey, increase the heat, and allow the sauce to simmer until thickened (about five minutes).

Once the sauce has thickened, season to taste with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the chicken back to the skillet and toss to coat in the warm balsamic sauce. Serve immediately.

Photo Credits: Sip of Spokane

(Recipe first discovered on Pinterest by Budget Bytes)