Epicurean Charlotte

Food & Wine Magazine

CHRONICLING THE JOYS OF FOOD AND WINE IN THE CHARLOTTE METROPOLITAN REGION

Throw a sizzling summer cocktail party

reprinted with permission from brandpoint

Raise your glasses high - cocktail parties are the toast of this summer's entertaining. Don't know where to start? Think barware, which is nearly as hot as the rising temperatures. That's why we turned to designer Julie Robbins from Replacements, Ltd., the world's largest retailer of vintage and current dinnerware, for fabulously fun ideas sure to make your soiree one of your favorite summer memories.

 

Why are cocktail parties so popular for summer 2018?

These gatherings are both fun and easy to put together - you're not trying to seat everyone at the same table so you can make use of more of your home, whether that's an apartment, condo or house. Cocktail parties are all about conversation, networking and introducing one group of friends to another, so people are always moving around. This type of entertaining is perfect for both small and large spaces alike; you can use your kitchen, family room or head outside to a patio, deck or even your yard. 

 

What's the best time for the perfect cocktail party? 

Any time! Cocktail parties are usually the warm-up or wind-down for the evening, and timing often depends on your reasons for celebrating. For instance, if you're holding your party as a kick-off to some event, say an evening out or concert under the stars, you may want to serve drier drinks and savory, spicier foods. If it's a post-event gathering, consider a late night with sweets, such as liqueurs and dessert-type finger foods. 

 

What about barware? What's hot this summer? 

I think three barware types will be extremely popular this season: the coupe, the old fashioned and a tall drink glass, such as a tumbler or highball. 

 

Why the coupe? 

There's a movement toward more elegant cocktails, and people want to serve those beverages in something equally elegant. That's why coupes (often referred to as champagne-sherbet glasses) are really stepping into the fore. Coupes offer a more refined shape that looks great in the hand. Vintage coupes from classic American glassmakers such as Tiffin, Fostoria and Heisey are big with our customers, with unique pieces in pretty much every price range. Not only are vintage coupes a great conversation starter, these glasses are highly collectible. You can also use them for desserts.

 

The old fashioned? 

Old fashioned or even double old fashioned glasses are used for serving spirits straight up or on the rocks. They're also great for mixed cocktails, such as old fashioneds (the glass is named after this whiskey-based drink, which muddies bitters and sugars with a citrus twist), whiskey sours or even Bloody Marys. What's neat is that you'll find them in varying shapes. For example, Waterford has great old fashioned patterns, from something very simple and squared like their "Vintage" collection to more elegant, cut patterns such as "Powerscourt," which is sparkly and almost tulip shaped. You'll also find very rounded, roly-poly shapes made popular on the television show Mad Men. 

 

How about the highball? 

Highballs are perfect for serving taller, refreshing drinks such as Long Island iced teas or a Tom Collins. You may see highball glasses referred to as tumblers in vintage patterns. Most of the Depression glass patterns have unique shapes such as footed tumblers, which can really step up your game. 

 

Bar carts seem to be everywhere. Is that another trend for summer entertaining? 

Bar carts are great! We're coming out of a phase where people kept their liquor put away; these days they want to show it off. A well-stocked bar cart is the perfect accessory for any size living space. And many companies even seem to want a beautiful, shiny and organized bar cart for the office. Bar carts are a great way to help keep your entertaining organized and not all spread out. And you can set those up for any style or taste. For example, you might want to put your alcohol on one shelf and your barware on another, or you can mix it up. Plus you can move your cart around as needed, so you're not stuck in the same place with your guests glued to a bar. 

 

How about food? 

Pre-portioned foods are fantastic for cocktail parties and a great way to serve something pricier without having to break the bank. One fun idea - think about using barware you may not need at that particular party, such as glass punch cups, to make individual shrimp cocktail servings. This saves you from having a huge bowl of shrimp where that one person (you know the one) will stand and eat all night and keeps your guests moving - they can grab a serving and go. Two- and three-tiered servers are fabulous for cocktail parties. These servers have a very small footprint since they're stacked, meaning you can tier different hors d'oeuvres on each layer and serve your guests without taking up a huge chunk of your table. Replacements can actually handcraft these pieces in the pattern of your choice. 

 

Any final tips? 

Limit your party to one or two signature cocktails. This keeps you from having to stock ten kinds of liquor and you can mix drinks in batches, meaning you can spend more time enjoying your party rather than bartending. 

 

Seven Plant-based Tips for a Healthy Weight


reprinted with permission from Brandpoint

Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, it’s important to eat a diet that includes a symphony of minimally-processed plant foods, according to Sharon Palmer, an award-winning registered dietitian nutritionist, plant-based food and nutrition expert, author, and blogger. This includes whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, seeds, and nuts.

“The key to health—for people and the planet—is becoming increasingly clear. We need to make a sure-footed return to including plants regularly in our diet,” says Palmer. For some, including more of the above in their daily diet (or switching over entirely) can be difficult, Palmer acknowledges. If the goal is weight loss or maintenance, she suggests starting with pistachios.

“Pistachios offer a multitude of health benefits that can help you maintain a healthy weight,” notes Palmer. “The fact that they’re extremely versatile, and taste great, makes it easy to include them regularly, if not daily.”Palmer offers these seven tips to achieve or maintain a healthy weight:


Prioritize Breakfast
Eating breakfast kick starts your metabolism and gives you energy and focus to begin your day. Adding pistachios to common breakfast foods, like cereal, toast, or oatmeal, can balance your blood sugar levels and prevent energy slumps. Whole, chopped, or crushed pistachios can add a satisfying crunch and a flavorful punch of plant-based protein.


Add Movement
Just 20 to 30 minutes of daily physical activity, like a brisk walk, can help you maintain or lose weight. Instead of watching TV before or after dinner, encourage your family to join you for a stroll around the neighborhood. On the weekends, longer walks or hikes are the perfect time to reconnect with loved ones. Luckily, pistachios are lightweight and portable—the perfect snack for refueling after exercise. Keep a bag handy in your car, backpack, or purse for a quick pick-me-up.


Start with SMART Goals
Sustainable weight loss begins with baby steps. When your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, you’re more likely to achieve them. Try this goal on for size: Replace your usual afternoon snack with one serving of shelled pistachios three times per week for one week. Achieving SMART goals boosts your confidence, and these small pistachio wins are packed with protein, B vitamins, healthy fats, potassium, and even antioxidants.


Don’t Skip Meals or Snacks
Skipping meals can lead to uncontrollable hunger and binge eating. Three to five hours after eating, your blood sugar begins to fall and can leave you feeling fatigued and unfocused. Eating three small to moderate meals, and two to four snacks per day, can keep hunger at bay and keep your energy levels steady. Crack open a handful of pistachios for a quick snack—no preparation required—and you’ll be ready to tackle whatever the day throws at you.


Pre-portion Pistachios
Did you know there are 49 pistachios in one serving? That’s more than any other nut, plus 10 percent of the daily value of fiber. Pre-portion pistachios into small bags on Sunday evening, and you’ll be set for a week of smart snacking. At just 160 calories per serving, pistachios are a nutritious, low-calorie, portable snack that can help you reach your goals.


Get Creative with Pistachio Flour
Pistachio flour is a fun, gluten-free flour alternative that can spice up traditional recipes. Adding ground pistachios to standard crust recipes can boost the fiber and protein content of your favorite dishes. Try adding pistachio flour to Greek yogurt, along with freshly chopped garlic and lemon zest for a tangy, protein-rich, savory dip.


Swap Your Nighttime Snack
When hunger strikes late at night, it’s easy to reach for indulgent foods. Swap your typical nighttime snack of cookies, candies, pizza, or ice cream for a more balanced choice: pistachios. Forget willpower and keep a pre-portioned bag of pistachios handy for when you need it the most.


Whether you have a little or a lot of extra weight to shed, adding pistachios to the mix has helped many people lose weight and improve overall health, adds Palmer

Stop Saying these 12 Things about Wine

reprinted with permission from Wine Folly


Sooner or later in your wine journey, you’re going to come across, shall we say, certain people: certain people who say certain things. They may be going for refined, but we both know they’re coming off as something else. Let them say their piece, pity them quietly, and be content in taking the high road.

1. “I only drink...”

There’s no way this sentence ever ends well. The world of wine is so big! There are over 1,400 identified grape varieties and thousands of unique wine regions. Why anyone would limit themselves to just a tiny fraction of it, simply doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s no big thing, though. They could be in a wine phase and not even know it!


2. “Actually, it’s pronounced...”

Pronouncing Alicante Bouschet, Gewürztraminer, and Txakoli (or Txakolina) without breaking a sweat is pretty cool. But you know what’s even cooler? Not giving people a hard time if they pronounce it wrong! (Lord knows we didn’t do it right on our first try.)


3. “Sweet wines? What are you, five?”

We’re adults. And, adults can enjoy wines like Port, Sauternes, and Tokaji Aszú—sweet wines that rank among the most complex and revered wines on this planet! Yes, the wines that get most people into the world of wine in the first place tend to be sweet, so we see where that “beginners only” mentality comes from. Funny how that changes the further you get in your wine journey, however.

4. “Ew, screw cap wines. Pass!”
The wines of Australia and New Zealand are almost exclusively stoppered with screw caps. Take it from us, they are producing some dynamite stuff. Plus, screw caps have shown to age wines just fine (in fact, you don’t even have to store the bottle on it’s side). Why would someone let a flimsy, unfounded closure preference prevent them from tasting great wines? Tsk tsk.


5. “Pssh. White wines aren’t meant for aging.”
Sure, most white wines aren’t meant for long storage (but neither are most red wines for that matter!). However, when you get to top-tier Champagne, White Bordeaux, White Burgundy, White Rioja, Italian Soave, and German Riesling, you’ll discover they develop some surprisingly rich and luscious flavors with a little bit of age.


6. “I’m not drinking any $#&@ing Merlot!”
OK. Even now, this is still a very funny scene and quote. But what isn’t funny is dismissing some of the world’s greatest and most acclaimed wines for no good reason. Also, if this is said in reference to Sideways, the ironic inside secret was that Miles lusted after a bottle of 1961 Château Cheval Blanc, which is a Merlot blend from Saint-Émilion. See? Even Miles loves Merlot! Also, if you’re still saying this, you should definitely watch some newer movies about wine. Some of them have been pretty great. Just sayin’...


7. “Champagne isn’t Champagne unless it’s from the region.”
While it’s true that Champagne can only come from Champagne, it’s been the universal word for sparkling wine for beginners for a long time. So instead of clobbering your compatriots with knowledge bombs, let them taste first and learn later. The sparkling wine might actually help smooth things over. They’ll get there, and we can all help.


8. “You never, ever pair red wine with fish.”

We believe we speak for Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Beaujolais when we say, “Excuse moi?”


9. “How do you know it tastes like ______?”

Have you ever eaten a baseball glove? Doubt it. A signature note of aged Tempranillo, and one that’s echoed by wine experts worldwide, is leather. Do these wine experts sit around gnawing on baseball gloves and the sides of couches? We doubt it. (But you never know.)

We often encourage people to taste not only wine, but any number of things, be it vegetables, animals, and minerals, to expand their palate. But there’s no denying it: smell has a gigantic impact on taste. For the things we haven’t yet tasted, we’ll naturally try to relate them the best we can. That relation typically comes in the form of smell.


10. “You’re not getting all that acid/tannin? Ugh, it’s so obvious.”

Oof, bad form. Detecting primary flavors is hard enough. Learning how to detect and describe acid and tannin is whole new ball game. What do productive members of wine society do? That’s right, emulate your grandma. If someone is looking adrift or openly lost, gently educate, rather than flagellate.


11. “There’s only one kind of wine: red.”

Sing the praises of bold red wines all you want. We’ll join along. Right after we sing the praises for Viognier, Assyrtiko, and Albariño. All are great; all in different ways.


12. “This wine tastes like morning mist, rolling down the hillsides, transforming into dewdrops on the grass...”

Not a half-bad tasting note, but let’s pump the brakes. We’re talking about wine, not writing the sequel to The Leaves of Grass! Now, there’s no wrong answer when it comes to taste, and it’s important to remember feelings and sensations when drinking. But, it’s also equally important to put wine experiences into something that can be quantified—real tastes, real flavors. Wine is still a product, and each has a specific flavor that can be (more or less) defined.

Seven Ways to Snack Like a Pro This Football Season

reprinted with permission from Brandpoint


Football season is quickly approaching, which means it’ll soon be time for tailgating or watching the big game on TV. For many of us, this time of year is tough on our diet and exercise plans, but it doesn’t have to be, according to Bryan Snyder, registered dietitian and director of team nutrition for the Denver Broncos.

Snyder, who is responsible for keeping the year-round nutrition strategies for the team’s players on track, also knows the pitfalls for fans. “Nutrition goals can fall by the wayside when leisure time includes snacking or party fare,” Snyder says. “We tend to make poor choices when it comes to snacking, earning it a bad rap. But in fact, by picking healthy and tasty options, anyone can come out a winner on game day.”

Snyder recommends these tips for better snacking in his healthy eating playbook for football season and throughout the year.


Plan ahead.

Cut and slice your fruits and vegetables the day before you plan on eating them. That way, when you find yourself hungry and ready for a snack, you’ll already have the hard part finished. Grab your pre-cut veggies and dip them in low-fat ranch dressing or hummus to help get you through the day. This is a great way to add some healthy vegetables to your tailgate menu. Perhaps you could make a strawberry banana smoothie with Greek yogurt the night before and leave the pitcher in the refrigerator for a quick grab-and-go snack as you run out the door.


Snack on foods that are healthy and will fill you up.

How many times do we eat a snack and 10 minutes later we’re hungry? The perfect snack strikes a great balance of healthy carbohydrates along with protein, fiber, and antioxidants. One of the healthiest and best snacks is pistachios. With 1 ounce of pistachios, you get 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, healthy fats, and 6 percent of your daily value of iron. Plus, pistachios contain antioxidants, which help our immune systems stay strong and fight off diseases. One serving of pistachios contains only 160 calories.


Aim for whole grains.

The last thing you probably think about as you get ready for the big game is setting out snacks that contain whole grains. However, eating whole grains may reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, and incorporating whole grains isn’t as hard as it seems. One option you could have available is whole grain crackers and cheese. Try whole grain Wheat Thins instead of potato chips as a healthy substitution.


Stay hydrated with water.

Our bodies have a difficult time distinguishing between being hungry or thirsty. Often, we feel like we are hungry when in reality we simply may be thirsty and/or dehydrated. One study found that people who drink water 20 to 30 minutes before starting their meals eat about 75 fewer calories per meal. Considering we may be snacking for three hours while watching the game, these calories will add up.


Replace fatty protein with lean proteins.

Hamburger sliders are a staple of many tailgating menus across the country, but sometimes we just want a good burger. While eating a fatty hamburger in moderation isn’t the worst thing in the world, there are certainly some leaner options to choose. Instead of going to the grocery store and picking up the first piece of beef available to grill for the game, look at either a leaner beef option or a different meat altogether. For example, a better option for protein would be a 97 percent lean ground beef to make sliders or hamburgers. Another option would be to simply choose ground turkey instead of ground beef to make patties to throw on the grill.


Don’t be afraid of veggies.

Despite what your buddies may think, it’s not against the law to eat vegetables at a tailgate party. More than likely, there will be some grilling before the big game. Don’t be afraid to throw some zucchini, mushrooms, or even asparagus on the grill to complement the other items you are cooking. You can also chop up some veggies and serve with low-fat ranch dressing or hummus.


Have a backup plan

You might be heading to the game on Saturday or Sunday, and you plan on meeting up with some friends before the game to tailgate. In this case, you may have zero healthy choices to pick from while you’re snacking and eating before the game. It’s always good to have a backup plan. Healthy bars, nuts, or a piece of whole fruit are easy and portable so you have a go-to backup plan. Trail mix and pistachios are easy to throw in your bag for the game or to have around your house for a snack. Plan ahead and bring some small snacks with you so you don’t indulge in hours of unhealthy snacking, like our Pistachio and Date Energy Bites (recipe below). Great for tailgating, this portable and delicious snack is healthy and gives a great variety of protein and antioxidants to not only fill you up, but give you an immune system boost as well.


Pistachio and Date Energy Bites

ingredients:
• 1 c dried cherries
• 8 oz dates
• ½ c local honey
• 1½ c rolled oats
• 1⁄3 c dark chocolate chips
• 1 tbsp chia seeds
• 1 tbsp flax meal
• 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste (or ½ tbsp vanilla extract)
• 1 c pistachios (shelled)
• pinch Kosher salt
• ¾ c pistachios (finely ground)

Combine dates, honey, chia seeds, flax meal, and salt in a food processor and mix. Add a small amount of honey if the mixture is too thick.

Remove mixture and place into a mixing bowl. Incorporate  pistachios, cherries, oats, and dark chocolate chips, and stir until combined.

Use desired portion scoop or portion by hand. Roll bites in finely ground pistachios, coating the whole bite. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 20 to 25 bites.