mashed potatoes and gravy

Tipsy Tuesday – Wine & Gravy

mashed potatoes and gravyYes, you can put wine in gravy and it tastes delicious! Try this recipe out next time you have mashed potatoes with poultry for dinner. It really seems to add a more gourmet dimension to your typical chicken gravy.

Chardonnay Mushroom Gravy


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Chardonnay
  • 2 Tablespoons green onions or leeks, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


In a medium skillet, melt butter. Add mushrooms and cook 3-4 minutes or until softened, stirring often. Mix in cornstarch, stirring continuously until  incorporated. Add in chicken broth, wine, green onions, salt and pepper. Cook, continuing to stir, until thickened, about 3-4 more minutes.

Serve hot with mashed potatoes.

Linda's Signature

Bin 36 Wine Flight

Wine & Cheese Tasting Chicago Style

Bin 36 Wine FlightLast week I took a trip up to Chicago to visit my sister and we wined and dined ourselves at some interesting and tasty restaurants. And one of the most fun adventures was our wine and cheese tasting at Bin 36.

Bin 36 is just a little off Michigan Avenue and is a popular place for early evening get-togethers. The restaurant is very spacious with tables for dining, at least 2 bars and a private party area upstairs. They have a menu which groups both cheeses and wines into regions where you can pair the wines with similar area cheeses or just order individually. We decided on a flight of wines, each to our particular tastes, and shared a cheese flight as well.

Cheese Flight BoardOur cheese flight, better known as Positive Algebra, consisted of 4 cheeses, Cocoa Cardona from Wisconsin, a creamy, mild goat cheese dusted with cocoa powder (excellent), Bella Vitano, also from Wisconsin, with a nutty flavor and bathed in balsamic vinegar (oh so excellent), a Spanish manchego marinated in olive oil and rosemary (again an excellent choice) and lastly Barely Buzzed from Utah, a heartier cheese with an expresso crust. All this is served with green apple slices and wonderfully crisp crostini.

2011 Hacienda Los Haroldos MalbecMy wine flight consisted of 4 red wines from Argentina & Chile. I have to say that the first wine was really the best of the four. The first was a 2011 Malbec from Hacienda Los Haroldos. The bouquet was not as evident as I would like but the fruit forward taste was definitely enjoyable. Flavors of dark cherry and plum were most prominent with balanced tannins and notes of vanilla, chocolate and toasty oak.  I would rate this a 3.5/5 and would order again. Purchase at the store for around $9 a bottle.
2012 Merino SyrahMy second wine was a 2012 Merino Syrah, a medium weight red wine from Chile. This was another fruit forward wine with a nice balance and some acidity. Not as rich in flavor as I would have liked following the Malbec but I could detect tastes of blackberries and raspberries with a long minerality and spiciness at the finish. Rating of 3/5. Purchase for around $17 a bottle.
Crios red blendThird was the 2012 Crios Red Blend from Argentina. A long name for this varietal that encompasses the Malbec plum flavors (40%) with the cherries and raspberries from the Bonarda (40%), the blackberries and blueberries from the Tannat (15%) and spicy black pepper and cloves from the syrah (5%). As you can see it is a veritable fruit cocktail and is slightly different than your average blend, however it does hold its own and the finish is enjoyable. Rated 3/5 or maybe 3.5/5 and averaging about $12 per bottle.
2010 Morande CarmenereLastly was a 2010 Morande Carmenere from Chile. This red was the most complex of the four with flavors of ripe blackberries and hazelnuts and an earthy texture with hints of green peppers and smoke. It had a rounded mouth feel with soft tannins and a somewhat long finish but didn’t sit well on my palate. It also seemed out of order with the flight choices. Rated 2.5/5 and runs about $12 per bottle.
Linda's Signature

Tipsy Tuesday – Wines & Hot Dogs

variety of hot dogsOK, that is one strange title but I thought it would be fun to tie in my wine posting with National Hot Dog Day (and incidentally National Hot Dog Month) and see where it took me.

2010 Cooper Station Pinot NoirThere are three perfect choices for those lovely grilled dogs, plain or with just a little mustard and sauerkraut on top, and they are Rose, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. All are full of fruitiness and crispness that compliment the sausage itself as well as the sour character of the sauerkraut. So this week I bring a delicious and inexpensive Pinot Noir to your attention that goes perfectly with your outdoor barbecue.

And a little extra info for those that like their favorite dogs in other than the classic style.

Chicago-style dogs – stick with a light to medium-bodied crisp white wine that matches the saltiness of the pickles and peppers and choose a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.

Chili dogs – opt for a full-bodied Zinfandel or Shiraz that helps cool down the spiciness and cut through the fat.

2010 Cooper Station Pinot Noir

A wonderfully crisp medium-bodied wine with musky floral aromas and smooth berry flavors of  cherry, strawberry and blueberry. Notes of spice, cloves and herbs give this Pinot Noir a nice complexity and the hint of toasty oak adds just the right touch. It is a great wine for your backyard barbecue that can hold its own against many of the pricier brands.

Price Range: $9.99-$14.99

Rating 4 out of 5

Linda's Signature

Summer Picnic Wines

I found some delicious summer white wines to accompany your next picnic or light lunch. These will keep you cool under the summer sun and save you money since they are all under $15!

A Chardonnay can be both creamy or very light and refreshing. Pair this varietal with white fish, grilled chicken or salad to keep it light.

2009 Four Sisters Chardonnay


2009 Four Sisters (4/5) – fruity flavors of peach and melon and subtle notes of flowers, apple, fig, lemon and toasty oak. It has a nice balance and smooth finish.



Hess Chardonnay


2009 Hess Chardonnay (3.5/5) – offers a smooth, oaky taste with tropical notes of pineapple, apple and pear.




2009 simi chardonnay

2009 Simi Chardonnay (3.5/5) – a medium bodied wine with the aromatic aroma of fruits – nectarine, pineapple, orange, and green apples. The taste is very balanced with distinct flavors of tangerine, peaches and green apple with hints of vanilla and honey as well as a slight toasty oak.


2011 Dominican Oaks Chardonnay

2011 Dominican Oaks Chardonnay, unoaked (3.5/5) – aromas of green apple, pear, lemon and tropical fruit with flavors of melon, orange and pineapple. It is a lighter wine with a firm acidity that has a lingering minerality at the finish.


Sauvignon Blancs are especially refreshing with summer salads.

2009 Slingshot Sauvignon Blanc


2009 Slingshot Sauvignon Blanc (4/5) – a perfect pairing of refreshing citrus, hints of honeydew and key lime with a crisp fruity finish.



2011 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc


2011 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (3.5/5) – a sharp citrusy New Zealand wine with flavors of lemon, lime and grapefruit accompanied by notes of pear and grass. A nice light wine for the price.



Want a slightly sweeter but crisp wine you can opt for a Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris. Again it pairs great with seafood, appetizers and salads highlighted with fruit. Here are my daughter’s absolute two favorites.

santa margherita pinot grigio.

2010 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio (4.5/5) – This is a dry, crisp and refreshing wine with fruity aromas of citrus, pear and golden delicious apples.


2008 Kris Pinot Grigio


2008 Kris Pinot Grigio (4/5) – A light flavorful Italian wine with refreshing notes of apple, peach, pear and melon. It has a very crisp, citrusy taste with hints of  almonds and honey as well as a nice body and soft finish.



And lastly, try a sparkling viognier, albarino or prosecco for just sipping or to pair with appetizers such as cheese or fruit, a lunch of tuna or chicken salad or with a light dessert.

2010 Casillero del Diablo Voignier


2010 Casillero del Diablo Voignier (4/5) – a medium-bodied wine with aromas of rose petals, apricots and peaches and creamy flavors of the same along with papaya and just a hint of oak and vanilla.



2011 Conde Villar Alvarinho.

2011 Conde Villar Alvarinho (4.5/5) – a full, rich wine with complex aromas of jasmine and orange blossoms and refreshing flavors of pear, lemon and melon. Very nicely structured and a smooth finish.



Riondo Prosecco


Riondo Prosecco (4/5) – a light bodied, fruity wine that has a wonderful effervescence and a fresh clean taste.  It has subtle, slightly sweet flavors of tangerine, pears and apples and ends with a crisp, citrusy finish.



Linda's Signature

Tip Tuesday – Stretching Your Wine Dollars

Mango Basil Wine CocktailIf you are having a large party and are on a tight budget you might want to try serving wine cocktails, or as some people know them by – sangria, instead of straight up wine. It makes the wine stretch further and you can usually get away with a cheaper wine since it is mixed with other ingredients. No one will know that you did it to cut costs because they taste oh so good and are very refreshing on warm summer nights.

Mango-Basil Wine Cocktail


Basil Simple Syrup

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup basil leaves

Cocktail Mix

  • 1 bottle inexpensive Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay
  • 2-1/2 cups mango nectar (peach nectar can also be used)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Garnish: basil leaves, mango or peach slice


To make simple syrup, combine all of the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, crushing basil leaves against side of pan to bring out flavor, then simmer just until sugar has dissolved. Let cool.

When ready to serve, mix wine, mango or peach nectar, lemon juice and simple syrup in a large pitcher. Pour into glasses filled with ice. Garnish with basil leaf and slice of mango, peach or lemon. You can also make the cocktail more colorful by placing pieces of fruit such as mango, peaches, lemons, raspberries or strawberries right in the pitcher.

Serves 6.

Note: You can also try pureed strawberries in place of mango or peach nectar as they go great with the taste of basil.

Linda's Signature

Tipsy Tuesday – Key Lime Pie Martini

We love the Florida Keys and there is nothing better than their famous key lime pie and anything that tastes like it! A friend, now a very good friend, (lol) gave me this recipe that he had received from the White Tarpon in Key West. It really does taste like key lime pie and, if you want to go all out, you can even add a little vanilla ice cream for an even richer taste. Woohoo!

Key Lime Pie MartiniKey Lime Pie Martini


Key Lime Pie Martini

  • 2-oz. vanilla vodka
  • 1-oz. Licor 43
  • 1-oz. Rose’s lime juice
  • 1-1/2 oz. sweet & sour bar mix (see easy recipe below for your own homemade mix)
  • Garnish: graham cracker crumbs, lime slices, vanilla ice cream

Sweet & Sour Bar Mix

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup lemon juice


Prepare bar mix by heating sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in lime and lemon juice then store in refrigerator. Make sure it is cool prior to mixing with cocktail.

Tp make martini, add 1/2 cup of crushed ice to a shaker then pour in martini ingredients and shake well.

Prepare martini glasses by rubbing rims with a slice of lime then dipping into graham cracker crumbs. Pour drink into glasses, garnish with a lime slice and enjoy!

Makes 2.

Linda's Signature

Tipsy Tuesday – Key Lime Colada

Key Lime ColadaAh, this frozen drink, similar to a piña colada, brings to mind our vacations in Key West, the soft breezes, music floating on the air and great times along Duval Street. The first Key Lime Colada we ever had was at Rick’s Tree Bar on Duval and we instantly fell in love with the refreshing taste. They wouldn’t part with their recipe but, after some experimentation, I made one that was pretty close. And it sure was fun trying!

Key Lime Colada


  • 1 oz. Liquor 43
  • 2 oz. Vanilla Rum (or try the new Key Lime Rum)
  • 1-1/2 oz. Key Lime Juice
  • 1 oz. Pina Colada Mix or coconut cream
  • 1-1/2 oz. Pineapple Juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup ice


Combine all of the above ingredients in a blender. Prepare margarita or martini glasses by rubbing lime around the edge and dipping the rim in graham cracker crumbs. Pour Key Lime Colada mixture into 2 glasses and garnish with slices of lime.

Serves 2.


Linda's Signature

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Tipsy Tuesday – Watermelon Margarita

I don’t know about everyone else but after Memorial Day our family sure had a lot of watermelon left over! Now the question was what to do with it. Never fear, my imagination immediately decided on an alcoholic drink – go figure – and found a fantastic recipe on allrecipes from Jewel. I adapted it only slightly and it came out so delicious and refreshing that I will definitely be making it again soon.

Watermelon Margarita

watermelon margarita


Simple Syrup

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 strips of lime peel


  • 1/2 cup simple syrup or agave nectar
  • 3 cups watermelon, cut up
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 2 Tablespoons triple sec or Licor 43
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • Crushed ice


Place sugar, water and lime peel in a small saucepan and heat to boiling while continuously stirring. Continue to simmer for 3 minutes then remove from heat and let cool. Place in a bottle and store in refrigerator and use when simple syrup is called for in a recipe.

To prepare margarita: In a blender, place simple syrup, watermelon, tequila, triple sec and lime juice and blend until pureed. This can be done ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator until needed. Blend or stir slightly before pouring into glasses.

Take 2 margarita glasses and rub rim with lime wedge. Dip into salt to lightly coat. Add crushed ice to glasses and divide contents between both glasses. Garnish the edge with a lime or a cube of watermelon.

Serves 2.