Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wine Tastings From The Cheif Wineaux


With the kids back in school and vacations over we begin the ritual of settling into fall.  With the leaves turning and the air chilly, what better time to get friends and family together for a wine tasting.  It’s been my experience that if your theme is well chosen, even the non-wine drinkers, much to their surprise, often discover a palette for wine they didn’t know they had; it’s a real thrill!  While there are literally countless tasting themes you can choose from and/or dream up, I have 4 favorites that have been successful for fall parties. 

Red Wine Varietal Tasting

My favorite fall theme is one based on grape type or variatal.  The common misperception is that all reds are heavy and full of tannins like a cabernet sauvignon; this is where the fun begins.  With any wine tasting, the standard is to start tasting with the lightest and move to heaviest.  I typically start with a Beaujolais, followed by Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and/or Syrah, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon and include several white wines for those that just don’t drink red.  I consider Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand are my favorite-crisp, with loads of tropical fruit) and Chardonnay my go tos.

Pink Ribbon Wine Tasting

October is National Breast Cancer month and an excellent time to host a pink only tasting!  With pink tasting, I focus on show casing some of the amazing rose wines  and Blanc de Noir (white from red) sparkling wines and champagnes on the market.  When choosing the rose wines I typically choose wines from France as they have some of the best tasting a varied rose wines on the market.

Serious Tasting for Wineauxs

If you are like me, I have a bunch of friends that are big into wine.  When catering to a wine enthusiast bunch, I pick a country of origin, say France or Italy, and line up a tasting based on different regions.  For instance, a red from Bordeaux isn’t the same as a red from Burgundy.  Bordeaux reds are made using predominantly cabernet grapes making them hearty (and delicious) while Burgundy red are typically made using pinot noir grape and are lighter. 

Champagne Tasting

Champagne tastings are my favorite to incorporate into Holiday events.  With so many great champagnes and sparkling wines to choose from, the only challenge is narrowing down what to serve.  I generally choose bubbly from different countries to really show case the differences in style.  I start with a Cava (from Spain or Greece as a rule), move to an Italian Prosseco, followed by a Napa Sparkling wine and end with legendary champagne like Veuve Clicquot. 

Once I have chosen my tasting theme, and my menu, it’s time to think logistics.  I love my parties to be about mingling, so I set up two stations; a wine station in the breakfast room and a food station in the dining room.  This keeps everyone moving about nicely rather that in the kitchen all night.   In front of each wine, I use a Placetile to indicate the corresponding wine (my favorite is the oh-so-elegant Fleur di Lis).  Likewise, I use Placetiles as buffet labels to label each food and suggest what wine/s each pairs well with.  Cheese is always a big part of my spread, so the Placetile cheesetiles alleviate the guessing game and allow me to make pairing recommendations.  The tiles work like a charm and I look like the hostess with the mostess!   Lastly, I like to make a tasting notes sheet that lists the wine/champagne you are serving with space for your guests to make notes.   I print four to a page and cut down to keep it small and manageable. 

The most important part of any wine or champagne tasting party is to have fun and make the experience enjoyable for your guests.  Armed with these tips I believe anyone can have a smashingly successful tasting party!

What more info on hosting a fabulous wine tasting?  Feel free to email Angela at

 Angela W. Cox
Chief Executive Wineaux, Sommelier
The Wineaux Shop
 162 Main Street
Annapolis, MD 21401
410 990-1515

Visit us online for the newest and coolest wine related gifts & home decor! 

Newly updated with over 30 must haves!

Stay in the Loop!!
Join Our Group on Wine 2.0! 
Find us on Facebook!

*This is a guest blog post from one of our favorite retailers.  If you are one of our retailers and are interested in writing a guest blog please contact Molly White at

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

5 Blue Crabtastic Recipes

Guest post by Molly White

Growing up in Maryland means growing up eating blue crabs, steamed, fried, baked, broiled, deviled, and 5 trillion other ways.  30 years later I still have vivid memories of sitting at my father's side while he picked hot steamed crabs, just waiting for him to let me have a bite.  And now as the mother of two small children, I'm the one picking the crabs while they sit by my side, anxiously awaiting the sweet, delicate meat to be plucked from the crab and given to them.  Over the years I've been served a crab and a multitude of ways.  Below are my top 5 favorite.

Photo By Tammi Scott-Lynch

The steamed crab is the most casual and conversational way to eat a blue crab.  Buy them already steamed by the dozen, or steam them up yourself.  It's very simple and only requires 5 ingredients:

Old Bay

Those last two ingredients are the secret to making the best steamed crabs in the world.  Fill a big pot about 2 inches deep with water, add in a can or two of beer and about a quarter cup of vinegar, place the steam basket in the pot, cover and bring water to a boil.   Layer the crabs and Old Bay in the pot and steam until the crabs are reddish orange, about 20 to 30 minutes.  Remove from steamer and enjoy the sweet, delicious meat.  Of course you'll have to pick them yourself :)
For a more refined crab experience, there are a multitude of ways to enjoy blue crab meat.  The following are my five favorite ways to enjoy this Mid Atlantic specialty.


We buy jumbo lump crabmeat from the grocery store or use leftover steamed crabs to enjoy this at home.  And we use the simple recipe on the side of the Old Bay container.

2 slices dried bread, crusts removed
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon McCormick® Parsley Flakes
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon OLD BAY® Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 pound lump crabmeat

In a large bowl, break bread into small pieces. Moisten with milk.

Add mayo, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, baking powder, OLD BAY, salt, egg and crabmeat. Mix lightly and shape into patties. If time permits, refrigerate patties 30 minutes to help keep them together when cooking.

Broil or fry until golden-brown on both sides.

The deep fried goodness that is the crab fluff was not introduced to me until earlier this year.  It is a Baltimore specialty and Ocean Pride Restaurant in Timonium makes a particularly tasty one. It is a crab cake that is battered and then fried.  While it may not be the healthiest of options, it is one of the most flavorful.

1 cup self-rising flour
1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 tbsp. parsley flakes

recipe on can OF Old Bay Crab Seasoning*

Whip eggs with fork or spoon. Add flour, Old Bay and parsley. Add enough milk to make consistency of pancake batter, but not too thin; mix well.

Dip crab cake into batter using 2 forks. Place dipped crab cake into hot oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper.
*Make crab cakes as desired then dip into batter.

The soft shell crab is a unique delicacy in that you eat not only the meat but the entire crab save for it's eyes and lungs, which you have your fishmonger clean in advance.  This can come as surprise to some people when ordered; I've witnessed a few shocked restaurant patrons try to figure out how to eat one.

I like to use this recipe from Cooking Light

Here is a basic recipe for cooking soft-shell crabs. You can vary it by adding cayenne pepper, garlic powder, or other seasonings to the flour.

4 servings (serving size: 1 crab)
4  (3 1/2-ounce) soft-shell crabs, cleaned
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1/4  cup  all-purpose flour

1  tablespoon  butter

Sprinkle each crab with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge each crab in flour, turning to coat; shake off excess flour.
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add crabs to pan, top sides down; cook 3 minutes. Turn crabs over; cook an additional 2 minutes.

To serve I added a corn relish.
2 tbspns olive oil
2 ears of corn off of the cob
1/4 cup fresh basil shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat, add corn and saute until tender, about 6 minutes, add basil salt and pepper to taster, drizzle over crabs.

This is a great light way to enjoy crabs and works wonderfully for a luncheon or other gathering.
1lb jumbo lump crab
1/4 cup mayo
2 stalks of celery, diced
dash of Old Bay
salt and pepper

Place crab meat in bowl and add celery, gently fold in the mayo so as not to break up lumps of crab meat, add old bay, salt and pepper to taste.  Serve alongside freshly sliced tomatoes, ears of corn or inside an avocado 1/2.

Each one of these recipes is full of flavor and highlights what makes the crab such a tasty treat; they are sweet and rich and tender.  So perfectly delicate that nothing can compare.  Try serving up a few of these at one gathering and see which your guests prefer.  Of course, use your crab MessageTile to tell your guests what's on the menu ;)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Garden Luncheon

  I love to entertain, but that was the farthest thing from my mind one June morning as I stepped into my North Carolina garden nestled in the Smoky Mountains. I was enthusiastically greeted by the magnificent perfume of lavender, roses, and thyme.  My daylilies had just started blooming, peonies, heavy-headed, nodded hello, a few iris were still showing off, and a variety of perennials dotted the garden with glorious color. But it was my roses and herbs that awakened all of my senses that morning, and I knew I had to share their beauty.
      With my garden as my inspiration, I planned an impromptu luncheon for a few of my closest girlfriends. I chose an herb themed menu that I was sure all would enjoy.  Setting the table was easy.  Since we would be dining al fresco, I chose an elegant neutral palette of ivory and white, letting my garden steal the show.  I chose a crisp cotton lace tablecloth adorned with lime green napkins tied with a pretty ribbon and tucked in a fragrant sprig of lavender. My Beaded PlaceTiles® with a bud-vase were perfect for holding a tiny bouquet of lavender, thyme, cilantro, and roses that I would bundle into a tussie mussie or nosegay for a memorable favor, and the large beaded MessageTile was perfect for listing the luncheon menu.   I looked to my garden for an ambrosia of flowers to fill a teapot for a simple centerpiece. Using heirloom china and silver gave the table a wonderful genteel charm.
      The intimate lunch lasted well into the afternoon with lively conversation and much laughter.  As we said our goodbyes the ladies thanked me for a delightful time spent smelling, sipping, and savoring the yield from my garden.  As I turned to walk back inside, my lavender proudly stood at attention as if to say, “You’re Welcome”.

Minted Tea
      4 cups boiling water
      4 regular tea bags
      1 ½ cups sugar
      1 6 oz can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed and undiluted
      1 6 oz can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed and undiluted
      ¾ cup chopped fresh mint
      11 1/2 cups water
Pour 4 cups boiling water over tea bags; cover.  Allow to steep for 12 minutes Discard bags.  Combine sugar, orange juice, and lemonade in a saucepan; bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; add mint.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Strain mint from fruit mixture; discard mint.  Add tea and 11 1/2 cups water to fruit mixture.  May be served hot or cold.  Garnish with lemon slices and mint sprigs, if desired.

Chicken Salad with Lemon Tarragon
            1/2 cup chopped pecans 
            3/4 cup mayonnaise
            1  tablespoon  chopped fresh tarragon
            1  teaspoon  grated lemon rind
            1  tablespoon  fresh lemon juice
            1  teaspoon  salt
            1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
            3  cups  chopped cooked chicken
            2  celery stalks, finely chopped
           1/2  small sweet onion, finely chopped
            2  cups  seedless red grapes, cut in half (optional)
           Garnish: halved lemon slices
    Arrange pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool pecans on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cooled.  Whisk together mayonnaise and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in pecans, chicken, celery, and onion just until blended. Stir in grape halves, if desired. Garnish, if desired.
    Southern Living, JUNE 2007  

    Shrimp and Pasta Salad
          12 ounces uncooked small pasta shells
          2 lb. peeled cooked shrimp
          6 green onions, thinly sliced
          ½ cup chopped fresh basil
          1 ½ tsp. dried crushed red pepper
          1 T. grated lemon rind
          Fresh Citrus Salad Dressing

    Prepare pasta according to package directions. Toss pasta with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 2 days.
    Fresh Citrus Salad Dressing: Whisk together 1/2 cup light olive oil, 3 Tbsp. Greek seasoning, 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, and 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise.
    Southern Living, MARCH 2007  

    Baby Greens with Raspberry Vinaigrette
          1 pound baby greens
          1 peach, skin removed and sliced
           ½ cup chopped pecans toasted
          1 T. thyme leaves
          Raspberry Vinaigrette

    Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently.  Pour Raspberry Vinaigrette over greens mixture just before serving; toss gently.

    Raspberry Vinaigrette
          ½ cup vegetable oil
          ¼ cup raspberry vinegar
          1 T. honey
          ½ tsp. grated orange rind
          ¼ tsp. salt
          1/8 tsp. pepper

    Country Scones with Lemon Thyme
          1 T. freshly grated lemon peel
          1 tsp. chopped lemon thyme leaves
          2 ½ cups flour
          1 T. baking powder
          ½ tsp. salt
          ½ cup unsalted butter, chilled
          ¼ cup sugar
          2/3 cup milk

    Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix well.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until crumbly.  Stir in the sugar, lemon peel, and lemon thyme.  Add the milk, stirring until a soft dough forms.  Shape into a ball.  Knead the dough 10 to 12 times on a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 2 portions.  Knead each half lightly into a ball.  Roll into a 6-inch circle.  Cut each circle into 6-8 wedges.  Arrange the wedges slightly apart for crisp sides or touching fro soft sides on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 425 degrees for 12minutes or until medium brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Serve with your choice of jams.

    Strawberries with Balsamic and Basil
          2 lb. strawberries (about 4 cups) cleaned and halved
          1 T. sugar
          2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
          8-10 medium fresh basil leaves

    In a large bowl toss berries with sugar and vinegar.  Let sit at room temperature until strawberries have released their juices, about 30 minutes.  Just before serving, stack the basil leaves on a cutting board and toll them vertically into a loose cigar shape.  Using a sharp knife, thinly slice across the roll to make a chiffonade of basil.  Serve in individual pretty serving dishes.

    Lemon Basil Snaps
          2 cups flour
          ½ tsp. baking soda
          ¼ tsp. salt
          1/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts
          ¾ cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
          ¾ cup sugar
          1 egg
          1 T. grated lemon rind
          1 T. fresh lemon juice
          1/3 cup chopped fresh lemon basil or sweet basil

    In a bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, mixing until combined.  Add the lemon rind, lemon juice, and basil leaves.  Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and nuts in a small bowl.  Gradually add to the butter mixture, beating until blended.  Cover and chill 1 hour.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010


    In celebration of our favorite Shakesperian quotes capturing the spirit of a recent table design competition at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, I asked my team how we could create an entire table using as many recyclable, reusable and “green” items and still make it inspiring and beautiful. It’s a totally over-the-top table – and as event designers we love the opportunity to get over-the-top creative --  but even just one smart idea could bring an eco-friendly element to a wedding or private dinner party. Pretty with a purpose, as I like to say.

    The team’s top pick? PlaceTile Designs' reusable menu cards and place cards. We handwrote quotes from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to inspire the dinner guests while they dined amongst the canopied bowers (a salvaged umbrella frame) and banks of violets (reused from a massive floral arrangement for a previous event) mentioned throughout the play.

    I wanted the table to look “designed” but special and intimate at the same time so the guests who sat down could really feel like they were part of the experience. Displaying the quotes on Place Tile’s menu tiles not only tied the drama of the play together with the drama of the table, but they generated lively conversation amongst the diners.

    I would love to use these for a wedding and would choose sentiments that meant something special to the bride and groom or possibly an array of quotes about love, marriage, friendship and a rich future full of happiness. I want the guests who raise their glasses to toast the newlyweds to feel inspired, joyful and part of the wedding celebration.

    What better way to inspire guests than with a thought-provoking, romantic quote? What better catalyst to inspire eco-responsibility than chic, reusable elements that can generate ongoing inspiration for years to come? I love the combination of beauty, versatility, drama and impact that these smart menu cards allow. Again, pretty with a purpose.

    Jennifer Grove
    Sky Blue Events

    Jennifer Grove, President of Sky Blue Events, is a highly regarded wedding and event planner known for her exceptional organizational skills and attention to detail as well as her classic uptown personal style and lifestyle expertise.

    Sky Blue Events offers comprehensive planning services for producing delightful dinner parties and exceptional weddings as well as exquisite galas and smart corporate affairs. We invite you to learn more on the Sky Blue Events web site or blog  and to contact them for your next special event.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Popcorn. Butter. Dried Rosemary. Pinot Noir

    Yes, gentle readers, that is the combination of food and wine showcased on one of Andrea Immer’s Simply Wine show on The Fine Living network.  I never would have thought that this could work.  But think about the herbal qualities of a Pinot.  When reading reviews about Pinots, you always see “clean herbal notes”, “herbal flavors”, and “alluring herbal nuance”.  Well, Andrea pairs these “alluring herbal nuances” with nothing more complicated than an herb laced popcorn.  And does it work well.  Here is her take on the popcorn (She served the popcorn with a Sokol Blosser Pinot) :

    Yield: 6 Servings
    6 cups air popped corn
    1/2 stick melted butter
    3 tablespoon chopped rosemary
    1.   Pop popcorn.
    2.   Drizzle with melted butter and toss with rosemary and salt to taste.
    IN REGARDS TO PARTY PLANNING HERE IS A GOOD TIME SAVING TIP: What I like to do is place my appetizers around the “mingle area” so that my guests can try different “bites” as they talk to new or old friends.  I also want them to know what they’re eating. I love to use a PlaceTile Designs message boards or MessageTile so I can give guests a brief description of the appetizers.  It sure saves me from a lot of explaining and I can continue to work on the main course and the rest of the party. 

    Created by Guest Blogger
    Linda Caminiti
    Check out my blog at

    PlaceTile Designs is now offering single letter initials on their MessageTiles and Bottle Stoppers in either gold or silver. For a price quote, email or call them at or 678-467-4776.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    A Wedding With Wine Would Be Fine

    A Wedding & Wine sounds like a fabulous idea! After serving Mint Julep’s or Side Cars at cocktail hour before heading into the reception, many guests would enjoy a nice glass of vino… especially with their dinner. But, what wine should you serve? what pairs well with your food? and what wine is within your budget??? Don’t panic. I have many suggestions for all of the above.

    Below you will see many wines at very reasonable prices and a few with higher price tags. All are good crowd pleasers.

    BARGAIN GREATS!! (wines for less than $12)

    $8.00, 2008 Concannon Sauvignon Blanc, $8.00, from Central Coast, CA—very refreshing with tastes of fresh-cut grass, jalapeno, lemon-lime with a peppery finish. A great with chicken and fish.

    $8.00, 2008 Delatour Chardonnay Cuvee Premier, France—this is a gold medal winner! This south of France hottie has got a lot of fruit.

    $12.99, 2008 DeLoach Chardonnay Heritage, CA--- with flavors of pear and apricot, you will enjoy its smooth, hint of vanilla notes and flavorful palate.

    $9.99, 2008 Carmenet Pinot Noir Reserve, CA—nice fruit flavor with hints of spice and vanilla.

    $10.99, 2006 Monte Antico Sagiovese-Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana, Italy—a big, bright blend with flavors of plum and dried cherry. This received 90 points by Wine Spectator.

    $10.99, 2007 L de Lyeth Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma)—medium bodied blend with tastes of herb, tobacco, and cassis aromas. You may even taste a touch of coffee as well as soft fruit. A nice wine for a spectacular price!

    STEPPING IT UP AT BIT!! ($40 or less)

    $20, 2005 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay Researve—a delicate fruit-forward wine with tastes of fig and green apple followed by a smooth, buttery finish.

    $30, 2006 Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec, Loire Valley, France—your palate will dance with notes of pear and spice with this beautifully balanced wine.

    $15, 2007 Terra d’Oro Amador County Zinfandel, ripe and luscious, but best without food which is unusual.

    $18, 2007 Cameron Hughes Lot 110 Carneros Pinot Noir, you may have to search for this one, but well worth it. This is a delicious fruit-forward Pinot. A lot of Cameron Hughes’s wine gets high marks at a decent price.

    $35, 2006 Ehret "bella's Blend" Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon—this is mellow and soft with a long finish. Tastes of berry.

    A TOAST??? WHAT ABOUT PROSECCO OR CHAMPAGNE?$10.99- 15.99, Italy, Any good prosecco will do as a nice toasting wine or as an opener.

    $25.99, Piper-Heidsieck Extra Dry NV, France

    WINE &FOOD PAIRINGS CHEATSHEETSauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris~ Light white fish with a citrusy sauce or a salty appetizer

    Chardonnay~ Lobster or something rich with butter or a grilled lamb

    Pinot Noir~ Roast duckling, or flavorful game

    Zinfandel~ spicy foods with a touch of sweet like BBQ or spicy Latin-American dishes

    Cabernet Sauvignon~ Red meat

    Sources: Food & Wine (April 2010) and Drinks (Spring 2010) Magazines.


    Featuring this month, our ceramic-topped bottle stopper, which works as a place card and party favor in one! Lay it on its side to work as a place card (use a Sharpie to write the name of your guest—removes with Windex). Then the guest can take it home and use it to stop their wines, oils, vinegars, or label foods. It is a fun and interesting way to solve two issues.

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    Mother's Day

    We asked two women that we work closely with and who's opinions we value, to share with us some ideas they have for Mother's Day.  We wanted them to tell us who they honor and how they honor them.  And after reading both, our own gift lists got a little longer ;)  After all ,where would we be without the women who's shoulders we lean on and who's smiles brighten our days?

    Regina Namlick of Take Me Home, one of our fine retailers says this:

    A mothers treasure is her family. Celebrate your mother on her special day with a MessageTile from PlaceTile Designs- a great mom must have!!! Perfect for a "to do" list, reminders, menus, daily chores or just a sweet sentiment....your mom will love it!!!

    Take Me Home
    216 C South Talbot St.
    St. Michaels, MD 21663 

    And Natalie Hammer Noblitt, wrote about Many Types of Mothers

    While there are 80 million mothers in the United States, I would count
    that number as much higher. I saw this number reported on a recent
    list of Mother’s Day facts by online magazine Gift & Home Interactive
    ( The story also said the number of
    women who have actually given birth has dropped from 90% to 80% since
    1976. It seems to me that while the percentage of traditional mothers
    may have dropped for a variety of reasons, our culture has embraced
    Mother’s Day to include even more women. That is a great thing! Two
    years ago I became a mom, and I started rethinking what it means to be
    one. I have expanded my gift-giving list for Mother’s Day. I am lucky
    to have a fantastic mother, sister and mother-in-law who I always send
    a note and gift. But now I include women in my life who do not have
    children or stepchildren. These women are special to me and I wanted a
    way to honor them for dispensing love and friendship like a good
    mother would. Mothers are a special breed for sure, but I like the
    idea of making this holiday an inclusive celebration of all women who
    are caretakers. Who are the special women in your life? Will you take
    time to honor them this year with a simple note or gesture? I hope so.

    Natalie Hammer Noblitt
    Freelance Writer, Marketing & PR
    Just Your Type Media
    140 S. Calumet Ave.
    Aurora, IL 60506

    (630) 566-9828

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    PlaceTile Designs Derby Dinner

    The trees are in bloom, the sun is shining (for the most part), and the horse races are upon us!  From steeplechases on the East Coast like the Grand National, Hunt Cup, and Gold Cup to the world famous Triple Crown, the horses are the unofficial welcoming of Spring.  It's our very favorite time of year and in honor of it, we're bringing you a traditional Kentucky Derby Menu!  Set up your tail gate in style with our Horse MessageTile and PlaceTile

    Mint Juleps
    (8 servings)

    2 c. Granulated Sugar
    2 c. Water
    1/2 c. tightly packed mint leaves, chopped
    32 oz Kentucky Bourbon
    8 ea. Mint sprigs (garnish)

    In a small pot, combine sugar, mint leaves and water. Bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Make sure all sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool and strain through a fine sieve. Freeze your favorite cocktail glasses or silver goblets and add crushed ice to fill. Pour 4 oz bourbon and 1/4 cup of simple syrup over ice and garnish each with a sprig of mint. For a nice touch, serve on silver trays with a cocktail stirrer.

    Benedictine Finger Sandwiches
    (10-12 servings)

    8oz Philly Cream Cheese, room temp
    1 tbsp Mayonnaise
    3 tbsp Cucumber, grated and drained by squeezing juice out with towel
    1 tbsp green onions, chopped
    1 tsp tabasco
    1 drop green food coloring
    1/4 loaf white bread (preferably fresh baked)

    In a food processor combine all the ingredients. Be sure to reserve the cucumber juice in case mixture is too stiff so you can drizzle back in as needed. Continually scrape down the bowl to assure all ingredients are harmonious. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Slice crust off of bread and spread the mixture over bread. Top the sandwich with another slice and cut into desired shapes.

    Kentucky Burgoo
    (serves 10-12)

    1 3-4 lb. Chicken, quartered
    1 1/2 lbs. Small Cubed Beef Chuck
    5 tbsp Vegetable oil
    3 c. Chicken Stock
    2 c. Beef Stock
    2 c. Water
    1 1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
    1/2 tbsp Cayenne Pepper
    24 oz Tomato Puree
    12ea small Fingerling or white Potatoes (whole)
    2 c. Onion, Diced
    4 c. Green Cabbage, finely Shredded
    45 oz. canned diced tomatoes
    5 ea. white corn, off the cobb
    1 lb carrots, sliced into coins
    1 c. fresh okra, sliced into coins
    1 c. fresh Lima beans
    2 green peppers, small dice
    1/3 c. Worcestershire Sauce
    Salt To Taste

    In a large soup pot, add in veg oil. When almost smoking, add in the chicken and beef pieces. Sprinkle in black pepper and cayanne. Turn heat to medium and brown on all sides being careful not to burn. Add in stocks and water. Gently simmer for 45 minutes, turn heat off and remove the chicken. Pull the meat off the bone and dice. Return chicken and the rest of the ingredients to the broth. Cook on a low simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring often making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Traditionally this soup, dating back to the Civil War, was thick enough to stand a spoon in. If a more fluid consistency is desired, then simply add water during cooking process. Finish with salt as needed.

    Kentucky Chocolate Walnut Pie
    (serves 10)

    1/2 c. All Purpose Flour
    1 c. Granulate Sugar
    2 eggs, beaten
    1/2 c. Melted Butter
    2 tbsp Bourbon
    1 c. Walnuts, Chopped
    1 1/4 c. semi sweet Chocolate Chips
    1 tsp Vanilla Extract
    1 pinch Salt
    1 ready-made Pie Crust

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized mixing bowl combine flour, sugar and mix well. Add in the beaten eggs and butter stirring until combined. Add in bourbon, walnuts, vanilla, chocolate chips and salt. Pour mixture into the pie crust and bake for 40 minutes or until the pie does not giggle when shaken. Let cool and slice into desired sized wedges.

    Recipes courtesy of Chef Christopher Paternotte

    Saturday, March 27, 2010

    Easter Basket to Easter Table

    While I was acting as the Easter Bunny and doing the shopping for my kids Easter baskets at Target, it struck me, that I could re-use ALL of the "junk" I was buying to set the table for our Easter brunch.  Suddenly, the "junk" became a treasure and buying all the Easter themed goodies didn't seem such a short lived waste.  For under $75 I got 2 baskets full of goodies and EVERYTHING I would need to set my table.  Here's what it will look like next Sunday morning:

    In addition to the purchases I made at Target, I used my Easter egg PlaceTiles and my beaded round PlaceTiles, my china and silver, and some daffodils that were growing in my neighborhood.  I filled the basket with the bags from target and covered those with Easter basket grass.  Then I filled it in with plastic eggs and easter candy.  

    I used the remainder of the Easter grass as a placemat for the China, to nest under my PlaceTiles, and to decorate my egg and jelly bean displays at  the corners of each table. 

    The vase PlaceTiles were filled with daffodils, and I set up the candy and toys around the basket in the center of the table.  I also used the chocolate bunnies as additional decor at opposite corners of the table.  

    I set it all up, took the pictures and tore it all down in under an hour, which is good news since I won't be able to set the real Easter brunch table until after my kids find their Easter baskets that morning.  The added bonus of using their Easter loot, is that hopefully my guests will help eat the candy because, Lord knows my kids don't need any more suger in their diet!!!

    This is a guest post by Molly White, an avid fan of PlaceTile Designs.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Passover Celebration

    each family has it's own traditions for the Seder meal at Passover; Aunt Betty's 3 layer kugel, Cousin Lisa's special matzo ball soup stuffed with chicken fat fried onions, Mom's mandel breit, the list goes on.  This year why not start a new tradition and try some of the fabulous recipes we found across the 'net.  Each link has a full menu of ideas to chose from and we even found an online Kosher wine shop!  To set the perfect table, use our PlaceTile Designs Vineyard Collection.  

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Tuna AvaTar-Tar, The Blind Sliders, and District 9 Layer Dip; Eat Up The Oscars!

    The Oscars are one of our 3 favorite TV events of the year.  There's the Super Bowl, (we admit, it's the commercials we love even more than the game), the 24 hours of A Christmas Story (You'll shoot your eye out), and the Oscars.  From the fashions that the stars wear to the movies themselves, the Oscars are a tv spectacle to behold.  Plus we love placing bets on how long the show will run.

    Hosting a party to celebrate the Oscars makes watching them even more fun.  This year with the help of Chef Paternotte, we came up with a fantastically fun way to make the most out of the nominees for Best Picture at an Oscar party....we let the movies inspire our menu!  

    From The Hurt Lockertini to the Tuna AvaTar-Tar, each drink and dish will remind you of the movies in the running for the 2010 Academy Award for Best Picture! You can write the names of the dishes and drinks on an assortment of our PlaceTiles for the finishing touch.   Enjoy our menu and see if you can think of any on your own!

    An Evening with Oscar

    The Hurt Lockertini
    Jameson and Baileys chilled, shaken and poured up and finished with Guinness

    Stoli Orange, Cointreau and cranberry, shaken and served up then splashed with champagne and garnished with candied orange peel

    smashed black beans, ground beef, roasted tomato, guacamole, red peppers, creme fraiche, cheddar cheese, green onions and crushed blue tortilla chips

    pulled pork shoulder, sesame slaw and jalapeno creme fraiche on tiny potato roll ground beef, balsamic onions, grafton cheddar and avocado on tiny potato roll roasted chicken, apple, and walnut salad with roquefort blue cheese

    tuna tartare, spicy sweet soy sauce, green onions, on wonton chips

    Recipes & Procedures
    (all recipes serve 10 people, drinks are per serving)

    The Hurt Lockertini:
    2 oz Jameson
    1 oz baileys irish cream
    3 oz guinness

    In a shaker pour jameson and baileys over ice shaking vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain and pour into a chilled martini glass and top off with Guinness.

    2oz Stoli Orange
    1 oz cointreau (Gran Marnier works well too)
    1 oz cranberry juice
    2oz champagne

    In a shaker with ice, pour Stoli, Cointreau, and cranberry together and shake for 10 seconds. Strain and pour into a chilled martini glass, and top off with your favorite champagne.

    For the candied orange peel, slice peel off an orange and cut into three inch strips. Boil the strips three times in new water each time. Remove from the water the last time and put in a small saute pan with 6 tbsps sugar and one tbsp water. On medium heat stir together, coating the orange peels and allowing the sugar to melt. do not let any color develop, you want to leave the liquid clear. Be careful not to touch peels with your bare hands, it can be harmful. Remove from the pot and immediately toss in a bowl of 1 cup of sugar to coat the peels. Allow to cool in the sugar.

    District 9 Layer Dip:
    1 Can Black Beans
    1 large onion
    1/2 bunch cilantro
    1 beer (negro modelo preferred)
    1 lb ground Beef
    3 tbsp chili powder
    1 tbsp cayenne pepper
    2 tbsp cumin
    5 vine ripe tomatoes
    3 avocados
    2 limes
    4 red peppers
    2 cups creme fraiche (or sour cream)
    1 bunch green onions
    2 cups blue corn chips, crushed
    8 oz grafton cheddar (4 month old)

    Dice onion and saute half of it until tender and slightly translucent. Briefly drain then add the can of black beans to the onions. Chop the 1/2 bunch of cilantro and sprinkle two tablespoons into the beans and onions. Add the beer and simmer beans for 10 minutes and when most liquid is absorbed, mash the beans into a mash potato consistency. Spread evenly on the bottom of a 9x9 (pyrex) dish as the first layer.

    Saute ground beef in olive oil with the other half of the onion. Add the chili powder, cayenne pepper and cumin and saute for 3-5 minutes. Stir and make sure that seasonings are evenly distributed. remove from the pan and spread evenly over the bean layer.

    Cut tomatoes (see red peppers below) into quarters, place them on a foil covered cookie sheet, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a 450 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove and layer on top of beef in the pan.

    Peel and remove pits from the avocado. Smash up with the juice from 2 limes, salt and pepper. spread on top of tomato layer.

    Roast peppers in the same oven as the tomatoes (450 degrees). Place whole peppers tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper on a foil covered sheet tray and roast until the skin is blackened and blistered. Remove and allow to cool. Peel and deseed the peppers. Lay the large pieces of roasted pepper on top of the avocado layer.

    Spread two cups of creme fraiche or sour cream on pepper layer.

    Slice all green onions into tiny coins and sprinkle on top of cream fraiche/sour cream.

    Crush the blue corn chips into small pieces.and spread evenly over the last layer. Shred the cheddar cheese and sprinkle on top of tortilla chips. Place whole dish in a 450 degree oven and bake until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

    The Blind Sliders:
    Pork Sliders:
    15 Mini Potato Rolls (parker house rolls are great as well)
    2 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into 3 large pieces
    2 onions, quartered
    1 head garlic, sliced in half crosswise in husk
    2 inches ginger, cut in half (if washed well, no need to peel)
    1 stalk of celery, chopped (no leaves)
    2 cups sake
    4 cups vegetable stock or water

    For the Slaw:
    2 cups napa cabbage, shredded
    4 green onions
    1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
    4 oz sesame seeds, toasted
    2 tbsp sesame oil
    1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
    2 oz sweet soy sauce (ABC sweet soy)
    For the sauce:
    1 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
    2 jalapenos, roasted and deseeded
    1 lime, juiced

    In a large and deep oven proof skillet, brown the salt and peppered pork shoulder on all sides in 5 tbsp of vegetable oil over a medium high flame. Remove from the pan, keeping the fat in the pan, add in the onion, garlic and stalk of celery. Saute for 3-4 minutes over medium high heat and reintroduce the pork. Immediately add the sake and stock (or water). Cover and place in a 375 degree oven for 2 1/2 - 3 hours, depending on the oven because baking ovens, opposed to convection, may take longer. To check doneness you should be able to pull apart with a fork. When finished, remove the meat and vegetables, strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve and return to a small sauce pan and reduce the liquid to 3 cups, the sauce should be thickened enough to gently coat the spoon. Let the liquid rest so the fat rises to the top, then skim off with a spoon or In the meantime, shred the pork using you hands or if its still too hot, forks work well.  Remove the sauce from the heat and toss together with the pork. Season with some extra salt and pepper if needed.

    For the Slaw: Thinly slice or julianne the cabbage,  slice the green onions into thin rounds, and chop the cilantro. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry saute pan, tossing frequently until golden brown and set aside. Mix together the vinegar, oil, sesames and soy pouring over the cabbage, green onions and cilantro. Let marinate for a hour in the refrigerator, over night will be fine as well if you want to prepare ahead of time.

    For the sauce: In a food processor combine the creme fraiche, roasted jalapeno (roast whole for 10 minutes in a 450 degree oven, then deseed) and lime juice. Pulse until the the mixture is smooth, do not over mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    To assemble the sliders, place the warm pork on a bun, and top with the cole slaw.

    Beef Sliders
    10 Mini potato rolls or parker house rolls
    2 lbs ground beef (80/20)
    1 1/2 large sweet onions, julianned
    4 oz balsamic vinegar
    1/2 lb Grafton Cheddar, sliced
    2 avocados

    Form the ground beef into 3 ounce patties, making sure not to over work the meat. In a large saute pan on medium high heat add 3 ounces of butter and the julianned onions. The onions should be mounded up in the pan. Let the bottom layer brown before stirring or flipping the onions. continue to toss the onions every few minutes making sure not to burn them. The bottom of the pan should begin to brown, the deeper brown the better. Once the onions are browned and very soft, and volume is reduced by half, add the balsamic to deglaze the pan. Toss throughly making sure to glaze the onions well with the balsamic and set aside.

    Remove the avocado from the skin by slicing lengthwise cutting down to the pit. Spin the top side off while holding the bottom in you hand. To remove pit, stick the blade of a chefs knife into the pit as if to chop it. The blade will stick into the pit, twist and it pops right out. With a spoon, scoop the flesh from the skin and cut into small slices.

    Grill the burgers on a very hot grill for 2 minutes on each side for a medium burger. as soon as you flip the burger, add the cheese. Stack the onions and avocado on top and place on the buns.

    Chicken Salad Slider:
    10 mini potato buns or parker house rolls
    1 whole chicken, roasted
    2 lemons
    1/4 cup olive oil
    4 tbsp thyme, chopped
    4 tbsp parsley, chopped
    Salt and pepper
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1/2 onion, small dice
    1 cup walnuts, chopped
    1 granny smith apple, sliced into thin wedges
    5 oz Roquefort Cheese

    Buying a rotisserie chicken is perfectly acceptable, however it is always more fun to roast yourself, and it tastes better! To roast the chicken preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    Using the oil, half of the chopped herbs, salt and pepper generously rub the chicken inside and out. Halve one lemon and stick it inside the cavity. place chicken in an oven proof pan and roast for 2 hours. The Skin should be dark and crispy and the meat falling off the bone.

    Remove chicken and peel off the skin and finely chop about half of it (use the crispy parts). Pull all the meat off the bone, being sure to get the meat from the back, there is a lot of meat there. Place both into a bowl, add the small dice of onion, rest of the herbs, mayonnaise, the juice of the other lemon and walnuts. Mix together and taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper.

    To assemble, spoon the chicken salad on the buns, top with two slices of the apple, and  a small slice of the roquefort cheese.

    **You can skewer all of the sliders with cocktail picks to hold together.

    1/12 lbs raw sushi grade yellow fin tuna
    2 oz siracha sauce (asian hot sauce, clear bottle with green top)
    3 oz ABC sweet sot sauce
    2 oz sesame oil
    3 green onions, thinly sliced into little coins
    3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
    1 package of wonton wrappers

    Finely dice the tuna removing any silver skin if prevalent (white material holding the layers of muscle together). Mix the other ingredients together and toss with the tuna. Season with salt and pepper.

    In a small pot, heat about 1 to 2 cups of vegetable oil. heat over medium heat and drop in the wonton wrappers one at a time. Remove with a slotted spoon when they stop bubbling. Drain on paper towels and season with salt while still hot.

    To serve, spoon the tuna onto the wontons, to make more bite sized pieces, break the wontons up.

    For the correct soy sauce (Kecap Manis ABC Sweet Soy, medium)  and Sriracha Sauce (Huy Fong Foods) goto an Asian Foods market near you, you can find it online at

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    Pet Love

    If you're anything like all of us, you heart your pets. Some people we know (who shall remain nameless) post more pics of their pets on facebook than they do of their children. While other people we know, consider their pet to be their child. It's hard not to love those wet noses and adoring eyes, we swear they even smile!

    The only downer to loving your pet that much is that many places aren't pet friendly. Not all of us can work in places where you can bring your pet to work.  And finding pet friendly hotels while on vacation is like finding a needle in a other words: GOOD LUCK!!! At the end of the day, you simply can't take your pet everywhere you go. Lucky for us pet lovers, some enterprising person years ago invented the job of pet sitter. A good pet sitter is as valuable a commodity as gold if you ask us!

    And like children, our pets come with a laundry list of needs, wants and vital info. Fido likes wet food not dry food, and he must be walked before bedtime. Fluffy needs her litter box emptied daily & Nemo needs his tank cleaned once a week. This is important info that should be readily visible to the petsitter and PlaceTile Designs has the perfect solution.....behold the PetSitter MessageTile, an erasable ceramic tile, that's just the right size to scrawl all of your pet's info.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    No Reservations Needed, Valentine's Day Dinner for Two at Home

    Booking a reservation for 2 at your favorite romantic restaurant on Valentine's Day is sometimes more challenging than scaling Mt. Everest.  Suddenly the booth in the corner that you can always get at the last minute, is booked all night and if you are lucky enough to get a table, you'll end up sharing your romantic dinner with a restaurant FULL of other couples, which isn't so romantic.

    Instead of going out, stay home, and make a romantic, gourmet meal for two.  Set up a little bistro table by the fireplace and enjoy the company of your special someone.  Valentine's Day is on a Sunday this year, so you can spend the day preparing the meal and then once you're finished you can let the dishes wait until the morning!

    To top off the special evening, pick up a PlaceTile Designs beaded vase , fill it with fresh flowers, and write a love letter to your sweetheart, right on the vase!

    Chef Paternotte has created a Valentine's Day dinner menu that is sure to knock the socks off your special someone.  Trust us, if you take the time to make this mouth watering meal, your sweetheart will truly be yours forever!

    First Course: Oyster Stew

    You will need: a 3 quart sauce pan

    •   2 Shallots
    •   1 Leek
    •   2 Cloves Garlic
    •   1/2 Head Fennel, Chopped 
    •   2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
    •   1/4 cup Pernod (French Licorice Flavored Liqueur)
    •   1 1/2  Cups Fish Stock (or Water)
    •   1 Cup heavy Cream
    •   3 Sprigs Italian Parsley
    •   8-10 Freshly Shucked Oysters
    •   Juice from oysters
    •   1 Tsp Chives


    Soup: Peel Shallots, trim all dark green from leek and rinse very well, trim stalks off of fennel (reserve a couple small choice fennel tops for garnish), and peel garlic.  Chop all vegetables into a small dice and saute in butter. Keep heat on low and do not brown. Once tender add Pernod, parsley (whole) and fish stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream. Return to heat and add strained oyster juice. Remove parsley sprigs and using a hand blender (if none available, use Cuisenart) blend soup until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and return to pot. Minutes before serving add oysters and lightly simmer, when edges of oyster curl, they are ready, do not over cook the oysters.

    To Serve: Spoon soup into hot bowls with desired amount (4-5) of oysters, and garnish with chopped chives and a fennel top. 

    Second Course: Rack of Lamb

    You will need: either a Kitchen Aid or Beaters, Sharp Knife, Grill

    •   2 Four bone cuts from rack of Lamb

    •   2 Cups White Wine
    •   4 tbsp dijon mustard
    •   1/2 cup Olive oil
    •   1 sprig fresh rosemary
    •   1 sprig fresh oregano
    •   1 tsp black pepper
    •   1 tsp kosher salt

    The sides:

    •   4 LargeYukon Gold Potatoes
    •   2 cups Heavy cream
    •   4 tbsp unsalted butter
    •   1 ounce White Truffle Oil
    •   8 spears Asparagus
    •   Olive Oil


    With a sharp knife, split your lamb into 4 two bone racks or double chops.

    Day before Marinade: In a food processor, combine the wine, mustard, rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper. Blend until combined. While blending, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. This should create an emulsification, or harmonious mixture. Place lamb in a container that barely fits the size of the lamb and pour the marinade over. Let rest in refrigerator over night in the marinade.

    Potatoes: Peel and leave whole and place in a pot with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender. Drain water and allow potatoes to steam off for a few minutes (do not let them get cold).  If you have a Kitchen Aid with a whisk attachment this is the best, but beaters will work just fine. Place potatoes in bowl and beat to break them up. Meanwhile heat the cream and butter together, do not boil. As the potatoes are mixing, add the cream and butter and whip for a minute. Drizzle in truffle oil. DO NOT over mix or they will be wallpaper paste. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Keep warm until ready to serve.

    Lamb: Remove form marinade and lightly shake off. Place on a hot grill and sear each side for 2 minuted each for a medium rare. There will be some flame up so keep an eye on the lamb while grilling.

    Asparagus: Trim bottom 2 inches and discard, toss top portions in the olive oil and grill for about 5 minutes.

    Serve two double chops per a person, resting them over truffle mash. Prop asparagus against chops and enjoy!

    Third Course Dessert: Chocolate Ganache Tart

    You will need: a Cuisenart mixer, 12” tart pan (removable bottom preferred), foil, 2 quart heavy bottom pot


    1 1/4 sticks Unsalted Butter (room temp)
    3/4 cup  Powdered Sugar
    1/3 cup Finley ground Almonds
    pinch of salt
    2 tsp Vanilla extract
    1 XL egg (lightly beaten)
    1 3/4 cups flour


    1 1/4 heavy cream
    12oz Bittersweet Chocolate (chopped)
    1/4 cup dark rum

    Caramel Sauce:

    2 cups sugar
    1 cup water
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    4 tbsp Unsalted butter (small pieces)
    1/2 heavy cream
    1/3 cup rum

    1 cup heavy cream, whipped, for garnish

    Crust: place butter and sugar in a Cuisenart with the metal blade and beat until fluffy (5 min). Add in almonds, salt , vanilla and egg and pulse a few times. Add in flour and mix until a ball forms. Do not over mix dough, scrape down bowl and make sure all ingredients are incorporated. Remove and pat into a disc, dust with flour and wrap with plastic and refrigerate for an hour (overnight is fine too). Dust table with flour and roll out into 15” circle to cover a 12” tart pan. Gently pat into the pan and prick surface with a fork. Spray the foil with pam or oil and place the wet side down on the dough, pressing into the corners firmly. Refrigerate for 30 min.

    Preheat oven to 350. Place dough in oven for 15 min covered with foil, remove and bake for 10 more. Let cool before adding the filling.

    Filling: Bring the cream to a boil with the rum, place chocolate in a bowl and pour hot cream mixture over. Gently whisk together until smooth and homogenous. Let cool slightly to where ganache thickly coats a spoon. Evenly pour into tart shell and let stand.

    Caramel Sauce: Put sugar and water and lemon together in heavy bottom sauce pot. bring to a rapid boil and make sure all sugar is dissolved. Let boil without stirring for 12-15 minutes, or until a nice amber color. Pull off the heat and stir in butter piece by piece, add cream and rum and mix throughly. set aside to cool.

    Whip Heavy cream to stiff peaks (so it stands up on a spoon when held vertically).

    To Serve: Cut a slice of the chilled tart, top with whipped cream, and drizzle the caramel sauce over both. Dive in!

    Search This Blog