Holy Grail Chili-pa-looza & Beer!

4 Chilies 4 Beers at the Holy Grail Pub

4 Chilies 4 Beers at the Holy Grail Pub

Hey Twisted Peeps!

This post is a departure for me because I’m going to write about beer.

My favorite place to get fantastic beer and great food is the Holy Grail Pub. The owner, Brian has created a comfortable neighborhood place with a knowledgeable friendly staff.

I don’t know if there are certified Cicerones (the equivalent to a Sommelier) that work at Holy Grail, but honestly they don’t need one. Everyone is passionate about beer and food and can easily help you with your choices.

Sully and I decided to try out the Holy Grail Chili-pa-looza event. I ordered a flight of chili, which was a sample of 4: Vegetarian 3 Bean, White Turkey Hominy, Smoked Brisket, and Ghost Pepper. (They were out of the Green Chile Chicken).

The Cicerone for the evening was Steven. I asked him to set up a flight of beer to go with the chilies.

He brought out: Green Flash West Coast IPA, Stone Brewery’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, and Southern Tier Choklet Imperial Stout.

Pairing #1 Green Flash West Coast IPA with the Vegetarian 3 Bean. Green Flash is a hoppy beer with citrus and pine. I do not like hoppy beers, but this was a perfect pairing with the Vegetarian. The beer really brought out the acidity of the tomatoes and added depth to the taste of the chili.

It also worked well with the White Turkey Hominy. It was an equal pairing where the beer and the chili did not really change one another. Very nice.

Pairing #2 Stone Brewery Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale with White Turkey Hominy Chili. I love almost everything Stone does. However, this beer was too light which really surprised me, so I tried it with the Vegetarian and again, it was too light and sort of forgettable.

Pairing #3 Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout with the Smoked Brisket was wonderful. The beer has elements of bitter chocolate, coffee, molasses and roasted nuts that really complimented the smokey sweetness of the sauce and had enough body to handle the texture of the chili.

I also tried it with the Ghost Pepper Chili and it actually smoothed out some of the heat.

Pairing #4 Southern Tier Choklet Imperial Stout with the Ghost Pepper Chili…WOW! I loved it. This Imperial Stout is rich, sweet, earthy and dark. It added some sweetness to the Ghost Peppers which is a good thing so my mouth did not feel like it was being charred from the really really hot peppers. The beer made my palate feel like it was being “protected” in dark chocolate goodness before being assaulted by fire. That’s a weird analogy, but I don’t how else to explain it…LOL!

For fun, I tried it with the Smoked Brisket but that did not go so well. The beer made the chili bitter.

So all in all, I think it was a successful chili and beer pairing.

Thank you Steven for rising to the challenge and the whole Holy Grail Crew for putting up with this “wine snob”.

Your Twisted Sommelier,



Prosecco, Potato Chips, Pork Skins

Zardetto, Presto, Voveti, Mionetto

Zardetto, Presto, Voveti, Mionetto

Cape Cod, Lay's, Ruffles, Baken-ets

Cape Cod, Lay’s, Ruffles, Baken-ets

I love Prosecco. I love potato chips and pork skins. I thought it would be a match made in Heaven….not so much…

I enlisted the help of my Cousin Catherine, who has no problem getting her opinion over in a direct manner (remember she said a wine tasted like wet dog?) and my friend Teri who worships Prosecco.

We tasted 4 Proseccos and 3 kinds of potato chips and a bag of pork skins.

The 4 Proseccos:

Presto: It is a Whole Foods brand. Catherine was the first to declare it undrinkable. It smelled and tasted like a barnyard. We all wondered if it was “corked”. Teri & I tried to analyze it a bit more, but it was just too painful so we dumped it.

Mionetto: This was recommended by Carol who works at my local Whole Foods. It had a slight petrol and citrus smell. The taste was mineral, very light lemon and apple. We all liked it. I even think Teri found a new Prosecco to fall in love with.

Voveti: The smell was more flowery than the others. The taste was citrus, assorted apples and white flowers. We thought this one was nice, but not outstanding.

Zardetto: This has always been my “go to” Prosecco. The smell is light perfume and apples. The taste is baked apples, bread and a light mineral finish. We all liked this one.

The tasting results with the chips:

Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Reduced Fat Chips:

Mionetto brought out a herbaceous taste that we all liked.

Voveti made the chips bitter

Zardetto brought out a slightly sweet flavor that we liked.

Lay’s Potato Chips:

Mionetto brought out a green herb quality in the chips. It was good.

Voveti tasted weird and earthy. Not good.

Zardetto just tasted flat. Not good.

Ruffles Potato Chips:

Mionetto made the chips taste fresh, light and zesty. Awesome!

Voveti – bitter

Zardetto gave the chip a weird baked flavor.

Baken-ets Pork Skins:

Mionetto was well-balanced with the pork skins. Awesome!

Voveti brought out an earthy, dirt flavor that we did not like.

Zardetto amplified the bacon goodness, but it was not the palate cleanser I was looking for, but we all liked the pairing.

Afterwards we found out that you need a cast iron stomach to handle lots of bubbles and salty, oily chips.

I had a headache and stomach-ache. The next day we kept texting each other and sharing our misery. I will never do this again!

By the way, we found out that Voveti is very good with raspberries and probably should have stuck with that…

Cheers! Y’all!

Your Twisted Sommelier, Lori

Shale Oak – A Unique Winery

Awhile back, My long-suffering Hubby and I were visiting friends who were in the wine business in Paso Robles, California. They said that one of their favorite wineries in the area is Shale Oak because it is architecturally unique, has an emphasis on sustainability, and the wine is really good. Well, to me that sounds like a home run!

When we pulled up to the winery, it was stunning to see a huge wall of stained glass as part of the tasting room. But yet it blended so well with the native landscape. It sort of reminded me of those funky A-frame houses from the 1950’s. Even the interior had a Mid-Century Modern feel to it.

The buildings at Shale Oak are LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified. The landscape consists of native vegetation and rainwater is caught and used throughout the winery. Here is some info about the sustainability of the winery: inbalancegreen.com

The tasting menu was a small selection, which I think is wonderful. It shows (at least to me) that the winery is focused on what is good at the time of harvest. I also noticed while I was digging up my notes, that Shale Oak prides themselves on doing small batches and they don’t have all of the same wines available all the time.

For example: I tried a wine named Ku. It is a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel and Grenache. The vintage was 2008. It is currently not available, but you can get Petite Sirah as a lone varietal now, which I couldn’t get at the time I was there.

Ku from Shale Oak

Ku from Shale Oak

Speaking of Ku…It is a beautifully lush, plummy red wine with hints of smoke and pepper. The finish lingers a bit. I wish I had bought a case of this.

Albarino from Shale Oak

Albarino from Shale Oak

I also loved the Albarino. It was a bright, crisp wine with tropical fruits, and the finish was a balance of minerality and creamy texture. Sometimes I feel that Albarinos get a little too harsh, but this one was just right.

Syrah from Shale Oak

Syrah from Shale Oak

The last wine I bought was the Syrah. It had layers of black fruit, pepper, tobacco leaf. It was rich with a smokey finish.

If you are ever in Paso Robles, do not pass up an opportunity to see this winery. Until then…please check out their website: Shale Oak

Cheers Y’all,

Lori – Your Twisted Sommelier

Chardonnay and BEEF!

Butter Chardonnay

Butter Chardonnay

Sanglier Chardonnay

Sanglier Chardonnay

Beef, Potatoes, w/Avocados & Tomatoes

Beef, Potatoes, w/Avocados & Tomatoes

I had posted a few years ago about how I was trying to find a different wine other than Cabernet to pair with a beef filet. 

I settled on a Pinot Noir that created a rant about how I wish more restaurants were BYOB….Anyhoo…I digress….

I got to thinking about this because I have a friend that loves Chardonnay and that evening I said that an oaky, full-bodied Chardonnay would be perfect.

So to prove I was right, I tried 2 Chardonnay wines with a bacon wrapped beef filet, rosemary – garlic potatoes and a salad of avocados and tomatoes drizzled in lime and olive oil.

The 2 Chardonnays were:

2010 Sanglier Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. alc. 13.9% and 2012 JAM Cellars Chardonnay Butter. alc. 14.8%

Sanglier smell was: Ripe apple, cream, a bit of white flowers and creme brulee

The taste was: Granny Smith apple, assorted melons and lemon. The acidity was long but finished slightly creamy.

It was great with the beef. It sort of cleansed the palate, but the beef did not over-whelm the wine. It was perfect with the 2 side dishes.

 Butter smell was: Apple pie – bread, butter and cinnamon

The taste was: Light Red Delicious apple, peaches, smoke, with a soft vanilla, butter finish. The finish was short but creamy.

This Chardonnay was good with the beef. It even added a sweetness to the bacon, which is always awesome!

It paired very well with both side dishes.

Both of these Chardonnays were very good with beef because of how they were processed and the high alcohol level.

Sanglier was done “Sur Lie” in oak barrels, which adds more body, aromas, and complexity to the wine.

Butter went through 2 fermentations, the last one being malolactic, which softens the tartness of the wine making it creamy with more body.

I think I will take my own advice, and just order a Chardonnay. It will simplify my choices and the side dishes won’t feel neglected.

I want to Thank Whole Foods for this Whole meal; including the wine.

I have been shopping there for years and this is the ONLY place where I get bacon wrapped filets. I’m a West Texas girl and my Daddy was a judge on the Texas A&M Beef Team…I better know beef!

Also, the wine department, at least at my Whole Foods in Plano, is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about what they do…I feel like a kid in a candy store every time I go in to shop for wine.  Thank you Carol & your team!

I also want to Thank fellow Twisted Peep, Lisa S. for turning me onto Sanglier.

Cheers Y’all!

Lori – Your Twisted Sommelier

Schramsberg and Salted Caramel Crispy Treats

Schramsberg Cremant

Schramsberg Cremant

One of our “Twisted” Wine Classes was Bubbly Wines and Southern Comfort Food.

We had  Champagne, Cava, and Sparkling wines along with 2 kinds of Mac & Cheese, Fried Chicken, Buffalo Wings, Cornbread, Tater Tots, Deviled Eggs and Salted Caramel Crispy Treats…I think there was more, but I can’t remember. Let’s just say, no one went home hungry or thirsty.

I think the most memorable pairing for me, was a 2008 Schramsberg Cremant Demi Sec with the Salted Caramel Treats.

For those who are not familiar with Schramsberg, it is one of the premier Sparkling (it is outside of the Champagne region in France, so “Sparkling” is the proper term) Houses in the U.S. It has been served at many White House functions and it is a historic landmark in Napa Valley.

The Cremant style is creamy and Demi Sec is semi sweet (off dry) add the bubbles and you have a beautiful dessert wine that is not overly sweet with tasting notes of butter creme, pineapple, mango and I even think a bit of french toast.

It would pair well with fruit, gingerbread, creme brûlée and of course Salted Caramel.

Here is the recipe for the treats:

Nonstick spray
6 cups crispy rice cereal (about half a 12-ounce box), such as Rice Crispies
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, plus more for sprinkling
One 10-ounce bag mini marshmallows
Spray an 8-inch square cake pan with nonstick spray.

Add the cereal to a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

Add the butter to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once melted, stir in the brown sugar, heavy whipping cream and corn syrup. Cook until thick and syrupy while stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Stir in the salt. Turn off the heat and stir in the marshmallows. Keep stirring until the marshmallows are smooth and melted.

Quickly pour the caramel marshmallow sauce over the cereal and stir all together. Pour into the prepared pan and press down with a piece of parchment paper sprayed with nonstick spray. Sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt.

Cool completely, and then cut into squares.

Do yourself a favor and do this! Spend your money on this outstanding Sparkler ($38) and use the rest of your budget on an inexpensive yummy treat.

Cheers Y’all – Lori, Your Twisted Sommelier

*I would like to Thank “Twisted Peep” Tiffany for bringing this fun dessert! It really made my evening.

Hye Texas is the Place to Be

I know….strange….right?

My Long Suffering Hubby & I had no idea it existed until our friend and my part-time boss, Benjamin Calais, said that we needed to check out what’s happening in the area around Hye, Texas.  So we made a quick trip 226 miles south from Dallas to Johnson City, turned right on 290 West, went 10 miles and wound up in the unincorporated town of Hye.

The only buildings we saw was the package store called Hye Market and the post office. We thought Benjamin was playing a joke on us! But sure enough, a limo pulled up and several people got out and went into the Hye Market. So we decided to follow and were pleasantly surprised to see a buzz of activity going on. There was wine tasting, beer tasting, tequila tasting, bourbon tasting and food tasting. It was fun to see about 20 people “sardined” into this tiny store.

Hye Market

Hye Market

I was kissed and greeted by Jason Cook who is the proprietor, tour guide, and ambassador of Hye Market. He told us that he wants to expand and put in a tasting room separate from the market. From the way things looked, he better get to it quick because I don’t know how many more people would be able to fit around the tasting counters. We were then introduced to Haley, who handles the tastings. While talking to her, she mentioned there was a food truck in Albert (a ghost town) with bacon mayonnaise for dipping your french fries in. We could find it parked at the ice house and dance hall in Albert and we should check it out.

Before we left Hye Market, I tasted a Pinot Grigio from Compass Rose Cellars and a Riesling/Gewürztraminer blend from Hye Meadow Winery. Both wines were good summer drinking wines.

We then headed to Lewis Wines, which is technically in Johnson City.  This winery is so new that they don’t have a sign yet, but the instructions on the website are clear as to how to find them. We drove up a curvy road, past a house (we were told later, people mistake for the tasting room) and found ourselves at the end of the road by a concrete and tin structure with a concrete slab set up with a few tables and chairs. We decided that the door painted red must be the entrance to the tasting room. We were correct, Thank Goodness! and we were greeted by Doug Lewis, one of the winemakers (Duncan McNabb is the other). Both got their start with Pedernales and decided to make a go of it on their own. I must say, this winery is worth watching.

Outside Lewis Tasting Room

Outside Lewis Tasting Room

I tried the Viogner (which I’m not a big fan of because it comes off like buttered fruit) but the Lewis Viogner was beautifully balanced apricot and honey notes with a clean finish.

I also tried the 2010 Tempranillo and the “Texas/Spanish” version of a Cotes du Rhone, which is a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, but Tempranillo was added to give it the Texas/Spanish flair. Both wines were extremely good.

However, the one that intrigued me the most was a blend of the Portuguese grapes: Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cao with Tempranillo. This wine was lush with a bit of perfume and dark spices. However, I was amazed at the low alcohol level for such a rich wine (12.7). I think this is my new fave Texas red wine besides Benjamin’s Sangiovese/Zinfandel blend.

The Wines of Lewis Winery

The Wines of Lewis Winery

All of the Lewis wines are made from Texas grown grapes and the alcohol levels were relatively low.

If you decide to go to Lewis Wines, make a reservation because the place is small and look for the red door. You will not be disappointed.

Inside Lewis Tasting Room

Inside Lewis Tasting Room

Our next stop was William Chris Vineyards which is easy to find because it is across the road from Hye Market.

The tasting room is partially housed in a century year old house but the winery has gotten so popular that a very modern addition was added with a beautiful view of the Hill Country.

Outside William Chris

Outside William Chris

The View Inside William Chris

The View Inside William Chris

William Chris is a collaborative effort of winemakers/winegrowers Chris Brundrett and Bill Blackmon. Their first wines came out in 2009 and they use all Texas grown grapes.

I tried several of their wines, but 3 stood out for me.

The first was a Blanc du Bois. Most of the time these wines became overly acidic because they tend to have a grapefruit quality, but the winemakers chose wisely to use the sur lie method in processing the wine. Giving it a smooth, creamy feel while retaining the brightness. A really delightful wine.

The next one was called Emotion. It is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. A vanilla smell really jumped out of the glass, but I liked the fact that it was a light easy drinking red.

The last one called Enchante was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. It was a good red wine, but I think it needs more aging. It came across as a bit green, so I will put this one away and hope it evolves a bit more.

The Wines of William Chris

The Wines of William Chris

Next, we decided to take Haley’s advice and head to Albert and check out the food truck, dance hall and ice house. So we took the county road that was on the side of the Hye Post Office and made our way. I swear, I thought this was another joke because all we saw were cows and pasture land. At one point we thought we were trespassing. But luckily we connected with another major road and we looked to the right and there was Albert.

Albert Ice House

Albert Ice House

Albert Dance Hall

Albert Dance Hall

All of the buildings were shaded by huge oak trees. People were gathering at picnic tables or in the ice house and the band was unloading their equipment into the dance hall. The food truck called The Pig Pen was gearing up and I could smell some meaty goodness was going to be heading my way. Sully had a hamburger and I had the pork belly sandwich. We split the french fries with bacon mayo. Awesome! The only disappointment was the wine at the Ice House was either red or white (go figure) and it was crap. I wish I had ordered a beer.

The Pig Pen Food Truck

The Pig Pen Food Truck

We stayed until close to sunset just to enjoy the fantastic scenery and easy-going pace in Albert and then we had to hit the road and go back to “Big D”.

This was a great adventure and we plan to be back soon.

Who knew that Hye had so much to offer!

Viva Big Bend Food Fest

I really should call this a Food, Drink & Music Fest…my 3 fave things in one festival!

This is the lowdown on what I did…Unfortunately I couldn’t do everything..

The first night was a sample of area restaurant offerings. Some stand outs were: 12 Gage Restaurant from the Gage Hotel with their bacon wrapped scallops and quail in a citrus sauce. The Ramada of Alpine (yes that is right) had tasty Thai marinated shrimp. The Cow Dog food truck had samples of their hot dogs. I had the Artisan which has apple apricot chutney. The Saddle Club had crostini topped with bacon and beef tenderloin.

Quail Bites from the 12 Gage Restaurant

Quail Bites from the 12 Gage Restaurant

While we were sampling some wonderful food, we were treated to music by Tessy Lou and the Shotgun Stars and then Dale Watson.

Dale Watson

Dale Watson

Afterwards, we walked over to the Railroad Blues for some music by Mike and the Moonpies.

The next day we drove to Marfa to eat at our favorite “place” the Food Shark. We got to the covered shed by the railroad tracks and waited for the Food Shark food truck to pull up. The lumbering primer grey truck appeared and I couldn’t wait to get my Mediterranean food fix. I got the combo which is a Greek salad, falafel, hummus and flat bread. Sully got one of the days specials which was a curry egg salad sandwich. We also got a triple chocolate cookie and an orange cardamom spice cookie.

Combo Lunch from the Food Shark

Combo Lunch from the Food Shark

After lunch we wanted to go on a tour of the Marfa Maid dairy, but we missed the shuttle. Marfa Maid makes cheese from goats milk. Those goats have to be milked twice a day, so time is of the essence!

Instead we headed back to Alpine and chilled in the courtyard of the Holland Hotel and listened to Ashley Monical and then an acoustic Mike and the Moonpies. While we were there, the local brewery, Big Bend Brewery, was giving samples of their Porter and their Lager. Both were really good and Sully had been drinking their beers all weekend and is hoping they can expand to Dallas. We understand that for the Viva Big Bend Music Fest in July, their beers might be available in cans. The brewery is only 2 years old.

Big Bend Brewing. An empty cup means it's good!

Big Bend Brewing. An empty cup means it’s good!

Next up, and something I had been looking forward to all weekend was a 5 course meal with wine pairings from Chefs Stephen & Jonathan Wood from the Saddle Club. Now let me say that technically, the Saddle Club is not a restaurant. It is a bar with amazing “bar” food. So, to have the chance to experience the true talent of the Wood brothers, I knew this evening was going to be special.

The Wine Line Up for the 5 Course Meal

The Wine Line Up for the 5 Course Meal

1st Course: Sunchoke Soup with fried proscutto, white truffle and chive oil. The wine: Finca Las Nubes Torrontes.

Sunchoke Soup with Finca Las Nubes Torrontes

Sunchoke Soup with Finca Las Nubes Torrontes

2nd Course: Ancho Dusted Scallops with micro arugula, roasted garlic beur blanc and fried garlic chips. The wine: Albert Bichot Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis.

3rd Course: Roasted Pork Belly with creamy parmesan polenta and wild mushroom ragu with port reduction. The wine: Fiddlehead 728 Pinot Noir.

4th Course: Grilled Elk Tenderloin with Jerusalem artichoke and potato gratin, grilled brussel sprouts with garlic and bacon in a smoked bacon demi. The wine: Hermanos Cabernet-Malbec Blend.

5th Course: Strawberry Short Cake- Angel food cake with strawberries, fresh cracked black pepper, basil, aged balsamic and whipped creme. The wine: Secco Rose’.

Strawberry Short Cake with Secco Rose'

Strawberry Short Cake with Secco Rose’

Britania Perez from Pioneer Wines chose the wines and described each one. She told me that all she had was the menu that Stephen sent her. She did not taste any of the food before hand. I must say, this gal knows her portfolio and she did an excellent job.

The next morning, we rolled out of bed and went to breakfast at Judy’s Bread and Breakfast. I was in such a food and drink comatose state that when Sully asked me if I wanted more coffee, I just stared at him! That’s when we decided to walk around and take a break from food and wine…until the Saddle Club opened up and I could get a Bloody Mary 😉

That afternoon we headed back to Marfa for the Airstream Land Party. Boyz2Men taco trailer was there as well as FAT Lyle’s. We got there just in time to hear Graham Wilkinson and his band play and Sully could not resist a homemade Snickers bar from FAT Lyle’s.

Homemade Snickers from FAT Lyles

Homemade Snickers from FAT Lyles

That evening we hung out at Railroad Blues to hear a full set from Graham Wilkinson and stayed to hear Patrice Pike. Saturday night dinner at Railroad Blues is always a hot dog from Cow Dog. Sully got the Mexican which is ketchup, mayo, sharp cheddar, bacon and pico de gallo. I got the El Pastor which is grilled pineapple, red onion, lime mayo and cilantro pesto. It paired very well with my Pacific Rim Riesling.

Cow Dog at the Railroad Blues

Cow Dog at the Railroad Blues

Can you find The O's on the Cow Dog?

Can you find The O’s Sticker on the Cow Dog?

Our time in the Big Bend had come to an end. We didn’t even make it to any of the cooking classes or sit in on what the Tipsy Texan, David Alan was concocting with Tito’s vodka.

This was a small festival, but I liked it so much because you could tell how happy the locals were that you had come to their town and they wanted it to be a success too. Also some of the proceeds went to the West Texas Food Bank.

I really think Stewart Ramser who created both the Viva Big Bend Food and Music Fest, did a great job in trying to introduce what all this area has to offer. And it’s definitely the people who made this festival so much fun.

The Beautiful Bonfire at Railroad Blues

The Beautiful Bonfire at Railroad Blues

Cheers Y’all!