Max’s Brunch Started Me Off On The Right Foot!

Max's Wine DiveOne of my most favorite things in the whole wide world is BRUNCH so what better way to kick off 2009 than with a tasty mid-morning meal (and mimosas…obviously) from Max’s Wine Dive? They even offered the standard black-eyed peas and sauteed petit greens as a starter for good luck and money in the new year. I want to make sure I get all the help I can get as I am determined to have a fabulous year! Black-eyed peas and greens don’t typically get me too excited but these were extra yummy.  The mimosas were just right (only a hint of OJ for color) and my omelet was fantastic! For a mere $3 per mimi you get a lot for a little which is just how I like it. I had the truffle and cheese omelet which is sadly no longer on the menu but they made it for me anyway. Fluffy eggs filled with creamy goat cheese, Gruyere, provolone and black truffle cream. I add prosciutto to mine to take it up to an even higher level of deliciousness. I wasn’t so crazy about the potatoes or grits on the side but the main event was so heavenly I hardly cared. The Texas toast had to be an inch and a half thick and it tasted homemade. Next time you’re looking for some Sunday mid-morning magic head over to Max’s Wine Dive. You’re sure to leave with a smile! (Next time I’m trying the fried egg sandwich… it looked amazing!!)

Swanky Houston Happy Hour

I recently visited Benjy’s Lounge for an after work happy hour with a few of my lady friends and while I felt the happy hour pricing to be pretty weak the experience was still a pleasant one. I had dined in the restaurant for dinner before but never ventured to the Lounge upstairs. It was a great atmosphere with deep, comfy couches and low lighting. There is an outdoor patio that will be great once this Houston weather cools off… maybe around Christmas. If you are a wine drinker, though, you aren’t going to get any sort of happy hour deal on drinks. The only discounts are on the signature cocktails which are mostly martini-style. Happy hour in the Lounge is from 4-7pm. Appetizers are also discounted, though, at $6 each. We shared a few of these and they were all pretty tasty. As for drinks, I started off with a glass of still wine and then decided that I had better kick it up a notch with some bubbles. The situation just called for it… it usually does, though, right?

First let me tell you quickly about the food and then I’ll finish with the most important part… the wine. Like I said before, we shared several of the specially priced appetizers: chicken pizza with manchego cheese, spinach, lemon zest, pine nuts and a garlic confit; beef arepas with griddled corn and jack cheese cakes and something called voodoo cream; smoked salmon tacos with truffled potatoes and grapefruit crème fraiche. My favorite was the chicken pizza which was cheesy and yummy. The lemon zest added a special something that took it from alright to really good. The tacos were a gift from the kitchen on the house which of course made them taste better. The beef arepas wasn’t really anything to write home about. They were OK. The corn cake underneath was the best part. It tasted like polenta which I always enjoy.

Now let us get down to business. I began the night with a glass of the 2006 J Vineyards Pinot Gris from Sonoma County. This Russian River Valley wine was juicy and clean tasting with flavors of apples, pears and tangerine. My favorite part was the smell of honeysuckle when I lifted the glass to my lips. While this wine was lovely, it wasn’t quite what the doctor ordered so I switched it up a little. Next, I had a glass (or two…) of the Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut which is always a classic, and economical, choice in my opinion. This Washington wine is crisp and clean with just a touch of sweetness. It goes down easy but a single sip packs a lot of punch. The Pinot Gris was $10 a glass and the DSM was $8 a glass.

You can see all of the wines Benjy’s offers on their website. While their wine list overall is not exactly extensive, it is creative. I always like seeing a wine list that coaxes customers out of their comfort zones by offering wines that aren’t totally generic. Hopefully it will get some diners to try something new.

Pretty Pink Bubbles

I remember the first time I ever ordered Sofia Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine at a bar and was absolutely stunned when the bartender brought me a champagne flute and a hot pink can. What the heck??  Wine in a can? Ewwwww. The precious pink can quickly won me over just because it was so darn cute with it’sSofia Minis peppy pink color and swirly white writing. While I thought the can clever and cute, I didn’t expect much from the wine. However, it was actually really good! I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the best I’ve ever had or anything, but definitely tasty. It was a bit heavier than I prefer my sparkling wines but the flavor and bouquet were very unique. The fragrance is almost like a perfume and the flavors are bright – think melon, lemon and honeysuckle. This wine was created for Sofia Coppola by her father, Francis Ford Coppola as a wedding gift so you could say it was created with love.

I had actually almost forgotten about these little bubbly babies (as my juice usually pours from a glass container) until yesterday when I was at a surprise party being thrown to congratulate a friend. A friend of mine brought several 4-packs of Sofia Minis (this is what the cans are called) and they were absolutely adorable in the silver ice bucket. They come with little straws attached to them… perfect for saving lip gloss! So cute for a party or any time you need bubbles on the go (maybe poolside). Everyone oohed and ahhed and got such a kick out of them so if you’re planning on entertaining any time soon, the Sofia Minis might be worth considering. If cans aren’t really your thing, you can also purchase Sophia Blanc de Blancs in a bottle that is so lovely and comes wrapped in pink cellophane. The presentation of these wines is half the fun. Whichever you choose, bottle or can, it will definitely make a flirty and feminine statement. If you are in Houston, you should be able to find these wines at Spec’s. I actually found a bottle at Fountainview Liquors in the Galleria area for $17.99 which is a good price. I believe the suggested retail is around $19.

Sofia Blanc de BlancsThis wine is made from a blend of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat grapes grown in Monterey County where they enjoy a long and cool growing season. This allows the wines to develop that crisp acidity that we all enjoy so much from our bubbles. There is one Sofia wine left for me to try and that is the Sofia Pinot Noir Rosé. It’s on my list! I’ll let you know what I think once I have a little taste. Until then, sparkle on my friends!

Sparkling Spanish Cava at a Spectacular Price

1+1=3 Cava Brut1+1=3 is how U Mes U Fan Tresa Spanish winery, labels all of their bottles. Their non-vintage cava brut is definitely worthy of some space in your refrigerator. It’s crisp and clear and tastes clean and only slightly sweet. It is spectacular alone but since it doesn’t have an overwhelming fruitiness it is the perfect partner for OJ on Sunday Funday (mimosas=yummy happiness). Non-vintage only means that the grapes used to make this wine weren’t all grown and harvested in the same year. This is common for sparkling wines. Sometimes you will see them marked as NV. Cava can sometimes be a bit harder to find due to the overwhelming popularity of it’s bubbly French cousin, champagne. The difference between the two is primarily geographical as they are both made using the same method. Italian Prosecco is made a little differently creating a fruitier final product. If you are in Houston, one place that I know carries this wine (they actually recommended it to me once) is a wine bar/store called Cova. It is located near Rice Village on Kirby. There is another location on Washington but I am not sure that they carry it. You should be able to pick up a bottle for less than $15. Enjoy the bubbles!