Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tipu's Chai

It's been brought to my attention that I have been a delinquent blogger. So sorry about that. I haven't been whipping up much magic in the kitchen lately. I was in a bit of a, uh, "incident". An incident involving a mountain bike, a big root/stump thing, a trip over the handle bars, which therefore led to the emergency room, and eventually to my couch, where I have mused over the resulting slight concussion, lacerated liver and bruised rib. Quite an adventure in the last week. 

And I must say, the irony is not lost that I am supposed to be knee deep in wine sampling heaven, but noooo... Dr.'s orders are no alcohol for this injured liver for two weeks! One down, one to go....

SO, I figured this was the perfect segway to talk about that sample of chai that I was sent to sample and review. In case you missed my chai mania: my dear reader shared with me her mother-in-law's authentic recipe for chai masala (see the August post), which then led to the makers of Tipu's Chai contacting me to see if I would review their product. 

I have to say, that usually when it comes to products, if I have the ingredients to make something from scratch as opposed to buying something pre-packaged I would rather make it myself. Plus I like to tweak recipes to make them the way I like them. However, with my latest "incident" - not being able to remember my own address or my loved ones names & howling in pain whenever I sneeze, having something instant on hand has been divine intervention.

Like most authentic Indian chai recipes, Tipu's Chai recipe has been handed down from grandmother, to mother to son, traveling from India, across three continents and made it's way into an Indian restaurant in Montana in 1997. The popularity of their tea resulted in the birth of these commercial products. I think I mentioned before how I love how serious Indian people are about their tea, and I love how generous they are in sharing a good thing.

I was happy to see that the chai that the cool folks at Tipu's makes is purely tea and spices. They add no milk powder, sweetener or chemicals. Tipu's Chai is available in an Original or Decaffeinated Concentrate, a Slow Brew Original or Decaffeinated, as well as the package that I got: Instant Black Chai. These are all USDA Certified Organic, kosher certified and made with fair trade tea. 

The Instant Black Tea, aka: my new couch buddy - is a snap to make. Add 1 teaspoon of chai to 1/2 cup of boiling water and 1/2 cup hot milk and sweeten to taste. (I like to add a little more of the tea to make it a little stronger.) It really is a great blend of spices and tea, smells like Christmas in a cup and makes me feel like I am drinking something that is actually good for me.

BUT for when my time on the wagon is over, I happened to stumble on a recipe on their website for a Chai-Tini. Hello! Chai and booze? Now that sounds like the Swigs and Grinds we all know and love, right? So in case you need something a little livelier to do with your chai, here's the recipe:

Tipu's Chai-Tini
2 oz Myers’s rum
2 oz chai concentrate
½ oz simple syrup
Scoop Vanilla Ice Cream
Swirl in blender and serve in a martini glass with a cinnamon/sugar rim and mint twig.

Alternately: use 1 1/2 ounces half and half and shake with ice.  Strain and serve. 

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be back in the kitchen (and the wine rack) soon.... until then, check out Tipu's Chai website, www.tipuschai.com and pick up a sample for yourself!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wine Arrives On My Doorstep!

Do you see that?! A beautiful thing has begun to happen. Wine has started to arrive on my doorstep. Literally.
Let me back up a bit. I started writing for Wine and Food Travel back in June. A few months ago, my editor was in town & we met up over a glass of wine. One of the things we talked about was the perks of writing about wine, food & travel. She encouraged me to review wines, hotels, bed & breakfasts and restaurants, and in doing so, to contact them and ask if they would like to "sponsor" my stay or send a "sample" to review. My wheels began to turn.... Really? Am I really a real writer, and people will give me hook ups so that I will write about their product? Is this really how this works?

I didn't do much about it and then posted my next article on Chai Masala. Immediately after the article was up, I was contacted by a company who makes instant chai. They wanted to send me a sample to review. Sweet! Of course I will, said I.

And then I decided to go for it. As you probably know, I have become enraptured with Australian wines. It seems that every wine that knocks my socks off turns out to be Australian. However, now that I have a couple of favorites, I haven't branched out much, AND there is a lot about the history and the wine making regions of Australia that I know very little about. So one night I put together an email and sent it out to wineries from seven of the major wine producing regions letting them know that I am planning an exhaustive review on Australian wines to be posted on Wine & Food Travel as well as Swigs and Grinds. I also mentioned that if they would like to send a "sample" for tasting & review that I would be happy to include them in my story. And guess what? That beautiful image of the box above was my first shipment, sent from the wonderful people at Tyrrell's Wines, the winner of the 2010 James Halliday Winery of the Year. And since they were the first to get their wines to me, they are the first to be reviewed.  

I was not familiar with their wines at all, so I was very grateful for their offer to send their Rufus Stone Heathcote 2008 Shiraz as well as two bottles of their white wines. I don't normally drink whites, so I was actually excited to include them in my review because I feel very objective about them. Their Vat 1 Hunter Semillon is actually listed in "1001 Wines You Must Drink Before You Die", I received the 2003 vintage. Ben, my connection at Tyrrell's also decided to send the Vat 47 Hunter Chardonnay, since it's his favorite and it is consistently one of Australia's top 5 chardonnays. The white wines happen to be from the Hunter Valley region, and the Shiraz is from the Victoria region of Australia.  

So as you know, I'm not into all those fancy wine words. I like red wines that are big, bold, thick and almost chewable. A lot of the wines I like are described as "jammy". The Heathcote Shiraz was the first to be sampled and it was great. Since I must use wine words here, I would attach bold, spicy - almost peppery, floral and smooth to this wine. All very good attributes in my book. This wine retails for around $17. 

The two whites I decided to compare head to head so that I would have some base of comparison since I'm not a huge white fan. The Hunter Chardonnay surprised me with it's smoothness and the length that the flavors stay on the tongue. It really was a lovely, clean, fruity wine. The 2007 Hunter Chardonnay sells for around $40. 

The Hunter Sémillon was something that I had never heard of. Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, popular in France and Australia. Hunter Valley Semillon is never matured in oak, but is vat or bottle aged. This may be what contributes to it being a crisp, dry wine with some green apple frutiness. I actually really liked it. This 2003 Semillon is also about $40. 

During our tasting of the two whites we came up with this metaphor: The Chardonnay is more watercolor, while the Sémillon is more line drawing. Meaning, the flavors of the Chardonnay are more blended, while the Sémillon was very straight and defined.  

I definitely recommend Tyrrell's Wines. Please check out their website and order a bottle of their wines or find a local distributor that carries their products. 

Also, to read the introduction to my Australian Wine Fairy Tale, check out the story at 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Midnight Bread, that's normal... right?

I noticed it yesterday. The sudden need to cook all of the things that are flashing through my head. My sudden allergy to noise. And of course, my heightened sensitivity. I don't even have to look at the calendar. All of those sensations flashed through me while standing in the kitchen, and I knew... The feeding frenzy is on.

Tonight I'm writing this as bread dough is rising on my kitchen counter. At 11 o'clock, that's PM. I was already thinking about tomorrow's breakfast while I was making today's lunch. I am a freak. And I get even freakier during the next week.

While I was in the midst of this realization yesterday, I had this thought: Perhaps I should write a Field Guide & Survival Manual for those that have to deal with me during this time each month. It would be filled with such groundbreaking tips like:

No Unnecessary Noise Allowed
No Taking Too Long To Say Something
No Sitting Too Close To Me
No Staying Too Far Away From Me
Say Sweet Things To Me
Feed Me
Eat What I Feed You
Do Something Romantic
Make Me Go To Yoga
No Being Mean
No Licking Yourself (to the dog, but actually I suppose it applies to everyone..)
Tell Me You Love Me
Make Sure We're Not Out Of Booze
You're Not Allowed To Be In A Bad Mood At The Same Time I Am
Make Me Laugh

So I realize that this list is more than a little self indulgent, but that's just the way this week works. And ya know, I bet if the guys (and kids) out there knew for sure what is going on in our heads (and obeyed the rules), things would be much smoother. And of course, if that doesn't work, a slice of fresh baked Pecan Raisin Walnut Bread slathered in butter and a nice glass of Australian Shiraz should do the trick. Until I come out the other side, Cheers!