The New and Improved Reade and Write!

I’ve spent some time in the past week working on the blog to make it easier to read and easier for readers to find my books. I’ve updated the “About Me” page and I’ve added a page listing my books with links to my website and/or Amazon. I’ve also changed the font and, more importantly, the font size, to make the title of the blog and the different pages more user-friendly.

One of my goals is to use the blog more effectively to invite people to sign up for my newsletter. If you haven’t already signed up, click the tab that says “Website and Newsletter” at the top of the blog’s home page and you’ll be redirected to my sign-up form. I’m always trying to grow the newsletter, so I invite you to join us!

One of these days I intend to include some short stories on the blog (and duplicated on the website) that readers can peruse, too.

I hope you like the new look! Let me know what you think and if there’s anything else I could do to make visiting Reade and Write a pleasant experience!

Until  next time,

Amy

 

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A Tradition is Born

What I’m about to share with you, combined with last week’s post about a chocolate tasting, is going to give you the impression that I indulge my food fantasies every weekend.

But let me assure you of two things:

First, date nights are pretty rare around here; and

second, when my husband and I do have a date night, you’re far more likely to find us at Home Depot or cleaning the garage than at any restaurant.

But two Friday nights ago was an exception. We attended an annual Holiday Wine dinner featuring Dueling Sommeliers–it was so much fun that I wanted to share it with all of you (I will spare you the account of our most recent trip to Home Depot). It was the first such wine dinner we’ve attended, and I certainly hope it won’t be the last. As the title suggests, I hope we can do this every Christmas from now on.

The premise of the evening was simple: the restaurant (The Mad Batter in Cape May, New Jersey) provided a five-course menu to each of two sommeliers. They didn’t taste the food–they only saw the menu. Based on the descriptions of the dishes to be served, each sommelier decided on a wine for each course. Each of the guests was then provided with two glasses of wine with every course.

Yes, that’s ten glasses of wine. Not huge glasses, but much more than a taste. And yes, my husband drove. That means he didn’t drink all his wine.

And yes, it means that I finished what he didn’t drink.

So here’s what the menu looked like:

The first course was oysters. I looked at my husband and said, “Oysters? Eww. And beets? What are they thinking?”

But fried oysters? Hmm. I figured I could manage a teeny bite of those because…fried.

And they were so good. I got thinking, “If they can make oysters this good, I wonder how those beets taste.”

Let me explain something about beets. I am the person who, as a child, cried at the prospect of eating beets, insisting to anyone who would listen that I would throw up if made to eat them. But grated beets with horseradish? I don’t know if it was the heady atmosphere in the restaurant, or the two glasses of wine I was enjoying while I ate them, or simply that I have grown up, but those were the best darn beets in the world. I would eat beets all the time if they always tasted like that.

And what of the wines? I’m not going to describe them in detail here because I have a wines section on my website where I discuss my favorite wines (and I haven’t updated it since before this dinner), but I will tell you that, though I liked both, the Relax Bubbles were the clear winner in my opinion.

The second course was a truffled wild mushroom soup that was life-changing in a good way. I don’t like to throw around phrases like “life-changing,” but this soups fits the bill (FYI, the last time I said a food was life-changing, I was referring to Brown Cow whole milk maple yogurt and chocolate yogurt). The soup wasn’t entirely creamy–there was a little bit of texture and you can see the larger pieces of mushroom on the top.  It was earthy and salty-smoky, and just perfect for a snowy evening in Cape May.

The wine: I preferred the wine from Sardegna, though both were good. Also, I love to say the word “Sardegna.”

For the third course, we enjoyed a salad. And when I say “enjoyed,” what I really mean is that I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing while I ate it. It was absolutely delicious, and as a result of eating that salad I have requested that everything I eat from now on be wrapped in pancetta. And bonus: my husband hates bleu cheese, so I got his (hence the obscene amount of bleu cheese in the photo).

Wines: I actually couldn’t choose. They were both wonderful. I love pinot gris and I also love rose, so I didn’t force myself to pick a winner for the salad course.

The fourth course, the entree, was rabbit. I have had rabbit once before and it was delicious. Normally I am not a rabbit-eater (I got home and my daughter asked, “You ate Thumper??”). The couple next to me were vegetarians and they got salmon. Had I known salmon was an option, I would have chosen that. The rabbit was disappointing. It was tough and overcooked and one lady at my table couldn’t eat hers (my theory is this: I paid for it; I’m eating it whether I like it or not).  The saving grace of this course was the amazing fennel-celery puree on which the rabbit sat. If you had asked me three weeks ago if I wanted a fennel-celery puree or beets, I would have chosen to starve to death. But, like I said, I paid for it and I was going to eat it. And I’m so glad I did. The carrots were good, too. And who doesn’t love eating purple carrots?

Of the two wines, I preferred the one from Bordeaux. As a rule, I am not a Merlot drinker (I find it too heavy).

And finally, dessert. It was French toast (apparently, it’s not just for breakfast anymore). And though I had no earthly idea what “strawsling” was, I was game for anything at that point in the dinner. Turns out it’s a strawberry-infused Riesling. Makes sense when you look at the word “strawsling,” doesn’t it? But I have to be honest, not a lot was making sense to me by that time. I had enjoyed a lot of wine. The dessert was good, though if I had the opportunity to order it in the same restaurant again, I wouldn’t. I like my desserts to consist of some kind of chocolate.

And the wines were both delicious, though I preferred the German wine because it was sweeter. I’m not even going to attempt to say the name because I’ll butcher it, but if I ever see it in a wine store, you can bet I’ll get a bottle. Or two. Or four–whatever.

I hope you’ve enjoyed date night, though vicariously. One of the nice things about the evening was that the sommeliers chose wines that weren’t too expensive. They weren’t Two-Buck-Chuck (I’ve heard it’s now Three-Buck-Chuck), but they weren’t over-the-top, either. Any of them would be a great host or hostess gift, particularly at this time of year.

And speaking of this time of year, I will try to post next Tuesday, but no promises! I wish all of you health, happiness, and, if you celebrate, a merry Christmas!

Until next time,

Amy

The Day-After-Halloween Treat

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This is the first year since 1998 I haven’t gone out trick-or-treating with my kids. My husband took my son out, but my daughter (the one who isn’t in college) stayed home with me to hand out candy to the two children who came to our door. We live on a block that tends to be quite dark, so we don’t get too many trick-or-treaters.

My plan while waiting for the doorbell to ring was to continue working on my current novel (Book 3 in the Malice series), but then I remembered my blog. Yes, this one.

I have a few ideas in reserve for my blog for those nights (like tonight) when the need to write a post sneaks up on me, but I wasn’t ready to tackle those yet. So I came up with the next-best thing:

Halloween Candy and Wine Pairings

Genius, right?

Now, I know not all of you drink wine. If you avoid alcohol, then my advice is to drink milk or water with your candy. I always find water goes well with sweet things. And milk with anything chocolate is just a classic.

But for those of you who do enjoy a glass of wine now and then, take my advice and enjoy a piece of candy (or two, or a dozen) with your drink. Here are my favorite highly unscientific pairings, starting with my two favorite types of Halloween candy and then in no particular order after that:

KitKat: Pinot noir

Mounds: Cabernet Sauvignon

Hershey: Temperanillo

Twix: Sauvignon Blanc

Skittles: Vinho Verde

peanut butter cup: Chardonnay

Almond Joy: Syrah

Mary Janes: throw them out

Please let me know what you think of my pairings and I hope you’ll add some of your own suggestions in the comments below. By the way, if you’re interested in trying some new wines, I have lists and suggestions on both my website (click here) and the “Wines” page of my blog (click here). I invite you to check them out and explore!

Until next week,

Amy

My Three Favorite Book Club Recipes

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I heard from a reader last week who is planning to discuss Secrets of Hallstead House at her November book group meeting. She was wondering where to find questions that her group might discuss after reading the book. My first thought, no joke, was “I wonder if they have snacks at their book group meetings.”

After I emailed the reader a list of questions, I got thinking about a couple things:

First, I’d love to have book club discussion questions at the end of each of my books. I can’t do that for Secrets of Hallstead House or The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, but I quickly contacted my editor and he thinks he can get some discussion questions into House of Hanging Jade before we get any farther in the production schedule. So thanks, Susan, for the idea!

Second, I started wondering what I would serve at a book club meeting. I am not in a book club, but I’ve been to plenty of book club meetings. There’s always food. I’ve been to meetings with cheesecake samplers, pizza bites, cookies, chips, pretzels (the kind covered with chocolate and dipped in nuts and sprinkles), sandwiches, and other foods too numerous to mention.

I decided to come up with my three favorite appetizer recipes and I’m going to share them with you here. Please note, at least two of these recipes are not for people who are trying to diet!

 

Jalapeno Popper Dip (I got this from “EveryDay with Rachael Ray”)

3 slices bacon, chopped

1 c. panko

3 cans (4 oz. each) diced jalapenos, drained

2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, room temperature

1 c. mayonnaise

1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1 small fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped

1 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet cook bacon over medium heat until crispy, 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but 2 T. of the bacon drippings; add the panko and stir to coat. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, mix half the bacon with the canned jalapenos, cream cheese, mayonnaise, and cheddar cheese. Transfer mixture to a 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with the panko, remaining bacon, fresh jalapeno, and Parmesan cheese.

Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25-30 minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips.

 

Tomato Sort-Of Bruschetta (I adapted this from “Food Network Magazine”)

2 lbs. tomatoes, cut into large chunks

3/4 t. Kosher salt

2 T. olive oil

1 T. red wine vinegar

1/4 c. chopped chives or basil

1 baguette, sliced

Toss tomatoes with the salt and set in a colander placed over a bowl: let drain for 15 minutes. Whisk the olive oil and the vinegar into the tomato juices. Toss tomatoes with chives or basil and serve with bread.

 

Fruit Dip

2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding

3 c. cold milk

8 oz. container whipped topping

almond extract to taste

cut-up fruit

Mix pudding and milk for about 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping. Add almond extract to taste. Serve with cut-up fruit.

 

What would you serve at a book club meeting?

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. Wine is also a staple at many book club meetings! If you’re interested in my thoughts on wine, please check out the “Wines” section of my blog or go to my website (http://www.amymreade.com) and select the “Home” tab then select “Wines.”