About Keith Winter

Avid Football Fan. Gift Guru. Techie. Woodworker. Amateur Skydiver. Beer Brewer. Skier. Cocktail Mixologist.

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The Clever Chocolatier: 6 Creative Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

“Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.” – John Q. Tullius

Almost as soon as the page turns into a new year, sparklers and party hats are replaced with red hearts and chocolates for that special Hallmark holiday that comes every February 14th. An astounding $13.19 billion dollars is the average annual VDay spending, and candy is the #1 gift to give on Valentine’s Day at 47.5%, beating out the #2 gift (flowers) by 13.7%. (Source)

This Valentine’s Day, you can find something much better than your run-of-the-mill assorted candy box. Here are some fun ideas just for you that involve, what else?….chocolate! Spice up chocolate by adding liquor or making your own dessert with these creative ideas from around the web.

Chocolate-Covered Raspberry Winter Ale Floats

{get the recipe here}Make two of these–one for your sweetie and one for you–and have a fun date night at home.

Liqueur-Filled Chocolates Gift Box

It’s an assortment of 48 liquor-filled chocolates that any chocolate fan (over the age of 21) will enjoy. ($28.99 from theonlinecandyshop.com)

Liqueur-Filled Belgian Chocolates

Perfect for the chocolate lover, this 40-piece assortment of Belgian chocolate are all filled with rich liqueur. (On sale for $24 from orvis.com)

Chocolate Fondue Set

($8.99 from amazon.com) It’s a set for two! Includes one 6oz porcelain ramekin, chocolate fondue mix, and two stainless steel fondue forks. Makes a very fun date night at home or dessert for after dinner.

For the handyman: Milk Chocolate Tool Gift Set

($18.95 from wisconsinmade.com) Have this special box of chocolates shipped directly to you from Wisconsin and give your handyman a fun surprise!

And finally, if you really do have your heart set on a regular box of chocolate, spice it up and make it personal with a box of these personalized chocolates!

Personalized Chocolate Box

($24.99 from chocolatesays on Etsy)

Letters are made to order and delivered within 4-10 business days. Arrives in a white gift box.

* * * *

{P.S. To find out more than you ever needed to know about the history of chocolate, check out: thestoryofchocolate.com or hersheys.com}

Doomsday 2012 Party Planning Guide

5 Ways to Party Like it’s the End of the World (Because It Is)

With December 21st, 2012 less than two weeks away, the coming apocalypse is just around the corner. In the words of an American scholar and poet, “It’s time to party”. I know, I know, Doomsday prophecies have come and gone throughout time, each one proven wrong. This one will be different this time, though. The Mayan calendar predicts that the 21st day of December, 2012, will be the last day of existence.

Don’t believe us? We’ll put our money where our mouth is.

“Like” this post on Facebook or tweet to this article with the #ApocaPartyHard hashtag, and if we’re all still here on December 22nd, we’ll send you a Homewetbar.com discount code for your next order.

Whether the end comes through a giant asteroid, volcanic eruptions, or a giant polar field shift, you need to be prepared to party like it’s the end of the world–because it is. Here are 5 ways to take advantage of your last days on Earth and throw a rockin’ shindig to end all shindigs.

1. Bring Out The Big Guns In Your Liquor Cabinet

The apocalypse isn’t the time to punish your guests with cheap liquor, beer, or wine. There’s no sense letting that bottle of scotch age any longer if there won’t be anyone around to drink it. There isn’t a more special occasion to crack open that bottle of vintage wine then your last occasion. Reach for the good stuff in your home bar and drink like you mean it.

Don’t have anything to be proud of stocked in your liquor cabinet? Get your rear end to the closest fine liquor store ASAP before your fellow doomsday partiers grab up all the good stuff. Again, caution and penny pinching have no place in the apocalypse. Here’s a good starting point for what should be on your liquor store grocery list:

Dalmore Mackenzie 17 year Whisky Dalmore “MacKenzie” 17 Year Old Single Highland Malt Scotch WhiskyFirst and foremost, Dalmore 17 year is a delicious, smokey and smooth whiskey fit for a last drink. It’s cultish deer logo and apocalyptic tableau featured on the box also make it fit right in with your Doomsday festivities.

Gran Patron Burdeos Tequila
Gran Patron Burdeos TequilaA lot of people surprisingly don’t know that artisan tequila exists. There’s more to the world of fermented agave than Montezuma tequila, so make sure your guests make their peace with the tequila gods and show them respect before they go. Gran Patron Burdeos is the perfect way to get tequila-trashed while still feeling like a class act.
Shafer Vineyards Relentless Shafer Vineyards Relentless Napa Valley 2008Winner of countless best wine of the year awards, a few bottles cases of this will really make your guests feel special on their last days on Earth.
Jameson 2009 Vintage Rarest Reserve Jameson 2009 Vintage Rarest Reserve Irish WhiskeyI shouldn’t have to say much here. Jameson is basically candy for adults, and their 2009 Vintage Rarest Reserve is the cream of the crop. Having a bottle of this may inspire it’s own share of Dublin bar room brawls at your doomsday party, but that’s really all part of the fun of an Armageddon celebration.

Chimay
ChimayAs close as you can get to being able to describe a drink as “nectar of the gods” without getting a flood of eye rolls. For a well supplied doomsday party, make sure to stock up on all three varieties. Brewed by actual monks, this beer is basically sponsored by the end of days.

 

The day leading up to the apocalypse should be all about the finer things in life, and there are few things finer in this world then a quality drink. Don’t skimp on drinks for you and your guests; it’s the last you’ll ever have. Drinking fine scotch from red plastic cups won’t do, so make sure to pick up some classy cocktail glassware and drink accessories from Homewetbar.com. Just make sure to skip serving Koolaid at your Armageddon party- it’ll scare the heck out of your guests.

2. Invite Your Boss, Mother-in-law, and Even Your Obnoxious Neighbor Todd

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Why would I want to spend my last moments on Earth with these horrible people?” The answer is simple- you should invite them because you’ll get to see their last moment on Earth. All those thanksgivings with your mother-in-law or times you had to work through the weekend for your boss won’t matter when you see the look on their face when the stuff hits the fan. Sure, you could spend the night mending things with them before it’s too late, but where’s the fun in that?

Tip: Invite them over for a later time than you’ll actually be starting your get together. Try to get them to come as close to midnight as possible. You want them around for as little time as possible before the asteroids start falling.

3. Cook With a Disregard For Love Handles and Heart Disease

Normally this is a big no-no with home entertaining. You don’t want your guests to feel bad about themselves after the meal you cook for them. You can throw this, and just about any other rule, out the window for end of the world home entertaining. Let your guests eat the most deliciously unhealthy foods without worrying about the shame they’ll feel the next time they step on the scale. Bacon and butter should be two staple foods for your apocalyptic cooking. If it’s been a while since you’ve eaten unhealthily, here are a few recipes to get you started for your end of the world dinner party.

Paula Deen

 

For more options, just look at any Paula Deen recipe. Warning: If you go with a Paula Dean recipe, just make sure to leave out a few sticks of butter from the recipe. There’s a line between not caring about gaining weight and risking heart failure, and you want to make sure you and your guests all make it to the end of the world.

4. Doomsday Party Games

It wouldn’t be the end of the world unless you had some creative party games to play with your house guests. Do yourself and your friends a favor and ditch any standard party games. The end of a world is a once in a lifetime event that requires a party full of unique entertainment for your guests. Here’s a few ideas to help you get the ball rolling.

Doomsday Resolutions

At the beginning of your party, once everyone has arrived, gather all the house guests into a circle. Everyone should then take turns coming up with their Doomsday Resolution. These are a lot like New Years Resolutions, except instead of being focused on what you’ll do next year to benefit yourself, it is focused on what you will neglect to do for the rest of the night because there isn’t going to be a tomorrow. Guests should keep things light and fun, focusing on a playful sense of wreckless abandon. For example, my Doomsday Resolution is to stop tying my shoelaces. What can I say, some men just want to watch the world burn.

Raise a Glass to Tomorrow

This one can be hilarious and serves as a great way to keep everyone’s BAC levels up for your Doomsday Party. The rules are simple: every time someone references the future they have to take a drink. Did Bill start talking about a dip in his 401k that will result in him having to push back retirement? It’s actually getting pushed back to “never”. Take a drink. Did Janet tell you about her birthday party plans for next weekend? Not happening. Take a drink. You’ll be surprised how hard it is to stop talking about the future.

Table Popper Toys

Take Bets on How The World Will End

The great thing about this party game is that guests can be as ridiculous as they want with their predictions. For example, my money is on the Earth popping inside out like a rubber Table Popper. Losing a bet moments before the end of the world won’t kill you (the apocalypse will though).

5. Make The Right Playlist

Finally, you need to make sure you have a proper play list set up. Focus on songs that are Doomsday themed but still fun and light hearted. Some old apocalypse stand-bys would be “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)” by R.E.M., “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, “The Final Countdown” by Europe when the end is near, then “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky for when the Doomsday chaos starts. For bonus points, put different disaster movies on TVs and computers around the house, put them on mute, and let them play in the background.

Asteroid hitting Earth

Doomsday 2012

The biggest thing to worry about with the Apocalypse isn’t the molten lava, alien invasion, or giant asteroids, it’s that you won’t take full advantage of your last night on Earth. The apocalypse isn’t time to be party-timid.

The best part about throwing a Doomsday Party? There’s no mess to clean up in the morning.

10 Hilarious Secret Santa Gifts

Looking for the perfect gift for your Secret Santa? Here are 10 hilarious gift ideas all under $40.

1. Boozie Bear Flask

It’s a flask…but it looks like a gummie bear! No more boring trips to the zoo. Now you can take along an adult beverage to liven things up! $9.95

Find it here

2. Sasquatch Extremely Large Flask

This flask holds a whopping 128 ounces. That’s one full gallon! $29.95

Can be engraved for an extra-special touch. (+$12.95)

Find it here

3. Emergency Meal Transplant Insulated Lunch Tote

Is it that your water sloshing around in there or is it a human heart? $24.95

Find it here

4. Secret Binocular Flask

Sneak liquor into the big game with this hidden flask! Holds 16 oz. $16.95

Find it here

5. Mysack, It Takes Ball to Golf,

Ball Holder

Hilarious for any golf lover. Includes 2 free golf balls. $15.95

Find it here

6. Winestein Wine Glass

A manly man’s wine glass. $19.95

Find it here

7. Show Em Who’s Boss Coffee Mug

A sophisticated knuckle fist for the businessman. $15.95

Find it here

 

8. Hammer Time Ice Cube Tray

Make tiny ice molds that look like hammers! Makes drinking anything fun! Check out more ice molds in other shapes here. $11.95

Find it here

9. Grill Sergeant BBQ Apron

For the grilling master, this apron features a bottle opener, 3 huge pockets, 4 sauce/condiment pockets, salt & pepper pockets, and a 6 beer ammo bandoleer to make sure he stays loaded at all times. $29.95

Find it here

10. Golf Club Kooler Klub

For those days when you can’t seem to get under par. $39.95

Find it here

Choosing The Best Wine Aerator

They say what you don’t know can’t hurt you, and while popping open a bottle of your favorite red wine five minutes before you drink it won’t hurt you (that is, unless you nail yourself in the eye with the cork), wine experts would argue that what you don’t know about aerating wine properly can most certainly hinder your wine’s flavor and your overall satisfaction.

Consumer Reports Magazine recently conducted a study with two trained wine experts and 62 untrained wine drinkers. Tasters sampled Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon (about $10 a bottle) poured directly from the bottle, through the Rabbit wine aerator, and the Vinturi essential wine aerator. The 62 wine novices immediately tasted a clear positive difference in the wine that had gone through each red wine aerator. Surveyors then let the wineglasses that were poured straight from the bottle sit uncovered for half an hour. Results showed that although the novices did taste differences in flavor between an aerated glass of wine and a glass that had been sitting, there was no clear favorite or noticeable cons. [Source: Consumer Reports Magazine, November 2012]

So what does that tell us?

The short answer is that you can get a similar effect to the flavor of your wine by letting your glass sit out and “breathe” for at least 30 minutes. But really, who has time for that? That’s where a wine aerator comes in.

The Purpose of a Wine Aerator

A wine aerator filters air into your wine. It will enhance the flavor and make your wine taste and smell better in an accelerated time, so you don’t have to sit around staring at your wine glass for two hours. When you allow the wine to breathe, you’re ensuring a smoother overall taste. [Source: Rosalind Jackson]

How to Use a Wine Aerator

The aeration process is not complicated. First, open your wine bottle with a corkscrew. Then, make sure you have your wine glass below the aerator and pour the wine directly into the wine aerator. You can also choose to use a decanter before pouring the wine into your glass.

Keep in mind, there are many types of wine aerators. Ranging from Adjustable Wine Aerators priced around $50 to the Vino Air at about $18, they come in all shapes and sizes, with varying features; the key is to find the best wine aerator for you. Some have dual chambers or a built-in decanter, such as this Grapevine In-Bottle Wine Aerator. This type of wine aerator essentially works as a mini decanter and aerator in one.

Other wine aerators assist with drip-free pouring while aerating wine for maximum flavor. (Vino-Air Wine Aerator and Pourer; HomeWetBar.com)

You can also purchase a wine aerator and stand that you hold over the wine glass to allow for perfectly aerated wine. Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator; HomeWetBar.com)

Conclusion: Stop worrying about choosing the best wine aerator, and just get out there and choose the one who’s features appeal to you. Sure, some of them boast that they open up a wine more or less, but no matter which red wine aerator or white wine aerator you choose, they will all help open up your wines; improving the flavor and the bouquet in a short amount of time compared to traditional wine decanting. Aerating  wine in short, allows you to taste the richness of the flavor, and if you don’t care about that, how about this: it will make your $10 bottle of wine taste more like a $25 bottle of wine, and a $20 bottle like $40, saving you money in the long run while impressing your guests as well.

And in case you want more…

So What’s the Deal with Wine Decanters?

Decanting your wine is a similar function to aerating wine—both allow the wine to breathe, just in a different manner. Decanting is the process of transferring wine from one bottle into another bottle or glass and letting it sit for anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours (depending on how patient you are!). The process is slightly different for older wines vs. younger wines, because an older wine contains sediment that can give off a bitter flavor. Therefore, when you decant an older wine, you’re essentially separating the sediment while allowing the wine to breathe. This isn’t the case with younger wines. For older wines I still recommend the wine decanting process over wine aeration. For more on the decanting process, read Joseph Nase‘s article in New York Magazine and, if you’re so inclined, check out the selection of wine decanters available at HomeWetBar.com.

The History of a Pumpkin: Decor, Dessert & Drinks

pumpkin: noun–a large, edible, orange-yellow fruit borne by a coarse vine. Of the gourd family.
It’s hot. The air conditioner blows day and night, and you still can’t stop sweating. And then, in one gust, fall blows in with changing leaves and shorter days. You pull out your jeans and sweatshirts. You stock up on hot chocolate and apples from the orchard.

And pumpkins spring up everywhere—on doorsteps, porch swings, front yards…and in every dessert, cocktail, and entree you can name.

The history of this popular autumn fruit dates back many years…

Decor:

The idea of putting light inside the pumpkin actually came from the tradition of Irish and Scottish of placing light inside carved turnips and potatoes and carrying them in Celtic celebrations. The English used beets!

So what did they do for light, you ask? They used to light lumps of coal on fire to put inside the vegetables. Of course, now we use tea lights and candles, which sure smell a lot nicer!

{Image of DIY pumpkin lights via RevelBlog.com}

Or, make your own glitter pumpkin!

Dessert (and the history of pumpkin pie):

{Recipe and image via browneyedbaker}

Early Native American farmers roasted pumpkin strips over campfires and used them as a food source through the long, cold winters. Pumpkin seeds were eaten and also used as medicine. Dried pumpkin could be stored and ground into flour. We see pumpkins being served by the pilgrims at the second Thanksgiving celebration in the New World, although it wasn’t a perfectly sliced piece of pumpkin pie like we see in today’s movies.

In fact, what the early Pilgrims would do is cut the top off of a pumpkin, scoop out the seeds, and fill the inside with cream, honey, eggs and spices. They would then place the top back on and bury the pumpkin in the hot ashes of a cooking fire. When it was finished, they brought the pumpkin to the table and scooped out the filling along with the cooked flesh of the shell, which functioned as a “crust” of sorts. (Info via)

Nowadays we buy canned pumpkin in the case load, cook pumpkin seeds, and make pumpkin-spiced everything. The good news is, pumpkins are good for you! They are low in calories and high in fiber. The seeds specifically are high in protein, iron, and B vitamins.

So get cooking! Pumpkin soup, perhaps? Or how about pumpkin coffee cake?

P.S. Don’t miss this recipe for homemade pumpkin butter.

Drinks:

{Pumpkin Pie Martini via Hostess with the Mostess}

Sure, you could buy yourself an expensive pumpkin spiced latte from Starbucks (who doesn’t love those?), but this fall season, why not try mixing up a few festive cocktails like this recipe for pumpkin pie martini? I’m sure the early Pilgrims didn’t think of that!

So as the wind changes and the geese fly south for the winter, make sure you find a way to use a pumpkin this fall. Whether for home decor, delicious cocktails, or to whip up a creamy pumpkin dessert.

What pumpkin ideas have you found lately? Have you made a pumpkin pie yet this year?

Geek-Out: Host a Geeky Party to Celebrate National Comic Book Day

Halloween will be here before you know it, but you can start celebrating even earlier, because National Comic Book Day is on September 25. What better way to try out a costume and practice your decorating skills than throw a geeky party! It’s the perfect excuse for you to dress up and act as nerdy as you’d like. What’s not to love?

We’ve searched the web and collected our favorite creative ideas for decorations and food for your geeky comic book party.

  • First, you need comic book decorations. Make a fun comic book banner to hang across the door or over a mantel. Purchase a few new comic books (or find some old ones) and make this comic book banner. Find out how here.

  • Make your own comic book letter or letters by covering a cardboard letter with old (or new) comic book pages. (Found here.) This would be a great way to spell out a greeting to guests or spell the name or initial of your favorite comic book character.

  • This isn’t comic books specifically, but if you’re going with a broader “nerdy” theme, have your nerdy, comic-loving guests mark their drinks with HTML coding. (Idea found here.)

  • For a Star Wars-themed party, you can make food labels that are out of this galaxy!

(Dessert table and menu can be found here.)

  • Your comic book party won’t be complete without Superhero cupcakes, the ultimate nerdy dessert. Find out how to make these here.

  • And don’t forget about America’s first superhero, Captain America. The recipe for these red, white, and blue cookies can be found here. These will be a great addition to your geeky party.

Those are just a few fun things you can do and make for your geek-out comic book party. If nothing else, use your geeky party as the perfect opportunity to practice a new desert recipe and work out any kinks so you will be ready for Halloween! Most of all, have fun!

Do you have any ideas to add? Let us know in the comments!

Don’t Forget These 9 Must-Have Tailgating Basics

School’s back in session, which means it’s time to get back to the basics. And what’s more basic than tailgating at a football game in the fall? We say nothing.

Tailgating takes place all across the country for sports fans who just can’t get enough of their favorite athletes. There are the obvious tailgating basics—the grill, the drink cooler, and the meat—but with all the excitement, it’s easy to forget other necessities you wish you would have had later. So just be sure to pack your truck with our list of most commonly forgotten tailgating items and enjoy the game free from worry!

1. Bottle Opener

This little guy is often left behind. Instead, we suggest a cooler with a bottle opener attached (like this one) so you’ll always have a bottle opener handy. Or even one better: a bottle opener on your hat!

2. Ice

Plan on ½ pound to 1 pound of ice per person. This might sound like a lot, but you will need to fill coolers with ice and have enough for your thirsty tailgating crew. Here’s a tip: line the cooler with frozen bottles of water. Your cooler will stay cold without using so much ice, and later when you want a drink, you’ll have bottles of ice-cold water.

3. Plastic Bags/Trash Bags

Do you really want to be hunting for trash bags when it’s tied in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter? Remember: a good tailgater picks up his trash, so just buy a box of trash bags and keep it in your stash of tailgating gear!

4. Toilet Paper

Because, well, you know. When nature calls, you want to be ready.

5. A Knife

Slicing hamburger buns and cutting meat is going to be tricky without a good knife on hand. So unless you want to be that guy sawing a burger in two with your pocketknife, we suggest you pack a sturdy slicer.

6. First-Aid Kit

You’ll wish you had a band-aid or some gauze when your neighbor hits you in the eye with the football he’s tossing around while holding a beer in the other hand. Or maybe you get clotheslined going for that last burger and need a bandage. Let’s face it: it’s just a good idea to have a first-aid kit on hand.

7. Rain Tarp

Rain has a way of showing up at the worst times. Keep a poncho and rain tarp handy and don’t be caught in a downpour.

8. Tool Kit

Expect the unexpected. Whether it’s fixing a loose screw on your buddy’s folding chair or nailing the tarp into the ground, it’s nice to have tools on hand so you can do the job right.

9. Jumper Cables

At the end of the night, win or lose, it’s time to head home. But sometimes that big-screen TV you hooked to your car battery leaves you in a tight spot. Make sure to keep jumper cables in your trunk to keep a tailgating session from turning into an outdoor sleepover.

Did we forget anything? What are your must-have tailgating items?

Host a White-Out Labor Day Party with These 4 Tips

With the first day of school comes the realization that summer is officially over. But before the leaves change colors and you pull out your sweatshirts and jeans, celebrate by hosting a Labor Day party. Just follow the 4 Ds—dress, decorations, drinks, and desserts—and wave a white flag to summer.

So what exactly is a white-out Labor Day party?

You’ve heard the saying: “Never wear white after Labor Day.”  But why is that and where did the idea originate from?

In September 2009, Time.com published an article titled Why We Can’t Wear White After Labor Day, which shed light on this peculiar societal faux paux. According to the article, some historians suggest that wearing white in the summer and dark in the winter was a status symbol of wealth. In the early 20th century, upper-class, wealthy Americans changed their clothing by the season; thus, it became part of proper etiquette, at least as far as the wealthy were concerned, to stop wearing white after Labor Day.

Many things have changed in the past century, however, one being that “winter white,” a creamy shade of white, is now a rising trend. Nowadays, no one is going to point and laugh if you are caught wearing a pair of white jeans to the store in October, but you probably should just play it safe and put those white tops and pants in the back of the closet with your bathing suits and flip-flops.

Inviting your friends over to toast to the end of summer in a white-out style gives you one more chance to pull out those whites before fall.

#1: Dress

First, greet guests wearing all white—everything from your shoes to a white scarf tied around your neck or a classic white bow tie. Even a white tux if you still have one from back in the day!

For a bit of extra fun, pick up some white-framed glasses at the store or paint your nails white to complete the white-out.

#2: Decorations

Start with a white tablecloth and add some white napkins and plates. These can be paper, plastic, or glass depending on the location of your party. (You probably don’t want to have glass plates at an outdoor pool party.)

Make white centerpieces using white daises or roses in a glass vase

If you’re throwing an intimate indoor or nighttime patio party, add ambiance with white candles or tea lights. Use an empty bottle of white wine as decoration with a wine bottle candelabra and white tea lights. (Check out our recommendation for the perfect candelabra HERE.)

#3: Drink

Offer your guests a selection of white wine

If you want a little more splash, make coconut-flavored margaritas.

Coconut Margaritas (recipe via)

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups coconut water, chilled

½ cup sugar

1T. lime juice

¼ cup finely shredded coconut shavings

Ice, for serving

½ cup coconut rum

¼ cup white chocolate liquear

¼ cup tequila

Directions:

In a small pot over medium heat, combine ½ cup coconut water with the sugar. Heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, add lime juice, and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Place the coconut shavings on a small plate. Dip the rims of 4 margarita glasses into the coconut simple syrup just to dampen. Invert the glasses onto the coconut to coat the rims. Fill the glasses with ice.

In a pitcher, combine the remaining 2 cups coconut water, the rum, white chocolate liqueur, tequila, and ¼ cup of the coconut simple syrup. Stir and pour into the rimmed glasses.

#4: Desserts and Appetizers

Mix up a Mexican White Cheese Dip (recipe via)

Ingredients:

1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

4 oz. green chilies

¼ cup half and half

2 T. onions, chopped fine

2 t. ground cumin

½ t. salt

1 serrano pepper, chopped fine (optional)

1 T. fresh cilantro, chopped fine (optional)

Directions:

1. Put all the ingredients in a double boiler and heat on medium
2. Cook until melted and well blended, stirring occasionally
3. Serve with fresh tostadas or hot flour tortillas
Other food ideas:

Serve Granny Smith apple slices and a white cheese such as Swiss or thin slices of Parmesan to complement the white wine.
Fill glass mason jars with white M&Ms or yogurt-covered raisins.
Make vanilla cupcakes with white icing.
Eat the go-to white dessert of champions: roasted marshmallows!

 

It will be a full white-out party as you celebrate a unique summer send-off!

3 South American Wine Regions To Visit Before You Die

Mention “fine wine regions” to most people and you’ll get a few responses…

Bordeaux, Napa, Burgundy, etc.

But what about South America? While aficionados have been “in the know” for years now, regular wine drinkers – the types who don’t sniff and spit – are just coming around to South American wines.

With Chile leading the charge (and Argentina closing in rapidly) South America offers classic varietals with a new twist.

How new?

Well here’s the thing: many grape varieties in South America used to grow in Europe. That is, until Phylloxera – a particularly nasty insect – attacked the roots and literally strangled the vines to death. Also known as the “Great French Wine Blight” it nearly destroyed the entire European wine industry in 1863.

Fortunately, South America remains Phylloxera-free to this day and remains a place for classic varietials like Malbec and Carmenère to reach their full potential.

Of South American countries, Chile and Argentina remain the most popular on the world market (though Bolivia, Uruguay and Peru do produce some fine wines as well).

In this post we’ll look at the most popular varietals found in South America. So pour yourself a glass and settle in…

Chilean Wine Regions and Varietals

Located west of the Andes, Chile is a long, thin country running north to south. This accounts for its surprising variety of climates: from the bone-dry Atacama desert to the frozen glaciers of Patagonia.

Their wines are just as varied. Household names such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot are planted here… but Carmenère – often used as a blending grape in France – is the star red.

Maipo Valley

Chile’s oldest and most popular wine region, Maipo Valley offers world-class wines among picturesque vineyards. Production began here as far back as 1555 when French varietals were introduced. It was here that Carmenére – along with Cabernet Sauvignon – really took hold and prospered.

Popular wineries include Concha y Toro, Santa Rita, Cousiño Macul, Tarapacá, Carmen and Barón de Rothschild.

Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenére, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec

Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillón

Cachapoal Valley

Located just 60 miles south of Santiago, the Cachapoal Valley is a wine-lover’s dream. Its Mediterranean climate and mineral rich soil help to produce a wide variety of red and white wines.

Plus, the French have taken notice.

The Cachapoal Valley has long been a favorite among French winemakers, who have bought and/or partnered with Chilean producers. Why? Because wines here reflect those found in the Bordeaux, Alsace and the Loire regions in France.

Popular wineries here include Altair, Morandé, Anakena, Misiones de Rengo and Chateau Los Boldos. And with easy access to the natural hot springs of Cauquenes, you know you’ll spending at least a few days here.

Reds: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Carmenére and Malbec

Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc

Popular Argentinean Wine Regions and Varietals

After witnessing the success of Chilean wines on the world market, Argentinean winemakers sought to follow suit.

And rightfully so.

Argentina may have started off slow, but they’ve got more wine growing land than most countries and the willpower to make it happen.

How much willpower? Enough to pull up nearly one third of its vineyards in order to replant higher quality varieties for export.

If Chile has Carmenère, Argentina has Malbec. This French grape was often used for blending Bordeaux, though it’s come into its own here as a quality standalone varietal. Another less popular grape is Torrontés, a white varietal similar to Muscat.

Mendoza

You cannot discuss Argentinean wine without mentioning Mendoza.

This charming, small city (pop: 110,000) is a joy to explore on its own… but when you consider its surrounding  vineyards produce nearly two thirds the country’s wine… well… you could spend a season here and merely scratch the surface.

The principal wine producing areas fall into two main departments – Maipú and Luján. Between the two of them, they offer nearly 700 wineries. Top producers include Catena Zapata (if you visit just one winery, make it this one), Familia Zuccardi and Alta Vista.

Tours are available, though most wineries close on the weekends. The most popular tours include Ampora (high end, daily), Trout & Wine (mid-high end, daily) or Bikes & Wines (moderate, bike tour included).

Reds: Malbec, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon

Whites: Chardonnay, Torrontés, Sauvignon Blanc

So there you have it: three world-class wine destinations in South America. Best part? Wines here are a fraction of what they’d cost in Napa or Burgundy… but are quickly closing the gap in quality. Celebrate your new-found wine knowledge with a glass of fine wine and don’t forget to take a look at our Wine Accessories & Gifts collection to elevate your wine tasting experience.

What do you think? Are South American wines the next “it” place for aspiring oenologists? Why or why not?

A Sample of Europe’s Best Cities for Beer

Recently we covered the best American cities for beer. But Europe offers hundreds of beer styles – ranging from uber-light pilsners to dark Trappist ales – you’ll never find in the United States. Here are seven European cities well known for serving the best…

#1. Brussels, Belgium

Sure, neighboring France may take credit for wine. But when it comes to beer, Belgians run the roost.

Why? No other country boasts as many styles of beer (many of which are only brewed locally) or brewing methods. In fact, Belgian ales are predominantly brewed using wild yeasts. These yeasts create spontaneous fermentation which accounts for Belgium’s wide variety of beers.

And there’s no better place to get started than Brussels. Not only can you try most regional beers here, Brussels is undoubtedly the best place to dine on the Cuisine à la Bière.

Of course, no “beer trip” to Belgium would be complete without visiting…

#2. Bruges, Belgium

This medieval city boasts an incredible number of local beers (and pubs). Each style of beer is served in its own unique glassware which – according to locals – brings out its aromas and flavors.

While in Bruges, take a tour of the De Halve Maan Brewery. This brewery – which dates back to 1564 – offers tours in English and is a fantastic place to try Brugse Zot beer, a Belgian Pale Ale with mild fruit flavors and moderate alcohol.

#3.  Dublin, Ireland

Mention “Dublin” and images of Guinness usually appear (to us, anyways). Its founder, Arthur Guinness, signed the lease at St. James Gate in 1759 (for 9,000 years!) and it’s been a staple for beer lovers ever since.

A tour of St. James Gate is required for beer-lovers, though its highlight is the view from the revolving bar which overlooks the city. And yes, beer is included in the price of admission.

Two other things to note: first, be sure to try the “other” Irish stout: Murphy’s. Brewed in Cork – Ireland’s second largest city – it’s considered by many to be even better than Guinness.

The other attraction is the Jameson Distillery, which offers daily tours of their factory. If they ask for volunteers, put your hand up: there is a LOT of free whiskey for volunteers!

Classic Dublin Pubs: The Brazen Head, Doheny & Nesbitt or O’Donoghue’s.

#4. Köln (Cologne), Germany

Like many German cities, Cologne has its local beers and customs. The best here is Kölsch, a dangerously drinkable top-fermented ale. Here the waiters will keep filling your Stangen (a 200ml beer glass) until you put a coaster over it. If only all bars were this forthcoming!

Want to drink your beer in true German fashion? Fill up this authentic German beer boot with some great German beer and celebrate October Fest whereever you are.

#4. München (Munich), Germany

Munich just may be the biggest beer city in the world. Its collection of beer halls located along Munich’s Altstadt, especially Hofbräuhaus, are world-renowned for both the quantity and quality of beer consumed.

Plus, Munich is home to Oktoberfest. That alone puts it on the map for beer-lovers. Interestingly, Oktoberfest began as marriage ceremony and morphed into the world’s largest fair (with over 5 million visitors each year) spanning sixteen days from late September to early October.

All beer for Oktoberfest must be brewed in Munich and follow the brewing traditions of the German Purity Law, or Reinheitsgebot.

#5. Prague, Czech Republic

Nearly all so-called “popular” US beers are pilsners, a light beer style which comes from the Czech Republic.

But unlike U.S. versions, Czech beers are full of flavor. Perhaps that’s why the Czechs consume more beer than anyone else in the world.

You read that right. Czechs, on average, consume 156 liters of beer every year. That’s over 41 gallons!

In Prague, the most popular beers are Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Budvar and Bernard. While there, be sure to visit the Klášterní pivovar Strahov (Strahov Monastery Brewery) where you can learn more about the Czech’s history of brewing pilsners and their stronger, darker beers (some of which exceed 12% alcohol).

#6. Copenhagen, Denmark

Sure, Copenhagen (København) is known for Tuborg and Carlsberg.

But look closer. There are more micro-breweries here per capita than anywhere else in Europe. A popular spot for beer enthusiasts is Jacobsen, a brew house in Varby specializing in rare beer styles. Other places worth exploring are Vesterbro Bryghus and Nørrebro Bryghus.

#7. Kraców, Poland

Kraców has got it all: a gorgeous medieval square, friendly locals, greet beer and (as an added bonus) it’s incredibly cheap.

Popular beers here include Żywiec, Okocim, Czarny Smok and Tyskie. You can find these beers in most local bars.

The Żywiec beer museum is a great spot to try traditional Polish beers, while a tour of nearby Tychy lets you learn about beer making and sample fresh beer.

Honorary Mention: Leuven, Belgium

We know, having three Belgium cities is a bit overkill. But Leuven – considered the “beer capital of Belgium” – is just too good to miss.

It’s home to InBev, which makes Stella Artois, Leffe and Hoegarden. While this brewery gets most of the attention, most beer aficionados head to the Domus brewery pub to choose from its over 60 beers.

So  there you have it: some of Europe’s top beer cities. Which did we leave out? Let us know in the comments below! And remember to stop by our beer section you can find here http://www.homewetbar.com/beer-c-31.html for great beer accessories, bottle openers, and personalized beer glasses to fully enjoy your taste for European beers.

 

 

 

A Patriot’s Guide to The Best 4th of July Ever

It’s that time again…

… time to raise your flags, slap some meat on the grill and celebrate our independence in style.

But – like graduations, weddings and funerals – there are traditions to be observed. And what American holiday is more traditional than Independence Day?

Traditions are important. Think back to your childhood – remember the smells of a summer cookout? The sight of fireworks blazing across the sky?

These are traditions must be kept alive, and passed on to future generations.

So in that spirit, here are seven  traditional ways to make this your best 4th of July ever:

#1. Raise a flag.

According to the Flag Code – yes, there is such a thing – the U.S. flag should only be flown from sunrise to sundown. If you do plan on letting your flag fly through the evening, keep it well lit (the Flag Code is very specific on this one).

Also, make sure the flag is erected horizontally (not diagonally as many people do).

#2. Go see a local parade.

Sure, national parades are fun to watch on TV, but local parades always seemed more patriotic to me. Especially when you watch Cub Scouts and veterans – two opposite ends of the spectrum – marching together. This was always one my favorite parts of 4th of July, and it remains so to this day.

#3. Invite your neighbors over for a block party.

Whatever happened to block parties? They used to be a standard in any neighborhood – nowadays, it’s practically a foreign concept.

Here’s an idea: go around your neighborhood and personally invite your neighbors over. Ask them to bring whatever they like – BBQ, beer, salads, meat, etc. – and help you celebrate in style.

This was an American tradition for decades… and it’s time to bring it back!

#4. Fire up the grill.

If there’s one tradition you must follow, it’s setting up a BBQ (which, incidentally, goes great for a block party). And what better time to show off your fancy new grill than Independence Day?

Another must-have item for summer BBQs is a beverage tub to hold all your drinks. This one in particular also doubles as a firepit, which can extend your afternoon BBQ into an evening campfire.

If you’re new to grilling, check out the following guides:

Guide to Grilling

How to Make the Best Burger

Grilling for Vegetarians

#5. Blow stuff up, then watch the pros.

Fireworks have been an integral part of Independence Day from the very beginning.  In July of 1777 – the first celebration of the 4th of July – the Virginia Gazette reported:

“The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal. Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America…”

So as you can see, it’s your patriotic duty to set off fireworks. Or watch the pros. Or both.

I used to stock up on sparklers, spinners and fountains for the 4th of July – then head out to watch the professional show.

#6. Go see a summer blockbuster with your family.

Not sure how this started, but a lot of big-time movies (including the aptly named “Independence Day”) are released on the 4th of July. It’s one of the few times I actually enjoy sitting in a crowded theater, chomping down overpriced popcorn and gallon jugs of soda.  Call me sentimental.

#7. Go to the park.

This was always one of my favorite parts. Meet up with your friends for a game of football (can’t get more traditional than that, right?) or play baseball for a few hours.

Parks are also a great way to celebrate a block party – especially because it won’t trash your house!

These seven celebrations are traditional (and awesome) ways to celebrate the 4th of July. What are your favorite memories of past holidays? Let us know in the comments below!

Home Beer Brewing

You are a beer aficionado. You’ve sampled all the local brews and have your favorites down pat. You know which beers to stock for dinner, and which for the big game. You’re always looking for the best new thing. Why not take the next step to good beer and try your hand at home brewing?

With the popularity of microbrews growing, more and more people have become more knowledgeable about good beer. Along with this, lots of people have decided to take a shot at brewing their own unique beers at home.

Great Beer on a Budget

One great thing about brewing your own beer is that you can make good beer on a budget. Home brewing is inexpensive, allowing you to make up to 8 6-packs of beer for under $30. Not only is it cheap, but it’s easy!

You don’t need tons of fancy equipment or space. Brewing your own beer will allow you to develop a new appreciation for one of your favorite beverages. In addition, imagine your friends’ faces when you present them with unique, hand bottled beer at your next football party or barbecue.

Brewing your own beer is also a great option for anyone with allergies or food sensitivities. Store bought brews usually do not have an ingredient list, so it’s very difficult to know exactly what is in them. With your beer brewed at home, you’ll know exactly what went into it so you can enjoy it without any worries.

Brewing at Home: Getting Started

Once you’ve decided you’d like to try your hand at brewing beer at home, where do you start? The first thing you’ll need to do is decide how invested you are. If you just want to try it out once, and see how it goes, a kit like the Mr. Beer Gold Premium Edition Keg Beer Brewing Kit would be a good place to start. It’s easy, comes with instructions and all of the ingredients you’ll need to make up to 4 gallons of beer.

If you’re ready to invest a little bit more, you may want to check out a more rounded kit like the New Brewers Complete Homebrew Kit. It includes not only the ingredients you’ll need to get started, but also some reusable supplies as well as traditional brown bottles to bottle your home brew when it’s done.

If you’ve decided to take on making your own beer as a serious hobby, or you’ve already tried a kit and want to take the next step, consult your favorite search engine. Some websites sell ingredients and equipment separately so you can pick and choose what you want.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of things, there are tons of websites and blogs where you can find different beer recipes, tips and ideas. Don’t settle for the normal old brew when you can truly experiment and create your own personalized taste.

Home Brewed Gifts

Home brewed beer isn’t just great for your own enjoyment; it also makes a great gift. Why not customize bottles for Christmas instead of a Christmas letter? Unique bottles and brews can make great party favors that are sure to impress guests at your wedding or party as well.

If you love beer, why not try home brewing? Take beer from a beverage in a bottle to a fully personalized experience. What could taste better than that? To get started with home brewing, try this great starter home brewing kit here or if you are a seasoned home brewer, outfit your brewery with some of our home brewing personalized signs here, here and here.