Category Archives: Girl Scouts

Girl Scout Cookies and Wine?

Table setting for Girl Scout cookies and wine pairing

It’s Girl Scout cookie time!  This is the time of year when all your New Year’s resolutions about losing weight take a slight break when that cute little Girl Scout in your neighborhood asks you to buy cookies!  Seriously, how can you say no to a young girl learning about marketing, money management, people skills and entrepreneurship by selling these cookies?  They are SO good and everyone has their one favorite…or two…or THREE!!!

Girl Scout cookie bites with a madeira wine

Two years ago a friend posted a Girl Scout cookie and wine pairing photo on my Facebook wall.  I was getting more and more into wine and food pairings and I had a good laugh at the photo.  Girl Scout cookies and wine?  I wasn’t so sure. But the thought was tucked away in my mind and this year I decided it would be fun to try it out.  First I did a little online research.  Sure enough, most of the information I found was based on the photo my friend had shared with suggestions to pair Samoas (chocolate and coconut cookies) with Rioja and Trefoils (butter cookies) with champagne.  Sounded simple enough.  Then one afternoon I was at a food and wine event at Perry’s Steakhouse and asked their corporate sommelier, Susi Zivanovich what she would suggest.  She said to go with dessert wines like port, madeira and something I had never tried before…sauternes.  Next, I  found an article in Food & Wine magazine pretty much debunking all the pairings I had originally come across.  They also agreed with Suzi about the dessert wines.  And I figured since it was Food & Wine magazine, they should know!

So, I set about getting a Girl Scout Cookie and dessert wine pairing pulled together with a few friends.  I headed to Trader Joes, World Market, Publix and Vintage Wines to gather all the suggested wines in the Food and Wine article.  These are the wines I ended up with:

  • Emma Reichart Dry Riesling – $4.99 @ Trader Joes
  • Moscato d’Asti Villa Alena – $8.99 @ Trader Joes
  • Schloss Biebrich Rose Sekt (Sparkling Wine) – $6.99 Trader Joes (Okay…I did add a sparkling wine because I was curious even though it wasn’t suggested. More on that in a bit.)
  • Chateau Pleytegeat Sauternes – $11.50 on sale (Regular price $15) @ World Market
  • Blandy’s Madeira – $20.99 @ Vintage Wine Shop
  • Taylor Tawny Port – $8.49 @ Publix

For several days, I mulled over how to set everything up.  I saw a few photos of pairings online where chalk boards were used and it looked nice enough but with six wines and seven cookies, I thought it might get a little crowded looking on the table.  Plus, I wanted to add the suggested cookie pairings next to each wine and needed a little more room to write.  I found a roll of butcher paper in my hall closet and it was just enough to cover my dining room table.  The wines were lined up from light to dark on the left and the cookies were lined up next to their main suggested pairing (as much as possible), on the right.  Then I grabbed a large sharpie and got to work labeling everything!  The pairings looked like this:

  • Riesling with Toffee-tastic (gluten-free buttery with sweet crunchy toffee bits) and Savannah Smiles (zesty lemon wedge dusted with powdered sugar)
  • Moscato with Trefoils (shortbread) and S’mores (graham sandwich with creamy chocolate and marshmallow filling)
  • Sparkling Rose with Savannah Smiles (powdered sugar lemon)
  • Sauternes with S’mores and Samoas (crisp cookie coated in caramel, sprinkled w/toasted coconut and striped with dark chocolate)
  • Madeira with Do-Si-Dos (crunchy oatmeal sandwich cookie with peanut butter filling) and Tagalongs (crispy cookies layered with peanut butter and covered with chocolate coating)
  • Tawny Port with S’mores, Tagalongs, Samoas and Do-Si-Dos

Usually at wine pairings you get a tally sheet to keep up with what you liked best and any other notes you want to make, but I decided to go a different route with this.  Having a paper and pen to add to a wine glass and plate of cookies seemed too much to handle.  As my guests tried a cookie and wine, I asked them to put a check mark beside the ones they thought paired the best.  By the end of the tasting we had a good idea which ones paired best.  For our tastes, this is what everyone liked the best:

  • Riesling – Savannah Smiles were the overwhelming favorite of all cookies and wines.  The Dry Riesling and lemon cookies pairing was so good everyone went back for more!
  • Moscato – There was a tie between Trefoils and S’mores and personally I liked both of these cookies with the Moscato.  I’m not a big Moscato fan so this surprised me!
  • Sparkling Rose – only one person really liked pairing this wine with the Savannah Smiles which proved the Food & Wine article was right about champagne.  On the other hand, everyone enjoyed drinking the champagne when the tasting was over.
  • Sauternes – Hands down the Samoas won with this suggested pairing.  Was it the coconut or the chocolate?  For me I think it was the coconut and the fact that this was a really sweet wine so I think the coconut balanced it out.
  • Madeira – I paired this with both types of peanut butter cookies and everyone preferred the chocolate covered Tagalongs with the Madeira.  So…this lead me to believe any of the chocolate cookies would work.  S’mores for me was a close second even though I didn’t officially pair this one with the Madeira.
  • Tawny Port – This is the wine that had the most suggested pairings, four total.  Again, the Tagalongs (with chocolate) were a hit and tied with the S’mores (also with chocolate).
  • EXTRA WINE PAIRING – I have to add that one of my guests brought a white blend wine, Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc & Viognier, to try with the peanut butter cookies. She had gone to Vintage Wine Shoppe and they suggested this pairing.  FYI – this was the place where I bought the Madeira wine.  We added it to the table and both cookies paired really well with this wine!

Last but not least…the thin mints…these are probably one of the most popular Girl Scout cookies but the thought of having wine with a thin mint didn’t seem like a good idea to me.  The mint flavor was sure to overtake anything that we tried.  In fact, I don’t think I saw anyone try the thin mints at my pairing.  I know, I didn’t try to pair them, and I believe the Food & Wine article suggestion was to put these cookies next to the coffee!  Now THAT’S the perfect pairing!

I’m thinking about making this an annual event at my house.  Several friends are already saying they’d love to be included and I love planning a good party!  Meanwhile, if you are interested in trying out any of these pairings, you need to go ahead and get your cookies during the month of March!  In the Birmingham area, you can reach out to Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama and click on the cookie link for further information.  Or you can click on the “Find Cookies” button and enter your zip code to find out where booth sales are taking place.  And if you are sticking with your losing weight resolution, remember that you can freeze the cookies until you are ready to give these pairings a try.

A personal note about Girl Scouts…I was a Girl Scout when I lived in Puerto Rico.  My mother was my Brownie leader and I went all the way up to one year as a Cadette until we moved to Chicago.  Both of my daughters were in Girl Scouts and while I helped out a lot with my older daughter’s troop, I was my younger daughter’s troop leader from 1st through 12th grade.  I served as Hoover Valley Service Area Manager for five years and also on the board of Cahaba Girl Scouts (now Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama).  Being a Girl Scout is something I’m very proud of and it taught me so many life lessons.  I remember selling cookies door-to-door in my neighborhood of Sagrado Corazon in Puerto Rico and helping my daughters do the same where we live in Hoover.  Girl Scout cookies are all the more sweet because of my long time affiliation with this wonderful organization.  They truly do build girls with courage, confidence and character.  Now…go buy some Girl Scout cookies!

 

 

Fiesta Fridays! 2014

NOTE:  Fiesta Fridays is a special series to highlight the many memories I have of fiesta through the photographs I’ve taken since 2003.

Title Sponsor McDonalds brought the Fiesta Tour to Linn Park in 2014!

Fiesta 2014 brought us a series of “firsts” to our event.  One of the biggest was getting our “first” Title Sponsor.  Our top-level of sponsorship had always been “Presenting” and we had toyed with the idea of having a Title Sponsor.  The conversation ignited when Santiago Negre, Hispanic owner of numerous area McDonalds arrived in town.  He is the type of person who gets involved in the community and found Fiesta a way to do just that.  McDonalds had always been a Presenting Sponsor but this was the year we asked and he said “yes” to Title Sponsorship!

Jeh Jeh Pruitt of WBRC poses with Ronald McDonald, Santiago Negre, Fiesta President, Matt Ennis and Russell Negre before on air interview.

We were thrilled, to say the least!  And in addition to taking the Title Sponsorship, Santiago also arranged to have the Fiesta Tour come to Birmingham.  This was a tremendous coup for us as this tour typically only presents in the largest markets like Chicago, Los Angeles, and the like.  The Fiesta tour – appropriately named (in our humble opinion) – is like a Latin Grammy Experience!  It’s a 50 foot trailer exhibit with a walk through display of unique artifacts and memorabilia loaned by Latin musicians.  You get to see items belonging to such artists as Jennifer Lopez, Celia Cruz, Jose Feliciano and Marc Anthony.  It also features a live DJ, music kiosk and kiddie area with a photo center.  The Fiesta tour was set up right at the entrance so attendees bought their ticket to the festival and could walk directly through the exhibit.  It was such an exciting addition to Fiesta that year!

Another “first” was having a parade of flags, along with the flag ceremony and the Pledge of Allegiance at the event and this was thanks to the Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama.  Marisela Mendez is a powerhouse of a woman (now retired) who was a huge force in engaging Hispanic girls and their families into scouting in our state.  She arranged to have girl scouts from around the region attend Fiesta and dress in traditional costumes to carry the flags of Latino countries.  She also had a group experienced in the presentation of the colors on hand, and in uniform to lead the event in the Pledge of Allegiance from the main stage.  It was such a beautiful and colorful sight that year!  The girls were gorgeous in their dresses and throughout the day I would see them around the park with their families enjoying the day.

Photo of all the Hispanic Girl Scouts who participated in the 2014 Fiesta event in costume and Girl Scout uniforms.

At one point, I was next to the Coca Cola Main Stage with my daughter, Anna Marie, when we saw one of the girls twirling to the music.  Her pink dress was floating as she twirled and she was clearly in her own little world with the music.  Anna Marie and I began taking pictures of her when one of her friends saw us and decided to twirl with her.  It was such a sweet moment and I’m so glad we caught it.

This was also the year we were able to grant a wish to a young Hispanic girl who was seriously ill and in Children’s Hospital of Alabama.  She wanted to meet her favorite musical artist – El Dasa – and we arranged to make that happen with the help of Amado Santos, Patient Relations and Language Services Director.  El Dasa was so gracious too.  Jasmine – the young girl – was taken by wheelchair to his personal tour bus and along with her parents and brother, were able to meet him and have a short visit.  The sweetest moment came when Jazmine gave him a drawing she made.  It was of a pair of cowboy boots and a hat,  similar to what he wears for his performances.  He was so sweet to her, asking her about the drawing and other things that she enjoyed.  He was truly interested in her and wanted to make this a good experience…that was clear.  A local news station came out to cover the meeting and at the end, El Dasa posed for pictures with the family and the drawing before heading to the stage for his performance.  I enjoyed being a “fly on the wall,” as they say and being able to witness this special meeting.

 

More to come so please come back next Friday to hear about Fiesta 2015!

Fiesta Fridays! 2011

NOTE:  Fiesta Fridays is a special series to highlight the many memories I have of Fiesta through the photographs I’ve taken since 2003.

This is probably my favorite photo from Fiesta 2011…this little girl was enjoying the Family village face painting and Home Depot activities!

Fiesta 2011 was one for the record books!  When I think back on this particular year, there was so much going on and also a bit of turmoil.  Turmoil…that’s not a word you would normally associate with a festival, but in this particular year, we had a bit of that with the creation of the state’s anti-illegal immigration bill called HB 56.

This law went into effect the week of Fiesta, so naturally the board and committee members were concerned.  We didn’t want trouble for our event nor did we want people to target us for any negative reason.  I mean, we are a cultural festival…we don’t have a political agenda.  We’ve made that clear from day one of our event.  But the reality is when you have a bill such as this and a Hispanic event about to take place, the natural inclination was to be targeted by the press to get a comment or two about the situation.  Usually an event works hard to get the media to cove them because you never know if a breaking new story will divert their attention. Well, in this case we didn’t have to hustle a bit!  All the networks came out and I remember vividly having 3 to 4 microphones pushed in my face asking me questions about the bill and how we felt about it.  I had my talking points down beforehand and stuck to those during the interviews.  To this day, I can’t believe I was able to get through all those questions but the press was more than kind with their coverage of Fiesta that year.  We are forever grateful for that!

In fact, the greater community came out in droves to support us.  We had a lot of first time patrons because they disagreed with the new law and wanted to show support in some way.  They figured attending a Hispanic event was a good way to show solidarity.  I had many people tell me this that day.  It was so heartwarming.  Keep in mind, Fiesta was created to showcase ALL Hispanic countries…not just Mexico.  So this really fit into the education component of our mission.  Yes, the majority of attendees are generally Mexican and the assumption is always that they are undocumented.  But Fiesta has always been proud of the diversity in not only attendance, but also participants of the event.

We called it the largest Mexican pizza in the world! Thanks go out to the city of Hoover and our partnership with Little Caesars Pizza for making this possible!

Fiesta 2011 had so much to offer that year.  Aside from the cultural, nonprofit and family villages, we were able to create a partnership with Little Caesar’s Pizza to create what we called the “world’s largest Mexican pizza.”  The City of Hoover has a giant oven that they have used at evens to bake a gigantic apple pie.  We were able to get permission to use that oven and the pizza was created!!!  It was amazing to see the crane bring the oven in and pull the huge pan out for the toppings to be added.  I loved watching the guy crawl out on what looked like a diving board to test and see if the pizza the “done.”  People gathered to watch and wait patiently to sample this savory pizza!

On a personal note, my daughter Emily, completed her Girl Scout Gold Award project that year at Fiesta.  She brought friends together to create a skit in English and Spanish on recycling and presented it over the afternoon for groups of families.  She also handed out water bottles with information on how to recycle to children in the Family Village.  The bottles were labeled “Message in a bottle/Mensaje en una botella.”  In addition, she contacted Recycle Alabama to bring recycling bins to Fiesta for the first time ever.  All in all, it was a very successful project and it was great to see the Family Village so active with Emily and her friends.  This was a great compliment to the Home Depot army that was present once again that year!

We had a challenge with our musical acts that year too.  As you can probably imagine, several of the music acts we had booked cancelled at the last minute due to the political climate in the state.  Who could blame them…but that’s not exactly the news you want to hear right before the festival opens!!!  At any rate, we were able to draw from many local acts to fill the gaps.  We also had the talents of DJ Crème from New York that year who was fantastic and really stepped up with the situation facing us.  The final act of the night was contacted around one o’clock that day and agreed to drive all the way from Nashville to perform for us.  They were fabulous and teamed up with DJ Crème to really cap off Fiesta 2011.

I think this was the year I realized just how many friends Fiesta has…I mean, it would have been easy to abandon our little festival due to the politics of the day.  But we had so much support surrounding us that day.  I know many memories were created that day.  For me, this was probably the most memorable since the first Fiesta.  We came through turmoil and were made better because of it all.

More to come so please come back every other Friday through September 30, 2017, for more behind the scenes stories of Fiesta!

 

 

Fiesta 2015…two thousand pictures later…

Mosaico Flamenco performs on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

Mosaico Flamenco performs on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

Every year, my main focus at Fiesta is capturing all the fun and festivities  with my camera.  From the set up to the village activities to the musical acts…I take a ton of photos!  This year though, I think I topped my all time number of photos.  As I downloaded from my camera on Sunday morning, I couldn’t believe the total number was well over two thousand pics!  Editing is going to be fun…

One of the things that struck me as I flipped through the photos was the fact that the rain and cold weather on Saturday didn’t make a bit of difference in the smiles and enjoyment of the people who attended.  Experiencing Fiesta in the cold and rain was new for ALL of us.  Not that I want inclement weather for Fiesta 2016…but it’s clear that everyone made the most of Fiesta in the cold and rain and enjoyed it as if it were 80 degrees and sunny!  I love our Fiesta family!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures so far…

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Fiesta…one thousand pictures later…

Fiesta 2014 is now a great memory for the board and planning committee…it was an incredible day!  Last Saturday, September 27th, we enjoyed great weather, huge attendance, many new vendors and participants, and reconnected with so many long time amigos!  We reconfigured our set-up in Linn Park and it really made a difference in the attendee traffic.  Everywhere I looked, there were people and families enjoying the event, eating delicious food and sitting on the beautiful green grass.

Our title sponsor, McDonalds, brought an incredible exhibit – The Fiesta Tour – a 53-foot long traveling mobile unit that pays tribute to Latin GRAMMY winners – to Birmingham for us to enjoy. Every time I went by the exhibit, there were crowds – such a beautiful sight!  The Santiago brothers, Santiago and Russ, have been wonderful partners to Fiesta this year and we are so grateful for their presence!

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The McDonald’s Fiesta Tour entrance. What an incredible exhibit!

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A dress worn by Gloria Estefan and a guitar owned by Carlos Santata – just a few of the items in the McDonald’s Fiesta Tour on display.

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Sombrero belonging to Mexican artist – Vicente Fernandez – in the McDonald’s Fiesta Tour.

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Ronald McDonald gets anchored in Linn Park, in the Family Village.

I downloaded more than one thousand photos last Sunday afternoon.  It always amazes me how many photos I take at Fiesta each year.  And yet, there are always shots I miss and think about later.  Oh!  And this doesn’t include the photos I take with my iPhone!   One of my favorite elements this year was having the Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama participate with the presentation of colors, pledge of allegiance, Girl Scout promise (in English and Spanish), and finally parade around the park with the flags of the Latin countries while dressed in native costumes!  It was absolutely a BEAUTIFUL sight!  In fact, I do believe (aside from the music acts), that the Girl Scouts were the most photographed group of the day!  The magnificent Marisela Mendez, the Hispanic Initiative Manager for GSNCA, worked for many weeks to pull the girls and their families together for Fiesta.  This Dominican woman is a “powerhouse” and the community is lucky to have her working for Hispanic girls in our region.  Her heart is all about connecting these little girls with Girl Scouts and she will do everything possible to ensure they can have the Girl Scout experience in their lives.

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This precious little one lead the Girl Scouts around the park in the parade of flags, dressed in a beautiful white mariachi outfit.

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The Girl Scouts pose in front of their booth at Fiesta.

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The Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama during the flag ceremony – presentation of colors.

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Talking to one of the Girl Scouts after the parade of flags…this little one was so precious and apparently I wasn’t saying her name the right way – she kept correcting me! (Photo credit: Cristina Almanza)

I’ve pulled a few of my favorite photos from Fiesta to share on the blog.  If you were at Fiesta and took some photos, please post them on the Fiesta facebook page!  We would love to see what you captured!!!

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This little one kept twirling to the music next to the main stage. Such joy!

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This little girl saw me taking photos of the girl in the pink and decided she wanted to twirl and have her picture taken too!

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Sugar Skull faces at Fiesta! These young ladies were popular – everyone wanted to have their pictures taken with them!

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Got to hang out with my daughter, Anna Marie, for part of the day. She is always so helpful when I’m making my photography rounds in the park.

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Dancers on the stage…they certainly drew a crowd!

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Running into Ricardo and Aimee Aparicio was the best!Reconnecting with long time friends is one of the joys of Fiesta for me. Ricardo was there when Fiesta was started.

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On stage with El Dasa! Great energy during his entire performance!

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El Dasa’s surprise meet and greet with a young girl battling cancer – I don’t think there was a dry eye in the trailer when this happened.

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A crowd shot from the stage as El Dasa performs…

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It’s always fun to run into Clark Scott and Larry Gay at Fiesta. They take some amazing photos each year!

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Crowds were massive this year at Fiesta 2014!

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Traditional Mexican dresses for sale at Fiesta.

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Two of the hardest working women at Fiesta this year – board members Vannessa Vargas and Cristina Almanza! They absolutely ROCK!