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Perry’s Pinot and Pork

Everybody who knows me knows how much I love wine. When I first started trying wines I was a huge Merlot fan and slowly moved to Cabernet Sauvignons and finally Pinot Noir. I’m more of a white wine and rose wine enthusiast these days but the pendulum is starting to swing back to reds for me. That’s why I was excited to get an invitation to try the Perry’s Steakhouse April special – Pinot and Pork!

Let me first say how much I love Perry’s wines! I went to a tasting when they launched their new Private Reserve Cabernet and Chardonnay in 2017 and got to hear how they were created from Perry’s Corporate Sommelier, Susi Zivanovic. I found myself wanted to “be” Susi…I mean, could you think of a more perfect job than bringing fabulous tasting wines to people?! She is a wealth of information and I found myself hanging on her every word, that is, between sips of the wine samples!

Last Sunday, my husband and I arrived for and early supper at Perry’s. The April special is a three course meal consisting of your choice of salad, their legendary slow-roasted, caramelizad pork chop and finally, their decadent dessert trio. Let me just say this…make sure you go hungry!!! This combination is out of this world!

Our server, Todd, was so comfortable to talk to and provided lots of tidbits about the food and wine. He raved about the pork chop and even offered suggestions on how to prepare the leftovers, because there would definitely be leftovers with the size of the pork chop they were about to serve! I suggested that maybe Perry’s should post a left-over pork chop recipe flyer for their guests! At this point I couldn’t wait to try the main course. On a side note, I’ve only had the pork chop one other time and it was thanks to my brother-in-law when he was in town a year ago. So having it hot out of the kitchen and watching it being carved at the table was a treat!

We started with salads, Eddie ordered the wedge salad while I had the warm spinach and bacon salad. We had just finished these when the pork chops were brought out on sizzling platters. The young man carving them explained what he was doing…first slicing the ribs, followed by what Perry’s calls the eyelash – a small portion of dark meat and then the loin along with a side of applesauce. He also suggested sampling everything in that order. Wow! That first warm bite was incredible! The caramel flavor along with spices and garlic butter was so rich I just wanted to savor it for a bit.

After that first bite I reached for the Perry’s Reserve Pinot Noir to complete the pairing and it was heavenly! The Pinot Noir is out of Monterey County California and you can definitely get hints of berries and cherry aromas with a very smooth finish. It was created especially to pair with the pork chop and I can see why! I found myself alternating between bites and sips throughout the rest of my meal!

We were so stuffed we barely made it to the loin! I took a few bites and our server Todd returned and asked if I had given up. I said yes and to box the rest up because we still had the dessert trio to go! Luckily for us, the trio is small bite style so we enjoyed bites of cheesecake, creme brûlée and a tasty crunchy chocolate that was like a Nestle crunch bar!

Perry’s is great about offering specials and the month of April is no exception. You can get a glass of the new Pinot Noir for five dollars off the usual $14 during dinner service if you order the pork chop. Or you can get $20 off a bottle of the Pinot which is usually $56. Get the bottle!!! Trust me on this! On Sundays you can opt to get the three course meal that Eddie and I enjoyed for $34.95 and the wine price applies. Sunday supper is from 4-9 p.m. Head over for a delicious time, especially this month (April) and maybe I’ll see you there!

Oh! Forgot to mention that we ordered a side of the steak truffle fries to go with dinner too because well…truffles!

Breakfast With My Annie

It’s been a busy weekend…friends from out of town are here and we’ve made plans to spend time with them at Samford University’s homecoming weekend and later watch the Alabama football game.

This is also the weekend my daughter Anna Marie and her husbandRyan are in town from Colorado to attend a family wedding. We knew going into the weekend we wouldn’t get to spend a lot of time with them. In fact, I told Anna Marie not to feel pressured to see us because of all the wedding festivities. They are coming home for Christmas and spending 10 days and that will be here before we know it!

But Anna insisted and suggested breakfast on Saturday morning with us…and she requested French toast! I called my mother to come join us and Anna Marie showed up this morning right at 730 as she said she would.

It melted my heart watching her hug her daddy and not let go. She is such a daddy’s girl and I loved watching that until I almost started to cry. We sat around the kitchen table as Eddie finished up breakfast. He always cooks enough for an army.

Listening to her tell stories and banter back and forth with her sister was like old times. Only person missing was brother Charlie. That would have made the morning perfect. Anna tried to FaceTime him but couldn’t get in touch.

It’s not easy when your children move away…in this case, out of state. You miss them but you know they are making their own way and following their dream of living in Colorado. I try to give them space and not call or text too much. I know there’s a balance and I’m still searching for it. Some times I want to call every day to just say hello and check in! I’ll figure it out eventually. After this visit I may need to amp up the calls though.

It was good to see my Annie and have breakfast together. I’m thankful she insisted on breakfast and the French toast! Both were awesome! I can’t wait until Christmas!

 

Dad…making his presence known on his 93rd birthday…

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Photo I took of my dad when we lived in Illinois – photo is circa 1970s

Today would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday.  Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico on October 25, 1922.  He died on June 1, 2001.  I remember it was a Friday.  He was 78 years old.

This time a year, I like to take a Virgen de Guadalupe candle to the memorial garden where his ashes are interned and replace the one from the previous year.  I just returned from a trip to visit my sister Kanista in North Carolina last night, so I haven’t had a chance to buy one and go by the gardens in Alabaster.  I hope to do this over the weekend.

Meanwhile…dad has been making his presence known today!  Kanista and I were talking about things like this yesterday.  You know…dreams, things that happen that appear to be a coincidence…being open to these types of happenings or just being observant can show you so much and also be comforting in many ways.  Kanista and I spent five days together and we had so many instances happen to us that we were recalling them all and laughing about them on our way to the airport yesterday.   At the same time, we were marveling and delighting in how great it made us feel and the fact that we were experiencing these happenings together!

So the marvel continues today as I was heading home after work.  I was thinking about dad and also of the traditional Mexican birthday song called “Las Mañanitas.”  I decided to look up the lyrics to make sure I had them right.  It’s been awhile since I had sung it, after all!  Then I got the urge to hear the song along with some mariachi music, so I pulled up a YouTube video of Vicente Fernandez singing it.  Vincente is a Mexican ranchera singer and for further coincidence…he was born on February 17th which is also MY birth date!  Anyway, the song was sung to a series of photos put together in a slideshow.  The first slide that popped up was this one…

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This slide appeared at the beginning of a YouTube video for the Mexican birthday song – Las Mañanitas. Praxedis is my father’s name – coincidentally?!!!

Remember, my dad’s name is Praxedis!  I sat in disbelief at first, but then I started to smile.  “Ok, dad!  Happy birthday!” – I said out loud.  Then I decided to sing along to the video to serenade my father.  Next, I decided to run by my favorite thrift store and browse through quickly.  As I hurriedly ran through the rack with all the coats, I spotted a green shirt hanging among the coats that was clearly out-of-place.  Or, was it there to get my attention?  It had the Notre Dame initials on the front – very small letters – and it was a man’s shirt in the women’s section.  Notre Dame was my dad’s favorite school and football team.  Now, we live in the state of Alabama where you are either “for” Alabama or Auburn.  To mention Notre Dame here is taking your life into your hands!!!  And finding a shirt with these initials…what were the odds?  Dad was a Notre Dame fan his whole life.  I still have his ND sweatshirt and blanket…

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Notre Dame shirt at the thrift store. Notre Dame was my dad’s favorite team!

Of course, now I was laughing!  “I hear you, dad!  Happy birthday and I’ll raise a glass of wine for you tonight when I get home…because I don’t like Schlitz beer!”  Schlitz was his choice of beer, by the way.

Happy birthday, dad!  I feel certain the entire Zuniga clan is celebrating you today in heaven!

Con mucho cariño….Teresa

The Official State Cookie of New Mexico!

Biscochitos - fresh out of the oven and on my dining room table!

Biscochitos – fresh out of the oven and on my dining room table!

Biscochitos!!!  Say this word to any Mexican and they will immediately begin to drool!  I kid you not!

These cookies are some of the best you will ever taste.  They are SO good that the New Mexico legislature named them the official state cookie in 1989!  Of course, the cookies go further back when the Spanish brought the recipe over from Spain to Mexico many moons ago…

My New Mexico Zuniga family makes the best biscochitos ever.  No lie…I always look forward to having a few at our family reunions…that is, if I can get to them in time!  They are in high demand and you really have to grab one when you can or they are gone in a flash!  Both my cousins Nelinda (aka Danda) and Hortencia (aka Wiro) each have their own unique recipes of this delicious cookie.

I’ve been doing a little research into the ingredients and decided to give this one a try for my annual cookie swap party.  I always make Mexican Wedding Cake cookies and one other in case a friend comes to the party and doesn’t have time to make cookies.  This year I decided on biscochitos as my “one other.”

Ingredients for my biscochitos...except for the cloves...I decided not to use those...

Ingredients for my biscochitos…except for the cloves…I decided not to use those…

One of the main ingredients in the recipe is lard.  Yep, LARD!  As my cousin Danda always says…when people see that the recipe takes one pound of lard, they get a little scared of these cookies!  I’ve seen a number of variations to this cookie but substituting lard for anything else is a no-no.  One of my cousins uses cloves in her recipe but I opted not to use this in mine.  One uses brandy in hers while my other cousin does not.  It’s interesting how a recipe can vary.  I decided on using the brandy and I can tell you…wow!!!  What a great flavor!

So let’s get started…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift the 6 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a bowl, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together 2 cups of lard and 1 1/2 cups sugar until smooth. Mix in 1 teaspoon of anise extract (I over poured a bit), and beat until fluffy. Stir in 2 eggs, one at a time. Add the sifted ingredients and 1/4 cup of brandy, and stir until well blended.
  3. Roll dough into balls.
  4. Mix together the 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon; roll the balls in the mixture.
  5. Place cookies onto baking sheets and gently press down on the mixture so they aren’t perfectly round.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

Que bueno!!!  Here are a few photos of the prep work in a slideshow!

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The Fabulous Zuniga Men

Photos of my dad (center) and his two brothers - Lorenzo and Felix - from my Day of the Dead altar.

Photos of my dad (center) and his two brothers – Lorenzo and Felix – from my Day of the Dead altar.

Today is Veterans Day.

It’s a work holiday for my office.  I decided to stay at home today and take down my Day of the Dead altars.   While I was dismantling and gathering all the photos, I put aside the ones of my dad and his brothers in their military uniforms.

The Zuniga Brothers…Praxedis, Lorenzo and Felix….

All the Zuniga men were Veterans.  All so handsome.  All so ready to serve in some capacity.  Today I reflected on these photos and those that my extended Zuniga family posted on social media.  Today I took some time to reflect upon their sacrifice for our freedom.

Thank you dad, Uncle Lencho and Uncle Felix…so proud of you all.

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My dad…Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga

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Uncle Lorenzo Zuniga

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Uncle Felix Zuniga

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Uncle Lencho and my dad – Praxedis Zuniga

 

Christmas Music in November?

My large collection of Christmas music at home...I like adding a few new cds each year!

My large collection of Christmas music at home…I like adding a few new cds each year!

Every year in early November, the Christmas music begins on a local radio station.  Now, I love Christmas music, but listening to it in November…that’s a bit too early for me.  I mean, hello?  Remember Thanksgiving??!!!

It does prompt me to begin researching new Christmas albums about to be released for the year.  I have a rather large collection of Christmas cds and I really enjoy adding to it every year.  Of course, some years are better than others.  If I buy a new cd or two, they go directly into my car so I can listen on my way to work and back the month of December.

This past weekend I was at Michaels and stumbled upon some Christmas cds in the midst of all the crafting items and Christmas decorations.  (Honestly, trying to find Thanksgiving decor was difficult…)  My sister, Kanista and I had been talking about the group Pentatonix a few months ago.  She had just discovered them and went absolutely head over heels for their music.  They released their last Christmas cd – That’s Christmas to Me – in 2014 and somehow I missed getting it last year.  I spotted it in the array of Christmas cds at Michaels and so I bought one cd for Kanista and one for myself.  On my way home, I broke my own rule about “no Christmas music before Thanksgiving” to give the cd a listen…it is FABULOUS!!!

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I also bought another new cd – a group called Straight No Chaser.  I don’t event remember how I discovered this group several years ago.  Their cd – Under the Influence – was released in 2013.  I remember thinking I would pick it up two years ago and then never did.  I can’ wait to give this one a listen in December!  (Yes!  I’m waiting to open this one up!)

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Each year the week of Thanksgiving, I go through and select a few older cds that I’ll listen to in December.  There are always a handful that make the cut every year – no matter what!  There’s The Andy Williams Christmas Album for one.  This one brings me back to when we were living in Puerto Rico and my mother would play the vinyl album on our Magnavox combo tv/record player/radio unit.  There are certain songs that make it Christmas for me and one of those is hearing Andy sing “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  I also sang  this song with my show choir group in high school so I’m always singing along in the choral version.  I just love it…so many great memories with that song!

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Christmas with Dino was a recent purchase but again, these song by Dean Martin are oldies but goodies!  I have always LOVED Dean Martin – he reminded me of my dad in a lot of ways…at least the person I saw on TV when I was growing up.  Dino makes the cut every year.  I’ve grown tired of the many renditions of the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” but not when Dean Martin sings it!  Makes me wish I had been around during the Rat Pack Days!

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The Carpenters Christmas Collection – what more can I say.  I am always blown away by Richard Carpenter’s musical arrangements.  Karen Carpenter’s voice is a given – it’s timeless to me.  I mean, didn’t we ALL want to BE Karen Carpenter when we were growing up?  That voice!  Merry Christmas Darling” always gives me goosebumps.  Incredible to think that the lyrics to this song were written in 1946 by Richard and Karen’s choir director and twenty years later – when Richard was his student – the director gave the lyrics to Richard and he composed  the melody!  There is one other song on this two cd set that isn’t well-known – Little Altar Boy – that is simply gorgeous.  If you haven’t heard it I strongly encourage you to give it a listen.

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Ottmar Liebert is a German guitarist, songwriter and producer and is best known for his Spanish influenced music.  You would find him in the new age/jazz section if you were looking for a cd.  I was first introduced to him in 2001 by my cousin Nelinda when my sister and I were visiting her in New Mexico.  She had one of his cds playing in the background as we enjoyed a meal and chatted.  Perfect “set the scene” type music and Ottmar quickly became a favorite of mine.  His cd called “Christmas Santa Fe” is one that I used to always play on Christmas Eve when my family was larger and we would gather at my house to enjoy my mother’s enchiladas, rice and beans, salsa and margaritas!

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Last but certainly not least…I found a compilation cd set called La Parranda by Fania records.  The album describes itself as representing “the essence of Latin American music.”  Fania was a New York based record label that became known for promoting salsa music.  It features music by Hector Levoe , a well-known Puerto Rican salsa singer, and Willie Colon, a salsa musician.  This music always takes me back to Christmases in Puerto Rico.  I have always liked this cd title because Parrandas are a Puerto Rican tradition where a group of friends or family members, go unannounced over to a neighbor’s house very late at night to sing traditional Puerto Rican Christmas carols. The songs are called “aguinaldos” or gifts. I remember doing this as a child and bringing maracas and  “guiros” to accompany the songs.  A guiro is a Latin percussion instrument made of a hollowed out gourd that has parallel notches cut in the side.  It is played by rubbing a stick or tines along the notches to produce the sound.  I remember everyone would argue over who got to play the guiro.  It was always the coveted instrument!  Great memories but doesn’t music do that to us?  It takes us back in time and lets us relive our precious memories…

Meanwhile…I’m getting these cds ready to load in my car so I can enjoy the sounds of the holidays, my way…  What Christmas music makes your holiday special?  Let me know!