During a recent trip to the wine region in the Texas Hill Country in Fredericksburg, I had the opportunity to visit two wineries.
 

Becker Vineyards sign at front gate

Becker Vineyards sign at front gate

 

The first vineyard we visited was Becker Vineyards. It is situated right off the highway on a beautiful piece of land on which grapes and lavender are grown. We were welcomed in the tasting room by Henri de Lobbe, a French speaking tasting room sales representative originally from Morocco, who shared his knowledge and love of Becker wines as well as stories of his life as he poured tastes into lovely monogrammed glasses. I have to admit that I was happily surprised by the quality of the wines included in the tasting. The last time I tasted Becker wines was in 1997 and I thought they were average and lacked the dimensionality that one gets with a French or California wine. In the last ten years Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine, has been very good to Becker Vineyards whose wines are largely made from grapes grown in Texas.

 

Becker Vineyards in Fredericksburg, TX, offers well priced wine for Indian food.

Becker Vineyards in Fredericksburg, TX, offers well priced wine for Indian food.

 

I was quite impressed with the consistently good taste of the wine list. Becker offers two Napa quality cabernets sauvignons but boasts an impressive array of varietals and some of my favorite Becker wines would pair well with Indian food. Usually I find only one or two white wines at a winery that I like. We started our tasting with the 2011 Pinot Grigio. Since this is such a light wine (and I tend to prefer reds) I thought about skipping it at first. I’m glad I tried it since I think it would be delightful with shellfish such as my Shrimp Avinasi recipe.

 

When we moved on to try the reds, I continued to be impressed. Not a bad wine in the bunch! I tasted the 2010 Culinaria, made from Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes, which I believe would be wonderful with game.

 

My favorites included the ‘09 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Canada Family Vineyard and the ‘10 Raven, which is a blend of Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes.

 

I have saved the best news for last: these wines are priced for everyday enjoyment between $15 and $20 per bottle. 

Grapes for wine making.

 

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Pineapple has been a favorite fruit of mine for as long as I can remember. I love the sweet tangy juice that drips from the flesh as I bite into large chunks that I cut from the fruit. My family loves it too. In fact, my daughter bought four of them during our recent week long vacation to the island of Maui in Hawaii. Believe me, we ate every bite!

 

 

Young pineapple growing in Maui.

Young pineapple growing in Maui.

 

Hawaii used to be a leader in pineapple production for over two hundred years. In fact, “Hawaii was responsible for 80 percent of the world’s pineapple production” during the 1960s. Today it only accounts for 2 percent.

 

On the other hand, India is one of the world’s top pineapple producers. Pineapples even grow wild across the state of Kerala. They are eaten raw as dessert after a meal or cooked in a side dish that accompanies a meal. Some of the most popular recipes in Kerala include:

 

  • Kichadi (recipe in my cookbook, Kachi’s Kitchen, pineapple and coconut cooked in yogurt and seasoned with mustard seeds)
  • Pachadi (pineapple, coconut and mustard seeds cooked in yogurt)
  • Pineapple rice (pineapple added to plain rice with some spices)
  • Pineapple raita (made fresh with yogurt)
  • Pineapple payasam (cooked as a sweet pudding)

This leads me to the purpose of focusing this post on pineapples. Even though my family ate them every day during our trip and we tasted some pineapple wine at the local winery, Tedeschi Vineyards, Maui’s Winery at Ulupalakua Ranch. This charming winery started growing grapes to make wine back in 1974. While they were waiting for the grapes to grow, they tried making wine from pineapples that grow on this island paradise.
 
 

Tedeschi Vineyard's Hula O'Maui wine.

Tedeschi Vineyard’s Hula O’Maui wine.

 

Tedeschi Vineyards makes three tasty wines from pineapple.Our favorite is an excellent selection to pair with this month’s South Indian recipe of the Month – Spicy Grilled Swordfish. Called Hula O’Maui, it is a crisp, sparkling wine that would be great with a spicy or bold entree. 

 

Their other pineapple wines are Maui Blanc and Maui Splash! would be excellent picks as well. All of them are easy to drink and a delightful change from the every day selections. If these wines are not available in your local store, the vineyard ships to many states.

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

Sources:

http://www.to-hawaii.com/agriculture.php

http://mauiwinery.com/

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My family recently came back from a wonderful trip to Athens, Greece.  We saw the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athena, the new Acropolis Museum, winding streets in Plaka, Syntagma Square  and Monastraki among many other beautiful sites. In addition we took side trips to Ancient Corinth, Pycenae, Epidaurus, The Poseidon Temple in Sounion and the island Hydra.
 

After a long day ferrying to and from Hydra, a beautiful island off the coast of Greece, my family was too tired to look for the subway stop and fight the traffic back to Athens from the port city of Piraeus. Instead we found a taxi to drive us back to town. This taxi was driven by Leonardis Benakis who quickly became a good friend. In between sharing pieces of Greek history, mythology and sites, he told us about his family and living in Greece.

On the way back to the hotel, he decided that we should meet his friend Steve who has a wonderful jewelry shop in the Plaka area of Athens. This is an old part of town at the base of the Acropolis that is filled with wonderful outside tavernas, narrow cobblestone roads, Byzantine churches and a wide variety of shops to satisfy every shopper.  Five minutes after meeting Steve Dimos, owner of Dimos Jewellery, we were served espresso and felt as though we had known him for years. He takes pride in his work as he has done considerable research on ancient jewelry so he could incorporate the themes into his designs. Piece after piece, each was more spectacular in design and craftsmanship than the previous one. After some time, my husband and children got their first taste of ouzo, the traditional Greek liquor. His beautiful shop is located on Benizelou Street in Mitropoleos Square.

 

Friends in Athens.

Friends in Athens.

The morning we left Athens to return home, Leonardis drove us to the airport. Since we were all friends, he shared some of the treats that were made by his wife. They were delicious – I loved the favor that the mint gave to the cheese.

My entire family can’t wait to go back next year!  σας ευχαριστώ!

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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My husband, son and I just returned from a spring break trip to Rome.  It seemed like we walked 10 miles every day to make sure we saw all the historic sites.  We visited the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Victor Emmanuel I  Monument, the Fontana de Trevi, Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), Piazza Navona, Pantheon, San Giovanni in Laterano, many stunning cathedrals, the Spanish Steps and much, much more. 
 

Beyond the beauty and history of the city, we were charmed by the people.  They were delightfully friendly and helpful.  Each morning we had cappuccino in a café across the street from our hotel.  The server recognized us after a few days and automatically prepared our coffee for us on the subsequent days of the trip.  The people in our hotel delighted us by providing a basket full of fresh fruit each day so we could eat healthful breakfasts and snacks.

 

We dined at a different restaurant each day.  At each meal we thought we had found the best restaurant in the city.  The food and wine were exquisite and the portions were appropriately sized.  Too many to itemize, some of the dishes we tried were:

 

Scampi e Calamari Fritti – fried shrimp and squid

Spaghetti alla Matriciana – a spicy red sauce with prosciutto and garlic

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe – spaghetti with pecorino and pepper

Spaghetti with Cozze e Vongole – spaghetti with clams and muscles

Carciofi Fritti – fried artichokes


My husband took us to La Cisterna, his favorite restaurant, in Trastevere, on the west bank of the Tiber.  In the basement of the restaurant is an ancient well and part of a Roman street from four hundred years ago.


As we wandered back to our hotel every evening, we stopped at Trevi Fountain.  It is a popular gathering spot for tourists. There we treated ourselves to a different flavor of gelato (Italian ice cream) every day.  At home, we rarely eat desserts but in Rome, we could not resist.  What a sight – people eating gelato while bundled up in coats and scarves!


I can’t wait to go back.  Maybe one day….
 
 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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