Tag Archives: wine

Last Minute Halloween Ideas

The past three weeks have been insane! I’ve been working like crazy. I finally handed my first cookbook off the publisher and it should be printing soon. Aside from that, I’ve taken on a ton of food writing this month. The holidays are good for food writers, but I’ve neglected my column. So here are some last minute Halloween ideas for your party tonight.

For me, creativity is key when celebrating. I don’t want to spend a ton of money, so I immediately hit a dollar-type store before I do any other buying. Then I supplement with merchandise from bigger retailers. It’s amazing what you can find for $1 to use for a party.

One of my favorite finds was a bag of plastic assorted spooky rings (a mix of spider, skulls and bats).  I use the rings around the stem of a wine glass to decorate it; use them to top cupcakes; glue them to a sturdy toothpick (the plastic variety) to skewer meatballs or fruit;  use them to decorate food plates (just be sure it’s obvious this isn’t edible).

ring wine charms


You can also dangle plastic spiders from the ceiling on dental floss; place them in cobwebs; or cut a sliver into a pumpkin or winter squash and have the spiders climbing all over the pumpkin, which is how I serve one of my recipes this week.

An idea I saw online was to freeze ice in plastic gloves and then use those to chill punch. You can also fill plastic gloves with candy or popcorn to serve.

I like to add a splash of food color to drinks. I’ve found that a few drops of food dye to Moscato doesn’t seem to affect the flavor. I’ve tried other dry wines and it does change the taste; I think this works in Moscato because the wine is sweet. Just empty a bottle of Moscato into a pitcher and add 3 drops of red dye and 6 drops of yellow and stir. You can adjust the color as needed with more dye.

orange moscato

I’ve also added food dye to margaritas and it doesn’t change the taste either. If you serve orange margaritas, rim the glass in green salt and place a spider ring on the stem of the glass.

Take your favorite hummus recipe and spread it on a plate (store-bought is fine). Then buy a jar of roasted red bell peppers and puree 1 of the pepper without liquid. Place in a piping bag and make a pumpkin face on the hummus or a scary face. You can add a celery stick to the top of its head to look like a stem.

The flavor of the roasted pepper is great with hummus. It can be a little runny, so if you want to make a bloody looking creature this will serve you well.

Hummus with roased red pepper

Les Bourgeois Winery in Rocheport, MO, is worth a visit

Missouri’s third largest winery is tops in my book.

Les Bourgeois Winery, nestled on a bluff in Rocheport, has it all: a great selection of wine; a spectacular view of the Missouri River; a lovely restaurant; and an American success story.

DSC_0130 (2)

This family-owned vineyard was started by Curtis and Martha Bourgeois who hailed from Louisiana. In 1974, they bought 15 acres of bluff top property on the Missouri River and relocated to the Show-Me state.


Initially, they planted grapes to beautify their land and make wine as a hobby.

But in 1985, they had a huge harvest- five tons of grapes that yielded nearly 500 gallons of wine—which they sold to a winery in Rolla.  It was then that the family realized the potential for a vineyard.

A year later, they renovated a building on their property, added a sales counter and opened as “Les Bourgeois Winery.”

In two months, their entire vintage of “Jeunette Rouge” sold out.

In time, they began to buy more land and plant more grapes. In 1994, they purchased more bluff top property adjacent to their home to build a bistro.

Their son, Stephen Bourgeois, an architect, designed the Blufftop Bistro, which is a gorgeous restaurant and a must if you visit. Aside from good food, the view is fantastic.

DSC_0125 (2)

If you visit the winery, first stop at the tasting room for a free tasting. You can sample six wines for free or the entire menu of 23 wines, for $8 per person.  The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

I was just there to celebrate my birthday and the staff were friendly and helpful.

I prefer dry wines and Les Bourgeois has a good selection.

Most of my favorites sips were in the “Collector’s Series” which are higher-end wines. Wine is all about personal taste, but my top picks were:

The Collector’s Series 2013 Vidal Blanc: it was a crisp, vibrant, dry white with citrus flavors.

The Collector’s Series 2011 Syrah: is one of the best Missouri reds I’ve tasted (but in fairness, they bring in California grapes for this wine). It was a full bodied red with hints of pepper, smoke and berries. I loved it and this was my overall favorite.

photo 1 (9)

Collector’s Series 2012 Valvin Muscat: was very unusual. It struck a lovely balance between sweet and semi-dry. It had strong flavors of orange but hints of pineapple, melon, and strawberry.

I also loved the Vignoles. Vignoles tends to be my favorite Missouri varietal and I drink it in the summer when it’s hot because it’s a refreshing wine (even though I don’t typically like sweet wine and many Vignoles are sweet). This one was dryer than most and had a beautiful floral bouquet, with apricot undertones.

Again, I typically do not like Rose, but there was a sparkling Brut Rose that was light, lively, floral and had hints of berries.  This sparkling wine received a gold medal of excellence at the Jefferson Cup Invitational Competition, a wine competition.

The great thing about wine tasting is it opens you up to things you might never try but end up enjoying.

After the wine tasting, we headed to the Blufftop Bistro, which is one of my favorite Missouri restaurants.

DSC_0136 (2)

First, the architecture is stunning and it has great ambience.  Huge windows look out on the Missouri River Valley.  You can sit a table draped in a white linen tablecloth and admire the scenery or the sunset.

Dinner is pricey, but I think it’s worth it. My favorite main course is the filet: it’s melt-in-your mouth tender, served with mashed potatoes, and topped with a red wine demi-glace ($36).

This time, we were between meals so we only had salads and appetizers to choose from. We ordered the meat board and sent it back because we disliked it. They replaced it with a hummus board, which was great. We also had a nice house salad.

If you plan to have dinner in the bistro, make reservations in advance because it’s a popular restaurant in high season or on weekend.

If you don’t want to eat, you can savor a glass of wine on the balcony at the Blufftop Bistro and still enjoy the gorgeous views.

Spring is a lovely time to visit the winery, before it gets too hot outside. And if you’ve never been to Rocheport, be sure to pencil in a little time to walk around there, too.   Rocheport is a quaint town with lovely little antique shops, cafes and bed and breakfasts. The Katy trail runs through here the countryside is beautiful for a bike ride or short drive.

As the weather warms, Les Bourgeois Winery is a perfect place to explore.


I wrote this article for the Joplin Globe. It appeared today in the paper’s Explore section. I write weekly food and travel features for that newspaper.

Want to go?

Les Bourgeois Winery, 14020 W. Hwy. BB, Rocheport. Wine tasting daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Blufftop Bistro is closed Mondays. There are limited winter hours, too. For a complete list, check the website. There’s a cool feature at the bottom of the website that allows you to try and calculate when the sun will set so you can be there for that. Visit: http://missouriwine.com/hours/

Midwest Beer, Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Festival

What did you do yesterday? Well, I attended the third annual Midwest Beer, Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds and it was awesome.

The festival attracted throngs of people who lined up to sample more than 200 products- many made in Missouri.

The fair puts this on and from year one, attendance has more than doubled and it’s easy to see why.  It was an incredible opportunity to sample as much I wanted and discover new products. I’ve fallen in love with beers I would never have ordered at a bar or restaurant, and tried locally produced food that I will now seek out.

While there was wine and beer, it definitely felt more beer-centric.

My only complaint were the lines were very long everywhere I went and it could 10 minutes to get to a booth. But in true Ozarks fashion, some people would pass samples back down a line if it was stagnant, which was nice.fesgtival

To my amazement, with this many samples, there wasn’t anything I disliked but there were definitely standouts. Here were some of my favorites that are definitely worth trying, if you haven’t already:


Springfield’s White River Brewing Company’s Copper Creek IPA was exceptional. This English-style ale is hoppy and aged in charred oak barrels which gives this beer an incredible flavor with hints of caramel, butterscotch, and a fruit finish. This was my favorite beer of the day. http://www.whiteriverbrewingco.com/beers/

The Chocolate Thunder from Mother’s Brewing Co., in Springfield, uses nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide in the brewing process, lending the beer a creamier mouthfeel. The full-bodied American porter style, has a rich chocolate taste, almost to the depth of a brownie. http://mothersbrewing.com/

I had to stop at The Traveler Beer Co., because I am a traveler and loved the name, but I found the beer was fantastic, too. The grapefruit, yes grapefruit, was exceptional and perfect for spring. The lemon shandy was also excellent and will be on my list this summer. You seriously taste the fruit in these beers but it’s fresh and natural tasting, not a fake chemical flavor. It’s so refreshing. I picked some up at Harter House on my home and my husband’s initial thought was “grapefruit?” But he loved it, too. This is not a Midwest product, it’s out of Burlington, Vermont, which is an incredible city if you’ve never been. http://travelerbeer.com/

Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling in Ste. Genevieve had a nice blackberry cider and the best Missouri-made sparkling pink Moscato I’ve ever had. It was light, bubbly, fruity (particularly with strawberry notes), sweet and retails for about $16. If you like Moscato, give this a try. http://www.crownvalleywinery.com/

Wenwood Farm Winery out of Bland, Mo., wins the award for best Missouri red. The Century Farm Red is a dry red made in the tradition of Pinot Noir and it tastes like a Pinot. It’s very fruit forward and smooth. I’d never heard of this winery or Bland, Mo., so this was a nice surprise. I went on the website and it looks so quaint. I want to visit this place http://wenwoodfarmwinery.com/


Cloud’s Meats Inc., out of Carthage, Mo., has been in business since 1959 and it’s easy to see why. The family-owned business produces smoked meats and other sausages, which were delicious. Summer sausage and similar products can be too greasy, or overly garlicky, but this was just right. I particularly liked the cranberry sausage and the buffalo sausage. Although this is what they offered at the tasting, if you visit the website, you see there’s so much more for sale from bratwust to ribs. They also custom process deer and other meats. http://cloudsmeats.com/

Crazy Uncle Dave’s Beef Jerky out of Branson is homemade, all natural, and it’s one of the best beef jerky’s I’ve ever sampled. It has an intense smoky flavor and doesn’t taste processed at all. It was great. This is all I could find for a website, although the man serving the jery said the product is or will be available at Silver Dollar City. http://www.crazyuncledaves.com/~shop/crazy-uncle-daves-beef-jerky/252631/

The Branson Craft Mall served up incredible, warm, cinnamon-kissed candied pecans and almonds. The pecans were outstanding; sometimes candied nuts have a hard coating or the coating is as thick as the nut, but these were softer and just the right amount of candy coating. I will go to Branson just to visit this place. It has free samples daily of other products and lots of crafts and work from local artists. I love that type of thing. http://bransoncraftmall.com/

Cake Pop Co., served up a moist stout cake with a bourbon buttercream frosting that was heavenly. This Springfield company has national business and it’s wonderful to see its success. http://www.cakepopco.com/

Panera Bread Co.,’s chocolate croissant was buttery but light and had a delicious chunk of chocolate tucked inside. I love Panera but always eat lunch there, so this was my first time sampling something sweet for breakfast. https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/home.html

Puff Pastry filled with Chicken, Artichokes, and Cheese — pairs beautifully with wine

ATTENTION EXCLUSIVE WINE LOVERS. Have you ever noticed that nachos or wings, typical Super Bowl fare, doesn’t pair that well with a glass of red or white?

I have, and so I usually drink beer or margaritas during the game, but if you only like wine, then this appetizer is for you.

Golden, buttery puff pastry is wrapped around chunks of artichokes and chicken tossed with creamy mayonnaise, cheese, a hint of salty bacon, and accented with Italian seasoning. It’s lovely.

This also makes a quick dinner. If you serve this for dinner, I’d suggest serving grilled asparagus and salad or sautéed spinach on the side. DSC_0144 (2)

Puff Pastry filled with Chicken, Artichokes and Cheese

1 puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm is my favorite)

1 cup drained artichokes

1 cup chopped boneless, skinless rotisserie chicken breast

1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese (could substitute Parmesan if you can’t find Asiago)

2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup mayonnaise

½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 tablespoons crumbled cooked bacon or real bacon pieces (optional)

Dash of garlic salt

Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drain artichokes, pat with a paper towel to dry and roughly chop artichokes. Stir together artichokes, chicken, cheeses, mayonnaise, bacon and Italian seasoning. Top with a dash of garlic salt.

Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, this will help prevent the puff pastry from sticking.

Unfold puff pastry and remove the paper. The pastry will naturally be divided in thirds and all you want to do is fill that middle third with the chicken mixture. So carefully spoon all the mixture down the center of the pastry and fold the sides up and over to seal. Dip your fingers in water and seal the edges so the cheese doesn’t bubble out.

Bake 18-22 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing. Enjoy with a glass of Sauvingnon Blanc or  Chardonnay; or any red from a Pinot to Cabernet. Cheers to drinking wine and eating food that pairs well with it during the Super Bowl.

DSC_0148 (2)