The Solera System- Recipe: The Spanish Attic

The Solera system (as it is called in Spain) is a finishing and blending technique to develop flavors of Sherry. By reserving a portion of a barrels older contents, you add the younger product in. This infuses the younger spirit or wine with a touch of the older more developed product, giving layer upon layer of development and character to the final product. 

Imagine a pyramid of barrels stacked, with those closer to the ground being the oldest. When the most mature batches are ready for bottling, a portion of the contents are left in the cask. Then, the barrels from above are used to top off the lower barrels, with a portion of contents left inside, and the process is repeated with each layer until the top barrel is filled with new batch. This is very labor intensive, no barrel is ever emptied completely, and very little product in the Solera system will be bottled for each cycle.

That means, each year the Solera is in cycle, the output has a higher concentration of older and older product. It could contain portions of 3 year old and 20 year old Sherry in the same vessel. I imagine this takes an extraordinary amount of organization and care. Enjoying these Lustau Solera Reserva products makes me respect the process even more.

Now that you know a little about the Solera system, you will have a deeper appreciation for the Lustau Brandy and Sherry products used for my recipe: The Spanish Attic

Full Recipe and Inspiration can be found on the Chilled Magazine Site


Blue Apron

I love to cook, and I love trying new recipes, but honestly I don't always have time to do the research. Often times I drop by the grocery store on my way home from being out and about, without a list or a game plan. If I'm starving when I shop I usually end up with a lot of odds and ends, and not fully planned meals. I found a way to take out the guess work, time and energy spent walking through the aisles, or staring endlessly at the bulk bins not knowing what I could really do with the 50 different lentil varieties in front of me.

2 words: Blue Apron. My neighbor turned me onto the company and I've used it off and on over the last year. When I get a big project, and my work schedule ramps up, I log into my account and schedule some deliveries. The package arrives on my doorstep with 3 meals for 2 persons. There are larger packages available but this is the right fit for my needs at the moment.

Cost-wise it is more expensive than shopping for myself, but much cheaper than eating out. I've had only great produce, well-sourced proteins. There is usually a product card describing one of the seasonal ingredients, or letting you know what farm the products were sourced from. Did I mention you can even add some wine pairings? Swoon. Add in the convenience of not wasting time and energy deciding what to eat, I think it is totally worth it. 

How it works: Schedule your delivery date, and how many meals you want with your plan. Add your credit card and the deed is done. You can choose from Meat or Vegetarian options, as well as excluding certain proteins (for example, if you don't eat pork you can uncheck that protein from your orders). Going out of town? Easy, login and choose which weeks you would like to skip. After a while you earn free meals to send to your family and friends so you can share

Here are some photos I shot which prepping for a blue apron meal. Each recipe comes with a step by step picture guide that even my husband likes to follow!




Eau de Vie - "Water of Life" and the Trou Normond

Eau de Vie literally translates in French to "Water of Life". Despite being derived from fruit, this subtly flavored brandy is very alcohol forward. Typically clear, and not aged in casks, some common flavors include: apple, pear, peach, fig, and yellow plum.  When I lived in Toulouse, the cutest little old man living next to us had an annual release of his home made Figue Eau de Vie with figs straight out of his yard. It had an almost lavender-esque nose, strong burn in your chest, and left you with a warm tingling sensation on your scalp afterwards. My host family kept a bottle on hand for every special occasion.

You may be familiar with its aged counterpart, Calvados, which you can have a shot of with your morning coffee along "The Cider Route" in Normandy, France. Funnily enough, ordering a side of calvados with your coffee is cheaper than ordering a calvados by itself. This is because only the locals know about this, and keeping the prices down help to continue the rich cultural tradition.

During French meals, which have a considerable number of courses, if you are starting to feel full you have a digestif, or "Trou Normond".

Learn more about the "Trou Normond" in my interview with Joshua Caine Media here

In the US, this spirit is considerably less popular. However, there is one distillery here in Portland keeping the tradition alive and well. They even produce the rare "Pear grown in the bottle" variety, of which I got to taste from an ICE LUGE. Fan-fuckin-tastic. Now I just need to figure out how to put this on tap in my house.

Meet Clear Creek Distillery, who celebrated their 30th Anniversary Party in May 2016. According to their website: 

"Clear Creek Distillery was founded in 1985 with a vision to use the bountiful fruits of the Pacific Northwest to create fruit-based spirits that rivaled the best of their European counterparts. Using old-world techniques and sourcing ingredients from the local orchards and fresh water springs of Mount Hood in the Oregon countryside, Clear Creek became one of the first craft distilleries in the United States."

Here are some photos from the 30th Anniversary event, where guests enjoyed craft cocktails with this tantalizing spirit. Enjoy!