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ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy
ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

5 Fancy Wine Pairings Lazy People Will Love

ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy
ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

Nothing goes better with wine than food. And vice versa! That’s the spirit of this weekend’s A Wine & Food Affair, an annual Northern Sonoma County festival featuring signature wine and recipe pairings from dozens of wineries and restaurants. But you don’t have to hit the road—or even leave the couch, really—to experiment with the ancient science of flavor pairing. We asked a few of our favorite California vintners to share their favorite no- or low-frills pairings anyone can do at home. All you need to begin is access to a decent wine store and an average bodega.

1. Cheetos with Red Wine

Portalupi Wine Co.'s Vaso di Marina is a super easy-drinking everyday red. It comes packaged in an adorable milk jug, an homage to the olden days on the Italian farm, when homemade wines were bottled up in recycled containers. And it pairs best with something equally classically delightful: the common Cheeto.

2. Grilled Cheese with Tomato with Cabernet Franc

A pure cabernet franc is lighter than a blended cabernet sauvignon, perfect for pairing with vegetarian dishes. Paul Matthew’s Vineyard's 2012 edition has low tannins and bright fruit that make it a nice match for anything tomato, which tends to be a tough pairing because of its acidity. Our favorite incarnation of a tomato is in a grilled cheese, but this would also be a good companion for chili, enchiladas, pizza, or bruschetta.

3. Frito Pie with Zinfandel

A classic California full-bodied red—Zinfandels are full of spice and can stand up to intense flavors. And when we think intense flavors, we think about Frito Pie. Wine Guerilla’s 2011 Sonoma County vintage has flavors of cranberry, plum, and cinnamon, and their DIY Frito Pie is about as easy as it gets.

Wine Guerilla’s Frito Pie
1 cup homemade chili or your favorite canned
Optional: ½ tsp. cumin and 1 tsp. chili powder
2 snack size packages of Fritos
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese or your choice of cheese

Slit packages of Fritos down the center leaving 1 inch closed on each end.  Heat chili and spoon half on top of each package Fritos. Top with cheese while still hot so cheese will melt. Eat right out of bag. Serves 2!

Chopped scallions, sour cream, guacamole, and sliced jalapenos are also good on top. You can also make this in a baking dish, starting with a layer of Fritos, then chili, cheese and whatever other toppings you want. Bake until hot. 

4. Spinach and Feta Crostini with Pinot Noir

The Russian River Valley’s coastal climate is renowned for producing velvety pinot noirs like this one, which has an earthy finish that pairs well with sheep cheese and mushrooms. If you’re ready to take your cooking up just one notch, the Santa Rosa wine bar Station 1870 shared this easy recipe. It makes enough to serve a group, and pairs perfectly with a 2010 Lost Canyon Morelli Lane Pinot Noir.

Station 1870’s Spinach and Feta Crostini with Marinated Crimini Mushrooms
1 head organic spinach
6 crimini mushrooms
1 loaf French bread
½ pound sheeps milk feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Puree up the spinach and feta in a food processor, but leave puree mix slightly chunky. Add garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Slice mushrooms in quarter inch strips and marinate in olive oil, salt, water and a splash of white wine. Spread spinach and feta puree over sliced French bread and place marinated mushroom on top. Bake in the oven on 425 degrees for 5-6 minutes. Makes 20-30 servings.

5. Vanilla Ice Cream with Sémillon

Time for dessert! The honey and pear notes in Longboard Vineyards’ 2010 Late Harvest Semillon blend perfectly with ice cream—so much so, in fact, that the truly lazy can pour the wine on the ice cream. (The slightly more ambitious can zest some ginger on top for an added kick.) Cheers!

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The Latest Way to Enjoy Pho in Vietnam: As a Cocktail
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images

Pho is something of a national dish in Vietnam. The noodle soup, typically topped with beef or chicken, can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There’s even a version of it for happy hour, as Lonely Planet reports.

The pho cocktail, served at Nê Cocktail Bar in Hanoi, contains many of the herbs and spices found in pho, like cinnamon, star anise, cilantro, and cardamom. Without the broth or meat, its taste is refreshingly sweet.

The drink's uniqueness makes it a popular choice among patrons, as does the dramatic way it's prepared. The bartender pours gin and triple sec through the top of a tall metal apparatus that contains three saucers holding the spices. He then lights the saucers on fire with a hand torch as the liquid flows through, allowing the flavors to infuse with the alcohol as the drink is filtered into a pitcher below.

The pho cocktail
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images

Pham Tien Tiep, who was named Vietnam’s best bartender at the Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition in 2012, created the cocktail six years ago while working at the famous French Colonial-era hotel the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, according to AFP. He has since brought his signature drink to several of the stylish bars he owns in Vietnam’s capital, including Nê Cocktail Bar.

Initially, he set out to create a drink that would represent Vietnam’s culture and history. “I created the pho cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, just above the war bunkers where the American musician Joan Baez sang to the staff and guests in December 1972 as bombs fell on the city,” Tiep told Word Vietnam magazine. “The alcohol in the cocktail is lit on fire to represent the bombs, while spices, such as chili and cinnamon, reflect the warmness of her voice.”

Tiep has a reputation for infusing his drinks with unusual local ingredients. He has also created a cocktail that features fish sauce, a popular condiment in Vietnam, and another that contains capsicum, chili, and lemongrass in an ode to the bo luc lac (shaking beef) dish, according to CNN.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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Health
Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
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Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

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