Sunday, January 25, 2009

Buffalo, NY- Cold & Comforting

This picture says it all. I am in Buffalo, NY- my hometown. As soon as I stepped off the warm plane onto the jetway, a bone chilling draft ran down my spine reinforcing the obvious heard later on the car radio: “today’s high will be 12 degrees!” I dug for my scarf at the bottom of my travel bag, and started to curse the weather. Then, a wonderful aroma washed over me; it made my mouth water. Buffalo Hot Wings! I started to relax as I trudged past the new Anchor Bar location in the airport. Ah, I was home. I looked forward to a weekend filled with all of my Buffalo favorites: Pizza, Wings, Subs, Lay's Potato Chips & Bison French Onion Dip, to name a few.

It’s always comforting to visit my childhood home, even in the dead of winter. First, I am received by the “welcoming party"--my parents. From the moment I announce I am coming home, they mark their calendars, and start stocking their cupboards. I am not proud that all my favorites happen to fall into the junk food category, but I would not have it any other way. Last night, my Mom welcomed me with a turkey melt. She set the tone, and sent me on my way to my Dad’s house, where pizza awaited me. We doctored it up with mushrooms and anchovies (see photo). I can feel my husband cringing now.

Cherished memories in my life always include family, friends, conversation and a tasty meal. Wine & loose leaf tea are now incorporated into the mix, too. It’s comforting to know that I can treat myself with a memory, just by sitting down and having a slice of pizza. Well, I have to go now; Mom’s arrived with a plate of plate of olives, cheese spreads, and flatbread, all accompanied by a nice glass of Carneros Pinot Noir. Next up, how to incorporate Hot Wings into the equation. There's always the airport. Treat yourself to a memory today.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Blend Your Own Masala Chai Loose Leaf Tea

Masala Chai (“spiced tea”) is a popular beverage that hails from India, and has been on the rise steadily here in the United States. This tasty beverage is made by brewing black tea with a medley of Indian spices and herbs. In parts of India and South Asia, “chai wallahs” are everywhere, much like America’s favorite addiction- Starbucks, which adorns every street corner.

How do you enjoy your Masala Chai? Do you just add water and drink it straight, or do prefer steamed milk, and a bit of sugar? Truly, it’s a personal matter. There are many variations of masala chai, and in India, most are based on a family recipe passed down through generations. Traditionally, the preparation is to simmer together water, milk and black loose leaf tea mixed with a sweetener, and whole spices. You could easily make this preparation in the comfort of your own home; thankfully, I am all set, as I enjoy the Tea Drinker’s blend, Organic Chic Chai! Incidentally, we tried many blends before finding right fit for Drink the Leaf.

To make masala chai at home, you will basically need four ingredients: tea, sweetener, milk, and spices.

Tea: Use a strong black loose leaf tea of high quality. You know where to shop:

Sweetener: White or brown sugar, and, honey will work, too.

Milk: Use whole milk if you are in the mood to party, but 1-2% is fine. The fat content will give your tea a wonderful texture, and silky mouth feel.

Spices: This is where the creativity comes into play. Its your call based on the spices that you prefer. The popular ones are: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, peppercorn, and cloves. I like a hint of vanilla bean added to the blend. Not a traditional spice for this beverage, but one that you see creeping into this beverage more, and more.

Preparation: Heat a blend of milk and water( ¼ to ½ parts) with tea, spices, and sweetener. Bring to just near boiling. Strain. Inhale the enticing aromatics, take a sip and sit back and dream.

Masala Chai is a great beverage to enjoy right now, especially if you live on the East Coast where the average winter temperature seems to hover around 35 degrees or below! This tea is comforting, rich and soothing. Since the Tea Drinker and I live on the West coast, we drink ours naked- no milk, no sugar. Like I said, it’s personal.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chinese New Year-Loose Leaf Tea, Wine, Food, and Friends

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

You guessed it, that’s Happy New Year in Cantonese. The Tea Drinker and I plan to celebrate this Chinese New Year with inviting our friends over for a dinner party. We will drink quality loose leaf teas, sip interesting wines, and nosh on tasty Chinese food; all in the spirit of this cherished Chinese holiday. Instead of a Festival Parade, we plan to share photos from our trip to China this past summer. Besides, if we paraded around the neighborhood at night carrying lanterns, this might confirm suspicions that the Tea Drinker and his wife are truly bonkers…

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the New Year, and ends on the full moon, 15 days later. The 15th day is the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with a parade. The Chinese year 4707 begins on January 26, 2009. This is the year of the Ox. People born in the Year of the Ox are said to be obstinate, eccentric, and inspire confidence in others. Check out what year you were born in:

Want to have a Chinese New Year Dinner Party, too? Here’s how:

How To:
Invite 12 people- to celebrate each month of the upcoming year
Decorate in red & gold, symbolizing a bright future that is prosperous
Plan your menu, select loose leaf teas, Chinese beer, and white wine with a lot of acidity
Use chopsticks, hang lanterns, and light candles
Order recommended teas from
Enjoy, celebrate, and laugh, a lot!

Chinese New Year 4707 Menu:

Spicy Chicken Wings
Shrimp Dumplings
Monkey Picked Oolong- * A wonderful Chinese tea whose name always provokes conversation.

Chinese Family Style:
Drunken Crab with Ginger Sauce
General Tso’s Chicken
Barbequed Mongolian Lamb Skewers
Dan Dan Noodles
Jasmine Rice
Organic Jasmine Pearl, Chinese Green * A popular tea served in Chinese restaurants. Want to serve wine? Chill down a nice Riesling, or Gewürztraminer.

Green Tea Ice Cream
Fortune Cookies
Golden Pu-erh*A great digestive tea and it will not keep you up all night.

I adapted most of the recipes from FEAST, The best of Yan Can Cook, by Martin Yan. If you are interested in them, please post your request here on my blog, and I will be happy to share them with you.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year Tea Drinkers!

It’s a New Year. Most have plans for changing or improving their lives. I am no different. Quite a few things are on the "To Do” list for 2009. First up, start each day with a “Stop Doing This” list. I read somewhere that this notion was the secret to success. Join me in this endeavor. Go ahead, and continue with your plans to exercise more, relax more, eat healthier, and etc. But, think about what stops you from obtaining your goals. And, ah, stop doing it.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Mix it up! Start your day with tea, instead of coffee. If you are already doing this, continue to do so, please.
  • Stop worrying if you miss a day at the gym. It will be there tomorrow. Don’t fall off the wagon because of one day.
  • Stop eating the same old meals for dinner. Try a new recipe at least once a week.
  • Don’t count how many glasses of water you are required to have each day. The more you drink, the thirstier you will become. This rule applies to wine, too. So, be careful.
  • Don’t start each morning by reading your email. Okay, a shock just travelled through your body. Don't panic, just move this item to the bottom of the list.
  • Don’t put your travel plans on hold. Book your getaway today.
  • Don’t worry about multi-tasking. Doing laundry while reading a great book is a not a bad idea.
  • Stop racing through the day. Take the time to stop and chat with people. Put this on your list, only if you have accomplished everything on it.
  • Don’t put off learning something new each day. If you are nuts about tea, food, and wine- there is still something to learn. Start with exploring pu-erhs, baking bread, and drinking more Italian wines. This is ambitious, I know.
  • The Tea Drinker plans to stop worrying about what nonsense his wife may post on her blog. Instead, he will tell her that she is unbelievably witty.

I think you get the idea. Post your “Stop Doing This” list on my blog. If your New Year's resolution is to give up making lists, then please stop...