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HOST A SEAFOOD BOIL our go-to summer party

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Think you can’t pull off a backyard seafood boil? Think again! With warmer temps just around the corner, we are making the case for why a seafood boil should be your summer go-to party. They are big fun, low stress, and with a little extra prep work on the front end, your party will go off without a hitch!  What could be better than cooking outside, drinking great wine, and eating seafood right off the grill. Start saving those newspapers now, because we’ve got a party to throw! Are you ready for your 5 step prep? Let’s get started!

KJ0043STEP ONE: PRE-PARTY PREP

If you’ve ever been to a seafood boil, you know that paper napkins or plastic bibs just won’t cut it. Make a quick run to IKEA and grab a few bundles of dishtowels to serve instead. Your guests will thank you & they are just a few bucks per bundle and totally worth the trip.

Gather up the spices, trash bins, newspaper stack (to line the table, of course), and clear a prep spot in the backyard that is separate from your entertaining space. All the fun will take place on the big table, but it’s nice to have a little side table for extra bibs, spices, crackers, etc.

KJ0032STEP TWO: PREP THE FOOD

This is the fun part! Get your water up to a rolling boil and get ready for something delicious. For the most amazing seafood boil recipe hop on over here to see our friend Brendan’s insanely delicious concoction. Easy to make & even better to eat, I promise this is one to print out and tape to the fridge.

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STEP THREE: PREP THE TABLE

Line the tables with newspaper sheets (I like to do three or four layers because things can get a little messy), bring out big bowls for shells & cobs, and don’t forget the straws! Your guests’ hands will get messy when they are eating your delicious food, so get some tall glasses for water & give everyone a straw for easy sipping. Or, just save the water for the fishes & sip on some perfectly paired Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay. Just saying, I have yet to meet a better pairing then seafood & crisp white wine.

Encourage your guests to discard their shells into the big bowls down the center of the table. This is dual purpose – more room for eating & clean-up duty just became a lot easier! Melt some butter in smaller bowls & pepper those throughout the table, along with some extra spices, and hot sauce for dipping.

KJ0013STEP FOUR: SERVE IT UP!

One of the best parts of a seafood boil is getting to eat with your hands, so embrace the mess! Make sure every spot at the table has a bib (and make sure to get a few extra for the drop-by guest or extra clean-up) & put the crackers and tools within reach.

Serve your boil right on top of the newspaper & dig in! I like to leave a little dish of toothpicks out on the table to help pick up those bits of potato or sausage that are too hot to handle. Keep it casual & fun! Don’t have matching bowls for the shells or small containers for butter – who cares?! The best part of these parties is being outside with your best friends, drinking wine, & hanging out.

KJ0019STEP FIVE: CLEAN UP

It’s all basically done for  you, so don’t worry about it! Sit back, relax, drink an extra glass of wine, stuff yourself with delicious seafood, and have the best afternoon you could have hoped for. Have we convinced you to make seafood boils your summer go-to party? We sure hope so!

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Food by Brendan McCaskey

This post is sponsored by Kendall-Jackson but all thoughts, opinions, and food obsessions are our own.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP AND WHY IT IS COOLER THAN YOU THINK

KJW0170Happy Monday, friends! How have you liked our week in Sonoma County? We’ve strolled in the culinary gardendiscovered what makes a good winelearned all about the relationship between best friends wine & food (not to mention this killer recipe), and dined in the vineyard.

With such an incredible trip, it’s hard to say we’ve saved the best for last, because, truthfully, it’s all been pretty remarkable. We did, however, save something noteworthy for last – environmental stewardship – and there is no one better to explain why sustainability is cooler than you might think than Kendall-Jackson’s Sustainability Project Manager, Julien Gervreau.
KJW0166Julien and his team work to increase Kendall-Jackson’s environmental stewardship by reducing the negative impact they have on the earth. Making wine produces a lot of waste & is a stressful process on the vineyards. Did you know that it takes an average of one-third of a gallon of water to make a single glass of wine? That’s 37.5 ounces to make that after-work glass of wine you have been dreaming about.

Where does it all go? Well, that water is used to wash the wine barrels, water the grapes, help with the fermentation process, and in various other critical points of the process. Think about it – if you have four glasses of wine over the course of an evening that would take 3,150 ounces or 196 pounds of water.

Thanks to Julien & his team, they have reduced that number to single digits across many of the Kendall-Jackson wineries. The barrels get cleaned and the vineyards get watered, they are just more judicious with their use of water in the process. By utilizing processes like drip irrigation & a high-powered bacteria killing laser, they not only get the job done, but encourage better stewardship and cut their footprint across the board.

KJW0195Something that you should have picked up on by now is that Kendall-Jackson takes a generational approach to winemaking. Their primary goal is to make sure they are taking care of their land and maintaining the health of their vineyards and farms for future generations. One of the perks of being a family owned & operated company is that Kendall-Jackson can make decisions based on the things that matter to their value system (sustainability, environmental impact, & stellar wine) as opposed to a market or investor agenda. That means they can do things like use green cleaning agents and work with Tesla.   KJW0173That’s right, Tesla. Julien and his team of environmental masterminds have worked with Tesla CEO Elon Musk to create (quite possibly) the world’s coolest battery.  This advancement will help reduce environmental impact, put energy back into the grid, and have high yielding cost-saving affects – not just for businesses, but for residential homes as well.
So thanks to Julien and his team of rock stars, we now have more sustainably grown wine that uses less water (all you California readers can get behind that!), a super battery that could change the energy game, and a dedication to the earth to try to leave it better than we found it. KJW0174


constanceThis post is sponsored, but all opinions & thoughts are our own.

TABLEMAKERS IN THE VINEYARD

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I know, I know, you’ve heard me say it before, but I just love a good dinner party. I mean it! There is something really magical when you put people together and let them connect over great food & amazing wine. This dinner party might top the list of favorites because, truthfully, how often do you get to dine in a culinary garden in the middle of a vineyard?

KJW0229We invited some of our favorite tastemakers in the bay area to our Tablemakers dinner at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens and it was nothing short of breathtaking.

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The evening began with a tour of the culinary gardens with Tucker. We wove in and out of the sensory garden, smelling various herbs and then sipping wine to see how the flavors translated. As we walked through the vineyard up the path, Randy explained the maturation process of a grape vine and painted an elegant picture for how wine is made. Just as he finished explaining the lineage & family heritage of the K-J vineyards, we rounded the corner on this…

KJW0227KJW0251The evening was pure magic.

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I have said it before & I will say it again, I love inviting people to dinner who don’t know each other. While, yes, of course, there is a chance they won’t get along and the whole evening goes south, the majority of the time that doesn’t happen. More often than not, things go off without a hitch. This night was absolutely one of those.

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In true Tablemakers form, the conversation was non-stop, the wine was perfectly paired, the food was divine, and the company was even better. It was one of those evenings where you kind of look down on the moment and say, “this is perfect.”

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The concept of Tablemakers – that entertaining doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be honest – is something very near and dear to my heart. Every time I host a party or have friends over for a drink, I think about the balance between perfect and honest. You want everything to be just so & adorably Instagram-able, but you want your guests to relax and have a good time. This dinner in the vineyard struck the perfect cord. The setting was breathtaking (HELLO, we are sitting in the middle of a freaking vineyard) and the preparations were sublime, but the atmosphere was relaxed, laid back, and incredibly conducive to friendship. It was perfect and honest and it left me totally inspired.
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I don’t know about you, but sadly, I don’t have a vineyard at home, but sitting amongst the grounds of the property really got me inspired to entertain outdoors this summer. You couldn’t ask for better ambiance than flickering lightning bugs or twinkling stars and there really isn’t anything better than a long, relaxing dinner outdoors.

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In partnership with Kendall-Jackson. All opinions are our own.

CULINARY TOUR WITH CHEF JUSTIN WANGLER

KJW0120Over the past couple of days I am sure you’re picking up on a common theme – the details are everything at Kendall-Jackson. For Tucker it’s in the care and dedication to the garden, for Randy it’s the meticulous attention paid to the terroir of the vineyards, and for Kendall-Jackson’s Executive Chef Justin Wangler, it’s all about taste.KJW0102KJW0106

The relationship between wine & food is like nothing else. They are the best of friends & help to draw out some of the best qualities in each other. If they could have matching friendship bracelets, they absolutely would. We’ve seen how dedicated Kendall-Jackson is about creating the best wine, now can you only imagine the love and care they give to everything that comes out of their culinary kitchen? It’s unreal. KJW0098The Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens is a must-stop for foodies and wine-lovers alike & Chef Justin has helped bring it to the next level. He is an absolute magician in the kitchen. Walking outside to pick fresh ingredients, he will bend down, smell something, and start brainstorming the perfect dish. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and boom – magic. KJW0100

Chef Justin’s enthusiasm for creating a story with his dishes is evident and incredibly inspiring.

Constance and I are pescetarian, so Chef Justin was so kind to whip us up a dish that we could taste-test (read as: drool over) as well as photograph. Watching him work was such an education in itself. Normally, I traipse around the kitchen slightly frantic (and usually with flour or olive oil all over my face and hair). Chef Justin was, to say the least, the very opposite of my frenetic self.

KJW0129Seeing someone in their natural element is always kind of magical, but watching Chef Justin was really remarkable. He interacted with the ingredients in a way that let them tell him what they needed. When I asked if he had made this scallop dish before, he kindly laughed and said ‘no’ and that he doesn’t know how it’s going to turn out because he hasn’t finished creating it yet. Oohokay, yea that’s how I cook too.

KJW0101See the recipe for this delicious (and I mean truly divine) seared scallops with celtuce (yep, you’ll learn that that is), carrots, and fave beans, HERE.  KJW0122

During our time at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens, it was so impressive to me at how much care and dedication everyone puts in to their work. Great food and great wine is a lifestyle a lot of us associate with a certain income bracket, but spending time with Tucker, Randy, and Chef Justin has me thinking that’s a total lie. Great food isn’t about the price, it’s about the love and thought you put into it. The same goes for wine. If K-J embodies anything, it’s the notion that love and thoughtfulness are key ingredients to a well-live life.
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laurenconstance

This post was created in partnership with Kendall-Jackson. All opinions are my own.

LUXE HOLIDAY GIFT BASKET FOR LESS

diybasket0006Okay, okay, I know what you are thinking — “Gift Baskets are super boring and kind of lame,” but that is totally not true! I am here to win you over to the basket side of giving. Trust me, you’ll love it! Reason number one – they are fantastically customizable! So you’ve got an Aunt who is a bit tricky to shop for, or maybe you’ve found all of these cute little gifts for your sister but wrapping them all individually just isn’t going to happen. In walks in the Gift Basket and you’re suddenly a gift giving goddess. Here is how to build the most perfect gift basket ever! diybasket0001 (1)First things first, select 4-6 items that you know your giftee loves. Gift Baskets are for building, so have fun with it! I am building this basket for my foodie friend (who just happens to be our lovely Food Editor) Stancy, so I looked for things she would love — elements for the perfect cheese board! It’s important to add a bit of your personality in to the gift, so for a little extra personal flair, I added a DIY gift element to her basket.diybasket0004Who doesn’t love a fabulous wine stopper? And, if you happen to be fans of good wine (which we are) a wine stopper is a fun and easy element of surprise! Become a DIY wine stopper master in just a few steps here!diybasket0002Now that we’ve got all your elements, let’s begin to build! Firstly, grab a basket that fits your goodies. This is a great way to save a buck, so I always grab mine at the dollar store. Add a little padding to the base of your basket with raffia or another fun padding. I always lay down a linen napkin or piece of fabric before I place items in the basket. This adds an element of luxe and the draping affect it gives is so nice.diybasket0007Place your largest items in first to ground the gift. I placed one of my favorite bottles of wine, Kendall Jackson’s Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, to ground the goodies and made it the focal point of the gift. Once you’ve got your largest item in, begin to place items from largest to smallest. Tuck the smallest goodies in to the spaces and build a layering affect. I placed my DIY wine stopper next to a little note to call it out and give it center stage.

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