The Perfect Costume Deserves the Perfect Pairing

You do it every year, pull out that tired old punch bowl that looks like a caldron and spike it with whatever’s in your liquor cabinet.

Then, you grab a block of dried ice and hope that no one will notice you just threw anything together for your annual Halloween party. I was guilty of this for years before I realized I could actually pair treats like spider infested caramel popcorn, spaghetti with eyeballs and ghost cake pops together with wine. I came to the conclusion that if I was going to go all out on planning the perfect costume, decorations and party favors, I might as well make it an evening to remember by pouring a glass of deliciously paired vino.

My dishes, including an assortment of Halloween candies, are taken to the next level by incorporating just the right wine. And although finding the perfect wine can be a bit tricky, experimenting is the fun part!

A few Halloween inspired pairings you should try:

  • Reese’s Peanut Buttercups with Amontillado Sherry or Vintage Port
  • Twix with Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah
  • Kit Kat with Merlot or Malbec
  • Caramel Popcorn Spider Balls with Oregon Riesling or demi-sec Champagne
  • Candy Corn with a sweet Riesling, Tawny Port or Ice Wine
  • Spaghetti and Eyeballs with Zinfandel or Nero d’ Avola
  • Garlic Sticks and Marinara Sauce with Barbera or Dolcetto
  • Caramel Apple with Riesling or Amontillado Sherry
  • Pumpkin Pancakes with sweet Riesling or Viognier

Farewell To Grape Vegas

In honor of our love affair with all things Vegas this week, former Thursday Thirsty Girl, guest blogger and Vegas TG, Jennifer Gaydeski, shares her farewell with Grape Vegas, a wine bar dedicated to “beautiful wines and delicious memories.”

Last week I closed the doors and said goodbye to a place that has been my home for over two years … Grape Vegas. I moved my life and my love across the country to run this cool little wine bar and I had no idea that it would become a virtual vortex, as we loved to say, attracting some of the most extraordinary, unique and genuine people I have had the privilege of knowing. Our demise was not the result of a business that just couldn’t make it in these tough times. We thrived, and grew a strong following who we know from day to day as our family. Our fate was simply circumstance and misfortune, which is neither here nor there. They say it is what it is right?

Wednesday morning, November 3rd, 2010 I walked out of Grape Vegas for the last time. Our staff & our family spent the last few days grieving with us, laughing, crying and celebrating what we had created. Then as I turned in my key, I took one last look, and in spite of the room seeming empty, I realized it was so full that it was bursting at the seams. This room isn’t just a vacant space in a shopping center. This is a place where people have created memories, many of which they will carry with them. Friendships were formed here. Connections were made. Loves were discovered. So many first dates happened here. Boy I could tell you stories, but the best ones ended in more dates, relationships, and recently a marriage proposal which had begun as a first date at our bar. It was awesome. Congratulations Andy and Kristin!

Love is just the beginning of the memories. Grape Vegas embraced local musicians in a beautiful way. Kevin Mahoney built an outstanding music calendar and fostered genuine relationships with a multitude of artists who became family. We had so many talented singers and musicians grace our small little nook of a stage and transport us to rock-n-roll heaven…or jazz heaven…or blues heaven! What a time to be remembered; to be talked about and sung about; to be recounted in stories of epic jam session proportions. If you were never there, you certainly missed something special. I wear a locket around my neck with an inscription that seems appropriate…“If music be the food of love, play on that strain again!” Cheers to that!

Music was a part of creating the vibe that came to define Grape Vegas, much like the artwork that filled our walls. From hyper-real nude paintings to thoughtful abstracts, and traditional canvases to metal grinding, the environment was one of a kind. Most recently, our new resident artist brought huge, bold splashes of color, that I wish we could have spent more time appreciating. What a pleasure to be surrounded every day by such beauty and creativity. Thank you Mike Wardle. And a very special thank you goes out to A.D and Kathy Cook. We could not have done it without you!

None of the music or the art would have mattered if Grape Vegas had not been filled with such a wonderful staff. Chef Scott made our little wine bar a destination for fabulous food. He was always experimenting with new recipes and ingredients, which my hips can bear witness to. He never cared if I was watching what I ate or trying to be healthy. He would just laugh and shove a spoonful of bleu cheese and candied bacon gelato in my mouth (still one of the single best bites of food I have ever had!). I will miss walking into the kitchen every day and wondering what delights he will present me with.

I could say thank you a thousand times and never express the gratitude I have for our kitchen crew and our front of the house staff, many who were with us when we opened our doors over two years ago. Their hard work, love, passion and loyalty are the reason why we became such a favorite spot for locals. Who wouldn’t want to spend their time hanging out with this beautiful group of people? I know that each of them will be missed by too many fans to name and number, but never more than they will be missed by me.

All of those fans I just mentioned are the ultimate reason why Grape Vegas was able to thrive and become the haven that it was for so many. Our family, comprised of regulars, vendors, and anyone who stumbled in late night and got to know us into the wee hours, made us who we were. In my whole career, I have never known such an endless bounty of loving and generous people. After a lifetime of moving around, they are the reason I call Vegas home and cannot imagine being anywhere else. I look forward to many opportunities in the future to connect again and again and keep these relationships vital and meaningful. We are starting with Thanksgiving, when we will come together for the second year to celebrate all that we are grateful for.

I am realizing, as these words and memories spill out of me, that life is not about the places where we settle down, but rather about the changes in between. This is certainly one of those times. Nothing lasts forever, not even Grape Vegas. Though I had hoped we would not end in this fashion, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the honor of being allowed to take the journey. Nothing has really ended anyway. We have only entered a time of new beginnings, for all of us. And I am confident in my heart that there are breathtaking views on the other side of this mountain and possibilities we have not even dreamed of. Thank you everyone…for everything. Now let’s go find another adventure! Cheers!

To visit Grape Vegaswhen you’re in town this weekend: 6599 las vegas blvd b150, across from Rave Motion Pictures, 702.220.4727.

Marie Elena Martinez’s New York Wine Expo Wrap-Up

new york wine expoWhat a whirlwind weekend! A travel and food writer, I’ve been focused on far-off destinations and exotic locales, barely stopping to check out what was happening in my own backyard. Luckily, Leslie and the Thirsty Girl gang were quick to remind me that the New York Wine Expo was taking place at the Javitz Center this past weekend. As a New York Thirsty Girl, I just had to attend.

Leslie had been informing my drinking palate over the past year, and Kristen, her gorgeous partner in crime, had taken me on a whirlwind tour of Napa and Sonoma during fall harvest. In my continued wine education, the New York Wine Expo was just the thing I needed to keep pushing me in a more savvy direction. It was a perfect one-two hit, as the New York Times Travel Show, the other event on my weekend’s appointment calendar, was taking place next door! Wine plus travel; what could be better?

I arrived on Friday night primed for some tasting. Leslie was hosting a seminar Taste Wine Like a Pro: Learn the Secrets of Tasting Through a Blind Tasting when I arrived, captivating the audience with her easy, fun-loving approach to the enjoyment of wine and wine tasting. After collecting my tasting glass, I headed off. Over 700 wines, almost 200 winemakers—how would I get through it all? Confession: it wasn’t that hard.

Though Leslie and Thirsty Girl I’ve learned that committing to wine is a pleasure, not a chore
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With exhibitors from some of my favorite regions in Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and the Rhône Valley, I stopped in for some familiar sips of Tempranillos, Alentejo reds, Malbecs, and Côtes du Rhônes. I was thrilled to stumbled across the Graham’s & Dow’s Port table, one of my favorite indulgences from Portugal. In sampling these favored regions, I discovered a few new additions to my regular rotation.

In Spain, I enjoyed the Zagarrón Sandogal Ciranza Selección, an especially lush Tempranillo, and Las Reñas from Dos Familias Importers, cheap and easy everyday reds. In Argentina, I swooned over the Vinorum Bradsen Gran Reserva, a 100% Malbec affair. In the Rhône Valley, I discovered the Côtes du Rhône, Familie Quiot–Château du Trignon and the Côtes du Rhône, Ogier, “Les Moirets.” Both were light and fruity, not too tannic. Hands down, these two were my favorite new wines of the night.

Chatting with the various distributors, I learned about Ice Cider from Vermont (too sweet), Jam Jar sweet Shiraz from South Africa (way too sweet), sparkling Shiraz from Australia (delicious), and a new Pinot from Napa’s Fulcrum Wines. I also turned onto wine regions in places I didn’t know were making wine—The Finger Lakes in New York, Santorini, Greece, and Brazil—and wondered how to work these lesser publicized wine destinations into my work as a travel writer.

At the end of the night, I jumped over to the Thirsty Girl booth to say goodnight to Leslie and company. I admit, I didn’t always spit, so I was a bit wobbly for wear. There, a couple of old favorites like the Ravenswood Zinfandel (Sonoma) and the Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) begged favor, before a hint of bubbles set me back on the road. All in all, a wonderful night full of experimentation and learning about one of my favorite topics: wine!

Marie Elena MartinezFor more information on Marie Elena Martineza travel, food and lifestyle writer check out her site (www.marieelenamartinez.com) and most recent work in the Huffington Post, the Miami Herald, and Newsday. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.