Archive for category Treats

Two Brews for Oktoberfest and Halloween

On a recent visit to the Reston Total Wine store, I asked for some recommendations for pumpkin spiced brews.

There were lots of those…and I like pumpkin ale. But he steered me to two “Marzen” beers, instead. Marzen beers are called “March” beers because that is when they were brewed in the days before refrigeration. Then they are released for Oktoberfest. They are typically only available during the fall.

The salesperson recommended Great Lakes “Oktoberfest” ($10/6 pack), a highly rated, award-winning Marzen-stlye lager from Ohio. The color of an autumn leaf, this malty beer is smooth, light and toasty, with caramel and pine notes.

He also recommended a beer from nearby Ashburn, Virginia that would go great with bratwurst and pretzels. Lost Rhino Brewing Company’s autumn seasonal “Rhin o’Fest” ($11.99/6 pack/cans) is the traditional, malty, smooth Marzen lager drunk during Oktoberfest. Washington Post named it a beer of the week back in 2016.

I’ll go back and try these… but I went home with The DogFather ($8.99), an ebony, bourbon barrel aged stout from Idaho Laughing Dog brewery. I’ve never tasted an American stout before and it came highly recommended. First time for everything!

The folks at Total Wine are great. Go by and see them if you are looking for something different to try.

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Halloween wines

“I never drink…wine.” — Count Dracula

That’s okay, Count, more for us!

I visited Total Wine in Reston (Plaza America location) in a quest for Halloween wines and they did not disappoint. I was provided with two recommendations.

Witching Hour ($6.99) is a California red blend. This is the wine to bring to a Halloween party or enjoy at home. I was suspicious because of its low price, so I bought a bottle. I liked it!

I recommend that you decant and let it breathe for an hour or so (although that’s not always possible at parties). Swirling this red wine in the glass should also help. I noticed an improvement in taste when I let it breathe an hour and a half.

This wine is medium-bodied with a dark cherry flavor. I had a glass with some Cabot Vermont Sharp cheddar and Pepperidge Farm wheat crackers. Yum! I’ll drink this tomorrow with my dinner of mushroom stew. This would also pair well with a good steak or hearty pasta dish.

Mascota Vineyards Unaminé Gran Vino Tinto ($25). an Argentinian red blend, is more expensive but highly rated.

The lovely label has a border of bats. The bat mascot is a reference to the chief winemaker’s childhood memory of being sent to fetch wine from his family’s cellar where bats resided.

It is a full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec that has notes of blackberry and chocolate.

Decant this wine and allow it to breathe before drinking for best taste results.


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Fall flavors – German gourmet treats in Virginia and D.C.

It’s fall and that means Oktoberfest! While the official Oktoberfest celebration in Germany may have ended, in the states we’re still celebrating with brats and beer.

Where can you find the best German food around these parts? I have two suggestions.

German Gourmet – Falls Church, Virginia

The first is located in Falls Church, Virginia. German Gourmet is a store, delicatessen and bakery situated at 5838 Columbia Pike (not far from Route 7/Leesburg Pike). My son and I have been going to German Gourmet for years (when it had a location on Lee Highway).  It offers fantastic take-out from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 am – 4 pm on Sundays (the store itself is open until 7 p.m.) They have more than 20 different kinds of sausages, but if you’re thinking about bratwurst, their “homemade” offering is the most popular. You can order that as a sandwich on a Portugese roll for $6.25, including your choice of condiments (e.g., with mustard and sauerkraut, if you’re ordering for me!) Add two delicious sides for 95 cents each — I like their potato salad and red cabbage.

If you can’t wait to eat your bratwurst (and who would blame you?), there a couple of tables with chairs in the store.

German Gourmet also has a delicious variety of sweets for sale, including rugelach, strudel and fancy cakes, as well as chocolate candy from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. My son loves their pretzels!

One fun offering they have this fall is “Halloween” wine. This is a sweet, red sparkling wine imported from Germany that retails for $15/bottle. Drink this chilled and pair it with pizza, hamburgers or wieners.

Old Europe – Washington, DC

The next place I am going to tell you about is on Wisconsin Avenue, just on the edge of Georgetown, and it is amazing! Old Europe (2434 Wisconsin Avenue, NW) is the sit-down restaurant to go to when you crave traditional, authentic German food. I recommended this to a former employer once for our Christmas party and it was a huge hit! I haven’t been here for dinner, but (in addition to the company banquet) I have enjoyed lunch in this charming, small restaurant.

Old Europe is a dining experience unlike none other in the DC area. The restaurant has operated since 1948. At lunch, the small, cloth-covered tables are populated with well-dressed business men and women sharing a relaxed meal. Smiling waitresses in German dirndls circulated. I believe you’d feel most comfortable if you were wearing at least business casual attire. For its classy atmosphere, the prices are very reasonable, especially considering the quality of the food. For example, there is a Chef’s Special at lunch that includes dessert and coffee for only $12. Everything I have tried — sausages, potato pancakes, sauerbraten, pork loin schnitzel — has been outstanding. Even the house salad is unusual and delicious.

Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to lunch or dinner at Old Europe this fall. Be certain you call ahead for reservations. Just don’t plan to go on Tuesday! Old Europe is closed on Tuesdays.

On Wednesday nights through mid-November, Old Europe will offer polka music and live piano on Friday and Saturday nights.

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Poll: Favorite Trick or Treat Candy

You can answer this one of two ways – what candy you choose to distribute to deserving trick-or-treaters…or what candy you selfishly hoard and eat all by yourself.

Because we both know the ANSWER IS THE SAME.

Thanks for taking the poll!

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A Better-for-You Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back!

That’s the good news. More good news: coffee is really good for you (even decaf)

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

in moderation. It has antioxidants and increases your cognitive ability. People who drink coffee are far less likely to suffer from liver disease than people who do not drink coffee.

The bad news is those coffee store lattes are not really that good for you because they are loaded with fat, sugar (50g) and calories (350). That is way more calories and sugar than a donut. They are also fairly expensive (about $3.75 at the chain that sells donuts and about $5 at the chain that has baristas).

But pumpkin spice lattes are so good! What to do?

Make your own, of course. It’s easy.

A latte is a blend of heated milk and strong coffee or espresso. You can make your own by heating milk and sugar on your stovetop or in the microwave, adding strong brewed coffee or espresso and flavoring. Here’s a delicious sounding recipe from McCormick that sounds easy to make and is only 160 calories, even when made with sugar and whole milk. It only takes 3 minutes to make. And it saves you nearly 200 calories over the barista-made version!

I take an even easier route. I prepare my coffee with instant, freeze-dried granules on the stove top and add pumpkin spice coffee creamer. The brand I use is lactose-free so I don’t get bloating or a stomach ache. And it’s…ta dah! 35 calories. Which is 315 calories LESS and about $4.50 LESS than if I bought it at a coffee place! At 5 grams of sugar per serving, it is really much healthier than the counter kind — which has 45 grams more sugar.

Adding some spray whipped cream and nutmeg on top adds only about another 15 calories.

If you need to take your pumpkin coffee to work, I saw some darling “to go” coffee cups with lids at TJ Maxx yesterday that would be perfect for your healthy homemade pumpkin spice latte. They had watercolor illustrations of people drinking coffee on them. Those illustrations would be pretty on real, permanent mugs. I think there were also some more simple, orange-color ones. I saw those in the seasonal section.

I got a ceramic mug at Dollar Tree for myself. It says “Pumpkin Spice Latte” on it. LOL.

Even if you splurged on some fancy cups, you’d still save money this fall on your favorite coffee drink!

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Pumpkin spice and everything nice – new fall foods

For some, fall begins on September 21st. For others, it feels like fall after the Labor Day holiday. For others, back to school means fall. Heck, we started seeing Halloween decorations in July. Who knows when fall is these days.

Well, for a lot of you, it’s when Starbucks starts making pumpkin spice lattes, shortly before September begins, usually.

I like pumpkin-spicey things — usually in the form of pie or pancakes — how whack-a-doodle-crazy is that? But I’m open-minded! There are lots of new pumpkin flavors out this fall. Or maybe new to you, and certainly new to me. Here are a few…along with my knee-jerk reactions before I have even tasted them.

  • Pumpkin Spice Kit Kat Candy Bars  — PASS
  • Grands Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls (in the freezer section) — YES
  • Pumpkin Spice varieties of well-known cereals, including Cheerios, Life, Frosted Mini Wheats and Frosted Flakes. — PASS
  • Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream (the kind in the spray can) — MAYBE
  • Pumpkin Spice Kefir — NO, PLEASE MAKE IT GO AWAY
  • Pumpkin Spice English Muffins — PASS

I guess I was living under a rock when some of these pumpkin spice products came out but I’m…reeling. And a little nauseated. Pumpkin spice Twinkies? Oreos? M&Ms? Pringles? Stop the madness!

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Pumpkin flavors this fall at the grocery store

Pumpkins, photographed in Canada.

Image via Wikipedia

Pumpkin has become a food trend!

Check out this blog post by DeAnn Baxter about all the new pumpkin-flavored grocery items coming your way this fall, including pumpkin pie PopTarts, Little Debbie Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin flavored coffee creamer, and more.

I love pumpkin everything, even pumpkin flavored coffee 🙂  Can’t wait to try the new PopTarts!!

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