Tag Archives: Holidays

Pete’s Chocolate S’More Brulee

Pete's Chocolate S'More Brulee
Serves 4
The recipe I’ll share with you is a pretty elegant one and not too complicated.
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Chocolate Crème Brulee Mixture
  1. 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  2. ½ cup Milk
  3. 1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
  4. 3 Extra-Large Egg Yolks
  5. ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
  6. 1/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Graham Cracker Bottom Crust
  1. ¾ cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
  2. 3 Tbsp. Melted Butter
  1. 2 cups Mini Marshmallows
  1. In a small saucepan, bring cream, milk, sugar and vanilla to a scald, and then remove from the heat.
  2. Add chocolate chips and melt in while stirring.
  3. In a separate small bowl, beat egg yolks until smooth.
  4. Drizzle hot chocolate mixture into egg yolks while whisking. Set aside this mixture.
  5. You’ll need four (4 to 6 ounce) brulee dishes or similar ramekins to bake your brulees in.
  6. Stir together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter to combine. Then divide evenly between each of the four brulee ramekins and tamp down to create a bottom crust for each dish.
  7. Place each of the ramekins in a baking dish and place a small amount of water in the pan to create a shallow water bath around the ramekins.
  8. Carefully fill each ramekin with the chocolate brulee filling and bake in a 275 F oven approximately 45 minutes or until just firm. The batter should appear to set like Jello®.
  9. When fully cooked, remove the baking pan from the oven, carefully remove the ramekins to a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours to fully chill and set.
To Finish
  1. Remove chilled ramekins from the refrigerator and pat the surface of each to remove any water condensate that may have occurred.
  2. Coat the surface of each ramekin with a layer of mini marshmallows one marshmallow deep, with areas here and there of two deep to give the surface some uneven texture.
  3. Set your oven rack at the highest shelf and turn on your broiler. When hot, place the ramekins under the broiler until the marshmallows are medium- to golden-brown, being careful not to burn them.
  4. Place ramekins on a separate service plate and enjoy!
Optional Additions
  1. Float Bailey’s Irish Crème, Godiva Chocolate Liqueur or Meyer’s Rum over surface of the brulees before adding and browning the marshmallows.
  2. Sprinkle the finished brulees with toasted almonds or toasted coconut.
Nino Salvaggio https://www.ninosalvaggio.com/

Holiday Entertaining Tips

Ahhh, the holidays…

Full of merriment, joy, excitement, and great memories.

At this time of the year, “giving” is always better than “receiving,” they say.

And one of the great ways to give during the holidays is by hosting a party to share these joyful times with family and friends.

Unfortunately for some, the only thing they receive when giving a party is frustration and anxiety. The memories they take away are of festivities gone wrong.

Not very merry.

Even the “pros” have their moments, trust me. The difference is that afterwards, we have the resources of Chef friends and colleagues who have also “been there” and share with us their wisdom and knowledge of how to avoid these pitfalls the next time around. As with magicians who share the secrets of their “tricks” with the “brotherhood,” they were all hard earned.

You might think holiday entertaining success can be easily had with some surefire recipes, table decorations, and music playlists.

But it’s just not that easy.

The truth of the matter is the fate of your party will likely be sealed before you greet your first guest.

So in the spirit of “giving and sharing,” I’m going to share with you some of my best (and most valuable) Holiday Entertaining Tips:

  • Create a menu that will allow you to prep ahead.
    • Fresh foods have a perishable life of 3 to 5 days minimum. For a party, avoid any recipe or dish that has to be fully prepared at the last moment. Foods should be ready to serve, popped in the oven, or easily tossed or assembled.
  • Something for Everyone
    • From the food to the activities, create enough variety to give everyone something he or she might like. It keeps people engaged. The menu should be varied enough to include different food groups, and if there are children, consider something simple that you know they will like. Parents leave early when their children are hungry and cranky.
  • Timeline Outline
    • Make a list of everything you need to get done to prepare for your party the day before and the day of. This list should include food prep as well as cleaning, shopping, or miscellaneous chores.
  • Kits
    • Anything that does have to be mixed, tossed, or assembled just before service should be individually wrapped and placed with its serving bowl or platter to keep everything together. This will make it extremely easy to finish later. Do this for each dish, and you’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll save.
  • Delegate
    • Make a list of anything others can help you with, and make sure they are aware (the day before) that you need them to do these things. Delegating the day of is of no value if there’s no one around to delegate to.
  • Look at the clock.
    • Time flies when you’re busy, and one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to lose track of time. Make it a habit to look at your watch every 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day and re-prioritize your to-do list as necessary. Most last-minute anxiety attacks are easily prevented by keeping an eye on the time and getting more done earlier. Tip: Work hard early. Don’t leave ANYTHING until the last moment.
  • Don’t get stuck in the kitchen.
    • Huge mistake! Yes, the food needs to get on the table, but going back to my earlier point, create a menu that avoids excessive last-minute food preparation; make kits. You deserve to enjoy your party every bit as much as your guests.
  • Be Generous
    • No doubt, you will have leftovers and no doubt, your guests will ask what you are intending to do with all the food. Be generous. Buy food storage bags just for this purpose and offer them to anyone who wants to enjoy some of your “bounty.” Consider it a compliment.

There are, of course, other things you can do to make your Holiday Entertaining more successful and enjoyable. One is to work with Nino’s experienced Party Planning Concierges who can help you with your party and suggest many ways we can assist you with your event.

From prepared foods, beverages, snacks, and groceries to floral arrangements and desserts, Nino’s can help you make great memories anytime of the year.

Happy Holidays, and enjoy the season!

Gingerbread Houses Made Easy, NO BUILDING PERMITS Required

Gingerbread houses are among the most charming (and delicious) traditions of the holidays. They’re also a great way to get your children involved in the “spirit” of the season and help them express their creativity. Best of all, you don’t need a building permit to make one. You only need a couple of good recipes for the “brick & mortar” and a few helpful tips from a veteran builder and construction manager.

Namely, me.

I’ve built my fair share of gingerbread houses over the years–whole villages in fact. It’s one of the many projects culinary students are often assigned in their bakery classes, and there are plenty of competitions for eager students to show their creative talents. One, in fact, has been held for many years at the English Garden’s store on Garfield Road in Macomb Township, right down the street from our Nino’s store on Hall Road.

And while competitions are fun, this is the perfect time to give you your first gingerbread-house-making tip.

Keep the construction simple, ESPECIALLY if it is your first attempt.

So many people get frustrated when their ambitions exceed their experience or the amount of time they have to complete their houses. Keep in mind that besides mixing dough, icing and baking, you need to set aside time for gluing the pieces together, drying, and then decorating. It’s more than a one-day project.

Therefore, my second tip is:

Make your first house no larger than a typical toaster. That will make each piece of wall and roof small enough to be sturdy and easy to assemble.

As far as the actual “blueprints” for your gingerbread house are concerned, my recommendation for your first attempt is four walls and two roof pieces. Each piece should be cut out of a stiff cardboard as a template and then labeled and pre-assembled using tape so that you know what your house will look like when it is finally constructed out of gingerbread. You’ll also need these pieces to help “re-cut” the baked dough (see #2 below).

Typically, a gingerbread house has one wall with a door, and most have a window or two. If you choose doors and windows, keep in mind that gingerbread dough, like cookie dough (which is what it is), tends to spread out as it bakes, which will close in the cutout you’ve made for your door and windows.

Keeping the openings and sizes of each piece just as you need them to be for assembly can be managed in one of two ways:


As it bakes, open the oven every few minutes and gently push the dough back into position as it firms. This can work but occasionally creates wrinkles or “pleats” in the finished piece.


Let the pieces bake as they will naturally and gently “re-cut” the pieces while still warm with a sharp knife (recommended).

Chimneys are a must, but I’d recommend one on top of your roof rather than a tall sidewall chimney; it’s just a lot easier. Again, a chimney is just a small, four-sided box with an angled bottom that matches your roof pitch/angle. It can be assembled separately and then attached later.

Lastly, if you want window shutters or a swing-out door, cut them out and bake them on a separate pan. This is important because they will take less time to bake than larger pieces, and you’ll be able to take them out of the oven when they are properly baked.

After all of your gingerbread pieces have been baked, trimmed and cooled, it’s on to construction.

Choose a nice, firm platform on which to build your house. A piece of plywood or large platter can be a suitable base. Just be sure you have at least 4 to 6 inches of extra “yard” away from the side of each exterior wall, so you can add other decorations, such as a candy cane fence, a sidewalk, or some trees.

Your “mortar” to glue all your pieces together is called royal icing. It’s a simple mixture of powdered sugar, egg white and cream of tartar, and unlike most icings, this one dries “rock hard.” It’s simple to make, but it MUST be mixed well.

Important Tip # 3: Glue your side walls together on day one, (also gluing them to your platform), and then add your roof on the following day. This will allow time for the walls to form a solid foundation BEFORE you add the weight of the roof. Another important step is to stabilize your newly glued walls with some sturdy brace, like a canned good or some other small, weighted box, and be sure to leave your house somewhere out of the way where the kids or your pet can’t disturb it.

After all of your pieces have been glued together and have dried for at least two days, its time to decorate your new home. Don’t worry if there are a couple of places here or there with gaps; your candy decorations and royal icing will easily cover up any construction mishaps.

Traditional decorations are colorful candy glued in place with the same royal icing you’ve used for your basic construction. You can also use royal icing for snow and icicles to make your finished piece take on a real wintry look.

Other finishing materials include:

  • Clear gelatin sheets for windows (can be obtained at specialty cake-decorating stores)
  • Cotton balls or fiber fill for chimney smoke
  • Landscaping (trees and other items from hobby stores)

Below are recipes for gingerbread dough and royal icing. For the gingerbread, roll out ⅛-inch to ¼-inch thick on a well-floured, flat surface, and bake at 350 F. Bake on non-stick silicone baking sheets or a non-stick cookie sheet.

Have fun, and of course, I’d love to see pictures of your masterpieces!

Gingerbread House Cookie Dough

Makes enough dough for a medium-sized house:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups molasses
4 eggs
8 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth.
  2. Stir in the molasses and eggs.
  3. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, baking soda, salt, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. Then beat into the molasses mixture.
  4. Gradually stir in the remaining flour by hand to form a stiff dough.
  5. Divide dough into 2 pieces.
  6. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to ⅛- to ¼-inch thickness.
  7. Cut into desired shapes.
  8. Place pieces 1-inch apart onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.
  9. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  10.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven.
  11.  Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely

Royal Icing

Makes enough to glue together and decorate a medium-sized house:

2 Lbs confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
6 extra-large egg whites

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together confectioner’s sugar and cream of tartar.
  2. Using an electric mixer on high speed, blend in egg whites, beating for about 5 minutes or until mixture is thick and stiff.
  3. Keep covered with a moist cloth and plastic wrap until ready to decorate.

Mixture can be covered tightly and refrigerated but must be re-beaten when re-used.

Apple Pie & 4th of July

Major holidays, like major sporting events, culminate in grand celebrations, with one on a playing field and the other at the dinner table.

And just like a major sporting event, the 4th of July has its own traditions, themes and sponsors. You might find the similarities between the two quite striking.

The 4th of July has the following:

  • An official sponsor: the U.S. Government.
  • An official event theme song: The Star Spangled Banner, of course.
  • Official colors: red, white and blue.
  • An official culinary theme: outdoor grilling and barbecuing. And for dessert, watermelon and apple pie!
  • An official beverage: beer (Interestingly, the 4th of July is the biggest beer-selling day in United States. It’s followed by Memorial Day, Labor Day and Father’s Day.)
  • Apparently, dads just love beer.

Add all this to the parades, the sparklers and general party craziness of the 4th of July, and you might just think it was the Super Bowl!

Maybe the 4th of July is the Super Bowl of summer. As studies have shown, it’s THE #1 Grilling and BBQ day in America (followed by Memorial Day and Labor Day).

Here are some other interesting 4th of July factoids.

  • Even though the United States got independence in 1776, July 4th was not a legal holiday in the United States until 1941.
  • Ironically, three U.S. Presidents have died on the 4th of July. They are Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Monroe.
  • What’s America’s favorite snack food? Potato chips. And which state produces more potatoes for chips than any other state? Believe it or not, even though it is ranked 10th in total U.S. potato production, a vast majority of Michigan’s potatoes become chips, making it America’s #1 potato supplier for chips.
  • Speaking of Michigan, the odds are better than 50-50 that the beans in your side dish of baked beans came from North Dakota, Michigan or Nebraska, which produced 60 percent of the nation’s dry, edible beans in 2005.
  • The most commonly grilled vegetable on the 4th is corn. This year, some of Michigan’s southern corn crop may actually make it to our stores by the 4th.
  • Hamburgers are the most popular food to grill at 87 percent, followed by steak at 83 percent, chicken at 78 percent, and hot dogs at 76 percent.

Of course, Nino’s has you covered no matter which you choose. Our informative guides take the guesswork out of turning those steaks and burgers into delectable, edible masterpieces.

And even though Nino’s isn’t its “Official Sponsor,” you can count on us for all your official 4th of July supplies, from food and beverages to disposables, charcoal, ice, balloons and more.

Happy Birthday, America!

Mother’s Day Wines

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and what’s a better way to treat your Mom than with wine!? Whether it’s a mimosa with breakfast, a little outdoor brunch with a pretty pink rosé or my Mama Margie’s favorite, rich and spicy Zin and ribs for dinner, we’ve got the wines to make Mom smile all day long!

Opera Prima Mimosa and Bellinis Daimiel, Spain $7.99 –

If you go to the website of J. Garcia Carrion, you will learn that they are the number one juice producer in Spain, and second in all of Europe. They also make many wines, including Opera Prima. So it makes sense that they would combine the two and make premade Mimosas and Bellinis.  Mimosas are the classic brunch cocktail of champagne and orange juice. Bellinis are an Italian version using Prosecco and peach nectar.  Just released in Michigan, these no mess drinks are delicious! Light and fruity, they take the guess work out of making it. And at $7.99, you can’t even make a good Mimosa for that price!

Andrieux & Fils Côtes Du Provence Rosé 2011, France $14.99 –

When spring has sprung and flowers are in bloom, my thoughts start focusing on all of the lovely rosés that will be coming in. We just received this little beauty from Provence France, one of the very best regions for making rosé.  Floral with strawberry and raspberry, the finish is clean and pleasing; it’s terrific with tea sandwiches and light fare.

Tres Sabores ¿Por qué no? Red Blend Napa Valley California 2009, $21.99 –

Recently I had the privilege of visiting Julie Johnson’s Tres Sabores outdoor tasting room. The sun was shining and the farm animals that inhabit her organic vineyard provided a wonderful aural ambiance.  Being a self taught winemaker, Julie’s love of cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel, enticed her imagination to make a rich and hearty red blend of her favorite grapes… thinking “Why not?” What was produced is now one of my favorite BBQ wines. So if meat on the grill is Mom’s request for supper, be sure to grab a bottle of this spicy red.


Every Mom has a sweet tooth and we just got in 4 types of wine smoothies.  More like a decadent creamy liquor than a wine, these are the perfect sweet refreshment when blended with ice.  Vine Smoothies come in Pina Colada, Peach, Strawberry and Berry and are all $10.99.

So this Mother’s Day, be sure to get on Mom’s good side with a gift of wine!


– Jennifer Laurie

Easter Wines

Walk into any of our stores right now and you’re hit with the abundant fragrance of our Easter Lilies.  Our Floral Departments are covering the stores with bright, beautiful, April flowers and, though there is still snow in the forecast, it reminds me that Spring is in full bloom. Easter is less than a week away and everyone is looking forward to sitting down with friends and family to enjoy the traditional Ham or Lamb. In my family we enjoy both, which makes my job a little difficult.  Do I bring a zippy light bodied Gewurztraminer for the ham? Or a fruit forward, robust, red for the Lamb?

Who am I kidding? I’ll bring both…

Here are my picks for whichever meat you choose!

Hamming it up –

I love the salty sweetness of ham; it’s the Kettlecorn of the meat world. Whether you like red or white I would stay on the fruity side when pairing this pink meat.

Alexander Valley Vineyards Gewurz Gewurztraminer California, 2010 $8.99 –

Poor Gewürztraminer, I believe this grape does not get requested as much as it should because of its tongue tying name. However, when it comes to pairing with Ham it is a must! The Gewurz has the customary lychee, pear and spice, but it’s not nearly as sweet as most others.  The fruity front palate and dry, refreshing finish makes this wine unique – and it’s so affordable!

Saint Roch Les Vignes Rosé Cotes De Provence, 2009 $14.99 –

Rose is another option if you like fruity but not too sweet.  This is a light, fruity, Provence with rose petal on the nose and strawberry and red raspberry on the palate. Refreshing and bright, it is the perfect palate cleanser.

Wild Horse Pinot Noir Central Coast California, 2008 $24.99 –

Fresh and fruity, this Pinot Noir is dense and big enough for your “red wine drinkers” but light enough to pair with ham. Black cherry, baking spices, and a hint of toasted oak round out the finish.

Jenny had a little Lamb –

When my folks prepare lamb they use fragrant and bold spices and seasonings like rosemary and garlic. When pairing lamb, I like to play up the rustic taste and texture of the meat.

Juliet Fiero Chardonnay Paso Robles California, 2009 $14.99 –

Only 224 cases of this little gem of a Chardonnay were produced. The Juliet Fiero is complex and medium bodied, with loads of ripe pear and apple.  The acidity is bracing to cut through the sometimes oily quality of lamb, but round enough with its touches of lemon curd and butterscotch, to pair well.

M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila – Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2008 $13.99 –

Lamb and Cotes du Rhone is a classic pair. Both have an earthy, rustic quality.  In the case of the Chapoutier, I like the notes of lilac, black cherry and plum that are elegant yet firm in structure. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan and was one of Wine Spectators Top 100 wines of 2009.

Falesco Merlot Umbria Italy 2009 $14.99 –

Saving the best for last, Nino’s has kept the Falesco Merlot on special down from its original pricing at $18.99 because it is such a great value.  Falesco has produced a concentrated and ripe Merlot, with black plum, blueberry, and blackberry, finishing with herbs and a touch of cinnamon. This is a knock out.

So, whether you’re trying out Chef Pete’s new Crusted Red Skin Potato Bake with Ham and Cheese or having a more traditional fare, these wines will make your Easter meal complete!


– Jennifer Laurie

Valentine Wines & Pairings: Spiriti d’Amore

I have a confession. I am a Valentine’s Day nut!

During this “Hallmark holiday” you will see me adorned in pinks, purples and reds trying to spread my love of wine, beer, and spirits throughout the aisles of Nino’s. As many of you already know, I will use any excuse to drink bubbly wine, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Rosés from Mumm Napa, Louis Barthelemy, and Mawby are among my favorites. However, I am not going to bore you with another Bubble-headed article. Whether you’re looking to pair up surf and turf, Chinese take out, or just having a nightcap, here are my picks for a wonderful Valentine’s Day meal…


While I was chatting with the Seafood guys here, it became clear that folks like to cook up a lot of shellfish for the holiday. For crustaceans like lobster and crab legs I recommend a medium bodied white.

La Cana Albariño 2009, Rias Baixas, Spain $15.99 –

Albariño is a Chameleon in the wine world. While at dinner with my family, my Mother-in-Law exclaimed it tasted like Chardonnay, my Mother said Riesling, and my Hubby said Sauvignon Blanc! I just said it tasted delicious with my Pop’s seafood linguini! Fruity pineapple, bright citrus, and a dry cleansing finish.

Jean Reverdy La Reine Blanche Sancerre 2009, Loire, France $24.99 –

Floral and elegant, Jean Reverdy Sancerre has a touch of minerality that lends to a complex midpalate. White flowers, ripe melon, and white peaches round out the flavors.

Domaine De L’Aurière Muscadet Survre et Maine 2009, Loire, France 10.99 –

The minerality in Muscadet makes it a perfect pairing for oysters. A bit rounder with more melon flavors than most Muscadets, this is a good introduction to the grape Melon de Bourgogne.


Whether you brave the cold for your beloved and grill some Delmonico’s, or pan sear some filet mignon, our butcher shop has the best prime cuts in town. Try out some Zip Sauce to really add a loving touch!

Garacha De Fuego 2009, Calatayud, Spain $8.99 –

Set the night on fire with this spicy Garnacha from Spain! Bold flavors of cooked plums and ripe black cherries make it the perfect complement to Lamb Chops or Filet Mignon.

Summers Andriana’s Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley, California $22.99 –

This Nino’s Favorite just received 90 points from Robert Parker who said the bouquet exhibits sweet black cherries, plums, earth and spice. I would have to agree. I found that even after aeration the tannins were firm, making this wine a good gift for the wine geek in your life, since they can lay it down for a few years.

Caliterra Tributo Carmenère 2008 Colchagua, Chile $16.99 –

Established in 1996, Caliterra started as a partnership between the Robert Mondavi Family and Vina Errazuriz. Their intent was to showcase the intense fruit and complexity that wines from this region could yield. This Carmenère is a terrific example of just that. It has hints of blueberry, white pepper, and spice box with a creamy mouth-feel and silky tannins.

Hooray Beer!

There are times when I find beer fits the bill better than wine. Right now we have a couple of Craft beers that are good as gifts, or for enjoying on a special evening.

Bell’s Hopslam $17.99 6pk –

Sweet and floral, this takes the term Hoppy to the next level. Brewed with 6 different Hop varieties, Hopslam is well balanced with honey, apricot and grapefruit flavors. Try this with beer battered cod, pork chops, or pan-seared scallops. Perfect for the Hophead in your life!

Atwater Cherry Stout $9.49 6pk –

Made with cherry concentrate from Michigan Montmorency Cherries, this rich and dark stout is a great complement for a steak or for dessert!


Our Bakery is filled to the brim with heart shaped cookies, cakes and treats! Here are my picks for drinks to go with dessert or stand alone as a night topper!

Piece of Cake Liqueurs $19.99 – Support the economy by buying Michigan made Piece of Cake Spirits! These liqueurs come in Chocolate, Pineapple Upside-down, and Strawberry Shortcake. Though the Chocolate has been the most popular, my favorite is the Strawberry.

Sweet Bliss Red, White, and Rose, Washington $9.99 –

For those of you with a sweet tooth these new wines from Washington fit the bill! With fun labels that describe what the wines taste like; chocolate covered cherries for the red, caramel apple for the white and strawberries and crème for the rose, these wines are terrific as a sip-able dessert!

anCnoc 12 year Scotch $39.46 –

I am in love. Yes, with my husband, Rob, but also with this 12 year old scotch. This is a Highland (Speyside to be specific) Single Malt that’s nose is intoxicating with honeyed citrus. On the pallet there are notes of orange blossom, honey, and slight smoke making this a charming and drinkable scotch. A great gift!

I hope this article helps you find the perfect gift or accompaniment to a romantic dinner at home this Valentine’s Day!


– Jennifer Laurie

Thanksgiving Wine Picks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, from the sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie to the turkey and wine, I am lucky enough to sit back and enjoy it all.  However, for most shoppers, it’s a hectic scramble through the aisles of Nino’s as they grab all of the appropriate turkey day complements. Well, here are my picks for the big day to help ease your wine worries.  Whether you’re on a budget or looking to splurge, Nino’s has the wine to suit your needs.

Drink on a dime – These wines are easy drinking crowd pleasers that won’t bust your budget!

Castle Rock Pinot Noir California Cuvee 2009 – Regularly $12.99 Now $8.99

What an overachiever! Even at $12.99, this is a great value.  Cooked plum, forest floor, and ripe cranberry with a nice dry finish.

PKNT Pinot Noir Itata Valley, Chile 2009 – $6.99

A very nice little Pinot Noir that’s fruity, with black cherry and spice notes.

Conde De Alicante Rosé Alicante, Spain – $6.99

Bright strawberry and raspberry fruit with a clean, dry finish.

Columbia Crest Riesling Two Vines Columbia Valley, Washington – $7.99

Sweet, with zippy acidity. Pear, honey and apricot round out this clean finishing Riesling.

For The Savvy Sipper – Good everyday values for the more sophisticated palates.


Georges Deboeuf Morgon Beaujolais, France 2009$11.99

There has been a big buzz around the 2009 Beaujolais and this little gem did not let me down! Strawberry and Bing cherry in the nose, with lovely floral notes.  Black currant and blackberry, with a chocolaty richness and supple mid-palate.  Not overly dry, but has a little tannic grip that leaves you wanting more.

Maipe Rosé of Malbec Mendoza, Argentina 2010 – $10.99

Last February I was able to go to a trade tasting in Virginia, where I tried nearly 200 wines. Out of the lot, the most memorable was this little Rosé from Argentina.  The color is bright Magenta, the nose is full of bright strawberry and pomegranate fruit, and the taste is a burst of watermelon and strawberry. There’s enough fruit to keep the White Zin drinker happy and enough complexity and acidity for everyone else.

Helfrich Pinot Gris Alsace, France 2007$11.99

Fresh and clean with cooked pear, apple, and just a touch of grapefruit. This wine is not too sweet, just lightly juicy to complement an assortment of flavorful dishes.

Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc Sonoma County, California 2008 – $16.99

Ripe juicy pear with citrus notes. Round and fleshy. Nice acidity on the finish makes this a great palate cleanser.

Serious Snobbery – If you have guests coming over that love to lament about the do’s and don’ts of wine, here are my picks to impress the self proclaimed sommelier in your life.

Apolloni Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon 2006 – $32.99

Soft and complex, this wine integrates toasty oak with black cherry and spice. A ripe, round, and stylistically classic Oregon Pinot Noir. Aerate or open at least an hour before dinner.

Celani Family Vineyards Rosé Napa Valley, California 2009 – $17.99

Crisp and clean, the acidity in this rose will cut through the heavy potatoes and creamy dishes. Bright strawberry and pomegranate flavors.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 2007 – $69.99

Vieux Telegraphe is a favorite of Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, and yours truly. The 2007 is highly sought after for its ripe complexity and cellaring ability. However, with a little aeration this will make your cranberries sing and your Turkey dance! Herbs, ground pepper, and stoney in the nose, the palate is ripe with cooked cranberry, fig, currant, and a touch of licorice on the finish.

Champalou Vouvray, France 2007 – $19.99

Made from 100% Chenin Blanc grapes, this wine expresses ripe stone fruits like peaches and apricot intertwined with notes of white flowers. The creamy, fruity mid-palate will complement golden raisin in stuffing, cooked apples, and the turkey.

Now of course, we have many, many more wines to choose from and everyone’s tastes are different.  Think of this as a starting point.  If one of these wines intrigued you but you want something a little different, Nino’s wine team will be here to help find the perfect bottle for your Thanksgiving feast!


– Jennifer Laurie

Wine, Beer & Spirits: Halloween Party Must Haves!

If, like me, you pull out all the stops for Halloween, you have to be up to date on all the best beverages for your Halloween Party.  Here are my picks for a party so fun it’s scary!


Bogle Phantom Proprietary Red Blend 2007 $18.99 – Like Brigadoon, this Autumnal favorite is visible only once a year and it is like nothing you’ve ever tasted! A blend of Petit Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel, and Old Vine Mourvedre, Phantom is ripe and luscious with loads of blackberry, coffee and chocolate notes. As it says right on the bottle this wine is mysterious and naughtily seductive.

Ghost Pines Merlot 2007 $19.99 – Named by the Martini family in 1964 for the ethereal gray pines that grow along the coastal valleys of California, this Merlot is elegant and well balanced.  My recommendation for a “go to” crowd pleaser, the Ghost Pines Merlot has cherry and ripe berry flavors with a long finish of baking spices.

Ghost Pines Chardonnay 2007 $19.99 – Floral and fruity on the nose this Chardonnay is creamy with citrusy, lemon curd flavors. A perfect pairing for sweet jumbo sea scallops or a baked brie tart.

Cline Viognier 2009 $10.99 – Parties are always a great opportunity to introduce your guest to something new.  Viognier is a perfumed and peachy white wine that Cline does a tremendous job with!  I picked this particular bottle for the approachable, fruity, food friendly quality, and the black and orange label.

Leelanau Cellars Witches Brew $6.99 – Support Michigan’s economy by buying this fun spiced wine from Leelanau. Flavors of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg add bewitching flavor to this fruity red.  Warmed up Witches Brew is perfect for adult trick or treaters coming in from the cold!


Hard Luck Candy Flavored Vodka Root Beer Barrel and Red Fish $20.96 –

If Halloween is about anything other than being scared, it’s about CANDY!  And the team over at Hard Luck Candy in Detroit has perfected turning the classic candies Root Beer Barrel and Swedish Fish into 70 proof flavored vodkas. Enjoy them as shooters or have an adult root beer float by pouring the Root Beer Barrel over ice cream!  Go to their website for more recipes! www.hardluckvodkamichigan.com

Crystal Head Vodka $49.99

Created by Ghostbusters actor Dan Ackroyd, this striking package holds very excellent vodka.  Quadruple distilled and then triple filtered through Herkimer Diamonds – thought to have energizing powers – this is a good vodka for sipping. The vodka is smooth, clean and slightly sweet on the finish. Be sure to pick up the limited gift set with two skull shaped shot glasses! www.crystalheadvodka.com

Lucid Absinthe $59.99 –

That’s right! Absinthe, it is legal again! Lucid is slightly sweet and packs a wallop of anis flavor.  When appropriately blended with sugar and water the green liquid turns milky white. The perfect conversation starter! www.drinklucid.com


Sam Adams Oktoberfest $8.99 – Although most of our Oktoberfest beers are gone, we have a limited supply of this medium bodied, very drinkable beer.  Spicy and rich but not too heavy this beer is a party pleaser.

Magner’s Hard Cider $11.99 – Light and refreshing, this hard cider is not as sweet as some other ciders which makes it more drinkable. It has just a hint of apple with a crisp finish.

North Peak Diabolical IPA $10.49 – This India Pale Ale made in Traverse City is perfect for the Hop Heads in your life. Spicy and floral, the Diabolical is a tasty alternative to Oktoberfest or Pumpkin Ales.

Cheers to Halloween and having a ghoulish good time!

– Jennifer Laurie

Summer Cocktail Recipes

summer drinks ninos pin

As the summer heats up, my thirst for interesting and unique cocktails increases. Don’t get me wrong, I love my summertime wines, but my husband has a keen knack for mixing up some terrific libations. The best is when I bring home some of Nino’s freshest produce and let him work his magic. Year round we play with citrus, but right now we have fresh melons, pineapple, berries and stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. And with “the Cocktail Revolution” at hand, we can’t just focus on the fruit! Peppers, cucumbers, basil and thyme are all found in cocktails in the trendiest hotspots around Detroit. Just last week, I had an “exhilaratingly” spicy drink made with house-made Ghost pepper syrup at The Oakland in Ferndale! The produce section, for the at-home mixologist, is a sea of colorful splashes of flavor, just waiting to be imbibed.

Here are some of my favorite summer cocktails:

The Artless Watermelon Mojito Recipe

Artless Watermelon Mojito Recipe

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me post a picture of this. It is a simple and refreshing cocktail that came out of what I had available: white rum, watermelon, mint, and limes.

  • 2 oz. Cruzan White Rum
  • 1 oz. Passoa Passion Fruit Liqueur
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 ½ cups cubed watermelon
  • 4 leaves mint
  • 1 cup ice

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend till smooth.

The Original Mai Tai Recipe

Created by “Trader” Vic Bergeron in 1944, the Mai Tai has almost as many variations as there are islands in the sea. A thousand pretenders (and an entire national craze) have come and gone, but the original is still the best. Despite its complex flavors, it’s a cinch to make.

  • 1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • ½ oz. orange Curacao
  • ¼ oz. orgeat syrup
  • ¼ oz. sugar syrup
  • 1 oz. Meyer’s dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz. Appleton Estate V/X rum

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with a generous helping of crushed ice, shake, and pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass. Drop the spent lime shell into the drink, where it will float like a tiny island. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a slice of pineapple on the rim.

EXR and Ginger Recipe

The Bitter Truth is a German company specializing in bitters and long forgotten liqueurs. The EXR is a Krauter Liqueur, that is a little like coke syrup with a bitter twist on the finish. If you’ve ever had Amaro or Jagermeister, it’s a little like that. But when mixed with Canada Dry Ginger Ale, lime juice and orange zest, it becomes bright and refreshing!

  • 2 oz. EXR Krauter Liqueur
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 3 oz. Canada Dry Ginger Ale (Sorry, Vernor’s is too sweet for this one.)
  • 1 tbsp. orange zest

Pour all ingredients over ice in a tall collins glass and stir.

The Beautiful Red Bell Recipe

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try drinking a few peppers? Created at the popular Kansas City, Missouri cocktail haven Manifesto, the Beautiful Red Bell is an unusual new drink that’s rapidly gaining a following. Here’s what you’ll need to try your own.

  • 1/3 of a red bell pepper, sliced into 2-inch strips
  • 5 basil leaves
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 1 ½ oz. gin
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar

Combine the pepper, basil, and lime juice in a shaker, then muddle thoroughly. The goal is to completely mash the pepper. There should be no “crunch” left. Add the gin, a generous amount of ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass.


Coconut Basil Slimlet Recipe

Based off the classic Gimlet that comprised of  vodka and Rose’s Lime Cordial, this adds a tropical yet skinny twist.

  • 2 oz. Skinnygirl Island Coconut Vodka
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 2 sprigs of fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp. agave syrup

Muddle agave syrup, 4 leaves basil, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add Skinnygirl Island Coconut Vodka and ice. Shake vigorously and strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with additional basil.

Once you get the hang of these drinks, I suggest finding new recipes in some of Metro Detroit’s best bars. I highly recommend The Sugar House in Detroit and The Oakland in Ferndale. These bartenders, or mixologists if you prefer, are a cut above, using handmade bitters and syrups that make their cocktails stratospherically good! An additional bonus? There is outdoor seating at both establishments.