Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Holiday entertaining, gift giving, travel, you name it—the result of this season is a bank account that’s about as robust as a scarecrow on a bad day. And yet, what are you going to do, skip the wine? Utter madness. To that end, here are some of my favorite value picks from a year of tasting at Food & Wine.
$10 and under
2010 Valentin Bianchi Elsa Malbec ($8)
Recently, I shared a family story on Eatocracy about our attempt to get back our family tradition: the befana cookie. My Grandmother passed away before we learned how to make them. We took these special cookies for granted.
My brother tried many different combinations of ingredients. He researched with other members of the family, the internet, even conversations with cousins in Italy to try to make them Nonna's way. But, finally, he achieved cookie perfection.
I couldn't disclose the secret recipe for fear of Bernardini excommunication. It has now become a family legacy. When the story was re-posted this year, I quickly from the learned from the comment section that that legacy turned into a fatal flaw. So many people were very disgusted with me.
As a form of penance, I want to post another recipe that we do share throughout the year: sugar cookies.
Among friends, competitive eater Suzanne "Suzilla" French is known for extreme behavior. Whatever she does, she does big, be it eating or drinking, showing her love for country or pro-football.
She's the fourth-ranked competitive eater in the world - the kind of person who parties hard on Flag Day and decks her Facebook profile picture with the New Orleans Saints' logo. The last time I saw her, before she left Atlanta for her hometown of Houston, was in the back of a stretch limo that she'd rented for a mutual friend's birthday. I joined them after they'd spent the day at Medieval Times - a gorge-fest in its own right. Bottles of booze spilled forth as the car flew around town, making stops at bars where French knew everyone. I can't remember how it ended.
For its new extreme eating special, Discovery's Planet Green channel capitalized on her "girl-next-door consumes gargantuan portions of food" shtick. "Suzilla: The Mouth That Roars" follows the 28-year-old as she takes on men at least twice her size in eating competitions in some of the country's greasiest spoons and short-order eateries.
She took a few minutes out of her day job as a contract lawyer for an oilfield services company to talk about how she manages to not look like a competitive eater and the two kinds of food she refuses to eat.
While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.
As fun to say as fluffernutter - December 23 is National Pfeffernüsse Day!
Chances are you recognize these little biscuits rolled in powdered sugar by sight, if not by name, and they are a Christmas treat to be sure.
The name may translate to "pepper nuts" in German, Dutch and Danish, but this holiday delicacy doesn't include black pepper. Rather, they are full of chopped almonds or walnuts, spices like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and anise and then liberally coated with powdered sugar.