Round Up

31 07 2005

Good – Wedding Crashers
Bad – The Boss’ Daughter
Fugly – Wimbledon

Red – Baywood Cellars 2002 Monterey Merlto Grand Reserve; 1999 California Tempranillo Vineyard Select
White – Baywood Cellars 2002 California Pinot Grigio
Bubbles – 2004 Monterey Blanc de Noir (Chard/Pinot Noir blend)

Seelbach Cocktail
3/4 ounce bourbon
1/2 ounce Cointreau
7 dashes Angostura bitters
7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
4 ounces chilled brut Champagne
1 orange twist, for garnish

Pour all of the ingredients, in the order given, into a Champagne flute. Add the garnish.


Budget NYC

30 07 2005

NYC & Company, New York City’s official tourism marketing organization, offers the following sightseeing and other suggestions for $10 and under.


  • Folk paintings, furniture, pottery, quilts and other decorative arts from the 18th century to the present at the American Folk Art Museum, which now houses its collection in two locations. The smaller branch, the Eva & Morris Feld Gallery on Columbus Avenue (212/595-9533), offers free admission at all times. The museum’s home on West 53rd Street (212/265-1040, charges admission ($9 for adults, 5$ for students and seniors, free for children 12 and under), but is free on Fridays from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Historical and contemporary design can be viewed for free at The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Tuesday evenings, 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. (212/849-8400,
  • Unique urban art is showcased at the Municipal Art Society’s Urban Center Gallery at no charge, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The gallery is closed on Sundays and Thursdays (212/935-3960,
  • Native American history and culture at the National Museum of the American Indian (212/514-3700, The museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. on Thursdays).
  • Sony Wonder Technology Lab, where high-tech interactive exhibits thrill kids of all ages (212/833-8100,
  • Free tapings of popular television shows including: Late Night with David Letterman (212/975-5853,; Live with Regis and Kelly (212/456-3054, and The Montel Williams Show (212/830-0364,
  • Rockefeller Center on a free, self-guided tour. Pick up maps in the main lobby at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (212/332-6868,
  • Union Square Green Market, where some vendors offer free samples of their wares (212/477-3220, Or browse for bargains at the two Greenflea markets: the Columbus Avenue market (at West 76th Street) is open on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the West 84th Street location (between Columbus and Amsterdam) is open during the same hours on Saturdays (212/721-0900).
  • Free warm-weather performances in the city parks by the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Shakespeare in the Park and many more (City of New York Parks and Recreation Special Events Hotline, 888/NYPARKS, or 212/539-8750 for information on Shakespeare in the Park).
  • Forbes Galleries (62 Fifth Avenue, at East 12 Street, tel.: 212/206-5548). The museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday between 10 and 4. Admission is free.
  • New York Public Library (212/221-7676, as well as free concerts, film series and other special events in adjacent Bryant Park (212/768-4242). Visit any of the twenty Historic House Museums located in the New York City parks at no charge (Historic House Trust of New York City, 212/360-8282,
  • Grab a friend and drop by the hottest spot in town for a stellar evening of live jazz, delicious tapas and drinks, every Friday evening, 5:45 to 8:15 p.m., under the Hayden Sphere at the Rose Center for Earth and Space on 81st Street, just off Central Park West (212/769-5100, The music is free with suggested Museum admission ($10.00).
  • Take a free tour of such landmarks as the 34th Street facility which housed the late, great Pennsylvania Station (212/719-3434), or the Municipal Art Society tour of Grand Central Terminal (212/935-3960). There are also free tours of New York’s fascinating neighborhoods, including the grand tour of midtown (212/883-2420), the tour of Times Square (212/768-1560) or the tour of the area around 34th Street (212/868-0521).
    Explore the beauty of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, free all day Tuesdays and from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The regular admission fee of $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors is in effect all other days, although children under 16 are always admitted free (718/623-7200,
  • Staten Island Botanical Garden grounds are open from dawn until dusk at no charge, though the famous Chinese Scholars Garden charges $5 for adults, and $4 for students and seniors (open Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., 718/273-8200, Entrance to the beautiful Queens Botanical Garden is free at all times (718/886-3800).
  • Though free hours of admission (Thursday and Friday, 2 to 5 p.m.) at the New York Hall of Science are suspended throughout the summer, they resume in September. Except in July and August, the admission to the New York Hall of Science is free between 2 and 5 p.m. on Fridays. At other times the regular prices are $9 for adults and $6 for seniors and children. Parking is $7 per car (718/699-0005,
  • Visit the only working historical farm in New York City. The Queens County Farm Museum (718/347-3276, has free admission, and is open every day, year-round. There are weekend tours of the farmhouse and greenhouse, educational programs, and a stand selling fresh produce.
  • Enjoy spectacular views from Wave Hill, the acclaimed public garden and cultural institution overlooking the Hudson and Palisades. Entrance is free all day Tuesday, and on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to noon. All other times admission is $4 for adults, $2 for seniors and students, and free for children under 6 (718/549-3200,
  • The Socrates Sculpture Park, a free outdoor museum located on the East River in Long Island City, Queens, was a once-abandoned garbage dump turned vital community resource. It serves as both a major art institution and reclaimed open space allowing public access to the waterfront. Open daily until sunset (718/956-1819,
  • Visit Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center, an 83-acre National Historic Landmark district featuring remarkable examples of Greek Revival architecture. The cultural program includes concerts, art and theater (718/448-2500,
  • Take a cruise on the Staten Island Ferry for spectacular views of the lower Manhattan skyline, harbor and the Statue of Liberty. The ferry is free at all times (718/815-BOAT). Or take a walk across the footpath on the Brooklyn Bridge for another fantastic and free view of the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn.
  • The Dana Discovery Center (located in the northeast corner of Central Park) will lend you a fishing pole for an afternoon of catch-and-release in the Harlem Meer, a lake frequented by numerous species of wild birds. Take advantage of the Center’s educational workshops for children, or grab a pair of binoculars and sharpen your bird-watching eye. The center is free to all and is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. during the winter). Call 212/860-1370 for more information on exhibits and upcoming programs.
  • New York’s famous Fashion Institute of Technology allows the public to view the same clothes and textiles that inspire its own students and faculty. Thousands of designer costumes and accessories, fabrics from around the world, and the work of renowned fashion photographers are all on display in the Institute’s free museum (212/217-5800,

$10 or Less

  • Morningside Heights’ Cathedral of St. John the Divine along with its biblical garden and children’s sculpture garden. The fee for visitors is $3 for adults. (212/316-7540,
  • Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Admission is free but the ferry ride is $10 for adults (212/269-5755,
  • The Japan Society, New York’s leading cultural institution on Japan, presents a range of lectures, musical performances, and exhibitions. Admission to the gallery ranges from $3 for students and seniors to $5 for adults, and ticket prices for special events are often $10 or less (212/752-3015,
  • Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, built in the early 1780s and restored to provide a window into the past of northern Manhattan. There are guided and self-guided tours available, as well as educational programs focusing on topics such as “Life on the Farm.” Admission is $1 (212/304-9422,
  • New York Transit Museum (Boerum Pl. and Schemerhorn St., 718/243-3060,, inside a decommissioned subway station in Brooklyn. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children and seniors.
  • “Pay what you wish” nights at the city’s finest museums, including The Museum of Modern Art, Fridays 4:30-8:15 p.m. (212/708-9400,; The Whitney Museum of American Art, Fridays 6:00-9:00 p.m. (212/570-3676,; The Jewish Museum, Thursdays 5:00-8:00 p.m. (212/423-3200,; and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Fridays 6:00-8:00 p.m. (212/423-3500, A “pay what you wish” policy is in effect every day at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, although suggested admission is $12 for adults and $7 for seniors and students (212/535-7710,
  • South Street Seaport, boasting a museum and numerous shops and restaurants. Browsing is free; museum admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 students, $3 children (212/748-8600,
  • Museum of Television & Radio offers visitors access to its collection of archived television and radio programs dating back to the invention of each. Admission is $10 for adults (212/621-6800,
  • The world’s largest carillon tower, located at the Upper West Side’s interdenominational Riverside Church, charges $2 for adults and $1 for seniors and students. (Note: The tower is currently closed for renovations. Call 212/870-6700 or visit for updates.)
  • Central Park Carousel year-round, at only $1 per person. The carousel is open until 5:00 p.m. on weekdays, and until 6:00 p.m. on weekends (212/879-0244). Ride the Roosevelt Island Tram across the East River and enjoy fabulous views of Manhattan and Queens. The tram costs $4 round-trip (
  • Historic Richmond Town. Admission is $5 for adults, $3.50 for seniors and students, and free for children under 5 (, 718/351-1611).
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art offers a vast art collection and special exhibitions year-round. The suggested admission is $6 for adults, $3 for students and seniors, and free for children under 12 (718/638-5000,
  • Wildlife Conservation Parks ( Admission to the Central Park Wildlife Center is $6 for adults, $1.25 for seniors, $1 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for children under three (212/861-6030).
  • Prospect Park Wildlife Center in Brooklyn, where admission is $5 for adults, $1.25 for seniors/students, and $1 for children 3-12 (718/399-7339).
  • New York Botanical Garden, flowers blossom all year. Situated on 250 acres in The Bronx, the Garden includes 27 outdoor gardens and plant collections and the nation’s most beautiful Victorian conservatory. The Garden admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors/students, $1 for children ages 2-12 and free for children under 2. Parking is $5. Call 718/817-8700 for general information and 718/817-8779 for travel directions

Week in Wine

29 07 2005

Meritage blends from California, excluding Napa County and Sonoma County
2001 Boeger Reserve El Dorado Meritage: $25
2003 Hahn Estates Central Coast Meritage: $20
2001 Leal Vineyards Carnaval San Benito Meritage: $24
2002 Norman Vineyards No Nonsense Red Paso Robles Meritage: $20

2004 Falesco Vitiano Umbria Bianco ($8)
2003 Ruffino Libaio Toscana Chardonnay ($9)
2004 Ruffino Orvieto Classico ($8)

2004 Falesco Vitiano Umbria Rosé ($8)

2003 Bonello Sicily Merlot-Nero d’Avola ($8.50)
2004 Cesari Boscarel Veneto ($10)
2003 Falesco Vitiano Umbria ($8)
2003 Gabbiano Chianti ($10)
2003 MandraRossa Sicily Shiraz ($10)
2003 Ruffino Fonte al Sole Toscana Sangiovese-Merlot ($9)

Washing wine glasses
Rinser: Triple rinse. Hot water. Insure no residual wine. Air dry upside down
Washer: Drop of mild detergent. Sponge soap aroudn to remove all stain. Rinse the heck out of it.
Soda: Delicate crystal. Washing or baking soda. Gently clean glass (absorbs residual) Dishwasher: Shorter stemmed. Cheap glasses. Use less detergent and do not heat dry (it will bake the detergent on). Immediately remove glasses and hand dry with cotton lint free dish towel.


Sunny Tea

28 07 2005

Flavored cold teas have become the favored summer drink for people who don’t like the calories and/or chemicals of commercial soft drinks. Think sun tea. The advantage: You know exactly what’s in your tea, and the cost is a fraction of the commercial product. There are sun tea makers for sale, but any 1 1/2-quart to gallon-size clear glass or heavy plastic container with a good lid will do just fine. To guard against bacterial contamination, be sure the container is scrupulously clean.

Basic Sun Tea.
The basic proportion is 3 teaspoons loose-leaf tea or tea bags per quart of cold water. For traditional tea, use orange pekoe, English breakfast, Earl Grey or other main-stream black or green tea. For flavored tea, any of the popular flavored teas such as mango, raspberry, etc. will work. Experiment by mixing basic teas with flavored varieties. Herbal tea, particularly mint, will also work well.
If you use loose-leaf tea, put it into a tea ball or tie securely in several thicknesses of washed cotton cheesecloth. Fill the container almost to the top with cold bottled or tap water, submerge the tea in it and add any summer herbs you fancy. You may also add citrus peel, but don’t add fresh fruit and juices until serving time. When you have added the tea and optional herbs, put the lid on the container and place in a sunny spot for three to six hours. Taste the tea for strength and when it’s to your liking, remove the tea ball or bags and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Because it has not been exposed to extreme heat, the tea will taste fresher and look less cloudy than hot-water-brewed ice tea.
To serve, pour over ice cubes in tall glasses. Add sugar or citrus as desired. If you have infused the tea with herbs, use additional sprigs for a garnish. The same goes for fruit: lemon, lime or orange slices (seeds removed) impaled on the rim of the glass, or berries or peach slices floated in the tea..

Summer Fruit Tea.
Puree summer fruits such as peaches, nectarines, raspberries, strawberries or blueberries in a blender; strain and add about 2 tablespoons per tall glass of brewed sun tea..

Over-21 Tea.
Add 1-2 teaspoons dark rum for a patio cocktail..

Fizzy Tea.
Brew the tea stronger than you normally would. Add plain soda water for a bubbly beverage.

Fast Food

27 07 2005

Punchy Fruit Salad.
To punch up a summer fruit salad, toss in some minced ginger and fresh mint from the garden. The flavors immediately start to mingle.

Chile-Lime Corn.
Dip one side of a wedge of lime into salt and the other into chile powder. This is the perfect accompaniment to grilled corn. Simply rub or squeeze the lime onto the ears.

Grilled Corn Salad.
Cut kernels off the cob, toss in a vinaigrette- salsa mix with halved cherry tomatoes, avocado and red and green bell pepper chunks; serve with warm tortillas.

Sauteed Shredded Zucchini.
Cooking zucchini can leave you with a watery mess. If you have an abundance of zucchini, grate it and saute it in a nugget of butter with salt and pepper. Cook until all the moisture is gone and it turns bright green. It will have an almost creamy texture.

Zucchini Pancakes.
Substitute zucchini in place of potatoes in your favorite potato pancake recipe. Or use half potato and half zucchini.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes.
Make your own by slicing tomatoes and placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Dry in the oven on low heat or in the sun (first cover with a screen or cheesecloth to keep the critters away). Chop, partially dry and then simmer in extra virgin olive oil (with fresh herbs added, if you like) to make a wonderful confit to serve with grilled meats.

Wilted Cucumber Salad.
Rinse, partially peel (using a zester or a channel knife) and slice an English cucumber into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Put the slices in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Let cucumber wilt for 30 minutes to shed moisture, then rinse and wring out the cucumber slices, in batches, in a clean kitchen towel. Set wilted cucumbers aside. Prepare a dressing by mixing together 1/2 cup white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Toss with cucumbers, let rest in fridge 1 hour, then serve.

Instant Topper.
Serve chilled poached or grilled salmon or halibut with cucumber salad (see above) and crusty bread. For a touch of luxury, top fish with a sauce made from mayonnaise brightened with a couple spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and a handful of chopped summer herbs such as parsley, dill, chives, basil or chervil.

Sweet Watermelon.
If early watermelon isn’t quite sweet, sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt to balance the flavor and bring out the sweetness.

Peaches & Cream.
For a quick dessert during the summer, slice peaches (or any other stone fruit) and top them with whipped cream folded into mascarpone. Crumble amaretti cookies on top. If you’d like, drizzle Moscato on the peaches.

Quick Jam.
When there’s more fruit than you know what to do with, it’s time to make a quick jam. Pluots, a sweet-tart plum-apricot hybrid, with their beautiful purple-green skin and crimson interior, are perfect, but you can also combine apricots and peaches or whatever fruit appeals to you. Remove the pits. Combine equal parts sugar and fruit in a pot and add lemon juice to balance the sweetness. Cook over high heat for 15 minutes, stirring continuously. Pack into self-sealing jam jars and let them cool. Refrigerate. Four cups of sugar and fruit yield about seven half-pints. They’ll keep for about a month in the refrigerator.

Blueberry Smoothie.
Put 1 cup of nonfat yogurt, 1 cup of blueberries, half a banana and 1 cup of strawberries into a blender and whip into a cool summer treat. Add protein powder and you have breakfast or lunch.

Blueberry Topping.
Simmer blueberries in a small pan with a little sugar and a little fruit juice (any kind you like) or water, stirring often, until the berries give up their color and the deep-purple mixture thickens a bit. Pour over vanilla ice cream

Blueberry Pancakes.
make the batter, pour the batter in the skillet, and as the first side is cooking, drop the berries into the uncooked side.

Blueberry Schnapps.
Steep the fruit in a clear spirit like vodka in an airtight, glass container for at least four weeks (a glass crock with a rubber washer and spring-loaded lid works well). Then, strain out the fruit and add as much sugar as you like to the liquid. Pour the liquid back into the crock, seal and let it sit for three weeks to dissolve the sugar and let the liqueur’s flavors blend and mellow. It’s wonderful on ice cream or as an end-of-dinner treat.

Blueberries in Winter.
Can blueberries in plain water in wide-mouth quart jars. When you open them, the deep purple liquid tastes like blueberry juice; turn it into a fizzy drink by adding mineral water. The berries can be used in pies, muffins, smoothies or fruit salad.

Cheeses at their peak
Spring and summer bring more than just warm weather; they also bring cheeses that aren’t readily available any other time of the year. Summer cheeses such as fresh mozzarellas and ricottas deliver a moist, creamy texture and a mild flavor, making them versatile in both savory and sweet dishes. Other more pungent and powerful cheeses are made year-round but are considered to taste the best during the warm months. That’s because the cows and goats give birth in the spring, and that changes their milk. Some people believe the extra nourishment in the milk of a mother that’s recently given birth provides this flavor boost, while others maintain that it’s the change in their diet — from winter’s grain to summer’s pasture. Here are three ideas using the best of summer cheeses:

Grilled Lavash with Brillat-Savarin.
Cut lavash into large rectangles. Spread a layer of cheese over lavash, then top with caramelized onions and chopped, cooked shrimp. Place lavash on medium-high grill for a minute or two, or until crispy. Cut into squares and serve.

Ricotta & Berries.
Mix 1 cup of fresh ricotta, such as Bellwether Farm’s sheep’s milk ricotta, with 1/2 cup mascarpone, the zest of 1 lemon and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Place mixture on top of ripe berries.

Fresh Mozzarella & Tomato Tower.
Slice a 4- to 6-ounce round of fresh mozzarella into 1/4-inch pieces. Cut 3 very ripe tomatoes, such as heirloom, into 1/2-inch slices. Chiffonade 2-3 tablespoons of basil. On a plate, place a piece of tomato, then top with a slice of mozzarella and a pinch of salt. Continue until you have three towers of mozzarella and tomato. Top with more salt, lemon juice and a high-grade, fruity, extra virgin olive oil. (For a richer version, use burrata, a stretched mozzarella filled with mascarpone cream.)

Use chiles to add sizzle to fruit. Here’s how:
Pomegranate-Habanero Granita. Roast 1 habanero pepper well; remove seeds and membrane (wash hands afterward). In a small saucepan, place 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup dry white wine and add 1 cup sugar and the habanero. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, strain and cool. In a large bowl, mix 1 cup pomegranate juice with 1 cup of apple juice, add the habanero syrup, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and a pinch of kosher salt. Pour into a baking pan or appropriate-size casserole dish, and put in the freezer. Freeze for 20 minutes, then scrape the mixture with a fork. Continue freezing and scraping every 20 minutes until the mixture is completely frozen and the ice crystals are very fine. Serve in martini glasses as a between-course palate refresher.

Jalapeno-Melon Salad. Peel, seed and cube 1 melon (Honeydew, Galia, cantaloupe or canary melons work fine).
Stem and hull 1 pint of strawberries and slice them in half lengthwise. Slice 2 jalapeno peppers in half lengthwise, remove seeds and membranes and mince finely.
Prepare a dressing by whisking together the minced peppers, 1/4 cup orange juice, 3 tablespoons lime juice, 3 tablespoons chiffonade of mint leaves, 1 tablespoon honey and a small pinch of kosher salt.
In a large bowl, toss the fruit in the dressing and serve.

Grilled Serrano Pepper & Pineapple Salsa. Preheat a grill or prepare a grill pan. Peel half of a fresh pineapple and slice into rings 1/4-inch thick. Slice 1 red onion 1/4-inch thick; keep the slices intact and skewer them together. Brush the pineapple rings and onion slices with olive oil and lightly salt and pepper them. Grill the pineapple, the onion and 4 serrano chiles over medium-high heat until the pineapple slices are caramelized (not burnt) and the peppers and onion slices are browned, about 5 minutes per side. Cut the onion and pineapple s into 1/4-inch dice (avoid the pineapple core). Remove the seeds and membrane from the chiles and mince. Mix together the zest and juice from 1 lime, the minced chiles , 1/4 cup fresh minced cilantro, and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; add the onion and pineapple, season to taste with salt and pepper and allow to rest 1 hour before serving. Serve over grilled meats or fish.

Harvest those herbs
So much thyme and naught to do? Give it a summer cut. Trim back the bushy stems all the way to the woody primary trunks so you have from four to six bundles. Clip a few stems of sage as well. Use these bundles to form a cocoon around a leg of lamb on the grill, and perfume it.

Basil. If you are overflowing with basil, cut it into strips. Summer appetizers, cheeses, grilled meats and potato salad look pretty on a bed of basil strips.

Cilantro. Has your cilantro bolted? Pull up the plant and use the roots to refresh your jar of Thai curry paste. It’s the base of most Thai dishes. Mince it fine, then put it in the blender with your purchased curry paste.

Dress up deli salads
Deli foods, especially salads, are a viable supper option when it’s too hot to cook. Unfortunately, many of these salads are bland. The solution: Tart ’em up with some easy add-ons.

Potato Salad. Add any or all of the following: hard-cooked eggs, some chopped and folded in, some sliced and put on top; cocktail shrimp; small batons of peeled jicama; chopped or sliced green and/or black olives; sliced radishes; chopped green onions; chopped chives; minced Italian parsley; sliced cucumbers, salted and allowed to macerate for a few minutes.

Nicoise Salad. Dress up potato salad with sliced hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, olives, blanched green beans, capers and drained oil-packed tuna for a near-instant Nicoise salad.

Macaroni Salad. Add thinly sliced red bell peppers, chopped black olives, drained garbanzos, chopped red onion, tiny cherry tomatoes.

Keeping wine cool
Chilling Reds. “Room temperature” for red wines means room temperature in Paris in early spring. Chill your reds below 70° before serving. On hot days, don’t be afraid to chill light reds like Beaujolais even more, down as low as 60°, for greater refreshment.

Transporting Wine. Don’t ruin wine by transporting it in the car trunk during summer. Temperatures can soar up to 150 degrees in a trunk; an overheated bottle stored there can easily leak around the cork — or have pressure push the cork out of the bottle neck. High heat can also “bake” a wine, robbing it of freshness and fruit. Transport in a cooler or keep it in the air-conditioned passenger area.

Summer sangrias
Macerate fruit in wine to make summer sangria (pictured at right). Choose wines that are fruity, semidry to sweet. Red wines should be smooth, with minimal tannins. Select fruit to complement the flavors of the wine. In general, use 3/4-1 cup of fruit for every cup of wine, then macerate at least 2 hours. Use superfine sugar and lemon juice or lime juice to balance flavors. Ramp it up with flavored spirits or liqueur. Refrigerate until cold and serve over ice if desired.

White Sangria. Use 1 bottle (750 ml.) semidry Riesling or Gewurztraminer; 3 cups peeled and sliced ripe peaches; 1-2 teaspoons peach brandy (optional); superfine sugar to taste and whole blueberries to garnish. Also try mango, pineapple and magrut lime leaves.

Rosé Sangria. Use 1 bottle (750 ml.) semidry to sweet rosé or white Zinfandel; 2 pints of mixed berries; 1-2 teaspoons creme de cassis (optional) and superfine sugar to taste. Also try red wine with plums.

Spirits and sauces
Infused Vodka. Use your favorite summer fruit to infuse vodka. Cut up fruit such as pineapple, limes or lemons, mangos, or peaches, apricots or Granny Smith apples. Use berries whole. Fill a wide-mouthed bottle (with stopper), about halfway up with the fruit, then top with mild vodka, like Absolut. Let sit for about 2 weeks in a cool place. Berries take a little longer to infuse the vodka than stronger-flavored fruits, like pineapple. When it’s ready, fill a mixing glass with ice, fill the glass about a third of the way with the vodka, add a teaspoon of superfine sugar or to taste and top with soda water. Stir vigorously. Garnish with fresh mint.

Fruit Flambé. Flambé fresh fruit with spirits or liqueurs of complimentary flavors then serve over waffles, crepes or ice cream. Saute the fruit in a bit of butter, white or brown sugar, a squeeze of citrus juice and some citrus zest and herbs, if you like. Remove the pan from the fire, and add liqueur — Grand Marnier or peach brandy is great with peaches and nectarines.
Light carefully with a long match or lighter, flame, and let the flames die out.

Fruit Wine Sauce. Use fruity, unoaked or lightly oaked wine with minimal tannins such as Zinfandel, sparkling wine or Pinot Grigio in summer fruit sauces made from crushed/chopped, pureed or cooked fruit. Simmer a little wine and add fruit and sugar to taste; simmer a little longer to combine. Serve over cake or ice cream.

Fresh Water

26 07 2005

Chunky Cantaloupe Agua Fresca
This unstrained agua fresca has chunks of melon and more water than the strained version. Pick out the ripest melon you can find — you also can use honeydew or specialty melons like Galia. Will hold in the refrigerator for a day or two.
1 1/2 pounds cantaloupe (weighed before seeding and peeling), or about 3 cups chopped melon
2 cups cold water
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Squeeze of lime (optional)
Scoop out the seeds, then cut the melon into large chunks and place in the blender. Add enough water to blend, sugar and lime juice and blend on “liquefy” until quite smooth, up to a few minutes. Add remaining water and more sugar and lime juice to taste, if you like.
Chill until cold or serve immediately over ice.
Serves 4

This recipe comes from Irma Calderon, chef-owner of Pastores restaurant in San Francisco. She likes Tres Estrellas rice flour, available at some Hispanic markets, along with the Mexican-style cinnamon called canela.
2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup rice powder or rice flour
4 cups lowfat or whole milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon ground canela (Mexican cinnamon), or to taste
A few drops vanilla extract
Whisk the boiling water into the rice powder until incorporated. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir until the evaporated milk dissolves. Chill for several hours, or until quite cold or at least cool, then stir and serve over ice.
Serves 6

Watermelon Agua Fresca
This bright red and refreshing strained agua fresca is served at Fonda restaurant in Albany. You also can make it with yellow watermelon, honeydew or other melons.
3 pounds ripe watermelon (weighed before seeding and peeling)
1 1/2 cups cold water
2-4 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Squeeze of lime
Scoop out any seeds, then cut all but about 1 cup of melon into chunks and place in the blender. (It’s OK if a few seeds make it into the blender.) Add enough water to blend, sugar and lime juice and blend until quite smooth. Strain through a fine strainer, pressing solids to get as much liquid out as possible, and add remaining water, plus more sugar and lime juice to taste, if you like.
Cut the remaining melon into small dice and add to the agua fresca.
Chill until cold or serve immediately over ice.
Serves 4

Pina Colada Agua Fresca.
Though the ice makes it different from most agua frescas, this delicious summer drink is part of the agua fresca menu at Casa Sanchez Deli, which serves Mexican sandwiches.
In a blender, place 3 1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks, 1 1/4 cups coconut milk, about 3 cups of large ice cubes and 6 tablespoons sugar — the amount of sugar will depend on the ripeness of the pineapple and sweetness of the coconut milk. Puree to a smoothie consistency. Serves 6.

Cucumber-Lime Agua Fresca.
This refreshing drink gives you the feeling of spending the afternoon at the spa. Peel a large English hothouse cucumber and cut it into chunks. Add to a blender with 2 cups cold water, the juice of 2 limes, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Liquefy until very smooth. Strain through a fine strainer, pressing solids to get out as much liquid as possible. Chill and serve with a sprig of mint. Makes 3 cups.

Own Insurance

25 07 2005

You cannot own a home (like a car) without insuring it. All homeowners insurance policies are not alike. They pay varying amounts of coverage to replace your home and personal belongings.
The 3 most common levels of coverage are:

  1. Actual Cash Value
    Your house or property is covered for the depreciated amount of the replacement value at the time of loss.

  2. Extended Replacement Cost
    Your house or property is covered up to a specified amount or cap. For example, assume the dwelling coverage in a policy is $100,000 and it has a $150,000 cap. If there were a fire and it was determined at the time of loss that the home needed to be rebuilt, then extended replacement cost coverage might pay up to $150,000 of rebuilding costs.

  3. Guaranteed Replacement
    There’s no cap or maximum pay-out amount on guaranteed replacement coverage. For example, assume a home was originally worth $100,000. But over the years, the owner makes unique design, decorating and style changes that make the home worth $250,000. If the home was destroyed in a fire guaranteed replacement coverage would enable the owner to restore the home to its $250,000 condition. This type of coverage may cost more, but it provides the most protection.

  4. Inflation protection
    This clause or endorsement annually adjusts your homeowners insurance policy to account for increases in rebuilding costs, as determined by the industry’s inflation statistics, if there were a loss.

How much insurance do you really need?

If your home and belongings are damaged or destroyed, you don’t want to be under-insured You don’t want to pay for insurance you don’t need, either. A Homeowners Insurance Calculator will help you get a quick and easy estimate of the cost to replace your home. There are the 6 basic parts, or types of coverage, that homeowners insurance policies generally include:

  1. Coverage A – Dwelling Coverage
  2. Coverage B – Other Structures Coverage
  3. Coverage C – Personal Property Coverage
  4. Coverage D – Loss of Use Coverage
  5. Coverage E – Personal Liability Coverage
  6. Coverage F – Medical Payments Coverage

Common additional options:

Homeowners insurance policies can have many components that seem confusing and intimidating. Understanding your policy is important. A standard homeowners insurance policy generally includes four types of coverage.

  1. Coverage for the home’s actual structure .
    The pages in the policy that discuss coverage of a home’s structure will most likely be referred to as Coverage A — Dwelling Coverage. Unattached structures such as barns, garages, shed or gazebos will most likely be referred to as Coverage B — Other Structures Coverage.

    This part of the homeowners policy insures the structure of your home and other structures on your property such as barns, sheds and unattached garages. A partial list of perils that this insures your home against is damage from things such as:

    • Fire, lightning, explosions
    • Theft, vandalism and malicious mischief
    • Damage from vehicles
    • Sudden, accidental damage from smoke
    • Objects falling from the sky
    • Weight of snow, ice and sleet
    • Accidental discharge or overflow of water from your plumbing
    • Freezing of plumbing

    When deciding how much coverage you should buy, you’ll want to calculate how much it would cost to rebuild your home if it were lost completely.

    Standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover earthquakes and floods. Depending on where you live, hurricanes may not be covered, either. If you need to insure your home against these risks, you may be able to buy a separate earthquake or flood insurance policy.

  2. Coverage for Your Personal Property
    The next section of the policy discusses coverage of your personal belongings. This will most likely be referred to as Coverage C — Personal Property Coverage.

    From clothing to dishes. From a sofa to your TV. A homeowners insurance policy typically protects your personal belongings against the same list of risks and perils as your home’s structure. Imagine taking your home and turning it upside down. Now give it a good shake. Everything that falls out would be included as your personal property. However, this part of the policy has limits on the amount the insurance would pay out in the event of a loss. Coverage for personal property is usually limited from 50% to 75% of your home’s structure coverage amount or Coverage A. For example, if your house were insured for $200,000, your personal property could be covered up to $150,000. Unless otherwise specified, personal property coverage is for actual cash value at the time of loss, which is the original cost of the item, minus depreciation. Check your insurance declarations page for your policy’s coverage specifics. Buying an extra Guaranteed Replacement Coverage endorsement can increase this coverage. And it’s a good idea to do so because if you purchased most of your belongings a few years ago, their current depreciated value may be a lot less than what it would take to replace them. If you have personal property such as firearms, jewelry, furs, antiques, collectibles, fine artwork, musical instruments or office equipment, you may need additional coverage. These items may cost more to replace than your specific personal property coverage limits.

  3. Coverage for temporary living expenses
    While you repair or rebuild a damaged home, where would you live? The third type of coverage found in a homeowners insurance policy, Loss of Use Coverage, insures you for temporary housing expenses, restaurant meals, and even things like car and boat storage and pet kennel expenses, for a set period of time. This section is usually referred to as Coverage D — Loss of Use Coverage.

    There are also limits to the amount that this coverage pays. Typically, it will pay up to 20% of the amount for which your home’s structure is insured. For example, if your home is insured for $200,000, loss of use may be covered for $40,000.

  4. Personal Liability Coverage
    Lawsuits can be burdensome. Medical bills can be very high. The fourth type of coverage generally found in a standard homeowners insurance policy covers legal expenses and medical costs when you are legally responsible for certain types of damages or injuries to others that occur on your property.

    The pages in the policy that discuss coverage of your personal belongings will most likely be referred to as Coverage E — Personal Liability Coverage. Some insurance companies also include a small Medical Payment Coverage section in this portion of a homeowners insurance policy. If someone suffers a minor injury on your property, Coverage F–Medical Payments Coverage would pay for certain minor medical costs incurred by the injured person. Examples include the cost of exams and X-rays. Generally, this coverage is limited to $1,000.

    Most homeowner policies include $100,000 of personal liability coverage for each occurrence — the combined legal and medical expenses for a single accident or incident.

    Insurance professionals generally recommend a personal liability minimum of $300,000 for each occurrence. Purchasing more liability coverage in the form of a personal umbrella liability policy may be a good idea, and the costs of these policies are typically very reasonable

Understanding your homeowners insurance policy and the protection provided is an important part of owning a home. A licensed insurance agent or other insurance professional is an excellent resource, and can help you understand your specific insurance needs. Never be afraid to ask your agent or your insurance company questions about the protection amounts and types of coverage you are buying when you purchase any type of insurance. For all of us, a home will be the largest asset. Homeowners insurance protects that investment. A recent Insurance Information Institute news release said that two-thirds of all homes in America were underinsured by an average of 27%. So it is important to be sure that you have the correct amount of coverage. You can determine if you are adequately covered by calling your current insurance provider to review your policy

  • Homeowners insurance insures the structure of your home against fire, theft or other accidental damage called insured perils. How much of this type of coverage do you need?

    The quick answer to this question is: You need enough coverage to be able to afford the construction costs to totally rebuild your home. A simple way to estimate this is to multiply the square footage of your home by the local building cost per square foot. A local insurance agent or real estate agent can tell you the local building cost figure.

    If you have a mortgage, your lender will advise you about how much of this type of coverage they require. However, the amount a lender requires is most likely not enough to totally rebuild your home, so you’ll still want to do the estimating mentioned above.

  • Homeowners insurance also usually includes personal liability coverage. This can provide insurance coverage for certain legal expenses and medical costs, if someone is injured at your home. How much coverage do you need?

    A standard homeowners policy typically includes $100,000 worth of liability coverage. But most insurance professionals and most mortgage lenders advise or require $300,000 to $500,000 in liability coverage. You can purchase an endorsement that is added to a standard homeowners policy for this extra amount. If you have assets worth more than $300,000 to $500,000, you may also want to consider personal umbrella coverage. This insurance kicks in once your homeowners or automobile coverage is exhausted. It is extra protection that can be valuable. Here’s an example of how a personal umbrella policy works with a homeowners policy: While at your home, a guest is severely injured and sues you for $500,000. Your homeowners policy has a liability limit of $300,000. Once the home policy pays out $300,000 your coverage is exhausted and the personal umbrella coverage begins, paying the remaining $200,000. The typical cost of a $1 million personal umbrella can be as low as $150 to $200 annually. A relatively small investment for sound peace of mind.

  • How much coverage do you need to cover the loss of your personal belongings?

    Depending on the value of your personal property and your individual financial circumstances, you can choose from one of three ways to cover your home’s contents: guaranteed replacement cost, replacement cost or actual cash value.

      Actual Cash Value — Most homeowners policies pay to replace personal property using this method that is based on replacement cost of the property minus depreciation.
      Replacement Cost — Opting for this coverage means you receive today’s cost for an item that is lost to a fire or other covered hazard up to a certain capped dollar amount. Though you will pay an additional premium for this option, it may be well worth the cost.
      Guaranteed Replacement Cost — This coverage means you there is no cap or maximum pay-out applied to coverage of your insured personal belongings. You will pay an additional premium, but you could consider increasing your deductible in order to make this coverage more affordable. For example, increasing your deductible from $500 to $1,000 could reduce your premiums.

    Whether you choose replacement cost or actual cash value coverage for your personal items, it is a good idea to keep an inventory of the contents of your home. Videotape and photographs are excellent ways to document your possessions. Some people find that per-room lists are also helpful. Your inventory should be kept in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box. You may also want to buy extra insurance for jewelry, silver, special computer equipment, artwork and other highly valuable belongings that may not be covered on the average homeowners policy. Amounts and types of extra insurance you might need varies widely depending on what you own.

  • Other things to consider when deciding how much homeowners insurance you need

    Inflation Protection
    You may want to consider inflation protection. This clause or endorsement annually adjusts your homeowners insurance policy to account for increases in rebuilding costs, as determined by the industry’s inflation statistics, if there were a loss.

    Levels of Protection for Your Home’s Structure
    Just like with your personal belongings, there are three levels of protection to choose from when insuring the structure of your home. The 3 most common levels of coverage are:

    1. Actual Cash Value
      Your house or property is covered for the depreciated amount of the replacement value at the time of loss.
    2. Extended Replacement Cost
      If your policy includes extended replacement cost, it is meant to cover you above the Coverage A amount on your policy (provided you have not reduced this coverage below the amount determined by your carrier). For example, assume the rebuilding cost of your home is determined to be $200,000 (the amount of your Coverage A) with an extended coverage amount totaling 250%. If you have a claim that pays out the total of your Coverage A, the additional 150% (ERC of 250% less the original 100% of Coverage A) would pay out up to an additional $300,000 if needed, extending the total replacement cost to $500,000.
    3. Guaranteed Replacement
      Although only a few companies even offer this coverage, guaranteed replacement cost coverage has no cap or maximum pay-out amount. For example, assume a home was originally worth $100,000. But over the years, the owner makes unique design, decorating and style changes that makes the home worth $250,000. If the home was destroyed in a fire guaranteed replacement coverage would enable the owner to restore the home to its $250,000 condition. This type of coverage may cost more, but it provides the most protection.

    Whether you are in the market for a new policy or just considering if your coverage is adequate coverage, reviewing your policy annually is a good exercise to get in the habit doing. An annual checkup is at the foundation of preventive medicine. Protecting something as valuable as your health is a given. So why would the same idea not apply to your home? Your home and personal belongings are most likely your most valuable assets. Protecting these assets is important. With an annual insurance checkup your financial well being can become more secure.

The most logical time to do an annual insurance checkup is at the time your homeowner insurance policy renews. Talk with your insurance professional and review your needs:

  • Are there coverages that I need to add? Flood or earthquake insurance, extra liability coverage, endorsements for high-priced collectibles?
  • Does the amount of protection for my personal belongings match the new inventory I’ve just done of the contents of my home?
  • Has my insurance company made changes to the coverage they provide? Are the deductible amounts different than last year? Have the limits on how much my policy would pay changed?
  • Am I getting the best value for my premium dollar? Am I receiving all of the available discounts for which I’m eligible?
  • How much would I save by raising my deductible? And, would I be able to pay a higher deductible if a loss occurred?

To these basic questions, you will want to think about circumstances specific to your individual financial circumstances and your attitudes toward risk, then add other questions to your list. As with your health, there are some events and activities that just can’t wait for an annual insurance checkup. You should contact your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as you can when certain changes occur in your home and your life:

Remodeling and Home Improvements
Updating a kitchen, replacing carpeting throughout the house, adding a new room, installing a swimming pool. All these and many other home improvement projects add to the value of your home. Other things that add to the value of your home and can impact your insurance are upgrades to electrical systems and plumbing, as well as installation of anti-theft alarms. You want to make sure all of these investments are protected by your homeowners insurance policy. You should contact your insurance professional immediately when you make any changes to the structure of your home.

Major Purchases
The protection that homeowners insurance provides against loss to your personal belongings is very important. When you make major purchases, such as new appliances, furniture, office equipment and even jewelry, you should contact your insurance professional to make sure that the amount of coverage in your policy would be enough to replace these new items in the event of loss or damage.

Life Events
The amount and value of personal belongings in your home are dependent upon who lives in the home. Children who move out on their own take their belongings with them. Divorce and death of a spouse may also mean that the contents of a home are reduced. Conversely, children occasionally move back. Or, maybe you’re starting a home-based business in the kid’s old bedroom. Again, contact your insurance professional as soon as there is a change in the number of occupants in your home or in the uses your home serves.