Am I a Master Sommelier? Yes.

No I’m not. But I probably know more about wine than most. I am an Oenophile. I enjoy wine as much as I enjoy my meal.

My wine curiosity started about 25 years ago.  I had no idea how or where to go to learn about wine. One day, while working in Philadelphia, I attended my first wine dinner, held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I was hooked. I learned so much. I did not know that wine was a living organism…that it tastes different from day to day. I did not know that wine tours almost surpass visits to Disneyland. I did not know that global warming may have an impact on wine production. (Oops, that statement was political. My bad!!!) I did not know that all 50 states produced wine. Alabama appellation??? Anyway, that evening showed me that I had a lot to learn if I was to become even remotely familiar with wine.

I started my wine education in my backyard, Long Island. Long Island is becoming more and more respected for producing serious vintners. Many 90 point wines (Wine Spectator’s flagship wine rating) are produced 90 minutes outside New York City. Regardless of what you’re told, tasting is the best way to become knowledgeable about wine. In my case, many Long Island wineries still offer free tastings, in spite of the incidents chronicled in the New York Times some years ago. Appreciating the complexities of wine takes time. It takes lots of practice. I’ve been at this for 25 years and I’m still learning.

Long Island Wine Country

There are long-held steadfast laws regarding when to drink what with what, like white with poultry and red with beef, however, many restaurant sommeliers are loosening those rules, allowing the palette to dictate what to drink with what. I think a nice French rosé, such as the Mas Fleurey Côtes de Provence would go nicely with lemon-herbed roasted chicken. Ultimately, you will decide what you will drink with what.

Seek out your local wineries. Wherever you live, there is wine produced there. Support those wineries. Their wines will probably surprise you.

Periodically, I will add posts, introducing to some and presenting to others, wines that I find noteworthy. I am not partial to region and I am not a snob. I have no problem recommending $7 dollar wines. If it’s good, it’s good. Bottom’s up!

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First, let me say that I am, in no way, a selmelier. However, I do believe I know more about salt than most. Most of us take common salt for granted. Salt has gotten a bad rap of late. We tend to eat far more than is necessary. But a life without salt, or more specifically, food without salt is unimaginable, because salt is a basic human taste. Salt serves other purposes other than seasoning food, like using it for food preservation or baths in soaking tubs, but for the sake of this blog, let’s talk about using salt to enhance the flavor of food.

All of us are familiar with table salt, but what has eluded many of us are the other forms of salt we can use to season food. It is important to note that salt is regarded as the world’s most essential mineral.

What is the difference between Kosher salt and Sea salt? Good question, right?

Actually, there is no difference in Kosher and rough sea salt. For the most part, all salt has the same chemical makeup. Kosher salt has rough large crystals that dissolve in your mouth. It is often used as a finishing salt…added to chocolate perhaps, to give that crunch sensation. Sea salt…let’s talk about sea salt.

Sea Salt

Where does sea salt come from? It comes from the evaporation of seas all over the world. That is what accounts for the difference in its appearance and taste. Even though there are no added health benefits to using sea salts, the various in texture and taste makes it worthwhile.

Selmelier Mark Bitterman: 5 Simple Truths about Salt

The best way to educate yourself about salt is to go to a store that specializes in gourmet spices like “Spices and Tease” and “Oliviers & Co.” These stores will allow you to sample their variety. 20140909_130559

The variety is impressive. There is flavored sea salt and natural sea salt. Natural sea salt is that which is harvested from various seas around the world. Depending on the terrain and climate, its salt will have a distinctive and unique flavor, which is why one of my favorite salts is the truffle salt, which is a Mediterranean salt with a combination of finely ground truffle and porcini mushrooms added for emphasis. Sprinkle a little of this on a portabella and spinach omelette, OMG!!!

Lest I forget black salt. Very exotic in its appearance, it is often harvested as whole crystals. Perfect as a finishing salt on salad, seafood, chocolate and even watermelon. It adds a crunch with nutty flavor to excite the taste buds.

Other natural sea salts to try are:

  • Himalayan Pink (Pakistan)
  • Bamboo Jade (Hawaii)
  • Black Lava (Hawaii)
  • Sel De Guerande (France)
  • Fleur De Sel (France)
  • Blue Diamond (Iran)
  • Red Hawaiian (Hawaii)
  • Black Salt (also known as Black Lava Hawaiian salt)

These are just a sampling of the natural sea salts that are available to enjoy.

Amagansett (Long Island) Sea Salt

Flavored sea salts are products of the imagination of its producers. Girlichef’s Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez makes a myriad of sea salt combinations like Lavender sea salt, where she takes dried lavender buds and blends them in a mini food processor until it becomes a powder. She then adds the salt (light grey Celtic sea salt) and blends again. This method can be used for many flavored salts. How about macadamia sea salt?


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Poached Pear Banana Nut Bread

Why a Food Blog???


For years my friends and family have asked me for my recipes for dishes I serve when I entertain. I have sent out countless emails with recipes for this and that. I thought it would be easier (for me) to place my recipes on a central location, like a blog, so I can share them and invite feedback from those who have tried them. Every recipe will include a picture of the dish, taken by me. Most of my recipes originate from another source, like Bon Appetit magazine, Saveur magazine or a website, however, the recipes are altered to my liking. That is what make these dishes Personal.

More importantly, I want to show my readers that you do not have to sacrifice taste for nutrition. All of my recipes have nutritional value, are low in calories, and taste delicious. Don’t take my word for it, try the recipes and tell me what you think.

How do I keep my weight down, maintain a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level? The answer is simple…I eat well and exercise. It is a lifestyle change I made a decade ago, when I noticed that my clothes were “shrinking” and my physical stamina had lessened.

Gwen’s Lens is a view of eating through the lens of my camera. As a photographer, I am documenting the process to prove to the naysayers that it can be done.  I eat well, meaning, the food I prepare is nutritious and delicious. I joined a gym. I am conscious of my caloric intake and make sure the intake vs. calories burned is in ratio. It’s not hard. It becomes second nature in no time. Hopefully, these recipes will encourage and inspire my readers to change their cooking habits, change their food choices, read labels and take the stairs.

I look forward to hearing your opinions on this blog and most importantly, on the recipes you try. Did you alter them in any way? Please share. All of my recipes can be improved upon. My feelings will not be hurt.

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