6 Insane Big Bold Red Wines that are Sofa King Bueno for $25 or Less

I had to “taste test” a lot of wines to get to these top 6, but somebody had to do it. I don’t have a palate that can tell you if there is Oak, Smoke, or Elderberries in them, but I do know they are yummy, they are big, bold, & red, and they are cheap, for now…enough said. I have put the links below pointing to Vivino as I use the app all the time and it’s spectacular. Give ’em a whirl:

  • Sofa King Bueno: $22 – Paso Robles, CA Red Blend…#1 and my absolute favorite on this list not just because the name is awesome, but because it is insanely delicious
  • Barrel 27 Bull by the Horns: $20 – Paso Robles, CA Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Treana: $25 – this one is from Paso Robles, CA. It’s a Cab and yes at $25 it’s a little more expensive…sorry, I couldn’t help it…sometimes I find it cheaper but it’s great and worth it even at $25
  • 19 Crimes: $10 – This one is from Australia. A Shiraz-Grenache-Mataro (no idea what the hell the last grape is but it’s a great combo and only 10 bones!
  • Klinker Brick: $14 – from Lodi, CA this is a big red zin
  • Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Private Selection (Aged in Bourbon Barrels): $15 – from Oakville, CA. It’s wine aged in Bourbon…need I say more!

If you have any favorites you’d like to share, holla back.

On Trying to Become a Better Listener

I am a terrible listener… there, I said it. Problem identified and maybe should be highlighted, starred, and underlined. So let’s start here, “Why?”…

  • I don’t really think my ideas/thoughts are more important than others…BUT then again maybe I really do (Ha…What’s wrong with me!)
  • I can definitely be easily distracted when someone is talking by one thing they said that I can’t wait to reply to, light them up on, prove myself right about, whatever, therefore missing everything said after that (Boooo, Me!)
  • I listen from my own frame of reference, not the other person’s (It’s all about me!)
  • I fixate on words used, not looking deeper for intent (Shallow Hal!)
  • I get really bothered when someone uses 1,000 words to state something easily said in 10 words (Is that really my problem? Guess so!) to the point of trying to finish statements for them
  • Maybe my worst offense of all… maybe I don’t look like I’m listening, so the other person (in many cases, my lovely wife) says,” you aren’t listening to me” and I repeat back exactly what she said (Freakin’ Mimicer!!! Talk about pissed…”You missed the meaning A–hole!!”)

WOW… that is a long list… I truly suck as a listener!

OK now, I’ve been reading, asking others, and taking notes and it is time to do better. Where to begin:

  1. Make sure I am calm and rational… usually not a problem (until pushed to the point of explosion of course as I don’t have that much self-mastery yet… off the rails! Working on it)
  2. Make sure I am showing I care with my body language: eye contact, lean forward, posture (arms, shoulders, etc)… walk and talk if it helps (removes distractions)
  3. Listen with the intent to understand (don’t get distracted thinking about your own reply, in fact, forget it).
  4. Listen beyond just what you hear with your ears (use your eyes, heart, and mind…am I capable? That’s a strong “Maybe”).
  5. Listen with purpose:
    • Listen from the other person’s frame of reference
    • Repeat back (in an unmimicing way) that which you don’t understand
    • Pay attention to the other person’s body language, tone, etc…. what are they feeling/thinking?
    • Be present and engaged
    • DO NOT finish their thoughts for them (Yikes! Bite that tongue!)
    • Make sure you accurately understand their point of view before rebuttal… ask questions

 

In short, I think this means genuinely care about the other person and what they are trying to communicate to me, right?

 

Examples:

  • I speak really poor conversational Spanish and no Japanese, but I tend to understand the conversations in Japan better as I tend to get fixated on Spanish words during conversations losing the overall meaning, whereas in Japan I just pay attention to tone, watch body language, etc..this is actually a rather amazing thing…the non verbal things you pick up are truly amazing…try it sometime with 2 people engaged in a language you don’t speak
  • I had a good customer who was very upset with me because we didn’t ask enough questions the first time we met and had to ask them in multiple follow-ups later. We did our homework the second time and finished the entire (very technical) conversation in 45 minutes and even got a tour out of it at the end because we had extra time and because we had shown enough respect as to make them think we cared.

Well, I’m not there yet, but trying to improve every day. If you know me and are reading this saying, “Dude, you are still a terrible listener”, I know, I’m trying, point it out…I really want to do better…efforting!

Bacon Lardon Land and Water Campout Re-creation (or MuccaBelly Cornbread Sliders)

There is a really fabulous dish done up at Land & Water Co. in Carlsbad. It’s spectacular and if you get a chance to try it, do so! Here it is:

Anyway, I wanted to try and re-create it as best I could but also be able to do it at scale for campouts with a large group. I had the cornbread down and had done pork belly on the smoker, but never really figured out how to do it well on the stove top or oven. Then, I found this recipe on Pinch & Swirl which is both easy and great although it does take a lot of time just in waiting. I changed it up slightly on the rub, but stuck to the technique.

Also, had to figure out how to get all this done out in the sticks with maybe a gas grill, a flat top, and a fire pit. Biggest challenge was getting the cornbread cooked through without scorching the bottom.

So, here goes my recreation for 100 hungry dads in the boonies:

Ingredients:

  • 1lb pork belly, cut into a strip about 2 in. wide max
  • Rub:
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Brown sugar
    • Cayenne pepper
  • Jalapeno
  • Orange Marmalade (I think apricot or peach preserves work nice too!)
  • Crab Salad
  • Ingredients for my Slap Yo Mama Cornbread

Directions:

I did the pork belly in the oven ahead of time as with this recipe it was even better after doing so and letting it sit a couple of days…perfect for cooking up and packing down in a cooler. Rub down your pork belly w/ rub and put it in the frig overnight if possible. I roasted it in a cast iron pan at 450F for 30 min and then cut it back to 275 for 1hr, removed it, let it cool, and then wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it back in the frig overnight as the directions in Pinch and Swirl directed and packed it down in the cooler.

When ready to get to it, I fired up the gas grill we had to 400F (or thereabouts…think we need a new thermometer!) and took out a square cast iron skillet (you really need to go w/ a square or rectangular pan to cut into squares) for my Slap Yo Mama Cornbread. This was the most challenging part of the whole thing was getting the cornbread cooked through without scorching the bottom which I must have done 3 or 4 times before getting down the right technique. Basically, I put it directly on the gas grill at 400F for 10 minutes (put the opposite burner on full heat and the one directly under the cornbread at the lowest I could get away with while keeping it at 400F). and then put it on the top rack for 10 minutes more to cook through and rotated another pan of cornbread back on the grill top until I had knocked out about 4 trays of cornbread. Perfection…even thumbs up from all the 5 year old girls out with their dads for the weekend (that’s an endorsement!). Any other tips on what works best for keeping it from burning and still cooking through, would love to hear ’em.

While that was going, we cut the pork belly into slices maybe 1/2 inch thick, put them on a scorching flat top and seared it on both sides.

When the cornbread was done, I let it cool a bit, cut myself a square, put a little seafood salad on top, added a piece of seared pork belly, added a slice of jalapeno, drizzled some peach preserves over the top (original was orange marmalade, but I really like peach or apricot).

Ta Daaaaah! Not as good as the real thing (you really need to go try it!), but DAAAAMN!

Gracias TooManyHobbiesGuy for the nice feature snap…I was up to my elbows in pork belly and forgot to get a decent camera shot!

Jalapeno Cilantro Cream Sauce

There is a groovy little Mexican restaurant in Austin that I used to get to quite regularly if for nothing else to indulge in their Creamy Jalapeno Cilantro Dip. I’ve wanted to try and replicate it for 20 years and never really got close, but found a few possible variations on it online and then tried to make it lower calorie. The result is pretty fantastic and it can be just a dip for chips or as I like to do slather it on tacos, bowls, etc. Here we go:

Ingredients:

  • Fat Free Greek Plain Yogurt (If you don’t mind the calories go with 3/4 sour cream and 1/4 mayo instead)
  • Lime/Lemon Juice
  • Cilantro
  • Pickled Jalapeno
  • Dry Ranch Dressing Mix

Recipe:

Mix in 1 Cup of yogurt, juice of one lemon, ½ Cup of cilantro, 8-10 pickled jalapenos (adjust for heat you want), ¼ bag of dry ranch dressing mix. Throw it all in the blender and adjust to taste.

Thinking About Visiting San Diego…Here’s a Tip From a Local…September in Del Mar

Firstly, don’t visit in May or June…sounds great, but believe it or not, our cloudiest time of year and not cheap. So, suggestion…September and October are amazing (basically , start booking now!)…school is back in, so tourists are gone, beaches are open, weather is stellar, and everything is cheaper.

Also, I don’t care who you are, if you’ve never tried to surf, give it a go. There are a ton of people who will give you a quick lesson…you will be standing in 1 hour tops and have the time of your life. Just make sure waves aren’t much bigger than 2-3ft the day you choose to go out.

Where to stay. Well, here’s a vote for the Del Mar area and a few things to do really close:

Del Mar Motel: Yes, it is a MMMMMotel, but there aren’t many places in San Diego where you can stay right on the beach…LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! You also have some amazing restaurants right around it. If you want to drop $500-800 on Hotel Del or $400 on L’Auberge down the street that isn’t even on the beach, go for it, but for the money this place is legit. As I said above, if you can manage to come after Labor Day weekend, rates are fantastic and so is the weather.

Jake’s Del Mar: Right next door to the Del Mar Motel, this place can’t be beat and anybody that says it is a tourist trap is out of their mind. Forget getting a table and just sit up at the bar for appetizers, an orange blossom margarita, and an unbelievable sunset (as it’s right on the beach).

Zumbar: Want an insane cup of espresso…try this place. My review is for the one in Sorrento Valley, but there is a new one in Del Mar as well if you are staying at the above.

Pacifica Breeze: Love the outdoor setup, love the food, and love the location. There are probably 10 other great breakfast/brunch/lunch places in the area, so do as you please, but the location for this one sells it for me.

Belly Up: There are hardly any live music venues in San Diego, but if you are up for one and there is something going on, give this place a go.

If you are a real foody on a budget, consider coming the last week in September for Restaurant Week. Most restaurants participate and you can usually get a stellar 3 course meal at a deep discount. They usually also extend it a week so probably good to go the first week of October as well.

That’s it…come see us!

“Stay classy, San Diego” -Ron Burgundy.

Memphis Style Spare Ribs on My New Barrel House Smoker

Just got a new toy…my new Barrel House Vertical Smoker on a recommendation from TooManyHobbiesGuy, who is a good buddy and also slays some Q. This video is hypnotic and may make me a pyro, but so be it…

Anyway, it arrived on my doorstep and I had it smoking 4 racks of ribs within 30 minutes (crazy easy setup). Anyway, here’s what I did with them…

Rubbed down the ribs ahead of time with BBQ Bible Memphis Style Rib Rub (Thank You Steven Raichlen!) and had the mop sauce already made.

Rub Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 4 1/2 tspns ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 tsps dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbspns sea salt
  • 1 tspns celery salt
  • 1 1/2 tspns cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tspns garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tspns dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 tspns ground cumin

Mop Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cups yellow (ballpark) mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt

If you need a how to from there, hit up the link above….tons more amazing stuff there as I posted previously (love, love, love this BBQ book) .

Built up the smoker while I got the coals hot, loaded it up, inserted ribs vertically, and then basically followed the Raichlen recipe. Boom…all done from time the smoker landed on my doorstep to pulling out some lovely ribs in about 3 1/2 hours…is that a record?! Maybe. After that, ate some dry and applied some Stubb’s sauce on some of the others…all were groovy.

Anyway, they came out nice and smoky and very tender. Gonna have to play with it a bit as it’s very different than my little weber smoker, but if you have any good recipes you’ve used or pointers, let me know.

Update: used baby backs instead of spare ribs and got better results…falling off the bone. Also, when I went to apply the mop sauce, I wrapped foil on end closest to the flames to keep them from drying out per a few people’s recommendations and good results…also considering flipping them about halfway next time…will update as I hone.

Blinkist Book Reviews: My First 10 Books

Think I mentioned this Blinkist app in a previous post and am loving it as I have a massive list of Non-Fiction books that I would like to read and not enough time. Blinkist is like Cliff Notes on steroids, so I’ve jumped in and have now knocked out almost 50 books in 2 months. Here are the first 10 in order of what I found the most riveting and/or highlighted up the most along with a quick Blinkist highlight…definitely going to try and pick up at least the first one for some long plane rides. Think this is my new filter as there are just too many books out there.

If any of you have read any of the below, and have recommendations, holler…

1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** (2016) concentrates on living a better life by caring about fewer things. In this book, based on his influential blog, Mark Manson explains the few simple rules that will help anyone lead a happier, less stressful existence. Do what you want, not all you can.

My own highlight on this one: We try to do too much in life and this leads to stress and unhappiness. Forget FOMO and learn to say no. We have to stop striving for immortality. We need to stop “giving a f***” about fame and power, and instead concentrate on the here and now. Look for meaning in the present and seek to spread happiness and joy where you are. If you want to focus only on the things that really matter to you, it is vitally important to say “no!” to everything else. It’s more important to miss out on the right things.  So pick what’s important to you, and ignore the rest.

2.The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

The Art of Seduction (2001) examines the amoral game of seduction, explaining how seduction always starts in the mind and that the most successful seducers know this very well indeed. It explains strategies for inciting interest, disorientating the target of seduction, stirring desire and kindling emotions. These tactics will lead to the eventual seduction of the target.

3.TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson

TED Talks (2016) is the definitive guide to delivering a killer public speech. These blinks cover everything from stage fright to choosing the perfect outfit and will prepare to give a talk that’ll inspire any audience.

4. Leonardo Da Vinci: The Biography by Walter Isaacson

Leonardo da Vinci (2017) is an illuminating and thoughtful account of one of history’s most renowned individuals. Isaacson has studied previous biographies and accounts of Leonardo’s life – including the very first one, from the sixteenth century – as well as Leonardo’s wealth of notes. Isaacson paints a very human portrait of the legendary Renaissance artist and engineer. Though one of the few people in history who may truly be called a genius, Leonardo was only human and there is much that can be learned from his curiosity and approach to life.

5. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness (2007) explains how our brains make us think about the future. It employs accessible language and everyday examples to help us understand complex theories from psychology, neuroscience and philosophy. Stumbling on Happiness helps answer the question: why do we make decisions that leave us unhappy? By showing how our brains work, it aims to help us imagine our futures in new ways, ways that could leave us happier.

6.Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts by Ryan Holiday

Perennial Seller (2017) explains how to ensure that great creative work also succeeds in the market. These blinks not only demonstrate how to generate success for a particular project, but also how to secure continued long-term success for yourself as a creative individual.

7. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker

In The Effective Executive, author Peter Drucker offers a step-by-step guide to becoming a more productive and effective executive. By mastering a few procedures and principles, you can develop your own capacities as a leader and also support your employees’ strengths, with the goal of improving results across your organization.

8. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

These blinks explain why traditional marketing no longer works, and why to be successful you need to build Purple Cows, remarkable products and services that stand out of the crowd. They also explain how you can reach your target market once you’ve found your own Purple Cow.

9. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

A Curious Mind (2015) investigates a vital attribute that many of us simply don’t value highly enough: curiosity. These blinks explain the vital importance of curiosity, and outline the ways it can improve your relationships with your employees, customers or loved ones – and even help you conquer your fears

10. MONEY: Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins

Do you want to master money, and make it work for you? In this book you’ll discover the steps you need to take to achieve real financial freedom. Whether you’re just starting your career or moving toward retirement, MONEY offers sound advice from seasoned professionals on saving and investing so you can live the life you want.