Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mankas Tapas Bar & Steakhouse Testimonial

Mankas Tapas & Steakhouse just catered my wedding at the Blue Victorian Winery last weekend! My biggest compliments to Chef Peter and company- they orchestrated our plated dinner with outstanding grace and elegance! 

Our menu: The hand-passed appetizers were a huge hit- .Abondigas with Tomato Jam and Basil Aioli, Vegetarian Summer Roll with Sweet Chili Sauce, Tuna Tartar with Fried Wonton and Watermelon! The simple and delicious spring salad with goat cheese and walnuts started the meal off on the right foot, and for entree guests chose between braised short rib with stone ground polenta, salmon with baby bok choy, black forbidden rice and ginger soy glaze or tofu "scallop" with pilaf. 

The guests said their food was hot and delicious! They especially liked the fish and beef short rib dishes. One of my guests told me that the service was so friendly- she was splashed with a small droplet of wine from a pour and the server at fault offered her own name and personal contact information should my guest want her blouse to be cleaned. My guest said that hardly any wine ended up on her blouse- just a tiny droplet, but still- I have never heard of such cordial service- really impressed!

Before the wedding, Chef Peter offered us a tasting dinner so that we could try all of the dishes we would have at the wedding. We edited our catering menu when we came for the tasting. With each edit, chef Peter was supportive and encouraging. 

Chef Peter also stopped by the Blue Vic with our wedding planner to make sure the venue had the proper set-up and equipment needed for smooth catering service.


We took my parents to Mankas Tapas and Steakhouse a couple of days before the wedding and had a late lunch- early dinner with them. My parents loved the food and wine. We were all especially impressed with the strawberry rubarb cobbler! My mouth is watering just thinking about it- he made a delicious cherry cobbler a few weeks ago that I also loved. Because we liked the cobbler so much, he actually brought out a little sample of local juicy fruit, apricot, and berries for us to try. If you are considering dessert at mankas, I definitely recommend the cobbler, if available - they always make it from local and seasonal fruit.

I really feel that Mankas Tapas & Steakhouse helped to make our special day 100x times more special with the stellar catering service- I was so thankful to hear that they worked with the venue and my wedding planner so gracefully to execute our delicious plated dinner. We'll be back some day!

Thanks Mankas Tapas & Steakhouse!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Wines Of California Wine Country

As you head out to California wine country, chances are you are going there to see some of the wineries, in addition to the remarkable landscape. While you are there, you will find that there is more to the different styles of wines than a simple red or white wine. While these are essentially the standard blushes, we find that there will be more choices for you to select from along the way. It is important to know there are hundreds of different variations you can find, so we will look at the 7 most common styles you will find in the area.

In California wine country, the first style you will find is called Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a red wine that is perhaps the largest in the area. In fact, outside of this area, you will find that this is the top choice for many people in the world.

The second red wine that you might find is merlot. This is another red wine that has become a common dinner wine. Typically, it will only be used for this purpose and because it can have a smoky flavor, it is not often used as a conversational wine.

Along with these choices in red wine, you will find that California wine country also has a pinot noir that they offer. This style of wine has a rather fruity taste and is often considered to be a lighter choice of red wine.

A fourth style of red wine that is common in the area is Syrah is also the 7th most grown style of grape. It has a smoky flavored that blends well with smoked and peppered meats.

The last of the style of wines that can be found is the Zinfandel. This wine has enough sugar content that is can exceed the traditional 15% alcohol content that some of the other wines you can find. A sister plant with a semi rose color will produce the white wine variation you find in stores.

Of course, we also know there are some standard white wines that can be found in California as well. These wines are part of the 7 most common you will find in California wine country.

From this list, the first is chardonnay. This is a lighter wine that remains crisp when consumed. It blends perfectly with chicken and white fish. For most people, this will be their top choice in terms of white wine.

Sauvignon Blanc is the white variation of the red wine of the same name. This is considered to be a cheap wine that is often sold in bulk and at low prices. It will normally come with a screw cap and is not given time to mature as it has no impact on flavor.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Different Cuts of Steak

Have you ever stood at the butchers counter and wondered, what is the difference between a top sirloin and a porterhouse. If you find a good beef cookbook often times it will have a diagram of the different cuts of meat. If this is too ordinary for your taste find yourself a couple of young FFA (Future Farmers of America) members. They will be all too happy to tell you all they know about beef. In my experience you will know far more than you ever wanted to about the inner and outer workings of a steer after meeting with FFA members. In case neither of these options is readily available here is a break down of some common cuts of beef.

Rib-eye; this cut is a top choice because it has abundant marbling. As the rib-eye cooks this marbling melts into the meat and creates a juicy, rich tasting cut of meat.

Porterhouse; this cut also has plentiful marbling. The porterhouse has a top loin that is moist and flavorful and a smooth buttery soft tenderloin. This cut is a popular choice in restaurants featuring deals such as eat all of our 26 ounce steak and your entire meal is free. Be forewarned this is a lot of meat, I have seen many brave souls try and only one succeed. He had a stomach ache for two days.

New York Strip; this is a t-bone with the tenderloin and bone cut away. This is a good quality cut of meat and can usually be found at a lower price per pound than the preceding cuts.

T-bone; this is an excellent cut for couples who like to share. The smaller tenderloin is a few delicate bites while the New York strip can satisfy the heartier appetite.

Filet Mignon; this choice is usually a more costly choice but is well worth the additional expense if you are looking for the most tender and moist cut of meat. You will not find the intense flavor of a rib-eye or porterhouse but this is still an excellent cut of meat.

Top Sirloin; this cut is a lesser grade but larger cut of meat. A family of four can eat from one top sirloin. Try to buy the top or prime grade, they will be tenderer than the lower grades.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

60 Second Wine Expert: Chardonnay

America's premier wine expert, Kevin Zraly talks about Chardonnay with Elizabeth Shepard. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Filet Mignon - The Gourmet Steak

Filet Mignon is a gourmet class of steak cut of beef which is the primary choice of the typical affluent beef lover. Filet mignon is carefully extracted from the tenderloin part of the animal and is a definite gourmet connoisseur's delight.

It would be helpful to understand how the famous filet mignon came into being. The word 'filet mignon' is borrowed from French where the word filet means a thick slice and the word mignon means a delicacy. The tenderloin part of the cow extends on both sides of the back bone on the backward side of the rib cage of the animal. This particular area of the animal does not bear weight, and so the flesh does not experience much exercise. Because of this filet mignon typically is a very tender and soft meat.

The only drawback of cutting it from the tenderloin area is that the steak lacks the flavor found in meat which has the bone attached, a fact ignored and sometimes loved by the affluent customer who swear by this beef steak. The tenderness of the filet is so connotative that it is sometimes referred to as a tender filet.

The filet mignon is typically cut with a thickness of about one or two inches and a diameter of about two to three inches. It is cooked in a variety of ways. Some prefer quickly grilling it but it is also possible to broil, pan-fry, roast or even sauté filet mignon. Filet mignon is a dryer cut of beef compared to other steaks. To see if it has been cooked well enough, it is necessary to touch the steak. If the steak feels hard, it is too done. If it is soft enough to receive and imprint from the touch, it is done too rare. A compromise between the two states produces the best possible filet steak. In every form chosen, this version makes for a gourmet delicacy preferred and loved by the affluent diner world wide.

The filet Mignon of beef is also sometimes referred to as Medallions and Tenderloin Steak. It is sometimes misspelled as filet mignon and it is also called fillet steak in UK and Ireland. The filet mignon is the most tender cut of beef, and is also considered as the most expensive one. It is priced relatively very high as an average cow does not yield more than four to six pounds.

Sometimes it is sold whole as it is harvested from the cow. Usually it is available as one to two inch thick pre cut portions which are grilled and served as is. Bacon wrapped filets are also available in stores. In this format, the cut is wrapped with bacon after being cut into portions.

The purpose of wrapping in bacon is that it particularly lacks in fat because of the nature of the region of the animals body the steak is cut from. When it is wrapped in bacon, the bacon enhances the flavor by contributing the necessary fat which keeps the cut from drying out.

The filet is usually served with sauces which tend to go well with its mild flavor. It is either smothered in sauce or the sauce is used as a dip for the filet sauce. There are no specific sauces that are recommended as it tastes good with any particular sauce. The selection of sauces is solely dependent on the personal preference of the diner alone. Some people prefer a marinade to be used during cooking rather than have sauce during dining.

No matter where you have your filet mignon or in which form, this exceptional steak will change your convictions about the steak as a whole and take you into a new world of culinary delight.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Come Join Us For Happy Hour!

Need to relax after work? Come to Mankas Tapas Bar and Steakhouse for Happy Hour! 

Happy Hour is Tuesday - Friday from 5:00 - 7:00pm

Check out our Happy Hour specials: 

Ginger Infused Calamari | 10
Sweet Chili Glazed Chicken Jambonettes | 10
Artichoke & Spinach Dip | 7
Sweet Potato Fries | 6
$2.00 off
Tap 16oz $4.00 | Tap 23oz $6.00
$3.00 OFF

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Secret Restaurant Wine Tips!

The Boring Wine Guy lets you in on a little secret on ordering wines by the glass at restaurants.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dining in a New Restaurant - Expert Tips

Want to make sure you have a great experience when dining at a new restaurant? Make it Better's Dining Editor Julie Chernoff tells us when to go and what we should know about the menu, service, tipping and more. Dig in! With Marjie Killeen.

Monday, November 5, 2012

60 Second Wine Expert: Pairing Wine with Spicy Food

America's premier wine expert, Kevin Zraly and Elizabeth Shepard share the best wines to pair with spicy food.

Friday, November 2, 2012

All About Tapas Small Plates

Endulge me for a moment. There's a lot of quirky history about the origin how tapas small plates came into being. Let me regale you with a few interesting tidbits about the evolution of its tradition...
First, how do you pronounce Tapas? When pronounced correctly, it sounds like [TAH-pahs]. If pronounced like a typical United States-er, like me, it might be heard as sounding like TAP-uhs... It's your choice!
Second, what is the definition of Tapas? Well, I browsed, and peeked and looked everywhere. This is the best tapas definition I could find.
Popular throughout Spain in bars and restaurants, tapas are appetizers that usually accompany SHERRY or other AP√ČRITIFS or COCKTAILS. They can also form an entire meal and can range from simple items such as olives or cubes of ham and cheese to more elaborate preparations like cold omelets, snails in a spicy sauce, stuffed peppers and miniature sandwiches.
Sounds absolutely like my kind of meal! I love anything "miniature". Including my food!
Now on to more of the history of tapas...
Tapas and the tapas small plates tradition come from Spain as the story goes. They are snacks. As simple as that! These Spanish snacks are small plates with little portions of olives, cheese, bread and lots other unique and creative combinations of food and tapas ingredients.
In Spanish, the word Tapa means "cover". So how does this relate to "snacks" you ask? Well, there are several interesting explanations.
The most commonly cited narrative of the etymology of tapa is that it is an item, either a piece of bread or a flat card of some kind that would often be placed on top of a drink to protect it from those annoying, buzzy flies (smart!) Somewhere in time, it became a custom to put on top of the "cover" small nibbles of delectable goodies (really smart!) Viola! Tapas small plates were created - IF this explanation is to be believed.
Another theory is that the tapas "covered" the appetite between the time Spaniards finished work and when they would take their late evening meals. (Sheesh! I would be hungry too if I had to wait that late to eat!)
There's also the story that some experts believe that the name, tapa or tappas originated sometime around the 16th century. At that time, a few tavern owners from Castilla-La Mancha discovered that the strong, odiferous smell of mature cheese could help disguise the fact that they were serving bad wine from their establishments.
Thus, serving free cheese with the wine "covered" the bad taste of the wine and the fact that they were cheating their customers! The offering of free cheese when serving cheap wine, became wildly popular.
Unscrupulous practices? Yes, but the mouth-watering custom of tapas small plates was invented, according to this version of it's origin.
One more interesting bit of tapas history:
A few researchers assert that the tapa was born when the Spanish king, Alfonso the 10th (known as The Wise), became ill and had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals. (Wow! He must not have been feeling too bad!)
Once King Al recovered from whatever disease was afflicting him, he decreed that no wine was to be served in any of the inns in the land of Castile... (what???!!!! no wine??? wait... keep reading...) UNLESS, the wine was served with something to eat. No wonder they called him King Al, the Wise.
Lots of people in his kingdom, apparently would drink their meals (and we're not talking milk!) instead of eating their meals. You can only imagine what the streets must have been like at night, back in the olden days of Spain before the recovered king had his say.
Beyond the royal disease of our friend, Wise King Al, in recorded tapas history, there's yet another theory that the first tapas small plates appeared because of the need to take small amounts of food during the work day of many farmers and workers.
This allowed them to continue working until it was time to eat the heavy midday meal. (Wow, yet, another demonstration of the voracious appetite of man... oh how we all love to nibble). Wine was the perfect drink to go along with the tapas small plates.
And if you didn't know this already, wine makes you feel mellow, increases strength, (or so the workers all told their wives!) And in the winter, a little wine warmed the body to help the workers combat those cold, cold days in the fields and workshops of the Middle Ages.
So, between covering the wine with smelly cheese and covering the wine from dirty, germ-carrying flies, small plates evolved from these covering practices. Small plates can only contain small portions, thus, a small bite before a meal not only enhanced the appetite, but had a usefulness beyond the obvious.
Today, a favorite way of eating is indeed smaller portions on small plates.
Wow! Now you know a little more than you did 5 minutes ago!
If you are interested in some traditional tapas recipes, please visit Easy Appetizer Recipes found at where you'll be pleasantly surprised with the variety of choices. Enjoy the tapas tradition!
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