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How to Select the Most Flavorful Melon

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Most people cringe when confronted with choosing the perfect melon. Choosing right, your honeydew, cantaloupe, casabas, or watermelon with be full of sweet juicy flavor, and the wrong one, totally flavorless.

Melon flavor is directly linked to sugar development. Once a melon is picked from the vine, it ceases to sweeten. For the best flavor, melons must be picked when fully ripe, because that is when their sugar levels are at their peak. “Ripening” off the vine will typically not develop more flavor. Should you buy a melon “off season?” Since sugar development is dependent on hot weather, which typically occurs at summer’s end, you take greater risk at finding a flavorful melon.

Here are 4 tips to selecting the best melon:

Weight: The densest melons – that is the heaviest ones for their size, have the most sugar and therefore the most flavor.

Smell: Yes, smell your melon! It should be sweet and aromatic. When smelling a melon, do so from the stem end.

Knock-Knock: Yes, knocking on your fruit will tell you if it is sweet. If it has a hollow dull thump, the sweeter it is. Hard thuds, not so sweet.

Appearance: Generally look for smooth skin with consistent colors, except for the side that laid on the ground. And if it looks or feels a little soft, the melon is probably not good anymore.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your grocer to help you select the best fruit.

Now for a bit of trivia, did you know – melons are not only fruits but more specifically, they are berries, just very large ones.

    How to Tell If Your Avocado is Perfectly Ripe?

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    Think about coming home from the grocery store, looking forward to that beautiful smooth and creamy avocado you just bought and you want to eat right away. Then, to your surprise – its ripened past its prime or its too young and not ripe enough. The thing is, avocado’s don’t ripen on the tree, they only ripen once picked. Here are 3 tips to pick the best avocado:

    General appearance: The color and texture of a ripe avocado are uniform. If skin color varies or has block spots it may be spoiled. There should be no “divots”, another sign your avocado has gone bad.

    Firmness: Press gently on the fruit to make sure it is ripe enough. There should be just a slight give to the texture. If you don’t feel much resistance, the avocado may be too ripe. If too much resistance, it may not be ripe enough.

    Color: If under the stem, its yellow or light green, it means your avocado is not ripe enough but if it is brown, it likely has ripened beyond its usefulness.

    Like most fruits, avocado’s have relatively short shelf life, maybe one to three days if stored on the counter. Maybe a couple of more days in the refigerator. If you put the avocado closed bag on the counter, it will ripen faster.

    If you live in California or Florida, maybe the best idea is to plant your own avocado tree.

    S’more Just Got Better

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    S’more are the perfect campfire treat. It’s also the perfect treat in the middle winter in front of the fireplace. Come to think about it, they are the perfect year round treat. But its time to upgrade and branch out from the basics of graham crackers, Hershey bards and roasted marshmallows. Here are 20 awesomely delicious and outrageous upgrades to the traditional S’more.

    1. Make your own graham crackers. Better yet, cut them into dinosaur shapes.
    2. Add a layer of peanut butter on your graham cracker. Easier still, replace the Hershey bar with Reese’s peanut butter cups. Other nut butters, such as almond and cashew work great too.
    3. And how about Nutella????
    4. Add banana slices to your peanut butter s’more.
    5. Have you tried an Oreo s’more? Pull apart the two cookies and place your roasted marshmallow in between. The Oreo cookies act as a graham cracker and who doesn’t love the creamy center? Use double-stuff cookies for extra extravagance.
    6. Take this concept further with the S’moreo. For a S’moreo, add a dab of peanut butter onto the cream center before adding a roasted marshmallow.
    7. Do you love the tropical coconut? You can’t go wrong with toasted coconut marshmallows. Add the normal s’more necessities, the chocolate and graham cracker, with this coconut bite of bliss. When roasted over the coals of a fire, the coconut shavings and gooey marshmallow is to die for.
    8. What about a caramel chocolate s’more? Chocolate, a sprinkle of crunchy sea salt, and rich, smooth, caramel make pretty much everything better. Cover your chocolate with a spoonful of caramel sauce and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt before adding your perfectly roasted marshmallow.
    9. With your caramel chocolate s’more, you can swap out the sea salt and add some toasted coconut for a Samoa S’more!
    10. Everything goes better with bacon. This one can be a bit messy but it’s worth it. To achieve this level of s’more perfection, layer bacon, a toasted marshmallow and chocolate in between graham crackers. Top it off by drizzling your favorite maple syrup in the middle of the miraculous mess.
    11. Try a Mexican s’mores. Build your s’mores the traditional way but sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon and chili pepper over the Hershey’s bar before adding your roasted marshmallows.
    12. Chocolate chip cookies s’mores creates an added decadence to your s’mores repertoire. Replace the graham crackers with chocolate chip cookies.
    13. Next, use double fudge chocolate chip cookies. If you like shortbread, that’s a great alternative too.
    14. For southerner’s, use a biscuit in place of the graham crackers.
    15. Go for broke and use glazed donuts in place of your graham crackers. Its best to cut the donuts in half horizontally. Pure sugar and chocolate bliss.
    16. The S’moritto. Take a small tortilla, cover it with a thin layer of peanut butter and jelly. Add a slice of bacon, then top with a Hershey bar and your roasted marshmallow. Wrap like a burritto and its ready to be devoured.
    17. Replace the traditional Hershey’s bar with a Cookies and Cream Hershey bar.
    18. Have you ever tried a S’moreover? Start with puff pastry dough. Top the dough with a graham cracker on one-half of the dough. Then add a thin (or thick) layer of peanut butter, add your Hershey Bar, and then top with marshmallows straight out of the bag. Wrap the dough into popover sizes and seal the edges. Pop int he oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
    19. Replace the Hershey’s bar with thin mints or York Pepperment Patties.
    20. Try something completely different – a Lemon Meringue s’mores. Replace the Hershey Bar with lemon curd.

    No matter how you spin it, s’more can be more than a great camp tradition. Not only are your options endless, you don’t need to confine yourself to a campfire. Your fireplace, oven or cast iron skillet are also great vessels to melt your chocolate and marshmallows any time of the year when that craving hits.

    Article courtesy of Encore Book Club

    6 Common Burger Blunders to Avoid

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    6 Common Burger Blunders to Avoid

    While seemingly oh-so simple to prepare, these few mistakes can cause your hamburger meal to end in total disaster. Hambergers make such a simple and delicious meal, avoiding these few simple mistakes can be the difference between a dry, tough burger and a juicy, meaty, full-of-flavor one. Our goal is to achieve a beefy & smoky flavor, with a soft juicy texture that melts in your mouth, and a nice crunchy and caramelized outer layer.

    • Avoid Ultra Lean Beef

    A great burger starts with the right beef. Stay away from ultra lean beef. Flavor and juiciness is dependent on the fat content of your meat. No 90/10 mixes. Using such a mix will leave you with a bone dry, flavorless, hard piece of cooked burger. The minimum should be 80/20, better yet, 75/25. Cooked right, the juices will come flowing down your chin!

    • Avoid Bargin Basement Beef

    You might think skimping on good beef will be okay under the bun, melted cheese, grilled onion, and other accompaniments you might lavish on your burger but you’d be wrong. Don’t skimp, use good quality beef.

    • Avoid Packing Burgers Too Tightly

    Avoid overworking the meat and don’t make hockey pucks. Avoid those special burger molds that cause you to pack the beef in. Hand forming buggers will give you the best shape. Its best to leave it scraggly so you have the most exposed surface area that will give your burger the right char, caramelization and the grill marks to prove it. Dome-shaped burgers can be avoided by using your finger to add a small divot in the center on both sized of the raw burger.

    • Improperly Seasoned

    A great hamburger needs just great beef, salt and pepper but in the proper order. Adding salt and pepper before forming the patties causes dry burgers and require more salt and pepper than is necessary. Salt and pepper should only be added once the patty is formed and no more than 30-60 minutes before grilling.

    • Not Properly Preheating the Grill

    Not properly preheating your grill will result in a soggy mess that sticks to the grill. Preheat your grill so it is very hot, you can always adjust the temperature once you start grilling. Then, clean the grill and generously apply oil. These steps will ensure your burger doesn’t stick and you get enough char and caramelization.

    • Avoid Playing With the Patty While Grilling.

    Once you place the burgers on the grill – leave them alone. No tamping them down – it only squeezes out the juices. Don’t polk, prod, or play with the patties – and flip them just once – this assures your burgers achieve the perfect, slight outer crunch. Well-formed, half-pound burgers only need about 4 minutes per side for medium rare and about 5 minutes for medium. Any longer, and all bets are off.

    Once you avoid these six burger blunders, its time to personalize your hamberger. Be creative – a fresh bun. a flavorful melted slice of cheese, caramelized onions, garlic aioli, mayonnaise, gourmet mustard, avocado slices – the list is endless.

    Fair Food: Foods Found at State & County Fairs

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    State Fair Food

    State fair season is beginning and, for many, that means one thing: food. Lots and lots of food, often deep fried, on a stick or deep fried and on a stick.

    Can you say candy bar on a stick? Or pizza on a stick? Or, even more perplexing, deep fried Coke.  Then there’s deep-fried Milky Way bar on a stick, meatball on a stick, cheesecake on a stick, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a stick and don’t forget about the fried pickle on a stick.

    Here’s a list of some of the Fair Food Favorites:

    Indiana Corn Dog Recipe
    Texas State Fair Chili
    California Deep Fried Avocados & Dipping Sauce
    Deep-fried Cheese Bites & Dipping Sauce
    Deep Fried Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
    Deep Fried Jalapeños & Dipping Sauce
    Deep-Fried Mac & Cheese Shells
    Deep-Fried Candy Bars on a Stick
    Deep-Fried Coca Cola
    Deep-Fried Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce
    Deep Fried Oreo Cookies
    Deep Fried Texas Dirt
    Peppery Hush Puppies
    Chicken & Waffles
    Blue-Ribbon Apple Pie
    Hot & Spicy Turkey Legs
    Funnel Cakes
    Waffle Fry Nachos
    State Fair Cream Puffs
    Baby Back Ribs
    Lemonade Ice Tea
    Chocolate Caramel Apples
    State Fair Sub Sandwich
    Sweet Corn Beignets with Bacon-Sugar Dust
    Kool-Aid Pickles
    Jalapeno Popper Burgers
    Corn Ice Cream
    Gilroy Garlic Ice Cream
    Pork & Black Bean Nachos
    Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs & The Works
    Pizza on a Stick
    Baked Elephant Ears
    Southern Fried Okra
    Best-Ever Fried Chicken
    Winning Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie
    Jalapeno Popper Mexican Street Corn
    Walking Tacos
    Ultimate Oreo Caramel Apples
    Blackberry Lemonade
    The Works Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
    Maple Chocolate-Covered Bacon
    Poutine & Gravy
    Frozen Chocolate Monkey Treats
    Marina’s Golden Corn Fritters
    Big & Buttery Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Sloppy Joe Dogs
    Cheesy Chili Fries
    County Fair Cherry Pie
    Italian Sausage Hoagies
    Dessert Waffles
    Fried Mashed Potato Balls
    Apple Cider Doughnuts
    Grilled Seasoned Bratwurst
    Rhubarb Ice Cream
    Deep Fried Tequila Shots
    Deep Fried Pickles
    Frito Pies
    Cajun Fried Deviled Eggs
    Peanut Butter Cream Pie
    Salt Water Taffy
    Spicy Candied Almonds

    State-by-State List of Regional Favorite Foods

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    Key Lime Pie

    Take a road trip though your kitchen.  One of the hands-down greatest things about eating in America is all the hyper-regional specialties. A food that’s ubiquitous in Louisiana might draw blank stares in Montana, while a Maine delicacy might horrify citizens of neighboring Vermont. We say: why not try them all! We’ve selected one quintessential food from each state, so you can do just that. Remember, there are 50 states: pace yourself!

    Alabama – Fried Green Tomatoes
    Alaska – Baked Alaska
    Arizona – Pork Chimichanga
    Arkansas – Southern Fried Catfish & Tarter Sauce
    California – Fish Tacos
    Colorado – Chili Verde
    Conneticut – New Haven-Style White Clam Pizza
    Delaware – Dilly Crab Dip
    Florida – Key Lime Pie
    Georgia – Lattice-Top Georgia Peach Pie
    Guam – Kadon Pika
    Hawaii – Ahi Poke
    Idaho – Twice Bakes Potatoes
    Illinois – Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
    Indiana: Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
    Iowa: Scotcharoos
    Kansas: Kansas City-Style Ribs
    Kentucky: Hot Browns
    Louisiana: Shrimp Gumbo
    Maine: Lobster Roll
    Maryland: Crab Cakes
    Massachusetts: Clam Chowder
    Michigan: Pasty (Meat Hand Pie)
    Minnesota: Hotdish (Tater Tot Casserole)
    Mississippi: Mississippi Mud Pie
    Missouri: Fried Ravioli
    Montana: Huckleberry Pie
    Nebraska: Hand-Held Meat Pies
    Nevada: Beef Jerky and Sour Dough Bread
    New Hampshire: New England Boiled Dinner
    New Jersey: Pork Roll Sandwich With Egg and Cheese
    New Mexico: Green Chile Cheeseburger
    New York: Buffalo Wings
    North Carolina: Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich
    North Dakota: Lefse (Potato Crepes)
    Ohio: Peanut Butter Buckeyes
    Oklahoma: Crispy Cornmeal Okra
    Oregon: Marionberry Pie
    Pennsylvania: Philly Cheese Steak
    Puerto Rico: Mofongo
    Rhode Island: Frozen Lemonade
    South Carolina: Shrimp and Grits
    South Dakota: Chislic
    Tennessee: Memphis Dry-Rub Ribs
    Texas: Texas Brisket
    Utah: Funeral Potatoes
    Vermont: Cheddar Cheese Apple Pie
    Virginia: Virginia Ham Biscuits
    Washington: Planked Salmon With Honey-Balsamic Glaze
    West Virginia: Pepperoni Roll
    Wisconsin: Bratwurst Stewed With Sauerkraut
    Wyoming: Chicken Fried Steak
    Washington, D.C.: Half Smoke Chili Dog

    20 Pickle Juice Recipe Ideas

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    Pickle Juice Recipes Pickle Juice Recipe Ideas

    I can remember years ago when I was very young, my mother brined her own pickles. They were the best. But every time I finish the last pickle in the jar and I start pouring the left over juice down the drain, I have a momentary thought of how could that juice otherwise be used again. That tangy, salty, garlicy and acidic juice just has too much potential to not be repurposed. It’s too good to waste.

    It’s time for pickle juice to become flavor central in a whole host of recipes. After a little research, here are a few recipes I’ve discovered that highlight all that is good in this nectar:

    6 Cocktail Trends for 2017

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    Colorful cocktails trends 2017

    1. Mood Cocktails

      Mood cocktails are drinks with personality or emotion and is perhaps the strangest trend for 2017. Bars may soon be doing away with the traditional menu and listing drinks by mood – red to stimulate confidence, yellow for friendship, and black for discipline. Some bars are using aromatherapy by adding scents such as cut grass and smoked pine to evoke nostalgic feelings. Others are creating interesting nostalgic-based menus based on record albums, astrological signs, conspiracy theories, and even color swatches.

    2. Theatre in a Glass

      The best mixologists have always understood the importance of theatre, without going over the top. In 2017 you’ll be seeing more and more theatre in the glass, as drinks makers seek out ever more exciting ingredients, like the butterfly pea flower, which is ph sensitive and will change the color of a drink when mixed with citrus, or the Szechuan Button, an edible flower that delivers an electric hit.

    3. Health Conscious Coctails

      Drinking alcohol is obviously not the healthiest decision one can make but some bartenders are starting to add healthy ingredients — from nutrient-rich veggies to fermented kombucha to trendy activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is said to have detoxifying properties and to dye it a trendy jet-black.

    4. Garnish It!

      Today, most top mixologists recognize that cocktails, at the end of the day, are about fun. The craft cocktail movement was once associated with hidden speakeasies, many of which had an enormous sense of importance about their craft where the entire focus of the experience was on painstakingly designed drinks. Adding a culinary twist to classic cocktails with unique ingredients like roasted grapes, salt-roasted plantains, smoked tomato water, puréed red pepper, snap peas, corn, or even pickling brine to create either sweet or savory culinary cocktails. Today’s mixologists seek acknowledgement for their craft and understand designing for the social media impact of one of their cocktails posted on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter.

    5. Latin Influences

      Cocktails are no longer just tequila’s domain to instill a Latin influence. Think South American-inspired cocktails like a Caipirinha using mezcal, cachaça, jalapeño-infused cachaça, serrano chili syrup or pisco. Thanks to the introduction of mezcal, bartenders and consumers have been eager to get their hands on more obscure Mexican spirits like bacanora and sotol. South American and Caribbean spices such as chili powder, Jamaican jerk, and smoked paprika are now popping up in unique and savory creations.

    6. Fermented Cocktails

      Signature cocktails developed out of fermented beverages like coconut kefir, Kombucha, and ginger beer for creations like the new range, especially when combined with lemon, limes or mandarins. On top of being delicious, fermented food and drinks are full of enzymes, vitamins, and probiotics that do wonders for your health. You can also expect more health-conscious cocktails in general — drinks made with everything from leafy greens to chia seeds to activated charcoal.

    9 Food Trends for 2017

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    Healthy Sushi Burger

    1. Dine-out is Out and Dine-in in In

      Dine-out only food businesses will increasingly be offering delivery only options and brands. UberEats, the food delivery brand for Uber, is making it easier and easier for high-end restaurant meals delivered to straight to your home, hot, ready to eat!

    2. Faux food

      We’ve reached a tipping point for vegetables. Millennial are pushing animal protein to the side of the plate … or entirely off it. With the rising prices of animal protein products, concerns with hormones, and healthy diet concerns, more and more option will find its way into restaurants and grocery stores, and the creation of whole new food product brands. Venture capitalists have begun investing in food companies that are developing vegetarians-based foods that taste like animal proteins, or close facsimiles.

    3. Seaweed Savior

      Expect to see many more food options, including faux foods discussed above, using seaweed and a major ingredient. Seaweed is not only healthy and abundant, its umami flavors are exactly what is needed to boost animal protein-like flavors in vegetarian foods.

    4. Sweet and Spicy is In!

      While our appetites for spicy dishes continues to grow, it is expanding to the realm of sweet things. Think chili and chocolate. Or, jalapeño with honey, stuffed sweet potatoes with Sriracha, Thai chili lime mayo, and grilled watermelon gazpacho.

    5. Food Porn Continues to Grow

      The #foodporn hashtag will continue to grow eyeballs in 2017. Obsessed by chocolate, keen on coffee and mad about prawns, gourmands from around the world share their photos on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. Think frankenshakes, chocolate cookie dirt, multi-layer stacked burgers, and ooey gooey cheesy dishes.

    6. Rethinking Pasta

      Noodles made from chickpeas, quinoa, rice flour, flax seed and lentils are still gaining popularity (reminder, they’re gluten-free). For the “zoodle” fans out there, spiralized veggies will continue to own the spotlight, along with other exciting plant options, like kelp noodles.

    7. Africa is the New Ethnic Cuisine

      America’s growing multicultural population is behind the charge for more international food. Relatively under-explored in the United States, African flavors and ingredients increasingly pop up on menus across the country. So savvy foodies are adapting menus to include more dishes rich in whole grains, beans, vegetables and exotic African spice blends from the second-largest continent in the world.

    8. Wellness Tonics

      Forget sugary, vitamin-infused waters—new hyper-functional, ultra-healthy, virtually medicinal beverages are about to flood the market. Tonics with botanicals that have roots in alternative medicine will be popular in 2017. Whether you’re in need of an energy boost, focusing your thoughts, or quality shut-eye, there’s a drink for that—no specialty store required. The most popular ingredients include kava, holy basil, apple cider vinegar, medicinal mushrooms, and maca and ashwagandha. Experience turmeric tonic or cayenne infused Chili Mocha to fight inflammation and free radicals.

    9. Fermentation is In

      Fermentation has fascinated chefs for years as they’ve tried to uncover new ways to create naturally complex flavors with nuanced textures and bright fresh colors. While home chefs have dabbled in rotting foods, the home kitchen hasn’t yet really broken out into mainstream but it will in 2017. Restaurant chefs will likely play into the growing notion that older, bubbling, cultured, and fermented foods are better for your health, for flavor, and for planet earth.

    9 Wine Trends for 2017

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    Wine Trends for 2017

    1. A Year for Sparkling Wines

      Millennials are important in driving the growth of sparkling wines. And, they aren’t limited for consumption only on special occasions only.

    2. Interest in Chilled Wine Won’t Cool

      More and more reds, especially lighter-bodied ones, are being served cooled. A major trend in chilled wine is growing with fruit-forward styles such as Beaujolais and grenache. Chilling these wines brings out the wines’ brightness and spirit. Will this be the year of ice added to red wine?

    3. Wine By the Glass to Increase in Popularity

      Red, white, rose – why not all three. Consumers like to experiment and they prefer to pair a wine with each course and for each individual’s taste.

    4. Demand for Organic, Biodynamic Wine to Increase

      In general there will be a huge demand for organically grown food. The idea remains same for wines as well, there will be a demand for natural wines meaning the grapes which are grown without use of chemicals and not harming the ecology of the soil. Given the aspirational attitude of Wine consumers, Small batch/Single Vineyards/Single Barrel type of exclusive wines will drive a lot of interest.

    5. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon Will Continue to Dominate Sales

      However, there is a trend toward more diversity. French wine sales are up 23 percent and there are excellent wines available at competitive pricing, particularly from the southwest, Beaujolais Cru Gamay, sparkling Cremants, Languedoc Roussillon and Provence rose and white wines, like Petit Manseng. Others to consider include Spanish white Albariño, Cava and Rioja wines, Chilean and Argentinian reds and South African Chenin Blanc and Syrah. We are also likely to see more East Coast wines from New York, Virginia and Georgia available in Riesling, Viognier and French and American hybrids.

    6. The Wine Slushy to Rule this Summer

      For the summer, wine slushies, a take off from Sangrias, are a perfect recipe. Blending wine, fruit, and ice into a refreshing frozen drink.

    7. Bourbon Barrel Wine

      This is a current trend of 2016, and will definitely be something you’ll continue to see in 2017. Barrels that once held bourbon or whiskey are being refurbished and used to age wine. The oak barrels are charred for aroma and flavor. Adventurous wine drinkers are recommended to try it, which means more people are learning about this type of wine. The popularity of bourbon barrel wine is continuing to increase, and will definitely be a topic to talk about in 2017. So will you take a walk on the wild side and try this type of wine?

    8. Drinking Out Vs. Drinking In

      On-premise wine sales are on a decline, while off-premise wine sales are growing. People want to drink wine by the at home, rather than spend a lot of money on a bottle of wine while they’re out, where the price of a bottle can exceed the cost of the entire rest of the meal.

    9. Coming Out for Canned Wine

      One of the most surprising trends to hit the wine industry in quite some time is that of canned wine. In the past year alone, the sale of canned wine has nearly doubled, largely due to the millennial influence. Reds, whites, sparklers and everything in between can be put into a can without issue, and the end result is a convenient, portable and usually very affordable option that’s tailor-fit for the beach or for entertaining. In many ways, cans help to protect wine, as they don’t allow any light in and are even better at preventing oxidation than traditional corked bottles. There are a handful of cans out there right now, but 2017 will see an explosion of new entries to the market.

    No Fail Recipes