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Return here each Friday to find food, movie, wine and music recommendations that are paired in a theme. Read on for an easy, no-recipe-required fabulous dinner paired with an affordable wine, some music, and a viewing suggestion. We’re here to help you sit back, wine down and chill.

Wine down and chill – but don’t tell anyone

Shhhh. Although the title may have given it away, this column is Top Secret. Our wine down and chill theme today is espionage. Here, we’ll focus on anything and everything to do with spies. Have you ever dreamed of being a spy? Perhaps you love life on the edge and have mulled the idea of being a double-agent If not, don’t worry. You’ll have fun with today’s theme.

Have you ever wondered what spies eat? Based on the hundreds of espionage movies out there, it seems that spies only drink. No judgment. Hell, after all, I’m the one who writes a weekly wine down and chill column. Secret agents don’t ever seem to eat. Has anyone else noticed this? James Bond 007 is a rare breed: he seems to be the only spy who eats. Check that, he loves to eat.

If you’re into this kind of genre, you can take tours around the world which guide you through secret tunnels, back doors, and fantastic epicurean adventures. Or, if you’re a tad more pedestrian like the rest of us, and you live in Chicago, you can “eat like a spy.” Speaking of Chicago, the city just gained its newest resident, hey Alicia! If you’re in the windy city, check out Safehouse and sample their menu which happens to be designed for spies.

The secret gem from down under

Ok, today’s wine down and chill recommendation isn’t from Australia, it’s from New Zealand, but it’s worth adding to your rotation all the same. Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect fit as we wind down summer and the season of icy chilled whites. Priced at $14 per bottle, it’s a good buy although it can be a bit challenging to find.

Wine Down and Chill in Spy ValleyThis wine has a peachy aroma but not sweet. Rather, it’s fresh and clean on the palette. Its secret note to hunt for is mango. Can you find it?

But that’s not what makes today’s wine down and chill selection special. Spy Valley’s “secret” (aka little-known-fact) is that they purchased Area H in the Wairau Valley to restore wetlands destroyed through colonization. This effort has spurred greater biodiversity in the area which helps this winery, and others nearby, better manage pests through natural, sustainable methods which we’ve discussed previously.

There’s always a secret ingredient

My family and my sister’s family are anti-fungi peeps. They all have this not uncommon fear and loathing of mushrooms. Did you know that this is a disorder (isn’t everything these days?!) and that they have a name for it? It’s called mycophobia.

I, on the other hand, love, love, love mushrooms. In fact, my favorite food in the world is pasta (gluten-free, sadly, sigh!) con Funghi with truffle oil. It doesn’t get more fungus-y than that! My point is that I hide mushrooms in just about everything that I cook. Throw some portabellas in a food processor and they come out looking like ground beef. Now everyone knows my secret …

My other go-to-secret ingredient is Old Bay Seasoning by McCormick’s. This stuff is magical! Sprinkle it on crispy baked potatoes, fish or bruschetta. Add it into your chili. Mmmmm. Divine! It has a secret combination of 18 herbs and spices that work wonders together. Here, we’ll use it for our Shrimp Kabobs.

Five ingredients and five steps

One, wash up the shrimp and skewer it to steel or pre-soaked wooden sticks (essential so that they don’t catch on fire on the grill).

Two, make up a bowl of olive oil, lime juice, finely minced cilantro and yes, you guessed it, Old Bay Seasoning. Paint the shrimp kabobs liberally with this mixture and save half for your rice.

Three, cook up a pot of rice in your Insta-Pot (which has more than 35,000 reviews on Amazon, so it rocks). Once cooked, toss with the lime-cilantro mixture.

Four, slice up a fresh pineapple, sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning and quickly grill it.

Five, plate the rice, garnish with a grilled pineapple slice and add a kabob alongside. Optionally, you can drizzle Lawry’s Hawaiian Marinade over everything. This is another gem by McCormick. It looks good and tastes great!

Pour yourself a glass as you begin to wine down and chill.

Maestro, queue music

For a little extra fun, I’ve been thinking about adding a music selection each week. As you’re preparing your dinner, crank up some tunes to get into the mood. For this week’s wine down and chill espionage theme, no surprise, I recommend that you listen to SPY, available on Amazon. Spin it up on Alexa and CRANK UP THE VOLUME for Track 3, Who Can You Trust?

The Spy

At first, I couldn’t believe that it was Sacha Baron Cohen in this role. He’s infamous for his over-the-top pranks but his performance demands that you take him seriously in the role of Eli Cohen, an Israeli spy who infiltrated Syria’s government back in the 1960s. The Spy is a 6-part Netflix-original mini-series. After just one episode, I’m enthralled and will be watching the other five later this weekend. Check out the trailer here.

Alright, there you are. But no need to keep this wine down and chill column a secret. Share it with your friends!

Cheers!

Awesome image by Msporch from Pixabay