Pretty and functional; Soirée in-bottle wine decanter

Can a decent, full-bodied young red wine be a better bottle with oxygenation?

Absolutely, since aeration is essential to bringing out the best in nose and flavor. Contact with air allows wine to ripen or open and the makers of Soirée's innovative bottle-top decanter get it.

Using a cool climate Pinot Noir, William Cole Alto Vuelo 2007 (Chile), I put the little decanter that could to the test.

First, I tasted my Pinot Noir the old-fashioned way.  After pouring a generous glass, I gave it a good swirl and a long whiff - bright berry aromas, hints of vanilla and cinnamon.  The mouthfeel was softly tannic. A nice value at $9.99.

Would Soirée make a drinkable wine tastier?  Yes, without a doubt.

I poured my next glass using the delicate-looking but sturdy ornament-shaped decanter.  The nose was a jammier strawberry and the finish longer with the more subtle spice flavors prolonged.

During another tasting, I sampled a 2007 Altos de Cuco from Yecla in the region of Murcia, little known for its quality, better known for its quantity.  Intense and full-bodied, the ruby red wine blossomed with deep blackberry aromas.  The experience was a bit like nostalgia for an old lover, decidedly better for having the space to consider it.

Soirée comes equipped with two rubber gaskets, to accommodate any bottle, and a nifty stand. Retailing for $24.99, it makes a fun gift paired with a bottle of wine, and a must-have for your home accessories collection.  

Sleepy Goat Cheese Farm: Happy Goats Make Strange and Wonderful Cheese


Fellow foodie Maura Badji. Read more of her musings on other subjects. A sunny day in the Seven Cities is a thing of beauty: water shimmering in the distance, budding trees swaying in the breeze, and a chance to slip off confining outerwear.  

The shiny Sunday I arrived at 5 Points Community Farm Market for Sleepy Goat Farm’s Cheese workshop was the first sunny day we’d had in over a week.  Virginians take fine weather seriously; only one other attendee showed.  More time with the goat people and their artisan cheeses for us, I said. 


The goat folk are Della Williams and Jon Dorman, both board-certified neurologists, and cheesemakers. Dorman hosted the cheese-tasting with gentle wit and infinite patience for questions, while Williams, who possesses a pleasantly sharp sense of humor, fed us samples of Pesto Goat Cheese Cake and Eggplant Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Pomegranate Molasses. 

The Pesto Goat Cheese Cake was a savory re-working of a sweet cheesecake recipe from the Joy of Cooking, substituting chevre for ricotta.  The delightful Eggplant Sandwiches were the perfect blend of savory and sweet; other recipes can be found here and in “What Do I Do With It?:  A few ideas about using goat cheese”, the Sleepy Goat Farm cookbook.


While she sautéed onions and coated eggplant slices with seasoned breadcrumbs, Williams shared some of Sleepy Goat Farm’s history.  The graceful Degas

In 1989 they had converted an old tobacco farm in Pelham, NC into what eventually became Sleepy Goat Farm, a 164 acre home farmstead. That same year they obtained Ethel, the first goat on the farm, and a coddled pet. 

Ethel, named for Dorman’s sister (who really did not see the humor in that honor), was so much a part of the family she spent much of her time visiting in the house, and napping by the pond with Williams. 

Napping with goats?  Is that the story behind the Sleepy Goat name?  No.  Williams is a sleep doctor, as well as a neurologist; there used to be a sleep lab on the farm.  These are cheese-makers with a sense of humor. 

In 2003, after a happy 10-year practice in Dubai, UAE, the doctors returned to the States and decided they wanted a change of pace.  They began building their happy herd of Oberhasli (Obie) milk goats. 

Their certified cheese-making business began in 2004, when they obtained a farmstead cheese license from the state of NC and began selling their hand-tended cheeses at farmer’s markets in nearby Danville, VA, and Hillsborough, NC. Williams and Dorman, helped by four assistants, make several types of both raw milk and aged goat milk cheeses.

Most of the cheeses are named for Impressionist painters, rather than carrying the traditional French names of various goat cheeses. They said they really felt they could not duplicate the Tommes and Bourcherons of France here in America. 

“The cheese takes on the character of the cheese-makers, the goat herd, and of the place,” Williams explained. 

Their charming and clever labels are designed by Janel Gaddy of Danville, VA.

The first cheese I tasted at the workshop was Picasso, their chevre, a soft and wonderfully versatile cheese which can easily be mixed with different flavors.  

“I tell people to think of chevre as they would olive oil, butter, or eggs in recipes,” Williams said.  The couple ask their customers to look at Picasso cheese as their canvas for artistic culinary expression. 

The Picasso chevre comes plain, and in Herbs de Provence, Italian Herbs, Paprika & Garlic, Jalapeno, Curry-Membrillo (quince paste),  California 5-pepper mix, and Chocolate (!) flavorings.  They’ll also make Lavender and Honey by special request. 

The next cheese I sampled was one of their more popular varieties, a new cheese created because Williams wanted a cheese somewhere between the aged cheeses and the chevre. 

The Rousseau, which is only sold during the milking season, is a milder, less salty cousin of feta.   Dorman offered up bites of Marinated Rousseau (recipe in Sleepy Goat Farm cookbook) from a jar filled with oil, herbs, and hot pepper.  Rousseau is a fine salad cheese; Williams likes it on rice cakes with fresh tomato, basil leaves and a drizzle of good olive oil. 


Finally, I tasted the Degas, an aged, washed curd cheese originally made only in French monasteries (the Saint Paulin style); it had a rich, sharp flavor.  This was followed by the Cezanne, their version of a Tomme, an aged raw milk cheese with a firm texture and a mild, mellow flavor. 

“You should always eat Degas first," Dorman advised. “If you eat Degas after Cezanne it will taste bitter.”  When asked why, the cheesemaker replied with a smile: “Cheese is strange.”  

My verdict: strange and delicious.

The Sleepy Goat Farm Cheeses are sold at many Farmer’s Markets in VA and NC.  Retail outlets include Midtown Market and Fish Bones in Danville, VA and The Briar Patch in Winston-Salem, NC. 

Plans for an online store at are still in the works; look for it, possibly, this summer.  Until then, phone orders are available for shipping to VA, NC, and as far as NYC, for retail prices plus shipping and handling. 

Give Jon or Della a call @ 336-388-5388 for order/pricing inquiries.  Their address is 7215 Allison Road, Pelham, NC, 27311.  The farm is open to visitors on the 2nd Sunday of each month,between April and August, from 2-5 PM.

Virginia entrepreneur supports local farmers and economy


Maura_badji The original batch of fresh produce and herbs harvested from his grandmother’s garden that would one day lead to the award-winning “fire-blended” Sabrosa Salsa, was whipped up by Duane Thompson in his Virginia State University dorm room in 1991.

Then a football player and criminal justice major, Thompson found that hunger was the mother of invention the night he returned from a losing game to find his room-mates had eaten almost all the garden bounty his grandmother had dropped off for him.  Scrounging around for a meal, he boiled up a hot-plate full of onions, celery, peppers, and tomatoes. The resulting salsa satisfied him and sparked his curiosity about this essential Latin American condiment tracing its roots to Aztec cultures.

While researching his new-found passion, Thompson, a self-described “salsaholic”, found that what most run-of-the-mill salsas had in common was an acidic tomato base and preservatives which often led to heart-burn and acid reflux. Many batches and years of research later, Sabrosa, Spanish for “great flavor”, is an all-natural, all-local, low-pH, low acid salsa with a rich, smoky taste imparted by its distinctive fire-roasted bell pepper base.

Blended with aged balsamic vinegar, cilantro, onion, and tomato puree extracted in a unique process which lowers the natural acidic level, Sabrosa Salsa packs a powerful punch. Humble corn tortilla chips accompanied that first prototypical condiment in Thompson’s dorm room, but today’s Sabrosa Salsa is a versatile gourmet treat and a flavorful addition to roasted chicken, beef brisket, or grilled fish or vegetables.

An energetic proponent of sustainable agriculture, Thompson says, “We need to support our local economy—we have so much here.   We need to support our local farms, and by extension, local jobs.” True to his word, the Hampton, VA, native uses only select produce from local Hampton Roads farms and packs the tasty salsa in a pristine co-packing plant in Pungo.  

As part of his “go local” philosophy, Thompson also supports the local community by volunteering his time, business expertise, and knowledge about healthy eating to children in area schools from early childhood programs with An Achievable Dream, to Biz4Kidz, an international entrepreneurship program which developed The Edible Garden project at Norview High School in Norfolk, VA in partnership with Regent University in Virginia Beach.

Local, however, does not mean small potatoes. Sabrosa Foods, Inc. has garnered national attention on MSNBC’s “Your Business” and CNBC’S The Big Idea with Danny Deutsch. Sabrosa also won the Best New Food Product Diamond Award at the 2008 Virginia Food and Beverage Expo.  Thompson’s positive outlook and attention to detail have kept Sabrosa Foods growing, even in a rocky economy; look for Sabrosa Foods to go international and national in the next few years.

Available in mild or medium heat, Sabrosa Salsa is sold on and at Duane Thompson’s store in the Five Points Community Farmer’s Market (2500 Church Street, Norfolk, VA) for $6.50 per 12 oz jar. 

The naturally colorful, and very addictive, condiment is also stocked throughout Virginia by Farm Fresh (Hampton Roads), Ukrops Grocery (Williamsburg to Richmond), many specialty shops such as Kitchen Koop and Organic Depot (both in Portsmouth, VA),  The Sauce Shop (Virginia Beach, VA) and in the Farmers Markets in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Yorktown and Williamsburg.

A native New Yorker living an dworking in Virginia Beach, VA, Maura Alia Badji is a poet, writer, teacher and mother. Her article originally ran on her blog at Skirt!