An Authentic Port Wine Tasting Experience – Porto, Portugal

An Authentic Port Wine Tasting Experience – Porto, Portugal

For a port wine enthusiast, like my husband Mark, our recent trip to Portugal was a dream come true. We spent two weeks in Portugal, with an emphasis on Porto, the home of his favorite wine…Port. Port is a rich blend of Douro Valley grapes, fortified with Brandy, made exclusively in northern Portugal. Porto is a vibrant city which is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Porto lies on the northern banks of the Douro River, and on the southern banks is Vila Nova de Gaia, where the Port Lodges reside. It is here where all of the Port is stored in barrels and matured in cellars.

My husband was seeking a truly unique Port wine tasting experience, so instead of going to all of the cellars, we arranged in advance for a private tour of one of the smaller, exclusive lodges, Vasconcellos. Our tour guide, Jorgito, shared with us that they make only 40,000 bottles a year. The large houses that distribute worldwide might make as many as 1 million bottles a month. We learned that the Port maturing in the French Oak barrels is a blend of wines. For example, a 40 year old Port is really a minimum of 40 years old and likely contains some wine that was 60 or 70 years old.

Jorgito at Vasconcellos Port House – Portugal

We tasted a variety of Port:
White – while my husband typically finds white Port harsh, like a Scotch or Bourbon, this was incredibly smooth and sweet.
Vintage – this is produced in what is named a “Vintage” year, an official designation by a government authority when certain growing conditions are met. It is made and bottled that year and is not a blend. Once opened, a Vintage should be consumed within three days. This was probably my favorite, as I am not a wine enthusiast or a Port aficionado, but I found it to be very enjoyable (especially with dark chocolate).
10 year old Tawny – this was like drinking a high quality 20 year old Port in the U.S.
20 year old Tawny – super complex flavor profile with walnuts, raisins and other fruity flavors. It had a beginning, middle and end.
30 year old Tawny – this was the best Port my husband ever tasted…until he was offered the 40 year old.
40 year old Tawny – My husband was the only one who was passionate enough to taste this Port. (Jorgito knew he was the only one who would truly appreciate this experience as it was meant to be experienced). There were no words used to describe the taste, rather, his face beamed with the biggest grin I have ever seen! Perhaps he died and went to Port heaven for a moment. He was able to describe it later as beautifully light in color, fruity essence, with complex nut flavors and an amazing almost syrupy/caramel taste. Velvety smooth.

Port Wine Tasting

The wine tasting at Vasconcellos Port house was a once in a lifetime experience, that we hope to experience again in our lifetime. Vasconcellos Port is not sold outside of this Port house, in Gaia. We were able to purchase it and have it shipped to us. It arrived this week:
• Two bottles of Vintage Port 2012 – to be consumed for special occasions, like our 30 year wedding anniversary, or the birth of our first grandchild, maybe.
• One bottle of 10 year old Port – to be shared with Port loving friends, only.
• One bottle of 20 year old Port – to be shared with one friend who truly appreciates Port wine.
• Two bottles of 40 year old Port – referred to by Jorgito as “two bottles of Selfish” – these will only be consumed by Mark. Period.

Port Wine Selfish
“Selfish Port” – 40 year old Tawny

Other Tastes of Portugal
Portugal is a beautiful country, their people are super friendly, the weather in September was perfect, and nearly everyone spoke English with us. There were so many incredibly unique things we saw there. In addition to the Port cellars, these are most memorable:
Portuguese Pavement – The sidewalks and streets are truly a work of art made of black and white pavers. These are hand-carved from basalt and limestone blocks, then individually placed by hand by an artisan.
Portuguese Ceramic Tile – These ceramic tiles decorate literally everything in Portugal. They can be found on the sides of ordinary houses, buildings, inside train stations, the outer walls of churches and palaces, shops, etc. Sometimes they make a mosaic pattern, sometimes they build a huge mural.
Portuguese Cork Products – We learned that Portugal is the biggest cork producer in the world. Cork Oak trees must be 25 years old before cork can be harvested. It is sustainable as only the outer cork layer is stripped from the living tree every nine years. These Cork Oaks can live to be 200 years old. Cork is used to make purses, belts, shoes, wallets, etc. Think leather products, and you will find them in cork.
Portuguese Fado – Fado music is considered the “urban blues” of Portugal. It usually consists of a mournful sounding solo singer accompanied by a classical Portuguese guitar. This is a must experience. I would recommend a small, intimate family-owned Fado House like we experienced in Funcha, Madeira, called Travessa dos Torres. The singing was filled with passion and sorrow. The food was delicious.

Portugal Flavors

What a wonderful experience we had in Portugal. I hope you have a chance to visit this place, too.

John Boos Introduces Foundry Collection Dining Table Sets

John Boos Introduces Foundry Collection Dining Table Sets

Press Release – The New Foundry Collection Line Includes Rustic Dining Tables and Complementary Dining Benches and Stools

Illinois-based John Boos & Co. unveiled an all-new line of dining table sets: The Boos Block® Foundry Collection. According to marketing materials for the new product line, these dining tables, stools and benches meld together Boos butcher blocks, for which the company is best known, and table, stool and bench bases constructed of steel forged into shapely designs; hence the name, Foundry Collection.

While Foundry Collection table tops are the same butcher blocks that Boos long ago made famous, the bases of these tables incorporate features that truly distinguish Foundry Collection tables from all predecessors. First, table bases will come in two modern designs: Pub Style and Bistro Style. The legs of Pub Style bases are convex; they flare outward to provide a stout and stately look. Bistro Style bases, on the other hand, are concave. They gently taper inward and convey sleekness and elegance. The steel bases of both table designs will be powder-coated to enhance safety and appearance.

What really sets a Foundry Collection table apart is a second butcher block that’s incorporated into the base of the table. Spanning the distance between the table’s two steel trestles, this butcher block is anchored to each support. This second board, known as a “stringer,” adds structural stability as well as visual accent to the base structure.

Boos will offer both styles of Foundry Collection tables in four wood species – maple, walnut, cherry, and oak; in three heights; and in 6 sizes. In sum, that’s 24 different looks and 144 variations in total. Boos is also offering two seating solutions – dining stools and benches – in complementary designs. Boos benches will also incorporate stringers.

Foundry Collection – Bistro Style table with matching stools

According to the company’s Vice President of Marketing, Steve Pless,

“We saw an opportunity to increase our dining table sales by designing distinctively different tables that still showcase what we’re known for – naturally beautiful Boos butcher blocks. Our design team came up with two great-looking styles, and the butcher block stringer extends the wood look from above the table into its base structure.”

Pless explained that Boos is partnering with its longtime online dealer Butcher Block Co. to make the new line available to the public in time for the critical holiday shopping season. “A broad rollout is planned for early next year. Meanwhile, the Foundry Collection line will be available online only, exclusively at ButcherBlockCo.com,” he added.

Kathleen Grodsky, Butcher Block Co.’s Vice President of Marketing, seems excited about prospects for the new line. “Boos’s design team did a fabulous job marrying the beauty of butcher block with two attractive table base designs. Foundry Collection tables will fill a void in Butcher Block Co.’s product catalog. It’s great to now be able to offer modern industrial, rustic dining tables to homeowners and commercial customers seeking innovative, cutting-edge designs.”

Customer Satisfaction is Our #1 Priority!

Customer Satisfaction is Our #1 Priority!

Customer Satisfaction is our number one priority at Butcher Block Co., and we’ve got loads of five star reviews to prove it! We collect reviews from verified customers on their overall satisfaction (not just product satisfaction) in order to provide a full picture of what you can expect when shopping at Butcher Block Co.

Our website is easy to use and our customer satisfaction team is always happy to help if you need more assistance or just prefer to talk with a real person!

Speaking of our team, when you call us at 877-845-5597, know that you will be connected with a friendly, knowledgeable representative who takes customer satisfaction very seriously. We have a small (but mighty!) group who loves butcher block just as much as you do. And if we’re being honest, it’s really gratifying to see a specific, personal reference pop up in a review!


Another delightful example of customer satisfaction is the gallery of beautiful photos sent in by customers who love their butcher blocks! You do such beautiful work in your homes and we are always thrilled to be a part of it!

In just about any business, the best example of customer satisfaction is the repeat customer! We have customers who order from us once or twice a year for wedding/birthday/graduation gifts, as well as contractors and designers who order several times per year for full kitchen remodeling projects. And we appreciate them all!

We put a lot of resources into customer satisfaction, and we sure love to hear from you. Leave us a review with your next order, or send us photos of your project, and maybe we’ll feature you in our next post!

Antimicrobial Efficacy of Oiled John Boos Cutting Boards Is Validated

Antimicrobial Efficacy of Oiled John Boos Cutting Boards Is Validated

Scientific Research Has Substantiated the Antimicrobial Efficacy of John Boos Wood Cutting Boards Protected with Boos Mystery Oil and Boos Block® Board Cream.

John Boos & Co., with headquarters and manufacturing facilities in the Central Illinois town of Effingham, dates back to 1887. That’s when founder Conrad Boos carved his first wooden block from a Sycamore tree for use as a blacksmith’s sturdy work table. Recognizing that meat butchers too had need for rugged chopping tables, Boos’ son John expanded the family’s product line. Today, Boos’ ubiquitous butcher blocks and wooden cutting boards are trusted by professional and celebrity chefs and preferred by aspiring gourmets because of their design, craftsmanship, beauty, and functionality.

But there’s another reason for pros and amateurs alike to flock to Boos cutting boards: their antimicrobial properties. This characteristic of properly oiled Boos Rock Maple cutting boards was assessed by Professor Nenad Miljkovic of the University of Illinois and his team of researchers who are experts in the areas of nanoengineered surfaces and coating technologies.

Miljkovic and his team studied NSF-approved Boos cutting boards made of U.S. Northern Hard Rock Maple. NSF is an independent evaluative and testing organization that assesses the raw materials a manufacturer uses, plus its manufacturing processes and practices. The NSF designation signals that the product that carries it meets recognized food service industry standards designed to promote public health.

The key finding of the university’s research team was that once a Boos NSF-certified maple cutting board used to carve meat was then coated with Boos Block Board Cream and Boos Mystery Oil, the level of bacteria on its surface was reduced to “a ‘clean level’ in just three hours.”

The researchers determined that application of the two moisturizing substances created a hydrophobic, or water-resisting, barrier on the boards that made it more difficult for bacteria to adhere to the wood.

Furthermore, they concluded that Boos Mystery Oil helped any meat juice remaining on the surface of the board be absorbed into the fibers of the wood, where naturally occurring enzymes found in Northern Hard Rock Maple killed off any remaining bacteria. 

Professor Miljkovic stated that, “Prior to this project, we believed the function of cutting board oil was simply to prevent drying of the wood, but our research showed that it actually enables microbes to absorb into the wood grain, which contain antimicrobial enzymes that kill bacteria. We found that USA grown Northern Hard Rock Maple, used by John Boos & Co. to create cutting boards, was the most effective species of hardwood that contained these antimicrobial enzymes, which kill bacteria.”

For more information, please visit https://butcherblockco.com, a leading online dealer of John Boos products.

Easy, Maple Walnut Crusted Salmon

Easy, Maple Walnut Crusted Salmon

Our guest blogger, Erin from Food Wise Family, is here to share an easy walnut crusted salmon recipe. This simple recipe makes a delightful dinner that can easily be paired with any veggie side dish.

I love a dinner that comes together with little effort. This walnut crusted salmon recipe is one of those meals. It only takes minutes to top the delicious salmon with a crunchy, sweet, smoky glaze and then throw it in the oven to bake away. Prep a side of your favorite veggies while it cooks, and you have a healthy meal on the table in under 30 minutes.

I am always afraid to cook salmon. I’m scared I’ll overcook it and ruin it. I have this fear because the first time I cooked salmon, it was undercooked after the given amount of time stated in the recipe. So I placed it back in the oven and didn’t check it soon enough, and to my surprise, it was now overcooked. When salmon is overcooked, it’s dry and loses its flavor. Until recently, I usually had my husband cook salmon, but I finally got past my fear.

One thing that helps to not overcook the walnut crusted salmon in this recipe, is to make sure you set a timer to check in on it before the full time is up, and continually check on it until it’s done. Salmon changes from red to pink as it bakes in the oven. Take a fork and peek in the thickest part of the fillet. Once the meat starts to flake easily the salmon is done.

Easy Maple Walnut Crusted Salmon
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Baking Time: 13-17 Minutes
Total Time: 18-22 Minutes

Ingredients
2 lb salmon fillet
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp avocado oil
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Place salmon on aluminum foil-lined or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  3. Combine maple syrup, Dijon mustard, avocado oil, paprika, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Once thoroughly mixed, fold in walnuts.
  4. Evenly coat salmon fillets with the maple walnut mixture.
  5. Bake for 13 – 17 minutes, or until salmon is done. Make sure not to overcook it.
Walnut Crusted Salmon Prep

I believe that the food we put on the table should not only be healthy, but easy and full of flavor. Check out my website foodwisefamily.com for more wholesome recipes.

Here is another Walnut Recipe you are sure to love: Easy, Delicious Walnut Banana Bread

Undermount Sink Cutouts – What You Need to Know

Undermount Sink Cutouts – What You Need to Know

Undermount sinks, including farm and apron styles, are by far the more popular option for kitchen sinks these days. An undermount sink is any sink that mounts to the underside of the countertop, rather than dropping in on top of the counter. Besides looking beautiful, undermount sinks also have the advantage of providing a smoother clean-up process – simply wipe crumbs and scraps right into the sink, without getting anything caught in the rim like you would with a drop-in style sink.

While we love undermount sinks, they do require extra care when installed in a butcher block top… We’re here to help you before you install.

Your sink cutout can be done when your countertop is manufactured, so that it is installation-ready when you receive it. Undermount sink cutouts void the manufacturer’s warranty whether done at the factory or onsite, so it is important that the cutout is done right! Read our previous post, Custom Countertops from Start to Finish, to see the process involved in making your top.

An undermount style sink installed in a butcher block top will leave wood edges exposed to water, which means a higher potential for water damage than if you use a drop-in style sink. Before you install, it is very important that you are mindful of this potential damage, that you prepare the edges in advance, and do your best to avoid exposing those edges to splashes and standing water when in use.

No matter if your cutout is DIY or factory done, you need to take extra precautions when installing your sink to protect the exposed edges of the cutout:

undermount sink
  • If you have a polyurethane or varnish finished top, apply extra layers of finish on the underside of the counter, several inches around the perimeter of the sink cutout. This will help avoid any moisture damage if there are leaks in your sink or faucet. You must apply additional coats of poly to the exposed cutout edge itself to give it more water resistance.

undermount sink
  • For oil-finished tops, use an oil-based poly on the underside. For the exposed edges, you must apply melted beeswax or paraffin wax to repel water. It is important to reapply the wax occasionally to maintain water resistance. Alternatively, you may use an oil-based matte poly finish on these edges, but we recommend you test in an inconspicuous area first to be sure you are happy with the look.

Whether you choose to do it yourself or go with a factory cutout, we are here to help! Give us a call if you have any questions or concerns, and our experts will help you decide the best option for your home and lifestyle.

Healthy Blueberry Jam – A Sweet Summer Condiment

Healthy Blueberry Jam – A Sweet Summer Condiment

Did you know July is National Blueberry Month? Erin, our guest blogger from Food Wise Family, is here to share a quick, yet healthy blueberry jam recipe that’s perfect for spreading on your favorite breads, pancakes, crackers, or even adding to yogurt or oatmeal.

This healthy blueberry jam recipe makes approximately one cup of jam, which is ideal when you only want a small batch in your refrigerator. Plus, this recipe takes 15 minutes or less and uses only three ingredients, making this recipe super simple!

What Makes This Jam Healthy?

The jam you find in the store is usually packed with refined sugar, but this healthy blueberry jam lets the natural sweetness of the blueberries and a little bit of honey do the work.

So, this isn’t the sweetest jam you’ll ever taste, but it does the job to create a balanced bite of blueberry sweetness to whatever you add it to.

I love to use chia seeds, and this healthy blueberry jam recipe is an opportune time to add them. In jam recipes, you often will discover that pectin is used to help gel the jam. The chia seeds are replacing the pectin in this recipe. Chia seeds absorb the blueberry juice produced in this recipe and helps to give the jam its gelatinous quality. If you’re not familiar with chia seeds, they are rich in omega-3s, protein, fiber, and calcium, making them a great addition.

Healthy Blueberry Jam Recipe

Cook Time: 5 Minutes
Rest Time: 5 – 10 Minutes
Total Time: 10 – 15 minutes

healthy blueberry jam ingredients

Ingredients
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
3 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp honey

Instructions

healthy blueberry jam prep
  1. In a small saucepan, heat blueberries on medium while stirring occasionally.
  2. Once berries are warmed and start to break down (about 5 minutes), mash them with a potato masher or other utensil (fork, wooden spoon, etc).
  3. Add chia seeds to the saucepan and stir several times until mixed in. Let lightly simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat and stir in honey.
  5. Allow the jam to cool for 10 minutes, and enjoy warm or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for later use.

I believe that the food we put on the table should not only be healthy, but easy and full of flavor. Check out my website foodwisefamily.com for more wholesome recipes.

Feeling Knotty? Knotty Alder Brings Rustic Charm to Your Home

Feeling Knotty? Knotty Alder Brings Rustic Charm to Your Home

Knotty Alder butcher block has been one of our fastest growing species options over the past couple years. Because it is very lightweight, it is easy to move, and is therefore used mostly in furniture and cabinets. But recently we have seen a surge in its popularity for island tops, dining tables, and even countertops.

Knotty alder is an affordable and versatile wood that can be used throughout your home!

The rustic, natural appearance of knotty alder lends warmth and charm to many décor styles. Our customer Brandi, for example, has a gorgeous kitchen with modern appliances and more traditional cabinets. Her 2.5″ thick knotty alder island top somehow ties everything together perfectly, bringing a beautiful warmth to the cooler palette of her design.

knotty alder

Blending light tans to medium and dark reddish browns, knotty alder also stains quite well if you want to go darker. It even looks great with whitewashing, so the coloring can be quite versatile. Check out our customer Amie’s beautifully stained top! She used the plank style knotty alder with the hand-scraped treatment, then applied her own stain and finish to match her cabinets. The knot holes present throughout the lumber may be more apparent and frequent in plank style tops, with some holes going all the way through.

knotty alder

Knotty alder is on the softer end of the hardwood spectrum, and that softness combined with the knot holes mean it is not ideal for the rigors of chopping, but it is certainly durable enough to be used as a table, bar, or island top. For a smooth surface, you may choose to fill the knots with either a matching wood filler or a clear epoxy. Once finished and sealed, you will have a beautiful smooth surface suitable for just about any application!

We hope you are feeling knotty now, too! Check out our online custom quote calculator if you are interested in getting pricing for your own project in 1 of 15 different species!

Sweet Potato Toast Recipe – A Must Try!

Sweet Potato Toast Recipe – A Must Try!

Sweet Potato Toast
Here’s something sweet, yet wholesome for dad this Father’s Day. Our guest blogger, Erin, over at Food Wise Family, has a great addition for any breakfast, brunch or even appetizer.

What is Sweet Potato Toast?
Sweet potato toast is sliced sweet potatoes that have been perfectly baked in the oven. Well, it’s not bread and it doesn’t really taste like toast, so why call it toast? It is dubbed as toast because it can hold all your favorite toppings just like toast. If you want to be fancy, you could even think of it as a healthier form of bruschetta. Not only is this gluten free, but it is a delicious and healthy option.

The recipe below uses almond butter and strawberries, but this is just an example.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to sweet potato toast. Whether it’s avocado and tomatoes or honey and cinnamon, just think of your favorite toast toppings and have at it.

Leftovers Are Great
This sweet potato toast recipe calls for one large sweet potato. If you don’t think you’re going to eat that much in one sitting, these make great leftovers. Just store any plain slices in an airtight container in your fridge. When you want to eat them, just pop one in the toaster on a low to medium setting, and then top with your favorite topping once warmed.

Sweet Potato Toast
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Baking Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients
1 large sweet potato
almond butter
sliced strawberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Wash and dry sweet potato. Cut off both ends of the sweet potato and cut lengthwise into 1/4-1/2 inch slices.
  3. Place sweet potato slices in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool. Smother sweet potato slices in almond butter and top with sliced strawberries.
sweet potato toast prep

I believe that the food we put on the table should not only be healthy, but easy and full of flavor. Check out my website foodwisefamily.com for more wholesome recipes.

Looking for another Father’s Day Recipe? Here is a (not-so-healthy) recipe for you to consider: Father’s Day Sliders!

Hickory Butcher Block Grows in Popularity

Hickory Butcher Block Grows in Popularity

Hickory butcher block has become increasingly popular over the last couple years, sliding in just behind maple and walnut to round out our top three best sellers. Known for its unique appearance, hickory wood is also very hard, making it an incredibly durable option for many applications. Its hardness level can also make it a bit difficult to work with, so if you need custom cuts, it is best to consult with us and have them done in our shop. Hickory is not just used as butcher block in the kitchen, though! It can be utilized in the bathroom, home office, laundry room…anywhere!

From countertops to cabinets, desktops to dining tables, hickory butcher block can add a beautiful and dependable surface to any room of your home or office.

The lumber for our hickory butcher block is readily available and sourced from Ohio and the surrounding area. The heartwood is a beautiful brown color that pairs nicely with the more creamy and light sapwood. The plank style hickory boasts large swaths of the beautiful grain pattern, whereas the edge grain style typically has a somewhat striped appearance.

Below on the left is a full kitchen remodel from customers Victoria and Mark, who used the plank style hickory with a varnish finish to revamp their countertops and center island. We were able to accommodate the unique shape of their island as well as the custom bump-out at the kitchen sink. On the right is a kitchen cart with an edge grain hickory top, highlighting the stripey pattern.

Hickory Butcher Block

Our happy customer, William, from California, installed this gorgeous 3” thick edge grain style hickory block to complete his beautiful kitchen. It looks stunning with those green cabinets and rustic brick backsplash.

Hickory Butcher Block

As you can see, hickory butcher block is an incredibly versatile material that adds function and beauty to your space. We hope you are inspired to bring some hickory into your life! Check out our online instant quote calculator to get pricing for your project.