Life is pretty good these days. I’ve not done much of the exciting nature this summer, but a few professional surprises have made up for it. And while there are still a few weeks left in this season, I’m basking in the goodness that’s been so far. If you read Flanboyant Eats, you know I had the super fun chance and really almost decade-long dream of cooking on the TODAY show. But was it was even better than just cooking on my fave show. I got to hook it up on the Plaza with Carson Daly, who is just a charm. And that was amazing. Just over a month ago. Oh, but it gets better.
In between travel to Florida, working on a remodeling project at home, and a picking up a few new clients, thinking my summer fun is dwindling and not really hitting it’s real pique potential, I got another call from the TODAY show… at the very least unimaginable time.
I love how God and the universe work when you think, do, and believe big. I was sitting in my brother’s living room in sunny Miami, watching the 9 am hour of the show (have you gathered by now I’m the corniest peacock fan?!?!) Natalie Morales came on doing a promo for ¡VIVA! TODAY, a week-long series on celebrating Hispanic culture. They were partnering up with Telemundo and featuring their biggest stars, including novela actors, news anchors, Latin-American celebrities and personalities. As I’m watching the promo, on a Thursday morning, I had a conversation with myself: “Wow! How great! Now, that would have been the week to be on the show!” They were covering food, wine, culture, family, and life as I know it, in general. Almost everything I cover and talk about! How insanely perfect, right? I said that and kept on with my business — probably doing his laundry.
And no less than two hours later, I got that call inviting me on, precisely to be on during ¡VIVA! week. ¿Que, que? En serio?
I had a moment, thanked God, and gleefully took on the assignment. Oh, because, yes, this is work after all.
So, here I am with Kathie Lee and Hoda-woman, in Studio 1A, last Thursday morning, after our ‘Wines of South America‘ segment.
But let me backtrack. You know the week had already been replete with salsa kind of caliente stars and storyboards on our culture. Ironically, I missed Monday and Tuesday’s shows since I was traveling back to DC. But I knew they were doing the most. And on Thursday morning, I knew they’d have little people dancing energetic salsa on the Plaza in shiny gold leotards and perfectly coiffed hair. I missed that, too.
I was too busy prepping for my segment with the kind of pressure I know best — super last-minute, with little time, pulling information on what travelers can do in various regions in four different countries and quickly becoming knowledgable about wines yielding from those parts. That was the fun part, but I had more pressure pairing food with my selections. Uruguay? What in the world do they eat? Who even knew they produce a decent wine? A pricey one at that?
And I really only give that you background… well, because when you watch the segment below, you’ll notice I didn’t get to it all!
And that’s because KLG and Hoda (and I) were surprised with J.LO! Yeah, that girl. Good ol’ Jenny from the block was a surprise guest on the 4th hour! And she’d be doing my segment with us. Talk about a curve ball! But, the best one of them to date.
(My brother’s screenshot as he watched live)
TODAY — Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford, Jennifer Lopez, Benny Medina and Bren Herrera appear on NBC News’ “Today” show — (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)
How incredibly fun! Fun, fun, fun. You already know how it went… straight up chatterboxes and enjoying the wine more than anything else…
Here, watch for yourself!
(this video will not play from a mobile device unless your plug-in is updated … if you’re on one, click here to see on NBC’s site.)
Notice how J.Lo’s booty cut my segment short. Imagine that! Hers remains a force to be reckoned with. And in reality, she’s more gorgeous than we all see into the tabloids, videos, American Idol, etc… Ideally, that’d be case for everyone. It’s her reality… whatever she does. La Boricua does in fact have this unnatural glow. From one Latina to another, she is downright stunning. And doing her thing, still.
And so I did my super fast-paced segment, talking all things I know and do best! Right in my element, side-by-side the 2nd Latina that’s brought our fabulous and ultra diverse culture to the fore; the one mega watt start that’s gotten the world hyped up about our culture and has intrigued people with what makes us so sassy; so sexy, so the IT factor for the past 15 years.
And that’s why I swear by the TODAY show: they just know how do it and do it right. My producer kept the surprise cool as ever and I’m so tickled and thankful she trusted with me being able to manage it without any deflections.
But since it turned out to be more of a wino fest, and I didn’t get into all the detail I wanted to about each region, their wine, and the delicious dish you can pair with, I’ll share here what you missed. It’s valuable information; something you can appreciate if you travel, are making travel arrangements to any one of these países, or want to host a pachanga at your house and need wine and food options — South America style!
CHILE: Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Central Valley
“The Central Valley (El Valle Central) of Chile is one of the most important wine-producing areas in South America in terms of volume. It is also one of the largest wine regions, stretching from the Maipo Valley (just south of Santiago) to the southern end of the Maule Valley. This is a distance of almost 250 miles (400km) and covers a number of climate types. The Central Valley wine region is easily (and often) confused with the geological Central Valley, which runs north–south for more than 620 miles (1000km) between the Pacific Coastal Ranges and the lower Andes.” (source: Wikipedia).
This prolific region is known to produce super high-end and notably fashionable Bordeaux-style wines. But the region is best known for growing Cab Sauv, Merlot, Syrah, and Chard and Sauv Blanc. When you go, make sure to make vineyard hopping one of your adventures. Enjoy ceviche with it, like the halibut one we enjoyed on the show. It’s the perfect pair.
This really inexpensive wine has been featured on the TODAY show previously. I thought it’d be a great choice to start the sampling. It has of apple and citrus fruits and considered a pretty a mellow wine. You’ll enjoy citrus-y grapefruit notes up front and note the bitter finish. It’s an easy wine to drink if you’re a newbie or lightweight. Considered the ‘Cheeky Little White’.
ARGENTINA: Malbec Blend
Mendoza is located on the Eastern side of the Andes and an easy 2-hour flight from Buenos Aires. It’s the 4th largest region in the country and probably the best place in the nation for outdoor types, like me! So fitting for adventurous types. You’ll find amazing rocking climbing spots and other physically engaging sports including skiing, snowboarding (yes!!) and rafting. While it has all those fun activities, Mendoza is mostly attractive because of it’s relatively easy access to the Andes. It’s also recognized for its notable olive oil and wine production. And, to celebrate both the oil and wine, they have an annual National Grape Harvest Festival in March. Mendoza was been named one of the worlds top 10 historic destinations by National Geographic, about 15 years ago. Still a great reason to go!
Label: Michel Rolland Clos de los Siete.
I loved this wine for its simple complexity. It’s big and bold but not intimidating to new drinkers. It was fruity but not too dry or sweet. I’m not into reds that much but this was a great blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cab Sauv, and Syrah, making it beautiful and easy to understand. It’s a highly-rated wine composed of dark berry fruits and yummy notes of chocolate and spice. This was probably my favorite of the four.
Progreso, or profess, is part of the Canelones state which is not too far from the Capital and is the most prominent wine growing region. It’s in southern Uruguay which borders Chile and Argentina. Has some attractive beaches but definitely a good amount of wineries to visit — that’s what you go there for.
Label: Pisanao RPF.
Tannat, a grape originally from France, is relatively undiscovered in the US and not covered or reviewed much by the average person. It made its way to Uruguay in the 19th century by Basque settlers, the northern part of France from where it comes. It’s Uruguay’s national grape. While it’s used to make Rosé in France, South American and even Australian growers use this grape to blend with others like Merlot and Pinot Noir to end up with something slightly close to Ports. But at its core, Tannat is very concentrated in fruits and carries high tannin levels. It’s a mature wine with complex characteristics in plums and spiced wood. Due to its very low-yield, high-end grape status, it’s quite pricey. A really good bottle can easily run you $50.
Pairs best with grilled beef and the empanadas we enjoyed on the Today show. Jennifer loved it… and I barely got to bite. Not sure what Bianca put in them but apparently, they were a hit!
BRAZIL: Sparkling Wine (white)
Region: Rio Grande Do Sul
This is the most southern part of the country of the sultry and well-loved Latin country! I loved to learn that it’s well-known for its luxurious shoe production and music — my kind of place! “Rio Grande’s music is a blend of many styles (most a continuum of rhythms found in neighboring countries), including the Chamamé, Milonga, Polca and Chacarera. Modern gaucho music ortchê music has been popular since the late 1980s.” (source: Wikipedia). The music really lays the basis for their entertainment and social life.All of that lends to it being of the best cultural hubs of the country. The music really lays the basis for their entertainment and social life. As for cultural influences, Brazil in general is a really diverse country. Rio Grande has heavy Italian and German influences. All of that affects the food, fashion and general lifestyle.
And of course, its soil is great for wine-making. It’s not as robust as other regions in South America, but it’s probably the most suited in Brazil. Caixas Do Sul and Pampas are the two best soiled states for excellent wine-production.
Label: Miolo Brut
Well, well! We didn’t get to this variety, but who knew Brazil made sparkling wine?! Who knew they made wine, period?! I was shocked. But it was soft and interestingly not too sweet. It has lovely effervescence and good flavor. But I’m still reliant on Champagne and even Cava. Be bold and just try it!This bubbly paired wildly perfect with a dark chocolate ganache and habanero flan from my repertoire; a version of this one. OMG. Yes, yes, yes! Another shame we didn’t get to it but from J. Lo’s reaction, it was a hit. And when the culinary team likes your recipe, than it’s all good. You know how I am about other people making my flan, but they knocked it out the box. It was smooth, rich in color and amazing texture. Oh, and it had a touch of sea salt. Divine.So my flan made it to the TODAY show. Kind of 😉
(The best selfie this year!)
And there it is. I met and “worked” with la Jennifer Lopez on the TODAY show. What a two-fer if ever there was a perfect one!
Thanks NBC, the TODAY show and your rock star production crew. And to Kathie Lee and Hoda for having me. Ya’ll make my life muy, muy exciting.
*1st image c/o NBC and the Today show.
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
Bren Herrera is a multi-talented chica with an endless passion for all things art. She cooks for cool people, always eager to teach her clients and students a life skill in the kitchen. Her affair with the world has taken her to over 30 countries. With shots of espresso in hand. She believes cooking and sitting at the dinner table can save families and humanity.
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