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Dairy-Free at Casa Rondena Winery

Alternate Title: Invite Us Back, Dairy MAX (Pretty Please?)

Last week, I was invited as a blogger to a fabulous 9 course dinner at the Casa Rondena Winery in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, courtesy of Dairy MAX. The menu was created by Chef Caitlin from Cooking with Caitlin, featuring foods made with dairy that can still be enjoyed by people with lactose intolerance

Homemade blue corn blinis, chile rellenos, lavender honey ice cream - everything sounded good that I couldn't help savoring what I was eating while simultaneously counting down to the next item on the menu.

Lucky me, right? Well, fearing unknown and social situations, I nearly chickened out at the last minute. Sexy Nerd was no help. On the drive over, he suggested we skip the 9 course dinner and go to Texas Roadhouse instead! He's cute, but he's an enabler.

Casa Rondena Winery

Casa Rondena Winery
Me at the beginning of the evening - a socially awkward, super nervous bundle of anxiety. Can you see it on my face?

Los Ranchos de Albuquerque
 The fun times beckoned you in, but I was terrified!

Sure, there was delicious food on the other side of this wall, but there was also the most scary thing in the world - PEOPLE! Strangers who might want to talk to me. Or not talk to me! I'm not sure which would be worse.

My heart is racing just typing that.

If you could all stop being so scary, that would be great.

Best NM wines
Luckily, the Dairy MAX folks and Casa Rondena had just the thing to help me forget my nerves.

Cute wine sign
 You got it, my winey friend.

Wine events in NM
Blogging this, I just realized Sexy Nerd pinned his name tag to the middle of his shirt instead of his pocket. He's such a goofball.

We scoped out the seating options - all large tables. My socially awkward nightmare! I joked we should make a point of being the last ones in, in hope there wouldn't be enough chairs. We finished our wine, grabbed a refill, and hurried inside.

(It just occurred to me that this is a terrible strategy, as we might arrive to find only 2 chairs different tables. OMG)

Well, guess what?

Beautiful New Mexico winery
All the seats were gone!

Sexy Nerd (my hero) dashed outside and returned with two extra chairs. I have no idea where he got them. Now we had a private table for two! 

I hope he didn't steal the chairs from the welcome table with the name tags. I mean, that's really the only place that would have had two chairs like these, but I'm sure he wouldn't have done that. They weren't using those chairs anymore anyway, right?

Food and Wine Blogger
Glass of wine #2
The room was beginning to have a beautiful, hysterical glow.

A presentation was given on lactose intolerance and all the misconceptions about this problem. I'd always thought being lactose intolerant meant you couldn't have any dairy, but that actually isn't true at all. Different dairy products have different amounts of lactose and certain ones, like cheddar cheese, have almost no lactose at all. 

I would have guessed cheddar cheese to be one of the worst. The Big Bang Theory lied to me!

From what I gathered from the name tags and the presenters, this event counted as continuing education credit for nutritionists. In college, I had wrestled with the idea of becoming a nutritionist, so I loved the presentations. I would have made a great nutritionist, if only UNM hadn't made Public Speaking (EEEK!) a required part of the coursework.

What cheese can you eat if you are lactose intolerant?

Did you know most people should be consuming 1,200 mg of calcium a day and that hard cheeses are high in calcium but low in lactose, making them an ideal way for folks with lactose-intolerance to meet their daily requirement? Now you know. See? I would have been the best nutritionist ever.

Sexy Nerd took notes for me on his phone: 
  1. Lactose intolerance is not necessarily hereditary. The enzyme to process lactose is a use it or lose it. Children should drink milk. Once you lose it, you can't get it back.
  2. Greek yogurt is lower in lactose because it has been strained more.
  3. Casa Rondena wine is awesome!
I'm not sure the last note was all that helpful.

All-you-can-eat cheese
After the presentations, Sexy Nerd decided to help himself to some cheese. Apparently, that was his take away from the lectures.

What cheese can you eat if you are lactose intolerant?
"For us to share," he said.
Like I was going to fill up on cheese cubes at a 9 course dinner.

No free wi-fi
I decided to tweet the napkin hashtag.
Alas - no free Wi-Fi!

Not that there was much time for social media anyway. The food kept coming!

Soft tacos with fresh vegetables
Milk-braised beef tacos with calabacitas, featuring lactose-free milk and natural cheese

Sexy Nerd ate all those cheese cubes and was still able to say yes when a second taco was offered. But it gets even better. While waiting for our 5th course...

My crazy Sexy Nerd popped outside for a cheese refill!

The kind folks at Dairy MAX must have felt sorry for us, all alone in our makeshift table for two against the wall. They kept coming over to apologize for the seating situation. Two people from a large table even offered us their seats. But, of course...
 Cute couples
...we were having a great time on our own!
Cheese, wine, free food, and no socializing = one happy blogger

We love you, Dairy MAX!

Just when I thought the evening couldn't get any better, Sexy Nerd pointed out that the grand, incredible room we were in was almost exactly like the living room and kitchen in the house we're building.
 Vaulted wood ceiling
"No way!" I told him, my second glass of wine completely gone.
"Way!" he insisted, also out of wine.

Wood doors
"And these doors?" I asked, taking a photo. "These are, like, the most beautiful, amazing, perfect doors I've ever seen in my life."

 Apparently, we can have these exact same doors as well. Funny enough though, when reviewing the photos the next day, they didn't look as beautiful, amazing, or perfect as I'd remembered.

There was also talk of me renaming my site, which I thought was absolutely genius at the time.

Dairy MAX
 We were having the time of our lives.
Of course, you know what happened next, right?

Pair grapes with cheese
More cheese cubes. Sexy Nerd is a cheesaholic! He must have devoured a pound of each variety.

"But it has almost no lactose," he reminded.

The presenters had all mentioned the importance of 'everything in moderation'. Funny, he did not recall anything about that.

Casa Rondena kitchen
 Outside with the cheese, we had a front row seat to the little winery kitchen. It's cute, but it's one of the only things from Casa Rondena I do not want to include in our house. Can you believe they prepared all the gourmet food in there? It's so small.

After 6 courses and a cow's worth of cheese, it was time for 3 desserts.

Cheesecake with greek yogurt
Greek yogurt cheesecake with pinon nut crust and roasted raspberries

Pinons are like $30 per pound. Are you kidding me? 
This thing even had whole pinons in the crust. 

 It was quite possibly the most delicious food I've ever eaten in my life. Like, if I was on that Food Network show where they ask you, I would say this cheesecake. Hands down.

Lactose-free cheesecake

Lavender honey
 Homemade sopapillas with lavender honey a la mode featuring lactose-free ice cream

It's never too cold for ice cream.
The take away from this photo is: 
When eating cold ice cream, you need to wear a warm jacket.

Or something like that. Oh, I know! It's never too cold for ice cream. Wear a jacket and you'll be fine.

Mexican hot chocolate
Mexican hot chocolate with homemade honey marshmallows featuring lactose-free milk

I've made homemade marshmallows before. "These are better than those," Sexy Nerd was way too quick to point out.

I'd be upset, but they really were. 
Married bloggers
 Full and happy, it was time to head home.

(On a side note, do you see how greasy my hair looks? It's practically glued to my head! In a fit of social anxiety that morning, I'd covered my hair with fancy hair products from my sister-in-law, the hairdresser, in an attempt to make my hair look amazing. I may have gotten carried away.)

Off to the car we went. 
But first...

Cheese recipes
No, Sexy Nerd! Enough with the cheese!

 I love cheese
He's more cheese than man at this point. I made sure not to turn on the heat for our drive home, lest he begin to melt.

It's from a different night, but I can't help think this is really the best photo to end this blog post:

Funny blogs
Nailed it.


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