Wednesday, March 8, 2017

About Tod

Freelance writer and photographer

Photo:  Ryan Smith
I write about food, wine, organic gardening, travel, and family from a practical, budget-oriented perspective.  After hearing me evangelize about the fun of pulling carrots, making bread, or a Rhone that tastes like charcoal, my friends sometimes accuse me of being overly romantic.  That observation is probably true.  In my defense, these days the simple things feel more important than ever.

I am the author of several books in the Complete Idiot’s Guide series, including  20-Minute Meals, 5-Minute Appetizers, 30-Minute Meals, Quick & Easy Low Carb Meals, and my favorite, Cooking for Guys.  That title serves up cooking inspiration and humor for kitchen-shy guys, has been mentioned in the New York Times and the Boston Globe, and can be found on shelves from Boston to Sydney. Here's my Bookstore.

  Somewhere in the midst of these food-oriented projects, I
  became an enthusiastic (oh all right, obsessive) consumer of   
  local and organic produce.  I increasingly focused my
  food writing on local food, and I have watched with delight as this kind of eating has become more and more popular.  I was fortunate to be featured in a recent issue of Special Places magazine in an article that helps make the case for eating local. We're all recognizing that cheap food is not necessarily a good deal! 

I provide recipes and content for the Powisset Farm CSA (part of The Trustees of Reservations), and other organizations devoted to supporting local food.

On the decidedly more indulgent side, I created over a hundred Restaurant Recipes for the Phantom Gourmet television show. The Phantom crew filmed these epic dishes in my kitchen west of Boston.

Long ago and far away, I started Tasting Times as a food and wine newsletter for busy people on a budget.  Now, the Tasting Times blog includes recipes, wine, and related topics treated with humor and irreverence.  Themes range from unusual varietals to the “Zen of Zin”, and the rise of terrific new organic wines.

Examples of my published work (a few are links)

Food and Wine


Travel, Family & Lifestyle




In 2000, I signed on with, the (then) well-known online guide site, to design and write The Busy Person’s Guide to Gourmet Cooking on a Budget web page.  In less than a year, my email newsletter for this site grew to over 75,000 subscribers.  I am  also the author of the e-book Gourmet Cooking on a Budget, made Simple, Healthy, and Fun (

I love photography almost as much as I love to write.  Much of my work features my images.

I speak on wine and food-related topics, and have been interviewed for national print media, radio, and television. I am also a member of the Association of Food Journalists.  I earned my BA from Union College, and my MBA from the University of Edinburgh. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Here you'll find:

For the cook:  Practical guidance from a seasoned (get it?) food writer and cookbook author.  I love simple, flavorful, elegant dishes that use seasonal, local foods.  Take a look at the Wine Minute, and at the recipes on Pinterest, and tell me what you think!

For the wine lover:  Subscribers tell me they want practical wine buying information. With the info here, you’ll know how to find wines you like - which is not the same thing as wines with a high rating!  You'll know how to find the best values on restaurant wine lists, and what to serve with that local roast chicken.  This knowledge builds on more than recommendations - just because I love a wine doesn’t mean you will.  So along with reviews, you’ll find the back story; context to enable you to find wines you love, at prices that fit your budget.

My recipes run an insane range - from healthy and local for Powisset Farm (part of The Trustees of Reservations), to indulgent for the Phantom Gourmet television show.  This range inspires culinary riffs - for every oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie I quest after its alter ego - say whole grain stevia-sweetened double chocolate chunk cookies.  It's an obsession.  Just ask people who have to live with me.

Back to wine.  Topics I cover range from “Say What?” (an appreciation of unusual varietals), and “The Zen of Zin”, to  review of new organic wines. I’m passionate about wine as a part of a meal with family and friends, so my posts always include a recipe to go with that glass.  Give us a try, and people will ask, "How do you always know just the right wine to buy?!"  
A stew of my favorite wines, recipes, and food news simmers in my blog.  


Wednesday, December 7, 2016



wine knowledge

My books have appeared in The Washington Post, Boston Globe, New York Times, Reno Gazettte-Jounal, and others.

Most recently published...

Food and wine writer Tod Dimmick is the author of five books in the Complete Idiot’s Guide series. The critically acclaimed Guide to 20-minute Meals has gone to multiple printings. His  Guide to 5-Minute Appetizers is a must-have kitchen reference for those who love to entertain but have limited time. His Guide to Cooking for Guys, with cooking inspiration and humor for kitchen-shy guys, has been mentioned in the New York Times and the Boston Globe, and can be found on bookstore shelves from Boston, MA, to Sydney, Australia. Tod's writing and photography has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Cape Cod Life, Ambassador Magazine, Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, and The Boston Globe.  His Quick and Easy Low Carb Meals is "Low Carb", but the focus is all on health through choosing the right tasty ingredients. Tod's latest book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Meals in 30 Minutes or Less, was just published.

The links below will take you directly to my books on Amazon.
 20 Minute Meals  5-Minute Appetizers
Cooking for Guys Quick and Easy Low Carb Meals

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Food and Wine Pairing

Food and Wine Pairing

(Adapted from my Complete Idiot's Guide to 20-Minute Meals)

Most people select food first, then decide what wine will go with it. That is the perspective I take here, although it would be straightforward to plan the other way around. Remember that chicken can be served in infinite varieties, from a simple breaded cutlet (fine with Chardonnay), to a marinated grilled capon (hmm, pinot noir). Sauces also impact the weight of the wine you should choose. Finally, personal preference trumps everything. The whole point of wine with a meal is fun, pleasure and taste. If you like a wine-food combination (lamb and Chardonnay?) that the "experts" don't recommend, it might be worth trying the so-called ideal match, but after that stick with what you like!

Wine Guidelines

The old wisdom used to be "white wine with fish and red wine with meat." The conventional wisdom now seems to be to drink what you like; with whatever you want to eat. This freedom to match is appealing, not because I totally agree (the advice is still generally valid), but because it means that personal taste is now acceptable, and a person doesn't have to follow a decades- old rule.

Nevertheless, food affects the taste of wine, and some guidelines still apply. Have any of the following happened to you?
  • Before dinner you might enjoy a glass of fruity, rich pinot noir. Then bring out pasta with plenty of tomato and garlic, and suddenly the luscious red wine vanishes, leaving in its place a tart and tough imposter. How can this happen? The acid in the tomato sauce mugged your wine.
  • Those German white wines, gew├╝rztraminer and Riesling, that we thought were too sweet are suddenly refreshing and delicious when paired with curry, or a spicy Thai dish. The slight sweetness of these wines brings some weight and balance that fits well with the food's spice.
  • A delicious Chardonnay suddenly turns to water after a bite of lamb. Why? The wine was no match for the fat, salt, and seasoning of this rich meat.
The simple awareness that eating food with wine affects its taste (and vice versa) is valuable. Use this awareness to learn and experiment with what you like.

Listed below are some general suggestions for types of wine and the food that goes well with it. This is a very general list, remember that chicken can be served in infinite varieties, from a simple breaded cutlet (Fine with Chardonnay), to a marinated grilled capon (Hmm, Pinot Noir). Sauces also impact the weight of the wine you should choose. Check back again as we add recipes under each of the food categories.

Here's a classic match to keep in mind: Chianti and tomato-sauce dishes. Chianti, the Sangiovese-based wine of Italy, is often a light red with pleasant acidity (that's the bite and tartness you taste), an acidity that matches the acidity in tomatoes. Pasta and Chianti a natural match!

Unless you know what you're looking for, don't feel the need to spend more than $15 per bottle. There are plenty of tasty, high- quality wines out there that can be purchased for less than $15, and often less than $10 per bottle.

Wine, like food, is about fun. A glass of wine is a natural with a meal, and can help turn dinnertime into a quiet celebration. Anything that helps make a weeknight meal an event to anticipate is okay in my book. To enjoy wine with a meal, don't get preoccupied with details. Take some of the basic advice here, and test it out at your own table. Then, after you've tested a few different choices (I can't stress this enough), stick with what you like!




(choose wine
with acidity)

Spicy Dishes

Light Whites- Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Grigio, others  *
 Richer Whites-Chardonnay  *  *
Sweetish Whites-Riesling, GewUrztraiminer  *
Ligher, fruity reds  *
Rich Reds  *
Sweet wines-Sauternes, Port   *  *


Light Seafood

Rich Seafood

Light Meats-
pork, ham, poultry

Rich Meats-
beef, veal,
lamb, venison

Light Whites- Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Vinho Verde, others * *
 Richer Whites-Chardonnay * *
Sweetish (typically) Whites-Riesling, Gewurztraiminer *
Ligher, fruity reds *
Rich Reds
Sweet wines-Sauternes, Port 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Take the Wine Quiz

Which is closest to the wine you're looking for?  The result might not be what you expect.

  • A clean, refreshing white wine with a hint of citrus, from lemon and grapefruit to key lime pie.  A seam of mineral, grass and green apple might be nice.  A wine that would go perfectly with conversation, appetizers, and lighter foods/seafood...
  • A rich, fruity white with flavors of peach, melon and citrus.  For a treat, a hint of coconut, cream and apricot on the finish...
  • A floral, spicy white with apricot and peach fruit flavors, racy acidity and maybe a hint of sweetness.  A wine that would go well with spicy foods...  
  • A lighter fruit bowl red wine with subtle flavors of bright red fruits:  red currants, cherries and cranberries, and if I'm lucky a hint of cinnamon...
  • A medium-bodied red with notes of sweet cherry and dried fruits, maybe some earth, and more pronounced spice than in lighter reds...
  • A rich red with intense flavors earth, black cherry and cracked pepper, and maybe a hint of licorice or blueberry...
  • A full-bodied, sinewy red with dark fruits; blackcurrants, blackberries, superripe cherry, plum, chocolate and mint flavors.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Wine information you can use

"Thanks to your guidance, I have the confidence to choose gift wines that are both affordable and impressive"

The Wine Market is Changing.

"This is the most revolutionary time in wine retailing since the end of prohibition.  The combination of the rise of internet sales and the US Supreme Court's decision striking down some laws concerning direct- to-consumer winery shipping has helped to create more of a free-for-all in wine retailing than ever."

-The Wall Street Journal

We focus on tasty, affordable wines

Most wine publications focus on bottles that are $20, $40, or more, with the token "best buy" feature for those of us in the real world. Yes, there are sublime wines at lofty prices, but  expensive does not necessarily mean "better". If you know what to look for, wines less than $20, less than $15, and sometimes less than $10 can be delicious, unusual, and engaging.

Let experience be your guide

In spite of all the information on big wine sites, few give even passing reference to how to feel confident buying wine.  “Buying Guides”, give ratings, but depending on ratings is risky.  You might not agree with a particular rating, or not be able to find that wine at all.  So here we not only tell you what we like, but suggest how you can find similar wines.

Our mission is to enable you to find terrific wines that fit your taste, and your budget.    We do this in two steps.  First, we recommend our favorites in the Wine Hotlist newsletters and on the  Wine Minute blog.  Then,  as a part of our recommendations, we suggest how to find similar wines wherever you buy wine. 

Read about our knowledge-based approach in the Boston Globe.
Wine lovers  are intelligent consumers, accustomed to being decision-makers in other parts of their lives.  I'd  like to help you be similarly confident when it comes to choosing wine, and less reliant on lists, ads, or pretty labels   (Yes, I sometimes buy wines based on pretty labels, too, and it's usually a mistake!)

TastingTimes is devoted to "wine intelligence for the budget enthusiast". Wines we review are usually under $15, and we look for ways to provide just enough background information to add to the romance, enjoyment, and learning related to the wine at hand. Er, in your hand.

Our Grades

In the Wine Hotlist, we grade wines by the familiar "A, B, C" grade school system.  Usually, we focus on those we recommend ("B" or higher).  When we find a food - wine match, we write about that, too. We usually don't conduct blind tastings,  because we want to enjoy wine like you do; over the dinner table with friends and family. We're more likely to get energized over something that tastes great at $9 bucks than one that tastes great at $25.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reliable Restaurant Wines

Restaurant Wines - A Short Story

(Cheat Sheet Below!)

Once upon a time, Rachel received a big promotion.  She took her staff to a popular new waterfront restaurant. The group gathered around the table, and the waiter presented Rachel with a long wine list.  She took the list, and realized she did not recognize a single wine.  She glanced around the table.  In the past she had asked others for advice, but she had become more confident in her choices, and she knew what to do.    Among the white wines, she found a good selection of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and for reds a list of Shiraz from Australia.  She knew both of the regions to be reliable for these wines, and between the two there would be something to accompany all types of food.  She chose a moderately priced wine from each section, and sat back to see the reaction.  Her picks were instant winners.

For Rachel, as for many people, ordering wine at restaurants used to cause anxiety.  After all, prices are far higher than at wine shops, and guests are hostages to that list.  The table is watching as you choose.  No pressure! 

But choosing wine needn’t be stressful.  

What if I don’t recognize anything on the wine list? 

Buying wines at a restaurant is the perfect opportunity to use your experience as a shortcut.  Don’t recognize specific wines?  Think of your personal favorites.  Look for wines from:
  • the same winemaker
  • the same or nearby regions
  • that same varietal (grape) - or even other varietals or blends with similar flavor profile.
  • the importer (it's on the back of the bottle)

Reliable Labels and Producers

A number of subscribers have asked for not just specific recommendations (which is what we do in each issue of the Wine Hotlist and the Wine Minute), but general guidance on reliable producers. These producers offer tasty, high quality wines for less than $15, and often less than $10 retail. Restaurant markups are often 200%, or even 300%, so a wine that costs $10 in a wine shop may well cost $20 (or more) in a restaurant. To give you a decent shot at a sure winner, here's our current "favorite" list of dependable sources. Print this page for your next trip to your local wine shop, or even better, to your favorite restaurant. You'll have a secret weapon for choosing wines (it will be our secret).
Bogle (US)
Chateau St. Michelle (US)
Columbia Crest (US)
Coppola (US)
DuBoeuf (France)
Four Sisters (Australia)
Hogue (US)
Lindemans (Australia) Louis Jadot (France)
Penfolds (Australia)
Rabbit Ridge (US)
Renwood (US)
Rosemount (Australia)
Ruffino (Italy)