Saturday, December 31, 2005

OWF in 2006

Photo by Melissa Schneider.

I don't make New Year's resolutions. Instead, I set myself goals and try to meet them. Since I don't write these down, I tend to forget them, so that by the end of the year I only remember the ones I achieved.

It's a good system.

But this year I thought I'd write some of my food/writing goals here, so you can all follow along at home. Consider it a sneak preview of 2006's OWF posts.

Stuff sausage
I'm comfortable with charcuterie. I make duck confit, and all manner of pâtés. I've even made sausage meat and formed it into patties. But I've never gotten around to stuffing that meat into animal intestines. With a bucket of hog casings (thanks, mom!) and two charcuterie books in my holiday haul (not to mention several other relevant books in my food and wine library), it's time to do it.

Make vinegar
I'm cheating on this one. My first batch of vinegar is well under way. But I have to prep the vinegar barrel I received from my dad and transfer the mouth-puckering liquid to it so that I have an established vinegar setup.

Make bacon and duck ham
It's time to put the Battle Droid to work. Homemade bacon. Homemade duck ham. Oh, yes, they will be mine.

Two new paying clients
Last year, I wanted to add one new paying client for my writing. I ended up with three. Maybe if I shoot for two this year, I'll add six! Or four! Or none! Opportunities to write for free are legion, but also not very profitable, so it's time to add a couple more cards to the metaphorical Rolodex. (Meanwhile, I owe outlines to two clients for upcoming articles; maybe I'll do that first).

Finish my book proposal
I guess I should be glad that my writing (and, uh, my full-time job) keep me too busy to work on my book proposal, but I'm determined to devote time to that project as well.

Work through Emile Peynaud's The Taste of Wine
I'm always working to improve my palate. I aspire to a certain ease of analysis. This classic book should help, though it'll be interesting to see if it adds anything to the lessons I learned in Rebecca's class. This is the first step to a much longer-term goal, but I have to get moving at some point.

Melissa and I wish you a year of duck fat, German Rieslings, and other wonderful things.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Eat Local on the Cheap

Eat local. Shop at farmer's markets. Luxurious choices for the rich, right? That's the standard claim. But my friend Tim sent me this article at Better Times Info that shows how two people shopped at farmers' markets on a food stamp allowance. They planned meals that were interesting, varied, and efficient in their use of leftovers. Almost 75% of their money went to local vendors instead of disappearing into the pockets of far-away corporate shareholders.

As Tim's wife Mitch points out, the experiment presumes the reader has a garden and canning equipment. Though community gardens can and do exist in low-income areas, canning equipment requires an upfront investment. I wonder what it would take for the government to provide preservation equipment and training for low-income families. Probably too big of a litigation risk from careless cooks. Still, it's an interesting idea.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I'm a posting fool today. Thanks to Alanna of A Veggie Venture for the heads-up about a piece on food blogs in the Christian Science Monitor. I obviously knew it was in the works, but didn't know when it would be published. Probably no surprises on the blogs they mention.

A minor correction: This blog started in 2002, coincidentally the same week as the Julie/Julia Project. Some of you may remember my anniversary navel-gazing back in August (as opposed to my wedding anniversary post in April).

I'm on SFist

I may not be In The Kitchen today, but I am on SFist. Yes, me. I. Not the "we" of the -ist style guide. Once a year (I learned), the writers get to do a Best of 20xx post that's written in first-person-singular glory. I chose to write about the as-yet-unsung farmer's market vendors I fell in love with during 2005.

Ordering Wine, The Waiter's Perspective

The excellent Waiter Rant has a good post about ordering wine. I disagree with some of his commenters, but only one of his points. As I say in the comments, when I'm approving wine I sniff, then swirl, then sniff. When you swirl, you kick up volatile compounds in the wine. This is why you swirl wine at all. But the cloud of aromas you release can obscure a subtle case of cork taint.

Regardless of this nitpicking, his list is a great read.

The OWF "Eat 'Til You Drop" Tour: The Ultimate Lavish Dinner

Photo by Winnie Kwong.

In April of 2004, I started the Lavish Lunch Club with some of my similarly hedonistic co-workers. Every other month, we'd pick a nice restaurant and go out for a leisurely lunch with good wine. Eventually we added the Lavish Dinner Club with a smaller group.

But the members of the Lunch and Dinner clubs started leaving the company. Some for other jobs, some for school. Some stayed in the area, some went to the East Coast. As we continued to part ways, someone—probably Sean—quipped, "We should do the Ultimate Lavish New York." We laughed, but the idea stuck, and I floated the idea of a Lavish Dinner Club reunion in a nice Manhattan restaurant.

We added Blue Hill to our list of potential restaurants after I read Clotilde's review and once I discovered that they could seat all fifteen of us. The restaurant's philosophy about growing their own food and my conversation with Sara Lesin, Blue Hill's business manager and our point person at the restaurant, won me over. The private room is a good deal, too: A fixed fee covers the room for six hours, passed appetizers, a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings, tax and tip.

Melissa and I arrived first on a rainy October evening to deal with any issues (there weren't any) and to ensure that everyone else would see a friendly face as soon as the hostess escorted them through the low-slung dining room, past the bustling kitchen, and into the porch-like back room. Our server Jeff quickly poured us Prosecco, and we waited for our friends.

Photo by Melissa Schneider.

I was glowing as they walked into the room. There is a particular warmth about watching those close to you come from all over the country to a special event you organized. Some I hadn't seen in months. Others I had seen just the week before, but it's different when you're meeting 3000 miles away from home. Hugs were given liberally, and laughter quickly filled the room as the rain pounded outside. The staff (including Sara for a time, though I suspect it wasn't her normal work schedule) passed a dizzying array of delicious appetizers as we caught up with each other. Foie gras on a chocolate wafer, green gazpacho, Delicata squash sorbet, an olive oil cake with almond flour (kept attentively away from the one person with a nut allergy), and a handful of others. The Blue Hill crew served and poured generously as we waited for our tardiest dining companions to arrive.

Photo by Melissa Schneider.

My friends were surprised to learn I didn't micromanage the menu, which you'll find below: Many of them know about the wedding menu Melissa and I designed. But there was no reason to meddle with the seasonal dishes the chef concocted, and Sara told me that the guests with food issues (which they asked about in advance) would get different dishes as needed. I left the wine pairing in the very capable hands of Claire Paparazzo-Segarra, Blue Hill's wine director. Her choices were unusual European wines that paired well with the light dishes. She and Jeff, our server, poured freely as people drank. I know she made several new converts to Moscato d'Asti when she poured this sweet Piedmontese sparkler with the apple cobbler: Several of my friends asked me about it later.

We all enjoyed the food and wine quite a bit, but Blue Hill's hospitality was the hit of the evening. Everyone we met was friendly and welcoming. We felt like special guests, and they were attentive to our every need. Largely due to their efforts, the Ultimate Lavish Dinner was a big success. So big that there are already murmurings of doing it every year (which would mean we'd have to drop "Ultimate" from the name). One suggestion was to keep moving east until we hit San Francisco again. London, anyone?

Some other views: Melissa's photos, Winnie's, Martin and Sarah's, Jeff's, Ginger and Kurt's, and Phil's heartfelt absentee post.

The Ultimate Lavish Dinner
Tomato Soup, Smoked with a Stone Barns Chicken Wing
Paul Coulon Domaine de Beaurenard, Côtes du Rhône, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 2004

Wild Striped Bass with Fall Vegetable Pistou and Basil Purée
Goisot Sauvignon, Saint-Bris le Vineux, France 2004

Grass Fed Lamb with Fresh Shelling Beans, Parsley, and Lettuce Broth
Villa di Geogiano Giogianello, Rosso IGT, Siena, Italy, 2001

"Last Chance" Berry Shake [berries in october, hence the name]

Apple Cobbler with Brandy-Soaked Dried Fruit and Oatmeal Crumble
San Guiliano Moscato d'Asti, Italy, 2003

Next in the OWF "Eat 'Til You Drop" Tour: wd-50

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Oysters on SFist: Heroes on the Half Shell

Photo by Melissa Schneider.
With all the holiday madness, I worried I wouldn't have time to cook anything for SFist. Fortunately, we passed by the Hog Island Oyster stall. Read my post on SFist to get a mini shucking tutorial.

Monday, December 19, 2005

WBW 17 Announced

John over at The Corkdork is the host of WBW 17: Red Kiwis. Choose a New Zealand red, and write about it on January 4th. Head over to his site to read all the details, and to see the cool picture he used as an accompaniment.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Looking for Hope?

Pim sent out a note to Menu for Hope II contributors explaining that a Typepad hiccup has left her site at an older point in time, one without the full list of contributions. You can still donate at the First Giving site, but don't despair if you don't see the prize list at Pim's site. (Note, presumably those contributors on Typepad have been affected as well).Problem fixed. Check out the raffle list at her newly restored site.

Here's hoping things get resolved soon.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Comfort Foods on MS-NBC

I'm one of the contributors to MS-NBC's feature on comfort foods. They're short blurbs, but I cover French Onion Soup and Bieroks.

Bonus SFist Posts: Food Shopping and Cork Popping

Photo by Melissa Schneider.

In addition to my weekly SFist post, I squeezed some extras into my spare time. The first was my award for Best Place to Shop For Food, while the second was a tutorial on opening sparkling wine. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wine Blogging Wednesday 16 Round-up
photos in Wine Blogging Wednesday 16 More photos in Wine Blogging Wednesday 16

Finally! Here's the round-up for Wine Blogging Wednesday 16, the monthly virtual tasting group. I asked participants to defy conventional wisdom and buy bottles with pretty labels.

Is anything that glitters actually gold? Well, sometimes. There were hits and misses. But no pretty label fooled the drinker into liking an uninteresting wine. A pig in silk is still a pig. Note to wine makers: A pretty label might make one sale, but a mediocre wine removes repeat business. Still, I enjoyed seeing all the lovely labels and reading about their wines.

Never one to follow the norm, I've organized the participants into four groups: Fresh Faces, Regulars, Podcasters, and Former Hosts. This seemed like a clever idea until I realized I needed to research each participant's former entries. Let me know if you're in the wrong group. Of course please tell me if I've forgotten to include you at all, or if I've made any other mistakes. I provided so many ways to tell me about an entry that it turned into a bit of a scavenger hunt to find everyone.

And remember to check out the Flickr group to see the pool of labels. Also, if you're in the Bay Area, Amy kindly alerted me to a wine label exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design.

Okay. Enough business. Onto the wine.

Fresh Faces
Give a warm welcome to these folks as they take their first dip into Wine Blogging Wednesday. We had a lot of first-timers with plenty of enthusiasm, and I look forward to more entries from them all.

I think Mary Beth has read this blog longer than anyone outside my family. Actually, I think she's read it longer than most people in my family. So I was thrilled when she said she'd participate in Wine Blogging Wednesday. I should finish some of my quilts in appreciation. She hit the ground running with three semi-sweet wines: the Wagner Alta B, a Pindar, and a pomegranate wine, all with lovely labels.

small farms
Tana (like Mary Beth) wished me a happy birthday with her Wine Blogging Wednesday entry. She picked the elegant rose that decorates the 2000 DeRose Cabernet Sauvignon. Not surprisingly, given her frequent visits to area farms, she was drawn to the note that the wine is dry farmed. Most California producers extol the virtues of irrigation, and it's always nice to see someone let grapes grow within natural constraints.

running with tweezers
I think running with tweezers is my current favorite blog name. Tami excitedly contributed a bottle of The Guilty and took a nice photo of the enigmatic label. Maybe we should combine Tami's bottle with Catherine's Presumed Innocent (see below). We'd need to fit in the Cardinal Zin that showed up in a couple of posts.

The Ink-Stained Wretch
And if you're guilty, you end up in jail. I too have always been struck by the label on "The Prisoner" from Orin Swift. I've always thought it forlorn. Is it worth releasing the wine?

Finger Lakes Weekend Wino
New wine blogger Finger Lakes Weekend Wino makes his/her debut with the Bully Hill Vineyards Ravat 51. The winery's owner drew the artwork, which features the surreal image of red flowers growing out of a pineapple. I like the drawing, and I can see why it caught our blogger's eye.

Come to the Table
Four eyes total on Paige and Eric. Four eyes total on the bottle of the four emus 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot from Western Australia. A perfect fit, don't you think? I know I was supposed to be paying attention to the bright blue label, but my eyes kept wandering over to the homemade pizza they served.

The Wine Offensive
I jealously read Maggie's description of the A. Margaine Brut Rosé Champagne. It's a Terry Theise import, which always bodes well. Terry seeks out small, passionate Champagne producers. Maggie eloquently describes the wine's aroma as "a million blossoms in liquid form."

The Wine Cask Blog
When I saw that The Wine Cask Blog had chosen a bottle of Royal Bitch 2003 Reserve Merlot, I worried that this post wouldn't make it through all those "safe browsing" filters. Hopefully the description of the label clears it all up.

s'kat and the food
s'kat's description of her original choice, the 2003 Eredi Lodali Dolcetto d'Alba, was one of the most evocative I read. A stunning label, not a great wine. Fortunately, her post has tasting notes for two other wines.

Je Mange la Ville
Though the big red J and the black-and-gold label on the 2004 Jezebel Pinot Noir is striking, I was more intrigued by Michelle's "label wall" and the zillions of labels she's put up as decoration. That's an idea worth imitating!

Mark Fisher, wine blogger and wine columnist for the Dayton Daily News, found the 2004 Lulu B. Vin de Pays d'Oc Syrah. The eponymous Lulu crafted the wine just for him. It says so right on the label, so it must be true.

Food Freak
Thank goodness Petra wrote in English about the 2002 Altos de Tamaron, Tinto from Spain's Ribera del Duero. Other posts of hers are in German, and I would've needed Melissa to translate. Petra chose a Tempranillo with a baby blue label under a lovely pastel of the Spanish countryside.

Glorious Food and Wine
Andreea spotted the WBW reminder at the last minute, but found some pretty labels (and unusual choices) in her wine rack. A black and gold star bedecks our first Romanian entry, the 1999 Prince Mircea Merlot Granriserva from the Vanju Mare appellation. Andreea also reviewed the 2000 Painel Colheita, from Portugal's lesser-known Dao region.

Cooking with The Headhunter
Sarah exhibited a bit of blood lust with two of her choices, the 2004 Merlot Rosé from Romania's Vampire Vineyards and the 2003 Cardinal Zin from Bonny Doon. But she also showed her more whimsical side as she giggled over the 2004 3 Blind Moose Chardonnay. One was just okay, one was quite good, and one was a home run.

Jam Faced
The curiously named Monkey Gland appreciates the value of a simple, pleasant table wine, particularly when it's 3 quid and comes in a bottle with a playing-card-like label. The "Le Prince Rouge" table wine sounds like a great deal, simple but not poorly made.

Andrew was drawn to the clever label on the 2003 Michael David Seven Deadly Zins from Lodi. Zinfandel producers seem particularly fond of pun-filled names, but are the fifth-generation farmers at Michael David putting a good wine behind that label?

Sabores Tours
The 2002 Celler del Roure Maduresa got two write-ups, even though it was only present at one tasting. Janelle provides her perspective on her site, Ryan and Gabriella on theirs (see below). Either way, it's one of my favorite labels in the set, and it's interesting to compare their tasting notes.

I spotted the trackback to Dave's attractive site late in the game, but I'm glad I did! The label on the 2002 Cascina Catelet Goj is very pretty, with large grapes, a black background, and the name in elegant type. Very nice, especially with the triceratops styrachasaurus in the picture.
photos in Wine Blogging Wednesday 16 More photos in Wine Blogging Wednesday 16

These folks know the routine. They've been in Wine Blogging Wednesday at least once before, and are old pros. Probably half of them are signed up as future hosts. If not, they should be!

Fork & Bottle
Our good friends Jack and Joanne were drawn to the encyclopedic labels on two Paolo Bea bottles, the 2000 Montefalco Sagrantino Secco Pagliaro and the 2000 Santa Chiara. They point out that the extensive text tells you how passionate the wine maker is about his product, which is always a good thing.

Dr. Vino's wine blog
Tyler counted to three and played rock paper scissors with the 2004 Roshambo Merlot, a popular winery among Bay Area twentysomethings. The stylish black and red label can be yours for just $8. But do you want it? Check his site and find out.

this heaven gives me migraine
Kieca took a break from house-buying minutiae to tells us about the 2004 Bonny Doon Grignolino d'Asti. The label sports an angry-looking piece of Gary Taxali artwork, but I can see why Kieca's a fan.

the delicious life
This month's theme was right up Sarah's alley. As a marketing maven, she was delighted to put her business school training to work when describing the label on the 2004 Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. But she's as susceptible to marketing mischief as everyone else: "I'm a marketer, but I'm also my own victim." Find out what she thought of the wine behind the monkey.

The label on the 2003 Van Duzer Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley will appeal to anyone who loves Art Nouveau artwork. The brilliant green background and the knowing look of the woman suggest absinthe instead of wine.

Wine Tastings
I was glad to see the 2000 Il Cuore Rosso Classico from Mendocino on Chas's blog. I like their label artwork and the wines inside. I haven't tasted the Rosso Classico, which seems to include every red grape grown in that county, so now I have a better idea about it. Chas's post also points you to some other eye-catching labels.

Okay, I'll admit it. I love the kitschy look of the claw marks on the bottle of 2003 Howling Wolves Shiraz that Ed tasted along with the 2004 Little Penguin Shiraz. He gave these wines a good shot (microwaving? really?), but after the first bottle Jackie was trying to excuse herself from the tasting.
Ryan and Gabriella liked the stones on the label of the 200 Clos del Codols Montsant from Spain and the stylish label of the 2002 Celler del Roure Maduresa (which they tasted with Janelle). The abstract black grapes on a plain white label look like they're supposed to create some sort of optical illusion

Mantia's Musings
The proud rooster on the 2004 Rex Goliath Chardonnay caught Alyce's eye, but I was more intrigued by the casual meal she assembled to go with it.

Serge the Concierge
I feel like I should salute as I look at the label of the 2003 Lancieri di Risorgimentio from Italy's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. Serge's bottle features heraldic crests and flags that honor the "Lancieri who fought for the creation of the Italian republic in 1848."

Cookin' in the 'Cuse
Jennifer has "always viewed wine labels as an underappreciated graphic arts form," and she plucked the 2003 The Lucky Country Barossa Valley Shiraz. I love the way she framed the "haunting and lovely" label with pretty books.

Purple Liquid
Catherine susses out the mystery of the enigmatic woman on the label of the 2002 Eno "Presumed Innocent" Pinot Noir. Follow her investigation of the label and the wine to learn what secrets the bottle holds.

Stack of Toast
Peter suggests an interesting aspect of wine label appreciation. If a label looks similar to one on a bottle you've enjoyed before, does it influence your decision to buy the new bottle? Probably. The gold lettering on the 2002 Canaletto Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and the 2005 Hardy's Stamp Riesling-Gewurztraminer reminded him of the Jackson Triggs bottles he's enjoyed. But did the wines stand up? One did, one didn't. But which?

The Cork and Demon
Taj, who describes herself as a "smart-mouthed Texas girl," called Bonny Doon to help decipher the little figures dancing across the label on the 2002 Bonny Doon Madiran 'cuvée speciale'. Randall Grahm let juice from tannat grapes sit on the skins of petit manseng grapes to give it a little something extra. Available even to folks outside Grahm's quirky DEWN club, it sounds like it's worth checking out.

The Corkdork
John points out that while buying based on artwork is a dodgy proposition, sometimes it leads you to something new and exciting. Take the Durutti Column album he bought that made him an lifelong fan. Or the 2000 Trevor Jones Dry Farmed Barossa Valley Shiraz whose simple label drew him in.

The Caveman's Wine Blog
Caveman Bill emerged into the light just long enough to snap a shot of the 2000 Côtes de Duras "Les Apprentis" from Domaine Mouthes le Bihan. His elegant decanter forms the backdrop for the label in a photo that evokes a farmhouse table at twilight.

Wine Expression
A few BART stops down in Pleasanton, Jathan spotted the retro label on the 2004 Parducci Vineyards Chardonnay from Mendocino. I'm not a big California Chardonnay fan, but it sounds like Jathan has found an interesting one.

Sound and Fury
Mithrandir chose the 2003 Daedalus Pinot Noir, just one example of many of the fine labels being used by Oregon wineries. I like the shot over the Labyrinth.

You know, wine blogging used to be cutting-edge. But now the cool kids are podcasting, recording shows in which they describe the wine. The emotion and tone of voice adds a new dimension to tasting notes. Plug in your headphones and listen to these podcasters tell you about their pretty bottles.

You can't help but notice Marilyn Monroe on a bottle, as the producers of Tim's selection, the 2005 Norma Jeane Merlot, are well aware. The picture of Marilyn Monroe in a bikini is safe for work, unlike the Marilyn Merlot from the same producer, which features her famous nude for Playboy. For those too shy to pluck the scantily clad icon from the shelf, Tim also reviewed the 2002 Lavradores de Feitoria "Tres Bagos" from Portugal, which comes wrapped in a lovely minimalist label.

The Cellar Rat
Artwork by Margrit Biever Mondavi (Robert's wife) decorates the 2003 Arnot-Roberts Hudson Vineyards Syrah. Alan went above and beyond the call of wine blogging duty and interviewed the wine makers. Tune in to find out what he thought of it.

A Guy, A Girl, and a Bottle
Joe and Lori took a popular route by opting for some Bonny Doon bottles, the Cardinal Zin with its notorious Ralph Steadman drawing, and the more unusual Il Circo. I've seen the Il Circo bottle before, and it's easy to see why Lori was drawn to it.
photos in Wine Blogging Wednesday 16 More photos in Wine Blogging Wednesday 16

Former Hosts
These folks have subjected you to their whims, guiding you to new—and hopefully good—wines. And of course Lenn isn't just a former host but the founder of the whole Wine Blogging Wednesday phenomenon. What did they choose as players rather than plotters?

Cincinnati Wine Warehouse
Jens picked up the 2003 le jaja de jeu at the local supermarket. I like the white script on a black background, but I laughed when I read this line: "The back label suggested that it be served well-chilled which should have been a clue as to what I was about to taste."

Seattle Bon Vivant
Viv gives a taste of living well with the 2004 Domaine de la Sansonnière Rosé d'Un Jour, which sports "a very gutsy and different label, perhaps even the most outspoken, in your face wine label I've ever encountered." What's so intriguing about it? You'll have to read it to find out. It's not what you expect!

Cook sister!
Someone! Go rescue Jeanne! An impostor at her blog wrote about the HRM Rex Goliath Pinot Noir. Carte blanche to choose any wine she wants, and she doesn't pick a South African bottle? I'm suspicious.

But I'm even more suspicious of Lenn's write-up. It's not a Long Island wine. It's not even a New York wine! Thanks goodness Mary Beth picked a Long Island wine so we'd have one in the set. I guess that's what happens when Nena picks out the bottle. For this round, she chose the 2003 Lucky Country Barossa Valley Shiraz. It's similar to Jennifer's bottle, but you'll have to click through to their posts to find out how.

basic juice
Just in time for the holidays, Beau found a wine with Santa written in red on the label. A Christmas wine? Not exactly. But read his description of the 2001 Santa Sofia Recioto della Valpolicella to see if you should put it under the tree.
Andrew was struggling with server issues, so it took me a while to get some good permalinks, but he thankfully seems to be up and running again. He wrote about the 2004 Matahiwi Pinot Noir, which he artfully shot in repose. Also be sure to read his description of the 2001 Haras Character Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. He thought about reviewing it for WBW, but chose the Pinot Noir instead.

Alder put on his design consultant hat to discuss the label on the 2004 Magnet Pinot Noir. I don't think anyone else provided such an in-depth analysis of the label artwork. I'm just sad that the winery no longer uses the unusual Prelude bottle for the Pinot Noir. Ah, well. At least the label's still unorthodox.

Obsession with Food
I reviewed two wines, the 2003 Cep Syrah and the Five Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I'm Sure Something Will Turnip

Photo by Melissa Schneider.
I decided to take advantage of all the turnips at the local market for my latest SFist post.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Menu For Hope II: Raffle to Help Kashmir Victims

Some of you may remember Pim's Menu for Hope fundraiser from last year, when she organized a few food bloggers to urge their readers to donate money for victims of 2004's massive tsunami.

How sad to make this an annual tradition. But natural disasters continue to happen, and good wishes alone don't help the victims. Pim has organized a second Menu for Hope to aid those affected by the Kashmir earthquake. This year, she's set up a raffle. Some of your favorite food bloggers have donated prizes, and you can buy a single ticket for just $5. There are some fantastic opportunities on that list (are we eligible to win, Pim? I wouldn't mind a gift certificate to Manresa!). You can—and should—buy more than one ticket to increase your odds. Remember, all the money goes straight to those who need it. And unlike most raffles, you can pick and choose the prizes you might win. As you donate, leave a comment mentioning which drawing you'd like to enter. Pim's site has the full list of options, and more keep coming.

I'm offering a subscription to The Art of Eating. As most of you know, I consider Ed Behr's quarterly to be the best food and wine magazine around. You simply won't find a more thoughtful or better-informed publication, and I for one really like Ed's style of writing (and editing). Here's your chance to win a subscription and see for yourself. Go to the First Giving site, enter a donation, and win a chance for a raffle ticket. Remember, the more tickets you buy, the better your chances.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

WBW Roundup...Coming Soon

We had something on the order of forty entries for this round of Wine Blogging Wednesday. Even at a fast-paced fifteen minutes for each blurb about your posts, that's a good ten hours. And I've been scared to actually time myself.

So it's still to come. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

WBW 16: Judging a Wine By Its Label

What catches my eye about wine labels? What catches yours? This was part of the goal for Wine Blogging Wednesday 16. Many of us can spell out our vinous biases: I dislike overoaked Chardonnay, Alder isn't a fan of German wine. But other, more subtle biases come into play when we buy an unknown bottle. How many of us could express those with ease? We weigh the bottle in our hands, choosing the heavier over the lighter. We pretend to ponder vintage and producer and AVA, but more often than we care to admit, we are drawn to a bottle's label. I asked participants to probe their visual tastes and think about what makes a bottle attractive.

We'll see answers to that question as bloggers around the globe publish the posts that I'll list in a write-up this weekend. You can get a sneak peek by keeping an eye on the flickr pool I set up. My tastes, it turns out, are fairly easy to describe. Simple, even stark, labels call to me. It's an ironic preference: The German wines I love use encyclopedic labels; my beloved French wines have classic, stodgy labels; only the New World wines that I tend to avoid invest their money in designers who construct artfully minimalist wrappings. I blame my friend Hans, whose clean designs for my books and puzzle packagings shape what little design sense I posess.

Enough. How were my wines, you want to know. Not as stark and austere as their labels suggest, that's for sure.

Photo by Melissa Schneider.

2003 Cep Syrah, Sonoma Coast, $21 at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.
A circular label. Navy blue background with rose-colored piping. White letters and a white silhouette of a vine. The artwork is striking, containing nothing but the information you need to know: the producer, the region, the grape, the year. The stripped-down look and unusual shape gives you a good look through the green glass and into the lush red interior.

Sadly, the wine does not have the balance and grace its label suggests. I tasted a small amount early in the evening, and decided to decant the tannic wine for half an hour. Without the tannins, it had little to recommend it. Jam and prunes on the nose, but also lots of alcohol. Little in the way of flavors. Some fruit, I suppose, with a hot, vanilla-scented finish. Some acidity and a medium-heavy mouthfeel suggest a wine forced to a suppleness it wouldn't posess on its own. We served it with duck confit, braised chard and onions, and fried potatoes.

Photo by Melissa Schneider.

2002 Five Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $24, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant
"It catches everyone's eye," said Peter, one of the store's owners. A plain white label shows little more than an inkblot of five tally marks. It is the most powerful of contrasts, a vast white plain decorated with a single dark logo. The story is even more interesting. Five Vintners is a collaboration of five wine makers whose names are written in Napa's history books. Three are Beringers and the rest are their descendants.

At first, I didn't remember the wine, but after I bought it I realized that I had tasted it before. I used it in one of my wine classes. I remember liking it then, and being surprised that I liked it since a) I'm not a fan of Napa stylings and b) I'm not a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon. But this wine lacks the bludgeoning extraction of Napa wines and I couldn't detect that Cabernet Sauvignon smell I always describe as brambly but other people label as bell pepper.

Instead, after some time in the decanter it had a subtle mix of floral and herbaceous smells. Bubble gum, mint, and lavender, with a dusty backdrop. The fruit flavors came out in the mouth as subtle tastes of ripe red fruit. The tannins are fine-grained, and it has a bright acidity. Its medium-long finish runs a bit hot, but for the most part, this is a well-balanced, restrained wine. I don't know if it will stand the taste of time, but it drinks well now. We enjoyed it with a chard gratin served with (overcooked) braised beef ribs.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Chard on SFist

Photo by Melissa Schneider.
Yeah, okay. It's a boring title. Still, go read my chard post on SFist. I made chard gratin (shown here) as well as braised chard and onions with the last of my current batch of duck confit. Time to make more!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Food Blog Awards 2005

Kate of Accidental Hedonist is calling for nominations for the Second Annual Food Blog Awards.

She's doing things a little differently this year. The nominations will be reviewed by a group of judges, who will narrow each category's selection to just five choices. Then she'll let her readers cast their votes.

Visit her site, check out the categories, and nominate your favorite food blogs.