Friday, June 30, 2006

GnG Recap 06/30/06

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Here are some of the stories we've covered over at Growers & Grocers in the last week:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dinner Parties on SFist

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So how do we pull off those big dinner parties? Find out in my latest SFist post, where I give tips on organizing a special dinner. Long-time readers may have seen these guidelines in various other posts, but I've put them all together in one place.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hardneck Garlic in The Art of Eating

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I have a small piece about hardneck garlic in issue 72 of The Art of Eating. When I discovered hardneck garlic two years ago, I wanted to do a piece about how chefs take advantage of the different tastes of these more flavorful bulbs.

The problem is: No chefs really do. So we whittled down my idea to a Notes & Resource that hopefully educates AoE readers about this more interesting type of garlic. Call now to order your copy! And tell them I sent you.

If 900 words about hardneck garlic aren't enough to get you to your phone or their website, here's the full description, which contains the sequel, as it were, to Ed's earlier Comté piece: "A Particular Taste: Vin Jaune and Other Traditional Wines of the Jura" — Recommended wine producers — Addresses in the Franche-Comté — Mexican Vanilla: Sketches in Papantla — A Taste by Any Other Name: Umami Comes West — recipes — notes and resources (garlic, dried morels, filet green beans, Mexican vanilla beans) — letters — books: Lee Reich's Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What I Made For Dinner Last Night

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Photo by Melissa Schneider.

I lay on our living room couch, awkwardly covering my face with a throw pillow. Every ray of sunshine that made it past my shield made me wince. Every sound in the neighborhood jangled and tore through my throbbing skull.

Be wary of Alder bearing wine. He brings good bottles, but he brings a lot of them.

Who could blame him, though? He wanted to share some unique California wines with us, Lenn Thompson, his wife Nena (both visiting from Long Island), and Fatemeh and C. I don't normally let other people provide the wine when we have a dinner party, but when Alder offered to pair wines to my menu, I decided it was in my best interest to agree. I was less sure as I recovered from my hangover this morning, but I'm back to thinking it was a success.

Appetizer Platter: Fried summer squash slices, fried goat-cheese-stuffed squash blossoms, roasted speck-wrapped figs, duck rillettes.
Wine: 2003 Groth Sauvignon Blanc, Napa
Ironically, the duck confit I made for the rillettes was one of my best batches yet. Two beautiful legs of duck confit, shredded into rillettes. Sigh. The fried squash blossoms were a big hit, but the speck-wrapped figs, roasted for 10 minutes, ruled the roost.

Amuse-bouche: Herbed gougeres with crème fraîche filling
I stole this idea from La Toque, though they put the herbs (and goat cheese) on the inside of the gougeres. I put herbs into the dough itself, and stuffed the little puffs with whipped crème fra&icric;che.

Salad: Tomato aspic, artichoke bottoms, chicken liver pâté, basil oil.
Wine: 2002 Tandem Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
Richard Olney's French Menu Cookbook provided the inspiration for this dish. He stuffs artichoke bottoms with chicken liver mousse, and rests that assembly on a tomato mousse. I replaced the tomato mousse with a delicate tomato aspic made from juice squeezed out of fresh Roma tomatoes. I piped the chicken liver paté into the artichoke bottoms, which I poached in vermouth, placed the assembly atop a pile of tomato aspic, and then garnished with tiny drops of basil oil.

Entrée: Torchon of foie gras on brioche, with June Taylor lime-ginger marmalade
Wine: 2005 Harrington Vineyards Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County
Alder brought a special rosé to pair with my homemade torchon of foie gras and brioche. A friend of his produces this wine in minuscule amounts. I feel bad that we always seem to serve foie gras to Fatemeh and C., but somehow they soldier on.

Main: Roast chicken with vegetables and a brown butter sauce
Wine(s):2004 Arista Pinot Noir Longbow Vineyard, 2004 Arista Pinot Noir Harper's Rest Vineyard, and 2004 Arista Pinot Noir Russian River Cuvée; 2004 Rivers-Marie Old Vine Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2004 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2004 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir, Summa Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
See what I mean about Alder bringing a lot of wine? That's six bottles, and we all had tastes of each. This was the course where I started to feel a little spacey.
I served the roast chicken with roasted asparagus and morels and an onion confit. Everyone loved the brown butter sauce ("This dish tastes like lobster," said Melissa).

Cheese: Achadinha Capricious, Fiscalini Bandanged Cheddar, Jean d'Alos Clisson
Wine: 2002 Rosenblum Monte Rosso Zinfandel
Alongside the cheeses, I served Acme Bakery's walnut bread, salted almonds (which I made earlier that day), and a tomato confit that I improvised from the pulp I had after making the aspic.

Dessert: Strawberry sorbet, nectarine, mint-butter cookies, white chocolate.

GnG Recap 06/25/06

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It's been a bit crazy this week, but here's a look at some of the topics we discussed on Growers & Grocers over the last few days:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Peeling Boiled Potatoes

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Thanks to boing boing for pointing readers to this slick video explaining how to peel a boiled potato in one shot.

It's from a Japanese TV Show, but you'll get the drift.

Monday, June 19, 2006

New Feature - Favorite Posts

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I added a new feature to OWF. It's a list of "Favorite Posts," my (and often your) most beloved posts here on this site. I'll update it every so often, adding new posts or editing ones that are already in there (Recent Dinner Party will always refer to our most recent posted-about dinner party and Latest Print Piece will always point to the most recent post about one of my print pieces).

Try it. You'll need JavaScript enabled. Click on the pop-up menu over on the right (just above "Professional Writing") and choose an option. If you choose "Favorite Posts" it will bring you to the home page.

Let me know how it works for you and if you've got other suggestions for favorite posts.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

GnG Recap 06/16/06

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I'm in Southern California this weekend, but here's a look at some of the items we've covered at Growers & Grocers over the last week.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Wining and Dining on SFist

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Photo by Melissa Schneider.
For my SFist post today, I decided to leave the kitchen and wander over to the wine rack, offering some tips on pairing wines and food. I always feel that people get too worked up over the topic, so hopefully this will alleviate some of the stress.

Monday, June 12, 2006

WTN: 2005 Heidi Schröck Muscat, Neusiedlersee-Hugelland, Austria

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If I ever say that I plan to stop drinking wine, test my resolve with a bottle of Heidi Schröck Muscat (despite the name, a blend of white grapes including some muscat varieties). This is a wine for those who have an unabashed love for the beverage.

Terry Theise, who imports Schröck's wines to the U.S., describes her as "one of those very few people who appear to have figured out how to live" and suggests that she carries everything off with "grace and warmth." She's something of a novelty in a country where women wine makers are few and far between, but I imagine everyone overlooks her gender once they taste her passion-driven wines.

Schröck's winery and vineyards are in Austria's Neusiedlersee-Hugelland region, near the town of Rust on the border of Hungary. The area's south-facing slopes have above-average amounts of sunlight, relative to the rest of Austria, and the soil has a high calcium content, like many of the best wine regions. The region is known for its high-quality reds and dessert wines, but Schröck produces a number of dry white table wines from interesting grapes (I'd love to try her Furmint, one of my favorite white varieties).

The wine's floral aromas flirt rather than flaunt, floating atop a city-after-a-spring-rain minerality. Steely stones and acidity come to life in the mouth, followed by that telltale floral flavor and a finish of pineapple and grapefruit. This is one of those wines that just quivers in the mouth. It's quite food-friendly and I served it with chicken legs braised in an older bottle of the same wine.

I'm glad to see screw caps on the latest vintage of Schröck Muscat, which I bought for $25 at Vintage Berkeley. I've had bad luck with old bottles from earlier vintages, when she was using various alternative closures that allowed the wine to oxidize easily (plastic-wrapped foam, thin cork around a compressed core, and so forth). In fact, the 2001 I used for the chicken legs smelled like sherry when I opened it. New closure or no, this is a wine to drink in its vibrant youth.

Friday, June 09, 2006

GnG Recap 06/09/06

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Here are some of the topics we covered on Growers & Grocers this week:

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

WBW 22: 2003 Château Haut Roudier, Bordeaux

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Say Bordeaux and most people think of grand estates and eye-popping prices. But those images represent a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions of bottles the famous wine region produces each year. In fact, it's not hard to find decent, affordable bottles of Bordeaux, especially as desperate vintners try to combat the declining sales of French wine.

Melissa and I are auditioning wines for a new "house red"—something decent and food-friendly we can afford in reasonable quantities—and we started our quest with the Château Haut Roudier, a basic Bordeaux that Vintage Berkeley sells for $10. What does an audition entail? We ask the wines to sing a little song and read from a script, but we use our instincts to make the final call.

Low alcohol can bias the judges. The 12.5% in this wine helps it pair with a wide variety of foods, but it also qualifies the bottle for the "low-alcohol reds" theme for this round of Wine Blogging Wednesday, the Internet-wide tasting event.

The Roudier's stream of aromas reminds me of my duck confit lessons: There's a lot going on in this wine, but it's hard to pick out individual notes. Sure, I could mention barnyard and cherry and caramel, and add in some green notes, but that wouldn't convey the rush of scents. The flavors confused my palate just as much. Perhaps my nose was off that evening (I often forget where I put it). The good acidity and low tannins contribute to its food-friendliness, but I fear the short finish will disqualify it as we work through other house wine candidates.

We paired the wine with a garlicky roast leg of lamb cooked nice and rare. That's a hard challenge for an everyday wine, and our little Bordeaux couldn't quite muster the body for the job. Still, it should do quite nicely with any number of less robust dishes.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Recent Tasting Notes

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I'm making an effort to publish tasting notes again, lest you worry that we've become teetotallers.

These wines were samples sent to me by wineries or their P.R. reps. I don't promise to review samples here or in a paid article, but I do promise to give the wines a fair, "official" tasting and I might as well share my thoughts with you. I tasted three wines in this session, but one was so uninteresting that I'll give the producer the benefit of the doubt until I taste it again.

2001 Astrale e Terra "Arcturus" Red Wine, Napa Valley, $39
This restrained Bordeaux blend from one of Tom Wark's clients was my favorite of the three I tasted, and I saved the bottle to accompany my steak dinner that night. The wine offers sturdy aromas of dark cherries and leather with a splash of mint. Decent tannins and a nice acidity play nicely with the dark cherry flavors, and the long finish gives you a chance to tease out a slight vanilla note.

2001 William Hill Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa Valley, $35
This wine seems aimed at critics. Interesting aromas—pepper, leathery mustiness, and meat—have little to do with the jammy, cooked fruit flavors that come out on the palate. Low tannins, good acidity, and a viscous feel round out the critic-pleasing forumla. These types of wine always remind me of cough syrup, but if you're a fan of the style, this is probably a decent representative.

A Food Blog in Comics

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Many of you have discovered that I don't keep up with the numerous "check out my site" emails I get. I apologize to everyone who's sent me one and hasn't gotten a response. But when someone pitches you with a personalized comic strip, it catches your eye. And when you go to the site and discover that it's a blog done in comics, well, it seems worth mentioning.

Which is why I'm pointing you to Mostly About Food. It's a cute idea (is it the first comics-based food blog?), so you should at least give it a look.

Friday, June 02, 2006

GnG Recap, 06/02

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What's the what on Growers and Grocers? Here's a guide to some of the stories we've covered this week: