Monday, October 29, 2007

A Ghoulish Gamay?

What wine should you serve on Thanksgiving? Okay, now that's a question foodies are used to hearing. But what wine to serve on Halloween!?

Seems like a strange question, but tries to answer it in this article.

Undeservedly "Shunned" Rhubarb

At the Whole Foods website, the entry for rhubarb reads as follows:
Shunned as a vegetable and only reluctantly embraced as a fruit, rhubarb is something of a misfit.
I happen to love rhubarb, and the tart flavor it adds to an otherwise sweet dish. I have made strawberry-rhubarb crumble several times, but I have never made a rhubarb pie.

I just noticed on that tomorrow "on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah and her guest, Cindy Crawford, spotlight this recipe for rhubarb pie ..." As it turns out, the recipe is not purely rhubarb -- strawberries play a co-starring role.

Apparently, the recipe comes well recommended. It won Louise Piper a blue ribbon at the 1997 Iowa State Fair.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Underappreciated Pretzel's Sara Dickerman recently wrote:

While I rarely pass a day without a pretzel, I'm surprised by how little respect pretzels get in the snack-food world, particularly here on the West Coast.

They are generally viewed as innocuous -- an acceptable backup snack -- but they're no competition for whiz-pow-bang-flavor-dusted potato and tortilla chips. (This is echoed in sales statistics, where potato chips grab about 38 percent, and tortilla chips 26 percent, of the salty-snack market. Pretzels hover closer to 7.5 percent to 8 percent.)

But it is the very lack of flash that draws me to the pretzel. Pretzels do not need the lush fattiness of chips or cheese puffs. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the pretzel as a snack "used, esp. by Germans as a relish with beer," and it is perhaps this complementary quality that keeps pretzels below the radar.

Because of their link to beer and harvest-time drinking, I like to think of pretzels as one of those pagan holdovers like mistletoe, but, at least in legend, their invention is decidedly Christian. An Italian monk, in the year 610, is said to have twisted a rope of dough into the classic form -- the twist itself representing arms folded in prayer, and the three holes a nod to the Holy trinity. Some claim pretzel comes from the Latin pretiola, which means "little rewards," as the crunchy knots were purportedly given to children as prizes for piety. Other etymologies look back to the Medieval Latin term bracellus, meaning "bracelet."
I like pretzels, but if they were given out on the basis of one's piety, I suspect that my supply would be cut off or at least significantly reduced.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Are You a Picky Eater?

Then you can blame it (like everything else that's wrong in your life) on your parents. Or so suggests this article in today's NY Times.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bottle of Clos du Bois Disappoints

Last week, I had friends over for dinner and I opened a 2003 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon. It certainly wasn't cheap -- these days nothing that has "Cabernet" on the label from California is. The wine was not at all impressive. There was no finesse and not much in the way of tannins, a hallmark of most red wines.

It was a C+ wine, and C+ wines aren't supposed to cost what this wine cost.

Another reason why I vote "thumbs down" on Clos du Bois? The Sonoma County winery requires everyone who wants to enter their website to provide their birthdate so that the winemaker supposedly "knows" they are of legal drinking age. Of course, there is no way for Clos du Bois to know that anyone entering their site has typed in their accurate birthdate.

Welcome to the wine police.

Talk about overzealous. If you want to certify that someone purchasing wines is of legal age, fine; I understand. But just to visit your website and learn about your wines? That seems a bit much.

This approach may score points with some who are focused on underage drinking, but requiring this extra step of all web visitors seems silly and unnecessary. (As I mentioned earlier, it's far from foolproof.) I suspect that most underage drinkers are either finding someone of legal age to buy alcoholic beverages for them or are swiping alcohol from their parents' liquor cabinet.

At the prices Clos du Bois charges for bottles of wine, I find it hard to believe that there is a rush of 17- and 18-year-olds who are buying cases of Cabs online. If so, they should try Twenty Bench instead. Great wine at a fantastic price.

Let Me "Manufacture" You a Hamburger

The first 3 paragraphs from an article in today's Washington Post:

A week after announcing one of the largest meat recalls ever, Topps Meat has gone out of business.

The New Jersey company, which sold processed meat to stores across the country, was forced to recall 21.7 million pounds of ground beef because of possible E. coli contamination and is facing at least two lawsuits.

"This is tragic for all concerned," Anthony L. D'Urso, Topps's chief operating officer, said in a written statement yesterday. "In one week we have gone from the largest U.S. manufacturer of frozen hamburgers to a company that cannot overcome the economic reality of a recall this large."
The fact that someone describes a company as a "manufacturer of frozen hamburgers" reminds us that we live in a country in which food is heavily processed before its reaches consumers or diners.

Paper is manufactured. So are rugs or textiles. But a hamburger? It doesn't sound very appetizing to me to have someone tell me they will "manufacture" my hamburger.

Hamburger is beef, for God's sake. It's not some synthetic material or some natural material that has been dyed or treated with solvents or other chemicals. (At least it's not supposed to be.) The lingo just seems bizarre to me; one does not "manufacture" a hamburger patty. You shape ground beef into a patty and then you freeze it. It seems strange to call that a manufacturing process.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Those Who Call the Shots

According to today's Washington Post, there are 104,080 chefs or "head cooks" employed somewhere in the United States. Nationwide, these individuals earn an average salary of $34,370. In Washington, that average climbs to $49,010.