Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Penfolds Grange! You say Syrah, I say Shiraz.

My new job has some pretty unique benefits. That is, trying some wines that I would never get the chance to taste. This lineup consists of Australian Shiraz's. Who is that girl that I spy on the very end................ From right to left:
1. Hope Estate Shiraz, 2006 (Hunter Valley) $13
2. Buckshot Shiraz, 2005 (Heathcote) $20
3. Clonkilla Shiraz Voignier, 2005 (Canberra) $54
4. Kay Brothers Shiraz "Amery Vineyard", 2003 (McLaren Vale) $25
5. Penfolds RWT Shiraz, 2001 (Barossa Valley) $75
6. Penfolds Grange, 2001 (South Australia) $300 !!!

I found the Clonkilla Shiraz Voignier to be one of the best in the lineup, due to the blend with the Voignier that made it a little lighter and easy drinking, but the Kay Brothers had the most unique spicy caramel flavor out of the group. Who was my number one pick................
The Penfolds Shiraz of course! Holy cow, $300 a bottle. It should have tasted like spicy, melted gold and it pretty much did. So smooth and blasting with flavor. No comparison. My 1 oz tasting pour equated to $11.84................which is more than I made for the entire hour I worked before this tasting experience. Notice the pen in front pocket, that is to pay homage to my father and his need for front pockets on all his shirts, T-shirts included.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Anchor Steam Brewery Tour

This weekend, the CIA sponsored a Brew Tour for interested students. I jumped on the opportunity and off to San Francisco I went to visit the famous Anchor Steam Brewery. The brewery is owned by Fritz Maytag of the Maytag Washing Machine empire.
The famous bar was very unique and very inviting to a bunch of 21+ ish culinary students. Our brewmaster Tom Littig made a great and all too candid bartender. I am pretty sure his life stories proved that he was in the right profession. Needless to say, he poured a stout brew and our palate was challenged by this non-wine tasting experience.
Just me and the boys hanging out enjoying a nice Summer Ale. Rick from Arizona, and Tyson Jackson from none other than Springdale, Arkansas. What are the odds! Two Arkansans in the same bar in San Francisco! Well, really both of them are in the A.O.S Section 6 so we kinda already knew each other. Good tasting companions none the less. I forgot to tell the bartender that I very much dislike beer, but I tried them all anyway. Still don't like beer, but it was a good experience and they even make a 10% alcohol beer that by law is classified as wine which was pretty good.
These beautiful copper vats were brought over from Germany about a hundred years ago or so and are the main brewing tanks used for the traditional beer preparation.................
but what makes Anchor Steam Brewery famous, is their steam brewed beer. These giant pools ferment the beer in an open-air bath. The type of beer produced is much lighter and easy drinking and other than Europe, not many people in the states still produce beer this way. All I could think about was seeing Homer Simpson swimming the backstroke and spraying beer fountains out of his mouth. We even got to taste some fresh beer out of one of the drums that was going to be bottled on Monday morning. Word of advice, buy your beer fresh, because unlike wine, it doesn't get better with age! Neat-o experience, but I think I will stick to the juice drinks if you know what I mean. Cheers!

Restaurant Review: In-N-Out Burger First Timer!

This Sunday after church, some of my new Napa Valley buddies decided to introduce me to the real cuisine of the valley. Not the French Laundry, not Go Fish, not even Taylor's Refresher, but the non-Arkansas based world famous In-N-Out Burger! It would be a Sunday lunch that I would not soon forget. I keep forgetting that mirror-effect on glass! Dang it!
As loyal readers, you have seen Canard Confit from Toulouse, France, Wienerschnitzel from Prutz, Austria, and even the famous Doner Kebab from Berlin, Germany, now set your sights on the Animal-style Cheeseburger with fresh cut French Fries. Animal-style you ask? Yes, it on the Secret Menu and consists of grilled onions, extra spread, and pickles. Although I am learning to cook white table cloth style cuisine, nothing is as comforting as American/California fast food at its best, for $4.93 at that. My philosophy of "food is only as good as your company" holds true again, as my new friends made the experience one to be remembered.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cork Taint, Say it Ain't So!

1989 R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva. A beautiful Spanish Rioja that retails for $81.
And his evil brother from 1987! Say it ain't so, say it ain't so..........the mighty 'bouchon' has stuck again. Corked! Perhaps one day, my research from France will be instrumental in solving this continuing epidemic of good wines gone bad. Till then, wrap up a ball of Saran Wrap and throw it into the bottom of your decanter. Depending on the intensity of the cork taint, decant it for 20 minutes to 2 hours. This process may salvage your next bottle before it goes down the drain.

Monday, September 15, 2008

That's a Whole Lotta Salt!

Today, our A.O.S. Class 6 joined forces with A.O.S. 4 and we went on a field trip. We traveled to the San Francisco Bay to visit the Cargill Salt Fields. This is the view from the State Wildlife Park lookout. As far as you can see, flooded fields of bay water are producing the salt crops of the future. It take up to 5 years to harvest salt once it enters the system from the bay water. Cargill is actually the only producer in the world that produces real "sea salt." Not sea salt from ancient pools that no longer exist, but legitamite salt from the Pacific Ocean. Interesting............
It's hard to see, but out in the vast salt fields is a giant "scraper" vehicle and monsterous dump trucks that collect the dirty salt and carry it off to be washed. Please note my friend Ed's arm, we will discuss this in detail soon.
Back over at the overlook, you can see a small white hilltop on the horizon.................from close-up, it becomes an 80 foot pile of washed salt. This salt will undergo one more washing to remove the final impurities, or bitterants, and then will go directly into packaging. Incredibly, only 3% of this mountain of salt is actually destined for food grade use. The rest is used for animal feeds, sold to chemical/manufacturing companies, pharmaceutical companies, and mostly to clean off those icy roads all across the country during the winter.
Remember that one guys arm, it belonged to my new best friend, Ed. Ed and I thought that if careers in the food service industry don't work out, we always have the look of mid-level management to fall back on. A big thanks go out to Chef Tucker and Chef Wong for keeping us in touch with the hard working people that put their blood, sweat, and salty tears into making the products that we use everyday. Thank you Cargill for our introduction into the world of salt!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Peter L. Jacobsen - Farmer to the French Laundry

Today we had a guest speak in Intro to Gastronomy, Peter Jacobsen of Jacobsen Orchards. Mr. Jacobsen owns a highly-respected organic 1.5 acre farm in Yountville, CA. He produces exotic and super high-quality produce and fruits for none other than Thomas Kellar's French Laundry Restaurant. We were introduced to a variety of intense aromatic compounds that produced aromas unlike any I had smelled before. From Top left to Bottom right: Peach Leaves (Amaretto, Almond), Rosemary, Lavendar leaves (soapy, bitter tasting), Lavendar leaves (fresh, citrus), and Rose Geranium (roses).
Next up was the Purple Hyacinth Bean, or edible flower. These make beautiful, edible garnishes and also add a crunchy, fruity, beany, and mildly bitter addition to a dish. Other produce that we tried included wild fennel pollen seeds on a pear (use: salads or saffron sauce with fish), brown Turkey figs, Celestial figs (dessert), and Late Nail Nectarines (use: chutney or dessert).

If you need a visual to understand what is so interesting about the French Laundry , here is guy who photo reviewed his dining experience at the restaurant...............for $660 a person!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Culinary Institute of America WINE CLUB MEMBER

That's right, I have taken on a new social avenue as a student at the Culinary Institute of America, the Wine Club. I have seen the movie Fight Club, I was once the Vice-President of the Beta Club, I hope to never be a proud member of the Hair Club for Men, and now I happily celebrate my status as a member of the CIA-Wine Club. Our meetings are held in the lavish, Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies. This is the most incredible sensory analysis building I have ever seen. The topic for tonight was "Chardonnay from Around the World."
Here are the minutes of my first meeting (I was once the Secretary of the FBLA Club):
From left to right, front to back, we have:

1. 2005 La Crema, Healdsburg, Sonoma Coast, California $20
2. 2006 Sebastapol Vineyards, Russian River Valley, California $21
3. 2004 Vergent Pouillay-Fouissey, Northern Burgundy, France $40
4. 2007 Kim Crawford "Unoaked", New Zealand $25
5. 2006 Domaine Laroche Premiere Cru, Chablis, France $33
6. 2005 Charles Shaw "Two Buck Chuck", California $2.00
7. 2004 Vincent Giraudain Mersault Premiere Cru, Cote d'Or, France $140
8. 2005 Flowers, Sonoma Coast, California $70

We conducted a blind taste test between all of the wines and came up with our favorites. My winner was........................#3, the 2004 Vergent Pouillay-Fouissey White Burgundy. Maybe I still have a little taste of 'ole Francais on my tongue. Incredibly, #6 and #7 were secluded and tasted against each other and almost everyone preferred #6 ($2). The complexity of #7 ($140)and the powerful oak was too overpowering for our palates. So, drink with your taste buds, not with your wallet. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Latest and Greatest in California Wine.

Now that I have been in the Napa Valley for almost 4-weeks, I would like to share some of the better wines that I have had the chance to sample, savour, and salivate over as of late:

1. 2006 Ketcham Estate Russian River, Pinot Noir $40
2. 2006 Hirsh "M" Hirsh Vineyard, Carneros, Pinot Noir $50
3. 2005 Zacherle Crowley Vineyard, Spring Mtn District, Syrah $60
4. 2005 Provenance Vineyards Merlot Beckstoffer Las Amigas Vineyard. $75

Tonight is the first meeting for the CIA Wine Club. As a member, I am sure I will have many more selections to share with all of my loyal readers. Cheers!

What to Know Before You Get Married!

I know that I am not an expert by any means about this topic, but I do have 3 weeks under my belt and I can already state these comments as fact:

1. Your toothpaste will run out twice as fast as when you were a bachelor. (Understandable.)
2. Your toilet paper will run out 15 times faster than when you were a bachelor (A 4-pack use to last 6-months!)
3. Your kitchen will be 3 times messier after you finish cooking dinner together compared to when you cooked dinner alone (Girls are mesy!)
4. Your kitchen will be 5 times cleaner after you finishing cooking dinner together compared to when you cleaned after dinner (I take back that last comment).
5. Your happiness level will be multiplied by an immeasurable amount (Shared by both parties!)