Wine. Food. Reviews. Recipes. Lap it up.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Grilled Lambburgers

For a delicious alternative to plain ol’ burgers, go buy a boneless leg of lamb and make some seasoned burger meat out of it. The following measurements are for one pound of lamb — do the math and adjust for however many pounds you have.

Grilled Lambburgers
two servings per pound

1 lb. lamb meat
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. oregano

Carefully trim boneless leg of lamb, removing as much silvery membrane as possible and most (but not all) fat. Cut meat into cubes of approximately 1" and either grind with meat grinder or chop in food processor. If you use a food processor, use the pulse button and take care not to overprocess — the more coarsely chopped, the better.

Thoroughly mix all spices except vinegar. Spread out the chopped lamb. Evenly sprinkle the spices on it, and then the vinegar. Knead the meat as much as necessary to evenly distribute the flavorings, but don't overdo it. Form into 1/2 lb. balls, wrap in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for a couple of hours before grilling.

When ready to grill, form into patties about 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Grill over medium high heat for five minutes per side, turning once. If you like cheese on your burger, goat's milk cheddar works well.

When serving, consider what condiments might go well with cumin and oregano. These could include Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, thinly-sliced onions and tomatoes, capers, fresh basil leaves, lettuce, dill pickles, a roasted tomato tapenade, or a simple cucumber yogurt sauce. Use high-quality buns or pita bread.

These burgers will pair well with just about any red wine from Spain or South America.
M. Zane Grey, 9:04 AM | link |

Shark Trust Chenin Blanc 2005

If you like your white wines fresh, clean and crisp, try a bottle of Shark Trust Chenin Blanc 2005 . This $10 South African starts with a burst of nectarine on the palate, where the food-friendly acids kick your salivary glands into gear. The finish is exceptionally clean, with no residual bitterness. It's just the wine to have on hand the next time you get the urge to grill some shellfish.
M. Zane Grey, 9:03 AM | link |

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars sold

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, one of Napa Valley's best known wineries, has been sold to a partnership of Italian winemaker Marchese Piero Antinori and Ste Michelle Wine Estates, Washington State's largest wine producer.

Stag's Leap and its winemaker, Warren Winiarski, are famous for being judged the best in the legendary "Judgement of Paris" tasting in 1976. Winarski, who is now 79, said it is time for him and his wife Barbara to retire.
M. Zane Grey, 9:03 AM | link |

Monday, July 30, 2007

Pardevalles Gamonal Prieto Picudo 2005

pardevallesAfter trying Alaia, a red blend that is 50 percent Prieto Picudo, I wanted to sample the Pardevalles Gamonal Prieto Picudo 2005, which is a pure example of wine made from the obscure grape of León.

At $19, the Gamonal is more than twice the price of Alaia, but at least for the additional ten bucks you get one additional point from the Wine Advocate (90 vs. 89).

It didn't take the Gamonal long to open in a decanter. By the time I had sliced three peppers and an onion it was releasing a heady aroma of cedar and cassis, and hit the palate with earthy dark plums and blackberries, robust body, and a balanced tannic structure that stays in the background. The finish is dry and long. If I had to compare this wine to anything, I'd say it falls somewhere between a Primitivo and a Malbec, but with a distinctly Spanish character.

Enjoy this wine by itself, or with a hearty entrée. We paired it with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Fettucini topped with grilled pepper and onions, Italian sausage and a Romano Pomodoro sauce, and couldn't have been happier.
M. Zane Grey, 10:34 AM | link |

Cheese, chevre, corn and crab

Here's a recipe my friend Laurel assigned me to make for a recent Gourmet Club dinner. I've served it three different ways now, all to rave reviews.

Cheese, Chèvre, Corn and Crab
filling, dip or cheese ball

2 cups lump crab meat
1 cup fresh (or frozen) corn kernels
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. goat cheese, softened
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
juice of 2 limes
salt to taste
white pepper to taste

1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
(or more as required; use the same ratio)

Using your hands, thoroughly blend first six ingredients in a bowl. Taste, adjust salt and pepper to taste, and blend again.

To use the mixture as a dip, transfer it to a serving bowl. Combine the chili powder and tortilla chips in a food processor and pulse until chips are uniformly crumbled and chili powder is well integrated. Top the dip with the chips and chili powder mixture and serve with sturdy corn or tortilla chips.

You can make a cheese ball by forming the mixture into a ball and covering it with the chips and chili powder (you'll need to at least double the quantity of chips / chili powder). Wrap ball in plastic wrap, place in bowl and refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.

This also makes an excellent filling for grilled peppers. Just slice the peppers in half, fill with a generous dollop of the mixture, and top with a sprinkling of the chili powder and chips. Grill for a few minutes, until the skin of the peppers starts to blacken and blister. Serve immediately.

I tried this last method with several different types of peppers, and got the best results with habeñeros. Habeñeros are quite hot, but the grilling and the topping tame the heat while allowing their flavor to come through. Jalapeños were the next best choice, and had the advantage of holding a larger volume of filling.

When preparing hot peppers for use, be careful! Use rubber gloves when slicing the peppers and removing the seeds and pith, and work in a well-ventilated area. Take care not to absent-mindedly scratch your nose or rub your eyes. If you use a wooden cutting board, be aware that the next few things you prepare on it will pick up some heat from the capsaicin that soaks into the wood.
M. Zane Grey, 7:48 AM | link |

Disney, Costco 86 the Ratatouille Chard

Costco and the Walt Disney Co. have decided to cancel a wine promotion tied to the popular Pixar film, Ratatouille.

Disney and Costco made their decision to pull the promotion because of squeaking from the California Wine Council and opponents of underage drinking. In a similar decision that Disney says is unrelated, the company announced that Disney-labeled films would no longer show characters smoking.

And once again, too many cooks mandate mediocrity....
M. Zane Grey, 7:30 AM | link |

Friday, July 27, 2007

Alaia red blend 2004

AlaiaThe Alaia Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León 2004 (hereafter referred to as "Alaia") is an unusual and delicious Spanish red blend.

It's made with Tempranillo (45 percent), a splash of Merlot (5 percent) and Prieto Picudo (50 percent), a variety indigenous to the León region and named for its close bunching (prieto means "tight") and shape (picudo means "pointed"). The name isn't completely accurate, as two types of the variety exist — one with elliptical grapes and another with spherical ones; the latter is thought to produce wines of better quality. Prieto Picudo is used to produce high-quality rosados and red wines known locally as claretes, to which it lends fruitiness and an aromatic nose.

Alaia releases its fragrance gradually, beginning with a little cigar box when it is first poured, then blossoming into a brambly cassis aroma as it opens in the glass, making it as much a pleasure to inhale as it is to drink. It has plenty of body, an earthy, blackberry flavor supported by subtle tannins, and a dry finish. It pairs nicely with grilled T-bone steak topped with truffle butter, and does just fine on its own as a sipping wine.

Curiously, Alaia is also apparently sold as Olaia, which wears a much different label but is made from the same blend of grapes by the same producer. However you spell it, it's a compelling wine, and at under $10, an excellent value.
M. Zane Grey, 10:54 AM | link |

THINGS TO DO (7/27 – 7/29)

Here is the most recent installment of Evan Finch's occasional Things to Do email newsletter.
Marion County Fair
Marion County Fairgrounds, natch
Present – Saturday, July 28
If you simply cannot wait for the State Fair to get your domesticated-animal-and-fried-food itch scratched, this should tide you over. The Marion County Fairgrounds are at 7300 East Troy Avenue. I don’t know how much admission is, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say it’s somewhere between free and not much. NOTE: If you want to get out of town, there are lots of other counties having fairs right now. And you can find a list of those here:

Phone: 317.353.2444

* * *
African Festival
Tab Recreation
Friday, July 27 – Saturday, July 28

Expect musical performances, a marketplace, dancing and (most important for my purposes) lots of vendors selling African food (especially on Friday, when the “Tastes of Africa” event will be held). Tab Recreation (sponsored by Tabernacle Presbyterian Church) is located at 3400 Washington Boulevard. Admission is free.  I couldn’t find the hours listed anywhere, so call the phone number (or just show up and hope for the best).

Phone: 317.927.9777

* * *
Pierogi Fest 2007
Downtown in Whiting, Indiana
Friday, July 27 – Sunday, July 29
With a host like Mr. Pierogi, and activities like Pierogi Eating Contests and Eastern Bloc Jeopardy, it’s no wonder Whiting’s Pierogi Fest claims to be “stuffed with fun.” Admission is free, and Whiting is up there by Chicago somewhere.
Phone: 877.659.0292

* * *
Oh You Dirty, Dirty Car: A Burlesque Carwash
Locals Only
Saturday, July 28
For some reason, a “burlesque carwash” makes me think of comedy teams in baggy pants squirting my car with seltzer bottles.  But apparently that’s not the case. Instead, members of the “Bottoms Up” Burlesque Troupe will be sudsing vehicles in the Locals Only parking lot (just east of Keystone Avenue, at 2449 East 56th Street) from 2 PM until around 7 PM this Saturday.  Charges are $10 for a car, and $12 for an SUV. At 6 PM, music will begin inside the club, featuring Jeff Byrd and the Wingmen, 19Clark25, The Odyssey Favor, Vodka DeMilo, and L.A.’s Jason and the Punknecks (plus a skit by the very folks who were washing your car earlier).  All proceeds will go to benefit, an organization that provides a support network for people with breast cancer and their families.
Phone: 317.255.4013

* * *
Great American Meatout
Meridian Street United Methodist Church
Saturday, July 28

Held from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the Meridian Street United Methodist Church (5500 North Meridian Street), this event will offer a buffet style dinner of various vegetarian and vegan food. Suggested donation is $10.

Phone: 317.509.9292

* * *
Musical Family Tree Showcase
Spin (formerly The Patio)
Saturday, July 28

Featuring appearances by musical acts The Vulgar Boatmen, 806 Main Street, Spitshine and John Strohm. The first 50 people in the door will get a CD of some sort, and there may even be some Hot Box Pizza lying around (bonus!). Spin is at 6308 Guilford Avenue in Broad Ripple. Doors open at 8 PM, so I assume music starts at 9 PM.  Admission is $7.

Phone: 317.257.0000
* * *

Harry And The Potters with Draco And The Malfoys
Fountain Square
Sunday, July 29
This is a Boston-based, Harry Potter-themed rock band that plays songs about stuff that happens in Harry Potter books.  (Said songs, in my grizzled old opinion, are pretty good, and likely to appeal to any age group.) They’ll be playing Sunday night, outside in a Fountain Square parking lot near Deano’s Vino, from 6:30 to 9 PM. Admission is $5 for adults and teens over 12, and free to those 12 and under. Costumes are welcome, but anyone trying to spoil the ending of the new book will be ejected. NOTE 1: If it rains, the show will be moved into the Murphy Building nearby, at 1043 Virginia Avenue. NOTE 2: Big Car is to credit for bringing this show to Fountain Square.  Big Car is so cool.
Phone: 317.450.6630
Web: and and

* * *
Brickyard 400
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 29

Fast cars going around in a circle. Lots of people seem to care a whole lot about Nascar, but I’m not one of them.  If you are, the race starts at 2 PM and the track is at 4790 West 16th Street.  But then, you probably knew that already.
Phone: 317.492.8500

* * *
Carillon Bell Concert
Holcomb Gardens at Butler University
Sunday, July 29
There’s going to be another concert by Butler’s Carillon Belltower this Sunday, at 5 PM.  Holcomb Gardens are at 4600 Sunset Avenue, on the Butler campus, next to the canal.  You could sit outside on the grass and listen, if it doesn’t rain.  I guess even if it does rain, you could still sit outside on the grass and listen.  It would just take a little mental adjustment on your part.
Phone: 317.940.9351
Web: N/A

* * *


The Museum Of Funeral Customs is located in Springfield, Illinois:
Springfield is also home to the Pearson Museum, where they will sic a leech on you if you aren’t careful:

Finally, you can round out your Springfield visit with a pilgrimage to this statue of a young, gawky Abraham Lincoln:

* * *
M. Zane Grey, 9:48 AM | link |

Thursday, July 26, 2007

101 Quick Summer Recipes

Today's New York Times includes a story that has 101 simple summer recipes that can allegedly be prepared in 10 minutes or less. Some of them sound really good, and if you're anything like me an infusion of fresh ideas is a good thing to get about now.

If you don't want to register with the Times, head over to BugMeNot to pick up a user name and password.
M. Zane Grey, 8:06 AM | link |

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Carmel Kahn's gets new name

A couple of months after former Kahn's Fine Wines partners Jim Arnold and Joe Husar split, the store in Carmel finally has a new name: Vino Couture.

Hmm. Well, vino means "wine," that's easy enough. And couture translates to "the business of designing, making, and selling fashionable custom-made women's clothing," according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

So, are they making dresses out of wine in Carmel now, in addition to the food and beverage sales? Here's a tip: If your date shows up in one of these, keep a can of Wine-Away handy. (And if her hair and makeup look anything like that model's, a couple of 750s of a high-alcohol Zinfandel might be good to have on hand, too.)
M. Zane Grey, 8:12 AM | link |

Home office pasta machine

Yesterday my Google home page presented me with a wikiHow link I just had to click: How to Use a Paper Shredder as a Pasta Machine.

And yes, it says pretty much what you think it would — take the top off a paper shredder and support it on books or bricks or something so you can catch the sliced pasta on the way out and prevent it from sticking to itself. Obviously, the sheet of pasta you feed through the top can't be any wider than the slot it has to be fed through.

The brainchild of Food Network personality Alton Brown, the paper shredder method of pasta making first appeared in Wired magazine a year ago. (How did I miss that?) WikiHow's version provides the same information, with the addition of lots of cautions and disclaimers.

Maybe Fridays at our shop can be Take Your Dough to Work Day....
M. Zane Grey, 7:41 AM | link |

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Soft Food

TV-DinnerBreak your jaw? Braces hurt? Just get your wisdom teeth out?

What you need is some soft food from fiber artist Bnice2mice, otherwise known as Nicole Gastonguay of Queens, N.Y. It may be lacking in nutrition, but at least your gums will feel better.

In addition to the down-in-the-mouth TV Dinner (above left), Gastonguay has knitted a pantryfull of anthropomorphic food, including a cannoli, a hot dog, a cheeseburger and a carton of milk. She also knits non-food items, though some have culinary potential — knit-and-purled calamari, anyone?

Gastonguay's drawings are quite good too, and some of them remind me of Indianapolis artist Emma Overman's work. TV Dinner and several of Gastonguay's other works may be found in Flickr's food character pool. If you like that sort of thing, browsing the submissions is a great way to spend a few minutes.
M. Zane Grey, 9:05 AM | link |

Monday, July 23, 2007

On This Date in History

MononOn July 23, 1987 the Hoosier Rails to Trails Council was incorporated as a not-for-profit Indiana organization dedicated to promoting the concept of converting abandoned railways within the state into linear parks, starting with the Monon in Marion County.

In 1999, the primary goal of the organization was realized when the City of Indianapolis opened the first stretch of the Monon Greenway, popularly known as the Monon Trail. The City of Carmel followed suit in 2001; future plans call for the Town of Westfield to extend the trail toward Sheridan.

During the past 20 years, several other rail-trails have been developed elsewhere in the state. Happy birthday, HRTC!

Photo courtesy of Douglass C. Smith.
M. Zane Grey, 11:14 AM | link |

Thursday, July 19, 2007

THINGS TO DO (7/20 – 7/22)

Here is the most recent installment of Evan Finch's occasional Things to Do email newsletter.
Indiana Black Expo
All around downtown
Present – Sunday, July 22
Enough stuff that it would make my fingers ache to type it all. Just go look at the website, listed below.
Phone: 317.925.2702
* * *
Marion County Fair
Marion County Fairgrounds (logically enough)
Thursday, July 19 – Saturday, July 28
If you’re getting antsy for the State Fair, this should tide you over for another month. The county fairgrounds may be found at 7300 East Troy Avenue. I don’t know how much admission is, but I doubt it’ll break you. NOTE: If you want to get out of town, there are lots of other counties having fairs right now. And you can find a list of those here:
Phone: 317.353.2444

* * *
The Quilters Hall Of Fame Celebration
Marion, Indiana
Thursday, July 19 – Sunday, July 22
Oh, yes, there is a Quilters Hall of Fame.  And it’s just up the road at 926 South Washington Street in Marion, Indiana, where quilting wunderkind Marie Webster lived from 1902 to 1942.  Scoot up there this weekend, why don’t you, and join your quilting brethren for a four-day gala of bearding, cross-hatching and frogstitching.
Phone: 765.664.9333

* * *
Edward Scissorhands
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Friday, July 20
Johnny Depp and Vincent Price? What’s not to love? Gates open at 6 PM for picnicking, and the movie begins at “dusk” (which is – what, now? 8 PM? 9 PM?).  Admission is $8 for adults and free for kids six and under. Do bring lawn chairs, food, drink, bug repellent and blankets.  Don’t bring grills or pets. In case of rain, you’re out of luck and will need to find something else to do. The IMA is located at 4000 North Michigan Road.
Phone: 317.923.1331

* * *

Middle Eastern Festival
St. George Orthodox Christian Church
Friday, July 20 – Sunday, July 22

Lots and lots of food tents (think gyros, baklava, etc.), plus craft tables inside the church, plus dancing in the parking lot, plus tours of the building if you feel so inclined.  The church is located at 4020 North Sherman Drive. Hours are 4 – 11 PM on Friday, noon to 11 PM on Saturday, and noon to 5 PM on Sunday. Admission is $3.
Phone: 317.547.9356

* * *
An Alternative To Slitting Your Wrists
Big Car Gallery
Friday, July 20
So basically, I think the idea is that this filmmaker did (or is doing) one thing a week that he’s always wanted to do, but never gotten around to doing.  Like, say, going hang gliding.  Or getting tazered. Or eating brains. Sounds a little gonzo, but hey – there’s nothing wrong with that. The documentary (which is on tour nationally) will screen locally at Big Car on Friday night at 8 PM, accompanied by a live soundtrack. Admission is $5, and Big Car is located upstairs in the Murphy Building, at 1043 Virginia Avenue in Fountain Square.
Phone: 317.450.6630
Web: and

* * *

Indiana Microbrewers Festival
Opti-Park in Broad Ripple
Saturday, July 21
On Saturday, from 3 to 7 PM, Broad Ripple’s Opti-Park (820 East 66th Street) will play host to the 12th annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival. Over 20 Indiana breweries (and 15 more out-of-state breweries) will provide samples of more than 200 different beers. Wristbands (entitling you to unlimited testing) are $35 at the gate, or $30 in advance (see the website below for details). NOTE: Designated drivers pay only $8 admission. And  unless you live in the Broad Ripple area, a designated driver is probably a really good idea.
Phone: 317.856.6092

* * *

Guster with Ben Kweller
The Lawn at White River State Park
Saturday, July 21
Guster is touring behind its new disc, Ganging Up On The Sun. General Admission tickets hover in the $25 range, and Ben Kweller will allegedly start at 7 PM. The venue is located at 801 West Washington Street.
Phone: 317.239.5151

* * *

Jungle Gym Jam
723 North Dorman Street (in Cottage Home)
Sunday, July 22

Cottage Home is a snazz-filled little neighborhood just east of downtown. This Sunday, between 5:30 and 7 PM, various musicians (Brian Deer, Stasia Demos and ESW) will be appearing at a benefit concert in the neighborhood’s park. Admission for those 17 and above is $10, and all monies gathered will be used to buy playground equipment for the park. NOTE: You might want to bring a lawn chair and/or a blanket to sit on.

Phone: N/A

* * *


Frustrated that October 31 is still three months away? Then perhaps you should get into your car and go visit Benwood, West Virginia’s Castle Halloween Museum. Perhaps.
M. Zane Grey, 5:38 PM | link |

I'll have what The Girl in the Other Room is having

No surprise here: Diana Krall, the Grammy Award-winning jazz musician, has good taste.

The Smoking Gun has published a tour rider that gives concert promoters a detailed list of what kinds of wines are welcome in Krall's dressing room. And she's not necessarily an expensive date — her palate is happy with a variety of wines, from pricey Shafer Cabernets to inexpensive reds from Falesco.
M. Zane Grey, 5:51 AM | link |

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Casa Silva Carmenère Reserva 2005

Much like the Cabernet reviewed below, a classic Chilean nose of eucalyptus and mint opens the Casa Silva Carmenère Reserva 2005, followed by dark currant and plum fruit on the palate and a dry, spicy finish. Dry and medium-bodied with firm but not disagreeable tannins, this Chilean would be an excellent companion to a grilled Porterhouse. Priced at $12, it's a good value.
M. Zane Grey, 12:24 PM | link |

Monday, July 16, 2007

Root 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

I'm a big fan of wines from Chile and Argentina. They blend the characteristics of Old World wines -- particularly those from Spain -- with the New World styles of California and Australia, with good effect. Another thing to like about Chilean and Argentine wines is that they're great values, and deliver a lot of satisfaction per dollar.

One such wine is the Root 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from Maipo Valley, Chile. Priced at $11 per bottle, it begins with an old-school Chilean nose of eucalyptus and mint, which is followed by a palate dominated by dusty dried cherries. Medium-bodied with ample fruit and subdued tannins, it finishes long and clean.

The Root 1 wines are among those made in Chile from original European root stock planted before the phylloxera epidemic of the 1860s wiped out most of the grapevines in Europe. Two approaches — hybridization with disease-resistant strains and grafting onto disease-resistant American rootstock — were utilized to combat the problem, and the replanted Old World vineyards eventually recovered. That disease never made it to Chile, so many vineyards planted with ungrafted vines still exist there and set the standard for "old vines." Wines made with the fruits of these vines have a distinctive, unique character that it is very easy to develop a taste for.
M. Zane Grey, 8:50 AM | link |

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2004

Santa Ema's Reserve Merlot has long been popular because of its distinctly chocolaty character, but the refined and repackaged 2004 is their best one yet.

Sporting a new, tasteful, black and gold label, this wine delivers copious amounts of chocolate to the nose followed by more chocolate on the palate, with some ripe red cherries and a dash of cocoa powder mixed in. The melting tannins are soft and sweet, with just enough structure to make it food-friendly if you want it to be. The pleasant, lingering finish leaves you ready to start the whole swirl-sniff-slurp-sigh process again.

At under $10, this seductive, satisfying Chilean from Maipo Valley is an absolutely incredible value. It's easy enough to drink that a red-wine novice could enjoy it, and so delicious that even the most jaded wine skeptic will want another sip. To hell with what the fictional Miles thinks — give this Merlot a try!
M. Zane Grey, 9:27 PM | link |

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Is a Traders Point Winery down the road?

It's just a rumor so far, but my ears perked up when I heard from someone who ought to know that plans are afoot to plant grapes in the farm field on the northwest corner of 86th and Moore Road. This would put it roughly three blocks south of the Traders Point Creamery, and smack dab in the middle of the proposed Traders Point Rural Historic District.

This is exciting for me to contemplate. I look at that field every day, and I have often imagined grapevines planted in it, with lavender planted between the rows. I have wondered if any hot-weather grapes could thrive there (Durif?), and whether it would be possible to produce a top-notch wine with grapes grown at that location. (Or maybe a top-notch wine made from cherry tomatoes. Just kidding.)

If a winery on that site does come to fruition (pun intended), then with the Creamery's excellent cheeses available up the road, all we'll need is for someone in the neighborhood to start raising some American Kobe beef....
M. Zane Grey, 8:56 AM | link |

Petrus’ pricey Pomerol

The 2006 vintage Bordeaux from Château Pétrus is finally being sold to consumers in Great Britain — those who can afford it, that is.

According to an article in Decanter, the street price of Pétrus is about €1,500 per bottle, which at today's exchange rate works out to roughly $2,042. That would be $24,504 per case, but with a full-case 10 percent discount the price would drop to just $22,053.

If it's Merlot you want — and that's what the pricey Pomerol is — you could spend the same amount of money and buy a case of the excellent Twomey, along with a nicely-appointed Mini Cooper to haul it home.
M. Zane Grey, 8:10 AM | link |

Saturday, July 07, 2007

NXG Chardonnay 2005

NXGAustralia's grape glut isn't going to last forever, alas, but while it does there are some awfully good wines out there for not a lot of money.

One of those is the NXG Next Generation Chardonnay 2005 from Southeastern Australia. Priced at $9, it's a bright, satisfying wine that provides a hint of peach on the nose, a citrusy palate, plenty of body, and a creamy mouthfeel. It finishes clean with just enough acid to make it food-friendly, but not so much that it can't stand alone as a refreshing deck wine. I'm thinking grilled chicken with herbes de Provence or pasta with fresh herbs and grilled shrimp....
M. Zane Grey, 9:03 AM | link |

Friday, July 06, 2007

THINGS TO DO (7/6 – 7/8)

Here is the most recent installment of Evan Finch's occasional Things to Do email newsletter.
Julie Demayo’s Yard Sale
4827 North College Avenue
Friday, July 6 – Saturday, July 7

For I don’t know how many years, my friend Julie ran Modern Times, a vintage clothes store at 54th and College. Given the profusion of cool stuff she used to have in her store, I’m guessing her yard sale will be equally copacetic. You can check it out at 4827 North College Avenue, between 8 AM to 4 PM, today and tomorrow.
Phone: N/A
Web: N/A

* * *

IDADA First Friday
Art Galleries downtown, and in Fountain Square
Friday, July 6
As usual, all art galleries on Massachusetts Avenue (and elsewhere downtown) will be welcoming you on the first Friday of the month, starting around 6 PM or so. The Harrison Gallery, of course, is always worth visiting (1505 North Delaware). As is Big Car, upstairs in Fountain Square’s Murphy Building (1043 Virginia Avenue). As is Alchemy Art & Aesthetics, on street level in the Murphy Building (again, 1043 Virginia Avenue), which will be celebrating the launch of the “Be Indypendent” campaign, a program encouraging citizens to buy local art. All admissions are typically free, as is all cheese and wine, and huzzah for that.
Phone: 317.634.3114

* * *

HorrorHound Weekend
Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
Friday, July 6 - Sunday, July 8

If you’re into movies about flesh-eating sheep and enjoy posing with bloody chainsaws, consider your weekend planned. Guest stars at the HorrorHound Weekend include Sammy Terry and scads of other creepy-looking people I’ve never heard of, except for P.J. Soles, who I remember mostly from Stripes and Rock N Roll High School. Admission is $20 for one day, or $50 for the entire weekend. The Marriott Hotel is located at 7202 East 21st Street.

Phone: 317.352.1231

* * *

InConJunction XXVII
Sheraton Indianapolis Hotel & Suites
Friday, July 6 - Sunday, July 8

What’s that? You’re more into science fiction than horror? No problem, spaceman. This year’s InConJunction features even more people that I haven’t heard of than the HorrorHound Weekend. Needless to say, there’s a Doctor Who Room, and the “World’s Fastest Filker” will be appearing. Admission is $20 on Friday and Sunday, and $30 on Saturday. The Sheraton is located at 8787 Keystone Crossing.

Phone: 317.284.1409

* * *

Betsey Reed Festival
Palestine, Illinois
Saturday, July 7

Palestine, Illinois was home to Elizabeth “Betsey” Reed, who—in 1844—poisoned her husband by slipping arsenic into his sassafras tea. Subsequently, she became the first woman hanged in Illinois. Palestine is celebrating Betsey’s notoriety this weekend, with the first (and theoretically annual) Betsey Reed Festival. The many planned activities include a tea cup relay, games of hangman, a “Newlydead Game” competition, and casket racing on Main Street. American Gothic, indeed. NOTE: Thanks to Jason Hathaway (who, incidentally, will be playing music at the festival) for hipping me to this.

Phone: N/A

* * *

Polyphonic Spree
The Vogue
Sunday, July 8
Tickets are $20 at the door. The Vogue is near the intersection of College and Broad Ripple Avenue. Doors open at 7 PM, opening act Jesca Hoop starts at 8 PM. Polyphonic Spree is from Dallas, Texas. There are something like 223 people in the band. Here’s a video:
Phone: 317.255.2828

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My brother’s dog, M. Zane Grey, is an excellent writer.

Oh, wait — you're already here....
M. Zane Grey, 9:05 AM | link |

Thursday, July 05, 2007

July 4, 2007 — Free at Last

Virginia_AndersonMy mom, Virginia Mae Anderson Finch, died yesterday evening at the St. Vincent Hospice, about a month short of her 80th birthday. My dad George, brother Evan, wife Katz and I were with her at the time (7:32 p.m.); Evan's wife Grace was at work at the Clarian hospice, where she is a nurse.

Mom had been battling a host of infirmities, including diabetes, congestive heart failure, emphysema and thyroid cancer. She had been bouncing around between St. Vincent Hospital, Marquette Manor and the St. Vincent hospice since April 14, and had undergone about a week's worth of radiation and chemotherapy before deciding to opt out of treatment and go to the hospice.

She did so well at the hospice that she was discharged, so she returned to Marquette Manor and began rehabilitative therapy. At Marquette Manor she really thrived, and was the most cheerful, energetic, animated and healthy for those two weeks -- the period that Evan poetically refers to as "her Indian Summer" -- than she had been since her beloved sister died a couple of years ago.

She suffered a stroke while in bed on the night of June 25 and never regained consciousness. As per her wishes, no extraordinary measures were taken to prolong her life, and she died peacefully 10 days later.

Visitation is scheduled for Friday, July 13 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Flanner and Buchanan in Broad Ripple; a memorial service will be held at the same location on Saturday, July 14 at 11 a.m. Memorial contributions may be made to the Eagle Creek Park Foundation with a notation that they are for the Virginia Finch Fund; they'll be used to redo the old Nature Center, where she was a volunteer for more than three decades, into a Center for Ornithology. (Maybe if they collect enough donations they'll name it after her — The Virginia Finch Center for Ornithology has a nice ring to it, don't you think?)

To make a contribution, make a check payable to the Eagle Creek Park Foundation and mail it to:

Eagle Creek Park Foundation
Virgnia Finch Fund
7840 W 56th St
Indianapolis IN 46254-9706

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Turkey_RunMine was a stay-at-home Mom, and I learned a tremendous amount from her. She was a good cook, and could whip up a great meal from scratch. She taught me the basics of cooking, and when I moved out on my own and started in experimenting with the recipes in Food & Wine, she's who I called for advice — before there was Google, there was Mom.

She was creative and artistic, and could figure out how to make about anything, from a painting to a jacket to seven papier-mâché dwarf heads for a number in our high school's Band Spectacular. People knew how good she was, and frequently asked for her help. I doubt that she ever said no, at least not until a stroke she had several years ago robbed her of the dexterity in her right hand. (Fortunately, she was left-handed.)

She was an environmentalist before the word existed, and a conservationist as well. She collected her cooking scraps in a bin in the kitchen sink, and turned them into compost to use on her gardens and house plants. She separated her bottles and aluminum from the trash, and made sure the old newspapers went to some good use, whether they were recycled or donated to someone who had a new puppy. Her sensibilities about not wasting anything that could be reused and taking care of natural resources weren't the result of an environmental epiphany, but came from the reality of growing up during the Depression and World War II.

She was a naturalist, and taught me all about the flora and fauna in the yard around our house, and in the fields and woods beyond. She taught me to be respectful of and kind to other living beings, with the possible exceptions of flies, mosquitoes, fleas and weeds. One of her great loves was gardening, and she transformed the flat, vacant lot that my parents built their house on into a lush natural oasis filled with trees and wildflowers that she rescued from woodlands that were being bulldozed for development. I absorbed a great deal of her knowledge about that, too. When I undertook putting naturalized areas in the yards of my own houses, she brought me lots of interesting plants and told me all about them. They were her friends, and she wanted me to know them too.

Xmas_CrownShe was generous with her time, and brought the full force of her intelligence, creativity and energy to bear on any project she tackled. She was a Cub Scout Den Mother, a Band Mom, a Starlighter, a Pi Phi. But the volunteer role she was most well-known for was as a naturalist at the Eagle Creek Park Nature Center, where she spent more than 30 years introducing thousands of school children (and quite a few adults, no doubt) to the wonders of the natural world.

And of course she drilled into my head dozens of Momisms, as all moms do: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. (Ever notice that there are no bad reviews on this blog?) God helps those who help themselves. Just because everybody's doing it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Pretty is as pretty does. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

On that last one, she led by example. ’Bye, Mom, and thanks for everything.
Anonymous, 7:32 PM | link |

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Carolina Grill relocating, expanding

Once a basic diner with Colts posters on the walls and excellent tenderloins and burgers coming out of the kitchen, the Carolina Grill will be reborn soon as a full-service restaurant with a wider range of cuisine.

The Carolina Grill has already left its former location on SR 334 just east of I-65, but its new digs in the "downtown" of the Stonegate development on the western reaches of Zionsville aren't expected to be finished for several weeks. But what an upgrade the new location will be, with two levels, high ceilings, antique furnishings, a fireplace and a revised menu that will include a host of new entrées.

EDIT: Yes, there was another item here earlier. I'm going to see if I can confirm the story, rather than run with the rumor. Don't want to be caught barking up the wrong tree....

EDIT 2: Just heard from the horse's mouth that there's nothing to confirm. Too bad.
M. Zane Grey, 7:44 AM | link |

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Ratatouille Weekend

On Saturday afternoon we went to see Ratatouille, the Pixar film about a rat who wants to be a chef. Loved it, and would go see it again — if you're a foodie or an animation fan, you should definitely put it on your list of things to do this summer.

We were having a couple of people over for dinner on Sunday, and I was pondering what to prepare. The usual grilled summer fare wouldn't work, because one of our guests is a vegetarian. What to do?

Then, a blinding flash of the obvious struck: Ratatouille! The French peasant dish is basically a stew made from summer vegetables, and besides that the movie had made me want to try it. Time to do a Google search....

serves 8 to 10

After reading a very informative page of Ratatouille recipes on the Provence & Beyond site, I did a little hunting and gathering at the local farm stand and at the grocery, and collected the following:

5 medium tomatoes
3 bell peppers (one red, one orange, one yellow)
2 large eggplants
2 medium yellow zucchinis
1 large green zucchini
3 large onions
12 cloves garlic
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Herbes de Provence
Extra virgin olive oil

Then the slicing and dicing commenced....

Put a good quantity of olive oil in a large stockpot. Chop onions and simmer them in the oil. Mince garlic and add to the pot. Do not allow the mixture to brown. If you happen to be drinking white wine, put a splash in the pot and stir it in.

Clean the bell peppers and slice them into thin strips about 1" long. Add to pot.

Chop the tomatoes into 1/2" chunks and stir into the mixture, along with the tomato paste. Add the pepper and a handful of Herbes de Provence (I get mine at Penzey's).

Slice the zukes into rounds and add them to the pot. Put the lid on the pot and let the mixture simmer while you slice the eggplants into 1/2" thick rounds, brush both sides with olive oil, and grill over medium-high heat until done. (Hey, I had to grill something, and this step really does add to the flavor of the finished stew.)

Add the grilled eggplant slices to the pot and give everything a good stir. Simmer on low heat for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

We served our Ratatouille over Rossi Pasta's Tomato Basil Garlic Fettucini. Our version may not have turned out as photogenic as Pixar's, but it was delicious!

Even though it contains no meat, this dish is plenty hearty enough to stand up to red wine. In our case, it was the Hedges Three Vineyards 2004 ($24), a wonderful Bordeaux-style blend from the Red Mountain area of Washington State. This American version of the classic French wine perfectly complemented our American version of the classic French vegetable stew, and was une grande fin for our Ratatouille weekend.
M. Zane Grey, 10:17 AM | link |