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

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Have a Wild Weekend!

One of the best shows I've ever seen was NRBQ at the Patio in Broad Ripple — nobody else puts out the energy that these guys do! If you'd like another dose, go watch 12 Bar Blues. Man, I love YouTube!

M. Zane Grey, 9:17 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, October 26, 2007

Gloria Ferrer Carneros Chardonnay 2005

Gloria Ferrer consistently makes one of the most satisfying and reasonably-priced California sparklers around, so it comes as no surprise to me that their non-sparkling Carneros Chardonnay is a knockout. It's wonderfully well-balanced, fresh, clean and mouthfilling, with pear and tropical fruit flavors and just enough French oak to satisfy my craving for vanilla. This is right up there with the Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre, and at about $16 a bottle, a few dollars cheaper. The crux of the biscuit: An outstanding wine, and an excellent value.
M. Zane Grey, 7:49 PM | link |

Restaurant diners favor mixed drinks, beer over wine

According to a recent consumer survey by a food consulting firm, consumers are more than twice as likely to order beer or mixed drinks than wine when dining away from home. However, wine consumption jumps for business and special-occasion dinners, from 18 percent to 37 percent of diners.

I'm no food consultant, but I'll take a stab at analyzing that data anyway. It's expensive to order wine in restaurants, and unless somebody else is paying for it (expense-account meal) or it's a really special occasion (big date), people are going to go for the most bang for the buck.

Case in point: Last night I went out to a restaurant with some friends for a few drinks. Wine that I would drink at home cost $10 a glass, and I know that I could go to a wine shop and buy a whole bottle of it for $15. I ended up having three Newcastle Brown Ales instead. My total tab, before tip: just under $10.
M. Zane Grey, 5:51 PM | link |

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Name that aroma!

Ever stuck your muzzle in a glass of wine and tried in vain to place the maddeningly familiar aromas exuding therefrom? Sure you have! It's somewhat akin to trying to remember the name of a movie, isn't it?

For movie names, I consult Google. For wine aromas, I carry around a wallet-sized wine tasting guide I picked up at Grapevine Cottage that lists aromas and flavors often found in wines. It's a handy little memory jogger, especially useful when writing wine reviews — and it's a lot more convenient and cost-effective than a Le Nez du Vin set.

Alder Yarrow over at Vinography has a similar downloadable cheat sheet available on his site. It's not as well organized as the store-bought version, but it's helpful and it's free. Plus, it comes in several different languages, so if you want to say "yeasty," "wet dog" or "cat pee" in Portugese, French, Spanish or Italian, you'll be able to.
M. Zane Grey, 10:53 AM | link |

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cassoulet Report

Some months ago, I got it in my head to make a cassoulet the next time it was our turn to host our gourmet club. I'd never had a cassoulet and don't know if I'll ever make it to France, so I decided to read a lot of recipes and see what kind of version I could come up with in the middle of Hoosierdom.

From what I gather, cassoulet is the Gallic culinary equivalent of chili in that various towns and regions claim that their versions are the most authentic, and that any recipe that varies from theirs isn't worthy of the name. The use of lamb and bread crumbs in cassoulet are as passionately debated as whether a highly-seasoned meat stew that contains beans or chocolate can be described as chili.

Fact is, cassoulet is a traditional French peasant dish that contains beans (white, usually) and whatever kind of meat is locally available. Although in some areas that might be fish or lamb, in the heart of cassoulet country what's common is duck and Toulouse sausages. And since cassoulet is an old dish that predates refrigeration, it's traditional to use duck confit — slow-cooked duck, usually just the legs and thighs, preserved in its own fat.

Despite the fact that Indiana is one of the leading producers of duck, duck legs aren't common grocery items around here. Fortunately, a friend who was going to Cincinnati to visit her daughter stopped at Jungle Jim's and picked up a dozen for me. Another friend had half a tub of duck fat from Kincaid's, so armed with a recipe from Emeril Lagasse, I made my own confit. The seasoned duck legs had to sit for 12 hours before I could slow-cook them in duck fat for 12 hours, so a bit of planning ahead was in order.

It also took a bit of planning ahead to come of with the Toulouse sausage, which apparently isn't too common outside of France. Joe at Joe's Butcher Shop has a recipe for them though, so two days after calling him I had my five pounds (the minimum order for custom sausage) of Toulouse sausage — a bargain at just $3.29 per pound. (They are, by the way, the best sausages I've ever eaten. They're seasoned with spices, garlic and white wine, and are excellent by themselves with a little Dijon mustard for dipping.)

The white beans had to soak overnight too, so this is no spur-of-the moment dish. Once all my components were ready, I followed a recipe from Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France that called for cooking the beans in Madiran. The only Madiran I could find was $39 a bottle so I used Syrah instead.

The cassoulet turned out just fine, and now I'm plotting ways to make my own multicultural versions using chicken, lamb, and other things I like, baked in a Römertopf. I'll take photos and issue a report.
M. Zane Grey, 8:36 AM | link |

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Message from Amsterdam

Today's mail brought sad news: Artist Rae Witvoet, who with her husband and partner Klaas Weert were a vibrant part of the Indianapolis art scene from the mid-1990s through 2002, died in Amsterdam on October 5.

Klaas and Rae collaborated on many projects, including paintings, installations and photographs, including a series of black-and-white images they took at the Indiana State Fair. Rae was a painter and an art therapist with an MA in clinical psychology; she was beautiful, intelligent, opinionated, and a very, very nice person.

She had a bout with cancer a while back, and at that time eschewed going the chemo and radiation route in favor of treating herself nutritionally with the fruit and vegetable smoothies that Klaas faithfully prepared for her several times a day. And ultimately, it wasn't the cancer that got her but a bacterial infection she picked up in a hospital while visiting her mother.

Rae's message consists of a card printed with her 1997 self-portrait Born with a Veil on one side and her poetic Last Will and Testament on the other. Thanks for the going-away present, Rae; have a wonderful journey.
M. Zane Grey, 5:44 PM | link |

Pidgieness at Plums

Chef Casey Uglow, whose Zionsville restaurant The Pidge is still missed and fondly remembered, is now cooking at Plum's Upper Room.

And there's even more good news: According to Plum's Proprietor Jayne Nolting, the restaurant has expanded its hours and will now be open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays.
M. Zane Grey, 5:20 PM | link |

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Things To Do in Zionsville this Saturday

On Saturday it's supposed to be sunny and in the mid-60s — a perfect day to go to Zionsville and wander around. Even better, it's the day of the Friendly Tavern's annual Chili Cook-off (in the big tent on Main Street, right next to the Friendly) and the first daytime Brick Street Gallery Walk, featuring more than 50 artists stationed at various businesses and at the neighborhood art galleries, of which there are several.

If you go, make sure to at least poke your head in to look at Carter's Ice Cream Parlor in the Carter Toy Museum building. The museum isn't open yet, but the ice cream parlor — with its tin ceiling, paneled walls and tile floor — will give you an idea of what is to come. And their handmade ice cream is really good, too!

From the ice cream shop it's a short walk to Grapevine Cottage next door, so stop in there too. They don't sample wine (their grocery license doesn't permit that), but they do sample some of their gourmet food items on Saturdays, so leave a little room. (If you go, tell ’em Zane sent you — they know me there!)
M. Zane Grey, 9:47 AM | link |

Dr. Spin at Vito's on Penn

Here's a fun thing to do on Friday evenings: Go downtown to Vito's on Penn at 20 North Pennsylvania Street (where the Cozy used to be) and listen to Dr. Spin play actual vinyl records from 5 - 11 p.m. Dr. Spin (aka Doug Babb) has quite a collection of LPs that music lovers can browse through and make requests from, and if you want to take your own records that's OK too.

As much as I like my CDs and AIFF files, it's really a treat to listen to vinyl. The sound is warm and soothing, and makes music reproduced by digital means sound harsh and jarring by comparison. And I never thought that I'd feel nostalgic about scratches and pops, but that turned out to be the case.

Vito's bar is a pleasant space, neat, clean, spacious and comfortably lit. There are a few pool tables in back, the drinks are reasonably priced, and the bartenders are pleasant and efficient. There's a full-service restaurant in the room south of the bar; we didn't have dinner, but we did get a pizza to munch on and found it to be quite good. No surprise there, since Vito's is owned by restaurateur Jim DeCamp, who also operates Vito Provolone's and some Pasquale's restaurants.

If you're downtown on Friday evening, drop in to have a cocktail and listen to Dr. Spin. Tell him that Zane sent you — that should confuse him!
M. Zane Grey, 8:54 AM | link |

Fess Parker Frontier Red Lot No. 71

A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignane, the Fess Parker Frontier Red Lot No. 71 is a Rhône-style wine from California. It has a big, rich, plummy nose with a touch of cedar, and is medium- to full-bodied on the palate with flavors of plums and blueberries supported by sweet tannins. An inexpensive ($10), crowd-pleasing, easy drinker sealed with a screwcap, it's a good everyday drinker that would make a good party wine.
M. Zane Grey, 8:28 AM | link |

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Broadbent Vinho Verde NV

A Portugese wine made completely with the Branca grape, the Broadbent Vinho Verde NV is light, refreshing, and ever-so-slightly effervescent. It has lots of Golden Delicious and a hint of petrol on the nose, followed by a delicate apple palate and a clean finish. This low-alcohol (9 percent) offering is ideal for warm-weather quaffing — and Indian Summer is right around the corner!

This wine is shipped from Portugal in refrigerated containers to maintain its freshness, which adds to its cost. Even so, it's a bargain at just $9 a bottle.
M. Zane Grey, 9:21 AM | link |

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A few quickies

I know, I've been a bad dog blogger. At the moment I have a lot of balls in the air, including one major website project, several other site updates and redesigns, two logos to develop, a mysterious computer ailment to resolve, a gourmet club dinner to plan and a play to direct. I'll update the blog as time allows.

Restrictive shipping requirement kicks in in Ohio

On October 1, Ohio joined Indiana and Massachusetts in putting the onus on wineries to observe a 24 case per household limit on wine purchases. This means that if an order shipped by a winery to an individual puts the individual over his annual limit, the winery is breaking the law. Because of the possibility of non-compliance, wineries are reluctant to ship to customers in states that have such a law.

Ohio also limited the size of wineries that may ship into the state, barring shipments from companies that produce more than 62,500 cases annually.

October 18 declared National Meatloaf Appreciation Day

Serious Eats has decided that October 18 should be a day of meatloaf celebration. Everyone is urged to make a meatloaf on or before that date, and bloggers are asked to post a photo of a meatloaf along with its recipe on that date. Sounds good to me!

The Month in Food

October is National Pizza Month, among other things. Next week is also American Beer Week and National Pasta Week. And you certainly won't want to miss National Fluffernutter Day (Oct. 8), National Sausage Pizza Day (Oct. 11), National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day (Oct. 14) or Four Prunes Day (Oct. 14). I think I'll skip the prunes and take in my serving of fruit on National Candy Apple Day (Oct. 31).
M. Zane Grey, 11:44 AM | link |