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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Google Recipe Search

Google has quietly launched a beta of yet another tool: the Google Recipe Search.

It's always been easy to enter a list of ingredients and the word "recipe" in Google's search engine to come up with a bunch of relevant recipes. Now it's even easier, as the recipe search page makes it simple to filter searches by cuisine, main ingredient, meal type and so on. I don't think Epicurious has anything to worry about quite yet, but it's worth a bookmark.
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:10 PM | link |

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wake Up Crabby Bloody Mary mix

Wake Up Crabby!Good Bloody Marys are one of my favorite cocktails, but they're hard to come by. Mixes are pretty much always watery, insipid and boring, and the sad fact is that bars and restaurants almost always use mixes. I can make a really good Bloody Mary from scratch, but it's a lot of work and requires quite a few ingredients, so that doesn't happen very often.

A few weeks ago a fellow I've known since we were pups in kindergarten came into the wine shop brandishing a bottle of Bloody Mary mix, and going on about how it he had run across it on vacation and liked it so well that he had started a new business so he could become its Indiana distributor. He raved about it a little more, left the bottle, and said to call him if we liked it.

And did we like it? Well, let's just say that launching a new business just to distribute this stuff wasn't an overreaction. I can usually doctor up other mixes to suit my tastes, but this one — called Wake Up Crabby from the Oxford Falls Company in Starkville, Mississippi — doesn't even need a Band-Aid.

It's thick, flavorful and pretty spicy, and it has a little crunch. It actually has bits of shrimp and crab in it, too — it wouldn't take much effort to turn it into a gumbo base. (There's a Wake Up Crabby pasta recipe on their website that looks pretty good.) My friend says it's really good mixed with Absolut Peppar; I'd probably use Bombay Gin (regular, not Sapphire) and give it a shake or two of Tabasco if I were in the mood for more heat. Sans alcohol, it's a delicious upgrade from regular tomato juice.

At between $12 - $15 a quart it's not inexpensive, but considering all the ingredients that go into it, it's a bargain. I'll certainly have some on hand for New Year's Day!
J. Silverheels Gray, 6:42 PM | link |

Friday, December 21, 2007

Chef shuffle continues at Cobblestone

As an addendum to the chef shuffle noted at Feed Me Drink Me, Chef Michael Wilson has returned to the Cobblestone Grill in Zionsville. He replaces Chef Kathy Jones, who departed last week.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:09 PM | link |

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Twelfth (and last) Day of Gadgets: A Kitchenaid Stand Mixer

KitchenaidFor a while I had a handheld mixer that I moved from house to house, but it wasn't suitable for much more than mixing pancake batter — which I prefer to do with a wooden spoon anyway — so off to Goodwill it went during our last move several years ago. Every now and then I'd need to make a recipe that called for some ingredients to be beaten, but I always managed to make to do with a whisk, a blender, a food processor or some other implement.

One of the dishes I made for Thanksgiving was Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. I couldn't find my trusty old potato masher and was about to press a wine bottle into service when I remembered that I had just inherited my mom's prized Kitchenaid stand mixer, which was still out in my car. I brought it in, set it up, and in no time had perfect mashed potatoes. And the flat beater was a breeze to clean up — much easier than the wire beaters of my old handheld.

I haven't yet used the Kitchenaid to make anything besides mashed potatoes (twice, so far), but I hope to get around to making some cookies this Sunday and I do look forward to using the dough hook the next time I make bread. What I really like about the Kitchenaid is its Multipurpose Attachment Hub, which serves the same purpose as a PTO on a tractor — one can hook up any number of accessories and grind meats, mill grains, juice fruits and vegetables, make pasta and stuff sausage, among other things. (The $50 can opening attachment seems a tad silly to me, though.) A meat grinder ($50) and sausage stuffer ($14) are on my short list of must-haves — and I'll bet that the ice cream maker ($99) would be a fun thing to have next summer....
Anonymous, 10:59 PM | link |

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma 2005

Sebastiani CabernetMany years ago, the first wine I bought a case of was a Sebastiani Barbera that Louise Kahn recommended to me. The wooden box — which I still have — says it was the 1976 vintage. I stashed it downstairs in my darkroom / wine cellar and periodically brought one upstairs to to unwrap, open and enjoy.

Twenty-nine vintages later, Sebastiani is still one of my favorite wineries. Their Sonoma County selections are consistently very good no matter what the growing season was like, and they're good values as well. And their higher-end wines — like the Secolo red blend and the Cherry Block Cabernet — are superb.

At $15 or so, the Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma 2005 is hands-down my favorite everyday California Cab. This is probably why: My favorite type of wine is a New World Bordeaux-style blend, and Sebastiani's Sonoma Cab is blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Petite Sirah, and aged in a combination of American, Hungarian and French oak. The resulting wine has a fragrant nose of black cherry and a little Constant Comment, plenty of body, smooth tannins, a palate of dark berries, cedar and vanilla, and a long, pleasant finish. It's good to sip by itself, and its tannins and acids also make it a good match for food — it paired very well with last night's marinated and grilled flank steak.
Anonymous, 9:55 AM | link |

Eleventh Day of Gadgets — A Foreman Grill

Foreman GrillOur household is a little unusual. There's no microwave in the kitchen, but there is a Foreman Grill.

The first Foreman Grill that came to our home arrived as a Christmas present, and was received with much skepticism. But as things turned out, it got so much use that it finally wore out and was replaced by a slightly bigger (though still very basic) model. It, too, has earned a permanent place on top of the kitchen counter, where it gets frequent use.

While George pitches his grill as being a "lean, mean, low-fat grilling machine," here's one of the higher-fat things it makes best: grilled cheese sandwiches. And just because the non-stick cooking surface means you don't have to use butter or oil on your food, it doesn't mean you can't. If you think a little fat would improve the flavor of whatever you're cooking (and of course it will), spread some on!

The grill in our kitchen also gets plenty of use cooking chicken thighs and breasts, grilling slices of onions, reheating leftovers, and adding a little more "doneness" to meat that comes off the outdoor grill a little too rare. And a Foreman Grill is to sausages as a toaster is to bread.

Basic Foreman Grills can be had for as little as $20; more elaborate models (such as those with removable grill plates, which make cleanup easier) run up to $150 or so. If you get one for Christmas, take it out of the box and give it a try.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:00 AM | link |

Weimaraners in the News

Ellie-May is a good dog!

J. Silverheels Gray, 7:58 AM | link |

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Zin better than zinc for combating colds

I've been sniffling and sneezing all week — so I obviously need to increase my intake of red wine. Consider this passage gleaned from today's New York Times:
"Nonetheless, two large studies have found that although moderate drinking will not cure colds, it can help keep them at bay. One, by researchers at Carnegie Mellon in 1993, looked at 391 adults and found that resistance to colds increased with moderate drinking, except in smokers." Plus, this: "The study, in The American Journal of Epidemiology, found no relationship between the incidence of colds and consumption of beer, spirits, Vitamin C or zinc. But drinking 8 to 14 glasses of wine per week, particularly red wine, was linked to as much as a 60 percent reduction in the risk of developing a cold. The scientists suspected this had something to do with the antioxidant properties of wine."

So an ounce of prevention may not be worth a pound of cure, but a magnum of prevention is....

(A wag of the tail to Tom for the tip!)
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:32 PM | link |

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tenth Day of Gadgets — A Great All-Purpose Knife

Wüsthof 4110Wüsthof calls their model 4110 a Sausage Knife, and I know from first-hand experience that it will slice anything from a large French garlic sausage to dense pepperoni effortlessly and precisely.

Actually, it will slice just about anything with ease. Prick the skin of a ripe tomato with this knife's sharp tip, and slice it to any thickness you want. The serrated 5" blade makes it possible to make onion slices so thin that they're transparent, and even soft baguettes can be cut without being crushed.

The Wüsthof Classic 4110 costs $54.95, and is worth every penny. It's made from a single piece of a stain-resistant, high-carbon alloy, is dishwasher safe, holds its edge for a good long time, and is easily honed back to razor sharpness.

I have several other Wüsthof knives and enjoy using them all. But this is the one I reach for first — and if I could only have one knife, this would be it.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:19 PM | link |

Renato Ratti Nebbiolo d’Alba 2005

Nebbiolo is the grape used to produce Barolos and Barbarescos, which are usually quite wonderful and a bit on the pricey side. The Renato Ratti Nebbiolo isn't terribly expensive ($18), even though it hails from Piedmont — think of it as a Poor Man's Barolo. It needs some time in the cellar or in a decanter, but either way it offers a spicy nose, plums and dried cherries on the palate, and a long, dry finish. Good by itself, and its tannins make it a good match for food as well.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:54 PM | link |

Jean Bousquet Malbec 2006

For a little background on Jean Bousquet, scroll down a couple of posts to the Chardonnay review. If that's too much trouble, here's the executive summary: He's a French winemaker who moved his operation to Argentina because the climate there makes it easier to grow grapes naturally, and he's doing a great job.

His Malbec is made from organically-grown grapes, and is absolutely wonderful. As with his Chardonnay, the French influence comes through — this wine tastes like a Malbec, but with the hard edges rounded off. The tannins are soft, the slight bite that most Argentine Malbecs have is absent, and the resulting wine is soft, quaffable, and delicious. It opens with a nose hinting at chocolate and raspberries, moves into the characteristic plum with a cedar overtone on the palate, and finishes dry and long.

This Malbec is one that is suitable for parties — it's inexpensive ($12), easy to drink, and suitable as a cocktail wine or as an accompaniment to a wide variety of food, including burgers, lamb and duck. If this wine had been available to me last month, it would have been a perfect match for the cassoulet I made for my dinner club. Highly recommended!
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:36 PM | link |

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ninth Day of Gadgets — A Lemon Squeezer

Lemon SqueezerI've tried the reamers, I've tried the little cheesecloth caps, I've tried learning to love lemon seeds (which really aren't too bad). Then one of these enameled lemon squeezers showed up in my kitchen and I don't feel the need to try anything else.

The lemon squeezer is brutally simple: You put in half a lemon or other citrus fruit, squeeze the handles together, and capture the fresh seed- and pulp-free juice in a bowl or measuring cup. Take the rind out, rinse off the squeezer, and you're done. Whatever space it takes up in the kitchen drawer is well worth the fresh juice.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:26 PM | link |

Jean Bousquet Chardonnay 2006

Winemaker Jean Bousquet moved to Argentina in 1997 because the environment in Tupungato makes fungus less of a problem for grape growers than it is in his native France. Bousquet didn't like the fact that the typical practice in France is to treat vineyards at least twenty times per year with highly toxic chemical products; in his Argentine vineyards he can prevent fungus by treating his vineyards with copper sulfate and sulphur — both natural products — from three to five times a year. Bousquet believes that this, coupled with the sun, soil and altitude of his Argentine vineyards, enables him to consistently produce wines with plenty of body and flavor.

His Chardonnay is different from other Argentine Chards, no doubt a reflection of his French winemaking style. It's crisp and Chablis-like, with a fresh nose of spicy pear and a green apple flavor the holds through the finish. It's a really refreshing drink and would make an excellent deck wine. (If you're going to Florida this winter, take some along!)

Jean Bousquet's Chardonnay and Malbec — which I like very much and will review soon — are good, drink-now values at about $12 per bottle.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:48 AM | link |

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eighth Day of Gadgets — A Wooden Fork

Wooden ForkStrictly speaking, a fork probably isn't a gadget. No moving parts, it doesn't go *ding*, it has no owner's manual. But no matter — every kitchen should have at least three.

They're comforting to use, they age gracefully, and they don't scratch non-stick surfaces. They stir, they scrape, they chop soft things during cooking. They shouldn't go in the dishwasher, nor should they soak in the sink for very long.

Yes, plastic utensils do all the same things that wooden ones do, plus they're dishwasher safe. But wooden utensils become your familiar kitchen companions in a way that plastic utensils don't. The down side to that is that the mourning period for a beloved wooden utensil that gets broken is much longer than that for a plastic one (roughly four seconds).

On that note, be sure to put your favorite wooden fork in a safe place when you're not using it. Take it from one who knows: There are few things that dogs would rather chew on than a flavored stick.
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:02 PM | link |

Internet wine sales: The next step

Forget everything else on my Amazon Wish List — all I really want is one of these....

J. Silverheels Gray, 8:07 AM | link | 1 comments |

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Seventh Day of Gadgets: A Grill Skillet

Grill SkilletOur Weber grill is hooked up to house gas instead of propane and it's only about 15 steps away from the kitchen, so it gets a lot of use no matter what the season. As you might imagine, we have a lot of accessories for it — a fish grill, a grill basket, a rotisserie, a smoker box, various spatulas, tongs, forks, basting brushes and so on.

One of the handiest things hanging out by the grill was also one of the most inexpensive: a $5.99 grill skillet. It's all metal with an enameled cooking surface, cleans easily, and the handle folds so it doesn't take much room to stow away. I usually use a deeper grill basket to cook large quantities, but the 12" grill skillet is perfect for grilling a few veggies, shrimp, scallops, fish fillets, or any other small items you might want to stir-fry (or, more accurately, stir-grill).
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:54 AM | link |

Colombelle Red Wine 2006

Hailing from Gascony, the 2006 Colombelle red (they make a white, too) opens with a nose similar to a Beaujolais. It takes on its own character on the palate, with a light to medium body, fresh berry flavors and moderate tannins that make it a good, inexpensive ($8) quaffer to pair with pizza, pastas or barbeque.

The ’06 Colombelle is 60 percent Tannat, blended with equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Tannat is typically used in France to make Madiran, Rosé wines and Armagnac. While the grape is not well known in the U.S. — it wasn't approved as a winemaking grape here until 2002 — it has thrived in Uruguay, where is now considered the "national grape," the same status that another French transplant, Malbec, enjoys in Argentina.
J. Silverheels Gray, 6:29 AM | link |

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sixth Day of Gadgets — A Pulltap’s

Pulltap'sThere are plenty of good corkscrews out there — Screwpulls, Rabbits and Rogars, to name a few — and more than enough not-so-good ones (the ubiquitous wing corkscrews). Some people like to collect corkscrews (I have quite a few myself), but if you're only going to have one, here's the one to have: A Pulltap's.

The Pulltap's looks like any other waiter's corkscrew, but with a few subtle tweaks that make all the difference in the world. One is the slender, teflon-coated screw, which easily goes through the hardest corks while inflicting a minimal amount of damage. Second is the built-in foil cutting blade, which is serrated and sharp. But the real biggest advantage the Pulltap's has over similar corkscrews is its articulated, double-hinged boot lever, which allows the user to remove even the longest, most stubborn corks easily.

Pulltap's corkscrews open any size bottle, and can take the caps off beers and ales too. Slip one into your pocket or purse and you'll always be prepared — just remember to put it in your checked luggage when you travel by air....
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:31 AM | link | releases Top 100 list

Now that the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have weighed in with their annual Top 100 lists, Internet wineseller has released one of its own.'s list is different in that it was based on sales, rather than on the opinions of wine critics. Even so, 84 of's Top 100 were rated by professionals. Unlike the Spectator and Enthusiast lists, 75 percent of the wines are priced under $20.

To see the entire list, surf on over to
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:44 AM | link |

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Fifth Day of Gadgets — A Nutmeg Mill

Nutmeg MillOne of my favorite King of the Hill episodes features a Laotian neighbor whose cooking — including her meatloaf — is better than Peggy Hill's because of the ingredient she adds to everything: Nutmeg.

Nutmeg is one of my favorite spices, whether it's floated on top of an egg nog or used to season brussels sprouts or other vegetables — or meat loaf, for that matter. The preground stuff from the grocery isn't anywhere near as pungent as the freshly-grated variety, but after you inadvertently grate your finger for the first time you'll start considering a nutmeg mill.

Peugeot is famous for its pepper mills, and as you might expect their Ambione Nutmeg Shaver is first-rate too. It stores several whole nutmegs under its acrylic dome; turning the handle one direction makes shavings; the other direction grates. The Ambione has a wood base which, while attractive, drives its price up to $55; an all-acrylic version, the Tidore, costs $20 less.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:42 AM | link |

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fourth Day of Gadgets — A Perfect Beaker

Perfect BeakerAll of my other measuring cups have gone on hiatus since I got my Perfect Beaker. It's a versatile measuring device that would look as at home in a laboratory as it does in a kitchen, and it's a great help when making edible experiments.

The Perfect Beaker's graduated shape makes it easy to precisely mete out small quantities, and its six different scales — cups, fluid ounces, pints, tsps., Tbs. and ml/ccm — simplify adding together different measurements (half a cup plus two tablespoons, for example). Snap on its lid and you can shake it to mix ingredients or just store them for later use.

Made of sturdy polycarbonate, it's light and easy to handle, won't break if it's dropped, and is dishwasher-safe on the top rack. They're easy to find (Sur La Table, the Accent Shop, Amazon etc.) and less than ten bucks — get a couple!
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:13 AM | link |

Friday, December 07, 2007

Third Day of Gadgets — A Römertopf

RömertopfLong before there were Crock-Pots — before there was electricity, even — there were clay cookers. Cooks long ago discovered that all kinds of food could be put in an earthenware vessel and cooked under a bed of coals. It's true that cast iron Dutch ovens can do about everything that clay cookers do and aren't as fragile, but there is a difference: Cast iron isn't porous, and clay is.

Clay cookers like the Römertopf are soaked in water for at least 15 minutes before they are used for cooking. The water they absorb helps keep their contents moist while cooking as long as the lid is on. (Typically, the lid is only taken off for a few minutes at the end of the cooking time when it's desirable to crisp up the contents.)

Römertopfs and similar products come in a variety of sizes, from garlic roasters to large enough to accommodate a turkey. I've found a couple of practically new ones at my local Goodwill store for under $10, and now have three. (My favorite is the one I've had for years that says "Made in West Germany" on the bottom.) They're great for making stews, soups and roast chicken, and they help retain nutrients, keep the inside of your oven clean, and fill the air with wonderful aromas when they're in use. And, much like a fine meerschaum pipe, they gain color and character as they age.
Anonymous, 9:52 AM | link |

Drink up: Wine prices to rise

It Is CertainAs previously mentioned here, Australian wine prices are due to start climbing for a variety of reasons, including drought, flood, the end of the Aussie wine glut, the newfound strength of the Aussie dollar and the weakness of the U.S. dollar.

The weak greenback is also going to cause the price of wine from Western Europe to shoot up in the next three to five months, according to industry experts. Producers have been resisting raising prices because they didn't want to lose market share, but they don't want to lose money either so it's just been a case of putting off the inevitable. Wines from Chile are also likely to rise in price, since that country's currency is relatively strong compared to the U.S. dollar.

Prices for wines tied to the Euro are predicted to rise from 10 to perhaps as much as 30 percent in 2008. After that, look for good values from France (where there is still a "wine lake" of surplus juice), particularly from the less prestigious appellations such as Languedoc, and from Argentina, whose currency is not currently gaining against the dollar.
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:30 AM | link |

La Ferme Julien Rouge 2005

Get the GoatEverybody loves a bargain, and I'm particularly keen on sniffing out good, inexpensive, everyday wines.

One I found last night is La Ferme Julien, a second label from from French winemaker Francois Perrin. It's a red Rhône from Côtes du Ventoux, and it comes in at right about $6.

Despite the goat on the label and its agrarian name, there's not a hint of barnyard in this wine. There is a little earthiness in the nose, but the palate is all fruit — Grenache, mostly — with medium body and soft tannins. It paired quite nicely with the Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic that my new dad made last night. He substituted Herbes de Provence for the sage, thyme and rosemary and put the chicken on a base of onion slices. It sure made the house smell good — and it was good!
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:43 AM | link |

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Second Day of Gadgets — A Timer That Goes Ding

Mirro MaticIn cooking timing is important, and a good reliable timer is indispensable. I have electronic timers, egg timers, a timer on the computer, a timer that crows like a rooster and a wall clock, but the one I always reach for first is my old Mirro Matic, which came from a friend's garage sale.

It's a cinch to use, easy to read, and dependable. It only dings once, so if you're out of the room when it goes off there's a danger that something will get overcooked. Fortunately, it ticks so loudly that just the sudden silence is enough to clue you in that it's time. Sometimes the simple things really are the best!
Anonymous, 4:03 PM | link |

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Twelve Days of Gadgets — Day One

CuisinartCuisinart's Mini-Prep Plus is one of the most-used items in my kitchen. Chopping garlic takes just a few seconds with this little Cuisinart, and cleanup is easy. For quickly beating a couple of eggs, grating hard cheese or chopping nuts, it makes food prep easier, takes up minimal counter space and costs less than $40.
Anonymous, 7:23 AM | link |

Monday, December 03, 2007

Introducing Jackson

JacksonI'm happy to introduce a new staff member here at WineCanine: Just yesterday evening we were were joined by J. Silverheels Gray, otherwise known as Jackson. Jackson got his email address and is undergoing orientation today, and will start working like a dog — that is, from a position of comfort on the sofa or on a comfy cushion in front of the fireplace — tomorrow.

Jackson came to us through the courtesy and the good work of Louisville Weimaraner Rescue, which has an Indianapolis branch. As is the case with most rescues, not much is known about his childhood other than he was picked up as a stray by a shelter in Fort Wayne, and was subsequently adopted by a family in Columbia City. That family soon decided that he was too big to play with their two very small dogs, so he was released to LWR and lived with his foster parents Rob and Shelly, their daughter Maddie, and their two resident Weims for four weeks.

Rob had previously contacted me about possibly donating an auction item to LWR's Weim & Cheese fundraiser next June (you bet!), and I sent him a note when Zane died the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Rob described Jackson to me, we spent some time with him on three different occasions, and after getting all the details worked out we brought him to his new forever home last night.

Jackson is smaller than Zane was — about 60 pounds as opposed to 90 — and at 19 months is still a youngster. He gets along well with our older Doberman, Red, who seems to be happy to have a new companion after being depressed about the loss of his old friend Zane. The same goes for us humans.
Anonymous, 11:15 AM | link | 0 comments |