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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stormhoek Pinotage 2005

Stormhoek PinotagePinotage is South Africa's signature grape, much as Malbec is Argentina's and Carmenère is becoming Chile's. But unlike those two refugees from Bordeaux, Pinotage is actually unique to South Africa, where it was bred in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault.
The progeny from that crossing is quite distinctive, and bears little if any similarity to its parents. Pinotage is spicy, smoky and unusual, and may take a little getting used to.

The Stormhoek Pinotage 2005 is a good representative of its breed, and easy to get to know (and at just $10, afford). Smoke and tar permeate the nose when the bottle is first opened, but after a short decant it settles into spicebox with whiffs of bacon. On the palate are round, mouthfilling flavors of plum and moderate tannins, followed by a dry, lingering finish. This wine has lots of personality and is good by itself. It would be a perfect match for grilled food, too — where's the beef?
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:19 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday Tidbits

New Room at the Inn
Now that the retail shop is gone from Zionsville's Brick Street Inn, that space will be added to the new Lobby Lounge. Word is that the LLounge will have cocktails, an extensive by-the-glass wine list, a good selection of microbrews (something Zionsville sorely lacks) and a late-night munchie menu. Opening is targeted for February.

Think of them as Macrobrews
Costco is preparing to release its own line of beers. Their new Hefeweizen, Amber Ale and Pale Ale will be brewed by California craft brewer Gordon Biersch, which also brews private-label beers for Trader Joe's.

Starbucks puts U.S. stores on back burner
Ubiquitous coffee retailer Starbucks has announced plans to close 100 underperforming stores, cut back on new store openings in the U.S., and strengthen its international presence. Starbucks will also stop offering breakfast sandwiches, citing customer comments that the food smells interfered with coffee aromas.

One of the things I like best about camping is the food — it really does seem that everything cooked outside tastes better. However, I'm not sure that would be the case with the canned cheeseburger offered by a German company.

It's a whole cheeseburger in a can, complete with bun, pickles and ketchup, and at €3.95 it ain't cheap. It's meant to be boiled in the can until warm, then opened and consumed, preferably when you're so ravenous that marinated hiking boot sounds pretty good. One adventurous researcher put the canned burger to the test and filed a report.
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:51 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Brix on the rocks; will reopen as Noah Grant's

According to their Web page and a sign on the front door, Brix, the Zionsville bistro and wine bar, will reopen February 9 as Noah Grant's Grillhouse and Raw Bar. No clues are given as to what kind of restaurant Noah Grant's will be, but a help wanted ad on Craigslist indicates a sushi chef will be part of the kitchen crew.

No idea as yet who the restaurant is named for, but the top Google hits for that name are for a Berkeley musician and Ulysses S. Grant's famously alcoholic grandfather.

Brix was originally opened in 2003 by sisters Jeni and Shari Jenkins. After it closed for a few weeks last year it was reopened by Jeni with an assist from her mom. Noah Grant's is being opened by Shari and her dad.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:56 AM | link | 2 comments |

Monday, January 28, 2008

Diageo to acquire Rosenblum Cellars

Beverage giant Diageo will acquire Rosenblum Cellars in a $105 million deal, according to a press release issued today.

Rosenblum Cellars is a leading California producer of Zinfandels, and makes a number of other wines in a distinctive fruit-driven style, including Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre, Viognier and some Rhône-style blends.

WineCanine has a soft spot for Rosenblum wines, not just because they're as a rule pretty darned good but because the winery was started in 1978 by Dr. Kent Rosenblum, who is a veterinarian. A portion of the proceeds of Rosenblum’s Château La Paws wines benefit an organization that trains assistance dogs.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:24 AM | link | 1 comments |

Thursday, January 24, 2008

House bill would forbid "hormone free" label

H.B. 1300, a bill introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives, would forbid the use of the phrase "hormone free" on containers of milk produced by cows that were not treated with the bovine growth hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin, commonly known as BST.

BST is administered by injection to dairy cows to increase milk production. Its use is banned in virtually every country in the world with the exception of the United States. Allegations of negative health effects on humans are contested and the hormone is considered safe by the FDA, but the product has been shown to cause a substantial increase of certain health problems in cows.

The rationale in banning labeling that states no growth hormones were used in the production of milk is that such "absence labeling" discriminates against farmers who do use BST. The committee considering the bill voted unanimously to approve it and eliminate labeling, but opposition is expected when the bill reaches the Senate.

A similar bill was passed by the Pennsylvania legislature in 2007, but the label ban was strongly opposed by several consumer groups and the state relented and reversed the ban before it could take effect. Several retailers and restaurants, including Trader Joes's, Kroger and Chipotle Grill, have stopped selling or using milk products made using artificial growth hormones.
J. Silverheels Gray, 12:05 PM | link | 1 comments |

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Barco Negro Red Blend 2005

Barco NegroYou might think that a Barco Negro would be the sound made by a black dog, but in fact it translates to "black boat." One particular black boat was a wine barge with a black hull and sails that transported wine on the Douro River in Portugal, and it was for that historic vessel that this wine was named.

An unoaked blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz (known as Tempranillo in Spain), the Barco Negro 2005 opens with cherry and a whiff of mint on the nose, followed by cherry, plum and berry flavors on the palate and a dry finish. It's robust and full-bodied, and its soft tannins make it good to pair with food or easy to relax with and drink by itself. (Would that make one a Barco-lounger?)

Priced at just $12, this satisfying and versatile wine is a good one to keep on hand.
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:47 AM | link | 1 comments |

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

La Posta Cocina Blend 2006

La Posta CocinaArgentina is on a roll — just about every new issue of the Big Dog wine magazines includes a few more reasonably-priced, high-scoring Argentine wines. It's a lot like the proliferation of good, inexpensive wines that Australia poured into the market a few years ago, except these are mainly Malbecs instead of Shirazes.

One that is well worth a try is the $15 La Posta Cocina Blend 2006, a unique and luscious blend of Malbec, Bonarda and Syrah. It starts with a deep plummy Malbec nose with hints of cedar, followed with big, rich berry and cherry flavors on the palate. It's full-bodied, has a long, dry finish, and is really delicious. This smooth, friendly wine is a treat by itself, or as an accompaniment to food.

Cocina is the Spanish word for kitchen, so as the name and label suggest this is a "kitchen blend." I look forward to seeing what else La Posta cooks up!
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:02 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Whatever floats your boat

Cork BoatEver wondered what to do with that collection of wine corks that seems to keep accumulating? Here's an idea: build a boat.

Washington speechwriter John Pollack nursed a dream of building a boat out of corks since he was six years old, and three decades later finally did complete a two ton, 22 foot long Viking-style craft made of some 166,000 wine corks.

Pollack's effort was helped along by the Cork Supply Group, one of the world's leading cork manufacturers and suppliers, which contributed 100,000 corks. Fittingly, after a brief shakedown cruise in the Potomac River, the boat's maiden voyage was on the Duoro River in Portugal, where Pollack and his craft were instant media favorites.

The story of Pollack and his boat is still in the media: A story about it will be aired January 11 on ABC's 20/20, which comes on at 10 p.m. EST.

It's hard to imagine such a dream being fueled by screwcaps....
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:41 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Wine wholesalers spend $50 million on political contributions

Alcoholic beverage wholesalers contributed $50 million to political campaigns between 2000 and 2006, according to a report issued by the Specialty Wine Retailers Association. This sum does not take into account money spent to retain lobbyists or public relations firms.

And you were wondering why wine shipping laws are so screwy?
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:17 AM | link | 0 comments | turns tattletale

Internet retailer has sent letters to state government officials naming competitors that the company says are violating shipping rules.

Nine states that allow shipping of wine by retailers require the retailer to have a local presence, so has set up warehouses and shipping operations in those states. Some other Internet wine retailers get around such requirements simply by ignoring them, and shipping from their existing locations.

This apparently is such a source of irritation to that the company set up its own sting operation where it ordered wine from other retailers, documented the transactions, and provided details of those transactions to state agencies with the suggestion that enforcement actions be taken.

There's much more info in the December 27 issue of the Wine Market Report (PDF format), which has been posted by the Specialty Wine Retailers Association.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:37 AM | link | 1 comments |

Monday, January 07, 2008

Artificial butter poses risk for restaurant workers, study finds

A study commissioned by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has found that the same chemical that has damaged and destroyed the lungs of hundreds of popcorn and food-flavoring plant workers could pose the same risks to professional cooks who use butter substitutes.

Many butter substitutes release vapor from a chemical called diacetyl, which has been linked to a potentally fatal respiratory disease. The presence of the chemical in butter substitutes was publicized last September when it was linked to the lung ailments suffered by a man who consumed microwaved popcorn on a daily basis.

Popcorn manufacturers are removing the chemical from their products, and new formulations of PAM will also be made without it. Diacetyl is also used in small amounts to preserve unsalted butter, which is not necessary for salted butter. According to the P-I study, the amount of the substance in butter and butter substitutes ranged from seven to 16 parts per million in real butter to 1,062 ppm to 1,125 ppm for popcorn popping oil. A cooking spray of the type used by home cooks contained 164 ppm, and butter-flavored cooking oils used by professional cooks ranged from 23 ppm to 234 ppm.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:48 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Chicken and Pistachio Pâté

Chicken LogThis robust appetizer is reasonably simple and economical to make. The bits of ham, pistachio and chicken breast give it visual interest and texture, and you can spice it up with a little cayenne if you like.

I have a 16" x 3 1/2" pewter dish that I bake mine in; if you have a similar oven-safe vessel you can skip the tying-with-string step and make a loaf that exactly fits your dish.

Chicken and Pistachio Pâté
Serves 10-12

2 lbs. boneless skinless dark chicken meat
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, about 6 oz.
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg white
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 oz. cooked ham, cut into 3/8" cubes
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
3 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper

Cut chicken breast and ham into 3/8" cubes and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place dark chicken meat into food processor and pulse into a smooth purée in two or three batches.

Soak the bread crumbs in the cream in a large mixing bowl. Add the puréed chicken, egg white, scallions, garlic, cubed chicken breast and ham, pistachio nuts, tarragon, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Mix well.

Lay out a piece of extra-wide strong foil about 20 inches long and lightly coat with oil. Spoon the mixture on to the foil to form a log shape about 14" long and 3 1/2" thick. Bring together the long sides of the foil and fold over securely to enclose. Tightly fold the ends of the foil. Tie with string like you would a beef tenderloin, spacing loops about 2" apart.

Transfer to baking dish or roasting pan and bake at 350°F for 1 1/2 hours. Let cool then chill until cold, preferably overnight. Serve at room temperature with slices of French bread.

While this is perfectly tasty by itself, drizzling on a bit of Earth & Vine’s Apricot Dijon Tarragon Finishing Sauce adds even more flavor. If you think using a bottled finishing sauce is cheating, you can make your own with this recipe.
J. Silverheels Gray, 4:48 PM | link | 0 comments |