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Monday, March 31, 2008

’Gator at the Goose

ALLIGATOR SAUSAGE!Sunday's breakfast was delicious: Scrambled eggs, spelt toast, and alligator bratwurst from the Goose.

I usually prepare my non-reptilian bratwurst by simmering first in a batter of beer, butter and onions, browning on a grill, then finishing in a second container of batter. This time I took a different approach, and it worked well.

Grilled Alligator Bratwurst
allow 1-2 sausages per serving

alligator brats
olive oil

Apply a thin layer of olive oil to the sausages, and allow them to come up to room temperature.

In the meantime, preheat grill to an internal temperature of 350°F. When grill is hot, place brats briefly over center burner (if using a gas grill) and cook until nicely browned, 2-4 minutes. Turn center burner off (if using charcoal, move away from coals), close lid and cook using indirect heat for 10 minutes. Remove from grill, let rest for a couple of minutes and serve.

You *could* put these on a bun and load them up with mustard and grilled onions, but then you'd mask the flavors of the brats themselves, and that would be a shame. They have just a little spicy heat — not whoo-eee Cajun hot, just enough to give the old jaded tastebuds a little kick. They'd be good served with lots of things, but I'm thinking some dirty rice, a side of grilled onions and slices of fresh tomato (c’mon, tomatoes!) would be just the ticket.

Goose proprietor Chris Eley says the alligator brats are on regular rotation with other featured sausages, but they aren't available all the time. The best way to find out when they're coming around again is to check in with the Goose's blog.

And until a local source for free-range, organically-farmed alligator becomes available, the Goose will continue to source its meat from Louisiana. Hmm ... I wonder how they'd do in the pond at Trader's Point Creamery?
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:54 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Orin Swift Papillon 2005

PapillonRutherford winery Orin Swift is known for making big wines. Its Zinfandel-based blend, The Prisoner (Zin, Cab, Syrah, Petit Sirah, Charbono and Grenache), is a favorite of fans of big, dark, rich wines.

Papillon is Orin Swift's first vintage of a Bordeaux style blend containing five of the six classic varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It is every bit as big and luscious as its Zin-based sibling, with a huge nose of blackberry and cedar and a palate to match. Its tannins have already softened and the wine is spectacular poured right from the bottle, but a brief decant will open the aromas and flavors even more. It is well-balanced and powerful, and if it seems expensive at $55 then just glance over at the prices of the 2005 Bordeaux that might be ready to drink in 10 or 15 years, and consider that you could take Papillon home and enjoy it without having to consult an actuarial chart first.

If I have a quibble with Papillon, it's the label. Yes, it's arty, and it would look good on a gallery wall, and it's a movie reference, but as a wine label it's hideous. In fact — and I just happen to know this — the biggest thing a wine salesman has to overcome in selling this wine (and believe me, an unknown $55 wine is a hand-sell) is the label. If the customer is already familiar with The Prisoner and its merely grim label, it's easier — but otherwise it helps to suggest ways to get around the art. ("You could decant it! Or wrap it in a towel like they do at restaurants! Or pour it into a nice, pretty Far Niente bottle! Trust me, you'll like the wine a lot better than you do the label!")

I had a woman tell me once that she would never consider trying Toad Hollow Chardonnay because she thought that label was "gross." I'm afraid that the same thing will happen with Papillon, and that would be a shame — just remember that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and the same principle applies to wine.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:38 PM | link | 3 comments |

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The rainbow has a little more Red today

Red in the woodsWe sent our dear red Doberman, Red, off to the Rainbow Bridge this morning.

He was slowly wasting away from ... something, we're not sure what — mostly liver failure and diabetes, we're thinking. Whatever it was, it reduced our vibrant, robust 90-pound companion to a feeble shadow who weighed half of what he should have at the end. During the past few days, he quit eating except for an occasional morsel of bacon, and he was so weak he could barely stand.

Dr. Kohlmann came over at about 8 a.m., and Red stood up to greet him and wagged his tail while Dr. K scratched his ears. Then Red went right back to his bed, and relaxed while a small area on his back leg was shaved so that his vein was more visible. We both patted him and talked to him while the injection was given, and in a short time he peacefully slipped away, free at last from the health problems that had been plaguing him.

* * *

Our first meeting with Red was at the Indianapolis Humane Society. He really wasn't at all what we were looking for; Opie, the dog we had lost most recently, was a Border Collie - Golden Retriever mix (maybe) with one blue eye and one brown. Our other dog, Pantone, was a black Lab. We interviewed another Lab and looked at some other dogs, but this one big guy kept trying to get our attention whenever we walked by his pen, so we finally took him outside to interview him.

Red on the rugWhat a good show he put on! He knew sit, down and stay, and he was calm around other dogs. We didn't exactly connect, but he made a good impression and pleaded with us to get him out of there when we took him back to his pen.

He wasn't what either of us had imagined our next dog to be — short-haired, tall and lanky, with medium-sized ears that folded over and a long tail. He was nothing like Opie, and nothing like the big, beautiful black Lab who had collapsed in a heap of misery when I had taken him back to his pen after his interview. But we couldn't get him our of our minds, and when I woke up in the middle of the night and said "Let's go get that big red dog!" we agreed that's what we had to do.

And get him we did — lucky for him, since it was his third trip through the Humane Society, and dogs didn't usually get that many chances there. As it turned out, he was a Doberman, which is something we didn't realize since he was a chestnut-colored dog with long ears and tail, instead of the black, pointy-eared, short-tailed breed we thought we knew about.

All of our dogs teach us something, and Red taught us that Dobies don't have to be black, cropped or docked, and that they aren't fierce or mean by nature. They are intelligent, powerful, loyal and loving — and there's nothing wrong with that!

* * *

Red taught me something else, too. One evening we watched in horror, unable to help, as he went into violent convulsions in the middle of our living room. As it turned out, he had epilepsy — caused perhaps by having been hit by a car when young, but a life-changing affliction for all of us.

First MeetingWe tried to control Red's seizures with Phenobarbitol (and a few other things), which is one of the drugs that humans use for the same purpose. Phenobarbitol can cause liver damage in dogs, but we made the choice to use it because it meant losing him later rather than sooner. Later has finally come.

* * *

We have eight years of stories about Red, and it would take nearly that long to type them all out. I'm not even going to attempt that, but I must tell everyone who thinks Dobes are mean, fierce dogs that nothing could be further from the truth.

This isn't to say that they can't be intimidating, because they can. Once a construction crew that included a few rough-looking individuals came into our yard and Red appeared on the deck, ears up, tail high, looking each one straight in the eye. I was impressed by him, and very proud.

Eagle CreekI was even more proud the time I took him to the Zionsville Farmers Market and a little girl came up to pat him. She was probably about two years old, and not as tall as Red. She held a cookie in her left hand while she patted him with her right, her parents beaming. To my great relief, he endured her attention and ignored the cookie, which a lesser dog would have snatched away.

* * *

Red had seizures about monthly. He usually had one big one, with a few lesser episodes the same day or the day following. We made a lot of changes in his diet, took him off of most of his vaccines, and he eventually went for more than a year with no seizures at all (or none that we knew of, at least).

Then last summer he began to have other health problems. For a while he had trouble walking a straight line. Then he started licking and then chewing on his feet, and eventually chewed all his nails off until they bled. He developed skin problems, and his fur fell out in patches.

We were very distressed by all this, but Red took it in stride. Then his other symptoms subsided, but he began to lose weight rapidly, until his ribs, spine and hipbones were clearly discernable under his skin. Not surprisingly, he became weak and listless.

SleepLast week we made the call to Dr. Kohlmann to come put him down, but then he started eating again, his ears perked up, and we put it off for a bit. This week — today — it was time.

* * *

I feel as though this is a clumsy tribute. Eloquence doesn't always come easy, even when grief is dictating.

Farewell, my dear, sweet Reddy Boy. I fervently hope that there really is a Rainbow Bridge, and that you, I, and all our friends will one day rendezvous there, where the fields are green, the skies are blue, and the pain of separation is but a distant, faded memory.
Anonymous, 8:53 PM | link | 4 comments |

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Q: What wine pairs well with ants?

Anteater A: Altos Las Hormigas, of course!

I'm just not able to let a photograph of an anteater sipping wine pass by without comment. A Flickr user called Tamanduagirl features many photos of her family's pet anteaters eating, playing, being walked on a leash and engaging in activities that I'd never thought to associate with anteaters. The beverage in the wine glass in this photo is actually grape juice, but apparently anteaters do like wine, beer, Champagne, ketchup and vinegar, among other things.

They sure look like fun little companions, but I can't locate any Anteater Rescue groups on Google....
J. Silverheels Gray, 6:04 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, March 17, 2008

Château d’Yquem sells 100 Nebuchadnezzars

Château d’ YquemIconic Sauternes producer Château d’ Yquem has sold all 100 of the Nebuchadnezzars of its 2005 vintage that it began offering for sale a year ago.

The 15-liter bottles, which sold for €12,850 each (the equivalent of $20,392 at this moment), are part of a limited edition of 120. The remaining 20 bottles will be kept in the château's collection.

Fifteen liters is a lot of wine, and especially a lot of Sauternes. A typical serving is three ounces, so if you ever decided to pour your Nebuchadnezzar you'd want to wait until 169 of your closest friends could come over (or what the heck, just invite 80 people and have two glasses). The price works out to roughly $1,020 per 750ml bottle (there are 20 in a Nebuchadnezzar), which makes the current price of $600 for the 100-point 2001 seem like quite a bargain.

Of course, the odds that any of the big bottles will actually ever be consumed are quite small. They're really investment vehicles, the bottled equivalent of 20 ounces of gold (19.76, actually). And just think how nice one would look as a cellar decoration!

In other Yquem-related news, this spring Sotheby's will auction a single lot of 70 vintages ranging from 1892 to 2001, two bottles of each vintage except four, for a total of 136 bottles. This particular vertical is exceptional, in that none of the bottles has ever surfaced from the cellars of the château and the collection will be sold at the property, Sotheby's says. The sale is expected to bring more than £100,000 (currently $201,292).
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:16 AM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Food to burn: Oiling the wheels of commerce

Veggie MercedesNow that ethanol is being touted as a fuel source (although not a very efficient one), quite a bit of discussion has focused on the effect that the increased demand for corn will have on food prices. This has already had a very real impact in Mexico, where the price of tortillas for a typical family increased last year from 63 cents per day to as much as $1.81 per day — a staggering increase in a country where the income for half the population is $4 a day or less.

Gasoline prices have been in the news lately, as the price of crude oil climbed to a new high and motorists start considering the possibility of paying $4 a gallon to fill their gas tanks. This is something that owners of diesel-powered vehicles already have to contend with, as local fuel prices passed the $4 per gallon mark a couple of weeks ago and have now topped $4.16 in some areas.

That's about a dollar a gallon more than a five-gallon jug of soybean oil costs at Costco or Sam's Club — and many diesels will run just as happily on vegetable oil as they do on petroleum-based fuel. (Even more happily, actually, since vegetable oil provides better lubricity that dino-diesel, although at a slight reduction in power.) Vegetable oil gels at a higher temperature than petrodiesel, but if high pump prices persist past the arrival of warmer weather, switching their vehicles to a straight vegetable oil diet will be an attractive option for owners of diesel-powered vehicles.

The number of diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. passenger-car fleet is relatively tiny, but fuel consumption figures change dramatically when trucks are taken into account. Factor in the fact that semitractors average about six miles per gallon, and all of a sudden a $1 per gallon savings in fuel cost is a very big deal.

Truckers in European countries have already discovered vegetable oil. It's illegal to use unlicensed motor fuel in many places — at least in part because doing so circumvents paying road use taxes that are collected at the pump. Even so, groceries still find plenty of empty vegetable-oil containers in their parking lots.

As long as vegetable oil is more cost-effective than diesel fuel, it's really not too hard to imagine the same thing happening here. So if you think you catch a whiff of French fries while you're cruising down the Interstate this summer, it could be because the 18-wheeler ahead of you has gone veggie.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:31 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, March 14, 2008

The green line of wine

Green ManBig Foot, an article by Michael Specter in the February 25 issue of The New Yorker, details the efforts that go into determining the carbon footprint of various products so that companies and individuals can have a sound, rational basis for making desisions that will benefit the environment.

Trying to assess the carbon footprint of a product can be dauntingly complicated, as the environmental impacts of its production, distribution, use and disposal must all be taken into account. Variations in these factors can cause enormous differences in the carbon footprint of virtually identical products made by neighboring companies.

And the results aren't always what you might expect. In the case of wine, for example, you might think that a domestic product would be more green than an import, but that isn't necessarily the case. Specter reportes that a study of the carbon cost of the global wine trade found that it is actually more "green" for people in the Eastern part of the U.S. to drink wine shipped by sea from Bordeaux than wine shipped by truck from California. That is largely because sea-freight emissions are less than a sixtieth of those associated with airplanes, and highways don't need to be built to berth a ship, and because shipping wine is mostly shipping glass. The study found that "the efficiencies of shipping drive a 'green line' all the way to Columbus, Ohio, the point where a wine from Bordeaux and Napa has the same carbon intensity."

But then there are the production methods to take into account. Some wineries are striving to be carbon-neutral, and there is a certification for that. Cline's operation is solar-powered — they even sell electricity to PG&E — and they use organic growing methods, so their wines could make it further east than Columbus on a green line. And at least one Australian winemaker has taken to shipping wine in bulk on tankers to be bottled after it arrives in the U.S.

Because distance isn't the only factor used in calculating carbon costs, it is sometimes the case that food shipped thousands of miles is greener that the same product made 50 miles away. One researcher who has analyzed the relative environmental impacts of foods finds the views of bioregionalists and locavores to be overly simplistic. "The idea that a product travels a certain distance and is therefore worse than one you raised nearby — well, it's just idiotic," he says, because land use, weather and other factors need to be taken into consideration.

The bottom line? Closer is greener, except when it's not — and figuring carbon costs is more complex than you might think.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:51 AM | link | 2 comments |

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Liquid Assets: Fine wine outperforms stocks

Buy wine!Investors might want to consider trading their blue chips for red wines.

According to London-based Wine Asset Managers, over the past seven years the average annualized return on an investment in fine wines would have been 16 percent.

To put it another way, $50,000 invested in fine wines seven years ago would now be worth $120,000, while the same amount invested in the FTSE 100 (the Financial Times Stock Exchange index) would now be worth $61,000. That 16 percent also beats the five-year 9.2 percent return for the S&P 500 Index.

Fine wine is predicted to continue to be a good investment, as demand is driven in part by the emerging economies of China and India, as well as that of Russia.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:49 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, March 10, 2008

PETs allowed, full of wine

Shiraz by the glassWhile recently browsing the site of British wine blogger Robert McIntosh, I ran across his story about a new form of wine packaging that has popped up on shelves in the United Kingdom.

Marketed by a company called WineNow, the Tulipak consists of wine packaged in a recyclable PET plastic wineglass with a heat-sealed lid. No corkscrew required — just peel off the lid and drink. According to the company, their new packaging makes it possible to serve and drink wine where glass is not welcome, e.g. festivals, concerts and sporting events.

Three wines are currently offered in Tulipaks: a Shiraz, a Chardonnay and a Rosé, and are sold in packages of two 187.5 ml glasses for £3.99. This works out to about $8 for a split.

I can see the thinking behind this new packaging, but if I wanted to avoid taking wine someplace in a glass container, I'd just fill a bota with something I knew I liked and take along a collapsible camp cup.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:25 AM | link | 1 comments |

Cuvée de Peña 2005

Cuvée de PeñaThe Cuvée de Peña 2005 is a Rhône-style blend from the southernmost part of France, the Pyrénées-Orientales department of Languedoc-Roussillon.

Blackberry and blueberry are on the nose, while the medium-bodied palate leans more towards black cherry and a little plum. It doesn't have much of the earthiness usually associated with French wines, nor any of the characteristic leather of its Spanish neighbor; it seems to be crafted for New World palates, easy to drink on its own or with food. At less than $10 a bottle, it could be a contender to be your new house wine — and if you do like it that well, you may want to forego bottles and opt instead for the three-liter box. (Yes, the label shot is of the 2004 vintage. The ’05 label looks just the same.)
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:04 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday fun and foolishness

Here's another animation by Joel Veitch for the British band Seven Seconds of Love, in which he sings lead.

Bear in mind that this band is based in a country where the government and media are currently bloviating about the regulation of the sizes of wine glasses and bottles to stem the scourge of overdrinking amongst the middle class. It must be the fault of the containers — it couldn't possibly be cultural, now could it?
J. Silverheels Gray, 1:08 PM | link | 0 comments |

Take up drinking and live longer, study suggests

To Your Health!Non-drinkers who begin moderate consumption of alcohol in middle age can cut their risks of suffering heart attacks by up to 68 percent, a new study by the Medical University of South Carolina's Department of Family Medicine says.

Previous studies had determined that the moderate use of alcohol confers health benefits to drinkers, but it was unknown if there was any benefit in starting to drink later in life. The South Carolina study, which drew on observations over a four-year period of 7,697 people between the ages of 45 and 64, found that alcohol consumption gave a considerable cardiovascular health benefit without paying the penalty in mortality or in higher blood pressure. “Moderate” for the purposes of this study meant one drink a day or less for women and two drinks a day or less for men.

The type of alcohol consumed does matter, the study found: Wine-only drinkers had 68 percent fewer cardiovascular events, while the drinkers of beer, liquor and mixed drinks had only a 21 percent benefit.

Findings of the study are published in the March issue of The American Journal of Medicine.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:08 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

l’attrape-coeur vin de pays 2003

l'attrape-coeurlL’attrape coeur (loosely, “capture the heart”) is a distinctly French wine, with a bit of earthiness and a charmingly whimsical label by illustrator and poster artist Jean-Pierre Desclozeaux.

A 60-40 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, l’attrape-coeur 2003 begins with a nose of dusty blackberry, smoke and spice and follows with mouthfilling, dark fruit flavors which evolve as the wine opens.

Nicely structured with a dry, persistent finish, this wine is fine for sipping but really comes into its own with a meal. Priced at under $15, it delivers a lot of satisfaction for the money.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:26 PM | link | 0 comments |

Notes from the kitchen

PizzaJust because I haven't posted any recipes lately doesn't mean I haven't been cooking. Before too long I'll have a Mediterranean bread recipe worked out, but baking isn't something I do every day.

I've been making a pizza every week for the past couple of months, trying to perfect my technique. The two things that have made the biggest difference in the quality of my pies have been switching from a pizza stone to a nonstick perforated pizza pan and using Giada DeLaurentiis’ recipe for pizza dough on It makes a crust that is light and fluffy, yet crisp enough to support any reasonable amount of toppings. (I like to add a little fresh ground pepper to the dough.)

Last week the Wine Spectator sent out a recipe for Roghan Josh that looked good to me, so after making a trip to Penzey's to pick up a few things I made it last night, and was it ever good! I cut up a four-pound boneless leg of lamb from Costco and doubled the recipe, and served the dish on brown rice. The perfect accompaniment was the Jean Bousquet Malbec 2006, which I like much better than several other Malbecs that boast higher ratings.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:16 AM | link | 0 comments |

Good news, bad news for Utah drinkers

Polygamy PorterIt's good to reminded every now and then that as nonsensical as many of Indiana's laws regarding alcoholic beverages are, in some states they're even more convoluted.

Take Utah, for example. That state's legislature just passed legislation that will allow mixed drinks to contain the standard 1.5 ounces of liquor, up from one ounce. Utah's governor, Jon Huntsman, said he wanted the change so Utah – the only state that limits the amount of liquor in a single shot – wouldn't appear so strange to the rest of the world.

Better luck next time, Guv. Liberalizing the pour in a mixed drink wasn't the only change Utah's legislature made to its beverage laws. Now Utah is the only state in the nation to ban wine coolers and flavored malt beverages from grocery stores and relegate them to state-run liquor stores. (One state representative called such beverages "gateway drugs.") And it will now be illegal to order a shot along with a cocktail if the shot is a liquor used in mixing the drink. For example, if your table is drinking Margaritas, shots of tequila are out — but if someone at the table is drinking, say, a gin and tonic, then that person could get a shot of tequila. Won't this new law make it fun for servers and bartenders to try to keep track of who's drinking what?

One nice feature of Utah law: If you're going to a restaurant to eat and want wine with your meal, all you have to do is take it with you. Just don't try to order a grappa....
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:49 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What was old is new again: Wines being shipped by sailboat

The BelemEuropean countries are taking global warming pretty seriously, and the goal of reducing carbon emissions is causing lots of changes in the way products are packaged and shipped.

In an example of how sometimes the best ways are the old ways, some French winemakers are now shipping wines made in Languedoc to Ireland in a three-masted sailing ship, the Belem.

Launched in 1896, the barque Belem is the last French merchant sailing ship built. Using it and feeder barges to transport 60,000 bottles of wine from Bordeaux to Dublin will take up to a week longer than conventional methods but will save 4.9 oz. of carbon per bottle, according to shipper Frederic Albert. On the return trip, the ship will haul a load of crushed glass to France to be recycled into wine bottles.

Albert plans to have seven wind-powered merchant vessels working by 2013, and voyages to Bristol, Manchester and Canada are planned.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:23 AM | link | 1 comments |

Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Cycles GladiatorWhy on Earth hadn't I tried the Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 before now? I checked out the Merlot and the Pinot Noir months ago, and liked them both — how did their Cab escape my notice?

Well, better late than never. This is one absolutely stupendous $9 Cab — it's a mystery to me how the makers could blend in Cab Franc and Petit Verdot, age it in real French oak barrels for 10 months (as opposed to tossing in a handful of oak chips) and sell it for such a low price, but I'm sure not complaining. This wine has a characteristic nose of vanilla and cedar, and follows up with a big mouthful of blackberry, cassis and spices, with no hard edges. It's absolutely delicious, and an incredible bargain. I'm hoping the ’06 will be as good — if you find any of the ’05, buy a bunch!
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:35 AM | link | 0 comments |

It's sleepy time – all week!

Sleepy Time!MmmmSNORK! Wha? Oh, hey! It's what? Tuesday, you say? Oh … heh, heh.

Well, I was just, um, observing the beginning of National Sleep Awareness Week, which started yesterday (for me, at least) and runs through Sunday, March 9. As you might imagine, the National Sleep Foundation has lots of exciting activities planned for their big, week, including the National Sleep Challenge. Sleep Advocacy training sessions will be conducted in Washington, D.C., leading up to a mass somnambulation on Congress later this week. (OK, I made that last little part up.)

The point of National Sleep Awareness Week is to bring home the fact that while for many people sleep is what you do in between the times you have more important things to do, sleep itself is very important, too. The better-rested you are, the better your body and mind can function during wakefulness. There's lots of sleep-related information on the organization's Web site — next time you're wide awake in the wee hours of the morning, go have a look.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:41 AM | link | 0 comments |