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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Group campaigns for Sunday sales, cold beer in groceries

Drinking DobermanAn alliance of associations has mounted a campaign with the stated purpose of "moving Indiana’s alcoholic beverage laws into the 21st Century."

Hoosiers for Beverage Choices says its goal is to update Indiana law to allow the carry-out sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday and the sale of cold beer at drug, grocery and convenience stores. It points out on its Web site that Indiana is the only state that restricts cold beer sales to package liquor stores at the expense of grocery and convenience stores, one of 15 states that completely prohibits the carryout sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays, and one of three states that prohibits retailers from selling alcohol on Sundays yet allows restaurants, taverns and numerous sports and community events to sell alcohol by the drink. (They make some other logical arguments, too.)

While the casual observer might think that this is simply a movement to do away with some leftover 19th-century blue laws, it is in fact setting the stage for a battle between the package liquor store industry and the grocery and convenience store industries and, of course, their respective lobbyists. Working on behalf of the package stores will be LMV Consulting, whose clients include the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, the Indiana Restaurant Association, the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association and the Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers. Hoosiers for Beverage Choices has the support of the Indiana Retail Council, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association and the Indiana Petroleum Council. HBC's domain name is registered to The Corydon Group, which counts Anheuser-Busch, Wal-Mart and the Indiana Township Association among its clients.

Between now and the beginning of the 2009 legislative session of the Indiana General Assembly, the two sides will begin mustering their forces and taking grassroots support wherever they can get it. This will no doubt make for some odd bedfellows — look for religious and anti-alcohol groups to lend their support to the package stores, for example. Coming off a major election year directly into a long session, this could well become a high-profile battle of epic proportions, and one that will provide plenty of entertainment for political junkies.
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:28 AM | link | 1 comments |

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First Love Red Blend 2006

First LoveFirst Love is an Aussie blend that's just a little different. It's 75 percent Shiraz, 20 percent Grenache — nothing unusual so far — and five percent Barbera, which is not a grape one usually associates with Down Under.

The resulting wine is quite a nice one, with a pleasant, subtle berry nose and a palate that is generous in berries and quite clean. It's medium- to full-bodied, with just a touch of acidity.

Served by itself it's a perfectly nice drink, but its streak of acidity made me wonder about its food-pairing possibilities. It just so happened that I was all set up to make pasta with red sauce and grilled Italian sausage, so I put First Love to the acid test.

It passed, and with a very good grade. The acid in the sauce pretty much neutralized the acid in the wine, which wasn't all overpowered and came across as even more rich and full than it was by itself. This is a versatile blend that is satisfying on its own, and would pair well with anything from pizza to steak to ribs. Quite a deal, for just $10!
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:12 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, July 28, 2008

Amazon starts delivering wine, beer

AmazonFreshLocally-based retailers take note: E-commerce behemoth has begun delivering wine and beer.

But there's no need to panic — yet — since those deliveries are only made by AmazonFresh, which is available solely in selected Seattle-area neighborhoods. The service, which has been very well received by Seattleites, works like this: Customers go online to shop, and their orders are delivered the next day by an Amazon truck in neatly-packed plastic totes which are picked up when the next order is delivered or at another time specified by the customer. Pre-dawn delivery is available, and delivery is free with a minimum order of $30 or more. Prices are reportedly comparable to those of regular groceries, and the product quality is high.

In case you're thinking "Oh, that couldn't happen here," why not? Bear in mind that Amazon is building a 600,000 square foot distribution center in Anson, the Duke Realty development near Whitestown. Duke, and Amazon, chose that far-northwest location at least in part for its easy access to I-65.

Indiana law says that licensed retailers may deliver alcoholic beverages as long as the deliveries are made by an employee of the retailer and not by a common carrier, which effectively limits local merchants’ delivery areas (see this previous post for more about all that). While at least one Indiana business operating on the ”better to ask forgiveness than permission” philosophy is shipping via common carrier, most have taken the conservative approach and are operating within the letter of the law.

While an AmazonFresh service would be a boon to busy consumers, smaller local retailers (and that would be all of them) would be hard-pressed to compete. Amazon’s new distribution center is scheduled to be completed in 2010, so there's no time like the present for the Indiana Retail Council and the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers to set aside their differences and pressure the Indiana General Assembly to pass legislation that will enable their members to compete.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:34 AM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wine in decline, Gallup poll finds

According to a Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits poll conducted this July, wine is losing ground to beer as the alcoholic beverage of choice for drinking Americans.

Wine drinkers briefly outnumbered beer drinkers by three percentage points in 2005, but the most recent statistics show that 42 percent of adults in the U.S. most often drink beer while 31 percent most often drink wine. Twenty-three percent most often drink liquor.

Beverage Preferences

Most of the shift has occurred in drinkers between the ages of 30 and 49. Drinkers aged 18 to 29 prefer beer or liquor, while those over 50 prefer wine.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:46 PM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Getting sideways with a beer drinker

Pinot Envy
Dan Piraro is a funny guy. If you like his brand of humor, you might want to have a look at his books.

J. Silverheels Gray, 10:08 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, July 21, 2008

A bottle’s highest calling

Wedding WineMany thanks and a wag of the tail to my friend Paul for sharing this story!

This past weekend I attended the wedding of a former employee from my Daddy Jack’s days (she actually still pulls an occasional hostess shift).
The ceremony was held at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis, a grand setting for any special event. It was pretty much the standard Protestant we-are-gathered-here-etc. ritual straight from the book until the minister injected an intriguing new twist.

After the exchange of vows and the lighting of the Unity candle, the program listed a “Ceremony of the Wooden Box.” The officiant called the attention of the guests to a wooden box, perhaps a foot or so square and six inches deep, displayed in front of the altar. He explained that he had asked the bride and groom to place in the box a bottle of wine and two glasses.

Then he asked the couple if they had followed his instructions and written their letters, also to be placed in the box. They said that they had and he explained that he had asked each of them to write a letter to the other expressing their thoughts and feelings and all the things they loved about the person they were going to marry. He asked them even to think back to the moment when each of them first realized that they had fallen in love.

They were then to place their letters in the box without letting their spouse-to-be see them. He went on to acknowledge that all unions encounter difficulties over the years and called upon the couple to do the following: If you come to a point where you feel you're in danger of not being able to save your marriage, you are to stop, bring out the box, open it together, drink the bottle of wine, and then go off separately to read the letter written to you by your partner on the eve of your wedding.

In short, drink a bottle together before you pack your bags or call your lawyer.

There was a palpable energy that passed through the audience as we realized the subtle genius of this idea. A young woman behind me whose wedding is to take place in October said gleefully, “Oh, I am SO stealing this!”

It was only after the couple had agreed to this instruction that he pronounced them husband and wife, and invited them to drink the bottle — if they were lucky enough to still have it — on their tenth anniversary.

Sometimes one encounters ideas that deserve to become traditions….


J. Silverheels Gray, 10:27 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, July 18, 2008

2008: Year of the Cheeseburger

Halp!As far as I know no organization has formally declared it, but judging by the news stories I've been reading the cheeseburger has attained a lofty status all over the globe in the past several months.

The most recent indication came from a story this week in The New York Times reporting on how hamburgers and cheeseburgers have invaded Paris, turning up on menus even in the toniest of restaurants. Of course, these are burgers with a French twist, such as cornichons, fresh thyme or black ketchup made of fresh berries. Want to try a burger with smoked bacon, lettuce, dill pickles, mustard, mayonnaise and fries made by a three-star chef and served on a housemade bun? Fifty-six dollars, please.

Across the channel in London, Burger King began offering this summer a $175 luxury burger made of imported Wagyu beef, white truffles, champagne onion straws and Pata Negra ham from purebred acorn-fed pigs. But it's not just a sandwich, it's a fundraiser — proceeds from the sales of this over-the-top offering (which are reportedly brisk) benefit the London Save a Child Foundation. According to one reviewer, BK's THE Burger sounds better than it is because it has to be prepared to corporate standards, which in this case means it is overcooked.

In Japan, the battle of the burgers has taken a bigger-is-better approach with McDonald's hot-selling line of MegaMacs. The basic model is a 10-oz., four-patty stack garnished with all the usual cheese, veggies and sauce. Burger King, which recently returned to Japan after a six-year absence, has countered with its own Double Whopper.

And now the word "slider" — a semi-derogatory slang term once only applied to White Castles — is being used to sell small gourmet burgers. (I recently sampled a couple of Wagyu sliders at the West Baden Springs Hotel, and other than the bun size they bore little resemblance to those served to Cravers at the Aluminum Room.)

And speaking of wag-you, I'm relieved to see that Chinese restaurants are taking dog meat off their menus for the duration of the Olympics. (They don't call them Chows and Wiener Dogs there for no reason!) I wonder what kind of wine … well, never mind.
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:43 AM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How to make spaghetti

J. Silverheels Gray, 8:42 AM | link | 1 comments |

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Lazy weekend report

Canal SculptureIt's summer, and I've been treating it like a vacation as much as possible. Posting frequency will eventually increase, honest!

This past weekend got off to a good start on the Fourth with a holiday pitch-in that featured plenty of good food and wine. Everybody outdid themselves, but the things I wish I had more of right now are the red beans and rice, the Foley Santa Rosa Chardonnay 2005 and the Niner Fogcatcher 2004.

On Saturday, we went for a walk in the woods then followed that up with a walk along the canal in downtown Indianapolis, from Buggs Temple to White River State Park and back. We had lunch at the Creation Café where we met a very nice young Rottweiler on the deck, stopped and looked at the 1944 Terre Haute grocery at the Indiana Historical Society, had some Scotch eggs and a few brews at McNiven's, listened to a few songs at the Biergarten at the Athenaeum, then finally headed back home. Sunday was much slower-paced — we fixed the invisible fence, which had been knocked out during a storm (yay!), chased a few tennis balls, and ended the weekend with dry-brined rosemary ribeyes.

Dry-brined Rosemary Ribeyes

boneless ribeye steaks
olive oil
rosemary, chopped (fresh or dried)
white pepper
Kosher salt

Lightly coat ribeyes on both sides with olive oil (I used garlic-infused). Sprinkle with chopped rosemary leaves and white pepper, then coat liberally with Kosher salt on all sides. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat grill, then unwrap steaks and rinse off salt under cold water. Reapply a little more rosemary and white pepper, then grill over direct heat until done to your liking. (About five minutes per side got ours to medium rare.) We had a nice bottle of Barco Negro 2005 with ours, and it was a perfect end to our three-day weekend. If only we had one of those every month....
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:58 AM | link | 0 comments |