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

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sebastiani Vineyards purchased by Foley Group

SebastianiSebastiani Vineyards, one of California’s oldest continually-operating wineries, has been purchased by the Foley Group. The Foley Group owns several wine brands, including Foley Estates, Lincourt Vineyards, Firestone Vineyards and Three Rivers Winery.

The sale of Sebastiani Vineyards comes after various family members took a shot at managing the business after the 1980 death of August Sebastiani, whose father Samuele had founded the winery in 1904. August’s wife became the matriarch, and her sons Sam and Don and daughter Mary Ann took the helm for varying amounts of time. When replaced by his younger brother, Sam founded Viansa Winery, which he later sold. Don left in 2001 and started a new wine company with his sons that now owns several brands, including Smoking Loon, Plungerhead, Mia’s Playground, Aquinas and others. Mary Ann Sebastiani Cuneo and her husband Richard took over when Don left.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Oakleys Bistro leaving 86th and Ditch?

Scuttlebutt on the grapevine is that Steve Oakley plans to move his restaurant from its current location at 1464 West 86th Street, where it has been since it opened in 2002. The grapevine has so far been mum on the restaurant’s new location....

This just in: According to Steve Oakley — and he should know — the grapevine is wrong on this one. He is not moving his restaurant.
J. Silverheels Gray, 1:16 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, December 19, 2008

Collaborative cooking site launches

FoodistaFoodista , a new approach in online food blogging that launched a couple of days ago, brings a  new approach to recipe sharing.

The brainchild of a Seattle couple, Foodista is similar to Wikipedia in that anyone can contribute a recipe, — and anyone can edit one. On one hand, this means that adjustments can be made to imperfect submissions. But it also means that the potential exists that recipes could be altered to the point that they’re unrecognizable to the original author.

On conventional recipe blogs, readers have to scroll through submitted comments to glean tips from other cooks on how a dish might be improved. On Foodista, there are no comments, but there is a History tab so it’s possible to see what edits were made. I may submit a recipe just to see what happens to it....
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:15 AM | link | 1 comments |

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Terra Andina Carménère 2007

Terra Andina CarménèreBordeaux may have lost Carménère to the Phylloxera blight of the mid-19th century, but not to worry — Chile has plenty. By happy coincidence, Chilean growers had brought in root stock from France 20 years before the pest accidentally imported from North America decimated the vineyards of Europe, and the grapes of Bordeaux thrived in their new, warmer, home. (Phylloxera, thankfully, hasn’t made the trip across the equator.)

Malbec flourished in Argentina , where it has become that country’s signature grape. Similarly, Carménère has become the grape most closely identified with Chile, although that is a quite recent development. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Jean-Michel Boursiquot , a French ampelographer (a botanist who specializes in grape identification), determined that the grape the Chileans had brought over 150 years earlier wasn’t Merlot, as they had thought, but Carménère, the ancient grape of Bordeaux. Following Boursiquot’s discovery, Chile officially recognized the grape as a distinct variety in 1998, and it is now grown primarily in the Rapel and Maipo Valleys.

Terra Andina gives its Carménère’s domain of origin as the larger Valle Central region, which encompasses the subregions of Rapel, Maipo, Curicó and Maule Valleys. It is quite purple in color, with vivid aromas of dark berries on the nose. The wine is medium- to full-bodied, and it tastes as though someone figured out a way to cross plums and blueberries. It’s delicious, easy to drink, and at under $9 (I paid $6.99) quite affordable. The ’07 vintage comes bottled both with corks and screwcaps — pick up a few cases of the screwcaps and you’ll have a stock of easy-to-serve, crowd-pleasing party wine that your guests will rave about!
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:52 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Cooker

Saw this thing at the Midland Antique Mall downtown on Sunday. I’m not sure what it was meant to cook — nothing bigger than a hamburger, if that. Does it ring any bells for anyone?

J. Silverheels Gray, 11:28 AM | link | 1 comments |

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dream Casserole

Marginally food-related, but an entertaining if somewhat mindbending way to spend the next minute and a half.

Speaking of dreams, some Japanese scientists have developed a technology that can take images directly from a person’s brain and display them on a computer monitor. YouTube may become a lot more interesting soon....
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:42 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Um, they’re lab fees for independent study....

Corkage Fees
— from The New Yorker 
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:51 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Grilled Lamb Leg with Mediterranean Seasoning

Lamb is one of my favorite things to eat. As wonderful as racks and chops are they’re a little pricey, so I pretty much stick to making butterflied boneless legs. Here’s my usual method.

1 boneless leg of lamb, 4-5 lbs.
extra-virgin olive oil
salt (Kosher, sea salt, or equivalent)
freshly-ground black pepper
ground cumin seed
fresh garlic, chopped fine
dried oregano (preferably Turkish)

Start by taking the net off of the boneless leg. Place a large cutting board on a sturdy surface, and roll the meat out as flat as possible on it. With a large hammer (I use an Estwing three-pound sledge), wham the lamb relentlessly until it is of a more or less uniform thickness, about 1.5" - 2".


Using a sharp knife, cut the meat into two similarly-sized pieces. Trim off as much fat and silvery membrane as possible.

cleaned and divided

Massage olive oil into both sides of the meat, then season both sides to taste with high-quality salt and fresh-ground pepper, then liberally with the powdered cumin.

first seasoning

Chop a big handful of fresh garlic cloves (or alternatively, buy a jar of minced garlic), then evenly distribute the chopped garlic in little plops on the meat.

garlic plops

Massage it in well, then repeat the process on the other side. When the garlic and spices are well rubbed in and the meat is a consistent color, sprinkle both sides with plenty of dried oregano (you DO buy your spice in bulk, don’t you?).

second seasoning

Tightly wrap in plastic wrap, and set aside in a refrigerator for at least four hours, preferably longer. [At this point, I usually put half of the meat in a freezer bag and freeze for later.]

wrapped and bagged

When you’re ready to cook your lamb, let it come up to room temperature while your grill preheats. When the grill is ready, cook the lamb over direct high heat for five minutes per side, turning once. Remove meat from grill and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing it into serving strips, much as you would a flank steak.

dinner is served!

This dish pairs well with many sides — rice, potatoes, green beans, and various Indian dishes among them. As for wine, try a Grenache, Malbec or, of course, a nice big Cab.
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:48 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, December 08, 2008

Indianapolis health food pioneer dies

Bob LandmanBob Landman, owner of the venerable Good Earth Natural Foods in Broad Ripple, died of a heart attack on December 6. He was 61 had just turned 62.

Good Earth, which was founded in 1971 by several North Central High School graduates, attracted Landman’s interest when he visited the store to buy a bottle of avocado shampoo in 1972. A year later he bought a 50 percent stake in the business, and the year after that he quit his job as an inspector for the Marion County Health Department to work at the store full-time.

Landman’s two partners, Brett and Kevin Kimberlin, left the business — Kevin to attend Harvard, Brett to serve a 51-year prison sentence (he was paroled in 15 years) after being convicted of a series of bombings in Speedway — and by 1979 he was the sole owner of the store.

Over the years, Good Earth has gone from being a specialty store on the fringes of the grocery industry to a respected local mainstay in what is now the fastest-growing segment of the retail food market. Even as larger competitors such as Wild Oats (now Whole Foods), Fresh Market and Trader Joe’s set up shop and mainstream groceries like Marsh and even Wal-Mart expanded their offerings of organically-produced goods, Landman’s store has continued to thrive. The store does very little advertising, and earns the loyalty of its customers simply by providing low prices and excellent customer service from its knowledgeable employees, some of whom have worked there for decades.

“The normal marketing ploy in the grocery business … is to charge full retail on everything except a handful of loss leaders in the hopes that people will come in the store and buy everything. It’s not a game I care to get into,” Landman said in a 1999 interview with the Indianapolis Business Journal. “Advertising is very expensive and it’s somewhat deceptive. Our marketing strategy has always been to just offer the best possible prices on everything all the time.”

Marketing strategy aside, in no small part people have continued to be loyal to Good Earth (or feel guilty when they shop elsewhere) just because they liked Bob. He was one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet —smart, friendly, generous and funny — and he will be missed.

Bob’s calling will be 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 10 at Leppert Mortuary, 740 East 86th Street. Services follow at 10 a.m. the next day at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, which is on the northeast corner of 42nd Street and Central Avenue.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:26 AM | link | 2 comments |

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lift a glass to the end of Prohibition on Friday

December 5thThis Friday marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition , which ended with the passage of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933.

Prohibition had started 13 years earlier when the 18th Amendment, which Congress had passed over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto, went into effect on January 16, 1920. To put that in perspective, 13 years ago Bill Clinton’s presidency was still in its first term, Newt Gingrich was in ascendancy, The Macarena was a hit song and Jerry Garcia died. During Prohibition’s run (and in spite of it) were The Roaring ’20s, the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Depression. (Imagine contemplating the current state of your 401(k) and not being able to console yourself with a drink!)

Naturally, Prohibition was very tough on the California wine industry . Some growers survived by selling grapes and starting orchards, while others — Beringer, Beaulieu, Beuna Vista and Sebastiani among them — rode out the alcohol ban by producing sacramental wine. A winery boom after Prohibition was repealed was followed by a bust in the late 1930s when prices crashed and the number of wineries again declined.

Prohibition also brought about the rise of gangsters and organized crime, including the Mafia, as Americans chose to circumvent the law and acquire their beverages of choice by whatever means available. The ban on alchohol was a boon for moonshiners, bootleggers, speakeasy operators, corrupt government officials and the Canadian whiskey makers, who made fortunes. The ingenious methods used to circumvent the law have become legends, and the fast cars used by Appalachian bootleggers gave birth to what is now NASCAR racing. (Local anecdotes abound — in my neck of the woods, Canadian whiskey was reportedly dropped by airplane into Traders Point Lake, retrieved by rowboat, then taken via a tunnel under Lakeside Drive to the house from which it was distributed. A friend’s father has a similar story about being paid as a boy to stand in the middle of a field holding a light so an airplane would know where to drop its cargo.)

Vestiges of that failed experiment still remain. Most notably, in addition to repealing Prohibition, the 21st Amendment explicitly gave states the right to make their own laws regarding alcoholic beverages, which accounts for the confusing and contradictory jumble of rules and regulations that exist today. Sure, it’s still a felony to ship wine from your Indiana home to your winter residence in Florida, but things are still a lot better than they used to be. Let’s drink to that!
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:04 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, December 01, 2008

Corkbo introduces lower-priced corkshooter

Corkbo SquireModeled on a flintlock pistol, the hand-crafted Corkbo Sloshedbuckler is a functional, cork-firing work of art, and a lot of fun to use. But given the current economy, its $800 price ($1,000 when paired with a handmade presentation box) relegates it to the “someday” wish list for many folks.

Fortunately, Corkbo creator Eric Wallentine has come up with a new model that makes getting into corkshooting much more affordable. Corkbo’s new Squire model is simple, clean and contemporary, and is priced at $75 (plus shipping and sales tax). As a tribute to the original Daisy Red Ryder BB gun (the one Ralphie wanted in A Christmas Story ), a working compass is embedded in the stock of each Squire. It is capable of launching a wine cork with fairly good accuracy for at least 25 feet — not bad, considering that wine corks aren’t very effective projectiles.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been developing Corkbo’s new website . (It’s not quite finished yet — it needs more photos and a few tweaks here and there.) However, that’s given me the opportunity to get to know Eric, who is a very nice guy and incredibly talented, and to play with Corkbos enough to put one on my Christmas wish list. I’ll bet a grown-up Ralphie would want one, too.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:05 AM | link | 0 comments |