Friday, February 29, 2008
CAN you believe it? Wine in small metal cylinders
An Argentine company called IronWine is packaging a Malbec-Cabernet blend and a Chenin Blanc in packages of six 250ml cans, the equivalent of two bottles. Besides making the contents immune to light exposure and cork taint, the company pitches the cans as being easier to take along on picnics or other places where bottles are problematic or not allowed (boats and race tracks come to mind). IronWine isn't available yet in the United States, but they're working on that.
IronWine isn't the first company to think to package wine in cans. Rich Prosecco, which recently promoted itself with photos of a gold-painted, naked Paris Hilton crawling across a desert landscape, is sold in cans in Germany and other European countries.
A rather good song about cake
Remember "We Like tha Moon," sung by Spongmonkeys and later adapted as an advertisement for Quizno's, much to the chagrin of their franchise owners? Same guy, a little more hummable tune....
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda 2005
OK, too much information, I know. All I'm really trying to do is tell you about the Colonia Las Liebres (Colony of the Hares) Bonarda 2005. It's made by Altos Las Hormigas (the High Ants, I guess), and starts with a plummy nose accented with vanilla, then moves into cherry and spice on the medium- to full-bodied palate. There's a bit of tannin on the finish, which is pleasantly long — and all this for just about $8! (It does throw off a bit of sediment, so watch that last pour.) This wine is good by itself, and would be just great with grilled meat, burgers or pizza.
More than we expected — and less
So, last Sunday morning we took I-465 down to Rockville Road and headed west, creeping on the multilane highway past endless strip malls until we had gotten beyond Avon, when the traffic fell away, the landscape opened up and we finally felt as though we were going somewhere.
Our progress slowed briefly as we passed through Danville ("Gateway to Covered Bridges!"), then resumed speed as the houses got further apart and the landscape became variations on a theme of vast, snow-covered fields punctuated with occasional structures and bordered by distant trees. When the trees finally came up next to us and the road started carving its way down bluffs and around corners, we knew we were approaching Raccoon Lake, and that Rockville would be just up the hill and a few more minutes away.
There wasn't much going on in Rockville — the Maple Fair isn't anywhere near the kind of draw that the Covered Bridge Festival in October is, when the town square is clogged with vendors and thousands of tourists, who cruise the roads of Parke County taking in scenery, souvenirs and shooting photos of the ridiculously photogenic covered bridges that are the region's claim to fame.
At the western edge of Rockville we turned north on U.S. 41 and headed up the road past some new construction until we got to the 4-H Fairgrounds, where we would find our All You Can Eat For $5 pancakes, served with two sausage patties and coffee. We went into a building set up for vendors and looked at the pottery, T-shirts, gifts and locally-made baked goods and candies, and bought a raffle ticket for a chance to win a beautifully restored, antique Oliver tractor.
Then we went next door, down the hallway hung with photos of decades of local 10-year 4-H members, into a big room filled with booths housing local artists and vendors of the fair's featured products — maple syrup, pork, and flour. One corner was cordoned off for the main event, where 4-H members passed trays of pancakes and sausage out the serving window to diners, who picked them up and carried over to open spots at the cafeteria tables.
The ambience and dinnerware were institutional — styrofoam plates and plastic utensils, served under unflattering fluorescent lighting — but the pancakes were light and fluffy, the sausage satisfyingly tasty, and the maple syrup a delicious accompaniment to both. It was a good place to watch people (and, no doubt, to be watched), and it was comfortable and relaxing to be a part of the Indiana that exists outside of the Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
After we ate our fill (one serving each was plenty for us), we got up to browse the booths while we sipped our coffees. Next to the cafeteria area was the display of flour ground by the water-powered mill in Bridgeton, including the type used to make the pancakes we had just eaten. On the other side of the dining area was the booth of the local pork producer who had supplied the sausage, and in between were several booth representing the county's various maple camps.
At the end of the row of the maple producers was the booth for Foxworthy's, which I was glad to see. The Foxworthy homestead is just up the road from the Narrows bridge at Turkey Run State Park, and a favorite place of ours to visit. Archie Foxworthy and his family sold their products at an old schoolhouse on their property — the oldest structure in Parke County — and we fondly remembered it as a place filled with warmth and good smells, as well as their collected antiques and homemade syrup, candies, cookies and jams. I was glad to see that they were still producing syrup, because when we had last visited years ago a Foxworthy grandson had expressed concern that they wouldn't be making syrup much longer, because it's a lot of work and the kids weren't really interested in it — the same situation that has affected farm families for centuries.
Seeing the Foxworthy's syrup for sale in the 4-H building was good news, then, because it meant they were still carrying on, and we could go visit the place. "Are they selling syrup at the camp today?" I asked the lady at the booth.
"Yes." she replied, and nothing more.
"I'll pick some up there, then. Thanks!" I said, but got no reply. This puzzled me a little, since everyone else in the hall was cheery and chatty, and the woman at the Foxworthy booth clearly wasn't. Maybe I was just another annoying tourist asking stupid questions. Oh, well.
We continued our loop around the hall, looking at the plentiful paintings of covered bridges, barns, tractors, old trucks, dogs, horses and lighthouses (lighthouses?), then made our way back to our car for a drive through the country, past Turkey Run and the Foxworthys, then the back way home via Shades State Park, Ladoga, Jamestown, Brownsburg and points between.
The Cox Ford bridge was on our way, so we took the car down a long, steep, snowy hill and took a few photos of it. We decided not to try to drive back up the hill, so drove across the bridge, looped around to the highway again, and drove by the entrance to Turkey Run on our way up to Narrows Road, where we turned left to go to Foxworthy's. We passed the Narrows bridge and the Lusk home perched on the hill above it, and stopped briefly to take photos of an old barn decaying in the woods across from the park grounds. As we were getting back into the car a log truck rolled by, a reminder that not all Indiana crops are annuals. We drove up the hill and into a clearing; in a moment we would be turning into Foxworthy's.
And then we were there, but there was something terribly wrong: Where the old schoolhouse was supposed to be there was nothing but charred timbers sprinkled with snow, surrounded by yellow tape emblazoned with CAUTION – DO NOT CROSS. It took a moment to process what we didn't want to comprehend, and we parked next to the ruins and got out. "Chimney fire, Wednesday night," some people getting into their car told us. "The guy in the sugar shack told us all about it. He's pretty interesting."
We grieved for a moment, then headed for the shack, where wood smoke was coming out the long chimney and steam poured from the door. The same grandson we had spoken to years ago was there. We told him how sorry we were, and he filled us in on the details. A couple of the girls had gone in to clean the place up before the fair started and built a fire in the fireplace. A chimney fire started, and the place went up quick. All his grandmother's antiques, most of the stock they were going to sell, and 700 gallons of maple sap he had been planning to cook into syrup had been lost. And the place was had been woefully underinsured — a total of $11,000 for the structure and contents, nowhere near what it would take to rebuild it. "It would cost a good $50,000 to build another one," he said. "Archie's 92, my dad's 66 and I'm 45. I don't want $50,000 worth of debt at my age, and it sure wouldn't make any sense for Dad or Archie, either. I don't know what's going to happen."
The whole family was stunned, and exhausted. The grandson had cleaned up his machine shop next door so that what remaining stock they had could be sold there, he said. But their kitchen was gone, so there was no place to make any more.
We spent a little more time in the sugar shack, thinking this time it might really be the last time we got to see an historic operation like this one, at least in Indiana. Then we headed over to the machine shop, which had tables stocked with homemade cookies, candies, syrup, jams and preserves. We bought $40 worth, including a CD of Archie reading some of his poetry. Archie is mostly blind now, we were told, but he could see the flames from his house and broke down and cried. I thought back to the attitude of the woman at the Foxworthy booth back at the 4-H building, and understood. For us, and for the rest of Parke County and Indiana, the burned schoolhouse is a loss of history and heritage; for the Foxworthys, it is a personal tragedy. It was if a revered family member had just unexpectedly died, and the body was still in the parlor.
We left the Foxworthy family hoping that something could be done, but what? The covered bridge in Bridgeton was rebuilt after an arsonist torched it a few years ago, but that bridge was vital to a whole community; the school was vital just to one family. From an urban perspective, $50,000 isn't that much — I just spoke to someone yesterday who recently spent half that amount on a piece of art — but it's a small fortune in rural Indiana.
There is plenty of timber nearby, and sawmills, and Amish craftsmen who could do the work. I'd like to see the a new school rise on the old one's foundation, but the fact is that another piece of old Indiana has disappeared, and it won't be back.
I'll post some photos to illustrate this piece later. In the meantime, surf on over to my Flickr set.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Parke County Pancakes and Pork Sausage
The day would have been perfect, except for one thing. It's time for me to head out now though, so I'll save that story for a little later.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Ballast Stone Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
I decided this wine needed more investigation, so I took a bottle home and pulled the cork, which looked much like the other one. The wine went into a decanter for about half an hour, while I puttered around making pizza dough in the kitchen. When I finally poured a glass and sampled the wine, I found it every bit as big as I expected, with a rich nose of blackberry and powdered cocoa and a mouthfilling, full-bodied palate dominated by blackberry and cassis. While almost chewy, the wine was quite smooth, and its finish was dry and fairly long. It did just fine with my pizza (garlicky bison, pepperoni, onion and kalamata olives), and would no doubt stand up to any red meat you might want to pair it with. If you like big Aussie Cabs, give this $15 inky monster a try!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Noah Grant’s poised to open
Update: They're open! For reservations, call (317) 732-2233.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Pigeonneau a la Crapaudine
New wine accessory doubles as figure enhancer
That technology has now been incorporated into a sports bra and is being marketed as the (ahem) Wine Rack. The device holds up to 750 ml of liquid, is available in two sizes that will fit 32A through 38B, and can augment the wearer's profile by up to two cup sizes. (So apparently 1 cup = 375 ml — who knew?) Wine Racks can be ordered now, but as the result of what was either responsible marketing or poor planning, the $30 item won't actually begin to ship until the day after St. Patrick’s Day.
Men who wish to sip surreptitiously have the option of acquiring a similar product called the Beerbelly, a $35, front-mounted bag with a capacity of half a gallon and an optional, $15 cold/hot pack accessory. It's hard to say what body-enhancing bladder might hit the market next, but it could be that "bottoms up!" may come to have a whole new meaning....
Sunday, February 17, 2008
It's time for pancakes and maple syrup!
Pancakes and sausage will served at the 4-H Fairgrounds (just north of Rockville on U.S. 41) from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on February 23-24 and again on March 1-2. Art, crafts and local food items will be available in the same building, so diners can mosey around and look at some good ol’ Hoosier stuff before getting back on the road to tour the county's syrup camps, villages and covered bridges.
I hardly ever have pancakes, so it's easy for me to get fired up for this event. The food is good (love the sausage!), and it's interesting and enjoyable to stand inside a sugar shack inhaling the aromas of cooking maple sap and wood smoke on a crisp winter day. The Maple Syrup Fair is nowhere near as popular as the Covered Bridge Festival, so traffic really isn't a problem.
If you're ready to get out for a little while and shake off the February doldrums, a drive out in the country with occasional stops for food and entertainment might be just the ticket. (And if pancakes aren't your thing, the all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch at the Turkey Run Inn is terrific!)
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Bistro de Paris opens in Carmel
I went to a preview party last night (indognito, of course) and had the opportunity to sniff around a little and sample some of the Bistro's specialties. Everything was good, and I especially liked the conch spring rolls and the fabulous, single-serving cheesecake (it's big enough to split, but after the first forkful you wouldn't want to). I'll have to make a return trip to sample the entrées, which range in price from $22 to $35. There's something for everyone from vegetarians to carnivores, including chicken, lamb, veal, beef, bison, pork and an array of seafood dishes.
An intriguing lunch menu offers quiches, crèpes (the seafood with lobster Champagne sauce sounds good!), a grilled chicken sandwich, ham and brie and a filet with blue cheese bearnaise, with prices ranging from $9 to $22. The brunch menu is equally intriguing and varied, featuring egg dishes, pancakes, French toast and five different Benedicts (again, a vegetarian option is offered).
Then there's the wine list, which is broad and in some areas fairly deep. As one might expect from a place named Bistro de Paris, there's a good representation of French wines from a variety of regions, from Languedoc to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The rest of the world is represented as well, as are a number of varietals that don't often make it onto restaurant lists. (I was pleased to see they had a Muscadet, an Albariño and a Grenache among their offerings.) The markup is reasonable — just a scootch over twice retail. Their house Merlot is the very drinkable Sebastiani Sonoma, which we followed up with Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon at $10 a glass.
The restaurant itself is contemporary, and intimate without being crowded. It's quiet enough that having a conversation in normal tones is no problem, and the well-chosen music stays in the background while providing atmosphere. A glass wall between the bar and the dining area maintains the continuity of the space while insulating diners from the chatter of the bar patrons.
Bistro de Paris' Web site isn't quite done yet, but when it is you'll be able to visit it at bistrodeparisrestaurant.com. In the meantime, you'll just have to call them at (317) 844-7270 or take your chances and drop in at 15 West Main.
Photo: Manager Heidi, Restaurateur Michael and Chef Kathy beam for the camera at the Bistro de Paris preview party.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
The wine opened with chocolate and mocha on the nose, followed by flavors of currants and blueberries dusted with cocoa powder. It was medium-bodied, well balanced and elegant, and a pleasure to drink. I'll definitely bring it home again.
Novelty Hill wines were featured in the advertising flyer of a local wine purveyor this week, and the consumer watchdog in me feels compelled to point out that the quoted scores were incorrect. The flyer said that Robert Parker gave the Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 a 94, the '04 Syrah a 90, the '04 Merlot a 90 and the '05 Chardonnay a 93. Parker did like the wines, but not that well: The scores the Wine Advocate actually gave them were 86 for the '04 Cabernet and Merlot, 90 for the '04 Syrah and 87 for the '05 Stillwater Creek Chardonnay.
The Wine Spectator gave the '04 Cab and Merlot 90 points and the Syrah 87. The Wine Enthusiast was characteristically more enthusiastic, and gave the '04 Cab and the '05 Stillwater Creek Chard 93 points and the '04 Merlot 88.
Setting their scores aside, these are simply very good wines for under $20, and well worth trying.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Two familiar faces start wine distributorships
Davis' venture, World of Wines (WOW, for short), currently distributes wines from small- to medium-sized wineries based in California, France and Italy. Richardson's company, Hoosier Wine and Spirits, includes wines from all over the world in its portfolio, as well as a selection of spirits. Both companies are based in Indianapolis.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Some of Chile's oldest vineyards are in the Los Vascos estate, which was taken over by Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite in 1988. The combination of the Rothschild winemaking experience and the grapes from the Los Vascos estate has resulted in some very good, reasonably priced wines.
The Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2007 from Colchagua Valley, Chile opens with pleasant aromas of honey and pineapple, then follows up with refreshing lemon and lime flavors on the palate. The finish is fresh and clean, with just a touch of residual sugar at the end. It's a nicely refreshing wine, and, at $11.99, a great value.
The advantage of being an omnivore...
A phrase in a recent post indicated that microbrews are hard to come by in Zionsville restaurants. Boy, do I stand corrected — that used to be the case, but it isn't any more.
Plum's Upper Room on Main Street offers a selection of bottled microbrews, and Patrick's Kitchen and Drinks in Boone Village offers more than 30. (Patrick's is also the only outlet for Bloomington Brewing Co. beers north of Monroe County.)
Out east of the village on Michigan Road, the Stone Creek Dining Company has 21 microbrews, including three on tap.
Clearly, I need to get out more....
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Lobby Lounge opening delayed
Monday, February 04, 2008
Annual battle between groceries, liquor stores under way
H.B. 1118, a massive, 79-page bill containing 39 sections, passed the House 73-19 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. In a nutshell, the bill would define a grocery store for alcoholic beverage sales,reduce grocery store quotas, mandate segregated sales areas for liquor displays in drug stores, require that clerks in drug, grocery and convenience stores be licensed, raise the age for clerks from 18 to 19 years of age, and require drug, grocery, and convenience store clerks to take alcohol server training.
Proponents of the bill piously insist that all they are trying to do is help keep the eeeevil alcohol out of the hands of minors, and to prevent stores that sell beer and wine out of neighborhoods that don't want them. This reasoning is a total sham, but does help recruit useful idiots to support the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers’ cause.
The fact is, the overwhelming majority of violations are committed by licensed premises — that is to say, liquor stores and bars, whose employees must be issued permits by the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. Very few if any violations are reported at drug, grocery and convenience stores. (I waded through several months of reports at the Indiana Excise Police Web site and didn't find any, but I didn't read the reports for every month of every year, so I could have missed something.) As far as keeping stores that sell alcoholic beverages out of neighborhoods goes, there are plenty of ways to handle that on the local level already.
Here's the crux of the biscuit: Liquor stores don't like it that they're losing sales to such places as Village Pantry, Kroger, Trader Joe's, Target, Marsh, Sam's Club, Costco, Cork & Cracker, Grapevine Cottage and other retail establishments that are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages by virtue of their grocery store or pharmacy licenses. The ability to open with a grocery license has enabled many small retailers all over the state to get into business without having to purchase the type of expensive permit (upwards of $150,000) that liquor stores must have to sell beer, wine and liquor. These establishments open as gourmet groceries, though the majority of their retail space may be devoted to wine and beer.
An insidious feature of this bill is that it would grandfather in existing businesses that operate under the current law, while making it difficult or impossible for any new, similar businesses to be established. The value of the permits of grandfathered businesses would rise dramatically if H.B. 1118 or a similar bill becomes law, so the owners of those types of businesses might be less inclined to object to a measure that would increase their own net worth and freeze out any potential future competition.
Who would lose if this bill becomes law? Consumers, of course, as well as anyone who has the dream of opening his or her own small business that sells wine or beer.
If this bill becomes law, the winners will be the package liquor store industry and LMV Consulting, the lobbying and public relations firm headed by John Livengood. (Interestingly, one of LMV's other clients is Monsanto, the company that produces bovine growth hormone, or BST. Monsanto has been behind efforts in several states to make it illegal to label dairy products as "Artificial Growth Hormone Free." Such a bill was introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives this session, but reportedly has died — see the bottom of the Feb. 4 post at Feed Me Drink Me — from lack of support. That doesn't prevent an unrelated bill from being stripped and having the identical language inserted before the end of the session, though.)
Should you happen to be one of those people who likes being able to buy wines and beers at groceries and thinks that competition is a good thing, you might want to contact your State Senator and let him or her know that you oppose H.R. 1118.
UPDATE: HB 1118 is expected to get a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee between now and Feb. 24th.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I work part-time at a wine shop that operates under a grocery license.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Fantastic food photography
There are food photographers and food pornographers (you know who you are), and then there's Londoner Carl Warner. Warner is a photographer and artist who creates fantastic virtual realities out of food (and other things, for that matter). Should you choose to visit his well-designed, minimalist Web site, be forewarned that if you get sucked in you may be there for a couple of hours. To get to the food art, click on the orange square ("Fotographics") then on the second portfolio icon ("Foodscapes").
Friday, February 01, 2008
Friday Food Funny
I've always wanted to pull a prank like this, only using a formal table setting, a white tablecloth, and a silver platter with a dome cover. Gutting an old stove would be a lot less expensive, and apparently just as amusing.
One comment on the video: Even when I was a skinny student, it never occurred to me to snack on a raw egg....
Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2007
One feature that really makes this Nobilo wine stand out from other New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs is its closure — a cork! Apparently Nobilo hasn't jumped on the bandwagon and joined the New Zealand Screwcap Wine Closure Initiative.