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

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dante Robino Bonarda 2006

Dante RobinoUntil it was recently surpassed by Malbec, Bonarda was the most planted grape in Argentina. Even so, there was much confusion as to what it really was. Was it Bonarda Piemontese, the grape from Italy’s Piedmont region used to make Dolcetto? Or was it one of several other varieties of Bonarda?

Genetic testing by American grape geneticist Carole Meredith established that the Bonarda grown in Argentina is in fact the same grape known as Charbono in California (that name always makes me start humming The Beat Goes On) and Corbeau, Douce Noire, or Charbonneau in the Savoie region of France. Meredith’s test conclusions are supported by the fact that the grape used to make Dolcetto ripens early and makes light, fruity wines while Charbono ripens late and produces wines that are decidedly not light. In Argentine vineyards, Bonarda is one of the last grapes to be harvested.

The Dante Robino Bonarda 2006 ($12) is a full-bodied wine with just enough tannins to make it food-friendly. It opens with a nose of tobacco and cedar, then surprises the palate with big, mouthfilling flavors of huckleberries and fig with hints of cedar. Its finish is long and dry. Delicious by itself, this Bonarda would pair well with red meats and boldly-flavored stews.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:05 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dreams of the Rarebit Fiends

Dream of a Rarebit FiendEating different varieties of cheese can influence the types of dreams you have, according to a study released by the British Cheese Board.

Among other things, the study results seek to dispel the belief that eating cheese before going to bed causes nightmares. None of the 200 participants in the week-long study reported having nightmares after eating 20 grams of cheese half an hour before retiring, and 72 percent said they got a good night’s sleep. Since it contains tryptophan, an amino acid which been shown to reduce stress and induce sleep, cheese may be a snooze inducer, says Dr. Judith Bryans, Nutrition Scientist at Britain’s Dairy Council.

Red Leicester and Chesire cheeses were found to be best at inducing sleep. Those who ate Lancashire reported dreaming about work, and Cheddar seemed to promote dreams about celebrities. Stilton is on my shopping list: 75 percent of the Stilton-munching men and 85 percent of their female couterparts had some of the most bizarre dreams of the whole study – although none were described as bad experiences, the Cheese Board is quick to point out. Highlights included “talking soft toys, lifts that move sideways, a vegetarian crocodile upset because it could not eat children, dinner party guests being traded for camels, soldiers fighting with each other with kittens instead of guns and a party in a lunatic asylum.”

The association of cheese and wild dreams got a boost in the early 20th Century from Winsor McKay’s comic strip, Dream of a Rarebit Fiend. If you’d like to try a little rarebit for yourself, it’s basically just a melted concoction of cheese, spices and sometimes beer, spread on a piece of toast. Recipes abound, if you’d like to try it as a snack before turning in. (And by all means, use Stilton!)

Friday is Pie Day

Friday, January 23 is National Pie Day in the United States. Grab a slice and celebrate, or head on over to the American Pie Council for some other activity ideas.

Red Wine promotes healthy mice

By this time, you’ve no doubt read about how resveratrol, a component contained in red wines, promotes health in a number of ways, at least in the lab. One researcher tells a story about researching the effects of red wine and a few other substances with the help of his mouse, Louis, in the current issue of The New Yorker. Just go read it....
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:30 AM | link | 2 comments |

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oenophile-in-Chief and the First Dog

As tomorrow’s presidential inauguration approaches, interest in the Obamas’ personal lives has intensified. Michelle’s fashion sense has been commented upon, and the choice of the girls’s school duly noted.

The current issue of The Wine Enthusiast reveals that the incoming president and his wife have a 1,000-bottle wine cellar in their Hyde Park, Chicago home, and that they recently attended a wine-pairing dinner at one of their favorite restaurants, Topolobampo . After having had a teetotaling recovering alcoholic in the Oval Office for the past eight years, an oenophile president will be quite a switch. No doubt we can all look forward to reports of what wines were served at state dinners, and sales of those wines will surge.

Similarly, much speculation has been focused on the upcoming appointment of a hypoallergenic First Dog. The Seattle P-I has narrowed the race to two contenders: A Labradoodle (no surprise there) or a Portugese Water Dog. One thing is certain: Whatever breed is selected will see a spike in popularity, and rescue organization workers of every other breed will breathe a collective sigh of relief.

(Not to take anything away from Mr. Obama, but speaking as a Weimaraner, I Like Ike!)

Heidi and Ike
President Dwight Eisenhower is greeted by his dog, Heidi, in 1954. (White House photo.)
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:25 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tampa, Seattle, Chicago “most wired” cities

One Good Cup Deserves Another!A study commissioned by HealthSaver, a health care discount service, determined that Tampa is the most caffeinated city in the United States, followed by Seattle, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Chicago ranked number one on last year’s list, and New York jumped to fourth place from being ranked the third least-caffeinated city in the 2007 study. The survey considered numerous caffeine sources, including coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, pain relievers and caffeine pills.

HealthSaver uses the study as a way to promote the health benefits of caffeine. Coffee and tea in particular have emerged as good health food sources that can lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's disease, colon cancer, and cirrhosis of the liver, the company reports.

“Even though at one time coffee was considered harmful to your health, at this point there is no compelling research to indicate that, in fact, is true,” Dr. Peter R. Martin, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology and the Director of the Institute of Coffee Studies at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine is quoted as saying in a press release promoting the survey. “Newer studies actually prove coffee in moderation is good for one’s health.”

Meanwhile, research conducted at Durham University in Durham, England concluded that heavy caffeine users have a greater tendency to hallucinate. That study found that those who consumed a daily equivalent of seven cups of instant coffee or more were three times more likely to have extrasensory experiences than subject who had less than one cup daily. People taking part in the study reported “seeing things that were not there, hearing voices, and sensing the presence of dead people.”

The Durham study also considered all caffeine consumption, including coffee, tea, caffeinated energy drinks, chocolate bars and caffeine pills. An alternative explanation offered for the study results posits that those students who were more prone to hallucinations used caffeine to help cope with their experiences, study coauthor Dr. Charles Fernyhough said.
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:23 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Holiday cooking report: Ribs and marrow

Never did get around to making that beef tenderloin I was hankering for (maybe in another couple of weeks), but I did try a recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook, which I received as a gift from my brother. (That cookbook celebrates its 10th birthday this year, by the way.)

Braised Short Ribs with Root Vegetables and Bone Marrow

I decided to make the braised beef ribs with root vegetables and bone marrow to take to the New Year’s Eve pitch-in party we’ve attended annually for the past several years. It turned out well, and the old dog learned some new tricks. Author and Chef Thomas Keller says that any time an alcoholic beverage is to be used in a marinade, the alcohol should be burned off first. I didn’t know that, and didn’t think it was even possible to light wine — but it is! After bringing my pot of aromatic vegetables and Terra Andina Cabernet to a boil I lit it, and was rewarded with a six-inch-high blue flame that burned for between five and 10 minutes. (I had used two bottles; presumably one bottle would burn half as long.)

Even though I described the ribs as “expensive pot roast,” they were incredibly flavorful and fall-apart tender. My favorite part of the dish turned out to be the fried bone marrow, which was crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, with a subtle, delicious flavor. They do require some planning ahead but aren’t difficult to make, and I’m sure I’ll whip up another batch before too long.

Chef Keller would probably be pained to see his dish served in a Pyrex casserole dish instead of elegantly presented on a small plate, but there were no complaints — or leftovers. Thanks to phj73 for documenting it in his Flickr stream — the chances of my spending another three days making a second batch just because I forgot to take photos were slim to nil.

Over the past 10 years The French Laundry Cookbook has no doubt been reviewed way too many times, but I’ll throw in my two cents’ worth anyway. It’s a lovely book with gorgeous photographs, but it would be more at home on a coffee table than in the kitchen. As a cookbook, it leaves a lot to be desired — it’s big, heavy, awkwardly shaped and printed on glossy paper. It’s so nice that you almost don’t want it anywhere near the kitchen, lest it get food stains on it — and dogearing pages and making notes in the margins seems like desecration. I’ll no doubt get over that, but a companion volume for kitchen use sans photos and narratives — The French Laundry Recipe Book, essentially — would be a useful followup.

In the meantime, the blog French Laundry at Home is a good companion to the book, and a fun read to boot. It chronicles the experiences of a home cook named Carol as she makes all the recipes in the book, including some I’d never dream of tackling. She finished the book and that blog, and is now onto her next challenge: cooking her way through the Alinea cookbook.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:31 AM | link | 2 comments |