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Friday, July 26, 2013

Hourglass Blueline Estate Merlot: Wine on Friday

Merlot is back! Actually, it never went away, it just fell out of favor with a lot of wine drinkers. Recently I visited Hourglass Wines in Napa and talked to owner Jeff Smith about Merlot, a wine many people think is insipid. Was it the dreaded Sideways (the movie in which the lead abhors Merlot) affect? Not according to Smith, "Sideways wasn't the problem, it was the punctuation point, at the end of the problem." And it's true, at the time of Sideways, there was a lot of lousy Merlot.  Lately there are a lot of Merlot producers, even some very good ones, trying to market Merlot by saying things like "Merlot for Cab lovers" but Merlot should be appreciated on its own merits. If you haven't had a really great Merlot in a long time, or ever, here's what Smith says it should taste like--spicy, aromatic, with density, rich and vibrant. The holy grail? According to Smith it's richness with energy and structure. Although often blended with Mer...
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crackers & Dips and Pretzel Making at Home

There are some things you might not consider making yourself, like pretzels and crackers, but that would be a shame. Freshly made baked goods are always a treat, especially warm pretzels. Meanwhile it's the ease of making crackers and the ability to customize them that charmed me.  Last year I wrote about the book Salty Snacks , which includes recipes for crackers and pretzels, but this year there are books dedicated to each.  So the thing to know about pretzels is, you have to dip them in an alkaline solution. Pretzel Making at Home gives instructions for using food grade lye but also for using baking soda which is a lot less intimidating. The cool thing about the book is it shows you lots of different shapes you can make--sticks, rolls, bites, tiny twists and minis. That alone makes me want to make pretzels. I didn't realize how many kinds of pretzels there are until I got this book--sweet ones, savory ones, soft, hard, you name it.  Making crackers is ridiculously f...
Friday, July 19, 2013

Franciscan Chardonnay: Wine on Friday

Yeast is to used convert grape juice into wine, but also for flavor. At Franciscan Estate Winery they make two different Chardonnays, one specifically with wild yeast. I spoke with winemaker Janet Myers to find out more. But first, it's important to be familiar with some wine vocabulary: Lees : The dead yeast at the bottom of the barrel, wine can absorb some of the yeasty flavor from being aged with the lees.  Malolactic : The fermentation process when tart malic acid, naturally present in grape juice and skins is converted to softer lactic acid. In Chardonnay a by product of malolactic fermentation produces a buttery flavor and a soft mouthfeel.  Carneros : An American Viticultural Area which includes parts of Southern Napa and Sonoma. It is relatively cool because it is closer to San Francisco Bay breezes.  Janet, are you a fan of Chardonnay?  I used to be tired of it; when I got here 10 years ago Chardonnay was too oaky and buttery, many were a caricatu...
Thursday, July 18, 2013

More posts...

Recent posts I've written for 7x7 Hip in Healdsburg: A Restaurant Renaissance Arrives Ravishing Rhubarb  Range's new Aperitif Hour Meet Adam Sobel: King of Porc ...
Monday, July 15, 2013

American Lamb Jam 2013 San Francisco July 21

The last few years the American Lamb Board has hosted an event called the American Lamb Jam . If you're a fan of lamb (and I know ewe are) this is a great way to see what top chefs can do with lamb and how truly versatile it is.  As a preview to the event, I got a chance to attend a lunch after a garden tour (with a bobcat sighting!) at Wente Vineyards .  Chef Matt Greco from The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards prepared a feast starting with a range of appetizers--lamb sausages, lamb mole tamales, barbecue pulled lamb, lamb pastrami (my favorite). He even found ways to use lamb fat in a grilled panisse with braised neck, green chickpeas and gypsy peppers.  We then sat down and had our fill of roast leg, saddle and rack of lamb.  Some things you might not know about American lamb: A majority of the over 82,000 sheep operations in the US are  family owned and operated. The top 5 sheep producing states are Texas, California, Colorado, Wyoming and South ...
Monday, July 08, 2013

Bourbon Glazed Salmon Recipe

I like bourbon, but not whisky. I know, I know, bourbon IS whisky, but to me there's a big difference. American bourbon is smooth and sweet and has complex flavors that I enjoy in food--warm spices, fresh herbs, toasted nuts, all kinds of fruit, vanilla, coffee, toffee, chocolate, caramel and more. Whisky, is fire water. Though a fan of all whisky,  Chef Michael Symon  summed it up this way, "drinking whisky should be a massage, not a wax!" Symon was in San Francisco to talk about bourbon and Knob Creek in particular, an award winning bourbon made in small batches. It's aged in very deeply charred oak barrels, and is bottled at 100 proof. It has a distinctive sweetness and big flavor. Symon told me he like the boldness of it, saying it goes great with the kinds of things he likes to cook.  "It's smoky, you can taste the age, like you can with a good salami. It has great depth of flavor, like wine and I appreciate what goes into making it--the 9 year ag...