Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wine Tasting!

The wine tasting was, as I predicted, extremely win! We got there around 9:30, mildly hungover from the night before. Getting there early was definitely a good idea, as the place filled up rapidly. The Iron Bridge is a fabulous little restaurant/wine company along Route 108 in Howard County, and if you live in that area and have not eaten there, you must go. They serve foie gras.

On to the tasting notes! This is going to be a long-ass post, so keep your britches on.

We started off with Ricossa Moscato d'Asti, 2009, Italy. This was an EXTREMELY sweet sparkling wine, it tasted rather like honey drizzled over ripe-ripe pears. I found it excessively sweet. Hootie McBoob described it as "Woo Girl" wine, and I have to agree. If you like candy more than wine, this is for you.

Next was Pannier Brut Champagne, NV, France.  I'm the type of wine snob who kvetches about people calling all sparkling wines Champagnes, because it's not Champagne if it doesn't come from the Champagne region of France. Everything else may be Champagne method sparkling wines, but they are NOT Champagne. Now that I've typed that word so many times it no longer looks like a word.

ANYWAY. This was a really bizarre wine. It was super yeasty, and had an aftertaste like sharp cheese. Being the product of my generation, I really do prefer slightly fruity flavors in my wine, or at least something vegetable. This was all yeast. It was cheese on toast. I was not digging it.

Argiolas "Costamolino" Vermentino, 2008, Sardinia, Italy began the "Crisp, Fresh, I'm Thirsty Whites" category. It was an extremely delicate wine, a little earthy, a little floral. It was pleasant, and would be quite lovely on a hot July day. As it was, during a bitterly cold February, most of us found is rather unspectacular.

The only note I have about the Satori "Ferdi" Garaganega, 2007, Verona, Italy says "grapefruity." This was probably about the time where they started wheeling in the food and I got distracted by amazing cheese. My attention span is like that.

The Chateau de Lionne Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Bordeaux, France was quite nice. MetalChef even got himself a bottle of this one. It was tart, citrusy, and felt more like it stood up on its own. At 13 dollars, it would be my choice of a house white if I were in the market for that sort of things.

The Rich, Savory, Toasty, & Luscious Whites category (those are the exact labels on my sheet. It's that sort of restaurant) began with a Claiborne & Churchill Pinot Gris, 2007, Central Coast, California. It had a fresh, lightly alcoholic nose and a sort of "meh" taste. I checked with MetalChef and some of the others, in an attempt to determine whether this was just palate fatigue on my part, but most everyone agreed with me.

My first taste of Pravis Vigneti Delle Dolomiti Chardonnay, 2008, Lasino, Italy was really bizarre. It tasted like buttered and sauteed mushrooms. It was very earthy, very umami, very delicious. According to the wine girls, that flavor is stonefruit. Sure it is. To me it was Portabello mushrooms. I bought a bottle of this one. It was too weird and tasty to pass up.

Benziger Family Winery's "Sangiacomo Vinyard" Chardonnay, 2007, Carneros, California smelled like carnival food. You know, that sort of greasy, fried, suspiciously sweet smell combined with a bit of barnyard and rot? Oh yeah. It was VERY unpleasant. And yet, the strange combination of smells melted into something surprisingly tasty. The sweet butteryness of Chardonnay mellowed out the barnyard flavors, which kept the wine from falling into the one-note oak+butter category.


I probably developed some severe palate fatigue at this point, or maybe I just wasn't into it, but the first group of reds I found... unsatisfying. This was the "Because I'm Easy (to drink) Reds" group, and it started with Bogle Vinyards Pinot Noir, 2008, California. My notes say that it is light, dry, a pale garnetty red, and absolutely unmemorable.

The Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, 2008, Monteray California was also unremarkable. In fact, the only note I have on it says "MEH." in big letters. Clearly I should write for the Food Network with my detailed and pithy notes. Hells.

The next wine, Villa da Filicaja Chianti Superiore, 2006, Tuscany, Italy  struck me as rather spicy, but that might have been the egg roll I was eating at the time, because MetalChef and The Ho Formerly Known As Crazy both described this wine as "toothless." A second taste after a drink of water confirmed this. So I guess this is a great wine to have with egg rolls.

I found the Domaine Pelaquie "Laudun" Cote du Rhone, 2007, Rhone Valley, France to be a rather nice house red. It was kind of buttery, kind of fruity, light enough to drink easily for people who don't do reds and bold enough to stand up to some food. I'd call it a chicken and gravy red, but I love chicken and gravy so I'll pretty much pair anything with that.

I really liked the Finca Antigua Crianza Tempranillo, 2005, La Manca, Spain. It had a dried fruits flavor that took me back to my childhood when mom and dad would buy me the "organic" fruit roll ups that were supposedly better for me, but naturally less awesome than regular fruit roll ups, because you know they actually tasted like fruit, and who wants that when they're seven? Well when one is in ones twenties it's a much nicer taste. I bought a bottle of this one.

And then onto the "Big Red Wines That Should Knock Your Socks Off" category, beginning with Suzanna Balbo "Crios" Malbec, 2008, Mendoza, Argentina, which was a little spicy, a little gamey, but nowhere near as delicious as that Terazzas de los Andes Argentine Malbec that the Boyfriend likes so much.

The Qupe Syrah, 2007, Central Coast, California was apparently "V. nice" but not nice enough to stand more note taking.

I really liked the Brophy Clark "Fess Parker Vineyard Syrah, 2006, Santa Ynez Valley, California. It was fruity, spicy, with a long clean finish. Lovely.

At this point my note-taking completely disappeared. For the Turkey Flat Vineyards "The Turk" Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz Blend, 2006, Barossa, Australia I simply say "Nur." and GrogLass told me to not even bother with the Turk Beckstoffer's Victory Vineyards "Parcel Thirty One" Zinfandel. I also have no notes for the Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, Napa Valley, California. This is probably due to my extreme bias against Cabernets.

However, the Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006, Napa Valley, California was everything I like in a big red without the things I hate about Cabernets. There was none of that harsh, overly bitchy alcohol flavor that the other Cabs had. Of course, it was also the most expensive bottle on the list, and so I avoided purchasing it. Grad students don't pay more than 20 dollars for a bottle of wine. It isn't allowed.

That ended the wine tasting. Later that evening, for my sister's birthday, we opened up a 21 year old bottle of Vouvray that mom got from the Loire Valley. One of the people she was with said "that bottle, open it on your daughters 21st birthday with a good Roquefort, it will be perfect." And so I went out and procured a package of good, real Roquefort (look for the French Appellation d'Origine Controlee marking) and we all prayed that the wine was not corked.

It was not, and was in fact a delicious, golden raisins and honey Vouvray. The sharp, salty cheese was a perfect counterpoint. Hats off to you, nameless Frenchman. You had a good idea.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oh God Why.

This past week has basically been research into my dissertation on why tequila should be a controlled substance.


Birthday Ball is a celebration of George Washington's birthday at my college. I had a few lovely glasses of Chateau Ste. Michelle, a Washington sparkling wine that is easily on the level of Dom Perignon in terms of taste. There have been blind tastings where it has actually beat Dom in terms of delightful bubbly flavor. I had the brut and the blanc de blanc, and both were lovely and dry, with the crisp, cool taste of green apples that marks a good sparkling. So much deliciousness.

Today is a wine tasting over at Iron Bridge Wine Company. It should be pretty win.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's like the damn alps out there

Holy science, this snow is going to be here until May. It snowed again yesterday, but luckily there was no accumulation in our area. Still, driving is kind of terrifying. Most two lane roads are reduced to one-and-a-half lanes, and I live in a suburb overly fond of SUVs. The snow banks on the sides of the road are around 5 to 6 feet high and about as hard as concrete, and cause a constant disturbance in the peripheral vision.

Basically what I'm saying is to hell with this.

The B's only recently got their street plowed after our SECOND blizzard of the week, so we grabbed them and dragged them over here for choucroute night. For those of you that don't know, choucroute is French peasant food, basically what you have when you've got 1) a dead pig and 2) an old cabbage. It's sauerkraut and pig parts. It is also so freaking huge that it was a two-night deal. The first night I ended up skipping out on due to an invite to Max's Tap House from BeerSnob.

Naturally, Max's Tap House was preparing for their BelgianFest and the vast majority of their taps were being kept empty. LAME. I ended up with a Noble Pils. BeerSnob (shown below) ordered his usual range of stouts, and the rest of us sort of fiddled around. DesignBroad (shown below, looking highly displeased) got the Three Philosophers, the one that involves more yeast than a whore at a french bakery.
Don't be fooled by that wine glass. That's beer she's drinking. Max's often serves its higher-end beers in wine glasses, I suppose as a combination of better surface area and lower cost to the bar. Still, it makes one feel particularly silly, as Wellington TNT gladly shows.

It was quite fun, though the beers were disappointing, so there will be no beer report. Later in the week The Boyfriend showed up for some snowboarding! I love mountains and skiing and pretty much everything about it, and this time I did notice some actual improvement in my technique. I'm not exaggerating my movements enough. You'll notice that the downhill pro's look like they're leaning impossibly far over when they turn, that's because it's the most efficient way to do it. Long story short, The Boyfriend managed to get down a slightly more advanced green run without injuring himself! Hooray!
 ...And then he became the Snow Ninja. That's what happens when you are forced to sneak schnapps into dry counties. Snow Ninjas appear to avenge their beer.

That night was Choucroute II: Choupocalypse, also known as MOAR PORK. Before dinner, we had a sort of bastardized kir royal, made with the really delicious Rondel Pura Raza Cava and my raspberry liqueur. They blended really nicely, the dry Cava and the bubbles neutralizing the super sweetness of the liqueur. It was also pink, which was fitting because Valentines was the next day. I highly recommend that Cava to anyone looking for a nice sparkling wine on the cheap, which probably goes to prove my intense love for Spanish wines.

With dinner we had WILLM Pinot Gris. I may be in love with this wine. It is nice and pleasantly fruity up front, but the aftertaste is... well... fishy. In a good way, mind. It's like the aftertaste you get after eating a really, really nice piece of sashimi. I need to get a bottle of it next time I make Spicy Death Salmon.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow Booze! And Pictures!

It's like snow cream, only ALCOHOLIC. How have I been living life without it?!

Well, anyway, as I sip this raspberry truffle delight I will begin with first things first: It snowed like the Dickins yesterday. I do mean that. It was Dickinsean in scope: drifts up to my chest perfectly designed to smother poor match girls, and packable in a way that would give the roughest of street urchins a delight.

Unfortunately this means mother and I had to move several hundred cubic feet of snow from our driveway. Allow me to illustrate:

That is my car. His name is Heathrow, and he is a Ford Focus. The snow banked up along his sides was the height of the snow on our driveway, just about up to his side view mirrors or about two and a half feet. Mother and I toiled away at his, her with a wrenched back and me with my... well there's nothing actually wrong with me, I'm just a stick figure and have problems lifting things. The banks of snow beside our driveway were well over five and a half feet high, and I am just under that, so tossing the shovelfulls of snow was a bit of a strain.

We got about this far down our drive, which is about a third of the way, before we managed to attract a team of teenagers with a snowblower, and with the promise of forty dollars and some cookies got them to clean off our drive that we could go inside and drink some of the terrible riesling I bought.

In my defense it was from the Hessen rheingau, where I grew up. I *know* that the dastardly Germans keep all the good rieslings for themselves, leaving us with a bunch of sugary Mosel river crap (I rather like Mosel rieslings, actually). Well shut up, parentheses, you with your reason, logic and good humor. You're not wanted here.

Anyway, this Liebfraumilch (yes, it was actually called that) was sugar water with a squeeze of lemon. It was rather nice because you could easily forget you were drinking something alcoholic, allowing the nice warming sensation to tempt you out of doors again to watch the High Schoolers engage in manual labor. When that bottle was gone we had a bottle of sub-par Sauvignon Blanc that I'm too lazy to really review.

This morning I engaged in more gratuitous shoveling, this time creating a run for the dog to go pee in.

That is the snow piled up at our door, having drifted. It was about at neck height, so at a guess I'd say about 4 and a half feet. I was shoveling along, creating a really nifty looking trench, when I happened to look up at the roof. 

...Oh what the hell. I did not come out here to be crushed by a gravity defying overhang of snow.

It was rather pretty though. Eventually I finished the dog run, just in time for a few episodes of Top Gear, the one in which Michael Schumacher is not, in fact, The Stig. After watching Hammond destroy his nadgers on a motorbike and defeating Team Galactic on top of some pixilated mountain, I discovered a recipe for alcoholic snow cream posted on The Ho Formerly Known As Crazy's facebook.

Holy Science! I cried. This must be tried! FOR SCIENCE!

The Formerly Crazy's facebook recipe was for a chocolate snow shake, but I lacked chocolate cream liqueur. I do have a half pound of high quality chocolate though, and so should probably get on that. Anyway, I used her recipe as a base and created a delightful raspberry truffle snow drank.

Now that's a two quart bowl of snow. Add about a half cup of cream (I had about an eighth of a cup of half and half and a gallon of skim milk so I sort of mixed the two), something like a third of a cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Stir it up, making a mess of your kitchen in the process. Next, add your booze.

That's a quarter cup of regular vodka and slightly less than a half cup of homemade raspberry liqueur. Toss in a tablespoon full of Hershey's chocolate syrup and stir it all up, again making a terrible mess of your countertop.
If you are doing it right it will look like nice, healthy pink brains. Pour into a collins glass with a crazy straw and whipped cream.

Now this, similar to a Wendy's frosty, is a drink that looks like it SHOULD be drunk through the straw, but in actuality needs to be eaten with a spoon until some of it melts. It is delicious and delightfully inebriating. It is also very pink, which I guess is appropriate for valentine's day, but not really for Superbowl Sunday, which is supposedly an occasion for manliness. I guess you could easily add and layer food coloring for the colors of your favorite teams.

Next snow booze experiment: TEQUILA.

Thursday, February 4, 2010




Seriously, ladies. There might be two feet of snow. It will get plowed, don't worry. You don't need to buy out the entire Cost-Co of bread and toilet paper. It will be okay.

...That said I'm planning on going out tomorrow and acquiring the important things in life. Since I am not living in a den of heathens prone to panic attacks, we are adequately stocked on all the little things, and will be able to eat and poop without fear. No, I am thinking of something much more important.


Yes, we are tragically low at the moment on wine. The Boyfriend and I did pick up a twelve pack of Sam Adams Winter Ale and a six of the Noble Pils after skiing left us a deep craving for beer. I've got to say, the Noble Pils is really worth it. It's light and citrusy, very limey without that bitter fake taste that the +LIME lite beers tend to get. It's not what I really want in the winter, though maybe I don't know WHAT I want, because I sucked down three bottles of it within two hours of buying the six pack, leaving The Boyfriend and Mother to fight for the other three. The Boyfriend won by distracting Mother with a Sarah Palin book.

I have also had the opportunity to taste a really great Sauvignon Blanc. I've been hating on Sauvignon Blanc a fair bit on this blog. There's a taste in the grape, sort of ammoniac, that I'm just not digging. This wine, called Angelique or something equally precious, did not have that "off" taste at all. It was very good, very refreshing. I intend to buy a couple bottles of that on Operation: PANIC BUY, along with the C2H3M.

Tonight, while watching Iron Chef (Top Gear wasn't on), I was drinking Chateau L'Ermitage, a red rhone wine comprised of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache. It's a toasty wine, if that makes sense. It has an almost burned smell and taste to it that I really kind of like.

It was not the best thing to pair with my re-heated leek and potato soup, which was a disaster in its own right. I (and Bitches) LOVE soup, I love making it and I love eating it, and I usually do an okay job at vegetable soups. However, I made the mistake every novice cook makes when they do potato soup: I put the damn thing through a blender.

For some SCIENCE here: putting taters and other starchy things through a blender, especially the crazy rocket-powered one my dad bought, crushes the cell walls and releases a lot of water. What you end up with is a gooey mess flavored vaguely like watered-down potato. I knew this, but thought "oh how bad can it be?" and went ahead and did it anyway. This is why I'm an idiot and Chef doesn't allow me to do anything in the kitchen. This failure was only heightened by my complete lack of leek knowledge. I had never worked with this particular oniony thing before and had no idea what the right sizes were, so I ended up buy a bunch of *really tiny* leeks and not using all of them that I could, since I had no idea where to stop chopping them.

 It was the worst kind of cooking failure: the edible kind. No, seriously put that eyebrow down. When you truly cock something up in the kitchen, you can at least throw your hands in the air dramatically while pitching it into the woods and call out for pizza. When it's edible, just not good... you feel almost obligated to eat it. Luckily, the Boyfriend swooped in and saved the mess with some Old Bay, which is a staple of every Maryland kitchen.

Cooks Illustrated Magazine solved the science struggle of leek and potato soup in a recent issue. They also have a recipe for brownies with the texture of box mix and the flavor of homemade. My god. It's the best magazine ever.
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