Saturday, May 14, 2011

'The "P" In "Pride" Stands For "Pride"

This is certainly shaping up to be a Long Weekend of Fine Dining!

On Thursday, my recently-graduated sister achieved employment at a local grocery store. Not the most high-falutin' job, but it's beer and pizza money and that's what matters. To celebrate, the Boyfriend and I decided to invite the B's over and cook a big dinner. Planked salmon, grilled asparagus, baked sweet potatoes, and steamed broccoli. The Youngest B provided us with a salted caramel chocolate cake, which was crazy good, and we imbibed copious amounts of Domaine Bellevue Rose that I reviewed last week. Fantastic.

Last night they reciprocated, stating that they wanted to make it back onto the blog (really) and served us a selection of interesting wines along with lemon chicken, fried rice, a type of slaw, and a creamy, pesto-y soup. Mrs. B takes great delight in making people guess what they're eating, and it took several guesses to realize that the slaw was made from broccoli stalks. I normally HATE slaw, nasty, mayonnaise-covered slimy cabbage that it is. But this was crisp and fresh and full of tart dried cherries and blueberries. Crazy good. The soup, it turns out, was a (not quite) vegan cauliflower and pesto soup. No cream, no butter, just cauliflower, pesto, and some toasted pine nuts for garnish. Wonderful.

Mrs. B is the one to introduce me to the joys of dry rose wine, and she loves it even more than I do. For this event, we were treated to the wonderfully named Barnyard Griffin 2010 Rose of Sangiovese. This wine poured a beautiful, deep magenta-pink. It was considerably fuller bodied and sweeter than the Domaine Bellevue, but where the latter is strawberries, the Barnyard Griffin is all sweet cherries. I worried that the intensity of the cherry flavor and the body of the wine would result in a cough-syrupy mess as the wine warmed, but my fears were unfounded. It was certainly sweeter than I usually go for, but it finished clean and bright, without any of the cloyingness that some people associate with pink wine. It is a fabulous pre-dinner drink.

With dinner we had several bottles of riff pinot grigio terra alpina 2009. The bottle doesn't capitalize so I don't see any reason why I should either. This wine smells a bit yeasty and minerally, and it is just a bit prickly on the mouth, but smooth flavored with just a hint of citrus on top of the slate and earth that kept it from being stodgy. I liked it considerably better when I was eating salty food as opposed to just sipping it on its own, but it's a lovely white.

Eventually the Children (I'm 24 but I'm still Children when I go to the B's house) were banished to the basement while the Adults played bridge or something. However, since the Children are now all (except for Youngest B) above the age of 21, Oldest B brought a bottle of Nocello down with him. I was not familiar with Nocello, but anything that comes in a fancy bottle with a figurine on top can't be all bad!

Nocello, as I found out, is a walnut liqueur from Italy. I am generally suspicious of nut liqueurs because I hate amaretto. The intensity of almond liqueurs sets off a part of my brain saying "WHOOP WHOOP THIS IS NOT FOOD WHOOP WHOOP PROBABLY ARSENIC" which is a really retarded response to have when you are not living in ancient Rome. Nocello sets of no such alarms. It is glazed walnuts. Sweet-sweet but nutty and and delightful. I couldn't drink much more than a sip because I was driving, but this was superb.

As I write this, my family is buzzing about in preparation to go to Charlottesville to see my cousin's play. He is an extremely talented singer, and this show should be excellent!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Domaine Bellevue 2010 Touraine Rose

Everything that I like seems to come from the Loire valley anymore.

Seriously, the sparkling I liked at the wine tasting, the last two white wines that CartoonSailor or Disaster brought over to my house, and this rose. All delicious, all from Loire.

This particular rose pours a vivid pink. It is precisely the color of the wickedly spined briar roses that grew everywhere in Eltville, the town I grew up in. It has a refreshing, citrusy smell, rather like limes with a tiny touch of raspberry. It is a little bitter up front, followed by tartness, and it leaves a refreshing taste in the mouth. Unlike many rose wines, this has very little berry sweetness. It is tart and clean all the way through.


Soon I will have the opportunity to try a different variety of wines. The Boyfriend and I are going to California for a week. We will be near-ish to Monte Ray, I am told, and at some point will be visiting Napa for some wines. Frankly, I am relatively certain that I will love California so much that I will not want to leave. They have artichokes, wine, and seafood. That is basically all I ever want in this world. Avocados too, I suppose, but I'm pretty sure they have those in a different part of California, yes?

I am very bad at geography. VERY bad.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I shouldn’t have to tell most of you this, but frankly being a grown-up sucks.

First of all there’s the bill-paying, the apartment cleaning, the necessary day-to-day activities of adult life that you can conveniently ignore when you’re the age where you REALLY want to be a Jedi when you grow up. Frankly, I STILL want to be a Jedi when I grow up, but that’s beside the point. All of that crap is crap, but you knew it was going to be crap right around when wanting to be a Jedi changed to wanting to be an accountant (this is a joke, nobody wants to be an accountant, not even accountants).

Worse than all of that though is the fact that being a grown-up means caring about things you really, really wish didn’t exist. Like elections, body-fat percentages, personal finance, and tax laws. All of that stuff, I can conclusively say, is stupid and boring and dumb. Unfortunately, as an adult, it is now part of my life to give a damn about this nonsense. I do not appreciate being made to give a damn about this nonsense.

Luckily for us, there is a cornucopia of ways to distract our adult selves from the obnoxiousness of what we insist is “The Way Things Work.” Some people use TV, some people use magazines, and a few diseased minds cope by immersing themselves entirely in business (I’m looking at you, Boyfriend!) None of these things work for me. TV gets boring fast, magazines get insipid even faster, and my giveadamn gets broken after about fifteen minutes of business news.

So instead, as you all have probably figured out by now, I drink copious amounts of wine.

On April 30’th I went to another wine tasting at the Iron Bridge Wine Company in Columbia. This is a fantastic little restaurant and wine bar frequented by old hippies and current government employees. It is exceedingly small, so don’t expect to just show up for dinner. You must make a reservation. Luckily for me and my Boozery compatriots, you do not need a reservation for a wine tasting, we just Showed Up!

“We” in this case refers to myself, my roommates DesignBroad and Beersnob, GrogLass who is BeerSnob’s girlfriend, Disaster and CartoonSailor. One may ask about these new nicknames. Disaster, you see, is consistently breaking shit in my house. His name is apt. CartoonSailor… well, he’s a cartoon character. You’d have to meet him, but if you do you’ll know. He is a cartoon.

Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of Spectacular Wines. There were a few Very Good wines, but really only one or two that jumped out and said “I AM SUPER DELICIOUS!”

We began with sparkling wine.  The Chateau Gaillard “Clemence Query” Cremant de Loire was a fantastic Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay blend. It was delightfully crisp, bright, and balanced. It had a few light fruit notes that were pleasantly backed by the delicious yeasty flavor of a truly good sparkling wine. At nineteen dollars, this is too expensive for a graduate student, but ought to fit nicely within the price ranges of those who want to celebrate an event without truly breaking the bank.

On the other hand, the Rialto Moscato completely failed to impress. It was sugary sweet with weak carbonation. It tasted more like a flat energy drink than it did a fine wine. RieslingSnob might like it, but personally I do not find it worth the fifteen dollars it is reported to cost.

The next wine, a Riesling, got me VERY excited, because it was from Eltville am Rhein, the town I grew up in in Germany. Unfortunately, I was unfamiliar with the winery, J. Baumer. It was a middling sweet white with notes of pear and honey. Not being a sweet wines kind of person, I was a little unimpressed. Frankly if it hadn’t had the connection with my childhood, I probably would not have bought it. As it was I bought two bottles. I am not good at impulse control.

The Shaya Verdejo Old Vines white was, according to my notes, “minerally.” This is the only note I have. Unimpressive.

The Dry Creek Fume Blanc Sauvignon Blanc was next, with earthy, barnyard notes in the nose and minerally flavors on the tongue. It would likely be better with food, but as a sipping wine I found it to be a bit too strong on that ammoniac flavor that sometimes happens with Sauvignon Blancs.

I was very pleased with the Tre Monti Vigna Rocca Albana Secco. While the name may be a tongue twister, the wine itself is light, airy, pleasantly fruity, with a little bite of alcohol flavor at the end that keeps things interesting and clean. I very much enjoyed this wine and recommend it highly, though at 16 dollars it is a bit out of my personal price range.

On to the “Rich, Savory, Toasty & Luscious Whites”

The Graham Beck “The Game Reserve” Chenin Blanc was, in a word, “stinky.” In Disaster’s words, it smelled “kinda like feet.” While I’m sure the odor was masking some decent flavors, the key word there is “masking.” I certainly couldn’t taste them.

Daniel Gehr’s “Oak Free” Chardonnay was quite pleasant with minerals and earth, but it CLEARLY wanted to be drunk with food, not as an afternoon sipping wine.

As for Newton Red Label Chardonnay, well… frankly the less said the better. Okay I guess I have to say SOMETHING, fine. It was like drinking old lady perfume. Flowers everywhere. Oh god.

Luckily, I found everything I wanted in the Saint Roche les Vignes rose. It was clean, simple, and light on the palate. Its orangey color was also quite pleasing, and the red fruit notes were subdued by a lovely dryness throughout. Perfect thing for a summers day and a good book.

I have better notes on the reds for one very good reason: The white wines are served on low tables, and there was a huge line behind us. The reds are served at the bar, which is the perfect level to write on, and by the time we got there the line was pretty much gone! Hooray!

Unfortunately, the reds were really not interesting. The first we tried was the Annabella Special Selection Pinot Noir, which I found to be light and unimpressive with no real aftertaste to speak of. Disaster disagreed with me, stating that he caught a distinct floral aftertaste. I contend that it was just the cheese he was eating.

Babcock “Rita’s Earth” Pinot Noir poured a much paler red than the Annabella, and was equally light bodied. It had some decent flavors, but they were quickly washed away. CartoonSailor demanded to know why this wine wasn’t just from Oregon instead of California. It needed body to maintain some of our interest. As it was, meh.

The Col d’Orcia “Spezieri” was equally unimpressive. There was a sharpness at the beginning that brought our hopes up, but the nose was all alcohol and maybe a touch of cola (maybe). CartoonSailor drank his and immediately realized he had not actually tasted anything. Then he knew despair.

Those were the light reds though, and frankly our snobbishness knows no bounds when it comes to demanding strong flavor from wines. The “Big Red Wines That Should Knock Your Socks Off” was a bit better. The Borsao “Berola” was bloody fantastic, I must say. It was a mild, medium bodied red blend that had just enough complexity to keep us interested without beating us over the head with different spices and fruit. This is an excellent sippin’ red, perfect for an evening on the couch watching “Boston Legal” and eating homemade sushi after driving all over the eastern shore of Delaware. In related news, last Wednesday was a good day.

The Chateau Sainte Barbe Cabernet/Merlot blend was a considerably darker color than the Berola, but lacked interest. It was all alcohol on the nose, and frankly didn’t quite have legs.

The Robert Davis Syrah smelled like a stable, but was delightfully smooth and velvety. It was a low impact red, despite the barnyard on the nose. Nice.

The Durigutti Reserve Malbec was nice. Not great, but nice. Mild notes of black pepper overlaid the currents and alcohol.

I quite liked the Maipe Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which I found to be meaty and delightful despite a sweetness strange to Cabernet. I wanted more. DesignBroad disagreed vehemently, describing it as one of the worst red wines she has ever tasted. I know this cannot be true because I am pretty sure she was there when we drank that strawberry splendor crap during the Cheap Ass Wine Tasting a long while back. Blech.

The Kiona Cabernet/Merlot blend tasted the way nail polish remover smells. No.

The Bogle “Phantom” Proprietary Red was solidly “meh.” It was better after eating a bit of sharp cheese, but for 26 bucks I kind of want a wine that is going to perform a bit better than that.

The day ended with the Conn Creek “Anthology,” which was really very, VERY good. Unfortunately, it was on sale (SALE!) for 40 dollars, and I am not really ever certain that wine is 40 dollars-worth of good. Maybe when I am out of grad school I will think differently, but seriously.

It was a good experience, but frankly the wines were a bit lacking. Disappointing. Iron Bridge Wine Company is one of my favorite places to eat, so I guess my standards were a bit high. Still, I got several bottles of very good wine out of it, thus ensuring that I will have plenty of distractions from the other disappointments of adult life.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Graduate school has eaten my soul

...and honestly probably my liver as well.

Drinking briefly stopped being about taste sometime in late February/early March and became about getting drunk. One evening, after getting involved in some drama that I should just have ignored, I cut up someones face.

I'm pretty sure he deserved it! I'm also pretty sure I warned him I was gonna do it! But mostly I remember waking up the next morning, my mouth tasting like sandpaper and my head feeling like it was lined with painfluff and thinking the following:

"Oh god Learning Shots were a bad idea."
"Did I make out with DesignBroad last night?"
"Wait... wait... did I cut up Disaster's face? WHY DID I CUT UP DISASTER'S FACE?!"

I went downstairs and sure enough, I had both cut up Disaster's face and made out with DesignBroad. Thankfully neither one of them was particularly upset with me. We all pretty much agree that the night started off downhill when we started doing "Learning Shots," which was a drinking game with one absolutely retarded rule: drink whenever you drop a kitchen utensil. Don't do that. That is a bad decision no matter how awesome it sounds when you are cheerfully sober. Just... trust me on this. If you aren't trusting me on this, at least don't do Learning Shots with tequila. If you insist on doing Learning Shots with tequila... well then I hope your group's version of Disaster is as laid back as ours is.

I'm much better now, thankfully.

I have also figured out how to make really good sangria, the key to which appeared to be boxed malbec (reasonably tasty even without sugar, triple sec and fruit added) and blood oranges. I *love* blood oranges and I am so very very sad that I can't find them right now.

In non-drinking news, I have completed my second draft of the novel and nearly completed my first year of graduate school. I have also learned how to make muskrat pie.

You heard me right! The Boyfriend has been threatening to bring muskrat to my family's gatherings for a long while now, and finally used my family's Easter celebration as an excuse. It's delicious as all hell too. Here is a recipe!

Take one muskrat and cut into muskrat bits. Soak in saltwater for two days to get the musk out. Season and cook muskrat by your method of choice fully. Set your sous chef to picking the muskrat from its bones. Muskrats have lots of bones and you don't want to crunch on them. While he is picking the muskrat, finely chop two carrots, one large onion, and one medium celery stalk. Saute your vegetables until they are appropriately squishy. Add salt, cracked black pepper, and sage to taste. Add the shredded muskrat bits and heat them through.

While the muskrat and veggies are blending their flavors in a bizarre orgy of taste in your pan, grease a muffin tin and squish some dough into the cups. Our dough was leftover pizza dough which had yeast in, so we had to blank-bake them first. If you have to do that, line the dough-cups with some wax paper and fill with uncooked rice. When that is done, sprinkle some muskrat and veggies into each cup, but don't overfill.

In the pan you sauted the muskratty veggies make a quick roux, one tablespoon of butter to one tablespoon of flour (muskrats are oily little devils, but they shouldn't give off a lot of fat to make the roux with. Even if they did... pour it out and just use butter. Your guests will thank you). Add a cup of hot water mixed with a tablespoon of beef Better Than Bullion (it's expensive but it makes the best damn gravy). Add pepper, and sage to taste, you won't need more salt. Fill the muskratty cups the rest of the way with gravy, put into 350 degree oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the crust looks crunchy. 

Yesterday I went to a wine tasting, and so I will have tasting notes up soon enough! In the mean time, I suggest that you all make a muskrat pie and absolutely do NOT take any Learning Shots at all during the way!
Free Hit Counter