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Author Topic:   Food & Wine
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posted October 18, 2004 04:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
John Cleese's guide to wine
Python comedian offers 'Wine for the Confused'

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Since when does a Python worry about what kind of wine to have with a meal?

Monty Python comedy veteran John Cleese decided to crush his grapes of ignorance and explore just what all the gourmet magazines and wine experts are talking about.

"I felt it was a shame that something that is such a source of pleasure should have become restricted by all this snobbery," Cleese told The Associated Press in a phone interview from his Santa Barbara, Calif. home -- which is nestled close to the state's wine country.

The result: a new Food Network special "John Cleese's Wine for the Confused" (airing this week; check listings) which explores everything from what words to use to describe flavor to how to take the wind out of a snooty restaurant sommelier.

What's a sommelier? That's the server in a fancy restaurant who tries to guide customers toward a selection of a dining drink. Cleese points out that this choice is often a source of anxiety and embarrassment for those who don't see much shade in their reds and whites.

"If someone starts telling you what sort of wine you should buy without finding out first what kind of wine you actually like I think you should -- in a shop -- walk out and in a restaurant say something very snotty, like, 'Well, that may be a wine you would like, but is it necessarily a wine I would like?' " Cleese said, laughing.

The purpose of "Wine for the Confused" is to give a sort of shorthand sophistication to novice wine lovers.

The first step, the comic actor-writer said, is for people to learn how to speak: find the right words to express the intangible subtlety of flavors that help identify the kind of wines you like.

"The purpose in doing the program was to simply inform myself better. I realized I would have the wonderful opportunity to talk to sommeliers and the winemakers and discuss wines, and through the process of sipping a wine with them say, 'Now there's a funny taste in there. What is that?' And then they suggest a word and sometimes it means nothing, but sometimes you say, 'Yes! That's exactly the word.' "

Pineapple, cream, butter, smoky, oak, plum -- all are words sometimes used to describe the sensation of various wines on the tongue and throat. There are none of those substances in the wine -- but Cleese found people using the terms because various wines reminded them of those flavors.

"Some of the words ring the bell and some of them don't. (The term) 'tobacco' in wine mystifies me," he said. "But I remember sipping a pinot noir once and somebody said it had taste of pencil lead and remember thinking, 'Yes, that's right.' It doesn't sound (delicious) but it meant something to me."

How do you know what you like? In this case, there literally is no accounting for taste, Cleese said. Don't be afraid to say what you like, regardless of what wine experts say.

For instance, Cleese said he prefers California wines to French ones.

"I know that the great wine experts will throw their hands up and I say, 'Oh, I'm so awfully sorry but these are the wines that make me happy,' " he said.

Cleese explores how weather, the soil, location, other vegetation, the mashing, the fermentation process and how long the wine bottle is open before serving all contribute to the taste.

"When you've got all these factors moving around and connecting in these different ways," Cleese said, "it becomes an art."

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posted October 25, 2004 09:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Fast times for 'slow food'

In northern Italy, a movement comes of age.

By Gordon T. Anderson, CNN/Money staff writer

TURIN, Italy (CNN/Money) - It's autumn in Italy, when even soccer fans become preoccupied with something more important: food.

This time of year, virtually every town and city hosts a culinary celebration. That means a chocolate fair in Perugia, wine events throughout Tuscany, and a month-long homage to truffles in Alba, home to those fancy fungi.

But no place can match Turin, the northern city that hosts the Salone del Gusto, a five-day festival that ends Monday. With an estimated 150,000 people attending, it's an edible extravaganza so big, they only hold it biannually.

The show is sponsored by Slow Food International, the food publishing and activist group. Its purpose is to draw attention to sustainable agriculture, traditional preparations, and the health and happiness that come from eating food from the farm instead of the factory.

It's also great fun.

Food lovers wander about eating fine meats, cheese, bread and wine. There are smiles all around, punctuated by expressions of delight -- as in, "Oh, that's goooood!"

As you'd expect, Italian foods abound. But small-scale producers from other countries have flocked here, too. Thousands of farms and companies are represented, either as individual presenters or through the many trade associations handing out nibbles.

There's reindeer meat from Sweden. Sea salt harvested on Welsh beaches. Ham made from Austrian wild boars. There's even a group from Tibet. Yak milk cheese, anyone?

From Fiat to food
The Salone is held in a former Fiat factory in south Turin, dramatically converted to an exhibition space.

The cavernous space is divided into "streets," according to the type of food. So there is a Via dei Formaggi (cheese), a Via dei Grani (grains and pastas), and so forth.

The biggest single category is wine, with more than 2,500 individual varieties available by the glass.

In one interesting demonstration, Japanese chefs paired sushi with wines from Friuli, the northern Italian province known for its crisp whites. It was as if they were made for each other, despite coming from opposite sides of the world.

Beer is also well represented, reflecting its rising popularity among locals. Three times, Italians stopped me to ask where the beer hall was. I suppose I looked friendly, or perhaps drunk.

A contingent of U.S. microbrewers is here, thanks to a grant from the Department of Agriculture to promote their wares internationally. I watched them teach a German from Nuremberg about an ale from Delaware, Dogfish Head.

"Other small producers were happy to meet us, because we've been successful in marketing our products based on taste," said Ray Daniels of the Boulder, Colo.-based Association of Brewers. "Americans used to think beer was beer. Then, small brewers exposed consumers to a variety of styles, and they started to differentiate between flavors."

That's what other companies at the show hope to do: teach people to eat really good food just because it tastes really good.

Cured meats lane
On the Via dei Salumi -- "Cured Meats Lane," in the organizers' translation -- I sampled prosciutto di Cardegna. It's made in the Marches region, on the eastern side of Italy.

To most Americans, "prosciutto" is that great ham from Parma, in Emilia-Romagna. But in fact, they make prosciutti all over Italy, but not much of it gets exported.

The Cardegna is denser and richer than the Parma variety, with a more intense pork flavor. Alas, to taste it you may have to visit the Adriatic coast.

Just down the road at the fair, I came upon the pinnacle of pig: the Lardo di Colonnata, a beloved delicacy that looks like bacon without the meat. In a way, it epitomizes the Slow Food movement.

Lardo di Colonnata is dense and creamy, and tastes like bacon-flavored butter. Taste it once and your tongue will wag happily for hours. But it's not exactly the kind of product Oscar Mayer will ever market.

Some time back, regulators in Brussels attacked Lardo's thousand-year-old production process -- which involves salt, pig fat, and slow-aging in marble vats -- as being insufficiently modern. So they tried to ban the stuff.

Slow Food organized Lardo fans to protest loudly across Europe. The EU eventually retreated, and today you can eat Lardo di Colonnata in all its porcine glory.

Or at least I can. In fact, it's time for seconds.

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posted October 27, 2004 04:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
The kings of bourbon
Popular and profitable, small batch bourbonshave revolutionized America's whiskey

By Nick Passmore
Updated: 4:05 p.m. ET Oct. 27, 2004

"Nobody in their right mind would have decided, in 1953, to reinvent bourbon when God had already decided that it needed to die."

But according to Bill Samuels Jr., president of Loretto, Ky.-based bourbon distiller Maker's Mark, this is exactly what his father, Bill Sr., did do. And from a commercial point of view, it was a disaster, at least for the first 25 years.

But it's a good thing he stuck with it. If he hadn't, the whole small batch bourbon revolution of the last two decades wouldn't have happened, and such wonderful whiskies as Booker's, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden's, Woodford Reserve and the single barrel bottlings from Wild Turkey and Jack Daniels wouldn't be crowding the shelves of trendy bars and restaurants across America and the world.

How successful is this revolution? In 2003, sales of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey grew to 13.4 million nine-liter cases, up 2% from 2002, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. The strongest category is among high-end and super-premium brands, such as the small batch bourbons like Maker's Mark, growing 4.4% and 7.5%, respectively.

In terms of revenue, overall bourbon sales for 2003 were $1.3 billion. While sales and revenue for value bourbons were flat, high-end bourbons generated the most revenue, $767.5 million, and super premiums, which only did $62.7 million, saw the greatest sales growth, at 6.2% over 2002 sales.

In light of such numbers, it's almost hard to believe what rough shape the bourbon industry was back in the 1950s. When repeal of Prohibition came in 1933, people could start drinking again (legally), and the distillers could start making whiskey again (legally). But it takes a long time to make good whiskey. In the interim, imported Scotch, imported gin and imported Canadian whiskey all came flooding in, and imbibers soon developed a taste for them.

As its customer base deserted it, bourbon struggled. Instead of trying to refine it, distillers were forced push their whiskey out the door as quickly and as cheaply as possible. And pretty awful whiskey it was too. According to David Pickerell, master distiller at Maker's Mark, "The lowest, bottom-shelf stuff being made today is better than the best whiskey made in 1947."

So this was the situation in the early 1950s when Bill Samuels Sr., retired from the Navy and at loose ends, started experimenting with a new kind of whiskey. He had the background. His great-great-great grandfather T.W. Samuels opened a distillery in 1844. Having weathered Prohibition and the Depression, Bill Sr. sold the business in 1943 (T.W. Samuels is now owned by Bardstown, Ky.-based Heaven Hill Distilleries) when President Franklin D. Roosevelt converted the distilleries into making industrial alcohol for the war effort.

He wasn't an entrepreneur--business didn't interest him--but a hobbyist and a tinkerer who was fed up with bourbon's down-market image and rough taste. He had this idea of making a new kind of bourbon, bourbon that actually tasted good. He achieved this by eliminating the traditional rye and substituting the milder-tasting wheat--think of the difference between wheat and rye bread--and set to work.

According to Bill Jr., "It was the fall of 1959 that it went on the market, and it was a resounding flop, commercially. Dad sent out a press release, and it was not picked up by anybody, not even the trade press, even the ones in Kentucky. But Dad was tickled to death--he loved it, he was happy with the product."

Apparently what distinguished Maker's Mark from other whiskeys at the time was "if my grandfather and great-grandfather were to come back and take a sip of Maker's, they'd call it sissy whisky. It's too easy, it's too soft, it's not bland, but it's definitely a lot more refined than anything they ever did."

It didn't have those qualities that David Kinney, writer, editor and whiskey lover from North Carolina, ascribes to this most American of spirits: sin and penance. You can drink traditional whiskey, but you aren't supposed to actually enjoy it. It's meant to hurt.

But apparently the world wasn't ready for "sissy" whiskey, and business was slow. The Samuels struggled on, finally breaking even in 1979. And then The Wall Street Journal came to the rescue. In 1980, in their first front page article on a family-owned company, they highlighted Maker's Mark's against-the-trend practice of producing small quantities of handcrafted, premium-priced bourbon using traditional methods, and in the process they changed the world of American whiskey.

Sales took off, previously hard-to-find distributors were knocking at their door and competitors rushed to introduce their own small batch brands. More important, it was clear that consumers would be willing to pay more for a smoother bourbon. For years the company's advertising slogan was: "It tastes expensive...and is."

Today American whiskey is really two quite distinct businesses: the low-end, so-called "value" bourbons and the more expensive stuff. Unsurprisingly, the demographics are different too. The "new" whiskies are drunk by educated, affluent, urban consumers with discriminating tastes and the wherewithal to indulge them, while the traditional, cheaper brands are largely confined to the American South and drunk by older, less-educated consumers who, as Samuels puts it, "spend a lot of time going to funerals."

Samuels adds, "If you take all the bourbon brands that have been introduced after that [Wall Street Journal] article that have a retail price that's equal to or higher than MM, that equals the new, fine bourbon category. Those brands collectively are experiencing double-digit growth and have for each of the last 15 years. The volume is still small, 700,000 cases. It's an elite business, appealing to top demographic groups."

Yuppie whiskey, if you like.

But a big enough business to attract the interest of the largest players in the booze business. Today, Maker's Mark is owned by distillery giant Allied-Domecq, and Jim Beam Brands, a subsidiary of Fortune Brands, owns the small batch quartet of Baker's, Basil Hayden's, Booker's and Knob Creek. Brown-Forman produces Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve. Privately held Heaven Hill makes Elijah Craig and Old Fitzgerald, and Pernod-Ricard does Wild Turkey.

Bill Samuels Sr. never set out to create a whiskey revolution. As Bill Jr. told me, his father "really didn't even care whether people were going to want to buy this stuff--there was an audience of one. When it started to be successful, he conjured up this concept that he anticipated the market, but uh-uh. Wrong. It was, for him, a hobby thing. It was about him being able to go to that great distillery in the sky with his head up. That's what it was all about."

Whatever his true intentions, Bill Sr., who died in 1989, must be smiling now in that celestial distillery as he looks down on the plethora of fine, small batch bourbons that were spawned by his tinkering 50 years ago. To see a review of my favorites, click here for the slide show.

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posted November 03, 2004 02:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Constellation to pay $1B for Mondavi

Maker of Woodbridge and Opus One agrees to purchase after worlds largest wine maker ups its offer.

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Robert Mondavi Corp. Wednesday agreed to be acquired by Constellation Brands, the world's largest wine maker, for $1.04 billion and abandoned a restructuring plan to shed its luxury brands and its namesake California winery.

The deal marked an increase in price from Constellation's (up $0.30 to $41.55, Research) original offer of $970 million.

The purchase will add Mondavi's famous labels such as Woodbridge and Opus One to a portfolio of brands that includes Simi, Ravenswood and Almaden wines, as well as St. Pauli Girl and Corona beers.

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posted November 10, 2004 01:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Study: Vitamin E may do more harm than good
Research finds those taking supplement died earlier

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (Reuters) -- Vitamin E supplements, which millions take in the hope of longer, healthier lives, may do more harm than good, researchers reported on Wednesday.

In fact, people taking high doses of vitamin E may in some cases be more likely to die earlier, although the reasons are not clear, said Dr. Edgar Miller of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who led the study.

"I think people take vitamin E because they think it is going to make you live longer, but this (study) doesn't support that," Miller told reporters.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group for supplement makers, criticized the report.

"This is an unfortunate misdirection of science in an attempt to make something out of nothing for the sake of headlines," said the group's John Hathcock.

Miller and colleagues re-analyzed 19 studies of vitamin E and health between 1993 and 2004. The trials involved more than 136,000 mostly elderly patients in North America, Europe and China.

People who took 200 international units of vitamin E a day or more died at a higher rate during the study, which lasted three years, than people who did not take supplements, they told a meeting of the American Heart Association.

"It's about a 5 percent increased risk at 45 years in the trials pooled together," Miller said.

"That doesn't sound like a lot but if you apply it to 25 percent of the (U.S.) adult population taking vitamin E, that is significant."

Miller, whose findings are also being published online by the Annals of Internal Medicine, said two-thirds of people who take vitamin E supplements take 400 IU or more.

"We don't think that people need to take vitamin E supplements, that they get enough from the diet," he said. Nuts, oils, whole grains and green leafy vegetables are all rich in vitamin E.

The average U.S. diet supplies six to 10 IU of E, Miller said. The Institute of Medicine, which sets recommended doses of vitamins and minerals, gives 1,500 IU of E as a daily upper limit.

"I would say it is too high," Miller said. The U.S. government's Food and Drug Administration is barred by law from regulating dietary supplements so the limits are voluntary.

People take large doses of vitamin E in the belief that it helps counter oxidation by unstable "free radical" molecules, which damages cells and can accelerate aging and lead to heart disease and cancer.

Miller, who was surprised by the findings of the study, said there could be several ways the vitamin supplementation is damaging the body.

While vitamin E in low doses is a powerful antioxidant, in higher doses its effects may promote oxidative damage, and may also overwhelm the body's natural antioxidants, he said.

Dr. Raymond Gibbons of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said the evidence has been building against vitamin E supplements.

"Despite this ... I see many, many patients still taking vitamin E and I have to convince them not to," he told a separate news conference.

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posted November 22, 2004 10:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
A year’s worth of wine discoveries
Exceptional bottles needn’t be pricey

By Edward Deitch
Wine columnist

The most exciting wines I have tasted this year range from a $38 Napa Valley boutique Merlot to an obscure, $8 red from the desert of southern Spain, with lots of others in between. In fact, when I recently opened another bottle of that Spanish wine, I found it as delightful, with its gorgeous fruit, as it was on first tasting many months ago. In wine, first impressions are usually right.

While it may not be among the most complex wines of the year, the 2001 Viña Salvana will certainly go down as one of the best values. And it will provide an elegant accompaniment to all kinds of holiday fare, from turkey and the trimmings to red meats and beyond. It will also serve as a very decent red for holiday parties.

The modest cost proves once again that there are still very good — if not quite great — wines out there for not much money. And here’s something else to consider: my little wine came with no hype; I simply pulled it off a shelf at a store in my neighborhood, which demonstrates that in a wine world full of exaggerated marketing claims and enticing labels, the only thing that really matters is what’s in the bottle, whatever the price.

For the holidays, I’ve chosen a dozen favorite wines from my columns this year, which, in turn, were chosen from many hundreds that I tasted. These are wines I could return to again and again. Red and white, pricey and inexpensive, they have in common an immediate appeal — generating an excitement that instantly sets them apart from many others. An exceptional wine — or, to put it another way, a wine that you really like — has a way of etching itself in your taste memory.

The Whites
Ocone Falanghina del Taburno 2003, Italy. From volcanic soils in Campania, which produce wonderful minerals in the wine; melon, pear, hints of grapefruit and more; refreshing and sophisticated. $12.

Castello Banfi “San Angelo” Pinot Grigio 2003, Italy. Delightful, complex Pinot Grigio from a big American-owned Tuscan producer; has a nice range of tastes, including tart green apple, a bit of green pepper, herbs, smoke and a refreshing citrus finish. $14.

Bonny Doon Vineyard “The Heart Has Its Rieslings” 2003, California. With its typically off-beat Bonny Doon name, one of the top American Rieslings for a second year; off-dry and luscious yet has crisp acidity; full of tropical fruit, including pear, banana, mango and orange. $15.

Marc Tempé “Zellenberg” Pinot Blanc 2001, Alsace, France. Gorgeous fruit distinguishes this one from more generic Pinot Blancs; apricot, honey and touches of lime, vanilla and smoke; limited availability; contact Vintage ‘59 Imports, 202-966-9218. $16.

Concha y Toro “Terrunyo” Sauvignon Blanc 2003, Chile. World-class Sauvignon from a single vineyard of this large producer; among the best Sauvignons I have tasted in recent years; notes of pear, green apple, orange, lemon and lime; minerals on the finish. $20.

Chalone Vineyard Chardonnay 2002, California. From unique terroir in Monterey County, full yet crisp and dominated by great fruit, not oak; an array of tastes, including stone fruit, pear, lime, pineapple, honey and spice; Chardonnay the way I like it. $25.

The Reds
Bodegas Agrosol Viña Salvana 2001, Spain. From the desert Almeíra region in the southeast, a delicious blend of Monastrell (Mourvèdre), Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon; ripe and intense, dominated by blackberry and blueberry. $8.

HMS Rex Goliath Pinot Noir 2001, California. Good acidity and nice fruit make this Central Coast bargain one of the more appealing Pinots for under $10; a mix of berry and cherry fruit, touches of spice and vanilla; not complicated but very tasty. $9 or less.

Côte de l’Ange Côtes du Rhône 2003, France. This gem from the southern Rhône, mainly from Grenache, benefitted from a hot summer and is bursting with fruit while still lean in structure; jammy, with raspberry and strawberry notes; exceptional at its price. $10

Ghislaine Barthod Bourgone “Les Bons Bâtons” 2001, France. First-rate Burgundy at a moderate price; light in color with beautiful, concentrated Pinot Noir fruit; cherry, blueberry, plum, hints of orange and minerals; a wine that will impress your guests. $19.

Grgich Hills Napa Valley Zinfandel 2001, California. Even for those who don’t usually go for Zinfandel (too big? too alcoholic?), this one is a model of balance and elegance; ripe dark berry, plum and cedar, with good acidity. $29.

Carter Cellars Napa Valley Merlot 2001, California. The ‘01 was just beautiful, with its fruit-orchard aromas and raspberry, cassis and chocolate notes; one of the year’s very best; the bad news: it’s sold out; the good news: the ’02 has been released, though in limited amounts. Call the winery at 707-444-8062 for information. $38.

Edward Deitch's wine column appears Thursdays. Write to him at

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posted November 23, 2004 10:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 1stPlayer   Click Here to Email 1stPlayer     Edit/Delete Message
I have a 25lb turkey! My work gave us free turkeys and for some reason I felt like I had to get the biggest one available... really dumb!

My question is defrosting and brining this thing...

Some people told me that it needs to start defrosting tonight in order to be ready for cooking on Thursday... I was planning to take it out of the freezer on Wednesday morning. Advice?

I'm planning to brine it in a cooler, unrefridgerated. or should I put ice in the cooler also?

And is there any special cooking advice for such a big turkey? I've only cooked 12-16lb turkeys in the past, never a 25 pounder.

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posted November 23, 2004 11:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for JennyCoates   Click Here to Email JennyCoates     Edit/Delete Message
Start defrosting it now. To prevent bacteria growth, the turkey must be kept at a temperature below 40F. 40F to 140F is the danger zone. So defrost in the fridge.
There is really no difference with cooking a larger turkey. You want to cook it for about 20 minutes per pound, then let it rest for about 30 minutes before carving.
I would throw a little ice in the brining water. Just increase the amount of salt in the brine a little to allow for the extra water that will be created when the ice melts. Although if you start with really cold water, and you have a really good cooler, you shouldn't need to use ice. Ice in my coolers takes days to fully melt.

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posted November 23, 2004 03:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fantine   Click Here to Email Fantine     Edit/Delete Message
To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.
--La Rochefoucauld

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posted November 23, 2004 03:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 1stPlayer   Click Here to Email 1stPlayer     Edit/Delete Message
Thanks for that advice Jenny! It's exactly what I needed. Bless you!!!

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posted November 24, 2004 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mollyglover   Click Here to Email mollyglover     Edit/Delete Message
White wine with Turkey? Which one?

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posted November 24, 2004 10:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for VladTheImpaler   Click Here to Email VladTheImpaler     Edit/Delete Message
Dry Alsatian Gewertz, Natch!

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posted November 24, 2004 11:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Which wine to go with bird... here ya go!

The bottle and the bird

Strategies to find the right Thanksgiving wine

By Jon Bonné
Updated: 11:44 a.m. ET Nov. 11, 2004

Thanksgiving is a time for friends and family, and wine shops are packed in the days beforehand. That does not make it an ideal moment for wine.

To put it charitably, turkey — to say nothing of green bean casserole — does not make for the best wine food.

There is a tradition of serving zinfandel on Thanksgiving, presumably to celebrate a truly American holiday with a traditional American wine. The deep fruitiness of red zinfandel may balance cranberries and other harvest fruits, but it also overpowers some Thanksgiving meals. (There's also that thing about zin's ancestry in Croatia and Italy, but let's leave it alone right now.)

Plus, as Paul Roberts, of the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., puts it: “Zin is that horse that’s been beaten to death.”

You have a wide array of other options, including many wines beginning to overtake zinfandel as a holiday choice.

We consulted a few expert palates for wisdom on matching the bottle to the bird. While choices from around the world are plentiful, you can still find a perfect match that celebrates American winemaking.

Pinot noir from Oregon and California is the big winner, and the growing Thanksgiving choice among wine lovers. Among white wines, pinot gris is a winning match and starting to gain ground on gewurztraminer, often the popular pick for its off-dry balance.

Incidentally, it’s also a perfect time to expose your extended family to wines they might not otherwise try. Aunt Ruth might well be a pinot fan in waiting.

The pinot pitch
Dan McCarthy of Seattle wine merchant McCarthy & Schiering also largely dismisses zin — “too tannic” for turkey, he says — in favor of pinot, especially pinot gris.

The sole exception? If you’re serving a hearty stuffing with sausage. Indeed, McCarthy has told customers to start by considering their stuffing. (That’s dressing, if you live in certain sectors.) Oyster stuffings are likely to need a white wine as they impart their flavors to the bird, while a meat-based stuffing can handle a red.

He also targets wines between $8 and $20, since hosts are buying more than usual: “Since it’s family, people don't really want to spend a whole lot.” There are plenty of excellent, entry-level domestic pinot noirs to be found in that range.

Roberts, wine and beverage director for Thomas Keller’s renowned restaurant, also touts pinot: “If there's one food dish with pinot noir, it's roasted bird.” He singles out wines from Carneros, the small district striding the border of Napa and Sonoma, for their bright bing cherry and spice. For slightly bigger, bolder tastes, he endorses syrah and some of the more refined syrah-grenache based blends typical of both the southern Rhone and, increasingly, California and Washington state.

For whites, gewurztraminer gets a nod, as do lighter chardonnays (no big oak) from Anderson Valley or Santa Barbera in California, or Macon in France.

For his own table, Roberts is eyeing magnums of that most belittled of reds: Beaujolais. While it has more of a reputation as a hamburger wine, the clear fruit of its gamay grape matches sweet Thanksgiving foods without overpowering it. Bottles of the praised 2003 vintage are still circulating. “They’re more akin to Burgundy, and they're relatively cheap,” he notes. (He means that as a compliment.)

Big and bold
Michael Wild, executive chef and owner of BayWolf Restaurant in Oakland, Calif., lays out a somewhat different strategy.

Like others, he finds Thanksgiving the right time (one of the few, in his case) to pay heed to domestic wines. But he bypasses pinot for big, bold reds, specifically those from top Washington producers like Leonetti and Quilceda Creek. Some of the bigger Washington syrahs will also work. (Given the steep price tags on these wines, it’s very lucky to be one of his guests.) These are not wines to be drunk immediately, and Wild generally serves eight- to 10-year-old vintages.

“Under ordinary circumstances, they’re not wines I would find easy to drink, especially with turkey,” he says. “But for that holiday, when we’re drinking for an extended period of time, the richness of the wine doesn't get tedious. It’s not a time when I like to drink lighter wines.”

Wild banishes hard liquor from the house for the holiday, and often starts with a bottle of Champagne.

Roberts also recommends a sparkling starter, with a twist. He recommends that you decant the wine (you're already crying heresy) and serve it in a full wine glass. The effect is to reduce the intensity of bubbles, which allows drinkers to focus on the quality of the wine's flavor and enjoy it more as the opener to a long, pleasant meal.

There’s more to consider about sparklers (and Beaujolais). We'll revisit them as we edge closer to the holidays.

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posted December 01, 2004 03:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
New York hotel offers $10,000 martini

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Drinkers might want to keep a clear head when ordering a martini at New York's historic Algonquin Hotel or they might pay $10,000 for that cold sip.

The landmark hotel, where famed wit Dorothy Parker and fellow literary lights at the Round Table imbibed, offers a $10,000 martini, complete with a loose diamond at the bottom.

No one has ordered one yet, in the martini's first week on the menu, but the hotel hopes some romantic soul will buy one any day now.

"We haven't had any buyers yet, but a lot of people are talking about it," said Anthony Melchiorri, the hotel's general manager, on Wednesday.

The drink is designed to fit with tradition at the Algonquin, where Round Table members including Parker, writer Robert Benchley, playwright George S. Kaufman and "The New Yorker" magazine founder Harold Ross gathered regularly.

Today, Parker's ode to the martini adorns hotel napkins: "I love a martini -- but two at the most. Three I'm under the table; Four, I'm under the host."

Parker's response to the $10,000 martini might be mixed, the manager conceded.

"I think she would like the idea so long as she'd get to drink it," he said. "I don't think she'd care about the diamond, but she'd care about the martini."

Fear not, the manager added, no one can really order the martini by mistake.

The tipple requires 72 hours' notice, and buyers meet with a jeweler to select a gem and with hotel staff to ensure the cocktail is delivered to the right table.

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posted December 07, 2004 07:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Hardee's Monster Burger Creates Uproar

By JIM SUHR, AP Business Writer

ST. LOUIS - At 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat, Hardee's Monster Thickburger couldn't escape notice in these diet-conscious times. Or the jabs of late-night talk show hosts.

Just a day after the Monster's rollout Nov. 15, Jay Leno quipped on "The Tonight Show" that the megaburger "actually comes in a little cardboard box shaped like a coffin." On David Letterman's "Late Show," an actor playing the chief of Hardee's corporate parent, CKE Restaurants Inc., in a sketch clutched his chest, then keeled over when asked of any health risks of a burger that size.

Media outlets from Japan, Spain, England, France and Australia have reported about the Monster.

"I don't think any of us anticipated anything like the media uproar we've seen," says Andy Puzder, the real president and CEO of California-based CKE.

But the word-of mouth advertising, coming on top of a new ad campaign, has had just the impact the company wanted. People have just had to try the Monster. All of it.

"You can certainly say it exceeded all my expectations," Puzder said of sales, although he declined to offer specifics.

The fuss is all about a super-supersized burger — two 1/3-pound slabs of all-Angus beef, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese and mayonnaise on a buttered sesame seed bun. The sandwich alone sells for $5.49, or $7.09 with fries and a soda. The combo packs more calories and fat than most people should get in a day.

A Monster Thickburger bought by a reporter Monday at a St. Louis Hardee's was presented appealingly enough, wrapped neatly in light paper and standing a whopping 2 1/2 inches tall inside a box. But the double-pattied behemoth, bought as part of combo with French fries and a drink, stretched the mouth and stomach, too much for the reporter to absorb in one sitting.

Hardee's timing is interesting; McDonald's, Wendy's and other rival fast-food giants are offering salads and other lower-calorie fare. But Hardee's appears comfortable staking its future — at least near-term — on gargantuan burgers.

Hardee's already was offering five sandwiches with 1,000 calories or more, and eight overall that have more calories than what was once the big-burger standard — the 560-calorie Big Mac.

Still, the company has plenty of competition when it comes to big-calorie sandwiches. According to the corporate Web sites of the larger fast-food chains, the Double Quarter Pounder with cheese at McDonald's has 730 calories and 40 grams of fat, the Burger King Double Whopper with cheese (1,060 calories, 69 grams of fat), and the Wendy's Classic Triple with cheese (940 and 56).

"Not every product has to be aimed at the health-conscious," Puzder said, noting that since the introduction of the Thickburger family in April 2003, sales for the 2,067-restaurant chain have risen steadily.

Though CKE fell to a loss in the second-quarter ending Aug. 9 — given charges for settlement reserves and debt refinancing — the company said sales at its Hardee's and the Carl's Jr. chains rose in the four weeks ended Nov. 1 for the 17th straight reporting period.

Edwin Depke, 80, a retired box company worker who has long loved the Thickburgers, was won over by the Monster at a St. Louis Hardee's.

Calories schmalories, he said.

"They're big and thick, with all the trimmings," Depke said. "You don't have to worry about all bun and no meat."

"They're really good. Eat one, and you don't have to worry about another. It's a meal."

Still, many have questioned Hardee's approach at a time when airlines say America's growing waistlines are hurting their bottom lines, costing them more in fuel.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based advocate for nutrition and health, dubbed the Thickburgers "food porn," the Monster "the fast-food equivalent of a snuff film."

"At a time of rampant heart disease and obesity, it is the height of corporate irresponsibility for a major chain to peddle a 1,420-calorie sandwich," the center said.

Lighten up, others say.

"Let the food puritans say what they will," the Star Tribune of Minneapolis said in an editorial. "There's nothing really wrong with counting the occasional juicy burger among life's simple pleasures."

"The promotional campaign has relied so heavily on humor that it seems possible to take the Monster Thickburger itself as kind of a goof on the fast-food industry's belated and rather lame, lawsuit-driven trend toward healthier menu choices," the newspaper said, asking "does anyone who savors a good green salad really think McDonald's or Subway is the place to go?"

Chase Squires, a St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times reporter, tried the Monster Thickburger and found it "kind of mushy," opining in a column Nov. 23 that there were healthier food options. Holiday air travelers, he suggested, should go lighter on the airlines and "have a stick of butter instead. That has only 800 calories and 88 grams of fat. We could always wrap it in bacon."

Puzder has the stomach for such dissent.

"We want Hardee's to be known as the place for big, juicy, decadent burgers," he says. "Every time (comics or critics) come out with something, it helps us advance the impression of the brand. This all helps."

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