Date Archives 2009

Blending malts with a movie

Sipping Wemyss 8-year-old blended malts seemed appropriate while watching a chick-flick on cable. “Made of Honor,” which I had fallen asleep watching on a plane so I wanted to see the end. You know Patrick Dempsey gets the girl in the end, but I thought there would be some clever plot twist that brought it about. Unfortunately not. Frankly, the Scottish guy with the castles and Scotch whisky empire looked much better to me.
Anyhow, Wemyss’ “The Smooth Gentleman” started off the film in a light, pleasant NYC mood and “The Spice King” got peatier and more complex as the scene shifted to Scotland.
It’s too bad so many people have no idea about blended Scotch whiskies and think they must drink only single malts because that’s the fashion. Sort of like trendy single-vineyard wines. Not every wine or every scotch should be “single.”

Double Cross Vodka and Chef Michael Schlow at Via Matta, Boston

Asked to create a pairing menu for the new ultra-premium Double Cross Vodka, Michael Schlow spent a lot of time thinking – and drinking, he says – and came up with a series of flavors that worked in different ways in different courses.

The vodka is light and on the pleasantly neutral side with hints of citrus and other fresh notes. And then there’s the bottle: its a thin, elongated glass brick, almost like some sort of award. The bottle is made in France but the vodka is from Slovakia, and the “Double Cross” name refers to the Slovakian flag. Lines of Slovakian poetry are scrawled on the rectangular back, with very little labeling to interfere with the product’s transparency.

Chef Schlow opened with a similarity of fresh citrus flavors in the Tuna Crudo with cucumber and lemon sauce paired with a Basil Lime Gimlet. He moved on to contrast rich, buttery Pumpkin Ravioli burro salvia con amaretti against DBlini with Prosecco, vin santo and sage.

And then a course of complements: Slow Roasted Arctic Char with roasted fennel, haricot vert and blood orange, served with a Blood Orange Martini with Fennel foam. The fennel in the food and drink both intertwined and emphasized their differences.

American Lighthouse Cookbook

In the throes of my 15 minutes of fame — hoping to stretch it a little longer. For the past few weeks I’ve been doing radio interviews, arranging book signings, etc. for my new cookbook, The American Lighthouse Cookbook. People all over the country are fascinated by lighthouses. And a lighthouse keeper was the ultimate locavore: they had to eat local because they were tied to the lighthouse 24/7. So we have a collection of seasonal menus with authentic regional dishes from 47 lighthouses on all the coasts of the United States. Yes, even Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Winetasting at 35,000 feet

I asked so many wine questions I had to come clean.
When I confessed to the crew of Singapore flight 25 I was going to the Singapore Airlines wine forum, an off-duty crew member overheard and took me through an impromptu wine-tasting at 33,000 feet — or whatever the actual altitude was. It was also 2:30 am, or perhaps 2:30 pm, depending on whether you’d changed your watch yet.
Anyhow, there I was with Faizal, who is a young and very polite air-sommelier-in-training. He took me through several whites and reds. In his experience, some wines become “dumb” or closed at high altitudes, showing much less aroma and flavor than the exact same bottle sampled on the ground. I’m hoping to find out more about this from Steven Spurrier and the other wine judges for Singapore Air in the next few days.
One of the best wines to drink in the air — especially with the spiced Thai dishes on the menu — is a Riesling from Balthasar Ress, 2006 Rudesheim Rheingau Spatlese. Its floral and fruit aromas wafted up pleasantly in the glass, and a bit of sweetness pairs well with Thai spices.Bouchard’s Beaune de Chateau 2006 Premier Cru was enjoyable with Western flavors including cheeses, though some of the aromas seemed lost in the altitude.
With hearty meat dishes, Faizal favors the Rive Barbera d’Asti 2006 Il Cascione or the Dry Creek Vineyard 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley. It was a treat for me to taste the Cos d’Estournel 1999 St. Estephe and we had an interesting discussion about what people expect from “older wines” these days. Twenty or 30 years ago, knowledgeable wine drinkers looked for these secondary developmental characteristics in “properly aged” wines; today’s consumers favor bigger fruit flavors from younger wines and perhaps don’t even understand how a wine does evolve over time because they never experience this.
Faizal and the whole crew regret recently running out of the Clos de los Siete 2007 cabernet sauvignon-malbec-merlot blend. Apparently this was a great favorite of passengers as well as crew.

Firestone reminds me of my first ever…

…Santa Barbara County Sauvignon Blanc — tasted 20 years ago and never forgotten – with its heady aromas of sweet grass meadows and herbs, its balanced body and crispness. I’ve sipped it for the past few evenings with simple and complex salads, and it holds up beautifully paired with a variety of flavors. Super-easy too, as it’s a screwcap. Firestone Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley 2008 Sauvignon Blanc