Category Travel

Wine with Flowers: Boston Flower and Garden Show

Interested to experience the wines at this event, as I arrived the first thing I noticed was the heady scent of…cedar mulch. And the chirping of crickets. And the bright blooms of tulips and azaleas: I was at the Boston Flower and Garden Show.Bost Flower Show tree & flowers  20150312_164616
Having left my house in mid-March today with four-foot snowdrifts still guarding the driveway, I was thrilled find myself suddenly transported to the middle of May at this exhibition.Boston Flower Show logo 20150312_164853
Boston Flower show landscape with stone elements 20150312_164638With all these blooms, it took some time for me to tear myself away and go over to the wine sampling area. Remember when Boston was too Puritanical to think about alcohol at public events? Luckily, that’s over. In fact, Pop Crush California wines and a Rosatello Italian sparklerare actually sponsors of the show this year. And they gave out samples. The Pop Crush red was fine, the white a bit sweet, in a popular way – acidified but pleasant. The light sparkling Rosatello rose turned out to be “partially fermented” which I hope meant that the sweetness was natural. (No reps for the wines were there to ask.)
Given the venue, I think these should be easy to sip while discussing flowers and gardens with friends. Wine by the glass is for sale at concession stands, but I’m not sure if you can wander around the exhibits with a glass of wine at the show…yet.rosatello-rose-bottle


Craft Spirits update from Tales of the Cocktail

After a couple days (and nights) of seminars, tastings and parties at New Orleans’ annual Tales of the Cocktail Conference, one can lose all sense of time. And after a few minutes in the Craft Spirits Tasting Room, one can lose one’s sense of direction too. So it’s somewhat amazing I managed to find my way all around the floor; luckily I had compiled a not-to-be-missed list beforehand.
Over at Brokers Gin, the inimitable Dawson Brothers in their black bowler hats were enjoying plenty of attention from young ladies. This gin is based on a 200 year old formula, and received an enthusiastic reception when it was first introduced at bars and restaurants.

Dawson Brothers of Brokers Gin
Dawson Brothers of Brokers Gin
Brokers Gin’s success, the Dawsons claim, is “built around barmen.” Or bar-ladies, perhaps?
This is echoed by Jim Ruane at Bulleit, who calls bartenders “our partners in chemistry.” Brand ambassadors for Bulleit present a “cheap and cheerful” approach, and have support from the many the mixologists who favor Old Grand-Dad these days. Spread across the country, brand ambassadors are out to educate the people who recommend drinks to customers – and the customers who are increasingly knowledgeable these days.
Citadelle Gin is almost the opposite: emphasizing their French origins and their “solera style” production for their Reserve 2013 Gin, made in Cognac, France. And to make the point about their botanicals, they had brought a lovely selection of herbs and spices in sealed jars — 20140718_184321though after a while, for some reason the room police made them remove all the beautiful jars from the table! In this gin, the aromas are as important as the flavors.
The well-known Leblon Cachaça also has French origins, created with a master distiller brought from Cognac to Brazil. Here at Tales of the Cocktail, Leblon representatives from Brazil explained their “simple” production process: day one, cut the sugar cane; day two, press the cane and ferment to 8% alcohol; day 3, single distillation of the spirit to 45% alcohol; then age the cachaça in the proper barrels for at least 4 months. Now they are introducing a Reserve Especial with two to three years of age. And in the future they’ll begin to use native Brazilian fruit, like the Leblon acai cachaça due here in 2015.20140718_174100

How to use Your Holiday Gift Card: Two Great Accessories for Wine Travel

If you’re taking a special bottle of wine to an event this year, you might want to invest in a VinniBag to carry it in your luggage. It’s inflatable and Made in USA!
With this accessory in my wheeled bag, I successfully toted wine on and off Amtrak and around New York City for the day, before arriving at my destination. (Yes, it’s a good idea NOT to juggle wine around very much, but in my case it wasn’t a priceless Bordeaux or Burgundy.)
COST: Around $25 each.
PRO: Cradled wine bottle well and did not leak; great for a really special bottle of wine
CON: Rather large thing to fit into a suitcase

Wineskin is a re-sealable bubble-pack made of durable plastic, and it comes in several colors too. If you’re traveling to a wine region where you just might bring back a bottle or two, tuck a couple Wineskins into your suitcase before you leave. It’s a safer alternative to wrapping a bottle in your dirty laundry on the way back. And it’s smaller and lighter – more of a “just in case” option.
COST: Around $10 for a 2-pack.
PRO: Thin enough to carry with you on just about any trip, and it’s recyclable
CON: Wish it was resealable – and not made in China

Travel Wars: Delsey Aero Hardcase neater inside and out

AeroGroup(3colors)Stepping out of the car at the airport, I winced as the driving sleet hit my face. Even under the overhang, the winds were whipping up the tail end of the February blizzard. My suitcase landed in an inch of slush before I could re-group and muscle it onto the sidewalk. Strangely, I felt invincible. This was the first time I used a hard-shell carryon suitcase.
I had always shied away from hard suitcases, thinking they were somehow limiting. Well, there are a few negatives to this type of suitcase – which I’ll get to later. So why did I end up with this carryon? Someone at Delsey noticed I travel and write about it and offered me a test, and I’m always up for learning something new.
When it arrived, the Aero suitcase was blue. I’m not a blue person. Suitcases, handbags, cars – I prefer everything in neutral colors, like black. But it’s actually a royal-navy blue, kind of a dark color, I rationalized. Another thing occurred to me: it would now be a lot easier to pick out my blue suitcase on a baggage conveyor belt. I wouldn’t have to crane my neck at every same-size black suitcase that went by, wondering if that was my discreet tag on the outside handle. Which brings me to a negative: there’s no slot on the exterior to slide in an ID tag. You have to have your own handle-tag to attach. And also because of the smooth exterior, there are none of the external pockets for hats, gloves, magazines that I’m used to. All those things must be shoved into that small “personal item” — as the airlines call our computer-handbags.
Inside the suitcase, it’s a whole different story. Somehow, this suitcase morphs you into a neater packer. It opens flat. On one side, you can put in neat piles of clothes, and zip them in neatly. On the other side, you fit in shoes and all your other stuff any way you want – and hold them down with the elastic snap-together straps.
Closed, the case is glossy and neat, and there is an exterior lock built in. With four wheels, the case moves nicely down airport corridors. One other small negative: it’s a bit hard to get out of the trunk, or down from the airplane bin, the way the handles are configured. I always seem to want a handle on the side where there isn’t one.
In hindsight, I don’t think I would have tried a hard-shelled case if someone hadn’t offered. But now I like it: on my first two trips there’s been snow and rain, but I felt like my stuff was more protected. More invincible. Who knew?

Live Well, Die Quickly: Olive Oil and Capers in Pantelleria

Live well, then die: isn’t that what we all really want?
Whenever I hear boasts that the latest nutrition study will show me how to live longer, I think they’re missing the point. It’s not that I want to eke out my existence to 120. What I really want is a completely healthy life, and an extremely short road to death. If I can’t spontaneously combust (my current deathwish preference) then I am adamant about spending as little time as possible on the way out of the world.
Turns out, there’s a new scientific field that has not only named this phenomenon (issue? fairy tale?) but is also working on making it happen. It’s called compressing morbidity. Not something that rolls off my tongue, but there’s a layman’s term for this concept: healthy longevity.
There are a few simple things we can do about it, I learned last week, at an Oldways symposium on the Mediterranean Diet. It was held in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, on the island of Pantelleria where I have wanted to go ever since I heard of their incredible passito wines – but that’s a story for later on. Anyhow, a bunch of us who deal in food and wine in various capacities assembled to learn how to live longer — better. We had the foods every day, too. (I think I am a little younger than when I left home last weekend.)
Olive oil and capers were the focus here, as Pantelleria is an arid windswept island, closer to Africa than to Italy — yet it’s part of Italy. Olive trees and caper plants are two of the few things they can grow here, and even so they plant them in little wells or depressions in the volcanic soil, to conserve even the dew to water the plants.
Back to the health stuff. Inflammation causes ageing. Anti-oxidants reduce inflammation. Guess what’s full of anti-oxidants? Olive oil and capers. And the anti-oxidant properties work even better when they are combined with other healthy foods. And it looks like the baby boomers are finding this out, now that the oldest have hit the critical age of 65 when you either start ageing well – or you don’t.
Exercise and stress-reduction also play a part in this. But since I’m not an expert in any of these fields, I can’t officially advise you on this. I can only tell you what I learned.
For instance, it’s great to use lower fats or healthy oils like canola instead of butter and margarine. But it’s even better to use olive oil.
• Don’t buy the finest extra virgin olive oil for cooking, it costs too much and you lose the subtle flavors when you heat it.
• Do look for a blend with some extra-virgin olive oil.
• Don’t store it next to the stove, in a bright, hot place.
• Do put the bottle away in a low cabinet when you’re not using it.
OK, that’s all for now. I’m on my way home, with a lot of sea-salt-preserved capers in my luggage right now: more about capers as soon as I get to cooking with them…