Articles About Food or Wine or Other Beverages

About the Wine We Tasted on #PatagoniaCaminada....

One of the topics we were consistently asked about during #PatagoniaCaminada was about the quality of the wines that we tasted along the way. As with the #AustralianWalkabout, we focused on drinking wines from either Argentina or Chile during the trip. In particular, we tried to focus on Argentine wines in Argentina and Chilean wines in Chile.

Malbec is king in Argentina. At least that is what you hear outside of Argentina. Our experience supports that. Now they do produce other Bordeaux type grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and some Merlot, but Malbec is the main varietal - particularly in Mendoza. We tasted a couple of wines from Patagonia, which is way south of Mendoza, and they weren't bad. But the best wines we had on the trip were Malbecs from Mendoza. It's not close. Mendoza is also at a pretty high elevation but many of the vintners use vineyards from different elevations. Interesting to see how that impacts the winemaking process and how specific wines age.

Now we also were inadvertently exposed to a white wine, which we both enjoyed known as Torrontes. It's definitely on the sweeter side but technically is considered a dry wine - not a dessert wine. For someone like me, it has plenty of sweetness. For Marc.... eh, not so much. That said, we will be sampling more of these back home.

We had a pretty good idea of where we would be tasting in Mendoza, so while trying wines in restaurants, we wanted to focus on producers that we heard good things about from our friends but not visiting onsite. After a trip to the Rhone in 2004 (where Marc had his "I get it" moment about wine), Marc and I also make an effort to focus on learning about vintners that we can get in the States without too much difficulty as opposed to trying the most esoteric wines but are a nightmare to get imported to Seattle.

We absolutely enjoyed the wines from Catena Zapata, Zuccardi (the lunch at Zuccardi was beyond epic), Achaval Ferrer and O. Fournier. Yes, these are some of the "big dogs" of Mendoza production but the wines were of high quality and very enjoyable. I don't know how much I would age them but they were tasty. And of course, all of these wines went very well with the components of an Argentine 'parrilla' - read: RED MEAT.

On the road, we tasted wines from DiamAndes, Cheval des Andes, Dominio del Plata, Salentein and Alta Vista that were standouts. Most of these, we should be able to get stateside.

As for Chile, it was very hit or miss.... more often a miss. Part of the problem is that we were in remote towns for most of our stay in that country so the caliber of the wines available wasn't super strong. That said, we feel pretty strongly about trying wines from Chile so we have already picked up some wines from a local wine shop to start seeing what we like and do not like.

While we are on the topic of wine, I found some other articles worth reading.

Marc and I have a special affinity for Greece and it seems like their wines are starting to really take shape. We need to try more of these for sure. The title of the linked article is *SO* 'The Wall Street Journal.

I still miss Dottie and John, but Lettie Teague has done well here with some myths about wine in this piece. No question is dumb, so ask if you don't know. Real professionals want to make you feel part of things as opposed to making you feel stupid.

Thinking about joining a wine club? I agree with much of these sentiments. You need to do your homework. I did enjoy the selections from Italian Wine Merchants, when I was a member of their club. It really helped me learn about the types of Italian wines that I am a fan of, plus it helped Marc learn about some of the varietals he was interested in.

The best wine club we have been a part of was from the Sonoma Wine Shop in downtown Sonoma. They customized their selections for each member and really were proactive about taking feedback with respect to style of wines you enjoyed/disliked and price point. 

We outgrew their club but we still recommend it when someone asks about learning about wine. Obviously cultivating a relationship with your local wine shop/grocery store (depending on the state you live in) also can bring great finds.

Questions? Please ask. We're not proclaiming that we are now experts on the wines of Chile and Argentina, but we are just relaying what we observed and learned.

Interesting Reads, Cooking Adventures, Etc.

It's been a busy month, thus far. Running, cooking, CrossFit, friends, quick trip to Whistler, getting ready for the JDRF dinner and helping Harvalicious with his "Barbells for Boobs" fundraiser. 

I never get around to reading as much as I would like, but found a few articles over the past 3-4 weeks that have been interesting:

I had NO IDEA that if you declare bankruptcy that pretty much every debt will be forgiven, except for student loan debt. I am not sure which "genius" decided on that, but it has the potential to stifle innovation and risk taking in America. I am all for paying your debts but this is absurd. You try and get a new start, and your student loans will always be with you (but not your credit card debt). Not good.

Fascinating read on the sequence of events that took place after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Good job, Esquire.

What a cool story about a "sommelier on wheels". Shows that you can always pursue your dream if you really are passionate about it. It would be interesting to understand what was involved in the service portion of the Master Sommelier exam. 

I am convinced that Gianni Agnelli was "The Most Interesting Man In The World" before Dos Equis came up with the moniker for their very hilarious ad campaign.

It's not looking good for the Yanks to make the playoffs. I am pretty much "anyone but Boston" at this stage, but I think it would be pretty cool if the Indians and Pirates made it to the Fall Classic. The Giants are off to a horrific start. No O-Line and a leaky defense. Not sure how Kevin Gilbride still has a job and how much more of a pounding Eli Manning can take.

Running is going well mostly. Some aches and pains, but getting through the workouts and improving efficiency.... hopefully.

Spent the long Labor Day weekend in Whistler, BC. Hung out with a good friend, golfed for the 1st time since getting the broken hand fixed and cooked some lasagne. Good times.

On the home cooking front, Marc picked up for me "Modernist Cuisine At Home" as a gift and I have been busy trying things out like "Sous Vide Pork Belly" for an upcoming dinner party challenge, omelettes, pressure cooked vegetable soup, amongst other things. It's definitely educational and I look forward to seeing how I can "up my game". Other recipes I have worked on include an heirloom tomato salad from "Down Home: Downtown", which was great, and Chocolate Pudding Souffles with Almond Butter Ganache, which was adapted from "Michael Mina: The Cookbook". Yes, you read that right - Jill baked.

We are still fundraising for JDRF (will be through mid-November) and have our big dinner on Saturday. The dinner is sold out, which is awesome. Hovering around $18,000. Thanks to all who have donated to date! Harvalicious (aka Dad) is also fundraising to provide mammograms for those who can't afford them. You can donate here! Harv is going to do a special CrossFit workout with his "box" on October 5th for the cause! More to come on this.

Food, food and some reading

I found out the other day that R.W. Apple's wife is going to be auctioning off his wine collection. I have blogged about him a bunch of times and was recently pleassantly surprised to finally find an article on Seattle that he wrote before he passed away in 2006.

In the midst of the article about the wine collection being auctioned off, I also found out that his wife is publishing a book of a new collection of more than 50 of Apple's dispatches from the front lines of food called "Far Flung and Well Fed". Needless to say, it has been added to my Amazon list.

Speaking of books on food by men who worked for the New York Times, I just finished Frank Bruni's memoir called "Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater". Enjoyed it, particularly the chapters around the cat and mouse game he had to play with restaurants while being the New York Times restaurant critic as well as what went into his review of Wild Salmon, a Pacific Northwest themed restaurant, which I actually blogged about here.

You can read about other R.W. Apple entries that we have blogged about here, here and here.

Sticking with the cooking theme, I'll point you to some of the recent creations coming from the Beck kitchen.

And finally, you can always keep track of what is going on with Purple Teeth Cellars here.

Hoping this is more like a "break"

I just typed up an entry on the Purple Teeth Cellars website about the demise of a column that has become regular reading here in the Beck household - the "Tastings" column from the Wall Street Journal. Needless to say, I am not happy about this development.

We have blogged in the past (see here and here) about one of the column's biggest contributions to the wine drinkers' community - Open That Bottle Night. People around the world celebrate it in different ways, but we do a potluck with friends at the house with everyone bringing a wine that focuses on a fun story about how the bottle was procured.

I don't see the tradition ending in the Beck household just because Dottie and John aren't writing their column for the WSJ anymore. I just hope that they are taking a break and will pop up in a new forum that truly showcases their talent for writing and love for wine.

I already know that I am making the cassoulet from Madison Park Cafe for our part of the 2010 OTBN potluck and I am darned excited about it now that I received a couple of pointers after giving it a go earlier this month! So I'll be raising my glass to Dottie and John anyway. Hope you do the same if you do some version of OTBN or have read their column or one of their books.

In honor of Dottie and John's rating system for wine, I give the cessation of the column a big, fat "Yech!" (you can all imagine what that rating means).

Pacific NW stuff, pennant races and RIP Phil

I would be remiss if I did not comment on the fact that the New York Yankees are now 4 games behind the Red Sox. On May 29th, they were 14+ games behind so this is a huge deal. As luck would have it, they are actually tied for the wildcard lead with – you guessed it – the Seattle Mariners. Looks like the Twinkies couldn’t buy a run if they tried. So that will even things up again. The Yankees have the best record in the majors since June 1st, so I am hoping that they keep up the pressure on the Sawx as well as the other contenders. They have a difficult stretch between now and Labor Day, so stay tuned to see if the Yanks are contenders or pretenders.

I have 2 MVPs on the Yanks and no, it’s not the usual suspects like A-Rod, Jeter, Rocket, Mo or Posada (although he’s up there) – my choice is split between Frick and Frack aka Cano and Cabrera. Even the usually stoic Mike Mussina has commented on their positive impact on the clubhouse with their youthful exuberance. Could this be the year that we reclaim the WS? We’ll see but after Rocket went after Alex Rios in Toronto because of the A-Rod plunking, I think there might actually be some chemistry around the clubhouse for a change and tonight’s win was a prime example of everyone contributing, picking each other up. Look for some commentary from my lovely husband on this topic, who happens to be an M’s fan – I always like to say that we have a “mixed marriage”.

In last week’s Dining & Wine section of the NYT, the Pacific NW received some prominent billing. Alaskan salmon was the topic of an article where the merits of king vs. sockeye salmon. It’s all good, let me assure you. When we were in Chicago and Iowa recently, the servers would offer salmon or halibut – also from Alaska – and we would politely decline. Why bother when you know you can get it fresh at home? Yep, we’re lucky. Or at least I am since I enjoy seafood more than Marc but there’s hope as evidenced by previous entries here, here, here and here. My folks tend to be fans of Chilean Sea Bass, which was also referenced here and here. And then the NYT reviewed Wild Salmon, a new restaurant in NYC that is focused on the bounties of the Pacific NW. My take – why do imitations? Come to Seattle for the real thing.

And yep – Washington state red wines rock if you know where to look. The winery profiled here focuses on Cabs, but there are quite a few good ones over here. Same with Oregon.

RIP Phil Rizzuto – a true Yankee in every sense of the word.

Being disconnected for 5 ½ hours allows you to….

I guess the term 'disconnected' is somewhat relative. To me, it means no internet, no mobile phone, no incoming e-mail, etc. But I guess I still have my laptop and decided to download some goodies for me to read for my 'disconnected' period. For the most part, I have been spending time in the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times catching up on articles from the past couple of weeks. You may have heard about the ongoing food coma that has been taking place since about mid-May for Marc and I. Unfortunately for me, it continues for another week.

Anyway here were some of my favorites:

  1. Cupcakes with publicists?
  2. Revolt against the chicken fingers!
  3. Bottled water does not really help the environment.
  4. And my homeland (L-AW-NG EYE-SLAND) is starting to produce some great wines. Maybe Marc and I will have to venture out?

And I save the best for last…. I mentioned during a previous post that Copper River Salmon is in season and Marc actually enjoyed some Sockeye (as opposed to King Copper River Salmon) on a recent visit to Herb Farm. So while we were dining at the restaurant, I picked up Chef Traunfeld's most recent book because it seemed more thought-out and easier to understand than his previous one. I promised myself that when we got back from our wine country trip that I would try and take advantage of it still being the Copper River Salmon season, and attempt to cook some for Marc that he would deem edible and possibly eat again.

[NOTE: About 2-3 years ago, I grilled some Copper River Salmon for Marc and he didn't appreciate it from the get-go – barely go through 2 bites – so I knew my work was cut out for me.]

I decided to go for the Slow-Roasted Salmon with Fresh Herbs recipe in The Herbal Kitchen, and picked up some sockeye based on our recent dining adventures, advice from the fishmonger and Marc's severe dislike of any real "fishy" scent. I am happy to report that he ate the entire dish and maybe even liked it? (One of the advantages of being married to "an oversized child" is that their expressions tend to be very genuine and that they don't tend to fake it if they don't like something.) Unfortunately I forgot to cut the herb sauce ingredients in half, so the sauce may have been "too herby" but I am going to try it again one more time before the Copper River season ends. Wow – halibut, crab, salmon…. Marc is really starting to get into "eating his own kind". J

Cleaning out the inbox....

We got something for everyone in this entry....

So I am actually using Microsoft Word 2007, which is part of the Office 2007 suite that was released by Microsoft a few months ago, for this blog entry. It's actually kind of cool since the editing features in Microsoft Word are way more robust than they are in Microsoft's Live Writer product, which is still in beta. If any of you use Word 2007 and blog, just go to the 'New' option and you will see an option to create a blog entry. You'll then be prompted for your blog's login information and you should be all set. J

Let's kick it off with one of my biggest pet peeves in sports (other than my team losing) – refs/umps impacting the outcome of a game with a blown call and of course, the game can't be appealed after it has ended. Well it happened tonight between a very close game between the Yankees and the Mariners. The replays showed it wasn't even close that a base runner was out (would have ended the inning), but the ump declared the runner safe. Of course, that runner scored on a broken bat single on the next play. That runner, Willie Bloomquist, offered this gem of a quote, "We'll take it. It's just a good thing there's no instant replay in baseball." Well Willie – glad you gave yourself some 'good karma'. Harv always says something along the lines of what comes around, goes around. I look forward to seeing it come around.

Refs/umps have a role in sports, but they should not be trying to steal the spotlight from the players and influencing the outcome of the game. The ump should be suspended without pay but most professional sport leagues never hold their officials accountable. Once again, Bud Selig is a joke. I guess at least we can say we split the series 2-2 with Triple A pitching and we have the Rocket coming back. And we found another young pitcher for down the stretch when all of the Red Sox pitchers get injured, as they typically do in the 2nd half of the year.

Enough of that - moving on to YCMSTU – Sports Edition, I guess it's never too soon to start bulking up your kid to be a sumo wrestler. Tanya, Greg, Lisa, JB, Glenn and Gwen – are you reading? Continuing with the sports topic, this has got to be one of the funniest videos I have seen in awhile (you have to listen to the audio commentary to get the full effect) – only Red Sox fans and announcers can create this kind of drama.

More of YCMTSU – Current Events Edition, we have found a dry cleaner that is being sued by a judge for $65 million (yes, that is US dollars). I can't even believe that a judge would do something so ludicrous given how many of them complain about how litigious our society has become.

Going back to my employer, did you all know that Microsoft hosted the Pac-Man World Championship? My mom (aka Big Yves according to my bro-in-law) used to be quite the Pac-Man player when we had it on our home computer in the 80s – an Atari 800, I believe. But her real passion was around Lock-N-Chase (scroll all the way down), a game created for the Intellivision console, which competed directly with the Atari 2600 game console.…. and BTW, Intellivision kicked the 2600s ***! When I was about 10 years old, I used the Atari 800 to help Harv out with cataloguing his sales and I guess I belted out one day something along the lines that quality (aka $/sale) was way more important than the quantity of sales. I guess it was one of those moments that made him realize that I was wired slightly different than most kids – I'm sure there were other less flattering ones as well.

Continuing on the video game theme, I hear that Sony's Playstation 2 has now been banned from prisons in the UK. Yes, you read correctly, prisons in the UK provided inmates with the opportunity to play videogames. I wonder if they will have videogames where Paris Hilton is going, since she was sentenced to jail for 45 days. Good one. Anyone from the UK want to comment on prisons having PS2s?

Moving over to another favorite topic – food. More from the UK – now this has to be riveting TV. Think I may go back to the BBC the next time I am across the pond. Just kidding, the BBC has some good programming and blows away any local news that you would find in the US.

I found this article in the NYT about how to avoid 'mindless eating' to be pretty accurate. I have no self-control when it comes to sweets. I see them, I eat them. This causes a conflict with Marc as he has a sweet tooth that is more controlled, so we have solved this by putting things in hidden locations throughout the house out of my reach. With Marc being a foot taller than me, this is not too hard. J

Frank Bruni, the lead NYT's food critic, wrote this great blog entry. It really gives me perspective as a foodie because when I was 15 years old, Shake 'n Bake with Chicken Rice-A-Roni was considered gourmet (no offense, Big Yves). As Ian likes to say, I didn't even really eat onions until I was about 22 years old and then things took off from there. I couldn't ever imagine appreciating Le Bernardin (#26 in the world – and yes, it is all that and a bag of chips) at even 22 years old, let alone the age of the students who Mr. Bruni took along for the gastronomic adventure. Excellent stuff.

It would be sad if Chumley's had to close. I have spent many evenings at this speakeasy when I lived in the Village, although looking back – the beer is awful (note Marc's influence here). It took me a long time to get over Grange Hall's closing (scroll halfway down the page). I still have not been to the restaurant that replaced it, even though I have been told it is very good. Guess I am not over it yet.

NY'ers – cutting in line in Washington State may violate the law soon. Take note for when you visit. We can't agree on how to manage serious traffic congestion issues, particularly on bridges that can fall with one major earthquake, but our legislators can focus on drafting legislation to deal with line cutters.

Some interesting things I read today...

I am one of the fortunate people at Microsoft who actually live in Seattle and work in Redmond, and can take mass transit to work with basically no hassle. This gives me about 2 hours/day to read, sleep, catch up on e-mail, etc.

I keep current on a wide variety of topics, which is a great thing, but it sometimes precludes me from picking up a book and reading it when I have time. I seem to get caught up in keeping current and with the advent of blogs, RSS readers and technology in general, it is getting tougher and tougher. I am testing out a new tool in beta from Microsoft called Windows Live Writer. If you are writing a blog, try it out and give us feedback.

That being said, I wanted to share some of the better articles I have read over the past couple of days. Probably one of the funnier ones was from this morning's WSJ talking about the new focus on the Jewish holiday, Sukkot. My favorite statement is about the Home Depot sponsoring a Sukkah building workshop for its customers in Oklahoma. No, that is not a typo.

Another one that made me smile was a tribute to R.J. Apple, Jr, a longtime correspondant with the New York Times. He loved food, he loved wine, he loved travel and he loved what he did for a living. Some people are good about sharing their tips, some not so much. While Mr. Apple was generous with his knowledge, the author of this article managed to come up with a creative way of tapping into Mr. Apple's rolodex without actually having to bother him.

Another interesting story that I came across was about a couple of inner city girls participating in the World Chess Championships in the Republic of Georgia (former Soviet Union) next week. The focus of it happens to be they not are just girls (a minority amongst kids who play chess), but also African American. I personally did not grow up playing chess, but I can see that it does a lot of good in the development of strategic thinking for kids. Best of luck to them!

I would be remiss if I did not mention the horrific plane crash in New York yesterday. No, the plane crash was not horrific because one of the people killed was on my beloved New York Yankees. Until the news came out that the pilot of the plane was Cory Lidle, I'm sure many NY'ers were concerned that 9/11 was happening again. And since there was lots of conflicting info coming out, it was hard to get at what the truth was which can be pretty unnerving after what happened 5+ years ago. Anyway thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of the 2 men who were killed yesterday.

To end on a positive note, my sister and her husband found out that they are having a baby boy in late April/early May. Another Gators/NY Giants fan in the making at the Behar house - I can feel it. Lisa, see what you can do about the Yankees making it in there - would you? :-)