Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Blueberry Pucker Conserve

At the end of the blueberry season, I bought 2 bags of pie/canning berries from a vendor at the Ferry Building, meaning to can them right away. However, life interfered and they ended up in my freezer for months. Feeling a need to clear out that space, Lisa and I met to can them. Our projects turned out to be Blueberry-Lime Jam, an in-process fermented blueberry syrup, and Doris and Jilly's Lime Pucker Conserve: link here. This is a wonderful recipe, as is, but we did modify it a bit, adding more citrus than called for in the original. We also found that it needed a much longer cooking time to gel. Perhaps because the berries had been frozen?

Blueberry Pucker Conserve

12 cups frozen blueberries
8 cups sugar
1 1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts
About 24 dried apricots, chopped
4 lemons, plus the juice of 4 more

Julienne 4 of the lemon, and juice the other 4. (Next time we will probably just add all 8).
Toss everything in a pot, stir, and turn on medium heat. Stir gently until the blueberries start to break down and the sugar melts. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil for the water bath.
 Bring the blueberry mix to a boil and cook rapidly to the gelling point, approximately 40 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on it—it will foam.
Fill jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Canning recap 2010

Sometimes you wake up at 2:30 in the morning and can't get back to sleep. Last night rather than getting up and organizing my sock drawer or giving up and reading I decided to try to list from memory everything that we had canned in the past year. I missed a few, but it was a reminder that I had been meaning to do a recap of our projects of 2010. So I've made a list and despite checking it twice, feel like I am missing things. Is it really possible we did not can green beans this year? Perhaps that is why I have none left. But it seems like we must have. Ditto for the pickled cauliflower. But, not according to my notes. So, the list below. By the way, this weekend I have 10 pounds of frozen farmers market blueberries to deal with. Suggestions welcome.

In roughly chronological order with stars for my favorites:

Blood Orange Marmalade with Port
Orange Marmalade with Rosemary
Orange Marmalade with Whisky post here
*Pickled Carrots Pretty colors even
Pickled garlic and green garlic
Pickled cipollini, green and pearl onions. alliums
Pickled asparagus
*Pickled beets: yellow with herbs and red with herbs and red wine
Kumquats with Mint
Pickled rhubarb and rhubarb syrup rhubarb
*Bourboned and brandied cherries A favorite
*Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam (twice)
*Plum Jam
Pickled mango
Zucchini Cornichons
Lots of apricots: apricot chutney
apricot jam with amaretto
*apricot jam flavored with their kernels,
apricots with alcohol (brandy and Qi)
apricot syrup (a lovely by product of the alcoholed fruit) Jam recipe
Crushed tomatoes
Peaches: Jam
barbecue sauce, relish
*Blackberry-peach jam. Masumoto tree share
Tomato sauce (twice)
More pickled carrots
*Another favorite Pear Buddha's Hand Butter
Two variations: The first had two vanilla pods and the seeds scraped into the mixture from one of the pods.The second had 1 teaspoon cardamon and remaining zest from the Buddha's Hand.
Honey pears
Pepper Relish

Monday, December 20, 2010

Birthday Pork

I have birthday issues. I like to think I am a relatively well-adjusted person, but I am a bit stark-raving-mad-crazy where my birthday is concerned. I think it has something to do with having had parents in retail or maybe those childhood combo birthday-Christmas gifts. To be honest, at this point it does not really matter why. I fully admit that I am completely irrational around December 17th. This year was not any different. After oh, six months, of whining about the upcoming birthday (Seriously, a certain author  has emails from June), Alice Feiring suggested that rather than continuing to sulk, I throw a dinner party. It was a very good idea as the process of party planning would both distract and focus me. So that same morning I sent out emails extending an invitation. I ended up with 10, including my best friend Amy who flew up from LA to help me prep.

The question then became what to eat and drink. After asking several people for champagne advice and taking a test of sorts, I ended up with a truly lovely bottle of Billiot 04 for me to drink while cooking (thanks Hiram). It was so good, in fact, that noticing my joy, Amy graciously opened a bottle of cremant for herself. Rude, a bit. But it was my birthday and she did insist.

But what were we prepping? Well, bread, cheese, salumi, arugula salad with home pickled beets, green beans with shallots, scalloped/gratin potatoes (thanks K/O) and pork shoulder, along with lemon tart handmade by the eight-year-old and wonderful cupcakes from my friend Molly. Pork shoulder was a cut that had not occurred to me at all until Terry Theise suggested it in an email. Terry had suggested brining and slow-roasting and that was my original idea. But after asking on facebook, the consensus was that brining was unnecessary. After looking through my bookshelf of cookbooks, I discovered a recipe from Melissa Clark, in her marvelous In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. Of course, I played around with it a bit. The recipe is below.

But, first a note about wine. Taking advantage of my work Rolodex, I asked three wine professionals what to serve with my pork. The answers were all over the map:
1 Chianti or a not-too-full-bodied red with some acidity and earthiness.

2 the mustard makes me take it more to Burgundy, though a Saint-Jo or Crozes would work just fine.  w/ or w/o rosemary.
3 I think it kind of  screams for Riesling or an orange wine.......or a Jura white.  Or one of Jose's Canary......or I suppose, Hamel's Pinot? 

For the record, we served a Heidi Schrock Muscat, a Coenobium white, a Bonny Doon Vineyards Grenache Blanc, A La Clarine White Blend, A Hamel syrah and a Cobb Pinot. I actually feel bad for not trying the Saint-Jo suggestion, but in the last minute party prep, neglected to shop. So it was wines I had in house and also, wines from friends. Or at least one's that I had a connection to. Any guesses as to which worked best?

Birthday Pork
7 pounds pork shoulder, bone in
6 not so fat garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard (I used a very coarse mustard from Navarro)
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

Combine garlic, salt, olive oil, mustard and pepper to form a paste. Rub the mixture over the pork and transfer to a large roasting pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 and let the pork come to room temperature. Sear the pork on all sides on the stove top before returning to your roasting pan. Roast uncovered, on a rack if you remember (and I didn't), until the meat is fork tender, about 4 hours. Due to weather and late arriving guests, my pork was probably in for 5 hours. It was still moist. Let it rest at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ridge Blogger Tasting

Earlier this year I was delighted to be invited to the first Ridge Wine Blogger Tasting. That day we met at Monte Bello and did a memorable vertical tasting: Monte Bello  I missed the second, rhone varietal tasting in July, but made it to Lytton Springs for a vertical in September. For this last tasting of the year, we met back at Monte Bello and tasted both three wines that were pairings for their calling all cooks contest: Calling All Cooks and a random assortment of mystery wines. Wines that would provide letters and allow us to solve an anagram to receive a prize. With helpful hints from the always delightful Christopher Watkins, you will be pleased to know that we succeeded. Challenge explained

As those who read regularly know, I'm not much for tasting notes. Below you'll find a few notes on the wines tasted, done much in the style of the Wine Bloggers Conference live blogging session. I have to say for me one of the joys of these tastings has been the opportunity to taste so many different vintages. Even, as I said yesterday, the 02 which makes me feel a bit guilty each time, as I still have not acquired a case of birth year wine for K.

07 Monte Bello Chardonnay around 1000 cases 14.4% alcohol Some heat from the alcohol. Smooth, rounded, yeast.

08 Buchignani Carignane Northern most property in Sonoma that they work with. 100% Carignane 13.9% Pepper, acid balance

08 East Bench Zinfandel Youngest vines for their nationally distributed zins. One of the food pairings with a grilled sandwich. 3000 cases.  14.9% 100% zin. Big, fruity, some oak and tannin.

07 Lytton Estate Zin to be released next year. Labeled as primitivo. Young planting on the Lytton block. Planted in the early 2000s. 15.2 93% zin 4% carignane 3% petite sirah Sturdy, young, concentrated. Deep cherry flavors. Herbal note.

03 Geyserville Zin Beef Tenderloin pairing for their food contest Holding the deep color. Oak on the palate. Still strong tannins.  76% Zin, 18% carignanae, 6 % Petite Sirah 14.6%

02 Nervo Zin  92% Zin 8% petite sirah 14.9% 39 barrels produced Lots of tannin.  Fruit fading?

02 Lytton Estate Grenache 75% Grenache 13% Petite sirah 9% Zinfandel 14.7% Age has made it more rounded but tannins are still hanging on.

03 Lytton West Syrah  Only ever national Rhone varietal offering. Some real sweetness. 91% syrah 9% viognier 14.8%  Beaucastel clones, purchased from Tablas Creek.

07 Old School (new name for Independence School) Just released. Current ATP. 15.2% 100% zin Lots of jam, dark berry 3% residual sugar, hot year

03 Independence School 88% Zin  9% Carignane 3% Petite Sirah 15.4% Again, big, jam, deep fruit, still youthful. Need a leather chair and a fireplace.

2000 Monte Bello 75% cab 23% merlot 2% Cab Franc 13.4% alcohol Winner of "taste of Paris" rematch.

Mystery wines: Ridge Alicante Bouschet Pagani! This was a special treat brought by one of our tasting group. Three truly mystery wines. We were told only that they were from Ridge and from the twentieth century. Suffice it to say that I guess wrong. Thanks Allan! As was said yesterday, oh so pretty.
1 93
2 94
3 97

07 Essence 16.95 rs 13.5% 77% zin 23% Petite sirah  Yummy may be the best descriptor.
This would be a lovely post-holiday meal sip. After all, I have the fireplace and the leather couch.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December Can Jam-Pepper/Dried Fruit Relish

We made it! Barely, the early posting deadline this month made it look doubtful at times. But, with this post, Lisa and I made it through the year of the Tigress Can Jam, plus our assorted extra projects. I'll do a favorites post in the next week or two.

But for December, dried fruit:

From the Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving:

1 c. diced sweet red pepper
1c. chopped dried apricots
3/4 c. chopped onion
1 apple, peeled cored and chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 Tbsp. minced candied ginger
1/4 tsp each, cinnamon, mace and salt
1/8 tsp cayenne

Combine all ingredients except spices and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and boil for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add spices and cook for about 15 minutes (recipe calls for 5 minutes, but peppers gave off a lot of liquid and needed to cook down a little).  Note:  we doubled the recipe to make 5 jars.

Ladle into jars and process for  10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Rye-sis

When I decided a little while back to have a rye tasting with friends, I did not realize that there was a rye shortage. Even though I read about it nations_bartenders_battle, I did not take things seriously. That is, until I realized I had one week until our scheduled rye tasting and none in the house. K and I ventured forth the day after Thanksgiving in an attempt to buy a few bottles. Suffice it to say, 5 stores in, she coined "rye-sis," to describe the look on my face as we repeatedly came up empty or were presented with less than appealing choices.

Regardless, I persevered as did my invited guests on Friday night we had ten ryes to taste. In the tradition of many a wine tasting, we not only used a spit bucket, but tasted from lowest to highest proof. I took my typically mediocre notes. After tasting them straight, there were several Manhattan variations tried. I will admit to giving up on the note taking by that point. Tasting notes below, in tasting order, not in order of preference. if you've tried any of them, let me know in the comments below.

Pikesville: The cheapest rye and it tasted that way. $13.95 Thin and bitter.

Old Overholt: Stronger flavors, more rounded with some fruit notes. At $15, a good bet for cocktails.

Michter's: A real disappointment. Deeper color, a minimum of 36 months in oak. A good rye, but at $45 it should have been a lot better.

*Redemption: Not only had I never had this rye before, but I would not have even purchased it if I had not been stressed out about a need for more variety. Also, it had a nice label. This was lovely and fruity and quite different from any of the others in the tasting. Made into a Manhattan with a mild vermouth, it was almost a different drink than the expected Manhattan. At around $30 a very good deal.

*Sazerac: Deeper color, less burn with wood spice. $26.99 Very smooth and rounded. Makes a very good Manhattan.

*High West: My favorite from my last mini-Manhattan tasting. $47.99 Less sweet, lots of spice, some vegetal flavors. Combined with Antica vermouth, it made for an almost perfect Manhattan.

ri1 (Rye One) $42.99 Nice fruity nose, but a bit of a medicinal aftertaste.

Old Portero $55 Very woody. Others liked it a lot more, but my notes read: Everything I don't like to find in a red wine.

*Rittenhouse 100: To be fair, this bottle arrived with only about a 1/3 left and had been open for a while so who knows what it tastes like when fresh. But, I sure did like it. Very smooth, rounded. $20. This would be my regular rye, if I could find it anywhere.

Wild Turkey: $18.99  Did this one suffer from being the last tasted? Probably. But the strongest notes were of burnt plastic. I wonder if I can cook with it?

Now, anyone want to join me for some rye?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Apple and Bourboned Cranberry Cake

I should have a picture. I know I should. But with all of the general holiday craziness, I forgot. This recipe was inspired and really, only slightly altered from a Dorie Greenspan recipe featured in this David Lebovitz post: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/11/dorie-greenspan-french-apple-cake-recipe/
K and I tested it over the weekend and as it was a hit with both of us, decided that with a modification or two it would be perfect for a holiday table. Our changes are few, but as I am a lazy baker, we skipped a few of the standard steps, choosing to essentially mix everything in one bowl. The main change was the addition of almost 2 cups of bourbon soaked cranberries. These has actually been soaking away for several months infusing bourbon. Rather than tossing them, it seemed a great addition to the cake. It does make it rather boozy so if you are cooking only for kids you may want to omit them. Note that I would soak overnight or really, as long as you'd like.

3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 cups bourboned cranberries
3 apples

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.
2. Heavily butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, sugar, vanilla, and butter.
4. Core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch pieces, and combine with cranberries.
5. Fold the apple cranberry mixture into the batter until  they’re well-coated and scrape them into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top a little with a spatula.
8. Bake the cake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples or cranberries are stuck to it.

At the Thanksgiving table this was served with a simple caramel sauce and salted caramel ice cream with whipped cream on the side , but it is also lovely served plain for breakfast.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Canning Book Review Part 1

Part one because the rest of the books we use regularly are at my canning buddy Lisa's house. On twitter recently, the topic of the best canning books came up. I must admit that is a tricky question for me. As I sit here today, I have 6 books in front of me and I know that Lisa has at least as many and probably more at her house. Part of that is that I am a book person. That said, though, we have not found one book for all of our projects. I also find that the more we can, the more we alter recipes, taking care to maintain safety practices such as acid levels proper processing times, etc. We'll find a idea or flavor combination in one or more of our books and then experiment.

Just a note on buying canning, or any other books, before I start. As some of you know, my mother owned an independent bookstore for over 35 years. I strongly believe that if you have a good independent bookseller in your community, you should support them or soon enough they may no longer be there. Personally, I buy most of my food books from the wonderful Omnivore Books, located just a few blocks away:  http://omnivorebooks.com/  Call or email them and they are happy to ship. I'm including Amazon links here because I know that many are not lucky enough to have such a store nearby and that many stores stock only one or two canning books.

That said, on with the books:

Despite my thought that one book is not right for everyone, if I had to choose one book, it would without a doubt be The Ball Complete Book of Preserving. http://www.amazon.com/Ball-Complete-Book-Home-Preserving/dp/0778801314/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290355806&sr=1-1 I was skeptical of this book at first. After all, Ball produces the canning supplies many of us use and I assumed that their book would be dull and rather uninspired. Much to my surprise, it is both our most used general resource with excellent charts and a glossary and a source for both classic recipes such as the much loved Dilly Beans, but also more creative ones like Peach Barbecue Sauce and Cherry Chutney. The other plus of this book is that it features both sweet and savory items and includes multiple variations for many of the recipes. I can't imagine canning regularly without it.

Eugenia Bone's Well-Preserved has gotten a lot of worthy praise. http://www.amazon.com/Well-Preserved-Recipes-Techniques-Putting-Seasonal/dp/0307405249/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290357353&sr=1-1 The joy of this book is twofold, one the small batch emphasis makes it much less intimidating for a beginner and second, she includes recipes based upon the preserves. This is very helpful for people like me who one day realize that they have an entire shelf of marmalade and no idea at all what to do with it. Two of my favorite jams are based on recipes from this book: Apricot-Amaretto and Strawberry-Balsamic. I've also used her crushed tomato recipe with good success. Although much more limited in scope than the Ball, I think this is also an excellent beginner book.

Even before I started canning regularly, I had a copy of Jan Berry and Rodney Weidland's Art of Preserving on my shelf from my days spent working at Ten Speed. http://www.amazon.com/Art-Preserving-Jan-Berry/dp/0898158958/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290357674&sr=1-2 At the time, I wanted a copy simply because it was pretty. Now that I can, I've found that the recipes are both well-written and creative. Favorites we have tried from this book include Cranberry Gin, Blood Orange Pomander Brandy, and Apricot Jam with Kernels.

When I first asked a baker friend of mine for book suggestions she immediately said Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber http://www.amazon.com/Mes-Confitures-Jellies-Christine-Ferber/dp/0870136291/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290356554&sr=1-1 A French jam maker living in Alsace, Ferber has a lot of fans for her creative and commercial pectin free recipes. Her combinations are extremely appealing. But, most recipes call for a 2 day process. And I am a lazy canner. So rather than using her recipes as they are, I have found that I tend to take her ideas and use them with simpler recipes found elsewhere. But as a jumping off point for flavors and as an inspiration, it is a delight.

I have been a fan of many of the volumes in the River Cottage series and was delighted to learn that Ten Speed was bringing out American editions of some of them, including the Preserves Handbook. http://www.amazon.com/River-Cottage-Preserves-Handbook/dp/158008172X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290356965&sr=1-1  Much like the Ferber, this is a European book that is a joy to simply leaf through. The illustrations are lovely and the instructions are clear. There is also a good reference section. For those of us who like to can with alcohol there are some simple and appealing recipes. The one difficulty with this book is that you may find yourself on a quest for hard to find ingredients like currants and gooseberries.

My mother sent me a copy of Carol Costenbader's Preserving the Harvest a few years ago. http://www.amazon.com/Big-Book-Preserving-Harvest-Vegetables/dp/1580174582/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290358032&sr=1-1-spell  I have to say that I don't think we have used a single recipe from it. But what I like is that it is a useful reference not just for canning but for freezing, drying and other methods of food storage as well. It also includes nutritional information on all of the recipes, which is both unusual and would be incredibly useful for anyone on a restricted diet.  If I had a pressure canner, and one is at the top of my holiday wish list, I'd be making the cranberry lime curd for holiday gifts.

More to come. . .

Sunday, November 14, 2010

There's an App for That

I'm beginning this post sitting in the living room of a two bedroom cottage on the grounds of Jordan Winery. Gas fire glowing in front of me, tea from the breakfast delivery in hand, I'm staring out the window at the oak trees in the rain. And, well, trying to blog. As a certain friend would say, sometimes life is not bad.

Saturday morning I drove up to Healdsburg to meet friends for the 12th Annual Wine & Food Affair "Tasting Along the Wine Road," a weekend of wine and food pairing in the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys. Complete event info located here: http://www.wineroad.com/annualevents/2.
As I had afternoon plans, we were able to visit only a few of the participating wineries and I'm sure I missed some highlights. First off for us was Pedroncelli as Deb and Nat needed to pick up their wristbands and glasses there. They offered a Sauvignon Blanc with a leek and goat cheese tart
as well as port with truffle

Next up we went to Kachina, a winery I had not heard of before.
They were featuring Cabernet with a Braised Pork Shoulder with red Redyed Gravy and Cornbread, which was a nice dish, but with a bit more sweetness than I thought optimal for the wine. They also had a port with truffle

Then to one of my favorites, Ridge for  a Syrah/Grenache Blend with a cannelini bean soup with duck confit. Although I enjoyed the wine, I thought the  07 Lytton Springs which is just lovely right now, was a better pairing. But that may simply be that I am really have with where the Lytton is right now.

The Deb suggested Sonoma Cutrer which featured some of the loveliest croquet courts I have ever seen. had I not been in a hurry, I would have played a game. There pairings were some of the best of the day with an 07 Russian River Pinot and  Wild mushroom tart and 06 Les Pierres Chardonnay: Smoked Scallops with Lemon Aioli. We also snuck inside for a taste of the 98 Cutrer and it was interesting to see how a California Chardonnay can age. 

Last stop for me was Twomey where they were featuring 4 different pinots, Santa Barbara, Russian River, Sonoma Coast and an Anderson Valley paired with Pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter, walnuts and sage

Deb and Nat then dropped me off so I could rush to to check in at Jordan Winery http://www.jordanwinery.com/ as I had been lucky enough to be offered a stay in one of their guest cottages for the night. Upon arriving at the Winery, I met up with my friend Lorraine who had driven up to join me. Since we were running late, my fault this time, we headed out for the tour before checking in to our cottage. Our group of five, including a sommelier from Seattle and a woman from the Berkeley Rep, set out on a tour of the grounds. First stop was the new wood burning oven out doors with views overlooking the kitchen garden and olives trees below where we learned that three-quarters of their acreage remains dedicated to natural habitat.

We then headed inside to see the production facilities. First stop crushers and bins, with the smell of the newly harvested grapes in the air. Second stop, automated tanks, that the winemakers can check remotely on their iphones. As Lorraine said: "There's an App for that." Next up, we admired the oak barrels, with thoughts of earthquake safety and learned that green marker on the barrels meant they were French. Then onto the wooden tanks, with their, as our guide stated "S&M like straps." The wine resides in these 6,000 gallon oak tanks, originally constructed in 1976, for three months followed by an additional twelve months of aging in oak barrels.

Upstairs we ventured into the library without any books, before heading through the secret door into the tasting room. On a long table we were presented with a cheese plate, with estate made olive oil. Our first wine was an 08 Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Crisp, with nice acid on the finish, it paired well with the tuna appetizer. Next up were both an 03 and an 06 Alexander Valley Cabernet. The 03 was showing well, with classic cocoa on the nose and strong fruit with structure on the palate. It was a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc and was barrel aged 12 months in 68% French oak and 32% American oak; 3 months in American oak tanks.

The 06 was young, fruit dominated at this point, but with time began to open and show its potential.  75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19.5% Merlot, 4.5% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec, it was aged 12 months in 66% French oak and 34% American oak with an Alcohol Level of 13.5%.

Lorraine and I then convoyed down to our accommodations, a two bedroom secluded guest cottage with lovely decks that made it feel almost as though we were in a tree house. Bright and airy, the cottage featured a full kitchen, living room with gas fireplace, a large main deck with a second bedroom and deck up the spiral staircase. On the table was a bottle of chardonnay chilling in an ice bucket and a fruit bowl with plums and apples sat on the counter. As the weather was still lovely, we sat outside on the deck enjoying the oaks and serenity until eventually stirring ourselves to head inside and prep for dinner with a friend.

All in all, a very good day.

Pear and Buddha's Hand Butter

For the Tigress Can Jam November we opted for pears.  Twenty pounds to be exact.  I was not excited as I have never been a pear fan. But, boy was I wrong. Our pear butters turned out to be one of my favorites of the year.

Our original plan had been pear-vanilla butter with anise hyssop per a suggestion from a chef friend. (Thanks T and K.) Unfortunately, my plant died during our extreme heat spell earlier this fall. Attempts to acquire another at several Bay Area nurseries failed. However, while looking, Lisa stumbled across a Buddha's Hand tree, with numerous fallen fruit. When she inquired whether they were for sale, the nursery employees graciously offered her the fruit for free, pointing out that they had used several for Halloween costumes. So, a new plan was made.

Pear and Buddha's Hand Butter
Significantly Adapted from Perfect Preserves by Maggie Mayhew
copyright 2005 Anness Publishing

4 lbs pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
Juice of 4 lemons
2 1/2 cups water
1 vanilla pod
3 cups sugar
zest from 1/2 of a small Buddha's Hand (smaller in the photo)

Place the pears in a large pan with the lemon juice, water and vanilla pod. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes until very soft.
Remove the vanilla pod from the pan.
Puree pears and juice in a food processor.
Return the puree to the pan, adding 3 cups sugar.
Stir the mixture over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and boil for 15 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture gels when spooned onto a cold plate.
At this point, add in the zest from 1/2 of one Buddha's Hand and stir to combine.
Add to jars, seal and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Because we had enough pears, we opted for two variations as well:
The first had two vanilla pods and the seeds scraped into the mixture from one of the pods.
The second had 1 teaspoon cardamon and remaining zest from the Buddha's Hand.

We also made one batch of pears in honey syrup.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


If you ask my daughter what my favorite food is, she is likely to answer: Stone Fruit! Exclamation necessary because at 8 the right answer is exciting. So how could I not be excited about trying Daniel Patterson's newish Oakland restaurant, Plum? Great name, talented chef, appealing menu at a lower price point than Coi, I was happy to make a reservation at Lisa's suggestion.

Arriving early on a Friday night, fears of rioting quieted by the calm outside, we were given seats at the chef's counter, featuring the heaviest bar stools I have ever encountered. For those who prefer more traditional table seating, that is available, but I will always choose the opportunity to watch the food or bar prep when it is an option. Indeed, watching the plates come out of the kitchen helped to inspire our dinner choices. Bonus point, by the way, not just for providing filtered sparkling water, but for leaving a carafe that we could have used to refill our glasses ourselves had the servers not been so on top of things. Service was excellent all night, including a waiter who not only made excellent suggestions, but offered to pair half glasses of wine to each of our courses.

But what did we eat and drink?

While waiting for our choices to arrive we snacked on complimentary rather addictive Heirloom popcorn with escabeche powder and Potato Chicarrones which were much more about texture than flavor. I found myself wishing for a sauce to dip them in or wanting some to take home for my next cocktail night.

Our appetizers were the Chickpea Fritters, essentially the best falafel one could imagine rather than the creamy panisse frites served at Frances. After watching the chef at work plating the Artichoke Terrine with Andante dairy fresh cheese, chervil, black olive tapenade, we had to order it. That was a wise choice as the barely held together terrine was perfectly complimented by the saltiness of the olives and creaminess of the piped on soft cheese.

We were also treated to the Young Carrots, which were provided to tide us over while waiting for our next course. Sweet and fresh.
Next up were the Potatoes with chanterelles, staffan's lardo, shallots and wild arugula, one of the evening's highlights. Creamy, salty with arugula for a bit of bite.

Next up were our mains: the very rich and decadent Beef cheek and oxtail burger and a truly wonderful sous vide and the grilled Pork with squash puree.

To finish we opted for the much praised Roasted White chocolate parfait, huckleberry, tarragon and the
hard to resist Burnt cinnamon ice cream. Both were excellent.

For wine we had: 
1/2 glass Domaine du Closel "La Jalousie" Savennieres
1/2 Selbach Oster riesling
1/2 Vissoux 09 Beaujolais
1/2 01 Baronia Rioja

The highlights for me were the potatoes, pork, and burger. But there were no real misses. The wine pairings worked. Service was attentive but not intrusive. And although it was not an inexpensive meal, I felt the price to value ratio was in my favor.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

World Series Wines

I know, I don't write, I don't call, I don't send money transfers. But October was one of those months. To the usual busiest month of the year at work I added a trip back East and an author visit, oysters and muscadet, champagne and more, party and all. So the blog, it was neglected.
I meant to post last week my thoughts on World Series Wines. But, clearly, too late for anything for a recap. As I, and others suggested to Jon Bonne when he asked on twitter, I felt the plan was to match wines to pitcher.  Jon had other ideas and went orange. http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/jonbonne/2010/10/28/how-to-toast-the-giants-with-orange-of-course/

But for me:
Game 1 Tim Lincecum meant something quirky.  For me La Clarine Farms Viognier. Slightly different, local and even orange. I've had this wine before, and as I discussed on twitter with David McDuff, was disappointed to discover that this bottle had opened itself a bit on the rack and lost, well, quite a bit.

Game 2 Matt Cain A wonderful pitcher who has both not gotten run support and has been a bit hidden behind Lincecum and his 2 Cy Youngs. For me Ridge Lyttom Springs. A consistent winner that sometimes gets lost in all the talk of the glory that is Monte Bello

Game 3 Jonathan Sanchez I admit it, leftover Ridge and a Manhattan. Between the pre-Halloween craziness and the pizza bowling party, I was up for nothing more.

Game 4 Madison Bumgarner Halloween night. The plan was for something young and promising but the reality another Manhattan and another visit to the LCF Viognier.

Game 5 Lincecum again and back to La Clarine for syrah. A winner for a wonderful game.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pickled Carrots with Habanero : Can Jam October

Or carrots can be fun in colors.

I should write about Blohgher Food (great people, Manhattan cravings, goody bags of great size) or my recent trip to NY (more great people, much champagne, 2 a.m. fried chicken, pig roast) but the Can Jam deadline looms, as does the need to scour my entire apartment in preparation for an author party next weekend. And how that happened, well, don't let your daughter's correspond with your authors. 

This month's Can Jam assignment was peppers. So, we did carrots. Because I was out of them. And because I have been traveling and was too tired to make the hot sauce I had originally planned for this month. The carrots are, however, flavored with habanero. For those who may be intimidated by canning, this is a great beginner recipe. One of the quickest and simple out there, it nonetheless, has been a repeated hit. Feel free to use 'regular' orange carrots if your market does not have many colors available.  Note that if you are using bolder colored carrots, I recommend not peeling to preserve their colors.

10 pounds multi-colored carrots, cleaned and quartered

1 quart cider vinegar
1 1/2 quarts water
1/8 cup salt
1 T honey

Add to each jar before filling with carrots
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black pepper
1 sprig thyme
1 (or more) slices habanero

Place spices in 12 pint jars. Add carrots until very tightly packed. Meanwhile bring vinegar, water, salt and honey to a boil in a small saucepan. After brine comes to a boil, ladle over already packed carrots and finger seal. Process 15 minutes in a water bath canner. 
These can be enjoyed right away, but will only improve with time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Leflaive Tastelive

When Craig Drollett from Frederick Wildman mentioned on twitter the possibility of a Tastelive event with Patrick Leflaive from Maison Olivier Leflaive, I think it took all of 30 seconds for me to dm him asking if I could join is. Because really, when presented with the possibilities of:
Puligny Montrachet 2008
Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “Clos St Marc”
Meursault 2008
Meursault 1er Cru “Charmes” 2008

Why would anyone not be excited?

Participating bloggers were:
Amy Cleary: University of California Press (Hey, that's me)
Bryan Calandrelli: Water Into Wino
David Honig: Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine
David Witzel: Feisty Foodie
Dennis Attick: Decatur Wine and Food Dude
Jeff Lefevere: Good Grape
Joe Roberts: 1WineDude.com
Lenn Thompson: New York Cork Report

My favorites were:
for tonight: Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “Clos St Marc”
For the future: Meursault 1er Cru “Charmes” 2008

More to come. . .

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New York Times

Indeed. And isn't life sometimes strange? A little more than a week ago I had a phone interview with a New York Times journalist about a story she was writing about "Booozy Fruit." Check out the article, with a quote from, well, me here:


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tomato Sauce

First a couple of unrelated notes:
1 Things that happen on twitter: Furmint Day is coming up on 10/23. Suggestions more than welcome.
2 I don't write for the UCPress blog, but take a look there for more on what is going on in our office, including the Twain autobiography and some mentions of my titles as well including Reading Between the Wines, the book reviewed by my mother earlier in the summer. http://www.ucpress.edu/blog/?p=11231
3 Serving my daughter home baked bread with homemade jam makes me feel good.

Now, onto the tomatoes!

Indeed, 40 more pounds for sauce and juice. And more company in the kitchen: today we were joined by Molly and Valeria, along with Molly's daughter Daisy to hang out with K. Which is a good thing because with their long processing time and lack of cupfuls of sugar, tomatoes are not K's favorite thing to can. Last year we made our sauce with San Marzanos from Mariquita. Sadly, they are yet to be available, so we used 2 boxes of their Early Girls along with a third case Lisa picked up at the market.

The sauce we made is very basic. We do this so it can be personalized at home whether by adding sausage or mushrooms or olives. The recipe below is adapted from one we learned at a tomato class taught by Happy Girl Kitchen several years ago. Their sauce calls for quite a few roasted red peppers and after experimenting we decided we liked a more basic and versatile sauce.

Tomato Juice and Sauce

40 pounds tomatoes, blanched, peeled and roughly chopped
4 T olive oil
4 cups chopped onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
Herbs of choice, minced finely to taste We used basil, thyme, and oregano

Blanch, peel and chop tomatoes. Place in a non reactive pot, probably several, and bring tomatoes to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes until juices release.
To make juice, skim off juices with a ladle and strain. Fill jars and finger seal. Process for 35 minutes per pint or 40 minutes for quarts.

To continue with sauce, add chopped onions to a pan with olive oil. Continue to cook until well cooked down. Add garlic and continue to saute, until onion is translucent and garlic is fully cooked. Add herbs and cook until heated through. Add to sauce and continue to simmer until well combined. Continue to cook until sauce is at desired consistency, 2-3 hours or so. Ladle into jars, finger seal and process 35 minutes for pints or 40 minutes for quarts.

We ended up with 12 pints of sauce, 51/2 quarts of juice.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sept Can Jam

Another month that starts with a confession. This year we have canned cherries, plums, apricots and peaches. So when stone fruit was announced as the September Can Jam assignment, I knew that I was not going to do a new project, but, instead, cheat and write about something from earlier in the year. It is not that I don't love all of our stone fruit creations, but after 40 pounds of apricots, 50 pounds of peaches, 20 pounds of cherries and some fine scrapes from the tree climbing involved in the plum jam, I have enough jars to get me through the year.

So this is a recipe from last month's peach extravaganza. I have large blackberry bushes in my backyard. So large that along with having as many berries as I can eat, I end up freezing many pounds of berries for use later. Last year later included blackberry "cheese," gin, and jam. This year it has already led to blackberry lemonade and the recipe below: Peach-Blackberry Jam. I have in mind some sort of blackberry-lime creation later in the year, but am open to any suggestions.

Peach-Blackberry Jam

8 cups peaches, skins removed and roughly chopped
8 cups blackberries
4 cups sugar
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 box Pomonas Pectin

Make calcium water with packet included in Pomona's pectin by combining 1 t calcium powder with 1 cup water. Shake well to combine.

Combine the peaches, blackberries and 16t calcium water sugar in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add lime zest/juice and stir to combine. Meanwhile combine sugar and 12t pectin powder. After the fruit mixture reaches a boil, add sugar and pectin, stirring vigorously. Continue to simmer until jam beings to gel. Test for a set by placing a teaspoon of jam onto a very cold saucer, leaving to cool then pushing the jam with your finger to see if it wrinkles up: even if the wrinkle is only on the surface and faint, the jam really should be done (and don't forget it will set more in the jar).

Fill jars with the hot jam, wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies

School morning breakfasts can be tough. Neither of us likes cereal and milk very much. I’d like to be the sort of mother to get up each day and make scrambled eggs or pancakes or waffles, but that rarely happens. Katie would happily eat Greek yogurt and honey every morning, but she is a very slow eater and on days when we are running late, we need something a bit quicker. I tend to make muffins and pancakes in batches and freeze for easy reheating in the morning. Right now we have both peach muffins and multi-grain pancakes in the freezer.

However, this past week Katie read in a book about a girl who has oatmeal cookies for breakfast. I have seen many recipes online for oatmeal breakfast cookies. So we played around a bit and found a cookie that may not be for everyday, but for those rushed mornings, just about perfect. Note that I used steel cut because we had them in the house. This makes for a crunchy cookie, which we both like but some my find odd. For a more traditional texture use rolled oats.

This recipe is based on one from Smitten Kitchen that can be found here:


½ cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
½ t vanilla extract

¼ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour

½ t baking soda
¼ t ground cinnamon

¼ t nutmeg
½ t salt
1 ½ cups oats
¾ cup dried apricots (chopped roughly)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Per my lazy baking ways add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix until combined. Stir in the oats and combine well. Add dried apricots and mix until incorporated .

Scoop the cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Note that if you use rolled oats, baking time will be significantly less. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reading Between the Wines Book Tour Schedule

SUN 10TH: NYC -appearance at Union Square Wine & Spirits; reading, signing
MON 11th: NYC - dinner at Craftbar, co-sponsored by Chambers St W&S.
TUE 12th: NYC Early evening book appearance at Chambers St W&S.
Late-night pig-roast book party at Terroir.
WED 13th: BOSTON dinner at Menton
THU 14th: VT dinner at The Pitcher Inn, Warren.
MON 18th: MINNEAPOLIS dinner at Alma
TUE 19TH: MADISON, WI dinner at L’Etoile
WED 20TH: CHICAGO -luncheon at Trotter’s.
SATURDAY the 23rd SAN FRANCISCO West Coast Live
Ferry Plaza gig in the afternoon
MONDAY the 25th LOS ANGELES. and back for a book gig at The Wine House.
TUESDAY the 26th Chez Panisse dinner
WEDNESDAY the 27th Coi dinner.
THU 28TH SEATTLE book dinner , place is as yet unknown.
8TH: BIRMINGHAM, AL. dinner at Highlands
9TH: CHARLESTON, SC. Dinner at McCready’s

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lemonade Stand

To my delight, it has been a cold summer in San Francisco. While the East Coast has has had warm days again and again, we have rarely gotten above 70. Yesterday, however, it got to be either 98 or 99 or 103 in SF, depending upon which source you believe. Given that this is a city that lacks air conditioning, it was hot as hell.

Mid day a tweet came out:
I need to recruit a six year old to have a perpetual lemonade stand outside the shop here. That, or I'll just do it myself.

That was followed quickly by:
@alphaprep Great plan! I bet you could get @educatedpalates daughter Katie to do it!

Soon enough a plan was made. At 2 pm this afternoon K and I manned (girled?) a lemonade stand outside of Omnivore Books. Powdered mix was, of course, not a possibility. We ended up with fresh squeezed lemonade, blackberry lemonade and homemade chocolate chip cookies. To my surprise, the cookies were the most popular.

But I wanted to say a few words about the blackberry lemonade. Because it seemed to confuse people. As I have mentioned before, we have a large number of blackberry bushes in our backyard. Enough that by this point in the season, my hands and lower arms are well scratched. I look like I have been in a fight with a non-domesticated cat and have lost. Last week, I even managed to get a thorn in one of my toes.

Blackberry lemonade was developed for a party last year. It creates the pinkest lemonade I have ever made. The recipe is simple enough, make your favorite lemonade and add frozen blackberries. The liquid turns pink and the berries help to keep the drink cool. Perfect for a summer tea party with a group of 8 year olds, but also interesting enough for adults. Also recommended with added bourbon post sale.

K, by the way, is ready for another stand. Anyone want to join her?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More peaches

After our peach canning day Sunday I came home with a full flat. Given that they have a tendency to ripen in bunches, it soon became clear that simply eating was not going to work. I'm home this week with K, a situation that always leads to baking. Yesterday, apple-blackberry pie and blueberry bread. Today pancakes and for our peaches:

Peach-Cinnamon Muffins(the lazy way)
Note that these are not the overly sweet, cake like muffins you find out these days. If you like a sweeter, cakier muffin you can add more sugar and use just white flour.

3 T melted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 t cinnamon
3 teaspoons baking powder1 egg
1 cup milk
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups peaches, chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Put muffin papers in a 12 compartment tin.

Mix together all dry ingredients in a bowl or mixer. Most recipes suggest that you then combine all wet ingredients in a separate bowl before adding them to the dry. I confess, I just added them straight to the bowl. Stir together until combined, but still somewhat lumpy. Add peaches and stir until just until mixed. Spoon into muffin tins and bake approximately 25 minutes until muffins are lightly browned.

We like to freeze these so they can be part of an easy school day breakfast.

Yesterday's pie made a great breakfast today.

Monday, August 16, 2010

When life gives you Peaches

Make jam. And barbecue sauce. And relish. And blackberry-peach jam. And still have 2 flats of peaches to enjoy during the week.

This year my canning buddy Lisa went in on a partial share of a Masumoto Elberta peach tree. http://www.masumoto.com/public/adoption.htm She picked on Saturday, bringing home around 50 pounds of peaches, both Elberta and then another, more red-fleshed variety that we did not know the name of.

Sunday, joined by Randy who had won a day of canning with us in my daughter's school fund raising auction and my mother, who was in town for a rare visit (and pictured here), we decided on four projects. First up was an overnight traditional peach jam. Second was a peach relish, with onions, tomatoes, and spices that was oven cooked. Third, peach barbecue sauce. Our fourth project was my favorite of the day, a peach-blackberry jam (pictured) featuring berries from my backyard that I had been freezing as they ripened.

I'll include the recipe for the barbecue sauce here (the orange pot in the picture below), but let me know in the comments below or email if you would like any of the others.

Peach BBQ Sauce
12 cups finely chopped pitted peeled peaches
2 cups finely chopped seeded red pepper
2 cups finely chopped onion
6 T finely chopped garlic
2 1/2 cups honey
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
4 t hot pepper flakes (less if you are very spice sensitive)
4 t dry mustard
4 t salt
1/4 cup bourbon (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except bourbon. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. reduce eat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens. We found that it took an hour for us to be happy with the consistency. Note that this sauce will still be slightly chunky. If you like a thinner, more traditional sauce, you can puree all or some in a blender.
Ladle into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process jars for 15 minutes.

While some of us cooked and chopped and processed, one of us read in the sun with a cat at her feet.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can Jam Crushed Tomatoes

And in August our Can Jam our assignment was tomatoes. II would say that I have been waiting all year to can tomatoes, but it is really since mid February when last year's share of 60 lbs ran out. Sadly though, with our unusually cold weather, tomatoes are not ready in the Bay Area. I have given up on getting tomatoes from my garden and even places like Mariquita have said that it will be September before we have a true harvest. But, I was determined, and the one week they were available scored a box of their early girls. Since I knew we would be doing a lot more tomatoes in September I opted for the relatively quick and easy option of crushed tomatoes, based on recipes from Eugenia Bone's Well-Preserved and Ball's.

Crushed Tomatoes
20 pounds ripe, unblemished tomatoes (I used Early Girls)
2 teaspoons salt per quart (14 for me)
3 1/2 teaspoons citric acid (1/2 tsp per quart)

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Drop the tomatoes into the water, count for 30 seconds and remove. Cool by running under cold water in your sink.

Slit the tomato skins and peel them off. They should come off easily. I strongly suggest bribing an 8-year-old to help with this process. Core tomatoes and squeeze out their seeds. I was fairly lazy about this step. Place tomatoes in a large pan. I needed two for the quantity I was working with. Crush leaving some chunks. I used a potato masher and re-bribed the 8 year old for help!

Heat the tomatoes and boil gently for 10 minutes. I then removed some of the juice, which you can can and process (40 minutes) or simply refrigerate. For a woman who has never liked tomato juice, this is a revelation. It makes for an amazing Bloody Mary, especially when garnished with home pickled green beans!

Place 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 tsp citric acid in each quart jar. Ladle in tomatoes, allowing 1/2 inch head space. Wipe the rims and turn the bands until fingertip tight. Process for 45 minutes. Spend much of that time wondering why you have just not given in and purchased a pressure canner. Promise 8 year old that Mama will be done "soon."

I ended up with 7 quarts tomatoes and 3 quarts tomato juice.

The 8-year-old ended up with a trip to her beloved main library and an ice cream cone.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day of the Doon

Apologies for the lack of posting, but I have had a stomach flu. Not that it is true in my case, but I found the old joke: I am just one stomach flu away from my goal weight, running in a loop in my head. One of those weeks.
I did manage to drag myself out of bed for a memorable dinner Wednesday night with Jon Bonne and Terry Theise at Ame. Sometimes, even though you end up back in your sickbed the next day, it is worth getting up. All that I will say, and I could say a lot, is that any man willing to publicly wear a crown handmade by an 8-year-old, is a good person. Perhaps a better person than I am, as I was willing to hide said crown under the table. Instead, I have pictures to delight K.

Yesterday I attended Randall Grahm's annual Day of the Doon Event. I've been before, because as I have mentioned before, I have been a DEWN member since sometime in the early 90s. Under my maiden name at first even. Yesterday's event was at Randall's new property in San Juan Bautista. For more information on that property and many of the other changes going on in Randall's life, do not miss Jon Boone's front page piece in today's Chronicle: http://bit.ly/bjGcup The piece showcases not only the changes with Randall and Bonny Doon, but also Jon's writing talent. Randall describes the new spot as magical, to me the magic is in the possibilities. It is impossible to stand on the hill, open land all around and not imagine what could be. Seeing the first planting only intensifies that feeling.

The event yesterday featured nibbles with sparkling Riesling on the hill with a chance for Randall to talk about his plans for the property. We then walked down and visited their biodynamic compost before heading to their barn for a sit down meal. Food highlights for me we the pig and the panna cotta. Wine highlights included a couple of older vintages of Cigare, 01, 03 and 05. Our table debated our favorite. See the menu below:

It was a wonderful and warm event, with fun companions and a sense of joy and possibility. For me, a highlight was having Randall's daughter, Melie and friends put flowers in my hair. It was one of those moments when life is simply good. A day to remember.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mom on Reading Between the Wines

I generally don't write about the books that I work on here. I find that I mention many authors or occasionally reference the books in passing, but as this is not an official UC Press blog, I avoid reviewing my books. Despite the significant overlap between my work and personal lives, reviewing the books I work on here seems a bit flackish. That said, today I present a review of one of my fall titles.

First, a story. This past spring, after more than 35 years and a long run of Best Independent Bookstore awards in the Hartford Advocate, my mother closed her bookstore. Which is both a good and bad thing. Now she has time for gardening and travel and movies and all of those things you can not do when running your own store. She is even coming to visit next month! But she is also not surrounded by books all day and I know that she misses it. She also can no longer hand sell the books I am working on by explaining to her customers that it is her daughter's book. They generally got placed on the front counter for easy access.

On the other hand, she now has more time to actually read books. So, I send recommendations, mainly for mysteries and very rarely even books. But as she is neither a wine expert nor an academic, many of the books I work on are not ones she is likely to sit down on a Sunday afternoon and read. But, sometimes it happens.
A couple of weeks ago when my advance copies of Terry Theise's Reading Between the Wines arrived, several were damaged. Not too damaged to read and enjoy, but too damaged to send out to reviewers or the general public. As a former bookseller, my Mom would not be offended to receive a slightly gluey copy. She likes wine, although she herself would say that she is far from an expert. But I thought that just maybe the book would speak to her. And, well, as I said, it was kind of sticky.

So I sent a copy and waited. It turns out that I did not wait very long. As I reported a week ago on twitter, she called me at work a few days later to say that she could not put the book down. (And, no, it was not just the glue.) I asked her if she would mind telling me why. I'll paste her review below because as much as I am looking forward to more traditional reviews, this one is special.

Amy, no wonder you have such a high regard for Terry Theise. I'm reading a preview copy that you sent me of "Reading between the Wines" And, I am both amazed and delighted by his book. It's concise and poetic, charming and edgy, romantic and practical, and informative--but, not pedantic. I am loving this little book which is both philosophical and sensible. Everything that he says about wine is a metaphor about living an holistic life--awareness, appreciation, acceptance, and openness. Bravo to him and to your publisher for printing this small gem! Love, Mom P.S. It's also very funny!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stage 20 Paris!

The 2010 version of the Tour de France ended this morning as Mark Cavendish won rather easily out of the pack on the Champs Élysées. This was a repeat of Cav's rather exciting win last year. As my daughter would be happy to tell you, I yelled Go Mark or even Marky at the tv this morning.

I should probably do both a cycling and wine round up at some point. We shall see. For now, a few brief moments to remember:
Cobbles, Crashes, Fabian!
Cadel in yellow with a broken elbow, The rare George spotting (usually falling off the back),
Frenchmen winning stages, Chaingate, Vino attacking and attacking again, Any Jens! sighting,
Cav's 5 stage wins, Lance's farewell: say what you will, without him we would never have been able to watch live. So, thanks.

Yellow: Contador
Stage: Cav!
Green: Petacchi

To drink:
We end as we began with champagne. Another Alice Feiring suggestion from New Year's.

Leclerc Briant "Les Chêvres Pierreuses" Single Vineyard Brut Champagne

They say:This Champagne is composed of 41% Pinot Noir, 19% Meunier and 40% Chardonnay from a seven-acre vineyard that is the steepest of the three offerings. Perhaps the most plain delicious of the three wines; this Champagne has great fresh apple fruit, lightly toasted bread notes and good refreshing zing. It amazes me that a wine can be so distinctive and complex while still maintaining such easy going charm. A fantastic aperitif! (Gary Westby, K&L Champagne and Sherry buyer)

I say: Hard to taste champagne after 19 pies, but am hoping the bubbles will be good for me. Crisp but with some nice toasted notes.

And yeah, we tasted some pie at the SF Food Wars Pie or Die Challenge. K voted Banana Cream, I voted Sour Cherry Berry. We'll wait for results.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

stage 19 The Time Trial

Bordeaux to Bordeaux
I suppose for most non cycling fan, the Time Trial makes more sense then many of the other racing days. Each man is sent off the ramp individually and is in complete control of his own race. Theoretically you could catch the rider in front of you or be caught by the one behind, but that is not typical. Instead, a rider spends his time alone on the bike, racing a course with nothing in mind but speed. The current master of this discipline is Fabian Cancellara, the winner of today's stage and as a friend keeps reminding me, one of the best looking cyclists around. One could quibble with that, but in truth, watching him on a time trial bike should be standard training for anyone who wants to learn the sport.

Stage Winner: Fabian Cancellara
Yellow: Alberto Contaor
Green: Petacchi

To drink still avoiding red Bordeaux and celebrating I have opted for:

Château Roûmieu-Lacoste 2000

Cause, honestly I had it in the house.
They say: Belonging to Hervé Dubourdieu, Roumieu-Lacoste is a Cru Bourgeois from Barsac and offers light, complex and fruity sweet wines. Roumieu Lacoste is light in colour and full of rich aromas of candied fruits and spices on the nose with good length and sweetness on the palate. Its freshness and liveliness makes it perfect with foie gras.

I say: After canning 20 pounds of tomatoes today I needed a treat. This is it. In fact, time to drink a glass and relax. Tomorrow, on to Paris!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stage 18 Cav!

Salies-de-Béarn > Bordeaux (198 km)

At the start of the Tour, there are always a few stages that clearly appear to be for the sprinters. Today was one of them and it did not disappoint. Like most of these long, flat stages, it featured a doomed breakaway and the eventual regrouping of the peloton as they neared the finish. Today's winner, to my delight was Mark Cavendish. I admit it, I am charmed by the immensely talented, often out spoken and arguably world's fastest cyclists. One of the most amusing moments from the dull until the last two minutes was the image of Cavendish in the peloton pretending to urge the race forward, imaginary whip in hand.

Yellow: Alberto Contador
Stage winner: Mark Cavendish
Green: to my disappointment, Petacchi

To drink: Well, a traditional Bordeaux would have been too obvious. Also, something I do not keep on hand. So for our two days in Bordeaux I am going white. Tonight Bordeaux Blanc and tomorrow Sauternes.

08 Chateau Ducasse

They say: The old vines are 55% Semillon, 35% Sauvignon, and 10% Muscadelle. There is a gunflint aspect, along with citrus perfumes like citronelle and orange blossom. On the palate too, freshness, and liveliness, which mirrors the exquisite bouquet.

I say: Clean, crisp, easy.