Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wines of the Tour de France Stage 2: Domaine de Gioielli Cap Corse Blanc & Jan Bakelants
From LeTour: Jean François Pescheux's view
Expect some real damage: "Initially, there will be plenty of hoopla around the yellow jersey: whether it's Cavendish or Kittel, we should expect the race to unfold in exactly the same way, and the same goes if Sagan has it. That's because this second stage is a real rollercoaster ride: the Col de la Serra and Col de Vizzavona, followed, at the end, by the Côte du Salario. If you ask me, this parcours is going to cause some real damage! The sprinters will bail out one after another. I even think a team leader who is not in the best of condition ? I'm thinking of how Evans was last year ? could see all of their hopes dashed on this stage, before sinking altogether on the stage that follows, on a course where it will be even harder to hide away..."

I lead today with the stage profile picture because the rollercoaster-like aspect of it should make for an interesting day. Can the pure sprinters hang on or is it a day for the classics type riders?  We shall see. To my amazement, Tony Martin started the stage after his crash yesterday. From the crash he had a "concussion and a contusion on his left lung. He also has soft tissue damages on his hip, chest, left knee and shoulder, and also on his back. Furthermore, he has a very deep wound 5cm wide on his left elbow that reaches his muscles, which causes a lot of pain and a problem moving his arm.” Never let it be said that bike riders are not tough.

My Podium Cafe Stage Predictor picks of the day are a mixed lot because I just could not decide how the day would go: Gilbert, Sagan, Boasson-Hagen and Mark Cavendish. 
Some thoughts from Cav on twitter to start the day:
MarkCavendish 2:07am via Twitter for iPhone
I'd love an explanation from @UCI_cycling as to why time was neutralised on yesterday's stage, but not points. Were only GC riders affected?
MarkCavendish 12:25am via Twitter for iPhone
A bit upset after yesterday's finish, but have to count myself lucky compared to some guys who crashed hard. Feel so bad for @tonymartin85.

The likely doomed break of the day: David Veilleux (Europcar), Blel Kadri (AG2R), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel) and Lars Boom (Belkin). They dangled for quite a while and with just about 100 km to go had a gap of three minutes.
Meanwhile, Corsica continues to be gorgeous.
On the road, with about 80 km to go, the gap had been cut to 35 seconds. Would they catch them and risk further breaks or let them dangle? Dangle it turns out and eventually splitting. And from the field an attack from Voeckler. Although he ends up going nowhere, expect to see similar attacks from Voeckler in the days to come.

mrconde 6:45am via Web

Ha! Thomas Voeckler been last man in the peloton all day long. Now he attacks. Typical Voeckler.. #tdf

In the peloton, the sprinters are indeed being dropped, including both Cavendish and the race leader Kittel. 
inrng 6:47am via Web
Marcel Kittel dropped too. Many being left behind now after FDJ set the pace in the bunch. Being dropped so early makes it hard to get back

Very quickly the gap to the grupetto/autobus grew. Perhaps the Orica-Green Edge bus from yesterday could join them?
mrconde 6:57am via Web
Group with Kittel & Cavendish 2½ min after the peloton. #tdf

Ahead, Pierre Rolland reaches the King of the Mountain point first, followed by Kadri and Brice Feillu at 21 seconds, the main peloton at 31 seconds. Kittel's yellow jersey group was more than six minutes behind, with Cavendish even further back.

Rolland caught by the peloton, 45 km to go #TDF

35 km to go, group with yellow jersey is 6.35 behind the peloton #TDF

 Under 20 kilometers to go and the main peloton was still all together.
Race coming into Ajaccio now. Fast run through the town and then a sharp right-hander away from the sea front to start the Côte du Salario
Then came the predicted attacks on the climb:
Flecha caught now, Gautier almost. Sky leadin the chase. Attack by Froome! #TDF

Froome was fairly quickly caught, but fun to see. Heading towards the finish, Sagan seemed the clear favorite, but would there be another surprise? Cross winds and a small group ahead on the road made things more confusing as teams did not want to help Sagan's Cannondale chase. 
inrng 8:17am via Web
5km to go and six riders away. Not many teams left behind to chase, Cannondale looking tired. Garmin-Sharp fighting for yellow

 A dog on the course scared everyone for a moment, but it was able by inches or so to run off. Dear race attending dog owners: Please keep your dogs on leash. 

A surprise indeed as a lone rider from the break held off the rapidly charging peloton. 

Stage and Yellow: Jan Bakelants

2011  Domaine de Gioielli Cap Corse Blanc 
From Dig Wine $30.00

From the importer, Kermit Lynch: Cap Corse, a largely isolated and thinly populated peninsula at the top of Corsica, sits like a finger pointing up at Genova, its former colonial ruler. The Genovese landed on the Cap in the 14th century and from there soon conquered the entire island. On the Cap, they left an indelible mark on the land, building towers on the cliffs overlooking the sea to watch for other invaders. One Genovese in particular, Monsignor Doria, from one of the most illustrious families of the Genovese Empire, landed in the Cap and settled in a cove not far from the sea, creating an estate he came to call his “Gioielli” or his “Crown Jewel” in the dialect of the time. A villa was built in the middle of the hills which form a natural amphitheatre and on which vines and olives were planted and flourished.

Several centuries later, with the Genovese long since expelled, the towers they built left  crumbling (such as the one on the domaines label), and the Doria estate abandoned and in ruins, a young Corsican by the name of Michel Angeli moved in and reclaimed the land. Michel is from the nearby city of Bastia, but moved out to the country with his family to escape the bombardments of the city during World War II. It was then in the countryside that he found solace as well as finding the forgotten piece of land called Gioielli. After the war he took cuttings of Vermentinu and Codivarta from neighboring farmers, some Niellucciu from Patrimonio and some Aleatico from nearby Elba Island to replant his slopes. His first harvest was in 1952 and Gioielli was reborn, much to the delight of the local seafaring and fisherman population, who have remained loyal clientele ever since.

Little has changed at the domaine since it began, and it is still Michel who works the vines and makes the wines on his own as he has done for nearly six decades. The tourist buses do not stop at Domaine Gioielli—in fact, it is very hard to find. Angeli never intended to make his wines known beyond his neck of the woods and never exported anywhere, not even to mainland France (!) before meeting Kermit. Since the beginning he has paid little attention to the outside world, uninterested in the new technologies and fads that have afflicted so many other domaines. His wines have a timeless sense of place, much as the one who makes them, a wise, gentle, true artisan who lives for his métier.

From DigGioielli means "Crown Jewel," and Michel Angeli has run this ancient estate at the northern tip of Corsica since 1952. Made of Vermentinu, his Cap Corse Blanc is all about minerals, smelling of salty sea air, tasting of citrus and white rock. Superb with all kinds of sea creature.

I say: Light in color. Salt and minerals when tasted on its own. I probably should have followed the advice above and served with sea creatures, but a gray June day in San Francisco had me craving meatloaf. Though, a lighter meatloaf than I often make: beef and pork from 4505 Meats, polenta bread from Della Fattoria soaked in buttermilk, carrots and onion from our Mariquita Mystery Box and arugula. The pairing worked much better than I would have expected, bringing out an almost tropical note in the wine. Pineapple maybe?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wines of the Tour de France Stage 1: Domaine de Marquiliani Rosé de Sciaccarellu & Chaos
If you are not familiar with how I blog about the Tour, please see this post for more info on my style and wine pairing rules. Along with my daily pre-stage thoughts, I'll also be including a preview paragraph from the race director. Note that his thoughts were written well in advance of the race start. This will be followed by my own daily preview, a live-blog style write up of the day's action and, at the end, the day's wine.
From LeTour: Jean François Pescheux's view
"Why isn't there a prologue? Quite simply because we wanted to take the fullest advantage of Corsica, the only region of France that has never previously welcomed the Tour de France. With that in mind, we've put together a first stage of 212km that runs through magnificent countryside: we will start off by heading to beautiful Bonifacio! There's little doubt we will also start with a win for a sprinter. This is a golden opportunity for the likes of Cavendish, for example, to claim the yellow jersey. I'll remind you that the previous road stage "openings", at Plumelec and Les Herbiers, finished on the top of hills, which favoured the puncheurs. Here, the advantage lies with the pure sprinters."

This year is the 100th edition of the Tour de France, so this year the race is taking place completely within French boundaries, though they have left the mainland for three opening stages in Corsica. The opening days of the Tour are, as has been said many times, not always the days on which the race is won, but an early crash could make them the days the race is lost. Thus, lots of nervous riders in the peloton. Rather than a prologue, this year starts with a sprint stage, which immediately launches the expected to be very exciting battle for the green points jersey. Much like the red jersey I wrote about so often during the Giro, this is a competition determined by points at intermediate sprint points along the route and at the end of the stage. Sprinters get more points for finishing first at the end, than at intermediate points. As I was during the Giro, I'm rooting for Mark Cavendish. More on this to come later in the race.

My Podium Cafe Stage Predictor picks of the day:  Cav, Sagan, Kittel and Greipel. 
From twitter:
MarkCavendish 2:22am via Twitter for iPhone
The day I most look forward to every year with my job: The start of @letour. Looks like a bunch sprint today on Stage1 in Corsica. Allez!!

Bikes on the road and the first conclusion of the Tour is that Corsica is lovely. Plus, Cav's British champion kit makes him easy to spot in the OPQS train. The first break of the race: Flecha, Boom, Lobato, Cousin and Lemoine. With about 130 km remaining, their lead reached three minutes. They are not working very hard though. Indeed, as they reach the feed zone, their lead had dropped to just over one minute.
mrconde 5:44am via Web
Flecha is a wise man. He sees the break doesn't get away for good and tells the others to stop. No need to waste energy this early. #tdf

inrng 5:49am via Web
Break sits up. Jerome Cousin presses on with the combativity prize in mind

 But then the break reformed. A bit odd. With 100km of racing remaining, Cousin had 30 seconds over the chase and 3'10 on the peloton. Cousin was caught by that chase group and they gained and maintained a gap of about four minutes for quite a few kilometers. 
As they approached the intermediate sprint point, it had dropped slightly:
70km to go, 2'47" gap #TDF

 At the sprint point, Boom passed Flecha to take maximum points. In the field: Greipel, Cav and then Sagan. 
And then, well, chaos started. So much chaos that I had to stop writing and instead stare at the tv. 
From Podium Cafe: With very little time left in the race, the team buses rolled past the finish line, but the Orica-GreenEdge bus, apparently the tallest of the lot, got stuck under the finish line banner, a steel scaffolding contraption. And by stuck, I mean it couldn't move. The bus had managed to raise the banner, destabilizing the finish line scaffolding, and the causing the organization to evacuate the immediate area. For some time, with the bus not moving, a scramble ensued to determine where the stage would finish. First it was at 100 meters. Then it was moved to the 3km mark, on the theory that there was a camera on hand to sort out photo finishes. But that line was set just around a tricky curve in the road, an utterly dangerous place to stage a sprint.

Bus remains stuck under the finish banner. Maybe if enough middle-aged men stand around at stare at it, that'll solve the problem.

Same situation was an Encyclopedia Brown case. Let air out of the tires.

As @gagedesoto notes, buses need to be kept out of bike lanes. #tdf

Well, this is the first day of the next 100 years of the Tour de France. #tdf

Panic ensued, but eventually, the bus was moved and the finish line reverted to the original spot. 

Meanwhile, a crash with about 5km to go eliminated Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan from the sprint -- Sagan went down, while Cavendish got blocked. A Radioshack-Leopard rider leaned into Omega Pharma-Quick Step's leadout man Gert Steegmans, knocking him over and taking down Sagan. Andre Greipel seemed to have survived the chaos, but was seen a couple minutes later standing next to his malfunctioning bike. Orica-GreenEdge's Matt Goss, probably the next biggest favorite, went down in the final turn from a touch of wheels.

Kittle survived to win the day, but the bigger news would be the injuries caused by the crash.  More on that sure to come. All riders, by the way, were given the same finishing time.

Stage and Yellow: Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos - Shimano

White background to emphasize the pale color
Wine: If this is Corsica, it must be a Kermit Lynch wine. Although it is certainly possible that someone else is importing Corsican wine into the US, I haven't heard about them. So today, the first of three KLWM wines to open the Tour. 
From Dig $28
From the importer, Kermit Lynch:

The village of Aghione is not far from the old Roman capitol of Corsica on the eastern coast of the island, poetically known as the Costa Serena. Flanked against the Corsican Mountains where the flats begin to rise into the hills, this small village of 235 inhabitants is just as celebrated today for its sulfur springs, olive groves, and vineyards as it was thousands of years ago. The enduring legacy is no coincidence—cool nights, high altitude, and the soil help the grapes retain their freshness and allow for a slow, even ripening. The terraced land of Aghione is a mix of schist and granite gravel with silt that has descended from the mountains over the last ten thousand years.

The Amalric family has farmed Domaine de Marquiliani since the 1950s, nearly twenty years after the two hundred-year-old domaine was destroyed in a fire and abandoned. The Amalrics bought the property and replanted the vineyards. Daniel Amalric earned great recognition for his wines, as he was the first to plant Niellucciu and Syrah on this side of the island. In 1995, he was joined by his daughter, Anne, an agricultural chemist who had returned from mainland France to take her place at the family farm. Initially, Anne put her energy into planting olive and almond trees. Her determination has not been in vain, as Domaine de Marquiliani’s olive oil is widely regarded as the best in Corsica. Recently, Anne has turned her focus back to the vineyards, which are well-rested after a long hiatus. She still works side-by-side with her father and is quick to credit him as her guiding light in the vineyards and the cellar. In spite of her modesty, Anne has become a success in her own right. Her wine made an instant impression on Kermit, who raves, “Drinking her rosé is like drinking a cloud. There’s an absolute weightlessness to it. Nothing is left on the palate but perfume.”

Dig says: Anne Amalric's superb rosé blends 92% Sciaccarellu with 8% Syrah from 40-year-old vines planted in 1964. Imagine strawberries crushed over slate, such is the balance of fruit with schist and granite soils in a wine that is at once elegant and yet strikingly mineral in nature.  

I say: One of the palest rosés I have seen. Delicate, with hints of lemon and strawberry, yet the wet stone lingers. One of those "Hey, wait, wasn't there more left in my glass?" wines. K says "Smells like lemon and strawberries." Given how delicate this wine was I expected it to have faded by day two: instead, it remained fresh and vibrant

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wines of the Tour de France 2013

It is that time again. This year's race kicks off Saturday, June 29th!

After lots of research and much help, my spreadsheet is full and I have started pre-drinking wines. Unlike previous years when the Tour has included stops abroad, for this 100th edition, the race will stay in France, albeit with three opening days in Corsica. Almost all wine this time, though both a cider and sour cherry liqueur are on my list. Special thanks this year to Christy at FranklyWines for her her sourcing wines from some of the more challenging regions.

The full route map:

As I've mentioned before, I have some rules:
I started this project to force myself to drink different wines. As much as some might imagine the best plan of attack to be the so called greatest wines from each region, budget is a reality so representative or interesting is a more realistic goal. Some wines may be more expensive than others, but these are wines that are readily sourced now and almost always under $50. 

In case you haven't followed along before, the rules. Note that these are my rules and any inconsistencies or quirks are my own.

1 For each stage of the race, drink a wine that comes from the closest region to either the start town, finishing town or actual route.
2 Each day, publish a post describing both the days race action and the accompanying wine.
3 The cycling portion of the race will be written as it happens.
4 In cases when the stage takes place in non wine-growing regions, find an alternate local drink. Beer, cider and hard alcohol are typical substitutes.
5 Some pre-drinking is allowable, to avoid 7 a.m. wine tasting, but all wines must be consumed no more than three weeks before the start of the race. Thus, wines tasted at trade tastings in January do not count. 
6 However, wines purchased at an earlier time, that I have in my so-called cellar, are perfectly acceptable if they pair with the route.
7 The final day in Paris is paired with either Champagne or a wine from the race winner's home region.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Apricot Chutney

First, you pick the apricots. Of course, you can buy apricots at your grocery store or farmers market. But, if you have a place to pick, why not? Especially if you have a willing assistant. On Wednesday, K and I headed out to Brentwood with our canning buddy, Lisa. 
Several hours later, after a trip to The Farmer's Daughter, where we had picked apricots in the past, we had about 25 pounds of fruit, mainly Blenheim apricots, but a few peaches and nectarines mixed in as well. 

Wisely this time, we decided to leave the canning to the next day. That break gave us a chance to ponder recipes and buy necessary ingredients. As you can see way below, it also gave us the energy needed for a busy day: two types of apricot chutney, apricot syrup and bourboned apricots. 30 jars in all!

The recipe below is one that we have made several times. 
A couple of notes: 
  1. This chutney makes a lot of what I have decided to call chutney juice. Even though you do reduce, at the end of an hour's reduction time, we still had enough extra to can several jars. I plan on using them to cook pork. If you prefer, you can continue to reduce further, but an hour was long enough for me.
  2. You do really want to keep your jars warm in the oven while this reduction is going on.
  3. The first time we made this chutney we were very disappointed in the sharp and vinegary taste. I put it on my canning shelves and left it for about 6 months. When I finally opened it, I loved it. So if possible, plan on letting this jars rest for at least a month if not longer.
A visual look at the recipe, as the ingredients are added to the pot:
First the chopped onions
Next the sliced apricots



Ready to remove the apricots for the syrup reduction
Chunky Apricot Chutney
From Sensational Preserves by Hilaire Walden

6 3/4 pounds ripe apricots, halved and pitted
2 cups raisins
3 onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
3 teaspoons coriander, crushed
3 3/4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
6 tablespoons sea salt
4 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3 3/4 cups white wine vinegar

Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and boil, stirring occasionally, until the apricots are completely soft but not disintegrating.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apricots to your jars. Keep warm, in a low oven.
Boil the remaining liquid in the pan until it becomes a thick syrup. We have done this numerous times and each time it surprises me how long this will take. Once thickened, and we waited an hour, ladle into your warm-apricot filled jars. Finger seal the jars and boil in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Store for at least one month, (longer is better) before eating.
Yield: 10 1/2 pint jars chutney plus 3 pint jars of what I am calling chutney juice. 

As I mentioned we had a few other projects going as well. The results:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bachelor's Jam Update & A Vinho Verde Contest

Apologies for being somewhat quiet. I'm in the midst of prepping for my annual Wines of the Tour de France. The good news is that I have finalized my wine selection. Now: to research and drink!

Plus, school is out for the summer and K and I are hard at work on a few Cooking from the Books with K posts. If I tell you that the first one involves blueberry pie, can you guess the book?                                                                                             Progress continues on my Bachelor's Jam. Recent additions have included more strawberries, plus some stone fruit, along with more sugar and vodka. I'm debating cherries or blueberries as my next addition. I'm trying to get as much variety now before the blackberries ripen in the garden and I'm tempted to add them daily. Maybe I should try a second, all-blackberry version?

If you read back a little bit, you can read about a press trip I took to visit the Vinho Verde wine growing region in Portugal. The area was lovely and it was a great opportunity to taste the variety of wines produced from sparkling to rosé to the often rustic reds and of course, the better known whites. 

Just in time for summer, the Wines of Vinho Verde organization is sponsoring a Passport to Vinho Verde promotion. This promotion features tastings in San Francisco, New York and Chicago. plus a contest to win a trip to visit.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bachelor's Jam

Starting with Strawberries

I've been meaning to make Bachelor's Jam for a few years now. First there was the recipe in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. Then an article in the New York Times T Magazine, followed by one on Serious Eats. Finally came this article, again in the New York Times, by Melissa Clark, with a mention of my canning habits. Despite the multiple reminders and the ease of the recipe, I somehow failed to make any. But this year, I've started and will update the progress here, as I add more fruit to the crock.

Highly recommended
From the New York Times T Magazine article: "In a large, nonporous, nonreactive crock or jar with a lid, layer chosen fruit with sugar and spirit. For each pound of fruit, add 1 cup fine white sugar. Add spirit to cover by an inch or so, beginning with 6 to 8 cups, and making certain all fruit is submerged with each successive layer. If necessary, you can weight the top layer with a plate. Do not stir as you build the layers. When mixture nears the top of the crock, cover securely and place in a cool, dark spot for six weeks minimum, and preferably several months. When ready to serve, stir together gently once." 

 I'm starting with strawberries as they do in the River Cottage Book recipe. Strawberries are very good right now and it is very possible that I may have over-purchased at the farmers market last weekend. I'm also using vodka simply because I had an unopened bottle and thought that it would be a change of pace from my usual canning choices of bourbon and rye. 

Oolong is the feline master of the photo-bomb.
Day one: I put one pound of strawberries. stems removed, but otherwise whole into my crock. I covered the berries with one half of a pound sugar and let them sit for two hours before adding four cups of vodka. I then covered the crock with the lid from a saucepan and put it aside to wait for the next addition.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Boozy Sour Cherries: Three Ways

Sour cherries are generally available at my favorite farmers market from one vendor, on one Saturday each year. Which means that if you happen to out of town that week as I was two years ago or you sleep in as a friend did yesterday, you miss out. Last year, I "ryed" all of my sour cherries and water-bath processed them for shelf stability. Although the flavor was excellent, processing softened the cherries, giving them a less than optimal texture. This year, I decided to try three variations: Luxardo, rye and bourbon. 

Luxardo, as the producer's website says: is one of the very few liqueurs in the world produced by distillation. It is obtained from the marasca, a sour cherry variety exclusively cultivated by Luxardo. The distillate is allowed to mature for two years in Finnish ash vats (this wood does not lend its colour even after many years of maturing), and is then diluted and sugared. Maraschino Perfume is typical of marasca distillate, with an excellent intense aroma, fine and well amalgamated, without any aggressive note. The Maraschino taste is smooth but sharp, a sweet liqueur unusual for the punch of the distillate, which can be clearly perceived in spite of the moderate alcohol content. A rounded taste and a surprisingly persistent aroma.

Using Luxardo to preserve cherries makes a grown-up maraschino cherry that is perfect for many cocktails. Even better, it is easy: wash and sort through your cherries, removing any leaves, place them in a large jar and cover with Luxardo. As they are not processed, keep them in your refrigerator and allow at least a month to let the flavors develop. As I said, easy!

Rye-ing or bourboning sour cherries requires only one additional step: a little bit of (optional) sugar in each jar. Recipes I have read call for everything from no sweetener at all to 3/4 cup for each 2 cups of alcohol. The amount really depends upon your taste. You can heat the sugar and alcohol to form a syrup, or simply add both to your jars and shake to combine.