Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review: We The Eaters

 Anybody who eats, which is everybody, and anybody who cares about what they eat, which should be everybody, needs to read this book.

 An intelligent analysis of our current food system, written by a food activist, We The Eaters takes the position that we can all be better-fed, healthier and happier if a few fundamental things change on our dinner plates.

 Founder of Food Tank, a food think tank, author Ellen Gustafson claims that Americans' consumer habits "have spread fast, cheap, fat and sweet around the world." And she asserts, "we can spread Community Supported Agriculture, more rational meat eating and heirloom grains around the world too."

 Food Tank's vision is "building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters." Among recommendations Gustafson makes in the book for a better dinner plate and a better food system worldwide: buy local and regional, think fair trade and low impact when you buy global, remove hidden corn from our diets, avoid "diet" foods, cut added sugar, avoid commercially produced soda and processed foods, quit fast food, reduce waste, and grow something edible.
We The Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World by Ellen Gustafson; Rodale Books, $24.99

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hard Cider: Not a Hard Sell

Hard cider is a fast-growing segment of the beverage market these days. After little exposure to this delicious, satisfying and low-alcohol beverage, I was suddenly given the opportunity to taste it everywhere I went in the last year or so. I tasted it in Southwest Colorado at a weekend festival, in France with Bretton-style galettes (savory crepes), and in Germany at Christmas market stalls. My latest taste of hard apple cider was three bottlings of Devoto Orchards cider from Sebastopol, California, once mostly an apple and plum growing region that has undergone a big change -- nearly all the land once used for orchards is now covered in vineyards.

Handcrafted, small production ciders like those from Devoto Orchards -- where Stan Devoto grows more than 100 certified organic apple varieties on 27 acres -- really highlight the fresh taste of the quality apples used in them. Devoto's are dry and elegant with no cloying sweetness.  I enjoyed them all but my favorite was Cidre Noir, a blend of Devoto's heirloom apple varieties -- Arkansas Black and Black Twig apples -- that hang on the trees for nearly seven months, developing acid and flavors in a dry-farmed environment. 

"1976" -- Named for the year in which the founders of Devoto Orchards planted their first apple orchard in west Sonoma County is made from 17 varieties of apples, including Ashmead's Kernel, Hawaiian and Winesap.  

Some 90% of "Save the Gravenstein" is made from the centuries-old Gravenstein variety which botanist Luther Burbank once declared thrived best in Sonoma County. The remaining 10% is juiced from Pink Pearl, Burgundy and Akane varieties. 

Alcohol levels for each is 6.9 %, and prices range from $11.99 - $13.99/bottle at high-end grocery stores and bottle shops. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Comté All the Way

Young Comté wheels starting to age
Just spent four days in France devoted to cheese --- one cheese, in fact, Comté.

What a trip: In the Jura mountains of eastern France in alpine ski country, I met Norbert, a shepherd who takes care of heifers before they are ready to give birth; in the tiny village of Villette-les-Dole, I saw how dairy farmer Jean-Francois cares for the local Montbéliarde cows, providing them a natural, quality diet that produces the raw milk that, in turn, gives Comté so much of its flavor -- which runs from milky and relatively fresh to almost crunchy in texture and nutty in taste. Also visited fruitieres (cheesemakers) and affineurs (cheese-agers) to see firsthand how it's made from beginning to end.
The cheese is a natural partner to the idiosyncratic wines of the Jura region, but complement most any wines. Comté  (pronounced "con-tay") is a cheese made in the artisanal, authentic manner that so many consumers are seeking these days. Ask your cheesemonger for a taste!

Adorable Montbéliarde cows

Only high-quality Comté wheels carry this marker  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Variety in Geneva

Geneva, Switzerland, is home to the second largest United Nations office in the world with 193 member nations. Maybe that's why I saw such a striking variety of restaurants within only a couple of blocks of my hotel (and Lake Geneva) there last week.
No, Switzerland is not all fondue and raclette. And Chasselas.
There was a Korean pub, an Indian restaurant, a cafeteria offering an "Orientale ambiance" and a cafe featuring organic and local foods.
K Pub, 8 Rue de la Navigation
Bollywood, Place de la Navigation 6, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland Add caption

Chez Leyla, 35 Rue des Pâquis, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Vinexpo Asia-Pacific 2014

The listing of 1,300 exhibitors at Vinexpo Asia-Pacific  
I attended the three-day Vinexpo Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong May 27-29, the largest wine fair for the trade in Asia. It was a robust program of tastings, in-depth seminars and meetings between wine producers and Asian buyers designed to acquaint the Asian -- and especially the fast-growing Chinese -- market with wines from all over the world.   

The most extensive tasting of a mainland Chinese winery was a 10-year vertical of Grace Vineyard's "Chairman's Reserve." This is one of the best wineries in China and it was a privilege to taste the wines and to hear the articulate Judy Chan talk about her family's winery -- one of the first quality grape-wine producers in the country.  For more information on the meeting and what took place there, see my stories California Vintners Optimistic About Asian Market and Saint-Emilion Chateau Goes for the Gold.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Summer Sipping

The warmer months are my favorite time of the year to enjoy wine. That's because my tastes run to clean, refreshing, palate-cleansing wines, usually with zippy acidity, and citrus or berry flavors, especially Sauvignon Blanc and dry rosés. Wines that complement the lighter, zestier fare we usually eat in summer appeal me to me more than weighty, intense wines that compete with the flavors of what's on my plate. Recently, I've tasted a bumper crop of just such wines that come with moderate alcohol levels and reasonable price tags -- more reasons to drink them. I highly recommend the following:

2013 Santa Julia Innovacion, Chenin Blanc-Chardonnay blend, $9.99 (1 liter bottle), Argentina, Vegan-friendly. Available at Whole Foods.

Deccolio Prosecco, $12.99, Italy, Kosher for Passover. Available at Whole Foods.

2012 El Perro Verde, $14.99, Angel Lorenzo Cachazo, Verdejo, Spain. Available at Whole Foods.

2013 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, $28, New Zealand. Available in every U.S. state.

2013 Las Rocas Rosé, $14, Calatayud, Spain. 

2013 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc, $12, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma.

2013 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, $18, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. 

2013 Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc, $14, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma.

2012 LoveBlock Pinot Gris, $24, Marlborough, New Zealand.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

New Vino!

Juice pouches for adults. 

That's basically what Nuvino is: premium wine from around the world in a lightweight, single-serve pouch with a spout. Its developers tout the advantages over wine as it is traditionally sold: Nuvino pouches are easy, convenient, portable, unbreakable, resealable and come in eco-friendly packaging.

No heavy glass bottles, corks, corkscrews or fragile glassware.
I like the idea that you can taste the fruit of vastly different vineyards on various continents for a $3.99 investment: Sauvignon Blanc from Chile’s Maule Valley, Chardonnay from South Africa’s Cape Winelands,  Malbec from Mendoza’s Maipú wine region in Argentina; and a Red Blend from Australia’s Swan Hill wine region.

PreservPak technology preserves the nuances of the wines for up to 18 months while adding no flavors of its own. It is available in 16 states, starting this month, and will be nationwide by the end of the year.

And the wine? I tasted the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay and they were not displeasing or, put another way, perfectly drinkable. You won't find nuances of tropical fruit, forest floor, weighty mouthfeel or powerful intensity, but I don't think the intended customers for Nuvino (Millennials) are looking for any of that stuff anyway. They're looking for novelty, a drinkable wine, easy portability, maybe even a conversation starter. And it's all here.