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.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

San Francisco's Schroeder's

At times during its 120-year history, Shroeder's German restaurant in the heart of San Francisco's Financial District -- the oldest of its kind on the West Coast -- was a beer hall that admitted men only. This week it is re-opening after a remodel in a handsomely-renovated space that respects its heritage while updating both the environment and the menu for modern sensibilities. As recompense for the past, I am hoping the new owners will institute some version of a ladies night. "Fräulein Fridays" anyone?

Physically, the place is striking. Old murals, wood paneling and the rosewood bar were smartly preserved while harsh lighting is gone and the old linoleum is off the floors, replaced by beautiful wooden floors with tables to match. And the restaurant's new owners, Andy Chun and Jan Wiginton, are bringing the food  back into the beer hall with a staunchly German menu of Bratwurst, Wiener Schnitzel and beef tongue, and the bar focuses on German beer, wine and liquors. Several speciality cocktails developed just for Schroeder's contain at least one German component, such as the refreshing Derby Radler, a German beer cocktail with bourbon, sage liqueur, fennel seed syrup and lemon. The Rieslings range from sweet to dry (as they should), and there are 21 draft beers.


German food is not exactly the height of chic, so kudos to the new owners for making an effort to preserve an historic piece of San Francisco -- and to Chef Manfred Wrembel for adding a contemporary twist to old favorites: the thinly sliced beef tongue is topped with a horseradish creme fraiche, asparagus and capers; the potato pancakes are made with cheddar, apples and beer; and the Spätzle (noodles) are served with corn, tomato, ricotta, and onion blossoms. 

This is definitely not your grandmother's German restaurant.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review -- Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture

This lovely and unique book about almonds contains cultural history, recipes. nutritional information and gorgeous photographs. It is cookbook, coffee table book, culinary history, and around-the-world tour of the cultures that incorporate almonds in a meaningful way. And I'm not just saying this because I worked on it!

The lengthy introduction to the recipes covers a lot of ground -- the anatomy of the nut, the cultivation of almond orchards in California, the nutrition it provides, even its place in art and literature.

Did you know da Vinci once sculpted from almond paste? Or that 100 almonds for every person on earth are grown each year -- most of them in California? Or that its abundant nutrition qualifies the almond as a "superfood?” Or that the sweet almond we like to eat has a "bad-boy cousin" -- the bitter almond --  that is poisonous?

Once you've digested all this information, move on to the recipes, which traverse the full scope of the meal from starters to desserts and drinks. There is the simplicity of Burnt Sugar Almonds and a Banana Almond Smoothie and more complex dishes like Almond-and-Mint-Crusted Lamb Chops and Spanish Meatballs in Onion and Almond Sauce.

Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture is by Barbara Bryant, Betsy Fentress and Lynda Balslev; $21.99.