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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Wines & Beers

As Turkey Day approaches, most people are thinking of what size turkey to buy, how many people will it serve, what side dishes to make and where to seat old Uncle Luke.  But I'm not like most people.  Yes, I do consider the same things, but I consider them in the context of what wines and beers I'll be serving.

Since turkey is the guest of honor, not old Uncle Luke, turkey is the first consideration when thinking about wines and beers.  However, there are so many different side dishes, and no two are made the same.  You have to consider the tartness of cranberry sauces, the creaminess of creamed onions, the various savory flavors in stuffing.  Not to forget the sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes, all being smothered in someone's version of gravy.

Simply put, this is not a "one size fits all" meal.  A white and a red should be on the table.  If serving beer also, an IPA and a dark beer such as a Porter should be available.  The main thing is to make sure they are nicely balanced and flexible enough to handle many flavors.

The Natura Chardonnay from the Casablanca Valley in Chile is a good choice for a white wine.  Unlike many Chardonnays, this one does not have any oak influence, just pure fruit flavor.
http://www.theorganicwineshop.com/2012-Natura-Chardonnay_p_150.html

For a red, a nice California Zinfandel has the right touch of spice and fruitiness.  Specifically, the Girasole Zinfandel from Mendocino County.
http://www.theorganicwineshop.com/2009-Girasole-Zinfandel-_p_20.html

For a few beer choices, I would recommend Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA or the Port City Monumental IPA.  IPA's have a crisp flavor profile with some citrusy notes.  A couple of Porters to mention are the Highland's Oatmeal Porter and the Avery New World Porter.  Porters have a nice, malty flavor profile with hints of coffee and sometimes chocolate.

If you have any questions, please visit me on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thefermentedgourmet.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 
Don't forget the dessert!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Observations: My Special Purpose

Now that it's been almost a full year of making and selling wine and beer jellies, I thought I'd take some time to reflect and begin planning for the holiday season.  In doing this, I was reminded of a short clip from the movie, The Jerk.  Right before Steve Martin is about to leave the nest and go in search of his "special purpose", his adoptive father makes sure he understands one thing.  That is, the difference between shit and Shinola.  Once Steve Martin sees the difference, his father told him he would be fine.

My take on that is this.  Know the basics of what you are doing, keep it simple, don't try to complicate things, and definitely understand the difference between shit and Shinola.  That said, here are some things I've observed over the past few months.

There are only a few of what I'll call "stand alone" wine or beer jellies that have an appeal to people who taste them.  I think I went overboard when I started and made too many choices, which had the opposite effect of what I envisioned.  Our best "stand alone" jellies now are the Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout, FullSteam Carver Sweet Potato Lager, Highlands Oatmeal Porter, Dante Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cortija Rioja jellies.

Next, I see that any jelly that has an element of heat or spice out-sells the others by a wide margin.  The Natty Greene's Old Towne Brown/Chipolte, Pinot Grig-Inferno and Broadbent Vinho Verde/Piri Piri jellies are winners!

Any jelly that I've added fruit to enhance a certain flavor profile of the wine or beer has also done very well.  That can be seen in our Natty Greene's Wildflower Wit/Strawberry, Big Boss HighRoller IPA/Three Fruits Marmalade and our Victory Storm King Stout/Fig Jam.

I am very please with my latest creation, the Craggie Antebellum Jelly.  It is brewed with molasses, ginger and spruce tips.  I believe this one will be another "stand alone" winner.

So, let's start thinking about the holidays and what you're going to get for your wine and beer lovers on your shopping list.  One thing I have seen over the past few months is how many people have commented on what a great gift idea this is.  Another is how creative our customers have been in their uses of our jellies in their kitchens.  There are so many applications of these jellies as glazes on meats, sweetening agents in viniagrettes and many other ways.

Cheers to the upcoming holiday season!  You can find us on-line at www.thefermentedgourmetshop.com. You can also "like" us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/mainstreetproducenc.


FG

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wine Scents

If you were riding with me cruising around the Internet, you would most likely feel like a passenger in a car driven by Stevie Wonder.  No offense to Stevie Wonder, but I don't think I would want to be riding shotgun with him at the wheel.  Suffice it to say, I'm like one of those people with the bumper sticker, "I stop at yard sales" or "I brake for squirrels".  Simply put, when something catches my attention, I go there.  This practice often takes me off course into unknown territories.  However, sometimes it takes me to sites or blogs that I am familiar with the subject matter, and that brings me to today's topic.

I found a site promoting a "kit" that helps one learn more about the vast aromas inherent in particular wines.
Interesting, I thought as I clicked through all the pages on the site.  The kit is very comprehensive as it guides the user around all the aromas that can or should be prevalent in certain wines.  Here is the link to their site  http://www.aromaster.com/

Please don't read too much into this.  I think this is a wonderful tool to help people gain a better understanding of everything the wine world has to offer.  The concern I have is that it might be too complicated for the everyday consumer of wine.  In fact, this is a tool I used back in my days as a full-time wine consultant.  It was my job, and my responsibility, to be educated on all this.  The average consumer doesn't share this burden.  Notice I called it a "burden".  Yeah, it was a tough job, but somebody had to do it!

Anyway, I could go on forever about this, but I want to make one simple point.  There are only two ways of describing a wine, and this applies to all wines, whether a consumer, amateur or professional.  Those are, "I like it" or "I don't like it".  Enjoying wine is a very subjective experience.  One should not feel compelled to "like" a wine simply because someone else does.  Moreover, when in the presence of one of those "geeky-know it alls", you shouldn't feel ashamed or inadequate just because you can't smell the "stewed strawberry and earthy, forest floor" aromas that the geek is proudly smelling.  Again, either you like it, or you don't.  It is that simple.  If the geek happens to ask you if you are "picking up" the same aromas, just tell him that you never had your nose pressed against a forest floor, and you're not sure what he is talking about.

Enjoy wine, but enjoy the ones YOU like, explore the wine world at your leisure, and reduce your thoughts about wine to the two ways I mentioned.  You like it, or you don't, period...!!!

FG

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Fermented Gourmet: A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Work Today

The Fermented Gourmet: A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Work Today: "As a product of the '80s, I am a big fan of Cheers. So, hopefully you'll remember some Normisms. These aren't to be confused wit..."

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Work Today

As a product of the '80s, I am a big fan of Cheers.  So, hopefully you'll remember some Normisms.  These aren't to be confused with Clavinisms, Sammyisms, Coachisms or Woodyisms.  However, one Normism I remember quite well is his response when asked what he wanted as he headed for his barstool.  He said, "Well, I'll need something to do before my second beer, so how about a first beer?"  This is the sort of thing that goes through my mind on a regular basis.  So let me connect the dots as to how I arrived at this.

As most of you know, or hopefully know, I am working on a cookbook to demonstrate the many uses of our wine and beer jellies.  So, naturally I am always thinking about it when engaged in otherwise mindless activity, such as driving.   Most of the work on my book is complete, and I just have to tidy it up and work the kinks out of a few recipes.  Well, working the kinks out of recipes requires time in the kitchen, not behind the wheel.   Therefore, I was in the perfect position to "think" about what I still needed to do.  I don't know about you, but when I think, there is no linear process or straight line to my resulting conclusions.  My process resembles more of a road map with streets and highways curving and bending in all sorts of directions before arriving at a particular destination.  Insert Charlie Sheen joke here regarding my brain.

Anyway, my thoughts actually turned into a completely new idea.  A new concept for a different book, which would be my second book.  The problem remains though, I am still not finished my first book.  So, finally, and hopefully, you can see how I ended up thinking about Norm and Cheers this morning.  I need something to do before my second book, so I guess I'll have to finish my first book. 

Since I am capable of multi-tasking, I do have the ability to still "think" about my second book AND finish my first book.  I am actually considering using an open forum with user-generated content in addition to my own.  Moreover, due to the fact that my new concept will recognize the "subjectivity" of food,  I want to engage artists from other genres.  I am one who definitely believes that cooking IS a form of art.    Therefore, I will be very interested in the thoughts of my fellow "artists" for my second book.   For the moment though, I think I'll just finish my first book.

FG
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Friday, April 8, 2011

The Fermented Gourmet gets Questioned

I use Facebook quite a bit, and I often post articles written by other people.  Usually, it is about a subject that I am in agreement with the author, and ties into my overall outlook on life.  Recently, I posted an article about food and wine pairings.  The author of this article is of the belief that there is no such thing as a perfect food/wine pairing, and people should just relax and enjoy their favorite wine with whatever lands on their dinner plate.  I happen to agree with this.  Here is the feedback email I received from my friend:

"yeah yeah, I read the article you posted re: food/wine pairings and I don't buy it, wine doesn't have to be paired with certain foods but when it's done right, it's heaven, and certain wines do compliment certain foods. That being said, need your advice, need a wine for tonight and tomorrow, tonight need wine that goes with Lentil Soup, chicken broth base. Need another wine for tomorrow night, white chili, also in a chicken base. Have any really impressive and interesting whites to recommend that would compliment?? I say white b/c of the base, unless you think otherwise, I"m open...."
 
Here was my response:
 
 
"We're talking about everyday "normal" people who don't have access to some of the best wines or benefit from our travels. We are aberrations. We are not normal...lol. Yes, done right, it can be heaven, but I'm trying to appeal to the everyday consumer. As for a wine, I'll give you choices of reds or whites. I kinda need to know what spices are in each, but I'll go with what I think goes into those things. The Lentil Soup, depending on spices, would probably go well with something that compliments and accents those spices. I'm thinking Chenin Blanc/Vouvray for a white, and a lighter, but somewhat spicier red such as a Spanish Grenache that doesn't have a lot of wood influence. Tempranillo would work well too, so that doesn't rule out a traditional Rioja. Preferably not a Crianza which gets a full year of wood. Another possible white would be a Torrontes from Argentina, thats kind of a cross between Sauv. Blanc. and Gewurztraminer in its aroma and flavor. The same wines would probably work well with the White Chili. If its a very spicy-hot chili, then go Riesling or Gewurz, but consider the Torrontes as well. Give me a call at the store (252) 586-8468."
 
Please notice, I got a little wine geeky with my friend since we both have worked in the wine business.  I say this because if anybody else would like my advice, I would definitely turn it down a bit and not assume you know what a Vouvray is, for example.
 
The fact of the matter is that there really are some sublime combinations of food and wine.  Realistically and practically speaking, we just don't get those opportunities on an everyday basis.  The aforementioned article also shows the trend here in America is to have wine as a beverage of choice instead of the traditional cocktail.  In fact, the US just passed France in total wine consumption last year.  Bear in mind, this isn't per capita, but total wine for the country.  So, its perfectly alright to pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay when you get home from work and just let it flow on through dinner, regardless of what you are having. 
 
So, anybody out there who would like to critique my thoughts and observations, or ask me for some wine advice, I am at your service.
 
FG
 
 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Slow Food? I've heard of Fast Food, but....

It's interesting where following links on the internet can lead you to new sites and new (or in this case "old") ways of thinking.  In doing so, it can also take you back to fond memories and treasured moments.  That was the case when I stumbled onto The Slow Food movement http://slowfood.com/.  You can click on the link for more information, but let me tell you where it took me.

It reminded me of the many lunches I've had in remote parts of the world, and how they seemed like festive events provided by our hosts for the enjoyment of us Americans.  Certainly, nobody would entertain the idea of lunch lasting over two hours and copious amounts of wine being consumed over several courses as "normal".  Several come to mind, but I think my favorite was in the south of France on a beautiful Spring afternoon.  Crusty French Bread, fresh fruit, olives, olive oil for dipping, sour gerchin pickles, liver pates, grainy mustards, cold cuts, and wine, of course.  But now I'm getting off target.

The specific lunch that came to mind was right here in the USA.  It was at one of my favorite restaurants,  Bacari Grill in Washington Township, NJ http://bacarigrill.com/.  I was working with a gentleman from France selling Burgundy wines.  We had an excellent lunch with excellent service, and I thought everything was perfect.  We ordered, it was delivered timely, we ate, had coffee and dessert, and I figured it was time for the check and back to work.  That was the furthest thing from the mind of my French companion who became increasingly annoyed each time our server came by to ask if we were okay.  I thought she was doing a great job, while he wanted to relax and enjoy some "down" time before getting back to work.

This is my round-about way of getting to my point about Slow Food.  Fast Food has been a part of my vocabulary since my earliest memories.  It's connotation is so etched in my brain that, at first, I couldn't comprehend the concept of Slow Food.  Whereas, I was so concerned about maintaining a schedule and getting as much done in one day as possible, it didn't occur to me that taking a few moments extra after lunch just might be the catalyst to a more productive afternoon.

My point is, taking the time to appreciate a great quality lunch and appreciate it simply for the pleasure of the experience shouldn't be an abnormality.  It should be the norm.  As for the excellent service, it is understandable given that most people are on a schedule.  My hat is off to the staff of Bacari Grill. Just remember, not everybody is in a rush to get back to work, that lesson I've learned and made it part of my life.  I believe that is part of the basics of the Slow Food movement, but there is much more to it than that.  I'm glad I stumbled on to it and can now read on and learn more.  Hopefully, you will do the same and pass along the idea of  enjoying the pleasure of food and the time it takes to enjoy it.

FG