Thursday, December 20, 2007

I thought I had a good Thanksgiving, with I only had my family and a turkey and mild, snow-free California weather, but Henry Rollins went to the Shatners' for his Thanksgiving. That might be the Thanksgiving jackpot.

Foodgoat was happy to re-discover Henry Rollins, whose music he admired in his youth, in the form of the Henry Rollins TV show. Watching Henry Rollins is like watching Foodgoat's two best friends talking out of the same body. And on TV. With William Shatner. Which is awesome, but also kind of creepy.

He was very disappointed to learn that up until last week, I had a no idea who Henry Rollins was. He may have been more disappointed that he didn't find out this all-important fact prior to marriage.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Give Me Your Tired, Poor Wine Yearning to Breathe Free

While at the Rosenblum Cellars tasting room, we were introduced to the wonder that is the Vinturi Wine Aerator. We tried one of the wines with and without the aerator, and were astounded at the difference it made.

The idea behind aerating wine, or letting it breathe, that by exposing wine, young reds in particular, to air, you "open up" and improve the taste and the aroma.

How to do this? Well, you can open up the bottle and let it sit there for a while, and then drink it. We have never been patient enough to do this. When we open a bottle, it's so we can drink it right now. Plus, the shape of the bottle isn't really conducive to air exposure.

Or, you can decant the wine into another container. I think crystal decanters are lovely, but we don't have one, and anyway, the idea of pouring wine out of a perfectly nice bottle into a decanter just to pour it into a glass right away seemed to be just another step between me and that glass of wine.

There are also numerous aerating tools, including this Wine Whisk, but we don't have any of those. And anyway, did they really make a difference?

So, into the aerate-less world, enters the Vinturi Aerator. You simply pour wine through it into the glass. It makes a rather rude sound as the wine goes through and adds little bubbles into your glass. It all happens somewhat quickly and without a lot of flashing lights, leaving one to wonder if it really did anything.

Once you taste the wine, though, you realize that it does. It makes a huge difference. Taste some wine without using it, and then taste the same wine using the Aerator, and the taste difference can be spectacular. In some cases, we were surprised that they were the same wine. Unaerated, the wine was harsh and sharp; aerated, it was smooth and much better.

The Aerator isn't a performance enhancing tool for all wines - it made hardly any difference at all in some of the higher end Rosenblums, for example, and it didn't stop the Cigarzin from giving Foodgoat a raging red wine headache - and we haven't tried it on whites, but it did work wonders on some of the cheaper red wines that we've tried it with. A $10 bottle of wine that we initially disliked suddenly tasted like a $20 bottle. This $40 tool may end up saving us money in the long run.

Plus, it's pretty and it's fun to show people.

The lesson for me? Wine needs to be served properly to get the most out of it. And that includes adequate aeration, if that's what it needs. It's amazing how paying attention to little details in serving wine can make such a big difference in how it tastes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's Not a Holiday Without a Jelly Donut

Why didn't anyone tell me that Hanukkah celebrations include jelly-filled donuts?

I would have started celebrating Hanukkah long ago!

Especially if all of them are as good as my first sufganiya, a kind of jelly donut cooked in oil. The one I had was homemade, with jelly added before the frying, resulting in a warm jelly center (usually, it's fried first, then injected with filling). It was really quite delicious.

Why celebrate with donuts? (The question is, why not?) But in this case, it is the custom during Hanukkah to eat fried foods, in commemoration of the miracle associated with the Temple oil. Another fried dish associated with Hanukkah is latkes, or potato pancakes, which seemed just like hash browns to me, except with sour cream and applesauce.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Theorem of the Cheesy Ratio

After waiting months in the In-and-Out-less Midwest wilderness, Foodgoat finally got to go to In-and-Out again while in California.

The last time he was there, he got a little silly and had a 2x6 - two patties, six slices of cheese. Afterwards, he conceded that it might have been too much cheese.

Being older and wiser, this time he stuck with the more delicious 2x4, animal style.

But while awaiting his order, he noticed the receipt listed a 4x4 animal style. Foodgoat caught a worker and corrected the mistake.

He sat down to eat, only to discover that it had not been corrected at all. He still had a gotten 4x4 animal style. Four meat patties, four slices of cheese. What could he do but eat it?

It was good, but ... it was a lot of meat. A lot of meat.

What does this teach us? Well, it proves Foodgoat's Theorem of the Cheesy Ratio, developed after the 2x6 experiment.

The Theorem of the Cheesy Ratio explains why the 2x4 works by describing the perfect proportion of meat to cheese - of two slices of cheese per one meat patty.

Too much cheese - as in the 2x6, which has three slices of cheese per patty - and the cheese doesn't quite melt right. Thus some of the cheese is a little cold, and the whole meat-cheese tastiness is dependent on adequate meltedness.

Too much meat - as in the case of the 4x4, which has 1 meat patty to 1 slice of cheese - and you don't have enough cheese to balance your meat. This is especially important the higher you go in number - a cheeseburger (1 patty to 1 cheese) may be tolerable if you're of small appetite, but get up to 4x4, and you might feel you're just chewing down a pile of meat without enough cheese to make it worthwhile.

But in the right proportion - as in the 2x4, 2 patties to 4 cheese slices - there you find enough meat to be filling but not overwhelming, enough cheese to be tasty but still melted properly.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Days of Wine

While in California a few weeks ago, we attended the wedding of Foodgoat's aunt, which featured not only a lovely ceremony, a fun party, and a very happy bride and groom, but also days and days of excellent wine. There was fine wine at the rehearsal dinner, trips into wine country for tastings, long discussions about the virtues of this wine and that, wine gifts, even wine with Nation's burgers for lunch (which is pretty good, let me tell you).

The reception had the very best bar of any wedding we've been to, and that includes our own (when people see my wedding photos, the first question is always "What's that you're drinking?"). It featured wines from the local Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda, which happens to be Foodgoat's very favorite winery and current obsession, having discovered their delicious Zinfadels when he visited their tasting room last spring. We sipped happily all night long.

Later that week we stopped by the Rosenblum Cellars tasting room - “mecca for zin-fanatics” - to sample even more.

We tried:
Kathy's Cuvée Viognier, California - 2006
Maggie's Reserve Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley - 2005
Snows Lake Vineyard Zinfandel, Lake County - 2005
Lyons Reserve Zinfandel, Napa Valley - 2005
Désirée Chocolate Dessert Wine, California

How much did we like the Rosenblum wine we tasted? This much:

Ah yes, Foodgoat and I will be drinking well for a long, long time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weirdness in the Chocolate

A few weeks ago, friends handed me a piece of candy, instructing me to eat it, but declining to tell me what to expect or anything about it.

Having a peanut allergy has fomented a deep suspicion of unfamiliar candy. Who knows lurks underneath that sugar? What evils have been hidden amongst the sweet? Even when assured of its safety, I was distrustful.

After all, if someone tells you to "try something" without further elaboration, you can be sure it's not because it's delicious. If it was tasty, they would have said so. No, people who just tell you to taste something - while refusing to say why - are looking for a reaction. Usually an adverse one.

I didn't have an allergic reaction. But it was indeed an adverse one. To a milk chocolate bar with Pop Rocks.

Yes, Pop Rocks. Volatile, loud, slightly painful, Pop Rocks. In milk chocolate. Smooth, mild, sweet milk chocolate.

It's not really a happy combination.

So of course I happily accepted a whole bar of the Israeli-made candy for Foodgoat to try.
However, not wanting to spring a mouthful of weirdness on his taste buds, I told him what it was first. Now knowing that there was weirdness ahead, he postponed the tasting repeatedly, waiting for the "right time" (much like our marriage).

And when you think about it, there's really no right setting or atmosphere for eating something freakish like that - there's no meal where you think, "Hey, you know what would go great with this wine? A chocolate bar with Pop Rocks."

When he finally did try it, the result was this:

While another person's reaction to the Pop Rocks chocolate bar was to clutch at her throat and scream "IT'S BURSTING INSIDE MY BRAIN!!!"

Which all just goes to show you that the weird, uncomfortable feelings that Pop Rocks give you are not eased when encased in creamy milk chocolate. In fact, it kind of makes it worse.

Maybe that's why the kiddies like it. Maybe its unpleasantness is what makes it appealing. Like artificially green ketchup. Can't say I'm one of them, though.