Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Truffle and a Bottle of Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 1997

Stephanie and I were doing our normal weekend shopping at Treasure Island, Chicago's best grocery store, when I spied a half dozen truffles in the display case in the deli. After much debate, Stephanie convinced me to take one of the little tubers home. It was about the size of nutmeg (or is it a nut of meg?) and cost $10. We agreed that we had to prepare a special meal for it and choose some large lamb chops. I pan roasted the lamb and created a decadent red wine sauce from the fond. I also made risotto finished with a healthy dollop of whipped cream and shavings from about a third of the truffle. The truffle was dry as a rock and difficult to grate, but it added its characteristic aroma to the meal. Was it worth the $10? At that point I wasn't convinced, but after Stephanie grated some into scrambled eggs the next morning, it most certainly was.

Stephanie also convinced me to open a bottle of wine from the cellar for the occasion. I chose one of my two remaining bottles of Allegrini's "Super Veneto" wine. As in much of Europe, the grapes that go into wines from the Veneto are regulated by law. In order to call a wine Valpolicella or Amarone, winemakers can only use certain specified varietals. The folks at Allegrini don't like being told what to do. They add a small percentage of sangiovese, a Tuscan grape, to this blend and are forced to label it "IGT" (Indicazione Geografica Tipica). In a nod to regional tradition, however, thirty percent of the grapes are allowed to dry on mats for months before being fermented (this is why Amarone tastes the way it does).

I loved this wine when it was released and decided to put a few bottles in the cellar. Recent vintages have gotten equally lavish praise, but I have found them increasingly ripe and unbalanced. Accordingly, I was anticipating trying this wine to see what had changed, the wine or my palate. As it turns out, my palate was in excellent shape. Coincidentally, the wine gave off opulent truffle aromas upon being opened and decanted. It was medium bodied and dry, showing some expected fading in color. At nine years old, the original fruit flavors had all but vanished to be replaced by mature, dried berry notes. My inclination with the last bottle is to give it a few more years to hope these mature flavors develop further. It was certainly no worse for wear, and I'm interested to see what may yet happen. Wines like these prove that you don't have to spend a lot of money for age-worthy wines. This one only costs $17.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Our trip to Bouchon

Jonathan says: In celebration of many things, including our own recent engagement, our friend's impending wedding, and the general gloriousness of early fall in Napa Valley, we decided to head for lunch to Thomas Keller's bistro Bouchon, located just down the street in Yountville from his more famous French Laundry. The Michelin Guide to Northern California had just awarded Bouchon a star despite being rather parsimonious in its distribution of awards to other San Francisco-area restaurants, and so we were especially eager to see what at Bouchon had warranted this treatment.

Seeb says: Up until the night before, I had thought of our lunch as a special advance celebration of Jonathan's birthday. Apparently, he had a larger plan in mind the whole time.

J: The restaurant itself is gorgeous, and decorated in classic French brasserie style: brass rails, mirrors on the walls, tiled floors, nouveau French paintings on the walls, and even a large potted plant in the middle. All told, very authentic. From the moment we sat down, the food was superb to match. The mini-baguette placed on our table was delicious, and the butter that accompanied it was superbly creamy and just a little bit sweet.

S: Loved the huge floor-to-ceiling potted plant in the middle of the seating area. I don't remember the tile exactly, but I get the feeling I didn't like it. The seat (velour or velvet, I think. red?) was comfortable, but the tables were lined up pretty close so that sliding in and out of the seat was tricky. And I was not the only woman who found this a challenge.

J: After much haggling, we initially decided to order a half carafe of a pinot grigio from a nearby (!) winery. When the waiter arrived, however, he strongly recommended the 2004 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre from the Loire Valley, and since I had been considering the Sancerre in the first place I fairly quickly agreed. Seebany, however, protested, arguing (quite correctly, as I readily admitted) that it was somewhat ridiculous to be ordering French wines while *sitting in Napa.* Nonetheless, in the end we opted for the Sancerre and were very happy that we did. The wine was light and crisp with hints of fruit and a finish reminiscent of black pepper, and it was delicious by itself and a wonderful complement to the seafood dishes that we decided to order.

S: To be precise, we were haggling over the amount of wine, not over the type. One of us would have to drive us back, after all.

My first course was not seafood, though. It would have come as a surprise to nearly anyone who knows me. I'm not the biggest fan of eggs, and I don't know much about the various types of cheese. But if there's anyone who could convert me with a quiche, it'd be Thomas Keller. The mushroom and roquefort quiche was just the right savory start. Not sulfury in smell or taste, but earthy from the mushrooms and the pungent cheese. But it was really the texture that made it different from just about any other quiche I've tried. Served in a small ramekin, the quiche was extremely custard-like. Fantastic, and all that *without* an overbearing egg taste. [Sadly, I don't remember the crust exactly, although I know it was not a typical flaky pie crust.] The richness actually made me wish for an instant for colder weather (!) that would do this warm comfort food justice. In fact it brought to mind exactly another dining moment in which French food was the ultimate comfort food - the coq au vin in the chocolately thick sauce we had last winter at Fringale. There's something about discovering comfort foods even though you never ate them as a child.

J: I ordered the rillettes aux deux saumons, essentially a spread of smoked and raw salmon preserved in a glass jar and covered with a layer of clarified butter (which the waiters skillfully removed). It was delicious in all of the ways that good salmon usually is, and moreover there was quite a bit of it. Seeb and I were both able to eat our fill before it had disappeared. The only minor slip-up in the service was that we were required to ask more than once before the waiters brought more bread for the rillettes. All told, not somehow as spectacular as Seeb’s quiche, but still very good.

As a main course I ordered the dish I had been eyeing (on the internet) for months, the moules au safran—basically moules frites (mussels and French fries) in a saffron and mustard sauce with hints of black and red pepper. The mussels were perfectly done, the sauce was deliciously spicy and more than a bit tangy, and the powerful aroma of saffron was a perfect complement to the mussels’ natural flavor. The pot in which the mussels were served was also impressively conceived; one corner of the pot was literally fenced off from the remainder in order to provide a space for dipping the mussels (and the fries) that wasn’t crowded by shells. And what fries—probably the best French fries I have ever eaten, better even than the duck fat fries at Hot Doug’s in Chicago (which are a favorite of many of this site’s bloggers). Perfectly salty, incredibly crispy, and not even terribly oily or greasy. The problem was that despite being the best fries I have ever tasted they were the least interesting thing on the table to eat, so we didn’t finish them.

S: So, here it is December 15th, and wouldn’t you know, I’ve taken so long to write now that I had to ask Jonathan to remind me what my main course was. Scallops with parsnip puree. Of course, once he said it I instantly remembered the texture of the parsnips and the scallops. The dish was very mild flavored, the scallops just a little buttery sweet and the parsnips as I imagine parsnips must usually be, (not having them often), a nice background flavor, really meant to let the scallops be the stars.

And then on to the dessert. Jonathan and I shared a lemon tart. Normally I would prefer something richer and, except in summertime, less fruity. But with the weather and the heft of the rest of the meal (lunch, i.e. lighter) it was a good choice. Chris had told Jonathan that Keller considered this lemon tart to be the apotheosis of this dessert; he believed that he had perfected the recipe and would never change it. This may well be, but I don’t think that we’re huge fans of lemon tart. Or perhaps we were just too stuffed from previous courses.

But one thing worth mentioning that is not about Bouchon, per se, ;) is that after lunch we walked a little ways up the road back to where we’d passed by the French Laundry. Took a look around at their little patio area and the iconic blue door, of course. Across the street was a small garden of three sets of four rows of vegetables (all labeled) that they grow and use at the restaurants. To view them all you have to step off the sidewalk and into the dirt, so don’t wear your absolute best pair of shoes to French Laundry or Bouchon.

I hadn’t heard of such specific varieties and strains. The garden certainly wasn’t large enough to supply the restaurant night after night, so I don’t know if it was a showcase garden, or if they only use these items as garnish. There were some really beautiful little “jingle bell peppers” ripe on the stalks that were very picturesque. I imagine a little goes a long way with those. All in all, a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dinner with Friends

The weather in Chicago was almost as cold as Reggie Ball's performance in the ACC Championship game, but it was nothing that couldn't be warmed up by a some good food and wine. Dinner with John and Jonathan proved to be the bright spot between dreadful performances by my favorite teams.

We began the night with an amuse of Fried Oysters with two sauces - chive aioli and roasted red pepper. Stephanie has prepared these oysters in the past, and they were just as good as usual. Next, we made good use of a recent house-warming gift from Charlie and Lauren by serving escargots in their traditional bowls. The snails were topped with an equally-traditional garlic butter and proved rather tender and tasty. For the main course, I braised rabbit in white wine and rabbit jus and served it with buttered egg noodle "tagliatelle." The rabbit was moist and tender, and the noodles, from Del Cecco, proved more satisfying than the standard egg noodles. We concluded with delightful treats provided by John - including goose supreme, fromage d'affinois, Humboldt Fog, and Bleu d'Agur - and some excellent foie gras secretly imported into Chicago by some to-remain-nameless friends. I would mention that the blue cheese was particularly stunning, but then it would be even harder to get than it already is (because, of course, as soon as something is approved by Cask 79 its sales jump).

Wines for the evening were provided by our guests. We began with a 2004 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre that readers of this blog would already know of if Seebany had finished her post about Bouchon. The wine, which Jonathan and Seebany had shared at Bouchon, was both racy and rich, allowing it serve as both complement and foil for the buttery snails. Next we enjoyed the accidentally overchilled (my bad) Domaine Saint-Martin Marsannay Les Grands Vignes 2004 imported by Patrick Lesec. Lesec is a well-respected negociant known more for his Rhones than his Burgundies, and this bottle, as it warmed, showed both the grace of a pinot noir and the earthy core of a syrah. It was really excellent both with the rabbit and alone. The cheese course was accompanied by a wine sourced from John's personal cellar, the 2003 Chateau de Myrat Sauternes. I had tasted this wine without food previously, and it seemed even more profound when paired with the goose supreme and blue cheese. Full of botrytis yet perfectly balanced, it was quintessential Sauternes. We ended the night with some post-prandial YouTubing and a bottle of Chateau Henye Tokaji Furmint 2000. While it didn't have the botrytis of the Myrat (it probably should have been served first), it did offer an excellent purity of tree fruit that was refreshing after an evening of such almost but not quite gluttony.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Country Style Cream of Leek Soup

We finally imported some photos from our camera, and I wanted to post a photo of the Country Style Cream of Leek Soup that I blogged about a few weeks ago. Click on the title to link to that post.

This is a cream-based sausage and leek soup, and it turned out better than I expected. The perfect soup for a cold Saturday night.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

This Guacamole Haas No Avocado

The courts have just told us that a burrito is not a sandwich, and now we'll find out if guacamole legally has to contain avocado. A Los Angeles woman is suing Kraft foods over its "guacamole dip" for misleading advertising because the dip contains only 2% avocados. The article is here.

Interestingly, the article notes that peanut butter must contain at least 90% peanuts according to FDA regulations. Frankly, I'm surprised that it's that high. Many European countries take the contents of their food products very seriously. I wonder if this is the beginning of greater federal regulation in this country.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

How do you know it's fall? Sausage soup and pumpkin ice cream

Yesterday, Chris announced that he wanted to go to Lincoln Square to buy sausages today. Lincoln Square is an older but charming Chicago neighborhood about fifteen minutes from our house. It has an obvious German influence. Every year -- like many towns -- they have an Octoberfest with good German sausages and beer. The "square" is like any small-town downtown, with plenty of small shops and tree lined parking. They also have metered lots, which is great because you don't have to pay $20 to park for half-an-hour. We've eaten at some interesting, genuine biergartens, but today we had Thai food. Sorry.

In any event, the real purpose of our trip today was to visit Han's Delicatessen Meyer, Chris's favorite German grocery. While Chris was taking the MPRE this morning, I studied our numerous and varied cook books for a sausage-related recipe. I settled on Country Style Cream of Leek Soup from Splendid Fare: The Albert Stockli Cookbook. My dad picked up the book -- which was published in 1970 -- for Chris at a book consignment sale. According to the book jacket, Stockli "made New York's Four Seasons restaurant celebrated around the world." I don't know about that, but I do know that his recipes are influenced by his European training and, particularly, his Swiss heritage. Hence, Country Style Cream of Leek Soup, which is simmering as I type (with a few of my slight modifications):

Chop and saute four slices of thick bacon for 5-10 minutes. Remove some bacon for garnish later. Roughly chop and add to the saute: three leeks, half an onion, three cloves garlic. Add a bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, basil), salt and pepper (light on the salt). Add four cups of chicken stock or canned chicken broth (I am using canned broth because Chris has been slack on making stock lately.) and bring to a simmer.

In a cast iron pan, brown several sausages, such as smoked farmer sausages, bauernwurst, cervelat, Kielbasa, pig's knuckles, or small pork link sausages. We're using two each of thuringer and nuernberger sausages. Add the sausages (whole) to the simmering stock. Simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes or until the leeks are soft and well cooked. (I haven't gotten past this point in cooking, but I'm sure Chris will blog about the finished product later.) Remove the sausage, pour the soup into a blender (or, if you're smart enough to have one, use an emersion blender. And, I strongly recommend buying one. They're so easy to use and clean.) Puree the soup until smooth. Return to stove and stir in one cup of cream. Yum!! Heat, but do not boil. Slice the sausage and return it to the soup. Serve sprinkled with chopped chives and the reserved bacon.

For dessert, we're having pumpkin ice cream. I know it sounds kind of strange, and I was skeptical at first, but the unfrozen custard (which is cooling in the fridge) is great. I can't wait to freeze it:

Halve two small pie pumpkins (not the same as carving pumpkins), remove seeds, and roast until soft or microwave in a dish with about half an inch of water for ten minutes. Scoop pulp into a bowl and add 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract (I recommend buying the real stuff, it makes a huge difference). If you don't want to cook the pumpkin you can also buy canned unsweetened pumpkin puree. Refridgerate the puree for a couple of hours.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups of cream and 1/2 cup of brown sugar over the stove, let warm on medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring often. Whisk five egg yolks, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger), until the sugar begins to dissolve. Slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the warm cream mixture in to the eggs, whisking, to temper the eggs. Pour the egg mixture in to the warm cream and simmer, stirring, for about five minutes or until the custard coats a spoon. Cool over an ice bath, then whip the pumpkin puree into the mixture. Refridgerate for three to twenty-four hours (longer results in better texture), then freeze according to the ice cream manufacturer directions.

So, we're having Country Style Cream of Leek Soup for dinner, and homemade pumpkin ice cream for dessert. This is what I call a real fall meal! I can't wait!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Domaine Saint-Damien Les Souteyrades Gigondas 2003

We picked up some lamb shoulder this weekend, and I braised it tonight in red wine, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and celery. Sadly the store was out of baguettes, so much good jus went unsopped. The lamb immediately called to mind a Rhone wine, so I picked up this bottle from the southern portion of that region. While it was rather ripe and round for an old world wine, it showed a nice balance of earth and acidity to pair well with the food. American wineries would be well-served in studying wines such as this, which show the value of rich fruit and soft texture when combined with length, structure, and tannin.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sweets & Savories

Last Sunday, Chris and I went to Sweets & Savories for brunch. Chris has been wanting to try this place for a while, and I thought brunch would be a fun but affordable way to see what we thought about it. I made reservations through Open Table and sent him an e-vite as a surprise.

The restaraunt is small, to say the least. There were probably fifteen tables. Decor is minimal and is mostly brown and pink. We arrived and were seated promptly at a table by the front window, looking out onto the street. To our surprise, there were several large parties at tables pushed together, including what looked like a baby shower or birthday party for an infant, complete with baby blue baloons tied to the chairs. Otherwise, the restaraunt was not overly full.

Our waiter was nice enough and knowledgeable about the food. Sunday brunch is a three course prix fixe menu for only $16.00. For this, you receive various scones and muffins and are given choices of: 1) drinks, including tea, coffee, mimosas and bloody marys; 2) soup, salad or fruit; and 3) an entree.

Chris ordered the curried potato soup and duck confit hash with poached eggs and a lemon hollandaise sauce. He requested champagne in lieu of a mimosa, and was offered a presseco, which was fresh and bright. I ordered a bloody mary, as well as the arugula salad and soft scrambled eggs with white truffle oil.

Chris's soup was not "curried" so much as it was a warm vichyssoise. It was creamy and rich, and just wonderful, with a hint of truffle. The arugula salad was also great -- lemony and nutty. Chris really loved his duck confit hash (which I did not taste), and the poached eggs in lemon sauce were out of this world. They were perfectly cooked, and the lemon added just the right touch of spark. My soft scrambled eggs were also nice --served over brioche -- but the bread was soggy and the "white truffle" was non-existent. Over all, the food was solid and I would return for that.

That said, our service was simply atrocious. We were brought our soup and salad promptly, and after we had each taken one bite, someone who appeared to be a food runner approached our table and informed us that our entrees were ready and asked if we minded having them served immediately. Chris said yes, we actually did mind, and the food runner said he couldn't do anything, our food was coming out. He was quite rude about it, and he and Chris bantered briefly. He insisted that he was going to bring the entrees out despite our request to wait. Chris then asked about our muffins and scones, which had not yet been brought out, though they are listed as the first course on the prix fixe menu. The food runner very brusquely said he would go and get them if we wanted them. He disappeared and shortly thereafter returned with the scones, but, thankfully, not the entrees.

Our entrees were ultimately delivered after we finished our soup and salad course, as we requested. The food itself was solid, if not terribly creative. The disappointment in this meal was the service, which was astonishingly bad -- e.g., trying to bring our entrees with the salad course, not bringing the "first" course until askd, not refilling our water even once. But, I can live with bad service. Sometimes it happens. Here, the service was downright rude. Chris later had a nice conversation with our actual waiter, but I was not able to get beyond the poor service. While Chris would like to return for a dinner, I would not.

In sum, the food was solid, brunch prices are more than reasonable, but service was terrible. If you're in it for the food and don't care about the service, go for it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Food, Law, and Culture Panels

A while back I published a Call for Papers for a panel devoted to food and the law at the upcoming Law, Culture, and Humanities conference at Georgetown University. I got an excellent response and am forming two panels on the subject. Here are the abstracts for the papers:

J. Amy Dillard
Assistant Professor of Law
University of Baltimore
School of Law

“Sloppy Joe, Slop, Sloppy Joe”: How USDA Commodities Dumping Destroyed the National School Lunch Program

Alice Waters, the godmother of the organic, whole food movement, has set the considerable resources of her Chez Panisse Foundation to the task of reforming school lunch in Berkeley, California, while working within the confines of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). First funded by Congress in 1946, the NSLP combined two post-Depression Era objectives: 1) assist with the health of the nation’s children, and 2) ensure a market for farmers. The Department of Agriculture has used the NSLP to turn the nation’s school lunchrooms into a commodities dumping ground that has produced a glut of obese children and an expanding agribusiness that processes whole foods into nutritional nightmares.
This paper will explore the history of the NSLP and its complex relationship with USDA commodities, will examine the agribusiness of converting commodities into unhealthy lunchroom food, and will conclude by discussing the cultural challenges faced by the organic, whole food movement for bringing healthy food to a land where “latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving” freaks are excoriated by social conservatives.


James Smith
John Byrd Martin Chair of Law
University of Georgia School of Law

Genetically modified pollen drifting onto the field of a neighboring farm may cause substantial harm. If the bystanding farmer is growing non-genetically modified crops, she may suffer a pecuniary loss due to genetic ‘pollution.’ If the pollen is patented, the patentee may also claim harm stemming from the unauthorized distribution of its proprietary genetic material. Disputes arising from pollen drift present classic legal questions arising under the law of neighbors and classic economic questions broached most famously by Ronald Coase in his essay on The Problem of Social Cost. The application of the Coase Theorem and its most applicable corollary strongly suggest that: 1) balancing rules under nuisance law should be applied on a case-by-case basis to determine whether any particular genetic polluter should be liable for damages caused by pollen drift; and 2) most bystanding farmers should have viable defenses to patent infringement. Venerable legal principles applied to this new problem suggest the same two conclusions. Proving both propositions provides a textbook demonstration for the usefulness of economic analysis and solves a world-wide multi-billion dollar legal problem.


Morgan L. Holcomb
Visiting Assistant Professor
University of Minnesota Law School

The local food movement has taken root (or perhaps taken root again). Witness books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Pollan) and Eat Here (Halweil), activists taking on school lunches (Alice Waters revamping the Berkeley public school cafeteria), and the proliferation of farmers markets in almost all regions of the country.

This local food movement evidences a new or renewed interest in where our food comes from. Some farmers hope that it also means a renewed interest in keeping farms as “family farms” and a renewed economic commitment to do so. But what is meant by the term “family farm”? Shall we include large-scale commodity farms, or is “family farm” a proxy for something else? Perhaps by “family farm” we intend something other than simply any farm owned by a family.

This paper will begin by exploring what we mean by “family farm.” It will then go on to address what role will the tax code plays in our complicated agricultural system. Finally, the paper will address whether the tax code in fact save the family farm, and if saving the family farm a goal worth achieving.


Charlene Elliott
Assistant Professor
School of Journalism and Communication
Carleton University

In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Quebec’s long-standing law that prohibits the sale of yellow margarine. While the precise colour of margarine may seem trivial, the dispute carries on a century-old tradition in Canada of placing margarine in the legal (and lobbyist’s) limelight.

Margarine presents a long and bizarre legal history which opens the door for probing both the notion of legislative intent and the belief in a product’s communicative potential. The buttery impostor has been banned, outlawed, bootlegged, taxed and colour-coded—and even implicated in the Canadian Constitution

Inspired by Arjun Appadurai’s (1988) claim that ‘objects have social lives’, this analysis provides a legal ‘biography’ of margarine in Canada from 1886 to present. It details how the product has become the site of contestation, negotiation and special interest claims, and how the evolving regulation of margarine reflects some surprisingly consistent social realities.


Jonathan M. Gutoff
Associate Professor of Law
Roger Williams University School of Law

Under the Common Law, certain animals were classified as “royal” and were preserved for the sovereign as part of his or her prerogative. However, while salmon were recognized to be “great fish” they were not considered to be royal fish. I propose to use the case of sturgeon and salmon to explore the relationship between law and culture. Specifically, my plan is to investigate how the culinary and social distinction between sturgeon and salmon in the medieval period was reflected in the development of the legal distinction. Then, and this is why this case study may prove quite interesting, I hope to show how, in turn, the legal distinction in early-modern and modern times was reflected in the social and culinary position of sturgeon and salmon.


Patrick Baude
Ralph F. Fuchs Professor of Law and Public Service
Indiana University – Bloomington

Memory and the Twenty-First Amendment.

The Twenty-First Amendment (1) repeals Prohibition and (2) allows states to prohibit the transportation or importation of intoxicating liquors. Justice Stevens, dissenting from a recent Supreme Court opinion somewhat limiting state bans on importation, observed that the Court’s decision would “seem strange indeed to the millions of Americans who condemned the use of ‘demon rum.”’ This is a sensible thing to say about Prohibition but quite an odd thing to say about an amendment repealing Prohibition. His comment was especially powerful, however odd, in light of the implication that he had personal memory of this particular bit of legislative history. In fact, one can remember that history as a condemnation of strong drink or as a condemnation of the corruption created by the ban itself. Which memory one privileges will determine whether the penumbra of the Amendment is “wet” or “dry.” This paper traces the link between that history and a number of current questions, such as: (1) Can parents allow their twenty-year old children a glass of wine? (2) Can women be forbidden to drink because they might be pregnant? (3) Can sleeping pills be banned because they sometimes cause automobile accidents?


Christopher J. Buccafusco
University of Chicago

A Culture of Hospitality: Social Norms and Intellectual Property Among Chefs

American law offers little in the way of intellectual property protection to chefs’ creative recipes. Nonetheless, an informal system of social norms exists among chefs that serves to promote recipe innovation, assign credit to creative chefs, and inhibit rampant copying. This paper will examine the history of these quasi-IP norms and the culinary profession’s overarching “culture of hospitality.” It will attempt to determine whether the existence of such norms made the low-IP situation possible or whether they developed in response to a lack of legal protection. Finally, it will consider whether such a system is uniquely possible in the culinary profession or whether it can shed light on other areas of cultural property.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Pork Filled Weekend

After an eye exam on Saturday (apparently all of this graduate schooling isn't good for the eyes), Stephanie and I stopped into a small Latin grocer and picked up a couple of pork cuts not seen at the yuppie markets. That night we roasted a saddle of pork with root vegetables. The saddle is the part on the top of the animal where the loins come together. It is like two very thick pork chops connected in the middle by the backbone. I had a bottle of Dr. H. Thanisch Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2004 open from the previous night that matched superbly. Kabinett is the driest of Germany's sweet rieslings, but it is still far too sweet for Stephanie's palate. It was an excellent wine, with stone fruit flavors, a wild honey sweetness, and a pleasantly lingering acidity.

Last night I braised a pork belly. Regular blog readers will know of our love for the pork belly sandwich at Blackbird, and, fortunately, I was able to locate a recipe online by Blackbird chef Paul Kahan. The belly is the same cut of meat that bacon comes from. It's enormously tender and flavorful, and a bit fatty. The pork is seared on both sides to render some of the fat and then mirepoix and white wine are added to deglaze. Finally, a bit of chicken stock and bouquet garni, and the whole thing is roasted uncovered in a 325F oven for 2.5 hours. Stephanie prepared a delightful side dish of wilted escarole with green peas. She even toasted some bread and smeared it with butter and mayonaise to imitate the Blackbird sandwich. Everything was supremely delicious. Earlier that day at Sam's we had picked up a bottle of J-P Granier Coteaux du Languedoc les essentielles 2001 on sale. Unfortunately, it tasted like something from California or Australia rather than the Languedoc we had hoped for. Far too ripe, alcholic, and glycerin-y to go well with pork. Another riesling, like the Wehlener or perhaps from Alsace, would have been a much better choice.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Georges Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent Oak Aged 2005

Again keeping things gastronomically simple in preparation for visitors, we decided to order a pizza from Father & Son tonight. It was sufficiently yummy, despite being cut into squares. F&S is about the only pizza place that delivers to Chicago's west side hinterland. I wonder if they'd cut it into normal slices if we asked.

In any event, we opened our first bottle of the new 2005 vintage from Beaujolais. It is perhaps worth pausing for a moment to discuss the wines of Beaujolais for those only familiar with its most (in)famous product Nouveau. Beaujolais is a region in the east of France, south of Burgundy proper, and its considerable production of red wines is devoted to the Gamay grape (also occasionally found in the Loire Valley). Gamay produces crisp, light red wines with refreshing berry characteristics and little tannin. This makes it a lovely choice for "Nouveau" bottlings, where the wine is released weeks after being harvested, pressed, and fermented. These wines, while perfectly acceptable for a celebration, are not especially satisfying. The next step up in quality are labeled "Villages" (pronounced vill-ahzj). These are fine table wines for regular consumption, showing more structure than the nouveaux. At the top are the "cru" wines produced from particular sub-regions within Beaujolais. These wines, from crus named Julienas, Morgon, Fleurie, Brouilly, etc., are some of the best values in the wine world. They usually sell for $10-20, and they can be as satisfying as more expensive bottles from Burgundy.

The wine I chose, from Beaujolais's biggest and best known producer, was, sadly, not up to the fine standards of the cru bottlings. It had a lovely violet red color but the oak aging did little more than make the wine taste like a cheap California pinot noir. Perhaps it needs some time to integrate, but the oak covers the delicate floral and berry notes that are so desperately trying to be noticed. In any event, the 2005s promise to be tasty. Just try different bottles.

Domaine des Aubuisiéres Vouvray Cuvée de Silex 2005

I didn't feel like cooking anyting too fancy last night, so I whipped up some pasta and shrimp in garlic and olive oil. It wasn't an exciting meal, but the wine we chose was quite nice.

Regular blog readers will be familiar with my fondness for chenin blanc from the Loire (clearly Eric Asimov has been reading my blog), and I couldn't pass up this Vouvray selling for a few dollars cheaper than the bottlings by Huet and others. I was also attracted to the wine's designation as "cuvee de silex," drawing attention to the predominant soil type in the vineyard (a practice popularized in the Loire Valley by Didier Dageneau).

Made by Bernard Fouquet, this wine showed great minerally balanced by round stone-fruit flavors and aromas. The Loire reds I've tasted from '05 have been uniformly flabby due to the high summer temperatures, but this bottle kept everything in the proper register. While perhaps not as age-worthy as Heut's vouvrays or Baumard or Joly's savennieres, this was a chenin that could stand up to rich fish like salmon or rouget and even to pork and veal.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ch. Malartic La Graviere 2003 & Ch. Pedesclaux 2003

It rained for the 41st consecutive day in Chicago, but this time I was ready for the weather. I braised some beef short ribs and made some lovely mashed potatoes with more butter and cream than Stephanie was aware of. The short ribs were excellent. They may very well be the most naturally flavorful cut of beef.

We paired dinner with a couple of 2003 Bordeauz. The Malartic La Graviere hails from the Pessac Leognan and has a rich floral and hotdoggy aroma. On the palate, the flowers turn to red fruits backed by a solid by unintrusive layer of tannins. The Pedesclaux comes from Paulliac and shows rich fruit and floral aromas and a matching palate. The finish on the Pedesclaux is much longer than the Malartic, but it is also a more extracted and modern wine. Both wines were surprisingly restrained considering that they were produced during the scorching 2003 vintage, and both matched well with the meal. If I had to choose, I'd give the edge in the wine-food pairing to the Malartic and the edge in stand-alone pleasure to the Pedesclaux. But, fortunately, I don't have to choose.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Shellfish Fest

After hearing that co-blogger Jonathan and my Moto dinner companion John had never schucked raw oysters, Stephanie and I decided to invite them over for a lesson in opening the delicious bivalves. Dirk's Fish Market was the source for the oysters, which included Kumomotos, Fanny Bays, Virginicas, and Malpeques. Our guests picked up the technique rapidly despite imperfect instruction. Fortunately, no fingers were lost. Unfortunately, a number of the Fanny Bays were not edible, but the rest of the oysters were delicious. I was particularly impressed by the briny yet clean character of the Virginicas and Malpeques. We drank a delicious 2004 Beauregard Muscadet as we schucked. It's crisp acidity and minerally finish accented the oysters perfectly.

Following the raw fish, we decided to eat something cooked. I smoked Prince Edward Island mussels on the grill with hickory chips. They took a while to open, but they had a splendidly rich flavor tinged with smoke. The obvious wine pairing was a Pouilly-Fume (Fume is French for "smoke"), and we enjoyed an excellent bottle of 2004 Chatelain (it was manifestly better than one reviewed earlier on this blog). It seemed round and broad following the muscadet, but the flinty finish went perfectly with the mussels. Also, following a recommendation from co-blogger Charlie, we tried a bit of peaty Scotch with the mussels, choosing the obviously delicious Johnny Walker Blue Label. If only we had more mussels and more Scotch.

Deciding that we were no where close to full, I grilled a pair of mackerel, seasoned only with salt, pepper, lemon, and Sicilian olive oil. Mackerel is a rich, oily fish (so much so that Stephanie declined to try it), so it was just the thing to follow the smoked mussels.

Jonathan was kind enough to bring by a bottle of grappa, which a welcome resource for continued gastronomic pleasure. It was full, rich, and oily with a delicate hint of plums. Unlike some of the more fruity or restrained grappas on the market now, this one had the heft that signified its authenticity.

With such a wonderful digestif, we were fully prepared to enjoy the wonderful cheese, goose pate, and 2003 Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes that John provided. Although I'm sure I don't even have to say it, the sweet, rich wine paired excellently with the extravagant goose pate and the Rochefort and Humboldt Fog cheeses.

Having plied our guests with enough food and drink to put a horse into a coma, I decided that it was an excellent time to revenge a bocce drubbing that John and Jonathan had given my neighbor Willie and I a few days earlier. Grappa in hand and straw bocce hat on head, we managed to tie the series at two games a piece. It was a fanatastic evening.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Food, Law, and Culture Panel - Call for Papers

The folks at LawCulture have been nice enough to link to my Food, Law, and Culture call for papers, so I am moving it to the top of my blog. Please stop by their blog if you get the chance.

I am currently soliciting paper presentations for a new panel on “Food, Law, and Culture” for the annual Law, Culture, and Humanities Conference to be held at Georgetown University, March 23-24 2007.

Last year’s conference included a handful of “Law and Food” papers in different panels. They were all well-received, and the topics they addressed seem worthy of integration into a single panel. The panel’s goal will be to begin theorizing about the place(s) of food in the law by exploring both the different ways law treats food and the various cultural norms about food that lie behind this treatment. My work, for example, analyzes the copyrightability of recipes through the lenses of aesthetic philosophy and the cultural history of cooks and cooking.

Topics can include, but are not limited to:

Intellectual property rights in genetically modified foods
Hunger strikes and force-feeding prisoners
Last meals
Food torts, e.g. exploding sodas, fingers in chili, coffee in the lap
Government regulation of food and alcohol
Obesity regulation
Animal rights
Dietary laws and regulations in different cultures
Trademark rights in appellations of origin
Farm subsidies and international trade
Linguistic classification of food, e.g. kosher, 1st Growths, Organic
Sumptuary laws
Labeling, packaging, and branding
Food stamps

The deadline for submissions to the conference is October 15, 2006, so please respond well before then if you think you might be interested in joining the panel. Also, please circulate this to any colleagues that might be interested. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or comments.

Christopher Buccafusco

Stephanie's Birthday Dinner at Spring

Having taken the whole week off to celebrate her birthday, Stephanie thought that it would be nice to spend the time doing things that she doesn't normally get to do during the week when she's at work. So on her birthday we headed to Hot Doug's for lunch. Their Saturday lines are often too long, so it was nice to go during the week when we could get in quickly. Stephanie had her usual Chicago dog with cheese fries, and I enjoyed my last foie gras dog in Chicago (the ban goes in effect today) and a mushroom swiss pork sausage. This seemed like the perfect start to our big day of fine eating.

Sadly, dinner was unable to meet the high standard set by lunch at Doug's. We had reservation at 7:30 for Spring, a fairly fancy restaurant housed in an old bath house in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. We'd been meaning to go for some time and were even more encouraged by the announcement of Chef Shawn McClain's James Beard Foundation Best Chef in the Midwest award. Spring, his first solo restaurant, is devoted to Asian-inspired fish, while newer restaurants focus on vegetables and steaks.

When we arrived, the dining room was less that half full, and it would remain so throughout the evening. Clearly the James Beard award does not do for a restaurant's business what 3 Michelin stars do or, for that matter, a Food & Wine "Best New Chef" award does (Schwa is booked for the next two months). I was fortunate that the restaurant was not more full, however, because the table we were seated at had a wobbly chair. The staff were nice enough to move us.

As we poured over the menu, Stephanie had the inspired idea of having a single raw oyster between each course of the meal. We checked with the waiter, and he agreed (if not gladly). The oysters were Rocky Points from Prince Edward Island, and they were far more enjoyable spaced out during the meal than consumed en masse at the outset. Each was presented on a bed of rock salt and dressed with cucumber mignonette and fresh wasabi. Unfortunately, these were the highlight of the meal.

Stephanie began the meal with a bowl of the chilled sweet corn chowder with peekytoe crab. She described it, in a way that would have made Bernard Loiseau proud, as "the essence of corn." I chose scallop and potato "raviolis" - scallop slices sandwiched between thin slices of potato and sauced with truffles and mushrooms. The concept was interesting, but when the sauce was poured over the crisp potatoes, they disintegrated into a murky pool of starch. The flavor of the scallops, however, was spot on.

After another oyster, we split an heirloom tomoto salad that was both beautiful and delicious. I would recount the varieties included but the waiter didn't know when asked and he made no effort to find out.

One more oyster, and the main courses were served. Stephanie chose the bluenose grouper with lobster and crab dumplings in shellfish broth. The dumplings were superb, and the broth was delicate and flavorful, but the grouper was overcooked, chewy, and lacking flavor. Stephanie recommended leaving out the fish and serving the course as a "wonton soup." It would have been much better.

I followed the waiter's advice, usually a good choice, and selected the sockeye salmon with fingerling potatoes and lobster mushrooms. The fish was overcooked and the Chinese stirfry sauce was exceedingly oily. Perhaps most disappointingly, as it showed the utter disregard of the kitchen staff, were the actual pieces of fish I received. Instead of receiving a single thick fillet of salmon perched on top of the other ingredients, I was served two small cuts from the tail of the fish (the worst cut), toppled over the plate, and with an enormous gash in the crisp skin. The woman next to me ordered the same dish and received a far superior product. It is difficult to believe that a kitchen like this would care so little. Perhaps Chef McClain had switched his kitchen staff for the evening, because our fish tasted like it was prepared at a steakhouse.

If only I could stop this tale of woe here, but doing so would neglect the rather poor service that we received. The waiter, as mentioned, was kind enough to agree to our oyster request, but no effort was made to describe the dishes. At a restaurant of this caliber, one expects the waiter to remind the diners what they are eating and perhaps to offer a comment about the preparation. Here, on the other hand, we couldn't even find out what the tomatoes were when we asked. The food runner was polite, and he congratulated us on our wise choice of the oysters, but the bus boy was exceedingly gruff when he wasn't being entirely unresponsive. He cleared the plates with visible distain and crumbed only half of one of our place settings. Perhaps he was having a bad day, but this is not the kind of service I expect for a James Beard award winner, or of an Applebee's for that matter.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dinner at Moto

I apologize for the blogging hiatus. We have been very busy celebrating Stephanie's birthday. More on that to follow.

Last Saturday, however, Stephanie was out of town, and I invited my friend John, a law professor who appeared earlier in this blog as Jonathan's dining companion at Le Bernardin, to a last-minute dinner at Moto. We took the 9:30 reservation, as it was all that was left as of Friday afternoon. Moto, for those unfamiliar with cutting-edge gastronomy, is one of these "molecular gastronomy" restaurants that serves food inspired and created by various scientific processes. Chef Homaro Cantu was kind enough to be interviewed for my paper on the copyrightability of recipes, and many of the dishes we consumed were created with patent-pending technologies.

The meal began when we were presented with edible menus that also served as both the amuse bouche and a legal statement. An edible strip of paper was attached to a piece of crisp bread, which were used to eat Indian-flavored lentils with preserved lemon. This was matched with the best cucumer juice shooter I've ever tasted. The shooter let us know that dinner would not simply offer a progression of "gee-whiz" flare but a seriously tasty gastronomic experience. The menu, however, very clearly warned us against attempting to recreate any of the chef's patent-pending techniques without first purchasing a license.

After some indecision about which tasting menu to order (the restaurant offers 5-course, 10-course, and the 20-course GTM menus), John and I settled on the GTM - Grand Tour of Moto - and we decided to order wine by the glass rather than purchase the course-by-course accompaniments. But more on the wine later.

Dinner began with a Vietnamese egg-drop soup, where the egg had been dipped in liquid nitrogen (as you will see, a familiar theme for the evening) and "cooked" in the warm, spicy soup. This was followed by one of our favorite courses of the evening, sweet corn ice cream with liquid nitrogen (LI) kernels and mussels and clams in bacony broth. Many of the courses, and most of the truly successful ones, made use of temperature contrasts such as this. By tacking between warm and cold, the meal seemed more like a dance than slog through a series of heavier and warmer courses. It made the 20 courses seem almost not insane.

The corn was followed by "synthetic champagne" where a liquid in a glass is combined tableside with a different liquid in a syringe over the glass, carbonating the resulting liquid, which, while tasty, bears little resemblance to champagne. Next came the only disappointing savory course, goat cheese snow with balsamic. The cheese had been dipped in LI and then shattered to create small white flakes. It was drizzled with the balsamic. I found the flavors too abrupt and poorly integrated. Another ingredient was necessary to bring them together - perhaps hills of bread.

The meal continued with a series of fish courses: hamachi sashimi (over-)marinated in "carbonated" clementine with parsnip puree, a delicious crab dish with passion fruit and "popcorn butter" sauce, and bass cooked in patented ovens placed on the table. This last course was served with heirloom tomato sauce and mushrooms. It was reasonably tasty, but John and I were surprised to have received very differently shaped pieces of fish.

The fish courses were briefly interupted for one of my favorite courses - "savory dippin dots" (no doubt a trademark violation on Chef Cantu's part). We received "peas and carrots," a spoon of frozen dots made from liquified and sweetned vegetable juices. I found it both delicious and playful.

We next received our meat courses. Tender bison in a red runner bean puree was eaten with patented "aromatic utensils," which sport spiral handles stuffed with sage leaves. After a bite of frozen jalapeno, we enjoyed a thrice seared beef ribeye with a pureed kielbasa sauce. The meat was divine; the sauce a bit peculiar and not especially helpful to the meat.

As we began a progression of nine sweet courses I noticed that John was looking a bit full. I think he had begun to wish that we had chosen the 10-course menu. John does not sport my well-earned girth, and having almost eaten himself to death at Joel Robuchon earlier in the month, Moto was proving to be quite a challenge for him. Committed gastronomer that he is, John tucked into the first "dessert" - mac & cheese where the "noodles" were made from hollowed out fruit and the cheese was a triple-cream mixed with white chocolate. The next dessert, "fettuccine alla dolce" was my favorite - sweetened pasta noodles (real noodles this time) with a lovely sauce. John really enjoyed the next dessert of cotton candy 3 ways - paper printed with cotton-candy flavored ink, a cotton candy truffle, and malanga root strips flavored with cotton candy and white chocolate.

By 1:30 am the finishing courses became something of a blur, but I must credit pastry chef Ben Roche for their daring contrasts of textures and flavors and their ability to put familiar sensations in unfamiliar contexts. Only one proved to over step the line, the next to last course of "chili-cheese nachos." At 2:15 the visual pun was simply too intense, as sweetened nacho chips were served with some kind of "cheese" and a salsa made of kiwi. I may have enjoyed this course had I tasted it earlier, perhaps after the mac & cheese, but 19th was too late to serve it.

The service at Moto was friendly, knowledgeable, and well-coordinated if a little less professional than one might expect for a bill this large. We received solid advice on wine selection, and our questions about techniques, ingredient sources, and other minutiae were all answered.

The wine program, however, leaves quite a bit to be desired. The wine list is quite small in comparison to similarly priced restaurants, and only four reds and four whites are offered by the glass. Admittedly, cuisine like this is not easy to match to wine. Even if you know what to match with shellfish, for example, how are you supposed to decide what to drink when the shellfish comes with a side of corn ice cream? We followed some of the staff's wine recommendations and went out on our own for others, but had little meaningful success either way. John and I seemed to agree that a diner at Moto is best served by choosing a glasses of white, red, and sweet wine that look interesting instead of making any attempt to match the wine to particular courses.

In sum, the dinner was a great success. The dishes were thoughtful, exciting, and most of all, delicious. Despite the muted decor, the atmosphere is alive with wonder and awe. I would happily go back and would strongly recommend even the 5-course meal for a very reasonable $65. Moto plays an important role in Chicago's current reputation as America's most innovative dining city.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux en Provence 2003

I have been reading Rudolph Chelminsky's intriguing and disturbing "The Perfectionist," a biography of the 3-star Michelin chef Bernard Loiseau. It's a fascinating book for anyone interested in French gastronomy, the role of the Michelin guide, or the development of nouvelle cuisine over the past 40 years. Loiseau was famous for, inter alia, his veal chop, and reading the book inspired me to prepare veal chops following in "le style Loiseau." The chops were browned in my best butter and olive oil, then transferred to the oven to cook through. I removed them from the pan to rest, while I deglazed with rose and veal stock, which I reduced to a glaze. At the end, I added the veal back to the pan to coat with the glaze, and served it with Stephanie's potatoes dauphinoise and an excellent Boston lettuce salad.

I paired the veal with a wine not from Loiseau's Burgundy region but from Les Baux en Provence in Southern France. It is medium-bodied but deep red in color. Stephanie detected hints of basil and boiled peanut. I found it ripe and round, but dry and minerally on the finish - no doubt from the bauxite in the soil (the mineral was named for this region where it was first discovered). No doubt a Gevrey-Chambertin would have been a better choice, but it was a pleasant wine for $12.

Friday, August 11, 2006

On the Legal Consequences of Sauces: Should Thomas Keller's Recipes be Per Se Copyrightable?

A draft of my paper on the copyrightability of recipes in American law is now available at:

While writing this article, I was fortunate enough to interview Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, Rick Tramonto, Homaro Cantu, Norman van Aken, and Wylie Dufresne. Comments are welcome.

Chateau Phelan Segur Bordeaux Rosé 2005 - A True "Claret"

The English call the wines of Bordeaux "claret" from the French word for "pink." This is because, many years ago, Bordeaux's wines were mostly rosés, not the deep reds and crisp whites we know today. A few producers still make a true claret, and tonight we tasted one in honor of the first day of Stephanie's vacation.

The meal began with baccala cakes with two sauces - corn and cilantro cream and orange and fennel "ketchup." With this we drank a rather robust and slightly funky Charles Elner Brut NV. The main course was homemade potato gnocchi in a crayfish and lobster mushroom ragout. This is where the rosé came in.

It had a slightly graying pink color, but a decidedly Bordeaux aroma of red fruits. Medium-bodies, dry, and crisp, it was just what a rosé should be. There is a hint of tannin, but the wine drinks beautifully.

(If my writing is less fluid than usual, I blame Emeril Lagasse whose show is playing in the background as I type.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Call for Papers: Food, Law, and Culture Panel

I am currently soliciting paper presentations for a new panel on “Food, Law, and Culture” for the annual Law, Culture, and Humanities Conference to be held at Georgetown University, March 23-24 2007.

Last year’s conference included a handful of “Law and Food” papers in different panels. They were all well-received, and the topics they addressed seem worthy of integration into a single panel. The panel’s goal will be to begin theorizing about the place(s) of food in the law by exploring both the different ways law treats food and the various cultural norms about food that lie behind this treatment. My work, for example, analyzes the copyrightability of recipes through the lenses of aesthetic philosophy and the cultural history of cooks and cooking.

Topics can include, but are not limited to:

Intellectual property rights in genetically modified foods
Hunger strikes and force-feeding prisoners
Last meals
Food torts, e.g. exploding sodas, fingers in chili, coffee in the lap
Government regulation of food and alcohol
Obesity regulation
Animal rights
Dietary laws and regulations in different cultures
Trademark rights in appellations of origin
Farm subsidies and international trade
Linguistic classification of food, e.g. kosher, 1st Growths, Organic
Sumptuary laws
Labeling, packaging, and branding
Food stamps

The deadline for submissions to the conference is October 15, 2006, so please respond well before then if you think you might be interested in joining the panel. Also, please circulate this to any colleagues that might be interested. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or comments.

Christopher Buccafusco

Monday, July 31, 2006

Antichi Vignetti di Cantalupo Agamium Colline Novaresi 2003

Stephanie and I were enjoying the first couple episodes of Friends on TBS, and we decided to pair Joey's long hair, Rachel's old nose, and a lot of high-waisted pants with this bottle of obscure Piedmont wine. On the side, we had grilled pork chops and asparagus and some of the best fennel and mushroom risotto I've ever had.

Colline Novaresi is located north of Piedmont in the northwestern corner of Italy. The primary grape varietal is nebbiolo, famous for its role in Barolo and Barbaresco, but here it's known as Spanna. It's a medium-bodied red wine, with moderate oak and raspberry and blueberry notes on the aroma. Stephanie detected a bit of ash on the palate, and I found it to resemble the slightly citrusy character of a Rhone wine. I'd recommend it with red sauces, pork, chicken, and veal.

Be the first on your block to try a bottle.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chateau Rives-Blanques Chenin Blanc Dedicace Limoux 2003

It's summer and it's very hot in Chicago, so I should be grilling, but I just can't stop purchasing fun cuts of meat to braise (that, and my grill isn't working). Tonight we had braised veal breast with white beans, carrots, and rosemary. The breast isn't terribly popular these days, but it's inexpensive and delicious. It has plenty of rich meat, some fat, and great bones for gelatinizing sauces.

To match I chose this Chenin Blanc from Southern France. Regular readers know how much I enjoy chenin, and I jumped at the chance to taste one from outside its normal French home (the Loire Valley). This was a very nice wine - dry, but with a certain roundness probably due to the intensely hot 2003 vintage. There's an aroma of wet dog, but once you get past it, the wine offers a nice mix of herb, grass, and melon notes. I'd prefer more acidity to increase its food-friendliness, but I guess it can't be helped in years like '03.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bastille Day Eve Dinner

Les Bleus may have lost the World Cup final, but we were still in enough of a Francophillic mood to celebrate Bastille Day Eve last night with a four-course dinner. It was, in fact, something of a Cask 79 reunion dinner as we were joined by co-blogger Jonathan, our first guest diner at the new house.

Dinner began with Stephanie leading the group in a rousing chorus of "Chant de guerre de l'Armée du Rhin," aka La Marseillaise. After the singing, we sat down to a course that I have been hoping to make for some time: Roasted Marrow Bones with Parsley Salad. The bones are soaked overnight in cold water, then dried and roasted for 20 minutes in the oven. The gooey marrow is then scooped onto toast with a bit of parsley salad. After debating with Charlie over what to serve with course, I chose a bottle of Henriot Champagne Souverain NV, hoping its acidity would cut the richness of the marrow. It did just that, and it even nicely matched the shrimp Stephanie grilled in lieu of the marrow.

The second course was a hearty lentil soup garnished with lardons and lavender. The lavender added pleasant flavor in addition to clarifying the French theme of the dinner. The main course consisted of grilled quails served over mashed red-skinned potatoes with creamers full of collard-green sauce on the side. I had prepared the collard sauce once before and again found it worked excellently with the gamy quail. The quail, and the soup before it, were paired with 2002 Volnay-Santenots 1er Cru from Thierry et Pascale Matrot. I love the values offered by pinot noirs from the Cotes du Beaune in southern Burgundy, and this one was no exception. It was only medium-bodied, but its red-fruit flavors, silky tannins, and background acidity made for a delicious gustatory chord. Like some of the others wines we've tasted recently, this one promised to confirm my belief that even medium-bodied wines can age exceptionally well.

Dinner was capped off with a wedge of Roquefort and a half-bottle of Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes 2003, the second wine of the famous Chateau Rieussec. It was rather light-bodied and not terribly sweet, but it showed hints of botrytis and nice acidity. This is one to drink early and often.

Someone then suggested that we storm something; I believe I recommended the National Guard building around the corner; but the mood passed and we finished the wine. Vive la France!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nicholas Joly Savennieres Clos de la Bergerie 1997

I had some time to kill before picking up my folks today, so I dropped by the House of Glunz on Wells Street. Every time I visit I marvel over the complete vertical of Nicholas Joly Savennieres Coulee de Serrant that they have dating back to 1992. When I have $1000 to blow on wine, these will be the first that I buy.

I love the chenin blanc grown in France's Savennieres appellation in the Loire Valley. For my money they are the best dry white wines available anywhere. Joly's Clos de la Bergerie is less exalted than the $80 Coulee de Serrant, but it is absolutely fanatastic. Joly practices biodynamic farming throughout his vineyards, and the corks tend to be covered in mold. But the wines are intensely flavored and perfectly structured, showing ripe fruit and bracing acidity. At nine years old, this wine was glorious and clearly improved the flavor of some rather middling pork chops. Even in the empty glass I can smell the lingering melon, honeysuckle, and peach notes. It could certainly last for another decade - unfortunately it was Glunz's last bottle.

Some Lovely Values from the New House

We have been settling down on Hirsch Street this week and have enjoyed a series of delightful wines that I thought I'd put together in a single blog post.

First, I discovered a bottle of Chateau Haut Batailley 1999 from Bordeaux's famed Pauillac region on sale recently. We had it with the left over leg of lamb, this time served with a cucumber and wild mint sauce. At seven years old it was beginning to show some maturity. And while it lacked a long and intriguing finish, it performed admirably for a classified growth Bordeaux priced at only $16. The wines from '99 are worth seeking out; they're considerably cheaper and earlier-drinking than those from 1998 and 2000.

The following evening we drank another older $16-bottle, this time a Bodegas LAN Rioja Gran Riserva 1996. Made entirely of tempranillo grapes and smelling decidedly of black truffles, this medium-bodied wine proves that ageworthy wines don't have to be enormously ripe and extracted. I have since forgotten what we ate with it, but the wine an incredible value, perfect for game.

Breaking from these hoary bottles I took at stab at a bottle of Carmenere from Apaltagua in Chile's Colchagua Valley. Carmenere was originally a Bordeaux varietal that was transplanted in Chile and mistaken for Merlot in the 19th century. After the phylloxera attacks in France earlier in this century, it was not replanted in Bordeaux and was thought to be lost until grape geneticists discovered in growing in Chile. Carmenere is noted for its often overwhelming bell pepper aromas and flavors, and while this wine was unmistakably Carmenere, it managed to combine the earthiness of the peppers with some ripe fruit and a well-toned finish. At $12, this proved to be a remarkably food-friendly and well-balanced wine.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cos d'Estournel St. Estephe 1995

Stephanie and I just closed on our first home purchase, and to celebrate our ascension into the ranks of the landed gentry we selected a bottle of that most gentrified of wines, classified growth Bordeaux. Among a number of worthy contenders from the mid-1990s, we selected the Cos d'Estournel 1995 from the St. Estephe region on Bordeaux's left bank. Along with Ch. Montrose, "Cos," as it is known, was the highest ranking property in St. Estephe according to the 1855 classification (Deuxièmes Crus). To accompany such a noble wine, I roasted a whole leg of lamb (just for the two of us), and Stephanie prepared a delicious side dish of potato gratin.

The wine was bold, but not so big that it obscured the flavors of the lamb. At just over 10 years old, it struck a nice balance between lingering fruit and emerging maturity. The black currant notes folded over earth, lead, and fine tannins to create a wine of extraordinary depth and lasting pleasure. Like many other 95s, the Cos was just reaching the point where it wouldn't be considered totally inappopriate to begin drinking it, but its backbone of tannins, acidity, and forthcoming maturity indicates that it will offer many more years of enjoyable drinking.

Perhaps I'll buy another bottle to save for when we sell the house.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The World Cup Makes Me Hungry

I've been following the World Cup on television during the mornings, and I've found that I get hungry for lunch earlier than I used to. I've decided that my desire to eat lunch at 10:30 must be due to a fairly quirky phrase that the announcers use. In addition to misconjugating verbs following team names (e.g. "Germany have to score now" instead of "Germany has to score now"), the announcers refer to the various free kicks, corner kicks, and penalty kicks as "set pieces." The idea is that the ball is at rest, and the offense is allowed to develop something like a "play" to try to score.

I suppose it's a fine phrase, but those familiar with gastronomic history know that "set pieces" are actually the English translation of the French "piéces montees." Piéces montees were elaborate confections created by pastry chefs to rest in the middle of medieval and early modern feasts. They were inedible and often included moving parts, firecrackers, and live animals. See the lovely movie Vatel for recreations. So now, everytime I listen to soccer I imagine myself carried back to a world of non-stop feasting. It's especially bad when I'm watching Les Bleus.

P.S. To any readers whose French is better than mine, I'd love to know if Le Monde, etc. refer to corner, penalty, free kicks as "piéces montees."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Neckenmarkt Blaufrankisch Classic Burgenland 2004

Last night we made the mistake of roasting a chicken. Normally it wouldn't be a problem, but we have yet to install our air conditioners for the season, and our oven is incredibly inefficient. After an hour of cooking, the kitchen had reached 100 degrees. To accompany the bird, I made le Puy lentils and Stephanie prepared a salad with a bacon dijon vinaigrette, topping mine with a pair of poached quail eggs.

She chose this Austrian red to wash everything down. This is our second Austrian red in a couple of weeks, and I must admit to being quite pleased with the quality of the wines. Perfectly ripe and round, this wine showed a bouquet of floral and fruity aromas and flavors. It lacked the tannins and acidity to be particularly deep or profound, but despite this lack of structure, it was restrained and drinkable. While it went fine with the chicken, I'd prefer it as a sipping wine for cocktail parties and such. And with an $11 price tag, one could easily buy enough for a crowd.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Mas de Boislauzon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2001

Due to recent travels, Stephanie and I have been away from the kitchen for the past couple of weeks. We resumed our normal culinary routine last night when I grilled skirt steak roulades stuffed with carmelized shallots and chevre. Stephanie prepared polenta and assembled a green salad.

The local wine store was running a sale on some of its Chateauneuf's, so I picked up this bottle for only $20 (the average for CdP is between $30 and $70). Unfortunately, it seems, you get what you pay for. I should have been clued in by the unusual stamp on the bottle. Normally, CdP bottles portray the papal seal stamped in glass above the label.

This bottle, however, had only a representation of the pontiff's hat.

At five years old, it had lost much of its fruit character, but the earthly flavors that come with maturity had not yet made an appearance. The wine was rather too dry, with a somewhat chalky finish that eventually improved to taste of earl grey tea. For the money, I'd recommend buying a high-quality Gigondas or even one of the excellent Cotes-du-Rhone from Domaine les Aphillantes.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Le Bernardin

I had my first experience with New York City haute cuisine this past weekend when John, another friend of this blog, joined me for lunch at Le Bernardin (his favorite restaurant -- and he is not alone). Bernardin specializes in seafood -- it's almost considered a crime to order anything else -- and we largely stuck to the theme. For my first course, I ordered a dish of raw wild salmon marinated in olive oil, lemon, and grapefruit juice, which I found exquisite and briskly refreshing. If anything, the tangy marinade slightly overwhelmed the taste of the salmon and could have been toned down slightly, but this was a very small concern -- the dish was terrific. John had layers of thinly pounded raw yellowfin tuna arrayed over thinly spread foie gras, and the rich taste of the tuna coupled with the even richer foie gras was a fabulous combination. These are not tastes that one is used to experiencing together, but they worked marvelously.

My main course was broiled scallops in a Bouillabaisse with clams, mussels, and vegetables. The scallops were done perfectly -- tender and delicious, and not overly "fishy" as lesser-quality scallops can tend to be -- and were complemented wonderfully by the excellent (though unspectacular) Bouillabaisse. John opted to order two additional first courses in lieu of a main course, and chose a sea urchin (uni) custard, served warm, and a foie gras terrine. (As readers of this blog are undoubtedly aware, foie gras will soon be illegal in the city of Chicago, and so native Chicagoans such as John are doing their best to consume as much as possible before then.) These two dishes were almost heart-stoppingly rich, and utterly fantastic. Probably like many other sushi eaters I'm used to uni being served cold, so the warm custard was an interesting and effective variation. The foie gras, not surprisingly, was decadent enough to die for, and -- if one were to consume enough -- that would probably be the outcome.

For dessert I ordered a chocolate-cashew tart accompanied by various sauces and reductions (caramel, banana, red wine) that was perhaps even more amazing than anything I had eaten to that point. The tart was extremely delicate and yet, needless to say, very rich, and not overly sweet. In fact, it so overwhelmed my taste buds (and my memory) that I have essentially no recollection of what John ordered, despite the fact that I tasted it. We also each ordered a glass of Chardonnay that was quite good but the name of which, unfortunately, I also cannot remember.

The food at Le Bernardin was, on the whole, magnificent, but the service also bears serious mention. Le Bernardin's service is the best that I have ever experienced, though not in the typical manner that one might expect. It wasn't "spectacular" or "flashy" in any sense; there wasn't any coordinated motion or trickery or flamboyant presentation. It was just perfectly timed and refreshingly informal; the waiters seemed relaxed and appeared to be enjoying themselves, the restaurant was accommodating of unorthodox requests (such as John's three first courses), and no one there seemed hung up on what a wonderful restaurant it was. I even appreciated the fact that the waiters (all of whom were genuinely French) wrote our orders down in small notebooks. There was no need to impress us with their incredible memories; they just wanted to get the orders right and deliver them promptly. And needless to say, whenever my water glass neared the point of being empty someone would magically appear and fill it, and whenever I had picked up the last remaining morsel of bread someone would arrive and offer me another piece. In typical French fashion, Le Bernardin also did not bring us the check until we asked for it, a nice change from typically time-crunched American dining. Le Bernardin's reputation as one of the best restaurants in New York is, in my opinion, well-deserved, and at the extremely reasonable price of $51 for a three-course lunch it was very much worth the trip.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tijou Savennieres Clos des Perrieres 2000

Yesterday we enjoyed one of our best, an easiest, homemade dinners in a long time. We had a frisee salad which Stephanie dressed with a vinaigrette of dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, and rendered bacon fat, topped with slab bacon and poached quail eggs. It was sublime. I grilled a whole golden trout that turned out to be the best fish I have made in ages. The flesh was a beautiful golden color, lighter than salmon but darker, and richer, than the standard rainbow trout. It was grilled simply, with only salt and pepper and a sprig of rosemary in the cavity.

Sadly the wine I chose to accompany the meal didn't show as well. 2000 was a tough vintage for France's Loire valley, and five years of bottle age did nothing to improve this bottle of chenin blanc. Regular blog readers will know that I have been fascinated with chenin (and chenin taste-alikes like falanghina) lately, but this bottling had neither the racy acidity nor round melon and stone-fruit flavors that make Savennieres my go-to wine. I'd love to try it in a better vintage.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Caves Cidis Gamaret La Cote 2003 (Switzerland)

We celebrated the acceptance of our offer on a new house last night with a roasted pheasant in natural jus. It was accompanied by a saute of spring vegetables - Trumpet royale mushrooms, ramps, fiddlehead ferns, and favas. I should have a picture up soon.

The pheasant seemed like a fine time to try out a Swiss red wine that I had picked up recently. The grape varietal was Gamaret, which the label claims is a hybrid Gamay grape, most famously from Beaujolais, and an indigenous grape called Reichensteiner. The wine had a surprisingly dark color and full body - certainly more so than a standard Beaujolais cru wine. It did have the anticipated red fruit, especially cherry, notes and some oak. The finish was rather short for the slightly gamy pheasant, but it would have been just fine with chicken or pasta. Like its half-brothers from Beaujolais, it certainly improves when served at a slightly lower temperature.

Time to get back to French wines now.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Markowitsch Carnuntum Cuvee 2003 - An Austrian Red

Although it's Spring here in Chicago, in the Southern Hemisphere autumn is arriving, and thanks to worldwide food distribution, we were able to enjoy some delicious grilled venison chops last night. Stephanie sauteed some dandelion greens, and I glazed some yellow carrots. The venison was perfect, and I hope the grocery stores make an effort to keep it in stock. It's a pleasant respite from the endless cycle of chicken, beef, lamb, pork, and fish.

I got a little daring at the wine shop this weekend and broke from my usual francophilia. I chose a pair of reds from Austria, the first of which we drank with the venison. Although I didn't know it, Markowitsch is one of the country's top producers, and their reputation seemed well-earned after tasting their entry-level Carnuntum Cuvee. It's a blend of 80% zweigelt, an indigenous varietal, and 20% pinot noir. Surprisingly full-bodied, the wine displayed inviting red fruit flavors and hinted at that citrusy note one occassionally finds in the Southern Rhone. Not overly tannic, it paired supremely well with the meaty yet lean venison, and it would prove a welcome companion for good pork, beef stew, and especially, duck. At $12, it's worth buying a case, and it encouraged me to seek out their better bottlings.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A lovely Spring day

The weather in Chicago was beautiful today, and we took advantage of it with some springtime gastronomic treats. Around three o'clock, I celebrated the day with a perfect pairing of fried smelts and North Coast Brewing's Silver Jubilee belgian farmhouse ale. The malt and yeast in the beer matched excellently with the salty fish. I'm a little unsure about the this 25th anniversary bottling though. The website claims that the brewery was founded in 1988, and I still have a few bottles of the ten year anniversary ale, one of the best I've ever tasted. But here comes this beer, asserting that the brewery was established in 1980. What gives?

Dinner began will an interesting appetizer of grilled, stuffed squid based on a recipe from Batali's show. They were excellent, if a little cocoon-like, and they paired well with a bottle of Chatelain Pouilly-Fume 2004. It was good, but perhaps not worth the $20 price tag. Dinner proceeded with the last of our fiddlehead ferns, expertly sauteed by Stephanie, and served over whole grilled rainbow trout. I had chosen a bottle of gruner from Kurt Angerer, but it was corked. Alas, I'll have to drink the bottle of Armagnac I purchased today. Maybe even a Padron cigar to end the evening.

Friday, May 05, 2006

J. W. Lee's Harvest Ale Lagavulin Cask

Although I usually deal with wine on this blog, beer was my first true love. Last night I had the opportunity to rekindle that romance at a beer tasting I held for my fellow History of Culture students. We drank a number of the world's best beers - Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, Traquair House Ale, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IIPA, Westmalle Tripel, Rochefort 10, &c. - but the standout was clearly J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale. I have had versions of the Harvest Ale in the past, but the brewery has recently been producing a number of beers aged in special casks - port, sherry, whisky. This one, the rarest, had been aged in Lagavulin scotch whisky casks. Anyone who knows me knows my love of this whisky, so, of course, I was excited to try Lee's beer. It was full-bodied and malty, with considerable sweetness. The caramel flavor was balanced by the alcohol and a certain estery aroma. But the dominant flavor was a rich and satisfying peatiness from the Islay casks. It was different from the smoky flavors acheived in German rauchbier or even in Alaska Brewing's famous beechwood Smoked Porter. It was, perhaps counterintuitively, more deeply ingrained in the caramel malt character of the beer (I say counterintuitively because for smoked beers, the smoke is indeed part of the malt whereas for the Lee's beer, the smoke is merely an attached facade). Definitely a drink to be savored after dinner, this Lee's has jumped to the top of my favorite beers.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Terredora Dipaolo Falanghina Irpinia 2004

Our fiddlehead fern and ramp dinners continued last night with confited ramps and chicken breasts in fern sauce. I love spring. After tasting a wine made from falanghina at Spiaggia last weekend, I picked up another bottle from a different producer and served it with this light meal. It performed admirably, again tasting much like a chenin blanc. Unlike the great chenins from Savenierres, however, this bottle sells for about $10. Medium-bodied and ripe without being sweet, it would pair well with a variety of lighter pastas, meats, and fish. It's a trememdous way to break away from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and the like.

Ramp Confit recipe:
Clean as many ramps as you care to eat and remove leaves from bulbs. Reserve leaves. Place bulbs in an overproof dish or small saucepan and cover with your lipid of choice. I recommend a blend of clarified butter and canola oil. Place in a 200F oven for 45 minutes until cooked through. Allow to cool in oil. Remove bulbs from the oil and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange a few leaves on a plate and place bulbs on top. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. To eat, wrap bulbs in leaves.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chateau La Graviére Cotes-de-Bourg 2003

As you will have noticed, our yearly delivery of fiddlehead ferns and ramps arrived yesterday. We will be enjoying these delightful vegetables at every meal until they run out. For the initial offering, we decided to keep things simple - Stephanie pan roasted pork chops and we prepared a delicious ragout of ferns, onions, and garlic in a natural jus. The ferns are rich and fragrant, tasting of the earth and of life itself (well maybe that's going a bit far, but they're really good).

We paired the dish with another installment of our Bordeaux 2003 tasting, this time from the lowly Cotes-de-Bourg region on the north side of the Gironde. Not to be confused with the wine of the same name made in Lalande-de-Pomerol, this La Graviére is made by Jacques Rodet and is the second wine of his also-unknown Chateau Brulescaille estate. For the low price tag (~$10), it was passable, owing to decent concentration of fruit and a reasonably harmonious balance. The nose and palate were dominated by raw green bell pepper and cracked black pepper notes coming from the healthy percentage of cabernet franc in the blend. Good, but certainly not the wine to introduce the ferns with.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

They're Here!!!

The anticipation!!!

What Joy!!!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Taurino Notarpanaro Salento 1999

Stephanie had to work most of the day on Sunday so we ordered a New York style pizza and opened this bottle of southern Italian wine. Made from Negro Amaro and Malvasia Nera, the grape names in no way imply the color, a shimmering garnet. I'm not certain, but I would guess that at least a portion of the grapes used were dried on mats prior to pressing as is done in the Veneto's Amarone wines. Here the aromas were of dried fruits and berries. It was medium-bodied on the palate, with a dry finish. If you are a fan of flashy Aussie shirazs, avoid this wine like the plague. On the other hand, if you are adventurous and are planning a meal of veal, chicken, or pasta in red sauce, it's worth seeking out.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Wine Label Zoo

The New York Times has an article on its website now about the increasing percentage of wine labels depicting animals. Infamous recent examples include Yellow Tail, Goats du Roam, etc. While most of these wines are inexpensive, there are a number of more expensive and established wines that use animals on their labels. Excellent California wineries like Frog's Leap, Stag's Leap (Winery and Wine Cellars), and Screaming Eagle all have animal labels, but what about Old World wines? French wines are much more likely to have images of chateaux, crests, or portraits, but there are a few that use animals. Here are a couple I can think of. Please post others in the comments.

Domaine de Baumard Clos du Papillon Savennieres (butterfly)
Ch. Mouton Rothschild (ram)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Les Heretiques Vin de Pays de l'Herault 2004

We have been shopping for a new home in the neighborhood and last night we reached an agreement to buy a lovely gray brick building on an extrawide lot right next to the park. We're very excited. Of course, this means we'll be pretty poor for a while, so it was only appropriate that we celebrated with a $7 bottle of wine.

This wine comes from the VdP de l'Herault region of the Languedoc in southern France (the same place as the more famous Mas de Daumas Gassac). Presumably, it is some blend of caringan, grenache, syrah, and possibly cinsault, mourvedre, and countless other varietals. Medium-bodied, dry, and earthy, it is a great example of my argument that the best value wines actually come from France and not, as many in the wine press would have you believe, from Australia, Chile, and Argentina. Unlike most of the value wines from the latter group, the wines of this region tend to balance ripe fruit (in this case, plums) with clear tannins and an acidic backbone, making them much better accompaniments to food. I suspect we'll be drinking a lot of this wine for the next few months.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Happy Easter-versary

On Sunday Stephanie and I celebrated the anniversary of our engagement. I proposed last Easter (you can see pictures on her blog), and rather than remember the exact date, we decided to celebrate the anniversary on Easter each year. My present from her was brunch at Spiaggia, Chicago's top Italian restaurant. They don't normally do a brunch, so we didn't know what to expect. Of course, it was fabulous.

We arrived for our 11:30 reservation, dressed to celebrate the season. I wore a tan and white seersucker suit with a light purple shirt, yellow tie, and purple pocket square, and Stephanie wore a pretty blue striped top with white linen pants. She looked lovely, if a little embarassed to be seen with me.

We chose the four-course prix fixe menu, which gave us choices of antipasto, primi, and segundi followed by dessert. Stephanie started with roasted lobster tail, and I had olive oil poached scampi with micro cilantro and coriander. Both were excellent and accentuated by celebratory glasses of Prosecco, Italy's most famous sparkling wine. My second course was a rich, dense lobster claw with homemade spaghetti and a deep sauce made from lobster stock. It paired excellently with a glass of Sannio Falanghina, a white wine from Campania that started with a pit of piquancy and ended round and rich like a great chenin. Stephanie had perfect gnocchi in truffle sauce that, we had to admit, were better than those served at Tru. It was matched with a glass of Grignolino from Heitz Vineyards in Napa, CA. I, like most of the world, am an admirer of Heitz's classic Napa cabernets, but I was not familiar with this bottling of a red Piedmont varietal. It was highly aromatic, with perfumey floral notes and a medium body. Stephanie compared it to the Guigal Hermitage Blanc we had at our first date at Five and Ten almost three years earlier.

Stephanie ordered a roularde of guinea hen with a different, yet equally enjoyable, truffle sauce for her main course. It paired very well with a Sicilian wine from Cerasuolo di Vittoria. I chose the beef tenderloin, crusted in marrow with purple potato puree and hen of the wood mushrooms. The beef was fine, if a little mild, but the combination ended up tasting distinctly and unavoidably of deep-fried corn tortillas. I can't explain it, but it's true. The aglianico from Terradora di Paolo, with its powerful pipe tobacco aroma, was, at least, an enjoyable match. We finished with excellent desserts of hazelnut gelato and moscato sformatto but passed on the grappa as it was only 3pm. It was a great meal and a perfect way to celebrate.

Legal Regulation of Food

I know I owe the world an entry on our wonderful Easter-versary brunch at Spiaggia, and it's on the way, but I wanted to briefly mention a couple of interesting items on law and food. My university is particularly involved in these issues, and I thought it would be nice to bring them to your attention.

First is a column by William Saletan on "The War on Fast Food," where he predicts the development of a crusade against the fast food industry. Saul Levmore, the dean of the UofC law school, has been blogging on this topic recently, and both are worth reading.

Also on the Chicago Law Faculty Blog, Jeff Leslie and Cass Sunstein have been posting on animal welfare regulation. In short, they propose the adoption of labeling standards indicating the level of animal cruelty involved in the production of meat for food. As with Free-Trade coffee and free-range chickens, consumers can make their preferences felt through their buying habits since the treatment of the animals involved would be more salient. It's an interesting proposal, but it seems to raise some of the same concerns that I have written about regarding the moral indignation accompanying "organicism," i.e. the potential for poor people who chose to purchase the presumably cheaper meat from cruelly treated animals to be viewed with disdain and disgust by those capable of paying the cruelty-free premiums. Such people will be forced to choose between providing for their families or following their moral disinclination to eat meat from cruelly treated animals.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ch. Duhart-Milon 2003, Ch. d'Armailhac 2003, and Ch. d'Issan 2003

Sadly today marks the end of our Bordeaux 2003 tasting. Of course, we'll be sampling many more in the future (at least if we don't buy a house), but this will have been our most systematic endeavour. We finished with a meal of grilled Italian sausage with peppers and onions and a side of Stephanie's indescribably delicious cole slaw.

The Duhart-Milon was the first of two wines from the Paulliac region on Bordeaux's left bank, home of some of Bordeaux's greatest chateaux (Latour, Mouton Rothschild, and Lafitte Rothschild - the last of which is responsible for this wine). It was a pleasure to drink, with bold fruit and very fine tannins. The mid-palate was expansive, spreading through the mouth softly but with a purpose. It gave off a hint of alcohol (not surprising from such a warm vintage), but it only served to highlight the character of the fruit and wood. I only wonder if a wine as supple as this will fair well over the long haul.

Chateau d'Armailhac is associated with the other great family of Bordeaux Rothschilds, the Moutons. Like the Duhart-Milon, it is not a second wine of the "grand vin" but rather an independent estate bottled under the auspices of its more famous uncle. Oak and dark fruit predominate on the nose, with a candied cherry burst through the mid-palate. The tannins here are firmer, but the finish in decidedly shorter.

The Chateau d'Issan is a delightful wine with an unfortunate label. Although a 3rd Growth in the 1855 classification, this chateau was not performing well in the wine press. The 03 is, as I said, delightful, and as the only Margaux in the tasting, it proved an excellent representative of its appellation. Soft in texture and fruit, the wine was silky on the palate with round raspberry and dark cherry notes. Stephanie compared the aroma to the ocean. Tasted blind I would have thought that it came from one of the predominantly merlot growing regions like St. Emilion or Pomerol.

After a week of new vintage Bordeaux, I think it's time to drink some light white wines and hope my tooth enamel will regrow.

Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte 2002 and 2003

We broke from the strict Bordeaux 2003 trend last night to compare the 2002 and 2003 vintages of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte's red wine from the Pessac-Leognan appellation. I recently tasted the 1995 and found it a little lacking in stuffing, but the newest vintages were firmer and rounder. Known as a graceful wine, neither overwhelmed with fruit, earth, or tannin. Not surprisingly, the wines were very similar with complex fruits and spices combined with a long, tight finish. The most notable difference was in the mid-palate, where the 2003 flowed over the tongue while the 2002 barely paused. This difference made the 03 feel fuller and more coherent from the front to the back of the mouth. While the 2003 was certianly better, the difference will only be meaningful for most drinkers (myself included) in the long term. Over the next few years, those looking for a ready to drink Bordeaux would be advised to purchase the much cheaper 2002.