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.