Dec 28, 2010

Terroir: the ultimate statement

It's true: from now on, no discussion about terroir will be complete without a reference to the video below, which is both hilarious and perfectly on-target. 

Tasting Dirt--True Terroir was created by Ryan O'Connell, a young American living and making wine in the Cabardès wine region of France. He and his parents own Domaine O'Vineyards, just north of the ancient walled village of Carcassonne. As a winemaker, Ryan's philosophy is to "blend the best techniques and attitudes (and drinking habits) of the new world with the refinement, wisdom and character of the old world."

He's apparently doing so quite successfully, as he's had stunning reviews from people like Jancis Robinson. And he's doing it all with great humor, creating wines with names like Mediterranean Mojo (Cab-Merlot blend) and Les Amèricains (Merlot, Cab, Syrah).

Ryan's also put together a handsome, fact- and photo-filled book, The Wines of Carcassonne; it includes a map and overview of the Cabardès, an index of that AOC's wineries, and much more. You can try to win a downloadable copy at the Wines of Carcassonne Book Contest (the odds are pretty good that you'll win).

Meanwhile, sit back and enjoy Ryan O'Connell's take on terroir:

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Dec 22, 2010

Holiday Recipes from Napa's St. Supéry

One of my freelance gigs involves writing about wineries in Napa and Sonoma for a travel destination website with a healthy 60,000 unique hits per month. For that reason I've spent time on  many winery websites, and I've developed a fondness for wineries that offer free recipes from their own kitchens.

From time to time I've run winery recipes in The Culinary Gadabout, but today I've got something that steps it up a bit: a very nicely done downloadable collection of Holiday Recipes from Ron Barber, Chef at St. Supéry Winery in the Napa town of Rutherford. The recipes, which serve 10-12, include Brined & Roasted Turkey with Cabernet Sauvignon & Herb Gravy; Classic Cornbread Stuffing; Old Fashioned Glazed Sweet Potatoes; and Pumpkin Pie.

If that sounds a bit too Thanksgiving-ish for you, download it and put it aside until next November. And then download St. Supéry's other collection, "Recipes from Napa Valley." It's got some yummy temptations that would be great not just during the Holidays but any time this winter—I'm dying to try Lamb Loin with Fennel, Tomato and Olive Ragout. And doesn't  Pan Roasted Breast of Chicken with Sauteed Granny Smith Apples & Toasted Walnuts sound dee-vine?

Happy Holidays!

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Dec 15, 2010

11 Food Trends for 2011

After analyzing the search and recipe-viewing behvaiors of more than 25 million home cooks on its website (and incorporating other research data), has released its projections for the top food trends of the coming year. According to the report, "What American Families are Eating & Cooking: 2011 Insights and Trends," cooks will "embrace greater speed, convenience and diversity in their kitchens," and technology and digital communities will play a large role in their doing so.

Here's a summary of the report (which you can also download in its entirety):
  1. Going Mobile: Mobile devices and wireless computing are serving up newfound meal planning freedom. Cooks of all ages are using laptops, smartphones and tablet devices to find recipes, check competitive pricing and make grocery lists whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. In 2010, page views from mobile devices surged 340 percent; top food activities among smartphone equipped cooks were finding recipes (63 percent) and creating shopping lists (60 percent).
  2. Shrinking World, Expanding Kitchen: Just a few years ago ethnic cuisine typically involved a night of eating out or ordering in. In a likely effort to save money without compromising variety, cooks are increasingly taking a DIY approach toward satisfying their cravings for favorite ethnic dishes. Consumption of ethnic dishes increased 29 percent in 2010 with the fastest growing cuisines coming from South America, Japan and Korea.
  3. Where the Drinks Are: It can be safely said, the economy is driving consumers to drink—at home. Wine, beer, and cocktails have become part of the make-it-yourself mix. More than half of consumers surveyed are drinking more at home vs. a year ago—top motivations include cost savings, entertaining more at home, and the enjoyment of creating signature cocktails. The fastest growing spirit? Tequila.
  4. Farewell to Fad Diets: Dieting is so 2009. This year, healthy eating is the focus, and the road to health is paved with good eating intentions rather than bizarre diet interventions. Long gone are the days of carb-free, grapefruit only, diet fads. Now "healthy" is considered eating a well-balanced meal with lots of fruits and vegetables, and a limited amount of sugars and processed foods. According to a recent Allrecipes survey, 75 percent of cooks feel they are eating more healthfully today. 
  5. Local Artisan Shops: Seeking quality, community and variety, everyday folk are increasingly gravitating to locally-owned specialty shops and markets for everyday food items including meat, breads and vegetables.
  6. Pies Take the Cake: Pies of all types—hot and cold, sweet and savory—are picking up in popularity. In 2010, slices of savory pie were as often a part of dinner as sweet pie was the star of dessert. Bucking tradition, ice cream pie was 2010's fastest growing pie type.
  7. Pre-made Ingredients: Cooks are taking a 'can-do' approach for getting favorite dishes on the table in record time. Mixes, cans and refrigerated dough are making supper time a snap. 
  8. Small Kitchen Tools Rule: Since a full blown kitchen makeover is likely not in the budget, cooks are snatching up colorful silicone kitchen tools and fun kitchen gadgets to make meal prep more festive and fun.
  9. Countertop Appliances: Adequate storage is always a struggle, but it's clear that countertop appliances, with their ease of use, are overtaking the stove inch-by-inch.
  10. Men in the Kitchen: More men are cooking, and appear to be the primary cook when the family hosts a crowd. Male cooks are feeling just as comfortable in the kitchen as behind the barbeque—particularly the 20-somethings. 
  11. Home is Where the Food is: While potluck dinners and formal sit down dinners have traditionally been the most popular forms of entertaining, the casual sit down dinner – a mash-up of the two - will be the entertaining format of choice in 2011.
BTW, that Mathematica-derived graph at the top signifies nothing; it just looked complex enough to capture the 2011 food scene!

Dec 5, 2010

An App for San Francisco's Glorious Waterfront

Happy days! My first-ever app—for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch—has just appeared in Apple's iTunes Store. San Francisco Waterfront: Bridge to Ballpark, which I co-authored with Laurie King, is a guide to one of the most captivating city waterfronts on the planet.

With more than 220 entries and 2000+ photographs, the SFW app takes readers from the Golden Gate Bridge to the city's state-of-the-art baseball stadium...and beyond. Along the way are not only top attractions such as Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island, historic Fort Point, and Ghirardelli Square, but also dozens of parks and plazas, countless public art installations, restaurants for all tastes and wallets, sophisticated nightlife, a wide variety of museums, historic ships, elegant hotels, sports venues, superb shopping, and so much more:
  • Many 'Hidden Gems," the destinations locals love (but travelers don’t know about)
  • More than a dozen walking, hiking, and biking trails
  • Self-guided walking tours for chocoholics, fans of maritime history, and more (including a thrilling Secret Agent Escapade!)
  • Entries are sortable by useful criteria like Guilty Pleasures, Arts & Entertainment, Kid-Friendly, and more
  • Fun-to-read original text by two long-time SF residents (who also happen to be travel writers)
  • Maps for each destination
  • Share your thoughts with interactive comments, and save your favorites
  • Share photos and entries via e-mail
  • Offline content you can access at any time without an internet connection.
  • In-app calling from your iPhone so you can make reservations, book tickets, etc.
  • Works with your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad
By the way, apps make a perfect "stocking stuffer" gift. Follow these foolproof directions to gift an app or to simply buy one for yourself.

For more information, check out the SFWaterfront Facebook Page; click the "Like" button to stay updated on periodic news items about the ever-changing San Fran Waterfront. You can also learn more about our app by going directly to the app's description in the iTunes Store. You'll land on the page shown below (be sure to click More under the first heading, Description).