Saturday, November 24, 2012
Here's my article on California wine tourism just published in USA Today's Go/Escape travel magazine, on newstands the second week of December, and the lead page of an article on affordable Burgundies in the controlled circulation publication, Drinks magazine (go to www.drinksmag.com).
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Le Relais Saint-Jacques is a charming small Parisian hotel just up the hill from the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter on the Seine's Left Bank. Recently, I had just returned from a walk around Ile St-Louis and a satisfying lunch at Le Lutetia on the Quai Bourbon, then taken a brief nap in my room before returning downstairs to read in the hotel's Salon Louis XV, which I had completely to myself. Eventually, I noticed the beads of chilled water on the exterior of the zinc Champagne tub near the bar and, above these beads, the neck of a bottle of Roederer peeping down at me. It was time for a drink. Not sure if the bar was open, I stirred around and saw a bunch of slips near the resting Champagne. They were headed: "Honesty Bar." I was familiar with the concept of "honor bars," but had never seen one in a hotel and never heard one called an honesty bar. And so, I poured a tall flute of Roederer Brut Premier, noted my name and room number on the slip next to the nine euros mark, took up a small dish of crusted hazelnuts to munch on and contently continued reading, feeling honest and with my honor refreshingly restored.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Yesterday, a friend invited me to go with him to the Raiders-Raven football game at Baltimore's M&T Stadium. Before we took our seats on a bright, sunny afternoon, we decided to each have a barbecue sandwich and the first of a couple of draft beers. As we munched on the sloppy but delicious sandwiches, I was struck by how satisfying the cold Bud Lite was - crisp yet creamy and what the French would call "fresh" if they were dissecting one of their wines. It also took me back to when I first "learned" to drink beer years ago when I was attending Morris Harvey College in Charleston, WV. A commuter student, I had a steady ride home with Eddie Halstead, who was a couple of years older and much more world-wise than I. We would stop by Joe Christian's place along Elk River Road and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. Once I got past the "fills you up" phase when you wonder how can someone drink a full glass of this, I began savoring how refreshing beer was. I had the same feeling a few years later when Joe Milner and I would go drinking with our students at Mag's Ham Bun in Scottsdale when we both taught journalism at Arizona State. In those years, teachers and undergrads would party together without fear of permanment banishment from academe or being judged politically incorrect. Anyway, the cold Coors on tap was great to cut the dessert heat outside, even as we bemoaned the reactionary politics of the Coors family at that time. A boycott was discussed, but the idea was lost after the first pitcher. So as I finished my Bud yesterday and contemplated another, I thought about how, in our current beerophile stage we seek out lumbering, ponderous, monster beers from exotic ingredients, we ought to occasionally just relax and enjoy a simple, one-note draft beer the way wine lovers learned to relax and order a glass of refreshing Albarino. It might make a good slogan: "Bud Light - The Albarino of Draft Beers." Or perhaps not. (By the way, the Ravens obliterated the Raiders, 55-20.)
Friday, November 9, 2012
Monday, November 5, 2012
A belated posting of the opening pages of two recent publications - one on the New York restaurant scene for The Drinks Business and one on Toro wines for Sommelier Journal. Sorry, I can't post the whole articles, but let me know if you would like to see more.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Last week, I was sitting in the bar of Le Parc des Marechaux, a delightful small hotel in Auxerre, a French town known to many American winos because of its proximity to Chablis. A small group of writers was going to be having dinner later that evening with Chablis producer Jean-Francois Bordet at Eric Gallet's Le Bourgogne - which would turn out to be a great mix of wine, food and conversation - but I was in need of a tomato fix. If I had to give up either alcoholic drinks or all things tomato, it would be my gustatory Sophie's Choice. Fortunately, a Bloody Mary has both, and I saw my favorite savory concoction, which helps me hold on during these Euro reporting excursions, listed on the cocktail menu. I asked the young lady tending bar (I think she would be horrified if I referred to her as a "mixologist") if she knew how to make one. "Certainement," she replied and went behind the bar and immediately reached for her cocktail handbook - a bad sign. The drink came - minus ice and about as meager as the portions of milk that mothers feed their screaming babies sitting next to me on transatlantic flights. As I had expected, it was overdosed with lemon juice and Tabasco. Still, when you need a tomato fix, it wasn't too bad. But it does bring up a point - Europeans as a culture have never gotten the hang of a Bloody Mary, largely because they don't understand the psyche of a Bloody and, apparently, want to spare themselves of this rude intimacy. If you want to make a decent Bloody Mary, you have to understand that it's 90 percent about the tomato juice, which, in Europe, is often oxidized before you open the container. The spices are supposed to tease out the best in tomato juice, whereas the Euros seem to think you should overdose it with seasonings. Tomato juice, ice, vodka and salt and pepper alone can make a passable Bloody, so they should start there and gradually tinker with the amount of Tabasco, Worcestershire and citrus, if any, to add. I shudder to think what would happen if they got their hands on horseradish. So here's what I propose. One of those bartending societies or vodka producers should fund a charitable rescue organization - call it Mixologists without Borders (MWB) - and hold emergency Bloody Mary seminars in all European cities with more than 43 bars. BTW, I'm going the Beaune in a couple of weeks, so I would appreciate it if MWB would begin its humanitarian work in Burgundy.