Sunday, May 15, 2011


Once again, I've been seriously slack about keeping up with the blog. My days have been super busy, and blogging is something that's easy to leave undone.

Today has been a blur of multi-tasking: Lowe's, Home Depot, a last-minute search for hardwood charcoal, cooking, chores, etc. I neglected to think about the fact we might want some chilled white wine this afternoon, so I dropped a bottle of riesling in a ice bath for a quick chill.

When I pulled the bottle out, it had shed its label, but I like the way it looks now.

It looks very simple and refreshing, which it definitely is. It's a wonderful glass of wine for a busy afternoon: crisp flavors of apple and pear with just a hint of sweetness. Lovely.

We picked this bottle on a recent trip to the Asheville Wine Market. The price tag soaked off as well, but as I recall it was around $14 for a 1 liter bottle.

I've got a pork shoulder on the grill and there's slaw to be made and much more to be done, so I need to keep this short. Hope everyone is having a good Sunday.

I know I am.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Playing in the Dirt


I spent the better part of the morning working on my garden. I planted nine tomato plants, seven basil plants, two eggplants, one squash plant, one zucchini plant and one mystery plant in the squash/zucchini family that was donated by a kind neighbor.

I've washed off the sweat and dirt, and this is going to be a short post because I need to fix lunch (and feed the cat before she starves to death which she is indicating is imminent). Some studies have shown that playing in the dirt can improve your mood. I'm inclined to believe it because I feel pretty good right now.

My garden is a humble endeavor, but hopefully a couple months from now we'll start reaping the rewards of my efforts. I'll no doubt add on some plants in the coming weeks as room allows. After that, I'll be providing tender loving care and anxiously awaiting our bounty.

Hope you're having a great Saturday wherever you are.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dig Deep

One of the curiosities about winemaking is that the best grapes do not grow where you might expect. Although grapevines may thrive in fertile soil and perfect weather, the best wine grapes come from less than ideal locations.

Grapes grown in rocky soil with imperfect weather conditions develop more depth and character than their coddled counterparts. You can make wine from those grapes grown in ease, but it won’t be as good as the wine from vines that had to really work to produce grapes.

It’s easy to see the correlation with other aspects of life. Adversity and stress build character. Too much adversity isn’t a good thing, but a life of leisure rarely creates depth and character.

It’s important to keep challenging oneself throughout life, both mentally and physically. We all need to step outside our comfort zone occasionally.

I was reminded of this when E and I joined a gym after a much too long hiatus for both of us. Although I don’t relish the 5 a.m. trips to the gym, it feels good to challenge my body. It’s a small thing, but it’s been a nice change of pace.

I get stuck in a routine all too easily. My weeks frequently look startlingly similar: the same schedule, the same rituals, the same meals, the same wines. The weeks turn to months and the months to years. I need something to shake up my life from time to time.

One reason grapes develop more character in poor soil because it causes their roots to dive deep into the earth in search of nourishment.

Here’s to diving deep in life.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The IOU Project

This is a totally random post. On second thought, most of my recent posts have been rather random.

I was just contacted by these folks, and I don't claim to know anything about what they're doing. However, it looks interesting, and the video itself is stunning from an artistic standpoint.

It's worth a watch.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Spring Fever

This is a difficult time to be a blogger living in South Carolina.

It isn’t easy to get behind the wheel of the laptop when it’s a gorgeous spring day. This is the time of year when my mind is on everything but blogging.

Another reason I’ve slacked off from blogging is the lack of inspiration I get from the wines I’ve been drinking. They’re good – but they're often good in a familiar, homogenous way.

I was reminded of this when I read this article about the demise of California cabernet sauvignon. I would suggest that the same phenomenon is changing wines around the world – and not necessarily for the better.

Maybe we’re just getting what we’re asking for. While the United States has surpassed France as the world’s largest consumer of wine, we’re enjoying it differently than in the past. Fewer people are drinking wine with food.

I’m prone to this myself. Even though I’m an obsessive geek who agonizes over wine and food pairings, I still enjoy a big, plush, round red wine that doesn’t need food to show its stuff.

It does make me sad to see so many wines go to a New World style driven by the desire to score big ratings. Perhaps naively, I’m hoping that with more people drinking wine some of those people will start demanding something different, which will translate into more interesting wines in the stores.

I doubt, however, it will happen anytime soon, which means I won't have to drag myself off the porch to write about it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Food for Thought

Today I'll leave you with this link without any commentary.

Regardless of your perspective, it's a topic worth considering.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Me and Julian Assange

This post has nothing to do with Julian Assange. It’s about writing for the web.

I’ve been blogging for over four years now, and I’m still a little clueless about the way things work in the blogosphere. I write because I like to write, and I write about things I care about. The finished product is something I want to feel good about.

Some posts are inevitably better than others. However, I don’t write a bunch of junk just because I think it will get hits. I also don’t write provocative headlines to get hits.

When I started blogging, I naively thought that good writing and consistent posting would earn me some readers. Over the years, I’ve gained and lost quite a few readers, but I’ve never picked up a large following. Part of that is my fault for being deficient in the consistency department. I guess another reason for my low readership is not playing the game correctly.

For lots of bloggers, the key to success is to write posts with little or no substance and give them catchy titles, like “Your Mom Thinks You’re a Loser!”

Actually, I’d read that post, because I’m not sure which side of that fence my mom falls on. But she loves me, dammit!

If you’re blogging in an effort to earn money, clicks equal cash, I suppose you do what you have to do. I’m still clinging to the outdated idea that content quality matters.

I’ve got blogging on my mind, because of this article in The Times about blogging and how it’s changing. My regular readers know I'm also struggling with what the future holds for Brim.

Writing anything of any worth on a regular basis is hard work, and blogs are no different. I can relate to the feeling of pouring time and effort into something and having very few people pay attention. Recently I’ve gotten some very nice compliments on Brim, which really does mean the world to me.

I write because I have thoughts, ideas and opinions that need to see the light of day. I write because I want to share the things that bring me joy–and sorrow. I write because I am a writer, and that’s what we do.

Just the other day, I stumbled on this article from The Times Magazine about how Amazon is peddling narrative nonfiction. It gives me hope that maybe good writing isn’t dying a slow death. It also makes me think more seriously about getting a Kindle.

I especially like the last line of the story. It's something I often say.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ode to Cap'n Crunch

Among the many atrocities committed by my parents during my youth, perhaps none was so severe as the sugar deprivation. There was a strict two-cookie limit, as well as an outright ban on sugar-masquerading-as-breakfast-cereal.

Fortunately, I was eventually emancipated and went on to have a torrid love affair with junk food of all types, including serious liaisons with the Cap'n. When I heard the now-discredited rumor that the Cap'n was no more...I was numb.

Okay, I wasn't really. But I was stunned when E told me she never tasted those sweet little cubes of goodness. I can clearly recall exactly how Cap'n Crunch tastes, even if it's been over 15 years since I last had it.

I have to admit I still love junk food. I rarely indulge my cravings anymore, a nod to both healthy living and my ongoing battle of the bulge. I've learned the hard way that real food makes me feel and look much better.

You've probably noticed I'm a big fan of Mark Bittman. I'm glad the The Times has given him more room to write about food and the larger issues that go along with it, as he does so well in this post.

Over the last five years I've drastically changed the way I eat. Junk food has almost disappeared from my diet. Meat and poultry are becoming less of main characters and more of supporting actors. I also care much more about where they come from.

Vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes are becoming the foundation of my diet. I'm far from perfect, but the change is underway. I know my eating habits won't save the world, but it will make me feel better.

And if I ever decide to backslide, good old Cap'n Crunch will be waiting for me at the grocery store.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

10 Years Gone

It’s now officially been a decade since I moved to Columbia. It occurred to me this past weekend, when I noticed the wisteria vine outside our home is on the cusp of blooming.

As I’ve written about previously, that spring in 2001 is when I realized I loved my new neighborhood with its tree-lined streets, sidewalks and explosions of azaleas, dogwoods and wisteria around every corner. The first couple months in Columbia were a pretty heady time for me. Of course, that was before I realized I had misjudged my employment prospects and before the events of September 11.

The reality is that the last ten years have been full of ups and downs. Regardless, I still can’t help feeling nostalgic for that spring now ten years past. It was a vastly different time in my life.

My divorce was official, and I had ended my first post-marriage relationship. I was exploring a new city, making new friends and loving it. It was truly a new beginning.

My two dogs, now both departed, were in the prime of their lives. My hair, now graying and receding, was thick and dark. My career path, now winding, appeared to be moving straight ahead and rising.

Ten years brought so many changes. E came into my life almost seven years ago. A new dog will be four years old in a couple months. I see another career change looming on the horizon.

One of my first discoveries was a wine store with a really good selection not far from my new home. It’s the same wine store that E and I frequently visit after our Saturday morning trip to the All-Local Farmers' Market and Rosewood Market.

It’s also the store where I stocked the shelves, answered thousands of wine questions and learned a bit more about wine. That job paid the bills and kept my wine collection stocked for several years. Working retail isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but I loved talking to people about wine.

If I’ve learned anything over the last ten years, it’s that I want to spend more of my life doing the things I love. That's my goal for the next ten years.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Don't miss this post from The Pour about using words to describe wine. If you write about or talk about wine, you inevitably end up describing it. It's easy to lapse into winespeak.

I've consciously backed away from the most egregious types of winespeak in my writing. Using descriptors like "wild violets and lychee fruit" doesn't really help anyone. Every now and again you might encounter a wine that is worthy of such talk, and there's nothing wrong with batting around the smells and tastes of a wine with your friends, but there's no need to get carried away.

Wine is fermented grape juice. Sometimes the best thing to do is eat, drink and enjoy.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Signs of Spring

While much of the country is still locked in winter's grip, the end is in sight here in the Carolinas. We still have more cold weather to come, but there's light at the end of the tunnel.

I was reminded of this while I was working in the yard today (in short sleeves). Among the long-neglected leaves were a couple of dandelions, just starting to show some yellow.

The days are getting longer, and we'll have many warm days to come. It's also time to start thinking ahead to spring planting.

One of my goals for this year is to ramp up my gardening skills. I come by my gardening impulses naturally, as both my parents have seriously green thumbs. Presently, my skills might not be apparent upon viewing our yard, but what some people might see see as "neglected" is actually "biodiverse."

The local bird population definitely appreciates it. My approach is to let nature do its thing with minimal interference. More on that later.

In the meantime, bring on spring.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Eat, Drink & Be Local

Every year around Valentine's Day, I like to share my rant about what a ridiculous "holiday" it is. On the other hand, it's a great time to indulge yourself, your friends or your sweetie. Just steer clear of the kissing teddy bears at your local drugstore.

Instead, support your local merchants. Slow Food Columbia has partnered with the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce to encourage everyone to patronize local businesses for their faux holiday celebrating and all year long.

In that spirit, we started out the day at the All-Local Farmers' Market where we picked up lots of local food to enjoy over the weekend: City Roots greens, Sea Eagle tuna steaks, Wil-Moore Farms steaks and Heather's bread. You won't catch me anywhere near a restaurant until the rush has passed.

E also surprised me a little early with some cool new art from The Half and Half.


"Lessons in Beer Drinking"

On a side note, the ALFM raised $3,000 for Wil-Moore Farms this morning. The goal is $15,000, so we're going to keep working until we get there. Donate online at

Friday, February 11, 2011

Time to Rally

There are moments when I wish I had legions of readers. Okay, there are lots of moments.

I'm wishing for the legions at this moment because I want to do everything I can to get the word out about lending a hand to Robin and Keith Willoughby of Wil-Moore Farms. It's been less than a week since we heard the news that one of their barns had burned, and the local community has sprung into action.

There's a link to some more information about what happened at under News. There's also a link to make a donation via PayPal. This Saturday at the All-Local Farmers' Market, some of the vendors will be donating a portion of their sales to support Wil-Moore. They'll also be "passing the hat" and donating 50 percent of ALFM t-shirt sales.

Please do whatever you can to help out.

Small farms are a labor of love and a gift to the community. It involves long hours, hard work and occasional heartbreak. We're so fortunate to have Wil-Moore Farms and all the wonderful products they bring to our tables.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Home Cooking

I like to cook. That doesn’t mean I like to cook every single night or that every meal I prepare brings me great joy.

No, there are nights when cooking infuriates me. There are meals that miss the mark – sometimes broadly and sometimes narrowly. There are times when I fall into a cooking rut and prepare the same five or six dishes over and over until I can’t stand the thought of any of them.

There are also times when cooking gives me immense satisfaction, and I walk away from the table feeling satisfied in body and soul. Last night was such a night.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a particularly skilled cook. I’m in the vast middle ground talent-wise, and my repertoire is pretty limited. But, I enjoy the act of cooking, and E boosts my confidence with her (wisely considered) praise.

Something I take small pride in is the ability to improvise. When you hit the kitchen after a long day at work, it’s useful to be able to look at what’s in the fridge and forge the contents into something tasty.

I had soup on my mind, but my failure to locate a ham bone derailed my dreams of bean soup. This is where the improvisation starts.

A roadmap to soup:


What better way to get started than bacon? I had two lonely strips of thick-cut bacon in need of a home. I diced them and dropped them into a medium soup pot over medium heat. When they were brown and crispy I removed the bits with a slotted spoon.

Quite a few soup recipes start with a foundation of sautéed vegetables to form a base of flavor. The French call it a mirepoix. Latinos or Italians might call it a soffritto. I call it whatever I have in the fridge: a couple stalks of celery, two small carrots, half a red onion, part of a red pepper and a couple cloves of garlic. I diced everything (the garlic very finely) and sautéed the mix in the bacon drippings.


I would have loved to use chicken broth, but I had none. I’ve sworn off canned broth, so that leaves water. I warmed up four cups in the microwave. When the vegetables were softened and aromatic, I added the water along with a couple bay leaves.


Now it was time to give my soup some body. I still had beans on my mind, so I added a can of white beans, drained and rinsed. I needed something to thicken things up, and I had some potatoes that were also in need of using. I peeled and diced the potatoes into half-inch pieces.

I simmered the soup for about 20 minutes, partly covered. While it was simmering, I gave some thought to the seasoning. Since I used water instead of broth, I was concerned it wouldn’t have the deep flavor I wanted (and I cursed not being about to find a ham bone again).

What I did have was some country ham trimmings from Four Oaks Farm. I pan fried and chopped the trimmings so I had about a quarter cup. Into the pot they went.

Once the potato was nice and soft, I removed the pot from the stove and gave the contents a thrashing with a potato masher. I wanted to thicken the soup while still leaving some small bits of potato. It needed a dash of salt and some ground pepper.


To add a little more depth of flavor, I added a handful (1/3 cup?) of grated parmesan cheese. The final touch was a dash of hot sauce.

Perfection in a bowl.

This is hardly a recipe. I may have left out a step or an ingredient, because as usual I wasn't taking notes.

The moral of the story is that you can follow some basic guidelines and create some really good food from whatever you have at hand.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sad Sunday

I had a much different post planned for today, but some bad news has my mind on other things.

I frequently mention our Saturday visits to Columbia's All-Local Farmers' Market. One of our favorite vendors is Wil-Moore Farms, a local source for cheese, eggs, chicken, goat and much, much more.

This morning, a fire destroyed one of their barns along with around 1000 chickens. Thankfully, no one in their family was hurt, and the fire didn't spread. My heart goes out them, and our thoughts will be with them as they work to recover.

Hearing of their loss makes me even more thankful for them and the other local farmers, food artisans and craftspeople who keep us supplied with so many good things.

This morning I cooked up a pork shoulder from Caw Caw Creek Farm. You just can't compare the rich, earthy flavor of the meat to the stuff that comes from the grocery store.

I have no doubt that the local food scene will rally around Wil-Moore and do whatever we can to help them recover. It also strengthens my resolve to buy local food whenever I can.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Five Tips for Buying Wine

When I was new to buying wine, I clearly remember being overwhelmed and intimidated by wine stores. One boutique wine shop in particular stands out.

I ended up buying a bottle of French white wine and being terribly disappointed. In retrospect, the bottle was probably corked, and I should have taken it back. Lesson learned.

When I was selling wine, I saw people who were obviously struggling with the process. Here are my top five suggestions for buying wine:

1.) Location is everything.

Finding a wine seller with a knowledgeable and friendly staff will improve your wine buying experience in leaps and bounds. Even some grocery stores now have someone on staff to help shoppers. Ask for help.

Whoever helps you should ask lots of questions. If they don’t or if they come off as pompous jerks, you should look elsewhere. Shopping for wine should be fun.

It’s worth the effort to go out of your way if you have to. You’ll end up spending less in the long run and enjoying the wine a lot more.

2.) Take notes.

I’m terrible at this. Fortunately, while I can’t remember anyone’s birthday to save my life, I can easily recall wines I drank ten years ago. That’s selective memory in action.

Keeping a wine journal is the best way to remeber wines you want to buy again, wines you never want to see again and it gives you easy way to tell a waiter or wine salesperson what you've liked in the past.

3.) Fear not.

There is far more good wine than bad wine. Don’t be afraid to buy a bottle just because it looks interesting. The more wine you buy the better your instincts will get.

4.) Buy low.

Price does not equate with quality. If you’re still reading this, you’re probably someone who doesn’t buy lots of wine. More expensive wines frequently aren’t made for casual wine drinkers or novices.

Inexpensive wines are typically easy drinking and accessible. They don’t need to age or be decanted. It also stretches your wine budget.

One important exception to this rule – avoid cheap cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay from California. Although there are exceptions to this exception, California churns out a flood of mediocre, low-priced bottles of these three wines.

Look for Spanish garnacha or temperanillo (or blends of both), Argentine malbec and Italian sangiovese.

5.) Know your importer.

This is something that has served me well over the years. If I like a wine, I take note of who the importer is. Importers have a certain style and tend to have some consistency across their portfolio.

Even if the wines are from different grapes, wineries or even countries, quality is frequently the common denominator. Three importers that instantly come to my mind are Eric Solomon, Jorge Ordóñez and Columbia’s own Spanish Vines.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday Night Link

It's a cold, rainy night here in Columbia. It's a great night for baked spaghetti alla puttanesca (thanks to E for the leftovers), arugula salad and fresh bread.

If you need something to warm your heart, check out this story from the NY Times.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Weeknight Cooking

Cooking during the work week is challenging. At least it is for me anyway.

I usually have something in mind by the time I hit the house, but after I've chopped, diced, sautéed, boiled and cursed a few times -- I'm worn out. This explains why I rarely have blog posts about weeknight dinners.

Tonight I arrived home a little early and whipped up some crab cakes real quick. During the week, it's easier for me to make things I've made a hundred times before.

I'm writing this short post while I sip on a glass of wine. My are crab cakes resting in the fridge awaiting a hot skillet, and the last thing I have to do is make a dressing. I'm serving the cakes with a simple side of dressed arugula.

We're (possibly) going out later so something light seemed in order. Since it's a weeknight, some inexpensive wine was also in order.

Domain de la Hallopière Vin de Pays du Val de Loire 2009 ($7.99, Green's Beverage)

Chardonnay from the Loire Valley? I wouldn't have expected it either. Chardonnay is more commonly used as a blending grape in the Loire, but this wine is a real find.

It's juicy without being overripe, clean and fresh with notes of white peach and lemon. I'm guessing it was done in stainless steel, because there's not a hint of oak. Fine with me.

Now it's time for that dressing. I'm thinking about a little mayo, some mustard, fresh lemon juice and a spoonful of hoisin sauce. We'll see how that works out.

Cheers. It's almost Friday.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Taste of Spring

Today is yet another reason why living in South Carlina is quite nice. It's the end of January, and the high today is going to be around 70 degrees.

Ah, I do love the South.

I spent the morning playing with Hogan and taking care of our neglected yard. We had a simple turkey salad for lunch and a glass of tasty white wine.

Laudun Chusclan Vignerons Reserve de Lubin Blanc Vin du Pays du Gard 2009 ($7.99, Green's Beverages)

It's unusual to find a wine like this that's 100 percent grenache blanc. Grenache blanc is commonly used as a blending grape, but it's shines on its own. Pale straw in color, it has delicate floral and melon notes.

I think I'll pour a second glass and head towards the porch.

Cheers, y'all.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Back In Business

On a personal note, we had a great visit with my parents -- good food, some good wine and, most importantly, good time spent together. Both E and I live far away from our parents, and we miss the opportunity to spend quality time with them.

This morning involved a significant amount of clean up. I can trash our kitchen like nobody's business when I cook. Since it's Saturday, we also had to make a trip to the All-Local Farmers' Market.

It's been several years since I realized I had become a coffee snob. We're fortunate to have access to lots of great local and regional coffee roasters: Larry's Beans, Turtle Creek, and Cashua, just to name a few.

At the moment, our favorite is from Indah Coffee.

I usually prefer Central American beans to African, but this coffee has made me a believer. Yirgacheffe is a growing region in Ethiopia, which is quite possibly where coffee originated.

Here's some great information on the coffees of Ethiopia.

I don't have a coffee vocabulary quite like my wine vocabulary, so I'll just say that the Indah Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is rich, balanced and delicious.

It's what I crave in the mornings.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hello and Goodbye

Brim will be on hold for a couple days while I'm enjoying a visit from my parents.

I've written about my parents frequently, and I owe them a great deal for so many reasons. They both played an important role in fostering my interest in wine (my dad) and cooking (my mom).

Before I take a short break I'll leave you with this link.

While I'm sad to say goodbye to The Minimalist, I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next for Mark Bittman and glad he's staying with The Times.

I've been working on a post about cooking and how my cooking skills have grown. Reading Bittman has been part of that growth. E gave me The Best Recipes in the World as a gift early in our relationship and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian more recently. Her copy of How to Cook Everything joined my cookbook collection when we merged homes.

Reading his final column also brought to mind how much Brim has changed from where I started it. It's been quite a journey.

Here's to you, Bittman. Thanks for the lessons -- past, present and future.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thinking About Wine

Since this is supposedly a wine blog, I suppose it's about time for a post about wine.

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre "Les Baronnes" 2007 ($17.99, Asheville Wine Market)

The Asheville Wine Market really deserves its own post, so I'll leave that for another time. We picked up a lovely piece of red snapper from Sea Eagle this morning at the All-Local Farmers' Market, which is soon to be searing in a pan. I've also got some Anson Mills grits in the crock pot, and I really need to quit blogging and start making a salad.

Even though it's winter (and a particularly chilly day at that), some meals call for white wine. I've been saving this bottle for the right meal, and I believe this is the one.

Sancerre isn't something we drink often, because it's a bit more expensive than the wine budget allows. However, as with red wine, it's worth splurging occasionally.

Instead of droning on in wine-speak, I'll just say this wine is amazing: full of restrained citrus fruit, herbs, mineral notes and...damn, that's wine-speak. It's really good.

This will be the first bottle entered in this cool little notebook that E surprised me with.

Here's the inside view:

Cheers, ya'll.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I don't read as many blogs as I should. There's so much online content and a limited amount of hours in the day, so occasionally I stumble across something I feel like I should have been aware of.

Here's one.

And here's the author giving a talk at TEDxToronto:

I should watch it every morning when I wake up. Hope you enjoy.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Sharpest Knife in the Block

Clearly, this post isn't going to be about me.

I like kitchen knives. However, my budget doesn't allow for expensive knives. Over the years I've assembled a motley crew of inexpensive knives. Even a modest knife is pretty sharp when brand new.

These are only a few of my collection:

One of the first things I learned in a restaurant kitchen was that a dull knife is far more dangerous than a sharp knife. That's because you have to exert more pressure with a dull knife, increasing the chances you'll lose control of it. Of course, you can cut the #$!@$& out of yourself with a sharp knife, which is also something I learned in a restaurant kitchen.

I keep meaning to teach myself how to sharpen knives, but I haven't quite gotten around to it. Fortunately, one of the new vendors at the All-Local Farmers' Market is Mis En Place Sharpening.

For the very reasonable charge of $30, they sharpened three of my larger knives.

The top knife is a J.A. Henckels, from one of their modestly priced lines and purchased at a discount store. It was super sharp out of the box and held an edge well. I also like its very thin blade.

The middle knife is from Meyer. It's a good size for all-purpose chopping and has a very comfortable grip. It was also nice and sharp new, and held its edge for a surprisingly long time. It was dirt cheap.

The bottom knife is from Chicago Cutlery, which is sure to draw a snicker from some kitchen snobs. However, that knife holds lots of sentimental value for me. It's one of the first knives I owned and was given to me by my parents almost 20 years ago. It's been out of use for a very long time, because the edge was so dull it was virtually useless.

Not any more.

All three knives came back super sharp. I'm literally looking for stuff to chop tonight. I'll be interested to see how each knife holds its edge, and I'll surely be bringing more of my knives to MEP Sharpening.

If you're local and like to cook, you should check them out. If you noticed my cool new cutting board, it's from Sixteen Acre Wood. Stephen Owen crafts amazing things out of local, fallen trees that would otherwise end up in the landfill. We saw some of his beautiful work at the ALF Market one morning, and E gave me a late Christmas gift.

It's a gorgeous piece of Mulberry wood. Here's the back side:

It's art and function all in one. It's also going to see lots of action with my newly sharpened knives.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Wine Story

Sometimes after I buy a bottle of wine, take it home and taste it, I make up a story about it. Usually it’s because of where I bought it and how much I paid.

Such is the case with this wine.

Rosenblum Cellars Château La Paws Côte du Bone Roan Red Wine 2006

Here’s the story:

The good people at Rosenblum Cellars, who make some outstanding wines, bottled this blend of syrah, zinfandel and some other Rhone grapes. They slapped a well-meaning, but cheesy label on the bottles and sent it off to their distributors around the country.

Some of it landed here in South Carolina. Since it originally retailed somewhere around $14, it was a little pricey for the oh-look-it’s-a-cute-label crowd. The more serious $14-means-nothing-to-me crowd was probably turned off by the cutesy label.

One day, someone at the distributor realized they had 20 or so cases of this 2006 vintage wine gathering dust in the warehouse. Enter the folks at World Market.

Maybe a salesperson paid them a visit. Maybe their wine buyer went to the warehouse. Either way, the wine buyer tasted the wine and thought, Yum. We can sell this.

The distributor slashed the price, probably to a level that would hurt my feelings if I knew what the mark-up was. I ended up paying $7.99 plus tax, with the Explorer program discount (free when you give them an e-mail address and phone number).

However, it’s a happy ending for me, because it’s a great wine from a winemaker I like and a portion of the sale goes to a great cause, Paws With A Cause. According to their press release, Rosenblum donated $43,134 to PWAC in 2008.

It's silky and rich, laced with flavors of black cherry, cola, cinnamon and clove. A pleasant acidity and mellow tannins hold it all together.

It's our new "house" red wine.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day

It's snowing.

Although it's an unremarkable event in many places across the country, it's a big deal here in Columbia. I can't say I'm complaining, because instead of settling into my fabric box for a day at the office, I'm working on my third cup of coffee at the dining room table.

As you can see from the photo above, it's not exactly a blizzard, but the city is essentially shut down. There's no infrastructure to deal with snow here. When you only get one respectable snow storm every couple years, it doesn't make sense to invest in plows.

Another problem is that many people in the South have no idea whatsoever about how to correctly drive in the snow.

Hogan and I went for a snowy walk before dawn. There were only a few foolish souls trying to navigate their cars down the snowy, icy roads. The only way to properly appreciate snow is on foot (or skis/snowboard for the more adventurous).

Since I grew up in the Northeast, snow has a nostalgic appeal for me. I like to look at it. I like to walk in it. I like to play in it.

However, I don't like to shovel it, go to work in it or generally conduct my life in a snowy environment. Nor do I like to step off a curb into four inches of dirty slush. These are reasons why I live in South Carolina.

In South Carolina, it snows, it melts the next day and then it's 65 degrees a couple days later. It works out perfectly.

Unless of course, the snow turns into freezing rain, tree limbs start falling and the power goes out. That stinks.

So, after Hogan had a chance to romp through the park and we toured the neighborhood, we're settled into our warm house and hoping it stays that way.

E, unfortunately, is stuck on conference call -- one of the curses of modern technology.

I'm happy to drink coffee, read the Sunday Times, relax and think about what bottle of wine I'm going to open this afternoon.

Let's just hope the power stays on.

Friday, January 07, 2011

More Recommended Reading

Since I can't find the inspiration to write anything original, I'll share some of the things I've been reading lately.

As someone who has (for the most part) been an exercise enthusiast my entire life and likes to take a drink (or two), I found this article about the connection between drinking and exercise very interesting.

It's especially pertinent this time of the year when I'm trying to burn off a couple extra pounds from holiday celebrating. Hogan and I just returned from a brisk morning walk.

Although I'm rather apathetic politically, I get enraged by the way politicians, state governments and corporate beverage distributors have conspired to limit choices for consumers. I'm fortunate to reside in a city, county and state where the alcohol laws are only mildly stupid.

This article explains why the residents of Pennsylvania aren't quite as lucky. Since one of my brothers lives there, I'm somewhat familiar with the state's ridiculous alcohol laws. If he wants to buy beer, he has two choices: buy a six-pack from a bar or restaurant, or buy a case from state-licensed "beer store."

Sound stupid? Yes, it is. There's a more complete explanation 0f the stupidity here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Wine Equals Wife?

Here's something to discuss with your spouse over dinner and a glass of wine.

Happy New Year, y'all.