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.