Food Porn

30 07 2006



American Life

29 07 2006

A man who got angry with his wife because she wanted to cuddle after sex when all he really wanted to do was watch sports on television was sentenced to death for killing her with a claw hammer. The judge said:” The defendant struck his wife approximately 70 individual blows after spending a happy interlude with her. Her desire to cuddle does not justify the extremely violent and brutal response of the defendant.”

I wonder if watching telly was what made him violent in the first place. This seems so excessive

Week in Wine

27 07 2006

Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Barnwood 3200′ Santa Barbara County Cabernet Sauvignon ($20)

2003 Bishop’s Peak Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($16)

2004 Clos LaChance Ruby-Throated Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon ($18)

2004 Cycles Gladiator Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)

2002 EOS Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($18)

2004 Lockwood Vineyard Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)

2003 Lucas & Lewellen Cote del Sol Santa Barbara County Cabernet Sauvignon ($32) 

2003 Mitchell Katz at Ruby Hill Thatcher Bay Vineyard Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($16)

2003 Peachy Canyon Old School House Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)

2004 Robert Hall Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) 

2003 Smith & Hook Grand Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)


Sauvignon Blancs

2005 Bogle Vineyards California Sauvignon Blanc ($9)

2005 Crane Lake California Sauvignon Blanc ($5)

2005 Dona Paula Los Cardos Tupungato Sauvignon Blanc ($8)

2005 Finca El Portillo Valle de Uco Sauvignon Blanc ($9)

2005 Fish Eye California Sauvignon Blanc ($9)

2005 Jindalee Estate South Eastern Australia Sauvignon Blanc ($8)

2005 Penalolen Limari Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($12)

2005 R&B Cellars California Sauvignon Blanc ($12)

2005 Shenandoah Vineyards California Sauvignon Blanc ($10)

Vino Italiano

23 07 2006

There is a simple way to classify the manifold Italian wines by region: northwest, northeast, central italy, and south & islands.

Northwestern wines originate from Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. This terroir covers the arc of the Alps and the Apennines that walls in the Po as it flows east through its broad valley to the Adriatic. As the topography varies so do the wines and the grouping is purely geographic. Between them, the five regions produce one fifth of Italy’s total wine but more than 25% of the DOC. Emilia-Romagna is a heavy contributor with the fourth largest output after Veneto, Sicily and Apulia. It heavily exports to the US swet and bubbly Mabrusco but of late there has been renewed focus on the Albana and Sangiovese of Romana, and the Barbera, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon from the Apennine foothills of Emilia. Piemonte, while highest in quality with the most DOC and DOCG zones, it ranks only seventh in production. Piemonte’s worthy natives include Barbera, Dolcetoo, Grignolino, Freisa, Cortese, Arneis, Brachetto, the Canelli clone of Moscato (for Asti Spumante) and the noblest Nebbiolo (source of Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara). Valle d’Aosta is the smallest regions and prodcues the least wine from its rocky slopes and its DOC output is often surpassed by some single wineries in other regions. Its vines often have French names, like Petit Rouge, Grose Vien, Blanc de Valdigne, owing to the Savoyard history of the region. Ligurian wines are obscure and usually esoteric, with little space for vines between the mountains and the Mediterranean.Liguria favors the local Rossese, Pigato and Vermentino as well as the Ormeasco (local version of the Dolcetto). Lombardy, the most populous region, is only twelfth in wine production but has a major concentration of Nebbiolo wines for the DOC reds of the Valtellina mountains and spread of Chardonnay and PInot vines for sparkling wines of Franciacorta and Oltrepo Pavese.

Northeastern wines hail from Veneto, Trentio/Alto Adige, and Friui-Venezia Giulia. This is realy modern and the three regions are known as the Tre Venezie (or Venezie) which began newer techniques in wine production in the 1970s. Two leading Italian wine schools (think UC Davis and Fresno State) are San Michele all’Adige in Trentino and Congeliano in Veneto. The world’s largest vine nursery is at Rauscedo in Friuli and the important wine fair, Vinitaly, is held each spring in Verona. These wines accoutn for fully a third of the DOC with Veneto leading the way as the largest. Vine conditions (protected from the damp cold of northern Europe by the Alps) range from cool at high altitudes to warmer near the Adriatic sea and along the valleys of the Po, Adige and Tagliamento rivers. Popular wines currently favor Merlot, Cabernet, Pinots, Chardonnay and Sauvignon, with the local Tocai, Prosecco, Verduzzo, Refosco, Schioppettino , Ribola Gialla and Raboso. In the Trentino-Alto Adige, reds still prevail (Schiava, Vernatsch) while the whites include Chardonnay, Pinots, Sauvignon and Gewurtz. Local vintages include Teroldego, lagrein and Marzemino.
Central Italian wines are from Tuscany, Umbria, Marches, Latium, Abruzzi and Molise. Ample sunshine and higher temperatures led to overproduced grapes. The central regions led by Toscano with Chianti and Brunello run the noble reds. The regions are divided (physically and culturally) by the Apennines. To the west (Tyrrhenian side) are Toscano, Latium and lanclocked Umbria and to the east (Adriaticside) are Marches, Abruzzi and Molise. Tyrrhenian wines are dominated by the dark skinned Sangiovese and the light skinned Trebbiano and Malvasia (tasty but rarely inspiring whites). Sangioveses rule the Florentine region of Toscano where it prevails in Chianti, the national archetypal red, and Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Monetupulciano and unclassified Super Tuscans.

White Malvasia reigns in Rome’s regionof Latium. It is prominent in Frascati and the wines of the Alban hills, and combines with the ubiquitous Trebbiano in Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone and most other whites of the region.

Umbrians have had the chance to pick and choose, favoring Sangiovese for their reds and the Procanico strain of Trebbiano for their prominent white Orvieto.

A trend, more evident in Tuscany than elsewhere, is to introduce noble outsiders, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, the Pinots, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. But efforts are also being directed at upgrading such worthy natives as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Umbria’s Sagrantino and Grechetto and Latium’s Cesanese.

The Adriatic regions have a rather neat and straight-forward structure of vines and wines. Vineyards are almost all planted in hills running in a tortuous strip between the sea and the mountains, where the climate is tempered by cool air currents.

Two native varieties stand out along the Adriatic coast, the white Verdicchio in the Marches and the red Montepulciano, which originated in the Abruzzi and is now widely planted elsewhere, including in Molise. The influences of Tuscany and Romagna can be tasted in Sangiovese (especially in the Marches) and Trebbiano (planted nearly everywhere that worthier varieties are not). Montepulciano can be remarkable on its own, though it also has a natural affinity for blends with Sangiovese in such fine reds as the Marches’ Rosso Piceno and Rosso Conero.

Wines from the south and the Islands are from Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia.

The six regions of Italy’s south take in the “sunwashed” vineyards that prompted the ancient Greeks to nickname their colonies “Oenotria”, the land of wine. From Hellas they brought to Magna Græcia vines which are still planted today, under such names as Aglianico, Greco, Malvasia, Gaglioppo and Moscato. The Romans in their turn recognized the potential of the slopes that gave them Falernum, Caecubum, Mamertinum and other heady wines that were eulogized by poets from Horace to Virgil. Pliny the Elder and Columella were among those who recorded methods of viticulture and enology that included descriptions of how to age and preserve wine and even to make it bubbly. But wine had its ups and downs under the Romans, too, reaching a low point when the Emperor Domitian ordered vines removed while restricting trade to combat excess production.

Many outsiders left their marks on these Mediterranean shores. Foremost among them were the Spaniards, who dominated until the Risorgimento (?) and brought vines into Sardinia, Sicily and other places centuries after the Arabs and Phoenicians planted what may have been the first “foreign” vines in Italy.

It might be argued that at times in the past the vineyards of the Italian Mezzogiorno were put to better use than they had been until just recently. Apulia and Sicily have been perennial leaders in volume produced, much of it in bulk blending wines shipped to northerly places.

Though the six regions produce nearly 40 percent of Italy’s total wine, they account for only about 14 percent of the DOC/DOCG. Yet, after decades in which the emphasis had been steadfastly on quantity, producers in all regions have become increasingly convinced that the future lies in quality, as the class of wines steadily improves while volume steadily decreases.

Studied techniques of grape growing and methods of temperature controlled fermentation and maturation in oxygen-free conditions have permitted production of dry, balanced wines that can be attractively light and fruity. Several of Italy’s most impressive red wines for aging originate in the south, led by Campania’s DOCG of Taurasi. White wines of modern style have also come forth. There has been a welcome trend to upgrade the quality and status of the traditional sweet wines, such as Moscato and Malvasia, as well as Sicily’s fortified Marsala and Sardinia’s Vernaccia di Oristano.

The misconception that the Mezzogiorno has a universally torrid climate overlooks the fact that much of the territory is temperate and parts are downright chilly. Conditions depend on altitude and proximity to the Tyrrhenian, Ionian or Adriatic seas. Some good wines are made in hot places, the slopes of Vesuvius, the isle of Ischia, Apulia’s Salento peninsula, Sicily’s western coast and Sardinia’s Campidano. But many wines of scope come from higher, cooler places, the hills around Avellino in Campania, Basilicata’s Vulture, Sicily’s Etna and central highlands, Apulia’s interior plateau and Sardinia’s eastern coastal range.

Major wineries from elsewhere in Italy have been investing in the south, where the climate permits consistent quality from year to year to offer wines of premium class at reasonable prices.

Passion Fruit

22 07 2006


It hit 115 degrees (as per the Acura’s inside outside temperature sensor) and made me very nervous. Luckily, K and E had the marvelous notion of having an indoor outdoors barbecue. You prepare outdoors but eat within like civilized persons. Unfortunately, there were thermal dessert issues so I was only too keen to return home to try my new summer granita.

Boil some simple syrup (1/2C each of granulated white bleached sugar and distilled water) and cool. Puree 3C pineapple chunks (I just buy them pre-chopped from the store to save time) with 1/4C simple syrup. Stir in 4C passion fruit nectar (chilled, I use Loozaa brand) and 3/4 C champagne (I substitute chilled prosecco). Transfer to shallow metal baking pan and freeze. Stir and crush lumps with a fork every hour until the mixture is firm but not frozen hard. This takes 4 hours. You can make it ahead of time and freeze it covered for 2 days. Just before service, scrape with a fork to lighten texture. I take the extra step of freezing them in translucent cobalt candle votives with an embedded toothpick. As the edges melt, you lift up the sectorian disc and get the most intense flavor when the disk lands on the dorsum of your tongue. It also looks fabulous.

Arrival London

21 07 2006

Arrival into London by air will bring you into one of 5 airports. Most international travelers will arrive at London Heathrow [LHR] or London Gatwick [LGW], the two major international airports. London City airport LCY is used by business passengers and a rapidly increasing number of leisure passengers happy to avoid congestion at the other London airports when visiting European destinations. Luton and Stansted airports, to the north of London, are mostly used by charter and low-cost airlines, with mostly short-haul European destinations, though some US flights do arrive at London Stansted.

From Heathrow, you can get into the city by taking the Underground Piccadilly Line (this currently costs £4 for a single (one-way fare) or hopping on the Heathrow Express (£13.50 single if purchased online; £14.50 if purchased at the station), which takes you directly to Paddington Station. A relatively new rail service, the Heathrow Connect, offers a less expensive and slightly slower train service between Heathrow Airport and London’s Paddington rail station. Although the Heathrow Express is considerably more expensive than the Underground Piccadilly Line, it is by far the best way to start your stay in London depending on your final destination. It takes you straight to the west-central Paddington station, in clean, modern and comfortable trains which take about 15 minutes and don’t stop at all, and there are special areas to place your luggage in. Keep in mind that once you reach Paddington you will be at the mercy of the London Transport system or taxis. Therefore, Paddington might not be the best terminal depending on where you are staying.

The Piccadilly line is much slower (stops over 15 times before reaching Central London and takes 30+ minutes) and can be very hard to manage on with suitcases and luggage, and often gets very busy with commuters during the rush hours and even at weekends. Whilst access to the Heathrow Express is made easy, if travelling on the Piccadilly Line (Underground) you must expect lots of carrying your bags up and down steps where lifts or escalators are not provide and trying not to get in people’s way etc. – not a very stress-free experience after a long journey. You may have to queue for quite a long time at the London Underground ticket office if you cannot use the automated machines. It is not widely publicised, but if you are staying at one of the nearby hotels in Bath Road such as the Holiday Inn, Renaissance, Radisson, Marriott etc. and don’t have much luggage then you can use a free travel service on the local buses which leave from the Central Bus Station. There is more information on this map from the British Airport Authority.

Taxis from Heathrow can be quite expensive, depending on your destination in London; fares of £60 or more are not unheard of. A good alternative is any of the various airport transfer services running to and from Heathrow. These are cars or vans that you book in advance, and can be especially economical for groups. Fares can be as little as £28 for a group of 4 or 5 people.
For Gatwick arrivals, the easiest way to get into the city is by taking the Gatwick Express train which is non-stop for the 25 miles and arrives into Victoria Station, the hub for all coach transportation in London (£14). You can also buy a round trip (called a “return ticket”) for £25, saving £3. On the Gatwick Express, four people travel for the price of 2 – so this is effectively half price (£7). However, you can not take advantage of this when buying your ticket on the train, instead you will have to queue at the ticket offices of eiter Victoria or Gatwick stations. Without this group deal, a slightly cheaper option (£9) — which only takes about 5 minutes more — is to take the Southern Train to Victoria. First Capital Connect runs service to Kings Cross Station (£9). If you’re heading to Brighton or other points south, arriving at Gatwick airport and catching the train is much more expedient than arriving at Heathrow, making your way into London, and then catching a train south. For both, there are other options of both coaches and taxis, but due to traffic and cost, it’s best to stick with the trains.

For Stansted (mostly for European flights), the coach can be a better option than the train. To Eastern London the A9 coach ( National Express) is quicker and cheaper (£7 one way) than the train (£15 one way). It runs every half hour and only takes 45 minutes to Stratford, where you can catch the Jubilee or Central lines. It usually takes about an hour to Canary Wharf using this option. For other parts of London there are other coach services or the Stansted Express train. The train runs a direct service to Tottenham Hale and Liverpool Station. For Northern London it is quicker and cheaper to buy return tickets to Tottenham Hale (the train slows down considerably between Tottenham Hale and Liverpool Street), from where there is easier access to Northern London via the Victoria and Picadilly tube lines. Terravision run 2 coach routes into London. One route to Victoria (taking 1:15 – £8.10 one-way, £13:50 return) and one to Liverpool Street (taking 1 hour – £6.7 one-way, £11.80 return). National Express run several routes including one to Victoria which also stops at Baker Street and Marble Arch.

For Luton there is a free shuttle bus to Luton Airport Parkway station. The train services are operated by two companies. Midland Mainline runs into St Pancras where you can catch the underground from Kings Cross or First Capital Connect which runs through London to Brighton, stopping at Kings Cross, Blackfriars, London Bridge and Gatwick Airport.

London City airport has a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station. This will take you to Canning Town, where you can catch the Jubilee Line to central London.

Coach transfers are also a very economical way to travel into the city centre. Due to varying congestion on the motorways, they can take much longer than the train, but can be much cheaper. The UK’s main coach company National Express runs very frequent, comfortable services from Heathrow (about 1 hour) , Gatwick (about 1h20), Stansted (about 1h30) and Luton (about 1h20) to Victoria coach station, the main hub for British coach travel, where coaches can be caught to many other parts of the UK and Europe, or the tube taken to your destination in central London. Other companies such as Terravision also offer low-cost coach travel from Stansted and Luton, with discounts for Ryanair passengers. GreenLine and EasyBus also offers a coach service from London Luton airport, with discounts for EasyJet passengers. All the coach services operate very frequently and tickets can be bought online or at the airport when you arrive.

The other option is, of course, car hire. Driving around London can be a hellish experience, especially during “rush hour”, the daily morning and afternoon commutes that, despite their name, tend to last from about 07.00 to 09.00 and 17.00 to 19.00. Car hire in the UK is expensive, but all the major rental companies operate from the airports, though most travellers will find they have no use for a car in London City Centre. Only consider hiring a car if you’re planning to visit more rural areas. Also remember that if you rent a car, you are responsible for paying the Congestion Charge, £8 per day, to drive into Central London. Parking is also very costly.
Train travel can enter into a number of stations. From Europe, the train arrives into Waterloo Station (Eurostar from France or Belgium). King’s Cross, Paddington Station and London Bridge are just a few of the main terminals for train travel and all connect to the Underground and buses. If you get lost, there are maps galore in all the Underground stations and you can always ask one of the knowledgeable staff members who patrol the stations.

Train times from London airports:

  • DLR from London City Airport, 22 minutes to Bank, 14 minutes to Canary Wharf.
  • Heathrow Express, 15 minutes to Paddington. Piccadilly Line 1 hour to Piccadilly station.
  • Gatwick Express 30-35 minutes to Victoria (30-40 minutes on the Southern Line). First Capital Connect 30-35 minutes to London Bridge.
  • Stansted Express 45 minutes to Liverpool Street.
  • First Capital Connect (formerly Thameslink) 35 minutes from Luton Airport Parkway to Kings Cross Thameslink station
London Heathrow

Airport Terminal Map - LHR

Week in Wine

20 07 2006

Washington State Red Blends

NV Bunnell Family Cellar Vif Columbia Valley Red Wine ($32)

2002 Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve Columbia Valley Red Wine ($35)

NV Long Tail Lizard Columbia Valley Red Table Wine ($9)

2004 Pendulum Columbia Valley Red Wine ($25)

2003 Helix by Reininger Pomatia Columbia Valley ($20)

2004 Shimmer Columbia Valley Shiraz-Merlot ($15)

2003 Three Rivers Winery River’s Red Columbia Valley Red Wine ($15)

2004 Thurston Wolfe Doctor Wolfe’s Family Red Washington State Table Wine ($15)

Wines for a Very Very Very Hot Day


NV Barefoot California White Zinfandel ($6)

2005 Folie a Deux Menage a Trois California Rosé ($12)

2005 Los Cardos Lujan de Cuyo Malbec Rosé ($10)


2003 Cameron Hughes Lot 11 Paso Robles Petite Sirah ($11)

2003 Cameron Hughes Lot 12 Sonoma Mountain Syrah ($11)

2004 Cycles Gladiator Central Coast Syrah ($10)

2004 Inca Calchaqui Valley Cabernet/Malbec ($9)

2004 Rosemount Estate Diamond Label South Eastern Australia Shiraz/Grenache ($12)

2004 Sexto Terra Alta Red Wine ($13)

2005 Valentin Bianchi Single Vineyard Elsa Mendoza Malbec ($9)