Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
It’s arguably long overdo. About three years now I’ve been tinkering around in kitchens doing my best to follow a recipe or practice a technique, but like any independent study, without a syllabus to help guide my direction, it’s safe to say that I’ve been all over the place with my culinary exploits.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Blake, it’s great you have these beautiful women up on your site, but why the fuck do they have cheese whiz on their hands?” That’s a fair question I suppose, but I’ll answer that in a bit. First, I have to confess that a while back when I wrote up my adventure to Vintage Virginia Wine Festival I always felt like I left something out. The wineries covered are solid spots without question, but there was one “vineyard” that really stuck with me, and I finally got around to sitting down an checking out more of their products. I’m talking about the gang over at Peaks of Otter.
In the middle of a quasi-hoitie toitie local wine event with talk of tannins and mouthfeel and sundresses, a gang of dread lock rocking, punkishly dressed “sommeliers” were pumping up their crowds like it was Mtv’s Spring Break. Our first pass, we spotted them pouring shots of habanero infused wine while making their tasters hoot before giving them a sample of their desert wine to cool their heated palates. I was curious initially, and we laughed at the novelty, but it wasn’t until our 3rd pass that we decided we had see what the fuss was all about.
More girls after the jump..
You know, there are days when I question the merits of running a food blog. It’s a time consuming, frustrating, often unappreciated process. Juggling HTML code, photography, cooking and writing can consume a considerable amount of one’s time. Sometimes it’s bit too similar to real job than I’d prefer my hobbies become. This is natural I suppose, especially when you have to turn down a happy hour with friends. But then, once and a while, you have a day like last Sunday. Or more specifically, when Foodbuzz hooks you up with free tickets to check out an event you’d normally wouldn’t be able to afford. So from here on out, when I start balling up my fist and shaking it furiously my computer, I’ll just lean back in my chair, close my eyes and think back to Cochon 555.
Cochon 555 got it’s start down in Atlanta as a benefit to showcase local chef skills, ecofriendly farm raised animals, and to help raise awareness for ICompassion. I was really lucky to have a chance to attend as well as bring a few friends. With a $125 price tag per ticket this was a luxury all of us would probably pass on despite the fact FIVE different top notch DC chefs compete with a whole pig Iron Chef style. Oh and did I mention wine? Well, that’s intentional. After Vintage Virgina I was a bit drained on wine note taking, but I took more issue with the fact that most of the wines were flown in from California. What the fuck?! This fact was made all the more annoying given that I had just spent the entire day before surrounded by 50 local wineries. But this event was all about pig, and by god Cochon 555 did not disappoint on that promise.
Featuring Brian McBride’s team from Blue Duck Tavern, RJ Cooper of Vidalia, Nicholas Stefanelli of Mio, Jamie Leeds from Commonwealth Gastropub and John Manolatos of Cashion’s Eat Place, Cochon 555 very much delivered on showcasing some diverse, local culinary talent.
Saturday AMF went on a little field trip out to Virgina. Making it outside DC is a rare occurrence these days for me given my lack of transportation, but how can you not when good friends, good weather, free flowing alcohol, are all in abundance. Is there any way better to spend a Saturday? Ok, fine, I’m sure there are valid answers to that question, but if you’re a yuppie, scratches by to build a “career,” looking at a picture just a tad bit larger than your immediate-post college counterparts, this is a good day. So lets talk a little wine shall we? Vintage Virgina Wine Festival was a great chance to pay homage to our local guys, and worth waiting in traffic. I was glad to see some really good things going on once I finally cut to the front of the line.
Honestly, I’m not going to hate on any VA vineyards, because they all had something to contribute. I enjoyed at least one varial at every booth, was treated well by each and every taster. It was a welcoming and enticing event, and it’s really great to see the VA wineries really start coming into their own.
Also, the live music had some exceptional talent. Thankfully the country cover bands stayed home and we were treated to some quality jazz under a few different tents, not to mention the main stage provided patrons with good bands to sit and relax to when they needed to give their palates a break. Think I even saw a mosh pit forming in front of the stage towards the end. Also, how can you not love the county fair selection of food vendors?! Fuck caviar and bruscetta (not really), give me funnel cakes, foot long corn dogs and the biggest mount of jambalaya I have ever seen in my life. It was a perfect trifecta of quality music, excellent vino and greasy carnival food. Enough foreplay, lets talk wine.
As I said, I don’t want to be critical of the various wineries. If I had not found a single decent wine at any of the booths I visited, I would make note of it, but that thankfully was not the case. Not to mention given the length of the day, varying crowds and my refusal to spit out any wine I tasted my experiences would vary I’m sure from others. Overall, was really happy to see a variety of Cab Francs and even a few appearances of Petit Verdot in a couple of blends. Here are my Top Three vineyards and my Top Three wines from each.
First reaction: “Only three wines? Seriously? Kind of a jip.” Reaction after the first taste: “Holy fuck..”
These guys sacrificed quantity for quality in all the right ways. Maybe I’m a sucker for the Petit Verdot grape which adds an almost syrupy richness and body to any wine it touches, but Mountfair’s blends were simply excellent on all three of their offerings. These guys are small time, about 100 cases of each wine produced, but they certainly make up for it in quality. All three need a taste, so I’ll just list them and you go find them.
Inagural ‘07 (60% Cab Franc/25% Merlot/ 15% Petit Verdot) – Lush and fruity
Engagement ‘07 (60% Merlot/20% Petit Verdot/ 15% Cab Sav/ 5% Malbec) – soft but well structured. Hints of berries and chocolate
Wooloomooloo ‘07 (60% Petit Verdot/20% Merlot/ 10% Cab Franc/5% Cab Sav/5% Malbec) – almost a true Bordeux blend including all five of the major grapes. Well balanced with fruit and earth. One of my favorites.
I won’t lie. I have a soft spot for irreverant branding and interesting labels. So I could be bias here, but I really dug a lot of what these guys were putting out. Don’t let the names fool you, these are legit blends that would hold up well at any dinner party.
Yesterday – A bright, crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Not too fruity or herby. Inspired by youth apparently.
Erhoneous – I’ve always really enjoyed the Rhone wines, so when I saw that this was a Grenach/Syrah blend I was excited. Very smooth, lush and fruity. The Grenache isn’t overwhelming at all.
Franc the Tank – A Cab Franc that is advertised as “so good you’ll drink it by the pint.” My notes betray me here. All I can tell you is that I circled “pint” and ”so good” and then added a bunch of “!!!” after the name.
I’ve actually had the pleasure of visiting this little vineyard outside of Charlettesville a little while back, and I’d highly recommend the trip. If you’re an American History fan, you’re in luck since the house on the hill was designed by Thomas Jefferson. He also brought over a lot of the grapes from Italy to take root, but failed miserably. Lucky for us, that didn’t keep the people who owned the land from trying again. I really enjoy Italian grape varials, so I’m always excited to see what they’re putting out.
Nebbiolo – a Northern Italy grape clone, a tannic wine with a lot of body, well suited for roated meats and cold evenings.
Octagon – Barboursville’s signature blend. It’s a solid sturdy wine, but if your really want to learn a thing or two about this wine, and digg some tunes check this link out.
Also, it should be noted Valhalla and Breaux both did impressive jobs and deserve more attention than I was able to give here.
To be honest, Marco Pierre White was more on my radar as another pretentious, jackass chef booking yet another formulaic reality show promoted to match Gordon Ramsey’s scream-themed extravaganza. I’ve never been a fan of Hell’s Kitchen, but the idea of second British chef throwing pans around for the cameras gave me a headache just thinking about it. I had heard of White in passing. While reading about other chefs it seemed like everyone respected and feared the guy, and there wasn’t much more to know other than he seems to be an old school talent, notorious for “bollockings” and as more of a personality than a chef.
But then I stumbled upon White’s autobiography, The Devil in the Kitchen, and it became clear that I had not been paying attention to a chef so tortured and driven by the highest standards, it was almost impossible for me not to like him. A pretty serious change of heart I know, but the book follows a narrative I’ve really come to love. If you enjoyed Kitchen Confidential or Heat, you’re most likely going to enjoy this book. White is a blistering madman, and the book slowly eases you into his frantic and obsessive universe. Whether or not you accept his justifications and explanations for his constant intensity is irrelevant. Obsession is a fascinating spectator sport, and despite the antics, you have to respect this guy’s passion.
Why can’t Jamie Oliver be happy with keeping his ventures limited to great cooking shows, philanthrophy and killing baby chicks in front of horrified live audiences? I suppose someone figured since Gourmet was getting shut down that maybe there would be a spot open on magazine stands. But a whole magazine? Jaime. Come on buddy. Someone talked you reluctantly into this right? Are action figures next? How about a late night talk show instead?
I stumbled upon the first installment of the Jaime Magazine in a book store near my office and bought it without even opening to the first page. I don’t intentionally follow what most tv personality chefs are doing on regular basis, but when I come across something with the J.O. brand my ears usually pirk up.
I’ve followed Oliver for years, more so than I have of Bourdain even. One of my very first memories about how much fun it could be to tear through some through some fresh produce, was when I was flipping channels one morning as a kid, stumbling on a commercial for Naked Chef, expecting what any adolescent boy is hoping to find, being annoyed and disappointed by this punk, British kid talking about radishes, and then becoming completely hypnotized by whatever technique and ingredient he was explaining. I was still eating cereal at least 2 meals a day, so the fact I was interested in the pork shoulder he was prepping still makes no sense to me. From then on if I thought to cook something myself, he was my refence point. For the life of me understand how Food Network isn’t bending over backwards to get the rights to air his how Jaime at Home, or any another of his many food shows. They’re seriously some of the best food tv I come across.
So why am I pouring the Hateraide on the new Jaime magazine? Some degree of sentimentallity I suppose, that the guy has shifted from being the young up and comer to larger corporate brand, but mostly it just seems like a stretch that a $10 magazine is going to have quality content for the long hall.
The first issue is fine. Nothing new or special though. Typical Oliver recipes and a few nods to chefs bringing British and Indian cuisine to higher levels which were interesting and well done. There’s a few articles devoted to wine & spirits and sustainable farming which are also very appropriate. Then you’ve got a bunch of celebrity garbage and cameos (most annoying of which was the Brad Pitt interview), which I could give two shits about. More sections on “studies” or flavor profiles is something I’d really like to see. The travel section wasn’t anything to get too excited about, but the right destinations wouldn’t hurt. Overall it’s not a bad if you’re in an airport, but it didn’t do much to inspire more time spent in the kitchen, which is something Oliver has always been a natural talent.
I know the magazine is new, only one issue off the presses, and I should just chill the fuck out. I’m sure my new found blogging hobby has a lot of room for improvement as well, so I shouldn’t throw stones, but I really don’t need another magazine on my coffee table. Someone tap me when J.O. is debuting his new show, “Anthony Bourdain and Jaime Oliver Get Shitfaced and Cook till Dawn.” Now that’s entertainment.