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January 02, 2006

Grasping Grappa by Ed McGaugh

Riserva I would have to admit that I am more of a rhum and cognac man, but in the last 8 or 9 years I have become interested in grappa, mostly because of my discovery of the Italian kitchen.

When we were in the Piemonte in October we had the good fortune to visit a grappa distillery called Vieux Moulin which you can’t miss if you drive along the road from Asti to Alba because there are several large signs pointing the way. The place is pretty unassuming, there is a big dog chained-up in the court yard who heralds your arrival with a never-ending series of barks and the whole place has a pretty home-spun air about it.

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October 05, 2005

Cuisine Terroir by Ed McGaugh

Porkhocks_3_3

Recently my cooking has taken a provincial turn. I have become fascinated with simplicity. I use meats and vegetables that take hours to cook, and I am using Dutch-ovens and cast-iron pots more than ever before. I am in quest of ancient recipes and forgotten techniques: food that our forefathers cooked, “cuisine terroir“. For the time being, I have turned my back on all "new" food. Restaurants that turn apple juice into faux-caviar like El Bulli just depress me now. I can no longer tolerate any cooking that masks the true flavor of food. I want to use the most basic of ingredients and cook them painstakingly slowly with the utmost attention. I want to taunt the flavor out of my ingredients. I want to wait patiently, like a father waits for his children to grow up…like a connoisseur waits for his wine to be ready to drink.
Give me time…. give me the chance to tease and coax my ingredients to perfection… give me rooms thick with the perfume of slow-cooked food…. but most of all.... give me one or two friends that feel the same way to enjoy it with.

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September 17, 2005

Wine Pairing Part I - Fish Tagine

By Carolyn Tillie

Med4c

I have long been obsessed with food and wine pairing. Over twenty years ago, before there was an internet to gather and share such information, in wanting to feel older and more sophisticated than my age would allow, I would throw dinner parties for my friends, open a bottle or two of whatever the local store might have on the cheap, and figure out which wine worked with which dish. I’m sure I failed more often than I succeeded, but I never wavered from the experiment or the desire to know more.

All these years later, I am still on the path of discovery however many different factors have been thrown into the mix. For starters, a decade ago my interest in French cuisine waned as I delved into the world of the Middle East. While living in Southern California, four to five times a year I would prepare 18 and 20 course feasts for groups of twenty and forty people. I utilized recipes from Morocco, Syria, Algeria, and Tunisia. For these banquets, sweetened mint tea was the beverage norm mostly because these feasts were on my dime and while I was content to buy and prepare the food for forty people, buying them all wine seemed too excessive for my meager pocketbook.

Through a series of events that can only be described as synchronistic, I happen upon and developed a friendship with noted cookbook author Paula Wolfert. It was her cookbooks that the bulk of my feasts had come from and while I no longer had the audience for my massive gustatory creations, the longing for the elegant spice combinations and illusive, exotic flavors never diminished. Working hard on my wine-writing craft, I no longer had the luxury of spending hours in the kitchen to simmer succulent lamb tagines and build flaky quail b’stilla. I had forgotten how much I adored the regional flavors when one day, Paula asked me if I could test a recipe for her next cookbook all devoted to the adoration and utilization of clay pots.

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August 27, 2005

Seeing Red by Ed McGaugh

Xellent2_1  I have a little confession to declare. I am a seasoned vodka drinker. It all started 20 years ago when I became overly interested in pre-revolutionary Russian art.... you know, Fabergé and the like. I was fascinated by all things from old Russia and at that time Stolichnaya was pushing hard to beat Absolute out of the first chair of vodka so I decided vodka was “the thing” and I experimented with Stoli, Pertsovka and all the rest of the Russian vodkas. All of this was fun at the time, but in the end it turned out to be a fad for me and after a year or two it faded away.

Until....

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August 12, 2005

Nothing Prettier than a Farm by Tana Butler

Thank you, Chef Zadi, for your kindness and enthusiasm about my work, and for inviting me to participate in this wonderful and diverse community of voices.

2002highgroundhills_1_1FARMS AND ME
I started visiting and photographing farms for two chefs here in Santa Cruz, California, back in 1999. They were launching a new enterprise to take diners out into fields and orchards, to experience gourmet meals with the freshest possible produce, with a hidden agenda (such as it was) to connect farmers and food artisans with the public. The events were always incredibly picturesque, giving a different and pleasing spin on the usual "winemaker" dinners that take place in vineyards the world over. Who had ever exalted a farmer? Well, perhaps the Slow Food people, but their focus was not so specific. The farm dinners I photographed were eye-opening for me. I fell in love with farms, and I came to admire every farmer I encountered. They are an interesting group: some loquacious, some laconic, and almost all with college degrees.

When I resigned from the organization in January, I found myself longing to know what the farmers were up to...I confess I’d come to think of them as “my farmers.” I'd gone from a childhood in the suburbs of Georgia to being a full-fledged farmers market groupie. Happily, I live in what’s probably the single best farming community in the world. Though it is one-third the size of Fresno, with one-third the population, Santa Cruz leads the farming community with 30% more organic/sustainable farms than any other county in California. So, surrounded by this kind of treasure, it was natural that my path would lead me where it has.

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August 09, 2005

Label Conscious by Ed McGaugh

Wine labels attract us in mysterious ways. The sight of a Chateau Petrus or Mouton Rothschild label makes some people weak at the knees. It's the same with cars and cigars for some men and shoes and purses for more than a few women. Almost every product seems to have it's coveted marks. I suppose it's because we are confronted with so much mediocrity in our day to day lives that we are automatically attracted to excellence like moths to a flame.

The real truth about wine is that there is too much of the stuff being produced. The result is a wine glut which results in some pretty creative thinking in the ole' marketing departments. Bottles and labels get sexier with every vintage. Mouton Rothschild was one of the pioneers when they commissioned an artist to paint a new painting every year for their wine labels. Perrier Jouet Champagne bottles have huge hand painted flowers on them, even 24 carat gold leaf lettering can be common-place these days. I have seen bottles with gold plated kangaroos dangling from the neck, and some even come with artificial dirt on them, presumably so that your guests will be impressed by your poor application of the domestic sciences in your "ancienne cave".

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August 02, 2005

The Perfect Sunday by Ed McGaugh

It occurred to me that some things in life need to be explained for the benefit of those who have neither the time nor forethought to actually plan and execute the perfect Sunday lunch for their friends.

Sunday is the perfect day, because everyone has finally relaxed from the busy work week and with any luck, on Saturday have completed all those strenuous "pleasure" activities like skiing, hiking and other noble, albeit fruitless, expenditures of time. Yes, Sunday IS the perfect day, stores are closed, TV offers you little besides the reruns of Top of the Pops and last Friday's episode of Ready Steady Cook. You can really set everything aside and concentrate on the business of leisure.

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August 01, 2005

Indian wedding feasts by Monica Bhide

Thank you so much Chef Zadi for inviting me to participate in your weblog.
I am honored to be here.  A brief intro - I am a food writer and love writing
about food and anything to do with life in general!

I am posting one of my favorite stories here -- it is on a wedding I attended
in India a few years ago. I think the food was amazing, but dont take my word
for it.. judge for yourself.

The Indian Wedding Feast, a Modern Marvel

By Monica Bhide
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page F02

Planning a wedding? Whether you're the bride-to-be, her mother or any
other participant, organizer or subsidizer of these complicated,
expensive and emotional events, it may help to hear about the wedding
I attended last year. Your life will seem, suddenly, simple and
uncomplicated, your guest list meager, your catering bill reasonable.

On Nov. 27, 2003, a day picked as auspicious by Hindu astrologers,
India's capital city, New Delhi hosted 14,000 weddings.
   (It hosted the same number again for the next two days in a row!)

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