It’s not that I don’t like chardonnay… It’s just that the mere word has about the same effect as “muzak” on my gray matter. It’s the Mantovani, the Kenny G, the Barry Manilow of grapes. Not to mention that there are a gazillion exciting, diverse, delectable, different other wonderful white wines to be had and enjoyed. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t lovely, terroir-driven chardonnays, but who really wants to listen to the same band or read the same writer over and over again, anyway?
I’ve been meaning to read “A River Runs Through It” for a good long time. Tony Dollar came to the rescue with the gift of a copy recently, and I was hooked by the second paragraph. It’s a damned fine book, just plain lovely, written in the no b.s. prose of someone who loves the language and uses it like a treasured old hand tool – something for accomplishing a task, and not for showing off or puffing up one’s own ego.
Speaking of bulls**t, the following quote brings to mind the way the big boys play in the wine biz these day – something that’s been on my mind more than a little of late.
“Paul opened the trunk of the car and counted out eight bottles of beer. He said to Neal “Four for you and four for us. We’ll sink two of them in each of the next two holes for you. They’ll make you forget the heat.” He told them where we would bury the bottles and then he should have thought before he told them he would hide our beer in the two following holes where we would be fishing on our way back from the cliffs.”
“What a beautiful world it once was. At least a river of it was. And it was almost mine and my family’s and just a few others’ who wouldn’t steal beer. You could leave beer to cool in the river and when you got back it would be so cold it wouldn’t foam much. It would be a beer made in the next town if the town were ten thousand or over. So it was either Kessler beer made in Helena or Highlander beer made in Missoula that we left to cool in the Blackfoot River. What a wonderful world it was once when all the beer wasn’t made in Milwaukee, Minneapolis or St. Louis.”
And so it goes. Whether it’s the beer biz or the wine biz, these days it’s dominated by large, deep-pocketed, hard-nosed corporations whose means of competing is not to offer better value or service, but to amass all the products and force the competition out of business by any means necessary. One of the Gallo brothers once summed it up quite succinctly: “We don’t want market share, we want it all.”
The idea that the “end justifies the means” never quite took with me, and it’s a notion I’ve come to associate with large corporations and the sort of manifest destiny, scorched earth manner in which they do business. It’s global, it’s winner-takes-all, and it’s anything but local. On the other hand, I’ve come to define local as anything, from anywhere, that celebrates people, place, passion and that old-fangled idea of character – not to mention a good shot of integrity and a sense of fair play. Local is anyplace where a handshake means more than a thousand lawyers.
So there. Here’s to tasty beverages that don’t want to be everything to everybody, nor conquer the world. And to families, farmers, fairness, and so forth. Let’s drink to that!
Along with a host of ongoing, other projects in the self – improvement file, I’m using the arrival of a fresh calendar as fitting enough reason to renew last year’s vow to drink more Champagne and Sherry. That mission was a partial success, owing mainly to the arrival en scène of The Accomplice and the subsequent savoring of prodigious quantities of Manzanilla en Rama over the course of the Summer of Love (and Sherry).
But there’s aplenty of work yet to be done and The Champagne Project needs more than a little attention, I have to confess. I promise to do better, however, and fortunately there’s no shortage of either opportunity, motive or means and we’re up to the task. Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs was a fine way to begin, savored on both sides of the fleeting instant dividing one year from the next (poof! it’s gone…).
It's worth mentioning that the foregoing fizz was sipped from a Riesling glass – on purpose. Other than in the woodwind section or perhaps as oversize copitas, I detest flutes. Truly. And while I have to ‘fess up that there’s a generous measure of curmudgeonly crankiness in the intensity of that dislike, there are nonetheless good, solid wine reasons for it. Think of going to hear your favorite band play – in the local junior high gym. Or choosing AM over FM. It’s a matter of fidelity, and a wine that’s capable of expression deserves an instrument capable of expressing it, no matter what Martha Stewart has to say about it. “’nough said.
Finally, a blogger (a real one) I know advised me awhile back to ixnay the long-winded stuff in favor of little pearls (we hope). Brief insights, not articles. Alors, alright then. I’m gonna give it a whirl, and while it’s no prophylactic against pontification, it’ll definitely reduce the duration.
There you have it. Happy New Year. Onward.
Ever notice how life’s various little truths keep coming back to us, each time dressed a little differently, accent and demeanor evolving roughly proportionate to the ground covered in the existential rear-view mirror? It’s not unlike the way a great book, re-read with the a few years’ experience packed away in the archives, can tell, if not an entirely different story, at least the same old tale in greater detail.
Being “in the biz” means that a parade of bottles passes through the kitchen counter chez The Accomplice and I, some on missions of professional assessment, others seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of (our) happiness. In the past few months, that parade has underscored the astounding difference a little (or a lot of) “air time” can make in allowing a great wine to reveal its depth, strut its stuff and show all the facets of its various charms.
Astounding. Really. We're not talking just a little more nuance or a few more shades of flavor, but a whole different wine. Enough so, that near the top of our to-do list for the coming year, right up there with “drink more Champagne” and “drink more sherry” is the one word imperative, “decant.” While you could just take my word (trust me on this), a sense of duty, a vague memory of Writing 101 and the need to spew verbiage prompt me to lend an example or three. (Thus reassured, feel free to go forth and decant.)
“La Noblaie” Chinon Blanc. I found a few bottles of this quasi-oddity (the Chinon appellation is 99% devoted red wines) in my “cellar” and pulled one out to investigate its progress. Right out of the bottle, it was lean, a little minerally, showing great acidity and a sauvignon-esque, rather than chenin blanc, character. While I flailed at finding positives, The Accomplice was unimpressed, advising “let’s open something else.” Case closed, sort of. The next afternoon, we each poured glasses of what had developed overnight into a thoroughly gorgeous wine—purely chenin blanc, with notes of honey, white flowers and perfectly ripe fruit, underscored by a steely mineral character.
Naches Heights Vineyard “Carmen.” Both tempranillo and mourvedre tend to come to an ignoble end at the hands of most Washington wine”makers” – who, in seeking to turn them into the wine equivalents of botox, silicon and steroid-infused caricatures. Not so with this muy splendido blend of 56% tempranillo, 44% mourvedre (monastrell). It was great, right out of the gate when Phil Cline dropped off the sample one afternoon, got better still that evening, and continued to show even more layers of smoke, fruit essences and wild brush as we tasted it over the next three days. Lovely, and appropriately seductive, given its moniker.
Domaine la Fourment Visan “Les Garrigues.” We opened this one literally fresh off the boat – a time when wines tend generally to be “shy” inversely proportionate to their overall character and potential. This cuvée of biodynamically farmed, old vine grenache was certainly pretty right out of the chute, showing plenty of promise, with notes of cherry, raspberry liqueur, river stones and garrigues. Time proved an enchantress, as the next 20 hours transformed a wine that showed hints of promise to an impressive sketch of what the final work would become. Think elegance, Burgundian texture, profound depth, character for days…
I could go on….and on. But the point is, that in addition to the usual candidates for decanting (Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, great Bordeaux), just about any well-made, non-manipulated wine will benefit -- often greatly – from an hour two of “air time” – be simply opening the bottle in advance of serving, or decanting (preferable).
Interestingly enough, the aforementioned “manipulated” wines, even those of considerable pedigree, tend to show their hand right from the get-go. A fine thing for those who want pleasure on demand and ready-made accessibility – just the sort of thing for people who like that sort of thing, in fact.
But most great things aren’t free, don’t come in a blink of an eye, a click of the mouse, or a simple turn of the corkscrew. And that’s a good thing. Give that next lovely bottle an opportunity to unveil its charms in the spacious confines of the decanter – then enjoy both wine and metaphor. All you need is time and patience.
Each year we post the 10 most popular recipes from our online collection. There are perennial favorites (like our PCC Emerald City Salad). But it's most fun to see which newcomers pop up.
Is your favorite on this list? I am partial to No. 5.
- Kale and Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Garlic Dressing
- PCC Emerald City Salad
- PCC Perfect Protein Salad
- Steph’s Tofu
- PCC Sesame Quinoa with Edamame
- Kale Chips
- Black Bean and Yam Quesadilla
- Soba Noodle Stir-fry
- PCC Quinoa Tabouli
- Spice Scented Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque
Here's a look at your favorites in 2011.
And, in 2010.
Happy cooking, and a very happy new year!
The real deal. The goods. No, fooling, no bs. There are a whole slough of ways to say it, yet probably not a single good definition. But you sure can tell when you’re in its presence, listening to who-knows-how-many year of accumulated knowledge and observations, walking the rain – soaked rows of a vineyard, tasting wine that’s an inspired alliance of vine, soil and the fruit of the four seasons.
The Accomplice and I pointed the carriage south toward Jacksonville, (Oregon, that is) a few days back for a dinner featuring the uniformly outstanding wines of Quady North, then to spend following day “tromping” with winemaker Herb Quady. As fine a 24 hour stretch as a a pair of generally jaded wine biz folks could ask for.
I’ve discovered over the years that the wines I find to have the most character, the most depth, the most authenticity, are the work of people who are only “winemakers” because the English language doesn’t have a better term for what they do. Rather than “make” wine, they orchestrate it, or “raise” it, as the French would say. Herb Quady says that the “impact of the person” is in the decisions made in response to the variables of vine, soil and climate. Take the voices nature gives and weave it into the most delicious, authentic harmony possible.
It’s a question of character over ego, quality over quantity, and being an all-around reasonable human and doing the right thing. Herb has it wired. You can taste it in the wines – and pretty much guess that they’re scrupulously made, from pruning to bottling.
Start with the rosé (lovely!), made from a designated vineyard block that’s just for pink wine, harvested early and direct-pressed. Or the syrah—syrah that tastes like syrah, sleek, spicy, balanced and delivering the sort of depth you find in the legendary reds of the northern Rhône, albeit with a State of Jefferson accent. Or, better yet, the cabernet franc – real cabernet franc, not some fleshy stand-in for over-the-top cabernet sauvignon. Nope, Herb’s is the real deal, with Chinon-like structure, balanced, focused, edgy energy, notes of red fruits (pomegranates, red currants), tobacco and spice… Impossible to do them justice here (more later, stay tuned), save advising that you take a flyer and treat yourself to what I humbly assert are, without exception, some of the loveliest wine being made in the New World these days.
Oh, and there’s Jacksonville, once the biggest city north of San Francisco -- reincarnated “mighty damned cute” in the estimation of the Accomplice. Until this past weekend, Southern Oregon was that place that I either flew over or drove past on the way to California. Pretty, but pretty much a question mark beyond the off ramps. Just a couple rain-soaked days (highly unusual) had me dusting off my trusty adverb “enchanting” and plotting with the Accomplice to go back. The wine biz is thriving, with some truly exceptional, character-driven wine being produced. We’ll be back. Stay tuned for the sequel.
Pomegranates always appear just as gray skies and dark afternoons become routine again during the chilly months here in the Northwest, offering a rosy glow and a welcome sweet-tart burst of brightness during a season of root vegetables and sturdy greens.
Crisp, tart, beautiful.
Breaking into them needn't require ruining your shirt. Try this method to get at those plump, juicy seeds and you'll be ready to make any number of pomegranate recipes like:
- Satsuma and Pomegranate Salsa
- Barley and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pomegranate Seeds
- Pomegranate Plum Reduction Sauce (to enjoy atop Whole Spice Crusted Moroccan Chicken, of course!)
- Pan-roasted Pancetta Wrapped Prawns with Pomegranate-Wasabi Reduction (ooh-la-la!)
Of course, you can always just eat them atop yogurt, add to a glass of bubbly for color and a hint of sweetness, or just spoon 'em up plain. After all, you earned them! Perhaps the challenge and mystery of breaking open a pomegranate is what launched them into lore and legend.
You just never know, do you? On one of those cold, dark, rainy evenings that define both the autumnal fading of the light in these parts, La Copine (a.k.a. “the Accomplice”) and I were settling into a pre-symphony repast at one of our favorite haunts. With a couple glasses of white wine (a flinty Petit Chablis and an Albariño from Rias Baixas) to awaken our palates while awaiting the arrival of the first morsels of sustenance, we turned to the evening’s truly important decision: what bottle to both satisfy our thirsts and feed our souls?
Given that the evening’s first departure from the usual was already gracing our glasses, the stage was set for new adventures, the taking of a left where one might general take a right... Further, the turn-up-the-collar nature of the evening, the creases in my gray matter would generally have had me drinking something red and Mediterranean, right from the proverbial “get.” But the Accomplice, possessing not only a more refined palate, but a willingness to step out of well-worn habits in just about everything, expressed a desire for something racy, bright and minerally. The resulting lovely, eclectic beverages were proving with each sip to be as delicious as they were from well off "the usual" route.
“Aha!” “I love it!” “that’s perfect!” she said, pointing at the Domaine Tempier rose on the list. “And I’d love to try it with the oysters…"). Hmmmm, really? Well, yeah, I supposed, that wine is always fine-superb even, and great rose is truly delicious in any season. But with oysters? Briny, cold Northwest meets sunny Provence? I wasn’t entirely convinced, but given that the Accomplice has an amazing sense for such things, I thought, “why not?” After all, Bandol sits just over the hill form the sea—and the rosé would be perfect with the pork chop we were set to share – even if it didn’t pan out with the oysters.
It was splendido, on all counts, but especially with the briny bivalves. While the pale, pale salmon hue suggests a delicate wine, it’s actually quite rich, with hints of bright peach and pomegranate fruit accented with notes of spice. Zippy acidity and a kiss of salty sea air made the link of wine and oysters, the fruits of two far-flung seas, a luscious, if unexpected marriage.
It just goes to show that you never know. Even when you (or I should say I) think that you’re someone who thinks outside the proverbial box, there’s always another horizon -- and it’s always a good idea to try something seemingly out of the blue. And then there's the real moral of the story: always trust your accomplice…
I first heard of chia seeds as something to eat from my running friends. Back in 2010 they raved about a book, "Born to Run," that hails these tiny powerhouses of nutrition as a mighty energy source.
Get your chia! Find it in the bulk section at PCC.
If you're as curious as I was, head into PCC's bulk department. Take home a handful or a sackful or organic chia seeds. Either way, try them. There's a reason you're hearing about them seemingly everywhere (including over the weekend in this New York Times article).
- Just 2 tablespoons of the tiny chia seed delivers 6 grams of soluble fiber and 4 grams of protein. Learn more about chia and other power super seeds (including hemp and flax) in this Ask the Nutritionist column by PCC Nutrition Educator Nick Rose.
- Chia seeds are a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids.
- They're easy to eat. Sprinkle atop your yogurt or oatmeal, add them to smoothies, slip into your breads and muffins, or add them to citrusy water (or watermelon or strawberry juice) for Chia Fresca. Or, try this recipe for granola with chia from PCC Chef Lynne Vea.
- PCC also carries Mamma Chia beverages -- chia fresca without the work.
- There's also this recipe from our PCC Community and a recipe for Chia Pudding from our Sound Consumer newsletter.
No, that's not pepper: it's chia seeds with my morning yogurt!
One tip: just like poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and other favorite seeds, chia seeds have a tendency to get stuck between your teeth. Tuck a spool of dental floss in your bag and you'll be good to go.
How do you most like to enjoy them?
It's the final countdown! And as you gather recipes old and new for the big feast Thursday, don't miss our collection of gluten-free favorites.
- Try three complete gluten-free holiday menus (including a vegetarian option and ideas for those leftovers) here.
- Discover recipes for entrees, sides and desserts on Pinterest.
- Explore PCC's gluten-free foods selection (more than 1,800 items and counting!) with our online search.
For good measure, here's one of our favorite gluten-free sides. What are yours?
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from all of us at PCC!