Archive for April, 2007|Monthly archive page

Good Wine, Bad Wine

Cork Screw

Now that I’m starting to enjoy wine drinking, I always feel like a bottle needs to be finished in one sitting.

But does it?

To get to the bottom of this, I turn to Cellarnotes.net for the real answers.

How long can you keep wine once the bottle has been opened? How soon does wine in an open bottle go bad? Do I need to finish a bottle of wine in one sitting when it has been opened? This question gets asked in a great many ways but it always does get asked. This is because one of the harder things to figure out about wine is when to pour out wine that is left in the bottle.

There are lots of variables regarding the wine type, method of production, age of bottle and on and on. There are all those considerations and exceptions but for 95% of the wine that most people drink, the answer is pretty simple.

Three (3) days. Around here, we keep wines up to 3 days after the bottle has been opened. Once a bottle of wine is opened, the oxygen in the air starts a process that initially softens the flavors and opens up the aromas of the wine. As this process (oxidation) continues over many hours and days, the wine is ultimately made undrinkable. The trick is to use the wine before it becomes unpalatable or to pour it out before bad wine is served to guests.

You can (and usually should) refrigerate recorked bottes. You can buy stoppers and gadgets to create a slight vacuum in the bottle. You can get systems that put a layer of inert gas in the bottle. All these items and efforts are aimed at slowing the oxidation that will eventually destroy the wine.

What makes the whole thing tricky is that the wine will not go immediately from good to bad. The wine will, at a point, begin to progressively develop tastes that are unpleasant. Just like milk that is going bad, each person has a different point at which they identify the beverage as having gone bad.

If you want to play it safe (and who doesn’t with either milk or wine), then just use the 3 day rule. Recork and refrigerate the bottle for up to three days. With red wines, pull the bottle from the refrigerator at least 1/2 hour before you want to use it so it will warm to a desirable serving temperature in the mid 60′s F. With white wines or roses, just pull and pour when you need them.

Keeping opened wines beyond 3 days is like playing golf in a lightning storm. You may get through but you are tempting the fates. If you keep a table wine for more than 3 days, you will be serving a wine that has lost most of the characteristics that are prized. The aroma will start to change and much of the fresh fruit smells and tastes will subside. At worst, you’ll be serving a wine that has oxidized too much and is partly or entirely bad.

Dessert wines like Sauternes, most everyday Ports and most Sherries can last much longer but those are special cases. Just play it safe with the 3 day rule. It is a good practice to write the date the bottle was opened on the label if there is a chance of confusion.

Picture from Flickr.

Hot Rod Mop Brush

Hot Rod Brush Mop

Now that summer is just about here, it’s time to get out your BBQ tools. If you don’t have any or if you left yours out on your balcony all winter (like I might have) you should pick up this super cool Hot Rod Mop Brush as seen on Uncrate.

This isn’t just your average grill brush. This stainless steel brush features unique flame etchings almost as cool as the classic hot rods. There’s a detachable silicone mop which holds large amounts of whatever you’re slathering on your meat. There’s rubber grip for easy handling and the brush is heat resistant up to 650ºF/340ºC. But the best feature of all is the bottle opener end. No need to carry a brush AND bottle opener anymore.

And for $15 it’s totally worth it. Head over to their website to find out where to pick yours up.

Oh, and if you need an entire new set of BBQ tools, you can pick up all the Hot Rod utensils which include a spatula (turner), tongs, and a fork.

Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey 1Cold Turkey 2

Justin Droms, a Cracked Magazine editor, recently put himself on a hardcore diet of going vegan for 30 days. Ultimately, he lost about 16 pounds and his cholesterol went down, but his blood sugar and blood pressure went up. He documented it for Good Magazine. Photos from there, too. Also on their site, you can watch Justin eating an entire head of cabbage; his punishment for cheating on the diet.

About his experience…

This might be the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth, I think an hour later as I try a fingerful of vegan mayonnaise. Some “analogues,” as Vegan Action describes these food substitutes, taste a little off to the recovering meataholic. The mayonnaise, for one, tastes like vinegar-flavored Jell-O, and if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Hey, I’d really like to eat some cat vomit,” then vegan ham is for you. Others, however, are borderline outstanding. Vegan steak is flat-out convincing, and minimizes the time I’ll spend staring at ground beef in the grocery store (although, like vegetarian Indian cuisine, it maximizes the time I’ll spend in the bathroom). Vegan chicken nuggets are the best; though they’re filled with a grainy meal, the crispy outside is just like the real deal, especially if drenched in a half-gallon of ketchup.

Also from Good Magazine…

The average American adult eats roughly 50 pounds of pork, 66 pounds of beef, 86 pounds of chicken, 17 pounds of fish, and one pound of lamb annually.

That’s 220lbs of meat. Yum.

Rice to Riches

Rice Collage

I just heard about Rice to Riches for the first time last week and I’m dying to try it out.

I wouldn’t call myself a rice pudding fan, but it just sounds like a pretty creative concept that’s so targeted and such a niche market, that the place has to be good.

After perusing the web and digging up some info, the flavors look really good and the store itself looks a little futuristic.

Flavors include Coast to Coast Cheesecake, Sex Drugs & Rocky Road, Rest in Peach, Man-Made Mascarpone with Cherries, Perfectly Legal Pecan Pie, Almond Shmalmond, Surrender to Mango, and a bunch of other ones.

As for toppings, there’s a bunch to choose from, but they include NUDGE (chilled espresso with a touch of cocoa), BURST (oven roasted fresh fruits, 3 varieties), FLOURISH (toasted buttery pound cake), and HEART THROB (tender loving jelly). Toppings range from $.50 to a buck.

Sizes seem pricey, but apparently you can share a SOLO (which will cost ya $5). The EPIC (serves 1 or 2, or 3 apparently…) with 1 or 2 flavors costs $7.50. The SUMO serves 5 and is $20. And the MOBY which serves 10 is $35. Local delivery is available in NYC, but if you’re stuck on the west coast like I am, you can ship overnight (minimum order is a SUMO size.)

The rice pudding doesn’t look too pretty, but the decor of their store plus the really cool plastic bowls and shovel spoons (that are reusable) are a nice touch that make the pudding look a whole lot nicer.

I’ll definitely be stopping by next time I’m in NYC, but I might be tempted to place an overnight order and try this stuff out.

If you’re on the east coast or if you’ve been to Rice to Riches, please comment on how it is! More pudding goodness on Flickr.

RICE TO RICHES
37 Spring Street
between Mott and Mulberry St,
New York City – 212.274.0008
Open: Sun-Thu 11am-11pm; Fri & Sat 11am to 1am
Local Delivery from Noon – 10pm
And we ship overnight to anywhere in the USA!

Watch What You Eat

Fries on TV

Literally. This LCD TV with ketchup remote is just one of the fun TV options Handspree is releasing. They also produce other themed TV’s including most major sports themed sets.

According to the Hannspree-USA website…

Frites. Papas. Fritas. Or good, old French Fries. Wherever in the world you travel, fries are everyone’s favorite. Polyurethane fries cap off this friendly design with a screen framed in bright yellow. The remote is shaped like a packet of ketchup. Squeeze it and enjoy.

And according to Nexus 404

Whilst we are inundated with cutting edge technology and gadgets its nice now and again to see a something that’s been styled with a sense of fun, such as this 10” 800×600 SVGA LCD television styled to look like a portion of chips/fries that comes complete with a remote resembling a sachet of tomato ketchup.

A perfect, playful companion to accompany all those TV dinners, this LCD television offers a 450:1 contrast ratio and comes complete with inbuilt stereo speakers rated at 2W each, RF input, SCA connection and headphone jack.

No price is listed and apparently it’s not available at the moment, but their other fun sets run about $400.

The Show Wines

Show Label

The wine label of the day award goes to…

The Show! I just saw some of their bottles and they’re really nice! Now if I can only find a bottle or two and try this stuff out…

Pioneering winemakers the Three Thieves revolutionized the industry with daring packaging and award-winning wine. In their latest inspired departure from the mainstream, they partnered with another American icon, Nashville’s Hatch Show Print, for the brand’s new release: The Show.

Like a Hatch print for an Elvis gig, The Show grabs your attention. Big and bold, it is dominated by full flavors of dried black cherries, jammy preserves and layers of spice and sweet vanilla.

For more Hatch Show prints check out this site. Pretty cheap, too. Posters are about $10 a pop.

You can check out some pictures of the wine on their MySpace page, and you can even become their friend! I’ve always wanted to be friends with a wine bottle!

The Secret Starbucks Cappuccino

Starbucks Short Cup

I’m not a Starbucks fan, but some people can’t help it. Actually, if the coffee machine at work is broken I sometimes have to settle for Starbucks since it’s the closest place to my office (although a Coffee Bean is scheduled to open in a month or two…)

When I am forced to go, I only order a cappuccino or one of their teas, never the crazy concoctions or frozen slushie drinks. I don’t order a tall, grande or venti. I order a short.

Starbucks has a size that they don’t feature on their boards. If the current sizes are too large for you, ask for a “short” cup.

Here’s a little secret that Starbucks doesn’t want you to know: they will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it. Ask for it in any Starbucks and the barista will comply without batting an eye. The puzzle is to work out why.

The drink in question is the elusive “short cappuccino”—at 8 ounces, a third smaller than the smallest size on the official menu, the “tall,” and dwarfed by what Starbucks calls the “customer-preferred” size, the “Venti,” which weighs in at 20 ounces and more than 200 calories before you add the sugar.

The short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall, meaning a bolder coffee taste, and also a better one. The World Barista Championship rules, for example, define a traditional cappuccino as a “five- to six-ounce beverage.” This is also the size of cappuccino served by many continental cafés. Within reason, the shorter the cappuccino, the better.

More on the economics on the “short” cup over at Slate. More proof of short cups on Flickr.

So besides getting better flavor from a short cup, you’ll also save some change. The short cup costs less than most of the more exotic items on the menu.

Why doesn’t Starbucks feature the short cup on the menu? They claim that they don’t have enough room on the menu boards. And the Slate article mentions that the short can’t be found on their website or other signage either. But the real reason?

Economics has the answer: this is the Starbucks way of sidestepping a painful dilemma over how high to set prices. Price too low and the margins disappear; too high and the customers do. Any business that is able to charge one price to price-sensitive customers and a higher price to the rest will avoid some of that awkward trade-off.

This isn’t breaking news, but I thought I’d share in case you haven’t heard about this by now. Anyway, it tastes better and it’s cheaper, so why not go short?

Oh, and you also might want to know that apparently Starbucks baristas will make anything you can think of. They technically aren’t allowed to say “no” to something they’re capable of making. So let your mind go crazy and watch the baristas go nuts.

Plastic Glass

Glass

I always seem to like things that look like the original more than the original itself. That said, I love this Beaker Juice Glass from CB2 (that’s Crate and Barrel’s more IKEA-like line) that were recently mentioned on Productdose.

They look like those plastic clear juice cups that everyone used to have around their kitchen. CB2 says…

Paper-thin, light as a feather drinking cups take us back to lemonade stand days every time we pick them up. But these are handblown, heat-tempered, chem lab beaker glass with a neat retro ring design. Keep ‘em stacked by the sink.

And at $1.95 a piece, why not keep some by the sink?

Cellar No. 8

Cellar 8

My new favorite wine. As a designer and newbie to the wine drinking game, I bought this bottle SOLELY on the design of the label. The price was also under $10 so I figured it was a good buy.

But does it taste good? Yeah. It does. But can I describe it like a real wine connoisseur? Not a chance.

According to Martini Republic

The Bottle:
Cellar No. 8 (Asti Winery), North Coast California, Merlot, 2001, $8.99 at Trader Joe’s

The Label:
This label is all about typography and composition. No images, no illustrations, nothing representative. Just type and its placement.

Creating compositions with words and letters is not particularly difficult. They can be used just like any other shape to construct an image. However, making a dynamic composition and keeping the text legible and semantically understandable is a bit trickier.

The unknown designer of this label manages that more difficult task very well. The ‘8′ animates the design, keeping your eye moving down and then back up, giving you first the name and then the details like the year and variety, even though the details appear above the name. Well and cleverly done! The font faces have been chosen with care – the declarative sans serif and the cursive which echos the curves of the ‘8.’ Simply put, this is good design.

The Wine:
Ah, Merlot. The classic fallen out of favor somewhat after years of being hugely trendy. These days it’s all Pinot this or that, or one of those enormous Cabernets. And the Merlot you do get is massively fruit-forward and fun. It’s not that I don’t like some of today’s trends, but the classic Merlot seems to have fallen from grace.

But what a wonderful late summer into fall wine. Round. Full. Deep ruby red. Not too dry, not too sweet. Berries – not like from a pie, but those plump fresh blackberries that have just fallen off the bush into your hand. No tannin to speak of, and yet it tastes like wine, not fruit juice. This Merlot is all those things – it’s really quite a classic version. The makers have applied their craft on this one with excellent results, eschewing the trends and sticking with the tried and true.

As you would expect from a classic Merlot, this one pairs with food tremendously. I tasted it with a strong sheep’s milk cheese and then with some spicy curried chicken. In both instances, the wine enhanced the food and the food enhanced the wine. It will probably do best with full-flavored food; it may not do as well with delicately flavored dishes.

The Final Analysis:
Both label and wine have been crafted with care and expertise, not to mention outright talent. A big win-win this week!

I bought mine at Trader Joe’s for $9.99 I think, but BevMo has it for $7.99 if you use their ClubBev discount.

Snoopy Sno-cone Machine

Snoopy Box

When I was a kid, I had one of these. Then I lost it. Then when I was in high school I found one at Toys R Us and bought it. Then I lost it.

If you also lost yours over the years, here’s your chance to redeem yourself and support the original Snoop Dog. Plus with summer just around the corner, I’m sure this’ll come in handy.

Head over to FredFlare.com to purchase yours for $20. Not only is the Snoopy Sno-cone Machine a reminder of the 80s, but it makes a great gift for adults who remember them or even for kids who don’t.

According to FredFlare…

Let the fun begin!!! We love Snoopy and sno-cones are totes delicious!!! Includes sno-cone maker with metal ice shaver, syrup bottle, package of unsweetened drink mix, 3 paper cups, shovel scoop & instructions! Measures approx. 12”x13.5”x3” We’re thirsty!!

And if you really want to see details on this thing, head over to 80′s fan site X-Entertainment for the full review and pictorial. Here’s what they say…

For years, a whole lot of years, The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine has delighted millions. The ability to create flavored ice shavings with very little adult supervision is something every kid pined for, and if the equipment used to do that just happened to be shaped like Snoopy’s doghouse, then that’s just the gravy baby.

Also, in case you weren’t around during the 80s or you miss this, this SpongeBob SquarePants version is almost as cool. Not as cool as Snoopy, though.

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