Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wine tasting - the results

Last Saturday was the mini-wine tasting. Four friends, two bottles of wine, a couple wedges of cheese, and some crackers. Since we only had two bottles to taste we chose to forgo the spit bucket, and just drink it up.

The first wine was a Robert Mondavi 2006 Woodbridge Chardonnay. Not rated that I know of, and about $10 a bottle.
The second wine was a 2004 Patz & Hall Chardonnay. The Patz & Hall was the $40 wine that was "rated" by one of those magazines.

The first thing we noticed was that these were two very different wines. The Woodbridge was very fruity, smooth, a little creamy, and had no spice or oak to it. The Patz & Hall was much leaner--less of the creamy mouthfeel--more acidic, and had lots of oak and spice flavors and aromas up front.

It's safe to say that there was more going on in the Patz & Hall bottle, that it was more complex than the Woodbridge. But it didn't make us like the wine any better. In fact, the acidity was a little off-putting.

When we went back to the Woodbridge, that's when the fruitiness really came out, and we found we liked it even more after drinking the Patz Hall wine.

Now, I'm not saying that I disliked the Patz & Hall. In fact, since there was some left over, I had a glass of it with some brie the other night, and it was rather nice. But it certainly wasn't $30 worth better than the Woodbridge, especially when there's so many decent Chardonnays out there.

My thoughts? One, more money equals more complex, but does not necesarily translate into more enjoyment. Two, the Chardonnays were actually fairly different from each other in style, so a little hard to compare. And, finally, perhaps my palatte is not developed enough to appreciate a great wine, or to distinguish it from a good wine. That's fine with me. There are still wines out there I like, that are quirky, tasty, and pretty cheap, (like Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier) and I can still enjoy those knowing that I'm not really missing anything by being thrifty.

Update: Checked the Woodbridge site, and apparently there is just a touch of oak-aged wine that they add to the mix. But not much.

Vampire sugar cookies

My friend brought this recipe to my attention:

Just a simple sugar cooke recipe, right? Looks so on first glance. But look again.

Go on, I'll wait.

That's right, the recipe calls for 8 cloves of garlic. Chopped, as if it makes a difference.

Now, I'm all for using garlic in wierd ways. Chocolate covered garlic and garlic honey ice cream are two recipes that I've made, and enjoyed, before. But this has got to be a mistake.

If you look down in the recipe instructions, there's no other mention of the garlic. This makes it pretty clear to me that it's a mistake in the recipe--perhaps someone mixed up a garlic bread recipe with a sugar cookie recipe.

Just another reason why you should 1. Not trust every recipe you find on the 'net, and 2. Read your recipe thoroughly before starting. I've got to imagine that one or two unlucky people chopped up the garlic before realizing the error, or, even worse, actually used the garlic in the recipe.

In related news: I'm proud to say that if you type in the phrase "sugar cookies with garlic" into Google, my blog is the first search result that pops up. Makes me giddy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wine tasting: the experimental setup

As I was thinking more about this wine tasting thing, I realized that, in addition to the fancy bottle of Chardonnay I bought, I still have an unopened bottle of Chardonnay from when I hosted Christmas dinner for my family.

So, I've decided to drink both of them, tasting-style, with crackers and a spit bucket and everything, to compare and contrast. My only problem is that I will need others to experiment with me. So, the tasting may have to wait a couple of weeks until I can get some friends together. But then, I'll have more data points with which to compare.

This should be fun!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The wine snob?

I've never been accused of being a wine snob. But I do enjoy food. And I consider wine a part of food.

That's why I wish I was just a little bit better at tasting wine. I'm not a world-class wine taster, but I definitely know what I like to drink and what I don't like. I can tell if something is sweet or dry, acidic, tannic, and can detect floral and fruity aromas.

But the flavors, textures, aromas of wine, and how to pin them down, are still somewhat elusive to me. I need a better vocabulary. I need to drink more wine.

The other problem is my pocketbook. I don't have a lot of money to spend on wine, or on courses where somebody can tell what's a good wine. It's not that I need somebody to tell me what's good, it's just that I'm the kind of person that likes to pick apart everything food. I get additional enjoyment of waxing descriptive about my food when I'm eating it. (My husband calls me a "commercial" and laughs.)

So, as a birthday present to myself, I bought one of my most expensive bottles of wine. (My most expensive bottle is a champagne I sipped often on my honeymoon, which has great sentimental value to me, so it's priceless.)

The bottle cost $40. It's a chardonnay--I can't remember the name--and it was rated 92 by Wine Spectator. Or perhaps it was Wine Enthusiast. Wine Today? Vine?

So far as I know, this is the first "rated" wine that I will ever drink.

It will be interesting to taste the wine to see what the "professionals" consider a high-rated wine, and to compare that against what I usually drink. Maybe I'll be able to taste a difference, or maybe not, but the experience should be fun. I'll learn something no matter what.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Cooking Goofs For The Soul, Part 3

I know I said I was going to do a poll, but one individual's cooking goofs are so clearly above and beyond the level of most mortals, I felt it was OK to make a unilateral decision.

Congrats to Dave, aka Stupid Reality, for his list of cooking nightmare stories, many which involved heat and/or chemical burns.

Runner-up status is awarded to Reggie for valiantly trying to burn down his school in his Home Ec kitchen, not once, but twice.

Both of you may redeem cookies from me by e-mailing me at themanicscribe at gmail dot com. You get your choice of one dozen Cookie Monster Cookie Dough Cookies, made by yours truly, or any cookies up to $15 in value off of

Thanks to everyone who posted their stories.

And, to wrap up this series of posts, let me share one last cooking goof with you all. This just happened last week. It was a comedy of errors.

I was trying to make a recipe called Maple Candy in the Snow. On its surface, it seems simple. Boil a pint of maple syrup until it hits 270 degrees Fahrenheit, then drizzle the hot liquid on some fresh, clean snow. The result should be chewy maple candy.

My first mistake? I used too small a pan, so every time I cranked the heat above medium low, the mixture would foam up and threaten to leap out the sides of the pan.

My second mistake? I used a meat thermometer to check temperature rather than a candy thermometer. For some reason, the temperature of my liquid stopped getting any warmer at 230 degrees. Well, a bit of critical thinking led me to why this happened. Meat is cooked to a much lower internal temperature than candy. Therefore, meat thermometers don't need to go to such high temperatures. So, I wound up guessing on the exact temperature of the syrup. I tried to use the method where you put some of the syrup in cold water, and feel for texture, but this wasn't working for me.

My third mistake? I didn't pack the snow down firmly. I just drizzled the syrup into the snow on my friend's back porch. Since the snow was light and airy and the syrup was thick and heavy, the syrup disappeared underneath the snow onto my friend's deck.

Bah. Just goes to show you that even a simple-seeming recipe can be complicated, and even an accomplished cook can have lapses in judgement every now and then.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

'Tis the season for hot toddies...

It seems like almost everybody gets sick this time of year. Whether it's the stress of the holidays, or the cold, dry weather that tends to keep us inside, it's hard to say.

At any rate, it's a good time of year, sick or no, for hot toddies. Here's a link to some great hot toddy recipes. Skepchick is normally not a food blog. However, some great hot toddy recipes and cold remedies have shown up in the comments thread.

My favorite of these is the recipe from a nun, which includes ice cream as a main ingredient. Yum. I think I'll try that one tonight.

One word of warning: Don't overindulge on these, and be very, very careful when mixing alcohol with cold medicines. A toddy a day at most.