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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

So go eat your food and enjoy it; drink your wine and be happy, because that is what God wants you to do. (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

While I get the impression the writer of Ecclesiastes may have written that line a wee bit sarcastically, I do enjoy both food and wine and reading about both. So when I got the chance to review The Curious World of Wine by Dr. Richard Vine, I jumped at the chance.

As far as I know, “Vine” is his real name. I have no idea if that contributed to his career choice as a winemaker. He does have impressive credentials: 50+ years in the industry, 21 of them as the wine consultant for American Airlines. Heck, Purdue University named a wine library after him.
book cover
If you have wine-lovers on your Christmas list, this would make an excellent gift. It’s hot off the press, so they probably won’t have a copy. Thanksgiving is in two weeks, people. Two. Weeks. Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye after that. It is not too early to shop.

About the book: it’s highly amusing and informative, packed with (as the subtitle says) “facts, legends, and lore about the drink we love so much.” It’s the sort of book one can pick up and put down, absorbing little sips of knowledge each time. It covers everything from the history of wine to “legends and lore” and “charming wine characters.” Did you know Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about Napa Valley? If you’ve been to the California state park named after him, you probably did, but I haven’t and didn’t. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island, and Napa Valley…quite the variety of topics.

Patriotic as I am, I would, have appreciated more attention to Texas wineries. Still, there is reference to the time Texas saved Europe’s vineyards…it’s true! Read the book to find out how it went down. While you’re in there, you’ll learn the history of phrases like “three sheets to the wind” and “the bitter end.” Then there’s that whole thing about how wine glasses came to be shaped that way. Let’s just say it’s there were molds involved, it’s anatomically based, and theoretically goblets could come in sizes A, B, and so on.

There’s a lot of information about wine, too. And vineyards. And stories about the people who founded and run vineyards. And, oh, lots of interesting stuff. You should read it! Which brings me to…

The Giveaway
The publishers sent me a copy of the book, which the delivery person thoughtfully hid behind the scarecrow on my porch. It was so well hidden, I couldn’t find it, which resulted in my being sent another copy which I received shortly after I found the first one. Ahem. So now I have two—but not for long! If you’d like a copy of The Curious World of Wine, leave a comment below about your favorite kind of wine. I’ll put all the names in a bucket and poke a corkscrew in there to draw one at random. The winner will get my extra copy of the book.

Ready? The contest will be open until midnight next Saturday, 11/17. Just post your favorite kind of wine below—in the blog comments, please, not on Facebook, so they’ll all be in one place. Winner to be announced next week. Good luck!

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Chihuly

No, I didn’t sneeze. Dale Chihuly is a world-renowned glass artist and there’s an installation of his works at the Dallas Arboretum. (Just extended through 12/31, I hear, so there’s still time to see it.) I moseyed down there one evening with Samantha and Laura.
That red fan is a church choir thing. Alto 1's (aka Hot Wings) present!
We had a grand time roaming the grounds admiring the glass. We arrived just before dusk, in time to get a good look at things like this:
Doesn't it look like a ginormous Christmas present bow?In one of the sunken gardens...but it would look lovely in my backyard.

There’s just something magical about a boat filled with glass bubbles…

Then as darkness fell, some pieces really came into their own:

It's called the Texas Star.A close up view of all that beautiful glass.In the fern dell with the mist rising.
It was a fabulous evening of fabulous art in a fabulous setting. I highly recommend it! You’ll need a reservation for a night-time ramble, but it’s worth planning ahead a little. They’re open select evenings from 6-9 and it takes every minute of that to see everything. Well, it does if you putter and stop to take photos every few feet.
Here’s a link to the arboretum’s site: http://www.dallasarboretum.org/

P.S. As we are an area known for wind and hailstorms (though thankfully nothing as violent as the recent devastation of Sandy), one might wonder as to the practicality of leaving a bunch of glass outside. Apparently pieces do occasionally break and when they do, one of Chihuly’s talented minions comes in to fix it. Just thought you’d like to know!

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Technical Difficulties

Sorry to have left you hanging, but I’m currently experiencing some technical difficulties. Hopefully we’ll be back up and running soon. Til then, keep having adventures–and please, if you’re registered, go out and vote!

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Don’t those words just make you smile? A whole conference dedicated to chocolate. I know. It was awesome.

Held in the mildly fabulous Addison Conference Center (that would be in Addison, Texas) it was a chocoholic’s dream. Table after table of truffles, toffee, molded chocolates, “enrobed” chocolates (that would be chocolates that have gone through a chocolate shower, not chocolates wearing bathrobes and bunny slippers), even cocoa beans and cocoa butter.

I tried to take photos but only had my phone, and with my hands full of chocolate and all, they didn’t turn out. Let your imagination run wild.

I tried chocolates with blue cheese in them and chocolates infused with chicory and molasses (from Dude, Sweet Chocolate). There were chocolates with bacon and chocolates with lime centers (Chocolate Secrets). I had what just may have been the best brownies of my entire life (Oh Brownie), amazing homemade marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate from Elegantly Chocolate, a delicious taste from Toffee Treats, and the rest all kind of merged together in a chocolate-induced haze.

I also met some fascinating people who turned their passion for chocolate into a business. I’ll introduce some of them in the coming days. (They’re fun, you’re going to like them.) I was amazed at the number of locals who offer chocolate delicacies, many of them with day jobs who do this on the side. As Sandra Boynton’s classic work tells us, chocolate really is a consuming passion.

Chocolate: The Consuming Passion

A much-thumbed volume in my personal library

Until next time, have a lovely piece of chocolate. Unless, of course, you’re one of those odd people who doesn’t like chocolate. In which case, I’m so sorry. Perhaps some day they’ll come up with a medication for that. The rest of you, make note: the Chocolate Conference & Festival is an annual affair. See you there next year?

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Random Musings

When you see the muscular men (they’re usually men) in dark suits and sunglasses surrounding the President talking into their sleeves, it’s not much of a secret that they’re Secret Service, is it? Sometimes they actually identify themselves as “Secret Service”. So what’s the big secret?

Maybe I’ve been watching too much Warehouse 13; they tell everyone they’re Secret Service but that could be to avoid telling their other secrets.

Hey, Dallas-area peeps: check this out!

Seriously, a chocolate festival? I’ll be the one with a glazed look in my eyes, licking my fingers as I roam the aisles.

Bob’s Red Mill Cinnamon Raisin Granola tastes like oatmeal raisin cookies. I may never bake cookies again. (Wait, who am I kidding?)

Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again? Yeah. It’s Friday. And multi-tasking is of the devil. (Which might help explain this post.) But at least I didn’t set my workplace on fire today, unlike my friend Carol. On the other hand, I didn’t get to chit-chat with cute firemen, either. Oh well!

Have a great weekend!

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I’ve always been inspired by Julia Child—I mean, she didn’t learn to cook until she was middle-aged, how fabulous is that? Just goes to show it’s never too late to be who you were meant to be.

So when I heard about this new biography, I did something I rarely do: I bought a copy. There are a great many books I need to read but only a few I need to own. Dearie made the cut and I’m so glad it did. It’s fabulous, a warmly affectionate but clear-eyed look at an American icon.

It’s good value, too. Since I bought the Kindle version I don’t know how thick it is, but it took me weeks to read it. I knock off the average novel in 2-3 hours, so you see my point. Dearie is a comprehensive story and clearly well-documented; I kept looking at the little percentage number at the bottom of my Kindle thinking “I’m only 55% of the way through? She’s already in her eighties, for pete’s sake.” That’s because the last 40% of the book is references. The author did his research and has the notes to prove it.

While foodies are the obvious audience for this book, anyone who grew up in the sixties-seventies and remembers watching Julia on TV will enjoy the back story. Anyone who’s ever wondered if they’ll ever find their “place” in life will be inspired by this amazing woman. It’s not just Julia’s story, it’s the story of eating in America over the last century. Dearie may give you an “appetit” but it’s definitely “bon”.

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Unique Belgique Waffles

Unique Belgique Waffles with fruity goodness

I don’t just make this stuff up, you know (not all of it, anyway). And this is official; I got a press release and everything: As part of All American Breakfast Month, National Waffle Week (September 2nd – 8th) is devoted just to waffles!

How fun is that? The nice people at Unique Belgique, who know a thing or three about waffles, sent me some interesting waffle factoids:

• Waffles got their start in the Middle Ages as wafer cakes or crisps made of flat bread.

(I’m picturing a knight in a suit of armor chowing down on a buttery waffle…the extra butter would have been handy to oil his suit’s joints. Mind you, I don’t know if butter was combined with waffles in the Middle Ages, but it’s a fun image, don’t you think?)

• Waffle cones filled with ice cream started at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 when an ice cream vender ran out of cups and asked a nearby waffle maker for help.

(That 1904 World Fair was a high point in culinary innovation that has not been rivaled since.)

• Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron from France and held parties known as “Waffle Frolics” in the White House!

(Of course he did. Tom was a serious Francophile and he loved ingenious toys. But who wouldn’t want to attend a “Waffle Frolic”? I may start calling all my dinners “frolics” as in “Would you like to come over for a Pizza Frolic? A Peanut Butter and Jelly Frolic? A Leftovers Frolic?”)

• General Electric invented the electric waffle iron in 1911, making waffles an easy, at-home meal made from cheap ingredients like flour and eggs!

(God bless GE that really was an awesome invention. And in 1911 yet, when a lot of people didn’t even have electricity in their homes.)

• “Belgian Waffles” are actually an American creation! Based on Brussels Waffles, the U.S. version is denser and thinner than the Brussels version.

(I believe “English muffins” are American, too. And I know Danish—the kind with, say, cream cheese in the middle—do not come from Denmark. That’s good ol’ American ingenuity at work.)

• Waffles in Hong Kong are known as “grid cakes” and come in flavors like chocolate, honey melon and peanut butter!

(Chocolate and/or peanut butter: yes, please. Honey melon: I think I’ll pass.)

I remember my father telling a story about one of his co-workers who ordered waffles with ice cream on top. At the time (the early seventies, I believe) this was considered wildly eccentric. Now adding odd things to one’s waffle is par for the course. For example, I understand that chicken and waffles is considered a southern delicacy. I’ve never eaten such a thing, but in honor of National Waffle Week I think it’s time to remedy that. I’ll have a review later this week.

Until then, happy waffling!

Note: the folks at Unique Belgique sent me the info and photo for this post, but no money (or waffles) changed hands.

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