Archive | October, 2009

Swine Make Good BBQ (but Bad Wine): Travels with James and Nick in Search of America’s Finest BBQ

27 Oct

There is something therapeutic about seeing trees and towns and wide blue sky passing by you at 80 miles per hour as you sit in a car, listening to good music, on your way to somewhere.  It is an added bonus when those trees are at that moment when they are still lush but where the leaves are no longer green but various hues of yellow, red, brown, and orange.

Such were the trees on the road on the way to Lexington, North Carolina, whose Barbecue Festival my friend James (of The Eaten Path fame), our friend Nick (of the US Patent and Trademark Office) and I attended this past weekend.

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(Thank you to the Lexington BBQ Festival for this poster!)

For those of you who do not know of James by this point, he is one of my good friends from Berkeley who has for the last year called Brooklyn, New York home.  While his more regular contributions to the blogosphere can be seen on The Eaten Path, he also is a huge aficionado of all things barbecued, once spending a few weeks traveling through the Smoky Crescent and eating and observing the best the South had to offer.  It is one of his goals to publish a comprehensive and awesome book on barbecue–a noble goal, indeed.

Thus, when he said there was a barbecue festival in North Carolina I asked if I could go.  I figured I wouldn’t have very many more chances to have a purpose to go to North Carolina, and besides, any reason to get out of DC is reason enough.

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Learning to Budget: or, Finding a Nice $8.99 Bottle of Wine

18 Oct

One of the perks of having a German (ahem, Bavarian) roommate is that he’s quite knowledgeable about beer.  I’m more of a wino myself, so I’m only too happy to defer to his judgment, always excellent, on German beers.  (Then again, I can’t not defer, lest I want stormtroopers to take over my living room.)

That being said, Alex the Roommate decided we should have an Oktoberfeast™ where we would feature delicious German foods, beers, and spirits.  Our Berkeley friend Waiching was gracious enough to provide her apartment (and her large dinner table and large number of chairs) for the feast.  Alex invited two friends from his work and I invited one of my Berkeley friends, Mia, and her boyfriend.  That made for a small but wonderful dinner party of seven.

This isn’t an entry about Oktoberfeast™, however; I did want to mention that Alex outdid himself by making from scratch traditional German fare such as Blaukraut (“blue cabbage”, which is made from red cabbage, red onion, raisins, and apple and seasoned with things like nutmeg and bay leaves) and putting together a three-course beer menu, the highlight of which were incredibly potent “smoke beers” from Schlenkerla.  The first variety was their Märzen, a “dark, bottom fermented smokebeer, brewed with . . . Smokemalt”; the second, which I had, was an even more intense Urbock, “[s]imilar to, but much bigger than the classic [Märzen] style.”  The Märzen smelled of smoked gouda, declared Waiching, but my Urbock smelled of a richly-smoked cut of bacon.  They were very unusual but very delicious and well-crafted.  We followed up the beers with some William Christ Pear Brandy, an intoxicating spirit straight from Germany.  Utterly redolent of pear on the nose, it had a hint of sweetness and coated the mouth wonderfully.  It had a slow, steady burn deep in the stomach and helped me digest my huge, huge meal.

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R. López de Heredia: Ready When You Are

13 Oct

I write a wine column for my law school newspaper.  Unfortunately, they only pay me $10 per column, which will hardly pay for a bottle of good Portuguese Douro.  I will say that there are a number of great wines out there in the $10-$15 range, but there are a HUGE number of even better wines at the $15+ range.

Short of taking out more in loans, a grad student has few options for financing an education in wine.  Luckily, one of those options is hosting wine tastings where everyone chips in for some really great bottles.

So, I’ve hosted a few tastings for friends and for fellow staffers at the Nota Bene, and we’ve been able to try some delicious, delicious wines (and cheese… and patê…).  The first was themed “Summer Reds” and featured lighter reds (such as Beaujolais and Pinot, including a pretty wonderful pinot–the 2006 Radio-Coteau “Savoy” from the Anderson Valley of California).  The second was themed “Spanish Wines”, which is the topic of this particular blog post, and the third will be based around both red and white Burgundies.

We tasted a number of great Spanish wines: three whites and four reds.  The four reds were further subdivided into two groups: two bottles from Rioja, and two from Ribera del Duero.  One in each pair was “Old World”-style (generally aged longer before being released, less assertive oak, leaner) and the other was “New World”-style (released after a fewer number of years, more assertive oak, bigger and fuller profiles).

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