Repost: Debunking 5 Common Wine Myths

This is a good primer for wannabe wine drinkers and aficionados alike. I pretty much agree across the board. I remember talking with the sales rep for a major California Merlot winery, and that line in Sideways cost them millions. I also have a friend whose idea of Chardonnay is stuck in the 1980s, and needs to try some contemporary takes on this versatile grape instead of always reaching for the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.

Ross Szabo: Debunking 5 Common Wine Myths.

Note that on the list you’ll find a plug for blends, which dovetails nicely with my recent post on a Caliterra wine tasting.

Guest Rant: Chef Rails Against Contemporary Restaurant Trends

San Francisco chef Joyce Goldstein has some sharp words for fellow chefs and some of the city’s hot restaurants.

Tiny morsels arranged with tweezers – SFGate.

“…those damned dots of sauce.”

“…comma cuisine…”

These trends haven’t taken strong root in Costa Rica yet.

And, in the form of dissent, a meal at San Francisco’s Aziza last year featured one of those “comma menus” and remains one of my most memorable meals ever.

Guest Rant: Chef Rails Against Contemporary Restaurant Trends

San Francisco chef Joyce Goldstein has some sharp words for fellow chefs and some of the city’s hot restaurants.

Tiny morsels arranged with tweezers – SFGate.

“…those damned dots of sauce.”

“…comma cuisine…”

These trends haven’t taken strong root in Costa Rica yet.

And, in the form of dissent, a meal at San Francisco’s Aziza last year featured one of those “comma menus” and remains one of my most memorable meals ever.

Caliterra Wine Tasting and Blending Seminar

On a recent night, Caliterra Vineyards chief enologist Rodrigo Zamorano gave a wine tasting and seminar in the art of blending varietals.

The fact is that single varietal wine production and marketing is a relatively new and largely New World phenomenon. Traditionally, wines from the great winemaking lands were estate and vineyard driven and often were a blend of several different grape varieties grown on the estate or by that vineyard. People order a Château Lafite Rothschild or St. Emilion for their terroir and confidence in the vineyard’s history, not because they produce a dependable cab.

Blending wines can have many underlying justifications and a wide range of effects. In the worst cases, lesser grapes are added to the mix to increase production or boost yield, while diminishing the quality. However, conversely, a variety of grapes from a single season harvest can be blended to create a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. In addition to the wines of the great European traditions, U.S. wines like Opus One and Quintessa fall into this category.

Caliterra VineyardCaliterra, which comes from a blending of Calidad, or quality, and Terra, or land, is dedicated to sustainable winemaking practices. Set in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, their top wine is a small batch unique annual blend of just 12,000 bottles dubbed Cenit. Each year’s blend is distinct, but all are complex yet eminently drinkable. A bottle of this baby will set you back around $95 in a Costa Rican wine shop.

Their next best options come from a series dubbed Tributo Edicion Limitada, or Tribute Limited Edition. These are lovely, complex blends retailing here in Costa Rica for about $36 per bottle. I was particularly impressed with their 2010 Cabernet Franc-Petit Verdot, which in full disclosure mode is actually 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Petit Verdot, 6% Carmenere, and 4% Syrah.

Beyond these, Caliterra has a wide range of single grape wines bottled under their Tributo and Reserva labels, with the Reserva line selling locally for around $14 per bottle.

The event was held in the beautiful, new space of Hotel Si Como No’s flagship restaurant, Claro Que Si. Following an introduction to Caliterra vineyard, its history and philosophy, Rodrigo discussed the history and theory of wine blending. The seminar included a hands-on competition, in which teams sought to create the best blend by mixing from bottles of 2010 Tribute pressings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes.

I’m proud to say that working with Lance Byron of Café Milagro, with moral support and quality control from El Gran Escape’s Marsha Bennett and Si Como No’s Jim Damalas, that our 45% Malbec-35% Cabernet-20% Petit Verdot blend took top honors.

The event was hosted by local wine distributor Grupo Pampa, in conjunction with Hotel Si Como No.

Tropical Fruits of the World — Kickstarter

OK folks, here’s your chance to support a  a new book on Tropical Fruits.

Tropical Fruits of the World — Kickstarter.

Written and photographed by Rolf Blanke, the book will cover some 330 tropical fruits from around the world. The Kickstarter campaign is seeking funding to help defray travel and publication costs. Various contribution levels are available nabbing you shwag ranging from postcards and posters to a copy of the book (think of it as a pre-order).

This book is being brought to you by the folks at Zona Tropical, a premier Costa Rican publishing company, known for it’s field guides and specialized local content.

Happy 100th Birthday Julia Child!

Today is Mother’s Day in Costa Rica. It’s also the 100th year anniversary of the birth of Julia Child. The mother of modern foodies everywhere.

Here’s a list of 10 best Julia Child quotes.

And, here’s a video of Julia on David Letterman

Unfortunately, SNL has removed the classic Dan Aykroyd impersonation from You Tube

Bon Appetit!

Rave #3: Grano de Oro Restaurant

Grano de Oro RestaurantThe Hotel Grano de Oro has long been downtown San José’s most elegant boutique hotel. And their in-house restaurant has always been one of my favorites. But they’ve kicked things up several notches of late. Invited for another look on a recent night, I was surprised—and often wowed—by some of the changes and improvements.

Trio of AppetizersThe Grano de Oro now boasts a 110+ label wine list, including several premium wines offered up by the glass. During a pre-dinner visit to the restaurant’s beautiful new wine cellar, we were treated to a tasty ceviche with avocado foam, crisp crostini with homemade pate, and a bite-sized slice of salmon and goat cheese crepe.

Escargot on Garlic FoamOther menu highlights include a slow poached salmon in a vanilla sauce, served with raspberry pearls and green-apple compote. Escargot come already taken out of their shells, sautéed in butter and served over a garlic flan, with a foamy parsley sauce.

Vanilla Poached Salmon

 

Chef Francis Canal has embraced elements of contemporary Fusion cuisine and molecular cooking techniques—without overdoing it or falling into cliché. The palette-cleansing arugula sorbet was cunning, a deft balance of sweet and bitter that perfectly performed its designated task.

Roast Duck

Our main course was a roasted duck breast served with a caramelized fig on a round of roasted butternut squash and sautéed snow peas, all graced with a pate-smeared breadstick.

On this night, the popular Grano de Oro pie, a decadent chocolate and mocha delight that I usually order, was replaced by a delicate dark chocolate globe upon which a warm white chocolate and espresso mixture is poured, melting the whole thing into a lush dessert “soup.”

GrappaWe finished everything up with a smoky grappa from the owner’s private stash, but they do have an ample selection of grappa and other fine after dinner drinks for the general public, as well.

Snake Cake

Snake CakeAlright, I realize that this is a Burmese python, but, at first glance, it looks an awful lot like an Eyelash Viper, which I’ve seen on trails in Cahuita, Arenal National Park, and Braulio Carillo.

British baker Francesca Pitcher has created this amazingly lifelike snake cake. An outstanding work of pastry art.

Snake Cake

Have a bite…