Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ferment Revolution

I’m tasting fermented raw coconut sap, and I like it. Co-organizers of the 3rd Annual Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival Katie Falbo, daughter, and Lynn Hartman, mom, are offering me a variety of foods that have been naturally “processed” by yeast or bacteria, the stars of their event. That ginger beer is refreshing and zippy; that sauerkraut is crunchy, salty, sour, and yummy; and as for that coconut sap — well, imagine the depth of soy sauce mixed with coconut milk, yet not as heavy as either, and there you go. Even better, it’s quite low on the glycemic index (not too many blood sugars), and it’s good for your microbiome — all the species that live inside you and help keep you a happy you. If it’s interesting enough for Michael Pollan to get excited, as he does in the fermentation section of his recent bestseller Cooked, we should all pay attention.

Want to read the rest then do so on the Indy's site.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Lot to Say about Chardonnay

While the AVA of Sta. Rita Hills might only be a decade recognized, it seems like a center of the winemaking world when longtime giants Ken Brown and Richard Sanford are sitting next to each other on a panel about chardonnay from the area. Brown, Zaca Mesa's first winemaker in 1977, and founder of Byron Wines (which he sold to Mondavi), is talking about one of the AVA's newest vineyards, Rita's Peak. Sanford, planter of the ur-area vineyard Sanford Benedict in 1971 and now owner of Alma Rosa, is dropping tidbits like "it was called pinot chardonnay at that time" and extolling the virtues of his Rancho El Jabali. (Not surprisingly their wines, to my palate, are the two best of a very high quality tasting.)

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET blog.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wine Keeps On Sipping, Sipping, Sipping into the Futures

Generally speaking, artists don't want you to peek while they're working. Sure, sometimes playwrights offer workshop versions of what they're cooking up, but most writers would rather eat glass than share their early, what they believe are no doubt embarrassing, drafts. Painters don't mind sharing their sketches ... once they're famous and can sell them for a pretty penny.

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Beer Prudence

A kid in a candy shop isn't just a cliche, it's pretty much meaningless. Kids have no sense, after all, and if one was let loose at some confectioner he'd probably eat himself sick in the first ten minutes, indiscriminately stuffing his ever-slickening gob with whatever solidified sugar he lay his hands on. It wouldn't be a pretty sight, and it wouldn't be in the dictionary next to restraint.

So a beer festival isn't anything like that, especially one like Blue Palms Brew House's 5th Anniversary, held this past Sunday in Hollywood (so much in Hollywood you had a perfect shot up Gower to the famed hillside sign itself). It was one of those "you get a wristband with little attached tickets, and with each 5 oz. taste, you lose one of them, from 10 to 0" dealies, which might not sound like a lot, but when most of the beers are of the hearty variety in both hopiness and alcohol (this was not a session ale fest in the slightest), you end up not minding too to much. Since Chryss and I were both drinking, that gave us tastes at 20 beers, so that helped, for here's the 20 we did down (in alpha order):
Alesmith Speedway Stout with Vietnamese Coffee on cask
Almanac Farmer's Reserve #2 American Wild Ale
Alpine Nelson (Golden Rye IPA)
Alpine 19/10 O'Brien's Anniversary IPA
Avery Uncle Jacob's Stout
Ballast Point Lenzo Lollipop (Oak Aged Sculpin IPA)
Bell's Two Hearted Ale (IPA)
Bruery White Chocolate
Craftsman Curiosity Red Saison
Drake's What She's Having (American Strong Ale)
Founder's Double Trouble DIPA
Founder's Devil Dancer DIPA
Golden Road Buffalo Trace Barrel Aged 2012
Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster DIPA
Monkey's Paw Oatmeal Pale with Lychee Fruit on cask
Rhinegeist Cool Truth IPA
Russian River Sanctification (Sour Brown Ale Aged in Pinot Noir Barrels with Sour Cherries)
Stone 17th Anniversary Gotterdammerung IPA
Stone Pale Ale with Ginger
Strand Black Sand DIPA

That's one crazy good list. If we had to pick favorites, I'd say that Alesmith Speedway Stout, partially because the unusual Vietnamese coffee made it even more exotic/caffeinated than usual and partially because having it on cask upped its creaminess (it didn't need to be too cold or too carbonated). That Bruery White Chocolate I almost didn't get back from Chryss when she got her sip of it. Here's what the Bruery says about it, to which I can only add, "How balanced!" and "Cowabunga!"--"The primary component of our White Oak ale is a 100% barrel aged wheat wine that we affectionately refer to as White Oak Sap. Essentially a 'summer' barley-wine style ale, but made with a wheat heavy grain base, White Oak Sap is aged in used bourbon barrels for nearly a year and comes out rich in flavors of coconut, honey, caramel and vanilla. To compliment the already rich flavors of the beer, we've added cacao nibs and vanilla beans to give this beer the delicate flavor of white chocolate...hence the name."

As for all those IPAs ans DIPAs--choosing among them is like picking a favorite child and then drinking it and smacking your lips, and no one wants to see that. This is a food blog, mostly, after all.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the great band at the event, The Firkins, who, as their name might suggest, know a thing or two about drinking. We're talking songs like "Angel's Share" and "Pliny the Younger." Smart, talented, fun!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Up the Downey's Showcase

So that's a bad iPhone photo of a very good dish, round one at Downey's recent Celebration of Summer dinner.The rest of the meal was magnificent too--this is Downey's after all--and I'll jump to dessert in a bit, but right now I'd like to linger with this scallop. Yep, just one, but round as a Kennedy dollar (remember those?), and perfectly cooked--this is Downey's after all--translucent but done in the center and completely, evenly seared tan on the outside, but then cleverly sliced across its middle to make two perfect discs and divvy up that delicious sear into more bites. You will bite small, as you want it to last, as you want to taste, as you want to get a bit of the watercress, exactly dressed so each leaf is moist not dripping, and perhaps a sliver of endive too. The sprinkling of pine nuts, and how do they get each one toasted so similarly?, adds something crunchier plus that lovely, wispy forest floor flavor. And then there are the peaches--what a summer for peaches it's been here in Santa Barbara, and these, semi-dried, fight back a bit more with their chewiness, and therefore last more. Wash all that down with some Dragonette rose and you could go home after one dish sated with the essence of edible summer.

Let's then skip ahead to dessert, and the joy that is Persian mulberries. I've had some mulberries that seem, well, muddled--a bit more about the taste of the land than bursting fruity goodness. That's not the case with any John Downey ever serves, though. Here's they are made into an ice cream that's part of the world's most elegant ice cream sandwich, with the cookie part an almond dacquoise, surprisingly firm yet flaky and pleasingly crunchy. More crushed almonds are toasted around the circumference of this puck-a-licious blast of not-too-sweetness. I want another.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dragonette Cellars Makes Wines that Rock

It's a sure sign his wines will be good when a winemaker says, "It's hard to distill that down into a quick answer," when you pose a question. Such is the case for Brandon Sparks-Gillis, who along with brothers John and Steve Dragonette, makes the wine at Dragonette Cellars, which has just moved into a new facility in Buellton. One of their tag phrases is "considered minimalism," and the emphasis is definitely on the considered. "We're more or less hands-off, quote-unquote, in the cellar, but that's a misnomer, like you're letting the wines go," Sparks-Gillis asserts. "We're not manipulating the wines much, but there's a great level of care. What's necessary is to preserve the quality of the fruit."

Want to read the rest then do so at the KCET blog.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rock Out with Your Taco Out

In Southern California, it’s easy to take the taco for granted, but not all tacos are worth gulping down. An actual street taco is a minimalist, delicious work of folk art. You need those perfect tortillas, moist but not mushy, tasting of the grill, and then you need the perfect topping. That’s it. Some salsa, perhaps, but not always.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Indy's site.