January 1, 2012 § 1 Comment
When I tell people about my blog they always ask what my favorite week has been. It’s always hard to pick a favorite but I can name my top 10. If you’re looking for some fun, interesting things to try out for 2012, here were my favorites from this past year in no particular order:
1. Learning to roast coffee – If you claim to love or live on coffee, this is something you have to try. Unfortunately for those who live in apartments where it’s hard to get outside this may not be ideal for you (there’s smoke). Sweet Maria’s has a great starter kit for $45.
It will seriously become your favorite cup of coffee. Ever.
2. Ice fishing (or something that seems completely out of your range of possibility) – We spent the day with friends trying something none of us had ever tried before. While we didn’t catch any fish, we did arguably have the best laugh of 2011.
Getting out and doing things I’d never done before to embrace winter made a huge difference living here in Boulder.
3. Researching my ancestry – I definitely looked at my life differently after understanding more about where I came from. Plus it is a great thing to do with your family. I spent the week with my family going through old pictures and hearing old stories, many I had not heard before. It was a nice way to spend time together.
It was good to get my parents to talk about what they remember. I only wish my grandparents were still around. I have so many questions for them.
4. Churn homemade ice cream with friends – I bought a hand churn ice cream maker (White Mountain 4 qt. hand crank) and this proved to be a fun summer activity with friends. If you do get the hand churn one, you pretty much need the extra help since it isn’t easy!
My friend Jess (who also accompanied me on lots of blog adventures) gave me a great ice cream recipe book that did us right. It was a toss up between the goat cheese ice cream and the roasted coffee ice cream (we of course used fresh home roasted coffee for that) as to which was the best.
5. Learning about wine – I owe a huge thanks to my friends at Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder. James Beard award winner, Bobby Stuckey, welcomed my project early on letting me shadow his amazing crew of sommeliers on what it’s like to live for wine. I’ve made lots of new wine buddies through Frasca and the Boulder Wine Merchant. With more Master Sommeliers per capita than any city in the U.S. Boulder is a good place to be to learn about wine.
6. Hike a 14er – In 2011 I officially became a Coloradan by climbing my first 14,000 foot mountain with my friend Alicia (another partner in crime with many blog projects).
You likely won’t have mountains like that around but maybe there’s another physical feat to try that makes you equally feel a part of where you’re living. Boston marathon? Rowing the Thames? Surfing in Santa Monica?
7. Learning how to knit – This was a favorite for multiple reasons. I gained a new skill that is incredibly relaxing. I made some beautiful cowls that served as well-received holiday presents and to top it off I made a new friend in the process.
I also found a gem of a local store (Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins) where I will continue going for yarn and pearls of wisdom from the fantastic crew of ladies that work there.
8. Shooting a gun – I will likely never own a gun but I am glad I learned how to shoot one this year (target range only). It is an experience you could never understand without actually doing it. I now know just how powerful and dangerous they are.
It was something totally foreign to me and outside of my comfort zone, but I felt like it was something I should try once in my lifetime. Plus it was a great way to spend the afternoon with my husband and his twin brothers in Portland.
9. Pasta making – Pasta is one of those staples around the house and making it yourself is not only easy but worth the little bit of effort. The difference in taste is amazing.
I’ve continued along with it and for New Year’s Day dinner tonight I’ll be making some homemade orchiette I learned to make from Brian, another Frasca friend.
10. Reading about philosophy and religion – One of the best outcomes of the year was learning to think for myself again. It was a great exercise to dust off some books on philosophy and religion and to challenge my thinking in that regard a bit again.
It’s easy to get caught up in day to day issues and worries and can be enlightening to realize we’re just a blip on the radar when it comes to humanity. We are trying to answer many of the same questions people have been trying to answer for centuries.
March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
Last year my husband and I went to Champagne & Burgundy on our honeymoon to France. It was a special trip I’ll always treasure. This May, we’re going to Italy and I’m looking forward to seeing the vineyards of some of the fantastic wines I’ve been introduced to this week. We’re also going to check out Slovenia and Croatia where some very interesting wines are being produced.
Travel has always been in my blood. I think it’s one of the reasons I love coffee and wine so much. They have “place” and reflect the nuances of that place. I wish I had the time and money to be able to visit all the great vineyards in the world, but in lieu of that I can enjoy a great wine that can transport me there.
The question is: where to go?
The answer? Ask a sommelier. A sommelier’s craft is not only to know great wines but to also understand where they come from. They travel extensively to wine producing regions, study them religiously and spend a lot of time with producers to understand the “place” of the wine. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a visit of from the head of sales of the Produttori di Barbaresco at Frasca yesterday. Not only did I get to taste my way through the region of Barbaresco, but it was fascinating to hear about the land from the gentleman who has lived there his whole life. His two grandfathers were 2 of the original 19 farmers of Barbaresco; now there are 53.
At Frasca, they take those relationships even a step further by organizing wine events every Monday that showcase wine producers, often inviting the producers themselves to come talk about their wines. This Monday I went to their wine event featuring the unique macerated wines of Radikon. It was pretty special to hear Sasa Radikon talk about where the wine is from.
As much as I would like to live at Frasca, I think they might get a bit tired of seeing me there everyday. Luckily, I also have the Boulder Wine Merchant and can be transported to all kinds of amazing places through their wine selection. Brett Zimmerman, also a Master Sommelier, has gone to great lengths to introduce people to some of the best “terroir” you can get your hands on. The service he and his team provide will make you feel like you’re on a comfortable, impeccably guided tour as they walk you through where the wines come from. Gili in particular has been so helpful in educating me on wine.
It’s good to know outside of vacation I can still satisfy my travel bug through a nice bottle of vino. It’s even better to now know some wonderful sommeliers who are furthering my education of where what I’m drinking comes from.
March 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
As with any certification, you have to take courses and pass exams to become a true sommelier. In this case, they’re not easy. There’s lots of homework involved.
In preparation for my stage at Frasca, I’ve been doing my homework. It’s been a tough, unpleasant task, but somehow I’ve suffered through it. Maybe it’s all of that delicious wine I’ve been tasting.
For homework, I paid a visit to the Boulder Wine Merchant, owned by another Boulder Master Sommelier, Brett Zimmerman. Gili, one of his knowledgeable associates put together a case of classic wines for me to try. I started with 6 classic whites (chardonnay, sauv blanc, chenin blanc, riesling, viognier & pinot grigio) & 6 classic reds (gamay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon/merlot, sangiovese, syrah & zinfandel). All of these were wines most typical of those varietals. She also printed out the certified sommelier tasting exam sheets so as I was tasting I could think about how you would have to evaluate the wine if you were blind tasting it on the sommelier exam.
Not only was that exercise a lot of fun, it gave me a whole new set of dimensions with which to evaluate wine. As you taste these wines side by side you can really start to distinguish their differences. It’s a fun thing to do with friends. I have not ventured into blind tasting quite yet but I’ll get into that more this week.
In addition to tasting homework, I’ve also done a lot of reading. Bobby Stuckey, Master Sommelier from Frasca, suggested I read Secrets of a Sommeliers. From his perspective it gives good insight into how sommeliers think. It was definitely an interesting read and I came away with how the idea of a sommelier is being crafted in the United States compared with the stodgy stereotypes.
The Court of Master Sommeliers also recommends reading the Wine Bible and Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. I found these to be really helpful as you’re tasting different wines to learn about their nuances. They are packed with info.