Saturday, February 27, 2010

Visions of Pulled Pork Dance in My Head

While we are digging out from yet another huge storm, I stare out longingly at my grill.  Oh to fell the heat of fire and smell the apple wood smoke.  Why am I so fixated on outdoor cooking in the midst of a brutal NJ winter?  The fast passes for the Big Apple BBQ are already on sale!

The Big Apple BBQ sees Madison Square Park turned into low and slow central as some of the best pit masters from around the country arrive with their massive cookers in tow.  Along with the massive cookers come massive crowds hungry for the succulent, barbecued manna.  To somewhat ease your wait, you can purchase a pass ahead of time.  The pass is good for $100 worth of food and beverages.  Plus, you get access to somewhat shorter lines.  In the past, they went for the fact value of $100, but this year they raised the price to $125.  While I am bit angry at this, I have been in those lines.  And $25 seems cheap compared to doing that again.

So, round up some BBQ fan friends, divvy up the cost.  Or, wear comfortable shoes.  Really, really comfortable shoes!  See you there June 12 and 13.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

To Cook, Perchance to Steam

Why?  A simple three letter word that packs worlds of context into its meager letter count.  A word that has caused the vexation of countless parents.  A simple query that can be oh so difficult to answer.  In the fact of all this, I will still post the question, "Why do we cook?".

I know that cooking affords me some quiet time to just let slip into a Zen like state prepping dinner.  I know that it gives me a sense of connection to everyone who has ever cooked, back to that caveman who first flung a piece of wooly mammoth into the fire.  It gives me a may to show my love to my friends and family by preparing them a special meal.  It makes a holiday feel like a holiday for me, manning the stove as my father before me.  It is something that I have always done and something I hope to always do.

With so many food options just a car ride or a phone call away, making the deliberate decision to cook may seem like an odd choice.   Of course, I feel different and will leave you with this thought.  Like a person, take them out to dinner.  Love a person, cook them dinner.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Food Writer Conference at the Roger Smith Hotel

Standing on a corner waiting for a bus at 7:30 in the morning.  A Saturday morning.  A cold, gray, Saturday morning.  It's the kind of situation that leads one to evaluate their motivations.  Do I really want to go to this food writers conference or do I want to crawl back into bed?  The appearance of the NYC bound bus made the decision for me.  Sometimes buses are smarter than people, because it was a one of the best conferences I've attended.

The only thing I knew about the Roger Smith Hotel was the gallery they have on the corner of 47th Street and Lexington Avenue that always has some very modern art.  The interior was a mixture of old time hotel and hip Soho art gallery.  A bit of a strange combination, but for this space it worked.  I picked up my conference package and made a beeline for a much needed cup of coffee.

The conference was organized by my food history professor Andrew Smith.  Since Andy seems to know everyone that has ever written at least one coherent sentence about food, the panels were packed with a veritable pantheon of the culinary authors and auteurs.

The panel discussions were incredible and the 90 minute time slots flew by.  Some really insightful and eye opening subjects were discussed.  How writing online is more akin to writing for broadcast than writing for old fashioned print magazines.  The shorter form pieces written for internet consumption are leading to magazines running shorter pieces.  Text alone online will not cut it, online writers need to include multimedia content.

A standout among the panelists was David Leite.  He has been blogging for 11 years.  Yes, that is correct, 11 years.  His mixture of insight into the online and print media worlds, along with his engaging delivery was the apex of the conference for me.

There was also many opportunities to meet the other attendees and panelists.  The attendees were just as fascinating and insightful as the panelists so many great conversations were taking place outside of the scheduled programs.  Running into friends that such as Lexi of, only added to the conference experience.

Videos of the conference should be online soon.  When they are, I will supply links to the presentations.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Duckhorn Decoy Wine

Some of my favorite Napa Valley wines are made by Duckhorn.  Their luscious and complex merlots would even make Miles from "Sideways" change his opinion of the grape.  Greatness does not come cheap, so the wonderful Duckhorn wines sit in the wine rack waiting for just that right occasion.  That occasion may be let's say, Tuesday or a new episode of "House", but some event none the less.

Their winery is a must stop for my annual pilgrimage to Napa.  Their tasting room is in such a beautiful structure and the entire tasting experience is just wonderful.  You sit down at a table and the wonderful wines appear along with a very knowledgeable server to guide you through the tasting.  It certainly beats standing elbow to elbow at some long bar hoping the staff notices you and deems you worthy of trying their wines.

The Duckhorn people know that their wine is expensive and have been offering a lower price label Decoy for some time now.  Up until recently, Decoy has been a blend of grapes.  Now, they are offering single varietal wines, still at affordable prices.  I was not aware of this till I was buying some wine at my favorite local merchant.  I had a bottle of Decoy in my basket, just thinking that is was the red wine blend of old.  When he rang up the bottle, he said "You are going to love this, we just got this in."  I looked at him perplexed knowing that I had purchased a bottle of Decoy just last week.  I look down at the label and saw that it was marked cabernet sauvignon.  I took my purchases home, eager to try this new Decoy.

It did not disappoint in any way, shape or form.  I was a beautiful wine, showing off all those wonderful black fruit characteristics of a cab, but with soft enough tannins to enjoy now.  I went out a obtained a Decoy merlot and was similarly impressed.  While theses wines still retail for about $22 a bottle, they give you a good amount of the much more expensive Duckhorn wine experience.

Head to your local wine merchant and procure yourself a bottle of Decoy.  Hurray, there is a Tuesday coming up.