Sunday, July 20, 2014

CT Food Truck Fest 2014

Putting on any type of event is hard work.  Now imagine planning an event for 15,000 people?!? Yeah, it's not easy.  You fall, hopefully you learn, then you pick yourself back up and improve on what you did the previous years.  The weekend of July 19th & 20th in North Haven, CT was home to the first annual CT Food Truck Fest set on the North Haven Fair grounds.  My family and I planned to go on the Sunday, but after reading the reviews from Saturday's massacre we had our reservations about making the trek.  Long lines to get in, more lines for food, no beverages, food running out and an entire slur of other Murphy's Law scenarios that would scare people away.
  Our plan was to arrive early Sunday morning in order to stay ahead of the hungry crowd and it worked.  We left our house at 9:30AM, arriving just before 10AM.  No signs of the 45 minute backup on the 91 north bound exit nor the 1 hour line to get inside the fairgrounds.  Found ample parking,greeted pleasantly by the two front admission ladies.  $5 donation per person plus canned goods for the food drive is not only feasible but is a great charity effort before you go and stuff your glutinous face. I could do without the flea market rag tag sale, but I'm sure their rents pay the bills for other stuff to keep the festival going. 
Just after 10AM a few trucks open with coffee, breakfast sandwiches and what not.  Orangeside Donuts is our go to with their devilishly good square donuts.  We all share 2 so as not to gorge ourselves early on in the day.  Like vultures in the desert, we circle the trucks planning our attack.
  I heard rave reviews about Lobster Craft so I plant myself in front of that truck waiting patiently as they set up.  Mrs Wino is not a seafood fan, so her and the little guy head off in their own epicurean expedition. 
 Lobstercraft was about 20 minutes behind schedule.  I have no problem waiting in line for 45 minutes as the line quickly grows from 5 to now 100+ people deep.  The crew on board is feverishly hurrying to make sure that today they are indeed ready to handle the onslaught of glutinous lobster junkies such as myself.  Patience is an absolute virtue so are manners, Two things a few lobster zombies behind me forgot about today.  Hey peeps...do you complain to the big Mouse when the Tea Cup ride line is over an hour long?  Smile and be happy.  Lobster is served after a 45 minute wait. It's very tasty, but not as hot & buttery as I envisioned it to be.  Some things are better when not rushed and I'm willing to say that in any other scenario outside of this first annual event that this lobster role would be much better.  I'll seek them out again for another try. 
While waiting in Lobster Line limbo, I noticed someone walking around with this bowl of smoked pig goodness! Must...try...Pig Mac from Big Country! Only a 20 minute wait and well worth it.  Creamy gooey mac&cheese with flecks of bacon and smoked pork.
My wife, a Texan born & raised, is not too happy with her BBQ brisket from one of the other trucks so I decide on doing a little teamwork to create the Big Country Gotta Pig n Brisket Mac&Cheese bowl!! Which hits the spot and is rib sticking good!
My wife ends up in Bounty Food Truck's line for a bourdaleise burger which is absolutely the best damn burger I've had to date! Farm raised beef burger with caramelized onions, arugala, Gruyere cheese, toasty brioche bun! Delicious! 
(Photo courtesy of @DishCrawlFCT, thanks friends)
One more trip around and look who's here late, Vanchetta!!
 This is a paisanos wet dream on wheels. Alas, we're too full to engage the line after the onslaught we just went through. Next time my little porketta, we'll eat again.
One last trip to the bouncy house for the little guy and we are OUT!  The line for entrance into the fest is now 200+ people deep with another 150+ cars waiting on Route 5 to get into the parking lot.  We had timed this foodie excursion perfectly.  Absolutely made sure to thank the two ladies at the front for a truly fun family day.  Planning ahead paid off tremendously! I thoroughly suggest it for other would be fest goers.
When it's your first event, you can plan for 50 people and either 1000 show up or 10 show.  That's the ridk you run.  Unless, and the organizers should think about it for next year, they presell advanced admission tickets to gage it all.  Even with that concept there's no assurance or concrete way of telling what to expect.  With hope, the organizers should review and compare notes to see what worked, what didn't and how they can improve on this event for next year.  I'm sure the hamster wheels are turning and buring already for what will sure to be an even better 2015 #CTFoofTruckFest. 
Thank you to all the event planners, organizers, workers, vendors and food truck operators...we had a blast and a half.  See you on Eats Street!

Friday, April 25, 2014

May 7th WINE 101 Class with Michael David Winery


Hello Wine students!  This month I'm happy to announce that our very good friend Doug Molnar from Michael David Winery will be our guest speaker.

We will sample wines from their extensive portfolio and as usual I will try to pair up each wine with a selection of cheeses.
The tasting will begin at 6:30PM at the Grand Vin Fine Wines Learning Center located at 28 E. Grand Ave New Haven.
Class with wine and cheese plate is $20 per person.
Due to class size, we have a 12 person limit so RSVP ASAP and be sure to extend and invite to your family and friends.
Email any and all questions to me at 
wineschool101@gmail.com

Looking forward to seeing you all!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wine vs Beer vs Cheese

What started off as a typical Saturday night in store sampling of wine and cheese turned into a quick lesson of what doesn't work well.  The wine we sampled tonight was a new Spanish white from the Ribeiro region of Galicia, most notable for the white wine Albariño.
The name of the mystery grape tonight was Treixadura, something unknown to me.  The producer blended this wine with a small percentage Albariño.  To me, it lightened the citrusy/minerally edge of Albariño.  Great on it's own, but I would go out on a limb and say that this would be GREAT with seafood when the weather around these parts get warmer.  The two cheeses we sampled out tonight were #1 both locally produced and #2 made from cow's milk.  If you're looking at the picture above, the cheese in your right is a raw Jersey cow's milk cheese from Beaver Brook Farms in Lyme, CT called Nehantic Abbey. The cheese itself was smooth, creamy but that tang I usually get from raw milk was a little muted.  Still a good noshing cheese, not bad with the vino.  The other cheese is called The Melville produced by the Mystic Cheese Company.  Soft, creamy, decadent, versatile as a noshing cheese and makes for a great melter.  The wine however, not a good match.  The butteriness of the Melville and the steely edge on the vino clashed producing some off flavors.  Nothing horrendous, but nothing memorable or enjoyable.  Maybe I'm being too pompous or anal about this.  It just didn't work for me.  I would go out on a limb to say that going by laws of terrior association that Spanish Garroxta aged goat cheese would've been much better with this wine.
 So with that we decided that experimentation would be the next best thing or as we like to call it "quality control" on Saturday nights.
How about a beer?  Great choice! The beer was the Hop Session IPA from White Birch Brewing of New Hampshire.  The beer itself had that mild citrusy bouquet I usually expect from a domestic IPA, but the hops were rather controlled without being over the top bitter. Onto the cheese...
The Melville...
The slight bitterness of the hops cut through the creaminess of the cheese and blending the flavors into something more like fresh floral notes. 
The Nehantic Abbey from Beaver Brook..
This is a firmer cheese, but still creamy being its made from the fatty Jersey Cow's milk.  Again, once the hops hit the fattiness of the cheese it backs off the bitterness and gets tamed down.  Very harmonious. Perfect pairing.  The Hop Session itself is about at the bitter limit of what and how I like my IPA's to be.  Very drinkable on its own and I get a sense of how this beer would be better with food.  What else can you think of that would pair with THIS beer if you've had it before.  Let me know as I would like to experiment.  Find me on the Twitter Box at Wine1011 or drop me an email to wineschool101@gmail.com.  I look forward and would love to hear from you all!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Blues

I shutter to have to come in on Mondays.  The thought of 20 sales people lined with with samples of the next great wine, the new Siracha flavored vodka, a new macro micro craft artisanal local beer.  It's endless.  Sounds like a tough job right? Who wouldn't want to sip booze all day?  Well if the samplings in question have a repeat track record of sucking donkey balls then you'd understand my disdain.  Today, my sales woman walks in with her new manager.  Manager, that word has literally no meaning anymore.  When I was in big box retail, I was a manager.  The ranking made me feel like a general.  Now it's just a label on a VistaPrint business card that gives you another number to call to get the same bull shit response, "I don't know, but I'll call the office to find out."  Anyway, my sales woman brought in a foursome of vino from the Iberian peninsula.  Well done Miss!  She's been sizing us up and feeling us out as to what we like and sell a lot of.  Even though my store is heavy with selections from Spain, what's one or two more right?
First up (working left to right) is a red blend from Jumilla, Spain.  The blend is Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cabernet.  Smooth, velvety medium bodied with that  raspberry jammy finish.  My cost is $112 for a case of 12 bottles, you do the math.  EXCELLENT value to quality ratio, mass appeal with the fruit, easy sale.
Next up was the Haza from Ribera del Duero, a Tempranillo.  I haven't had this wine in years and forgotten how good it was.  Again smooth medium bodied with a touch of oak that was neither too aggressive or dominant.  You know he's there, but he's got he's using his manners today.  A little over $20 retail, so I'll pass on this one until the phobia of winter/holiday bills and tax season are over.  This should be a good one when grill season fires up.
Last in the line up, Graham's Six Grapes Port.  Do I need to tell you how much this rocked? Alright, it did kick ass for a Monday morning otherwise filled with rejects.
My gal Monday, it was a pleasure doing business with you.  Hopefully you're on to something good and continue with your intuition.  Let's see what crap the rest of the week brings.
This time of year is tough in retail being wedged in between holiday bills coming in and people nervous about paying taxes.  Super Bowl doesn't really generate tremendous wine sales as you can imagine.  In this business, I try to pay closer attention to price as I'm buying for shelf stock.  The marketing geniuses from these distributors don't look at the overall picture that the everyday consumer is tightening the belt.  Why in the fuckity fuck fuck world would you send in new item after new item after new item every week when you damn well know that no one has money including the retailer?  It's never ending and sometimes you have to pass and/or be blunt about not coming into the store with a box of new booze to try.  Again, it's a tough job, but someone has to do it.  I'm not complaining today. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Professor Wine

I don't like titles just because it holds you accountable for something more important.  But this title is funny to me. Not funny in a joking way, but funny how life's road twists and turns and then you find yourself as an adjunct professor at a local college teaching students about wine, beer, etc.  It's even funnier when my friends call me up during this holiday season and say, "so what's new? Still stocking wine bottles on shelves?"
"Yeah still stocking. Oh, I'm teaching at a local college.  They call me Professor.  And you're still doing what with your master's degree?"
That's funny...  Never underestimate us bottom feeders, right Teddy Boy?
Any event...it's always a learning experience at any and all stages in life.  My 10 year old who is only allowed to smell the wine can only relate it to so many things like say rootbeer, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, Cheerios etc.  My original WINE101 grads are all 30's and up to 60 year olds, think about what they can relate to in their worldly travels, experiences and tastes.   Now, take a group of 20 something college students and imagine what and how they can relate the smells and tastes of wine to.  It's all a learning experience.  The hardest part for me with this class is grading them.  How do you grade someone when wine is so subjective?  Needless to say its all about participation. If you come to class and at the very least engage in discussion about what you are smelling, tasting, etc then you're doing it right.  As we begin to wrap up this semester, some of my students were unhappy with their participation grade and requested extra credit work.  Here was my email response along with my extra credit suggestion...

"This goes out to everyone since someone made mention of it, so here's a freebie for those who want to take advantage of it.  In return, if the assignment meets my criteria and standards then I will give you a perfect "10" for class participation.
With Turkey Day around the corner, much preparations go into the holiday festivities including the beverage selections.  You all will be part of that since
you are all wine/beer aficionados.  You will demonstrate what you have learned in this class and put it to use.  Impress your family, friends and make your professor proud.
#1. Pick out a wine/craft beer either by yourself or with  family member.  YOU pick this item out, not your family member.  With what you learned in class, figure out what beverage will compliment your traditional holiday meal.
#2. Take a picture of the bottle on your holiday table next to the food.  This is just proof that you did not just copy and paste something from the internet.
#3. Write a brief description of the wine/craft beer which should include:
        A) name of wine/beer and style/varietal and vintage...some crAft beers have vintages on them 
        B) where it's from including regions,
AVA, DOCG, AOC, DO, ETC for wines....beer will just be where it's from
        C) very brief history of the brewery or vineyard
#4 tasting notes...break this down into 5 parts, in paragraph form NOT TASTING
NOTE FORMS! 4 "S" format
        A) SEE/SWIRL..when you pour into your glass what color, clarity, hazy, etc
        B) SMELL.....self explanatory
        C) SIP...take a sip and tell me what your tasting including the start and finish.  Take a second sip this time with food and describe how it              compliments what you are eating
        D) SAVOR....describe what the after taste is or what we call the finish
        E) FINAL THOUGHTS 
That's it...put what you learned in class into this.  Do NOT copy and paste some critics notes into this.  I read and review about 100 critics comments a week so I'll SMELL someone else's work a mile away.  This is all YOUR thoughts, ideas, suggestions and heart.  There's no right or wrong but there is garbage. To say, "I liked this wine/beer with my turkey and mashed potatoes because it went good and I liked it so I would drink more because it tasted good...." isn't going to go over well.
This is easy and fun.  Ask your family and guests what they liked about it and take mental notes.  You'll learn from their comments as well. Impress people with what you learned.  You'll surprise yourself with how much you know once you put that knowledge to practical use.
Remember, this shouldn't be or feel like work.  This should be fun.  Involve your family and friends."
Was that easy?  Was I too harsh?  I only wish my college work was like this although some of my classes were like this.
As of the Sunday after Thanksgiving, one student has taken advantage of this easy project.  She sent me a text with a picture if the beverages her family chose to accompany the Thanksgiving festivities and again let me reiterate that this job is a constant learning experience where sometimes teacher becomes student.
Here are her beverage choices, keep in mind that her family is not a wine drinking family, so she went the craft beer route...
Beer of choice for Thanksgiving...
Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale
Very fitting
Wine of choice
Rosé Sangria
Again, sometimes the teacher becomes the student and this pairing made me think on how it might actually fucking work!!  If you're pouring Beaujolais Noveau, Rieslings, etc then why not Sangria?  Sometimes the ridiculous is so obvious!  Fruit component, dry finish, light bodied...family FUN!! Winning!
Dessert Beverage
Fruit Punch Jell-O shots
????
I asked for an invitation to next year's Thanksgiving. She'll probably get an "A" for creativity, thinking outside of the box and effort.
The learning never ends!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Wine Picks, If we Must

 
It's that time of year where we frantically try to pair something with the bird.  And with all of that, inevitably some critic or wine snob has the be all to end all of wine pairings that will revolutionize the Turkey Day festivities.  Stop right there!  Mistake number one.  Unless turkey is all you eat on Thanksgiving, you have an entire array of other dishes to consider that go along with that.  Why just pigeon hole your wine selection to matching just the turkey? 
It's not rocket science, it's just wine.  My rule is drink what you enjoy instead of putting so much pressure on yourself to impress everyone else.  But, if we must have suggestions and recommendations then let's give it a whirl.  Again, whatever you enjoy then that's what you should pour, but for sake of argument these are my picks and my opinions.  I'm steering away from Pinot Noir just because that's the safety net everyone uses when they don't know or don't want to experiment.
Wine #1...Anna de Codorniu Rose Cava from Spain.
What? Sparkling wine from Spain is known as Cava which is made in similar fashion to French Champagne, but 50% of Champagne's price tag. This particular Cava is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay (same grapes used to make Champagne, shhh!)
Why?...BUBBLES!  Bubbles make flavors in food POP!  Not to mention this particular Rose Cava has a tiny fruit component that will compliment a dry turkey, cross over into the stuffing, match up the canned cranberry sauce and then tackle a cheese cake.  ONLY $10

 WINE #2...Ravines Dry Riesling
What?  The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is making killer Alsace/German style whites and fantastic French inspired Cabernet Franc.
Why?  Finger Lakes Riesling is a terrific balance of fruit (not sweet) and dry as opposed to that fruit cocktail syrupy juice found in California Rieslings which are too cloying for me and in my opinion and my opinion only are way overboard for Thanksgiving.  You want a fruit component with the festivities not a bone dry white.

WINE #3 Tilenus Mencia
What?  The region of Biezo, Spain is one of those hidden gems turning out great quality affordable wines.  Their main red grape is called Mencia which is similar to Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley of France.
Why? I'm going with this versatile red because yes there is a slight fruit character to it, but it has beautiful floral flavors of lilac, lavender that will balance with the savory flavors of stuffing, herb roasted chicken, etc.  It's not as terroir driven (there's a Jeopardy question there) as a Loire Cab Franc but in this case I'm not looking for minerality or earthy flavors.  ONLY $10


WINE #5 Cave Saint Desirat Cotes du Rhone Villages
What?  The Rhone Valley of France is home to a bevy of off the beaten path grapes such as Mourvedre, Syrah (not Shiraz), Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan to name just a few.  Spicy fruit with cinnamon and clove balanced off with just enough earth tones to not make them a jelly jar bomb, but not necessarily a barn yard forest floor.
Why? Again, let's go back to the concept that you should focus on the entire meal being served and not just the bird.  With that, you have an entire array of flavors so I give you a wine made up of several flavors that will match.  This particular red is coming from Cotes du Rhone Villages which is a notch up from a regular CDR and at $10 worth the try.

BEER#1 Sin Cider Newton Pippin Hard Cider
This maybe a new concept to some, but beer actually pairs very nice with food, again BUBBLES and low alcohol.  This year has seen an influx in hard ciders.  You may have had Woodchuck or Angry Orchards, but these are slightly different.  These ciders drink like wine as opposed to fizzy yellow beer (cider).  I'm going with this choice thinking that between stuffing, bird, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and such that this will play off those savory flavors.  This particular cider is not too sweet and finishes dry.  If you can find the cherry cider then that would be a terrifc match with the turkey and trimmings.  This isn't a strange concept if you think back to history.  The pilgrims drank beer and most likely fermented ciders.

Experimentation should be the name of the game.  Actually, enjoying the company of family, friends at the holiday dinner table should be the main focus.  All this worrying about being so particular and accurate with pairings is too much. Drink what you like.  If it's a jug of Paisano then so be it just give me a heads up so I can BYOB!
Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 8, 2013

F U 2 Cancer Benefit Wine Class 11/21

Last night's class was an absolute blast!  I get excited to hear enthusiastic questions, inquires from people that may have not have asked in a different setting.  Hey people, It's just wine.  Who's gonna tell YOU differently if that's what you're tasting or smelling.  I can't repeat that last sentences enough.  
Ok, let's start planning our next class to help our friend Mike who continues his battle with Stage 4 cancer.  The week before thanksgiving also happens to be the 9 year anniversary for our favorite wine shop in New Haven, Grand Vin Fine Wines.  So, to help them kick off the celebration we're going to have a Spanish cheese and wine class!! November 21st, class begins at 6:30pm and is limited to 10 people.  $30/person or $50/couple.  RSVP ME SOON! All proceeds from this and every November class goes to help Mike kick the hell outta this disease!  Wine brings people together for all sorts of reasons.  Know that you are doing something great for someone all while learning about wine.
See you at class!