Sunday, January 29, 2012

As the sun sets behind the Tennessee hills

as the motor purrs
reminisce: how days must end
on asphalt ribbons

Taken from a speeding car because God knows we don't walk anywhere in Tennessee

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nicolas Maillart Marie Hanze Brut Elegance

When I was looking for a nice bottle of champagne with which to ring in the new year, I stumbled across this bottle of Nicolas Maillart Marie Hanze Brut Elegance NV in the Dekalb Farmers Market. While I knew nothing of this particular vigneron, I noticed that it was imported by Weygandt, a name I have heard before in connection with interesting French wines. In the end, it turned out to be the most interesting option, although I also bought a bottle of Mumm just in case.

After I got home, I tried to find some information about this particular bottle, but there does not seem to be much about it on the internet. While I initially thought it was a grower champagne based on this one article, a closer inspection of the label showed an "NM", or négotiant-manipulant designation, instead of the RM designation that I associate with grower champagnes.  All my research seems to indicate that Nicolas Maillart is certainly a small producer, but perhaps the vigneron must buy more grapes than is allowed under RM.  In any case, this particular champagne is certainly not widely available and made by a smaller, up-and-coming vigneron with a record of making respectable champagne.

My tasting notes focus on two main points: nuttiness and citrus.  Of the former, I found a strong presence of toasted hazelnuts and marzipan, while of the latter, I noted lemons supported by a bracing and lingering acidity.  This champagne also has a very fine bead: sea-foam rollicking amidst the breaking surf, though not an aggressive carbonation that attacks the tongue.  As a result, this champagne would be fantastic as an aperitif, a quaff to start the night, rather than one to end it.  Although I would have preferred a champagne with more body for the occasion, it was a lovely champagne to share with family that night.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Eating over the Winter Holidays

Holidays, family, and celebratory meals are all rather interlinked, and I would have it no other way.  Not only do I get to indulge the selfish joy of being able to cook a large spread, but I also get to do so in my parents' large, renovated kitchen.  Thinking about and preparing a meal all day, which then culminates in such a satisfying way, really is one of my most favorite activities.

Christmas Eve Dinner
In the past couple years, I've been able to convince my family that a prime rib roast is the way to go for Christmas eve.  This centerpiece was accompanied by sautéed chard, oven-roasted potatoes, stir-fried baby bok choy, and of course, Yorkshire pudding.  My father picked a 2002 merlot from the Pays d'Oc, but I don't have a record anywhere of what exactly it was.

Christmas Eve Dinner
Christmas Day Brunch
This is perhaps one of only two occasions throughout the year (the other being Mother's Day) where I have a memory of my father cooking anything.  For as long as I can remember, his specialty on Christmas morning was to make one giant omelette.  True to form, this year's omelette contained ham, cheese, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  In addition, I helped out this year by making blueberry pancakes, as well as frying up some bacon.  Of course, no brunch would be complete without mimosas.

Christmas Morning Brunch
Christmas Dinner
It was decided this year that since we spent Thanksgiving in DC, where turkey-frying was not a possibility, that we would fry a turkey for Christmas instead once we were all back in Tennessee.  My mother dry brined the turkey with a combination of Chinese spices for a couple days before frying, so even though the turkey ended up staying in the fryer for too long, the meat was still quite moist and certainly flavorful.  Therefore, it also logically followed that the fixings alongside would be in a rather similar Thanksgiving vein.  Of course, I always enjoy the likes of stir-fried green beans, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts and glutinous rice stuffing.  One new trick I tried out this year was to cook the sweet potatoes in a pressure cooker with butter, bourbon, salt and a pinch of baking soda, along the logic of Myhrvold's carrot soup, and it worked out quite well.  Not even much sugar was needed except for a couple of tablespoons which I used to turn the cooking liquid into a glaze to pour over top.

Fried Turkey before carving

Christmas Dinner
New Year's Eve Dinner
New Year's Eve is always a rather Chinese affair for my family, especially since we can no longer celebrate the Lunar New Year together anymore.  Most of the dishes are eaten because of the symbolism involved, but these foods have nonetheless become some of my favorites over the years.  Absolute necessities for this dinner include the whole fish, which cannot be flipped over at any point during this meal, dumplings, stir-fried sticky rice cakes, and hair moss soup.  Sugar snap peas and garlic scapes were added for a good dose of vegetables.

New Year's Eve Dinner
One aspect of my upbringing that I rather treasure is multiculturalism, and I think our annual eating habits over the holidays really reflects it.  The mixture of both Western and Chinese traditions that appear  on the table is a personal tradition that I certainly intend on continuing.  Not to mention, its delicious!