Monday, March 4, 2013

So You Want Bagels?

If you're like me you love bagels. Real bagels. Not the "Wonder Bread Doughnuts" that attempt to pass themselves off as bagels in the supermarket. Chewy crust, flavorful interior . . . like you used to be able to get in New York and may still be able to get (I haven't been there in eight years).

Here in Portland, America's Weirdest City, we had a small chain of bagel shops called Kettleman's. In keeping with the nature of this town, it was started using investors he solicited on Craigslist by a Taiwanese immigrant who learned bagel making in New York after he arrived from his homeland in the 1980s. Taiwanese boy makes bagels, go figure. The bagels weren't fabulous, but they were exellent and several notches above anything else you could buy with the exception of Tastebud's "Montreal" bagels which, while tasty and baked in a wood-fired oven, are SO chewy they'll pull your fillings out.

In true American immigrant fashion, one day our immigrant bagel-meister was offered the brass ring. The corporate behemoth Einstein Noah Restaurant Group (700+ stores) made him an offer he couldn't refuse and he accepted. Good for him, it's the American dream. Start a business, make it successful and cash in. Kinda sounds like Mark Zuckerberg in a way, but without the drama.

But where did that leave the bagel lovers of Portland? Stuck is where. I know there are a couple of small operations making bagels around town and I'd thought I'd try them, but getting to them is a hike and a pain so I thought, "Why not just try to make your own?"

I solicited recipe suggestions and experiences from my friends on Wineberserkers and the consensus was this recipe from Peter Reinhart, author of The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It's in his book but it was also published on the Epicurious site, so I offer it here to prevent you from having to buy the book.

There are no off-the-wall ingredients save the malt syrup, which you can find at health food stores or brewers' supply houses. I got mine at the local upscale granola supermarket and I understand you can find it at Whole Paycheck, but I try to avoid that place. It's the Aunt Patty's brand, so you might Google that. Other than that, it's bread flour, water, salt and yeast plus a little baking soda for the "boiling" (which is more like a simmer) stage.

Dear readers, these bagels are incredibly simple to make, they just take about 24 hours from start to finish, most of which is spent with the shaped bagels in the fridge. I should have taken step-by-step pictures instead of just the finished product, but I think you'll agree that -- despite needing to perfect my shaping technique to make them more symmetrical -- I made some damn fine-looking bagels that tasted really good. My Brooklyn-born Jewish neighbor agrees with me, for what it's worth.

So here's the pic, and by all means give these a try. You won't be sorry. Next up, real Jewish rye bread so I have something to put my corned beef on. I may even try curing my own brisket for the corned beef. We'll see.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ahh . . . it's been a long time since I've posted. Longer than I'd thought. Here's a little tidbit for anyone who is still reading.

Went on a little jaunt on my vacation day yesterday and tasted a few things. First stop was at Seven of Hearts (I work there sometimes) where I ran into Beau Carufel and Becky Kramer who were out abusing their livers as usual.

2011 Mahonia Vineyard Chardonnay
This is Byron's best chardonnay yet, from a guy who has a six-year run of nice chardonnays. Nice green apple and pear with a bit of citrus and the barest hint of oak. 

2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
An acid-head's dream. Will need some time in the bottle but it's a great buy for $20. A true food wine. Back up the truck if you like the style, which was greatly dictated by 2011's weather.

2011 Lia's Vineyard Pinot Noir
Really backward, as opposed to the 2010 that was open for business from the get-go. A mix of red and black fruits and very complete due to the two different co-ferments of four different clones.

2011 Armstrong Vineyard Pinot Noir
The polar opposite of the Lia's, being very approachable now whereas the 2010 was very backward in its youth. Big, powerful and dark but with considerable finesse. This is a very young vineyard destined to only get better.

2011 Durant Vineyard Pinot Noir
Quintessential Dundee Hills pinot, with lots of raspberry and strawberry flavors. Kinda hazy but that doesn't bother me at all. Also backward right now but with a great future ahead of it.

2010 Special Reserve Pinot Noir
Wow! A truly disgusting wine that borders on being an abomination ( [basic-smile.gif] for all of you who are not familiar with my pinot rating system, those are the two highest ratings). Big, round and juicy, yet powerful at the same time. 

2011 Chateau Figareaux "Tribute" (not yet released)
A blend of approximately 50% merlot, 35% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc from the Columbia Gorge, I've been eagerly anticipating this one and I wasn't disappointed. Byron proved what he can do with Bordeaux varieties with his 2004 Harmony's Vineyard blend he made in California and this is a worthy follow-up. A far cry from the gloppy, choco-blueberry oakshakes that are so popular these days, it's a focused and pure expression of its lineage and a screaming deal at what I think will be a price point of $25. Needs bottle time or LOTS of air. 

2011 GSM (not yet released)
A real crowd-pleaser dominated by syrah. Yummy and gulpable.

Good things happening here these days from a producer previously well-known for its blackberry wine. They don't make it any more and I think that's sad, but the family is sick of me saying that. Second generation winemaker Kim Kramer has a deft hand and it shows. You need to visit if only to say hello to Kosmo and Brody, the winery dogs. Kosmo (the big one) moves at the speed of molasses. At the North Pole.

2010 Brut
Roughly half chardonnay and half pinot noir, this is a bone-dry and clean sparkler I'd be proud to serve any time. Can't find a better one for the $25 price.

2011 Rose of Pinot Noir
A big rose with lots of color that will stand up to all sorts of food. I thought I had a couple of bottles at home and couldn't find them, so I'm disappointed I didn't pick up a couple more. This would have been great with last night's jambalaya.

2010 Rebecca's Reserve Pinot Noir
Simply wonderful. Again, disgusting bordering on an abomination. Lots of spice and perfectly balanced. I'd serve this anywhere, any time, to anyone - even my burg snob friends. Well done!

Cheers, y'all. Just thought I'd share.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's A Miracle!

Okay, maybe it's a miracle. But after a cold and wet spring and a coolish summer, the rains of early October didn't bode well for the wine grape crop here in the ol' Willamette. Dammit.

But look what is apparently on the way! It's actually been updated since this graphic was put up and the predictions are for a couple of degrees warmer next week. Perhaps all my good friends in the wine making and wine growing businesses will be saved. I hope so.

Fingers crossed, kids!

EDIT: Apparently I've posted a dynamic link, so the forecast you're looking at is the current forecast, not the original forecast for October. Sorry. I should have taken a screen capture.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Sad Day

It's with great sadness that I acknowledge the death of Steve Jobs in this space. I really have nothing further to say except to quote Steve when he was trying to recruit John Sculley from PepsiCo. "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

Rest in peace, Steve.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2010 Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs - An Early Look

Over the last week, I've had the pleasure to taste 13 different 2010 pinot noirs from the Willamette Valley, either bottled wines or final blends. I'll spare everyone the play-by-play, which I find boring, in favor of an overall impression.

The wines tasted were as follows:

GC Commuter Cuvee
Ayres Willamette Valley
Seven of Hearts Willamette Valley
Seven of Hearts Lia's Vineyard
Seven of Hearts Armstrong Vineyard
Seven of Hearts Special Reserve
Luminous Hills Lux
Vincent Willamette Valley
Vincent Ribbon Ridge
Vincent Zenith Vineyard
Vincent Armstrong Vineyard
Helioterra Willamette Valley
Helioterra Vintner's Select

Across the board, the wines are a hair short of stunning. The vintage is a sort of 2008 restrained. Everything, from aromas to balance to flavors to balance, is perfect. They're only lacking the 2008s' ethereal and soaring aromas and sappy fruit. The Vincent and Helioterra wines are quite nice. The Seven of Hearts and Luminous Hills wines [i]are[/i] stunning. The Grochau and Ayres exhibit a cola component and a touch of sour cherry that I personally find a bit troubling, but it's not overwhelming. Tannins are fine but substantial.

In the long run, there's a chance they will actually be better than the 2008s, but that requires a Ouija board more accurate than mine.

Back up the truck.

PS - If you like restrained, French-ish chardonnay, buy the 2010 Seven of Hearts. It's not bottled yet, but when I tasted it I shouted to the empty room, "WINNER!".

Disclosure: I work part time for Seven of Hearts/Luminous Hills, but Byron knows I'll call crap wines crap if it comes to that and that I don't hand out accolades willy-nilly. The wines are that good.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Grrrrrr . . . The Oregon Liquor Control Commission "Sting"

So . . . two women walk into a wine tasting room. I know, it sounds like I'm starting a bad joke, but stay with me. This is not a fabricated story, it's the sad and awful truth. It happened just Friday.

One of the women is older, the other is younger and talking on her cell phone the entire time. The older one approaches the bar, greets the server and responds, "Yes," to the server's question about whether they're both tasting. The younger one is across the room with her face obscured by the phone. She looks a little young but the server doesn't want to interrupt her conversation to ask for ID because it would be rude - leaving aside how rude it is to walk into a wine tasting room while yapping on your telephone to begin with, of course.

I think you may have an inkling of where this is going given the title of this post, so let's go there together.

The server pours the requisite ounce of wine into each of two glasses which remain sitting on the bar, untouched. Just then, the younger woman removes the phone from her face and turns toward the bar. The now-horrified server comes to the sudden realization that, not only is the customer probably underage and absolutely needs to be carded, but that she may have just been "stung" by the OLCC.

Sure enough. The older woman identifies herself as being from the OLCC, demands to see the server's permit to pour alcohol (which she's fully entitled to do) and announces that the server has violated the law by serving a minor. Then the police officer they'd dragged along enters the room from the street to issue a citation. An extended (and probably heated I'd think) discussion then ensues involving the quite smug and haughty people from the OLCC, the server and the winery owner. After what was apparently some extended wrangling, the end result is that the untouched glass doesn't matter and the server is appearing in court next week.

What an incredible crock of shit. I'm sorry, but there's simply no other way to describe this that conveys my sense of outrage at a scheme that is completely driven by entrapment. I learned years ago that if a police officer drives 80 miles an hour on the freeway and you're following, matching his speed, it's entrapment if he then tickets you for speeding. It's the same thing with police officers posing as hookers. The "customer" has to make the first mention of money for sex. Well, how is this any different?

The OLCC deliberately brought a minor into a room where the only thing served is alcohol. It's really classy alcohol, but alcohol nonetheless. Her role, as obviously scripted by a public enforcement and oversight agency we're supposed to trust, is to obscure her face as much as possible until the magic moment when the wine is poured. The "money shot" if you will. She NEVER speaks to the server and the only person who does is a legal drinker and SHE is the one who says they're both tasting. This is deceptive and it's underhanded. It's devious and sneaky beyond belief and it's absolutely shameful that this server was set up so blatantly.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has been entrusted to watch out for the public's welfare in matters related to alcohol, not concoct fairly elaborate schemes in which upstanding people will be tricked into technical violations of the law. Go do something important, people.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Attack Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja . . .

. . . celery.

I'll try to update you more thoroughly on my Apple training soon, but I had to share this picture I took yesterday at the Beaverton Farmers Market. There are these guys from Tillamook who sell there and their vegetables are huge. I've seen cabbages the size of soccer balls and fennel bulbs that were so big you'd think I faked the picture if I had one.

I don't know who the guy is, I just asked him to hold the celery while I took the photo.  The next pic is of Michelle Cooper of Zoe's Favorites Pickles and Preserves holding some mutant carrots. Not only is she cooperative and pretty, she's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet and her pickled beets are to die for . . . and I don't even like pickled beets normally. You should buy some. She's at the Beaverton and Portland markets on Saturday.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A fast update.

I've just spent the last four days in training with another four weeks (yes, weeks) scheduled. The first three days were mostly orientation and getting housekeeping items taken care of, like email accounts and so forth, but the pace has been pretty fast. Yesterday afternoon we finally got a big dose of Apple culture and Monday we'll continue that and start hitting the product line pretty hard later in the week.

I'm exhausted. My brain has been given the full Paula Deen treatment - battered and deep-fried. Nonetheless, I'm off to the shower so I can shop at the farmer's market and drag my sorry butt out to Carton to pour wine with Byron at the ol' tasting room.

I'll check back in early next week. In the meantime, pop a cork and raise a glass with me as I honor the people who died ten years ago tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Big Doings For The Head Duck - Me

Well, I really DID intend to start posting more often but, as sometimes happens, circumstances conspired against me. In the spring rumors started to fly that the YMCA facility where I was holding down what passed as my "day job" was being sold. Naturally, this caused no end of consternation as many of us began scrambling to find new employment, mostly to no avail as you might imagine.

Then it happened. On July 15 I arrived at work to find a copy of a letter that was scheduled to get mailed to the members the following day. That letter informed them (and by extension the staff) that the facility had been sold and would close on July 29. Note that no one came to inform us personally, no one made a phone call and the letter wasn't addressed directly to the staff. Nice, huh?

I'll spare you all the gory details of the platitudes the YMCA handed out about finding spots for everyone elsewhere because it didn't happen. I was offered a tentative position for 8 hours a week beginning in September. Another guy was offered the same thing, but the bottom line is a whole lot of people lost their jobs. Crummy jobs with crummy pay and no benefits, but jobs that put food on the table.

Thanks for your indentured servitude, but don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

But, as the old saying goes, when life hands you lemons you make lemonade, right? Well . . . sometimes lemonade gets made for you too. I wasn't having much luck with the lemonade (must have not put enough sugar in it), but on July 25 I happened upon an ad on Craigslist that sounded appealing, and that's quite a feat because so much of what's on that site in the jobs section is pretty specious.

So I quickly polished up the ol' resume and fired it off in response the very next day, frankly not expecting much. I've learned over the past few years not to expect much from job hunting because I haven't seemed, for the most part, to be able to generate an interview. Tough to get hired without one.

So what happened? On July 29, only three days after submitting my resume, I awoke to an email from an in-house recruiter announcing that I'd been selected for a phone interview on Monday. That's right, six days after I sent in my resume. Yeehaw!

On Monday I had the interview with a very nice lady named Courtney. It seemed to be going well, I was pleased with myself and, at the end, she told me that I'd passed her screen and that she'd selected me for a second phone interview on Tuesday. I was thinking this was all moving REALLY fast, something I wasn't accustomed to, but wasn't about to look any gift horses in the mouth . . . if I may coin a phrase.

Tuesday, two nice folks named Tusiata (great name, huh?) and Shane tag-teamed me. I've since learned that Tusiata is a tough interview but I must have charmed her into silence because she deferred to Shane for much of the interview. At least that's how I remember it and I guarantee you I'm stickin' to that story. We shared some chuckles, had a nice conversation and once again, I thought things were going well. And they were, because they picked me for a face-to-face interview, scheduled for that Friday, August 5 in Portland.

Things are really moving now, right? Well . . . for a while.

So Friday, I presented my charming self at the Hotel Vintage Plaza for a 30-minute interview. I'm pretty sure the interviewer's name was Mike but I can't be sure so I'll apologize to him now. Once again, we had a nice conversation and the interview seemed to go well, so I left with a great sense of anticipation that maybe I'd finally managed to find a real job.

I'd been told that they would be in touch with me shortly, probably the following Tuesday. Whoa! That's exactly two weeks after I'd submitted my resume. Tuesday arrived and lo! They came through as promised - a novel concept in this day and age I assure you. I got an email asking me to fill out some forms on the employer's website and consent to a background check which was to take 48-72 hours - at least according to the background check vendor's website.

Well, that was when the process ground to a complete halt. After asking me to verify my own employment at the YMCA by sending them copies of my pay stubs and W-2 (they're supposed to be good at this, why are they asking me?) on Thursday I didn't hear a peep. Not Friday and not Monday, nor Tuesday or Wednesday. I went from thinking I was in the middle of executing a slam dunk with last-minute formalities to wondering if they'd somehow found out about the time I lifted a pencil from the corner store when I was 10 and the time I offered candy to a little girl. Suddenly I went from feeling like Philip Rivers throwing a pass to Vincent Jackson against a team of midgets to Jay Cutler looking up from his back at Ndomukong Suh.

Then, the call. I was out at Pumpkin Ridge doing my annual caddie thing in the pro-am for the Safeway Classic LPGA tournament when my cell phone rang a few minutes before my round was to start. It was the lovely and charming Courtney (who I'd also met in person on the face-to-face interview day) who sounded so cheerful and happy I just knew she couldn't possibly ruin my day. Could she? No, she couldn't because she made my day and my whole year. She offered me the job!

Now that I've made a short story long, let me make the rest of it short. As of last Friday, when I went back to the same room at the Vintage Plaza where I'd interviewed to fill out paperwork, I'm an official employee of Apple, Inc. That's right, Apple. The people who brought you the MacBook, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

I'll be what they call an "In Home Mac Expert". They're shipping me an iMac today and on Tuesday, bright and early, I (along with about 50 others in three cities) begin four weeks of training before they turn us loose on an unsuspecting populace. I'll be one of the folks you talk to when you go to the Apple online store and can't quite figure out what to buy and call 1-800 MY APPLE.

So there you have it. Full time, more than twice the money plus overtime almost on demand during certain parts of the year, a bonus schedule and full, big-time company benefits. I'm ecstatic and maybe now I can get back to writing about food and wine and entertaining you with my clever wit. In fact, I have some amazing wines made from zinfandel, petite sirah and primitivo that are made by Angel Vine's Ed Fus to talk about, so I'd best get to it.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Maybe Winter Really Is Over

We're headed for 70 degrees today, a perfect day to go harass Vincent Fritzsche, Anne Hubatch and John Grochau at the Portland ghetto winery where they all make their wine. In the meantime, check out these pics from the last few days. I guess the plants don't know it's been too cold by about 10 degrees.