23 July 2007

23mon - some changes to the menu
hello all,

So we're back from vacation (as a good deal of you seemed to notice over this last week) and with our return there are a couple of new things to mention.
First, we've done some much needed remodelling of the floor. It was a bit of work that cut into our vacation time so feel free to gush admiringly at our efforts.
Second, beginning Tuesday 24, there will have been some changes to the menu, among which is the addition of a few new items. There are a couple of new variants on satay and we've added slow-cooked pork as an option for the curries. The menu at the baansawan.blogspot.com dine-in link has been changed accordingly.

I'm going to be changing the featured wines list soon so if anyone has any recommendations or suggestions of a kind of wine they'd like to see you can write in and it'll be taken under consideration.

Similarly, and generally, if anyone has any sort of suggestions or comments or criticisms we'd be happy to hear them. If you'd like to work under the cloak of anonymity I've set up a hotmail account. customerincognito@hotmail.com with the password of "baansawan".
I'm sure it'll eventually be abused somehow but let's see if it yields anything constructive.

All right,
I hope everyone is doing well,

08 July 2007

25Mon - Oregon Pinot Camp- 4th in a series of incredibly self-indulgent entries

(sadly, I'm no longer there so these and following accounts come largely from the journal I kept)

seminar 3
Our second day began at Penner-Ash. The bus trip there was with a different bus driver than the day before. The driver from the day before was named Marguerite ("Like margarita without the 'a'." she said. I can't decide if she said that to non-restaurant people or not. We'd all sort of taken to her and to shouting out "Fire it up, Marguerite!", though it seemed that some people on the bus would still shout that regardless of who was driving. Anyway, the bus driver today was the type of nice, well-meaning person who'd corner you at a party (or in this case, a bus) and talk your ear off about this, that and the other. Today he discussed the history of several things we passed and a number of things we would eventually pass. The thing is, I don't think anybody was really listening to him and the only reason I could hear him over the din of the bus was because I was sitting towards the front. I'd imagine he'd know this but on and on he went regardless in such a way that I suspect at night, when he's returning the bus and he's all alone, he still goes through the same spiel. (I heard somebody refer to him as "Cliff Clavin.") So we reach Penner-Ash, another in a series of astonishingly beautiful properties, and we had our class on white wines. We tasted Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and a Gewurtraminer, which was a welcome change from all the pinot noir we tasted yesterday. The chardonnays went from light and unoaked to full and kind of oaky and they were all excellent. The one I like most, I think, was the Domaine Drouhin Oregon Arthur 2006. It had a firm body and nice, fresh fruit to it. The second flight was Pinot Gris, all of which I thought were nice but none were, I thought, particularly amazing. It was here that I learned that Pinot Gris is a very easy grape to grow though not always a best seller. One winemaker told us that almost any vineyard growing and selling pinot gris is most likely losing money on it. The next flight was 3 rieslings, 2 pinot blancs and the gewurz. The pinots I found just mildly interesting, the rieslings -from dry to sweet- I thought were very well done and the gewurz was sort of wildly fruity and sweet with a nose redololent with lychee nut. This lesson illustrated the various varietals Oregon is working on as well as a reiteration of terroir, particularly in the Chardonnay.
Seminar 4
After that we went to Adelsheim for what I thought was the most educational and relevant (a distinction I make because, while the agricultural aspect is interesting and educational I'll use very little of it when I'm back home.) seminar of the trip. The first flight of pinot was separated into two: the first two we were asked to decide which was more fresh tasting and which more jammy and the second two we decided which had more modest fruit and which more intense. Flight two was six wines: 2 illustrated acidity; 2 tannin and 2 richness. Flight three was stylistic goals and we decided what each of five wines tried to do: be opulent or elegant, forward or ageworthy. Each of these 15 wines were selected from 150 different wines because they exemplified what was being taught. This is the sort of exercise that appeals to me, perhaps because the differences were more clear to my tongue than the previous day's pinot tasting. I could tell that one was more acidic than the other and I wasn't asked an open-ended question that resulted in people all around me offering things like, well this has some notes of cassis and spice while this has notes of blackberry and pepper. (Jeez; I've got a lot to learn.) So there was a lot of conversation about winemaker intent and perception and such like. Good stuff.
Seminar 5
The last one. Here already. This was a lesson on sustainability and organics and viticultural practices consistent with these beliefs. It took place on the vineyards of WillaKenzie Estate, a beautiful and sustainable vineyard with weeds and tall grasses growing among the grapevines which was illustrative of their philosophy. If I understand correctly, the purpose of their approach is to prolong the viability of the land rather than exhausting the soil with chemicals. So they utilize nature's own solutions to pest control and suchlike. They mentioned how they once had a field mouse problem because the style of compost they were using made for comfy mouse nests. Rather than blanketing the vines with something that would kill the mice they adjusted the compost and allowed for nature to take its course, which it did by way of a disease that controlled the population (I can only presume the disease wasn't zoonotic.) There was also some discussion of pruning and awareness of where sunlight falls vis-a-vis where on the vines the grapes grow. And there was also a talk on biodynamics. Now this is peculiar. It revolves around ideas of the spirituality and energy inherent in nature. It does have a certain mysticism to it that might roll a few eyes but the philosophy is growing in popularity. It's fascinating.Then there was a panel discussion on organic farming and the various levels of intensity that exist.

Dinner at Stoller Vineyards
I'd seen the sign for Stoller as I drove around and sort of looked in that direction. The view from the road couldn't prepare me for how gorgeous the grounds would be. We hit it later in the day when the sun was going down (very slowly) behind the hills so that the lighting silhouetted the trees in a very striking way. Once again there was the crowd and the tents where one could taste from what seemed like countless wineries, which I partook of only slightly, preferring instead to take advantage of the local cheeses, salami and crispy breads. And sardines or anchovies, I don't know which but they were light and fresh tasting with a nice lemony quality. Really quite delicious. I called Leigh and we chatted as I walked around until dinner was approaching readiness. I walked down to the dinner tent as was amazed to see how the salmon was being prepared. They'd split alder stakes and pinched huge pieces of salmon in between the pieces then drove the stakes into the ground surrounded a bonfire. Also cooking in this fashion were whole legs of pork (hooves on!). So, as I'd done almost everytime I'd encountered a table, I sat alone and waited what seemed like forever until somebody else sat at the same table. This seemed like the social equivelant of being picked last for a game. "I guess I'll sit next to that guy, whom I don't know but can only presume won't be interesting." I was eventually joined by some people who informed me that nothing was to be brought to me and that I had to pick up my food at the other end of the tent. So off I went and stacked my plate with curried beets, some sort of delicious salady thing with hazelnuts, bread and pork and salmon. The salmon in particular was amazing. I'd never experienced the range of flavors in a piece of salmon before. So I sat back down and chatted with Tahmiene Momtazi, daughter of and most-likely future winemaker for Moe Momtazi, founder/owner of Maysara Winery. It was here that I tried what was to be the wine I'd walk away loving the most: Eyrie Vineyards 2002. It was a gorgeous rust color with an elegant mouthfeel and full flavor. Of course, there's no Eyrie representation in SC. Also, Tahmiene convinced me to get some of the little chocolate eclairs at the desert table which was an equally amazing experience. So the night continued and then sort of broke up as night fell. Some went to the bonfire, some stayed at the tents chatting. I finished the bottle of Eyrie. I chatted a bit here and there and then it was time to go back to the hotel. In the bus I tried to get a song going but (somehow- perhaps allegedly) nobody around me knew the words to "the flintstones".