29 May 2008

29May - I love this picture.

This picture has been my desktop for about a week now. i found it at www.janedavril.blogspot.com one day and it took me to a happy place.

A place of cool evenings and good wine. Of the smell of earth and grass and maybe crickets or frogs in a nearby stream. Fresh, homegrown tomatoes and cheese from the farm down the road apiece. A place where darkness falls slowly and stars are almost silly in their numbers. Tranquility.
I have no idea who took the picture or what's going on but I know I want to be there.
I hope you like it, too.

29May- Baan Sawan now on Twitter

I like reading Anne's The Daily Digress and after watching her text her website from the bar one night I thought, "Why not me?"
I don't always get a signal here in the restaurant so I can't update the blog from here.
So I'm going to try this Twitter thing.
You'll find the feed on the right side, just below "links" or at www.twitter.com/baansawan

The way I see it, I could twitter things like the specials.
Or whether we're slow or getting busy. If we're out of beef or duck. If there's a long wait or if I happen to be enjoying a particularly good bottle of wine or beer.
Or I could play with it for a week or so and then get tired of it.

We'll see.
(I'll be in San Antonio all of next week; perhaps I'll twitter from there when something particularly delicious gets eaten by me. )
29May - Thailand in the news
Perhaps you've seen this. This Thai baker bakes bread in the shape of various human bits. His choices don't bother me in the slightest. What does bother me, however, is that this article proves that Thailand has bread. This makes it a little more difficult to explain why we don't.
One good reason is that it's too difficult, given our facilities, to provide the customer with bread we like. Bread needs (kneads.heh.) to be crusty and warm with a soft, soft inside. It must exude a waft of delicious aroma when broken open.

Anyway, here's that article with plenty of pics.

Gruesome Body Bakery

22 May 2008

22May- a comment on Sambal Oelek
When someone asks us to make something spicier we usually take out what we feel is the most appropriate agent to spice it up. Sometimes it'll be a sauce of fish sauce, chopped fresh chilies and lime juice. Sometimes it'll be ground, dried and toasted red chili peppers. And sometimes it'll be Sambal Oelek Garlic Chili sauce, which is the only store-bought sauce we'd give out.
I love this sauce. Not only is it versatile with our food but it's good on quite a lot. The following is a list of unexpected things I've found to be made extra-delicious by this sauce.

  • McDonalds chicken nuggets
  • hashbrowns (both homemade and fast food. And Bojangles' Bo Rounds? Fantastic)
  • scrambled eggs
  • left-over roast chicken breast that you've sliced off and eaten cold while watching "Frasier"
  • hamburgers

This list could go on forever, really. The point is, you should go get some. I think I've seen it in the Asian section at World Market. You're sure to find it in one of the many Oriental Markets on Decker Blvd. Oddly enough, I've bought some before at that Chinese restaurant on Forest near Providence hospital. If you like orange chicken they've got good that, too.

So look for the rooster and the green cap. They've got a sweeter version, a more garlicky version, and a no garlic version but the garlic chili version as shown in the picture above is my favorite.

20 May 2008

20May - wine and beer quizzes

We're getting some new server intake and so I've been looking for quizzes to keep the old ones sharp and to get the new ones in the know.

So, outside of the classes I'm still crafting I thought it'd be fun (I'm not naive enough to think these will actually going to be fun for them) to have them take some quizzes outside of those that I'll make.

If anybody's interested, here are some of the quizzes and other links I found.

wine quiz
pretty good for starters

wine quiz sort of useful. kicked my butt, though.

beer quiz


barley and beer facts
not a quiz but some interesting facts

aroma wheel - this is quite useful. there's a paper one at the restaurant and I've found it handy.

French Pronunciation Guide - this is a great guide that covers a lot of ground. It's even got an audio function.

16 May 2008

16May- Robert Mondavi dies

photo by Ed Kashi/Corbis

The man was 94 and, therefore, his passing isn't so much of a shock but I still was a little surprised to see this headline.
I know it's a fairly easy thing to think of Mondavi as a grocery store kind of product but his influence, accomplishments and the respect he's garnered over the years from his colleagues is impressive. (for the moment ignoring the familial scandals, loss of control and the general present opinion of current affairs)
To take one nerdy thing and apply to another, I look at Mondavi in something of the same way as I look at George Lucas. Sure, the last decade or so has been broad, commercial and not terribly well-received. But we should look at the work put out in the eighties and before. That pioneer spirit that drove them to be more than what was accepted at the time. In many ways their work during this period shaped a nation, to be cliche for a moment, and inspired countless other artists of their respective genres to improve the world.
Hell of a legacy.

New York Times obituary

Wine Spectator article

New York Times article: Grapes and Power: A Mondavi Melodrama

13 May 2008

13May- self-indulgent entry on wine and books
The happy moments aren't necessarily that difficult to come by. What makes you happy, of course, is key. It's helpful if, like me, a few hours of happiness can be found in something as simple as a nice bottle of wine and an engaging book. To find both items, I suppose, can be difficult and might require the help of knowledgable sales staff or the recommendations of friends. But there's always the comfort approach in which you read a book you've read time and time again and pair it with a wine you know you enjoy.
I've been weary lately, fretting over this that and the other and recently decided to take a mental vacation at the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's The Shining. I have a number of these kinds of books, as I hope all of you do. None of them particularly lofty fare but they are all well-tread(read) ground that I find comforting to read again. Adams' Hitchhiker's books. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Woody Allen's short stories. Nabokov's Lolita.
But tonight's happy time came with an untried book and untried wine. I'd seen and loved the movie so I began reading No Country for Old Men. I was pleased to find the same expansive, lonely feel to the book that I enjoyed in the theater. And through the course of the evening I've been enjoying a half-bottle of Chateau Langoa Barton '03 (with a dinner of a jury-rigged salmon en papillote) and a bottle of Chateau Haut Bages Liberal 2002 with my book (Leigh is reading The Stand.) The former wine seemed better balanced and was more to our liking, though the latter had a pleasing, fresh black cherry nose that was nice to huff in the glass as I looked over the rim to read.
Happy, simple moments to treasure in the hours before the following work day begins and reality sets in.

room in new york, 1932 Edward Hopper

08 May 2008

08May - self-indulgent comment
For the first time, perhaps in my entire life, I got my pasta tonight just right. Angel hair. The texture was firm, yet soft at the same time. It picked up the flavors of the olive oil, lemon, garlic, ground black pepper and the sauteed mushrooms and onions I'd mixed with it. There was a balance struck among each ingredient, allowing each to have a voice of its own while still singing with every other ingredient in harmony.
It was not I who guided my hand to take the pasta-filled boiling water off the heat, but rather some patron saint of dried pasta, tired of seeing the good Ronzini name insulted everytime I overcooked.

Maybe it'll never happen again and I'm glad that I savored every moment. But I'll try every time to recreate this experience.

07 May 2008

07May- NYT article on wine consumers
Wine Pleasures: Are they all in your head?
paragraph 6. While it may be true that so many well-regarded and highly-priced wines seem to be bested by lesser wines, that's only by the opinions of a large group of people, many of whom have little experience. I discussed the related matter of experience in an old post regarding Penfold's Grange. (last entry)
At the end of the day, the wine you enjoy most is the one on which you should spend your money. I believe that to my last breath. But the more one is exposed to wine, theoretically, the more refined one's taste becomes. Four years ago I was drinking and enjoying wine I don't think I'd care much for today. Six years ago, forget about it. A wine that would amaze me today with its restraint, subtlety and elegance would probably have seemed lacking in brio four years ago. There's nothing wrong with either preference, but if you find yourself enjoying that restraint or silky smooth Bordeaux with dried flower and leather tones, you're going to have to spend more money to find it because $15 is no longer going to cut it. So now I may spend X amount on a bottle of wine because I want that layered, complex experience. I may not be happy about it but I look at it like prescription medicine: That's just how it's going to have to be.
Then there's the price thing the article mentions
. Granted, I may want to enjoy a wine more if I know it's expensive but since so much of my job is finding affordable wines with a good price to taste ratio, I find that I'm not swayed too much by that. Most of my reps don't tell me price when I taste, which I appreciate because it lessens bias. And, frequently, when I open something for Leigh I'll ask her how much she'd pay and she's been very good about guessing its price to within a few dollars.
I'm sure I had a point.
anyway, it's late and if I think of it I'll update the post.

05 May 2008

05May- article on alcohol's effect on the brain
"The key finding of this study is that after alcohol exposure, threat-detecting brain circuits can't tell the difference between a threatening and non-threatening social stimulus," said Marina Wolf, PhD, at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, who was unaffiliated with the study. "At one end of the spectrum, less anxiety might enable us to approach a new person at a party. But at the other end of the spectrum, we may fail to avoid an argument or a fight. By showing that alcohol exerts this effect in normal volunteers by acting on specific brain circuits, these study results make it harder for someone to believe that risky decision-making after alcohol 'doesn't apply to me'," Wolf said.

I thought this article was fascinating.

Imaging study provides glimpse of alcohol's effect on brain

05May - Good breakdown of beer styles.

I realized that I haven't had any beer related posts, despite my fondness for the beverage. so here's a good breakdown of beer styles. It's a tad on the in-depth side.

Stylistically Speaking
- from All About Beer Magazine

02 May 2008

02May- We had an extraordinarily slow night tonight.
Something like 22 people. Perhaps Columbia is saving itself for the Crawfish Festival tomorrow (I've driven by so many partitions, waiting in the wings) and their own Cinco de Mayo festivals. Who knows. Either way, I'm home before 11.30, so I'm doing pretty well.
I'm sitting here with a b0ttle of Smith-Madrone Riesling (delicious but not as wonderful as I'd been led to believe it might be.) and waiting on something of a concoction that I'm hoping will yield a palatable dinner. I knicked some catfish fillets from the restaurant and put them on top of some spaghetti sauce over a pizza crust. Over that i layered some spinach and cheese. Soon I'll find out whether I should just order Jimmy John's.
I was worried that I was playing God but I was relieved to find out, after a brief Google search, that catfish pizza was a well-researched concept.
...and my reaction is: not that bad. And a light drizzle of Tobasco brings it up to pretty good.

So I'm sure that answers a lot of questions.

01 May 2008

01May- wine appreciation tips from The Onion

Wine-Appreciation Tips

August 21, 2002 | Issue 38•30

Wine appreciation is a true art form. Here are some tips to help you become an aficionado.

Enlarge Image Wine-Appreciation Tips

Wine taster

  • Most wine experts frown upon serving a peignoir with white meat. This is primarily because a peignoir is a type of lingerie.
  • In Europe, wines are named according to the region from which they come. Among the most popular are wines from the Bordeaux region of France and the Night Train region of Italy.
  • When dining with friends at a restaurant, order the second-least expensive wine on the list. If on a date, order the fourth-least expensive.
  • If you are uncertain whether to select a merlot or beaujolais for a spring breast-of-lamb garden dinner, avoid making a decision until we come down to beat the living crap out of you.
  • Many liquor stores offer a "Try Before You Buy" program, whether they know it or not.
  • When sipping wine at a Catholic eucharist, swallow quickly, before the wine undergoes the miracle of transubstantiation and you get the unpleasant taste of a mouthful of human blood.
  • Distinctly fruity overtones are the mark of a good sommelier.
  • The quality of a wine is inversely proportional to the viciousness of the animal depicted on the label.
  • Aw, man, once in high school, my friends and I got totally ripped on this wine Eric's older brother bought for us. I don't remember the name, but it was all pineapple-flavored. That was the night we got kicked out of Arby's.
  • The proper glass is crucial to wine enjoyment. Before pouring wine, thoroughly rinse out the remnants of your cherry Icee.
  • When throwing a tasting party, never serve more than one category of wine. [This tip courtesy of The Guide To Sucking Every Bit Of Joy And Spontaneity Out Of Living.]
01May- Recipe for Mussels w/ coconut milk, lime and mint

Not one of our recipes, but this looks pretty good.

Mussels w/ coconut milk, lime and mint