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Archive for the ‘Food History’ Category

Porters

L-R: Maine Beer Co.’s King Titus, Pretty Things’ Once Upon a Time 1855, Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil, Salopian Brewery’s Entire Butt, and D. Carnegie & Co.’s Porter.

Poor porter.

If there was a contest for most misunderstood beer style, the woebegone porter would probably win. IPA’s are perennial favorites, stouts are synonymous with winter, but porters are the forgotten little brother, constantly fighting for attention and respect.

A quick scan of beer literature (don’t worry, I did it for you) reveals a mess of confusion about exactly what the difference is between porters and stouts. A little more reading and you start to get to the bottom of it: there is no clearly delineated difference – in fact, it’s often in the eye of the beholder. (more…)

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"Sangre y Trabajadero" Oloroso Sherry - Bodega Gutierrez Colosia

“Sangre y Trabajadero” Oloroso Sherry – Bodega Gutierrez Colosia

Every year, when January’s winds hit, and the temperatures settle down to numbers that are far too low for my liking, my thoughts wander to exotic places. I see sun-drenched vistas in my mind’s eye, I watch spaghetti Westerns to warm up, and I hibernate with something inspiring to sip: like a delightful Oloroso Sherry from the windy, sun-soaked southern coast of Spain. (more…)

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Dom Pérignon statue in Épernay in the Moët et Chandon courtyard.

Dom Pérignon statue in Épernay

In part one of this sparkling wine series, we explored the many ways wines can become bubbly. In this post, we focus just on Champagne. The Champagne region of France is considered to be the home of the world’s finest sparkling wines. Champagne is so famous, in fact, that it’s common for folks to refer to any bubbly wine as Champagne, however true Champagne is produced only within the boundaries of the designated province. European Union law forbids the use of the word Champagne on wines made anywhere else, as do the laws of many countries (including the United States). (more…)

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Bubbly

When we pop the cork of a sparkling wine at a party a flurry of bubbles are released. We love sipping those bubbles, but how do they get in the bottle? There are several ways that it can happen.

Sparkling wine is bubbly because carbon dioxide gas, a byproduct of fermentation, is trapped within the wine. During fermentation yeast feeds on the grape juice’s natural sugars and produces heat, alcohol, and carbon dioxide. During the initial fermentation, this gas is released into the air. When wine is allowed (or encouraged!) to undergo a second fermentation within the bottle the carbon dioxide gas is trapped inside in the form of bubbles.

The following methods are a few different ways to produce bubbles in a bottle of wine. There is a lot more information behind each of these techniques, but this is a good start to get the general idea. We’ll start with the oldest method and move forward through time and technological advances. (more…)

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Quinta do Infantado Tawny PortPorto, or “port” as it is known in English, is made in the Douro Valley of northern Portugal. There are many grapes port-makers are allowed to use, but the most common are Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Touriga Francesca and Touriga Nacional.

Port was a byproduct of the ongoing wars between France and England. Without wines from France, the English were forced to look elsewhere to satisfy demand. Portugal provided a good alternative, but the long boat trip from Portugal often resulted in spoiled wine. To combat spoilage, winemakers began adding high-alcohol aguardente to their wines to stop fermentation, leaving a more sturdy, higher alcohol wine with some residual sugar. These new fortified wines could make the trip no problem! (more…)

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El Maestro Sierra Amontillado SherrySherry (“Xerez” in Spanish) is made in the region of the same name on the southern tip of Spain near Gibraltar. There, Palomino grapes are grown on chalky soils called albariza. The grapes are fermented into dry wines, then fortified and placed into large, 500L oak barrels. Some of these barrels develop a thick layer of yeast called flor (literally “flower”).

Flor is naturally occurring, unpredictable, and can’t be induced or controlled once it occurs! When it does form, the wine ages underneath without oxidizing, resulting in what is known as a fino Sherry. If the flor forms, but then dies off or doesn’t develop, the wine, if deemed rich and robust enough, is fortified a bit more and then allowed to slowly oxidize and become an amontillado. If a flor does not form at all, the wine will be fortified further and will be aged in wooden barrels to become a richer and darker oloroso Sherry. In the case of amontillado and oloroso styles of Sherry, exposure to oxygen turns the wine a coppery color, and encourages the development of toasty, nutty aromas. Yum. (more…)

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Poilâne Pain au Levain

If you love good bread, chances are you will be familiar with the name Poilâne. We started working with Lionel Poilâne in the mid-90s, flying his bread in each week to supply a small, but growing group of customers who had developed a taste for his dense and flavorful bread while traveling abroad. Since the  “Ici Pain Poilâne” sign went up in our shop, the demand for this famed French bread has steadily increased. (more…)

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Red Leicester and Annatto Seeds

Red Leicester and Annatto Seeds

Mimolette. Red Leicester. Shropshire Blue. What do these three cheeses have in common? They are all orange and they are all colored with annatto. Annatto is a somewhat mysterious ingredient added to a number of cheeses and, recently, I took a minute to research where it comes from and a bit of its history. (more…)

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Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

For a lover of words, leafing through an heirloom seed catalog is almost as delicious as eating the fruits and vegetables pictured on each page. The poetry of heirloom seeds is unabashed, starting with names such as Amish Deer Tongue lettuce, Moon and Stars watermelon, Rouge Vif d’Etamps squash, Yellow Dent corn and a personal favorite, Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter tomatoes. Nomenclature aside, heirloom crops possess a long, distinguished past. (more…)

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A Reuben Ready for the GrillMany folks are familiar with the Saturday BBQ that happens out front of our Cambridge shop from early spring through mid-fall. When BBQ season ends, it is a sad day in the shop. We are somewhat mollified, however, by the onset of Reuben season. Instead of BBQ, each Saturday, trays of Reubens are prepared for toasting on the panini grill.

One recent Saturday, staffers were swapping bits of Reuben lore gleaned via word of mouth. Because our collective knowledge consisted primarily of hearsay, we decided to take things a step further, do a little research and get the definitive story behind this iconic sandwich.

(more…)

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