Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holiday drinking

I've been off from work the past week hanging out at home with my family and enjoying the break by trying some beers, wines and punches that I've been waiting for special occasions to open/make. Some of these have been duds, unfortunately, others have been amazing -- top 10 drinks of all time. I'm not going to go through detailed tasting notes for all of these (mostly because I didn't take them for some of these -- was enjoying food & drink & company). Let's get started -- For Christmas, I got a bottle of St. George Absinthe Verte, one of my favorite booze bottles. It's intensely fennel flavored -- like Greek ouzo -- and has lots of herbal notes that make themselves apparent as you let this spirit open up with a bit of ice and water. I could drink a little of this every night and be very happy. For Christmas, I made a bourbon pecan molasses glazed ham, and popped a Bluxome St. Winery Russian River Pinot Noire that I bought from the SF-based winery. This is one I didn't take notes on -- too busy cooking and entertaining -- but essentially I liked it because it didn't taste like a typical RRV PN. Those, in my mind, are dense, dark-fruit driven wines, lots of cola notes, that aren't as ethereal as what a Burgundy can be. This bottle was a perfect complement to the ham -- it stood up to the sticky sweet glaze without overwhelming it. I really enjoyed this bottle -- I'm remembering cranberry and cherry notes, a very light wine but totally enjoyable. Before I popped that bottle, I did create a punch from a recipe from Charles Dickens, via David Wondrich. This was the first warm punch I've made -- the others have been iced and drunk in the summer time. The punch is a combination of rum from the west indies, brandy (I was cheap and went with Korbel VSOP instead of Cognac, which costs tons more), sugar, water and lemons. Overall, everyone liked this, it felt warming and poured from the crock pot hot, but my impression was that the lemon and alcohol were the biggest components coming through. Like any warm alcoholic beverage, you're going to taste the alcohol instead of the other flavors it might have (on the other end, ice diminishes its taste). As this punch cooled, my affection for it grew. Next time, I think I'll make it the same way (I liked how lighting the whole bowl on fire for a few minutes drew out the oil from the lemon peels) and just let it naturally cool down and serve it that way with a big block of ice. Finally, on the beer side of things I went to Beer Revolution with my brother in Oakland and tried a bunch of odd and exciting things. My favorite by far was the Labyrinth Black Ale by Uinta Brewing Company. Weighing it at 13.2 percent ABV, this is a massive imperial stout, but it's so sweet and intense, it definitely stood out from the 6 glasses we shared. Lots of coffee notes, black licorice, molasses and dark chocolate. I've seen this beer for sale for about $13 at Whole Foods, and plan on picking up a few bottles to save. Would be perfect on a really cold day, or with BBQ (maybe super bowl party pairing?) or even just with desert. Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday drinks as much as I did!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sight Glass Ethiopia Shakiso, Mora Mora River Valley

Picked this up at Whole Foods in Oakland -- new brand for me. Was a bit pricey, $16.99 I think. But oh, what a coffee. First cup I made was a pour over and it sang so beautifully -- very light, clean. Came off like earl grey tea, in flavor and mouthfeel. I hadn't had a coffee this wonderful in years -- and I've had lots of great coffees. Slight Glass describes it like this on their website: "An exceptionally clean cup that shows flavors of ginger, guava and tangerine, with an underlying tone of sweet caramel throughout." Sadly, subsequent cups I've mad haven't been as orgasmic. I've made it in a french press, as an espresso and as a pour over again. All very delicious, but nothing as wonderful as that first cup. I'll definitely try other coffees by this brand though. Check them out if you have a chance.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

$7 cup of coffee at Starbucks?

And not some foo-foo drink either -- legit coffee. It's the Geisha varietal, originally from Ethiopia and lost for decades until it reappeared in Panama early last decade (or, more accurately, re-classified) and became world renowned a few years ago when it sold for an astounding $100+ at a specialty coffee auction. I detailed a cool experience I had drinking this in 2008 with George Howell at Terroir Coffee outside of Boston. My tasting notes at the time read: "Very light in color, and looked tea-like in its transparency. That comparison was apt because the smell and taste reminded me of Darjeeling tea. That was followed by a striking citrus flavor that mellowed out to a buttery richness in the finish. Beautiful." Starbucks is not going to be selling this coffee. What they are selling is a geisha from the farm of Costa Rica Finca Palmilera. They're also going to be brewing it in their Clover coffee machine, a high precision box that allows the user to control the temperature down to the tenth of a degree and seep time down to seconds. It was the darling of the third wave roasters until Starbucks bought the business and then people started pissing on them for it. But it's still a great innovation for coffee brewing. I tried to get a cup of this special coffee last week in San Francisco but the Starbucks near my office didn't have it yet; they said try next week. While I'm excited to see what this tastes like, my concern is that like most of their coffees, including their specialty brews for the clover, it will be over roasted and charred. In lieu of the geisha coffee, I got a sun dried Ethiopian, one of my favorite types of coffees. It was just ok -- acidity was lacking, and the flavors were a shadow of sun dried (ie - "natural" processed beans) that I've had at small roasters who take a much lighter touch. But still very curious to see how this Costa Rican turns out.