‘food/wine’ Category


The Ultimate Wine Series

Kathie and I (and Sue across the street) recently signed up for a series of wine seminars up in Bethesda, MD being given by Mark Phillips of WineTasting.org. It’s three hours every Thursday for four weeks. What drew us to it was their philosophy of practicality. They sum it up pretty well on their home page but in essence, they’re all about making wine fun and practical for people instead of intimidating… in other words, there’s no “undercurrents of currant with hints of asparagus and a cigar-box finish” style of dialog, except when making fun of wine critics! The audience is small, maybe 30 people, and the series is being filmed for a DVD release later this year (a similar series with the same speaker was aired on PBS last year and got great reviews).

The first seminar, last week, was all about tasting wine. Through the course of the evening we sampled 12 different wines and learned about the proper way to taste wine — as opposed to drinking wine — as well as how to classify things like appearance, aroma, feeling, flavor, finish, body, and style (old world vs. new world, and sometimes international). It was a very fun and enlightening evening. The next two seminars are about “Enjoying Wine”, mainly covering practical info like how to store wine and how long to keep it before opening it, how to store an unfinished bottle of wine and for how long, how to order wine in a restaurant, etc. The final class is about matching wine with food.


Wine tasting party

Saturday we hosted our first wine tasting party. We went to one at a friends house last year and it was a lot of fun, so we thought we’d try our hand at it. We don’t know all that much about wine so we wanted to keep it light and casual, and not too snooty. We did end up getting lots of different kinds of cheeses to go along with the wine, and had a pretty impressive spread on the dining room table (cheeses, breads, crackers, appetizers, veggies, and desserts).

Here’s how it works: Each guest (or couple) brings a bottle of red wine costing under $20. The wines are poured anonymously (hidden in paper bags), one at a time, with each guest getting 1-2 ounces. Guests rate each wine from 1-5 (poor to excellent). At the end, the wine with the highest average score wins, and the person who brought it gets a prize.

Rather than call the wines “Wine #1”, “Wine #2”, etc., it’s recommended to choose a theme for the tasting, and name the wines after French cities for example. Our theme was Star Wars :-). Each wine got a Star Wars character name, like Yoda, or Luke. One of the advantages to my newly unemployed status is it gave me the time to create fancy score sheets for everyone (click on the image to the right to check it out).

Anyway, the party was lots of fun, and we had a great turnout of guests. After the wine tasting segment was over several folks started playing Wii bowling and tennis. Kathie had to make sure people kept backing up from the TV so we didn’t have a problem with Wii remotes smashing the TV like so many other people have had. We also got to show off the new FiOS high definition TV content by playing an episode of Discovery Channel’s new series, Planet Earth, which uses some revolutionary new high definition filming techniques and looks fantastic in high-def.

Oh, the winning wine was Obi-Wan.

Update: It was brought to my attention that I never posted the list of winners, so I’m adding them here, somewhat belatedly.
Character Wine brought Avg. Rating
Obi-Wan Erben Merlot-Spatburgunder 2003 3.67
Han Solo Marcus James Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 3.11
Chewbacca Placido Chianti 2004 2.97
R2-D2 White Hall Vineyards 2005 2.89
Yoda Edna Valley Syrah 2003 2.89
Leia Terra Andina Merlot 2006 2.75
Wedge Post Familie Zinfande 2.68
Darth Vader Glass Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 2.61
Boba Fett Yellow Tail Merlot 2006 2.58
Jabba Graystone Pinot Noir 2004 2.56
Lando Franciscan Oakville Estate Merlot 2003 2.25



Yesterday we prepared the traditional Thanksgiving feast of… lasagne! It was quite yummy, and a lot less involved to prepare. We’ll be doing turkey at Christmas, so we don’t mind waiting a little longer for it. Besides, can you really prove that the pilgrims didn’t have Lasagne with the American natives?

Nintendo Wii shopping today was a bust… everyplace was sold out really early, and most places have no idea when they’ll be getting their next shipment. Still, we weren’t about to get up at 5am to go shopping. It’s just not that worth it!

In one of those freakish coincidences, Kathie and I went to visit Caleb and Val today for lunch… Caleb was cooking for us, and wanted to make something that we probably hadn’t had recently, so he did some thinking on “what food do people probably NOT eat around Thanksgiving?” and came up with – you guessed it – lasagne! It was quite excellent, so we don’t mind having it two days in a row, plus it made for a pretty funny lunch discussion. It was good to see Caleb and Val again, and their son Emory for the first time, since we haven’t been able to get together since their wedding!


More waiting…

Still waiting for the pANCA blood serum test for Crohn’s, and the re-analysis by NCI’s pathology lab of my intestinal tissue sample. In the meantime, I got my flu shot yesterday, and went to the dentist today, both of which are recommended before starting chemo. The dentist said that chemo tends to suppress saliva production, which causes a change in the pH of the mouth, which causes dental decay and gum disease, so he gave me prescriptions for special mouthwash and toothpaste to use during chemo. Also chatted with the oncologist about doing a consultation at Johns Hopkins cancer center, so they’re going to send all my test results and tissue samples up there once they get it back from NCI.

On the bright side, we’re going to dinner at The Melting Pot tonight, one of our favorite restaurants, to continue celebrating the fact that I can eat anything at all now that my surgery has fixed all my immediate intestinal issues! Some time in the next week or two we’ll be going to Morton’s, my personal favorite, thanks to the “get well” gift card from my great co-workers!

Kathie and I are also still trying to figure out when we can squeeze in a vacation, preferably before starting Chemo.