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CtznCane

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Everything posted by CtznCane

  1. CtznCane

    Wine Clubs-who benefits-whose do you

    I'm wondering what everyone thinks about wine clubs. What's in it for the consumer and what's in it for the winery? What should the criteria be for joining one? I especially hope we'll hear from Winery people how they view the consumer and wine club. We belong to several wine clubs. Probably too many. Since we have lived in the wine country and now live close to it we also like to support wineries we like as well. Most of the wine clubs are shipments of 2-3 bottles (lowest membership level at some most wineries) 3 to 4 times a year. I think this works out pretty well. The main problem or gripe that I have is that most of the wineries (perhaps luck of the draw) seem to come in the same months. Usually the committment is for a minimum of 1 year and then you get different perks in the form of discounts on wine, merchandise and on events. Aside from $ savings I also like the ability to get more wines which may not be available elsewhere or outside of the wine club. For those of us lucky enough to live near or within a few hours of the wineries the events are really nice. I know next week Concannon is having their food and wine pairing for club members which we enjoy. Since there is typically no choice about what wines you will receive a major guideline for us is pretty much liking a wineries wines across the board. Now for a small winery, like say Raymond Burr who only makes 3 wines, it is pretty easy to iknow if you like or don't like all the wines. For one like Concannon Vineyards or Chateau St.Jean on the other hand, who produce many different wines it is a little harder to make the blanket statement of 'all.' Another of our strategies, with some clubs is to join for a year and then switch to another winery. This way we keep our costs to what we feel is reasonable and get to try other wineries. Our last criteria for a wine club is not being in one where the wines we receive can be bought for less in the stores. While there is no avoiding some of the wines being able to be found it is getting wines that are only available at the winery to some extent that also makes a difference to us. That being said I'll give a few of the ones we like and why. Concannon Vineyards - In terms of shipments theirs are 6 bottles twice a year. This year both shipments have been $99 but the retail value has been$135-140 so the savings have been quite good. With 15% discounts, or 20% on cases and wines we like which we cannot find retail this club is a real value. They currently have an extremely nice Muscat Canelli that retails at 12 dollars and their Late Harves J. Reisling is one of my favorites. They've also held some special sales that members get first crack at that are first rate. Schramsberg - Shipments are 4 times a year and 2 bottles each. Whle not cheap, they do keep their shipments at a flat $85 + tax and include the shipping. Based on the wines we've received the value usually equates to about 20% off and free shipping. We're lucky enough to be able to drive there and the free tastings (they normally charge $20 and (it is worth it) that adds up over time. Gloria Ferrer - Shipments are 2 bottles 4 times a year and they keep the cost in the low to mid 50 range. Their combo is typically one sparkling and one still wine. Their Pinot Noirs are top notch and we thinkg their sparkling wines all represent good values. At the winery (tasting salon) we have found them to be among the friendliest people and they go out of their way. They also have put on some top notch events for wine club members.
  2. CtznCane

    Le Creuset

    Being that I sold high-end cars for many years (Volvo) I believe in the adage that (generally) good and cheap don't go together, never have, never will. Still, while not considering 'cheap' I do question value. This is especially true when I see the cost of Le Crueset pots. Being that I have a budget, I'm not cheap but I am looking for value. I love my Lodge Dutch Oven which (for the best price) I bought at the hardware store. Lamb shanks, Pot Roasts, Chickens, Oxtails, you name it, they go in the Lodge. That aside, I stilll feel it would be beneficial to have an enameled cast iron pot or (if I can afford it) two. I just can't understand why when the Lodge cost me about 30 bucks that the LeCrueset is in the mid 200's. I'm interested in a good sized Le Crueset (probably the biggest) and perhaps one smaller one if I can swing it. Are they worth it? Also, if you had to choose 2 of them which sizes would you choose? Also, are there any other good alternatives to LeCrueset? What can I do in the LeCrueset that I can't do in the Lodge? Any insight and help would be appreciated.
  3. CtznCane

    Water/rice ratios

    I cook rice all the time, typically jasmine rice. 1.5 to 1 for 15 minutes, comes out perfect every time. bring to a boil, stir once, covered on the lowest heat possible. I did it this way in California and now in Kentucky, a no brainer. It truly comes out perfect all the time. Occasionally I'll make basmati rice in a way I learned from a friend of mine from India. Basically cooking the rice in copious amounts of water and when it is done, draining it. If it needs a little less moisture then put it on the stove for a bit. This way too works out fine. I must admit that if trying different rices one has to play it by ear a bit but once you get it right it should be a cinch from there on out.
  4. This past Thursday we went to a winery dinner at the Carson Center in Paducah, Kentucky. Having previously lived in Santa Rosa, The Delta, and growing up in Berkeley I've been going to wineries since the early 70's and sampling back as early as 1970. Since moving to Kentucky at the end of '08 we haven't had that pleasure so when an opportunity arose (partially sponsored by a very good liquor store/wine store, Wagner's in Paducah) we jumped at the opportunity to go. Bottom line was it was awesome, the setting, the food, the wines, and of course the people. The best time we've had since moving to Kentucky. But this is about the wines. Even being familiar with many wineries and the Napa Valley there are just far too many to be aware of and have much to go on. Such is David Arthur Vineyards. I knew right where it was located as I use to have frineds in Angwin nearby and had made parachute jumps at Pope Valley back in the day. Still I was not familiar with this vineyard nor their wines. Their wines were wonderful. At the dinner we had their 2010 Chardonnay, 2009 Mertaggio, 2009 Three Acre Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2009 Elevation 1147 Cabernet. With desert was a 2011 Late Harvest Reisling. The reds were all exceptional. I must admit being partial to the Three Acre Cab as it has a touch of Petite Verdot which always appeals to me. As much as I liked the Three Acre, the 1147 was a solid notch above, though so was the price and the Three Acre is not inexpensive. The whites were also very strong in terms of quality though Reds always capture me a bit more. The winemaker and owner, David Long was also quite a character and I mean that in the best of ways. When the winemaker is so enjoyable to be around and so into what he is doing, that always shows through and does so in his wines. Tastings and tours at David Arthur Vineyards are by appointment but based on the experience of drinking his wines and his personality it has to be well worth it. When I get back to California (soon I hope) this vineyard is at the top of my list of places to visit. If interested their website is www.davidarthur.com
  5. CtznCane

    Recommendations for (US) Zin required

    It is hard to go wrong with a Ridge Zinfandel. They've been at the top for many years. Others such as Rosenblum and Cline mentioned here have also been favorites over time. One not mentioned yet which I particularly like is Zin Alley which is located very close to Turley down in the Paso Robles area.
  6. CtznCane

    Where to eat in Nashville?

    I'm surprised nobody mentioned Loveless Cafe. While having the best fried chicken anywhere and being known for their biscuits and jams, there isn't anything that isn't good there. When you have a place (on the outskirts of town) that consistently packs them in and has for over 50 years, that's gotta say something.
  7. CtznCane

    Give me liberty or give me Zin

    If Cabernet is the French King of the Red's then perhaps Zinfandel should be its American counterpart. Styles range from Peppery to Jammy and run the gamut. What are everyone's favorites? It is sometimes said that in California Zin's one looks to the 5 R's. The 2 R's I'm most familiar with Zin wise are Ridge and Rosenblum. I know too there is Ravenswood, Renswood and I'm not sure what/if the fiifth R is. Call it predjudice or whatever you might say, but as to Zinfandel or any other red wine my own hierarchy is Ridge and then everything else. Second to Ridge my favorite is Zin Alley. Zin Alley is a small winery in the Paso Robles area run by a personal yet eccentric character named Frank Nerelli who is both passionate and charming. He produces an ultra-premium Zin and a Zin Port, both of which in my humble opinion are well worth the price. ($40 each). I want to know others preference for zins. One other winery which I have not yet tried yet that has been highly recommended is Dover Canyon which is also in that area, and I know Mary from there posts here as well. Beyond Ridge which stands alone, I am feeling more and more like PasoRobles is God's Country when it comes to Zin. I should mention too that there is a small winery there called "Bella Luna" I believe which produces a marvelous blend of Sangiovese and Zin called "Fighter Pilot Red" as well which is high on my list. Any other Zin recomendations? Mary, what about Dover Canyon's zin? I was told they produce some fine ones. Charles aka CtznCane
  8. CtznCane

    The Frozen-Fish Topic

    TJ's is a great place to get quality food period, and the fish is no exception. Like people have been saying most all the fish we get is or has previously been frozen. Frozen is not the key but how it is frozen. While I've never been fishing myself (though I plan to still) my uncle use put his fish in milk cartons, then fill them with water, and then freeze them. That really seems an ideal way since you wind up with no freezer burn and being in water is natural to them. I'm always aware when buying scallops to avoid any that have tripolysulphates. I haven't paid attention to that on other types of fish but will certainly start doing so.
  9. CtznCane

    Different cuts of Pork to choose

    We are looking at buying a whole hog. I know with buying a side of beef there are multiple choices ie: steaks vs roasts, etc.... If you buy a whole hog are there many options? What are the options? Also I don't want to be wasteful so will probably need to be on guard to tell them not to waste anything. Ideas?
  10. I have a couple of questions which may or may not have been addressed at some point, I just haven't found them. I'm getting a SVS soon and I regularly brine my pork and chicken. Are there any precautions with brined meat? Does it change the cooking times? Is the flavor from brining magnified through cooking sous vide? Also, I have a foodsaver vacuum presently. Will this suffice for all my needs? - THanks
  11. CtznCane

    Makers 46

    Recently I got a couple bottles of Maker's 46 the new bourbon from Makers Mark. Slightly higher proof, 47 vs 45, a bit darker color and a bit richer but you don't taste the higher alcohol. A little more bold but quite smoothe. I enjoy Makers Mark to begin with but I enjoy the 46 even more.
  12. CtznCane

    A thanks to Martin Yan

    Martin Yan is amazing. I think he doesn't get the credit he should sometimes because he IS so good that he makes it look SO easy. He makes all of his dishes approachable for everyday cooks. I saw him at the asparagus festival in Stockton a few years back and live he is just as amazing, never missing a beat. The only bad thing about Martin Yan is after watching him one feels woefully inadequate in terms of knife skills.
  13. CtznCane

    Swiss Diamond Cookware ?

    I am bringing this topic back up because I"m looking at getting and additional swiss diamond pan. I currently have an 11" swiss nano pro pan and wonder if I can now get that in the states? I've had mine now for almost 6 years, use it all the time and have had nothing but great results. Swiss_Chef helped me get mine directly from Europe. Is the Nano Pro available here now? Is it still available in Europe? I have since gotten a second non-stick pan, a calphalon at about 40-50 with lid from Williams Sonoma about 3 years back. It's fine for eggs and such but nowhere near as verstaile as the SNP pan. As for cost, I think it has been well worth it or I wouldn't be looking at getting another. It's performance is just so good that it is truly worth the price.
  14. CtznCane

    Top Chef : Season 8 - All Stars

    Yes, glad to see Jamie go. I too am surprised by Richard's underachievement so far. It seems with Richard, that he can't resist going over the top or doing some other twist. He is the one overcomplicating the dishes. Were we perhaps enthralled on his first go round with his style? Has Richard's act leveled out? I hope not, I still like him but I think he is just trying to do too much and shooting himself in the foot. Contrast Carla to Richard. Carla has been, as she was her first season, coming through with good flavors and clever, but understated variations. Carla's twists seem to be more subtle, not as fancy, but quite effective, a simple approach as opposed to the dazzle of Richard. My secret hope for this season though is that Dale T will have an off night, have his temper show, and that the guest judge that night will be Michael Chiarello. Now THAT would be priceless.
  15. CtznCane

    Top Chef : Season 8 - All Stars

    You have to wonder what Casey was thinking going with chicken feet. Going that far out at this stage makes no sense and then knowing someone else would be cooking it seems like a sure recipe for failure. Jamie's dishes once again were bad and once again she had lame excuses as to why. The day can't be too far off when the rest of the contestants avoid catastrophe and we wave bye bye to Jamie. I found it rather nice seeing the chaos. All of us at home have had our chaotic moments so to see that large and well trained a crew have the kitchen from hell was kind of comforting in a perverse way. As to the quickfire, who cares if TC had his dish planned and his ingredients ready. It was a chance to see TC in action and it was a good and equitable challenge for all.
  16. CtznCane

    A good ham is hard to find

    Most aren't that high, though I will say their Derby ham is really good. As far as an everyday ham, years ago my cousin recommended Hormel Cure 81 as he had worked there. I've used that for my everyday ham for years and it is real good. Another place for country ham which is outstanding is Scotts Hams in Greenville, Ky. They also have good sausage (with sage) that we like. We may not be able to get great seafood like we could when we lived in the bay area but when it comes to pork products (with the exception of pancetta) we're in hog heaven in Kentucky.
  17. CtznCane

    A good ham is hard to find

    We went from living in the SF Bay Area to Western Ky where we have a fine ham place 5 minutes away! I've had Burger's city ham and it is good. Harper's (the one down the road from us) offers a nice smoked city ham www.hamtastic.com and another good one that is a mild, somewhat cross between city and country ham is the Derby ham from Meachams www.meachamhams.com .
  18. CtznCane

    Deep Fryers for the Home Kitchen

    That's the one. I came across it purely by chance but again, so far I've been pleasantly surprised and quite satisfied to say the least. I was getting a new Cuisinart coffee maker and found it on sale. Almost wish I'd picked up a seoond one.
  19. CtznCane

    Deep Fryers for the Home Kitchen

    I'm on my 3rd deep fryer. They seem to last 2-3 years at most. My first one was good but I forget the brand, the second was the t-fal emeril. The oil drainage was nice but not without its own hassles of sort. After awhile the knob for each setting for the reservoir became flimsy. All in all though it was pretty decent. I just recently replaced it with a Presto Pro Fry. I only bought this because the price (on sale at Sears) was under 60 bucks. Figured if it got me through the holidays I'd be pleased. I've actually been more than happily surprised. It has 2 baskets which makes it nice for cooking fries and fish at the same time. In fact I have the oil heating now for fries for lunch. I just checked and when it just clicked as up to temp (375) I checked the temp and it is registering 370 on my thermapen. Right after the fries went in it still only went down to 330 and was starting to climb back up slightly in temp within 45 seconds. I have no clue how long this will work for but it seems like a good value. As for cleaning, it isn't all that bad to just run the oil back into its container with a good size funnel and several layers of cheesecloth.
  20. I've been wanting to purchase a Sous Vide Supreme for a good while now and it looks like I may do so in the next few weeks. What I've read here has certainly cemented my confidence in the product and I'm grateful for the information I've found here. I have a couple of questions regarding the bagging of the food and spices. Currently I have a food saver vacuum sealer. I'm guessing that is sufficient for sealing the food? Is the one they offer from the SVS site any different? As to the bags and the marks, are the bags SVS sells directly any different? On spices, are you not suppose to use garlic? I did see some reference to that. So I gather no dry rubs? also, how tight a seal do you use? do you leave a little air space or a lot of air space? I know with my food sealer I frequently if I'm doing liquids or just closing something will let it just start to take the air out and then hit the seal.
  21. CtznCane

    Top Chef : Season 8 - All Stars

    I didn't like seeing Jen go either but I do feel she made a poor choice in dishes. If I remember correctly from a past TC, a Scoth Egg off shoot was tried and not well received then either. My memory could be wrong but I do believe it was Jen then too in her previous TC. I think her "scoth egg" billing may have hurt as well unless it is such that any time you use a hard boiled egg you can use that reference. Other than Mr. Somemlier the contestant I least looked forward to this year was Spike. In his original season I didn't feel he was that good as well as I found him totally obnoxious. Surprisingly, this season I felt he had reigned in the obnoxious attitude (hmmmm, maturity ya think?) and my perception of him was as a chef who had grown considerably in the time between then and now. I strongly feel Spike got screwed over by Jamie. Yes, Spike had problems with his dish and he knew it. Both I felt knew they stood a good chance of being eliminated. Jamie, I think, knew her dish was the worst and that going up would be the end for her. One of them had to be the sacrificial lamb. I think on the heel of dodging one bullett due to her finger that she should have been the one to step up to the plate.
  22. CtznCane

    Top Chef : Season 8 - All Stars

    I didn't see season 2 but in week 1, two of the bottom 3 were ones I'd pick to go early, those 2 being Stephen and Fabio. Frankly, I wish Stephen had gone. As for favorites, Richard seems to be almost an odds on favorite. Marcel is probably the second favorite. The chef that most intrigues me though is Dale L. In season 3 I believe he said he'd almost stopped cooking. He just got better and better and damn near beat Hung. It will be interesting to see how much he has progressed. I think Angelo as well should be one of the favorites. I like Jennifer and Tre as well and both of them have a chance too. I think it was smart to do a TC with past contestants. We know, from past experience that the show should be fairly strong this season with some very good chefs making early exits. As for the atitude of 'they couldn't win before' I think that is b.s. This is there chance to prove it was just an off day that go them. Was anyone critical on TC Masters that Rick Moonen, Jonathon Waxman, and Wily Dufresne came back? I think not. I will say about week 1, I though it was wicked that they gave them a 'do over' with the ingredients that lost it for them before. I'd be willing to bet a couple of them planned for that, but many did not.
  23. As opposed to a one and done it's a one is done system. Yes it does create a middle group which is around for a long time. Is this a bad thing? One may have an inkling in the first couple of weeks who will likely be around at the end, but amongst the middle there are typically 1 or 2 who may get it turned around. That middle group is important for ratings, and let's face it without ratings we wouldn't have a show to be talking about. That large middle group fills a role of both providing a buffer zone against a bad night, while also still leaving open the possibility that one of the favorites will have a melt-down. It seems everyone is constantly nitpcking the quality of the cheftestants. I'm sure they've tried to get the best group that they can. I'm sure too, that even the ones who have screwed up the worst have had good references and reason for being on the show. When those lights hit though it is a huge difference. I know one person (from trivia) who is absolutely brilliant, quick and knowledgable. When he got on Jeopardy though, under the lights he froze. I think a lot of the weaker chefs fall into the group of those who are good but just can't handle the lights or format. This part though takes a few weeks to weed through. While it may seem some stay on too long, I think even for the better chefs, that pressure of 1 person going home takes a toll. It will be interseting to see TC All Stars this fall/winter. We know the level should be higher in terms of overall quality due to the past. Knowing the quality is high, this should add even more pressure to the chefs. I agree with the person who suggested more high stakes quick-fires. The only concession I'd make towards a cumulative scoring is that I think, in terms of who goes home, that it would be interesting if their performance in the quickfirs was factored in (to some degree) in the final decision.
  24. The format for the show is lose and your gone. Sports analogies are appropriate as this is a competition, a game, a sport of sorts. The Patriots one 16 straight, mostly by huge margins and then lost. What is remembered, the blow-outs or just simply that the favorite got beat? NCAA March Madness ahs a huge following, single elination. Doesn't matter how much you win by, win and you win, lose and you go home. The 1960 Pirates got crushed on cumulative scoring by the Yankees, yet they won 2 - 1 run games and the 3 games they lost were by a total of 33 runs. As for the stretch run, to me that is when it is the top 5 and I'll stick by thinking Kevin did the best over that span. Whether you think he was top or not, he didn't just win the finals he blew them away. Cumulative scoring, well, it just plain sucks. Boring, far too nerdy for the masses. Certainly for the end, the current format is best with single elimination. When I tried to consider my ideal, it was perhaps somethingn cumulative early in the form of not eliminating anyone the first several weeks and then elinating 3 or 4 at that time. Fact is though, that, or any other cumulative scoring would be pretty lame. The format they have works. It is a format that gives the most sense of urgency to each and every week. There are not second chances. That is part of what makes it work and work well. As for strategy we can't say what the strategies were but I think most of the survivors did point towards getting to the finals and then taking more chances. Last seasons show was over the top in terms of drama as Mike V did apparently go for it at all times. I say apparently as I think for him it was more of his natural style and not so much outside the box for his mindset. If you want to go cumulative, wouldn't Kevin G have won last year? The format is fine the way it stands. Each episode they have to be on their toes to not be the one to go. That someone, anyone can go on any day is what gives the drama that is so essential to the show being successful.
  25. Personally I think Kevin was a worthy winner. How can the cheftestants be considered 'weak' when according to Tom C they produced the best food EVER in a finals? The main difference from this years top 5 to last years is that I think there was more personality to be drawn into last year. Last year Kevin was the good ole boy, Brian V the aloof one, and Mike V the brash and cocky one. Eli was the young one and Jennifer was, well, the hot one and skilled. With the exception of Angelo being brash and cocky and Tiffany's laid back down home confidence the other 3 were just a bit low key a lot of the time. I'm in the group too that is dumbfounded that Ed didn't have a desert planned. Not to mention it doesn't seem that in any season that many chefs have at least one, if not a few, deserts planned on. Is it arrogance, fear, or just ignorance sticking their head in the sand hoping it won't come down to a desert. Lastly, as to considering the overall for the winner I think is wrong. Nobody is going to do well in all of the challenges for the most part. It is just about surviving up until the finals. That survival gets harder at each turn but it is do enough to get by, hopefully taking as few risks as possible. Rick Mears was the greatest Indy driver of all time, his strategy the first half to 3/4 of the race was merely survival and decent position. This is no different. In the end, when it came down to the final few episodes, Kevin put the pedal to the metal and came out on top. He won, he deserved to win, and he is a worth winner. Good for him!
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