What You Missed (articles you may have overlooked in other sources)

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"Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way the car is driven."  - Edward De Bono

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Q&A: Michael Wheeler, author of ‘The Art of Negotiation, on the importance of improvising

Courtesy of Michael Wheeler - In his new book, ‘The Art of Negotiation,’ author Michael Wheeler discusses the importance of adaptability.

By Kelly Johnson, Published: February 14 E-mail the writer

Killer instinct, it turns out, is not the only — or even the prime — virtue of a skilled negotiator. Adaptability is important. A tolerance for uncertainty is, too. And an appreciation for the spooky art of jazz musicians helps. All, according to Michael Wheeler, are useful in crafting strategies for dynamic negotiations. He’s written a book on the subject and talked with The Washington Post about the power and potential of any negotiation — whether a job is at stake or the plans for a multimillion-dollar real estate development. The following was edited for length and clarity.


Q Tell me about the process of writing this book.

It’s long in the making. I’ve taught negotiation for many years, most recently at Harvard Business School. For many years I’ve been trying to figure out what negotiation dynamics are all about. So I had this bug in my head that it’s all well and good in terms of decision trees and probabilities and so forth, but the fact of the matter is everyday transactions cannot be scripted or even necessarily predicted. It’s an exploratory process. I’ve looked to other fields — I’m not a musician myself, but the jazz greats are able to improvise in real time. And in military strategy, they say all plans go out the window at first contact with the enemy, so the military’s thought about it a lot. And some of the principles from those realms fit perfectly with negotiation.

So the book draws from your experience.

Yes. As a Harvard Business School professor I write cases with my colleagues. And time and time again I would see examples of people setting up to do A, and they end up not doing B, C or D. But they do E. And that becomes a story. If you peek underneath it you can figure out, what did they do well and how were they able to be flexible? How do you judge success if you were originally going for A and you end up at E? So all those questions were lurking. And I developed cases, did some lab work, experimental work that drew on the experimental work of others. All of that came into my teaching. Writing notes as well as cases. And this is the synthesis of all of those elements.

I think people hear “negotiation” and think “Wall Street hotshot dealmakers,” or perhaps in Washington they think about lawmaking and that process. But most people consider a new job at some point or maybe buy a house — both examples you use in the book — and negotiation is clearly a skill for success in everyday life. Why aren’t we better at it?

First and foremost, the bumblebee does fly. Even people who cannot negotiate manage to get things done. Buy a house, say. Whether they buy a house at the best price, whether they represent themselves well as they’re moving up in an organization is another matter. But people do it. There’s no question about that.

The question you ask, I think more precisely, is, why don’t they do it as well as they’d like to? It’s very hard to know how well you’ve done, even after the fact. Maybe you got a lower price than what you’d hoped for, but your aspirations were too low.

Or maybe you don’t come to an agreement at all. What lesson should you take from that? One possibility is it wasn’t possible. The best you could do for the other party wasn’t good enough for them. But it also might have been that you or they overplayed your hand or their hand. It might be that you weren’t inventive enough. It might have been a stressed relationship.

But all you have for data is your side of the story. It’s not like playing tennis with a friend, and afterward you towel off and he gives you some friendly advice about your backhand — more follow-through or something. You don’t get that feedback in negotiations. So I think it is a challenge. And the book gives models of how to think about crafting a strategy that gives you something to riff from, in jazz terms, that doesn’t tie your hands.

I’d always imagined that the key to a successful — or winning, if you will, a negotiation is maintaining control of the conversation. But it turns out that perhaps that’s not true.

I wouldn’t completely scratch that. I’d look for guiding the conversation. But there’s someone on the other side of the table who’s likely just as smart as we are, just as determined, just as bone-headed, has good days and bad days. And they want to control things, too. So this is where I think the lessons from the past masters come in, which is having some sense of what point you want to press, where you want to be listening intently and when you want to speak. I think that people’s anxiety can make them rigid — trying to control everything, trying to rebut every assertion. Where in some instances, you have to think about whether this is the point you want to press. And if it’s important to put the stop sign up, put the stop sign up.

You’ve mentioned jazz ,and the book talks a lot about the ability to improvise. Sometimes we think of negotiation as inherently competitive, but you point out time and again that the success of both parties depends ultimately on how well they collaborate. Can you talk about that?

Yes. A number of things. Not everybody who’s a jazz musician is pals with everybody. There are some famous duos where they play together beautifully and then take separate airplanes, so it isn’t necessarily you have to be friends or even like the person with whom you’re dealing. But you do have to respect the fact that they have an agenda, they have particular needs.

What’s interesting is that the fast friends don’t necessarily do well negotiating. And the reason is, if you and I had known each other forever and you’d proposed doing something, and I could live with it, I like you well enough that I can say, “Okay, that’s fine.” Whereas if we’re more arm’s length and if I know you or are comfortable with you, I can say, ‘If you do that it’s not a big priority for me. And incidentally if you do that I’m going to need some help on some other issues.” In doing that we can actually identify what you’d like but what I really must have and what I’d like, too. But it actually makes more sense to have that second issue. If those priorities are never voiced, we come up with a mediocre deal.

Instead of pretending there’s some ideal environment for negotiation, you seem to account for the actual world, with all its complexity. Can you talk about the value of learning to cope with uncertainty?

It’s a necessity. I challenge anybody to tell me the third thing you’re going to say in the course of negotiation. I do not know until I get a sense of the tone of the person I’m dealing with. Are they nervous? Are they warm and engaging? Are they pressed for time? Fortunately, we’re comfortable with that uncertainty in any normal conversation where nothing is truly at stake. When we’re fixated on getting to a particular point and we’re not sure we’re going to get there, then we tend to tighten up. But you can’t wish away the fact that there’s somebody else on the other side of the table who isn’t going to let you write his or her lines.

Is it ideal that people go into a negotiation with the understanding that they might not be able to fathom the outcome?

This is a really important point. The word “improvise” is key to the book. You go into negotiation with a provisional goal. And the more provisional it is, the more alert you have to be about refining your objectives and also having an exit plan. So you say, “Okay, I’m exploring.”

The first story in the first chapter is about my colleague who was trying to buy a cable television system and who was willing to pay a premium for it because it would have synergies with a system his firm owned. He worked very hard to make that acquisition, but the owner of that second system thought it was worth more than my friend thought it was. A lot of people at that point would just throw in the towel. But my friend thought, “Gee, if they think they’re system is worth that much, how much is ours worth?” Then he became a seller as opposed to buyer.

Now that was not his original intention. But it became a superior option when he discovered what the interests and priorities of his counterpart were.

And I might add, there’s no way you could prepare for that. You need to know the other person’s mind. You need to do as much market research as you can. You want to read the contracts backward and forward. You want to get a scouting report that tells you who you’re dealing with. But some of the things you need to know about the negotiation can only happen in the back-and-forth.

So you’re actually doing a very fast-moving character study of the other party.

And they’re studying you. And they’re possibly misconstruing you. You may be well intended, but whether it’s a matter of temperament or something they say or you say something that’s misinterpreted, that’s not fully in your control.

In reading the book, it seems to me that you’re energized by the prospects for creativity to play a powerful role in negotiation and relationships. Tell us about your focus on creativity.

Let’s talk about creativity in two senses.

There’s creativity in terms of forging a relationship. I tell a story in the book about a [U.S.-Soviet arms-control] summit that took place in Reykjavik in the mid-1980s. And then-Secretary of State George Shultz was there for Ronald Reagan, and one of the Soviet delegates was a guy named Sergei Akhromeyev, a field marshal who was the equivalent to the head of our joint chiefs of staff. They hadn’t expected Akhromeyev to show up at this meeting. So Shultz gets into an informal conversation with him before getting into talks about missile production.

Akhromeyev said, “Mr. Secretary, you have to understand that I’m one of the last of the Mohicans.” And Shultz said, “What do you mean by that?” He answered, “Well, I’m still wearing the uniform, but most of the people who were with me in World War II are either dead or long retired.” And — this is very good jazz listening — Shultz says: “ ‘The Last of the Mohicans’? How do you know about that?” Akhromeyev says, “Oh, when I was young I read all the novels of James Fenimore Cooper.”

So what you see in that short exchange is a deepening of a relationship. And in his memoirs, Shultz describes how from that he was able to ascertain that Akhromeyev was not a robotic diplomat who was just going to toe the party line. And Akhromeyev turned out to play a very important role in those talks.

There’s also creativity in terms of problem solving. Instead of doing a straight-priced deal, there may be ways of financing it. There may be performance incentives. There may be other contingencies built in that are relatively cheap for one party to surrender and are very beneficial to the other. That’s important, too.

And I think to some degree the two are related. For people to open up about their interests, they have to be comfortable about disclosing what their priorities are. They have to have some sense that they’re not going to be exploited. Establishing some kind of working relationship — doesn’t have to be best friends — is often a condition for working out a value-maximizing agreement.

So in the realm of the second aspect of that answer, one of the concepts you write about in the book is expanding the baseline — giving people room to maneuver, which turns out to be collaborative in spirit but also requires flexibility. Talk about that.

You can read books and they talk about “expanding the pie.” And that’s all well and good, but we’re not just a bakery. I want a decent share of that pie, and you do as well.

There are negotiations that are principally about dollars — more for you and fewer for me. In those instances, it’s a tug of war. Seeing something as zero-sum, as a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that’s going to mean more for you is less for me, and we behave accordingly.

I like the story about Shultz. And your sense of storytelling makes the book a pleasure to read. You write about the experiences of dealmakers and diplomats and even Hollywood producers. Do you draw on that storytelling skill in negotiations as well?

We give a great-negotiator award, typically every year. A guy who impressed me as much as any is Lakhdar Brahimi — a U.N. diplomat, Algerian by birth. He’s recently been trying to make something happen in Syria. He has the world’s hardest job. Often he’s not successful. But sometimes he is. Sometimes he’s able to stop the bombings for a while. So when we give this award, we spend the day with them — and we spend weeks in advance preparing.

Whenever we would ask an important question, he would say, “Let me tell you a story.” And I’m confident that that was his style as a mediator, as well. And rather than stating something as an abstract principle, he’d give it flesh and bones and heart by situating it in a story. And a magnificent storyteller. That is how we understand things — those narratives. I don’t know about you, but I don’t dream in spreadsheets.

Often the unspoken story is kicking around in our head as we’re negotiating. “Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I’m doing well.” Or, “I hope I don’t get ripped off.” In an ideal world, two negotiators construct a story they’re both comfortable with. They can say that they were treated with some respect. That they learned something new. That they found a solution that worked for them.

That’s when people are really negotiating well with others.

The book explores the balancing act between having a clear objective and maintaining a spirit of openness. How does that work?

Yes, I quote toward the end a guy name Gary Klein, who writes about decision making. Firefighters come to a blaze. We don’t have time to make decisions. The theory is that they’re working on pattern recognition. They’re fighting fires differently having been on the force for 40 years than on their first day. I like Klein’s work a lot. He talks about having strong ideas, weakly held.

Mary Parker Follett wrote very wisely about management — way before her time. She had a saying: Don’t hug your blueprints too tightly. She meant you have a plan and it’s something that you’re working from and you have to adapt. Eisenhower said the same thing when he said: “Plans are worthless. Planning is everything.”

I think the real trick is having a clear idea and then being able to kiss it goodbye.

How does a negotiator grapple with what he cannot or doesn’t know?

When you land on D-Day — this is Eisenhower again — you don’t know how it’s going to unfold. You’re testing the enemy lines. You’re seeing if there’s a gap you might pass through. Same with a negotiation. You’re going in with a set of priorities. You’re hopeful there’s progress you could make on several issues. But you’re testing the problem with that same sensibility of what will yield and what will not — as an avenue to agreement. You’re doing reconnaissance in the same way a scout would do on the field.

Are you unusually comfortable with chaos and complexity?

Maybe I tend in that direction. I think it makes life interesting. If everything were predictable — ho-hum!

You talk about luck and skill. Is there a relationship? The more skill you have, the luckier you get?

I think that’s true. It’s also mind-set. It comes back to that question of acceptance and optimism. If you think there isn’t a solution to a problem, you’re right. If you think there is a solution, maybe you’re right. But it means you’re going to look and work for it.

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A Night For Spain To Shine

Jordan Wright
January 23, 2014
Special to 
DC Metro Theater ArtsBroadway Stars, and LocalKicks 

Spain’s Ambassador Ramon Gil-Casares (right) chats with a guest


Dozens of foodies and fashionistas crammed into the former residence of the Ambassador to Spain on 16th Street Thursday night to celebrate Spanish food and wine.  “TAPAS, Spanish Design for Food” runs through March 23rd in what is now a cultural center.   Current Ambassador Ramon Gil-Casares was clearly having a grand time receiving all guests.  The exhibit celebrates some of the most unique contemporary cooking and serving implements from Spanish product designers, including the latest innovations used in molecular gastronomy by elBulli Chef Ferran Adrià, named by Time Magazine in 2004 as one of the “Ten Most Creative Figures in the World, and his Harvard lecturing cohort, Chef Jose Andrés whose restaurant empire remains firmly footed in the U. S.

“Working with the best ingredients is how we create an astonishing dish.  But in order to create a memorable experience, the best elements of design, from the kitchen, to the table, to the plate, all must come together to tell an exciting story,” Andrés concludes.

To that end the show is organized to display over 200 items by leading the visitor through five separate rooms and passing alongside the ornately Moorish tiled room in the home’s interior courtyard.  Each area delineates the categories of kitchen, food and table with a place of distinction for the country’s treasured Iberican hams.

The exhibition includes an audio-visual presentation that reveals a selection of restaurant interiors and a wine tower showing some of the most daringly designed wine labels on over 100 bottles of wine.

Executive Chef Javier Romero of DC’s famed Taverna Del Alabardero worked alongside of Head Chef Rodolfo Guzman Aranda of Andrés’ Jaleo to send out delectable tapas.  Alas, the besieged servers were mobbed while exiting the kitchen door with trays of mussels nestled in sardine cans and topped with potato chips from Andrés’ new product line of gourmet Spanish delicacies.  Those tapas had to share the spotlight with Iberican ham wrapped around a tiny breadstick with a tutu of white cotton candy, mashed potatoes as vehicles for bits of omelet, and a luscious cherry gazpacho that hit all the right sweet-to-tart notes.  Viva España!

The Spanish Cultural Center is at 2801 16th Street, Washington, DC. 20009.  For further information visit http://www.spainculture.us/city/washington-dc/tapas-spanish-design-for-food-in-washington/

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Wednesday 6 November 2013
the drinks business

Paper wine bottle to go on sale in US

5th November, 2013 by Lucy Shaw

British packaging firm GreenBottle has launched the world’s first paper wine bottle in the US with California wine producer Truett-Hurst, with a label designed by Stranger & Stranger.

While Stranger & Stranger designed the label graphics, GreenBottle partnered with Truett-Hurst to develop the Paperboy wine product, the bottle for which is made from compressed recycled paper and weighs just 65g – a seventh of the weight of an average glass wine bottle.

Paperboy will be the first paper wine bottle in the world to go on sale, making its debut in the US this week.

GreenBottle’s managing director Mark Eaves told the drinks business: “We’re delighted to finally have our paper wine bottle on the shelf. A great concept has now become a viable reality. Paperboy is not only much


“We also know that consumers will revel in the safe portability and unique easy-pouring characteristics of GreenBottle, as well as the improved insulation properties, all of which combine to make it a great choice for out of home consumption as well.
 lighter and more environmentally friendly than glass bottled wines, it’s a great quality wine too.

“To export our bottles to the US and launch them in California is a huge milestone for GreenBottle but this is just the beginning. We’re convinced it has enormous potential in wine markets across the world. 

The interest in it has been phenomenal.”

As reported by packaging design website The Dieline, Paperboy is made from compressed recycled paper and printed with natural inks.

While the outside of the bottle boasts a black ink retro graphic of a freckled, hollering paperboy, the inside contains a recyclable sleeve similar to those found in boxed wine.

GreenBottle told db that the bottle has a carbon footprint which is less than one third that of an equivalent glass bottle.

“Paperboy is about as green as it’s possible to make a wine bottle. They weigh only an ounce when empty so save a huge amount of energy on shipping,” Shaw said.

“The bottles a

re rigid and strong; they’re even ice bucket safe for three hours,” he added.

Filled with a 2012 red blend from Paso Robles, Paperboy went on sale in US supermarket Safeway this week and will be available across America soon.

Safeway has proved open-minded to wine packaging innovations – last year it enjoyed success with Truett-Hurst’s range of five wines wrapped in recycled paper.

The same winery commissioned Shaw to create a square wine bottle for its California Square range, which launched in the US last month.

The California Square range comprises a 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a 2012 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2012 Paso Robles red blend made from Petite Sirah, Syrah, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and Merlot.

Truett-Hursts’ Paperboy wine bottle is made from compressed recycled paper

http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2013/11/paper-wine-bottle-to-go-on-sale-in-us/
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Tip

5 Wine & Food Pairing Guidelines

 

By The Washington Post, Wednesday, September 11, 2013

 

 

 

 

Source: Wine Folly

Sommeliers use opposing taste profiles such as sweet and sour all the time to create perfect food and wine pairings. Follow the simple set of guidelines below to make the best wine and food pairings at home.

Champion the Wine
The number one guideline is to bring out the best characteristics of a wine. A high tannin red wine will taste like sweet cherries when paired with the right dish. Focus on the characteristics that you want to champion and make sure that the wine will shine instead of fighting against the food.
 
Bitter + Bitter = Bad
Since our tastebuds are very sensitive to bitterness, it's important to pay special attention to not pair bitter food and high tannin wine. Green Beans with Cabernet Sauvignon will multiply bitter tastes. If you want to pair a high tannin wine, look to foods with fat, umami and salt for balance.
 
Wine Should be Sweeter
As a general rule, make sure that the wine is sweeter than the food and you will have a successful wine pairing. If the wine is less sweet than the food it's matched with, it will tend to taste bitter and tart. This is why Port wine is perfect with dessert.
 
Wine Should be More Tart
A wine should have higher acidity than the food it's matched with otherwise it will taste flabby. For instance, a salad with vinaigrette is better with an extra brut Champagne than a buttery Chardonnay.

Improve an Earthy Wine
Ever hear that Old World Wine is better with food? On their own, Old World wines can be very earthy and tart. However, when you pair an earthy wine with something even more earthy like mushroom stroganoff, then the wine tastes more fruity.

 


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Chatting with Super Composer Hans Zimmer About Man of Steel

Man of Steel
 Henry Cavill and Amy Adams in Man of Steel. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
JUNE 14, 2013 BY JORDAN WRIGHT
Special to The Credits - MPAA

According to a 2007 British survey Hans Zimmer is considered “one of the world’s 100 living geniuses.” He shares space on the list with the likes of Stephen Hawking, Prince and Philip Glass.  Zimmer’s own list of achievements includes an Academy Award, several Golden Globes, Grammys, Lifetime Achievement Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and dozens of film credits that attest to his significant contribution to many of the industry’s finest films.

Zimmer’s scored a slew of classics. Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man and The Lion King are a few of his famous past films, as well as more recent blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean, Madagascar, The Da Vinci Code, Sherlock Holmes, The Thin Red Line and Dark Knight. Today’s release of Man of Steel continues this living legend’s legacy of creating the mood and musical identity of some of our biggest films.

There may not be a single filmgoer who has not been touched by his music.  The Credits spoke to him about his craft, his passions, and his hopes for Man of Steel.

Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer

The Credits: Can you talk about your approach to composing for Man of Steel?  How did your sense of the script guide you?

Zimmer: Not one bit. I never read it. I told David Goyer [Man of Steel scriptwriter] forgive me for not reading it. For me there are two types of directors. There’s the writer/director and the director that works from somebody else’s script—and what’s important for me is figuring out what the director has in his head. So I said to Zack [Snyder, Man of Steel director] let’s sit down. Tell me the story. And while the telling is going on I find out what’s really in his heart—what the emphasis is for him. The weird part of the process is that as someone tells you the story you start to come up with sounds and music. So in my head I’m scoring Zack telling me a story. That helps with starting. But also I was somewhat overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Because I was working on Dark Knight Rises at the same time and I didn’t think I was quite up for it. The master, John Williams, had done rather well by it, and it was part of my growing up and DNA loving John Williams’ score. The inevitable comparisons are out there, but I couldn’t care less about what anybody says. Find me a composer who isn’t driven by paranoia and neurosis.

I don’t ever remember seeing a film that had a musical score throughout most every scene. It must have been quite a task to create such an enormous score.  What was the reasoning behind that decision?

It’s because the score is fairly new. It goes from me playing a little upright piano to these rather grand gestures that you’d expect. In an odd way, though it’s a Superman movie, there’s an absolute inherent reality in this film, because America really is America, and America is real. So it felt like it would be nice to create this “through line” from the word go to the end. When we get to the second half it gets pretty intense, but we tried to use music to create beautiful silences as well. For example, when Krypton blows up, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away here, the tendency would be to go hugely bombastic and throw everything at it–but it’s just one single solo violin.

Can you talk about the musical transitions in the film when you segue from battles to farm scenes? Do you look at the film and it comes to you or is it a separate process?

Transitions are tricky because we change tones so dramatically, and you just hope that you’re replacing very kinetic energy with emotional energy, because I did try to make the farm scenes tiny and emotionally poignant. Part of the disadvantage I have in this interview is I haven’t seen the movie with an audience. All I know is that I spent many months loving the process and that’s truly the whole thing.  I love writing music and sitting with my friends and colleagues and the musicians and the director and we’re building something and hoping people will love it as much as we love the process.  But by the end of it you have no idea if you’ve succeeded or not.  You just try your best.

How hard was it to make this music different when everyone already knows the music from the Christopher Reeves’ movies and John Williams’ score?

It really comes from the filmmakers having a very different take on how we can tell the story.  I remember when we were doing Gladiator with Ridley Scott and he was speaking about when he first saw Spartacus and how it resonated with him and how those movies should sound. And I kept saying to him but that’s my job, that the next bunch of fourteen-year olds should have their own music.

And that’s what Chris [Producer, Christopher Nolan] wanted me to do…to find my own language. If Zack had sat down with John Williams and told him the story the way he told it to me, John would have written a very different score from the one he wrote [for the earlier film], because it’s a very different movie. Ultimately I write from a very personal perspective. I have to find my own personal bits. Being a stranger in a strange land, being a foreigner in a culture that is not necessarily your own culture, and forever being torn between the two cultures, I think is interesting. And so for me as a foreigner I think there’s a chance to hold up a mirror to America and to let it see the things it’s become a little bored with. The things it takes for granted.

What do you mean by ‘the things America takes for granted’?

I remember when we were in the Grand Canyon shooting Thelma and Louise and we were saying, “Wow! It’s the Grand Canyon!” and there were these kids standing there saying, “Dad, Can we go home? It’s just the Grand Canyon.” So as a foreigner that used to look at America with wonderment, I just want to give that back to America. To say, “Look at your towns. Look at your people.  See what’s good and decent and noble.”  I have no idea if I’ve succeeded. At the end of the day it comes down to two questions; were you entertained or did it make you feel something?  That’s all you can hope for. That somewhere in one little corner of this vast movie you got to feel something and you were in this world.

It’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to use the old Superman theme. Because suddenly you would have recognized it and thought, this is the old Superman, and then you would have been aware you were watching a movie. I was terrified of parody in any sense, even unwitting parody. Part of my very simple plan was to exorcise anything out of my orchestra, like the main instruments that I remember John Williams using, like the trumpet fanfare. I didn’t use any of that. By narrowing my palate I felt I was doing something different.

Do you compose electronically, on a piano or on another conventional instrument?

Nothing conventional!  I had two weeks of piano lessons. That’s my formal education. I write the stuff in my head and then I use a computer with a music word processor. After all, I am a child of the twentieth century and whatever works is how I get there.

Have you ever had your music pirated?

Yes, of course my music gets pirated all the time!  The thing that worries me the most, from a film composer’s point of view, is that the more things get pirated, the less value they have. And the flip side of this is there are all kinds of horrible and nasty things you can say about Hollywood. But you should always remember that Hollywood is the last place on earth that commissions orchestral music on a daily, if not hourly, basis. It gives children a reason to have a passion to learn an instrument and actually make a living at it.  So every time one of those very expensive film scores gets pirated what you are doing is directly affecting if we’re going to have, or not have, orchestras left in this world.  If we lose orchestras, it’s going to rob us of more than just a bit of culture. There’s a lot of heart that’s going to go missing.

In Mozart’s time he had to make sure he could get his score published the following day because during the premiere there would be people in the audience scribbling along and pirating it the next day.  Pirating has been going on forever.


Visit Whisk and Quill or Share on Facebook 

Re-posted with permission from Jordan Wright, Managing Director of Whisk and Quill LLC, a food, spirits, travel, and theatre writer.

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D.C. Now Bigger Than Vermont, Less Car-Dependent, No More Represented in Congress

Posted by Aaron Wiener on Dec. 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm


Suck it, Buck!

Washingtonians, rejoice: In our dream world in which the District is a state, it is now only the third-smallest state!

According to new census figures, D.C. gained 13,303 people between July 2011 and July 2012 to reach a population of 632,323, overtaking Vermont, which lost 581 people to drop to 626,011. Wyoming remained dead last at 576,412.

D.C. was also the second-fastest-growing "state" at 2.15 percent growth, trailing only North Dakota (2.17) and leaving third-place Texas (1.67) in the dust. The District had 9,156 births and 8,953 in-migrations in the past year.

The city's growth was accompanied by a continuing decrease in reliance on cars. The percentage of households with no vehicles increased from 36.9 percent to 38.5 percent.

One thing that didn't change: that whole taxation without representation thing. Though D.C.'s at least as entitled to a voting representative and two senators as Wyoming or Vermont, we're stuck with a single non-voting delegate—Joe Lieberman's efforts notwithstanding.

So I'll take this opportunity to call down a curse on puny but better-represented Vermont: May your treasured maple trees henceforth ooze nothing but mumbo sauce!

 

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IBIS music society festival highlights female composers’ work

Matt Mendelsohn/IBIS Chamber Music - The IBIS Chamber Music Society consists of members of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and several other well-known chamber music groups.

By Cecelia Porter, Published: February 27

On Sunday the IBIS Chamber Music Society opened a festival of rarely heard music at Arlington’s Rock Spring Congregational Church titled “Women’s Voices Through the Centuries.” The beautifully played eye-opener was the first of two concerts devoted to works by women composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. IBIS consists of members of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and several other well-known chamber music groups.

Audiences frequently ask me, “Is there any good women’s music?” and, “Where do we go to hear it?” Harpist Susan Robinson said Sunday, “This festival aims to highlight a few of the extensive stores of never-performed women’s compositions languishing on library shelves.”

The afternoon event highlighted some fascinating compositions in a first-class performance aided by the church’s perfect acoustics. Flutist Adria Sternstein Foster and Robinson opened with a finely wrought version of Stella Sung’s “Dance of the White Lotus under the Silver Moon,” a panoply of boldly contrasting colors and textures tinged with swirling Asian microtones. Robinson gave a ravishing solo account of Germaine Tailleferre’s “Sonate pour Harpe,” a mass of flurrying, insistent melodic motifs segueing into Latin rhythms and a breezy finale. Along with pianist Edward Newman, Daniel Foster offered Rebecca Clarke’s impressionistic Viola Sonata from 1919. Foster’s tone in the meditative Adagio was sumptuous, while both players charged through the other movements with gusto and tight ensemble.

The most striking piece was Jennifer Higdon’s Piano Trio (violinist Joseph Scheer, cellist Igor Zubkovsky and Newman), an essay in expressing colors in musical terms. The movement “Pale Yellow” seemed an overly anemic statement of neo-classicalism. But “Fiery Red” stormed furiously in a pounding toccata style. Scheer, Joel Fuller, Adria Foster, Daniel Foster and Zubkovsky closed with Amy Beach’s harmonically mellow “Theme and Variations for Flute and String Quartet,” a sonorous recall of Mendelssohn and other romantics laced with zestfully rendered fugues.

The second concert, titled “Wives, Sisters and Daughters,” will be held March 11 at 4 p.m. at the Rock Spring Congregational Church.

Porter is a freelance writer.

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New York Times

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

 Thinking Inside the Box

 By ERIC ASIMOV

IT’S the epitome of déclassé, the vinous equivalent of trailer trash, the wine snob’s worst nightmare. No, I don’t mean the screw cap. I’m talking about boxed wine.

Despite the almost reflexive elevation of noses at the mention of boxed wines, one significant detail undermines these smug dismissals: the idea of putting wine in a box, or more accurately, in a bag within a box, is brilliant. The packaging solves significant problems that have dogged wine for millennia, whether it was stored in urn, amphora, barrel, stone crock or bottle.

No matter how elegant or handy those containers may be, their fixed volumes permit air to enter when wine is removed. Air attacks and degrades wine, making it imperative to drink up what remains, usually within no more than a few days.

The bag-in-a-box, to use the unlovely industry term, resolves this problem of oxidation by eliminating space for air to occupy. Wine can stay fresh for weeks once it has been opened. But while the packaging may be ingenious, what’s inside has been a problem.

Quite simply, the quality of the boxed wines sold in this country has been uniformly bad. Those in the wine trade have tried to explain this sad fact by citing an entrenched public perception of boxed wines as wretched. What’s the point of putting better wines in boxes, they said, if people won’t buy them?

Even so, the logic of placing wine in a box is so compelling that sooner or later, some producers were going to take a chance that better wines would sell this way. I have had isolated examples in the last few years of just the sort of fresh, lively, juicy wines that thrive in the bag-in-a-box environment. Did this signal that overall quality was turning a corner?

To answer the question, the wine panel recently tasted 20 wines from three-liter boxes. We tasted 12 reds and 8 whites, without regard to price or provenance. The only guideline for our tasting coordinator, Bernard Kirsch, was to seek out producers who were striving for quality. For the tasting, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Colin Alevras, the service manager at the Dutch, and Alexander LaPratt, the sommelier at db Bistro Moderne.

Let me backtrack for a moment. To say that consumers have rejected boxes is not strictly accurate. At the lowest echelon of quality, the realm of domestic burgundies and rhine wines, a great deal of boxed wine is sold. These boxes, largely in five-liter sizes, the equivalent of 6.67 bottles, which might sell for as little as $12, did especially well just after the economic meltdown, said Danny Brager of the Nielsen Company, which tracks sales.

But sales are relatively flat now. The biggest growth in boxed wines, Mr. Brager said, was in the three-liter, higher-priced category: that is, $20 or more. Sales last year were up 19 percent, he said, and this year through June they are up 16 percent.

So let’s get to the crucial question: How were the wines?

Without a doubt, the choices are far superior to what was available five years ago. Among the wines we liked best, we found more than a few that we’d be happy to serve as a house pour, especially among the reds. We liked the boxes brought in by two small importers who specialize in French wines: the Wineberry Boxes from Wineberry America, and From the Tank from Jenny & François Selections, who focus on natural wines.

Jenny Lefcourt of Jenny & François became a fan of boxed wines while living in France for 10 years. “I always thought it was a fantastic way of serving and conserving wine,” she said. “I didn’t see any disadvantages to it, except that people still have a negative image of them in the U.S.”

Since the From the Tank wines, one white and one red, were introduced in 2008, she said, they have taken off nationally. “I’m pretty bowled over by the success of it,” she said. “We were cautious at first, but we just kept selling out.”

Wineberry began with its boxes two years ago, and now sells three reds, two whites and a rosé. The Wineberry boxes are unusual in that they are made of wood rather than cardboard, which gives them heft, solidity and a certain personality the cardboard boxes lack.

“We live in the most sophisticated area in the world,” said Eric Dubourg, the founder of Wineberry, which is based in New York. “People care about what things look like. Still, the quality of the wine is the main point.”

True enough, and Wineberry’s 2010 Côtes-du-Rhône from Domaine le Garrigon was our clear favorite, with its fresh red fruit and mineral flavors. A juicy, pleasurable wine, it would be good for gulping uncritically but offers enough interest to satisfy people who care about what they are consuming.

We also liked the From the Tank red, a 2009 Côtes-du-Rhône from Estézargues, a very good cooperative. This, too, was fresh and lively, though perhaps a little more straightforward than the Garrigon. Still, these were exactly the sort of pleasing wines we were hoping to find, and reasonably priced. Both were under $40 a box, the equivalent of less than $10 a bottle, and excellent values, in fact, compared with most $10 bottles.

The boxed whites on the whole were less attractive. Too many were flat, lacked vivacity and seemed muted aromatically. We liked our top white well enough, the 2010 Torre del Falasco from Cantina Valpantena in the Veneto region of Italy. It was made of the garganega grape, the main grape in Soave, but for one reason or another didn’t qualify to be called Soave. Nonetheless, it was lively, with the nutlike quality that I often find in Soave and a fine value at $27.

Our next white, a 2010 New Zealand sauvignon blanc from Black Box, struck none of us as sauvignon blanc in the blind tasting. This was odd, as sauvignon blanc is generally one of the easier grapes to identify. But this wine, while fresh and tangy, lacked any sauvignon blanc character. We liked it enough to make it our No. 6 wine. We also liked the 2010 Picpoul de Pinet from La Petite Frog in the Languedoc, in southern France, a very pleasant summer drinker.

Even though two more whites made our Top 10, we all thought they could have been better. It occurred to me that while box packaging solves a problem once the wines are opened, it perhaps creates one before they are opened.

 Unopened boxed wines have a shorter shelf life. The box and bag are more porous to air than an unopened bottle, so they must be consumed relatively young. What’s more, because they are so inexpensive, they may not be handled or stored with great care. Heat and vibration can be hard on whites in particular, which is one possible reason the whites didn’t perform as well as the reds.

I said these wines were cheap, but we indeed had one outlier. It was our No. 3, Dominio IV’s Love Lies Bleeding, a 2009 pinot noir from the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. It cost $90, almost twice as much as the next most expensive box on the list, Wineberry’s 2010 Bourgogne Blanc from Baronne du Chatelard, which was $48. What accounts for this disparity?

For one thing, grapes from the Dundee Hills aren’t cheap, and neither is aging the wine in oak barrels, 30 percent new, said Patrick Reuter, the winemaker.

The wine was fresh and deep, very ripe and a bit oaky but clearly identifiable as good pinot noir. Mr. Reuter said the boxes had sold well to restaurants, which poured it by the glass. But consumers, he said, seemed to think that the high price required a more elegant vessel.

“I think I need to think out the packaging,” he said.

At the same time, he said, he has kept a box on the counter in his kitchen for months, and the wine is still good.

“I can’t believe how intact it’s stayed,” he said. “It’s the craziest thing.”

 

Tasting Report

Domaine le Garrigon, $39, ***
Côtes-du-Rhône 2010, 3 liters
Aromas of red fruit and herbs, fresh and lightly tannic, lingering flavors of fruit and minerals. (Wineberry America, New York)

From the Tank Côtes-du-Rhône, $37, ** ½
Estézargues 2009, 3 liters
Fresh, bright and balanced, with tangy flavors of red fruit. (Jenny & François, New York)

Dominio IV Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, $90, ** ½
Love Lies Bleeding 2009, 3 liters
Rich cinnamon-scented fruit with clear pinot noir identity, but a touch too much oak flavor.

Cantina Valpantena Veronese, $27, ** ½
Torre del Falasco I.G.T. Garganega 2010, 3 liters
Lively with mellow flavors of nuts and minerals. (Omniwines, Flushing, N.Y.)

Château Moulin de la Roquille, $39, ** ½
Francs Côtes de Bordeaux 2009, 3 liters
Dark fruit flavors with a pleasant herbal edge and a light rasp of tannins. (Wineberry America)

Black Box New Zealand, $22, ** ½
Sauvignon Blanc 2010, 3 liters
With flavors of peaches and apricots, it doesn't quite taste like sauvignon blanc, but fresh, balanced and pleasing. (Black Box Wines, Madera, Calif.)

La Petite Frog Coteaux du Languedoc, $30, **
Picpoul de Pinet 2010, 3 liters
Dry and refreshing with flavors of nuts, citrus and herbs. (Kysèla Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.)

Baronne du Chatelard, $48, **
Bourgogne Blanc 2010, 3 liters
Low-key and somewhat neutral with simple flavors of apples and herbs. (Wineberry America)

Würtz Rheinhessen Riesling, $27, **
2010, 3 liters
Light citrus, herbal and floral aromas; serve well chilled. (Domaine Select, New York)

Osborne Spain Seven Octavin NV, $20, **
3 liters
Straightforward and fruity red with a suggestion of sweetness. (Underdog Wine Merchants, Ripon, Calif.)

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August 1, 2011, 3:43 pm

Reconsidering Boxed Wine

By ERIC ASIMOV

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

It’s taken a long time, but discerning American wine drinkers are slowly getting used to the idea of drinking wine from a box. No doubt, that is partly because the quality of boxed wines is improving, as the wine panel found.

Another reason is the rising popularity of kegged wines, which more and more restaurants are using to serve wines by the glass. Their acceptance, I think, has caused Americans to reconsider their reflexive distaste for alternative wine packaging.

The bag-in-a-box technology is uniquely suited to preserve wine once a package is opened. How does it work? A plastic bag, as big as five liters, is filled with wine. The bag is then placed within a cardboard box, which serves as a sort of exoskeleton protecting the bag. A plastic tap allows access to the wine within, through a hole in the box. As wine is poured through the tap, the process acts as a vacuum, sucking air out of the bag, which shrinks to encase the remaining wine. With no headroom for air to fill, the wine is well protected. Once opened, the wine lasts for weeks, rather than for a few days in a bottle.

The boxes have practical applications. They’re perfect for picnics or the pool or beach, providing that wine at the beach is legal. And, if your refrigerator can accommodate a box, you have wine available at a whim. If you just want a glass, or need a splash to deglaze a pan, you don’t have to open a bottle and worry about wasting the rest of it. They can be fun, too. I admit I get a kind of childish pleasure working the spigot, knowing I have if not an unlimited supply of wine, at least a lot of it available.

If the bag-in-a-box guards against air so well, why not put all wines in such containers? Simple. While the packaging prevents large amounts of air from attacking the wine, it is still relatively porous. Even when closed, air slowly penetrates the box and bag, at a much swifter pace than through a bottle and cork. For that reason, boxes are not appropriate for aging wines. It is also the reason that some boxes will have both a vintage date and an expiration date.

While the wine panel restricted its tasting to three-liter bag-in-a-box wines, another, very different category has caught on with consumers: Tetra Pak wines. These boxes, made of foil-lined paper like those used for juices and milk, are light and easy to carry but offer no protection against air once opened. A subject for future investigation.

DCSIMG____________________________________________________________________________


Another downtown change:  Artifactory, outlet for exotic, closing



      photo by John Kelly/ The Washington Post      
When Dominick Cardella established the Artifactory on Indiana Avenue, the neighborhood was blighted and nearly deserted. Forty years later, it’s a very different place—and it soon will have no Artifactory.  
 
By John Kelly, The Washington Post

Ignore the aroma of Starbucks wafting in from next door, ignore the shirt-sleeved cubicle drones ambling down the street in search of an early lunch, banish the general hubbub of Penn Quarter on a sunny spring day, and imagine what this corner — Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue NW, a block off Pennsylvania — was like 40 years ago.

“Blight,” says Dominick Cardella, who has lived at 641 Indiana Ave. NW since 1972. 
Back then, he says, “there was a neighborhood of one: me.”
His closest neighbors were people drawn to the nearby Central Union Mission, where a sign on the roof beckoned, “Come Unto Me.”

But what a location! “The Smithsonian museums in my front yard, the American Art Museum in my back yard,” Dominick says. “And I’m facing the most historic street in the nation.”

Before he bought the three-story, 19th-century building, he rented it — for $400 a month. “The entire building!” he laughs. “That just goes to show you how blighted this entire area was.”

Dominick grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Italian immigrants. He became an engineer specializing in water treatment plants. In 1971, he was in D.C. hoping to get a job with the Environmental Protection Agency when he realized his heart wasn’t really in it. There is nothing exotic about a water treatment plant.

And the exotic is what the kid from Brooklyn had always been drawn to: movies set in the rain forest, books about the jungle, artwork primitive and powerful.

A used furniture dealer he’d met named Warren Malkin said he’d rent Dominick the building. Built in 1817, it’s part of the oldest block of commercial buildings still standing from Pierre L’Enfant’s original design for the District. Dominick created a cold-water flat for himself on the top floor, then drove to New York City in his Chevy van and spent all the money he had — $4,500 — filling it with Third World artifacts. He opened the Artifactory, a gallery specializing in the exotic, mainly art from Africa.

The Artifactory looks now as it must have looked then. The wooden floor is rough and unfinished, seeming to settle in places under the weight of display cabinets. Dust motes fall through the slanting sunlight that pours in from the front windows. Everywhere is a profusion of stuff: masks, statues, trinkets, baubles . . . .

There’s a Berber wedding necklace made from disks of amber, house posts from Cameroon, a massive bronze statue depicting a Tikar king’s wife, dolls from the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Some items are purely decorative, carved by the thousands to satisfy the tourist market. But some are authentic, once used in rituals and imbued, their creators believed, with a special energy.

“It’s all about the spirit world,” Dominick explains.

I ask whether anything he brought back on one of his yearly buying trips abroad ever gave him a bad vibe.

“Yes, I remember coming across something that for me was so powerful, I didn’t even want to take it out of its plastic sack,” he says. It was a wooden figure from the Republic of the Congo. Dominick sold it. Let its new owner deal with the juju.

After 40 years, Dominick is closing the Artifactory. “It’s just time,” he says. He’s holding on to the building — “I saved it from being torn down,” he says — but by autumn, the African art will be gone, and the first floor will be rented to a Middle Eastern restaurant.

Dominick says he misses the old neighborhood, bums and all. “I liked it, because we didn’t have the Starbucks. We didn’t have the Potbelly. We didn’t have the Au Bon Pain, the Cosi. Remember d.c. space?” he asks, mentioning a long-gone eclectic bar/performance spot a block up Seventh Street. “No way they could get a d.c. space now.”

A woman comes in. She collects cloisonne ginger jars. Dominick says he doesn’t have any, then remembers he has a small cloisonne snuff bottle and pulls it from a case. It isn’t what she’s looking for, but the tiny totem is an excuse to start talking about far-flung parts of the globe. Soon we’re in Marrakesh, then on a tiny tropical island off the coast of Colombia, then off to Morocco, then Peru . . . .

Workaday Washington seems very far away.

#  #  #

_____________________________________________________________________________________

     ARTIFACTORY

 

Since 1972, the Artifactory has been selling fine African and Asian art at affordable prices.   Come and browse through a vast 40 year collection of masks and statuary, jewelry and beads, carpets and textiles, antique Moroccan doors, trunks and lanterns, baskets, and creative gift items.

 

CLOSING SALE

50%   OFF EVERYTHING

 

located in the heart of the Penn Quarter at 7th & Penn. Ave.

641 Indiana Ave., N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20004

metro stations: Nat’l. Archives/Navy Mem. (yellow or green lines)

or   MCI Center  (red line)

tele:  202 393-2727

email:  artifactorydc@msn.com

hours:  Mon. – Sat.  (10-6)

Sunday (2-5)

______________________________________________________________

 

 

Turning Chocolate on Its Head

Visit Bruges for Dominique Persoone's twist on the treat—with a hint of tobacco, wasabi or onions 

By PAUL AMES

When a supplier to the Rolling Stones invites you to try the contraption he invented to facilitate the inhaling of powdered stimulants up both nostrils, it's perhaps wise to hesitate.

[shockolate1] 
photo of Dominique Persoone  by Kris Vlegels

Thankfully, this is Belgium and Dominique Persoone's drug of choice is chocolate. In this case, he's pushing a finely ground dust of pure Dominican Republic cocoa cut with ginger and mint which his "chocolate shooter" catapults nose-ward to fill the brain with an explosion of phantom flavors.

Mr. Persoone is Belgium's most audacious chocolate maker, a self-styled "Shock-o-latier" who has shaken up the kingdom's delicious but tradition-bound world of pralines, cream-filled manons and cognac truffles, by stuffing bite-sized parcels of the finest chocolate with the likes of tobacco leaves, wasabi or fried onions.

"When you think about chocolate 20 years ago, it was a typical product for grandma's birthday. She already has everything, so what do you buy? A big box of chocolate," Mr. Persoone reflects. "I don't say those chocolates are bad, but the thing I'm very proud of is that I make some new creations, like the Coca-Cola one. My son is 11 years old and he loves it. It's a chocolate ganache with the flavor of cola. That's the first layer and the second layer is an almond praliné with sugar explosives so it's like when you drink Coca-Cola, you have the flavor and you have the fizz."

Mr. Persoone was born in Bruges in 1968. The medieval city on the damp polders of Flanders prides itself on its chocolate. It currently boasts more than 50 chocolatiers and its chocolate museum, which opened seven years ago, now draws more visitors that the city's renowned collections of Flemish art. Located in a 15th-century wine merchant's house, the Choco Story museum (www.choco-story.be) traces the history of chocolate from its origins as the sacred drink of the Mayas and Aztecs to Belgium's emergence as a cocoa-superpower after the Neuhaus family—Swiss immigrants in Brussels—confected the first chocolate-filled bonbons in the first years of the 20th century.

Piet de Kersgieter
Chocolate paint sold at his shop, the Chocolate Line, in Bruges


Mr. Persoone, however, wasn't immediately smitten by choco-mania. Instead, he headed off to Paris to train as a chef and it was researching techniques for making the perfect pain-au-chocolat in a Parisian bakery that rekindled his interest in all things cocoa.

He returned to Bruges in 1992 and opened his shop, the Chocolate Line, in the leafy Simon Stevinplein square between the cathedral and the 13th-century bell tower.

Mr. Persoone dreamed up the chocolate shooter when the wives of Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts asked him to help prepare a surprise birthday party for their Rolling Stone husbands.

Piet de Kersgieter
 'Creole' pralines made with bitter ganache of espresso coffee


"They asked us to put some jokes into the menu, so one of the things we did was make a dessert with different structures of raspberry. Instead of putting chocolate on the dish, because they were the rock 'n' roll grandpas, we thought they should sniff the chocolate and to get a good result we designed a machine for that," he says. "We just made one for that party, but then everybody talked about it in the newspapers, so then we had to make it commercial because everybody was asking for it."

It would be easy to dismiss Mr. Persoone's creations as gimmicks that successfully lure a stream of tourists into his cosy little shop in the heart of historic Bruges. But behind his image as the world's wackiest chocolate maker since Willy Wonka, Mr. Persoone takes his chocolate very seriously. He collaborates with scientists to uncover new flavor combinations and uses only top quality natural ingredients, matching chocolate varieties sourced from around Latin America to complement his strange fillings.

Milk chocolate filled with bacon sounds scary. But Mr. Persoone subtly blends textures and flavors so the hints of salty, crispy fat complement the creamy chocolate. It's a similar story with his "Bollywood," which combines white chocolate with saffron and curry.

Piet de Kersgieter
Dominique Persoone's second shop has opened in nearby Antwerp on the Paleis op de Meir 

"Cauliflower really matches with the bitter chocolate of Ecuador; it took time to find that balance, but foodies love it. Or look at this green one," he says, picking up a shiny, bitter-chocolate emerald. "It's made from passion fruit, green lemons and vodka. I only use real products, juice from passion fruit, skin of lime, a little bit of vodka. It's so fresh, it's so fruity."

That dedication to quality has earned Mr. Persoone the respect of some of the world's superstar chefs. He is on first name terms with Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal. René Redzepi of Copenhagen's Noma sent his pastry chef to pick up tips in the Bruges chocolate factory and Sergio Herman of the three-star Oud Sluis in the Netherlands treats female guests with a complementary sample of one of the chocolatier's signature creations: a bar of caramel ganache filled with Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar and pine nuts.

"In the beginning, I was making classic chocolates, which I still make and still like very much, like pralinés, whipped cream, marzipans, all that stuff. But then I started using a little bit of my chef's influence on the chocolate. We made chocolate with cauliflower and chocolate with peas, chocolate with smoked salmon. In the beginning, everybody thought I was crazy...but little by little I got more respect from people who are into food. Then suddenly, I was one of the three chocolate makers who are in the Michelin Guide."

Says Mr. Herman: "Dominique comes up with ideas and flavor combinations that have never been done before. He is breaking all boundaries."

He got a tattoo on his right bicep proclaiming "chocolate is rock 'n' roll." Last year, Mr. Persoone opened a second store in Antwerp, taking over part of a former royal palace that once played host to Napoleon. In honor of the emperor, he makes a chocolate in the shape of his bicorne hat, filled with marzipan, cherry liquor and bitter banana cream.

As well as stretching the outer limits of the chocolate-maker's art, Mr. Persoone also embarked on a personal quest to discover the origins of the product which has become his passion. In 2008, he set out on a tour of Mexico in search of the original wild criollo cocoa beans that the Maya used to make their spiced drinks centuries before the arrival of Cortez.

Piet de Kersgieter 
Pralines are being prepared in the factory  

His expedition led him to write "Cacao," a book that's part travelogue, part history of chocolate, part recipe guide. Published in four languages by Editions Francoise Blouard in Brussels, it was selected as 2009 chocolate book of the year in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris. Mexico also inspired Mr. Persoone's popular "choc-tail," a thimble of lime-infused dark chocolate with a Maldon salt-encrusted rim that's served with a pipette of tequila.

The book's success has spawned a twice weekly show starring Mr. Persoone on Flemish television and a second trip to Latin America focused on Brazil, Panama and Costa Rica.

"In Europe, we learn there are three varieties of cocoa—criollo, forastero, trinitario—but I met a professor in São Paulo who told me that in the Amazon they've found already 24,000 different cocoa varieties," he says, emerging from a back room with a box of hand-grenade-sized pods from a plant closely related to cocoa harvested on his journey and a tray of his latest chocolate creation.

The Chocolate Line
Classic Easter eggs


"For me this is the most exiting: theobroma grandiflorum. In Brazil they call it cupuaçu. I was so exited about it, I bought a ton of them. We were able to ferment, to dry, to roast it and we made a kind of chocolate with it. We can't call it officially chocolate, we had to find a new name for it: cupolade. It is very new, I just served it two days ago and it is the first time we use it like this in Europe. Inside I made a filling with the pulp...taste it, in the beginning it's quite caramel and then you have like wild mushroom and then acidity of the bananas, all the acidity of the fruit. I really love it. And it is just the natural pulp."

Not all Mr. Persoone's experiments are so successful. He recalls how his scientist collaborator once explained that chocolate contains the same hormone released by the brain during an orgasm. "My idea was to make small Valentine hearts with an overdose of this love hormone. I thought it was a funny idea."

After several weeks of experimentation the results were promising. "Together with the scientist, we tasted it and the result was amazing. You can't walk any more you are just smiling you really get ... wow!" This particular delight was destined however never to reach the lovers of Bruges. "I thought I ought to call the food and drug administration. They said: "Dominique please, your sniffer, it's OK, but this is too much. It's dangerous." It seems it's the same hormone they use in medicine for people who are depressed."

He does have a few other products that explore chocolate's erotic potential: a dark chocolate lipstick designed originally for enlivening consumption of vanilla ice-cream, but also good for sweet kisses; and an edible chocolate paint developed for the American artist Spencer Tunick, who dribbled it over scores of naked women squeezed into a Bruges alley for one of his trademark mass nudity tableaux.

What is the "Shock-o-latier" planning for Easter? Chicken-filled eggs, Easter bunnies with real bunny?

"No, nothing like that. I'm very open minded and I really like to have fun, fun, fun and do crazy things, but Easter and St. Nicholas, those things are such a wonderful tradition. That's why I make very classic eggs and rabbits. Those important moments in the year for children, I think we chocolate makers have to show respect for that and it would be stupid to change."

April 15, 2011

The Wall Street Journal

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The lies, lies, lies of food and wine pairings

By Jason Wilson


(Evy Mages - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

The first rule about food and wine pairings? There are no rules.  Is food and drink pairing advice a scam?

Wine advice from sommeliers, food writers, cookbook authors and wine educators almost always centers around pairing drinks with food. At times it seems as if all of civilization boils down to a single question: What do I drink with dinner? We are, in fact, drowning in tips on this matter. There are, at present, no less than 159 books available on Amazon to help solve this First World dilemma.

Yet, amidst all the hand-wringing, we may be learning that much of this advice is useless or irrelevant. In a recent industry study, reported last week in the Napa Valley Register, more than 60 percent of wine consumed by “high-frequency wine drinkers” is consumed without a meal. Understand that we’re talking about real wine drinkers, too, not just the person who pops open a liter of [yellow tail] once a year at a holiday party.

“High-frequency wine drinkers” — according to Wine Opinions, the market research firm that conducted the study — refers to the 29 million wine drinkers who consume the beverage daily, or at least several times per week. These drinkers drive more than 80 percent of the wine market, and almost all of the wine over $15 per bottle.

So if a majority of the bottles bought by the nation’s prime wine drinkers never sees a dinner table, how can we explain this obsession with pairing rules and etiquette?

Alder Yarrow, an influential wine blogger at Vinography.com, commented at length on the study and on what he calls American wine drinkers’s “insatiable demand for tips, tricks, rules, examples, guidance, glossaries and formulas.”

If the recent study is true, writes Yarrow:

...then our food and wine pairing obsession is as unhealthy, not to mention fruitless, as I have suspected. I’m sure that plenty of people regularly, even constantly explore and enjoy the exercise of matching food with wine, but for every glass carefully chosen to go with a specific dish, there appear to eight more consumed in the same way most people drink a scotch.
I can only barely imagine what might happen if wine writing and the attentions of wine lovers actually matched their real behavior. Would a large portion of the critical establishment stop excoriating all wines that are greater than 14.5 percent alcohol as having no place at the dinner table? Would wine drinkers feel free to not only drink whatever they like, but to explore and experiment in their wine choices without fear of doing something wrong? Would more people actually drink wine because they knew it didn’t always HAVE to go with food?

This isn’t the first time Yarrow has called food and wine pairings baloney. Three years ago, in a post titled “Food and Wine Pairing is Just a Big Scam,” he ranted that food media, along with sommeliers and chefs at fancy restaurants:

further reinforce a universal belief in three fundamental falsehoods when it comes to pairing food and wine:
Lie #1: For any given food/dish there is a “perfect,” “ideal” or “correct” wine pairing.
Lie #2: There are a ton of mistakes and pitfalls out there — lots of wines just “don’t go” with certain foods and vice versa.
Lie #3: Because of #1 and #2, food and wine pairing is an art that is hard to learn, requires deep knowledge and generally is best left to experts.
And these lies, dear reader, are tacitly supported by the wine establishment around the world, quite possibly because there’s a lot more money to be made if everyone acts as if they are true.

For Yarrow, food and wine pairings are a lie because “the single most important variable in the success of wine and food pairing lies completely out of the control of every sommelier and chef in the world. And that variable is me, you and every single person that sits down to a mouthful of food and a swig of wine.”

Gentle readers, what do you think?



Wilson is the author of “Boozehound.” He can be reached at jason@jasonwilson.com. Follow him at twitter.com/boozecolumnist.

By Jason Wilson  |  08:00 AM ET, 04/01/2011

© 2010 The Washington Post Company   About the Blog

    All We Can Eat is a meeting place for the food-obsessed, a traffic signal at the ever-crowded intersection of politics, culture, aesthetics, desire and the dinner plate.

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Pairing Wine and Chocolate

In time for Valentine's Day

By Gregory Dal Piaz  for www.snooth.com

Published on February 10, 2011

Wine and chocolate is a mysterious pairing that seems to have starkly different results for different palates. Which, of course, is fine since the only match that is good is the one that works for you. But it does make offering pairing recommendations a bit more difficult than it ought to be!

There is one standby that works wonders with most chocolate: the sweet red wine Banyuls from Southern France. Based on the Grenache grape, Banyuls seems to have the elusive balance of fruit, sugar, acidity and tannin that makes it chocolate’s perfect partner. Similar to Banyuls is Port -- in particular, the fruity style of port referred to as Ruby Port, which accounts for most of the branded port wines that the Port houses offer at very agreeable pricing.

So, what is it about chocolate that makes it so hard to pair?

Well, for starters there’s all that sugar and sugar generally requires sugar to achieve a balanced food and wine pairing. In addition, sugar can highlight the acid of a particularly high-acid wine, while at the same time it can make a low-acid wine seem remarkably dull and flat.

Another problem that we encounter with pairing wine and chocolate is that the texture of the chocolate can have a profound effect on how the wine works with each style. In most people’s minds there is some sort of continuum that stretches from white chocolate (not chocolate), to milk chocolate, medium bittersweet, and right through the almost bitter high cocoa examples.

The truth is when you break down the chocolate taste profile you end up with something that looks more like a bowtie than a straight line. On one end are the super-rich, creamy and sweet examples, such as your typical milk chocolate. On the other end are the bittersweet chocolates with high cocoa content. Both of these extremes represent the most intense versions of chocolate. On one end for its richness and sweetness, and on the other end for its intensity and bitterness.

In between, one finds chocolates that tend to be less rich and less sweet. One of the keys to pairing food and wines is trying to align the intensities of both. In this case we have both texture and the balance of sweet and bitter to deal with, so you can see how this might end up being a difficult pairing to work with. That’s why going with Banyuls or a similar wine is such an easy fall back.

Banyuls is well suited to chocolate because of its fruity character, obvious but balanced sweetness, slight tannic edge and overall rich mouthfeel -- four elements that have to be taken into account to make the match work. If you’re not into Banyuls, other wines can work with chocolates, but each type of chocolate might require a more specific recommendation.


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CAG Arts 2011 show lights up Georgetown Park

January 28, 2011 | by G'town Gravyboat

Photos & article by The Georgetown Dish
CAG leaders Betsy Cooley, President Jennifer Altemus and Barbara Downs host a CAG art opening
CAG leaders Betsy Cooley, President Jennifer Altemus and Barbara Downs host a CAG art opening

CAG Arts 2011 packed a gallery space in Georgetown Park to showcase Georgetown's visual arts talent. "We did this to showcase the hidden treasures of our creative neighbors," said CAG President Jennifer Altemus. The committee chair of the event was Michele Banks, whose daughter Isabella Page sold the first work, a photograph, at the show. Nearly 30 artists were featured, including Barbara Downs and former Washington Examiner columnist Karen Feld, a sculptor, accompanied by muse Campari, a beloved purse-sized poodle. The show runs Friday, Jan. 28 through Tuesday Feb. 1 in The Shops at Georgetown Park, Level 2.

Bill Shew and Leslie Maysak (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish)
Bill Shew and Leslie Maysak


Donna Christenson and Elizabeth Maloy of CAG (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) 
DCdigest's Donna Christenson and Elizabeth Maloy of CAG


Author and sculptor Karen Feld surrounded by her work and her beloved Campari (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) 
Author and sculptor Karen Feld surrounded by her work and her beloved Campari


Beth Solomon, Jennifer Altemus and Lesley Lee, all wearing Three Sisters designs, Lee's label (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) 
Georgetown Dish publisher Beth Solomon with Jennifer Altemus and Lesley Lee, all wearing Three Sisters designs, Lee's label.


http://www.thegeorgetowndish.com/thedish/cag-arts-2011-show-lights-georgetown-park#

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IMPORTANT:  Symptoms of a Stroke

A neurologist says if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can reverse the effects of a stroke ...totally. The trick is getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and medically cared for within 3 hours.

The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the 3 symptoms of a stroke -- STR.

You can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

S *Ask the individual to SMILE.


T *Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (i.e. It is sunny out today.)

R *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

New Sign of a Stroke -------- Stick out Your Tongue. If the tongue is 'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other that is also an indication of a stroke.


If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call emergency number immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

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Bush, Obama, and the 'socialist' label

By Colbert I. King
The Washington Post
Saturday, November 27, 2010; 

Exactly two years ago today, an Associated Press headline read: "World economy shaky despite massive bank rescues." The story was about the U.S. government's decision to rescue banking giant Citigroup.

Economic conditions at home and abroad were the worst since the Great Depression. The outlook was so dire that the U.S. Treasury secretary pressured high-profile giant American banks to sell shares to the federal government as part of a financial rescue package - a Washington action until then unimaginable.

Yet the vilification of President Obama as a socialist began before he had fully unpacked at the White House. It has been relentless ever since, even though the charge misrepresents the truth.

Said Rush Limbaugh on Fox's "Sean Hannity" program on Jan. 22, 2009, just two days after Obama took the oath of office: "So I shamelessly say, no, I want him to fail. . . . Why would I want socialism to succeed?

Six months later, Sarah Palin weighed in on "Hannity": "Our country could evolve into something we do not even recognize. . ." Hannity interrupted her: "Socialism?" Palin: "Well, that's where we are headed."

Listening to those rantings, one might think Obama's entry into the White House was the dawn of the attack on American free enterprise.

Alas, some memories seem to fade with time - or succumb to political opportunism and the urge to lie.

History tells another story.

The architects of that breathtaking marketplace intrusion in 2008 were President George W. Bush and his Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson. And the Republican administration didn't stop there.

Watching the continuing economic meltdown, Bush launched another leap into the free market. In the name of protecting jobs and essential industries, Bush orchestrated a bailout of the auto industry. By the time Bush handed over the reins to Obama in January 2009, Washington had massively intervened in the U.S. economy.

The TARP that Tea Party members fulminate about? That's the Troubled Assets Relief Program, a multibillion-dollar Bush baby, used by the feds to purchase stock in banks and to acquire assets from sick financial institutions. TARP funds were also used to support the car industry. In fact, Bush issued an executive order that allowed the Treasury secretary to spend TARP funds on anything he deemed necessary to avert a financial crisis.

And Bush and Paulson weren't the only champions of bailing out Wall Street and Detroit.

Vice President Dick Cheney, that fierce protector of free enterprise, also lobbied for federal support for the automobile industry. In a December 2008 statement to Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday," Cheney accused Congress of failing to help a dying U.S. auto industry, charging that Bush had no choice but to step in with $17.4 billion in rescue loans to automakers.

Did anybody denounce Cheney as a socialist?

The "Let's sink Obama" crowd will tell you that it wasn't only the bailouts that got their jaws out of joint. They point with disdain to Obama's 2009 stimulus package, which they say only boosted the deficit, bringing nothing in return.

Another descent into amnesia, refusal to face the truth or an intentional misrepresentation of history.

Stimulus package? Let's go back to the beginning of 2008, the final year of the Bush-Cheney reign. Lest we forget, the $168 billion economic stimulus package that Congress passed in 2008 was sponsored by Bush. That stimulus was aimed at boosting the economy and staving off a recession. The Obama bashers are silent about what really happened.

The Bush stimulus wasn't balanced by a cut in spending. Along with his two wars, the Bush stimulus package contributed to a $500 billion deficit. Moreover, Bush's spending helped leave the country $10 trillion in debt by the time he blew town for Texas.

True, Obama followed Bush with a larger and more job-sustaining stimulus and spending packages of his own. And Obama signed into law a health-reform bill that will dramatically alter health-care financing and extend health insurance to 30 million uninsured Americans. It's amazing, however, how the right-wing collectives fail to apply the socialist label to conservatives Bush and Cheney, the two Republican leaders most responsible for leading the country in the direction of socialism, where Palin said "we are headed."

Of course, Palin et al are wrong on history and substance. Averting the collapse of the financial and auto industries - and the U.S. economy - served the country's best interests. The federal presence in both industries is now being ratcheted down. Bush and Obama were right to act as they did.

It's the singling out and demagoguing of Obama that's wrong and disgusting.

kingc@washpost.com

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                                             Photo: Donna Christenson

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Midterm Elections in 7 Minutes [VIDEO]   10/24/10

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGwgTqz5uBU&feature=player_embedded

Can’t keep up with every single race …and every single scandal … in the 2010 midterm elections?  
Newsweek offers a helpful and humorous video recap!
 

 

 

World's Largest Artisanal Marketplace Helps Reconnect Food And Place   10/22/10

http://www.care2.com/causes/real-food/blog/worlds-largest-artisanal-food-marketplace/

posted by: Beth Buczynski

On Wednesday, October 20th, the world's largest artisanal food marketplace opened its doors for the eighth time in Torino, Italy conjunction with Slow Food International's annual conference, Terra Madre.

Called Salone del Gusto, the market allows conference attendees to explore important relationships between food, place, and culture, and offers a rare opportunity for peasants and artisan producers, academics and chefs, wine connoisseurs and novice food lovers to come together in a spirit of exchange and friendship.

Terra Madre allows sustainable food producers, farmers, cooks, educators and activists from over 150 countries to connect and share their stories and traditions, as well as their innovative solutions for keeping small-scale agriculture and sustainable food production alive and well.

This year, Salone del Gusto exhibitors were not divided into theme lanes, but organized according to the origin and production of their foods so that attendees could regonize and celebrate regional differences.

One of the most exciting Salone exhibits is the active Vegetable Gardens. Visitors will get to explores living, local, seasonal plant varieties and aromatic herbs.

Highlights of the gardening exhibit include:

  • a demonstrative seedbed, the symbol of the immense variety of seeds and richness of biodiversity;
  • compost, a useful element for recycling and avoiding waste;
  • a vertical garden, an example of the million possible ways to create a balcony garden in any home.

If you're interested in learning more about Slow Food International, or one of their 1,300 local chapters, check out www.slowfood.com.

Like this story? Connect with Beth on Twitter or StumbleUpon!

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This week on Ted.com
- The brain in your gut

TED

October 20, 2010

This week, learn the secret behind butterflies in your stomach, and hear two powerful personal stories.

Watch Video

Food scientist Heribert Watzke tells us about the "hidden brain" in our gut -- and the surprising things it makes us feel and do. Watch now >>

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Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva.org, shares a personal story about money, microloans -- and love. Watch now >>

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Fort Worth, Texas, councilman Joel Burns reaches out to the targets of teen bullying with a vital message: It gets better. 
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On the web, a "Friend" may be a click away, but true connection is harder to find. Ze Frank presents a medley of Internet toys that reward real sharing. Watch now >>

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Natalie Jeremijenko's unusual lab puts art to work, addressing environmental woes by combining engineering know-how with endearing public art. Watch now >>


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Join the Conversation

Bank   Light

Bank Light on
Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money -- and love

 

“

Thank You TED for putting this talk without cutting anything out. Thank U, Jackley for the radiated hope. We are deeply, tearfully touched. Yes, the poor don't need our sympathy and 'fish', they just need to know 'how to fish'.

With all my heart, I believe that it's God's dream that we can meet this challenge. "One day, 'beggar' and 'poverty' can only be found on Wikipedia.""

Roar Holte

Roar Holte on
Eben Bayer: Are mushrooms the new plastic?

 

“

I think the best way to start a project like this, would be to first do a research on an agricultural level.
- Find out what kind of mushrooms thrive in the local environment.

And then:
- Find out expenses for the local labor, and if you need to set up greenhouses for growth
- And the expenses for generating the castings

After that it should run by itself more or less.
Generating good trade agreement through the local government, and businesses that use/are in need of this product, would be quite straight forward :)

And last but not least, expanding growth after demand."


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The New York Times



The Chemistry of a 90+ Wine

By DAVID DARLINGTON

One day last September while Leo McCloskey was driving to the Chappellet winery in Napa Valley, he telephoned a client in the neighboring valley of Sonoma. ''I'm looking at your metrics,'' McCloskey said. ''They're pretty beefy. If you have that at midferm, you're already there. You need 50 percent as a 4; I think drain-down-sweet is the name of the game this year. Let's do what they do at Lafite -- come out shy of tannin, and we'll add tannin. I want to encourage you to move more aggressively than you normally would.''

He listened for a few seconds. ''You're golden,'' McCloskey said. ''Beautiful -- you got a statue in the quad. Hey, I gotta fly.'' He ended the call and turned to me. ''If you're in Sonoma, you have to rearrange Mother Nature to match the beauty of Napa and Bordeaux,'' he said. ''Napa cabernet is the only New World wine ruler that's being used internationally. Sonoma is an also-ran.''

McCloskey steered onto the Silverado Trail, entering into Stags Leap, the area that produced the cabernet sauvignon that won a famous Paris tasting in 1976, heralding the international arrival of California wine. ''They picked too early,'' McCloskey said, gazing at acres of grapeless vines on both sides of the road. ''We have a weekly online bulletin that tells people when to pick. On Sept. 13 we said not to, and people who picked anyway drained down at 87.1.''

McCloskey could say this because his company, Enologix, takes grape samples from clients and extracts the juice to measure some of its chemical compounds. Then, using software developed by McCloskey, Enologix compares the chemistry of the projected wines with that of a benchmark example. The outcome is a score on a 100-point scale, analogous -- not coincidentally -- to those employed by critics like Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate and James Laube of Wine Spectator. McCloskey boasted that his ''thinking is in tune with Parker, Laube and Helen Turley'' -- the latter a California winemaker notorious for favoring big, fruity, intense wines.

Not everyone shares this taste, however. Many oenophiles argue that -- owing especially to the influence of Parker, who has been called the planet's most powerful critic of any kind, in any field -- wines all over the world have become more and more homogenous. The jammy, oaky international style is largely free of the tannins that mellow and lend flavor as a wine ages but can make it taste bitter or astringent when young. Yet these wines often lack a sense of terroir, or regional distinctiveness, celebrated by so many wine aficionados. Parker's most lamented impact is his popularization of the 100-point scale that is now employed by most wine magazines. The so-called Score has been described as America's main contribution to the wine business: a democratic, no-nonsense way of jettisoning the elitist jargon that veils quality from the consumer. It is also maligned for turning wine buyers into mindless puppets and vintners into sycophants seeking the favor of King Parker and King Laube.

But Leo McCloskey is unfazed. ''The wine world is so big today that without ratings it would be chaos,'' he says. ''The consumer doesn't need to know about terroir. He just wants to know whether a wine is worth $28 or whatever he's paying for it.''

In the 15 years since McCloskey went into business for himself as a wine consultant, the number of California wineries has increased from 800 to 1,700, roughly speaking. The market share of foreign-made wines in the United States has doubled over the same period. With so many wineries now under the bottom-line control of corporations -- Constellation, Bronco, Beringer Blass, Brown-Forman, Kendall-Jackson, Diageo, the Wine Group and the longtime kingpin, E. & J. Gallo -- it is easy to see the appeal of Enologix, with its promise of ''metrics that assist winemakers in . . . boosting average national critics' scores.'' But McCloskey doesn't stop there. He insists that high-scoring wines can, through chemical analysis, be scientifically proved to be the best wines on the market. In other words, there is accounting for taste.

 

The low-slung Enologix offices are situated in a mini-business-park in the town of Sonoma. When I visited McCloskey there, he said that he has a database containing records of 70,000 wines, including information about soil, climate, prices, winemaking techniques, grape-growing practices and critical scores. While traditional wine science focuses mainly on primary chemicals -- things like sugar, alcohol and acidity, which determine whether a wine meets basic standards of acceptability -- McCloskey looks at secondary chemicals (like terpenes, phenols and anthocyanins), which, in affecting more nuanced characteristics like texture, aroma, taste and color, are more closely associated with quality.

To analyze an individual wine, Enologix runs a sample through a liquid chromatograph (and for white wine, a mass spectrometer) to separate and measure chemical compounds. McCloskey says he has identified about 100 that can affect a person's response; to compute a wine's ''quality index,'' the ratios -- not just the amounts -- of these compounds to one another are compared with those of bottled wines previously judged and scored by groups of vintners, growers, owners and critics. McCloskey publishes his findings in his magazine, Global Vintage Quarterly, alongside a separate National Critics' Score, which represents an average rating compiled from five publications: Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine.

Enologix divides wine into four categories. For reds, Style 1 is pale in color and low in tannin, like most pinot noir or French Burgundy; Style 2 is also pale, but higher in tannin, like Italian Barolo; Style 3 is dark and tannic, like a great many cabernet sauvignons and first-growth Bordeaux; Style 4 is similarly dark but only moderately tannic. This last category, McCloskey told me, represents ''the vast majority of successful, flagship mainstream wines, the most elegant and popular wines in the world.''

Fermentation, the foundation of winemaking, occurs when yeast converts grape sugar into alcohol. Harvesting fruit late yields more intense flavor, though higher sugars result in higher alcohol levels; ''draining down sweet'' -- separating the juice in a fermentation tank from its crushed grape skins before all the sugar has been transformed -- means that less harsh-tasting tannin will find its way into the wine, with the side effect that it may age less well. According to McCloskey, these techniques (guided by Enologix chemistry and his winemaking expertise) can yield the Style 4 qualities -- rich, concentrated flavor and a soft, velvety sensation in the mouth -- that contemporary critics value most.

McCloskey claims that by using his system and the 100-point scale, winemakers can predict their own average critical scores within two and a half points with 95 percent accuracy (one and a half points with 80 percent accuracy). He says that the typical winery signing up with Enologix realizes a five-point rise over its previous years' average scores for red wines -- six for white. McCloskey's emphasis is on the luxury cabernet market in which wineries can afford Enologix's average annual service fee of $20,000. The company's revenues (which vary between $1 million and $1.4 million) flow from such prestigious names as Beaulieu, Benziger, Diamond Creek, Merry Edwards, Niebaum-Coppola, Ridge, St. Francis and Sebastiani. According to McCloskey, 39 Enologix wines scored 90 points or higher in a recent issue of The Wine Advocate.

 

The Chappellet winery is hidden in a grove of oaks backed by open slopes of grapevines, high among the rugged hills on Napa Valley's eastern edge. Founded in 1968 by Donn and Molly Chappellet, the company won early acclaim for its cabernet sauvignon, but as consumer tastes shifted toward softer textures and juicier fruit, it acquired the aura of a has-been. To turn things around, the owners hired a young winemaker, Phillip Titus, in 1990. He began working with Enologix in 1996, and in 2004 Connoisseurs' Guide chose a Chappellet cabernet as the Wine of the Year.

After parking the car and entering the winery's cavernous interior, we were greeted by Titus, now 49, who drew a foaming sample of merlot from a stainless-steel fermentation tank. As we tasted the wine, Titus recited its levels of tannin and complex anthocyanins -- in parts per million -- from the Enologix chemical report. ''In my tasting group, they can't speak this language,'' Titus said. ''Unless you're an Enologix client, you don't talk about complex anthocyanins.''

Soon we were joined by two more of McCloskey's clients, Sam Spencer and Wendy Roloson, who were making 5,000 cases of wine at Chappellet. With the first fruit he had picked, Spencer had pressed the wine off its skins after fermentation was finished. ''But when we looked at the results,'' McCloskey said, ''quality was low because tannin was high.''

''I wasn't able to drain down into a Style 4,'' Spencer confirmed.

''Your grapes are growing at Style 3,'' McCloskey told him. ''That's the pitch your terroir is throwing you. But Parker, Laube and the consumer are at Style 4, so you need to ask yourself, How can I get my wine stylistically in the right ballpark?''

The answer was that Spencer would have to press his remaining grapes earlier this time and aim to produce a successful product through blending. ''You need to be so low in tannin that you're going to feel really uncomfortable,'' McCloskey warned.

Later, Spencer told me that Enologix at first ''seemed like a luxury. It wasn't exactly forthcoming about how the system works -- you have to sign a nondisclosure agreement to see how the metrics add up, and I wasn't convinced. But now I think it's a tool that every carpenter ought to have.''

Not all of McCloskey's clients are so complimentary. Several I spoke to declined to be quoted, apparently owing to a fear that being identified with Enologix would suggest that they have gone over to the dark side and are chasing the Score. (McCloskey calls this ''the cover-up,'' when winemakers refuse to acknowledge their use of modern technologies at odds with romantic marketing images.)

Joel Peterson, co-founder and general manager of Ravenswood (a noted zinfandel winery where I once worked), told me that after Ravenswood's brief experience with Enologix, he thought the company provided information only for making one style of wine. ''It's a very narrow definition of taste,'' Peterson says. ''Part of the charm and beauty of wine is its idiosyncrasy, but when everybody tries to hit the same sweet spot, it's like making soda pop.'' And when all wines taste alike, he says, ''as a consumer you have to ask what you're paying for.''

Although McCloskey is fond of proclaiming that ''the consumer is king,'' sales don't figure into the Enologix Index. In lieu of formal studies or statistics, McCloskey (like most of the rest of the wine industry) accepts the axiom that buyers obey critics, whether or not the average consumer's palate agrees with that of the average wine writer.

 

The common objection to the Score is that wine is too complex a beverage to be summed up in a single number. The way in which someone responds to a wine depends on myriad variables: stylistic preference, mood, the accompanying food and the state of the wine itself after shipping and storing and aging -- not to mention the prejudices and expectations that attend a wine's reputation and price. For the same reason that a thundering symphony or screaming guitar solo may not make the best dinner music, wines that do poorly in competitive tastings sometimes fare better with meals than those attention-grabbing ones that impress judges in isolation. Hence, by keying his chemical evaluation system to critical scores, McCloskey makes the (not uncommon) assumption that intensity is tantamount to quality, when it's often equivalent only to extravagance.

''The prevailing critics can't distinguish real quality,'' says Randall Grahm, the winemaker at Bonny Doon Vineyards (like Ravenswood, a former Parker favorite that fell from grace as it grew). ''They're easily fooled by fakery because the only thing they're looking for is concentration. That probably can be correlated with chemistry -- but I would argue that while it can be an indicator of quality, it's not the only one. It doesn't speak to balance, for example.''

Roger Boulton, a professor in the department of viticulture and oenology at the University of California, Davis, is critical of the fact that Enologix's analytical methods aren't available for outsiders to verify. ''If Leo is so sure about these things,'' Boulton asked me, ''why are they hidden?'' Others agree, complaining that McCloskey's proprietary system constitutes a ''black box'' impervious to academic and professional scrutiny.

''I'm not in the tenure-track business,'' McCloskey retorts. ''I followed the academic rules and published papers for a while. I found it was insanely slow. If you walked up to Steve Jobs and asked him to reveal everything, he'd say, 'Get out of my face.'''

 

McCloskey, interestingly enough, grew up in San Francisco and Cupertino, Calif., the home of Jobs and Apple Computer. Upon graduating from Oregon State in 1971 with a degree in general science, he returned home and got a job painting barrels with mildicide at nearby Ridge Vineyards; within a year, he had taken over the winery's lab -- such as it was -- and by the time he was 25 had published new methods for measuring alcohol and malolactic fermentation (both now essential to wine analysis). In 1976 he helped to found Felton-Empire, a winery whose first vintage riesling won the Sweepstakes Award at the Los Angeles County Fair.

Paul Draper, the now celebrated vintner who arrived at Ridge shortly before McCloskey, recalls that Charlie Rosen -- one of the winery's founders and then head of artificial intelligence at the Stanford Research Institute -- considered McCloskey a genius, and Maynard Amerine, a noted U.C. Davis professor who helped to classify California's wine regions by climate, suggested that McCloskey get a doctorate at Davis with the aim of joining the faculty. But Rosen and Carl Djerassi, a Ridge investor and the inventor of the birth-control pill, advised McCloskey to study ''things like chemistry and mathematics, which actually have principles,'' McCloskey says. ''Enology is more like a social science.'' While remaining a paid consultant at Ridge, McCloskey attended U.C. Santa Cruz, and there he met his future wife, Susanne Arrhenius, a Swedish-born grad student whose lineage included two Nobel laureates in chemistry. Following Arrhenius into the field of chemical ecology, which analyzes the relationships between organisms and their environments, McCloskey completed his Ph.D. while continuing to consult with private clients and serve as president of Felton-Empire.

''Chemical ecology says that a wine's flavor, color and fragrance are expressions of its ecosystem,'' McCloskey told me. ''Wine scientists thought grapes were more complicated than any other plant system. But we found out that Vitis vinifera produces a relatively simple list of flavors. Grapes are really rather primitive.''

Soon after McCloskey left U.C. Santa Cruz, Felton-Empire was sold. Along the way, he noticed that the U.S. wine industry was becoming more businesslike and less entrepreneurial. ''Critics were starting to control the value chain that went from the winery to the distributor to the retailer and restaurateur to the consumer,'' McCloskey says. ''By 1990 everybody was discrediting the Score, but I saw that the critics were going to win because Americans wanted to reduce their risk of purchase and winemakers weren't filling the information void.''

That year, 1990, McCloskey met with Dick Graff, then chairman of the Chalone Wine Group. McCloskey told him that although winemakers always seemed surprised when their efforts didn't pan out, chemistry could actually predict critical performance. Graff arranged for McCloskey to taste Chalone wines with all the company's vintners, after which McCloskey assembled the results and analyzed the wines' chemistry. Later the winemakers were presented with 12 wines, and asked to rank the 6 best and 6 worst. While others tallied the votes, McCloskey produced a sealed envelope containing his chemically based predictions: he correctly guessed the group's Top 3 and Bottom 3 choices, in the correct order.

After that, Graff introduced McCloskey to the owners of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, the famous first-growth Bordeaux estate that had a financial interest in Chalone. When McCloskey analyzed the chemistry of Lafite's vintages from the previous decade, his quality index exactly mirrored their economic performance. McCloskey continued to work with Lafite for the next four years, over which time he gained a dozen more clients. In 1993 he trademarked the name Enologix.

 

A week and a half after the meeting at Chappellet, Sam Spencer visited the Enologix offices with samples of wine he had pressed according to McCloskey's instructions. Studying its numbers, McCloskey said, ''That's a home run.''

''I literally baby-sat the fermenter,'' Spencer said.

Later, in the privacy of his office, McCloskey told me, ''My goal is to make my customers self-sufficient so that metrics alone can solve all their problems.'' Toward that end, he is now creating a thousand proprietary documents that will include all of his winemaking knowledge. Ultimately, he said, ''I'll be replaced by customer-management software.''

And if McCloskey has his way, descriptions of a wine's terroir will be replaced by reports on its levels of tannin and complex anthocyanin.

David Darlington is the author of ''Zin: The History and Mystery of Zinfandel'' (originally published as ''Angels' Visits''), among other books, and writes the Short Finish column for Wine & Spirits magazine.

August 7, 2005



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