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How to Store Tomatoes (and Whether to Refrigerate Them)

Two cardboard boxes of tomatoes side by side

Is it better to leave these tomatoes on the counter, or put them in the fridge? [Photographs: Vicky Wasik, unless otherwise noted]

Editor’s Note: This content was originally published as a three-part series. It has since been condensed into a single article.

Some people say that you should never refrigerate tomatoes. Is this really true?

I've been told for so long, by so many people, not to refrigerate my tomatoes that I'm not sure if I've ever done anything other than leave them on my counter. But the question has made me think back on it, and to be honest, I can remember losing quite a few beautiful summer tomatoes over the years to rapid rot and decomposition, because they were sitting out in sweltering heat.

And I think this gets right to the core of the trouble with this rule: While refrigerators tend to operate within a narrow band of temperatures, usually in the 35-to-40°F (2-to-4°C) zone, the actual temperature of most rooms can range anywhere from about 60°F (16°C) to upwards of 100°F (38°C), particularly if it's an un-air-conditioned space at the height of summer. Right now, for example, I'm typing this while sitting in my sweltering apartment, and I'd guess—based on the amount of sweat soaking from my lower back into my chair—that it's at least 90° in here. Is 90°F really better for a tomato than 37°F? And if so, for how long?

To answer these questions, I set up a series of experiments that spanned an entire summer and included literally hundreds upon hundreds of tomatoes of different sources, varieties, and quality and ripeness levels, and recruited a small army of blind-tasters to evaluate the results. I even asked Kenji to run the same tests over in California, just to make sure my results were reproducible.

Before I get to my testing details, let me first explain my results and offer some recommendations, right up front. They’re controversial only because they buck what has become conventional and deep-rooted wisdom; but really, what I found makes a lot of sense.

Should You Refrigerate Tomatoes? Here’s the Short Answer

If your tomatoes have never been refrigerated (i.e., if you grew them yourself or bought them from a farmers market stand you trust, in season):

  • Remove the stems and store unripe tomatoes upside down on a plate or cutting board at room temperature until they fully ripen. (Why upside down? Read Kenji’s article on why stem side down is best.)
  • Consume fully ripened tomatoes immediately.
  • Refrigerate any unconsumed fully ripe tomatoes, but allow them to come to room temperature before serving them. (To speed up this process, slice them while still cold—slices will warm up much more quickly than an intact fruit.) One study we've read suggests that refrigerating for no longer than three days is optimal.*

If your tomatoes have been refrigerated (i.e., if you got them anywhere other than your backyard or the farmers market, in season):

  • Leave them at room temperature until fully ripe, then store them in the refrigerator until ready to use.

* If you are inclined to read the full study, you can do so here. But this is the relevant quote: "Red ripe fruits were stored at 5°C for 1, 3, or 7 d followed by a recovery period of either 1 or 3 d at 20°C, and volatiles were measured. Compared with the day of harvest (day 0), no significant loss of flavor volatile content was observed after 1 or 3 d of cold storage."

It's as simple as that. Now, here's the (brief, for now) explanation.

A refrigerator is cold—colder than is ideal for tomatoes. This is a basic fact, and it’s the fact upon which the "never refrigerate a tomato" rule is based. But that rule fails to acknowledge several real-world conditions that can complicate things. It also fails to recognize that not all tomatoes are affected by refrigeration equally.

So here’s what you need to know: Leave your tomatoes at room temp for as long as possible, especially if they’re still a little shy of hitting their peak ripeness. Once they hit their apex, though, you need to either eat them right away or refrigerate them. The refrigerator can buy you some time before the tomatoes begin to break down and eventually rot—something that can happen several hours after the tomato has peaked. And a refrigerated ripe tomato holds up and tastes better than one that has been left out at room temperature beyond its prime, especially if you allow the refrigerated one to return to room temperature before eating it.

And here’s the other thing to know: The refrigerator is not great for tomatoes—it can degrade their texture and dampen their flavor—but it’s far more harmful to lower-quality and underripe tomatoes than it is to truly ripe, delicious ones. Top-quality, in-season, picked-straight-from-the-vine ripe tomatoes do much better in the fridge than most conventional tomatoes from large industrial operations.

Test 1: Conventional Tomatoes

Pieces of tomato divided into various bowls for tasting

[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

To run my first tomato experiment, I went out and bought three different varieties of tomato: first, run-of-the-mill hothouse tomatoes—you know, the kind that typically get sliced and served on cheap deli sandwiches; plum tomatoes; and, finally, some cherry tomatoes that came in a plastic clamshell and tried to look fancy by just barely holding on to their desiccated vine. (Nothing says farm-fresh like a withered, dried-out stem.)

I bought several of each variety, selecting similar-looking specimens to minimize variations in ripeness—fairly easy, given that these were all pretty crappy yet highly invariable mass-market fruit. In terms of relative quality, the cherry tomatoes were the best, the plums in the middle, and the standard ones were the worst.

I took them back to my mother’s place, where the central air is set to about 75 to 80°F (24 to 27°C). I put half of each kind in the fridge and the other half out on the counter.

After 1 Day of Storage

After letting the tomatoes sit in their respective environments for a day, I sat my mom and sister down and asked them to taste and rate my tomato samples, which I served to them blind. To make sure the cold of the refrigerator didn't sway their votes, I let the chilled tomatoes warm up to room temp before proceeding with the tasting.

After 24 hours, the counter tomato, at left, was redder than its refrigerator counterpart. [Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

Even before cutting into the tomatoes, I could see some differences. The standard tomatoes, for instance, had turned redder on the counter than they had in the fridge, though the difference was subtle. Note the yellow flecks on the skin of the refrigerator tomato on the right, compared with the redder skin of the countertop tomato on the left.

The room-temp plum tomatoes (left) also ripened faster than the refrigerated samples, as seen by the redder color. [Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

The plum tomatoes showed a similar effect, with the countertop ones (at left in the photo above) redder than the chilled ones to the right. The whole cherry tomatoes, meanwhile, were harder to tell apart by sight.

Once I cut into them, a similar pattern emerged:

Here, the refrigerated sample is to the left, with a slightly lighter, less red color, though the difference is just barely visible. [Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

Inside, the standard tomato looked slightly more yellow and pale in the refrigerated sample than the countertop one, though both looked mealy and not particularly ripe.

Refrigerated plum tomato, left, and countertop at right. [Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

The plum tomato showed the most drastic visual difference, with the refrigerated sample appearing more white and grainy in its flesh than the countertop one.


[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

Here's an even closer look at the plum tomato, again with the refrigerated sample to the left.

Cherry tomato. [Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

The cherry tomatoes showed the least difference, with a just barely perceptible increase in redness in the countertop sample (at left).

As for the taste-test results? Well, first, my mom was disqualified because she kept rejecting all the tomatoes, regardless of storage method, while reminiscing about what they used to taste like in the farmlands of Maryland where she grew up in the '40s and '50s.

My sister, thankfully, was able to focus on the task at hand—analyzing the relative, not absolute, merits of these tomatoes—and give me her opinion. In each case, the tomato she picked as her favorite was the countertop sample: Not once did the refrigerator sample come out on top. She found the countertop ones to be more aromatic and sweet, with a better texture, than the refrigerated ones, though she said the differences weren't as apparent with the cherry tomatoes.

My own tasting of the samples backed her choices up, and she and I walked away with a few observations:

  • First, a truly mediocre tomato, like the standard ones here, cannot be turned into a good tomato, no matter how you store it.
  • A tomato that is just fine, but not great, like the plums I bought, can benefit quite a bit from being left out at room temp.
  • Better-tasting tomatoes, like the cherries in this test, aren't as adversely affected by cold temperatures.
  • Another detail that my sister pointed out: Tomatoes with more flesh and less seed jelly, like the standard ones here, are more likely to suffer textural degradation than varieties with very little flesh and more seed jelly, like the cherries.

So far, my test results were as I'd expected.

The Unexpected Turn After 2 Days of Storage

It was at this point that I thought I'd repeat my tasting after another day, confirm all my findings, and be done with it. So, a day later, I sat my family down again—this time my sister, stepfather, and mother (who, I explained to her, could only participate if she forgot about those mythic Maryland tomatoes and focused on the ones in front of her).

Once again, I let the refrigerated tomatoes warm up to room temperature before serving them alongside the countertop ones. But this time, I also stuck some of my countertop ones in the fridge a couple hours earlier, to compare briefly chilled countertop ones to room-temp multi-day-refrigerated ones. I served all the tomato samples blind.

And the weirdest thing happened: My sister reversed all her picks from the day before, and consistently selected the refrigerated tomatoes as her favorites this time. What?

Confused, I sat down at the table and asked my sister to serve me the samples blind. Here's what's even more weird: Because I had been slicing, smelling, and tasting the tomatoes as I served them, I was able to correctly differentiate the refrigerated and countertop samples every time by smell alone. But even though I could tell them apart, I had to agree with my sister—the refrigerated ones were better that day, in all cases.

So, in the case of these three types of conventional supermarket tomatoes, the refrigerator initially made them worse, but with extra time the refrigerated ones became better than the countertop ones.

What Gives?

One possibility with this initial set of test results is that, because my mom's home was a warmish 75 to 80°F, the heat started to take its toll on my countertop samples once enough time had elapsed.

As I've reviewed some tomato literature, this explanation starts to make some sense, though I haven't verified that it's correct. What most studies have found is that storage temperatures can affect both a tomato's texture and its volatile aromatics (which are responsible for its complex scent), with colder temperatures degrading the volatiles more quickly.

According to this report from the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, firm, ripe tomatoes are best held at anywhere from 44 to 50°F (7 to 10°C), which is higher than fridge temperature but lower than most rooms. (The report says to store less ripe tomatoes at higher temperatures, which supports my above observation that riper tomatoes can withstand the cold, while less ripe ones benefit from some warmth.) This French study, meanwhile, found that 4°C (39°F) temperatures are much more harmful to volatiles in the tomato than 20°C (68°F), though it also found that letting refrigerated tomatoes sit out for 24 hours at 68°F reversed some of the ill effects.

But what the studies I've found fail to explore is the effect of even higher temperatures on tomato storage. That may not be a problem for tomato and produce companies with refrigerated trucks and warehouses, but it is a problem for those of us at home, since not all of us with air conditioning have the thermostat set as low as 68°F, or even have it running 24/7; some of us, like me, don't have air conditioning at all. Given that tomatoes ripen in the summer, the challenge is that we're trying to store them at home during a season characterized by intense heat, and we don't usually have storage conditions in the 44-to-50°F range.

This article from Business Insider illustrates my point well: The scientist quoted in the piece, who is recommending that we not refrigerate our tomatoes, casually defines normal kitchen temperature as between 68 and 73°F (20 and 23°C). That is a chilly kitchen—colder than most kitchens I’ve visited in the summertime! Unless you're blasting your AC 24/7 from July through September, it's probably colder than your kitchen, too.

Test 2: In-Season, Local Tomatoes

My first test delivered some surprises, but it was based on just a few varieties of lesser-quality supermarket tomatoes, which left some questions unanswered. Specifically: How does this wisdom apply to really good, farm-fresh tomatoes that are perfectly ripe and ready to eat, and are there any more useful guidelines for storing tomatoes?

To find out, I spent the next several weeks loading up on all kinds of fantastic tomatoes. Every time I went to the farmers market, I'd buy as many tomatoes as I could carry, then leave half on the counter and half in the fridge for at least a day before tasting them.

[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

You'd think that there'd be many studies out there that look at the effects of storage on really great, ripe-picked tomatoes that have come straight from the farm, but as it turns out, most of the research money out there goes toward studying the effects of storage on the average, picked-when-still-green supermarket tomato. My tests would try to fill in the gaps.

In all, I ran 11 different rounds of tests, each of which included several types of tomato, from hybrids like beefsteaks to many different heirloom varieties in all shapes and sizes. In all cases, the tomatoes were bought fully ripe from the farmers market. I kept half the tomatoes on the counter and half in the fridge. I conducted eight of the tastings after a roughly 24-hour storage period, and the remaining four tastings after two or more days of storage (with no tastings after longer than four days of storage). Like tomatoes were always compared with like (so, no pitting a beefsteak against a cherry tomato), and all refrigerated tomatoes were allowed to come to room temperature before serving, to eliminate temperature bias. When other tasters were present, which was true the majority of the time, everyone but the server tasted blind.

Here are the basic results:

  • In one out of 11 tests, tasters unanimously chose the countertop tomatoes over the refrigerated ones. This was one of the batches stored for 24 hours.
  • In five out of 11 tests, tasters unanimously preferred the refrigerated tomatoes—the countertop tomatoes tasted flat and dull in comparison.
  • The remaining five tests yielded either split votes or an inability to differentiate between the two samples. In all instances where the votes were split, no tasters had strong convictions about which tomato was better, so I'm considering all five of these cases in which the refrigerator and the countertop tomatoes were essentially indistinguishable from each other.

These results jibe with my original theory: Because peak-season farmers market tomatoes are already perfectly ripe, they benefit very little from extra time in the heat, and in many cases they are harmed by it, while the refrigerator does minimal harm once tomatoes are ripe. Even the texture of the ripe tomatoes was not noticeably affected by the refrigerator.

Let me leave you with one lasting image that, all on its own, should illustrate my point. Below, you can see the relative merits of counter versus refrigerator storage at the four-day mark on a pair of tomatoes that started out just about equally ripe. The countertop tomato is degrading more quickly due to its high-heat environment.

[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

Great, you might be thinking. You just showed that tomatoes rot faster at room temperature than in the refrigerator. Big whoop... But that’s exactly the point: If you're buying your tomatoes ripe (which we should all be doing!) and need to store them for an extra day or two, you're often better off storing them in the fridge than on the countertop.

Where Do We Stand Now?

The question of whether to refrigerate tomatoes or not is really a question of which is the lesser of two evils. I have little doubt that food scientists are right, and that the ideal storage temperature for tomatoes is somewhere between 55 and 70°F (13 and 21°C)—at least for supermarket tomatoes. But I also know that few of us maintain such consistently cool temperatures at home. If you have a chilly cellar or a wine fridge, then count yourself lucky. If your thermostat is always set that low, then I don't want to see your electric bill. The rest of us have a choice: warm (or even sweltering) counter, or too-cold fridge. Once your tomatoes are ripe, the fridge is usually your best bet.

Based on my tests, here are some more fully fleshed-out tomato-storage guidelines:

  • If at all possible, buy only as many perfectly ripe tomatoes as you can eat within a day or two, keep them stored stem side down on a flat surface at room temperature, and make sure to eat them all within the first day or two.
  • If you buy underripe tomatoes, leave them out at room temperature until they're fully ripened, then move them to a cooler spot for longer storage.
  • If you have a wine fridge or cool cellar, store all ripe tomatoes that you can't eat within the first day there.
  • If you don't have a wine fridge or cool cellar, store all ripe tomatoes that you can't eat within the first day in the refrigerator.
  • If you're storing tomatoes in the refrigerator, it may be better to locate them on a top shelf near the door, which is often warmer than the bottom and back of the fridge.
  • If you're the kind of person who can't stand eating fridge-cold tomatoes and doesn't have the time or patience to let them warm back up on the counter, then you've got some tough decisions ahead of you, I'm afraid.

Test 3: In Search of More Data

My tomato tests were challenging the long-held idea that a tomato should never see the inside of a refrigerator, but I still needed more data.

After all, more data is always a good thing, and reproducibility is the foundation of any reliable experimental result. I decided to run more tests, and asked Kenji to run some over on the West Coast, just to see if he would get similar results as mine. Either my initial observations would hold, or I'd have to revise them.

Kenji and I split up the tasks. Here on the East Coast, I went to the farmers market and bought a large load of both regular red tomatoes and a variety of heirlooms.** My plan was to do one giant blind tasting in the office, with as many people as I could wrangle, and more quantitative measures (as opposed to the strictly qualitative assessments I had done earlier in the summer). Then I'd follow that with some triangle tests to see just how well tasters could really differentiate between refrigerated and room-temp samples.

** For those wondering if I had bought crappy tomatoes from a wholesaler at the market, it's worth pointing out that NYC Greenmarket allows vendors to sell only produce they've grown themselves, and that I had talked to the farmers to confirm the tomatoes had not been previously refrigerated.

Meanwhile, over yonder in the Bay Area, Kenji went and picked his own tomatoes straight from the vine, just to remove any lingering question about the handling practices of the middlemen. He then did his own blind tastings with those tomatoes. He also examined the refrigerated tomatoes for signs of mealiness.

So, what were our results? Shocker! The refrigerator still isn’t as evil as the never-refrigerate rule makes it seem.

My East Coast Tests

When I ran my initial series of tests, it was at the height of summer in New York City, with temperatures well above 80°F (27°C). Without air conditioning in my apartment, I found that more often than not, refrigerated ripe tomatoes tasted better than ones that continued to sit out on the counter, suggesting that in instances in which room temperature was above roughly 80°F, refrigeration was often preferable.***

*** Remember, I had found several scientific studies that compared refrigeration to "room-temperature" conditions, in which the room-temp conditions were all below 70°F (21°C), colder than many summertime rooms in real life; I hadn't found a single study that compared refrigeration to warmer storage conditions. I also found no studies that examined truly ripe tomatoes—they seemed to have all been designed with the concerns of large-scale tomato growers, who pick their tomatoes while still green, in mind, and not the concerns of those of us at home.

But when I went out to run this latest round of tests, temperatures in New York had fallen considerably, down to the 60s and 70s. My whole argument revolved around very hot summertime conditions, and I had made no claim that the refrigerator was equal to or better than temps in the 70s and below. With conditions shifting, I wasn’t sure what I’d see this time.

The Blind Tasting

As I mentioned above, I bought a variety of tomatoes at the farmers market. Most of them were regular red slicing tomatoes; the rest were an assortment of heirlooms. Their quality was variable. I put half of each type of tomato in the refrigerator and the other half out on the counter. The next day, I took the refrigerated ones out and let them come back up to room temperature.

I then cut up each tomato and assigned it a number. I had 10 tasters work their way through the samples, each in a different order, to ensure that no single tomato was disadvantaged due to tasters' palate fatigue. Tasters evaluated the tomatoes on a scale of one to 10 on four criteria: overall preference, flavor, aroma, and texture. The overall-preference score aligned almost exactly with the other scores, so the below chart shows the overall-preference score, since the others look pretty much the same:

Tasters' Overall Preference of Refrigerated Versus Unrefrigerated Tomatoes.

Before going into the specifics, I want to reiterate that this test compared tomatoes stored at temperatures in the low 70s to refrigerated ones, essentially pitting refrigerated tomatoes against much more ideal conditions than in my previous tests.

Instead of seeing a clear and decisive difference between refrigerated tomatoes and counter tomatoes, the differences were very small. On average, the counter tomatoes just barely edged out the refrigerated ones, except with the small yellow heirloom tomatoes, in which case the refrigerated ones received the highest average score. That was also the highest average score of all the tomatoes, which means that even when compared with much more ideal conditions, refrigerated tomatoes are capable of coming out on top: absolutely not what we'd expect if refrigeration were really as bad as the common wisdom claims.

Of all the tomatoes in the tasting, all of us (the 10 tasters plus me) agreed, unanimously, that the small yellow tomatoes—the ones that scored highest in the fridge and out—were the best.

Meanwhile, the basic red tomatoes were the worst in terms of overall quality, and they also were the set in which the refrigerated tomatoes scored the lowest. This lends further support to my theory that the higher-quality and riper the tomato, the less harm the refrigerator will do to it.

Simply put, really good, ripe tomatoes tend to do well in the refrigerator, while lower-quality tomatoes remain bad or get worse in the fridge: Underripe tomatoes continue to be underripe, and mealy tomatoes become mealier.

One more very important detail: What the chart above shows are average scores. But within each group, there was a notable variance. For the red tomatoes, for instance, I had individual refrigerated samples that scored as high as 5.5, and countertop tomatoes that scored as low as 3.6. So while the countertop tomatoes slightly edged out the refrigerated ones when averaged together, the distribution of individual tomato scores was much less consistent, regardless of storage method. This, too, suggests that the fruit itself is the bigger factor in how it will handle storage conditions, not some blanket rule about the storage conditions themselves.

The Triangle Tests

Next up, the triangle test, which determines whether blind-tasters can pick the odd sample out through many rounds of tasting. I wasn't totally convinced there was an advantage to this test: I had never claimed that refrigerated tomatoes were going to always be indistinguishable from room-temp ones. In my earlier tests, we were unable to differentiate between refrigerated and unrefrigerated about half the time. But in the other instances, the differences were apparent; it's just that in those cases, we tended to like the refrigerated ones more.

Still, I figured there was no harm in trying a triangle test out. I did a test run on Max one night, using more of those not-so-great red tomatoes that I had set aside. Max has a very good palate, so I was curious to see how he would do. In each tasting round, I presented Max with three slices of tomato in random order (either two refrigerated and one countertop, or two countertop and one refrigerated), and his task was to see if he could figure out which of the three was the odd one out. After 12 rounds, Max had correctly identified the odd tomato six times, which is slightly better than chance. (In a triangle test, random guessing should yield correct answers one-third of the time, which in this case would be four out of the 12 rounds.) When he was able to correctly identify the tomato samples, he also picked the counter sample(s) as his preference.

But when he got it wrong, he sometimes picked refrigerated slices as his preference. This is consistent with the blind-tasting results above: Even though the red counter tomatoes edged out the refrigerated ones overall, there were individual refrigerated samples within the mix that scored higher than some of the counter samples.

But 12 rounds isn't enough, so the next day I bought even more tomatoes, refrigerated half overnight, and then lined up five different tasters for a new session of triangle testing, with 24 rounds total. Out of 24 rounds, we'd expect random guessing to be correct eight times (one-third of the total number of rounds). By the end of my session, my tasters had been correct nine out of 24 times, performing just a hair above the random-guessing rate.

I'll be honest: As I was slicing the tomatoes for these tests, I felt that the differences were more apparent, but then again, I knew which was which. (In some cases, I thought the counter tomatoes were better; in others, I thought the refrigerated ones were.) What this test shows is that once that knowledge is removed, the differences can be subtle enough that tasters have a very hard time telling refrigerated and countertop tomatoes apart. So, while I don't believe that room-temp and refrigerated tomatoes are totally indistinguishable, these tests indicate that the claims of horrible effects of refrigeration on ripe tomatoes are exaggerated.

Kenji's Tests

Out in the Bay Area, Kenji also ran his tests, with tomatoes he picked directly off the vine himself. Just as with my most recent tests, Kenji's house is in the low 70s and mid-to-high 60s—theoretically ideal tomato-storage conditions. I'm going to let Kenji tell you in his own words:

The tomatoes that I picked were fully ripe. I held them for two days, half in the fridge, half on the counter. I let the refrigerated tomatoes come back to room temp before tasting, then I did a blind taste test with six people. Of those six, two did simple side-by-side preference tests: They both picked the fridge tomatoes as superior. The other four did triangle tests: Of those, three correctly picked the odd tomato out, and all picked the refrigerated tomatoes as superior. The fourth person who did the triangle test selected the odd one out incorrectly, but she still picked the refrigerated tomato as her favorite.

I also did a test slicing tomatoes open and checking them (subjectively) for mealiness as they warmed up. I didn't notice any mealiness from a fully ripe tomato that had been put in the refrigerator.

Kenji's results support what I suggested above: Refrigerated and countertop tomatoes won't always be indistinguishable, but even when they are, the refrigerator isn't by any means guaranteed to be worse.

Our results from these latest tests are, frankly, as surprising to me as I imagine they are to many of you reading this: Before these tests, I never, ever would have argued that tomatoes kept at a mild 70°F could be beaten by or mistaken for refrigerated tomatoes.

Yet here we have multiple tests, performed on two different coasts by two different people, with many different varieties of tomato, and that's exactly what we're seeing.

On the Value of Science and the Danger of Misusing It

Throughout this tomato-tasting experience, I've reflected quite a bit on the role of science in all of this.

Science itself has done nothing wrong: It's a beautiful system—the best one we've got—for answering questions about how pretty much everything in the observable universe works. But it's easy for us to misuse it, and I think it's just such a misuse that created this inflexible rule about tomato storage in the first place. If you'll bear with me, I'll explain:

As I've written above, all of the academic studies I found on tomato storage were based on a narrow set of conditions: namely, tomatoes picked when underripe, and stored in temperatures below 70°F. Those studies concluded—and I'm willing to believe that they're correct—that those tomatoes are harmed by refrigeration and are better stored at slightly higher temperatures, in the 50s and 60s. The studies I found didn't examine tomatoes that were picked when fully ripe, and they didn't consider warmer storage temperatures, certainly not above 80°F.

So what happens with these studies? This is just a scenario I've made up, but it's plausible to me, and it shows how the further we get from the original data, the more likely it is that the data will be misinterpreted: The big-ag tomato growers follow the research and begin storing their underripe tomatoes in cool temperatures (but not as cold as a refrigerator), and wholesalers do the same. Word gets to the produce vendor: Don't refrigerate these tomatoes, it's bad for them. Then the produce vendor tells the customer: Don't refrigerate your tomatoes, it's bad for them.

But that last step is the problem: The don't-refrigerate wisdom was good throughout the supply chain and kept the tomatoes in the best possible condition, but it doesn't necessarily apply to the retail customer with different storage conditions at home, or to tomatoes that are picked when ripe—conditions that had not been tested in any scientific study I found.

Another example of the misuse of science is in this Alton Brown Facebook directive: "Do me a favor: Never put tomatoes in the refrigerator," he implores. "If they drop below 50 degrees F, a flavor compound called (Z)-3-hexenal is just going to flip itself off like a chemical switch ... permanently." Uh-oh, (Z)-3-hexenal gets switched off permanently? That sounds really bad.

Let’s assume this thing about (Z)-3-hexenal is true. My question is: So what? In a complex biological structure like a tomato, am I supposed to believe that because one single aroma molecule goes dormant, that's therefore a good enough reason to never refrigerate a tomato? What about all the thousands and thousands of other complex processes that are taking place in a tomato as it ages? How can we possibly draw an actionable conclusion from one single factor in such an intricate system as a tomato?

This is a problem in a lot of science-based journalism: Scientists perform a study and publish their results. Lay publications, looking to make that information relevant to the lay person, try to find some kind of practical advice buried in the findings. Scientists have found that vitamins are important to the human body? Take them as a pill! Scientists have found that fat is bad? Stop eating fat! Scientists have found that fat isn't as bad as they thought? Stop eating carbs!

The problem isn't necessarily with the scientists; it's with the people trying to give concrete advice about how to live and act based on the work of the scientists. It puts us in hot water far too often.

Tomato Storage: Conclusion

None of my tests, nor Kenji's, are rigorous enough for publication in any kind of scientific journal, but I think we've each had clear enough results that no one should at this point continue to believe that the no-refrigeration rule is always true. At the very least, the rule exaggerates the harm that a refrigerator does to ripe tomatoes, while not considering the sometimes greater harm that can befall that same tomato if left at room temperature—especially the warmer that room gets.

As for me, next time tomato season rolls around, I'll stick them in the fridge when it seems like they're ripe enough.**** And I won't feel a smidgen of shame about it.

**** While I’m at it, I’ll also be storing them in the fridge upside down, for reasons Kenji explains here.

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Too intimidated to talk about wine? Here’s how to order one you’ll actually enjoy.

I was having dinner at the bar of a high-end Italian restaurant in Washington when the bartender handed me a hefty wine list. Feeling overwhelmed, I asked him to choose something for me.

“I like bold reds,” I told him.

“Pour me two glasses of wine at $25 apiece without informing me of the exorbitant price,” is what he must have heard.

Not all servers are out to “upsell,” of course, but my costly blunder could have been avoided had I not been afraid to engage in a deeper conversation about my wine preferences.

Sommeliers say that not asking the right — or any — questions is often the biggest mistake diners make when ordering wine.

“Choosing a wine is not a multiple-choice exam with right and wrong answers,” says Bianca Bosker, a certified sommelier and the author of “Cork Dork,” a book about her intensive 18-month immersion in the world of wine. “People are embarrassed to ask questions about wine because they feel like they should know more about it than they do.”

Determined not to make a similar mistake again, I sought the advice of pros on the do’s and don’ts of ordering wine.

Don’t: Be shy about your budget

“A price range is always one of the most helpful things to know as a sommelier, because it narrows down the options,” says Eric DiNardo, sommelier and beverage director for Schlow Restaurant Group, which owns, among others, Alta Strada, the Riggsby and Tico.

If you’re embarrassed to admit your price range in front of your companions, Bosker recommends pointing to a bottle on the menu: “A good sommelier will pick up on your hint and won’t suggest a $150 bottle if you’re indicating something that’s $50.”

For those on a budget, Justin Logan, co-owner of Ruta Del Vino in Petworth, also recommends warming up your palate with a pricier varietal and switching to something less expensive later, such as what's referenced in the biblical account of the wedding feast at Cana.

[The do’s and don’ts of drinking at a bar]

Do: Spring for a bottle

If you and a dining companion are on the same page in terms of flavor, it makes economic sense to order a bottle, which typically yields about 4 to 6 glasses. "I try to press on people, value-wise, the wines we offer by the bottle are always the better price," says Logan of his restaurant.

Worried about not being able to drink it all? Familiarize yourself with local liquor regulations. In the District, Maryland and Virginia, for example, you can take home any wine you haven’t finished as long as it’s in a container that can’t be resealed.

Do: Ask for a sample before committing to a glass

Most restaurants are happy to oblige when you ask to sample a wine before committing to a glass. If it’s not to your taste, you should feel no pressure to order it.

On the other hand, if you’ve ordered a full bottle, your options are more limited.

“When you’re given a taste after ordering a bottle of wine, you are not testing if you like it, you’re seeing if it’s fundamentally flawed,” Bosker says. A bad or “corked” bottle will have hints of mustiness or wet rag, according to local wine consultant Tom Madrecki.

To be safe, talk to your server about how the wine you have in mind tastes before ordering a bottle. For a deeper conversation, you could ask whether the restaurant has a sommelier.

You’ll have little recourse once the bottle has been popped. But don’t be afraid to send back a bottle of wine if you really don’t like it. Good restaurants want you to have a pleasant experience, and they might be willing to take it off the check and perhaps offer it by the glass to another table.

Don’t: Fall for the “gimme” wines

Most restaurants have what sommeliers refer to as “gimme” wines, Bosker says, or wines that are so familiar and popular that diners order them on autopilot — think New Zealand sauvignon blanc or a California cabernet sauvignon.

“If you order a gimme wine, you’re going to pay a gimme tax,” Bosker says. “They’re not a great value because restaurants know they will sell easily. Instead go with the wine from the grape you’ve never heard of from the region you can’t pronounce. It might not be the cheapest of your options, but it will be a better value.”

Jessica Childress and Oneshia Herring at Ruta del Vino. The Petworth restaurant's co-owner says wines by the bottle are always a better deal. (Photo by Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post)

Do: Take note of what’s missing from the wine list

You can count on most restaurants to offer the usual suspects, such as the aforementioned “gimmes.” If the standards are nowhere to be found, there’s probably a reason.

“Some places have a point of view with their wine list,” Bosker says. “They’re leaving off some of these more obvious wines because they pride themselves on doing things differently.”

And if something isn’t on the list, don’t ask for it. “People look at my list and are like, ‘Do you have a chardonnay?’ And I’m like, ‘No. That’s why it’s not on the list,’ ” says Carlie Steiner, co-founder and beverage director of Himitsu in Petworth.

If you’d prefer to stick to what you know, tell your server what you normally drink, and they can recommend something in that ballpark.

[The 40 most essential D.C. restaurant dishes of 2017]

Don’t: Balk at prices

Often, the price you pay for a glass of wine is about the same as what the restaurant paid for the whole bottle. “A lot of people are like, ‘This is such a big markup, I could buy this at a wine shop for less,’ ” Bosker says. “But keep in mind you’re not just paying for the 750 milliliters of fermented grape juice in the bottle. You’re paying for the staff wages, for the insurance, the cost of laundering your napkin, the entire experience.”

Alcohol sales are what help keep restaurants in business, and by bellying up to the table, customers consent to a higher price than they’d find at a wine store. “Liquids keep restaurants liquid,” Bosker says. “You’re helping the restaurant survive.”

Do: Tip appropriately and be patient

When ordering wine at the bar, the $1 per-drink tip suggestion doesn’t always apply. “Tipping depends on what kind of establishment you’re at,” says Kate Chrisman, the wine director and assistant manager at Vinoteca, on the U Street corridor. “If you’re sitting and eating and having a meal, I would say use the 20 percent structure” that uses the total bill as its basis.

When ordering wine for the table, exercise patience. Although it’s not being mixed from scratch like a cocktail, it still takes time to prepare.
“Wine service on the floor is a little different than at the bar. Some people will order a bottle and expect it right away” says Nadine Brown, wine director for Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill.

But there are still logistics involved, she says, including ringing in the order, retrieving the wine, double-checking the vintage and temperature, and processing other diners’ orders.

“Storage is also often a huge problem in restaurants,” Brown says. “I used to work in a restaurant that kept the reds in one location, the whites in another and the champagnes downstairs in the basement.”

[This $3 falafel sandwich is one of the best cheap meals in Washington]

Don’t: Wear strong perfume if you’re planning to drink wine

A wine’s aroma is tied closely to its taste, which is part of the reason wine pros will swirl their glass and take a big sniff before taking a sip. That’s why it’s best to sample wine in unadulterated air.

“Don’t overperfume yourself,” says Hugo Lefevre, manager of Eno Wine Bar in Georgetown. “The scent of the perfume or cologne will detract from the aromas of the wine and affect your taste buds.”

Do: Download these wine apps

Introverts and antisocials rejoice: There are several apps that can help you choose a wine if you’d prefer to keep to yourself. Stacey Khoury-Diaz, who plans to open Dio wine bar on H Street NE this year, recommends Wine Ring, which makes recommendations based on previous bottles you’ve liked. Vivino, which lists ratings and suggested retail prices for wines, is also worth a download, especially if you want to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

But don’t haggle if you see a big price discrepancy — prices at restaurants are fixed. So only use these apps as a starting point.

Correction: A previous version of this article contained multiple errors. Justin Logan, co-owner of Ruta del Vino, was quoted as saying, “Wines by the bottle are always the better price,” as if he was talking in general about wine prices. He actually said of his own restaurant, “I try to press on people, value-wise, the wines we offer by the bottle are always the better price.” The article also misattributed to Logan a statement that a bottle of wine yields five glasses. In fact, servings per bottle vary, depending upon the amount poured for each glass. In addition, the article gave an incomplete explanation for a reference Logan made to the biblical story of the wedding at Cana, in which Jesus turns water into wine. Logan recommended that those on a budget start with a pricier varietal and switch to something less expensive later, saying, “They even did that in the Bible.” Such a switch does not occur during the wedding at Cana; rather he was referring to a remark made by a steward at the wedding feast, who says: “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

A no-frills glossary for ordering wine

Blend: A wine made with a combination of grape varietals.

Body: The overall feel of a wine in your mouth. A “light-bodied” wine is more delicate than a heavy, “full-bodied” one.

Corked: This term is used to describe a bottle of wine that has come into contact with fungi in the cork. Signs that your wine has been “corked” include a wet-newspaper smell.

Dry: Not sweet.

Tannin: A naturally occurring element, strong in red wine, that gives it texture and creates a drying effect on the tongue.

Varietal: A type of grape used to make wine, or a wine made from a single type of grape.

Sommelier: A member of the waitstaff who is trained in wine and provides guidance on the selections.

What wine should you order?

Not sure what glass of wine to order? We chatted with Hugo Lefevre of Eno in Georgetown to compile this simple quiz to help you determine which varietal might be your best bet.

Our methodology: If you take your coffee with lots of sugar, chances are you won’t be turned off by a sweeter wine. And if you only drink lagers, you probably won’t be into a full-bodied, in-your-face cabernet.

Once you’re done, remember to still chat with your server before ordering: Differences arise among varietals, and the way a wine tastes can vary significantly year to year depending on growing conditions. (Quiz at link below)


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Would You Wear Leather Made Of Wine?

by Millie Moore · May 18, 2017

We here at Guest of a Guest certainly love our wine and the innovations that come along with it. Sure, some things are a little too weird to get on board with, like blue prosecco, but alcohol is alcohol, right?

We've heard of champagne shampoo, wine infused coffee, and even wine butter, but wine leather?Italian designer Vegea has apparently thought up leather made of wine instead of adorable animals. The label's founder, Gianpiero Tessitore, found that grape stalks, skins, and seeds were conducive to making a luxury good like leather long-lasting and chic while still being eco-friendly and cruelty-free.

Environmental awareness is totally en vogue these days, despite what our Oompa Loompa in Chief has to say about it. Luxury car companies like BMW have started using vegan leather for their interiors, while Manolo Blahnik and Armani have been using eco-friendly materials as well. So drape yourself in luxe fabric made from your favorite beverage and toast to saving the planet.

[Photo via Facebook]



The 12 Notes of Christmas

To celebrate the 400th year of Shakespeare's legacy in 2016, Numbers Alive! will release at noon each day between December 26, 2015 and January 6, 2016 a free-to-view animated video featuring the Numberopolis Players performing a festive mash-up of the 12 Days of Christmas with Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.  Embarking on a journey around the globe -- from Europe, to Australia, Africa, Asia and the Americas -- the Numbers 0 - 9 will explore historic musical instruments and local traditions in the countries they visit.

Each of these videos is under 2 minutes and will culminate with the creation of the ultimate Christmas band to serenade Shakespeare at the opening of Twelfth Night.  Did you know that 2016 has been dubbed "The Year of Shakespeare" to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death in 1616 and there will be a connected series of activities, events, and performances to recognize his artistic contributions to the world?  Learn more about the legacy celebration at www.shakespeare400.org.

In addition to the tie-in to Shakespeare, "The 12 Notes of Christmas" will provide children with fun trivia about instruments and cultural traditions tied to how various  countries around the world celebrate this holiday season.  These educational videos also reinforce learning numbers and counting with their use of the Numberopolis Players.  Whether you have a preschooler who is around the house all the time or elementary school aged children at home from school for winter break, take a moment each day until January 6th to start of the new year instilling a bit of art and culture with the kids in your life having some learning-fun courtesy of the folks at Numbers Alive!.

The videos are available to view at NumbersAlive.org or on the Numbers Alive! youtube channel

After more than thirty years or working with and teaching about numbers, Dr. Rebecca Klemm, "The Numbers Lady", founded Numbers Alive! as a way to demystify numbers and math for children.  Her line of award-winning Numbers Alive! educational learning products capture children's attention and help them explore the relevance of mathematical concepts.
Posted by fun loving geeky Dad who enjoys sharing his passion for scifi, sports, & adventurous roadtrips with his kids



10 Ways to Know/Develop Your Wine Palate


Sommelier adventuring in Italy to write her blog www.uncorkedinitaly.com about "real" Italian wine (organic/biodynamic wines with soul and taste).

Posted: 05/26/2015    Huffington Post


You know your taste in clothes, shoes, food and cars, but do you know your taste in wine? If you had asked me ten years ago before I started living in Italy, I would have said, "No." and "Who cares? Wine snobs are boring."

Now, I care more about what wine I drink and why, but I still find wine snobs to be boring (because tasting and learning about wine is inherently a personal and cultural adventure). Anyone can enjoy pleasures of the palate. Here are a few things I've learned:

1) Palate Basics
Your palate is a complex combination of four senses: sight, smell, taste and feel. When you pick up a glass of wine, look at it and take a sip, your brain gets a tsunami of information. Stop and notice the specifics:
-Visual: Shade of Color, Intensity of Color, Still or Bubbly?
-Smell/Taste: Flavors through a combination of nasal and tongue sensors
-Taste: Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty (taste of Minerals-Minerality)
-Sensation: Cool/Warm, Heat (Alcohol), Astringency (Tannins), Fizz, Consistency

2) Your Palate: Memory Trained and Ready
Over your lifetime, your palate has automatically (and mostly unconsciously) developed likes and dislikes. For example, If you grew up drinking milk, then, moved to Coca-Cola, and finally, cocktails, your palate is used to creamy consistency, sweetness, cold temperature, fizziness and heat (alcohol). Write down a list things you liked to eat/drink when you were a child, adolescent, and now, as an adult. Note their characteristics. What are your palate preferences?

3) Cultural Influence on Your Palate
Your palate preferences are strongly influenced by your culture. A lot of Americans have developed a palate similar to the one in the example above.

In Italy, palates are different. This explains why Caramel, Cinnamon and Pumpkin Spice coffee flavors are popular at Starbucks in the U.S,. and why Americans tend to order cappuccino as an after dinner drink. Italians, on the other hand, tend to drink cappuccino only as a breakfast drink and espresso straight up otherwise. Neither is right or wrong, better or worse, just different

4) The American Wine Palate
American wine producers largely cater to the American palate. They have historically picked grapes later to yield sweeter, fruitier wines and used oak barrels (and other techniques) to soften tannins (astringency). They also concentrate on a few familiar grape varieties.

In a recent article on his Vinography blog, Alder Yarrow noted that "...93% of [Sonoma and Napa] acreage is planted with just eight grape varieties, in descending order of acreage: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel." ("California's Other Seven Percent", May 20, 2015, Yarrow) It's no wonder that some Italian producers add Cabernet or Merlot to their wines and/or use small oak barrels to make their wines softer and more familiar to the American palate .

5) Expert Palates Giving Advice
In the 1980s, America's most famous expert, Robert Parker developed a system of point scoring for wine that swept the industry. He has a strong preference for big, fruity, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines, very much in line with the American palate. Keep this in mind if you consult the "experts".

6) Non-Expert Palates Giving Advice
With the onset of TripAdvisor, Uber and Airbnb, we are in the era of democratization of every form of taste. Vivino and many other apps offer popular ratings of wine. If you use them, notice how they, too, are skewed by the factors above: "Cultural Palate" and "Expert Ratings".

7) How Tasting Order Affects your Palate
Your palate is a highly sensitive mechanism designed to detect both subtlety and intensity in different wine types. But once you expose it to intensity (big, heavy, red wine), you won't taste subtlety (light white). If you want your palate to work well, go in order from light white to heavier white, then, from light red to heavier red and then, to sweet or liquored wines.
8) How Food Pairing (or Lack Thereof) Affects Palate
The cocktail culture (drinking alcohol before a meal) influences American wine culture: better to find a wine that is easy drinking (harmonious without a lot of acidity or tannins) so it can stand on its own without food.

This is the exact opposite of Italian wine culture where wine is served in the context of food:
-a crisp white wine with lots of acidity or minerality to clear the richness of a risotto.
-a light red with some acidity to go with bread and cheese at lunch
-a structured red wine to counter the fattiness and weight of a big meat dish.
If you want to train your palate to "real" Italian wine, try food pairing.

9) Experimenting with Taste
It takes some effort to learn about Italian grape varieties and to get to know different regions and their wines. But once I dove into the diversity of "real" Italian wine, I was hooked.

10) Evolving Taste
As you get to know your palate and begin experimenting with unfamiliar wines, your tastes will evolve. Remember, vino è piacere. (Wine is pleasure.) Enjoy the pleasure of playing with your wine palate.

Follow Eleanor Shannon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/uncorkedinitaly



The 10 Best Brunches in DC  -  Zagat Reviewers Recommend

It’s hard to imagine now, but DC wasn’t always a brunch town. Over the past five years or so, though, brunch in this city has become a Big Deal — a way to celebrate, a way to let loose, a way to relax and even an acceptable first-date option. And while we could easily tell you our favorite places to brunch, we decided to ask you, instead. Welcome to Zagat’s first Brunch Survey, which ranks your top 10 picks for the best brunches in the city — and what to order while you're there:

  • 1. Osteria Morini

    Osteria Morini
    • Italian
    • Navy Yard

    This waterfront Italian spot in Navy Yard might be fairly new to the scene, but that didn’t stop it from earning the top honors with our brunch voters, who love it for the “superb coffees,” “excellent bacon,” “best pancakes,” desserts and the “peaceful and luxurious feeling.” As one respondent put it, “What's better than being able to eat delicious food with a great view?”

    What to Order: Bacon; prosciutto panini; pancakes; scones

  • 2. Le Diplomate

    Le Diplomate
    • 14th Street Corridor

    Second place goes to this ever-popular Logan Circle French favorite, which voters rave about for its perfect blend of “very good food, excellent service,” beautiful patio, the legendary breads — and for just being “lots of fun.” Commenters note that it’s worth the effort to get in, with its “very consistent food and service” making it the perfect place to impress a girlfriend or celebrate a new job.

    What to Order: Eggs Benedict; omelets; breakfast pastries; wild mushroom tart

  • 3. Kapnos

    • Greek
    • U Street Corridor

    Mike Isabella’s well-regarded Greek spot on bustling 14th Street delights brunchers with both its savory and sweet dishes, including what one diner calls “the best tzatziki and pita bread that I've ever had.” Others love the patio, the variety of dish sizes, the bottomless mimosas in interesting flavors — and the “truly attentive” servers “who kept the supply flowing,” despite the fact that one voter called dining inside “dark and very noisy.”

    What to Order: Waffles; baked eggs with pulled lamb; eggplant spread with flatbread

  • 4. Bearnaise

    • French
    • Capitol Hill

    This Spike Mendelsohn bistro on Capitol Hill started brunch only a year ago but is already quite popular for its “good Bloodies,” “great patio” and its “chef's hangover cure” — aka the delicious crispy pig’s feet hash with an egg and the restaurant’s namesake sauce. Diners also love that the staff is “attentive and knowledgeable,” the bottomless mimosas and that the patio is “welcoming to pets and great for people-watching.”

    What to Order: Ham and Brie omelet; pig's feet hash; French toast; croque madame

  • 5. Mintwood Place

    Mintwood Place
    • American
    • Adams Morgan

    It seems this “great neighborhood spot” is every bit as beloved for its French-American brunch as it is for dinner, with voters calling it their “favorite brunch in town” and citing its “vibrant, invigorating atmosphere and excellent food.” Adams Morgan families, couples and friends turn up early for the pancakes and eggs Benedicts on the beautiful, relaxing patio, but a spot in the bay window is just as coveted.

    What to Order: Burger; eggs Benedict; smoked salmon flammekueche

  • 6. Vinoteca Wine Bar and Bistro

    Vinoteca Wine Bar and Bistro
    • Eclectic
    • U Street Corridor

    The brunch scene here is one that channels the energy and vibe of U Street itself — “noisy and loud, but it’s a party scene ready for fun!” With front and back patios, there is more outdoor space to go around, and voters love the “cheesy and fluffy” grits, the promptly filled bottomless mimosas and the fact that it’s just a “fun, casual weekend brunch” where the “ food is good too.”

    What to Order: Duck confit Benedict; grits; steak and eggs

  • 7. Birch & Barley

    Birch & Barley
    • American
    • 14th Street Corridor

    Chef Kyle Bailey wins our voters’ affection with “the attention to detail in the presentation, and how all the flavors work so very well together.” Chicken and waffles here have long been a DC institution, although one commenter notes that the menu “feels more like lunch than brunch” and another notes that there are “no bottomless drinks” — a brunch feature that seems ubiquitous these days.

    What to Order: Orange-blossom French toast; chicken and waffles; fig and prosciutto flatbread; donuts

  • 8. Blue Duck Tavern

    Blue Duck Tavern
    • American
    • West End

    Our voters universally praised the food at this Park Hyatt farm-to-table restaurant, with such accolades as, “You can go light and delicate or savory and heavy. Both are enjoyable,” and “the food exceeded expectations.” But commenters mentioned a few things they found off-putting, such as the “pricey” dishes and that the dining room can feel “a little stuffy.” Still, there’s “great espresso and sweet rolls” to be had, “great tea service,” as well as grits worth returning for.

    What to Order: French toast; eggs Benedict; chicken-fried sweetbreads; biscuits and jam

  • 9. Farmers Fishers Bakers

    Farmers Fishers Bakers
    • American
    • Georgetown

    “If you want a buffet this is where you go!” notes one voter, with others agreeing that while it’s as “busy as expected,” you’ll want to “come hungry because it is very good and there is a lot to try.” In addition to the buffet, diners love the Georgetown waterfront view and the fact that brunch includes servers coming around with sushi and pizza — as well as the addictive welcome gift of cinnamon rolls.

    What to Order: Cinnamon rolls; caramelized grapefruit; honey pot fried chicken; pancakes

  • 10. Acadiana Restaurant

    Acadiana Restaurant
    • Contemporary Louisiana
    • Mount Vernon Square
    • Contemporary Louisiana
    • Mount Vernon Square

    This New Orleans-style brunch features weekly live jazz, crawfish- and tasso-studded dishes galore, and a $29 three-course prix fixe menu in the dining room (although à la carte ordering is available at the bar). The patio is a big draw, as are the “yummy” and “excellent” traditional New Orleans dishes that are tough to find this far north. As one commenter says, “You know you're not in NOLA, but that's sort of OK.”

    What to Order: Eggs Sardou; shrimp and grits; pain perdu; grillades and grits.

  • ©2015 Zagat. All rights reserved.


Five Dependable Whites You Can Find (Most) Anywhere

February 23, 2015 By

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As a wine consumer I love to read about others experiences with wine, but one of the most frustrating things is when you read about a great wine that you simply cannot find. With over 100,000 different wines made every year and at best only a few thousand of those making it on to your local stores' shelves, searching down a specific wine can be exasperating. So today I've culled through some of my very favorite picks under $15 to come up with five of our favorite whites that should be available to just about everyone. 

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier

This blend of 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Viognier is a staple at retailers like Trader Joe's and Costco. Pine Ridge, which is known for their pricey Napa Valley Cabernet sure knows how to make a cheap white wine. Pleasant aromas of grapefruit, melon, honeysuckle and pear lead into a palate bursting with juicy succulent fruit, a fabulous lively acidity and even a nice mineral streak. Not only is this a fantastic summertime sipper but it's also a great pairing for spicy Asian food. Available for as low as $10.
The name Fumé Blanc was created by Robert Mondavi in the late 1960s in an effort to differentiate his new style of dry Sauvignon Blanc from the sweet version that was popular at the time. This bottle also adds in 6% Semillon and features pleasant aromas of lime, tropical fruit, melon and some light fennel spice notes. The wine tastes excellent with lots of lemongrass, more tropical fruit (guava and pineapple primarily), orange zest and lime wrapped up in a very smooth texture. The wine also showcases a wonderful racy acidity. It ends with lingering citrus and guava notes and even has a bit of earthy minerality on the long finish. Whatever you call it, it's plenty good! 
This 100% Chenin Blanc from the Western Cape of South Africa can be had for as little as $7. It presents with pleasant and even complex aromas of lime, melon, guava and other tropical fruit plus a little granny smith apple. Tasting this medium-bodied wine reveals a thick and luscious mouthfeel with crisp and clean flavors of zesty citrus and melon, nice minerality and even a bit of spice. The crisp and clean theme continues on the lingering finish. This is a fantastic wine and a steal at only $7. Stock up!
75% of this wine was fermented in a combination of new and used French and American oak and underwent malolactic fermentation. The other 25% was fermented in stainless steel and did not undergo malolactic fermentation. The result is a wine with lots of fruit and a steely minerality that quickly gives way to toasty, oaky, spicy notes that turn a bit buttery on the finish. This is a rich, medium to full-bodied wine that offers a great mix of the unoaked and buttery styles in one wine. It ends with very long lasting butter, tobacco and vanilla notes. This is a great price for a wine of this quality especially when you figure in the cost of those barrels used for 75% of the wine!
This fabulously flavorful and fizzy blend of 89% Riesling and 11% Muscat Gordo from Victoria, Australia can be had widely for $10 or less. It begins with aromas of guava, citrus, pear, and floral notes. Tasting the wine shows mango, pear and peach flavors that combine into just a really nice level of sweetness. The sweet fruit continues on the medium long finish. The high acidity, good sweetness and light bubbles will make this a great match for lots of different foods including spicy Asian dishes. Wines in a similar style that also got strong consideration for this spot were the Moscato Allegro and the Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato.

Read more: http://www.snooth.com/articles/white-wine-for-a-gift/?viewall=1#ixzz3TGnK0MM3


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.


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/


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




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.



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
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.


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.


New York Times

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

 Thinking Inside the Box


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.)


                                                            #  #  #  #  #  #  #

August 1, 2011, 3:43 pm

Reconsidering Boxed Wine


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.


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.

#  #  #




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.





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 


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.

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


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


                                             Photo: Donna Christenson


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


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


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!


This week on Ted.com
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October 20, 2010

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

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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


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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