How to Hold Your Wine Glass Like a Pro

I don’t want to be “that person” who gets all judgey about how you hold your wine glass. If you want to palm that glass of Rosé like a basketball, well then you just go right ahead. It will get under my skin, but that’s not your problem.

Various entertainers (and one *gasp* wine professional) holding the bowl of the wine glass, and a few unsuspecting characters holding the glass by the stem (#winning). 

You’re not to blame; there are plenty of people on television, and in the movies, who coddle their wine glass like it’s a hot cup of tea. Maybe the media is trying to reflect the real world and not trying to be “correct”, but they are still guilty of perpetuating the problem.

So, why is there a right and wrong way to hold a wine glass anyway? If there is a stem on the glass, it’s there for a reason. You hold the glass by the stem so that you don’t alter the temperature of the wine in the glass. Let’s assume for a moment that your glass of wine is the perfect temperature for drinking. That is, for red wines, around 65 degrees, and, for whites, around 52 degrees. By grasping the glass by the bowl, your body temperature will warm up the glass quickly and alter the taste of the wine, making it less enjoyable. It’s akin to drinking your piping hot cup of tea or coffee after it has cooled down too much. This leads to a less satisfying experience — for most.

Holding the glass by the stem also helps avoid greasy fingerprints and ugly smudges on your glass and makes it easier for you to swirl your wine around in the glass without making a mess.  I’m sure you’ve been with a friend who clutches the glass by the bowl and tries to swirl the wine vigorously, only to splash you with a spindrift of Pinot Noir.

If you want to look like you know what you’re doing when someone takes a picture of you with a glass of wine, hold it by the stem. Behind closed doors, do what’s comfortable for you. Now at least you know why there is a proper way to hold the glass, and it’s not all about snobbery. I’m sure you already know that you shouldn’t parrot the people you see on television, or in the movies. You know things are upside down when Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn are doing it wrong, and Will Ferrell and some chick from The Bachelor are doing it right.

Cheers!

Hungry Girl, Hungryroot

I am by no means a vegetarian. But most meal services I have tried (especially the ones that don’t require 40 minutes of prep work) offered up flavorful proteins with bland side dishes and lifeless vegetables. I can cook a piece of chicken or roast some pork pretty easily — I’m not THAT lazy — but I am at a loss for quick, satisfying sides with the exception of roasting a few vegetables. That’s why I decided to try Hungryroot, a plant based meal service that delivers a variety of products with recipe ideas for quick and easy breakfasts, lunches, sides, mains, and even desserts.

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My first box included things like banana bread overnight oats, lemon artichoke quinoa bowl, sweet potato ribbons, kalebeet blend, chickpea alfredo, and black bean brownie batter. All this and more, with enough for two portions of each, for $65. This may seem pricey, but I know myself and I recognize the fact that if I stop in to Whole Foods to pick up a few avocados, I’ll emerge with $80 worth of groceries. Every. Time.

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Just a few of the items in my delivery.

The box arrived well packed with ice and included a recipe book with simple steps to make seven different dishes.  The packaging itself is bright, whimsical, and just plain adorable. All the products are gluten free and dairy free with no trans fats, no preservatives, limited added sugar, and low sodium. I don’t have a thing against gluten, or dairy for that matter, but I am happy to indulge in a healthful way — and nothing will stop me from putting an egg on it.

Upon opening the box, the first thing I did was prepare my Banana Bread Overnight Oats for the following morning.  All I had to do was stir in some almond milk and yogurt, shake in a little cinnamon, and put it in the fridge to be ready in time for breakfast. It’s not that difficult to make overnight oats in general, I’ll admit, but this was effortless and the end result was delightful.

The first dinner “recipe” I tried was the Sweet Potato Pad Thai. The instructions had me heating olive oil in a skillet, adding the provided sweet potato ribbons and pea snaps, mixing in some prepared Thai peanut sauce, and finishing up with a pinch of salt and pepper. Voila, dinner is served.  In the interest of full discloser, I cooked up a chicken sausage and served it alongside the Sweet Potato Pad Thai. The meal was enjoyable and satisfying.

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Hungryroot Recipe Book

The second “recipe” I tried was for lunch — the Lemon Kale Caesar Salad. Again I had to break a big sweat in the kitchen mixing the kalebeet blend with the lemon artichoke quinoa bowl, and mixing in some chickpea alfredo sauce.  The salad was creamy and bright and I devoured half of it and was surprisingly full.  Today, I am going to add a hardboiled egg to the leftovers. Because I am crazy like that.

So far, I am very pleased with the products, the flavor, and the ease and flexibility of the meals. I even tried a spoonful of the Black Bean Brownie Batter (you can bake it, but why bother?) and it was dangerously delicious. I don’t have a sweet tooth per se, but sometimes you need a little treat, and this was not overly sugary because the sweetness comes from almond butter.

Hungryroot is a subscription service, but it is easy to manage your deliveries. This is important for me because I travel so much. It’s also very easy to customize what’s in your box so you can always be trying new things, or stick to some of the products you loved in past deliveries. I will keep it up when I’m in town, and probably continue adding in a little protein as well. Tonight, it’s Deconstructed Carrot Shephard’s Pie… Bon Appétit!

 

On Corked Wine, and Trusting Your Instinct

I’ll try to keep this short. I don’t want to belabor the point, and there’s probably 1,000 articles on the topic already.
Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 12.48.10 PMI had an experience with corked wine this past week that made me question my professional integrity. Actually, I didn’t really question my credibility (I mean, sh*t happens) but I was irritated that I missed that one of the wines in my bag was corked. I was tasting with a restaurant account and the wine director called it out before I could even get my nose out of the glass. I must have had an inclination, because I lingered over the aromas longer than usual, but I wasn’t confident enough about it to speak up. Much of deciphering if a wine is corked or not is trusting your instincts, and that’s where I went wrong. I mean, if I sniffed my half & half a few times because it was questionable, I probably wouldn’t pour it in to my coffee, or yours. Same idea.

In my defense, the wine was only slightly corked. In fact, it probably would have squeaked by some of my other customers. But that doesn’t do anyone any good because a slightly corked wine has zero personality.  Cork taint mutes the fruit aromas and flavors and prevents the wine from being its best self. That means you aren’t going to enjoy drinking the wine and, for me, it means I’m not going to be able to sell it.

If a wine is extremely corked, you should be able to tell right away, by the smell alone. If the wine smells like wet cardboard, damp newspaper, musty basement, or your puppy running in to your arms after coming in from the rain, chances are it’s corked.  If a wine isn’t horribly corked, you might have to taste it before you’re sure. Although it really is more about the aroma, a corked wine will taste flat and lifeless and can confirm your suspicions. You may even get the sense of moldiness on your tongue (blech). Have no fear, drinking corked wine won’t make you ill, it just won’t taste very good.

So, what to take away from all of this? If you’re at a restaurant and think your wine is corked, speak up. Usually the Sommelier or server will confirm your suspicions and get you another bottle. Try not to mistake a wine you just don’t like with a wine that is genuinely corked. That’s not going to help when you get another bottle and it tastes the same.

If you purchase a wine from a retailer and you think it’s corked, return the cork to the bottle and take it back to the store if possible. Honorable shop owners will give you another bottle once they confirm it’s corked. Don’t bring the wine back with a few ounces left in the bottle and claim you kept tasting it to make sure. Not cool.

If you’re interested in what “corked” actually means, the culprit is a compound called TCA. It can be formed when a natural fungi, which is present in the bark of cork trees, comes in to contact with substances that are found in bleaches and other products that are, ironically, used to sanitize and sterilize wineries. If the cork is infected, the wine becomes infected. There is also the possibility of TCA contaminating an entire cellar or winery, finding its way in to barrels and boxes and wreaking havoc.  Depending on who you ask, TCA affects 2%-5% of all wines bottled with natural corks. This means you’re sure to experience a bottle, or a few, in your lifetime.

Of course, there are other faults that occur in wine. Besides cork taint, the other fault you will likely come across is cooked wine. Wine becomes cooked when it is exposed to extreme heat. A cooked wine will smell dull, with more raisiny aromas than fresh fruit, and will taste flat or stewed. If a wine is stored improperly — near the kitchen in a restaurant, in a hot basement of a wine shop, or in the trunk of your car or your hot apartment with radiator heat — it will suffer from heat damage.

At the end of the day, if you think something is wrong with your wine, trust your instinct — just like you would with that sour carton of milk.

Beets and Bigoli in Boston

If you’ve been following along, you may have caught on to the fact that I’m just a little obsessed with trying all the Barbara Lynch restaurants in Boston. After eating at The Butcher Shop and reading Lynch’s book, “Out of Line”, I basically made it my dining mission of 2018. Last week I was able to try No. 9 Park, Lynch’s flagship restaurant in Beacon Hill.

The townhouse space at No. 9 Park is polished, but the vibe is casual enough that you would feel as comfortable elegantly dressed as you would in your best jeans. Me and my best jeans arrived on the Acela from NY, checked in to The Godfrey Hotel, and made my way over to the restaurant. Since I would be dining by myself, I asked for a seat in the bar area and readied myself to study the menu.

The mere thought of dining alone used to horrify me. Since working in wine sales, however,  I have learned to embrace it, even enjoy it. One downside is that I can’t try as many menu items, and narrowing down my order to only a few things on the No. 9 Park menu was going to take all my decision making prowess. My first order of business was finding a wine to sip while perusing the menu, and I ordered a lively little glass of bubbles from Austria, a Sparkling Brut Rosé of Pinot Noir from Szigeti. A perfect aperitif, the wine was delicious, with red cherry notes and a touch of vibrant spice.

The other drawback to dining alone is that sometimes servers treat you like a pariah that is going to amount to half the check size of a party of two, and therefore half the tip. Not so at No. 9 Park. My server was very welcoming and helpful and didn’t make me feel weird at all (thanks Lee). Glass of sparkling empty, Lee poured me another and we decided that the beet & chicory salad with banyuls vinaigrette and black olive crumble was a fitting accompaniment for my first course. It did not disappoint. Banyuls is a fortified wine made from the Grenache grape in southern France, and the banyuls vinegar gave the dish a slight nutty taste. The black olive crumble was the perfect savory crunch.

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I saved up my carb intake for pasta and couldn’t pass up the Bigoli with peekytoe crab, grilled pepper butter, and lemon panko for my main course. Bigoli is a pasta originating in Venice. It’s a longer, thicker version of spaghetti and, besides, it’s really fun to say (Bigoli, Bigoli, Bigoli).  I felt like moving on to red wine, and when I saw that the pasta sauce was also red (from the red peppers), I decided on a lovely Bourgogne Rouge from Tollot Beaut.  The Pinot Noir’s herbal notes paired well with the earthiness of the Bigoli. The wine was also the only thing that that kept me from devouring the Bigoli without taking a breath.

I could easily have had another glass (or 2) but decided to call it a night and contemplate my meal and the day ahead. I still have four more Barbara Lynch spots to try, but Ill be back to No. 9 Park for the tasting menu, and a bottle from the extensive wine list, of that I am sure.

No. 9 Park

9 Park St, Boston, MA 02108

(617) 742-9991

http://www.no9park.com/

Discovering the Boston Dining Scene; The Butcher Shop

Screen Shot 2018-01-21 at 10.26.51 PMMassachusetts is one of my biggest markets for wine sales, so I have been spending more time in Boston than when I was a Connecticut high school kid kicking around Faneuil Hall. My main objective when in town is to visit restaurants and fine wine shops in hopes that they will find a place on their list or their shelves for my selection of California wines.  Selling wine all day can make a girl seriously hungry, so my secondary objective is exploring the local restaurant scene for some well earned drinks and dinner.

Having lived in New York City for 25+ years, I have a high standard for dining out; it’s what we do best in New York. The first restaurant that opened my eyes to the possibilities of Boston dining, was a bit of a lucky break. On a bitter, shivering cold Saturday night in December, my friend snagged us a last minute reservation at The Butcher Shop. I was so busy working and hosting wine tastings that I didn’t even research the place, which is totally unlike me. I honestly wasn’t expecting anything special, focusing solely on the chance to catch up with a good friend. But just walking in to The Butcher Shop on a cold winter night makes you feel welcome and cozy, and warm to the core.

The various cuts of meat, sausages, and salumi are on display in retail cases — this is an actual butcher shop after all — and there is a giant butcher block in the back where guests congregate to wait for their tables. After a glass of wine at the butcher block, my friend and I were seated at a high top table and promptly ordered a selection of pate and terrine, accompanied by a few more glasses of wine.  Keep ‘em coming, it’s Saturday!

Terrine is absolute heaven to me, and we enjoyed our selections fully, with a deliciously crusty baguette, before even thinking about ordering a main course. I didn’t feel that hungry but ended up ordering the prime sirloin, medium rare, served with fingerling potatoes and sautéed spinach. Our server may as well have put my plate back in rotation after I was done, because there was not a trace of food left on it. Simple, perfectly prepared and delicious food served in a causal atmosphere — my favorite way to eat. This place had my heart.

Next visit, I will dig deeper in to the wine list, which is extensive and covers old and new world regions, but mostly old world. This time, we opted to go by the glass and try some of the nightly specials. The good news (and believe me, this is not generally the case) is there are plenty of exceptional options available by the glass.

The footnote to all of this, is that I started reading Barbara Lynch’s book, “Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire” about a week after this memorable experience at The Butcher Shop. I hadn’t realized at the time that this was one of Lynch’s restaurants. It all started to come together as I tore through the pages of the book, and I vowed to try more of Barbara’s restaurants during my visits to Boston.

I have since been to No. 9 Park, another Barbara Lynch restaurant, and am attending a book club to discuss “Out of Line” in a few weeks time. More on that later, but for now I suggest you don’t miss the food and wine experience at The Butcher Shop if you find yourself in Boston. Special shoutout to my friend Deb for taking me there!

The Butcher Shop

552 Tremont Street

Boston, MA 02118

www.thebutchershopboston.com