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Wine | Manolo's Food Blog - Part 3
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Will It Saber? with your host, Matt Stache

Successful First-Time Saberer at the Sumac Ridge Sabering at Vancouver Police Museum by Tris Hussey

Successful First-Time Saberer at the Sumac Ridge Sabering at Vancouver Police Museum by Tris Hussey


Oh, I’m in love. Sure, every girl thrills to the sight of a dapper gent in close proximity to a bottle of Champagne (with which he will presumably require assistance) but when you add a soupçon of danger in the form of bladed weapons, well, a girl could truly lose her head, particularly after the second bottle, and most particularly if she stands too close.

Allow me to present the very dapper Mister Matt Stache, your genteel host of the un-missable YouTube series “Will It Saber?” Despite slight imperfections in technique (I’m sorry, but the muselet must go avant de sabrage) his sheer audacity carries the day. Let’s take a look at Will It Saber #1: the Saber for an example, shall we?

Highly inspiring. Sabering, in fact, can be done with virtually any implement that has a narrow edge and can be moved with rapidity down the neck of a Champagne bottle. I once attended a sabering workshop in an old morgue which used quite a variety of sabering instruments: it’s the combination of momentum and narrow pressure point that does the trick. Presumably, you could saber Champagne with the front of a snow plough, if you could move it fast enough.

Vancouver Police Museum morgue by John Biehler

Vancouver Police Museum morgue by John Biehler

Yes, that really sets the mood. Trust me, you need a drink if you’re in there after dark.

From TinyBites.ca:

Hold the sword with your dominant hand with the edge at a ~20 degree angle to the curve of the bottle neck.
Hold the bottle with your other hand, arm straight out and as far away from your body as possible, with the cork end pointed towards the part of the room that can handle the landing of such a projectile.
Slide the blade along the bottle starting from the middle until you reach the cork, applying the same smooth pressure and velocity throughout the motion. Practice the movement a few times until you get the feel of it, if that helps.
Once the bottle is opened, do not touch the top of the bottle, where the glass is razor sharp from the act of sabering.
If you do not have a sword available, most heavy objects with a similar edge will do. He mentioned a machete…I don’t know about you, but I have neither machete nor sword lying around at home. Someone mentioned that you could do it with a butter knife but McWatters was vigorously shaking his head at us upon hearing that suggestion.

Here, in #3 in the series, Matt Stach sabers a bottle of Champagne with a brake rotor from a 2002 Mazda Protege 5.

Yes, really.

via Cityrag

Anyone got this man’s phone number? He’s JUST the fellow for me.

My Tumbler

I bet you thought this would be about yet another of my blogs, didn’t you? No, it’s actually a post about dishwashing.

If there is one chore I enjoy less in this world than mucking out the stall of Hannibal Lecter, in the dark, it’d be washing dishes. And why, you ask? Because unlike wedding celebrants, high-spirited toast-givers, and dancing gypsies in bad movies, I never break expensive glassware having fun.

I break expensive glasswear washing it.

And god knows, I love to preserve my expensive glasswear, but there comes a point where simply buying more isn’t possible, and one must actually undertake to clean what one already owns.

“I hate housework. You make the beds, you wash the dishes, and six months later you have to start all over again.”
Joan Rivers

What then happens is sad, but simple: the glasses snap off at the stem in pure spite at the fact I left them till the hangover was gone (in some cases, gone for so long it could legally be declared dead) before paying them some sanitizing attention. SNAP! Yes, the sound of quality crystal under stress is musical indeed, but it translates directly as, “There goes another $25 you clumsy oaf!”

But there is a solution, my friends. This solution is radical, indeed, but it is so vastly superior to the original not only in problem-solving but in actual stone-cold merit AND aesthetics (judging crystal is like judging figure skating, only less crooked; equal weight on technical merit and aesthetics).

That solution: wine tumblers. Specifically, Riedel Chardonnay Tumblers.

Riedel Chardonnay Tumbler

Riedel Chardonnay Tumbler. Because grown up wine doesn't need a high chair

Although recommended for Chardonnay, its bowl perfect for swirling away the too-oaky mistakes of some long-suffering Californian, I find this very rounded shape superior for any complex, aromatic wine. You can cup it, soothingly, if it’s a Stay-In-With-Merlot-And-Bridget-Jones night. You can swirl it knowingly if it’s a Stay-In-With-Pinot-And-Colin-Firth kind of night. You can get quite tipsy without tipsying it over (so I’ve heard). And it is, even empty, a thing of beauty and a joy forever, although only in the sense that a perfectly made bed in the presence of…oh, never mind where I was going with that. Where’d I put that Pride and Prejudice DVD?

Ahem.

To sum up: Riedel Chardonnay Tumblers=Good. Perfect, in fact. Riedel quality is such that it really is one of the few brands around worth fetishizing. You can find well-shaped, cheap wine tumblers that are great for parties containing large numbers of people you don’t want to treat to your VERY best, but should you even be throwing parties for those people anyway? This particular shape of tumbler is my favorite because it is so versatile and so beautiful; the others, frankly, look a little pinched, a little ungenerous, and a lot less sexy. I like my wineglass like I like my figure: all curves.

I always like to make a good exit

I always know JUST when to make an exit

All I want for Christmas is…

THIS.

Bosch IXO Vino Cordless Lithium-Ion Screwdriver with Corkscrew Attachment

The Bosch IXO Vino Cordless Lithium-Ion Screwdriver with Corkscrew Attachment. Have you ever lived through the very special Hell of having been stuck house-sitting in the house of talented and prolific winemakers? Talented and prolific winemakers, I should add, whose house has a fully stocked cellar, a hot tub, wraparound views, a fridge specially stocked with treats chosen just for you, and a fireplace?

And, apparently, not. one. freaking. corkscrew.

I tried the shoe-banging method. I tried the push-the-cork-down method. I finally tried the put a long screw in the cork and pull it out with pliers method. But this handly little gadget would have saved me a great deal of stress as well as looking innocuous and coming in handy every time I buy something from Ikea.

The Shoe-Banging Method, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it because you are not French and Desperate:

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Under New Management

Things are going to be different around here.

Bottom's up! Here's to your liver

VERY different.

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Grandmother’s turkey

While shopping at the Union Square farmer’s market, Mr. Henry passed a stand selling fresh, farm-raised turkeys. Small, firm, not fat, they looked almost like a different species from the big-breasted turkey grandmother used to make. He tucked a 7 ½ pound bird into his backpack and boarded the subway for home.

After sitting for two days in dry salt and black pepper, the turkey was ready to be smeared with butter, sprinkled with paprika, and stuffed with fresh sage, savory, and onion. (He covered the breast in cheesecloth infused with more butter.) The plan was to shock the skin at 425º for half an hour and then turn the temperature down to 350º for the remaining hour and a half.

But this was not your grandmother’s turkey.

grandmother_emm.JPG

Organic, farm-raised birds of today don’t have much fat. After half an hour the pan was nearly devoid of drippings and the bird looked dry. Mr. Henry quickly poured some white vermouth into the pan. After another half an hour the pan was dry once again and the bird looked like leather. More vermouth!

The final result was a bird with crispy skin and great flavor, but a dry exterior. Next time he buys a bird as lean as this one, he will wrap the whole bird in parchment. A small, free-range turkey simply does not contain enough internal moisture to survive two hours in the oven without some protection. (Mr. Henry’s English friend Louise pours an entire bottle of white wine into the drippings pan. Her gravy is amazing.)

The heart, gizzard and neck roasted in the pan, as did assorted vegetables – celery, carrot, onion – which came out nearly black but delicious, nonetheless. Chopped neck and heart combined with the deglazed pan drippings (more vermouth!) made giblet gravy. The roasted gizzard went straight to the stock pot followed by those delicious roasted bones.

turkey1.jpg

Chopped dried apricots soaked in Madeira, which unexpectedly were a hit with the kids, were this year’s surprise ingredient in the sage and bread stuffing. Red and white Swiss chard drizzled with balsamic made a delightful vegetable.

Chicken livers

moroccan.jpg
Mr. Henry forgot the livers.

It could happen to anyone. It could even happen to you if you had endured three solid weeks of liquid skies.

In New York it’s been raining forever. Strange never-before-seen varieties of mushrooms are sprouting from tree roots and branches. The baby hawks have frizzy feathers. Liberal-minded New Yorkers have acquired new empathy for Bangladeshi villagers in monsoon season.

Friday afternoon a soggy Mr. Henry’s lumbered into Citarella. Center cut pork chops, sweet potato purée, asparagus under the broiler, and cucumber salad constituted his quick and easy dinner menu. The humidity, however, had sapped his strength. He needed fortification.

For strength nothing beats chicken livers, especially chicken livers Moroccan style.

To rinsed and trimmed livers add salt, black pepper, chopped garlic, a teaspoon or more of cumin, a half teaspoon each of curry powder and hot paprika (cayenne works very well, too), and a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

After the livers have marinated for a good long while, sauté them in their marinade and serve them on toast with lots of chopped cilantro (or parsley). Finish with cold clementines.

moroccanspices.jpg

Normally Mr. Henry marinates for a few hours, perhaps a day….marinates his livers, that is, not himself. But this time he plainly forgot. Since no one else in the family enjoys this hearty delicacy, no one missed them at table.

On Monday he remembered. What would a weekend bathing in strong spices do to a chicken liver?

It worked miracles – an intensity of flavor never before experienced. Considering the gravity of the moment, he felt it appropriate to open a bottle of Burgundy at lunchtime.

At breakfast…

john-updike.jpg

John Updike writes in his final book Endpoint:

                                              Perhaps
we meet our heaven at the start and not
the end of life.

If Updike is remembered only for a single line, this should be the one.

endpoint.jpg

Although Mr. Henry’s rejoinder may not achieve the eloquence of Updike’s iambic pentameter, here goes:

At breakfast you may eat the sweet
you left untouched the night before
and greet the day’s beginning with
the satisfaction knowing that
tomorrow you’ll have more.

The sweet in question this week is Mr. Henry’s favorite dessert from a platter of figs: prunes stewed in red wine with sugar and cinnamon. On yogurt it transports you to a heavenly realm.

The season is early for pit fruit – peaches, plums, nectarines. White peaches in the market aren’t bad but cannot approach the sublime aromas they exude in August.

Citrus in June has faded a bit from the high quality of springtime Indian River fruit, but pineapple remains a dependable choice. Its palate-cleansing acids encourage good digestion leaving the stomach full and the mouth clean.prunes.JPG

Breakfast is the one moment of the day when something sweet is genuinely appropriate. Coffee’s bracing bitterness seeks balance in a delicate, sophisticated sweet. Instead of an icky, oily gut bomb like a doughnut or a Danish, reach for plum tart, apple pie, banana bread.

Even the morning mayhem brought to you by The New York Times cannot defeat the genuine thrill of such a breakfast. It’s a transcendent experience – life’s promise in each mouthful. Plus, you have the whole day ahead of you to walk off the calories.

Easter bunny

yoshitoshi.jpg

On Easter evening Mr. Henry removed a pink package from the refrigerator shelf and slid the dressed rabbit from its plastic cocoon. Still attached to the inner cavity a plump brown liver quivered like a bird’s wing. On either side grape-sized kidneys lay snuggling. Deep behind the forelegs a little white lozenge of sweetbread obscured a surprisingly tiny heart.

Mr. Henry was about to get his Easter treat.
Ignoring insults muttered by certain so-called family members devoid of appreciation for organ meats, Mr. Henry cut up the rabbit and fired up the iron skillet.

On the viscera he sprinkled sea salt, herbs de provence, and a generous few tablespoons of olive oil.

First out of the pan came the sweetbread, a nutty, mild, delicate hors d’oeuvre for one. Second came the liver, still pink inside, milder in flavor than chicken liver. Last came the kidneys and heart, their round shapes more resistant to the skillet’s heat. Admittedly their dark, strong flavor dark may not suit everyone’s taste, but Mr. Henry embraces the dark side.

Served on toast each was different, each sublime, the organs comprising a rich and savory feast grand enough to sate the hungriest chef.

Cooking the rabbit itself proved a more exacting challenge because the leg meat is dark but the saddle is white. Like with chicken, white meat cooks much quicker. When baking the rabbit you must take care to remove the white well before the dark is done. Baked in a sauce at 400 degrees the white meat is done in 30-40 minutes, for example, but dark takes a good hour.

bunnyhop1952.jpg

The common solution it to braise, but Mr. Henry likes to find the uncommon solution. David Tanis’ A Platter of Figs has a marinade of crème fraiche, mustard, bacon, and garlic with fresh thyme and sage.

It was good, very good, but memories of dinners in the Piemonte kept coming back. Rabbit braised in wine sauce with mushrooms accompanied by a barolo of twenty years vintage will fulfill your every aspiration in life.

Surely rabbit is the finest meat of all. At $6.99/lb. from Vermont Quality Rabbits, it’s remarkably inexpensive, too.

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