World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Food and Drink

Stage 10 – Born to Rhone

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Lance Armstrong & George Hincapie-Stage 10 – Avg speed 60mph!

Grenoble to Courchevel, 192.5 km / 119.6 miles

The mountain of climbs are over for the day–two Category 1 hills–just looking at the grades on the graph makes me bonk.  It’s official OLN is driving me crazy.  I prefer the early live early morning race coverage. Tomorrow is the hardest Alpine stage, a 173km/107mi trek over three famed ascents.

I’ve gotten a few emails asking a few basic questions so I thought I’d share the answers here.  The questions asked were about the various meanings of the jerseys:

Yellow – Overall, also called the "GC" (General Classification). It’s worn by the overall first place rider, i.e. adding the times taken to complete each stage so far. Without getting into much detail the lowest elapsed time wins.  Don’t panic in the first week or so if Lance isn’t winning.  The GC riders compete against each other as do the sprinters. This is a long race, with complex rules like cricket–patience my friends.

Green – Is for the sprint points leader and it’s also usually called the sprinter’s jersey awarded to the best overall finisher from stage to stage points are also awarded for intermediate sprint points.

Polka Dot – My favorite.  King of the Mountains or KofM, awarded to the first cyclists over the top each categorized climb get points; it is awarded to the consistently best climber.

White – best young rider under 25

P.S:  Chris if I’m wrong let me know!

Stage 10- Born to Rhone Deux

Rhonefood

Nestled beneath the impressive Mont Blanc, Europe’s rooftop at 15,771 feet, is the Rhone-Alpes region which borders Switzerland and Italy. The area extends out toward the Rhone wine areas west of Lyon.

Charolais_1 It’s capital, Lyon is the second largest in France and a mecca for gourmands. The region itself offers 24 microclimates allowing for a wide variety of agriculture and food production. So with the chicken farms of the Bresse and the cattle ranches of Charolais, wild game (guinea fowl) of the Dombes, fish from the Savoy lakes, fruits and vegetables of the Rhône valley and the poultry of theForez region are all within easy reach and supply Rhône-Alpes battalion of grand chefs.  There are a total of 62 Michelin-starred restaurants of which five have three stars and 11 have two stars. The 10 Beaujolais crus and the wines of Côtes-du-Rhône, along with a wide range of cheeses including Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage (AOC), Reblochon (AOC) all pairing well with the region’s specialties.

Today the start of the race shifted to a different starting point due to a farmer’s protest.  They were protesting the reintroduction of wolves in the Alps. So naturally my mind wandered to what these farmers where growing and what the organics looks like here ? 

Organics is still a relatively niche market in France, representing only 0.5% of total retail food sales. More and more supermarkets are outlets for selling organics.  Biocoop is a smaller version of our Wild Oats or Whole Foods. It has over 230 stores today and is expanding everyday–much like Whole Foods.  Health food stores and open air markets make up 35% of total sales; supermarkets 45%.

Ab_02 In 1981 organic legislation was passed; in 1985 the state-approved organic logo started appearing gaining wider acceptance of organics in France and throughout Europe. Products with this logo contain more than 95 percent organic components, and are produced or processed within the EU.

By 1999 more than "60 percent of the organic land is located in the six regions of Basse Normandie, Bretagne, Pays de la Loire, Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées and Rhône-Alpes, which account for less than 40 percent of the French agricultural area." (French Ag Report 2003)

The Rhône-Alpes is one of the most dynamic regions in France in the agro-food industries. The irony is that while some of the best producers, farmers and cheesemakers can be found so can the French HQ of Monsanto, one of the leaders in GMOs as does Bayer Crop Science, one of the largest "crop protector" companies.

All of this makes me believe that there is room for opportunity everywhere, much like there is here in the U.S., for organic advocacy.  The region also sounds very similar to the Bay Area and California in general. Well, all except for the Alps.

Image:  Pajaro Street Grill

Stage 8 – Into the Black Forest

Blkfrstcake_2 Distance

: 231.5 km/143.8 miles

Pforzheim to Gérardmer-The Road to Germany

This is the second longest stage of the race. The longest I’ve ever spent on a bike was 123 miles. Riding on two wheels from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon into Zion National Park was an eventful 12 hours. While these elites will finish in half the time that I did they certainly don’t have the story of flagging down a Coke truck in lycra.

Germans are great bakers, particularly in the Southwestern region around Bavaria.  According to Spokesman Review, smaller independent bakeries are struggling. "Since 1965, the number of bakeries in southwest Germany has dwindled from 9,300 to just 2,500. While discount giants dominate the marketplace, German specialty shops like bakeries, butcher counters and pastry shops  have managed to survive. In part, that’s due to strict national regulations governing the ownership of the shops. Bakers, for example, must complete a three-year apprenticeship, followed by a public exam. To become a master baker, they must then attend school for another year."

Naturally, the cake that comes first to mind is Black Forest Cake. Originally called Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte it’s a chocolate layer cake with Kirsch, whipped cream, sour cherries and a blizzard of chocolate curls. Luscious deliciousness. Kirsch or Kirschwasser is a double distilled, clear cherry brandy made from the small, sour Morello cherry which has a dark red skin.

Mountains will make a first appearance tomorrow where we will start to see grades of 2.9% to 6.8%.  Might be best to have some cake and coffee.

Image: ActivePlaza

Stage Six – Champagne Anyone?

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Today: 199km/123 mi; Flat to rolling

And on we roll into the Champage-Ardeen region, where the flat fields will begin to give way to rolling hills, the riders are looking to keep pace and watch for breakaways. 

Sandwiched between Burgundy and Alsace-Lorraine this region is focused on the production of bubbles. Local food specialties include pease pudding, pink Reims biscuits, dandelion and bacon salad, pike, vine snails. Troyes, the starting point today, the  andouillette de Troyes, a savory tripe sausage  made from  pork chitterlings and tripe, seasoned with fresh onion, salt, pepper and stuffed by hand into natural casings is highly sought out. Another regional speciality is potee champenoise–a pot-au-feu consisting of jambon des Ardennes (smoked ham), cabbage and sausage. Troyes, the historical capital is also the departmental capital of the Aube, which produces a quarter of all Champagne’s grapes, although it sends more than half its grapes, grape juice and unfinished wines to be transformed into champagne by the big champagne houses in and around Reims.

Champage, the region is centered around Champagne the drink.  Champagne has been a popular wine region since 816 A.D. It wasn’t until the late 1600’s that Champagne winemakers discovered how to capture the naturally occurring bubbles in their wine during the second fermentation. Most well-known brands are produced in the Marne area, around the Massif de Saint Thierry, the Valley of the Ardre, the Mountain of Rheims, the Valley of the Marne, the Côte des Blancs and the Sézanne Hills. 

It’s here that you’ll find locals dipping pink champagne biscuits called Biscuit Rose de Reims into glasses of the sparkler. Its unique texture, soft rose color and delicate icing powder have enchanted for over 300 years.

Stage Five-Chambord

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Every year the TDF course changes.  Again, if you consider this fact you will become more impressed with these cycle jockeys.  Every year is different. The various villages along the route bid, cajole and bargain to be included as a stage start or finish.  I imagine that negotiations involve a lot of wine and cheese exchanging hands.

Today the TDF begins in Chambord and rolls on for 183km to Montargis. Chambord is a tiny village in the Loir-et-Cher region. There’s only 204 people and might magnificent castle–in fact the largest one in the Loire.  In the reign of Louis XIV, nobility would travel to their chateaux and relax with a snifter of Chambord which has been made by the same family for over 300 years.

The sweet liqueur is made from the finest framboises noire (black raspberries) and infused into a four year cognac. The distinct bottle is a glass sphere with a cap shaped like a metallic crown. Chambord includes blackberries, plums,currants, raspberries, honey and spices.  It will come as no surprise that it is quite intense. As their website states, this is not another creme de cassis, "the cheaper, bitter and worse tasting" liquid that it is. I was gifted with a bottle and have concocted a vodka-based martini of my own making.  It’s also great in desserts such as this Flourless Chocolate Chambord cake.

Riders will finish in Montargis,  a place renowned for its honey and its notable confectionery contribution those famous sugared almonds or pralines. According to one often-repeated story and recounted in Larousse Gastronomique it was in this town during the reign of Louis XIII,  that Lassagne, who was chef de bouche (master of the household), to the Compte du Plessis-Praslin, dropped almonds into a boiling cauldron of sugar whether on purpose or accidentally is widely argued. These confections, when cooled, became one of the Duke’s favorites, and he claimed the invention with his name they were named praslines. "Lassagne finally retired to Montargis in 1630 and there founded the Maison de la Praline, which exists to this day."

Cham Purple Tini

2 oz. good quality Vodka (such as Grey Goose)

1/2 oz. Chambord Liquor

Fresh lime juice

      Pour all ingredients except lime into shaker over ice, shake, strain, and pour into glass. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lime juice into glass and top with a lime twist.

Champers dahling, Champers

KorbelOffering recipes and serving suggestions for a multitude of flavorful champagne creations, from fun fruit drinks and cool champagne cocktails to unique holiday quaffs the new "Korbel Drink Guide" is a good addition to any libation shelf.  And best of all?  It’s free!

Naturally there are recipes that bear the producer’s name such as — Korbel South Peach, Kor bel Bellinisimo and Korbel Spell, but I know you could easily improvise.

Established in 1882 in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, Korbel Champagne Cellars produces one of the United States’ most popular methode champenoise champagnes. Owned and managed by the Heck family since 1954, Korbel currently makes 10 champagnes and a limited amount of still wine. Korbel also produces a well-respected brandy.

If you don’t feel like putting down your glass dear, the booklet can be found in liquor stores–or like I did at a liquor store on display.  I’m sure you’ll be near one in the very near future.

To receive a copy by mail, simply send a self-addressed stamped legal-size envelope to: Korbel Drink Guide, Attention: Tina Lomax, 13250 River Road, Guerneville, CA 95446.

National Iced Tea Day

Litglass Happy Iced Tea Day.  It’s Friday so I’m raising a tall, cold one to you as we move closer to those long, cold, foggy summer days. Sorry, for most of you they are long and hot.  Here in San Francisco it’s a different story entirely. 

According to the U.S. Tea Association, Americans spent $2 billion on ready-to-drink iced tea last year, 10 times more than we spent in 1990. More than 37 billion glasses of iced tea are consumed every year in the United States and tea is the second most popular beverage in the world – water is first.

But it’s Friday so the variation I’m seeking is in the sassy Long Island Iced Tea–gin, tequila, vodka and white rum stirred together with Coke and triple sec–otherwise known as the kitchen sick drink.  Honestly I can’t drink these anymore like I once did.  Enjoy the weekend…

B B Q = Slow Food

Bbq_bible “Barbecuing is a dance on a razor’s edge between grilling and burning.” Steve Raichlen

I hope you are prepared.  In less than three days BBQ season officially opens across America.   

Over at Slate David Plotz is on a noble quest to find the "greatest barbecue joints in America, an R.W. Apple-ian gut-stuffing to sample as much ‘cue of as many different varieties as I could in a week, to try to figure why barbecue was so distinctly American and where you should go to eat the best meat in the world." What a rough job. 

As he points out, many of us don’t know the difference between grilling and barbecuing:

"What most Americans call barbecuing is not barbecuing. When you throw some charcoal on the Weber and sear some T-bones and burgers, you are "having a barbecue" but you are not "barbecuing." You are "grilling." When you grill, you cook fast over high, direct heat. But when you barbecue, you cook meat slowly, over low heat (as low as 170 degrees), and with smoke. Grilling is a transatlantic flight on the Concorde. Barbecuing is a cruise on the QE2. Grilling is a quickie on the kitchen table. Barbecue is tantric."

Amen and Ah-hem!

According to Celebrating BBQ there are four regional styles of BBQ in America: Carolina, known for its whole pork, shredded pork and hot-sour-vinegar-based sauce; Memphis, where smoky, sweet-hot ribs and pulled pork shoulder are "the real signature of Southern barbecue"; Texas, where savory beef brisket and pork rules the range; and Kansas City, whose hot, sticky, tomato-based sauce was the prototype for the bottled commercial sauces now found in supermarkets everywhere.

One of the simplest methods that yields great flavor is to use dry spice rubs which if you think about it is a dry marinade. Now there are as many rub blends as there are uses and grill meisters.  Everyone has their signature rub it seems so the idea here is to experiment until you find a composition that pleases you. The mixture is worked over the outside of food which will encourage the formation a concentrated flavor. 

Rubs are usually a dry combination of herbs and spices, although sometimes a little oil is added to moisten the mixture. As they are often massaged into the meat.  Steve Raichlen, author and BBQ expert, says that a good rub "should certainly hit the basics–sweet, sour, salty and bitter." Generally speaking you can use rubs across all meats and poultry in varying, to your liking, degree, but here are a few parameters:

  • Stick with earthier spices (red and black pepper, cumin, cinnamon) for meats  and lighter ones (ginger, cardamom) for fish and chicken
  • Rubs can be massaged on the meat or poultry just before grilling or for a more pronounced flavor leave the rub on longer and in the fridge until ready to grill
  • Shirmp needs only 10-15 minutes; boneless chick and fish 30-45 depending on thickness; whole chickens 4 hours or overnight;  steaks about 1-3 hours

If you are not feeling like rubbing it all together Tom Douglas has a line of very aromatic and exotic products called Rub with Love.

Pincho Powder

Excerpted from "Barbecue! Bible™ Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters & Glazes" (2000) the definitive cookbook on global grilling. Pinchos is the Spanish word for shish kebabs.  You’ll find the dish in bars in Spain and in Puerto Rico.  Steve recommends using Spanish or Hungarian paprika. And accompanying it with sangria certainly wouldn’t hurt.

1/2 teaspoon saffron
1/4 cup Spanish paprika
1/4 cup dried parsley
1/4 cup freeze-dried chives
2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
2 teaspoons dried garlic flakes
2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons black pepper

Crumble the saffron between your fingers into a bowl.  Whisk the remaining ingredients together.  Place all the powders into something that you can gently crush together–a pestle is good. It needs to be a semi fine powder.

To make the pinchos, sprinkle the powder on 1/2" – 1" cubes of pork, beef, lamb, or chicken in a mixing bowl. Add a little olive oil and marinate the cubes covered in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. Skewer meats and grill over high heat, basting with olive oil.

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Farm Fresh to Your Table

Beso Farm-Fresh Meal Kits from San Francisco’s Besos Foods include all the ingredients you need to cook a gourmet meal at home in about 25 minutes.  How much easier could it get with all local, organic ingredients – produce, herbs, meats, sauces,  are portioned and prepped for you?  And now delivery is available throughout the Bay Area.  Menus are very contemporary and diverse and include such fare as Wild Halibut with English Peas, Braised Fennel, Brown Rice and Spring Greens topped with Valencia Orange and Radish Salad and Achiote Crusted Organic Chicken Breast with Posole, Bloomsdale Spinach, Housemade Chorizo & Avocado Salsa.  There’s also desserts such as an Artisanal cheese platter and XOX chocolate truffles.  Meal Kits fall in the price range of $35-$45 for two meals that can be stored for a few days.  So if your schedule keeps you from sitting down to a decent meal with your sweetie or buddy–give them a call. 

IMBB 8 -Torta di Limoncello

Limon_2

After the stress of switching over to a non-blog URL I thought I’d reward all who were patient with the process with a recipe that is by far one of my most popular, statistically speaking, around the world.  Originally published back in September this cake is best made a day ahead.  Enjoy.

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Here we are again, this time it’s IMBB #8 but only #2 for me. This go round is hosted by Donna via her blog, There’s A Chef in My Kitchen The challenge, "Lift Your Spirits High" is cooking or in my case, baking with a wine or spirit.

I choose to prepare a Limoncello Cake. I dug out a recipe that I had filed away in the "Cakes To Be Made" category that came from a 2003 issue of Italian Cooking and Living magazine. This bimonthly publication is all about Italy and Italian cooking. It’s a part of Italian Culinary Institute and is also affiliated with the Italian Culinary Center in New York City.

Limoncello reminds me of the Amalfi coast Italy where I first tasted it. According to resources, the spirit accounts for 35% of total liqueur consumption in Italy. It’s defined as a liqueur made by infusing grain spirits with the juice and peel of lemons from Italy’s sunny southern Amalfi coast. I choose to use Caravella Limoncello.

There are many spirited desserts out there that I could have chosen: the Caribbean Tortuga Rum Cake, bananas foster, Crepes Suzette, amaretto cheesecake, bread pudding with hard sauce (brandy), there’s also a Jack Daniels Tipsy Carrot Cake, or The Cheesecake Factory’s Kahlua Almond Cheesecake.

However I wanted something special. And this cake is just that–a light 3-layered sponge cake wrapped with a fresh whipped cream frosting. Delicate as a cloud and not overly sweet. However, alcohol-based cakes aren’t to everyone’s liking. Last night I learned that when my friend S. stated, "This cake is ‘boozy’.

This cake is not for the impatient or novice. It involves a lot of time and bowls. There’s the separating of eggs, whipping of whites for the cake; the whipping of cream for the filling and frosting. And there’s the assembly and the frosting of the cake. My kitchen is still a wreck. But as you can see it is pretty has a pleasing taste. The simpler idea would be to brush limoncello over the outside of a lemon or plain pound cake before slicing. But of course I didn’t go that way and discovered an unexpected cake for a special occasion.

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