Cooking with Jason

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Big Tuesday

All sorts of happenings today.

I started my day at the career fair, where I only had about half an hour to spend thanks to a special lunch I was invited to (more later). As a result I only talked with a representative from one company, but it was the company I was the most excited about. They're a small (~45 restaurants) company, privately owned, with restaurants all over the country. They're not fine dining, but they're definitely upscale and would be a great place to get started. They have an intensive manager training program, are growing, and offer really good compensation. I had a nice talk with the recruiter, and will sit down for a formal interview with him tomorrow before class. I'm really, really excited about this one.

I then trekked from the career fair on over to St. Andrew's Cafe, where we had our class wine lunch on Monday. This time it was a more exclusive affair -- just me, one other student, Professor Weiss, and the co-owner of Cave Spring Cellars (our guest speaker later in the afternoon). The other student and I had been invited because we have the top grades in the class. We had a really nice lunch, starting with a pizza, then a special treat from the chef, then soup, then an appetizer, and then an entree. Two bottles of wine -- from Professor Weiss' personal cellar -- went along with all of this. Yum.

Class today was on the fortified wines of Spain and Portugal, so Port, Sherry, and Madeira. We then had a lecture and tasting with Tom Pennachetti from Cave Spring, who brought with him five of their wines: three Reislings, a Pinot Noir, and an Icewine Riesling. The three Reislings, despite all being semi-dry and 2005, were quite different thanks to which vineyards they came from and the yields of these vineyards (lower yields = better wines). The Pinot Noir was good but not what I was expecting; it was extremely smoky without much in the way of fruit. The ice wine, however, was the best dessert wine I've ever had.

Ice wine, if you're not familiar, is a risky proposition in which the winery leaves the grapes on the vine well past harvest time (generally September). Cave Spring won't pick grapes for ice wine until it's -8*C, and more likely will wait until it's a degree or two colder than that. For them this means December or January. They then pick the frozen grapes at night, when the weather is the coldest, and, moving quickly as not to thaw them, press them while they're still frozen. They discard the ice cube that shoots out and keep the super-sweet, syrupy stuff that's left. Because most of the water is lost, there's a great deal of natural sugar. At this point they add yeast and begin fermentation (sugar is converted into alcohol) but there's too much sugar for the yeast to handle -- once the alcohol reaches around 15-16%, the yeast dies and all the residual sugar is left over. You get a very sweet, very full-bodied, wine.

What made this wine so good is that it was more than just sweet -- there was a wonderful acid to it, and it also had spice and dried fruit (apricot, raisin) flavors to it. It was so good on its own that you would want to serve it with a very simple dessert, as not to overpower the wine. And as in most things, you get what you pay for. A half bottle (375ml, pretty standard for dessert wines) runs around $60 in a store and might be $30 a glass in a restaurant. Amazing, amazing stuff, though. As much as I complain about certain things about school (well, maybe not publicly), this is something that wouldn't have happened at another culinary school.

I'm off to write my paper on Monday's wine lunch.

Oh, almost forgot! Arlington Wine and Liquor officially hired me to work in their fine wines department. I'm still waiting to hear about my schedule from the department manager, but I'm in.


Post a Comment

<< Home