Wine and War

Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest TreasureAt some point in time, I ordered Wine & War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure from Amazon. Then it languished on my bookshelf for ages, passed over for other, more glamorous titles. But after my wine experience at the Taste 3 Conference in mid-July, I've gotten really into wine, so I grabbed it for my plane ride to Blogher.

"Wine & War" tells the true story of French winemakers struggles to keep their cellars from being plundered by the occupying German forces, and also their struggles to keep up with the German's incessant demand for wine. From Champagne and Alsace to Burgundy and Bordeaux, husband and wife authors Don and Petie Kladstrup weave tales of hastily constructed wine cave walls with the more dangerous exploits of the Resistance.

It was a very enjoyable read and I learned a lot about the wine-making process and some of the famous French wine families. It also further piqued my interest in wine and now I'm determined to not only learn more, but drink more too. You'll enjoy this book if you're interested in wine or France. If the triumvirate of wine, France, and the Resistance is your thing (Hi Mom!), you'll definitely love "Wine & War".

Peanuts and bombs

(by Michael Ruhlman, guest blogger)

I’m 43 today and while I say this with neither joy nor sadness, more just a general sigh at the nature of time, or rather of the way we perceive it–an acceleration, a rush, like falling, rather than a metronomic procession of days–the day occasioned an unexpected delivery from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Not a fresh foie gras, but rather two excellent cuts from the bird that gives us the foie gras and are every bit as excellent. Wonderful duck legs and duck breasts, called magret, from the moulard duck–it’s not just about the foie gras. The card inside read happy birthday, from my mom. Is that a great mom, or what? I’ll confit the legs and save them for fall; I’ll dry cure two of the duck breasts with salt and thyme for duck prosciutto, and grill the other two (they’re as fat and rich as strip steak and even more flavorful).

–In another package, also from my saintly mum, a can of Whitely’s Peanuts. These peanuts I tell anyone who will listen are arguably the best in the United States. They’re large, very crunchy, and the driest fried peanuts I’ve encountered. One of the company’s owners told me why: they soak the peanuts in water before cooking them; when they’re fried by hand in 130 pound batches, the steam they release apparently prevents them from absorbing tons of oil. They’re fantastic.

–A final more somber note. Bourdain has written a complete account of his Lebanon trip at salon.com. You may have to watch a quick ad for the travel channel for the whole story, but the commercial is brief. I emailed Tony to ask if writing it had been cathartic. He replied “I wish that were true.” And this is a guy who is not easily rattled.

Dissatisfied with the Coca-Cola Company's…

Dissatisfied with the Coca-Cola Company's business and environmental practices, a pair of bar managers from the UK decided to whip up a Coke taste-alike for sale at their establishment. After some initial missteps, they ended up with something possessing "satisfying, complex flavour, subtly different from the brand leader, but easily as good." Scroll to the end for the recipe to make your own Coke at home.

Do oysters have souls?

Nobody knows. But we DO know they have digestive systems. Meg's oyster posts over at epicurious.com got me thinking about Penn Cove oysters and that company's sensible practice of storing harvested oysters in the water. "Some distributors often treat shellfish like fish, and this is the problem," Ian Jeffords, gm of the company, once explained to me. "When you take them out of the water and hold them in a cooler, they're still alive. You think about it, all the things that make shellfish taste good, fats and sugars, theyre living off those in the cooler, they're metabolizing those fats and sugars, so by the time you eat them everything that makes them taste good is gone."

What do those tasty fats and sugars become in that oyster you're slurping down? I'm not sure I want to know.

"How long have these oysters been out of the water?" is a good question to ask the chef who purchases them at your favorite raw bar.

You can buy Penn Cove oysters via company called farm 2 market.