Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Internship: Day 4, 10/12/05

So these are the days that you hear about when people talk about the hell of staging and internships. It started out well—D2 was making some fabulous french toast with boysenberry compote and fresh whipped cream when I came in. Much more appetizing than the scone I’d picked up at Starbucks on the way in. But then I spent much of the day making 50 lbs. of sauerkraut. It took me 3 or 4 hours to cut and slice (on the slicer) an entire case of cabbage. Chef kept coming through and laughing, saying he thought this must be a world’s record for slicing. By the time I was finished, the entire right side of my body ached. Once that was done, I took the cabbage and layered it with a cup of salt, and 2-3 juniper berries per layer. Then I had to take a huge masher and press the layered cabbage until enough juice was released to cover the mixture. At this point I asked D, “You guys hate me don’t you?” He laughed and assured me that they don’t, and said that he’d had to do this three times last year. Once the cabbage was all pressed (D helped), we put it into a bucket, put a weight on it, wrapped the whole thing in multiple layers of plastic, and set it on a shelf. It will continue to sit and ferment for an entire month.

My next job was deveining and mashing piles of foie gras to be used for a foie gras terrine. I was only about halfway through the pile at 6pm. D took pity on me as he was leaving and said he’d finish the other half the next day. I was so glad, because I had plans for later that night and was happy not to have to forego them. On Monday, I’ll have my first day on the line. I’ll be working with T on cold pantry for lunch. Lunch seems very mellow, and T knows what it’s like to be new (he was staging, too, until very recently) so it shouldn’t be too stressful. I’m looking forward to it!

The second bright spot of the day: D2 took the leftover french toast slices, diced it, and made french toast ice cream, which most of us took a break to devour. It’s really cool that they let the staff experiment when they have time. Y was working on a new dish all day, and is going to be attempting a pumpkin aioli in the near future. It’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Wine and Beverage: Day 2, 10/11/05

Wine Quote of the Day

“In Europe, we thought of wine as something healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication, nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.”

—Ernest Hemingway. A Moveable Feast


In this class we discussed some of the differences between New World and Old World wine classifications and labeling. We also tasted wines from each of six primary grape varietals:

Big Six (Lightest to Fullest)

1. Riesling
2. Sauvignon Blanc
3. Chardonnay

4. Pinot Noir
5. Merlot
6. Cabernet

Highlights from the class are below, and you can view a PDF of my full notes here.

Answers to the “What Do You Know?” test here.

Also, I’ve started an overview of the varietals here: Red and White. This will expand as we cover more of the varietals in class.



New World classification: Varietal (Merlot, Cabernet)

Old World classification: Geographical (France, Bordeaux, Medoc)

Wine classification is generally broad for generic, lesser quality wines and specific for complex, higher quality wines.


  • Applied to New World wines.
  • Grape listed on bottle is regulated.
  • In California and Washington the wine must contain at least 75% of the specified varietal.
  • In Oregon, the specified varietal must be 90%.
  • In Alsace, France the specified varietal must be 100%

Lower required percentages allow vintners to compensate for weaknesses in the wine.


  • Applied to Old World wines.
  • Wines are usually named after the region in which the grapes are grown.

Generic (Jug-Based)

  • The names of American wines in this category are unrelated to the geographic location or varietal origin and have no relationship to European wines using the same designation.
  • Jug-Based wines consist of a blend of different grapes and are often of lower quality than grapes that compose varietal wines.


  • In California, wine makers have been producing wine styled after Bordeaux. “Meritage” (pronounced like “heritage”) is typically the name given to these wines. They’re generally made from 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the balance being varying quantitites of other Bordeau-style grapes.


Elements of Viticulture

It’s estimated that there are as many as 10,000 strains, clones, and hybrids of Vinifera grapes. Only about 30-40 of those grapes varieties are actually used.

1. Grape Varietal
The type of grape is probably the single most important factor in the taste of the wine. The flavor is also affected by:

  • the age of the vines
  • soil composition
  • exposure to sun, rain, climates, and microclimates
  • grape handling and fermentation
  • type of yeast used
  • aging, use of wood

The same varietal can be grown in different parts of the world and create different-tasting wines.

2. Climate (Weather and Location)
Wine grapes grow best in temperate climates. The challenge is to ensure enough acid in the juice to balance the sugar content.

  • Warm climates = more sugar, higher alcohol content
    Too much sugar = flabby, flat wine
  • Cool climates (i.e. Burgundy) = more acid, less sugar, lower alcohol content
    Too much acid = sour, overly crisp wine

Some regions are allowed to practice “chapitalization,” adding additional sugar to the wine.

3. Soil
Unlike most crops, which require rich, fertile soil, most grapes make better wine if grown in poor, rocky soil with good drainage. Soil types that are ideal for specific varieties include gravel, sand, limestone, and clay.

Appellations and Regions

  • The French term “Appellation” refers to a viticultural region distinguished by geographical features which produce wines with shared characteristics.
  • In 1935, France set up the Appellation D’Origine Controlle (AOC) laws, a countrywide system based on geography for controlling the origin and quality of wine. These strict guidelines specified vineyard location, grape varietal, growing technique, crop yeield, grape ripeness and ensuing alcohol content and winemaking practices.
  • In the U.S., appellations are known as “American Viticultural Areas” (AVAs). American labels may identify a wine’s AVA when a minimum of 85% of the wine comes from that location.

4. Plowing, Planting, and Pruning

  • In most Vinifera vineyards, cuttings of the desired varieties are grafted onto Vitis Labrusca.
  • Pruning creates less yield, higher quality.

5. Picking
Grapes ripen in late summer or early fall, depending on the grape varietal, climate, and desired qualities of the finished wine. The overall goal is to balance the sugar and acidity of the wine.



1. Harvest and Pressing/Crushing

  • Grapes are put into the crushing/destemming machine.
  • Juice (free run) is now separated or drained from skins, pulp, juice, and seeds (must).
  • Free run is transferred to oak barrel or stainless steel vat.
  • Must is pressed in order to extract more juice (second pressing).
  • Residue is called “pommace” (sometimes made into Grappa).

2. Fermentation and Maceration

  • White powdery film on grape skin contains yeast (called bloom). Yeast eventually breaks down sugar into CO2 and alcohol. Some vintners use purchased yeast rather than bloom, which can be unpredictable.
  • Temperature control during fermentation is critical. Too much heat creates characterless, unstructured wine with too little fruit. Temperatures that are too cold lead to low sugar and alcohol content.
  • When grapes are pressed, juice is allowed to remain in contact with skin and seeds for a period of time. Skin = tannins, color, and flavor.
  1. Color: Wine color depends on contact time with skin.
  2. Tannin: “Phenolic Compounds” are a group of astringent substances found in the skins, seeds, and stems, as well as in oak barrels. Tannin provides structure, texture, and ageability.
  3. Flavor: More complex flavors and aromas are present due to the release of “flavanoids” from skins and seeds.
  • Fermentation stops with sugar is gone or alcohol level reaches 15%.

3. Secondary (Malolactic) Fermentation

  • Malo (fruit) Lactic (milk)
  • Most red wines and some white wines undergo a second fermentation by bacteria called malolactic fermentation (abbreviated ML).

4. Clarification

  1. After fermentation is complete, the wine is allowed to settle and the residue separates.
  2. Wine is periodically drained from the dead yeast cells (lees) in a process called “racking.”
  3. Wine can also be filtered through “centrifuging” (spinning) or “fining” (using egg white or other protein to remove impurities.
  4. Clarification softens tannins.

5. Aging

  • Method of aging depends on desired style.

    - Aging in oak barrels adds spice, vanilla, and other smoky flavors. The strength of these flavors depends on how long the wine is aged. Some wines are ages for several years to soften harsh tannins and to allow desirable flavors to develop.

    - Aging in stainless steel tanks preserves the grape flavor and fruit aromas.

6. Blending

  • Some wines are blended with one or more varietals to add complexity or style before bottling.
  • Other wines may skip this process depending on the desired style.

7. Bottling

  • Wines are usually held for a few weeks to recover from “bottle shock,” a condition that causes a temporary loss of delicate aromatics.
  • Bottles are sealed to prevent any oxygen from entering and destroying the wine.
  • If desired, wine will be “bottle aged” in order to integrate wine components and add extra complexity.


White Wine Grapes

Primarily green or white in color, about 50 major white grapes are grown worldwide, 24 in California alone.

Major Varietals

  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay

Other Varietals

  • Chenin Blanc
  • Gewürtzraminer
  • Muscat
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Pinot Gris
  • Viognier

Ramge of Color (Young to Old)

Green Tint > Straw Yellow > Golden Yellow > Light Brown > Brown Amber

  1. Green Tint: Young, fruity, immature. 6 months to 1 year from harvest.
  2. Straw Yellow: Majority of whites. 1 to 3 years from harvest.
  3. Golden Yellow: Mature, 3 to 5 years. Probably aged in oak.
  4. Light Brown: 5 to 10 years.
  5. Brown Amber: Past its useful life, likely to be oxidized.

Red Wine Grapes

Primarily red, purple, or black in color, about 40 major red grapes are grown worldwide.

Major Varietals

  1. Pinot Noir
  2. Merlot
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon

Other Varietals

  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Dolcetto
  • Gamay
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Nebbiolo
  • Petite Syrah
  • Sangiovese
  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Tempranillo
  • Zinfandel

Ramge of Color (Young to Old)

Purple > Ruby > Red > Brick Red > Brownish Amber

  1. Purple: Young, fruity, immature. 6 months to 1 year from harvest.
  2. Ruby: Majority of reds. 1 to 3 years from harvest.
  3. Red: 3 to 5 years.
  4. Light Brown: Mature, 5 to 10 years.
  5. Brown Amber: Past its useful life, likely to be oxidized.

Rosé Wines (roh-ZAY)

Made from red, purple or black grapes.

  • Often referred to as “blush” or pink wines. Blush wines are typically made from red grapes.
  • The color comes from red grape skins. Winemakers shorten the contact time of the skins and juice after crushing (typically 2-3 days).
  • The most well-known rosé wines are made in Provence (praw-VAHNSS) and Tavel (ta-VEHL), France. Rarely complex and never ages, rosé wines are totally dry or barely sweet, tart and fruity.
  • White Zinfandel is an American twist on rosé that is engineered to be sweet.

Fruit Wines

  • Some of the most popular fruit wines include red raspberry, blackberry, and cherry.
  • Often the fermentation takes place under cold conditions to maximize the retention of the fruit’s character.
  • Well-made fruit wines are a delicate balance between the fruit’s natural acidity and residual sugar. If the finished wine is too sweet, it tends to be cloying; too dry, and it’s astringent.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Internship: Day 3, 10/10/05

First day coming in at 9am, and it was nice. It was just me and D and the lunch crew; dinner crew doesn’t come in until around noon. I made more Bouillabaisse, then pulled pork and formed it into little patties for the confit of suckling pig appetizer.

Towards the end of the day I made up some marinades:

Star Anise Steak Marinade
Star anise, peppercorns, oil, rice wine vinegar, Mirin, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper.

Pork Marinade
Garlic, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, and olive oil.

Roasted Garlic Sturgeon Marinade
Canola oil, roasted garlic, Herbes d’Provence, chili flakes, salt, black pepper, bay leaves, sweet wine vinegar, orange juice, and orange zest.

One note of interest: instead of roasting garlic in the oven, they confit it by placing it in olive oil on top of the stove and keeping it at a low simmer until tender.

Foodie Word of the Day

Confit [kohn-FEE; kon-FEE] This specialty of Gascony, France, is derived from an ancient method of preserving meat (usually goose, duck or pork) whereby it is salted and slowly cooked in its own fat. The cooked meat is then packed into a crock or pot and covered with its cooking fat, which acts as a seal and preservative. Confit can be refrigerated up to 6 months. Confit d’oie and confit de canard are preserved goose and preserved duck, respectively.

Definition compliments of the New Food Lover’s Companion.