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What Can The Italians Teach Us About Food, Wine, and Life?

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Tuscany (2)There aren’t many cultures on the planet that can claim to live life as passionately as do the people of Italy.  I have taken more than a half dozen trips to the beautiful country over the years.  Although I enjoy the unique elegance of French wines and food as much as anyone; the rustic food and robust wines of Italy are special to me.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of touring the major wine regions of Italy with a group of restaurant, wine, and food experts.  We started in the north with Veneto and Trentino. From there we travelled to Piedmont and ultimately south to Tuscany.  Several prominent wineries of the regions were our hosts and guides including Bertani, Cavit, and Rocha Della Marcie to name a few.

Along the way we dined in Verona, Milano, Trento and Firenze.  Apart from the wonderful food and wine, what impressed me most about the Italian culture was the way food, wine, and life were so harmoniously interwoven.  It was as if the Italians had deliberately spent hundreds of years practicing how to enjoy life and somehow “Figured it out”.Trentino (2)

The comfort with which the Italian engaged wine was particularly inspiring.  Although we were with wine experts, with decades of wine making experience, there wasn’t an ounce of arrogance or pomposity.  There weren’t endless discussion about wines or perfect food and wine pairings.  We simply drank excellent wines that had been made locally for centuries with traditional dishes of the regions.  It was the most enjoyable time imaginable.

This Italian experience reaffirmed my humble approach to wine and three principles that should help keep wine lover’s grounded:

  1. Wine is essentially fermented grape juice: No matter how lofty the price tag or how rare the bottle, all wine is simply grape juices that has been fermented.  Remembering this fact can help the most knowledgeable “Wine Geek” or “Wine Novice” keep things in perspective.  There is never a need for snobbishness or intimidation when comes to enjoying wine.
  2. Drink the wines you like with the food you like: Admittedly the study of wine is broad and complex.  It involves viticulture, history, geography, and enology.  However, one need not know anything about these disciplines to know what wine to drink.  Simply drink the wines you like with foods you like and remain open to trying new ones.  This approach ensures that you will derive great pleasure from drinking wines as your interest in wine and wine palate naturally evolves.  Wine ratings and reviews are also good for unearthing terrific wines, but let your taste be the intimate wine judge.
  3. If you’re not studying for the Master Sommelier exam, chill out: Since its introduction in 1960 less than 200 people world-wide have managed to earn the prestigious designation of Master Sommelier.  For some planning to earn such an honor, wine is understandably a serious matter.  For the rest of us, wine should primarily be a source of enjoyment to be shared with others.

Regardless where you are  in your appreciation of wine, beginner or experts, these three principles gleaned from experience in Italy’s wine regions comprise a healthy philosophy for blending food, wine, and life more harmoniously.  So eat, drink, and live well!

Italian Wines Worth Trying

Name

Type

Region

Description

1. Barolo

Red

Piedmont

Big, Bold, Robust

2. Dolcetto

Red

Piedmont

Rich, Fruity, Lighter

3. Gavi

White

Piedmont

Simple, Crisp, Clean

4. Amarone

Red

Veneto

Full, Rich, Fruity

5. Vin Santo

Red/White

Tuscany

Sweet, Nutty, Carmel

Fun In the Kitchen: Panko Crusted Oyster with Shiitake Mushrooms and Savory “Sweet Corn” Foam

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2009 at 4:01 am

It is always a great day when I can find time to have fun in the kitchen.  The local market had fresh oysters and the summer corn looked incredible at the farmer’s market.  I could not resist bring the two together with Shiitake Mushrooms and fresh herbs to round the flavors and textures.

Oyster

Ingredients

Ingredients

Remove corn from cob and steep in heavy cream to start base for the corn foam.

Fresh Cut Corn

Corn.w.Cream

Finely chop fresh Rosemary, Chives, and Thyme for use in breading and sauteed Shiitakes.

Chopped Chives

Thyme and Rosemary

Add freshly chopped Chives to Panko Breading and coat Oysters using flour and egg wash.

Panko.w.Herbs

Breaded Qysters

Fry Oysters to a golden brown using deep fryer, wok, or deep skillet.

Fried Oysters

Sautee Shiitake Mushrooms with finely chopped Rosemary, Thyme, and Chives.

Mushrooms

Sauteed Shiitakes

Plate: Starting the airy Corn Foam pillow, followed by a bed of herb sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms, and crowned with a succulent Crispy Oyster.


Corn Foam

(Pairs perfectly with:  Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 2007)

Oyster.2

Ending the Restaurant Failure Myth

In Restaurants, Start-up on July 18, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Abandoned Diner (2)

For many years restaurants have gotten a bad rap when it comes to perceived risk.  Business experts and people in general are prone to citing “The High Failure Rate” of restaurants as a reason not to invest in or start restaurants.  Most of us are so use to hearing such talk we simply accept it as truth.  If we were to ask those who claim that restaurants have a higher failure rate than other small businesses to provide a references for their claim, they couldn’t.  There aren’t any credible research studies to support this myth.

I recently published an article outlining how anyone can dramatically improve their odds of success at starting a restaurant business.   The same day that the article was published a reader left a great comment, which not surprisingly mentioned the high failure rate of restaurants.   For the benefit of aspiring restaurateurs, restaurant investors, and the restaurant industry, it’s time to set the record straight.

There is no meaningful difference in the failure rate of restaurant start-ups and small business start-ups in general.  According to the Small Business Administration about 44 percent of small businesses are still operating after four years.  Similarly, according to a 2007 study conducted at Ohio State University, 41 percent of restaurants were still operating three years after launch.

As someone who has owned and operated a restaurant in a major city, the enjoyment and social aspects of being a restaurant owner fall just below rock star, local celebrity, and city mayor.  A popular restaurant allows the owner to be at the center of community events.  More importantly, if restaurant owners avoids the trap of trying to “Do-it-All” themselves, they can also enjoy a well balanced lifestyle.

The classic nightmare restaurant ownership scenario of long frantic days is the same for any entrepreneur,  who does not graduates from working in his business to working on his business.  Moreover, if restaurants were failing at the staggering 90% rate that some quote, it is unlikely that the restaurant industry would have been growing at double digit rates prior to the current recession.  So, the next time someone tells you how risky the restaurant business is, politely ask them for their reference source.  If they cite any new or interesting facts please email me the link too.

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