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Highlights from the General Topics and Cookware boards. Food trends, food products, and burning questions.

Some Great Sippin’ Vermouths

jacquelinec’s heart has been captured by Vya Vermouth, a half-sweet, half-dry vermouth. Serve it on the rocks, and sip it. Chris VR agrees, never having realized vermouth could be so good on its own.

warrenr insists that the best sweet vermouth on Earth is Carpano Antica Formula. It’s almost too good to mix. And darren72 recommends Carpano’s Punt e Mes, which is also excellent on the rocks.

Board Links: Great vermouth

On Benchmark Wine Prices

warrenr offers good advice on figuring out the wine pricing structure of various restaurants: don’t use benchmark wine prices.

To explain: some folks check the prices of three or four very well-known wines and champagnes, to figure out the house’s markup. The problem is that sommeliers anticipate this, and will frequently mark down the price of, say, Veuve Clicquot, just to fool consumers.

And some have variable pricing structures: a lot of places mark up non-vintage champagnes heavily, while offering bargains on prestige cuvees.

The moral: the only way to figure out the markup is the hard way–knowing the retail prices of lots of individual wines.

Board Links: ISO Price Benchmark Wines

Manzanilla Sherries

Manzanilla sherries are gossamer-light. Each has a unique character that comes partially from place of origin, and partially from the thick layer of flor yeast that blankets the wine during fermentation, protecting it from oxidization. Fino and amontillado-style sherries have spent time in contact with flor, developing their characteristic aromas, while oloroso styles are not matured under flor at all.

Melanie Wong loves La Gitana brand Manzanilla sherry for its refined nose and its crisp, clean finish. It’s a good example of the Manzanilla fino style–pale, bone dry, and very light.

Spoony Bard likes La Cigarrera even more than La Gitana. Where the latter is all attack, no finish, the former sticks around–blossoming in the mouth from nuttiness to rich lusciousness to a hint of the sea, and back again, with a long finish. La Cigarrera is a Manzanilla pasada–a rarer style between fino and amontillado in age–and it has a powerful aroma and rich texture, and is just slightly sweeter than bone-dry La Gitana.

Melanie’s favorite Manzanilla pasada is Hidalgo Pastrana’s. She also likes the elegant Hidalgo Napolean cream. She once had it in a blind taste test and thought it was either an oversweetened amontillado or a high-grade oloroso. She was stunned to find out that it was a $12 Manzanilla cream sherry, as most cream sherries aren’t well made. It’s definitely at its best when first opened; the bouquet fades in a few days.

She advises to check for the bottling date on the lot when buying sherries (information that you’ll need to get from the importer, or there might be a coded date on the label that you can decipher), as the aroma declines rapidly after bottling.

Check out an article on sherries

Board Links
La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sherry vs. La Gitana–brief notes

American Flatbread

A boxed frozen pizza called American Flatbread is really great, says Allfrog68. It’s simple, but super. Just pop it in a heated oven for 5-7 minutes, and you got your pizza.

Here’s their distributor list.

Board Links: Recommendation–American Flatbread [moved from SF board]

Rum Drinks: Dark, Not So Sweet

Dark rum is usually associated with sweet, fruit-heavy punches and frozen drinks, but here are some drier applications for those who don’t want all the sweetness.

The Dark’n Stormy is ginger beer and Gosling’s Black Seal rum. Gosling’s has trademarked the drink’s name, but you can, naturally, make versions with other dark rums.

maggie likes dark rum with classic margarita fixings: 2 parts rum, 1 part triple sec or Grand Marnier, 1 part fresh lime (simple syrup optional).

She also suggests dark rum in a lime rickey (fresh lime juice, a little simple syrup, and soda water).

jacinthe enjoys dark rum with fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Board Links: What to make with leftover dark rum?

Gruner Veltliner

Melanie Wong is really into the classic stylings of the 2004 Gruner Veltliners. They’re not quite as tropical as Veltliners from warmer years. 2004 shows more mineral and white pepper notes. They’ve been slower to show than usual, but have become much more expressive in the last six months. They’re much better than the low acidity 2003’s. 2005’s have just started to come in, and seem good. too.

Brands: she recommends Saloman Hochterrasen and Hirsch Veltliner #1 for entry-level Veltliners. More upscale: try Brundlmayer and Nigl. warrenr has tried a bunch of the 2005’s, and recommends Jamek, Nikolaihof, and the always-reliable Alzinger. These are, he says, amazing wines. They’ll take several years to open up. For more current drinking and more reasonable prices, he recommends Schloss Gobelsburg and Soellner. More good entry-level choices include Loimer Landwin, a super-fresh, crisp, and brightly fruity Veltliner that comes in liter bottles.

Board Links
Gruner Veltliner

Saving Tomatoes

Most people save tomatoes by putting them in some plastic-wrap in the fridge or something like that, but chowhounds in the know say that fridges kill raw tomatoes. Try this instead: put some oil in a covered container. Sprinkle the cut end of the tomato with a little fine salt, then place the cut end down into the oil and put the lid on. This will keep the tomato fresh for a couple of days at room temperature (Karl S).

Board Links: Saving tomatoes.

Pork-Like Duritos

You may sometimes spot, at a Mexican street vendor or snack shop, a small bag of something that looks a lot like fried pork skins in the shape of little wheels. These are not fried pork skin. These are duritos, a snack of fried flour made to look and feel like fried pork skins. They are called “duritos” because they are “duro”–hard. You pop some hot sauce and lemon juice in the bag with the duritos, shake it all up, and eat. They’re delicious, all light and crispy–sort of like a more subtle proto version of Cheetos. Duritos are, confusingly, also sometimes referred to as chicharrones, the name for actual fried pork skin. They’re actually sold as a substitute for real chicharrones, which can frequently be expensive and hard to find, even in Mexico.

You’ll also find ready-to-fry duritos in the bulk section of many Mexican supermarkets. Get your frying oil heated up, and throw ‘em in. They’ll puff up and turn golden in a few seconds. You want to get them out as soon as they’re golden, before they start to burn.

Board Links: Tell me about Duritos Wheels

Fried Pig Flavor Bomb

Crispy pata is a Filipino delicacy made by poaching a pig’s hind leg, then deep-frying–an amazing combination of textures and flavors. Kris P Pata calls it a rich and juicy flavor bomb, saying the newly opened Salo-Salo Grill in Glendale makes an exquisite version that goes great with their garlic rice. Xericx says this location is way better than Cerritos. There may be some consistency issues, though–oldusedcop reports having had crispy pata there that “dries into ragged shreds that are rougher than sandpaper.”

elmomonster considers Magic Wok the best Filipino restaurant in Southern California. You can get the crispy pata here (most of the Filipino customers do), but if you want something less, er, overwhelming, order lechon kawale–it comes in bite-size pieces.

Normal Garciaparra contends that the best Filipino restaurant in town is Asian Noodles–not a bad place for a first encounter with crispy pata.

Salo-Salo Grill [East San Fernando Valley]
130 N. Maryland Ave., at E. Broadway, Glendale

Salo Salo [Artesia-ish]
18300 Gridley Rd. # A, at 183rd St., Artesia

Salo Salo Grill [Inland of LA]
2530 E. Amar Rd., at Nogales, West Covina

Magic Wok Enterprises [Artesia-ish]
11869 Artesia Blvd., at Pioneer, Artesia

Asian Noodles [Chinatown]
643 N. Spring St., at Cesar Chavez, Los Angeles

Asian Noodles [East San Fernando Valley]
1428 E. Colorado St., at Langley, Glendale
Have you experienced Crispy Pata?

Cassis And Creme De Cassis

Kirs are popular drinks made from dry white wine flavored with cassis. The drink, incidentally, is named for Canon Felix Kir, one-time mayor of Dijon, France (the center of cassis production).

warrenr explains: cassis and creme de cassis are names for the liqueur made from blackcurrants steeped in neutral spirits, with lots of sugar added. Two favorites available in the US are Cartron Double Creme and Lucien Jacob. Also good are Trenel and Theuriet. L’Heritier-Guyot is the most widely available brand, and it’s marginally acceptable. Most domestic stuff is pretty poor, though Warwick Winery has recently started production of a pretty good cassis.

Maxwell also recommends G. E. Massenez de Dijon, though you may need to go to Dijon to find it.

Bear in mind that freshness is important with cassis, so buy from a store with high turnover.

Board Links: What would the premium brand for Creme de Cassis be?