Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Hunt for Food Information

Passionate cooks and closet chefs will want to bookmark this site, a haven for all things gourmet. Gourmet Sleuth is one part search engine, one part recipe book, and one part guide to the wide world of finer foods. Scroll the site for tips on a variety of foods from different cultures, such as wine, cheese, spices, etc. Visitors can also read interesting articles on culinary topics, as well as browse the Gourmet Sleuth Culinary Shop for unique cooking and serving equipment. The goal is to help inform and educate people interested in food, cooking and eating. They do this in two ways. They write culinary articles on various foods and cooking topics and we publish recipes that take a "how to" approach. They also answer culinary related questions including things like "I live in Dubuque, where can I find Chinese pate?" (well, that's a tough question). In addition to their own content, they maintain a huge database of food, beverage (wine, beer, alcohol) related sites. So if you are looking for recipes for dinner tonight, or resources to start your own restaurant, this is a great place to start.

Gourmet Sleuth http://www.gourmetsleuth.com

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Chill of the Taste

Icewine is hot. Finally. The light-tasting, gold-colored dessert wine, which stories say was accidentally discovered in Germany in 1794, has taken centuries to come into its own. Difficult to make - and expensive to buy - icewine is sweet without being cloying, and not syrupy like so many other alcoholic dessert drinks. It allegedly was first produced by a farmer trying to save his grape harvest after a sudden frost, but wasn't made commercially, even in Europe, until the 1960s. It stayed below the radar in North America until the 1980s, when vineyards in both Ontario and British Columbia's Okanagan Valley realized they had the perfect conditions for icewine: good grapes, of course, and a perfectly timed frost. Only in the past 10 years has commercial production been ramped up.

This is how it's made: During fall harvest, a vineyard must set aside part of its crop and not pick it until the temperature dips below 15 and the grapes look like marbles. If the temps don't dip before the grapes rot, the whole crop is lost. If the frost comes on time, the frozen grapes (with all their superconcentrated sugar) are handpicked and pressed immediately. Even then, only a tiny drop of liquid is gotten per grape. It takes about 7 pounds of grapes to make one 13-ounce bottle of ice-wine. That same amount of grapes would produce more than a gallon of table wine. Not surprisingly, a 13-ounce bottle goes for $50 to $120. "Icewine," by the way, is a trademarked word. The fake stuff, made by freezing already harvested grapes or, worse, just adding sugar to regular wine, has flooded China and Taiwan. One wine taster described it as "bad cough syrup."

There's also something called "noble rot." This is not fake icewine, but an entity all to itself, caused when a fungus attacks ripe grapes and causes an increase in their sugar content. Like icewine, the conditions must be perfect - moist when the fungus hits, then dry enough to partially raisinize the grapes. The best of the noble rot wines come from France, Hungary and South Africa. It's more delicate than icewine, but still distinctly in the dessert class. Want to sample? Try one of these three annual fests.

Niagara Icewine Festival Niagara, Ontario, Jan. 13-22 Heading into its 11th year. Three-dozen Ontario wineries will offer over 100 icewines ([905] 688-0212, http://niagarawinefestival.com

Okanagan Icewine Festival Okanagan, BC, Jan. 19-22. This 8-year-old fest is geared more toward novices, held at a ski resort ([250] 861-6654, http://theWineFestivals.com

Grand River Valley Icewine Festival Madison, Ohio, March 2006. Heading into its third year, this low-key festival features five local wineries ([440] 466-3485, http://www.debonne.com

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Science of Food

Culinology - the blending of science and technology with culinary artistry - is making inroads on college campuses around the country. "It should help jump-start product development," says Kraft Foodservice executive chef Harry Crane. "The traditional way of developing products such as lines of salad dressings has been to hire chefs to create the dressings and then have food scientists figure out how to manufacture them in large quantities." Not only that, but the discipline is drawing a new kind of student, reports John McGregor, chairman of Clemson's Food Science and Human Nutrition department. Traditionally, the department had attracted science majors but the culinology program, with its added emphasis on the art of cooking, is drawing liberal arts students strong on creativity. "Once those students learn the basic science and chemistry of food and gain the necessary culinary skills, they will be the ones to come up with the creative products and flavors that consumers will love," says McGregor. A Clemson team recently netted a $10,000 prize for its Jala Mango -- a multi-use sauce, marinade and glaze that blends Mexican and Asian flavors in a sweet-sour base. "I think as more culinologists get out in the field, we will see more new flavor combinations like that." The Research Chefs Association is the leading professional community for food research and development. Its members are the pioneers of the discipline of Culinology - the blending of culinary arts and the science of food. Join the more than 2,000 chefs, food scientists and other industry professionals who are shaping the future of research and development.

Research Chefs Association http://www.culinology.com
USA Today 14 Aug 2005 http://www.usatoday.com