Friday, January 29, 2010

TEA - Brewing the Phoenix

As I predicted earlier, my silly Cuppa' Chaa tea series title has fallen by the wayside in favor of the simpler, cleaner, more concise, TEA. My year in Chinese tea continues, with another look at a different type of oolong, the Phoenix Dan Cong oolong. For a quick primer on the history of this tea's name, check out the blog of the owner of Tea Habitat, an excellent Los Angeles area based store and website specializing in Phoenix Dan Cong teas. By the way, I must point out that I love the focus of Imen's selections. Yes, she does offer a few various types of Chinese green, white and black tea, but primarily it's all about her greatest tea passion, Phoenix Dan Cong.

Tea Habitat Da Wu Ye (Big Dark Leaf) Special Grade Spring 2009

Judging by the color of the infused leaves, this oolong from the Phoenix mountains outside of Chaozhou in eastern Guandong province, is not too heavily oxidized or roasted. It has a unique, delicious, slightly honeyed flavor of stone fruits and mandarins. It's neither as green tasting as a formosa (taiwanese) oolong nor as roasted as a wuyi or anxi oolong.

Leaves prior to infusion - they are indeed big and dark

Leaves after a few infusions

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Pizza

This past pizza Monday we invited a few folks over to be guinea pigs to sample our pies as part of our continuing quest to make excellent pizza. We had two de-frosted doughs which had been frozen for a week, and they actually were the ones that were easiest to work with and form a round, normal pizza shaped pizza. The two batches of fresh dough which had been proofing overnight were possibly under kneaded, as they were a bit wet and not as elastic as they should have been. They made for tasty, if a little bit ugly and less standard looking pizza.

The pizzas (sorry, no photo's this go 'round):

Margherita (x2)

An improvement over the prior week, at least the first pie was anyway. The second pie was not as well formed, but we were a few bottles in by then so thankfully everyone showed some mercy and at least pretended like they enjoyed it.

The "root down"

This was quite the hit and I think most people's favorite of the evening. For the 'sauce' I boiled three carrots chopped into thirds and half a celery root cut into large cubes with some salt and two bay leaves. After cooking until tender, I mashed the celery root and carrot, and then added butter, salt, and olive oil. Over the sauce I sprinkled a chopped boiled potato, sauteed onion and goat cheese mixture which Natalie had used to fill some savory brioche pockets she had made several days before. After baking, I added some baby arugula, sea salt and good quality olive oil to finish the pizza. Maybe not a traditional pie, but a solid combination of root veges, good quality dairy, and fruity olive oil.

"Greens, pig, piave"

Greens=chard, pig=bacon, piave=piave. I sauteed the bacon beforehand, and placed directly on the dough, along with green swiss chard, piave, olive oil and salt. Took out of the oven and finished with a bit more olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. A tasty pie.

The wines:

Industrial prosecco (Zonin)
Drunk Chicken Côt (Dom. de la Pepiere)
Funky, squat, bumpy neck bottle of nebbiolo (2000 Villa Maria Gattinara)

Truth be told, the Zonin was an enjoyable quaff. Pepiere Pepié Cot was ok but less enjoyable. Villa Maria Gattinara was delicious: mineral, fresh, red fruited, elegant, piemontese and damn...only $15. Only because I want you to drink this (and because I need to spend less on wine) I'll divulge the source (Bi-Rite) and if they still have it I would buy every last bottle.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pizza is the greatest - pt. 1

Yet another series in the making, here? After a long hiatus, Natalie and I are back at it, attempting to make respectable Neapolitan style pizzas. When I feel as though we're producing consistently good pies, I'll share the recipe for the dough. Until then, the experiment continues, and I'll occasionally share photos of our latest creations, along with our wine pairings for the night.
(background) Margherita - tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella (not di bufala, but not of Sargento, either)
(foreground) Untitled - tomato sauce, nettles, fresh mozzarella, minced garlic, fresh chilies

2007 Fattoria San Francesco Ciró - Soft, gulpable, low tannin gaglioppo grape flavored wine. Simple, mellow southern Italian that makes for easy quaffing.

Our results were ok. The Margherita was well sauced and tasty, though perhaps a bit plain without the basil and without a sufficient use of salt in the pizza sauce. It was not rolled out thin enough and came across, for those of you in the Bay Area, as reminiscent of a slice at The Cheeseboard. Satisfying and tasty, but not quite Neapolitan style. Untitled was rolled out to the perfect thickness, which is to say quite thin. It was not crisp from crust to tip, though. Also, the fresh chilies, though used sparingly, were still a bit overwhelming.

More pizza to come. In the meantime, if anyone has ideas for a dough or other production tips which will help to yield a great Neapolitan pie, feel free to contribute them here. Our basic recipe uses a 50-50 blend of 00 and all purpose flour. Then we allow for an initial doubling in size before punching down, dividing the dough and refrigerating over night. We then roll out the dough the following day, sauce and top, and then place on a pizza stone in a 500 deg oven.

Good pizza to you and yours.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Madlib Record Promo circa 2007

If that didn't brighten your Friday even a little bit, then I don't know what to tell you.

Have a great weekend. I'm in New York celebrating 30th birthdays (not mine, that happened last year) with some a couple of country bumpkins from Baltimore; it is sure to be a good time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

For Haiti...Burning Spear LIve in Germany 1981 - Foggy Road

Times a tough, dem. It's a very foggy road ahead to be sure, but with some timely, active and popular monetary participation the fog is bound to clear at least somewhat sooner. I encourage anyone reading to donate whatever you can to yelehaiti, the red cross, or any other organization providing immediate aid to Haiti.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Madlib DJ Set Friday January 29th at Mighty

I usually don't do this, but...this is definitely worth the pause for the cause. Acclaimed producer/modern day chopmaster Madlib (Lootpack, MF Doom, Mos Def, Blue Note remixes, etc) will be in SF in a few weeks spinning records at Mighty over in Potrero. I'm not sure what records he will play, though I do know that Madlib is rumored to enjoy good Burgundy and fine vintages of claret, pre-1990. Whether there is any truth to that remains to be seen, but you best believe that I will roll up with a good bottle of Rioja so that my man can drink well, just in case his crew drinks him out of club and home. Madlib, if you are reading, I cannot afford d'Angerville Volnay Caillerets right now but I do think you'll enjoy some Rioja Reserva.

Madlib w/DJ Shortkut (Beat Junkies) & Carey Kopp @ Mighty
Friday January 29th 10pm
119 Utah St

San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 762-0151

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some tasting comments, critical snapshots, blogulous capsulations...

...just don't call them "tasting notes." These have become increasingly controversial. There are those who write them off, others who defend them as a way of explaining such an esoteric, tough to grasp staple as wine, folks who begrudgingly concede that they are necessary tools of the trade, and then plenty of others, myself included, who live by the tasting note yet usually do not enjoy writing nor reading them. I have a tough enough time expressing myself clearly as it is, let alone expressing the characteristics of a product that holds such long standing historical, religious and traditional importance. Nonetheless, myself and countless others persevere. To catalogue our impressions, to assert our tastes and defend what we view as noteworthy and important, delicious and deserving of wine drinkers' attention. Or, perhaps, to use merely as an excuse to get mildly drunk and then pursue our innate inner creativity. Whatever the motivation, the tasting note is here to stay, and I for one will attempt to both limit its use and expand its potential meaning. To learn more through them yet stop reading when they inevitably become tedious. Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself!

Now that we got that out of the way, how about some critical snapshots?


2008 Paul Pernot Bourgone Blanc

Pernot is based in Puligny. Apparently these grapes were harvested a good couple weeks after his neighbors harvested theirs, since he believes in fully ripened grapes and there were lots of underripe white Burgundies made in 2008. While I always expect a lot from this Bourgone Blanc, this year it seems to offer the usual extra dimension of richness and texture, minus the typical Puligny minerality and old school acidity. This, however, is based on impressions from two separate bottles, recently arrived into the store. Tasted in a line-up of at least several other wines each time, for about 30 seconds each time. I'd like to report back in a few months after having drunk this with fish at home with more knowledgeable Burgundy drinkers than I.


1999 Jacques Puffeney Savagnin Arbois

I enjoyed this terrific bottle with my girlfriend Natalie while dining at Bay Wolf in the Piedmont neighborhood of Oakland (If you haven't been, Bay Wolf is similar to Chez Panise but less expensive and not quite as good). Oils of nuts, oils of citrus, oils of apricot skins. Fairly advanced, but still lively enough. Not quite as taut and rip-roaringly acidic as I had hoped for, but so it goes. Still an interesting bottle, academically and gastronomically. It was delicious with the black cod and preserved meyer lemon, and was even ok with the duck liver flan. Perhaps most surprisingly, it has eventually led me to a wonderful Polish blog (written in English) on the subject of tea and wine.


Equipo Navazos La Bota de Fino No. 15 Macharnudo Alto (the white label La Bota....)

I've written about this before, and while I've had delicious bottles, this one sucked. It smelled of paste - Ralph Wiggum of Simpsons fame would love this stuff. After some days in the fridge, I decided that the weird, off putting aromas were actually more akin to play dough than anything else. First tasted while somewhat mellowed by Champagne consumption on New Year's Eve and re-visited every few days since then. Anyone familiar with common sherry or even wine flaws that may cause the aforementioned pasty/play dough qualities?


1976 Brovia Rocche Barolo

An ok, but not particularly good, bottle of older Barolo. While the fruit showed fairly well out the gate, there was something a bit on edge about the acidity and overall balance of the wine. Funny, the usually terrific Italian restaurant in Noe Valley where we capricorns were celebrating our birthdays also left me longing for its more typical, comforting, expressive self. Oh well. Not all older Baroli can wow you, and hardly any consistently wonderful restaurants can truly deliver the goods every time you go.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cuppa' Chaa - Red Blossom Alishan Formosa Oolong, Winter 2009

Cuppa' Chaa is my new Chinese tea series. Its name may change. I needed to dub it something quickly and am still warming up to 'cuppa chaa.' Unlike other sundry series which might have only been one offs, this one is for real. I'm geeking out way too much to not want to do everything I can to learn and form some impressions of my newly beloved Chinese tea. The blog, of course, is a terrific way to accomplish this. I'm not ready to guarantee frequency, or a regular day for this tea stuff, but let's just say that if you like what you see below, you will have more to look forward to in the weeks ahead. And if not, feel free to take a pass and catch up when the proceedings veer back towards wine, food, or music.

More photo's than words for this first entry in the series. Today, I'm featuring Red Blossom Tea Company's Alishan Formosa Oolong, Winter 2009. Produced in Taiwan, from hand harvested leaves growing at a single estate located at 1700 meters in elevation. Very lightly oxidized and gently roasted, there is both a sweet grassy freshness and buttery, rich, immensely satisfying finish to this tea. The aftertaste lingers a long while after sipping.

The 1 oz. package from San Francisco's Red Blossom Tea Company

Heating water. Our tap water tastes fine; maybe I should experiment, though?

Formosa style oolong is typically rolled up

A quick 1-2 second hot water rinse of the tea to prime it and allow for greater appreciation of the aromas

2-3 minute brew time; I went with slightly over 2 minutes

Bright, translucent yellow color

The tea leaves unfurl after their first brew

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Not really one to look back, at least this year. The decade is over. Go to NPR's and BBC's archives for some perspective. Read your favorite alt weekly for some year end lists. If you care about today's cool music and what's cooler than the rest, go to pitchfork or something for the year's and decade's most highly regarded recordings.

Currently, on the fifth evening of the 2010th year, I'm looking at drawing up some New Year's resolutions. While it's far from an exhaustive list, I encourage you to hold me to some of these, or maybe even to join me in a few of these pursuits if any of them particularly resonate.


Make stock twice a month until there is enough in the freezer to use for six months
Cook a large amount of soup once a week
Use sichuan peppers more often
Learn and prepare three new recipes a week
Bake the best pizza in California once a week


Drink all Chinese, all the time
Acquire a few more tea pots and improve brewing technique
Learn the various Chinese tea regions inside and out, their geography, topography, cultivation techniques, growing cycle, production process....


Give the Loire a rest - there's got to be a similarly diverse, value proposition elsewhere...Bulgaria? Georgia?
Cellar more Spanish wine (note to self: needs to include wines outside Rioja)
Cellar more Riesling


Drink more of it; pay the same attention as given to wine (or tea)


Carefully consider the vinyl and the turntable
Produce some form of personally recorded content at least once a week


Read them


Limit exposure to


More quality time with (FB does not count as quality time) and promotion of


Meet them in the streets of Baltimore and the avenues of Oakland


Share it more often


Occasionally extend them. Here's to a great 2010 to all of you. Happy New Year.