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IPNC Day Two: On Campus
After an amazing first full day at IPNC, Group A, of which we were a part, remained on campus. The breakfast on days one and two are pretty much identical – amazingly fresh berries and stone fruit (if you haven’t been to Oregon in berry season, you are missing out on one of life’s amazing pleasures), fresh buttery pastries, bacon or sausage, some yogurt, juice and coffee. Nothing terribly fancy, but delicious and nothing too wild that will destroy your palate before the tastings.
The main event is the Grand Seminar, where everyone who was off campus the day before goes to Linfield’s gym for a tasting seminar. This year’s seminar was Two Vineyards | Six Hands, which was an in-depth exploration of six wines from two vineyards. These wines were made especially for IPNC. We actually skipped this session. We decided to head off campus and grab breakfast with some local friends. We’ve had mixed results with the Grand Seminar – sometimes they are really great and other times they can drag on for way too long. Everyone we talked to said we missed out on a really great seminar this year.
After the Grand Seminar was the Lunch on the Lawn. This al fresco dining experience, like the Grand Dinner the night before it is a plated and served lunch where each table has a winemaker sharing a selection of wines they brought and the somms providing larger tastings (half glasses) of other wines from the library. We sat with one person we had met before at another IPNC and everyone else was new to us. Our winery partner was Sokol-Blosser – where we had an off-campus experience a few years ago. Our entire table was such fun and Robin Hawley the Associate Winemaker was a generous host as well. She was inquisitive and engaging – a real delight to sit with. We also had a couple of first-timers at our table, so it was great to get their impressions and to offer sage advice.
Following lunch we had our University of Pinot class, which centered on Austrian Pinot Noirs. There were about a dozen different 90 minute courses you could take – and we actively selected into this course as we do visit Vienna from time to time. The class had three Austrian winemakers showcasing the geography, the diversity and the uniqueness of their wines. These wines definitely had a lighter, crisper feel than a traditional Oregon Pinot Noir, but this is really one of the main points. It is the INTERNATIONAL Pinot Noir Celebration, not the Oregon PNC. The winemakers were insightful and made me want to hope on a plane and pay them a visit. The worst part, this class lasted 25 minutes longer than scheduled, which cut into the Afternoon Activities. We could have left, but we sat in such a place that we couldn’t actually leave without being very disruptive. Next time, plan better!
Saturday’s Afternoon Activities were focusing on Rosés and Jamón. I will still pretty full from lunch, but I’ve always got room for proper Ibérico Ham, which was served with heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese and the most wonderful sardines I’ve ever eaten. The line was long for Jamón, but we had a rosé to keep us company. I will admit, I was in the Jamón line twice – the second time we spent more time chatting with one of the Austrian winemakers too. We’ll be visiting him on our next trip to Austria.
Like the first day, there is an al fresco tasting before dinner. Tables with dozens of wineries pouring a curated selection of wines sit underneath old oak trees. You get direct access to the winemakers and owners of these great wineries. Plus, this is a great time to mingle and chat with the new friends you met earlier in the weekend.
The final dinner is the famous Salmon Bake. This buffet dinner is the only part of the weekend that is open to non-attendees of IPNC. Separate tickets can be purchased ($225 per ticket) from the IPNC website. Like all meals, there is no assigned seating, it is first-come-first-served seating. There are two strategies for the Salmon bake 1) Hurry and select a table for you and your friends or 2) Head straight into the buffet line, then once you have a full plate, strikeout to find a seat.
The star of this dinner is the salmon, which is roasted over an open flame in the style that indigenous people of the pacific northwest would cook it. In addition to the salmon, there is beef and pork, plus tons of salads and sides – all made with fresh, local ingredients by excellent regional chefs.
Like the lunches and previous dinner, the somms are assigned to certain tables and they keep your glasses full. They are always rotating different wines including, chardonnays, rieslings and of course pinot noir. There is a ton of food at the buffets, so multiple trips are required. The separate dessert stations open up about an hour after the main meal is served – dozens of small dessert pastries and even full slices of pie.
The casual dinner allows for easy walking and chatting with new friends. People also bring their own bottles to share with friends old and new. We find our selves walking around the tables, exploring new wines and continuing to meet new people.
At the end of the night, we always grab a few friends and a couple chairs and sit by the remains of the Salmon Bake Fire. We have so much fun at this part of the night, it is a sad time as the great weekend is coming to a close.
Need Advice: Three Days in Singapore!
I’m taking a bit of a last minute trip to Singapore – spending just about three days, no less. A true Singapore Weekend. This will be my first trip to the city. Since my time is so limited, I’d love to get some advice from people who have been before. What do you recommend? Where should I eat? What should I skip?
My initial thoughts:
- A bike tour is a must. I love biking in new cities – we just did Bruges and Ghent a few weeks ago.
- Explore a Hawker Centre or two
- Eat Chili Crab
- Explore to Bontanic Gardens
- Grab a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel (it’s actually under reno, but they have a pop up shop available)
- Try the Chilli Padi Mary at the St. Regis (I love trying the different recipes offered all over the world)
- Swim at the infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (how can I accomplish this without staying there?)
- Dine at the only Michelin Starred Food Stalls
What am I missing? Any museums I must see? What is your favorite Singapore destination? Where do you dine?
Anthony Bourdain Pushed Me To Be A Traveler Not A Tourist
I have never been a chef. I’ve never worked in a kitchen. I have never really worked in a restaurant (save those three days at a Pizza Hut my Senior Year of High School…shudder). I couldn’t relate to Anthony Bourdain on a professional level. I could relate to him and his travels on a personal level. His dislike of standard tourist destinations and the awfulness of stereotypical tourists and their fanny-packs. Their need to go to a destination, take the standard photo or now the ubiquitous selfie. He wanted to be with the locals. Eat like the locals. Understand the locals.
I yearned to travel like Bourdain. When I visited new places I did make a list of the standard places I wanted to see, but as important to the list that included such places like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Reclining Buddha and the Bund at Night, were the restaurants (ranging from hole-in-the-walls to fine dining) I’d read about from other travelers, chefs and proud locals.
I think back mostly to his episodes focusing on Paris. The one where he chased the green fairy (No Reservations S1E1). The one with the mine encounter followed by the outrageously complete seafood tower (The Layover S2E2). It wasn’t about the cost of the food, it was about uniqueness of the selections, dining on fresh local ingredients (and in that last example to screw the producers who organized the mime interaction).
While planning a trip, I would check out his episodes on the destination, and I would dream. I would download them and watch again while in transit. Nothing makes a 16 hour flight to Hong Kong fly by than watching Bourdain meet locals and eat well.
Yesterday we lost a man who I loved. A love that was only one way. We never met. If we ever did, I’m sure we wouldn’t have meshed. We were very different people with very different backgrounds. He made me laugh. He made me hungry. Hungry not only for food, but for travel, for drink, for experiences…for life.
I won’t pretend to know what he was going through. I won’t pretend to know his pain. I won’t pretend that his death is truly impacting me personally. I am saddened for his family, for his fans and for idea that he represented. We need to continue to fight the battle Bourdain fought: Travel for the experience, not the photos. Get to know the people – they aren’t very different from you and me. Know their food and you’ll know them.
Now go online and find your favorite episode of one of his many shows. Take a moment to raise a glass (or several) in honor of Mr. Anthony Bourdain, who without him, my travels would have been much different.
Holiday in Belgium – The Flanders Experience
As you likely read earlier, I found myself with a return ticket to Vienna on United (and Austrian) through Brussels. We weren’t really interested in visiting Vienna again. While I love that City and can’t wait to return, I was just there in March and was looking for something different. Belgium has been on our list for a while and I figured since I’d technically be flying through Brussels, I may as well just hop off the plane and explore.
I’m a pretty big World War I buff (not one of those nuts who reenact battles or anything, I just love reading personal stories about the war, watching shows that take place in and around the war and of course proper documentaries on the subject). Also, my favorite beers are Belgium beers, so it really seemed like a no-brainer. Since I had the ticket to Brussels, I just needed to find a way back home – which is exactly how I got into this “ticket to Brussels” situation in the first place. I’ve always wanted to try Brussels Airlines and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
Leaving on a Friday and returning on a Wednesday wouldn’t leave me much time to explore, but we could see a couple of places. Like I always say, I’d rather leave a destination wishing I had just one more day than wishing I had left a day or two prior.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll detail the portions of the trip that I think will provide the most interest to you all. If I’m leaving anything out, just ask – and feel free to use the comments section. Not that I don’t like getting emails from you all – which I love and respond to every one – leaving a comment will help others as well.
We spent all of our time in Flanders, the Flemish part of the country, so I didn’t really get a chance to speak French at all. A bit disappointing – but I did deal with the Brussels Airport and the Brussels Airlines crew exclusively in French.
- Nuit Blanche – Guesthouse Bruges
- Bruges by Bike
- Bruges / Brugge / Brügge – The Venice of the North (?)
- Ypres (Ieper) and WWI: Our Trip Back 100 Years
- American Cemetery on Memorial Day
- 1898 Post – Ghent Hotel
- Ghent by Bike
- Lozerkasteel – Kruishoutem Hotel
- Hof van Cleve Fine Dining in Rural Belgium
- Brussels Airlines – Business Class
You’ll notice I don’t plan on writing about my flight over to Brussels. There was nothing important to write about. We flew coach. Tight seats. EconomyPlus Legroom. Mediocre Food. Nothing to talk about here. Keep Moving.
Are you planning a trip to Belgium anytime soon? If you’ve been, what was your favorite parts of Flanders? I will return to Wallonia to explore Chimay and practice my French.
The Bristol Lounge
We made the mistake on our first visit to Vienna of not eating dinner before the opera – thinking we could grab a meal nearby afterwards. We were sorely mistaken – we ended up at an awful tourist trap with mediocre food and a surly staff. This year, we decided to eat before the opera and then grab a simple dessert afterwards.
We had eaten an enormous and long dinner the night before at Steirereck and weren’t interested in another 700€+ dinner, but I really wanted something traditional and Austrian. We hadn’t planned on dining in our hotel, but after a rain soaked afternoon of exploring the city, we found ourselves back in our hotel grabbing a drink at the bar. While relaxing we were researching restaurants and the Bristol Lounge (the very place we were sitting) had many good reviews about their creation and presentation of Austrian Cuisine. Plus it was right across the street from the Opera House. But could we get reservations?
At first the restaurant was sold out, but as we left, we walked to the concierge at the hotel and asked if he could get us a couple of seats and we reminded them that we were going to the opera (I’d been working with the concierge staff trying to get tickets for weeks) and that we’d be out and they could reseat the table by 19h00. The concierge hooked us up.
We ran upstairs and changed into our tuxes then popped right back down for our dinner. We arrived a little before 18h00 and were escorted to our table in the Winter Garden, which is just a glass enclosed area of the restaurant that is fully heated and covered, so it didn’t feel like you were outside at all. The stylish Art Deco design made for a comfortable place to dine.
The menu was full of great traditional Austrian courses, but also with more classical fine dining options as well. As we were in black tie, the waiter immediately confirmed that we were going to the opera and he guaranteed that he’d pace everything to get us out on time – but we had to put our order in within 15 minutes or he couldn’t guarantee our timely departure. Fair enough.
We had already scoped out the menu and decided on our selections before the menus were even delivered. We also ordered a bottle of Austrian Pinot Noir, which was light and delicious – it even had a little of that dirt/soil flavor that I love so much from Oregon Pinots.
The bread course came out with the wine. The breadboard was great – with a small cutout for the butter, which was topped with pink salt flakes – we devoured the bread, which was served very warm. God I hate when you get a cold piece of bread and cold butter – you just end up tearing it to shreds. Everyone should serve bread like they did at the Bristol.
Dinner started with an amuse bouche chilled beets, which was surprisingly tasty. So often, I find the complimentary amuse to be…well, not amusing, just forced and wasteful — or at worst, designed poorly and can start to wreck your palette. This was neither – I did want another bite though.
I continued on with the Champagne Risotto, which had great flavors with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, but was piping hot. When I make risotto at home, I always make mine nice and creamy, which is easy to do with Arbolio Rice. This risotto was pretty dry – it wasn’t quite a pilaf, but it felt closer to the pilaf side of the spectrum than the risotto side. After it cooled quite a bit, I dug it.
Finally, the entrees arrived – my Weinerschnitzel almost covered the whole plate and was served with half a dozen small potatoes with parsley. I really hate when you get a schnitzel larger than your plate and find that the meat somehow shrunk and mostly what you have is breading. This wasn’t like that at all – every bite had a lovely thin slice of veal and with the lemon juice sprinkled on top, made for a perfect dinner.
We wanted dessert, but didn’t have time. Unfortunately we still had about a third of our bottle of wine left too. Our server suggested he reserve a table for us after the show so we could have dessert and finish our wine. Stellar idea!
After seeing Carmen, we walked back across the street, in the snow and wind, to the Bristol Hotel to find the Lounge completely packed. The opera let out and people flooded into the lounge for a cocktail. We found our server who greeted us with a big smile and a hearty handshake. Leading us to a corner table that would seat six (but just for us two), we found two wine glasses and the dessert menus waiting for us. We had just walked past three couples waiting in line too. It was a wonderful way to close out the day – a delightful chocolate cake and finishing off our Austrian wine.
The service and the food were really top notch. Unless I have a compelling reason to eat in our hotel’s restaurant, I’ll usually skip it and explore more of the city – in this case, I recommend you stop by the Bristol Lounge for a wonderful dinner and if you are heading to the opera afterwards, even better. Just be sure to let the server know you want to come back for dessert and they’ll take care of you.
What are your thoughts on dining in your hotel’s restaurant?