Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reflection: The Food Lover's Guide to Wine by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

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I'm obsessed with the end of the world. It's probably from the lack of oxygen while not breathing during movies about the apocalypse. The suspense in end-of-the-world movies about kills me. Zombies, aliens, natural disasters, diseases: they all seem possible to me.

And so I find myself considering, if I had to pack a bag in twenty minutes, what would I shove in it. Sure, Smartwool base layers, socks galore, and water are all viable options, but I know to stay sane I would need a few books. Jane Kenyon's Otherwise, Jane Austen's Pride and Predjuice, and definitely THE ultimate in cooking reference Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg's The Flavor Bible. Yes, I would choose The Flavor Bible over any of Nigel Slater's, Jamie Oliver's and Alice Waters' cookbooks. If you know me, that's says volumes about how much I respect and use The Flavor Bible. I've cited in many of my BG News articles, and I've opened it countless times while developing recipes or planning elaborate Sunday evening meals. Want to know what flavors are compatible with rosemary? Look up rosemary and you will find yourself immersed in a list that will NEVER lead you astray. God bless you, Karen and Andrew.

When Sarah L., co-star of Spatula and dear friend, showed me the latest addition to the Page and Dornenburg collection of food books, I flipped my lid: The Food Lover's Guide to Wine. There's no doubt I'm a food lover. And there's even littler doubt that I love wine--maybe to a fault at times...But as a food lover, I've been really wanting to work on collecting awesome wines and, better yet, pairing them with food that would create a holy matrimony on my palate. Additionally, becoming a gluten-free household has made us much more aware of wine's radness! As Page and Dornenburg share through quotes from Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Julia Child (aka gods of food and wine), food is better when paired with wine AND, when consumed moderately, wine is actually good for your health. In the preface, the authors thoughtfully and intelligently spell out the benefits of drinking wine and defend wine as something that is accessible to Americans --" 2010 the United States became the world's largest wine-consuming country for the first time in history..." (x).

In the following chapters, the authors include a timeline of notable events in American wine history; reflections from articulate, down-to-earth sommeliers; a how-to for talking about wine; and the beauty of winemaking. These are the chapters I really found myself lost--in a good way--as I read and reread passages, taking notes. What I really enjoy is the authors' writing style. They identify with their audience  by using casual diction, a relatable tone, and humor at times. At least I laughed out loud when I read the last point in the "What Information Is Required on a Wine Label?" box: "The government warning ('Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery')" (95).

Probably one of my favorite lists is the "Wines Under $15." As someone who does not drink commercial pop (soda) and who is on a budget, this list of over 150 wines really hit home. I realized many of them were ones I have found and bought at my local Kroger or better yet at The Anderson's. Also, I'm a fan that the authors championed boxed wines. Too often boxed wines get bad reputations, when, many times, they can stand up a good bottle of value wine.

Finally, I like how the wines are listed. The authors provide pronunciation, country, region, color, grapes, weight, volume, dry/sweet, acidity, tannin, flavors, texture, temperature, comparables, season, pairings, tips, aging, producers, and iconic examples for more than 250 wines. AWESOME, right? I've learned a lot from just nonchalantly flipping through Chapter 4 a little bit each evening, sometimes while listening to tunes or watching Law & Order. I do have one criticism, though; for a recent dinner party I hosted, I referenced The Food Lover's Guide to Wine for what wines to serve with each course, but because the lists are arranged by wines rather than food, it was a bit difficult. I do feel, though, that's an easy fix; next time I'll reference What To Drink With What You Eat, another book by Page and Dornenburg, one that's definitely on my wish list. For The Food Lover's Guide to Wine what I have been doing and plan to continue to do is find a wine that sounds interesting to me, and then plan a menu around its "pairings", of course, using The Flavor Bible to help me fully construct it.

Which reminds me. My next blog post should be a menu that's worthy of the end of the world...with a stellar wine list.

1 comment:

  1. I've had The Flavor Bible on my list for a while, but now I think I'm just going to bite the bullet--and I think I'll splurge for this one too. Thanks for the insight, my friend, spot on as always!