Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Safety Sani Meets Dim Sum

All my life, I have gone out for dim sum with my parents. There is a certain level of comfort in the knowledge that some things have never changed. For instance, as half Cantonese children of restaurant parents, we never questioned the safety sani factor of Chinese food --how long those ducks and squab hung at room temperature until they were purchased and consumed, if those huge rounds of wood that served as chopping blocks were ever bleached, the shelf life or water activity of the slew of sweet and savory snacks that were manufactured under questionable and mysterious circumstances somewhere across the ocean, and hey, aren't those scissors for cutting paper?

When I studied to be a chef at the CCA a few decades ago, I diligently memorized food borne bacteria, temps, and the potential of cross contamination. In my work, I have always practiced the highest standards of safety and sanitation, whether the job was an intimate tasting menu for four or when producing a multi-course food and wine pairing for hundreds in a field...without electricity...or running water.

Somehow, to this day, when my family goes out for dim sum, my education and training on safety and sanitation flies out of my head. I don't think twice about munching on that last black bean chicken's foot, even (heaven forbid if I were in China), that cold dish of jellyfish whatnot. However, on my last visit, I was wrested from sinking comfortably into my Old World reverie by our server appearing at table side, sporting a very high tech poly carbon sneeze guard mask. At first, I was amused, but then as I thought about it, I tipped my hat in silent solidarity.

Recently, I consulted for a restaurant. Some of my observations of safety and sanitation were alarming. I would venture a cash wager that the some of the sanitation standards were below those of the dim sum palace that my parents and I frequent. Maybe that is why many
 of the centuries old cooking techniques still stand. And maybe, that is why I have never been ill from eating dim sum.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Form Follows Function

For over twenty years, I've known that the characteristics of each varietal dictates the necessity for a particularly shaped glass in order to experience the full potential of a wine. I generally try to accommodate a wine with its proper glass, but to be truthful, I have drunk Mosel Rieslings and even an old vine Zinfandel from a Pinot Noir glass. Sacrilege you say? Well yeah, probably, but I didn't have the choice on hand. Recently, I participated in a Riedel glass seminar and have since changed my wayward ways.

For all you tire kickers and naysayers, I see those little thought bubbles with phrases like, "Yeah, it matters which glass you use for a wine, if you're Riedel and you're in the business of selling as many glasses as you can!" Or, "I'm sure it does matter which glass you use but I doubt that anyone would notice the difference." 

May I interject? That is ABSOLUTELY NOT SO!

The audience was comprised of a gathering of professionals from the food, wine and hospitality industries. We were presented with five wines to taste in their respective glasses plus a joker glass (an all purpose glass commonly used for hospitality functions and tasting rooms.) First, we learned about how glasses are made. We learned about the difference between glasses -- inferior glasses (thick without the aid of crystal with the bead still intact on the rim), crystal versus not crystal and why particular shapes were designed for specific varietals. We began tasting the varietals in the joker glass followed by tasting in their correct glasses. There were definite differences I could tell in favor of using the correct glass. And as I was familiar with most of the wines poured, I could tell that they were showing well that day. 

But that's not where it ends. Yours truly, a tire kicker and naysayer herself, immediately began pouring each wine in each of the 6 glasses to see how the glass shapes affected the wine. And that's when it happened. Epiphany! Although I expected a difference, I did not expect the magnitude of some of the effects of the glasses on the same wine. In some cases, the wines, which showed beautifully in their proper glass, were noticeably diminished in the nose. Others were destroyed in the wrong glass -- reduced to a whimpering shadow of their former selves. The Riesling, a beautiful wine, lost so much in the nose, flavor and acidity when tasted from the pinot noir glass, it ceased to be an enjoyable experience. And the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, which is normally a robust, full fruit and body wine, was transformed to "meh."

Since the seminar, I REALLY began paying attention to a glass's effect on wine. When I brought wine to a friend's house for dinner, I noticed that the glass actually put me off from drinking a wine that I loved. Last dinner invitation, I brought my own glasses with wine. Lately, I've been thinking about buying glasses to give to friends in need. Is this obnoxious? Or is it sharing and caring? Perhaps it's all part of the grand Riedel scheme of selling more glasses after all.

Moral of the story? If you love a wine and want to enjoy it to its fullest expression, then by all means, make every effort to use its proper glass. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Your Wish is My...

Cuter n' S***!!! Saw this on UrbanDaddy and I want one! Maybe we'll have to hire Chassis for our Hooch launch party! What say you, Max???