Saturday, May 28, 2011

fanatics come out to take a wine

there really aren't many new things to do on this lil patch of dirt, so when something different comes my way... "i jump in eet!". i was fortunate enough to have such an experience courtesy my friends at fanatic kitchen studio. now for the difficult part. explaining what the hell fanatic kitchen studio is.

basically, it's a kitchen facility, (guess that part wasn't too hard to figure out right?) state-of-the-art, with a lot of high end equipment by innovation kitchen designs. here's the cool part. that island with the granite top there is a chef's station with burners and an extractor, which allows a chef to prepare a meal while interacting with guests seated right in front of them. you're up close and personal with the process... hands on in some cases.

behind that row of front line seats is another table that is still in the mix, but a little away from the station. you still get a good view, but via a monitor positioned up front. for demonstrations, this table will be equipped with removable burners and cutting boards so cooking classes, team building exercises, interactive chef dinners and such can be facilitated. opposite this is another dining table as well. i was too excited to snap it, but trust me, it all looks very slick. we're talking food network glossy here.

it really is a nice set up, with good acoustics that enhances the sound system and promises a good environment should it be rented for some sort of video production to happen between these walls. like my video blog perhaps... just sayin. the facility is designed to offer all that and more.

but why was i excited? well, i was there to experience my first wine tasting event ever. i mean, i sip a regular yellow tail just like the other guy, but that in no way qualifies me to be an authority in the complex realm that is wine. so this event, a vintner's tale brought to us by my friend helga trim, was really the spot for me to be on a friday night.

on the list were 9 wines. 6 South American wines and 3 French wines. they ranged from about two to five years old. the sight alone was enough to get me in a gear. couldn't wait for things to get... well... pouring.

we were fortunate to have sommelier nigel tollerman. he's known as the leading english-speaking sommelier in buenos aires and when he starts talking about wine, you have no doubt believing that. his introduction alone had me wondering where in my tiny kitchen could i fit a small wine chiller. he specializes in wines from argentina's smaller producers, which means he's not talking about that value for money boxed stuff. he really makes you feel to get more into it though. his passion was as entertaining as his presentation was informative.

we were also lucky to have owner of cru fine wine merchants jeremy matouk. also very knowledgeable on the subject. he made the one eye man in blind man country analogy as he praised nigel's knowledge, but to this blind man, they were both off the chain. it was like a tag team wine information exchange. information overload!!

from first pour we started learning things like good grapes for wine come from stressed vines. they do well when they have to dig deep and get their nutrients from the fertile soil far below. and the worst thing for a producer is for rain to fall close to harvest time. lots of history as well, talking about the different houses that produced wines from way back when to now. also heard a lot about the processes like the growing popularity of organic methods.

then out came this sick lil gadget. a venturi wine aerator. it filters and opens up the wine so you get better aromas. another way of doing that is decanting the wine, which requires pouring it out through a filter-like device into a decanter. this way seems quicker and more practical for an event like this. plus it helps to reduce mess, which was good news for dudes like me who wore white. i would pour anything from kool-aid come up through that just for the hell of it. it makes the coolest sound.

we learned how to check the age of the wine by holding it against something white and allowing the light to cast colors onto it. basically, you're looking for how light or dark the color is. for red, lighter is older. starts showing a little brownish. for white, the deeper it shows means the older it is. i wasn't doing it too well there trying to take a shot and do it at the same time. but you should get the idea.

a good tip was to smell the wine before swirling it. smelling it still is better to get the aroma intensity. "the first smell will tell you things the second smell won't." said jeremy.

then again after swirling it to unlock the aroma. on this smell you will pick up the notes that define the constituents of the aroma, which helps when considering what the wine pairs well with.

and talking about pairing, chef joe brown provided some delicious pairings for the night. for example, this chicken sate with peanut chilli sauce that went with a colome torrontes '10. the wine's floral aroma and jasmine and lemon flavors worked well here.

a platter of manchego and camembert cheeses was paired with du glana saint julien '05 as the wine played on cedar wood and black currant. very fruity taste. this one i enjoyed a lot.

the earthy, herb tone of the chateauneuf-du-pape la bernardine '06 worked with this vegetable wrap with houmos. it was almost like the wine was additional seasoning that was added directly to the palate. i thought this one was very interesting.

they paired a chacra 55 pinot noir '09 with a jerk styled shrimp with sitrus, cucumber and aioli dip because of the wine's woddy, somewhat smoky taste. i found it to be a lil strange to get a smoke flavor from a wine. strange on the good side though.

beef empanadas and salsa came out with a durigutti malbec reserva '07. the wine's plum notes made it very interesting in that mix. added another dimension by balancing right between the tangy salsa and the spicy beef.

the lurton carmenere alka '05 had some spice to it, so it was paired with a lamb and apricot crostini topped with mint yogurt. i'm a fan of mint and lamb, so this pairing was nice for me. and again, i never had a wine with such an obvious spice flavor like that, so that in itself was a treat.

helga's two loves came together on this one... wine and chocolate. and not just any chocolate, but our pride and joy from tobago estate. the bouza tannat a6 parcela unica '07 was brilliant with it as it had currant and coffee notes similar to the chocolate. this was my favorite pairing.

but my favorite wines were the nuits-saint georges (which was paired with an outstanding smoked salmon served with horseradish cream on crisp bread. unfortunately, i didn't capture it because i was caught up on how epic a device the vinturi was and lost focus.) and the durigutti malbec. so i guess i like the ones with flavors like currant, plum and fig.

in the words of borat "big success!" and just in case you're wondering, no i did not have to spit out any of the wine. a proper drink was had by all. it was a fantastic experience and i will be more than up for doing it again. these things are fun. meanwhile, i plan to stay connected. you can google nigel tollerman (even though wikipedia doesn't acknowledge that he exists because an admin didn't accept the evidence that he was real HA!) and pick up some of his knowledge in many interviews online. you can get a hold of jeremy and his products like the ones from this event at and of course, keep posted to see what's on next at the kitchen studio at

thanks for the wine helgies!!

a wicked discovery

wings seem to be gaining a lot of popularity as a fast food option these days. so when muh boy bishen told me about his breddrin's newly opened wings spot on the aranguez main road, it wasn't really a shocker. what was a shocker though was that this spot called wicked wings has over 40 flavors of wings to choose from... none of them buffalo. flavors like banana rum, passion fusion, strawberry and raspberry reside on that menu. and it's cool to mix your order, so you can enjoy multiple flavors in one sitting. 2 minutes away from my house?? steups... nuff said.

confronting the menu for the first time could be a little overwhelming. apart from the magnitude of it, nothing is really familiar. at least not in the realm of wings. i planned to jump in on the deep end and try one of the way out flavors, but decided to keep it a little regular in the end. so i did these mango chow wings. all the elements of a mango chow were present to give it a tangy finish with a hint of garlic and herb as well as a spicy kick.

i thought the garlic flavor would do well next to the mango chow. this one was dipped in a rich mayo-based garlic sauce. a little different in texture, but not unpleasant. the creamy sauce on the wing worked and it actually tasted like something you may have tried before, but didn't pay much attention to. like a chicken sandwich with garlic sauce in it.

now even though it's a wings joint, they also have burgers, sandwiches and fried chicken pieces in home style and spicy crispy. in honor of muh breddrin baidawi, i went with the home style. it was cooked well with a nice crunch on the outside, but the meat was a bit on the bland side. i sampled the chicken without the additional sauces as i usually do to get the real flavor of the chicken. in this instance i think the chicken on its own isn't that great, but should say something a little more significant with the sauces available. i recall jerk sauce, bbq, pepper and garlic sauce.

overall i would say these are wings done well. their technique is good, so they produce a wing cooked through to the bone without being overcooked. no charred ends or burnt pieces. a little crisp to the bite and succulent meat. i would describe the sauces as clever. they tasted good, but i see room for some fine tuning to take them from good sauces to great sauces. my real test would be consistency. if they could produce that quality of wing every time, they would have a successful product. and with that many flavors, this spot can offer a new experience for quite a long time.

i think this spot is worth checking out. i'll be going back soon. but check out their facebook page before you go so the menu doesn't take you buy surprise.