Daily Archives: March 12, 2008

Wet Dog Aroma

One morning, while working at a winery in Sonoma, JM, the assistant winemaker called me over.

“Michelle, I’d like you to smell this,” he said, pointing to a bottle of opened wine.

s_pouring-red-wine.jpgTasting and smelling were a regular part of the job (the day we tasted several brands of Champagne to compare it to ours was a delightfully memorable one). I leaned over enthusiastically.

A trickle of nail polish remover odor met my nose, followed by a peculiar smell. I searched my memory carefully to place it. It smelled damp, flat and like… well, wet dog.

There was no question about it: this wine was corked.

Every wine lover will at some point in her or his life encounter a corked bottle. Industry experts estimate that about 3 to 5 percent of all wine bottles are corked. While novices might wonder if it’s the wine itself that has gone bad, it’s not the doing of the grapes. As the name implies, it’s a problem with the cork. For me, the smell is that of a wet pooch. Others liken it to a wet newspaper or a damp basement.

I’ve never personally sent back a bottle of wine at a restaurant, but knowing the characteristic sign of corked wine, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so if I came across one. Nervous about doing it yourself? I’ve heard that a good way to do it is to tell the waiter that you think something’s off in the wine and ask him or her to taste it. A good waiter will agree with you and replace the bottle.

For other things that can go wrong with wine, I found this great article in the Chicago Tribune by Bill Daley that explains the intricacies of spoiled wine. One mistake I often see people do is keep wines in a place that is too hot, which can cook it. If you’re going shopping for wine and running errands afterward, park in the shade and leave the windows slightly cracked so that your nice wine purchased isn’t ruined by the time you get home.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 12, 2008 in Wine


Tags: , ,

Less is (Not) More

Does that serving of Chilean Sea Bass look smaller? Notice more pasta dishes in restaurants serving haute cuisine? It’s not just your imagination: restaurants are cutting s_pasta4.jpgback on pricey ingredients and portion sizes as food prices soar reports Juliet Chung from the WSJ (and a close friend!). Juliet’s article is a real eye-opener. Meat scraps that were once the makings of a meal for the kitchen staff are now being gussied up and served as appetizers. Cheap pasta dishes are gracing menus with more popularity (although pasta too is becoming more pricey, so much so that the Italians staged a boycott late last year).

The worst offender, though, is the vanishing portion size. Already, whenever I go to a chi-chi restaurant with the boyfriend, he growls at the Lilliputian-sized portions on the plate. We’ll eat a several-course meal, offer up the plastic card (and, the angel that he is, he more often than not foots the bill), and he’ll end up scrounging for something to eat when we get home. While munching on a bowl of cereal, he’ll decry that that’s the last time we’re eating at a restaurant with fancy food and that next time, we’ll end up dining on cheap burritos or Subway sandwiches.

And now chefs are further diminishing these already small portions? For the same price? I fear our days of eating out at chi-chi restaurants are limited…

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 12, 2008 in Restaurant Buzz


Tags: ,


Welcome to Fork It Over! This is a space where I muse about all things food: restaurant and industry buzz, recipe adventures, cookbook and food book reviews, and a dash of nutrition trivia.

I share a passion with many of us on this planet: I like to eat well. But eating well doesn’t necessarily mean dishing out loads of dough for the fanciest meals out (and in some cases, the most elegant of meals are not always the most memorable). A perfect meal can be composed of perfectly ripe, fragrant heirloom tomatoes with a dash of salt and a sprinkling of freshly cut basil. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I’m not a professional chef, nor am I a nutritionist by training (although a degree in Human Biology helps plenty in deciphering the newest studies), but I’m an avid reader and love to experiment in the kitchen. I like trying out new recipes and challenging myself with difficult cooking techniques. I own more cookbooks than I care to admit, but these days I find myself cooking mostly using my memory for fragrances, flavors, spices and textures. I’m also a health nut (just ask my friends), so you’re sure to get a thought or two around here about eating well — in the wheatgrass shot sort of way 🙂

Bon Appetit!

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 12, 2008 in Uncategorized