Archive for the 'organic' Category

Valentine’s Day Wine Tasting

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Call your grandmother.

To help you pick a bottle to celebrate your loved ones today, I had a wine tasting this weekend.  Experimental Setup:  About a dozen people, five bottles of wine (to taste- there were some warm-ups), in my apartment, with a wine aroma guide to help us narrow down the smells and tastes.   I’ve managed to find most of the tasting notes my wonderful tasters left behind, and I’ve compiled them (at least the printable ones- descriptions got a bit creative) for you.

These were the wines.  Four of them are made from organic grapes, and the Bus Stop White is certified Fair Trade.  I got the Bonterra Syrah and Orleans Hill Cote Zero (no idea what grape combo that is- bottle has no clues) at the Harris Teeter near Foxchase.  They had a decent selection of organic wine, but hidden in with the normal wines, so you have to hunt.  The Vida Organica and Fairhills came from Whole Foods in Old Town.  The Badger Mountain is from a Trader Joe’s.  None of the bottles cost more than $16, and most were under $10.

In the order we tasted, then:

FairHills Bus Stop White, 2009.  Fair Trade Certified.  Like “getting punched in the face by a grapefruit”.  Lots of citrus fruits, and some people mentioned notes of grass and haystraw.  Best for sipping on a warmer day on a sunnier porch.  I can never think of anything to pair these citrusy whites with myself, but one taster suggested food in cream sauces.

Badger Mountain Chardonnay, 2008.  Organic Vineyard. Smelled of “crazybutter” (yes one word) with some sort of nut undertones (someone said cashews, but I’m pretty sure they were joking).  Nice creamy finish on the taste.  I think drinking it with a meal would pull out some other nice flavors, and it would pair well with spicy foods.

A note on the reds:  I should have let them breathe more.  All three were strong and spicy, and a few minutes of air or decanting would have mellowed them and brought out more flavors.  Note-taking had also, totally understandably, lost its novelty by this point in the evening.

Orleans Hill Cote Zero, 2008.  Organic.  Smelled strongly of alcohol, with various bits of cloves, pepper, tobacco, and raspberries (“like eating a cigarette while snorting a raspberry”).  Would go pretty well with a pizza or other garlic-y tomato-y things.

Bonterra Syrah, 2005.  Organically grown grapes.  We got lots of prunes, raisins, plums, and a bit of pepper here.  The finish was dry.  Seemed like a serious red for a meal of meats.

Vida Organica Malbec, 2009.  Organic grapes.  This is one of my favorites, but it divided the tasting community (at least the ones still paying attention).  Several of us who tend to like malbecs liked it, and others found it completely unappetizing.  More time to breathe would have helped, but we smelled lots of alcohol initially, and some noted green tea taste on the ending- a little dryness.  After plenty of swirling, the raspberry and other dark berry flavors came out, plus the spice on the finish.  The pro-malbec contingent advises you to pair it with anything delicious, since we remember it being really great, but we weren’t really getting very specific at that juncture.

Voila.  Hope it helps!  Have a great Valentine’s Day!

Pregaming for the Holidays: Making a List

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!  Mine was very relaxing.  I overheard my younger cousins discussing who was better at recycling and had hope for the world.  And nobody murdered me when I kept wondering aloud how many of the items we saw in our annual Reading Of The Seasonal Catalogs were made with child and/or slave labor.  This leads obliquely to my point:  Do you know who made what you want for Christmas?

While you’re looking for local/organic/fair trade/sustainiwhatever stuff for other people, take a look at your own wish list.  Are you asking for stuff that reflects your values?  Do you really want this stuff, or will it just get shoved in a drawer by February?  Instead of stuff, could people give you gifts of time- help with a project, dinner out, concert tickets? Are you dropping hints that you’d prefer handmade jewelry from a skilled local artisan/fair trade doodads/organic clothing to substitutes from a big box store?  Are these hints loud enough?

My immediate family has a highly effective system of a) asking each other what we want and b) including direct links in the reply emails, so there’s no hinting about it.  I’m trying to make sustainable choices.  A magazine I want comes in an online version- less expensive and less environmental impact.  I’m linking to books I want from BetterWorldBooks instead of Amazon this year, too- they fund literacy and have free shipping (and can typically beat Amazon’s prices, which they include on each page).  Found a few pretty things I want at etsy, of course.

But it’s not all so easy to make green choices when ‘wanting’ is involved.  I’m having a moral dilemma about the Slanket this year.  I would really like a thick blanket with sleeves. That would make me very happy.  But all I know is that while the Slanket started out being made in Maine as a family business, it’s now manufactured in China.  The business is still run in Maine, but I don’t really know much else about the process.  except they do donate a portion of the profits to charities, according to the website.  It’s all polyester fleece material.  So does it meet my supposedly high standards for gettin’ stuff?

Well.  Consider the alternatives.  The smaller, cheaper Snuggie (can’t find any info at all on how they’re made, and the low price point makes me pretty sure it’s not with unionized labor) is a definite no.  I could make one in an organic fabric- I have a sewing machine and I think I get the concept of sleeves.  But this does not reward the brilliant inventor of a sleeved blanket.  I could send Slanket $5 and make my own.  This convoluted option probably gets most of my principles in, but.  Seriously?  Dah.  Oh!  Slanket could make one in an organic fabric!  And tell us how their Chinese factory operates!  I’ll write them a letter to that effect, but it does not solve my immediate problem.

Anyway.  I will continue having this dilemma until Christmas, at which point I will or will not receive a Slanket.  And if I do, I’m betting living in it for a week will numb the environmental unease.  If I don’t get one, problem solved.

Notes From a Party

1)  I had a little costume party last night.  I was Helen Clark dressed as Gandalf.  It was maybe a little conceptual.  Made the cloak myself, and realized I don’t actually own that many politician clothes.  Which is probably good.

2)  What with it being horrendous and moist out yesterday, the apartment was a sticky oven.  I’m used to it by now, but the visitors in costumes were not amused (we had two kiwifruits!).  I turned on the air conditioning for a couple hours to preserve the peace.  I don’t think it got noticeably nicer inside, actually, but I had on a beard for a while, so I might not be the best judge.  Summer resolution broken already, but I don’t like my friends sweaty and gross, so I’m ok with that decision.

3) I found organic gin!  Got it at the ABC by the Starbucks in Bailey’s Crossroads.  Life lesson, though: organic doesn’t prevent hangovers you deserve.

4) Found some great solar lighting for my porch and juiced it up for the party.  Got some of the long hanging tubes from Ikea- can’t find them at their website right now, but Inhabitat wrote of the whole line.  There’s also a little metal patterned lantern with a green glow that I found at TJ Maxx, of all places, but it keeps people from bumping into my bike.  Nobody was out on the porch last night, but if they had been it would have been all visible.  I hung up my LED Christmas lights inside- you know, for extra class.

5) Actually houseplants make every party classy.  Stick a tea rose by the gin.

Hope you had a good weekend too!

Organic Wine and Chocolate Tasting

These notes are compiled over several evenings of eating.  V and a great friend (she comments as “hater”, because she is very sweet) helped me out with the tastings- no, mom, I did not drink four bottles of wine myself this week, it’s cool.  Here is:

Wines

Red Truck Petite Syrah, 2006 (CA, $10.99) at Whole Foods)- Spicy and fruity, nicely drinkable on it’s own.

Yellow and Blue Malbec Mendoza, 2007 (Argentina, 11.99 for a liter at Whole Foods, as opposed to normal 750ml bottle)- Fairly typical red wine. Clean berryish flavor, but nothing too exciting.  Better with food. Comes in a Tetra Pack.

Natura Carmenere, 2007 (Chile, $10ish at Shoppers in Potomac Yard)- Dark and deep and Plummy, and spicy at the end.  “Unassuming”, according to my second tasting partner- it’s not overtly fancy, but it is quality.  “Would probably go well with chocolate…oh wait…” she continued.

Orleans Hill Cote Zero, 2007 (CA, $10ish at Shopper in Potomac Yard)- Blegh.  Unsatisfying mouthful, sharp aftertaste.  Perhaps this bottle has been skunked already?  But it doesn’t taste musty or completely wrong, just sour.  Suitable for mulling, perhaps.

Of those, the Natura Carmenere is the classiest, and the Red Truck was the spiciest.  Off the top of my head, the Vida Organica Malbec at Whole Foods is pretty good, and the Rabbit something Cabernet Sauvignon in a Tetra Pack at MOM’s on Mt. Vernon is quite solid.

Chocolate

Divine 70% Dark (Fair Trade): Very creamy with a slightly chocolate powder finish.  Brings out the cherry flavor in the Natura Camenere.  Definitely our favorite.

Green and Black’s 70% Dark (organic) : Slightly oily, bitter.  It’s not bad, per say.  Maybe we shouldn’t have had the one we really liked first.

Equal Exchange 71% Dark (Fair Trade and Organic AND Kosher)- Unannounced raspberryesque taste.  I would have appreciated it if I had been expecting it.  Without a warning, it was disturbing.  Slightly oily, powdery finish.

Whole Food 365 Brand Organic- Tasted a lot like the Equal Exchange, but creamier and sweet, with a little, entirely pleasing raspberry at the end, wand less oil in the finish.  So, like the EE, but a lot better.  Top 3, depending on how you like surprise raspberry.

Vivani 72% Dark (Organic)-  Good.  Very balanced.  Not exquisite.  Top 3, though.

If you’d like some other V-day advice, try the post I wrote last year– I re-read it, and I still heartily agree with it.

Much Love, call your grandma, and have a great weekend!

The One On The Bike, Moaning “Sooooooo Coooooooold”

Positive:  It was so nice this morning, with the sun and the breezes.

Negative: At some point after dark it dropped like 20 degrees and the breeze turned to wind, painful eye-scraping wind.  Gym shorts are irrelevant against cold and wind.  Pants are necessary.

Positive:  The cold sure numbed all those sore bits right up.

So I get a warm shower before I head out to get some more organic wine for that V-day tasting business…

A New Addition

Last night, the Gentleman Friend and I began a taste-test of organic wines and chocolates.  Difficult work, true, but next week I’ll post our impressions and recommendations, to make your Valentine’s Day picks easier.  

As if that weren’t exciting enough enough, the Gentleman Friend was convinced to sign up as a contributor here after a bottle of Red Truck.  Now we can switch his clunky euphemistic title to his handle Vaialos, and he can tell you for himself how he really feels about my composter.  Welcome, V!

It Matters at Thanksgiving, Too

I haven’t linked a bunch of the “sustainable thanksgiving” and “eat local for thanksgiving” and “meatless thanksgiving” posts this year simply because they’re everywhere already- I’m sure if you’re inclined to read news, you’ve run across a few already.  Seen any you particularly liked?

I would like to highlight an anti-sustainable thanksgiving article, though, from one of the hopefully well-meaning people at the NRO.  Normally, I try not to get worked up about ludicrous opinion pieces at small ideologically-driven organizations.  But this column has an insidious message about the importance of personal decisions that I’ve heard echoed other places, plus it’s especially ludicrous, so I’d like to address it directly and completely.

The piece: James Robbins is doing his darnedest to convince us that worrying about sustainability and environmental impact at Thanksgiving is not the point of the holiday, and useless effort anyhow.  Thanksgiving is instead, for

gathering with family and friends, feasting, having fun, and not worrying about consequences.

Family! Friends! Feasting! Fun!  No consequences!  Wait a minute, why is the conservative advocating irresponsibility?  Also, I have no idea what he means by not worrying about consequences, unless he’s the guy who ends up watching football on the couch after the meal until the magic dishwashing fairies come.

Now, my Slavic Rituals and Demonology professor (less interesting than it sounds, the way she taught it) explained how organized societies have festival days where rules don’t apply and everybody wears their pants backwards or whatever so those all those anti-social tendencies we have get let loose in an “acceptable” manner.  This is a good idea, and also really fun.  I’m all for Mr. Robbins being as anti-social as he likes on Thanksgiving.  But I will not allow him to malign the efforts of good, thoughtful people who want to live good, thoughtful lives- and bust a gut on local squash while they’re at it.  Burp.

First, James equates a concern for the environment with a denial of real celebration.  Apparently, people who buy local food aren’t enjoying the holiday as much, since they don’t just buy whatever’s in the main aisle at the national grocery chain?  It’s nice of Mr. Robbins to be concerned for their total experience, but his premise is nonsense.  I invite him to wander the Whole Foods cheese department, then come back and explain to me again how organic types are bad at eating.

Mr. Robbins’ conclusion- that since it’s one day and the relative environmental impact of buying squash is small, there’s no point (and stop ruining his mindless overindulgent fun with your thoughts and calculations!)- is a petty and cynical one (n. b., this cynicism also undermines his own thesis of heart-and-not-head felt holidays).  Yes, if one person skips turkey or buys local side dishes, carbon emissions don’t go down very much.  But they will go down.  And a lot of one persons making these decisions?  I presume you can add.

Oh, also, he’s trying to downplay your individual impact.  He says human impact accounts for 10% or less of carbon emissions around the globe.  He does not cite this, he just says it.  But, in reality, Americans control (directly or indirectly) 65% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US.  The rest of the world manages to influence 43% of the GHG emitted.  Remember this WSJ article?  Cited!  I know it pains Mr. Robbins to remember it, but our individual choices matter.

So, go ahead, please have your sustainable Thanksgiving.  Revel in it, and be thankful you have the wherewithal and time to enjoy it.  Rejoice in the choices we have to live more sustainably, and appreciate that more and more people want to know how they can live better and softer on this earth.  Call your distant relatives and say hi.  Then, don’t eat a turkey leg for Mr. Robbins.  Maybe he’ll thank you later.


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