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Monday, 19 January 2009

Food & Wine

'The Lord in Velvet Pants'
Staff Writer Don Merlot, right

By Don Merlot
Junto Staff Writer

Orlando, Florida.

As we rush to the finish off the first decade of the twenty second century we have to pause and think about what gastronomic baggage we are taking with us: what is new, what is old, what is bad and what is good.

These wine and food notes are from a modern day Marco Polo who has traveled the global trade roads in the last half a century. It is not meant as a criticism and should be just an observation of one man who has spent a lot time in local hotel lobbies and coffee shops, aeroplanes and aeroport waiting halls, or sleepless nights waiting for the weather to clear so I can take off or when the coup d'état is over and it is safe to move about get on with my business.

I am writing this from a US American point of view -– because as a traveller I am treated as an American no matter where I go: regardless of race, colour, creed, and/or where I was born.

Only in the US do you have to prove your American pedigree: I am a 'Merkan'! It is said overseas that you never meet an American with an inferiority complex.

I see it from the point of view that Americans (the "United Statian" kind) have changed their and their palate in two ways in the last half a century. The two major changes in our gastronomic fare are multi-cultural fusion food preparation and wine as a beverage and as a complement to food.

But, let us not complicate things in this year's first edition.

Let us start with wine and food current trends.

Something new:

Malbec wine and skirt steak.

o Meat lovers and wine lovers you are looking at a perfect marriage here. The wedding happened long ago in Argentina.

§ Malbec has early French origins from the Bordeaux area. Lots of tannin, flavor it tames the steak. It found it way to Mendoza Argentina a century ago.

The Argentines do not marinade their beef, but serve it with 'chimi churri' -– a parsley, oregano, red pepper flake mixture with red wine vinegar and virgin olive oil.

§ Although Spanish is spoken and native to Argentina, the flavors are Italian.

Something old:

American ketchup or catsup came from the Chinese menu back in the spice trading days via the Dutch traders to Europe and then to America. Europe holds it nose as Americans dump it on scrambled eggs and French fries.

I do not know why the French get so upset; it was the Belgians who invented fried potato chips, not the French. It is best when fried in the beef suet and salt. Belgians like mayonnaise and not ketchup.

Chipotle salsa is now America's favourite salsa flavor - – smoked jalapeños.

Breakfast burritos are America's favourite morning meal -– wraps, eggs, sausage, cheese and salsa.

· BrLunch at home: Serve with Mimosas.

Sparkling white wine and Valencia orange juice

Something bad:

Hamburgers have to go. Packaged ground beef, off the menu! You will get e-coli unless you cook the burgers until internal temperature of 160 F. Cholesterol prone and overweight Americans have to give up hamburgers. This is a must. If you are more than 21 in age, you must have a prepackaged hamburger and make sure you have a glass of Zinfandel to wash it down. Substitute turkey. You will hardly taste the difference.

Around the world everyone knows the old adage. American exports, blue jeans, fast food and rock n' roll....

It is great to have medicine say you can drink wine, but do not abuse it. Seriously, we should think about drinking only two normal wine glasses per day. No more. Discipline, that is self discipline. I should not have to tell you that. Have wine with food. Not before or after except for celebration, or a special day. OK, limit those special days.

What is good?

On the wine side, the Old World and the New World are neck and neck in creating quality great wines. As an old mentor said, 'Wines are like horse races. So we all do not bet on the same horse.'

When entertaining and for those special days, learn about the foods you like and what wines go best. It is fun, and it is social.

Our next adult generations are very smart and have been able to explore these new tastes. They are well educated and they are experimenting with fusion food and new wine varietals.

o WWines:

o CChilean and New Zealand -– Sauvignon blancs

o California and Australian –- Syrahs or Shiraz in Australia
o California and Oregon –- Pinot Noirs
o Chilean, Australian and California Chardonnays
o Do not forget the classics -– Italian Chianti riservas, Spanish Tempranillo reservas, Alsatian Gewürztraminer
o Grain Tuscan bread
o Gouda cheese
o Argentine –- Italian Grana
o Grilled vegetables
o Indian chicken -- grilled

'On croit avaler le bon Dieu en coulottes de velours.' That translates to 'One seems to have swallowed the Lord himself wearing velvet pants.'

When this occurs you have found your favourite wine.

(Don Merlot is a Junto staff writer who eats and drinks on five of the six continents).