Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In Vino Veritas

Although I'm suffering from a bit of late-Olympics-watching-early-morning-rising exhaustion, I will suffer through it to post what I've been up to these past few days in my Principles of Beverage Service Class.  First of all, I aced my Mixology practical exam, in which I had to make 12 drinks in 12 minutes!  Here is a pic of what I made.  The list of drinks is on the card :)

Now that Mixology is over, we started studying coffee including types of coffee, how and where it is grown and harvested, and how to make various espresso-based drinks, including cappuccino (left) and cafe latte (right), both of which I made (and then drank) this morning in class!  The espresso machine we use in class is restaurant grade (and size) and would cost $30,000 if you were to buy it.  I think I'll invest in a teeny tiny one instead, what do you think?

Here is an example of different grades of grinding coffee beans for different uses.  Coffee beans are in the top left corner, then moving down we have coarse grind for using in a French press, then medium grind for a drip coffee maker, at the bottom is a fine grind for espresso, and on the plate to the right is extra fine for Turkish (or Armenian) coffee.

In addition to coffee, this week we've also been learning about wines.  We've discussed the varietals of grapes, growing restrictions, how the grapes are harvested, fermented, aged, and so on.  We've also talked about the different bottle shapes, what they mean, what glasses are supposed to be served for each type of bottle, etc.  So much information to absorb in so little time!!  I'm a bit overwhelmed.

We also did a bit of wine tasting today, made notes of the characteristics we observed through sight, scent, and taste.  Honestly, if there is one thing I have to admit that I think I'm horrible at and completely unable to do with any authority, it's tasting wine and acting like I know what I'm doing.  Does that smell floral, fruity, or woody?  Do I taste cherries, or rocks?  Or is it just... WINE?  To me it smells and tastes like wine.  I can on occasion pull certain perceptions from the scent and taste, but I usually just sit there perplexed thinking to myself, "Well, I smell... wine.  Kind of fruity.  I mean, yeah it comes from grapes, so that's fruity.  Is that floral?  Nope, I dunno, it smells like... wine.  Okay let's taste it.  Okay, yup that tastes like wine.  I'm also tasting... wine?  Maybe it was aged in oak, there a little bit of woody flavor.  But in the end... it still tastes like wine."  FAIL.  I suck at this.  I know which ones I like and which ones I don't like.  I just can't tell you the nuances in the flavors.  I know what tastes sweet and what tastes dry.  I know that wines higher in tannins (ie dry mouth-feel) are NOT for me.  I just can't pick out those fancy descriptors that people read on the back of wine bottles, "nuances of chocolate, vanilla, pineapple"... yeah I get none of that, haha.  I mean, I have pretty good taste buds, I can taste very specific ingredients in dishes and can tell when they've been added or are missing in certain cases, but for some reason when I taste wine, I just can't get past the taste of wine. 

The best part about the wine tasting today... drum roll... was the accompanied CHEESES we got to taste and pair with the various wines.  Oh yes, the cheeses made my day!  We had a goat cheese, brie, cheddar, and blue cheese.  Again, I could generally point out which cheeses tasted better with which wines, but if asked why, I would have no idea.  It's definitely a skill I will need to develop.  Nobody's perfect :)


Amanda E Crisp said...

Yeah for wine!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Learning about different types of coffee is neat, and of course the wines & the cheeses - excellent!

Anonymous said...

A.J. (not anonymous!)

That sounds like an AMAZING class. First of all, I want to be the one who tastes 12 drinks for each individual. :) Second, I totally agree with you that it's difficult to describe wines. I wonder if people are full of it. Thanks for being honest with your readers in saying that all you taste is wine. It makes your blog so readable.

Third, the coffee explanation was great, as were the pictures! Thanks!

Finally, I'd love to know which cheeses went with which wines.

Victoria K. said...

Haha, well first of all, we actually used colored water to make those mixed drinks along with real juices and "milk" made with dry milk solids mixed with water for the milk-based drinks. They really look like actual drinks though, don't they? It would be such a waste to practice making all those drinks with actual alcohol when we can't drink them (obviously) in class.

You're welcome about the honesty :) Like I said, I do recognize certain flavors, but sometimes (especially when all I can sense is dry mouth from the high tannins in some of the dryer red wines) it seems hopeless. I feel like if someone told me what I'm looking for I might sense it, but then again, it might just be putting ideas in my head. I'm sure with some practice I can get better at picking out certain flavors! I know that with certain wines like Pinot Grigios (which we didn't try yesterday) I've clearly tasted apples and citrus, and there are some other wines where it sticks out more, but it's not a skill I feel confident in at this point.

I wish I had my wine notes with me so I could check on the cheese pairings, but my teacher collected them to look them over and I haven't gotten it back yet. The blue cheese I know is best with sweeter wines (he suggested Sauternes would be good although we didn't try that).

Kerri Dotson said...

that is almost the same thing that went through my head during the wine tasting too..although i have to say i was much worse when it came to beer.. except for the Sea Dog, they all just smelled like beer to me

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