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  • The Full Wine Experience in Green Bay

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    I would definitely call myself a "wine geek." So any chance I get to learn and discuss the wondrous world of wine, I jump at that chance.

    So if you're like me, or want to learn more about vino, a great opportunity takes place every month at Syrah Restaurant and Wine Bar in Green Bay.

    I spoke with owner Dennis Fenrick about the next installment of their Green Bay Academy of Wine, which is tomorrow night (Wednesday) at their location at 3597 Bay Settlement Road.

    Fenrick says there are 4 spots remaining for their "Only the Name is the Same" theme, which costs $25. It's limited to 12 people per session, because Fenrick says it allows for a more one-on-one experience.

    "Three pinot grigios and three cabernets, each grown in a different part of the world. It’s about the terroir, and it’s an eye-opener for people who’ve only tried one style of wine,” says Fenrick.

    Where did the idea come from to begin this monthly series?

    "I saw a hole in the local market in how they do wine tastings. Most wine shops and wineries basically throw product in front of you. They may put some food in there that may have nothing to do with the wine,” Fenrick said. “I think people learn better through more experience of tasting. I’ve kind of created a part education, part wine pairing with foods.”

    Fenrick says he works with Chef Justin Johns in putting together the pairing menu. But the person running the show varies with the theme.

    "The one in February, we did a tour of Italy and I had one of my Italian wine experts come in and talked about five different regions and had more experience and toured the different wineries," says Fenrick.

    Those who attend aren't exactly sommeliers, nor are they people who've never tried wine before.

    "It ranges all across the spectrum. They definitely are either wine savvy, or want to be wine savvy. People that know at least a little about wine, or definitely want to learn more," Fenrick said.

    The Green Bay Academy of Wine is growing in popularity, with the May 8th "Spring Fling" event sold out already. Fenrick has added a second "Spring Fling" event on May 15th.

    "I’m calling it Wines for the Patio. Bringing in wines that can stand on their own that can be an everyday, easy drinking summer wine,” says Fenrick.

    But on April 16th, there's a special wine dinner. For $50, you can enjoy a five-course meal featuring the wines of Dry Creek Vineyards from Sonoma County, California. Fenrick is bringing in a representative from Dry Creek for that event.

    Be sure to follow Syrah on Twitter and Facebook.


  • Brewing Up Some Spring

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    As I continue to look forward to spring, I've stumbled upon a Top 10 list of beers to look forward to for the snow-less, flower blooming season.

    Let's also talk about one of the styles of beer that makes an appearance or two on that list. It's called Maibock. 

    According to the fine folks at the Beer Advocate, the Maibock style of beer tends to be lighter in color than other Bock beers and often has a significant hop character with a noticeable alcohol around the same as a traditional Bock.

    Maibocks are customarily served in the spring and are oftentimes interrelated with spring festivals and celebrations more often in the month of May.

    That sounds good to me. Time to fire up the grill and get ready to play ball! Of course, this snow has to go away first.


  • Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    I have to say I'm a fan of smoke. Not from cigarettes or cigars, but from food products. Smoke anything and I will likely want to eat it. It could be meat, fish, cheese, beer, or pretty much anything.

    This weekend, I want to get myself into a store to buy smoked salmon. Lox work for me too. 

    A story from a few years ago names some of the better smoked salmons on the market.

    If you can't find any of those in your local store, there's always the Internet. Ducktrap can be purchased online, and here's a link to Spence and Company.

    Salads with smoked salmon are something that I definitely enjoy. Sometimes you can get into a grilled chicken rut, so smoked salmon can make a fine substitute.

    This recipe is perfect if you have thoughts of warmer weather. That's yet another aspect of life I currently have a hankering for.

  • U.S. Championship Cheese Contest

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    While folks tasted cheese for a good cause on the third floor of the Lambeau Field Atrium, inside a main room were some serious decisions being made in naming a "Best in Show."

    The U.S. Championship Cheese Contest crowned a 2013 winner Wednesday night. Among the 16 gold medal winners from several categories, Marieke Penterman from Holland's Family Cheese in Thorp, Wisconsin took home top honors with her 6-9 month Aged Gouda.

    First runner-up was Spring Brook Farm/Farm for City Kids Foundation in Reading, Vermont, with their Tarentaise.

    Second runner-up was Team Cracker Barrel Natural Cheese, Agropur Weyauwega for Kraft Foods in Glenview, Illinois, with their Medium Cheddar.

    Before the heavy hardware was handed out, I spoke with Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association Executive Director John Umhoefer about several aspects of this year's competition.

    Buzz about cheeses this year?

    “Smoked cheeses are really coming on. Bleu cheeses with flavor added, like whiskey, soaked in wine, whiskey. Surge in Juustoleipa, the cheese that you warm up and it’s gooey and delicious. There are some interesting specialties.”

    Judges deciding between winning cheeses

    “When you get to the final round, all these have scored something like a 99. We talked to the judges and we’re not looking for flaws anymore, now we’re really picking a ‘Best in Show’, what do you think is the most delicious cheese out here. It’s a different mindset, they’re not looking for what’s wrong anymore, they’re looking for what’s right.”

    How does a judge in a final round decide between different classes of cheese?

    “The only way a judge can manage a variety of cheeses is we ask them to think ‘is this the best Brie I’ve ever had’. Not to ask, is it better than that cheese I just ate two minutes ago, but to say ‘wow, this is the best Cheddar I’ve ever eaten.’ So they compare it to a Cheddar when they’re judging Cheddar, not to everything else.”

    Do you notice people’s palates changing?

    “Absolutely America’s palate is getting more adventurous, looking for more robust flavor. We’re seeing the Pepper Jack’s get hotter every year, every cheese is experimenting with pineapple flavor, mango or maple. There’s just a myriad of flavors going into cheese. The blue’s are getting more adventurous and robust.”

    In the Final 16, there’s a raw milk cheese. Thoughts?

    “We look at raw milk in all its phases, including the aging process, where the good culture bacteria that you put in out-compete any potential bad culture bacteria, because you’re holding it for weeks and weeks. In addition to that, you’ve got the various salt level, low moisture level, so there’s a lot of variables in cheese that keep it safe, as opposed to we feel differently about beverage raw milk coming right out of the cow. We’re not terribly in favor of people drinking raw milk off the farm.”

    Do you have a favorite cheese?

    “I do have a lot of favorite cheeses. I’m partial to blue’s, gruyere’s, I find in my own palate, I’m looking for more robust cheeses.”

    When the competition ends, what’s the economic reaction?

    “There’s definitely a reaction, if you were to speak to Katie Hendricks two years ago, or Mike Gingrich who was our champion from 2003, they both said it changed their business. They were small farmstead operations where the phone never stopped ringing after they won. They couldn’t keep up with orders. It really changes their business, especially on the small side where they’re just getting started and they’re making just a small amount of cheese. It can change their whole career.”

  • Irish Grub 2.0

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    How do you know you've reached the point of "uninterested" in St. Patrick's Day? 

    You either: A) Don't care that much about drinking; B) Have to work all day on the holiday;  C) You can't get excited about your typical Irish fare; or D) All of the above.

    I'm actually in that "C" category. I enjoy corned beef and cabbage, lamb, shepard's pie, and Irish stew. But I like finding new recipes and ways of thinking when it comes to food.

    The Wisconsin State Journal found just the person to help you out if you appear to be in the same rut I'm in.

    As they say in Gaelic, "Bain sult as!" Basically means enjoy your meal, or something a waiter might say as he delivers your fine Irish fare on St. Patty's Day.

  • What Do You Get When You Cross Booze and a Garage??

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    The answer to that riddle is...drum roll...a Garagiste. 

    What is a Garagiste? The term has roots in a group of Bordeaux winemakers, who in the mid-1990's, decided to go against the grain of traditional wine production and create a more consistent style which would be viewed as more "palatable" for the growing international market.

    In another sense, a garagiste is an independent winemaker. A person, who does not own acres of grapes, but purchases grapes from others to create a wine in their own image. Like say, in a garage. 

    They're like the garage bands of the wine industry. And they have their own festival, too.

    The Los Angeles Times profiled a success story of the independent winemaker movement. Jeff Fischer, and his label Habit, were started out of his home six years ago. 

    Fischer began producing 50 cases of Sauvignon Blanc in 2009, but last year increased his output to nearly 1,300 cases in five varietals.

    His wines are highly sought after, as most "vins de garage" tends to become.

    Is it a bad thing for the industry? Not necessarily. I do believe that its competition which should benefit everyone involved to continue to not just evolve their wines, but for the public to expand their horizons and try different interpretations of the same grape.

  • FLASHBACK: Eating Challenges

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    I'm feeling a bit nostalgic today, so I'm bringing out the award-winning series of Reporter vs. Food.

    If you haven't seen it, my fellow foodie Matt Z and I perform 3 area eating challenges. I also tell the story of the challenges and show how they are made.

    How do we do? Check us out below in Part 1.

    **NOTE: I regret to inform you that Blue Agave in Oshkosh has closed down since the making of the video.

    Part two is here. Part three is here.

  • How'd They Get That Grade

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    Go to any store that sells wine and you are likely to see little ratings/tasting note stickers next to their price tag.

    The goal is to try and entice you to buy that particular wine because a wine publication or writer gave it a number score.

    There's plenty of debate about the usefulness of such a rating system, and whether or not it is good for the industry.

    The Wall Street Journal's Lettie Teague wrote a great piece about grades handed out to wines, how some of the world's top publications come up with their scores, what they mean and if it does, in fact, pump up sales.

    From my own experience, I have to say that sometimes a rating score sticker can settle a tie. In baseball, there's an old adage that, "tie goes to the runner." I'm willing to bet, especially with myself, that, "tie goes to the sticker score."

    I try to take a lot of factors into account in order to decide what wine I'm going to purchase on any given day.

    For one thing, I tend to branch out. If I've had a certain Pinot Noir, or Sauvignon Blanc, then I may lean towards the one I haven't had yet. Also, price point does matter. If I feel I can land a great wine for a bit of a lower price, I'll take it. 

    But sometimes, I'm extremely indecisive and must rely to a sticker score. 

    As an example, I walk into the wine section of a store. I'm in the mood for Cabernet Sauvignon. Once in that aisle, I find two wines. Wine A is from California, I've never tried it and costs $15.99. Wine B is from Washington State, I've also never tried it and costs $14.99.

    Now Wine A doesn't have a sticker, but typical tasting notes on the label. Wine B, however, has similar tasting notes and a publication rated it a "90". Should I feel rushed by my wife and kid to move it along in the store, and really can't spend all day in the aisle, I'm grabbing Wine B.

    What's my line of thinking? While Wine A could be every bit as good, and possible better than Wine B, the distributor slapped that score sticker up there which touts the fact that some writer I've never heard of believed it was worth a "90", while no one can pile on to the case of Wine A.

    Is that the best and most trustworthy way to decide between two bottles of wine, which quite possibly could be exactly the same in quality, or risk the idea of regretting my purchase later on? No. But I'm human, plus I've got stuff to do.

    My first instinct in talking to people about wine is to trust your pallet. That will never fail, whether someone else with a blog or column scores it a 100 or 70, you will enjoy the wine that you enjoy. 

    But I won't live in a "holier than thou" world where scores (which could be inflated) don't play a minor role in my wine buying decisions.

    Let me know how you make the ultimate decision when it comes to buying your wine.

  • Olive Oil Infused with Drought

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    Olive oil is my go-to fat. (Extra Virgin to be specific). This article isn't making me very happy.

    According to the story, Spain this year may see as much as a 60 percent drop in olive harvest yields from 2012, from 1.6 million to 700,000 tons. 

    While Wisconsin has seen many crops take a hit from the mighty "Drought of 2012," it can sometimes get lost about other parts of the world and what it may mean for you at the grocery store.

    I would buy lots of olive oil now and stock up just in case things go nuts. (I know, that's a different kind of oil). Then see where prices go. I may just be a nervous nelly when it comes to this, but it'll directly affect my cooking. I'm sure some of you may be in the same boat.

  • What's the deal with THIS

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    How many people outside of Chicago (or Italian households) could tell you exactly what Giardiniera is?

    According to this story, giardiniera (Pronounced JAR - DIH - NAIR - AH) is a classic condiment which became famous because of the Italian beef sandwiches, purported to be from the success of Al's Beef in Chicago.

    The idea of using giardiniera as a condiment meant that it would eventually be put on anything, be it eggs, sandwiches, salads, French fries, shoe leather, etc. Most condiments, should they become very popular, become the focal point of a meal and the goal is now to find something new and different for that condiment to go on as an excuse to eat that condiment.

    Got it?

    Well, watching "The Sandwich King" on Food Network, Jeff Mauro uses giardiniera on pretty much everything. He even has a recipe to make your own.

    The Italian version generally includes onions, celery, zucchini, carrots, and cauliflower. The pickled vegetables are in red- or white-wine vinegar.

    American giardiniera is commonly made with Serrano peppers along with a combination of assorted vegetables, including bell peppers, olives, celery, pimentos, carrots, and cauliflower, and sometimes crushed red pepper flakes, all marinated in vegetable oil, olive oil, soybean oil, or any combination of the three. It is also common to see it pickled in vinegar.

    I can't wait to try my hand at my own homemade giardiniera.

    Here's another take on a recipe.


  • Chef of the Future...Kinda

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    I made an appearance today on FOX 11's Living with Amy. That's me on the right (in case you can't tell).

    I enjoyed my appearance, and was actually interested in possibly telling the future story of how, "I got bumped by the Pope," down through the years. You see, FOX 11 wanted to go to the final address from Pope Benedict XVI, and considering breaking in to ME of all things to do so.

    I took it in stride. The worst that would've happened is they tape the Pasta with Broccoli in a Lemon White Wine sauce and play it later.

    It didn't happen, and the show went along fine.

    I will have to watch it over again to critique myself, but some snap judgment-style observations.

    *The crew DOES prefer live television, as opposed to taping the show like they do on the Food Network and other cable channels. They said it goes by faster, and shooting a recipe on making a simple dish doesn't take 3 hours. I understand why it's done, but I do find that live TV can open up a new world of unintentional comedy.

    *I'm not as over my cold as I had thought. No pity party here, but I had been worried about this bug I've had since last Friday. It did cause me to lose my voice in the second segment, and I felt that was my worst performance.

    *Amy called the recipes I brought "elegant". Umm...okay? Her experience in New York with a chicken paillard may have set the table (ha-ha get it) for an expectation. It turned out good looking enough and I only hoped it tasted as such. I, for one, didn't stick around for that part.

    *When you're pressed for time during the "live" experience, you cut A LOT of corners. Understandably, and nothing against the fine folks at LWA, but I don't think I've ever cooked a pasta dish that fast...ever. Looked good, smelled good, so I'll give myself an "A" for effort.

    *Amy is from Scottsdale, Arizona. So when she asked which culinary school I attended and mentioned SCI (now Le Cordon Bleu-Scottsdale I think), she knew exactly what I was talking about. It's better than some reactions I get.

    *Amy, Ann, Abby, and everyone there were great. Here's a lovable jerk wearing a jacket of a restaurant which sank quicker than the Titanic coming on to her show, doing Mary Tyler Moore and Honeymooners references (none of which Amy caught BTW), coughing, tossing onions on the floor and hamming it up for the camera. And it left them wanting more...or so they tell me. 

    Seriously I had fun and would enjoy going back on there again soon. Links and other stuff will follow when I get around to them. Cheers!

  • Next Time You're At the Store...Buy THIS!

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    Now it's limited to where you would be able to buy this, but Asian markets would be the most logical place in Wisconsin.

    It's called kombu. It's basically dried kelp, which is packaged (similar to nori), and can be used for a ton of dishes.

    The great thing about kombu, is that it'll save you time and calories.

    Anyone who knows me knows I have an affinity for Asian cuisine. But this is the type of ingredient which can and should cross cultural cuisine barriers.

    Umami is something that's tough to replace in a dish. The one way to do it would be by substituting kombu in your stock and braised dish preparation.