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Just as I was getting into writing up those Summer recaps, the Autumn season arrived with a bang. First, the NYC wine business rocketed one day after Labor Day (which was great!) and then came Sandy (which was so very not) … that freak storm that upended all sense of normalcy, for some much more than others.
When such natural disasters occur, there is always a scramble for flashlights, matches, D batteries and ice, but what about that emergency BEVERAGE kit?? What did we DRINK to get us through those ten days without power?
Here’s a few items that worked for us:
- The French Coffee press was crucial: just add water and pre-ground coffee. We KNEW we would lose power, so I ground enough for a two-week supply. Or if tea is your bag, ditto. If nothing else, remember this first bullet point!
- Obviously, nothing that required ice or chilling was practical, so we looked to red wines from the cellar that were layered, rich and soul-satisfying: Amarones from Valpolicella, Bandols from the south of France and Barolos from Piedmont–all perfect comfort wines. (Let’s just say our wine cellar is much more depleted than it was on October 30th!)
- A fine Bourbon, Single Malt or Armagnac. Enough said. Pick your preference, but sipping a small glass of these brown spirits by the fire were a great alternative to yelling (to no effect) at our local utility company.
So now as we head into what I fear is going to be a long, bone-chilling winter, I will hold onto those summer recollections and write them up when there is need for a little warmth and nostalgia.
Before wine, it was coffee. My coffee career started in the early nineties when I took a barista job at a Starbucks in the Seattle area. This was before the company required you to actually mark down all those thousands of descriptors available with every beverage (half-caff, non-fat, no foam, etc), so I took great pleasure in the art of being able to mentally retain a long list of 30-40 drinks at a time. How did I do this? There was no real trick, it was sink or swim in those situations, and memory is a muscle that can be exercised like any other.
After dazzling drinkers for a few years with my barista tricks and savvy, I decided to go south to San Francisco and take a position at one of only two Starbucks in Northern California. Yes, this is so hard to fathom today; there were only two! So, I packed everything I owned into my olive-green 1978 Buick Skylark and moved to Berkeley. Moving up quickly to Corporate Trainer, I taught a lot of seminars, trained a lot of new baristas and– you know the story–helped open a lot of stores.
One of my favorite memories out of that period was being able to conduct blind French press tastings with Alfred Peet, the “grandfather of specialty coffee.” He was soft-spoken, focused and approachable. Despite his vast knowledge, he kept it real, rather than burying his listeners with lofty jargon. I learned all about intensity of aromas, identifying kinds of aromas, acidity, weight, balance all came into play. For example, Central American coffees tend to be lighter-bodied with fruity or nutty notes, whereas Indonesian coffees are wild, full-bodied and exotic. The French press is the perfect brewing method for such tastings because of its quick steeping time (4 minutes and plunge) and the fact that the essential oils and flavors don’t get filtered out through paper. Pure, undiluted coffee terroir.
I didn’t realize it at the time (nor did I know that twenty years later, it would be wine and spirits), but I adopted his approach and philosophy: Let the beverages do the talking!
The adage ‘you are what you eat’ applies to what you drink too!
My aim is to help you to drink responsibly — by actually paying attention to what’s in your glass, mug or stein.
When you take the craft, culture, history and science of drink into consideration, you are not only catering to your senses and appetites, but your intellect too.
It’s an enlightening exploration, a knowledge quencher for all those with a thirst for the good stuff whether the good stuff means wine, spirits, coffee or tea. We’ll dive deep into the world of premium, crafted drinks. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey, saluté!