Headed to the New York City Wine & Food Festival or any other major culinary event soon? If so, then you'll want to watch our survival guide to braving a weekend's worth of food, wine, and spirits. We asked everyone from pastry whiz Jacques Torres to Iron Chef Michael Symon to former Top Chef contestants what their insider tips are for navigating an epicurean event. Learn what their best practices are — plus our secret tip for navigating tasting tables!
Foodies! How well do you know your cooking vocab? If words like swarthy, slauce, and quadrillage sound like something out of a Harry Potter book, you may need to study up. Thankfully, we spoke with some of our favorite top chefs, from Richard Blais to José Andrés, for a refresher course — and a few new words to add to our list. We're not going to lie: some are hard to pronounce, so you can practice watching the video. Just whatever you do, don't say the word moist . . .
Snooty as they may sound, basic wine descriptors can come in handy, whether you're visiting a winery, hosting a wine tasting, or searching for a picnic-perfect wine. After all, many common wine terms allow you to articulate what your wine preferences are — light-bodied or full-bodied, earthy or fruit.
Beyond basic wine terminology, however, there are a number of adjectives used by wine industry folk that — let's face it — can be hard to understand. (What does "chewy" mean, anyway?) To help us wade through the confusing world of winespeak, we subjected our friend, Food & Wine executive editor Ray Isle, to a lightning round of seemingly cryptic wine terms. Here are his stream-of-consciousness answers.
- Chewy: "Chewy tends to mean a pretty big wine, also with tannins, and a fair amount of tannic structure."
- Clean: "Clean means, to me, not flawed. It could mean two things, but straight up: clean means not stinky, not full of weird, off aromas. If the wine-making is clean, there's no weird funkitude to it. In a metaphoric way, clean can also mean straightforward — not simple, but no odd corners sticking out. Not necessarily not complex, but not jarring. (Sometimes a wine that's really great will have a characteristic that you think, 'That's kinda odd. It's really great, but that's kind of odd.') Clean is direct; to me, it really means no wine-making flaws."
- Finesse: "Finesse in a wine is essentially someone trying to say there's a quality of delicacy to it, a nuanced nature to the wine. It's not clumsy."
"Fleshy," "nervy," "racy," and more terms, after the jump.
During the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen I spotted a bourbon bar filled with many fine bourbons of which I had never had the opportunity to try. Without hesitation, I plopped myself down and made friends with the bartender. The conditions may have been a little rough: the sun was in my eyes; I drank out of a wine glass; I kept falling out of my bar stool trying to capture the perfect angle of each bottle with my cumbersome camera. Ultimately, though, the liquid gold was worth it. Keep reading to see tasting notes, favorites, and some cocktail suggestions.
During the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the best chefs in the world shared their top tips for home cooks. From keeping your fridge clean and cabinets organized to properly seasoning a dish, watch the video to see what chefs Rick Bayless, Marcus Samuelsson, Kristen Kish, Ted Allen, Tyler Florence, and more have to say.
Grassy, lean, and green, asparagus and artichokes are notorious for being two of the most challenging foods to pair with wine; thankfully, sommelier Marnie Old has a few tricks up her sleeve. At her wine-pairing seminar at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, she explained that "artichokes and asparagus can cause problems, but they're not problems we can't solve." Before we get into specific strategies, consider Old's top-line strategy for pairing food with wine: when in doubt, pair like with like. In other words, sip on crisp wines when supping on high acid foods, sweeter wines with desserts, and bold options with robust dishes.
How to Pair Wine With Asparagus
Asparagus's distinct vegetal odor may be what many love about it, but it's this same compound that makes pairing wine with the snappy stalk such a challenge. When asparagus is served raw, steamed, or blanched, this compound is prone to "strip the nuance from the wine" by overpowering its own complex olfactory notes. Old's solution is simple: break down or reduce the culprit compound.
To do this, cook asparagus further by grilling, broiling, or roasting it, as heat breaks down the problematic compound and reduces the clashing effect. This expands pairing options to include richer whites like creamier Chenin Blancs and Chardonnay. If you're hell-bent on enjoying a glass of wine alongside an asparagus salad, she suggests generously spritzing the dish with lemon juice or another acid, then pairing it with a mouth-puckering wine like a lean, Austrian Gruner Veltliner.
When we ran into her at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, accomplished cookbook author Dorie Greenspan agreed to sit with us for a quick chat. Greenspan, who is also the brains behind Beurre & Sel cookies, had plenty of sage advice to give to bakers, as well as musings on the craft itself.
- On why she's an avid baker: While Greenspan is an accomplished cook as well as baker, she admitted a particular fondness for baking, as you "share things you bake," whereas typically "you cook for yourself." She enjoys the process of baking, and stressed the importance of patience in the kitchen, explaining that "nothing can be rushed"; it's important to enjoy the process.
- On her advice for baking novices: Greenspan emphasized the importance of reading the recipe twice before starting, and getting one's mise en place in order before proceeding.
As the executive wine editor of Food & Wine magazine, Ray Isle is in charge of everything from wine seminar topics at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen to picking the brains of (then writing about) the world's greatest winemakers. With such vast knowledge of the industry, however, we wanted to pick the brain of Isle himself. We snagged him in the tasting tents for a minute to talk about the year's biggest movements in wine, from trendy grapes to hot regions, as well as his take on where to get the most wine bang for your buck.
POPSUGAR: You've covered everything from nearly extinct wines to an Italian wine taste-off. How do you come up with your ideas?
Ray Isle: [I] like taking a wine idea that I'm interested in writing about — whether it's value in wine, or Riesling, or a particular region — and then taking a contrarian or interesting turn to it. Case in point: I wrote about Muscadet, but I wrote about it in the context of taking a road trip in the South and pairing it with all sorts of things like Nashville hot chicken and barbecue. I'd noticed that Muscadet was turning up on cool restaurant lists; it's an amazing food-pairing wine, so I wanted to do something with it. But I didn't just want to do a "Muscadet is great! You should drink it" article. So then I thought to myself, Jon-David Headrick is a wine importer who's based in Nashville; he's importing these lean, acidic French Loire wines, and yet, he's in the heart of barbecue land. So I just called him up and said, "What do you think about doing a Southern food road trip with Muscadet? Because my bet is it will pair well with all this stuff."
PS: Your latest story's about how to find the best wine for you. Any advice for people still figuring out what wines they enjoy?
RI: Food, we start eating when we're babies, so by the time we're 20 or 25, we know what we like. Wine, most people don't start drinking it until they're adults, so you're coming to it — especially in the US, where it's not part of the regular culture — not really knowing what you like. You're learning, as an adult, this entire world of flavors. It can be tough, especially when you walk into a wine store, where there's 700 bottles of wine in front of you. My advice to people is two parts: one, learn some of the basic aspects of wine, like acidity. Do you like things that are tart, or not so tart? Do you like wines that are big, massive, and rich, or do you like wines that are light and crisp? Do you like red or white wines more? Then start tasting everything you can find. As soon as you know why you like it, then you can find other wines that are like it. Learning about wine, there's a lot of detail and there's a lot to learn. At the same time, it's not like calculus. The fact that it's detailed and there's a lot to it doesn't mean it's not fun.
PS: You touch upon wine trends as much as you can. What's on the rise this year?
See his answer when you keep reading.