Thursday, August 25, 2011

Make Me Laugh, Tout Suite

The esteemed tasting panel at Thursday's Tasting In The Dark.
Photo by Ashley Teplin.
Why are unexpected pleasures always the most delightful?

I was invited to visit the Tout Suite Social Club headquarters in St. Helena Thursday night to watch them film a blind pinot noir tasting and a tequila/taco segment with Jesus Padilla of Los Osuna Agave Azul spirits. Not having done my homework, I learned moments before the filming started that Tout Suite streams live broadcasts about interesting food and beverages out to its "social club" of followers every week, with two-way video that allows members to "call in" and interact with the live guests as part of the show.  The goal is to get incredible products and producers into your living room, no matter where you live.  Tout Suite launched on Bastille Day this year, and is presently in a kind of soft opening beta status while they work out the kinks and build up their online content.

Tout Suite's tasting commentators dissecting every
swirl, sniff, and eyebrow lift.
Photo by Ashley Teplin.
The shows have sassy names like "Tasting In The Dark" (their blind tasting competition), and "Meet Your Maker" (featuring producers of artisanal products), and an irreverent tone to match.  The blind pinot tasting, for example, involved a panel of four serious wine lovers -- a winemaker, a wine collector, a somm, and a blogger -- tasting their way through six masked bottles of pinot noir, while out of sight commentators offer helpful background and narrate the blow by blow with hushed tones and golf-like intensity.  Like real television commentators, they take enormous liberties speculating on the thought process behind every visible move, however minute or meaningless.  

A random sampling to give you a sense:

He's really getting that wine all the way back into his mouth....
Did that come out of his nose there?
She's like a sweet rose between two thorns.
Look at that spit! What an impressive spiral motion.

As someone who loathes golf (and particularly televised golf), I found this completely awesome.  Fortunately the shows are available to view after the initial live broadcast on the Video Vault portion of the Tout Suite website.  Check it out! It's free to join the club.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vacation Food P*rn

So, it's been a while since my last post... largely because of my vacation in the Langedoc-Roussillon region of France.  Though the vacation itself was only about 10 days, the pre-departure month-long cramming on, like, ALL of my paying jobs really cut into my personal blogging time and enthusiasm.  And it seems that the same is true on the return side of the trip. Sigh.

To lament this sad state of affairs, but also celebrate the delectable reason they occurred, I give you some of the tastier scenes from Languedoc.

The coquillage platter from a Béziers fishmonger stand.
The teeny tiny clams are called "tellines."
Perfectly ripe Camembert. Vive la France!

Picpoul de Pinet, the local wine of choice with seafood of any kind.
Astonishingly cheap and delicious. (Note the plastic ice bag, also ubiquitous in the region.)

Another delicious local specialty, the "tielle"-- essentially a pasty stuffed
with finely chopped, tomatoey octopus.

Perfection in egg form, served with fresh marinated anchovies,
and the delectable bread below...

L'aperitif at the Pourcel brothers' casual spot, insensé (they also own and operate Michelin-starred Jardin des Sens).  In Montpellier you get some kind of little snack like this anytime you order a drink. Very civilized.
Spring roll stuffed with local crab and julienned local veggies (zucchini, carrot, celery root), served with minted "guacamole," local honey, and a balsamic reduction.  The Pourcels rock.
This is train food in France: buttered Poilâne bread, ham, gruyère.
The Languedoc-Rousillon is also the homeland of cassoulet... and it's the best cassoulet you have ever had.

The texture on that duck confit was INSANE.  Drooling again at the memory...

Petit pâté de Nîmes... a delicious pastry-encrusted meat pate. There is also one filled with salt cod brandade.

Hands down, THE best sardines of my life. Salted, grilled, drizzled with persillade. It doesn't get better than this.

A whimsical chocolate and salted caramel "Rocher" and an adorable poppy flavored macaroon.

Check that luscious thing out. The salted caramel (salted with local sel de Camargue)
was swirled around the middle of the mousse.

Ile Flottante: poached soft meringue in crème anglaise, topped with roasted almond bits, caramel, and crack.