Debunking Drinking Wisdom

Shortly after I passed the legal drinking age and started drinking adult beverages, I first heard the aphorism “wine, then beer, and have no fear.”  Some years later, I heard the flip side:  “beer, then wine, and I feel fine.”  The idea behind each of the sayings — which are seemingly contradictory, in case you hadn’t noticed — was that if you sequenced what you drank, you could avoid a hangover.

wineandbeerAre either of the sayings true?

No, of course not . . . and now a study has confirmed it.  Researchers from the Witten/Herdecke University in Germany and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom — two countries, incidentally, that are very serious about their wine and beer — studied whether the sequence in which alcoholic beverages are consumed might affect how people who overindulge feel the next day.  One group drank beer, then wine, and another drank wine, then beer.  A third, control group drank only one or the other.

The study found that the drinking sequence made no difference in the hangover impact.  One of the researchers explained: “The truth is that drinking too much of any alcoholic drink is likely to result in a hangover. The only reliable way of predicting how miserable you’ll feel the next day is by how drunk you feel and whether you are sick. We should all pay attention to these red flags when drinking.”  (No kidding!)

And get this:  another of the researchers makes the dubious argument that hangovers actually can have positive effects.  He stated: “Unpleasant as hangovers are, we should remember that they do have one important benefit, at least: They are a protective warning sign that will certainly have aided humans over the ages to change their future behavior. In other words, they can help us learn from our mistakes.”  Boy, scientists are perverse, aren’t they?

I’d never argue that hangovers are a good thing, but I do know this — any perceived folk wisdom about drinking that rhymes and is capable of being remembered after a few drinks probably isn’t that wise after all.

Jazz Dinner Club At The Refectory

Last night we joined our friends the Bahamians for a Jazz Dinner Club event at the Refectory, which is one of Columbus’ finest restaurants.  Although the concept has been around for four years, last night was the first I’ve heard of it — and it was great.  I’m grateful to the Bahamians, who are always on the cutting edge, for suggesting it.

The Jazz Dinner Club is held upstairs, in the “choir loft” at the Refectory, in a room that is normally used for small banquets or private parties.  (In fact, the last time I was there was for a big birthday celebration for Mom many years ago.)  It’s an intimate venue for a musical performance, seating about 45 people.  For $69 you get your ticket and a set four-course meal, with a different menu for every performance.  We then added a four-glass wine flight the Refectory selects from its terrific wine cellar to complement every course for $30.95, to bring the per-person tab to an even $100 for a special evening.

IMG_0696Letting somebody else pick the food and the wine sounds a bit adventurous — and it is.  However, the Refectory food is always exceptional and their wine cellar is among the best in Columbus, and the spirit of experimentation puts you in the right frame of mind for listening to the music of a newly discovered artist.  Last night the Refectory started us off with a very tasty (and complimentary) Kir Royale champagne cocktail, and the food and wines were uniformly excellent.  I was proud that I ate every bit of the green bean and Corsican feta cheese terrine that was the first course (Look, Mom!  I’ve actually consumed green beans!), and I particularly liked the Leoncini ham and mushroom vol au vent (paired with a very fine Solena Grande Cuvee Pinot Noir, 2013) and the caramelized pineapple clafoutis (paired with a delicate Andrew Quady Electra Orange) for dessert.  I’m not a dessert wine fan, but I’d definitely buy a bottle of the Electra Orange, which was light and not overly sweet, for home dinner party purposes.

As fine as the food was, the music was even better.  Last night’s artist was Diego Figueiredo, a solo Brazilian guitarist, who played a wide array of bossas and sambas and traditional Brazilians songs, selections from the American Songbook, and original pieces, with a few classical allusions thrown in.  He was incredibly gifted, and being seated only 20 feet away we were able to appreciate his lightning-like fret fingering, his impeccable timing, his fingernail-focused strumming technique — he doesn’t use a pick, so the fingernails on his right hand are grown out and carefully sculpted to approximate picks — and his exurberant personality.  Mr. Figueroa not only was a brilliant musician, he also was having a lot of fun playing the songs, and the audience had a lot of fun right there with him.  After evening ended, I bought a few of his CDs, which really is the ultimate acid test.

The event ran from 6 to 9, so it fits with the schedules of even the early bird senior citizens among us, and it was top-notch from beginning to end.  I’m sure we’ll be doing the Jazz Dinner Club again, and I’m glad we found another great option that Columbus nightlife has to offer.

Potable Presents

IMG_0090This year we’ve received some excellent wine and even a fifth of pre-made old fashioned as Christmas presents.  By my rough estimate, at least, we’ve received more bottles of holiday cheer this year than we have in the past.

I applaud this apparent trend.  I get to try wines that I normally wouldn’t even be aware of, so I feel like I am broadening my wine horizons and developing new favorites.  And bottles of wine, or gifts of other consumables, add to the festive nature of the holidays because they can be shared with your holiday guests.  It’s fun to try a new vintage with an old pal or family member.

Old Fezziwig would agree with me.

Now THAT’S A Wine List!

1d9HJ9uyifyiyQekFi81qQ7lQ0n12fEoS610pTCxrW_kDOmp32CEnq25ObypiSN5OSR5IjWT-oaOhv-9N2BxJqzuuPL0VGNAoGcAOlym3CqABB_SWZsQ0lIKQ9b5ZmrgNKaGgtFyNSnUe0177gVjD4vTDZGLZ4JepVEBVTKKn40Vz8uZlsCoE7s84NuaG6hZnV3ltiEYrijN3hxcdQCScW1Kd878w_Our good friends the Bahamians are on an extended holiday in Europe.  At one of their stops, at La Tour d’Argent, when they asked for the wine list they were given this Manhattan phone book-sized inventory of the restaurant’s wine cellar.

No wonder Mr. Bahamian, so nattily and continentally attired in basic black, looks a bit perplexed in this picture!  If I had to wade through a thousand-page wine list, I’d be ready to order, say, about next weekend.

Chefing It

On Friday night — at the kind invitation of our friends Bow Tie Guy and Band Mom — Kish and I joined a small group for a memorable “participatory dining” experience at The Kitchen here in German Village.  The Kitchen promises a participatory dining experience that “blurs the line between patron and chef.”  In our case, that promise was kept — and I might add that the blurring was aided by a number of very well-chosen bottles of wine that our group consumed with relish before and during food prep and then with our meal.

IMG_5689First, a word or two about the setting and the concept.  The Kitchen is located in an historic building that was a department store, and later a cheesy video store, on Livingston Avenue.  The building was acquired by two passionate female foodies who were able to see past the video store bric-a-brac to envision a space where people can have fun cooking, and then eating.  The result is a choice setting, with the original high, pressed design tin ceilings and brightly polished hardwood floors, long tables made from refinished barn siding, and a high-end, fully kitted out, restaurant grade kitchen.

When our little band arrived, we gathered around the charcuterie platter and were served an excellent wine — the first of many fine wines deftly chosen by the proprietors to specifically complement what we were eating at the time.  The proprietors described the courses — a salad, garlic shrimp, a chicken dish accompanied by fingerling potatoes and eggplant, and finally a raspberry white chocolate tart — and offered us our choice of food prep tasks.  The “participatory” part of our dining experience was about to begin.

Kish and I decided to do the salad, which seemed to be fraught with the least downside risk from an edibility standpoint.  We donned our aprons and promptly learned the first lesson of The Kitchen experience:  it’s fun to cook, particularly when you have the ingredients laid out in advance, have the appropriate knives and implements available, and have a friendly expert at your elbow guiding you through the food prep process.  We chopped our salad fixins without losing any fingertips, blended our salad dressing, then roamed the room to watch other people at their food prep stations.

IMG_5698And there we learned lesson number two:  many people can really cook, and take pride in producing quality consumables.  Our fellow patron-chefs, such as The Honeybee pictured here, carefully followed instructions, performed their tasks with good cheer, and juggled their wine glasses while brushing and basting and sauteeing their hearts out.  Ultimately, the proof of the pudding was in the tasting — every dish and course of the meal was absolutely delicious.  Our simple salad with olives and peppers and a garlic dressing was tasty, but was promptly blown out of the water by the shrimp, the chicken, the potatoes, the veggies, and the dessert, as well as the wine selections.  Kish and I accepted that not-unexpected result with equanimity and full stomachs.

I’d recommend The Kitchen to anyone who wants to have a fun foodie experience.  And if you would rather not participate directly, The Kitchen offers Taco Tuesday, where the experts do the prep and patrons get to just drop in and gobble down the results.

Palate Practice

Last night I decided to order a Cabernet Franc with my meal at a restaurant.  It’s a new kind of wine for me, but I have been trying to expand the types of wine I drink and develop a more educated palate.

Unfortunately, my palate education right now is about at kindergarten level.  I know what I like and I drink it, then I’m ready to go color a picture of a cat and play with blocks.  I’m pretty tongue-tied, too, when it comes to describing what I’ve imbibed.  Once you get beyond “full-bodied” or “light” or “too sweet” I’m sunk.

Last night, though, I concentrated hard on the Cab Franc and its taste.  It had what I would consider a flavor that was more at the tart end of the spectrum — although “flavor” and “tart” probably aren’t wine-appropriate words.  (Part of the problem with the wine world in my book is the snootiness of the wine sophisticates and the stylized language they expect any knowledgeable wine drinker to employ.)  Still, I view recognizing a wine as more tart is a step in the right direction.

How do you develop a more educated palate?  One website suggests six steps — slow down; look and smell, then taste; visualize and isolate flavors: identify flavors; note texture and body; and develop a wine memory.  Steps one and two I can handle, but at three I come a cropper.  Will I ever be able to detect a hint of grapefruit in a wine?  Maybe I should just go back to guzzling.

A Great Dinner Party Idea

IMG_2064Has anybody else noticed that wine titles are changing in a very curious way?  Wine bottles used to bear the name of the winery, the kind of wine inside, and not much else.  Now wine bottles often describe personality types, character traits, or even sexual preferences.  (Think Menage a Trois or Ballbuster.)

Hence my great dinner party idea:  invite your friends, and tell them they have to bring a bottle of wine that reveals some personal characteristic or aspiration.  Who knows what you’d learn?  And your friends would have a great time trying to find just the right bottle of wine under the circumstances.

Me, I’d bring a bottle of Carnivor.  I’m assuming it would go well with some rare red meat.