Recently, I picked up a Vapur collapsible bottle at a kids’ store. I travel quite a bit, so the idea of a packable drinking option appealed to me. These bottles (or anti-bottles as they call them) can be flat packed because the container material is flexible. They come with a squirt sports top along with a carabiner clip so it can easily be attached to bags. You can also purchase plain screw-on caps if you don’t care for the sports top.
I can see many possible uses for this ‘bottle’ because it packs so well. Whether you are trying to conserve space in a diaper bag, need another water container on a hot day, or traveling on long airline flight, this product can definitely come in handy.
At first I was worried about the opening being too small, but with a little bit of care I was easily able to pour from a Brita-filter pitcher into the bottle. Once there is enough water in the container, the bottom also expands so it can stand up on its own. You can also freeze liquids in it, wash it in the top-rack of your dishwasher, and it’s BPA free.
For me, however, this is going to be my airline bottle. A few weeks ago I was able to try it out on a trans-Atlantic flight and it worked quite well. With airport security how it is, I was able to empty the bottle before going through security and then refill it afterwards. It was a bit of a challenge filling it up at water fountains and admittedly, the bottle doesn’t hold that much water, but it did serve its purpose well.
My daughter actually liked it so much that she drank more water during the flight and flat out told me that the bottle was a very good idea. She liked how it fit nicely into the seat-back pocket and thought it was fun to drink out of. She did spill a few times at first because of how she grabbed it, but she learned quickly. The tendency is to grab it in the middle like any other bottle, but that ends up forcing the water out in a squirt. You sort of have to retrain yourself to grab it around the neck area and hold it gently. If you have a smaller child that isn’t used to drinking out of bottles or won’t understand the soft bottle concept, this product might lead to spilled liquids and may not be such a good idea.
With that said, there are some other disadvantages. As mentioned above, it doesn’t hold that much water, and filling it when there isn’t good faucet clearance can be tricky. Also, the sports bottle cover tends to fall off and get lost, but that’s a problem with this type of drinking nozzle on other bottles too. And lastly, it isn’t insulated so if you put cold liquids in it, it will sweat and possibly get surrounding items wet.
Reviews on Amazon are good but mixed about this product. What I think is important is to keep in mind that this kind of bottle has a specific purpose: being packable. Insulating it and making the body more rigid to avoid spills would mean it no longer packs as well. There are many other products on the market if you want those features.
I will definitely be using the Vapur bottle when I travel on airlines and will likely be getting a second one for my daughter. One Vapur 16 Ounce Collapsible Water Bottle will cost about $9, but if buy them in two and four packs the cost comes down a bit.
Vacu Vin makes these neat little rubber glass markers to keep track of drinks. Guests at a party can simply stick one of the unique suction figures to a glass and know which one is theirs throughout the night. I’ve tried them out on wine glasses and they work so-so. They tend to pop off over time, and because they protrude from the glass and are made of tacky rubber, they often get ripped off if rubbed against something. It’s a great idea, but it is more funky and cool than practical. I just use a sharpie to write a person’s name on the glass, and it washes right off with soap and water.
With that said, my daughter did enjoy playing with them and sticking them to glassware and the granite countertop. I could definitely see using the glass markers as an incentive to eat food or to occupy a kid at the table. Just keep in mind that the the Vacu Vin website says that they are not suitable for children under 3 years of age.
Vacuu Vin has several themed sets: Creepy People, Christmas Crowd, Football Friends, and Party People. You can buy the sets at Amazon, and they usually sell from $7 to $15 per set.
If you ever want to make drinking a glass of water more exciting for your kids, these candied drinking straws might be an option. Of course, I wouldn’t suggest using these straws to suck up some sugary juice, but as a infrequent treat for a healthier beverage it might be a fun option.
I have been a fan of Paul Smith’s iconic colorful stripes for a while, and now you can get some expensive bone china to bring that color to the table. To the right is the breakfast cup and saucer of his, and one setting will cost $135. You can check out his coffee and tea service sets at paulsmithusa.com. Just click on the online shop and you will be redirected to the UK online shop. A set of four coffee cups, creamer, and coffee pot will run you $900+.
I’ve come across a few wine chilling products that might be useful as summer approaches. Maybe you have forgotten to chill a bottle and want a quick cold glass of vino or you just need to keep your drink cool. Regardless, there are plenty of products out there, but these struck me as stylish and innovative.
The first is the Vacu Vin Cooling Carafe to the right. This product uses non-ice cold packs that are inserted into a chilling base. You just put the beverage of choice into the carafe and let the cooling packs do their work. The cost is around $33 and it comes in black and white versions.
Unfortunately, the chilling base does not accommodate wine bottles, and the beverages must be used with the carafe provided. That is a bit annoying, but on the other hand it is more flexible for other drinks. If you want one for just wine, there is the elegant Vacu Vin Prestige Stainless-Steel Wine Cooler for just over $25.
Vacu Vin also has a Rapid Ice Wine Cooler, which is a good option if you want something portable and only want to keep your wine at a nice chilled temperature. The wine coolers are basically chilled sleeves that fit over your bottle and come in many colors and patterns. They sell for $12 on Amazon, and I personally like the black and silver varieties.
As for chilling from room temperature, I don’t know if the claim that these wine sleeves can chill bottles in five minutes is accurate. After reading Amazon reviews, it looks as if it takes closer to 10 minutes and even then it doesn’t really get the bottle that cold. These packs are probably better for keeping pre-chilled bottles cold or to just slightly chill a red wine. Yes, red wines should also be served slightly chilled (55 to 65 degrees) depending upon the wine.
The next wine chilling product is the Wine Sceptre out of Germany. This device keeps a pre-chilled wine at the perfect temperature for drinking, but like other products also does not chill from room temperature. To use, you simply insert the chilled stainless steel rod into your wine bottle and it provides a cool core of metal to maintain the wine’s temperature. The product also has a flip-off top so you can pour the wine through the metal tube. It would be rather annoying if you had to take the rod out each time you wanted to pour a glass.
I like the idea of this a lot, as the rod is actually in the wine and doesn’t rely upon chilling from the outside, which means you are chilling the bottle too. Both the Vacu Vin chiller packs and the Wine Sceptre are also nice in that they eliminate the wet bottle. You’ll no longer have to use up your ice before a party for chilling wine, have soggy labels, or have to deal with a dripping bottle while pouring.
With that said, the price is really steep at $135, and a six-pack will run you $600. Ouch. At that price, maybe it is best just to finish the bottle before it gets warm. You can buy the wine sceptres through Mistral Imports.
If you want a cheaper option than the Wine Sceptre, Skybar has a Wine Cool Cover for $40 that will also maintain the temperature of your wine with a hip looking aluminum-finished cover that slips over your bottle. I would probably try this before the sceptre.
And the last product is also from Skybar. The Skybar Wine Chill Drops cost $50 and are made to chill individual glasses of room-temperature wine. They are very stylish and come in a set of two, so while you wait for the rest of your bottle to chill, you and another person can enjoy some cold wine using these individual chillers. You simply put the stainless steel bulbs in your glass, pour the wine, and let the cold metal chill your drink. The Skybar site claims that these chill drops cool a glass in as little as 90 seconds. Once the wine is to the desired temperature, you place the used chiller drops in the convenient stands. It’s a nice set-up if you ask me, and out of all the products, I think this one appeals to me the most.
If you want to chill wine the low-budget way, you can still use ice buckets or the freezer. When using an ice bucket, make sure to use water and ice and also add salt. This will cool the bottle in about 15 minutes.
If you just want to keep a glass of wine cool on a hot day, don’t use ice cubes, but instead freeze grapes and drop a few in your glass. This method won’t dilute the wine, but yet it will give some added cooling.
As for the desired temperature of different wines, Food & Wine has a nice cheat sheet on how long to refrigerate, freeze, or use and ice bucket for different wines. Just keep in mind that it takes over 2 hours in the refrigerator and at least 25 minutes in the freezer to achieve the desired temperature for whites — and sparkling wines will take even longer.
Lately I have been going through the last year’s worth of archives for some of the food blogs that I like. I must admit that I find the world of food blogs a bit overwhelming at times. There are just so many, and keeping up can be difficult, but every now and then I just relax and focus on a couple of blogs and start reading.
One of the things I love most about good food bloggers is that they can inspire cooking a lot more than a simple cookbook. Their dish is a story, and it’s fun to tell stories about food. I also like the bloggers that are good photographers, and some of the food photography out there is simply amazing these days.
So with that said, one of the blogs that I do like to read is Eat Make Read written by Kelly Carámbula out of Brooklyn, NY. She started her blog in 2008 and also publishes with some friends a food magazine called Remedy Quarterly. I’ll do another post on this publication once I start my subscription, which will probably be in a month or so.
But what I really like about this blog is that it mixes in both beverages and food. A lot of blogs can get heavy on the baking and desserts, and while Eat Make Read has its share of sweets, it breaks it up nicely with a lot of classic cocktails and seasonal food dishes. Here are some of my favorite recipes from the the site.
Granted, Kelly’s dishes can be on the simpler side, but I also like that. She is a professed picky eater who is now branching out, so simple, good flavors are a great way to break out of old eating habits. I think the two recipes I am going to try first are the apple grilled cheese and the rhubarb johnny. You can’t go wrong with hot cheese and rhubarb dessert.
This ‘Patrician’ champagne goblet from Lobmeyr is quite possibly one of the most elegant glasses I have ever seen. It was designed in 1917 by Josef Hoffmann for Lobmeyr and has an elegance that makes it stand out. This glass is often used in cooking magazines to display drinks, just as Food & Wine did in the February 2010 issue. See the picture to the right by David Lauridsen.
Lobmeyr is a historical fine glass maker from Austria and their glass does not come cheap. A set of six of these goblets will run you close to $800 and per stem they will cost $148. They are mouth blown in a wooden mold and made from fine muslin glass.
Every now and then living in the Midwest annoys me, and it isn’t because of all the snow that we have been getting. (Though that freezing rain did take a long time to scrape off the driveway.)
No, it is because of the assumption that no one knows anything about wine. Of course, there is good basis for this belief because — in fact — few people do know a lot about wine up here in central Minnesota. Statistically, we are insignificant so it is only rational that we often get ignored.
Then I read a short article in Food & Wine from the January issue that made me rethink wine education. Maybe the problem is that so many wine lovers and sales people are just incapable of educating and inspiring non-wine lovers. The F&W article takes you through a series of four diagnostic questions to find out your wine preference. All of the questions are rather silly. They are essentially, a polished-up form of the same hackneyed wine store logic where a salesperson simply tries to find out if you like white or red or dry or sweet.
Just consider these questions:
(1) Which do you drink? Whole milk or skim milk?
Seriously? This is an absurd question. Do people really really have strong milk preferences outside of calorie and fat considerations? I’ve drunk 2% my whole life and that generally has nothing to do with my taste preferences but that fact I was brought up on it.
Anyhow, F&W maintains that if you like whole milk you will tend to go for rich, full-bodied Chardonnay or similar style wines. And if you like skim? Well then, you might like lighter-style wines such as Chablis.
(2) Which juice do you prefer? Grapefruit or orange?
Ok, I know where they are going with this as some people don’t like tart wines, but is your juice preference the best way to flesh this out? I don’t think I have ever met a person claiming to love grapefruit juice.
The article maintains that if you prefer grapefruit then you like wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, and orange juice lovers will prefer Chardonnay or Viognier.
I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t. I don’t like grapefruit juice, but I do really like Sauvignon Blanc and dry Riesling. Chardonnay tends to be one of my least favorite wines these days, but I like orange juice.
(3) Which would you rather have on a steak? Cracked black pepper or béarnaise sauce?
If you like black pepper, F&W says you will like Syrah and other Rhone varieties, and if you prefer béarnaise sauce you might like a smooth California Merlot.
This question defies all logic. If you need help figuring out your wine preference through these questions, then most likely you won’t know what ‘other Rhone varieties’ are or what béarnaise sauce is. There is also a good chance that if you know your French sauces such as béarnaise and have a strong preference over cracked pepper, then you also won’t need this wine preference tutorial.
(4) Which sounds more appealing? Black truffles or blackberries?
The wisdom here goes that if you like funky, earthy flavors such as truffles (not the candy) then you will prefer Pinot Noir, and if you like blackberries you tend to like Australian Shiraz and California Zinfandel.
At least the other questions had some common thread: milk, citrus, and pepper but this one has no common thread. It’s almost as if I asked you: Which do you want to eat? A steak with a nice sauce made of forest mushrooms or a freshly picked sun-ripened strawberry? It is extremely possible that you like both, eat both, and prefer them at different times during the year.
I could go on an on taking shots at these simple and misleading questions and how they really don’t help you figure out your taste, but this brings me back to the idea of wine in the Midwest. I guess it really isn’t about the Midwest per se, but a challenge of wine lovers trying to interact with and inform those who don’t drink wine so frequently.
The Food & Wine article is just a case in point. The person who wrote that short tutorial probably knows wine quite well, but advising wine in that way once again boils down to simple formulas. In the end it really isn’t that different than if you ask about Cabernet versus Merlot, dry over sweet, or white versus red.
I like almost all wines at least some of the time. I don’t usually prefer sweet wines, but I have had some great Vin Santo, Sauternes, and Tokay. Fruit-bomb Australian wines are not my go-to style these days, but I loved them when I first started drinking wine and will still drink them if I am serving something that a fruity red would compliment.
But most of all, regardless of what wines I am presently ‘into’, I will almost always try an interesting or surprising wine just for the fun of it. Sometimes I buy a wine and cook a meal around it, and I often break wine-food pairing rules. I still love crisp whites and roses well into the dark winter months, and I even like chilling my reds in the summer. Sorry.
In the end I just want a salesperson to inspire me — at least somewhat. I want to enter a wine store and just once have a that person say: “Hey you — yeah you, Come here. Do you want to try something fabulous? This wine is just amazing.” Then the person educates you on how it is unique and tastes so great, and you go home inspired to cook a great meal or even entertain some friends and family.
The best thing is that inspiration works for all types of wine drinkers, as we all just want something fabulous. That bottle of wine should be fun and inspiring; a guest at the table. Wine lovers try a great variety of wine looking for something new; it is not about narrowing tastes and preferences.
So the next time you are in a wine store ask for them to suggest a grape you have never tried. Ask for something interesting or a wine that person found surprising. Just, please oh please don’t ever choose your wine based upon if you like whole or skim milk.
Food & Wine had an article in the December issue about how to gift wine for a dinner party, and I thought some of the tips were pretty useful. I know a lot of people fret over bringing wine especially if they know that a person is a wine snob or just has a more developed palette. I’d probably put myself in the wine snob category, so maybe subconsciously this post is just to help people bring me better wine. Who knows.
So here are some of the tips and strategies on how to make a host happy with your wine gift.
- Champagne or decent quality sparkling wine is always a good choice. It is a celebratory wine and the host can re-gift it if they don’t drink sparkling.
- Wines that go well with a lot of foods and appeal to broader personal tastes are good choices. The usual suspect here is pinot noir. I also try to stay away from tart wines such as sauvignon blanc and really meaty fruit bombs such as zinfandel and amarone — unless I know that the host loves these types of wine.
- For really special or expensive bottles, call ahead and ask what food the host is preparing. You can say that you will bring the perfect bottle and they will usually appreciate the help. This strategy will also ensure that your bottle will be opened. Nothing is worse than bringing a really nice wine and no one tries it.
- Bring the wine as it should be served. This means chill your wine if you are bringing a white. If you don’t, you are just asking for the host not to open your bottle.
- Try bringing a magnum. Though I know where the Food & Wine author is coming from on this one, for most people bringing a large two-bottle sized wine seems a bit odd as most people don’t buy them. But with that said, a magnum of good wine will definitely be appreciated and will simply have to be opened. If you go this route, just make sure it is good and not that bulk wine in big bottles from the bottom shelf.
Another tip if you are hosting a party is to write guests’ names directly onto their wine glasses with a Sharpie to identify whose glass it is. The ink won’t smudge, but it will still come off with warm soap and water. If you worry that it won’t come off your nice glasses, then test try it first.
Yesterday I ran into the product SanTásti on the Food & Beverage Buzz blog. Janet Majors writes about and recommends the slightly carbonated beverage that can be used during wine tastings to cleanse your palate. Basically, it is a clear, mostly tasteless liquid with a bit of sugar and citric acid and about half the carbonation of sparkling water.
After drinking different wines, a person’s mouth will be affected by the sugars and tannins and wines drunk later will essentially taste different. By drinking this beverage, however, your tongue will be ‘cleaned up’ and the acidity, sweetness, and astringency in your mouth will be rebalanced ready for a fresh taste of wine.
Of course, to the average drinker at home this product probably won’t be worth it, but if you are making a trip to California wine country, attending a wine tasting, or in the wine/beverage trade, a drink like this may come in handy. The site does doest try to cross market the product billing it as a drink to make you taste things more (after coffee or during a dinner party), but I think that goes a bit far. Bottled water’s reputation isn’t that great right now, and I am simply not going to order it to taste my food a bit better.
The beverage is a creation of Nicole Chamberlain and Andrew Macaluso who met each other as freshmen at Cal Poly. They later entered the new Wine and Viticulture Program at the school and used their science background to create the SanTásti beverage in 2008. I can imagine how a drink like this would be invaluable to enology students who need to differentiate between a lot of different wines.
On the SanTásti website, they have a tips page that features an 8-minute video by a blogger who tests the new drink. It involves a guy sucking and swishing wine and talking a lot during a sample tasting. The video could have been much shorter, but it gets the point across. Apparently, the SanTásti drink does a good job of cleansing the palate and preventing taste bud fatigue.
I was intrigued enough to order a sample, so they are shipping me my two bottles at a total cost of $5. I’ll give it a try, and if it works I may order a pack before my next trip to wine country.