#2 – Erik Banti Toscana Carato

Winery: Erik Banti
Varietal: Sangiovese Blend
Country: Italy
Region: Tuscany > Toscana Igt
Vintage: 2006
Price: $11.99

Cynthia’s Review:

I liked this wine. This wasn’t much of a surprise to me when I read the label and discovered that it contained 70% Sangiovese grapes. Although I am a beginner when it comes to wine- I love the Tuscan wines, and I recognized this name. (Although it seems to be spelled in a variety of ways, depending upon the native language of the label designer) The remaining recipe for this wine is 25% Merlot and 5% Sirah. (Sirah is also subject to imaginative spelling it seems !) We decanted this wine about 15 minutes before dinner.  I still don’t know exactly why letting the air get to the wine is a good thing, but maybe that’s because I worked for years in the grocery industry, where we spent all our time frantically trying to keep air out of practically everything utilizing skillfully designed packaging. We served this wine with a rather heavy meal- pork loin, augratin potatoes and creamed spinach- and the wine stood up to the challenge. Typically, I am a vegetarian, and don’t consume much of the meat portion of the meal, but I did eat a few bites of pork loin, just so that I could see how it paired with the wine. I actually did notice a difference- the wine seemed a bit heavy with just the vegetables, but that heaviness disappeared when I added the pork loin to my plate. The label also indicates that the wine has been aged for 12 months in American and Slovenian oak barrels.  Slovenian???  Maybe someone out there can tell me what the particular benefits of Slovenian oak are???  At any rate, I repeat, I liked this wine: I give it a “yay”.  Gerald is 2 for 2 thus far!

Jay’s Review:

The Toscana Carato is not a heavy red wine, though the color might make you think otherwise. It smells fantastic! To the tastbuds, it is mildly complex, but not overwhelming at all. Smooth and flavorful it pairs very well with a drier meat dish like the pork loin we had for dinner. I think this would not have been the case had Cynthia prepared the pork with any kind of rich sauce or gravy as it would have overwhelmed the more subtle aspects of this particular wine.

I really do like the blended wines, ESPECIALLY the Super Tuscans and this one seemed to me to be a very nice mix of the well tempered Sangiovese grape and \just the right touch of the bolder Merlot and the spicy Sirah.

I give the Toscan Carato a “yay” and have even saved a few glasses for later consumption. It definitely goes on the list for restocking the wine rack when the challenge is over.

The $100 Wine Challenge

Cynthia and I have been educating ourselves about wine over the last few years. We’ve enjoyed the occasional trip to our local Italian restaurant which offers a modest corking fee when you bring your own bottle to enjoy with dinner and we’ve especially enjoyed exploring local wines when traveling to Spain.

As part of our ongoing education we have been visiting Spec’s and have the services of a knowledgeable young man by the name of Gerald. He has been giving us good advice and has come to know what we like and don’t like in regards to wine and has been very helpful to us. We’ve taken to calling Gerald our “Wine Sherpa” …

Gerald has been very good about making recommendations about wine that fits our budget, which is in the $15-$20 per bottle range. We’ve occasionally bought more expensive bottles for special occasions or to have on hand and we’ve also had some very tasty $10 bottles.

Since we know it’s quite easy to spend $100 plus on a single bottle of good wine we came up with the idea of finding $100 worth of good wine in the form of 10 bottle for $10 or less. The concept has a lot of appeal to me as 10 bottles of $10 wine will stretch quite a bit further than one bottle of $100 wine. This would also serve as a gauge of our Wine Sherpa’s skill in suggesting wine for us. We told Gerald of our plan and we gave him one week to think about it before returning to his store to let him pick out the wine.

When we arrived at the store yesterday Gerald walked us around and presented us with 10 bottles he thought we would enjoy.

The $100 Challenge

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The $100 Challenge

In the spirit of absolute honesty, there is one bottle in this batch that was closer to $11 but the rest were under $10 and the whole purchase came out to $100.74

Over the next few weeks we will be sampling the choices made for us and writing our thoughts about each one and posting them here.

God said to Noah There’s going to be a floody floody

We woke up around 4:30 to the sound of pouring rain and loud rumbling thunder. It had been raining since we went to sleep and I knew the water was likely going to be high in the streets. Looking out the door confirmed my suspicions. I shot this in the dark on a tripod just to document how high the water was.

2009 Flood

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2009 Flood

Halfway up the sidewalk to the front door was as high as it got, thank goodness. I waited till the sun came up and the rain died down to explore further. This is the highest water I’ve seen in 15 years of living in this neighborhood.

2009 Flood

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2009 Flood

2009 Flood

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2009 Flood

This has to be only one of the few times in it’s life this truck is actually “practical” …

2009 Flood

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2009 Flood

2009 Flood

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2009 Flood

2009 Flood

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2009 Flood

2009 Flood

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2009 Flood

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Cynthia came home from work on Friday with a recipe she wanted to try out.

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
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5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

If this recipe actually worked, you could have homemade chocolate cake in a matter of minutes…anytime you wanted with these simple ingredients…

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
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5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

The implications were staggering, but Cynthia was skeptical. Still, she decided she’d try it out this evening after dinner to see what would happen.

Following the simple instructions, she quickly mixed the components into a coffee mug which she then put in the microwave.

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
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5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

The timer was set for 3 minutes, the door was closed and we watched with anticipation. Cynthia was still not convinced it would work. She thought it more likely we’d end up with a small explosion of chocolate goop in our microwave, but after the first minute the concoction began to rise up and the smell of chocolate cake filled the room and after 3 minutes we took the cup from the microwave and let it cool…

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
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5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Then we tipped the cup over and the cake fell onto the plate

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
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5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

It smelled like chocolate cake. It looked like chocolate cake. The only thing left was the taste test.

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
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5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Our friend Jim offered to take the first bite and pronouced it delicious! We each had a bite ourselves and it was quite good!

Here’s the recipe in text form if you want to give it a try yourself

4 Tablespoons cake flour
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons oil
1 Mug

Instructions:
Mix flour, sugar and cocoa
Spoon in 1 egg
Pour in milk and oil, and mix well
Put in microwave for 3 minutes on maximum power (1000watt)
Wait until it stops rising and sets in the mug
Tip contents out of mug onto saucer.

Brussels – Day 1

We’ve arrived in Brussels without incident. The plane ride went smooth and we easily sorted getting the train from the airport to Central Station for a mere €2.80 a piece and and before you know it, we were checking into our hotel which is literally across the street from Central Station.

I was amused to see a coke machine in the train station featuring Manekkin Pis.

Manneken Pis Coke Machine

It’s cold here. VERY cold. High today was right around freezing. But the sun is out! I’ll take it!

Grand Place

One of our first stops was Leonidas to get some chocolate.

Leonidas Chocolate

We did a little walking around but were were pretty exhausted so went back to the hotel to take a nap.

After sleeping for a few hours we headed back out. The sun was down and we wanted to see the light show in the Grand Place. It was really something to see. Moving lights set to music.

Light show in Grand Place

I’ll post a video later.

I’ll say this, swapping lenses and shooting with a tripod in this cold is not the most fun. But I am determined.

Now it’s off to bed to sleep in earnest. More tomorrow.

Tis The Season

Christmas Tree

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Christmas Tree

The weekend after Turkey Day kicks off the yuletide season here at Casa Heretic. Cynthia’s the driving force behind all the cheer that’s on display in our home.

Cynthia has a large and varied collection of mouse ornaments that adorn what used to be our only Xmas tree.

A few years ago Cynthia started a smaller, giraffe themed tree for the giraffe room.

Last year, when Cynthia received the 12 Giraffes Of Christmas it was obvious we were going to be needing a bigger tree.

We went out and purchased a 7′ tree and some plain, gold and brown ornaments after Xmas last year and Cynthia fashioned her own decorations to flush out the collection.

Now, we are a two full-sized tree family.

That’s got to be the BEST (and possibly only) giraffe themed tree on the planet!

Beer And Spiders

Cynthia @ The Dumon Chocolate Shop in Bruge 2005

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Cynthia @ The Dumon Chocolate Shop in Bruge 2005

We’ve been to Belgium once before, specifically Bruges. Long time readers of this blog might recall the “Maiming Of The Nose” incident where we had to rush Cynthia to the hospital after arriving on the train from Amsterdam.

When plotting the previous trip our friend Bill Shirley was most helpful in suggesting how to go about exploring beer options while we were there.

Cynthia is not a fan of beer. Prior to going to Belgium that time she had consumed less than one beer, pronouncing the drink undrinkable.

It was suggested by Bill that Cynthia try a Lambic, a traditional Belgian brew that is fruit flavored (peach, raspberry, etc.) to see how she would like that.

As it happened, we went downtown prior to our trip and ended up at The Flying Saucer where Cynthia was able to sample a Lambic prior to our journey. She liked it quite a bit and we made a point of acquiring some during our stay in Bruges.

Cynthia actually liking a beer is, well, incongruous. She had the few prior to and during our trip but none since. As we are laying the groundwork for our upcoming trip she’s actually mentioned how much she is looking forward to having a Lambic or three while we’re there (along with samples of chocolates from the some 80+ chocolatiers listed in the Brussels phone directory).

As we were reading up on the upcoming Christmas trip Cynthia found information regarding the brewing process for Lambic. Turns out it is not fermented the way other beers are. With traditional beer brewers, yeasts are added manually to ferment the wort. But with Lambic beer, wild airborne yeasts””present in the atmosphere in and around Brussels””are allowed to permeate the wort naturally.

To accomplish this, the wort is pumped into a copper tub called a “cooling tun” which sits in an open sided building, exposed to the elements where the naturally occurring, airborne yeasts fall naturally into the wort.

It is then poured into untreated wooden barrels where the wild yeast and and wort ferment.

The process cannot be duplicated manually and since the process is the only way to actually produce this particular brew, the Lambic brewers are exempt from any of the the same health standards and regulations that govern all other brewers in Belgium.

This has Cynthia conflicted. I believe the exact term she used was “eee-yewwwwww!”

On the one hand, she finds Lambics tasty and enjoyable. On the other hand, she has to reconcile the fact that the brewing process operates outside of sanitation standards she finds acceptable.

We’ll see how it goes. I wanted to see about touring a Lambic brewery, but just found out they have a tendency to attract spiders that feed on the bugs that are attracted to the wort.

Cynthia says God has quite the diabolical and ironic sense of humor.

Fly High, Mr. Zippers

Mr. Zippers passed away this afternoon after a heroic fight to cheat death which began back in July.

We thought he had made a full recovery, but he began to show signs to the contrary right after hurricane IKE. I suspect the stress of that event and the days that followed were probably too much for him.

We adopted Mr. Zippers in 1999. He came to be a beloved pet and member of our quirky little family. Ultimately, he was Cynthia’s bird. Mr. Zippers hated me and tried to bite me any chance he could.

Still, I loved that little guy.

We both did.

Mr. Zippers will be sorely missed.

New Quilt

Cynthia has completed her latest quilt. It’s called “Jay’s Shirts Travel The World.”

Jay's Shirts Travel The World

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Jay's Shirts Travel The World

During the course of creating my many custom shirts, Cynthia has ended up with a lot of unusual scraps of fabric. One of her goals is to make a quilt for each room and she created this one to hang in the laundry room. Each panel represents one of the shirts she has made for me placed in a situation that is in some kind of contast to the theme of the shirt.

Click on any of the panels below to see an enlargement







There are only 12 shirts represented, but my collection is well over 30 at this point.

Here are some additional detail shots to show the stitching and the buttons that were added to each panel

Jay's Shirts Travel The World
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Jay's Shirts Travel The World

Jay's Shirts Travel The World

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Jay's Shirts Travel The World

Jay's Shirts Travel The World

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Jay's Shirts Travel The World

Jay's Shirts Travel The World

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Jay's Shirts Travel The World

Jay's Shirts Travel The World

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Jay's Shirts Travel The World

Jay's Shirts Travel The World

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Jay's Shirts Travel The World

Photographing this quilt was a great opportunity to use the new flash unit.

Day 5 (still no power)

Candle and Radio

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Candle and Radio

The Jensen radio you see in the above picture has been running pretty steady in the same two Double A batteries since Friday night. Pretty amazing. Also our primary source of information and entertainment at the house.

Cynthia and I are getting a little loopy. I was telling her about the tiger that’s running loose on Crystal Beach and she said “imagine some poor couple, surveying their flattened home and she turns and says ‘oh honey, we’ve lost everything…but at least we have each other‘ ROWRGRRAHHH! OH MY GOD!”

Puts things in perspective for us. Yea, we have no power and probably won’t have power till next week. But the weather has been good so we’re not drowning in our own sweat. The house is basically fine. There is an end in site and we have fared pretty well.

At least we aren’t looking at a concrete slab where our house used to be and having to avoid being eaten by a tiger…

Speaking of being eaten alive, the Life Boat Sketch by Monty Python has been running through my head. Cynthia’s always happy to learn my thought have once again turned to cannibalism.

Second Sailor: Yes. We can’t go hold out much longer, sir. We haven’t had any food since the fifth day.
Third Sailor: We’re done for, we’re done for!
First Sailor: Shut up, Maudling. We’ve just got to keep hoping someone will find us.
Fourth Sailor: How are you feeling, captain?
Fifth Sailor: Not too good … I … feel … so weak.
Second Sailor: We can’t hold out much longer.
Fifth Sailor: Listen … chaps … there’s one last chance. I’m done for, I’ve got a gammy leg, I’m going fast, I’ll never get through … but … some of you might … so you’d better eat me.
First Sailor: Eat you, sir?
Fifth Sailor: Yes. Eat me.
Second Sailor: Uuuuggghhh! With a gammy leg?
Fifth Sailor: You don’t have to eat the leg, Thompson, there’s still plenty of good meat … look at that arm.
Third Sailor: It’s not just the leg, sir.
Fifth Sailor: What do you mean?
Third Sailor: Well, sir … it’s just that …
Fifth Sailor: Why don’t you want to eat me?
Third Sailor: I’d rather eat Johnson, sir. (he points at fourth sailor)
Second Sailor: Oh, so would I, sir.
Fifth Sailor: I see.
Fourth Sailor: Well, that’s settled then. Everyone eats me.
First Sailor: Well … I … er …
Third Sailor: What, sir?
First Sailor: No, no, you go ahead, I won’t …
Fourth Sailor: Nonsense, nonsense, sir, you’re starving. Tuck in!
First Sailor: No, no, it’s not just that …
Second Sailor: What’s the matter with Johnson, sir?
First Sailor: Well, he’s not kosher.
Third Sailor: That depends how we kill him, sir.
First Sailor: Yes, yes, I see that … well to be quite frank, I like my meat a little more lean. I’d rather eat Hodges.
Second Sailor: (cheerfully) Oh well … all right.
Third Sailor: No, I’d still prefer Johnson.
Fifth Sailor: I wish you’d all stop bickering and eat me.
Second Sailor: Look! I’ll tell you what. Why don’t those of us who want to, eat Johnson, then you, sir, can eat my leg and then we’ll make a stock of the Captain and then after that we can eat the rest of Johnson cold for supper.
First Sailor: Good thinking, Hodges.
Fourth Sailor: And we’ll finish off with the peaches. (picks up a tin of peaches)
Third Sailor: And we can start off with the avocados. (picks up a two avocados)
First Sailor: Waitress! (a waitress walks in) We’ve decided now, we’re going to have leg of Hodges …