2010 International Chefs Congress Wrap-Up: Tasting and Mixology Day Three

2010 International Chefs Congress Wrap-Up: Tasting and Mixology Day Three

Don Lee is a master manipulator of the elements of infusion, largely because he recognizes how common the chemistry of infusions in everyday life. Whether you’re making tea, coffee, fat, or washing your own bourbons, you’re passing flavors from one substance to the next. Lee explained the chemistry behind everything from lemon-infused simple syrup (used in the aptly named Reverend Palmer) to fat washing techniques which can date back hundreds of years. With methods of flavor delivery a bartender can choose how something like lemon, bacon, or coconut can be carried to the cocktail. Rum infused with air-popped corn followed by a fat washing with clarified butter more than proved the potential of flavor layering. Mixed with Coke, Lee’s take was a combo of a classic cinema snack and classic cocktail rum and coke. Fellow mixologist Francis Schott demonstrated an old school “and highly dangerous” infusion method called basic canning. Alcohol won’t kill botulism, so Schott recommends extreme attentiveness when attempting this technique rife with possibility… and danger. The results – plump, juicy fruit and lush liquor infusions – are cost effective and deliver taste with a punch. Both mixologists share a firm belief in the right technique for the right drink. Lee won’t allow trends to corrupt the purity of his infusions.

Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth (Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant, Forestville, CA) took morning attendees through a tasting of New Zealand wines intended to spotlight the standard bearer of Kiwi wines, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (this one the 2008 Kim Crawford Spitfire), and also shed light on some of the country’s lesser recognized varietals. Kruth emphasized the overall quality of the emerging wine region’s wines and noted how varietally correct they are—a Kiwi Riesling tastes like a Riesling. The 2007 Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay Kruth described as more French-style than California, but varietally correct without being overblown; the 2008 Peregrine Pinot Gris Kruth put forth as the pin up for a great restaurant wine—an ideal replacement for insipid Pinot Grigio; for the 2007 Pyramid Valley Riesling the Master Somm declared this wine as “fantastic” with a touch of sweetness, good texture, and a heady rose nose; the 2004 Vinoptima Gewurtztraminer comes from a winemaker that only makes Gewurtz and this one Kruth selected to taste for its intensity and ability to pair with strong foods; the 2008 Dry River Pinot Noir was a clean style Pinot with what Kruth described as a “very sexy” nose and boldness that can stand up to heavier foods; the 2005 Craggy Range Sophia represented a Bordeaux-style blend that had classic New Zealand acid to differentiate it from a Napa Cab and its French model. In the end, Kruth encouraged participants to continue exploring New Zealand wines beyond Sauvignon Blanc; concluding that “New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is not the whole story; we need to know what’s going on behind Sauvignon Blanc and tell those stories too.”

Sommelier Paul Grieco Sommelier Paul Grieco
With a tattoo down his arm that says "RIESLING!" and shirt that that says "My Name is: Summer of Riesling," Sommelier Paul Grieco was clearly the man to lead a Riesling seminar. Participants had the opportunity to sample six Rieslings from Germany, Austria, Alsace, and the New York Finger Lakes that ranged from sweet to dry. He discussed the idea that great wines possess balance, finesse, delicacy, complexity, longevity, and sense of terroir. Grieco dismissed the conception that Rieslings can only be paired with fish and chicken. Continuing his love letter to Riesling, Grieco said that he finds the wine to be a "perfect expression of art and terroir" and that "no other grape does it like Riesling." He finished up the session with this conclusion: "I charge you to go forth and drink more goddamned Riesling."

Mixologist Junior Merino's workshop Mixologist Junior Merino's workshop
"Smoke Gets in Your Glass: Mezcal in Mixology"
Mixologist Junior Merino of The Liquid Chef and the whole Liquid Chef team including Heidi Merino had attendees mixing up a storm in Smoke Gets in Your Glass: Mezcal in Mixology. Beginning with a tasting of numerous mezcals from varying regions and varietals to offer a base knowledge, Merino talked participants through the signature terroir of each area, starting with delicate floral mezcals and progressing to the smokiest, most caramelized incarnations. He then used his Liquid Chef line of flavored salts and syrups to create a series of Scorpion mezcal cocktails, including the La Paloma paired popcorn-infused Scorpion reposado mezcal with Royal Combier orange liqueur, chamoya, lime juice, ginger-elderflower syrup, and popcorn-amaranth rim for a textural and complex finish.

By Kathleen Culliton, Katherine Martinelli, Amanda McDougall, and Francoise Villeneuve