I'll give you all a brief rundown of the beginning of the week so I can get to the good stuff (aka the title of this blogpost). Tuesday was breakfast day which included everything from muesli to granola to pancakes to waffles and of course, a traditional Irish breakfast. I was assigned to make black currant and lemon verbena jam, granola, and a traditional Irish breakfast. If any of you are curious as to what exactly is included in an Irish breakfast, allow me to enlighten you:
- Fried Egg
- Roasted Tomato
- Roasted Mushroom
- Irish Sausage
- Black Pudding- sausage made from pork blood
- White Pudding- sausage made from pork fat and oatmeal
- Irish Bacon (also known as 'rashers')
After we all sat down to enjoy the breakfast that we'd made, we changed into fresh chefs whites for our class photo with Darina! We'll receive this after our final exams at the end of the course. The demo yesterday afternoon started with Jane Murphy of The Ardsallagh Goat Farm. She was a great example of how something that starts small and simple can turn into a huge business.
Rory taught the rest of the demo and focused on several tomato and curry based sauces and fishes along with several salads and profiteroles! Since I got to make the eclairs on Monday, my partner will be making the profiteroles on Friday. Profiteroles are similar to eclairs except they are round and are usually filled with either ice cream or pastry cream. They are UH-mahzing.
Alright- time to talk about Wednesday, my favorite day. The focus of Wednesdays lecture was both wine and cakes. There are very few things that excite me as much as wine and cakes. These include, but are not limited to, authentic Italian pizza, elaborate homemade Sunday dinners, New York restaurants, show tunes, sunsets, overpriced sweatshirts and Jimmy Choo shoes...oh, and donuts. But I digress, that's another story for another day.
Back to Wednesday. Our mornings lecture was taught by Colm McCan and Pascal Rossignal. Pascal is the owner of Le Caveau wine shop in Kilkenny and another amazing source of wine knowledge. We focused on natural, organic and biodynamic wines today. Although it may sound like those all mean the same thing, there are slight differences in the production of each.
- Natural- This refers to a broad range of organic and biodynamic practices in both the vineyard and winery to reduce the use of chemicals or manipulation throughout the production process
- Organic- No synthetic chemicals cannot be added to the vineyards for treatments against pests and grapes must be grown within the principles of organic farming. These guidelines, however, only cover the growing phase of the process. The actual winemaking phase of the process varies country to country in terms of what is considered organic and this mainly refers to use of preservatives, the most common of which is sulphur.
- Biodynamic- These are wines made using the principles of biodynamic agriculture. Upon these principles, farms are treated as individual organisms and follow the 'Planting and Sowing Calendar.'
Just as people are becoming more and more interested in where their food comes from and how it is produced, the same questions are being posed about wine. While it's clear that buying an organic wine has great advantages, there are certainly opinions as to whether the same quality of wine can be produced using this process. There are more and more organic, natural and biodynamic wines appearing in the market these days so I would encourage you to go out and try some yourself!
We also discussed the use of sulphur in wines. Sulphur is a naturally occurring chemical compound in the earth that is used as an antiseptic, an antioxidant and a preservative. It's commonly thought that some wines, particularly wines produced outside of the US, have no sulphur in them. In fact, all wines contain sulphur in some capacity as it is a byproduct of the fermentation process, they just have no sulphur added to them. The US (along with Australia) is one of the few countries that requires wineries to note added sulfites on the bottle if they exceed 10 parts per million (PPM). This amount is actually much less than the sulphur levels in most processed foods. So why all the drama with sulfites? Well, one of the enzymes in our liver which breaks down alcohol is adversely affected by the excess of sulphur, therefore, it's very important to know how much sulphur is in wine. The lesson learned here? Know what you're putting into your body, drink in moderation and, sadly, you can't blame the sulfites for your wine headache.
We tried five different dry wines and one sweet wine this morning, starting with a South African Sauvignon Blanc. After that we moved onto an Italian Cortese, a Beaujolais from the Burgundy region, a Merlot Malbec blend from Southwest France and a Grenache Syrah Mourvedre from the Rhone region of France. The sweet wine that we tasted was a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. My favorite of all of these were the Cortese, the Beaujolais and the Grenache Syrah Mourvedre.
*Side note- Thursday, November 20 is Beaujolais Day. If you live in NYC, Joseph Leonard is a great place to go to celebrate Beaujolais Day...or any day for that matter.
A couple more tips:
- Generally wine is best consumed the day that it is opened. If you have an unfinished bottle, reseal it using either the cork or a wine stopper, blocking it from the air as much as possible, and put the wine in the fridge (this is for both red and white wine). This numbs/preserves the wine and slows down the oxidization process. Take your wine out of the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to drink it (or less, if you prefer, for a white).
- If a wine is corked it will smell of musty, damp cardboard
- If you encounter a wine with a wax covering, the cleanest way to open it is to treat it as if the wax isn't there and open as usual with a strong wine key. Another option is to use your wine key to chip off the wax to expose the cork.
- A magnum is the ideal size for aging a wine.
After the wine lecture and lunch, it was time to prepare for the Afternoon Tea lecture! This lecture was taught by Pam and Darina. The lecture focused on macarons, sponge cakes, cupcakes, buns (mini cupcakes), meringues, tea sandwiches and of course, tea! The highlight was most certainly the macarons and, surprisingly, the tea sandwiches. Darina created something truly amazing. It started with a loaf of bread. She cut off most of the top leaving one side attached, so that the bread looked like a trunk. She then took out the inner bread from the bottom of the 'trunk' and sliced into long slices to make sandwiches.
She then made 4 types of sandwiches, sliced them into tea sized portions and filled the bread 'trunk' back with them. Here is a pic of the amazing tea sandwich trunk!
Here are some more highlights from the afternoon tea demo. I'm ready to open my tea shop now!
Tomorrow morning we get a break from the kitchen and are going on a class field trip! We'll be visiting a farmers market, a cheese maker, a butcher and a wine bar. Stay tuned for updates!