Because a bare cupboard and an empty fridge are sad sights to behold, the Urban Forager hunts through food & wine shops bringing home tasty morsels that make your kitchen table the best place to eat in town.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Half the Bottle, Twice the Fun

More is not always better.

With every birthday I celebrate (as I did last week) this bit of wisdom seems wiser and wiser. This is not to say I follow this advice religiously. Sometimes more of whatever it is you desire is pretty damn great. But recently when I’ve been in wine stores, I find myself drawn to the half-bottle section. Some nights, I don’t really want, or need, to open a full bottle of wine. Maybe because it’s a Tuesday night and I have to be up early the next day; Maybe because The Husband now insists (ahem) on only drinking martinis; Or maybe I just want to try a new wine but not invest in a full bottle.

It’s taken me a long time to take half-bottles seriously. They seemed like a waste of money and a waste of time. But I used to also think this about well-made shoes (money) and flossing (time). I’ve seen the error of my thinking with shoes and flossing (never buy cheap shoes; floss regularly) and I’ve seen it now with wine, too. Half-bottles (for those of us lacking slightly in restraint) are perfect portion control.

Half-bottles are exactly that: 375mL (two generous glasses of wine) to a full-bottle’s 750mL. Half-bottles are half the price, give or take a few dollars sometimes. Shopping the half-bottle shelves does limit your choices somewhat, but look around; some wine stores have a much larger selection than others. Reds, whites and bubblies from all types of grapes, all types of regions, and all prices ranges ($6.00 up into the hundreds) are out there.

Whether you’re eating at home or in a restaurant, half-bottles are also a great way to pair wine with food. Open a bottle of white for the first course (perhaps with a seafood appetizer?) and then a red for the second (steak and potatoes?). In this case, when you’re able to enjoy two wines at one meal, less really is more.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hang On, Little Tomato

Is there anything as precarious as a tiny tomato hanging on the vine?

Taking a wider world view than my front garden, I suppose the answer is yes. But it doesn’t change the fact that I walk out every morning expecting the worst. Maybe a rodent will eat it. Maybe the plant will get sick before the tomato ripens. Maybe one of several thousands types of tiny insects might start nibbling on its leaves. And here’s the thing - I don’t even really like tomatoes (unless they’re part of something, like salsa or pasta sauce, or ketchup). But this is my first foray into gardening and I’m a little nervous.
When I was in culinary school, one of my classmates grew several pots of tomatoes in her bedroom. Sun streamed in from a bay window, ripening the little tomatoes day by day. Her dream was to wake up one morning and pluck a tiny red tomato from the vine, enjoying its sweet flavor without even getting out of bed. Perhaps this was the ultimate foodie fantasy being played out. Or perhaps it was just a girl living in a tiny apartment in a major city and a pot next to her bed was as close to a garden as she was going to get.
For years I’ve been in the same predicament, but now, no more. Although to be fair, I don’t want to overstate the greenness of my thumb. First of all, The Husband has done the lion’s share of the work (numerous trips for soil and seeds, disciplined watering). Secondly, we don’t even have a real garden, we just have pots. But we do have a tiny green tomato trying its
darndest to grow and one box of lettuce seeds that refuses to grow at all and I’m rooting for both of them.
Will the tomato ripen? And if it does, what do we do with it? There’s only one tomato on the plant, so do we cut the tiny thing in half and throw it in a salad, which will conveniently be small too, since one box of lettuce seeds refuses to grow? I don't have the answers to those questions. I'm new at this gardening thing. But I’ll keep you posted.