Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rome Day 2: Bellini's

It's hot, hot, hot. 91 in the shade and there wasn't any shade! We spent the day in antiquity at the Collisseum and then the Forum. Sue and I have been talking about this for 35 years and finally got here. And it definitely met all our expectations. However wandering around the valley of the Forum at midday at the end of June in this heat wasn't the best easy way to get sunstroke. Still and all, I kept repeating one word all day...AMAZING...that this was all still here after thousands of years.

We figured out at least one of the buses in this chaotic system and though we got on going the wrong way, it ended up dropping us right in front of the hotel. Saw the Capitoline museum and the original statue of Marcus Aurelius, and some fascinating displays on the Temple of Jupiter whose foundations are still here and dates back to the late Bronze age.

We succumbed to the heat, enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco courtesy of the Marriott, and then Bellini's at Harry's Bar, Roma. Evidently there's a display inside on the movie Dolce Vita, but we didn't go in...maybe tonight. Sue liked the Bellini's but preferred Negroni's.

After a leisuely post-prandial stroll (good idea...we had only walked about 20 miles already today!) we ran into the proprieter of Narciso a restaurant on Via Sistina who directed us to a good spot for Limoncello and Cafe latte on the Via Del Croce. We'll plan on having dinner at his place tonight...they make their own pasta. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Rome Day 1- Negroni's

I'm on a long planned vaca in Rome but will use this opportunity to stay in touch with my readers with industry related comments. I stopped at a little off premise shop that was featuring absinthes. Saw a pretty good selection including Grune Fee, the Hapsburg array (good job Dale!), La Fee and a few European brands I didn't recognize. Didn't have my camera, but I'll bring it today and try and find the shop was a pretty interesting window display.

We had Negroni's at the rooftop bar of the Hotel Minerva overlooking the Pantheon and with a view across Rome. Very impressive vista, but at 15 Euros per drink it was a pretty pricey premium. Good potato chips though. Then dinner in Trastavere where we sampled the house Prosecco (fabulous) and the house Chianti (thin and expensive. We're staying at the Marriott at Villa Borghese which is just across the road from Harry's Bar Rome outpost. Plan to introduce my wife to Bellini's tonight.

Oh, and one idle the coffee really better in Rome...or is it that in Rome, everything is better? Ciao till tomorrow. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, June 9, 2008

What is Absinthe...What is Vodka?

I seem to have generated a bit of controversy at Wormwood Society with an introductory post So I thought I'd post some more thoughts on MY blog before stirring up the pot over there any further.

I hosted a booth where we presented Mata Hari as well as the range of other Alt Wiener Schnapsmuseum (aka Fischer Schnapps) Absinthes at distil. I ran into George Rowley who claims(and rightly deserves) credit for the renaissance of Absinthe in the U.K. and Europe. George put on a very informative seminar on Absinthe featuring (perhaps a bit too much focus on) La Fee Absinthes. And what I realized was twofold. One, most people even in the industry don't have much of a clue about Absinthe, what is "real", what are the different styles, alcohol levels, history, etc. And second, those that are informed tend to bring a biased point of view to the party. Certainly understandable...I'll be the first to say I'm biased as well. But that bias does tend to color (pardon the pun) how they view the subject. And the informed types fall into two basic categories as well: Purists who hold to a conservative, one might even say reactionary, perspective, and those with a contemporary point of view...sort of "that was then, this is now."

I think its important to recognize that nobody is the end of the day, Absinthe is nothing more than an alcoholic beverage with a history equally as colorful as some others (think Rye and Scotch and Prohibition). So this whole issue of what is "real" Absinthe is analogous to the Martini. They used to be a mix of gin and vermouth. But by 1972 the martini morphed into a vodka based cocktail. And now we have appletini's, chocotini's and more variations of flavors and ingredients. Are they real martinis? To the purist, perhaps no. But to the consumer who orders them...most definitively YES! As Tony Abou-Ganim and Dale DeGroff mentioned in a seminar I went to recently...if it's served in a martini glass (more properly called a cocktail glass), then it's commonly considered a matter what's in it.

In fact, take the argument one step further. Historically vodka used to be a very rough spirit so it was traditioonally flavored with something to cover up the roughness...buffalograss in Poland (Zubrowka), Caraway seed in Scandinavia (Aquavit). Then it became the spirit we know today as neutral spirits. Now all the manufacturers are becoming ever more innovative with ever more esoteric flavors and combinations. The TTB standard of identiy for vodka is "neutral spirits so distilled or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color."

So, the question might be asked..."What is vodka?" Sphere: Related Content