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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Wine Geek Boat Trip

New London, New Hampshire

After a day of swirling, spitting, and grasping for just the right flavor adjectives, today Jack and Thelma announced we’d be doing champagne brunch on a boat.

Deb and Jim, all bright-eyed and bloaty.

I catch Andy sneaking a soda.

Sixteen hung-over titans of industry in a small boat on a stormy lake might be a recipe for trouble …

But no problem, ‘cuz here comes Thelma:

(“Thelma,” obviously, spells fun.)

Champagne certainly helps!

Jack and Thelma.

Jack and Thelma get down to my funky solo trombone recital:

After the boat ride, we tore into a bunch of Burgundy. This is slightly shocking, as Jack and Thelma are staunch Bordeaux partisans. Their friends have long been trying to spark their Burgundy interest, and this year they’ve finally capitulated, arranging an informal Burgundy tasting at lunch.

It was a good chance to record some discussion of the two wine regions. You needn’t be a wine geek to enjoy the following discussions:

Podcast 1—MP3: Thelma contrasts Bordeaux with Burgundy.

Podcast 2—MP3: Thelma explains why Burgundies are more suited to big tastings (plus: the proper way to drink Bordeaux at a big tasting).

Podcast 3—MP3: Bob Feinn, owner of Mt. Carmel Wine and Spirits, is one of the most knowledgable experts in the country, and he (like a number of American wine lovers) has grown infatuated with Burgundy. Thelma and I lightheartedly argue with him as he tries to account for his preference.

Podcast 4—MP3: Debate resumed (with wine in hand), we get to the gist: It all boils down to diet.

Podcast 5—MP3: Thelma and I catch Jack waxing rhapsodic over a Burgundy, and I fear for their marriage (needlessly, it turns out).

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Cherry on Top

I like food and I like sex. I’m not too crazy about the combination. though. Not so those crazy kids at the Philadelphia Weekly, who this week have put out (heh) their “Sexy Food” issue. The topic manifests itself in the illos that run through the section, extreme close-up photos of fruits and veggies looking all hot and bothered (sort of the grown-up version of those Joost Elffers Play with Your Food books), as well as in articles about aphrodisiacs, eating less for better performance (hmm, wonder if those Calorie Restriction folks are doing it like rabbits), and a piece titled “Strip Grub”, in which the restaurant critic contemplates the food at Philly’s various “gentlemen’s clubs.”

We were tempted to order Delilah’s ‘Very Best Breast’ of chicken, but considering there was no shortage of breasts around, we passed.

On the more foodie, less sexy side, there is a chilling inside look at the life of a picky eater. In “Wet, the Appetite”, Daniel McQuade writes about his lifelong struggle with his palate.

I love food. I love pizza and fries, apples and string cheese. I love ravioli and pancakes, rye bread and French toast. Recently I’ve been eating a lot of carrots. Problem is, the above list pretty much comprises the only things I eat …

The inverse of a Chowhound, the yin to a gourmet’s yang, McQuade does have a favorite restaurant: the Olive Garden.

Think Global, Eat Local

Wired News presents a good overview piece about the “locavore” phenomenon—well-meaning folks doing their best to eat food produced within an arbitrary (generally less than 500 miles) distance of their homes.

Beyond being a royal pain in the ass (unsweetened, too—unless you happen to live in Hawaii, sugar is one of the staples you’ll be wrestling to replace), eating locally offers a number of benefits.

1. You discover some—or maybe all—of the obscure edibles lurking in the ecological nooks and crannies of your local food chain. Locavore pioneer Gary Paul Nabhan (author of Coming Home to Eat) (W. W. Norton, 2001) set up a 250-mile radius around his Arizona home and discovered the (alleged) culinary ecstasy of wolfberry salad and rattlesnake fritters.

2. You cut down on the economic and environmental costs associated with shipping your foodstuffs cross-country or internationally. Vanilla from Madagascar? Depending on where you live, that’s something like 14,000 miles of travel.

3. Like the Wired News writer, you can have locally themed potlucks with your friends that foster both awareness and a smug feeling of self-righteousness.

And every step—even the tiniest—that we can take to ensure the survival of smug self-righteousness is a step worth taking.

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Booze in Cake Form

Johnny Carson famously joked that there’s just one fruitcake in the world, and it keeps getting sent from person to person. But there are fans of the heavyweight fruit-nut-liquor concoction, and the Palm Beach Post helpfully lists a few famous ones: Dr. J, Princess Caroline of Monaco, and the staff at the Pentagon. So if you, too, favor the boozy sweet, you’re not alone (but you are mocked ruthlessly each holiday season).

Some more fascinating facts about the much-maligned cakes: If regularly infused with liquor (usually brandy, rum, and whiskey), they can last up to 10 years. Ingredients vary but always include dried fruit, sometimes in the form of dyed-green and -red maraschino cherries, and usually include nuts. The serving size for a piece of fruitcake, according to the FDA, is set at a whopping four ounces, a size roughly the same weight as a Major League baseball, and containing a daunting 500 calories.

Food blogger Joe of Joe Pastry (who remembers his father’s enthusiastic fruitcake-making sessions in a lovely essay) notes that the traditional fruitcake is a holdover from medieval times, when dried fruits and spices were brought to Europe from Arabia, and that various countries adapted the original recipes to make such iconic national cakes as Germany’s stollen and Italy’s panettone. For those intrigued by the cake’s fearsome reputation, food blogger Julie of It Must Have Been Something I Ate offers some yummy-sounding recipes, one containing Guinness. Mmm.