Leslie brought me some Lucini olive oil that was too green and strong for her tastes. I gave her some McEvoy in exchange. We both have a new favorite olive oil, and they're not the same. I prefer the Lucini; she prefers the McEvoy.
I started thinking about tasting notes. I cancelled my subscription to Cook's Magazine when they said they tasted no difference between real vanilla and the fake stuff made with vanillin. I taste a bitterness in the fake stuff, and it is a simpler composition. It lacks the deep notes, the grace notes, the unfolding fleeting flavors that are almost identifiable then gone. No difference? We differ. My friend Des makes vanilla and it is heavenly. Even the gossip girls notice the difference in the fragrance, and ask about it. They'd like to drink it. Maybe Des will teach us to make it.
Wine tasters make judgements - wine drinkers slavishly follow them. If you know anything about wine you know who Robert Parker is - a good rating from Robert Parker can make a wine; a bad rating can be devastating.
Years ago I belonged to the San Francisco Professional Food Society and we tasted things (before tasting was the rage) - tomatoes, coffee, caviar, vodka, champagne...and salt. Salt has changed a lot since then. The French Laundry and Per Se have served plates with 8 or 9 little piles of salt served with a history and geography lesson for each, and pairing recommendations. Eye opening.
I have more than a dozen kinds of salt in my cupboard. Some of my favorites...
are from Williams Sonoma. Their red salt is great on pork, I love the black on grilled steak, and the chardonnay smoked salt means I can do ribs in the oven and they taste like they've been smoked. I plan to try it on pork chops next.
Some were gifts and I have no idea what's in them...besides salt.
One of my favorites is the Herb Rub (with lots of salt) from David Lebovitz. If you don't follow his blog you are in for a treat - he is funny, dry, wry, and doesn't take anything too seriously. I've never met him but he's on the list of people I'd like to have dinner with. Along with Winston Churchill and Eleanor of Acquitaine.
But my favorite - the one I reach for again and again - is this.
If you've been reading my blog for a while you know I went to the Ile de Re this summer and fell in love with the place. I get this salt at WIlliams Sonoma. I brought some back from the Ile de Re - if you come for dinner we can taste it. And you do know to sprinkle it over the finished dish, right? Don't waste it in the soup, you will lose the big flakes and the subtle flavor. Sprinkle a few grains on a finished dish and dig in.