Negotiating for a Negoçiant in Unexpected Places

If you’re really interested in great wine values, then, if you haven’t already, acquaint yourself with some trustworthy negoçiants.  In case you might not have seen the term before, negoçiants are, very broadly translated, something like  wine merchants.  In practice, however, their relationship to the wines they sell under their own names is much more of a hands-on enterprise than simply the selling of a product.  They canvass a particular viticultural area, buying up excess grapes, or the juice thereof, or even a stray wine here and there in various stages of completion.  Some of the juice or grapes may even come from some notable producers who wish to keep the amount of their own label under control by selling off some of their excess raw ingredient.  Negoçiants, then, proceed to complete whatever needs to be done to those ingredients to procure a finished wine to be sold under the name of the negoçiant.  Few serious fans of wines will not have heard of the likes of Louis Jadot for Burgundy, and Georges du Boeuf for Beaujolais.  But have you ever heard of Cameron Hughes, a California negoçiant who sells most of his admirable product to Costco?  No, you don’t have to be French to be a negoçiant, despite the cedilla under the “c.”  But Costco???  Well, as it happens, Costco may be the largest negoçiant in America, producing under its Kirkland label something like 15 different wines not only from the U.S., but from such areas as France, Italy, and New Zealand as well.  All of those Kirkland wines range from good to excellent, but the price value of those same wines is never less than remarkable.

One of Kirkland’s finest values of late has been their Chateauneuf-du-Pape, perhaps the southern Rhone’s most distinguished wine and, while rich in Grenache, comprises, still further, a judicious blend of any of eighteen different Rhone varietals.  The excellence of a CNP is hardly a secret, and it rarely sells for less then fifty bucks a bottle.  The Wine Spectator gave a recent Kirkland CNP a 92 rating, and, when Costco finally noted this in their stores, the wine vanished from the shelves with dispiriting speed.  O.K.  So here’s an advance notice: the 2012 Kirkland CNP has just appeared.  It has not yet been rated by any major wine publication, to my knowledge, but my own tasting revealed that it’s a first-class bottling, and, like its wonderful predecessor, sells for only $19.99 … a price that is beyond astonishing.  Go for it before word gets any further out than this notice.


The Foodsaver

Years ago, when they were only available via direct marketing, my parents bought me a Foodsaver Professional II. I think they got it for me at the LA County Fair – from one of the booths where the guys wears a microphone and demos it for everyone standing around. This may have been 15 years ago now. And for all those years, it has performed like a champ.

FoodsaveroldFor those of you that don’t know what it is or don’t have one, the Foodsaver is a home vacuum sealer. If you’re serious about food – and shopping for food – you MUST have one! With the ever escalating price of beef, pork, lamb and chicken, the Foodsaver is a carnivore’s dream! Once your meat is sealed, it last for months in the freezer, coming out fresh and juicy whenever you’re ready to grill! For those of you that are hunters and fisherman, you know what I’m talking about!

Unfortunately, after all these years, my Pro-II no longer sucks like it used to (hmmm…a universal problem no doubt!). And so, with a heavy heart and good timing, my wife and I trundled off to Costco to purchase a brand new stainless steel Foodsaver while it’s on sale until early May for $30 off the regular price! Boom!

foodsavernewAnd so, bring on the meat sales…I’m ready for 15 more years of buying meat, vacuum sealing meat, defrosting meat and grilling meat! Thank you Foodsaver (and Lipitor) for the next 15 years!

Power Shake Makings

Power Shake!

After graduating from UC Santa Barbara last spring, I started my work as a Teach For America Corps member. It’s an organization that takes bright, college grads and trains them as educators for work in inner-city schools. More than that, it’s a movement fighting for equal access to education for ALL students in the USA. Sound daunting? Perhaps a little overwhelming? That’s because it truly is! Particularly for a naive, privileged, 23 year old who didn’t have the slightest idea what real work was.

Well, gratifying though it may be, I can assure you that life as a first-year, middle school educator does not come without its difficulties, blunders, and student body odors. Yes, life at UC Santa Barbara–studying literature, shot-gunning Keystone Light, and pretending to be an adult–was certainly more entertaining. However, my true education began the moment I moved to San Diego and started teaching 12 year olds.  Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is the true importance of TIME.

I know you’re wondering what Teach For America and TIME have to do with food. Don’t worry. Here comes the point! It’s no secret that, for many of us, preparing and enjoying food becomes a burden when caught in the tangle of our professional lives. As stated above, this is a relatively new (and terrifying) concept for me. I’ve had to balance a full-time, scary-as-hell teaching job, graduate classes, and power lifting. Still, I couldn’t expect to survive on ramen and Jack in the Box like I did while living in Isla Vista. Convenient. Yes. Healthy and sustainable. No.

The question became: how can I enjoy food and still have time for work, school, and fitness? The answer: be willing to experiment.

Enter, Dustin Glass’ “Power Shake.”

I never really liked the idea of smoothies, or protein shakes, growing up. But, trust me. As a recent convert, I can tell you that in a rush, shakes are a nutrition-filled, blessing.

When the opportunity next presents itself, go to year nearest grocer (my personal favorite being Costco), grab some Whey protein, banana, and whole milk. If you’re not a fitness buff, or have heard negative conjecture, know that Whey Protein powder (in my experience) is an efficient, healthy, and tasty way to supplement your daily protein intake. Most folks suggest at least 1 gram per pound of body weight to maintain one’s muscle composition and health–especially consequential for those of us lifting heavy things for exercise. I would also add, that the powder is NON-ADDICTIVE. Of course, I’m positive I will hear dissenting arguments. To them, I say: Get thee gone, blasphemers! Just kidding, you’re entitled to your opinion (albeit wrong).  Similarly, new research is also dispelling the myths surrounding the adverse health effects of whole milk, and instead, reminding us that good Fats  are necessary for a healthy body. Of course, taking it to excess is never good.

yes, the one from TV!  It really works.

yes, the one from TV! It really works.

So, I take my vanilla protein powder, my rich whole milk, my necessary, Carb-filled banana, and a couple tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, and drop them into my Magic Bullet. Voila! I get to enjoy my breakfast as a high-calorie, time-efficient shakes, filled to the brim with nutritional staples the body and mind crave and need. I’m powered-up for a busy morning of grammar lessons, teenage hormones, and adulthood demands, without sacrificing that extra shut-eye I get to enjoy as a result of the “Power Shake”!

Considering your valuable time, and the amount you’ve already spent reading my somewhat narcissistic prologue, let’s just stick with this one discovery for now. More to come later!

As always, keep calm and eat on, friends!