The word brandy is derived from the Dutch word brandewijn, (“burnt wine”), which is what the 16th century Dutch described wine that had been burnt or boiled in order to distill it. Brandy can be traced back to the expanding Moslem Mediterranean in the 7th century where Arab alchemists distilled grapes and other fruits in order to make medicinal spirits.

There are three basic methods of making brandy:  (1) brandy distilled from fermented grape juice or crushed, but not pressed, grape pulp and skin, such as Cognac, Armagnac, Brady de Jerez, and then aged in wooden casks which colors it, mellows the palate, and adds additional aromas and flavors (Scotch and whiskey are more or less the same process but with mash made from the same ingredients as beer); (2) pomace brandy (Italian Grappa and French Marc are the best-known examples) which is made from the pressed grape pulp, skins, and stems that remain after the grapes are crushed and pressed to extract most of the juice for wine, and are usually minimally aged and seldom see wood, making for a harsher flavor; and (3) fruit brandy which is the default term for all brandies made from fermenting fruit other than grapes, but these fruits tend to lack enough sugar for sufficient alcohol for proper distillation, and thus are macerated in high-proof spirit to extract their flavor and aroma. The extract is then distilled at a low proof. Calvados, the Apple Brandy from the Normandy region of Northwestern France, is an example.

Soon after WWII, the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at the University of California at Davis began to develop a prototype “California-style” brandy, which focused on a clean palate and was lighter in style than […]

By |May 29th, 2011|Cuisine|Comments Off on Pálinka

Chef’s Knives


My favorite chef’s knife is a Togiharu Molybdenum Gyutou 9.4″ (24cm) – Right handed (if you are right-handed, otherwise get the left handed one) : $66.00 when I bought it in 2009, but now a whopping $179 in 2017.  I guess it is has been discovered by more aficionados than just me.

Prior to this, I had been using mostly Victorianox or Wusthof, both of which are good, but not of this caliber.  Check for the explanation of the various Wusthof lines.  Though I own some expensive Wusthof knives, I still prefer the Classic series because I like their heft, but many chefs like the Cordon Blue series.

As for German knives, you should seriously consider the Messermeister, which cost around $120 and you hardly ever see them discounted.  These are popular with chefs, but are relatively unknown to the home chef.  In German knives the two I’d pick from are Wusthof Classic and Messermeister Meridian Elite Knife (ex. 9″ chef’s).  The latter has a different edge (smaller edge angle) than the usual German knives.

In Japanese knives, MAC Mighty (MTH-80), Tojiro DP Gyutou, Togiharu G-1 Molybdenum Gyutou, or the cheaper Togiharu Molybdenum Gyutou, and the Bu-Rei-Zen Gyuto 9 1/2 in leap to mind, as favorites.

My friend is something of a knife aficionado and he is salivating about the last one.  Check this out:

The thing to keep in mind about Japanese knives is that the good ones are made of much harder steel and hold their edges longer than German knives–as long as you use them what they were designed to do.  If  you’re careless with them, you may chip their edges easier.  Many of  the are only sharpened on one side, resulting in a more acute edge.   They have left and right handed knives.  The Japanese chef knives follow the shape of French chef knives, […]

By |May 29th, 2011|Cuisine, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Chef’s Knives


For pâté, first you will have to decide which of the three shapes your preparation will take:  (1) La Terrine is the type cooked in a special earthenware oval-shaped pot, (2) Le Pâté is the same recipe, but cooked in a pie crust (and if it adopts a round shape, it will be named a tourte, if it keeps the classic rectangular shape, it is more often named pâté en croûte), or (3) a Preserve, if it is cooked into the small parfait jars with rubber gaskets, which can be sterilized and preserved for future use.

As for terrines, our favorites are the small oval made of ceramic with a mallard on top (which holds about 2 cups of pâté) and was given to us in France as a wedding present, the smaller white ceramic one above (which holds about 4 cups of pâté, just right for 1 duck or pheasant together with 1 lb. pork jowl and 1 lb. livers), the long rectangular terrine below which is by Le Cruesot and is enamel-covered cast-iron (holding 6 cups of pâté), and’ finally, the ancient spring form which actually is meant for a pâté en croûte.

The simple version of our favorite pâté recipe page is found here. 

Further detailed step by step directions and photos for making Pâtés & Terrines can be found here from our friend, Nick de Toldi.

By |May 25th, 2011|Cuisine, Fur and Feather|Comments Off on Terrines

Armagnac and Cognac

Armagnac is produced in the Gascony region of France, further south towards the Spanish border, than its more famous and much more expensive cousin, cognac.  Both Cognac and Armagnac are certified regions for making these brandies.

Armagnac is traditionally distilled once, which results initially in a less polished eau de vie than Cognac, where double distillation usually takes place. However, long aging in oak barrels softens the taste and causes the development of more complex flavours and a brown colour. Aging in the barrel results in some alcohol escaping, the part known as part des anges (“the angels’ share).

Armagnac is sold under classifications, “VS” is a mix of Armagnac grown brandies with at least two years of aging in wood, “VSOP” is at least five years, and “XO” is at least six.  Hors d’âge means the youngest component in the blend is at least ten years old. Older and better Armagnacs are often sold as vintages, with the single year of vintage demarked on the bottle.

Brandies keep for years, even after opened, so treat  yourself to some Armagnac.  An inexpensive one we like is Marquis de Sauval Armagnac, around $30 a bottle at the time of writing.

Because of the single distillation versus the double of Cognac (some 150 miles to the north), some French refer to the “taste of the earth” that they experience with Armagnac, while others simply call it “dancing fire followed by velvet flame.”  Vintage is not as important as the blending.  Cost (and quality) is usually dependant upon origin (or terroir), the grapes, the distillation process, the length of time spent in oak casks, and the brilliance of the blending process.   If you find a good one, which is easy to do in the Gascony countryside (as this is something like our […]

By |May 22nd, 2011|Cuisine|Comments Off on Armagnac and Cognac

Samoon and Tandoori Bread

A few times a month, I frequent Diyar International Market in Denver, Colorado to get some steaming breads from its Middle-eastern shaped ovens.  These samoon are usually scooped up as fast as they come out, five loaves cost less than $2.

There samoons are pizza-shaped dough which is slapped onto the oven wall.   They are also baking tandoori breads which are produced from circular dough and baked in the clay oven.  The proprietors are from northern Persia.

Their butcher section is stocked with fresh halal meat, butchered weekly from local goat, chicken, lamb and beef carcasses.  It is the freshest and best looking meat selection of any Middle-Eastern market in Denver.  Diyar International Market, 2159 S. Parker Road; 303-337-6527

Another worth a visit is Haji Baba Bakery, 5708 E. Colfax Ave. for pita bread baked here but it is sold at other Middle Eastern grocery stores throughout Denver, as well as Wild Oats Market.

We also like two of the other International Markets along Parker road and Iliff and Evans for hard goods.  Pick up some Mediterranean roasted almonds while you are there.

By |May 18th, 2011|Cuisine|Comments Off on Samoon and Tandoori Bread

From Ranch Hands to Royalty

For over 20 years, Meg Anderson and John Lake catered all manner of shindigs at her Cherokee Ranch and Castle, which is now an open-space foundation,  for then-owner Mildred Montague Genevieve “Tweet” Kimball.  They recently published a book, which contains not only recipes, but reminiscences of the horse people, the cattle woman herself, and the charmed life she lived at the Colorado landmark.

I knew Tweet fairly well, which is as much as anyone can probably say, as she was a character unto herself.  I particularly enjoyed attending political dinners and being invited to sit next to her, as it was better than sitting at the Governor’s table, as literally everyone who was anyone, and then some, would stop by her table to say hello.

John Lake doubled as Tweet’s butler and upon making the faux paux at one of our closing hunts of calling one of her traditional Bow Tie servings at the castle a “hors d’oeuvres,” he pleasantly went on to tell me, “Actually, this would be called a canapés.  Most of us use the words hors d’oeuvres and canapés interchangeably.  Tweet was very clear on the different meanings of these items.  For sit-down dinners and buffet style, she served canapés.  These were bite-sized items passed before dinner on silver trays, usually on crackers or toast points.  Hors d’oeuvres are dips or items that require a toothpick.  Appetizers would be served as a first course at a sit down dinner.”

By |May 15th, 2011|Cuisine, Foxhunting|Comments Off on From Ranch Hands to Royalty