In 2015 I gifted myself with several wine and food toys.  It was imperative. ish.

My wine toys were largely pragmatic. Too many afternoons in great wineries from the Central Coast to Oregon equaled bottles of wine everywhere. My coolers were full to straining (and my smallest one gave up the ghost altogether) and I had to tiptoe through my living room as well as keep my house way too cold in the summer in order to have my bottles safely outside of a cooler.

So I went to Wine Enthusiast, bought an N’Finity model, had it delivered, and it’s already full. Now it’s allocation season and I’m out of room again!

Naturally there were the occasional corkscrews and other wine paraphernalia, glasses, and carriers.

My food toys were a little different as I strive to improve both my health and my cooking. I purchased a new KitchenAid mixer, a larger capacity VitaMix (the standard 64 oz, actually and gifted the 48 oz) a refurbished masticating juicer, and a Staub 4.5 qt Cocotte in a beautiful, rich wine color that they call Grenadine.  I use my VitaMix almost every day for smoothies, and my Staub is a wonderful tool for braising, sautéing, whatever.

The upshot is that I have absolutely no regrets on my purchases last year. I call them “toys,” but they are valuable additions to my wine and kitchen.

So what are my plans for 2016 toys?  Well, there’s only two, but both require me to save up for them. As usual, when I really, really want something, it’s always expensive and requires me to have a savings account for it. 

Okay Coravin, I Give Up

I look at this as another reason not to like screw caps on “good” wines. I have several wines that can be considered as good. They range from a 1989 port to 2010 coveted Pinot Noirs that have a current value in the $$$ if you find them on restaurant wine lists. Do I want to AT LEAST taste them? Damn straight I do! But as you know, once you open a wine, it quickly becomes victim to nature – oxygen and time quickly degenerate any remaining wine. More or less like milk. Soon all it takes is a few herbs and some time in the sun to turn your beloved Puligny into a very expensive and high-class vinegar. So what’s a wine lover to do when all you want is a taste or maybe just a glass or two?

Enter Coravin, the answer to wine lovers’ dreams.

Coravin has quickly established itself as a way to be able to taste wines and still leave the cork intact. It can be considered to be a 21st century wine thief. Like “real” wine thieves (thiefs?) they allow you take a small portion of wine from its container without affecting the rest of the wine. Unlike the other thieves, they replace the resulting vacuum with inert Argon gases, which preserves the wine, sometimes for months on end without any bad effects. The natural healing character of cork ensures that the needle hole is totally sealed after it’s extracted.

Naturally, there has been a lot of buzz about Coravin since it was introduced in 2011. I’d looked at but decided early on that it was a gimmick and couldn’t possibly work

Coravin_204.0After reading articles and listening to podcasts and scuttlebutt, I decided that maybe it was a serious item after all. And then in November, I stopped at Grassini Family Vineyards’ tasting room in Santa Barbara where they use a Coravin to pour some of their very top end and library wines. The tasting fee for those wines, by the way is $45. Yeah I know. Ouch.

“We couldn’t pour these wines without a Coravin,” stated the young man who was pouring the tasting for me. “There would far too much waste of our best.”

Good point. Especially when you’re talking about Library wines. The wines were delicious, and I ended up getting a bottle of their Estate Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Which I also want to taste, but until a get a Coravin, they will continue to rest in my (newest) wine cooler for a while. Unless party.

Could Sous Vide be my Muad’Dib?

Apologies to Frank Herbert and Dune fans everywhere.

As a fan of the old Iron Chef America – which was a highly enjoyable program before they got too gimmicky and then gave way to the abortion that is Cutthroat Kitchen – I was always fascinated when the challenger chefs brought out a “Sous Vide” machine to do their cooking.  Because they looked so much like complicated machines and “professional,” I just figured that they weren’t available to the home cook.

sous-vide-cooking
Sous Vide cookers.

Enter Burnt. I indicated in my earlier review that I had a problem with a professional chef (Bradley Cooper’s character, Adam Jones) being so woefully ignorant of Sous Vide cooking. Well – full confession here – I was, too. Since I’m not a professional chef, however, I will claim that as an excuse. Besides, I’d learned about the method before I wrote the review.

I have found out in the ensuing weeks that Sous Vide is indeed available to the home cook, and all I need is $$$$ to have a complete setup that will take me to cooking nirvana. The prices of Sous Vide cookers range from about $200 to “you’ve got to be kidding,” and I think I’m going to aim for something in between. 

Sous Vide Salmon left, traditionally cooked Salmon, right.
Sous Vide Salmon left, traditionally cooked Salmon, right.

Sous Vide is a cooking method that allows the cook to carefully manage the temperature of food that is vacuum sealed in plastic bags and then placed in a water bath for slow, even cooking.  The results are apparently outstanding, and when I get the opportunity to sit and taste Sous-Vide’d food, I’m sure I’ll be even more determined to make the addition to my kitchen.

No doubt there are other toys out there that I will want to play with/purchase, but I think these two will be enough for 2016. At least for starters.

The Budget™ will no doubt be happy if I stop there. What are the chances?

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