Tuesday, June 30, 2009
One of the things I love about the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France is that each stage passes through small towns where they make their own unique artisanal cheeses and wines and foods. Biking, as a rule, is a passtime that lends itself to countryside rather than city. Except for Paris, or Milano, or Firenze. In Europe there are very few places that in any way, in my mind, resemble Vegas.
I am not a huge fan of Vegas. I don't like the prefab stuff built (badly) yesterday, the focus on gambling, which in itself, seems to be powered by a kind of magical thinking gone terribly wrong. And it just seems boring. "Pocket aces, blah-blah-blah, and blah blah, so I went all in, and blah blah blah..." Sorry, gambling fans, I just don't get it, and I've tried.
I also think Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is an incredibly boring place to shop. Aside from the ridiculous pricetags, you might as well be in the Short Hills Mall in Jersey, where I'm from. What are Fendi, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent but global chains with no local character not unlike McDonalds? I love the artistry of the runway, but when it comes to shopping, since I can't afford even to get it dry cleaned let alone to buy it, what is the point?
Which brings me back to Monaco, and why I'm having trouble getting excited about the prologue of the Tour de France, in terms of food and wine pairings.
A little more than a hundred years ago, the Grimaldi family, which ruled Monaco, which is a principality still today, were very much in the poorhouse, and came upon a brilliant idea. They would turn what must have been, at the time, a charming old seaside town, into a gambler's paradise and a resort. It took time, but they did it. The famous casino has a lovely Belle Epoque elegance, and the streets around it are squeaky clean and full of the same shops you'd find on the Champs Elysees. Except I'd rather be there because I could find myself a lovely cheap and cheerful meal there with flavors I probably have never experienced, accompanied by a reasonable but sublime bottle of wine. In Monaco, I think I might be S.O.L. when looking for cheap and cheerful. Someone prove me wrong. I'm happy to find out I'm wrong. But studded with exclusive slips full of massive yachts, why do I think Monaco isn't such a place?
The best thing I can tell you about Monaco is that when I took the Sea Dream II in 2003, beginning my cruise around the Tyrrhenian sea along the west coast of Italy, this is where the cruise began. So I can tell you that the Casino looks particularly gorgeous, when you are sailing away from it toward Portofino, Italy.
So in terms of pairings, we might be stuck with Dom Perignon and filet mignon. Yawn, is all I can say.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Love this bombastic flash movie to announce and laud the Astana team. How could I not buy their t-shirt? Can't wait to see it all unfold on the roads of la France!
Next year, though, can Astana either become Team Mellow Johnny, or please it's time for a logo redesign. I'm just sayin, I don't need my team's logo to look quite so much like Anheiser Busch's, although I will probably consume some of that sort of product during le Tour, but only if it pair's well. Last time I was in France, it was all about Stella Artois and 1664 and Kronenbourg, but this year's tour doesn't go into Belgium, I don't think. Time to study up on the stages!
Here's the Astana Movie: http://www.astana-cyclingteam.com/
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
It seems that, just like in Italy, you can't seem get a bad meal in Park City, Utah. Particularly in Old Town. At the Riverhorse, we tried two starters and a main cours. The starters were Elk Carpaccio and a Beet and Arugula Salad. The beets were red and yellow, the darker ones deeper and earthier, the yellow ones, lighter and fruitier. The main course was Glazed Salmon. The carpaccio came with a Meyer lemon vinaigrette, and some sort of mild horseradish sauce. Wow! The salmon was glazed with one sauce, and dark wild rice beneath, with another sauce. Everything was almost indescribably delicious. We finished it off with the peanut butter bread pudding. Due to the rain, what was meant to be an athletic weekend turned into a gastronomically indulgent one. Poor us!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
My husband says this was the trip of a lifetime. We'd been to Italy but we'd never biked through it, and I'd never been to the Veneto, land of the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, who built massive country homes for the Venetian elite. Bassano del Grappa, where the huge bronze statue of the WWI soldier forever faces the mountain passes where so many of the Alpini -- the mountain people of Italy -- died to protect the country. Valdobbiadene, where they make the light clean fizzy prosecco and the vines grow straight up the sheer white cliffs in perfect rows. We were not in great shape, and we rode up and down hills big and small, shadowed by sixty-something locals in full team kit and fancy road bikes, riding faster than we could imagine our legs would ever power us. "Sieti quasi arrivati!" they would shout at us as we struggled up yet another hill. You are almost there! They were totally taking the piss, and since we are both basically from New York, that made us feel right at home.
If you've ever thought about doing a bike tour of Italy, do it! Save up, train hard, and try Bike Riders La Dolce Vita in the Veneto. They move your bags from point to point. The hotels are 4 anf 5-star. The breakfasts are generous with cured meats, cheeses, Nutella, and eggs to order. And you will never forget the beauty of the place and the kindness of the people. Buon viaggi a tutti!
Bike Riders: http://www.bikeriderstours.com/trips/italy/2
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
In 2007 my husband and I did a self-guided bike tour of the Veneto, the region around Venice, through a company called Bike Riders. The guy who brought us the bikes and served as our sometime mechanic, driver and guide was Fabio Biasiolo, a local, who told us about doing the Race Across America (RAAM). I've never met such an energetic wiry personality. He spoke 3 dialects and had been a triathlete and a guide of the caves beneath Orvieto. Yesterday on my twitter feed, @bikecrave talked about a film called Bicycle Dreams, which is a documentary about the RAAM, and includes interviews and footage of Fabio doing his thing. These guys start on the West Coast and ride with one hour to 90 minutes of sleep a night, over 8-12 days, until they hit the finish line on the East Coast. Check out the link to the race, and buy the video if you are interested. It's not on Netflix.
Bicycle Dreams: http://bicycledreamsmovie.com/
Bicycle Dreams: http://bicycledreamsmovie.com/
Monday, June 15, 2009
There are many many thousands of kinds or 'varieties' of wines from all over the world. But the word 'varietal' means something else when used to refer to wine. It means a type of grape. Bordeaux is a variety of wine from a specific region of France. There is white Bordeaux and red Bordeaux. Red, the more popular and better known, is usually made from three grape varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, but it can be made from as many as five different types of grape. Drinkers of California wines get confused by French wines because French wines are labelled by the region and appellation, whereas in California, most often the name of the wine contains its grape varietal. We drink Chardonnay or Syrah, or Pinot Noir, or Cab, which are all varietals. There is so much to know about wine, which is one of the things that makes it fascinating. I thought in the weeks before the Tour de France and my stage-to-wine and food pairing begins, I should define some terms, to whet your appitite. Cheers!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Here is a lovely map of the wine regions of France, which you can buy full size from Omnimaps. Copyright owned by Vinmaps. http://www.omnimap.com/cgi/graphic.pl?images/access/64-56802s.jpg. Notice how the Tour will be going through some major wine destinations. As my husband and I love to say, if they grow wine there, it's gorgeous, it's rolling, and it's awesome bike riding country. The Tour will start with a time trial in Monaco, on July 4th. I'll most likely be watching with a glass of rose' in hand. People, in America, we need to discover how wonderful rose' can be. And the wines of the Cote d'Azur are the perfect way to learn this. I hesitate to post about them, because I want them to stay reasonable in price and not go up like my good friend prosecco has! On a totally unrelated note, Bravo Fabian Cancellara! He won the Tour de Suisse time trial this morning! Nice to see him smiling. Been a tough season for him.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Terrific Spokesmen round table podcast about professional cycling and other bike-related stuff with the ever-high-larious Bobke Roll! Download it here: http://www.the-spokesmen.com/wordpress/?p=55
The Tour is coming soon, and since I have found Facebook limited in terms of speed and space, here, forthwith, is my first blog! Get ready for Food and Wine pairings for each stage of the Tour de France, as I did with the Giro d'Italia this year. Vive le Tour! Also, expect some musings on cycling, food in Los Angeles, travel, Italy, triathlon training, and other stuff! Here's the link to the Tour de France route video. Makes me weepy!!! http://tinyurl.com/TDF-Route-Video