March 2015

Spice Trade: Appreciating the lure of cloves


As every cook learns, spices yield depth and dimension to many foods. With each spice story, you find a fascinating history lesson, better understanding of the origins of various ethnic dishes, as well as the base for many modern-day pharmaceuticals. 


History tells us spices used to be a major form of commerce, and created vast wealth for many civilizations, with pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon traded much like gold, silk, and cotton.


Clove was an especially a hot commodity, connecting the Maluku “Spice” Islands of Indonesia to Egyptians, Chinese, and European buyers. Cloves are reddish-black, dried flower buds of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia. Once a Spice Island sanctity, cloves are now collected from India, Madagascar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. 


Read more »

Hunting for Dinner: Roast duck breast

roast duck

This last hunting season was a hard one for me, I didn’t get out as much as I had hoped and the little hunting I did wasn’t as fruitful as I needed it to be. I didn’t shoot a deer this year and I didn’t get as many squirrels as I usually do. On the plus side, I did spend some time grouse hunting and actually came away with several grouse. I also did really well on ducks this year. I didn’t get out very many times but my good friend Eric Passe down in Wabasha put me on some ducks on the days I did get out, so I have plenty of duck in the freezer.


I don’t know what it is about ducks, but I have an affection for them that I don’t have for other animals I hunt. Maybe it is the fact that ducks were the very first thing I ever hunted. Or maybe it is the people that I have hunted ducks with. Either way, ducks and duck hunting are just part of who I am and what I do. 


Read more »

Vino 101: J’accuse! Wine frauds and scandals

roman god wine

While the wine trade enjoys a romantic public image, it is a business, and a cutthroat one at that. And, like any other business, it has had its share of unscrupulous operators. The first fraud involving wine probably arose shortly after it was initially recognized as a valuable commodity many thousands of years ago, and the ensuing years have only seen the schemes grow more ingenious, even as more controls have been put in place to stop them. 


The history of scandal in the wine business is not only long and colorful; it also has much to say about our complicated relationship with this complicated beverage. Wine may be the most regulated drink in the world, and yet it remains surprisingly easy for knaves and scoundrels to exploit our fundamental gullibility, credulousness, and insecurity about it. 


Read more »