Ahh yesterday was a long, long day. A full day at my main job, followed by a really quick arc trainer workout, then down to the Museum of Science to do a hands-on interactive lesson in Mathematica! Second graders are super cute and things went relatively well. We made tessellations.
Basically we spent our hour+ working on patterns, pattern recognition (which they were great at!)- and then we got out the heavy artillery. Scissors, index cards, tape… to make our tessellations. I got the instructions from http://www.tessellations.org/. It’s pretty simple! Their instructions were clear and easy to use- I am absolutely sure it was easier than the last time we did it. Next time I do this activity, though- we are ONLY going to do super big ones- we have giant rolls of paper at the MOS and making a tessellation from a larger piece of cardstock (say 10″x10″) makes the image (and pattern or other artistic flair) really clear. I had this as an “extra” activity for the girls to work on when they were done with their own and it seemed to work much better. There’s something about making something on a scale that you don’t usually see that makes it extra fun
The night ended with leftover meatloaf at 11:30 PM, a glass of red wine… oh, and STARTING to watch the Hunger Games?!?!? with Mike, since he hadn’t seen it and we plan on seeing Catching Fire tonight. What adult puts on a movie at 11:45 at night??? Sigh. We didn’t finish it. It’s on right now.
On to the Thanksgiving portion of today. On our list for today is buying and planning all of the beverages for the meal. In addition to champagne with appetizers, I usually offer a wine pairing with a few of the courses- and to accomplish this I go to my wine expert, Samanta at Wine-Sense. I am privileged to have such a fantastic merchant in my area- in the past few years she has come to know our tastes and has selected some pretty amazing wines for us. If you aren’t near Wine Sense- don’t despair- find a retailer that specializes in wine and make friends with someone on the staff that seems knowledgeable. Ask for recommendations, give feedback about what you liked and didn’t like about the recommended wine, and over time the shop will get to know you and your tastes.
Ignore my coffee cup in this picture. That’s my mom in the background! As people arrive I am usually offering something sparkling to start off the holiday right. Nothing says “special day” like sparkling wine. I have a couple of bottles open just before expecting guests, and my glasses all lined up on the table. This shot was taken during appetizers- so only 2 glasses are left and there are some appetizer plates lying around. This year I’ll take more shots of the set up! In addition to so sparkling wine, I always have lots of fizzy water (I like San Pellegrino or the WF Store brand), some tart juice such as cranberry (a splash into the fizzy water is very refreshing), sparkling apple cider, and a selection of sodas.
As far as wine pairings with dinner go- we try for a more specific match for these courses:
- Anti-Pasti : selection of house-pickled veggies, salumi from The Tuscan Market, and home-made anchovies)
- Soup/Pasta Course – Butternut Squash Soup with Clams and Bacon or Pumpkin Canneloni with Clams and Bacon (or both, you know, if you want)
- Turkey and Sides
A good wine pairing will usually complement the food and/or highlight something in the wine, as well. Sometimes a perfect pairing is downright transformative- the way fats, tannins and acids coat your tongue affects the way you will taste wines- so a wine that seemed wild and unwieldy on its own becomes something more precise, smoothed out around the edges- to the point where you start to notice new flavors as you hold it in your mouth for a moment.
For dinners where I am offering pairings I usually use wine glasses where the “hilt”- the location of the widest part of the bowl of the glass- only holds 3 or so oz. I am not a fan of large pours of wine- a smaller pour allows guests to sample a wider variety of wines. Also, filling past the hilt negates the point of the wine glass- that wide portion of the glass is providing surface area for air (oxygen) to interact with and “open” up the wine. When people are swirling glasses- they aren’t being snobby- they are exposing the wine to oxygen, bringing out new and fuller flavors in the wine. A super-full wine glass cannot be swirled!
Obviously you don’t have to do anything nearly as complicated- but I love the extra-special-ness of having something that really complements the specific first couple of courses- mostly because the flavor profiles of each are SO DIFFERENT. The anti-pasti typically has so many bracing, acidic flavors, whereas the soup is creamy, velvety and mildly salty/sweet- you hit on a lot of different notes between the two courses. For the actual Turkey we usually have a red wine pairing, and enough of the white wines for anyone to continue with white if they would prefer. I always over buy- best to have too much than too little. I also love to see how the wines behave with different things over the next few days- who says your leftovers can’t be had with a little Thanksgiving wine??
I’m not going to be the one to recommend a specific style or type of wine to go with your Turkey- but as a rule of thumb you should serve something that you like. Since tastes can be pretty diverse at the T-day table, you may want to consider a red wine and a white wine. Classic pairings are Pinot Noirs (which range from very light and peppery to inky and smokey in profile), Rieslings (wines with residual sugar tend to behave well against diverse flavors), and Beaujolais -a red that is “in season” – typically light in body, low on tannin and somewhat acidic. I find that it can behave a lot like a white wine in many ways- however it isn’t typically to my taste. In the past we have paired malbecs, cabernets, Italian red wines (some of my very favorite wines are Italian), as well as vouvray, chardonnay, pinot gris, etc.
So what is the take home? Go to a wine-specific merchant. Talk to them. Take some notes about what they said so that you can tell your guests about the wine. Come home with a couple options for your table. Over-buy! Don’t leave out the non-drinkers. Make sure there are plenty of grown-up non-alcoholic beverages.
Tomorrow we are going to discuss preparation and timeline