Archive for October, 2003

Tomato taste-off

Wednesday, October 1st, 2003

On September 6th, Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, N.Y. held it’s annual tomato taste-off. It’s a reminder that there’s more to life than just Beefsteak and Cherry Tomatoes. There were 37 varieties to taste, and all but a few were heirlooms. This event is a feast for your taste buds and your eyes. What a great day, the sun was shinning and tables were overflowing with gorgeous tomatoes. It was a sea of color: red, yellow, pink, green and purple. Some tomatoes were as small as a pea while others were the size of a softball. Size, shape, and color were not important. It was all about the taste.

There were 8 varieties of cherry tomatoes, 9 types of paste tomatoes, and the rest were grouped by color. Anyone that showed up to the event was invited to rate the tomatoes from 1 to 5. Quail Hill Farm tallied the 178 rating sheets that were submitted, and the official top 4 tomatoes were: Sun Gold, White Currant, Matt’s Wild Cherry and Dr. Carolyn. All 4 were cherries and its ancestor, the currant tomato. These bite size morsels were juicy, and filled with sweetness. This characteristic obviously appealed to the majority of the tasters.

Tasting tomatoes, like wine, is very subjective. As I taste tomatoes, the most important characteristic I look for is balance, the ideal blend of acidity and sweetness. Therefore my overall pick was the Brandywine, a large pinkish red heirloom overflowing with flavor. Delicious. A couple other standouts were Ceylon and Pruden’s Purple.

The good news is there were no losing tomatoes. At this time of year they are all terrific. An event like this illustrates the breadth of taste possibilities, and will hopefully encourage us to try different tomatoes, and use them in different ways. Experiment with different colors and sizes in your salad. Or serve a roasted tomato with your next meal. Roasting a tomato is simple, just cut it in half, sprinkle with salt, pepper, a little thyme or basil and a touch of olive oil. Then roast it in the oven at 350 for 10 to 30 minutes depending on the size.

The Wine Cellar

Wednesday, October 1st, 2003

Everyone enjoys a good $10 bottle of wine, but sometimes you want something special. Here is what I am adding to my cellar today:

1997 Brunello di Montalcino
The best vintage since 1990, and there are still some left. Costanti, Il Poggione, Pertimali & Poggio Antico are some of the best.
1996 Bordeaux
2000 is the “great” vintage, but extremely expensive. The ’96 was a very good vintage and has recently been seen on sale. Ch. Lynch Bages, Ch. Leoville Barton, Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste & Ch. Leoville Poyferre are all outstanding.