January 29, 2012

Ode to Burgundy

WICE Wine Afficiondo, Jennifer Jedda
Some of us are cat people; some are dog folks. Some are night prowlers; some are perky greeters of the morning. Some are Bordeaux fanatics; some are Burgundy lovers. (Of course, some love it all!)

But if you prefer Burgundy, you join a community of wine lovers who truly appreciate the elegance and range of the ethereal Pinot Noir grape.

Burgundy reds (with one tiny exception) are made from 100% Pinot Noir. (Not like Bordeaux, where the reds are usually a blend of at least two of the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.)

What makes Burgundy wines so unique is the strong relationship of the Pinot Noir grape with the terroir (soil, sun, wind, temperature). This grape, more than any other, lets nature speak through it. However, Pinot needs constant care and attention to bring it to its fullest expression. The wise Burgundy winemaker knows to let the terroir and grape do the talking—to create wine with no winemaker ego, no dominating "style." And, as Miles said in the film Sideways when he made Pinot Noir a star, "Its flavors ... they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ... ancient on the planet."

In the first WICE wine tasting of 2012, a lively group of loyal wine lovers studied wines from the Côte de Nuits region of Burgundy. The best red burgundies come from the Côte d'Or, a strip of land where the terroir elements come together perfectly to host this sensitive grape (as well as its white counterpart, Chardonnay). The Côte de Nuits is in the north of the Côte d'Or, and the Côte de Beaune is in the south.

We smelled and tasted the differences in the wines made from vines grown in limestone-rich soil (more feminine) and those grown in the more clayey soils (more masculine). We learned to tell the difference between a Chambole-Musigny and a Nuits-St-Georges and decide which we liked better and why. We reviewed the good recent vintages (2006, 2007) and the underrated (good value!) vintage (2004). We studied the range of red fruit that can present in the flavors of Pinot—from darker reds like cherries to those fruits that sing with a higher voice, such as raspberries and strawberries. We learned how to pronounce Vosne (Vone) Romanée and how many months it will take us to save our money for a bottle of wine coming from the vineyard called Romanée Conti, considered one of the best Burgundy wines.

WICE Wine Instructor Tom Boothe
Most of all, we came away with a new appreciation for wines from the Côte de Nuits. The evening was so special that we are repeating it for those who couldn't get into the first tasting. (It filled up fast!) Join us ... and become a Burgundy lover.

The repeat of the Burgundy Côte de Nuits tasting is scheduled for February 17. There are also spaces left in the newly announced Comparative Earthinesses tasting on March 16 and in the Provincial Geniuses tastings on April 5 or April 13. Coming up in May and June, we have a Chardonnay tasting and a rare German wine tasting. Come and join the fun!

Photos and post by Meredith Mullins.

January 25, 2012

Coq au Vin - A Hearty Classic for Winter

This recipe is from WICE's Cooking Class instructor, Françoise Meunier, who taught us how to make one of the French classics - coq au vin.  

  • 1 large chicken cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon of oil
  • 50 grams of butter
  • 15 small onions, or 1 large onion
  • 1 teaspoon of flour
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • One-half of a bottle of red wine
  • Some smoked bacon
  • 1 bouquet garni (parsley, thyme and bay leaf)
  • 200 grams of mushrooms

Peal the onions and dice the bacon.

Pour some oil and butter into a casserole. Brown the onions and the bacon, then remove them and keep on a plate.

In the same oil, put the pieces of chicken. When they are brown all around, add salt and pepper. Take the casserole off of the heat and spread some flour in the casserole. Stir until you do not see any flour any longer (this avoids the lumps). 

Place casserole back on the heat. Add the red wine, the garlic, the onions, bacon, bouquet garni and let it simmer for 45 minutes with a lid on top.

Wash the mushrooms, slice them and add them to the casserole 15 minutes before serving.

This dish can be served with potatoes ‘a l’anglaise’ cooked in water or some fresh pasta. 

Are you looking for an alternative to your everyday chicken dish?  In our next class, we will explore the flavors and seasonings of the south of France.  Join the WICE cooking group on Wednesday, February 8th to make Guinea Fowl Provencal and cake a l'orange. For more information click here.

January 20, 2012

Waiting for Chaillot

The Lights are Dimmed for the Sparkle Show (Photo by Meredith Mullins)
You don't have to look at your watch to know it's time for le spectacle to start. There is a heralding of horns. The crowds move toward the gold-brushed doors. The Tour Eiffel begins to sparkle. Where are you? You're in the magical Théatre National de Chaillot.

What makes this theatre so special? Location. Location. Location. It's part of the Palais de Chaillot at the Trocadero, with a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower through it's lobby windows. It was built by the brothers Jean and Edouard Niermans for the Paris Exhibition of 1937 and now houses three theatre venues and a theatre school.

Théatre National de Chaillot
Chaillot showcases international dance, French choreographers' work, circus performances, acrobatics, and visual arts. But the best-kept secret is the pre-performance ambiance. You can have dinner at the theatre's Italian restaurant, Listrani, or you can grab a snack or a glass of wine and sit at one of the free tables. You don't even have to have a ticket for the performance. You can just hang out and look at the view ... and wait for the dimming of the lights for the on-the-hour Eiffel sparkle show.

 Best Bar Tables in Town (Photo by Meredith Mullins)
The theatre culture in Paris is thriving despite thoughts of austerity and news of the European downgrade. People still want to be entertained. So, check out the Chaillot schedule and enjoy an evening out.

January 15, 2012

The Ultimate Sparkle

Petra's Winning Photo
In December, a bundled-up crowd of WICE photographers captured the magic and elegance of Paris holiday sparkles ... and then entered their images in the WICE Holiday Sparkle-Off.  The winner, Petra Nass, received the award at a special luncheon for WICE photographers. We congratulate her for this honor.

Petra won the coveted prize for her image of the Galeries Lafayette ceiling, showing off the beautiful neo-byzantine design in a strong composition and capturing the play of "purple haze," holiday lighting that makes it difficult to determine whether the cupola is concave or convex.

The competition was judged by Jerry Fielder, the director and curator of the estate of celebrated portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh. Jerry said of the work submitted for the competition, "The WICE photographers captured the spirit of the holidays in so many varied and creative ways. I was truly impressed with their talented work and grateful to share the season through these images."

Accepting the Award ...
Born in Stuttgart, Germany,  Petra has focused her adult life on study and work as a biologist in Germany, China, and the United States. But, after a magical summer in Paris three years ago, she moved here permanently. She sensed it was her place in the world.

As for so many artists, Paris has inspired her—"particularly the light and the ambiance." She sees her photography as a way of resting her mind from her life in science. "When I return from a photography expedition, I feel refreshed and renewed," she says. It is truly her passion. She was often seen hours after a WICE photography class, still photographing ... and capturing images that no one else had the patience or stamina or opportunity to discover.

Petra also says that photography, for her, is a way of sharing how we each experience life in unique ways.  She wants her photographs to have a therapeutic quality. "I would find it very rewarding if one day someone looked at my photos and said ... I feel so good, so at peace, so full of life."

Congratulations, Petra ... on your award and on your curious and creative approach to life and art.

The January WICE photography classes are full; but February offers a Photoshop course, and March/April offers a Mastering the Art of Photography course, an Exploring Paris through the Lens course, and a one-day Creative Photography Workshop (family friendly). Join us! (And sign up early, as these classes fill up fast.)  

January 9, 2012

The Writer's Toolbox

The Writer's Toolbox: Links to Improve the Mechanics of Your Writing (This is Part 1 of a new series of writing posts to help make 2012 YOUR writing year.)

"The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better." -- Stephen King, On Writing

Writing can be scary. So let's get started, then the scary part is over faster, right? We've compiled a list of practical links to help with the mechanics of writing—the tools you need to write without fear. Ignore the creaking sound of footsteps in the hallway. It's just your inspiration bringing you a cup of coffee.

Free Online Dictionary

This link is like a running buddy—helping fuel you when you think you can't take another step. Keep it open when you're writing, and when you can't think of the right word, type in the wrong one for a list of synonyms. You can use it as a dictionary too.

Grammar Girl

She is smart and sassy. Easy explanations to help you avoid the grammar potholes.


This is the best gift for your writing. Sign up for the free subscription to AWAD (A.Word.A.Day). Founder Anu Garg's fascination with words is contagious and you will rush to open your daily email to learn the word, its definition, etymology, and example of usage.

Daily Writing Tips

A daily source of nourishment. Tips and tricks offered by a team of contributors to help provide a balanced diet for your writing life.

What about you? Let us know which sites you use to jumpstart your writing.

Join us for the upcoming season of Creative Writing courses at WICE. Take care of that New Year's Resolution to START WRITING!

Posted by Kathryn Kemp-Griffin, WICE Director of Creative Writing.