April 3, 2008

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The daiquiris of spring
Lime, until the strawberries get here; plus, whites
By Tim Protzman letters@hippopress.com

Right now certain machines are waking up after a long winter nap.

This is good because soon the snow blower, electric snow shovel and the plow will be going to bed. Goodbye, winter! Hello, spring! You couldn’t have gotten here sooner! Gone are the piston-y snow blower roars, the scrape thumps of the snow shovel and the whir click click of cars breaking free of their white cocoons.

Winter, you’re finished. Soon all we’ll hear from you is the steady drip, drip, babble of your rapidly melting mantle scurrying in the downspouts. What will the first sound of spring be? The unwavering pitch of the leaf blower? The chug chug chug of the rototiller? The naw-naw -naw - naaaaw bursts of Mr. Chainsaw getting a start on next year’s firewood?

For me, it’s the whirring, almost turbine-like sound of the blender that heralds the beginning of spring. Because with a blender, it’s hard to make a bad daiquiri.

Daiquiris are simple drinks. And while they probably weren’t on the menu in the old pirate haven of Port Royal, Jamaica, before it was swallowed up by wickedness and the ocean, they aren’t really a modern creation. Daiquiris are rum, ice, lime juice and sugar. Shaken or mixed. They once were the fare of sailors, who got a rum and water ration and if the water was stale or slimy or gross they added lime and sugar. Not too high class. They become a staple in Cuban society where every tavern, from the wall-less shack to the great mahogany hotel bars served rum, sugar and lime juice. In the ornate palaces of Havana electricity brought a new ingredient: ice.

The key to a great daiquiri is balance. Not to sweet, not too sour. With little pieces of ice that give texture and refreshment at the same time.

The good thing about spring is that fresh, local ingredients are available. The first would be maple syrup. Ice, maple syrup and dark rum or bourbon may be a bit sweet, a bit gimmicky, but I’ve seen it on drink menus. Yeah, it’s usually a local small-town New England phenomenon, but I do see it in many big-city taverns. For home consumption add vanilla ice cream and mix it in a blender.

In June, strawberries come in. The easiest way to make a drink is to fill the blender half way with ice and half way with strawberries. Add 3 tablespoons sugar and — this is important — the juice of one lemon or more, preferably half a lemon and half a lime. This give the drink a little zing, a little backbone, and makes it less cloyingly sweet.

This weekend we couldn’t wait for June and used a mix of frozen and fresh, Floridian strawberries. The daiquiris were delicious. Just like an adult Slurpee. The best thing is that even a bad one tastes good. The hardest part is getting the ice right. Little crystals. Tiny. No bigger than this “O.” Easily slurped up through a straw.

In spring, the wine’s as soft as the silver moonlight reflecting off a rippling pond. And I continue my infatuation with riesling. This time of year white wine is so versatile, pairing with salad and cream dishes like stuffed sole with meunier sauce and macaroni and cheese, working with chicken provencale and potatoes. The main reason is the weather. Brisk, not cold, means bracing refreshment from heavy white wines that would seem like hot tub water on a humid July afternoon. (Yes, soon you’ll be complaining about the heat.)

Here are a few wines that are good during temperate spring weather.
• S.A. Prum Blue Slate Riesling ($14.99) from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany. Fresh, crisp and honey toned without the syrup. A great everyday white, but this would also be a wonderful showoff wine at a dinner party because food brings the flavor up a notch.
• Clean Slate Riesling ($11.99). This wine is produced in Germany and imported by a Seattle-based import company. Apricot, pineapple and Granny Smith apple flavor hints with a thick texture and a light pleasant finish.
• Kendall-Jackson 2005 Merlot ($15.99). Deep, rich dry and a bit jammy. Tasted a little homogenized — I would have liked a little more personality and terrior to come through, but nice. Would definitely drink this wine again. Didn’t much enjoy the zinfandel I tried with the merlot at a tasting.
• Drylands Sauvignon Blanc ($16.99). From Marlborough, New Zealand. Tart and sassy. One-dimensional but interesting, with some terrior and character coming through. Worked well with pizza and chicken parmesan.
• 2006 Bodegas Aldial Naia Rueda ($11.99). What grapes are in this wine? Alicante? Verdejo? Drank a bottle. Took notes, threw the bottle out and now I can’t find/remember what grapes. Doesn’t matter. This one won’t change anyone’s life, but it does show off its roots in the Rueda region northwest of Madrid.
• Yalumba Y Series Riesling ($12.99). Not really Germanic in character but, bigger and less sweet. Yalumba is an aboriginal word for “all the land around.” (You can see how pushy those early Oz settlers were.) Nice wine, a bit brawny, but I got nectarine and lemon grass flavor with the finish.


3/27/2008 Germans play well with others

3/13/2008 Complain yourself happy
3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
2/28/2008 Everything must go!
2/21/2008 His & hers bottles
2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
1/24/2008 A drink to them
1/17/2008 Stalking the barking dingo
1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
12/27/2007 Drinking blind
12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
11/22/2007 Thanks for the Napa cabs
11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
11/8/2007 Candy Corn hangover
11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
10/18/2007 Spooky wines
10/11/2007 Location, location, location
10/04/2007 Shiraz history
9/27/2007 Ingenious appellation
9/20/2007 Small world of wines
9/13/2007 How not to get screwed
9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
8/2/2007 Be your own sommelier
7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
7/5/2007 A sustainable buzz
6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja
5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
4/26/2007 Invention-tini
4/19/2007 More 'Mas'
4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesn’t sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Gin
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
Mondovino
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce