KILLER WINE BY THE MAFIA: 18 miles off Tuscany’s coast, Gorgona is Italy’s last island prison – where its inmates serving 30-year sentences for murders and serious crimes make the region’s best wines.
“In other prisons I was locked up for 22 hours a day in a cell 2-by-3 yards wide. Here I’m outdoors from morning to night.” Prinzi, who’s 43, is serving a 25-year sentence for murder.
Gorgona Prison director Carlo Mazzerbo is a staunch environmentalist who says Gorgona is an ideal place to discuss issues such as organic farming, vegetarianism and animal rights. He believes inmates should be encouraged to take part in the dialogue.
Wine writers chatter and mingle with prison guards and inmates as long-stemmed glasses are filled with an amber-colored liquid. Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi is hosting a wine-tasting under a pergola on a terrace overlooking the sea.
Frescobaldi has signed a 15-year winemaking agreement with Gorgona. And he says he’s willing to hire some of these workers once they’re released.
Marquise Lamberto Frescobaldi (right), of the winemaking dynasty, talks with prisoners Brian Baldissin (left) and Francesco Papa at his vineyard on Gorgona island (NPR)
CAMERA CUISINE: A side effect of the digital age in food photography, camera cuisine is any dish that was inspired by a picture or aspires to be one. “It’s become a visual medium. We’re eating with our eyes first.” Digital food photography is a cheap marketing tool as well. A snapshot of a new dish uploaded last night can cause a bump in reservations this afternoon.
BEST FAST BURGER: The Habit Burger Grill, In-N-Out, and Five Guys top the list with 8.1, 80. McDonald’s scores a paltry 5.8.
Best American Fast Burger (Consumer Reports)
AMERICAN BEST UNIVERSITIES IN THE WORLD? 18 of the world’s top 25 universities are American. “We have the best universities” does not mean “our universities are, on average, the best” — even though that’s what many people hear. It means, “Of the best universities, most are ours.”
Only 18% of American adults with bachelor’s degrees score at the top two levels of numeracy, compared with the international average of 24%.
Americans with associate’s and graduate degrees also lag behind their international peers.
6 ICED COFFEES: Inventive, refreshing and delicious in Washington, DC and Brooklyn, NY
Kenya Cola, Mockingbird Hill in Washington, D.C.: Kenyan coffee with a little sugar is chilled in an ice bath, mixed with three kinds of bitters (tiki, Spanish and black walnut), then poured in a glass with ice and topped with soda water.
Thunderbolt, Smith Canteen in Brooklyn: First came the freshly made lemonade, a taste of the Arkansas childhood of Rob Newton, the chef and an owner. Then came a shot of Haru, a citric coffee with gingery flavors that is grown in Ethiopia and roasted by Counter Culture Coffee. The two partner beautifully for a captivating flavor that’s part iced Americano, part American South.
The Black & Blue from Cuvée Coffee (Phil Kline, NYTimes)
DOMINO’S SMART SLICE: Domino’s is delivering a pizza it calls the Smart Slice to more than 3,000 lunchrooms in 38 states, up from 3 states in 2010.
Compared with the standard Domino’s pizza, the Smart Slice has 1/3 less fat in the pepperoni, 1/3 less salt in the sauce, and cheese with just half the usual fat — all changes made to fit the new standards.
Domino’s uses a brand called Ultragrain, made by the food giant ConAgra; it makes up 51 percent of the flour in the crusts. Ultragrain is derived from a hard winter wheat called Snowmass, developed in 2009 by food scientists at Colorado State University, and the brand is showing up as an ingredient in an increasing variety of foods aimed at the school market, including Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.
CANNED CRAFT BEER: More and more fancy craft beer is showing up in aluminum cans. For decades, canned beer was the stuff you bought cheap — the PBR or Natural Ice — bottom-shelf beer. But the number of craft breweries putting their beer in cans has more than doubled since 2012.
Can advocates and brewers who are choosing cans say there are clear advantages over bottles: The beer in a can cools faster. The can protects from beer-degrading light. Beer cans are portable and take up less space, advantages both for retailers and for consumers who want to take them camping, hiking or fishing. There’s also more space on a can for wraparound design and decoration.
The biggest selling point for the bottle, though, is flavor. There’s at least a perception that cans impart a metallic taste, whereas liquid stored in a bottle comes out tasting pure. However, Most aluminum cans these days are lined with a polymer coating that protects the beer from the metal.
Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina 2013: Txakolina is the national drink of Spanish Basque country, where a vast amount is consumed every summer. This particular version is from the Getaria region, where the Txakolina tends to be slightly fizzy and low in alcohol, encouraging plenty of thirst-quenching chugging. The Ameztoi is fresh and slightly briny, with flavors of lemon and lime. It calls out for sardines, anchovies and all manner of seafood.
La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Alberdi Reserva 2007: Viña Alberdi is a great value in Rioja from an old-school producer that still ages the wine before releasing it. It’s well shaped and structured with classic Rioja flavors of spicy red fruit framed by the mellow vanilla of American oak. I’m not usually a fan of oaky wine, but in traditionally made Riojas, softened by a few years of age, the flavors just fit.
C. von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Mosel Riesling Feinherb 2012: Between dry German rieslings and the exquisitely balanced but sweet kabinetts and spätleses lies the nether world of “feinherb,” which in the German scheme of things means not “medium sweet” but “medium dry.” Whatever. This is predominantly dry with a hint of sweetness, a vivacious expression of Mosel riesling that is a mere 11 percent alcohol.