Category Archives: 4. Fellowship Groups

Culinary Arts Takes a Tour on the Spice Route

–submitted by Joyce Bromley; photos by Keith Baumgartner & Steve Wallman

IMG_0192Instead of following the yellow brick road to get to a magical destination, we drove through some beautiful Dane County roads on February 5 that led us to Vignette where a candle-lighted long table filled the length of the room.  The house was soon filled by Rotarians and that means the sounds of conversation and laughter everywhere.  Chef Mark Wroczynski prepared us for a journey with him along the ancient spice route sampling various spices and surprising us with a variety of techniques he used to make each morsel seem one mile further on the path.

We came to love the succulent descriptions along with the food and Chef Mark’s principle of beginning and ending each meal with a dessert.  His method of blending sweet with savory in each course made each initial taste a springboard of surprises.  Loretta Himmelsbach worked with Chef Mark to perfect the 4-course meal and mother nature perfected the ambiance.  Through the windows that extended along the entire dining hall wall, we enjoyed the snow reflecting light from the ground and the sparkle of diamonds in the air.  The best party is the one anyone who did not attend would regret, and this was that kind of party.

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Photo 1: from left: Haley Saalsaa, Ted Ballweg & Joan Ballweg; Photo 2: from left: Al Goedken, Brian Hellmer, Annete Hellmer, Carol Goedken & Loretta Himmelsbach; Photo 3: Betsy & Charles Wallman

IMG_2849We began with a red wine & star anise poached pear, orange coriander chocolate sauce, brandied caramel cream and for the savory—pepper candied almonds.  Course 2:  We were served a Szechuan pepper marshmallow wrapped in a crispy wonton in a bowl and then the soup was added—sweet  potato bisque with 5-spice roasted pumpkin seeds.  He warned us that it would numb our lips, but not interfere with our further enjoyment.   Course 3:  resting on orange gastrique was a roll of beef wrapped around roasted Chinese broccoli, roasted ginger sesame carrots, with the star of the evening—cashew fried rice arancini (ball) made from creamy risotto rice with mixed vegetables, formed into balls, breaded, and fried.  Course 4: Our last stop on the spice route was Key lime & matcha mousse torte with raspberry sauce.  The pretzel and ginger snaps crust as promised made it both sweet and savory.

Thank you Loretta, Chef Mark, and his sous-chef Brian for giving us such a memorable evening!

 

A “Different” Wine Tasting on Feb 1

–submitted by Mike Wilson; photo by Pete Christianson 

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The Wine Fellowship met at Mike and Patty Wilson’s for a “different” tasting.  We tried fortified wines and added three Single Malt Scotches to show the effect of a REAL aftertaste.  I love the aftertaste of wine and I score it very highly on my rating assessment of individual wines.  A 20-second aftertaste is superb in wine, but Scotches and Cognacs have aftertastes that last all night, and welcome you the next morning.

We first tried Sherries from that small triangle in Southern Spain right at the Straights of Gibraltar. These fortified wines were at their popularity peak in the 70’s when I left NZ and I had often drunk Tio Pepe and Harveys Bristol Cream – bone dry and sweet examples – aperitif and dessert wines.  This time we tried the Tio Pepe Fino and a Lustau Oloroso – the latter a more complex wine.  The latter was the preferred wine  but I warned everyone the Fino is great as an aperitif.  These wines are aged in the Solera system

Next we tried two Ports – the nearest thing to usual dinner wines among those tasted.  Here we tried two styles that are the best bargains – a Kopke Tawny 10 year old port and an unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) from Quinta do Noval.  The Kopke is the longest family run Porto in Portugal dating to 1638.  Both were very good and were well liked by most tasters.

These 4 wines averaged about $25 and are all available from Steve’s on University.

Next I tried to make a case for Marsala not being relegated to a cooking wine.  Here there was an interesting tale about this old wine being confined to the Trapini region near the NW corner of Sicily.  When Englishman John Woodhouse in 1773 was forced by a storm to land in Marsala, he fell in love with the wine and recognized the similarity to the popular Port in England, and decided not to collect the load he was to pickup in Sicily and rather filled his ship with Marsala. He came back in 1796 and set up a winery.  In 1806 he was followed by fellow Englishman Benjamin Ingham who even built the first Anglican Church (Church of England), the only church of the Diocese of Europe, across the road from his mansion. These wines use the Perpetuum system – similar in concept to the Sherry Solera system.  We tried a Florio Dry wine (the oldest Sicilian producer of Marsala -established 1833) fino (Aged 1 year), and Marco de Bartoli Vigna La Miccia 5 year riserva which is medium-dry,.  These two represent the range of Sicilian Marsala’s – the first a “post-English” and oldest Sicilian Marsala winery and the latest a very serious wine maker Marco de Bartoli producing what he describes as a “pre-English” Marsala – predating Woodhouse’s arrival.  What drama!  These wines were not favorites of the tasters but Mike had fun reliving his trip to Palermo where he and Patty stayed in the Bingham residence, now the Grand Hotel de Palmes in Palermo, Sicily.

Next we tried two fortified wines being located on distant islands.  First we tried a Madeira from the island of the same name some 600 miles from the home land Portugal, and an Isle di Pantelleria closer to Tunis than Sicily.

The Madeira Islands were discovered in 1419 by Portugese explorers and became the first requisitioning station for travelers/explorers to India, the America’s, and the East Indies.  This was likely the first fortified wine as such, and there the best wine was that that had traveled the “round trip” – vino do roda – to and from the “Hetherlands”.  To simplify production the Madeirans invented the cheaper and more efficient “hothouse” system where the stored wine in large rooms heated by the sun with the wine in large barrels raised on trestles.  They are stored for 20-100 years – and many old wines are still for sale. I personally liked this very much and recounted how a 100 year old sample was brought to a Bring Your Own Wine Rotary Wine Fellowship once.

The other Island DOC is the Moscato/Passito from Isle di Pantelleria. This is made by the new Powerhouse Marco di Bartoli who is restoring Marsala’s name.  He also started this Passito production on the Island, now followed by other major Marsala producers.  This wine is a Passito (slightly raisanated) where the heating of the grapes is done in the field where the grapes are handpicked and left in fields between natural rock walls and allowed to dry out and concentrate sugar and flavors for two weeks before the rest of the grape crop is picked then the Passito is added. This is like brother-sister Italian Passito wines of Valpolicella in the Veneto, and the Montefalco in Umbria.

Last we tried Single malt Scotches.  I selected three of the six regions where Single malts are made.  First we had Auchhentoshen Three Wood from the Lowlands (less than 10 producers) and this example I think of as one of the mildest Malts. Then we tried The Glenlivet as the first legal distillary (1824) after the Excise Act of 1823.  This distillery sued other producers in the valley (Glen) of the Livet river (hence Glenlivet), and the judge determined they could call themselves “The Glenlivit” and the others could include the Glen Livet component as they were also in the Glen of the Livet river – a real Solomon decision that The GlenLivet has exploited since.  This is said to be a light delicate Malt.  Last we tried one of the few Isle of Islay Malts – Laphroaig.  A Smoky blockbuster that was a shock to most of the wine imbibers tastebuds.  A good experience of a Great Long Smoky Aftertaste.

Breads, cheeses, olives, almonds and chocolate covered strawberries were provided.

 

LHS Celebrates 10th Anniversary

–submitted by Founder Moses Altsech; photos by Brian Basken

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Pictured above from left: Phyllis Lovrien, Jed Engeler, Annette Hellmer, Haley Saalsaa, Beth Prochaska & Lew Harned

The Lew Harned Society marked its 10th anniversary on September 18 with a special event hosted by Founder and Dear Leader Moses Altsech.  Founded in 2007, the Scotch Whisky Fellowship was renamed in 2009 in honor of our great friend General Lew Harned, who has been there from the very first meeting.  We enjoyed great homemade food (presumably prepared at the caterer’s home), and music by a barbershop quarter courtesy of Ken Yuska–which coincidentally included someone who had served with Lew in Operation Desert Storm.

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All guests received a gift box of Quintessential single malt Scotch-filled chocolates.  The selection of eight rare single malts included the Mackinlay, a Scotch salvaged from Sir Ernest Shackleton after the wreck of the Endurance, rediscovered in 2007, and faithfully recreated.

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But as much as we like Scotch whisky, the Lew Harned Society is about much more than that.  It’s about Lew: How great a guy do you have to be for your friends to name a group after you?  It’s about friends: Our long-time regulars who are a standard staple, without whom we couldn’t imagine our gatherings, and new friends who want to join a group that’s fun and welcoming to all.  At Rotary we often talk about member engagement–and this is what member engagement is made of.  Goodwill, better friendships and Scotch.  Our group has the best-looking Rotarians, its very own General who’s always in a festive mood, and enough Scotch to keep us alive two weeks past the end of Western civilization.

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If you want to join our second decade, contact the Rotary office at once: Space is probably not limited, but why risk it?

Best Summer Barbecue Wine Pairings

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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The Madison Rotary Wine Fellowship met at Wilson’s for a Barbecue/Grilling tasting on August 28. We initially were to try some wines that are said to go well with these particular barbecue types.

We started with tasting wines that went with Fish, Vegetables and Mushrooms, and tried an Australian Drover’s Hut Dugan Chardonnay, a New Zealand Nautilus 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, and a 2012 Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rose (we tried this at the Steve’s tasting with Guigal representative from Chicago last year).  The Chardonnay was the preferred wine by most of the group – I am not sure of the current availability as this, like most of the wines, came from my collection.

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We next considered Grilled Chicken where the important consideration is whether you are having white or dark meat;  Chardonnay is good for white meat while America’s Zinfandel is appropriate for dark meat, and we tried a  2014 Paso Robles Ridge version.

With Beef and Burgers the important consideration is whether the meat or the toppings/sauce is the dominant feature of the burger or steak. If meat is the important feature then a Cabernet Sauvignon is great.  If there is a spicy additive in the topping (i.e. Blue cheese or Onions or the sauce you add) then a Cab/Syrah would work.  We tried a 2008 Cask Cabernet Sauvignon (a special purchase years ago as this Rutherford wine is very special with a little Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot Blended). This tasted like the 94 points from WS the wine is rated at. We also tried a Cabernet/Syrah blend from Tobin James (Patty and I are members of this largest wine club in the world). The cask 2008 was the pick of the bunch and I still have two bottles left.

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(Photo 1: Mike & Mandy McKay; Photo 2: Leslie & Peter Overton; Photo 3: Sandy & Dana Corbett)

Now the tasting changes as Mike and Patty Wilson had decided in the last few days to add actual BBQ’s to the wine tastings.  This came as when I discussed the tasting with Mike McKay at Rotary last week when he raised the possibility of someone grilling steak and having cubes to taste.  Patty and I talked about this, and went out and brought back BBQ’s from two local restaurants with their different sauces to see what could be done.  As the tasting details had already been sent out, we decided to cover the cost of this as a late addition to the tasting as we wanted to give a number of good wines from our cellar for the tasting.  Indeed the only wine we bought was the 2016 NZ Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc.

We also arranged for three different sauces with the BBQ’s: at one of the restaurants we liked their South Carolina Mustard sauce, and at the other we liked their Sweet and Spicy sauces.  Each of these sauces has different wine requirements, complicating the tasting.

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(Photo 1: Roth & Lynne Judd; Photo 2: Jennifer & Bob Winding)

At this time there was a little confusion in the tasting and those present were able to modify the sequencing without undue stress.  So we had a sequence of BBQ’s and sauces to go with wines that Mike Wilson had decided on.

We started with a Polish Kielbasa and participants could add up to three sauces and I preferred the Mustard and Spicy sauces, and blended together it was GREAT.  The three wines samples were a 2012 Guigal Cotes du Rhone, a Three vineyards 2011 Petite Sirah, and a Australian 2008 Stanley Lambert Zinfandel. The latter two wines were old friends of Patty and I.  The consensus rating was that the Guigal Cote du Rhone was preferred – much cheaper than the other wines.  If you slathered the sausage in hot sauce then the petite Sirah would have been great given the spiciness of the sausage.

Next we tried the Brisket.  This cut of beef is the Pectoralis Major and Minor, which supports 60% of the weight of the cow when standing. Note the cow does not have a clavicle so these muscles are more important in the cows mobility.  The typical sauce in Texas is mustard based and this cut of beef is the basis of BBQ brisket. Brisket is used in Ireland’s Corned beef and cabbage, the meat of New England’s Pot Roast, Boiled on Jewish Holidays, and the basis of Pastrami.  What a wonderful cut, one of the nine primal beef cuts. We tried a 2012 Calcareous Syrah, a 2002 Seghesio Aglianico, and a Haven’s 2001 Bourriquot Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend.  The latter was the most preferred wine.

Last we tried the Pulled Pork. Here we had two Peterson wines and an Aussie Shiraz (not Syrah although it is the same grape). The Peterson Winery is from the Dry Creek region of California. This is a winemaker whose name comes up repeatedly when talking about old Zinfandel vines, and is a sleeper in Zinfandel production.  His wines are especially spicy and nice. One wine was Zero manipulation, a 2012 Carignan/Shiraz/Grenache blend where the winemaker plays little with the grapes and the other was a 2012 Zinfandel.  The Australian wine was a 2003 Glen Eldon Dry Bore Shiraz and I prepared that it might be too old with a replacement ready, but the wine was great and had a WS rating of 93 – and it tasted like that too.  This was the consensus wine.

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(From left: Patty Wilson, Steve Mixtacki, Meryl Mixtacki & Mike Wilson)

All in all, the wines were fantastic and there were comments that this looked like one of the best tastings we had ever had even with 15 different wines reviewed.  The barbecues were also terrific also. Virtually no-one had a chocolate coated strawberry, as prepared by Patty, and unfortunately the Hosts did not ask everyone to take some of the BBQ’s or strawberries home.  Virtually all the wines seemed to have been drunk.

A Gem of a Hike: Table Bluff on Ice Age Trail July 15

–submitted by Leigh Richardson; photos by Jeff Tews

IMG_2524“Embarking on the back road journey 2 miles north of Cross Plains, members of the Rotary Hiking Fellowship had no idea this pristine gem awaited. Towering forests, chin-high rainbows of prairie flowers, and the grand finale– a shelter perched overlooking the driftless region. A view to rival Blue Mounds State Park.

At the bi-section of the Table Bluff Segment of the Ice Age Trail lies the 460-acre “Swamplovers Nature Preserve.”  Even our seasoned hikers were unaware of its existence.

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When rounding a wooded curve, we even encountered an alligator in a bikini!  It elicited frightened gasps until we realized it was merely a lawn statue planted trailside by the lighthearted Swamplovers’ group.

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Thank you, hike coordinator, Andrea Kaminski, for sharing this lovely find!”

“Brown Bag Tasting” on June 29

–article and photos by Mike Wilson

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The Rotary Wine fellowship met at Steve and Meryl Mixtacki’s home for one of Steve’s iconic “Brown Bag Tastings”.  Bread, multiple cheeses, fruits, crackers and chocolate truffles were supplied to supplement the extraordinary wines. The organization was superb.  Mike Wilson and Steve Mixtacki engaged in their eternal discussion about glass position terminology on the tasting placemat.

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(Photo 1: Steve Mixtacki; Photo 2: Mary Janet & Karl Wellensiek; Photo 3: Juli and Keith Baumgartner)

The first three wines were “Wondering about Whites.”  These were from Italy, Israel and Spain – and the two most liked wines were the Italian Vernaccia and the Spanish Godello. Next we tried “Shades of Pink” explaining the gradation from tawny to pink to just plain “Red Rose” colors. The first was a Guigal Cotes du Rhone that the fellowship group had tasted at Steve’s on University tasting, and this won the honors with most liking this wine.  The pink sweet rose was a Beringer, an infamous White Zinfandel, that had been presented to Steve when he retired from WARF earlier in June, and the other was a Rosata from Petroni.  Petroni of Sonoma is a winery famous for being allowed to have the name Brunello on their label because of the extraordinary quality of wine made by them from the Sangiovese grape taken from Brunello cuttings. The Guigal was preferred by ~60% of tasters.

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(Photo 1: Jane & John Wegenke; Photo 2: Mike & Mandy McKay)

The next trio was “What is the Country” and included three fabulous red Italian wines, all DCOG (G meaning guaranteed quality – where else do you see such endorsement). One was a 20 year old Sangiovese (Brunello di Montalcino, Il Poggione), a 2000 Biscardi Amarone with the producer scion’s signature and date of signing on the bottle, and a fine 2011 Barolo.  Three of the finest wines that Italy offers, with the Brunello preferred by 47% despite the sediment.  These were all $60 wines.

Steve had prepared two interesting groupings next.  Three variations on a theme with blends of Rhone grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (all of the land of OZ GSM fame).  These were all Californian examples poured from light to dark red in color.  These were from Unti (71% Grenache and 29% Mouvedre), Cline Cashmere (50% Mouvedre with lesser amounts of Grenache and Syrah), and Summerwood Diosa 2013 (80% Syrah and lesser Mouvedre and Grenache). The darker Syrah was preferred, with the Mouvedre a close followup.

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(Photo 1: Mike & Patty Wilson & Guest; Photo 2: Bob & Jennifer Winding)

Lastly, Steve arranged for three Californian Rhone wines of the same varietals, but the “Even Greater Specificity” meaning each was a 100% single grape Rhone based wines.  Here the Adelaida Mouvedre was preferred, with the Grenache from Cline a close followup.  Incidentally the color followed the rule above; the lightest being Grenache, Mouvedre the next “reddest”, and the Syrah the dark red – perhaps a clue for future Brown Bag Blind tastings.

A great evening was had by all.  Thank you Meryl and Steve Mixtacki.

Nowruz – A Celebration of the Iranian New Year

–submitted by Joyce Bromley; photos by Ted & Joan Ballweg

Iranian New Year Celebration 016Who could not use some Nowruz (celebration of spring and annual renewal)?  Majid Sarmadi brought the rich Iranian new year celebration to the Cultural Awareness Fellowship Group and their guests in this year of 2595.  This 3000 year Persian tradition is a celebration of renewal and hope with prepared foods that represent the seven angelic heralds.  Hyacinth (one of the first flowers of spring) brings beauty and its fragrance permeated the room.  The eloquently set table was a sight to behold.  Garlic bulbs decorated with a string of tiny pearls bring good health; vinegar takes a long time to make and requires patience; a beautiful tureen of sprouts (lentils) prosperity—good harvest and a year without hunger; elaborately decorated eggs promise fertility–rebirth; goldfish swimming in a bowl, a symbol of life; the illumination of candle-light brings happiness—good over evil; fresh fruit and sweets bring joy; and we ended with a taste of ground sweet sumac.  A book of poetry lay open reminding us of the eloquent Persian language.  This was the experience of haft sin and only the beginning of the evening.

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After an enthralling slide show of Iran–the culture, the geography, and its people—we traveled the gastronomic route.  Appetizers of eggplant paté, and hummus; a table display of basmati rice with saffron, casserole of assorted beans, braised eggplant with filet mignon; saffron chicken; and basmati rice with lima beans and dill—all of which were as sumptuous as they were beautiful.  All of these delicacies were entirely prepared by Majid.  Oh yes, the desserts!  Cream puffs (made earlier in the day), fresh fruit, rice-flour cookies, cardamom muffins, sohan (almond toffee), were enjoyed with a cup of tea.  At the end of the evening Majid gave us a gift to extend the evening.  We each received a freshly pressed one-dollar bill for good luck.

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We became Majid’s extended family and together we celebrated the joy of friendship in the Persian tradition and are richer for the experience.

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