September 30, 2006
Peak Experiences

Journalists aren't supposed to applaud or cheer when they cover sporting events, speeches and the like. Has something to do with being objective, or it is objectionable? I'm up here at Lake Tahoe, without my dictionary, and without it just can't keep those two words straight.

Nonetheless, I applauded today when Kim Caffrey finished her presentation during one of a series of culinary seminars and workshops that help make up the North Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival. She's a wine educator whose talk touched on several approaches to wine understanding and appreciation, from the American penchant for serving white wines too cold and red wines too warm to the most illuminating ways to smell and taste wine. "Remember to stop swirling the glass before sniffing the wine. Snorting wine can be quite painful," she remarked at one point. OK, so it wasn't her funniest line, but as a former stand-up comic her presentation was spiced with one one-liner after another, the cumulative impact of which not only was to entertain the people who signed up for her session but to educate them effectively. Thus, the collective and infectious appreciation of her audience.

Kim, however, didn't find the most amusing and ironic incidents of her presentation at all hilarious. Twice, her power-point projector shut down because of overheating during her slide show, the screen going dark as petite sirah. Did I mention who she was representing? Francis Ford Coppola Presents.

Earlier, we sat in on Lars Kronmark's session on Asian grilling, presented on a deck of the Resort at Squaw Creek, with Sierra peaks providing his backdrop and a cool breeze giving him an exhaust fan unlike any at his home station, which is the Napa Valley branch of the Culinary Institute of America, where he is a chef instructor. (He's also a former chef at the Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento.)

Passionate, curious and smart, Lars clearly hasn't let his Danish heritage impede his grasp of Asian cookery. His presentation also reminded me that no matter how many cooking classes you attend or TV cooking shows you watch, you almost always can learn something new. In this case, Lars offered a simple solution for an old problem dealing with grilling something on a bamboo skewer. Often, the exposed butt of the skewer either gets too hot to handle or burns, making it useless to help turn or remove the skewers. His solution: Tear off a strip of aluminum foil and tuck it under the ends of the skewers, therby protecting them from the heat of the coals. But he didn't have any aluminum foil. He improvised by resting the ends against an iron grilling platter. A cookie sheet also would work as well.

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