By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Monday, April 21, 2014 at 6:37 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Guilt may be a strong word, but somehow it seems appropriate. I am in a comfortable motel suite just a few miles from The Little House on the Prairie, where a learned docent talked me through the many hardships of the Wilders.

The replicated cabin in which Laura and her family lived sits in the same field in southwest Kansas as the original and is furnished just as she would remember it.

In our motel room my wife and I drank white Burgundy and Provencal rose. We ate French pate and Scottish smoked salmon on baguettes slavered with Irish butter. The cheese was aged Cheddar from England.

That tiny cabin kept coming to mind, conjuring visions of snow drifts, howling winds and wolves, hooting owls, and anxious family members praying that the men would get back with supplies before the trail became impassable.

Life is certainly less strenuous now, but I am not convinced that our generation is in any way superior to that which settled the prairies in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Still, I admit really appreciating the white Burgundy.

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By Sue Shelden   |   Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 10:51 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

A great tasting wine from Iowa? Why, not? I just attended a wedding that featured a white wine from the groom’s home state of Iowa. The wine was “Sun Dog White Wine” produced by Brick Arch Winery in West Branch, Iowa. I knew I’d like the wine when the bartender told me it was a combination of Vignoles and Vidal Blanc grapes. Besides, the label was cute and I like dogs. What was there not to love?

The winery is located next to the Herbert Hoover National Site in West Branch. The couple was excited to be sharing this wine with the wedding guests, and when I exclaimed how much I enjoyed it, they told me of how they went to the winery at Christmas, when they were visiting the family, and brought back a case of the wine for the wedding.

The take away from this is a lesson about how we can’t be wine snobs, assuming that only the west coast and New York State wines will do. The other thing I want to remind readers of is that as we travel around the United States, this summer, we need to literally stop and “drink in” the local color of the places we visit. Bon voyage!

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 10:17 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Groucho may have had it right when he said he “would not belong to any club that would have him as a member.” I did not take his advice when Rene Lasserre invited me to become a member of his Club de Casserole. I thought of that last night when I dropped my silver key chain (which I never really use as a key chain) and hoped it had not broken. It is a miniature casserole with my membership number etched into it.

My wife and I  have enjoyed many memorable evenings in the famous Restaurant Lasserre on Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt across from the Grand Palais in Paris. The key chain, however, prompted this column. It took my mind’s eye back to one of the most  venerable wine caverns in the world. Some called it the “Arabian Nights” of cellars. Designed and built personally by Rene, an engineer as well as incomparable restaurateur, this temperature-controlled  cellar, well-stabilized against the rumblings of the nearby Metro, contained at the time of my last visit (in 1996) some 200,000 bottles of mostly Bordeaux and Burgundy wines comprising  230 different labels representing nearly a century of vintages.

Each table in Lasserre has its own decanting table, and the wine servers decant between 30,000 and 35,000 bottles a year, using what some have said are from the most beautiful collection of decanters in Europe. There were two servers per guest in Restaurant Lasserre in my times there, all properly attired and who moved with such grace that they have been called a “black and white ballet.”

Though I haven’t taken advantage of my membership in some twenty years, I still get  invitations to special events and a special New Year’s greeting card signed by a well-known artist  which offers me a complimentary bottle of vintage Champagne on my next visit. We members are always provided a complimentary aperitif on each visit. Admission to the Club de Casserole is not a question of money but of friendship, based on a love of gastronomy, knowledge of the wines of France, and Rene’s personal judgment.

I really don’t know how the club is doing these days, but I’m happy to report that my silver key chain is still in fine shape.

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