29 June 2012

Finlandia Vodka

Finland is the nation that brought the world Moomin, Linux, an earworm-inducing nonsense song, and around a hundred gold medal winners in the Winter Olympics over the years.

Finland had a rough time during the first half of the 20th century. Right before WWII there was the Winter War, in which Finns fought against the advancing Russians. A hero of this conflict was the sniper Simo Häyhä, who holds the record for the most sniper kills in any war: 505. The nation chose to side with the Germans during the big global conflict, and there were lots of countries between the USSR and western Europe that made the same hard decision during those years.

Finlandia Vodka
$20/1.75L, 40% abv.

The six-row barley is distilled into alcohol at Koskenkorva, and then is diluted with glacial water at the Altia Oyj corporation in Rajamäki. The bottle has been recently re-designed to appear like melting ice to reflect the origin of the water used to soften the distilled alcohol.

I've tried this straight and with various cocktails, and while it's not particularly remarkable (not sweet or herbal or anything else), it is incredibly smooth and a great bargain. It works quite well with Screwdrivers and Vodka Martinis and other cocktails, and is highly recommended as a mixer. The bottle looks nice on the bar shelf and the deep grooves in the lower part of the bottle allow for an easy grip.

27 June 2012

2010 Gary Farrell Sauvignon Blanc

When I toured a lot of wineries in Sonoma back in 2009, I didn't try a lot of Sauvignon Blanc. Lots of Zinfandel and other great grapes, but the region does produce some really wonderful representatives of this variety. For example, this lovely bottle recently showed up at the house...

2010 Gary Farrell Sauvignon Blanc
Redwood Ranch, Sonoma County
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$25, 14.1% abv.

Bright apricot, round body with low acidity and a mellow, dark finish. Just the right amount of time in oak to soften the edges and add a hint of vanilla. The winery employs Burgundian techniques to a Bordeaux grape, which is a great combination. There's not a hint of grapefruit or peel or anything New World, and the wine has a long and dark finish.

As I first sipped it, I thought that it would be great with seafood. It doesn't have the Sancerre minerality that would make it incredible with shellfish, but with something like salmon I figured it would work out. But first...

The winery was founded in 1982 by Gary Farrell, and is located in the Russian River Valley. Half of their production involves Pinot Noir in the $40-60 range, though they also make a series of Chardonnays. That explains the emphasis on Burgundy production methods, and the outlier Sauvignon Blanc shows how that wine can be bent in such a fascinating way to emulate a totally different region.

I happened to have a day off in the middle of the week and chose to build a proper square meal for lunch. Grilled salmon with roasted red peppers, seasoned quinoa, and a caprese salad using aromatic Thai basil.

I used a little Chilean citrus sea salt and black pepper on the salmon, and the peppers were just roasted in a skillet with a little olive oil. I flavored the quinoa with chicken broth, oregano, and thyme. Everything paired wonderfully with the wine, and the quinoa brought out some earthy tones that I had not fully appreciated at first.

Note: This wine was received as a sample.

25 June 2012

Adobe White & Pink

I reviewed the 2010 releases of the Clayhouse Adobe wines and this past weekend had the chance to try the 2011 bottles. These are great blends, great bargains, and every year the mixture is a little different based on what works best for the grapes that year.

Most people never get to see wine grapes in person, but they're really tiny--the size of a blueberry or smaller, and with big seeds. It's amazing that anyone ever thought they'd be a great source of juice. The white Adobe blend does a rare thing by employing the use of a big, plump table grape: the green Princess grape, bigger than the standard Thompson Seedless. Since I've never had a Princess wine on its own, I can't say how much it contributes to the flavor, but I enjoy the fact that they're trying something unique. Julia was a huge fan of this wine and took the rest of the bottle home with her after our nibbling lunch of various appetizers: dolmas, pita, hummus, baba ghanouj, chips and salsa, and an assortment of fresh fruit.

2011 Clayhouse Adobe White
Paso Robles, California
49% Viognier, 26% Sauvignon Blanc, 19% Grenache Blanc, 6% Princess
$14, 13.5% abv.
The aroma is light and fruity with apple and pear and mild floral notes. The flavor is rich with ripe fruit and there's just a touch of honey on the palate. At the end there's a clean, refreshing finish.

2011 Clayhouse Adobe Pink
Paso Robles, California
38% Mourvèdre, 37% Grenache Noir, 25% Syrah
$14, 13.5% abv.
This lunch was perfect for a dry rosé like this. Classic Rhône pink with aromas of strawberry and watermelon. Great fruit flavors, a touch of ash, and a great balance of acidity and a tiny amount of sweetness. Serve well-chilled, and highly recommended for picnics and casual lunches everywhere.

Note: These wines were received as samples.

22 June 2012

Happy Bitch Rosé

New York based Happy Bitch Wines is a joint effort between Keryl Pesce (Happy Bitch) and Debbie Gioquindo (Hudson Valley Wine Goddess), making this what I think is the first wine I've ever tried that was made by a fellow wine blogger. The tag line says, "Pairs well with girlfriends and great memories." After presenting the bottle to my girlfriend I received a black eye in return. They use solid glass up there in the Empire State.

As my vision cleared, I noticed the small print on the business card: "Designed by women, for women." So we're talking more Sex and the City girlfriends rather than showing up for a date and dropping the b-word. I'm not going to devolve into a Noam Chomsky lecture about taking back a hurtful word and redefining it with pride, but while this wine isn't marketed directly at me it is fun, and an important part of demystifying wine for the 99% of the world that doesn't take wine too seriously. Besides, there's a bunch of weird European wine names that involve widows and bastards and the tears of Christ, so I think there's certainly room on the shelf for a Happy Bitch.

NV Happy Bitch Rosé
Hudson Valley, New York
Proprietary blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
$14, 12% abv.

The wine is made by Sisterhood Winery of Washingtonville, New York, just about sixty miles north of New York City. Wine grapes have been grown in the Hudson Valley since French Huguenots planted the first vines back in 1677. The history of the region seems to have followed the same pattern as wine regions like Ohio, with steady growth in the 1800s, lots of communion wine production, the crash of Prohibition, followed by a more recent renaissance as it's become easier and more legal for farmers to get back into commercial winemaking.

The nose is stronger than you'd imagine, with a deep overripe strawberry aroma. Slightly fizzy and secured with a bottle cap, it has a dry but dark fruit flavor with a crisp, clean finish. It reminds me a lot of some of the sparkling reds of Italy. Serve with comfort food, appetizers, and canapés. I'm thinking this would be a lot of fun at Thanksgiving, where it would be incredible with stuffing and green bean casserole and is mild enough to offer a glass to your slightly younger than 21 cousins as well as your slightly older than senior great aunts who have a good sense of humor.

P.S. The lovely Julia really enjoyed the wine, and no domestic violence was involved.

Note: This wine was received as a sample.

20 June 2012

Welcome Serious Eats Readers!

Welcome first time readers, and I hope you enjoy my site. Check out my favorite posts for some of the hits from the past seven years, or zoom through the topic links at the bottom left. Despite the name of the blog, I write a lot about food and many other subjects.

Long time readers might be asking themselves, "What's going on?" A couple of months ago the food website SeriousEats.com was looking to hire writers in various cities to cover specific local topics. Memphis was not on that list, but I made a persuasive case and after some test posts and writing/photography samples, I landed a paid gig as the Memphis Correspondent. I've been an avid reader of the site for years, and am excited to write the occasional article for them, like my first one on...

Where to Eat Fried Catfish in Memphis: 6 Spots to Try

This won't really impact Benito's Wine Reviews much, since I'll be writing about local food and restaurants, topics I don't cover a lot here, and they have their own wine and cocktail writers. While I hope this brings in new readers, I'm primarily doing it for the experience of writing with an editor, writing with space constraints, and taking on assignments. I'll keep to the regular schedule of three posts a week here, though when something is published on Serious Eats I'll probably just make a small post with a link to the article. I'm really looking forward to flexing some different writing muscles and getting the opportunity to share some local favorites with readers throughout the country and around the world.

18 June 2012

Salsa Verde

I can't remember the first time I had salsa verde, but I've always enjoyed it as a tart and piquant alternative to the standard red salsas. Why doesn't it show up more often with the tortilla chips at the beginning of a meal?

I started out with cored tomatillos and a serrano pepper, roasted under the broiler until slightly blackened. I peeled everything and then added in salt and minced shallots and garlic and a handful of cilantro at the last minute.

I ground everything in the molcajete, using the technique of leaving some chunks while making a smooth paste in other regions. (At this point, if you want to use it to cover chicken enchiladas or some other baked dish, you can blend it with chicken broth.)

The humble husk tomato or tomatillo is a curious fruit, but delivers such a perfect lemony goodness for salsa. You've got the texture of tomatoes but a bright citrus/green flavor, and the roasting deepens and intensifies those elements. Thankfully my molcajete is well seasoned, so I also got a little cumin and residual ancho/guajillo flavor in there. Three days later, this salsa verde is still amazing and great with leftover goat, corn tortilla chips, and even salmon.

15 June 2012

2009 The Federalist Dueling Pistols

On July 11, 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr shot former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Hamilton died the next day. Despite what you think about the venom of contemporary politics, events like this are thankfully rare, like when...

Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina had been in a duel with a future Texas Senator, and due to the injury, had to walk with a cane. In 1856, he got aggravated when Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts insulted another South Carolina politician over the issue of slavery. Brooks was so furious that he delivered a savage beating to Sumner with his gutta-percha cane on the Senate floor, and the poor Senator took three years to recover from the injuries. Brooks became something of a folk hero in the South, and such tensions culminated in the Civil War.

I've never consumed wine while angry or in a bad mood, and think that it's better to think of positive things while sipping on fermented grapes. So far I have never entered into a duel or beaten a Senator with a cane, so I think my track record is good.

2009 The Federalist Dueling Pistols
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma
50% Zinfandel, 50% Syrah
$35, 15% abv.

During my visits to various Sonoma wineries in 2009, I fell in love with Dry Valley and the many different approaches to Zinfandel in such a small area. This particular blend is deep and meaty with aromas of blackberries and bacon fat and a touch of spice. Firm tannins and a big dark blackberry fruit profile with a long, rich finish. Later as it breathes, there's a slight toasty aroma that contributes to a wonderful dark berry pie flavor. Graceful aging so far, but it could probably go another couple of years safely. While you should probably serve this with a joint of mutton or some other 19th century source of indigestion, I found it to be delightful with a rare roasted ribeye topped with a Chicago steak seasoning blend.

Note: This wine was received as a sample.

13 June 2012

Roast Goat Leg

I could call it cosciotto di capretto, but it's just a goat leg. To be more specific, this is the foreleg, shoulder, and ribs of a kid goat from a halal butcher. I don't do a lot of halal cooking, but there's not a lot of other sources for goat around here. Thanks to the Cordova international market, I'm now always a ten minute walk away from such ingredients.

Goat may seem exotic, but it's the most widely eaten meat in the world, and before you quibble, remember that the world includes a lot of places that don't have an Applebee's. There's no major religion with an objection to goat meat, they're not as expensive or labor intensive as cattle, and while they don't eat tin cans, they can survive on scrubland and other harsh environments. They're a good source of meat, leather, milk, wool, and more. Plus, when you're doing subsistence farming, it's easier for one farmer to pick up a goat as opposed to a fully-grown sow or heifer.

I rinsed the leg and marinated it in Wicker's for several hours. Kid goat is pretty tender, but you still want a little acid bath to help it out. I then rubbed it down with a mixture of garlic, olive oil, salt, and a Madras curry blend. Time to fire up the Weber grill...

Using indirect heat and just a little mesquite, I slow roasted the goat on a hot Sunday afternoon for about three hours. The easiest way to cook goat is to chop it all up and stew it forever with a bunch of vegetables. I've had it like that, but the first time I ever ate goat was at a BBQ back when I was a kid. There was a decent amount of fat on this leg, and I wanted to treat it more like a leg of lamb. After all, the two species are closely related, though there are some theological differences between them.

The final product was not gamey, but mildly earthy and aromatic. If anything, it's somewhere between pork and lamb. The meat was tender and juicy, and though I chopped off a few chunks to eat right away, the rest went into taco form with homemade salsa verde. Great combination.

My only complaint is that there's not a lot of meat on this leg, and it's a little difficult to get it all off (hence why stewing is so popular). The whole thing weighed two pounds, cost me $12, and was a lot of fun, but I ended up with about a pound of meat after all the digging and scraping. Unlike pork, the ribs don't offer a lot of succulent meat. Don't let that discourage you, though. Take an opportunity to connect with the rest of the world and serve a healthy, sustainable form of protein on the dinner table.

11 June 2012

Wines of Rosa d'Oro

Rosa d'Oro is based in Kelseyville, California and has been in the wine business since 1953, as well as producing olive oil and vinegar. They specialize in a lot of interesting Italian grapes that seem to thrive in the local region. I last sampled the products of this winery back in 2009 and was delighted to have the opportunity to try some different bottles.

2011 Rosa d'Oro Muscat
Yolo County
60% Moscato Giallo, 40% Muscat Canelli
$16, 12.5% abv.
Not as sweet as you may think, but full of the musky and honey tones you've come to love from Muscat grapes. A deep golden color and a heavenly aroma match up with balanced acidity and a clean finish. An outstanding first course or salad course wine, particularly with shellfish.

2010 Rosa D'Oro Montepulciano
Tracy Hills - Mt. Oso Vineyards
100% Montepulciano
$20, 13.8% abv.
Ah, the wine that I served with my BBQ goat tacos... Soft and mild with bright cherry flavors and a smooth body, just a touch of raspberry tartness and a light finish. Something about Montepulciano and BBQ just goes together in my mind. The great thing about this grape is that it is mild but holds up to smoked meat very well, and everybody loves a good food-friendly red.

2010 Rosa d'Oro Sagrantino
Tracy Hills - Oso Vista Vineyards
100% Sagrantino
$24, 14.4% abv.
Like the Montepulciano, there were only four barrels of this wine made. That's 96 cases or 1152 bottles, so few people will get the opportunity to try this wine. I had fun serving it to Julia alongside a more mass-produced California red, and she kept going back to the Sagrantino because it had so much more character. Amazing dark fruit and spice, with plum and black pepper and firm but balanced tannins. It's great for swirling and thinking about an hour after dinner as well... Highly recommended if you are lucky enough to snag one of the bottles.

Note: These wines were received as samples.

08 June 2012

Further Adventures in Mexican-Inspired Cuisine

Just a few odds and ends from recent cooking adventures as I seek to further learn and develop skills in the cuisines south of the U.S. border...

Armed with several dozen blue corn tortillas, I grilled an inexpensive sirloin seasoned with salt, pepper, and lime juice and sliced it nice and thin. I added griddled shallots, baby kale, and a dash of Mexican crema.

Yes, the tortillas were first properly warmed up in the cast iron skillet. I don't have a comal yet, but I will soon. I've made tortillas from scratch in the past but am mostly happy with the offerings of the local international market.

The result was delicious, with a little more earthiness in the tortilla and a good combination of savory, bitter, and sweet elements. Sautéed shallots are really amazing and provided a nice additional flavor to the rare beef.

That weekend I completed my first salsa in the molcajete. I started with Campari tomatoes that I steamed, skinned, cored, and chopped. Next I toasted cumin with a little pepper and set it aside. Earlier in the day I had toasted dried guajillo and ancho peppers (then left to soak in a glass of water), and fire-roasted a fresh serrano. Garlic was smashed, a shallot was minced, cilantro was chopped, a lime was juiced, and I was ready for Señor Puerco.

I started with the dry spices and salt, and then tossed in the tomatoes. Having chopped up the tougher ingredients, I added it all to the molcajete and the whole salsa just came together in a few minutes. Not as fast as a blender or food processor, but I had way more control over the desired texture (I'll grind a little here but leave some chunks over here, etc.). It tasted quite good at first, but I knew it would need a day to develop.

And it was out of this world. A little too hot--I can handle a lot of heat, but the salsa was a little out of balance. I blame the serrano, which was hotter than I expected. I could have diluted it with more tomatoes, but didn't want to sacrifice any of the other flavors. Regardless, it's the best salsa I've ever made, and I'm about ready to do some fun stuff with tomatillos.

Later on I was able to combine various leftovers to make the decadent treat known as duck tacos. Frankly I've always thought that beef and chicken were boring options for tacos or tamales or enchiladas. Oh, they can be made properly, but I crave the pork, goat, organ meat, and other interesting proteins. I'd never had duck with Mexican cuisine, but obviously it exists like with my recent experiment with roast duck in a pumpkin seed sauce.

I sliced up the leftover breast meat and a bit of the fatty skin and added kale again, thin shavings of Naked Goat cheese, and a little drizzle of my salsa. Really, truly wonderful. Loads of deep, rustic flavors with the bright fruit and acidity of the salsa. A little crunch from the kale and rivulets of rich duck grease melding with the hard cheese and tomato juices... Sorry, started drooling a bit. I think I might have stashed a little extra duck in the freezer...

06 June 2012

2010 Ernie Els Big Easy

When you think about the Big Easy, your first thought is... South African golfers. No, seriously. The Big Easy is the nickname of Johannesburg-born golfer Ernie Els due to his tall stature and smooth swing.

I will be honest and state that I know more about South African history from 1880-1920 than I do about golf in general. I have nothing against the game, but appreciate the effort that goes into maintaining a proper course and the fact that it's one of the few sports that includes a handicap system that allows players of differing skill levels to compete against each other and have a good time. A boxing match between Mike Tyson and a 125 lb. featherweight is not going to be enjoyable for the participants or audience. Plus, there's also that element of playing against the course. Man versus highly sculpted nature, one of the lesser known forms of literary conflict. (An hour after writing that, I noticed this on his website: Ernie is quoted as saying that "wine is like golf - in both endeavours nature has the last ruling".)

In addition to promoting South Africa around the world and running the Els for Autism charity dedicated to his son Ben, Els founded his winery in 1999 in Stellenbosch and produces a line of traditional Bordeaux-style wines as well as the below red blend and a classic South African Chenin Blanc.

2010 Ernie Els Big Easy
Stellenbosch & Piekenierskloof, South Africa
60% Shiraz, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Mourvèdre, 6%Grenache, 5% Cinsault, 3% Viognier
$20, 14.5% abv.

Luscious aroma of black cherries, leather, coffee, violets, and chocolate with an earthy, dark fruit flavor. Yet the body feel is mild and smooth despite its youth. It reminds me of a lot of the fun Rhone blends coming out of California, but the Cabernet Sauvignon throws an interesting twist. A great bargain and highly recommended for any grilled meats with a good bit of seasoning, like roast lamb with lavender or a BBQ-rubbed goat leg. (I'm sure a steak or burger will work fine as well.)

This came as part of a pack of Father's Day-themed wines from Terlato Wines, and others will soon follow... Stay tuned!

Note: This wine was received as a sample.

04 June 2012

Wines of Gascony

Gascony is a region of southwest France that overlaps multiple départments and contains a handful of lesser-known AOC designations like Madiran, Tursan, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, and the more recent VDQS Saint-Mont, though that category is disappearing. It's located near the Spanish border and the Pyrenees. I've had the Tannat-rich Madiran before, but was pleasantly surprised when offered the opportunity to try some interesting white blends and a lovely rosé from Robert Kacher Selections. Domaine du Tariquet was founded 100 years ago by professional bear tamers. The winery went through some serious upheavals during the World Wars, but since the 1940s the property has been owned by the Grassa family, who got into the Bas-Armagnac business. Since 1982, they've been making some rebellious wines in this obscure region.

The region is well known for its food, particularly duck, and I realized it had been far too long since I'd cooked any waterfowl. I used to do so frequently when my nearby grocery store carried inexpensive fresh ducks, but for years I've lacked a source... Now that same store is open again under different management, and I'm back on the duckwagon.

I made pato en pipián rojo using a recipe by Rick Bayless. It's a thick sauce made of duck stock, pumpkin seeds, dried chiles, and a dozen other ingredients. I made the duck stock with the wings and backbone of the duck, and I reserved the rendered fat for frying the fingerling potatoes. Lastly, I provided a simple salad of baby kale, arugula, and other bitter greens. The duck was incredible, and the preparation of the duck, while classically Mexican, has an earthy and rustic character that worked well with these rural wines. Here you can see a thigh quarter, my favorite cut of duck. Sure, the breast is good, but there's nothing like that tender thigh meat.

2010 Tariquet Côté
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
50% Chardonnay, 50% Sauvignon Blanc
$9, 11% abv.
I didn't think you could mix these two grapes in France without someone alerting the gendarmerie. Deep and brassy with forward fruit of apples and pears. The wine has mild acidity and just a touch of sweetness. It was an unusual experience but it has a beautiful golden hue, lovely aroma, and it's a great bargain.

2010 Tariquet Chenin Chardonnay
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
75% Chenin Blanc, 25% Chardonnay
$11, 12.5% abv.
Another unusual blend, this one starts off with a full nose of apricot and lemon peel. Medium acidity with a full-fruit flavor and a round mouthfeel. Great minerality and an overall refreshing experience. Very interesting, but it can be a little confusing. I feel like I'm drinking something from Washington State instead of southwest France.

2011 Tariquet Classic
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
45% Ugni Blanc, 35% Colombard, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Gros Manseng
$9, 11% abv.
Green and grassy with a bright lime zest nose. Lime flavors continue with balanced acidity and citrus flavors. A surprisingly long finish with some herbal, earthy undertones.

2011 Tariquet Rosé de Pressée
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
30% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 25% Syrah, 15% Tannat
$11, 12% abv.
I reviewed this wine back in 2008 while on the road in Cleveland. This is a crisp and bright rosé with an initial nose of strawberries and watermelon. Great acidity and a short, clean finish. Completely dry with tart red fruit flavors and a little hint of plum in the background. I would be happy with this wine all summer long. Needless to say, it was phenomenal with the duck and potatoes.

Note: These wines were received as samples.

01 June 2012

Joys of the Molcajete

You see them as decorations in Mexican restaurants, sometimes you get a little salsa in a tiny one, but the molcajete y tejolote is an amazing type of mortar and pestle tool. For the past decade, I've used my tiny, apothecary-style marble set. While fun, it's too small to do any serious work and dry spices tend to go flying out of the cup. During my recent visit to the Cordova International Market, I decided to finally bite the bullet and get myself a proper molcajete from Puebla, made from vesicular basalt, a volcanic rock. The whole thing set me back a whopping $20, and now it has an honored place in my kitchen. Always good to go back to the Paleolithic with your cooking utensils. Teflon? Feh.

But first Señor Puerco had to be seasoned.

On the first day, I ground some dry rice, and I generated a lot of grit. Back in my anthropology days, I handled a lot of old skulls that showed the wear pattern from having a lot of stone-ground grains in the diet. Think teeth that look like they've been cut in half and all the pulp and nerves are exposed. Those poor guys must have been in constant pain before dying in their 40s. But I know a lot of chefs use molcajetes without incident and I won't be eating from the thing every day, so I persisted. A real basalt molcajete is perfectly safe, unless you drop it on your foot or it shifts while you're holding it in your lap and one of those heavy stone feet stomps you in the testicles. Time for a little research!

Moisture makes a huge difference. I used Rick Bayless' suggestion of wet rice, and suddenly everything went much easier. Four rounds of grey, gritty rice later, I was making pure rice flour. I didn't do anything with it, but it was bright white and contained no bits of stone. After this cleaning phase, it was time to start the second round of seasoning: flavors. I took a few cloves of garlic, a little olive oil, mustard seeds, peppercorns, toasted cumin, and a few other whole ingredients and began grinding. I made the most aromatic (but non-photogenic) brown paste that I would have loved to rub on chicken and throw on the grill. I took the paste, diluted it in water, and found no stone fragments at the bottom. This weekend, I will finally break in the molcajete with salsa fresca.

Cleaning it is simple: no detergent, a little water and scrubby brush. To dry it out, leave it on the stovetop while you're cooking and the ambient heat will dry it out. I was worried about damaging it, but then thought, "This thing was born in a volcano. It will be perfectly fine on an old GE four-burner." The heat resilience also allows you to do cool things like turn it upside down over* a burner, get it nice and toasty, and then toss in your onions and tomatoes and other ingredients, which will cook a bit as you grind away.

As I study more and more traditional Mexican cooking of the many different regions, I expect Señor Puerco to be a valuable and important addition to my kitchen. If you're looking for one, avoid the cheap concrete ones or those that are purely for decoration. After a week of seasoning and testing, you'll know pretty quickly whether or not you have the real thing.

*Southerners have a tendency to double up on prepositions. I try to avoid this (although I just did it in the preceding sentence), but I have a certain glee whenever I string together three or more.