Kitchen Culture

A question I’m constantly being asked is whether or not I’m used to the food in China yet. And the answer is complicated. If someone just plopped some food down in front of me, I would eat it and I would be very pleased. However, finding food is a lot more complex. I need to learn to cook Chinese food. I need to buy a pan, for starters. I need to find where they hide the eggs and the multivitamins. I need to move to an apartment with a real kitchen.

But even in restaurants I’m often confused because Chinese is hard to sound out, you know? And there’s no pictures. And I know the character for ‘meat’ but I can’t tell pork from chicken and when it comes to vegetables I might as well close my eyes and point. I’d have better luck. So am I used to the food? Yes and no. It tastes great when I can find it.

However. Something I am not used to, and do not intend to become used to in the near future– the whole bones in everything concept. Wigs me out. You know how in the US if you order a fish dish, you get this real nice and friendly looking fillet of meat? And it’s deboned, and it’s de-scaled, and it definitely doesn’t still have it’s intestines? I miss that.

You know when you get chicken and it’s cut up in little bite sized pieces and you can just like, pop em in your mouth without fear? I miss that!

In China, if you order a fish, you get the whole freaking fish. Eyeballs and fins included. And it will stare at you as you ponder whether you can adequately navigate its anatomy in such a way that you are absolutely sure you won’t accidentally eat its bowel system. Blech. It still has brains. My coworkers LOVE fish brains and eyes (fish eyes are good for people eyes, apparently. I’ll just take their word for it). As someone who only very recently began to enjoy seafood in general, having a staring contest with my dinner and wondering in the back of my mind if it might still be breathing is a little much for me. I mean, have you seen prawn eyes? They’re massive!

And bite sized chicken chunks still have all their bones in them, so if you’re not careful you could choke. It’s perfectly acceptable here to spit things out. Bones, watermelon seeds, something you just don’t really like- spit it out! It’s not rude, it’s expected. As is slurping food- that just means you really like it! I’m used to the table manners here, but I haven’t been able to partake in them. Mom, you succeeded- I can’t slurp my food even when people want me to.

As a result, a lot of my coworkers make comments on my eating habits. “You’re such a lady! So civilized! You eat your noodles so quietly!” They tried to teach me how to slurp and I tried to learn but I just couldn’t seem to do it. So for now, I’m Jessica, the preternaturally quiet eater of noodles.

However, the noticeable difference in table manners has sparked some discussion. Cathy noticed my hesitation about the fish we were served the other day, since most of the meals we get I have no problem tucking into. She asked if we didn’t eat that kind of fish in America, and explained that I had to be careful about the tiny bones or I could choke on one and have to go to the hospital because they are so sharp.

I was explaining how, while we do eat fish in the US, the bones and the scales and the fins are already removed, when I had a maybe kind of interesting realization. Maybe.

I think the way that we prepare our food is very representative of larger cultural themes. In China, the cook will make the food and you are responsible for eating around the bones, it’s your job to shell it/skin it/ remove the head, and it’s your job to make sure you only eat the parts you should be eating.

In the US, it’s the cook’s job to debone/skin/shell/gut etc. They take out the eyeballs, the stomachs, they remove the scales and the creepy crawly legs and you get a meal that for the most part you can bite into without care.

And maybe I’m seeing a connection where there isn’t one, but I do think that reflects on larger cultural differences between the US and China.

In China, you are expected to look out for yourself. You take care of yourself. If you choke on a bone, that’s your fault. Beyond that, I find that I’m often expected to know things that no one has ever told me in the first place. I need to ask a million and one questions to make sure I’m getting all the information I need, and if I don’t have said information, it’s not someone else’s fault for not telling me, it’s mine for not asking. There is a larger sense of being on your own here. No one is going to hold your hand- not your cook, not your boss, not anyone. You need to eat around the bones on your own.

In the US, there’s a much larger tendency to try and pass culpability to someone else. Nothing is ever really our fault. If we miss something, it’s because we weren’t told, we weren’t warned! We’re not expected to be quite as self-sufficient as people are in China. It’s the chef’s job to make the food safe, not ours.

I think both ways have their pros and cons. It’s nice to know that in the US if something bad happens to you or you are treated unfairly, you can do something about it. The people responsible will get in trouble, everything will fine. In China, if you get conned then you should have been more careful.

And while it is true, sometimes it seems that I’m expected to be self-sufficient almost to the point of developing psychic powers, it’s also nice to know that I have gotten this far on my own. I am a real human person who gets things done and makes decisions and signs contracts and eats around the bones. That’s cool.

Kitchen Culture

2011 Napa Cab: Buyer’s Guide

2011 Napa Valley Cabernet: The Buyer’s Guide

The 2011 Napa Valley Cab is one of our most approachable reds. With a strong and complex Bordeaux profile and at only $50 a bottle, this cab is a smart choice for restaurants and resorts looking for a middle-ground by the glass option.

The 2011 Napa Cab has a one of a kind flavor profile. We call it the racehorse cab- straight out of the bottle it is zippy, sharp, and bold. Upon an hour of decanting, however, this wine softens and unfurls into a softer, richer tasting experience. The double-natured characteristic of this cab allows your resident Sommelier to recommend it to multiple audiences, making it a very good investment with high turnover potential.

As of this writing, the 2011 Napa Cab is still in its youth. It opens with a bright, tart red cherry racing across the top of the palate. This is followed closely by velveteen dark chocolate laced with orange zest crackling on the back of the tongue. The finish is spicy and unexpected: chili pepper, bell pepper, and clove.

It is our opinion that the bell pepper characteristic of this cab will make it highly desirable in the years to come. Bell pepper in a cabernet is nontraditional and only attainable in cold weather years. As it ages it fades into supple vellum and dusty earth with a warm fireside heat on the finish. Once this change has occurred, of course, it will be too late to purchase this wine from the source. We recommend investing in the year 2011 now and putting aside a few cases for the decade to come.

We are more than happy to provide the guidance of our tasting room associates and in-house sommeliers in generating the perfect tasting notes for your resort or restaurant’s clientele.

2011 Napa Cab: Buyer’s Guide

Jessica’s Guide to Cooking in China

the river monster

So recently, like, really recently, I started cooking. It started when I was staying over at my friend’s house in another town. I offered to help with breakfast, and ended up making some weird improv breakfast burritos. And then I was like, wow, cooking is easy. You can literally just throw things in a pan and hope for the best. And then I found out that you can make pancakes without pancake mix- yes- pancake mix is a lie. And anyways I’m sitting here eating some delicious home-made stir fry and I thought I’d share my secrets.

look at these beautiful shrooms!

  1. Do you have a pan? Good! If not, go get one. There are no ovens in China. PANS.
  2. Take your pan and tell it you appreciate it. If your pan feels loved, your food will be more delicious.
  3. Now put some oil in it because in China you…

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Jessica’s Guide to Cooking in China

As seen on Miner Family Winery’s blog

Corks on Corks on Corks

Have you looked outside recently? Things are changing. The sun is setting at 5, precipitation is occurring all over the nation, and people are rocking the 8-layer wardrobe all day long. Winter is here, friends, and with it comes the holiday season. You need to come up with gifts, stat. You have friends to think of, family members to assure your love for, and that one guy who no one invites but still manages to show up anyway. You know the one.

Gifting is hard. How many years in a row can you get away with gift cards? You could re-gift but then you run the risk of re-gifting the original gifter, and that’s awkward. You’d give wine to everyone but you keep drinking everything you buy because it’s just so delicious and you deserved it, really, and they probably don’t even appreciate good wine like you do, right?

Don’t panic. Miner Family Winery is here with an idea to save the day…..and all you need is your collection of corks. Did you know that corks can be crafted into all sorts of original and beautiful handmade designs? Check out some of these DIYs below, and then start saving your corks.

Check out this fun project:


What an excellent winter holiday wreath! How universally acceptable!

 Express your love:


Keep ‘em guessing if you love them or if you just really love wine.

For a special lady in your life:


Bonus tip: A diamond necklace would fit on that display nicely, don’t you think?

And Finally:

Fast and classy, not too sassy. Perfect for an authoritative figure in your life! Make sure the corks are from really expensive bottles, we’re looking to impress here.


You’ll need:

1 basic candle of your choice with a glass candle-holder.

Enough corks to circle said candle

A hot glue gun

An exacto knife

A gorgeous ribbon

A thin cork sheet from a craft store

To Assemble:

  1. Place the candleholder on the cork sheet.
  2. Arrange the corks in a full circle around the candle, wine-stained side up.
  3. Arm yourself with the hot-glue gun. Attack! Glue those corks down, keeping the logo facing out (the fancier the cork, the sassier the candle).
  4. Trace a circle around the corks and cut out using an exacto knife. You can go with a scalloped edge following the corks if you want to be really fancy.
  5. Wrap the ribbon around the corks, gluing it in place. Leave enough excess ribbon to tie into a bow.
  6. Now tie it into a bow.
  7. You win the holiday season. Everyone else can go home.

-Jessica Gerson, Tasting Room Associate

As seen on Miner Family Winery’s blog