Day 429

I forgot to mention yesterday that in FCF, Nate Ferguson also covered a bit about nitrogen carbonation.

(And this is where I disagree with Nate. The matter hangs between us, festering and malignant. A line in the sand.  A matter over which there can be no compromise. In a nutshell, I say that nitrogen clearly cannot “carbonate” anything since it is… well… NITROGEN! Lacking carbon, it can only nitrogenate. But I digress…)

Nitrogen is kind of cool, since it hates to be dissolved in water, and only does so with great reluctance (and great pressure.) Once it is given a means of escape, it does so, promptly and with great urgency. This means it is great for pushing beer long distances between keg and tap in a bar. If you used only CO2, the extra pressure needed to move the beer would force some of the CO2 to dissolve in the beer, making for a very foamy glass of beer. Replacing the straight CO2 with a mixture of nitrogen and CO2 means the CO2 provides just enough pressure to keep dissolved CO2 in the beer, while the nitrogen willl push the beer without dissolving in the beer.

(Which is how canned Guinness gets its nice creamy head: Just before the can of Guinness is capped, the clever folks at the brewery add a “widget”–a small hollow plastic sphere with a pinhole opening–and a drop of liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen instantly turns to a large amount of nitrogen gas and pressurises the interior of the can, forcing beer and nitrogen through the pinhole into the widget. Some of the nitrogen also dissolves into the beer due to the high pressure. When the can is opened, all the nitrogen dissolved in the beer instantly comes out of solution, forming bubbles. At the same time, the beer and gas inside the widget escape through the pinhole, spraying very small bubbles into the beer. As you pour the Guinness into a glass, these bubbles rush to the surface, forming a mat of very fine foam. But I digress…)

On to what actually happened today.  In Business Ethics, we discussed the ethics of bio-prospecting: going into another country, discovering a native remedy for some ailment and taking it back to our fancy labs, where we can analyze it, synthesize it and patent a new medicine. Although sick people benefit, the country of origin of the new cure receives no benefit. Unethical or just smart?

In Sensory Evaluation, it was all about white wines today. While traditional “colour coding” pairs white wines with seafood and chicken, this does not take into account the various types of white wines, nor the method of food preparation that may make some pairings unsuitable.

We mainly looked at the big names in white wines these days: Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtztraminer. Each of them has special characteristics that makes them pair better with certain types of foods.

We found this out first-hand, as we sampled 7 different whites paired with 6 different foods. (This week, to avoid sensory overload, I only tried the various food combinations most likely to please, as recommended by instructor Jennifer Wilhelm.)

Remarkably, each wine did pair up well with a certain type of food that one would have thought a bit unlikely. In several cases, it was a matter of pairing local wine to local food. An Alsatian Mosel-Saar-Ruhr Riesling, with its high acidity, paired very well with typical Alsatian sausage and sauerkraut, as did the slightly oily Gewurtztraminer, another Alsatian wine. The Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux paired well with salty goat’s cheese, a traditional dish from the same region. Et cetera.

Now if I can only remember which goes with which for the final exam.

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