The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Hottest Chili in the World

A  custom warning sign for friends and neighbors!

A custom warning sign for friends and neighbors!

The Trinidad Scorpion is currently the hottest known Chili pepper on the planet. It is native to the Moruga district on the tiny island nation of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. I acquired a few seeds earlier this year. I saw references online from those cutting up a number of these particular peppers indicating they wore latex gloves. The potency of these peppers was such that they wore through these gloves!

I finally picked my first Trinidad chili pepper today – I poked it with a pin and put the tip of the pin on my tongue. That small little pin head numbed that part of my tongue for some time afterwards.

We cut this very small pepper in half and put in our ceviche tonight that a friend recently caught in San Diego – a few pieces went an extremely long way – we didn’t dare eat a piece of the pepper and removed the very small slices before even eating the fish. This large dish which normally requires a number of generic hot Thai Chili peppers was incredibly hot just from the several very small slices. And not to mention the pungency of this pepper when you cut it open – it just smells dangerous.

Initially the heat isn’t so bad but it builds quickly and with just a kiss of this pepper your mouth is on fire. I can’t even imagine trying more than a pin head’s straight shot of this sucker!

Yes, there is even a website where you can purchase various Chili seeds including this “scorpion” – check out: www.superhotchiles.com

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What a night, “Appellation Tasting” – Flavor Napa Valley

The Napa Valley is the only region in the world where I can go to an event and feel right at home because I know so many people and instantly recognize so many faces – and that feels good. Flavor Napa valley is the latest in a number of world-class food and wine events to come to Napa. This is only its 2nd year; the event features five days of incredible food, wine, and education. Tonight was the “Appellation” tasting at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) highlighting 113 Napa Wineries – organized by appellation and sub appellation. November is becoming a fun month in the valley – last week we had the 2nd annual Napa Film Festival which drew amazing talent from all over the country and beyond.

The culinary institute is one of Napa’s most impressive buildings. It is built of stone quarried from the other side of the valley, used to be a working winery and now houses America’s top culinary school. There are not many events under one roof that combine the diversity and numbers of local wineries along with many of the the tops chefs in the valley. Names like Morimoto, Hurley, Reddington and many more were personally on site serving some of their finest small plates.

I’ve never owned a Television in my life but certainly know the name Morimoto – having eating at his restaurant in downtown Napa and hearing all the hype for a number of years (I don’t know anything about his personality, having never seen his show, but from a culinary perspective, well deserved). His table was by far the busiest – the line stretched all the way around the kitchen!

Of all the wineries represented, there were only five I had not yet met with and written reviews: Crosby Roamann, Fortunati, Jack Brooks, Melka and Patel. I focused my efforts on tasting their wines and introducing myself to the owner or winemaker and will connect with them later.

A couple of the wine highlights was trying the first ever commercially released red wine at Stony Hill, a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Since the 1950′s Stony Hill has focused their production entirely on white wines. This is a classic example of a Napa pre “ripeness explosion” style of wine. In order words, it has some character, is lower in alcohol then typically found in Napa these days and certainly has some age-ability. A beautiful wine.

Also nice to revisit some wines from long time vintners I had not tasted in some time – Shafer and Staglin – and some I have, Jericho Canyon and Lamborn Family.

There are just a select handful of Napa wineries I would work at, if I worked at a local winery – Kongsgaard, Montagna and certainly a few others – and probably the only larger winery in Napa I would consider would be Charles Krug. It was great to finally meet Alycia Mondavi (granddaughter of Peter Mondavi Sr). Charles Krug has a number of labels – one of their newest, Aloft is a very limited production wine and was released for the first time this summer.

One of the nicest winemakers you will ever meet is Sandi Belcher of Arns Winery – she and her daughter Kathy were here pouring their current releases. In fact, I’ll be bumping into her again next week in Beijing on a hosted trip focusing on wines from the Napa Valley.

A few photos:

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Enjoying downtown Napa

Spent the evening enjoying two fine Napa restaurants. Usually I’m perfectly satisfied with one meal but on this one evening we opted for two full course dinners at two different restaurants! First we started out at Eiko’s on 1st Street, downtown Napa. This is a restaurant that specializes in authentic Japanese cuisine including seasonal dishes and fresh fish. There’s a nice vibe here that feels more like a big city – somewhere in Los Angeles or San Francisco rather than Napa. That’s not a bad thing.

A specialty are their liquid nitrogen hand crafted cocktails. We enjoyed one of the best Capiranhas outside of Brazil – it was blended rather than on the rocks. Piles of sashimi made their way to our table.

After filling up on sushi and sashimi we walked across the street to Oenotri. Again a good vibe. The large open kitchen takes up the entire back of the restaurant. Oenotri specializes in inspired Italian and fusion cuisine that changes daily (up to 40% of the menu changes every day or two). It is Napa after all and wine is never far from a meal. In this case we were joined by Samantha Sheehan who started Poe Wines in 2009. Her food friendly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir went well with the meal. While the main meal was outstanding the deserts took it to the next level. The highlight of this culinary experience was the Ricotta Panna Cotta with Mandarins and Napa Honeycomb. Check out a few mouth watering pictures below!

www.eikosnapa.com
www.oenotri.com
www.poewines.com

Fellippe-GM-Eikos

Samantha-Poe-Wines

Capiranha

Ricotta

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Napa Valley Mexican-American Vintners Association Tasting

The first ever tasting of the Napa Valley Mexican-American Vintners Association was held Saturday July 30, 2011 at Maldonado Vineyards in the far northern reaches of the Napa Valley. This was the best tasting we’ve attended so far this year in Napa. Very personalized, great wine – dignitaries came up from Los Angeles, a historic tasting.

The association is fairly new (2010). It was formed after a number of vintners poured their wines in Mexico at the Michoacan State Fair and collaboratively recognized the need to have an organization that would promote their own wines, support Mexican Americans in the wine industry and be educational. Visit:
www.nvmava.org

NVMAVA was spearheaded by Rolando Herrera of Mi Sueno Winery and he is the current President.

This was a rare opportunity to taste wine from the following mostly Napa producers at one venue – Alex Sotelo Cellars, Ceja Vineyards, Delgadillo Cellars, Encanto Vineyards, Maldonado Family Vineyards, Maritas Vineyards, Mi SueƱo Winery, Renteria Wines, Robledo Family Vineyards, Rios Wine Company and Voces Wines.

A highlight of the afternoon was the unveiling of their new logo – afterwards all the vintner members personally signed it.

Cristina Londono from Telemundo International gave a passionate speech – listen to part of the speech below:

(Cristina Londono)

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Sense Yountville, 2011

Another successful Sense Yountville was held on a beautifully sunny warm Saturday May 7th under the “big white tent” at V Marketplace 1870 in downtown Yountville. This, only the third annual “Sense Yountville” has already become the appellation’s premiere wine & food event.

Thirty wineries were represented offering their pre-release wines and large format bottles, and culinary pairings were provided by local restaurants. Highlights included (Blankiet Estate making their first appearance at this tasting), Dominus, Gemstone, Tom Scott, Tor Kenward, among others. This is a rare opportunity to meet either the winemaker or principals of the wineries. Many of the wineries pouring do not have tasting rooms and or are open to the public. Arguably Yountville is the culinary hub of Napa Valley and principals, winemakers and chefs are on hand. Some of the top restaurants represented included Bouchon, Redd, Mustard’s, Michael Chiarello’s Bottega and more. While its a rare treat to enjoy wine from Yountville’s finest wineries – the culinary delights are equally to be treasured.

The event was limited to only 350 guests. The date always coincides with the Kentucky Derby so after the Tastings and Future Sales from 11-3pm there was of course a “Derby Party” – with a surprise upset this year. We look forward to 2012! www.senseyountville.com

Photos from 2011 Sense Yountville Tastings

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California Cabernet Society Tasting

The California Cabernet Society’s annual Spring “Passport to Cabernet” tasting will be held Monday May 2 at the Bently Reserve from 3:30pm to 5:30pm. Tickets are $45. This is a rare opportunity to barrel taste the latest 2010 harvest from over 75 producers, as well as taste their newest releases while speaking with the actual wine makers and winery principals. The member wineries are heavily based in Napa. Several of the producers present aren’t open to the public and rarely are at public tastings.

The Bently Reserve is the perfect venue for this event – historical and classy it is located downtown near the Financial District. For more information and to sign up to attend this tasting, please visit: www.californiacabernetsociety.com

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