Tom Sietsema is on the move again. This week, his continuing series on America’s Best Food Cities takes him (and us) to Chicago, where he learns that you’re much more likely to find a great taco than a good deep-dish pizza. Check out the story, the videos, the map, the photo gallery and the recipes.
Also in Food this week, Kristen Hartke talks to Equinox chef-owner Todd Gray about why the confirmed carnivore is putting a new focus on vegan food. In her second Feeding My Mother column, Elissa Altman discusses her struggles to get her mom to eat the healthful vegetables she needs in her eighth decade. And DIY columnist Cathy Barrow gets us primed for stone-fruit season, which is predicted to be bountiful this year.
Cathy, by the way, will be joining us for today’s Free Range chat — and you should plan on being there, too. As always, it starts at noon sharp and runs for just one hour, so submit questions early. While you wait, I’ll entertain you with a leftover question we couldn’t get to in last week’s chat:
Are glass corks here to stay? I’ve read about them and I’ve googled, but it was a couple of years ago, so I forgot all about them. Last week I bought a bottle of French rosé that had a glass cork. I liked the wine but wasn’t sure about the cork. The fit is pretty tight, and it requires more effort to open than a screw top; my concern is, is there a possibility that glass will crumble into my wine?
Are they here to stay? Maybe in Europe, where many wineries use them. But here in the States, it seems less likely.
Even though, I gotta say, they are so much cooler looking than regular corks.
Glass corks were developed in Germany and designed to look like decanter stoppers. They achieve a tight seal by way of a plastic O-ring that allows for a snug fit between stopper and bottle.
I asked wine columnist Dave McIntyre to weigh in. Here’s what he had to say:
“Those glass stoppers are mildly popular with German and Austrian wineries. They have a few distinct advantages over other closures: They cannot have cork taint (as natural or composite corks might); they seal tightly, so they won’t oxidize the wine prematurely (as plastic or rubber “corks” tend to do); and, to my knowledge, they aren’t susceptible to funky “reductive” odors, as screw caps are (though that issue is apparently easily managed by careful sulfur use at bottling).
“My problem with the glass stoppers: They don’t easily create a strong seal when re-closing the bottle, to preserve any leftovers. Screw caps are so easy in that regard, and even stuffing a natural cork back into the bottle provides a good re-closure.”
On this side of the pond, Whitehall Lane Winery in St. Helena, Calif., pioneered glass corks and used them for its pricier single-vineyard and reserve wines from 2003 to 2009. Dustin Harland, the winery’s director of retail sales and hospitality, seemed a little rueful that Americans haven’t embraced them.
“It didn’t really catch on over here as everybody had hoped,” he told me. “It’s kind of like screw caps over here. Americans think of screw-cap wine as cheap wine, whereas in Australia and New Zealand, they use screw caps for everything.”
At Whitehall Lane, he said, they’re still selling previous years’ wines with glass corks, but they aren’t using the corks on any new bottlings.
“I think they’re great,” Harland said. “I think it helps keep the wine a lot longer, because it’s not letting oxygen in. You can completely tilt those bottles upside down . . . and no wine spills out. That’s how tight that seal is.”
As to the idea of glass pieces getting into wine, McIntyre said he’s never heard of it happening.
Harland agreed: “They’re pretty sturdy. It’s not like a wineglass, which can break pretty easily. These things are hard to break.”
If you have a hankering for your own glass-cork experience, check out the Web site for Vinolok (the cork’s brand name overseas is Vino-Lok; here it’s Vino-Seal). There you’ll find lists of producers that are using the corks: makers of white, rosé and red wines; spirits and liqueurs; and bottled waters. U.S. names on the list include Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Folin Cellars and Sineann; there are many more in Europe. Or you could get in touch with Whitehall Lane, which would probably make Dustin Harland a happy man.