Why I'm tasting natural wine in Mexico

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We spend months planning every Gastronomad Experience.

Right now, we're here in Mexico City, where we'll spend most of the rest of the year working on our New Year's Eve Mexico City Experience (December 28 - January 2).

This is the phase of our research where we taste everything.

We're exploring Mexico's nascent natural wine movement, starting with Bichi Wines' No Sapiens red table wine.

Here’s what I’ve learned about this mysterious and intriguing wine.

Are your smartphone apps stealing your data?... Like right now?

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Unsavory actors gain access to phones through breaches, physical access to the device or, increasingly, by hiding code in mobile apps that “phones home” and sends target data back to the perpetrator. (This method is especially attractive for criminals because users are in control of app installations and physically carry phones right inside company firewalls.)

Here’s how to protect yourself against this aggressive new hack.

Google releases an easy way to shrink and convert images for the internet

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The internet is too slow. Google wants to make it faster. One way for them to do that is to encourage the use of innovative image file formats that shrink image file sizes while barely affecting picture quality.

That’s why the company’s Chrome Labs just released a free online tool called Squoosh, which lets you control all the parameters of photo compression and see a big, side-by-side comparison of the compressed image with the original.

In the example above, I compressed a nearly 8 megabyte file down to around 1.6k — a 98% reduction in size without compromising quality.

You can also convert the file format into any other format, including OptiPNG, MozJPG, WebP, Browser PNG, JPG, and WebP.

Squoosh works in all major browsers. It’s great for a Chromebook.

And I can testify that Squoosh is very easy to use. The only downside is that it cannot do bulk conversions. You’ve got to modify one image at a time.

Google encourages faster web pages by offering this free tool. They also do so by rewarding faster pages with higher search rankings. So make sure you’re compressing your pictures.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the CDC warns of a growing turkey salmonella outbreak

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just added 74 confirmed cases of salmonella in turkeys, bringing the total number of infections to 164.

The CDC has been investigating the outbreak for a year, during which time one has died, at least 150 people have gotten sick and 63 have been hospitalized.

The salmonella strain is “multidrug-resistant,” which suggests it has evolved to overcome veterinarian antibiotics.

The best defense is to fully cook turkeys, and to wash thoroughly after touching raw turkey.

What wines pair with Thanksgiving?

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Thanksgiving is a strange meal to pair wine with. I suspect most Thanksgiving hosts and eaters don’t really even try — they just choose a wine type they like and run with it, which is fine. 

But I tend to think that Thanksgiving flavors are so unusual and varied and special that it’s fun to look for equally special wines that go better with turkey, cranberry sauce and all the rest than your standard Pinot or Chardonnay. 

Essence just published an article on Thanksgiving wine pairing that featured my favorite California winery, Donkey and Goat. But the D&G wine they picked was Linda Vista, which is a wonderful Chardonnay. 

To me the ultimate D&G Thanksgiving wine is their Stone Crusher, an orange Roussanne — that’s what we’ve poured (among other wines) for the past couple of Thanksgivings.

This year, however, we brought back from Italy some choice bottles of another orange wine, which is VETO from Sara Meneguz. The wine is great chilled or not. I think we’ll not chill it for Thanksgiving. 

Kevin's chicken turned out to be a rooster -- yada, yada, yada -- we had a delicious chicken pot pie

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My son, Kevin, got some chicks to raise in his backyard for eggs.

But this one, it turns out, was a man, man. He would have kept it anyway. But the local city rules are that you can have hens but not roosters.

So he executed, disemboweled and de-feathered the bird. My daughter-in-law, Nadia, and Amira baked it in a delicious chicken pot pie.

It paired wonderfully with a nice bottle of VETO from Sara Meneguz, which we brought back from Italy.

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A waiter robot brought me a chocolate waiter robot

 I attended a reception tonight at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, which was part of the reThink Food conference. They had self-driving robot waiters from  Bear Robotics , which hold a tray and wander around serving desserts from a black tray on top of the robots.

I attended a reception tonight at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, which was part of the reThink Food conference. They had self-driving robot waiters from Bear Robotics, which hold a tray and wander around serving desserts from a black tray on top of the robots.

 The desserts were, in fact, chocolate waiter robots, with dark chocolate on the bottom and white chocolate on the top with a very dark chocolate “tray” on top.

The desserts were, in fact, chocolate waiter robots, with dark chocolate on the bottom and white chocolate on the top with a very dark chocolate “tray” on top.

 On top of the “tray” of each chocolate robot was a tiny chocolate cup of coffee and an egg.

On top of the “tray” of each chocolate robot was a tiny chocolate cup of coffee and an egg.

Brilliant idea: A picture frame that charges your phone

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Wireless chargers are great. But when your phone isn’t charging, you’ve got a fugly object sitting on your desk or bedside table.

Twelve South just came out with a better idea: Its $80 PowerPic product looks like, and in fact is, a picture frame. But when you set your phone into the frame, the built-in Qi wireless charger charges the phone.

Wait, so Russia is trying to influence the US election by posting in Russian?

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A huge weirdness exists in the latest story about Russian interference in US elections.

In a blog post dated November 5, Facebook said it “identified around 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that may be engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Ho, hum — Russia’s at it again, right? But wait.

Facebook said “almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English.”

The idea that posts in French and Russian were designed to influence the outcome of the US election does not pass the test of reasonableness.

The number of Americans who 1) speak either French or Russian; 2) who might be influenced by a Facebook post; and 3) who might see these obscure Facebook posts essentially rounds to zero.

Disinformation campaigns by the Internet Research Agency seek virility — there’s no way a post in French or Russian is going to go viral in America.

“Once we know more — including whether these accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency or other foreign entities — we will update this post.”

I hope in updates they address this weirdness.

Samsung unveils folding phone logo

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Samsung has been rumored to be working on Galaxy F phone, which uses folding-screen technology. Now the rumor has been largely confirmed in a teaser version of their logo posted on the Samsung Mobile page on Facdebook.

The “F” stands for “Fucking Expensive,” presumably. The phone is rumored to retail for $2k. 

Unfortunately, the technology for folding screen isn’t ready for prime time, and I predict in this piece that the phone, which is code-named “Success,” will fail, and that the whole project will “fold.” (Sorry.)

Introducing Chatterbox, the smart speaker kids build and program

My son, Kevin, is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who specializes in innovative technology education for kids. He’s been in stealth mode on his latest brainchild for a year and a half.

It’s called Chatterbox.

It’s a brilliant idea: It’s a smart speaker for kids that they build and program themselves. The concept is the only educational product I’m aware of that not only teaches vital STEM and programming concepts and skills, but also demystifies A.I.

After they build and program it, kids get to use their Chatterbox every day for all the things people use smart speakers for — weather, jokes, timers, alarms or whatever kids want. And they can continue to add features and functions and capabilities, which include home automation stuff.

It’s a computer without a screen, which is healthier for children.

Today, I did TWiT with my friend, Leo Laporte. Leo asked Kevin on the air what he’s been up to, and Kevin told him about Chatterbox. Leo’s fans have been asking me for more information, including for the Chatterbox web page, so that’s why I’m posting this.

If you’re interested in this project, I recommend that you get on Kevin’s mailing list. He’ll keep you posted on future Chatterbox developments.