Cold Champagne–From The Baltic Sea

A press release bouncing around the Internet announces that divers have located 20 bottles of 1780’s champagne that were destined for Russian nobility. The brought up a bottle and drank from it; no word was mentioned how it tasted. Considering that it was 200 feet down in the cold Baltic, there is a good chance the champagne might still be okay to drink (albeit a very expensive one to be sure).

Each bottle, speculates the press release, could fetch $68,000 each. Finding such relics has occurred before with mixed results. There is a Titanic angle though.

Wineflyers International, an Australian company, let it be known they had sourced and sold six bottles of wine from the Titanic to “a high profile customer in Asia”, in 2002.

It seems unlikely it came from the wreck unless it was brought up and sold before RMS Titanic filed its salvage claim. More likely it came from a stock of wine destined for Titanic but not aboard when it sank.

Either way 230 old champagne kept chilled in the Baltic Sea would make for one heck of a party for someone with money to spend. Just do not spoil it with bad caviar and lackluster toast. Get Eric Ripert to cook a good accompaniment and keep Paula Deen far away. 🙂

Source: PRLog.Org, Most Expensive Champagne From The Ocean Floor, 24 Jul 2010

Titanic Exhibition Set For Indiana State Museum

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is coming to Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis this fall. The exhibition will run from 25 Sept-Jan 2011. In addition to the usual artifact display, it will have a local flavor as well.

One of the many galleries will be dedicated to local connections, where visitors can learn about how the sinking of the great Ship strongly resonated in Indianapolis. In the “Memorial Gallery,” guests will take their boarding pass to the memorial wall and discover whether their passenger and traveling companions survived or perished. (Source: Indiana State Museum press release)

More information can be obtained at www.indianamuseum.org.

News source: Chicago Tribune, Titanic Exhibition Set For Indiana State Museum, 6 Jul 2010

Independence Day; The Words That Launched A Revolution

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Tacky Titanic: Titanic Inflatable Slide Appears in Switzerland

]Many readers know about the Titanic slide (see my post Titanic Adventure Slide). Designed to look like Titanic sinking with its fantail in the air, kids slide down not knowing the tragedy the slide is based on. Kids find the slide fun while many adults, who know the Titanic story, are sometimes appalled. Such is the case right now in Ibach, Switzerland.

According to the Independent, the bouncy castle fair organizers are defending the use of the Titanic slide. The newspaper reports that critics call it insensitive and a “bouncy graveyard.” Switzerland’s Titanic Club has also weighed in on the matter:

But Gunter Babler, spokesman for Switzerland’s Titanic Club, asked: “Is it ethical to let kids slide down the decks of a blow up Titanic? Hundreds of people died sliding down those decks.”

Responding to the criticism, one of the organizers said Titanic sank long ago and those emotions have long been dealt with. Both sides have a point here about remembering Titanic. Creating a slide for children to slide down upon makes light of the tragedy that night. Unethical? Not really. Tacky and thoughtless most certainly. Parents are the ones who ought to exercise judgment here if they do not want their kids on the slide.

Source: Telegraph.co.uk, Titanic Bouncy Castle With Inflatable Icebergs Is A ‘Bouncy Graveyard,’30 June 2010

Titanic Exhibition Coming To Ontario Museum

The Waterloo Record reports that Titanic:The Artifact Exhibition will be coming to Kitchener in September at The Museum (formerly the Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum). It runs from 23 Sep 2010-23 Jan 2011. Further information can be found at www.thechildrensmuseum.ca.

Source: The Waterloo Record, The Museum Lands Major Titanic Exhibit, 24 June 2010

Top Chef Returns; My Top Chef Rules

Top Chef has returned to Bravo. Hopefully it will push aside those crazy gals from New Jersey (we get it Danielle, you hate the Manzo family). Meanwhile Top Chef puts its cheftestants through the paces to find out who are just okay, good, and very good. I have decided to repost my rules for Top Chef. It is basically a set of rules the cheftestants ought to consider before serving any dish and derived from watching the show over the past few years. So here it is. The rules are in no particular order and new additions are noted.

1. Going to culinary school goes far on Top Chef
It is a fact that on Top Chef that those who go to culinary school usually do much better than those who do not. The reason is that most cooking schools, especially the well known ones, teach a lot of important techniques that being self-taught you might miss out on. A self taught chef can produce good food but is at a serious disadvantage to someone who has mastered the art and cooks like it is served in a fine upscale restaurant.

2. Never Over Salt! Ever!
Perhaps one of the biggest hits on a dish is to make it too salty. In most cases, it is a death sentence for the chef who prepared it. Usually they ask if you knew it was too salty. If you answer no, they question your palate. If you answer yes, they question why you sent out the dish in the first place. Either way it is bad and puts you on the top of the list to be eliminated.

3. Light touch on seasoning fine; Under seasoning bad.
If too much salt is bad, under seasoning a dish is just as bad. The result is bland tasting food that just needs that extra dash of something to zing it up. It is not as bad as oversalting a dish but if it is combined with lackluster presentation and food that ought to have been better, your now on the list to be eliminated.

4. Do not make something you have never done before.
One thing that sinks aspiring cheftestants is deciding to cook something they have never done before. Unless you are familiar with the ingredients, it is best you stick with what you know. Otherwise expect the judges to be very tough in making you defend the dish if it turns out wrong.

5. Taste Your Food!
This would seem obvious but many cheftestants forget this basic rule and end up on the bottom. It is your last chance to correct something amiss before it ends up before a judge.

6. Check your food for doneness.
Serving raw seafood (unless sushi or a cerviche), raw poultry, or too rare a meat will get you a fast ticket to the bottom. Likewise overcooking will end you at the bottom as well. Never assume it is cooked right by merely looking at it.

7. Avoid complicated dishes unless you tie it all together.
All the components of a dish must go together. Do not, repeat do not, just throw things together and hope for the best. Judges will zing you hard for this and worse if it tastes bad.

8. Never put something on the plate unless it relates to the other components.
One thing that trips up a cheftestant is putting something on the plate that simply does not belong there. Slices of cheese or fruit ought to complement not stick out like a sore thumb.

9. Avoid funky or strange combinations UNLESS you know how to make it work right.
Butterscotch, peanut butter, strong cheeses have been the death knell for a dish and the chef who prepared it. Even if you know how to do it perhaps it would be best to let it pass on this show. Judges are finicky and picky about what they like and dislike. Certain sweet and peanut dishes are good dishes in their homeland but not necessarily in the Top Chef dining room.

10. The Classics Trap: Your dish must recall the original.
Top Chef often asks its cheftestants to take a classic dish and make it something new. What this requires is ingenuity and skill to remake or update it. Remember though it has to hearken back to the classic dish. This is especially true if you have to deconstruct it. All the components of your dish must line up with the original in some way.

11. Crispy good, soggy bad.
This has been the doom of many a meal on Top Chef. When the dish, like a corn dog, has to sealed up and taken elsewhere to be served the risks of it going soggy are high. Steaming occurs while it is enclosed making your once crispy food soggy. Failing to understand this bit of food science will put you high on the list to be sent home.

12. Make sure the dish you serve is as advertised.
A few seasons back one of the cheftestants cooked Coq au Vin. The judges all loved it but there was a problem: it was not Coq au Vin. The dish requires a rooster not just a regular chicken to be served. And since many of the judges were classically trained French chefs and knew what the dish was, they had to give the win to another cheftestant. Likewise one cheftestant called his salad “Waldorf” but the judges pointed out it was not even close to the classic (and not very good either).

13. Overconfidence and arrogance is a dangerous combination.
It seems almost a Top Chef axiom: those that are overconfident and arrogant end up tripping up along the way.

14. Be sanitary.
Thankfully (as far as we know) this has not been a large issue. However it goes without saying that if the judges see you being unsanitary in food preparation or serving they will zing you for it.

15. When cooking food that is a local specialty, make it fresh.
Chicago is known for its sausage. So if you are going to wow the judges and others, you have better make some delicious sausage of your own. Relying on store bought varieties, while safe, will not impress the judges who expected something more.

16. Never serve under rested meat.
The proper resting of meat and poultry is important to insure that flavor does not run out when you cut into it. There is perhaps nothing more sad than to see a perfectly good piece of meat ruined by not properly resting it. There is also a corollary to this: always slice your meats with the proper knife and make sure you do it evenly.

17. Never butcher an already tender cut of meat.
Taking a tender lamb, for instance, and then butchering and cooking it wrong will infuriate the judges and send you home for wasting a perfectly good piece of meat.

18. If not sure, omit the drink
If not required to have either wine or alcohol as part of your dish, skip it. Sometimes it can work in your favor or add little to the dish. Worse is when the drink is so bad that even if the dish was good it sends you to Judge’s Table where they examine you for sanity.

19. Do not try to fool the judges by mixing cooked with undercooked!
Simply put, you are an idiot for trying this. If you think that mixing undercooked potatoes with fully cooked mashed potatoes will not be noticed, you deserve to go home for such a bonehead move.

20. “The oven was not working right” and other excuses.
Most professional chefs have had kitchen equipment go down on them. When it happens, they improvise around it. If your food was over or undercooked due to bad ovens, burners or anything but a genuine power outage it will not cut you much slack with the judges. They can all recite experiences of their own and how they got around it in a pinch (and served the meal to the delight of everyone).

21. Never say that you do not understand what you did wrong at Judges Table.
It will simply convince them you do not belong on Top Chef and send you home.

22. In Restaurant Wars the winners usually produce high quality food because they organize themselves and make sure food is done right. The losers usually are poorly organized and there is no quality check.

23. Be sure whoever is front of the house in Restaurant Wars is comfortable in the roll of seating people, answering their questions, and handling problems. Or you will regret it later at Judges Table.

24. Fresh fish good, frozen bad.
When cooking for an upscale crowd, avoid using frozen seafood in entrees.

Added 2010:

25. The Dessert Trap.
Never cook a dessert you are not familiar with. And never make it so sweet that the essential component is lost. Do not rely on store bought components (like pastries, ice cream, or other prepared items) as a part of your dish.

Titanic Exhibitor Faces Crisis;Major Shareholder Selling Stake

Reuters is reporting that Sellers Capital, which has a 46% stake in Premier Exhibitions, has stated it will be selling its position. The reason is that Sellers is facing increased redemption demands and needs to return the capital to its investors. Premier states it is “assessing strategic alternatives” which means it is trying to figure out to handle the sale. Sellers wants to sell its share to a buyer committed to preserving the Titanic artifacts as represented to a Federal court judge in a hearing last year.

The problem, I suspect, is finding an investor (or a group of them) who wants to sink money into this company. Premier handles many exhibitions and Titanic is one of them. An additional problem yet unanswered is the final disposition on the aritifacts. Premier Exhibitions does not own them but is the legal sucessor to the company that did the salvage, RMS Titanic Inc. That company was awarded salvor-in-possession status, not outright ownership of the artifacts. And a federal judge put restrictions on how those artifacts can be used. Premier has filed a motion with the federal court to grant them a salvage award allowing them to sell the artifacts. A ruling has not been made.

Of course there is the possibility of government action. The U.S. government might declare an interest in the matter saying it is of great historical value and use its powers to take them out of Premier’s hands. All of this uncertainty is not something that will attract investors unless they have lots of money to burn. It is quite possible investors from the Middle East or Asia might well end up buying the share.

Source: Reuters, Premier Exhibitions’ Largest Shareholder To Sell Stake, 21 June 2010

Titanic Cliche of the Day-Ukiah Daily Journal

John Hendricks writing in the Ukiah Daily Journal about corruption wrote the following:

The helmsman of the Titanic was advised of a small ice flow off the bow. Not to worry. This ship is unsinkable. So we think of the governments of the United States. We best think again. Our politicians make P.T. Barnum and Bernie Madoff appear as two-bit rank amatuers.

Unless, of course, you believe that White Star Line switched Titanic for Olympic to collect insurance money (and it went horribly wrong).

Source: Ukiah Daily Journal, Sunday View: Corruption For All, 20 June 2010

Titanic Cliches of the Day Roundup

There have several Titanic cliches in the past few days. Time to give them their due!

First up is Hal Steger, vice president of marketing at Funambol who said:

“Symbian is a great platform, but it’s also huge. It’s the Titanic of mobile operating systems… lets hope it doesn’t suffer the same fate,” said Hal Steger, vice president of marketing at Funambol, which provides an open-source server-side platform used to synchronise data on mobile devices and PCs with Web-based services.

Titanic is to Symbian as water is to ice?

Total Telecom (Blog), Symbian Faces ‘Titanic’ Task To Go Open Source – Funambol, 16 June 2010

Second up is former US Interior Department Secretary Bruce Babbit on current secretary (and Obama appointee) Ken Salazar:

“I think Salazar is basically rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic,” Babbitt, who served as secretary for eight years under Bill Clinton, told Platts Energy Week.

Not very original. I wish I had a dime for every time the “rearranging deck chairs” cliche is used.

Mother Jones (Blog), Salazar “Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic” Says Babbit, 15 June 2010

Up next is a religious application. Southern Baptists are deciding on where to focus their evangelism. It sparked some internal debate as what was the best course of action. This prompted the following:

A former Southern Baptist president, Rev. James Merritt, compared the denomination’s present course to the Titanic sailing into an iceberg. “We’ve been sitting on our deckside lounges, watching this ship sail into the iceberg of declining baptisms, diminishing missions, and what is becoming a dead orthodoxy,” he stated.

AP via OneNewsNow.com, Southern Baptists Approve New Evangelistic Effort, 16 June 2010

Finally not all uses of Titanic are cliche. Consider the following from Reason Online:

Ending offshore drilling because of this oil spill would be like ending shipping because the Titanic hit an iceberg.

At least that uses Titanic in a meaningful way rather than as a cliche. Bravo to Jesse Kline for proving you can use Titanic without a cliche.

Reason Online (Blog), Calls Increasing to Punish BP, Halt Drilling, 16 June 2010


Descendent of Titanic Survivor To Marry On Titanic Replica

A few weeks ago I wrote about Ben Goldsmith and his fiancée Amanda Warrix entering a contest to have their marriage at COSI’s Titanic replica. The Mansfield News Journal reports they won the online competition. Readers will also recall that Ben Goldsmith is the great-great-grandson of Titanic survivor Frank Goldsmith, Jr. In addition to winning the contest, COSI is also paying for a honeymoon at the Sandals resort in The Bahamas. We wish the couple all the best.

Source: Mansfield News Journal , Madison Grad Wins A Titanic Wedding ,14 June 2010

Commentary on Titanic news and other related items.

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