The Ultimate Guide to Passing the Introductory Sommelier Exam and Certified Sommelier Exam

The Ultimate Guide to Passing the Introductory Sommelier Exam and Certified Sommelier Exam

I recently took the Court of Master Sommeliers Level 2: Certified Sommelier Exam at the International Culinary Center in New York and am proud to say that I can officially call myself a sommelier – Iโ€™ve been tested for wine theory, tasting skills, as well as skills in service. It has been a year and change since I started the journey from wine newbie to wine expert (can I call myself that yet? #ImposterSyndrome), and I wanted to chronicle the journey here. I hope that this post will be helpful for others who may be looking to take the exam, or who are just curious about the process in general. For some background: Most working sommeliers in New York have at least a Certified Sommelier certification. There are two more levels after Introductory and Certified: at level 3, you are an Advanced Sommelier, and at level 4, you would hold the coveted Master Sommelier title. As of today, there are only 230 Master Sommeliers in the world. The long journey to Master Sommelier begins at level 1, with the Introductory Sommelier course and exam. The Beginning: My journey officially began in December of 2014. I was traveling to Chicago weekly for work, and one day in the team room the topic of conversation shifted to “best documentaries you’ve seen lately.” My senior manager raved about this one documentary called “SOMM.” Sound familiar? SOMM chronicles the lives of four sommeliers as they prepare to take the Master Sommeliers exam, which has a ridiculous pass rate of like 5%. Stress, anxiety, drama, and good looking people makes for good television. It’s...

Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 30

Day 30 – 9/30/15 It’s going to take me a few full days to sum up my experience over the course of this month, but I DID IT! I feel like Reese Witherspoon at the end of Legally Blonde, #winning against all odds. I actually managed to feed myself on $50 for the entire month in Manhattan! Here is a list of thank yous, the Tonight Show style. Thank you to the supermarkets, restaurants, and chocolate shops that offered free samples. Thank you to the fast-casual restaurants that offered freebies for downloading their app. Thank you to my family and friends who were super supportive through this entire process. Thanks you to coffee and tea for keeping my energy up. Thank you, most of all, to everyone who has donated to our fundraiser. We raised $800 to date!ย  Some Q&As: Q: What happens now? This weekend and the upcoming weeks will be full of recipe writing, recipe testing, and food photography. I’ll also write a more comprehensive summary of the Mini Budget in Manhattan challenge. It won’t be radio silence from me! Q: What are you going to eat as your first “normal” meal back? Honestly, I don’t think my diet will change so drastically. I have gotten used to bringing lunch to work, and my bank account has enjoyed a healthy growth from cooking so much. Breakfast tomorrow will probably be fried eggs. However, I AM planning on going to an AYCE hotpot tomorrow night ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ Q: Will there be more budget recipes? Yes, the (no-longer Bicoastal) Cooks are working diligently to create a recipe book...

Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 29

Day 29 – 9/29/15 I’m finishing up the contents of my freezer as I daydream about what to eat when the challenge is over. I haven’t missed the things I thought I’d miss, like pizza, steak, or dessert. What I have missed are flavors. I miss spicy foods and seasonings like cumin or dried red pepper or paprika or jalapenos or garam masala. I get really jealous of my coworkers when they have soup for lunch – especially if it’s a hearty fall favorite, like chili, or Italian wedding soup, basically anything with tomato and beans and lots and lots of spices.ย I can smell their soup from across the room. I miss limes and cayenne. I miss stinky cheese. I miss shrimp. I would like some Asian pickles. I can use some nachos and cheese the really fake kind of fluorescent yellow cheese you get at baseball stadiums. I miss dumplings! I’ve pushed these thoughts away for so long, and now that the end is near, they have come back to haunt me with a vengeance. And I don’t think I can make them go away by snacking on raw cabbage anymore. Also, I’ve been shopping around to see what $0.32 will buy me in terms of food, and I haven’t found anything besides Trader Joe’s banana (19c/each). What happened to the days of 5c Bazooka? Any ideas on how I can splurrrrrge? Daily Meals/Costs: Congee (็šฎ่›‹็ฒฅ)ย โ€“ $0.28 2 x Borscht with rice- $1.44 Cabbage garlic braise with rice – $0.28 Total: $2.00 If you think what we are doing is interesting, impactful, or maybe kind of insane, please...
Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 28

Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 28

Table of Contents: 9/30/15 – Day 30 9/29/15 – Day 29 Day 26 – 9/26/15 Two more days! I’m counting down the hours until I can eat like cookie monster. For now, my diet is limited to rice, and whatever is leftover in my fridge and freezer. I had a ton of borscht left over, which I’ve portioned out into tupperware along with rice. I’ll be having borscht and rice for lunch and dinner for tomorrow, and borscht+rice for lunch Wednesday, followed by Coke Chicken+rice for dinner Wednesday. Breakfast is congee for both days, supplemented with foraged burdock. When I got home today I really wanted a snack. The rice was cooking in the rice cooker, which takes ~20 minutes, andย I was really hungry! Starving and desperate, I attacked what was left of the raw cabbage in my fridge. The raw cabbage tastes a lot like Bai Cai (which Wikipedia calls Napa Cabbage and I have never heard it being referred to this way). Growing up, raw Bai Cai was a perfectly awesome crunchy snack, and healthy to boot! I wish more veggies would become common place snacks. I think I would gather some strange looks if I brought chopped up raw Bai Cai to the office, but is it really different from a sliced bell pepper? Or some julienned carrots? TL;DR – I snacked on raw cabbage; it was good. Daily Meals/Costs: Congee (็šฎ่›‹็ฒฅ)ย โ€“ $0.28 Banana – $0.19 2 x Borscht with rice- $1.44 (I’m getting a lot of calories via rice ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Total: $1.91 If you think what we are doing is interesting, impactful, or maybe...
Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 27

Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 27

Table of Contents: 9/29/15 – Day 29 9/28/15 – Day 28 Day 27 – 9/27/15 Three days left until the end of my Mini Budget in Manhattan challenge! I was super productive today, woke up early, and cooked up all the the goodies from foraging in Central Park. Some highlights: Burdock: How to cook Burdock roots: parboil, peel, and chop the roots up matchstick style. Simmered in water, soy sauce, and sugar. These came up super delicious – savory and sweet with tons of umami. It tastes just like the burdock you get as a side dish at upscale Japanese and Korean restaurants. This would be great to eat with a bowl of plain congee! Purslane: I had low hopes for the scrubby little Purslane when I was foraging, but little did I know it would turn out so amazing. The leaves and stems were juicy and meaty, absorbing much flavor and maintaining great texture. This vegetable can really hold up to a mean braise and maintained great color. I would buy this if it’s in a supermarket! For simplicity’s sake, I decided to sautee all of the green vegetables together since there was only a little of each. I heated up some canola oil and fried up some garlic, and added the greens in order of my best guess at cooking time as well as some soysauce for flavor. Well, some of these vegetables could not handle heat at all! The Curly Dock shriveled into lemony brown messes. The Wild Lettuce was only slightly better. The Lamb’s Quarters was pretty good, and tasted like spinach. The Epazote flavor...