Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mon premier Premier Cru!

This Friday, January 25, was my mother's birthday. So naturally, I wanted to pull some nicer bottles from my cave to celebrate. And of course, a trip to the grocery store was in order, to pick up some interesting things for dinner. With that in mind, I decided to come home Thursday night at 10:40pm. Middle of the night, -10 degrees outside, perfect for a long drive back to Toronto.

As always, I went to BV. Unfortunately, I was running a bit late, because I had an appointment with my hairdresser Mario at 3:30. I looked like a monster and desperately needed a cleanup. Headed to Loblaws after with my shopping list. Picked up some fresh parsley, white baguette, olives, a Normandy brie, fresh tomatoes on the vine, some cultured butter and most importantly, shallots. For dinner, I cooked up clams and spaghetti, in a really simple tomato and shallots sauce, simmered with fresh clam broth. Nothing wasted, everything fresh, all cooked in high heat in as little time as possible. That is le style Fang. Hahah, I clearly think too highly of myself. We had some very simple sauteed greens, some grilled fish seasoned only with salt, pepper and garlic, and a delicious cured pork and bean curd soup. Nice mix of east and west dishes, no?

For the wine, I went back to the basics. This is almost becoming a tradition, that the only time we have Champagne is for birthdays and the most important holidays: Christmas and Chinese New Year. We had a Champagne Drappier Carte d'Or Brut, a non-vintage. Not a brand name but still special nevertheless. It had this really toasty and rich quality to it. made with pinot noir grapes - that is, a black grape made into a white wine. I discovered that I enjoy champagne more when the bubbles die down a bit. It feels like you're drinking pop when it's still fizzing away. I also enjoy it in a tasting glass, smaller, but with a larger bowl than a flute. You really can't smell anything in a flute, it's one of those types of things that are more form than function. What a great bottle of wine!

After a 4 hour dinner, we had to rest a bit. Then, onto the brie and bread, as well as a wonderful bottle of Monbazillac. I just discovered this wine last week. LCBO sells a 2001 vintage of Chateau de Monbazillac in a 50 cL format. The name of the estate is the same as the appellation. It's really well balanced - sweet but not cloying, with nice acidity and this quality that reminds me of steamed pears and honey. And the minerality!! This is by far the most wonderfully mineral wine I've ever tasted, and it makes the wine quite refreshing. The brie was very very pungent. It was very strong, with a fantastic kick to it. I find this one very creamy, but the skin is delicious. It just stinks up the fridge a bit.

So after a fantastic Friday dinner, we had to follow it up with an even better Saturday. We had our friends over, to one of my favourite bistros in Toronto, Le Paradis. He came with some gifts - and of course, OF COURSE - he gave me a bottle of wine. I think that's our tradition now - I send him bottles of anything interesting I drink, and he keeps me well-stocked with Bordeaux Grand Crus. The last bottle he gave me was a 1986 Chateau La Lagune, a 3rd Growth from Ludon, a village in the Haut-Medoc.

I opened the bag, and laid my eyes on the most beautiful bottle of wine I have ever seen. It was a 1991 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Of course, this is one of the famed First Growths from Pauillac, of the equally legendary Rothschild family. The bottle label features a painting by a Jap artists, Setsuko. Of course, the Mouton Rothschilds are also famous because every year, they ask different artists to design the labels, which makes the bottles collectible not just for the wine. The great Baron Phillipe de Rothschild was indeed a brilliant marketer. This was my first bottle of truly great Bordeaux. I don't care whether this is a great vintage or not - just thankful that my friend thinks highly enough of me to pull this one out as a gift. It was a very emotional moment for me. Just wait until I actually open the bottle. I might just wet my pants.

Dinner was great, as it always is at Le Paradis. I had the boeuf a la bourguignonne. Wanted something simple. For wine, we had a great bottle of white wine, from Chateau d'Angles, located in the Midi. I was very pleasantly surprised by the wine knowledge of our server - she correctly explained that the winemaker was originally of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, another branch of the Rothschild family and likewise, another Premier Cru. The wine was pleasant - soft but with nice acidity and spiciness to it. My father certainly enjoyed making her wait while he swirled and ever so slowly swallowed, before giving her the nod ok. What a plonker.

So, it's getting late. These posts are really taking a long time, it's now 1:15 am, and I really need to get into the shower and into bed. This was a fantastic weekend. Too bad I forgot my wallet and therefore my driver's license in Waterloo. Had a lot of great wine, a huge amount of great food. Finally, oh finally, I now have a Premier Cru!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ahh, la mer!

How do you come back from la Cote d'Azur?

How do you come back from the sun and the sea and les specialites regionales?

I can't. This is much harder than I thought it'd be, writing about my trip. That's why it's been so long. I've been back in Toronto for 18 days now, and NO I have not abandoned La Cave de Fang!! It's just ... everytime I think about it - there's just so many things I saw and experienced that I feel this intense longing. It has truly been a long time since I've longed for something this much - and it's been so long since I've been so in love.

So where do I begin? Let's just start with a recap of some of the things I did in France. Trust me when I say, this will not be the last post on this subject.

Of all the flights I've been on, this one was definitely the most challenging. Both getting in and out of Nice was a pain in the ass. I arrived in Nice via Chicago and Paris. Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport was an absolute nightmare. No organization, terrible signs - is this really Paris' international airport? It's an absolute fucking joke.

The first night I arrived in Nice, I expected to be dead tired. But, as with all first visits, I was energized and eagar to see my cousin to go out for dinner, which we had reservations for. I was really surprised when I saw Connie. She's 3 years older than me, and has been living in France for 14 months, four of which were so far spent in Nice. So, she's a local. She's changed a lot since the last time we met, which was.........nearly 4 years ago. We went to a restaurant in Vieux Nice. I was really out of it, and had no idea where we were. Everything was a blur - it was all narrow alleyways and darkened stores, as this was 7pm. The place was called Le Choucas. It turned out to be a fondues place. I did not like it. Even though Connie paid for me and we had some nice wine, a red Cotes de Provence. Fondues are lazy, tasteless cooking. We had beef and some kind of cheese fondue - I seriously did not enjoy it. But the salad was delicious. An incredibly fresh mesclun, with a light red wine vinaigrette and loads of olive oil.

My hotel was a pleasant surprise. Clean, quiet, and best of all, right next to the main road heading straight into Vieux Nice, Avenue Jean Medecin. There was a Ligne d'Azur stop right outside, and service had just started in November. Perfect. The next few days were spent wandering around Nice. Walking through the markets and shops of Vieux Nice was wonderful, as was walking along the sea. And of course, the most important thing - the restaurants.

You discover quite quickly that you'll never run out of places to eat here. Quite literally, every other establishment is a restaurant of some kind. I took great pleasure in roaming the streets looking for interesting restaurants to partake in lunch and dinner. Along the way, I found some really special places - among them a family owned restaurant called La Resto, which I will write about later. I made a promise to the owner's son, also named David, that I'd return next time I was in Nice. I definitely intend to keep my word.

No matter where you go in the world, a place is never as romantic, or as idealistic as you think it will be. The same holds true of Nice. Make no mistake, I truly enjoyed my time there, but it was greatly different from what I was expecting. After all those conversations with Frances and Annie, it still took me some time to adapt to being there. They gave me a good idea of what to expect, but for someone who's been going there twice a year for the past 30 years, I kind of expected a clearer picture.

Nevertheless, I want to end off today by saying that I'm in completely, blindingly, desperately, in love with the south of France. Everything about it was new and exciting and just...............exactly what I had hoped for. I learned a lot on this trip, and it was definitely one of my most memorable vacations. I need to thank Connie, who spent a lot of money taking me out to restaurants and who bought me a fantastic bottle of CH. Gazin to take back. And of course, my parents, who paid for my trip and who donated the Aeroplan points for a business class booking.

I'm not quite finished talking about France. Not quite yet.