Saturday, October 31, 2009

2008 Tasmania

2007 Tamar Ridge

2008 Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard Pinot Noir, Tasmania

New discovery. Tasmania is an island off the south coast of Australia, and is reputed to be producing great cool-climate varietals. So let's start with the most challenging - pinot noir.

Yeah, this one's a nuke. Took my head off with the absolute ballistic fruit bouquet. They're going for a blockbuster, without regard to what true pinot noir is. Am I even drinking a pinot noir? Spicy oak, lots of alcohol, little complexity. Lots and lots of alcohol, burning the palate.

Disappointed. I paid $27 for this bottle. Overpaid, no?

DF

Key and hammer

I haven't delivered a proper piano performance in a few years. And I miss it. It gives you a motivation to practice your heart out.

I think I'm motivated again. Going to go for it next weekend. Maybe not as grand as the concert halls I used to sparkle and shine in. But it's still a stage, nevertheless. DF is motivated again!

DF

White Porto

Gilberts Extra Dry White Porto

Gilberts Extra Dry White Porto, DOC Douro

I've never drank a white port before. Great. In a 50 cL bottle.

Light colour, which is a bit of a surprise. I find the nose indescribable, for once. Sort of a smoky, rich, bacon fat, and candied citrus. Interesting. This is very luscious on the palate, with great roundness. Alcohol is a bit searing. Much sweeter than I expected.

An interesting wine that I'd like to revisit in the summer, maybe as a long drink.

DF

As a skunk

I won't front...I'm drunk as a skunk right now. But you needn't worry - I can drink like a whale. Endless tolerance. A true wino, I can hold my wine like no other before me, the real wine lovers, I'm from their cloth, there ain't nobody that can stop me, I'm just ferocious.

Which reminds me. I appreciate so much the folks who visit these pages - please, don't deprive yourself and miss anything. Things like my previous posts on Happy winos, Il faut chercher un peu, or Pleasure of the eye.

Masterpieces, all, so please indulge me. Good night.

DF

Friday, October 30, 2009

Forrest

I just watched the final scene of Forrest Gump. Forrest is at Jenny's gravestone, telling her about their son. And I lost it a little. Teared up like a soap opera star. Maybe because I've been drinking since 5:30. But I love this film. Just emotional.

DF

Tossing and turning

I had trouble falling asleep last night. Which is a rare occurence. I'm usually quite good at emptying my mind and drifting off. Hmm. Something's not right.

See, if I was still in res, all I'd have to do is roll out of bed, stumble to the kitchen, and pick up a bottle and corkscrew. A few glasses, a short chat with my roommate - sleep like a baby. Most likely right through the next day's morning classes, mind you, but that's another story.

DF

Pour less, not more!

Can I say something? Straight up and down, I'm disappointed that the majority of people I come across don't understand the appropriate amount of wine to pour in a glass. 1/3 full at most, my friends.

Wine needs air. As a volatile substance, oxygen helps break wine down, releasing its bouquet and aroma. If you fill a glass too high, there's no way to swirl, no way to aerate. Restaurants often make the mistake of overpouring. Really, it's a ploy to empty the bottle quickly, in hopes that you will be suckered into purchasing another wine. Many times, it's just ignorance on the part of the server.

Pour 2/5 full, swirl, enjoy. Not being cheap, just being tasteful.

DF

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pu'er

Pu'er

普洱茶

A friend gave us something really special, something that I've read a lot about but have yet to experience. Pu'er tea cakes. Called tea cakes because they are loose tea leaves pressed into the shape of round 'cakes', and aged. A completely different interpretation of tea - just extraordinary.

What makes this tea special? This is an ancient tea of Yunnan, made from a variety of tea called 毛茶. Once picked, it is pan-fried in a dry wok, to stop oxidation. It is then pressed into cakes and aged. What is unique is that Pu'er benefits from aging - in general, the more age on the tea cake, the more valuable. Which is a total departure from the green tea most people know, which is most valuable when it's fresh.

The example we were given is known as 七子餅茶. It is hand pressed, as evidenced by the dimple found in the centre of the underside. Aged a minimum of 7 years (although that is not what the seven in the name refers to). I think this was an expensive one - fortunately for us, this friend hasn't realized it yet.

You have to break it up, and clean out any impure bits. It becomes loose tea, which you then prepare in the 工夫 method. Earthen clay pot, strain, and serve. You don't let it steep for more than 20 seconds.

The tea was wonderful. Deep red, almost tawny in colour (to use a wine descriptor). Lovely aroma of brambles and an almost floral component. Becomes very sweet in the mouth, with a velvety texture. Wonderful. My friends, we'll have to have a glass together soon.

DF

Pu'er

Pu'er

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Raptors win

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Ahh, and here we go again. The Toronto Raptors kicked off their 15th season tonight. And it was a good one. All new lineup (9 new players out of 12) against the powerhouse Cleveland Cavaliers. Be honest - did anyone peg them to win? I didn't. I figured we'd be competitive for the first quarter and a half, Lebron would catch fire, we'd collapse, and that was that. I was so wrong.

New lineup looked great. But let's talk about Andrea Bargnani for a minute, Il Mago. He was spectacular from the very first possession. When he faced up on Varejao, I screamed for him to take that floppy haired queen. And he did. Straight to the rack, dunk, and it was over - Bargnani lit them up for 28. Drives, perimeter shots, dunks...Il Mago did it all and completely embarrassed Shaq. I love Turkoglu's game. It was fantastic to see him out there with Calderon and Jack. Three playmakers out there? Man, this season should be exciting.

Speaking of Jarrett Jack, I was very impressed. I love having both 2 point guards on the court at the start of the 4th. We have mobile big men, so speed isn't an issue. Exciting stuff. Marco Belinelli was also a pleasant surprise. Definitely an upgrade on Roko Ukic. More size, better stroke, stronger. It's a shame we didn't see Reggie Evans suit up. I'm very intrigued to see how he fits in. DeRozan did more in his first game than Joey Graham showed in his entire tenure with the team. And seeing Rasho back in a Raptors uni just felt right.

Promising. I don't want to say too much - I did predict 50 wins last season. But I can't remember the last time we had such depth. Lots of people are saying Colangelo overpaid for Bargnani - he's going to prove them wrong. I'm huge on Il Mago. This should be a fun season to watch.

Raptors win, Raptors win, Raptors win!

DF

Happy winos

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The face of two happy winos. How do you tell if one is a wino or not? Well, if you're holding a wine glass in the right hand and a can of Heineken in the left, you may be a wino. But, if you plant yourself in front of a bottle of Pfalz riesling, raise a glass and proclaim, "Let us eat and get drunk!!", then there is no question...

You are a wino.

DF

On temperature of wine

Let's try something - bear with me. So we talked about colour in wine. A bit. But I'm just trying to present a thought, you see - nothing too specific, because wine is personal and the adventure is in discovering and learning on your own. It's what I try to do with every bottle I open - not just tasting the wine, but trying to further my understanding and experience.

Ok, so we move onto serving temperature of wine. It's odd that many people make the mistake of serving red wines too warm and white wines too cold. Where did that start? That you have to chill your white wines to the point of brain freeze, and you have to drink your red wines at room temperature. There are no absolutes in wine - as a matter of fact, there are no absolutes in anything. Serving temperature really depends on the characteristics of each wine, rather than the simple generalizations which are particularly appealing to the culturally bereft.

Young wines, I would always drink a bit cooler. For mature wines, swishing it for 15 minutes in an ice bucket will suffice. As a general rule, I try not to ice down any wine to the point of frosting up the glass. The cooler the temperature, the more nuance you lose. Too warm, and the wine becomes flabby. There's a sweet spot of a slight chill, to bring balance and harmony.

White wines. For a wine with sharper acidity (German riesling, Chablis, etc.), 15 minutes in the ice bucket will do. You want a slight chill - anything more and the first to disappear will be the all-important minerality. Richer white wines with more oak benefit from cooler temperatures, to focus the aromas and sharpen flavours. Sparklings wines, maybe a 30 minute ice bucket dip. Fine Champagnes, 20 minutes in ice, then let it warm up on the table.

Red wines. I ice them all. Young wines, about 20 minutes in ice. Mature reds, 15 minutes. Burgundy and New World pinot noir, I generally always like 15 minutes in ice. And overly alcoholic wines benefit from cool temperatures - less of a burn.

I know I haven't covered everything, but try it. Try icing down your wines in an ice bucket or fridge, especially young red wines. White wines, try drinking it at a warmer temperature than what you're used to. Whatever the case, don't go to extremes. Balance, mes amis. It's all about balance.

What I love to do is chill a bottle down, then leave it to warm up on the table. As you drink it over a dinner, and experience it at different temperatures, the wine shows you different aspects and nuances. Fascinating stuff. Just make sure you have a tight grip. Glass is slippery when wet.

DF

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Il faut chercher un peu

I've always believed that great wines, like great women, like great music, like great art, should be difficult to understand. At times damn near impossible, even frustratingly so, but just one taste, and you're completely head over heels in (crazed) love.

Bandol is one of those wines. It's a French town located on the Mediterranean coast about halfway between Toulon and Cassis. It produces mainly red wines, although its rosé is also well known. White wine is made as well, in small quantities. What makes this appellation unique is its use of the mourvèdre grape as its predominant varietal. At least 50%, which is far greater than other Southern French wines, which use this varietal in small quantities as a blending grape.

Bandol is known to be austere and harsh in its youth. It's a wine that demands aging, as its tannins can be shockingly rigid. I made the mistake of opening a bottle of 2003 Le Galantin about 5 years too soon and the tannins were so formidable I couldn't keep my eyes open. These wines are rustic and of the country. Many wines contain a hint of brettanomyces, giving them an earthy, chicken-coop aroma. Not a flaw, but rather an exciting personality and character.

I love mourvèdre. Such a shame we don't see more Bandol here. But I have a few cases put away, to be opened on its 10th or 15th year. These wines have all the savage, rustic character I look for in a rich red wine, with lots of complexity. A fearsome wine. And a difficult wine to understand. You have to wrap your mind around the cultural significance of these wines, this Mediterranean mindset to fully appreciate it. And of course, serve it with the right food. Big flavours required. Lamb and rosemary, juicy rare steaks, game - heaven in the mouth.

I'm fairly certain my friends have never tasted one before. A shame. But we'll rectify that soon enough.

Difficult wines to understand. Like magnificent women, there's always more than one. We'll get into others soon enough. Pinot noir?

For a look at Chateau de Pibarnon, click. Courtesy of the Winedoctor. I have a few bottles of this wine put away somewhere. And a few others.

DF

Pleasure of the eye

Why do so many people neglect colour in wine? Is it because you don't care? Is it this reverse-snobbishness that wine is for drinking and talk about saturation, hue, bouquet is pompous nonsense?

Colour is important. Different aspects of wine offer different pleasures - wine is an experience which engages all your senses. Don't laugh. Wine teaches you how to be a sensual person. So we start with colour, the pleasure of the eyes. A wine's hue is not only beautiful to look at, it offers a lot of information about the wine you are about to taste as well. The infinite shades and intensities of a wine's colour gives you clues as to varietal, vintage, age, and even vinification.

Too much for me to fully understand and explain here, but let's take the example of German riesling, shown below. White wine darkens as it ages. More residual sugar tends to lend it a more amber hue as well. With age, the saturation of colour to the rim clearly thins out. And finely vinified wine is lustrous and clear, even after decades in bottle. These are some of the things that you can determine just by eyeing the wine.

So please, do yourself a favour. You paid good money for your wine - enjoy and experience it to its full potential.

DF

2002 Domdechant Werner'sches

1995 P.S. Baumler Becker-Erben

In the dark

In the dark

Sunday was a big day for me. I moved about 5 cases of wine out to a friend's cellar. I really can't thank my friend enough for offering such a perfect space for my wines. Thank you, a million times over.

I don't collect wine. Collecting is offensive to me, especially with wine. It implies trophyism. Wine no longer becomes for drinking, but for display. And that is vulgar. No, I like to think that I assemble wines, to drink over the course of its maturity, and to always have the appropriate wine for whatever meal we're having.

When you're putting together a cellar, you can't help but be over-protective. Now you know why I insist on following LCBO releases so closely - it's to minimize the time that the wine sits upright, in a bright and warm environment, all hell for proper wine storage.

Recorded, boxed, sealed, delivered. All in 45 minutes. Things are getting a bit busy in there. Soon. Soon, I'll have a permanent place for my bottles. I can only hope that it's as perfect as this.

DF

In the dark

In the darkIn the dark

Tempting, tempting...

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I was using my friend's 15" Macbook Pro over the weekend and I was feeling it bad. Man, I really need a new laptop. Well, technically, I don't really need it. Do you really need to buy anything? But the heart wants what it wants, in electronics and otherwise.

Apple reduced prices on its Macbook Pro's, as there were no hardware upgrades. But I think I'll try to hold on to at least the next release - I want to see a bit more, even at higher prices. Minor quibble: I don't have $2000 to splash on a new computer. But I did blow pretty much that amount on 2008 Bordeaux, so........yeah, after Boxing Day sounds about right.

DF

And it starts again

Oh shit...here we go again!

Decanter.com: Winemakers keen to live up to hype

We're starting to see some news out of Bordeaux about the just harvested (and presumably fermented) 2009 vintage. People are calling the quality as similar to 2005. Another legendary vintage, the 4th so called vintage of the century in the last 9 years? Really? We'll see. What's interesting is that everyone understands the concern of over-extraction. With high potential alcohols already, especially in merlot, extraction might be crucial in determining quality of the wine.

We'll see. Damn, thinking about how much money I want to set aside for 2009 En Primeur already.

DF

A silver fox

week-in-style-02

Sir Paul Smith. Man, this cat's just on it. Tall, distinguished looking gentleman on the left, showing a beautiful elegance in a silk ascot. Think I can do hair like that? Or swagger?

DF

Boo!

MS H 2009 026

MS H 2009 009

Boo. Never been a fan of Hallowe'en. North American consumerism at its best. Also, just too damn lazy to keep getting up and handing out candy to obnoxious children. We carved pumpkins in the office yesterday. I'm most comfortable with a big knife in my hand. No need to point out which of the 4 was mine, right?

This 31st, I'll be having a glass or 5 of wine, while trying my best to ignore the ringing doorbell. Too shitfaced to come to the door - that's as good of an excuse as ever was.

DF

Monday, October 26, 2009

Convocation 2009

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DF: unlined Paul Stuart wool jacket, Brooks Brothers OCBD shirt, Ralph Lauren silk tie, Wings & Horns jeans, Brown's leather boots. DF, all sexy, all shine.

My friend PYeung graduated this weekend. Convocation! She's the pretty little miss in the middle. Pris, I'm so proud of you. Graduating from the best Architecture program in Canada is no small accomplishment. Just a step in your way to success, but nevertheless, a cause for celebration. Congratulations to Lucy as well. Y'all finally got your colours.

Bit rude if I cropped out Hoolio's fugliness on the left? Come on dude - it's a convocation, not a UW Drama Club performance. You know what I noticed? They stopped shaking hands. When the students kneel before the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, there's no more hand-shaking. Just some smiling, a few pleasantries, and they place your colours on you. Not like my convocation at all - Vice-Chancellor Johnston shook my hand warmly and we spoke for a relatively long time. Another reason why this H1N1 situation is getting out of hand.

DF

2007 Beamsville Bench

2007 Thirty Bench

2007 Thirty Bench Riesling, VQA Beamsville Bench

I last tasted this wine in May: 2007 Beamsville Bench

It's the estate riesling, entry-level. Yet I love this wine. Presents the character of the site and vintage perfectly, and is really a confirmation of the potential of Beamsville and of the winemaking team.

This isn't even my bottle. I attended my friend PYeung's convocation and her family very kindly invited me to dinner. Glad I said yes. Very glad. The eel was a revelation. Rich, creamy, and perfectly seasoned. The Cantonese clearly understand how to eat. We headed home afterwards, to decompress a bit from the day. We needed to relax a bit - at least I did. This wine did it. Showing very developed minerality, with a softer acidity than what I remembered. Delicious fruit. Wonderful.

The Clementi and Bach helped. But as I said, I'm too much of a romantic for Bach. I bring my Chopin next time.

DF

Words to live by

Wow, I did finish an entire bottle last night. But who said it best.....if you can finish an entire bottle, then it could not have been bad.

I try to apply this attitude towards everything I do.

DF

2005 Rioja

2005 Beronia

2005 Beronia Reserva, DOCa Rioja

So you get to the question of a rainy Autumn day wine. I like drinking these Riojas when it's chilly outside. There's something about tempranillo that warms you up, but still remains elegant enough to marry beautifully with food.

These wines are tricky. But I've always enjoyed this producer. Discovered when I was in university, but I also found a few vintages of this in Tokyo. This wine has the fruit and vanilla character of classically made Rioja, with great vintage character. Sour red fruit in the mouth, elegant, but with substance.

A wine for a rainy day, inside or out.

DF

Glorious off the riesling

Glorious

Glorious

On this wine: 1995 Rheingau

Gloriously golden orange, with perfume and maturity. My final riesling for the next few (5-6) months.

DF

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wrinkle lines

So, from a woman who's opinion I value very much, and who's actually credible on these types of matters - my forehead wrinkles. Badly. I do it without even noticing. But yes, I wrinkle like a fucking pug.

Lindsey's telling me to relax my face a bit. But I can't help it, sweetheart. When you're a serious and intense person 100% of the time, things happen. What do you do but to be yourself, even if it is wrinkly.

I'm the oldest 23 year old y'all will ever meet. And if I look the part, all the better.

DF

Y'all take a listen

We will now do the national anthem, but you needn't rise.

This is my philosphy for life.

DF

1995 Rheingau

1995 Balthasar Ress

1995 Balthasar Ress Riesling Kabinett, Hallgartener Jungfer, Rheingau

So, everyone's out of the house, I can chill. Prepared to polish off this bottle - the last bottle of riesling I'll be drinking for the next few months. Celebrating what little Indian summer we're seeing, I suppose. Need to relax a bit and calm down - things need to keep moving along. Yes, I may have died a little inside, but that's no excuse.

Join me as I taste this wine. Decanted for about 2 hours. Oh what the hell am I talking about - you don't have this bottle so how can you follow along? No, for once, I'm going to be an absolutely selfish prick and enjoy something for myself. Because I'm a man of taste, and you're all just observing.

Stay tuned. Watching a movie is always better a bit buzzed. I give myself until 8:30 for the effect to take hold.

DF

--- 8:04 pm

Just finished the first glass. Gorgeous colour, gorgeous perfume. In and down, easy.

---9:00 pm

This is getting better and better for me. Is it for you?

---9:47 pm

Empty house means another opportunity for culinary development. Cooked a beautiful, and I do mean beautiful, wild mushroom fricassée with a ratatouille of zuchinni. Cooking time of 24 minutes, from when I washed my hands to when I sat down to eat. Ideally, I'd like to get my time down to around 15 minutes, but I'm reminded that I had nothing prepped. Absolutely delicious, pleasing to both eye and palate. Married beautifully with my minerally, high-strung wine.

---10:18 pm

Tonight's turning out not so bad, no? Who the fuck am I kidding, thing's are still awful. Still alone, yes? Yes. I'm a little tipsy. Not even standing up. Can you tell?

---10:35 pmm

This is getting better and better. I'm past the point of actually taking this seriously. Just drinking. Minimal sniffing, just going for it. Good times. Which reminds me - RokChoi, we need to just get drunk. Forget all this intellectual food and wine shit. Someitmes a man jus needs to get toasted, am I right, am I right??

---10:48 pm

Done. Getting into a shower. The bottle was good, mes amis. It was a fine wine. It's making me more profound, and definitely a better person. Yes. It's a Sunday night. Work week starting in less than 12 hours. Here we go again!

---Companion, here: Glorious off the riesling

Do anybody make real shit anymore?

Do me a favour, read: http://www.thestar.com/News/World/article/247573

Damn they don't make 'em like this anymore.

So Canadians are hopping mad that there is counterfeit icewine being produced. Let's be real - the argument that it's harming the industry is absolute bullshit. It's pure delusion when anyone talks of icewine as anything more than a simple, syrupy sweet drink. Nothing more, nothing less. It's not a great wine, and never will be. We have many delusional winemakers here.

If you can prove that you can make icewine into anything more than an alcoholic marmalade, a honey-infused vodka, then I'll be the first to shut up and buy a case. But it's not possible. So instead of bitching at others for trying to make a profit with an inferior product, why don't you focus on creating real wines, wines with an identity and purpose, instead of tropical fruits cellared with sugar. Simple.

Delusion and ignorance, the plagues of the wine world.

DF

Enamel danger?

Read this article please: http://www.thestar.com/living/food/article/713625--white-wine-worse-for-teeth-than-red-study-suggests

Really man? You wine fascists, it's bad enough that you're not educating the public about the benefits about drinking wine over cheap lager and hard liquor - now, you're actively using scare-tactics? Come on. You fascists. So you'd like people to drink only milk and water, stay at home, bed at 9? Fascism.

I've been drinking so much white wine this summer, I don't know what to do with myself. And I love it. I pity the fool who hasn't experienced the pleasures of an old riesling, or a tingly Cava.

DF

New toy

Funnel

I love decanting. Love it even more now, now that I have a proper decanting funnel. Has a little mesh sieve on top, to filter out sediments; 5 little holes at the bottom, to evenly distribute the wine down the sides of the decanter; a stand to keep everything civilized.

I'm even decanting things I shouldn't be decanting.

DF

Wrapped up

I learned how to make my own dumpling wrappers. It's a Northern Chinese technique which is actually much more difficult than it seems. Why all the extra work? I suppose because the taste and texture is much superior to store-bought and because, well, I just adore the Northern Chinese. No, the Italians cheat with their round molds. This is how it's really done.

DF

Wrapper

Iron Chef Fang

Here's a thought for our next dinner - think we can do it Iron Chef style? It should totally work - we've got our filming, our Chairwoman Pris, Ocean can providing the running commentary and lame jokes, and our judge? We just need someone with an excellent palate, someone who can offer critique besides, 'It was good'. Awesome. Oh, of course...we have our Iron Chef. But that was a given, no?

All we need now is a multi-million dollar kitchen stadium, ultra-expensive, ultra-rare secret ingredients, and a challenger.

Allez cuisine!!!!!

Go to the 45 second mark to see the mountain of foie gras.

DF

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Slashing

What the hell am I doing? I do think I'm getting particularly skilled at sabotaging myself. That's the only explanation, no? Inflicting damage on myself seems to be a recurring theme.

The Shanghainese have a colourful term for this brand of idiot. It translates roughly into 'pig-headed fool'. In reference to the imbecile who is continually, and willingly taken for a fool. I'm the pig-headed fool. But it's my fault - I'm sabotaging myself, yes? Yeah, not getting much sleep tonight.

Wine helps. So does talking with friends. Should have taken their advice, from the beginning. Is it too late, or is there still hope for this poor fool?

---

Blogger's note:

It's late night, I've had a rough day. I promise this will be the last moody, teen-angst-y post. Back to wine, full-time, tomorrow. Just had to get this out of my head. Strange shit happens when you're out on a limb - didn't help that my page view plummeted today. Back to wine, back to wine.....

DF

Blogger's note, 1:02 PM, October 25, 2009:

Up from bed, and still feel a bit shitty. But, time moves on. Working on my wine today, checking up on my temporary cellar - always healthy for the mood.

Friday, October 23, 2009

DOH - In conclusion

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So, it's all over. After weeks of planning and developing, the moment went by in a flash.

I'm very proud of how I handled dinner. Everything executed to plan. This was a challenge I set for myself - I've never attempted anything like this. Seven covers, 10 courses. But it wasn't about me. It was about the fresh, seasonal produce of Ontario. The point of the dinner was to highlight the fantastic produce we can find locally, and just how delicious it can be.

There's really no need for theatrics in the kitchen. Let's be honest, yes? I'm not talented enough, and definitely not intelligent enough to create culinary fireworks. It's all due to the fresh vegetables, seafoods, and meats.

Of course, all the wonderful photos are courtesy of my buddy Rocky. If you haven't already, check out his blog as well as his Flickr page. As I mentioned to him, this dinner and these photos really demonstrated how far we've come in our respective hobbies. We still have a long way to go, but it's extraordinary to me just looking back a year at how much we've improved in our perception and our understanding of photography and gastronomy.

A little taste of the harvest. In search of truth and beauty, in food and wine. So, when is our next dinner? I'm hungry again.

DF

Thursday, October 22, 2009

DOH - Le Fromage et Le Dessert

Duo of cheese

Everyone neglects the cheese course. Why? Cheese is a must for any proper, civilized dinner. So, a camembert and a brie. Wonderful texture to both, with the camembert being much creamier and richer. I think I prefer the brie though. We were a bit split between the two. But it's not a competition. Both were delicious.

Coffee next. I don't drink coffee regularly, but I just need a cup after big dinners. Preferably espresso, but you do the best with what you have. Black, with a single sugar cube. A mango shortcake to go along afterwards. Wow, that was a huge meal. We ate for nearly 7 hours. Seven hours.

DF

DOH - 1983 Rheingau

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1983 Balthasar Ress Riesling Kabinett, Winkeler Jesuitgarten, Rheingau

The wine I opened in tandem with the 1982. Oh, I've waited for you for so long.

Such a different colour. Gold, yes, but with distinct fiery orange flecks in the light. Beautiful. Much more rustic on the nose - oily, musky, pungent. This is the kind of nose I love. True and unapologetic. A bit more sweetness, richness in the mouth. A powerhouse to the elegance and style of the 1982.

Delicious with the clam capellini and pan-seared striped bass. I love these wines. Who says kabinetts can't age?

DF

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

DOH - 2003 LBV Port

2003 Fonseca LBV

2003 Fonseca Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Porto, Bottled 2009, Oporto

LBV, of course, stands for Late Bottled Vintage, and refers to vintage port that is aged in cask for longer than the 2 years required for vintage port. Excellent. This example is unfiltered, which is always great. About 6 years in cask.

Decanted for 12 hours. Not much sediment, but I did leave it standing up overnight. Wow, dark colour. Very, very inky, and stains the glass in a beautifully opaque purple. Complex, rich nose of dark, juicy berries, brambles, savoury meat aromas, and dark chocolate. Wow. In the mouth is where the magic of port is more apparent. An extremely powerful, rich wine.

I never really understood what 'grippy' tannins referred to - now I know. The tannins grip and wrap around your palate like a good long hug from someone you quite like. Long finish, just absolutely delicious.

I wanted to marry this wine with the two cuts of beef. Simple steak au poivre works really well with a complex, powerful port. And it did - for me. The delicious tannins really help. The understated sweetness helps bring out the wonderful richness of the beef. Wow, my mouth is watering.

DF

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

DOH - Le Plat Principal Trois

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I really wanted game for dinner. Rabbit, venison, something...but when all you see is roadkill rabbit at the butcher, you go back to what you know. Something fresh, something delicious. Red meat, arrrr!!!

Two cuts of beef, a rib bone and a NY striploin. Served with a cognac mushroom sauce. Oh, I love flamethrowing in the kitchen.

Season beef 10 minutes prior. Hot pan, olive oil, sear. Baste with butter. Because of my pathetically small pan, I had to sear both pieces separately, in separate pans. Yeah, two steaks going on simultaneously, on opposite sides of the stuff. Flipping, basting - I've never attempted this before. But I managed. Into the oven, cooked to a perfect medium-rare.

As the steaks roast, start off your mushrooms. Same pan, no need to add more oil. Toss in high heat, add white wine and cognac. Light it on fire, let it burn off and ladle in chicken stock. Simmered on high heat, and my timing was perfect. Water boiled off, reduced beautifully just as the beef was taken out of the oven. Rest the beef for 5 minutes, slice. Rib bone in the background, NY striploin in the foreground.

Cooked perfectly. I've never done steak like this before. Just perfect. Juicy, flavoursome, so tender. I really love NY striploin, but the rib bone was so tender, so succulent...wonderful! And the cognac mushrooms - wow. No need to say anymore.

DF

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DOH - 2006 Madiran

2006 Torus Brumont

2006 Brumont Torus, AC Madiran

Cold weather, fragrant meats, perfect for rich reds with a European sensibility. A Madiran is perfect. Decanted for 6 hours, then served alongside the lamb.

Deep colour, with impressive saturation to a dark purple rim. Herbal, greenish nose, which matches perfectly with the scent of rosemary. It's in the mouth that this wine disappoints. Hollow, with an uninspired finish. But, balanced, with great dark fruits and linear structure.

I'm excited to be drinking more of these wines in the months to follow. See, winter in Toronto isn't all that bad.

DF

DOH - Le Plat Principal Deux

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Onto the meats! At this point, we had been eating about 4 hours, but clearly, still going strong. I'm not a big lamb man, but these lamb loins are wonderful.

I don't do sauces. So I wanted to flavour the oil that I was searing it in. Bay leaves, whole peppercorns, fresh rosemary (bought by the bunch from St. Lawrence). Hot pan, olive oil, all the herbs in. Again, season the lamb 10 minutes prior to cooking. Sear hard on both sides, oven to roast. As you're waiting, asparagus into boiling water, 30 seconds, done. Simple. Delicious.

The rosemary lends a lot of flavour and herbaciousness, so the key is to temper it out. You want to enhance the flavour of lamb, without changing what it is. That is the target of all cooks. Or rather, that should be what each cook strives to achieve.

Wonderfully pink inside, so tender and juicy. Paired with the subtlety of the asparagus, just delicious.

DF

DOH - Intermezzo

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A little sweetness, to separate the courses. We need to rest a bit, and cleanse the palate. A fresh strawberry sorbet. This was the only dish I made the previous day. Blend fresh strawberries, add in a bit of simple syrup to sweeten, and lime juice to pick things up. You need to let is settle in the freezer for at least 24 hours. As you know, sorbets have no cream - that's why they work as a palate-cleanser. But, there's a lot of water inside, so after the first freeze, there's lots of ice crystals. Not that great of a feeling in your mouth, when you're crunching down on hard ice.

Blend again. It gives it that creaminess that's so supple, you have to remind yourself that this is just fruit and syrup. Beautiful. Topped with frozen Concord grapes. There's texture, there's flavour, there's a freshness - I can't think of anything more perfect way to rest your palate to prepare for more goodness.

DF

DOH - Le Plat Principal Un

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This was the dish that in many ways, I was most uncertain about. I love pan-seared fish, but it's notoriously difficult to pull off at home. I spent about 3 weekends developing my technique, beginning with the fresh fish.

Pan-seared striped bass, served over simmered Ontario beets. I bought the fish live, had it gutted and cleaned. It was still quivering as I filleted. Apologies, but I wanted to eat you. I've learned how to fillet clean enough so that the meat doesn't tear and I'm losing a minimal amount stuck on the bone. I don't trust store bought fillets because they take the skin off and you can't sear it without skin.

Begin with the beets. These Ontario beets had the most amazing pink colour, with a spiral of red and white flesh rolling around inside. Just beautiful. Diced into perfect little cubes. I wanted to keep a few rectangles, to show this pattern. Sautée quickly in olive oil, to which I put in white wine and my fresh chicken broth. Let it simmer and just develop in texture, sweetness and flavour.

Season the fish 5 minutes before cooking - as I said, everything done to order. Hot pan, olive oil, skin side down. It cooks fast, so you have to be ready. Flip over, about 30 seconds on the meat, then straight into the oven to roast. I had to play around with the portions a bit. 6 portions would have been perfect for a 2 lbs fish, so for 7 ppl, I had to hold onto the ends.

Timing is everything. The fish doesn't need to rest out of the oven, so you have to time it to finish cooking alongside your beets. Lay the beet cubes flat on the plate, north of centre. Slice the fish, lay on top, present the beet rectangle.

The beets had this incredible sweetness. Just amazing - I virtually used no seasoning, relying on the chicken stock and the beet's natural flavour to take care of it. Extraordinary. Fish cooked perfectly, savoury and moist.

DF

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DOH - 1982 Rheingau

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1982 Balthasar Ress Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg, Riesling Kabinett

I married this wine with our prawns and clam capellini. The oldest riesling I've tasted, which is such a treat. Been sitting on this wine for so long, and this dinner was the perfect occasion to have a taste.

Look at the colour - so beautiful. So beautiful. Deep gold, with a luminosity that's still so vibrant and alive for a 27 year old wine. A wine that was older than all of us sitting around the table. The viscosity was apparent out of the bottle. And the nose - glorious. Honey and baked apples, with a muskiness, oil and minerality that only age can bring. Wonderful. My goodness. Profound and heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

The wine paired beautifully with the food. There's a subtlety in the mouth, with good fruit and viscosity. Just a kiss of sweetness left, but impeccably balanced. Soft acidity, but with a minerality on the finish that's clean and whispers into your mouth of the Rheingau and of the truth.

DF

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DOH - L'Entrée Trois

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Third entrée of the night. A beautiful clam capellini, in a white wine and fennel sauce. Clams, live. Boiled in the same broth used to poach the preceding prawns. Adding layers of flavour to the broth, which would only add more flavour to the sauce. Boil until the clams open, then set aside.

Hot pan and olive oil, to which I quickly added finely chopped garlic and onion. Fennel goes in next. I don't have much experience with fennel, but it was so fresh that I had to try. Finely sliced lengthwise, so that you get fine strands of fennel. Add in white wine and the shrimp/clam broth and simmer. What I didn't expect was the fennel taking so long to cook down and soften in texture, but it happened.

As I was telling my friend, the key was timing. Capellini cooks quite quickly, but you have to time so that it cooks concurrently with the sauce. Once finished, mix in the noodles directly into your sauce, add the clams to heat, and serve immediately. Noodles must be al dente. Must be, you don't understand how crucial this is. If noodles are overcooked, then there's no point in eating, period.

Worked out well. When I cut the fennel, it had this intense licorice aroma, which didn't show as prominently once cooked. Delicious.

DF

DOH - L'Entrée Deux

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Moving right along. A little taste of what I feel is some of the most delicious shrimp you can find at St. Lawrence Market. Prawns, poached for 45 seconds. You know what the key is? Don't overcook. Overcooking shrimp is like eating beef well done - you get so past whatever semblance of quality there is that you may as well eat frozen Thai shrimps you get at cheap supermarkets.

These shrimps have an amazing sweetness and succulence. Very tender meat, which maintains a firm texture if they're fresh and cooked to the right temperature. 45 seconds - that's all it takes. Served very simply alongside a dipping sauce of soy, rice vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil, and finely chopped coriander leaves.

DF

Monday, October 19, 2009

DOH - L'Entrée Un

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A beautiful salad of basil, arugula, and green apple slices, lightly tossed in a fragrant white wine vinaigrette. Simple and absolutely delicious. The basil in particular was stunning. The key, of course, is how fresh the greens are. I bought the entire stalk of each vegetable, roots attached. Plucked the leaves off 5 minutes before serving, to maintain moisture. Very lightly tossed in a freshly made vinaigrette - too much dressing and it just gets soggy and far too acidic. Apples have to be done quickly too...I hate having to acidify it to prevent it rusting over.

The inspiration was a desire for a clean looking salad, combining the fresh taste of plump vegetables, the sweetness of ripe apples, and the tang of a light vinaigrette. As you can, no black pepper was used. What can be more beautiful than a vividly green dish? Wonderful start to the meal, to get the appetite working and the palate tuned. A friend said that the dish was like a boxing match of flavours in the mouth. TKO.

Those are my hands. White plaster on left index...you don't want to know how I got injured.

DF

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DOH - NV Cava

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NV Codorníu Reserva Brut, Selección Raventós, Cava

The first wine of the night. I'm mad about Spanish sparkling wines. Cork out with a satisfied sigh, light straw in colour, and just fragrant as a flower. Delicious, full - perfect to start, and with the following salad.

DF

DOH - L'Apéritif

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Let's start the meal off right. No one pays any attention to detail anymore. Tablecloth has to be pressed and clean. Placemats as well. Candles lit up for the wine. Stemware polished and shiny. Cutlery too. You don't understand how obsessive I can be about details like these. Obsessive. But in a positive, constructive way. You don't want to drink wine out of glasses with water spots on it, do you?

Starting with lovely, fresh, baguettes and olives. The proper olives, with the pits intact. How lazy do you have to be to go for the pitted olives? Huh? Come on, it just gets more and more flavoursome as you keep nibbling. Drizzled with olive oil, just fantastic. Served with a sparkling wine, in detail next. And some Pellegrino as well!

DF

In love with food

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Here we go. Completed Dinner of the Harvest on Saturday. Dinner of the Harvest. Cheesy as all hell, no? But cheese goes fabulously with wine, so indulge me.

I executed as well as I dreamed. That's why you plan and develop in advance, to avoid unexpected mishaps, which you then have to explain to your guests. When I cook, I aim for perfection, and I'll slit my throat before I present dinner guests with anything less than a complete effort on the plate. You can't cheat, you can't cut corners. Everything bought on the same day, depending on what's fresh and in season. There's no way you can prepare hours in advance. The greens, the seafood, the meats - everything cooked to order. No, you can't season the meat 2 hours prior. You can't cook the sauces hours earlier and then reheat. Done to order. All of it.

So this is sounding a bit self-congratulatory, but I deserve it. It was as much a confirmation of my talents as it was......................well, I can't think of anything clever to add. But I pulled it off. 10 courses, 7 covers, 5 wines: 7 hours of culinary bliss.

I'm in a preening kind of mood. Like a peacock. So I'm going to dedicate each subsequent post to a single course. Much appreciation to my dinner guests - you make every burn, every oil sear, every cut, every wrist sprain, every little detail, and every little effort worth it.

Full photo sets courtesy of my friend, always indulging me with fantastic documentation of all the magic. Blog posts here, and photo sets here.

DF

Sunday, October 18, 2009

On a Sunday

The plates have been cleared, the glasses have been washed, the apron has been hung up to dry. So that's it. I'm nursing a bit of a hangover, my reward for a job well done. And I have 4 jagged cuts on my left hand to prove it. Battle wounds, I bear with pride.

DF

Done

A bit exhausted, but happy. And that's the point, ain't it?

8 parts arrogance speaking, tonight (or rather, last night) was phenomenal, gastronomically. Dinner service was clean, orderly, and to the schedule. Military precision, without the goose-stepping. Cooked the fish and beef as perfectly as I could ever manage. And wines? The old rieslings were a revelation.

Tired now. It's late. Or early, however you look at it. Sleep, then more in detail, when I'm a bit more lucid. I was shooting rum all night, but holding it well. It's the knife wounds to the left hand that are bugging me. Ahh, a mere flesh wound. Now I'm starting to sound drunk.

Good night.

DF

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In prep

Ok, beginning to prep for dinner!

Rushed out to St. Lawrence Market this morning to get everything. Ready to go. Now it's just down to execution. This is what I've planned for - every last detail should go into motion now.

Here's to a good dinner service and no one getting food poisoning. Here we go again!

DF

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pre-prep

I spent today running around a bit. Got a few items for Saturday's dinner - most of the groceries I'm leaving until as late as possible to bring home. I want everything to be as fresh as possible. Heading out early in the morning tomorrow, to search for Ontario's best and for inspiration!

Worked in the kitchen to do some preliminary prep work. Polished all the stemware, all the cutlery, and water goblets. I washed and ironed my tablecloth as well. Everything should be ready to receive the food.

I've been drinking since 3pm. A few beautiful, rich wines. Feeling good about cooking so many courses. Menu's ready, but of course, if I see something great tomorrow at St. Lawrence, things might change. I was at my local grocery store today - they had fresh, live abalone! Just extraodinary, I would have bought some home if I knew how to handle them.

Itching to get going.

DF

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Got me

This is a great new show. Yeah, some great stuff coming out for fall. Why do I like these sappy songs so much? Huh???

DF

Porsche Panamera at Holt Renfrew

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Here we go. Last night, Holt Renfrew hosted an event unveiling the 2010 Porsche Panamera. And I was there to witness all the glory! Pulled up, dressed in our finest, and let the valet take care of all. Yes, DF was going to be a boss for the night.

We pulled in behind a man driving a beautiful white Porsche Targa 4S with Alberta plates. That's a man who looks like he belongs at an event like this. Likewise for the stunning Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG. And the black Audi A8. But we're ok. I had my royal crown lapel pin on.

Stepping in, a server glided over with a few flutes of Champagne. Nice. Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial. For the folks who equate fine taste in wine with brand recognition. I shouldn't be judging though - I have little class and even less breeding, but I suspect that the social butterflies who attend these things are no better. Oops.

Lots of servers handing out hors d'oeurvres. Some were mediocre, but the rice cake with shitake and oyster mushrooms was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, most of the stuff was taken out of fridge - rice would have been much better warm. What made it better? The servers looked smashing. There was a pretty ivory-skinned brunette who walked by us a few times - I joked to my friend that she was giving us a knowing smile......like, 'I know you little fuckers are here on someone else's charity, but just chill and fill your stomachs.' So pretty. I love girls in ponytails.

Right, the car. The reason why we went. We heard David Donohue speak, who comes from a pretty impressive racing dynasty. He just recently won the Daytona 24, among his other victories. Great. Donohue was introduced as part of Holt's Style Rules Speaker Series. I was a bit disappointed because only the first 5 minutes was interesting. The remainder was a slick sales pitch on behalf of Porsche. The CEO of Porsche Canada who was up next was even tackier. Come on gentlemen...you can do better. Don't stoop to that level. Leave that shit for the Ford folks.

And then, with a whoosh, the cover was rolled off the car. What a surprise - 2 pairs of beautiful models stepped out. They had been sitting inside the car, under the covers for at least an hour. Beautiful, genetically gifted, white, blond, tall people. Yeah, life's not fair.

The Panamera is an enormous car. My goodness - lengthwise, width, it's huge! Huge. The model shown was in a new colour - cognac. Sort of a light brown. The inside looks nice. We'll see soon, as soon as JC picks his up.

Interesting experience. Great. But come on, you can't help but come away feeling vapid after these things. People show up to be seen - it's another social event, no? Yeah, I don't belong. But an interesting experience. Everything looked really nice inside. Beautiful people. And we got gift bags!

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DF