Sunday, February 28, 2010
In light of what Canada achieved today in hockey, I have to post these up. Just an extraordinary game, with as much drama you could have wished for. Nervous faces all around, as the game began...DF
Saturday, February 27, 2010
It's good to, you know, see people again. Seriously turning into an anti-social loner. I blame Twitter.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Purchasing a case of wine would have to be reserved to commemorate something. A year that was so exceptional, worthy of an annual celebration. Too bad I don't have any wines from my birth year - that oversight falls squarely on my parents' shoulders.
There are so many things I haven't done in wine. Tasting from large format bottles. Tasting a wine from multiple (10+) vintages. Whenever you think you start to understand wine, give yourself a kick in the ass, and remind yourself that you have yet to experience or understand anything.
You must imbue your life essence into the jade. It is not mere rock - it has its own energy, and this transfer of energy between the wearer and the jade is what gives it life.
1986, 1998, 2010 - all Years of the Tiger. My year. What significance does this have? We're warned as children that you should be extra cautious during your own year. Last time around, at 12, I cracked my glasses, resulting in 7 stitches over my left eye. I was about 1/4 inch away from blinding myself, so this time around, I'm heeding that advice.
That's why we have these. Jade pendants, on red string, are said to bring good luck. The jade is carved with your animal sign - can you see the crouching tiger? Just ferocious, all tension and lethal power, waiting to pounce. I actually wore this pendant, dutifully, when I was 12. I have no idea where it's been for the last 12 years, but here it is again.
The more you handle jade, the more you transfer your energy to it, the shinier, and glossier, and smoother it becomes. A jade tiger.
2008 Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner, Wachau
It's been far too long since I've had an Austrian wine. These wines are like the people - stern, rigid, a bit Fascist. Maybe I've been avoiding it because the Wine Spectator is trying to turn it into the next New Zealand sauvignon blanc fad. And I hate doing what the Americans do. Hate following blindly because the establishment says so. Because I have a brain. My brain.
Pale colour, which belies its intensity. Lovely, pure citrus, backed by minerals, but the sur lie aging and extract is evident, even on the bouquet. Waxy, thick aroma, very creamy. Texture is elegant on the palate, good levels of dry extract. Floral, what you'd picture as white flowers. Good length, a really lovely, delicious wine. Perfect pairing with my braised sea cucumber.
Hmm. If this is what Fascists drink, maybe I'm missing out. And it's still so young!DF
Thursday, February 25, 2010
She then asked me what month I was born. Oh, so you're a Taurus. Yes. But you don't seem much like a Taurus. Or a Tiger. I guess that's because I'm not actually a tiger. Or a golden bull, for that matter.
Haven't you heard? I'm a wino, The only one, The happy wino. I'm a beast, I'm just ferocious.
There are far too many dicks who go to restaurants trying to impress the girls they're with, making total jackasses of themselves by mishandling the wine order. Because of course, dicks trying to impress chicks will always insist on ordering a bottle of Californian cab - no white wine, no South American, and certainly no input from their dining companion.
Ladies...here's how to tell if the person you're sitting across from is a man of taste, or a tool. He should first consult with you about any wine preferences you have. Then, he should consider what you're both eating, because ordering a Napa bomb with filet of sole is an entirely different kind of disaster. And lastly, when the server hands him the cork, he needs to inspect it for any flaws (seeping, mold), and that the label on the cork matches the label on the bottle. The best thing to do if you don't know what to do with a cork? Just leave it on the table. Don't sniff it!
It's not gentlemanly to order the wine to spread your ego. It's not gentlemanly to order an unsuitable wine. And it's not gentlemanly to completely disregard your dinner companion because you want to show her that you can take charge. Now, if the woman has no taste of her own...well that's a whole different matter entirely now, is it............DF
Sea cucumber, the king of seafoods. Unfortunately, it is rarely available fresh - what we can find are dried sea cucumbers, fully intact. There's an arduous process related to its preparation, from soaking it in mineral water for a week, to cleaning it, to cooking it in a pressure cooker - and that's just the steps required to get it ready for the actual dish! After about 2 weeks of prep work, the sea cucumbers have swollen to nearly 5 times the size of their dried state, and have become soft and tender.
I love this dish. It's almost like comfort food to me. Simply prepared, but key is the ingredients. And I can only enjoy it about 2 months of the year, when bamboo is in season. Sea cucumber quickly fried in oil, with ginger and green onion. Fresh chicken broth added in, along with your sliced bamboo shoots. Then, simmer down on low heat, finish with dried shrimp roe. The soft texture of the sea cucumber, contrasted with the crispness of the bamboo - the subtle marine flavours of the sea cucumber and the lingering freshness of the bamboo. Food for the immortals.DF
Now fully cleaned, you're ready to prep. These shoots need to be prepped differently, depending on what dish they go into. We are preparing a sea cucumber dish, so large, thin slices are the most appropriate. Look how beautiful each slice is...you can clearly see each ring and layer of the bamboo. Slicing the bamboo retains shape, as well as helps concentrate the very subtle flavours. The dish it went into, next...DF
Now, after the outer skin is removed, you have to clean it up. There's not a lot of flesh in each shoot - the edible portion is tiny. A spiraling tower in shape, this is still not ready to touch heat. You have to carve the hard surface, so only the milky, pale yellow flesh remains. There should be no tough fibres once you're through.
It's a brutal process, as only about 25% of the original shoot remains. No sacrifice, no glory.DF
Bamboo shoot. The Shanghainese love using this delicious, versatile ingredient in a variety of dishes. It comes into season in the winter. These are the baby shoots of massive bamboo trees - almost like asparagus, these are harvested before they barely penetrate the surface. They have a tough layer of protective skin that overlaps, and shrinks upwards, revealing its tender heart. The first step is to slowly strip away this outer layer...DF
A bit of apprehension. Having a bit of trouble figuring out what dishes to present this Saturday. You have to keep cooking new things right? Steak and pan-seared fish only get you so far.
It's hard. Hats off to the real chefs who actually have to be creative for a living. There's a romantic notion that all you have to do is visit the market everyday and cook what's fresh, but it's so much more than that, when people expect greatness out of each dish. It's difficult.
So, do I have anything new? Any more tricks I've picked up? Who knows. Palatable or not, at least it'll be an adventure.
Photo, courtesy of ROKChoi.
2007 Le Secret des Capitelles, AC Saint-Chinian
The wine I forgot in the fridge. I had opened this bottle last Friday, to drink with dinner - spaghetti on meat sauce. Finished half the bottle, had a bit on Saturday, then promptly forgot about it until I saw it yesterday. Oops. But it held up just fine.
Great saturation, but what I love about these wines is the colour - purple/red tinged, but not unnaturally inky. Anything so dark that it resembles squid ink is not the work of the vineyard - theatrics in the cellar, misguided by the notion that a dark wine is a good wine. Bouquet is just spectacular, all floral and violets and garrigue. Wonderful. Elegant in the mouth, minerally with high acid, perfectly content to be authentically a wine of the Languedoc.
Almost 6 days later, I expected the wine to have fallen apart. Not the case. A bit jammier, perhaps, a bit unfocused, but I would still drink this over any over-done, candied New World wine.DF
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Have you ever forgotten about an open bottle of wine? I just did. Surprise! It's like finding money in your pocket that you don't remember misplacing. Guess I'll be finishing it up tonight!
Also, the RRSP contribution deadline is coming up - March 1. Yeah. Nothing makes you feel more stale than talking about topping up your RRSPs.
Mill Street Brewery Tankhouse Ale
One of the many ales that Mill Street produces. Interesting bottle. The search for the perfect Ontario beer continues. Dark colour, lots of mocha, caramel aromas. Rich, good weight in the mouth, very wooly. Nice. But I want to taste a beer who's taste comes more from the barley it comes from rather than the toasting it's received.DF
Wine is a culture, no? Are we agreed? If not, then there's no point to go further.
If you accept that wine is a culture, then you must accept that the wine reflects the people who make them, no? No doubt, the people are a reflection of the place and time that they come from, which after all, is the central thesis of terroir. Ok. Established.
I'm still struggling with whether to devote all subsequent cellar additions to Bordeaux or Burgundy. I'm veering ever more towards Burgundy,but then again..........I just did attend a Bordeaux tasting, didn't I?
Read this article from Decanter: Bordeaux vs Burgundy.
So, to be in line, do I identify more with the Bordelais, or the Bourguignons? Bordeaux bottles, with its stern Protestant shoulders, or Burgundy bottles, with its round joie de vivre?DF
It was a blissful 15 minutes.
Snow was gently falling, everything was shut down...finally some peace and quiet, so I could light a few candles and shoot a few photos of the snow outside. Sadly, the electricity came back on.
You know, it's almost a year since I cooked my Earth Hour dinner with some friends. I remember it so clearly - rabbit and wild mushrooms, served with a wonderfully rich Ribera del Duero. What was supposed to be an hour in darkness turned into 5. And I can't wait to do it again. This year, Earth Hour is schedule for March 27, at 8:30 pm. I think I want to prepare a sexy dinner.....asparagus and oysters?
Maine shrimp. I insist on having my shrimps with the heads left on. I don't want anyone handling the shrimp after it's been caught. It's unhealthy, but the flavour of the soft matter in the head is phenomenal. And when donely simply, with ginger and green onion, the incredibly tender, sweet flesh of the Maine shrimp shines.DF
Let's call it as it is. Cooking is difficult. I write a lot about cooking and food (mostly mine), but I'm under no illusions - I'm not a great cook. The culture and skill behind great cuisine is far too complex, too subtle for me to claim any kind of understanding. I love food, I love cooking, and I love understanding the true taste of the ingredients I'm playing with - but I'm not a great cook.
There are too many hacks writing online, in newspapers, and appearing in video blogs who claim expertise in food and wine. Think carefully before accepting what they say. It's all become one big hustle, no? Everyone wants to hustle you to read and accept their advice because bien sur, they're the ones with the one, true, unobstructed viewpoint.
I don't want to be like that. Certainly, I'd like people to read my pieces - that's why I write, after all. But my opinions aren't the only ones out there. That's why I don't write my wine pieces like consumer reviews. I don't care to recommend wines for you to try. I don't care about slagging a wine I don't like. And I don't care for writing how to fluff about my dishes.
I drink wine, and I cook without recipes. I try to be honest, and I hope the things I write about inspire people........inspire to drink different wines, to try cooking different and exciting things. But as far as writing a formulaic masquerade of a food/wine review? Go somewhere else.
Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.DF
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Look at this strapping young man. That was me, in 2006. Cheerful. It's a bit worrying when the only way I know how to look like this now is to drink, oh, a few quick glasses?
I want to go back to Provence. I want to go to Galicia. I want to go to the Mosel. I want to go to the Côte-d'Or. I want to go through the wardrobe and never come back.DF
Started off my wine education with mostly white wines (sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay), all cheap, bien sur. Off-dry, well-chilled. Then, you move onto red wines because you think it makes you look more serious. After all, serious wine drinkers only drink red wines, right?
And then I tasted an old Mosel riesling.
The palate has swung back, thankfully. Only now, I think I only want to drink minerally, high acid, tensile whites. Even in winter! And low alcohol! With all my recent obsession with oysters and shellfish, I'm looking forward to drinking glasses and glasses of all sorts of whites - New World chardonnay, Chablis, Bordeaux blanc, and of course, German riesling.
Who's with me?
Niagara's Best Blonde Premium Ale
I'm searching for a good Ontario beer. Preferably from a micro-brewery, with the proper ingredients, hoppy, and distinct. Why? For a very important reason, of course, but I won't tell why right now.
So for the next few weeks, I'll be picking up a few cases of different beers. I don't have a specific criteria, except that the beer has to be profound. I think I'll just know when I've come across the right one.
I don't know if this beer's really made in Niagara. Cheesy label, cheap, reused bottles, but it's what's inside that counts, no? Pale blonde, as the name suggests, with a good head of foam. Nose is very interesting, a sourish green bouquet eerily reminiscent of a certain pickled cabbage that the Shanghainese really love. Becomes sweeter, grainier. Fresh on the palate, tinges with chlorinated tap water. That's a problem.
But still an interesting beer.DF
Monday, February 22, 2010
The world is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frédéric Chopin's birth. I remain inspired by the maestro, and his utterly beautiful, tragic romanticism. I played his Nocturne in E Minor, Opus 72 No. 1. This piece has been in my repertoire for 10 years. Yet, I still struggle to understand its subtleties. Maybe in another 10 years.DF
Ahh, asparagus. An oft-maligned vegetable. Phallic in appearance, delicious in taste. And produces a most unusual perfume on exit. Yes, as Marcel Proust so eloquently put it, asparagus, ...transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.
It's still unclear why asparagus has such an effect on urine. There are many articles which attempt to explain the science behind it - I'd like to think that there are those who's genes allow them to break down the compounds differently, contributing to this bouquet. And that in the same regard, there are those who's genes allow them to smell this bouquet. This is definitely not a universal phenomenon - many people report no differences in their urine after eating asparagus.
Now, if I were to describe the aroma the way I describe everything else...I'd say it was pungent, with a nutty and almost iron aroma. Round, and very green.
What has LCF come to?? My goodness. Short of swishing it in my mouth, I just gave my urine a tasting note.DF
Sunday, February 21, 2010
We were at a friend's home last week to celebrate our New Year. The host prepared lobster. He did it again - it was absolutely delicious. Rumour was that he bought 5 lobsters to make the lobster soup which concluded the meal. You spoil us.DF
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Commonplace, if somewhat grim, unsocial event known as a necktie party. The guest of dishonor a cowboy named Joe Caswell, just a moment away from a rope, a short dance several feet off the ground, and then the dark eternity of all evil men. Mr. Joe Caswell, who, when the good Lord passed out a conscience, a heart, a feeling for fellow men, must have been out for a beer and missed out. Mr. Joe Caswell, in the last quiet moment of a violent life.
This is Gart Williams, age thirty-eight, a man protected by a suit of armor all held together by one bolt. Just a moment ago, someone removed the bolt and Mr. Williams' protection fell away from him and left him a naked target. He's been cannonaded this afternoon by all the enemies of his life. His insecurity has shelled him; his sensitivity has straddled him with humiliation; his deep-rooted disquiet about his own worth has zeroed in on him, landed on target and blown him apart. Mr. Gart Williams, ad agency exec, who in just a moment will move into the Twilight Zone— in a desperate search for survival.
You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future; not a future that will be, but one that might be. This is not a new world: It is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: Logic is an enemy, and truth is a menace. This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth. He's a citizen of the State, but will soon have to be eliminated, because he's built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in the Twilight Zone.
There is an answer to the doctor's question. All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes - all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God's Earth.
I really need to watch it in its entirety, for the full effect. Serling is a genius.
2003 Dr. Fischer Riesling Spätlese, Ockfener Bockstein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Itching for riesling. For drinking more white wines, in fact. An odd itch that I feel I must scratch, even though I tend to drink heavier, richer red wines in the winter. I was going to lay this bottle down, but when I saw how uninspired the label looked, out came the cork.
Pale in colour, but this is a powerhouse. Lots of oily, lanolin minerality, with the underlying honey and citrus commonly found in older riesling. The richness and weight of the wine mark it clearly as a 2003, although it does have the adequate acidity to balance out the remarkable amount of sweetness. Lacking some complexity, but a very good wine nonetheless.
There. That felt a bit better. But I can't wait for the weather to warm up a bit, so I can begin really digging into my cellar for some serious German wines. Interested in a 10-bottle riesling dinner, mes amis?DF
Friday, February 19, 2010
Too excited, so I tore right into the fish before remembering to document. Came out so beautifully white. The meat is so tender, so soft, but still retaining texture. So delicious, salt and citrus zest perfectly permeating into the fish. Just remember to wipe off all the salt before you fillet.DF
Right. Let's see if this works. Clean the fish first, obviously. I seasoned with a heavy layer of coarse sea salt, flavoured with lemon and orange zest. Squeezed out the juice from both to pat down the salt, and wrapped tightly in aluminum foil. I creased the edges hard, to make sure the seal was as airtight as I could make it. Into the oven, low heat, for 40 minutes. If done right, the salt should perfectly season the fish without being too salty, and the citrus zest should give just a touch of perfume to the meat. If done right...DF
This is European sea bass. What the Greeks call Lavraki, the Italians refer to as Spigola. It's a moderately sized Mediterranean fish that frequents brackish waters. Very versatile fish that holds it's shape well when cooked. My first time working with it, and I had a few ideas as to how I wanted to eat it...DF
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Cockles, done very simply. Thinly sliced ginger and green onion, quickly done in vegetable oil. A touch of black bean paste, then white wine on high heat. The cockles are tightly shut but as soon as they hit the heat, they pop open, quite dramatically in fact.
Pop, pop, pop...
Wow, these are briny. Very, very marine in flavour, but very clean. Very tender, meaty in texture. Delicious, but the addition of the black bean paste took it a bit too far. As in all good things, keep the seasoning to a minimum, and work to let the true taste reveal itself.DF
Cockles from New Zealand. Never heard of them before, never seen them before, and certainly never tasted them before. But distinct and different from clams. Perfect. Bought fresh, and having never handled them before, I bravely dove in, determined to make a palatable dish out of it.DF
2009 Sileni Cellar Selections Pinot Noir, Hawke's Bay, North Island
After being pleasantly surprised by their syrah, I just had to have a taste of this producer's pinot noir. Alas, not nearly as good. Not anywhere as good.
Candied, confected, over-macerated, pulverized fruit. Plonk, in other words. Are they handling this wine like a syrah? Or do they just not care? If this is the New Zealand pinot noir that people are being introduced to.......................why would you bother to try another one?DF
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
It's the ingredients that take precedence - all the cook does is apply heat. Prepping for a cognac mushroom sauce. The mushrooms are fresh Ontario produce. The amber liquor on the left? A Suntory XO Brandy. Only the best.DF
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
2007 Caves des Vignerons de Buxy Montagny-Les Chaniots, AC Montagny Premier Cru
I think I get it now - I get why pairing wines with oysters is so hard. Shouldn't be right? Any variation of sauvignon will do? How wrong. How very wrong. I'm finding you need a white wine with good acidity, lots of minerality, but also texture, body, extract...even a bit of oak. Anything else, and it just does not complement the briny/marine flavours of a good oyster.
So there I was, roaming the Vintages section of the Avenue/Lawrence LCBO, searching for an oyster wine. Preferably something released within the past 3 months. Settled on a modest Burgundy, from a sub-appellation I'm not too familiar with. But it's a Premier Cru!
Double-decanted, for 3 hours. Smelled wonderful in the decanter. Pale gold, nice bright flecks of colour. Bouquet is wonderful, all minerals and citrus. Lean though, with a high acidity ending on a bitter finish. Elegant, simple Burgundy.
How well did it match with the oysters? Unfortunately, not well. Just too lean, a bit too herbacious, and just not quite enough fruit/texture/weight/extract. Not a total waste though. Went beautifully with the fish I prepared later on that night...in a few posts.DF
Kushi oysters, on the northwest, northeast, and southwest corners. Very meaty, wonderful texture and firmness. Very, very creamy, with a beautiful minerality. So sweet...such a sweet oyster. Very long, good richness, just an absolutely delicious oyster.DF
If you thought these oysters were beautiful outside, look at the inside...meaty, not very juicy, but a very sizeable oyster. The flavour is wonderful. Creamy, with a richness that clings and coats the palate. Not briny at all, perhaps due to how dry the oyster is.DF
Oysters again this weekend. I told you. I'd get as many of these suckers in me while they're still in season. Presentation's always an issue. I want to use ice, but don't have the luxury of having a ready supply of crushed ice available, so I do what I can - setting up ice cubs to form racks where the oysters can remain level. After all, what's the point, if you work so hard to shuck it, and the precious juices leak out?DF