Tuesday, August 30, 2011

later bro

to the drink and the ham

My bro leaves today. So that was it huh . . . three weeks done and done. Like I said yesterday, it's not a time to feel sad because everyone's got their own shit going on. But it's been good to see them again, spend some time together, indulge in the drink. Family, wine, and ham. So later bro, take care, and we'll see each other in Tokyo.


Monday, August 29, 2011

last dinners and almost goodbyes

This was my aunt's last dinner in Toronto last week. Her favourite, fried quail. Marinated simply, then fried until crispy, remaining tender inside. Leaving on a high. Tonight was my cousin's last dinner here. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to eat with him . . . can't just drop everything right? But that's ok, we've had more than his (and my) share of wine, beer, and barbecue these past 3 weeks. Something about being poor as shit, but it's tacky to discuss that in front of your guests.

He's had a good vacation. I don't feel sad to see him go, not because I'm a heartless fuck, but because we're young and there'll always be time to chill again. Until then, hard to work again.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

grilled and boozy

Just came back from a walk. It's sort of time to wrap things up . . . my cousin leaves on Tuesday, and as far as last weekends go, it's been a good one. We had a last big barbecue last night, doing mostly fish, but also some pork chops that he likes. We found fresh sanma, which somehow are completely different than the cured pieces my aunt brought over. Lots of beer and mojitos to go along . . . and that was before we headed out downtown.

Saturday was the last night for night performances at Buskerfest. My first time even hearing of the festival, and we got there just in time to catch the last fire shows. The performance was a big letdown, but then Australians do tend to have a high opinion of themselves. The afterwards was better.

I finally went to C'est What brewpub. And yes, this actually lived up to expectations. Started with coffee porter, Neudstadt lager, a rye ale, and a weissbeer. Unique beers, with the lager probably showing the best beer character. Then, a raspberry wheat beer for my cousin, while I finally got a taste of the legendary Neudstadt 10W30. Definitely a winner, with that lovely bitter English ale flavour. Food wasn't all that exciting, but you can only do one thing really really well at once, right?

It was a good night. We had roast duck for dinner, and a bottle of Mercurey Les Varennes. Another round of mojitos in a bit, then bed. Have that minor inconvenience we call work tomorrow.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

out on the town

The two bros at it again. We may not have the chance to drink together again for a few years, so when we see each other, I make sure we have a drink. In anticipation of his visit, I went to my friend's place to pull some wines out of the cellar a few weeks ago. Some good stuff. Lots of gems from Niagara, old rieslings, and Champagnes. And being the good Jap that he is, my cousin's a big beer drinker so I picked up a few cases of interesting Ontario IPA's for him to taste, as well as some good craft lagers and ales. He's been enjoying himself so far, especially now that my aunt's gone. We've only got a few days left, only a few days to make sure he consumes as much alcohol as safely possible.

It's been a good weekend. Friday night was an early dinner at home, then out with some friends to Toronto's Bier Markt, on the Esplanade. Some solid Belgian brews to start, de Koninck, Grimbergen Abbey Ale, and Jupiler Blond Lager. The wait was long, but my friends are awesome and got there early to grab a table as we stumbled around lost, looking for the right street. Beautiful night to be out on the patio. We (actually my cousin) did the Belgian sampler, 6 beers. Pretty much downing it himself, he gave the nod of approval to Hoegaarden and a strawberry lambic. Happy to see the tolerance, not so much for the choice in brews. Finished with a pint of Hoegaarden, while I tasted the Lost Coast Indica IPA. American craft brewers were the first to really revolutionize IPA's - Dogfish Head IPA was one of the first great beers I came across. I'm so excited to see the quality of Ontario brewers reach that level. Our IPA's can match anyone's now in character and quality.

Did a cheese platter. It was a good night, except for a brief hiccup from the TTC, which shut off its subway just a few stations from our stop, forcing us to take a 50 minute circular bus ride. We're driving tonight. Out to see Buskerfest, then some more beer. My bro is going to turn into an alcoholic. High five!


Friday, August 26, 2011

the winning trio

2006 Le Clos Jordanne

For my aunt's last barbecue here last week, we drank these three beauties. A trio of 2006 Le Clos Jordanne chardonnay's: the Village Reserve, Claystone Terrace, and Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard. A wonderful expression of the grape, and drinking beautifully.

I opened them the night before, to give them some air without decanting. Being selfish, I went downstairs late at night to drink a glass of Village Reserve. The rail on the fridge shelf broke, and the bottles tipped over. I didn't realize the stopper had come off on the Claystone Terrace until the fucking bottle was half empty.

The aroma was exquisite as I knelt down and greedily lapped at the spilled wine.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

1996 Oestricher Riesling

1996 Balthasar Ress Oestricher Riesling

1996 Balthasar Ress Riesling, QbA Oestricher, Rheingau

We got food poisoning last week, and the meal that did it included this wine. Now I'm in no way suggesting that this had anything to do with the puking and shitting. Or am I . . .

There's been some debate going on between new and old world riesling producers about what the famous petrol aromas in some wines represents. Some call it minerality, some call it the wonderful expression of maturity - others think of it as a fault, a consequence of shoddy winemaking practices. Not that it should matter. Some love oily rieslings reeking of petrol fumes, while others can't stand it. But it's no fun debating if it just comes down to oh, it's a matter of personal preference.

I don't mind a bit of diesel, but this one might have been a bit too much. It's been sitting in the cellar for about 2 years now; not a clue why I didn't pull the cork as soon as I bought it. Not deep in colour, was always a simple wine that should have been drunk early. More of curiosity now, with drying fruit, and a roaring cloud of petrol that covers everything. Oily wine, with the frozen frog legs, with fatty ham and chorizo . . . a recipe for disaster.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bodegas Argüeso San León Manzanilla

Argueso San Leon Manzanilla

Bodegas Argüeso San León Manzanilla, DO Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Jerez

I have to be honest . . . I don't understand sherry. I get that it's an absolutely unique, singular, great wine of the world, but I find it so difficult to get pleasure from sherry. Maybe it's the overwhelming aroma and flavour from the flor yeast, maybe it's that the wines are just so dry with low acid. But I wanted to give it another shot, and an afternoon long grill-fest with my aunt and cousin was the perfect opportunity.

Bottled under stelvin, and with a heavy chill, this pale wine showed a lot of minerality, and a subtle brininess, all that I look for in a Manzanilla. Very little fruit on both aroma and palate, with that definitive flor character. What I found fascinating was how it played off the grilled fish and squid we were eating. The seafood somehow made the wine sweeter, more savoury, more full on the palate. Delicious even, especially chilled on a hot day.

My aunt enjoyed this as well, saying that it tasted better and better as we ate. Definitely an eye opening sherry experience for me - I believe so much that wine belongs on the dinner table, but outside of sherry, few wines demand it. Great stuff, I'm excited, let's drink some more.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

until we see each other again . . .


My aunt is on a flight back to Tokyo right now. Everyone gets really sad when we have to say goodbye, it's always been like that. When I was younger, my aunt and cousin returning home meant that it too was almost time to return to school. Nothing felt worse than that feeling, that the summer was over. Now that I'm, well, not that young anymore, I'm sad for different reasons. Without getting overly sappy, it's just nice to have the family together. We don't have the opportunity to take care of each other, so any time we get is wonderful.

Not all teary though. We'll probably see each other in Tokyo or Shanghai sometime next year, I'm sure of it. My cousin is staying another week, which is going to be great - lots of drinking and otherwise misbehaving. Until we see each other again . . .


Monday, August 22, 2011

fresh from Tokyo, on the grill



It's a reasonable assumption (or presumption?) that no one knows more about fish than the Japanese. And I got two of them in my corner.

In addition to the wagyu, my aunt brought over the most amazing fish in season in Tokyo right now, aji and sanma. I remember eating it when I was in Japan and just being blown away by the aroma, flavour, texture . . . some of the greatest fish dishes I've ever had. And so for the past few weeks, I've been trying to perfect our grill setup, to learn how to get the charcoal just so. Because cooking this kind of fish any other way is a crime.

The aji is cooked on its flesh side first, to get a slight sear on the exterior. Then, flipped over and cooked on its skin for about 10 minutes, leaving the skin crispy and flesh tender. What you want is the lovely oil and fat in the fish to bubble up, gently cooking it all the way through. Rich, savoury, just extraordinary in flavour and weight. And then the sanma.

Cooked nearly the same way, but we had to be a bit more careful as this was a slightly leaner fish. What's utterly fascinating, and the sign of a culture that truly understands fish, is how it's eaten. I went at it with a fork and knive, and was immediately corrected by my aunt. The proper, Japanese way to eat it is to almost scrape the meat off the skin with your chopsticks. What you want to do is scrape the fat between the flesh and skin, combining both in each mouthful. And the effect on the texture was magic. Rich and flavoursome, with the most amazingly silky texture.

My mind got blown. We drank this with an amazing Manzanilla but for once on my dinner table, the seafood completely owned the wine.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Up to Niagara



We took my aunt and cousin up to Niagara this past Tuesday. They love to see the Falls everytime, and the day didn't disappoint. We visited a winery (guess where!), had lunch, then wandered NOTL. Afterwards, a stroll through the Botanical Gardens, then finally to the Falls. Dinner at the always winning Old Winery Restaurant, then back to the Falls to see the lights. Got home quite late, but had a wonderful time - perfect weather, and got them out to see their first vineyard. A good day.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

1992 Mülheimer Sonnenlay Riesling Spätlese


1992 Max Ferd. Richter Riesling Spätlese, QmP Mülheimer Sonnenlay, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

I've been holding onto this wine for a long, long time. We learned about opportunity cost early on in school, and even though I pretty much write off my wine purchases as soon as I buy, it's still upsetting that I have cases and cases just sitting there in the dark without purpose. I pulled this one out because it was time to see how these older wines were doing, and because I knew my aunt would love it.

We finished off dinner last weekend with this. It was a beautiful day and I was one with the grill - we had plates and plates of seafood they brought over from Tokyo, aji and sanma, as well as lots of greens. With a few slices of Frankfurter Kranz remaining, it was time for this wine to shine. Very pale in colour, almost impossibly pale considering this is a nearly 20 year old wine. Lots of honey, baked apples, that beautiful minerality of the middle Mosel. Not as lively as I'd hope an old spätlesen to be. Definitely quite fatigued on the palate, with the finish taking a bit of a nosedive. Balanced, with just a kiss of sweetness.

Delicious with our cake, and our conversation.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Frankfurter Kranz

Frankfurter Kranz

Frankfurter Kranz

Everyone needs an aunt that spoils them to shit. I have one, and I love her with all my heart. She brings me the most amazing delicacies from Japan, among them cake. I've had this so many times before - literally every time I see my aunt, I eat this cake.

The Japanese are just majestic in learning someone else's technique and perfecting it. Frankfurter Kranz, what is supposed to be a German delight, made absolutely extraordinary. Flaky, sugary crust, just the most amazing soft inside, perfect in flavour. I had a slice with our Bialetti brewed coffee, but I had to save a bit to eat with the most amazing wine after showing my aunt our great grilled dinner outside. Wait until you see what we drank this with . . .


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

king of cattle


Just a sneak peek for now. Look what my aunt brought for me. I'm still slowly waking up from my wagyu coma. With the most amazing Champagne . . . photos and video soon.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2008 Oregon Pinot Noir

2008 Wine by Joe Pinot Noir

2008 Wine by Joe Pinot Noir, Oregon

What an American way to name a wine.

Outdoors grilling again, lots of seafood and greens on the table. A relatively inexpensive pinot noir from what the Americans like to think of as the finest New World site for the varietal. Judging from the prices some are charging, one finds it hard to argue otherwise. Price, after all, is the surest barometer of a fine wine in the 21st century.

I've been burned so many times by Oregon wines, sometimes literally. I always find it amazing that people accept 15% abv. wines as acceptable, especially those with an obvious alcohol burn. This one bucks the trend - it feels forever since I've had a truly balanced American wine. Pure varietal fruit, not much else going on, but a solid, respectable drink. Most of all, drunk outdoors in the heat, refreshing like nothing else.

Printing Really Good on the label and the cap comes off as a bit presumptuous, but the cartoon man carrying the enormous bottles is a nice touch. I like wine. I like drinking a lot of it. And I like winemakers who don't insist on nuking your liver after 2 glasses.


Monday, August 15, 2011

puke & shit

DF Profile

Oh cock, we've all got food poisoning in the house. Not from something I cooked, and in fact, I seem to have fared better out of everyone. But still, food poisoned.

It was those goddamn frozen frog legs they insisted on buying. I wouldn't have minded all the stomach cramps, dizziness, and general malaise if it was a good dish, but the thing was just dreadful. Like dried, tasteless bits of mystery protein a dog would hesitate to eat.

Not a good sign, having to deal with this a day before a trip to Niagara. Thirty Bench first thing in the morning. That riesling acid will set my innards straight.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

2007 Bordeaux Blanc Sec

2007 R de Rieussec

2007 R de Rieussec, AC Bordeaux Blanc Sec

Our second wine. Same treatment as the last one . . . I just love to double decant. As you know, these Sauternes producers sometimes make a dry white wine from unbotrytised grapes, mostly sauvignon. They then name the wines by the first letter of their Sauternes label - R de Rieussec, G de Guiraud, Y de Yguem, etc. Somehow that's all so fascinating to me, so when I saw a dry white wine coming from such a highly sought after Sauternes producer, I rushed to BV, credit card in hand.

The five arrows depicting the Rothschild boys are a nice touch on the capsule. It's a pale wine, brimming full of energy. Pure sauvignon fruit, ripe and electric, so aromatic. Leaner on the palate, the acidity just cutting through everything and anything. Long and absolutely delicious.

These are just extraordinary wines. So many dry white wines are handled clumsily, with too much oak, too much alcohol, too many technical 'corrections'. And yet I'm loving these, these technical, modern wines. Now I'm all worked up. I need to visit Graves now.


2007 Pessac-Léognan Blanc

2007 Chateau Ferran Blanc

2007 Château Ferran Blanc, AC Pessac-Léognan

I don't quite remember when or why I first decided I was going to buy dry white Bordeaux and that I was going to like it. Actually no, I remember precisely when I fell for these wines. I was young, it was spring, and it was a bottle of 2005 La Fleur Jonquet. The wine's creaminess, its pure sauvignon vibrancy, the jolt of acidity in the mouth - it was all so new, so unique, so singular. You have these notions that overt oak is never a good thing in wine, but dry white Bordeaux has taught me that some wines absolutely need oak.

We drank this on one of the hottest weekends I can remember Toronto ever having. We were going to grill in the backyard, and with the heat and humidity, I was so excited to be drinking a pair of these wines, heavily chilled. From the UGC Bordeaux tasting of 2007 wines, I came away awed and inspired by the dry white wines. Far better than the red wines from this vintage, and mirroring the quality of the sweet white wines, dry white Bordeaux from 2007 is just magical. That combination of ripeness and character, that sheer electric jolt of acidity and minerality left me speechless as I was tasting.

This was the first of the two 2007's I had ready for dinner. Double decanted and chilled in an ice bath, this showed a deep gold colour, immediately very rich on the nose. A bit more semillon, perhaps contributing to a more waxy quality on the bouquet. Oak and citrus, lemons especially. Very concentrated, and tinged with herbal aromas as well. On the palate, creamy with beautifully integrated oak. A wonderful contrast of richness and acid, absolutely delicious.

Every time I drink one of these, I'm reminded I don't drink enough. Just as Bordeaux is exalted for its red wines, these dry white wines deserve recognition too. They absolutely are equal in quality and character - I love Sauternes, but I have no preference between sweet and dry white Bordeaux. Drink them young, but put a few away to age as well. With severe oxidation issues in white Burgundy, is this where we should be turning for ageable white wines?


Saturday, August 13, 2011

fire red hairy balls


These have the most peculiar flavour. You'd think they'd be juicy and all, but no . . . the fruit is dry, with a texture of something that's sat in the sun for too long. Interesting and all, but hardly worth the effort it takes to hack through the thick skin. They're supposed to be called rambutans. The other name works too.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Post No. 2301

Profile - Colour

Kind of just had the dinner of my life.

So my aunt and cousin arrived from Tokyo this past Wednesday. Kind of taking it easy because I had a deadline at work and needed to stay focused. But tonight was the night I've been preparing for, for the past 5 weeks. We were going to cook and eat one of the most epic ingredients I've ever had the opportunity to work with - A5 grade wagyu beef, from cattle grown in Hokkaido. Two cuts, both striploin. The greatest beef of my life, and so happy I could share a great evening with friends. More details and photos of all the epicness to follow, of course.

Working on some things. Hopefully, I'll get my shit together and organize a tasting that'll actually make the whole wine/social media thing work. My guests are staying until the end of the month, and the focus this visit is just on eating and drinking and enjoying the summer. My cousin kind of wants to see how we get down in Toronto, bar-wise, so I guess I'll have to round up some hoes and take him drinking. Just kidding. Or am I?

Is this more leisurely pace (relatively) of posting working for you guys? Cheers to 2300!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Best wishes L

DF Profile

My friend is leaving to America for school tomorrow. I'm very sad, although also very happy for her. We didn't even get to do one more epic dinner. But as she said, it's not like she died. Still, I'm going to have a big glass of Le Clos Jordanne pinot noir in your honour tomorrow night.

I'm going to go and cry now. Good luck LucyP!!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Georg Schneider's Wiessen Edel-Weiss

Georg Schneider's Wiessen Edel-Weiss

Georg Schneider's Wiessen Edel-Weiss

These singles are a good alternative when I don't have the money to buy wine. So sad. Tragic even. I picked up a few German beers a few weeks ago to drink with our bbq in the backyard. A bit disappointing that they don't bring in more of these beers, but these were fairly interesting. A wheat beer, which I don't really like, but this had a certain dryness that balanced out the fruit character a bit. With these beers, you need to be careful to really chill them down. They're so fragrant that it doesn't hurt, and plus, these beers are for gulping.


Monday, August 8, 2011

2008 Hochheimer Domdechaney Riesling Spätlese

2008 Domdechant Werner'sches Riesling Spatlese

2008 Domdechant Werner'sches Riesling Spätlese QmP Hochheimer Domdechaney, Rheingau

No more hyperbole about German rieslings. No need for it either. These are wines of terroir, and if you don't have the urge to have that in your wine, you just won't get it. I've drunk many vintages from this producer, across many villages and vineyards. And through them all, you taste the richness of the Rheingau, the extracted acidity of riesling, and that all-important sense of minerality and slate. But there's one more element - the cellarmaster's touch. These wines are always heavier, more voluptuous on the palate. Remaining in balance, but more of a bone crushing cleaver than the razor blade's edge of Mosel.

Delicious in all kinds of ways. But the spätlesen wines are always even more so. That lovely youthful, pure fruit. Extracted minerals and acid, balanced sweetness making such an impression on the palate. Alive.

My aunt and cousin will be arriving this Wednesday. There's a particular German-styled cake made in Yokohama that I absolutely dream for. And I don't even like cake. It's been over a year, but I last ate it when we met up in Shanghai. You always trust the Japanese to copy someone else's things and actually perfect it. So, with a German/Japanese cake, I think I have the perfect bottles of old riesling to drink alongside . . .


Sunday, August 7, 2011

2007 Montagne-Saint-Émilion

2007 Chateau Faizeau

2007 Château Faizeau Vielles Vignes, AC Montagne-Saint-Émilion

Come on now . . . people who bitch about expensive wines being overrated more often than not are the same people who've either never drunk a truly great wine, or can't afford to. There's a reason wines like Champagne and Barolo and Burgundy are expensive. I try not to complain too much, but while wines like this humbler Bordeaux are good, it can be a bit difficult to summon the same kind of enthusiasm as this.

So until I shack up with an aging billionaire heiress, this kind of wine is going to have to do. I love Faizeau, I really do, but the 2007 does nothing for me. A moody kind of wine, really awkward, and doesn't seem like it'll ever amount to anything. I still have two bottles left . . . they'll go away somewhere in the dark. But it's all good, isn't it. Because exciting wine wouldn't be exciting if it comes too easily.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA

Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA

Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom India Pale Ale

There's no need, is there, to say it in full . . . IPA is more than sufficient. Because if you don't know what IPA is, you shouldn't be drinking it. I'm feeling a bit cranky. Something about losing a shitload of money today betting on RIM stock.

This is a good one though. These Ontario craft brewers are brewing the shit out of these IPA's. Just fabulous beers that are better than anything the English could ever come up with. But there's still a tipping point - beer quality, just like anything else, still hinges on balance. And that balance can be disrupted by too much hops, when that delicious bitterness gets a bit too much. Floral and fragrant and absolutely of the finest quality, but maybe punches a bit too hard.

Delicious though. For a beer with the most fucking ridiculous name . . . delicious.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

throwing down

DSC_5162     DSC_5162a

Getting Osama Bin Laden

You need to read this. New Yorker, one of the finest, most riveting pieces of journalism I've ever read.

At the other end of the spectrum, also riveting but for completely different reasons . . . Dr. Vino's at it again, stirring up shit about Robert Parker. And I love it. Because it proves once again that Parker, like most middle-aged Americans, has no taste. Oops, is my sweeping generalization making you uncomfortable? But you guys should have a sense of humour about it. These idiots did just try to trash DRC La Tâche as almost undrinkable (stemmy, metallic, frightfully tart because of green acid, and obviously made from underripe fruit) and was dwarfed by the prodigious Marcassin. Is it still considered wine writing if you're a hack who utilizes a vocabulary consisting of the same 10 adjectives for fruit and oak? At least he didn't try to squeeze in pain grillé.

You funny Americans.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kriek Lambic

Lindeman's Kriek Lambic

Brouwerij Lindemans Kriek Lambic

Everyone always makes such a fuss about kriek lambic but it's just slightly alcoholic cherry juice innit? I mean they make such a big deal here, even with the packaging. There's a crown cap as well as a small cork. TWO CLOSURES . . . it's like doubling up, no fun for anyone.

Deep red in colour, this is glorified cherry drank at its best. Someone remind me why this is still considered a beer?! Drink it well chilled or don't bother, because the sweetness is cloying, the flavours are childish, and maybe the Belgians aren't as good at this stuff as you think they are.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

of tea and simple pleasures

10 year Shaoxing wine

If I wasn't in such a fucking foul mood all the time, I'd say that there's few things that give me more pleasure than simple, traditional Chinese cuisine. We don't take care of our culinary heritage, because news out of China says that this year's crop of 铁观音 has gone to shit. Domestic consumption (and gift-giving) is so high that tea producers are taking all sorts of short cuts, from the growing to the actual production, to pump up volume. That means tea without colour, without intensity, without any of that character that made them special in the first place.

A shame. Because with Chinese food, nothing marries so well as a glass of tea, or better yet, a carafe of Shaoxing wine. If only you and I were running things . . . if only.


Monday, August 1, 2011

to dream...

DF Profile

I've been binge drinking far too much lately. I've started dreaming about drinking wine. Food-related theft - actually no, not theft, more like exceptional greed - is also a recurring dream theme.

In my dream, I was in the middle of a wine tutorial in school. It was some Niagara red wine, some kind of cabernet or gamay. The host singled me out to talk about what I was tasting. And I was so ready. I gave a detailed tasting note and why it was a mistake to plant the varietal in Niagara, to rapturous applause. A really foxy looking girl then asked to go vineyard hopping with me.

Then I woke up. Alas, one can dream . . . one can only dream.