Friday, August 31, 2012

a taste of 2007 Niagara riesling at 5 years of age


2007 Featherstone Estate Winery Black Sheep Riesling | VQA Twenty Mile Bench


2007 Flat Rock Cellars Riesling | VQA Twenty Mile Bench


2007 Thirty Bench Wine Makers Riesling | VQA Beamsville Bench

I've been sitting on these notes for a while, having tasted the wines in mid-July. Whatever. It's been a busy few weeks, and really, the last few days have been pretty rough. Are you getting bored yet listening to me bitch and moan about all my problems? When the MBA admissions committee wants you to write about your weaknesses, what are you supposed to say? I work too hard? I'm too much of a perfectionist? Get the fuck out of here - I'm not fooling anyone. My weaknesses are many, but for the sake of LCF, let's keep it at DF has a serious proclivity for the drink.

So I've got a cousin who grew up in Melbourne, but works in Hong Kong, and he just got married. Congrats all around. Great. There's this uniquely Chinese approach to dating where your parents forbid you from so much as looking at girls before you graduate university, but as soon as you start working . . . how come you don't have a girlfriend, what's wrong with you, why aren't you ready to be married? Chinese parents (both in the Mainland and abroad) are not very understanding of dating around. Right. Because you can go from being alone to engaged (to hopefully the right person) just like that. Because the first girl that gives you any attention is of course the one.

We're immigrants, and being here for 20 years has given my parents different perspectives on dating, compared to my extended family in Shanghai. Dating in the Mainland is a family affair, because its almost unthinkable to just approach a girl and ask her out. No, it has to be carefully orchestrated by family or co-workers or whatever acquaintance. You typically talk through email, then arrange for lunch, and then the guy never contacts you again because he either is indifferent or a huge pussy. It's sad because I actually do have (female) relatives in that position, and my only thought on the matter is, you have to work on your happiness too and sometimes YOU HAVE TO DO SHIT YOURSELF INSTEAD OF RELYING ON OTHERS.

It's been tough for me too. Painfully shy as a child; still am. Or maybe it's indifference, who knows. You find people, and sometimes they're just not the right person for you. No hard feelings, nothing personal; but we can't just get into a relationship with someone just so we're not alone. I mean, here I am, at the age of 26, sort of time to make the life decisions that will determine my next 40 years (or however long I plan on living), and none of it seems to be coming together. By all accounts, my 26 years breathing has been an utter failure. But you keep going, don't you. I don't try to live by other people's standards - I mean, a girl I once went out with banked 5 times the salary I was cha-chinging (as her mother not-so-subtlety pointed out). But is that it? Do you force yourself to be with someone that just isn't right for you? Of course you don't. I don't believe in this whole nonsense that there's just one person that's perfect for you on this earth, but a relationship certainly can't be based on simply what looks good on paper. No, none of it makes sense, but as a deeply emotion-driven person, I go with my gut, and right or wrong, I trust my motherfucking guts.

And none of that has fuck all to do with Niagara riesling. I fall in and out of love with these wines. Certainly, they're great - what I think will be a cornerstone of what true Niagara wines are. I bought heavily into them early on, starting with the 2005's. And now that I'm a bit older, I wonder why. Why I purchased multiples, why I'm hoarding them instead of just drinking. Anyways, all three wines here from 2007, that much-hyped, hot and dry year. Big, big wines all around. I've never really liked any of the red wines - everyone got a bit too excited, went for too much extraction, too much oak. We're not Americans, after all. Even the pinot noirs devolved into this overly-alcoholic, candied style. So I was looking forward to seeing how the white wines would show. The Featherstone riesling, probably the most shrill of all the Niagara rieslings I've tasted - still just riding on a backbone of pure acid, but developing some nicely creamy notes. The Flat Rock, approaching what I suppose maturity in New World wines must be like. Lanolin and ripe citrus, with good balance. The Thirty Bench was my favourite, with great structure and full aromatics. A happy but dignified wine.

I don't know how my life will be in 12 months. Hopefully for the better - at the very least, let's hope I know which school, in what country I'll be going to? So for this long weekend, as I stay indoors and continue slaving away at my applications . . . I'll raise a glass to all my other 26 year old brothers and sisters who feel a bit lost, but still optimistic about the future.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

treating them nicely



It's the weird wines that are interesting. The unpredictable ones, the unfamiliar. I think we learn more from a single bottle of the esoteric than 10 cases of some mainstream junk. A lot of what we choose to buy and drink - a lot of it is because we're looking for something we know, something we're comfortable with. There's nothing wrong with that approach, but it does tend to get boring. Winos, above all, want excitement, romance, and mystery in their wines.

So we turn once again to France to teach us something new about wine. To the Jura!!! The savagnin grape, done two ways: as a straight table wine, and as a grand vin jaune. My first time tasting wines out of this mountain region; vin jaune is one of those wines you read about but never seem to get the chance to taste. So into the decanter for a few hours, before decanting back into the bottle for a quick chill.

Our personal preference is completely irrelevant - at least for the true winos. Building experience, building context around all these tiny, obscure wine regions of the old world . . . that's the whole point. Because it's all to answer a simple question: why do we drink wine?


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

so I was digging through old stuff in my closet...

. . . holy moly, talk about a horrible blast from the past. There were class pictures . . .



. . . and old toy cars . . .


. . . and old school ID's . . .


. . . and even love letters.


Holy blast from the past.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

drops of gold in a 10 year old Chablis


2002 Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix Les Lys | AC Chablis Premier Cru

A great selection from the portfolio of Nokhrin Wines. Alex and his son Max Nokhrin are doing some good work - the opportunity to find these kinds of wines (10 year old Chablis!!) are very, very uncommon. In any case, my first taste of mature Chablis, so it was time to shut up and start drinking.

This night, it was all about the wine. Yes there was food on the table, haricots verts and fish and stuff, but our main focus was going to be on the wine. Pours gold, but with enough of a shimmer to remind you that this is no soupy chardonnay. That mature nose, creamy and sort of warm butter-ish, with lean green apples and of course, that rocky minerality. Palate follows, staying linear with great acid lift on the finish.

A delicious wine - but we can't get too carried away. The wine's an authentic representation of a good Chablis, but stops just short of being exciting. And you know what it all hinges on? Concentration and texture, that's what. The elements are there - the maturity, the minerality, the acidity, the complexity. It's just missing more of it. Lacking in a bit of texture, and I'm not necessarily talking about a voluptuousness on the palate, which isn't common to Chablis anyway. No, it's a certain refinement that's lacking here; there's certainly substance, but just not enough. Regardless, make sure you have a taste of this. Again, a great learning experience, and my perspective on mature white Burgundy has been expanded.

Long weekend coming up! Hope everyone has something fun planned for the last long weekend of summer. Kind of deflating, to think that the summer's almost over . . . wasn't I just slaving away at GMAT??!! It's been . . . a productive summer for me. Lots of things going on at once, but I should be finished all my applications by November, and then we'll see if this Shanghai trip is still a go. I was talking to a friend today about just saying screw it, I'm leaving and travelling for the next 2 months. But we're Chinese and therefore responsible people, so that's out of the question. And besides, how am I going to pay my way across Spain, Portugal, and France . . . ??


Monday, August 27, 2012

what we call a pretty good weekend






Amsterdam Big Wheel Deluxe Amber | Amsterdam Brewing Company | Toronto

I feel like I'm lacking excitement in my life. It's so true what they say - that you never really feel your heart thumping unless you're in some kind of crisis. Well, my heart has been thumping lately, but for different reasons. Good reasons? Perhaps. I want to share, but not too much.

It's been a busy, busy year actually. When it rains, it fucking pours, right? Of course I'm right. But it's when you're feeling secure, and arrogant, that you start fucking up. It's probably not ideal but I always feel a bit better when things are going to shit around me . . . something about being under stress that makes me focus and make good decisions. Fuck me, growing up sucks balls.

I went to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), sort of a big deal in Toronto - at the very least, it's a traditional end to the summer/beginning of the new school year. And I hadn't gone in an age. Right. So I should be a bit careful what I say next? Naw, screw it. I went with someone special and IT WAS A GREAT TIME. They had 17 of the best food trucks in Ontario parked there this weekend, and while a bit overrated, still a good experience. Shrimp tacos, an emphatic yes. A brightly-lit, noisy walk around, and really, you need to turn your brain off at these carnival games because, goddamn, we're being hustled every fucking which way. All in good fun though. Ferris wheel and all that, and although we didn't come home with any prizes (no Despicable Me minion), it was a lot of fun. And it's been a long time since I had lots of fun.

Right, so still working hard at writing and prepping applications. So much work. Shit. But Saturday, it was a perfect day for grilling, and oh yes, I had some fabulous Ontario brews in the cooler. This Big Wheel Deluxe Amber, an absolutely delicious, balanced beer, with all the harmony you want in a well made brew. Important to recognize that although we do want craft brews to say something, it still has to remain true to the great tradition of this is so refreshing I want to drink the whole 6-pack. And home-grown tomatoes (from my parent's church friend) are sweet and wonderful and all that, but what we really want in the end is a big chunk of beef sizzling on top of charcoal.

Almost too much of a good thing.


Friday, August 24, 2012

on sulfur and reduction in Mosel rieslings


2009 Bollig-Lehnert Riesling Spätlese | QmP Piesporter Goldtröpfchen | Mosel


2009 Reinhold Haart Riesling Kabinett | QmP Piesporter Goldtröpfchen | Mosel

Right. So I was cooking dinner at home a few weeks ago, and in the heat of summer, what's really a more perfect drink than a lean, bracing glass of Mosel wine? I had three wines planned: these two, from the same vintage and vineyard, one a kabinett, the other a spätlese - the third bottle, a 2006 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett from the Scharzhofberger vineyard. Chilled on ice, then drunk slowly over a few hours.

Dinner was all seafood, the sort of fish soup and clams and tuna sashimi - all that kind of love. You know what . . . we take these wines and try to drink them with cuisines that are completely and utterly unrelated . . . and magically, it all just works. Savoury, briny, sweet, and textural foods, in the Shanghainese style, along with these linear, minerally, electrically-charged wines = bliss. At least that was the plan. And really, a good DF dinner isn't really good until A) I cut/burn/otherwise injure myself or B) something goes off plan.

Well, we went 2 for 2.

De-shelling the clams, the shell broke in half and the edge caught my thumb. Blood, screaming, cursing, all of that. And of course, the wines completely didn't show as I expected: we were drinking them at least 5 years too young. Which leads me to a very important point . . . wine writers and critics (and yes, consultants) are not doing their job if they're only discussing flavour descriptors of the wine and neglecting to write about how the winemaking style and aging patterns actually are the biggest determinant in how people experience the wine. These two bottles were a great example of that kind of oversight.

The following two (professional) tasting notes on the wines were provided in the LCBO Vintages catalogue. The Bollig-Lehnert: Elegant, showing a restrained sense of power. Aromas of savory spice and fennel, with flavors of apple, green peach and Asian pear. Mineral notes linger on the crisp finish. Drink now. Score: 91 (Bruce Sanderson,, Web Only, 2011). The Reinhold Haart: There’s breadth to the exotic flavors of passion fruit, papaya and apricot, with ample flesh, yet it’s all backed by vibrant acidity. Still tight on the finish, with a mouthwatering impression. Best from 2012 through 2026. Score: 92 (Bruce Sanderson,, Dec. 31, 2010).

As both wines are relatively young vintages (2009), both notes were recent as well. While all the descriptive language is fine, it's absolutely egregious that both notes neglect the fact that BOTH wines are horrifically reductive at the moment, and shouldn't be touched for the next 3-5 years at least. This, of course, is no good for the importers or retailers who need quick turnovers on these sub-$20 bottles. It's not unusual to find shocking amounts of sulfur being used in German wines - how else do the rieslings last for decades?! But the consumer needs to know what sulfur is, what it smells like, and how it affects the wine. Ask any average person what odours of reduction in wine are, and well, you get the idea - no one has a fucking clue.

This is doing a disservice to the wines, and to the consumers who make purchase decisions using these tasting notes. Reduction is not a flaw - it simply needs time for the sulfur to dissipate. It's certainly an issue with the producer, with the Bollig-Lehnert being particularly undrinkable. They need to understand how to adjust the sulfur for the wines bottled under screwcap - one doubts if the rubbery, oily fumes will ever really go away. But if the writers and critics - those who claim to be consumer advocates - are not teaching wine drinkers about these things, how else will they find out? They'll buy one of these bottles, open it and pour it down the drain. What?! How come this riesling smells like burning tires and leftover deep fry oil??!!

A shame. I was really looking forward to this pair too. But it does raise an interesting point about the difference in perceived sulfur, in bottles under screwcap versus under cork. The Reinhold Haart, under cork, just showing less reduction, with most of the sulfur blowing off by the 3rd day. The Bollig-Lehnert, under screwcap . . . not a chance.

Next time I'm sticking to Tom Collins all night.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Julia and her wine

So a lot of people have been writing about how Julia Child has been a great influence on them, how her masterpiece Mastering the Art of French Cooking is still relevant after all these years, how there never really will be another American food personality like her again. But the most interesting tributes come from the people who actually knew her - the ones she cooked and ate and drank with. Her friends.

Check out these two pieces: Learning How to Eat, by Tamar Adler in the New Yorker, and Wine Notes: Julia Child was well-versed in ways of wine by Katherine Cole, Special to The Oregonian. Great reads, especially the second one. A few gems:

"You can always find a place for your wine collection."
Even while his job posted them in various locations overseas, Julia's husband, Paul, kept up a substantial and lovingly documented cellar. At their Provençal vacation house, La Pitchoune, Paul turned a small garden shed into a welcoming wine cave. "He liked to cross the driveway and go into his little private place," Pratt recalls with a laugh.

"Sweet white wines are too often neglected."
So wrote the authors of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Child had a weakness for Château d'Yquem -- the exorbitantly priced peak of excellence in Sauternes -- especially when served with soufflé Grand Marnier or crème brulée. But she also paired Sauternes with foie gras or pâté.

"Red Burgundy = to die for"
For her 40th birthday, Child wanted roast duck and '26 Chambertin. She served Corton with beef, Volnay with brie, Grands-Echézeaux with veal kidneys or strong cheeses. She served Burgundy with pheasant. And she dreamed of the famously rare and pricey Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which she had drunk only once.

A pretty nice story from Thomas Keller. Can you imagine - walking into the kitchen of one of the greatest restaurants in the country, tasting stuff, hanging out with the kitchen staff . . . and they get nervous about serving you because everything has to be perfect? Julia Child sounded like an amazing dinner companion; anyone who enjoys wine that much has to be a lot of fun. But is anyone surprised that she, with all her friends in the restaurant business, only drank DRC once?!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

reliving each creamy, rich mouthful

It's been a year since my aunt and cousin visited us, but more importantly, it's been a year since our great wagyu dinner. Ah yes, when my aunt smuggled over a few chunks of the most amazing Hokkaido wagyu steak for us. Dinner on a Friday evening, with the family and friends that matter most to me. I was so, so excited, because I had already tasted one of the A5 steaks on the Wednesday, and really, if there's ever an ingredient that will instantly make you pop, wagyu is it.

If you've been reading LCF for a while, you'll know that while I always, always stress that wine belongs on the table with food, I don't bother fussing with specific food/wine matches. What's the point? I get that yes, you have to be wary of how the food is going to affect the wine, but too many people are overly concerned with the whole what's the exact wine that I NEED to be drinking with this dish?! Chill out a bit. But now, having said that . . . it was crucial for me that I picked out a good wine for these steaks.

So you go through a few different things in your head. Pinot noir? Almost too subtle to be appreciated against the richness of the beef. White Burgundy? That richness worried me, and I didn't have any old Chablis on hand. Bordeaux? Barolo? All a bit too structured, especially as yet again, I only had young bottles on hand. Mosel, Rheingau, Ontario rieslings - all a bit too lean, and sweetness has no place alongside the emperor of beef. So what does that leave? Well actually . . . a lot. But in the little cold room I call my cellar, my choices were limited, and I kind of wanted a mature wine I'd been holding for a few years.

The go-to wine for really any kind of dish, that satisfies both taste and sense of occasion . . . . . vintage Champagne, duh!!! So I pulled a bottle of 1999 Charles Ellner Séduction Brut. My selection thought process? First, you think of a wine with great acidity, to balance the richness and fat of the wagyu. A certain assertiveness in both flavour and texture, because wimpy wines are the worst. And a touch of maturity, because after all, the wine has to be interesting too. Any other suggestions besides Champagne?! I thought not.

Funny story: I've never screwed up opening a bottle of Champagne (or any other sparkling wine) like I did with this bottle. Unbeknownst to everyone, a ring of mold had developed in between the cork and lip of the neck. So, when I undid the wire cage . . . BAM . . . the cork released and shot into the light fixture. Thankfully, I had really chilled the wine down, so we didn't lose anything. I can laugh about it now because it's not like I was trying to impress anyone, but can you imagine if I was trying to charm a girl?? No harm done, and after a wonderful start of Kumamoto oysters and tuna sashimi, it was time for the main event.

One of the steaks had the most beautiful strip of fat on one side, so I cut it off and seared the beef in its own fat. Basting the whole time, cooking it to a solid rare. We were speechless - the whole fucking table was just in beef paradise. Absolutely no words to describe the flavour, the texture, the feel of the beef in your mouth.

I'll never forget the time my aunt smuggled in beef for me. Love you!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

the lean cut


We don't see good quality, sashimi-grade tuna sold in Toronto very often. One of those slabs of tuna that just screams out buy me and EAT ME!!! No, for the home cook, it's tough to get a taste of lean tuna at home, so when your fishmonger gets a shipment of the most amazing looking loin of tuna, you go for a big piece, quickly.

Dinner for two, and I wanted to start with some sashimi, sort of easing our way into a big meal, so I asked for a chunk near the head. It turned out to be more than a chunk - nearly 3 pounds of fish. They obviously don't clean it for you; the skin is fairly simple to remove, but it's all the connective tissue that's a bit trickier. I sectioned off the centre, where it's just beautiful, glistening tuna flesh. Deep pink, with the most amazing firm texture. You serve your guest(s) only the best, and as far as eating tuna at home, this is pretty much it. Looks beautiful, tastes beautiful, feels beautiful - that perfect trifecta of good food.

So the last time I was in Tokyo, we never had the chance to eat at a sushi restaurant. Definitely on my list of things to do next visit. It's all about taking that from the market thing to the extreme, and I LOVE IT. It's all about going to the market with no clue about what you're serving that night - so pretentious to say I'll get inspiration from what's available but really, it's simply all about buying the best, freshest, seasonal ingredients and making sure you don't mess it up.


Monday, August 20, 2012

just brimming with excitement


2008 Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett | QmP Ockfener Bockstein | Mosel


2006 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett | QmP Scharzhofberger | Mosel

Thirty minutes. That's all it took for me to doze off again Sunday morning, and proceed to have one of the strangest dreams in recent memory. Because yeah, I totally remember all my dreams. I was in a classroom - lent my notes to someone. And they ratted me out. Like a bitch. Said I was cheating or something equally heinous. So the teacher started yelling at me and suddenly, I was on trial for conspiracy to cheat on an exam. It ended up a screaming match, in both English and Shanghainese, and I distinctly remember yelling I'll chew the right side of your face off. So much fun, should have stayed in bed.

Had a nice weekend. So applications are still front and centre on the priority list, and yeah, still struggling. Why in the fuck I decided to apply to 5 schools, I have no clue. As these things go - all the writers will know - it's always 10X harder to cut a piece down to the maximum word count than it is to actually write more. We'll see how it goes. I'll post all my essay questions here once I get the applications out.

So, a touch of happiness amidst all the madness. Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt is always a winner. They make wines out of some of the best sites in the Mosel, and they've always tended to produce heavier, riper wines. Lots of sweetness, but in the best vintages, the minerality and acidity are very well-extracted, yielding structured, crunchy wines. These two bottles are no different. The 2008 Ockfener Bockstein the more delicate of the two, but still showing that beautiful sweet fruit, with an electric bolt of acid on the palate. The 2006 Scharzhofberger, with amazing concentration and ripe tropical fruits. The sugar on the palate needs some time to integrate, but this is a massive riesling. Above all, utterly delicious.

You want to drink wines that bring pleasure, just like you enjoy hanging out with people you like. It's all about feeling, this almost innate, intangible recognition as soon as you taste the wine. I don't know if my dream portends to something sinister. But we all need to trust what's in front of us, the things we can touch and smell and feel. A long week ahead, and my feet are already aching from my run yesterday afternoon. The day when I no longer feel like I have to hustle for everything . . . I think that'll be the day that true happiness begins.


Friday, August 17, 2012

catching up with a friend, and with a pair of Riojas


2004 Bodegas Lan Reserva | DOCa Rioja


2001 Bodegas Lan Reserva | DOCa Rioja

A dear friend was back in Toronto for a week, a short break from her Masters studies in Chicago. We haven't seen her in what seems like an age, and I really, really missed my buddy. So, a quick dinner, then back home, where a pair of mature Riojas waited for us.

I've got a thing for Lan. Or rather, had a thing for Lan. One of those simple, traditional Riojas; its subtleties can be lost among the drinkers who are looking for sizzle and flash. There's really nothing quite like mature Rioja, that moment in time when the oak and the beautiful strawberry fruit are in perfect matrimonial bliss. The 2004 Reserva drinking absolutely beautiful now, all lithe, delicate red fruits, supported by a slight roundness of creamy oak, soft palate; gets sweeter and sweeter, and although not chiselled, will drink well for many, many years. The 2001 Reserva, a little bit more rustic, a bit more reserved. Opens up to show some darker fruit, that vanilla oak, but needs a good 5 more years at least. A great look at how different the same wine can be simply by the vagaries of each vintage.

Our night seemed to fly by, and it seemed that suddenly, our friend was ready to fly back. Sucks. And I'm reminded that we need to cherish the time we have with friends, because my goodness, it's not so easy anymore to just call up and say, dinner at 6 this weekend, bring the dessert! Yes, we most certainly all need to grow up, but can't it all just come a little bit slower?

On Thursday, I went downtown to the Toronto Star building for a seminar on how to write your essays on your business school applications. It was held by mbaMission, the largest admissions consulting firm in the world. Great insights to help me with my own writing; because fuck me, I need help, desperately. Oh, and I got a haircut, and I asked my stylist to go real short on the sides. Mistake. Bad mistake. To give a plot summary . . . my mother went apeshit, half the family was told I look like a wannabe Chinatown thug, and well, it's all fixed now. Before/aftermath pictures are on my Instagram, if you want a laugh: follow me at d2fang.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

another turn of the corkscrew


As a true wino, I proudly admit my love for the game of drink. Not to say that all winos are raging alcoholics - we're not - because after all, we're (most of us at least) responsible adults. I'm talking more about the social aspect of drinking, this idea that we get together with close friends and family to cook together and share a leisurely meal over the course of an evening.

I don't think I'm an overly-affectionate person; I'm probably more action-oriented, that sort of implied kind of affection? Anyways, I've always believed that cooking for people is one of the most caring things you can do, this act of nourishment you share with someone. That's why you never, ever should be forced to eat with someone you can't stand. Where am I going with this . . . right, so yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Julia Child's birth. Her book is brilliant and completely relevant today, 51 years later, but above all, it's her sheer passion and enthusiasm that still resonates. I'm watching Julie and Julia again, and totally youtubing some of the old shows she did with Jacques Pépin.

I've been stressed out of my mind with my business school applications. Maybe because I'm the complete opposite of what the sort of average MBA candidate is - we all know the type, the ones in banking and trading, the ones who call it b-school, the raging d-bags who can only look at things in terms of how much money can be made. Everything I don't want to be. Right, and this is going south again. Just stressed out with the essays, the recommendations, the little personal questions . . . just about everything. Shit, I just want all this to be over. And really, I have absolutely no confidence that I'm even going to make it in, to any of them!

Fuck me. Maybe I'll just run away to New Zealand.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

a bit of mystery in every bite


I believe there's a great deal of room for theatre in food. Whimsy and mystery, on some great looking flatware . . . that's the kind of food that transcends simple home cooking. I'm certainly not saying that this here is an example of all that; after all, what do I know about cooking. But in all things, I have my honesty, and I try to cook what I know best. Comfort food really, sort of a swing of the pendulum back to the food I grew up with; the food of my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother.

This is one of those things passed down, something I always try to cook for special occasions. A Shanghai classic, steamed eggs . . . with a surprise. Well beaten eggs, steamed quickly until it turns silky and fluffy. Topped at the last minute, just before you take them out of the steamer, with sliced green onion, and drizzled with sesame oil. But it's not until you stick a spoon in that the dish really comes together. The dish is a steamed egg and clam dish, something every true Shanghai native recognizes. What I've tried to do is to refine it a bit, season it all the way through, so every bite gives a pillowy mouthful of egg with the savoury marine flavours of the clam.

I have great affection for this dish because for me at least, it satisfies all the elements for my favourite kind of food. Clean flavours, texture, and simplicity, sort of distilling the essence of all the elements in the dish. I mean, of course you can keep adding things. Punching up the broth with lobsters or shrimps . . . topping it with some kind if fish roe or uni. But who was it that said perfection is achieved not when you can't add one more item, but rather when you can't take one more element away.

Steamed egg and clams

Use as many eggs as the number of people you're serving. For a romantic dinner with your beloved, two eggs.

Beat thoroughly with a whisk, until no threads remain, and the eggs look creamy.

Any variety of clam will do. It's not easy to find, but I love using savoury clams from British Columbia. Dark, thin shells, yielding succulent, savoury clams.
Lightly poach the clams until they open, but are still half raw. Plunge into an ice bath, and remove the flesh. Set the clams aside.

Pour the clam broth into the beaten eggs, using roughly a 1:1 ratio. I prefer steamed eggs that are slightly runny, almost like a soup. Whisk the broth and eggs together, and have a quick taste for seasoning - sea salt if necessary. Quickly scoop the broth into large ramekins.

Add the clams into the ramekins, and of course, be generous. Ramekins go in the steamer (at full blast already) for 8 minutes.

At minute 6, top off each ramekin with freshly sliced green onion. Once you reach 8 minutes total steaming time, remove ramekins from the heat and drizzle with sesame oil on top.

Right. Serve, and just tell your guests it's a steamed egg dish. And if they dig in and tell you they don't like clams, tell them to fuck off and never invite them back.


Monday, August 13, 2012

finding vinosity in pink



2011 Château d'Aquéria | AC Tavel


2006 Château d'Aquéria | AC Tavel

What kind of idiot buys a bunch of rosé and forgets about one of them for 5 years? THIS GUY!!!! Not that this is a bad wine - I mean, as pink wines go, this is one of the better ones. Squirrelling away rosés in the cellar is one of those that normal people simply don't do - that sort of thing is strictly for the wine-geeks, sort of an experiment to see how/if these wines will age. But I'm no geek. Please . . . there's only a fine difference between a wino and a wine geek, but there's still a difference nonetheless. And subtleties are important.

If you know French wines, you've heard of d'Aquéria. Sort of a standby when people talk about fine rosé, the sort of wine that isn't pink because it has to be, but rather because that's what it should be. I've drank a lot of this wine, the 2006, early on in my wino career. It was relatively inexpensive, and I thought it was just delicious, treading that area between the aromatic freshness of a white wine with the punch of a red. Nearly six years later, how things have changed.

It's still a good wine, but perhaps a bit overrated. Pink wines are the bastard step child of real wine. And as punchy as d'Aquéria tries to be, it just misses the whole point. We want to drink pink for refreshment, for low alcohol, for all its non-chalantness. Once it gets too serious (or tries to be), it loses all charm, like the chick who tries telling awkward penis jokes so she can be just one of the guys. These wines just somehow feel old-fashioned, especially in comparison to some of the lovely, simple, pure rosés coming out of places like Portugal, Spain, and the New World. Maybe it's the noticeable alcohol, the structure on the finish . . . it just seems to lack some freshness, some vibrancy. In any case, I forgot this bottle of 2006 for a long time. It was hidden in a box in the back of the room that I never could get to. Took me a good 45 minutes to finally find it and dig it out, so here we go, a taste alongside the 2011.

With some bottle age, it certainly makes for an interesting experience. The 2006, slightly browning in colour, with sediment in the bottle too. Showing dried, candied fruits, raspberries or something. That sweet tangerine too, with all the stemminess it always had. Slightly bitter on the palate, rounded texture, clipped finish. Alcohol really starting to come up though. The 2011, with a bit more freshness, but all variations on a theme. Colour is beautiful, showing great structure.

So what did we learn out of all this? First, don't bother putting your rosés away. Just don't do it. You drink the wines for freshness, and for these ones with slightly higher alcohols, the heat just gets worse. It'll be a very interesting tasting, certainly. But really, we're all drinking pink for pleasure, and the extra pleasure derived from bottle age is miniscule.

What weird things do you have tucked away?


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Auslesen that pierces straight to the heart


1998 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf "R" Riesling Auslese QmP Forster Pechstein Pfalz

I've got a simple philosophy for the wines that I'd like to drink. And that is I want my mind to be blown every time. That's not too much to ask for, is it? We always have this notion that we want wine to taste good and be reliable, but maybe it shouldn't be so. Maybe what we all need in our lives is some surprise, some mystery . . . some romance. We could seriously all do with a little bit more romance, in wines, and elsewhere.

I'd like to think that I've got somewhat of an understanding about German riesling labels. You know, about the different terroirs, the different vineyards, the ripeness levels, the vintages . . . but every once in a while, you come across a bottle like this that's just a bit confusing. Pfalz isn't as heralded for its rieslings as the Mosel or Rheingau, but there's good terroir here. Dr. Bürklin-Wolf is one of the best producers in the region, and the "R" here stands for Reserve - they've been releasing wines from the late 1990's under this designation. An auslese, which gives a sense of what you're going to see in the glass.

This is simply unbridled, heart-thumping romance, class in a glass. Rich and unctuous, with that lovely stream of minerality and acidity. Complex and intellectual, all the while completely seductive and enchanting.

We drank it with dinner over 3 days, but who cares. Those who know me will find this slightly odd, but this is definitely one of those wines that needs to be appreciated on its own. Don't try to be fancy and mess around with greatness. And who says men don't enjoy a bit of romance? Life is stressful and difficult, and ultimately, meaningless, so any chance we have to get away a bit, even if its just to enjoy a glass of good wine, go for a nice walk outside . . . we need to seize it. Find a bit of romance in everything you do.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

old rieslings and new loves

1992 Max Ferd. Richter Riesling Spätlese | QmP Mülheimer Sonnenlay | Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
2001 Schloss Schönborn Riesling | QbA Rheingau
1991 Schloss Schönborn Riesling Spätlese | QmP Hochheimer Domdechaney | Rheingau

If I gush any more about how much I love these wines MY HEAD WILL EXPLODE. No lie. But why bother to keep looking around when you've found the right one?! Occasionally Vintages will bring in some old, mature bottles, so when you see them, don't let the opportunity slip. I've drank all 3 wines in the past: the 1992 Max Ferd Richter here, the 2001 Schloss Schönborn here, and the 1991 here.
It's all almost too much of a good thing. Mature riesling must be in the top 5 of the greatest things the Germans have given the world, along with the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, Beethoven, the Steinway Concert Grand Model D, schweinshaxe, and of course, beer. These wines are legendary, and if rumours are true about trends turning to more drier styles of riesling, these bottles will soon become few and far between. It will be a sad day indeed, when these perfectly tensile, linear beauties will be a thing of the past. IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT BEING SWEET PEOPLE, IT'S ALL ABOUT BALANCE!!!!!!
Generalizations always do an injustice, but the minerality in these wines (the clear, obvious, most important element of riesling) falls into two groups. With age, as they reach maturity, the minerality settles down as well into (A) a sort of oily, creamy happiness, that lanolin cream/petrol aroma or (B) an intense slate/wet stone kind of love. Along with developed aromas and flavours, the wines change in texture, with many displaying a stunning elegance and viscosity on the palate. You still get all that honey and ripe citrus and spice . . . just more so. I can keep going on and on, but really, it's like those annoying parents who just had a newborn and can't stop gushing about how brilliant, how special their baby is. Let them/me have their/my moment!!
I was so over the fucking moon to taste all three of these wines together. The 1992 Max Ferd. Richter, which I thought was getting a bit tired last year, just booming. So much energy, the most beautiful maturity, all spicy honey and stone minerality. Lean but perfectly balanced, whispering into a long, completely seductive finish. The pair of Schloss Schönborns were simply brilliant. The 2001, a delicious wine, balanced and still wonderfully drinkable. But the 1991; just on another level. For me, it completely redefines what purity is in a wine. Utterly transparent, that kind of wine that goes straight through you into your soul, if I'm allowed to be so melodramatic. Green apple and honey, rich but great electricity on the palate. Zinging. An absolute dream of a wine.
So working on some things lately, internally. Lots of things to figure out in the next two months. Sort of personal, professional life decisions all coming at me at once. But really, no reason to complain about being busy with things; beats sitting on my ass doing jackshit, right?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My sunshine

Listening to it today, it just dawned on me how breathtakingly heartbreaking You Are My Sunshine is. My goodness. I mean you go through despair, anger, desperation, and ultimately, resignation, all in 4 verses. As tragic of a song as will ever be written. It's something we were all taught as children, that sort of happy, upbeat song - of course, we were only taught to sing the chorus. How many of you knew that there was a whole song after Please don't take my sunshine away? I've been in a foul mood recently. Fuck me. Because I'm never in a mood. Maybe that's why the song speaks to me so much. So many versions of it out there, but this here is Norman Blake, and is the one that agrees the most with me.

Rage makes all the difference when you're working out - that searing, consuming, I want to rip someone's head off kind of internal fire. I'll take on anyone in a footrace/hill climb, but when I set out today, I was struggling and fighting with myself about some things. There was anger. Fear. Definitely some uncertainty. And frustration. Maybe separately, maybe all at once. So I turned to the one thing in my life that is unshakeable, the one motivating factor that will never change. I'm going to make my grand old man proud. I'm going to get into a good school and make something of myself, in honour my grandfather. It's terrifying, the whole business school application process. Absolutely terrifying, something I readily admit, because while you're never an accurate judge of yourself, you at least have to be honest about your accomplishments. And as I'm sitting here trying to self-reflect, I can't think of a single goddamn noteworthy thing I've done.

2012 was supposed to be my year, and it started out promising. But it's now August, and the warm glow from my GMAT performance has dimmed, considerably. What do I do now? Someone tell me, because I have no idea, for my professional, and personal life. Ok, enough self-loathing and pity. I'm stubborn and sometimes completely irrational, but hopefully, I'll never be boring. Application essay drafts ready by tomorrow night!

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms
But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head and I cried.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

I'll always love you and make you happy,
If you will only say the same.
But if you leave me and love another,
You'll regret it all some day:

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

You told me once, dear, you really loved me
And no one else could come between.
But not you've left me and love another;
You have shattered all of my dreams:

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

In all my dreams, dear, you seem to leave me
When I awake my poor heart pains.
So when you come back and make me happy
I'll forgive you dear, I'll take all the blame.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away


Friday, August 3, 2012

the long weekend is here!


Wooooo, it's the long weekend! Lots of fun things planned, starting with dinner and wine tonight with an old friend back for only a week from Chicago. And then, cooking dinner for a special friend tomorrow night - with the only thing planned being the wines, ha ha. Fun. Olympics on full blast, after that terribly boring, nondescript Opening Ceremonies. When Mr. Bean is the one and only highlight of the whole thing, maybe it's time to start asking if you've hired the wrong guy. I've been having a hard time working on my MBA applications. I despise self-reflection, because really, the only thing I can say about myself is this: My name is David, and I'm a wino.

Have a great long weekend everyone!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

drinking under a derby


Broker's Premium London Dry Gin

We're not cheap drunks, so when we go for classic cocktails in the summer such as the Tom Collins (or even a gin & tonic), we need to be careful about the quality of the spirit we're using. No two gins are made alike, and of course, I still need to keep tasting to find the one I like. Researching hard liquor, which is always the best!!

I'm a simple and easy-going guy. Tanqueray gin makes me happy, all pungent and stiff, a good and proper drink. And for the purposes of mixing, it might be the better choice. Broker's is cute and all, under a derby, but it's all a question of texture. Mixing spirits can't be too elegant and soft on the palate. So while this particular gin is wonderful on its own, or in a martini for example, it just lacks a certain amount of bite, of aggressiveness for a Tom Collins.

You know what the most dangerous drink is? Whether it's a wine, a beer, a cocktail . . . whatever . . . it's the ones that are so candied and sweet they stop tasting like alcohol. And you can never forget that what you're drinking is an alcohol. That's why people who drink these fruity sweet confections have nothing more than grade school palates. At our age, we need to start getting past that juvenile let's see how much we can drink stage, and understand that a factor of connoisseurship is responsibility. So all I'm interested in (talking about cocktails) are the true classics, which show balance and power, but still manage to show off the base spirit. Gin cocktails should still taste like gin, as should whiskey, bourbon, or rum. Is it a bit silly to say that I can't get along with people who can't appreciate a good, classic cocktail? Maybe. But like the fresh ingredients that go into a Tom Collins, why should we compromise?