Wednesday, March 28, 2012

to get back to basics

I feel like shit. I'm pretty sure I look like shit too. Usually, I hate people who complain about things; what am I doing??!!

Studying for GMAT doesn't actually involve any learning. No, you learn strategies, not actual math or English skills. Does knowing how to manipulate inequalities have any relevance in real life? Does knowing what a fucking past participle and gerund is allow you to write any better? No, what this whole thing does, what organizations like the Princeton Review make money on, is to teach you how to write the test; nothing more.

It's almost funny, if it weren't so ironic, that the moment I start working hard at something (and lose all free time), everything suddenly seems to happen at once. Certainly not a bad thing, but come on, I get nervous easily . . . LIFE, you can't pace things out?

What I do want to do, is get back to learning. Real learning, with almost no purpose but to get back to the joy of it all and to just LEARN. Sadly, I only had two courses during my undergrad at U of Waterloo that gave me that kind of joy - an economics of natural resources class, and Western civilizations. When you stop taking notes and just listen - really listen to what the professor is saying.

In the meantime . . . I'll be doing something this Friday that I haven't done in a long, long time. Sure, I've been to tastings here and there, but I miss hanging out in Niagara with winemakers and really taste. And learn and try to absorb as much as I can from them, because these are the people that really matter. So I'm going to take my own advice and stop complaining. Only positive thoughts here, moving forward. Pictures and notes (of course) from my first trip of 2012 to Niagara, soon.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I wonder


I had a cup of tea and wondered if I was a sellout. No not even, you need something to actually sell-out from. I have no illusions about how little importance this whole thing has, but that's the whole reason to keep LCF focused, isn't it - after all, what have I got to lose? We (my friends and I) joke about money all time and how we're slaves to it but somehow it doesn't feel right when it comes to LCF.

It's counterproductive, it seems, to study this hard for GMAT, to waste so much paper, to curse so much, to tear out so much hair, only to give myself a heart attack. Not a good sign when I flip to a question and my first (and only) reaction is Fuck, I'm going to fail. Heads up, though, trying to stay positive. Going to Niagara this Friday.

Bloggers are the goddamn worst. The whole blogger/social media expert as a job description is an excuse for not having a real job. French chefs used to boot out diners who didn't show proper decorum in their dining rooms. Anyone who introduces themselves as a blogger and expects preferential treatment deserves the same. I'm tired and cranky, and apparently, a sell-out . . . that's enough nonsense for one night.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

they say that a great wine for warm summer evenings...

You imagine wine, and the entire idea of wine, as an old stodgy European thing. If this is true, then summer is the period when this fat man throws off his robes, dons a Speedo and heads to the riviera. Summer is a great period for wine, because people are less concerned about the artifice of wine when they’re sipping it along with a piece of grilled chicken or watching the sun set from their deck. And two, wines of summer themselves aim to reflect the idea of summer, with crisper flavors, whiffs of fruit, and bubbles. Bubbles! Here are my picks for the best summer wines.

2009 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Blanc

This wine has bright flavors of peach and grapefruit. There are also notes of hazelnut and a finish that alludes to blossoms and floral scents. The lower alcohol content of this wine is great for sipping in the sun, say by the pool or on a beach. Cook up a nice chicken salad or scallops, and you’ll be set; if you’re feeling lazy, go for brie and crackers.

Col Vetoraz Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut

Prosecco is the cooler little brother of Champagne, not quite so uptight and not worried about what everyone thinks. This $17 bottle has complex flavors and isn’t overshadowed by the sparklers you may be used to. The palate is citrus-y, and it goes down easy for excellent hot-weather thirst quenching. The flavor also suggests minerals, adding a deeper note to the fruity overtones. Try this wine with foods that have a little tang; for example, you could whip up a green salad with pomegranate seeds, or even just dip some bread in olive oil and balsamic.

2009 Chivite Gran Fuedo Rosado

This Spanish rosé basically screams “summer.” It’s cheap, and you may have already spotted the slender bottle on the shelves of your supermarket. Don’t pass it up just because it looks like pink lemonade; this dry wine is light as a feather, with a fruity palate suggesting strawberries and peaches. The taste is clean and cool. Need cooking inspiration? This rosé pairs particularly well with fish; throw a few salmon fillets on the grill and you’re set. Grilled veggie skewers of fingerling potatoes and garlic cloves would also make a great pairing. If you’re in the mood to learn more about beverages and beverage pairing, you can also check out the degree programs at Guide to Online Schools.

UFL (2012)
67 Wine (2012)


unwavering, uncomprising

2008 Giacomo Mori | DOCG Chianti

What does it mean to be traditional? For instance, what does it mean that a wine was 'traditionally-made'? I have a suspicion that it's once again a cheap generalization that preys on a consumer's ignorance to sell wine, but let's humour them for a bit.

Antonio Galloni, who covers Italian wines for the Wine Advocate, wrote that Readers who enjoy traditionally made wines will flip out over Mori’s Chianti in 2008. But what is a traditional Chianti? Is there such thing anymore? Wine, more than anything, is an expression of traditions and heritage, but like all things, its only constant is change. As the great Paul Pontallier (estate manager of Château Margaux) says, with every gesture, there is a margin of progress. Would the winemaker who made Giacomo Mori's first vintage recognize today's wine? Perhaps. But maybe we need to think more carefully before we assign the word traditional to a wine.

The wine was wonderful. Not the most elegant, nor the most impactful, but pure and linear, showing great varietal character. It's the humility of the wine that's most striking . . . singing of sangiovese that could come from nowhere else in the world but this particular place in this particular country.

I'm fucking exhausted.

No one said it would be easy, but I'm getting my ass handed to me by the GMAT material. The good news is that I've finished reading all the books. Now the real work begins. Exam booked for the end of May, so there is no way out of it now. I learned the hard way that (a few) shots of bourbon before going to bed doesn't make you sleep better. Quite the opposite in fact - that was one of the most fitful nights of sleep I've ever had. But the bourbon was, surprisingly, delicious. What better way to learn about something than just to drink right?


Thursday, March 22, 2012

that squid tentacle marinated in fish roe



Every culture has certain weird dishes that is a delicacy to natives, but completely off-putting to others. To the Chinese palate, cheeses are the gustatory equivalent of smelling someone else's feet - everything else that the Europeans throw at us, we can more or less manage. As much as I appreciate how special Roquefort is, just thinking of its distinctive stink turns my stomach.

Conversely, Asian cuisines have no shortage of trippy flavours. The Shanghainese love to eat fermented tofu. There are many ways to prepare it, but in my opinion, the most delicious is deep fried, with a drizzle of chili sauce. To the uninitiated, it smells, quite literally, of fresh turd. This is another one, a delicacy my mother picked up from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Squid tentacles, marinated in fish roe and chili, eaten raw with breakfast porridge. The most amazing pungent, fishy, marine flavours, with the firm, crunchy texture of the raw squid . . . divine. The spice and grainy, firm texture of the fish roe sent my head spinning. Delicious, but flavours (and textures) that you have to grow up with. The things that will never be an acquired taste.

It's been ridiculously warm in Toronto this past week. An average of about 20 degrees all week, sunny, and absolutely gorgeous outside. Only the end of March, although things should be getting back to normal next week. No complaints. Out for a haircut today, in what seems like the first time in an age.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

that ebi shrimp & seaweed soup








The Chinese use a lot of dried shrimp to add a wonderful savoury to our dishes and soups, but I've never seen it done like this. Simply the most extraordinary ebi shrimp from Japan, perfectly dried and prepared. Never seen anything like it; the uniformity in size and shape, the way it's all so clean and fresh. My mother bought these at Tsukiji Fish Market, and the Japanese traditionally eat these sprinkled on rice for breakfast/lunch.

That's boring, and doing a disservice to such an amazing ingredient. So you leave the prepwork to the Japanese, and the actual cooking to the Chinese.

Seaweed and ebi shrimp soup

We do a simple, classic Shanghainese soup, with dried seaweed, a bit of kelp, sesame oil, and dried shrimp.

Boil off the dried shrimp very quickly. Add in your dried seaweed and kelp. Add a drizzle of sesame oil and then season - never the other way around.

Boil until the seaweed hydrates and softens, then serve immediately. Too much heat and you will lose flavour and texture. As with all great things, timing is the key element of it all.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

that Chinese mitten crab & tofu








My family, as does many other families, shows love with food. And not just immediate relatives - this counts as extended-extended family. My cousin's grandmother has a tradition of giving everyone in the family containers of the most amazing fresh crab meat when they're in season. Roe and fat and all, with a slight drizzle of rice cooking wine to prevent it from spoiling. It survived its journey from Shanghai to Tokyo to Toronto, and I couldn't wait to have a taste. Much appreciation and love back . . . I will make sure to do the crabs justice!

A Shanghai classic, the most amazing mitten crab meat and tofu. Mitten crab (大闸蟹), is one of the most prized seafoods in Southern Chinese cuisine, especially those from YangCheng Lake. A dish so delicious as to inspire songs and poems . . . as well as poachers and counterfeiters. When that time comes in October, when the annual crab harvest begins, the Shanghainese gift these in boxes, with the crabs tied in pairs. A traditional dish, and one deeply rooted in the taste memories of true Shanghai natives. A little taste of home.

Chinese mitten crab & tofu

Gently pick out the crab meat and orange matter, making sure to leave it in large, intact chunks.

Slice thin strands of ginger and green onion. Cube the tofu; be careful it doesn't break.

Boil off the tofu quickly, and strain, making sure to keep the cubes intact. Quickly fry off the ginger/green onion, and crab meat in oil over a high heat. Remove off heat in a bowl, and clean the pan.

Heat some oil in the clean pan and add the tofu. Season. Add in crab meat along with ginger and green onion. Toss quickly together, but the key is to not break up the tofu. Taste for seasoning.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

that miso-cured salmon













It's called Miso zuke, hunks of salmon cured in miso paste. My mother visited Tsukiji Fish Market while she was in Tokyo, and my aunt bought a few different kinds of dried and cured fishes for me to taste. This particular example is fresh salmon, immediately marinated in miso paste. The miso contributes flavour, of course, but also firms out the texture; it also helps to render out some of that fat. Roasted in the oven, its savoury with fabulous texture, showing a lot of sweetness as well. A fascinating way to eat fish.


Monday, March 12, 2012

roast and bag


Street food is dying in Shanghai. There seems to be a real stigma against being seen eating from a cart, which is a terrible tragedy because some of my fondest memories of going back home was my grandfather taking me out to his favourite breakfast stall in the mornings, to buy all kinds of steamed buns. The lady would see him, pull him aside, and give him the ones fresh out of the steamer. It was really special, and something I think often about.

Around New Year's though, there's a resurgence of stalls and carts selling food to prepare for celebrations - all kinds of things promising good fortune and prosperity. And sometimes a gem can be find. These Xinjiang migrants have almost a monopoly on the sale of freshly roasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts. One can clearly see why with a taste - they're roasted and seasoned perfectly.

Sitting in restaurants with fancy tablecloths is great and all, but you can't forget that sometimes the most memorable food comes from far more humble places.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

strands of glass


The Japanese call these harusame. Unlike Chinese glass noodles which are made from mung bean starch, these are produced using potato starch, and the noodles are mainly used in hotpot or sukiyaki style dishes. Amazing how the same idea can take so many different forms. Do they taste any better than the Chinese noodles? That may be a matter of personal opinion; it may be more suitable to think of them as different ingredients for different purposes.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

a different perspective


2009 Colaneri Estate Winery Corposo | VQA Niagara Peninsula

Does wine-making style ever (or rather, often and in the majority of cases) supersede terroir? Attending a tasting hosted by Colaneri Estate Winery certainly changed my assumption about how wine styles can alter the perception of what a wine's true character is.

It's all about perspective, isn't it. In this case, Andrej was clearly onto something when he decided that making a cabernet wine (50/50 cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon) in the ripasso style would be a success. And it was. In a vintage that yielded some inconsistency, this particular method helped concentrate everything. In Andrej's hands, this wine retained a wonderful freshness and purity, showing beautiful earthiness and a well-extracted palate. With controlled alcohol, this was a genuinely exciting Niagara cabernet.

So is our initial assessment fair? It's become such an utterly useless phrase, this let's let the land speak for itself. Bullshit. What's in the bottle isn't the vineyard. It is what the winemaker interprets the vineyard to be, using this particular varietal, in this particular vintage. In the right hands, true character will always shine. In the New World at least, any suggestion that this is how the wines should be made is pure fallacy.


Friday, March 9, 2012

flecks of green




Tea is like wine in so many gustatorial ways, but above all, it cannot simply satisfy a physiological need (namely, thirst); tea has to evoke something beyond simply smell and taste. As distinct as Chablis is from the Sonoma Coast, ryokucha is unique not just because of processing method, but because of place of origin. Truly fine ryokucha is a textural experience, creating a sensation reminiscent of rolling clouds and grainy hot spring sludge. It possesses formidable tannins, all the while remaining vibrant and fresh. All this, from a single passing of (just under boiling temperature) water.

Like all other things Japanese, the packaging is exquisite, but as the Shanghainese say, you can't eat packaging. Substance, in tea, in wine, in everything; that is the true source of beauty.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Last drops of that Suntory

. . . always taste the best. The Japanese can really do it all - these blended brandies are extraordinary. Pure and vibrant, with the most amazing sweetness/oak nuttiness. Just all love, perfuming my room, perfuming it all.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Look what she brought back again!!

Shiroi Koibito, my dream come true. Every little detail perfected, or as close to perfection as a little chocolate cookie can be. Down to the sticker that's only half sticky, giving you a tab to pull cleanly from - cute cat too. The actual cookie itself is almost anticlimactic


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

L|C|F on Tumblr

LCF is now on Tumblr! Mostly photos, so I can upload drunkenness as it happens.

Please take a look, let me know what you think.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Le Sélect Bistro

I recently had a chance to eat at Le Sélect Bistro again, after what seems like a long, long time. It's always interesting to visit a place for both lunch and dinner; many, surprisingly, don't show that necessary consistency, making it feel like eating at two separate restaurants. This establishment is anything but. They want to create a sort of neighbourhood bistro feel here, a sort of Parisian escape in downtown Toronto. Decor and atmosphere certainly feels like it, but really, all it takes is enough money. The real (and only) thing that matters is food and service, and for this night at least, both were satisfied.

There's a lot of bad food in Paris. But when it's done properly - in humble settings, no less - it reminds why French cuisine is simply the pinnacle of what food can be. So yes, steak frites and all that is simple, but to do simple well . . . well, that's an entire different matter. How exactly do you improve on the classics? And is that even a worthy focus? Classics are classics simply because they are timeless and as near perfect as a dish can be - do we trust cooks who are arrogant enough to assume that they can improve on them? But what am I saying . . . sometimes food and environment are simply meant to provide a comfortable setting for a nice evening out.

The steak frites, the seared Berkshire pork chops were both winners. Cooked perfectly, with enough rusticity in plating and really, the ingredients themselves, to remain true to what they were meant to be. The wine, a 1995 Don Jacobo, DOCa Rioja. Delicious, and just hitting all those mature notes, with lots of energy to spare.

All digested, a wonderful night out. Because sometimes all it takes for a great dinner is the right companion. Le Sélect Bistro; some puzzling moments (goji berry sauce for the pork chops), a slightly overrated wine list (though with a biodynamic section) - little flash, but yes, enough substance to make it worthwhile.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

skulls and ladybugs



Clearly under the influence of the lovely Miss Peng . . . his name is Eugène.

The Japanese, among many other things they do well, have a really interesting take on menswear. They do that whole WASPy, East Coast intellectual thing, but what I really admire is the importance they place on all the subtle things that don't necessarily stand out. Of course, under the pretense of being fashion-y, they also have an incredibly effete and affected interpretation of how you, and you, and you should be dressing. Am I naive (or slightly old-fashioned) for thinking that men should dress (and look) like men, and women, women?

They, however, are absolutely spot-on with the accoutrements. Simplicity is kind of key because personally, I don't think men should accessorize beyond a watch and maybe a ring. Obviously . . . no bracelet, necklace, or any dangling bits. But when work requires a suit, I really like wearing a tie clip. Keeps it all neat and tucked in, you see; it's terribly rude to be flapping out when you shake a client's hand. And when not at work, but the occasion calls for a blazer? I really, really like lapel pins. It's a personal thing, a little bit of magic below the neck, above the heart.

My mother bought these for me from Tokyo. She thinks Eugène is a bit morbid. I think he's a rockstar.