Wednesday, July 31, 2013

saying hello to the 2006 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserves again

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Top: 2006 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay | VQA Niagara Peninsula
Bottom: 2006 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir | VQA Niagara Peninsula

Delayed satisfaction.

If there's anything you need to know about true winos, it's that we find pleasure in delaying pleasure, in delaying satisfaction. We insist on putting wines away until they're ready, until they're mature - whatever that means. And while that whole practice reeks of snobbery and idiocy to the less invested drinker, there's deep meaning in it, if only you give it a chance and open your mind to something out of the ordinary. 

We know the statistics. The VAST majority of North American wine drinkers open a bottle within hours of buying it. They keep, what, no more than 5-6 bottles of wine in the cupboard at a time? Being typical is perfectly fine, but at least try to understand where us winos are coming from when we say that that bottle of Bordeaux will be more interesting, be more expressive in 5 years.

Time and place.

Everything has its time and place. Including wine. So when we put wines away, we are actually suggesting that the wine will dictate when its ready to drink. Sure, it's wonderfully democratic to insist that wine is at its best when you feel like drinking it, but that's the ego speaking. And when you put your ego in your pocket, when you listen - and I mean really listen - maybe you'll hear something inspired. So when we taste a young red wine that's tannic and coarse, we (winos) try not to rush to judgement. With experience, we come to understand that wines that are rough and crass in their youth mature to something entirely elegant and fine - if we are patient. In other words, we let the child grow to an appropriate age, before we decide its character.

I love Le Clos Jordanne. Drink enough of something, and you start learning to recognize the style. It's a transparency they search for, in aroma and texture. A wonderful, bright expression of fruit and earth, of minerality and acidity. The 2006's, while certainly not blockbusters, show the purity and innocence of young vines. Nothing transcendent, but the promise and potential of the fruit they are producing is obvious. Drunk with our surf and turf dinner, after being in the cellar for 5 years.

The chardonnay, all bright citrus and minerality. Becoming richer on the palate - perfectly integrated oak. Lean, but showing the precision and focus that the Niagara Escarpment can produce. The pinot noir, actually drinking fairly young. Both wines, in fact, showing a lot of energy. Dried fruit, underbrush, that stemmy Niagara fruit - its pleasure is derived from its purity. 

Delaying satisfaction, until the appropriate time and place. Unless we're talking about cigars. Because it's always perfectly fine to light one up. H. Upmann's, hand-rolled Cuban cigars that are simply perfume and elegance. Fabulous draw, great flavour and length.

Dinner last night with some old friends, my last with them before I leave. At a great, stately Chinese restaurant - lobster, bass, and free range chicken, among other things. A 2006 Louis Roederer and a premier cru Chablis to drink. This is all becoming very real now, these goodbyes. And its becoming obvious to me that I have to make things right with someone before I leave. I can't have that as the last image she has of me.

DF

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

surf and turf

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Did you know that every 4 years, February 29th marks National Surf and Turf Day? And that the first surf/turf meal served was in the Seattle Space Needle’s restaurant, Sky City, during the 1962 World’s Fair. The dish came to be known as a symbol of conspicuous consumption - the 'hedonistic extravagance' of the two most expensive food items on a single plate. How American is that. Go big or go home.

Surf and turf, traditionally, is lobster tail and filet mignon. But we can be creative with the shellfish (prawns, scallops, abalone, clams, all kinds of fish) and choice of protein. Whatever your pleasure. Having said that, lobster was on sale at the grocery store, and I had a dinosaur bone broken down, so screw creativity. Lobster and rib steak baby, on charcoal burning bright and red.

The lobster

You give the lobster a good, Christian death before cutting it up. There's a cross on the head, just behind the crown. Point your knife where the cross meets and in one swift motion, put the knife through the head. Cut the lobster lengthwise, and over very hot coals, lay the meat side down first for no more than 30 seconds to slightly char it. Then cook the rest on the shell, drizzling some olive oil on. It will bubble, it will hiss, and it will smell divine. Season with sea salt and dig the meat out of the tail for the most amazingly savoury, tender, smoky lobster.

The rib steak

For the rib steak, I wanted to try something different, owing to the high quality of the Canada Prime beef we had for the night. Season well beforehand - a few hours at least, to let the salt draw out the moisture from the beef and reintegrate back into the steak, seasoning it all the way through. That part is key. I also rubbed in a bit of olive oil, peperoncino, and thyme. On a low charcoal burn, place the meat off the heat first, flipping regularly. You don't want to colour the meat - just cook it until it's above rare.

Then, start fanning the charcoal until it burns red hot and sear the beef really hard until you develop a crust. Make sure you keep checking to make sure it doesn't over cook - it's so easy to do so when your grill is spewing hell flames. As soon as it hits past rare, take it off and rest it on a rack. Residual heat will cook it to a perfect pink.

As is always the case, the simple things give the greatest pleasure. Lobster and beef, as hideously self-indulgent as it is, is just so damn good. 

DF

Monday, July 29, 2013

the 5 pound rib roast

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I love beef, I really do. A friend asked what I'd be willing to give up - meat or alcohol. Impossible question brah. What's the point of living then, if you have to choose between those two. I hate hypothetical questions. You need to have a serious lack of imagination to wonder (and ask other people).

A few weeks ago, I bought a rib roast. A five pounder, the cashier called it 'a dinosaur bone'. I had no intention of sharing, so instead of roasting it whole, I broke it down into steaks. Four portions and the bone. You slide your knife along the ribs to take them off first, leaving you with a chunk of meat you can simply slice into (thick) steaks. The butchers wrapped a layer of fat around the outside, which, if you're not roasting, is sadly not usable. A noble sacrifice. This particular butcher shop dry ages its beef for 28 days. If you can't finish it all in one go, you can wrap the steaks up in wax paper and freeze them - they will hold in the freezer.

This week turns out to be a busy one, lots to do. I really need to stop sleeping in because spending 12 hours a day in bed is no way to go. A definite sense of finality settling in - everything seems to be 'the last time' for me. Do I still try to talk to her? Am I really being sincere? Now that I'm older - as a friend said, we're just about pushing 30 - there's a sense that I've experienced things, that I know how things work, so to speak. Yet I'm so uncomfortable giving advice to others. I suppose it's in my nature. I just don't like doing it, and besides, I'm really in no position to be giving advice to anyone. I mean, look at me, does it look like I've got my shit together?!

Beef. And wine. The things I go back to when I need a some alone time, the things I can be sure about. And yes, despite the best advice my friends try to give, I supposed I'll keep trying to talk to her. I'm a slow learner, and apparently, not too bright. But there's a certain charm in that too. Tener una buena semana mis amigos!

DF

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Cuba Libre

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I've spent about half the past 48 hours in bed. Haven't been feeling really well - lethargy? Laziness? I'm sitting in the kitchen, drinking coffee and eating plums, running episodes from the second season of The Office. So that's kind of where my life is at right now.

Had my buddies over Friday night for sushi and Le Clos Jordanne - we tasted through the 2007/2008 vintages of their Village Reserve pinot noirs and chardonnays. We drank (and smoked) some other things as well, getting deep(er) and heavy(er) as the night went on. Managed a few hours of sleep before finishing my last piano lesson Saturday morning. My career as a piano teacher has finally come to an end after 11 years, but I suppose it had to happen. No I'm not selling the piano just yet. I'm feeling really sad because my Toronto routine is slowly coming to an end.

I'd like to visit Cuba, to go see Havana. Maybe someday. Until then, we make do with the wonderful cocktails that the island has given us. And one of them, a true classic, confirms that simplicity is a wonderful thing. Much abused as the 'rum & coke', the Cuba Libre is so much more. Especially when you use a good aged Jamaican rum, a bottle my buddies brought back from me from their stay in Negril. I'm in a bit of a mood right now. I keep telling myself I'll do better tomorrow, I'll get up earlier, I'll do more work. Really ... who are we kidding. This here is called running out the clock. All I want is to hang out with my friends as much as I can before I bounce. And finish the wine. Yeah, all the wine.

The Cuba Libre

Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year Jamaican Rum
Fresh lime juice
Cola

Fill a highball glass with ice

Pour: 2-3 bar spoons of lime juice, 2 ounces of aged rum, and fill glass with cola

Stir gently, rim the glass with lime, and garnish with lime wheels

DF

Saturday, July 27, 2013

taking a stroll

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 A week after I said 'adios' to the office for the last time, I finally collected all my documents for my Spanish student visa application.
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After handing in my application (and paying of course), I took some time to wander around - after all, it was only 9:45 am on a Monday. I walked through the Royal Conservatory of Music, through what they call the 'Philosopher's Walk'. Alas, I never did find that espresso bar ...
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... and I never realized how beautiful the University of Toronto grounds were ...
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... but it was a hot day, and I made my way to the financial district to meet with a buddy for lunch.
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Oddly enough, once I got back home, I wanted roast duck ...
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... before ending my night with what else but an Old-Fashioned. The day is fast approaching.

DF

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Martini

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You drink this and you get it ... ahh, the mighty Martini. A truly elegant, adult drink. And if you're not careful, one that will mess you up real good, real fast. Origins, a little murky. Some say the name comes from the Italian vermouth brand Martini, established in 1863. Some others say the drink comes from the Martinez, served at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco in the early 1860s. Most likely, the form we know today came to be in the mid 20th century, as gin become more readily available, and its distillation became more refined.

Everyone has their opinion on what goes in, but it's indisputable that a martini is a drink containing gin and dry vermouth. Ratios may very, garnishes are a matter of preference, but no vermouth, no martini. And so you try to continue to try to perfect the proportions that work for you, to continue tinkering and refining.

The Martini

Your choice of gin - in this case, Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin
Martini Dry Vermouth
Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters
Fresh lemon

In a mixing glass, pour: one dash of orange bitters, 2 ounces of gin, and 1 ounce of vermouth

Fill with ice and stir quickly for 30 seconds

Strain into a coupe

Zest a lemon; express the lemon oils over the drink and rim the glass

DF

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Tom Collins

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I was taking a drink just now at Andy Parle's, when I overheard an individual denouncing you in the vilest manner. He said you loafed on your friends, borrowed money and never returned it, owed bills in every quarter of the city, and were the biggest beat he knew. I inquired who he was and he said his name was Tom Collins. He can be found at Parle's.

Who knew there were trolls in the 19th century. But as it were, whatever the origin story were (or if there is one), the Tom Collins is a classic, and one of my favourite long drinks. Deceptively simple, delightfully refreshing - everything a cocktail should be.

This individual kept up his nefarious business of slandering our citizens all day yesterday. But we believe that he succeeded in keeping out of the way of his pursuers. In several instances he came well nigh being caught, having left certain places but a very few moments before the arrival of those who were hunting him. His movements are watched to-day with the utmost vigilance.

- Tom Collins Still Among Us, Daily Republican, Decatur, Ill., June 1874

The Tom Collins

Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin
Fresh lemon juice
Sugar syrup
Sparkling water

In a cobbler shaker, pour: 2 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of lemon juice, 3/4 ounce of sugar syrup

Fill with ice, and employ the three-step hard shake for 25-30 seconds

Pour into a high ball glass full of ice, and top with sparkling water

Lemon wheel to garnish

DF

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Pimm's Cup

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It's a bit ridiculous, but I'm struggling to stay focused. My mind wanders from the tasks I clearly need to get done, and I end up taking a nap or doing something equally leisurely. And while I've dreamed about being retired for the longest time, this will not do. This simply will not suffice.

I'm not a lazy person - at least I don't think I am. I don't think I settle for things. Ever since January 2012, I think I've proved to everyone that I'm simply unsatisfied with settling for being comfortable, for maintaining the status quo. I know a lot of people that are happy with how things are here in Toronto, with the simple fact of getting married and having babies bringing great satisfaction. And there's nothing wrong with that - it's simply not for me. Having a family is just far from being a priority. No, I'm being selfish, and stating for a fact that I want more for myself, that I'm not happy with how things are. And I want to surround myself with the people that share that vision, that share that urge and ambition to do more. I wasn't finding that in my relationship, and maybe that's the cause of its demise. I'm sad as all hell about it, but at the age of 27, I have to do what's best for myself, at any cost. I feel intensely, and as silly as it sounds, I love intensely too, but it does take a lot for me to take that step. There is no if or how - I simply feel. I suppose, in love or drinks, I approach all things in my life the same way.

Moving on.

I attended a launch event for El Catrin restaurant in Toronto's Distillery District last night. After the incredible heat wave of last week, last evening was downright frigid. Food was good though. That refined food that hints of Mexico. Margaritas were fabulous, all fresh and bright. And with what feels like only the start of summer, we look at classic summer drinks. The Pimm's Cup must be at the top of that list. Classic British, based on Pimm's No. 1, the fruit cup drink with a gin base. A good read here, from the New York Times. So many variations, but for me, this works. When you're only good for one thing, as this wino is - making drinks - it hurts more than anything not to have the chance to make the drinks that make the people who you care about the most enjoy. This is one of them.

The Pimm's Cup

Pimm's No. 1
Fresh lemon juice
Sparkling water (San Pelligrino)
Sugar syrup
In season berry fruit
Cucumber (for garnish)

In a mixing glass, pour: 2 ounces of Pimm's No. 1, 1 ounce of lemon juice, 3/4 ounce of sugar syrup

Add ice, and roll the drink into another mixing glass (or stir), until ingredients have blended and chilled

Pour into glass and top with sparkling water

Garnish with: cucumber slice, lemon slice, and your choice of berry fruit

Sprig of mint and a straw to finish

DF

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

calm and composed

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1995 Delaforce Corte Vintage Port | DOC Douro

Yesterday was a good day. I needed one of those. Relaxing all around, doing what I love - wandering around the city, stopping into random places for a coffee, for lunch, for a beer. Weather was perfect, and I had a great time. Need a few more days like that before I say adios to Toronto.

Port is all love, but we do have to move on and try other things. The Delaforce Corte - at this price point, you have to give it a taste. Rich, pure fruit, all that we love about these wines. I like them a lot. Ports are a throwback, when taking a drink in the afternoon was part of the routine, when we drank wine for what it was, instead of having to analyze everything. And I'm a throwback kind of guy.

DF

Monday, July 22, 2013

Stiff right hook, flat on my back

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Top: 2010 Jacques Puffeney Poulsard | AC Arbois
Bottom: 2009 Domaine de l'Aigle À Deux Têtes Chardonnay | AC Côtes du Jura

We know when we meet the one - the one that takes our breath away, the one that was meant to be. So what is it when we meet not just one, but two wines that do that to us, at the same time?

We never learn when things are too easy, when we get too comfortable. It's not to say we have to live in constant misery and pain, but we would all do better with some discomfort. I had a good last couple of days. Lots of events that were lined up for #TeamLCF, and got to catch up with some old friends at the Spoke Club on Friday, friends I haven't talked to in a long time. Had dinner Saturday evening with 3 of my nearest and dearest, drinking some very interesting bottles. And amidst all that, I can't help but feel rueful that while I have a professional path set down, my personal life remains a mess. Yesterday was July 21st. And I couldn't stop thinking about burgers on the beach and Niagara rieslings. I know, this is just getting pathetic and unnecessary for everyone. But this past year, this experience has been as meaningful as anything MBA-related. More than two months and I still don't know how to deal with it.

This wine experience, while a shock, thankfully brings sweeter memories. As in all things, I want wines that challenge, that excite, that make you question every presumption you think you had. From the Jura, my first poulsard (found in New York City's extraordinary Chambers Street Wines) and a chardonnay released the week after I returned from NYC (a beautiful accident?). Both young wines, but already so expressive, so full of character. The poulsard, from the esteemed Puffeney estate, all pale and amber-tinged, but showing all kinds of savoury aromas. Iron notes, beautiful dried roses, and that minerality underlining it all. So tight, so precise, so full of energy and life. Tannic like you wouldn't believe - a wine that shocks and surprises, and hammers home how little you know about wine. A truly unique varietal, grown in a truly unique place. The chardonnay, so much varietal character. Fresh and vibrant, great extraction. Linear and sinewy, perfect for the table. Showing how great controlled oxidation can be, if the winemaking is top-notch.

We learn from mistakes, we learn from bad experiences of poor judgement and circumstances. But we hold to the hope that they make us better for it. 

DF

Friday, July 19, 2013

keeping things messy

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Why do some producers still bottle under wax? Is it because of tradition? Or the image of tradition? There's certain pleasure in breaking a wax seal, the ritual. But it just gets so messy. So is being messy part of the appeal?
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We like our lives to be clean. To both be clean, and to conduct ourselves 'cleanly'. But seldom does it ever go that way. We want to end things cleanly, want to begin the next stage of our lives cleanly, want to get through this next month cleanly ... but really, we're lying to ourselves. We have to take things as they come, and deal with them as best as we can, trying to be moral, responsible people. So let's keep things messy, because a clean life is a boring one. An exciting few days so far - two events already this week for #TeamLCF, with one more tonight at the #ICTorontoCentre's Azure Restaurant for their Summerlicious menu. Been taking my buddies with me - #TheRMBTeam - because who are you without your nearest and dearest?

DF

Thursday, July 18, 2013

the hardest thing ...

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... is simplicity. Shellfish all night, starting with the whelks and continuing onto varnish clams from British Columbia, which I far too seldom find at the market ...
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... done with green onion, ginger, and a splash of white wine over high heat ...
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... and finishing with scallops from Nova Scotia, done in the same way, allowing each to express its true nature. The hardest thing to do right is simplicity.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer (1900 - 1944)

DF

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

curled up

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I had really bad posture growing up. My mother always used to yell at me to straighten up and stop looking like a shrimp. Things are a bit better now. Nearly four and a half years after I joined the gym next to my office, I've learned to stand straighter, fill out my clothes better, and generally just feel better. Just finished my last workout before cancelling my membership yesterday - you know, all part of wrapping up my life here in Toronto. Thanks Goodlife, we did good.

A few weeks ago, I was craving seafood. Just that kind of craving where I just needed to wander around and see what looked good. And as always, Diana's Seafood came through for me in the clutch. Whelks, otherwise known as sea snails. With no hesitation, I picked up a few dozen. In my mind, I would figure out how to cook them later - I just knew at that moment, I needed to bring some home. And then it hit me. I would cook them like I cook tiny snails.

Whelks in black bean sauce

Live whelks
Green onion
Ginger root
Black bean sauce
Shaoxing cooking wine

Wash the whelks and poach them quickly in salt water for no more than 1 minute

Remove the whelks from their shells, and break off the curly tail end which holds the digestive tract

Slice the cleaned whelks into strips

Julienne the green onion and ginger root, and fry them off quickly in canola oil, on high heat

Add the whelks, and toss quickly

Pour a splash of Shaoxing cooking wine, and a few spoonfuls of black bean sauce

Cover on for 30-45 seconds on high heat

Check for seasoning, and plate

DF

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Mojito

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There's a black squirrel that lives in my backyard. He/she's been busy lately trying to build him/herself a nest where the body of the maple tree forks off into 3 separate, smaller trunks. And the stupid thing is failing miserably at it. Let's call him Georges. You know, for Georges Bizet, because Bizet wrote a famous opera that ... nah, we won't go anywhere near that. Georges is a doofus because the fork in the tree is slanted in such a way that the leaves and tiny branches he breaks off simply slide right off. Yet he keeps going at it mindlessly, never once concerned with the utter futility of what he's doing.

I suppose at this point, I want to do something rather than plan something. There's something very satisfying about executing a task, and actually producing something instead of simply talking about how to do it - you can try to justify how important it is and all that, call it strategizing, but it's all a lie. Useless. Action is all that matters, even if it seems like progress is incremental. And like the stupid black squirrel, the process is sometimes just as meaningful as the end result. He's still at it, by the way, 3 days in.

The Mojito is the first cocktail I really fell in love with. I still can't think of a drink that fits more perfectly with the season. Fresh, vibrant, and with a serious punch, the kind of drink you want to force-feed your woman on a date. It works, trust me, and not in a sleazy way either because the Mojito, when made with good quality ingredients, is stunning. Its origins are a bit murky - some attribute it to Francis Drake, others to African slaves who worked in Cuba's sugar cane fields, but what is incontrovertible is its Cuban roots, and the fact that the tradition calls for hierbabuena. Since it's not readily available outside of Cuba, we settle for mint - the two herbs contribute to drinks of completely different flavours. Both good, just different - which isn't a bad thing.

The Mojito

Havana Club Añejo Blanco Rum 
Fresh lime juice
Fresh mint
Sugar syrup
San Pelligrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water


In a chilled highball glass, place 8-12 mint leaves

Pour 1 ounce of lime juice

Muddle gently with a muddler or pestle to release the oils from the mint leaves

Pour 2 ounces of rum

Fill glass with ice and top up with sparkling water

Pour 0.75 ounces of sugar syrup and stir gently

Mint sprig and lime wheel for garnish, with a straw

DF

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Daiquiri

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How do we end up with what 'our drink' is? Because if it's true that what we drink is a reflection of who we are, what does it say about me that one of the drinks I've been obsessed with lately brings me nothing but painful, horrible memories? Sometimes we drink to forget, but maybe I drink these to remember.

Legend has it that the daiquiri was invented around 1905 in Santiago, Cuba, by an American mining engineer called Jennings Cox, who worked at the Daiquiri iron mine. It was brought to America in 1909 by a U.S. Navy medical officer named Admiral Lucius Johnson, who introduced it to the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C. Its popularity rose in the 1940's because of Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy - opening up trade with Latin America, Cuba, and the Caribbean made rum readily available (and fashionable to drink).

And now it is a classic.

I went to the office of the General-Consulate of Spain in Toronto this Friday, to hand in my student visa application. As expected, I have to go again on Monday - slight hiccup with one of the forms. Finished early, so had a chance to walk around Bloor and the Yorkville area. Strolled through the grounds of the Royal Conservatory of Music for the first time, what they call the Philosopher's Walk. Met up with a buddy for lunch, before heading back home tired, sweaty, and in desperate need of a drink. I bitch and moan about all the other stuff I have to do for school, but this is all part of it, no? I signed up for this. No complaints. When I finally get the complete application in, I'll have time to relax and enjoy what looks to be the last summer I'll have in Toronto for very long time.

Dinner at a friend's place yesterday, bbq. We mixed drinks all night, keeping it simple. Mojitos and Tom Collins in pitchers - all that was then required was to fill the glass 1/3 of the way with the mix, add ice and top with soda water. Made all the more convenient by the fact that my friend grows mint in her backyard. For the rest of the night, Gimlets and Martinis. We're getting pretty good at the setup.

The Daiquiri

Your choice of either white or dark rum:
Havana Club Añejo Blanco Rum or Appleton Estate 12 Year Old Jamaica Rum
Fresh lime juice
Sugar syrup

Using a jigger, pour: 1 ounce of lime juice, 0.75 ounce sugar syrup, and 2 ounces of rum into a cobbler shaker

Fill with large chunks of ice

Employ the three-step hard shake for 25-30 seconds

Strain into a chilled glass/coupe

Garnish with a lime wheel

DF

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tasting at Le Clos Jordanne

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So in early May - what seems like ages ago - we went to Niagara for the day. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, warm and fuzzy all over. That's all over and done now, but I do still have tasting notes from that day. Only one appointment, with Sébastien Jacquey of Le Clos Jordanne. I had met Sébastien, briefly, last year. I had a chance to taste some 2011's from cask, and immediately, I was blown away by the structure. It was like the entire personality of LCJ had changed - it was far more chiselled and well defined than before, when Sébastien was the assistant winemaker under Thomas Bachelder. Now that he was running things, the 2011's looked like the first salvo of what appeared to be a change in the LCJ style.

Sébastien worked with Thomas for a long time, and he's maintaining many of the same philosophies. The influence is clear, especially when Séb says things like:

Thomas says when something is wrong and you don't know what to do with the wine, you do nothing.

The focus on site expression and purity in character is very much being upheld here, but as the wines showed, that character is becoming more chiseled, more muscular, and more impactful. Exciting things happening here, and very much worthy of its reputation as a premium wine producer. The wines remain so pure and expressive, as before, but they now have that muscle and backbone that was missing. Séb keeps pushing the boundaries, keeps experimenting with extraction techniques, with whole clusters, with temperatures; in my opinion, he's exactly what Niagara needs. Young, passionate energy, full of talent and vision. The chardonnays were just bottled the week we went in, and so the winery was a flurry of activity. Many thanks to Sébastien for taking some time to share these with us. We started with the pinot noirs, in bottle and then from barrel, before finishing with the chardonnays.

Pinot Noir
From bottle:

2011 Village Reserve Pinot Noir: Blend of 3 vineyards: 35% Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard, 20% Claystone Terrace, and 20% La Petite. 5% of fruit whole-cluster fermented, a week of cold soak to maintain low extraction; stronger extraction through fermentation. Temperature kept under 28°C. 60% press juice in the blend, malolactic fermentation in barrel (30% new oak). Kept in oak for 16 months, with only periodic topping up and one racking in tank. Shows fabulous juicy fruit, very pure. Some earthiness, needs time to unwind that structure. Grippy and exciting tannins, but still in the LCJ style.

2011 Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir: Unfiltered. Minerality here, pure and so tight. So completely linear, real elegance and strength, the iron fist in a velvet glove.

2011 Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir: Less clay on this site, more silt and sand. Rounder centre on the palate, very ripe tannins.

2011 Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir: The top cuvée, from the west side of Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard. 3 more days of cold soak, about 40 days of maceration. Ultra elegant and fine in structure, great breeding evident already.

Barrel samples:

2012 Village Reserve Pinot Noir: 15% whole cluster, malolactic fermentation completed in early February, sulfur added in mid-March. Sébastien was careful with the extraction, allowing a long, cold soak. This is from 60% of new plantations. A big wine, a bit uncouth at the moment, but great fruit quality.

2012 Claystone Terrace (West) Pinot Noir: 40 days of maceration. Sulfur odours initially, but they blow off to reveal a great freshness and purity. A very open wine, although slightly coarse on the palate.

2012 Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir: Long malolactic fermentation, picked slightly sooner. Very tannic here, but some fruit. Sébastien thinks this is a bit disjointed, balance a bit off.

2012 Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir: Earthiness here and fabulous purity. Sébastien thinks it's slightly closed. Refined, tight tannins.

Chardonnay

2011 Village Reserve Chardonnay: Bottled 2 months ago. Aged in 15% new oak, with lees stirring. Sébastien is working on freshness here, picking sooner for lower alcohol. Again that purity, but with great structure and depth. Very focused.

2011 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay: Restrained structure with no perceptible oak on the nose. Ripe citrus here, great juiciness, oak comes up slightly on the palate with some creaminess. Fabulous dry extract.

2011 Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay: This sees 15% new oak. Creamy and round, more subtle here, more acid as well. Great extract on the finish.

2012 Le Grand Clos Chardonnay: Different pressing; Sébastien kept the first press juice and reintegrated 30% of hard press juice. Very expressive, oaky but well integrated. Elegant palate, gorgeous body.

DF

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Gimlet

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Channeling Uyeda-san.

I taught piano for many, many years. It's fairly routine - all parents want to believe they're raising the next Mozart, but no, sorry to take a dump on your lawn, your kid is just adequate. People lose all common sense and perception of reality when it comes to the little ones, don't they? And suddenly I'm the asshole when I try to tell them the truth. No, piano (and music) is pain and suffering, and endless, endless repetition. As is all the 'arts'. There are no epiphanic moments, no such musical genius - no one has the ability to get on stage and let the music come to them. Great musicians and pianists are the result of hard work and practice, dedication and sacrifice.

And it all starts with the fundamentals.

Scales and chords and finger exercises are certainly not pleasant, but for those who are serious about music, they're absolutely a necessary evil. Discount this kind of training, and you're simply confirming that you're not that serious about music. Parents who expect their kids to suddenly be able to play like an angel are exposing their ignorance, and their true purpose for forcing their kids to learn music - it's all about ego. They want their kids to look competitive against their friend's kids, their relatives, their neighbours. So when I teach, I teach fundamentals to the little ones, but I'm also teaching the parents to step back and understand what it takes to actually learn music. Few can hack it, even as amateurs.

But what about those that can? Those that take the time and effort to master the fundamentals? Are they musical yet? No. Because truly being musical, just like being artistic, requires an inner feeling, a deeply personal understanding and mastery of first the subject matter, and second the ability to inject yourself into what you're producing/creating/performing. People think that's the easy part. Hardly. Without mastering and having a foundation of the basics first - how can you add your personal expression onto it? It's a falsehood; a lie.

And so we come to the Gimlet. A deceptively simple and classic cocktail, a true throwback. Mastered by the Japanese, and a favourite of the legendary Uyeda-san of Ginza's Tender Bar. He's made countless of these, but yet stays true to its recipe. Like all other Japanese culinary arts (see Jiro Dreams of Sushi), these artisans believe in repetition and the pursuit of perfection through daily, incremental improvements in their execution. A true inspiration. Before putting yourself into it - adopt a spirit of humility, and aim for a simple perfection.

The Gimlet

Gordon's London Dry Gin
Fresh lime juice
Sugar syrup (1 : 0.75 sugar to water, simmered until dissolved)

In a cobbler shaker, fill to the top with fresh, clean, large chunks of ice 

Using a jigger, pour: 2 ounces of gin, 3/4 ounce lime juice, and 1/2 ounce sugar syrup

As per Uyeda-san, employ the 3-step hard shake for 25-30 seconds until shaker frosts over

Strain into glass

Lime wheel for garnish

DF

Coaching

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These were notes I took in my first 'coaching' session I had with my then boss, back in October 2009. It was the first time we spoke about me going back to school, and what options I had. As you can see, a post-graduate degree wasn't the only thing discussed - professional designations as well.

I'm so depressed looking at this. This conversation happened nearly 4 years ago. Why did it take so fucking long for me to get my shit together, to go and do something?! Lots of self-loathing going on right now. Partly because this whole process did not go as I had planned for, none of that smooth, everything will fall into place kind of way. No, it's been one shitstorm after another, one case of oh great, David fucks up again! after another. And two days into my retirement/funemployment, things have been anything but. I expected to be able to finally relax a bit, maybe start studying some Spanish, work out and take afternoon naps ... but no. Applying for student visas is a real hard bitch.

Too much complaining going on. But why can't I just go to school and just study? Too much noise, too much of start looking for internships right away, start NETWORKING. I hate that word. I hate that there's so much peripheral stuff going on that seems to take away from the point of going to school. Maybe I'm just being a big baby.

So what to look forward to? Have a few wines left in the closet that I have to attend to soon. A few bottles of bourbon too. I tell you what though, now going through this whole thing - the thing I'm most excited about, the thing I'm craving the most? Being able to answer to no one but myself. And if it took 4 years to get there/here? Worth it.

DF

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#TOflood

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Toronto is good for a lot of things, but man, we are terrible when it comes to natural disasters. Check that - not even a disaster. Just a thunderstorm ... a really, really bad thunderstorm, but just still a thunderstorm. Our power went out just after 6:15 pm, and cellular service went soon after. So with nothing to do, we lit some candles, had a few drinks, and I went to bed at 10.

Others didn't have it so easy. Many basements were flooded, many people stranded in transit. And there are reports of more thunderstorms tonight. Batten down the hatches, my friends, and stay safe.

Still working on putting together all the documents I need for my Spanish student visa. Pain in my assholes. But hopefully will have everything ready to send in by tomorrow morning. And then when that's all settled, maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to relax a bit and enjoy my last few weeks in Toronto.

DF

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Post No. 2801

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We give up what we want when we want power; believe me. Now, you want to show me you have the heart to be king, show me you can control it. Wrestle it to the ground, numb it with ice.

- Silas Benjamin, Kings

Heart and sacrifice for what we want. Easier said than done. I have all the desire to be successful, to create a good future for myself and my family - but that's the easy part. Do I have the determination, the willpower to do what it takes to make it happen? Am I made of the right stuff, that stuff of warriors and heroes? Insecurity can be as constant of a companion as death. All questions in my head, so to answer the question 'Are you excited for Spain?', I'd answer leave me the fuck alone, I'm in way over my head

My last day of work was this Friday. Finished up a final report, and left the office, alone. Quiet, with dignity. I can't believe it's been nearly 5 years - like it was all a blur. 

Six months ago, it was just the new year, I had just submitted my applications to U.S. business schools, and I thought all I had to do was wait. What a fucking doorknob I was. Of course, my plan for New York crashed and burned, spectacularly, and well, you get real with yourself. And amidst all the agonizing about my plans professionally, my personal life was neglected. Am I regretful? Yes, I do feel apologetic about how things went down. It's never fun when your relationship ends, no matter the situation. I'm not good with these things - I don't know how to act. So with all the stumbling and bumbling, you try to follow your moral compass and do your best. 

I've been drinking heavily. Heavier than usual, if only because for the past few months, cocktails have been an obsession. Gin, rum, and bourbon cocktails. Having lots of fun learning the classics, buying Japanese barware from Cocktail Kingdom, experimenting with all kinds of ice. Is it troubling that I can shake off a morning hangover with nothing more than a glass of water and a good piss? 

By the time we get to twenty-nine hundred, I will be in Barcelona. I'm still in the process of sorting out my student visa, but I'm hopeful the process will be smooth. Then, nothing more than settling affairs here, and spending the remaining weeks I have with friends. I'm not particularly a reflective person, but I am excited for the simple fact that I feel in control of my life. I'm alone - utterly and completely alone - but I feel in control. We give up what we want when we want power ... it's just sometimes so damn hard.

DF