Archive for the 'Food' Category

“Perfect Pairings” Event at Township 7 Vineyards

Recently we attended “Perfect Pairings,” an evening of food and wine at Township 7’s Langley location that certainly highlighted the food and wine world of the valley is heading in the right direction.

A Fraser Valley resident by choice, I often look on with envy at the opportunities for food and wine available on a daily basis in the city. Someone calls and says “we’re driving through, where is a good place to eat?” Um…

Events like this affirm that there are great choices available out here; they just require a little rooting around. After a trip to the ever-expanding Langley Farmer’s Market, we made our way to the tables set up in the vineyard at Township.

While the grapes (save for the sparkling) are not grown on this property, I find a sense of the local community present in the wines. Perhaps because I watched the vineyard start, now in its tenth year of operation.

To start our evening, we were given the 2008 Rose and asked by winemaker Brad Cooper to connect the aroma of the wine with a scent from childhood Connecting the wine to our personal experience, Brad created a comfortable environment for all levels of wine lovers. Honest, open and willing to share his passion, everyone left feeling good about BC wine.

Back to the rose, it had a nice strawberry, citrus mix with a vegetal undertone (Allison from Okanagan Taste said “strawberry rhubarb pie”) that matched really well with the pulled-pork slider provided by Angie Quaale from Well Seasoned. The pairing initially surprised me, but the sweet – savory balance was great.

From there we were treated to a number of decadent snacks with really well paired wine choices. We appreciated how Brad encouraged us to try the other wines with the various food items to find our own match.

The highlight for me was the “7 Blanc,” Township’s 50/50 blend of Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc. The nice blend of tropical fruit was killer with the amazing prawn atop a kiwi-cilantro-lime salsa. For $19, this is an ideal summer sip. I made sure to take a couple bottles home.

My wife loved the 2006 Syrah with both the incredible baked beans (best I’ve ever had) and Township’s house dark chocolate with peppercorns. She felt the smoky dark fruit of the wine. We also were given a barrel sample of the ’08 syrah, which I am definitely looking forward to.

The evening closed with a taste of Brad’s own 2008 Black Cloud Pinot Noir. My first sips were really tasty and I look forward to sitting down with a bottle (and a glass!) to fully explore it. From here we pried ourselves away from the truffle butter popcorn and closed a lovely evening.

Thanks to Brad Cooper and Township 7, and also Well-Seasoned, and 1Fish 2Fish (who provided my favorite – the prawns) – local Langley folks who deserve regular visits.

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Wine and Food Event: Taste of BC 2010

Attending the “Taste of BC 2010” event, put on by Liberty Wine Merchants and benefiting B.C. Children’s Hospital – Oak Tree Clinic, this year for the first time was a really great decision. We’ve had lots of conversations about “palate shift” of late, and I can honestly say I have been seeking the rustic and mineral driven wines versus the over concentrated wines I have been finding locally. The event was a pleasant reminder, if not a reawakening for me about some of the excellent wine being produced in BC. Pair that with some tasty snacks and you have decent evening all around.

In terms of wine, the highlights were:

  • 8th Generation Vineyard – We first tasted their wines at last year’s Playhouse International Festival, and knew we had to seek them out. They had a full spectrum of wines including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, two Rieslings, Pinot Noir and a Syrah. The whites stole the show, with delicious Rieslings being highlights. The Pinot Gris was also interesting, having spent some time on oak – unusual in my experience for a BC Pinot Gris, but really elegant and tasty. At an average price of about $22, these are real benchmarks for local wine quality/price ratio.
  • La Stella Winery – These were some of the real standouts in my mind. Their Vivace Pinot Gris had amazing grapefruit zest on the nose and some pear and peach. The two reds they were sampling were also superb. The Allegretto Merlot was full and tasty, and the Fortissimo Cab Merlot had excellent pepper and dark fruit. Definitely need to find the Vivace to include in the under $30 challenge.
  • La Vieux Pin Winery – Another highlight. I was cautious upon approaching these wines, as I wondered if they could live up to some of the preaching I had faced on a trip into a local cold beer and wine store. The salesperson there proclaimed them “the best out there, from some of the best Merlot vines in the world” and on and on… Hyperbole aside, these are some excellent wines. The Petit Sigma Blanc was perhaps the highlight of the whites at the event for me. Beautiful floral and citrus, this is an amazing deal at $22. The Belle Pinot Noir was dark and full or earthy plum – an excellent BC Pinot.
  • Meyer Family Vineyards – Brand new for me, I wondered if the hype would live up to the reality. We tasted an excellent Chardonnay (the best BC Chardonnay of the event) and a couple of quality BC Pinot Noirs. The Chardonnay was well balanced and full value for it’s $35 price tag. The pinots were quite different from each other, both with nice structure and red fruit. They’re definitely worth a try if you find them.
  • Tantalus Vineyards – Their 2008 Riesling and 2009 Rosé were both very good. Keep an eye out for them in your local stores.

Other good sips included the Seven Stones Winery Meritage that had a really nice Cabernet Franc backbone and Vista D’Oro’s Walnut Port was a delicious way to end the evening – so tasty!

On the food/pairing front, the smoked sablefish with horseradish cream from Bridges was superb with the Wild Goose Stony Slope Riesling. The oysters from Rodney’s were fantastic and would have been great with the Focus2 Sauvignon Blanc from Twisted Tree (couldn’t carry them over there). Central City Brewing had a maple cheesecake with beer-brined bacon on top. It paired fantastically with a nice breath of air.

A good night full of new tastes and a much more optimistic view on the future of BC wines.

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Day 1 in the Langhe

So my approach to trying to beat jet-lag was to not sleep at all on the trip to Italy. I arrived here and actually lasted pretty well until 9pm thanks to Rachel, a bottle of Prosecco, a tour of Bra and beautiful bottle of Fontanabianca Barbera d’Alba. Right around then, the fact that I had been up for 29 hours hit me like a tonne of bricks and I was out like a light.

After a bloody wonderful night’s rest, we hit the road on a beautiful hazy day (~20 degrees Celsius) this morning and headed out towards Pollenzo, where Rachel works at the Universita’ di Scienze Gastronomiche. What a gorgeous place. It’s a former farm complex created by the King of Savoy at the start of the 19th century. Now it houses the university, a wine bank (Rachel wrote about it a while ago) and a luxury hotel/restaurant.

Now seriously… the wine bank rocks. It’s HUGE… it’s under the university in an immense climate and humidty-controlled arched columed space. It went on for well over 100 metres and had Roman ruins intermingled with cases upon cases of Italian wine.

While I was there, I picked up a 1997 Castello Banfi Summus, a 1999 Pio Cesare Barolo and a 1999 Paolo Conterno Ginestra Barolo. I’m thinking those will lead to some great drinking over the next week and a half.

From Pollenzo we headed up to Cherasco, which was a beautiful little town with a bunch of unbelievably good artisanal chocolate makers. We bought chocolate from a cool guy who goes around the world to source the best ingredients and also uses the best local hazelnuts (he roasts them) to make the bits of sin we left with.

We also hit up a great enoteca – Enoteca Patrito (wine shop), where a very nice and knowledgeable Silvano Patrito (he’s also a sommelier) chatted with us (in very good English and Italian) about the wines and food of the region and we left with a 1999 Moccagatta Langhe Buschet Chardonnay.

After that, it was off to Verduno… and the best lunch of my life (up to this point). Ca del Re is basically a large house with a pretty courtyard and nice rooms for rent above a cozy little restaurant. We sat outside – they said, “But… it’s cold.” to which Rachel replied, “But we’re Canadian. This is like summer for us.”

The wines on the list were all made by the man of the house, Franco Bianco. We ordered a bottle of the 1998 Castello di Verduno Massara Barolo. The wine blew me away… when it was poured for a taste, it looked more like a 1978. The edge was very orange and the colour was a brickish red. The nose was all marsala sherry, nuts, leather, cherry and flowers. The flavours were even better. They built on the nose and added and long still-sexy cherry brandy finish. Wow. I loved it and Rachel liked the flavours, but not the Marsala on the nose.

Now seriously, what made the day was the lunch… we started with salami, then a thinly sliced cured pork with olive oil and fresh lettuce. Next up was a gorgeous pan-fried polenta topped with a family heirloom inferno (hot peppers, capers, tomato, garlic, etc.) and then tomino (a soft cheese – very like a goats cheese, but made with cow’s milk). A simple, but bloody tasty meat-filled ravioli with butter and mint led to our “secondi” of stinco de maiale (pork shank) and a braised veal (in wine). Followed up by panna cotta for dessert. Holy crap, what a lunch… we were there for 3 hours and loved every second. I’d completely recommend the place. If you’re in the area and looking for a place to eat, do it.

After an espresso and an amaro (bitter digestivo) in a café, we were off to Alba. By then I was starting to run out of gas… we did a walk of the town and checked out a couple of cool enoteche, but I was done. From there it was back to Bra and a much-needed nap for me. All the food and wine, combined with the jet-lag had caught up to me.

In the next week or so, I’m going to try to keep up with reviews of the wines we’ve had… I’m taking notes as I type this on a gorgeous 2001 Barbaresco from Fontnabianco. :)

Peace out.

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Wine – 1/2 priced wine by the glass Tuesdays at Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub

I’m currently over in Victoria, BC on business and tonight, I paid visited the Canoe Brewpub tonight for dinner… and as a wine guy, I apparently made a great choice. On Tuesday nights, it’s half-price glass of wine night there. Fantastic.

The food was very good (I had a sole/dungeness crab cake on a fresh pea risotto with a lemon/tomato sauce around the edge, served with asparagus) and the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc paired very well with it.

It’s a very comfortable room, with brick walls and high ceilings on Victoria’s waterfront. I’ve gotta say, I liked the place.

On a beer note, I also tried the Bitter, but it was a bit non-hoppy for my tastes… I like the pucker-your-lips IPA kind of brew and they just didn’t have anything for me.

It was a great wine find though. If you’re in town and feel like a glass (or 3) drop in and enjoy.

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Wine & Food – Cheese 2007 in Bra, Italy

09232007a.jpgWhat is Cheese? It’s not what you think: Cheese is four days of cheese, wine and food bliss in the small town of Bra, Italy. Located in the province of Cuneo, just south of Turin, Bra is the headquarters for Slow Food International. If you haven’t heard of it, Slow Food is an association that promotes the pleasures of the table, taking time to eat and eating food that tastes good and is good for you. Slow Food also promotes biodiversity and the historical memory of culinary traditions.

Every two years Slow Food organizes Cheese here in Bra. Fortunately, I just happened to move to Bra this year right around Cheese time. I teach the anthropology of food at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in nearby Pollenzo, but I consider Cheese essential fieldwork for better understanding culinary culture in Italy and around the world.

09232007b.jpgAlthough cheese is the protagonist of this event, wine is certainly its ally. There are numerous enoteche throughout the various exhibits ad marketplace. Yesterday I discover the Super Whites stand, which features over fifty lovely white wines from the Friuli region of Italy. For 3 euros you get a glass and a generous pour of the wine of your choosing. I tried two blended whites. The first really blew me away. It was a Jermann, Vinnae 2006 (Ribolla Gialla, Tocai Friulano, Riesling). A straw colour, this full-bodied white went perfect with the Montebore cheese that I tried as I was wandering down the street, glass in hand. I returned to this stand earlier today and tried a Russiz Superiore, Coldisore 2004 (Tocai Friuliano, Pinot Bianco, Ribolla Gialla, Sauvignon), another big white with green, grassy overtones but a big ripe taste. Wow, are they ever doing a good job in Friuli making white wine. I have made a note to take a trip to the area when Sean gets here.

Perhaps the most amazing and overwhelming attraction here at Cheese is the Gran Sala del Formaggio e Enoteca. There are nearly 2000 wines that can be tasted by the glass and over 100 cheeses from around the world. This all takes place under a beautiful historic portico with a wall of wines on one side, cases of cheese and comfortable tables setup under tents on the other side. This is where I have been camping out.

09232007c.jpgThe hardest part is choosing what to drink. There are nearly 6 pages of Piedmontese wines (Barolo, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto and more), but I decided to venture to other areas of Italy that I knew I would not have much opportunity to taste unless I went there. This is what I drank:

Fontalloro – 2003 – Fattoria di Felsina – beautiful, classic, stylish,
I wanted to lick the rim of the glass (Tuscany)

Montefalco Sagrantino – 2004 – Tenuta Perticaia – musty underbrush,
nearly black. A bit rough but promising. (Umbria)

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2001 – Vigneti Villabella – OH MY
GOD – I love this stuff. Sexy dried fruit, lush and all that and some
more… (Veneto)

I still have two more days of cheese and I plan on trying as much wine and cheese as my liver will take. Wish me luck.

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Food – Restaurant 62

One of the things about being a resident in the suburbs, is that proximity to interesting restaurants is limited compared to being in town. Cool bistros and tapas places don’t seem to be drawn to big box malls – weird. :) Happily we have places like Restaurant 62 in Abbotsford – a cool spot with great food and excellent service.

Last week our good friends David and Lisa invited us to a five course “Savoury Summer Menu” at their favorite local spot. Knowing that they have excellent taste, we readily accepted. The meal was based on a food and drink pairing that began with Spanish Cava and ended with 12 year-old Macallan. The menu looked interesting and certainly was.

The evening began with the owner Eric giving everyone a “basics of wine tasting” session with a sampling of five different wines to pair with some food flavors. It was a nice opportunity for people to experiment with some flavors before dinner.

The dinner itself was excellent. with some spot on pairings. Highlights included:

Fennel Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with avocado citrus salad and smoked salmon carpaccio with a taro root crisp dusted in smoked paprika. This was paired with the aforementioned Cava and was just gorgeous. A beautiful mix with the fennel and and the taro crisp and honey leesy Cava. A great start to say the least.

Local Mussels in a spring onion and garlic cilantro broth with oven roasted potato frites – paired with Hoegarden, German Heffewiezen. They actually used the wheat beer in the broth as well which made this match simply outstanding. It made you glad they included the frites to sample the last bits of the broth once the mussels were gone.

In general the meal, ambiance and location all make this an experience well worth repeating.

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Food & Wine – Salt Tasting Room

Salt Tasting RoomUnbelievably I hadn’t yet been to Salt Tasting Room here in Vancouver. One thing the government in BC hasn’t yet grasped is that people need a wine bar in which they can grab a glass (or 3) of wine and some simple, yet well-matched side dishes.

Salt accomplishes this. One thing to keep in mind is that Salt doesn’t have a fully-functioning kitchen, but do offer cured meats, salads, cheeses and “condiments”. You can’t grab a cooked meal here, but you can happily grab great wine food. Rachel and I enjoyed fantastic corned beef from Mike Vittow and a couple of cheeses, accompanied by grainy Guinness mustard, a balsamic reduction, quince jam and a side of tasty, crusty bread. It was all incredibly wine-friendly and bloody tasty – the corned beef was about the best I’ve ever had.

Vancouver is full of “hip”, well-designed restaurants that take themselves too seriously. The food is pretty and unsatisfying… the servers just plain annoying and pretentious. Salt was just fun. The servers were cool, casual, passionate about the food and well-informed when it came to the wine list.

One thing I am is a sucker for good, minimalist design… and Salt hits the mark. The room occupies a gorgeous and simple brick-walled space in the back of the new Inform Interiors building down in my hood (Gastown). You have to take a walk down the threateningly-named “Blood Alley” to get there, but it’s definitely worth the the trip. It’s a great-looking room.
Go. You’ll be happy you did… and you’ll definitely feel a bit hipper and happier for making your way there. Just don’t go there expecting a home-cooked meal.

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Food – Bourdain guest-blogging

02212007a.jpgAnthony Bourdain just has his way about him… and that’s a good thing. He guest-blogs over at ruhlman.com. Check it out – hilarious.

Thanks Collin.

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Food – Pepper Tasting Room

10222006.jpgI’m excited about a new restaurant here in Vancouver again… All the more so because this one is across the street from my apartment building!

Pepper Tasting Room is slated to open next month and comes from the same folks who recently opened Salt Tasting Room. It will have (in their words), a “blackboard menu, fresh locally sourced ingredients, small well thought out wine list. However, it will also differ greatly from Salt in that there will be a greater focus on craft beers and the food will be cooked/served hot.”

All I know is that if it’s good and has some style it will likely be where I spend a good deal of my income in the future. :)

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Music – You need new music

Food, wine & music seem to go hand in hand. A couple of new albums I’ve come across that combine flawlessly with the food and wine are The Audience’s Listening by Cut Chemist (whose song is featured in the new iPod nano commercial). He’s Lucas MacFadden, the former turntablist for Jurassic 5. Another great, jazzy new album is Berlin Serengeti by Berlin’s Radio Citizen. Both are seriously good… and seriously funky.

Actually, I’ll mention another good album I’m listening to as I write this: Route de la Slack: Remixes & Rarities by Swayzak – another great album. Funky as all hell… and just plain cool in that minimalist house kind of way.

All of these are albums you’ll be hearing in “hip” restaurants & lounges in the coming months. Get ’em for at home, hang out, sip and enjoy.

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