Food and Wine

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Ontario VQA 2008

Posted by on 05 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine

2008 was a rather cool summer in Ontario (though not as bad as 2009), and I was curious how the wines would turn out. The answer so far, interestingly, is pretty well, at least as far as the whites are concerned.

The great bargain of the Ontario wine world, as far as I’m concerned, continues to be the basic $12.95 general list Peninsula Ridge INOX Chardonnay. We first ran into this wine in its 2007 incarnation, which we liked a lot and thought was excellent value. The 2008 has a yeasty-biscuity-minerally nose, with generous citrus fruit and good follow-through on the palate. Stock up and drink now — we found the 2007 starting to fade a bit by last Spring.

Another good value from 2008 is the 2008 Malivoire White, a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewurtztraminer readily available at the LCBO (may technically be Vintages — not sure) for $14.95. It has a racy nose of minerals and fresh green fruits with a hint of yeast and honey that carries through nicely to the palate. J. found the Riesling-Chardonnay combo nose a bit offputting, even before she knew it was a combination of Riesling and Chardonnay. She did admire the graphic design on the label though.

Slightly more expensive at $22.00, but worth the extra money if you’re in the mood for a good Riesling, is the 2008 Tawse Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block Riesling. It has a nose of lees, honey, green apple and limestone, with a hint of acidity on the nose. It’s only 11% but that’s enough to the give the nose presence. Good follow through to an off-dry palate balanced by quite a lot of acidity. A cool-weather Riesling (no petrol or tropical fruits) but nicely made with a generous palate and enough interest on the nose to take it above the standard $15 bottle.

The only real dispppointment in the whites department so far was a rather expensive-ish Riesling from Flat Rock, the 2008 Nadia’s Vineyard, which had an interesting nose but sort of vanished into lightly flavoured mineral water on the palate (very dry, high acidity, a bit of a spritz, but no follow-through from the nose or body to speak of). It’s $20 and 10.5% — spend the extra $2.00 on the Tawse which is a much more rewarding experience.

We haven’t been able to sample the standard $14-15 bottles for 2008 yet (Cave Spring, Henry of Pelham and the like). The 2006 off-drys were really nice, though for some reason the basic 2007s went all flabby and unfocused (the 2007 Cave Spring Estate Bottled, still available for around $18, is quite pleasant but maybe a bit *too* petrol-ly). I’ll be curious to see what happens with 2008.

Haven’t sampled much by way of 2008 reds yet. Tasted one of the mass-market VQA Cabernet Sauvignon bottles at a party, a not surprisingly it was pretty green. But mass-market Cab Sauv from Ontario is not usually a satisfying experience, even in a good year. I’m curious what the 2008 Malivoire “Red” blend is like — it’s a companion to the Malivoire white blend discussed above.

Prosciutto and Porcini tomato pasta sauce

Posted by on 12 May 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine

This is a variation on a basic tomato-based pan sauce. Serves 3-4 over pasta of your choice.

Boil approx. 1/2 cup water in kettle and pour into small bowl over one package dried porcini mushrooms until mushrooms are covered — it probably will not take all the water to cover the mushrooms.

Chop one medium-sized onion and two cloves garlic. Fry in olive oil at medium-low heat until softened. Add one 28 oz. can Roma tomatoes, drained — I recommend the Unico San Marzano style tomatoes, which have some of the taste of Italy without the additional consumption of petrochemicals associated with the importation of actual Italian tomatoes. Whether or not you drain the tomatoes is up to you but in my experience it’s really a matter of how long it takes for the liquid to boil off — and you’re about to add more liquid at the next step.

Cut 4 slices prosciutto into small pieces — supermarket brands such as President’s Choice will do fine for these purposes. Add to sauce with reconstituted mushrooms and broth. Season according to taste — we usually use oregano and/or marjoram.

Boil down sauce until enough liquid evaporates — to taste, but I generally prefer a thicker sauce. Serve over pasta of choice, topped with grated parmesan if desired.

[Note: I have never made this sauce exactly as described, because only one of us likes Porcini mushrooms enough to have them dominate the whole sauce. Though probably it would not be as dominant if I were putting the mushrooms in the whole sauce as opposed to only one serving…]

Aglianico redux redux

Posted by on 11 May 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine

The Cappellaccio Aglianico Riserva 2004 I briefly raved about earlier was released at Vintages on May 2, and is still widely available throughout Toronto Central (though not at Manulife, apparently). We uncorked a bottle at dinner last night and — perhaps predictably — we gave it a rave review. It’s a rich dark tannic (and somewhat alcoholic) red, which needs a while to open up (give it at least half an hour in a decanter). It has a nose of  baked mincemeat, plums, oak, toast, and a hint of organicity to keep it interesting — maybe black olive. Med+ body, tannins, and acid; good balance and avg+ finish. It’s a good group dinner wine — ideal for smoked meats, charcuterie or rich meat dishes. It was perhaps a bit more than was needed for our tomato-prosciutto-(optional) porcini pasta but frankly I am not complaining.

It’s also pretty impressive after being pumped and left for a day in the fridge — similar mincemeat and plum profile once it warms up, just missing a bit of complexity.

It’s a bit pricey both cash and alcohol-wise at $17.95 and 13.5%. But still a great deal for a red under $20.

Get me rewrite!

Posted by on 09 May 2009 | Tagged as: Current Events, Food and Wine

Did the 80 layoffs at the Globe include all the copy editors? From Joanne Kates’ review of Globe Bistro this morning:

Despite evidence to the contrary, some people are afraid of eating pork.

Come again?


Posted by on 19 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine

It didn’t take us very long to uncork that Aglianico I referred to in my last post — we shared it with one of J.’s classmates in a post-term informal celebratory pizza dinner on Friday evening. It’s the Bisceglia 2006 ‘Terra di Vulcano’ DOC Aglianico di Vulture, at $14.95 and 13.5%, in the Easter weekend Vintages release. Beppi Crosariol gave it high praise in a column that has now been “matured” from the Globe’s free current content section to its paid archives.

I first ran into Aglianico in the summer of 2005, somewhat by accident at the St. Clair Market mini-Vintages when I was looking for something to serve with (and in) a lamb braise. Our notes on that wine, a Cappellaccio Aglianico Reserva 2001 from the Castel del Monte DOC in Puglia ($17.95), are somewhat sketchy. But we remember finding its “organic” nose of olive, earth, and cherry unexpectedly fascinating. The grape is apparently an import into southern Italy from Greece (Aglianico being a corruption of “Ellinico”), with the potential — albeit infrequently realized — to make top quality wines.

Our more recent Aglianico doesn’t have the “organic” quality that caught our attention back when we first encountered the grape way back when. But nevertheless it is a very well made wine, with a nose of dark fresh cherries, light sandalwood, and an indefinable (to us) though not overwhelming spiciness. It’s an appealing wine with medium-plus-ish body, acid, and tannins nicely in balance. Crosariol made a point of warning his audience not to expect a New World fruit bombish kind of wine, but frankly the wine is more fruit-forward and less austere than that warning would have led us to expect. Probably not an ideal wine for our pizza though — I seem to recall that Crosariol mentioned something like an ideal accompaniment for smoked meat antipasti which does seem to be more its style.

Wines update

Posted by on 14 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine

Way back when we posted a brief note praising the 2005 Rothschild Vin de Pays d’Oc Cab Sauv as a very reasonable wine for about $10. I forget exactly what we liked about it — probably some reasonable sense of cab-sauvy-ness with decent fruit and tannins. Unfortunately 2007 has been unkind to Rothschild — or rather the Baron has been unkind to the 2007s — and we are now firmly into the cheap New World bubble-gummy style of red. I’m fond enough of red wines that I will drink it in any event as a weekday pasta wine, but if you were actually thinking of *buying* a weekday pasta wine the Citra Montepulciano is cheaper and a much better drinking experience.

Otherwise. As usual we seem to be having better experiences with under-20 whites than under-20 reds. We’re sometimes a bit ambivalent about Australia but we both really liked the d’Arenberg 2007 Olive Grove Chardonnay ($17.95) with a “resplendent medium straw” aspect and a very fresh, ripe nose including notes of melon, nutmeg, and baking spices — med+ acid and body with good balance and finish. Another good value d’Arenberg is the 2007 “The Stump Jump” ($14.95), a blend of Riesling (62%) and smaller proportions of Sauv Blanc, Marsanne, Viognier, and Chardonnay. Although we described the aspect as “whatever” (suggesting perhaps that we were too lazy to take notes), we thought the nose was “zesty” and “quite complex” with notes of minerality, gooseberry, citrus, dried apricot, and some kind of tropical fruit. Good fruit follow-through on the palate, and no weird spiciness in the way some of these blends have (see earlier complaints here and here). We said “better than Cave Spring in a bad year”, which I don’t think we *intended* to be damning with faint praise… Certainly it is much better than the Vineland Estates 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling ($13.95) which we thought was not bad but rather boring.

Lots of reliable Pinot Gris/Grigio lately too, including  a Borgo Magredo 2007 Pinot Grigio from Friuli and a Martin Steimer 2007 Pinot Gris from Alsace. I wasn’t as thrilled with the 2006 Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris Reserve as I was with the 2004, which seemed to be both drier and more interesting.

In the reds department, our best experience lately was a 2005 Pinot Noir from Coyote’s Run (around $25) which we’d bought at the winery in summer 2007 (with TL and AM). We thought it was a “reasonable value for a Pinot Noir,” with the characteristic gamey-mushroomy-earthy-cherry-preserved pork-rosewood nose and a reasonably good palate. Also very good value for alcohol at only 11.5%. We also invested in several reds at the more alcoholic end of the spectrum from the Vintages Midi/Provence release in late Feb/early March. We sampled the Chateau la Tour de L’Eveque 2004 ($19.95) which we thought was rather good for its age but likely better in a year or two. So we have bought another bottle to lay down and we will keep you posted. A BYOCellar experience.

Last but not least, the wine I almost want to recommend sight unseen (so to speak) is an Aglianico del Vulture ($14.95) in the current Vintages release, which caught my eye when the catalogue arrived and which Beppi Crosariol praised to the skies in last Saturday’s Globe & Mail. I have bought a bottle, and am waiting for the appropriate Pizza Gigi moment.

I need a drink

Posted by on 15 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine, Humour


More cocktails for the recession/depression, courtesy of the New Yorker online:

Add a dozen I.P.O.’s to portfolio, wait until bubble bursts, drink all day every day.

BlackBerry Sling
Discover that your BlackBerry doesn’t work because you haven’t paid the bill. Sling it against the wall, then buy a prepaid phone and make some rum in your toilet.

Bloody Maria Bartiromo
Squeeze four packets of McDonald’s ketchup and one packet of pepper into a glass. Mix with eight ounces homemade hooch. Drink while you watch the Money Honey on a TV in the window of a Circuit City that’s going out of business at the end of the month.

There are more…

HT: Pink Slips Are The New Black

Eating and drinking in Florence

Posted by on 02 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine, Travel

We are both fans of Italian food and wine — J. being especially addicted to good pastas — so we tried to eat well when we were in Florence, without entirely breaking the bank. Depending on where we went and how much wine we ordered, we were generally able to sit down to leisurely dinners for something in the order of 60-90 Euros. (I’m not sure exactly what the conversion rate is right now and at the moment I’d rather not know.)

A point of detail: it’s rare for a good Florentine restaurant to open before 7:00, and some of them don’t open till 7:30.

The challenge in Italian dining is not altogether unlike that in the Italian wines category — finding the right middle ground between traditional-but-not-very-good and creative-but-international-and-rather-anonymous. Some of our best dining experiences were with wine bars that were also apparently popular with locals: Coquinarius on the north bank near the Duomo, and Il Santo Bevitore on the south (Oltrarno) side (both of them, incidentally, located in former stables). Both offered interesting pastas and cold dishes (meats, cheeses, carpaccios, etc.). Bevitore also had warm main dishes (secondi) that were well-executed but perhaps not very Tuscan. We had some very good Tuscan wines at both places. Santo Bevitore has a very good wine bar two doors down which opens earlier than the restaurant per se — we spent about half an hour there waiting for the restaurant to open. Unusually, Coquinarius is open all day.

We were more equivocal about a similar type of establishment in the Santa Croce area called Baldovino — good pastas (including a porcini ravioli in truffle oil [or “truffle oil”? — we’re not sure] that J. returned to devour again on our last night), but the secondi are kind of weird Cal-Ital at best. We also had our worst wine experiences here — two rather anonymous international-style wines identified on their labels as DOCG Chianti Classico, both recommended by our servers. (Why did I ask for another recommendation on the second occasion having being disappointed by the first one? — I dunno — there were only 5 Ch Cl’s on the list…) I don’t know whether all their wines are international style or only the ones they recommend to tourists.

In the more traditional (though upmarket) Trattoria style, we had an excellent lunch at 4 Leoni in Oltrarno, and we would have been more than happy to return for dinner. Their menu is only in Italian which might make them a better candidate for a visit later in your stay, after you’ve learned a bit of terminology (we visited them in a jet-lagged state for our first lunch, before we even checked into our hotel). We also had a very good meal at Antico Fattore, which is a traditional Trattoria very close to the Uffizi (they apparently suffered considerable damage in the 1993 bombing of the Uffizi).  We ordered mainly off their extensive daily specials menu. Also likeable in the traditional style though perhaps not as interesting  was Trattoria Angiolino just down the street from Il Santo Bevitore in the Oltrarno.

We didn’t have any genuinely awful food experiences in Florence. Our worst experience was a place near downtown called Paoli, a cloth-tablecloth type of place that gave us serious attitude about I’m not sure quite what. Their food wasn’t all that good either — I had a good pasta (butter and sage…) but my main was uninspired and J. found both her dishes a trial.

Being in Tuscany, we generally tried to get our hands on a good bottle of Chianti Classico at dinner — it’s a style we both like, a moderately oaked red with some complexity and an earthiness and “meatiness” that goes well with food. We met with varying degrees of success.

Baldovino, as already noted, recommended two oaky international-style wines to us on the two nights we were there. The first started OK, became somewhat overwhelmed with oak as it opened up, and then was already starting to fall apart well before the end of dinner. J. essentially rejected the second wine so we both ended up leaving the restaurant with quite a lot of wine in our glasses — something I’m not sure I’ve ever done before… Antico Fattore led me astray by listing Villa Antinori as a Chianti Classico on their English menu — it’s not, and I confess I probably would have known that given more than a passing acquaintance of the leading Italian producers. It’s a perfectly likeable IGT Toscana, probably more likeable than either of the the Baldovino Classicos, but missing the characteristic earthiness-meatiness-not-overwhelmed-by-vanilla-iness of a traditional Chianti. We had very pleasant wines on both occasions at Coquinarius, and Santo Bevitore served us two very nice Classicos in the wine bar and restaurant respectively. The half-bottle of Classico we ordered at Paoli (Peppone, I think) was possibly the best part of the evening. Next time we go to Tuscany, we will go with some serious wine research in hand.


Posted by on 24 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine, Home and Garden, Media

Re the link to the new beekeeping site:

You might find this interesting — David Yassky, an up-and-coming Brooklyn city councillor, has taken up the crusade to legalize urban beekeeping.  Apparently there are quite a few underground (or more precisely rooftop) apiculturists operating in the shadows of the city.  Two links below — the second is to a local TV news story:

P.S. I tried to post this comment on the site itself, but that was apparently beyond my technical capabilities…

Pseudo-provencal beef braise

Posted by on 28 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine

This is actually a variation on a lamb braise — which I like somewhat better but it’s more difficult to get the appropriately cheap cut of lamb without a large quantity of extraneous bones. It’s a good dish to make the night before for a potluck, because it seems to improve by sitting overnight in the fridge.

Chop up and saute one medium onion in olive oil in a cover-able saute pan. Add approx 1-1.5 lbs  simmering steak cut up into cubes (e.g., a bottom blade steak) and brown. Add 1 cup red wine, 1 cup V8 juice, approx. 1 tsp Herbes de Provence, 2-3 cloves chopped garlic, and chopped grated rind of one orange. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer on low heat for approx. one hour.

Remove beef with slotted spoon and reduce simmering sauce by one half. Add beef to pan to warm and serve, or hold in refrigerator to serve next day. Serves 2-3.

I am still dithering about the onion btw. It adds depth and its presence means the beef browns more gently, but it may muddy the flavours a bit.

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