Monday, February 25, 2013

And the Academy Award goes to...

open-faced ravioli
Andrew of Scaramouche,
inspecting soup vessels
...the amazing food Drew and I had the extreme pleasure of eating last night!  We were invited this year to an annual Oscar party, and this was our first time attending.  The party was catered by the chef of Toronto's very famous Scaramouche.  Guests were invited to dress like characters from their favourite movies, though this was not a requirement, and wine was poured liberally.  All in all, this was a great night.

root vegetable truffle soup
On the menu, we had ricotta-filled cheese puffs, followed by open-faced ravioli (whoa).  This was followed in turn by a foamy delicious root vegetable and truffle soup (ahmagah).  The main course was a melt-in-your-mouth piece of tenderloin in an incredible gravy reduction with creamy mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.  The dessert was a layered fleur de sel caramel and chocolate pudding in a martini glass with whipped mascarpone and honeycomb on top.  Are you drooling yet?

Of the wines we were drinking, one was this little beauty.  A tasty and friendly little Rhone wine, this wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and other grapes. I am a fan of Southern Rhone blends, and this is no exception; muscular enough to get along with most food dishes (including the succulent tenderloin we had), but accessible enough that you don't need to be a wine connoisseur to get into it.  I find this is true of most Rhone blends, but certainly not all.  This bottle also comes in under $20, which makes it a great party wine if you're hosting.

We couldn't stay to the very end of the show, and with all the people and food in the room we really only caught a fraction of it anyway, but I hear that Jennifer Lawrence was graceful and funny after she fell on her way to get her 40 lb statue (no, really. Oscars are apparently super heavy), and Daniel Day Lewis was the unsurprising winner of the Best Actor category.  I haven't seen Lincoln, but it is apparently good if you like long, talk-heavy, political films.  I might be more into it if they did a Lincoln musical, or if the leading actor looked like this:

Lincoln enjoys root-truffle soup, pre-award.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fall/Winter Fashion Bad-Assery

I haven't posted anything about fashion in a while, so it's about time I mentioned my other love here.  I'm motivated to write by Miuccia Prada's latest Fall/Winter Ready-to-Wear show.  Apparently, it has been much-lampooned by some critics because they think that it is just a bunch of stuff Prada has shown before.  I have no idea if this is true, because I don't usually get pulled in by Prada or pay too much attention to what she's doing.  This latest line, however, has me all day-dreamy about accessories, and even if some of the fabrics have been used before, I couldn't care less. They're bad-ass.

Specifically, this is the new shoe-of-my-dreams:

Prada F/W RTW shoes, please.
I am a big fan of the red and blue check, as is also seen in the bag below.  I like the use of primary colours, though I wouldn't put them all together at once, and I really like the juxtaposition of military/moto plus girliness in the entire line.  In general, the runway shows for fall and winter can be so.... extremely unrealistic for Canada.  That's the only right way to put it.  So, it's nice to see some foot-covering boots, with huge lug soles on them, at something other than a Sorrel footwear launch.  

It isn't *just* the shoes, though, that I like about this particular line.  Prada had me hook, line, and sinker by these:

Why yes, that *is* a warm, wooly sweater with chunky buttons under my lovely summer dress.  How very creative and also cozy!  I hate being cold, even in the name of awesome clothes.  Layering is nothing new, but the contrast of fabrics and patters here gives me inspiration to look at my own closet again and figure out new ways to stick stuff together on my body.  The only thing these girls are missing, which I find indispensable after October, are tights. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: Hermanos Torrontes and Cloudy Bay Chardonnay

These two wines make up the last of the four that we drank at the Fenelon wine tasting night.  The only thing these have in common is that I picked them because I thought that (besides being good) few in the group would have tried them before.  Torrontes makes a great aromatic white that people who like to drink Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris would likely enjoy, but few know about it or know it well enough to go to it every time they walk into an LCBO.  Chardonnay is run-of-the-mill, but not from New Zealand.  When people here think New Zealand, they overwhelmingly think Sauvignon Blanc, and not too many are even aware of the excellent Pinot Noir to be had from Otago.  I thought I'd give the group some new options when they are looking along the shelves.

Hermanos Torrontes, 2011, from Valle de Cafayate, Salta, Argentina.  This yellow gold wine was juicy and full.  It had flavours and aromas of honey, melons, white pepper, and a touch of walnut.  It was a little toasty on the finish, and had likely had a little oak treatment.  This wine was paired with a waldorf salad, which was a delicious pairing.  The salad had red and green apples, grapes, walnuts, cheddar cheese, and raisins in a slightly tangy creamy dressing.  The fresh fruit and nuts matched the nutty fruitiness of the wine, while the wine's acidity cut through the creamy dressing.  We also ate some Drumloch Scottish cheddar cheese, from the Isle of Kintyre.  This mild cheddar was a great match, with its typical slightly sharp edge to it.  The flavour was just pronounced enough and the cheese just creamy enough to let the Torrontes take the stage and cleanse the palate.

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay, 2009, from Marlborough, New Zealand.  This wine typified Chardonnay in every way.  The aromas and flavours were of golden apple, lemon, and a hint of smokey vanilla.  This was not a complex wine.  It was balanced, and had medium acidity, but overall the wine was just pretty good.  We ate filets of salmon which were prepared with a little smoking, a little steaming, and a tasty maple glaze.  The salmon actually lifted the Chardonnay and brought out additional fruit flavours that we hadn't found before trying the fish.  It was a great example for the group of a wine that needs food, rather than a wine that stands on its own and accompanies food well.  Once we were eating the smoky, sweet salmon, the Chardonnay was happy and good-drinking.  We paired this with delicately-flavoured salty cheeses, including a Pecorino da Tavola from Tuscany, and a hard sheep's milk cheese from France.  These cheeses paired well because there were no strong flavours to overwhelm the Chardonnay, and the dry saltiness was a good match for the level of acidity in the wine.

Wine: Hermanos Torrontes, 2011, Salta
Food Pairing: Waldorf Salad (Tilapia would also be a great choice)
Chip Pairing:  Ruffles Regular with mild salsa
Verdict:  Yummy!

Wine: Cloudy Bay Chardonnay, 2009, Marlborough
Food Pairing:  Fresh salmon in maple glaze
Chip Pairing:  Miss Vickie's Sweet Onion and Balsamic Vinegar
Verdict:  Pretty Good

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: Trius Riesling Dry

As I've surely mentioned before, Ontario makes great Rieslings.  Powered by the cool climate and limestone soils of the Niagara peninsula, Trius makes an especially delicious bottle (though, total disclosure, I've never met an Ontario Riesling that I didn't like).  Having been making wine in Ontario for over 30 years, Trius is one of the oldest wineries in the region.  In fact, it's parent company, Andrew Peller, is the proud owner and purveyor of the very glamourous Baby Duck, of 1970's fame.   Peller is one of the pioneer Canadian wine producers, though fortunately Baby Duck has been allowed to fade into the background.

Society tip: If you ever find yourself in a room with Canadian adults who may have been of or around legal drinking age in the early 1970's, mentioning Baby Duck will spark lively discussion and reminiscences.  You'll take them way back.

I digress.  On to the Trius Riesling Dry, 2010, of Niagara Ontario. The nose of this wine is typical Riesling: petrol, lime, lemon blossom, and green apples.  The palate follows perfectly with the added notes of mandarin orange zest and pink grapefruit.  It's a racy, vibrant wine that refreshes the palate; it's approachable while still being elegant and refined.  This wine will be delicious on a patio in the summer.

We paired it with a round of triple creme Brie with sliced Bartlett pears on top, as well as crab toasties.  Crab toasties are some kind of family recipe, which involve small squares of bread fashioned into little shallow cups, in which a mixture of crab, mayo, cheese, herbs, and seasoning is dolloped, and then are placed into the oven to bake for a wee while.  Both were excellent.  The Riesling is a great match to anything creamy, by virtue of its zippy acidity and dry finish.  It cut through the chubby palates of both the brie and crab toasties with ease.  Pears are great with this wine, as they are delicate enough in flavour and sweetness not to throw off the taste of the wine and make it seem bitter.  Lobster in melted butter would be another excellent match, or pasta in a cream sauce... (it's clearly time to make supper).

Wine: Trius Riesling Dry 2010
Food Pairing:  Brie & Pears; Crab Toasties
Chip Pairing:  Smartfood Popcorn
Verdict: We loved it!

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Night of Wine and Friends

Some of the friends, gathered for a very Bacchanalian evening
This past Saturday, my Mum hosted an evening of wine, food, and friends.  This was something she'd wanted to do for her birthday, but the end of November being a rather hectic time to get friends together on a Saturday night, she decided to push it back, and plan it for a less busy and less festive month - February.  Nicely timed.  For some reason, I find February to be the most difficult month of the year, despite the fact that it's short and that the days are longer as we head into spring.  Fortunately, this night gave us enough new flavour combinations to make it gluttonously into March.

a lot of laughs, and a little talking
 I was playing 'Wine Sommelier' for the night - though not playing as much as just being, but since I don't habitually act in this role it was really a fun way of flexing my wine knowledge chops.  I picked out all the wines we were to drink, and with the expert help of ChefyDrew, a paired menu was formed.  We had 8 wines in total, comprised of one sparkling (or effervescent, in this case) white, three still whites, and four still reds.  I'm going to work through each of them on here over time, and tonight I'll just write about the tasting experience and the first wine we tried.

I talk about Zinfandel to the group
There were 12 of us in total gathered to taste the wine.  We all sat around the dining room table, with the chairs pushed out towards the walls to give us room to move around and reach across for cheeses or snacks.  Everyone brought something that they had been asked to prepare as per our paired menu, and in smaller than dinner-sized portions.  This worked out wonderfully.  We started the tastings just after seven p.m., and finished the last wine around ten; all the wine was drunk, all the food was eaten, and we were stuffed, but not too full and not too tipsy.  So classy of us!  I'm so proud.

no cats allowed in the wine!
The evening was so much fun, and very laid back in terms of pace and conversation.  I was able to explain interesting facts about what we were drinking to an interested group, which is always very rewarding because the guests engaged and asked questions.  We went through some tasting notes together as well, picking out the main aromas or flavours, but also allowed folks to just drink it and enjoy it, even if they weren't noticing the same things.  The food pairings were amazing, and I really want to thank everyone who brought dishes for preparing them so well and according to our directions!  Sounds funny to thank someone for that, but the difference between a glazed and unglazed salmon can make or break a paired wine.

Without any further ado, here is the first wine of the evening:  Benjamin Bridge Nova 7, a sparkling Muscat, from the Gaspereau Valley in Nova Scotia, Canada.

 While Benjamin Bridge produces fully sparkling traditional method dry wines, the Nova 7 is an effervescent off-dry Muscat in the Loire Valley tradition.  This friendly, perfumed, lusciously fruity wine was a hit with the entire group.  Notes of honey, melon, peaches, and mandarin oranges lingered on the palate after the initial fizz of carbonation, and the hint of residual sugar was cut by a lively acidity that left us smacking our lips.  It was juicy, happy, and tasted like another glass.

We paired this with prociutto-wrapped melon - this wine is a natural foil for any charcuterie, matching the saltiness and cleansing the palate - as well as St. Benoit Bleu Benedictin blue cheese from Quebec.  The Benedictin and Nova 7 were so damn good together that we could have made a meal of just these.  In fact, one of the guests turned out to be an unexpectedly zealous fan of this first combination, and cried for it throughout the rest of the tasting.  This unassuming little bottle won all our hearts.

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of it left in Ontario at this time.  I had to have six bottles transferred from Hawkesbury (not very near-by to Toronto) to my local LCBO (so nice of them!).  As far as my researches have found, there is none of Benjamin Bridge's dry sparkling wine at the LCBO, and not much left on their property either as it's selling out!  I really look forward to trying their dry wines sometime, but I'm only too happy to keep drinking the Nova 7 until then.

Wine: Nova 7 Sparkling Muscat, Benjamin Bridge
Food Pairing: charcuterie and fromage bleu
Chip Pairing: Miss Vickie's Sea Salt & Vinegar
Overall verdict: We loved it!