Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lobster Thermidor


Lobster is one of those things people don't believe you have cooked it until they see you cook it. This dish is inspired by Dirty Apron's Julie and Julia. I wanted to cook and gut a live lobster and ended up burning a few finger, when the lobster fought back. I have seen my parents and grandparents kill and gut countless different seafood and birds, but I still feel a little guilty cooking this little guy. I named him Herms XVI. Susan or Vincent might get the (rather unappetizing) reference.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Whole Lobster
  • 1 Shallot (finely diced)
  • 1 Gorlic Clove (minced)
  • 100g Mushrooms
  • ½ tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 tbsp Cognac!
  • ¼ Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • ½ Heavy Cream (Cashew cream works, just cook it longer)
  • 2 Springs Tarragon (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. Parmesan
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Vegetable Oil
Instruction: (Preheat the oven to broil)

Lobster:
1. Pluge the lobster into boiling salted water. Head first and quickly cover. Don't run away.
2. Cook for 5 minutes and transfer into an iced water bath.
3. Once the lobster is cooled, twist the claws off, split the lobster in half lengthwise (don't be gentle). If there is coral (green stuff), put it aside for the sauce. Gut and discard the remaining insides. Rinse and dry the shell.
4. Crack the craws in half and remove the meat inside. Cut the meat in ¼-inch pieces.

Sauce:
5. Heat butter in a sauce pan over medium heat
6. Sauté shallot, mushroom, and garlic together for 2 minutes.
7. Add lemon juice and ½ of the cognac, and cook for another minute. (Smells so good!)
8. Add cream, paprika, salt, pepper. Simmer.
9. whisk together the egg yolk, remaining cognac, lobster coral in a bowl. Slowly pour the simmering cream into the yolks, whisking constantly, and transfer back to the suacepan.
10. Whisk over low heat until the sauce thickens.
11. Add the diced lobster meat and fresh tarragon. Simmer for 2 minutes. Salt and pepper.

Together:
12. Arrange the lobster halves on a roasting pan and spoon the lobster mixture into the lobster shells and sprinkle the top with grated parmesan.
13. Broil for 1 minute or until it's gold brown on top.

I served this with sautéed green beans. For wine pairing, fuller bodied whites with crisp acid. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc such as Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc 2008 or a good Riesling from Clare and Eden valley. Although I don't think Chablis has enough bodiness to stand up to the creaminess of the dish, I bet it will pair well a Sonoma Chardonnay, such as Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay 2007. Another option would be white Bordeax or other chardonnay with "sur lee" on the label.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Vignes De L'Hospice St Joesph 2004

I opened a $40 bordeax last night. It was corked, ruining my evening. This is a syrah I had a month ago. I used to drink Shiraz like it was going out of style, but now I find myself gravitating towards French Syrah for a more elegant and subdued flavor. Why French? Although French wines are more expensive, my success rate at discovering a good French Syrah is much higher than ones from other country. A week ago, I tasted a Syrah from Argentina that tasted like leather shoes blended with kalamata olives (I ended up using it to cook my beef stew).

This wine is very versatile for pairing due it is relatively low tannin level. Generally, Italian, Greek, spanish, and mexican food would be great. I paired it with a mushroom tomato pasta and it worked quite well. To be honest, high quality wine like this one should be drank on its own.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Clos du Chateau de Mosny 2003, Loire France

I am falling behind on blog posting. Chenin is another less known grape variety from Loire Valley, France. However, it can be used to make many different types of wine including sparkling and dessert wine. Classic descriptors for the flavours of Chnin Blanc include peach, honey, marzipan, and quince jelly.
For paring, light and delicate dishes such as salad, spicy rice dishes, sushi, seafood, chicken, goose.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer 2004, Alsace

I am trying a different format. Let me know what you guys think. I have only tried a few Gewurztraminer so far. They have all been very viscus, creamy, jammy, and sweet or off sweet. For people who likes those crisp, juicy, palate cleansing white wines such as New Zealand's sauvignon blanc, you want to stay away from Gewurztraminer. This variety produces wine with more texture, sweetness, and tropical fruit flavors. This particular wine has pretty high acidity and it is not sickly sweet. I quite enjoy the perfume and white flower characteristics, but I wouldn't want to spend $34 for it.

I would pair it with a gorgonzola, Alsatian wash rind cheeses, soft goat cheeses, and cheese cakes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dennis's Birthday

Dennis's birthday was on Dec. 22nd. Having it so close to Christmas, he had always ended up celebrating it alone or just with me. I "attempted" throwing him a surprised birthday this year, but it was quite challenging to prepare a meal for 5 people without him getting suspicious. After a week of planning, I started having difficulty explaining away the 5 pound roast and 2 pounds of lamb I was seasoning. Finally, he discovered it by accident when Criag messaged me on my phone when I was driving. Well, it's hard to do anything surprising when we are practically attached by the hips. He appreciated my effort and laughed about how he should have gotten suspicious earlier.

The meal consisted of all of his favorite dishes and food groups and a wine to pair with each dish. The appetizer was the bourbon marinated scallops with Greek styled salad. The scallops recipe was the same as this one. The green
salad consisted of cucumber, tomato, olives, green onion, French parsley, lemon juice, mint, fleur del sal, and olive oil. Every ingredients were chopped very fine and I broke the leaves of the mint and parsley by hand. The green on top of the scallops is baby garlic sprouts. No cheese because Dennis is allergic to dairy. I would have put some red bell pepper in it, but Dennis preferred the salad without. This dish's very delicate flavors was paired with Blue Mountain Pinot Gris 2007. The wine wasn't as delicate as I had wanted, but it was well balanced, moderately complex, and the citrus and the nutty notes went well with the dish. The wine also gave a good texture to the dish.

The second course is Greek Orzo. Peter did a good job photographing this dish. It was usually more delicious than it looks. Orzo is a special kind of pasta not made from wheat, which burn or get soggy very easily if you cook it wrong. I cooked with ground lamb and then added more chopped leg of lamb half way through. The recipe was rather complicated and took me a year to get it right (I am not even sure of the measurement for ingredients). The dish had lots of fresh herbs and cayenne pepper. Ideally, I would pair this dish with an Italian red, such as Barolo, but I didn't have it and I decided to take a gamble and pair it with a white wine. Jackson-Triggs Meritage 2005 was a rather unpleasant wine on its own. It is a white Bordeax, blending Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Sémillon helps the wine age while sustaining the fruity flavor and balancing the often high acid from the Sauvignon Blanc. The wine's honey, toasty, vanilla, herbs, and grapefruit characters complimented the spice, herb, and tomato in the orzo. It's age, full bodiness, and creaminess ensured the wine doesn't clash with the red meat and matched the texture of the orzo. My only regret was that I should have gotten a better quality one from France.

The third dish was the prime rib roast. In order to surprise him, I emailed Meat Market ahead of time and picked up the roast with Dennis. He helped me convince Dennis that 2 people needed a 5 pound roast. The rub is the same one as the one from Joe and Tracy's dinner, but with red peppercorn. Originally, I wanted a red colored roast, but it turned out black anyway. It doesn't affect the flavor though. It was just as good, and Craig said he jizzed in his pants. We forgot to take pictures before we ate it. I wanted to pair the dish with a red Bordeaux, but I did not have any bordeaux that was less than $70, and we were not sober enough at this point too appreciate those, so I decided to cheat with a bottle of Viña Maipo Reserva Carmenère 2008. This grape has a long and wonderful story, but in short, it is an old school Bordeaux variety. The wine was absolutely amazing, mind blowing, and a robbery at $16. It had currant, dark plum, chocolate, coconut,vanilla, and soft medium tannin, full bodied. Super smooth and delicious. I went back to the wine store and bought out all of their remaining bottles.

The dessert is the cake. Dennis is allergic pretty much allergic to cake: gluten, milk, and eggs (not to mention almond, pecan, etc). It took a lot of web searching before I found Karina Hackett, a wonderful woman who makes vegan cakes from her home. She made me a chocolate créme cake that was so good people were surprised to hear that it was vegan. Frosting is a little sweet, but it was delicious and had great texture. Dennis was so happy that he was able to have a birthday cake and eat it too! The cake is paired with Cascinacastlet Moscato D'Asti, a sparkling wine from Italy. D'Asti was sweet and intensely flavored enough to match the take. It might be a little sweet for most wine experts, but I greatly enjoyed it, especially with the cake.



Mostly importantly, the birthday boy was very happy (and drunk), I got him a bottle of Calvados VSOP as a gift. It is a brandy made with distilled, fermented apple and pears. I will post more on it separately.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Japan: Tokyo Part 3

Unlike North America, it is easier to buy alcohol in Japan. You can find beer in vending machine and drink it while walking down the street Amongst the various local beer, saki, and hard liquor, I found Chilean and Argentinean wine in convenient stores for about $6-$10 dollar. In specialized wine stores, I found premium wine for dirt cheap, about a quarter the price than in Canada. The Petruvs in the picture was about $1200 CND, and it goes for no less than $3000-6000 in Canada. According to my friends, due to poor shipping and storing condition, these wines are often spoiled. What a shame. The wine cellar where this picture was taken was a collector's dream cellar. Petruvs, Opus, Hermitage, Routhschild, Dominus, just to name a few. I got more pictures if anyone is interested.

Another awesome things about Japan was their foodie culture. Every prefecture has a local speciality or two, mochi in Kyoto, okonomoyaki in Hirosima, sudachi in Tokushima, just as examples. We ran into a local dairy farmer expo in Tokushima with baby cows and free samples of dairy derived products. This picture was taken in a cafe at the Tokyo Station. This place serves dairy products source from north west of Tokyo. They had fresh milk, ice cream, cream, pudding, butter, yogurt, cream cheese, brie, camembert, wash rind, and cakes. These products comes also comes with different flavors and gift packaging. I didn't have a chance to try the cheese (I was about to take a packed train to Kyoto), but the ice cream was amazing. It was fluffier, more pure, refreshing, and sent tingling sensation down to my feet.


Before heading to Kyoto, I think the most memorable Foodie experiences I had in Tokyo were the discoveries of various small food joints in very obscure places. I remember getting lost and finding a noodle joint hidden in a corner of small and quiet alley way (then go into a smaller alley way and go up 2 floors) on a rainy day. Dennis couldn't even sit straight, because the seats were so small. Or sipping shochu at a bar in crowded smoky izukaya under the commuter train track, hidden amongst construction sites, was wonderfully romantic.

I wouldn't really recommend specific restaurants to try in Tokyo. There are a lot of fancy restaurants offering fine dinning, but we generally find the experience at those places a little underwhelming and very expensive. I would encourage travelers to try out those obscured and small restaurants. Dennis often joked that the smaller the restaurant, the better the food. Don't be afraid of places that use vending machine to order food either, and it's definitely safe to venture into back alleys to discover some local treasure.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pierre Sparr Mambourg Pinot Gris Grand Gru 2002

$38 Pinot Gris is usually an Italian wine, but Alsace also produce Pinot Gris with unique characters. This wine has baked apple and stone fruit aroma and almost oily or buttery texture with a hint of sweetness. Balanced acid, full bodied with long and complex finish. This is a very good wine at $38.

I would pair it with soft or semi-firm cheese, goat cheese, sheep cheese, that are not too salty. Sushi, butter/cream based pasta, crab, lobster. Just avoid overly salty or acidic food.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Scallops with Pea Coulis, Warm Chorizo, and Kalamata Ragout

Dennis loves scallops and I love working with scallops. In this dish, I used the same Maple Seared Scallops, but I used a specialty bourbon maple syrup from Dirty Apron for the marinate, different sauce and dressing. The bourbon caramelizes deliciously on the scallops, leaving a nice brownish orange color. The Kalamata Ragout is also great with squid and lamb dish. It adds a small kick and firm texture to the dish. The Pea Coulis can also be used with white fish and chicken. It's creamy and slightly sweet, but not granny.

(The scallop recipe is described in the link above, so I will skip it in the ingredients and instruction.)

Ingredients for 2:
Kalamata Ragout:
  • 30g Kalamata olives (pitted and halved)
  • 60g Chorizo (diced)
  • 1 Shallot (diced)
  • ¼ Lemon (juiced)
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper, grape seed oil
Pea Couis:
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Glove of Garlic
  • ¾ cup Fresh or frozen peas (90g)
  • Vegetable Stocks
  • Heavy Cream (or Cashew Cream)
  • Salt, white pepper, grape seed oil
Instructions:
Kalamata Ragout:
1. Heat a small sauté pan on medium-high heat
2. Coat the pan with oil and sauté the diced shallot and chorizo for a minute.
3. Add olives, chives, lemon juice, and oilve oil to the pan atthe same time.
4. Keep it warm on the side while you cook the rest of the meal. :)

Pea Couis:
1. Use a small sauce pot, sauté the shallot and garlic in oil for about a minute.
2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add in the peas and cream and bring back to a boil.
3. Use a blender to puree the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Pas the coulis through a fine strainer.
Done!

This is a pretty easy dish. You want to serve it with a unoaked, higher alcohol, dry or off dry, high acid white wine, such as New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc, but you can also get away pairing it with a Chablis or aged Alsace Riesling. I think I have tasting notes for all of those wines.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Yalumba Viogner 2008, Australia

$19.00 Another less popular grape variety. Viognier is often added to shiraz and fermented together. On its own, it has exotic fruit characters of perfume, flower, honey suckle, lemon, peach, pineapple, and melon. On the tongue, it is incredibly smooth, medium acidity, subtle, off-dry, with a hint of sweet spice.

Smells great, tastes great, and great for its value. Not sure what it would be a good pairing though.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Burge Family 2007, Olive Hill Barossa Valley

$40. Don't buy a bottle of Semillon wine without recommendation from an expert. I had a couple nasty ones. This bottle is pretty good though and offers a lot of unique fragrance and tastes that I don't usually experience from the more popular grape type. It's a wine wine with grass, bee wax, honey, citrus, toasty stone fruit fragrance. On the palate, medium+ acid, dry, light bodied, low alcohol. Smooth, nice complexity, and good finish. It can afford more aging.

Roasted Chicken or any white meat with honey, caramel flavor would be nice.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc 2008

I just wrote my intermediate wine exam on Sunday. For the next 6 months, my goal is to understand the more subtle nuances of wines from the same regions but different villages and vintages, in order to prepare for the advance class. But for now, I still have a huge pile of tasting notes, receipts, and restaurant reviews that I need to process first.

$22. New Zealand is famous for their Sauvignon Blanc, which rivals French ones in quality and value. This Sauvignon Blanc comes from vines grown in Marlborough which is well known for producing premium Sauvignon Blanc. I am still trying to get my hands on a bottle of Cloudy Bay. This wine has an intense and crisp fragrance of gooseberry and asparagus (unique to Kiwi blanc). It the glass a swirl, there is also some herbaceous and pungent notes (pungent is a good smell, apparently). On the tongue, it has bracing acidity, medium- intensity, medium- body, savory. I dislike the sour aftertaste in the medium finish, but that is just a personal preference. I know for sure that Dennis would have loved this wine.

The fragrance is more interesting than the taste, but I don't think the average Joe would notice the differences between this wine and a $40 Sancerre. I would gladly buy few more bottle and drink it with the sushi.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2008

$38 Sancerre is the best and the classic region for Sauvignon Blanc. I prefer French Sauvignon Blanc over New Zealand, because French ones tend to be more subdued, complex, and gentle. This wine is a good example of Sancerre. It has an intense and complex aroma of citrus, grapefruit, stone fruit, lime, and herbs. On the palate, medium+ acidity, dry, medium- bodied, crunchy apple note, creamy, mineral, and medium+ length (a little tart).

This outstanding wine would go well with shellfish and sushi.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Schloss Schonhorn Kabinett 1996 Rheingau

$30. What a bargain! I should have bought more. I love German wines because they are always so cheap for the quality they produce. This wine is made in Rheingau, one of the best region for making Rieslings in the world, and the wine is from the earliest possible harvest. Kabinett indicates that this wine is light bodied, low alcohol, and off-sweet, but it is sweet enough, high quality enough to be bottle aged for 12 years, creating an unique tasting experience. No other white wines can be aged this long.

The fragrance is complex and intense: vanilla, nutty, and caramel. Give the glass a swirl, I smell honey, peach, and sweet apple. On the palate, it is medium- body, balanced acidity, off-dry. The wine developed a nice orange and stone fruit note in the mouth. Delicious finish. I can't believe this bottle is only $30.

I would pair it with spicy food, Pa Tai, artisan salami.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

O'Leary Walker Riesling Clare Valley 2005

$35 Riesling from Australia. Typical of an Australian wine, the fragrance is intensely fruity, apple and lime, crisp. It's medium- bodied, medium- alcohol, high acidity, dry, and the acidity is so high that it's almost sour and austere. Not particularly complex and medium finish. Not my personal favorite, but Clare Valley does make good Riesling.

It paired well with Japanese curry with prawns. The curry was light, a little spicy and wasn't creamy. I bet it will pair well with Maple Seared Scollops too!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Majella Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

$36 I don't often see much Australian wines more than $30 nowadays. This wine is from Coonawarra, one of the premium cabernet sauvignon producing region, but I am not expecting anything ex ordinary going into this tasting. This wine is a classic example of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon. It has intense fragrance of blackfruit bombs, menthol, spice, earth, smoke. On the tongue, strong acid (crispy!), full bodied, full tannin, high alcohol, mineral, with a nice kick at the end. Medium complexity and medium finish. Big everything, but didn't really result to anything spectacular. Above average wine at a good price.

I wanted to joke about pairing this wine with a cuban cigar, but someone ought to give this a try one day. As for food pair, bring it to a BBQ. Ribs, grilled steaks, game meats would be nice.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chateau Maurac Haut Médoc 2000

$50 I am not very familiar with Chateau Maurac. It's not one of the famous commune. Haut Médoc is cabernet sauvignon dominated bordeaux on the left bank. It kind of smells like barnyard and leather, which is not a bad smell, since it is well balanced with the fragrance of mushroom and black currant. Medium bodied, dry, balanced acid, light tannin, delicate, toast, mineral, meaty. The whole experience is not intense, gentle, smooth, and well balance, but not complex. Medium finish.

The wine is above average, but it's a little boring for me. This wine is good to drink on its own, but I bet it will also pair well with braised pork/beef/lamb stew.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chateau Berliquet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 1999

$75 Incredibly cheap. If you ever see this wine in store for this price again, buy as much as you can afford. My speculation is that this wine wasn't very impressive when it was bottled, but it has aged very well since then. The wine at this age has a nice garnet, orange color with residue at the bottom of the glass. It has an intense, refreshing, and complex fragrance of chocolate, earth, and black cherry. Medium+ body, medium acidity, medium+ tannin, and endless finish. It can probably be aged for another 3-5 years.

I would pair it with aged cheddar (raw milk cheddar) or game meats (seasoned with lots of herb or peppercorn).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Frontera Merlot Chile 2008

$9 I usually don't drink any foreign wine under $10 (I start wondering if any critters went into it). Even with countries such as Chile and Argentina, I am still concerned about fair trade, but generally, I can except better quality at lower price with Chilean wines. This bottle looked cheap: simple label and green tint bottle, but the wine wasn't as bad as I expected. It had a minty, barnyard, herbaceous fragrance. On the palate, it was spicy, acidity, slightly sweet, and full bodied. It wasn't very complex or elegant, but it was an acceptable wine especially at $9.

I think grilled pork, Berkshire pork wellington, or my low-calorie Boeuf a La Bourguignon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir 2006

$210 Magnum bottle. New Zealand's climate is consistent and reliable each year, and the vintage variation is not that significant. The grape for this wine came from Central Otago, which makes the ripest, most intense Pinot Noirs. This wine has much higher alcohol content than Burgundy. The wine's color is much darker ruby. On the nose, nutmeg, red cherry, and strawberry. On the palate, very spicy (unique to NZ Pinot Noirs), soft tannin, subtle, silky, and smooth. I wouldn't say it's complex, but it is definitely elegant. This wine got me curious in more New Zealand Pinot, and I believe 2002-2005 vintages are the best.

I would definitely pair this with duck, Ahi tuna, and salmon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cin Cin

Once a month, Peter, Helen, Dennis, and I would go to a fancy (expensive) restaurant. Peter would take photos of everything from food to the washrooms, and I would annoy the restaurant's sommelier with strange questions. Recommended by my brother, Cin Cin is an upscale Italian restaurant that offers appetizer, second course, third course, and then desert. Don't go there without an empty stomach and money in your bank account. Appetizers on average is $16 and main course on average is $30. Might as well order from the set menu, which is $59 for 4 courses.
Food (3.5/5):
Dennis loves the (free!) warm doughy bread with olive pepper spread. We went through at least 3 full basket (Dennis ate a full one on his own) and used up last of the restaurant's olive spread. He wanted to come back to this restaurant to just have their bread and scotch.

We all enjoyed our first course, but Helen's octopus was beyond this world. It came with cannelloni beans, garlic, olives, tomato, and harissa dressing. It also had flower peddles layered into the dish. Each bite offers different texture, aroma, and a hint of flower scent. Our pizza and braised beef were average, uncreative, and lackluster in comparison to Helen's.


We all enjoyed our second course as well, but again Helen's spinach gnocchi put our dishes to shame. I love risottos, and I always order it by default at any fancy restaurant. Cin Cin's risotto is above average and tasty. However, Helen's dish was delicate, exciting, and unique and really demonstrated the chef's creativity, skills, and attention to detail.

The story repeated for our third course. Peter and I did not enjoy our pork dish at all. It was tough, dull, and difficult to get through, while Helen had another mind blowing dish. A bite of the garlic crusted sablefish sent tinkling sensation to my head. Dennis liked his scallops but mentioned that I could prepare the same dish at home.

The desserts were not so memorable.

Service (4.5/5):

Dennis has a pretty severe allergy to eggs, and we were sharing everything. We sent our waitress back and forth between our table to the kitchen numerous times to inquire of ingredients. She was very patient, humorous, and happy to oblige our requests. She was quick to fulfill our orders, put more bread in front of Dennis, and even noticed our lack of interests in the pork dish. I also had the pleasure of talking to the wine director who were very helpful.

Ambience (3.5/5):
There was no music playing. With a full restaurant, it was quite noisy and rather unromantic. Overall, the restaurant was warm, comfortable, and welcoming. It was not intimidating or ostentatious.

Overall Experience (4/5):
Bonus mark for the impressive "book" of a wine list. Great reading material. There was an amazing list of bordeaux and cabernet sauvignon, including a $6800.00 Petrus. (It was a little surprising to see such comprehensive list of big reds in an Italian restaurant. The cuisine wasn't known for big red meats, and there were only a few uninspiring steak options). The wine pairings for my set menu were:

Frescobaldi Nipozzano, Chianti Rufina Reserva, Tuscany 05
This is a classic from the region. I believe this is a blend. The fragrance is complex with plum, black currant, cinnamon, clove. On the palate, the tannin is low and soft, balanced acid, m- body, and a smooth finish. Good pairing with the braised beef with creamy sauce.
Travaglini Coste Della Sesia Nebbiolo Piedmont 06
This is a even better wine compare to the Chianti. On the nose, it is intensely perfumed with roses, anise, cherry, orange zest, and a hint of herbaceousness. On the palate, medium bodied, complex, intense, medium tannin, and long finish. Good pairing as it intense enough to stand up to the mushroom risotto.
Bussola Ca'del Laito, Veneto 03
I think this is a Amerones/Valpolicella blend. It is unique and is considered a premium wine from Italy. Black cherries, red cherry, chocolate, herb, spice, and licorice, great length, layers, and structure. I find the wine good for washing out the nasty taste of that pork (i.e wine overpowers the dish). I am sure that is not what the wine was intended to do, but it would else be a bad pairing. It's the pork's fault.
Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'asti, Piedmont 08
After four glasses, I couldn't really critique properly. Asti was delicious and perfumed. Dennis and Helen thought it smells like grape!
Dennis had a glass of Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes Sancere, Loire France 08. It was pleasant, above average, and refreshing, but I believe Dennis preferred his scotch.

Total: 15.5/20
I would totally go back and order the Mare Set. Don't order the Terra set.

For more pictures, visit Peter's website
CinCin Ristorante + Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bouchard Pere & Fils Reserve Bourgogne 2007

$27. This is a Pinot Noir from Château de Beaune in Côte D'Or. This is the same place that produces top quality Chardonnay but inferior Pinot Noir. On the nose, a simple bright strawberry note. On the palate, it is astringent, very acidic (tart), dry.

At this price tag, try an Australian (Yarra Valley) or New Zealand (Martinborough) Pinot Noir. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Yellow Tail Chardonnay 2008

$13. I tasted this chardonnay right after the Meursault... To be fair, Yellow Tail does a good job producing a large quantity of cheap but decent wine. Typical of most Australian wine, it has intense but simple aroma of wet leaves, crispiness, and fruit bomb. On the palate, the wine has very high acidity, higher alcohol, noticeably sweeter than Meursault, candy, pineapple, peach. No finish.

Good wine for getting drunk.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Domaine Vincent Girardin Meursault 2006

Maybe I am super spoiled, but this is one of the few Chardonnay I have ever enjoined drinking. $170. Meursault is an AOC within Côte de Beaune. Compared to other Chardonnay, Mersault has more body, bone dry, more alcohol, more richness with mineral, toast, and peach flavour. On the nose, it has a complex aroma of fresh, hazelnut, peach, citrus, vanilla note. On the palate, the wine is clean, intense, complex, with a hint of mineral and a spicy finish. I wished I wasn't at a wine tasting; I would have drank the entire glass and asked for more.

This wine pair well with herb roasted chicken and steamed seabass or halibut. Something weighty but not too intense in flavour.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chardonnay Part 2: White Burgundy

Chardonnay is grown mostly in Champagne, Burgundy, and Languedoc-Roussillon. Burgundy, despite the obvious association to the color red, can be both red or white wine. White Burgundy is made from 100% Chardonnay, and they are all dry. There are 4 main areas in Burgundy:
  • Chablis: produces 100% white wine
  • Mâconnais: 85% white wine
  • Côte Châlonnaise: 40% white
  • Côte D'Or: is divided into Côte de Nuits (5%) and Côte de Beaune (30%)
  • Beaujolais: produces 99% redwine
The best wines are produced in Chablis, Mersault and Puligny-Montrachet in Côte de Beaune, and Pouilly-Fuissé, an estate south of Mâconnais. Chablis produces wines with the most acid. At Chablis and Mâconnais, grapes are fermented and aged in stainless-steel tanks. Côte de Beaune age theirs in oak barrels, giving it complexity, depth, body, flavour, and longevity.

Wine from other parts of Burgundy I did not mention above is labelled as Bourgogne AC. These are not the best wines, but the quality is consistent and the wines are pleasant.

The quality of the wine is indicated on the label:
  • Village Wine: ($) Simply bears the name of the village where it is produced. Not bad.
  • Premier Cru: ($$) From a specific vineyard within one of the villages. Usually it would list the village first and vineyard second on the label. If it doesn't have the specific vineyard on the label, then it is a blend of different cru vineyard in that village, and thus has lower quality.
  • Grand Cru: ($$$$) From a specific vineyard that posses the best soil and slope in the area and meets all other requirements. On the label, the village names are not even on the label. Only the Grand Cru vinyard name are used.

Chateauv Smith Havt Lafitte 2006


This is a Grand Cru Classe Grave de Bordeaux outside Passac-Leognon, Bordeaux, France. $99 and worth every penny. On the nose, intense and complex layers of vanilla, toast, oaky, coffee, chocolate, cedar, pepper. On the palate, full bodied, black cherry, currant, mineral, highly concentrated, and very intense. Long finish. The only thing I would change about it is that it should be aged more.

I would pair it with a well-marbled steak or roast, or my lamb chop.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Georges du Boeuf Beaujolais 2007

Here is a good example of a value wine. $15.00. In the glass, it has pretty little bubbles coming out of the wine. On the nose, it was sharp, crisp, red cherry. On the palate, light bodied, simple, crisp acidity, little tart, and very little tannin. It's not very complex and is very easy to drink.

The first pairing that came to my mind is salmon sashimi or sushi, and baked lemon pepper chicken.

Beaujolais

Beaujolais is a small area within Côte D'Or, which is only 30 miles long. Yet, it's the main area where Burgundy and Beaujolis are produced. But Burgundy and Beaujolis are completely different wine. Burgundy is made from 100% Pinor Noir grape variety, while Beaujolis is made from Gamay.

This red wine is light or medium bodied, usually unoaked with medium or high acidity, low tannin levels, and pronounced red fruit aromas (raspberry, cherry), and occasionally with a hint of cinnamon or pepper). They are best consumed while young when they are fruity, but a couple can be better with aging such as Morgon AC and Moulin-a-Ven AC. Beaujolais are generally cheaper, and I drank a lot of it when I first started wine tasting, but I still confuse it with unoaked Pinot Noirs. Burgundies are oaked and have a small hint of that toast, vanilla note. Pinot Noirs would also have some vegetal and animal nuance (wet leaves, mushroom, meaty aroma), but I can't really tell. Well, looks like I need more "practice!" Ah life is so hard.

Premium List:
Beajolais AC: Within the Beaujolais Village AC, there are ten villages, know as the Beaujolais Crus, which produces the best Beajolais:
  • Morgon AC
  • Moulin-à-Vent AC
  • Fleurie AC
  • Chénas AC
  • Chirouble AC
  • Brouilly AC
  • Côte de Brouilly AC
  • Juliénas
  • Régnié
  • Saint-Amour
My personal favourite producers are (and in this order): Drouhin, Bouchard, Jodot, Mommessin, Duboeuf.

Beaujolas Nouveau AC: a even lighter and fruiter Beaujolais released in the November following the harvest. These wines are meant to be consumed within 6 months.
Beaujolais Village AC: superior quality wines that come from the granite hills to the north of the region.

I spent this summer pairing Beaujolais, and the food choice depends on the appellation and vintage. For the younger Beajolais and Beaujolais Village, I go with white mean, veal, pâtés, cottage cheese or light cream cheese. For wines that have intense flavour, a stronger cheese such as blue cheese (e.g Roquefort). The crus Beajolais are quite flexible. Traditionally, it can be served with coq au vin or meat cooked in sauce. I once paired Morgon crus with roast lamb with orange olive rub which turned out nicely, surprisingly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jackson-Triggs Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Okanagan

Dennis picked this bottle because he wants a local white wine and he likes the frosty glass bottle and gold label. $19.00 Personally, I am not a big fan of Sauvignon Blanc, because they can be quite pungent and herbaceous (good aroma and flavour to others). This wine is medium body, 12.5% alcohol, and crisp (a signature for most Okanagan whites). It has intense citrus, mineral, herbal, gooseberry, and grapefruit aroma. The finish reminds me of grapefruit or lemon zest (and slightly unpleasant). Dennis had a different opinion. He finds the wine refreshing and the finish tasty.
I suppose I would like it more if I pair it with some food... potted crab, pesto sauce, or brie

Japan: Tokyo Part 2


Still in Tokyo. After a week, we learned that price doesn't reflex the quality of the food. We ate at a few restaurants around $30-50 range and they were all really disappointing. What they had in common is the beautifully designed decor which gives the restaurants an elegant (and somewhat intimidating) ambiance. I suppose we were paying for that instead of food. Back to cheap and yummy food.
While browsing electronics at Akihabara, we came a cross a tiny restaurant with 2 tables for two and three bar seats, in a back alley. Surrounded by high raises, this little restaurant is owned and operated by three obasan, elderly women, and the manu was written on a chalkboard. They were very friendly, but we couldn't communicate with them at all. Fortunately, an older gentleman customer spoke excellent English and helped us out. I had miso soup, fried premium pork with panko, spaghetti in tomato sauce, rice, pickled radish, and pickled cucumber, and Dennis had fried fish. The miso soup was better than anything we ever had in Canada. It was flavorful but not overly salty. The meal cost us about $25. The old man told us funny stories and about his work. We had a great time.

Btw, this was red tuna. The photo was taken in the famous fish port in Tokyo. They had fish auction 5 am in the morning. The place was packed with merchants, chefs, and tourists. It was quite amazing, and I would definitely recommend everyone to check it out.

Food Index

Vancouver Restaurant Reviews:
Traveling:

Maple Seared Scallops with Saute Spinach Salad


Phil asked to come over for dinner. I also have some left over Mission Hill Chardonnay from Joe and Tracy. Since Phil is an old customer, I can be more daring and experiment to create new recipe. I took a huge gamble with the salad, but Phil and Dennis both liked it. The best thing about this meal is that it is delicious, organic, and relatively low on calories.

Ingredients for 2:
Scallops:
  • 2 Medium size Scallops (about 150g)
  • 1 tbsp. Maple Syrup
Salad:
  • 2 Small Tomato (sliced)
  • ½ Yellow Pepper (sliced)
  • 3 Leaves of Lettuce (sliced)
  • 8 Kalamata Olives
  • ½ tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. Vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper


Instruction:
Scallops

1. Marinate in maple syrup, salt, and pepper for 10 minutes.
2. Heat a non-stick pan to very hot on high heat and coat the pan with oil
3. Sear the scallops on both sides until they are browned (1 minute)
4. (Optional) Add butter tot he pan and allow it to cook into the scallops.
Salad
1. Slice lettuce, yellow pepper, onion, tomato very thinly. I used a Japanese mandolin to slice it.
2. Heat a pan at medium heat and coat it with oil.
3. Add crushed garlic and baby spinach to the pan and saute until the spinach was softened.
4. Quickly remove from heat and toss with the rest of the salad and olives
5. Add salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar for dressing.

The dish pairs well with that Mission Hill Chardonnay 2006, which is medium bodied, crisp, fresh lemon, apple, citrus, and honey. The finish is not unpl
easant.

Zinfandel


Before my wine course, I thought Zinfandel can only make those sickly sweet rose wines. Actually, Zinfandel is a type of black grape grown mostly in California. It's capable of making all types of wines and can be made into amazing dry red wines that is full bodied, high alcohol with black fruit, dried fruit, sweet spice note. Another cool fact is that a few vineyard have grape vines over 100 years old, and these "trees" produce only a few grapes that are very intense in flavour. Ever since I learn about this, I have been looking to acquire a few bottles for collection. I believe Napa and Sonoma County produces the best Zinfandel.


Gallo Family Vineyards White Zinfandel, California, USA 2008 $7.00
This is what people usually associate Zinfandel with. I drank this at the blind tasting for my class, but I usually would never drink any foreign wine under $10. Wines, like any other food, when it is too cheap, you have to wonder what else is in the wine. This wine is jammy, low acidity, medium sweet, light bodied, and kind of tastes like kool'aid. This is an "acceptable" wine to drink, but not "good" or "spectacular" (what you would expect for $7.00). I drank Zins when I first started drinking wine, and it's a pretty good wine to start with for children as well. Better quality white Zinfandels is more refreshing, balanced, and intense. I would pair this wine with light sweet desserts but not cheese cakes.


Caymus Vineyards Zinfandel Napa Valley, California, USA 2006, $46.00
This is the first red Zinfadel I have ever tried and what a wonderful surprise! It is full bodied, 15.5% alcohol, intense complex aroma of plum, flower, and raisin, dry, mild tannin. It also has a nice spice to it, which is the signature of red Zinfandel. Overall, it is a balanced and outstanding wine.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alsace vs Germany

(I split Riesling Part 1 to insert a premium list. This is the second part of that same post.)
Riesling 2002, Pierre Sparr Altenboug Alsace France $32
Alsace Riesling is considered as the benchmark Riesling to which riesling from the rest of the world is compared. This particular sample is pretty stereotypical. Ripe stone fruit (pear, melon), citrus (lemon), pretty dry, medium+ acid, medium body. Rarely do I drink any whites this old, and you can really taste the differences. Recommend medium bodied food such as halibut with lemon zest.

Riesling 1995, Zilliken Saarburger Raush, Germany $50
Aged Riesling is, well, not my favorite, because it sometimes smells like petrol, like this one. That smell is supposed to be "good" though. This is a medium sweet (Auslese) Riesling from Germany. Stone fruit (honey, peach, pineapple), medium- body, medium- acidity, medium- alcohol, medium+ length. James said that the produce harvested late and artificially stop the fermentation to make it so sweet. if I have kids, I probably start them on younger versions of this wine. This wine would be great with spicy food, Tai food, salami, cold cuts, fresh fruit, cheese cake, soft cheeses. I had this for Joe and Tracy's dinner and it did pair well with fresh fruits.