Happy Moon Festival

Mooncakes

Words & pix: Stephanie Yuen

The beautiful thing about working as a spokesperson for Loblaw is that I get to talk about Chinese traditions, culinary culture and recipes. For instance, I shared moon folklores and reminisced on fun childhood memories with the Vancouver Sun readers on Mia’s article; went onto CTV Morning and Global Noon News and cook with taro roots and fall roots and vegetables – two easy-to-do dishes to be had any time.

The moon festival happening today came early this year. Besides adoring the bright and full moon, we ought to be thankful for what’s been granted to us, in our daily living. For harvesting does not refer only to farmers, it also refers to how we embrace life. A good harvest can be as simple as food on the table, shared with friends and families!

Moon Festival 2014 – Stephanie Yuen’s recipes

 a/ Wok-fried Noodles with Chicken and Garden Vegetables

Serves 4

3 pc T&T brand Dried Shiitake mushrooms

300g T&T brand Fine Dry Noodles (1.8kg box package)

200g Chicken breast, julienned

3 Tbsp cooking oil

2 Tbsp chopped shallot

100g Julienned jicama

2 stalks  Julienned celery

½ red or orange pepper; julienned

½ tsp sea salt

2 tsp T&T brand light soy sauce

2 tsp Chili bean sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp sugar

1/ Rinse mushroom and soak in 1 cup of hot water for 30 minutes or until softened. Remove caps and julienne mushrooms. Set mushroom liquid aside.

2/ Follow cooking instructions on box to cook the noodle.

3/ In a bowl, mix chicken with 1 tsp soy sauce, ½ tsp sesame oil and ½ tsp sugar.

4/ Place wok on high heat, add 1 Tbsp cooking oil, add shallot and brown for 15 seconds. Add remaining oil and chicken, stir and cook for 2 minute on medium high. Add jicama, celery and pepper, stir and cook for 30 seconds. Add noodles and remaining seasoning, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add 3 Tbsp of mushroom liquid. Stir, cover and cook for another minute.  Enjoy!

Wok fried noodles with celery & jicama

Turkey, Taro and Shiitake Stew

Serves 4 on rice

300g turkey breast, cut into ½” dices*

2 Tbsp cooking oil

1 Tbsp oyster sauce

6 pcs T&T brand dry shiitake mushrooms

200g taro meat, quarter first and cut into thick slices**

1 tsp chopped ginger

1 tsp dark rice vinegar

1 tsp cooking wine

½ tsp sea salt

1 tsp sugar

¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro (optional)

1/ Marinate turkey with 1 tsp cooking oil and 1 tsp oyster sauce for about 15 minutes.

2/ Rinse mushrooms and soak in 1½ cup of hot water for 30 minutes. Remove caps and quarter mushrooms. Set mushroom liquid aside.

3/ Heat remaining oil in wok on high heat, add ginger, brown for 10 seconds.

4/ Add turkey, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and taro. Stir well.

5/ Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Stir in mushroom liquid, bring to a boil. Cover and cook on medium for 10 minutes or until 20% of liquid remains.

6/ Add cilantro and serve with rice.

 

*Can be replaced by pork or beef tenderloin.

** Taro skin contains certain enzyme which causes itchiness. Wear kitchen gloves when peeling skin off taro to avoid getting itchy. Once skin is removed, handle the meat normally.

 

 

 

 

Beyondchopsticks.com on AM1470 with Deborah Moore

Close encounter with Thai Cuisine at the Royal Thai Consulate-General’s residence.

First there were beautiful displays of fruit carvings; and then a picturesque line-up of Thai ingredients, herbs, spices and sauces. Next came the authentic Thai dish -cooking demonstration by two big-named chefs from Thailand who were also professional Instructors at Suan Dusit Rajabhat University:  Dr. Naruemon Nantaragsa and Mr. Siriseangphaiwan. They did make cooking Thai cuisine simple and easy!

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According to Dr. Nantaragsa, authentic ingredients are the keys to eccentric Thai dish. These are the must-haves for the two popular menu items found in most Thai restaurants in town.

1/ Pad Thai

Key ingredients: Dried shrimps, palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind juice, chilli powder and pickled white radish.

2/ Penang Curry

Key ingredients: Coconut milk, Thai basil, palm sugar, fish sauce, Penang curry paste, kaffir lime leaves.

Being only a week away from the Moon Festival, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Celebration (Monday, September 8) was naturally the focus of the September 2nd segment.

When Real Canadian Super Stores and No Frills display red and gold boxes of moon cakes, and ingredients for cooking a celebrative dinner, you know that Moon Festival (the Chinese version of Thanksgiving) is no longer an Asian celebration but a fun and delicious reason for anyone to bring families and friends together.  Moon cakes are great dessert pastries, to be enjoyed with a pot of tea or your favourite coffee, along with a table full of fresh fruits, candies and nuts, they are the centre piece for the after-dinner full moon celebration in the yard, the patio and even an evening picnic at the park – just go out there and adore the moon and be thankful for a good harvest.

Traditional moon cakes available at The Real Canadian Super Stores and No Frills

A special TWG treat (Urban Tea Merchant Downtown Vancouver)

Come Moon Festival celebration time, a box or two of moon-cakes as a token of appreciation and respect to your parents, the elderlies and all the loved ones may seem boring, may even be a bit too convenient sometimes? What more can you do?

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A decadent and unique “Moon Festival Tea Service” at The Urban Tea Merchant located at Georgia/Alberni @ Thurlow (Tel# 604-692-0071 ) that is.  Decadent is their specially crafted and assembled platter of gourmet delicacies: Miso-glazed sable fish, “Dignitiary’s Tea” chicken cone, chilled prawn ceviche, Fois Gras, fresh tropical fruit and TWG Tea Mooncakes.

Unique are inarguably those Tea Mooncakes – classic shapes of round mooncakes and traditional styles to enhance the celebrative mood but are loaded with tea-infused paste. This year, TWG’s Tea Mooncake edition is called “Red Lantern”, last year was called Silver Moon – enticing and very fitting terms for this Chinese Thanksgiving and get-together celebration. The tea mooncakes are: Red Lantern, Emperor, Constellation and Moonlight are the four flavours. These are limited-time editions available in 3 packaging: 4 and 2 with a special red and white blend of “Red Lantern” tea and the single box.  Check them out soon because they may not be available after September 15.

Moon Festival Buffet for the whole family at Pan Pacific Hotel

For many years, Pan Pacific Vancouver has established its own longstanding tradition of offering a sumptuous Asian-influenced brunch, complete with trademark moon cakes, made in-house by our pastry chef, Hans Pirhofer.

This year, the Chinese Moon Festival Brunch in the Café Pacifica will include a wide range of delights with inspiring salads, a dim sum station, fresh sushi, cold seafood – salmon, snow crab and jumbo prawns, and, of course, our legendary dessert buffet.

Pan Moon Cakes

***Other Events***

5th Tomato Festival at Provence – Chef’s Tomato Menu

Provence Chefs/Proprietors Alessandra and Jean-Francis Quaglia have been giving the season’s wonderful tomatoes the highest note of praise through their creation of Chef’s Tomato Menu. “We are fortunate to have so many heirloom varieties available locally,” says Chef Jean-Francis. “There isn’t any flavour that says ‘summer’ more to me than tomato. The flavours are so intense and each variety is completely different from the other but all are equally wonderful.”

Jean-Francis & Alexandria team up with wholesome tomatoes

Provence Mediterranean Grill’s menu ($45) starts with Tomato Three Ways that includes chilled tomato ‘cappuccino,’ buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad and a Provençal tomato tartlette. Once you’ve polished that off, you must then decide between one of two main courses – how do you choose between Duck Breast Scaloppini or Pan-Seared Mediterranean Sea Bass Filet? Both come accompanied by smoked tomato and bacon marmalade, fiddleheads and sun-dried tomato gnocchi. For dessert, there is Candied Tomato Panna Cotta served with rhubarb honey and a pistachio tuile.

These amazing dishes, from salad to soup, cold and hot appetizers to even desserts, promise to wow your visions and palates. Chef’s Tomato Menu is now being offered at the two Provence Restaurants till Monday, September 22nd.

Provence Marinaside and The Wine Bar (water front @Davis, Yaletown Tel: 604-681-4144 ) and Provence Mediterranean Grill (W. 10. Tel: 604-222-1980)   http://www.provencevancouver.com

Chefs for Ocean

Join Chef Bell to celebrate his return from a successful journey across Canada, at the grand finale event  – a not-to-be-missed food event for a very important cause.

Chef Ned Bell preparing an Asian dishWhere: The Four Seasons Hotel on

When: Friday, September 12 from 6pm to 8pm.

Chef Bell has partnered with like-minded chefs across the country to host 20 sustainable seafood events from coast to coast, and the final event in Vancouver is no different.  Co-hosted with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program and SeaChoice, Chef Ned will be joined by the following chefs for an evening of decadent seafood tastings, storytelling and celebrations.

  • · Rob Clark, The Fish Counter
  • · Quang Dang, West Restaurant
  • · Frank Pabst, Blue Water Café and Raw Bar
  • · Tim Bedford, Vancouver Aquarium
  • · Dino Renaerts, Bon Vivant Group
  • · James Coleridge, Bella Gelateria

Ticket prices are $40 with free admission for children aged 12 and under.  Event proceeds support the Chefs for Oceans journey and a portion of net funds will be donated to its’ three primary beneficiaries, Vancouver Aquarium’s ocean-friendly Ocean Wise ™ program, SeaChoice and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

To purchase tickets via Eventbrite: http://www.cfovancouver.eventbrite.com

Restaurant of the week:

Left Bank – Newest French Bistro on Denman

Stroll down for restaurant review…IMG_7413

 

Naramata Bench and Okanagan Falls

a rack of wine bottles

Words: Henry Yuen   Pix: S. Yuen

Summer and early fall means trips to the Interior. Back when our sons were younger and heavily involved in sports, we used to go there on a regular basis: Tournaments, camping, touring and fruit indulging. When the kids no longer tagged along and admiring the gorgeous views a given, we change our itinerary to dining and drinking .  Winery tours, wine-tastings and cuisine indulging in winery restaurants often top our list. In fact, this time of the season; with the hot sun tapering down and the lake breeze blowing softly; proves to be easier and more pleasant for folks our age.

Lake & vineyard view

Voted by USA Today as the number two finest wine regions in the world, the Okanagan is described as “Drop. Dead. Gorgeous!” The publication states, “British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley came in at a strong #2, its loyal fans reminding voters of the area’s lush landscape of mountains and rivers.  The Okanagan offers excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation in between tastings.” The exact reasons why more and more folks from all over the world come to pay a visit or plan a wine vacation to Okanagan.

Quail

With vineyards and wineries spreading alongside lakes and hillsides, you may find yourselves wondering which vineyard to start? Where to go to fully utilize the time while up there? Well, we can take a good look at these two areas that house 24 and 12 wineries separately.

Poplar Grove boasts modern design beauty

Up on the hill in Penticton is the Naramata Bench and under the Naramata Bench Wineries Association banner are 24 wineries. Once an area filled with orchards and farms, now tranquil vineyards perched upon the hill and extend to the edge of local roads. Land is precious in the Okanagan and seldom laid waste for the purpose. Dotted with beautiful wineries, modern tasting rooms and top-rated restaurants, this Bench gives visitors fun-filled reasons to explore the wineries and the terroir.   There are acclaimed wineries to newly-established ones; wines made by achieved winemakers to growers-turned enthusiasts; elaborated premises to true-to-nature type of operations. Their wines are distinct; and so are their setups and capacities. But one thing they do share – embracing and trying their very best with what Mother Nature has granted to the vineyards and wineries of Naramata Bench.

OK Resort

Further south in the heart of the Okanagan is Okanagan Falls. “The heart of wine country” is the lowest part of the valley and lots of heat and the perfect terroir for vineyards. From Lake Skaha to Vaseux Lake are twelve wineries including Blue Mountain Vineyards known for its interesting grapes and remarkable wines. Together they form the Okanagan Falls Winery Association.  Lush landscapes lend terroir beauty to the vineyards, certainly another pocket of wineries worthy of an exploratory visit or a weekend getaway. Caressing winds and cooling moisture from the lakes; warm days and cool nights, encouraging a number of vineyards to naturally progress from orchards of yore. Some vineyards have been operating since the seventies, providing maturity to the vines that inevitably helps produce great wines lined with complexity and concentration.

Lakeside hotels and cheerful motels are welcoming. You don’t need to stay far from these two wine regions at all to taste some great wines thus saving you more time for other activities or simply relax a bit before conducting another winery visits.

For detailed information of both winery associations and all their winery members please log onto: http://naramatabench.com and http://ofwa.ca

The All-around Left Bank

Watts (middle) and Restaurant Manager

751 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2L5 (604) 687-1418

http://leftbankvancouver.com  @leftbank.van

Words and pix: Stephanie Yuen

I was pretty upset upon hearing the news that one of my favourite French restaurants in town was no more. My disappointment turned to anticipation when I realized the restaurant decided to re-invent in order to enhance Vancouver’s market trend and food lovers’ savvy desires at large to the fullest. It had in fact undergone a renovation make-over and revamped remarakably.  Last month, Le Parisienne on Denmen Street morphed to become Left Bank, a modern French Bistro with a west coast twist.

The first thing I did when I walked into the door of Left Bank was to greet and congratulate owner John Blakeley on the restaurant’s fresh new look. Blakeley happened to be a veteran restaurateur who has long been regarded as the intuitive Frenchmen behind great French restaurants. It’s about time for Vancouver to establish its own mood of French cuisine without the heavy duty traditional bearing on the shoulder.

Fresh grape and goat cheese truffle

Contemporary, inviting, warm and unpretentious, Left Bank now opens its arms to all walks and generations of cuisine lovers, locals and visitors alike. With a wide-open style dining room, the restaurant is also a relaxing bar, a brunch café, a caterer, a cozy eatery that serves casual fare. Along with refined French cooking, there is live music patrons can swing to in their seats.

Sockeye salmon & lemongrass cream

While authentic French cooking will always be the backbone of Left Bank, Chef Spencer Watts wittily blends Pacific west coast colours into his culinary palette. Albacore tuna cone combines aioli with nectary mango; sockeye salmon winks with lemongrass cream; raita (Indian yogurt salad) mellows the lamb tagine, brilliant pairings of French and Asian cuisine I say! What about the 5-spiced Duck Confit Tempura? The pungent Chinese five spices, crunchy tempura and classic duck confit all in one bite!

Roasted lamb tangine topped with raita

No, you don’t have to sit in to enjoy Left Bank’s newest creations, order in advance, come by and take out – to Stanley Park, to the beach, or even to a party!

What cocktail are you drinking this summer?

Words: Henry Yuen

Imagination and creativity are the backbones behind every new dish constructed by chefs, regardless of the cuisine and the local ingredients available. They often tweak the dishes to search for flavour uniqueness. This is no difference when it comes to creating smashing cocktails!

These days, an integral job of the bar mangers, or “Mixologist” or “Drink Directors”, is to create new cocktails by mixing and matching available ingredients. Sure they don’t mind following the exact recipes traditional cocktails since they are no brainers, but the urge to create some amazing drinks that provide that “wow” factor is the given chance to grasp that artistic instinct mixologists possess and the result is always yummy.

A pot of icy cool smoky cocktail

The bar program at Earls is one successful example judging by the number of cocktails on most tables, not to mention that they are now featuring $5 cocktails this whole summer (Sunday to Thursday) nights! Diners seem to embrace the starter drinks and cocktails are taking centre stage. Those colourful; delicious cocktails tend to liven up the atmosphere to another level. I tried and enjoyed the “Mad Hatter” very much. This drink belongs to the creative cocktail category and the creativity is well-presented by serving it in a teapot with dry ice inside. The “pot” of cocktail is delivered to our table with foggy smokes escaping the lid; more smoked accompanied the liquid emitted through the sprout when poured into the glass. It’s a delightful and mighty refreshing drink of Smirnoff Vodka, pear, black tea, lime leaf and coconut water;  how dramatic! The black tea adds a profound South East Asian mood to this cocktail. Interestingly, Mad Hatter is a good fit with the hot and fluffy BBQ buns served in a bamboo basket. They both get a 10 for visual effect and flavour from me for sure.

At Cactus Club Café, their 98 Days of Summer Cocktails program is in full swing. According to bar operation manager, Sam Zavari, “guest can enjoy these refreshing cocktails which include the Watermelon Margarita and the Sunset Soda throughout the summer”.  The focus of the  their cocktails is summer’s favourite flavours and this year the cocktails feature watermelon and peach. Summer, watermelon and juice-dripping fruits do go hand-in-hand teamwork to fight the heat, more so these days when the sun is scorching and our bodies particularly crave for watermelon. “Fresh watermelon is a summer staple and the ultimate refresher on hot summer days. The bartenders are juicing twice daily which ensures optimal freshness and flavour.” Other cocktail creations include the Sunset Soda which is made with Smirnoff Orange Vodka; and the Watermelon Margarita made with Cuervo Gold Tequila.

Cactus Club Cafe Watermelon Margarita, 98 Days of Summer, 2014

Recommend bites to make the cocktail sipping more enjoyable are fresh seafood, light and uplifting such as Rob Feenie signature ceviche with Ocean Wise Lois Lake steelhead and sustainably harvested prawns. There are always the ever popular Tuna Tataki and Fish Tacos – good excuses to go grab a table and cocktail drinks.

The “Super Drinks” and Crafted Slush at Joey have been gaining momentum as the full-blown west coast sun decides to stay on.  Take the Stiff Lemonade for instance, made with Pearl Vodka, fresh lemon-lime slush and limoncello liqueur, is the great escape under the hot sun. The Blueberry Mojito, with muddled blueberries, fresh lime juice and the must  — mint leaves is so fruity and inviting, it tingles away the summer heat like a garden breeze.  Sip this with the Japanese dumplings served with hot mustards, you would end up ordering more of each.

JoeyDrinkStiffLemonadeWeb1-1024x682

 

 

Premium Sake – Warm or cold?

Words: Henry Yuen   Pix: S. Yuen

I am a novice when it comes to Sake but do enjoy a vial or two of chilled ones with Japanese food. I also find warm Sake and hotpot go quite well together, especially in cold evenings. I like my Sake warmed since hot was how it was served to me back when and somehow became a habitual thing. However, according to Sake experts, warming the Sake is not the proper way to appreciate Sake, especially for premium grade!

Rashiko Daiginjo

Applying too much heat will likely destroy the delicacy of Sake,  but when served slightly chilled, the flavour and charm of the wine will express fully; more so for Premium Sake whose flavour is so complex. “Certain Premium Sake is brilliant at room temperature but slightly chilled is the norm. If you must warm up your Sake, just consume regular Sake” states Ken Watai , President of Jizake Japan Canada, a well-established Premium Sake Importer in BC. “Traditionally, only lower quality Sake is served warm to mask the insipidity so it could still be desirable to some consumers.” He added. “If you insist to warm up your Sake, do so by immersing the vial of Sake in a container of warm water that is way below the boiling point.  Never heat Sake up in the microwave.” Ken advised.

Crispy cold sake for divine food pairing

Like wine, pairing food with Premium Sake is an uprising trend. A recent Premium Sake pairing tasting at Kamei Royale organized by Mr. Watai and Kamei’s very own Sake Sommelier and Executive Director Shingo Masuda showcased the why and how important these advices were in order to embrace the delicate yet luscious Premium Sake. This tasting event turned extraordinary with the presence of a visiting true Sake expert – the Sake Master Kazunori Sato of Yamatogawa Sake Brewery who is behind a gold-award winning Sake that we were lucky enough to taste that evening.

 

Sake glasses

Five crisp-coloured wines were poured into different sake glasses and served with modern Japanese fares.

The Junmai Ginjo Muroka Nama Sake has subtle fruit flavour with a clean and soft finish. The flaky Teriyaki Yellowtail steak with its sweetness complements this Sake very well. Next up was the Kissho Zuiyo Ginjo Sake, slightly dry on entry but gentle on the finish, this pairs perfectly with the dense yet soft scallop. Karakuchi Junmai Yauemon is bold and attention grabbing. If you like your Sake not chilled; this wine is awesome in room temperature or even lightly warmed. The enticing flavour of the smoked salmon marinade tuned in nicely with the boldness of this Karakuchi.

The four time Gold Award winner (A huge honour in Japan’s Premium Sake world) Daiginjo Yaemon, an exquisitely balanced, full flavour profile that lingers and seduces is served. With beautiful aroma and layers of flavours that keep on surfacing, this wine does exemplify what Premium Sake is all about. Black sesame tuna tataki with ponzu gelee brings out the sweetness and complexity of this Sake. Changing pace and the naturally soft, unfiltered Sake with a clear and sweet note – Nigori Northern Light is served. A shy yet engaging aroma brings out the crispy sensation the chef created the prawn okura tempura the chefs created to pair with the Northern Light.

Sake Master Sato and gold winner

According to Ken, the rice grains used to make Sake is the same throughout Japan; the difference is the water, the fermentation process and the skilled hands and experiences of the Sake Master. Water source makes a significant difference in the basic form and texture of the Sake; the traditional fermentation process each Sake house adopts and applies dictates the flavour and character profile of the Sake.

Compared to other alcoholic beverages, Sake is definitely more delicate, gentle and caressing. Instead of drinking Sake in a party-like and raucous environment, I prefer to sip mine with a different mood in a quieter, more relaxing temperament to fully enjoy the premium sake moment.

 

A shot or two of Mezcal – Mexican Elation

Mezcal wines

Words: Henry Yuen           Pix: Santiago Barreiro & S. Yuen

When communication methods were so primitive and languages so different; and nations lived so far apart and never even once encountered each other, there was no way for them to share any culture and knowledge. The theory derived here is also the fact – centuries ago and even in ancient times, our ancestors of different cultures of different continents; cultivated similar traditions and developed similar wisdom in the science of doing things, all on their own!

Each label tells a story

What am I referring to here, you wonder?  Distillation of various ingredients to make alcoholic beverages, that is. Regardless of what language they spoke and where they were, our ancestors knew how to make wines and spirits using what nature had given them. The Chinese produce rice wine, the Japanese brews Sake, the Italians make Grappa, the French have Cognac; Scotts have Whisky,  and the Mexicans? Oh yes, they have Tequila and Mezcal!  And I am pretty sure; other ethnic cultures have their very own national drinks. The ingredients, methods, alcohol contents and flavours may be different, but they do share more or less of the same principles.

Captura de pantalla 2012-08-24 a la(s) 19.20.59

Let’s talk Mexican Mezcal. A popular and well-regarded spirit on home soil, Mezcal is distilled from agave plants. Like grapes, agave plants offer various species. Different species of different regions with different soils and climates will render different taste profiles. They stand to create their own uniqueness once distilled. Many of the Mezcal houses are still using organic and traditional methods to dig, roast, ferment and distill.  Behind each Mezcal logo, there are histories, habits and folklores to tell.

To make Mezcal, the base portion of the agave plant known as the “head” is harvested after the stem or flower portion has been removed for over a year. It takes 8 or 9 years, sometimes 20, 30 years before the plant is ready for harvesting. The plant is then roasted in the oven for up to 8 days. The roasted plant is ground manually in a stone mill to extract the juice. Water is now added to the juice to obtain the desired consistency, followed by the fermentation process in order to get the concentrated mixture ready for distillation. The Mezcal is now ready for enjoyment.

Captura de pantalla 2012-08-24 a la(s) 19.21.20

Certain Mezcal master-makers prefer to conduct one more step by aging the Mezcal in oak barrel to achieve complexity, smoothness and smokiness; as well as his own signature onto the spirit.

Mezcal tasting is no different than wine tasting. The “nose” is important so grasping the aroma of the drink is only the beginning. The final product in Mezcal bottles usually contains over 40% of alcohol, it is important to take it easy, allow time for the nose, tongue and palate to get use to the strong alcoholic flavour and burn sensation. First take a small sip but let it sit in your month for 8 to 10 seconds before swallowing.  This is to condition the mouth and the palate to receive the flavour and let the contact do the job slowly. Once swallowed and mesmerized by the profound structure of Mezcal, feel free to take a bigger sip. Not a bad idea at all to enjoy with colourful Mexican fares.

authentic maxican gourmet

Do talk to the Mezcal pourer who often is a member of the production team and kows the story and the people behind that particular bottle of Mezcal. Listening to their description of the agave, the harvesting patience and distilling process is part of the enjoyment. The fact is, different agave plant species produce unique flavours and characters, and different master-makers apply their own traditions and culture throughout the process, ergo not all Mezcal is the same. A side-by-side comparison is a good way to enhance the taste profile each wine brings forward and that’s truly is an integral part of the fun.

A different shape of Mezcal bottle

 

A $15 cup of coffee and a soggy sandwich

La Cuisson

Words and pix: S. Yuen

When it comes to coffee, I am the scrooge. Well, the same could be said about bubble tea. The urban life-style concept of spending $5 or more on a cup of caffeine-loaded beverages on a regular basis just doesn’t sit well with my bank account. Though I admit, with the right company, the right ambiance and fine coffee or tea; relaxing moments and good conversations can be had.

As a food writer, I had tasted a $60 cup of Kopi Luwak coffee. Yes, that famous coffee originates from Java and Sumatra, home to Luwaks (small civet-like animals) who eat the coffee cherries, digest the fresh but get rid of the beans via natural bodily functions and wella; these beans become the jewel of coffee! Why, the natives are smart enough to notice or smell the fragrant aroma emitted by these beans caused by the so-called “special digestive system” of the Luwaks. Thanks to the even smarter marketers who not only call the Kopi Luwak coffee “The most delightful coffee you can find” but also charge an average of $60 per serving! The overall experience of a ‘digested and passed out’ coffee was decent, though I had to try very hard to sniff and detect the illusive aroma and failed, the steamy dark liquid was layered with complex coffee flavour and was indeed velvety, but would I pay $60 for that, the answer is still a big no.

Obviously, the $15 per cup coffee was no Kopi Luwak but a Jamaica Blue Mountain.  This is no ordinary coffee either, says so on the Blue Mountain Coffee website. Hand-picked in single estates, small-batch roasting only on the shipping day and shipped in barrels, the whole process is regulated, carefully monitored and certified. A cup of Blue Mountain was what I ordered with a prosciutto & mozzarella sandwich last week at La Cuisson.

I was granted an unexpected afternoon break when a meeting was cancelled last minute. To embrace the leisure time, I decided to browse around in a neighbourhood I seldom visit – Kerrisdale and it didn’t take long at all for me to wonder into La Cuisson Café, a relatively unknown place with a few small patio tables and chairs out front. Once inside, I could tell the owner was attempting a Brasserie atmosphere. Tended by youngsters, the clustered counter lies adjacent to a huge glass showcase filled with cakes, pastries and stuff. La Cuisson offers both eat-in and take-out service, with a simple menu of sandwiches, salads and delicate desserts and special coffees such as Blue Mountain coffee.

Blue Mountain coffee beans

First arrived was the plate of sandwich, the supposedly made to order gourmet offering came buried in a dressed salad. When it was dropped in front of me, I had an elapsed moment thinking that I had ordered salad instead. Being creative is a good thing, but when it comes to food, practicality takes priority. Why the kitchen opted to load the salad on top and soil the quartered sandwiches was beyond me. The fact that there was no chef or a kitchen supervisor and the sandwich was made by any staff that could make it might explain why.

Next came the Blue Mountain served in a fancy set of cup & saucer, may be 5 to 6 oz. Silky smooth, mellow and hot, no cream needed (it was not brought either), a lovely cup of coffee indeed. But a $15 price tag? I had the same sensual satisfaction from a cup of Italian coffee years ago in a mall café called Little Darling who also served the most decadent piece of home-made Kahlua cake found nowhere else. There, I paid $3.00 for each mug of coffee and $0.50 for a refill. Yet for some strange reasons, Blue Mountain Coffee has achieved a brand-name status (much like Gucci, Channel or Coach) in the Chinese coffee-drinking arena.  However, if you talk to random customers sipping a cup of Blue Mountain in a similar café, the chance of them having a clue why each cup costs $15.00 (sorry, no refill) is pretty slim.  Ergo, brand name effect would be the only explanation.

There is nothing wrong paying $15 or $60 for a cup of coffee, but it is the value of that price tag I am looking for! I do wonder, in a blind-tasting scenario, how much will savvy coffee drinkers be willing to pay for the Blue Mountain or the Kopi Luwak?

 

 

BC Wine Industry Blooming with International Awards

bloom 2014 -4

Words: Henry Yuen ( Chinese blog post: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/379905 )

Whether you go to a government liquor store or a private wine store, you should have noticed the latest releases from     various BC wineries by now. The BC VQA wineries celebrate their annual releases through a tasting event called “Bloom”. BC wine industry grew from 17 to 235 wineries in less than 25 years. It is still growing as new wine sub-regions are being discovered. There are over 9,800 acres planted in the five designated viticultural areas (Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands). Even though small in international scale, non-the-less it is extremely important to the BC economy from an employment and revenue generating perspective. Even though some wineries jobs are seasonal, there are lot of subsidiary and indirect jobs created such as restaurants, tourism and hospitality positions benefiting from this particular industry.

What about the BC wines you might ask. It is ever improving as far as I am concern judging by the over 2000 awards garnered annually through international wine competitions. Of course there are outstanding ones and there are mediocre ones and also those from new wineries with potential to improve over time. With competition from New World wines, I can expect prices of BC wines to stay competitive as the economy of scale improves and the unit cost of production coming down.

bloom 2014 -2

However, don’t expect premium tier wines to be cheaper as those are in limited production with exceptional care from viticulturalists and winemakers. Wines destined for cellaring will always be hot items for collectors.  The list, including award-winners such as Mission Hill’s “World Best Pinot Noir”, Joie Farm’s list of awarded wines, and Haywire Winery’s Haywire Canyonview Vineyard Pinot Noir that just received the Lieutenant Governor Award, is too long. The best way to find out is to visit a specialty BC VQA stores, consider your budget and feel free to ask for advice. If you come across these wines, don’t miss the chance.  These are some of the gems to your liking!

http://winebc.com

http://missionhillwinery.com

http://joiefarm.com

http://haywirewinery.com

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Mission Hill World's best Pinot Noir

The Rosé of Provence

VI-8

TP-060815Words: Henry Yuen

Pix: Vins de Provence

Besides Paris, what other part of France would tourists like to visit? The south of France has always been considered a charming place. With its Mediterranean climate, sun-lit blue sky and lush countryside, Provence is most likely on the top of the list. More so for food and wine lovers!

The cuisine of Provence is world famous! According to Francois Millo, Author of “Provence Food and Wine – The art of living” a printed illustration of the beauty and bounty of Provence, “Provencal food is at the core of what is known as the Mediterranean diet!” The abundance of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, farm produce and seafood provides the foundation for the cuisine that chefs and foodies from around the world aspire to.

For me, the wine of Provence is the clincher; the region is after all, responsible for 40% of the wine production of country. And when it comes to the wines of Provence; how can we not talk about Rosé? Over 87% of the wines produced in Provence are Rosé, which represents 5.6% of the global market!

With 152 million bottles of Rosé currently produced each year, it means this colourful wine is a demanded beverage not only in France but throughout the world. Inevitably, French Rosé is held in high regard, perhaps due to its strict production guidelines that follow the traditional methods; or simply because of the drier style of wines that most drinkers enjoy! Generally speaking, Rosé from Provence is not as sweet as other Rosé or blush wines from the rest of the world, yet each sip is full of Provence characters.

With its attractive pinkish, light orange and salmon colour; Rosé is often regarded as a romantic, even sexy wine! The mood is easy and mellow; likely the reason why most drinkers identify it as a refreshing patio or poolside wine. Surely belonging to balmy lazy late afternoons,  Rosé is a perfect wind-down sipper, while drifting away in a rattan chair set under a canopy overlooking rolling mountains or blue wide horizon!

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Rosé, however, does pack in a lot of punches! The added bonus is that this wine is more versatile than most people think. There is the citrus and berries aroma, juicy yet delicate to keep the palate fresh and lively, therefore a good companion to be had with food.  At one of my favourite French restaurants in town Bistro Pastis, we did just that, the two Rosé wines poured that evening were Domaine Houchart 2013 and the Miraval 2013.

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The breezy and refreshing Domaine HouchartRosé; filled with floral and fruity aroma and a slight hint of minerality upon entry; is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hailed from the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt famed winery with the collaboration and guidance from the Perrin Family, the Miraval 2013 emits subtle fruity nose and a balanced citrus aroma caresses not just the palate but the moment nicely. The entry is soft and smooth with shy shades of spices and enough concentration to provide a lingering finish.

Chilled properly, Rosé can be a tantalizing welcoming drink,  sipped with canapés and antipasti, it will also go well with salads and can be served with the first course or a seafood dish as well.

When it comes to embracing Rosé, a little bit of imagination will open a world of possibility for you and your guests. From Old World to New World, there are all kinds of Rosé produced to caress your mood and palate, so why not a tasting and food pairing of Rosé of different style and sweetness? Do taste them alongside the Rosé from Provence and you will taste the subtle differences and appreciate what the strict traditional method of crafting Provence Rosé is all about.

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