37th International Wine Festival vibrates with the Year of the Ram

Henry Yuen’s Wine Business – Beyondchopsticks.com on AM1470

vines

The 37th Vancouver International Wine Festival:

February 23 to March 01, 2015

Featured wine country: Australia

Themed wine varietal: Syrah

Main tasting room, selected events and seminars: Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre

Other festival events, wine-pairing dinners, winemakers’ dinners: Various restaurants and venues

George Wyndham Founders Reserve 2010 Shiraz - bottle image

If you think there’s still a whole month away from the 37th Vancouver International Wine Festival and there’ll be 8 days of programs to choose from, why hurry? Well, think again!

This annual wine festival is regarded by global wine lovers as one of the top food & wine events in the world, the pool of tickets will be snapped up much quicker than you could imagine; especially the main festival tastings where 750+ wines will be poured for our sipping pleasure; and hot-ticket items such as the Vintners Brunch, the black-tie Gala extravaganza and wine dinners by big-name wineries at fine restaurants.

After the successful Champagne theme and France focus last year, 2015 will showcase Syrah as the varietal and the focus wine country is Australia, with 170 wineries and 14 countries represented. This combo means at least one thing – there will be no shortage of big wines on site!

Australia - 2015 themed wine country

While formal events and more serious seminars are popular amongst the earnest and/or industrial friends, there are other fun and casual events for those who just want to have fun with wine. Wine Minglers will be where spontaneous conversations about the wine, the winemaking process, the wineries…etc. are to be had; the 25 under $25 listing 25 great choices of good wines available in BC for under $25, are the ones I recommend for novices and those who are not yet ready to spend a bunch on unfamiliar wines.

wine-pairing dinner

Plan ahead:

No matter if you are going to the main tasting only; or to as many dinners and seminars as you can, alone, or with one or more buddies; or perhaps need to buy tickets for gift-giving for these events are known to be greatly-appreciated gifts items, plan soon; purchase the tickets ASAP. The first thing  to do, go online and check out the programs, make notes and then order tickets.

Ready to swirl and sip

New this year:

1/ Wine from Croatia: Wines from this East European country will make their wine festival debut.

2/ Wine from New York States: Yes, those New Yorkers can and have developed their own wine regions. They are here to show us their pride and joy.  I look forward to comparing their wines with those of Niagara.

3/ Wines by the case: Wines poured during the Festival Tasting sessions by the wineries will be available to the public for purchase in case lot, marked by special tags right at the booth so the public can place their orders right there and then. These wines are imported under special permit for the duration of the festival and may not be available afterward. Once ordered, the wines will be delivered to local liquor store of your choice for pickup.

4/ Make that a wine-tasting weekend getaway: Check out participating downtown hotels that not only offer special Wine Festival room rates but will throw in a free ticket. Why worry about driving home, or going home when the comfort of a bed is only minutes away.

wine seminars

Reminder:

  • If you plan to sample at least half of the wines at the tasting room, one session will not cut it. Get a tasting room package so you can go in and out at a much more leisure pace instead of jamming in too much at once.
  • Map out a tasting route, work out a system: By country, by varietal, just the reds, or the whites, or any others? Stick to it!
  • For those who aim at sipping all expensive or rare-finds first, make an alphabetical list of the wineries offering them and follow the list.
  • Transportation plan: Do not ‘Drink & Drive’, please use public transits, taxi cabs, or get dropped off and picked up.

Food & Restaurant News

AM1470 Show Bytes Jan 13, 2015

Divine pasta dish with shaved truffles

Divine pasta dish with shaved truffles

13th Dine Out Vancouver, 2015

When: January 16 to February 1

What: Participating restaurants offering 3-course dinner at $18, $28 or $38,  BC VQA wine-pairing, numerous food & fun events…and much more!

Where: For complete restaurant listing and dine out menu, log onto: http://www.dineoutvancouver.com

Stephanie’s suggestion:

  1. Pick at least one from each price bracket.
  2. Be adventurous – try new restaurants and ethnic cuisines
  3. Book ASAP
  4. To better your chance of grabbing a table, avoid going as a large group.
  5. Do go through the restaurant list, there are gems of restaurants hidden away that you may not be aware of.
  6. Take a look at the menu choices as some are more enticing than the others.

Beautifully plated bento box of appetizer - the 1st course at Gyoza Bar

Going to Granville Island Public Market? Stop by Oyama Sausages to see what their ‘welcome to 2015’ line-up is for the month of January.

1689 Johnston Street #17, Vancouver. (Granville Island Public Market)

(604) 327-7407  www.oyamasausage.ca

Goodies from Oyama

Oyama’s Choucroute Festival : January 22nd – January 25th

Choucroute is a famous Alsatian dish preparing sauerkraut with sausages and other salted meats and charcuterie. Oyama does all the work for you, preparing the sauerkraut, all you need to do is choose from a wide selection of sausages, invite your friends and enjoy. And stop by Granville Island Brewery or your favourite artisan beer and pick up something thirst quenching.

21st annual Taste BC  

www.taste-bc.com

When: Thursday, January 22nd from 4:30-7:30pm

Where: Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel

What: The event features BC wine, beer, cider and spirits accompanied by local fare from restaurants and providers from across the lower mainland.

Why: A fundraiser for the Oak Tree Clinic at BC Children’s Hospital. The Foundation provides specialized HIV care for infected women, pregnant women, partners, children and youth, and support services for affected families.

Opening soon – Pepper Lunch 胡椒廚房   

www.pepperlunchcanada.com

When: February, 2015

What: DIY Teppan

Where: No. Road, near the Waves Coffee and London Drugs, Richmond.

Capacity: 1,600 square feet; 50 seats

Menu focus: Pepper Lunch classics with a focus on using as local as ingredients as possible and Certified Angus Beef for all beef dishes. Black pepper is freshly ground up daily.

Pepper lunch - premium steak

A glance at the menu: B.C. steelhead salmon, Beef and Pork Curry Rice, Sakura Pork Pepper Rice.

Before landing in BC, Pepper Lunch was only available in Asia and Australia.  There are currently more than 350 Pepper Lunch restaurants worldwide in Japan, China, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, and Australia.

Pepper Lunch brand specializes in creating sizzle plates that hit hungry mouths with big flavours, finest quality cuts of meat, and unique sauces. People can literally see exactly what they are eating and decide how they want it cooked. Diners cook their steak, meat of choice, and seafood to-order on a special, patented hot plate created by Pepper Lunch founder, Chef and Inventor Kunio Ichinose. The plate uses proprietary, electromagnetic cooking technology and is sizzling hot at the table, about 260 degrees Celsius.

New Year Resolution? Eat healthy, live happy with apple cider vinegar and olive oil

Why not start your day with a glass of warm water with 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning or olive oil?

IMG_8841

Health benefits of apple cider vinegar

  1. Settles diarrhea
  2. Cures hiccups
  3. Soothes a sore throat and clears a stuffy nose
  4. Lowers cholesterol
  5. Prevents indigestion
  6. Aids in weight loss
  7. The amino acids contained in apple cider vinegar helps boost energy
  8. Cuts down on nighttime leg cramps
  9. Kills odor-causing bacteria – use as mouth wash, or drink a teaspoon (diluted with water if you prefer)
  10. The vinegar helps remove stains, whiten teeth, and kill bacteria in your mouth and gums. Gargle with apple cider vinegar in the morning.

Healthy benefits of olive oil

  1. To prevent snoring – Swallow a spoon of olive oil before bed.
  2. To reduce stomach ulcers and pain – Mix one table spoon of olive oil with a 3/4 cup of citrus juice or vinegar and drink.
  3. Relieve Coughing – Swallow a spoon of olive oil mixed with a spoon of honey. Another option is to massage the upper back and chest with olive oil at body temperature.
  4. Treating swollen / red gums – Wash your mouth with a mix of olive oil and water.
  5. For digestive problems – Swallow a spoon of olive oil every morning on an empty stomach. Another option is to drink a glass of water with a spoon of olive oil and a spoon of lemon juice.
  6. Lowers blood pressure levels
  7. Helps control cholesterol
  8. Prevents heart attacks
  9. Prevents cancer
  10. Fights aging

 

Wines for Holiday Feasts

T.creek merlot. Veramonte Cab.s. reserva with braised b. shank

Words: Henry & Stephanie Yuen                                                Photos: D.D

Chinese blogs: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/427141/

Thanksgiving wasn’t that long ago but all of a sudden there’re only a few days left to Christmas. Though the air is crisp and the temperature cold, the atmosphere is warm and jolly wherever you go. There will be sumptuous dinners, parties and all kinds of special events to behold. For many wine lovers, the shopping list of wines for the holiday season is one that needs to be procured as soon as possible.

No matter the occasion and celebration, a bottle or two of wines to bring along as an invited guest is the welcomed consideration, however, with so many choices to select from – sparkling, whites, reds and dessert wines – it is not an easy task.                  R.S. Cab Sauv

Why not start with a bottle of bubbles or sparkling? Good French champagne, as we know, is not cheap. If you do desire, try the Lanson black Label Brut, the Louis Roederer Brut Premier and Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial. For those memorable occasions and celebrations, why not pick up a bottle of the Taittinger Comets De Champagne Blanc De Blanc 2004 or the ever popular Dom Perignon. That doesn’t mean other sparkling wines are out of the question.  Good selections of BC bubbles with easier to manage price-tags are waiting. Our picks are the beautiful coloured and classy Summerhill Vineyards Cipes Blanc De Noir 2008, the vivacious Blue Mountain Brut, delightful Sumac Ridge Stellars Jay Brut and the brilliant See Ya Later Ranch Brut. These are all top-notched bubbles that would not disappoint your wallets or the dinner guests.

ChampagneFor white wines, the choices are even more. Close to home, pick up the Haywire Pinot Gris, Quails Gate Chenin Blanc, Hester Creek Character White, the Oak Bay Schonburger, Joie Farm Gewurztraminer, the Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench White. From our oversea friends, try the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and the wallet friendly Cono Sur Viognier, also from Italy, the 2012 Puglia I.G.T. of Tomarescal had provided me and my dinner guests with sensational pairing too. These are great starter wines for warming up and to go with most appetizers.                  Hester Creek Character

As a fan of Chardonnay laced with appropriate oak treatment, buttery texture and smoothness mouth feel are the lures. Right here in BC, The Time Winery Chardonnay, Quails Gate Estate Selection Chardonnay and Burrowing Owl Chardonnay are palate pleasers. Those from Meyer Winery, Quails Gate Estate Winery would not disappoint either. Burrowling Owl Chardonnay

The list for red is even longer and where do you begin?  For fans of big, bold, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon the  choices are plenty. Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, the Fort Berens Cabernet Sauvignon, The Perseus Cabernet Sauvignon and Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Sage Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Wakefield Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, just to name a few. See Ya Later Ranch Rover - Premier's Wine Award

For red blends, why not pick some big wines from Bordeaux according to your budget. Made with 75% Merlot and 25% Cab Sauvignon, Jean De Trimoulet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru is impressive. From our backyard there are the sumptuous Osoyoos Larose, the deep and elegant Mission Hill Oculus and from Hester Creek The Judge. A must buy if you can put your hands on it, the 2014 Okanagan Wine Awards Premium Cup winner – See Ya Later Ranch Shraz Viogner promises to send your palate to cloud 9.

Of course, there are lots of very well-crafted red varietal wines – Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc from around the world and locally. For example, one of our favourite Argentina reds is Don Miguel Gascon Malbec.

Don Miguel Gascon malbec

For dessert wines, the world renowned Ice Wine from the Okanagan is luxurious and can be a prelude to, the desert itself, or a sweet final note to dinner. Try the Inniskillin Okanagan Vidal Ice Wine; Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Riesling Ice Wine and the NK’Mip Riesling are sure wins. BC also produces excellent not as sweet and syrupy late harvest, a good substitute for those who opt for a lighter dessert wine. Ready for some exotic divine? We highly recommend the one and only Walnut wine made at Vista Doro Winery here in Fraser Valley.

Cheers and a jolly happy holiday to everyone!!    Doro 2007

This Christmas…

AM1470 Sound Bytes: beyondchopsticks.com with Deborah Moore

1/鯖魚善賣Buckets/bags of Herring for Charity 4th Fishermen Helping Kids with Cancer

Richmond and Victoria, B.C.

The 2014 Herring Sale will take place this Saturday, December 6 in Steveston, Richmond, from 8am to 4pm (at the south end of Trites Road: 12740 Trites Road) and at Finest at Sea Seafoods in Victoria, BC between 7am to 4pm (27 Erie Street).

Pacific Herring in Buckets

A key factor behind this success is the commercial fishing industry’s commitment to cover literally all costs related to the event, so absolutely every penny raised from the sale of herring is contributed directly to help kids with cancer. “The best thing about the herring sale is that 100% of the money goes to the kids,” says Brent Melan, the Burnaby fisherman who came up with the idea for the event and captains the seiner, MV Prosperity,  that catches the herring for the Herring Sale.  Brent adds, “I am only one of over 100 volunteers who so willingly donate not only resources but endless hours of time to plan and run this event most effectively and efficiently. Key people and companies donate everything for the event from the fishing vessel, unloading facility and fish bags, to their time devoted as boat crewmen, forklift drivers, traffic controllers and fish baggers. In fact, volunteers have bagged more than 10,000 twenty-pound   bags of herring since the event started.”

All you have to do to support this meaningful fund-raising event is to go out there this Saturday and purchase one or two buckets or bagful of herrings! http://www.fishermenhelpingkidswithcancer.com

1/Traditional Caviar Service at Cactus Club Café 珍品魚子醬 與加拿大鐵廚

http://www.cactusclubcafe.com

Cactus Club celebrates this festive season with Chef Rob Feenie’s newest and creative concepts, fit for both romantic moments and get-together sharing.

My favourites are:

a/ Ocean Wise British Columbian caviar – Divine Sturgeon and Acadian Sturgeon caviar with brioche toast and blinis, served in a beautiful half-moon shape glass sculpture. The theatrical presentation is only the beginning of an exotic culinary journey – savour each and every bite!

A crest of caviar

b/ Ocean Wise Albacore Tuna Sushi Tacos – The unique crunchy yet flaky taco shell carries an Asian touch, perfect for group munching.

c/ Beef Carpaccio – Olive oil lovers behold! Domenica Foire Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Italy that dresses those paper-thin slices of Canadian tenderloin is an award winning product chosen to compliment the sweet flavour and juicy sensation of the meat. For $40, you can purchase a bottle of this ‘World’s Best’ Olive oil, each signed by Chef Feenie. Proceeds will go to The Boys club Network to benefit youths in our communities.

beef carpaccio

Future attraction: An exclusive dinner to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Chef Rob Feenie winning the Iron Chef America title in the Battle Crab episode with his “Dungeness Crab Rolls”. YOU COULD WIN AN INVITATION!!

Iron Chef Dungeness Crab rolls

 

2/ “Forage” Holiday Cheer  $35四道菜節日大餐

Chris Whittaker of Forage is a well-respected and very talented chef. I was fortunate enough to be invited to his home and savoured a one of a kind multi-course “Moose” dinner. This definitely is one of the top ten meals on my 2014 best list.

Chef Whittaker making a moose pot-roast at home

This holiday, Chef Whittake is offering a four-course menu for $35 each for you and three of your families and/or friends to indulge into at his restaurant “Forage”, an award-winning restaurant on Robson. The added bonus is – everyone will take home a house made cranberry preserve.  Please note: minimum reservation is for four people and reservations are absolutely required.

訂位:604-661-1400   網頁www.foragevancouver.comhome-made Tortelloni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone’s welcomed – Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival, 2014

HK Wine & Dine Festival

Words: Henry Yuen      Pix: S. Yuen

When I was growing up in Hong Kong, there was this annual “Trade Fair” where all kinds of businesses lined up in one place to showcase their wares. Apparel manufacturers displaying the latest fashion trends; food companies promoting newest products; international brands demonstrating the next must-have appliances; there were household supplies, hard wares, gadgets, toys games and much more. Young ladies in beautiful tailored-made uniforms standing in front of the stalls, encouraging people to  try, test, taste and buy.  Adorned by flashy flirting signs, musical performances and non-stop actions, the fun-filled annual event was something both adults and kids looked forward to every year.

Spectacular opening night performance

Similar yet more vibrant atmosphere and high energy were felt as I walked around the   Wine and Dine Festival in Hong Kong on their opening night; a wine glass in hand, I was elated to be there! The original plan of holding this much-anticipated event in Central was altered due to the demonstration taking place in that area. Kudos to the super organizing power and determined efficiency of Hong Kong Tourism Board and the team of organizers who turned things around as if with a magic wand. Upon entering the site, I was awed by how elaborated the just-erected site in this replacement outdoor venue was! Glittering with lavishing stages, tasting rooms and different themed zones, hard to believe it was all set up in a matter of days. Held at the runway of the old Kai Tak Airport with record attendees, this food and wine event have been fully embraced by the locals and visitors alike, despite the last minute location change.

The Wine & Dine Festival attracted these groups of folks: Those who came to sip the wine, those who came to sample the food, and of course, those who enjoyed both the food and the wine; and those who simply there to cherish the gleeful festivity!

Hong Kong has been well-regarded as a food and wine paradise; the month-long Festival provided a very approachable platform even for first time comers. There is a Chinese saying that you work to keep your stomach full, clothing and lodging come secondary.  Indeed, food has always been an integral part of the Chinese social fabric.  No surprise that the last minute change in venue did not hinder the popularity of the Festival; in fact, the Kai Tak location helps raised the allure as those who are yet to step on it welcome the opportunity to come take at its Cruise Terminal look.

Hong Kong’s affluent wine culture is no doubt the backbone of the huge success of the Wine & Dine Festival. As the wine-drinking society matures in Hong Kong, wine with food, wine on its own, wine for gift-giving has become more or less a social trend, a lifestyle mean and a wind-down tool to ease the everyday hectic paces.

The fabulous setup and the long lineup at the food and wine booths avouched my thoughts and observations. A tasting zone dedicated to the ever popular Bordeaux is a true manifestation of the superiority of the Bordeaux wine reputation in the heart of the Hong Kong wine circles. Not just any French wines but only those from Bordeaux – the allure, charisma and status of a Bordeaux label lives forever in their heart! The very considerate Everyday Wine Zone is there to showcase arrays of wallet friendly wines, a perfect introduction to the new and novice drinkers indeed.  The Discovery Zone where wine merchants brought in rare, unknown and hard to find wines is, needless to say, draws in wine lovers of all levels. The Party Wine Zone focusing on sparkling wines, sweeter and dessert wines are enjoyed on their own or served in various cocktail concoctions. The Country Zone that features wines from popular wine producing regions of the world plus some emerging Eastern European countries such as Georgia and Romania is for exploration and great learning experience.  To top it off, the Riedel Grand Tasting Pavilion with a list of impressive high end wines is the see and to-be-seen arena where folks clamour for and where veteran wine lovers who are there to compare tasting notes and purchasing powers.

Everyday French wine

While there is no doubt people still gravitate towards Bordeaux wines, it is good to see that other wine regions are gaining recognition and consumers begin to realize their wines are well worth their attention and curiosity. The “Drink nothing but Bordeaux” mantra is fading and most people look for value rather than just reputation.

I had a frank discussion with a Mr. Choy  of MegaWill Wine, a wine merchant at the Festival who confessed the Bordeaux popularity and status is not a novelty among those knowledgeable wine folks anymore. When he imports Bordeaux wines, instead of exclusively high end labels, it will now be those Bordeaux labels that are more price-friendly to the drinking public. It is difficult to make a lot of money importing high-end wines since only a shrinking group of elites still clings to that mantra. Due to the geographic proximity to the Asian Pacific countries, Australian and New Zealand wines are equally popular. California wines are also welcome due to the palate acceptance of full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel etc.

Henry & Mr. A. Choy I was amazed by the large number of wine merchants prying their trades at the Festival. I guess the ever increasing drinking population and the relaxed tax rule on wines in Hong Kong readily support more entrants to the wine trade. A case in point was that at one of the Discovery Zone booths, there was this young gentleman Mr. Wing Yau urging us to try his wine. As it turned out, he was the winemaker of a plum wine made locally in Hong Kong. Under the umbrella of Hong Kong Royal Wine Ltd, only a few hundred cases were produced and he hadn’t had time to line up any distributorship or enlisted any restaurants to put his wine on their wine lists.  It was no doubt a relatively new venture for him. Ask where he got the idea and impetus, his answer was it was his love of wine which drove his interest and desire to make wine. “It would be fun to try and make my own wine!” He said so with a grin. Consistent with the self-assurance of most folks in Hong Kong, he welcomed the challenge and was not deterred by the steep learning curve facing him. That’s the spirit of the Hong Kong people that we adore and I wish him the best of luck in his new endeavour.

Henry & plum winemaker Wing Yau

While most tasting events in Vancouver charges a higher admission fee, the wine tasting portion at each booth was free. You can taste all the wines you like and would not get drunk by spiting. Spitting is in fact encouraged. Whereas the Hong Kong Food and Wine Festival charged a very low admission fee of about $3-$4 Canadian but each tasting cost a ticket. More expensive wines cost two or three tickets each. As a result, it was difficult to taste a multitude of wines unless you buy a lot of tickets. And you tend not to spit since there was no spit bucket provided. The expectation was that you would finish each glass since you’re paying for it. I guess it makes perfect sense since a low admission fee could lure even casual fans who are free to choose and decide how to spend their dollars by either drinking a little or a lot.

Yak milk wine

With over one hundred and fifty booths and more than ten wines at each booth, it was impossible for me to try too much wine without spitting. In the end, my exercise involved studying each label carefully before selecting and sipping which called for lingering a lot longer at some booths. That was something I didn’t mind at all since the food and ambiance was good and the conversations were enjoyable. Not having to worry drinking and driving, thanks to the free shuttle bus that took us back to the subway station conveniently, definitely elevated the pleasure.  My first Hong Kong Wine & Dine experience was a great one, no matter how I looked at it. I have no doubt the wine trend in Hong Kong will only get better overtime and the public will appreciate and embrace the wine arena more profoundly!

Fort Berens Estate Winery

Fort Berens wines

Words: Henry Yuen         Pix: S. Yuen

Chinese post: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/415536/

Back in 2012, I wrote a story regarding the wines of Fort Berens, a pioneer winery in Lillooet up Fraser Canyon region where experimental test planting dated back to 2005. We tasted Fort Berens’ first vintage of 2011 from their initial commercial planting in 2009. I remembered very well because for a brand new winery growing grapes in a relatively unknown region, their wines were surprisingly good even back then.

Fast forward to now and deservingly so, Fort Berens Meritage has been awarded this year’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence, on top of other awards, a solid proof of how exceptional their wines are. I gave them two thumps up in terms of quality and value. With 20 acres under their helm, Fort Berens Estate Winery best exemplified that BC still has pockets of untapped terroir suitable to growing premium grapes outside of the 5 established growing regions.                  The winery

This time, we were able to taste some of their award-winning wines while touring the brand new facility  – a modern, sleek and hi-tech looking winery.  As we travelled through the winding lanes of Fraser Canyon through Hope, lined with mystic mountains along the Fraser River, it was difficult to imagine these hill side patches of pastures would grow grapes. When we approached Lillooet where the mighty Fraser River met the Thompson River, the valley opened up on both sides and the clouds disappeared quickly leaving the sun to warm up the entire valley. We could see this sagebrush region with dry greyish vegetation on sandy soil welcomed the long and hot summer sun with Alpine breeze cooling the nights; it in fact was ideal for the vines to flourish!

The newly built winery and tasting room features modern amenities to handle the production logistics. Situated upon the knoll overlooking the beautiful 20 acres of vineyards below, the view is breathtaking. There is room to grow but the present focus is on producing quality and delicious wines – let the wines speak for themselves! Led by a dedicated team of progressive and youthful staff to manage the vineyard and winemaking, Fort Berens is in good hands to provide the consistency wine lovers come to expect of quality BC wines, at a friendly price range too!

Fort Berens wine barrelsTasting notes:

Cabernet Franc 2012: Packs a lot of blackcurrants with a bit of clove on the nose, the entry is smooth with black fruits and berries to brighten the palate. Nice treatment due to 12 months in both American and French oak and another 12 months of bottle aging to provide the roundness.

2011 Meritage: A nice blend of 47% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Cabernet Franc sourced from both the estate fruits and the Sundial vineyards in Oliver. Aged in both American and French oak barrels, this wine is smooth with aroma of dry cherries and currants. The mouth feel is juicy and a bit of herb and spices to provide the balance. No wonder it is an award winning wine.

2013 Chardonnay: With lots of citrus and Asian fruits aroma, there is an enticing subtle flinty note indicative of the mineral rich sandy soil of the Lillooet area. 30% is fermented on French oak barrels and the rest in stainless steel tanks, this wine is further aged 9 months in French oak before bottling to provide that hint of buttery smoothness expected of oaked Chardonnay.

ChardonnayFour Seasons hosting Fort Berens Dinner

 

 

 

Foodie on Foot – Hong Kong

Words: Stephanie Yuen    Pix: Henry & Stephanie

A recap of our footsteps during our latest visit in Hong Kong, as heard on our food, wine & travel segment with Deborah Moore on AM1470 past Tuesday.

An evening flight landed us at Lantau Airport at 10:15pm. It did not take long at all for us to zip through immigration and customs. Thanks to the superior transportation system of Hong Kong, when we arrived at Mei Food Estate, it’s only 11pm. A 5-min taxi-ride took us to our hotel, Heritage Lodge located within Jao Tsung-I Academy.

Patio

The fascinating history of The Academy was the main reason why we chose to stay here; very friendly room rate was the number 2 reason; Ginkgo House the restaurant where senior power jiving at its best was the other deciding force.

Heritage Lodge(翠雅山房)

http://www.heritagelodgehk.com

Reception area

There are five 2-storey buildings housing 80+ rooms. Clean, tidy and comfortable, the rooms and facilities are comparable to any 3+star hotel, but at a much wallet-friendlier rate. Located at the upper deck of the compound, the lodge is 2 long flights of stairs from the restaurant and the Academy. Shuttle bus that takes riders to the main road, the MTR station at Mei Foo and the entrance to the Academy runs till 9:30pm daily.

Jao Tsung-I Academy (饒宗頤文化館)

800, Castle Peak Raod, Kowloon, Hong Kong. http://www.jtia.hk

An iconic project under the “Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme” of the Development Bureau of the HKSAR Government.

Antique brick buildings and a zen lotus pond

A lush green urban oasis lies atop Lai-Chi-Kok Hill, the compound has played significant roles in the social history making of Kowloon Peninsula. It was a customs station in 1887, a transfer shelter for Chinese labourers recruited by the British Empire to work in mines in South Africa from 1904 to 1906 that later on became a quarantine quarter.  A decade later, it was used as a prison and in 1940’s, it became Lai-Chi-Kok Hospital. In the year 2000, it was the home for the psychiatric rehabilitation centre.  Finally in 2009, the name “Jao Tsung-I Academy” and its cultural status was recognized and officially granted.  Today, the hide-away Academy is the gateway to tranquility, natural beauty and cultural events. It houses a gallery, workshops, exhibition halls, lecture rooms, activity rooms and a theatre and offers free guided tours.

Gingko House (銀杏館)

http://www.restaurant.org.hk

An ordinary looking restaurant with extraordinary missions and a fabulous food philosophy and practice, Gingko House is an integral part of an amazing senior project strategically designed to provide inspiring opportunities for seniors to maintain and enhance their healthy living and to energize the well-beings of their minds and souls after retirement. The senior project is the turning wheel fabricating jobs, providing training and dispatching resources for seniors. A majority of the staff are capable citizens who used to work in key positions. The project invites them to be productive and to belong. Their ability and willingness to contribute, no matter the age, subsequently lead them to regain their confidence and self-respect. With a central kitchen, an organic farm, two Gingko House restaurants and catering service, participating seniors wake up every day to a friendly environment to communicate and learn; to work and be involved in the community. Though situated within the compound of the Academy and share a mutual support with each other, Gingko House is owned and operated independently. With a unique background – physically, historically and culturally; both the Academy and Gingko House are well-regarded and frequently visited by local communities and foreign groups, especially those in the arts and culture field.

Stuffed gluten puffs with light curry sauce

With the organic farm supplying Gingko House and the catering arms, the restaurants thrive on their healthy menu offering; super-friendly and attentive attitude. Having the legendary Sir Run Run Shaw’s very own chef Mr. Low who won Sir Shaw over with a plate of ‘Canned Spicy Pork Fried Rice’ who now works as the Executive Chef for the restaurants and the catering service, superb food quality with a healthy conscience has been the main reason why folks of all walks and ages become regulars here. Gingko House opens for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.

HK$38 salad & soup buffet at Gingko House

Highly recommended:

1/ Salad and Soup Buffet

2/ Chef Low’s Fried Rice with XO sauce

3/ Dong-Bor Style Ribs

4/ Stuffed Gluten puffs stuffed with mushrooms (vegetarian)

5/ Hot drinks: Lemongrass Tea and Organic Pu-er Tea

Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, 2014(香港美酒佳肴巡禮)

This is a trade and consumer event that takes place in November of every year. Usually held at Central, Hong Kong, this year’s event was relocated to the Cruise Terminal at the old Kai Tak Airport. Glittering with neon signs, the outdoor venue gave the Wine & Dine Festival a new look and vibrant energy. With non-stop entertainments, 270 stalls, hundreds of international wines for sipping and purchasing; global gourmet cooked by master chefs on the spot, the 3-day extravaganza attracted record-number attendees.

HK Wine & Dine Festival

Shum Sui Po Foodie Tour (香港風味行深水埗)

www.hongkongfoodietours.com

Operated by Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tours,this 3¾-hour tour was led by a young lady who spoke fluent English. Besides tasting generous portions of nostalgic food: fresh from the oven jumbo Pineapple Bun, fluffy and steamy plain Rice Rolls, 5-spiced brined Goose meat and Pork Hock slices, Tofu pudding, Hand-made noodle with shrimp roes, Chinese cookies in 6 different eateries, the tour guide also took us on a history walk and talk into the livelihood and many facets of this blue-collar district.

Foodie Tour 1st stopTofu pudding with barley

Made In Hong Kong Restaurant

Shop L1-13, Level 1, APM, Millennium City 5, Kwun Tong

www.madeinhorestaurant.com/index.html

A delightful and well-run café-mall restaurant that has no doubt impressed both the locals and visitors such as myself with its open-floor dining room, well-designed décor and professionally-trained staff. The indigenous Hong Kong style café menu offers array of food items familiar to those who grew up in Hong Kong in the 60’s and 70’s. Tasty and well-presented grubs, good price points and generous portions are the reason for line-ups out front.  The rare-found Chicken A La King caught Henry’s eyes and appetite at first glance, silkily creamy but not heavy atop nicely-buttered rice showed the chef’s attention to details. My fully-loaded sizzling hot plate of mixed grill with just the perfect amount of red-wine jus, was served with well-executed baby beans, snow peas and broccoli.   Chicken A La King - Creamy with full-flown flavour

My sizzling plate of mixed grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tai-O Eco Tour (昂坪與大澳遊)

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/

360 degree of breath-taking viewThe exhilarating 6-hour tour began with the 5.7km cable-car ride across the sea to Ngong Ping Village where the Tian Tan Buddha, Asian’s 2nd largest outdoor Buddha statue, followed by an exploration of the 800-year old Fishing Village Tai-O which took us back in time where living was simple laughter generated by sweat, blood and tear. In an inland log house, the owner showed us how to prepare duck egg yolks for sun-drying and how to make a sweet soup by grinding white and black beans in a clay pot using a big guava stick the fisherman’s way. Needless to say; the owner had a pot of ready-to-eat sweet bean soup set aside for us to indulge.  fish maw and angular squash

We took a boat ride to look for white dolphins beyond the levee but found none, however, the beautiful South China Sea view and the dolphin search put us into lunch mode. The 5-course lunch featuring local seafood in a neighbourhood restaurant meant non-pretentious home-style cooking which rhymed in perfectly with the sea village setting.

fishmongers selling just-caugh fish

268 steps takes you to the huge Buddha statue

Foodie on Foot – Kobe, Japan

Kobe ChinatownWords & Pix: Stephanie Y

For serious foodies, Kobe means one word – BEEF! It indeed was the renowned Kobe beef that drew us in.  We were lucky enough to experience two Kobe beef encounters, for snacking and for a late lunch; all took place in Kobe Chinatown bordering Motomachi, the most crowded, noisiest and tastiest part of town.  Both encounters were sensational and needless to say expensive, the three grades were $3000-yen apart (C$30), glad to say every bite was worthy.

Kobe beef encounter #1

Kobe beef bowl

It was the young man yelling and waving a cardboard with the food pictures and the phase “Kobe Beef” that stopped us, we then noticed the line-up in front of the street corner where an  open kitchen was located.  The kitchen was the restaurant and the street was the dining room – our definition of true street food! Approximately 40gm of Kobe beef was served in burger form; sliced, sauteed and put on rice; or strip of loin, grilled and cut on rice.  Y$1200 gave you the AA-equivalent grade, $1500 AAA-grade and $1800 champion-grade. Our chosen AAA-grade beef was grilled to our desired doneness, medium rare, sliced to ¼” thick, served with chopped green onion and the beef jus on rice.

Kobe beef encounter #2

Kobe Beef restaurant

In a tiny but comfortably arranged restaurant offering nothing but Kobe Beef  that were grilled and served like steak. Though there’re only 25 seats, the restaurant was one of the quieter eateries in this neighbourhood. Perhaps not too many folks were willing to cough up that kind of money for a piece of steak; or likely because the restaurant charged 5% on top for paying with your credit card, even when the bill was a 5-digit one.  The “set” came with a bowl of soup made with the beef jus, a nice salad and a bowl of rice.  The same three grades applied here and the price ranges similar but since this was a real western-style restaurant, the dollar figures tripled.  For Y$8800, Henry chose the 120gm Champion grade which came certified. I was not quite ready to pay C$88 for a steak dinner hence opted for the next grade which still cost me $5500 (C$55). Both beef dishes came with pan-fried vegetables and were beautifully plated.  Along with the salad, the soup, the beef sets were substantial enough.

Beef-biting notes:

Champion-grade Kobe beef is without a doubt, heavenly! Supreme marbling knits in the al dente mouth feel. The ‘oh mine’ thrill upon entering the mouth echoes with the crisp yet moist; meaty yet buttery euphoria your palate will remember for a long time. Each bite gives you the first bite umami that keeps making love to your senses.

Kobe beef

AAA-grade Kobe beef worked fine medium rare since a little bit of chewing will expand the flavour profile and enjoyment. The thick slices of beef carried a melt-in-your-mouth texture but charred outer layer and the tender core layer combined to create a demanding depth.

If your wallet does not object, go for the champion grade and order it ‘rare’ – the only way to embrace the divinity of  the flavour and texture granted to Kobe beef to the fullest. We both agree the 120gm set of Kobe beef is good enough to satisfy the indulgence, however, the qualitative pressure beef bowl is produces as good as the well-plated beef set in the restaurant. But of course, if you so desire, do go all out.

Salute to “The Girls”

Words: Henry Yuen

So many worthwhile fundraising campaigns are lobbying for our dollars, it requires a bit of vetting on our part in order to ensure our contributions render maximum value to the charity. When 100% of your donation goes to the BC/Yukon Region of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, it’s a no brainer to support it. How do you do that? What about starting with a bottle or two of BC wine? By buying a couple of BC wines with a fun and fitting name “The Girls”!

The girls!

Take a look at the bottle; it has a shape and style of its own. Study the label designs; you will be intrigued by the curvy outfits and coordinating colour tones. The designing team did a witty job playing around with a little bit of naughtiness and the catchiness of the name.

While “The Girls” is the label for this pair of wines, each one has her own descriptive way of showcasing the varietals: The Vivacious Rosé and the Voluptuous Red. Lighter and easier to drink, rosé has always been associated with glee and balmy. Red wines, on the other hand, are rich and luscious. It won’t work if Rosé was voluptuous and the Red vivacious! The good news is, both wines are ready to be enjoyed immediately.

Tasting note:

Vivacious Rose: The grapes are sourced from the Okanagan with Merlot as the foundation with 24 hours of skin contact to give this wine the lovely pink hue. The nose has enticing bouquet of raspberry and strawberries. Nice juicy feel with a hint of grapefruit and melon wakes up the palate and lingers on the finish. Six months in the bottle before release gives this wine the depth on the palate. Refreshing and uplifting, this well-made Rose is delightfully fit for any occasions.

Voluptuous Red is a balanced blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Kept in new French oak for eighteen months, the aroma of cherries and blackberries is attractive and engaging, followed by cloves and other tantalizing spices to tease the palate. This medium to full-bodied wine is structured to pair well with or without food.

Under the tutelage of consultant James Cluer MW and the collaboration of a team of winemakers, these two new wines were produced at Harry McWatter’s TIME Estate Winery located in South Okanagan who is also distributing the wine.

Bill Lui, the creator of The Girls brand, commissioned the wines for a good cause but in the end the winemaking team also created a couple of fun and versatile wines that it is hard to resist. So it is a win-win situation where there is mutual benefit for a good cause.

Not a lot of cases were produced so go to http://charitablewines.org to find the list of BCLDB and private wine store   locations or go to http://twlcanada.com to order these wines directly.  What are you waiting for?

2014 Cornucopia

This is the season when skiers, snow-boarders and winter outdoor sports fans are in high alert. They all are paying extra attention to what Whistler is up to. Once the mountains are opened for the season, off they go.

Food and wine fancies are doing more or less the same, except that they know exactly when to head out there. They are likely gearing to go up Whistler in 2 weeks as we speak, in time to attend the 18th Whistler Cornucopia. This year, the ultra-popular fun-filled food and wine festival has been extended to become a 11-day long merriment. From November 6 to 16th, overriding 2 weekends!

#4 Four Seasons hosting Fort Berens Dinner

There is really no need for me to dwell into the details of the many seminars, wine-pairing and winemaker’s dinners and tasting events, such as the award-winning Fort Berens Winery dinner at Sidecut Restarant at the Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts. All you have to do is log onto the website: http://whistlercornucopia.com . Just be reminded, some of the events are already sold out!

The Blue Grouse of Cowichan

Blue Grouse Quill 2012 White WineWords: Henry Yuen

We labour through the long ferry lineups and spend hours to get to Vancouver Island for what? The answer is quite simple, and one that British Columbians should be proud of. Blessed by Mother Nature, the charm and beauty of Vancouver Island is unparalleled! We may whine along the way, but once there, we praise ourselves for making the trip – yes, it’s worth it!

Whether or not you are there as a tourist, visiting friends or families; there are lots of things to do to resonate with canvases of natural settings. While doing nothing is not a bad way to take in the tranquilizing beauty; exploring other parts of the Island will make your stay more fulfilling. For me and many like-minded Island visitors, it’s the vibrant food and wine scene that calls us there. The Slow Food movement and the Farm to Table initiatives are only some of the concepts that Vancouver Island has progressed soundly. Local farmers, artisan cheese makers and specialty food producers have no doubt been one of the top reasons foodies cross the strait.  Do not forget about the wines and wineries there! Go to Cowichan and you know what I am talking about.

#3 - vines

Island wineries do not take a back seat to those in Fraser Valley and Okanagan anymore at all. The total acreage of vineyards might not compare to the Okanagan but the quality is definitely on the upswing. Some plantings on the island dates back to the seventies so wineries have been able to work out the kinks to make the necessary improvements. So what’s the verdict?

Located in Duncan in Cowichan Valley, the Blue Grouse Winery has vineyard operation dating back to 1977. Current owner the Bruner Family shifted in 2012. They did not come from the farming industry but their love and passion of wine, their adoration of the majestic landscaped Cowichan, along with their determination and full-swing dedication in making great wines are solid foundations to build on. “Old Island vines, new classic wines” is the vision and description of this 45- acre winery. The site currently has 7 acres of vineyard in operation. Winemaker Bailey Williamson is a local British Columbian who grew up in Burnaby. He moved to Victoria in 1993 and began pursuing a serious career in the food and wine industry. His wine-making path started with entry-level jobs at several wineries. Bailey was the assistant winemaker at Road 13 Vineyards before coming over to Blue Grouse as the winemaker.

Tasting notes:

2013 Pinot Gris – I like the freshness and fruity note of this Pinot Gris. 100% harvest from Cowichan Valley, the green apple, Asian pear and hints of pomero aroma is enticing and the juicy finish refreshing. A bit on the lighter side, this wine is no doubt versatile enough for a variety of Asian appetizers such as cold plates, warm salad and crunchy tempura.

Blue Grouse 2013 Estate Pinot Gris & Estate Orgega2012 Quill Red – A blend of 47% Cabernet Foch, 21% Marchel Foch, 21% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Libre sourced from both the Cowichan Valley vineyards and Okanagan vineyards. This red is barrel aged which provided the smoothness and smokiness for a medium bodied finish that is fun to drink. Easy enough for sipping on its own, but with enough substance and character to pair with Antipasto as appetizer, Tomato-based pasta, wok-fried roots and squash, baked pork chops and ribs.

Quill 2012 red

2012 Pinot Noir – 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the Cowichan Valley. Plum and cherry made up the predominant aroma laced with soft tannins and a lingering finish. Enjoy it with roasted lambs, beef stews and braised ox-tails. This nicely-done Pinot expresses the terroir of the Island wine region fully.

By the look of things and their wines, the future is promising for Blue Grouse whose acres of land are suitable for planting selected qualitative grapes. They have the capacity and strong potential to increase the vineyard acreage, which will surely raise the over all profile of Vancouver Islands as a prominent wine region in Western Canada.