Delicious Montreal

PoutineVille

Words & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

A recipe-development project took me to Montreal two times within 3 weeks. For a west-coast dweller whose icy-cold encounter limited only to a hockey arena, I found it difficult to even walk a block in the -15C temperature. Having been in Montreal during warmer days imprinted a certain image of this old city in my mind, trotting along gloomy streets of downtown in the rigid cold allowed me to observe another side of this lovely city. Sullen but quaint, Montreal invited me to experience a different feel but cozy dine-in meals. Glad to share them with you here.

French: Auberge Solmar Sauvagi

111-115 St. Paul Es , Montreal H2Y 1E7 (514) 861-4562

From outside looking in, everything about this restaurant told me this was a fine-dining establishment. The décor, service and furnishings all proved that, but not the price point!

I chose and highly recommended the 2-course dinner with oven-fresh warm bread plus tea or coffee included. Depending on the main you chose, the price ranged from $18 to $23. I ordered Braised Lamb which cost me $20.95. The arrival of a basket of hot bread and a big dish of soup was a comforting start on a cold evening. The unpretentiously-plated and generously portioned lamb drenched with classic flavour and the slow-cooked meat texture was simply tender and flaky. But my favourite of the eveing was the fruit flan dessert dressed with fresh strawberries and dusted with icing sugar. At $7, the overall value of this silky and juicy flan was better than some of the $10 dessert in Vancouver.

Fruit flan

Poutine: Poutineville

3 locations:

1348 Beaubien E. Montreal (514) 544.8800

1365 Ontario E., Montreal (514) 419-5444

99 Place Charles Lemoyne, Longueuil (450) 332.9977 – The one we went to.

Not a fan of French fries, poutine – French fries with gravy and cheese curds has never been on my desired food list. However, being in Montreal, the capital of poutine, I had to give it a try. Poutineville happens to be one of the famed poutine restaurants whose menu offerings are quite amazing. From Mediterrean-inspired salad to cheeseburger, General Tao Poutine to Vegetarian poutine, the selections could be overwhelming. Diners can put add-on vegetables, meats and sauces to personalize the poutine. But as I see it, it doesn’t really matter what topping you order; the outlooks are more or less the same, but locals regard them as a good lunch choice.

Crushed Poutine

Interestingly, I found myself enjoying my colleague’s place loaded with cooked and pressed then deep-fried, crunchy skin-on tiny potatoes listed on the menu as ‘crushed house special’. These babies I could munch with a ice-cold beer!

Indian: Resto Darbar (near Hotel 10)

2027 St. Laurent, Montreal (514) 982-3724

A cozy corner room

I was going to walk around in the neighborhood to look for a European restaurant but was hindered by the freezing air attacking my nose and lung after walking only half a block. Hungry and cold, I decided to walk into the first restaurant encountered which turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The exterior of Resto Darbar was not eye-catching at all but once I stepped inside and saw how beautiful the dining room was, I knew I chose the right place.

fully loaded thaili 2For $13.95, I had Thali Viande, a traditional platter with my choice of main (Lamb Biryani), 2 vegetables, a tandori chicken drumstick on a bed of lettuce salad, hot-to-the-touch naan and pappadam. Herbs and fresh spices are the soul behind Indian cuisine, with the two vegetables, the chicken and the lamb all displaying distinct flavours that kept me going for more, even when I was over-the-top full, I left fully loaded, warm and contented. Resto Darbar infused the right amount and right balance to capture the essence of Indian cooking to perfection!

B) Urban Tea Merchants presents Sakura Tea Service

1070 W. Georgia (at Thurlow) 604-692-0071

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It is all about the presentation! Colour-coordinated, dainty and engrossing savoury and sweet creations – do pay attention to the artistry and knifing skill of each piece. Indulge with two choices of tea for perfect pairing: White Spring and Sakura Sakura.

Caviar lovers beware! Urban Tea Merchants just launched their ‘Caviar Service’. Yes, Caviar!! For this, a glass of chilled bubble to start will be fitting!

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Niagara Wine Regions

IMG_5384Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans

Words: Henry Yuen    Pix: Stephanie Yuen

My wife and I visited Niagara Wine Regions for the first time recently.  We were so taken by their natural beauty and by how country-like and nostalgic the areas were; we left with a fantastic impression and the promise to a return trip in the Summer time.

The stay at this quaint little town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, a historic town with lots of characters, was equally lovely. Only about an hour’s drive from Toronto, Niagara-on-the-lake took me by surprise – I would never imagine one could get away from all the hustle and bustle of Toronto in such a short time.  It’s like entering into another world where all of a sudden everything stands still for a moment waiting to embrace you. With its heritage buildings, neat and unique arts & craft shops, tree- lined mansions and top rated restaurants, the town itself is like a movie-set. The picturesque country side and scenic trails along Niagara River take your breath away.  We stayed at this charming sea-side “Harbour House” that welcomed guests with country-style warmth and pampered everyone with cozy décor and top-notched hospitality which included home-style buffet breakfast daily. The town, the scenic drive and the leisurely stay were key elements making this Niagara Wine Tour memorable and exceptional. But most impressive were the wines I tasted!  IMG_5331

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Our first wine stop was a relatively new winery in Beamsville, the Good Earth Winery possesses the look and the feel of a charming country farm house. With their first vintage planted in 2008 in the 55 acres of orchard-converted vineyard. The short distance to the lake that brings breeze and adequate moisture benefits the vineyards. The soil profile is predominately sandy and loam on flat surface. Proprietor Nicolette Novak greeted us with open arms as if we were her next door neighbours. The extended warm welcome included a delicious lunch at her bistro, starting with a wine tasting with Nicolette in the tasting room/wine shop.IMG_5258

IMG_5279The Good Earth wines:

2010 Chardonnay: Well-balanced wine with enough citrus and weight on the palate.

The 2010 Riesling: Has adequate acidity and sweetness for a crispy finish.

The Betty’s Blend: Predominately Chardonnay; with Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc to round out this wine with stone fruit and bake apple aromas and a delicate smooth finish.IMG_5269IMG_5274

Reds sampled with our lunch:

2012 Gamay Noir: Lovely aroma with lots of fruit on the palate.

2010 Pinot Noir:  A lighter body structure with good presence of black fruit bouquet and a smooth finish.

2011 Cabernet Franc: Infused with subtle tobacco and red berries aroma and a balanced finish due to 12 months in oak treatment.

After a hearty home-style but nicely plated luncheon, we headed for Rosewood Estate Winery, the only winery in Ontario to operate as both a winery and a meadery. Greeted by William Roman, Operations Manager & Beemaster whose family founded Rosewood. With European heritage, they brought with them expertise in both areas – grape growing and beekeeping. But it was their foresight to establish their operation in the Niagara region that made it all happened. Fast forward to today with the first planting in 2003, the winery is producing award winning wines and the mead wines are equally impressive and delicious. With 10 acres in the Beamsville Bench and another 20 acres in the Twenty-Mile Bench, Rosewood is producing over 7,000 cases with hand pruning and zero irrigation. Vineyard management emphasis on the production and caring of quality grapes. Being a third generation of beekeeping, they understand how to take advantage of the beekeeping operation to benefit vineyard health, such as helping grapes to set during blooming season. Harvested honey is used to make top rated mead (honey wine) and other products.  After a tour of the operation and especially the eye-opening and educational session on beekeeping, set in the most natural environment in the back valley, we could not help but appreciate what Rosewood has been doing. Our heightened anticipation took us into the tasting room which showcased their efforts and products very well.IMG_5293

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Rosewood’s wines:

2012 Reserve Riesling: An off dry version with a hint of melon and honeydew that is crisp, juicy and with a slight hint of minerality.

2010 Merlot: 100% Merlot with 14 months in a combination of American, French and Hungarian oak. The nose is luscious with lots of berries and good tannins on the palate. Definitely a fruit forward wine to fully express the terrior of the Beamsville region.

We don’t know much about honey wines but what we tasted were delicious and could be substituted for any late harvest wines to pair with desserts. The 2010 Harvest Gold is un-oaked with refreshing aroma of peach and pear. The uniqueness of this wine is that it is produced from wildflower honey to give it the floral fragrant and unique taste profile as compared to other regular honey wines. Besides dessert, it is a mead wine that can also pair well with some spicy dishes and soft cheeses.

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IMG_5296After checking into the charming Harbour House right beside the river, we headed to Charles Inn for a sumptuous dinner. A Victorian mansion with 12 guest rooms, the restaurant is a return to the 19th century nostalgic room with a menu offering classic dishes using local ingredients. We’re quite surprised by how young but creative Chef Spirling was! After dinner, we retreated back to the Harbour house and relaxed in front of the fire place for some “R&R” time in our cozy suite This classic and luxurious inn has all the amenities to pamper guests and make them feel welcome and looking for a return booking.

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The next morning, a short drive took us to the Stratus Vineyards. We noticed some grapes were still on the vines and was told some harvesting was yet to be done, thanks to the permitting weather development and the micro climate in that area. A modern facility with high expectation, Stratus is a winery that is progressive in their daily practice while simultaneously stressing sustainability and good vineyard management. With 55 acres planted since 2000 on 62 acres of land, the focus is on low yield to produce better fruits. They average about 10,000 cases annually that weights in quality rather than quantity. The pump-free winery operation is designed to utilize gravity to render tenderness during transportation and processing with minimal bruising. To avoid pumping of the juice, elevator is used to move the tanks and containers after hand sorting so there is very limited impact. 100% French oak usage  with 12 to 24 months aging is the norm and the barrels are retired after just two vintages.

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Stratus Vineyard’s wines:

The 2009 Stratus White: A blend of Semillion, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Gewürztraminer. With the 1st vintage in 2000, it has developed good acidity with bright Asian fruits aroma and a gentle, pleasant dry finish.

2009 Stratus Red:  This luscious red with aroma of berries and anise is a blend of 42% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah, 13% Petit Verdot and 5% Tannat and is equally impressive.  On the palate, there are plum and black currents with a slight hint of mint and herb to round out this medium bodied red with delicate oak treatment.IMG_5379

IMG_5390The 2009 Stratus Cabernet Franc: A classic Niagara cool climate and low yield (1 ton/acre) Cabernet Franc with lots of cherries and berries aroma. The 20 months with 47% in new French oak adds tantalizling smokiness with a hint of spice. A Cabernet Franc done really well that is fruit forward and with balanced tannins. A good candidate for the cellar!

The 2012 Stratus Icewine Red has sweet nectar with aroma of peach and stone fruit, sensational on its own.

A short drive away is the Ravine Vineyards on 34 acres with 19 acres under vines. Owned by the same family since 1867, it is an organic vineyard with responsible and sustainable vineyard management. We noticed there are no windmills and no bird bangers on site indicating the St. David Bench area has adequate air flow for the vines to flourish. There were still Riesling and some Cabernet Franc on the vines telling us the relatively long growing season allows the opportunity to manage the vines for hand harvesting under the best possible condition. At the characteristic tasting room, we had the opportunity to taste some of the signature lineup and were impressed.IMG_5394

 

IMG_5391Ravine Vineyards’  wines:

2011 Cabernet Franc: Medium-bodies with lots of red fruits and well- structured tannins.

2011 Meritage: More refined and nicely-structured with a well-balanced effort.IMG_5392

We also tasted both the 2010 and 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon where the different vintages offering slightly different intrigue and taste profile. The lineups for the white wine are also well-represented.

2011 Riesling: Good acidity and deliciously loaded with bright fruit.

2011 Sauvignon Blanc: Packs in a lot of melon and grape fruit aroma, a beautiful patio sipper.

2011 Chardonnay: Well-crafted and has a lot to offer in the finish. This is a nice Chardonnay to represent this region.

2011 Gewurztraminer: Floral and beautiful bouquet with reserved sweetness.

Vidal and Cabernet Franc ice wines:  True expression of the Niagara-On-the-Lake region ice wines that fills the mouth with sensational fruity sweetness and peach nectar that lingers on the palate.

Followed by lunch in their adjacent award winning Ravine Restaurant where European trained chef Paul Harber showcased his craftsmanship. We had more wines to go along with our unpretentious but divine dishes recommended by the very knowledgeable serving staff.

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In the afternoon, we arrived at 125-acre Reif Estate Winery set along the picturesque Niagara Parkway. Reif has established at the very same location since 1977 with the 1st vintage in 1982. The proprietor packs over 300 years of European winemaking experience within the family. The vineyard has drain pipes to channel away moisture to induce stress on the vines which results in more vigorous growth. Being close to the river, the site has 7 windmills to drive the cool air away.

IMG_5405The vineyard management philosophy strives on innovation and sustainability. After a tour of the facility with Klaus Reif, we were led to the well-designed tasting room for a Food & Wine Sensory Experience. Instead of straight forward wine tasting, a wine and cheese session was offered to educate us on the finer details of wine appreciation. Different wine glasses were used and different local cheeses were presented to enhance the appreciation of the wines. The exercise was to showcase; with proper stemware, food flavour and texture to evoke the senses; the joy of embracing the wine appreciation experience.

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Reif Estate Winery’s wines:

2010 White Meritage is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon under cool fermentation to maintain the bright fruit and acidity level. The Meritage served in aromatic glass was paired with a semi-soft cheese from Five Brothers cheese Farm.

2010 Chardonnay Reserve served in balloon glasses were from old vines planted in 1981 with 18 months in French and American oak to give it the luxurious buttery feel and baked apple aroma. This is paired with hand-crafted cheese from the Upper Canada Cheese Company.

The 2010 Merlot Reserve served in magnum glass was fermented on its skin for 12 days and aged in French and American barrels for 12 months rendering lots of plum and dark cherries upon entry that ends with a smooth lengthy finish. This Merlot was paired with old-fashioned cheddar from the Thornloe Cheese Company.

The 2012 Vidal Icewine served in dessert glass was from 26 years old vines and carried a lot of peach and apricot flavour with balanced sweetness and acidity. This dessert wine was paired with an earthy and salty cow’s milk semi-soft blue cheese from Thornloe Cheese Company.

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Highlight of the evening was the dinner at Treadwell’s Farm to Table Cuisine. Local and in seasonal ingredients were the emphasis with all the local farms and producers listed on the menu to give diners a sense of what the Niagara farming community is all about.

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The next morning we woke up to semi-cloudy sky and cool air, rather windy at times. We headed for the Southbrook Vineyards on the main road where a modern, state-of-the-art building and the Gold Level LEED certified winery facility (in2008) greeted us.

IMG_5441The operation was moved from Richmond Hill in 2005 to its current location of 150 acres, but planting is limited to 63 acres to protect natural terroir which is vital to this first certified organic and biodynamic vineyard in Canada. Vineyard management include efforts to induce some resistance to strengthen the vines, applying various natural herbs and substances as pesticides; and the protection of the natural surroundings to enhance the ecosystem. About 13,000 cases are produced annually by observing low yield practices. Owner, Bill Redelmeier, was there to greet us and was gracious to explain his operation and management concepts in detail. His passion for the respect of the land and his expectation of supporting the neighbourhood businesses for the long term common good flowed across. Sitting in the airy and open tasting room, we tasted all three tiers of Southbrook wines crafted with different emphasis.

Southbrook Vineyards’ wines:

The Triomphe include the lineup of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rose, Cabernet Merlot and a Red Blend. The 2012 Chardonnay is a cool climate Chardonnay with baked apple and melon aroma and a creamy mouth-feel. The 2011 Cabernet Franc has blueberry and cherries aroma with an earthy and luscious finish. The 2008 Cabernet Merlot is a well-balanced wine with enticing aroma of dark berries and plum. The entry is smooth with a lasting finish.

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The Poetica lineup is not produced every year as only the highest quality grapes harvested would qualify.

IMG_5444The Whimsy are small batches, premium, artisanal wines where winemakers were given the freedom to express their own feelings, passions, expertise and artistic inkling. Their signatures are in every bottle to represent Southbrook Vineyard’s philosophy and strong suit.

 

After lunch at the Inn on the Twenty in another story-like village of Jordan that reminded us so much of a colonial hotel with classic settings and elegant interior designs. With lunch we sampled a selection of wines from Cave Spring Cellars, our next destination.

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Cave Spring Cellars  locates just across street from the Inn. Established in 1986, it is truly a family business where the owners are active in the day to day operation. Now with 145 acres planted, production is in the range of 17,000 cases annually. The soil profile is mainly clay and sandstone with high limestone component that is especially good for Riesling. Old and new French, American and Hungarian medium toasted oak barrels are used in various combinations to enhance the profile of the wines.

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Cave Spring Cellar’s wines:

The VQA estate bottled 2011 Riesling is from 10 year old vines. Bright fruit and melon aroma, this Riesling is crisp and juicy. I like the 2011 Estate Chenin Blanc which is packed with sweetness, grape fruit aroma and minerality. The Pinot Noir is a cool climate Pinot Noir that is jammy and supple on the palate. The Cabernet Franc upkeeps the excellence taste profile of grapes from the Niagara Peninsula Escarpment. The 2008 Riesling Icewine is burst with honeydew and nectarine aroma and on the palate.

IMG_5471IMG_5482After thoughts: It was an amazing trip, an eye-opener that allowed us to witness and appreciate how different Niagara Wine Regions are from those of BC. In terms of the accomplishments and passions of the people in the wine business, we are totally impressed.  With over 17,000 acres planted, Ontario wine regions are growing at a rapid pace. Even though the number of wineries is lower than British Columbia’s 250, the Ontario wineries count of over 140 is expanding with a strong business model of producing quality VQA wines with international fame. We visited different portfolios of small family style operations, each with its own energy and character; and large established wineries with resources and hospitality to provide top-rate guest experiences. Such a short distance from Toronto, Niagara-On-The-Lake is so beautiful, so worth a stroll, if not a vacation. It is a must destination for wine oenophile but for those who are looking for simply a relaxing and pampered vacation, this is definitely a hidden gem.IMG_5322

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Maboroshi & sushi

Eat Toronto – The joy of sake pairing at Ki Modern Japanese + Bar

Ki decor

Ki Modern Japanese + Bar
181 Bay Street  (416) 308-5888  http://www.kijapanese.com

Words & pix: Henry & Stephanie Yuen

(Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/289821 )

We were not expecting to see standing-room only happy hour crowd at 7pm on a Monday night.   The thought that perhaps we had the dates mixed up while trying to convince ourselves today was not Friday diminished when the hostess found our reservation in the book. We found out later such is a normal restaurant scene on most weekdays in popular restaurants around downtown Toronto, thanks to the financial and corporate offices inside every towering building spilling out flows of well-dressed ladies in high-heel shoes and nicely-suited gentlemen who gather after work to grab a drink and a bite, to socialize with the peers and quite often, to execute some ladder-climbing motions with managements or sealing business deals. Oh yes, the commercial pulses in Toronto are on a much higher speed, during and after business hours!

But of course, there is always the harsh reality that restaurants without good food and apt vibe will still be left out of the scene. The contemporary décor and energetic crowds in front of the stretch cocktail bar set the mood the instant you step inside Ki. High ceiling, geometric furnishings and attractive colour schemes feed the vibration.  It has the casual feel of an upscale chain restaurant and the detailed elegance of an oriental fine-dining club. The girls at the reception and our service team of duo greeted us warmly and provided attentively, indicating calibre staff training which is a must but not necessary found in all restaurants.

We  believe the best way to see how Chefs work with the freshest ingredients available in the market is let them take care of our order and allow the surprise factor to elevate the dining pleasure. To add to this anticipated Ki experience was the presence of Ontario’s very first Certified Advance Sake Professional Michael Tremblay, the Head National Sake Sommelier designing and perfecting Ki’s sake programs in both the Toronto and Calgary locations.

Maboroshi & sushi

The protégé of N. American’s renowned Sake Expert John Gauntner, Tremblay hones his Sake knowledge by going to Japan’s top Sake Breweries to observe and talk to the masters all the time. The impressive sake menu at Ki’s confirms Tremblay’s profound passion and deep lore in this ancient art.  For sake enthusiasts, ‘sake’ conversations with Tremblay, as he unveils the how and the w5’s of sake making, from choosing the rice and water to the histories of the families and their breweries, is inarguably the highlight of sake-dining here. Tell him what you’re having; his pairing recommendation often becomes the integral part of the meal.Tremblay suggested two sakes, one cold and one warm, to charm our palates that evening. “Cold sake should stay between 10 to 20C while warm sake can be sipped at 40 to 55C. Some sake can be enjoyed at room temperature.” Tremblay explained, “Place unfinished opened bottles of cold sake back to the refrigerator, 2nd fermentation will take place otherwise.” 

Abocore tuna with a beautiful floral designWe started with Nakoa ‘Maboroshi’ Junmai Ginjo from Hiroshima served cold in a wine glass. Hiroshima is the birth place of ginjo and Nakoa Brewery started in 1871. Brewed from 58% ground grains, this Maboroshi Junmai ginjo has a beautiful written Chinese character meaning ‘mirage’ on the bottle.  Clear and crisp, this mildly sweet ginjo is quite mellow with subtle aroma, a good sake for beginners and to wake up the palate, no doubt a lovely start to a great dinner, it can be sipped on its own too.

To go with this, we had the Albacore Tuna Tataki with Sweet Chili Dressing, the Torched Salmon Belly and sesame and white miso sauce garnished with dried red pepper and ginger, shaped like a flower. The plate of 6 pieces of almost carved-like sushi was so beautiful it took our breath away for a few seconds, luckily our desire to sink our teeth into it stayed put. You can imagine how exotic one of the sushi – Iko Squid marinated in white truffle oil was and how excited we were to indulge!

Juicy pork bellyWith hot items, we had affably served warm sake from Ontario Spring Water Sake Co. here in Toronto.  Meaning ‘creek’, the‘Izumi’ Junmai Nama Genshu was poured from a dark clay pot into authentic sake cups which we sipped with admiration. Using premium junmai rice grown in California and water in Ontario, Izumi is a floral unfiltered wine with a lengthy finish. Interestingly, different aspects of the wine character surfaced and somehow harmonized with the nutty-sweetness of the crispy-skin pork belly, the creamy texture of the soft yet firm scallops and the capturing soy-flavoured grilled short ribs.  Higher alcohol content and bolder structure give this wine length and depth.

Jumbo scallopsNicely presented warm sake

The popularity of sake in Toronto has been on the rise, as indicated by sold out sake events and festivals. Ki’s sake menu is likely one of the most listed and descriptive sake menu in Canada. We both agreed the simple but functional menu is an education tool in itself, a good read for sure for novice or veteran sake lovers. With Tremblay’s immense knowledge in sake and his tireless effort reaching out and explaining to each table ordering sake; no wonder Ki’s sake program is so successful.   

 

A DIY week-end get-away to Okanagan Wine regions

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Henry Yuen (Chinese blog:                                                      http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans )

To thoroughly enjoy a wine tour of the Okanagan, a lot of people assume a weekend trip will be an undercut. I can certainly understand the rationale as there are so many fun things to do and interesting places to visit. With over 200 wineries and growing, it certainly is a challenge to choose where to go and perhaps a bit greedy to try and cover the entire area searching for a particular vinous exploration.

Having said that, if you only have a weekend, an awesome trip to the Okanagan to taste food and wines is more than achievable than you may think. Sure, a thorough map-out plan would enhance the journey but not necessary since over the years Okanagan’s hospitality industry has grown to comprehend and deliver what hospitality is all about, ergo a spontaneous decision simply to get away can still be a pleasant road trip – just drive up there late Friday afternoon and return Sunday evening. Well, that’s what we recently did! We confined our trip to the southern Okanagan region visiting wineries and vineyards in Oliver, Osoyoos, Summerland and Penticton.

We may be familiar with the area but the wine industry’s rapid growth in recent years makes it difficult at times to keep up with the latest news and developments! Glad to notice recent changes are not only promising but have definitely raised the Valley’s overall profile as the food and wine destination.

Bravo to the pioneering effort of Summerhill Pyramid Estate Winery whose winery restaurant finally got the approval from the liquor distribution branch to serve not just their own wines but wines from other places; as well as spirits if customers fancy a cocktail. Other similar winery restaurants’ eager anticipation to be granted the same flexibility will likely happen soon. This certainly is a big step forward to show the Province’s liquor law is in alignment with times and doesn’t loiter in the dark ages any more.  Other than the regulation changes, we also saw the regions becoming much more user-friendly. Wine route signs are prominent so getting to destinations is a whisk. From local artisan bread, cheese and farm produce; casual picnic in the vineyard to gourmet fine-dining, the food scene is noticeable. Hotels and accommodations are readily available. People are friendly and willing to help and please. From the young server that knew exactly what to do upon approaching our table to the gas station attendant offering warm assistance; the overall experience was a charming one.

Upon arrival Friday evening we checked into the Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos. This modern lakefront hotel is both chic and quaint with apt amenities, not surprised at all to find a pair of washer and dryer in our suite! We then took a short drive to Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in Oliver just in time for a fantastic six-course wine-pairing dinner at their Miradoro Restaurant to wet our appetite for the next two days! The dinner featured two Gold Medal Plates champions ‘Marc & Marc’ showcasing their skills and collaborating with the restaurant resident chef Jeff to create a line-up of amazing plates paired with outstanding local wines. The welcoming drinks to pair with the canapés were the refreshing 2012 Moscato Frizzante from Orofino Vineyards and the never-disappointing 2005 Steller’s Jay from Sumac Ridge Winery. Next up were the 2012 Alibi, a Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon blend from Black Hills Estate Winery and the mood-setting 2012 Two Bench Rose from Tinhorn Creek Vineyards to go with local heirloom tomatoes. The beautifully crafted 2012 Old Vines Trebbiano from Hester Creek Estate Winery and the pleasing 2011 Pinot Noir from Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery were paired with the albacore tuna. Two seemingly contrasting wines: The 2010 Nk’Mip Cellars Chardonnay and the 2009 Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir were poured and both worked magically with the buttered-poached scallops and lobster. For the Angus beef dish, we had the very desirable 2009 Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2 Bench Red and the harmonizing 2010 Church & State Wines Coyote Bowl Petit Verdot Malbec. Before dessert came the aromatic 2011 St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery Gewurztraminer to go with local artisan cheeses. To round out the evening, we had the 2011 Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards Riesling Icewine. We were having such good time we didn’t want to leave but after a few hours of driving and a stomach full of brilliantly matched food & wine, the soft down duvet and comfortable bedding at the Watermark Beach Resort was calling.

IMG_4706Miradoro dining roomAfter a restful sleep, we were ready for a full Saturday of wine tastings. A short drive to Black Hills Estate Winery up on the Black Sage bench in Oliver was the first stop. Established in 1996, this winery has 27 acres up on the Bench and has been producing some amazing grapes; thanks to the dry desert condition with warm days and cool nights. The strong breeze keeps the moisture in check, providing ideal growing condition.  Adjacent to the pool and patio area framing a nice view of the valley, the tasting room is set up to welcome both big and small groups. Black Hills has large followers and a growing list of wine club members. Exclusive wines like the 2011 Nota Bene can only be purchased through the wine club. A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, this Nota Bene was aged 80% in French and 20% in American oak. It’s a mellow fruit-forward wine full of blackberries, plum and a hint of sage on the nose with a toasty, lengthy finish; definitely a wine worth cellaring.  The flight of samplings included the 2011 Viognier, the 2011 Chardonnay, the 2011 Carmenere and the 2010 Syrah, chosen carefully to showcase the particular season’s harvest. IMG_4753

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Hester Creek Estate Winery has gone through quite a transformation since 1968. Hard work and improvement paved every step of the way. Not only the wines are outstanding, the winery is a not-to-be-missed wine tour destination with lots of history! Featuring Mediterranean villa style guest houses, a fantastic Terrafina Restaurant on site and a tasting room offering small plates to go with the wines, a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen to conduct cooking classes and wine-paired events etc, the exterior and interior designs, the ambiance, the décor are all ravishing. Under the tutelage of winemaker Rob Summers, General Manager Mark Sheridan and Director of hospitality Roger Gillespie, the exploring and wine-tasting experience guarantee to be enjoyable – you can literally feel their passion; their pride and joy in being integral parts of the improvement process. Roger guided us through their wine portfolio. The Character Red and White are good value wines for all occasions. The line-up of whites  were the 2012 Pinot Gris, 2012 Pinot Blanc and the 2012 Chardonnay. For the reds, there were the 2011 Reserve Cabernet Franc, 2011 Reserve Merlot and the well-crafted 2010 Judge. From the oldest vines planted in the Golden Mile Bench, the Judge is a Bordeaux blend aged over 24 months in 75% in French oak and 25% American oak; fantastically laced with ripened berries, a soft plum aroma and a hint of spice. Bold and jammy, this wine finishes nicely with a bit of cocoa and toasted fragrant and is definitely a collector’s wine!IMG_4777 

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After a delectable lunch at Terrafina, we headed north to Naramata just in time to catch the harvesting activities at Serendipity Winery. Converted from an orchard, this young winery established was in 2005 with 10 acre producing some promising fruits and the proprietor, Judy Kingston, a lawyer-turned winery operator who finds much joy in working with nature, is expecting a good harvest. Pickers from Quebec and the Atlantic provinces had been working hard in the vineyards since day break. Soon after, meal time was served and we sat down to join them for some team-bonding conversations and most rewardingly, wine tasting with Judy. Outside, winemaker Richard Kanawaza was busy working with other staff on the de-stemmer making sure the time frame from picking to de-stemming was as short as possible. We sampled the 2011 Rose, lively and fruit forward but not too sweet displaying generous Asian fruit aroma and a dry finish. The cutely-named White Lie blend has lots of pear, honeydew aroma with crisp and juicy ending note. The 2010 Devil’s Advocate is a red blend with bouquet of dark cherries and spices. The finish is soft with black fruits and a bit of vanilla and chocolate at the end. As we depart, truckloads of grapes on crates were coming in from neighbouring vineyards to bolster the production. What better way to witness a busy harvest in action when time is of essence!IMG_4810

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Not too far away on Naramata Road in Penticton is Hillside Winery & Bistro. The winery was founded in the 1980’s also by converting an orchard to a vineyard. The objective all along is to craft wines in its natural state that best expresses what the vineyard has to offer. With meal time approaching, we decided to have the tasting in conjunction with our dinner at the Bistro which is tucked away at the garden-like back porch. The 2012 un-oaked Pinot Gris is refreshing and crisp with bright fruit character. A different style is the 2010 Pinot Gris Reserve that has a vivid bouquet of tropical fruits. The time spent in Hungarian oak barrel gives it the supple treatment and a smooth finish. The 2010 Old Vines Gamay Noir has lots of berry fruits in the bottle. Eight months in barrel adds nice texture but adequate acidity of the Gamay still retains. The 2010 Syrah is from the HiddenValley vineyards and is filled with berry aroma with a touch of clove and spices and enough tannin to offer a pleasant finish. Cabernet Franc is a varietal that flourishes in Okanagan and the Hillside Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc is consistent with that assertion. A medium-bodied wine with raspberry and red fruit aroma, it is velvety due to the well-integrated oak treatment. The finale is the Hillside Winery 2008 Mosaic crafted as a Bordeaux style blend with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot exhibit in harmony. It is luscious and silky on the palate with an elegant finish.

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IMG_4826The stay at the Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa for the evening was greeted by an art show at the lobby displaying works from various local artists, a lovely way to end the day. Waved goodbye to the cool evening breeze, we relaxed in front of the fireplace to reminiscent the tasty events of the day. Accompanied by the morning sun the next morning, we enjoyed our breakfast in the balcony overlooking the glistering OkanaganLake. What a sight to behold and what a splendid start to another day!

We headed back to Naramata in Penticton to kick off our packed Sunday activities.  Perseus Winery on Lower Bench Road was the first on the itinerary. Built upon the hillside, the tasting room has a picturesque view of the OkanaganLake and the Penticton city proper. Greeted by Rob Ingram, the President of the parent company, Terrabella who is a chartered Accountant by trade and brings years of valuable experience in the management and financial fields to the Winery. It was refreshing to hear somebody from an entrepreneurial aspect balancing the passion from the wine side with the practicality and common sense of the business operations. IMG_4862

An array of whites and reds awaited us for tasting. The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc has rich aroma of honeydew and grapefruit. Lightly oaked, it is crisp and sprightly. To offer flexibility, there is the innovative 2012 Pinot Blanc 3 Litres ‘bag in a box’ that caters to special events and larger groups. With no spoilage and 6 weeks shelf life, it is a make-sense alternative to guarantee freshness of this Pinot Blanc which is loaded with peach and melon bouquet and a palate-pleasing finish.

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The 2012 Gewurztraminer was harvested right from the Naramata Bench. It has lots of green apple and a floral aroma on the dry side which I quite enjoyed. The 2012 Viognier is from the dryer and warmer Similkameen region. Asian fruits aroma exhibiting fragrances of lychee and mandarin orange peel made this wine sensual and very appealing. On the reds, we sampled the 2011 Cabernet Franc, from the dryer Blind Creek also in the Similkameen, has tantalizing red fruit aroma. The light oak treatment balanced the acidity and tannins well. The 2010 Perseus Invictus, a blend of 56% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec, is regarded as their flagship red.  On the palate, the luscious fruity and spicy hint linger along the beautifully-balanced tannin. With a silky structure, a complex aroma of dried figs, berries and subtle mint and smokiness, this crafted wine offers good potential; decant or cellar. The limited release 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, with 75% in French oak and 25% in American oak, is another solid and profound surprise. Flows of black current and preserved plum on the nose; dry cherries and berries to prelude the cocoa and tobacco finish, is no doubt a candidate for your private cellar.

Poplar Grove Winery is our next destination. High upon the hill of Naramata overlooking the breath-taking OkanaganLake, the contemporary building hosting an airy and open tasting area and a warm and welcoming restaurant the Vanilla Pod was built in 2011. Led by Ian Sutherland, owner and Executive Winemaker, we had a visual and descriptive tour of the gorgeous tasting room and the cellar room, while sipping the refreshing Rose refreshing our palate with gusto lime aroma. Transforming from an artisan winery in 1993 to the existing breathtaking 36,000 sq. ft. building operation, their wines have also come a long way to the current stellar status. Staying with the tradition of doing what they know best, they start with six core wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah and the Legacy blend on their over 110 acres estate vineyards. Besides this core wine group, other specific series are crafted for the restaurant and the wine club to showcase the skills of the winemaker and the philosophy of the winery. To pair with our lunch orders, we had the 2011 Pinot Gris. 100% stainless steel tank fermented, it is crisp and lively with grapefruit and star-fruit aroma. The limited production 2011 Chardonnay has a golden colour; thanks to 20% fermented in French oak which also provides the smoothness on the palate. On the nose is the enticing hints of Asian pear and pineapple. We couldn’t give up tasting the CSM, a well-balanced blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot exclusively at the winery restaurant and wine club. We also tasted the 2009 Cabernet Franc with raspberry and caramelized onion on the nose; red currents on the palate with a balanced finish, a well-crafted wine that supports the winery’s focus of sticking to the core and doing the best with it.IMG_4876

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Arriving at the other side of Penticton, we went into Painted Rock Estate Winery’s   immaculate architectural building with a stunning view enveloping from the east side to the equally beautiful SkahaLake. With 60 acres planted, the expansion plan on the horizon is to build a restaurant and maybe guest houses to go in next to the sleek and high-tech tasting room. Starting as an apricot orchard, the site was not converted until 2004 to the current vineyard with first planting in 2005. The topography of the slope and the wind from the mountain blowing down to the lake provide the ideal condition   preventing infestation and rotting. Planted mostly were Bordeaux varietals at the beginning and other varietals were introduced later. The 2012 Chardonnay has good flavour intensity and structure resulted from 50% in new French oak which also renders the golden colour, complimented by the stone fruit aroma and smooth mouth feel. The 2010 Merlot seduces with prunes and plum aroma. With 80% in new French oak, it has a toasty and cocoa note on the palate with soft tannins. The 2010 Syrah, benefited from 18 months in 60% new French oak and 40% new American oak, demonstrates well-balanced tannin and a hint of toffee and coffee beans on the nose. The award winning 2010 Red Icon blend infused with blackberries and dry cherries hints is ranked highly amongst the top. 18 months in 80% new French oak gave the wine the added structure lined with smoky and earthy mouth-feel.IMG_4898

IMG_4901The afternoon tour ended with a visit to the Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland.  My first visit to this facility, I can easily feel the energy and excitement in the air as workers were busy loading grapes into the de-stemmer. We were told they would be doing this throughout the night as new crews were coming in. Launched in 2010 by industry stalwart, Christine Coletta, it is a facility setup to provide custom- winemaking for others in the industry. However, with experienced winemaker, Michael Bartier and other renowned international experts providing advice and expertise on a regular basis, their own labels of Haywire and Bartier & Scholefield (B & S) wines are well received. Christine Coletta is evidently the pioneer in the BC wine industry who back at the hay days successfully helped position the VQA brand to its current status. Also a visionary and astute marketer with many years in the PR and Marketing sector for the industry, her recent induction into the BC Restaurant Association’s ‘Hall of Fame’ is an attestation. Outside in the vineyard, we couldn’t help but noticed each row of vine was marked with different names and soon found out they were the names of those who helped planted the vines. What a wonderful and thoughtful gesture to appreciate and recognize the hard-working folks; a good story to share with visitors for sure. IMG_4939

Under the watchful eyes of winemaker Michael Bartier and winery manager, Julian Scholefield, the winery is full of activity and excitements! The large concrete egg-shaped tanks to give the wines more depth and complexity are in full production mode. Thinking outside the box and addressing to the fine details are what this winery does approvingly. We sampled a number of wines and I must admit they were all impressive! The 2012 Haywire Gewurztraminer emits floral bouquet. The 2012 B & S Sauvignon Blanc caresses with baked apple and grapefruit aroma and balanced acidity. The 2012 B & S Semillon displays subtle minerality and oyster shell hints due to its rocky and stony soil profile in the Black Sage Bench. 3rd vintage 2011 Pinot Gris from Switchback Vineyard is brisk and fruit-forward. The refreshing 2011 Gamay Noir Rose has luring strawberry aroma and a light body with restrained acidity. The 2011 B & S Chardonnay carries the lightly oaked treatment nicely, 50% in new French oak and 50% in new American oak brings out the creaminess. The 2011 Haywire White label Pinot Noir has bright fruits and plum aroma. A good contrast is the 2011 Haywire Silver label Pinot Noir that has gone through some fermentation in those egg-shaped concrete tanks which fine-tuned and smoothed the wine structure. The 2011 B & S Merlot and Syrah are both fine products to express the terroir and the best of BC grapes. To round out the sampling, we had the 2011 B & S Goal as the finale. With a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, this is a nicely crafted wine with a silky, lengthy finish.IMG_4925We were happy to walk out of the place knowing we just had sampled some outstanding wines that represent the terroir and the meticulous efforts put into the vineyards and the winery. We got a lot out of this weekend; an awesome snapshot of what Okanagan wine tour is all about and how hard folks work behind the scene to make everything come together. If you go, it’s guaranteed you will have a good time exploring!

Okanagan’s world-class food and restaurant scene

Words & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

( http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?zh=vans )

No matter what the reason, every Okanagan visit proves to be a lovely break for me!

The most recent one took place this early Fall, when trees were at their ultimate forms of natural beauty; when orchards and vineyards were changing hues.  With many shades of red and gold adorning the highways and the random sun emitting warmth into the car, the 4-hour drive was a pleasant one.    

We chose this time to go simply because the vines and wineries at harvesting time were calling. Oliver, Summerland and Penticton were our destinations. While visiting wineries and tasting the wines were the main focus, we were both ready and excited to bite into the top-notched restaurants and food programs we heard so much about. The fact that the valley has always been the land of bounty, where orchards, farms and ranches flourish, the region’s developing into a sensational food and restaurant scene is a natural fit. From artisan cheese-makers to lamb-roasting dinner; music and wine to chefs’ wine-paired feasts, Okanagan is now poised as the haven for culinary tourism.

Our delicious journey began at Miradoro (Tinhorn Creek), where Executive Chef Jeff Van Geest (formerly of Aurora on Main & E. 8th), partnered with two Marcs of Gold Medal Plates fame.The two champs from Atelier in Ottawa and Auberge Du Pommier in Toronto brought along their magic wands and the three of them orchestrated an evening of palate supremacy, the ticket price of $155, along with a take-away gift bag of a bottle of Tinhorn Creek wine and other gadgets, was enchanting. Take a look at this lavishly presented plate of Scallop and Lobster poached in butter with the pickled garlic and miso sauce as the surprise flavour factors. 

#1 Miradoro

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Breakfast next morning was a $12pp very generously-prepared and displayed continental buffet breakfast, beverages included, inside the modern, quaint and beautiful lakeside Watermark Beach Resort Hotel where we stayed the night. The word continental was an understatement, with hot eats such as eggs and bacon; cold treats such as smoked salmon and fresh fruits; oven-fresh baked goods including croissant, the value was exceptional. Full and happily contented, we began our packed program of the day.

The much anticipated lunch at Hester Creek’s Terrafina was as hearty and delightful as any family-style meal in Tuscany would be. The pan-fried Squids and Smoked Trout Sandwich were masterfully done. Unpretentious was the dining room and the ambiance, locally-sourced and tastefully-crafted were the seasonal menu items. We were told that Terrafina’s made-to-order pizza was ‘Okanagan famous’, no wonder we say quite a few of them on some of the tables.#3 Pan-fried squids

#4 Chef at TerrafinoTucked away in the lush green garden at the back of Hillside Winery’s tasting room, the country setting of Hillside Bistro was particularly warm and welcoming in the gloomy nightfall. Executive Chef Robert Gordonier may be young, but the flavour profile of the dishes we ordered that evening showed nothing short of innovative ideas and culinary senses. Infusing local recipes with Asian ingredients and seasonings is much more challenging than some might assume. The application of hoisin sauce in the braised beef shank was a real showcase of how it should be done. An extra thumbs up to Gordonier who gave the credit to his Chinese wife!#6 Hiiside-chef & his own sauces#5 Hillside - Braised beef shankBlessed with a majestic view, Vanilla Pod Restaurant at the very architectural building where Poplar Grove lies was the perfect lunch spot on a mild autumn day. The reflection of the sun upon the surrounding vineyards and river belt was as sumptuous as the meal. We opted for a couple of simple lunch items to share, but simplicity here referred only to the name of the dish, the presentation and the depth of each dish was astounding. The salad was a collection of the latest harvest of plump, juicy and colourful grape and cherry tomatoes from the garden; the artisan cheese in the ham & cheese sandwich established its own name and fame; but it’s the rice pudding that took my breath away! “Many locals come here just for this pudding!” said our waiter. The golden rice pudding, presented stylishly, was beyond my imagination. We did thank the waiter for insisting us to try!#8 yummy rice pudding

This the season for apple picking and pumpkin hauling

Entrance

Words and Pix: Stephanie Yuen

Chinese post: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?variant=zh-hans

 If summer belongs to beaches and barbeques, autumn surely relates to farms and pumpkins!

“Take a closer look to this season’s festivals and feasts, aren’t they all about the fruits and vegetables our farmer-friends harvest around this time? What about those apples and pumpkins?” This was what my mom, a nature lover, used to say.petting zoo

Perhaps they are the reasons why kids love to go visit the farms, even in the rain. All they need to do is put rain gears on, and out to the farms they go, to pick the corns and pumpkins and sing along on hayrides. Oh, but adults, my mom for one, would find themselves having as much fun too! Their facial expressions, once surrounded by golden shades of yellows and browns, shining gourds, big and round pumpkins and hanging apples, are blissful!Pumpkins of all colour ans sizes

Now that my mom is no longer with us, so this time, it’s my sister and I who went to Fraser Valley to a magical place called Taves Family Farms in Abbotsford to re-live those carefree moments. With the help of a Google map, the 40-minute drive on Hwy#1 was very a pleasant prelude to what we’re about to encounter, probably because city slicers like us do treasure any excuses to leave work! This time more so since some U-pick actions at this popular family fun centre along with a corn maze, a bee hive, a jumping pillow, a petting zoo, pony rides and hayrides were waiting for us! 

The first pair to greet us were kind of sloppy and daring, but as friendly as expected. Even to young kids, as long as they keep their hands to themselves. The two big and tall llamas in their own gated home were surely handsome and cool, not bad at all for a couple hairy gate keepers!IMG_4582

 We picked up a site map at the entrance and were reminded to read the U-pick Policy at the back. Glad we did! Though we picked blueberries, picked hazelnuts and strawberries, but this was the first picking apples, any tips and guidance would help!

We have been eyeing the bins of pumpkins since we drove in. They were lining up along the driving path, at the entrance and further down the lane to the pumpkin patch. If you think pumpkin is pumpkin, think again! Those golden orange ones of all sizes and various round shapes are just the beginning.  There are bright red ones great for cooking, smaller yellow ones for baking and even white ones. What about Full Moon, Harvest Moon, Cinderella, Sugar, even Ghost for names? The task here – choosing which ones to haul home!

giant ghost pumpkiinscinderella pumpkins

After saying hello to the baby animals in the petting zoo and bumping our way through the corn maze, we decided to take a break and went into the shack where the bee hive and the apple cider machine located.  Farm fresh apple cider and garnished hot dog never taster any better!apple u-pickingAnd off to apple u-picking we went! The orchard, adorned by lines of apple trees where Alkmene, Honey Crisp and Fuji apples hung like Christmas lights, was extremely engaging. My sister started picking the first big apple she came across but did not take long to realize that many more were down the lane. My intention to pick my favourite kind – Fuji – was demolished instantly.  Let me assure you, any ripe and flawless apples you could pick from the tree with your own hands will be the best! Country store

With a bagful of apples and a drum-like red pumpkin in our hands, and big grins on our faces, we headed back to our car fully exercised and elated! Next time, we’re going to bring the whole family!

Taves Family Farms

333 Gladwin Road, Abbotsford. 604-853-3108   www.theapplebarn.ca

 

 

 

 

Come into the west coast sun

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By: Henry & Stephanie Yuen

Emails from readers and friends visiting west coast come more frequently these days, guess it has to do with the warming sun we Vancouverites have been blessed with lately. 

Questions usually circle around which restaurants to eat, what to do, where to go for family fun.  Ergo we sat down, flipped through some notes and came up with a list.  For our local friends, we encourage you to play visitors of your own city one weekend or two, and promise you’ll fall in love with Metro Vancouver and FraserValley all over again!

Fun Fun Fun:

Stanley Park – A must for visitors from afar and nearby, all ages. The Aquarium, the outdoor theatre, the boardwalk, the totem poles and so much more, not a bad idea to rent a bike to do the touring. http://www.vancouver.ca/parks/

Granville Island – Please allow a full day (and evening if you can, there are theatres and great restaurants)! The public market, Artisan Sake Makers, unique artsy shops and houseboats.  Oh, do take an ‘Aqua Bus’ ride across the water.Oyama's supreme products  www.granvillisland.com

Lonsdale Quay – Another Public Market? Not quite at all!  The Quay, on the other side of the waterfront, has its own setting and character.  Check out the weekend outdoor dance which welcomes everyone, and of course, all sorts of festivals are lining up as well.  www.lonsdalequay.com

Richmond Night Markets – We go there for the ethnic street food, others go there to hunt for bargains. Hey, there are two markets now: The International Summer Night Market www.summernightmarket.com and the Richmond Night Market www.richmondnightmarket.com .

Steveston – A village by the sea with lots of stories and hidden gems: Salmon Festival, Kite-flying beach, historic buildings and the fisherman’s wharf where one can pick up the seafood dinner entrée. www.steveston.bc.ca

A little bit out of town…

Maplewood Farm, North Vancouver  – More than a farm for sure.  After your kids give the adorable baby animals a big hug, they’ll give you one bigger ‘thank-you’ hug! www.maplewoodfarm.bc.ca

Krause Berry Farm, Langley – Ready for some U-pick action?  Sit around the picnic table for a huge peach pie?  Here is the place.  www.krauseberryfarms.com

Harrison – Home of the mysterious ‘Big Foot’ and Harrison Hot Spring, white beach and a discovery river cruise. The route to Harrison is already a lovely journey itself.  www.tourismharrison.com  

Circle Farm Tours – A delicious way to visit the suburbs and to learn and appreciate what the farms and farmers are doing to make our lives easy and yummy.  www.circlefarmtours.com

Whistler – The world renowned ski resort shines in a different way under the sun.  There’re tons of kids activities and for adults, gorgeous dine and wine spots.

Check out Aura and Bearfoot Bistro.  www.hellobc.com/whistler-BC

 Vancouver Island – For those who spare the time, Vancouver Island is home to many magnificent hideaways and awesome destinations.  Tons of romantic resorts are awaiting where honeymooners, anniversary-celebrators and dream-seekers go to enhance their bodies and souls. Check out www.hellobc.com, the official Tourism British Columbia website for details. 

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Where to eat

French:

Cachè Bistro, on Hamilton at Yaletown – A small cozy and friendly restaurant where food is the passion and life of Chef Alex. www.cachebistro.com

La Parisienne, on Denman near StanleyPark – A warm and homey place to share family-style authentic country food and hearty laughter.  www.laparisienne.ca

Provence Marinaside, waterfront at Yaletown – The view and the relaxing ambiance are just the beginning.  www.provencevancouver.com

Italian:

Campagnolo, on Main near the Skytrain Station – Great charcuterie and thin-crust pizza!  Give yourselves and the chef time, and be ready for a feast! www.campagnolorestaurant.ca

La Quercia, on W. 4th near Arbutus – For $50 pp, the kitchen sends out at least 7 courses of piles of great hearty food and makes you feel like you are in Italy! www.laquercia.ca

Westcoast:

Edible at the Market, Granville Island – The name says it all – everything they serve is sourced locally.  Do stop by the shop to see what Canadian yummy products you can bring home. www.ediblecanada.com

Forage on Robson at Listel Hotel – The flavour, the colour and the true culinary spirit of the west coast captured and redefined. Thursday is the Pork Belly Day! www.foragevancouver.com Forage-style pierogi

Yew Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel – This is the restaurant where everyone can and will enjoy his/her craving.  Come Sunday and open a bottle of wine at a great discount, and check out their special promotions. www.yewrestaurant.com

The Parlour Restaurant, on Hamilton at Yaletown – Another great joint to share creative dishes (and pizza!) at reasonable prices!  The pizza-making at the open kitchen may awe your kids – a live Food channel episode! www.theparlourrestaurant.com

New World Asian :

Happa Izakaya, various locations www.happaizakaya.com

Kaya Malay Bistro, West Broadway at Oak. www.kayamalay.com

Sen Bistro, West Broadway at Burrard. www.senchinesebistro.comIMG_3219

Maenam (Thai), W. 4th at Cypress. http://www.maenam.ca

Vij, W. 11st at Granville. www.vijs.ca

Traditional Asian:

Tojo Japanese Restaurant, W. Broadway at Spruce.  Beauty to the eyes and the palates. www.tojos.com

Lin Chinese Cuisine, W. Broadway at Granville. Best Xiao Long Bao and Northern Chinese dimsum. www.linchinese.ca

Congee Noodle House, E. Broadway at Quebec.  Good congee and best hand-made rice rolls! (Sorry no website)

Café Kathmandu, Commercial at Grandview. The one and only Himalayan restaurant in town.  www.cafekathmandu.com

Prince Chinese Restaurant. Grandview Hwy at Renfrew.  Constantly good dimsum. www.princeseafoodrestaurant.com  

Corner 23 (Taiwanese), Cambie at W. 23rd.  Their ‘pork hock’ dishes originate from Taiwan. (Sorry no website)

Master Hung BBQ Restaurant, Blundell at Garden City. Richmond. An neighbourhood eatery offering crafted Chinese barbeque and high wok-energy wok dishes (sorry no website).

Empress Seafood Restaurant, No. 3 at Westminster, Richmond.  This beautiful room with top-notch service is an excellent choice for either casual or eventful family dinner gatherings. www.empirerestaurant.ca

 Tojo - Canada's most famous Japnese chef

Lobster Mania atCache

Lobster Mania at
Cache

       The first course at a Chinese wedding banquet - roasted suckling pig

Wines of Chile Tour – The Wineries

Henry Yuen (Chinese posting: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans )

Pest control - chickens & geese   Organic vines  Old vine

Day 1:
The Chilean wine journey officially began once we were picked up at the airport. After an hour ride, we set foot on the first winery in the Maipo Valley located north of Santiago. The embracing 28C sunshine welcomed us and stayed with us all the way. Jackets off and out came the sunglasses, we walked into Vina Chocalan our first stop.

A family owned winery that started in 1996, Vina Chocalan now has over 250 acres of vines planted with over a third allotted to the ever popular Cabernet Sauvignon. We were led to the tasting room for a series of wine tasting right after a brief tour of the vineyards and an overview of the terroir. Greeting our palates were the Chocalan 2010 Rose and the Mavilla Sauvignon Blanc from the coastal San AntonioValley. A total of 9 wines, 3 each from Selection, Reserva and Gran Reserva of the 2010 and 2011 vintages were poured respectively.

I really enjoyed the 2011 Reserva Carmenere and Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, sold back here at home in BC with an attractive everyday price point of C$18.99. The Reserva Carmenere, scored a bit higher on my list, has a balanced profile that is fruit forward with hints of tobacco, cocoa and smokiness thanks to the 10 to 12 months in new French oak treatment. The Gran Reserva Pinot Noir, Gran Reserva Malbec and Gran Reserva Blend are quite impressive; however, at $28.99, they will likely fall into a very competitive bracket. After the tasting came an alfresco luncheon in the vineyard. With hearty hospitality and a lovely setting, the traditional Chilean BBQ meats and chicken tasted sublime. Warm breeze and bright sunshine provided us with a glimpse of what to expect in the next few days.

Strong European culinary influences abound in Santiago where high quality French, Italian and Spanish cuisines can be easily found in the city. Dinner at “Tiramisu Restaurant” that evening was delightful. After downing a few of the local specialty drinks, pisco sour; and sampling delicious pizzas from the wood fire oven, our first evening in Chili was a memorable one. 
Chillean cuisine - BBQ squidsWines of Emiliana

Day 2:

Salute to the organizer who understood our need to slowly adapt to the time change and eased us in into a good wine touring pace, only two tastings were arranged for us on Day 2.

Vina Valdivieso was the first winery of the day. The Valdivieso history of sparkling wines dates back to 1879 and is one of their older wineries situated in the now fully developed urban part of town within the Santiago city area. A short trip took us to this sparkling wine making facility. We were led into a system of underground caves where sparkling wines are stored. Due to massive volume of production, it is no longer effective or feasible to hand turn each bottle.  The bottles are stored in trays put into steel cages and thereby turned by equipment. Besides the Reserva wines and their single vineyard wines, we also sampled their Prestige wines, Eclat 2008 and Caballo Loco n 13 – Central. The Eclat is a delicious 65% Carignan, 20% Mouvedre,15% Syrah with an inky, toasted apple nose and a balanced tannins for a smooth finish. The Caballo Loco n 13 – Central is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc that has a hint of cocoa and mint, with dark fruit and a hint of peppery in the finish. This full-bodied wine is estimated to cellar well for 10 to 15 years. On the sparkling wines side, we sampled their Blanc de Blancs, Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Demi Sec and Moscato. Most styles are deliberately fruity with slightly higher acidity level when the grapes are picked early before too much sugar level sets in. I personally liked the floral Moscato with refreshing bouquet that finishes elegantly.

Valdivieso Concha y Toro - a familiar name

The second part of the day brought us to one of Concha y Toro’s wineries, also located in the MaipoValley. Concha y Toro is an internationally-known blend with a solid history dating back to 1883 when noble French grapevines from Bordeaux were first brought over and planted in this valley. With their impressive track records in winemaking, their iconic wine, Don Malchor 2001 garnered 94 points and came in fourth in Wine Spectator ranking of top 100 wines in the world. During the tasting, we sampled the Don Malchor 2009, powerful and smooth with an intriguing nose of dark berries and cocoa, this iconic wine finishes with a satisfying linger. Coming from 30 year old vines, it is 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 15 months in 70% new French oak, yields very low to render its concentration. Besides the iconic wine series, we also sampled their ever popular Casillero del Diablo range of wines that Canadians are familiar with. Others we sampled included their lovely Marques de Casa Concha range and the Gran Reserva Serie Riberas range of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. These are very enjoyable wines indeed, and are true testament that Chilean wines have come a long way since the nineties and can no longer be considered a novice to the New World wine scene. A lovely luncheon was served at the historic stately manor that the founder Don Malchor occupied centuries ago. 

We noticed by now that certain terms were used consistently in the Chilean wine industry. Such as the terms “icon wines”, “Gran Reserva”, “Reserva”… etc. used to identify their different ranges of wines, though they admit the word Reserva has no universal meaning and is not a designated rank since each winery has its own definition and standard of crafting its Reserva wines varietals.      

Day 3:

The morning took us to the wineries of the ColchaguaValley with the first tasting at Apaltagua Estate Winery. Established in 1995, this family winery has over 260 hectares of vineyards from the ColchaguaValley, the CuricoValley and the MauleValley with each range showcases the characteristics of each region. From their Signature Cabernet Sauvignon with flavourful cassis, vanilla and wise treatment of oak; to their superlative but low yield Apaltagua Grial Carmenere 2008 loaded with dense dark chocolate and vibrant fruit flavour; and to their Tutunjian Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon that is full of berries with a robust and smooth mouth feel, they all express the terroir of that particular block deliberately.

A short trip away and we were at the door step of Montes Wines. An enormous building at the foot of the hillside, the winery is designed to allow minimal handling and bruising of grapes at the beginning of the fermentation process where little hydraulics are employed during the grape distributions. We browsed up the hillside to see and understand the surrounding terrior and how the vineyard is managed at different elevations to allow the grapes to ripe with the correct yield and concentration. Familiar to our Canadian market is the Montes Alpha brand from which we sampled the 2010 Montes Alpha Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Syrah. To showcase their icon wine series, the Montes Alpha “M” 2010, the Montes Folly and Purple Angel were also poured to enhance the ‘Montes Alpha’ experience and our wine-sipping pleasure.

Apaltagua Winery

   Monte Alpha 'M'

In the afternoon, we arrived at Emiliana Organic Vineyards to have a first-hand look at how certified biodynamic vineyard is managed. With over 900 hectares planted, the philosophy is to allow each vineyard the biodiversity to stand on its own without external influence and total absence of chemicals. This is a step beyond organic farming that brings the future to the next level where natural balance of the land will be fully achieved. Their Coyam brand, starting with the 2001 vintage, is available in B.C. The prestigious awards each vintage has been receiving and the 90-point plus they consistently garner, these above-ranked wines are exceptionally good!

Day 4:

Another day of busy tastings was lined up for us in the ColchaguaValley.  Our first stop – Vina Maquis. The vineyard is situated between two rivers resulted with well drained clay soil and a cooler terroir. The tasting was setup under the lovely Avocado groves which provides a natural shelter to the surrounding vineyards and farmlands. I particular liked the 2011 Rose that is 100% Malbec with good aroma and acidity level for a well balance bouquet and texture.  The Maquis Lien 2008 is a blend that intrigued us with its complex flavors of dark fruits and hints of herbs, the value of pleasure is way beyond the price point.

Next stop was Vina MontGras, winery with a Canadian connection! Besides in ownership, the winery construction was designed and carried out by a Canadian engineering firm engaged to maximize the overall efficiency and productivity. The four wine brands showcased were MontGras, Ninquen, Intriga and Amaral. The MontGras Quatro 2011 is a blend depicting a hint of mint and cocoa; a bit of spice and pepper, a good mouth feel but higher in tannins. It will improve and mature in the bottle during the next few years. The Antu Ninquen Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere 2011 was hand-picked to provide the best grape condition. The wine has the herbal, grassy expression with balanced tannins. The Intriga 2010 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon using grapes from a mix of 80 years old to young vines to provide the tannin contrast which makes the wine ideal for further cellaring. To provide a change of pace, we sampled the Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2012. This organic wine is a cool climate wine that has peach and banana aroma with a fresh and balanced acidity. The wine has gone through three pressings at different pressure to extract the juice gently to keep the flavour and slow fermented in stainless steel tanks.

The final stop of the day was at Cono Sur which is another successful wine brand that has a strong presence in the B.C. marketplace. With over 1800 hectares planted at 100 different estates, this winery is big on organic to lessen the impact on environment. Instead of vehicles, bicycles are used throughout the winery by workers to reduce carbon emission. Thus the bicycle “bicicleta” in the wine labels is to promote its philosophy of minimal intrusion to the land. As we cycle along the vineyards, we saw geese and chickens as a means of controlling bugs in the vineyards instead of using chemical pesticides. Flowers and roses were planted everywhere to promote the bee population that will enhance the surrounding vegetation. A health vineyard is their first step to produce quality wines. With their hospitality, we stayed that their lovely summer resort and had a sumptuous dinner to further enjoy their wines. I especially liked the Cono Sur 20 Barrels series of wines that include the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. All are well crafted to express the terroirs of different regions.

Vina Maquis

     Cono Sur Rose   

Day 5:

After a restful sleep, we headed back to the Maipo Valley and visited De Martino Winery. Established in 1934, this estate winery has come a long way through the understanding of natural balance and the uniqueness of each terroir and finally gained prominence. They stress a lot of emphasis on discovering and understanding the land, the soil types and weather conditions to allow the grapes to express themselves fully. They planted Chardonnay in the Limari Valley due to its clay soil and the moisture from the Pacific Ocean; they planted Syrah close to the Andes for the granite soil; planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Merlot in the Maipo Valley with the nourishment from the river; planted Sauvignon Blanc in Casablanca for its coastal influence. These are attempts to plant appropriately to allow the grapes to best express themselves in a natural way. By the look of things, the results are promising. I particular liked the De Martino Legardo Series of wines and also the De Martino Familia which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and small amount of Carmenere and Malbec to balance the tannins. Lunch was served and we had a hard time saying goodbye to the vineyard and the scenery.

Last stop for the day was at Vina Undurraga.  Another wineries that started in the 1880’s with over 1850 hectares planted.  This wine brand is well known internationally especially for their sparkling.  Grapes from different wines regions and Valleys are well represented. Very impressive ranges of wines with the Sibaris range all in the reasonable C$15.99 price point. The Titillum Blanc De noirs 2009 with 100% Pinot Noir crafted by traditional method was simply amazing. The TH (Terroir Hunter) range of wines are equally impressive in the $20 to $25 range with the TH Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and the TH Carmenere 2010 as one my favourites.

De Marino

               Undurraga's pride

Day 6:

The final tasting day had a light schedule with only one winery on the itinerary. Located in the Aconcagua Valley, San Esteban Winery showcased the high altitude viticulture and winemaking techniques. Vines are planted in steep sloped hillside with high altitude of around 900m. The soil is rocky and less fertile but the sunshine is captured at the right angle for the vines to flourish with a cool breeze from the Andes Mountain to provide the cooling effect at night. Despite the challenge of the steep slopes, all grapes are hand-picked for optimum condition when arriving at the winery. Sustainable and organic farming are the philosophy of this third generation winery using the InSitu wine brand. Upon the hillside, we had another alfresco luncheon overlooking the entire valley, a refreshing and delicious way to bring our wineries visits to an end.San Esteban

That summed up our wonderful journey of wine tasting. While there were quite a number wines tasted as each wineries were gracious to showcase most of their wines, it was a challenge to remember all of them or make adequate notes of all the wines sampled. However, there is no doubt Chilean wines have come a long way. Passion and dedication provide the enthusiasm to smooth out the learning curve. The bulk wine moniker certainly doesn’t apply anymore. Best of all, the entire trip provided the insight into the minds of the winemakers and contemporary viticulture practices in Chile which I will discuss next.          

Don Melchor 2000 - supreme wine   In Situ

The Amazing Street of Foodcarts in Portland

Athen Yuen

You would need to purposeful turn a blind eye in order not to observe the vibrant, trendy and lively food cart scene once you head into the heart of Portland!

Popping up in various blocks around the downtown core, the carts tend to situate in brigades, with no less than 3 or 4 food trailers whipping up signature dishes in one location all at the same time.  One of the more cart-populated blocks is on Alder and Spruce, where up to 20 carts are eagerly serving up made-to-order gourmets daily. Some stay open throughout the day, others make ends meet during primetime meal hours only.

The culture of these carts is perhaps driven by the urban hipster-mentality that defines Portland’s current food scene. The demanding attitude for cart fare is unpretentious yet palatable, home-styled yet creative, urban yet affordable. The ethnic make up of these carts is diverse – a reflection of Portland’s culinary appreciation of international flavours. The result is a competitive food retail scene that effectively serves the lunchtime working class and free-spirited urbanite; and of course draws in the curious tourists big time. Dishes typically run around $6-$8 US dollars, a price tag which gratuitously leaves the hipsters a couple greens for a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer to wash down the food.

We spent the whole lunch hour there trying different cuisine. The less-than-traditional Korean Dak Gochujang
Bul- GoGi on rice was very inviting. The succulent chicken tossed in a sweet
and tangy sauce and stir-fried with onions and zucchinis, was served over a
generous portion of rice with a side of kim-chi and garden salad, family-style.
The dish proved to be more than filling, leaving me with some tasty leftovers
for afternoon snacking. Vietnamese rolls at a very reasonable price was not disappointing at all.

  But of course, no one would want to have the sampling task done halfway,
coming back for dinner was a mutual decision. Upon our return for dinner, I chose the Pad See Yew from “Thai Palace”. While the traditional version is served with   thick rice noodles, this dish came with unsual – large, uncut sheets of rice noodle, stir fried with beef and various veggies such as bean sprouts and broccoli; then fused together by a light savoury sauce. Another eye-catching item was the ‘Build your own burger’ which we decided to come back for but the authentic Vietnamese Spring Roll wrapped in
rice paper instead of egg-roll wrapper was a delicious surprise!

Unquestionably one of the more desired and robust scenes in Portland these days, a freshly-made and aromatic order from one of these carts is a definite must-try on your list of Oregon to-do items. Deciding what to eat may be difficult, whether it is Asian, American or other ethnic dishes, but from my own sampling and review, I am quite sure most of them deserve a taste or two.

 

 

Romantic Tenthouse Suites By The Sea

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Stephanie Yuen

(For original Chinese version please log onto:

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Summer is officially here. Too bad the sun still plays the hide-and-seek game with British Columbians.  Gloomy weekend calls for a relaxing indoor stay: play one or two board games, nibble on chocolates and snacks; and sip a glass or two of wine by the fire place…  And, if this happens to be inside the Tenthouse Suite at Rock Water Secret Cove Resort over atSunshineCoast, I can guarantee you the weekend will be as splendid as any sunny weekend spent under the golden ray.

Sunshine Coast, the name itself is already an invitation to having a good time! Could be a bonfire at the beach, camping by a river, a leisure afternoon by the pool, or perhaps a spa getaway in a luxurious resort. The 40-min only ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay validates the invitation, the very reason why Sunshine Coast has always been a hot vacation spot, more so during the summer months. 

Rock Water Secret Cove Resort, apparently a secret no more, happens to be a very popular holiday retreat for vacationers of all ages, and families too.  Activities such as boating, beachcombing and yoga at morn and dawn, swimming in the pool, hiking, biking, even take a water shuttle to the nearby Thormanby Island for an exploration are parts of the fun.  For those who want nothing but a relaxing holiday, simply stay in, read a book, listen to music or the waves, then walk over to the restaurant at mealtime.  The restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon Image

Located atSunshineCoast’sHalfMoonBay, the resort captures both the magnificent ocean view and the lush green and rustic hillside woodland.  Near the ocean front are cabins, poolside rooms, ocean view rooms, a gorgeously-designed swimming pool, the office and a gourmet restaurant. But it is the Boardwalk stretch leading to a dozen or so enchanting ‘Tenthouse Suites’ that is the highlight on the property.

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The Boardwalk composes of a wooded path curving along the hillside.  It looks like a nature trail decorated by breathtaking ocean view, trees and shrubs. The main purpose of this path is of course as the walkway to the Tenhouse Suites, but resort guests enjoy the picturesqe hike as part of the outdoor activities as well. Built amongst trees and slopes; and resembling royal Arabian tent dwellings, the very sturdy tenthouses with front porches are covered with off-white heavy-duty military canvas materials – fancy, unique and welcoming, these suites have been in high demands ever since they were erected. Image

Posh design, beddings and furnishing greet guests inside each tenthouse.  Equipped with bathroom and fireplace, the layout of the suite offers comfort and coziness. With starlit sky and dreamy rhythm of the waves, there is no other suite as romantic as these tenthouses. No wonder many newly-weds come here for their weddings, return for their anniversaries and getaways; others come here for their honeymoon and undisturbed holidays.  

Do make reservations, as early as you can please, especially during the wedding seasons.

http://www.rockwatersecretcoveresort.com