Premium Sake – Warm or cold?

Words: Henry Yuen   Pix: S. Yuen

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

Rashiko Daiginjo

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

Crispy cold sake for divine food pairing

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

 

Sake glasses

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

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

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

Sake Master Sato and gold winner

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

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

 

A shot or two of Mezcal – Mexican Elation

Mezcal wines

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

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

Each label tells a story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

authentic maxican gourmet

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

A different shape of Mezcal bottle

 

A $15 cup of coffee and a soggy sandwich

La Cuisson

Words and pix: S. Yuen

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

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

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

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

Blue Mountain coffee beans

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

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

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

 

 

BC Wine Industry Blooming with International Awards

bloom 2014 -4

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

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

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

bloom 2014 -2

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

http://winebc.com

http://missionhillwinery.com

http://joiefarm.com

http://haywirewinery.com

bloom 2014    Haywire-Canyonview-PN-2011-770x770Haywire-Canyonview-PN-2011-770x770

Mission Hill World's best Pinot Noir

The Rosé of Provence

VI-8

TP-060815Words: Henry Yuen

Pix: Vins de Provence

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

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

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

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

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

CONSO-120729-1-rosé

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

GV-0508 Rosé Verre 1

 

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

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

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

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

VEN-100915-63

 

When Food Truck Asian Fare met German wines

New generation appeal

Words & Pix: Stephanie Yuen (中文博客:http://taiyangbao.ca/food/374354/ )

They came all the way from Germany; and along with great wines, they also brought good news – the German wine industry has embarked on a new era!

At a recent “Generation Riesling” tasting lunch, their alluring Rieslings were not the only featured beauties, also presented was a passionate and young wine-makers Nadine Poss who happened to be the reigning German Wine Queen of 2013-2014! This ‘pageant queen’ was there to describe each wine poured and her wine knowledge was as impressive as her charm.

The 'queen'

Apparently, a new generation of young, passionate and innovative winemakers are transforming German’s wine world.  They are not only bringing in new energies, they are making much more noises and turning heads on global wine stages! What they are doing is obviously endorsed by the wine world of Germany at large. It would be interesting, however, to find out what the courses have been like, challenging perhaps, but the outcome has been ravishing for sure!          Gen Riseling 1

An Asian-themed lunch was served. Two brand-named food trucks: Roaming Dragon and Vij’s Railway Express parked right outside the venue and were turning out small plates in their limited mobile kitchen while the waiting staff strode in and out constantly to bring the plates inside to serve the 50 or so eagerly awaiting guest. Regrettably, no matter how fast and efficient the food truck operators and the staff were, majority of the small plates of food arrived less than hot (temperature). I admit pairing wine with food truck fares is cool and fun, but is it practical and as functional? What is more important here; the wine or the food?

Asian cuisine, especially spicy fares do go well with German Rieslings, but pairing with red wines, any red, has been a different story all along, thanks to the complex of flavour and texture profiles of Asian cooking. Let me reassure you though; the availability of thousands of Asian dishes, traditional or fused, makes the task very doable, provided the right menu choices and logistics were executed!

A total of 10 wines were poured.  The plate made up of two main were served with two Pinot Noirs at the end.  Overpowered by both the spicy “Curry breaded chicken breast” and the Lucknow lamb kebabs, the reds became silent. Sorry to say this, but the limitation of the equipment and facility food truck operators have to face often mean the temperature and texture delivered to our table would be compromises. Why the chicken had to be breaded and the lamb skewered was beyond me, since serving a luncheon party of this size presented enough challenges, and Asians do cook the curry in pots and lambs in chunks. Yes, I’m being picky and fussy here, but we all know how important food quality plays when it involved wine-pairing.

Spicy food & red may crashDon’t get me wrong, I embrace the food trucks who work so hard in the harsh Vancouver market with full respect, but with wine being the main focus, I’d have gone the easier way – go to an S.E. Asian restaurant so the focus would indeed be on the wine, not the food catered by the food trucks.     Reisling & Dimsum

The whites were, on the other hand, fabulous! The three whites I loved most that afternoon were:

Weingut Heitlinger 2008 (Blanc de Noir Sparkling) – Make sure you have a bottle or two chilled away in the fridge – it’s BBQ and patio season after all! This creamy, dry and refreshing Black de Noir bubble Sparking is sensually delicious!

Willems Hofmann 2013 Silvaner – One of the most-planted German white grapes, Silvaner’s tropical, juicy and capturing flavour goes well with a sizzling oyster cooked on the grill, yam fries and chili-peppered chicken wings.

Moselland 2013 Riesling Mosellschild Feinherb  - Feinherb is perhaps the new word for “halbtrocken” which refers to off dry or half-dry white wines. Sweet hints of apple and Asian pear with a touch of honeydew give this Riesling the breezy summery notes.

For more information: http://31daysgermanriesling.ca

Tormaresca

tormeresca vineyardsWords: Henry Yuen
(Chinese version: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans )
My exposure to Italian wines is quite limited and admittedly, so is my knowledge. Other than Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio, there are not many Italian varietals that I am familiar with.

I have heard of popular wine regions such as Tuscany and Piedmont but have scant knowledge of other wine-producing regions, let alone their appellations and geographic systems. Yes, I have been to Rome and Florence but not much was picked up as far as wine was concerned since it was not a wine focus tour, I did fortunately enjoy numerous glasses of fine Italian wines during the trip. When the opportunity to have a close-up wine tasting dinner with, Vito Plaumbo, the export manager of Tormaresca arose, I jump at the chance.

Tormaresca has two estate vineyards in Puglia located at the “heel” of Italy in the southeastern part of the country and is a fast rowing wine region with lots of potential to produce quality wines. It  has been a prolific region known for its strong agricultural background therefore not exactly a new wine region and is slowly gaining global recognition. Besides native varietals such as Primitivo and Negroamaro, Tormarseca also focuses on non-native varietals such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon that flourish in the terroir of the area.

Tormaresca Chardonnay
Being one of the estate wineries belonging to the Antinori family, Tormaresca has good DNA. Established in 1998, Tormaresca is following the path of Antinori to produce superior quality wines with sound viticulture practices. The result is delicious wines with affordable price points that wine lovers in Canada will soon take notice.
The Chardonnay 2012 Puglia I.G.T. is a 100 % Chardonnay harvested from both vineyards. 100% stainless steel fermentation means no oak influence that brings forward a crisp, slight minerality and refreshing mouth feel with good citrus and melon aroma with a juicy finish. At $12.99 it will be a hit once becomes widely available when off the spec list.

The Neprica 2011 Puglia I.G.T. is a medium bodied blend of Primitivo, Negroamaro and Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of juicy, dry prune aroma and a touch of earthiness makes this an easy and lively sipper. Once again, the stainless steel tank treatment prevents any oak influence but the finish is a smooth one. At $13.99, there is every reason to like this wine. These two wines paired surprisingly well with the antipasto served at Nicli Antica Pizzeria in Gastown.
The next wine is the Torcicoda 2010 at $26.99. A 100% Primotivo, this organic wine is full-bodied due to its 8 to 10 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels. Harvested with good ripeness thanks to the warm summer, it attacks the nose with lots of cherry and hints of mint and herbs in the aroma. On the palate are elegant black fruit and a bit of cocoa in the end. This is a true representation of the terroir of the Salento appellation.

Tormaresca Neil, Henry, Gloria
As more delicious pizza is served, so are more wine. The next up Trentangeli 2010 (available at BCLDB for $19.99 ) is a 65% Aglianico, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah with 10 months in oak and another 9 months bottle aging. The result is a full-bodied wine with silky richness that lingers on the palate. It’s a great wine to pair with not only Italian dishes but a wide variety of other cuisines.

Tormaresca Neprica

To further understand the wine-making philosophy of Tormaresca, the Bocca di Lupo 2008 is served. 100% Aglianico, this luscious, earthy wine is fused with minty aroma and layered of ripened fruit and a hint of chocolate on the finish. A great wine with cellaring potential for sure but at the same time, it is a challenge to resist drinking it right away. A medium-bodied Masseria Maime 2010 is the last wine of the evening. This wine is 100% Negroamaro with 12 months in French oak featuring lovely tannins and good acidity laced with submissive sweetness and dry prune and berries aroma.
Tormaresca may not be Tuscan or Piedmont appellation wines but does deserve wine lovers’ close attention since Antinori puts a lot of faith on this up and coming wine region of Puglia.

A pot of comfort food

A claybpot of milky fish soup

Words & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

If you come into my kitchen, the first thing you’ll notice is a large clay pot.  As a matter of fact, the 15-quart drum-like clay pot is sitting on the stove top, loaded with simmering creamy chicken congee and emitting warm and ravishing aroma right now.  The congee, which takes about 2 hours to perfect, will be served with Chinese donut sticks, chopped green onion and cilantro, along with a platter of wok-fried pork and mushroom vermicelli for our family brunch today. Around the table the family will gather to indulge in a simple but healthy homey meal while sharing laughter and events of past week. This is a regular weekend scene in the Yuen’s household and, I am quite sure, in many other Asian households as well.crab & fish maw soup

The same pot is also used for making specialty soups made with certain herbs, vegetables and meat ingredients. Known as ‘Lo-For Tong’ (Long-boiled soup) that requires few hours of simmering, different ingredients are combined to provide different holistic needs human bodies require due to climatic changes and what life throws at us from time to time. Summer heat? Caught a bug?  Not sleeping well? Overworked? Feeling weak?  There is a pot of soup for that!      braised whole papaya soup

According to traditional Chinese medicinal studies, the well-being of our bodies rely largely on the well balance of energy and strong blood flow. A healthy yin and yang equation can be garnered by consuming the right food at the right time.  Our bodies need a break from heavy eating and senseless consumption of junk food, alcohol and other substances regularly. Chinese believe wholesome soups or congees not only induced healthy effects into the body, it also helps cleanse the internal system and replenish vital energy loss which often are the reasons behind immune deficiency.

Quite a few Chinese restaurants here in Vancouver are known for their gourmet Lo-For Tong as a lure to attract diners. Do not let the remedial functions of these soups stop you from trying; they are guaranteed to be more delicious than most of the soup broth you’ve tasted. Besides seafood, lean meats and soup bones, goji berries, dried longan nuts, honey dates, even papayas and pears play an important role in the pot of soup. So go ahead, take a sip!

For those who want to make a pot or two at home and have no clue what get or do, T&T Supermarket and other Asian super stores offer lo-for soup ingredients already packaged for you to take home. Go to the meat cooler section or ask a store clerk to show you.

 

 

Sunshine and BBQ with wine

June has always been weather-finicky, but when the sun comes out, it’s all about roof top, patio, beach and BBQ! Recent wine-tasting events brought my attention to a few new-releases I quite enjoyed. BBQ is more than burgers and hot-dogs and these wines will be great sippers under the sun.

Joie - pinot blanc & roseJoieFarm new releases

Just celebrated their 10 year anniversary, JoieFarm wines have been my favourites over the years and it is the consistency that wins me over. Sure they have garnered quite a few awards, Gold, Silver, Bronze etc. but that’s not the main point here. What is important is that their wines are always good, awards or not; and that I have yet to be disappointed. The style is fresh, lively with a bit of Burgundy style and expresses the terroir of the various vineyards and Joie’s very own portfolio very well. A great amount of work is done in the vineyards even though the winemaking team of Heidi Noble and Robert Thielicke brings local and international experience and knowledge to the table. The front of the house under Michael Dinn ensures everything else is in the right hands. Their 2013 & 2011 whites have just been released followed by the 2011 Reds. The whites include Riesling 2013, Pinot Blanc 2013, Rose 2013 and the ever popular Noble Blend 2013. The 2011 line-ups are Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. The reds include Gamay 2011, Pinot Noir 2011 and the PTG 2011 plus the Reserve wines. All are ready to drink and available at most private wine stores and restaurant establishments since the production is around 15,000 cases. It’s worth the while to find them and if you do, grab them! JoieFarm.com would be the best place to locate the outlets around town.

InceptionInception 2012

“Inception”2012 is a blend of 81% Shiraz, 10% Petit Verdot and 9% Mourvedre sourced from vineyards in the Western Cape region in South Africa. At $14.99, the price point is afforded by most consumers and for restaurants looking for a drinkable, fun and not-too-hefty wine on their wine list. This wine certainly fits the bill for fruit forward, pleasant and good value. The entry is full of berries and plum and a bit of sweetness. On the nose, you will find a hit of mint and herb with a slight touch of smokiness (12 to 14 months in oak barrel) and medium-bodied to round out the finish. It’s definitely a delightful sip for everyday and for the barbecue and patio. It’s availability at BC Liquor stores makes it easily accessible.

 

 

Anciano Tempranillo Grand Reserva

A Spanish Tempranillo with Old World charm. This wine is aged 10 years in cellar before releasing. Luscious with typical Spanish Tempranillo characteristics, the deep-layered and full-bodied with berries and dark fruit concentration is indeed delightful with BBQ ribs and steaks. It has smooth tannins due to the length of aging, especially 24 months in oak barrels, and a soft palate to round off in the mouth. The 100% Tempranillo from the Valdepenas DO in the south central of Spain enjoys the higher altitude with warm days and cool nights resulting in ripened fruits with adequate concentration to balance the tannins. Produced by Bodega Navalon, the Anciano Tempranillo Grand Reserve is ready to drink now even though cellaring for another 5 years would elevate its prime. At a price point in the $15 range, it’s another excellent value wine where one can enjoy the Old World grace while not breaking the bank.   Anciano Tempranillo

 

C.C. Jentsch Cellars – The Chase 2012

The new kid in the Okanagan Valley is The Chase 2012 from C.C. Jentsch Cellars. While new to wine making, the family has been fruit grower since 1929 who decided to switch to vines in 2002, amassing tremendous amount of experience in producing premium fruits essential for crafting good wines. They have 63 acres in the Golden Mile Bench and smaller plots in the other area around Okanagan. The Chase 2012 is a Bordeaux style red wine with 35% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 7.5% Malbec. The result is a well-balanced medium-bodied wine with enough fruits upon entry. Black berries and dry plum sensation is prominent to attract attention. A bit of spice and toastiness on the mouth feel to appreciate the round tannins. Good to drink now but will show well for another 5 years or so. A wine at $19.99, it is a well-crafted Okanagan Valley product worth bringing home.      cc. JENTSCH CELLARS

 

An afternoon with burgers and sliders

Words: Stephanie Yuen (Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/359591/

The receipt of Vanfoodster Richard Wolak’s invitation to one of his recent Tasting Plates events to spend one afternoon with numerous burgers prompted two reactions. Henry’s was “Awesome, let’s do it!” Mine was “Huh? Burgers”?

Anyone could tell I am not too enthusiastic about burgers, for simple reasons: Ground meat is off-beat and boring. Burgers is so uniformed. My hands are too small to hold and eat burgers without making a big mess.

Good old Richard assured me these were sliders (mini-burgers) with special touches. In another word, they would all be gourmet burgers.  Why mini burgers are called sliders is beyond me, may be they are small enough to ‘slide’ into the mouth?  Nevertheless, I had to admit, this afternoon of burger adventure proved to be quite an eye-opener.

We started late and due to the participating eateries spreading from Gastown to Denman, we only had enough time to taste 4 burgers. This worked to our advantage – it gave my stomach a break in between burgers and gave Henry a refreshed­ palate for the next pint of beer.

Milestone's burger

First stop: Milstones Robson.

The “Stacked Burger” was a classic: The cute skewer of cherry tomato and pickle added vivid colour to the stack. Moist and fluffy were the juicy patties with perfect thickness. I felt in love with the crunchy Tuna Taco which was definitely a pleasant surprise. Bravo to the chef who went out of the way to create something unique and so tasty!

Henry loved the King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizen from How Sound Brewery. “Perfect drink for burgers and tacos!” was his cheerful comment.

King Heffy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up was Yagger’s Downtown (Pender Street)

We had the choice of: Yagger’s Famous Cowburger OR Housemade Chorizo Burger. Since there were two of us, we naturally ordered one of each. The existence of both organic beef & pork in one patty in the cowburger was not unusual, but interesting. The double smoked bacon and aged white cheddar would be forever enticing; with chipotle peppers and peppercorn mayo, the burger scored even higher.  The “kick” inside the ground chorizo & beef patty was very engaging and was an excellent partner with cold beer. Once again, my palate loved the side dish “Mac & Not So Blue Cheese” white cheddar& gorgonzola cream sauce on jumbo mac noodles and smartly garnished with fresh bruschetta.

Yagger's two burgers

3rd Stop: The Bismarck Bar

Bismarck Chorizo Prawn Slider applied top ingredients generously, that included using brioche buns, combined to offer layers of flavour and a truly gourmet profile.  Being close to Roger’s Stadium, the Crunchy and extremely flavourful Stadium Fries that came with the slider were the first to disappear.  Classic burger & fries

Last stop: Buckstop Denman

Henry and I both agreed, their Venison burgers stuffed with blue cheese, mushrooms and horseradish aioli was a show stopper.  Two slices of tender loins of venison, not ground, told me 1/ Not all burger meats are minced. 2/ Burgers can be as tasty as any other well-prepared dish. Who knew blue cheese and venison loins are merry couples? The bowl of warm and crispy house-made potato chips was all so seductive, I had to warm myself 8 times to pull to a full stop! Oh, the running-out meter helped too!

Venison burger platter

 

Our sincere apology to the ones that we missed:

Kobob Burger – Mini Bulgogi (Marinated pork with veggies) rice burger, served with a piece of Korean pancake and Kimchi.

DeeBee’s Organics at Whole Foods that offered choices of one of the flavoured Teapops: Berries and Cherries, Minty Mint, Southern Iced Tea, Tropical Mango and Toasted Coconut.