Finding good value wines

IMG_5455Words: Henry Yuen

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

Any way you look at it, wine prices in B.C. are higher than most other places. Chalk it up to the taxes involved and the way wine distribution is managed in this province. Having said that, let it be known the theory is that your purchase of wine is contributing to the government coffers to support health care, education, transportation…etc. directly or indirectly. So every bottle you drink, you are helping out in some way, perhaps this will make you feel better! In spite of that, there is no reason why the effort of finding good value wines should be diminished. The satisfaction in finding wines is when the price to value ratio is high, given that fact that there is a host of reasons why sometimes wine price is not a good judge of the quality. Higher price tag doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is higher in ratio.

The upcoming Vancouver International Wine Festival has an event on March 01 called 25 under $25 where you can taste 25 very good wines all priced at under $25. Here is the list of the wines that wouldn’t go wrong in any occasion:

Domaine Bousquet Malbec Organic 2012

Peter Lehmann Wines Layers Red 2011

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2012

Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Pinot Blanc 2012

Burrowing Owl Winery Chardonnay 2011

Haywire The Bub Traditional Method Sparkling Wine 2012

Hester Creek Estate Winery Character Red VQA 2012

Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery Single Vineyard Carmenère 2011

Famille Bougrier Vouvray AOC -Famille Bougrier 2012

Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé

Marrenon Classique Luberon Rosé 2012

Ogier Côtes du Rhône Heritages Blanc 2012

Domaines Paul Mas Estate Malbec 2011

Pfaffenheim Pinot Gris 2012

Cave de Rasteau La Domelière 2011

Fontanafredda Barbera Piemonte “Briccotondo” DOC 2012

MASI Agricola S.p.A. Masianco 2012

Vini Tonon Villa Teresa Organic Rose Frizzante

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Ramos Pinto Douro Vinho Tinto Duas Quintas Red 2010

Nederburg Manor House Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Bodegas Castaño Hecula 2011

Nathalie Bonhomme El Petit Bonhomme Blanco 2012

Concannon Vineyard Conservancy Petite Sirah 2009

West Coast Wine Partners Lake Sonoma Russian River Chardonnay 2012

Perez Cruz CS

There are others worthy of consideration in the price range of around $25.  Most will be available at government liquor stores but some will need to be purchased from private wine shops or VQA stores.  Due to the costly underlying fees, some wineries cannot afford listing wine at government liquor stores, hence the limitation on released quantity. All better for making the wine shopping exercise more adventurous and finding good-valued wines more exciting!

While I will report on VIWF list after the tasting event, here are my favourites from a series of recent wine tastings:

Sumac Ridge Steller Jay Brut

Summerhill Cipes Brut

Oak Bay Vineyard Gewurztraminer

Haywire Pinot Gris

Bodega Norton Privada

Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon

Valle Las Acequias Malbec

Coyam – Emiliana Colchagua Orgainc

Sideral – Altair Rapel Valley

Concha Y Toro Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon

Santa Rita Medalla Real Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon

Edge North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Prices and availability do vary a bit depending on location of purchase, vintages or stocks on hand. However, these fit in nicely my personal taste profile and some wouldn’t hurt cellaring a year or two before uncorking them. Cheers!

2011 haywire PN     Summerhill Cipes

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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Stephanie celebrates Lunar New Year on TV – Recipes

S. Yuen recipe dish - crispy vermicelliWords & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

Jan 28 (Tuesday) Global News Noon

Pan-fried vermicelli, shiitake mushroom & bean sprouts with Kalbi Sauce (Gold & silver noodle)

Recipe:

1 pkg 300 gms Taiwanese dried vermicelli

6 pcs T&T brand shiitake mushroom

8 oz. bean sprouts

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

¼ carrot, skinned and julienned

3 slices of ginger; leave skin on

2 cloves of garlic; crushed and remove skin

3 Tbsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinate Sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp sea salt

2 stalks green onions, into 2 inch julienne

Preparation:

-Soak vermicelli in cold water for at least 60 minutes, transfer to large drainer and let dry 10 minutes before cooking time.  Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cross cut the noodles a few times.

-Rinse mushroom well, hot water for at least 30 minutes or until softened

-Rinse bean sprouts and let dry in a drainer

Method:

Remove mushroom and squeeze off excess water, cut off stems and julienne. Keep 3 Tbsp of mushroom water and discard the rest.

Heat wok on high heat, add oil. Place ginger and garlic in oil, sizzle for 10 seconds, add mushroom, stir and cook for 2 minutes, add in bean sprouts and carrot. Stir and cook for another minute.

Add vermicelli, mix well. Add in all seasonings and mushroom water, stir and mix well. Cover and cook for 3 – 5 minutes. Add green onions. Ready to serve.

 

Jan 29 (Wednesday) CTV Morning – 8:40am

1/ Pan-fried Nian-gao (New Year cake) with shrimps and spinach, seasoned with Kalbi sauce.

Recipe:

2 cups of water

6 slices of ginger; leave skin on

8 oz. shelled shrimps

¼ tsp sea salt

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves of garlic; crushed and remove skin

1 pkg. 300 gm Nian-gao

3 Tbsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinate Sauce

1 tsp chili bean sauce

1 tsp oyster sauce

1 tsp sugar

8 oz. spinach, cut in halves

Method

Place 3 cups of water and 3 slices of ginger a small pot; bring to a full boil. Add shrimps and ¼ tsp sea salt. Cook for 30 seconds or when shrimps turn orange-red. Scoop shrimps into an icy bath. Drain and let dry when cold to the touch.

Heat oil in wok on high;  add remaining ginger and garlic, sizzle for few seconds. Add in Nian-gao. Stir and mix well, add in all seasonings. Stir and pan-fry for 2 minutes. Add in mushroom water, stir in spinach.  Mix and cook for another minute;  ready to serve.

2/ 10 mulit-grain rice pudding with coconut-milk (Sweet & harmony) garnished with  dried mango

Recipe:

Makes 4 bowls

½ cup T&T brand 10 multi-grain rice

1½ cup water

4 Tbsp brown sugar (more can be added as desired)

½ cup T&T brand coconut milk

4 slices T&T brand Philippine dried mango, thinly sliced.

Method:

Place rice in a medium stock pot, rinse 3 times and drained. Add 1½ cup water and bring to a boil on high, covered. Remove lid and stir the rice. Reduce heat to medium low, cook for 5 minutes, covered. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 – 8 minutes or until water is almost all gone. Add sugar and coconut milk, mix well. Cover and simmer for 1 minute. Scoop into 4 even bowls; add mango slices on top, ready to serve.

Jan 30 (Thursday)  CTV Noon News

Dish: Dumplings with Kalbi dipping sauce (Pan-fried or steamed)

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 pkg Frozen Chinese dumplings (your choice of stuffing) – keep frozen until cooking time

½ cup water

Method:

Place wok or pan on high heat. Add oil. Place dumplings in wok; bottoms down. When all dumplings are  in; cook for another 30 seconds. Empty water into wok, cover and cook for 4 – 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium, cook for another 2 minutes. Check for doneness by poking a sharp knife into a dumpling, if juice comes out clear, turn off heat. Serve with dipping sauce.

Veg dumpling

Kalbi Dipping Sauce Recipe (This can be cooked ahead of time)

¼ cup T&T Korean Kalbi Marinate sauce

2 Tbsp Chinese dark vinegar

1 tsp garlic chili bean sauce (optional)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp chopped ginger

Place all ingredients in a small pot, bring to a boil and serve in a bowl.

 

Jan 31 (Friday) The Rush on Shaw TV

Broiled dumplings in T&T brand chicken stock, seasoned with Kalbi sauce, garnished with julienned T&T brand shiitake mushroom, chopped green onion & cilantro.

Recipe: Serves 2

6 cups of water for boiling the dumplings

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 pkg T&T brand dumplings

1 can T&T brand chicken stock

½ cup water

3 pcs T&T brand Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, stem removed and julienned, keep mushroom water.

1 stalk green onions, chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro  

1 tsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinade Sauce

Salt & white ground pepper to taste

Method:

Add 6 cups of water to a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Add oil. Place dumplings in the pot, cover and cook on high heat and bring to a boil. Remove lid and cook for another 5 – 8 minutes or until they are cooked through.

While waiting for the dumplings to be cooked, put chicken stock, ½ cup of water,  mushroom and mushroom water into a pot, bring to a boil on high, reduce to simmer.

When dumplings are ready; scoop 10 each into 2 large bowls. Distribute green onion, cilantro and Kalbi sauce evenly into each bowl. Using a slotted ladle, transfer dumplings into the bowls.  Bring soup to a light boil on high, ladle into the bowl and serve.

 

A Chinese New Year Feast prepared by T&T

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Words & pix: Stephanie Yuen (http://taiyangbao.ca/food/311675/?variant=zh-hans )

Want to find out what the Imperial Emperor’s Chinese New Year dinners were like? No need to go to China, just head to T&T!

T&T has been doing a fine job when it comes to celebrating Asian festivals, especially Chinese New Year, which is just around the corner – Jan 31! As the Year of the Horse approaches, what greets you at T&T is a sea of red and gold.  Aisles lined with arrays of New Year goodies attract extra flows of traffics, even my non-Chinese friends are drawn in by that robust and joyous atmosphere.

IMG_6045Fares of all kinds: Savouries, sweets, nuts and seeds, ready to be popped into eager mouths; all bears auspicious meanings to render positive energies to this significant celebration. Their take-out Chinese New Year dishes are so well-received; the kitchen team at T&T has been working hard to come up with a more engaging menu.   Hence this year, the most eye-catching display is awarded to Imperial Chinese New Year dishes; designed and prepared by Chef Ge Fen, T&T’s very own culinary master leading their central kitchen. He delivers not only the divine flavours enjoyed by the emperor and his royal family, but the authenticity and blessings of traditional Chinese New Year gourmet!IMG_6037

In the large clay pot is layers of delicacies including abalone, sea cucumber and large shiitake mushrooms. Over there is a tea-smoked Fraser Valley goose, accompanied by fluffy buns.  Behind the goose is a poached to perfection whole chicken, complete with head, tail and a red sash for extra good luck.  The double-cooked and slow-steamed Pork Belly with fresh bamboo shoots glitter with shiny and seductive colour. In the other pot is the famous and very healthy herb and ginseng chicken soup which I tried and loved.  I also tasted the pot of Japanese meets Taiwanese pot of sticky rice topped with grilled eel.  And of course, everyone must have a little, no matter how full – the traditional round and steamed New Year cake for dessert.IMG_6040

Do not just adore the big and obvious platters; do take a look at the fine details Chef Ge attends to. What about the cone-shaped fluffy steamed buns? Those who’ve enjoyed the hot to the touch 6” steamed ‘Long John’ style white buns consist of soft strands known as “yin-zhee-juen” in Mandarin restaurants will find themselves biting into the same delectation – cushion- soft, silky, aromatic and reach-for-the-second buns.

All these imperial dishes are yours to take home, complete with re-heating instruction, so you can stay at home to enjoy a gourmet multi-course Chinese New Year dinner with your loved ones, but without the hassle of chopping and cooking!  Do phone in ahead to order so T&T can prepare them accordingly.

Happy ‘Year of the Horse’ to you all!

Wine Fest and More – You’re invited!

International wine fest 2013 David Niddrie pix

1)     VIWF Salutes French and Sparkling wines

The 36th Vancouver International Wine Festival, running from February 24, 2014 to March 02, 2014  will have 54 events of food and wine spreading out into 7 days. The theme for this year is France and the focus – Sparkling wines!

Total of 178 wineries from 14 countries will be participating and pouring over 1,000 wines at the general tasting session. 9 wine regions from France will be showcasing their wines. Come mingle with the vine stars and some of the city’s exciting chefs:

Theme Country Vine Stars: France

Michel Chapoutier, Winemaker, M. Chapoutier

Meet Michel Chapoutier in: Rhône Perfection: M. Chapoutier; Wine Tour de France; Meet Your Match; Insatiable Rhône      (at   Hawksworth restaurant, with chef David Hawksworth)

Etienne Hugel, Proprietor, Hugel et Fils
Meet Etienne Hugel in: What’s Trending in France? Masterclass; Iconic French Wines; France: Find Your Style

Thomas Perrin, Owner, Famille Perrin
Meet Thomas Perrin in: The Birthplace of Terroir masterclass; Iconic French Wines; 11th Annual Awards Lunch; Meet Your Match; Salut   Château Beaucastel (at Bistro Pastis with proprietor John Blakeley)

Sigfried Pic, International Export Director, Maison Louis Jadot
Meet Sigfried Pic in: Wine 305: Advanced Burgundy; The Birthplace of Terroir masterclass; Iconic French Wines; We Say Bourgogne;   France: Find Your Style; Nothing But Burgundy (at Le Crocodile with chef Michel Jacob)

Christian Seely, Managing Director, AXA Millésimes; President, Compagnie Médocaine
Meet Christian Seely in: Renaissance of a Top Château

Clovis Taittinger, Export Manager/Family Member, Champagne Taittinger
Meet Clovis Taittinger in: Wine Tour de France; All about Bubbly!Iconic French Wines; L’Instant Taittinger (at West with chef Quang Dang)

Philippe Zinck, Winemaker/Proprietor, Domaine Zinck Vins d’Alsace
Meet Philippe Zinck in: The Birthplace of Terroir masterclass; Wine Tour de France; France Bubbly Party

Rest of the World Vine Stars

Joe Giusti, Owner, Giusti Prosecco
Meet Joe Giusti in: All About Bubbly!

Matt Mavety, Winemaker, Blue Mountain
Meet Matt Mavety in: All About Bubbly!; 25 Under $25

Jak Meyer, Proprietor/Winemaker, Meyer Family Vineyards
Meet Jak Meyer in: Meet Your Match; Meyer Family Feast (at Brix   with chef Chris Bisaro); BC Paired: Indulge Your Senses

Barone Francesco Ricasoli, President, Barone Ricasoli
Meet Barone Francesco Ricasoli in: The Essence of Chianti winery   dinner (at Siena with owner Mark Taylor and chef      Jessica Howery); Dine Italia lunch (at La Terrazza with chef Gennaro Iorio); Excitement in a Glass

2013 wine festival glimpse

Besides general tasting, seminars, wine pairing dinners and luncheons events, new to this year’s wine festival are:

1. additional March 01 Saturday afternoon 3pm to 5pm general tasting session guarantee 30% less attendance so its easier to get to the booths.

2. 1 free ticket to the general tasting session if you book 1 night at one of 37 downtown hotels room through bevancouver.com or 2 tickets if book 2 nights.

Get your tickets early to avoid disappointment! For further information and tickets, please check out http://vanwinefest.ca

1)     Dinners with Sonoma County Vintners in Vancouver

Two exceptional Sonoma County winemaker dinners in   Vancouver.  Hurry up and get your   tickets as space is limited!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reception 6:30, Dinner 7:00

1/ Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar will   feature the wines of Sonoma County’s Siduri Wines and Novy Family   Wines, hosted by Siduri Proprietor Adam Lee. Blue Water’s Executive Chef,   Frank Pabst, will prepare a special four-course dinner menu to match the   wines.

1095 Hamilton Street, Vancouver

Tickets are $165 including taxes   and gratuities: purchase yours by calling 604-688-8078.

2/ Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar will showcase Rodney   Strong Vineyards, Wine Enthusiast’s 2013 American Winery of the Year. The   Sonoma County region winery’s top wines will be presented by Winemaker Rick   Sayre and paired with an unforgettable four-course dinner plus reception. The   main course will feature three of Rodney Strong’s award winning single   vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons.

1138 Homer Street, Vancouver

Tickets are $110 plus taxes and   gratuities: purchase yours by calling 604-915-9463.

Sonoma County

Sonoma in the City Wine Tasting Event

February 5th, the Sonoma in the City event will give Vancouverites a taste of the region’s quality and diversity, with more than 20 wineries and their principals pouring classic California varietals as well   as some pleasant surprises.

List of participating wineries:

  • Davis Bynum
  • Dry Creek Vineyard
  • Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery
  • Foppiano Vineyards
  • Francis Ford Coppola Winery
  • J Vineyards & Winery
  • Jordan
  • Kendall-Jackson
  • Kosta Browne Winery
  • Kunde Family Estate
  • Laurel Glen Vineyard
  • MacRostie Winery and Vineyards
  • Novy Family Wines
  • Paul Hobbs Winery
  • Pedroncelli Winery
  • Red Car Wines
  • Rodney Strong Wine Estates
  • Schug Carneros Estate Winery
  • Seghesio
  • Siduri Winery
  • Thomas George

 

Dine Out Galore

Henry & Stephanie Yuen (Chinese blog – http://taiyangbao.ca/food/304664/?variant=zj-hans  )

No matter if you’re a foodie or not, you’ve got to know about “Dine Out Vancouver”! Being in its 12th year, the chance of you hanging out with friends or families in one or more of the Dine Out participating restaurants during the 15 days of Dine Out in past years should be pretty high.

The fact is, from 40+ restaurants to the astounding number of 263 today, and that media from as far as Britain is discovering how successful “Dine Out Vancouver” has been, and with the price tags of $18, $28 and $38 for a 3-course meal, we Vancouverites should be supporting this wonderful food & wine event. Besides choosing and dining in any one or two or more of the 263 restaurants, there’re dozens of fun-filled events which are hosted by some of the city’s who’s who characters. For instance, our very own Man About Town Fred Lee (CBC & The Province) will be conducting The Grape Debate 2014 on Friday, Jan 31 at the Vancouver Public Library. $38 gets you into the Debate, followed by wine tasting presented by Alumni UBC and the Wine of British Columbia.????????????????????????

We urge you to log onto http://dineoutvancouver.com , check out the list of restaurants from each group and the different events taking place between Jan 17 to Feb 02, and book your seats ASAP! Don’t forget to find out how you can win prizes – what about ‘Dine Out For a Year Contest?

We started riding the Dine Out waves by previewing these three restaurants.

A)   Roma BurgerYaletown, W. 4th,  River District$18  and  $28

Located in three different areas with distinctly different backdrops, you may feel like the three Roma Burgers are not related.  Well, their settings and ambiance do vary, but they’re offering the same Dine Out menu.  There are plenty mains to choose from for non-burger fans; such as the Fish and Chips and a Quinoa Burger for vegetarian which is amazingly delicious and well-structured! But I guarantee you will fall in love with those appetizers and salads. No one says you cannot share your fries, the wings and of course, keep those mini donuts to yourself!

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Drinks:  The mellow and fruity Prospect Winery Major Allen Merlot will not disappoint any wine sippers. Juicy, lengthy with subtle woody aroma, it does go well with the dripping burgers.  Most of the white wines are from our own backyard, plus a good selection of easy to please wine on taps. Craft beer fans can take a look at the black board for choices.

Our $18 recommendations:

The Fish Shack

Hapa Izakaya – Kitsilano

Luke’s Corner Bar & Kitchen

Memphis Blues

Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts – Bistro 101

Trattoria Italian Kitchen

       B. The Parker  $28

Another non-orthodox vegetarian restaurant in town whose slogan of ‘sustainable & sexy’ put them on the list of 2013’s new ‘hot spot’ in town.  Of course, Executive Chef Curtis Luk’s partake in the last Top Chef Canada had already given them the edge.  Everyone loves the fresh, local ingredients Luk sources and applies brilliantly.

 

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The plates are so beautiful, the flavour and textures so rich, the execution in fine details, so please do not consume them in a flash,  take the Cauliflower appetizer as a great example – do enjoy with your eyes and noses first, than indulge – you may easily forget what you’re eating are non-meat dishes. IMG_5969

Drinks: Out of the 4-page menu, only 1+1/3 belongs to the food section, the remaining spaces are all about cocktails and wines, a strong indication of how much attention is given to making sure diners enjoy their liquid food as much.  Cocktails with fun or fancy names are very tempting, but we found the Liquidity white, a BC Okanagan blend to be quite a palate-pleaser. Floral and refreshing, this  will pair well with most of Chef Luk’s vegetarian creation.

Our $28 recommendations:

Cactus Club Café (Bentall, English Bay, Park Royal, Yaletown)

Café Pacifica (Pan Pacific Hotel)

Campagnolo

Cibo Trattoria

Forage (Robson)

The Italian Kitchen (Alberni)

Le Parisien

Provence

Pastis

Pier 73

Siena

Tap & Barrel (Coal Harbour, Olympic Village)

C. Wildebeest  $38

Located on Hastings in the Gastown district, Wildebeest interprets the ‘wild’ in its name artfully.  Daringly created dishes served communal style put the restaurant onto the honour roll. It did not take long at all for Wildebeest to develop its very own image and secured its luring power.IMG_5972

From a simple salad such as the Wildebeest Salad with crunchy apple, winter herbs and frozen mascarpone; the Lamb Tartare dressed with heritage onions, horseradish emulsion and mustard seed gastrique; to the Roasted Chick’etta’ with winter squash and black garlic vinaigrette, the dining process is a sensational experience. Please note: Dine Out menus are individual plates.

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Drinks: Wildebeest offers an extensive wine list, including a couple of Junmai Sake. We thoroughly enjoyed what went into our glasses: Wildebeest’s own label wines, a red (Gamay & pinot Noir) and a white (Riesling, Gerwurztraminer & Pinot Gris) blend that match Chef Wes Young’s cooking style and food profile nicely.  A diligent collaboration with Road 13 Winery resulted in 50 cases of each blend. By the look of the crowds in the dining room, it won’t take long for Wildebeest to consider another new batch.

Our $38 recommendations.

Coast Restaurant

DIVA at the Met

Five Sails Restaurant

Hart House

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House

The Keg

L’Abattoir

Pidget

Yew Restaurant + Bar (Four Seasons Hotel)

 

 

 

Cipes Rosé Sparkling – Top 10 of the World!

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

How are you going to celebrate the arrival of 2014?

No matter how 2013 was for you, you will be looking forward to better, if not great things in 2014! There might have been ups and downs throughout the year but the good news is, there’s always a fabulous way to end 2013 with a bang! Guess what, you can do your count down celebration with a world class award winning sparkling wine that you can call your own – the Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Rosé Sparkling – a beautiful British Columbia sparkling that has just been awarded a gold medal at the Effervescents du Monde sparkling wine competition in Burgundy, France! Not only that, this Sparkling Rosé has been named one of the top 10 in the world! And, of the 46 gold medal awarded, the Summerhill Cipes Rosé is the one and only one from North America to win a medal, let alone making it to the top 10 of the world. In other words, it beats out all the competitors from California, Ontario and producers from other North American wine regions!
What are the significances you might ask?
Cipes-Rose-web

Firstly, for a BC wine to be awarded a gold medal and named to the top 10 in the world tells the world our wines are as good as the other big-name producers’ wines – this is a huge achievement for Summerhill Pyramid Winery as well as British Columbia!
Secondly, to win a sparkling wine award in France is never easy; especially when we are talking about winning an award in the home turf of where the indigenously famous Champagne is. This is more than accomplishing big. What better testament than to beat out 600 wines from 30 countries in front of 100 judges with 50% of them pride their trade in the home turf of France?

Summerhill Pyramid Winery has been one of the longest standing and more progressive organic wineries in Canada and is the first to receive the highly regarded certified biodynamic designation in the Okanagan. The result is in their wines. This Cipes Sparkling Rosé is 100% Pinot Noir from vineyards in the Okanagan Valley with the grapes specifically and extremely carefully tended to with the intention of making a sparkling wine using the traditional champagne method. It’s definitely a triumph for the Cipes family and winemaker, Eric von Krosigk, who have always been firm believers that when the land is embraced and taken care of first, their high hopes of Okanagan Valley as a wine region  capable of producing award winning wines will come later.
Instead of my trying to describe this award winning Summerhill Cipes Sparkling Rosé by throwing out all the big wine terms, the oohs and aahs adjectives to parlay this wine, why don’t you go grab one! I believe it is best for you to start sipping this top 10 wine of the world yourself so you’ll have your own words of description and most rewardingly, the first hand mouth-feel and palate appreciation. You’ll then agree with the judges and understand why this wine will fit any of your celebrations. Cheers!

Raise a glass or two…

AM1470 Modern Deborah – Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013

Chinese post: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/294018

British Columbia Wines
1/ Sparkling
Cipes Rosé, Summerhill Estate Winery
The Cipes Rosé Sparkling, perfect for any occasions, is made in the traditional Champagne method and is a 100% organic Pinot Noir cuvee. It is the only North American wine that won one of the 46 gold medals awards and made the top 10 list last month at the “Effervescents du Monde” who are the leading authority on quality sparkling wine. With an assembly of over 100 international expert judges applying strict guidelines and sampling over 600 wines from almost 30 countries. This is a perfect gift for even the pickiest wine savvies.

Cipes-Rose-web
Stella Jay Brut, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery
An award-winning and iconic BC sparkling wine with true stellar status and superior quality, this golden and crispy brut is an brilliant blend of red and white: Pinot Noir, Chardonna and Pinot Blanc. Sweet aroma of strawberry and fragrant peach, enticing notes of passion fruit and rambutan that leads to a creamy mouth feel. Drink it before and during dinner, or even with savoury snacks in the afternoon, and of course, with a Sunday brunch.stella jay brut
2/ Red
2010 Meritage – Backyards Vineyards (Langley, BC)
A beautiful Meritage with an outstanding blending formula: Merlot, Cab Sauvignon, and Cab Franc. The entrance may be a bit quiet but once it opens up, the ripe berry note with a subtle hint of 5-spices starts to cuddle you palate, leading to a finish with is both elegant and flavourful. At $20, the value of this wine is exceptional.
2011 Pinot Noir – Haywire Winery
With grapes grown in Summerland and fermentation done in the egg-shaped concrete tanks, this Pinot Noir brings lots of surprises to the palate, thanks to the aging in the 3-year old barrel. The complex flavour and smooth texture, pleasant notes of red dates, cherries and a hint of cranberries along with soft tannins give this wine mellow, lengthy finish.2011 haywire PN

Backyard Vineyards - 2010 Meritage

3/ White
2012 Chasselas – St. Hubertus Estate Winery
This beautiful made-in-BC Swiss wine is floral and bright. 11.1% alcohol gives the wine a mellow and easy-to-please mouth feel, but the hints of summer fruits stays in the palate. An Asian cuisine delight, this white goes well with Asian salad, wok-fried prawn, quick hot-oil pan-fried geoduck slices, sushi and sashimi.
2012 Character White – Hester Creek Estate Winery
Another great wine to be had with Asian food, this is Hester Creek’s good value signature white blend which delivers luring aroma and tropical fruit notes with hints of citrus. Well-balanced structure and smooth texture render this wine a good match with dimsum, Shanghai dumplings, chicken pot-pies, mildly-spiced crab and lobster in cream sauce.Character White 2012Prod-Bu-Chasselas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4/ Dessert Wine
2011 Riesling Icewine – Inniskillin
Syrupy, rich and blanketed with a symphony of tropical fruit aromas, this liquid of gold is laced with sweet notes of dripping nectarine, peach and dried apricot. Already a dessert on its own, this wine can go well with deep-fried banana with ice-cream, Chinese pastries stuffed with pumpkin, bean paste and lotus paste.2011 Riesling Icewine, Inniskillin
Imported Wines

2012 Saumur “Les Pouches” Chenin Blanc – Loire Vallely, France
With centuries of cultivation history in Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc happens to be a wine that matches Chinese cuisine nicely, be it spicy or high wok-energy. Juicy, crisp and refreshing with balanced acidity, the floral aroma of this wine meanders in the palate. The hint of rock sugar sweetness harmonizes the peppery Sichuan spicy and its clean crisp cuts through oily meat dishes.
2013 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
Sauvignon Blanc is the signature varietal of New Zealand while both Kim Crawford and Marlborough are the key stamps behind a good sauvignon Blanc,.  This 2013 released just in time to kick-off the holiday season with Thanksgiving as a starter. This first brew tea colour wine renders a tropical fruit aroma of Asian pear and a hint of mandarin peel with a fresh, lively body goes well with Turkey and the trimming, therefore is a good fit for the holiday tables. Juicy and fruity, this wine will also a good sipper to start any gathering.
2012 Ruffino Chianti, Italy
Our Asian Chianti fans will enjoy this Tuscan wine for its great value ($14.95), its premium quality and the fact that it does elevate the flavour and texture of most barbequed or roasted meat items such as the Chinese barbequed duck and char-siu. Verifying further that this Chianti will be an added pleasure to the Luner New Year Table. The price point of this wine may be a bit misleading because the grapes are indeed grown in one of the best wine regions in the world!
2009 Ruffino Riserva Ducale, Chianti Classico, Italy
This classic and elegant Chianti will satisfy any big red wine lovers with its influx of floral and fruity notes. The entrance of this wine demands full attention, with hints of peppery spices, subtle toffee and ripened cherries swirl the palate, sip it with game roasts, lamb stews and Sichuan pork dishes; and if you desire, with heavy cheese, chocolate torte and baked tapioca layered with lotus seed paste.IMG_5889ruffino Riserva Ducale 2009 #2

Loire Valley, 2012 Chenin BlancRuffino Chiante 2012

Tis’ The Season for Food & Fun

Ginger bread houssesHoliday treats #1

Words & Pix: Henry & Stephanie Yuen (Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/292275 )

If you happen to visit Hong Kong this holiday…

Check out 12th Hong Kong WinterFest that highlights “Wishes on the Wind” for the first time at Statue Square, Central.  Three dandelions, each measuring five storeys (15 metres) high, form the art installation. The artwork also consists of 18 seeds, scattered in different corners of Statue Square. This contemporary art installation representing the seeds of hope and good wishes amidst special music and lighting effects and lights up daily from 6pm during “Hong Kong WinterFest” with the lighting effects, in tandem with music. 
  
The Peak and Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck: Love Christmas at The Peak invites all those with romance on their mind to visit and make the season special with spectacular day and night-time views. The Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck will be staging a Christmas Party in the Sky, complete with those incomparable views.
 
Excursion to Ngong Ping 360 Glittering Christmas Village, a unique al fresco experience that includes a festively decorated village on LantauIsland and even carol singing for all on the spectacular cable-car ride. For more details and event listings: 
http://www.discoverhongkong.com/ca/plan-your-trip/latest-promotion/first-travel-hkwf.jsp 

Romantic holiday or family get-away to Ucluelet

Wya Point Resort, Ucluelet, BC ’s new year-round eco-luxury destination, is tucked into a lush coastal rainforest next to an exclusive beach is inviting  guests to ring in the holiday season with its West Coast Christmas package. This package includes a three-night stay in a luxurious beachfront lodge complete with a chef-prepared meal, wine pairings and a Christmas tree trimmed by Wya Point Resort’s very own elves.

On the evening of your choice, Wya Point Resort’s chefs will prepare a holiday meal with wine pairings, and will also deliver your feast right to your door. All you need to do is pour the wine, cozy up next to the fire, and bask in the warm glow of your twinkling Christmas tree while dinner cooks in the oven. At bedtime, snuggle up under luxury linens as the sound of crashing waves lulls you into a restful sleep.

Way Point’s “The West Coast Christmas Package” includes:

           – Three-night stay in a one- or two-bedroom lodge

            – Holiday meal for two or four

            – Wine paired with meal

            – Decorated Christmas tree to enjoy in your living room

Festival of Trees Celebrations
Four Season Hotel Vancouver lights up The 27th Annual Festival of Trees and transforms the Hotel’s first and second-floor lobbies showcases Christmas trees creatively decorated by various sponsors to raise funds and awareness for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation.

This charming display marks the start of the All trees will be on display in the lobby of Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver and in the Pacific Centre Mall located in downtown Vancouver until January 6, 2014.

Before or after you go and bewitched by the glittering trees,  don’t forget to stop by YEW restaurant and pick up one or more of their famous and highly-demanded holiday Stollen – Dense, rum-soaked and wrapped around a core of creamy marzipan, this much anticipated Christmas treat is back for a limited time only.  Once again legendary baker and former Four Seasons Vancouver chef, Gerhart Weitzel steps out of retirement and back into the kitchen with his decades-old secret recipe to bake thousands of this traditional delight.  Call head for orders of four or more – 604.692.4939.

Sutton Place Hotel’s Festival of Trees and Turkey-To-Go Dinner with all the trimmings 

Sutton Place Hotel, with a parade of creatively decorated Christmas trees also for the same good cause, is another great place to stroll around this season. Do check out their very popular Yuletide Brunch.  If you want to enjoy a traditional Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings and without all the work, the team of chefs here, led by Chef Alex Chan, will prepare a mouth-watering turkey dinner and have it ready for you to pick up. Available December 24th, 25th & 26th.

$350.00 excluding GST (Serves 8 – 12 people)
Approximate weight of turkey is 18lbs.

Dinner includes:
• Roasted Turkey
• Herb Stuffing
• Brussel Sprouts
• Ragout of Vegetables
• Mashed Potatoes
• Cranberry Sauce
• Turkey Jus
• Dinner Rolls
• Cranberry Cheese Cake

Orders will be taken until Thursday, December 20th at 12:00pm (while quantities last) 604.682.5511  http://vancouver.suttonplace.com

Tree Festival

Self-indulging, stocking stuffing, gift giving…

Dickens Lunch Buffet at Hart House Restaurant

Burnaby residences or their neighbours have been enjoying this holiday treat for years. This is the last week to indulge into the classic Christmas tables of traditional goodies. Don’t forget BurnabyHeritageMuseum is just next door! 604-298-4278  http://harthouserestaurant.com

David Hawksworth’s Bel Café   604-673-7000  http://www.belcafe.com

a mini Christmas tree made with macarons at BellaFor those coming in for a time-out from all the shopping and downtown activities, try not to come in full, leave room for all the devilish sweet temptations. Always allow time to sit down for a cup of artisan tea, coffee or even wine, what about a cup of Eggnog Latte?  Macaron fans please go with friends of families so you can finish the ‘Bel Macaron Christmas Tree’ all at once. Of course, you can take them home too, along with other take-home sweet treats such as the Bel Buche de Noel and the Bel Christmas Cake!   

Don’t forget, you can always go next door to the Cocktail Bar and start off with the award-winning Chef’s to-die-for snacks, perhaps a dish of DFC – deep fried cauliflower!Chef Hawksworth and his delectable DFC

 

Siena Restaurant is rewarding South Granville merchant shoppers with 15% discount this month till December 30th. All you have to do is show a purchase receipt when you dine at Siena Restaurant. This offer is available nightly after 7:30pm.  Enj0y all bottles of wine at 50% every Monday.

     Siena Restaurant: 1485 W. 12th Ave W, Vancouver. (604) 558-1485

Oyama fans beware! The Oyama Sausage Fast Lane at Granville Island is back by popular demand! If you have not yet done so, email orders online at moreinfo@oyamasausage.ca or call 604 327 7407 ASAP because quantities are limited! For entire pre-order, special pick-up spot set-up on December 22nd, 23rd and 24th from 9:00-4:00 at Granville Island’s entrance to Oyama Sausage. Please allow at least 2 hours notice and bypass the numbers and pick up at this spot upon arrival, someone will look right after you. Please remember to pre-order everything to use this service. Any add-ons require you to take a number, to be fair to everyone else. Please remain at our store when you take a number, do not leave. Otherwise, if we pass by you, you will have to take a new number when you come back.Oyama

Ready-to-gift BC VQA wines available at no extra cost in 10 participating BC Liquor Stores, from now until Christmas:

39th & Cambie 5555 Cambie Street, Vancouver
8th & Cambie 2395 Cambie Street, Vancouver
Alberni & Bute 768 Bute Street, Vancouver
Broadway & Maple 2088 West Broadway, Vancouver
Dunbar 3453 Dunbar Street, Vancouver
LynnValley 15 – 1199 Lynn Valley Road, North Vancouver
Northgate 103 – 3433 North Road, Burnaby
Park Royal 570 Park Royal North, West Vancouver
Richmond Brighouse 100 – 8100 Ackroyd Road, Richmond
Westwood 100 – 2748 Lougheed Highway, Port Coquitlam

 Check out http://bcwi.com to get more details.

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.