Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Promised Don I'd Blog Today

Life has not been easy lately for former major firm partner. He quit his job three or four months ago but still goes to the office every day, I know it's confusing, just leave it be. His new dog is not quite up to scratch and the Red Sox are not going to the World Series.

Thank Christ about the Red Sox, I honestly think I would have had to kill myself if they had pulled off another miracle come back and beaten the Tampa (Don't call us Devil) Rays in the ALCS.

Don't get me wrong, there are things I like about the Red Sox: Big Papi, Jason Bay and Historical Icon Park spring to mind. but their fans are the most insufferable "Nation" on the face of the Planet. I mean c'mon, when you go 86 freakin' years between Championships and then turn the trick twice in three seasons do you really think you're a fucking Dynasty ? I mean Florida has the same number of World Championships as you have since the end of WWI so lighten up boys.

Anyhow, while consoling FMFP on the phone yesterday I promised I'd blog today so here we go.

First off I didn't report on my nine days off because I was sick as a dog for half of them, and secondly nothing else memorable happened besides me going to bed at the same time as daughter.

I have had some interesting beverages in the past couple of weeks and thought I'd share. In the red wine department two new choices have been added to my stable, the first is Librandi Ciro Rosso Classico 2005 a lovely Calabrian wine made with 100% Gaglioppo grapes that is medium bodied with nice hints of spicebox and dried fruits with nice tannins to complement most things with tomato, red peppers, red meats or spicier fare.

Gaglioppo is an "ancient grape" that has been cultivated in the southern part of Italy for 3,000 years or so. The grape is hardy and ripens late in the year so Calabria's hot dry climate is a natural, Italian wine writer Tom Ciocco refers to Gaglioppo as the "Barolo of the South" which is high praise indeed but he's really just putting the boot to an old expression calling Aglianico "the Barolo of the South" when Aglianico wines are not at all similar to Barolo.

I'm not sure I'd ever confuse this bottling with Barolo but at $11.99 retail it's a great match for pasta or ragouts, not widely available I have a feeling this is a product that has been discounted so if you see it grab a few to enjoy over the winter, CSPC#244442.

The other red I've recently added to the rotation is Graham Beck's entry level Pinotage, Pinno 2007, CSPC#208488. This wine I am sure has had it's price reduced recently from $14.99 and now retails at $11.99. Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault created in South Africa in the 1920s,it was the feature grape of many South African reds from the late 1950s through the early 1990s. The wine was over planted and over cropped however and made indifferently it fell out of favour.

Graham Beck is a South African mining gazillionaire who entered the wine business in the '80s and has great track record of making modern style wines with good varietal character. Pinotage is not easy to make as if improperly handled it tastes medicinal but this example is rich flavoured with plums, red berries and just a touch of barnyard. It's a nice accompaniment to pizza or pasta and I like it, not as much as I like the Ciro but the Pinno is easier to find.

I also tried two new Beer lately, with mixed results. I liked the Organic Ale from Duchy Originals, CSPC#689497 $3.50 for a 500ml. bottle., the beer showed medium hops and a nice after taste, it has great colour and will probably make a regular appearance in my fridge over the winter. Duchy Originals are the organic food company founded by Prince Charles in 1990 that produce everything from seeds to trowels and all organic. All profits are donated to the Princes Charities Foundation to the tune of more than 6 million pounds since 1999 - so it's good beer and good for the planet.

The other beer was a disappointment on many levels, it was the latest seasonal bottling from Granville Island Brewing, their Limited Release Oktoberfest Lager, CSPC #731752, $4.90 for a 650ml bottle. I want, badly, to be impressed with Granville Island's beers but I rarely am and this was no exception the beer was just ordinary and for $4.90 for a 650ml with words like "limited release" involved I want more than ordinary.

I love the idea of a craft brewery in the middle of the urban jungle turning out quality beers year round but I'm almost always disappointed in the finished product from GI. In addition as part of the Sleeman conglomerate of "micro brews" they don't really deserve my love the way many other local brewers do, still a man can dream.

Tomorrow promises to be a big day as it is the premiere of High School Musical III, the first theatrical release from the Disney juggernaut ......... but you already knew that.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nine Days Off

It is wife's annual Convention trip next week, Atlanta this year, so I am off for the week. I have made this an annual "sanity break" even though I technically probably could go into work and have Auntie Margarethe care for daughter, but I don't think that's the best use of my week (or Auntie Margarethe's).

I have no major plans for the week, although it's Thanksgiving this weekend so I'll mostly just be eating. I have the Holiday Weekend Food Trifecta all set up: Saturday is Prime Rib, Sunday is Irish Ham and Monday is Turkey with the R's, wines are all chosen, shopping done, Yeah Baby I'm set.

So what do nine days off mean to me ?

1) Nine straight nights of eight hours sleep

2) Nine straight days of not having to eat my main meal at 3:30 in the afternoon

3) Nine days in a row when I can have a beer while cooking dinner

4) Nine consecutive days when I can kiss my daughter "Good Night" while she is still awake.

5) The option to watch prime time television for an entire week, it doesn't sound like much but believe me it's a treat.

6) Nine days without having to shave, though I probably will.

7) Nine days without having to talk to strangers, though I probably won't.

8) A whole school week when daughter can play in the schoolyard without being rushed home.

9) Nine days without downtown traffic and downtown drivers.

I'll try and post about the food on Tuesday but remember ........... I'm on Vacation.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Winter approaches, a New Red, and a too-old Red

Well the rains have begun. If you don't live in Vancouver it's difficult to imagine the change that happens when summer ends and fall begins.

The rain comes almost daily it seems, and not for an hour or so as in other parts of the country, when it rains in Vancouver it rains for days on end. The first year that wife and I lived here we arrived in late September and it was glorious, long warm sunny days that drifted on until the middle of October, when it began to rain, and rain, and rain. That fall it rained something like 37 days in a row, and it seemed as though it would never stop. People get nasty when they don't see the sun for a month so I anticipate some testy times ahead.

On a happier note the beginning of Fall means that the grill can be ignored and the oven/slow cooker put back in use. I'm already dreaming of short ribs and butt roasts and, daughter's favourite, "ragout". I am battling a bit of a bit of a cold so in search of comfort food on Wednesday I braised chicken thighs in stock with carrots, shallots, celery and fennel then thickened the braising liquid and served it with saffron rice. It was just the comfort food I was looking for and was nicely accompanied by a new addition to the red wine rotation in the house Anakena Carmenere , a new worldish red from a 10 year old winery in Chile.

Carmenere has been dubbed as Chile's signature red grape, the off shoot of Merlot is not grown very much elsewhere, but the BCLDB offers scant opportunity. This varietal is a slightly smokier version of Merlot to my palate and the Anakena offers up lots of red fruits and spicebox with a smoky after note and a nice long finish. The wine retails for $12.95 and is widely distributed, it's stock # is 72157 and I recommend it as a nice partner to pizza, pasta, roast fowl etc.

Last night was daughter's soccer practice so wife and I eat together after daughter is in bed. Practice runs from 6 till 7 so daughter must be fed beforehand, it amounts to a bit of a "stay at home date night" so I usually cook something that daughter would eschew. Last night I prepared a stroganoff with top sirloin, mushrooms, shallots, dijon and sour cream over buttered noodles. I was going to just crack open some house plonk but decided to take a shot on a bit of a gamble. back in the summer, at BratFest 2008, someone brought over a bottle of Cotes du Rhone Villages from the 2000 vintage which I left unopened.

I wasn't trying to "hoard a gem" in fact the opposite was true, I was pretty sure the wine would be over the hill and wanted to save my guest from any awkwardness. I stuck the bottle in my living room rack and forgot about it until last night. With nothing to risk I popped the cork and ............ it was dead as a doornail, no fruit except stewed fruit and a musky aftertaste.

A good thing to remember is that 95% of the wine made is best when consumed within 3 years of bottling, so don't tuck away any bottles of "Little Penguin" to save for that special occasion five years down the road.