Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Grinder 2011 Pinotage

I've seen this label on the shelves for awhile and have consciously ignored it because I have a dislike of the "cute/obscure names for wines" that proliferate mostly in Australia. I often think the Aussies sit around in the pub and have contests to see who can come up with the most ludicrous names for wines, with the winner getting free beer for the day, I mean seriously Ladies who shoot their lunch ? But I digress, the wine in today's tasting is a South African Pinotage, a uniquely South African grape that is a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault . There is isn't a lot of Pinotage available so I finally got over my aversion to the name and brought home the wine.

I'm happy I did.

First off the naming isn't actually a cute marketing ploy for the wine displays nothing if not the characteristics of coffee, or mocha to be more precise. With your eyes closed the nose could easily make you think that it was not a glass of wine in front of you but rather a bowl of chocolate covered espresso beans, I mean it really reeks of coffee and chocolate. The colour is dark, dark red and in the mouth the mocha is again present, along with a bit of red berry and bramble and spicebox. The tannins are smooth but there's enough acid to make it food friendly and the finish is long and full. I had the wine with roast chicken rubbed with thyme, rosemary, garlic and lemon and it was great though next time I'd like to give The Grinder a workout with some grilled lamb or spareribs.

There's lots of this wine around, over 2,000 bottles in the BCLDB system and it has wide distribution, for $14.99 a bottle it's well worth having around for the summer grilling season. A recommended buy, even if you don't have it for breakfast.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Roasted Broccoli

I serve roasted vegetables a lot, I love the flavours that roasting brings out, but almost every time I serve roasted broccoli to someone for the first time, or mention it in conversation I get blank stares or "You can roast broccoli ?" comments.

So I thought I'd share my method for roasting broccoli, it's easy, the prep time is minimal and it is delicious. Roasted broccoli is, in fact, so delicious that my 13 year daughter consistently has seconds and refers to it as broccoli candy. There are lots of variations and additions you can make but my basic roasted broccoli uses only four ingredients, broccoli, salt, lemon zest and olive oil, and is loosely based on one by The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.

Simply trim about a kilo of broccoli crowns into large florets, I don't peel, I'm sure some do, and put in a large bowl then salt generously with coarse sea salt and  toss the whole mixture in 2-3 tablespoons of good olive oil and place on a cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place the broccoli in the oven, at the ten minute mark give the pan a shake and then check again at around fifteen minutes. The florets should be starting to brown, if so remove the broccoli and toss with the zest of half a large lemon and serve, if they are starting to char leave them in a few more minutes.

Other variations involve adding minced garlic before roasting, or adding grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts after roasting, and these are very good but the simpler recipe is my favourite. The sugars released by the high heat work beautifully with the coarse salt, lemon and olive oil and the result is a great side dish for grilled meat or poultry. You can also toss the roasted broccoli with freshly cooked pasta, grated cheese, diced tomato and more olive oil to make a nice light vegetarian pasta main course. You can choose to toss with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds for an Asian influence if you want, it's excellent with grilled chicken.

So there it is, roasted broccoli, try it out and surprise your friends, my only advice is to make more than you think you'll need as it almost always goes quickly in my house.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kitchen Academy - Burgers

Back to posting about food and wine after a short hiatus. Daughter generally spends four of her nine weeks of summer vacation in various "camps' but this year we were a little late off the mark and only found three weeks of camps that looked promising so we, and by that I mean I, decided that this summer would provide an expansion of her cooking skills. Once a week daughter and I would make a meal together, going through the whole process of menu selection, shopping, prep and finally cooking dinner, I dubbed this process Kitchen Academy .

This week in Kitchen Academy, given the hot weather, I decided to focus on the grill and what better way than with Burgers. Daughter and I shopped for the ingredients together, with me explaining why extra lean beef was a bad idea for burgers (they need fat or they fall apart), and then came home to make the burgers. Everyone has their own burger recipes, some use breadcrumbs, some use raw egg, some use chopped pickles .......... I don't. My burger recipe calls for salt, pepper, dry mustard powder, minced shallot, worcestershire sauce and grated romano cheese to be added to the meat, along with a healthy dollop of bacon fat. These are gently mixed into the beef, by hand, and then formed into six, to seven, ounce balls and left in the fridge.

(Before starting I said to daughter: "What's the first thing we should always do before we start cooking" (the answer is: wash our hands) and she responded :"Open a beer ?" (also a good answer.))

We then prepped broccoli for roasting, trim and cut into large florets, season with salt and lemon zest, add olive oil, mix then spread on a cookie sheet, and then waited for dinner time to arrive. About thirty five minutes before dinner we preheated the oven to 450 degrees, put sliced onions in butter to saute, and lit the charcoal for the grill. We use lump charcoal so it takes twenty minutes or so for the fire to get hot enough for searing burgers, at this point wife took over as the grill is her domain, and demonstrated how to tell when the coals are hot enough and prepping the grill.

Broccoli roasts for twenty minutes, turning once, burgers are cooked roughly three to four minutes a side then cheese is added and they are topped with cheese and cooked another couple of minutes with the lid on . The result is perfectly medium burgers with nicely melted cheese, last night was cheddar, as illustrated below.

The wine chosen to accompany last night's burgers was a nice medium to full bodied red from South Africa Nederburg "Growers' Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2010 which is currently on sale at the BCLDB for $12.99, regularly $14.99. The wine is a "FairTrade" wine meaning the grapes were sourced from fairtrade certified farms so there's a bit of social conscience involved which is an added bonus. I like the wines of South Africa as I find they tend to represent a nice balance between old world complexity and new world fruit dominant wine styles.

The Nederburg Cab-Shiraz is medium to full bodied with excellent red berry and black pepper in the nose and a lush mouth filling first taste, the back label says the wine spent 18 months in oak but it must have been older barrels as the wood is in the background adding a nice touch of sweet vanilla to the flavours. There's a touch of cocoa and spicebox on the finish and the finish is long and clean, the wine was drinking nicely a full hour after opening. There is limited supply on this product so I think maybe the price reduction is there to clear out stock, I would recommend buying a few bottles at the current $12.99 and keeping them on hand for the grilling season as it would be a nice compliment to virtually and meat, or poultry, off the grill.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.........really ?

So I must have missed this hoopla when it first was announced about a year ago but a major motion picture is finally going to be made from an adaptation of one of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Jack Reacher is a 40 something former marine officer who drifts around and inevitably gets involved in situations where he has to wrong some injustice, generally with a significant body count involved in the process. The books are much better than they should be because Child is a solid craftsman and the Reacher character is a classic, the lonewolf anti-hero, slow to act but invincible when he does take action, and usually short on both words and emotions but with a fixed moral compass that will not waver .

One of the real distinguishing features of Reacher is his size, he is a man mountain, 6 foot 5 inches tall and generally weighing in between 225-250 pounds with a fifty inch chest, he breaks bones with one hand and can endure all manners of physical abuse. Reacher's size and strength come into play in every one of the sixteen Reacher novels, they are one of the things that define the character and make him different. Naturally after ten plus years of negotiating to get a Reacher film made the obvious choice to play Reacher is ............Tom Cruise.

Seriously ?

Seriously, Tom Cruise, all five foot seven inch grinning, winking, shorter than his soon to be ex wife, frat boy charm Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher ???

Now don't get me wrong, I admire Tom Cruise as an actor, he has pushed limits on occasions, and made bold choices with films, I personally think he should have won the Best Actor Oscar for Rain Man rather than Dustin Hoffman. I also understand that he may be the single most bankable male star in the film industry, maybe Will Smith might challenge, and actually Will Smith would've been a really cool choice to play Jack Reacher but that's another story.

There are many lively internet discussions regarding better casting choices, Ray Stevenson, who played The Punisher and was brilliant in Rome is a frequent suggestion or something along the lines of Alexander Skarsgard after a year in the gym .  Lee Childs is enthusiastic about his support of the casting, and since the movie's profitability is important to Childs we can sympathize, but regardless of what this movie ends up being, and regardless of the title, it won't feature Jack Reacher .

Thursday, July 05, 2012


So I finally joined Facebook, my reason for joining was that since daughter became a teenager she now has a Facebook account and we felt she should have some parental supervision, given the state of cyberspace . Wife was supposed to be responsible for the creeping but between her work and playing 3,000 games of Words with Friends daily with Auntie Jacqui I didn't feel we were up to speed, so I joined.

My first mistake was using my real email address, when will I learn, so instantly upon joining I was invited to "friend" many of my real friends. For those who don't know Facebook essentially opens your mail account and checks to see if any of your contacts are on Facebook, then suggests you become friends with these people. Even though, of course, you already are friends with them or they wouldn't be in your address book.

Next I informed some work colleagues that I had joined and they instantly said "Oh I'll friend you"or "we should be friends", to which my thoughts were: "but we already see each other more than once a week...........so ?". Apparently I don't get the concept that "Facebook friending" is different than "real friending", on Facebook we share our taste in YouTube videos, inspirational posters and show off pictures of what we had for lunch, in real life we just talk about silly shit like emotions, politics and the economy......plus of course, YouTube videos and television.

Anyway, I'm on Facebook, I've got 12 friends and it is easier to keep up with people you don't see often, plus I have a whole new window into daughter's world. I can also see how it could become a huge black whole of wasted time and energy but I'm determined not to do that. Anyway I've got to run, someone just posted a new site full of Sheldon Cooper quotes.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Latest FIFA Rankings

So you are probably aware that the last few weeks have featured a major event in the Soccer world, I still have a hard time calling it football. The 2012 Euro Championships recently ended with Spain stamping their passport into the discussion of greatest teams of all time, Germany crumbling under the pressure of being the next one, Italy proving to be better than we thought and England failing miserably on the world stage once again by bowing out in the quarter finals.

England have not reached the semi finals of a major event since 1996 so simple math should mean that since they haven't been in the final four of a world class event in sixteen years that they are surely not one of the top four teams in the world, yet the governing body of world soccer will have you believe that England, mighty England, are in fact the fourth best team on the planet, based on FIFA's latest rankings, brought to you by CocaCola.

Now I realize that ranking these things is a subjective process and that the rankings are a "rolling" count of International success over the previous year, and that England had a couple of nice results at the recent Euro Championship but seriously shouldn't somebody at FIFA, or CocaCola, have taken a quick look at these ranking before publishing them and said:

"Hey, wait a second boys, if England hasn't finished in the top four of anything that matters in sixteen years how in the Hell can we rank them fourth on the planet ?".

Bad FIFA, bad.