Monday, January 26, 2009

WINE - Bordeaux

Chateau Pey La Tour 2005
This Bordeaux Superieur property is a blend of 89% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Petit Verdot. Production is around one million bottles from a 170 ha site. The property has been owned by Dourthe since 1990.

My tasting notes: January 25th 5:30pm

Ruby red aromas of tobacco leaf and herb. Medium to full-bodied with a lush Merlot dominated texture, some tannic grip, and flavours of plum, tobacco, vanilla, and blackberry leaf. Nice finish of subtle lead pencil and leafy cassis. Drink now with 1 hour decanting or cellar up to 3 years.
BCLDB stores $26.49 CDN$

Sunday, January 25, 2009

SPIRITS Cooley Distillery

I had the pleasure of a brief sit down and tasting with John Cashman, New Business Development Manager, of Cooley Distillery who was in Vancouver and Victoria marketing his range of Irish whiskey to the trade and public. During our chat we tasted the Greennore Single Grain 8 Year, Tyrconnell Single Malt, and the Connemara Peated Single Malt. John mentioned that prior to 1987 (Cooley's founding) The Irish whiskey industry was controlled by two spirit giants: Diageo and Pernod Ricard. These two multi-nationals marketed Irish Whiskey to the world trade and public with the thoughts of Irish implying "no peat and triple distilled". Cooley resurrected mothballed distilleries and the original concepts of true Irish whiskey; peated and double distilled like Scotch. Cooley Distillery was named World and European Distiller of the Year in November 2008 for their spirits at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

Here are my tasting notes: January 23rd 2009 10:15am

Greennore 8 Year Old
Small batch single grain irsh whiskey matured in used bourbon casks for a minimum of 8 years. Sweet coconut, corn, and vanilla notes on the nose. Medium-bodied, lush and smooth, with vanilla, spice, and sweet oak flavours. An Irish Bourbon ? Perfect pre-dinner aperitif spirit. 5000 case production.

Tyrconnell Single Malt
Named after Tyconnell, a legendary 1oo to one horse race winner, this full-bodied whiskey has a honeyed and citrus nose and flavours of mild peat smoke, cointreau, chocolate, apple, and pear and Assam tea. Complexly layered. Pot Still Distillation. $59.99 BC CDN$

Connemara Peated Single Malt
Ireland's only Peated Single Malt. Aromas of smoke and peat. Full-bodied and creamy, with smoke, peat, honey and vanillin oak notes. Complex and long finish. Nice digestive whiskey to finish an evening. $$69.99 BC CDN$

photo's Cooley Whiskey website

ESSENTIAL KIT Mont Blanc Fountain Pens

As much as I love technology there is no denying the primal pleasure of using a magificent writing instrument like the MEISTERSTÜCK PLATINUM LINE HOMMAGE À FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN 145. For our tenth wedding anniversary Helen surprised me with this beautiful fountain pen. It is a slimmer version of the iconic Platinum line - perfect for travel and fitting seamlessly in your jacket or day planner. It has all the features of its pricier chubby brothers (14k gold nib with platinum inlay, black resin barrel, platinum plated clip and ring, individual serial number, and the inlaid white edelweiss star). The pen is 5 and 1/2 inches long capped and 6 inches when posted. Each pen is still hand crafted in the Mont Blanc atelier in Hamburg with over one hundred steps from creation to finish. I relish in its beauty, weight, and the feel of nib to paper whenever I use this pen . The biggest drawbacks - what colour of ink to buy and the cost - this model ranges from $399 to $500. A posh pen but also a piece of artistic beauty.

Mont Blanc pens are available in Vancouver at The Vancouver Pen Shop 512 Hastings Street 604.681.1612

Thursday, January 22, 2009

TEA - Kusmi Tea Russian Morning No.24

Tea is my preferred choice of beverage first thing in the a.m. I recently came across this breakfast tea at the Farfalla Tea Boutique at 57 Cordova Street in Gastown. The Russian Morning no.24 tea is a blend of Chinese, Ceylon, and Indian black teas. It is a full leaf tea with good colour after infusion. It is medium strength with some tannins, smooth texture, and a hint of subtle smokiness. Not as rich or as malty as pure Assams; but still eye opening The instructions call for one teaspoon per cup and a three to four minute infusion. I opt for the same ratio but a five to six minute infusion for a stronger more tannic morning cup. Packaging is delightful play on the original Russian ownership of the tea blending company one hundred and forty years ago but now firmly entrenched on the avenue Niel in Paris. $38 for 250 grams as well as smaller tins available. I prefer to drink this tea with milk.

Monday, January 19, 2009

WINE - Torres Mas Rabell

Torres Mas Rabell 2006 Spain $14.50 CDN
Named after the Torres family's private restaurant this white is made primarily from Parallada and Garnacha Blanca.
Pale straw green with aromas of grapefruit pith and subtle herbs (fennel and sage). Light-bodied 11.5% ABV with refreshing crisp acidity and flavours of green apple, grapefruit, herb, and mineral notes. Perfect match for a delicate fish or sushi.
If you enjoy Torres Wines, Two Chefs and A Table, is organising a Torres wine dinner menu starting on January 28th. Here is the menu and wine pairing. Hopefully Helen and I will see some of you there.

BEER - Young's Chocolate Stout UK

One of my favourite winter beers is the Double Chocolate Stout from Young's of the UK and available by the bottle here in BC for $3.50 (500ml) Just looking at the bottle reminds me of Cadbury and Quality Street chocolate wrappers.

This blend of chocolate, pale, and crystal malts along with Fuggle and Golding hops plus the addition of real chocolate produces an ale with 5.2% ABV which pours dark black with a nice thick tan head, nice cascading and lacing, small carbonation bubbles, and aromas of chocolate and malted biscuit. On the palate it is medium-bodied and full of toasted chocolate, malt, and coffee. Nice way to finish the evening without dessert or possibly a dark chocolate fondue with cherries and dark berry fruits.

ESSENTIAL KIT Barbour Jackets

Over the last two decades I've owned two Barbour jackets; My first purchase a waxed cotton Beaufort jacket, now famous world wide after Helen Mirren's The Queen, sparked renewed interest in this iconic English brand. Our latest purchases From Barbour were our quilted Country Liddesdale Jacket for me and a Polarquilt Jacket for Helen. The quilted jackets were ideally suited for the cool snap we experienced on the windy Broads but they lacked that characteristic aroma of oily Range Rover boots, wet dogs, and old train stations. None the less they are alot warmer and ideal for walking and country pursuits and unlike their waxed counterparts maintenance free. They still look pretty sharp when shopping on Sloane Street, Robson Street, or the Union Square/The Flatiron District , out in the countryside, and like iconic clothing - they are recession proof with age ability and a sense of ageless style. Put one on over a suit, slip on the wellies, and you've got a bit of country in the city.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

CHEESE - Neal's Yard Dairy

Neal's Yard Dairy 30 years old in 2010.

Ten years ago I stumbled across Neal's Yard Dairy more by mistake than interest. I've always liked cheese but never really had the passion for the producer or region like I did for wine, its appellations, and her personalities. This shop was my epiphany to great English cheese and cheese making. Stumbling around Covent Garden full of wine and beer in the twilight hours I noticed the strong scent of cheese and found in a slightly rundown courtyard this most amazing shop full from floorboards to rafters of strong maturing aromatic cheese from the far flung corners of the British Isles. A nibble here and a nibble there and I was on my way home on the tube with a selection of wonderful and stinky Stilton, Wensleydale, and Cheddar. Every trip to London since always involves a visit and taste at the original location or if it is market day at the Borough Market - the market shop. The two shops are still owned by managing director Randolph Hodgson, a Hong Kong raised Brit, with a Chinese bent for fanatically fresh food. Neal's Yard Dairy represents about 200 British cheeses just shy of a quarter of the 900 cheese types made from over 7,000 farmhouse cheese producers throughout the United Kingdom.

Today the shops are staffed by a friendly mix of Australian, New Zealand, and Eastern European clerks who like Randolph let you taste any cheese before you buy. ttp://

Personal favourites that I've tasted in the past year have included the Calston Bassett Stilton, Stinking Bishop, Hawkes Wensleydale, Isle of Mull Cheddar, and Wigmore soft sheep.

In Vancouver you can find some NYD cheeses at Urban Fare, Meindharts, and Vancouver's best cheese shop Les Amis de Fromage I'm looking forward to some amazing tasting events in 2010 from NYD as well as some special farmhouse cheeses we have never seen or tasted before.

GIN - Hendrick's (Scotland)

My Favourite Gin for 2008
Made from the usual suspects and a couple of unusual botanicals this small batch Scottish gin made by William Grant and Son in Ayrshire is my current favourite as a martini or G&T. Made in a painstaking slow process using one of only four working 19th century Carter-Head Stills; the slow infusion of juniper, citrus, coriander, along with the very unusual rose and cucumber elements creates a gin apart in aroma, texture, and flavour. It is medium-bodied, smooth, slightly sweet, and complexly aromatic and tasting of rose, Turkish delight, spearmint, cucumber, and a hint of white chocolate. It's complex gin that merits the heavy apothecary bottle and packaging.
Next time you have a G&T add a slice of cucumber instead of the lemon or lime. Hendricks sells in British Columbia for $39.99 CDN

COOKING - Arnold Bennett omelette

You know you've succeded in the world when you have a dish named after you! This omelette which I've made several times now; was as the story goes created for novelist Arnold Bennett during his stay at the Savoy Hotel in London. It is an opulent and rich open faced omelette made from a mixture of cheese and smoked haddock. One of my favourite variations on the original is that of Gordon Ramsay's and here is his recipe. Other variations that I recommend include the use of Gruyere cheese, Dijon mustard, and Worstershire sauce. More on those in future posts.

Gordon Ramsay's Arnold Bennett Omelette

Serves 2

The secret to any good omelette is to use a lightly oiled, heavy-based pan. Add a knob of butter and only once it starts to foam do you add the eggs. Then you stir the eggs constantly to beat in some air, and tilt the pan from side to side to make any uncooked egg run to the sides.
1 tsp plain flour 15g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for frying 200ml milk 1 bay leaf ¼ tsp black peppercorns 1 slice of onion 200g smoked, undyed haddock fillet 2 egg yolks 1 tbsp single cream 30g mature cheddar, finely grated Salt and freshly ground black pepper Oil, for greasing 4 eggs Chervil or parsley sprigs, to garnish

1 Blend the flour and butter together to make a paste, then chill until firm. Pour the milk into a small pan and add the bay leaf, peppercorns and onion. Heat the milk gently over a low heat to just below boiling point. Lower in the haddock skin-side down.

2 Cover the haddock with a dampened piece of greaseproof paper and poach gently for about 4 minutes, until the fish is just beginning to show signs of flaking when pressed. Remove the fish from the milk with a slotted spoon and, when it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and any bones and flake into small pieces.

3 Strain the milk into a bowl and discard the aromatics. Pour 100ml of the infused milk into a clean small pan and return to the heat. Gradually whisk in the butter paste, adding small pieces at a time, and bring to the boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly until you have a smooth sauce.

4 Put the yolks in a bowl and beat lightly with the cream. Gradually whisk in the sauce, then fold in the haddock and half of the cheese. Check for seasoning. Preheat the grill to a medium setting.

5 Lightly oil an 18-20cm omelette pan and place over a medium to high heat. Break the eggs into a bowl, season and beat with a fork. Add a knob of butter to the pan and swirl it about to coat. When the butter starts to foam, pour in the eggs. Stir them continually, tilting the pan from side to side, until the eggs set on the bottom and the top is soft and creamy.

6 Remove the pan from the heat, then pour the haddock mixture on top of the omelette. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and grill for a few minutes until golden brown. Garnish with sprigs of chervil or parsley and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

WINE - Loire Chenin Blanc

Domaine des Baumard Savennieres Clos du Papillon 2001 $39.99 Liberty Wine Merchants

White Mischief - Chenin Blanc; Mediocre or spectacular? This dynamite white from the Loire is a mind blowing take on the varietal. Domaine de Baumard, a 1634 estate tucked away behind the village of Rochefort-sur-Loire, and run since 1955 by Jean Baumard has not only bought his estate but Loire Chenin Blanc in general to the forefront of consumer interest. I opened this bottling from Clos du Papillon from the 2001 vintage on Christmas day .
Old gold colour with aromas of honey, glace fruits, and an earthy straw hint. On the palate it is full-bodied, concentrated and rich with flavours of sweetened rice, almonds, honey, and typical Chenin Blanc fruit salad notes (pear, quince, and peach). Nice structure with good acidity and length. Drinking now but you may push another 2 to 3 years out of this bottle.

KITCHEN GEAR: Nespresso Essenza

There's been a lot of North American press recently about the Nespresso single serve coffee system both positive and negative. Yes! negatively Nestle is a big multinational corporation with all those "evil" overtures; but from a mechanical , lifestyle, aesthetic, and taste point of view the machine is a wonder. I was getting fed up with the dismal quality of flavour and crema on my home espresso machine, the work involved in set up and clean up, and my machine's large footprint on our small kitchen counter top . I opted for buying the Essenza Nespresso machine $249.99 CDN after a delicious coffee at Marrakesh Restaurant in Gastown that has a commercial version of the machine for its bar. I picked up my machine at the Swica Importers showroom, 1764 Renfrew Street in Vancouver , run by Marco Herrmann Give him a call at 604 461 9881 and drop by for a demo and an espresso. A bit of research found the machine to be extremely user friendly, highly rated, and it's wide spread use in a number of boutique hotels, first class airline lounges, and top end restaurants around the globe including Heston Bluementhal's Fat Duck in the UK made me a buyer and convert. Luckily in Vancouver we have access to the Nespresso boutique (lounge), one of about 30 globally, located in the basement of the Hudson Bay Company on Granville Street . Once you're a member of the coffee club you can order coffee capsules on-line or better yet purchase in person at the lounge. Drop by, have a complimentary coffee, and pick up your coffee capsules (boxes of ten for 53 cents per capsule). You're given a leather key fob to register and track your sales and you'll feel "pretty clubby" with the "yes sir, and thank you Mr. Bonner" compliments thrown in by the staff as you make your purchases. The machine itself is a "lifestyle" tool with its small footprint, ease of use, speed, and very little clean up. I used ours at a fundraising party for a friend and made 26 espressso's in less than 14 minutes - all with perfect crema and temperature.
From a techies view the Essenza has a high-pressure pump (19 bars) with an instant (30-40 second initial start time) thermoblock heating element and programmable/automatic controls for single and double shots and most importantly an automatic ejection system of the used capsules and collection after each coffee. The unit has a water storage capacity of 1 litre (20 espresso shots) and has a sexy smooth feel. For coffee purchasing you're locked into buying the capsules from Nestles. The selection is broad enough to satisfy most coffee drinkers. There are 12 selections available including a couple of decaf options and seasonal blends currently mandarin orange, crystallised ginger, and caramel. I dislike flavoured coffees in gneral and the mandarin was plain artificial in flavour; the ginger and caramel however are worth buying and I could see them making great coffees paired up with some aperitifs or spirits at meals end. The lifespan of this machine should be a long time. The Shangri-La and Opus hotel have machines in all guest rooms and many of the new condo developments in the high end market have installed the $2800 Miele Nespresso Coffee System in their kitchens which use the same capsules. I have no hesitation recommending this machine and living in Vancouver you can avoid ordering on-line; shop in person, and get complimentary coffee drink and a piece of Swiss chocolate to help with the retail therapy next time you are in Pacific Centre. With a choice of twelve 10 pack espresso capsules and three seasonal blends for less than $6; this machine used daily will easily ween you off the Starbucks habit and pay for itself in less than six months. It's a sexy conversation piece at your dinner parties and more than likely your friends will envy your Nespresso.

WINDMILL LIVING: Haddiscoe Island

REDMILL, THE BROADS, October 2008 Helen and I needed a short mini-break from the crowds of London and we found this wonderful disused windmill on Haddiscoe Island on the Norfolk Broads available for hire by Daniel Webster of Listed Escape. The Redmill ( originally the Langley Detached Drainage Mill on the OS map) was a 45 minute drive from the Regency town of Norwich and just over two hours train ride from London Liverpool Street Station. Without the benefit of a car we opted for a chauffeured limo service from Eastern Chauffeur with a great driver and owner of the company Patrick take us out to the remote mill on Haddiscoe Island that surprisingly did not show up on the OS map or GPS. The Island covers just over 2000 acres of summer livestock pastures and grazing land. The unmarked meandering dirt road passes through a secession of locked and unlocked cattle gates taking the car journey close to 40 minutes to complete when abiding by the country code of closing and opening gates as you find them ; you never want bovines getting in the wrong field or on unlight roads at dusk!! In Norwich we picked up our week's worth of groceries and wine pre-ordered on line from Waitrose Supermarket Being fully stocked with food and drink we settled in for a week of reading, writing, eating, and walking with no contact from the outside world four miles away but separated by three rivers, no car, and minimal mobile coverage. The mill built in 1840 stands close to 60 feet high with three floors of accommodation. The fully featured kitchen had a freezer, fridge, microwave, gas hop, and an electric oven. The biggest drawback to country living was the lack of potable water. We brought just over 24 litres for drinking and cooking for seven days along with ten litres left by Daniel. Showers and shaves were always followed by the clean and energetic metallic aromas of the iron rich water pumped from the islands subsoil. Haddiscoe Island was flooded with saline and iron rich water back in 1953 necessitating the construction of mills like Redmill to keep the island flood free. Haddiscoe Island at one time supplied the London markets with an assortment of mushrooms; today the salty soil only makes it usable for cattle grazing, a bird sanctuary, and a habitat for playful mutjack deers. Norfolk is the land of "big sky" in other words very flat and on occasion windy. In hindsight we could have rented a boat and passed abit of time "ratty and moley style" cruising the rivers and popping into pubs by the riverside. I'll have fond memories of the peace and quiet, spending my 10th wedding anniversary with Helen in a special place, drinking peaty whiskey and lapsang souchong tea, and having some fine meals and wine in the countryside with sheep, birds (too many to name), Highland Scottish bulls, wild hares and rabbits, and Jersey cows. If you're an avid birder the nightly flights of birds from ocean to field was an amazing sight and sound. The Broads and Redmill are a magical place.

ESSENTIAL KIT Hunter Wellingtons

I had my first pair of green wellies when I was five and have owned a pair on and off over the last twenty years. Last year when Helen and I stayed on the Langley Marshes on the Norfolk Broads we decided to invest in a new pair to deal with the wet, wind, and bovine droppings. After a considerable amount of research we decided on the Hunter Balmoral Neoprene model. They worked like a charm and on our return to Vancouver and the subsequent snowfall and slush they proved their value over again.
The specs are:
The sculptured boot top and contrasting piping gives a stylish design. Suitable for all seasons.
Upper : Vulcanised natural rubber construction, built on an orthopaedic last for the legendary Hunter fit
Outsole : A moulded sole from synthetic rubber with Blown EVA. Comes with a removal insole for adapting the boot fit between seasons
Lining : 3mm cellular Neoprene sponge imparts thermal insulation, keeping the feet cosy and comfortable in cold conditions
Footbed : Contoured insole with reinforced instep. Energy rebound in forepart and heel shock absorbing pads
Weight : 2050gms/pair (size 9)

As iconic as wellies seem to England and the British their origins go back to the American owned North British Rubber Company of 1856. The company started off with a small work force of four and by 1875 had over 600 employees. World War 1 spurred the production of boots for the military campaigns in the flood bound trenches. The second world war saw the need for Wellington's, gas masks, belts, and life jackets. Hunter Boots were built for necessity not fashion until 1955 when the original green wellie came to life. It has been a part of the Glastonbury Festival crowd, the Royal family, farmers, and fashion icons ever since.

GREAT SHAVES - Vancouver

I've been an old school brush and blade man made when comes to a shave since my early twenties. There's nothing like a warm scented creamy lather and sharp blade to start your morning. When I want to really relax a shave at Farzad’s Barbershop in Yaletown is the ultimate indulgence. The barbershop at 1208 Homer Street has been owned and operated by Farzad Salehi since 2006. The shop has an old clubby feel with dark walnut, leather chairs, and black and white tiled floor. With just two chairs you should make an appointment 604.408.0060. If you walk-in there's an LCD TV to watch along with a great selection of Brit magazines and newspapers to read. The Deluxe Hot Shave is $25. You'll get, a hot towel treatment, some pre-shave oil massaged into your skin, followed by a rich lather. They usually shave you twice with a straight blade for a baby bottom smooth feel; along with additional hot and ice cold towels to close up your freshly shaved pores. A soothing after shave balm is the final touch. A lovely 30 minute get away in Yaletown. Drop by have a shave then head off to Yaletown for a beer or glass of wine.

Monday, January 12, 2009

BARS - London's Coolest Champagne Bar

St. Pancreas International Train Station

Carry Bradshaw and friends; here's the ultimate girly drinking bar! Have a glass of Champagne, some oysters and caviar, then head off on the Eurostar to Paris to shop! Only prob! You're in NY and this is London! From its start in 1868 as a Victorian train storage shed to its current £800 million architectural restoration and face lift this is my favourite international train station. Champagne and trains the perfect pairing? On a chilly December afternoon we dropped by for a glass of bubble and some oysters. The bar, the longest in Europe (90 to 95 metres) was hopping with activity; single chatty girls, a corporate party, and the smart international train set waiting for departure. There is a choice of 16 Champagnes by the flute and a hand full of rare vintage bottles (Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé 1988, Dom Pérignon enothèque 1993 and 1985, as well as smashing Krug 1976 ) . The intoxicating smell of a chilly English winter wind, diesel fuel, electrical current, and the honeyed nutty notes of a bottle of Krug were heavenly. Relax in the modern version of the vintage Pullman with deep, heated leather seats and surrounding rich wood fittings. Go early for the Krug Breakfast for Two: Scrambled eggs, black truffle & chives on toasted sour dough bread, tea or coffee, and glass of fresh blood orange juice along with a ½ Bottle Krug Grand Cuvee for £97.50. They also have by the bottle a couple of decent UK sparklers. As a wine professional it would have been lovely to have seen the addition of a smattering of non Champagne bubbles; Spanish and new world fizz; but there is no denying the charm and complexity of France's "chalk and chill" hallmark on the classic bubble. For the foodie St. Pancras will soon have a farmer's market mid 2009 so you can shop for farm fresh groceries on your way home after a glass of Champers.

On January 20th 2009 St. Pancras Champagne Bar was voted best Champagne Bar in London at the Drinking Out Excellence Awards 2009