Sunday, October 25, 2009

Legends of the Fall: Squash Meets Malts

Autumn nights, hearty beers, and fall cuisine can only mean one thing; the return of small batch pumpkin ale production. This year I only had the opportunity to taste three Pumpkin based ales; two bottled and one draught.

Although we may look at pumpkin ale as a novelty it no doubt placed a principle role in beer production during the first influx of pilgrims and colonists to the new world with their lack of malt and barley production and future prohibitive cost of importing these beer making essentials from the old world. Modern pumpkin ale production as we know and taste it has been limited to the last two and half decades. Pumpkin ale? For me it falls into two distinct families: fresh pumpkin tasting (roasted or fresh pumpkin) or pumpkin pie tasting (emphasis on the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).

Steamwork's Brewing (British Columbia) Draught, The Great Pumpkin Ale, falls into the pumpkin pie school of beer profiles. Although tamer than past batches this beer is Amber coloured with little lacing. It is full-bodied, lightly carbonated, and loaded with sweet cinnamon, clove, all spice, and hints of ginger. For me one pint is enough.

The Brooklyn Brewing (New York) Post Road Pumpkin Ale (bottle) was tasted at Pourhouse. This ale was more of a bridge style between the fresh pumpkin family and pumpkin pie family of production. It is orange-amber colour, medium-bodied, more carbonated than the Steamwork's ale and had noticeable lacing and carbonated head. Aromas were leaning towards fresh pumpkin with overtones of cinnamon and nutmeg. On the palate the Post Road was drier and lighter in texture with more biscuit and malt than pumpkin flavours.

My favourite pumpkin ale this year based on the small selection I tried has to be the Vancouver Island Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale (bottle) from Philips Brewing. This amber gold coloured ale had a beautiful fresh pumpkin aroma, refreshing carbonation and nice lacing. It is medium-bodied and has perfectly balanced flavours with fresh cut pumpkin, all spice, and cinnamon. By far the best of the three this year. The Steamwork's Great Pumpkin Ale is ideally suited to drink solo with its inherent sweetness but could marry to pumpkin pie, maple glazed yams, honey glazed carrots, or white meat poulty. The Post Road will nicely pair with yam fries or pumpkin ale battered fish and chips. Phillip's Crooked Tooth Ale with its superb balance would make a good all round autumnal food beer - try with a squash risotto, maple glazed wild BC salmon, or candied beets.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pourhouse Vancouver | Chef's Table Dinner

Helen and I celebrated or 11th anniversary with dinner at the Chef's Table at Gastown's newest gastronomic hot spot Pourhouse. Our six course dinner took place in the kitchen, with it's heat, bursts of flame, the possibility of Chef Gordon Ramsay outbursts, the din of equipment, and the clatter and ting of plates and glassware, and watching the well honed brigade not only prepare our food but a full house of diners. Chef Chris Irving and Partner/Mixologist Jay Jones looked after us through our three and a half hours of cocktails, wine and food. Our amuse to start was a well constructed twist on the
classic Champagne cocktail. Mr. Jones' version was made from Moet et Chandon Brut, 5 year old Torres brandy, and peach bitters. 1st course was a selection of BC oysters (Kumamoto and Royal Miyage) with a red wine mignonette and fresh horseradish paired with a Last Word Cocktail (Tanqueray gin, Chartreuse, fresh lime, and Maraschino cherry liqueur). The sea saltiness of the oysters paired well with the herbal notes of the gin and Chartruese. 2nd course was a charcuterie/cheese plate from Fuel Restaurant's "The Cure" paired with the wonderful Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir 2007 from Martinborough in New Zealand. This Pinot had a lovely texture and classic Pinot Noir notes of rhubarb, red cherry, spice, subtle oak, and hints of autumnal wood smoke and mushroomy earthiness. 3rd course was a beautifully flavoured leek and potato soup with smoked cod flakes. Mr. Jones paired this lusciously flavoured soup with the Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2008 from Australia. This fuller bodied version of the regular Viognier was richly textured and complexly layered with notes of apricot, honeysuckle, Mandarin orange, white peach, and a hint of sweet spice. For a rest between dishes Jay prepared a 1917 Aviation Cocktail (Plymouth Gin, fresh lemon, creme de voilette, and Maraschino Cherry liquor) a nice refreshing cocktail. 4th course crispy boneless turkey wing with braised celery, chorizo and cornmeal cake - this was paired with Jay's creative take on a Bloody Mary a.k.a "Brave Bull" (Maker's Mark Bourbon, tomato juice, turkey jus reduction, spice and Maldon sea salt).
Our main 5th course was a traditional lobster roll with creamed corn and Saratoga chips. This rich course was balanced by a refreshing Pike IPA Beer Float wth apple juice, Aztec chocolate bitters and a Donnafugata Nero d'Avola float. Our final course, Maker's Mark Bananas Foster with house made vanilla ice cream and sweet dough cookie was made by Chef Irving with lots of heat and flame in the kitchen. We brought along from our cellar a bottle of Chateau Rayne Vigneaux Sauternes 1er Cru from our wedding year 1998 which Jay kindly opened. The Sauternes was medium-bodied and full of apricot, pineapple, honey, subtle botrytis, and decent sugar and acidity - not overly rich or sweet but no complaints on the wine - it travelled with us through three countries back in 2006. Although we have eaten at Pourhouse several times since it's opening - the experience of the Chef's Table is not to be missed. The table seats four comfortable or six cosily. Service by Jay and Chris was nothing short of stellar. Sitting at the chef's table is an insight into front and back of house operations and if you enjoy watching cooking shows this is the real thing. Pourhouse is a beautiful looking restaurant with an emphasis on American comfort food and I detect a slight English influence (no doubt from Chef Irving's UK kitchen stints). The room is a luscious blend of rich woods, re-claimed architectural and industrial elements, and art deco influences. Cocktails are classic or a twist on classics with a short "There's" and "Ours" list all served in the "proper" glassware. Wine list bridges the new and old world with just under ten wines by the glass. Jay's love of draught shows with some great beer from Pike and Brooklyn and other interesting local and imports for your session drinking at the wood.
162 Water St Vancouver
(604) 568-7022

Friday, October 2, 2009

Alois Lageder - Alpine Meets Mediterranean

I recently had the opportunity to taste eight wines from Alois Lageder, the foremost Alto Adige producer, at an on-trade event at L’Altro Buca in Vancouver. The tasting and presentation was lead by director of sales Urs Vetter and organised by local wine agent blue note . The Alto Adige is a viticultural region of extremes; small - about the size of Chablis, a meso climate of cool alpine air and Mediterranean warmth (one of the five warmest regions in Italy) and a huge diurnal temperature drop due to a thermal inversion between 200 to 1200 metres in the wine growing valley. It's alluvial and scree deposited soils add complexity (Dolomitic limestone, gravel, and sandstone prevail) along with state of the art and forward thinking wine making under the fifty plus vintage by winemaker Luis von Dellemann create an iconic wine style that represents the Alto Adige.

Riff 2008 Pinot Grigio (IGT Venetzia)
Straw green with fresh pear and green apple aromas. Medium-bodied with good concentration, well balanced acidity and refreshing pear, mineral, and green apple flavours. Perfect with shellfish, trout, or cerviche.

Classic Pinot Bianco 2007
Straw yellow with a flinty and lanolin aroma. Medium-bodied, concentrated, and layered with apple, mineral, and subtle peach and alpine flower finish. Pair up with caprese salad, grilled asparagus, creamy mushroom pasta.

Benefizium Porer Pinot Grigio 2008
Single Vineyard Grigio (20-40 year old vines, chalky soils) with 80% stainless steel fermentation and ageing with 20% Allier oak ageing. Straw green with flinty, ripe pear, and peach aromas. Medium to full-bodied, concentration and crisp with ripe fruit salad notes - think a bowl of apple, pear, peach and fresh grapes. This one would be great with poultry, fleshy seafood, and charcuterie.

Beta-delta Chardonnay Pinot Grigio 2008
Certified Bioydynamic 50% each varietal. Straw green with mineral and tree fruit aromas. Medium-bodied with ripe Chardonnay fruit (pear, spice, Macintosh apple) and subtle sur lie notes. Perfect with salmon, scallops, or simple chicken dishes.

Classic Gewurztraminer 2008
Straw yellow with strong rose and subtle lychee aromas. Medium-bodied, dry and concentrated, with rose, spice, and subtle lychee flavours. Long finish of rose. Perfect pairing with pate, mild creamy blue cheese, and the mild curry.

Vogelmaier Moscato Giallo 2008
My favourite white on the tasting! Single Vineyard. Straw green with fresh grapey and peach sorbet aromas. Medium-bodied, rich and ripe, and full of delicious fresh sweet grape, peach, pear, and apricot. Well balanced, complex, and very tasty. Pair this one with a sushi rolls, Thai yellow curry, and BC spot prawns.

Lagrein Rosato 2008
Cherry copper colour with savoury and vegetal (tobacco) aromas. Medium-bodied, dry, with flavours of strawberry, hay, savoury herbs, tobacco, and subtle spice. Almost a Rhone Mourvedre in flavour. According to Urs this is the perfect all rounder to curry! any heat!

Krafuss Pinot Noir 2005 Estate Wine
Cherry red colour with a complex nose of earth, smoke, and oaky cedar resin (12 months in French oak - Allier, Nevers, and Vosges 1/3rd new). Medium-bodied with strawberry leaf, cherry, red currant, and added oak complexity with nice cedar notes in the finish.

Lindenberg Lagrein 2004 Estate Wine
Lagrein = Syrah possibly? Dense ruby purple colour with lovely chocolate, violet, and spice aromas. Full-bodied with some tannin (4-6 years ageing?) and concentrated structure wit flavours of dark chocolate, black currant leaf, and layers of spice. Almost a cross between the Rhone and Bordeaux! Perfect pairing with braised meats, stews, venison, or lamb.
Overall I found the aromatic whites the strong points from Alois Lageder and the tasting of the lagrein Rosato and Estate Lndenberg Lagrein where eye openers on the region and the varietal.
The Alto Adige looks amazingly beautiful and through a quirk of nature - climate and soils along with Germanic efficiency make this region one to watch.