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Monthly Archives: July 2011

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab, But I Said: No. No. No.

I really wanted this week to be gumdrops and lollipops, but it just didn’t work out that way. My daughter has an inner ear infection, which, if you’ve never experienced a toddler with an ear infection before, is awesome. My dad also got an ear infection, which differs only slightly from a toddler having one. (The difference between a toddler getting an inner ear infection and a gentleman-of-a-certain-age getting an inner ear infection is that the toddler won’t make the hospital think she’s having a heart attack or a stroke. Seriously, what is it with getting older that makes doctors think that everything is either heart attack or stroke? Lousy statistics.) We went back and forth with our financing company for the house. (Not to worry – success.) I also listened to way too much Elliott Smith this week. Not good. Like Salinger. Should be consumed in measured doses.

And then Amy Winehouse died. We couldn’t possibly do TSB this week without mentioning Amy Winehouse and her brilliant, too short career. (We even shipped guests in from the UK to commemorate the event. Well, all the way from downtown Playa del Carmen, anyway.) Winehouse’s talent was undeniable. Sadly, so, too, was her eventual end.  A very sad, tragic death, which must give us all pause as we remember our late twenties – those years that mimic the awkward teenage years of our adolescence, but ramped up with credit cards and baggage. Know this, ye lads and lasses in your early twenties: the years between 27 and 29 are the roughest; if you can’t just get past them, you can get past anything.

So what better way to dismiss a long week like a nosy neighbour peeking through your curtains than with a night of food, drink, and friends?

Our guests, Paul and Victoria, joined us for libations as we sat around the pool, talking about Scotland, trading dirty jokes about animals (and now I can only remember the really insulting-slash-offensive ones … of course), and eating the occasional spring roll.

On The Menu: Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Teriyaki Ginger Dipping Sauce, Vegetarian Sushi, Chicken and Beef Satay with Peanut Chilli Dipping Sauce, Apple Blackberry Awesome Cake with Cream

If you want to chase the blues away, drink white wine and include a heavy regimen of dipping sauces in your diet. The spring rolls tasted exactly the way spring rolls should – crispy, hot, and delicious. The perfect pre-dinner snack.

The satay was fun to make. Grilling meat and poultry while drinking wine and talking with friends. What else is summer for?

And yes, I called the dessert Awesome Cake.  That’s because the dessert was a thing from outer space. Warm and soft, the mix of berries and apples, sour and sweet, combined brilliantly with the cream.

And throughout all of this, there was the wine. Well, the first bottle, anyway …

Wine: Lapostolle, Casa, Sauvignon Blanc, Rapel Valley, Chile, 2010, $205 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

This is an effervescent wine; it drinks more like a gewürztraminer. (That’s a wine, right?) Very sweet, but pleasantly so. Super fruity. This is a great summer wine. It tastes like sitting outside on a deck (or a dock) with friends, one of whom has a guitar. Cara loved it. She described it as “yummy.”  We all agreed.

In between courses, we sat with our friends and talked about great hotel lobbies. And horrible ones. The worst one (which got me compliments on my Scottish accent) was in Glasgow, The Grand Hotel. A classic bait and switch: beautiful pictures that were nowhere to be seen in reality. One of four elevators worked. The heating and air conditioning had not been hidden, but hung, exposed, from the ceiling. A retro-fit Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of. In World War II, the hotel had been used as a triage hospital for wounded soldiers. The way you knew this was it still had the crash plates on the double-swinging doors in the hallways for the gurneys to rush through. That, and it smelled like ghosts.

But the topper for that “grand” hotel was the receptionist. Nightmare Sally, wearing a button shirt, two sizes too small, who acted like our checking in was the last thing she needed today. “Great,” she thinks to herself. “Customers.” After our incredibly brief perusal of our room (wallpaper peeling from every wall, blood on the bedspread, tiles coming off the shower walls, no curtains on the bathroom window which overlooked the concourse of the Central Station terminal … one storey up) we politely asked the receptionist if it was possible that all of the rooms in the hotel looked about the same as ours, or if there had been, perhaps, a mistake. She looked at us with all of the contempt that the Scots can muster for tourists (considerable) and said, “Well … there-are-two-hundred-and-twenty-two-rooms-in-the-hotel-I-can’t-know-what-they-all-look-like-can-I?”  Bear in mind, this hotel charged £150, at the time worth about $340 USD.  Not exactly a bargain.

The best lobby, also in Glasgow, was across the street. It featured an Indian restaurant and a twenty-four hour bar. In the lobby! The rooms were nice, too.

Dinner finished, the night winding down, we opened the second bottle of the night.

Wine: Casa Rivas, Reserva, Cabernet Sauvignon, D.O. Valle del Maipo, Chile, 2007, $173 MXN
Rating: One-And-A-Half

A very interesting wine, this one.  Very big.  Lots of bite at first, but it mellows quickly.  Kind of like an indecisive vampire – or a really picky one, at least – kind of annoying.  “I want to suck your blood!  Or do I?” Not terrible, just a little annoying. This wine feels like sitting around a kitchen table, talking about books, politics, or celebrities. While we enjoyed this wine, it is one that you would have to be in the mood for.  I wouldn’t call it easy to drink, but it’s not hard on the palette, either.  I would recommend trying this wine for yourself, especially if you like a wine with moderate tannin to it.  Using the aerator helped this quite a bit, but I found this wine too tart without it.

Like I said: just a little annoying.

And so, as the sun peeks over the horizon on another beautiful day in the Caribbean, we bid you good week.  If you want a transcript of the dirty animal jokes, please email us and we will forward you one or two.

 

Until next week,

 

Cheers!

A Very Berry Soul

We go back to the land of the Argentine this week, keeping things light on account of the heat.  Then we made schnitzel.  With the oven.  Which is hot.  (It’s so hot here…)

We also made coleslaw, however, without mayonnaise, so that helped a bit.  Note to reader: using a food processor to chop onions is like rubbing your eyes with habaneros.  Sulphuric acid blends with the oxygen in the air becoming, I don’t know, chlorine gas, or something.  Megan and I were dancing around each other, mixing this, stirring that, with eyes and noses running, trying to find the sink through tears, occasionally stabbing each other with tongs, knives, and stepping on the odd dog paw or cat tail.  (Take note: Red onions seem to be worse than white.  Take bigger note: Don’t splash red onion juice directly into eyes.  That makes you scream a lot.)

On the Menu: Chicken Schnitzel, Pan-Fried Potatoes, Coleslaw

Nothing more need be said about this dinner.  It was great.  Megan over-spiced the potatoes on account of the onion-blindness, mistaking cayenne pepper and cayenne pepper for cayenne pepper and paprika.  (Take note: Onion-blindness makes reading spice labels tricky.)  Which was fine for everyone but Cara, who finds tomatoes a little picante. I put kiwi in my coleslaw, which gave it a sweetness that the mayonnaise would have provided, but didn’t leave us feeling heavy and bloaty.  The schnitzel, Megan’s specialty, was awesome.  (The trick is: more butter equals more better.)

The wine went well with all things on the table.

Wine: Alma Mora, Pinot Grigio, Cosecha, San Juan, Argentina, 2009, $110 MXN
Rating: 1 ½ Bottle
s. ( I really want to come up with some visual symbols for out bottles to make it look cooler.  We’ll figure it out.)

Alma Mora, as far as we can tell, means Berry Soul which is kind of cool.  I think it would make a great breakfast cereal character.  Berry Soul, with blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, and gooseberry marshmellows.  Part of a funkay breakfast.  Skeedle-dee-bop-doo-WAAHHHH!!!!

Undertones of peaches and apples give a little levity to the citrus bite of this Pinot Grigio.  We also tasted a hint of pear.  Very light.  Great value.  This wine is perfect for those hot summer months.

So why the so-so rating?  Well, it’s perfect while it’s ice-cold.  Once it starts to come up to room temperature, however, a lot of its character dissipates and you are left with a flatter version of the zingy first impression.*  This is one of those wines that our mothers would put a couple of ice cubes into.  Maybe throw in a little Sprite or Perrier with Lime.  (Have I mentioned that we really don’t know anything about wine?)

As I said: perfect for those hot summer months.

Next week is up in the air.  Very busy busy these days.  Cara and I are buying a house.  Which is awesome, since the kitchen is big and has ample space for entertaining.  But first we need to buy a kitchen.  Which is a bit of a drag.  But also exciting.

I’m thinking the Twitter idea is a good one.  One of these weeks (maybe next week, who knows?  Eeee!) we’ll do it.  It would require considerably more wine than one bottle, I think.  You know, for the entertainment of it all.  For the readers.  For you.

Until then,

Cheers!

*Kind of fitting, since that is exactly what happens to people’s descriptions of me at parties!  Cool guy … at first.  Once the abundant coolness wore off … I don’t know … kind of flat.  Wait, not flat – dickish.  Like a professor of Victorian Literature.  You know, knows a lot about stuff that nobody else has even heard of or finds interesting.

Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead!

The wicked witch of God-awful wines is dead.  Lying, in a brown, melted, shapeless mass, all over the kitchen floor …

… And not a week too soon.  Wine is meant to be enjoyed, not used as punishment.  Wine is also meant to be enjoyed in the company of guests.  We had guests over this week.  Guests who enjoy beer and vodka.  Which was nice, since it meant more wine for us.

Dinner was fun this week, too.  Though we were somewhat delayed by … bears … and … ninjas …

On The Menu: Barbeque Chicken with Smokehouse Dry Rub (Williams-Sonoma), Summer Salad, Rosemary-Infused Wild Rice, Peaches & Cream

Dinner, while delayed by the ursus arctos horribilis and the ninjas volantes awesomus*, was delicious and fun.  We took it easy, making our guests wait, enjoying simple conversation about bats and narcolepsy and comic books.  And while we puttered in the kitchen, we enjoyed the first bottle of the night.

Wine: Cantaburros, Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2004, $244 MXN
Rating: Two-And-A-Half-Bottles

This plummy and sweet little number got our taste buds going while we prepared the evening repast.  There is a lot of depth and complexity to this wine.  We think.  When you first breathe it in, there is a bite on the nose, but the wine itself is smooth and not at all bitey. It sits upon the tongue like a pensive gargoyle, fending off the lesser demons, yet silencing your better angels.  It protects your mouth from inferior flavours while keeping it jealously for its own.  It is a very pleasant, misty night kind of wine.  Perfect for sitting around with friends and talking about prison.  (Why were we talking about prison?  I don’t know.  Why do people talk about anything these days?  We’re all going to drown soon.  On account of the Global Warming.)

Our friends James and Claudia were visiting us all the way from downtown Playa del Carmen.  We were also talking about sci-fi, mosquitos (because there are a billion of them here right now), and drastic changes in life-style.  Don’t roll your eyes.  I quit caffeine about six months ago.  You try it.  Dare ya’.  Thought so.  (Chicken.)

Dinner was enjoyed by all.  We shared some jokes (none of which I can share here because Cara made me promise to stop swearing online, so I have to at least cut back for one week).  We shared some dreams.  We swapped Royal Wedding stories, like, “Do you think Kate is pretty?” and “Straw poll: will Charles inherit the throne or will it go straight to William?”

Oh yeah: James is British.

With this, we positively needed to open another bottle, and so we did.

Wine: Bodegas Fontana, Querçus, Tempranillo, Spain, 2006, $573 MXN
Rating: Two-And-A-Half-Bottles

This, too, was a very good wine.  It had been weeks, honestly, since we’d had a night like this, where every wine we picked was a winner.  After our crotch-punchingly bad experience in Budget Town last week, thank you sweetie, I decided to splurge and give us something to drink about.  (Sounds like a threat in an Irish home, doesn’t it?  “Stop dat snivvlin’ or aye’ll give ye sum’tin ter drink abaht!  Toor-a-loor-a-loor-a …”)  This Tempranillo had a peppery, musky flavour to it.  Of the earth, yet not dirty.  It finishes clean, while still giving you something to mull over.  It’s hard to place it’s flavour.  It dances around your mouth — very different from our brooding friend from earlier.  This was a very nice wine to have with dessert.

Which is when James and Claudia had to go.  The night had worn on too long and they both needed to bed for their sleeps.  Which was nice, since it meant more for us.

I got the recipe from Jamie Oliver.  Peaches, peeled and crushed, soaked in bourbon (I used Jameson’s) and covered in a mix of whipped cream and custard.  It was amazing.  I slept like a piggy.  Which is to say, with equal amounts of satisfaction and stomach discomfort.

Next week … who knows?  We’re almost there at this point.  If I ever figure out Twitter like an adult, or a tween, maybe we’ll tweet an entire night so that you can all share in the madness.  In a post like this, where I sit and write it out, I can take out the crabby parts (“When should I put on the chicken?”  “When I’m done with the salad!  God!”  “Don’t speak to me like that!”  “Well, don’t ask me the same effing question eight times!”  “SHUT UP!!”) and Megan can take pretty pretty pictures and you can all think it must  have gone smoother than we make it sound.  It doesn’t, but bless you for thinking it.

Yes.  Twitter.

Till next week,

Cheers!

*Honestly: it’s the heat.  I swear to Jebus, it’s fifty-six-thousand degrees here right now.  You can’t move without taking a break to talk about the heat like an boring neighbour.  The kitchen is so hot that it’s all I can do from putting my bum in the freezer.

Red vs. White: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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If you were ever wondering what the perfect gift for Megan and I would be, please consider this as a strong candidate.

http://www.contexture.ca/redvswhite

Review, Friends-Troops Long Past Review

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This week found us separated by an ocean and Megan sent in her review from the field. I wish the wine that I reviewed could have been amazing, but, alas, it was not.

That’s okay: Cara picked it.

Wine: La Sablette, Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, Vin Blanc, 2008, $155.00 MXN
Rating: Mon Dieu! Quelle horreur! Fiche le camp!

Cara bought this week’s wine. I was an unwilling passenger, I’m afraid.

So here is my quick review. Crap. Crappity. Craptastic. Ass-tounding. Poo-rific. Not good. Crap, crap, crap. Awful. Butt-awful. Garbage, comes to mind; something like rubbish, like refuse. Crap. Reminds me of a fresh anus on a warm summer’s morn. Poop. Sour. Tart. Like crap. Cara said “oaky.” I didn’t taste oak so much as I tasted crap. She said, “oaky, with just a little …” then I raised one eyebrow and gave her my best “Come on …” look, she relented and agreed. “Yeah this is pretty bad.”

There is nothing worse than a truly bad glass of wine. You feel robbed. You feel defeated, in a way. You wanted things to be so much better, so different. Instead, you must give in the awfulness that is flowing past your teeth and into your mouth. You know that the relaxation that comes with savouring a glass of really nice wine has been taken from you, and there is nothing that can fix it.

Plus, factor in the man problems I’ve been having of late, and I was sure this wine was going to give me the worst night I’ve had in weeks. Yay for fire pee! (Note to readers: this wine did in fact make me urinate pure lava. I would avoid this wine in the future, if I were you.)

In short: I did not like this wine. I also noted that Cara did not finish her glass. “What’s that?” I asked her, “You don’t like your Hobo-Juice? Pity. It did cost 155 pesos. With the massive importation tax and mark-up, that’s a very, very cheap bottle of Muscatel you’re not drinking.” I tried to point out that a wine from France for 155 pesos was basically like a buying a bottle of French wine in Canada for about six or seven dollars. French wine is notoriously overpriced. To get a cheap bottle of French wine is like getting no name beer. It has alcohol in it, the basic ingredients for what’s on the label are in there, but not in the right places for it to taste anything like good. But Cara didn’t listen to my logic. It fell on deaf ears. Why didn’t she believe me? Why, why would she fly in the face of my sound argument and pouty facial expressions? The bottle was pretty.

Hey: we’ve all fallen for that one.

So, forget reviewing wine this week. Instead, let me share with you an idea I had for an episode of “House”.

A blogger who talks openly about his health issues gets read by an aspiring, and attractive, young doctor (Elisabeth Moss). She shares the hilarity she read this morning with her team of diagnosticians and is overheard by House (Hugh Laurie) who immediately diagnoses the blogger (Shia LaBoeuf) as having a very rare, very painless condition which will go away with an I.V. drip of … um … chlorophyll (why not?) after sleeping (painlessly) for half the episode like a stone angel. The rest of the episode, Jesse Spencer and Omar Epps play “Go Fish” while House plays mediocre blues on his guitar until the Blogger wakes up and immediately wins the lottery.

Tell me you wouldn’t watch that episode! You would, and you would want to see a follow-up episode in which Shia LaBoeuf fights zombies and cracks wise in a John Ritter-Woody Allen lovechild kind of way. “Great: she’s a zombie too. Zombie. Zombie. There’s a zombie. Everyone’s a zombie! I don’t get it: this couldn’t happen after graduation?? Oh boy: Run!”

As I write this, the wine has robbed all moisture from my mouth. I hate this wine. I want it to die. Plus, I think the bottle is way too phallic to be enjoyable.

I mean, suggestive is one thing. Ace and Gary is a whole nother.

Yep.

Nother.

Cheers!

TSB On the Road In London, UK

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Sent from Megan’s Blackberry, a few night ago.

well it is sunday somewhere isn’t it? no wait that’s hours not days. i blame it on jet lag and the a-a-a-a-a-a-alcohol. no wait that is definitely the jet lag as i cannot name the artist who does that song, but i do know glee does it.  Anyways……. had a fantastic meal and of course enjoyed some wine. no photos of that either i am afraid as i was too busy snarfling food into my mouth Patik style. Nevermind….had dinner at Butcher @ Leadenhall (Leadenhall originally built 1411). A fabulous place to grab a great bite if in London. Specializing in organic, free range meets of local English origin, they make fantastic British food, cooked of course, by an Italian. Looking for something substantial we gave up on the pubs which were so full that on average 80 people were having their drink standing outside in front of the pub! and not because they were smoking…nope can’t smoke it the covered areas of Leadenhall but because the inside was as full as that as well. it had about given up and thought to leave the area but saw the menu at Butcher and thought it sounded yummy.

on the menu: one british beef burger with cheese thank you very much, served with pickles, salad, fries and all the super spicy english mustard you can handle.
so yummy. the best i have had that i didn’t make myself. Rene had the minute steak and frites served with béarnaise. The beef in a word, excellent. to wash all this down a few glasses of this

Tempranillo, Candidato 2010. Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain.
cost: 4 pound 50 a glass (you do the exchange I’m on vacation)
rating: 3 bottles. (so not kidding. Rene thinks that it is a pleasant wine)

So this is what the restaurant had to say about it ….showing raspberries and a slight creaminess on the finish.
I would certainly not call it slight. this wine was so smooth..no acidity. you could taste the raspberries but the bouquet was misleading  Rene expected pepper where there was none. I felt that the wine was robust enough for me for a good summer wine. It was not at all heavy and frankly it went superbly with my burger. And before I hear about how you can’t have burgers and wine….all I have to say if you should try the burger. It deserved red wine. also they had no Guinness on the menu.

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