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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Reflections and Judgements … and Chilli

I feel kind of bad when we buy wine that isn’t great.  I wonder if anyone reading this gets put off by the negativity.  But when we started this thing, it was meant to be a journal of wines that we’ve tried – wines that we liked, and wines that we didn’t like – so that we’d know what to buy again and what to avoid.  This was a concern we discussed this week with our guest, Karen.  (There: I’ve put you in the blog, Karen.  NOW GIVE ME BACK MY DOG!)

Wines we’ve hated:  Estampa Estate – not reviewed.  See?  A Zero Bottle wine that we didn’t bother slashing to bits.  Suffices to say, it sucked.  It was like drinking wine-flavoured cough syrup.  Blech.  Wolf Blass, Yellow Label, Chardonnay – not terribly good.  Described as a bottle of pee.  Very disappointing.  Blackstone Winemaker’s Select.  Have you ever noticed that whenever the words “Select,” “Quality,” or “Dignity” are used, they never describe the product they name?  Dignity … I love this word in conjunction with products of any kind – typically reserved for products sold to the elderly, and one that I appropriated for the leash that Cara tried to use when Caia was little.  I dubbed it: The Dignity Harness.  “Your toddler can’t escape, and strangers can’t help judging you for using it!”  Quality Inn: the only thing quality about a hotel that uses the word “quality” in their name is their knowledge of what words trick people into believing them.  Winemaker’s Select: I strongly DOUBT that any true winemaker would SELECT this wine for anything other than to put it on a sponge to give to a man on a cross.  Sacrilegious?  Yes.  False?  Hardly.

Wines we’ve loved: Yarrunga Field – Three Bottles.  Altos de Tamaron – Two-and-a-Half Bottles.  No° 99, Wayne Gretzky Estates – Two-and-a-Half Bottles.  We have loved.  We have lived.

Some wines we’ve enjoyed – others not so much.  Sometimes, you need to be critical.  Sometimes you need to be complimentary.  That’s life.

This week, we did not love the wines we chose.  We loved the food we made.  But not the wine.

On The Menu: Corn Bread Muffins, Chilli Con Carne, Strawberry Cake

The food was great and it was what we needed.  Comfort food for a rainy Sunday with family.  Food that sticks to your ribs, as my grandfather would say.  Food that keeps you sane.

And after the week we had, we needed it.  We suffered through a toddler’s cold, a plant fire at two in the morning, a week filled with ten plus hour work days, insomnia, and a paper-cut.  We made it through, but only barely.  The thought of making some elaborate dinner brought tears to Megan’s eyes and made me punch a hole through a canoe.  That never happened, but I could if wanted to.

I made the chilli; Megan made the corn bread and the cake.  Megan’s corn bread complimented the chilli very nicely.  Made with jalapenos and banana peppers, there was a soft, sweet heat to them that cut through the corn and made your mouth hum.

The chilli I made in one pot using ground and cubed beef with lots of fat, yellow and red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and love.  Lots of love.  And cumin.  Lots of cumin.

Wine: Alma Mora, Cabernet Sauvignon, San Juan, Argentina, 2008, $105 MXN
Rating: One Bottle

The problem with this wine was that it bored us.  There was no real flavour to it.  Kind of fruity, pretty salty, and with tannins that kind of sneak up on you.  And … that’s pretty much it.  For the money, I would rather drink something else.  Concha y Toro, say.

(Sorry, Jorge.)

Wine: Monte Xanic, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico, 2006, $360 MXN
Rating: One-and-a-Half Bottles

A heavier wine, but also more pleasant.  Softer tannins, but with a bitter finish.  Oaky, which Megan doesn’t like, but I don’t mind in a red.  Less fruity than the first.  Still … meh.

At this point, I have no idea what next week will bring us.  Hopefully not locusts, but who knows.  Send us positive vibes.

Until then,

Cheers!

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TSB Wine Tasting Event at Cava Veinte33

Four Mexican Wines.  Known for blending varietals in somewhat unorthodox ways.  Thus spake Demian. (Zarathustra being unavailable and generally unwilling to conduct wine tastings.  He’s such a pill.)  There were ten of us in total at Cava Veinte33 this past Saturday at one-thirty.  So proud, were we, to convince eight friends to join us for wine in the early afternoon.

And this is what we tasted:

Wine: Domenica, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Viñas Pijoan, 2006, $350 MXN
Grenache, Petite Syrah, Merlot
Rating: Two Bottles

Named for the winemaker’s daughter (he names all of his wines after important people in his life – mostly women), the soft flavours carry this wine across your tongue.  This is a slightly gamey wine, which some people have a hard time enjoying, but which I like quite a lot.

This was a very easy wine to drink, but with a slightly sharp finish.  We all remarked that this wine had a sharp finish.  Someone else remarked that the wine was sharp.  It was agreed, then, that this was a sharp wine.  Someone (Andrew) said that we were referring to its (the wine’s) cleverness.  Some card (me) noted that this was a “Witty little number.”  (There was a LOT of eye-rolling, Saturday.)  Black currants and pomegranate were also noted.

A very good start.

We were offered water to rinse with.  There was in a pitcher on the table.  Andrew took a sip of it.  Demian said that it was actually to rinse our glasses.  In a spit take that would have made Groucho proud, Andrew immediately let the water fall back out of his mouth and into the glass.  It was a triumph.  Seriously, one of the funniest things I’d seen all month.  And September’s been HILARIOUS.

Wine: Los Nietos, Mezcla Bordelesa, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Émeve, 2009, $400 MXN
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot
Rating: Two-and-a-half Bottles

(Rye?  Was that RYE I tasted on that wine?)  Tart, but smooth.  Strawberries?  (Rye?)  Spicy, it was decided.  Cloves and nutmeg, someone said.  Demian chose this moment to let us in on a secret about wine: there is no right call on what you taste in a glass of wine.  If you taste strawberries, then you DO.  What one person may taste, another may not.  This wine was the favourite so far, by most.  (I still preferred the first bottle.  I found it more agreeable.  I liked its quirks.  I liked that it was both gamey and sharp.  It made me think of Englishmen out hunting foxes or something.  Then that made me sad for the foxes, but I liked the camaraderie, nonetheless.)

We sat around, discussing what a tannin was.  I thought it was something to do with protein.  Cara and Megan weren’t sure.  Andrew kind of agreed with me.  Demian told me I was wrong.  So far, we were off to a good start.

Wine: Casa Madero, Gran Reserva, Casa Grande, Valle de Parras, 2006, $440 MXN
Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz
Rating: Two Bottles

“Syrupy,” said Cara.

“Something,” said I.

“Smokey,” said Michael.

“Oaky,” said Andrew.

“Heavy,” said I, not to be outdone.  “It tastes like port.”

“Thick,” chimed in Megan.

We all tried to be appreciative of the wine without sounding like the wine was getting to us.  At this point, it was getting a little difficult to taste one wine from the other, but Demian chose well.  “This is the oldest winery in the continent.  It’s been making wine since 1597, taking only a short break when wine-making was outlawed by Spain around 1620.”  Why they outlawed wine had something to do with imperialism, and I had long since given up taking comprehensive notes.  This was a fitting wine for us to drink this weekend, however, it being Mexican Independence Day, which commemorates the start of the Independence War by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810.  (Take THAT, Spain.  We’ll drink whatever wine we damn well please!)

Where was I?  Oh yeah: Demian chose well.  Each wine a little more intense than the last so that we would be able to pick up on the differences.  If he had gone the other way, we would have started remarking how watery the wine tasted.  I call it the Wedding At Cana Method.  Go ahead.  Steal it.

We should take a moment to pause here, and comment on the food that we were served throughout the day.

On the Menu: Fried Calamari, Eggplant Parmesan, Pastrami Hamburger with Sauerkraut and Pepper Jack Cheese, Sweet Potato Fries, Chocolate Pudding with a Strawberry Compote

In true Cava style, the food came out at just the right time.  Namely, just as we were starting to feel a shade past tipsy.  Now, the purpose of this event was not to get drunk, but to try different wines and enjoy good company.  And, after three bottles, each of us had had just under three glasses.  Not quite three.  So, we were feeling SOME vapours, but not too many.  All the same, the food came as a pleasant foil for the wine.

The clear favourites were the Eggplant Parmesan and the Pastrami Burgers.  Subtle flavours for both, but I have to say, I am a sucker for hamburgers, especially when there is cheese involved.  But add a bed of pastrami and sauerkraut?  This was quickly becoming my favourite day ever.  (Well, next to the birth of my daughter and Obama being elected president, but a VERY CLOSE THIRD.)

Back to the wine …

Wine: Las Nubes, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, 2008, $560 MXN
Nebiolo
Rating: One Bottle

Maybe it was that we’d already blown most of our taste buds, but this wine did not agree with any of us.  A lot of minerals in the wine made it taste salty to most, and the higher level of tannins left a bitter, tart, dry mouth in all.  We didn’t have a lot to say about this wine.  One of the pricier bottles we tried, this was the least appreciated wine of the bunch by all of us.

This was to be our last bottle and we were trying our damndest to enjoy it.  Sensing this, and being the consummate host, Demian treated us with a fifth bottle.

(Phew!)

Wine: Los Nietos, Reserva, Villa de Guadalupe, Baja California, Émeve, 2008, $550 MXN
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Rating: Two-and-a-half Bottles

This wine was much softer and fruitier.  (What do you know: we all like fruity wine.)  Strawberries and blackberries and dark red fruit made for a magnificent final wine to the day.  Doing the math, each of us had about a bottle each, which is a lot.  Our tummies full of food and libation, we felt like royalty.

The thing we liked about Demian’s tasting was that he educated us on the wines themselves – where they were from, how they were made, the philosophy behind each winemaker’s process – but he never told us what we should be TASTING in each wine.  He allowed us to discover if we enjoyed them or not for ourselves.  Cara tried to trap him, at one point, asking him whether there is a RIGHT way to taste a wine.  Whether there actually IS a true palette for each bottle.  Like, if a person tastes strawberries, could they be WRONG.  But Demian wouldn’t take the bait.  Instead, he asked her to leave.  (Just kidding, but he totally could have.)

And so our great Wine Tasting Event at Cava Veinte 33 came to an end.  As we spilled out onto the street, some smoking cigarettes, others picking fights, Megan, Cara and I smiled in appreciation for this wonderful life.

Our thanks to Demian and the entire staff at Cava Veinte33 for their hospitality.  Many thanks to everyone who shared the experience with us.

Cheers!

New Pots!

So, I guess I’m psychic.  Last week, I sent out an email update with a subject line that read: “New Pots!”  I got some really helpful emails from some of our readers, too.  (I’m being sarcastic.  You all suck.)

This week, I was to make risotto.  I like risotto.  It’s delicious.  It’s like savoury rice pudding.  It makes me happy to eat it.  But there is a good lesson to be learned, and that is this: if you buy cheap pots, your risotto will burn and you will get mad at your garbage can and you will kick it.  (Which, incidentally, is the name of a sitcom I am working on.)

So, my starchy bonanza was a bust.  I did get dubbed “King of the Cream Sauce” (which, incidentally, is the name of a male oriented movie I’m … and so on, and so on …).

So, I threw out that damn pot, and yes, I did mutter “Out, damn’d pot! out, I say!” maniacally to myself.

On the Menu: Chicken Spaghetti in a Tomato and White Wine Cream Sauce, No Risotto with Dill and Tomato

Megan and Rene pulled twelve hour days again this week and Cara was hard at work at her new job, learning the ropes, hauling tours, and just being awesome in general.  This Sunday, though, Megan and I would have the whole day to leisurely cook, sip wine, and make fools of ourselves.  And we needed it.  It’s been a long couple of weeks and we were really looking forward to a grownup day.  I hired the nanny so Caia would be looked after.  It was all planned out.

Then she got a call from a friend that his mom had fallen at a resort here in Playa and had broken her arm, shattered her wrist, and dislocated her elbow.  She needed surgery.  She was travelling alone.  Could Megan go sit with her when in the Recovery Room.  Hurt lonely friend’s mom trumps boozy afternoon.

Awesome times a billion.

Megan requested risotto as she ran out the door.  I was going to kick that risotto’s ass.  Then I remembered that I was a stupid and bought the cheapest pot in the world with the thinnest bottom and the stupidest shade of blue.  Honestly: who wants a robin’s egg blue pot?  It sucks.  Every time I think about it, it sucks more and more.

The chicken spaghetti turned out well, though.  And for the first time, in what seems like forever, we got a pretty nice bottle of wine for the evening.

Wine: Vidal del Saz, Tempranillo, Spain, 2007, $139 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

Soft tannins and wafts of roses make this wine very smooth to drink.  Very mellow and flavourful.  Hints of orange and all spice.  It reminded us of Christmas.  A definite re-buy.  It was just the wine we all needed after a long week.  Plus, it was raining.  Perfect.

Also, the vodka helped.

This week we are getting ready for the wine tasting at Cava Veinte 33.  If you still want to go there are a few spaces left.  Don’t wait too long, though — these things always go fast as the actual date approaches.

This Saturday, September 17, at 1:30pm.

Until then,

Cheers!

Tic toc, y’all.

Just letting everyone know that we are down to six spots left for the exclusive Wine Tasting at Cava Veinte 33 on September 17.

If you want a spot, let us know soon!

Tickets are $400 pesos and tasting will start at 1:30pm.

Do not miss out on this!

Cheers!

Lemony Chicken and The Stupid Bundtdtt Cake Pan

If you follow us on Twitter, then you know how I feel about buntdtddt cake pans.  We don’t get along yet.  I don’t know what it is about me and baking.  I follow the recipes to the letter and yet they always turn out to be disasters.

What happened was I was using a sub-par bundttdtdddtd cake pan, see?  And when I poured the batter into it and put it in the oven, the batter started seeping out the bottom, causing a molten pancake to form.  I tried to get the bundttdtdd cake pan out of the oven but the damn thing kept threatening to come apart, which would have drained all my pound cake batter into the nooks and crannies of the oven, plus, the towel I was using to hold it was slipping (and getting into the batter) so I had to grab the bundttdtdddtdtt cake pan with my bare hands. “Was it hot?” you might ask.  If lava tasted sweet with just a hint of lemon, then you’d have a general idea of how hot it was.  Was there enough smoke in my house to set off every smoke alarm within a three kilometer radius?  If there were smoke alrams in any of the houses within a three kilometer radius, I’m sure they’d have been singing.

The anger I have felt this past year towards baked goods is not normal.

What can I say: baking is not my forté.  Thank goodness I can still cook.  I have a knack for cream sauces and pastas.  I have a flair for lamb and chicken.  I can sauté the crap out of fish.  I can out-grill your dad on his best day.

Just keep me the fuck away from blintzes and pastries.

This week I was on my own.  Megan and Rene had to be at the bio-desiellery ensuring a better tomorrow for all of us.  Cara worked until the wee hours of the afternoon.  Caia had her fourth swimming lesson.  (She is learning how to kick and hold her breath so that she can put her head beneath the water and also how to hold onto the edge.  Oh, and also how to flirt with the swim instructor.  He’s gay.  Poor thing.  Her first heartbreak.)

Anyway, the culinary duties fell on my shoulders this week.  I bought the wine, made the dinner, (eventually) made the dessert, and everyone was eating on time.  I felt so efficient I swear there were trains in Japan seething with jealousy.

Okay: the wine was terrible.  We’ll review it, anyway.  But this is the first week we didn’t finish any of the bottles.  Actually, it’s the first week we didn’t finish a bottle, period.  (Do we have a problem?)

But first, the food.

On The Menu: Lemon Chicken with Dill in a Lemon Beer Cream Sauce, Dill-Infused Rice, Steamed Asparagus, Lemon Pound Cake with a Lemon Icing Drizzle (sensing a theme?)

There is no greater joy to a cook than to have his guests truly enjoy the meal he prepared for them.  It doesn’t matter if you are a professional chef in a world-class restaurant or an amateur weekend warrior, cooking for your friends and family – the look on their faces as they savour every bite of the food that you made is a hauntingly beautiful feeling.  Gratifying in a way that is difficult to put into words.  So I’ll stop.

Okay …

The ahem … “wine.”

Wine: Montecillo, Crianza, Rioja, 2007, Spain, $159 MXN
Rating: Half A Bottle

There were some redeeming qualities to this wine, which is what saved it from getting a zero bottle rating.  That being said, we cannot recommend that you drink this wine unless you like really musky wine.  If you do, have at ‘er.  Dark fruit doesn’t begin to cover it.  Think fermented prunes.  Plums, yes.  Black cherries, certainly.  But also prunes.  I kept waiting for my bowels to start moving while I drank this wine.

Like I said, we didn’t … check that … couldn’t finish this bottle.  It was just too much.  So, we hoped, in vain, that the second bottle would be better.

Wine: Finca, La Linda, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, Argentina, $154 MXN
Rating: Half A Bottle

Sharp and bitey.  Lots of tannins.  Smoothed out with time, but even with an aerator, this wine kept its tartness.  Maybe if it had been a colder night and we had eaten steak instead of chicken, this wine would have served us better.  Megan said, “It tastes like Red,” and I agreed.  In fact, it tasted like drinking an entire puddle of red, right off the ground, it was that enjoyable.  The salient flavour was RED.

Yeah: didn’t finish this bottle either.  Oh well, some wines you like, some wines make you want to hurt things.

Who knows what next week will bring us?  I do know that two weeks from now will bring us the wine tasting at Cava Veinte 33 and we are running out of space.  If you are in the Playa del Carmen area (or will be on the 17th of September) reserve your spots now.

Also, we fixed the subscription thingy on the top right of the page.  Look up.  That’s it.  There it is!  (Thanks to everyone who alerted us to its unworkingness.  We owe you one.)

Cheers!

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