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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Grilled Cheese Dissidents: A Quick Post, On The Eve of Our Wine-iversary

The only thing worse than falling off a scooter is falling off a scooter while it’s parked in your driveway.

‘Nough said?


Megan did everything this week as my body was in rough shape, we are (going crazy) closing on our house, and I am on painkillers.

On the Menu: Roasted Tomato Soup, Grilled Cheese Samwiches with Sharp White Cheddar and Herbed Focaccia or Herbed Ciabatta, Homemade Oreo Cookies

The ultimate comfort food dinner.  We enjoyed the fare, with its epicurean touches, and everyone ignored the wincing man-child at the table.   The Homemade Oreos were pretty rad.  They tasted just like Oreo cookies, but really soft and chewy.  Kind of how the founders intended Oreo cookies, I would imagine, if the founding fathers of America had spent time discussing the proper execution of baked goods.

Which they did.

(Sorry … painkillers.)

Wine: Viña Ardanza, Reserva Especial, Rioja, 2001, Spain, $470 MXN
Rating: Zero Bottles

Zero bottles, you ask?  That’s right.  A big bottle of moose urine.  Are we being too harsh with this wine?  No.

And I’ll tell you why …

For a wine to get a One Bottle rating, it must be a wine that you would buy “in a pinch.”  I would grab Gato Negro before I bought this wine again.  I would not buy this wine in a pinch, and certainly not for $470 pesos.

And why not?

As mentioned already, too expensive for the quality.  Very tart, with not a lot of improvement after aerating (and letting it sit for a while to think about what it did).  Plummy, with just a hint of vinegar.  Also, a strong taste of vinegar, with just a hint of plum.

We actually think this wine might have just been too old.  Which is possible.  It could have been just sitting too long.  Maybe it got lost at sea and someone found it, years later, and thought, “Let’s sell this for money!”  I’m sure it seemed like a good idea.

Less of a good idea?  Buying and drinking it.

Anyway … you live, you learn.

You lose … you learn.

Next week marks our one year wine-iversary.  We are excited.  We are being treated by Rene and Cara who will be making all of the cooking and doing with all of the baking for food.  (Painkillers.  Sorry.)  Megan and I will be permitted to drink to our hearts content.  Which, according to heart doctors, is a glass-and-a-half a day.  Which means that we’ll have to not drink any glasses all week so that we can have ten-and-a-half glasses each on Sunday!

Till then,


Oh the Zen! The Zen of it All!

There is a Zen-like composure that comes over you when you are cooking the only meal of the week in which you are allowed to indulge your less healthy desires.  You pay more attention to the little details.  You prepare in advance more, not wanting something to be spoiled because of bad timing.  The process of cooking takes on a life of its own, sucking you in and down into its delicious, swirling vortex, the anticipation of the meal to come, ripping out all impatience, and replacing it with a sense of oneness with your kitchen.

I have just completed my second week of body modification.  There will be no cutting, piercing, or inking going on.  None of my modifications will be permanent; all will require maintenance for the rest of my life.  Yet I find myself embracing these changes in lifestyle for the ecstasy they bring, once a week, on Sunday nights.

Anything, when only permitted once a week, takes on a new level of importance.  It becomes a quest.  The week spent in the gym – the labyrinths and catacombs and dungeons and caves.  The weights and treadmills and reps and sets – my dragons and Cyclopes and minotaurs – all to be defeated for my maiden fair Meal.  “I see thee, fair maiden, and I shall deserve thee.”

The challenge, now, is not undoing all of the work I have put in at the gym all week by loading up on carbs and fat.  (Challenge failed.)

On the Menu: Citrus Twist Coleslaw, Three Lettuce Salad, Tri-Colour Baked Beans, Seasoned Potato Wedges, Butter-Flashed Asparagus with Rosemary, Oven-Baked Steak Medallions, Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

On the surface, I know, it looks like a healthy enough dinner.  The reality is, that anything that gets cooked in that much butter cannot be healthy.  Well, not lean, anyway.

I have found that if you marinade beef in butter for thirty minutes prior to cooking, it tastes like awesome.  (The marinade also included salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary.)

The steaks get seared on each side for about two minutes, with a little olive oil in the pan to keep them from sticking, then the whole skillet goes into a 230 degree oven for 8 minutes.  This should give you a medium-rare to medium result.

Joseph handled the salads again, and his introduction of citrus to the coleslaw blew everyone’s minds.

Megan’s poppy seed cake was an exercise in elegance and exquisite balance of flavour and texture.  At the end of a long day and night, it was just what everyone needed, whether they knew it or not.

And we had two additions to the table this week.  Megan’s aunt Judith is visiting us from Toronto, and Cara and Rene’s cousin, Lada, is visiting from the Czech Republic.  TSB goes global, y’all …

Judith was kind enough to bring a bottle of wine from Canada.  Well, from France, but the bottle was in Canada for awhile.

Wine: Les Hauts de Castellas Vacqueyras, Red Blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre), Rhône Valley, France, 2009, $19.95 CAD
Rating: Two Bottles

Since we detected hints of rosemary in this wine, it went very well with this week’s meal, the harmonizing herb of this week’s dinner.  In their tasting notes, the LCBO mentions, “Ideal for homemade gourmet hamburgers or rich meat-based pastas.”  Funny, that.

Earthy, herby, and floral, this wine is on the light-ish side, but with tannins that more than make up for it – a little too up front for most of our liking.  We were a divided bunch on this wine.  The vintners recommend shelving this wine for five to seven years, so we were two years short.  We agreed with their estimates.  Given a little more time, this wine would probably round out a bit more and lose a lot of its bitey-ness.

Being that there were nine of us, wine didn’t stand on ceremony this week, so neither will we.

Wine: Pagos del Moncayo, Grenache/Syrah, Campo de Borja, Spain, 2010, $150 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

I got this wine from Demian at Cava Veinte33.  One of his new wines, his enthusiasm for it was contagious, so I bought it.  (Never refuse an excited sommelier.  It’s kind of like turning down a bower.)

With dark fruit and apple flavours, this woody wine is light but complex.  Sandalwood plays off peppery notes, while chocolate and figs bring up the bottom.

Amazing value for the price.

Wine: Viña Pomal, Rioja Crianza, Spain, 2009, $145 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

All of the wines this week went very well with red meat.  This very typical Rioja – earthy, oaky, and leathery – was no exception.  Although, if pressed, I would have to say that it didn’t have as much character as the other two.  Also, we were tired.  It just felt a little flat.  It was fine, don’t get me wrong, just not much to write home about.

And with our plates clean and our bellies full, we bid each other a good night.

And I toddled off to bed, to sleep, eagerly awaiting my work-outs to come, knowing that each bench I press (?) brings me that much closer to the next Sunday Bottles.

Until then,


Happy Valentimes Day!

While we didn’t have a specifically Valentine’s Day dinner, it was certainly a love affair with food.  A torrid, hurtful affaire, filled with misunderstandings and deliberately abusive language.  Also, with wonderful, dizzying highs.  Moments of sheer infatuation.  Then, the drinking and the screaming and yelling.  Then, the make-up sex.*  An affair, in short, to remember.

Being that I had such a hellish week with my new workout schedule (oh the pain, the pain of it all), I thought it would be nice to reward myself and everyone who had to listen to my bitching this last week (“my arms hurt, why do my arms hurt … wahhhh”) with a treat: beer-battered deep-fried veggies with dipping sauce.  Were people pleased?  Yes.

Unfortunately, it took us a lot longer to get through the mountain of veggies that I had prepped than we had planned for, and I forgot all about the chicken in the oven, and so the result was very dry chicken.  Still tasty, just … really dry.

On the Menu: Beer-Battered Deep-Fried Eggplant, Mushrooms, and Orange Bell Peppers with a Dill and Onion Cream Dipping Sauce, White Cabbage Coleslaw, Over-Cooked Dry Chicken in a Petrified Tomato Sauce with Charred Garlic Remnants, Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Joseph and I teamed up once again to prep dinner.  He made a coleslaw that was outstanding.  No mayo, so it doesn’t hit your stomach like so many other coleslaws I know.  The deep-fried veggies were amazing.  The batter fluffed up wonderfully, and there wasn’t that greasy feeling that you sometimes get with fried foods.

The chicken was unfortunate.  There was a sullen silence that hit the table when they began eating their tiny, poultry abominations.  (Think Christmas Vacation, the turkey scene.)  Genreally speaking, people oughtn’t gargle at the table.  It’s usually taken as a bad sign.

Oh well: you win some, you blew some.

The red wine cake was unbelievable.  It was spongy and springy.  The flavour was velvety and rich, but without being so intense that you felt like you needed anything to go with it.  It was remarkable on its own.  Our hats were off to Megan.

At one point, I asked Cara how you spell “spicy” (with an ‘e’ or without) to which she replied, “I’ve noticed your spelling is getting bad – I can help you with that.”  At first I took offense, in the way that one takes offense when someone speaks to them in an offhandedly condescending way, but then when other people started chiming in that they’ve noticed spelling errors throughout most of my posts, I just chalked it up to a humble ending to a humiliating week.  (Not being able to pull your own clothes on or off under your own power because you did “exercise” has a dejecting effect on you.)

So I decided to drink my blues away.  Only, I’m not allowed that much alcohol on my new diet plan, so I changed my intentions, and decided to critique-wine my blues away.

Wine: Balance, Pinotage Shiraz, South Africa, 2011, $100 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

What a fun wine.  Fruity and very … er … balanced.  Cara insists that I tell you that it is, “Well-rounded … like an elephant!” So there you have it.  I would have to say that it reminds you of an orchard on account of the different ripened fruit flavours present as well as a crispness that kind of reminds you of autumn.

Also, for the price?  Come on!  Under ten bucks for a South African wine that is actually good?  Forget about it …

Fearing the night failing us, we quickly got to the main event.

Wine: Mt. Boucherie, Merlot, Kelowna, BC, Canada, 2007, $25 CAD
Rating: Two-and-a-Half Bottles

Leathery and oaky, this SPICY little number was a gift from Megan’s mom, Susan, a sometime commenter on TSB.  (Actually, after me, she has made the most comments out of all our readers.)  What was so great about this wine was the hints of chocolate that we could taste.  It reminded us of Megan’s cake that we ate earlier.  Ah, nostalgia …

However, we also tasted Juniper berries, which was a lovely little surprise.  It gave the wine a little more character than the merlots we’ve had in the past.

In other news, this week we received the prestigious Liebster Blog Award from our friends at Cook and the Fly, and our article on Demian Fuentes was recently reposted on Playa Maya News.

Not too shabby …

Until next week,

















* Please note: we do not make love to our food.

Well Isn’t That A Fine “How’d Ya’ Do” …

The Liebster Blog Award

Well would you look at this.  Thank you Emilio, from Cook and the Fly for the nomination!  Nice way to start the week.

Liebster Award


I was chosen by Emilio Fracchia from Cook and the Fly as one of his 5 Liebster Blog Award winners. Emilio is a friend of mine from San José del Cabo, In Baja California Sur, Mexico, and he writes a blog about fishing the Sea of Cortez (mostly) and cooking what he catches.

He explains what this award is all about, so I am going to steal from him in explaining it:

“This Award is about promoting smaller blogs with less than 200 followers, which you think deserves special recognition.There are a few simple rules to follow. In order to accept the award, the recipient will:-Thank the person who gave you the Award, and link back to that person’s Blog

Copy and Paste the Award to your Blog

Choose 5 more blogs to award, and let the writers know by leaving a comment.”

Here are the 5 blogs the I selected (in no particular order):


Jennifer Krausert writes a blog about diet, exercise, being vegan, and being pregnant.  Basically, if I was a pregnant woman, I would want to be her.


Greg and Andrea write a truly inspired blog about how design has influenced their lives.  A fairly rad breakdown of how design can help almost any situation.  They’re like … crime-fighters … if crime was poor use of space.


Neil Evans writes a blog about wine and why he loves it.  I like reading his blog because his posts are short but sweet.  Also, I think that someday, if we ever meet, we’d probably both wind up in jail for public drunkenness.  (Don’t tell him I said that.  I want it to be a surprise.)  ALSO, the name of his blog makes me imagine two bottles of wine, fighting … to the death!


I like Kim’s blog because it is irreverent, yet thoughtful.  Also, the photo of her on her porch, paired with her description of the alcohols she likes, makes me feel cozy and thirsty.


What I like about these guys is that their site is about what it’s about: recipes, and lots of ’em.  Unlike some blogs (ours), that seem to go on forever about nonsense before they get the to point, Joe and Julie get right to it and share with you their love for cooking.


Anyway, thanks again to Emilio and happy reading!



Good-Bye, Carbs … Good-bye, Happiness …

I don’t even remember what we ate this week.

I seriously don’t.  It seems like forever ago.  I just finished my first day with a personal trainer, you see, and let me tell you, if you are thinking of doing it, hiring a personal trainer, be prepared to feel very awkward about how you see yourself.  The trainer won’t say anything, but when someone who is in perfect shape is advising you how to get in shape and there are mirrors … (fucking) everywhere, you start to feel pretty pudgy.

Anyway, we did have a good Sunday.  In anticipation for this new lifestyle change that I am putting myself through (why???), I made a dinner that would be a sort of send-off to carbs.  Not that I had committed to any kind of diet in advance, but I just figured the trainer would look at me and say something to the effect of, “Okay … so we’re going to be laying off the carbs for awhile, okay?”  (Which he did, but in a much nicer way.  He’s actually a really good guy.  Very supportive.)

On the Menu: Creamed Soup Florentine, Spinach and Hydroponic Lettuce Salad with Spring Onions, Radishes, and Hard Boiled Eggs, Garlic Bread with Basil and Mozzarella, Fettuccini Alfredo with Pan Seared Asparagus

Megan, Rene, and the gang went off to the Cozumel Air Show for the day and so I was alone in the kitchen.  Oh, except for Joseph.  (Who used to own and operate his own high-end restaurant.)  Except for him, I was completely alone.  I tackled the Alfredo sauce, while Joseph handled the soup.  The salad, Joseph also prepared, and the garlic bread was a team effort.

The soup was awesome.  Just the right balance to make it warming without being too heavy.  The salad was light and fresh and played off the spinach in the soup nicely.  The garlic bread went with both perfectly, the basil and the garlic complimenting the two appetizers well.

The fettuccini, I hate to admit, was a little on the disappointing side.  I had thought that we had parmesan at home, but we did not.  Alfredo without parmesan in the preparation is not really Alfredo and my sauce was judged to be lacking.  It was still good, but was missing that certain something that would have put it over the top.  (As evidenced by the tiny piles of noodles left scattered on various plates.

Alfredo should be something that you eat even when you know you should stop.  It should compel you to eat it.  You should get to the point where you feel full, your instincts are pulling you back, but your desire to finish what’s in front of you is like a pack of ravenous dogs, breaking their master’s chain, ignoring his commands, and gorging themselves on their helpless prey.  Without all of the ingredients, however, it just doesn’t do that.  Without all of the ingredients, it makes you feel a little like you are eating papiermâché.

The wine, on the other hand, was fantastic.  Let’s talk about that!

The Wine: Sancinos, Crianza Rioja, Spain, 2008, $230 MXN

Rating: Three Bottles

This wine was awesome.  Oaky, earthy tones mixed with plums and chocolate-covered cherries.  Peppery and deep, this wine immediately wakes up your taste buds on the first sip.

There is a slight harshness to this wine, but kind of in a warming way, like ginger, or port.  Megan and I got a little silly off this wine.  We’ve had rain for the past week or so, and the wine was kind of like a feeling in a bottle.  The rain be dammed, it seemed to say once uncorked.  Bring us your rain, for we car not!  Let’s sing a chantey, what!

And Megan’s mom is visiting!  She brought a bottle down from British Columbia, so we’ll tell you all about that next week.  (Wink!)

All right: that’s enough.  My body is screaming at me and my trainer promised me that my calves would cramp up excruciatingly at some point in the night, so I want to be all tucked into bed so I can enjoy that to the fullest.

Until next week,


The End of the Birthday Season … (Finally)

So, this past weekend marked the end of our family’s birthday season.  Beginning with Caia on December 6 and ending with Cara’s mother, Marilyn, on January 29, there are nearly a dozen birthdays in between.  Plus Christmas.

But that didn’t stop us from having a final hoorah for Cara’s mom.  Marilyn is a fan of gravy, so what goes better with gravy than roast beef?  Nothing, that’s what.

On the Menu: Roast Beef with Two Types of Gravy (Mushroom and Red Wine), Roast Potatoes, Flambéed Red Peppers, Flashed Zucchini, and Sautéed Mushrooms, Herbed Goat Cheese Salad with Pomegranate, Chocolate Cake

This is my favourite kind of day.  Shopping for the night’s menu, followed by some light prep work, maybe a beer or a coffee with Bailey’s … maybe a Bloody Caesar … some heavier prep work, preheat the oven, plop everything in, greet guests, make the sides, open some wine …


Everything ready, the table set, we went about the dinner before us.  Megan brought over a salad which was so amazing, if all salads tasted the way that one did, it would be all I would eat.

I was a little nervous about the beef, since I couldn’t quite tell which cut it was, never having learned the differences, but it turned out quite well.

The gravy was pretty rad, I must say.  I sacrificed a bottle of wine for it but it was worth it.  The mushroom gravy came out of a can.  It was not the more popular of the two.

The wines weren’t bad, either.

Wine: Granero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, 2010, $110 MXN
Rating: One-and-a-Half-Bottles

Red apple (but the skin part); cranberries and pomegranates; açaí berries.  This wine is quite tart.  Not in a terribly pleasant way, either.  There is a pepperiness to it that rounds it out after a while, but we aerated the wine first, so it didn’t round out that far from where we started.  This was very light wine, too.  Like vapour.  Like it never really exists.  A little disappointing, but not the worst bottle that ever happened to us.

We enjoyed some cake, then Cara’s parents and my parent’s and Rene and Cara and Megan and I broke off into various groups for conversations ranging from the impossibility of nothingness to how I can cross one eye and not the other.  (I can also cross both eyes, but crossing just one is a very marketable skill.)

While Megan and I mucked about with her camera, we forced ourselves to open a second bottle.

Wine: Las Moras, Black Label, Bonarda, Argentina, 2008, $229 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

Earthy and fruity at the same time is always a fun mixture.  The mustiness of the leathery, oaky, earth flavours mixing with the fruity, sweet flavours.  Like a party inside your mouth!  (Come on … it’s been nearly a year.  The joke had to happen some time.)

Date squares is what you first taste, if you look for it.  Wood smoke (good old fashioned wood smoke, as my friend Jay Costescu would say) plays in the background.  Mature berries, chocolate, mint, lilac, and lavender also drop in for a visit.  When you take a step back and just breathe in this wine, you notice the floral bouquet it has.  Like a campfire that somebody started with fresh flowers.

A really wonderful wine.

The next thing you knew, we were checking the clock and it was nearly ten.  This is way past our bedtimes.  It was time to say goodnight.

My parents leave tomorrow, and that is sad.  We are waiting to see the notary about our house.  We wanted to close while my parents were here, as they are signing the loan on the house, interest rates not being the most reasonable things in the world down here, but the paperwork won’t be finished on time, so we need to do an escrow closing.  Exciting stuff.  We are hoping this won’t be an all afternoon affair.  It would be nice to spend some time with them before the day is through.

One thing that has been amazing about the Norton-Patik birthday season has been the occasion we’ve had for so much socialising.  It has been incredibly fun spending time with loved ones.  We are blessed, our family, in that we get to begin our Holiday season nearly a month before everyone else, and we continue a month after everyone else.  You never need an excuse to hang out with the people that matter the most to you in life, but it’s always nice to have one.

Maybe we can convince my parents that living down here for part of the year is better than spending the entire year up north.  (I know of a few people who’d be glad to take their place if we did.)

Time will tell.

Until next week,