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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Blood, Wine, and Awards

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The best thing about writing a wine blog is the excuse to try out different restaurants.  The worst thing is how open you are to potential food poisoning.  Last week, I was on the receiving end of what is commonly known as Traveller’s Illness.  A lovely half-week was spent, mostly in bed, mostly praying for unconsciousness and relief from stomach cramps, etcetera.

I had invited our new friends, Scott, Marieke, and their son, Kai, to join us for dinner last Sunday night, but I had to cancel last minute.  The next few days were a joy, and even this morning I am struggling with the dying embers of the pathogen, my innards cramping, my stomach gurgling.

Oh, the good life …

I thought, since we didn’t have a post last week, I would catch up on the overdue business of acknowledging our most recent award nomination.

Which I did.  Then last week quickly became this week, and I’m behind again and I really need to get caught up and was almost there, but then Sunday happened and …

Dammit!

Before we get to the award, let me tell you about Sunday and then we’ll move on.

Rene and Megan came over, as per usual, and I had asked Rene to bring some implements of pruning for to trim the palms that are threatening the paint job on our truck.

With our track record, you probably already know what is coming and you are already half-giggling, half-cringing.  The giggling being metered only by the ‘X’ factor: how bad is this going to get and how guilty will I feel once I know how bad it actually got?

Rene brought over the following: pruning shears and a little tiny hatchet which is designed for throwing at targets, like, in hatchet throwing contests, and not so much for pruning.

The palms in our driveway are complimented by razor sharp spikes and thorns to protect them from … bears?  I don’t know.  They are ridiculously pokey.

Something you need to know about my brother-in-law is that he loves to prune.  He likes cutting things and any opportunity to do so fills him with a glee that can only be expressed in song, so I can’t do it justice here.  His implement of choice?  The hatchet, of course!  Giant arc of a backswing, hatchet swings forward with the force of Thor, and …

Sticking out of Rene’s hand are two five inch spires that have broken off and embedded themselves in his flesh.

And bone.

Go ahead.  It’s okay to laugh.

Three pints of blood and a dish towel later, we took the hatchet away from him, put a beer in his (other) hand, and started drawing straws for who was going to drive him to the hospital for stitches and removal of thorns.  Ashen-faced, he convinced us that going to the hospital could wait until after dinner, and rather have a two hour fight that would go nowhere, I continued with the cooking.

On the Menu: Yum-Yum Salad with Garlic-Lime-Infused Apple Cider Vinaigrette, Roasted Bone In Chicken Breasts with Buttered Potatoes

What’s a Yum-Yum Salad?  Iceberg and Butter lettuce with oranges, tomatoes, shredded carrot, gouda chunks, and orange bell peppers.  The dressing is what pushes it over the yum-yum top of the scale.  Mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil in a sealable container.  Put in two teaspoons of minced garlic and the juice of one lime.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Shake the hell out of it.  Like, for ten minutes.  Seriously.  You don’t want to blend it, since that pulverizes everything and nothing tastes right.

Dump it on your salad and watch it transform into a Yum-Yum Salad inside your guests mouths.

The chicken is pretty basic roasting.  Forty minutes at 220° Celsius should do it.  Brush the potatoes with butter before popping the whole tray in the oven (lid off) for a golden, crunchy, buttery result.

Wine: Colonia Las Liebres, Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentine, 2009, $195 MXN
Rating: One Bottle

There isn’t much to talk about here.  Very closed wine, very blech tannins, and a muted trumpet, “wah-wah,” taste.  If you buy this wine and want to give it a fair go, let it breathe for a few hours first.  Otherwise, don’t bother.

Okay, on to the award. 

Award–Kreativ Blogger Award!

Rules of Conduct: Bloggers who win the award must complete the following steps:

1. Thank the blogger who gave you the award and provide a link.

2. List 7 interesting things about yourself that your readers might find interesting

3. Nominate 7 other bloggers, provide links, and let them know!

We were nominated by Daughterelle.com, a quirky blog that features food with a tangent of fashion.  “My life pretty much revolves around where and when I can wear high heels to eat something delicious. This blog is all about food…but I have accessorized it with accessories,” reads her About page.   Basically, it’s food bedazzled with fashion.

She’s awesome.

So: seven interesting things about us that someone might find interesting.  (Aside from my penchant to be super snobby about poor sentence structure?)

Okay, well, here we go.

1)   We live in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  Our homes are within a stone’s throw of each other and we are one of those weird families that hardly ever argues.  Not in a pent up, “everyone’s too afraid to say what’s one their mind” kind of way, but in a genuine, “we really like each other’s company” sort of a thing.

2)   In addition to the Sunday Bottles, Megan has a photography studio, called Field Day Photography, that specializes in portraits and weddings.  Being a perfectionist, her clients tend to get way more than they paid for.  We try to pull her back, but that’s when the OCD kicks in and she starts to get a little Rain Man-y.  Best to just let her edit the photos any way she wants.  There’s less bloodshed that way.

3)   In addition to the Sunday Bottles, I do stand up comedy.  Along with a couple of friends, we host a weekly show, unique in Playa del Carmen.  It’s called Comedy Below Sea Level.  It’s a hoot.

4)   When I moved to Mexico, I weighed 265 pounds.  That’s 121 kilos.  I know weigh 198 pounds.  That’s 90 kilos.  Ironically, when I was fat, I didn’t write about food and wine.  I guess I was too busy consuming both to have much time for contemplation.

5)   All of us are from Canada.

6)   Between our two houses, we have five dogs, one cat, a parrot, a budgie, and fishes.  Two of the dogs live with us.  The rest of the menagerie lives with Rene and Megan.  It works better that way.  For us.

7)   Our daughter, Caia, is two-and-a-half and is a genius.  Her teachers told us so.  They also told us that she’s the coolest baby ever.  Also, she’s adorable and likes Toy Story.

Right, 7 blogs that we follow.  In no particular order.

1)   Youngnotions.com – Comedians Bill and Jena Young regularly post their take on life, love, politics, and muscle cars.  All right, they rarely post about muscle cars, but when they do, it’s a barnburner.

2)   Inthebodega.com – We really like this blog, and not only because she obviously knows more about wine than we do, but because it is so diligently researched and thoughtfully written.  Also, she’s from Canada, too, so that scores points.

3)   Culturalquirks.com – Remember the Canadian Heritage Minute?  Ever wonder why the statues at the University of Calgary sometimes wear Bermuda shorts?  Well, we do, and that’s why we like this blog.  Lots of fun facts you couldn’t find on your own if you tried.  (Not that I would.  I’m lazy.)

4)   Veni!Vidi!Vino! – Again, this blog would have to fall under the category of “Because they know more about wine than we do.”  Also, because he writes under the nom de plume, NJ Vinoman, and lives “in Central New Jersey, about 20 minutes from the New Jersey shoreline, with my first wife (of 18 years).”  (Does his second wife know about this?)  Also, he drinks way more wine than we do, making his blog a lot more of a resource than ours.

5)   Thesweetlife.com – Melanie bakes.  Oh boy, does she bake.  She also writes about her cat, her landlord, and then she takes pictures of it all.  Except for her landlord.  Who is crazy.  And who apparently eats pennies!  Her photographs are good and her recipes are filled with treats like Peanut Butter Smores.  Hells yeah.

6)   Fridaynightwinetime.com – Basically, Neil Evans writes a blog like we do: he drinks wine once a week, whether he needs to or not, and then he writes about it.  A cool feature of his blog is the Wine Gallery, which features some of the wines he’s tried.  (We’re probably going to steal that idea, but you could always take a look at his version first.)

7)   Sweetlyvegan.com – I like Sweetly Vegan because she writes about what she loves – healthy eating and healthy living.  Her recipes are nicely antipodal to ours since they basically cure all the damage ours would do to you.  Plus she just had a baby and babies are cute.

That just about does it for this week.  Weeks.  Whatever.

We’re going away for next week, so we might be posting from the road.

Until then, stay safe, drink lots of fluids, and don’t prune thorny vegetation with competition hatchets.

Cheers!

Happy Mother’s Day!!

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Yes, it was a few days ago, but we’re in Mexico, so you have to account for jet streams and prevailing winds …

We had two wines lined up for y’all this week that we were pretty excited about.  Then, it occurred to us that Cara might not want to spend Mother’s Day watching us cook and drink wine, so we went out.

Cara drank wine.  I drank beer.  Megan drank mineral water.

What we drank was not important.  Where we went and what we talked about was much more important.

Where we went was a little-known place in Playa del Carmen called Manne’s Biergarten.  The front of the restaurant features nook-like ambience with a touch of Montreal-meets-student pub.  In the back, there is a little courtyard with picnic tables and string lights hanging from bamboo in the trees.  Very charming and very cozy.

It does not feel like a place where wine would govern, however, and I generally allow my wine snobbery to warn me when I think an establishment may not have the most drinkable of wines.  Kind of like a really useless form of ESP.  So I went with beer instead.

Seeing as it’s a German biergarten, I thought I’d sample two German beers.

Beer: Köstriker Schwarzbier (Black Beer), Germany
Rating: One Bottle

This is why I’m not a fan of certain dark beers: they’re only good when they are very, very cold; otherwise, they taste like sweet garbage.

Cold, this dark beer is very drinkable.  Hoppy and sweet at the same time, it’s not what you would call refreshing, but it makes for a nice beer to start with.  On a hot Caribbean night, however, the molasses starts to stick in the back of your throat and you regret your decision to venture down Dark Beer Alley.

So, I drank it as fast as I could.

That over, I switched to a Pilsner.

Beer: Bitburger Pilsner, Bitburg, Germany
Rating: Three Bottles

I generally prefer darker beers, but a good Pilsner is like heaven.

Crisp from start to finish, when you drink Bitburger you will find yourself in shock when suddenly your glass is empty.  Hoppy without being too forceful about it (like certain I.P.A.s I know), Bitburger would be a welcome addition to anyone’s evening.

But as I mentioned before, the evening was made more special by the conversations we had.  Being Mother’s Day, most of our talk floated around being parents.

Even people without kids have theories about the best way to raise them.  After two years, we’ve developed a few of our own, but we’re still left with far more questions than answers.

When is the best time to start teaching a child critical thinking?  At what point should you encourage your child to question what she is being taught in school?  Is a didactic approach to learning favourable to a more Socratic method?

Cara and I are somewhat opposed in our beliefs.  She believes you explain your values to your child and let her decipher them as she will.  I believe that you probe the questions with your child, allowing her to come up with her own clumsy solutions.

My thoughts are this: if a child is told what the answers are, even if those answers are peppered with disclaimers, you are forming archetypes that will be difficult for her to break.  If, however, she forms hypotheses of her own, she meets the world with a set of filters that she can adjust throughout her life.

I was also very curious to know at what age should a child be taught to pick pockets.

Who knows?

We also talked a great deal about Star Wars.

Well, Rene and I did.  The girls rolled their eyes a lot.

The food at Manne’s Biergarten is awesome.  Sunday nights they serve prime rib, which can be hard to find, and even harder to find done well.  Manne does not disappoint.

If you are visiting Playa del Carmen and you want to check out a place that offers a unique setting in which to tip back a few, get great service, and enjoy a fantastic meal, give Manne’s a try.

On a slightly tangential note, we would like to wish all the mothers out there a happy Mother’s Day and to thank them for helping us become the people we are today.

On a more personal note, I’d like to wish my mom a happy Mother’s Day.  Thank you for everything, mom.

And to Cara, thank you for giving me Caia.  Every day I see you with her I’m reminded how lucky I am to have you both.

Until next week,

Cheers!

Murphy’s Law (As It Concerns Wine)

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You know when you take your car to the mechanic because it’s been making a weird sound for infinity?  Like, the minute you bought the car, years ago, it started making this indescribable, yet unmissable noise that gave you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach and night terrors?

The noise happens every time you turn the car on, but especially when you make left turns.  Then, when you take it to the mechanic, it purrs like a kitten with noticeably increased performance in left corners.

“Don’t know what you’re hearing.  This baby’s cherry,” says the mechanic, smirking at you because you’re a man who has to ask another man what’s wrong with his car.  “Could be your halogen level’s a little low.  Then again, could just be your Johnson Rod’s a bit too small.”

Ha-ha, Mr. Mechanic.  Very funny.

(Where’s the Johnson Rod again?)

This holds true for guests and wine.  Invite guests over to sample wine with you, especially wines that you have purchased because you heard they were good, or you read somewhere that Bonardo was a lot like Malbec and was really good with hamburgers, and you’ll experience something not unlike the mechanic chuckling at your stupidness.

Oh, the fun you’ll have, trying to explain to your guests that you are not some dick who likes to have friends over to see the faces they make when you serve them vinegar in a stemmed glass.  “This wine isn’t very good,” you’ll say, nonchalantly, the sweat trickling from your forehead.  “I swear I read a good review about this in Awesome Wines Monthly.  This is so weird!”

The smirk you get from them is a lot like the smirk the mechanic gives you – grown man reviewing wine without any idea what he’s talking about, buying wines because the labels are pretty … and where’s his ascot?  Shouldn’t somebody this foppish be wearing an ascot and discussing Bone China?

No sooner had our guests left …

Wine: Woodhaven, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, USA, 2008, $234 MXN
Rating: Two-and-half-bottles

Plums, figs, and cherries play together nicely in the field that is this wine.  Wonderful mouthfeel – silky, soft, like flower petals.  (You all keep flower petals in your mouths, right?  Cool.)

A little tangy on a second glass, but pair it with steak (we did) and it compliments perfectly.  Actually, just a glass of this on its own feels like eating a steak.  Meaty with a hint of bitterness.

There is a sweetness to this wine that threatens to make it too rich at first, but it finishes tart, evening it out.

Plus, the label is pretty like nice things.

Go ahead: judge me.  I am impervious to your snide-isms.

On the Menu: Potato Salad, Sautéed Spinach and Zucchini, Filet Mignon, Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

This week’s menu was more about relaxing and enjoying company than trying to impress anyone.  Rene marinated the steaks in beer and awesome for the day while Megan made cookies and potato salad.

The cookies that Megan made were little round temptresses, coaxing one to break one’s diet.

I caved.

Twice.

We drank some beer and wine while we grilled the meat, ate leisurely, and retired to the fumatorium for an after dinner cigarette.

Yes, I know – smoking is bad.  But sometimes a cigarette après steak is just what the doctor ordered.  Not a medical doctor, but the doctor who lives in my head and who tells me that carbs are better for you than protein and staying up all night means you technically add a day onto your life.

Is he the same doctor that tells me that I should open another bottle of wine when I am the only one drinking it?

No.  That’s the Life Coach in my head.  She’s another story.  Her name is Fran.

Wine: Jacques Charlet, Beaujolais, La-Chapelle-de-Guinchy (S & C), France, 2010, $145 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

Now, I didn’t finish this bottle on my own.  Or at all.  But I wanted to.

Looking through technical terms for describing how a wine smells, I came up with one that I think fits.

Wow.

Very, wow, on the nose.

A jelly mouthfeel, like the cranberries that come in a can.  I know it doesn’t sound that appealing, but in wine-form, it’s amazing.

Cherries, cranberries make for a bitter but fantastic—

Rhubarb!  That’s … I couldn’t put my finger on it on Sunday, but it just came to me!  (Dammit, that was bugging me.)

Rhubarb, cherries, and cranberries.  But like you’d find in a pie; not raw.

All in all, we wished our guests from the last few months could have been around to share these wines with us.  They were a welcome change from the bottles of Meh we’ve been trying lately.

In other news …

We were nominated for an award from our friend Daughter Elle.  We’re lazy and not at all on top of it, but we have to come up with seven blogs that we really like and pay-it-forward, so to speak.

We’re working on it.

More later.  Now worky.

Cheers!

Drat and Double-Drat

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Sometimes, you just can’t pick a winning bottle to save your face. (And we had such high expectations for this week.)  It was Susan’s last Sunday with us; our friend Roy’s, too.  Josephine and Michael, Rene and Cara’s oldest friends, joined us, as well.  We wanted the wines we shared to be special.  We wanted them to elevate our evening to the heavens.  Instead, they left us wallowing in the dirt.

Rene and Megan made dinner.  This Sunday was our Home Owners’ Association general assembly and it was as fun as it sounds.  Since Cara was working, I flew solo.  If you’ve never sat on folding chairs in a circle on a Sunday morning talking about rules and regulations of a shared condo complex, let me tell you … you are missing out!  As far as meetings to establish fair rules of comportment in public access areas go, this one was off the hook!

Oh!  And the crazy lady wanted to make a rule that only residents of the complex could use the pool, meaning that guests could not!  How fun is that??  Her point (and for the record, I was totally on her side) was that people buy nice homes in the Caribbean with the intention of not enjoying the amenities that come with them, i.e. pools, etc., and that common areas are meant for watchin’, and not for sharin’.  Also, she wanted it made a rule that, while people can throw parties inside their own homes, their guestsmay not be outside.  (Fun!)  Also, nobody should be allowed to own pets.  Also, that the maximum number of guests allowed per resident be zero.  (Yay!)  Also, THE HUMMINGBIRDS INSIDE MY HEAD TELL ME THAT CHILDREN ARE THE KEEPERS OF THE MAGIC PAN FLUTES AND IF I WANT TO GET TO CANDY TOWN I HAVE TO OPEN THEIR BELLIES AND TAKE BACK WHAT THEY STOLE FROM ME!!!

Three hours later, I was somehow elected to the board of directors of the condo association despite following up her suggestions with, “Can we vote that we should only buy indestructible pool furniture from now on, and also … how many days do we really need in the calendar?  Can’t we get rid of a few?  Three-hundred-and-sixty-five is an annoying number.”

(Wheeee!!!)

On the Menu: Spinach Salad with Avocado and Blueberries, Sweet Peas with Basil, Beef Bourguignon, Honey Cake with Almonds

What can I say about dinner – it was fantastic.  Bourguignon is Rene’s specialty and Honey Cake is Megan’s awesome.

The two went very well together, too, I must say.  The spicy, tangy bourguignon, followed by the soft, silky honey cake, topped with whipped cream.  (Megan also let me know that there is whiskey in the honey cake.  Oh, honey cake … why you gotta be so good to me?)

They make a pretty good team, for a married couple.

Caia loved the peas, and who can blame her?  Sweet and buttery, they were the colour of Ireland if they were a hue at all.

The wines … were the low-points of the evening.

Wine: Aragus, Red Blend, Spain, 2010, $76 MXN
Rating: One Bottle

Nothing particularly bad about this wine.  Smooth and a little fruity, Josephine remarked that, “It gives your tongue a little velvety hug,” which is adorable and accurate.

On the downside, not a lot of personality and not a little innocuous.  Strawberries and bell peppers come out to play, but when they see the grey skies above, they pack up their toys and go home.

Easy to drink, but overwhelmingly underwhelming.

Wine: Santo Tomás, Tempranillo Cabernet, Baja Clifornia, Mexico, 2010, $127 MXN
Rating: One Bottle

Dark red fruit.

The end.

“No espectacular,” commented Roy.  We agreed.  Not offensive; not exciting.  So-so.  Table wine.  Not loving the tannins.

All descriptions of a wine that no vintner would ever hope to hear.

If you asked me upon trying this wine what I thought, I’d look up for a second, perhaps squint, hold my breath ever-so-slightly, then exhale and shrug.

Then a trumpet would go “Wah, wah …” in the background.

So, not a fantastic finish to Susan’s stay.  Roy, having been with us for only two TSBs must think we enjoy buying mediocre wine.

We know the truth.

We are sad to see Susan go.  She has been a welcome addition to our dinners.  We wish her “safe journey,” and fondly wait for her return.

Until next week,

Cheers!

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