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Canadian Thanksgiving: Redux

So, I just have to say that I love my family.  Most people, almost all people, actually, if they were off traipsing in Montreal and read my pseudo-tragic posts about poor Mojo would say to each other, “That sucks.  Computers … what are ya gonna do?” and go about their day.  What did my family do?  They read my post, then went straight to the Apple Store and bought me a replacement.  (Actually, they went to the first store that sold Apple products, only to be told that, unless you live in Montreal, you can’t buy a computer from them.  THEN they went to the Apple Store.)  AND … Cara gave me a new set of pots and pans, and Megan had a shirt made for me that reads “My Other Shirt Is A Pants” which I told her I wanted made for me, but never expected anyone to actually do it.  In short, best birthday EVER.

We’re getting caught up here, and next week, this week, we’ll be back on track, but without further ado, here is the Canadian Thanksgiving TSB, brought to you by Megan and Rene.

One thing you learn, living abroad, is that the holidays are not only yours but belong to all orphans everywhere.  You generally celebrate a holiday, whether it’s yours or not, with every ex-pat that you know.  They may not come to your house, but you will be aware of the various satellite parties going on around you within your little friend circle.  When you do have them over to share in your festivities, they will generally show up on time(ish), bring something to compliment the meal (booze), and will keep their religious and political views to themselves (barring an initiation of such topics by their hosts, i.e. you).  Your fellow orphans become like an extended family that you never fight with because you don’t really know them that well.  Basically, they are the perfect holiday guests.

This year, we had a mix of both.  Cara’s mom is still visiting, so we had actual family, which, all joking aside, is always nice, and we had our friends Carlos and Michael.  Michael has been a member of our family since Cara and Rene were kids.  They grew up together.  Carlos is Caia’s swimming instructor, and Cara’s friend, and since his husband is Canadian, we figured he would be a fabulous addition, in every sense of the word.

Since Megan and Rene are away in Montreal on vacation, the cooking was left to me.  In true Patik form, Cara told me Sunday morning that we were to have guests for dinner.  I had not anticipated a big group for dinner, since our numbers were down to three, so I had done no prep.  Like, say, buying a turkey, for instance.

After consulting the oracle (Facebook) it was decided that, while turkey is favourable for the holidays, chicken would be easier, last minute.  This is what I came up with.

On The Menu: Assorted Cheeses and Prosciutto with Fig and Black Currant Compote (Respectively), Roast Chicken with an Asian Pear Gravy, Roast Chicken with White Gravy, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Parmesan Steamed Carrots, Broccoli in a Sharp Cheddar Sauce, Poached Asian Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream

Who brought it?  Craig brought it.

If you want recipes, please let me know, and I will send them to you.  I highly recommend trying the Roast Chicken with Asian Pear Gravy.  It’s a lot softer than a typical apple stuffing and it will cause your guests to ask, “What is that?” to which you get to reply, “Asian Pear …” to which they will, dumfounded and amazed, secretly worship you like a GOD.  Then, when they are eating the dessert, ALSO with Asian Pears, their heads will explode with delight.  A little more clean up in the morning, but worth it in my opinion.

Wine: Osborne Ybarra (a.k.a., OY!!), Vendimia Seleccionada, Roble, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2009, $180 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

I really like this wine.  I especially like the label (picture not shown) because as you walk past it in the store, all you see are the letters O and Y together, like the winemaker is getting all British youth on you.  “Oy!  You!  Try this wine … guv …”  (I should’ve probably researched what British youth sounds like before referencing them.)

This is a classy tasting wine.  Softer tannins allow for the cassis to come through, leaving a hint of dandelion root on your tongue as it settles.  OY! tastes like a business dinner with your boss.  You feel dressed-up when you drink this wine, like you are trying to impress AND look cool at the same time.  Although it is missing a certain je ne sais quoi that would make it remarkable, for the price, this is an excellent wine and one that we will be drinking again soon.

As the food settled, and we waited for the dessert to be ready, we got to chatting.  We’ll leave out the details of the conversation that Cara, Carlos, and I had in the kitchen except to say that who a person loves is nobody’s business but their own.  This was sparked by an interesting stat that has been circulating this week on FB: there are more states in the U.S.A. that allow first cousins to marry than there are states that allow same-sex couples to marry.  While I have not seen this stat independently verified, I would like to believe it, because it is both infuriating and hilarious at the same time.

The stat that I would really like to see is how many states allow gay first cousins to marry.  THAT would be the state to live in!  Libertarianism at its finest.

The topic of general conversation was that sales industries, especially the timeshare industry, tend to promote mediocrity in its staff as opposed to excellence.  Which … is … crazy.  My pet theory: as sales is the world’s oldest profession, in one form or another, there is a trickle down effect to the industries that it services.  As one person gets screwed by inefficient sales practices, he or she passes on the screwing to the next person they meet and do business with.  Those things we learn, we pay forward.  Instead of promoting an environment of excellence through leadership, incentives, and support, we have all seen our respective sales industries get lazier and lazier, cutting more and more corners.  Instead of getting tighter, it has become more slack.  In timeshares, we are moving towards a time when there is an implosion of our industry – a falling in on itself due to its own hollowness – or the emergence of a newer, better, vacation industry that makes the sales person less relevant.  Like McDonald’s and its ilk makes the Maître d’ obsolete, so too could a Big Box-style timeshare company make the sales professional a thing of the past.  Simply see what’s on the menu and go from there …

The last topic of the evening?  Incest.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd scene.

Cheers!

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.

As Above, So Below (As Up Highly, So Down Under)

Disclaimer: A funny thing happened on our way to our blog…

Two weeks ago, we sat down to a very lovely meal, prepared mostly by M as we had decided on a Thai fare, it feeling so very much like summer down here already. I had a little tickle in my throat, which made me feel thirsty all the time. (For water. Relax.)

So, we ate, we drank, and the next day I woke up feeling as though someone had poured a not insignificant amount of cement into my lungs. Don’t know what happened, but somehow I had stumbled onto an upper-respiratory-infection in my travels. I was bed-ridden for about a week, and felt like poop-on-toast for the entire following week.

That being said, it stands to reason that our little posting shenanigans had been put on hiatus while I convalesced. So, this week’s post will contain no less than two week’s worth of drinkery for you all to enjoy.

(Actually, we only made it through two bottles that week, me not feeling up to opening the third. Also, we forgot to write anything down about the wines that we had consumed that week. So, we re-purchased and included it in this week’s meal.)

And so, without further ado, we bring this week’s post, unedited and uncut. Open a bottle, charge your glass, sit back, relax, and enjoy.

This week’s selections are a story in happenstance and second-chancery (see disclaimer). Being somewhat dismayed by the lacklustre performance of the Altos Las Hormigas a few weeks back, and having read some glowing reviews about them online, (and having watched a wine show down here about the vineyard,) we decided that maybe we just didn’t buy a good enough bottle from the little winery in Argentina. So we decided to give them a second chance.

And glad we are that we did.

But first, the food.

On the menu First Week: Chicken Satay, Peanut Sauce, Pad Thai, White Rice

M took control of the kitchen for this one. I don’t have a lot of experience cooking Thai, and I didn’t want anyone to hate me. Plus M rocks in the kitchen, so we were all happy to stand back and watch the awesomeness. It was amazing. Peanut sauce from scratch to go with the Chicken Satays and Rice. Had I not already been feeling a little peaked, I would have enjoyed it much more.

On the Menu Third Week: Rib-Eye Steak, Grilled Zucchini & Asparagus, Potato Salad

This was a coordinated effort. I took care of the grilling; M handled the cold prep. The result was nothing short of delicious. Though, I have to say, we could have got a better quality meat. It’s hard to find down here, though. We found a grill wok, which is basically a thicker wok with holes in it. Totally love this addition to our kitchen arsenal. The vegetables end up grilled, but with no casualties falling through and into the inferno.

Anyway, on to the wines.

Wine: Altos Las Hormigas, Vineyard Selection Reserva, Malbec, 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, $406.00 MXN

Rating: Two Bottles

We really liked this wine. I found the label to be less … I don’t know … seventies-inspired than the previous bottle we enjoyed from the folks down in Argentine. So there’s a plus. What was inside the bottle wasn’t too bad either. A little acidic up front for my palate, but it quickly settled down nicely and we found it very drinkable. And while we still found this Malbec from the good people at Highly The Ants to be a little bitey, we still really enjoyed drinking it. It has a lot of character: plum and black currant. Peppery, too, for those of you keeping score.

For anyone who enjoys a decent Malbec, we would definitely recommend this one.

(Incidentally, something interesting that we have found in the few short weeks since we started pushing ourselves not to buy cheap wine: good wines spoil you! Go for a couple of weeks of buying really good wine – or at least pretty good wine – and then go back to the wine you used to drink, and thought highly passable! You will puke! You will puke your brains out! Not literally, of course, but metaphorically, and from the soul. And a soul puking its brains out is almost as bad as a prom date puking her brains out, with the slight difference that your soul probably doesn’t wear a rented tux, nor springs for a limo, only to watch its date throw up behind the gym while its friends drink wine coolers and smoke pot. Laughing.)

The drawback to this wine, sadly, is its price. At $406 pesos (about $35 USD, $33 CAD), it isn’t exactly a steal. I guess we were kind of on the fence about our second dance with the Ants. It was quite nice, and the price didn’t really factor into the enjoyment of it. I guess it’s just that if I were to spend the same amount of money on a bottle of wine again, I would expect it to be just a little better.

(NB: The irony of the whole thing is that we bought and tried this wine two weeks ago, but forgot to write anything down about it and couldn’t remember a blessed thing about this grape juice. So, we had to suck up our Canadianity and buy the damn thing again! Zut alors!)

Keeping a theme-intended ball rolling, I picked up another bottle with the word “Altos” in its title.

Wine: Altos de Tamaron, Reserva, 2003, Ribero de Duero, Spain, $301.50 MXN

Rating: Two-and-a-half Bottles

We really liked this little Spanish number, with its hot legs and nose-in-the-air quality about it. And you know what happens when you put a Spaniard and an Argentinian in the same room together … They start to speak Spanish with each other and … they … talk about … things … and, stuff … soccer, mostly.

This is a very smooth wine. After a glass-and-a-half I remarked to M that you could drink this wine every day and never have an issue with it. Hints of aniseed and something we couldn’t put our finger on (all suggestions welcome – I was thinking chocolate, only mustier) made us drink the last drop of this hot-blooded foreigner quicker than I normally drink Guinness. Which is fast. (Seriously, I don’t even call it drinking. Put a Guinness in front of me and I swallow the stuff down faster than water. Which is quick, since water is much less viscous than Guinness, if you think about it.)

In short, we loved this wine. We were going to give it three bottles until my life partner spoke up and said that she found it forgettable. M and I looked at each other, smacked our lips, and agreed. It was forgettable. There was an amazing quality about this wine that made you almost forget that you drank it, seconds after you drank it! Now, maybe that’s what makes a good wine great, but for us, it didn’t quite cut the muster. We wanted a little more out of this wine, and despite its already lauded legs, we had to cut it off at two-and-a-half.

I mean, if we are going to give out our first Three Bottle ranking, it has better damn well deserve it!

And then we travelled south.

Deep south.

How south, you may ask?

Down Under, to be exact.

Wine: Yarrunga Field, Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, Bin N° 280, Special Reserve, 2005, New South Wales, Australia, $166.46 MXN

Rating: Three Bottles!

What can we say but: “Yay for wine,” “Hooray,” and “Huzzah.”

Well, we finally found it. After a long, arduous month of searching (I know it doesn’t seem like much, but we’re children of the television generation – we expect things to wrap up in half-hour segments), we finally found our Three Bottle wine. When we opened this bottle, we had a feeling it was going to be great, but before I get to the description, first, a story …

We were doing our weekly shop at Chedraui (think SuperStore only better – seriously, this store rocks) when I spotted a label, so classy and elegant, that I simply had to have it.

Now, since you cannot buy alcohol in the stores after 2pm in Playa del Carmen on Sundays, it suffices to say that at 1:47pm, when I saw this wine sitting on the shelf, I knew what I had to do. Which was: buy it. So I did. I know – hell of a story. I will definitely save that one for a dinner party, wait for a lull in the conversation, and then BAM! Drop that little jewel into everybody’s laps and watch their heads explode. Why? Because they can’t handle it, man! The suspense; the levels; the character and plot development. “So, you saw a bottle of wine, knew you only had thirteen minutes to walk across the store and buy it, and you did?” “I know, right?” “Amazing!” Then … Kuh-BOOM: head shrapnel everywhere. I won’t even clean it up. They couldn’t handle my heat – their problem. I didn’t even tell them that I had been searching for a good Australian red all week, only to find it at the eleventh hour, so to speak. Imagine if I had? Nuclear, my friend.

The description. Right.

This wine sits on your tongue like a golden weight; its heft coating your taste buds like velvet, like silk. Taking a sip for the first time, we actually giggled, knowing that this was going to be a fun wine to drink. This is a wine that, if you didn’t like wine, would have as good a chance as any at changing your mind. Why? Because it’s what you thought wine was going to taste like when you saw people drinking it in the movies, back when you were a kid, and all you wanted to do was be a grownup.

Plum with peppery mustiness; chocolaty, fruity, and full. I love this wine so much that I want to bathe in it. I want to have my wedding inside this wine.

Drinking this wine reminds you why so many people, the world over, love Australian reds.

All we can say is: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie; Oye, Oye, Oye.

Until next time,

Cheers!

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