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Category Archives: Syrah & Shiraz

The powerful, dark-skinned grape.

Anchors Away!

Last week, we went on a cruise.

I like the idea of a cruise.  The open ocean, several days at sea, a new port every morning.  What adventures lie ahead?

If you follow me on Twitter then you know a little bit about how our cruise started.  I won’t go into details here, as this is (ostensibly) a blog about wine and food.  I will say, however, that I do not like to see my fiancée cry, and she cried far too often on this trip for my liking.  Which is none.  I just mentioned that.  Why aren’t you listening?

I did sample some nice wines, however, so all was not lost.

Wine: Clos de los Siete by Michel Rolland, Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina, 2009, $19 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

We got this wine at a shop on Devonshire Street, in Boston.  It’s right next to the Elephant & Castle restaurant in the Club Quarters Hotel, if you are nearby and want to find it.  I suggest that you do.  They’re lovely folks.

Caramel and toffee overtones are met with soft tannins that give this wine a buttery impression.  Deep, black cherry colours backup the dark red fruit flavours that come singing through from the first sip.

Wine: Underwood Cellars, Pinot Noir, Oregon, USA, 2010, $17 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

We also grabbed a bottle from Oregon, since U.S. wines are hard to find in Mexico, unless they are from California, and then, usually only if they are from Napa.

Very fruity, mostly berries, especially gooseberries, apples.  Very light.  Perfect for a hot summer night or an afternoon at sea.  Hey!  Look at that!  That’s what we were doingwhile we were drinking it!

Wine: Murphy Goode, Merlot, California, 2010, $29 USD
Rating: One Bottle

Dry tannins gave a very dry finish.  Coppery.  A little flat.  Fruity bouquet and a deep ruby colour, but a bit disappointing.

I ordered this wine at our first evening dining on the ship.  We had an amazing waiter.  His name is Charlie.  He is from the Philippines.  He made Caia a mouse out of a cloth napkin.  This made her giggle to the delight of all within earshot.

Wine: Peter Lehman, Shiraz, Australia, 2008, $29 USD
Rating: One-and-a-half Bottles

Charlie also joined some of the other waiters to dance for our pleasure.  Not just our pleasure.  Other people watched, too.  My mom got up and danced with him.

Soft and plump (the wine), russet colouring, really nice up-front, but a little sharp on the back-end.  One of those wines that you think is going to be great when you first sip it, but it never really fulfills it’s promise.

Wine: Sledgehammer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA, 2008, $17 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

Another bottle from our friends at the wine store on Devonshire which we didn’t think to write down it’s name or snap a picture of the storefront.  Honestly, we had two cameras, and Caia was with my mom.  We could have at least grabbed a business card.  I’ll try Googling it.*

Bought mostly for the label (and because it’s called Sledgehammer), this wine was a great find.  Ripe figs and dates, fragrant bouquet, and very easy to drink, we were very happy with this purchase.

I have to say, there is something so freaking amazing about sitting on the balcony of your stateroom, watching the setting sun over the hills of Portland, Maine, with a glass of wine in your hand.

At one point, I may or may not have been standing on the balcony, watching the setting sun, with a glass of red wine in my hand, a cigarette in the other, and no clothes on.  That may or may not have happened.

Can’t be sure.

There is no proof.

Wine: Chianti, Bella Sera, Tuscany, Italy, 2010, $29 USD
Rating: One-and-a-half Bottles

Light and delicate on the nose.  Pleasant, but a little weak for my liking.  One of those wines that you enjoy drinking, but cannot pick out of a line-up.  You know, one of those wine line-ups like they have on all the gritty cop shows.

Victim: “Number three.”

Detective: “Are you sure?”

Victim: “Not really, no.  It was a little flat and didn’t have a lot of mouthfeel, so I can’t really be sure.”

Detective: “Okay.  Can you think of anything else?”

Victim: “It was red?”

Wine: Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, USA, 2009, $40 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

Charlie also made sure to get me any info I needed for each wine.  If it wasn’t listed on the menu, he would go and ask what year it was, that kind of thing, and this is during a full dinner rush.  He really was tops.

Round and fruity, the Louis Martini was one my favourites on the ship.  Soft tannins left a velvety mouthfeel.  I had Chateaubriand that night.  They were wonderful playmates.

Wine: Hess Select, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California, USA, 2009, $35 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

And then I followed it up with another California red.  The Hess, unlike the Louis Martini, was dry.  Dry, but without being a dick about it.  Cherry flavours gave you the sweetness you enjoyed, while hints of dark chocolate and roasted coffee gave you the bitterness you desired for balance.

Wine: Côtes du Rhone, Michel Picard, Rhone, France, 2010, $33 USD
Rating: One Bottle

Our last night on the ship and it started off poorly.  Super dry and sharp.  Biting like grapefruit juice after you brush your teeth.  Not at all awesome, but if you like really dry reds, this might be the wine for you.

Wine: Mirassou, Pinot Noir, California, USA, 2010, $28 USD
Rating: One-and-a-half Bottles

Soft berry flavours were a welcome relief from Bittertown as the realisation that the cruise was coming to an end was sinking in.  The last dance number the wait-staff performed was awesome, and Caia squealed with glee watching them dance on tables and seeing the lights flicker and flash in sync with the music.

That was nice.

The pinot was like an old friend, patting your hand as you wistfully wipe a tear from you eye, hoping that no one noticed.  Time with family is so precious, and as we get older, so fleeting.  We spend so much time planning for the memories we want to make someday, instead of getting around to making them.

As Paulo Coelho once wrote, ““Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”

In other words, follow your heart if you don’t want to be surrounded by trash.

Cheers!

*The store is called Boston Wine Exchange.  Check out their web site.  Don’t drop our name, though, since we didn’t tell them who we are and they might think that we were covert operatives buying reasonably priced wine to poison wino diplomats.

Poutine, Alfredo, and Five Bottles of Wine

Here at TSB, we have a long-standing tradition, established this weekend, of introducing Mexico to Canadian cuisine whenever possible.

Demian and MJ came to dinner, and Megan’s mom, Susan, has a friend, Wendy, who is visiting from British Columbia.  If there ever was a better Sunday to make that true Canadian dish, poutine, I’d like to see it.

For the uninitiated, poutine consists of thin-cut French fries, cheese curds, gravy.  If you’ve never had it, it will sound … odd … at first.  But trust us – there is nothing that sates a hungry person like poutine.

Canadian Fun Fact:

A Quebecois dish, poutine was invented when drunk coureurs de bois  ran out of beaver meat, and were forced to supplement their diet with potatoes and beef gravy.  Few people know this, but in addition to beer and maple syrup flowing from the trees of our plentiful coniferous forests, beef gravy can also be sourced from birch trees, and cheese curds grow on the stems of the ubiquitous blue flag irises that grow across la belle province.

On the Menu: Poutine, Garden Salad with Goat Cheese, Berries and Starfruit, Chicken Alfredo with Asparagus, Candied Ginger Cookies

Our guests had some reservations about the poutine, but once you try poutine, you are powerless to resist her … powers.  The salad was a product of Megan’s imagination, and cleansed our palettes before embarking on another rich culinary adventure.

Alfredo is a dish best served guilt-free.  If you are counting calories, Alfredo is probably not for you.  Anything made with heavy cream, butter, and cheese is one of those things best left to professional eaters.

Since we had so many guests this week, we were also stuck with a glut of wine.  Which we drank.

Wine: Canepa, Novísimo, Syrah, 2010, Chile, $122 MXN (Chedraui)
Rating: One Bottle

Demian, MJ, Cara, and I drank this while we waited for the rest of our guests to join us.  Nice on the nose, but flat in the mouth, this wine was disappointing.  Not terrible in any way, but also unremarkable.  The promise of fruits and berries is replaced with a mouthfeel of “Meh” and a palette of “Well, that’s a shame …”

Acidic aftertaste – goes well with a glass of water.

Wine: Moëbius, Cabernet/Syrah/Merlot, 2009, Mexico, $450 MXN (Cava Veinte33)
Rating: Two Bottles

Robust and full, this is a great wine for people that love a big wine.  Oaky and leathery, Moëbius is a complex wine that hints at all-spice, cardamom, and dark chocolate.  On a muggy afternoon, this wine was a little overbearing.  It lacked a fireplace and a cloudless, cold night.

Pronounced “Mo-e-bee-us.”

Wine: Domaine de Chaberton Estate Winery, Canoe North White Bluff, VQA, 2008, Langley, British Columbia, $12.99 CAD
Rating: Three Bottles

This is a superb white.  A blend of grapes (Pinot Blanc, Madeleine Angevine, Chardonnay and Madeleine Sylvaner) makes it soft and sweet, with flavours of peaches, lemongrass, and cotton candy.

Being Demian’s first try at a Canadian wine, we were very grateful for Wendy bringing it down with her, and so was he.  Yay, Wendy!  I love it when people try Canadian wine for the first time.  They always have a look on their faces that reminds me of when Cara saw me play sports for the first time.  Like, “You can run?”

Capitoso, Tempranillo, Rioja, 2009, Spain, $136 MXN (Chedraui)
Rating: One Bottle

Flat.  Meh.  Smuh.

I don’t know what’s going on with Chedraui.  They used to carry decent wines.  Maybe they just aren’t selling enough of the stuff to make it worth consistently bringing in good vino.  Whatever the reason, the last few bottles we’ve tried in the $100 – $200 pesos range have been fairly disappointing.

Next.

Fratelli Pasini, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, Mexico, $400 (Cava Veinte33)
Rating: Two-and-a-half Bottle

FP strikes again!  We love this winery.  And not only because it’s in Mexico, but because their wine is so fantastically consistent.  Their wines never disappoint, they are balanced, have all the right characteristics in all the right places, and are not ridiculously expensive.

The Cabernet is a very good, well-rounded wine.  Soft tannins make it a perfect wine for pasta. (And for the fifth bottle of the night.)  Being Wendy’s first taste of Mexican wine, we were very glad it was this one.

Needless to say, everyone was pretty much ready for bed by the time we were finished with our heavy food and copious cups.

I think I will need the rest of this week to rejuvenate.

Until then,

Cheers!

Happy Wine-iversary!! It’s Been A Good Year

Greetings and welcome!  And Happy Wine-iversary to us!  A year ago, we began our journey of drinkery and we’ve relished every minute.  Except for the times that we hated.  Those sucked.

To help us celebrate, Rene and Cara teamed up, as siblings so often do (ppfffbbt!), and made a dinner to commemorate the occasion.  We were supremely grateful and well-fed by the end of it all.

One the Menu: Pan-Fried Green Beans, Asparagus in a Red Wine Reduction, Pan Fries, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Avocado Pie

That’s right: Avocado Pie, y’all.  It’s a recipe that Cara stumbled onto years ago, and we’ve begged her to make it ever since on a near monthly basis.  She breaks it out for special occasions.  This one made the cut.

Rene handled the dinner part.  The chicken was awesome.  I’m always impressed when someone can put together a layered anything, bread it, pop it in the oven, and it comes out looking and tasting perfect.  Mine never do that.  They usually look like a Dali painting when I’m done with them.  Sometimes they also taste like one.

Not having to do any of the cooking, this gave Megan and I plenty of time to reminisce about the past year and to plan for the next one.  We’re thinking “Cook Book.”  A book filled with recipes from the hits and misses of the year before.  You know, for posterity.  You know, a cook book. (Idiot …)

We also filled an entire notebook of tasting notes.  In total we made  57 posts, and we’ve been visited over 6,000 times.  We’ve had reservations made at restaurants we’ve mentioned by people going on vacation who’ve read our blog and thought they’d like to try what we wrote about.  We’ve been referenced by other sites, we’ve been re-posted on other blogs, and we won our first blog award.

In short, it’s been a good year.

(Get it?  A good year?  Like wine?  A good … never mind.)

This week, we thought about buying something really outstanding to review, but that just didn’t seem us.  Instead, we did what we always do: bought wines based on pretty labels and clever branding.

Wine: RE, Merlot, Curicó Valley, Chile, 2011, $76.55 MXN
Rating: One Bottle

Green would be the best way to describe this wine.  Fresh.  So fresh, so young … so bad.

Megan and Cara did not mind this wine.  In fact, they like it’s freshness.  All I could pick up on was the cough medicine aftertaste.

I will say that it improved with some time out of the bottle, but not by much.  Enough, however, to allow it to pass our rigorous approval method – did we finish the bottle?  Yes.

We moved on.  If this past year has taught us nothing else, it’s to roll with the punches … of shitty wine in our face.

I wanted to finish our year with a wine from our host country.  We’ve had some success with Monte Xanic in the past, so …

Wine: Monte Xanic, Calixa, Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah, Mexico, 2009, $199 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

Velvety bouquet with a pungent nose.  Hints of caramel and butter toffee.  Ripe fruits dominate the palate – plums, figs, dates, black cherries.  Very smooth and inky.  This wine, we liked much more.  Really, our kind of wine.  A slightly mature palette and more complex than the previous wine of the evening.

We like a wine that gives us something to talk about or evokes a feeling or a memory.  If a wine can actually be a bottle of nostalgia, that’s a keeper.  We like our wines like we like our people – we want them to be interesting.

Though it only got two bottles, this was a wine that kind of did it for us.  It wasn’t fantastic, but for the price, was very good.  Plus, with the misty, cool nights we’ve been having, it was just right.

So Happy Wine-iversary to us!  We’d like to thank our family for putting up with our grumpiness around dinner time.

We’d also like to thank everyone who has followed us this year.  Though we’ve never met many of you, you’re part of what we do, because, ultimately, it’s you we do this for.

Which is weird, if you think about it.

(Let’s not.)

Cheers!

 

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,

Cheers!

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,

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Ho ho ho … ho ho … oh boy … ho … (ahem).

Ho ho ho … ho ho … oh boy … ho … (ahem).

 

You ever leave a turkey out to thaw and then forget to put it back in the fridge overnight and then the next day you wake up and realise your mistake and have to run to the grocery store at nine in the morning with the hopes that they are open and still have turkeys for sale on Christmas morning?

Anyway…

This was our first real Christmas as parents and we found ourselves really appreciating all of the work our parents put into our Christmases growing up.  (Spoiler Alert: Those presents don’t just appear by themselves.)  We put together our first real kid’s toy (a life-size dollhouse that Caia can actually enter, complete with a stove and oven where she can entertain her guests with tea and other treats … that she makes …), and we spent the evening listening to Christmas music, sharing a couple of glasses of wine, reminiscing about our childhoods.

Then we went to bed and I forgot to put the now thawed turkey back in the fridge so that I wouldn’t turn into a bag of sick by morning.  Yep.  Opening that little present the next morning was little mythological.  I swear the souls of all turkeys past flew out of that thing when I pierced the bag the next morning.

But, other than me being a forgetful idiot on Christmas Eve, things went very well.  I got to spend the entire day in the kitchen, which was awesome, and we had a feast generally reserved for the end of Dr. Seuss stories.

 

On the Menu: Sautéed Yellow Bell Peppers with Roma Tomatoes in a Basil-Infused Olive Oil and Balsamic Reduction Dressing, Turkey (Duh), Nutmeg Raisin Stuffing, Brussel Sprouts, Roasted Vegetables with Squash, Carrots, Asian Pears (LOOK UP), and Onions, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Apple Pie à la mode, Sugar Pie

Yeah, that’s right: Sugar Pie, bitches.  As Canadian as … all right, I’d never heard of it, either, but it is very popular in Eastern Canada and most of us liked it fine.  (It’s pie made from sugar.  You do the math.)

The turkey was an event.  As mentioned already, I left the first turkey out overnight.  (Being Santa is hard!)  Rushing to the local grocery store only to wait for forty-five minutes for it to open so that I could buy a replacement … like a Norma Rockwell painting, isn’t it?

(You have no idea how guilty I felt!  Here it is Christmas, and I’m throwing out a whole Turkey before we’ve even had a chance to reflect on our blessings. I felt sick.)

Anyway…

Once the turkey was in the oven, it was autopilot from that point on.  Here’s how I do it, and two years in a row, success.  Also?  As a bonus?  It’s probably the easiest way to cook a bird without running the risk of it being dry.  Promise.  I’ll bet you a whole turkey that if you do it this way … sorry.

Turn the oven up full blast.  As high as it will go.  Place the bird in a roasting tray and drizzle it with olive oil.  Dust it with nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic, salt, pepper, and half-a-cup of brown sugar.  Cut a white onion into quarters and toss it around the bird.  Break one stick of cinnamon and sprinkle the shards around the tray.  Scatter six or seven cloves.  Toss in five or six stars anise.  Pour a whole beer into the tray with bird and all.  (NB: it works better with a stouter beer, like a porter, or Guinness.  If you are feeling particularly festive, you might want to use a chocolate beer or a Christmas ale … the more flavour, the better the result.)

Put the lid on the roasting tray and place in oven for twenty minutes.  Then turn the temperature down to 180 degrees Celsius for about forty-five minutes per kilogram.  Every hour, take the tray out and coat the turkey in the juice.

If you calculated right, you should be left with about an inch of liquid which makes a perfect base for your gravy.  The meat should be shrinking away from the legs.

(For recipes for the sides, just email us and we’ll happily provide them.  You don’t have to wait for next year to try them out!  They’re always crowd-pleasers!)

Another thing?  Having a big kitchen rocks!  There was room enough for Megan, Joseph (Cara and Rene’s father), and me to work and allow guests to get to the fridge and pantry without bumping into us!  This Christmas, there were only two stabbings at our house!  Two!

In all the running around of the week and moving and junk, Megan and I forgot (didn’t bother) to buy a wine we hadn’t tried before.  Luckily for us, our good friend Michael showed up with bottle in hand of another fantastic Canadian red.

Wine: Painted Rock, Estate Grown, Syrah, Okanagan Valley, BC VQA, Canada, 2008, $39.95 CAD

Rating: Three Bottles

This was the absolutely best wine anyone could have picked for Christmas dinner.  Very fruity and very amazing, this wine complimented all of the flavours on our table.  It was so pleasant – each sip took on a different character.  The bouquet enchanted you with it’s BC flavours – cedar, sea salt, and earthy tones played underneath the anise, fennel, and cinnamon notes.  Black cherry and dark plums backed up the muskier flavours, making this a very complex, very enjoyable wine.

Our only regret was that Michael only brought one bottle.

And so we finished our evening happy, replete, and thankful.

And that is the point of Christmas dinner, of holiday dinners, in general – to bring people together, to end the story on a high note, to leave everyone with that “feel good” feeling.  We sit around the table, smiling as we eat, share stories, make toasts, drink, love, and laugh.

And so we wrap up our Christmas with a hope that yours was as amazing as ours and that your families were as blessed as ours.

Cheers!

 

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!

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