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Happy Father’s Day!!

Happy Father’s Day, to all you dad’s out there.

Being a dad, I think, is the greatest thing I’ve ever been, and I’ve been a lot of things.

Sunday was my ideal Father’s Day – spent the morning with Caia – we walked on Fifth Avenue, got some coffee for daddy, fruta y pan for Caia, did our grocery shopping (she’s a big help in that department – she picks out the bread for Sunday dinner, daddy rewards her with a cookie from the bakery, and she recommends that daddy buys all of the other cookies, too), went home for a nap while daddy got caught up on emails and waited for his dinner guests.

Watching her in public is one of my favourite things.  She is so curious, so observant, so careful and careless at the same time.  Quick to laugh, quick to ire, she is a mix of Cara and I to the letter.

I don’t much go in for receiving gifts, since it makes me feel weird, but Megan made me a t-shirt with a humorous saying on it – “That’s what,” she said.


Our friend Jay joined us from Los Cabos for a couple of drinks.  It was great to catch up.

I haven’t cooked in awhile, so dinner was ridiculously late, but once it was done, it was great.

On the Menu: Roast Beef and Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Red Wine Gravy, Pan-Seared Yellow Bell Peppers

I wish I could take all the credit, but I got help on this week’s dinner.  On the advice of a friend, I put the roast in a tray but on a rack so that the air could get under it.  I will always do it this way again forever and eternity.

The trick is turning the oven up almost full-whack for thirty minutes, then turning it down to 170 celsius for the last hour.

Let the roast sit for ten to fifteen minutes after you take it out of the oven.

Megan and Rene brought over one of my favourite wines – 3V, by Casa Madero.  We started with that one, since we knew we were going to enjoy it.

The second bottle got a sampling as well.

Wine: Atteca, Old Vines, Red Blend, Spain, 2010
Rating: Two Bottles

I liked this wine.  The tart of a sour, red apple, and the sweet of blackberries.  I finished this bottle last night, and I liked it as much on a second sitting.  It didn’t sing to me poetry or whisper soft somethings in my ear, but it did it’s job and I would definitely buy it again.

That’s pretty much it for this week.

No nudity.

You’re welcome.



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.”


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,


Daddy Tired.  Daddy Go Sleepy.

Gang, it’s been a long haul.  We are counting down the days until our next vacation.  One-and-a-half months.  Getting four days off at Easter kind of made things worse, since I decided (foolishly? wisely?) to skip the nanny.  Cara worked every day, which meant that Daddy was a playground for the entire four days he had off.

Which is great.  Don’t get Daddy wrong.  Daddy loves playing with Caia.

It’s just …

The exhaustion

This Sunday, we went for our customary walk along Fifth Avenue here in Playa del Carmen.  Caia loves this time because she gets to look at all the shops, the ubiquitous street cats, and break Daddy’s sunglasses (to the delight of passersby).  Daddy likes it because Caia loves riding on his shoulders which makes him feel like a real man, and the two kilometer walk makes Caia sleepy, ensuring nap-time is a ‘Go.’

I wanted to make something that would require minimal effort on my part, on account of the tired.  Megan was going to do the salad and dessert, as usual, and I needed to tackle the main.  Thinking inside the box, I came up with Cottage Pie.

On the Menu: Organic Green Garden Salad with Strawberries, Watermelon, Pomegranate and Mint, in a Raspberry & Olive Oil Dressing, Cottage Pie, Strawberry and Apricot Galettes with Wild Blueberry Preserve And Whipped Cream

What distinguishes a Sheppard’s Pie from a Cottage Pie is the meat you use.  Sheppard’s Pie is made with lamb.  Beef equals Cottage.

Either way, and not surprisingly, Megan did a better job than I.  My mistake was trying to please too many people.  I substituted green beans for peas, and included spinach in the layers.  While this sounds like a good idea, it is not.  The result was too earthy.  Too much like the earth.  It tasted like dirt.

One thing I did that I liked, however, was including a bottom layer of potatoes.  I lined the bottom of the pan with olive oil, smoothed out a layer of potatoes, and baked it for fifteen minutes.  This made something of a crust, which made something of an awesome texture when you ate it.

The salad was awesome but didn’t hold a candle to the dessert.

We have been talking about doing a cook book for some time, and this will be a definite inclusion.  Which is why I can’t give you the recipe here.  But let me tell you: it is heaven.  It is one of those desserts that can go with any season, which almost any drink, and in almost every situation.

Got a promotion?  Galettes!  Have to break up with someone?  Galettes.

We tried to drink two bottles this week, but neither were really that great, so we kind of limped through half of each.

Wine: Casa Pedro Demecq, Reserva Real, Vino Tinto (Barbera/Cabernet Sauvignon), Valle de Calafia, Baja California, Mexico, 2009, $165 MXN
Rating: One-and-a-half Bottles

Higher alcohol content (14.1%) made this a heady, sharp wine.  Megan and Susan found it acidic, though it didn’t really bother me that much.  Good things going for it?  Smokey and oaky, with a hint of some kind of flower.  After much cursing, we figured it out – clover.  Peppery and spicy, this wine would fall under the “got-to-be-in-the-mood-for” category of wines.

Not overly easy to drink.

Wine: Santo Tomás, Vino Tinto (Barbera/Merlot), Valle de Santo Tomás, Baja California, Mexico, 2008, $220 MXN
Rating: One-and-a-half Bottles

Cassis and cherries, leathery and full, the Santo Tomás was certainly more popular with Megan, Susan, and Roy (another Canadian friend of ours down for a visit).  While not my favourite of the two, as I found this one too sharp, I was roundly disagreed with.

One thing we all agreed on: neither of these wines would be bottles any of us would seek out again.  They just didn’t have that je ne sais quoi that one looks for in a wine.

Whatevs.  Probably the Barbera.  It can be a little bitey.

Next week, Megan and I are going to shift things around a little bit.  We’re going hunting for a new wine bar.

Yes, sadly, Cava Veinte33 closed its doors this week.  Demian and Maria José are expanding their horizons, and the restaurant life is a demanding one.  Too much time is required running a restaurant to allow a person to do … well, anything else, really.

On behalf of The Sunday Bottles, we’d like to wish them all the best in the future, and look forward to clinking glasses again with them soon.

This means, of course, that the search is on.  If you are familiar with the area, feel free to suggest places you think we might like.  Preferably, places that serve wine not from a bag or a box.

That would be a good start, I think.


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.


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,


Chilli Con Carne? What Are Ya’, Chicken?

After what seems like a fortnight, I got back in the kitchen this week and it felt so right.  For those of who you have missed the action, I fell off a scooter a few weeks ago and it fell on top of me and then I had an owie in my thorax.  Well, in my thoraxal area.

I wanted something that would be like comfort food, but not too unhealthy, since it has been two weeks since I’ve been able to hit the gym.  (That’s right: when I go to the gym, I hit it!  Booyah!)

None of that worked out, of course, since I got an idea to make chilli in bread bowls and then realised that eating healthy is something I do every day that isn’t Sunday.  So I compromised and substituted chicken for beef.

On the Menu: Chilli Con Pollo In Sourdough Bowls, Three Fruit Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream

The secret to a good chilli, as any chilli cook will tell you, is the secret ingredients.

Just what the doctor ordered, I could feel all my injuries healing like Wolverine after a fight with Sabretooth.  (Oh yeah: I went there.  What?  I’m Canadian – it’s valid.)

And everybody else seemed to enjoy it as well.  There were a lot of silent moments around the table.  Long, contemplative moments, until Cara started talking about circuses and animal cruelty, and the moment was shattered like so much carnivore guilt.

Whatever … it was delicious while it lasted.

The dessert was incredible, as usual, and we were all so full by the end of it, we could hardly finish seconds.

Thank god we didn’t overdo it on the wine …

Wine: Santa Ana, Torrontés, Argentina, 2011, $73 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

Super light and citrusy, this white is refreshing and easy to drink.  If you like a wine with a lot of stuff going on, this might be a good contender.  Grapefruit, limes, oranges, peaches, and apples dance around your mouth like so many monkeys, trained to do so by their human masters.

(Dammit, Cara!)

This bottle was mostly consumed before dinner, along with a couple of Guinness I found at Chedraui, so it wasn’t long before we were decanting the red selection of the night.

Wine: Quattrocchi, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2009, $178 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

Four eyes?  Shut up your face!

Everyone liked this wine.  Chocolaty and beautiful aroma, with, as Susan put it, “nice curtains,” which means the same thing as legs.  Strawberries and lilacs play on the nose, while cranberries roar across your tongue, like the lions are spurned to do by their tamer under the big top.

Big thanks to all of you who sent us your words of congratulations and encouragement this week.  We really appreciate hearing from you.  We love you guys!

Until next week, may all your days be filled with creepy calliope music.


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.)



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,


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