Posted in Wine

Wine: Château Bastor-Lamontagne Sauternes 2015

My last two wine posts have each featured examples of the red wine blends for which the famous French wine-growing region of Bordeaux is especially well known. There are also excellent white wines produced in Bordeaux, but they make up only around ten percent of the total wine yield. Like the reds, though, they are chiefly produced as blends, rather than single varietal wines, with the permitted grapes being Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle.

Some Bordeaux white blends are quite crisp and acidic (those will often have Sauvignon Blanc as the dominant varietal), but the region is especially renowned for its sweet desert wines with Sémillon as the primary grape. This varietal is susceptible to a fungus known as Botrytis cinerea, which the French call the ‘noble rot’, and this interesting fungus causes the grapes to wither like raisins and this concentrates the natural sugars to produce a very sweet wine with a very long ageing potential.

One of the wine making districts especially known for its sweet white Bordeaux blends is the Sauternes AOC. Indeed, this district is home to the world-famous Chateau d’Yqem, which has been producing wine since at least 1711. In 2011, one these famed sweet whites dating back to 1811 was sold for a staggering $117,000.00, which is, I think, still the most expensive bottle yet sold. Now, the Sauternes I am featuring today is not quite in the same class as that 1811 Chateau d’Yquem pricewise, but I paid $57.25 for my bottle and was a bit surprised, when it arrived, to discover it was a 375ml bottle rather than the standard 750ml size, which I believe makes it the most expensive wine I have ever purchased outside of a restaurant…

Anyway, this delightful wine contains a startling 120 grams of sugar per liter and is, as you can guess, exceedingly sweet, with only a low moderate acidity as an offset, and a very heavy, almost syrupy mouthfeel. The nose is very aromatic with golden apple, slightly sour apricot and raisin, honey, almond shells, light toast and a faint hint of sweet varnish. There was also a very faint hint of something I couldn’t quite identify, but which I can only describe as being a bit like well-aged Balsamic Vinegar, for want of any better comparison.

On the palate, there is Apricot jam, honey and barley sugar, along with a touch of lemon and almond and, on the whole, the effect is very rich and complex. I am not a big imbiber of desert wines, or very sweet wines of any sort usually, but I did not begrudge the price I paid for sampling a special wine from this prestigious AOC and I very much enjoyed the experience.

Posted in Recipes

Soy-Pickled Cucumber

Today’s post is really just the result of me playing around with a number of different pickling recipes from both Chinese and Japanese cuisine. In many cucumber pickles, small ‘dill-pickle’ sized ‘cukes’ are used, and the pickling is by way of lactic acid fermentation for at least part of the process. Here, I am using large, seedless, English cucumbers and I am ‘quick-pickling’ using rice vinegar as the agent, and soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds and rice wine for seasoning… Continue reading “Soy-Pickled Cucumber”

Posted in Wine

Wine: Château Mondésir-Gazin Blaye 2014

In my last post, we had a brief discussion about the red wine blends of Bordeaux, and the differences between the so-called Left and Right banks regions. The wine I featured in that post was a Moulins de Citran Haut-Médoc 2009, and you may recall that it is a left-bank wine and that the dominant varietal in the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, our selection comes from the Blaye AOC, which surrounds the town of Blaye on the right bank of the Gironde River and, as such, it features a blend in which Merlot dominates. Unusually though, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon is quite often the secondary varietal, in this wine, there is no Cabernet Sauvignon at all and the blend is an interesting 65% Merlot, with the remaining 35% being Malbec.

I bought my bottle for $29.75 from one of the SAQ stores in Montreal. It has an alcohol content of 14% and contains 1.7 grams of sugar per litre. It is very dry with moderate acidity, has a nice full-bodied silky texture, and a smoothly tannic finish. The nose is surprisingly aromatic with black plum and blackcurrant and floral highlights, and there is also a little cedar, some herbaceous notes, and just a faint touch of barnyard muskiness. This last may signal the influence of Brettanomyces but, if so, the effect is not pronounced enough to be considered a flaw and, in any event, did not seem to come through in the taste.

On the palate, the blackcurrant gives way to sour cherry and the faint floral notes on the nose resolve into a very definite violet quality, with the cedar being a little more pronounced. The herbaceous notes are less noticeable but there is a little peppery spice near the finish that is very pleasant. Overall, I thought this excellent for the price and I would say that it is a wine worth buying and aging for a bit in order to see what else develops.

Posted in General

Beef Carpaccio at Play, Food and Wine

I have mentioned Ottawa’s Play, Food and Wine many times on this blog. It is a cross between a bistro and a wine bar and I like going there when I visit the city as they change their menu frequently and offer interesting pairing suggestions from their decent selection of wine. On my last visit in March, I enjoyed the Beef Carpaccio dish you see pictured above. I thought it worth featuring here as it was quite innovative in the ingredients used and was an interesting take on the usual presentation.  The dish was described on the menu as ‘Beef Carpaccio with jerk spice, jalapenos, greens and Comte’, which was sort of accurate, but also not quite what I received…

The beef itself appeared to me to be the same thin slices you can buy for Chinese Fondue or Hotpot from your local supermarket. I am not being critical in relaying that fact, indeed, the quality of the beef was excellent and I think I may borrow the idea for myself, sometime. There was a bit of a disappointment in that there was nothing remotely ‘jerk-like’ about the meat, and no hint of seasoning that suggested anything vaguely Jamaican… I think a little regular pepper was used, but there were no other aromatic dried spices that I could detect. Quite honestly, though, I didn’t miss it all that much and I think it is possible that the duty chef that evening may have simply forgotten add it.

There was also no actual Jalapenos on the plate, as such, but the vinaigrette for the mesclun greens did contain Jalapeno oil and the little spark of heat this added proved very nice. There was also some pickled Yuca included (which wasn’t mentioned in the description), and I liked that tart counterpoint to the rest of the dish. The other departure from the traditional that this Carpaccio made was that, instead of the usual shavings of Parmesan, or Romano, the cheese added atop the beef was a variety called ‘Comté’. I had to ask about this and it turns out that it is a French cow’s milk cheese (also known as Gruyère de Comté) produced in eastern France. It was, I though, something like a mild, slightly waxy cross between Swiss and Parmesan, and I like it very much.

As for the wine, the menu suggested a Agricola Tiberio Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2017, which is a rose from Abruzzi in Italy. I tried it and it was quite dry and somewhat acidic, with nice notes of cherry, citrus, orange blossom and melon. I am not sure if I would particularly choose this to pair with the Carpaccio I had, but it went well enough and was a decent sipping wine in its own right. On the whole, I was pleased with the combination of experiences…

Posted in Ingredients

Foodstuff: Camel Meat

A little while ago, one of our local stores was offering several different types of exotic meat for sale, all packaged by a Canadian company called ‘Blue Mountain Fine Foods’ based out of Thornbury, Ontario. I grabbed several types for later examination and the first I tried was the rather interesting sounding ‘Moroccan Camel’. I am glad I got to try it, of course, but I found the experience a little disappointing for a couple of different reasons… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Camel Meat”

Posted in General

Supper at Khao Thai

103 Murray Street, Ottawa – Website

Date of Visit: March, 2019

I was planning to visit this place on the first night of a recent trip to Ottawa, but I arrived late and, after a gruelling flight, had no enthusiasm for venturing out on the town. The following day, my lunch plans got changed when the restaurant I wanted to visit turned out to be closed and so I kept walking a little further and ended up at Khao Thai. Their lunch menu is not as extensive as the dinner version but I pretty ended up having what I would have ordered anyway and I very much enjoyed it. I was very glad that I didn’t miss out on this place as it turned out to be well worth the visit… Continue reading “Supper at Khao Thai”

Posted in Wine

Wine: Moulins de Citran Haut-Médoc 2009

About seven or eight months ago, I began something of a virtual tour of the Bordeaux wine-making region. I say ‘virtual’ because, being several thousand miles away, I am restricted to just tasting the wines as I find them locally, but I have managed, thus far, to work my way through quite a few of the locales that feature in the Bordeaux naming control system.

I am not going to attempt a thorough explanation of the regional naming regime that exists in Bordeaux, as it is really quite complex, but will rather limit myself to saying that, generally, you can divide the wine-making regions into three separate areas… first, the so-called ‘Left-Bank’, being the western side of the Gironde Estuary and Garonne River, then the ‘Right-Bank’, which is to the east of the estuary and the Dordogne River, and final the ‘Entre-Deux-Mers’ region, which covers the area in between.

In Bordeaux, almost all the wines produced are blends and, on the Left-Bank, the red wines are blends in which Cabernet Sauvignon predominates, with some mix of Merlot, Cabernet-Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot being included as well. Today’s selection is a Left-Bank red from the Haut-Medoc AOC, and is a simple blend comprised of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 42% Merlot.

The wine is full-bodied and quite dry with a mere 2.7 grams of sugar per liter. It has a nice smooth mouthfeel with moderate acidity and fairly robust tannins. On the nose, the fruit is quite muted with some blackcurrant and a little cherry, along with notes of forest floor, dried grass and a faint floral quality. The palate is a little fruitier with plum and sour red cherry, and there are very nice woody notes of oak and cedar with some leather, dark toast and aromatic spices in the finish. Overall, it was very interesting, nicely rounded and pretty decent value at $29.95 from SAQ in Montreal.

Posted in General

Dinner (at eight) at E18teen

I first reviewed the Ottawa restaurant, E18teen, some six or seven years ago and I have, a number of times, written about excellent dishes I have had there since then. Recently, however, I visited for dinner and had an experience that was not as good as usual. One dish I just happened not to like all that much, but another one, unusually for E18teen, was just not that well executed… Continue reading “Dinner (at eight) at E18teen”

Posted in Recipes

Shrimp and Pork Balls

Today, I am going to show you a couple of little dishes made with the same basic  ‘dumpling filling’ mix I made for my Shrimp and Pork Stuffed Mushrooms  a while ago. As I mentioned in that post, the combination of shrimp and pork is one of my most favorite dumpling fillings but I wanted to use it in a few non-dumpling applications as well. The stuffed mushrooms were first but then I used the remainder of the mix to make some ‘balls’ that I almost think of as ‘dumplings without wrappers’ … Continue reading “Shrimp and Pork Balls”