Wednesday, November 25, 2015

London stopover makes for a great date night of art, dinner, theatre and a good walk about.

I love to stop over in London.  One of my favourite evenings starts at Trafalgar Square.  It  never gets old for me, I love the embassies,  tourists, busy Londoners and the protesters.  There’s a feeling of immediacy that appeals to me.  We headed there as soon as we dumped our luggage.  Overlooking the square, The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery both offer free admission.   I especially like the Photographs Collection at The Portrait Gallery with iconic photos of the most interesting people.  Dinner on top at the Portrait Restaurant is good value for a great table with an amazing view overlooking the city with Big Ben front and centre.  We booked a table for 5:30 but went up early and scored a table at the window and relaxed over a bottle of Tempranillo from Quinta Milu Ribera del Duero.  They have an excellent wine list with a large selection of wines by the glass in 125ml and 250ml pours.  The cured salmon starter was an exceptional part of the Pre Theatre 2 course dinner at £19.5.  We still had lots of time to find our theatre after dinner.  Kenneth Branagh jumping on tables in tights was fun enough to keep me awake after a long, long day.  Check Branagh’s theatre company at The Garrick for some of the best theatre ever.
Grain Store, King's Cross, London

We were lucky enough to have a few days in London and started our next day with The British Library.  I loved the Beatles stuff.  Afterward we walked north past St. Pancras and King’s Cross Station to the newly developed King’s Cross area to find Grain Store, named The UK’s Most Sustainable Restaurant and awarded menu of the year.  The mushroom and cheddar croquettes were beautifully presented and so good we were tempted to order them for dessert but were swayed by the pumpkin and chestnut tart with whiskey sauce. I'm a real sucker for a good whiskey sauce.  The restaurant has a great atmosphere with business people, families and mom’s and tots at tables. 
Cheddar and Mushroom Croquettes with Truffle Salt
Pumpkin and Chestnut Tart with Maple Syrup Whiskey Sauce
What would a trip to London be without a bowl of noodles at Wagamama.  With locations all over London, dinner at Wagamama helps bring your average cost per meal down a bit.  Cheap and cheerful it’s always a good option.  We went to the Covent Garden location before seeing Photograph 51 with starring Nicole Kidman.  Incredible story, great acting.

For our final day we spent our morning at the Soane museum with a guided tour including viewing Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress.  If you've never been, add this little museum on Lincoln’s Inn Fields to your list. A short walk north and we spent some time in the British Museum, also free admission.  I hadn't been since the inner courtyard was transformed into the largest covered public square in Europe.  It's impressive.  We ate lunch at the Great Court Restaurant under the beautiful glass dome.  I had the Fig and Burrata salad, a real winner that I’ll be trying to duplicate at home.  Fine coffee too.  It's very popular, reservations recommended.
Great Court Dome
Finally with a day of travel ahead to Bordeaux, we  had breakfast at The Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden.  We had to try the full English Vegetarian Breakfast.    Haloumi and avocados took the place of the bacon and sausage.  It’s more than I could eat though so next time I’ll order something simple.  It’s a super comfortable restaurant.  Nice spot all in all.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The oyster cage match in Tofino demanded sub categories @wolfinthefog vs @sobo

Wolf in the Fog Fried Oysters

We decided that we needed 2 categories; fried oysters and baked oysters.

Wolf in the Fog wins for the fried oysters.  They are incredible; a smoked oyster wrapped in Kennebec string potatoes and deep fried.  They get better every time I have them and are addictive. My love to Chef Nicholas Nutting.
Sobo Baked Oysters

We've been eating at Sobo for about a dozen years and they make the best baked oysters I've ever had.  Baked in a miso mayo with salmon bacon, I love them even more than Tojo's.

Choosing the best oysters meant eating quite a few, thankfully there are great beaches and hiking to help work up an appetite.  I can't wait to go back and test the results again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Advance planning turned 6th annual wine tour into a wine experience in the Okanagan. Painted Rock is my top pick in a tough competition for experience.

On our 6th annual Okanagan wine tour we booked several tastings in advance, using either our wine club memberships or the Visa Infinite card program.  Wineries are going all out with these pre-booked special event tastings and it's well worth the planning involved.

Black Hills offers it's wine club members a guided cabana tasting that is one of the best available.  Seated around the pool under the cabana we were treated to wine stories and some of the best wines made in the Okanagan.  A barrel taste of Carmenere was an unexpected pleasure.

Laughing Stock Vineyards is one of the wineries that only do tastings by appointment and again the planning pays off.  They have a beautiful seating area, under cover and a guided tasting of their outstanding portfolio of wines is fun and informative.  They offer Visa Infinite members a private vineyard tour but they called us the morning to let us know it would have to be an abbreviated tour because harvest had begun.  Being possible the most important day in the wine business we were grateful they still let us in. 
Pinot Gris Harvest
Laughing Stock has one of the nicest wine bottles I've ever seen with ticker tape information about the wine and vintage including the date of harvest and some fun facts. We tried the fresh pinot gris grapes being harvested 3 weeks earlier then 2014 vintage we started our tasting with.
Laughing Stock Patio Tasting
Painted Rock offers Visa Infinite members the opportunity to do a barrel tasting of the components of their flagship Red Icon.  Pretty awesome.  We drank a bottle of the 2007 Red Icon the night before so we were pumped to do the component tasting.  This was such a unique experience that it is my top pick for wine visits this year.
The Wine Thief at Painted Rock
We had lunch and did a tasting at Liquidity Wines.  A good addition to the limited food scene in the area it is worth a visit on many levels.  The art both inside the winery and in the gardens is interesting and the views from the patio bistro are pretty fine.  The flatbread, mussels and soup were all very good.  We'll go back.  
Bistro Patio at Liquidity
We also had lunch at The Patio at Lake Breeze, my favourite lunch place in Naramata.  The portobello carpaccio with dungeness crab and arugula was delicious.  The mushroom bruschetta was equally good and both were a delicious match for the Lake Breeze Pinotage.  One of the great things about eating at winery restaurants is getting to order wines from their library.  The Pinotage was sold out but we were able to get it in the restaurant.  It's a rare varietal that I have a love for.
Lake Breeze Winery

2011 Pinotage a rare and delicious varietal

Portobello Carpaccio
We had dinner at The Vanilla Pod at Poplar Grove.  We'd heard mixed reviews and perhaps our order was particularly easy because 5 out of 7 of us ordered the halibut but we enjoyed our evening there and the food was good.
Halibut with tomato fennel ragu and pomme frites
Fall is a good time to visit wine country but keep in mind that the wineries can be extremely busy with harvest and may not have much time for you.  Go with the flow and there may be some pleasant surprises.  
No stealing the grapes

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beer flights go big at MicroBrasserie Saint Arnould Mont-Tremblant

Quebec has some great beer and on a recent trip to Mont-Tremblant  we visited  MicroBrasserie Saint Arnould, named after the patron saint of brewers and I think they do him proud with their offerings.

Beer Selection

I love to try flights of beer and they have flights of 6, 8 or 10.  We tried 8 and I particularly liked the refreshing Blanche Anges, a Belgian white with orange and coriander.

The staff were friendly and informative and they had plenty of information sheets on the bar with tasting notes, alcohol content, IBUs and even the temperatures they should be served at.  In fact a lot of the beer bottles in Quebec seem to have this information on the labels.  I like it a lot.

The bar at Microbrasserie Saint Arnould