Thursday, December 29, 2011

Airport Restaurants in America

Airports are starting to serve food and drink that are actually good.

America’s best new airport restaurants

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chilling and Breathing at TTG

Today we have one of the most typical wines of Austria, a white Gruner Vletliner from The Domaene Gobelsburg 2009 and from Slovakia , Janousek, Frankovka Modra 2008. I’m especially looking forward to the Frankovka Modra since I’ve never tried anything from Slovakia and it’s an award winner that was immediately recommended by Trunk Wines in Old Town Bratslava, it is described as having aromas of cherries, chocolate and stone fruit and a taste full of dark chocolate and stone fruit with a velvety finish.
I’m excited.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eating & Drinking Summary Europe November, 2011

Paris is always a great place to spend a couple of days if you love art, food and wine. We stayed on the Isle Saint Louis in the heart of things at Hotel du Lutece. Breakfast everyday was excellent OJ, coffee, croissant, bread, eggs, cheese. Typical French continental but all of the very good quality expected in Paris. We’ve written about our restaurant visits there already but I wanted to mention that the Beaujolais Nouveau had just arrived and every bistro, brasserie and restaurant featured one. Fresh fruity and cheap Gamay. The 2011 vintage matured early and had longer in the bottle so is one of the best vintages in recent years. If you are ever in Paris in late November or December take the opportunity and try the Beaujolais. It’s not rock your world wine but it is fun.
Prague was the highlight of our trip this time. We were booked into the Hilton Prague, it’s one of the largest group and convention hotel in Europe and not one I would usually choose, but they are doing a lot of things right. We checked in late and didn’t have plans for dinner, the restaurant in the lobby, the CzecHouse Grill and Rotisserie, looked good so I made a reservation. They greeted us at the door with a delicious warm aperitif. The service and food were outstanding. A double amuse bouche, one oyster and a warm truffle potato salad was very impressive. A selection of house made breads was served with a bean dip and butter. The wine list offered Czech and Italian wines and the staff had opinions on them. They feature local specialties and stone-grilled fish. It was so good we ate there the last night as well. The Atrium Restaurant serves breakfast from 6am and again the food was very good and service quick and pleasant.

We hired a private guide and driver the next morning and toured Prague. It was so interesting to see it through the eyes of someone who had lived through the Soviet invasion and the Velvet Revolution. Ivana dropped us in the Old Town with a recommendation to eat lunch at Restaurant Kolkovna. It served good Czech food and fresh Pilsner Urquell beer. In high season you would need a reservation since it is popular with locals and tourist alike. A table outside in the summer would be ideal for people watching.
The next part of our trip was a river cruise and here the food and drink was a disappointment. The Avalon Panorama is a new ship and may have some things to work out but I didn’t think the food was of a high quality so there’s more than just a staffing problem to deal with. However it was a Christmas market cruise and the markets offer lots of good cheap food. Excellent sausages with sauerkraut on buns, great potato latkes and gingerbread that is unforgettable. All washed down with beer or Gluevien. Great atmosphere too.

One of our best meals was at Caffe Rinaldi, Alter Kornmarkt 3a, Regensburg, Germany. I had a Strossapreti with mushrooms and shaved truffle and David had a linguini with ragu, both were perfectly prepared, dense a little chewy. Both plates were cleared with the delicious bread supplied. They also made one of the best coffees we had in Europe.

Our last days were spent in Bratislava. We hadn’t intended to go there so it was especially handy to have a computer along to do a little research. The Christmas market was again a success and we had a late lunch at Restauracia Presburg, Michalska 4. Friendly, attentive service combined with good beer and wine. We had a marinated camembert cheese appetizer, some soups and roasted potatoes. A happy place with well prepared food.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

E. Dehillerin Cookshop

Every foodie should visit this mecca of cookshops at least once. Dazzling selection of everything imaginable.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mon Vieil Ami

Last night for dinner in Paris, we ate at another restaurant on L’Isle Saint Louis.  There is something about being able to walk to the restaurant down the block that screams Paris to me.  Mon Vieil Ami is new since we were here last and I hope it lasts.  It is intimate with community table style seating, not normally my favourite thing but with all the different languages flowing around the table I didn’t feel the lack of privacy.  The focus is here is all about the vegetables. Each dish is identified by the predominant vegetable and they even have a vegetarian tasting menu.  Heaven for me.  I had a chestnut soup with roasted chestnuts and chestnut chips, the soup was poured over top at table.  Delicious, rich and aromatic.  My main course was a mushroom fricassee with a soft poached egg, spinach and a creamy mushroom emulsion.  Great with rustic bread to clean the bowl.  I could only handle a bite of the apple tart but it was perfect; beautiful and delicious.  My mother in law makes the best apple pie in the world and she would have approved of this tart.  A glass of champagne to start and a bottle of white burgundy and I was strolling down the avenue with a happy smile to end the evening. 
David says his dinner was superb.  He had mixed greens with mackerel and radish with a crispy bread base.  Main course was scallops with bitter greens.  The scallop was perfect but I didn’t love the greens.  David on the other hand was happy.  He finished with a kind of pear crumble.  Also excellent. 
If you are in Paris near L’Isle Saint Louis and want to try something interesting I would recommend Mon Vieil Ami by Antoine Westerman.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

L'Ilot Vache by David Elmy

L’Ilot Vache, 35 rue Saint-Louis en I’le, Paris, ph: 01-46-33-55-16
Located in our favourite area of Paris – L’isle  Saint-Louis, this is a charming and eccentrically decorated restaurant.  Each table is set with a unique plate; and the walls and shelves are filled with every imaginable cow ornament (apparently mostly donated by customers from around the globe.)
 The prix fixe menu is a great deal.  The most ridiculous item on the menu is their so-called “Caesar salad”, which is just a plain salad with olive oil dressing and some Roquefort cheese.  Good, but don’t  be deceived.   Escargot, on the other hand, is North American all the way – nice and garlicy, with butter & parsley.  The waiter is well aware of the bread requirement to soak up all that deliciousness!
For mains, try either the Lobster Cassoulet (no bean to be found, but mighty yummy, and really generous chunks of whole lobster) or Peche de la mare au gratin – lovely salmon (our night) with rosemary seasoning.
And.. complimentary cheese plate with the “menu” which offers three excellent cheeses.
Definitely a lovely, comfortable, friendly and relatively affordable restaurant in the Isle area.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Paris Wine

I'm so happy to be back in Paris on the Isle Saint Louis.  Such a great location with good restaurants, an excellent cheese shop and a wine store Nicolas something or other.  Tonight we are drinking a 2008 Chateau d'Arcins from the Haute Medoc.  Full bodied and a little bit spicy.  We had a glass before we went for dinner and I'm having another right now.  Amazing how much benefit comes from a couple of hours of aging. There's just no understanding how badly I need to go to Bordeaux.  Cheers!

Le Reminet, Paris by David Elmy

Le Reminet, 3 rueLe des Grands-Degres. Ph: 01 44 07 04 24
This is our fourth visit to this restaurant, which should say something in itself!  Originally recommended to us by a good client & friend, I notice this is also cited in Michelin’s Paris guide.   Besides boasting a fantastic location – a quiet street, just blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral – Le Reminet offers excellent, friendly service, a charming bistro-style atmosphere, and consistently excellent food.  (We always notice regulars eating there, by the way.)
Typically, your meal will start with  a complimentary appetiser (eg. ours this night was a prawn bisque – lovely!)  Cathy had an appetizer of marinated salmon rolled with salad and avocado dressing along with crab in tomato.  Very yummy.  I had a jumble prawn (biggest mother I’ve seen in my life) with caviar & crème fraiche and diced, spiced pumpkin.  Also, very tasty.  For entrees we had scallops with black rice and wild mushrooms, with a scallop emulsion.  Seabass rolled with marinated eggplant and some sort of toasty bread-like base.  It was excellent as well.  Coffee was good.  I alone had dessert, which was a classic crème brulee.   Everything was first rate.   

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tableau at the Loden Hotel

By lunch time Thursday I was craving Wednesday nights dinner.  First time I've had a craving for a dish in a LONG TIME.  I don't like to blog about restaurants in Vancouver but when it involves a hotel and a craving I've just gotta do it.  Tableau at the Loden has something GREAT going on.  I'm planning a second dinner there next week to have the mushrooms on toast and the halibut in brown butter again.  Both were so memorable that I can taste them now just by writing about them.  There's more butter involved than is healthy and the dining room is noisy and a bit crowded but the food is outstanding. Definitely worth a try.

Sri Lanka Lunch by Marie Chang

I certainly didn't lack for food on my recent trip to Sri Lanka.  In fact lunch at Heritance Kandalamawas probably one of the best lunches I've enjoyed in a while.  This hotel offered a la carte and I chose the seafood dish that you see in the picture.We also enjoyed an incredible Carrot Soup, Salad and Dessert.  While enjoying lunch we got to watch the monkeys right outside the dining room window!  This hotel appears to be in the middle of no-where but is really very conveniently located close to the UNESCO sights of Sigiriya, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa.  You can enjoy these archeological wonders and then come back and relax in this eco-friendly environment, enjoy the Spa and spend quiet time.   

All of our meals in Sri Lanka were wonderful, mostly buffets which worked well as there was such a wide variety to appeal to everyone.  There was always local Sri Lankan Curries which are reputed to be the hottest in the world, (although toned down a bit in the hotels) but you could also choose from a huge selection of International Dishes, and the desserts were amazing, sometimes we just wanted to start with them!  Delicious Ice-Cream and I was always excited when we found 'the room'.  Many of the hotels had a room in the dining area dedicated entirely to desserts.   The tea of course was simply the best but surprisingly we all agreed the coffee also tasted good.  The other highlight  was the fresh assortment of fruits every morning - pineapple and papaya especially.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jaleo by Jose Andres at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Jaleo was my favourite restaurant in Las Vegas. I love tapa style eating. It's casual and you get to try lots of dishes. I also loved the design with beautiful benches all around the room with large rolls at your back done in boiled wool and great colours and a whole curtained wall of red chains. Our server Mary suggested the Fennal, apple, manchego and walnut salad with sherry vinagrette and it was exceptional. Manchego is one of my favourite cheeses. We also had the Empanadillas de Brandade. More salt cod. Newfie heaven. The cod was mashed with potatoes and cream, wrapped in a wonton wrapper and deep fried. Don't miss it. The Spanish Tortilla or potato and egg pie as my mom called it, was the best I've ever eaten. The seared scallops and squid stew were also excellent. Funny how growing up in Newfoundland we ate dishes that originated in Spain and Portugal and had no idea where they came from. The wine list here was also easy and accessible.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mix Las Vegas by Alain Ducasse


Mix came up as a choice as soon as we started to decide on restaurants in Las Vegas. Alain Ducasse is a French icon of cooking and I couldn't miss the opportunity. We weren't sorry. It was a near perfect meal. On the 64th floor of The Hotel at Mandalay Bay, it is a beautiful dining room. White glass balls hanging from the ceiling like necklaces and the glittery lights of Las Vegas below, white leather arm chairs. This is really French STYLE. The art of cooking with butter is alive and well. I had Cod Brandade. As a true Newfoundlander I eat it whenever I see it, this dish had the mashed brandade below and a beautiful cod piece (lol) with crisp skin on top. Mashed potatoes, wild mushroom fricasse and asparagus were served family style making the whole experience more casual and kind of decadent. Another daunting wine list with crazy expensive wines made me long for the days when I could eat a meal like that and not miss wine if I refused to be gouged. Never mind. It's a once in a lifetime experience, which in itself is crazy to say. Alain Ducasse wasn't cooking just as Mario Batali wasn't at B & B. It's a bit like going to Paris, Venice or New York in Las Vegas. Fantastic fakes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

B & B Ristorante Las Vegas

B & B Ristorante Las Vegas. Mario Battali and Joe Bastianich might be the name on the door but Eric OWNS the bar. We arrived a little early so happily sat at the bar and it really set the mood for an excellent evening, with Flor Prosecco and Tosta, a chocolate stout from Italy getting us comfortable. Eric the bartender was excellent and a real host. We tried one of his famous Green Monk’s made with muddled cucumber, yellow chartreuse, Hendricks cucumber infused gin, honey simple and spearmint blossoms. Delicious. He also shared his latest creation, we named it the Earl of Carmen and hope the name sticks. It was Early Grey infused gin with pink peppercorn and myrtle berry amari, a unique drink that really showcased the Earl Grey gin. I don’t like gin but I tasted both and they were distinctive and interesting.
We moved into the dining room and spent some time discussing the menu with our waiter. He had opinions on how we could create the best dining experience and we all really liked that. Between three of us we tried the Calamari Fritti,. Carmelized fig salad, and the Lamb Tongue Salad for appetizer s. The Goat cheese Ravioli, Beef Cheak Ravioli, and the Spaghettini with lobster and a spicy tomato sauce for the Pasta course and the Striped Bass for two and Veal chop for the entre course.
My favourites was the fig salad, the dressing was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
Would I go again? Probably not, but if I did I’d sit at the bar and have a single dish with a cocktail and a glass of wine.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chinese Mexican Food and Fire Breathing Dragons

We're at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas and our first stop was the Chandelier Bar, floor 1.5. The drink to try is "The Fire Breathing Dragon." It starts with a small glass of frozen raspberries and when you eat them smoke comes out of your nose and mouth along with the smell of raspberries. The drink that follows was a VERY sweet raspberry concoction. A fun novelty drink and a very happening bar.

We went for a late night snack at Jose Andres China Poblano for noodles and tacos. An odd combination all done in small plates. We tried the veggie spring rolls, a bowl of hand-cut noodles with mushroom corn truffle, a lobster taco and tuna ceviche. I can handle hot but the lobster was overwhelmed by the heat in the taco. The noodles were good, nice and chewy and the mix of mushrooms and corn truffle (??) was interesting. The best dish was the tuna ceviche with crispy amaranth seeds.

But the stand out thing at this restaurant was the desserts. We shared two. A Mango Sticky Rice, shaved frozen mango with what looked like whipped cream but was actually a dense foam made from rice and some crispy rice topping. Novel and delicious. We also tried the Coconut Tapioca Balls, tapioca pudding topped with balls of froth made from coconut and a scoop of mandarin orange sorbet.

The other nice thing about this restaurant was the staff and decor. The staff were very friendly and knowledgeable and the decorations were a fascinating blend of mexican and chinese. Masks, statues, framed pictures that changed. It was entertaining just to sit and take it all in.

There was nothing I'd particularly want to go back for but I wouldn't hesitate to go back and try some of their other dishes either. Good fun. We closed the place.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Las Vegas Too Cheap to Gamble

I'm too cheap to gamble but how much do you think dinner at Mix by Alain Ducasse will cost?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Las Vegas Ensemble Conference 2011

David, Martha, Carmen and I are attending the Ensemble conference. As soon as we booked the conference we started talking about restaurants we would visit. I have to admit that I haven’t been to Vegas in 25 years and didn’t count it as one of my favourite places. The first time, 1976 I was escorted from most Casinos for being underage but was amazed at Caesar’s Palace, the second time I was under amazed and the last time in ’83, well what happens in Vegas stays…I just don’t recall much about it.
Everyone has been telling me that I have to go back, at least for the restaurants. I’m going. We’re staying at The Cosmopolitan and eating several meals there but the real meals will be 2 dinners at some big bang restaurants. We’re booked at Alain Ducasse’s Mix at Mandalay Bay. It’s a good thing I’ve started to study the menu now. This is going to require some thought. I haven’t seen a full wine menu yet but they offered some hidden treasures and I’m especially interested in trying a ’06 J Phelps Cabernet.
We also have a table booked at B & B, Mario Battali Joe Bastianich’s ristorante at The Venetian Hotel. The wine list is fascinating. 22 pages of Italian wines divided by district with a page of champagne thrown in. No champagne for me in an Italian restaurant. I’ll be ordering Prosecco while deciding what to eat and drink.
Hoping to get Carmen to take pictures.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Winedown Shiraz, Pinotage and Bra cheese

Today we have a Jackson Triggs Shiraz. It's not THE JT best in the world Shiraz, but it's good. Also checking out a South African Pinotage called The Grinder, in honour of our TTG hikers. But the big new thing today is Bra cheese from Italy. A new one for us, it's named after the city of Bra, south of Turin, Bra is a Cittaslow city, one of the founding cities in the Slow Food, Slow City movement. My money is on the cheese being a winner.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Perfect Day - Market in the morning Winery in the afternoon

Fall harvest at the Trout Lake Market and wine tasting at Kensington Square Wines. How many times do I say market in the morning and winery in the afternoon makes the perfect day. In early October Vancouver is the perfect place to be for that. Heirloom tomato salad, pea soup, Chive scones, honey bee gouda and Fairview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. Salad by Cathy, soup by David, scones by Rachel, wine by Bill Eggert. Cheese by Les Amis du Fromage. Seriously. Need I say more.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Winedown at TTG

I’m excited to open the wine today, 2 bottles of HMC McWatters Collection 2007 Meritage.
Harry McWatters is one of the gurus of excellence in BC Wine. He made this wine and it is excellent. I lucked into a case thanks to one of our amazing clients, so today TTG is serving up a couple of bottles. I look forward to the feedback.

I hadn’t been shopping at Les Amis du Fromage for a couple of weeks so I spent too much time talking and relied on picking up the house favourites. We’ll soldier on and see if we can work our way through the incredible Quebec Louis d’Or Vielle, 18 month old cheese and our all time favourite a double section of Le Dauphin, double milk cheese from France. I’m trying to see how much of the Dauphin I have to buy to have leftovers. Hasn’t happened yet. A new favourite is the Honey Bee Goat Gouda from Holland. Sweet caramel undertones!! Who could resist.
The bargain shelf offered up a Gorgonzola Dolce from Lombardy, Italy. It claims to be milder and sweeter than Gorgonzola “Natural”. A little bit of Herbie from the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and we have BC represented and a lovely afternoon ahead.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How to Open a Wine Bottle In Emergency

Instructions are en francais but the video is easy to follow. Try with
a cheap bottle outside and let me know the results.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fabulous BC Wines and Rainy Sunday afternoons

I've been spending the day sorting the wine from my recent wine tour and counting myself very lucky to have some of the great wines made in BC.

I've just opened a bottle of Harry McWatters 2007 Meritage. How did I get so lucky? With Harry's name on the bottle and his personal guarantee I was expecting a lot. Delivered. Thanks Harry. Meritage is my favourite and I think the easiest wine to drink in BC. I doubt if many would argue that point. I'm going to have to resist and see how a glass tastes in a few hours. This glass fresh from the bottle is going down very easily.

Meritage is not the only great wine to drink and when it comes to single varietals my first love may be Cabernet Sauvignon but for the food I like to eat Pinot Noir is my first choice. Which leads me to the bottle of Pinot Noir opened and waiting to accompany my tuna tonight. Pinot Noir made by Bill Eggert at Fairview Cellars under the Eagle Bluff label. Bill made this wine but didn't grow the grapes. I'm looking forward to tasting the Pinot from his new vineyard in the future.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vanessa Vineyards Cawston BC

Here we are Friday afternoon at The Travel Group and a client has sent us a bottle of Sandhill Cab Merlot from his Vanessa Vineyards in Cawston BC. We recently started our wine tour meeting the vineyard manager Nathan who enlightened us on what was happening with the grapes this time of year. I might have to go begging for more, this is lovely wine, rich and aromatic, everything you could hope for in one of my favourite blends.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011 Day 4 and 5

We left the south Okanagan and Spirit Ridge Resort and headed north for Vernon and the Sparkling Hills Resort. A side trip to Naramata and La Frenz to try and nab a bottle of Pinot Noir but no chance. Next year I'm going to pre order. A couple of people said it was the best pinot noir in the valley and that set my spider senses tingling. We were happy to stock up on their excellent Montage, great value at $22 but only at the winery. Worth the 20 minute detore, we were back on track. A 10 minute stop at Quail's gate to get another bottle of the Dijon Clone and be treated t a 3 Pinot Noir tasting (many thanks) and we were off to Cedar Creek's beautiful deck for lunch. Friendly service, good food appropriately priced and great wine make it an excellent place for lunch. Caesar salad with a spitted grilled quail was impressive.

We spent the evening sweating in the saunas and steam rooms at Sparkling Hills Resort, crawled into their amazing beds and slept our way to the very good buffet breakfast included with your stay.

Our next stop was a visit with a Scandinavian Antique dealer friend in Armstrong for Swedish Breakfast. Herring and Schnaps sounded intimidating but, the herring was beautifully presented alongside chopped hard boiled eggs, fresh dill, yellow nugget potatoes and creme fraiche. Orange Vodka was our hosts take on the schnaps, served on the most interesting antique and modern china and stem-ware. We sang a swedish drinking song and tossed back a couple of vodkas. Wow! Camembert covered in cloudberry jam followed. As well as excellent coffee and almond cake. The Swedes know how to enjoy life. We're looking forward to visiting Sweden with Eva next year. Cheers!

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011 Day 3

Day 3 of The Travel Group Okanagan wine tour and we are back on the bus with Mike from Unveil. First stop Fairview Cellars to visit with Bill Eggert and taste some of his big beautiful reds. We've visited Bill on our first wine tour and he's agreed to host our group on his day off thanks to Leah at Kensington Square Wines. Bill is educational, funny and everyone in our group had a great time sipping wine outside his tiny tasting room in the shade of an enormous tree with the new puppy and kitten. Bill tells the story of his wines in a way that makes them seem like friends. Names like Bucket of Blood, Two Hoots and Madcap Red make me smile in anticipation of drinking them over this winter.

Next we visited Tinhorn Creek. This was my second visit and although I like the set up of the self guided tour this winery doesn't excite me. Just not the right fit for me.

Back to Hester Creek Estate Winery, this time for a tasting. We were hosted by Rob, the marketing manager, on the deck with 3 bottles of wine and a story of the winery. They had reserved the deck for us to have a picnic lunch and it would be hard to imagine being made more welcome. I am definitely going back to Hester Creek to stay at one of the villas. I think they are setting the bar very high in the Okanagan for everything they do. Try a glass of their Cabernet Franc and tell me I'm wrong.

Next we visited one of my favourites, Road 13 Vineyards. I've drank a lot of their wines and was looking forward to replenishing my stock of Sparkling Chenin Blanc and seeing their new tasting room. Pam made us welcome with a cheese tray, tastings of some of their best wines and a visit to her beautiful cellar. It's all about the dirt at Road 13, helping us all understand terroire. I'm happy to see how successful they are and hope for it to continue.

Final stop of the day was at Moon Cursor, the former Twisted Tree Vineyards. One of the first wineries in the Okanagan I'd ever tasted at I was happy to come back and find the name change was just an opportunity for them to express their sense of the Okanagan and their sense of humour. They are still just nice people, working hard, making interesting wines. Chris went out of his way to show us around and allowed most of us the chance to do our first barrel tasting. An amazing experience and some very good wines.

Mike picked us up for our final trip with him to Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek. A lot of things went wrong at Miradoro from the moment we arrived to find our table set for 12 instead of 15. It's a new restaurant but the service was disjointed, ordering confusing, several dishes were cold, a couple of orders confused and an attitude that didn't help. I hope they work out the problems because it is a beautiful room and could be a lot of fun.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011 Day 2

Day 2 of The Travel Group Annual Wine Tour. Mike from Unveil picked us up in his excellent bus and headed out for Jackson-Triggs. Mike works hard to make sure your every need is met, he sets his bus up with 2 coolers and lots of ice and water.

Jackson-Triggs has a great tasting room with friendly staff who know how to share wine. They do so much right; good wine related gifts, crackers and chocolate to enhance the tasting. They started with a 08 Sparkling Chardonnay that was a big hit. The Sunrock vineyards Merlot and Syrah are wonderful wines. Jackson-Triggs are famous for winning best Syrah in the world for the Sunrock series, wine from a vineyard right behind the tasting room in Oliver. Obviously that is a subjective claim but the wine speaks for itself. It would be hard not to like.

Our next stop was Stoneboat Vineyards, a family operation with lots of heart and lots of Pinot. Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Pinotage are my favourites. I discovered the Pinotage grape thanks to Leah at Kensingston Square Wines recommending I try Stoneboat Pinotage. She knows my wine taste and she was right. I do love this wine. With family members often in the tasting room, this winery is well worth a visit if you are a Pinot fam.

Church and State was our next stop. WOW. My favourite tasting room so far. There is a long beautiful bar of stained glass with stools welcoming you to stay and a comfy patio where we enjoyed our lunch. The patio overlooks Coyote Bowl, the name on some of their best wines. Try a bottle of C & S Coyote Bowl Syrah. If you like Syrah I guarantee it won't be your last.

Next we stopped at Burrowing Owl. Perfect in so many ways but this is my second visit for tasting and I haven't enjoyed either one. Not very welcoming or approachable, I have to wonder if the staff attitude is a trickle down from the top. As much as I love their wine, no purchases by me. I like my wine offered up with happiness and love and there's lots of it out there. One interesting character we talked to referred to them as Furrowing Brow. Well said.

Our final stop was at LaStella and the good vibes were back instantly. The small room has a lush feeling to match their Italian style wines. They have a beautiful patio with long lovely wooden tables and benches and a great view of the lake below. An then the wine is blow you away good. Jeff lead the most amazing tour and taught us so much. He "made" the day. Treat yourself, if you can lay your hands on a glass or bottle of any of the wines from La Stella, jump at the chance.

We finished the day with dinner at Hester Creek Winery. They prepared a special menu for our group and everyone raved about the food. This was the best meal we have eaten in the Okanagan to date.

We had our best meal at Hester Creek's Terrafina Restaurant. A small incident with the menus was smoothly dealt with and a couple of bottles of an excellent neighbourhood wineries bubbles started the meal beautifully. The scallop appetizer was generous, fresh and perfectly prepared. A choice of steak, chicken or puttanesca pasta were all well received.

The dessert pushed the boundaries with a milk chocolate pannecote with a truffle whipped cream. The aroma of the whipped cream was arresting and not a huge success but everything else was so good it didn't seem to matter. This would be my current first choice to return to in the South Okanagan. I'd love to stay at the villas. Hester Creek is doing so much right, it's a delight. Very impressive handling of a large table.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011 Day 1

Day 1 and we were off to a great start with a tour of the Vanessa Vineyards in Cawston with Nathan, the vineyard manager. In the merlot planting we saw how they were trimming off the green grapes now so that they don't have any underripe grapes at harvest time. These grapes are destined for the Sandhill Small lots program. I look forward to drinking some of this wine.

Next stop was Seven Stones to taste their newly released Meritage. Impressive wine and it comes in a Magnum as well. I am now the proud owner of one of those big boys. We still had time to visit Orofino and get some of their Chardonnay; a truly delicious wine with a long buttery finish, we drink it annually with our Christmas lobster thermidor. Supply laid in. We also picked up some Passion Pit Cab Sauv, sadly both bottles are empty now. Get some if you can lay hands on it.

We ate a picnic lunch on the lovely patio at Herder Winery before our tasting. Their blended red wine, Josephine is smooth and drinkable, a little expensive at $40 for how easily it goes down, but it is readily available at Kensington Square wines.

We finished the day with a tour of N'km Mip Vineyards. They have an amazing purpose built winery and the tour was exceptionally good. Thanks to Moss for an great time. We finished with a tasting in their private tasting room and were treated to some wines that haven't been released yet and a couple of vertical vintage tastings. I'd recommend the wine tour to anyone interested that has the opportunity. I consider it a "not to be missed". It's my second time and I'd probably do it again.

Our first dinner at Spirit Ridge and I was curious to see how these restaurants were going to deal with group of 15. I knew SJ had some trials getting the dining put together and I wanted to see the outcome. The setting and room were beautiful and the service and selection very good. The halibut and salmon were both a little overcooked and the risotto even more so. Great feedback on the salads. I think they've had some troubles in the kitchen recently so hopefully it will be straightened out soon. I'd consider it a success and worth a visit, especially if you are staying at the resort.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011

It's said that you should be able to taste the difference between a wine from the Golden Mile and one from the Black Sage Bench. I don't think I can do it but I'm off to hone the skills of my palate next weekend touring and tasting in the Similkameen, Osoyoos and Oliver. Golden Mile gets early day sun and Black Sage Bench late. The bench is sand and the Golden Mile is alluvial fans. I love so many of the wines from this region and it's where we did our first serious wine tour. Nice to go back after a couple of years of training. Just a few days of prep study and work and we are onour way. Thanks to Leah from Kensington Wines for her help in choosing the wineries and arranging tastings and to Shirley from The Travel Group for all the logistics. Our 3rd annual wine tasting is looking good!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011

Studying for my wine tour in a couple of weeks with a glass of Quail's Gate Dijon Clone Pinot Noir. Smooth, easy drinking and enough raspberry flavours to make it work as dessert. Truly lovely wine. We may have to make an extra stop on our wine tour to get more. 2 per person limit at the winery.

Delicious with the grilled tuna from this mornings market too.

Albacore Tuna

I spent an hour watching the group at Caper's on Robson and Albion Fisheries putting together a fresh tuna sale this morning. We rarely get to eat our local albacore tuna fresh. Usually frozen at sea they are an excellent choice on the grill. Quick and easy to cook and the leftovers excellent nicoise salad or tuna melts the next day. I hear it may become an annual sale and I'll look forward to joining them. Local, fresh and wild is wise.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

North Okanagan Wine Touring

Just drove up to Vernon for an overnight and stopped at a couple of wineries. I was on a quest for the award winning Volcanic Hills Rose. Unfortunately it was sold out but we did a tasting and discovered the delicious Pinot Gris. At $16.90 per this wine is crisp, refreshing and excellent value. The Gewurztraminer at $17.90 is also worth trying. They were offering a vertical tasting of the Gew 2009 and 2010. It was good to see just how different the vintage can be. Both were delicious but very different. In our group of 3, 2 liked the 2009 best and I personally preferred the 2010. The winery is in Westbank so combines well with a visit to Quail's Gate or Mission Hill.

We visited Quail's Gate and tasted a couple of their justly famous Pinot Noirs. They have a Quail's Gate Pinot Noir, a Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir and a Dijon Clone Pinot Noir. The first two are delicious; the family reserve is justly more money. I walked away with a bottle of the Dijon Clone Pinot Noir and am looking forward to tasting it.

On the way home we stopped and had lunch at Gray Monk. I like their Pinot Gris; it's my white pick at Cactus Club. The restaurant at Gray Monk is magnificent with a patio overlooking the lake. If the tasting room is busy, I'd recommend getting a flight of wines to share while you look over the food menu. We all 3 had the crab and heirloom tomato salad and it was a hit. I like the menu based on what is local and seasonal. Knowledgeable staff are helpful and cheerful. Reservations are recommended for the restaurant. We arrived shortly after noon and were lucky enough to get a table, by 1pm they were full.

RimRock Cafe Whistler

Last weekend we had our second meal at the RimRock Cafe Whistler. This outstanding restaurant is truly westcoast. Great food, wine and service in casual comfort. After our first visit a few month ago I talked to a lot of people who told me that the Rimrock was their favourite restaurant in Whistler, some said BC, some Canada. I was looking forward to a second visit. Eight of us met on a Saturday night. The restaurant was fully booked and yet our server managed to make us feel like we were the only table she cared about. With thoughtful information on the food and wine she really did help make the evening a success. The mussels appetizer with cherry tomatoes, white wine and cream was the best I've had in memory. Several of us had the salmon special stuffed with crab and a cream sauce. Delicious.

The scallops were also a big hit.

The wine cellar is excellent with a good selection of BC Wine. The mark up is reasonable and my favourite thing is that they will give you a half glass for half price. So civilized.

In short it is my recommendation that if you spend a night in Whistler you should include a dinner at The RimRock.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gran Bar Danzon - Buenos Aires

Gran Bar Danzon by Jason Stratford

Libertad y Santa F Capital Federal, Buenos Aires.

Telephone: (00 54 11) 4811 1108

Contemporary New York meets South America in this welcoming bar/restaurant with a long bar, plush sofas and intimate lighting. Cocktail aficionados will not be disappointed here, nor will anyone else with the truly impressive choice of spirits on offer or the delectable sushi. This is where the city's sophisticates and movers n' shakers go to play.

I visited here in May on a recommendation from the hotel's reception. The place doubles as a restaurant, bar, nightclub. It seemed to have a sophisticated, educated crowd which made you feel part of something special. We came for food and sat in the restaurant side and were not disappointed. They had a 2-for1 early evening special on for drinks so we both ordered two drinks right-off, he had delicious Apple Martini's and I had the local Quilmes beer which I always found to be refreshing and easy to drink. We were then given bread and dip which was tasty and then followed by our main courses. He ordered the Risotto with chicken nuggets white spicy caramelized carrots and fennel which he absolutely loved the flavours and textures. Cost ARS 64, approx CAD$15.

I ordered the Shrimp and corn ravioli in creamy sweet potatoes and herbs and loved it for the same reasons. Cost ARS 59, approx CAD$14. Only other things we paid for were standard for restaurants in Buenos Aires, Agua (water) and also Cubierto service fee (Cutlery) and both were minimal amounts. Total paid was ARS 210, (approx CAD$50) for the evening for 2 main courses, and 2 drinks each of exceptional quality. The service was friendly and prompt and a DJ begins to play a little later in the background of modern dance tracks but it wasnt intrusive to the ambiance at all and only added to the great vibe of the place.

Thoroughly recommended Restaurant visit in Buenos Aires!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Photos: The world's 10 most expensive foods

Seems like NYC has serves a lot of the most expensive food in the world.
I can recommend Norma's for breakfast even if you don't have the lobster
and caviar frittata.

Photos: The world's 10 most expensive foods

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Birthday for the Big Guy, His Nibs

I like to BLOG about food and wine when I'm on the road or in a hotel. Well I haven't done either for a couple of weeks but I did eat at Les Faux Bourgeouis in Vancouver last night and it calls for a few words.

Last night we were celebrating David's birthday. We love France and go there as often as possible. Love french food and french wine. Les Faux serves onion soup with a vegetarian version that is absolutely perfect and a chevre chaud that rates as one of the best I've ever eaten. If you're reading this blog you probably know that I have eaten a lot of chevre chaud. If it's on the menu I'll order it. Goat cheese on toast with greens and a glass of wine is, in my opinion, the perfect meal.

I think of food and wine like music with high and low notes. I like a meal balanced in lows and highs and chevre chaud and a glass of red offers that. I've planned my next meal at Les Faux; veggie onion soup, chevre chaud and and onion tart if I can possibly eat all that or find someone to share it. Something Cote de Rhone for wine. Les Faux is a restaurant I would eat at weekly if I could plan well enough. Reservations are a MUST.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Four Season Yew Restaurant

Yew Restaurant is always a good choice for dinner before a show at the QE Theatre. I'm not giving away my parking secrets for downtown Vancouver but restaurants I'll share. The monthly $35 Prix Fix Menu is great value. June featured spot prawns, avocado and strawberries. The wine list is so good there's always something special to try by the glass. Jeff at the front of the house makes every guest feel like a regular. Sunday night any wine bottle at 50% off. We are so lucky to have Four Seasons and their great attitude about food in Vancouver.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Long Beach California, June 2011

Just spent the weekend in Long Beach and was surprised at how mediocre it was.

The port, with the Queen Mary permanently docked as a hotel, welcomes cruise ships as a departure port. Long Beach is fine for a single night before you board your ship but not worthy of a second night. The best restaurants are near the port. Kings Fish house has a nice menu featuring fish from all over North America. Shrimp from Newfoundland, salmon and oysters from British Columbia and lobsters from Maine caught my attention when I was researching menus. This is a chain restaurant and they do a lot of things well. It's not outstanding but it is good and the only restaurant I'd return to in Long Beach. We also tried the Yard House on the port and although they have a nice patio and a very good selection of beer on tap, the food is mediocre. It's not crazy expensive and I liked the better than average selection of vegeratian options.

For breakfast we tried the Portofino Coffee Shop and Eggs Etc, both are a good walk or short cab ride off the port itself. Portofino offered the best coffee in Long Beach and some very good baking to go with. Eggs Etc had great scrambles and a hash potato side dish with cheese, avocado, salsa and sour cream that could be addictive, the pancakes looked great and were offered with some inspiring additions of fruit and granola.

We drove up to Los Angeles and had breakfast at the Urth Cafe downtown. Like the Urth on Melrose in Hollywood it was excellent. Great food and greater coffee, the people watching was also top notch. Never miss a chance for breakfast at Urth. This location has a lot more tables than Melrose, it may present a service problem if your a late riser.

We also drove down to Las Brisas in Laguna Beach for dinner. A nice choice for good Mexican food. It is very large with a good patio. Exceptional guacamole. Go early and you can get parking and shop in some of the lovely stores in the area.

Monday, May 23, 2011

France 2011

France May 4,2010. Three days in Burgundy and eight in Provence.

Burgundy has over 4,000 wineries and we only had 2 days. We chose an easy 1.5 hr drive from CDG and stayed at Chateau de la Resle in Montigny north of Auxerre on the way to Troyes.

For our first day we planned to visit Troyes, in the champagne district, a medieval town that's easy for parking and a walk about. We shopped and parked in Les Halles for an evening picnic and walked to Les Crieurs de Vin (see earlier posts)for lunch and our first wine tasting. It was a perfect day; I found the one kitchen item I'd hoped to find in France, a Nespresso wheel for our beloved coffeemaker. We also visited the Cathedral St Urbain to see the beautiful stained glass. We were going to visit a winery before we found our way home, so were back on the road quickly. SE of our Chateau the vineyards of Chablis started and we were determined to find a Cave open till 6.

We found Domaine de la Motte. They charged us for tasting, apparently frowned upon in France, but we were happy to pay and buy more to drink with our picnic supper.

The tasting rooms in Burgundy are mostly underground, miles of cellars beckoning off tasting rooms. I plan to expore further soon.

We had one day left in Burgundy and we planned to eat and drink our way through the Chablis district. We did a tasting at Domaine Gouailhardol, a very friendly tasting room at the entrance to town with a good English speaking host.

Lunch at Le Pot d'Etain in L'isle sur Serein was in a traditionalFrench dining room and the menu matched. David had a dozen snails.

I especially enjoyed the salmon mousse with horseradish sauce.

Dinner that night was at Le Jardin Gourmand in Auxerre. It was our best meal in France this trip and featured in an earlier post.

Saturday is move in day for villa rentals so we headed south with a lunch planned in Lyon at Rue LeBec thanks to a recommendation from Scott at The Pear Tree Burnaby. A cool concept restaurant on the revitalized docks of Lyon with a talented French chef at the helm we were really enjoying our travelling day.

We even stopped a couple of miles from the villa at a road side stand. Strawberries were fresh and we were in luck, so were the cantaloupe. Cavaillon is famous for the cantaloupe but our previous trips were always too early. Both fruits were intense colour and flavour. We were off to a good start.

Our aim was a market every morning and a winery or so every afternoon.

The best market on Sunday was Coustellet and it was also the closest. There was great prepared food, several farmers and lots of arts and crafts. We went home with supper planned around several large tarts; a potato, a roasted mixed vegetable and a tomato. Several cheeses, some artisan bread, an array of olives and what luck, a couple of wineries were doing tastings right at the market. Most wineries are closed on Sunday so we didn't think we'd get started on the "tasting" so quickly.

Monday we went to the Cavaillon market, more of the flea market variety but there were a few things lacking in our villa kitchen and we were able to get everything we needed at bargain prices. I even practiced my bartering.

The focus of the day was really wine tasting in Chateauneuf du Pape. This is the best wine of the region and I wanted to have some for the rest of the week. We could only bring home 2 bottles each. This was going to require some real work to decide what would make it into the luggage.

We had lunch in the village of Chateauneuf du Pape and tasted at several of the stores stores that sell a variety of the wines from the appelation. These wines are not allowed irrigation or machine picking and the flavours are big and intense. We had timed our morning so that we could visit the Museum of Wine on the way out of town. This is run by the Brotte winery, they are famous for the funky twisted bottle that everyone recognizes as Chateauneuf du Pape. Hopefully I'd bought enough Fiole Reserve to save one for my suitcase. We stopped at Fortia on the way out of town and did a tasting, and bought some more wine to try during the week. Let it be said that all week we were trying to find time to return to Chateauneuf du Pape. Love that wine.

Tuesday the best market in the area is Gordes, one of the loveliest hilltop towns. Full of artists, artisan foods, beautiful clothes and some very sweet, sad kittens, Gordes market is top notch, it's one of the most affluent villages and the very best sellars go there.

We laid in some supplies for a light supper since we were having lunch at La Ferme de la Hupe, where we would have the second best meal of our trip. Here again we started on a covered patio with a bottle of rose and 2 amuse bouche, a cherry tomato dipped in a spicy, sugar syrup that was a little crisp base with a tiny chive sticking out of the top was big hit.

We moved to a dining table on the patio overlooking the pool and were served a beautiful meal; entrees of chicken mousse or smoked salmon with chive pancakes (my pick).

We chose fish or roasted beef in wine sauce for our main course. The roasted beef was a raving success.

Every plate was praised. We were visiting friends who were staying in one of the 9 rooms at La Ferme, they had eaten several meals there and said everyone was outstanding. I'd stay at this place for sure if I only had a few nights in the Luberon.

Wednesday we wandered farther afield for the St Remy market, known for its textiles.
We'd all recorded our table sizes and were ready to shop. I bought 3 tablecloths, a large for 40Euro, a medium for 30 and a small for 10. We didn't have long to spend in St Remy but did buy some olives, the best grilled artichokes of our trip and some pickled garlic which was quite a surprise and an excellent addition to our salads.

Thursday we went to Roussillon for the market. Roussillon is the red ochre village, another prosperous village, the market is a match. We tried the paella, it would make an excellent lunch for 5 Euros. We all had a taste as a mid morning market snack. Again we were able to taste and buy some wines right in the market. In the afternoon we went to Domaine de la Citadellein Menerbes. They have the corkscrew museum, some lovely gardens and delicious wines to taste and buy.

Thursday night we were booked to make a return visit to Auberge de Presbytere in Saignon. We had really enjoyed a special vegetarian tasting menu there a few years ago and wanted to go back. We were disappointed. The asparagus salad compared poorly to Les Jardin Gourmands,the fish dish was plain and boring and the vegetarian plate consisted of hte vegetables of the day with a piece of filo pastry brushed with butter and sprinkled with nuts. Just another reminder that if you eat out in Europe some research will pay off in better food at better prices. Time spent before you go will pay off.

Our final meal was in Nice at La Zucca Magica, another return visit. Although the food didn't impress us the way it did the first time, La Zucca offers a 5 course vegetarian menu for 29Euros and the wine list is cheap and cheerful. Reservations are a good idea.

Many people were turned away both times we've been there. La Zucca offers good value for your money in a charming setting right on the old port in Nice.