Monday, November 19, 2012

The Travel Group 25th Anniversary North Okanagan Retreat Part 2


We stayed at Sparkling Hill Resort and after several hours in the spa we were all ready for some good food and wine.  Peakfine restaurant satisfied our every need.  I was concerned when the restaurant didn't want to do a limited menu for our group of 14 but was pleasantly surprised with the results. Thanks to Nikki for taking great care of us. Everything was served in a timely way so that no one was finished eating while others were still waiting to be served.  From the amuse bouche to the petits fours, everything was delicious.   






I started with yam ravioli with sage butter and then had a grilled ahi tuna with a spicy citrus foam served on a bed of green. 

The lamb shoulder with lentils was given rave reviews. 

I was most impressed with the Zander,  a perch like European fish, it was cooked and presented perfectly.  

Peakfine is an Austrian restaurant and Austrian's love food and especially dessert so we tried everything.  The apple strudel and chocolate silk cake pretty well sent us to bed.



Everything is made in house at Sparkling Hill and the quality and freshness are evident.  The breakfast buffet is included in your stay and the same quality applies.  

We still had wineries to visit on Sunday morning so we were up early to get the most from the fantastic pools and the breakfast before our 9:30 start.  


By 10am we were at Ex Nihilo Winery. I like this winery because it makes Sympathy for the Devil, Rolling Stones Icewine and I love the Rolling Stones.  They always have interesting art on display and great taste is shown in everything they do. The wine I like best here is Night, a bordeaux blend.  It would be a great place to hold an event.  They have a beautiful function room.  






Next up we visited Gray Monk Estate Winery, known for great bubblies and pinot gris, they won our hearts with the Odyssey Port.  Gray Monk offers excellent value for your money.  They have an excellent restaurant that is open seasonally.

We managed to fit in an unplanned visit to Intrique Winery. They are associated with Gray Monk but are making their own distinct wines.  Many of our group did the most buying here.  The gift shop was excellent as well.  

And so ended our weekend wine retreat.  I highly recommend the North Okanagan and Sparkling Hill Resort for a great getaway.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Travel Group 25th Anniversary North Okanagan Retreat



The Travel Group celebrated our anniversary with a wine tour. Saturday morning we started out at Kelowna airport in a 14 seat bus with lots of room for wine purchases.  We were lucky with the weather for the first week of November but the wineries were starting to close or change their hours for the season so we had a bit of a slow start.  Our first stop was a Rollingdale Winery, an organic winery in West Kelowna.  The Quonset hut houses the tasting bar and winery where everything happens.  There were big bins of grapes waiting to be processed and the heady aroma of wine greeted us as soon as the doors of the bus opened. 

If don’t "get" that you are truly on a farm, the pet donkey will bring it home.  

They make some very tasty wines but I was most impressed with their Stoney Slopes Pinot Noir.  A ’08 vintage grown in Okanagan Falls, I sure hope it tastes as good when I open the bottle I blew my budget on.


Next stop was Volcanic Hills where our Sommelier Guide, Shalyn from Wine Your Way Tours took us through a food and wine pairing lesson.  Tasting your wines with cheese, sausage, lemons, dark and milk chocolate will quickly teach you what works and what doesn’t.  We have some new ideas for our Friday winedowns.   They have one of the largest tasting room and gift shops I’ve ever seen and good comfortably accommodate our group lesson.  There is always a bottle of their Rose in my fridge so I was happy to stock up.  The Volcanic Hills team have excellent experience making wine their wine is very good value.



Ahead we had Quail’s Gate Winery for lunch and a private wine tour.  First, lunch at Old Vines Restaurant where we were soon munching on Frites with Truffle and Parmesan and sipping on Blue Mountain Brut.

I really enjoyed the Lois Lake Steelhead Salmon with potato mash, gingered squash, kale, pecans and lemongrass butter.  Crisp salmon skin, moist flesh and lively vegetable. 


The Slow Roasted Fraser Valley Porchetta was a popular dish as well. 

Chef Roger Sleiman showcased the season and the wines when he planned his new late fall menu.  We chose Quail’s Gate 2010 Pinot Noir and 2011 Chenin Blanc which are some of the best in the Okanagan.   Fourteen smiling, happy faces headed out for a private vineyard tour with Peter, guide extraordinaire. Peter shared a lot of knowledge as he took us through the vineyard and their wine library and finished with a tasting in their beautiful fireplace room.   I highly recommend a visit to Quail’s Gate Winery and lunch at Old Vines Restaurant

We were ready to head to Sparkling Hill Resort to sweat out some of the food and wine in one of the amazing spa there.   

Monday, October 29, 2012

4th Annual Wine Buying trip to the Okanagan is sadly over and 2013 is in the planning.


We've just returned from our annual wine buying trip to the Okanagan.  Last year it was very hot in September and I was concerned about how the heat was affecting the wine in our car so this year we decided to try October.  It was a bit late.  Many wines were sold out. We probably won’t go as late again. We visited 16 wineries, some old favourites and a couple we hadn’t seen before.  The tasting rooms weren't busy and it was interesting seeing grapes being picked and crushed. I’m always impressed with the wine tasting experience in the Okanagan.  The wine rooms are beautiful and you often get to talk to the owner or winemaker.   A couple of wineries stood out.  At Herder Winery in Keremeos, Lawrence Herder took us down into his lab and out into his vineyard.  Lawrence is a bit of a mad wine scientist and we hung on his every word.  If you have a chance try the Josephine, it is an exceptionally beautiful meritage, and if you drive up the Crowsnest Highway you won’t regret stopping at Herder.  We also really enjoyed our visit to Quinta Ferreira. They won Best Red at the Okanagan Wine Festival for the 2009 Syrah, a joy to drink.  Carmen, the resident artist was working the tasting bar and she is a lot of fun.  Black Hills new “Wine Experience Centre” was pretty great too.  We paid for the Portfolio Tasting Experience and we were glad we did.  Black Hills is home to the famous Nota Bene wine and my favourite BC white wine Alibi. 

We stayed at The Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos in a 2 bedroom waterfront suite.  The suite was spacious with a nicely equipped kitchen, a large dining area with seating for 6 and a deck with table and chairs for 6.  I’m sure we’ll stay there again.  We were disappointed in the Wine and Patio Bar.  Executive Chef Jonas Stadtlander has the experience that should make for a fantastic dining experience but something was wrong the night we were there.  Service was slow and food arrived cold. 

Dining is getting better every year in the South Okanagan and we had several very good meal.  One of the great things about eating at a winery restaurant is access to some of their library wines and I’m a believer in taking advantage of those opportunities. 

The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl is excellent.  The room is beautiful and comfortable and the service is perfect.  I started with the Vanilla Bean Cured Salmon, with Fennel Pollen Crème Fraiche, Brioche Crouton and Baby Greens.  I loved the texture and flavour of the salmon, cut and served on the plate like a carpaccio.  It was incredible with a glass of the recommended Chardonnay.  I also had the Vegetarian Cabbage Roll.  It was very good but the glass of the ’08 Athene was a blow your mind delicious blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Eight of us had lunch and there wasn’t a single complaint. 

We ate a lunch and a dinner at Terrafina Restaurant at Hester Creek.  We’ve eaten there 4 times now and I love this happy little restaurant.  Food is good to exceptional and the service keeps pace.  For dinner I had a Seafood Cioppino that was a generous serving of perfect fish, prawns and scallops in an aromatic, full flavoured tomato broth.  For lunch I had the smoked trout pizza.  It wasn’t on the lunch menu but a request was happily accommodated. We shared a potato pizza for the table and it was also pretty great.  They are serving thin crust pizzas, just a little weightier than a proper Neopolitan pizza.   As a group we ate 14 meals in 2 days at Terrafina and each and every one of them was a success.  They even had the ‘07 Cabernet France available from their library.  It’s the wine that really turned me into a Cab Franc lover and it is every bit as good as I remember.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Prince Edward County, Ontario is a great destination if you like food, wine and art.

We spend the weekend in Ontario visiting family.   “The County” sure is getting sophisticated.  Farmers are turning into winemakers and foodies are following the grape.  Where there is great food and wine there is always art, so there is a lot for visitors to do. 


Friday afternoon we were at RoseHall Run Vineyards enjoying the play Harvest by the Festival Players.  A glass of wine in a tent with exceptional artists performing made for a great way to start a weekend getaway.  Rosehall’s wines are tasty and the atmosphere is happy.  I especially like the Sullywicker Rose.    

Seven of us had dinner at Blumen Garden Bistro in Picton.  We’ve eaten there 3 times and it’s always been excellent.   The chef, Andreas Feller is Swiss and his menu reflects his international background.  You don’t often see gnudi on a menu so I couldn’t resist.  It was a lovely appetizer, Ricotta gnudi with mushrooms, baby bok choy, hazelnuts, gruyere and truffle.  I’d have it again anytime.  For an entrée I had the pan seared perch, served with a rice and sundried tomato stuffed cabbage roll, wilted spinach with almonds and brown butter vinaigrette.  The servings are generous and the perch was so good I had to eat every bite so I didn’t really appreciate the cabbage roll, although it was getting rave reviews around the table.  Fish with brown butter and greens is one of my favourite things and this one of the best meals I’ve had recently.  The scallops with risotto and chicken supreme were also a big hit at our table.  The room is comfortable and beautiful, the food and service excellent.  Blumen Garden Bistro is a good choice in Prince Edward County.  Reservations are a must. 

Saturday and we were on the wine trail. We started at Devil’s Wishbone, Lake on the Mountain, a new winery for all of us.  A cave like tasting room in the basement of the barn reminded me of Burgundy.  They are creating an experience with their tasting.  Stools made from barrel staves sit up to the bar and each wine is paired with a taste of something the winemaker thinks will showcase his wine.  Salty olives with the Chardonnay, cheese with the Pinot, that kind of thing.    I’m planning to open a bottle of the Pinot today to see if it’s as good as I remember.   http://www.devilswishbone.com

Our next stop was the Waupoos Cider company for a lunch on the patio overlooking Lake Ontario.  Fantastic location but the pizza didn’t live up to it environment.  Still they are doing enough right that I’d probably go back and try one of the salads. http://www.countycider.com

The Travel Group was expecting some Ontario cheese for this week’s wine tasting so we went to Black River Cheese Company for some of their excellent cheddar.  There was a queue for the ice cream and apparently, there always is. 

Our goal for the day was Exultet Estates to taste “the Blessed” Chardonnay, alas we were a couple of days too late and it was all sold out.  We did however get to taste and buy some of the Pinot Noir.  “The Beloved” from 2010 was made from a select clone from a particular “sweet spot” in the vineyard.  The 2009 Pinot Noir was also excellent.  http://www.exultet.ca

Finally we ended our day at Lighthall Vineyards.  One of the best things about wine touring in “The County” is that the person behind the counter pouring wine for you is often the winemaker and can tell you the story of the wine, the vintage and why it tastes the way it does.  Again, winemaker behind the bar, right in the production room.  Nice bubbly. 

We ended the day around the dining table enjoying some of our purchases. 

Finally Sunday we had some new wineries and a favourite to visit.  Karlo Estates was new for us; another winery focusing on food pairings with their wines, they invite you to sit and fully enjoy the tasting experience.  They are growing the Bordeaux blends and are even making the first port style wine in the county.  I liked the Cabernet Franc and we’ll be tasting it this afternoon at The Travel Group.  The stone bridge on the label is a short walk through the vineyards.  http://karloestates.com/



Next up was Hinterland.  They produce only bubbly and they do it very well.  Delicious wines and it’s not had to see why they are always sold out.   Another wine we’ll be trying today at TTG.  Good thing I was able to get a few bottles in my suitcase. http://www.hinterlandwine.com/

Last and definitely not least we visited Norman Hardie Winery.  They have a big pizza oven out back and here the pizza is great.  I asked Norman about the difference between his pizza and the latest Neopolitan pizza craze and he said they add a little less water and cook it a little more to make the crust crisp all the way to the middle.  We actually had to order a couple of extra pizzas we were so enamoured with it.  Might be we needed something to start soaking up the wine we’d consumed.  Talk about experience; when I asked about their Riesling, a tasting glass showed up at my elbow a few minutes later and when we said we heard the latest vintage of Chardonnay wasn’t bottled yet, they brought us a barrel tasting.  I really love this place. After lunch we spent some time trying and buying the delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  As I write I’m wondering why I didn’t buy any Riesling.  We may have to go back.  Norman Hardy wines are a true reflection of the limestone terroir that is responsible for the county emerging as the hottest new wine growing district in Canada.    http://www.normanhardie.com/

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Julie Child with Guns N' Roses. Ya gotta love it.

Watch Julia Child's 100th birthday on PBS. See more from WGBH Specials.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tofino has more good eats than the amazing Sobo and The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn

Tofino is our go to place for family relaxation.  We love the drive there, the beaches, forest, rain, fog, sun and the food.  It seems crazy that a place so remote has such great food but everyone there is into food.  I’ve said lots about our favourites; Sobo and The Pointe Restaurant, but I have to mention a couple of others.  We like Shelter, the food is good (kind of Cactus Club food) the bar is hopping and the deck is a great place to spend a nice evening.  Next time though, we’re planning to skip Shelter in favour of The Spotted Bear, it had a good buzz among the local foodies.  We also heard that Norwoods in Ucluelet is worth a visit so it’s on our radar as well.
We love 3 places at the Live to Surf Plaza; Tacofino’s Orange Truck makes the best lunch. My favourite is the Tuna Ta-Taco, seared albacore with wasabi-ginger mayo, cabbage, mango salsa and seaweed salad.  David’s is the Fish Taco, Tempura cod with  chipotle mayo, cabbage and salsa fresca, and Rachel’s is the Pork Gringa, spicy pork in a grilled tortilla with melted cheese, sour cream and mango salso.  Add a Lime-Mint Freshie and you have an awesome lunch for about $10 (if you can eat just 1). 




We also love the Wildside Grill, me for the halibut and chips, David for the oyster burger. Rachel tries something different every time and this time she had the fish taco.  It  was good but we think Tacofino, across the parking lot makes the better fish taco.  BTW, Wildside servings are generous.  I can’t finish 2 pieces of halibut and chips.  Last but not least at Live to Surf is Chocolate Tofino, don't leave the lot without stopping in if you are a chocolate lover.  You'll thank me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sobo is my favourite place to eat in Tofino

Every trip we try to fit a lunch and a dinner. Once we ate there 3 times in 24hrs, the friendly staff thought that was pretty funny.  This trip we arrived right on time for lunch.  I always have Polenta Fries and Cornmeal Crusted Oysters and they were perfect.  Rachel had Roti with Thai Chicken and David had the Smoked Salmon Chowder. 

We had dinner our final night in Tofino.  We started with Humpback Shrimp; spicy shrimp with blue cheese on a butter lettuce leaf, simply delicious. 

 David and I had the Grilled Oysters in Miso Mayo with Salmon Bacon.  Next to Tojo’s they are the best I’ve eaten.  Rachel had a Duck Confit Pizza and gave it a thumbs up. 

Sobo has a great BC wine list. It looks a bit like my wine cellar.  Over the years we’ve worked our way through most of the menu and never been disappointed. We couldn’t manage dessert this time but the Key Lime Pie is a winner and David says the Brownies are the best he’s ever eaten.  If you go to Tofino, don't miss the chance to eat at Sobo.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Birthday dinner at The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn is one of those meals you remember for a long time.

Birthdays gifts and husbands become harder after 25 years. The last few years I’ve been able to impress with free or nearly free events that made the perfect birthday gift.  This year I struggled.  We’d been working a lot and needed a complete retreat from work, noise, people; city life.  Tofino offers all that and is our favourite place. To my joy I found a room at the Wickaninnish Inn available. It was like a miracle that felt perfect as soon as it was booked.  It's hard to talk about the Wick without talking about wood.  It's everywhere and it's beautiful.  There's a resident woodcarver with a shack down the beach.  You feel part of the forest here.  Birthday morning dawns a perfect Sunday in Tofino and father and daughter are off to kayak to Meares Island, hike the old growth while I spent the morning at the spa.  Every visit there starts with a foot soak in giant copper tubs outside listening to the surf just through the trees.   The Pointe Restaurant at Wickaninnish is a place for special occasions.  It has the most beautiful setting that further blurs the line between the ocean, forest and inn.  Guests have first dibs on the primo seats.  Guests like us. So our evening is spent on the edge of the ocean with the best sunset view in the world.  Champagne primed the pallet for the amuse bouche of curried yellow lentils and raita, both perfect to prime us and ease us into the wine list and menu.

The kitchen was happy to answer our many questions and this menu deserved the questions, it was very interesting.  Potato encrusted oysters were on the menu and so was Fairview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc.  Now I happen to know that Bill Eggert made that wine for oysters so some decisions were almost made for me and I was happy with the results.

For a main course the combination of sockeye salmon with glazed eggplant and oysters and compressed apple pear was something neither David nor I could resist and it didn’t disappoint.



Rachel had the halibut with a raita and potato gnocchi and gave it a big thumbs up.  Pronounced the best halibut tasted this year.

The cheese selection, much like the wine has been given a lot of thought and really is impressive.   We had the most beautifully presented cheese plate I’ve ever seen.   Chef Nicholas Nutting has the knowledge and creativity to make the most of the bounty available to him.   The Wickaninnish and The Pointe aren’t for the faint of wallet but it is magnificent.    If you want to get away from hectic and need  a chance to focus on life Tofino is a great place to go and The Wickaninnish Inn is near perfection.

A special thank you to Angel in the spa and Jason who helped make our dinner evening so much fun.  I can't wait to go  back.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chives Bistro in Halifax had the very best table, great wine list and fantastic food.



We recently had dinner at Chives Canadian Bistro in downtown Halifax and it was a pleasure from the moment we walked up to the door.  There is a video screen outside showing what’s happening in the clean and efficient kitchen. What a great first impression.  Up the stairs and we were met with a warm and friendly greeting.  We had booked on Open Table and requested a quiet table.  Turns out we were in for a treat; they had booked us into their private dining room, “The Vault”, a leftover from when the space was The Bank of Nova Scotia. It also serves as home to their considerable wine cellar.   I felt very “safe” surrounded by the thick walls and racks of wine.  We tried an Oregon Pinot Noir from Domaine Drouhin; an excellent recommendation from George Davis, GM.  The meal was pretty fine, starting with a creative Greek Salad with roasted onions, fried panko crusted feta and poached garlic vinaigrette and Pan-Roasted Scallops with goat cheese, pickled beets, beet greens and honey buttermilk dressing.  For main courses I had Steelhead Trout with pak choi and mustard pickle, the fish was full flavoured enough to work with the mustard. David had the “Veg Millanesse”, panko crusted tofu with saffron parmesan risotto, sweet peas, olive tapenade and pesto and pronounced it the best vegetarian dish he’d had in memory.  We loved Chives, the food was creative, tasty and well-presented and the service was warm and efficient.  Casual and comfortable, they’ve been doing it for 10 years, so if you find yourself in Halifax you won’t go wrong booking Chives Canadian Bistro.  http://www.chives.ca/

Chives Canadian Bistro
1537 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Monday, May 28, 2012

Another wine weekend getaway to the Okanagan yields a couple of cases of excellent wines.




On a weekend getaway to BC wine country we drove through the Similkameen Valley and stopped at Seven Stones Winery.  George the winemaker is often at the counter and enjoys sharing his knowledge so we usually learn something new about wine.  Seven Stones makes some nice wines.  I especially like the Meritage, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  At least that’s what went into the trunk of our car.
Next stop was Watermark Resort to check out their Wine Bar and Patio.   I was expecting big things from the food with new chef Jonas Stadtlander making his mark.  We wanted a quick snack so chose the Dukkah Calamari with lentils, cilantro, onion puree and balsamic glaze.    I’d never heard of Dukkah which is a Middle Eastern blend of spices with ground almonds.  It sounded intriguing and turned out to be absolutely delicious.  We’ll be planning a meal there on our next visit.
Our final destination was our amazing villa at Hester Creek and dinner at Terrafina.  More about that in another entry.  It was a fantastic day ending in one of the loveliest rooms I’ve enjoyed in BC.  Hester Creek is one of my favourite wineries in BC.  They just seem to be doing everything right.  Breakfast in the Breezeway the next morning capped off an excellent stay.  I’d highly recommend a stay at the Villas at Hester Creek.


Day 2 and we have a lot of wineries to cover between Oliver and Vernon.  Thank you to every winery that opens at 10am.  Our first stop was Quinta Ferreira .  This is a family run winery with serious knowledge of making great wines and a beautiful tasting room with a wonderful art gallery.  Everything here is about friendly, comfortable good taste.  Next stop was Fairview Cellars.  Bill Eggert is the winery owner and  winemaker and he makes some seriously great red wines . A visit to Fairview Cellars is always a unique experience. This time I was able to taste some of the vintages I have stored to see how they were coming along.   I’d hoped to focus on wineries I hadn’t visited before but it’s tough to pass up some favourites.  Finally we visited Meyer Family Vineyards, a new one for us.  They have a reputation for great Pinot Noir, a couple of single vineyard releases that are killer.  They have a nice room and friendly knowledgeable staff.  Another new one for us was Wild Goose.   They were almost ready to move into their new tasting room and it looks beautiful. I was happy to get to try some of their Mystic River Pinot Blanc, and a Blanc du Noirs made from Pinot Noir and Merlot.  Finally I’ve been trying to taste a wine called Serenata from Serendipity Winery in Naramata but we just couldn’t find the winery so the Serenata quest is still on. 
By now hunger set in and we were headed for Local Lounge and Grill at the Summerland Resort.  This is a consistently good restaurant.  We’ve stayed at the resort before and I will again. 
Our final destination was Sparkling Hills Resort.  We had a beautiful room overlooking the lake and I was delighted to find they had expanded the spa hours to mornings and evening.  I spend an hour in the 7 saunas and steam rooms trying to sweat out some of the wine I’d consumed and curled up in the super comfy bed to watch “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”.    Nice end to a food and wine day in the Okanagan.
What a great weekend.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

El Bulli Cooking in Progress is a look at how Ferran Adria and team create the best restaurant in the world menu

El Bulli Cooking in Progress is an exciting documentary about the 6 month annual process to creation the menu they would serve for the next 6 months.  Now closed permanently the food crazy creators have had a major influence on what and how we eat today and probably tomorrow.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dinner at Terrafina Hester Creek Estate Winery and Villas. One of my favourite places in the Okanagan.


Who ever heard of a Smoked Trout and Prawn Pizza? We spent the night at the villas at Hester Creek Estate Winery so we were happy to have dinner at Terrafina.  Executive chef and co-owner Jeremy Luypen puts together a fantastic menu that reflects the season and place.  It has been clear to me both times we’ve eaten at Terrafina that the people really care about the restaurant and are all trying to make sure you are enjoying yourself.  The dining room and patio are both beautiful and comfortable.  We had 2 salads, a pizza and a halibut dish.  All were delicious but the Smoked Trout and Prawn Pizza with olive oil and sundried tomatoes was one of those things that you remember and could crave. Thin but chewy crust with crisp sweet prawns,  smoky trout and sundried tomatoes to add some high notes.  It was just amazing.  The halibut was perfectly cooked, flaky but not overdone, with an angel hair pasta in a light cream sauce that had some interesting depth of flavour.  We had a bottle of their Semillon Chardonnay from the library collection.  At $45 you would be hard pressed to find a bottle of wine of this calibre for that price in a restaurant anywhere.  Once again Hester Creek blows me away with the attention to detail, beauty and comfort of the place.  Don`t drive through the South Okanagan without visiting Hester Creek Estate Winery.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Joe Beef Montreal was Kitchy and fun but serious about food.


It’s hard to describe why I liked Joe Beef so much, the extensive menu and wine list on chalkboards is nearly impossible to read and seems daunting until you realize the person serving you really wants to engage in a conversation about what you like, what’s on the menu and what you might enjoy.  There was a good deal of talk about it and we never felt rushed.  When it came to wine she returned with 3 bottles of wine that she thought we might like and was happy to let us try.  So by then I was enjoying myself and pretty confident I was in for a good time.  I’m Pescetarian (just to be difficult), meaning, I eat fish, seafood, dairy products and veg but no chicken, pork, lamb, beef.  You get the picture, so a restaurant called Joe Beef seemed all wrong.  The name is a hat’s off to a 19th century Montreal working class innkeeper and has nothing to do with beef and everything to do with the personality of the restaurant and this one really does have a personality.  Bustling with happy people, talking about and dining on great food and wine, Joe Beef was my favourite restaurant on this trip. We shared a traditional French aioli plate of vegetables, fish and prawns with a thick, freshly made garlic mayonnaise to get the appetite charged.  A couple of us followed with the house special lobster spaghetti.  Fresh lobster partly cracked and easy to eat on a big bowl of al dente spaghetti in a rose sauce, I loved it with the suggested Sancerre.  Another amazing dish was the ribs with pommes frites.  The ribs were reported to be good and I can speak for the chips.  I love a good chip and these were pretty amazing.  I’d bet they were twice cooked and I’m glad I don’t live close enough to deal with the cravings they could create.  Joe Beef offered a unique experience, excellent food, generous servings and I loved the discussion of food as a way of ordering rather than just reading a menu.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fox Harb'r Resort on the Northumberland Coast of Nova Scotia is remote and sophisticated.


We recently spent a long weekend at the Ensemble Travel Executive Retreat.    I was happy to be back in the Maritimes and felt at home in Nova Scotia.
Fox Harb’r Resort on the Northumberland Coast is remote.  I like that, especially when it’s also AWESOME!  Just a bit hard to find because they are so discreet, it’s the kind of hard that involves a couple of easy U turns in the middle of a country road, more fun than effort.  It’s a gated resort and there wasn’t a building in sight as we drove through the 1st grove of trees.  Past the private runway we came to a dozen or so buildings, each with several magnificent suites.  Another grove of trees and there was the Clubhouse with the Spa and Convention Centre beyond.  Rolling golf greens all around.
This is some place!  But this blog is mostly about food and wine so let’s get to what was so great about Fox Harb’r .  The People who served us, the bounty of the sea they brought to us and the level of entertainment they provided.  I have to GUSH!   Everyone I met was friendly, attentive without trying to become your new best friend.  They offered an exceptional level of service that is hard to pull off in a resort that is open seasonally.  We were the first group of the season so it was even more impressive.  The wine cellar and tasting room are Wine Spectator worthy and acknowledged.    Our first night was a feast of freshly shucked oysters, 3 kinds of mussels, prawns and scallops cooked right in front of us and salmon sliced fresh with a classic lemon dill sauce, all fresh, local and cooked perfectly.  As for the couple of hundred lobsters cooked the next night all I can say is thank you for it and the Chablis that matched up so well.  Great presentation, great party.  On our last morning we had a lobster benedict.  They warned us it would take 15 minutes to prepare because they had to butter poach the lobster fresh.   It was served on a freshly made biscuit, eggs poached perfectly, lightly drizzled with hollandaise.    I did not expect this kind of food at a remote golf resort
The entertainment, golf, skeet, spa, lecture rooms, all were stunning but I have to give a special shout out about the music. After our lobster bash the band Mary Mack took over the fun.   I couldn’t speak the next day from singing and that’s a fact.  I probably need to apologize to a couple of dozen people about that.  From the Rolling Stones to traditional music, Mary Mack showed us a great time.  Talent, a great set list and a love to play sets the stage every time.  Thanks. .
I’d highly recommend Fox Harb’r.  So many elements of perfection make for a world class resort.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Poutine is a must try if you are in Montreal. La Banquise has it all.


Poutine was on our must have list for Montreal and  we chose La Banquise.  They’ve been serving up poutine since 1968 are open 24hrs a day, currently offering 28 varieties.  We tried 4: the Classic (with veggie gravy), The Mexican (with tomatoes, black olives, hot peppers and veggie gravy), The Obelix (smoked meat and house gravy), and The Kamakazi  (chorizo and hot peppers with house gravy). There wasn't a lot left on the plates when we were done.  The fries were crisp, the curds squeaky and the grav, hot and tasty. Yummy!  This is not your everyday eating but could be addictive. Comes regular or large,  the large might be good if you don’t mind noshing down in a plate of chips and gravy with others but otherwise a regular will satisfy most anyone easily.  994, Rachel Est  www.restolabanquise.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Milos Montreal doesn't live up to it's New York Sibling




Four of us had dinner at Milos Montreal on Sunday night.  We’d been impressed with Milos New York and were anticipating big things from the original.  Unfortunately, raised expectation can sometimes lead to disappointment.  The food was still good , excellent ingredients prepared simply is usually good.  Milos puts great emphasis on how they source their ingredients,  the yogurt is from goat milk 80km West of Montreal.   Best yogurt I have ever tasted.   Order the Milos Special as soon as your  seated, everyone does and it’s worth it.   Thin slices of zucchini, eggplant and saganaki lightly fried and served with the best tzatziki you’ve ever tasted.    There was a steady stream of these plates from the kitchen In both New York and Montreal.  The fish is the feature but  the choice in Montreal wasn’t what it was in New York. It was Sunday night and Milos offers a great Prix Fix menu for $45.  Quite a deal.   Milos was ridiculously expensive and crazy good in New York and Montreal would have still been ridiculously expensive if 3 of us hadn’t opted for the special.  As it was we had very good food with poor service in Montreal.  The price was slightly cushioned by ordering the Sunday special.  If you love fish and have never been, check it out, the food really is excellent and  I think our bad service may have been just a bad night.  You wouldn't go wrong with the Milos Special, some calamari, crab cakes and soft shelled crab, all perfectly prepared.  Good choice of wines.

Montreal is Great for a Weekend of Family, Art, Shopping, Eating and Drinking


Our weekend in Montreal started with a cab ride from the airport $40 and a late night check in at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth.  The largest hotel in Montreal it is also the best place if you have family arriving by train.  It was a family beginning with Sunday morning at Universel on Peel.  A good breakfast with plenty of choices, good seating and  a great location for our next stop,  the Musee Beaux Art.  We were doing a  family group visit to see the Feininger exhibit.   It was a great way to visit with family and enjoy some of Montreal’s great vibe.On the way we saw a great wedding parade with pipers and kilts, marching bands.   I'd love to go back to the museum to check the permanent collection. We did some great dining at Milo’s and Joe Beef with Joe Beef outstanding and Milos a bit disappointing.  We wandered the underground and Vieux Montreal, did a city bus tour and visited Notre Dame.   Next time I want a car, the Metro is aweome but it's Canada, not Paris or Rome, so I’m definitely good to drive and want the freedom to  get out and explore the island, find some great people, places,  beer and cheese.  I'm going back to Montreal again and again.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Best Beer Commercial Ever. I want a Sapporo right now.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Travel Tip for Bringing your Wine & Cheese Home. Wire hangers and WineSkins Key.

When I travel a good deal of thought goes into which wine will make it into my suitcase and I always plan to have room for 2 the bottles Canada Customs allows plus some cheese.  I carry a couple of bubble wrap wineskins and some heavy duty bags for cheese.  Flat and light weight they take up no room but are great for packing to come home.  Then I throw some wire hangers on top in my suitcase.  I love having extra hangers at my destinations and there's more space on the return.  I also like to buy cheese when I travel and a couple of heavy plastic bags keeps my suitcase from smelling like stinky socks.  I've never had a problem but Customs doesn't seem to like cheese.  From some gentle probing I've learned that they are OK with hard cheese and not with spreadable cheese.  Stop by for Friday winedown at The Travel Group for some wine, cheese and travel talk.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Naramata throws great parties

Last night Naramata showed how sophisticated they were when it comes to not only wine and food but art and music as well.  With equally good accommodation, Naramata is a great get away from Vancouver.  Choose a special event at one of the wineries and you'll be in for a treat.  I especially like the tailgate party.  It sells out quickly so check online for tickets early in the year and plan your wine buying trip for the fall.   Don't miss a visit to La Frenz and grab a bottle or 2 of the Montage, at $22 it's a steal.  Lunch at Hillside Bistro is a good bet too.  Try Hillside's Muscat, it will surprise you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'll drink my share tonight at the Naramata Spring Release Party on the River in New Westminster

Heading to the Naramata On The River tonight for the spring release.  I'm starting to think I can taste the terroir of the Naramata Bench.  I love the mineral flavours in wine and Naramata is rich in that.  I hope to come home with some wine.  I know I'll drink my share.  I have a quest for La Frenz Pinot Noir.  The Travel Group will probably be drinking Naramata wines on Friday.  Stop by, we always love an excuse to crack open another bottle.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wine Tasting in the North Okanagan in Spring means Rose and Pinot Gris.

On a weekend to Vernon we visited some of the North Okanagan wineries.  In West Kelowna we visited Volcanic Hills and Quail’s Gate.  Volcanic Hills won the Lieutenant Governer’s award for it’s small production of 2010 Rose.  It sold out in a blink.  We were keen to try the 2011, but were told that the wine had just been bottled and they weren’t releasing it yet.  A bit more chat and tasting and we were treated to a little of the rose that had been taken straight from the barrel.  It was bright and fresh and exciting.  We promised not to open it for a couple of months if they’d sell us some and they agreed because we were the 1st customers of the day.  We tired, liked and bought some of the Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir too.   Volcanic Hills makes good wine for a very good price. 
Quail’s Gate restaurant was our destination for lunch.  I was hoping to get another couple of bottles of their Pinot Noir Dijon Clone but  2010 wasn’t a good year to make the single vineyard Dijon Clone so the grapes were blended into their 2010 Pinot Noir.   They have a Pinot Noir not yet released called something like “858” but there was none to see, taste or buy.  It will be available at an equally mysterious date.  I like a challenge though and I love Pinot Noir.  Quail’s Gate makes some of the best in BC so I have a quest.  We had lunch at  their Old Vines Restaurant.  They claim their Chenin Blanc is perfect with oysters.  That got my attention.  But then the restaurant didn’t have any, so I tried the mussels.  Good but oysters would have been better.  I’ll be watching for that match in local restaurants. 
Day 2 we were planning lunch at Gray Monk.  Their patio is a great for a leisurely lunch and I remember that last year the menu matched up beautifully with their wines. That lunch will have to be for another trip because on the drive up I noticed that Ex Nihilo was nearby and we changed our focus from lunch to wine tasting. I’m a Rolling Stones fan and Ex Nihilo makes Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil Icewines.  At $10 a taste or $125 a bottle you’d best be an icewine lover.  I’m not a big fan so tasted through their other features.   They had a special offer.  Buy 5 bottles, 1 each of the wines we  tasted  and  get a  free bottle of the Gris or Pinot Noir. This is their first vintage of Pinot Noir and I wanted to try more than the tasting, the 08 Merlot and Night are big reads from OK Falls grapes that I knew would be a hit at our house.  The Riesling and Pinot Gris were also good so it was a deal I appreciated.  I’m looking forward to a revisit with more time to hear the Rolling Stones story and see some of their art.   Watch for Ex Nihilo in restaurants. 
We planned lunch at CedarCreek on the way home.  I wanted to pick up a supply of their Rose.  Sadly the terrace restaurant doesn’t open until June but I still wanted the rose  so we did the drive .  This is when it’s good to be just mom and daughter tasting wine.  We both love a drive so it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to drive almost 30k out of the way for delicious, hard to get wine.  CedarCreek describes the 2011 Rose as acoustic Pinot Noir.   I tend to think of food and wine in high and low, flat and sharp notes and Pinot Noir unplugged or acoustic makes a lot of sense to me.  I’m looking forward to a glass this afternoon during a crucial Canucks game.  Perhaps we’ll have to celebrate.
Another fun trip to the Okanagan.  The Cedarcreek Rose and Ex Nihilo Reisling are in the fridge.  Drop by.  I love an excuse to open a bottle.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Predator Ridge Golf and Resort

Predator Ridge is a beautiful area between Kelowna and Vernon and is home to the Predator Ridge Golf Resort and Sparkling Hill Resort.  I’d heard good things about the restaurant  at Predator Ridge and dinner  there lived up to the reputation. They had been closed for the winter and I thought that could lead to problems but it was as good as I’d heard.  They have an exceptional wine list and a good menu with something for everyone.  We shared a flat bread with mushrooms, caramelized onions, pesto and goat cheese, very good, it disappeared immediately.  Three of us for dinner, we tried the salmon, the chili crusted mahi mahi and sweet potato and ricotta gnocchi.  The fish dishes were both served with  mixed rice and plenty of vegetables.  A request for potatoes instead was “0f course, no problem”.  Service was casual and friendly,  yet attentive.  The food was all cooked perfectly, no overdone fish here.   The gnocchi was light as air and the sauce wasn’t overwhelming.  The wine list isn’t  exclusively Okanagan but local wines are well represented. We had a bottle of Hillside Pinot Gris and it reminded me that Hillside is a winery I’d like to revisit.  Predator Ridge Clubhouse offers a lively comfortable atmosphere with good food and wine.  A good choice after a day of golf or an afternoon at the spa.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ricardo's Kelowna

We finally got to eat at Ricardo's tonight and it was a good dinner.  Straighforward Italian food in an unpretentious location off Hwy 97 on the way to Vernon.  The wine list is aselectio n of BC Wines that celebrate the best of the Okanagan.  We had 3 wines with our dinner and it was easy for us to order appropriate pours without going overboard.  We shared the Pernod Prawns and Shrimp and the Coconut Curry Mussels.  All paired up beautifully with a Gerwurzt from Lake Breeze.  There were 4 of us and we had the Cheese Ravioli in Pesto Cream, the Linquine Vongole, the Lobster Linquine and the roast Salmon.  The cheese ravioli was every bit as rich as it sounds,  the vongole passed my taste test and will be my choice if I ever eat there again, and the salmon was nicely handled.  The only disappointment was the Lobster.  It just wasn't all that interesting and Maritimers to the bone, it's hard to impress us with lobster.  I'd be happy to eat at Ricardo's again.  There were several appetizers I'd like to have a bite of.

Old Vines Restaurant at Quail's Gate Winery

On a long weekend to Vernon, BC we stopped at Quail's Gate Winery in West Kelowna to taste some of their exceptional Pinot Noir and decided to finally have lunch at The Old Vines and we were glad we did.  Truffle parmesan fries attracted us as soon as we sat down and were on the table quickly.  Delicious. Then we shared a butter lettuce salad with apples, blue cheese, cranberries and almonds.  I had mussels with dried tomatoes and RE had steak with potato gratin.  A glass of their Chenin Blanc was excellent with the mussels.  The room, the service, the view and the food were all good and we'll go back.  Quail's Gate is one of the few wineries in the Okanagan with a restaurant and now we know it's a good restaurant.  Try it, you'll like it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Western Beer Club: We visited Tofino Brewing Company, based in the we...

Western Beer Club: We visited Tofino Brewing Company, based in the we...: We visited Tofino Brewing Company, based in the westcoast town of the same name.  Here's how their website describes their three fine craft...

Shelter Restaurant Tofino

Dinner last night at Shelter.  We like Shelter best for sharing appetizers.  The best thing last night was the mussels in white wine and fennel with boiled nugget potatoes rather than french fries.  The potatoes soaked up all the great broth and were a pleasant change.  The tuna on deep fried rice balls was also outstanding.  Great place to watch a hockey game if you book a table downstairs.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sobo it the Tops for Me

After at least 20 visits to Tofino we've had the best weather ever today.  I love this place.  We just had lunch at Sobo and I came away wondering if I could live on cornmeal crusted oysters, polenta fries and cold white Kettle Valley wine.  I'd like to give it a try!  One of the first things I do when I arrive, after the beach, of course, is visit Sobo and eat oysters.  Occasionally, they don't have any or are sold out and that is always a HARD thing but at least it means I've tried the fish taco, the chowder, and the shrimp cakes. But for me, it's the oysters.  They have been perfect every time and in a good year I get to eat them twice in a visit.  I will NOT admit to 3 times in one trip but it's a lofty goal.  Thanks to the Lisa and the Sobo team, the polenta fries were even cheesier and more delicious this time.  See you tomorrow.

The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn Tofino

Dinner tonight at the Pointe Restaurant was very good.  The room is beautiful, a circular room of beautiful cedar beams it brings your table right to the ocean’s edge so every seat has a great view with waves crashing beneath you.  That’s not all though, the food and wine are up to the standard expected at a Relais and Chateaux.  As you walk into the restaurant the wines are displayed beautifully in a walk in cellar with lovely decanters and some special large bottles on display.  The collections of specialty BC wines is a reflection of the commitment to local that is so important to British Columbia.   There was plenty of wine I’d love to have the budget to explore but I like to save my wine dollars in restaurants so I appreciated the excellent choice and price selection.  I started with a Blue Mountain Brut and David with a local brew, a Tuff Session Ale and we were both happy watching the sun set and settling in for a nice meal.  I love the free stuff and the handmade seafood tortellini in curry broth was a tasty treat.  We shared a starter of Sweet potato fritters.  The dish would be difficult to share if our server hadn’t gone the distance and had it plated separately.  Delicious whipped sweet potato, breaded and deep fried, more like a croquette really, they were topped with yogurt, cucumber and sweet onions.   Every bite was finished.  Next I had the potato crusted oysters, lightly smoked and served with an onion rague,  I liked the creativity and depth of complexity.  Another glass of the Brut was a good match up.  David had side striped prawns in a cumin broth, also served with some roasted onions.  Deep and delicious flavours and yet the prawns were the predominant taste.  For a main course David had a scallop and clam pasta carbonara topped with egg yolk.  Tasty but I preferred my smoked arctic char with beets, marsarpone, olive oil foam cake and dark greens.  A lightly smoky dish with flavours that I would consider, low notes, like the bass notes in music, it worked very well with our Meyers Pinot Noir.  Full and happy, David had to try the espresso and pronounced it worthy of a return visit.  Finally we were served cheesecake bites,  the perfect one bite of sweet to end the meal, compliments of the chef.  Thanks Chef!   Tofino has some great food and The Pointe helps set the standard of casual yet excellent service, food and wine.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Planning a weekend in Montreal. Any recommendations for an Italian restaurant?

Definitely going to Milos for fish and I know that means we'll want pasta next.  What's the best Italian restaurant in Montreal?  Better try a deli too.  Anyone love something?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Esca, New York

Esca exceeded expectation.  When David, the “king of reconfirm” did a final check on our Open Table reservation, something had gone wrong but a table was made available within the hour.  The front of house offers a really warm welcome. For some entertainment they “primed” the wine glasses before serving, probably a meaningless gesture but I enjoyed the novelty.    Our server made some good recommendations and we each had a starter, shared a pasta and then a fish dish.  I began with the best scallop dish in memory.  Served with citrus including; blood orange and grapefruit, this was the stand out dish of the evening.  David and I shared slightly spicy squid ink pasta with calamari and it was rich and perfect for sharing.  For a main course I had a fish they called “Porgy” I suppose after Porgy and Bess, in any case it was a mediocre fish and enough said.  David said he’d go back for the chocolate sorbetto.  Me?  I think the scallops will never be as good again, but I’ll go back and try sometime.  Special mention to the cherry blossom arrangement at the front door.   Mario Batalli, Joe Bastianich and David Pasternack have created a great restaurant for seafood and wine lovers.  Love it!
Esca
402 W. 43rd St. (at 9th Ave)
Ph:  212-564-7272

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Oysters in New York, March 2012

New York loves Oysters and so do I.  Oysters are on a lot of menus.  Daniel Boloud has a stand up bar at his multifood complex across from Lincoln Centre. We had a some martinis and wine at Boloud Bar next door and I would  be happy to eat in the restaurant anytime.  But standing up to quaff raw oysters in a rush just doesn’t work for me.  I like to go slow and sip champagne in between.  The Food Hall by Todd English had an oyster bar, although the oysters we tried there were ho hum boring and again too crazy busy to really enjoy.     But we finally made it to the Oyster restaurant in Grand Central Station, one of my new favourite places.  Grand Central is an incredible building with intriguing tunnels running off in every direction.  And those tunnels don’t just lead you to trains but to great food.  The Oyster Restaurant offers dining room seating, counter service and a saloon.  We enjoyed the dining room but next time it’s the Saloon for me.  They had 2 oysters from BC amongst a selection of 10.    The rooms are full of beautiful brick arches like the best cave restaurants, the service is casual and efficient, the atmosphere bustling until you check the tables where everything has paused in blissful food enjoyment.  Oh yeah!  I LOVE Grand Central.

The Food Hall by Todd English at The Plaza NYC March 2012

A new food concept is sweeping across FoodieLand.  Multi food styles served under one roof.  Our first experience was in Lyon at Rue La Bec, a single dining hall with stations preparing food in different styles, Asian, French,  the Bakery.  The Food Hall by Todd English is eating belly up to the food prep station.  You can order from any of the many counters with comfortable stools facing the chefs.  I especially found Joe the cheese guy was engaging and informative and he helped me choose the cheeses for TTG wine and New York cheese tasting this week.  The location at the Plaza Hotel couldn’t be better either.  Central Park South is a fantastic location.  New York has every kind of eating experience and this kind of dining offers something for everyone.  We have to go back to try Eately and we still haven't been to the Chelsea market.  So much New York and so little time.

Milos NYC March 2012 Best Fish Dish Ever!!

Milos NYC is an amazing food experience and my favourite of some darn good meals on this trip to New York.  Greek restaurateur Costas Spiliadis made a statement about food 30 years ago when he took butter off the menu and put olive oil on the table for dipping.  Milos IS the Mediterranean diet.  Fresh seafood grilled or baked. Everything is sourced from the best the world has to offer.  And it all started in Montreal.  We had the best calamari ever, fried  crisp and clean with tomato dipping sauce.  Grilled sardines, vegetables, Loup de Mer, Solettes.  Every dish had simply flavours that shone through the delicious olive oil. You get to pick your fish from the beautiful display on ice.   The experience, the food and the service were Perfect! Perfect! Perfect!   We’re already planning dinner in Montreal soon.

 btw  Loup de Mer is my new fave fish.

Milos New York
125 W 55th St.
Ph: 212-245-7400

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Purple Café

Last night we ate at The Purple Café. We tried their Bellevue location last year and were looking forward to a “replay” at the downtown location. The dining room is large and open with a 2-story tower of wine as the central point. The wine list is set up by flights, glasses and bottles, and subdivided into reds, whites and origin. The flights are 2.5oz so you can try 4 wines in place of 1 large glass. Top of the flight menu was a flight called “Treat Yourself,” something I have no trouble with. It starts with Schramsberg’s Blanc de Blancs ’07 from California, everything I like in a bubble, not sweet, but bright and a real awakening for the taste buds. Then Pappas Wine Co Pinot Noir ’09 from Willamette Valley, Oregon: I was a goner from the first sniff. Lovely wine, note to self: “ I have to become more familiar with the Willamette Valley”. We then progress to the heavier reds, from Washington state, Waters Interlude ’09; and finally the famous Chateauneuf-du Pape, an ‘07 from Domaine Albin Jacumin . All good; but I couldn’t see past the Pinot Noir so we ordered a bottle.
The food menu at Purple Café is also delightful. They have an excellent selection of cheese plates that feature some of my favourite cheeses from all over the world; but we moved on to the $5 Tasting bar - a list of about 10 small plates excellent for sharing with the flights of wines. My absolute favourite was the Gorgonzola stuffed Dates. They make great salads and offer them in half and full sized. My favourite is the Purple Chopped with romaine, avocado, garbanzos, stilton, red peppers and balsamic vinaigrette. The kind of salad you crave. We also had the Lobster Mac and Cheese. It was too rich for me, but David ate every bite and claimed it a hit.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Winedown at TTG

January and everyone is trying to watch their waist so I thought I’d focus on goat cheese today since it’s generally a little lower in fat and calories.   

California’s Cypress Grove is justly famous for their goat cheese.  Humboldt Fog has been winning awards since 1998.  It features a ribbon of vegetable ash, is creamy and a little tangy.   We’ll try a Sauvignon Blanc with it.  The Truffle Tremor is for those who really like earthy flavours.  I’m going out on a limb and having a Cabernet Franc with it. 

And for those who can’t stand goat cheese we have a Spanish Manchego and from Quebec’s Fromagerie de L’Abbaye Saint-Benoit, the only Benedictine Abbey in North America making cheese, we are trying Frere Jacques, a firm cow cheese with a distinct hazelnut aroma and flavour. 

Happy Friday.

Friday, January 6, 2012

International Cellars kind of day at The Travel Group

The first Friday winedown of the year and we are tasting gifts of wine from International Cellars. I’m looking forward to tasting the Peter Lehmann Layers 2010 from Adelaide, Australia. A blend of Semillon, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay this is clearly a winemakers wine. I’ve never tasted that blend before, should be interesting. For a red we have a Spanish Tempranillo Valdepenas Anciano Gran Reserva 2003. Now that’s got to be good. 3pm here we come.

Three dead soldiers.  The Peter Lehmann Layers was a great hit and at $17.99 a great buy.  Complex flavours, lot's of stone fruit flavours.  I especially like the minerality.

The biggest hit though was the Tempranillo, very smooth and easy to drink.  A very good use of oak, not overpowering but well used to round out this sometimes too sharp varietal and at about $13.00 this is an incredible buy.

Finally I had a bottle of Meyers Family McLean Creek 2009 Pinot Noir that I was keen to open.  I was happy from the moment I pulled the cork and smelled that smoky leather smell.  I let the aromas work their magic for awhile and then tasted.  I could have finished the whole bottle myself but had to share.  Delicious.  Distinctive.  Lovely.  But boy at $40 it's a big price spread from the Tempranillo.  It's hard to stick to my "buy BC" rule.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fave Tastes 2011

I asked David today what his favourite restaurant was in 2011 and he set me to thinking about how difficult that was to define so we had to come up with some categories. 

Fave "Go To"- Miku on Hastings won this spot because it's the place craved most often.  This is the place we go when we've been working too late and need somewhere with healthy food that's fast and fantastic.  Salmon Oshi Sushi is a must.  We’ve ordered it for dessert.

Fave Plan Ahead - We love Les Faux Bourgeois but you have to plan so far ahead to get a reservation that we haven’t been able to eat there nearly often enough.  Great value and very good quality.  They make 2 onion soups, one of them is a vegetarian version made with beer.  Who could ask for anything more?

Fave New Restaurant - Tableau at the Loden Hotel - I walked out wondering how soon I could go back for the mushrooms on toast.  Second time, same thing.  Very French, very delicious.

Top Travel RestaurantLe Jardin Gourmand in Auxerre, France for the good artistry, the sophisticated modern service and the moveable feast: apperitif on the garden deck before moving into the dining room.  Would love to go back.